BlackBerry routers / FRI 4-25-14 / Hypothetical particle in cold dark matter / Colorful party intoxicant / FIve-time US presidential candidate in early 1900s / Elvis hit with spelled out title

Friday, April 25, 2014

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ADRIANA Lima (16A: Supermodel Lima) —
Adriana Francesca Lima (Brazilian Portuguese: [ɐ̃dɾiˈɐnɐ frɐ̃ˈsɛskɐ ˈlimɐ]; born June 12, 1981) is a Brazilian model and actress who is best known as a Victoria's Secret Angel since 2000, and as a spokesmodel for Maybelline cosmetics from 2003 to 2009. At the age of 15, Lima finished first in Ford's "Supermodel of Brazil" competition, and took second place the following year in the Ford "Supermodel of the World" competition before signing with Elite Model Management inNew York City. In 2012, she came in 4th on the Forbes top-earning models list, estimated to have earned $7.3 million in one year. (wikipedia)
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Last I heard, Joel Fagliano was going to be working for W. Shortz full time starting in the near future (following Joel's impending graduation from a pretty decent little southern California college). If this is still true, this is a very good thing, assuming his intelligence, youth, sense of humor, and fairly exacting standards have at least some influence on the whole puzzle-publishing alchemy at the NYT. I liked this puzzle a lot. Any weak spots are pretty small and forgettable next to the longer, better stuff they're helping to hold in place. Clues were pretty tough/clever over all, but with enough gimmes to allow for footholds in many places, making this a thorny but (difficulty-wise) pretty normal Friday puzzle. My only real criticisms are more matters of personal taste than of puzzle fundamentals. I weirdly resent having to know the names of so-called supermodels. I will (probably) forget ADRIANA Lima's name as soon as I turn off my computer. Nothing against her personally. She's probably very nice. I just … feel like the age of the "supermodel" is over, or should be. I pretend that it is, anyway. Also, I will never accept "A New Hope" as the title of anything (27A: Princess Leia was one of "A New Hope" = HOLOGRAM). Honestly, I saw that clue and thought "Wait, which one is that? … Oh, they mean 'Star Wars'." It's "Star Wars." I know. I saw it seven times in the theater. The poster hangs in my living room. I think I'd remember its name.

XOXOXO is somehow simultaneously lovely/sweet and mildly irksome (7D: Love letters). Feels arbitrary. You could do XOXO (I've seen that). Now XOXOXO. Probably XOXOXOXO (because why not?). And yet it's a hell of a lot better than [Tic tac toe loser] answers like OOX or XOO. And you *do* get Xs out of it, and Xs are rarely bad (unless they're involved in Scrabble-f*cking, i.e. the gratuitous squeezing of high-value Scrabble-tile letters into the grid at the expense of overall fill quality … but you knew that). IDEM is never pretty, IMHO. But there's really little else to complain about. CATERWAUL, RAISE HELL, SEX SCENE and JELLO SHOT all give this puzzle the feel of a party that's gotten a little bit out of control. Just a little. In a good way.

I started badly, with PATSY / STUD (!?) instead of CHUMP / "MR. ED" (1D: Sucker / 19A: Show horse). But at least I had the good sense to yank it pretty quickly. SOPHS to PKGS to XKE to XOXOXO got me started, and while there were hold-ups here and there, I moved through the grid pretty steadily and easily. I dispute [It's nothing new] as a clue for DEJA VU. Seems inaccurate. It probably is Something New—you just have an eerie *sense* that you've seen it before. Plus, it's probably not identical In Every Respect to whatever you thought had happened before, so "nothing" seems wrong. Off. Also, the clue on HAVRE? Is that the only places French ships are allowed to dock? Presumably other ships dock there too? The clue is hardly distinctive enough for that answer. But [Unlocked area?] for BALD SPOT and [Blackberry routers] for iPHONES? Loved those.

Mistakes (besides the initial one) include FRENEMY for EX-ENEMY (37A: Germany, to Britain) (I like mine) and … I think that's it, actually.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Public-road race / THU 4-24-14 / Wassailer's tune / Scratch-card layer / Finnair rival / Spillsaver brand / Conan nickname

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Constructor: Stanley Newman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: four-syllable clues — Only theme answer = 20A: The theme, part 1 (EVERY ONE OF THE / CLUES HAS EXACTLY / FOUR SYLLABLES)

Word of the Day: RALLYE (48D: Public-road race) —
Rallying, also known as rally racing, is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. This motorsport is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages. [I have no idea why the French spelling, with the terminal "e," is (sometimes) retained …] (wikipedia)
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Stan is a fine editor (Newsday) and a veteran constructor, but I don't understand this. Who cares if a clue has two or three or seven syllables? How hard is it to write four-syllable clues? I mean, people do entire puzzles where the first letters of clues are just one letter, or where the first letters of clues, in order, spell out elaborate crap. Four syllables? I would think any good constructor could do that for most any grid. Also, this grid is not demanding, and the fill is just OK. Nothing exciting or special. And given that the backbone of the whole puzzle is just … instructions, I fail to see where the interest lies. Why is this interesting? Is this fun? I certainly don't find it bad or offensive, but its reason for existing—why anyone might think this an entertaining idea—is totally beyond me.

This one played pretty easily for me, but then again I had just finished a much more intricate, much harder puzzle (this week's Fireball—a barnburner), so piecing this together felt like child's play. There were a few hang-ups. Wanted LIFE VESTS then LIFE BOATS for LIFE BELTS (which … I don't really know what those are, but I can imagine). NORA (47A: Mrs. James Joyce) and RALLYE (48D: Public-road race) and AMANA (41D: "Spillsaver" brand) were not easy for me to pick up, so coming down out of the middle into the SE was tough. Also, I had TEN- at 37D: Break time, perhaps, but couldn't conceive of writing out O'CLOCK, so remained baffled for a bit. Had ROUE for RAKE (68A: No gentleman). Would never have thought of a scratch-off layer as made of LATEX (though I'm not doubting the science) (3D: Scratch-card layer). Thought 32A: French department was going to be a generic word for the category rather than a *specific* department. Considered RYDER for FEDEX (22D: Golf cup sponsor). None of this is that remarkable or interesting. Just your ordinary snags. Really wish there were something juicy to talk about here, but I don't see it.

The NYT feels like it's in a pretty bad rut at the moment. Monday's puzzle aside, it seems like all the really good work is coming out elsewhere. Hope that turns around soon.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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