March 11, 2014 by manvspuzzle
IN BUD. Four theme answers begin with the letters B-U and end with the letter D. Then there’s the revealer.
- 20A — Idles : BUMS AROUND
- 33A — Allied supply route to China during W.W. II : BURMA ROAD
- 41A — Having a rounded end, as pliers : BULLNOSED
- 52A — Having a rounded end, as pliers : BUTTONWOOD
- 49D — About to bloom … or a hint to 20-, 33-, 41- and 52-Across : IN BUD
Something Good: Old-Fashionedness. Yeah, you heard me. More below.
Man, this blogging thing can really wear you down. Like, emotionally. I used to just solve puzzles like this, maybe complain anonymously on someone else’s blog, and then move on with my life. Probably solve 3 or 4 other puzzles throughout the course of the day. But now my *whole day* is usually consumed with this *one* puzzle. Thinking about it, writing about it, reading about it.
It’s that thinking part that I think has been the biggest benefit to this whole endeavor. It used to be so easy for me to follow the cool crowd whenever the time came to be bitchy, because a crossing like ANIL/ILIA seemed so *obviously* sucky. I don’t know why. Just because that’s what I had been constantly told by the very few voices in the crossword blogosphere. And because it’s what made sense to me, personally. I came to believe it. I don’t really *know* ANIL or ILIA (or AGIN or TNOTE or OLIN or RIGA or SITU). They’re so weird! I only see them in puzzles! How can that be a good thing?
But now I really have to contemplate that perspective, deeply, sometimes for many days in a row. When I see something I don’t like, can I reasonably take the position that it’s objectively “bad?” If so, why? The answer has to be better than, essentially, “because that’s how a couple hundred of us feel.”
And that’s really it, right? Isn’t that how so many crossword standards are determined? For example, I remember reading somewhere a while back that it’s generally agreed on that more than 14 proper nouns in a puzzle is too many. Says who? A couple hundred people, maybe. I dunno, maybe 500. Maybe even 1,000.
That’s still just a sliver of the solving community. While the blogosphere is full of people from all different walks of life, I have a half-baked hunch that there’s still a basic tie that binds; regardless of age, gender, whatever, most bloggers and commenters have some essential traits in common. I can’t say for sure what all of those traits are, but the big one is that they’re the kind of people who solve puzzles and comment about them on the Internet. Not everyone does that. Most people I know in my real life who solve puzzles don’t even know about the blogs.
My point is that all of us who do this daily arguing are kinda cliquey. Popular kids high-fiving each other and making fun of the dorks. Giving the occasional swirly in the form of a nasty blog-post. Swooning over the quarterback while duct-taping the hall monitor’s butt cheeks together.
There, I knew I’d get to an uncomfortable metaphor eventually.
I dunno. I just hate it when we forget that while there are Quigleys and Berrys and Lempels and Gorskis in the world, who usually appeal to us personally, there are also constructors who appeal to other people. Think about it. Mel Rosen *likes* this puzzle. So does Will Shortz. So do the test solvers. So do, probably, thousands and thousands of people around the world today. They’re not idiots. Shouldn’t we acknowledge their existence? And their right to, if they want, enjoy words that we think are ugly, or enjoy themes that we find boring or inconsistent or poorly-executed? Just because they may not have a voice in the blogosphere doesn’t mean they aren’t real and that their tastes aren’t an important factor in the overall appeal of this *immense* institution (the NYT crossword, that is).
All I’m saying is that this puzzle is for everybody. Everybody. That’s part of its essence. From what I can tell, that’s been Will Shortz’s project over the last 20 years. To produce a product for everybody, from 14-year-old genius hackers to 95-year-old senile great-grandmothers. To produce a puzzle made by everybody, from teenagers to centenarians. We’re all probably aware that for a while there, pre-Shortz, the puzzle was not built for or produced by everyone. Will changed that. But he didn’t change it by just making it appeal to a younger, hipper crowd (which, at least at the time, was *his* crowd). That would be the same difference. This puzzle is for everyone. That’s what I like about it.
I’m not saying that every puzzle tickles my personal fancy every day. I have Fireball and BEQ and other independent puzzles to like most days because they’re basically made for me. But this is still my favorite puzzle, because it’s about variety, different perspectives and bringing people together. I really believe that, and *that’s* what appeals to me day in and day out.
Someday, when the universe explodes, none of us will care whether ANIL crossed ILIA. But we might care about how we chose to interact with constructors, solvers, and editors everywhere. I just think we should keep that in mind.