Actress Raymonde of Lost / MON 6-18-18 / Trendy much used lingo / Hawaiian surfing mecca / Candy suckers in form of jewelry

Monday, June 18, 2018

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:10)


THEME: BUZZ WORDS (59A: Trendy, much-used lingo ... or a hint to the starts of 16-, 23-, 35- and 48-Across) — "starts" of those answers are synonyms for "BUZZ" (as in "contact via telephone"):

Theme answers:
  • PHONE JACK (16A: Wall fixture for a landline)
  • DIAL SOAP (23A: Bathroom bar offering so-called "round-the-clock" protection)
  • CALL TO ORDER (35A: Start, as a meeting)
  • RING POPS (48A: Candy suckers in the form of jewelry)
Word of the Day: TANIA Raymonde (15A: Actress Raymonde of "Lost") —
Tania Raymonde (born Tania Raymonde Helen Katz; March 22, 1988) is an American actress. She began her career in the recurring character of Cynthia Sanders in TV series Malcolm in the Middle between 2000 and 2002, followed by the role of Alex Rousseau in the ABC series Lost from 2006 to 2010. She has since played Carla Rinaldi on MTV's Death Valley(2011), starred in the horror film Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) and portrayed Jodi Arias, the title role in the TV movie Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret (2013). In April 2015, she joined the cast of the TNT series The Last Ship. She is a star of the current Amazon Video series Goliath. (wikipedia)
• • •

First-words-type puzzle. Very old-school. This one has a kicky little revealer, which is probably the nicest answer in the grid, but it's still just a ... first-words-type puzzle. Also, the "phone" in PHONE JACK refers directly to the telephone, whereas the other first words all go another direction (different DIAL, different CALL, different RING). That's a ding. Another ding: the weird grid shape that gives us non-themers (specifically MACADMIA and SNAIL MAIL) right alongside themers of exactly the same length. That alone is awkward, and it's especially awkward when those non-themers are *longer* than some themers in the grid  (i.e. MACADAMIA is longer than DIAL SOAP or RING POPS). The grid has weird big corners and a badly black square-riddled middle. It's structurally all kind of a mess, and conceptually ... it's just plain. Old-fashioned. TAJ is a name part. AMAT is crosswordese. EKING, APING, NOS ... there's just too much that needs improving. Monday is usually pretty reliable, and while this one is by no means terrible, it's just not up to par. Also, UNICOLOR? Come on, no one says that.

["I hope he's talking to a he not a she..." LOL, OK...]
[from the "Sixteen Candles" soundtrack]

AS SOON is obviously terrible fill—it's long *and* it's partial, and if you have to use it (which you shouldn't) why in the world, why why why would you do the incredibly annoying thing of writing a *cross-reference* clue to yet another not-great answer (1A: ASAP). Do not call attention to the worst answers in your grid by giving them grievous, convoluted clues that require the solver to stop and think about how bad the whole situation is. Just write a simple clue, minimize damage, and move on. If your puzzle is good, the solver will forget the badness. AS SOON ... that's not an answer, that's a wind instrument typo. My biggest struggles today were TANIA (who?) and the horrible dumb crosswordese CZAR, which is a spelling that I only associate with political titles like "Drug CZAR" or whatever. The actual Russian rulers (54D: Ruler until 1917) are almost always spelled TSAR, which is how I spelled this answer first time out. I also wrote in NIL for ZIP (60D: Nada), so seeing BUZZ WORDS was oddly hard. Yet another way this puzzle found to be mildly annoying. Lastly, CANNED IT in the past tense is hilarious. You say "can it!" to get someone to shut up, but "he CANNED IT...."????  If you google ["Canned it"] you will get a host of sites related to canning, as in the process of putting things into cans. Past tense of the colloquial CANNED IT is implausible. Again, as with UNICOLOR, I just can't hear it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. thanks very much to Oliver Roeder for filling in for me yesterday. Ollie is a senior writer for fivethirtyeight.com. Check out his weekly puzzle column, "The Riddler," if you like math, logic, and probability challenges.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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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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