Enlightened Buddhist / FRI 11-30-12 / Wir leben Autos sloganeer / Hybrid tea's ancestor / Subject of 2007 youtube sensation / Longtime headlines reader / L Word producer Chaiken / Rotarian relative / Friend of Frodo

Friday, November 30, 2012

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ISADOR Coriat (25A: Early psychoanalyst Coriat) —

Isador Henry Coriat (December 10, 1875, Philadelphia – May 26, 1943, Boston) was an American psychiatrist and neurologist. He was one of the first American psychoanalysts.
He was born in Philadelphia in 1875 as the son of Hyram Coriat and Clara née Einstein. He was of Moroccan-Spanish descent on father's side and German on mother's side. He grew up in Boston and attended Tufts Medical School, graduating in 1900.
He was one of the founders of Boston Psychoanalytic Society, the first secretary in 1914 and president in years 1930-32. Coriat was the only Freudian analyst in Boston during the period after James Jackson Putnam's death.
Coriat worked with the Rev. Elwood Worcester, served as the medical expert for the Emmanuel Movement and co-authored Religion and Medicine; The Moral Control of Nervous Disorders.
Coriat married Etta Dann in 1910. He died on May 26, 1943, after a brief illness. (wikipedia) (this is the entirety of his wikipedia entry, excluding bibliography)
• • •

Even though I finished in a perfectly normal time, I never felt like I got traction with this one. Very choppy solving experience. Took me a very long time to get any of the 15s. I think CLAIRE MCCASKILL was the first one I got (a gimme), and I had traversed the grid completely at that point. Never got on to the puzzle's wavelength. [Order confirmation?] = SECRET HANDSHAKE because ... people in fraternal orders have secret handshakes? Is that it? No idea what BIG A is or means (it's Aqueduct Racetrack, whatever that is). Never heard of CHINA / ROSE and don't even know what "hybrid tea" is, let alone what its ancestor might be (5A: With 1-Across, hybrid tea's ancestor). Thought the grid too chock full of those weird names that seem only to exist to be in crosswords. your ILENEs (34D: "The L Word" producer Chaiken) and your SADAs and your LENAs and GENAs and MATA Hari and that ISADOR guy (???). When I look at the grid, I see very nice long answers (15s) and kind of ugly everything else. I mean, while I wasn't getting the 15s, I was busy picking up stuff like OPEL (14A: "Wir leben Autos" sloganeer) and TERN and ARHAT (51A: Enlightened Buddhist) and ENOS (54D: 1961 space chimp) and TRE and EELED and N TESTS—not fun, I assure you. The 15s offered some payoff, finally, but not as much as I'd've liked.

[17A: "Turn me on, dead man," supposedly, in the Beatles' "Revolution 9"]

AS A SET is depressing me, for some reason. It just seems so inadequate and makeshift and not up to the task up actually being crossword fill. AS A FRIEND, AS A FAVOR, AS A JOKE ... those seem borderline, but passable. There's something just not-quite-tight enough about a random adverbial phrase like that. I never did care about the PIANO-PLAYING CAT, a reference which might at one point have seemed fresh, but in internet time now just feels dated (36A: Subject of a 2007 YouTube sensation). I did have one good aha moment in this puzzle—with STEVIE Nicks at 23A: Nicks producing cuts? Not a fan of partials, but if you gotta do it, why not go with Keanu (34A: "There ___ spoon" ("The Matrix" line) (IS NO))?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Sporty 1990s Toyota / THU 11-29-12 / Brasserie list / Catchphrase of Jean-Luc Picard / Old-time bowling alley worker / Dragon in 2008 best seller / Buster Keaton missile / Suffix with bombard

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Constructor: Sharon Delorme

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: DON'T SWEAT IT (60A: Reassuring words .k.. or a hint to 17-, 25-, 35- and 48-Across) — theme answers start with words that are also names of anti-perspirants

Word of the Day: BEA Benaderet (30D: Actress Benaderet) —
Beatrice "Bea" Benaderet (April 4, 1906 – October 13, 1968)[1] was an American actress born in New York City and raised in San Francisco, California. She appeared in a wide variety of television work, which included a starring role in the 1960s television series Petticoat Junction and Green Acres as Shady Rest Hotel owner Kate Bradley, supporting roles as Blanche Morton in The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and as the voice of Betty Rubbleduring the first four seasons of The Flintstones, and in The Beverly Hillbillies as Pearl Bodine. She did a great deal of voice work in Warner Bros. animated cartoons of the 1940s/1950s. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was a nice little Wednesday puzzle. I know, it's not Wednesday; I'm just as confused as you are. Actually, I thought this was a Tuesday puzzle, theme-wise, but it was made Wednesdayish in difficulty through somewhat tougher cluing and big banks of long Downs in the NW and SE corners. Started with the incorrect BOLOS (those are ties, dummy), but easily got SHEL and EPOCH and quickly changed 1A: Whirled weapons to BOLAS, and all of a sudden the NW corner was done. LARIAT gave me a little trouble, as did the PANEL part of SECRET PANEL, but AGUES and AGAIN gave me traction. Some trouble in the middle, as neither BLOUSE (30A: Top of a wardrobe) nor TATTOO (41A: Dragon in a 2008 best seller) jumped out at me, but the Downs gave me enough info to get by, and after that—wow. I don't remember a thing about the bottom of this grid. It went down in about a minute or two. To give you an idea of the kind of roll I was on—I got every one of the long Downs in the SE corner, in quick succession, from just their first letters. D to DINETTES, O to OVERRIPE, M to MAKE IT SO (40D: Catchphrase of Jean-Luc Picard on "Star Trek: T.N.G."). That is a crazy rare hot streak right there. ASPIC got me into the SW corner; then I took SURE-HANDED across and finished things up in the far south. Easy as PIE (11A: Buster Keaton missile).

I didn't have the slightest idea about the theme until the revealer, which I thought was very clever. The middle theme answer, DEGREE OF FREEDOM, didn't feel very tight to me, as theme answers go, but it's a phrase that one might say, and it's not totally contrived, so it'll do. This puzzle has some clunky crosswordese here and there, but no more than its fair share. I think I liked the NW corner the best, with BE SEATED (1D: "Take your chairs") and especially LOCAL RAG (3D: Small-town paper, informally) standing out as favorites. Is AUD. short for "auditor?" Not an abbrev. I've seen, but intuitable, I suppose.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: The library in an old mansion may have one (SECRET PANEL)
  • 25A: '60s protest sign ("BAN THE BOMB!")
  • 35A: Extent to which you may do as you please (DEGREE OF FREEDOM)
  • 48A: Having firm control (SURE-HANDED)
  • 67A: Sporty 1990s Toyota (PASEO) — not hard for me, as I lived through the PASEO era, and it's a reasonably common answer, but I wonder what kind of shelf life this answer has. I suspect we'll be seeing ALERO for much longer, and even the ALERO is no EDSEL. 
  • 6D: "State of the Union" director, 1948 (CAPRA) — no idea, until I got the "P" in panel. Didn't get the "C" from CARTE (6A: Brasserie list) for a while 'cause I had written WINES in there.
  • 11D: Old-time bowling alley worker (PIN BOY) — I could see this person before I could come up with his job title. I didn't remember the infantilizing "BOY" part. Reminds me of the '80s movie "Racing With the Moon," starring Elizabeth McGovern and Crispin Glover and ... Nicolas Cage??? Oooh, I'm right. Yay, memory. Also, Sean Penn. Anyway, I think Sean Penn was a PIN BOY in this movie and Crispin Glover tries to hit him with bowling balls and, well, things don't end well for Glover. And looky here—god bless youtube!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Compound in Agent Orange / WED 11-28-12 / Toby filler / Poet with fanatic's heart / Fictional Flanders Devine / Gumbo thickener / Young newt

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Constructor: Adam G. Perl

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Random algebra problem —


Word of the Day: BIX Beiderbecke (1D: Beiderbecke of jazz) —

Leon Bismark "BixBeiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetistjazz pianist, and composer. // With Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. His turns on "Singin' the Blues" (1927) and "I'm Coming, Virginia" (1927), in particular, demonstrated an unusual purity of tone and a gift for improvisation. With these two recordings, especially, he helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. "In a Mist" (1927), one of a handful of his piano compositions but the only one he recorded, mixed classical influences with jazz syncopation. Beiderbecke also has been credited for his influence, directly, on Bing Crosby and, indirectly, via saxophonist Frank Trumbauer, on Lester Young. (wikipedia)
• • •

I have no idea what this is. Or, rather, I do, but don't understand *why* it is. Is this a famous equation? It appears that this equation is in the grid only because it somehow manages to fit into the grid in three symmetrical segments. I didn't even have to do any algebra. The grid just filled itself in, and I'm left with the ... pleasure? ... of reading the world's easiest algebra equation. Yup, it checks out. Now what? Where's the twist? The zing? The "here's why you've been entering an equation into the grid for the past five minutes or so"? Nowhere. Not that I can see. Someone needs to fire the IDEA MAN (50A: Think tank types).

One thing this grid has going for it is Xs. Granted, two of them are wasted on the horrid crosses XED and XOX, but DIOXIN is lovely (probably the only time you'll hear someone say that) (45D: Compound in Agent Orange), and, well, now I have heard of this BIX guy, so I learned something, at least. Love the long Downs, but the fill in general is mostly short and mostly trite (perhaps not the TRITEST, but not fresh, at any rate). Contains two of my least favorite bits of crosswordese: AH ME (which is exactly one tick worse than AH SO), and IRED, which no one has ever said in the history of the world. There was some occasionally interesting cluing, like 68A: Kind of day for a competitive cyclist for REST and 30A: Poet with a "fanatic's heart" for YEATS, but overall this was mostly fairly dull.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Musician born 11/27/42 / TUE 11-27-12 / Bygone company with yellow-roofed kiosks / Pete Julie's Mod Squad partner / Conveyance in Ellington song

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: JIMI HENDRIX (Musician born 11/27/42) — 70th birthday tribute puzzle

Word of the Day: LILI Taylor (41A: Actress Taylor of "Six Feet Under") —
Lili Anne Taylor (born February 20, 1967) is an American actress notable for her appearances in such award-winning indie films as Mystic PizzaSay Anything...Short Cuts and I Shot Andy Warhol, and the acclaimed TV show Six Feet Under. (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't consider myself a particularly big JIMI HENDRIX fan, but I must know something because this puzzle went down very, very easily. I think the most trouble I had involved figuring out whom the wind was crying. I wanted "Mariah." Why did I want "Mariah?" Ah ... this is why:

Now I don't feel so bad. It's a pretty straightforward tribute, with no whistles or bells—just symmetrical songs. But it works. And the grid is quite solid. Nice to see FOTOMAT (5D: Bygone company with yellow-roofed kiosks), about which I haven't thought for many, many years. I also like TRUTH OR DARE (which I once used in a puzzle about Norse gods) and LEGAL ACTION, which reminds me of "Damages," which I am currently watching (via Netflix) and enjoying.

Theme answers:
  • 5A: With 67-Across, song by 56-Across ("FOXY / LADY")
  • 19A: With 32-Across, song by 56-Across ("ALL ALONG THE / WATCHTOWER")
  • 11D: Song by 56-Across ("FIRE")
  • 42A: Song by 56-Across  ("PURPLE HAZE)
  • 9D: With 60-Down, song by 56-Across ("HEY / JOE")
  • 54D: "The Wind Cries ___" (song by 56-Across) ("MARY") — odd to have just the lone partial, but really, it's not a big puzzle in a simple tribute puzzle like this.

  • 64A: Pete and Julie's "Mod Squad" partner (LINC) — the show is before my time, but LINC is very identifiable to me. He had a righteous 'fro.
  • 68A: Compound with a double-bonded carbon atom (ENOL) — a word I would never have encountered in my lifetime were it not for crosswords. It's LONE backwards. I'm sure this information will come in handy some day.
  • 28A: Conveyance in an Ellington song (A-TRAIN) — pretty common answer, as 6-letter answers go. I know Ella's vocal version, but here's Ellington doing a gorgeous version of the instrumental. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Bananalike fruit / MON 11-26-12 / Funny Martha of old TV / Wahine's greeting / Obsolescent directories / Floor machine

Monday, November 26, 2012

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium (-Challenging? is À VOTRE SANTÉ gonna hold some folks back ...?)

THEME: Bready breakfast — clues are breakfast foods made with flour and eggs; answers are have nothing to do with breakfast

  • 20A: Pancakes (FLATTENS OUT)
  • 41A: Waffles (BLOWS HOT AND COLD)
  • 59A: French toast (À VOTRE SANTÉ)

Word of the Day: PAPAW (64A: Bananalike fruit) —
Both the papaya and the papaw are sometimes referred to as pawpaw, which is thoroughly confusing because they're entirely different fruits. The papaw is a North American native that's a member of the cherimoya family. It can range from 2 to 6 inches long and looks like a fat, dark-brown banana. The aromatic flesh is pale yellow and peppered with a profusion of seeds. It has a custardlike texture and a sweet flavor reminiscent of bananas and pears. Papaws are seldom cultivated and are rarely found in markets. (Barron's Food Lover's Companion)

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/pawpaw#ixzz2DHOhnZx2
• • •

My wife and I solved this together, with me calling out clues to her while she went about the business of baking my birthday cake. It was interesting to see how many answer she could get with seeing the grid or even knowing how many letters were in each answer, though she did think 1A: Dull-colored was DUN. Me: "I said *four* letters." Her: "DUN *is* four letters: D, U, N [puzzled look, laughter]." This theme is very cute, but I like it primarily for the host of interesting long Down answers. So many easy / high word-count puzzles lack  longer non-theme answers, which leads to excessive dullness (or DUN-ness, or DUNN-ness). But here, we get fantastic stuff like IDLE RICH, TWO-TIMED, SCALAWAG (this is starting to feel like a short story), SECOND-RATE PHONE BOOKS and NONSENSE. Lovely.

Wife's commentary on solving the puzzle without the grid in front of her: "It's weird when you don't actually sit down and look at it. It's weird how my brain works ... if you read me off a phone number, I'm lost. Are you writing down what I'm saying?..."

I always hear SCAL*I*WAG, or maybe I'm thinking of POLLIWOG. I knew PAPAW right away (had the "W") but wife did Not like the "bananalike" part of the clue, mainly due to the "pawpaw" confusion described in the PAPAW definition posted above ("pawpaw" is used to refer to two different fruits—papaya and papaw). We both wanted RUNS HOT AND COLD and had to wait on the crosses to figure out BLOWS. We both blanked on the [Algerian port]—you'd think I'd have that sorted out by now, but my brain went "well, it's not OMAN, so it must be ADEN." Wrong (it's ORAN). Best wrong answer came from my wife in response to 73A: Distinctive Marilyn Monroe feature. Me: "Starts with 'M'..." Wife: "Mmm.... MOUE?"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Dickens schemer / SUN 11-25-12 / Quest of astronomer Percival Lowell / Largest moon in solar system / Fictional writer in John Irving best seller / Big Red Machine hustler / Jurassic suffix / Snoop Lion's genre / Four-time role for Patrick Stewart / Excommunicator of Martin Luthor

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "A Little Extra" — "Note: Fourteen symmetrically placed answers in this puzzle are each missing a part ... which can be found elsewhere"; the missing part is an "X"—each missing "X" can be found in an adjacent black square, with each black/X square being a part of the large black "X" in the center of the grid.

Word of the Day: PLANET X (13D: Quest of the astronomer Percival Lowell) —
Following the discovery of the planet Neptune in 1846, there was considerable speculation that another planet might exist beyond its orbit. The search began in the mid-19th century and culminated at the start of the 20th with Percival Lowell's quest for Planet X. Lowell proposed the Planet X hypothesis to explain apparent discrepancies in the orbits of the gas giants, particularly Uranus and Neptune,[1] speculating that the gravity of a large unseen ninth planet could have perturbed Uranus enough to account for the irregularities. [...] Today, the astronomical community widely agrees that Planet X, as originally envisioned, does not exist, but the concept of Planet X has been revived by a number of astronomers to explain other anomalies observed in the outer Solar System. In popular culture, and even among some astronomers,[5] Planet X has become a stand-in term for any undiscovered planet in the outer Solar System, regardless of its relationship to Lowell's hypothesis. Other trans-Neptunian planets have also been suggested, based on different evidence. (wikipedia)
• • •

I remember an "H" puzzle from several years back that followed this same general pattern. That one was *much* harder, largely because the "H"s didn't stand alone the way *all* of the Xs in this puzzle do (much easier to see / find that way). In fact, in today's puzzle, I was able to blow through the whole thing in a well below-average time without even grasping that some of the X answers were theme answers. APOLLO, GAS, MALCOLM, PLANET—with all of these, it honestly didn't occur to me (in the speed-solving moment) that there was an "X" missing. I was dimly aware that I was to be on the lookout for missing "X"s, but when you're flying along and the "X"s aren't really holding you back any, it's easy to forget what you're supposed to be looking for. Anyway, now that I look at it, the theme is cute and clever, and mostly nicely executed. I'm a little distracted about the lack of rhyme or reason to the Xs directionality. I get that all the Downs up top end in "X" and all the Downs in the bottom half start with "X," but the fact that an "X" might work in two directions or ... might not ... that feels arbitrary, and thus not great. Also, having both PROFESSOR X and the X-MEN involved in the theme feels like double-dipping. But overall, I think the theme is nicely done. Further, the grid has an impressive amount of white space, with big blocks of interesting long answers like YOSEMITE SAM (63D: Mustachioed cartoon character) and CALLIGRAPHY, POPEMOBILE (113A: Widely used term declared "undignified" by John Paul II) and PETE ROSE (57A: Big Red Machine hustler), T MINUS ZERO and HITS BOTTOM. Gave the puzzle a level of interest beyond the theme. Enjoyable.

Theme answers:
  • 46A: Je ne sais quoi (X FACTOR) / 13D: Quest of the astronomer Percival Lowell (PLANET X)
  • 15D: Beano competitor (GAS-X)
  • 4D: Excommunicator of Martin Luther (LEO X)
  • 7D: 1992 Denzel Washington title role (MALCOLM X)
  • 58A: Four-timei role for Patrick Stewart (PROFESSOR X) / 60A: Almost every man in the world has one (X CHROMOSOME)
  • 65A: Followers of a boom? (GENERATION X) / 72A: More precise alternative to scissors (X-ACTO KNIFE)
  • 88A: Lunar mission commanded by Thomas P. Stafford (APOLLO X) / 94D: G's opposite (X RATING)
  • 91D: Novelty glasses (X-RAY SPEX)
  • 112D: Comic book mutants (X-MEN)
  • 114D: Wii alternative (XBOX)
I'm surprised at my fast time now that I look over the grid, considering there were a number of answers I just didn't know (or barely knew ... maybe heard of before ... but couldn't dredge up). TIMBALE is new to me; it's got an eerie resemblance to percussion instruments I *do* know, like TIMPANI and TABLA, but it stumped me—needed every cross. I thought OBEISANT was archaic / French, and was shocked to find it correct here (after OBEDIENT didn't work out) (11D: Like a good butler). I was all set for ORIBIS after reading 67D: South African antelopes, but then bam, NYALAS. I'm sure I've seen these antelope in the puzzle before, but they just didn't jump (or leap, or bound, or whatever antelope do) out at me. KEMAL!? Man, that was rough. I don't think I even knew Atatürk *had* a first name. And RENI could've been anyone (94A: "The Labors of Hercules" painter Guido). Never heard of him.

  • 49A: His tomb is a pilgrimage site for both Muslims and Jews (EZEKIEL) — news to me. The only potential answer I could think of was ABRAHAM.
  • 80A: Largest moon in the solar system (GANYMEDE) — Zeus's cupbearer. "Cupbearer" both is and is not a euphemism.
  • 93A: Morgan le ___ (Arthurian sorceress) (FAY) — I'm in the middle of Marion Zimmer Bradley's _The Mists of Avalon_ right now (for the class I'm teaching). It's an epic (i.e. enormous) retelling of the Arthurian legend from the perspective of four main female characters (including Morgan—or "Morgaine"). I remember being a bit bored by it the first time I read it, but I'm loving it this time around. Not sure what changed.
  • 24D: Snoop Lion's genre (RAP) — I just love the utterly nonsensical name "Snoop Lion" so much. You may remember him by his erstwhile moniker, Snoop Dogg.
  • 65D: Fictional writer in a John Irving best seller (GARP) — I saw this movie in the theater when it came out. I was 12. I was ... too young. But one of the results of seeing a movie like that when you are "too young" is that it really Really stays in your brain. Also, just to do some random free association, Glenn Close is in that movie, and Glenn Close is in "Damages," which I started watching today, with Ted Danson, and both of them were in the 1984 TV movie "Something About Amelia" with actress Roxana Zal, who was in the 1987 movie "River's Edge," Which I Also Watched Today. P.S. Roxana ZAL's relative lack of fame is crossworld's loss.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Diminutive for Baryshnikov / SAT 11-24-12 / Like refreshing agua / 1978 sequel set in shopping mall / Peak east of Captain Cook / Like four ill-fated popes / African country with namesake lake / Part of Freddy Krueger costume / South Park co-creator Stone / Killer source material for comedian / Southwest city founded by Mormon pioneers

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Constructor: Joseph Knapp

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Sam ERVIN (48A: Senator of Watergate fame) —
Samuel James Ervin, Jr. known as Sam Ervin (September 27, 1896 – April 23, 1985), was an American politician, a Democrat, he served as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 1954 to 1974. A native of Morganton, he liked to call himself a "country lawyer", and often told humorous stories in his Southern drawl.[1] During his Senate career, Ervin was a legal defender of the Jim Crow laws and racial segregation, as the South's constitutional expert during the congressional debates on civil rights.[2] Unexpectedly, he became a liberal hero for his support of civil liberties. He is remembered for his work in the investigation committees that brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954 and especially his investigation in 1972 and 1973 of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation in 1974 of President Richard Nixon. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very smooth, very easy. Got AWE (5D: State at a spectacle) and then MALAWI (14A: African country with a namesake lake) and then was off to the races. The middle of this grid is beautiful — very nice triple stack of thirteens — but also Very easy to pick up, one answer right after the other. Needed only the "WN" to get "DAWN OF THE DEAD" (35A: 1978 sequel set in a shopping mall), only the "K" and the "X" to get JACK IN THE BOX (37A: It might pop up at a nursery), and then ... I don't know, by the time I saw the clue for ACE IN THE HOLE, it was quite obvious (32A: Secret weapon). Only the NE and SW corners gave me any trepidation. Any time you venture into wide-open corners like that, there's always this feeling in the back of your mind that you might never get out alive, that you might be eternally condemned to a self-contained little nightmare of a mini-puzzle ... but those fears didn't pan out today. SMITH and KENO gave me more than enough leverage to work the NE, and though the SW proved a bit harder, once I threw MISHA down (45D: Diminutive for Baryshnikov), I could see the HOUSE part of HOTHOUSE, which made everything else fall into line pretty quickly (56A: Where things might pop up in a nursery). There's not a single unfamiliar word or person in this grid. I finished the puzzle in about 2/3 the time it took me to do yesterday's. And I was dead tired before I did this puzzle—I was seriously contemplating just going to sleep and solving / blogging in the morning. Just my good luck, I guess.

There's some pretty crackling cluing in this puzzle. The NW starts things off in a pretty edgy manner — hazing rituals (4D: Break a pledge?) followed by a 9-1-1 call (6D: It might be hard-pressed to get assistance). Add that adrenaline rush to the mall-beseiging zombies in "DAWN OF THE DEAD" and the poisoned popes and Freddy in a FEDORA (30D: Part of a Freddy Kreuger costume) and the HITMEN lurking in the corner (59A: Ones given money to waste?) and, well, "I'M CALM" becomes the unlikeliest of sentiments. The nursery/pop up clues are kind of far apart to really, uh, pop, but it's the thought that counts. I didn't know Captain Cook was a ... what, a mountain? I also didn't know MESA was founded by Mormon pioneers. That clue may as well have stopped at [Southwest city]—I had the "M" and didn't need anything else. Didn't know the [Patron saint of the Catholic Church] straight off, but I knew it started with a "J" and ... well, it seemed like it probably had to be someone *pretty* big, so it didn't take me that long to hit JOSEPH. I knew Mandalay was *somewhere* in the East (I feel like there's a film production company with a tiger logo called "Mandalay" ...), but I didn't know where. Luckily for me, the president and Sec. Clinton were just in MYANMAR the other day, so that country was fresh on my mind (58A: Home of Mandalay). Aside from these minor struggles, as I say, this puzzle was kind of a pushover. I blew through this so quickly I didn't even see several of the clues (e.g. for MCI, for NTH, for ORT). Not complaining. It was good-easy, not where-the-hell's-my-Saturday-puzzle easy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Cockney pal of Mary Poppins / FRI 11-23-12 / Blowgun dart poison / Kylver Stone letter / Leaf bisectors / Evan's best friend in Superbad / Mythological lyrist / TV character who said KO instead of OK

Friday, November 23, 2012

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: RHYTHM STICK (4D: Elementary school percussion instrument) —
a small wooden stick used, especially by a child, as a simple percussive instrument inlearning the rudiments of musical rhythm. (dictionary.com)

• • •

This is a fine grid, but I just couldn't find the Love. I struggled quite a bit, and the payoffs rarely seemed worth it. Also, I've simply never heard of a RHYTHM STICK (except in the Ian Dury song, posted above) or a DAYMARE (28D: Fight when it's light?) and I don't know who BERT is (48A: Cockney pal of Mary Poppins) and have only barely heard of MIDRIBS (probably in some other crossword) (35A: Leaf bisectors). Seeing the full phrases AT A LOW EBB and FROM A TO Z failed to excite me, and there's nothing else very 'zazzy in either of those corners.  I think the NW is the nicest area by far. The rest is just fine, but lacks that Berryesque sparkle I know and love, though there are some fantastic clues. I especially liked 17A: Kids whose parents fight? for ARMY BRATS (that struggle *did* have a payoff) and 6D: One raise in Amish country for BARN (the second thing I put in the grid, right after TUBE).

On the other hand, some clues didn't do much for me. Found the Oprah quote irritating for a number of reasons—I like my maxims classical, or at least, you know, accurate. Who in the world can remember [Evan's best friend in "Superbad"]. I saw that movie. I know that SETH Rogen was in it, but ... that's not what's being asked here. People remember character names from "Superbad"? That seems unlikely. Oh, no. Sorry. McLovin'. That name, I remember. But SETH? Not so much. Of all things ORION is known for, I'm guessing walking on water is down the list (55A: He could walk on water, in myth). What kind of a horn is an ALTO HORN? (53A: Instruments also known as mellophones) Never heard of it, and thus clearly never heard of mellophones. How in the world is there a dutch cheese in queso relleno? So many things about this puzzle are at least mildly grimace-inducing.

  • 10A: Biblical prophet who railed against idolatry (MICAH) — no idea. All from crosses.
  • 15A: Big-eyed toy (CHIHUAHUA) — dog angle came easily to me, as I watched part of that dog show on NBC today (an ugly, prissy dog won, as usual).
  • 26A: Minor-league team of Toledo (MUDHENS) — "M*A*S*H" to the rescue (at least I think that's how I know this)
  • 34A: 1960s-'70s dance partner of Nureyev (FONTEYN) — figured this was Joan. It's Margot. This shows what I know. I had the -EYN ending and the rest was easy. 
  • 57A: Musician/radio host Steven Van ___ (ZANDT) — from the E Street Band. And "The Sopranos."
  • 11D: Org. that disarmed in 2005 (I.R.A.) — watched John Huston's "The Dead" (1987) earlier this evening, so Ireland was on my mind, even though that movie is based on a Joyce story and has zero to do with the I.R.A. ... oh, no, wait, I think there was some mention of republicanism. Pre-I.R.A. (movie was set in 1900s), but related.
  • 40D: Blowgun dart poison (CURARE) — this is a pretty old-school crossword answer. Maybe I know it from somewhere else, but really, what are the odds?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Two-time president of Romania / THU 11-22-12 / Pastry in Sweeney Todd / So-called African antelope / Fictional locale five miles from Jonesboro / Seinfeld character with catchphrase Jerry Hello / Early explorer of Southwest

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Initial initials — familiar phrases are reimagined (via "?"-cluing) as wacky phrases wherein the first two letters stand alone:

L.A. DIES FIRST (18A: Cackling cry from a mad scientist before unleashing havoc on southern California?)
R.A. IN CHECK (33A: Dorm V.I.P. having to move his king?)
B.A. BY BOOMER (39A: Proud academic achievement of football star Esiason?) 
B.O. ON DOCKS (50A: Evidence of longshoremen without antiperspirant?)
P.R. IS ON BREAK (64A: Why the press release has to wait?)

Word of the Day: E. J. DIONNE (70A: Political commentator E. J. ___) —
Eugene Joseph "E.J." Dionne, Jr. ( [...] born April 23, 1952) is an American journalist and political commentator, and a long-time op-edcolumnist for The Washington Post. He is also a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown Public Policy Institute, a Senior Research Fellow at Saint Anselm College, and an NPR,MSNBC, and PBS commentator. (wikipedia)
• • •

What a weird and clever theme. Feels like the kind of theme that could go on and on (given how many two-letter abbreviations there are in the English language), but the fact that we could all come up with other answers doesn't take away from the pleasant wackiness of this set. I tore through this puzzle, with most of my time spent trying to get a handle on the theme in the NW. Once I figured it out, I found the theme answers all remarkably pliable (esp. if you know who Boomer Esiason is), and I ended up getting through this in a pretty normal time, which is actually a fast time given that the grid is extra-wide today (16x15). I feel like the potential for trouble was probably greatest in the NE, where ILIESCU holds many spelling perils (13D: Two-time president of Romania), where VAN DYKE is a feature that doesn't necessarily leap to mind with Lenin (14D: Vladimir Lenin had one), and where even HUSKIES (12D: Big East team) wasn't very intuitive (when asked for a team, I tend to think of the school name, not the mascot). I took an embarrassingly long time to get PIGLET; wasn't til I got the "G" that that answer became (painfully) obvious (31A: Hundred Acre Wood resident). Hesitated some at 29D: Not survive (DIE OF) because I read the "survive" as an intransitive verb; thus I wanted DIE OUT or DIE OFF, neither of which would FIT. But otherwise, there wasn't much bite to this one (though I'm seeing some longish times at the NYT site, so I wonder if I'm missing some potential pitfall). I didn't know (or didn't recall) DIONNE, but beyond that, everything else was somewhat-to-very familiar.

The SHIV / SHIVER duplication I could do without, but most of the rest of the grid, I liked. There are some pretty inventive long Downs in the grid today—specifically UNCLE LEO (24D: "Seinfeld" character wit the catchphrase "Jerry! Hello!") and BIKE TIRE (40D: 26" rubber band?). I was thrilled to learn some OKAPI trivia (57A: So-called "African unicorn"), the OKAPI being by far my favorite crossword animal. It's weird that it's called the "African unicorn"—is this to distinguish it from all the other "unicorns" out there? Also love the clue on the overly familiar TARA (63A: Fictional locale five miles from Jonesboro). My first thought was "pfft, how should I know?", but at just four letters, guessing the correct answers wasn't hard. It's good to add at least a little spice to the clues of the oft-appearing short stuff.

Anything else? No. Happy Thanksgiving!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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