Time to get caught up — here are reviews for “HIGH JUMP” and “POINTS OF DEPARTURE“. You can subscribe here.
Theme: Three rebus squares contain DB (a mini-Cooper).
- 17A: BREAD BASKET – Roll holder
- 5D: RED BULL – Energy source since the late ’80s
- 38A: SPOILED BRAT – Product of overindulgence
- 10D: WAKE AND BAKE – Get high after rising, in slang
- 43A: LEAD BALLOON – Paragon of a bad idea
- 29D: DEADBEAT DAD – He’s not great in a supportive role
- 62A: MINI COOPER – Classic compact model… and a description of three squares in this puzzle’s grid?
This puzzle from November 15 comes rates as “Harder”. My experience with Aries puzzles has been that the clue difficulty doesn’t vary all that much from one end of the scale to the other — there are a few more gimmes on the easy ones, but all of the puzzles have at least a few tricky clues like 10A: Heat guard seen on the floor for WADE, or 12D: Spread sheet? for DEED. The difficulty spikes mostly come from the themes — here we have a rebus involving famed skyjacker D.B. Cooper.
It took me a while to figure out what was going on — it was obvious there was a rebus, but DB seemed random at first when I finally filled in SPOILED BRAT. This is extremely well-executed — everything’s symmetrical, all but one of the rebus squares bridge two words, the base phrases are interesting entries to begin with, and the clues are tricky enough that it took me a while to put any of them together.
Did not know that Alan ALDA appeared on “The Blacklist”, that Eddie Redmayne went to ETON, or who EVAN Picone, LEN Lesser, Bunny WAILER, C.W. POST or Anthony EDEN were. That’s a lot of proper names, but all crossed fairly.
I had trouble with LAC (25A: Staples Ceter team, on chryons — I wanted the Lakers) and CODE (15A: Lines done in mom’s basement, perhaps) — I had CO*E, and was trying to figure out why someone was doing coke in their mom’s basement. Everything else came together pretty easily once I had the rebus.
Final note — check out 65D: First name in criticism for REX. That’s probably New York film critic REX Reed, but it doubles nicely as a shout-out to Michael.
“Points of Departure”
Theme: Common phrases that end with goodbyes.
- 17A: HONEY NUT CHEERIO – Cereal torus in a box featuring an apian mascot
- 30A: IT’S BEEN SO LONG – “We’ve got a lot to catch up on”
- 45A: FIRST ROUND BYE – Top seed’s luxury, maybe
- 60A: METTA WORLD PEACE – Hoopster Ron Artest, after September 2011
- 39A: SEE YA – Slangy parting words… and a hint at the ends of 17-, 30-, 45-, and 60-Across
Simpler theme, but this one took me only a few minutes less than the rebus — like I say, Aries puzzle difficulty is a matter of degrees. It was easy for me to get FIRST ROUND BYE, since that’s what my Edmonton Eskimos got last week in the CFL playoffs (and I have fourth-row tickets to the Western Final, which starts two hours from when I’m writing this).
I’m a sucker for good long fill, but RING FINGERS (3D: Digits that are difficult to lift in isolation) and POLICE BOATS (27D: Heat-operated watercraft?) are both a little on the bland side. Fine, but nothing special. The clue on the latter is pretty good, though.
I liked the tricky clues for KIMYE (66A: Tabloid portmanteau of Nori West’s parents), which I guess is easier if you know your celebrity kids, and SCHWA (1D: Feature at the beginning of “Aladdin”?). Never heard of SCRAG (1A: Skinny type) before, though.
I wanted NAPOLI instead of NAPLES for 47D: Pizza’s birthplace, according to some, and NODS instead of NOMS for 57D: Academy acknowledgments, briefly. Those plus KIMYE and my never having heard of METTA WORLD PEACE made the south a bit of a fight for me, but eventually it came together.
Straightforward concept, cleanly executed. The usual solid offering from Andrew.