“USE AS DIRECTED” by Patrick Blindauer
Step 1. Subscribe. Step 2. Solve. Step 3. Read.
“Use as Directed”
Constructor: Patrick Blindauer
Theme: Theme answers meet and make a turn on a common U. Each one also contains a CAR.
- 17A: OSCAR BUZZ – TMZ topic in the winter
- 5D: DRUG CARTELS – Groups purposely breaking traffic laws?
- 39A: NICARAGUANS – Certain Central Americans
- 24D: LA CUCARACHA – Traditional corrido popularized during the Mexican Revolution and then again by Speedy Gonzales
- 60A: DAVID CARUSO – “CSI: Miami” star
- 51D: TRUMP CARD – Spade, in a game of Spades
- 1A: U-TURN – What several answers (containing a logical hidden word) each make in this grid
Ben: Man, this is good. I had most of the grid filled in before I finally cottoned to what was going on in the theme answers. The CAR thing, which is ultimately beside the point, distracted me from what should have been blindingly obvious (especially since I got the revealer early on).
Michael: I have definitely seen version(s) of this theme before, but I enjoyed this nonetheless. Particularly devilish that TRUMP would fit straight Down there at 51-Down. And it’s a perfectly acceptable answer for the clue. But no…
Lena: I sped straight past the revealer at 1A and didn’t look at it again until most everything was filled in, somehow. I started this puzzle right after I’d taken my heavy-duty sleeping pill, and Brayden had already solved it and was watching me as I solved, so it was a weird experience– the theme is pretty trippy to boot!
Ben: The difference between good themes and great themes is polish. There are no U’s in the puzzle except for the revealer and the three turning points (no CARs either). And those three U’s are symmetrical, which allows for perfect crossword symmetry even on the Down themers, which this puzzle absolutely could have gotten away with skipping. Beautiful work, and clean fill too.
Michael: Something about putting the revealer at 1-Across, and having the revealer be so explicit, gave away a little too much, too early, for my tastes. But that really is a matter of taste. And sometimes, hand-holding with the gimmick is great, especially for less advanced solvers.
Lena: It was indeed clean and easy-going surrounding the crazy themers, as I was able to solve it in my post-medicated 30 minute window of consciousness. In fact, I’m having trouble finding a particularly showy/tricky clue– just lots of good clean support for the main attraction.
Ben: I normally am not a fan of gibberish grids, but all of these answers are… well, they’re gibberish, but they’re pronounceable gibberish, so it kind of works. I especially like OSCAR BUG CARTELS crossing DRUZZ, which is insane but fun.
Michael: I don’t consider this a “gibberish grid.” If you turn, then the answer is not gibberish. It’s all there. None of it has to be mentally supplied. I like DRUZZ, though, as potential slang. We should give something that name.
Lena: Gibberish fill = DRUZZ <gavel bang>
Ben: Favourite clues are 47A: Game for steady hands (JENGA), 64A: Draws naughty pictures on, perhaps, as a cake (ICES), and 19D: Turnt–upness (REVELRY), which took me ages to parse correctly.
Lena: Piping porn onto pastry seems a little arbitrary to me, but hey it’s your cake! I definitely ICEd “FUCK THAT GUY” onto my divorce cake, so…
Ben: I might have gone with a different clue for TASE (2D: Bring down, as a cop might) given the current climate in the US — but maybe that’s just my outsider perspective talking.
Ben: Aside from taking a while to see the theme, I didn’t really have much trouble with this one. There was always something I could figure out. Never heard of a Toyota PASEO, and inexplicably tried to claim that 33D: Neeson’s nation was ICELAND instead of the obviously correct IRELAND, but other than that no issues.
Lena: Ah, I just noticed that I scrawled a deranged face into the blank in PAS_O, getting Naticked by that and Stephen REA right around the time I conked out.
Michael: REA used to be a lot more common. Like ASTA.