Twins Phil Steve who won gold silver in Sarajevo / SUN 1-20-19 / Spanish pastries often dipped in chocolate / Sartorial choice for Columbo / One of fish in Italy's Feast of Seven Fishes / Banking org since 1933 / Stock valuation phrase / Duke basketball legend informally / Occasional aid in crossword solving / Bridge historic span across Mississippi / Title film character with catchphrase very nice / Moistened finger in another's ear

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Constructor: Richard Crowe

Relative difficulty: Medium (11:16)


THEME: "Question of Responsibility" — so I guess the idea is that the theme answers are familiar interrogative sentences clued (based on the reorienting of key words in the answers) via the profession that might be (wackily) saying them:

Theme answers:
  • "IS THAT A FACT?" (23A: Copy editor)
  • "WHERE'S THE PARTY?" (33A: Political strategist)
  • "HOW'S IT HANGING?" (45A: Museum curator)
  • "WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?" (63A: Football line judge)
  • "WHO'S CRYING NOW?" (80A: Maternity room nurse)
  • "WHAT'S EATING HIM?" (96A: Parasitologist)
  • "ANYBODY HOME?" (108A: Baseball scorekeeper)
Word of the Day: EADS Bridge (64D: ___ Bridge (historic span across the Mississippi)) —
Eads Bridge is a combined road and railway bridge over the Mississippi Riverconnecting the cities of St. LouisMissouri and East St. Louis, Illinois. It is located on the St. Louis riverfront between Laclede's Landing, to the north, and the grounds of the Gateway Arch, to the south. The bridge is named for its designer and builder, James Buchanan Eads.
Opened in 1874, Eads Bridge was the first bridge erected across the Mississippi south of the Missouri River. Earlier bridges were located north of the Missouri, where the Mississippi is smaller. None of the earlier bridges survive, Eads Bridge is the oldest bridge on the river. (wikipedia)

• • •

Kept trying, and failing, to find the joy in this one. Took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on with the theme, and even then, it felt hit-or-miss. Not very coherent. You just need a bunch of questions? You could've kept this theme going for a long, long time. "WHERE'S THE BEEF?" [Rancher] or [Mediator]. "AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD?" [Soccer referee] Etc. Also, the title "Question of Responsibility" seems only to fit for the "Who" questions. Not sure how "responsibility" fits in with most of the themers. Is it that the clue professional in the clue is the one "responsible" for asking the question? That is ... tenuous, and rough.


EEW is always eww (as in it's gross and also I never know how to spell it). Ditto the tilde-less ANOS. ASASON is bleeping ridiculous, especially crossing TOAMAN which is crossing NOPAR (???). That SE corner needs lots of help. INKA? There's no call for stuff like that. What does ADA-compliant even mean? Compliant ... with the American Dental Association? Oh, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wow. OK, if you say so. CLAMS and CHI-CHI had me wondering what year it was. GLI x/w GARY is some nonsense. Tertiary SpongeBob character and Italian def. article? GOAS is awkward. SSR RRS ENNE SYNS. . . There's just nothing very pleasing about this. It's a puzzle to be endured, not savored. It's not that there's zero charm in the theme, it's just not very tight, and the answers are more polite-nod or maybe light-chuckle. Not wacky enough to carry the day. Also, I could really have done without cat poop in my puzzle (40D: Where to get the latest poop?). And "the latest"? Like you're just hanging out by your cat's LITTER BOX waiting for the fresh stuff? We've done cat feces, like, well, at least twice in the past couple months (remember that "litter box" puzzle a while back?). I wonder what new and glorious types of feces we have to look forward to in the new year. I mean, the seal's broken on feces-land, so why not go nuts?


Five things:
  • 57A: Sartorial choice for Lieutenant Columbo (RAINCOAT) — that's not a TRENCHCOAT he's wearing? RAINCOAT just sounds way too pedestrian. He's a detective. Detectives wear TRENCHCOATs. Which are a type of RAINCOAT, it's true ... still.
  • 33D: Year of the ___ (2018) (WOMAN) — yeah, no, that was 1992. You can look it up. There's zero consensus that 2018 was the Year of the WOMAN. Why isn't this even attributed? It seems dumb and condescending, like "here's your one year, enjoy it, ladies, see you in another quarter century! [burp!!]." I wanted this to be MONKEY but it wouldn't fit and also that was 2016. 
  • 37D: Thrilled cries (OOHS) — oof. I had OLES
  • 39A: Make toast? (DOOM) — this stumped me and is also a good clue
  • 5D: Fab Four name (STARR) — so bad did I want RINGO that I literally just now wrote in RINGO as the correct answer in this bullet point
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

P.S. 2019 constructor count—Men: 19 / Women: 1

P.P.S. the NYT eds. really have to stop tripping over themselves with their race / gender / sexuality cluing. Check out this gem from a recent mini:


You could've just Stopped The Clue after "pronoun." Just stopped. There, it's accurate. After that, it is fundamentally inaccurate. Fuddy-duddy prescriptivist sticklers are not "grammarians." Actual grammarians have no problem with THEY as a singular pronoun. No problem. No "chagrin." None. Zero. The American Dialect Organization MADE SINGULAR "THEY" THEIR GOSH DANG WORD OF THE YEAR in 2015. This clue has not only gone and made something normal look like it's "controversial," it has gone and done it with a stupid, inaccurate clue. Total own goal. Mysteriously incompetent cluing. Baffling.


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Film with tagline Nightmare isn't over / SAT 1-19-19 / Three-syllable woman's name meaning gift / Persian word from which chess comes / Traditional drink with sedative euphoriant properties

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Constructor: Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:58) (over a minute faster than yesterday) (shoulda been faster)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: KATIE Ledecky (3D: Olympic swimming gold medalist Ledecky) —
Kathleen Genevieve Ledecky (/ləˈdɛki/Czech pronunciation: [ˈlɛdɛtskiː]; born March 17, 1997) is an American competitive swimmer. She has won five Olympic gold medals and 14 world championship gold medals, the most in history for a female swimmer. She is the current world record holder in the women's 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle (long course). She also holds the fastest-ever times in the women's 500-, 1000-, and 1650-yard freestyle events. (wikipedia)
• • •

Inexplicably terrible start had me feeling like I was pretty slow, but apparently everything outside the NW of the grid went very well for me, and I finished with my 4th best Saturday time of the Modern Era (i.e. since I started keeping official records in April '18). I think the longer answers in the NE were easy off just the first few letters, and unlike many central stagger-stacks (those 13s in the middle of the grid), this one presented no problem at all. I feel like I did another puzzle just yesterday with MICHELLE OBAMA clued in relation to "Becoming," so that answer went in easily. Had the -TIVE so CASE SENSITIVE, also easy. PERSONAL SPACE took a tad longer, but not much. Some slight slowing in the SE, but otherwise, this one was very pliant—that is, once I finally got out of the NW and started going. I'm pretty mad at myself about the NW because, in retrospect, I should not have been floundering. I have this dumb habit of not looking at the clues for longer answers until I've gotten a bunch of the shorter crosses. This is a pretty good habit to get into—you're much more likely to know a short answer than a long one, so why not look there first?—but sometimes, like today, I get stuck fighting the short stuff when, if I'd just looked at a longer Across, I'd be able to crack things open. I had ELBA TEE ISLET and SHIA, but for some reason I got bogged down getting made at myself for not remembering Ledecky's name. Then I put in ANION (!?) instead of ANODE (2D: One of two poles). This made me want the bizarre ANO for 22A: Third of a dozen? (ZEE), my logic being that the third letter of "a dozen" was AN O. If I'd just looked at 15A: Under tight control, then ON A LEASH would've gone in easy. Or maybe I actually did do that and it didn't help at all. I really should record my solves for better recall.


Is ERMINES / LEAR / MMA better than ENGINES / LEAN / GMA? I feel like ENGINES and LEAN are both better, in that there are broader, better cluing possibilities for both. MMA / GMA is kind of a push. I love that MMA is in here, though. True story: I tried to include MMA in a NYT puzzle once and it got Edited Out! See 11-Down here:
grid via xwordinfo
SMA, ugh. Anyway, just thinking out loud here about choices. I don't think the choices here were bad at all. Just wondering why these choices over others. Only thing I didn't really like was the Latin plural on UVULAE (I never like Latin plurals on words that are fully English words, looking at you ULNAE). Overall, I really enjoyed this one. No idea about "HALLOWEEN II" (6D: Film with the tagline "The nightmare isn't over!"). Wasn't even sure about the Roman numeral. Thought maybe IV? Couldn't get logic on 40A: Start of a cry that ends "bah!" ... until I did (SIS ... as in "SIS, boom, bah!" which I guess is an olde timey cheer). So SIS got me the II of "HALLOWEEN II." Had PAC for RNC for a bit. GIT for OUT (11D: "Scram!"). DONA for ADIA (19A: Three-syllable woman's name meaning "gift") (me: "is it three syllables because it's DOÑA ... doh-nee-ya!?") (Your brain can sell you on terrrrrible ideas when you're stuck). That's it for wrong initial answers.


Loved the clue on PERSONAL SPACE (35A: Mine field?), and generally loved this puzzle. These are two of the best in the business right now. I'm not sure I've ever disliked a Paolo Pasco puzzle in my life, and Erik's batting something close to 1.000 as well.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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