Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections is justly praised for many reasons but part of its appeal is how well all the elements of the intricate plot fit together. It seems that every character, every plot device, every casual observation, turns out to be significant when the whole story is understood. This makes a well-written novel even more satisfying. But sure enough, some readers took that as a challenge. A novel that complex is bound to have a hole somewhere. Web sites sprung up with detailed analyses of minor apparent inconsistencies or plot threadlets that were never quite resolved. By trying to do something remarkable, the author set himself up for picayune criticism that a less ambitious novel would never receive.
I wonder sometimes if our relationship with crosswords isn't similar. I got a lot of mail about yesterday's "better luck next time" puzzle. What exactly distinguished the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st runners up? It seemed to not make complete sense and because of that the puzzle value was diminished. There was general agreement that the theme was fun and the fill was accomplished but there was consternation about those specific ordinals not having the iron-clad logic puzzlers expected. I was happy to take them after the fact as red herrings that added to the amusement but it seems I hold a minority view.
I've had similar mail on previous puzzles disparaging other inconsistencies. Perhaps one of the theme answers didn't mesh as well as the others or was plural instead of singular or somehow didn't quite fit the strict rules of cricket as laid down by, well, I'm not sure who exactly, but everyone seems to know when those rules are violated.
Early week puzzles are all about having great themes. Ideally the fill is also free of crosswordese, completely consistent, within your personal ken, funny, exactly the right degree of difficulty, and so on. There's a balance. When choices have to be made, I'm willing to let a lot slide for a terrific theme. I get the impression most people would opt for the lesser theme with the perfect fill. Or perhaps those are just the people who like to send me email.
The Tuesday, June 24 puzzle by Barry C. Silk (answers) seems remarkably free of such flaws although I'm sure I'll hear otherwise if I'm wrong. In fact, it's an excellent Tuesday puzzle. There were a few things that I didn't know but they all fell out from the cross clues. The Mammoth Cave is in Kentucky apparently. Now I know. I don't recall Maria Elena but I'm the wrong demographic for Jimmy Dorsey. Sticking with the big band era, my favorite clues were the double-barrel Lawrence Welk intros. Either alone would be ok but nothing special. Having them both was Champagne Music.
Don't become famous; that's my advice. The Famous are dropping like flies. George Carlin was a social commentator but more importantly for this blog, a keen observer of words and how we use them. He would have been a great crossword blogger.