Sunday, August 31, 2014

Taken as a whole, I liked it!

"Taken As A Hold" is the title of this week's Premier Crossword by Frank Longo, and my very first thought was that it's a play on the common phrase "taken as a whole" so I suspected right away that we'd be re-writing phrases by adding a "d" at the end to create wacky new phrases to fit the "?-style" clues. As it turns out, I was almost right:

23a - GIVE IT A WORLD (whirl) (Put something on one of the planets?)
27a - MEMPHIS SOLD (soul) (Graceland's city acquired by a buyer?)
29a - ORANGE BOLD (bowl) (Typeface option that's carrot-colored and heavy?)
54a - COUNTERFEIT BUILD (bill) (Steroid user's physique?)
69a - THE ESSENCE OF EMERALD (Emeril) (Green gem's chief constituent?)
87a - I KNOW HOW YOU FIELD (feel) (Comment to a baseballer from a fan who's studied his fly-catching technique?)
108a-LUMP OF COLD (coal) (Ice cube?)
112a-A LITTLE WILD (while) (Slightly feral?)
118a-LONG-TERM GOLD (goal) (Precious metal one keeps for many years?)

I think all of the new phrases work really well in that they sound exactly like the base phrase with the added "d", and I really like how all of them are completely new words rather than just the original with an added letter. I had never heard of "Essence of Emeril" but his name was vaguely familiar and it turns out he has a TV show by that title that airs on the Food Network (which I also had never heard of, but that's just me). So I liked the theme even though it was totally transparent from the title, and nine theme answers, all symmetrically placed in the grid, is a pretty nifty PIECE (104d - Pie slice, e.g.) of constructing so kudos to Frank Longo on that feat.

The other thing I really liked about this puzzle is that it's totally lacking in pop-culture references involving Rappers, hip-hop artists with bizarre names, and obscure actresses from cable TV sitcoms - not that there's anything wrong with any of those things, it's just my ignorance that makes them difficult for me. There are some proper names in the grid but they all seem to be from more main-stream media (i.e., old-time) so I had a fair shot at all of them, although my only knowledge of "Homer Simpson's favorite bar" (15d - MOE'S) comes from doing crosswords. So that feature ENDEARED (56d - Captivated) the puzzle to me, too.

I learned some things, too, and that's always a plus in my mind. FURBELOW (45d - Skirt ruffle) it turns out has nothing to do with fur, at least according to Wiktionary; it also has nothing to do with the first image that came to mind upon seeing the word (although I didn't check Urban Dictionary to see what they may have to say about it).  ECOSOC (64d - U.N. division), which I was sure Frank had just made up, stands for "Economic and Social Council" which is a real U.N. organ, charged with facilitating international cooperation. On the other hand I did not need to know that FLAPPY Bird is a notoriously hard game app (12d) - THERE'S no way (97d) I care about that.

Other things I noticed, in no particular order:

- LAPS (102a - Indy's 200) crossing LAPPS (102d - Reindeer herders of Scandinavia) seems like cheating somehow.
- FLAME WAR went in on the crosswords but apparently it's a real thing among the on-line community, anyway.
- "Spirited session?" is a really great clue for SEANCE (92a).
- No Roman numerals - what's up with that?!
- Not all shoals are REEFS (30d) but some are, so OK I guess - still I would have liked a "maybe" in the clue.
- AVAST! (31d - "Stop, mate!") might be exactly what you'd hear on a ship approaching the adjacent REEFS.
- OLD (121d) YELLER (126a) always makes me cry.

They say it's always good to leave an audience laughing, so let's watch some Stan and OLLIE(29d) to wrap things up for this week:

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