Writer Lowry with two Newbery Medals / TUE 9-26-17 / Robust-sounding teens of children's books / Prof's URL ender / Superfood Amazon berry

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Constructor: Joy Behar and Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (gotta know comedian names *and* figure out all the punniness...) (still finished in just a shade over 3:30)

THEME: Comedian puns — familiar phrases reclued (and -spelled) as if they had something to do with famous comedians:

Theme answers:
  • PURPLE HART (17A: Comedian Kevin after having a sloppy jelly snack?)
  • PAW PRINZE (25A: Get frisky with comedian Freddie?)
  • PRYOR COMMITMENT (40A: Comedian Richard being sent to a psychiatric facility?)
  • BARR FIGHT (51A: Cause of comedian Roseanne's black eye?)
  • FALLEN IDLE (62A: Result of comedian Eric's untied shoelaces?) 
Word of the Day: Freddie PRINZE (25A) —
Freddie James Prinze (/ˈprɪnz/born Frederick Karl Pruetzel; June 22, 1954 – January 29, 1977) was an American actor and stand-up comedian. Prinze was the star of 1970s NBC-TV sitcom Chico and the Man. He is the father of the actor Freddie Prinze Jr.. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle was ... a joy. (Sorry. Sorry ... But only kinda sorry.) The theme is simple but consistent, tight, and appropriate (to the celebrity constructor), and it all just works. Much more delightful and interesting than your average Tuesday puzzle—a low bar, yes, but it's the only bar that matters for a Tuesday puzzle. The fill is pretty darned clean, and you get some interesting longer Down answers in the bargain (I particularly liked RESCUE DOG). The comedians skew ... let's not say "old." Let's say, "established." Kevin HART is (by far) the youngest of the bunch, and the only one still doing stand-up. Unless Roseanne is still doing it and I'm just unaware. I don't think Eric Idle ever did stand-up. The other two comedians are long dead. You definitely have to be Of A Certain Age (i.e. my age or older) to remember Freddie Prinze, who died in 1977, in his early 20s. His son (Jr.) is a pretty successful actor.

The puzzle is pretty name-heavy—both because of the nature of the theme, and because of a lot of incidental names—and this sets up some pretty serious possibilities for failure. I had no idea how SUSIE Essman spelled her name, so I'm just lucky that I had (vaguely) heard of LOIS Lowry (and that LOIZ is not, you know, a plausible human name). It is absolutely completely possible to be a reasonably intelligent person and never have heard of LOIS Lowry or SUSIE Essman *or* Freddie PRINZE, in which case, yikes. NYAD is another bygone name that's come swimming out of the past and into this puzzle (44A: Swimmer Diana), and she could cause trouble, as her weird name has two *other* names crossing it; but dear god let's hope solvers know AMY March and IDA Lupino. That's pretty basic stuff. (Although now I kinda hope some poor sap out there guessed IRA Lupino)

I didn't like the clue on NOTORIETY, which is too abstract and vague a concept to qualify as an "Achievement." An "achievement" should be a specific thing, like a rank or a prize, not FAME or ILL-REPUTE or RENOWN etc. Maybe I would accept ORGASM, but that's not exactly NYT territory. Also, booo to the corniness at 54D: What Tarzan's friends advised him to do? (GO APE). Why are there friends here? Who "advises" a "friend" to do that?! The whole hypothetical situation is ridiculous and contrived. I mean, you can have your Tarzan/APE joke, I guess, but ditch the "friends." They just make it weird.

I haven't heard "Attention K-MART shoppers!" since I was a kid. Wikipedia tells me that: "At the height of Kmart's popularity, the phrase "Attention Kmart shoppers!" entered into the American pop psyche, appearing in films and other media such as Troop Beverly Hills, Six Days Seven Nights, Rain Man, Beetlejuice, Madea Goes to Jail, and Dawn of the Dead." That is one hell of a motley watch list. But now if anyone ever asks you what Troop Beverly Hills and Dawn of the Dead have in common, you'll have at least one answer. Unless there's a zombie Shelley Long in Dawn of the Dead that I forgot about. Then, two. Two answers.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Old coupon for needy / MON 9-25-17 / Soupy oliver twist fare / Active during daytime

Monday, September 25, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (i.e. slightly harder than the average Monday puzzle, solely because of the crossing and cross-referenced themers)

THEME: hyphenated 10-letter adjectives where both halves (before and after the hyphen) intersect at the middle letter 

Theme answers:
  • HANDY / DANDY (17A: With 3-Down, useful)
  • HOITY / TOITY (19A: With 11-Down, snobbish)
  • HOTSY / TOTSY (39A: With 29-Down, sophisticated)
  • LOVEY / DOVEY (58A: With 48-Down, affectionate)
  • NAMBY / PAMBY (60A: With 51-Down, weak and indecisive)
Word of the Day: DIURNAL (43D: Active during the daytime) —
adjective: diurnal
  1. 1.
    of or during the day.
    synonyms:daily, everyday, quotidian, occurring every/each day

    "the patient's moods are determined by diurnal events"
    • Zoology
      (of animals) active in the daytime.
    • Botany
      (of flowers) open only during the day.
  2. 2.
    daily; of each day.

    "diurnal rhythms"

    synonyms:daily, everyday, quotidian, occurring every/each day

    "the patient's moods are determined by diurnal events" (google)
• • •

Hey all. I hope you had fun in my absence. Many thanks to my sterling stand-ins, Lena and Laura, who responded to my emergency call. Actually, it was a double emergency. Emergency 1: my internet got (mysteriously) shut off. Just ... dead. All remedies useless. All technical assistance futile. Didn't get back up til today, when the cable guy got out of his van, took one look up the pole, and said, "Yeah, your cable was mistakenly disconnected." Good to know! And then there was Emergency 2: I had urgent business in New York City on Friday. You see, it was my daughter's 17th birthday, and somebody (possibly the world's greatest father) got her (and her best friend!) tickets to see some show called ... [checks Playbill] ... "Hamilton"? Have you heard of it? Grudgingly, my wife and I came along as chaperones:

Basically the (absolutely real) internet outage neatly coincided with my Broadway plans. Some tragedies have upsides. Note: Today's puzzle is not one of those tragedies. The quaintness here is cloying. Also, I don't think anyone says HOTSY / TOTSY ... like, ever. Wasn't one part of that expression recently in a grid? And it made everyone groan in anguish and the horribleness? Yes, I'm sure that happened. I honestly don't even know what HOTSY / TOTSY means. I would not have guessed [Sophisticated]. Sounds more like [Having pretensions to sophistication]. So befuddled was I by the expression that I spent many seconds looking at HO-SY / TO-SY wondering what else could work there *besides* the "T." My second biggest theme answer objection related to NAMBY-PAMBY, which is pejorative slang for a "weak and indecisive *man*." It's basically related to SISSY and therefore can f*** right off. It's meant to suggest "effeminacy," and it's meant to suggest it negatively (duh), so pfffftfefpfdgt bite me.

FOOD STAMP in the singular is weird—never seen it that way before (33A: Old coupon for the needy). DIURNAL is a pretty high-and-in-fastball SAT word, but I must've picked it up in some poetry class somewhere. Sounds Wordsworthian. Oh, snap! I just googled [Diurnal poem] and Wordsworth was the first hit! Shout-out to Arden Reed, my Romantic Poetry professor (Spring 1990). Some of it stuck!

Overall, the fill is just OK, but about as polished as it has any right to be given the onerous pressure the theme puts on the grid. BULLMOOSE is welcome in my grid any day (8D: Symbol of Teddy Roosevelt's political party).

Happy 11th birthday to this blog. The Bloggiversary is always a good time to revisit the first comment my blog ever got. A classic of its kind. Everything about it is so pure. Enjoy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Tennis world since 1968 / SUN 9-24-17 / St Louis Arch / Det Tutuola / Where Spartacus was from / Financial insititution whose parent is Canadian / Salinger title name / Rice-a- / Hydroxyl compound / Resort near Snowbird / Shepherd Moons singer / Oscar-winning foreign film of 2005 set in South Africa / Walter Dodgers owner / Writer of the Gnat and the Bull / Sister of Helios / Art Cleveland Browns owner

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy (19:00 exactly)

THEME: "State Lines" — Phrases are reinterpreted as if two-letter words were state abbreviations.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: "Try not to miss Bangor and Lewiston"? CATCH ME (Maine) IF YOU CAN
  • 34A: 2:00 in New York vis-à-vis St. Louis? ONE MO (Missouri) TIME
  • 50A: Whistler from two Eastern states? MA (Massachusetts) AND PA (Pennsylvania) KETTLE
  • 68A: "We shouldn't sell our Fort Wayne home"? LET'S KEEP THIS IN (Indiana) HOUSE
  • 86A: "Sooner this, Sooner that ... can't you talk about any other subject? EVERYTHING'S OK (Oklahoma)
  •  100A: Deal another blackjack card to a young woman from Salem? HIT OR (Oregon) MISS
  • 117A: Midwest state secedes and will join the United Kingdom? OH (Ohio) TO BE IN ENGLAND
Word of the Day: EDH (5D: Icelandic letter) —
Eth (/ɛð/, uppercase: Ð, lowercase: ð; also spelled edh or eð) is a letter used in Old English, Middle English, Icelandic, Faroese (in which it is called edd), and Elfdalian. It was also used in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages but was subsequently replaced with dh and later d. It is often transliterated as d (and d- is rarely used as a mnemonic). The lowercase version has been adopted to represent a voiced dental fricative in the International Phonetic Alphabet. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Given my extensive familiarity with the Icelandic alphabet, I confidently typed in ETH, and was stymied in the NW until finishing the puzzle. Actually, I LIED (105D: Fabulist's confession) -- I don't know any Icelandic. We've seen many, many state abbreviation themes, and this is a reasonably unique twist. Had a chuckle at LET'S KEEP THIS IN HOUSE and OH TO BE IN ENGLAND. MA AND PA KETTLE and ONE MO TIME seemed a bit of a stretch. There are a few missed opportunities with this one -- how about YOU CAN CALL ME AL (Mobile nickname?), or CO OPERATION (Legal weed business?), or DOOGIE HOWSER MD (Neal Patrick Harris dramedy set in Baltimore?), or KY JELLY (Homemade strawberry preserves from Louisville?). But overall, it MADE SENSE (47D: Added up), even if it was not necessarily TOP HOLE (52D: First-rate, in British slang). While we're making WACKO (12D: Nutsy) jokes about states, why isn't MO's motto "Missouri Loves Company"?

Gonna bring you barley, carrots and pertaters

So... my understanding is that repeated three-letter strings are awkward but often unavoidable, but that constructors should be STEERED (124A: Directed) away from repeated four-letter strings. That's why I had a bit of a 119D: "Who'da thunk it?!" (GEE) moment to see both MOAN (43A: Haunted house sound) and MOANA (95A: Big 2016 film set in Polynesia). I appreciated that AA MEETING (42D: Part of a recovery effort) and IN REHAB (65D: Getting help getting clean) were clued without cutesy jokes about addiction. EWE ELK EEL ETE EPI, EERO EDGE ESME ETUI.

  • 125A: Having braids (TRESSED) — I don't think that's a thing. It's been used before, but, no. I'm sTRESSED just looking at it.
  • 108D: Jeff ___, leader of the Electric Light Orchestra (LYNNE) — For once, ELO gets to be a clue instead of an answer.
  • 28A: Kind of torch on "Survivor" (TIKI) — So remember how this photo went viral on the internets after those Nazi assholes marched in Charlottesville and carried TIKI© Brand torches while spewing racist crap? Turns out that even though the manufacturer of TIKI© Brand torches did indeed issue a statement denouncing the use of their product for racist crap by Nazi assholes, this particular sign regarding the use of TIKI© Brand torches for racist crap by Nazi assholes was actually a stunt by a Funny or Die writer.
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

[Follow Laura on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Calculator math sects / SAT 9-23-17 / Wayne Manor manservant / 29% cream / Redhead of Hogwarts / Neuwirth designer jewelry / Summer Olympics discontinued 1936 / Opposite of schadenfreude / Davy Crockett's rifle / Tony winner Neuwirth

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Medium (16:17)


Word of the Day: IRENE (2D: ___ Neuwirth (designer jewelry brand) —
A native of Southern California, Irene's fundamental inspiration is the ocean. Its purity, power and colors are all key elements at the origin of her designs. Her fascination with intense colors and raw, un-manufactured gem cuts, have become signature trademarks of the line. (http://ireneneuwirth.com/)
• • •
Rex continues to have computer problems, so you had my PEN PAL (34A: Friend of note?) Lena yesterday as PART ONE (36A: Start of a series), and you get me, Laura, today and Sunday. I'd better GET BUSY (41A: Work order?). This puzzle certainly felt like it hit the SWEET SPOT (12D: Perfect place) of difficulty; I breezed on through most of every quadrant, then rounded on home up to the NW, and ... stared. For like 10 minutes. My time isn't anywhere near my HIGH SCORES (1A: List on a video game screen) for Saturdays, but I appreciated the challenge, and there's no need for the 36D: Opposite of schadenfreude (PITY) or a 14D: Sound of condescension (TSK). Funny thing, I love riddles like 5D: It has arms, legs and feet, but no hands (SOFA), and I had just typed SOFA in 25D: Part of many a studio apartment for DINETTE because I wanted SOFABED instead. Because the studio apartments I had -- no room even for a DINETTE. If I HAD UP (1D: Hosted at one's loft, say) a friend or two, well, we dined sitting on the SOFABED or the LOFTBED. Or practically in the BATHTUB.

 Goodnight IRENE

Someone asked in the comments yesterday how Rex and/or the guest hosts decide which clues go in the title field of the blog post. Can't speak for others, but I tend to put clues that I figure people are most likely to google: proper names, interesting or unusual formulations, clues that are actually google-able, as opposed to something like 44D: Advantage, which would be to no AVAIL. Way back, many years ago, when I was first solving regularly, that was how I stumbled upon this site (wow, I thought, people actually blog about this stuff? cool!). There is no shame in researching answers as a way of finding out something new or learning about how puzzles are constructed.

Woman Constructor Watch: Robyn's puzzle today is just the third Saturday by a woman in 2017, for a total of 36 women out of 230 constructors this year, or 15.6%. Jeff Chen calls it at 14%, because he's averaging the percentages of women constructors over the week. In either case, as stated before, I'd like to see more women get published in the New York Times, and I'll reiterate my call for other women constructors who might be interested in sharing ideas and helping each other to get in touch with me. Hey Laura, ARE YOU DONE? (15A: Question after a rant). Nope. IT FIGURES (32D: "Why am I not surprised!").

  • 46D: Old ___, pet name of Davy Crockett's rifle (BETSY) — Honestly, can't remember much Davy Crockett lore, except for the catchy TV show theme song, and that he died at the Alamo. But somehow it occurred to me that BETSY would be a good name for a rifle.
  • 57A: Redhead of Hogwarts (RON WEASLEY) — The entire Weasley family attended Hogwarts, and all were notoriously redheaded. Perhaps Ron is simply the most prominent.
  • 43A: Window component (JAMB) and 28D: Window component (PANE) — Had SASH for both of these at certain points in the solving process.
Ok, now I'm done. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

[Follow Laura on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


PC Key / FRI 9-22-17 / PC Key

Friday, September 22, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Difficult

THEME: No theme

Word of the Day: TAPIOCA (35D: Thickening agent) —
Tapioca (/ˌtæpɪˈkə/; Portuguese pronunciation: [tapiˈɔkɐ]) is a starch extracted from cassava root (Manihot esculenta). This species is native to the northeast region of Brazil, but its use spread throughout South America. The plant was carried by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies and Africa and Asia. It is a tropical, perennial shrub that is less commonly cultivated in temperate climate zones. Cassava thrives better in poor soils than many other food plants.
Although tapioca is a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries, it is devoid of nutrition and low in food energy. In developed countries, it is used as a thickening agent in various manufactured foods. (Wikipedia)
• • •
TAPIOCA is great. It's the boba in BOBA TEA ((7) yet to appear in a NYT crossword puzzle) and it's in the pudding that you perhaps instinctively avoided as a child. I say let's bring it back, elevate TAPIOCA pudding, "Chef's Table" style. Hi, it's Lena filling in for Rex today.

Well I have to say it was weird having to jump out of the nest with barely any feathers into a tri-stack of 14s. I had to treat this like a downs only puzzle for a bit there and that put it on the challenging side for me. I hung around in the middle and then it was SARDINE (8D: Fish typically preserved in olive oil) that got me up to the North, followed by SEEN (5D: Not overlooked) and CERAMIC (3D: Kind of tile). Speaking of chefs and their tables, there is a nice restaurant here in Boston called haley.henry and they focus on tinned fish-- SARDINEs, anchovies, EEL-- and exceptional wines. And chips.

Anyway, are those would-be marquees ultimately worth not being able to get started in the across direction right away? Sure. ROMANTIC PERIOD (49A: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron wrote in it) is kinda boring but the rest, especially ICING ON THE CAKE (54A: An additional plus) and MI CASA ES SU CASA (1A: Welcoming words), are fun-- and all except THREE CAR GARAGE (16A: Roomy storage space) are debut entries.

I had ROUTS for ROMPS (44A: Humiliating defeats) because, well, of course that's what I'm going to put there-- I look up ROUT and get "disastrous defeat" whereas ROMP's main definitions have nothing to do with either humiliation or losing. We will, we will ROMP you <stomp stomp clap>

The short fill caused by the stacks isn't too bad but I was aware of the presence of both CTR (NFL Position: Abbr.) and CTRL (11D: PC Key). SIGURD (9D: Brynhild's beloved, in Norse legend) certainly did not spring out of the brain easily, and I hadn't heard of conductor ESA-Pekka Salonen-- so overall I would say the North gave me the most trouble. In the South, I enjoyed the tricky clue for DOCTOR (41D: One who's gotten the third degree?) but didn't feel similarly about the one for TIME INC (36D: Life preserver?). Then I started getting cranky about both of them. "What if you didn't get your Masters in between undergrad and grad school? Do you count your high school diploma?"

Overall though there are lots of clever clues in this puzzle (ONE (39D: Small square)!) and I liked INHERES (2D: Exists naturally) because now I have a deeper understanding of the word "inherent." Ta-da! So even though it was slow-going for me at times it was satisfying in the end, and an interesting grid with those 14s-- cheater marquees?

Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


1927 automotive debut / THU 9-21-17 / Formula One racer Prost / Operative villains often / Vacuum tube innovation of 1946 / Ragtime legend Blake / Helmer of Doll's House

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: UEY (57D: Often-illegal maneuver that is key to answering the asterisked clues) —answers double back on the subsequent Across line (once they hit the black square):

Theme answers:
  • TWO-TIM / EL OSER (1A: *Adlai Stevenson as a presidential candidate, e.g.)
  • SALAR / Y CAPS (21A: *Limits on team payrolls)
  • STRIK / ES A BA / LANCE (31A: **Doesn't go to either extreme)
  • TATTL / ETALE (47A: *Snitch)
  • PRIVAT / E LINES (60A: *Individual telephone connections)
Word of the Day: GIVE EAR (25A: Listen (to)) —
Verb1.give ear - give heed (to); "The children in the audience attended the recital quietly"; "She hung on his every word"; "They attended to everything he said" (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

So the basic concept is solid—answers do a U-turn, and the comeback portion of the answer is itself a viable word in the Across. The double-UEY in the middle of the grid is a nice twist. The fill is just OK, but the theme is pretty demanding, so no strong complains there. What I dislike, to the point of resenting, is the deliberate trap set in the west. Now traps are fine, but when you set them where your Stupidest answers are, then falling into them is deeply unpleasant. A good trap should make you go "Ah, right, good one." But GIVE EAR (?!) is a phenomenally stupid thing, and crossing VEEPSTAKES ... ? Is VEEPSTAKES the thing where candidates decide on VP candidates? We gave that a name? The clue makes it sound like an official thing. It's not. There is not necessarily a "stakes" involved. Just pick a running mate. Anyway, back to the trap. 25D: A whole bunch (_O_S) ... crossing 36A: Social gathering (_E_). The latter was what really got me. I wrote in TEA and then that gave me LOTS for [A whole bunch]. And that was pretty much that. Had LI_EEAR and _EAPSTAKES and couldn't see how any answers I had were wrong. Because they weren't wrong. They were just wrong for This Grid because stupid GIVE EAR and stupid VEEPSTAKES thought they'd have a stupid party for ugly answers. Luckily at some point my "tear it all out" instinct kicked in, and somehow I was able to get to GIVE / GOBS / BEE / VEEP. Again, theme was solid, but not solid enough to absorb the blow from the GIVE EAR train wreck.

MISCALL is superdumb (28D: Poker blunder). What the hell is that? Where you call but shouldn't have? How is there a name for that kind of stupidity? What is an ALAIN Prost? (48D: Formula One racer Prost) People know that? People know Formula One racers? Talk about niche sports. Worst mistake I made all day wasn't the LOTS / TEA thing (that was a very reasonable mistake). No, it was reading "Scoville scale" (40D: Topping the Scoville scale) but thinking "Beaufort scale." So I could see the answer wanted to be HOTTEST, but ... winds aren't measure by hotness.

My favorite clue in this thing is probably 43A: George I or V? (SOFT G). Clever. Take it from an erstwhile medievalist, a knight does not "need" a LANCE, no way, no how, no. NOSED IN is almost as dumb as GIVE EAR. But again, most of the fill (though oldish and awkward at times) holds up, and the theme is fine.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Fitness program done to Latin music / WED 9-20-17 / Scottish hillside / Citrus named for its appearance

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy (like, really really easy, if you make the smart choice and completely ignore the Note and the bracketed numbers)

THEME: ab bc cd etc — here's the note:

So the clues are numbered 1 to 25, and 1 has "AB" in it, 2 has "BC" in it, 3 has "CD" in it, etc. etc. Are you not entertained!?

Word of the Day: SUVA (44A: Capital of FIJI) —
Suva (Fijian pronunciation: [ˈsuβa]) is the capital, second largest municipality and largest municipality with city status in Fiji. It is located on the southeast coast of the island of Viti Levu, in the Rewa Province, Central Division. [...] At the 2007 census, the city of Suva had a population of 85,691. Including independent suburbs, the population of the Greater Suva urban area was 172,399 at the 2007 census] Suva, along with the bordering towns of Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori have a total urban population of around 330,000, over a third of the nation's population. This urban complex (not including Lami) is known also as the Suva–Nausori corridor. (wikipedia)
• • •

The puzzle is not in a good place right now. It just can't find its mojo, can't catch a break. I'm sure this theme sounded good ... in the constructor's head (??) ("I'll show 'em!"). But there is literally zero interest from the solver's point of view. Who. The. Hell. Cares. About two-letter strings? The entire puzzle seems to have been conceived to justify the entry BMWXSERIES (62A: Line of upscale German autos [23]). Like someone bet him that he couldn't pull this theme off because no way he could pull off "WX," man, that would be like jumping the Snake River Canyon! But then the constructor was like "Hold my laptop" and hopped onto his rocket-propelled motorcycle and zoom! "QR" required some ingenuity as well (BBQ RIBS). Beyond that, it's all very dreary. Yes, you get BWXSERIES, but you also get BCE and (ugh) OFGOD and PALME etc. Not worth it. I might've been at least mildly impressed if there had been only one instance of each sequential letter pair in the grid. But there are two "NO"s and like half a dozen "RS"s. So ... yeah, NO.

If any good comes of this puzzle, it's that I pass along to you how much I like WIM Winders movies (28A: Wenders who directed "Buena Vista Social Club"). His Road Movie trilogy (starting with "Alice in the Cities" 1974)) is quirkily beautiful. I've got "Hammett" (1982) set to record later this week, and "Until the End of the World" just sitting on my DVR waiting for a time when I have an unbroken 4 hr. chunk to dedicate to it. Gonna watch "Paris, Texas" next, since Harry Dean Stanton just died. A bunch of WIM Wenders movies are on FilmStruck (which, along with TCM and Netflix and all the EPIX channels, is practically all I watch). Anyway, WIM! That is my recommendation for the day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I had one "uh oh, careful" moment as I was zooming through the grid, right when I got to 58A: Fleur-de-___ (LYS). I wrote in LIS but my brain immediately registered the possibility of a different spelling, and wouldn't let me leave the corner until I had checked the cross (probably seconds later). And thus I never had to hunt down that error (as many will have had to)

P.P.S. I met a dog named "Hester" in the woods today (3D: Hawthorne who created Hester Prynne) (NATHANIEL). YEAH, I too thought it was weird. I mean, if your dog is an adulterer, no judgment, but do I really need to know that?

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Vegetation along British golf course / TUE 9-19-17 / US city whose name looks oxymoronic / Aid in producing suspect's picture

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Constructor: Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SILENT PARTNER (57A: Nonactive member of a firm ... or what G, H and W each have in 20-, 29- and 49-Across) — two-word phrases where both words have the same silent letter, therefore each letter is SILENT and has a PARTNER (twin) who is also silent:

Theme answers:
  • CAMPAIGN SIGNS (20A: Yard displays at election time)
  • GENGHIS KHAN (29A: Mongol Empire founder)
  • WRONG ANSWER (49A: "Nope, guess again")
Word of the Day: IDENTIKIT (32D: Aid in producing a suspect's picture) —
noun: identikit; plural noun: identikits
a picture of a person, especially one sought by the police, reconstructed from typical facial features according to witnesses' descriptions. (google)
• • •

If you know people are going to have visceral, negative reactions to an answer, why do you put it in your grid? No one has ever put DOG MEAT in a NYT grid before ... and there's a reason for that. It is a divisive answer, as the clue itself points out (3D: Serving in Asia that's taboo in the West). This is a western paper, so even if we decide fine, different cultures, different ways, there's still going to be a repulsion factor here for many solvers, one that is totally and utterly avoidable if you're the constructor. It's incomprehensible to me that a constructor would think, "You know what this grid needs: DOG MEAT?" What value is added to the puzzle? You have to weigh the potential costs against the potential gains, and this is a totally undemanding corner to fill—why do you go here? Also, please note: I don't know about "taboo," but it's literally illegal to consume DOG MEAT in parts of *Asia* (specifically Taiwan). Also, there's something oddly stereotype-reinforcing about this clue ("Serving in Asia..."). Consumption of dog appears to be a. not that common in Asia as a whole, and b. declining.  I recommend the DOG MEAT wikipedia page specifically for its matter-of-fact-references to the unregulated brutality of so much dog slaughter around the world. This answer is far too unappetizing a way to begin a puzzle. I barely noticed the rest of the grid. And next to DR. LAURA? Come on. Have mercy.

I think this theme is OK, and the fill (DOG MEAT aside) pretty weak overall. Most of the answers are dull or dated or kinda icky (HOS, SKEE, SNO, MAA).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Ogden Nash's two-l beast / MON 9-18-17 / Start end of Greek spelling of Athena / ex of marla ivana informally

Monday, September 18, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: color-bodyparted — themers follow that basic pattern:

Theme answers:
  • WHITE-KNUCKLED (20A: Visibly tense)
  • GREEN-EYED (32A: Extremely jealous)
  • RED-HANDED (44A: In the very act)
  • YELLOW-BELLIED (56A: Deplorably cowardly)
Word of the Day: EUROPA (25A: Figure in Greek myth after whom a continent is named) —
Europa, in Greek mythology, the daughter either of Phoenix or of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. The beauty of Europa inspired the love of Zeus, who approached her in the form of a white bull and carried her away from Phoenicia to Crete. There she bore Zeus three sons: Minos, ruler of Crete; Rhadamanthys, ruler of the Cyclades Islands; and, according to some legends, Sarpedon, ruler of Lycia. She later married Asterius, the king of Crete, who adopted her sons, and she was worshipped under the name of Hellotis in Crete, where the festival Hellotia was held in her honour. (britannica)
• • •

If you like gated communities and grinding your teeth and modern Republican politics, welcome. Here is your puzzle. I wrote yesterday that the editor had a little love affair with the current White House. Then I briefly felt bad about that joke. I no longer feel bad about that joke. And RUBIO to boot? Gross. I'm all for the puzzle's reflecting the world at large, but when the world at large is this ****ing dystopic, I think it's reasonable not to feed the Publicity Obsessed White Supremacist in the White House With Yet More Publicity. I can barely even look at 11-Down. It's disgusting that anyone ever thought "let's give it a nickname, it'll be cute."

This seems like a theme that's been done, but not with these words, or in this exact way, I guess. YELLOW-BELLIED is the only one I really like. The only one that stands strong alone. RED-HANDED needs somebody who's been "caught," WHITE-KNUCKLED needs to ditch the "D" and then put itself before "RIDE," and GREEN-EYED needs "MONSTER" to be anything close to plausible. I never got a good solving rhythm going—felt like I was all over the place, and also solving my way through mud. But then the clock said 2:39 which is a well-below-average time for me. Weird. 

Wife is annoyed at how frequently KNEEL is clued in relation to knighthood (21D: Prepare to be knighted). "Where's the Kaepernick clue!?" Good question.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Fancy French shellfish dish / SUN 9-17-17 / Speed skater Karin who won eight Olympic medals / Pigment in red blood cells / Music genre for Weezer Shins Old outdoor dance sights / 1428 horror film address / Celestial object that emits radio waves

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Constructor: Mark MacLachlan

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Super Looper" — themers have a mini loop in them (signified by circles), so answer goes up one back one down one and then resumes its Across path:

Theme answers:
  • LOBSTER THERMIDOR (23A:S Fancy French shellfish dish)
  • BEVERAGE ROOM (oh come on, that is not a thing) (25A: Beer parlor)
  • UNDER ONE ROOF (49A: All together, as a family)
  • BLACKBOARD ERASER (51A: Classroom item)
  • CONCERT SERIES (69A: Central Park's SummerStage, e.g.)
  • COMPUTER OPERATOR (86A: Tech overseer)
  • SPOILER ALERT (91A: Reason to stop reading)
  • ROLE REVERSAL (116A: Premise of the film "Freaky Friday")
  • BATTERY TERMINALS (118A: Some positives and negatives)
Word of the Day: Karin ENKE (38D: Speed skater Karin who won eight Olympic medals) —
Karin Enke-Richter (née Enke, formerly Busch and Kania, born 20 June 1961) is a former speed skater, one of the most dominant of the 1980s. She is a three-time Olympic gold medallist, winning the 500 metres in 1980, the 1000 metres in 1984 and the 1500 metres in 1984. She won a total of eight Olympic medals. (wikipedia)
• • •

Has the NYT just given up on the Sunday puzzle? You'd think they'd put a Lot more effort into recruiting great Sunday work, instead of this parade of tedium we've been getting. Either it's some cornball wacky theme (add a letter? change a sound?) with groaner dad humor from 1984, or it's some thin concept (like today) where nothing happens that is at all interesting. The loops do nothing but loop. Why do they loop? Who knows? Who cares? What do the looped letters spell out? Gibberish? What's the revealer? There is none. What does the title even mean? Uh ... it's a pun on this?

I honestly don't know. I just know that this puzzle was very easy and utterly without interest, in either the themers or the fill. Here's what I remember: I don't know how to spell "Thermidor." THERMADOR seemed so much more plausible. That error was the main contributing factor to the difficulty I had in that one small, northern section of the puzzle—along with the yucky / impossible-to-parse UT-AUSTIN (32A: Rex Tillerson's alma mater, for short) (Shortz's love affair with this White House continues apace ...).  EM DASH and FAIR USE (both fine answers) were not the easiest things in the world to uncover and so that little area east of STRUT and west of TORTILLA was memorable for its thorniness. The rest of the puzzle was barely there. Provided all the resistance of a light mist—a mist polluted by such small particles as LLANOS ESA HEME ARIE ETH OOM SIE ELMST OSO OLES EEN and ENKE (?). Who says ON A SLOPE? ON A SLANT, maybe. SLOPE? Nope. My favorite part of the puzzle was actually an error I made: faced with the clue 86D: ___ wolf (three letters, starting "C"), I went with ... COY! It's a thing!

Look how coy that wolf is. It looks all innocent, but ... it knows.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Gourd also known as vegetable pear / SAT 9-16-17 / O.C. protagonist / Underground activity in '50s / 1950s TV personality who appeared in Grease / Many 1920s Harper's Bazaar covers

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Constructor: Natan Last, Finn Vigeland and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: CHAYOTE (40D: Gourd also known as a vegetable pear) —
noun: chayote; plural noun: chayotes
  1. 1.
    a green pear-shaped tropical fruit that resembles cucumber in flavor.
  2. 2.
    the tropical American vine that yields the chayote, also producing an edible yamlike tuberous root. (google)
• • •

The grid is sprinkled with some lovely answers, though the loveliness is undercut somewhat by a rather strong dose of crosswordese (on a couple occasions, plural crosswordese), and a SE corner that's been bombarded with obscurities: a clue for TARA that was popular with Farrar, Weng, and Maleska, but has hardly been seen at all in the past quarter century (54A: Hill of ___, site of Ireland's Lia Fáil); something called TTY, which has only appeared in the NYTX three times, and is apparently somewhat dated nowadays (it's short for "teletypewriter"); and then CHAYOTE, which has never been in the NYTX before today, and which I'm seeing right now for the first time in my life. Yes, sure, learning new things is great, blah blah blah, but CHAYOTE nearly abutting TTY just reeks of bygone puzzles that sought to test your knowledge rather than to entertain. TTY in particular is weak (the meaning of those letters is totally uninferrable) (58D: Communication device for the deaf: Abbr.). You want people leaving your puzzle going "wow," not "wha?" Lastly, in that same corner, why am I *watching* the gap. I *mind* the gap. That's the famous expression, right? Is it a Brit v. US thing. "Mind the gap" is a snappy, coherent, in-the-language phrase. "Watch the gap" ... appears to be NYC-specific.

The NW is the real winner of a section here today (located, fittingly, on the opposite side of the grid from the SE, aka "SATAN's Corner"). Those Acrosses are a lovely way to open the puzzle, though they were somewhat hard to get at, given that two of them had "?" clues on them. I would throw ERTES and EER and ELAL and even PSYOPS back if I could, but on the whole, that corner is nice. EMERGEN-C and "SHARK TANK" give the puzzle a needed jolt of modernity, but ... what the hell is going on with that RYAN clue? (55A: "The O.C." protagonist). Of allllllllll the RYANs in the word, both last names and first names, you go to the protagonist of a show that's been off the air for a decade, whose name no one but die-hard fans would've known to begin with? I watched at least a season of that damn thing and ... RYAN? If you say so. I will never understand *that* clue for *that* name in *this* year.

I have no idea what a PANIC BAR is. "Door part"? Wikipedia says: "Crash bar (also known as a panic exit device, panic bar, or push bar) is a type of door opening mechanism which allows users to open a door by pushing a bar. While originally conceived as a way to prevent stampedes in an emergency, crash bars are now used as the primary door opening mechanism in many commercial buildings." So ... it's just that bar part that you push (un-panickedly, in my experience) to get in and out of many kinds of commercial buildings? I clearly don't share much of a cultural frame of reference with this puzzle. It's a solid effort with some standout answers. Not to my taste, but certainly acceptable work.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Canadian crooner Michael / FRI 9-15-17 / Basic beverage in baby talk / Parker so-called queen of indies

Friday, September 15, 2017

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: John von NEUMANN (32A: Computer science pioneer John von ___) —
John von Neumann (/vɒn ˈnɔɪmən/; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, computer scientist, and polymath. He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, context / inflection means everything on a clue like 27A: "Seriously!" I thought it was being said like "I MEAN IT!" not like "I KNOW, RIGHT?" (which is a real thing people say and a great answer). That is, I thought "Seriously!" was an exclamation of insistence, not an exclamation of agreement. Beyond that, I had the -NGER and wanted DÖPPELGANGER at 6D: Look-alike (DEAD RINGER), and I confidently wrote in MEDIA CIRCUS for 21A: Atmosphere around a celebrity trial, say (MEDIA FRENZY). Wanted AVEO for NOVA and then *got* AVEO later on. Weird. Wouldn't [Nutso] be CRAZED, and [Semi-nutso] HALF-CRAZED? (29D). Do people really remember Peter Fonda's *character's* name from "Easy Rider'? Needed most of the crosses to get WYATT. Grew up in California and know all the [University of California campus site]s but somehow blanked on the only one that anyone in my family actually attended! (SANTA CRUZ). And I had the "Z"! I think I saw the "Z" and my first thought was "Oh, there must be a campus site I don't know," instead of thinking, "Oh, it's where your ****ing stepbrother went to college, idiot!"

["... 'cause we can't see EYE-TO-EYE ..."]

There's nothing wrong with this puzzle, but it felt a little flat. I think my standards for themelesses are starting to rise, as I know they're much easier to fill with interesting answers than themed puzzles (which have serious restrictions by nature). It's not shocking that I have historically liked Fri and Sat puzzles much better than those from other days of the week.

Good themes are hard to pull off, and *especially* hard to pull off without dragging the non-theme fill down. Good themelesses, while they can be challenging to make, are generally easier to make *interesting* / splashy than themed puzzles are. So something like today's themeless puzzle, which is merely solid, leaves me a little cold. Without theme restrictions, you should be able to do a little dazzling with the fill. You can always dazzle with the cluing. But this clue dazzles on neither front. Again, it is not weak or bad. But I want art. Or cheap thrills. Or both. Something. I dunno. Maybe if the cluing were much better, it would've felt less like a warm-up puzzle and more like a Main Event.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Centaur who was killed by Hercules / THU 9-14-17 / Burrowing South Amercain rodent / Jesse who pitched in record 1252 major league games

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: DIASTEMA (52A: Formal term for the gap suggested by 17/18-, 35/37- and 54/57-Across) — it means a gap between the teeth; each theme answer has a "gap" in the middle of the word TOOTH (which is embedded in each answer):

Theme answers:
  • TOOT / HIS OWN HORN (17A: With 18-Across, what a boastful guy might do)
  • DO UNTO / OTHERS (35A: With 37-Across, start of an ethical rule)
  • SPREAD TOO / THIN (54A: With 57-Across, overextended) 
Word of the Day: DIASTEMA
  1. a gap between the teeth, in particular.
    • Zoology
      a space separating teeth of different functions, especially that between the biting teeth (incisors and canines) and grinding teeth (premolars and molars) in rodents and ungulates.
      noun: diastema; plural noun: diastemata
    • a gap between a person's two upper front teeth. (google)
• • •

This is a good idea poorly executed. Two very major problems. First, the revealer ... how do I say this? ... To have your revealer be a hyper-obscure term (I'm sorry, "Formal term") is maybe not the greatest idea if you have any intention of having the solver's experience result in a final "AHA! Ooh! Satisfying!" Or if you want your solver to understand your puzzle *at all* without the aid of a dictionary. So this ended with all the pleasure of ... googling the answer. Only then did see what was going on in the themers—which brings me to the second major problem. Maybe you can see this for yourself. Just look at the way the theme is played out, visually. Now consider what DIASTEMA means. See a problem? If the ****ing ridiculous obscurantist nightmare term you're using as a revealer means "space between teeth" then that damned space better come between some damned teeth. But no. We just get busted, cracked teeth. I looked up a word for this? No. No thanks.

Only trouble in this grid is gonna come from the revealer and (surprise!) proper nouns. I happen to know DUMONT but many under 70 won't, and let's hope they're football fans because that "M" crosses MADDEN (27A: ___ NFL (video game franchise)). OROSCO will be very familiar to older (i.e. roughly my age and older) baseball fans, particularly '86 Mets fans. But a whole cross-section of solverdom will need ever cross there. NESSUS is bonkers, in that I teach stuff that he's mentioned in and even I forgot his damned name (44D: Centaur who was killed by Hercules). Personally, I died at the SHYEST/RYDELL crossing. I had an "I" there. Put it there because I thought that was how you spelled SHIEST. And then left it in for RIDELL. It's not that I didn't know the name of the "Grease" high school. I've seen the movie a billion times. But once that "I" went in, RYDELL wasn't gonna knock it out. It's a pretty bad cross, since SHIEST is acceptable and RYDELL is a proper noun. But whatever. It's fine. My bad.

Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go tie up a single LOOSE END (2D: Something to tie up).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP