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"Midrash" by Martin Ashwood-Smith (May 2014)

Will recently returned this puzzle to me calling it a "near miss". The main entry that bothered him was 11-Down "IT'S_FRAGILE", a phrase that he didn't really think was very crossword-worthy. I usually agree with Will 99% of the time; in this case, however, I think it's a reasonably lively entry [GB adds: For crying out loud, it's fragile, like some cruciverbal egos!].

There were alternatives: the iffy NOT_FRAGILE, the dull as dishwater NONFRAGILE, and THE_FRAGILE, a Nine Inch Nails album [a decent entry, but probably too obscure for the target audience]. Incidentally, if you think FRAGILE or AGILE would have worked, look again, and you'll see that those options create a whole new set of problems, especially with the placement of black squares in that area of the grid.

If you're not familiar with the film at 38-Across, then there's a chance you may be Naticked with the Austen characters at 26-Down. For that, I apologize, but in my defense, I have to say that both the film and the book are quite famous and are well worth seeking out.

Incidentally, the preceding paragraph is essentially my somewhat lame justification for a tough crossing. You'll also note that I said both entries were "quite famous". Although this is true, the main reason constructors like me say things like this is to shift the blame onto the solver, and away from the constructor. It's the old "if only you knew as much as I did, you'd have finished" dodge. Works every time... guaranteed to make you very popular with solvers ;)

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