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1 puzzle by John Ficarra
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutCollabs
14/1/20201
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59000
John Ficarra
Wed 4/1/2020
CLAYITEMSWEDE
LOGOCARAWANED
AREYOUKIDDINGME
WIDOWENDUPION
SLITFERN
REBINHALFVENI
ATLASTMOEIRES
WHOTHEHELLKNOWS
ENOSNONBOGOTA
RODETUSCANMOD
SARIAGIN
BATHOPONCABLE
IHAVENTGOTACLUE
GEISTARLOHILL
AMNOTSEANOPUS

What do you mean when you say ARE YOU KIDDING ME about the historic town in in Hungary? I am not kidding, sir. It's Pápa.

WHO THE HELL KNOWS that tributary in Russia? Everyone, of course. Mama!

I HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE about the village in Poland? I'll give you one: Pápa and Mama get together to make …

No, not sweet sweet love! I mean, yes, but ...

They make a NANA? What are you talking about? Oh, because it follows the consonant-duplication and A alternation pattern? That idea is pure kaka, and I say ta-ta to you.

There is GAGA, though. And the village in Poland is Baby! See what a helpful clue I gave you?

It did take me roughly eighty-nine hours to find the Pápa, Mama, Baby pattern (thanks a lot, Bing, or should I say Bing-a-ling), but it was totally not unworthy of the unfound negative antitime I didn't have. It would have been delightful to have PAPA, MAMA, BABY woven into the grid somewhere; an Easter egg for those of you so brilliant that it only took eighty-eight hours to find that pattern.

Just three themers is a bare minimum these days, so I expect a juicy grid chock full of sparklers, with zero dabs of glue to hold everything together. I loved Scotty and the ENGINE ROOM, and there's something so Merrellesque about BLOODSTAIN clued as a laundry problem for Dracula.

I did want more, though, as DUFFEL BAG and INTENTION aren't entries you'd write home about. And the amassment of AGIN, HOU, VSO, ETHNO GEIST ires me. Another round of revision would be appreciated. I would have asked for more optimal spacing of the long downs, alternating them up down up down, creating more space between BLOODSTAIN and INTENTION.

I love me some Mad Magazine, so I was delighted to learn about John's role. Hopefully, I don't make next month's cover.

All in all, a curious concept that grew on me after I learned of the Pápa, Mama, Baby connection.