Old TV news partner of David / SAT 5-31-14 / Sect in ancient Judea / Discreet music musician / 1978 Broadway revue that opens with Hot August Night / Lead role in film known in France as L'Or de la vie / Woolly bear becomes one

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Constructor: John Lampkin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Jordan's Mount NEBO, from which Jericho can be seen (18A) —
Mount Nebo (Arabicجبل نيبو‎ Jabal NībūHebrewהַר נְבוֹ‎ Har Nevo) is an elevated ridge in Jordan, approximately 817 meters (2680 feet) above sea level, mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of thePromised Land that he would never enter. The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan. The West Bank city of Jericho is usually visible from the summit, as is Jerusalem on a very clear day. (wikipedia)
• • •

Decent. Dullish. Really not a lot to say about this one. Everything seems fine. And forgettable. Nice big corners, no standout answers. Phenomenal competence. Very little on the low end (AGR and REROOTED being the only real graters), but very little on the high end. Comme ci, come ça. Little bit of this, little bit of that. Win some, lose some. Etc. etc. Wasn't even particularly easy or difficult (though it leaned toward easy). Made consistent, methodical progress on it, from the west clockwise, until a bit of a stall in the NW (hardest for me by far). Really should've gotten ROUGHRIDER earlier (17A: Follower of Roosevelt). It's so literal, now that I look at it, I don't know what went wrong. I was kind of out of guesses after Truman. I have seen those foam noodles in pools before, but do not think I've seen or heard the full phrase POOL NOODLE before, so that one I was slow to accept (15A: Foam item at a water park). Key to my unlocking that corner was getting SPREE off just the terminal "E." Here's how weird a solver I am: ESSENES was a gimme (22A: Sect in ancient Judea), and EL GRECOS went in very shortly thereafter, very early in the solve, but all that other, more mundane stuff in the NW? It stopped me cold (for a bit). Still, the overall experience was not that taxing.

Is "In" being used … how is it being used? (32A: "In" => LIKED) Why is it in quotation marks? Even if it's being used slangily, it shouldn't require quotation marks. Or it should, and I just have no idea what's going on there. I managed to get "DANCIN'" despite never or barely having heard of it (39D: 1978 Broadway revue that opens with "Hot August Night"). Hmm, I just learned that Danny Terrio (who should appear in puzzles more often with a name like that) was in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is what happens when an answer you don't know stirs a memory of some cheesy dance TV show from your youth that you can't quite remember, except for the fact that the host had an Italian name, and then you do a bunch of Googles, and under Dannys Bonnaduce and Osmond, you see "Terrio," and you're like "yes!", then you notice his name is actually "Deney" (!?!?!?!), and then you read his wikipedia entry.

[Danny … Thomas?]

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Ovid's foot / FRI 5-30-14 / DuPont development of 1935 / Midwest city named for Menominee chief / Imagine grammy winner of 2010 / Oscar nominee for playing Cal Trask / Any of three authors of Pull My Daisy / Novel title character called my sin my soul / Monomer of proteins informally

Friday, May 30, 2014

Constructor: James Mulhern

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: KIPS (20A: 1,000-pound weight units) —
kip is a non-SI unit of force. It equals 1000 pounds-force, used primarily by American architects and engineers to measure engineering loads. Although uncommon, it is occasionally also considered a unit of mass, equal to 1000 pounds, i.e., one half of a short ton. One use is as a unit ofdeadweight to compute shipping charges. (wikipedia)

• • •

Yeah. Yeah, this'll do. KIPS and PAH are absurd, but the rest of this just hums, though I repeat my contention that people simply don't say "I'M IT!" The way it works, see, is when you start, people shout "NOT IT!" and the last person to do so is, in fact, IT. Then, from there on out, whoever is IT is self-evident. Whoever is IT, upon tagging someone, might shout "YOU'RE IT!" but that person is never, ever going to shout "I'M IT." And that is your lesson in the official rules of tag. Side note, crossing an IT phrase with an IT phrase (ATE IT), not great. But back to the good stuff, which is most of it—it was a delight to see interesting phrases unfolding without also having to endure jarring, ugly stuff. This one was definitely on the easy side for me, but in those few cases where I hit a wall, it was nice to have the effort of breaking down that wall feel like it was worth it (IT!). Bottom much tougher than top for me. Even with JUDITH, ANISE and ESPY in place, I had trouble dropping those long Downs in the SW. Couldn't remember who Cal Trask was, couldn't think of anything appropriate for 29D: Very, very that began UN-S, and just couldn't see DISPERSAL at that early juncture. Had to dive down into that corner and climb my way out. Wish I'd looked at the DARLA clue first, because that was a gimme. But I managed. ELSIE and ALAMO turned out to be right, so I survived.

Wasn't sure about GRENADA and also wasn't sure I knew how to spell GRENADA (GRANADA?), so getting underneath it was tricky at first. Once I slung GALORE across there, I was able to guess NO JOKE, which immediately gave me FIJI, and once I broke through, that SE corner was over pretty quickly. Very geographical puzzle today, with three country all quite close to one another—the two above-named and then GHANA. Did you know Maya Angelou lived in GHANA for a time? I picked up All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes today in the public library (which had a nice display of her work out—pretty fast and thoughtful tribute, I thought). Her writing is so honest and compelling and emotional. I'd only read I Know Why… before today, but two pages into All God's Children… and I knew I had to check it out (despite being in the middle of four other books at the moment). Where was I? Oh, GHANA, yeah. The Angelou memoir begins in GHANA. I probably would've got that answer pretty quickly anyway, but it was nice that it was sitting on top of my brain. I had no idea FIJI was so HINDU (18A: Like about 30% of 51-Across, belief-wise). That was today's most interesting trivia bit.

Last thing. About HERSTORY (59A: Subject that includes women's suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment). I have not heard someone use that term unironically in 20+ years. I mean, I know many, many ardent feminists (married one, even), and … no. It's called "women's history." HERSTORY is one of those things, like spelling "women" with a "y" ("yeomen") (that was a joke) (the parenthetical part, I mean), that belongs to another era. Amusingly, wikipedia wants me to believe that "hertory" is a viable option. Try using it in conversation and see how far you get before someone goes "what?" It's like grotesque collision of "uterus" and "ovary" (and "artery" and "hernia"). Bizarre.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Media icon with eponymous Starbucks beverage / THU 5-29-14 / Afflictions known technically as hordeola / Facetious words of understanding / Where Macbeth Malcolm Duncan are buried / Hillary Clinton wardrobe staples / Writer with most combined Tony and Oscar nominations / The Sphinx's is bland pitiless as sun per Yeats

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Constructor: Anna Shechtman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SHARP —theme clues all contain the symbol their answers describe … it's hiding there in plain sight, as a simple number sign (i.e. "#")

Theme answers:
  • 20A: #1 (TIC TAC TOE BOARD)
  • 33A: #2 (POUND SIGN)
  • 43A: #3 (SPACE MARK) — that's an "insert space" editing mark, in case that wasn't clear
Word of the Day: PAULO Coelho (15A: "The Alchemist" novelist ___ Coelho) —
Paulo Coelho (Portuguese: [ˈpawlu kuˈeʎu]; born August 24, 1947), is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. […] He is the recipient of numerous international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. The Alchemist, his most famous novel, has been translated into 80 languages. The author has sold 150 million copies worldwide. (wikipedia)
• • •

Just had the biggest "Ohhhhhhhh…" moment I've had in a long time. "Ohhhhhhhh…" moments are different from "aha" moments in that they are belated—moments of awareness that come not in the heat of battle, but afterwards, when you're staring at a puzzle going "… huh … I must be missing something." It was only when I began to type out the theme clues that I noticed the "#" symbol appeared in the clues themselves. My brain was just going "number one, number two …", never registering that the theme clues had always contained the image the theme answers were describing. So for that quite distinct and vaguely pleasant "Ohhhhhhhh…" moment (that's 8 h's btw), I give this puzzle a moderate thumbs-up.

I know Anna and am in a reading group with Anna and she disagreed with something I said about George Eliot earlier this week so I considered taking this opportunity to exact some petty passive-aggressive vengeance, but then reconsidered. I was oddly in tune with this puzzle and its cluing. I have this vague, completely unsupported theory that knowing someone personally, even in the most limited way, makes you better able to solve that person's puzzles. I mean, Brad Wilber used to give me fits. Now he's my friend and I *own* his puzzles (in that they now take me just an eternity instead of an eternity x 2). Feel free to test this theory for yourself. I'm sure Brad would love the attention. But back to Anna's puzzle—for me, there was an equal mix of frowny and smiley face where the fill was concerned. There were some grimace-inducing patches, mainly in the center north (from AAND across EPEES to ELEE and including INREM). TREN, TELEO, AS BIG, ISAO, ORAS, AHSO … these all gave me various feelings of uncomfortableness. But those long Downs are hard to resist, particularly BUBBLE WRAP, WHERE IT'S AT, and GAY ANTHEM. And there's even fantastic shorter stuff like HELL NO and SHTUP (!), the latter of which I wrote in immediately, certain it would be wrong but wanting to write it into the grid anyway. So despite the grimaces, I enjoyed myself.

Coincidences: I used both SCENARIO and RUBE in separate tweets (SANS TWITTER HASHTAG) just minutes before solving this puzzle. I had an OPRAH Chai Tea Latte last weekend (Wife: "What's the difference between the Oprah and the regular Chai Tea Latte?" Server: "Oprah is spicier.") (25D: Media icon with an eponymous Starbucks beverage). My STYE of EPICNESS is almost gone now, so that's not really much of a coincidence, really.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. "Ohhhhhhhh…" is to be said with a tone of slowly dawning realization, not orgasmically.
P.P.S. if you liked this puzzle, you really, really have to do this one (by one Mr. N. Fogarty). I mean it.


Foreign relief org created by JFK / WED 5-28-14 / Kingly name in Norway / Aladdin's monkey pal / Singers Green Jardine

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: animal similes —

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: LESLEY Gore (27A: Gore who sang "It's My Party," 1963) —
Lesley Gore (born Lesley Sue Goldstein, May 2, 1946) is an American singer. At the age of 16, in 1963, she recorded the pop hit "It's My Party". // Gore was born in New York City. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, in a Jewish family. Her father, Leo Gore, was a wealthy manufacturer of children's clothes and swimwear.
Lesley was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when "It's My Party" became a #1 hit. It was later nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. (wikipedia)

• • •

Another puzzle with impressive theme density. This one's stronger than yesterday's, but still wobbles a bit in couple theme answers, and still has that spotty fill that theme-dense puzzles often seem to have. I thought I would sail through this in record time once I saw the theme was just animal comparison idioms, but then a couple things happened. First, when I got to 49A: Quite cunning, I had no idea it was a theme answer (I'd already encountered two Downs and could see another Down in the center, so the Across took me by surprise). Thus, I never considered the now-obvious fox answer, and so that corner was a tad (tod?) harder than it would've been otherwise. But the big slow down, for me, was the central themer—an idiom I have never heard. I did not even know a "coot" was an animal (a bird, for my fellow ignorant folk). None. Zero. I know coots as codgers. Foolish old men. Perhaps this meaning was only ever an extension of the baldness of the damned bird-coot, but that original, avian coot-ness is something I did not know existed. Jarring to go from such ultra-familiar expressions as SICK AS A DOG and BLIND AS A BAT to BALD AS A COOT. I had BALD AS A COO- and honestly didn't know what letter went there. "Are coons bald?" I wondered, knowing the answer.

I see that the coot idiom is a real thing, though the fact that it's not Nearly in-the-language as most of the others is, as I say, jarring. Worse for me, though, was FAT AS A COW. I can imagine someone's being called a "fat cow," but FAT AS A COW could just as easily have been FAT AS A PIG, FAT AS A HOG, or FAT AS A WHALE (which googles better than all the others I just mentioned combined). BIG AS A WHALE has significantly less currency than FAT AS A WHALE, though I have no problem with BIG AS A WHALE because of the special B-52s dispensation.

TRASH CAN before BIN. DECAMPS before ENCAMPS for some reason. No idea Monet painted anything with SNOW in the title (13D: Monet's "___ Scene at Argenteuil"). Barely heard of an OSAGE orange. I think that's it for hiccups. Overall a decent puzzle, but kind of like a balance beam routine with several significant wobbles and a not-totally-stuck landing.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Shelf prop / TUE 5-27-14 / Language that gave us guru pundit / Shot for those who have mastered English / Rebuke to eavesdropper for short

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    Constructor: James Tuttle

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: BOOKEND (37A: Shelf prop … or a hint to both parts of the answers to the sic starred clues) — two-part phrases (or compound words) where both parts can precede "book" in a familiar phrase.

    Theme answers:
    • OPEN SOURCE (18A: *Like software that can be freely used and altered)
    • FLIP PHONE (26A: *Samsung or LG product)
    • MATCH PLAY (47A: *Tournament competition)
    • SCHOOLWORK (55A: *Class assignments)
    • BABY BLUE (3D: *Like many a heartthrob's eyes)
    • GOODYEAR (38D: *Company whose logo includes the winged foot of Mercury)
    Word of the Day: Buck O'NEIL (7D: Baseball great Buck) —
    John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil (November 13, 1911 – October 6, 2006) was a first baseman andmanager in the Negro American League, mostly with the Kansas City Monarchs. After his playing days, he worked as a scout, and became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball. In his later years he became a popular and renowned speaker and interview subject, helping to renew widespread interest in the Negro leagues, and played a major role in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
    O'Neil's life was documented in Joe Posnanski's award-winning 2007 book The Soul of Baseball. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    One of those after-the-facters that never interest me that much. Also, revealer should really be BOOKENDS. That would've been much more elegant. Wouldn't've fit in the center of a 15x15 grid, but still: better is better. Top three theme answers are reasonably interesting in their own right, the others, less so, and the overall fill quality is probably a shade below average (INRE OON ATTA ANOSE etc.). At 78 words (the max) your fill should be Squeaky clean, though with this kind of theme density, I guess some allowances have to be made. Grid has a strange feel to it, where it's crammed with unattractive short stuff but also has these interesting somewhat open patches of long answers (parallel Downs in the NW and SE, and the nifty little StaggerStack™ in the middle). Those patches, especially the center, were the only places I met any resistance in this thing. First pass at the middle Acrosses didn't yield much, so I had to pepper them with crosses before they came to heel. Mostly I just flew through this without any clear sense of what was going on. I probably puzzled most over MYOB, an expression I haven't heard / seen in ages (not complaining—I actually like it; it's like proto-textspeak. Textspeak before there was textspeak. Unlike OMG, which had no life that I'm aware of before texts).

    I always forget who Buck O'NEIL is, and always want instead either Buck OWENS (uh, not a baseball player) or Buck … the guy who manages the Orioles. Buck … Showalter! Yeah, he doesn't fit. So if this puzzle does nothing else, maybe it ETCHES Buck O'NEIL into my memory forever. One can hope.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Rap song of 1966 / MON 5-26-14 / Hip-hop song of 1967 / Suffix with pay or schnozz / Easily tamed tropical birds / Metal song of 1950

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    Constructor: Dan Margolis

    Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday level)

    THEME: "Genre" — songs are clued wackily, via a "genre" that they belong to only in the most literal of senses:

    Theme answers:
    • 17A: "Hip-hop" song of 1967 ("WHITE RABBIT")
    • 29A: "Rap" song of 1966 ("KNOCK ON WOOD")
    • 45A: "Country" song of 1971 ("AMERICAN PIE")
    • 60A: "Metal" song of 1950 ("SILVER BELLS")
    Word of the Day: John NANCE Garner (31D: F.D.R. veep John ___ Garner) —
    John Nance Garner IV, known among his contemporaries as "Cactus Jack" (November 22, 1868 – November 7, 1967), was an American Democratic politician and lawyer from Texas. He was a state representative from 1898 to 1902, and U.S. Representative from 1903 to 1933. He was the 44th Speaker of the House in 1931–1933. In 1932, he was elected the 32nd Vice President of the United States, serving from 1933 to 1941. A conservative Southerner, Garner opposed the sit-down strikes of the labor unions and theNew Deal's deficit spending. He broke with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1937 over the issue of enlarging the Supreme Court, and helped defeat it on the grounds that it centralized too much power in the President's hands. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    I did this and then made dinner (a kind of pizza / salad hybrid that actually came out great) and then watched the latest "Orphan Black" (I would watch a spin-off just about Helena and her wacky, ultra-violent misadventures), and then came back up here to write and had completely forgotten what the puzzle was about. Even now, I'm not sure (I'm deliberately not looking down and to my left, where the puzzle sits … I'm just going to try to remember … I know I liked it pretty well … something … nope, gotta look). Oh, right, the "genre in quotation marks" clues. Yes. It's a very cute concept. Execution feels wildly arbitrary. OK, I don't know any other famous songs about things that hop [looks up "WALTZING MATILDA" to find out if it's about a kangaroo — discovers it isn't —moves on]. But (drum roll) "KNOCK THREE TIMES" is a gorgeous 15 (bingo!) letters long. And there must be a bunch of song titles with a country name in them. There are certainly a bunch of songs with "America" in their titles. "AMERICAN PIE" is the worst of the themers, in that "American" is an adjective, not a country. And hey, "TURNING JAPANESE" works if you like adjectives, and (drum roll) 15! Pardon me while I completely redo your grid for you.

    Again, love the concept. And where is the "rock" song?  ("Turn to Stone"?). The "pop" song? ("Father Figure"?). You've got yourself a Sunday theme here—it's semi-squandered on these four measly answers. Fill is average, but decent. Fine. I don't like NANCE on a Monday (an old veep's middle name? no). Also, two UPs and two TOs really close to each other, and then AT ME and IT NO, also really close to each other. It's a little messy. But largely inoffensive. So thumbs up for the concept, thumbs somewhere in the middle for everything else.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Freud disciple Alfred / SUN 5-25-14 / Rapture of Canaan author Reynolds / Ferrell's cheerleading partner on SNL / Stylist's goop / Cobbler's heirloom

    Sunday, May 25, 2014

    Constructor: Dan Schoenholz

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: "Change of Program" — homophones turn TV show titles wacky:

    Theme answers:
    • DAZE OF OUR LIVES (23A: Stoners' memoirs?)
    • THE EX FILES (28A: Leverage in divorce negotiations?)
    • TWIN PEEKS (15D: Double takes?)
    • THE AWED COUPLE (46A: Dumbstruck duo?)
    • SECTS AND THE CITY (62A: Tale of metropolitan religious diversity?)
    • AMERICAN IDYLL (85A: Grant Wood portrayal?)
    • BRAKING BAD (99A: Having trouble slowing down?)
    • AWL IN THE FAMILY (110A: Cobbler's heirloom?)
    • MIAMI VISE (76D: Tight spot in South Florida?)
    Word of the Day: "The BELLS" (30D: Poe poem, with "The") —
    "The Bells" is a heavily onomatopoeic poem by Edgar Allan Poe which was not published until after his death in 1849. It is perhaps best known for the diacopic use of the word "bells." The poem has four parts to it; each part becomes darker and darker as the poem progresses from "the jingling and the tinkling" of the bells in part 1 to the "moaning and the groaning" of the bells in part 4. (wikipedia) [Diacope is a rhetorical term meaning repetition of a word or phrase with one or two intervening words. It derives from a Greek word meaning "cut in two" (wikipedia)]

    • • •

    Solid but somewhat bland. These "program changes" all involve perfect homophones, so the answers aren't That funny. I mean, I'm not the biggest fan of groany puns, but if you're going to pun, for god's sake, the groanier the better. Go nuts. These all hit the mark, but I don't really care about the mark, so it was overall a "Just OK" experience for me. Grid is solid and forgettable. I do feel that I should give a certain amount of praise for the solidity, though, as Sundays have a tendency to get pretty dicey in places. This one does have some iffy bits like ASYE, HAPS, ENS, OUTA, GELEE, and assorted short gunk, but it's spread out, and none of it is that jarring. Weirdly, I didn't even notice that all the theme answers were puns on television shows until I was done. The whole time I was thinking "So … they're respellings … why?" Now I see why. Everything works fine—it just didn't interest me much.

    Turns out I have been pronouncing both IDYLL and VISE wrong all my life. Well, the former I've been pronouncing British, I guess (short "i"), and the latter I've been pronouncing "vize." But I looked them both up and technically they are, in fact, homophones of the original TV title words. This is the kind of puzzle where even the errors are boring. I mean, who wants to get bogged down in the T-BILLS T-BONDS T-NOTES thing. I may have invented T-BONDS … nope, they're real. Anyway, yawn. Is it ALIA or ALII! I'm on the edge of my seat. Oh, I had SEAT before SLIP. Also not exciting. Had SMALE instead of SWALE, lord knows why. What's a SMALE? Wordnik says:

    • A dialectal form of small. Chaucer.
    • n. The form of a hare.

    Well that explains it. Eight years of constant Chaucer exposure has apparently left me susceptible to some kind of archaic word syndrome.

    I did enjoy remembering LL Cool J. But that's about all I really enjoyed.

    Puzzle of the Week this week could easily have gone to Peter Wentz for his fantastic themeless yesterday, but I have been somewhat under-hyping Matt Gaffney's Crossword Contest all year long, and it's about time I rectified that. See, it's a metapuzzle, and it comes out on Friday, but the answer to the meta isn't revealed until Tuesday, and it's in that intervening time that I decide Puzzle of the Week. If I haven't yet figured out the meta (it sometimes takes days), I don't feel like I have enough info to say "This Is The Puzzle Of The Week." So this week I'm gonna pick a puzzle from *last* Friday, just because the meta is so freaking fantastic it demands recognition. I did not figure out the meta. To be fair, I did not spend much time trying to figure it out. Still, it was hard. But really amazing once you figure it out / see it. And scores of people did figure it out, so it's not impossible. Anyway, the puzzle is called "We Built This City" (don't worry, the horrendous Starship song is in no way involved), and the answer to the meta is a world capital. It's up to you to figure out the answer based on elements in the grid and/or clues. Brutal test of pattern recognition. Often takes days to suss these things out. I figured the previous puzzle's meta out while I was walking in the woods. Literally shouted it out after it finally came to me. His puzzles are great fun, and if you can handle frequent frustration, you should be doing them regularly. Here's the puzzle (just scroll down to the end of the post). And here's discussion of "We Built This City" over at Crossword Fiend.

    See you tomorrow.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. nice article in Tablet Magazine this week profiling Ben Tausig and the American Values Crossword Puzzle (which he edits)


    Indie rocker Case / SAT 5-24-14 / Merrie Melodies sheepdog / Certain beach phony / Surrealist known for self-portraits / Field fungus

    Saturday, May 24, 2014

    Constructor: Peter Wentz

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: NEKO Case (8D: Indie rocker Case) —
    Neko Case (/ˈnk ˈks/;[2] born September 8, 1970)[3] is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her solo career and her contributions as a member of the Canadian indie rock group The New Pornographers (wikipedia)

    • • •

    As I predicted, I finished this well under the time it took me to finish yesterday's. An average Friday time for me, whereas Friday's was an above-average Saturday time. Crazy. I'm always so happy to see a Wentz byline. I mentioned yesterday the Patrick Berry Themeless Ideal (PBTI™), which is kind of like the Zipless Fuck, in Jongian terms (keep in mind I have very little idea what I'm talking about, as I have never read Erica Jong, or Karl Jung for that matter).
    The zipless fuck is the purest thing there is. And it is rarer than the unicorn. And I have never had one. 
    Yes. That sounds like an apt comparison to me. PBTI™ is kind of a Platonic ideal of themelesses, with the difference being that Platonic ideals don't actually exist, whereas Patrick Berry, I'm told, does, as do his puzzles. My point is that this puzzle is amazing. Clean. Close to flawless. Crammed with great fill, and not just the lovely central StaggerStack™. EYES FRONT, RECKON SO, LOW COMEDY, TAX FRAUD, all nice. Even THE WOMB and ON TOAST, which kind of look like partials, somehow work with their given clues (note: do *not* order THE WOMB ON TOAST. You will be very disappointed).

    Stutter-stepped a bit in the beginning because I couldn't accept ISAAC Singer without the intervening Bashevis. Never seen a Bashevis-less ISAAC Singer. But once I gave in, MACAW and ANISE got me going, and that NW corner was over pretty quickly (though not before I convinced myself that there was some Olde Englishe tradition of giving a child a (fig?) NEWTON for Christmas. I think the clue on BUMS is kind of mean. I mean the very category is kind of mean. [Asks for and receives, as a cigarette], maybe, might've felt better. But I'll get over it. I learned ERGOT (32D: Field fungus) from crosswords and don't really like it as fill but it's hard to argue against crossing JIMMY SWAGGART with a destructive fungus. Which reminds me, I had completely forgotten JIMMY SWAGGART existed before this puzzle. Had the -AGGART part and at first wanted nothing except possibly TED HAGGART (which is not how you spell his name, but you get the idea). I have never seen the name TOM HOOPER before, and that could've killed me, except (as with all well-made puzzles) the crosses made that answer ultimately gettable.

    This was just a hugely enjoyable puzzle. That is all. See you tomorrow.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      Democrat in Bush cabinet / FRI 5-23-14 / Actress in best-selling 1979 swimsuit poster / Notable buried at Cathedral of Lima / Rosalind Russell title role / Capital of France's Manche department / Latin America's northernmost city / Mitsubishi model whose name means huntsman in spanish / Arizona city across border from city of Sonora with same name

      Friday, May 23, 2014

      Constructor: David Steinberg

      Relative difficulty: Challenging

      THEME: none

      Word of the Day: DEGAUSS (23A: Make less attractive?) —
      Degaussing is the process of decreasing or eliminating a remnant magnetic field. It is possibly named after the Gauss unit of magnetism, which in turn is named after Carl Friedrich Gauss. Due to magnetic hysteresis it is generally not possible to reduce a magnetic field completely to zero, so degaussing typically induces a very small "known" field referred to as bias. Degaussing was originally applied to reduce ships' magnetic signatures during WWII. Degaussing is also used to reduce magnetic fields in CRT monitors and to destroy data held on magnetic data storage. (wikipedia)
      • • •
      Several feelings.

      Not sure what's so hard about getting day-of-the-week placement right. Twice this week we've had wildly misplaced puzzles. Monday's should've been T or W. Today's is clearly a Saturday.

      When I hit the Zs, I felt such massive disappointment.  Puzzle went from tough-but-fair and somewhat interesting to gimmicky, on a dime. Weirdly, knowing there was a Z-block there made the puzzle *easier* than it would've been, but that didn't make me happy. It just made me frustrated at having to deal with off-cluing (like [Flusters] for TIZZIES) and words I've barely or never heard of like FOOZLER (35A: Bungler).

      The fill on this is very solid. Impressively so. Hard to get fill to consistently acceptable levels when you're dealing with so much white space. Nothing here to really make you go "wow" (unless you have a Z fetish), but give it up for the relative smoothness. This bodes well for David's future pursuit of the Patrick Berry Themeless Ideal (PBTI).

      Let's look at some hot and not-so-hot spots. First a side note: I solved this *immediately* upon waking. Well, no, I let the dogs out and fed them first, but then straight upstairs to the office to solve. I thought this was the reason my time was so slow, but then I checked the times posted online and realized I wasn't alone. Still, I feel like having coffee in me might've helped me get out of that NW corner a little faster, as, for a while, NLEAST was about the only thing I was sure of. USA USA! and EATS and STU followed, and then LATE AUTUMN, but after that, I just got stuck. None of the Downs made sense. You'd think "publicity" would've led me to STUNT at 6D: Means of attracting publicity, but no. Wrote in AIR GUNS then took it out because … it didn't sound that Olympian to me. Had ORION for the [Mythical hunter] at one point, and, worst of all, FISSURES for 1A: Tears (yeah, I know, it's perfect—perfectly wrong, but perfect).

      Never heard of DEGAUSS and thought [Bell the cat] had to do with putting a bell on a cat so you could hear it so you would have forewarning of its approach so it wouldn't kill you because you're a mouse. I sort of forgot the part where actually putting the bell on was a treacherous, difficult task, i.e. something you DARED to do. So DEG-USS and D-RED … well, the choice there was easy, though the feeling it left me with wasn't.

      Hardest part for me was the SE. And I *knew* MONTERO (39A: Mitsubishi model whose name means "huntsman" in Spanish). This is where the cluing on TIZZIES and the strangeness of FOOZLER really kept me held up. Put in and took out DIONE several times. Wanted HENNAED, then thought it looked dumb. In, out, in. Took me forever to see TONTINE, a word I know from "The Simpsons" but would never have thought of as a synonym for [Life insurance plan]. Forgot FENNEL was a "bulb"—kept looking for onion-type plants there. OMNI? Sorry, my Book of Mormon book knowledge is rusty. ERLE C. Kenton. Come on. When you have to put ERLE in your puzzle, admit to yourself that you have used crosswordese, accept it, and give us a Stanley Gardner clue. Make it a good one. Make it a tough one. But don't try to con me into believing other ERLEs qualify. They don't.

      See you tomorrow, when I will be stunned if I don't solve the puzzle faster than I did this one.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      Ray Charles hit of 1963 / THU 5-22-14 / Taxonomic suffix / Whence word robot / Starbuck's orderer / 2008 TARP recipient / Leopold's partner in crime /

      Thursday, May 22, 2014

      Constructor: Adam G. Perl

      Relative difficulty: Easy (for me … looks like Medium-ish for others)

      THEME: After all... — phrases with "after" in them are represented in the grid literally, with the pre-"after" part following the post-"after" part:

      Theme answers:
      • PILL MORNING (for "morning after pill") (24A: Plan B, e.g.)
      • ANOTHER ONE THING (for "one thing after another") (31A: A seemingly endless series)
      • C I BEFORE E EXCEPT (for "I before E except after C) (41A: Rule contradicted by science?) (my favorite because of how insane it looks) (also, good clue)
      • READING BURN (for "burn after reading") (50A: Note to a spy, say)
      Word of the Day: BÊTE / NOIRE (13D: With 62-Across, dreaded one) —
      (bĕt nwär'
      One that is particularly disliked or that is to be avoided: "Tax shelters had long been the bête noire of reformers" (Irwin Ross).

      [French : bête, beast + noire, black.]

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/b-te-noire#ixzz32PJ7MFwS
      • • •

      I worked with Adam Perl briefly early this year at a crossword tournament in Ithaca to benefit Tompkins Learning Partners. Very nice guy. Made all the tournament puzzle himself, the toughest of which was a brutal tour de force. He should publish it. But anyway, about this puzzle—I liked it. Played very easy for me. Not sure exactly when I picked up the theme, but once I did, all those themers went down quickly. For sheer loopiness, I love CIBEFOREEEXCEPT the best of them all. I know I have said in the past that I don't like nonsense in my grids, but I don't take this as nonsense—it's just a different manner of representing the answer-phrase. And not only do I like PILL MORNING as an answer, I like that it appears in the grid at all. The NYT xword has a history of being squeamish about both bodily functions as well as matters controversial, and this answer is a twofer. Nice to see this normally conservative medium being both current and (however moderately) bold.

      Fill here is conservative but clean. Completely inoffensive, with some snazzy bits here and there. ACE HIGH, CON GAME, and DOWN PAT all have a nice, GRIFTery snap to them. I think OTE (33D: Taxonomic suffix) is the only answer that really gets my gote. With that exception, the grid has been nicely crafted to remove all real junk. Very surprised to see the times at the NYT site coming in normal or even slightly higher-than-normal, as this presented virtually no resistance to me. Where is the difficulty? What am I missing? What did I manage to luckily avoid?

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      Steel giant founded in 1899 / WED 5-21-14 / Friedrich units for short / Google co-founder Sergey

      Wednesday, May 21, 2014

      Constructor: Mike Buckley

      Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

      THEME: wacky homophones, I guess — two-word phrases are reimagined with homophones in place of the original words

      Theme answers:
      • PLANE RAPPER (17A: Freestyling pilot?) (plain wrapper??? like "plain brown wrapper" only not "brown"?)
      • BANNED LIEDER (28A: Music forbidden in Germany?) (bandleader)
      • WHIRLED PIECE (44A: Top?) (world peace)
      • HOARSE SHOOS (59A: Throaty dismissals?) (horseshoes) 
      Word of the Day: ARMCO (43A: Steel giant founded in 1899) —
      AK Steel Holding Corporation is an American steel company whose predecessor, Armco, was founded in 1899 in Middletown, OhioUnited States. In 2007, the company moved its corporate headquarters from Middletown to West Chester, Ohio.
      The company derives its name from the first letters of "Armco" and "Kawasaki Steel Corporation," which entered into a limited partnership with Armco in 1989. The company was formally renamed AK Steel in 1993 when it became a publicly traded company. (wikipedia)
      • • •

      Not going to write much about this because I didn't like it and I don't really get it and (consequently?) I don't have much to say. Are two-word homophone shifts like this really that hard to find? Are there none better than PLANE RAPPER? I honestly had no idea what was going on for most of the solve? The phrases are odd and decidedly Not funny. Fill wasn't terrible, but it wasn't good, either. ARMCO just seems awful, frankly. Can't remember ever seeing it. Also it doesn't exist anymore. Hasn't existed for over 20 years. Ugh. I just guessed that "A" because I've never ever heard of Friedrich brand air conditioners, so [Friedrich units] sounded like something sciencey. I thus really doubted ACS, but any other vowel there seemed preposterous.  Just a ridiculous crossing. NW was absolutely disastrous for me too, mostly because I have not heard the phrase GIRLS DORM in a long time. I didn't go to a prep school, and when I went to college, No One would've said "girls." So I just stared at -SDORM for a bit. Also what on god's green earth is "Land o' Goshen!"???? I wrote in EIRE and ERIN … "MY, MY!" For &%^#'s sake, who says that? Tepid theme, tepid fill, weird / dated frame of reference. Not a great experience. The end.

      No, not the end. BEWIG!? OK, now the end.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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