“AUSTERITY MEASURES” by Elizabeth C. Gorski
Whoa whoa, one thing at a time– solve the puzzle, then read the post
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Theme: Word ladder transforming LESS into MORE.
- 1A: LESS – *Minimalist’s mantra
- 21A: MESS – *Emotional wreck
- 27A: MOSS – *Tiny plant clump I want to make a bed out of
- 48A: MOST – *”___ definitely!” (surfer’s assent)
- 57A: MORT – *”La petite ___” (French term for an orgasm that literally means “a little death”)
- 69A: MORE – *Maximalist’s mantra
- 39A: KEEPING IT SIMPLE – Paring things down to the essentials, as hinted at by the transformation occurring in the answers to the starred clues
Ben: It’s a word ladder! As an English teacher, I am legally obligated to like word ladders, so fine by me. Seriously, though, I feel like I’m in the mood for a good word ladder puzzle every, oh, two months or so. So this is fine by me.
Lena: I remember doing word ladders back when we had a subscription to Penny Press, but I was homeschooled so I just did them for fun, not knowing what they were supposed to be teaching me. Now I know. I think.
Ben: I really expected GOOD GRADES (18A: Culmination of many positive test results) and THIRTEEN TO (61A: Anything:47) to be theme answers. This grid seems a little light on theme to me — KEEPING IT SIMPLE is a solid 15, and I like the idea of a word ladder doing LESS with MORE, and the title is a cute reference to Greek politics, and yet… is it me, or do these elements not quite add up to a complete theme?
Lena: It comes across to me as a Mon/Tues NYT theme. Last Thursday we had the COCKBLOCK puzzle, which was much trickier than today’s. It felt like there was more of an easy-to-difficult progression last week, but this week I feel like all the puzzles have been hovering somewhere around Tuesday.
Michael: This is the first BZF I haven’t really cared for. It’s a word ladder, so there’s that. But even then, I don’t like how the longer Acrosses aren’t involved (except for the revealer, obviously). Are they involved? The cluing kept this one interesting, but otherwise it’s a decent, but very old-fashioned and familiar puzzle. I’m 99% sure someone has done this exact theme before. OK, 98%. I think Liz is hoarding her best stuff for her own (Crossword Nation) site, and I can’t blame her. This is solid work, but it feels both tame and Monday-ish.
Ben: My favourite thing about Liz Gorski’s puzzles (I’m also a subscriber at her Crossword Nation site) is that you’re pretty much always guaranteed some juicy long fill. I like RETRO CHIC the best, although OVERSELLS (12D: Says, “This is literally going to be your favorite crossword ever,” say) is also pretty nice.
Ben: I also like the aforementioned THIRTEEN TO. It’s random, but defiantly so. And while I have no personal opinion on Pauly Shore, cluing AT NO TIME as 30D: When Pauly Shore wins an Oscar made me laugh.
Michael: Disagree re: THIRTEENTO. Also thought the Pauly Shore clue was unnecessarily mean. I think “we all hate *this* guy, right?” clues are kinda cheap.
Ben: Between not knowing CINDY (64A: “Untitled Film Stills” photographer Sherman) or MCGEE (67A: “NCIS” agent Timothy or Maverick JaVale), the SW played a little hard for me. I also didn’t know the brand name BOSE — is that a household name in the US? The rest was pretty breezy, since I cottoned to the gimmick early and jumped from MESS down the rest of the word ladder.
Lena: CINDY Sherman was an unexpected and, unfortunately, obscure answer to see here! Her photography (especially the self-portraits) is amazing, and I hope folks look her up based on her inclusion in the puzzle. Also she dated David Byrne and I’m totes jelly of that.
Michael: Yeah, I saw her exhibit at MOMA whenever that was … a couple years back? I forgot her today, though. I mean, only after I got CINDY from crosses did I go “Oh … right.”
Ben: Surely Maverick JaVale MCGEE can’t be a real character name, by the way? *checks wikipedia* Oh, I see, Timothy is the NCIS character, and JaVale is a Dallas Maverick. That clue confused me!
Lena: I would watch whatever show Maverick JaVale MCGEE is in. Especially if it’s about… basketball crimes.
Ben: The shorter fill is pretty clean (as you’d expect given the light theme), but there are a couple glaring exceptions: NOLA on top of GTA is iffy, and I don’t love STYE or AMNIO, though they’re real things. And Michael won’t be happy to see that NOM is back (63D: Word repeated while fake eating).
Lena: Oh yeah! I forgot to mention yesterday that I also hate NOM/NOMS. There’s a bar I used to frequent that has a sciencey vibe and uses #nomnomknowledge in its tweets and I’d say that’s like 30% of why I stopped going there. Also don’t “fake eat” anywhere near me.
Lena: I also tagged SI SI as not great fill, but the clue made me laugh (23A: “Pablo, I am so into that idea”). It sounds like it’s coming from some hipster gringo who speaks no Spanish save for “sí” and I can imagine Pablo just side-eyeing the hell out of him.
Ben: But easily the worst answer in this entire puzzle is TPKE (47A: NJ commuter route). That’s awful. The T crossing T-NOTES was the last thing I filled in because I was so sure I had to be wrong.
Michael: Me, always, w/ the T-answers: “T-BONDS … nope, T-BILLS … nope … etc.”
Lena: And don’t forget the ED TV/MR ED cross– this is a dupe I cannot let slide. We’ve got a movie about a guy named ED who’s on TV and a TV show about a horse named ED noooooo! That said, I did like the ED TV clue (52A: 1999 Matthew McConaughey flop that’s basically if Truman knew what was going on in “The Truman Show”)
Ben: Favorite clues are a trio — 37D: Mowry who played Sashabella in “Bratzillaz” (TIA), 58D: Sashabella or Vampelina, in “Bratzillaz” (ROLE) and 60D: Amount of interest I have in seeing “Bratzillaz” (NONE). Ha! Awesome. That’s how you set up a punch line.
Michael: Question: why are OMENs always “troubling” (66A: Troubling sign)? I feel like they are generally associated w/ doom in crosswords, but I’m not sure that’s fair. Maybe it’s Damien’s fault. I just wanted to say, also, that that SUSHI clue is amazing (3D: Roll off a conveyor belt, sometimes). A+.
Lena: You’re right– good OMENs are all over the place, man. Rainbows, I dunno, white doves? Stuff like that. Seems to me like a “glass-half-empty” situation– crossword constructors only see the “dark clouds, perhaps” and ASPS. Always those terrifying ASPS.