Mary Lou Guizzo’s and Jeff Chen’s Thursday, 4/17/14 *DEBUT* (for Mary Lou) NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)4
April 17, 2014 by manvspuzzle
Theme: THINK/THROUGH. 4 pairs of intersecting theme answers riff on common phrases that follow a “___ through ___” pattern. Then there’s the revealer.
- WENT / THE(N)ROOF (THE_ROOF intersects WENT at the N, making WENT visually go “through” THE_ROOF. Hence, “WENT through THE_ROOF.” Get it?)
- PAID / THE(A)NOSE
- SHOT / THE(O)HEART
- ROSE / THE(O)RANKS
- 45A — With 61-Across, carefully consider … or a clue to this puzzle’s theme : THINK
- 61A — See 45-Across : THROUGH
Something Good: Theme Consistency seems worth mentioning. Each theme answer follows these rules: 1) Across answers are 4 letters, 2) Down answers have symmetrical partners, 3) Down answers all begin with the word ‘THE,’ 4) the intersection square is the 4th letter of the down answer; symmetrically partnered in the acrosses. Love it or hate it, it’s a *tight* theme, beautifully executed. And because that theme involves trickiness and some non-word answers, consistency is extremely important for making the whole thing work for the solver. Even one outlier would ruin it.
Ok, this is the 7th Jeff Chen puzzle I’ve blogged about, and it’s the 3rd with left-right mirror symmetry. Nothing more to say about that, just thought you’d be interested to note it.
I liked this one a lot. Purely as a solver, vegged out solving on my phone without another care in the world, I had absolutely zero issues with this puzzle. I picked up on the theme quite early, which probably helped the whole thing feel pretty easy. And when I don’t struggle I tend not to notice anything gross-looking. Although, as you’ll see below, I did struggle in the end.
On some level, you have to open your heart to the wackiness that is those down answers. This may be where some solvers get cranky. THEOHEART, for example, is weird to look at. It’s not really a word or words, so people who need to see common words in their puzzle to be happy may be inclined to whine. This is a case where I feel confident saying that that’s *their* problem.
And now the fill. Again, the solver in me didn’t notice or care. If anything, I mostly liked the long downs and a lot of the longer across stuff. I guess I recall not liking ELHI, which I never like, mostly because I’ve never, ever seen it outside of puzzles. And I’m actually a teacher! I want so badly to see ELHI somewhere, anywhere in my real life. It would make it feel so much better in my fake crossword life.
STINK AT is borderline not real. It’s real in the sense that someone could say “I STINK AT bowling,” or “you STINK AT math,” but it’s not something you ever see as a stand-alone. It always comes with those other words. At 7 letters, it’s a big stretch; it mostly feels like a 7-letter partial. I don’t think we would allow DONT DO WELL AT, right? But in my life, that’s nearly equivalent to STINK AT. I would use it almost the exact same way, probably at about the same rate. So there’s a complaint.
And then there was AYESHA (26D — Wife of Muhammad) crossing OKE (36A — “Fine and dandy,” in old slang). I’m no expert, but I studied Islam for a semester in college and the spelling was always ‘Aisha.’ That’s also her main Wikipedia spelling, though many variations are offered, including AYESHA. But crossing with OKE was a big bite of naticky puzzlesadness. I had AYISHA and OKI, which seemed reasonable. But it wasn’t. So this was actually a DNF for me. Frowny-face. But I was able to fix my own mistake, so it wasn’t too bad.
All this negativity would make you think I don’t like this puzzle, but I have to return to my 2nd paragraph: as a solver, I had a great time here. “Even though you DNFed?”, you ask. “Yes,” I reply. I’ve made the golf analogy before, but I’ll do it again: I don’t always have to shoot par to recognize that I’ve had a good round of golf. Today was a good round.
Nice theme, cool grid pattern, good fill, something to complain about. Is there anything more I could ask for?
Oh, and this is half debut. Great job, Mary Lou! You too, Jeff.