Singer who's subject of Carl Perkins's Whole World Misses You / WED 4-30-14 / Lira spenders / Flying cloud of autodom / Post-Trojan War epic / Rx-dispensing chain / Fierce working-class domestic goddess of sitcom / Ewers mates

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: MAC VS. PC (37A: Epic battle in technology … or a hint to four crossings in this puzzle) — MAC crosses PC four times

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: ARILS (38D: Seed covers) —
An aril (or arillus) is any specialized outgrowth from the funiculus (attachment point of the seed) (orhilum) that covers or is attached to the seed. It is sometimes applied to any appendage or thickening of the seed coat in flowering plants, such as the edible parts of the mangosteen and pomegranatefruit, the mace of the nutmeg seed, or the hairs of a cotton plant. The aril is an edible enticement, encouraging transport by animals and thereby assisting in seed dispersal. Pseudarils are aril-like structures commonly found on the pyrenes of Burseraceae species – the fleshy, edible pericarp splits neatly in two halves, then falling away or being eaten to reveal a brightly coloured pseudaril around the black seed.
The aril may create a fruit-like structure (called a false-fruit). False fruit are found in numerous Angiosperm taxa. The edible flesh of the longanlycheeackee and lleuque fruits are highly developed arils surrounding the seed rather than a pericarp layer. Such arils are also found in a few species of gymnosperms, notably the yews and related conifers. Instead of the woody cone typical of most gymnosperms, the reproductive structure of the yew consists of a single seed that becomes surrounded by a fleshy, cup-like covering. This covering is derived from a highly modified cone scale. (wikipedia)
• • •

An interesting revealer, but the theme as a whole seems like it sets a pretty low bar. How hard (let alone interesting) is it to cross those two particular letters strings? Since there is no real theme material (i.e. none of the longer answers actually relate to the computer wars), and since the answers are all pretty blah, *and* the puzzle is easy, there wasn't much interest *outside* the revealer. It's like an easy themeless, but none of the answers are really zingy enough to hold up a themeless. So conceptually this one works just fine—it just didn't have much entertainment value for me.

The revealer was not just the most interesting thing about the grid—it was probably the hardest. I wanted some kind of -WAR or -WARS and needed many crosses to see what was happening. Most of the rest of the grid involved me filling in answers as fast as I could read clues, though with some notable / odd exceptions. In what I imagine was an attempt to toughen up a remarkably easy puzzle, some of the clues seemed vague / tenuous. I realize that "pulls out" and "OPTS out" amount to roughly the same thing, but "Pulls" and "OPTS" have nothing to do with each other, so even though that was just three letters and pretty easy in retrospect, I tripped a bit there (9A: Pulls (out)). Doggie bag is such a generic term for the food you bring home after dining out that the only reason I got BONE (26D: Doggie bag item) was the totally non-doggie-bag connection between "dog" and "bone." I wanted "leftovers," but obviously that wasn't going to work. SLED was another that just baffled me (66A: Large item in Santa's bag, maybe). Seemed an arbitrary thing for Santa to have in his sled, beyond the fact that Christmas happens in winter. May as well have had a bicycle or a tuba in there. Then there was the ELVIS clue, which meant nothing to me (63A: Singer who's the subject of Carl Perkins's "The Whole World Misses You"). In general, this puzzle had a remarkably old-timey frame-of-reference. ELVIS / Perkins, Muddy Waters, Sophia LOREN *and* ANOUK Aimée, Miles O'SHEA, Ogden Nash … CAAN and BARR, despite coming to fame decades ago, look fresh by comparison. Variety of reference is good; PALIN and "The Sopranos" aren't quite enough to counterbalance today's nostalgic onslaught.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Basketball showman / TUE 4-29-14 / Hope in Hollywood / Sources of formic acid / Prado works / Mexican mama bear

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Constructor: Jules P. Markey

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: NEWSPAPER COLUMN (11D: Place to express an opinion … or a literal description of 3-, 7-, 9- and 21-Down) — theme clues run Down (in "columns") and each of them starts with a word that is also the name of a newspaper:

Theme answers:
  • TIMES TABLE CHART (3D: Multiplication aid)
  • GLOBETROTTER (21D: Basketball showman)
  • POST OFFICE BOXES (7D: Mail holders)
  • SUN WORSHIPER (9D: Ardent beachgoer)
Word of the Day: "Parade REST!" (18A: "Parade ___!") —
noun Military .
a position assumed by a soldier or sailor in which the feet are12 inches (30.48 cm) apart, the hands are clasped behind theback, and the head is held motionless and facing forward.
a command to assume this position. (
• • •
This theme might've worked if

  1. TIMES TABLE CHART had been a real thing (never ever in my life heard anything but "times table"; in fact, I'd always assumed "table" meant "chart")
  2. GLOBETROTTER clue had made reference to Harlem (on its own, the answer is nonsense)
  3. the SUN had been an easily identifiable U.S. paper (unlike all the others, the only SUN I can think of is either half a Chicago paper or a British tabloid or a defunct NY paper…). Oooh, wait, is it Baltimore? Wow, that is really an outlier, national prominence-wise, when compared with the NYT, Boston Globe, and Washington Post.

Add to these problems the fact that the fill is markedly below average (HIERO over IRREG is painful even to look at) and clued somewhere north of Wednesday (Hope LANGE???), and you have a pretty bad overall experience.  The solving times at the NYT applet are coming in hilariously high for a Tuesday. I've literally never heard "Parade REST!" so that was weird (un-Tuesday). Hope LANGE is very un-Tuesday (with Jessica sitting right there) (and totally losable—change "L" to "R", then the last letter in CLOY to "W" or "P" ). Both PENS and INKS are often quite delible now, so those answers (PENS in particular) were weird to me. Had BODE for [Auger], but I guess I was thinking [Augur] so that's on me. EMERGENTS … I don't even know what to say there. Has anyone ever used that word in a sentence? By "anyone," I mean you. That's a bad word on any day, but Tuesday, yipes. Bizarre. [Stay in the fight?] is, I'll admit, a great clue for TRUCE. More appropriate to Thursday or later, but since I should say something nice, I'll give that clue its due. ALL really shouldn't be in a puzzle with COVERALLS. OK, I'll stop.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Newswoman Mitchell / MON 4-28-14 / Sneakers since 1916 / English cathedral town / Roush of Baseball Hall of Fame / Hamburger chain that offers the Baconator

Monday, April 28, 2014

Constructor: Jim Modney

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: BODY DOUBLES (35A: Star stand-ins … or a hint to 17-, 25-, 48- and 58-Across?) — "body" parts that are "doubled" in expressions related to competition

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Direct, as competition (HEAD-TO-HEAD)
  • 25A: 17-Across, literally (Fr.) (TÊTE-À-TÊTE)
  • 48A: 58-Across, literally: Sp. (MANO A MANO)
  • 58A: Direct, as combat (HAND-TO-HAND)
Word of the Day: CAIRN terrier (15A: ___ terrier (dog breed)) —
The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs. The breed is commonly used for hunting and burrowing prey among the cairns.
Although the breed had existed long before, the name Cairn Terrier was a compromise suggestion after the breed was originally brought to official shows in the United Kingdom in 1909 under the name Short-haired Skye terriers. This name was not acceptable to The Kennel Club due to opposition from Skye Terrier breeders, and the name Cairn Terrier was suggested as an alternative. They are usually left-pawed, which has been shown in dogs to correlate to superior performance in tasks related to scent. Cairn Terriers are ratters. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a very clever theme, with one major problem: TÊTE-À-TÊTE does not express competition or combat, in English. It is a private, face-to-face (hey, more body doubling!) conversation. So the puzzle gets a bit lop-sided there. Otherwise, I like the way the revealer works—snappy phrase repurposed as a literal expression of the theme. Also, the fill is good. Puzzle is well put together, and the non-theme fill is even somewhat interesting in places (especially for a Monday). Not to fond of ESQS, but it's probably worth it for that nice double-Q action in the longer Downs. Lots of Scrabbliness in this one, but fill quality is not sacrificed (I'm just looking the other way on ESQS). See the "J" down there? In the NINJA / ANJOU crossing? No fill was harmed in the making of that crossing. Approved.

The nature of the theme, with all its doubling, made it especially easy. I walked to a 2:42 solving time, and the people whose times are usually closest to mine on the NYT applet actually beat me. Main hold-up came while I was trying to exit the NW–couldn't get the first themer off of HEADT-, for some reason, so I just whacked at the rest with crosses til it was obvious (at that point I hadn't seen the revealer). I was helped along by some Super Solver Secret Weapons, i.e. knowing ELY right off the bat (29D: English cathedral town), as well as EDD (53A: Roush of the Baseball Hall of Fame), ANIME (51A: Japanese cartoon art), and a few other assorted answers. Hey, did you know TOADS hibernate? Yeah. It's true. I just learned that … somewhere.

À demain.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Some canapé picks / SUN 4-27-14 / Mop's commercial partner / Prankster's patsy / Catchy pop ditties / Hindu part of Indonesia / William who played Hopalong Cassidy / Houston pro informally

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Constructor: John Lampkin

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Predictable Partings" — idioms meaning "left" or "departed" are clued in relation to professions that seem (on a literal level) to be appropriate to them:

Theme answers:
  • The paparazzo … WAS GONE IN A FLASH
  • The demolitionist … BLEW THE JOINT
  • The civil engineer … HIT THE ROAD 
  • The lingerie manufacturer … SLIPPED AWAY
  • The chicken farmer … FLEW THE COOP
  • The sound technician … MADE TRACKS
  • The film director … QUIT THE SCENE
  • The soda jerk … RAN LICKETY SPLIT (this doesn't really work … expresses movement but not specifically departure)
  • The ecdysiast … TOOK OFF
  • The percussionist … BEAT IT
  • The van driver … MOVED ON
  • The paper doll maker … CUT OUT
Word of the Day: William BOYD (54D: William who played Hopalong Cassidy) —
William Lawrence Boyd (June 5, 1895 – September 12, 1972) was an American film actor known for portraying Hopalong Cassidy. […] In 1935, he was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but asked to be considered for the title role and won it. The original Hopalong Cassidy character, written by Clarence E. Mulford for pulp fiction, was changed from a hard-drinking, rough-living wrangler to its eventual incarnation as a cowboy hero who did not smoke, swear, or drink alcohol (his drink of choice being sarsaparilla) and who always let the bad guy start the fight. Although Boyd "never branded a cow or mended a fence, cannot bulldog a steer", and disliked Western music, he becameindelibly associated with the Hopalong character and, like rival cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, gained lasting fame in the Western film genre. The Hopalong Cassidy series ended in 1948 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last 12.
Anticipating television's rise, Boyd spent $350,000 to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. In 1949, he released the films to television, where they became extremely popular and began the long-running genre of Westerns on television. Like Rogers and Autry, Boyd licensed much merchandise, including such products as Hopalong Cassidy watches, trash cans, cups, dishes, Topps trading cards, a comic stripcomic books, radio shows and cowboy outfits. The actor identified with his character, often dressing as a cowboy in public. Although Boyd's portrayal of Hopalong made him very wealthy, he believed that it was his duty to help strengthen his "friends" - America's youth. The actor refused to license his name for products he viewed as unsuitable or dangerous, and turned down personal appearances at which his "friends" would be charged admission. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well it's a pretty dense theme, I'll give it that. The "jokes" are kind of corny, but they work OK. There is nothing particularly remarkable, bad or good, about this puzzle. You won't remember it tomorrow, and neither will I. What is there to say? Well … lots of phrases beginning with "I," such as I PASS, I ROAM, I DENT and I KON. I assume I, RAE is [Actress Charlotte's autobio]. BOYD was the only answer in the whole grid that was outside my PURVIEW. The puzzle started out very fast for me, but slowed down to normal when I got to the whole S / SE area, where SWORDS made no sense to me as an answer to 91D: Some canapé picks. Aren't canapés like … hors d'oeuvres of some kind. Do you run them through with little plastic swords? Is that what this clue is on about? For whatever reason, the cluing seemed somewhat tougher / vaguer in and around RAN LICKETY SPLIT (which, as I say, is the one real theme outlier). I did enjoy the BUTT/BONER crossing, though, I will admit.

Speaking of that SE section: what the hell is up with SIEG? That's either laziness or bad judgment right there? First off, you always pick the actual English word over the not-widely-known foreign word. Every. Day. Of. The. Week. The actual English word in this case, off the top of my head: DIET. INSPIRED / DIET / STATE. Look at all those real words! But SIEG!? No. No on foreign grounds, as well as no on Hitlerian grounds. Big fat no. Nothing else in the puzzle bothered me very much. Again, as I said, hardly any strong feelings either way on this one. Didn't know TOADS hibernated (106A: Some hibernators). That was my big aha moment of the puzzle. Kind of sad.

Puzzle of the Week: not the greatest week for regular themed puzzles. My favorite was a lovely little puzzle from Sam Donaldson in the LAT on Friday—a simple letter-change theme with (here's the key) genuinely funny results. Terminal "X"s are changed to "G"s, a retagging that's expressed in terms of film re-rating, i.e. phrases are now G-rated, not X-RATED. I also thought Brad Wilber's Saturday themeless in the LAT was fantastic (good week for the LAT)—it's got a SW corner that made me "ooh" out loud: ALADDIN over CRAB RANGOON over ZEPHYR, with MR. DARCY running through the lot. Brad is one of my very favorite themeless constructors—his puzzles are really wide-ranging in their content and the cluing is always really thoughtful. Tough and clever. But the best puzzles this week were contest puzzles (and both are ongoing, so I can't say too much about either one). Honorable mention goes to BEQ's current contest puzzle, "Let's Begin" (get it here), a meta puzzle that took me a little while to figure out. I saw one element right away, but the "six-word phrase" took me down a lot of dead ends before I found the non-dead one. Puzzle of the Week, though, goes (again) to a Fireball puzzle–specifically, Evan Birnholz's "White Lies," which was Hard As Hell, but worth it. Thankfully, though it is a contest puzzle, there is no meta angle to puzzle over. If you can manage to solve it (good luck), the answer will be obvious. Do it. I mean, subscribe to Fireball, then do it.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Harkness Tower locale / SAT 4-26-14 / Physical feature of Herman on Simpsons / It's canalized at Interlaken / Locale for zoot suit riots of 43 / He called his critics pusillanimous pussyfooters / Reality show documenting two-week trade / Group with 63 hit South Street / Brand named after some Iowa villages / Europe's City of Saints Stones

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Constructor: Evan Birnholz

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Herman (6D: Physical feature of Herman on "The Simpsons" => ONE ARM) —
Herman Hermann, voiced by Harry Shearer, is the owner ofHerman's Military Antiques. He dresses in military fatigues. He is an insectivorian. // Herman has only one arm. He told Bart that the other arm was lost by sticking it out of the window of a moving bus and it was torn off by a truck in the other direction. It was also implied it was him, as Ms. Krabappel said not to do it because a kid once lost an arm that way, while on a bus. However, in To Cur, with Love, it was revealed that he stuck it out on a street while trying to hail a car, resulting in the arm being torn off by a passing dogcatcher truck driven by Chief Wiggum. // Herman is not a very important and known person in Springfield, but he will often participate in large mobs and crowds. (simpsons wiki)
• • •

A decent challenge, but (with some notable exceptions) slightly lackluster. This impression may just be an effect of juxtaposition, i.e. most themelesses are going to look lackluster after Joel's nice effort yesterday. And there is definitely nothing wrong with this puzzle. It's solid. Fine. It's just that the marquee answers made me yawn a little. I love "CALVIN & HOBBES" as a comic strip (who doesn't?), but I've seen it in puzzles before, and WALT DISNEY WORLD … first, most don't really call it that, and second, it's a bit mainstream and ho-hum. Evan is capable of phenomenal work. Maybe he's saving it (as many independent constructors do nowadays) for his own site ("Devil Cross"). Maintain control. Maintain copyright. Maintain independence. Sell your knock-out stuff to Fireball (which pays $1 more than the Times). Sell your Just-OK stuff to the NYT. It's a pretty smart way to go. (You really should see this week's Fireball, written by a guy named … oh, look at that: Evan Birnholz) (it's a contest puzzle, so I can't tell you anything about it … except it's good).

ECHO for DIDO (17A: Tragically heartbroken figure of myth) really really put a cramp in my NW at first. I was so sure … and then the "O" panned out … that was a pretty brutal trap. Even made me doubt CAMP, which had gone into the grid immediately. I had OCELI for OCULI … I feel like OCELI are something, and since Blogger isn't red-underlining it, it must be a thing … nope, not finding anything. Not with one "L" anyway. ORIEL! I think that's the answer I actually wanted. Very wrong, but, in its defense, a window. If I'd remembered it, I'd've seen it was wrong (plural doesn't fit). But OCELI ended up being oddly close. Floundered a lot up top and then just peppered the grid with tentative guesses until I stumbled into the OREO / HYDROX thing. That got me SKY BOX SEATS, and the whole puzzle got a lot easier from that point forward.

The most disturbing thing about the solve was Not Knowing Who Herman Was in 6D: Physical feature of Herman on "The Simpsons" (ONE ARM). I am a pretty die-hard "Simpsons" fan, and as soon as I figured out the answer, I remembered instantly who Herman was, but as I was solving … no dice. Got him confused with one of the bullies. Dolph, I think. No, the other one. Kearney. Wow: full  name KEARNEY ZZYZWICZ (15)!!!! The point of this paragraph is holy crap that clue must've been hard for non-hardcore fans. Honestly, it feels like I haven't seen Herman in any meaningful role since 1993.

Very much liked RACE CARD (edgy!) (23A: Controversial thing to play), PROTEST VOTE (4D: Abstention alternative) and "WIFE SWAP" (51A: Reality show documenting a two-week trade). The rest is OK BUT… 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


BlackBerry routers / FRI 4-25-14 / Hypothetical particle in cold dark matter / Colorful party intoxicant / FIve-time US presidential candidate in early 1900s / Elvis hit with spelled out title

Friday, April 25, 2014

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ADRIANA Lima (16A: Supermodel Lima) —
Adriana Francesca Lima (Brazilian Portuguese: [ɐ̃dɾiˈɐnɐ frɐ̃ˈsɛskɐ ˈlimɐ]; born June 12, 1981) is a Brazilian model and actress who is best known as a Victoria's Secret Angel since 2000, and as a spokesmodel for Maybelline cosmetics from 2003 to 2009. At the age of 15, Lima finished first in Ford's "Supermodel of Brazil" competition, and took second place the following year in the Ford "Supermodel of the World" competition before signing with Elite Model Management inNew York City. In 2012, she came in 4th on the Forbes top-earning models list, estimated to have earned $7.3 million in one year. (wikipedia)
• • •

Last I heard, Joel Fagliano was going to be working for W. Shortz full time starting in the near future (following Joel's impending graduation from a pretty decent little southern California college). If this is still true, this is a very good thing, assuming his intelligence, youth, sense of humor, and fairly exacting standards have at least some influence on the whole puzzle-publishing alchemy at the NYT. I liked this puzzle a lot. Any weak spots are pretty small and forgettable next to the longer, better stuff they're helping to hold in place. Clues were pretty tough/clever over all, but with enough gimmes to allow for footholds in many places, making this a thorny but (difficulty-wise) pretty normal Friday puzzle. My only real criticisms are more matters of personal taste than of puzzle fundamentals. I weirdly resent having to know the names of so-called supermodels. I will (probably) forget ADRIANA Lima's name as soon as I turn off my computer. Nothing against her personally. She's probably very nice. I just … feel like the age of the "supermodel" is over, or should be. I pretend that it is, anyway. Also, I will never accept "A New Hope" as the title of anything (27A: Princess Leia was one of "A New Hope" = HOLOGRAM). Honestly, I saw that clue and thought "Wait, which one is that? … Oh, they mean 'Star Wars'." It's "Star Wars." I know. I saw it seven times in the theater. The poster hangs in my living room. I think I'd remember its name.

XOXOXO is somehow simultaneously lovely/sweet and mildly irksome (7D: Love letters). Feels arbitrary. You could do XOXO (I've seen that). Now XOXOXO. Probably XOXOXOXO (because why not?). And yet it's a hell of a lot better than [Tic tac toe loser] answers like OOX or XOO. And you *do* get Xs out of it, and Xs are rarely bad (unless they're involved in Scrabble-f*cking, i.e. the gratuitous squeezing of high-value Scrabble-tile letters into the grid at the expense of overall fill quality … but you knew that). IDEM is never pretty, IMHO. But there's really little else to complain about. CATERWAUL, RAISE HELL, SEX SCENE and JELLO SHOT all give this puzzle the feel of a party that's gotten a little bit out of control. Just a little. In a good way.

I started badly, with PATSY / STUD (!?) instead of CHUMP / "MR. ED" (1D: Sucker / 19A: Show horse). But at least I had the good sense to yank it pretty quickly. SOPHS to PKGS to XKE to XOXOXO got me started, and while there were hold-ups here and there, I moved through the grid pretty steadily and easily. I dispute [It's nothing new] as a clue for DEJA VU. Seems inaccurate. It probably is Something New—you just have an eerie *sense* that you've seen it before. Plus, it's probably not identical In Every Respect to whatever you thought had happened before, so "nothing" seems wrong. Off. Also, the clue on HAVRE? Is that the only place French ships are allowed to dock? Presumably other ships dock there too? The clue is hardly distinctive enough for that answer. [Update: it's the French word for "port"? I had seven years of French and didn't know that. Usually foreign vocabulary in puzzles doesn't get nearly that specialized]. [Unlocked area?] for BALD SPOT and [Blackberry routers] for iPHONES? Loved those.

Mistakes (besides the initial one) include FRENEMY for EX-ENEMY (37A: Germany, to Britain) (I like mine) and … I think that's it, actually.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Public-road race / THU 4-24-14 / Wassailer's tune / Scratch-card layer / Finnair rival / Spillsaver brand / Conan nickname

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Constructor: Stanley Newman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: four-syllable clues — Only theme answer = 20A: The theme, part 1 (EVERY ONE OF THE / CLUES HAS EXACTLY / FOUR SYLLABLES)

Word of the Day: RALLYE (48D: Public-road race) —
Rallying, also known as rally racing, is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. This motorsport is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages. [I have no idea why the French spelling, with the terminal "e," is (sometimes) retained …] (wikipedia)
• • •

Stan is a fine editor (Newsday) and a veteran constructor, but I don't understand this. Who cares if a clue has two or three or seven syllables? How hard is it to write four-syllable clues? I mean, people do entire puzzles where the first letters of clues are just one letter, or where the first letters of clues, in order, spell out elaborate crap. Four syllables? I would think any good constructor could do that for most any grid. Also, this grid is not demanding, and the fill is just OK. Nothing exciting or special. And given that the backbone of the whole puzzle is just … instructions, I fail to see where the interest lies. Why is this interesting? Is this fun? I certainly don't find it bad or offensive, but its reason for existing—why anyone might think this an entertaining idea—is totally beyond me.

This one played pretty easily for me, but then again I had just finished a much more intricate, much harder puzzle (this week's Fireball—a barnburner), so piecing this together felt like child's play. There were a few hang-ups. Wanted LIFE VESTS then LIFE BOATS for LIFE BELTS (which … I don't really know what those are, but I can imagine). NORA (47A: Mrs. James Joyce) and RALLYE (48D: Public-road race) and AMANA (41D: "Spillsaver" brand) were not easy for me to pick up, so coming down out of the middle into the SE was tough. Also, I had TEN- at 37D: Break time, perhaps, but couldn't conceive of writing out O'CLOCK, so remained baffled for a bit. Had ROUE for RAKE (68A: No gentleman). Would never have thought of a scratch-off layer as made of LATEX (though I'm not doubting the science) (3D: Scratch-card layer). Thought 32A: French department was going to be a generic word for the category rather than a *specific* department. Considered RYDER for FEDEX (22D: Golf cup sponsor). None of this is that remarkable or interesting. Just your ordinary snags. Really wish there were something juicy to talk about here, but I don't see it.

The NYT feels like it's in a pretty bad rut at the moment. Monday's puzzle aside, it seems like all the really good work is coming out elsewhere. Hope that turns around soon.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Very high trumpet note / WED 4-23-14 / Keyboardist Saunders / River of Hesse / Unstable subatomic particle / "Luck Be a Lady" composer/lyricist /

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: MERCURY / SEVEN (71A: With 1-Down, first American astronauts) — last names of all seven astronauts populate the grid, clued by their first names, which are in all caps FOR SOME REASON. There are a couple random extra theme answers: SPACE RACE (12D: Old U.S./Soviet rivalry) and ROCKET (9D: NASA vehicle).

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: KAON (38D: Unstable subatomic particle) —
In particle physics, a kaon /ˈk.ɑːn/, also called a K meson and denoted K, is any of a group of four mesonsdistinguished by a quantum number called strangeness. In the quark model they are understood to be bound states of a strange quark (or antiquark) and an up or down antiquark (or quark).
Kaons have proved to be a copious source of information on the nature of fundamental interactions since their discovery in cosmic rays in 1947. They were essential in establishing the foundations of the Standard Model of particle physics, such as the quark model of hadrons and the theory of quark mixing (the latter was acknowledged by a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2008). Kaons have played a distinguished role in our understanding of fundamental conservation lawsCP violation, a phenomenon generating the observed matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe, was discovered in the kaon system in 1964 (which was acknowledged by a Nobel prize in 1980). Moreover, direct CP violation was also discovered in the kaon decays in the early 2000s. (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't really understand why this puzzle exists. It does nothing. It lists a bunch of names, only a handful of which are legitimately famous. There is no anniversary here. The theme is dense, but so what? The fill is consequently Tortured. This is just baffling. What is the point? Why are the theme clues (the astronaut names, anyway) in all caps? That makes no sense and follows no crossword convention that I know of. When I got SCHIRRA for 1A: WALLY I was like "… ??? … is there some wordplay involved here? Do I have the answer wrong? What is a SCHIRRA?" Later I hit an astronaut name I recognized, so I had to just go on faith that SCHIRRA was a name (see also CARPENTER, COOPER, SLAYTON (?); I knew SHEPARD, GRISSOM and GLENN. Good thing GLENN is famous, because that SE corner was threatening to be undoable for a bit there. A ridiculous obscure Dickinson for WHEREON? Even with WHEREO-, I wasn't entirely sure of the last letter. Thank god I remembered MERL Saunders (*not* in everyone's crossword bag o' tricks, I assure you). That at least kept me in the game down there (62A: Keyboardist Saunders).

Never heard of SUPER C (48A: Very high trumpet note). Again, *thank god* -OOPER was inferable as COOPER, because that letter after SUPER could've been anything, as far as I was concerned. Figured C > H, since C, unlike H, is a note. So C. LOESSER … (69A: "Luck Be a Lady" composer/lyricist) … again, pure crossword muscle memory there. Ugh. I stared at NOTO- / -AON for many seconds before deciding on what letter could possibly go there. THE DIE is a terrible partial. I've never seen ACETALS, or maybe I have, but it looks like a ton of other acetyl / acetate / acetone answers I've filled in over the years (18A: Volatile solvents). DOODLER I like (26D: School desk drawer?); also ATROPHIED (21D: Weakened due to inactivity). The rest is just an absurd exercise in symmetry. Baffling.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS same theme published in NYT in 1998:


Music critic Nat / TUE 4-22-14 / 1963 John Wayne comedy western / Onetime SNL-type show / Smoky-voiced Eartha / Insurer with duck mascot /

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Tick Tock — circles in theme answers spell out TICK on left side and TOCK on right

Theme answers:
  • TICKLED (17A: ___ pink)
  • COMMON STOCK (23A: It's not preferred for investors)
  • TICKED OFF (32A: Peeved)
  • "MCLINTOCK" (42A: 1963 John Wayne comedy western)
  • TICKET BOOTH (48A: Spot at the front of a theater)
  • BUTTOCK (62A: Half moon?)
Word of the Day: "MCLINTOCK" —
McLintock! is a 1963 comedy Western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and starring John Wayne, with co-stars including Maureen O'HaraYvonne De Carlo, and Wayne's son Patrick Wayne. The film, produced by Wayne's company Batjac Productions, was loosely based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. (wikipedia)
• • •

Less than enjoyable solve for me, though this was not entirely the puzzle's fault. For some reason, the .puz file I downloaded had a glitch that turned all apostrophes and quotation marks into "â". This added an annoying interesting level of difficulty to the solve. But then there was the puzzle, which had a somewhat dull theme, the execution of which resulted in a highly unpleasant, radically segmented grid. God, those 4-long black blocks (two on each side) are deathly. They create these mini-puzzles which can't help but be dull and tragically crosswordesey. See the eastern block in particular, with its RATA AROO EEKS (!?) and AOKS (!?!?). Who pluralizes those!?! Theme answers were not special or interesting—except BUTTOCK. Thumbs up there … so to speak. Why not go with TICKETS and TICKLED PINK? Or … I don't know, something different? Concept here is mildly interesting, but the grid design is fatally flawed, and the execution slightly awkward. This grid really should've been rebuilt, or the theme answers reconceived entirely.

Never heard (or barely heard) of COMMON STOCK, so that took a lot of crosses to bring down. Everything else was reasonably familiar. I did blank on KAMPALA right out of the gate, though. Had to go immediately to crosses, but even with the "K" I was like "… ? … KINSHASA doesn't fit … where is KINSHASA? … gah!" I put it together pretty fast, but I'm highly self-disappointed at not getting that answer straight off. Thought Tony Soprano might be a MOB BOSS (42D: Tony Soprano, for one) … I mean, he was, just not in this puzzle. HENTOFF, however, was a gimme (8D: Music critic Nat). I've been reading a lot of old Cosmo magazines lately (don't ask) and was stunned to see that he was actually Cosmo's music critic back in '79. He covered some pop and rock, but also a whole lot of other music I didn't expect to find in a late-'70s mainstream women's magazine: jazz, blues, classical, reggae. His columns are an interesting window into the music of that era—beyond the pop charts.

["Love I Need" from the 1978 album Give Thankx … seriously: Thankx!]

OK, gotta go finish watching the horrifying documentary on the Hillsborough disaster (the 25th anniversary of which was last week). See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS BEQ's site has been down due to some sort of Typepad meltdown. Here are the .puz and .pdf of his latest puzzles if you want them.


Restaurant guide name since 1979 / MON 4-21-14 / TIe-dye alternative / Strike zone arbiter / Longtime sponsor of Metropolitan Opera / Decennial official / Second-oldest General Mills cereal /

Monday, April 21, 2014

Constructor: John Lieb

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: COUNTER EXAMPLES (58A: They disprove claims … or 17-, 23-, 38- and 47-) — theme answers are examples of people who count:

Theme answers:
  • HOME PLATE UMPIRE counts balls and strikes (17A: Strike zone arbiter)
  • BANK MANAGER counts money (23A: George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life")
  • BLACKJACK PLAYER counts cards, sometimes, perhaps (38A: One getting hit in Vegas)
  • CENSUS TAKER counts people (47A: Decennial official)
Word of the Day: BATIK (7D: Tie-dye alternative) —
Batik (Javanese pronunciation: [ˈbateʔ]Indonesian: [ˈbatɪk]) is a cloth that is traditionally made using a manual wax-resist dyeing technique.
Originating from Java, batik is made by drawing designs on fabric using dots and lines of hot wax, which resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water and repeating if multiple colors are desired. Indigenous patterns often have symbolic meanings which are used in specific ceremonies, while coastal patterns draw inspiration from a variety of cultures; from Arabic calligraphy, European bouquets and Chinese phoenixes to Japanese cherry blossoms and Indian or Persian peacocks.
Batik has been used as everyday clothing since ancient times, and it is still used by many Indonesians today in occasions ranging from formal to casual. On October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. As part of the acknowledgment, UNESCO insisted that Indonesia preserve their heritage. (wikipedia)
• • •

This seems like a very good Monday puzzle. Do I have the theme right? I think so, but sometimes when it's seemingly simple, I worry I've missed something. Do blackjack players *always* count cards? I don't play. I thought that was … not illegal, but monitored / barred by casinos … somehow? … not that you could stop people … anyway, that's the only answer that seems at all potentially wobbly. Well, I don't know that counting is the primary activity I'd associate with a BANK MANAGER, but then again, to be fair, I don't really think about BANK MANAGERs much. The revealer is a nice play on words. The puzzle is easy but also pizzazzy, which is a word I invented that you are free to use.

Here's where I faltered, however briefly (almost always very briefly). USMA … is not an abbr. that comes to mind easily (3D: West Point inits.). It's better than USM (see my tirade about this non-thing earlier this year). And it is a place. An academy, to be precise. But my fingers typed in USMC anyway, because that is the only USM- answer my brain will accept without manual override. BATIK seemed hard to me (7D: Tie-dye alternative). I think it's kind of bygone, like tie-dye. I would never wear either, so I'm kind of out of my depth here. I love Buster Keaton but do not think of him specializing in PRATFALL (19D: Buster Keaton specialty). That's when you fall on your ass? Or just fall? He did that, yes, but he's a physical comedian of the highest order. PRATFALL seems somehow diminishing. I wrote in ZABAR for ZAGAT (32D: Restaurant guide name since 1979). I couldn't get SULTAN off just the "S," boo hoo. Oh, and I never actually "got" MARKS (24D: A, B, C, D and F). In America, we call those "grades."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP