Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016, Ben Tausig


Well, thanks to Colum for a month of excellent reviews! Now you're stuck with me for a while. That's how it is here at Horace and Francis and Colum - we're blogger-fluid. Eww... that sounds gross. And come to think of it, GENDERFLUID also sounds gross if you think about it too much.

Sorry. Not really that great a way to start off my month. So let's move on.

When I was having so much trouble up in the NE (sixteen squares took me at least six minutes), I took a moment to confirm the theme and count up the M/F squares. Unfortunately, I had already gotten them all, but maybe just that short break allowed me to finally get XEROX (27A: Run off, in a way) off the X in EXHAUSTS (23D: Tires), and then GONEXT (13D: Follow) followed, and allowed me to infer TNT (32A: AC/DC single with the lyric "watch me explode"), and slowly the rest worked itself out. 12D: Snake's place, partly (OREGON) is pretty tricky! They're talking about the Snake River. Doesn't that always make you think of Evel Knievel's ridiculous attempt to cross it in some kind of a rocket? What? You're not a middle-aged man who had older brothers who watched "Wide World of Sports" and every other quasi-sports-related thing on TV, which includes demolition derbies, professional wrestling, and Evel Knievel's stunts? I am.

So anyway, about the puzzle... we've seen the swappable-letter squares thing before, but it's a theme that has not been overdone, and one that is always fun. For the record, I entered ROOF/FAKE, FUSTY/FESSUP, FATE/PREFIX, and MIRE/SAME, but all those answers work equally with the Fs as Ms, and vice-versa. Honestly, I didn't even notice the binary option until I had filled them all in, but now I especially like the combo in the SW - 61A: Topic to ask a fortuneteller about (FATE/MATE) and 45D: It's combined at the beginning (PREFIX/PREMIX). Nice. The theme is well done, except for one thing - the F in GENDERFLUID cannot be replaced by an M, which really is a pity.

This kind of a stunt must be somewhat tricky to pull off, because the grid is broken up into segregated sections (ironic, given the theme?), and there's a fair amount of standard fare. UTE, ENO, ALVA, TNT, UGH. I like SPUNK (7D: Mettle), EQUUS (54A: Hyundai model with a lot of horsepower?) (cute), and DYSTOPIA (40D: "The Hunger Games" universe, e.g.).

1A: Part of a house (ROOF/ROOM) gets an A. I know it's a part of the theme, but I enjoyed the theme.  The first clue I put in that I was absolutely sure of was probably USAUSA (6D: Patriotic chant), but I'm not really positive about that. I'll try to pay more attention tomorrow.

Overall, I like the theme and much of the fill, and will tolerate the small concessions that had to be made.

Happy September! (Rabbit, rabbit!)

- Horace


  1. 18:38 (FWTE) - I put in SnOWE/nORO and SUTmON and F/MAmE because I didn't figure out the theme until everything was done. Anyway, it's a great theme, very clever indeed. I was sure it was going to be squares with X in one direction and Y in the other, but that didn't work out. I like having QUEER and the clue "Not straight" (WRY) in one column. Here's a Slate article about the puzzle, interesting especially since there was an article not so long ago ripping the NYT for its tone-deaf cluing.

    1. Well, that Slate article is a tad overblown, in my opinion. I can't imagine anyone who actually subscribes to the NYT canceling their subscription over this, but who knows... there is seemingly no limit to human sensitivity/stupidity. Sure, it's nice that GENDERFLUID made it into a crossword, but it's not exactly a Stonewall moment.

    2. Perhaps Slate is always overblown. The other article certainly was. But also given the tone I see in so many comments and blogs about this sort of thing, it's nice to see them take the other side once in a while.

  2. 22:59
    I stared at the grid after finishing the puzzle trying to figure out the theme, but didn't understand it until reading this review. I was concentrating on the X and Y squares, which, as Colum mentions, doesn't work out. This is an excellent Thursday, even though it's not a typical rebus. Who knew there was something called ESPNU? I loved 41A Super (DANDY). And of course I put in gaY for 35D Not straight (WRY), but that was rather quickly corrected. It took nearly nine minutes for me to finish up the NE and the SW corners; the remainder fell in 14:04.

    1. I almost used the exact same sentence you did about ESPNU.

    2. Of course, the answer to that question is probably ET59.