This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Splitting Simple Substances" and sure enough, that's exactly what happens when the long answers are filled in. Frank has inserted the names of eight chemical elements (as he is kind enough to point out in the last theme clue) into the grid but they are, as the title suggests, split by the intervening letters in the answer:
23a - GOD BLESS THE CHILD (1941 hit for Billie Holiday)
31a - LESS THAN TRUCK LOAD (Kind of shipping with smallish freight)
41a - SILENT OBSERVER (One watching unobtrusively)
57a - COPIER PAPER (Xeroxing supply)
66a - ARTHUR PENDRAGON (Legendary king of Camelot)
78a - RADAR BEACON (Pilot's direction detector)
90a - NEXT GENERATION (Like a technology in development)
100a-IRANIAN REVOLUTION (Ayatollah Khomeini led it in 1979)
112a-CHEMICAL ELEMENTS (Simple substances split in eight long answers in this puzzle)
So, in each long theme answer the first two, or three, letters combine with the last two, or three, letters to form the name of simple substances, they all being chemical elements. It turns out there are 118 chemical elements from which to choose, some of which are far more interesting than those on Frank's list. I personally would have liked to see Krypton, Californium, and maybe Rutherfordium show up in the grid; I suppose Ununquadium is out of the question but is sure is a cool looking word. You can view the whole list of possibilities and pick your own favorites at http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/name/alphabetic.htm.
I should probably say by way of full disclosure that the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements was the reason for my downfall in the Engineering program at the University of Maine many, many years ago so it's possible I have a predisposition to not like it as a puzzle theme. That said, I actually enjoyed this puzzle. I was prepared to complain (as I always am) about "Less than truckload" as a stand-alone phrase but it turns out it's a real thing, so I learned that. I also enjoyed learning this about King Arthur: "King Arthur Pendragon of Camelot was the only child of Uther Pendragon and Ygraine de Bois, the husband of Queen Guinevere, brother-in-law to Sir Elyan, son-in-law to Tom the blacksmith, the half brother of Morgana, the nephew of Tristan de Bois andAgravaine de Bois, and the best friend and master of the greatest warlock and sorcerer ever, Merlin." (Wiki, of course)
The theme aside, I found this puzzle somehow different from the usual Premier Crossword. The grid seems more open, with fewer black squares than usual - or maybe it's just my imagination. I really liked the four long down answers, even if one of them was a proper name - I'm willing to make an exception for ROD SERLING because I loved "The Twilight Zone" back in the day. I also discovered that I had no idea what HELIOTROPE meant, even though I knew the word, so that was fun. ADAPTATION and the corresponding AUDITIONEE seemed to be a nice pairing in the bottom half of the grid.
Lest you think I've gone all soft on the puzzle, let me pick a few nits:
- Technically speaking, MASTS are not "Jib holders" (8d) as the jib sail is attached to the forestay, not the mast. The halyard which raises the jib and holds it aloft does run through a pulley on the mast so maybe that's close enough for puzzle work.
- "As straight as A POLE" (2d) is not a phrase I know and it doesn't "google" particularly well. "Straight as an arrow" - that's the phrase you're looking for.
- SLIER (13d - More guileful) may be acceptable but it sure looks wrong - admit it, "slyer"is how you would spell it, wouldn't you
- Does anybody really say RANCHO (96d - Western cattle farm) north of the Rio Grande? "Ranch" seems like a perfectly fine word without the extraneous terminal letter.
- "Family VIPs" are MAS (118d)? In the Kettle family, maybe? If Ma is a VIP, what does that make GRAM (70d - Unit of fat)?
- Having PAD (59d - Hip dwelling) in the grid with IPADS (100d - Apple tablets) seems like cheating, somehow.
- Why wouldn't VC be "95, to Nero"? I know XCV is correct but I don't understand why. 100 (C) minus 5 (V) equals 95, n'est pas? Maybe 100 (C) minus 10 (X) plus 5 (V) is the new math?
Okay, I can hear you saying "DO US all a favor and... (fill in your own ending)" 110a) so I'll stop with the criticisms since obviously I couldn't do any better. AS I SEE IT (124A - "The way things look to me...") every puzzle has a little less than stellar fill in the grid - it is, as somebody else said somewhere, the "glue" that holds the whole thing together. I probably should strive to be more LENIENT (88d - Merciful) in my judgment. Nah, that's probably not going to happen, at least not until LOL (5d - Texting titter) is banished from the language forever.
Thanks for coming by - here's you ear worm for the day: