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Susan Gelfand
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with Jeff Chen comments

See the answer words debuted by Susan Gelfand.


12 puzzles by Susan Gelfand

★POW Tue 1/20/2015
PEROLDHATCMAJ
AXEROWENALANE
JOTCAESARSALAD
ADOSMESPHIAL
MURPHYBEDEMMYS
ASTROODDUZI
AGEENEETES
CRYSTALGEYSER
BAASCUDMOC
EMSCHEYARDS
LEHARROCKOPERA
ROBOTRANEVIL
COMICRELIEFEVA
HOODIRONERREM
ANNESANELYELI

★ I looked at 1-Down, [Word before top or party], six letters, and filled in POOPER. Took me few seconds to realize that POOPER TOP 1.) wouldn't pass the breakfast test, 2.) isn't a real thing, and 3.) is a funny phrase evoking images of double-story outhouses that I'll be using more frequently. Talk about COMIC RELIEF!

Onto the puzzle! Four famous comedians hiding at the front of phrases, Sid CAESAR, Eddie MURPHY, Billy CRYSTAL, and Chris POOPER TOP. Er, ROCK. I couldn't personally identify Sid Caesar out of a lineup of him plus four Lilliputian Taiwanese orcs, but the name is quite familiar. And I like how he helps spread the puzzle's appeal to the older generation who might not recognize (or choose to ignore) the more recent guys.

Cho mama's so funny ...

It would have been great to get a more recent comedian, and a female one or two, but who else would fit this theme pattern? If only there were such a thing as a CK AIRPLANE or a CHAPPELLE BERET or a CHO MAMA.

Hey, CK ONE! That "a thing," isn't it?

Really nice gridwork today, Susie producing a smooth solve. All throughout I was impressed at how little glue I encountered, only hitching at the ELD / ENE area. OLD / ONE would be so much better! But OLD HAT sits up at the top of the grid. Ooh, I hate when that happens!

And I really liked the way Susie worked in so much Scrabbly goodness. Sometimes I feel like Xs and Js are jammed in with a big shoehorn and hammer, but I love the smoothness around the J and X in the NW, and the selection of Vs in the SE. I can imagine the temptation to try to squeeze a Q in the SE, resulting in EQUI or something. Vs aren't as spicy as Qs or Xs, but they still do the job of adding seasoning to the puzzle.

You know what was funny for me? The use of the question mark in the clue for COMIC RELIEF. Just when I thought I knew when it should be deployed. I mean, those comedians do provide COMIC RELIEF, yeah?

Overall, a very well-executed puzzle causing me to amuse myself to no end.

Tue 6/3/2014
NCRTRANSSCREW
AHAVIXENHYENA
PABSTBLUERIBBON
EMBERREINE
SPINALCORDRHOS
YEASERPENT
ABESLOBULKY
LUNATICFRINGE
PERCYTUEKAY
EXPRESSJIB
EASYALPINELACE
POBOYEVIAN
ALLTHETRIMMINGS
RUSESHENCEGEO
KIDDOSSTARERR
Such strong theme answers today. LUNATIC FRINGE is one of my favorite answers in recent memory; a joy to uncover. And there's not much better than a cheap beer after a long run, so seeing PBR really did it for me. Everything is tied neatly together with ALL THE TRIMMINGS (RIBBON, CORD, FRINGE, and LACE all being types of trimming). Being the complete moron when it comes to all things decorative, I wasn't aware CORD could be anything besides what you tie around your pants to hold them up. Learn something new every day!

Ah, the central 13, bane of the constructor's existence. Those black squares on either side of the central answer cause all sorts of trouble. Anything that cuts down your flexibility means trouble, and fixing those two blacks squares may seem so minor, but they take away so many possibilities.

I like what Susan has done today with the black square pattern, forming a big "L" block on either side. Unusual to see such a big chunk of connected black squares. Visually it's a bit clunky, but it allows her to work in CYBERPUNK and ENCRYPTED as her long downs. When you have five theme answers, with the central one being an inconvenient length, sometimes you're just happy to escape with a fillable grid. I appreciate Susan's effort in giving us these two strong entries. To me, they're worth the price of REINE.

What with the high theme density and the central 13 difficulty, it's not surprising to see some blips in the fill quality. The NW and SE were bound to be difficult, given that a single word of five letters separates PABST BLUE RIBBON and SPINAL CORD. Trying to find something that works perfectly is not easy. I'm impressed that Susan only has NCR up top as a glue-y entry... unfortunately, it comes at 1-across. Not an ideal way to start a puzzle. The SE suffers a bit more, with LVI and CAGER (does anyone really use this term?) cropping up. I do love TV TRAY and BEEMER in the grid, but I'm not sure they're worth the hiccups in smoothness.

Standards have been ratcheting up over the years. When I first started a few years ago, I wouldn't have blinked at SSTAR or INT next to MCA. I suppose it's the curse of doing a daily puzzle, one's expectations always rising.

I'm a little mixed on whether I would have preferred to see this closer to Thanksgiving? On one hand it's overall a neat theme so I like getting it whenever I can. But it seems like a missed opportunity to run this nice Thanksgiving-ish-puzzle-which-really-isn't on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Anyway, a fun solving experience with a couple of rough spots.

Mon 9/23/2013
BRADDUBSOLID
AIDEDASAOBESE
SADIEMENSROOMS
SLICEANDDICE
ETCETCIKEMOP
TOTSTHETHREERS
SIAMELWAY
ITSTIMETOROLL
ACHOORUES
GOOGOOEYESIMAM
ENSDINTAMALE
COSTUMEBALLS
VICEVERSACRAWS
EVADEANNSEWER
TYLERPAXTITS
WITT (Wish I'd Thought of That) concept for a Monday puzzle; a "how are these disparate things linked" theme. Especially clever that three of the four theme answers are colloquial: roll your eyes, roll your r's, roll the dice. Balls are rolled, yes, but that one isn't quite as nice as the others. I wanted to give this one the POW! based on the idea alone, and might have done so if the fourth entry was something like TAX CREDITS.

A discussion on non-theme fill. It's usually a giant asset for a puzzle to have long fill, assuming it doesn't force ugliness. Snazzy 7+ letter entries can really spice up a puzzle, turning a good one into a great one. Susan has some really nice stuff today, tossing in 9-letter MENS ROOMS, SORCERERS, and VICE VERSA (in addition to five theme answers!). MENS ROOMS might not pass the breakfast test for some, but I think it's a legit answer. I choose to visualize a fancy one where I awkwardly try to figure out if I'm supposed to tip the guy who hands me a towel I didn't want.

However, I probably won't be the only one to spend a minute trying to figure out how ROOMS and VERSA can be rolled, as per the theme. The revealer does specify which are the theme answers, but the clue is long enough that I didn't want to take the time to read the given numbers. I've highlighted the theme answers to make them stand out, but ideally I like theme answers to pop on layout alone. That's typically why most long fill (especially that of 9+ letters) is placed in the vertical direction, not the horizontal.

And in this case, an additional benefit of not including long across fill is that the first and last themers could have been placed in rows 3 and 13, spreading everything out. I'm not positive, but this most likely would have improved the THOS/SOG section.

But that's all nit-picking, my constructor's brain doing its usual thing. Very nice work overall; a rewarding change of pace to get a Monday puzzle with some cleverness.

ADDED NOTE: Susie wrote me after reading my notes to say that her original grid in fact contained TAX CREDITS! We shared a chuckle.

Mon 1/21/2013
MOLDBAGELSJAW
AREAALEXISISO
LOCKESLOCKSNCO
TOYSDOEEXED
ACUTEPENNSPENS
PHRASESTODDY
TOECADPAC
WRIGHTSRIGHTS
TAOLOTRAY
WHEELBANDAGE
HAMMSHAMSEAVES
ALESARAEINE
MTNLISZTSLISTS
MEDERODESSTAR
YRSDYNAMOHYPO
Mon 10/1/2012
MECCARAJASABE
ATLASALASANON
SCENTFLITFOBS
ABIGAILADAMS
REVERIEORALS
AVERALVINAILEY
HERRIRISYDS
ALANARKIN
MTSORELAERO
ARTHURASHEVLAD
CERESENZYMES
MADETHEALIST
JONGHOARNEROS
OLDEEASTGAELS
BOSSEXESSLEET
Wed 6/13/2012
NAPAJAWASIDES
OMEREXOTHROWN
MANPOWERHOTTEA
AZTECSSPEWMLI
DEALTSTONEWALL
SOYAMARAT
AIMPINTIRAQ
PLAYINGWITHFIRE
BAJAOSSAXED
ORTHOLANG
BIRDHOUSEKELSO
UNEROILSILENT
LOTSOFANTEATER
BUTANEVIATHRO
STEWEDEBBOEDS
Tue 5/15/2012
APEWHAMCAJUN
HEXEONSEOCENE
ARPSWISSCHEESE
GLESSIONPHD
VOODOODOLLPEAL
ALIGNIDOVERDE
TATEMEDTENSED
DARTBOARD
ESTOPSALGUZIS
SPOUTFLAGLENS
TAUTGOLFCOURSE
ETSSICREMOP
FULLOFHOLESIOS
ALEASTMOATNRA
NADIAYOKOGTO
Tue 9/6/2011
TALCMESAATTA
AREAEAGERIRAS
TRAVELCARDRIMS
INGDIEFAIT
JESTERSONCALL
ALLYETCTARP
BIOSCARFREEKS
OTTZONEOUTRAW
TEMPESTOKEINE
ALLSEDUSOYA
SCALEDSLANDER
DAHSLOPETA
EXITDOUBLETIME
CONEOZZIECOAX
ONERMYOBHUGO
Mon 5/3/2010
DREAMSLUMSTEX
EARLYHANOIWAR
FIRSTSTRINGIRA
YDSHEEDGNARLY
JILTPOODLES
MUSICALSCORE
ARUBAPBSSOLD
ZIPLORISESRIO
ESSOUARCRIES
MOTHERTONGUE
STRAUSSEROS
HEARTHEMITDWI
ENSFITTOBETIED
BOPINSETRAVEL
ANYTEASESNAKY
Wed 2/18/2009
ZAPSCATSHIFT
IDEAGOREMANIA
PLANROTCESSEX
PARKCITYUTAH
OILREIMERADO
REVERSESPLIT
QUOTEOEDRANI
LUNGEBAHMOCKS
AIDEDOMPESKY
NEUTRALSHADE
ATEELIALICAB
DRIVEMECRAZY
ADIEUILLSAGUN
LINENABETNERO
GEARSNETGREW
Mon 12/15/2008
APERAMEXPSHAW
TERIMOLEUTICA
LAICPOUNDCAKES
ACCEDELOOKESP
SEAPORTNOEL
UVEASDROWSY
BLADETORANONO
RINDQUAIDDOUG
OMNIUMPSVOLGA
SEANCESETIN
GENTSUNBATH
CDSACROSERBIA
LAMBSHANKSOILY
AZUREITALIDLE
DEGASTONELESS
Mon 11/3/2008
ACRESBRATCALF
CAULKROMAOVAL
EMILYPOSTSYOKE
DENDEWYMEOWED
RIDSWANT
STEVIEWONDERS
SHAVEIRISIKE
ERRSMEDEAAVIV
XESPAGOSWEDE
WINSLOWHOMERS
EATSIDAS
GHOSTSSKISOAT
NEXTHELENHUNTS
AXELOVERESTOP
WANEPAWSROOMS