David J. Kahn’s Tuesday, 12/24/13 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

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December 24, 2013 by manvspuzzle

Theme: Nelson Mandela

Theme Entries:

  • 8A — With 68-Across, prison where 36-Across spent 18 years : ROBBEN
  • 18A — With 60-Across, 1994-99 role for 36-Across : PRESIDENT OF
  • 29A — Predecessor of 36-Across and sharer with him of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize : FW DEKLERK
  • 36A — Late political leader who wrote “Long Walk to Freedom” : NELSON MANDELA
  • 46A — Father, in Xhosa, and a nickname for 36-Across : TATA
  • 48A — Bygone policy in 60-Across : APARTHEID
  • 68A — See 18-Across : SOUTH AFRICA
  • 3D — Barack or Michelle Obama, at the memorial service for 36-Across : ATTENDEE

    © The New York Times

    © The New York Times

***

OK, OK.  This is a fine puzzle.  It does what it’s supposed to do.  You *could* create a punny/wordplay puzzle to celebrate NELSON MANDELA, but it might feel a little ridiculous to be writing something like NELSON MANDIBLE, etc.  This is fine for me.

I think people will have trouble with ATTENDEE being the only Down theme answer, and feeling kind of arbitrary, and also having no symmetric partner.  TATA has no symmetric partner either.  So this should bother some purists.

But again, think of the All American Family sitting around the yuletide cheeseball today.  They’re loving the hell out of this puzzle.  Dad is feeling like *the man* because he got FW DEKLERK with no crosses.  Mom knows ECARD all too well because she’s gotten about 1,000 of them in place of actual presents from her kids on special occasions.  Sis just had her mind blown at the very idea of a PONY CAR.  And you know, Junior is a huge SOX fan.

I’m aware that very good solvers who do the puzzle daily are going to notice that this one is very average.  The fill isn’t mind-blowing.  It feels hastily put-together.  Having REMAP and REPACK in the same puzzle stinks.  The lack of symmetry in places is not good *for people who know that that sort of thing is not good.*  For other people, it hardly matters.  Or, more likely, it doesn’t matter at all.

On the other hand, I liked learning PONY CAR.  I also didn’t know ROBBEN ISLAND.  And I like TWO-D, even though I know a lot of haters love to hate on it.

So whatever.  I’m fine with this puzzle.  Happy with it, actually.  It’s just what it needed to be.

Thanks, David.

 

 

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