Sunday, August 2, 2015
Constructor: Matt Ginsberg
Relative difficulty: 0:33 faster than average, says the iPad app, so...about average
THEME: Literally speaking —the circled squares follow the internal directions.
Word of the Day: SKOSH (6A: Tiny bit) —
From Japanese 少し (sukoshi, “a little bit”). // Noun, plural skoshes. // A tiny amount; a little bit; tad; smidgen; jot. He added just a skosh of vinegar, to give the recipe some zip. (Wiktionary)
• • •[NOTE FROM REX: Comments section is now moderated. It will take between minutes and hours for your comment to appear, depending on my (and a few others') access to a computer. This policy is not up for debate and not likely to change any time soon. Complaints about bad actors just piled up and so I had to do something. This is it. The last two days' worth of comments have been moderated and the Comments section is much, much nicer—thanks for all the kind notes, btw. OK, now on to today's featured Rex stand-in: the wonderful Melissa!]
Hello! I'm Melissa, and I'm pinch-hitting for Rex today. I, too, live in New York State, but that might be about all I have in common with our illustrious absent host. Rex, I hope you're enjoying your vacation!
I found this puzzle on the meh side: I feel like I've seen this sort of theme somewhere in the not-too-distant past, but I can't dredge up exactly where it was. I also felt like the puzzle was overloaded with proper names. But the puzzle does contain a whopping 11 theme answers, ranging in length from 8 to 13 characters and nicely positioned symmetrically in the grid.
- CALLBACK (20A: Result of a successful audition)
- SPLIT SECOND (25A: Instant)
- TORN TO SHREDS (37A: In bits)
- MINCEMEAT (46A: Kind of pie)
- DRIFT APART (54A: Lose that loving feeling)
- SCRAMBLED EGGS (62A: Diner offering)
- MIXED MEDIA (72A: Art type)
- HASH MARKS (83A: # # #)
- INTERMINGLED (90A: Like 0's and 1's in binary)
- FAST SHUFFLE (105A: Card sharp's deception)
- UNBROKEN (112A: Whole)
I typically solve on my iPad, which means that I generally am working sequentially through the clues. On my first pass through, I also tend to enter only the things I'm absolutely certain of, because I always forget about the pencil tool. (Then again, even when I solve on paper, I prefer to use a pen, preferably a Pilot G-2 Extra Fine or Ultra Fine blue: I'm a southpaw, and for me, this pen's ink is relatively quick-drying and therefore relatively smear-proof.) One advantage of solving electronically is that when I'm done, there's no evidence of any mistakes I may have made along the way!
Here's what I had after my first pass through today's puzzle:
Not so much, eh? This was a bit sparser than usual, for my first pass through. And so much for certainty, especially with respect to 73D, 76D, 28A, and 60A. (Uncertainty? Paging Schrödinger's buddy Heisenberg, who was stopped for speeding. When the officer asked him if he knew how fast he was going, he said, "No, but I know exactly where I am!" Ba-dum-bump.)
Speaking of 60A (Puffed ___), puffed rice is fairly common, especially among those health food nuts who prefer their breakfast to resemble styrofoam packing peanuts. (There's also puffed wheat, of course, which becomes almost edible if it's coated with sugar, or these days more likely 7D, but that doesn't fit here.) I don't think I've ever seen puffed OATS. When I googled "puffed rice" (with the quotation marks) I got about 491,000 results, compared to about 6,400 results for "puffed oats." But those numbers don't tell the whole story. When I looked through the first couple of pages of puffed oats results, all but one of the hits were for UK links. The only United States-based link went to Amazon—but the box of cereal was fulfilled by a UK company, it's definitely not an American brand because the picture of the box shows that it's "high fibre," and one box would set you back $8.35. Thus, I question this particular cluing decision.
Once I started to make a few successive passes through the puzzle, my errors became obvious. By about the third pass through, I had both SPLIT SECOND and MINCEMEAT and the theme clicked, so I could make some educated guesses at the other theme answers. The NE was the last part of the grid I filled in, largely because (as you can see) I had a taxi instead of a large body of water. Once I erased that, I goofed again by putting Apex instead of ACME (16D: Zenith), which didn't help matters any.
- RATSO (1D: ___ Rizzo of film) — I hesitated here because Betty also has five letters, and that's the first name of Rizzo in Grease. After my first pass, I was able to fill this one in and the rest of the corner fell fairly easily. But it took me a little while to properly parse 1A (Move, as a plant) and fill in REPOT, even with that initial R in place.
- SOD (52A: Green topper) and ELF (59D: Figure often dressed in green) — I might know Matt Ginsberg's favorite color now.
- LOTION (93D: Bottle in a beach bag) and FRY (109D: Linger in the hot sun) — I had to bring this up because it gives me a chance to put in this, from the great Ella Fitzgerald singing the great Cole Porter.
- I could have done without the crosswordese of STG ESAI OTOE AMAT OTTOII ASTA DIGHT (11A 14A 45A 97A 110A 47D 64D).
- START A FIRE (71D: Rub some sticks together, as at camp) — I initially had light A FIRE. Do people still rub sticks together for this purpose? Even back in the dark ages of my Girl Scout days, we had matches.
- ANODES (80A: Battery ends) — Those poor neglected cathodes never get any attention in CrossWorld! (What did the anode say to the cathode? "You're always so negative!")
- SHE-CAT (6D: Tom's partner) — I've never heard anyone refer to a queen by this name! (My own neutered tom answers to Leo.)
- SAYS (15D: "___ You!") — Says You is one of my favorite public radio shows. I was sad to hear that the creator and original host, Richard Sher, passed away earlier this year, but I look forward to hearing the new shows with new host (and long-time panelist) Barry Nolan, once they're taped.
- ORCA (31D: Boat in "Jaws") — Has anyone else who solves on a platform that includes the Mini Puzzle noticed that there's often duplication, or near-duplication, of answers between the little and big puzzles? Today's Mini includes ORCAS (1D: Animals in the acclaimed documentary "Blackfish"). This particular example doesn't bother me so much because it isn't an exact duplication, but there have been multiple instances where the same answer will be clued identically in both puzzles for a single day. Since I use the Mini as a warm-up exercise for the big puzzle, it's always really obvious to me when it happens. I wish I could access previous Minis so I could give you a specific example, but it seems that if you miss the window for a particular Mini, it's closed forever.
- ME LIKE (92D: Informal approval) — The few times I've heard something along these lines, it's always been "Me likey." That said, I haven't heard even that for a few years.
- SKID ROWS (9D: Lush locales) — I like this clue. My favorite Skid Row is the one that's home to Seymore and Audrey II.
- MALI (72D: Country once known as French Sudan) —This is my chance to publicly thank Mrs. Smith, my sixth-grade social studies teacher. In her class, we studied the geography of Africa and Asia, and which enabled me to confidently fill in this answer when I first saw it. So, Mrs. Smith, for this and much more, domo arigato!
Signed, Melissa, off the bench in CrossWorld