Derby car material / FRI 2-22-19 / Gimmers are young ones / Hawaii landmark featuring four seven-ton clocks / 1981 novel that introduced character Hannibal Lecter / Grand or demi ballet move / Bessemer process output / Ophidian menaces / Biblical cubit was based on its length

Friday, February 22, 2019

Constructor: Daniel Nierenberg

Relative difficulty: Medium (?) (easy for me until I hit the NE, and then I just stared at blank for something well over a minute) (6:20)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Shirley Temple (11D: Temple, for one => CHILD STAR) —
Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 – February 10, 2014) was an American actress, singer, dancer, businesswoman, and diplomat who was Hollywood's number one box-office draw as a child actress from 1935 to 1938. As an adult, she was named United States ambassador to Ghana and to Czechoslovakia, and also served as Chief of Protocol of the United States. (wikipedia)
• • •

Pretty tepid stuff for a Friday. Feels like someone's idea of a snazzy puzzle twenty years ago. The things that (I think) are supposed to feel hip and current feel slightly stale (BAHAMA MAMA and BEER PONG, for instance), and the overall grid is pretty bland, with some clunkers here and there (DEFLEA! DEFLEA! he said, pointing at de flea). My colossal solving failure in the NE didn't exactly help improve my feelings about this puzzle. With the exception of the PLIÉ section, where none of the crosses were any help, I thought the puzzle was actually pretty easy. Everything on the west side and the fat middle of the grid went in without much problem. BAIT (1D: Chum, e.g.) and ALDA (2D: "Manhattan Murder Mystery" actor, 1993) were the first answers I wanted, and BAHAMA MAMA went in shortly thereafter. I even someone got the execrable EOSIN in the SW without too much trouble (thank you, crosses!) (46D: Dye used in some ballpoint ink). Sidenote: EOSIN is crosswordese and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. How do I know the title "RED DRAGON"? Dunno, just do. So I was in good shape.

Then came the PLIÉ disaster (see first three bullets in "Five Things," below). Then came the NE, where a 4x5 section of the grid just sat empty for what felt like ever. Everything north of STAR and SUGAR. Everything east of BEER PONG. The fact that the long Downs both broke at the same place, right between words in a two-word phrase, giving me no ability to infer my way up the grid, ugh that was annoying. But I'm more annoyed at myself. Even though I'm not a million years old, I should've seen right through that Temple clue. But first I thought Temple University, then ... nothing. Temple Grandin and Temple Bledsoe (whose actual name is Tempest, ugh), were the only Temples I could think of. And I should've gotten PEDDLE from the PE- (24A: Hawk) (I wanted a verb meaning "sell," to, I just ... couldn't get past "sell") and I should've gotten BLEED from the "B" (21A: Run). I finally *did* get STEEL from (finally!) remembering what "Bessemer" was related to (13D: Bessemer process output). I had SMELT in there at one point, so ... ballpark? Ugh. Anyway, overall, very lukewarm grid, very amateurish (on my part) solve. Puzzle disappointing, Rex disappointing.

Five things:
  • 50D: Derby car material (PINE) — I honestly don't know what any of this means. Is this a "soap box derby"???? What year is it?! Is there a Shirley Temple movie playing?
  • 51D: River to the Arctic Ocean (LENA) — I should've just ignored the clue and gone quickly through my 4-letter river Rolodex. LENA is common enough. But I was somehow imagining the Arctic Ocean on the other side of the globe (Antarctic) and thought the river would be some obscure nonsense I'd barely heard of. Early-morning solves can be pretty hit-or-miss, man.
  • 43D: Boot covering (GAITER) — answer one: GALOSH (OH YES, GALOSH); answer two: GARTER. Sigh.
  • 60A: Goal of meditation (INNER PEACE) — As someone who meditates regularly, allow me to say, no. I acknowledge that this is how it is sold, but ... the very word "goal" ruins everything, and there's no such thing as INNER PEACE. This clue is some gift-shop / techbro version of meditation, and you can have it back.
  • 41A: In spite of (FOR ALL) — feels both off and mildly archaic. I keep trying to substitute "in spite of" for FOR ALL in common phrases, and it keeps coming out sounding wrong or meaning something different. Anyway, it's just not good fill. I prefer FOREARM. "One FOREARM and arm FOR ALL!"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Ph-neutral vitamin brand / THU 2-21-19 / Magical basic used to view one's memories in Harry Potter books / Chicago landmark named for its resemblance to legume / Player of V in V for Vendetta / Classic Camaro informally / Online handle for Xbox player

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (with probably wide variation based on your knowledge of movie trivia) (5:09)

THEME: CHARACTER ACTOR (54A: 15-, 26-, 33- or 39-Across, punnily?) — themers are actors who played characters that were literally "characters" (i.e. letters of the alphabet):

Theme answers:
  • PATRICK STEWART (15A: Player of X in "X-Men")
  • JUDI DENCH (26A: Player of M in "GoldenEye")
  • HUGO WEAVING (33A: Player of V in "V for Vendetta")
  • WILL SMITH (39A: Player of J in "Men in Black")
Word of the Day: THE BEAN (37A: Chicago landmark nicknamed for its resemblance to a legume) —
Cloud Gate is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, that is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop community area of ChicagoIllinois. The sculpture and AT&T Plaza are located on top of Park Grill, between the Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. Constructed between 2004 and 2006, the sculpture is nicknamed The Bean because of its shape. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams. It measures 33 by 66 by 42 feet (10 by 20 by 13 m), and weighs 110 short tons (100 t; 98 long tons). (wikipedia) 

• • •

I think the theme idea is pretty good. There's one major problem, though, and that's the clue for PATRICK STEWART (15A: Player of X in "X-Men"). He's "Professor X." He is never not "Professor X." Malcolm X is more "X" than Professor X is "X."

And speaking of ANAL ... why? Why!? It's totally unnecessary. Easily replaceable with totally acceptable fill. Tiny alterations to fill down there would totally obviate the need for ANAL, which is a word you should use only when you have to (I used it once, and still regret it). I'm gonna say that ANAL is the result of Scrabble-f***ing (i.e. he wanted the "J" for some reason ... probably the "X" too, which adds absolutely nothing and probably helps make that whole little area much worse than it could be otherwise). But back to X: no. Your puzzle is kinda D.O.A. after that. Again, fine idea, but he's not X. Also, this is a little trivia-heavy, not just in the theme, but in the preponderance of proper nouns like HOWE, ESTER-C (!?), THE BEAN, ERNEST whoever, etc. I liked PENSIEVE because I like the HP books, but that's yet another bit of trivia. Your theme is already *entirely* trivia-based, maybe tone down that stuff in the rest of the grid. Also eliminate ODIC. And while you're at it, the odious TECHBRO and ... whatever DUDETTE is. Yuck and yuck.

Five things:
  • 5A: "A Farewell to Arms" subj. (WWI)— really, really flailed here because of the crosses. The (good) clue on WICKS was hard (5D: Ones going down in flames?) and the (less good) clue on WAKE was also hard (6D: Shake, maybe).
  • 35D: Online handle for an Xbox player (GAMERTAG) — if you say so. Gaming terminology is never gonna be my thing, just as gratuitous "Game of Thrones" clues are never (ever) gonna be my things. So many JONs in the world ... yet another reason to turn ANAL to ARAL and JON to, say, FOR.
  • 59A: Try to get a good look (PEER) — I had LEER
  • 57A: Answer to the old riddle ... (A TREE — honestly, the clue completely lost me at "old riddle"; I just checked out and waited for crosses to tell me what the answer was (it wasn't, uh, great)
  • 61A: A really long time (AGES) — got fooled by this one (singular clue, plural answer). Had the "A" and wrote in AEON. Sidenote: ERAS are not necessarily [Really long times]. "Really long" in relation to what? The Obama Era was eight years, right? That's not a "really long time."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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