Put the kibosh on / MON 12-17-18 / Commandeers or a friendly hello to people / Something falling down in children's song

Monday, December 17, 2018

Constructor: Brian Thomas and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:05)

THEME: HI, JACKS! (39A: Commandeers .. or a friendly hello to the people starting 18-, 24-, 51- and 62-Across) — starts of all indicated answers are words that are also the last names of famous Jacks (real and fictional):

Theme answers:
  • SPARROW HAWK (18A: Small bird of prey)
  • LONDON BRIDGE (24A: Something falling down, in a children's song)
  • RUBY SLIPPERS (51A: Dorothy's footwear in "The Wizard of Oz")
  • BLACK FRIDAY (62A: What follows Thanksgiving)
Word of the Day: SCOTCH (33A: Put the kibosh on)
  1. 1. 
    decisively put an end to.

    "a spokesman has scotched the rumors"

    synonyms:put an end to, put a stop to, nip in the bud, put the lid on 
  2. 2. 
    wedge (someone or something) somewhere.

    "he soon scotched himself against a wall"
  1. 1. 
    a wedge placed under a wheel or other rolling object to prevent its moving or slipping. (google)
• • •

This works fine, I think, though why I would want to say hi to any of these creeps, I don't know. Actually, maybe Jack Black is a nice guy, I don't know. But you can keep Jack Sparrow and Jack Ruby, and Jack London was a straight-up racist, so ... pass. The grid is a tad (or A BIT) crosswordesey, but it's mostly clean, and the re-parsing of HIJACKS is a solid enough wordplay gimmick for a Monday revealer. No real complaints here. I have more complaints about my own stupid brain, actually, as I have not been able to crack three minutes on a Monday for six weeks now. Before that, I'd never had more than two consecutive solves without dipping into the 2s, but man, I am in a rut. Four of the last six solving times are in the 3:01-3:09 range, so I'm close, I just ... keep missing. Today, I would've had it except for a spectacular face-plant right at the end. I made a very dumb mistake that I would never have made if I could just have come up with SPICE. [Pizazz] to me = ELAN or BRIO. SPICE is something I taste. Something I add to food. I'm not disputing the accuracy of the clue, just saying the association for me was weak. Had the SP- and couldn't think of a damn thing. This led directly to my epic stupid mistake, which was: having BLACK ---DAY in place and writing in BLACK SUNDAY (!?). In my defense, though admittedly it's not much of one, "BLACK SUNDAY" is definitely a thing. It's just not *this* thing. When I noticed I had only a few squares left, but SPN- at 52D: Pizazz, I knew I was screwed. Sure enough, after scrambling to clean up my mess: 3:05. Wah WAH.

Five things:
  • 44D: "I'm up for doing the job!" ("SURE CAN!") — ugh, god save me from these "quote unquote" clues. I inevitably mess them up. The English prof in me is super annoyed that a fragment is being asked to stand in for a complete sentence. Bah!
  • 36A: Actor Efron of "High School Musical" (ZAC) — middle of grid is super choppy, with lots of black squares and short answers, and we got a little Scrabble-f***ing here with the "Z" and the "J" from JUG. But it doesn't result in forced fill and let's all be grateful they didn't torture the grid in order to turn it into a pangram.
  • 58D: Czech or Croat (SLAV) — look, no matter how many times you explain the difference to me, I'm going to confuse SLAV and SERB, I just am. See also, especially, the Baltic and the Balkans. If I think about it, sure. But under pressure? Botched.
  • 33A: Put the kibosh on (SCOTCH) — this clue and answer would both like you to get off of their lawns.
  • 47D: Like thumped watermelons making a deep sound (RIPE) — the phrasing on this clue is Ugly, and ugh spare me your loooooong and vague and somewhat folkloric clues. "Deep sound"? That is pretty imprecise. Also, "thump" *is* the sound. Don't Get Cute!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Herbert of old Pink Panther movies / SUN 12-16-18 / Ancient capital of Laconia / Pope who supported house of Borgia / Notable schemer / Tennis commentator's cry / All-star Mets catcher of 1990s-2000s / Colorful treat that resembles rocket

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging (14:02)

THEME: "Top Gear" — a hat ("gear" on "top" of your head???) drops down in the middle of long Across themers; once the name of the hat ends, the answer resumes on the original line; the revealer, of course, is AT THE DROP OF A HAT (108A: Immediately ... or where this puzzzle's five circled squares appear?)

Theme answers:
  • CALLINGINTOQUESTION (27A: Casting doubt on)
  • CYBERETHICS (40A: Topic concerned with hacking and software rights)
  • WHATAMI? (65A: Riddle-ending query)
  • SNAKEPIT (83A: Dangerous environment)
  • BOOKOFEZRA (89A: It comes after II Chronicles)
Word of the Day: "Miss SLOANE" (53D: "Miss ___" (2016 political thriller)) —
Miss Sloane is a 2016 political thriller film, directed by John Madden and written by Jonathan Perera. The film stars Jessica ChastainMark StrongGugu Mbatha-RawMichael StuhlbargAlison PillJake LacyJohn Lithgow, and Sam Waterston.
The film had its world premiere on November 11, 2016, at the AFI Fest, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 25, 2016, by EuropaCorp, before expanding wide on December 9, 2016. It was released in France on March 8, 2017. It received generally positive reviews, and Chastain's performance was acclaimed by critics. [...] Miss Sloane is ranked number 75 by per-theater average on Box Office Mojo’s list of Worst Opening Weekend films released since 1982. (emph mine(wikipedia) 
• • •

TFW you know juuuuuuust enough about Willa Cather's writing to get yourself into terrible trouble.

I like the theme idea here, and the execution is OK, but ... there's just five elements, and the rest of the puzzle is mostly unremarkable, or remarkable only when the obviously beefy constructing software wordlist rears its head with junk like ICANGO INACOMA or INCAPS. Not sure why this one played hard, but it did (for me). Real trouble getting started, largely because of the Willa Cather fiasco. But I just found the fill and cluing to be forced and irksome all over. "IT'S IN!"? ... I mean, I guess. OK. Shrug. VEALER? I'm sure you're right. I'm sure it's valid. It's just ... there's just too much making me go "I guess..." and not enough making me go "ooh, cool." As for the thinness of the theme, there's not much to be done there. Not many hat types are going to work as letter strings inside of longer words or phrases. Maybe you could get TURBAN or MITRE to work out, but, like, FEDORA seems impossible (CHAFED ORANGE? FED ORANGUTANS?), as do most of the hats on the long list of hat types I just looked at. I'm just not sure there's enough action here for a Sunday. The whole thing just feels like a 15x15 idea that got inflated to 21x21, with ... mixed results. Seems kind of sad to have CAP in the grid but not let it go Down like all the other hats (84A: Easy-to-swallow pill => GELCAP)

ABAFT ATEMPO IRENIC AGLET LOM ENCE SABE UPCS KOI-EMS-NAH ... I mean, some of this kind of crud you just have to abide. But do I also have to abide PIUSIIIIIIIIIIII? (45A: Pope who supported the House of Borgia) And I suppose the "red-and-white striped box" is iconic where POPCORN is concerned, but not where I see movies. Not ever. Weird to not even have a "maybe" on that clue. LTGEN (44A: Three-star mil. rank) was blargh city, made blarghier by the fact that I forgot the Mets played at Citi Field and so wrote in NYM for 34D: MetLife Staudium team, on scoreboards (NYG). Were there any LTGENs in "M*A*S*H"? Because honestly if it's a mil. rank that wasn't in "M*A*S*H," I probably don't know it. I'm exaggerating, but only barely. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the giganto-Holiday-crossword in the paper today. I think it's print-only, so run out and get one for yourself. I have no hopes that it will be a great puzzle, but I do have hopes that it will be a Big puzzle. Have a lovely day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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