Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest post / THU 12-01-11 / Get excited

Constructor: Elizabeth A. Long

Relative difficulty: Medium / Challenging

(Screenshot from the excellent XWord program. Seriously, get it.)

THEME: JACK — rebus

Word of the Day: SHADRACH (One of a Jewish biblical trio) —
a companion of Daniel who, with Meshach and Abednego, was thrown into the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar and came out unharmed. Dan. 3:12–30. (
• • •
(Meshach and Abednego complete the trio. Hey, that's 8/7/8! Make it into a puzzle!)

Speaking of being thrown into a fiery furnace, I, Tyler Hinman, am here to "fill in" (har!) for Rex, who has stepped out on a diplomatic mission. You might know me from my blog and the snark resulting from compulsively solving puzzles I don't necessarily enjoy. But never mind that; what did I think of this one?

Answer: I liked it! With rebuses being such an attractive challenge for constructors and the natural "jack-in-the-box" tie-in, it feels like I should have seen or done this one before, but I don't think I have. Anytime I get a "why didn't I think of that?" feeling from a theme, it's usually a good sign.

Theme answers:
  • Table staple, of sorts (BLACK[JACK])
  • Eschewer of fat ([JACK]SPRAT)
  • You might find one at a sawmill (LUMBER[JACK])
  • Stick pulled from a pile ([JACK]STRAW)
  • Brandy made from cider (APPLE[JACK])
  • One in a corner ([JACK]HORNER)
  • British standard (UNION[JACK])
  • Figure often mentioned by meteorologists ([JACK]FROST)
  • With 39-Across, apt title for this puzzle (JACK IN / THE BOX)

The grid pattern had me suspecting a rebus early on; surely something was going on in that tight middle section. While my overall suspicion was correct, that area contained no oddball squares, and was probably less open in order to accommodate the J and the X. Ms. Long made an interesting constructing decision in ending one word with the J and starting another with the X rather than the other way around; the latter certainly seems easier. I'd be interested to find out how that all fell into place.

The fill around a rebus is sometimes tricky, but it's mostly good here, even with a Z thrown in for good measure. And it comes in at 76 words; rebuses often take advantage of the maximum of 78. I deemed this Medium / Challenging because while the bottom two thirds fell smoothly enough, I actually had quite a bit of trouble at the top. Hey, I like a little challenge; gives me high hopes for some satisfyingly tough brutes tomorrow and Saturday.

  • Open (UNSTOP) — Had UNSNAP here; that one hurt for a while.
  • Untested (NEW) — Ditto for RAW. Argh!
  • Diversion with 81 squares (SUDOKU) — Where do you come down on the sudoku vs. crosswords debate?
  • Bounce back and forth quickly (PINGPONG) — I know Will would prefer TABLETENNIS, but that's not really a verb.
  • More unctuous (OILIER) — "Unctuous" is fun to say.
  • Sch. in Pocatello (ISU) — As a sports fan, I tend to accept schools in puzzles in correlation with how prominent their athletic programs are, so I didn't care for this one. (And before you ask, RPI has two national championships in Division I hockey, thank you very much.)
  • 1998 film "Waking ___ Devine" — I lived in England when this came out; it was just called "Waking Ned".

  • Addis Ababa is its capital: Abbr. (ETH) — This isn't a great entry regardless, but I'd much rather see it clued as "Old verb ending" or some such than an abbreviation one never really sees.
  • Domicile (RESIDE) — This is one of the clues that gave me fits; had no idea this could be a verb.
  • Nonlibrary reading (PORN) — Not according to crack investigative reporter Carl Monday! (I'm not linking to that video because I don't want to get this blog flagged again. You can Google it.)
Well, that's an odd note on which to go out. Oh well. Rex will be back tomorrow. OR WILL HE???

Signed, Tyler Hinman, Regent of CrossWorld

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