Douglas Taillon’s Monday, 4/7/14 *DEBUT* NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)


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.

4 7 14

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.














4 thoughts on “Douglas Taillon’s Monday, 4/7/14 *DEBUT* NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

  1. tom pepper says:

    I like the idea behind this, but cramming the JANUS two-face into the puzzle, along with the two-AISLE 767, was like stacking one too many blocks in Jenga and causing the whole theme to topple over. Four long 2s, four short 2s in the corners, and the 2 created by the black squares is plenty of theme material.

    Agree that the fill is very nice and am a little shocked there are no debut words here. I finished in almost record time for me, and I always like a Monday puzzle that goes really fast.

    Yes, I too do not get RUSTIC clued as a noun, especially on a Monday.

    Though AQABA was unknown to me and not very Mondayish, it was gettable from the crosses, so no harm, no foul.

    I love to see debuts. Congrats, Douglas! And thanks–I enjoyed it very much!

  2. Z says:

    I liked this far more than you. JANUS is as “two” as you can get, what with the whole two-faces thing, looking forward and backward. As for AISLE – it is symmetrical with JANUS, so cluing it with a couple clue is nice attention to detail.

    I worry – if we are going to go around asking why puzzles exist ANARCHY is certain to ensue.

    I liked the TOO bonus at 21A. All in all, a very nice effort. Speaking of short fill… 52 of them was surprising to read. I’d reduce your list to DAH and ESE. The SOO is a beautiful area, as I am sure EDO was, so I’ve no problem with their occasional appearance. The amazing thing is how ungrating so much short fill turns out to be. If you hadn’t pointed it out I wouldn’t have noticed.

    • manvspuzzle says:

      I agree — the short stuff was no issue at all. Remarkable in its subtle goodness.

      We are already living the anarchy, aren’t we? Maybe we’re not quite there yet. I was thinking for a long time yesterday about the nature of the ongoing puzzle conversation and what it all means. Where various factions and arguments come from, how I’ve found myself at my personal position, etc.

      I concluded that it’s all just a riff on one simple question: “what is a crossword puzzle?”

      As with any deep, metaphysical question, there is no easy answer.

      • Z says:

        Speaking of which – I gave your quiz a go, felt confident at eliminating 4 as non-PB, but I don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough to narrow it down further. Maybe having the clues would have helped me.

        Also, several of these look very familiar and I have a niggling suspicion that one I eliminated might actually be a PB. That would really be humbling. Waiting for the answer.

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