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1 puzzle by Erika Ettin
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutCollabs
16/7/20210
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.73000
Erika Ettin
Mon 6/7/2021
ALONGCASEUPCS
LABORHDTVPLOW
PRIVATEEYETARO
ODEHARPFOYER
PAYITFORWARD
SESAMEELON
OWENMALAYAPE
HOTELCALIFORNIA
OKSARNAZONES
ACAIMISERY
HIDDENCAMERA
ADAMSBOOKTAP
LEVIROLLWITHIT
LAIRAXELNERDS
ELSEGORYGLUED

Drum (roll) please ... It's time to play NAME … THAT … THEME!

1.) PRIVATE EYE

Letter homophones! EYE, YOU, SEE—

2.) PAY IT FORWARD

Uh … hold on—

3.) HOTEL CALIFORNIA

Whaaa? Wait, I got it! Private + pay + hotel = Donald Trump!

Bzzt!

4.) HIDDEN CAMERA

C, I told U it was Donald Trump!

Bzzt bzzt bzzzzzt!!!

I enjoy getting stumped, when there's a reasonable chance I could have figured it out. EYE roll, FORWARD roll, CALIFORNIA roll, CAMERA roll—let's ROLL WITH IT (add ROLL to a word) indeed!

It's not as satisfying as an earlier ROLL puzzle, because this one boils down to "words that can precede X," a theme type that's at the end of its life cycle. There are so many types of rolls — barrel roll, egg roll, jelly roll, crescent roll, rainbow roll, and on they roll — that it's too easy to produce dozens of themer possibilities.

Still, I enjoyed the phrases Erika picked. PRIVATE EYE is great, PAY IT FORWARD is a beautiful sentiment, HOTEL CALIFORNIA such an earworm, HIDDEN CAMERA no doubt laden with imagery.

It's a shame that there's no long bonus fill. Getting rid of the black square between OBIE/SETS and/or EVE/OLAF and/or PLAYA/ANNE is usually a reasonable way to achieve that.

Last time PLAYA appeared in a crossword, I heard much consternation that it "wasn't something I should have to know." I understand how annoying it is when a crossword makes you feel stupid — happens to me all the time (and not just because I am stupid) — but PLAYA is a real word, and it's in place names like PLAYA del Rey. That said, crossing it with two toughies in UPCS and TARO does seem unfair.

I love "clue echoes," when the same clue is used in different ways. [Popular berry] and [Popular Berry] for ACAI and HALLE, that's a winner!

Entertaining debut offering; I enjoy when Name That Theme beats me fair and square. Sigh, I was on such a roll.