Thursday, October 16, 2014

Overkill (puzzle no. 3,341)

One of the good features of the The Nation puzzle is its use of uncommon wordplay categories such as letter banks and relocations.  They have the ability to make a puzzle harder, even when the clue itself is easy.  That’s because solvers who aren’t expecting them try and parse some other kind of wordplay out of the clue and wind up going down a blind alley.  The trick is even more effective when there’s a misdirection in the clue: something that looks like an indicator but isn’t.  Hot and Trazom are good at those.

But like anything else, too much of a good thing spoils the effect.  If a constructor uses an uncommon feature too often, solvers will learn to be ready for it.  I see this when I fence.  One of the tactics I like to use is to move quickly off the line when the director says “go” and get right in my opponent’s grill. An inexperienced opponent or even an experienced one who hasn’t seen me before will often react in a way that leaves some part of the body undefended or messes up his balance, allowing me an easy touch.  But if the opponent knows I’m coming and makes a simple extension, I run right onto his blade.

Good constructors think strategically so they can lead solvers down those blind alleys and then make them realize the answer was sitting right in front of them.  Not-so-good constructors ride their horses

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): hard

Hozom’s comment:  “Reading the Dictionary,” in which Hot and Trazom respond to a solver who questions one of the constructors’ guidelines.

Weekly cluing challenge: WEBSTER (I guessed this one before I saw the rest of the Word Salad post!)

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