Spider-Man's surrogate father / THU 12-31-15 / Onetime gig for Wiig / Sickly looking overlord / Terminus of Qingzang railway / Modern civil rights initialism / 1971 documentary about Ravi Shankar
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Constructor: Ben Tausig
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: MONOPOLY (65A: Game patented December 31, 1935) — answers that require you to PASS GO (i.e. skip over the letter string "GO") when you read them, if you want the wacky clues to make sense (62A: Round a corner in MONOPOLY ... or what you must do to answer the clues for 20-, 34-, 43- and 56-Across) . With "GO," the phrases are simply common words / things; without "GO," they are wacky answers to wacky "?" clues:
GOOGLE DOCS (20A: Enjoy the swimsuit edition of The New England Journal of Medicine?)
GOSHORTS (34A: Brief entries in an auto film festival?)
GON MASTER (43A: Sickly-looking overlord?)
GOMANIACS (56A: People obsessed with being online?)
Word of the Day: SNIP (50D: Insignificant person) —
If you think this is weird ... it gets weirder. Let's start with what we have before us: a pretty good, very current / contemporary MONOPOLY-related puzzle with a play-on-words theme (involving the phrase PASS GO). The fact of the game's being patented on December 31, 1935 is the presumptive reason for running this puzzle today. God I love that the actual New Year's Eve-themed puzzle got bumped to non-New Year's Eve for *this*, which is about as obliquely, tenuously, flimsily related to New Year's Eve as a theme can be. You want generic end-of-year holiday crap, go back in time, man. Tonight, we MONOPOLY.
I think the theme holds up pretty well as a tricky Thursday. I don't really know what a WAGON MASTER is, but I assume he masters wagons, or at least drives them. It's strange: when I got GOOGLE DOCS, I just assumed GOOGLE was another word for "stare at" (like OGLE ... or maybe GOGGLE), and so I thought the answer was funny but had no idea the "GO" needed to be passed. So when I got to WAGON MASTER, I was baffled. "How are wagons ... sickly-looking?" Only after the revealer did it become clear (which, I guess, is where "revealer" gets its name—its role in "revealing" or "making clear" the tbeme). I loved all the current references—including the clues on GRETA (27A: Actress Gerwig of "Mistress America"), IFC (71A: Cable channel that airs "Portlandia"), PEELE (12D: Key's longtime partner in sketch comedy), and STEVEN (66A: Psychologist Pinker who wrote "How the Mind Works"). Lots and lots of "?" clues made this one playful and toughish. I did not know SNIP and really doubted it. But there it is, in the dictionary. I will never like RPS (... per second?) or USH, dictionaries be damned. My favorite clues were [Spanish nuts] for LOCO and [Swiftly built home?] for NEST. I also like that Ben got both his own name (UNCLE BEN) and (aurally) the editor's (CARGO SHORTS) into the grid. I am also in the grid, as I had a MIXED DRINK earlier in the evening (Manhattan w/ Knob Creek rye) and I'm currently wearing EYEGLASSES. So there.
So I started this write-up by saying "it gets weirder." To see just how weird, you're going to have to do three more puzzles today: Buzzfeed, American Values Crossword Club, and Brendan Emmett Quigley (AVXC is normally subscription, but *today's* puzzle is FREE). I am telling you this as if *I* know exactly what's going to happen, and I don't. I just know that the four puzzles are all ... related. In a certain way. For certain reasons. Each puzzle stands completely on its own merits, so there's no need to do the other puzzles. In fact, I'm pretty sure the NYT didn't even know it was going to be just one part of a linked set of puzzles that all come out today. That little bit of information—the whole guerrilla crosswording angle—makes me infinitely happy. Anyway ... yeah. Something to look forward to. Happy New Year's Eve, for real.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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