Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thursday, August 11, 2016, Timothy Polin


Have you ever had a puzzle where you just didn't sync with it at all? I struggled through much of this grid, only to bog down in the southwest, where nothing made sense to me. Even the theme escaped me for a long time. So anyway, this is one of the first puzzles I haven't finished in a long time.

The theme is pretty clever, I think. The clue for the entry is a homonym for the paired and circled letters in the answer. Thus CONFISCATE is clued by the Cs ("seize"), while SCRUTINIZES is clued by its Is ("eyes"). All six (impressive) answers are well done, so there's nice consistency.

I didn't love the fill in general, though. 14A: Show in syndication, say (REAIR) is truly awkward. I understand the "show" is used as a verb rather than a noun here, but still, it feels not great. OBRIEN and OKEEFE in the same puzzle, neither individual immediately recognizable from their respective sources. SCHMO and NIMROD have a cute flavor to them, although I wouldn't have chosen either to mean "jerk". And SWAMI and GURU are "wise guy"s indeed, but I would have liked one of those answers to the clue to be about the mafia instead.

Some nice clues: 30A: Weight lifter (PULLEY) was unexpected. 16A: Something that may crash and break (WAVE) is well done. I really like 48D: Musical trio, often (CHORD) for the surprise. Although, I'd argue that any three notes you might choose create a chord of a sort, so the "often" is not needed.

Never heard the term SPYFI. UNITY was ungettable for me from the Kwanzaa clue. Apparently the seven principles of Kwanzaa are Umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Two of those are 5-letter answers starting with U, so I suppose that might have been a tricky answer for some. Not me, because I didn't come close to getting it.

Ah, sour grapes.

1A: Capital south of Lake Volta (ACCRA) gets a B+ for geography trivia. I got it off of 2D (CEO), which was the first answer I put in confidently. Oh, and I really liked IZZATSO. That's fun.

Here's hoping tomorrow goes better for me. Nothing against this puzzle, which I think is probably fine, but I can't see it clearly any more.

- Colum


  1. 29:24

    I, too, thought this was very hard. I finished it in three sittings, and after the first two I was wondering if I would ever get through it.

    First of all, good though the theme is, I really did (and do) not like themes that are self-referential. Without crosses the theme would have been completely opaque. I did eventually get it, and because of that, I think I have a better feeling about the whole thing than Colum (whom I'm sure would have finished it if he weren't under such pressure to get it done and get the review out). Anyway, it's a tough call, because it's gettable, but it's not fun while you're getting it. If you see what I mean.

    Also, the fill is rough, or at least tough. I did not share your fondness for IZZATSO, and "Cant" for ARGOT is pretty tough. HOS for "Parts of a Santa Claus balloon" is also tough. Gettable, I suppose, once you have the crosses, but RUNTHROUGH was the theme answer I found the toughest, and ENERO was not on the tip of my tongue when reading the clue "When José Martí was born." "Use" meaning RUNTHROUGH is not an easy parallel, and SPYFI is not a genre that I've ever heard of.

    So overall, I guess I'm ok with it. Some good clues, and I appreciate a tough puzzle, but it wasn't my favorite.

  2. Around 2 hours or so.
    I finished this in three sittings, too, and found the puzzle extremely difficult for a Thursday, which I normally finish in around 20 minutes. I really had to stare at the theme answers for awhile after finishing the grid to figure out the theme, which I thought brilliant. The south fell first for me with the north-middle coming in last. In all, I didn't, as Horace mentioned, love filling the thing in the whole while, but I come down on really admiring the puzzle for its brilliance and for the satisfaction that it provides one upon filling in the final square.