Grace's last name on Will Grace / THU 12-14-17 / 2800 mile river to Laptev Sea / Hero architect in Fountainhead / Potential dragon roll ingredient

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: BURY THE / HATCHET (40D: With 43-Down, make peace ... or what you must do to complete this puzzle?) — the letters "AX" are "buried" underneath the grid (i.e. they extend off the grid—you have to mentally supply them)

Theme answers:
  • NONE OF YOUR BEESW(AX) (3D: "Butt out!")
  • STELLAR / PARALL(AX) (5D: With 45-Down, effect used by astronomers to measure distance)
  • SIT BACK / AND REL(AX) (9D: With 46-Down, chill out)
  • PERSONAL INCOME T(AX) (11D: Everyone's duty?)
Word of the Day: Chuck COLSON (44D: Chuck who was part of the Watergate Seven) —
Charles Wendell "Chuck" Colson (October 16, 1931 – April 21, 2012) was an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. // Once known as President Nixon's "hatchet man," Colson gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal, for being named as one of the Watergate Seven, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg. In 1974, he served seven months in the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama as the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. (wikipedia) (emph. mine!)
• • •

I think the concept here is decent, but I didn't enjoy solving this much at all. This is probably because it relied on several proper nouns I just didn't know: a fictional TV character's last name (?) (ADLER) and Chuck COLSON, who ... yeah, before my time. I have asked for COLSON Whitehead to be the COLSON clue in the past, to no avail. I am never going to remember Chuck COLSON. He's not historically significant enough now. Some "bygone" people can survive their "bygoneness" and some can't. Chuck can't. So the names weren't great and the short stuff was all fussily / vaguely clued. No luck at all at first with TANK, ATON, OAF, FLUB, LYES, SPOT, NEWT, OHSO, etc. I also wrote in LENAPE instead of LAKOTA (stupid "L") (47D: Great Plains tribe), and never heard of STELLAR / PARALL(AX), and wrote in PERSONAL INCOMES (?) before I ever knew what the theme was, and then later forgot it was a themer and was wondering why the hell my SE corner wouldn't come together. Got BURY THE / HATCHET before I got any themer, then figured it out with SIT BACK / AND REL(AX). I enjoyed NONE OF YOUR BEESW(AX), but not much else. Four buried AXes ... OK. It's fine, passable. Not for me, really, but not bad, by any means.


My favorite part of this puzzle was discovering that Chuck COLSON was Nixon's "hatchet man." That is an amazing secret bonus theme-related answer. I also like the unusual grid shape (with its L/R symmetry and that weird isolated bucket of answers hanging in the middle of the grid (LAB MICE on top, TIN on the bottom). But overall this one just left me cold. It's not the puzzle's fault. It certainly met minimal standards for a Thursday. It just amuse or amaze me. Speaking of amusing and amazing, you should really give Paolo Pasco's independent puzzles a try. Get them here (at his puzzle blog, "Grids These Days"). His latest is a model of what a "wacky" theme should be. OK, by now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Crumbly cheese similar to feta / WED 12-13-17 / Iron compound found in steel / Unconventional soccer kick / Storied gift bearers

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Constructor: Benjamin Kramer

Relative difficulty: Challenging


THEME: MAKE AN ENTRANCE (55A: Arrive with fanfare ... or what the circled squares do?) — circled squares are verbs that at least vaguely describe what someone "making an entrance" ... does*:

***
*UPDATE (2:24pm EST): I did not understand this theme at all. Apparently you're supposed to understand "ENTRANCE" as a verb, and all the circled words are synonyms of "ENTRANCE," despite the fact that "MAKE AN enTRANCE (v.)" makes no ****ing sense at all; anyway, the write-up below was written when I did not fully grasp the theme, though most of what I have to say still stands...
***

Theme answers:
  • FRENCH ANTILLES (18A: Island group near Dominica)
  • DRIVE THROUGH (31A: Option at many a fast-food restaurant)
  • SIDE LIGHTING (40A: Producer of horizontal shadows) 
Word of the Day: TOE POKE (60A: Unconventional soccer kick) —
toe-poke (plural toe-pokes)
  1. (soccer) A hard kick to a football with the toe end of the boot. (wiktionary)
• • •

It's hard for me to pay any attention to this truly bad puzzle, both because it is truly bad and because Make Alabama Great For Once! Woo hoo! But back to the puzzle, yikes. Let me count the ways. First, the grid is inexplicable. Why is the word count so low? 70 words!?! The fill is sooo bad, why not at least try to make it smoother by taking the tremendous load off those NW / SE corners?! Or just build an entirely different grid. Honestly, this isn't just baffling, it's infuriating. Even if you thought this theme was good (it's not, more on that in a sec), *tell this constructor how to make a more viable grid*! Do your damn job, ugh. This is so disturbing, professionally. Best puzzle in the world? Grrrrr. So FERRITE (16A: Iron compound found in steel) and SIRENE (3D: Crumbly cheese similar to feta) and TOEPOKE—am I supposed to be *happy* with that? And -OTIC, ffs!?!?! It's mind-boggling. Almost, but not quite, as mind-boggling as cluing ORE as [Old Swedish coins]. Is it December April Fools Day? I have no idea what's happening.

[BREAD] [7D: "Cabbage"]

The theme is stupid because MAKE AN ENTRANCE means none of the things in the circled squares, and those circles do not actually MAKE AN ENTRANCE—i.e. they are a fundamental part of the words that they are in. It would've been .... something? ... if you had actually *added* those circled squares into a pre-existing word or phrase and somehow gotten another (wacky?) word or phrase. Then "entrance" would've made at least *some* sense. But they are just *found* in the answers they appear in. They don't "enter." Again, how is no one noticing this? I really dig NFLLOGO as an answer (10D: Imagine on the middle of a Super Bowl field)—it's insane-looking. The rest: shred.

OK, back to enjoying a rare night of hopefulness. Bye all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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