I liked today's execution better than the FOURTEEN / POINTS one. Enough theme density to feel solid, but not enough to cause migraine-inducing constraints. Some great choices, too – STEVIE (WONDER) with a quote about vision, (WONDER) WOMAN one of my favorite superheroes, (WONDER) PARENT (my wife) …
Where were the others again?
I highlighted them below. Not sure why the theme clues weren't starred this go-around. I worry that I'm going to get a lot of "THIS @#$! CLUE IS WRONG WRONG WRONG YOU @#$#@! MORON" emails.
Speaking of wrong, I'd have liked for all the clues to feel jarringly incorrect. That was the case for WOMAN, since there was no movie titled as such, but I breezed through BREAD, BRA, and DRUG. The clues felt a tiny bit off, but not enough to make me pause.
Good spacing of the seven themers + revealer. Note how spread out they are. It'd have been great to place one set in the NW / SE corners, but I have a feeling that SEVEN WONDERS in the SE might not make that possible.
Even with good spacing, it's still a tough job to fill the grid. It ended up not smooth enough for my taste, what with AGIN (oof!), AMO, IT AN, KOR, OISE, DROITS, ABLARE. Part of the issue is that the seven WONDERS do still interact somewhat – note how ONE HIT, BRA, and STEVIE start forcing things like AGIN, ITAN, and ABLARE. A better usage of black squares, further separating these three themers, would have helped.
The hugeness of the NW / SE corners is something to be avoided in grid design. Even though those corners are hardly constrained, see: DROITS, OISE. OVERFILLing ought to be a PSA subject – break up your big spaces, constructors!
A fine idea, and just about perfect theme density for this theme type. But I'd have much preferred a 74- or 76-word grid, allowing for a more elegant final product.
Fun to have this MEATLESS MONDAY puzzle run on a MONDAY, with an appropriately vegetarian menu. I was wondering if there was a reason why these three dishes had been chosen (out of the thousands of veggie options out there)? Seems like simply because they fit into a crossword?
Some nice bonuses for a Monday puzzle, PALOOKA and KLUTZES great use of mid-length slots. Interesting to have RENTAL CAR and BIKE ROUTE in there as well. Along with TV TRAYS, that's some great fill to keep carnivores interested.
There was a bit of gristle in WISC, EGAL, LUI, BREA (how else are you going to clue BREA but "La ___ Tar Pits"?), but I think these are reasonable prices to pay for all the bonus fill Rich incorporated. I like his effort to work in so many bonuses — they're valuable in holding the interest of solvers to whom the theme doesn't speak.
It can be especially tough to work in horizontal long fill, so bravo there.
I would have liked something more out of this puzzle. It would have been nice to get some unifying reason why these three dishes were featured — maybe "all dishes featured by some famous chef" or "Oprah's favorite veggie dishes" or "all entrees starting with M M," etc., instead of simply "three vegetarian options that happen to have the right number of letters."
MEATLESS MONDAY is such a snazzy phrase, and it has so much potential for wordplay. What jumped to mind immediately was "phrases where PORK, BEEF, LAMB, etc. are removed for wacky results." That's too tricky to run on a Monday, but it feels like there's a ton of room for creative exploration.
I'm terrible judging how good puns are since to be good, they sometimes must be bad. It's confusing. I liked GHANA FLY NOW as an amusing marketing slogan for a Ghanaian airline, but BAHRAIN WASH didn't make as much sense to me. But then again, are puns supposed to make sense?
It's no wonder that I've never gotten a pun theme accepted by any major crossword outlet.
Anyhoo, I like Rich's attempt to add in some good bonus fill in case the puns didn't tickle solvers' funny bones, or caused HEADSHAKES. A GLASS EYE, one of my favorite card games in EUCHRE, a TRANSITION, BY GOLLY! These all helped hold my attention.
And lil' ol' STAPLED usually would be a neutral element of the grid to me. But what a great clue, misdirecting to a "corner piece" of a brownie tray. Great fun.
Not fun was the crossword glue. I don't mind a few minor dings like ITE, EER, AGA. It's when they all pile up, with ESSE, MOL, ANGE, IRR, etc. ... nothing is terrible, but as a whole, it's over my threshold for elegance.
Since this was a straightforward theme type, tried and true, I would have preferred it to run on a Tues/Wed, and for the grid to be smoothed out at the cost of some of the nice long bonuses.
Still, I'm hoping that Air Ghana takes notice — Rich, trademark that gem already!