Here’s last week’s Fireball, JUST WHAT YOU WANT. Subscribe and solve.
“Just What You Want”
Constructor: Paul Coulter
Theme: Letter replacement — ‘W’ IS ‘H’, ‘L’ IS ‘T’
- 5D: DOTTY HOOD – Eccentric thug? [DOLLYWOOD]
- 21D: VIRGIN HOOT – Fun for vestals? [VIRGIN WOOL]
- 29D: GOD HITTING – Olympian at the bat? [GOD WILLING]
- 37D: TIES A HAKE – Fastens one cod cousin? [LIES AWAKE]
- 20A: HIRE TESS – Give a job to actress Harper? [WIRELESS]
- 55A: WISH LIST – Just what you want (or, in six words, a hint to this puzzle’s theme)
Ben: This one doesn’t really work for me. I didn’t see the theme at all, even after I had finished solving, so I had a joyless solve, working out the theme answers through brute force. I thought the theme had to do with double letters until I hit TIES A HAKE and the revealer, which I couldn’t parse at all. After I looked it up, I… still don’t get it, really. Yes, W IS H, L IS T, but what’s the joke?
The puzzle feels like it’s missing a layer to me. It would make sense if all the base phrases had something in common, or if all of them were clued with reference to “just what you want” (DOTTY HOOD = “Just what you want for a shakedown in an asylum?”), or even if all of the new phrases were funny… but there’s nothing.
Also, shouldn’t all of the L’s and H’s in the grid be turned into W’s and T’s? Or vice versa, for that matter?
Hadn’t heard of DOLLYWOOD — apparently an amusement park devoted to Dolly Parton? That’s a thing, I guess.
Fill is okay, if a bit 44D: Dusty, maybe (UNSWEPT). AMOCO BILOXI BERNE ALOE DOSAGE UMAMI — they’re all acceptable, but I never see any of this stuff outside of crosswords. No long stuff. THE GAP (22A: Clothing store that began in San Francisco in 1969) is nice. And so is MARS BAR (7D: Snickers Almond, once), though the clue mystified me — we still have them in Canada.
Cluing is tough this week — lots of ambiguous short clues that needed crosses for me to see. I actually finished quite quickly, though (20-ish minutes, which is fast for me on a Fireball). — CESTA (34D: Jai alai basket) crossing TEHEE (37A: Little laugh) was the only seriously rough spot.
I liked the Moliere quote on OPERA, and learning about the BILOXI Shuckers is a fun trivia clue. Other than that, this puzzle just didn’t do anything for me.