Michael Hawkins’ Thursday, 1/23/14 *Debut* NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

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January 23, 2014 by manvspuzzle

hawkTheme: Blocks.  There are blocks in this puzzle that you have to draw yourself in order for the answers to make sense.  Not only that, but some of the clues seem to lead nowhere; that is, until you put those dang blocks in there.

Theme Answers:

  • 20A — Member of a boy band with nine top 10 hits : NEW KID ON THE (BLOCK)
  • 23A — Supply line cutter : (BLOCK)ADE
  • 35A — Kitchen counter option : BUTCHER (BLOCK)
  • 39A — Some street gatherings : (BLOCK) PARTIES
  • 53A — Bygone delivery : ICE (BLOCK)
  • 56A — “Titanic” or “Avatar” : (BLOCK)BUSTER MOVIE
  • 15D — Building unit : CINDER(BLOCK)
  • 23D — Represses, as bad memories : (BLOCK)SOUT
  • 38D — Cooler part : CELL (BLOCK)
  • 39D — (BLOCK) QUOTES

What’s Good: The Theme.  It’s a nice idea with a neat twist. 1 23 14***

Zoinkies.  This was hard.

It took me a long.dang.time to even realize that 6 of the clues didn’t lead anywhere.  Once that happened, though, the 40-watt lightbulb in my skull shined brightly.  It was a nice moment.

The fill isn’t too bad, really.  Some stinkers, but all in all, I had no problem with it.  I will point this out, though: a full half (40) of this puzzles words are 3- or 4- letters long.  That seems like a lot of short stuff, but a quick scan tells me that they’re mostly fine.  Lots of proper-nounage today, too.  I counted 11 entries (14% of the puzzle) that are just names.  Like, the names of people or horses.  That also seems like a lot.  So there was a bit of a weird feeling here.

I do see the pangram.  I’m not one who’s usually delighted by scrabbliness, and I really don’t care if all 26 letters are used, but I’m also generally happy to know that someone out there is probably happy when they get a pangram.  But today the Q in (BLOCK) QUOTES feels forced on me, and probably helped lead to stuff like SHEB.  Because there’s so much going on with the theme in this puzzle, I don’t see the need for the pangram, and I wonder (without really knowing) if the fill could have been better without it.  I dunno — what do you think?

This is also Michael’s debut.  I’d say it’s a pretty frickin’ great one.  Nice job guy.

See you all tomorrow.

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