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Puzzle #26: Vowel Play

AOK’s Review:
Good morning fellow cruciverbalists!

I hope you’re all doing well and that the weather where you are finally is feeling like spring. (If you’re in Arizona, where I was for a week earlier this month, here is hoping that you’re staying cool!)

It’s fun with phonetics with this week’s crossword, as each of the circled letters within the theme entries phonetically form the sound of each of the five vowels. Interesting enough, four of the five theme entries actually contain the vowel being sounded out within the circled letters. I’m sure a few of you might not be sold with the final theme entry, DOCTOR WHO (63A: [BBC hero since 1963: 2 wds.]), as that “U” sound doesn’t come through so clearly like it would if the answer was something like PHIL DONAHUE or PS I LOVE YOU, but I have no issues with it.

A-HA Moment (When I figured out the theme): Even before I filled in the first letter. Saw the title, saw the circles and thought that the letters inside them would phonetically make the sound of a vowel. Ding, ding. Despite that, I did not jump around the grid and try to solve the theme entries first, like I usually do when I discover what the theme is very early in my solving. Slow and steady, right?! (Well, that’s my strategy at least.)

O-HO moment (Something I know now that I didn’t know before): It’s not that I didn’t know about the existence of SWEET VALLEY HIGH (39A: [Series of young adult books published from 1983 to 2003: 3 wds.]). As a matter of fact, the image of all those book covers with the two girls inside of a circle and the “Sweet Valley High” text above their heads has just popped into my head. I actually didn’t know what those books were about, as I never read any of the books in the series. I think I was too busy reading the “Goosebumps” series of books when others in my elementary school classes had the Sweet Valley High books.

OLIO (Other things of note): The only real hiccup I had in the grid was when I put in “skip out” instead of STEP OUT and left it there for a couple of minutes (51A: [Run an errand, say: 2 wds.]). Actually, also did the same when putting in “foot steps” instead of FOOT PATHS, but I was quicker to remove my mistake on that one (10D: [Trails in the forest]). This probably should have been saved for the previous paragraph, but I now know that bit of information dealing with LOW-CUT (30D: [Like Jennifer Aniston’s 2017 Oscar dress: Hyph.]).

Sportsball moment of the day: Remember when the nickname RED (13D: [Fez color]) used to be much more prevalent than it is today? I’m guessing it’s a thing of the past now, but seeing the entry made me think of a few famous people named “Red” in the sports world. First, there’s National Hockey League legend Red Kelly, who won eight Stanley Cups during the 1950s and 1960s and was also a Liberal Member of Parliament in Toronto while playing for the Maple Leafs. In baseball, there’s a couple of famous Reds: There’s former St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Red Schoendienst (pronounced SHANE-DEENST), the second-oldest living Hall of Famer at 94 years young who has now spent over 70 years in the Cardinals organization, and Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing, a six-time All-Star who won six World Series titles with the New York Yankees in the 1930s and 1940s. Like Schoendienst, Kelly is also a living legend, as he’ll turn 90 this July. If you’re planning on having a baby and want him or her to live a long life, all you have to do is name/nickname the bundle of joy “Red” and have them play sports professionally. Simple as that, right?

See you next week!


Patrick’s notes:
Vowel progression themes are a tried-and-true theme type, but they usually focus on the letters AEIOU between the same two consonants. This puzzle has a slight variation on the theme, since there’s no final consonant and the last theme answer has the U sound but is spelled with an O. To Ade’s point, something like DONAHUE has a “hyoo” sound but I wanted something with a pure “oo.” Using 5 theme answers can really make a grid tough to fill cleanly, but if they’re short like 4 of these are, it’s not too bad.

I was happy to get some long, bonus Downs into the grid, and the stacked 6’s in the W and E were fun to work on. SMH is one of those modern answers that may befuddle solvers who don’t spend much time online (it stands for Shaking My Head). I had fun with the clues for PULSE and ASHLEE, and I was going to write a clue about “The Fly” for TELEPORTS but decided it would be a little too tricky.

Crazy that the first 6 months of this series are over already. Here’s to 26 more fun puzzles over the next 6 months!

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