Vegas casino developer Steve / MON 2-20-17 / Tourist destination in county kerry ireland / Fine thin cotton fabric

Monday, February 20, 2017

Constructor: Ed Stein and Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Normal, Medium Monday

THEME: Presidents Day — presidents' names, arranged symmetrically ... [cough] ... and then clues! All beginning "Only president...":

Theme answers:
  • ROOSEVELT (Teddy, I assume) (17A: Only president to scale the Matterhorn)
  • HARRISON (Benjamin, I assume) (27A: Only president whose grandfather was also president)
  • OBAMA (37A: Only president born outside the continental United States)
  • TYLER (39A: Only president to have 15 children)
  • BUCHANAN (44A: Only president to be a lifelong bachelor)
  • CLEVELAND (58A: Only president to be married in the White House)
  • TAFT (53D: Only president to administer the oath of office to two other presidents)
  • FORD (12D: Only president to serve as both vice president and president without being elected)
Word of the Day: ORGANDY (21A: Fine, thin cotton fabric) —
noun: organdie; plural noun: organdies; noun: organdy
  1. a fine translucent cotton or silk fabric that is usually stiffened and used for women's clothing.
early 19th century: from French organdi, of unknown origin. (google)
• • •

These are just president names. So apparently we're just giving up on having actual themes now? I can't think of a lazier Presidents Day-themed puzzle than this one. "Oooh, symmetrical presidents!" Is that the reaction you're supposed to have? Or is it just "Oh, what a curious bit of trivia!" I don't understand the kind of person who is delighted by learning some meaningless and forgettable "Only president to scale the Matterhorn"-type fact. Or, rather, I can see finding that sort of trivia delightful, but I can't see anyone's thinking "oh my, yes, this is a totally sufficient basis for a crossword puzzle." The puzzle is in a really terrible rut of mediocrity right now. They've been dull or ripped-off or just bad for days and days now. I feel like I'm just sitting here waiting for another Patrick Berry or Lynn Lempel or other competent loyalist to show up in the byline; everything else, I'm mostly just enduring.

Obviously the fill here is subpar. When you end on the sterling combo of LTD and LLCS (....?) in the Downs and ADDN (...) SMEW (!) in the Acrosses, well, you know things are dire. Only trouble today involved more fabric nonsense and some casino owner. I wrote in (Eugene?) ORMANDY at one point for the fabric, before Catherine of ARAMON showed up and I was like "Uh, I don't know you." As for [Vegas casino developer Steve] WYNN, well, I wouldn't know he existed if it weren't for crosswords (I didn't remember him today, but I think I've probably seen his name a handful of times over the years). Other than those two answers, only a brief ERRORS-for-ERRATA error slowed me down at all. Oh, and some minor hesitation over TRALEE (a very crosswordesey 6-letter answer). I can't believe JUNO is in this puzzle and AENEID is in this puzzle and there's no cross-reference. She's the primary antagonist! Gonna go have some whiskey and try to forget this puzzle happened.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Greek city mentioned in Acts of Apostles / SUN 2-19-17 / Bloblike Star Wars character / Nickname for Miami 12-time NBA All-Star / Number of French kings named Charles / Backs anatomically / Theme for annual city-magazine issue

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Uh-Oh!" — familiar phrases, "uh" sound changed to "oh" sound, wackiness

Theme answers:
  • NOTE CRACKER SUITE (23A: Office for decoding messages?)
  • STONED SILENCE (33A: What one might sit in at a Cheech & Chong movie?)
  • NO GOATS NO GLORY (46A: Herder's mantra?)
  • HOT DOG BONE (61A: Quality control problem at Oscar Mayer?)
  • DIXIE COPES (63A: Title of a book about Southern Reconstruction?)
  • BREAD AND BOATER (75A: Two sights in a yacht's galley?)
  • PHONE AND GAMES (86A: Helpful things for killing time nowadays?)
  • HOMING BIRD FEEDER (100A: Pigeon trainer, at times?)
Word of the Day: HAVOLINE (74D: Motor oil brand) —
Havoline is a motor oil brand of Texaco, a former major oil company based in the United States that is now merged with the Chevron Corporation.
• • •

A single sound change. I am semi-stunned that this puzzle concept is still a thing at all, let alone a Sunday-sized thing. There is no older theme in all puzzledom. Well, there probably is, but the sound-change is ancient. And this one in particular is wafer thin. There are hardly any limitations on this thing, which means the answers should've been One Hundred Percent Killer. If you're gonna have this basic, this wide-open, this simple a theme, then those answers need to land and land and land. I'd say two of these landed (STONED SILENCE, NO GOATS NO GLORY). The rest range from mediocre to downright pathetic. HOMING BIRD FEEDER!? That doesn't even change the basic concept of the base answer. You just changed one bird into another ... bird. It's not funny. It's not clever. It's ... the first thing you thought of that was the right length to match the almost equally flat-footed NOTE CRACKER SUITE? And look at how off these clues are. [Helpful things for killing time nowadays?] What? This works for "phone," not for "games," which have nothing to do with "nowadays." Further, "nowadays," "games" are on your "phone" much of the time, so ... clunk. More clunk: [Two sights in a yacht's galley?]. I barely know what this means. So ... you see another human in the galley ... and that person is a "boater?" Or is he wearing a "boater" hat? There. Are. Other. Butter. Terms/Phrases. In the world. If you can't come up with a themer that's aces, find another. There are infinite ones available, since your theme is barely there. DIXIE COPES? Maybe you should take another look at "Reconstruction" history. Dixie didn't "cope" so well. "AYE, THERE'S THE ROBE." See? That's a themer. Come on come on come on. The NYT must really, desperately need Sunday submissions. This is ... scraping. 

They still make NEOPETs??? (48A: Virtual dog or cat, maybe). They still say DUDED up??? (92D: Dressed to the nines, with "up"). There were *five hundred and nine* kings named Charles!??? (92A: Number of French kings named Charles) (I honestly read the answer that way until well after the puzzle was finished, when I realized DIX was not Roman numerals, but rather French for "ten") (Maybe put something in the clue indicating the answer will be in a foreign language—this puzzle can't do anything right). 

"Reader Mail"!

Hey, I got reader mail! Let's take a look:
The Onion IS NOT fake news [51A: Fake news site, with "The"]. Both Wikipedia and The Onion itself refer to it as News Satire. Fake news is "completely made up and designed to deceive readers to maximize traffic and profit". News satire uses exaggeration and introduces non-factual elements, but is intended to amuse or make a point, not deceive. (both definitions per Wikipedia)
Fake news one of the real problems in our society today. The NYT should not make it worse by misrepresenting it. 
Minister Craig Trueblood
Philadelphia, PA

If you want to appear in future installments of "Reader Mail," just send your message to rexparker at icloud dot com and write "OK to publish" somewhere therein.

Also, an announcement: I will be at the Fifth Annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition on March 18 (see info below), giving some preliminary talk but mainly just hanging out and talking to people about crosswords. Probably going to be taping some stuff for a future "On the Grid" podcast (Episode 2 up very soon, maybe later today). My podcast co-host Lena Webb will be there too. If you're in the area (central NY), you should come.

Tompkins Learning Partners (TLP) of Ithaca announces Central New York’s premier crossword event, the Fifth Annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition on Saturday, March 18th, 2017 from 1-4:00pm. This event is an important fundraiser for TLP, a LiteracyNY affiliated non-profit organization, which provides literacy tutoring, free of charge, for over 100 adults in our community. Puzzlemaster Adam Perl will once again create three original crosswords for the event. Individuals, or teams of up to four, are invited to compete for prizes in one of three levels of difficulty.

For the first time, rather than a set entry fee, players may choose to pay what they can comfortably afford.

To see individual and team pricing, rules, schedule and online registration forms please go to our website at
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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