April 7, 2014 by manvspuzzle
Theme: 2. 4 long theme answers include words related to the number 2. 6ish other answers have a ‘couple’ slant, and are symmetrically placed around the grid. Then there’s the visual right there in the middle: a 2 made from black squares.
Theme Answers (the long ones):
- 16A — High-stakes wager : DOUBLE OR NOTHING
- 59A — Boeing 767, for one : TWIN ENGINE PLANE
- 13D — More, at a meal : SECOND HELPING
- 14D — Someone who’s so nice you almost want to smack him : GOODY TWO SHOES
Something Good: The Visual. Everything else related to the theme kinda clunked against my forehead and fell in my lap. But the visual: for me, super-nice. Didn’t see it until *after* I figured out what was going on with the theme answers. It doesn’t jump out at you (or it didn’t at me). Finally seeing it was my nice moment of the day.
Weird puzzle today. A bunch of 2-related stuff. Fair enough, but it feels oddly incomplete. Or out-of-balance. Maybe both. I guess I should probably try to explain that take, to you and myself.
Regarding the incompleteness: this puzzle is experiencing an existential crisis (not unlike the one I experience daily when I sit down to write this blog). It wants some greater meaning attached to its otherwise dreary existence. Like maybe it wants to be run on Groundhog Day 208 years from now, although that will of course be a Saturday :(. Or maybe it just wants a revealer. I dunno. As a solver, I was just left feeling a little empty, waiting for the *reason* for all of the 2 stuff, which never came.
Regarding the lack of balance: at least half of those extra ‘couple’-related clues and answers seemed like afterthoughts. I felt like someone was pushing me to accept them as theme answers when they clearly weren’t well-developed as such. I mean, FACE in the SE corner really stands out in contrast to DYAD, DUAL and PAIR in the other 3 corners. FACE is not intrinsically 2-related, so it feels creepypushy that it’s forced on me like it is. AISLE is also not 2-related at its core. Neither is JANUS, really. But those other three are. So again, a balance issue. Kinda too bad.
Of course, this is Douglas’s debut, which is what it feels like. And you know me, I like to cut a little slack to a constructor’s first puzzle, which is what I’m doing in my head as I’m publicly shaming it here.
52 3- and 4-letter answers. Whoa! That’s 2/3 of the puzzle. Not normal. And 43 blocks. Also not normal. These two things were probably necessary for Douglas to be able to reasonably intersect all 4 long answers, which is a beautiful little thing to look at but also very limiting — especially when you also have those other short themers. However, I will say that the short fill is basically (and surprisingly, taking the constraints into consideration) good. Just a few weirdos (DAH, EDO, SOO).
There’s other stuff that bothers me too, but I’m running out of steam. Somebody else will surely be talking about the clue for RUSTIC, or SOO crossing TORERO, or the very non-Monday ANOUK. But I won’t even mention them.
Take it easy. Oh, and if you didn’t catch it yesterday, there’s a contest going on that ends at noon (eastern time) today. Check it out here.