Grammy-winning dubstep pioneer / WED 7-18-18 / Wolf riders in Lord of Rings / Workout-obsessed sorts colloquially / Operating system whose logo features penguin / Newnowned ancient orator / Madea's portrayer in long-running film series

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging (5:56)


THEME: F(OS)SIL (29D: What each circled square in this puzzle represents) — taken together, the circled squares spell TYRANNOSAURUS REX; bonus themer in the middle of the grid = DIG SITE (39A: Archaeologists' workplace)

Word of the Day: PALLS (53D: Becomes tiresome) —
verb
  1. become less appealing or interesting through familiarity. (google)
• • •

A complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ... broken into precisely eight pieces ... of exactly the same size ... that is some find. For me, there was both an aha and a letdown at the end. Not "wow," but "really? That?" SHEESH. Perhaps also HOO BOY, though I honestly don't know what sound the puzzle is making with 9D: "Whew!" Is that like "Phew, that was a narrow escape"? Or "woohoo, that was fun"? HOO BOY is highly malleable, as far as I can tell. Wikitionary just has it as used to express strong emotion.  I use it to express the magnitude of an issue or problem. I think. I honestly haven't thought too hard about my HOO BOY usage, tbh. Anyway, back to the puzzle. There is a cleverness and an ambition here. Admirable. But something about the execution, and specifically about the moment I discovered the gimmick (immediately post-solve), was dissatisfying. Like someone had pulled a prank on me, but it wasn't a very good one, so, like, I wanna be a good sport about it, but I'm super-judgy about technique, so ... it's a weird space to be in. The feeling upon completion was not on the positive side, is all I can say.


Are GYM BU(NN)IES women? Do women call themselves that? Really? I mean, really to either question, actually. That answer reeks of OGLE-ness. Why can't women just be GYM RATS like guys? Did we need the Playboy-inflected "BUNNIES"? I go to the gym virtually every day and have never heard this term, so I'm baffled and slightly off-put. [cranks up the google machine] I'm poking around the internet now and seeing a. that the term relates primarily to gay men, and b. that there is a whole section of the internet that clearly doesn't know a. and uses the term in the sexist garbage way I imagined. The world is big and weird. If the clue wants to be gay, it should be gay. Just ... be it. Don't be all coy with this [Workout-obsessed sorts, colloquially] stuff. Be Specific. Otherwise, a lot of old squares like me are going to assume you're into some sexist dickery again.


Figuring out that the circled squares were rebus squares wasn't that hard. Figuring out that they were just two letters apiece, also not terribly hard. Seeing what they had to do with each other, even after the F(OS)SIL revealer, was not easy (but then, I was not stopping my solve to look at all the squares and see). The worst problem for me, though, was that I thought the [Big name is French perfumes] at 1A was COCO (as in Chanel). So (TY)LER PERRY, whose name I know well enough to have been the first person to put his full name in a NYT crossword puzzle thank you very much, was not even on my radar at first. I kept thinking of Medea, not Madea, and wondering how I'd know any such actress (3D: Madea's portrayer in a long-running film series). Not knowing the term GYM BU(NN)IES, also tough on my solving time. Had no idea PALLS was a verb; the clue meant nothing to me (53D: Becomes tiresome). Never heard it used that way.


The "S" at the end of both SROS and ENOKIS is awful. Neither of those wants to be plural, and you've pluraled them together, simultaneously. Had OVATE at first for 26A: Egg-shaped (OVOID), possibly because OVATE means "having an OVOID shape" (this is another ASDOI / ASAMI /// ALII / ALIA situation where I just hate both options and hate having to guess. Do you all know SKRILL(EX)? I laughed as I wrote that in, thinking of how many people solvers would be wondering "What is a SKRILL EX?" I knew the name and still managed to misspell it (SKRILLIX. Silly rabbit ...). Oh, and I had BEAUTY SPOT, which I thought was the name for it (35D: Mole). Maybe not. Or maybe, it's another ASAMI / ASDOI situation, in which case throw it in the river. SHEESH, HOOBOY, etc. In the end, I think this one tried a tad too hard to be SHOWY.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Comics hero with magic ring / TUE 7-17-18 / Annual internet awards / Part of mosque from which call to prayer is made / Smartphone predecessor for short / Cartoon boy who makes many prank calls / Product label looked for by lactose intolerant

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:18)


THEME: FLYING / COLORS (37A: With 40-Across, what a straight-A student passes with ... or a hint to 17-, 27-, 46- and 62-Across) — things that can fly and also start with a color:

Theme answers:
  • RED BARON (17A: W.W. I enemy ace)
  • GOLDEN SNITCH (27A: Quidditch ball that ends the game when it's caught) [phrasing?]
  • GREEN LANTERN (46A: Comics hero with a magic ring)
  • BLUEBIRD (62A: Symbol of happiness)
Word of the Day: WEBBYS (67A: Annual internet awards) —
Webby Award is an award for excellence on the Internet presented annually by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a judging body composed of over two thousands industry experts and technology innovators. Categories include websites; advertising and media; online film and video; mobile sites and apps; and social. (wikipedia)
• • •

Quick write-up this morning—miserable heat made me fall asleep early last night, and now miserable heat + grogginess is making want to get to (more) coffee and cool, cool yogurt/berry shake as soon as possible. Themewise, this one works well. I had to think for a few seconds, after I'd finished, what the "flying" had to do with any of it, because only themers 1 and 2 seem inherently about flying to me, but yes, they all fly, and they all start with colors, ta da. The one outlier in the group is GOLDEN SNITCH, mainly because the GOLDEN part, while accurate, is not a crucial part of its name. It's the Snitch. You catch the Snitch. In accounts of Quidditch, players chase the Snitch, not the GOLDEN SNITCH. "Way up above them, Harry was gliding over the game, squinting about for some sign of the Snitch" (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (or Philosopher's) Stone) See. It's like that throughout. The blue red and green colors are essential to the identity of their respective answers today; golden, not so much. Could've gone with YELLOWJACKET in that same space, but I guess the allure of HP was too strong. The clue on GOLDEN SNITCH is also kind of messed up (27A: Quidditch ball that ends the game when it's caught). The "ball" does not "end the game"—catching it does. The ball doesn't "end the game when it's caught." I'm just imagining the ball going, "OK, everyone, I'm caught, that's it, game over." Grammar! Still, though, I think the theme holds up reasonably well.


Fill-wise, there are problems, but it's Tuesday, so what's a Tuesday without fill trouble. Was put off the grid right away with the horrible ASDOI / ASAMI dilemma at 3D: "Likewise." "Here, guess which terrible answer it is. You have no way of knowing and have to get it from crosses. Fun, right!?" (see also the ALII / ALIA dilemma at 66A: Et ___ (and others), ugh). Also, DETOO, gah. It's bad enough I have to see D2 spelled out, seeing it as a name *part* and not the full name is unpleasant. I'd sooner accept ARTOO, because at least that's what people occasionally call it (him?). But then there is some nice stuff here. Love PREFAB and CYBORG. Mostly the grid is bland, as opposed to downright obnoxious. As Tuesdays go, this is decent work.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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