Jean O'Conor
Jean O'Conor 

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5 solo puzzles by Jean O'Conor (1 Sunday)

with Jeff Chen comments

See the answer words debuted by Jean O'Conor.

*** Click any puzzle to see the full view. ***


Thu 3/27/2014
LISTONAHSFULL
INHALEFOEONEA
ELIXIRREROUTES
LIFEOFPDEAREST
ONTVRMONTHS
WESAYSAWAYTEA
DUBENDPEAL
ARTEMISSEWEDUP
ROARKEGDAR
MDSSIDE2CSPOT
MAGNUMPERNO
ELASTICRMOVIES
BANISTERARENAS
AVIAOROCIRCLE
NAANPSYKNEELS
(warning, nerd alert) Ah, a math puzzle! Even better, a geometry puzzle! It's a shame that this didn't run on Pi Day (3/14), but a person can only dream. Jean uses the famous formula for area of a circle, pi*r^2 (or "PI R SQUARED"), and for circumference, 2*pi*r, where r is the circle's radius. It took me a while to figure out what was going on with 2 PI R because I always think of it as PI D (d = diameter), but sure enough, 2 PI R is totally legit.

And to top it off, Jean's incorporated FULL / CIRCLE into the grid, a nice revealer hinting at the two formulas. I like that it doesn't hit you over the head like some revealers do; rather, it hints at what's going on, leaving the rest up to the solver's imagination. I would have liked to seen FULL / CIRCLE not split up, or at least placed in closer proximity, since I don't like jumping all over the grid for cross-referenced clues. Placing those answers both in the SE corner would have achieved that, plus would have given the added bonus of not having the revealer appear until the solver is near the end of the puzzle. But that might have been quite difficult to achieve, given the grid layout.

Rebus squares can be tricky, and typically I like to see them kept to four letters squished in or less. SQUARED obviously can be much better represented by a superscript "2" in print, but plenty of solvers will prefer to write in SQUARED since SQUARED AWAY looks so much more correct than 2 AWAY. I did like the variety of it all, in that experienced solvers aren't used to having a mix of rebus squares, regular ones, and numbers. Neat mix.

Because the theme is squeezed into compacted areas, the rest of the grid is fairly wide open. Jean does a nice job of incorporating other long fill, such as BIKINI TOP (my favorite, of course), BANISTER with its neat misdirectional clue (flight of stairs, not airplane flight), and TAX EVADER with a great clue, "duties" meaning "levies," not "responsibilities." Great to get a healthy dose of wordplay. There are some compromises like OR IN, ORO, WE SAY, but I sure liked getting all the great long stuff. Not a bad trade-off.

Finally, for those of you wondering, FOURH is good old 4-H. It's strange to me since I never see 4-H written FOUR-H, but it's almost kooky-looking enough for me to I like it.

★POW Wed 11/13/2013
OJSTABLEIKEA
PUPSHRIEKSILL
ADOMINCEGARLIC
LINGERIEDANZA
GRATEPARMESAN
OLEARYSWAIL
NABSFOUROBE
CHOPBASILLEAVES
ERBUNIXNEAT
ASISREBIRTH
CRUSHPINENUTS
LANCEOBVIATES
ADDOLIVEOILAVA
PIETMILORDTIN
SIRSPESTOELK
★ Fresh theme today, a recipe for making PESTO. I hadn't had freshly-made pesto until maybe ten years ago, and it changed my life (I had a sad little life at that point). It's really cool that Jean was able to find a way to put a simple recipe into a crossword, figuring out how to get symmetrical answers.

And what an audacious challenge in construction! Not only does Jean have five theme answers plus a short revealer, but she uses a 72-word grid (top of the themeless range). In these cases, the fill often suffers greatly, but Jean has put together an expert construction. It took me a long time to finish this puzzle because my cooking skills are roughly limited to opening a jar of spaghetti sauce and eating it with a spoon. But after completing it, I sat back in admiration.

The long fill is awfully nice. SPONGE BOB is a great entry, and I admire how well Jean tucked LINGERIE in the across direction — between two theme answers! I've never attempted that because it's always seemed like it would produce too many compromises, but now I'm inspired to try. And although there isn't that much else in terms of long fill, Jean uses her sixes and sevens well, with MILORD, REBOOT, ARNIES army, and a REBIRTH.

As with almost every puzzle, not everything is shiny and clean. Thankfully, Jean did well to keep it to just a few bits that were pretty easy to ignore. The military awards (OBE, DSO, DSC) are hard to keep straight, ERB isn't quite the monogram JFK or even EAP is, and while a prefix or two is fine, a six-letter one, ENVIRO, is harder to gloss over. But it's amazing how clean everything else is, even finding a way to fill those biggish NE and SW corners with good stuff. Even appeasing our Canadian overlords with the inclusion of the ALCAN highway! (shout-out to Martin Ashwood-Smith and Jeffrey Krasnick in the northern hinterlands)

Recipe puzzles tend to be awfully tough for me, but I sure enjoyed this one, especially since the result was a favorite creation of mine. Well done, POW quality.

Mon 8/19/2013
YAKSLEAPERAMP
ADAMALPINEGEE
OMNIPOPPYSEEDS
OGRESLEAXOUT
SNAKEEYESRINSE
FIRODEDOGEAR
OSOSAERATE
HONORSTUDENTS
ORATORTRIM
TRACEDASAADA
HEROSWALLPAPER
ECONBAGIPODS
CAMERAFILMROLL
ONAORELSETOIT
WTSBERETSARPS
Inspiring to see crosswords bring in so much money for a worthy cause! Raising $13,500 in three years is amazing.

I really enjoyed this puzzle's theme; fun to think about what disparate things come ON A ROLL. It's a shame to break up that great phrase, though. I might have tried to keep it as one entry, putting it either 1.) as the central across (or down) entry or 2.) as the very last across answer. The latter would be much harder, necessitating four triple-stacks of 7-letter answers, but could make for a wide-open grid (better for a later-week puzzle). The former might be more appropriate for a Monday puzzle, perhaps exchanging HONOR STUDENTS for A STUDENT or A STUDENTS (assuming another 8 or 9-letter theme entry could be found).

Tue 7/23/2013
ISPSDOGSHELMS
NEROSHOOECASH
FLIPFLOPSLODGE
LEMURHOMINY
ONEPIECECOOLER
WARCORKSLULU
LAROSANICKS
COVERUPBLANKET
ETATSELOISE
LOGSAROOMACT
SHADESUMBRELLA
BASHESANGER
ICONSBEACHGOER
MINCEBURNERSE
FEDEXSPINLEER
Sun 5/19/2013BEFITTING
MANGEGILDSRITALPGA
AXIOMORTEAATUGURLS
TENNISSERBSGINORMOUS
TREELESSTHATSAGIBBON
FINIWAIFTEENS
BALLETPARKINGIBAR
AQUASLOANUSERFBI
NATTERBALIOFTHEDOLLS
ABEDEFAMECLEHEEP
LASAGNASHARPDADDY
LEAVEITTOBIEBER
DEALSALTOSPANARAB
ACROLAOISEEITARE
SHOWEDBALLADIDLEWDER
HODEVASMETISEINE
OLDSGETOUTTHEBOAT
SCALPEGONAARP
HOTDOGBENDERGRIMACED
ARBITRATESIBYLRIGHTS
LEASALARSCARENEATO
LATHBLTSAHOOTESTES