Financial services corp with orange lion logo / MON 10-21-19 / Major athletic event along Thames / Positions one's toes off the surfboard

Monday, October 21, 2019

Constructor: Joe Deeney

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:12)



THEME: THREE ON (36A: Bases loaded ... or a hint to the contents of 17-, 26-, 44- and 56-Across) — "ON" appears three times in each themer:

Theme answers:
  • KNOWS ONE'S ONIONS (17A: Is highly versed about something)
  • LONDON MARATHON (26A: Major athletic event along the Thames)
  • "BLONDE ON BLONDE" (44A: Bob Dylan album that he called "the closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind")
  • SECOND HONEYMOON (56A: Romantic getaway for a married couple)
Word of the Day: KNOW ONE'S ONIONS (17A) —

know (one's) onions

To be very knowledgeable or skilled in some area. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

I just don't understand why this cuts the mustard (sorry, needed an idiom to go with my *$&%^ing onions). There are so many levels on which this is ill-conceived and mal-executed. First, the basic expression at the heart of the puzzle, the revealer: THREE ON. It's just ... not. Not a thing anyone says with any regularity. The clue phrase, "Bases loaded," *that* is the snappiest, most in-the-baseball-lingo expression for when three men are on base. "Three *men* on" is actually somehow better than THREE ON. Not saying THREE ON is never said, or is unintelligible. It's just ... limp. Sad to have limp baseball revealer just before the World Series gets underway. So the revealer is disappointing on its face. Then there is the concept. Just ... three ONs. OK, I mean, maybe you can do something with that. Or, maybe you can't, as KNOWS ONE'S ONIONS is grotesque. It's chiefly the ONE'S that makes it truly rank. ONE'S is the paradigmatic garbage possessive in a 15-letter answer. See, classically, A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE (15). You would normally say YOUR if you were actually using it, but since you're just staring at the phrase out of context, your possessive is ONE'S and nobody's happy, and the unhappiness is compounded by the fact that ONE'S was used to pick up one of the three "ON"s. Cheap. Not as cheap as just repeating an "ON"-containing word and also just putting the word "ON" in your themer, but cheap nonetheless—seriously, what is going on with "BLONDE ON BLONDE"? You hide all your other "ON"s but just give up here!? What's most puzzling to me is how a constructor doesn't *agONize* over this type of crap. It should keep you up nights, honestly. Hide all your "ON"s! Jeez. How is that not obvious?

["... two men out and THREE men ON ..."]

The fill in here is stale and bland. Even potentially cool stuff like HANGS TEN is made kinda off by the verb tense, i.e. HANG TEN! = great, HANGS TEN = ... yeah, OK (9D: Positions one's toes off the surfboard) (LOL one's toes). The whole thing feels off-brand, like an ersatz crossword puzzle. Let's see what else. Well, once again, a NO CARB diet is absolutely positively not a thing (22D: Like a diet that prohibits bread and pasta). Carbohydrates are necessary for life and are everywhere, so shut the hell up, please. LOW CARB, sure, NO CARB, bullshirt. I don't really want to go on. Everything else I have to say about this puzzle is either boring or redundantly negative, so I'm gonna sign off. Peace.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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One-named electronic musician D.J. with multiple Grammys / SUN 10-20-19 / Author Pierce of fantasy series song of lioness / Classic Harlem ballroom / Plant as idea modern style / Element used in old television tubes / Russian ruler known as Moneybag / Fruit in often-parodied William Carlos Williams poem / Villainous brother of Prospero in Tempest

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Constructor: Natan Last

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:07)


THEME: OPERATION (112A: Classic kids' game involving removal of body parts ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme) — circled squares are body parts which you have to remove from theme answers in order to get the correct answers for the clues to those answers; apparently there is a red dot in the grid (mimicking the nose that would light up and buzz in the original board game if you didn't have a "a very steady hand" and you touched the edges of the board with your ... like ... medical tong thingies ... ANYhoo:

Theme answers:
  • ALARMIST (1D: Top celebs)
  • REAR-ENDER (26A: Melt down, as fat)
  • SHANDONG (10D: Karaoke selection)
  • PLUNGING (31D: Contact electronically)
  • CLIP ART (54A: Golfer's vehicle)
  • MORIBUND (33D: Middle of a diamond)
  • DELIVERED (80A: Homeowner's need)
  • PRIVILEGES (68D: Outhouses)
  • SPIT-SHINED (72D: Treated meanly)
Word of the Day: SHANDONG (10D) —
Shandong (山东alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province of the People's Republic of China, and is part of the East China region.
Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history since the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River. It has served as a pivotal cultural and religious center for Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism. Shandong's Mount Tai is the most revered mountain of Taoism and one of the world's sites with the longest history of continuous religious worship. The Buddhist temples in the mountains to the south of the provincial capital of Jinan were once among the foremost Buddhist sites in China. The city of Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius, and was later established as the center of Confucianism.
Shandong's location at the intersection of ancient as well as modern north–south and east–west trading routes have helped to establish it as an economic center. After a period of political instability and economic hardship that began in the late 19th century, Shandong has emerged as one of the most populous (99,470,000 inhabitants at the 2016 Census) and affluent provinces in the People's Republic of China, with a GDP of CNY¥7.65 trillion in 2018, or USD$1.156 trillion, making it China's third wealthiest province. (wikipedia)
• • •

So looks like the app (and maybe the actual paper?) has a big red dot in it where the "patient"'s nose is supposed to be—the nose that lights up when you screw up the Operation with your dumb wobbly non-doctor's hands. Is this all the art there is? It's a cute little touch, but it doesn't really make the grid feel much more overall like the game board. The body parts are already off-book, i.e. not the stuff that's available for removal in the actual game. Also, why is your LIP next to your LUNG? Whatever, I actually don't care that much about body part placement—it's the concept that drives this thing, and the concept is solid: remove body part to get right answer (yeah, removal gets you *wrong* answers in the crosses, but you can't have everything in this life, and what you get here is fine). My one and only serious problem today was SHANDONG, which, I have to confess, I've never heard of (or, I have, and I forgot it). When I got that answer all filled in, I kept checking and rechecking to see what I had wrong, because I figured it had to be something. Lost the better part of a minute, probably, just trying to figure out where I'd screwed up. Only I hadn't. Made a mental note to myself to go back and check that area, but then when I filled in the last square at the bottom of the grid (somewhere in the SW), I got the Mr. Happy Pencil icon, so ... yeah, SHANDONG is real, everyone! 100 million people real!


Do y'all know TAMORA Pierce (53D: Author Pierce of the fantasy series "The Song of the Lioness"), 'cause I sure as heck didn't, and so that little western section was ATAD scary. For a half second I thought "Is it ... IGAR ... Sikorsky? That can't be right." And it wasn't. TAMORA Pierce is clearly a reasonably successful writer, but ... I was a teen in the '80s, why is a writer who wrote teen fantasy novels in the '80s not ringing a bell? Gah. Whatever, the "O" was the only real problem and IGOR sorted it. Despise the clue [Well, I'll be dammed] for NILE. Ugh. Like, for RIVER, maybe, but specifically NILE? Lots of rivers are dammed. That's just not NILE-specific enough. And how is TRÈS an "affected" VERY? It's a French VERY. Stop this nonsense. Some of the cluing I liked, though. 5D: Post production locales? for NEWSROOMS is very good, even though I didn't really get it at first pass (Post here refers to the Washington Post ... I mean, I assume).



INCEPT is super awful (89D: Plant, as an idea, modern-style). Who uses that as a verb? Oof, no, stop it. Is this from the movie "Inception"? It's like the worst of businessspeak meets the worst of scifi. I'm at a loss as to how / why anyone would say INCEPT. "I GIVE!" Psyched to remember PLINTH. Never psyched to see TEHEE.  Had MERLOT for MALBEC, duh (2D: Red wine from France). Thought a [Mobile home?] was a CRAB at first (don't they carry ... their "homes" ... around with them ... some of them? Sand crabs, maybe? Am I thinking of snails? Ugh. I'M HOME. I GIVE. I KNOW. I'M IN. Very first persony puzzle. I get that EBERT used a thumb-rating system, but I still don't get-get the clue (92D: He was a "thumb" critic!). Is that a pun?! If so, on what!? "Film"? "Dumb"? And why is there an exclamation point on the clue!? [UPDATE: I put an "a" in the clue, which isn't actually there. So the pun is on "some" ... "He was *some* critic!" ... ok ... somehow this is worse?] Still, despite many hiccups, the overall solve was smooth, and mildly entertaining. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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