Erma, Eric, Ezra, Enos & Ethan/SUN 06-30-13/Andre? No, Carlo Rossi/Genoa Hams

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Constructors: Alex Vratsanos and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: EASY

THEME: Matching Wits — Two-word answers starting with M & W, as well as an M and a W composed of black spaces at the center top and bottom.  Also, since there are two constructors, it works as a nice description of their working relationship, perhaps.  And, it also may reference a resource (Merriam-Webster) that some might have consulted in completing the puzzle.

Word of the Day: MUKLUK (91A: Eskimo boot) —
Mukluks are a soft boot traditionally made of reindeer skin or sealskin and were originally worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit and Yupik. The term mukluk is often used for any soft boot designed for cold weather and modern designs are often similar to high-top athletic shoes. The word "mukluk" is of Yupik origin, from maklak, the bearded seal.  [Wikipedia].

• • •

Hello, all, this is Cuban Pete, sole surviving member of the Desi Arnaz Fan Club, coming to you from the Nation's Capital, where the fireworks started early this year.  This is my first time guest blogging, for Rex or anyone else, and I kind of feel like that first time I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show, scared and excited and hoping no one would hurt me.

How in awe am I of Rex now?  I am in awe TO THE MAX (47A).

To do this day in and day out makes him a Rex Star, a Rex Symbol, a Rex of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  He has zoomed to the top of my list of Rexes:

1.  Rex Parker
2.  Rex Smith
3.  Wreckx-N-Effect
4.  Rex Harrison
5.  Simon Rex (maybe I shouldn't go there)

I hope Rex is enjoying a nice in-flight cocktail served by Connie Sellecca at this very moment, although one of his recent Tweets leaves me fearful that the showing of his own Oregon Trail may have landed him in the local jail.

Theme answers:
  • MUDDY WATERS (2D: "Hoochie Coochie Man" singer)  Ranked No. 17 in Rolling Stones' 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, right between Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.
  • MODERN WARFARE (6D: West Point subject)  Make love, not war.
  • MONEYS WORTH (17D: Bang for one's buck)  Oops, just saw this themed answer, right when I thought I was done with the post.  Perhaps I guzzled too much of the ANDRÉ, especially after that bottle of Carlo ROSSI.
  • MIRACLE WORKER  (30D: 1962 movie for which Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke won Oscars, with "The")  Here's something I didn't know until very recently -- Anne Bancroft's son wrote World War Z.  That's almost as impressive as the fact that Patty Duke's son was on Facts of Life.
  • MAKING WHOOPEE (52D: Euphemism used often on "The Newlywed Game")  I did not like The Fabulous Baker Boys.
  • MINIMUM WAGE (58D: Money raised by members of Congress?)  Fellows, you know that is not going to happen any time soon, right? 
  • MALT WHISKEY (68D: Dewar's product)  Perhaps Rex will follow his in-flight Sidecar with a whiskey?  [I don't really drink all that much, so I don't know if drinking whiskey after a Sidecar is even allowed.]
  • MINUTE WALTZ (64A: Piece longer than its name suggests)  Will gave us a Waltz-y weekend, providing the music to Friday's BOX STEP.

I didn't get the theme until I finished the puzzle and tried to figure out the theme.  I did notice that there was something going on with the two big figures in black spaces, but I wasn't sure whether they were 3s or Es or just a big coincidence.

  • [10A: _______ Franklin, Grammy-nominated gospel/R&B singer] ERMA — I initially put in KIRK and was so sure of it, which made that little area the last part I completed.  Shout out to Erma Franklin, sister of Aretha and original interpreter of "Piece of My Heart."  Also, ERMA started off the E names in this puzzle, to be joined by ERIC, EZRA, ENOS (what, no Dukes of Hazzard clue?), and ETHAN.
  • [83A: Seat of Dallas County, Ala.]  SELMA Funny how these things work.  All those E names had me thinking of a friend's son, Elijah, who is about to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at a historic synagogue in Selma, Alabama.  (Okay, I also thought of Selma Diamond from Night Court.) 
  • [103A: Disobeyed orders, say]  WENT ROGUE  —  I don't know if I will ever be able to look at the word ROGUE again without thinking of Alaska.
  • [106A: Dewy]  MOIST Why do people hate this word so much?  To me, it conjures up thoughts of Duncan Hines cakes.
  • [4D: They may be shot at basketball games]  TEE SHIRTS — I have to admit my first thought was the woeful WASHINGTON WIZARDS, but, of course, it didn't fit.  You know what they shot at a Wizards games I attended?  Chipotle burritos.  I didn't catch one, but I've always wondered if there was really a burrito in that foil missile that was aimed at the 10 or so fans in attendance. 
  • [38D: Still dripping?]  BOOZE — This was one of my favorites, because it was simple but clever, and it was the second Dukes of Hazzard-themed feature. 
  • [48D: Peruvian volcano El ________]  MISTI — I love geography, and I had never seen this answer in a crossword, so I was glad to add it to my knowledge.
  • [86D: Some baby sitters]  AUNTIES This was a tricky one for me.  First, I thought NANNIES.  Then, I remembered Britney Spears and tried MANNIES. 
    It wasn't working, so I tried  PANTIES (awkward), before settling on the correct answer.
  • [100D: Bimetallic Canadian coin]  TOONIE —  Our neighbors to the North got two clues (EHS).  I'd never heard of a TOONIE, but the word itself evokes Canadianness, somehow (is there a term for such a word, sort of like onomatopoeia gone country?).
A few other general thoughts I think this was a very well constructed puzzle.  I am grateful that it was on the easy side, as I needed all the extra time I could get.  But, a good easy puzzle is probably a hard thing to construct.  I've read much about poor fill on Rex's blog and other places.  I think I know what they are talking about.  I didn't see poor fill here.  There were a lot of short answers, but none was a stretch or inartful.  [The only one I had reservations about -- 76D, They're beside the point: Abbr., CTS -- was a result of my own lack of knowledge.  I had thought CTS was being used as an abbreviation for centers and thought that didn't quite work.  It took me a while to figure out it was meant to be an abbreviation for cents.  Mea culpa.]

So, thank you, Alex (go, Fightin' Blue Hens) and Jeff for taking me on this adventure with you.

And, Rex, thanks for your generosity and (perhaps misplaced) blind faith in me.  Babalu.

Signed, Cuban Pete, Asylum Seeker in CrossWorld

UPDATE:  Bonus, tennis-themed puzzle in the Sports section.  Second serving of fun.


Patroness of Québec / SAT 6-29-13 / Rocker with the 1973 #1 hit "Frankenstein" / Arrangement of atoms in a crystal structure / Muscle that rotates a part outward / Member of an ancient people known for warfare with chariots / Speed Stick brand / Sedimentary rocks resembling cemented fish roe

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Easy


Word of the Day:  OOLITES (27D: Sedimentary rocks resembling cemented fish roe)
Oolite (egg stone) is a sedimentary rock formed from ooids, spherical grains composed of concentric layers. The name derives from the Hellenic word òoion for egg. Strictly, oolites consist of ooids of diameter 0.25–2 mm; rocks composed of ooids larger than 2 mm are called pisolites. The term oolith can refer to oolite or individual ooids. (Wikipedia)
• • •

Hello, CrossWorld. Evan Birnholz again. I'm now proud to say that I just completed the Rex Parker Blog Cycle, meaning I've filled in for him on every single day of the week at least once. Here's what I said to congratulate myself upon accomplishing my goal:

Alright, today's puzzle. While I appreciate the fact that Joe Krozel tries to push the boundaries of crossword construction, I'm not really a fan of record-setting stunt puzzles like this one. I'll get to why in a little bit, but first, a little bit of background. Joe is well-known for building grids that set records for standard-size New York Times puzzles. Pick any particular constructing feat --for instance, fewest black squares, most black squares, quintuple stacks -- and Joe has likely done it, or come close. This puzzle breaks the NYT record for fewest answers in a 15x15 puzzle (50 words) and ties Joe's previously held record for most black square clusters resembling someone giving you the finger (4 birds flipped). Well what else are they, I ask you?

In all seriousness, you might recall that today's puzzle bears a strong resemblance to one of Joe's puzzles from June 2012. That puzzle forced together a lot of rather unexciting filler answers to accommodate the four wide open corners. I actually like today's puzzle better than the 2012 one, but ultimately I have the same problem with both of them: Way too many compromises in the fill for my taste to make it all work. I have no doubt that this kind of puzzle will appeal to many different solvers, but I vastly prefer 68- or 72-word themeless puzzles to this variety because the fill often suffers too much when the word count gets too low.

Let's start in the northwest corner. ACTS MAD (3D: Pretends to be sore) and OUTSKIP (16A: Defeat in a jump-rope competition, say) both feel completely contrived as phrases. Act up, act out, act natural, yes, but ACT MAD? When would you even say that? (Steven Seagal, I'd love for you to act mad in this scene, could you do that for me?) And OUTSKIP? Yeah, I guess that's a word. It's the bizarro version of the more commonly used "skip out." My gut tells me that you're just as likely to hear or use OUTSKIP as you are other [Out + random verb] words like OUTSIT or OUTPUNCH or OUTFROWN. Strangely, OUTSKIP is only one letter off from OUTSLIP, which I'm sure could just as easily be clued as [Be defeated in a jump-rope competition, say].

Plenty of other answers just weren't doing it for me either. Among the long ones, STAND TO REASON (20A: Make sense) is okay, but it feels like it's missing an S at the end of "stand" -- you say "it stands to reason," not "I stand to reason." OOLITES and SNEERER (29D: Elvis Presley, notably) and DETERGE (38A: Wash) and RETEAM (40A: Join up for another collaboration) are all jammed together in the southeast corner. Ugh. NO SEATS doesn't strike me as an in-the-language phrase. AD SITES (19A: Craigslist and others) feels like a stretch too: You post ads on Craigslist, but do people commonly call it an AD SITE? You post videos on YouTube, but it doesn't mean VIDEO SITE would make for a great crossword entry. My two least favorite entries in the grid have to be HAVOCS (30D: Post-hurricane scenes, e.g.) and EVERTOR (35A: Muscle that rotates a part outward). Have you ever seen HAVOC become a plural in any other context besides the Chaos Space Marine squads from the game Warhammer 40k? (and hey, have you even heard of HAVOCS in that context? I sure as hell didn't). And as for EVERTOR.....well, just look at it. The clue is literally copied word-for-word from Merriam-Webster's dictionary. You know you're dealing with a pretty obscure answer when its clue on a Saturday is its most straightforward definition.

The upshot of solving this puzzle (for me anyway, and perhaps for many others) is that I absolutely blazed through it. I'm not a super-solver on Rex's level by any means; the fastest solvers at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament could eat my brain like a zombie coming off of a hunger strike. But I took this whole thing down in less than 10 minutes on paper. For a Saturday, that's lightning-fast for me. I don't know if that's because the clues were right in my wheelhouse, or if the puzzle was genuinely easier than normal. Some of those long answers, like STAND TO REASON and CPR TRAINERS (14D: Some E.M.T. personnel), just filled themselves in with the first few letters in place.

Like I said, I thought this puzzle was better than the corresponding June 2012 puzzle that I mentioned earlier. STUDENT DRIVER (11D: Sign over a car) and EDGAR WINTER (22A: Rocker with the 1973 #1 hit "Frankenstein) are both strong entries, as are HANGING AROUND (30A: Loitering) and DRIED APRICOTS (10D: Little orange snacks). I also liked the clue for EVIL EYE (36A: Definitely not a good looker?). I just wish I didn't have so many "Seriously?" reactions while solving the rest of the grid, especially for one that went by so quickly.

  • 6D: "It is through Art, and through Art only, that we can ___ our perfection": Oscar Wilde (REALISE) — Whoa, this is weird. I submitted a puzzle of my own just yesterday with a clue using a very similar Oscar Wilde quotation, but for a different answer. I want the record to show that I sent the puzzle away first before ever seeing this one. I'm glad we cleared this up.
  • 9D: Certain YouTube posting (VLOG) — Now this, I like. Feels fresh. I've always thought this episode about how to be the Best Buddhist Ever is hilarious. (Fair warning: R-rated language)
  • 15D: Living like husband and wife (SHARING A BED) — This gave me some strange trouble even when I had it mostly figured out. Because I mistakenly put down CURLING instead of the correct HURLING at 17A: It's said to be the world's fastest field sport, I was looking at SCARING A BED. I really don't want to spend too much time thinking about what "scaring a bed" could possibly mean for one's marriage.
  • 30A: Helpers for the deaf (HEARING DOGS) — I had the first word down and instinctively threw down HEARING AIDS. Good misdirection. 
  • 32A: Arrangement of atoms in a crystal structure (LATTICE) — In a former life I was a chemistry major, so I got this with no trouble.
  • 32D: One side of a famous NBC feud (LENO) — The one who turned out way, way worse in the end. As Conan put it when he was on his way out of NBC, "Hosting 'The Tonight Show' has been the fulfillment of a life-long dream for me. And I just want to say to the kids out there watching, you can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too."
Signed, Evan Birnholz, Earl of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Constructor: Ian Livengood and Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: themeless

Word of the Day: STANCH (30D: Stop) —
stanch 1  (stônch, stänch, stnch) also staunch (stônch, stänch)
tr.v. stanched also staunchedstanch·ing also staunch·ingstanch·es also staunch·es
1. To stop or check the flow of (blood or tears, for example).
2. To stop the flow of blood from (a wound).
3. To stop, check, or allay: "My anxiety is stanched; I am at peace" (Scott Turow). See Usage Note atstaunch1. []
• • •

Wazzah! Caleb Madison here, filling in for Rex who continues to play Dale Cooper in the Pacific Northwilderness. Hey, Rex- if you're reading this, good news! That gum you like is coming back in style! Sorry in advance, but this wont be extensive as my usual ramblings. I got places to go, people to see, excuses to make.

Ugh I just love themelesses. What beautiful testaments to the clutter of the human mind! If it were up to me, Thursday-Saturday would be themeless, and Wednesday would be a super tricky Thursday-type theme. But enough about me. On second thought, it's never enough. Mr. Livengood is my successor at the JASA Crossword class (Shoutout to all my JASA homies reading this! whut whuuuut!), and an all around talented guy/good constructor, and I've admires Mr. Wilber's themeless work since I started solving, so the bar was set high when I saw the byline.

And the puzzle didn't let me down! TBH, I kind of wished it was a little trickier (I finished ~7 minutes), but I've been feeling that's a general NYT trend lately. Maybe I'm getting better :) ;) :) :o :p

The only significant hesitation I had was in the SW corner. Unfamiliar with this MORAN (39-A: Longtime Capone rival) dude, and I've only waltzed like twice in my whole life (waltz means poop your pants, right?) and I've only ever seen BOX STEP (32-Across: Waltz component) clued as [Part of a staircase made of shipping containers] WHICH IS ITS MOST COMMON MEANING!!! Come Brian (Brad + Ian), get your $h!t together!

Fave crossing: SEX SHOP [49a: Business that may be a zoning target] and STDS [50d: The E.P.A. issues them: Abbr.]- which is such a surprising clue because you'd think the EPA would be smart enough to use protection! Anyway, Brian, I heed your encoded warning and will restrain myself from both kinky stores and federal environmental health protection agencies. HAHA omg someone should make a parody of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" called "Sex Shop". You wouldn't even have to change his first line! I'm an idiot.

  • [36a: Magician's prop] WAND — Whoa- how about "Magician's tool"? I don't like the implication here that a magicians is some sort of charlatan. The other day, a magician used his wand to defeat an EVIL UNDEAD OVERLORD in a movie. Still think it's a prop?
  • [34d: Intern's duty, maybe] XEROXING — I liked this clue because it's a perfect transition to talking about ME! I'm interning at 2 cool (literally- they both have AC) places this summer: the Oxford English Dictionary, and the American Values Club crossword. Xeroxing at neither. Ooh ooh ooh if you liked this puzzle/want more themeless meat, check out the MASSIVE 23x23 themeless that the constructors of the AV Club collaborated on here. Yummy. 
  • [46a: In the loop, with "in"] CLUED — my clue for this would have been, "Like this answer, after I finish typing"
  • [22a: Overzealous promgoer's choice, maybe] TAILS — ok THIS is awkward because:
[Me at my prom]

FYI, guys, my middle school prom was Moulin Rouge-themed, so the tails made sense, since I was also overzealous and thought I was awesome. Good think Brian added that "maybe" at the end there or we'd have beef.

Love y'all. Keep it real.

Signed, Caleb Madison, Justin Bieber of CrossWorld


I forgot a title when I first posted this / THU 6-27-13 / I wonder if anyone noticed / Crap, the URL totally gives it away

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Constructor: Sean Dobbin

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: The shift is on! — Phrases of the form "[Baseball player] S____" shift the S to the first word to become a new possessive phrase. It's easier than I'm making it sound, honest.

Word of the Day: ABBY (Women's soccer star Wambach) —
Mary Abigail "Abby" Wambach (born June 2, 1980) is an American professional soccer player, coach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year. She currently plays for Western New York Flash in the National Women's Soccer League and for the US Women's National Soccer Team. She played college soccer for the University of Florida, where she was a member of a national university championship team and was recognized as a three-time All-American. A five-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, she has been a regular on the U.S. women's national team since 2003. Wambach, a forward, currently stands as the highest all-time goal scorer for the USA Women's National Soccer Team, and holds the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players with 160 goals. [Wikipedia]
• • •
(I had to give a shout-out to soccer and to women's sports in general, both of which can get short shrift in American sports coverage. Plus, the world record thing just happened.)

Theme answers (with spacing and punctuation for extra illumination!):
  • TIGER'S TRIPE (In my .puz, this clue lacks a question mark. Is this just an online error? How does it look in the paper?)
Tyler Hinman here once again to offer my take on today's Times puzzle. I don't think today's constructor had any way of knowing I'd be guest-posting today, but he puts one right in my wheelhouse with a baseball theme. Even though the possessive theme has been done a whole bunch in various forms, I quite liked this one; very tightly defined. The fill isn't immaculate, but mostly pretty solid. My biggest complaint is that I blazed through it in under three minutes, with a brief hiccup in the upper right my only sticking point. Leaving aside my level of experience, I know Thursday is capable of putting up more of a fight. Nonetheless, a thumbs-up for Mr. Dobbin; he didn't horse around here.

  • AL MARSALA — Kinda sounds like a ballplayer as well, doesn't it? "Pinch-hitting for New York... playing right field... Al Marsala."
  • IRANI — I believe I've heard or read Merl Reagle claim that he'd never use this in one of his puzzles because the term is IRANIAN. Any thoughts? At the very least, this is a tired entry. The constructor hemmed himself in a bit by placing black squares that force an I???I entry.
  • NSYNC — These guys were a thing that happened. Bye bye bye.
  • ATTU — An island that could be part of a Monday vowel-change theme if only ITTU, OTTU, and UTTU were things.
  • RUBIK — Have you seen the X-Cube? Pretty cool. I've memorized how to solve the regular cube several times and keep managing to forget.
  • ALL IS WELL / DIAGNOSIS — An optimistic pair of consecutive Down answers.
  • SPAT OUT — Alternatively, a tipster at an OTB in a health club.
In closing, the first two theme entries evoked bad memories of 2010 and 2012, respectively. The third is my girlfriend's favored team as well as Rex's, and I'm sure they don't care to recall the end of 2012's season either. As for the fourth team, well, I'm just going to leave this here.

Oh yeah, and this book is pretty good.

Signed, Tyler Hinman, Regent of CrossWorld


Sam of "Jurassic Park" / WED 6-26-13 / "Idylls of the King" woman / Belle's caller / Six-time All-Star Ron / Cain's eldest son

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Constructor: David Steinberg (16) and Bernice Gordon (99)

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: AGE DIFFERENCE — Phrases that end with the letters -AGE lose those letters, and vice versa.

Word of the Day: CEY (69A: Six-time All-Star Ron) —
Ronald Charles Cey (born February 15, 1948) is an American former third baseman in Major League Baseball who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1971–1982), Chicago Cubs (1983–1986) and Oakland Athletics (1987). Cey batted and threw right-handed. A popular player, he was nicknamed "The Penguin" for his slow waddling running gait by his then-minor league manager Tommy Lasorda. (from Wikipedia)
• • •
While Rex Parker (AKA Edward Snowden) is hiding somewhere in Russia/Ecuador, you're stuck with me, Neville Fogarty. Seriously. I have it on good authority that Rex is all about revealing classified documents. Look at what he does here everyday. What a day to play substitute blogger. It's a meta-theme: we've got co-constructors who have a vast difference in age, and that supplies the impetus for the theme. And it's cute. I know we've seen this idea before, but the "I'm old! I'm young!" is a twist on it; you can decide how much that interests you. I mean, it merited ages in the byline, so it's supposed to be interesting. Well, I'm typing about it, so there must be some merit to it. Consider my interest piqued.

Having only done one myself, I often wonder what the work breakdown is on collaborations. Looking at the grid, it doesn't scream 16-year-old guy. (PEACHY!) I'd guess that if there was any amount of co-operation on the gridding, Bernice likely strong-armed David into keeping it relatively sane. Or maybe it's just the five theme entries forcing the rest of the grid.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Result of someone yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater? (EXIT RAMPAGE— If you yell "Fire!" in a theater, you're gonna have a bad time.
  • 25A: Looting of a legislature? (DIET PILLAGE— Diet is the word for the parliament of countries like Japan and the Holy Roman Empire. There's something weird about the wording here. "I'm going on a diet pillage!" doesn't feel right. Seems like it's a noun trying (and failing) to modify another noun. I get the idea, though.
  • 38A: 83, for the creators of this puzzle ... or a hint to the ends of 17-, 25-, 51- and 60-Across (AGE DIFFERENCE— It's a neat theme-inspiring phrase, regardless of the connection to the authors.
  • 51A: What an exploding microwave can make? (INSTANT MESS— Definitely my favorite theme entry. Sure, any explosion is instant, but this is a microwave exploding. That's a nice bit of clue imagery.
  • 60A: Exemption from playing an instrument at school? (MUSICAL PASS— Or maybe this would be a ticket to see a Broadway show?
So that's the puzzle, pretty much. When you spend that much real estate on theme entries, there's not much room for outstanding fill. I'm definitely not saying that the fill in here is bad, as by and large it's okay. I'm not a fan of ENID, DEL and CEE all in the same section. That seems unnecessary. But there are few gems in here... there's so little to talk about. Let's take a look at those gems (and maybe a weirdo or two).

  • 3D: Be a dreamer (THINK BIG) — "Think" is a slogan used by IBM, courtesy of Thomas J. Watson, Sr. In the '90s, APPLE responded with "Think different." I feel like "Think Big" should've been  the motto for ENIAC.
  • 26D: 1993 Tom Cruise legal thriller (THE FIRM) — Just like Tom Cruise to take credit for writing a John Grisham book. This is on the long list of Grisham books I haven't read nor seen the film adaptation. Do I need to start in on these?
  • 47D: Benson of "Pretty Little Liars" (ASHLEY) — She was also on "Days of Our Lives" and "Eastwick." I have more knowledge of the 13-episode Rebecca Romijn-led TV version of John Updike's tale than the still on the air "PLL," but I guess this has more clout with the average solver. I don't think this is a Bernice clue, nor does it strike me as a David clue. I'm chalking this reference up to Shortz.
  • 19A: Starfish appendage (RAY)  — I knew that this was ARM. I was convinced. But RAY is another word for a starfish's arm. This just seems more like a Friday "sorry, wrong three-letter answer" clue to me. I guess one meanie in the bunch isn't too bad.
  • 43A: Spanish charger (EL TORO) — Okay, we literally went over this yesterday. Why are we suddenly just putting THE, or in this case, EL in front of things? Is this acceptable now? Answer: it shouldn't be. How is this different from a partial that starts with the word A? You wouldn't clue A BULL with [Charger], and this shouldn't be okay. If it's a title that starts with an article like in THE FIRM above, that's fine, but this is a load of TORO. Sheesh.
Signed, Neville, Prince of CrossWorld


TUE 6-25-13

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Constructor: JOEL FAGLIANO

Relative difficulty: EASY-MEDIUM

THEME: WORDS WITH FRIENDS... This is a Scrabble-esque game for your iPad, iPhone, etc., and each theme answer starts with a word that can be followed by "friend."

Word of the Day: ARIOSE (64A: Melodic)
Adj.    1.    ariose - having a melody (as distinguished from recitative)
songlike, melodic, melodious, musical - containing or constituting or characterized by pleasing melody; "the melodious song of a meadowlark"
• • •
Greetings, Crossworld! I’m Catherine Park, filling in for for Rex this fine day. I’ve heard he’s in Oregon, so I suspect he’s drinking shade-grown organic dark roast and getting crossword-related skin ink in the “city where the young go to retire.” I’m so impressed that he managed to work his actual vacation location into his Friday NYT puzzle. Like he’s on a plane flying west to Portlandia at the very moment the world is doing his puzzle with that beautiful 10-letter answer running right down the west coast? Knowing the pace of puzzle publication over at our favorite Grey Lady, he must’ve charted this confluence like two years ago! Or, seeing as that’s literally impossible, is it some sort of special wink from Will to Rex? (And what's all this about that being Rex's "last puzzle"?)

As to today's puzzle, I'll be frank: meh. Last night I did it when it first posted. I warmed to GOPRO (1A: Lose one's amateur status) at once. But then I put in BAN (6A: Prohibit) instead of BAR and things started to get weird. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for it, but I felt manipulated by the two "mountain top" clues, like the puzzle was jerking my chain with all this literal and figurative back and forth. (9A: Mountain top? SKICAP, 16A: What may be under a mountaintop ORE). I just got the sense that the puzzler and I weren't connecting somehow. Did anyone else feel this way? Or was I just being petulant? 

Theme answers:
  • FACEBOOK STALKING (18A: Being an online creep in a way) -- Now, see, this is what I'm talking about. "Facebook Stalking" is a concept, but it's not a really a common term. I would never say, "Hey, I've been Facebook stalking my ex-boyfriend all week." It sounds like something a non-native speaker of English would say. It's unnatural. And it goes without saying that I would never do it either. Facebook stalking is tacky.
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY (24A: Oscars category) : Again, sort of annoying because with this clue it could really be any number of things and it was all about the crosses.
  • IMAGINARY NUMBER (49A: Square root of -1, e.g.) : This only saddened me because I'm so bad at math. Something I should've asked my brilliant ten-year-old son, but I really didn't know it myself. Crosses again. Sigh.
  • WORDS WITH FRIENDS (56A: Popular app... or a hint to the starts of 18-, 24-, and 49-across) : The big reveal. Whatevs. This bummed me out even more, because.. serious confession... I didn't know about it. Dang! This really made me feel dumb. I think this puzzle was specially designed to damage my self esteem. I mean, I'm a word person, and I do play RUZZLE from time to time, but I've just never come across Words With Friends, a game that I take it has long-since peaked. Maybe this is because in its prime years I was up to my elbows in young children. I admit to certain, um, gaps in common knowledge. But this fell flat for me. I can't really blame the constructor for it though. I get it. I blame myself.
So that's what I'm talking about. The theme answers, looked at as a group, are seemingly random, and each one has some sort of issue. I don't hate it, per se. But I don't love it either.

  • THE MAMBO (39A: Tito Puente speciality) -- Is that how we roll now? We can just go around putting "the" in front of things whenever it's convenient? 
  • THE ANSWER (34D: Nickname of basketball's Allen Iverson) — See above. Okay, okay, special props for getting the THEs to cross perfectly. Also, let's face it, it's a cool nickname. 
  • RARA— (46A: _____ avis) -- I wish I had known this, because I like it. You probably knew this, but it means "an unusual, uncommon, or exceptional person or thing [Latin: rare bird" Bonus! You get two words of the day! 
  • EDEN PRAIRIE — (25D: Minnesota city SW of Minneapolis, so named for its fertile soil)-- You aren't going to believe this, but I'm actually from Minneapolis and I couldn't get this without some crosses. I've been to Eden Prairie many times. I think the problem was I'm geographically challenged-- I didn't know it was SW of Minneapolis. I would've thought more SE. Also, calling it a "city" is quite a stretch.  
  • OGRE -- (26D: The giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk," e.g.) Can we talk? Giants and ogres are two different animals, my friend. One is about size. The other is about hideousness, stench, and the ability to kill flowers by just walking by them.  

Signed, Catherine Park, serf of CrossWorld... normally found toiling


In ___ (existing) / MON 6-24-13 / Tibia or fibula / Light horse-drawn carriage with one seat / Japanese sash / Ranee's wrap / Steve Martin's "King ___" / Sharer's word / Brit's toilet / Draper's material / Drive-___ / Blade in a boat

Monday, June 24, 2013

Constructor: Robert Seminara

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "S'MORE" (38A: Sweet treat) — the cookie, the ingredients, the get it

Word of the Day: BANE (41A: Deadly poison)
The term bane (from Old English: bana, meaning "thing causing death, poison"), in botany, is an archaic element in the common names of plants known to be toxic or poisonous.

In the Middle Ages, several poisonous plants of the genus Aconitum were thought to have prophylactic qualities, repelling and protecting against that which they were banes to (e.g. Henbane, Wolfsbane). (Wikipedia)
• • •

Guten Tag, KreuzWelt. This is Bryan Young – longtime reader, first time blogger. Like my illustrious cohorts, I'm filling in for Rex while he's "on vacation", which is a euphemism for "participating in a coup d'état in a small Banana Republic down south". I can understand why he would need a break from this gig given that he does this every da*n night, while I just used several hours and several more Alka-Seltzers to plough through it and am ready to collapse. But enough about me. 

It's a Monday, folks, so if you keep your expectations low you won't be disappointed. A pretty run-of-the-mill "category" puzzle – this time "stuff associated with S'MOREs", which are admittedly delicious enough to be long overdue for a shout-out in the NYT.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: Original maker of a 38-Across (GIRLSCOUT) - I don't like that this is singular, but I guess I don't have the history to prove it. Maybe it was a single scout acting alone who invented the first S'MORE, but I suspect it was at least a team effort.
  • 26A: Ingredients in a 38-Across (GRAHAMCRACKERS)
  • 38A: Sweet treat (SMORE) - Like GIRLSCOUT, I want this one to be plural, although I know it can't be because it needs an odd letter count to fit symmetrically in the grid. Maybe it's just a preference thing, but it seems like too important of a spot to allow in even an whiff of impropriety.
  • 46A: Ingredient in a 38-Across (HOTMARSHMALLOW) 
  • 63A: Ingredient in a 38-Across (CHOCOLATE)
  • 52D: Place to eat a 38-Across (CAMP) - Like Barry Switzer in his OU days, this one detracts from the victory by running up the score. Would have been fine if it hadn't been clued as such an in-your-face theme answer.
Warning! Warning! NSFW! NSFW!

  • 5A: Amorphous mass (BLOB) — Possible candidate for a stealth theme answer, especially if you melt the chocolate a little too much.
  • 15A: Singer Abdul (PAULA) — Given that Ms Abdul shows up in far too many crosswords (i.e. "more than one") due to her felicitously spelled last name, couldn't we have used a different clue? Say, "Newsreader Zahn"? Or "Comedienne Poundstone"? Or "Racist chef Deen"?
  • 20A: Light horse-drawn carriage with one seat (STANHOPE) — Everything I ever needed to know about horse-drawn transportation I learned from crosswords. And Oklahoma!
  • 45A: Lone Star State sch. near the Rio Grande (UTEP) — Go Miners! Go Paydirt Pete!
  • 7D: Burden (ONUS) - Would have been much more fun if the answer to 5A had been BLAB.
  • 23D: 200 in the Indianapolis 500 (LAPS) - What a dumb clue! There are obviously 500 laps in the Indianapolis...oh wait. They're 2.5 miles each, so...who knew? I'll bet YOU didn't. Anyway, NASCAR isn't exactly in my wheelhouse.*
  • 26D: Gadget (GISMO) - I call foul. Proper spelling is GIZMO. Ask this guy.
  • 29D: Draper's material (CLOTH) - Am I the only one who expected this to be a Mad Men clue?

Crosswordese name-and-shame: ESSE, SERA, ABA, OBI, ERATO. Bonus points for two broadcast networks - BBC and CBS! And finally - SMEAR, SEEP, and CRAB all in the same grid? Yuck.

Thanks for reading, friends. I promise that tomorrow's entry will be back up to the quality you expect from this illustrious column.

* I know. Formula racing. Not NASCAR.

Signed, Bryan W. Young, Maharaja of CrossWorld


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