Four of 12 imams of Shia / WED 6-7-15 / Red Lobster freebie / Amused singer of Raise Your Glass / Coke Zero alternative / Nickname for high-achieving couple

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty:Very very easy

THEME: Mononymous singers — familiar phrases that contain words that are also the names of one-named singers; answers are clued wackily, as if they had something to do w/ said singers...

Theme answers:
  • TICKLED PINK (17A: Amused the singer of "Raise Your Glass"?) (I do not know that song)
  • PRINCE CHARMING (25A: Enchantment of the singer of "Raspberry Beret"?)
  • PRO BONO (35A: Favoring the singer of "Sunday Bloody Sunday"?)
  • STING OPERATION (42A: Medical procedure for the singer of "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free"?)
  • TRAINED SEAL (57A: Coached the singer of "Kiss From a Rose"?) 
Word of the Day: Kevin DURANT (5A: Kevin who was the 2014 N.B.A. M.V.P.) —
Kevin Wayne Durant (born September 29, 1988) is an American professional basketball player who currently plays with the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has played the small forward position for the Thunder, formerly the Seattle SuperSonics. Durant has won an NBA Most Valuable Player Award, four NBA scoring titles, the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and an Olympic gold medal. He has also been selected to five All-NBA teams and six All-Star teams. (wikipedia)
• • •

Solved this faster than both the Tuesday and the Monday puzzles, so ... not sure what happened there, but I think this one's clued Much too easily. I was getting theme answers just by looking at the answers w/ a handful of crosses in place. Never saw clue for DYNAMIC DUO because I had the tail end and just wrote in the rest—what else was ...-ICD-O gonna be? I like Chagall's work so MARC = gimme. I watched a lot of "Friends" so MATT = gimme. I do a lot of crosswords so TEK = gimme. Etc. This thing didn't push back At All. Took me a little while to see exactly what the theme was, but that's just because I didn't have much time to think about it—I was too busy filling in answers as fast as I could type them. I wrote in DARN for DAMN (23D: "Aw, hell!").  I think that is literally the only "mistake" I made all puzzle. I'm kind of on the fence about the theme. It's just one-named singers whose names are in familiar phrases. That doesn't strike me as that interesting or ambitious. But it's probably just playful enough to pass muster. But (but!) the fill was a little south of good. My mood never quite recovered after I got DIETRC :( and LRON :( :( one after the other. ABMS OOP ORSO ALGA ULAN. It's just a bit clanky. First rate Scrabble-f*cking in the SW. So it's a mild negative from me today, I think. But very, very mild.

Gotta get back to baseball now. When I came up here, it was the 6th inning and Houston was up 2-0 on the Yankees. Let's see what it is now ... whoa, looks like Houston increased its lead to 3-0. Still, that could disappear in a hurry. Gotta get back to watching it live. I've got picture from ESPN and audio from Astros radio. Best of both worlds (if I mute the commercials). Later...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


World on Time courier / TUE 10-6-15 / Mexican once ranked as world's richest man / Soccer superstar Messi / Old West transport / Ooky family cousin

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium+ (normal Tuesday "plus" I just woke up)

THEME: SINKING FEELING (6D: With 44-Down, an "uh-oh" sensation ... or an apt title for this puzzle) — "feelings" are hidden (in circles) inside long theme answers that run Down, and are thus, visually, "sinking":

Theme answers:
  • FRENCH OPEN (3D: Tennis tournament played on red clay)
  • TENDER AGE (34D: What 15, say, would be for leaving home)
  • DROOL OVER (9D: Find incredibly desirable)
  • CARLO SSLIM (30D: Mexican once ranked as the world's richest man)
Word of the Day: CARLOS SLIM
Carlos Slim Helú [...] (born January 28, 1940) is a Mexican business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. From 2010 to 2013, Slim was ranked as the richest person in the world. Known as the "Warren Buffett of Mexico"
Slim oversees a vast business empire that is influential in every sector of the Mexican economy and accounts for 40% of the listings on the Mexican Stock Exchange. He derived his fortune from his extensive holdings in a considerable number of Mexican companies through his conglomerate, Grupo Carso. The conglomerate comprises a diverse portfolio of businesses from a wide array of industries that include telecommunications, education, health care, industrial manufacturing, food and beverages, real estate, airlines, media, mining, oil, hospitality, entertainment, technology, retail, sports and financial services. Currently, Slim is the chairman and chief executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil. América Móvil, which was Latin America's largest mobile-phone carrier in 2010, accounted for around $49 billion of Slim's wealth by the end of that year. As of August 2015 he is #4 on Forbes list of billionaires, and his net worth is estimated at $65.6 billion. His net worth is nearly equivalent to about 6 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product. (wikiepdia)
• • •

I have come to realize that if I solve first thing in the morning, I have to adjust my difficulty rating considerably, as it takes me half as long again to solve crosswords as it does if I solve at night. I had almost no difficulty with this one, and yet I was a good 30 seconds north of my normal Tuesday time (a significant amount of time when it take you only four minutes to solve a puzzle). Anyway, I liked this one, mostly. I certainly liked it more than I like most Tuesdays. It follows the Patrick Berry Rule (PBR) for "hidden" words, in that the "hidden" word involves / touches all of the words in the answer. No strays. And the theme answers are solid and/or vivid, and the revealer is cool and apt. LOSS seemed like a bit of an odd man out, in that I recognize the other "Feelings" instantly as emotions, whereas LOSS feels rather non-specific / nebulous. Certainly one can have a feeling of loss, but one can have a feeling of lots of things (for instance, I currently have a feeling of hunger, and of mild leg and shoulder soreness). LOSS just seems like a slightly wobbly fourth wheel. But the grid is fresh and clean (CSIS notwithstanding). Ms. Burnikel is prolific, and her puzzles seem to be getting stronger, which is nice to see. HOPE for the future!

You know where I got "stuck," oddly? BUXOM. And with the "X" in place. That is really ... surprising to me, somehow. I mean, you land the "X" (the only letter I had at first), and you figure, "that answer is Mine." And then I got to picture Rubenesque women, which was nice, but BUXOM ... not the thing that was coming to me. Full-bodied, yes. Is that the same thing. I think of BUXOM as more ... chest-related, specifically, so that word did not arrive until late. I also foundered a bit around CSIS, which remains a truly terrible answer, and one I swear I had never seen before last month and now have seen twice. At least this time it wasn't trying to pass itself off as multiple versions of a TV series. I also forgot CARLOS SLIM. I recognize the name, in retrospect. But Mexican + CARLOS and I had "the Jackal" and "Mencia" and that was pretty much it. Santana? Fuentes? SLIM feels like a parody of a rich guy's name. Like some guy who had a lot of money and watched a lot of westerns and thought "yeah ... that's it." So I had to get the SLIM part entirely from crosses, which likely slowed me down a little. 

[I know you won't believe me, but I picked this song (which I love) for the "Feeling" part; the BUXOM connection only just dawned on me. Dolly rules! Dolly forever!]

  • 26D: Desert bloomer (AGAVE) — Had just the "A." First thought was ASTER (perhaps because they're [Autumn bloomers] and it's currently autumn, perhaps because I just do a lot of crosswords). Anyway, always weird when you want an answer, it's the wrong answer, and then bam, there it is, in a different part of the grid (31D: Traditional flower for a 20th wedding anniversary).
  • 19A: Comedian with the double-platinum album "Retaliation" (DANE COOK) — very popular (at one time). Also very divisive. The episode of "Louie" that featured Cook was fantastic:
  • 14D: Number of times the Twins have won the World Series, appropriately (TWO) — little shout-out to Ms. Burnikel's home town here. Nothing wrong with that. The Twins won't be winning another World Series this year. But then, neither will my Tigers, who swept the Twins to open the season ... and then finished with the second-worst record in the AL. Sigh. I will enjoy the postseason, though. My friend Rob Ford is the radio play-by-play guy for the Houston Astros, so I'm psyched for tonight's one-game Wild Card playoff at Yankee Stadium. In the Wild Card games, I'm rooting for the Astros and (in the NL) the Cubs, so, if history is any indication, put all your money on the other guys.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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