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Michael Dewey author page

7 puzzles by Michael Dewey
with Jeff Chen comments

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71/9/20129/14/2022
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Michael Dewey
Puzzles constructed by Michael Dewey by year
Wed 9/14/2022
LOGOHIGHSJACK
AMOKECLATONAN
REFIAHEADHYPO
DALEEVANSWAIFS
ERANETHINDUS
RATEDPSATELO
BUSLOADPASS
HAPPYTRAILS
JOINENTITLE
ENLYENSLATTE
STALEDBAGHAS
TARESROYROGERS
ERIECIRRIMIRA
RITZHEEDSACEY
SOYAILOSENEDS

HAPPY TRAILS to Wednesday solvers! There's something JOYFUL about featuring so many MERRY words throughout the puzzle.

I enjoyed the touch of incorporating two iconic old West singers, DALE EVANS and ROY ROGERS. Perfect for an old-timey HAPPY TRAILS theme.

Regular readers know precisely what I'm going to say about themes that require diagonal / twisting theme entries: Will Shortz is less frequently considering them since they force too many fill constraints. Although he's stated this as recently as mid-2021, he sure has published a lot of them lately! I imagine he's working through his backlog.

(Outdated ICHAT + HAAS + STD around GLAD, and that's just to kick off the puzzle … you get the idea.)

I appreciated that Mike put his longer slots to work, HILARITY and ANY IDEAS lifting solvers who thought the theme might GO FLAT. Neat mid-lengthers, too, some JESTERS and the ancient KNOSSOS adding color. That is not easy to do, especially in the lower left and upper right corners, where you have to trade-off sizzle vs. smoothness in a biggish region that already has triple-checking constraints.

At first, the six HAPPY paths felt too random, going every which way, but it struck me afterward that it's a nice expression of a happy-go-lucky approach to life. It also helped Mike to reduce the gluey short bit, too — being able to twist and turn in every which way is such a huge boon to optimizing fill.

Wed 10/5/2016
ADWARACIDWASH
BIASEDBARRETTE
ERNANIIMMOBILE
MTAGRAZVEL
APPIANWAYKAOS
FOEAHISUNNI
TODOSELNINO
ARIZONAWILDCATS
ONATIPOKNOW
DINGYLATTOE
SAMEALTARWINE
ASAKOFIHAI
MAGNOLIAOSCARS
ONEALARMETCHES
AIRWAVESAANDW

Interesting take on an initialisms puzzle, this one based on A* W*, tied together by the A AND W revealer. Some nice theme entries, centered on ARIZONA WILDCATS crossing ABIGAIL WILLIAMS. That latter one wasn't familiar to me, but it was interesting to learn about her role in the Salem witch trials. If you thought your teenager was a problem child, at least he/she didn't start a mass witch hunt! Crazy that she might not have been even a teen when she helped instigate it.

Kind of curious that AFIRE and WICCA are toward the bottom of the grid, where the kindling would go. Making a bit of a statement, hmmmmm, Mike?

For such an interlocked, theme-packed grid — with wide-open corners — it's amazingly smooth. I kept expecting SWEE, ASA type bits to pop up everywhere, but besides those and a RENT A, it came off well. Yes, ATIVAN and GRAZ (second-largest city in Austria) are toughies, and some people complain about random popes like ST LEO I, but all are legit. And I bet ATIVAN is much more common than most solvers might think.

It would have been nice to get a few sizzling long entries in the fill, but getting a couple of BARRETTE, IMMOBILE, MAGNOLIA entries was good. Reasonable trade-off to keep the grid on the smoother side, at the price of not very much jazz.

There's an interesting mismatch in play today. Almost any initialism puzzle is going to be early-weekish, since once you get the gist of it, it gets a bit repetitive. But the grid layout and construction is so late-weekish, given those big upper right and lower left corners. Along with the GRAZ and ATIVAN toughies, I couldn't figure out if I thought this was an interesting mix, averaging out to run on Wednesday, or if it would have been better as an earlier-week puzzle with an easier-to-solve grid.

Not the most mind-blowing theme, but I sure enjoyed learning more about ABIGAIL WILLIAMS. My daughter will be about that age in a decade — maybe I better hide my copy of "The Crucible" before she gets any ideas.

Mon 8/31/2015
MOSHEDAMWHIZ
OLEOSTUNERAVI
DIVEINHEADFIRST
IVERSONPIUS
SINTRODESTHER
HADJIEAVEALE
WONALMAONLY
TAKETHEPLUNGE
BAREWITSPEI
ARFCITEDANAS
NASALSDADATVA
WETSDITCHED
GOOFFTHEDEEPEND
URDUOUSTSURGE
NOELPICOSEEN

Great theme; three colorful metaphors relating to jumping into a swimming pool. Really cool find, and so fortuitous that no words are duplicated (except the minor THE in TAKE THE PLUNGE and GO OFF THE DEEP END). Wish I had made this discovery!

Getting medieval

It's become somewhat rare to get less than four themers in a weekday puzzle, but I'm perfectly fine with three long ones if they're all strong. All three here are beauties; vivid phrases that work so well together. I do expect more long fill out of a three-themer puzzle, so I like the effort Mike has put into giving us just that. Two pairs of long entries — HANG IN THERE / SEVEN DWARVES and MEDIEVAL / TWIST TOP — add so much to the sparkliness of the solve.

If only MEDIEVAL had been clued to the "Pulp Fiction" quote: "I'ma get ___ on your (bleep)." The Gray Lady doesn't allow ASS to be clued with this meaning, however. Ah well.

Nice to get a little extra in IVERSON and SISTINE as well.

I did notice some strain on the grid — not surprising given the size of those upper left and lower right corners. As much as I love Allen IVERSON, the pluralized OLEOS is a price to pay. And IVERSON's effects extend to the north section, forcing ETHNO and the partial A NAP. I think that's not a terrible trade-off, but since there's quite a bit more of the HOER, ONE A, A HIT sort of stuff, it felt like too much in total.

So, a fantastic theme and some great extras, but those extras came with a cost.

Mon 3/23/2015
JAMALMADLYBLT
OBESEIBEAMIOU
KLEPTOMANIACUB
EEKHAITIOKIE
MARCHMADNESS
FLAILSREAR
OURSMECCAOFT
CATSCRATCHFEVER
HUHHEXESDEMO
IVANGOGRAY
FASHIONCRAZE
OUTSUSOFAACT
ADOMEDIAFRENZY
MIRGRINDKAYAK
STYTREYSSTARE

Timely puzzle, right in the middle of MARCH MADNESS. "Bracketology" is such a cool term (as is "bracketologist") that I'm surprised neither has been used before in crosswords. When Warren Buffett was considering a one billion dollar prize for correctly picking every game in the NCAA brackets, I found it really interesting that his underwriters thought the risk of someone actually achieving it was negligible — but the risk of a hacker finding a way to dupe them was not.

A single Viceroy bulb allegedly commanded a trade for 1,000 lb. of cheese!

Colorful phrases, FASHION CRAZE and MEDIA FRENZY singing. KLEPTOMANIA is a strong one too, but I found it slightly inelegant that it was the only single word themer. Something like RAILWAY MANIA or TULIP MANIA? As a kid, I was enthralled by severe displacements of supply and demand's actual equilibrium point.

Man, I was a weird kid.

I like the effort to incorporate two long downs, BICKER OVER and ART HISTORY. With five long themers, that's a tough task. I appreciate the care Mike took in filling in those areas. Nice and smooth; good deployment of black squares to facilitate filling those areas.

And overall the fill is pretty smooth, with just the north section sticking out with a concentration of A BATH / LAI / YMA. It'd be interesting to see if relocating the block below DENIM to the I of HAITI would have helped — using a five-letter word like HAITI to separate two themers often results in slight compromises.

Finally, ["Oh. My. God!"] for EEK amused me to no end. I like both the creativity in cluing and the colloquial tone.

Wed 4/16/2014
JUMPEWOKOMARS
AFARCOREHASAT
YOGILOBEBRINE
MAIDENVOYAGE
ENCAMPOATGEL
COLLISIONTHEORY
ROOELSSET
UNGERKATRAJAH
DEAGASECO
TIPOFTHEICEBERG
ODOILEELOPES
TITANICSINKS
ADAGEKNOTTUFT
LITERLATEOKIE
STORYEGADNEXT

Ah, I feel for Michael. A nice tribute puzzle, one with some subtlety and nuance, but without the punch it would have had at the 100th anniversary. It's unfortunate that a Sunday puzzle and then another one was published around that time, pushing Michael's nice construction back. Such is life. It had to be tough for Will, having already accepted this puzzle but then having a few nice Sunday submissions come in. Considering how much he (and other editors) typically need Sunday-size puzzles, it had to be a hard decision.

On to today's puzzle. As I mentioned before, I like the fact that Michael shot for something more than just a straight-up tribute puzzle. I wasn't totally familiar with COLLISION THEORY but what a nice answer. As a lover of all things chemistry, I really enjoyed reading up on this theory. Amazing to learn more about people who make breakthroughs in their fields of expertise. It's only too bad that Michael/Will had to use a straightforward, definitional clue for it. Totally understandable, because the entry is not well-known, but I really liked how they disguised TIP OF THE ICEBERG, for example.

I really enjoyed having the longer fill, OH BOTHER in particular. ECLIPSE is such a nice answer in itself, and the clever clue [Sun block?] makes it even better. It's amazing how just a small handful of great answers / great clues can really spice up a grid. Well worth the effort of 1.) incorporating a few long answers and 2.) spending time coming up with at least one killer clue.

Michael does a nice job with his layout and black square placement. Beautiful work in the NE and SW, big open corners with just an OMARS as a slight dent. Also, note the difficulty inherent in TITANIC SINKS being 12 letters. An "unfortunate length," this requires placement in row 12, not in row 13 as is often done. Might seem like a trifling issue, but this creates real difficulties in spacing. TIP OF THE ICEBERG and TITANIC SINKS are only a single row apart, and although Michael does well to save almost all the crossings, look at where ILE sits. The EDO/DEA/ATLI/ILE area is a bit unfortunate, all created by the ?T?I pattern which has few options, none of which are very good.

Finally, note how the NW and SE corners feel separated from the grid? That generally is frowned upon, because it's too easy to get stuck in a little area with no recourse. It's my fault as a solver for sticking with ANIMAL instinct for too long, but having only that one answer as an entryway into the section made it that much more difficult to solve. I think using that isolation is fine for this puzzle, since it allows Michael to incorporate ECLIPSE and OH BOTHER, but slightly easier clues in that NW (to offset the segregated nature) would have been much appreciated.

Well constructed, fun puzzle.

Wed 2/19/2014
WADSTHANDASH
OMITHOHOSIBIS
OMOOELENAPERT
FORWARDMARCH
ESMEOATS
SROCOMPANYHALT
HIPPOSLUGOTOE
AVERTYESKNISH
RENEKENIAGREE
PRESENTARMSERE
ROSEEPEE
READYAIMFIRE
ISNTDIODEIMAC
MICESAGETLASH
PRODGARYEXPO

Fun reinterpretations of common military phrases, along with the bonus SIR / YES / SIR. There are very few puzzles in the Shortz era that have repeated words, and Michael joins the club today.

Interesting construction. Typically cross-referenced entries work best when they're close in proximity. If they aren't, it forces the solver to jump around the puzzle (or in my case, ignore the clue and move on). It was fun to see that bonus set of entries, SIR / YES / SIR, after I finished, but it felt a bit loosey-goosey to me. I think I would have preferred 1.) to see those three entries straight across the middle or at least closer, and 2.) if those entries had answered the themers more relevantly or something.

Some people might complain today about the appearance of two of our most famous crosswordy literary names, Melville's OMOO and Salinger's ESME, especially situated so close together. I'll admit I was a little put off by that at first, but looking back on the grid, I kind of like the echo between those entries.

I enjoyed Michael's note and totally agree that debuting (the incredibly hard to spell) DIPHTHONG and IMPIETY is cool. PRESORTED... not so much for me (although Jim really liked this entry; there's no accounting for taste). As I've told a couple of co-constructors now, debuting a snazzy entry is the bomb dot com. (I still have my 2002 Motorola Razr.) Debuting an entry for the sake of debuting an entry, not so much.

Note those big chunks of five black squares in the NE and SW, not terribly attractive. But given the arrangement of themers Michael has chosen, using zero cheater squares there would require the filling of a big 6x3 area in the west and the east, never a simple task. From an aesthetic viewpoint, I would have preferred to see zero or only one set of cheater squares in these areas (making the block above LOSER (and its symmetrical pair) white instead of black), but I do appreciate the relative smoothness of those sections. All in all, I would almost always accept extra cheaters if that allows for better resulting fill.

Finally, I'll leave all today by highlighting a clue that delighted me: "What might get you through a quiet stretch?" for YOGA. I loathe yoga (I know, blasphemy for a Seattle-ite!), but I would totally sun-salutate that clue.

Mon 1/9/2012
WOESWAVEAFTER
OPECEXITTRADE
LANAALSOTULIP
FLYLIKEANEAGLE
ACESTRA
DARWINSHHLABS
ISAACSPAINDEL
SINGLIKEACANARY
CATERICSREPEL
SNOBINKKNOTTY
USSSLIP
WATCHLIKEAHAWK
QATARUTEPYEAR
ECONONEWTTORI
DOZEDAMSOENDS
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