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]


Cousin of Manx / SAT 2-18-17 / Cold wine and nutmeg drink / Prison in which Timothy Leary was housed next to Charles Manson / Rennin results in them

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Constructor: Steve Overton

Relative difficulty: Medium, leaning Medium-Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SANGAREE (36D: Cold wine-and-nutmeg drink) —
sangaree (countable and uncountable, plural sangarees)
  1. A mixed drink common in the West Indies, similar to sangria and usually featuring wine or fortified wine and spices. (wiktionary)
• • •

There is one interesting answer in this whole grid—EAR-TO-EAR (7D: Beam's path?). I should say "interesting clue"—the answer itself isn't that interesting, but that clue! Clever, but brutal. I had EAR-O-AR and still had no idea what I was dealing with. That clue wasn't just the most interesting thing; it was the most difficult thing. I spent 75% of my time in and around that answer. The rest of the grid was mildly toughish, but whatever struggles there were didn't last long. I usually proceed through the grid via crosses; that is, I never hop around unless I absolutely have to. I had to today, a few times, but I was always able to recover quickly. Flamed out in the middle, then rebooted with CLINK / ALEVE / KATE. Misspelled FOLSOM (first "O" as "U") and so couldn't make my way into the SW ... but then TENOR / REDO bailed me out quickly down there. End of SANGAREE (!?) was a total mystery to me—tried to extend "sangria" to SANGARIA. So, again, stuck. But then RAN got me SWEATSUIT, then MANSE, and that corner was done quickly too.

There's not much to talk about here. It was really adequate, really dull. I don't understand why this grid was remarkable enough to publish. Nothing stands out. None of the fill feels particularly original. Yesterday's puzzle had dull clues, sure, but at least the fill was lively. Today, nothing is lively. It's all slightly oldish, with stuff like DERRING-DO and a decidedly non-current cultural frame of reference. But that's not its problem. Its problem is blandness. All I will remember about this puzzle, if I remember anything, is how bad EAR-TO-EAR kicked my ass. The rest? Yawn. LET US PRAY that things improve in the near future.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Constructors: resist the urge to write yourself into the puzzle (12D). Good fill first, vanity second (or never).

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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