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) (MCX: AFLT), commonly known as Aeroflot (English pronunciation: // or i//) (Russian: Аэрофлот, English translation: "air fleet", pronounced [ɐɛrɐˈflot]), is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Russian Federation. 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. 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. Aeroflot is still considered the de facto national airline of Russia. 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]