I would suggest solving this week’s Andy Kravis offering, “WHAT DO THESE PICTURES HAVE IN COMMON?” before reading on — trust me, things will make more sense.
“What Do These PIctures Have in Common?”
Constructor: Andy Kravis
Theme: Theme answers are parts of a car, and are clued by rebuses (the picture kind, not the crossword kind).
- 17A: SPARK PLUGS
- 26A: JUMPER CABLES
- 42A: ENGINE BLOCKS
- 56A: BUCKET SEAT
Interesting puzzle. I really love the idea of incorporating visuals into crosswords — it seems like an idea with tons of potential, and people like Liz Gorski have done some really nice grid art in the past. Here, Andy has gone with a different approach — rebuses that clue theme answers, wordplay-style, with the added gimmick that you have to figure out what they have in common. I loved Classic Concentration as a kid, so I’m predisposed to enjoy this.
I got the basic concept after filling in SPARK PLUGS, but I couldn’t work out any of the others without at least a few crosses. I think my favourite is probably ENGINE BLOCKS, but they’re all pretty good mini-puzzles. I was wondering if there was going to be a meta element in answering the title question, but no, it looks like the only connection between the images is that they’re associated with cars.
As much as I like this concept, the execution felt a little glitchy to me. I think the theme would be tighter if all of these were parts of a car instead of just being linked to cars in general — JUMPER CABLES are an accessory, and stood out to me while solving. Plus, if I get nitpicky (and seriously, why are you reading a crossword blog if you don’t want nitpicks?) I feel like BUCKET SEAT should be plural and ENGINE BLOCKS should be singular. Obviously that’s because of the need for symmetry, and these are hardly dealbreakers, but they made the theme not land quite as hard as I’d have liked.
The fill is good — clean as a whistle, and I’m always happy to see JACKIE CHAN (26D: “Around the World in 80 Days” actor) in my puzzle. Heavy on proper names toward the bottom, but even though I didn’t know BRECHT (50A: “Mother Courage and Her Children” writer Bertolt), I worked it out from crosses. I actually had a chance to see that play earlier this year at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, but went for Carousel instead.
Had to run the alphabet for the crossing of CCNY (53D: Manhattan campus, for short) and CALAMINE (53A: Main ingredient in a pink pharmacy product — I guessed KALAMINE), but otherwise no problems. This puzzle felt pretty easy to me, and I wonder if it was clued easier than usual to avoid frustration if solvers couldn’t grok the rebuses.
Favourite clues were 47A: If you have it, you already knew that it would be the answer for ESP and 12D: Word you might hear a lot when two Australian friends play chess for MATE. And check out the Supreme Court gathering in the SW, with RUTH (55A: The “R” in Notorious R.B.G.) two rows above DEAN (61A: Elena Kagan’s title before becoming a Supreme Court justice).
Also on board with this puzzle’s music, between the “Paparazzi” reference in the clue for FAN and RUDE (51D: 2014 #1 hit for Magic! about a father’s impolite rejection — great song, and the album it’s from is pretty good too). I do take issue with 40A: “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” system being the clue for WII, though, since that game was also released on the GameCube (spent some time avoiding university assignments by playing it).
Good puzzle, and I’d love to see a sequel with a slightly tighter link between the pictures — like I say, this is a very cool idea. Now I’ve got to go back to watching the Habs obliterate the Oilers — they’re 9-1 on the year, and it’s soon to be 10-1. 😦