Country below Hungary / MON 9-24-18 / Vegas hot spot / Alcohol that's transparent / Unattractive fruit

Monday, September 24, 2018

Constructor: Michael Black

Relative difficulty: Easy (2:44)

THEME: JEOPARDY (18-Across) and WHEEL / OF FORTUNE (34-Across) — each is a "Popular program shown back to back with" the other

Theme answers:
  • ALEX TREBEK (23A: Host of 18-Across)
  • VANNA WHITE (49A: Co-host of 34-/36-Across)
  • PAT SAJAK (54A: Co-host of 34-/36-Across)
Word of the Day: VIJAY Singh (49D: Golfer Singh who won the 2000 Masters) —
Vijay SinghCF (Hindi: विजय सिंह), IPA: [ˈʋɪdʒəj sɪ̃ɦ]; born 22 February 1963), nicknamed "The Big Fijian", is an Indo-Fijian professional golfer who was Number 1 in the Official World Golf Rankingfor 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005. Vijay was the 12th man to reach the world No. 1-ranking and was the only new world No. 1 in the 2000s decade. He has won three major championships (The Masters in 2000 and the PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004) and was the leading PGA Tour money winner in 2003, 2004 and 2008. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005 (but deferred his induction until 2006). He won the FedEx Cup in 2008.
An Indo-Fijian practicing Hinduism,Singh was born in LautokaFiji and grew up in Nadi. A resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, he is known for his meticulous preparation, often staying at the range hours before and after his tournament rounds, working on his game. (wikipedia)
• • •

What is this? I'm not blogging this. This is not a theme. There's nothing here. Seriously, this concept is so rudimentary, so boringly straighforward, I sincerely cannot believe the puzzle was accepted. The grid as a whole is OK, but this theme is astonishingly substandard. Nothing in the execution of the theme causes it to rise above the most boring TV Guide trivia quiz. Sub-TV Guide, in fact. Actually, I apologize to TV Guide, even though I'm not sure it still exists—their puzzles are unpleasant and trivia-heavy, but they expect you to know much tougher answers. Why does this puzzle exist? Is there an anniversary? Did the TV shows offer financial consideration for this? If so, can they get their money back, because this is bad. Objectively.

Five things:
  • 49D: Golfer Singh who won the 2000 Masters (VIJAY) — knew it instantly, but spelling ... I think I got the MTV VEEJAY (?) spelling in there, and then I went with VEJAY, which is like a typo'd VE DAY ... this was the one moment during the solve where I felt like the wheels were gonna come off. For no good reason
  • 1A: Just one year, for Venus and Serena Williams (AGE GAP) — nice clue/answer to open. SERENA WILLIAMS was a long answer in a puzzle I solve immediately prior to solving this one, so she was on my mind, as she often is.
  • 43D: Ditch for cutting timber (SAWPIT) — this is the one WTF answer in the grid? I have never seen this term, ever. Why are you cutting timber in a ditch? Nevermind, I don't really care. I just know that this is a pretty technical / obscure term for a Monday. Not that it slowed me down much.
  • 9D: Onetime Apple product (iBOOK)— discontinued 12 years ago ... coincidentally (?), this blog turns 12 tomorrow (9/25/18)
  • 35D: Does one's taxes online (E-FILES) — it's how all the E-SPIES do their taxes 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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MI6 R&D division in 007 novels / SUN 9-23-18 / Three of wheel of dharma buddhist concept / 1929 work that is theme of this puzzle / Place for works that are in works / Scores after deuces informally / German city with Pennsylvania namesake / Bit of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Challenging (laughably so—just hit "check squares" at the 15 minute mark because I didn't care anymore ... had four errors ... just the stupidest puzzle ... for reference, I haven't had a single error on a Sunday ... well, ever? ... I mean ...) 

THEME: "The Art of Puzzle-Making" — a puzzle about René MAGRITTE's "TREACHERY OF IMAGES," a famous SURREALIST painting of a pipe with TEXT underneath reading "CECI N'EST PAS UN PIPE" ("this is not a pipe"). In this puzzle, you are supposed connect a bunch of circled letters that spell out the French phrase from the painting and also form the shape of a pipe, so the TEXT makes a kind of PIPE LINE ... and ... oh yeah, also there's a quote from MAGRITTE about the painting, a highly non-famous quote: "IT'S JUST / A REPRESENTATION / IS IT NOT?" Oh, and there's a stray theme answer, LOS ANGELES ... where the painting (apparently!?) is "permanently housed"; ugh there's a note:

Word of the Day: OLIVET (16D: Michigan college or its town) —
Olivet is a city in Eaton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,605 at the 2010 censusOlivet College is located in the city. (1,605!? This makes IOLA, KS look like a megalopolis) (wikipedia)
• • •

Not gonna write a ton about this one because I have almost nothing nice to say. It was just unpleasant all over the place. My god this puzzle tries too hard. Here's what you need: beautiful concept, elegant execution. What we have here is a nightmare of competing concepts trying to shout over each other and colliding with each other. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings. You can't have Every Single Theme Thing You Can Imagine. But this one ... no judiciousness. No elegance. Just stupid, stupid chaos. A germ of an idea that dies. An "bonus" thing that has none of the joy that "bonus" implies. Connect-the-dots. And then, leaving the theme aside, just clunky weird clues / answers everywhere. Art-based Sunday puzzle can now be imagined on a scale from THIS to Liz Gorski's Guggenheim puzzle. That is the scale. First, puzzle came with a "Note"—sorry, not reading that. Never do. Be good without a note or go home. Second, random circles. Oh, how I do not care. I didn't stop to see what shape they (sorta) made. Probably should've, but am not convinced it would've helped. Third, the actual revealer—what the? Here's the thing: I've seen this painting. It's used as an illustration in Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics," which I teach regularly. But the title, I totally forgot. Also, calling it a "work" means that I had no idea even what genre of thing we were dealing with. Even after I got TREACHERY OF IMAGES, I didn't know what painting it was. I thought it was the Dali one with the clocks. Which one was that? [googles] Ah, "The Persistence of Memory." Well no those don't Sound Alike At All @#$&#$#R@#RH@#DFQWE!!!

Oh, back to the list—Fourth! That quotation. That dumb, random, no one has heard it before piece of junk that you only used because, what, it fits symmetrically. It's a terrible quotation, IS IT NOT? Finally, you shove a gratuitous final themer in the bottom (TEXT) and cross it with some "petroleum giant" (!?!?!) that, again, I have never heard of in a quarter century+ of solving (OXY). OXY is a west coast college. OXY is a zit medication. OXY is a moron. What the hell is this stupid "petroleum" (again, ?!) OXY? Fifth, PIPE LINE might've made a nice revealer but because it's shoehorned into this atrocity of a puzzle that already has like a million other theme elements, it's just slop poured on top.

I had four errors. Now, I should've known that the clue was not plural so ART SALES couldn't be right (53D: Cultural gathering). But I went ART SALES and then AT BEST and so finished with QBR-SCH and B-NNHEIM. Two crossing proper nouns, one of which is fictional and completely and utterly never-before-heard-of by me. I knew the Q-answer had to be the wrong one, but it's not like the right version (Q BRANCH) is so all-fire obviously correct (95A: MI6 R&D division in 007 novels). OK, this is already way more than I wanted to write on this thing. How the *&$^ is the title "The Art of Puzzle-Making" appropriate for this thing? Honestly, this puzzle got Nothing right.

Five things:
  • 93D: Dangerous job (SPY) — what a useless clue for SPY. Had the "S" and wasn't sure if DRIER was that or DRYER ... and SPY was not helping resolve anything
  • 37D: How to get the permit, say (PAY A FEE) — lol no. So bad. "The" permit? ___ A ___? My god, it's like no one cares.
  • 22A: N.F.L.'s Kaepernick (COLIN) — who's what now? I mean ... is this seriously a clue? I mean, he literally, famously is not in the N.F.L. at the moment. How bad at cluing do you have to be ...? Here's the full text of an email I just got from someone who used to be an editor at a major publication—subject line: "Will Shortz should be fired": 
"Saturday's Charlie Rose outrage is followed by Sunday's clue for "Colin": "NFL's Kaepernick." That is clueless to the point of negligence. How can you reference CK without mentioning the newsy Nike ad, or the whole kneeling thing? Plus there's the pertinent fact that CP is NOT currently  in the NFL because of NFL/USA racism. Of all the sloppy nyt  cword editing, which you chronicle so well, this pisses me off the most. The editors are either not even looking at the puzzles they print, or just don't give a shit. It's lazy and insulting to those who do."
  • 52A: Dogie catcher (REATA) — I had RIATA, which gave me DIMOED for 47D: Showed, informally (DEMOED), which I *thought* was my error. But no.
  • 48A: Time for pampering oneself (ME DAY) — a. not a thing, b. I have to go pamper myself now. This puzzle was self-harm.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS apparently this painting was the theme of a Diagramless puzzle in the NYT not too long ago

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