Bonkers in modern lingo / WED 5-25-16 / Eastern mediterranean port since ancient times / Dough in hand redundantly / Acronym on Beyonce records

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: JOHNNY ON THE SPOT (38A: Person who's ready and able to help ... or a literal description of four occurrences in this puzzle)— theme answers start with words that are also the last names of famous JOHNNYs, and each of those first words sits on top of an "AD" (aka a radio or TV "SPOT"):

Theme answers:
  • CASH MONEY (17A: Dough in hand, redundantly)
  • CARSON CITY (25A: State capital near Lake Tahoe)
  • BENCH PRESS (52A: Gym activity that works the pectorals)
  • ROTTEN EGG (64A: Last one in, say) (this clue isn't right—it's "Last one in, in a familiar expression," not "... say"; ROTTEN EGG is not a synonym for "Last one in"—in fact, "Last one in" is only a ROTTEN EGG in that one expression) 
[For other possible theme dimension, see P.S. below]
Word of the Day: DARYL Hannah (69A: ___ Hannah of "Blade Runner") —
Daryl Christine Hannah (born December 3, 1960) is an American film actress. She is known for her performances in the films Blade Runner (1982), Splash (1984), Roxanne (1987), Wall Street (1987), Steel Magnolias (1989) and Kill Bill (2003). She is also an environmental campaigner who has been arrested for protests against developments that are believed by some groups to threaten sustainability. (wikipedia)
• • •

The constructor is on social media now bragging (I think) that no one seems to be fully understanding his theme. I have no idea if I have or if I have not, but if I have not, and so many others have not, then maybe the problem lies not with the solvers. At any rate, this puzzle was interesting in that it took a rather pedestrian concept (first words are also last names over various JOHNNYs) and gave it not only a snappy revealer but this unexpected "AD" twist. What's funny / not funny is that the "AD" thing explains / causes some of the grid's crappier (i.e. crosswordesier) moments: ADEE, ADLAI, ADA. I don't understand why JOHNNY itself is not on top of an "AD"—seems like, conceptually, that would've been more consistent / elegant. Instead you've got ATTA under there, which is as bad as anything in the grid (see ADEE). But I think the theme works and I like the little "AD" twist and so it seems like a fine Wednesday puzzle overall.


I blanked on DRAKE (9A: "Take Care" rapper, 2012), even *with* the "K" in place. I own two DRAKE albums. So that's oddly embarrassing. "Hotline Bling" rapper, I'd've gotten. Had TWIST CAP for TWIST TOP (40D: Resealable bottle feature). I also didn't get FEED at first go round (61D: Farm store purchase) and took a couple passes to back my way into the SW corner (BENCH PRESS and OH COOL not coming immediately to mind). That is the full tally of all my problems. Otherwise, this one was just see-clue-write-answer fast. Bam bam bam (3:36). Faster than yesterday, which was a pretty easy Tuesday. So the whole week is running super-simple so far.

Looks like we got EDINA back, after having to endure that not-famous Minneapolis suburb whose name I've already forgotten this past Sunday. DEANE? Oh, no, right: EAGAN. Blargh. The constructor is a Minnesotan, so EDINA is this puzzle's version of a home-state shout-out, I imagine. See also OH COOL, both because Minneapolis / St. Paul is a cool place to be (I visit my best friends there whenever I can) and because it's *&#^%ing cold there, but if you live there, you're used to it, so when you walk outside in January, you're like, "OH ... COOL. Better put on pants."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. it occurs to me that you can SPOT someone MONEY (a ten-SPOT, perhaps) and you SPOT someone on the BENCH PRESS and ... I don't know, a CITY (like CARSON CITY) is a SPOT (i.e. a location), and EGG ... uh, something to do with spot? SPOTted egg? Honestly don't see the egg angle. But maybe that's the elusive theme element the constructor is crowing about.

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Resort near venice / TUE 5-24-16 / African antelope with curvy horns / William Pilgrim father / Luminescent larvae

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Constructor: Jonathan Gersch

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TAPS (71A: Bugle tune ... or what one does to 1-, 18-, 35-, 43- and 62-Across

Theme answers:
  • KEGS (1A: Frat party staples)
  • PHONE LINES (18A: "Open" things for a call-in show)
  • SHOULDERS (35A: Places for shawls)
  • RESOURCES (43A: Coal and natural gas)
  • MAPLE TREES (62A: Syrup comes from them)
Word of the Day: William BREWSTER (41D: William ___, Pilgrim Father) —
William Brewster (1568 – 10 April 1644) was an English official and Mayflower passenger in 1620. In Plymouth Colony, by virtue of his education and existing stature with those immigrating from the Netherlands, Brewster, a separatist, became a regular preacher and the leader of the community. (wikipedia)
• • •

A bunch of things one can tap. Well, a couple observations: as a list, it's pretty dull, and TAPS is an awkward revealer. Plain old TAP, or maybe some phrase containing TAP that allows for wordplay of some sort, would've made more sense. All the answers are plural ... but TAPS (with an "S") doesn't indicate a plural, it indicates the third person. It looks like, in order to get the [Bugle tune] cleverness to match up symmetrically with something, we've pluralized KEGS, and then ... well, that tips the dominoes and every other theme answer gets the "S." The non-corresponding "S"s between themers and revealer ... they're just awkward. It's mainly the third-person conjugation that clunks. I wouldn't notice this if the theme were at all interesting. Theme feels like something NYT used to publish but doesn't / shouldn't any more. I thought that yesterday about a CONEHEADS theme in the LAT, where all the first words of the themers were kinds of cones, but conceptually and execution-wise, that was a superior puzzle.

The fill had some strong points (DAEDALUS!! SAY WHAT?!), but was also heavy on the unpleasantness. Why on god's green would you *highlight* the fact that your grid has terrible abbrs. in it by giving them the same clue (N.C.A.A. part: Abbr.), as if their presence here were some kind of *feature*. There is no redeeming ATH, there is no redeeming ASSOC, and trying to tie them together with the same clue is like throwing water on an oil fire. If you need ATH or ASSOC, you quietly clue them (separately!) and move on. Imagine how "fun" it would be if you cross-referenced SSW and NNE ... [I'm waiting while you do this] ... yes, cluing ASSOC and ATH this way is precisely *that* much fun, possibly less. Grid shape means that there's a ton of 4- and 5-letter stuff, so no surprise that there's a lot of the old gang ("I, TINA"!), but it leaned toward the UGLY side in many places. ETTU, EZEK? I had maybe one wrong turn in this one: wrote in SUPT instead of SUPE (45D: Apartment building V.I.P., for short). My answer was correct. Just not correct for this puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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