See the answer words debuted by Jean O'Conor.
Really nice example of the "both words can follow X" theme type. Jean appropriately places her themers vertically so that each half is indeed SNOW CAPPED: (snow) WHITE, (snow)BOARD, (snow) PLOW, (snow)MAN, etc. This theme type is getting a bit long in the tooth, but I think this one works very well with the added twist of a sort of "snow fall."
Some great themers, too. BANK JOB is a colorful phrase, one I'm always happy to see (except when I'm at the bank), and (snow) JOB is equally colorful. BUNNY SUIT also tickled me, as it both elicits a vivid image and works great with (snow) BUNNY and (snow) SUIT. Even though there are plenty of words that can follow snow, finding pairs that form normal phrases is hard work. I quite like Jean's results.
I understand the challenge of fitting in six themers, and I like how Jean laid them out, but I did experience some crunchiness, enough to note during my solve. So as much as I like a BREWSKI after a run, I'd be curious to see if BREWERS, BREW PUB, BREWERY, BREWING, etc. would have produced a smoother NE (without NOTER and EZEK). In the SW, the J of BANK JOB certainly reduces flexibility. But I scratched my head, wonder why IND / ITE wasn't made into AND / ATE? Gets rid of two little gluey bits, yeah?
Fun to see a bit of the constructor come through. I smiled at GUAC, reminding me of one of Jean's puzzles from last year. (I realize GUAC and pesto aren't technically interchangeable, but that doesn't stop me from doing it. Guacapesto is surprisngly edible.)
Overall, I enjoyed the twist Jean put on this theme type, a pleasant solve to start the week. Made me feel like I was in the (snow)CAT(snow)BIRD seat.
Isn't there a real thing as a MEASURING CUP when it comes to undergarments? I got slightly confused when I hit this one, wondering if I hadn't grokked the theme as I had thought. I assumed this was an actual thing, no? Like a muffin tin with cups of different depth?
It's amazing that anyone ever takes me seriously.
Anyhoo, Jean packs in six themers, a very difficult task. Look at how much overlap there is in between adjacent themers. I'm quite impressed that she made the NE corner work, for example, as any time you have an overlap of six letters (the RINSEO of RINSEOFF sandwiched in between COOKIE SHEET and MEASURING CUP), you're bound to have some trouble. It's often difficult to find a word that slips in between while providing you smooth fill. But both this corner and the opposite one come out pretty clean. Well done there; great use of cheater squares (above SHOP AT and below DECAFS) to smooth things out.
I admire the usage of two long downs. TV CHANNELS and especially GETAWAY CAR are beautiful answers which add a lot of spice to the puzzle. They do add a lot of constraints though, and the roughest parts of the puzzle fall within those regions. The west is pretty good with just AVEO and our old crossword friend ISAO Aoki popping up, but that east section felt pretty crunchy with STELA, ELEV and the Scrabbly but esoteric SAXE all crammed together. It's a reasonable tradeoff to get the nice long entries. I wonder if another set of cheater squares could have helped.
All in all, a fun solve. Humor is subjective (ask my poor wife) but many of these themers brought me a chuckle.
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.
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.
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).