April 2, 2014 by manvspuzzle
Theme: Nonsense terms made from sensible terms by taking common “out of ___” phrases literally. Clues are apt and hilarious, of course.
- 17A — Weapon part that’s out of this world? : SWORD HILT (get it? SWORD HILT is literally made “out of” the letters T-H-I-S-W-O-R-L-D)
- 41A — Attack on a Mideast land that’s out of thin air? : IRAN HIT
- 66A — Fisherman’s feat that’s out of character? : RARE CATCH
- 11D — Drenched gangsters who are out of the woods? : WET HOODS
- 40D — Military laundry that’s out of harm’s way? : ARMY WASH
Something Good: Theme Density. I know, I know, it’s not really *that* dense (41 letters spread over 5 answers). But the most interesting thing about a theme like this (in my humblest of opinions) is showing how many different ways the gag can work. There are compromises in convention (some non-theme answers that are as long or longer than some theme answers) and some compromises in the fill (oh, I’ll probably talk more about that below), but at least there are 5 examples of the theme. I would actually have preferred 1 or 2 more examples, since we’re already more theme-focused today than fill-focused, and since the answers we have here are relatively short. To sum up: the good thing I’m seeing here is that there are 5 solid examples of this gag, instead of 4 or 3.
Huh. I really like this theme. It had me going for a while, nice aha moment when I finally got it. It’s hard for me to believe that it hasn’t been done before, but I can’t find any evidence that it has. So the theme gets a serious thumbs-up from me.
Mixed feelings about the fill, though. I’m loving such answers as I GOT NEXT, ORIGAMI, and ARMPIT. And I’m not an EIEIO hater — I honestly believe that casual/new solvers will (and should) get a kick out of something like that. Veterans should know it and deal with it. But anyway, there’s a bunch of stuff that stood out to me as sub-par. I felt like there were a lot of weird partials, although there are only 3 — IT ON, NOW A, TRY A. So 1/6 of the 4-letter words are weird partials. And ITA wants to be a partial, but instead it’s the 3rd bit of 3-letter Spanish language (there’s also ESO and DIA). So 1/6 of the 3-letter words are Spanish. Then there’s the fact that about 2/3 of all of the short stuff (3- and 4-letters combined) is below sparkly (i.e., I would rate lower than good on my own personal word list). Nothing inexcusable, but not much to get excited about either.
Mostly average to below-average fill. So the theme really is what makes this puzzle. If you like it, if it tickles you, then you’ll probably have a good time today. If not, have fun complaining. You deserve it.