Puzzle #88 – College Humor

It’s March Madness! If you’re like me, you’ve already blown your shot at the billion dollar bracket. (Thanks, Harvard.) But you can make up for it by solving today’s puzzle. The grand prize: all of the bragging rights. (Warren Buffett’s got nothing on me.)

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7 Responses to Puzzle #88 – College Humor

  1. Rex says:

    Love the theme, but some of the cluing/answers… it’s a bit like you’re making these exclusively for about half a dozen of your friends. Total “???” on SWANN, TNA, MCCLANE, HOOH, POE, DAUDET, OLIVER WOOD—all proper nouns. And I’ve read all the HP books and seen “Die Hard.” This odd pop-culture lock-out approach really distracted from a good core theme, and warped the difficulty immensely. Themers were cake compared to much of the other stuff. It’s not a matter of eliminating, say, Zelda references. It’s a matter of Balance.

    • Neville says:

      (Spoilers in this comment!)

      You raise some really good points, Rex. Let me take you through some of the construction of this puzzle.

      So I have this idea that there are five ways to make a puzzle difficult:
      1. Crazy theme.
      2. Clever cluing.
      3. Trivia cluing.
      4. Obscure entries.
      5. Errors.

      I think we’d agree that #1 and #2 are the way to go in general for making a puzzle hard, and that #5 should be avoided like the plague.

      When I set out to write this puzzle, I noticed that the theme content was low. Only 36 squares. I wanted to try to drop the word count on it as a challenge to myself. Then I noticed that OLIVER WOOD and RON WEASLEY fit nearly symmetrically in the grid. “Mini-theme!” I thought.

      And then I proceeded to fill the grid. And because I wanted to keep those entries (and certain others) in, there was some undesirable fill. TNA, HO-OH & DAUDET were certainly not things I put in by choice, but I accepted them because of the crossings (which I maintain are fair). I probably should not have. So we’ve got some of #4 in the grid.

      So I finished the grid, and I had a few clues that I thought were pretty clever in mind. I thought that might offset #4 a bit. But in trying to go the way of #2 (that came out wrong [so did that]), I went the way of #3 on a few. I hate to say this (and I am certainly not trying to assign blame), but I feel like I was influenced a bit by some of the recent puzzles I’ve solved that have used references to things I did not know at all, and wanted to tilt the table back toward thing I do know. (And put a new clue for POE out there.)

      (Aside: Was it Ben Tausig who decried Wikipedia-cluing? Because that’s what some of this feels like, and I should know better.)

      But really: why try to make this puzzle harder than the theme merits? To justify some lousy fill? No. That’s absurd. This puzzle didn’t need to be made hard. (And speaking of justification, fair crossing do not justify lousy fill.)

      In the end, this puzzle does have an over-reliance on proper names. Many of my puzzles do. And that’s something I’m trying to move away from, but I have a hard time with it. I definitely appreciate the honest feedback, because my goal has always been to post puzzles that are fun, and it seems that I took some of that away. Next time: Don’t do that!

  2. Max minnie says:

    Not opening in across lite?

  3. Norm says:

    Max minnie: The last couple of weeks I’ve found that I have to right-click and download in order to get it to open properly. Double-clicking on it just takes me a jumbled mess of text.

  4. Craig says:

    Looked good to me. I’m not sure I understand 39A. Did you mean “piece”? (Keats did have a piece called “On Peace”, but it’s a sonnet.)

  5. Jeff G. says:

    Hey Neville, loved the theme! Very funny college humor. Keep the Harry Potter clues coming too.

  6. Bencoe says:

    All the theme entries were great, spot on. I have to agree with Rex about some of the shorter fill but I liked the mini theme of Ron/Oliver even though I’m not a Harry Potter fan. Loved the clue for Charlton Heston–made me laugh out loud, which I hardly ever do with crossword clues.

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