Sunday, July 31, 2016
Constructor: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin
Relative difficulty: Not very tough
THEME: MAKE "IT" A DOUBLE — each theme entry contains two IT rebus squares
Word of the Day: ENDGAME (115A: Lead-up to mating) —
In chess and chess-like games, the endgame (or end game or ending) is the stage of the game when few pieces are left on the board.
The line between middlegame and endgame is often not clear, and may occur gradually or with the quick exchange of a few pairs of pieces. The endgame, however, tends to have different characteristics from the middlegame, and the players have correspondingly different strategic concerns. In particular, pawns become more important as endgames often revolve around attempting to promote a pawn by advancing it to the eighth rank. The king, which has to be protected in the middlegame owing to the threat of checkmate, becomes a strong piece in the endgame. It can be brought to the center of the board and act as a useful attacking piece. --Wikipedia
On to the puzzle. Not the most exciting idea: each theme entry contains a pair of (IT) rebus squares, and then the reveal is KEEP (IT) TOGETHER, clued as (Stay cool ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme). I guess if you've never seen a rebus theme before you'd be impressed, but otherwise the solve gets sloggy quick.
- SW(IT)CH POS(IT)IONS (22A: Flip-Flop)
- CRED(IT) OR DEB(IT) (31A: Question asked at the cash register)
- IN(IT)IATION R(IT)E (59A: Occasion to learn a secret handshake)
- L(IT)TLE WH(IT)E LIE (80A: Fib)
- PATERN(IT)Y SU(IT) (107A: Way to get to know a father in law?)
- SECUR(IT)Y DEPOS(IT) (16D: Landlord's request)
- (IT)SY-B(IT)SY SPIDER (58D: Climber in a children's rhyme)
Very slightly offputting to include a pair of downward theme entries in a rebus like this; messes with the optics a little bit, obscuring that each theme entry has two ITs. I do like the symmetric and amusing crossers F(IT)B(IT)S and N(IT)W(IT)S, each of which crosses two theme entries and required some delicate footwork to include.
Big blot, though, at 82D ("It was you," à la Verdi) for ERI TU. Pretty standard in a theme like this not to have any stray rebus pieces laying about, so the unused (IT) in this entry should certainly have been caught and excised. Might seem harsh but that's about .25 of a letter grade right there.
I remember the fill being pretty good, though during a sloggy solve you're always on the lookout for gimmick squares so it's tougher to appreciate it. But points for ALL CAPS, JOCULAR, MEMO PAD, TV HOSTS, BUST A GUT, both ARSENIC and POISON, LOW TECH, and TOM-TOM. Lots of theme entries so tough to keep it both interesting and clean, but she pulled it off well I think.
Hard to rise above a dull theme on a Sunday. Wavering between C+ and C, but that ERI TU thing removes the +. Letter grade of C.
Before I return you to Rex: be aware that the 9th edition of Lollapuzzoola takes place in Manhattan, NYC, USA on Saturday, August 13th, 10AM-6PM. I've been to this very enjoyable crossword tournament three times in the past and can highly recommend it -- casual, fun, one day only so not a big investment of time, very high quality puzzles. Tournament organizers Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer keep things amusing and make sure everyone has a good time. Sometimes people throw food. Check it out here:
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld until midnight tonight
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