Competitor of Wisk / MON 5-1-2017 / Short race spec / Eagle's home / Blood components / Tristan's beloved / Fizzy headache remedy, informally

Monday, May 1, 2017

Constructor: ED SESSA

Relative difficulty: HARD

THEME: OFF WITH HER HEAD — Theme answers are related to Marie Antoinette. And also just beheading in general.

  Theme answers:
  • LET THEM EAT CAKE (20A: Words attributed to 41-Across)
  • OFF WITH HER HEAD (24A: Apt cry for 41-Across)
  • ARIE ANTOINETTE (41A: Famous queen, depicted literally) (I'm not sure that I'd agree with "literally" as the word of choice here, but she's depicted without the first letter of her name, i.e. without her "head") 
  • CAPITAL OFFENSE (47A: Something committed by 41-Across ... or by this puzzle's creator?) 

Word of the Day: ISOLDE (43D: Tristan's beloved) —
The Irish princess, Iseult of Ireland (also La Belle Iseult, Iseult "the Fair"), is the daughter of King Anguish of Ireland and Queen Iseult the Elder. She is a main character in the Tristan poems of BéroulThomas of Britain, and Gottfried von Strassburg and in the opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner.
Iseult is first seen as a young princess who heals Tristan from wounds he received fighting her uncle, Morholt. When his identity is revealed, Tristan flees back to his own land. Later, Tristan returns to Ireland to gain Iseult's hand in marriage for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. She is betrothed to an evil steward who claims to have killed a dragon, but when Tristan proves he killed the dragon Iseult's parents agree to marry her to Mark. On the journey back to Cornwall, Iseult and Tristan accidentally drink a love potion prepared for her and Mark by Iseult the elder and guarded by Brangaine, Iseult's lady-in-waiting. The two fall hopelessly in love, and begin an affair that ends when Mark banishes Tristan from Cornwall.
• • •
The good thing about this puzzle was that it was good preparation for finals week because it was so hard. Seriously, I thought Wisk was some kind of board game or something - it's a laundry detergent?! (I was thinking of Risk, apparently.) And I was tearing my OHAIR out trying to figure out if I'd gone horribly wrong somewhere with ARIE ANTOINETTE. As far as ONEK goes, perhaps a kind puzzler can fill me in on what that has to do with races, because when I Googled it to make it my word of the day all I got were riding helmets, information on stock in SPDR Russell 1000 (whatever that is), and a village in Slovenia. Vague clues and obscure answers don't seem much in l'ESPRIT de Monday to me. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, you take 45 minutes to solve some.

The theme was pretty cool though! Even though ARIE ANTOINETTE gave me so much trouble, once I got that taking the first letter off Marie's name was supposed to be the crossword equivalent to a beheading, I figured it was clever. Also liked that there were French words scattered throughout the puzzle to complete the theme.

I wonder if she ever really did say "Let them eat cake"? I know it's apocryphal but she still technically could have. In French.

  • STU (45A: Early Beatle ___ Sutcliffe) — Another appropriate clue: "What do you call a guy in a cooking pot?" ........Wait, there was another Beatle? Weird.
  • EMMA (53A: Jane Austen heroine) — Unquestionably the best Jane Austen book. Not just because "Clueless" was based on it (although that is an excellent reason to love it). Trust me, I'm an English major. That scene where Elton comes on to Emma and Emma realizes it's going to break Harriet's heart....*sniffle* 
  • ASTA (49D: "The Thin Man" canine) — This movie came out in 1934!! And the clue was in a difficult section, how the heck was anyone supposed to...Oh, never mind, I'll just end up REHASHing my criticism from earlier about how this one was difficult for me. But seriously. It would have made a great Wednesday or Thursday. :P
  • SPATS (59A: Minor fights) — I just realized that the Young Frankenstein version of "Puttin' on the Ritz" doesn't actually include the word "spats." But I'm still going to post it.

Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired college student.

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Strict sabbath observer of old / SUN 4-30-17 / 1920s anarchist in prominent trial / Discontinued Toyota line / Gifford's successor on TV / Kenan's former Nickelodeon pal / Activity in dohyo / Yankee Sparky who wrote Bronx zoo / Special agent gibbs's beat

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "New England Chatter" — I have no *&$%ing idea what is happening. I think there's some attempt to make wacky phrases based on the idea of a "New England" accent, but mainly there appear to be simply a dropping of Rs (?). Just seems pseudo-British, really...

Theme answers:
  • SPOCK PLUGS (22A: Commercials for a "Star Trek" movie?) (why "movie"?)
  • A CALL TO OMS (24A: Yoga teacher's invitation?) (oy, see below)
  • HOT SPECIALIST (36A: Weather forecaster in Phoenix?)
  • THE BOD OF AVON (51A: Most in-shape person at a cosmetics company?)
  • PASSING MOCK (69A: Ridicule shouted out of a moving car?)
  • INSTANT COMMA (87A: Quickly added bit of punctuation?)
  • A SHOT IN THE DOC (100A: What allowed one physician to get through flu season?)
  • LOW COB DIET (116A: Regimen with limited intake of corn?)
  • IT'S MY POTTY? (119A: Toddler's cry upon entering the bathroom?) (ICK
Word of the Day: EUTERPE (38D: Sister of Erato) —
In Greek mythology, Euterpe (/juːˈtɜːrp/; Greek: Eὐτέρπη, Greek pronunciation: [efˈterpi], Ancient Greek: [eu̯térpɛː]; "rejoicing well" or "delight" from Ancient Greek εὖ 'well' + τέρπειν terpein 'to please') was one of the Muses, the daughters of Mnemosyne, fathered by Zeus. Called the "Giver of delight", when later poets assigned roles to each of the Muses, she was the muse of music. In late Classical times she was named muse of lyric poetry[1] and depicted holding a flute. A few say she invented the aulos or double-flute, though most mythographers credit Marsyas with its invention. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is the most ill-conceived, DOA Sunday theme I can remember seeing. Ever. The fact that this saw the light of day indicates that Sunday submissions must be at dire, emergency levels. Even if this puzzle had Nailed It, conceptually, managing to turn ordinary phrases into phrases that sound like a Bostonian was saying them, it would've been corny and old hat. Done, done and done. Trite. Again, that's the *best* case scenario for this theme. The actual case scenario is a disaster, a mishmash of sound changes that resemble precisely nobody's accent. Drop the "R" appears to be the theme. -ARKs and -ARTs go to -OCKs and -OTs. First problem, that is not, in and of itself, characteristically "New England." It's not, as my friend just wrote me, "pahk the cah in hahvad yahd." Just say SPOCK PLUGS. There's nothing "New England" about it. It's just a dumb phrase. And what is up with the title: "New England Chatter." Is that supposed to be a play on "New England Chowder"? Has to be, right? But ... but ... that sound change ... doesn't fit ... at all. Seriously, what is happening? But the biggest, most ridiculous failure of this theme is 24A: A CALL TO OMS. No one—literally, no one—pronounces OMS like it rhymes with MOMS. It's a long "O." It is. It really is. Like, really. Here. Look. Here is a site called "Om Cooking: Food to Enlighten Your Palate." Because the pun is on HOME!!!!!!!! OM rhymes with HOME. *Everybody* *Knows* *This*. Is no one minding the store?

Jaw-dropping that this puzzle was accepted. The concept and execution are both sub-3rd-rate-in-flight-magazine fare. The emperor continues to have few if any clothes. I'm done here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. since I'm using their image, I should probably at least tell you that the "comma chameleon" shirt is a real thing you can buy.

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