Literally foundation / SAT 6-23-18 / Depart unceremoniously in slang / 1991 self-titled debut album / Song that debuted on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880 / Naira spender

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Medium (9:09) (felt easy, but clock says otherwise)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Lake EYRE (10D: Lake ___, Australia's lowest point) —
Lake Eyre (/ɛər/ AIR), officially known as Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, contains the lowest natural point in Australia, at approximately 15 m (49 ft) below sea level (AHD), and, on the rare occasions that it fills, is the largest lake in Australia covering 9,500 km2 (3,668 sq mi). The shallow endorheic lake is the depocentre of the vast Lake Eyre basin and is found in Northern South Australia, some 700 km (435 mi) north of Adelaide.
When the lake is full, it has the same salinity level as the sea, but as the lake dries up and the water evaporates, salinity increases.
The lake was named in honour of Edward John Eyre, who was the first European to see it, in 1840. The lake's official name was changed in December 2012 to combine the name "Lake Eyre" with the indigenous name, Kati Thanda. The native title over the lake and surrounding region is held by the Arabana people. (wikipedia)
• • •

I feel like we get a Byron puzzle about once every season, and it is reliably good-to-great. His is a name that puts me at ease, not because I know the puzzle will be easy (the opposite!) but because I know the puzzle will be ambitious *and* carefully constructed. Very underrated constructor. Look at all that white space, and yet hardly any weak fill. It's Berry-esque, but actually somewhat more contemporary and playful than most Patrick Berry puzzles. I really enjoyed this, despite starting out really annoyed—not at the puzzle, but at myself for forgetting to stay off Twitter until I've finished solving. Jackasses who apparently have zero crossword-solving friends will occasionally just post the grid in various states of completion because they want to talk about it so bad, and so I know better than to look at my "crossword" feed ... until tonight, when I needed to DM someone real quick about a logistical thingie and bam, I saw a partially filled grid that someone had posted. I was like "what's this?!" and then instantly was like "Ahhhh, my eyes! No!!!!!" Luckily, the only thing that stuck with me was RADICAL FEMINIST, which, honestly, I probably would've picked up pretty quickly anyway (51A: Fierce opponent of patriarchy). My solving time suggests that I hardly got any advantage. Most of what was in the grid just didn't register. But it sucked to have that answer spoiled for me, because it's a great answer, and clue, and I would've loved to have come across it naturally and had the "whoa, cool" experience that I deserved.

I was really impressed by the cluing in this one. I mean, I was impressed by an ELOPE clue (19A: Depart unceremoniously?), and that ... is a rarity. Everyone eventually tries to get cute with their ELOPE clues. It's probably the most "?"'-clued of all answers of all time. And often the clues make me groan, but this one was low-key clever and subtle and nice. I also really liked that the clue then got doubled up and reused, w/o the question mark, at 21A: Depart unceremoniously, in slang (BAIL).  Another great question mark clue today was 16D: Childlike personality? (CELEBRITY CHEF). I had CELEBRITY and then no idea what could follow. Only when I was done did I realize, "Oh, *Julia* Child! Clever." I've seen STREEP clued as [Child actress] before, which is nice. Julia Child just has a great name for crossword misdirection. In non-question mark clues, I think I actually laughed, or at least internally chuckled, when I finally got AFFAIRS at 32D: Business, either personal or otherwise. It seemed like such a dull clue at first, but then AFFAIRS gave "Business" a sexual implication that I was not expecting. At least that's how I read the "personal" part of the clue.

Hardest part of the puzzle for me was ANA (45A: Japanese carrier) and FAQS (42A: They're answered once and for all) crossing AL QAEDA (34D: Literally, "the foundation"). I actually "knew* ANA from crosswords of old, but then I second-guessed it because I couldn't get the whole area to work. Real problem was the "Q". I was looking at AL--EDA at the only thing I could imagine was ALAMEDA. Which is a city in California, near Oakland. Seemed awfully obscure. Because it was wrong. That "Q"! Clue on FAQS is perfect, but also super hard. Once I let ANA be ANA, I saw AL QAEDA, and moved on to the SE, where I finished up. Did not remember BEEBE at all, but the crosses were all fair (47A: "A Room With a View" clergyman). My one mistake down south came at 40D: Nurse (SUCKLE), where I had SUC- and wrote in SUCCOR. All in all, a lovely, vibrant puzzle.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. I don't think I'd put AL QAEDA in a grid, myself. Likely to bum a lot of people out. See also NAZI.

    P.P.S. if you ever see the clue [Literally, "mall"], *then* the answer is ALAMEDA

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Pioneering photojournalist Jacob / FRI 6-22-18 / Polish-language film that won 2014 Oscar / Big espresso purveyor since 2001

    Friday, June 22, 2018

    Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

    Relative difficulty: Medium (5:53) (I'm tired and I've had a bit to drink, so it might be slightly easier)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: Jacob RIIS (8D: Pioneering photojournalist Jacob) —
    Jacob August Riis (/rs/; May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformerGeorgist, "muckrakingjournalist and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of "model tenements" in New York with the help of humanitarianLawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.
    While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    in a purple state
    Did an infuriating crossword just before this one, so wasn't in the best frame of mind. Also feel very, very tired—late dinner, late drinking. So I just pushed through this one; didn't enjoy or disenjoy it. I think the thing I like most is the grid shape. The arrangement of longer answers is interesting. Leaves the center all isolated and full of short fill (not great), but also gives us not just the (pretty standard) long answers in the four quadrants, but also these long Downs (four of 'em) that shoot through the puzzle (TELEPROMPTER, POSTRACIAL, DRAFT KINGS, PURPLE STATES). We poor for it in short fill, of which there is a Lot, but I think the trade-off might be worth it. None of the longer answers are that noteworthy. I just saw HOMOEROTIC in a New Yorker crossword last week, so that one didn't have the novelty impact that it was probably designed to have. Interesting to have that answer appear hot on the heels of yesterday's Pride-themed puzzle. But then, not that interesting. Gayness exists, homoerotic content exist, and the puzzle should and does regularly note this; it's no longer shocking or even surprising to see LGBTQ stuff in puzzles, and this is a good thing. A welcome turn of events. I mean, it's not like we've cured bigotry here, but the more ordinary, visible, and everyday queerness becomes, the better off we all are.

    LAPEL LIZARDS sounds like a band. A band that might open for SAPIENT FUTON. I had a bunch of trouble witih short answers during he first half of the solve, and then virtually no trouble with the second half. Just couldn't get RODE or SOAR, even after a couple of crosses, so the NW took longer to fill in than it should've. Wrote in MPAA for RIAA (15D: Pirate-fighting org.). RIAA remains an initialism that I routinely forget. Biggest hang-up of the day by far was, weirdly, ATE IT (10D: Wiped out). Had that final "T" and wanted only SPENT (perhaps because that was how I was feeling and continue to feel, man I can't wait to be asleep...). And the "E" from SPENT worked for EDIE, which I *knew* was right (18A: Actress Sedgwick of Warhol films). Wanted SAPIENT (a word you learn in high school and promptly never use again), but couldn't figure out how a word could end -EIT. Much later, I found out it was not a word. It was two words. After that, not a hitch, except for UZIS (57A: Action film weapons). I got it easily enough, I just hate it. Ironically, I also hate UNARM. But I hate the latter as a word (the word is "disarm"), whereas I hate UZIS because guns suck. Good night.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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