Allow me to veer away from crosswords for a moment, so I can announce that after six painful years of squeaker losses in the playoffs, fighting through injuries, drafting like idiots because our kids were in the middle of meltdowns, my friend Frewin and I WON OUR 2021 FANTASY BASKETBALL LEAGUE!
I'm going to send today's puzzle to the manager who offered to "generously" take Kyrie Irving off our hands for Pascal Siakam. Although, Frewin and I are considering saying yes to Siakam or JA Morant next year.
Although this is a well-established theme type, I enjoy these "common foreign words" puzzles. OUIJA BOARD is a particularly strong find — not only is it a vivid phrase, but OUI is both spelled and pronounced properly.
It'd have been great if every one of the themers exhibited this property, helping to elevate the theme from the pack. JA (pronounced with a Y sound) would be tough, but SI should have plenty of options, like in SIENNA.
If only Siakam had broken into All-star status this year ...
It's not necessary to have anything more than YES as a revealer (which makes sure solvers catch the trick), but the fact that every YES starts a phrase feels like there's potential left on the table for a more clever revealer.
Something like … placing the themers vertically, with UP VOTE tying them all together? That's not quite right, but I bet a few days of brainstorming would turn up something better.
(Let's see … "foreign words for ‘good' " … with a GOOD START revealer? Crossword radar pinging)
Such enjoyable bonuses, LIQUEURS, Anne GEDDES, and VERDI classing up the joint. A bit too much HOC LALA SGT TAI TSPS USDA, though. I wonder if tucking YES into the bottom left corner (using a cheater square to accommodate) instead of the right would have increased filling flexibility.
And as much as I enjoy rare letters in crosswords, they're like spices — they'll fight each other if added in excess. I did enjoy the novelty of having so many worked into a Monday puzzle, mostly smoothly.
Solid addition to the "common foreign words" genre, if not a standout.
Neat that VOWEL exhibits the exact property exhibited by the entire grid — alternation between vowel and consonant. Entries that exhibit this property are very useful for constructors, as they tend to make construction much easier. Fun inside nod to the gridmaking biz.
Not so fun: OREL / PALOMA, ODER / ELEV, CAPON, DEREG, ONED, all in a single puzzle. All in an early-week puzzle, to boot. I think everything is ultimately fair, but I worry that a puzzle this gluey is going to turn off less experienced solvers.
It's an interesting feat of construction that made me think about how it could be done. Pretty easy, as it turns out, writing some code that outputs only the vowel-consonant-alternating entries from one's list and then filling from there.
Too much of a one-trick pony for this solver's taste, the conceit not worth the price of the hiccups in execution. But a couple of fun entries that fit the pattern, POPEMOBILE the standout, and also Socrates' UNEXAMINED life. And that VOWEL revealer, exhibiting the same property, is definitely memorable.
Debut! I really enjoyed corresponding with Wren, who wondered if his pic would be too odd for me, or if his writeup would be too risqué. I loved both — so fun to see a constructor's personality come through. (But don't look up ANO without the TILDE while you're at work. Ahem.)
I had a feeling something with diacritical marks was going on when I hit OYSTER right off the bat. Fun way to kick off the theme, launching it with a metal umlaut. Nice assortment of diacritics, from the UMLAUT to a CIRCUMFLEX (the little hat) to the CEDILLA to the TILDE. I highlighted those four answers below so they're a little easier to pick out.
An impressive amount of theme material crammed in. It might not seem like it, but check out where the four blue words are plus everything that has to work with the four special squares marked in red. Although they're all relatively short words, there are a ton of them. That's always tough to deal with, each successive word stressing a grid more and more.
I thought Wren did a pretty nice job considering the level of difficulty. I'm not hot on Random Roman Numerals, so CMIX at the top center felt awkward. Hard to avoid though, given TILDE and CEDILLA crammed next to each other, constraining things. And the FAROE/SABU crossing … oof. Very tough if not unfair. Otherwise though, not bad to have a few minor ENE SLO ILO bits strewn about.
It's a shame that there's no crossword symmetry in the grid. It's impossible to achieve with the four themers of course, but it would have been nice to at least get the four special squares in symmetrical spots.
And the real shame? I was so hoping for Wren to cleverly work in ANO … without the TILDE. How fun would that have been, to secretly use the subversive definitions! That would never have slipped past Will. But a guy can hope.
Looking forward to more from the juggler.