Furniture superstore / TUES 4-24-2018 / Polish seaport / Hunky-dory / Mortise's partner

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hi, crossworders! It's Clare, and I'm back for yet another Tuesday puzzle. By the time we meet again at the end of May, I'll have graduated! Maybe I'll even have figured out where I'm going to law school by then. As it is, I've turned my thesis in and have just one week of classes left, so it's now a battle between my senioritis and me.

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Medium-Difficult for a Tuesday

THEME: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND (55A: John Donne quote disproved by 17-, 25- and 43-across?) — Parts of the names of the theme answers are also islands

Theme answers:
  • BRET EASTON ELLIS (17A: Author of "American Psycho")
  • CUBA GOODING JR (25A: "Jerry Maguire" Oscar Winner)
  • IDRIS ELBA (43A: Star of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom")

Word of the Day: GRIZABELLA (29D)
Grizabella is the "Glamour Cat" in the musical production Cats... Grizabella is, at the time of her appearance, a very old cat, withered by her age to the point that she no longer resembles the proud, carefree, flamboyant dancer of her youth... Possibly because of this, it is Grizabella whom Old Deuteronomy consigns to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. During her change, Grizabella sings the song "Memory," which has been thought of by audiences as a very emotionally touching, profound, and even mysterious composition. It has been recorded by over 150 different artists, including Barry Manilow, Michael Crawford, Barbra Streisand, and Kikki Danielsson. (Wikipedia)

• • •

I thought the theme was clever. It didn't help me solve the puzzle at all, but it was a fun "aha" moment when I looked back after I had finished. Elba has just a brief role in history, but it did provide for that nice Napoleon palindrome, "Able was I ere I saw Elba." (As an aside, IDRIS ELBA definitely has my vote to be the next James Bond).

So, there were lots and lots of names in this puzzle — SO many names. Beyond the names in the themers, there's GARR (32A), ERMA (18D), OLGA (36A), and GRIZABELLA (29D). Even JAKE (30D), although it's clued as an expression and not a person. (The term is such an old-fashioned way to describe hunky-dory that, gasp, it isn't even in Urban Dictionary.) I got so caught up in the names that I convinced myself that 60A: Mortise's partner (TENON) was going to be talking about an old crime show duo or something, not a way to form a joint.

There was also a fair amount of obscurity (by Tuesday standards). The cluing for SERTA (33A) felt pretty strange — I had no idea they were known for numbered sheep plush toys. HD TV SETS (24D: Modern hotel room item) are not really a modern contraption. The old way of talking about them is often "tv sets," and the new way is "HD TVs" or just "TVs," but certainly not combining the terms. CRUDITY (40D: primitiveness) seemed like it was making fun of itself — that word is a crudity. NONCE? ANON? Those are so old that they weren't a big problem; they just provided a musty air for the puzzle.

I had trouble in the SW corner. It seems odd to describe Mao and Xi as ICONS (47D) in China. Leaders, sure, but icons? DR MOM (48D: She might check for a fever with her hand) is a weird way to talk about something every Mom (and Dad) does. It also took me a little while to figure out that 46A: Approach furtively, with "to" was SIDLE UP and not "sneak up." Mix all those in with a 60-plus-year-old Patti Page song, I CRIED, and I stared at the screen for a while. (In the interest of improving this millennial's culture, I listened to I CRIED on YouTube after this puzzle, and it's a very nice jazz song!)


Bullets:
  • Why do crosswords love the color ECRU (2D) so much? I swear there are many more interesting colors than that. Maybe try chartreuse next time?
  • I'm starting to feel bad for ORCAS! They're usually described as killer whales, but this puzzles says they're 28A: Menaces of the deep, which is kind of sad. They're just trying to survive in a dark and dangerous ocean!
  • The new racing bike attachment is clipless pedals; definitely not TOE CLIPS (23D). Those went out of fashion for racers a long time ago.
  • 5D is clever (They're likely to get into hot water: TEABAGS) but felt like it should have a question mark at the end of the clue because it seemed pretty punny.
  • A 13th anniversary gift is LACE (61A)? Who came up with these lists anyway? When I get married, I'm certainly not going to be getting my husband lead for our 7th anniversary... (And just imagine if he tries to give me some)
  • My thesis is on the Confederados, the thousands of Southerners who fled after the Civil War and settled in Brazil, so I was glad to see I'm not the only one with BRAZILIANS  (27D) on my mind.
Hope you all have a great week!

Signed, Clare Carroll, an almost-done-with-college Eli.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Suffragist Carrie Chapman / MON 4-23-18 / sea snail with mother of pearl shell / Irene of old Hollywood / Semiconductor device with two terminals

Monday, April 23, 2018

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (the "Medium" is almost solely for a themer I've never heard of) (2:53)


THEME: GO FIRST (38A: Lead off ... or a hint to the circled letters) — words meaning "Go!" are contained in the circled letters, which are the first letters in the themers:

Theme answers:
  • SCATTER RUG (17A: Small floor covering)
  • SCRAMBLED EGGS (23A: Standard breakfast order)
  • LEAVENED BREAD (50A: Passover no-no)
  • SHOOT HOOPS (61A: Play H-O-R-S-E)
Word of the Day: SCATTER RUG (17A) —
noun
  1. another term for throw rug. (google)
• • •

This is pretty classic fare from Lynn Lempel: simple theme, lively answers, clean fill. The revealer is spot-on. My only beef, which is not one, is that SCATTER RUG meant zilch to me. Zero, nada. I guessed the RUG part because, well, there were three letters left and the clue had "floor covering" in it, but that term means nothing to me. Is it a regionalism? An older ... ism? "Throw rug," I've heard of. And it's the same thing, so ... shrug, no idea. I also stumbled out of the gate by thinking 1A: Engaged in country-to-country combat (AT WAR) wanted a perfect-tense verb, and then by thinking that 1D: Likewise (ALSO) was SAME! Non-auspicious beginning, and yet I finished under 3, which tells me the puzzle was, in the main, quite easy. Monday easy, maybe even easier than usual. Once I got out of the NW, I paused only a handful of times while writing in answers, and lost time only because I remain the world's worst, most fat-fingered and clumsy keyboard navigator. I'm all typos and misplaced cursors and other nonsense, especially at high speeds.

[LIE TO]

My favorite corner was the NE, both because it's got the star of "Bullitt," which is one of the greatest movies of all time (I know it's not *that* Steve MCQUEEN, but try telling my "Bullitt"-loving brain that); it's also got Irene DUNNE, whom I adore, especially opposite Cary Grant (see "The Awful Truth," "My Favorite Wife," "Penny Serenade"). And finally, the corner has its own fabulous soundtrack: Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T."! Pretty YOUNG THING! He tells you what the letters mean in the song. He also tells you that TLC means Tender Lovin' Care, so it's a song both danceable and informative.


I am hopelessly DEVOTED to LAURA Linney forever and ever no matter what amen, so it was NICE to see her name here today. Ooh, and Johnny MATHIS. I finally finished cataloguing my LP collection, and there were two or three of his in there, including this ultra-cool one where he's smoking on the cover. I know smoking's bad blah blah blah but it's dumb to pretend some people don't make it look cool.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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