★ I love a gimmick puzzle, and I especially love 'em when I can't see 'em coming. It was a blast to arrive at AEIOU and realize that rows one, six, and 11 only had As as vowels, rows two, seven, and 12 only had Es, etc. Really nice job to keep that hidden until the very end.
Stunt puzzles not only usually have telltale gluey bits galore, but they often lack colorful fill. Not a problem today. I love what Caleb did with TIGHT KNIT, THE CREEPS, and SHOT HOOPS, all zingy entries … which happen to be thematic, what with their use of only one vowel! Sneaking a KLUTZ down at the very bottom was also nice. Great word in itself, and it so nicely only has the single U.
The grid is a bit segmented for my taste — those two stairsteps nearly slicing the puzzle into three sections — but I can understand how that would make the construction job much easier to handle. An incredibly difficult task can be made into simply a very difficult one, if you can break it down into smaller pieces.
And I'm with Caleb re: computer-assistance. I respect the opinion that construction by hand is an incredible talent, but I find it similar to arguing that people should forgo computers and stick to typewriters. Why turn down modern assistance if it helps make a better product?
Overall, a neat idea and a very strong execution. This is one that will stick with me.
Really enjoyed this idea, phrases containing only half of their final word, i.e. KENNEDY HALF DOLLAR playfully interpreted as KENNEDY DOL (DOL = half of DOLLAR). I don't remember exactly this trick before, so it had me stumped for a while as I attempted to figure out where the LAR in DOLLAR went. Great moment of discovery.
Also really enjoyed the construction, a nice piece of work. Caleb takes advantage of the "pinwheel" configuration of themers, and he tosses in a huge amount of nice long fill: ARISTOTLE, FUNNY FARM, FACE VALUE, etc. Normally this would be problematic in the pinwheel configuration because it can confuse the solver as to which entries are the theme answers. But in this case, the confusion just adds to the fun. Smart choice.
To me, SUPER BOWL HALFTIME doesn't feel like a stand-alone chunk — more like a partial. SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW yes, HALFTIME SHOW yes, HALFTIME yes. I went searching for SHOW and was a little confused to find SHOWS crossing SUPERBOWLTI. Would have been great to get a fourth perfect example, GOING OFF HALF COCKED and FLYING AT HALF MAST right on the money.
And I wasn't quite sure of MSNBC's clue: [What's left of TV news?]. Not being an MSNBC watcher, it was curious to read up on the supposed left-wing bias. I wonder how many people this clever-ish clue will be lost on, being equally ignorant as me.
Minor points though, just nits to pick. Very enjoyable solve, a WITT (wish I'd thought of that) Thursday gimmick.
Neat idea to pick words made up only of I V X L C D M and use them in phrases with a wacky clue. We've seen a lot of Roman numeral themes over the years, but I like the twist this one brings. LEMONADE MIX's kooky clue relating to the number 1,009 was perplexing at first but gave me a good a-ha moment.
Pretty clean grid too, especially considering the difficulty of incorporating all those Xs. I'll take an ANON and an I GO any day in order to get three Xs. Not as happy to see an EEOC and an OTRA where it feels like it could be completely clean. But perhaps it's difficult to achieve that if ITALICS is set in place, and what a great clue that entry got. [Bold alternative?] might not be entirely accurate, but 1.) it was so much fun and 2.) lighten up and enjoy, people. And realistically, EEOC and OTRA are both fairly minor.
Not only is GO OVER a cool six-letter entry, but I love how it looks in the grid: GOOVER. (Sounds like it might be a geeky Jetsons vacuum.) My brain would not parse that for the longest time; I enjoyed that head-scratching.
Caleb's concept got my gears turning, and kickstarting my brain is almost always a sign of a strong idea. I really liked the general notion of "words made up only of Roman numerals," so it was a bit of a let-down to see XL TEE SHIRTS and XXX RATING. I think I would have given this the POW! if all five had been in the vein of PRINCESS DI and LEMONADE MIX. Tough task though, as I is the only allowable vowel. Still though, maybe LIV TYLER could have made an entrance, or a CROWN VIC? Rats, that last one wouldn't work, as VIC is nonsensical in Roman numerals. FORT DIX or WESTERN CIV?
The more I played with this idea, the more I liked it. Kudos to Caleb for coming up with a cool concept and a pretty good execution.
P.S. IV FERTILIZATION with [Roman menage a quatre orgy?] as a clue. Boo-yah!
Caleb's not kidding — puzzles with crossing themers are tough. It's especially difficult to create smooth fill right around those intersection points, so I was impressed that he didn't really need more glue-y answers than average. And check out the HERCULES and HYDRA region, excellent construction. The letters right around the special square — Y / U / R / R — create all sort of constraints to work with. I love what Caleb has done with this NW corner. It's a big chunk of white space to fill; an audacious target given how difficult it usually is to work with crossing answers. And to kick off a puzzle with SCHLUBS is beautiful. Great use of a cheater square in the very NW corner.
Caleb also does a nice job of separating his themers with black squares. Enough separation to be able to fill around one pair of themers at a time, but not too much as to choke off puzzle flow. The only area that gave me a pause was where KING KONG / GODZILLA and TORTOISE / HARE flowed together. COERCIVELY is such a long slot to fill (not a lot of flexibility) that it's hard to avoid odd bits like OTILDE (although I'm still undecided as to whether it's actually awesome). Similarly, in the symmetrical section, that region where two sets of themers flow together gets us the awkward partial IS MAN and the sticky bit of AME. However, that region is adorned with the beautiful ACID JAZZ — impressive to work that in.
I would have liked for there to be more symmetry in the theme answers. I know how challenging that would have been to do — it must have been hard enough to simply find enough pairs that worked with the required letters. Even to have the longest ones paired up = I wouldn't have thought twice. Or to have all the CHAMPION letters used only in the across direction, and all the DEFEATED letters used in the down? And I know it would be a huge stretch, but even better would be if the eight special squares had been symmetrically paired — could have made for amazing elegance.
All that said though, I admire the novelty of this puzzle. What's most important for me these days is the delight level a crossword provides, and I had so much fun solving this one.
I liked the concept today. I generally try not to link to old puzzles (because I don't need to remind people that most everything has been done in some way or another) but this one so heavily reminded me of Andrea Carla Michaels's very first NYT publication, taken to a new level of difficulty. I was a little frustrated as I was solving, but the trick seemed pretty neat once I cottoned to it (the entire right half of the puzzle "slipped" down one row). And who doesn't like seeing ATMSBROAD in the puzzle? Don't answer that. And don't worry, we fixed up that entry in the database.
I would have loved perhaps one or two more theme answers. It's pretty neat that the SAN ANDREAS FAULT is a "site of slippage" and BANANA PEEL / PATCH OF ICE fit the theme (and they intersect SAN ANDREAS FAULT!), but it felt slightly thin to me. It could have been really fun to open it up to other meanings of "slip", like giving someone the slip or a slip of the tongue. Even one more theme entry would have been enough for me.
There's some really nice stuff in the fill, especially PEACH FUZZ and MACH ONE. SUBDIVIDE isn't that snazzy in itself, but the clue did a great job in making it a strong entry. Overall though, with just three them entries, I would have liked more long, snappy fill. Yes, the theme entries intersecting makes it harder to work in good fill, but not that much harder. I would have liked to have seen more 7+ letter fill, even if that meant having more 3-letter fill in exchange. There's so much in the 4-, 5- and 6-letter range today, and any fill under seven letters is hard to make memorable. (You can press the "Analyze" button at the bottom of the page to get the exact distribution.)
Overall, nice concept with some unfulfilled potential.