Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday, January 6, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


A rather tortured word-play theme today. I kept trying to figure out how the title "Breaking News" would be helpful to me in understanding the eight (!) theme answers. I thought, well, maybe they're all things that are covered on news programs? (I don't watch any news, so it was really just a guess.) The entertainment segment could cover a HOLLYWOODENDING, and maybe the early morning news show is called the EYEOPENER... but no. The title simply refers to the revealer, DEARJOHNLETTERS, which refers, sort of, to the other theme answers, which work together to spell out D-E-A-R-J-O-H-N.


To be clear, the second word of each two-word phrase tells you which letter to take from the first word. In ARCTICFRONT, it is the A. In STOLETHIRD, it is the O. Etc. Fine. I don't love it, but I don't hate it either. It's a thing.

I guess my issue is that it didn't enhance my solving experience while I was doing the puzzle. It extended the time that I spent with the puzzle by forcing me to figure it out after I was done. I suppose in some ways this could be seen as a good thing. For me, today, it wasn't.

But what about the rest of the answers? The fill, as it is sometimes called. Well, for starters, I disliked both 1A and 1D. Not a great start. ELMISTI (19,000+-foot Peruvian volcano) both didn't seem like something I ought to know, and the inclusion of the article is not consistent across the search results I just got when Googling it. And for 1D, I think I'd prefer seeing it clued as an Old English letter.

And PASHA (8A: Husband of Lara in "Doctor Zhivago") is little better. I'm sick of references to this movie and/or book. Both came out before I was born, and I've neither read nor seen it, but I know the theme was "Lara's Theme," and now I know her husband. Yay!

Boy... somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed. Sorry about all that complaining.

I liked SCEPTERS (65D: Symbols of sovereignty), and 60D: Range rovers (BISON) was cute. CONCOCT (74D: Dream up) is strong, and NOBLEMEN (59A: Duke and others) was tricky.

It is at times like these that I often think of the old adage "Criticism is easier than craftsmanship," and so I should probably just end by saying TOOGOOD (18A: "That's way better than I can do.")

- Horace


  1. I don't think your bed has anything to do with this. I agree, the theme was rather belabored. And frankly, I think you could have gone on about a few other things: RELOG?, ETH to start the downs, SOB, NEO (indeed, a lot of 3-letter word clusters for a Sunday and most were weak, although "Woman famously evicted from her home" wins on the clue, doesn't it?), OEDS plural, PDFS plural, DOALL?? (would you ever think of Frank as a DOALL? I wouldn't), and ALETAP is an expression that I've never used nor heard....

    On the plus side, I could hear Frannie saying "ASPER" when I entered it in...

  2. 29:33
    Not the greatest Sunday, and Horace is spot-on about the ELMISTI/ETH starts (and some of his other beefs). Icarus Fob also hit the nails on their heads both with his criticisms and with his praise of the EVE clue. I will henceforth refer to the Keggermeister lever as an ALETAP, though, and I will try the BLACKCOD next time I find myself at Nobu.

  3. Yes, Mr. Fob is right on everything. I, too, thought of Frank, and how I definitely would not have called him a DOALL. And I also thought immediately of Frannie (and Katherine) with ASPER. Heh!

  4. OK, guys...
    I now "have" to weigh in late - I simply loved this theme. I found it clever and exciting and was thrilled, I tell you, thrilled! when I got it! Yes, I did have to wait until I nearly got to the bottom and the revealer, but so what! That is supposed to happen - lots of head scratching and then the "AHA"! Perhaps it is my love of dabbling with cryptic puzzles...these are truly cryptic clues.

    I am also, apparently, older - having seen "Doctor Zhivago" in the movie theater when it came out. That cinematography was amazing and I can still see it in my mind to this day! Not that it actually helped me to remember that Lara even had a husband, much less what his name was! Ha!

    Anyway, happy solving...I come from the Malaska era when one needed the OED, a complete world atlas and perhaps even a thesaurus to finish a puzzle. Those old ones were an amazing set of learning tools and I miss them.

    1. Fair enough, MLou. I think we can all understand the love of solving a tricky puzzle, and if you enjoyed working your way through a Maleska-era puzzle or a cryptic, then you obviously have some stamina! I really do think that on another day I might have had a different reaction to this, and I'm glad to hear that you did. Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting!