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Carl Larson author page

4 puzzles by Carl Larson
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatest
41/21/20204/18/2022
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Carl Larson
Puzzles constructed by Carl Larson by year
Mon 4/18/2022
TAPEJUDOWHAMS
OBEYASEAROBOT
TAKEAWALKANODE
ACORNSTEMPVEE
LIEONBANDSHELL
LULUSUEZ
CHALLENGEPREEN
AOLIDOLSRNA
BELTSTOLLBOOTH
SAKEIRON
LIQUICAPSREHAB
ICUPOLEINSANE
GIADALOOSEENDS
HEROSANTEEDIT
TREESNYSEDYES

Curious smash-up of tried-and-true theme types, "words that can follow X" and "words split to the ends of phrases." Both have been done so many times that editors rarely take straightforward examples. Today, LOOSE ENDS does double duty by hinting at "words that can follow LOOSE, physically split to the ENDS of theme phrases."

My favorite themer was LIQUICAPS, since "loose lips" is an evocative phrase. Although LIQUICAPS isn't an everyday word, it's easy to reason out from the component words and has a fun Q to boot.

Editors typically try to avoid one-word themers because they're drier on the whole than multi-worders. CHALLENGE isn't as vivid as CHAISE LOUNGE, for instance.

There are exceptions since some one-worders are more interesting than others. For example, in industry, CANNIBALIZATION perfectly describes new product sales eating into the profits generated by your old ones.

I appreciated Carl's effort to create elegance by separating each key word into two equal halves. It's not possible with TOOTH, of course, but the others split nice and even.

Jim Horne cracked me up when he asked what a (loose) BALL was — "it sounds painful!"

Then it was his turn to laugh when I sheepishly asked what sins music groups had to commit to be in BANDS HELLs.

The overall effect wasn't nearly as synergistic as peanut butter and chocolate, but I enjoy attempts to mix old genres, hoping for a novel crossover.

Mon 11/8/2021
QUEENPACTSCSI
EDDIEAMAHLETC
DONNASUMMERRYE
NASALOOFTEXT
TISLISA
ARETHAFRANKLIN
AVOIDDRESSBRO
CAPNSMITHLOKI
HIEAKITANEWER
ELLAFITZGERALD
ACTSGAS
MADELASSOHES
OLDLORETTALYNN
JOEOPERAWARIO
OERLEAFYSWEPT

I fell into the Wikipedia rabbit hole, perusing the list of honorifics. My first impression was that QUEEN of Disco, Soul, Jazz and Country was a tight set, but there are so many more: Queen of Pop, Salsa, Power Ballads, Emotions, Halloween, Daring Style, even Queen of Memes. You can't make this stuff up!

I enjoyed Carl's set, easily recognizing three of them and being able to pull up LORETTA LYNN with some effort. It might have been nice to get artists from a wider generational spectrum, like more current ones — MISSY ELLIOT (Queen of Hip Hop), LADY GAGA (Queen of Pop), ALICIA KEYS (Queen of R&B) or SELENA GOMEZ (Queen of Breakup Songs) — but there's only so much you can do when limited to four names.

The clue for CEREAL BOWL made me laugh. Why is it that General Mills has never sponsored a bowl game? Delightful to get a terrible pun on a Monday. Also, a treat to see one of my favorite superheroes, THE FLASH, make an appearance, along with EINSTEIN and a ROPE LADDER. Well worth the minor costs of HIE OER.

QUEEN as 1-Across gave the game away much too quickly for me, but I can see how it would make the puzzle more solvable for newbs — especially those who aren't familiar with 1970s-1980s music. John Dunn used an excellent approach in his equivalent "King of" puzzle for the WSJ, which I would prefer for this puzzle too.

Wed 8/26/2020
OTISSARAHCADS
ROMPAIOLIOLIN
COMEDYGOLDCORE
KUNISWEAKTEA
RANDRBEEFSTOCK
AVEKNELTTAFT
MOTTATTARI
WORKPORTFOLIO
ANEAVASTLO
HUGOTIARASIR
IONICBONDAGAVE
STICKONPROLE
LOSEMENUOPTION
ANONBURNSAVIA
MENDSPACETELS

Friends sometimes approach me when they hear I've helped others with financial planning. They're usually hesitant because it seems like a big ask to help structure their savings and investment strategies.

Twenty hours later, they're trying to chew off a leg to escape as I gleefully spout off on asset allocation, market timing, management fees ...

The financial sector loves making things seem complicated, because if people realized how (relatively) simple it all boils down, how would they charge fees? I hate seeing i-banks drain people's funds, so I take great pleasure in helping people cut through all the crap.

Thus, it's no surprise that this puzzle appealed to me. I wouldn't say these themers are COMEDY GOLD, but it's fun to think about a person buying a safer investment in a chemical company like Dow — let's call it an IONIC BOND. Or going riskier, allocating funds into McDonald's BEEF STOCK.

WORK PORTFOLIO was a valiant effort to tie everything together, but it didn't quite work for me. I understand that PORTFOLIO means both an array of accomplishments for an interview and an assortment of investments. I wouldn't hire a crossword writer based on this pun being in his/her WORK PORTFOLIO, though, as those two definitions are too similar to create an a-ha.

I did enjoy the crossing of COCKTAILS and WEAK TEA, and the cheekiness of STICK ON sticking on IONIC BOND. However, as much as I like great bonuses such as TOOK A VOW, ITS ALIVE, OLIVE OIL, TRAGIC END, I don't think that's worth the price of RANDR (never spelled out like this in real life), ANE, ANON, TELS, and especially STLO. Turning down the audacity knob would have been great.

The finance junkie in me loved the direction of this concept, but the execution didn't quite tickle my crossword brain.

Tue 1/21/2020
ISMSCAMPUNCLE
MEATACAISEOUL
GENEPERTIAMSO
ASTERISKINLET
MALLETORGLSD
EWECABALSCAFE
SALINEETON
SIXPACKOFBEER
SECSALLOYS
FLEWFREEOFFED
OFTTABFAMILY
COREDQUARRELS
CANOEBURRBRIO
ARGONRIGAICON
TESTYSPEWGETS

Welcome to the latest installment of "The SWIK Show!" (Shows What I Know) Ari's original idea was more similar to Carl's, and I suggested that more could be done with it. An extra layer would make the puzzle so much more distinctive than just a couple of SIX PACKs sitting in the puzzle.

SWIK! A cleanly-executed puzzle — focusing on those SIX PACKs, with nothing else to potentially distract — made for a punchy visual.

How should the letters be oriented, Ari wondered. Clockwise? Back and forth? Anagrammed? Like a book? Definitely, like a book, I said. It's too hard otherwise — wouldn't solvers be befuddled if we did anything else?

SWIK! Carl's approach is a bit confusing at first, but it's consistent. Better yet, it delays the a-ha moment, piquing and holding solvers' interest. I stared at STEALL for ages, anagramming, wondering if SALT was somehow involved. I didn't figure it out until hitting SIX PACK OF BEER, and that's after having done extensive work researching (read: drinking) various six-letter beers for the previous puzzle!

Ari asked, wouldn't it be better if we had four SIX PACKs? Three might be too thin? I thought about it; a valid point. Having the extra layer would ultimately more than make up for it, though, while four SIX PACKs alone felt like Al Bundy sitting around and drinking empty calories.

SWIK! The four SIX PACKs and a long revealer in SIX PACK OF BEER made for a chewy stout, hardly your average MILLER Lite. The lack of long theme answers running through the SIX PACKs also gave Carl huge freedom in filling around all those letter combinations, and I appreciate the smoothness / newb-friendliness of the overall product.

It's amazing that anyone ever listens to me. (No one tell that to my kids!)

A strong debut, aimed perfectly at early-week beer enthusiasts and more.

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