Pour yourself a drink and solve “I CALL IT A SUDS POUCH“ before reading on and welcoming today’s reviewers…
“I Call It a Suds Pouch”
Constructor: Lena Webb & Michael Sharp
Theme: Theme answers have types of beer hidden in their midsections.
- 18A: TEA LEAVES – Cup contents that settle into your future?
- 20A: JUST OUTSIDE – A little wide, to a baseball play-by-play announcer
- 38A: VILLAGE ROADSHOW – Major motion picture company behind the “Matrix” trilogy, “The Lego Movie,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”
- 55A: EXPORT ERROR – Message indicating a refusal to put out (electronically, that is)
- 61A: BEER BELLY – Mild abdominal obesity, slangily… and a hint to what you can find in 18-, 20-, 38-, and 55-Across
Peter: How does this work; do I get to pick my own colour?! All the good ones are gone, but I’m still pumped – orange is the new black, so let’s go with that.
Ben: Originally I was going to make my colour hot pink, but I was concerned that it would burn out people’s retinas, so I went with boring old green.
Peter: Anyway, grats to our very own Michael and Lena on their buzzpuzz debut, and especially to Lena on her first byline! Huzzah! I’m all the more excited for them because I really liked this puzzle (no personal bias at all, of course). The theme is straightforward and well-executed: you’ve got ALE, STOUT, LAGER, and PORTER hiding out in the delightful theme phrases, each forming a figurative BEER BELLY (61A: Mild abdominal obesity, slangily). I love all of the theme answers, and the grid is impeccably filled.
Erin: Yay purple! I’ll admit my bias, but I really do love the theme concept. It didn’t click for me until I got to the revealer, but it was a great aha moment when I got it. I hadn’t heard of VILLAGE ROADSHOW or EXPORT ERROR, but they were inferrable through crossings, so it didn’t detract from the theme much at all. AGED, IDS, and RYE were great touches, too.
Ben: I enjoyed this too. I knew VILLAGE ROADSHOW, but I needed the help of the revealer to get EXPORT ERROR. I didn’t see it coming either, which is about right for a midweek puzzle.
Peter: EXPORT ERROR is an insane and beautiful theme entry. I am familiar enough with that term to say “yeah, sure, I’d say that’s a thing,” but I had a ton of trouble sussing that out, for a number of reasons: RAB for REB () because I can’t American history, inability to bring to mind PORTER as a beer variety (despite being a beer enthusiast who loves a nice rich London Porter), and because that SE had some all-round tricky stuff happening, clue-wise (including the wink-wink clue for EXPORT ERROR itself, which I totally did not think was as literal as it turned out to be).
Ben: I just realized this write-up is ⅔ Canadian. Happy Remembrance Day! (39D: “LEST we forget…”) I also can never think of REB as a real thing, so 50D: Johnny ___ : Billy Yank :: The South : The North just read as gibberish to me at first. (I’ve never written the SAT’s, which didn’t help.)
Erin: Days without a Harry Potter reference: 2! I can’t say I’m surprised, with Michael as co-constructor. Days without a Hunger Games reference: 0.
Ben: I was literally astonished to see 46A: Postapocalyptic setting that includes all the districts in the “Hunger Games” trilogy (PANEM). I wonder which one of them that was. But I’m always delighted to see one of my favourite movies show up in KAREN (31D: “Mean Girls” Plastic whose telekinetic breasts can tell if it’s already raining).
Erin: The Trekker in me loved seeing MELDED (9D: Shared what’s on your mind with Mr. Spock?) I also liked the symmetry of the clues (29A: Ticked off)/(35A: Tick off) for IRKED/IRE, and (42A: Come to a conclusion)/(43A: Comes to a conclusion) for INFER/ENDS.
Peter: I also loved the INFER/ENDS clue call-back. Also, do actual Star Trek fans call themselves Trekkers rather than trekkies?
Erin: There’s a big debate. Some call themselves Trekkies, but Trekkie is a little more pejorative, in my opinion (“OMG look at that Trekkie, let’s give ‘em a wedgie!”) Trekker is more for a long-time fan. But I’ll respond to either.
Ben: I’m with Erin — when I was really into TNG and DS9, I preferred Trekker. Side note: I watched those shows in elementary and junior high, but they actually hold up quite well. Very curious to see the new Star Trek show that’s been announced.
Erin: Moving on, TIL that URINE does not actually treat a jellyfish sting, unless it’s concentrated enough. Better to use seawater or acetic acid. The more you know….
Peter: Indeed! I’m fine with having one fewer reason to urinate on myself or others.
Ben: Favourite clue — 17A: Chekhov who wrote “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off” for ANTON. I’m a sucker for a good quote, and Chekhov’s gun is one of my favourite rules in literature.
Peter: Permission to
talk shop rant about some clues?
Peter: I can’t decide if the clue for –EER, [19D: Musket attachment?], will make it easier or harder for crossword n00bs. I mean, since it takes so-so fill (to be fair, it’s probably the weakest entry in this beautifully filled grid) and degrades it blech fill by changing it from E’ER to –EER, I’m assuming it was an effort on the part of the constructors or the editor to make it less stuffy and more accessible. But then I dunno if puzzle tyros who aren’t familiar with the age-old “attachment?”-style clue will have any less trouble with it. But maybe I’m overthinking it.
Peter: Erin, you pointed out when we were chatting that the clue for SELF-ESTEEM (28D: It’s inflated in millennials, according to some old people who don’t understand how important we all are) is something of an outlier in this puzzle and imo kinda weird. I think that the voices of Lena and Michael really shine through in this puzzle, at times because of what’s there but more often because of what’s missing: the millennial and often bro-y vibe of certain other puzzfeeds. I felt like this one had a more erudite, mature, and restrained tone to the cluing. None of those things are necessarily automatically good, but it felt like a refreshing change of pace for the nascent buzzpuzz and it was interesting to see that the puzzle is also capable of being a little more representative and of speaking to old-farts-at-heart like me. So, that’s cool. Except the SELF-ESTEEM clue is weird because it is so obviously not the voice of Lena or Michael. Now, obviously the overwhelming majority of solvers will not know the both of them personally as I do, but that’s not the point. The point is that this puzzle, save for this clue, has the potential to find out if a well-made puzzle with a fun theme can speak to millennials and provide them with an enjoyable experience without pretending to be one of them. But maybe that’s not something that BZF is willing to take a chance on just yet. I dunno. Again, probably overthinking. It’s getting late here and Erin left the convo a while back so there’s no one here curbing my self-indulgence.
Ben: I think the BZF voice is still a work in progress. It’s definitely improved from where it started, but it still gets a little bro-y for me on occasion. In general, I like it a lot when constructors’ voices shine through, and I like it less when the faux-millennial voice kicks in. I teach millennials — they’re not dumb or egocentric! (At least no more than we were.) Interesting question, for sure.
Peter: Ok, I’ll leave you with that. Sorry, Michael and Lena will be back tomorrow with a review. I wish I could have a review and a puzz from them everyday.