ROWS GARDEN 33 — HARDER
ROWS GARDEN 33 — EASIER
Rows Garden 33 Harder — Solution
Rows Garden 33 Easier — Solution
I’m still readjusting to normal life here — one week in Wisconsin tends to throw my body-clock off quite a bit. Add to it a violent windstorm a few days prior to our arrival that knocked out power and many trees in the area and it was a slightly off-kilter vacation. But the weather was terrific, the fish were biting, and the time with family was much enjoyable.
I did promise a behind-the-puzzle write-up about last week’s offering (#32), so if you haven’t solved it yet, you best not read on, because there are spoilers aplenty…
I had noticed a few weeks back that, unlike traditional crosswords and most variants — there is no numbering scheme involved in Rows Gardens. It was one of those things that I had taken for granted and not quite realized until a few weeks ago, when upon contemplating clues, it dawned on me that Rows A through L could be used in a literal way. I even thought of turning the whole thing on its head and randomizing all the Rows clues in one continuous list, with no Row headings, and leaving the solver to discover the alphabetical features and go from there. But I thought that wouldn’t be all that fair, and the payoff wouldn’t be so great, either, so I just went for the second option of starting each row clue with the lettered Row in which it appeared.
I soon realized that I couldn’t do it with the week’s puzzle that I discovered this possibility, so I shelved the idea for a week. This time I made a conscious effort to come up with clues to the entries as I was constructing the puzzle. That’s abnormal for me, as I generally find nice entries, fill a grid, and come up with clues later. For the “A” clue, I had it in my mind to use ROSE BOWLS with “Annual” as my first word in the clue. The entry itself had been on ice for a while, since I like to give a nod to Patrick Berry by making that top row floral-related in some way. Since the Rose Bowl is an “Annual” affair, that clue would be plenty smooth and a good way to start the gimmick.
In the end, I spent a considerable amount of time filling the grid, because some letters are difficult to use at the start of a clue. In particular, the E and I Rows were bugaboos, which led to perhaps the oddest (but in a way, one of my favorite) clues of the puzzle: the SAT-esque ratio, “Implausibility : gnus :: ___ larks.” An EXALTATION is somewhat well-known as the name for a group of larks, but I was expecting not many to have heard of the term of a group of gnus. I devoured the trivia, of course, not only because GNU is a staple of crosswordese but implausibility is such a cool word for an animal grouping. The ratio format of the clue was perhaps the only way to clue it with the letter I leading the way. I wanted to be as fresh as possible with the clues and avoided stilted wording as much as possible, because I didn’t want the gimmick to be obvious.
The last Row, ROSE PETAL was a blessing, because it ended the puzzle on a floral note, something I’ve wanted for a while but never could achieve. Constructing a Rows Garden is in many ways a game of chance: you basically have one entry of lee-way, one “seed entry” if you will, and filling the rest of the grid is like playing defense. You’re making the best you can from the letters you’re given. Unlike a traditional themeless crossword, which has the flexibility of three or four or even five “seed entries,” the Rows Garden constructor basically has one opportunity to knock a solver’s socks off, or at the very least create a sense of unity in the puzzle (like using floral-related entries in the top and bottom Rows). That’s why a themed Rows Garden would be a Herculean feat. The moral of the story, I guess, is that ROSE PETAL in Row L was unintended, but I reveled in the opportunity to cross off two goals in one puzzle! Interestingly, that Row was probably the most difficult to clue, and it was my test-solver Jon Delfin that finally offered up “Lover’s path indicator,” which I thought was fresh and better than my clue, “Loves-me-not item,” or something clunky like that.
I was pleased when Jon missed the gimmick on his solving of the puzzle, because I had succeeded, at least with one solver, in cluing the entries smoothly enough as to not scream out the presence of a gimmick. Too often in crosswords which employ a similar gimmick (like those which hide a message within the first letters of the clues, e.g.) clues are choppy and a little unfair but necessary in order to acquiesce the constructor’s aim of hiding a message in the clues. I hope it was an enjoyable solve for you, and thanks to all who continue to support the site!