Get a little high, get a little low– find your sweet spot, solve, and subscribe
As Kameron points out in the newsletter accompanying this puzzle, it is a 16×15 71-word grid. The extra column is required to accommodate the central position of the (at the time) timely 12-letter SUPER TUESDAY. Those little squares in the SW/NE may seem out of place in a KAC grid but if that’s what it takes to construct a nice clean puzzle, that’s fine by me. The only time squares tend to bother me is when they create “mini puzzles” in a grid– which is never the case with Kameron’s puzzles.
Modernity-wise we have PINCH TO ZOOM (28A) [Multi-finger command on a camera app] and BRUNO MARS (17D) [Beyonce and Coldplay’s co-performer at this year’s Superbowl]– whoa, wait… didn’t Coldplay already do a Superbowl? Nope, that’d be Nickelback. For some Thanksgivingbowl halftime time. In 2011. <pulls rock back over self>
This was the most doable HIGH:low for me yet, and I got up to the north in just 15 minutes. As a histology nerd I loved getting to make the adipose (tissue)/FAT CELL (53A) [Adipose holder] connection. PIFFLE (42D) [Nonsense!] is a cute thing to utter, but it seems like the clue should have quotes if it’s being exclaimed. RIESLING (37D) [White grape] is always a welcome sight in both puzzles and in my glass (trocken only, please), so I climbed up the grapevine and got SUPER TUESDAY (35A) [Primary event] no problem.
My zippy progress came to a halt in the north. SLOUGH (13D) as clued [Morass] was a little too SAT vocab trivia for my taste and felt unnecessarily difficult. While I know the definition of “morass” I did not know SLOUGH (pronounced “slew”? “slow”?) as a swamp– just as a verb for growing snakes. FATUOUS (23A) is a great word and is underused. It sounds much more formal than [Damned foolish], so it took me some time to make the connection. I had trouble with OPERANTS, DESOTO, and TACO MIX in the NW. Poor TACO MIX (2D) [Seasoning with cumin, chili powder and paprika] took the brunt of my frustrations at the time and I went on a Google rampage trying to find anybody who calls it that. My brain sputtered “what, like cake mix? Add water and get… tacos???” Most all products/recipes go by “taco seasoning” and there’s “seasoning” in the clue, sooo, deep breaths. Idk I was just cranky; I think maybe I kinda sorta love TACO MIX now. Interesting little cluster of Ps and Os (OPP/POO/POPO/POP) up in there. I was pleased that SPIT UP (1D) [Bib stain], my first choice, turned out to be the answer, but waited to rule out lobstery BUTTER for a few.
[Royal endeavor] for BASEBALL (16A), while clever, was tough with the equally clever [Mass aid] for ALTAR BOY (19A) and [Cuts in a circle?] for MEATS which I still don’t understand. Mystery MEATS. Add in my aforementioned SLOUGH issue and it was a rough corner for me.
I really liked [Frenches north of France] (27A) for SNOGS, and [Topless, like a theater] (59) OPEN AIR is fun misdirection.
[Slasher attractions] (43) for SCARES felt tenuous to me– I get it, some folks go to slasher films for the SCARES, but this just didn’t click for me. [Cut short] (1A) for STOPPED also gave me pause (ha) because it feels like it cares more about the misdirection than the answer– STOPPED could just as easily mean that something reached its natural end. Sure, STOPPED as in “put a stop to” works but… Overall there are a lot of terse, two-word clues that are all legit in the end, but I don’t get a lot of joy when the answer falls in– it’s more of a “well.. ok, yeah, I guess.” I was once told to avoid putting too many one-word misdirecting clues in a puzzle– too many semi-unsatisfying “gotchas” and the solve tends to become tedious. This is kind of how I’ve been feeling about Fireball puzzles lately.
Sorry to end on a negative note there, because overall this was a very enjoyable, well-crafted puzzle. And look out– there’s a new HIGH:low coming right up! Get psyched up and stay tuned in.