Director Taika / SUN 6-17-18 / Charlize Theron's role in 2015's "Mad Max" reboot

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Constructor: Erik Agard, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

Relative difficulty: Easyish (for me, your guest blogger, 16:58)



THEME: Tricky Trios — The four across-themers are famous trios, the third and final elements of which are "standing," as in they are standing vertically in the down entries that meet the end of the across entry, as revealed by the final long entry, "LASTONESTANDING."

Word of the Day: Taika WAITITI (98A: Director Taika ___) —

Taika David Waititi (/ˈtaɪkə waɪˈtiːti/; born 16 August 1975), also known as Taika Cohen, is a New Zealand film director, screenwriter, actor, and comedian. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night. His feature films Boy (2010) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) have each been the top-grossing New Zealand film, with the latter still holding that title as of 2018. He co-directed the horror comedy film What We Do in the Shadows (2014) with Jemaine Clement, which brought him further critical acclaim and recognition. Waititi later directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which received critical acclaim. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Dear readers, I shall not bury the lede: Rex Parker is not here. He's off gallivanting beneath the bright lights of Broadway in our fair borough of Manhattan, I believe. Anyway, I'm 100 percent sure about the gallivanting part. So, alas, you're stuck with me for the next few hundred words. And now that Mr. Parker has been so kind (i.e., gullible) as to let me alight in his aerie, I would like to pull back the curtain a hair and shed a sliver of light on a trade secret: Rex does the crossword at night. He does tomorrow morning's crossword the night before! You all probably know this already but you see, folks, I didn't even know it was physically or metaphysically possible to do crossword puzzles at night. I barely knew it was legal. My personal crossword-puzzle-solving fuel is a complex and finely orchestrated cocktail that combusts best in the a.m.: the chill air of morning, the harsh light of day, cheap coffee, a cigarette. Yet here I am, in the middle of the night, solving Sunday's crossword on Saturday. I feel very well through the looking glass. Anyway, onward, through the mists.

Theme answers:
  • SNAPCRACKLEAND[PO]P (23A: Breakfast trio)
  • KUKLAFRANAND[OLLI]E (38A: Puppet show trio)
  • WYNKENBLYNKENAND[NO]D (64A: Sailing trio)
  • PETERPAULAND[MAR]Y (87A: Folk trio)
  • LASTONESTANDING (Survivor of an all-out brawl ... or a hint to 23-, 38-, 64- and 87-Across) 
I haven't written 39,218 of these blogs already like Rex has, so I think I'm well within my wide-eyed rights to say: I really liked this! Not least of which among the reasons for that is that I'm still sort of floating from seeing one of this puzzle's co-authors, Mr. Agard, win the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in no less than miraculous fashion back in March. This puzzle was smooooth—a deluxe $5 decaf on a Saturday night.

Everything went so swimmingly time-wise at first as I eyed a personal best under these borrowed bright lights: From the jump, I knew there was some geometric funny business going on in this grid because SNAPCRACKLEANDPOP didn't fit and I was confidently unaware of other breakfast trios that matched my downs. My first thought was ampersand rebus!, but not to be. My second was, pop rebus! Again, rebus rebuffed.

So I puttered around for a while, leveraging some geography bee knowledge with CANADA and HELSINKI and the like, and then stumbled on what was the key to unlocking this for me and what may be the single most beautiful word in the English language: my first name, "Ollie." As in, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, a theme answer here and the delightfully bizarre-looking midcentury puppet television show. I have never seen it, but know its name from the VCR cassettes that would mysteriously populate my girlfriend's father's house. That's the beautiful thing about crosswords: They grind rare and bizarre and disparate personal experiences into the tidy answer boxes and you and I feel as though we are connected. Don't we?


Anyway, that made the revealer and rest of the themers pieces of cake and I was cruising to a P.B. that I would brag about at length here when all of a sudden ...

TAKETOTHEHILLS (50D: Flee).

I wrote everything you could possibly write in here. RUNFORTHEHILLS. HEADFORTHEHILL-oops.  HEADTOTHEHILLS. RUNFORTHEHILLL. (That last one was a typo.) It turns out that in my addled mind there were many ways to flee, none of which Agard, Chung and Ni were looking for. Let's chalk it up to an overdeveloped "flight" part of my fight-or-flight response. Fight-or-flight-or-flight-or-flight-or-flight.

The short stuff—I know Rex likes to talk about the short stuff—seemed OK: there's TOK but the clue ("TiK ___" (Kesha hit)) saves it in my book. And the old standards ESL, IRASAL, ANIN, but hey, this is a crossword puzzle, and they always seem like old friends to me. Speaking of, my buddy BRIN got his first name in here, too, but clued as the much less famous head of some company called Google? Also there's ASS (___-backwards).

As a journalist in New York, I loved the WYNC shoutout. AFLAC's advertising continues to be highly effective if only for crossword solving. One's liberal arts education does not go to waste with the inclusion of LOCKE. Nor does your misspent youth with KILO, LSD and UNCORK. Or your lamely spent one with LIMESODA.

Anyway, we'll all live to fight (or flight) another day. Thanks, Rex. (And apologies for this blog post in advance.)

Bullets:
  • 78A: Strip pokers? (AWLS) — I had noooo idea what this meant for an embarrassingly long amount of time.
  • 84D: Charlize Theron's role in 2015's "Mad Max" reboot (FURIOSA) — I never saw it but, given the title of the movie, makes sense. OK well I saw 10 or so minutes and got scared and turned it off.
  • 63D: Nursing facility? (MAMMARYGLAND) — I get it.
  • 13D: In view? (POPULAROPINION) — You see, what this is clue is doing is depending on what the definition of "in" is, and according to Merriam... OK, I'll shut up.
Signed, Oliver (Ollie) Roeder, Savant Dunce of CrossWorld

[Follow Oliver on Twitter ... if you dare]

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Ancient Greek colonnade / SAT 6-16-18 / Vacation destinations off coast of Venezuela / Japanese lunch option / path of overnight star / Flawlessly styled in modern slang / Former reality TV show first hosted by Anderson Cooper / Argentine soccer star, informally / Letters before Q

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:48)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: CLOVIS (20D: First king to unite all the Frankish tribes) —
Clovis (LatinChlodovechus; reconstructed Frankish*Hlōdowig c. 466 – 27 November 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler [wikicluing!], changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was fabulous. It was so good that I'm not even that mad about a couple of really regrettable answers. The cluing was smart and sassy, and the fill was diverse and (often) contemporary. The whole thing was playful and fun, from the dad-joke "EXCUSE YOU!" (15A: Comment after a burp) to the clue on LGBT (10A: Letters before Q) (!) to the delicious BENTO BOX to the World Cup-relevant LEO MESSI (10D: Argentine soccer star, informally) to the weird trip down reality TV memory lane with "THE MOLE" (21A: Former reality TV show first hosted by Anderson Cooper) to, heck, even the clue on RING TOSS, which is perfectly misdirective (37D: Fair game). All that, and it was easier than usual, which always gives one a triumphant feeling. I got AZERA right off the bat, and that proved very helpful in giving me instant momentum. The "Z" wasn't immediately helpful (I was looking for ZENITH ... something), but, oddly, all the common letters in AZERA were. I had to get ZERO TO HERO entirely from crosses because, until the last square, I was totally misunderstanding what kind of "star" we were dealing with (2D: Path of an overnight star).



So let's look briefly at the regrettable answers. First, WIN AN OSCAR, which is about as EAT A SANDWICH an answer as I've ever seen in a grid. WIN AN EMMY / GRAMMY / TONY / SWEEPSTAKES / RACE  ... these are phrases one might say, but they are not tight, not standalone-worthy. So, for example, GET A LIFE, yes, GET A ROOM, yes, GET A POODLE, no (despite the fact that a human being might, in fact, GET A POODLE). The clue is also kind of dumb; it makes assumptions about what actors want to do (28D: What every actor would probably like to do). So that answer is a bit ridiculous ... whereas FAT ELVIS is just mean (36D: The King, late in his career). It's also not really a thing unless you clue it as the colloquial term for the Elvis stamp the public *didn't* vote for. Elvis definitely got fat, but FAT ELVIS was not a phrase of any standing until the whole stamp vote thing (26 years ago this month). FAT ELVIS is a loser in a national stamp vote. I could accept a stamp clue; but even then it's pretty insulting. Without a stamp clue, well, I OBJECT (19A: Court interruption). Also, I probably would've changed BEERY to LEERY because I just don't think anyone says BEERY (47D: Like pub patrons). But like I said, the rest of this thing sizzles so I'll take this one, FAT ELVIS, WIN AN OSCAR and all.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. waaaaaait a sec. Is a PALM tree the same as a palmetto? (26D: Image on the South Carolina flag)??? A quick perusal of the internet says ... not exactly: While they are all members of the Arecaceae family, palmettos (Sabal adans.) and palms are not the same plants." I see things called "palmetto palms," so maybe there's some common-parlance kind of way that this clue works, but ... it's the dang Palemetto State. Calling it just a PALMseems off.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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