Bell town in Longfellow poem / TUE 8-30-16 / Vegas resort with musical name / What hath gardener wrought / Electric keyboard heard on I am walrus

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Constructor: Roland Huget

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (on the slow side *for a Tuesday*)

THEME: CHEMICAL SYMBOLS (36A: This puzzle's circled letters, for the words that precede them) — first word chemical, opening letters of second word, that chemical's symbol:

Theme answers:
  • COPPER CUPS (17A: Flower plants from Australia) (?? ..... if you say so)
  • IRON FENCE (26A: What hath the gardener wrought?) (ugh, man, this clue...)
  • SILVER AGE (51A: Second-greatest period in something's history) (comics; that is the only "something" I know where this phrase applies)
  • CARBON COPY (58A: Antiquated office duplicate) (and George Segal / Denzel Washington film of 1981)
Word of the Day: ATRI (42A: Bell town in a Longfellow poem) —
Atri (Greek: Ἀδρία or Ἀτρία; Latin: Adria, Atria, Hadria, or Hatria) is a comune in the Province of Teramo in the Abruzzo region of Italy. In 2001, it had a population of over 11,500. Atri is the setting of the poem, The Bell of Atri, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Its name is the origin of the name of the Emperor Hadrian. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oh my no. So ... revealer is unnecessary / anticlimactic / lacking in any sort of wordplay or cleverness. If I didn't get premise of theme from first themer, I sure as heckfire got it from the second. So revealer = dead / pointless. Theme itself is simply "who cares?" except it's slightly worse than that because COPPER CUPS are fantastically outlier-ish, familiarity-wise. The other themers are, to their credit, things. I'm sure COPPER CUPS are too, but ... just less so. I will say that I think the puzzle squeezed every possible theme answer out of the periodic table. But there remains the question of "to what end?" Surely not entertainment. And what the hell was up with that IRON FENCE clue? It appears to be trying both to pun (?) on the phrase "What hath God wrought?" while also doing some kind of misdirect with the word "wrought" where it is used adjectivally in relation to an IRON FENCE instead of verbally, as it appears on the surface. But the result is a nonsensical disaster. The connection between gardeners and wrought-iron fences is fantastically loose, and the connection between gardeners and God is non-existent. Yikes.

["... and introducing Denzel Washington"]

Then we arrive at the real problem today, which is the fill, much of which REEKS of mothballs. If your (Tuesday!) puzzle has ATRI in it, something has gone very, horribly wrong and you need to fix it immediately (ATLI is worse, but the less spoken about that, the better). ATRI crossing ARIA (a "Vegas resort," really?) will be many people's last letter. Here, look:

But there was also PSEC and BEDECK and RIVE and PIANET (33D: Electric keyboard heard on "I Am the Walrus") and other olde-timey crud as well as new-timey crud like INHD. The clue on ACRES feels like the NYT trying to be inclusive but instead falling on its face yet again (15A: Forty ___ and a mule (post-Civil War allotment)). The clue needs a Lot (!) more context. "Allotment" leaves a lot (!!) out. Like, it was only ever theoretical and never actually got "allotted." Black people never got that allotment, just as they never actually get mentioned in this clue. "False promise" would've at least been closer to reality. Come on, now. [Sigh]. Shred this, start over.

I do credit this puzzle for forcing me to get to the heart of one of my great solving weakenesses: namely, spelling things that rhyme with EBSEN (44A: Buddy who played Jed Clampett in 1960s TV), including EBSEN (but excluding IBSEN, whom I can spell fine):

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Exemplar of masculinity / MON 8-29-16 / CBS spinoff set in SoCal / Clic Stic pen maker / 1990s fitness fad with infomercials

Monday, August 29, 2016

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (triviality of themers was only hold-up)

THEME: WYOMING (39A: Squarest of the 50 states) — uh ... OK. Some Wyoming things:

Theme answers:
  • OLD FAITHFUL (17A: Famous geyser in 39-Across)
  • DEVIL'S TOWER (11D: Noted rock formation in 39-Across)
  • JACKSON HOLE (24D: Skiing mecca in 39-Across)
  • FORT LARAMIE (60A: Historic trading post in 39-Across) 
Word of the Day: DEVIL'S TOWER
Devils Tower (Lakota: Matȟó Thípila or Ptehé Ǧí, which means "Bear Lodge" and "Brown Buffalo Horn", respectively) is an laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises dramatically 1,267 feet (386 m) above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet (265 m) from summit to base. The summit is 5,112 feet (1,559 m) above sea level. // Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Monument's boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres (545 ha) // In recent years, about 1% of the Monument's 400,000 annual visitors climbed Devils Tower, mostly using traditional climbing techniques. (wikipedia)
• • •

Really? WYOMING? Because ... it's square (-ish). And crosswords are made of squares (-ish)!?!? That is ... not strong. NO FUN. A thematic FLOP. Grid is filled well enough, but Mars must really need Monday puzzles if this is passing muster, theme-wise. The only pleasure I got from the theme was the odd coincidence of solving it right after I'd (re- re- re-) watched "Shane" earlier on Sunday (part of Jean Arthur day on TCM). Watching the intro by Ben Mankiewicz, I learned that George Stevens was very particular about scouting the location for the movie, which ended up being somewhere around ... JACKSON HOLE. Beautiful (the scenery and the movie). But that's not much as theme pleasure goes. Maybe the bar for themes is super-low on Mondays as long as the fill isn't dreck. And the fill isn't dreck. So here we are.

I think I average somewhere in the 2:50s on Monday, and today was in the 2:40s, hence the relative difficulty of Easy-Medium. Would've been super easy but for FORT LARAMIE and DEVIL'S TOWER, both of which required lots of crosses before I got them. MAN'S MAN (nice answer) was also slightly hard to parse (50A: Exemplar of masculinity). Speaking of MAN'S MAN: Shane! That movie is about nothing if not Being A Man. Removing Stumps! Getting in Barfights! Making Hot But Respectful Eyes at Nice Married Ladies! Making Young Boys Worship You! Van Heflin and all those homesteader ("sodbuster") guys are just limp until Shane rides into town and stands up to that terrible Riker gang! (I'm talking about "Shane" so I don't have to talk about this puzzle, about which I have no more to say) Gonna go admire Jean Arthur some more now. Good night, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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