Little known fact: my first NYT puzzle submission was a PI rebus. I thought it was a shoo-in — what more could you want than a bunch of PI squares that formed the shape of an upper-case letter PI! Will Shortz was extremely helpful in his feedback, saying that 1.) it's an idea that's been tapped too frequently in crossword history, and 2.) made-up filler entries like SUNSON aren't acceptable.
Ahem. You know, like Asclepius? The SON of Apollo, the god of the SUN?
It's amazing, the things that dunderheads will convince themselves are perfectly fine.
Although there have been a slew of PI crosswords over the decades, this math junkie has admired many of them. A PI DAY celebration and a Sunday tribute came to mind right off the bat. I liked Gary's approach too, although I wonder how many solvers will be as confused by the rationale as I was when first encountering an equation-based rebus. It still doesn't sit quite right with me, since PI in (PI)*R^2 isn't squared — that would be (PI*R)^2 — but since it's commonly said as "area equals pi r squared," I can give it a pass.
I'd have loved a PI graphic, maybe the rebus squares in the shape of the letter pi, or forming the numbers 3 1 4. Gary chose to focus instead on working in colorful theme phrases, and he was successful — great choices in CONS(PIR)ACY THEORY / EM(PIR)E STATE, BABY AS(PIR)IN.
It's a shame that there weren't more that broke PIR across two words, like MISSISSIP(PI R)IVER. This is usually a requirement for Will, an entry like DRIP IRRIGATION hiding the PIR string so deviously.
Enjoyable solve overall, though; locating those hidden PIs was entertaining. Solid gridwork, too — only the repeat offenders of REIGNITE, RENEWS, REENGAGE stood out — and the bevy of delightful clues. I counted a half a dozen wordplay gems like [Doesn't sit right?] for SLOUCHES. Those help so much to elevate a solving experience.
This is one of my favorite tried-and-true theme types, reminding me of the game "Tribond," where you're given three seemingly disparate things and have to find the connection. I can often figure it out, and if I can't, there's a head-slapping moment when I realize that I should have. I've taken to making up my own cards containing the most tenuous of bonds, and when they stump people, I eat the card and walk away in maniacal laughter.
My game nights have been sparsely attended these days.
MARGARINE … HONOR STUDENT … ALUMINUM FOIL … I'll take "Things that can be found ON A ROLL," Alex. It reminded me of another puzzle that generated an a-ha so memorable that I still remember it six years later. Today's concept works, although it wasn't as sharp as I would have liked. Why?
Fun bonuses in DOOR DIE (speaking of mobsters), REC ROOM, ARMORED, CAROUSEL, ORBITERS. Not worth the tricky crossings of OTT/TSE, ARAL/RIA, and OON and INE, though. These have huge potential to turn off newer solvers and/or deprive them of their victory door die punch. I'd have asked for revisions on the first two, since they're too easy for a newb solver to get wrong. OTS/SSE is a simple fix to make it less error-prone, but there are other non-gluey solutions available, given some light massaging.
All in all, a fun Monday idea that didn't quite hold up to the previous incarnation, with a couple of trouble spots.
ADDED NOTE: Jim Horne pointed out that it's the "honor roll," not a "class roll," so HONOR STUDENT is appropriate. Fairly obvious which one of us is the honor student.
Cool finds, five guys whose first names are baseball terms. I'm a big "Simpsons" fan, so it was a head-slap moment to realize that HOMER SIMPSON could, of course, fit into the mix. I'll always think of MITT ROMNEY as "Mittens," but of course he's right at home in today's DIAMOND grid. Er, square grid. About a diamond. You know what I mean.
The revealer, DIAMOND JIM BRADY, didn't feel sharp enough at first. I got that a DIAMOND is where you can find a DH, HOMER, BAT, MITT. But it made me wonder if DIAMOND was hinting at the four other baseball terms arranged in the shape of a diamond?
Man, do I overthink things.
It's a fine revealer, and perhaps even clever, given how one of the five theme terms sort of describes the set. I might have preferred MLB or a more Monday-straightforward BASEBALL as a revealer, though.
Monday smoothness took a bad hop. R AND R is slightly better than others of its ilk, i.e., S AND P or B AND B, since I've occasionally seen R AND R written out. But such an olio of OLEO, TITER, TROI, ESTAS, EERO, AKINS, ESSEN. All reasonable(ish) entries for later-week usage; not so much for early-week territory, where not scaring off newbs is of paramount importance.
So, what happened? Biggest issue is the horizontal long fill of DEVIANCE / AVIATORS crossing METAPHOR / MAMMA MIA. The latter two give a lot of color to the puzzle, but the former don't do much, and they cause so many problems. I'd have broken up the horizontal long entries, as they're too big to fill around, without needing a lot of crossword glue.
Overall though, a fun theme. It made me wonder why I'd never put those five guys together. Now I'm curious to see how they'd play on the baseball diamond together.
Debut, from a fellow Washingtonian! Gary wants us to UP THE ANTE, the letters A N T E popping up out of phrases. We've highlighted them below to make them pop, and corrected the answers in our database. (Although I kind of wish there really was something called a WAD POSTER!).
Great selection of themers, WANTED POSTER, DEBUTANTE BALL, and DANTES INFERNO sizzling. There are quite a few possibilities, like AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, CANTERBURY TALES, ELEPHANT EARS, THE GREEN LANTERN, etc. But I like the ones Gary picked.
Would have been nice to get one more themer, as three ANTEs felt a bit slim. Wouldn't have been easy though, as WANTED POSTER had to be pushed down into row 4 (usually it'd be in row 3) because it needed to fit in ETNA popping up.
Given how many phrases there are with A N T E — so much construction flexibility! — I wonder if somehow Gary could have made UP THE ANTE run vertically, with across themers intersecting it? Probably too tough, but a guy can wish.
Interesting choice to add some bonus fill in the across direction, ACADEMICS and TURNABOUT. They're decent entries, but they muddled up theme vs. fill for me — it's so common for themers to be in row 3 / 13 that I wondered for an embarrassingly long time how ACADEMICS could have UPped THE ANTE. Jeff, you silly Billy. Might have been better to break up ACADEMICS at the M, which would also have allowed for a little cleanup on aisle Short Fill.
Overall, not a novel idea — a lot of puzzles have made letter move like this, either up or down — but fun anyway. And pretty good execution for a debut! A bit of NIE, ONE PM (arbitrary), BEAME (outdated), HOC (hard to clue with any variety), etc. but that's not bad, considering how much extra real estate the three ANTEs took.