1950s Reds star Ted for short / FRI 5-22-15 / Longoria with two Gold Gloves / Message accompanied by red lips / Peak in eurozone / Saturday in Seville / He partnered with Bear in 1923 / Ancient medical researcher

Friday, May 22, 2015

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Fela KUTI (23A: Fela ___, Afrobeat music pioneer) —
Fela Kuti (born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti;[1] 15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), also known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick. (wikipedia)
• • •

Sleep nearly took me out early again tonight, but I had to be up late because my daughter was getting back from a trip to NYC at close to midnight, so ha, sleep, you lose. Still awake. OK, I might've rested my eyes there for a little, but I'm awake now, which is the point. This puzzle was weird for me, perhaps because of the heretofore mentioned "resting of the eyes." I started in on this puzzle as I usually do with such stack-oriented puzzles: I went for all the Downs up top, one after the other, without even looking at the Acrosses until I'd made my way all the way across the top of the grid. This may not actually be the most efficient solving method—perhaps one ought to at least glance at the long Across clues—but it feels efficient to me, and usually yields great results once I've traversed the grid and finally look at the Acrosses. Even if several of the Downs are wrong (they usually are), I'm often able to see the correct answers through all the muck. Pattern recognition! Anyway, my first pass through the Downs up top yielded very little, so I ended up getting my first real start in the grid at a very odd place—sort of ENE, starting around KUTI (a gimme) and working down toward the middle. Like so:

 ["A CUPS in T TOPS!" Coming soon to Cinemax.]

You can see that my northern grid is a pathetic combination of empty and wrong, with a smattering of right. Don't speak Spanish, so just had the first two letters of SABADO there. I was wrong about KIA; I knew there was a KIA with a short model name (it's the RIO), so I just wrote in KIA and waited. I see now that I could also easily have gone with the equally wrong answer, HYUNDAI. Interesting. I'd be surprised if I was the only one who dropped ADESTE in there without hesitation. As six-letter carol starters go, none ranks higher, grid frequency-wise, than ADESTE (of "Adeste Fideles" fame). IT CAME ... would not have occurred to me (it's by far the most terrible answer in the grid, one of the dumbest 6+ partials I've ever encountered). But KUTI got me going, and then all that failure up top turned quickly to success when I noticed 15D: Many an Instagram had to be SELFIE. With those last three Downs in place up top, the long Acrosses went down fast. Despite the wrong answers I had in place, I saw ALL OVER THE PLACE almost instantly after SELFIE dropped. The -ISS at the end of 1A: Message accompanied by red lips suggested KISS, which then suggested the rest of the answer. And then it was just a matter of LUGGAGE or BAGGAGE CAROUSEL (the latter, it turned out). So after a terrible first trip across the top of the grid, I caught fire and ended up here in what felt like no time:

As for the bottom of the grid, it might as well not have existed. I've never finished that much of a late-week puzzle that quickly. With the first three letters of the long Acrosses in place, I got ON HANDS AND KNEES and then TRACTOR TRAILERS. With one more cross (the "S" from 51D: CSA), I got RUSSIAN ROULETTE. The Downs were helpless at that point. I picked them off methodically without even seeing the shorter Across clues toward the middle there. You're welcome for GALEN, by the way (46D: Ancient medical researcher). (I jokingly brought him up in the write-up of that ANGEL anagram puzzle earlier this week, and now, several days later, he materializes, like some kind of slow-to-respond genie).

Despite some iffiness here and there in the fill, this seemed an entirely acceptable puzzle. Too too easy down below, and with no real killer answers, but solid nonetheless.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Kilim Kirman / THU 5-21-15 / Blue Moon of 60s 70s baseball / Hill by loch / Art Deco icon / Velvet add-on / Darrin Stephens' co-workers on Bewitched / Dada pioneer Max

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: RAISED THE BAR (52A: Elevated expectations ... or what this puzzle's maker did to five answers in this puzzle?) — initial letter string "BAR" in theme answers is "raised," i.e. placed atop the first three letters of the remaining letters in the answer. "BAR" thus becomes part of the Across answer above the themer:

Theme answers:
  • RELOFMONKEYS (20A: Metaphor for fun)
  • BARK
  • OQUE (16A: Scarlatti's style)
  • BARE
  • RIERREEF (36A: Shoreline protector)
  • BARO
  • TSIMPSON (42A: Perpetual 10-year-old of TV)
  • BIES (64A: Line of Mattel dolls)
Word of the Day: Blue Moon ODOM (30D: Blue Moon of 1960s-'70s baseball) —
Johnny Lee "Blue Moon" Odom (born May 29, 1945) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who won three consecutive World Series championships with the Oakland Athletics in 1972, 1973 and 1974. [...] Odom had a 3-1 career record in the post-season with a 1.13 ERA and 27 strikeouts. (wikipedia)
• • •

Had one of those fall-asleep-hard nights last night. Out at 9—missed Letterman's finale :( So it's morning solving for me today, like most of the rest of you normals. My initial experience with this puzzle was not good. Comically so. My first two answers were:

That is not what you'd call an auspicious beginning. I literally laughed and thought "well, the theme sure as hell better have something to do with this." Fill in that section actually got worse, or at least the same (ABBR! BRAGH!), before I eventually backed into (BAR)REL OF MONKEYS and saw what was going on. When you raise the "BAR" this way, you put a lot of stress on the grid, and so the bar for fill quality actually dips a bit. Notice that things tend to get dicey in and around the "BAR" sections. Totally understandable. The "BAR" isn't just raised in this grid, it's raised and then shifted over to sit atop the remaining letters in the answer. But I'm not sure how else you'd do this trick. I feel like I've seen this theme concept before (I know I've seen parts of answers dropped and/or lifted before), but as an easy, straightforward example of this theme type, this puzzle seems pretty good (crummy short fill notwithstanding).

I encountered one tough spot: the NE. But that's only because I did *not* expect to see theme material way the hell and gone up there. You expect the long Across (here, EARTH SIGN) to be involved, but no—fake out! It's the two answers above EARTH SIGN that are in on the game. I didn't realize that Air Quality Index (AQI) was the ABBR. I wanted up there and so ended up with A-I / O-UE. After a few seconds, I was like "Oh, right, the BAR thing." I had a little trouble also with the west, which was where I finished. Couldn't get in from the top or bottom of that section, but then (BAR)T SIMPSON came to my rescue and that section fell immediately thereafter.

  • 5D: A place of prominence (THE FORE) — normally not big on "THE ___" answers, and I probably shouldn't like this one, but I do. I had trouble figuring it out. But then I moved the C-section from the ER to the OR, and there it was: THE FORE. I also like MRS. DASH, a "seasoning brand" I haven't seen advertised since the early '90s. I genuinely like it, despite / because of its retro-ness (which may be only in my mind, but that's the only place it needs to be). MRS. DASH starts with four consonants and is 7/8 consonants. Cool. 
  • 51D: Darrin Stephens's co-workers on "Bewitched" (ADMEN) — Love this. Everyone's all "Don Draper this" and "Don Draper that," but what about "Darrin Stephens this" and "Endora that." The puzzle needs more "Bewitched," is what I'm saying.
  • 45D: Business end of a chopper (AXE HEAD) — first, I just like the phrase "business end." Second, I enjoyed figuring out what followed AXE. I could think only of BLADE (not a fit). You could do a whole theme, say, "corporate mergers," where ordinary phrases are clued as if they were a mash-up of two different brands—in this case, a body spray (AXE) / tennis equipment (HEAD) merger.  Etc. I need breakfast.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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