Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016, Mark Diehl


Looking over the finished grid, there are a ton of nice words and phrases. But boy, did this play hard, really hard, and I think it's in the cluing. And that's to be expected on a Saturday, for sure, so I won't want to seem like I'm complaining too much. Even so, I think I didn't enjoy this themeless as much as I'd like to.

I broke in at 2D: Something sweet potatoes provide (VITAMINA), but despite getting a few other words in that corner, 1A: Something that might be built around a police station (TVDRAMA) stymied me because I was convinced the first letter would have to be a vowel. As it is, I really like the clue for this one, and give it a B+. Meanwhile 15A: Came aboard, in a way and 17A: Not free were both generic enough that I couldn't see them.

I had to drop into the SW, which came easily enough: AMO and MORE were gimmes, and I love the Vladimir Horowitz quotation for PRACTICE. So even though I didn't remember LALANNE, it came from crosses, and I thought I was all set to jump into the middle section.

Only not. I couldn't see CAMBODIANS for the life of me (I was stuck on CustODIANS... just wrong). And MODELROCKET was just not where I was going. I was thinking "bottle rocket", but that didn't fit.

Anyway, I figured out the SE next. MRPINK was my entry there (great movie!), and Hope supplied MONO (very nice clue there). 53A: Keep close relations? (INBREED) - Ew! And clever. And I really liked 35D: "Brady Bunch" bunch (STEPKIDS). This was my favorite corner by far.

The rest fell when I finally saw what 31A: Swallowing worry in an old wives' tale (WATERMELONSEEDS) was getting at. Boy, that is a tangled clue. Seems like a TABLOID is not the only potential libel defendant recently. I hate ADSPEAK and RONDELLE, but I really liked 23A: Follower of a team (SLED). That's seriously tricky and took a long time for me to see.

CHANGEENDS is fine, just not what I've heard before - change-overs, change sides, switch sides, switch courts. These are all more familiar to me.

Anyway, it's a well-constructed grid. I just didn't love solving it as much as I thought I would.

- Colum


  1. 29:02
    CHANGEENDS is fine. That's the phrase I've heard and used since childhood and it's the first thing I entered in the grid. (CHANGEoverS would be a noun, not a directive. CHANGEsideS is less formal than CHANGEENDS.) You will be pleased that another entry for which I needed no crosses was PRACTICE. I thought "SiblingS" for the Brady Bunch, but knew that probably wasn't right. Still, it wasn't too hard to get to STEPKIDS. And I guess that's the thing: there were many such longer answers here - like WATERMELONSEEDS, STRONGPOINT, EXAMINEE, DIGUNDER, KEEPAPART - that were ultimately quite accessible, closer to my wheelhouse, I guess, and needed very few, if any, crosses and that made this go a little more quickly.

  2. 50:36
    I went through the clues twice, entering only a few answers (AMO, MORE, LALANNE, INBREED, YDS and SMORE), but nothing happened until I entered KEEPAPART in the SE and the south fell relatively quickly. The NE and the NW came much more slowly after I took a couple of chances in both areas that panned out. Anyway, I found this to be just the right level of difficulty for a Saturday: challenging, great cluing and a nice mix of extremely generic (as Colum mentions) and surprising but gettable answers, like RONDELLE. SCRAWLS (despite the plural), CONGER and MORONS are all nice. Excellent Saturday.