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1 puzzle by Derek J. Angell
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutCollabs
111/19/20200
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.74000
Derek J. Angell
Thu 11/19/2020
BLISSPHISAP
READMECOGSNNE
AERIALARTBOOKS
MRVGRFFNVNNWHT
PSATIEINSST
SEEDBEDTIDY
RSTLNUAEIRMA
EPEEIDYLLLEAN
FIXESEAPTSJK
SNAPUPVOTES
REOPOSITCSI
BNKRPTWHLFFRTN
FEASIBLEDIEOUT
FANNAILESTADO
SPAERESHAKY

I stay away from Vowelless puzzles (VWLLSS, as they're known to fans) because I have a hard time making sense of them. I'm sure they're like crosswords — the more you do, the better you get. Still, it's hard to overcome inertia and jump in.

Thankfully, today gave me a great reason to dip my toe in the water again, CAN I BUY A VOWEL an apt revealer. Linking it to WHLFFRTN — that's WHEEL OF FORTUNE — is so much fun! I appreciated that Derek found so many iconic Wheel phrases that fit symmetrically.

Best was RSTLNE. I know those letters by heart, so not having enough room for the sextet was infuriating at first. Great a-ha, realizing that, of course, the E shouldn't be included, given the theme.

Solid fill, given the extreme constraints. Some solvers might feel like they have to slog through too much ISU, NNE, OSH, PSA, and the crosswordy SST, but consider:

  • Seven themers. Even though many are on the short side, seven is always tough to work with.
  • Long central revealer, intersected by two themers. Filling around crossing regions is usually difficult.
  • So many consonants. A mix of vowels and consonants facilitates construction, while a big imbalance either way makes things maddeningly difficult. Zero vowels in (almost) all the themers is an extreme.

Given these issues, I'd expect about twice as much crossword glue. Fitting in a couple of ON STILTS, PET FISH, ART BOOKS = icing on the cake! Excellent work from a new constructor.

I also liked the grid art. If you squint (really hard), you can (kind of) see a wheel of black squares in the middle of the grid. Okay, maybe if you're Dali. Hey, I still enjoyed the subtle hint toward Wheel.

Entertaining debut that made me rethink my aversion to VWLLSS pzzls!