April 21, 2014 by manvspuzzle
Theme: COUNTEREXAMPLES. 4 theme answers are examples of people who count things. Then there’s the revealer.
- 17A — Strike zone arbiter : HOME PLATE UMPIRE (s/he counts balls, strikes, etc.)
- 23A — George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” : BANK MANAGER
- 38A — One getting hit in Vegas : BLACKJACK PLAYER
- 47A — Decennial official : CENSUS TAKER
- 58A — They disprove claims … or 17-, 23-, 38- and 47-Across, in a way? : COUNTEREXAMPLES
Something Good: Newness. I don’t care if you think this theme is boring. At least it’s something you probably haven’t seen before. That’s worth something — at least as much as a squeaky-clean puzzle with trite theme material. And it’s mildly amusing, anyway. Somebody out there is probably slapping his/her thigh in response to said amusement. Good for them.
I can’t believe I liked this one so much, but I really did.
Full disclosure: 1) I solved together with my wife (a basically non-crossword person) 2) this was the most beautiful day, weatherwise, I’ve experienced in the last…I dunno…7 months? So I was already happy. And then I solved under abnormal circumstances (the wife thing, plus there was a porcupine right outside my window while I was solving, acting all cocky).
So maybe those things contributed to my liking this puzzle. Even my wife said something like, “huh, that theme’s pretty thin.” I kinda thought that too, but it’s definitely a solid, simple concept. And new — I highly doubt its ever been done before. Not mind-blowing, but something different. Fair enough.
I will say that I’ve been a BLACKJACK PLAYER on numerous occasions and I’ve counted nothing. The casual BLACKJACK PLAYER just lives in the moment, right? You have to get to MIT Blackjack Team-level to seriously count cards. But I guess a professional gambler would be a card counter. And that would keep the theme consistent in a way, because the other three people are indeed professionals.
As for the fill: it’s ok. The crosswordese really stood out during my solve, probably because I was hyper-aware of what a less experienced solver (my wife) would struggle with. POI, ASTA, ARAL, AERIE. Quite a foursome for a Monday. I suspect POI would be the only real issue for the poor noob solvers, because it crosses AON at the O. If you know neither, you’re screwed.
I see some other weird fill. Not what I would call ‘crosswordese’ — just ‘less-than-optimal.’ TOS, for example. In general, I found that the short stuff here was below average in sparkliness, but some of the longer stuff was quite nice (PRATFALL, MOCASSIN, TEXACO, etc.).
Clues are generally straightforward and decidedly un-tricky. Very noob friendly in that regard. And there was some good learning to be had: the ARAL sea is shrinking, ZAGAT began in 1979, TEXACO sponsors the Metropolitan Opera, KIX is General Mills’ 2nd-oldest cereal. I guess I personally knew about the shrinking from previous crosswords; the rest are new to me. So this puzzle helped me become a tad smarter. Nice.
Not much more to say. All in all, I had a great time. Thanks, John and Will.