Grenache for one / WED 4-26-17 / Hostility in British slang / Cuneiform discovery site / Extinct relative of kiwi / Second-largest Arabic speaking city after Cairo / Degree of expertise in martial arts / Fifth-century invaders of England / US president who becomes president of future earth on Futurama / SIster chain of Marshalls / Candy often used in science fair volcanoes

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: DOS EQUIS (64A: Beer brand whose logo hints at the answers to 17-, 19-, 38-, 43- and 61-Across) — all those answers have a double "X" in them:

Theme answers:
  • REDD FOXX (17A: "Sanford and Son" star of 1970s TV)
  • NEXXUS (19A: High-end shampoo brand)
  • ANTIVAXXER (38A: Shot blocker?)
  • EXXON MOBIL (43A: BP rival)
  • TJ MAXX (61A: Sister chain of Marshalls)
Word of the Day: VINROSE (42A: Grenache, for one) —
Huh, not a word. Turns out it's two words. Two French words: VIN ROSÉ, i.e. Rosé wine. Wow. OK.
• • •

This is a nice theme. Shoulda been Tuesday—it's more a Tuesday type, more a Tuesday difficulty level, but nice, simple, interesting, with original and unusual themers. Very pleasant. I don't know what NEXXUS is. Is that something available in salons only? It rings the vaguest of bells, but I definitely had to go to the crosses to get that one in there. The others Xers were all very familiar. I particularly like ANTI-VAXXER (as a word, not as a concept or a delusional human). I want to call a massive foul on VIN ROSÉ, though, and not just because the clue [Grenache] was meaningless to me, and not just because when I finally filled it in (entirely from crosses) I had no idea what I was looking at. I didn't know NEXXUS, you'll note, and I ain't mad at NEXXUS. But VIN ROSÉ. I have never seen the phrase. I drink wine not infrequently—I mean, I'm no OENO-phile, but I drink—and while I've heard of rosé (never drink it, but heard of it), the French phrase? No. Do people use it. We say white wine, red wine, rosé. There are French words for wine types, but for just the general category of wine. "Here, try this vin rouge?" No. And if we don't use it in English, why is it here? It's pretty long for a foreign word. If "in France" had been in the clue, maybe. But it's absurd to think that a wine *type*'s being in French is going to tip you to the answer's being in French. For example, [Chenin blanc, e.g.] is a perfectly good clue for WHITE WINE, despite the clue words being French. I would never look at that clue and think, "well, the answer must be French." And yet this stupid Grenache (?!) clue. Oy.

Here are my trouble spots for the day:

The real fly in the ointment, strangely, was SAY NO (21A: Put one's foot down). Metaphors! I had the "S" and blithely wrote in STOMP. That gave me an answer at 22D: Making it big that started TR- (totally plausible), so I never questioned it (until I did). The one other place in the grid I hesitated was at AP---- (31D: Culmination of a challenging H.S. course). We call them AP TESTS. I have a human in my house who is taking two next month. AP EXAMS is probably the official term, and I don't think it's incorrect, I just know people say TEST much more often. OK, done, bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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1980s Pakistani president / TUE 4-25-17 / Wind tile in mah-jongg / WW II era British gun

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead

Relative difficulty: Probably normal ... don't know. I stopped to take a screenshot mid-solve, so my time tells me nothing ...

THEME: HOME (71A: There's no place like it ... or a word that can precede either half of the answer to each starred clue) — just what it says...

Theme answers:
  • BODYGUARD (17A: *V.I.P.'s security agent)
  • GAMEBOY (22A: *Nintendo hand-held)
  • COMPUTER PORT (27A: *Place to plug in a USB cable)— ouch. I think the answer you're looking for here is "USB PORT"
  • MOVIE THEATER (48A: *Multiplex, e.g.
  • ICELAND (56A: *NATO's smallest member, populationwise) — I had IRELAND briefly :(
  • FRONT PAGE (63A: *Where a newspaper's biggest stories go)
Word of the Day: ZIA (41D: 1980s Pakistani president) —
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Urdu: محمد ضياء الحق‎; 12 August 1924 – 17 August 1988) was a four-star rank general who served as the 6th President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988, after declaring martial law in 1977. He was Pakistan's longest-serving head of state. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is the second time in recent memory where I would've stopped solving if I hadn't had to write about the puzzle. And in this case, I would've stopped almost immediately. Wrote in 1A: IRAQ, then went straight to "Q" for the cross ... QTY? First thought: "Dude, that "Q" was not worth it." Went on to next answer: 14A: Suffix with refresh or replace. And right there, I was out. Done. I'm three answers in and the fill is already a war crime.

This is a small corner. There is noooooo reason for -MENT to be in your small corner unless your small corner is Very compromised by the theme *or* you don't know what you're doing. You can look at that corner and see that it didn't get better. REORG URI and EGESTS? Disaster. By the time I made my way to the center, with its improbable (and ultimately self-referential) ZZZ string, I figured the theme was some weird thing with "Q"s and "Z"s because why else would they be in this grid when the fill is so terrible. There must be a reason .... there was no reason. The theme type was one of the oldest in the book, one that provides all the pleasure of re-reading the theme answers while inserting "HOME" before each part. Which is to say, no pleasure whatsoever. On the day that the NYT takes it mini puzzle into the land of Snapchat (something called Snapchat Discover), it continues to take its *real* puzzle into the grave and heap dirt upon it. We're in an astonishing run of non-inventive puzzles, non-current, running-on-fumes-of-the-1990s puzzles. But hey, you can get the mini crossword in Snapchat now, so everything's fine, I guess.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I love this article about the NYT's move into Snapchat Discover because it contains this sentence: "It even includes a mini-crossword puzzle for its younger readers."

P.P.S. the Philadelphia Inquirer has changed its crossword to the "Universal Crossword," which would not be notable at all except that Universal = notorious crossword plagiarist, whom you may remember from this story at last year. He's still widely syndicated. Even merriam-webster runs his puzzle (on their website, I just found out). There's no law against his continuing to be published, just as there's no law against my occasionally reminding you that "unrepentant crossword plagiarist" is a concept that exists in the world. (Thanks to Evan Birnholz for calling this to my attention)

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