Stepped tower of ancient Sumer / MON 10-23-17 / Online source of film trivia / Campus sanctuary in modern parlance / Kerchief worn as headgear

Monday, October 23, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Challenging for a Monday (3:38) (that's 40-ish seconds longer than average, an eternity on a Monday)

THEME: Periods — ordinary words ending in -AGE are imagined as phrases where the second word is AGE:

Theme answers:
  • ANCHORAGE (17A: Period dominated by the likes of Dan Rather and Peter Jennings?)
  • WRECKAGE (26A: Period when every car was a junker?)
  • BONDAGE (39A: Period known for its 007 movies?)
  • PILLAGE (41A: Period of fuzzy sweaters?)
  • COVERAGE (50A: Period when tribute bands thrived?)
  • SHRINKAGE (64A: Period when psychiatrists ruled?)
Word of the Day: MOUE (34A: Sour expression) —
noun: moue; plural noun: moues
  1. a pouting expression used to convey annoyance or distaste. (Google)
• • •

This puzzle has a few things going for it. Sadly, none of those things have to do with the theme, which is kind of [Period associated with clothing?]. There are lots of words that end in -AGE. You can do this dumb theme all day long and then some. The clues are corny, and the gag wears out quickly. A "?" theme on a Monday is unusual, and unusually tough, though all the -AGEs made up for that somewhat, but then much of the rest of the grid was harder than usual to solve, so the overall result was a Challenging puzzle. Not off-the-charts hard for a Monday, but definitely on the hard side. But I don't mind that. I mind AGE AGE AGE AGE etc ad infinitum ad astra forever and ever. I also mind the tame clues. [Period of fuzzy sweaters?] for PILL AGE!? Wow. Lots better options on the table, there.

Oh, but back to the few things this puzzle has going for it: all the flashy long Downs. On a Monday, those are pretty nifty. Abutting long answers like that definitely opens things up (and generally adds to difficulty). Nice to have so much colorful fill early in the week. In general, the fill is decent. Not sure how we're getting OWIE *yet again*, but here we are. Actually, the more I look at the shorter stuff, the less decent it becomes, so let's just look at DUCK BLIND and BEHEADED and ZIGGURAT et all. Major hangups for me today:
  • Totally forgot IMDB existed. I just blanked. I never go there any more, so it went totally off my mental radar
  • IMAC, IPOD, IDUNNO (at 1-Down)
  • AMEN for AS IF (15A: "Yeah, right!") (note: "AS IF!" and "PHAT!" are both in "Clueless" (1995), which I just rewatched yesterday.)
  • TEENAGER for TEENIDOL (22D: Elvis in the 1950s or Justin Bieber in the 2010s)
  • I spelled ZIGGURAT all kinds of ways before the crosses helped me out with the vowels (25D: Stepped tower of ancient Sumer)
See you Tuesday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Praying figure in Christian art / SUN 10-22-17 / Challenge to prove you're human / Prime setter informally

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Selfies" — clues are all imagined "Facebook status"es one might post to accompany a selfie; the answers are selfie-worthy locations, all of which have "ME" in them:

Theme answers:
  • CHRIST THE REDEEMER (23A: Facebook status: "2016 Summer Olympics and a day trip to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World!")
  • RIVER THAMES (31A: Facebook status: "Across the pond! And front-row seats to the Henley Royal Regatta!")
  • MALL OF AMERICA (51A: Facebook status: "Yes! Retail therapy at the largest shopping spot in the U.S.!")
  • CLUB MED (70A: Facebook status: "Ahhhh ... Sun and surf in Cancún, Mexico! Bring on the unlimited piña coloadas!")
  • LITTLE MERMAID (86A: Facebook status: "Hej from København! This statue turned 100 years old in 2013 but is still a beauty!")
  • TIMES SQUARE (106A: Facebook status: ""10-9-8-7 ... Ringing in the New year with 1,000,000 of my newest, closest friends!")
  • JEFFERSON MEMORIAL (116A: Facebook status: "History abounds! Neo-Classical architecture surrounded by gorgeous cherry blossom trees. Next stop ... the White House!")
  • MADAME TUSSAUD'S (16D: Facebook status: "Vegas, baby! And who would believe I'm standing next to Beyoncé and Katy Perry!")
  • METLIFE STADIUM (50D: Facebook status: "Nosebleed seats—but home-field advantage! GO GIANTS!!!")
Word of the Day: ORANT (104A: Praying figure in Christian art) —
Orans, a loanword from Medieval Latin ōrāns translated as one who is praying or pleading, also orant or orante, is a posture or bodily attitude of prayer, usually standing, with the elbows close to the sides of the body and with the hands outstretched sideways, palms up. It was common in early Christianity and can frequently be seen in early Christian art. In modern times, the orans position is still preserved within parts of the Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran and Catholic liturgies, Pentecostal and charismatic worship, and the ascetical practices of some religious groups. (wikipedia)
• • •

ORANG > ORANT (and I should note that ORANG > very few crossword answers)

I'll give this one some credit for its currency and conceptual clarity. These answers all definitely feature ME at some famous place or landmark, and so the title is apt and the theme is consistent. I don't think the theme is that *interesting* (there must be tons more places, landmarks, etc. with the simple two-letter string "ME" in them) and the clues ... well, they're about as banal as a typical FB post, I'll give them that. They are contrived to include trivia that will allow you to get the answer, which makes sense from a puzzle standpoint, but which sometimes strains the plausibility of the clues as actual FB statuses. This theme is definitely better than average Sunday puzzles of late, and yet still definitely not as splashy and entertaining as a Sunday should be. But I'll take "not knee-bucklingly terrible" at this point, and this puzzle certainly fits the bill.

The "humor" here is pretty minimal. Would've been nice to see some more thought and pizzazz put into the clues. Cluing is particularly important in a puzzle like this, where there's no real wordplay or other engaging gimmick going on—just a bunch of unrelated stuff. I was somewhat confused at the outset, because I thought the various landmarks were the ones taking the selfies, i.e. I thought maybe CHRIST THE REDEEMER had a Facebook page that he was updating. Careful reading of the clue would've made it clear that that wasn't what was going on, but careful reading of the clue also would not have made anything clear at that point, so ... who cares? Got the landmark, moving on. I did get confused when I thought the next imaginary FB poster was MADAME TUSSAUD, but she didn't fit without the apostrophe S. Then I realized these weren't supposed to be from famous people / places, but from some imagined ME that had visited these places. The rest of the puzzle was very easy after that, with only METLIFE STADIUM giving me any trouble. Is that where the *New York* Giants play? Football is garbage and I don't watch (anymore).

AGEWORN feels (aptly?) antiquated (48D: Damaged over time) and ARTWARE is ... hey, what *is* ARTWARE? (29A: Valuable china, e.g.) Hang on... it appears to just be stuff you eat with or on or drink out of that can be collected as art. Huh. Too fancy for me. I had trouble spelling MORTICIA (MORTITIA) (15D: Wife on "The Addams Family") and KAHLIL (KHALIL) (2D: "The Prophet" author Gibran). The hardest answers for me to get was CAPTCHA (70D: Challenge to prove you're human). I thought it was some kind of TEST, like a Turing Test. Without context, that one was really tough to come up with. Also hard: HINT (92D: This answer ends in "T," e.g.). If that clue is a HINT, well, it ain't much of one. Ironically, an actual *clue* would've been much more helpful. In fact, the more that I think of it, a clue *is* a hint, so this whole cluing concept for HINT is ridiculous. Lastly, my favorite ultimatum now is "MORELS! OR ELSE!" (96D + 97D).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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