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?

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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
trademark
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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Ogden Nash's two-l beast / MON 9-18-17 / Start end of Greek spelling of Athena / ex of marla ivana informally

Monday, September 18, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: color-bodyparted — themers follow that basic pattern:

Theme answers:
  • WHITE-KNUCKLED (20A: Visibly tense)
  • GREEN-EYED (32A: Extremely jealous)
  • RED-HANDED (44A: In the very act)
  • YELLOW-BELLIED (56A: Deplorably cowardly)
Word of the Day: EUROPA (25A: Figure in Greek myth after whom a continent is named) —
Europa, in Greek mythology, the daughter either of Phoenix or of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. The beauty of Europa inspired the love of Zeus, who approached her in the form of a white bull and carried her away from Phoenicia to Crete. There she bore Zeus three sons: Minos, ruler of Crete; Rhadamanthys, ruler of the Cyclades Islands; and, according to some legends, Sarpedon, ruler of Lycia. She later married Asterius, the king of Crete, who adopted her sons, and she was worshipped under the name of Hellotis in Crete, where the festival Hellotia was held in her honour. (britannica)
• • •

If you like gated communities and grinding your teeth and modern Republican politics, welcome. Here is your puzzle. I wrote yesterday that the editor had a little love affair with the current White House. Then I briefly felt bad about that joke. I no longer feel bad about that joke. And RUBIO to boot? Gross. I'm all for the puzzle's reflecting the world at large, but when the world at large is this ****ing dystopic, I think it's reasonable not to feed the Publicity Obsessed White Supremacist in the White House With Yet More Publicity. I can barely even look at 11-Down. It's disgusting that anyone ever thought "let's give it a nickname, it'll be cute."



This seems like a theme that's been done, but not with these words, or in this exact way, I guess. YELLOW-BELLIED is the only one I really like. The only one that stands strong alone. RED-HANDED needs somebody who's been "caught," WHITE-KNUCKLED needs to ditch the "D" and then put itself before "RIDE," and GREEN-EYED needs "MONSTER" to be anything close to plausible. I never got a good solving rhythm going—felt like I was all over the place, and also solving my way through mud. But then the clock said 2:39 which is a well-below-average time for me. Weird. 


Wife is annoyed at how frequently KNEEL is clued in relation to knighthood (21D: Prepare to be knighted). "Where's the Kaepernick clue!?" Good question.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Fancy French shellfish dish / SUN 9-17-17 / Speed skater Karin who won eight Olympic medals / Pigment in red blood cells / Music genre for Weezer Shins Old outdoor dance sights / 1428 horror film address / Celestial object that emits radio waves

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Constructor: Mark MacLachlan

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: "Super Looper" — themers have a mini loop in them (signified by circles), so answer goes up one back one down one and then resumes its Across path:

Theme answers:
  • LOBSTER THERMIDOR (23A:S Fancy French shellfish dish)
  • BEVERAGE ROOM (oh come on, that is not a thing) (25A: Beer parlor)
  • UNDER ONE ROOF (49A: All together, as a family)
  • BLACKBOARD ERASER (51A: Classroom item)
  • CONCERT SERIES (69A: Central Park's SummerStage, e.g.)
  • COMPUTER OPERATOR (86A: Tech overseer)
  • SPOILER ALERT (91A: Reason to stop reading)
  • ROLE REVERSAL (116A: Premise of the film "Freaky Friday")
  • BATTERY TERMINALS (118A: Some positives and negatives)
Word of the Day: Karin ENKE (38D: Speed skater Karin who won eight Olympic medals) —
Karin Enke-Richter (née Enke, formerly Busch and Kania, born 20 June 1961) is a former speed skater, one of the most dominant of the 1980s. She is a three-time Olympic gold medallist, winning the 500 metres in 1980, the 1000 metres in 1984 and the 1500 metres in 1984. She won a total of eight Olympic medals. (wikipedia)
• • •

Has the NYT just given up on the Sunday puzzle? You'd think they'd put a Lot more effort into recruiting great Sunday work, instead of this parade of tedium we've been getting. Either it's some cornball wacky theme (add a letter? change a sound?) with groaner dad humor from 1984, or it's some thin concept (like today) where nothing happens that is at all interesting. The loops do nothing but loop. Why do they loop? Who knows? Who cares? What do the looped letters spell out? Gibberish? What's the revealer? There is none. What does the title even mean? Uh ... it's a pun on this?


I honestly don't know. I just know that this puzzle was very easy and utterly without interest, in either the themers or the fill. Here's what I remember: I don't know how to spell "Thermidor." THERMADOR seemed so much more plausible. That error was the main contributing factor to the difficulty I had in that one small, northern section of the puzzle—along with the yucky / impossible-to-parse UT-AUSTIN (32A: Rex Tillerson's alma mater, for short) (Shortz's love affair with this White House continues apace ...).  EM DASH and FAIR USE (both fine answers) were not the easiest things in the world to uncover and so that little area east of STRUT and west of TORTILLA was memorable for its thorniness. The rest of the puzzle was barely there. Provided all the resistance of a light mist—a mist polluted by such small particles as LLANOS ESA HEME ARIE ETH OOM SIE ELMST OSO OLES EEN and ENKE (?). Who says ON A SLOPE? ON A SLANT, maybe. SLOPE? Nope. My favorite part of the puzzle was actually an error I made: faced with the clue 86D: ___ wolf (three letters, starting "C"), I went with ... COY! It's a thing!


Look how coy that wolf is. It looks all innocent, but ... it knows.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Gourd also known as vegetable pear / SAT 9-16-17 / O.C. protagonist / Underground activity in '50s / 1950s TV personality who appeared in Grease / Many 1920s Harper's Bazaar covers

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Constructor: Natan Last, Finn Vigeland and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: CHAYOTE (40D: Gourd also known as a vegetable pear) —
noun
noun: chayote; plural noun: chayotes
  1. 1.
    a green pear-shaped tropical fruit that resembles cucumber in flavor.
  2. 2.
    the tropical American vine that yields the chayote, also producing an edible yamlike tuberous root. (google)
• • •

The grid is sprinkled with some lovely answers, though the loveliness is undercut somewhat by a rather strong dose of crosswordese (on a couple occasions, plural crosswordese), and a SE corner that's been bombarded with obscurities: a clue for TARA that was popular with Farrar, Weng, and Maleska, but has hardly been seen at all in the past quarter century (54A: Hill of ___, site of Ireland's Lia Fáil); something called TTY, which has only appeared in the NYTX three times, and is apparently somewhat dated nowadays (it's short for "teletypewriter"); and then CHAYOTE, which has never been in the NYTX before today, and which I'm seeing right now for the first time in my life. Yes, sure, learning new things is great, blah blah blah, but CHAYOTE nearly abutting TTY just reeks of bygone puzzles that sought to test your knowledge rather than to entertain. TTY in particular is weak (the meaning of those letters is totally uninferrable) (58D: Communication device for the deaf: Abbr.). You want people leaving your puzzle going "wow," not "wha?" Lastly, in that same corner, why am I *watching* the gap. I *mind* the gap. That's the famous expression, right? Is it a Brit v. US thing. "Mind the gap" is a snappy, coherent, in-the-language phrase. "Watch the gap" ... appears to be NYC-specific.


The NW is the real winner of a section here today (located, fittingly, on the opposite side of the grid from the SE, aka "SATAN's Corner"). Those Acrosses are a lovely way to open the puzzle, though they were somewhat hard to get at, given that two of them had "?" clues on them. I would throw ERTES and EER and ELAL and even PSYOPS back if I could, but on the whole, that corner is nice. EMERGEN-C and "SHARK TANK" give the puzzle a needed jolt of modernity, but ... what the hell is going on with that RYAN clue? (55A: "The O.C." protagonist). Of allllllllll the RYANs in the word, both last names and first names, you go to the protagonist of a show that's been off the air for a decade, whose name no one but die-hard fans would've known to begin with? I watched at least a season of that damn thing and ... RYAN? If you say so. I will never understand *that* clue for *that* name in *this* year.


I have no idea what a PANIC BAR is. "Door part"? Wikipedia says: "Crash bar (also known as a panic exit device, panic bar, or push bar) is a type of door opening mechanism which allows users to open a door by pushing a bar. While originally conceived as a way to prevent stampedes in an emergency, crash bars are now used as the primary door opening mechanism in many commercial buildings." So ... it's just that bar part that you push (un-panickedly, in my experience) to get in and out of many kinds of commercial buildings? I clearly don't share much of a cultural frame of reference with this puzzle. It's a solid effort with some standout answers. Not to my taste, but certainly acceptable work.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Canadian crooner Michael / FRI 9-15-17 / Basic beverage in baby talk / Parker so-called queen of indies

Friday, September 15, 2017

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: John von NEUMANN (32A: Computer science pioneer John von ___) —
John von Neumann (/vɒn ˈnɔɪmən/; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, computer scientist, and polymath. He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, context / inflection means everything on a clue like 27A: "Seriously!" I thought it was being said like "I MEAN IT!" not like "I KNOW, RIGHT?" (which is a real thing people say and a great answer). That is, I thought "Seriously!" was an exclamation of insistence, not an exclamation of agreement. Beyond that, I had the -NGER and wanted DÖPPELGANGER at 6D: Look-alike (DEAD RINGER), and I confidently wrote in MEDIA CIRCUS for 21A: Atmosphere around a celebrity trial, say (MEDIA FRENZY). Wanted AVEO for NOVA and then *got* AVEO later on. Weird. Wouldn't [Nutso] be CRAZED, and [Semi-nutso] HALF-CRAZED? (29D). Do people really remember Peter Fonda's *character's* name from "Easy Rider'? Needed most of the crosses to get WYATT. Grew up in California and know all the [University of California campus site]s but somehow blanked on the only one that anyone in my family actually attended! (SANTA CRUZ). And I had the "Z"! I think I saw the "Z" and my first thought was "Oh, there must be a campus site I don't know," instead of thinking, "Oh, it's where your ****ing stepbrother went to college, idiot!"

["... 'cause we can't see EYE-TO-EYE ..."]

There's nothing wrong with this puzzle, but it felt a little flat. I think my standards for themelesses are starting to rise, as I know they're much easier to fill with interesting answers than themed puzzles (which have serious restrictions by nature). It's not shocking that I have historically liked Fri and Sat puzzles much better than those from other days of the week.


Good themes are hard to pull off, and *especially* hard to pull off without dragging the non-theme fill down. Good themelesses, while they can be challenging to make, are generally easier to make *interesting* / splashy than themed puzzles are. So something like today's themeless puzzle, which is merely solid, leaves me a little cold. Without theme restrictions, you should be able to do a little dazzling with the fill. You can always dazzle with the cluing. But this clue dazzles on neither front. Again, it is not weak or bad. But I want art. Or cheap thrills. Or both. Something. I dunno. Maybe if the cluing were much better, it would've felt less like a warm-up puzzle and more like a Main Event.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Centaur who was killed by Hercules / THU 9-14-17 / Burrowing South Amercain rodent / Jesse who pitched in record 1252 major league games

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: DIASTEMA (52A: Formal term for the gap suggested by 17/18-, 35/37- and 54/57-Across) — it means a gap between the teeth; each theme answer has a "gap" in the middle of the word TOOTH (which is embedded in each answer):

Theme answers:
  • TOOT / HIS OWN HORN (17A: With 18-Across, what a boastful guy might do)
  • DO UNTO / OTHERS (35A: With 37-Across, start of an ethical rule)
  • SPREAD TOO / THIN (54A: With 57-Across, overextended) 
Word of the Day: DIASTEMA
noun
  1. a gap between the teeth, in particular.
    • Zoology
      a space separating teeth of different functions, especially that between the biting teeth (incisors and canines) and grinding teeth (premolars and molars) in rodents and ungulates.
      noun: diastema; plural noun: diastemata
    • a gap between a person's two upper front teeth. (google)
• • •

This is a good idea poorly executed. Two very major problems. First, the revealer ... how do I say this? ... To have your revealer be a hyper-obscure term (I'm sorry, "Formal term") is maybe not the greatest idea if you have any intention of having the solver's experience result in a final "AHA! Ooh! Satisfying!" Or if you want your solver to understand your puzzle *at all* without the aid of a dictionary. So this ended with all the pleasure of ... googling the answer. Only then did see what was going on in the themers—which brings me to the second major problem. Maybe you can see this for yourself. Just look at the way the theme is played out, visually. Now consider what DIASTEMA means. See a problem? If the ****ing ridiculous obscurantist nightmare term you're using as a revealer means "space between teeth" then that damned space better come between some damned teeth. But no. We just get busted, cracked teeth. I looked up a word for this? No. No thanks.

Only trouble in this grid is gonna come from the revealer and (surprise!) proper nouns. I happen to know DUMONT but many under 70 won't, and let's hope they're football fans because that "M" crosses MADDEN (27A: ___ NFL (video game franchise)). OROSCO will be very familiar to older (i.e. roughly my age and older) baseball fans, particularly '86 Mets fans. But a whole cross-section of solverdom will need ever cross there. NESSUS is bonkers, in that I teach stuff that he's mentioned in and even I forgot his damned name (44D: Centaur who was killed by Hercules). Personally, I died at the SHYEST/RYDELL crossing. I had an "I" there. Put it there because I thought that was how you spelled SHIEST. And then left it in for RIDELL. It's not that I didn't know the name of the "Grease" high school. I've seen the movie a billion times. But once that "I" went in, RYDELL wasn't gonna knock it out. It's a pretty bad cross, since SHIEST is acceptable and RYDELL is a proper noun. But whatever. It's fine. My bad.


Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go tie up a single LOOSE END (2D: Something to tie up).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Otis's feline pal / WED 9-13-17 / Fizzy citrus beverage / 1787 Mozart composition / Repeated Lyric in La Bamba

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Constructor: Daniel Mauer

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: THE LITTLE THINGS (62A: They're what really count, so it's said ... or a hint to the multilingual answers to the starred clues) — three phrases begin with foreign terms for "a/the little"

Theme answers:
  • LE PETIT DEJEUNER (17A: *Breakfast, in Burgundy)
  • EINE KLEINE / NACHTMUSIK (23A: *With 52-Across, 1787 Mozart composition)
  • UNA POCA DE GRACIA (40A: *Repeated lyric in "La Bamba") 
Word of the Day: ORANGINA (41D: Fizzy citrus beverage) —
Orangina (French pronunciation: ​[ɔʁɑ̃ʒina]) is a lightly carbonated beverage made from carbonated water, 12% citrus juice, (10% from concentrated orange, 2% from a combination of concentrated lemon, concentrated mandarin, and concentrated grapefruit juices) as well as 2% orange pulp. Orangina is sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose) and natural flavors are added. // Orangina was invented at a trade fair in France, developed by Dr. Augustin Trigo Mirallès from Spain, and first sold in French Algeria by Léon Beton in 1935. Today it is a popular beverage in Europe, Japan, northern Africa, and to a lesser extent in North America. (emph. mine) (wikipedia)
• • •

This one was feeling stuffy from 1A: Hairdressers' challenges (MOPS). Something about that slang feels strangely dated to me—something you'd say about some Dennis the Menace-type's hair in the '50s. You'd probably also call the kid "impish." The kid would play marbles. You get my drift. But that was just a harbinger, an omen, boding ... not evidence of stuffiness. Evidence came later in an onslaught of overfamiliar short gunk (or OMRI, as I'm now calling it, for the second day in a row). This puzzle is seriously awash in it. HOTSY *and* EENIE? And then a dozen other things I've seen scores of times in the 25+ years I've been solving? (OPEL! SRI! Multiple OLES!) Sigh. But the theme? What of the charming theme, you maybe ask. Well it just doesn't work. I don't know why sticking the landing doesn't appear to be important to people. But it's important. It is. And LE PETIT DEJEUNER just doesn't work here, for at least two reasons. First, the other two are "a little" where this one is "the little." Yes, that matters. But what matters more is that the other two translate perfectly as "a little" (A Little Night Music, a little bit of grace), whereas no one but no one would translate LE PETIT DEJEUNER as "the little lunch" (though that is the *literal* meaning of those words). It's just ... breakfast. Also, why are these multilingual? And why doesn't the revealer have any relation to multilinguality? This just isn't tight. It's a slim idea, meekly executed. It does have I AM SO DEAD, which, ironically, is the answer that is in the least amount of trouble with me.


Here's a little more trouble for you, re: 24D: McDonald's founder Ray:


Wikipedia concurs, noting that, "It was founded in 1940 as a barbecue restaurant operated by Richard and Maurice McDonald, in San Bernardino, California." And also: "Controversially, Kroc would present himself as the founder of McDonald's during his later life" (emph. mine both times). Can't wait for the correction on that one. Wife just walked in, indignant about HOTSY. "Who says HOTSY-totsy? Have you ever said HOTSY-totsy?" I was like, "No, but I think I know what it means." But then I didn't. Ugh, HOTSY. Anyway, one upside of this puzzle is I solved it fast. EINE KLEINE / NACHTMUSIK was a lot of real estate to just give away, and the grid was chopped up into tiny, easy-to-get answers, so I finished in about the same time I had yesterday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Father of Ahab in Bible / 1001 causes of anxiety / 51 cats / Relative of snowboard / Strangely repulsive sort / Composer whose name is Italian for green

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: something and one somethings ...  — clue is a number of some entity? and the number is a roman numeral followed by that entity, which combined constitute an unclued word:

Theme answers:
  • MI STRESSES (17A: 1,001 causes of anxeity?)
  • CI STERNS (26A: 101 rear ends?)
  • LI FELINES (37A: 51 cats?)
  • VI EWINGS (53A: Six members of a "Dallas" family?)
  • DI VERSIONS (61A: 501 renditions?) 
Word of the Day: OMRI (14A: Father of Ahab in the Bible) —
The Omrides, Omrids or House of Omri were a ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) founded by King Omri. According to the Bible, the Omride rulers of Israel were Omri, Ahab and Ahab's sons Ahaziah and Jehoram. Ahab's daughter (or perhaps sister) Athaliah also became queen regnant of the Kingdom of Judah. (wikipedia)
• • •

I'm still trying to figure out how I solved a Tuesday puzzle with this strange a theme, with all long-Down corners, in slightly under my normal Tuesday time, especially when the entire NW felt like a takeoff disaster. I guess once I locked onto the theme, I took off like a shot. But if the whole puzzle had gone the way it began, this would've ended up Challenging. So the thing about long-Down corners is they are somehow tougher on average than long-Across corners. With the latter, all the short Downs are lined up in a row and you can pick a bunch off and then have at the longer Acrosses, but in long-Down corners, you gotta eyeskip all over to find the short *Acrosses* to help you with those Downs, and that always goes less well. Anyway, today, HOMELAB IMINAWE PRSTUNT were a mini-wall of pain, esp. crossed by OMRI (who?) and "AW, NUTS" (which is fine fill, but toughish to pick up).


That wall of pain was also crossed by the first themer, and though maybe I should've, I did not see the Roman numeral gimmick up front, so I needed Every Single Cross to get MISTRESSES, and even then was like "??? ... Dude, if your mistress is causing you anxiety, maybe you shouldn't have one (let alone one thousand and one)." Somehow the "LI" at the front of LIFELINES jumped out as a Roman numeral after I read its clue (37A: 51 cats?), but even then I wasn't sure what was happening; I got most of LIFELINES from crosses, and after realizing "LI" was the "51" in question, I (of course) assumed it was in play *twice* in that answer (i.e. I didn't see LI FELINES, I saw LI FE / LI NES). That themer is absolutely terrible for that reason. I'm still stunned that you'd go with this theme and then choose an answer that has the Roman numeral in it twice, and both times at the *beginning* of words (LIFE and LINE). Bad form. But I figured out what was going on and from there, the puzzle skewed Easy.


It's always slightly weird to end up with words in the grid that haven't been (literally) clued at all. Bothers some people. Doesn't exactly bother me, but it would be nice if a stronger gimmick were in play here. This one's just ... curious. Interesting. Answer themselves aren't exciting. Grid as a whole is OK, with perhaps too much OMRI (my new word—today only!—for short gunk like GYNT and ETTE and ATTA and OMRI).


Theme has me reparsing all the answers in search of new possibilities.
  • [Puts the wrong wig on a performer?]
  • [Seabirds whose gender identities match the sex they were assigned at birth?]
  • [Long island train routes for shipping iron?]
  • ["Get in the competition, mysteriously long-running NBC TV show from the '90s!"]
  • [Wetsuit wearer's charged particles?]
Well that was at least as fun as solving the puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Issa who stars on HBO's insecure / MON 9-11-17 / Titular California district in Steinbeck novel / Animal whose name is synonym of parrot / Pitchfork-shaped letter

Monday, September 11, 2017

Constructor: Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: LALA / LAND (53D: With 58-Down, head-in-the-clouds place ... or a hint to each answer that has four circles) — two-word themers where both words contain letter pairing "LA":

Theme answers:
  • MALAY PENINSULA (16A: Kuala Lumpur's locale)
  • TORTILLA FLAT (22A: Titular California district in a Steinbeck novel)
  • LAKE PLACID (29D: 1980 Winter Olympics host)
  • WALLA WALLA (31D: Washington city with a repetitive name) 
Word of the Day: Dominque DAWES (30A: Dominique ___, 1996 Olympic gymnastics gold medalist) —
Dominique Margaux Dawes-Thompson (born November 20, 1976) is a retired American artistic gymnast. Known in the gymnastics community as 'Awesome Dawesome,' she was a 10-year member of the U.S. national gymnastics team, the 1994 U.S. all-around senior National Champion, a three-time Olympian, a World Championship silver and bronze medalist, and a member of the gold-medal-winning team "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. [...] She is also one of only three female American gymnasts, along with Muriel Grossfeld and Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, to compete in three Olympics and was part of their medal-winning teams: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (gold), and Sydney 2000 (bronze). Dawes is the first female gymnast to be a part of three Olympic-medal-winning teams since Lyudmila Turischeva won gold in Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), and Montreal (1976). Since Dawes, Svetlana Khorkina is the only gymnast to accomplish this feat, winning silver in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000), and bronze in Athens (2004). (wikipedia)
• • •

I mean, the *concept* isn't exactly wow, but on a Monday, I don't care that much. As long as the theme answer's not forced and fill is not garbage and puzzle is pretty easy, I'm happy. And here, the themers are actually great, just as answers on their own, and the fill is tight. I worry about the few of you who got Naticked at DAWES / SXSW — I figure there gotta be a few of you out there. Crossing two not-enormously-famous proper nouns at a not-terribly-inferrable letter is dicey. But at DAWE-, what else is gonna go there? And honestly both DAWES and SXSW are pretty well known at this point. You should know one of them, at least, probably. I probably wouldn't have risked this cross, but I knew both DAWES and SXSW, so I have no beef. I really dig the weird-sized grid (14x16), as well as the unusual mirror (as opposed to rotational symmetry). I'm not at all surprised that this is entertaining and smooth. Both these constructors are great on their own, so together ... how are they gonna miss? Unlikely.


Blew through this very quickly, with only SOSPAD (briefly) giving me any grief. I doubted AFROED for a bit, because ... well, that's a an adjectived noun that I haven't seen in puzzles before. But then I thought "these guys ... would do that." I think the whole idea of a PERFECT GPA has lost all meaning, esp on the 4.0 point scale. High-school-aged daughter gets number grades (out of 100) and then those usually get this ridiculous bump if they're advanced classes, so you end up with grades over 100 (?), which is ridiculous. I think in lots of places, you can technically have a GPA over 4.0, so from a contemporary accuracy standpoint, not sure about PERFECT GPA (Paolo is my daughter's age, so he surely knows all this). Please notice that there is no junk fill in this grid. None. Nada. Zip. If you want to know "What Does He Want?!" when I complain about all the mediocre to shitty grids I gripe about: this. This is what I want. Try harder, older folks, because the young are outcrafting you on a regular basis (I am older than these two constructors put together!!!!!!). Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Primordial universe matter / SUN 9-10-17 / Getaway for meditation / War su boneless chicken dish / Prince Edward's earldom / Lush's favorite radio station / Rapper with music streaming service Tidal / Fruit with greenish yellow rinds / Citroen competitor

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: "Size Matters" — sound "sigh" is added to familiar phrases creating wacky phrases etc:

Theme answers:
  • STATIC CYCLING (22A: Spin class activity?)
  • SILO FREQUENCY (32A: Number of appearances in a grain holder?)
  • PC CYCLONES (50A: Storms that don't offend?)
  • DRAWS SINAI (86A: Makes a quick map of an Egyptian peninsula?)
  • SILENT SUPPORT (100A: Opening performers that are all mimes?)
  • SAIGON FISHING (116A: Rod-and-reel event in old Vietnam?)
  • SHARK, SIPHON SOUP (awk) (3D: Order to a pool hustler to suck up some broth?)
  • SCION COMMISSION (48D: Government group on offspring?) 
Word of the Day: LADOGA (83A: Europe's largest lake) —
Lake Ladoga (Russian: Ла́дожское о́зеро, tr. Ladozhskoye ozero; IPA: [ˈladəʂskəjə ˈozʲɪrə] or Russian: Ла́дога, tr. Ladoga; IPA: [ˈladəgə]; Finnish: Laatokka [earlier in Finnish Nevajärvi]; Livvi-Karelian: Luadogu; Veps: Ladog, Ladoganjärv) is a freshwater lake located in the Republic of Karelia and Leningrad Oblast in northwestern Russia just outside the outskirts of Saint Petersburg. // It is the largest lake entirely in Europe, and the 14th largest freshwater lake by area in the world. Ladoga Lacus, a methane lake on Saturn's moon Titan, is named after the lake. (wikipedia)
• • •

So the title is a penis joke? I mean, if you google "Size matters," the first hit you get is this video:


Anyway, the "sighs" matter in this grid. This is a very typical add-a-sound puzzle, with very typical (for me) results, i.e. most answers are corny at best, and some of the phrasing / cluing feels quite awkward or forced. The "phon" in "siphon" and the "fin" in "shark fin soup" (gross) do not have the same sound, so that one klunked. "Lent support" is a super weak base phrase, as is "On commission." Your wordplay word should be more stable / significant than that. Changing "on" feels like ... not much. And "lent support" is just a verb phrase. Not remarkable. Are "PC clones" still things in the 21st century. No one thinks that way about PCs now. Oh, look: wikipedia: " The use of the term "PC clone" to describe IBM PC compatible computers fell out of use in the 1990s; the class of machines it now describes are simply called PCs." Thanks, wik.


Fill doesn't do much for me either. It's just fine, but there's not much that's remarkable. Probably too much of the "please delete it from your wordlist" junk like ONENO (hate So Much), GAI (crossing MAI, crossing MMES!), UIE, AAR, LALAS (no), YLEM 🙁. We do get treated (if that's the right word) to a non-Katarina WITT (56D: Alicia of "Urban Legend," 1998) and a non-judge, non-baritone, non-Colorado Park ESTES (2D: Photorealist painter Richard). Neither of those clues will stick, but they are different, I'll give them that.


Two things—that episode of "The Allusionist" podcast that was taped at Lollapuzzoola last month (featuring me and my wife and many, many other crossword types) was named one of the 20 best podcast episodes of the summer by Indiewire. It also generated so much interest in Lollapuzzoola that they *reopened* their solve-at-home sales. So you can get the tournament puzzles again if you somehow missed the first window. Listen to the podcast, solve the puzzles ... maybe in reverse order? Not sure. Anyway, in whatever order, do both.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Alternative to Spotify or Pandora / SAT 9-9-17 / Collette of "United States of Tara" / Son-in-law of Chief Powhatan / "Governator" / C.S. Lewis symbol of Jesus / President Clinton hosted one in 2000 / Inspiron maker

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Constructor: John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Medium (11:44)



THEME: THEMEless

Word of the Day: ROLFE (41A: Son-in-law of Chief Powhatan) —
John Rolfe (1585–1622) was one of the early English settlers of North America. He is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia and is known as the husband of Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Rex has a night off to GET REST (14D: Recharge, so to speak) and recover from a cold, so you get me (Laura) to woMAN (60D: Staff) the blog. A DEAL'S A DEAL (13D: "We agreed to it, so you'd better deliver"), said Rex, trusting that I would not RUN RIOT (57A: With 10-Down, go wild; 10D: See 57-Across), and create a PR NIGHTMARE (64A: Big headache for a company rep). I found this appropriately challenging, with a few misdirections, and decent stacks in each corner. Took a ZONE DEFENSE (12D: 2-3 or 1-2-2, in basketball) approach, working through the NE and then reverse-diagonally across to the SW, then SE (favorite of the four corner stacks) back up to the NW, where things got MARSHY (47D: Boggy). I had ITUNES RADIO fooling me for a while -- I've used APPS like (53D: Pandora and Spotify) (as well as the revived Napster), and had only vaguely heard of I HEART RADIO (15A: Alternative to Pandora or Spotify). Also had BOA instead of WIG for 1D: Drag accessory.

If you 17A, Robert Palmer apologizes (h/t @BenMSmith).

One would have to have a TIN EAR (20A: Difficulty picking up subtleties) not to notice both GOT TURNED ON (17A: Became excited) and FLACCID (42D: Like a wet noodle) in the same grid; while I'm all for what the movie ratings people call "adult themes" and "raunchy comedy," perhaps a touch of ARTINESS (30A: Pretension) would've kept that juxtaposition from seeming like the work of a couple of ADOLESCENTS (24D: Minority group) wanting to HORSE AROUND (23D: Goof off). OHO! ODE to ANI and TONI. EEE! RUN! ORCA! ADD TAR, TEE TNT.

Bullets:
  • Dude, you're getting a DELL (51A: Inspiron maker)
  • 6D: Fire on from above (STRAFE) and 50D: Counterpart of a blitz (SIEGE): I'll take "War Tactics" for $500, Alex.
  • 40A: Oxford designation (EEE) — Oxford as in the shoe type, which is sometimes manufactured in the extra-wide EEE size.
  • 33A: Loyalty, old-style (TROTH) — Always makes me think of a cartoon by the genius Sandra Boynton.
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Wheelchair-bound Glee character / FRI 9-8-17 / Comics character seen on gum wrappers / First principal character encountered by Ishmael in Moby-Dick / Hit sci-fi video game set around 26th century

Friday, September 8, 2017

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none

Word of the Day: SCAR (22A: Bare place on the side of a mountain) —

Definition of scar

  1. 1 :  an isolated or protruding rock
  2. 2 :  a steep rocky eminence :  a bare place on the side of a mountain (M-W)
• • •

Didn't feel that great about my opening—felt like I was cheating my way into the grid with crosswordese (TAFT to TATAR to ALIA). But once I got going, things started feeling a little better. Answers got more interesting, clues provided a little more resistance. Then I dropped the double-Q QUEEQUEG (off the initial "Q," of course), and realized "oh, it's gonna be one of *those* puzzle (meaning "those puzzles that throw All The Scrabble Tiles at you). And then immediately came the confirmation, with BUZZFEED QUIZZES and MIKE PIAZZA. Often *those* puzzles go south, buckling under the weight of their own misguided ambition, but today's actually ended up kinda nice. Lots of unusual fill—modern phrases and items, slang and colloquialisms. Things stayed varied and interesting throughout, and the gruesome fill was pretty minimal (though I'm never gonna forget FIDOS, which becomes the new paradigmatic example of Absurd Plural Names).


"Wheelchair-bound" is a pretty shitty way to refer to someone in a wheelchair (33A: Wheelchair-bopund "Glee" character), mostly because it reinforces a lot of stupid, negative stereotypes. People in wheelchairs aren't tragic figures. The chair is enabling, not stigmatizing. Just google "wheelchair bound" and you'll see—It's a term that's been flagged as ableist for many years now. So stop it. Once again, maybe a *teeny* bit of diversity in the editing corps would help prevent tin-eared stuff like this from slipping through. I'm not *terribly* offended (I mean ... like ... I'm not FIDOS-offended), but some will be, and I don't blame them.

Bullets:
  • 3D: Trading hub (PORT) — I had MART. Only other misstep was SQFT for SQIN (19A: Abbr. in many an area measure)
  • 22A: Bare place on the side of a mountain (SCAR) — wow, I just do not know this word. Kind of embarrassing, but ... nope, it just missed me, somehow.
  • 5D: Hit sci-fi video game set around the 26th century (STARCRAFT) — also don't know this, but don't feel that bad about it. You can't know everything.
  • 49A: "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" detective Diaz (ROSA) — Like this. Don't know this. Shrug. You work in out from crosses, move along.
  • 61A: "D'oh!" ("I'M A MORON") — this borders on contrived, but ... I'll accept it, I guess. 
  • 25A: Live, in a way (UNTAPED) — this seems even more contrived ... :(
  • 54D: Not a candidate for the invoking of the 25th Amendment, say (SANE) — too soon, NYT! Or maybe not soon enough, I'm not sure. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. probably not the greatest idea to have "buzzkill" in a clue (41A) and BUZZFEED in the grid

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Scarlet stigma / THU 9-7-17 / Old TV screens for short / Kingston dude / Modern educational acronym / Setting of Hercules first labor

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: ABC (1D: Kind of order ... or a hint to this puzzle's unusual construction) — all the Across answers are in alphabetical (aka "ABC"@!?) order:

Word of the Day: CITO Gaston (19D: ___ Gaston, first African-American manager to win a World Series) —
Clarence Edwin "Cito" Gaston (/ˈst ˈɡæstən/; born March 17, 1944) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder and manager. His major league career as a player lasted from 1967 to 1978, most notably for the San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves. He spent his entire managerial career with the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the first African-American manager in Major League history to win a World Series title. // Cito Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays from 1989 to 1997, and again from 2008 to 2010. During this time, he managed the Blue Jays to four American League East division titles (1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993), two American League pennants (1992 and 1993) and two World Series titles (1992 and 1993). (wikipedia)
• • •

This was so unpleasant that I'm not gonna spend much time dwelling on it. Truly painful, in *exactly* the way you would expect a stunt-puzzle like this to be painful—the quality of the fill. The actual words in the grid. That you are filling. Ostensibly, for pleasure. Enjoyment. There are maybe a handful of answers that get anywhere near enjoyable. For the most part, it's a garbage heap of crosswordese and subsubcrosswordese, and for what. Alphabeticality!? Let's start with the fact that "ABC order" is not a thing (1D: Kind of order... => ABC). Not not. Not. "Can you put these in ABC order?" asked no one ever except maybe a kindergarten teacher (?). So the revealer is nonsensical. Can we just start (and, in an ideal world, stop) there?? Do you want an sizable but incomplete list of the gunky fill in this thing? No? Too bad: 

House of Pain:
  • SOARTO
  • CITO
  • ABLUSH
  • INUP (!?)
  • EYDIE
  • ESS
  • TIEA (!?)
  • VSO
  • REA
  • IROCS
  • BBL
  • COL
  • HOI
  • CRTS
  • HEE
  • ROLEO
  • IFI (....*$&^)
  • NEU
  • LETTERA
  • MEDO (me don't!)
  • ROWR  
All so we can get Acrosses in ABC (so-called) order. I don't understand how anyone could think this puzzle (with this fill) could be fun to solve. LUCAS ARTS, I liked (42A: Maker of Star Wars and Indiana Jones video games). That was nice. And I enjoy TINA FEY, sure (65A: Former "Weekend Update" co-anchor). But once you grok the theme, there's just nothing to find or discover, and not much to enjoy. At one point early on, I thought I might get through the grid without encountering too much gruesome fill, but then:


When INUP crosses TIEA, then, well, I'LL SEE YOU (in hell)! Nothing here was too difficult, though how the hell am I supposed to know Lady Bird Johnson's name was CLAUDIA?? (17A: Lady Bird Johnson's real given name). I guess there are no famous CLAUDIAs?? That and my TITO-for-CITO mistake mad the NE a little challenging. And my inability to see TINA FEY (I was looking for a single last name) in the SE also resulted in some struggle. Her first and last letters were very late in coming, as the "adjunct" in 60D: Barnyard adjunct made me "??" and the clue on GYM was just hard (63D: It might precede a shower).


I despise all bridge-related clues, but that's just a matter of (good) taste. I won't hold it against the puzzle. But the rest of it, I do hold. Against. Very much. And honestly, that fake lion sound should be RAWR, imo. Just changing the "A" in ROAR to a "W" seems hardly worth it. (Oh look, I'm right, it's RAWR, the end)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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