Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016, Samuel A. Donaldson


Mr. Donaldson, you had me at 23A: "What's in your attic? And do penthouses have better resale value? Find out in today's____" (TOPSTORIES). Definitely got a laugh out of me. In fact, I think that was the answer I liked best of all of the theme entries. There are eight of them, and all but one of them feel completely standard as things a TV news anchor might say. The only one which feels constructed for the purpose of the pun is DETAILSARESKETCHY. Which is pretty amusing anyway.

I know some people might complain that four of the theme answers are ten letters or less, and there are non-theme answers which are that long, but that doesn't bother me. The set up for the theme entries is very clear in the clues, such that you wouldn't get confused on other long answers. I'm not entirely sure I understand 118A: "With more about those defending the accused, our reporter is ____" (STANDINGBY) - is that meant to imply that the defenders are bystanders? I guess so. It feels a little strained.

Still, niggling details aside, I very much enjoyed the theme and the way it was carried out, so one in the plus column there. I hesitantly put in 1A: Fall birthstone (OPAL), which gets a C for being essentially perfectly average. 2D: Doggy (POOCH) was the first answer I was completely certain about, which had the secondary advantage of making me more confident of 1A as well. Bonus points for putting the ASPCA next to our puppy.

There are some very nice areas in the fill today. I particularly like the trio of 9-letter answers in the NE and SW. I do enjoy me some PINEAPPLE on my pizza, so that hardly fooled me at all. 79D: "Up top!" (GIMMEFIVE) is pleasantly colloquial. Other fill I liked included 76D: Historic headline of 1898 (JACCUSE), referring to the l'Affaire Dreyfus and Émile Zola's letter. Right next to that was 77D: Old Irish character (OGHAM), which is an ancient Irish alphabet, one which I have encountered in my reading on the history of the British Isles from 400-650.

Things I didn't like so much: ESTADOS and ETATS. So many useful letters there, so I understand why they find their way into puzzles so frequently. Only both in the same grid? Also ERES.

Then there are the partials: ASNO, ONAT, INAS. Oof.

On the other hand, 62A: Fighting a liar, e.g. (SPOONERISM). This is outstanding cluing and a wonderful answer. No question mark needed. I was off thinking about slander and libel (the former is spoken, the latter is written). Neither was correct. Beautiful.

- Colum

1 comment:

  1. I thought that STANDINGBY refers to those siding with the accused. I loved the SPOONERISM clue, too, but think that OPAL starting a puzzle off is worth far less than a C. PINEAPPLE had me fooled for awhile (Pepperoni fits in there). EMPANEL is a nice word, as is CANTO, which reminds me of Dante. Fun puzzle, which took me the normal amount of time to finish.