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Queena Mewers author page

2 puzzles by Queena Mewers
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
22/6/20192/4/20202
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0011000
Scrabble
1.57
Queena Mewers
Tue 2/4/2020
IOTASAMISCOPE
TORCHEARORKIN
SHOEHORNSMAINE
YSLMAOBAILS
LOVETRIANGLES
BANEDNYBTW
OCCAMALFCITI
CHAMPAGNEFLUTES
TINACUTUBERS
ECOBRABIKE
TAPERECORDERS
NEVISBENCIA
PENINSEXORGANS
CRETEPSIANDRE
PYRESYETMUSIC

Wonderful early-week theme. You'd think that a musician with a 25-year history of playing in orchestras, jazz bands, symphonies, string quartets, etc. would pick up on instruments hidden at the ends of theme phrases. Only a dunderhead would say YES, I KNOW THIS THEME; IT'S GEOMETRIC SHAPES!

Bah. CHAMPAGNE FLUTES are cylindrical, and I stand by that fact. Er, "fact."

But TAPE RECORDERS ARE RECTANGULAR BOXES!

Maybe I shouldn't comment on SEX ORGANS.

If only the gridwork had been as strong as the theme. Take that southeast corner, for example. Parallel placement of a themer and a revealer, squished together in one corner, rarely works out. You never want to subject newer solvers to something like INRI. These types of "I have to know THIS if I want to do crosswords?" entries are no good, hearkening back to the days of Maleska taking smug pride in making crosswords esoteric. Sure, the crossings are fair, but it's still not a fun entry for most people to encounter.

As much as I enjoy having a revealer in the "omega position" (the final across answer), I'd much rather give up some elegance to preserve a better solving experience. Shifting MUSIC all the way to the left might have helped, but that, of course, would require a complete grid redo.

It's such a shame that Alex and Queena's intent didn't align with Will Shortz's vision. I prefer Will's approach — the delayed a-ha is fantastic — but shooting it back to the constructors would have resulted in a much more polished grid. That's a big ask, given how many puzzles Will has to churn through, but even if he had to hire another assistant to get this done, it'd be well worth it.

There are benefits to this audacious grid layout, no doubt. I love the word CHICANERY, and to get so much CAN OPENER, PIN SETTER, BREXIT? OK, I'LL BITE! If the theme had been harder, more like Wednesday or Thursday difficulty, I'd have happily given the thumbs-up.

Other solvers without a pesky constructor's voice in their head might have a stronger solving experience. There is something to be said about some Tuesdays pushing boundaries, after all. Such a shame (that I can't get past my insistence on technical excellence), as the theme was POW! quality.

Wed 2/6/2019
SUNFIREMOTHER
ORIURALADWARE
LIBRETTODEALIN
BEGAPARTLED
HELLOTELESCOPE
OREEASTROAR
LARGESTECRU
ASSORTOPERAS
TEENENGLISH
CITYARSENCO
INEEDANAPNIGHT
USAIVANAOCT
DIPDYEKNOCKOUT
ADORERLOCHSPA
DETERSELSESIX

Uniclue! There have been enough of these, that the NYT production team seemed a bit blasé about it when I got pre-release notes. What a pleasant surprise to get a twist, a raison d'etre that I doubt I'd have ever thought of. Every single square that starts both an across and a down answer shares a clue — but the across entry is in ENGLISH, and the down is in ESPANOL.

I've tried my hand at Uniclue constructions, and they're a bear. Not only do you have paired themers everywhere, but some of them have to intersect. And on top of all that, because most of the themers are short, you're going to need some long fill to stay within the max word count of 78.

I have a feeling some solvers will complain about the crossword glue, and I acknowledge that the slurry of ALTE IRT ASCH OCS etc. isn't fantastic. Nor is ADORER or NIBBLERS. HALLOO, HELLO?

But the direct experience of working with this theme type (and failing miserably, I might add) makes me appreciate Queena and Alex's execution. It's not realistic to expect a Uniclue puzzle to be perfectly clean, and for me, the payoff was worth the prices I had to pay during my solve.

Not to mention, they even managed to work in a couple of strong bonuses. I NEED A NAP + TELESCOPE + RING TOSS isn't a total KNOCK OUT, but that's pretty darn good long fill for the limited long slots available.

Hilarious clue on TEAPOT, too. Left holding the bag, indeed. *rimshot*

When working with an established tricksy theme type, it's important to do something a little different. I count this one a success.