Every day, I bring home three books from the library to read to my kids. I search for as many pirate ones as possible — even if the book is groan-worthy, at least I can practice my pirate accent. Arr!
More than ten budding constructors have approached me with ideas similar to this one, and why not? The idea of integrating a treasure map into a grid --and maybe even having the solver find real treasure? — is appealing. Dan's concept works — following a path from the skull, pacing east, south, west, to end at the lone X. X marks the spot!
I loved the inclusion of the skull (see grid below). There's huge potential in visuals like this, aspects emphatically declaring that the print edition of newspapers still has advantages most e-solving can't replicate. (I am curious to see what the NYT xw digital team does with this. I've been impressed by how much they've improved the e-solving process at their website.)
Interesting decision to include long fill in the across direction, COMMANDO adding spice to the pirate theme. They're not directly related — and maybe there are such things as INTRANET pirates? sure, why not! — but I did enjoy it.
Heavy price to pay, though. Four grid-spanning themers are difficult to work with. If you don't space them properly — look how close together START AT THE SKULL and EAST TWELVE PACES are — you're bound to have trouble. Even for a mid-week puzzle, where some crossword glue is passable for regular solvers, there's way too much of it. A more traditional layout, with the second and third themers moved one row toward the middle, would have been better.
I would have loved some way of digging for the treasure — over the years, contructors have suggested a rebus of GEMS, Schrödinger of X / BOOTY, and much more — but fun concept overall. The colorful piratic clues were great.