April 12, 2014 by manvspuzzle
Something Good: COLBERT BUMP. This modern (and debut) entry is a beacon in a sea of standard old-school and/or very crosswordy answers (not all of them fit this description, of course). COLBERT BUMP feels like it’s 90% of the puzzle, though it’s just one entry. The puzzle was built to accommodate it and published to showcase it. And it’s kinda fun to look at. A nice answer coming the week that the Colbert takeover of the Late Show was announced. Super-psyched and oddly proud of Stephen for that accomplishment — I’ve been following that guy’s career since my freshman year of college (about 15 years ago), the beginning of his “Strangers With Candy” days.
Nearly impenetrable for *this* average brain. The southeast fell into place pretty much with no issues, but that was basically it. I did get COLBERT BUMP to fall without any help, but that was only after I switched IM SO SO SORRY (?) to the much more sensible EVER SO SORRY. It only took my like 1,000 minutes to fix that mistake.
BACKBENCH and all of its surrounding minions (SELA, AHAB, HEATHERY, VASCO, ALEKSEI, BINGHAM) were just a standard collection of face-melters. Could not puncture. I eventually had to Google for VASCO (I had ROCKY of course, in true dingus form), and then everything made a little more sense.
I’d really like to know more about Mel Rosen’s constructing style. He’s not the youngest constructor out there, and he began constructing in the pre-software era (really the pre-pre-pre-software era — his first NYT puzzle was published at the tail end of Will Weng’s editorship, when I was just a collection of atoms randomly strewn about the Earth). Does he use software these days? This puzzle doesn’t feel like it. It feels very human, and in a strange way restricted in that regard.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, but a typical modern puzzle constructed with a good word list and construction software tends to eschew terms that, say, the average twenty-something with hipster sensibilities basically wouldn’t know. Like PYE DOGS, for instance. It’s certainly real, but I basically wouldn’t allow it in a puzzle I was constructing because it’s so foreign to me personally. Not that I represent constructing standards by any means, and not to say it’s bad. It just…has an old-school feel. It’s noteworthy that it’s never been used in the Shortz-era before today.
So anyway, this puzzle isn’t for people like me. I’m hoping that older, highly-intelligent weekend solvers are having a good time with it, because I expect that the average (not genius) younger solver isn’t going to have much luck.
That’s my take. Let me know if I’m off base!