Fitness program done to Latin music / WED 9-20-17 / Scottish hillside / Citrus named for its appearance

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy (like, really really easy, if you make the smart choice and completely ignore the Note and the bracketed numbers)

THEME: ab bc cd etc — here's the note:

So the clues are numbered 1 to 25, and 1 has "AB" in it, 2 has "BC" in it, 3 has "CD" in it, etc. etc. Are you not entertained!?

Word of the Day: SUVA (44A: Capital of FIJI) —
Suva (Fijian pronunciation: [ˈsuβa]) is the capital, second largest municipality and largest municipality with city status in Fiji. It is located on the southeast coast of the island of Viti Levu, in the Rewa Province, Central Division. [...] At the 2007 census, the city of Suva had a population of 85,691. Including independent suburbs, the population of the Greater Suva urban area was 172,399 at the 2007 census] Suva, along with the bordering towns of Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori have a total urban population of around 330,000, over a third of the nation's population. This urban complex (not including Lami) is known also as the Suva–Nausori corridor. (wikipedia)
• • •

The puzzle is not in a good place right now. It just can't find its mojo, can't catch a break. I'm sure this theme sounded good ... in the constructor's head (??) ("I'll show 'em!"). But there is literally zero interest from the solver's point of view. Who. The. Hell. Cares. About two-letter strings? The entire puzzle seems to have been conceived to justify the entry BMWXSERIES (62A: Line of upscale German autos [23]). Like someone bet him that he couldn't pull this theme off because no way he could pull off "WX," man, that would be like jumping the Snake River Canyon! But then the constructor was like "Hold my laptop" and hopped onto his rocket-propelled motorcycle and zoom! "QR" required some ingenuity as well (BBQ RIBS). Beyond that, it's all very dreary. Yes, you get BWXSERIES, but you also get BCE and (ugh) OFGOD and PALME etc. Not worth it. I might've been at least mildly impressed if there had been only one instance of each sequential letter pair in the grid. But there are two "NO"s and like half a dozen "RS"s. So ... yeah, NO.

If any good comes of this puzzle, it's that I pass along to you how much I like WIM Winders movies (28A: Wenders who directed "Buena Vista Social Club"). His Road Movie trilogy (starting with "Alice in the Cities" 1974)) is quirkily beautiful. I've got "Hammett" (1982) set to record later this week, and "Until the End of the World" just sitting on my DVR waiting for a time when I have an unbroken 4 hr. chunk to dedicate to it. Gonna watch "Paris, Texas" next, since Harry Dean Stanton just died. A bunch of WIM Wenders movies are on FilmStruck (which, along with TCM and Netflix and all the EPIX channels, is practically all I watch). Anyway, WIM! That is my recommendation for the day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I had one "uh oh, careful" moment as I was zooming through the grid, right when I got to 58A: Fleur-de-___ (LYS). I wrote in LIS but my brain immediately registered the possibility of a different spelling, and wouldn't let me leave the corner until I had checked the cross (probably seconds later). And thus I never had to hunt down that error (as many will have had to)

P.P.S. I met a dog named "Hester" in the woods today (3D: Hawthorne who created Hester Prynne) (NATHANIEL). YEAH, I too thought it was weird. I mean, if your dog is an adulterer, no judgment, but do I really need to know that?

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Vegetation along British golf course / TUE 9-19-17 / US city whose name looks oxymoronic / Aid in producing suspect's picture

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Constructor: Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SILENT PARTNER (57A: Nonactive member of a firm ... or what G, H and W each have in 20-, 29- and 49-Across) — two-word phrases where both words have the same silent letter, therefore each letter is SILENT and has a PARTNER (twin) who is also silent:

Theme answers:
  • CAMPAIGN SIGNS (20A: Yard displays at election time)
  • GENGHIS KHAN (29A: Mongol Empire founder)
  • WRONG ANSWER (49A: "Nope, guess again")
Word of the Day: IDENTIKIT (32D: Aid in producing a suspect's picture) —
noun: identikit; plural noun: identikits
a picture of a person, especially one sought by the police, reconstructed from typical facial features according to witnesses' descriptions. (google)
• • •

If you know people are going to have visceral, negative reactions to an answer, why do you put it in your grid? No one has ever put DOG MEAT in a NYT grid before ... and there's a reason for that. It is a divisive answer, as the clue itself points out (3D: Serving in Asia that's taboo in the West). This is a western paper, so even if we decide fine, different cultures, different ways, there's still going to be a repulsion factor here for many solvers, one that is totally and utterly avoidable if you're the constructor. It's incomprehensible to me that a constructor would think, "You know what this grid needs: DOG MEAT?" What value is added to the puzzle? You have to weigh the potential costs against the potential gains, and this is a totally undemanding corner to fill—why do you go here? Also, please note: I don't know about "taboo," but it's literally illegal to consume DOG MEAT in parts of *Asia* (specifically Taiwan). Also, there's something oddly stereotype-reinforcing about this clue ("Serving in Asia..."). Consumption of dog appears to be a. not that common in Asia as a whole, and b. declining.  I recommend the DOG MEAT wikipedia page specifically for its matter-of-fact-references to the unregulated brutality of so much dog slaughter around the world. This answer is far too unappetizing a way to begin a puzzle. I barely noticed the rest of the grid. And next to DR. LAURA? Come on. Have mercy.

I think this theme is OK, and the fill (DOG MEAT aside) pretty weak overall. Most of the answers are dull or dated or kinda icky (HOS, SKEE, SNO, MAA).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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