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4 puzzles by Nina Rulon-Miller
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
45/9/201112/9/20130
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0310000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62000
Nina Rulon-Miller
Mon 12/9/2013
SNAPIWONCAPN
RUERNEROJOLLY
STRONGARMENIAC
CAMEOSPUTTY
TATSTEPPEATOP
VSOPLIONSCLUB
SERIFSCONEETS
ULTRAHIGH
USNARESBASTES
SPEAKEASYTEXT
ELBESLOUGHSPY
AUNTSPLEASE
ISLEYUPPERDECK
CHAIRNEINERTE
EYEDETESNASA

We don't see many of the "words which can follow X" puzzles these days. A few years ago Will said that he was cutting back or even eliminating this theme type because it had become overdone. Now and again I appreciate seeing a throwback for variety's sake, so I enjoyed this one.

In this day and age of crosswords rapidly improving across the board, jockeying against more and more competition for mindshare, puzzles must constantly up their game. For this theme type, that means using extremely strong themers and/or employing a new trick, perhaps using an unusual word to tie everything together or a clever revealer. On the first point, Nina does very well. In my solve, STRONGARM was a, well, strong way to start. LIONS CLUB, ULTRA HIGH, SPEAKEASY, UPPER DECK are all very well-chosen answers.

CHAIR as the revealer didn't quite do it for me though. As I mentioned, this theme type will tend to be judged at a higher baseline than others since it's been done so many times before. Not only are there many types of chairs that could have been used, but CHAIR's placement in that non-final position seemed a bit inelegant to me.

The fill reminds me of an interesting discussion on Jim Horne's blog. I like a lot of what Nina's incorporated today, notably TESSERA, NUT CASE, PEN NIB, NEBULAE, SPLASHY, PICASSO; stuff that we rarely see en masse on a Monday. But with almost any puzzle, there are tradeoffs to gain such tasty goodness. Entries such as ELBE and TYR have a Maleska feel to them, and newer solvers may have trouble with the ENIAC/JEU and the ADEN/ERTE crossings. My personal leaning is for Mondays to be super-clean, ones that I could pass to newbies as a way to get them hooked. But today's balance could easily appeal to a more experienced solver; someone looking for something harder in a Monday. Nice to have the variety.

All in all, it gave me four minutes of pleasant diversion.

Mon 7/25/2011
ATOMSACADSASH
ROSIETULIPFOE
ORANGESLICEFRA
DOGCARTATELIER
SEEIAMSDOLL
PICKLEDONION
ASPINESSOASA
SPREADWRITER
ALIOHMSEMERY
PIMENTOOLIVE
TROIOPUSARF
LEONARDRAINHAT
INSCELERYSTICK
DDEINUREMINEO
OSSNOMADSTETS
Tue 5/31/2011
ASTAPINTJEWEL
BOHRBRAYARENA
BLACKJACKPRINT
OTTOIHERARUT
TISSPOTSONADIE
LASEDTEM
PAIRLIEFSUTRA
FIFTIESGAMESHOW
CREEDTOTEERNE
RIBANODE
NEWYORKCLUBEGG
APETRIOINFER
CELEBTWENTYONE
RETROEEROSLIT
ESSEXDRATEDIE
Mon 5/9/2011
ALOFTATOPPALE
DARTHTACOSALAD
MICKEYMOUSECLUB
NRALECTURE
PEGOMYHEARTDER
CRUXAGRDENG
SIRBERGPHI
QUITETHEJOKER
NUNEASTZIT
CASKDASARNO
ASAGARDENSPADE
BILLOWYOWE
BASEBALLDIAMOND
INANYCASENADER
ESSOSWUMKNEES