Pioneering photojournalist Jacob / FRI 6-22-18 / Polish-language film that won 2014 Oscar / Big espresso purveyor since 2001

Friday, June 22, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

Relative difficulty: Medium (5:53) (I'm tired and I've had a bit to drink, so it might be slightly easier)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Jacob RIIS (8D: Pioneering photojournalist Jacob) —
Jacob August Riis (/rs/; May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformerGeorgist, "muckrakingjournalist and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of "model tenements" in New York with the help of humanitarianLawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.
While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes. (wikipedia)
• • •

in a purple state
Did an infuriating crossword just before this one, so wasn't in the best frame of mind. Also feel very, very tired—late dinner, late drinking. So I just pushed through this one; didn't enjoy or disenjoy it. I think the thing I like most is the grid shape. The arrangement of longer answers is interesting. Leaves the center all isolated and full of short fill (not great), but also gives us not just the (pretty standard) long answers in the four quadrants, but also these long Downs (four of 'em) that shoot through the puzzle (TELEPROMPTER, POSTRACIAL, DRAFT KINGS, PURPLE STATES). We poor for it in short fill, of which there is a Lot, but I think the trade-off might be worth it. None of the longer answers are that noteworthy. I just saw HOMOEROTIC in a New Yorker crossword last week, so that one didn't have the novelty impact that it was probably designed to have. Interesting to have that answer appear hot on the heels of yesterday's Pride-themed puzzle. But then, not that interesting. Gayness exists, homoerotic content exist, and the puzzle should and does regularly note this; it's no longer shocking or even surprising to see LGBTQ stuff in puzzles, and this is a good thing. A welcome turn of events. I mean, it's not like we've cured bigotry here, but the more ordinary, visible, and everyday queerness becomes, the better off we all are.

LAPEL LIZARDS sounds like a band. A band that might open for SAPIENT FUTON. I had a bunch of trouble witih short answers during he first half of the solve, and then virtually no trouble with the second half. Just couldn't get RODE or SOAR, even after a couple of crosses, so the NW took longer to fill in than it should've. Wrote in MPAA for RIAA (15D: Pirate-fighting org.). RIAA remains an initialism that I routinely forget. Biggest hang-up of the day by far was, weirdly, ATE IT (10D: Wiped out). Had that final "T" and wanted only SPENT (perhaps because that was how I was feeling and continue to feel, man I can't wait to be asleep...). And the "E" from SPENT worked for EDIE, which I *knew* was right (18A: Actress Sedgwick of Warhol films). Wanted SAPIENT (a word you learn in high school and promptly never use again), but couldn't figure out how a word could end -EIT. Much later, I found out it was not a word. It was two words. After that, not a hitch, except for UZIS (57A: Action film weapons). I got it easily enough, I just hate it. Ironically, I also hate UNARM. But I hate the latter as a word (the word is "disarm"), whereas I hate UZIS because guns suck. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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LGBT activist Savage / THU 6-21-18 / DC comics hero with magic ring / Path in hit 1939 film / Salad items picked at midpoint of their maturity / Villainous army in 1968 Beatles film / v ohio landmark case barring illegally obtained evidence from being used in court

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Constructor: Milo Beckman and David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Pride Flag — Different rows of the crossword have answers that are missing an initial color—supply the color (literally) and you get the Pride Flag

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: ICC (24D: Old transportaiton agcy.) —
The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads (and later trucking) to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. The agency was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.
The Commission's five members were appointed by the President with the consent of the United States Senate. This was the first independent agency (or so-called Fourth Branch). (wikipedia)
• • •

I spent more time coloring the grid than I did solving the puzzle, but had a good time doing both. I didn't actually grasp that it was a Pride Flag until I was done and thought, "Oh, a rainbow ... flag ... and it's Pride Month! Oh, yeah, that's nice." The gimmick is easy to pick up, and most of the color answers are (then) very easy to get, except for a couple. I had no idea what kind of PEPPERS I was dealing with (there are so many colors), and I totally forgot that LAWS even was a theme answer, and so got a bit bogged down right there trying to figure out what [Shopping restrictions] could possibly be in four letters. Only when I was done with the puzzle did I finally see that it was (BLUE) LAWS. Weird that there was no revealer, though cluing ERA as [The Gay Nineties, e.g.] was pretty clever, and there were a couple of explicitly LGBT clues. Most of the fill was solid, and the very worst of the fill was a direct result of the stringency of the theme—ICC and SAK both have their first and last letters fixed by theme answers, and so it's not terribly surprising that that's where the grid strains a little. But emphasis on "little." Overall, as I say, it holds up well. It's a charming and timely puzzle.

 Picked this one up early with (ORANGE)MEN, then got nearby (RED)EYES, and quickly understood that this was a pattern that was going to continue (though I had no idea at that point what colors were coming, or where). Only a few spots gave me trouble. ICC was bad (never heard of it). USO clue didn't mean anything to me, and still ... doesn't (4D: What gets the show on the road, for short?). Is it that USO shows travel... to where troops are? It seems a pretty forced "?" clue. Beyond that, though, I had USE for PLY (unexciting) (32D: Wield), and had never heard of a PASTORATE (11D: Minister's office). Even with PASTOR- in place, I didn't know where that word was going. I assume the clue means "office" in the sense of a job, not a physical space [looking it up] ... yes. Also can refer to a body of pastors. Beyond that, there was no real resistance today. I don't really know Den HAAG, but I've seen it before, and crosses were easy (though I guess if you didn't know Delaware's mascot was the (BLUE)HEN, you might've gotten into trouble with that "H" cross. I can imagine a mascot named BLUE BEN. BLUE KEN, less so. Oh, I also had trouble with 47D: Home to every M.L.B. club whose name starts with "A" (AL WEST). True for team names: A's, Angels, Astros. But the only "A" I could picture in mind (despite being a very avid baseball fan) was the "A" on the cap of the Atlanta Braves ... who play in the NL EAST. I should probably mention that ALORS is very hard if you have no French (51D: Then: Fr.). Very, very. Crosses seem gettable, but who knows? I was lucky enough to get ALORS immediately, but it could easily cause some solvers to spin out. I hope not, though. It's the kind of puzzle that people should be able to take pride ... in solving.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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