March 16, 2014 by manvspuzzle
Title: IT’S BETTER THIS WAY
Theme: Long theme answers feature the consecutive letters R-X. Then there’s a revealer. It’s a prescription-related medical gag. Oh, there are also some circled letters — SICK in the upper-left, and WELL in the lower right.
- 23A — *He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae : XERXES I OF PERSIA
- 31A — *Off-roader, often : FOUR X FOUR
- 49A — *Annual draw for snocross fans : THE WINTER X GAMES
- 65A — *Iconic feature of comedy : GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE
- 79A — *Founder of Marvel’s School for Gifted Youngsters : PROFESSOR XAVIER
- 97A — *Frequent problem faced by algebra students : SOLVE FOR X
- 108A — *Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with “The” : RETURN OF DR X
- 16D — With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues : FOLLOWING THE
- 58D — See 16-Down : PRESCRIPTION
Something Good: I’m gonna go with the 7- and 8-letter answers. They’re the longest after the theme answers, and there are 15 of them. They don’t *really* stand out in this puzzle, at least not for me. But it’s still the long fill. And they’re good. Some are great (MGM LION, ADAMS ALE, ROM COMS, THING IS). I feel like I can see that Jeremy focused on his long stuff and made it good, perhaps at the expense of some of the shorter stuff (68 3- and 4-letter answers). Unless you’re Patrick Berry, you’re going to have compromises somewhere on a Sunday. But there aren’t any *long* compromises here.
I had a fine time with this, though I really struggled in the South. ADAMS ALE is not something I know. Nor is RETURN OF DR X. But I had a hunch with OLE and NAP, muscled through EX FED, and when HOARSE finally came to me everything else fell into place. I’d say I spent 20% of my solve just in that section. Hard stuff (for me).
Lots of theme weirdness. I couldn’t help notice that XERXES I OF PERSIA is *freaking* *crazy*. As a theme answer. Or any answer. It’s a real thing, of course. But crazy. You know what I mean? And then RETURN OF DR X is missing the ‘The,’, but THE WINTER X GAMES gets to keep its ‘The.’ GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE? Ok, I guess so. And then the X in FOUR X FOUR, as we all know, is really more of a multiplication sign in real life.
And then the revealer, FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION, seems a little arbitrary, as we’re not really “following” anything in the puzzle. I mean, I guess we can sort of track R-X around the grid if we want. And then, with no fanfare, the circled WELL and SICK. Plus the title, which I don’t really get (someone enlighten me?).
All of it just felt a little nuts. Like jogging through a funhouse. But like a John Barth funhouse. Full of self-conscious postmodern wordplay and just generally confusing. Ok, I don’t know what I’m saying anymore.
Anyway, I got through it. This was the rare puzzle that my wife sat down and solved with me, and she really helped me out today (she’s more of a Sudoku person). She’s a good partner for me in any mental contest, always seeing the crap that I don’t get. First of all, she’s totally B.S. ( meaning she was a science/health major in college and took Anatomy classes), so she’s not fooled by BONE puns (104D — Radius, e.g.) (I wrote in LINE, like the bullshit English major I am). And her brain just works differently than mine. V SIX (83D — Motor with some muscle) *would not* fall for me, and she got it with just the V in 1.7 seconds. So she’s alright.
Some not-so-great-looking shorter stuff, but really nothing below- or above-average for a Sunday in my opinion. Good enough. Which basically means good.
****HEY!**** I get it now. You “follow the prescription” to get from SICK to WELL in the puzzle! The R-X actually kind of makes a breadcrumb trail from the upper-left to the lower-right. Ok, that’s pretty cool. Also pretty cool that if I wasn’t writing about this puzzle, I never would have noticed that. Blogging can be good.
Also, this happened today:
That’s me and my kid. We have lots of snow here. More falling right now. Looking forward to spring starting sometime in June.
Have a great Sunday.