Amino acid vis a vis protein eg / MON 10-22-18 / Big name in elevators / 1982 movie inspired by pong / gas brand whose logo has blue oval

Monday, October 22, 2018

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:02) (it felt harder, but ... I guess not?)

THEME: PLANETS (45D: Etymological origins of the answers to the five starred clues) — just what it says:

Theme answers:
  • MERCURIAL (17A: *Capricious)
  • VENIAL (22A: *Forgivable)
  • MARTIAL (36A: *Warlike)
  • JOVIAL (55A: *Jolly)
  • SATURNINE (61A: *Gloomy)
Word of the Day: MONOMER (39D: Amino acid vis-à-vis a protein, e.g.) —
  1. a molecule that can be bonded to other identical molecules to form a polymer. (google)
• • •

Etymology trivia. OK, I guess. JOVIAL seems a stretch, since that's from Jove, not Jupiter, but since they're the same god ... I'll allow it? Shrug. Biggish corners lent some interest to this Monday puzzle, but it was all a little by-the-book. Also, USENET? I'm sure it still exists in some form, but to just clue it [Online discussion forum] like we're all on it all the time ... is a little weird.

Also weird: VOLGA. I mean, it's not a weird river. It's clearly a prominent river in the continent that is Europe. But I rarely see it in puzzles and honestly know nothing about it except that it's *in Russia*; so off my radar is that river that, faced with -O-G-, my brain was like "... OK ... don't laugh ... but is it CONGO? I Said Don't Laugh!" Weirder: I blanked on Lin-Manuel MIRANDA's last name. Which is like blanking on J.K. ROWLING's last name, honestly. Just stupid. I also blanked on ZOE KAZAN's name last week despite knowing very well what her damn name is. I swear, sometimes I can retrieve the dumbest bulls**t but not stuff that's right in front of me, all the time.

Back to the theme for a sec. The PLANETS are not the "Etymological origins" of these words. The god names are. It's not the same thing. Here, listen to Samantha:

My main hang-ups today were MONOMER (a word I honestly don't know), MPH (I had MPG, which is ridiculous), and VENIAL, which I always want to be VENAL. Wow, turns out they are both words and I never bothered to learn the distinction. I blurred them together in my head to mean "susceptible to bribery, which is forgivable if you, like, pray to God for forgiveness or something." Yikes. Anyway, hope you PLOUGHed through this. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Squared building stone / SUN 10-21-18 / Rapper with 2017 #1 hit Bodak Yellow / First African American sorority / Manhattan neighborhood next to lower east side / Seventh-year exam in Harry Potter

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (9:06, which is Easy, but ... there were some crosses ...)

THEME: "You're Going Down" — theme answers are all Downs and are all familiar phrases; clues are wacky and make sense only if you take the answer "literally," i.e. mentally supply the word DOWN after the answer in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • BABY STEPS (3D: Headline after a toddler C.E.O. resigns, literally?) (get it: "BABY STEPS *DOWN*")
  • ELEGANTLY PUT (62D: Dissed with flowery language, literally?)
  • LUCKY BREAK (7D: Car failure only a block from the mechanic, literally?)
  • CUTE AS A BUTTON (34D: Like the dress shirt that's just adorable, literally?)
  • PUPPET SHOW (73D: Punch vs. Judy, literally?)
  • THERE'S THE RUB (14D: "For a massage, go that way!," literally?)
  • JAZZ HANDS (77D: One answer to the question "What's your favorite music genre," literally?)
Word of the Day: ASHLAR (55A: Squared building stone)
  1. masonry made of large square-cut stones, typically used as a facing on walls of brick or stone. (google)
• • •

I did not get this. At least not while solving. Tore through it, thinking I was getting the joke, at least a little, because, well, with BABY STEPS, "steps" can mean "leaves" or "takes off" (colloquially), so I was like "ah, repurposed phrase ... for some reason." Same thing with LUCKY BREAK. Your car "breaks" near a garage—that's lucky! OK ... THERE'S THE RUB, again, reimagining the meaning of the word, got it ... still not sure why I'm doing it, but I got it. Then I got to CUTE AS A BUTTON and I honestly didn't get it. But also didn't care. Kept going. Got to PUPPET SHOW and thought "that is ... literally ... what Punch & Judy is ... I do not understand." Only as I was writing in the final themer (which, for me, was ELEGANTLY PUT) did I realize you needed to supply DOWN for the clues to make sense. Only, as I say, several of them "make sense" without the mentally supplied DOWN, so this one felt off and weird. The DOWN just didn't reorient several of the answers enough to be interesting. Also, what is ASHLAR? I mean, it's my Word of the Day, so now I sort of know, but ... Yikes.

[WARNING: PROFANITY, right off the bat and throughout]

Was all set to tell you exactly where this grid's problems were, but then I saw this tweet, and ... it gets right to the point, so I don't have to:

AMARNA (18A: Where cuneiform was discovered) and ASHLAR are easily among the toughest answers in this grid, but that's fine. Crosses are fair, and I actually knew AMARNA from ... well, crosswords, duh. Nothing wrong with tough. There is, however, something wrong with VADUZ (48D: Capital of Liechtenstein). Now you can go on all you want about how "everyone should know every world capital how could you not know blah blah blah?" and that's fine, that's you, you're who you are and god probably loves you, but unless you are a list memorizer (you know who you are, you trivia folks, I see you) then you almost certainly don't know VADUZ. I don't even know how you pronounce that. I can't remember ever seeing it. And its letters are entirely uninferrable. Sooooo the crosses really should be fair. But you've got not one but two proper noun crosses ... and one of them is a rapper, which, you know, she had a #1 hit, and she is legit famous, but only recently so, which means millions of solvers still don't know who the hell she is.

Also, why would anyone know BRATZ is spelled with a "Z" (67A: Popular line of dolls with "Kidz" and "Babyz" spinoffs); I did, for some reason, but it's entirely plausible that a solver would not. I guess the clue is supposed to tip you to the spelling. Not sure how well that's gonna work. So VADUZ is really cruddy because, well, you know going in, if you're the constructor / editor, that you are going to screw some people (a bunch of people) on the crosses. You shouldn't feel that way About Any Of Your Crosses. And I know the constructor knows the rapper cross is dicey 'cause he did a little smiley-face social media post about it. So if you tanked it, just know he's smiling and winking at you.

Saw "Psycho" tonight with live orchestra and it was Great, except ... well, the movie is so phenomenal (I've seen it roughly 845 times) that by the end I totally forgot there was a live orchestra. I was just engrossed in the movie. And then the end came and I was like, "oh, right ... you guys! Right underneath the screen! Good job!" Anyway, film w/ live musical accompaniment is the stuff! Highly recommended.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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