The last time it was my week to blog, I got a puzzle with a lot of this "With 5-Across"-type cluing, and I did not like it much. That time, a lot of entries were just left with a dash instead of a real clue, but this time each answer has a clue, and the whole thing is held together nicely. It's a LIFE CYCLE that runs around the perimeter - two paths starting in the top left, ending in the bottom right, with a revealer in the very center. Not bad, really. It didn't make me love the cross-referenced clues, but once I was finished with the puzzle, I could appreciate the lovely construction. And the bold repetition of the word LIFE also made me smile. So although I am surprising myself by saying this, I liked it. :)
That said, the fill had to be sacrificed a bit for this stunt. ENOS and ANOS, ORANG, STENO, and ENLISTER... none of that is great. And AFTERBIRTH may indeed be called the "third stage of labor," but it's also something that I am surprised passed the "breakfast table test."
On the other hand, I liked the freshness of EMAILBLAST (Message with many bcc's), and BOSTONACCENT (What may be tested by parking a car in Harvard Yard?) was fun. My bike is pahked in the yahd right now!
And I loved seeing AMBIENTNOISE (It's created by wind, rain and traffic) in the grid, because it's a topic, and a phenomenon, that I've become more acutely aware of recently. When we were in more of a total shutdown here in the Boston area, I felt the lack of cars and trucks almost all the time. The streets were empty, and the ambient noise changed from engines and the terrible beeping of trucks backing up, to leaves rustling in the trees and birds chirping. Today, the quote on my "page-a-day" calendar is this: "Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation." - Jean Arp. Of course, John Cage's quote "There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot." is also true. There is always AMBIENTNOISE. Sometimes it's pleasant, sometimes it's not. I prefer it to be pleasant.
Wow. I'm not sure that last paragraph went where I wanted it to when I started it, but I hope it at least will make you stop somewhere, sometime, during your travels today and just listen for a minute. Just hear what there is to hear.
Yesterday, I saw a dead body on the street under a sheet. A man about my age was killed by a truck as he bicycled on pavement I ride every day on my way home from work. I got up this morning and went for a bike ride, and I tried to get over it, but it's not easy. Things like that do, however, make life more evident, more immediate, more raw. And I think that can be a good thing. Be aware of it. We all get just one LIFE. Only a crossword puzzle can have two.