Sunday, February 1, 2015

ALAS! - DARN! - EGAD! - BUT NO...!

This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Creating A Mail Slot" which, it turns out, involves long theme answers that are common phrases, except they each lack one letter of the base phrase thereby creating a wacky new phrase to match the clue. But where does the "mail slot" come in, you ask? Well, Frank nicely ties up that loose end with the last theme clue/answer, but in truth I had figured out the gimmick half way through the grid and I bet you did, too.

23a - RUNWAY MODE(L)  (What planes are in when they're taking off and landing?)
29a - RISE AND SHIN(E)  (Climb a rope right after waking up?)
31a - WHO CAN FORGE(T)  ("Which of you is good at copying signatures?)
48a - STORE BOUGH(T) (Big tree branch used to decorate a shop?)
57a - BREAK THE CURS(E) (Tame some mean dogs?)
70a - IT DOESN'T MATTE(R) (Comment when a surface only allows for a glossy finish?)
82a - DESIGNER BRAN(D) (Fashionably stylish grain husk?)
92a - OFFICE CHAI(R) (Spiced tea brewed in a business workplace?)
110a-STUCK IN LIMB(O) (Ensnared by a tree branch?)
114a-TRAINING CAM(P) (Bit of gear used by a videography student?)

122a-LETTER DROP (Apt phrase spelled by the deleted ends of this puzzle's theme answers)

First, let's marvel at the sheer density of the theme, 10 long answer plus the reveal - that's a lot of long answers to tie together in a 21 x 21 grid, and they are all (except for the center entry) symmetrically paired with another one of the same length. I cannot even begin to imagine the challenges that must present to a constructor and yet Frank makes it look easy.

In addition to the complexities of constructing the grid is the task of identifying phrases in which the last LETTER can be DROPped to create a new (more or less) meaningful phrase AND to have the last letters needed to spell out the intended entry for the last answer. That's just crazy. The base phrases are all commonly used and should be well know to just about anyone who speaks American English as their first language. More impressive is that there are no real clunkers among the wacky new phrases - any criticism would be of the NIT (45d - Small peeve)-picking variety and I'm much too impressed with the overall quality and creativity of the puzzle to go there.

Frank even seems to have anticipated the nature of my solving mistakes as I had GOOF-UPS (34d - Boo-boos) at CARoWAY/CARAWAY (1d - Bread seed) and Nada/NONE (115d - Zilch), and a major GAFFE (87a - Big boo-boo) at Romaine/RED LEAF (58d - Kind of lettuce). No one else ERRS (121a - Flubs up) like I do.

As the late, great Buddy Holly said:

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