Rowers workout machines infomrally / SAT 9-21-19 / Suckerfish / Noted film festival site since 2002 / Performer in first U.S. public radio broadcast, 1910 / Like some nonbinary people

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Constructor: Joon Pahk and Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Challenging (interrupted solve, but somewhere in the 9s, I think)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: AGENDER (37D: Like some nonbinary people) —
of, relating to, or being a person who has an internal sense of being neither male nor female nor some combination of male and female of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is genderless or neutral (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

Very tough for me. The fact that my dog wouldn't setting down and kept clacking around the hardwood floor outside my office was Not Helping (I need quiet to solve, especially tough puzzles), so I had to get up and shut the door, and then had to loudly call out "Lie Down," at which point my wife responded "it's me" 'cause I guess she had just gotten up to go downstairs. ANYway, frustrating. I lost some time in there. I wish I'd enjoyed this more. The grid is very nice in places, but the cluing had a kind of forced hardness that I found sort of off-putting. By "forced" I mean that the toughness felt like it was coming by an attempt to get cute that went a little awry. At some point, after I looked at what felt like the fourth "?" clue in a row, I got a little exasperated. I'm still trying to make [Baby buggy?] work right for LARVAL. It's not the greatest fill to begin with. I get that baby bugs are larva and so if "buggy" is an adjective meaning "of or related to bugs," then ... LARVAL. But it doesn't quite hit the mark. I think it's 'cause LARVAL is not a word you can use in an everyday sentence, so it's hard to swap out, or reimagine, or something. Just awkward. I wish the fill had been more IMPRESSIVE. It's solid and clean overall, for sure, but mainly this puzzle exists to be Hard. And you can make any grid Hard with the right cluing. The only really fresh thing was AGENDER (37D: Like some nonbinary people), which, bizarrely, I don't remember ever seeing before (whereas I've seen "non-binary," "NB," and even the written-out term "enbies" (which I love) a heckuva lot). But AGENDER wasn't hard to infer, and it's a very real term that just somehow missed me. Original. Like it.


Much of my struggle came from NE, where LARVAL and the CREW part of CAMERA CREW (32A: Group that's on the take?) just wouldn't come. Also had real trouble in the SE because of (again) the "?" clue on 43A: Spot starter? (TEA KETTLE). I had TEA and guessed KETTLE but did Not like it (it "starts" TEA? Because ... you pour water from it? My "kettle" heats water. You pour tea from a tea pot. And in either case, "starter" is dubious. I actually pulled KETTLE at one point because I couldn't get Downs to work. This turned out to be because I had SURE IS! instead of SURE DO! (48A: "You got that right!") (impossible to differentiate between IS, DO, AM, ugh), and RARER instead of RIPER (54A: Tenderer, maybe). This meant the only Down I had down there was EUREKA (44D: Exuberant cry). I had TRANIS for 45D: Some Caribbean islanders (TRINIS), so I *definitely* knew something was messed up. Aren't STEP-INS women's underwear? I'm pretty sure they're women's underwear. I always thought laceless shoes were SLIP-ONS. That one was weird. Luckily, the Acrosses and the short Downs in that corner were way easier. The answer that really broke me, though, was MAJORING IN (36A: Reading, to Brits). Parsing that answer, my word. And just understanding the clue ... I assumed the trick was that "Reading" was the city or the railroad (thanks, Monopoly!). Eventually I was like "MAJOR what?" and then got it. It's a great clue / answer. Just ground me into powder. Anyway, enjoyed the struggle, mostly

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Balm with oxymoronic name / FRI 9-20-19 / Chandler four-term US senator who helped faound Republican Party / Like a novel with roguish adventuring hero / Cloud name prefix / Fashion portmanteau exemplified by wearing yoga pants all day / First name in 1990s rap / Journalist whose mother father sister husband all won Nobel prizes

Friday, September 20, 2019

Constructor: Luke Vaughn

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (on paper, untimed)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: ÈVE CURIE (4D: Journalist whose mother, fagther, sister and husband all won Nobel Prizes) —
Ève Denise Curie Labouisse (French pronunciation: ​[ɛv dəniz kyʁi labwis]; December 6, 1904 – October 22, 2007) was a French and American writer, journalist and pianist. Ève Curie was the younger daughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie. Her sister was Irène Joliot-Curieand her brother-in-law Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Ève was the only member of her family who did not choose a career as a scientist and did not win a Nobel Prize, although her husband Henry Richardson Labouisse, Jr. did collect the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 on behalf of UNICEF. She worked as a journalist and authored her mother's biography Madame Curie and a book of war reportage, Journey Among Warriors.[1][2] From the 1960s she committed herself to work for UNICEF, providing help to children and mothers in developing countries. (wikipedia)
• • •

The SE corner here is fantastic, and I did it last, so this was one of those seemingly rare times when the puzzle ends on a highpoint (and not with me jammed up at the worst / knottiest part of the grid). The rest of the grid was fine, but nothing to write home about. TWITTERATI is still not a thing and by now it's a dated non-thing, not the "fresh" thing you think it is, so please stop. I really haven't missed seeing ENESCU, a crosswordese trickster whose name can also be spelled ENESCO for some reason! (9D: "Romanian Rhapsodies" composer) This ÈVE CURIE person is hilariously uncrossworthy. The way that I know is because of how you have clued her, i.e. in relation to the human beings in her family that people might actually know (not, tellingly, in relation to anything specific that she did or wrote). Nice to see more women in the grid in marquee positions (i.e. in long answers), but who? But as I say, that SE corner rocks, and the fill in general is at least a solid average, so overall positive marks for the constructor.


The editor, on the other hand ... OOF. It's possible that *all* these clues were the constructor's, but it's the editor who has to take the reins and bring the cluing under control, so he's ultimately responsible for the cluing, and yeeeesh. It's bad today. If you're gonna open with two (2) "?" Across clues, they should be, uh, good. Stick the landing! These are Terrible and Merely Bad, respectively. SPEED DATES are "Plays?" Even with pun leeway on High, that is rough. I guess people are making "plays" for ... prospective dates? But then the "matches" would be after the "play" (presumably). The whole thing requires a compass and protractor if you wanna make any clear sense out of it. Bad. I get that a STUB has been "ripped off" of the original complete ticket ... OK, maybe that one's more tolerable (and just tough). Other horrible clues: 25A: Comment like "And now here's Pam with sports. Pam?" ("OVER TO YOU"). No, "Over to You" is, itself, a comment. If somehow throwing it to another presenter is called an OVER-TO-YOU (like it's a category of comment) then that is some inside-newsroom stuff. Hated this. Merely disliked 34A: "That may not have been entirely accurate ..." ("I LIED"), which are patently not the same thing. They are in the same large category, but at opposite ends. The "may not" is key here. ASSAULTS are not [Batteries]. That's why the phrase "assault & battery" exists. Because ... they are different. "Oh, well, you see, 'assaults' is here being used in the more general..." [harsh loud buzz sound] sorry, no. You can try to lawyer that one if you want, but it's bad.


Lastly, there were entirely too many names, esp. with clues of the fill-in-the-blank variety, followed by a lengthy-ish description of the thing they did that allegedly makes them puzzleworthy, but it always sounds like just so much special pleading. ZACHARIAH ... he did this thing. LYDIA ... you know, from that other thing? This novelist! That former Mexican president ('s middle name!)! Half a rap name! Now I knew some of these and not others, but but the barrage of blank so-and-so clues for like an assault (as opposed to a battery). But let me end by saying, once again, that SE corner is fantastic. PICARESQUE to ATHLEISURE to CHEAP SEATS is the crossword Tinker to Evers to Chance. Mwah!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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