Gloria of Miami Sound Machine / THU 7-28-2016 / Sweetums / Kind of chat

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Constructor: Adam G. Perl

Relative difficulty: On the easy side for Thursday

THEME: LOST ART — Eight grid entries are missing the letters ART as clued, but still form familiar words

Word of the Day: AEROFLOT (42A: One of the carriers in the SkyTeam alliance)
OJSC Aeroflot – Russian Airlines (Russian: ОАО "Аэрофло́т-Росси́йские авиали́нии", OAO Aeroflot-Rossiyskiye avialinii) (MCXAFLT), commonly known as Aeroflot (English pronunciation: /ˈɛərˌflɒt/ or Listeni/ˌɛərˈflɒt/) (Russian: Аэрофлот, English translation: "air fleet", pronounced [ɐɛrɐˈflot]), is the flag carrier[3] and largest airline of the Russian Federation.[4] The carrier operates domestic and international passenger and services, mainly from its hub at Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Aeroflot is one of the oldest airlines in the world, tracing its history back to 1923. During the Soviet era, Aeroflot was the Soviet national airline and the largest airline in the world.[5][6] Following the dissolution of the USSR, the carrier has been transformed from a state-run enterprise into a semi-privatised company which ranked 19th most profitable airline in the world in 2007.[7] Aeroflot is still considered the de facto national airline of Russia.[8] It is 51%-owned by the Russian Government. As of September 2013, the Aeroflot Group had 30,328 employees.
• • •

I knew something was up when I couldn't get that northwest corner to work. Finally puzzled out that 1-Across was CHIEF (Auto booster), which I didn't understand but figured it must be some car slang I didn't know. Turns out it was C(AR T)HIEF, since 39-A (Letter writing, they say ... or a hint to eight answers in this puzzle) was LOST ART.

So these entries lose their ART but leave another (unclued) word. That's mildly amusing. Not a barn-burner of a theme, since it's not really that fun to go searching for the remaining missing ARTs, but it's not unpleasant, either. I would cap this idea at a B+, so it's only a B+ if the constructor did pretty much everything else very well.

Which he in fact did, as follows:

1) He made the ART-less (not "artless") entries symmetrical. This is both elegant and a nice courtesy to the solver, since the post-reveal hunt could be a bit tedious without it.

2) He didn't overstuff the grid with theme. Eight looks like the sweet spot here, especially since you've also got the central LOST ART to contend with; any less would seem thin, but any more wouldn't let the fill breathe.

3) He gave himself the chance for a nice grid with 2), and then knocked it out of the park. Look at all those above-average 6's, 7's, and 8: EAT WELL, MR. TOAD, AEROFLOT, FEEL FREE, TAKE THAT!, ESTEFAN, POLARIS, LET'S GO, EDWARD I. That's some fine word-weaving; every 20 seconds of my solve I kept mentally noting "good entry" over and over. I would have worked obscure SAAR out (just make it SEAR with EDEN crossing) but not much else beyond that. Very good grid.

4) While the theme per se is only moderately interesting, its eight words are well chosen. C(AR) THIEF is a nice find that might have been overlooked, and was interesting to finally parse, And that "The Artist" becomes THEIST is also fun. BENDER/B(ART)ENDER is an interesting pair, since bartenders have seen many drinkers on a bender. M(ART)INIS is another good one. The others are P(ART)ISANS, P(ART)IES, P(ART)ONE, and REST(ART)ED. 

While I don't think this theme is quite snappy enough to put an A on, it's still perfectly good and the constructor maximized the concept and execution nicely. This is a skillfully crafted piece of work.  Letter grade B+.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 3 more days

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


2003 Bennifer Bomb / WED 7-27-2016 / Itemize / Refusal from Putin

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Constructor: Natan Last, Finn Vigeland, and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: A-OK for a Wednesday

THEME: RING CYCLE — Theme entries are things with between 1 and 5 rings

Word of the Day: PATCHOULI (13A: Scent in incense and insect repellents)
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth) is a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon. It is a bushy herb of the mint family, with erect stems, reaching two or three feet (about 0.75 metre) in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers...The word derives from the Tamil patchai (Tamil: பச்சை) (green), ellai (Tamil: இலை) (leaf). -- Wikipedia
• • •

This crossword gets the solver intrigued quickly: you hit 16A and the clue is (Place to find one O) and you say aha! Something is afoot here. Like a book passing the page one test; you want to see what happens next.

The answer there was THE HOBBIT, which does indeed have one O -- but it can't be that simple, of course. Soon you hit the clue for 22A (Place to find two Os) and the answer is VENN DIAGRAM. I got it there, and you probably did, too: these are not the letter O, but rings. The other three are:

CIRCUS TENT (28A: Place to find three Os), AUDI DEALER (40A: Place to find four Os) -- that's the automaker's logo -- and OLYMPIC FLAG (45A: Place to find five Os).

But wait, there's more! A reveal of RING CYCLE (59A: Wagner work ... or a possible title for this puzzle).

That's a nice Wednesday, don't you think? A little mystery, a theme idea you haven't seen before, a wide-ranging theme set, an apt reveal to tie it all together, and a little sense of self-satisfaction that you puzzled it all out.

Not to mention the clues, which are much more vigorous than the past two days. Let's try the best-three-clues test here:  BOOYAH (8D: "How do you like dem apples?!"), SAGELY (19A: In a Yoda-like manner), and ECHO (3D: "Hello ... hello ... hello ..."). Also notice the (Snatched) and (Snatches) pair at 52A and 53A for STOLEN and NABS

A nitpicker might pick the following two nits: 1) Wagner's RING CYCLE contains four works, so having five entries instead of four throws that off a tiny bit. And 2) the number of rings is set for 1, 3, 4, and 5, but a Venn Diagram can have three or four or more rings, so not quite as tight as it could be there. Maybe WEDDING HALL instead? Though perhaps the constructors didn't want to have two wearable rings as 1-2, so a reasonable decision. Very small dings there. And I'm not a nitpicker anyway, so I won't bring these two points up.

The fill is fine in retrospect, but you know what? I didn't even notice it while solving because I was so entertained by unraveling the theme. And incidentally the reveal was at the end, where it was supposed to be, so I got a chance to figure out what was going on before having it made plain.

Trying to decide between B+ and A-, and a final look over the puzzle pushes me to A- because I do dig that little trick with the letter O actually representing a ring. I bet the constructors realized that THE HOBBIT has one O in it, so we'd still go on thinking for a couple more minutes that it was going to have to do with how many O's the theme entries had. Also note the timeliness of the Olympics entry.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 4 more days

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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