Opposite of colorblindness? / SUN 6-24-18 / "Coo-oo-ool!" / Aromatic yellow citrus / Dr Sattler Jurassic Park paleobotanist / Friendly cartoon character / Expenditures counterpart / Fairy tale lump / Modern subject of FAA regulation

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy, except for the top middle section (15:29)

THEME: "Creature Feature" — A "Jaws"-themed puzzle featuring sharkish references as well as five rebus FINS that can be connected by a line to depict, um, a fin.

Theme answers:
  • DORSAL FIN (24A: Worrisome sight for a swimmer)
  • FINNS (32A: Some northern Europeans)
  • FINISHERS (43A: Ones eligible for marathon prizes)
  • HUFFINESS (59A: Peevish quality)
  • REFINANCE (61A: Get a new mortgage)
  • SEA MONSTER (68A: Scylla or Charybdis)
  • DEEP THREAT (74A: Speedy wide receiver, perhaps)
  • GREAT WHITE (86A/87A: What might cost you an arm and a leg?)
  • SHARK (99A: Menace in 106-Down)
  • JAWS (106D: 1975 summer blockbuster)
  • SPIELBERG (3D: 106-Down director)
  • AMITY ISLAND (112A: Fictional setting for 106-Down)

Word of the Day: YUZU (90D: Aromatic yellow citrus) —
Citrus junos or yuzu is a citrus fruit and plant in the family RutaceaeThe yuzu's flavour is tart, closely resembling that of the grapefruit, with overtones of mandarin orange. It is rarely eaten as a fruit, though in the Japanese cuisine its aromatic zest (outer rind) is used to garnish some dishes, and its juice is commonly used as a seasoning, somewhat as lemon is used in other cuisines.
It is an integral ingredient (along with sudachidaidai, and other similar fruits) in the citrus-based sauce ponzu, and yuzu vinegar is also produced. (wikipedia)
• • •
Craig Mazin here, guesting for Rex. I was honestly hoping for a puzzle I could feel passionate about one way or another, and in a nice bit of serendipity, I'm a screenwriter who happened to get a movie-themed Sunday to review.

Then the anti-serendipity kicked in, and I ended up with sort of a middling puzzle. It's doing a lot... there are loads of themers in the grid, plus a rebus, PLUS a connect-the-dots game at the end... and maybe that's the problem. There wasn't much stylistic cohesion to the gimmicks, and given that "Jaws" isn't exactly an underexamined cultural phenomenon, this one kinda just bobbed in the SALT BATH for me.

Let's start with the good: the grid is very light on junky fill, with only ARR, HES, HGTS, STDS, NTH and ANA making me say UHOH (don't you dare suggest ESAI is bad fill, as he has become a lovely comfort to an OLD HAND like me). Along the way, I nodded at BOBA TEA (my daughter is obsessed with that boba stuff, which I find way too SLIMY) and the almost-a-themer REEL BIG FISH (66D: Ska-punk band with the 1997 song "Sell Out").

But the grid design! What's happening here? There's no rotational symmetry, so I'm guessing the placement of the black squares indicates... is it the shark's wide open mouth coming to eat me?

No, that cross in the middle is a mast! Hmmm, maybe it's the boat (which was named "Orca," and honestly, how can you not include ORCA in a grid about Jaws when ORCA shows up in 94% of all crosswords in general?).

The truth is, I'm not sure what I'm looking at, and so I'm a little irked by the tricky design. It failed to make me smile, but it definitely got me grouchy at the very top middle, where OLDHAND, REVENUE and DORSALFIN were really pinched off, and the downs didn't make solving that walled-off section much easier-- DVR as a verb, HES, LEOS (it's fine to expect us to know the names and symbols of astrological signs, but please don't ask me to learn what nonsense personality qualities they're supposed to indicate), and our first FIN rebus in DEFINES.

Once that initial FIN fell, I presumed I'd be finding bits of SHARK all around... maybe a TOOTH, a GILL, or even a DOLLSEYE...

...but nope. Just more FINS. Fins that I was told to connect together to create a picture of .... OOH, WHAT WILL IT BE? WILL IT BE A-- oh... it's another fin.

Which immediately made me think:

The FIN FINALE occurred before reaching the midline of the grid, at which point the puzzle sort of turned into a "look at all the shark and movie words" game, which....

...is not a great game.

As I reached the southwest corner, I became concerned that there was yet another theme fragment emerging, as a bunch of Z's started cropping up... but that was a red herring, and this is a white shark puzzle. I did enjoy the way WARE squeezed in between ANAL and STDS... wow, we almost had an ANAL/WART/STDS stack in the New York Times, folks.

And then there's everyone's favorite SEA MONSTER duo, Scylla and Charybdis. No doubt most of you know them as the two monsters featured in The Odyssey (well, sort of monsters, inasmuch as they took the form of a sea cliff and a whirlpool), but I first learned about them from Professor Gordon Sumner, aka Sting. Scylla and Charybdis make a lyrically ambitious cameo early on in "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police.

Finally, while everyone knows SPIELBERG directed JAWS, there wouldn't have been anything to direct had there been no screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and Peter Benchley.

Carl Gottlieb, by the way, managed to write Jaws and The Jerk... two of the best J movies ever made, and two wildly different films. Carl is definitely an ALLTIMER.

Signed, Craig Mazin, Resident of CrossWorld


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]


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