Great Plains tunneler / THU 8-20-15 / Siblinig duo in Lady Be Good 1924 / 1970s TV series set at 165 Eaton Place / German boy's name meaning wealthy / Edgar Bergen's dummy of old radio / Like breeds Kerry Hill English Leicester /
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Constructor: Jules P. Markey
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (for a rebus)
THEME: COMPRESSED [AIR] (29D: Gas station supply ... or what acan be found eight times in this puzzle) — The letter string "AIR" is "COMPRESSED" (i.e. rebusized) into 8 different boxes in the grid.
Word of the Day: Bagatelle (BAUBLE (1A)) —
nounnoun: bagatelle; plural noun: bagatelles
- 1.a thing of little importance; a very easy task.
"dealing with these boats was a mere bagatelle for the world's oldest yacht club"
- 2.a game in which small balls are hit and then allowed to roll down a sloping board on which there are holes, each numbered with the score achieved if a ball goes into it, with pins acting as obstructions. (google)
• • •
Wow. It's been a big week for Adele Astaire. Which says everything about the NYTX's cultural center of gravity of late. (73A: Sibling duo in "Lady, Be Good!," 1924)
UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS", which, at 14 squares long, can't sit squarely in the middle of a standard 15x15 grid). Fill is not horrendous, but it's once again overly familiar, prone to datedness and arcana, full of SCH ENE ERGS-type stuff. ESO NOS. INE crossing the -INE of OVINE. Just lots of little things that add up to a certain joylessness. AIR is sometimes (properly) hidden / buried, sometimes not. I'm looking around for something remarkable or noteworthy. I'd say the most noteworthy thing, besides (but related to) the grid's bigness, is the word count. 83!? That's nutty. Max on a 15x15 is 78. I'll give you a full three extra answers for your additional row, that gives you 81. Max. 83 ... may be part of the reason the puzzle plays so dull. Hard to do much that is interesting when your grid is chopped all to hell and you have mostly 3s, 4s, and 5s to work with. Result: reliance on good ol' reliable tried and true seen-it-seen-it-seen-it stuff.
Anything happening on the clue front? Not really. 17A: Great Plains tunneler is *almost* a good misdirection, in that "Great Plains" is a descriptor I'd associate with people, not animals, but what kind of people tunnel on the plains? No kind, I think, is the kind. There's at least some attempt at cleverness at 27A: They rarely cover more than two feet in one day (PAIR OF SOCKS). I had SHOES, so ... at least my forward progress was stopped for a bit. I weirdly liked the clue for OVINE (32A: Like the breeds Kerry Hill and English Leicester) because I had to think about it. I forget that there are breeds of sheep as there are dogs, cattle, etc. And OVINE usually gets some dumb clue like [Sheepish?]. There's some trivia, if you're in to that. Didn't know OTTO meant "wealthy," didn't know UPTON SINCLAIR wrote anything called "Dragon's Teeth"—seriously, I can name a bunch of his novels ... oh, no, crap. I'm thinking of SINCLAIR LEWIS. OK, no, I know only "The Jungle" by UPTON SINCLAIR. So, "Dragon's Teeth" ... interesting. I wonder if it is about a dragon's teeth. Oh, no, it's about Nazis. Alrighty, then...
A friend of mine just hypothesized on Twitter that one of the crosses in today's puzzle might pose a problem for some solvers: "For tomorrow's NYT crossword: I have a hunch that the cross between 42-Across [DADO] and 23-Down [SNERD] is really gonna stump people." My guess is that he is right, but mainly for under-40s who have no real experience with Mortimer SNERD. Also, DADO is not a common word for most folks (outside the crossword). But the core NYT solving demographic will have no problem: even if they don't know DADO, SNERD will come marching creepily forth, as dummies will. Maybe we can try to make *this* meaning of SNERD happen...
Hey, did you see the great crossword retort to Slate's attack on the NYT's "Mini" crossword yesterday? Joel Fagliano, who makes the Minis, responded to the Slate article "The New York Times 'Mini' Crossword Is an Utter Disgrace to the NYT Crossword Brand" with this neat little custom-made puzzle. See if you can see the hidden message:
... and then writing this appreciation of Joel's Mini-puzzle rebuttal. I love that both Ruth and Joel are so passionate about puzzles that they took the time to get mad, and get even, respectively. The whole back-and-forth made me irrationally happy. Now I'm gonna do the Mini regularly just to find the hidden messages. Don't Disappoint Me, Joel!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS If you are a fan of Hayley Gold's webcomic about the NYT Crossword Puzzle, "Across & Down," you should know that she is considering stopping, since she will no longer be able to get the puzzles early. She is listening to feedback and suggestions about what she should do going forward. Here's her initial plea for advice, and here's her first post thereafter. Oh, and here's her webcomic (the latest one's about today's puzzle!), which, if you don't know about it yet, you might enjoy.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]