I spend too much time criticizing the authors of the relatively unchallenging online crosswords that form one of my daily diversions from responsibility to sit by idly. And while I feel that because I honestly shy away from the solve button until the breaking point of frustration I have at least some modicum of qualification, I will never pretend that my skills are advanced to the point that I could seriously considering myself truly qualified to really review these or even attempt the Times or whatever the hell a cryptic is.
Title: Last Laugh Author: Sally R. Stein Size: 15 x 15
Theme Answers: Oracle of Omaha, George and Martha, Man of Lamancha
These three seemingly unrelated historical / cultural figures (sorry Mr. Buffet, but you were born before the Dust Bowl) aren’t hysterically dad-joked connected in some not so creative play-on-words fashion ala Rodney King, Queen Latifah, Jack Donaghy and Ace Frehley or even a trio more abstractedly linked like Kobe Bryant, T-Bone Burnett and Angus T. Jones. Instead, the ‘joke’ here is about the sound of a joke, or more specifically, the last syllable: ha ha ha. If a bit more effort were used, a similar joke could be upped in self aware criticism and before / after trickery with the four responses, Harvey Dented Fender (Two-Faced Accident Proof), Dee Snider Enfield (We’re Not Gonna Take This British Rifle), Harry Potted Plants (Wizard Ficus) and Hart of Dixie Cups (The WB’s washroom glass).
Classic Carls: Auto, Menu, Halo, Tuna, Seoul, Euro, Reef, Algae
If the starting five of Carls (Aira, Oslo, Eels/Ells, Alec and Ions) had tired, found some trouble with fouls or either built up or succumbed to a sizeable lead in the 4th quarter, these Carls would earn the rest of the minutes. Menu would provide the bulk of the scoring while Algae would garner the loudest applause upon rising from the end of the bench, ripping off the warmups and jogging to the scorers table.
Hoffas (large useless vertical clues): Roulette, Montanan
The differences between Montanan and Mountain are so slight (same number of letters, same starting letter, same ending letter and similar guts) that it’s relatively inexcusable that the more befuddling answer was used. Additionally, the most over dorm room posterized Al Pachino character could be used with the easiest addition, a pluralizing or possessive ‘s’ to avoid the stupid ‘n’. Was is really that important that ‘Eaten’, which is quite awkward on it’s own, provides that super necessary ‘n’? Another slight adjustment and we could have had ‘Estes’ (American Photo-Realist). I suppose it’s an oversight of these details that leads to a publishing date of Christmas.
Horseshit Answers: Nothing
I rarely time myself when completing puzzles – I wish I had this morning, as over half of the answers I filled in required no clues; they simply appeared as combinations of other answers. This quickness is entirely to blame on such easily understood and leading clues like ‘Raton’ (Boca _____, Florida), ‘At it’ (Take a Crack ____(try)) and ‘Tuna’ (____ fish salad) . What other answers could fit in these blanks? Boca Cini Florida? Take a Crack at Crack? Carp Fish Salad?
What I Learned:
A butte is a flat toped hill-like natural structure, this much I knew. I also knew that there was a Crested one somewhere in the mash-up of squarish states west of Illinois and East of Nevada and a plain ole Butte somewhere else. I now know which is which, so in a way, I know my Butte from a hole in the ground.
Clues I Would Have Rewritten:
Massage Without the Tug, it’s Nothing to Hide Answer: Rub
Horned Barnyard Beasts Mischievous Chewers of Tin Cans Answer: Goats
Escapee’s Shout Desperately lonely man’s shrugged Friday night plans Answer: I’m Free
All in All:
Considering the theme for this puzzle had absolutely nothing to do with the holidays and the entire puzzle read as if it were a three minute time trial, I have to assume that this gem was meant to fly under the radar like an airbourne turd dropped from a reindeer that escaped NORAD’s Santa tracker.