Three-syllable foot as in bada bing / MON 11-20-17 / Nickname of Gen Burgoyne in American Revolution / Coiner of phrase alternative facts / Indian character on Big Bang Theory / Henry British officer who invented exploding shell

Monday, November 20, 2017

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Challenging (like, off-the-charts, not-even-close-to-normal-Monday Challenging)

THEME: ALLITERATION (18D: What 17-, 33-, 47- and 66-Across exhibit, despite appearances to the contrary) — two-word phrases that alliterate despite starting with different letters:

Theme answers:
  • GENTLEMAN JOHNNY (17A: Nickname of Gen. Burgoyne in the American Revolution)
  • PHOTO FINISH (33A: End of a close race)
  • CAESAR SALAD (47A: Dish made with romaine lettuce, croutons and Parmesan cheese)
  • KELLYANNE CONWAY (66A: Coiner of the phrase "alternative facts") 
Word of the Day: GENTLEMAN JOHNNY (John Burgoyne, 17-Across) —
General John Burgoyne (24 February 1722 – 4 August 1792) was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, most notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762.
John Burgoyne is best known for his role in the American Revolutionary War. He designed an invasion scheme and was appointed to command a force moving south from Canada to split away New England and end the rebellion. Burgoyne advanced from Canada but his slow movement allowed the Americans to concentrate their forces. Instead of coming to his aid according to the overall plan, the British Army in New York City moved south to capture Philadelphia. Surrounded, Burgoyne fought two small battles near Saratoga to break out. Trapped by superior American forces, with no relief in sight, Burgoyne surrendered his entire army of 6,200 men on 17 October 1777. His surrender, says historian Edmund Morgan, "was a great turning point of the war, because it won for Americans the foreign assistance which was the last element needed for victory". He and his officers returned to England; the enlisted men became prisoners of war. Burgoyne came under sharp criticism when he returned to London, and never held another active command.
Burgoyne was also an accomplished playwright known for his works such as The Maid of the Oaks and The Heiress, but his plays never reached the fame of his military career. He served as a member of the House of Commons for a number of years, sitting for the seats of Midhurst and Preston. (wikipedia)
• • •

Good editing is the difference between a great experience and an annoying one. So ... how did this puzzle get slotted on Monday? It's absurd. It's at least a Tuesday, possibly a Wednesday. Like, it's not close to Monday. I was over a minute slower than my average Monday time. Since I finish a typical Monday in roughly 2:50, you can see how one minute in this case is a ****ing chasm. Yes, the puzzle is oversized, which accounts for some of the extra time, but dear lord, come on. GENTLEMAN JOHNNY!? What the hell was that? (A: not a Monday theme answer). And your 1-Across is a. 7 letters (?) and b. a highly specialized poetic term? (ANAPEST) I'm cool with all of this, but, you know, Later In The Week. This theme is far too dense and intricate (a revealer intersecting every themer!), and has too many odd words and obscurities, to be a Monday. Dude's been editing for decades and couldn't see this? Mind-blowing. The puzzle is actually well made. But not a Monday not a Monday not even close to a Monday. GENTLEMAN JOHNNY, dear lord...

And even familiar stuff like SHRAPNEL had a nightmarish non-Monday clue (16D: Henry ___, British Army officer who invented the exploding shell). I wasn't even a minute into the puzzle and already—some Revolutionary general I'd never heard of and then a British Army officer? Oof. Mix up the frame of reference a little, please. What the **** is TETCHY? (52A: Irritable). Man that was rough. I think I've seen the word before, but I don't know anyone who uses it ever in any context ever. Wanted HIVES for HONEY (57D: Bees' production). IONA for IONE (I know better than that, dang it!) (64A: Actress Skye). I forgot the horrid lying racist sexual assailant president-enabling (did I leave anything out?) person's name, so that also slowed me down. Experienced the predictable NOVAS v. NOVAE hesitation (29D: Suddenly bright stars). Cute theme, good puzzle—but fatally misplaced on a Monday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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The Land Shark's show, for short / SUN 11-19-17 / Staple of Southern cuisine / Rising concerns in modern times? / Certain high school clique / Ones stationed at home

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy-ish

THEME: “Counterproductive" — Theme answers are defined by the number of letters they contain.

Theme answers:
  • MIDNIGHT HOUR (22A: This clue’s 110-Across, timewise) 
  • DIVER’S GOAL (28A: This clue’s 110-Across, at the Olympics)
  • VOTING AGE IN AMERICA (49A: This clue’s 110-Across, as is relevant each November) 
  • BAD LUCK SYMBOL (64A: This clue’s 110-Across, to the superstitious) 
  • ARGON’S ATOMIC NUMBER (81A: This clue’s 110-Across, in chemistry) 
  • REAL LOOKER (102A: This clue’s 110-Across, in terms of attractiveness) 
and then:
  • ANSWER LENGTH (110A: Something to count to understand 22-, 28-, 49-, 64-, 81-, and 102-Across)

Word of the Day: TOUCAN SAM (77D: One with a large bill at breakfast?)
Toucan Sam is the cartoon toucan mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal. The character has been featured in advertising since the 1960s. He exhibits the ability to smell Froot Loops from great distances and invariably locates a concealed bowl of the cereal while intoning, "Follow your nose! It always knows!", sometimes followed by "The flavor of fruit! Wherever it grows!" Another version of this phrase in a string of commercials in the late-2000s presents the character at the end of the commercials saying "Just follow your nose!", followed by a group of children retorting, "For the fruity taste that shows!"
• • •
Alex Eylar here -- I bumped into Rex on the subway; I said “Excuse me”; he said “Hey do you want to cover the puzzle today”; I said “Yeah why not”, and here I am.

This puzzle seems... expository, I guess is the word. Take ARGON’S ATOMIC NUMBER, for example: it contains 18 letters, and argon is atomic number 18, and, well, that’s it. It’s definitely accurate, but it’s not really an Aha! moment.

It doesn’t help as you’re solving it, either. I run across 22A first and I see it references a later clue, and I think to myself, “Welp, guess I’m not filling that in, tra la la la la” And then I think those same thoughts for the next five theme answers. So it’s not as if I’m working out the trick -- I’m just waiting until I get enough crosses that I can maybe figure out what the F these phrases are.

Except, they're not phrases (with the exception of MIDNIGHT HOUR and REAL LOOKER) -- they’re just descriptions of the connotations of a number. And the sentence “descriptions of the connotations of a number” doesn’t inspire a lot of excitement.

It reminds me of this puzzle from April: self-reflexive, but not really in an astounding way. It doesn’t elicit a “Wow!” or an “Oh, I get it!” -- it’s more of a “Huh, all-righty then.” That feeling, combined with the inescapably-fuzzy language of the clues (“Something to count to understand...”) makes the puzzle a bit flat, in my opinion. An interesting idea on paper, but there’s some oomph missing in practice.

I also don’t quite see the point in including the circled FOUR, which has four letters, and yeah. It’s a number describing itself (the only number to do so, fun fact!), but it feels like an afterthought. I appreciate the symmetry and the cascading arrangement of the letters, but what does it add to the puzzle?

That said, this puzzle was definitely on the easier side; finished just two minutes over my best time.

Words of note:
  • TO ARMS! (115A: Dramatic battle cry) — I had CHARGE! at first, which I yell every time I pull onto the 405.
  • HOP IN (6A: Words said through a car window) — For some reason, I pictured the window to be rolled-up, and was searching for a phrase you’d yell through a closed window, all of which are profane. (Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here)
  • EVITABLE (24A: Not definitely going to happen) — I mean... I guess it’s a word, but the opposite is far more friendly.
  • NEVERMORE (12D: Old-fashioned “That’s absolutely the last time”) — The lack of a Poe reference is a gross failure in my book; I love that poem.
  • HOME MOVIE (76D: Family Night entertainment) — I grew up in a boring family too.

Losers: PEELE and PEELER, GOLAN (looks like five random letters to my uncultured eyes), ON MARS (helluva partial), NBAERS (‘ae’ is the ugliest thing ever, trust me, they’re my initials).

Signed, Alex Eylar, Serf of Crossworld

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Cheap cigar slangily / SAT 11-18-17 / Noted corporate raider of 1980s / Ehud Barak abandoned it in 2011 / Cremona treasures familiarly / Boolean string in programming / Eponym of electrical law / ID anew as on Facebook

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: LLOYD Price (47D: Price of R&B) —
Lloyd Price (born March 9, 1933) is an American R&B vocalist, known as "Mr. Personality", after one of his million-selling hits. His first recording, "Lawdy Miss Clawdy", was a hit for Specialty Records in 1952. He continued to release records, but none were as popular until several years later, when he refined the New Orleans beat and achieved a series of national hits. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. (wikipedia)
• • •

This grid is original, though part of that originality involves rolling with words and phrases that are unfamiliar or odd or new or otherwise kind of head-cocking / "?"-inducing. Every long Across in the NW, for instance—I don't have complaints about those answers, but every one of them had me going "Is ... that a thing? Is that spelled right? I know those words, but do they really go together?" Otter pops are a real things, so OTTER PUP made me wonder ... and then the spelling of PUH-LEASE ... felt right, but obviously there's no real authority there ... and I have never heard of an UBER POOL, though I can infer what that is, I guess (like a carpool for people who don't own cars?). "YEAH, DUDE" also falls into this "O...K" category. I know what a beta test is, obviously, but haven't seen BETA TESTER. I'll just take your word for it that DATA TYPE is a thing. Also ARM BAR. But in the end, LLOYD Price was the only thing that was a total "?", and the crosses were all solid, so no sweat. The whole thing felt like work, but I never got seriously stalled. Finished just under 8. I think that's Medium. I'm not sure.

I can picture Simone BILES but I totally forgot her last name and BILES just looks weird in isolation somehow. When I say it, I know it's right, but when I look at it, again, I'm making that "is that right?" face. The opposite phenomenon happened to me with Sylvia SYMS, i.e. I can't picture her at all, but her name just came to me and felt right (51D: Sylvia of jazz). Parsing a number of these answers was very hard, starting with PUH-LEASE and then continuing with MS DEGREE and especially P.E. TEACHER, which looked like a "pet ... something" (36D: One with whom your relationship is working out, briefly?). People are complaining on Twitter that because CHASE UTLEY was not a Dodger when he "won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards beginning in 2006," that clue is inaccurate or at least misleading (13D: Dodgers second baseman who won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards beginning in 2006). I took one look at the clue, then one look at the "L-Y" already sitting at the end of that answer, and had zero problems. Also, if you don't know who CHASE UTLEY is ... you picked a bad week to skip the Friday puzzle (back-to-back Utleez!). Most embarrassing moment was having -AINES and going "HAINES? ... GAINES?" Then I remembered what the letters in LBJ stand for. Ugh (44D: Presidential middle name).

Wrong answers I had:
  • BLAT (2D: Big blow for a musician? => TUBA) 
  • ILL (60D: Trouble => ADO)
  • PGA (7D: Tour grp. => USO)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Pulitzer winning poet of 1947 1974 / FRI 11-17-17 / Wrong Way Corrigan's wrong way / Wheels for rent in Big Apple / Model with Global Chic fashion line / Drum go-with

Friday, November 17, 2017

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Robert LOWELL (46D: Pulitzer-winning poet of 1947 and 1974) —
Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV (/ˈləl/; March 1, 1917 – September 12, 1977) was an American poet. He was born into a Boston Brahmin family that could trace its origins back to the Mayflower. His family, past and present, were important subjects in his poetry. Growing up in Boston also informed his poems, which were frequently set in Boston and the New England region. The literary scholar Paula Hayes believes that Lowell mythologized New England, particularly in his early work. [...] He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, where he served from 1947 until 1948. In addition to winning the National Book Award, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1947 and 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1947. He is "widely considered one of the most important American poets of the postwar era." His biographer Paul Mariani called him "the poet-historian of our time" and "the last of [America's] influential public poets."
• • •

Not a sufficiently scintillating Friday. Longer answers weren't spiffy enough, and the short fill got pretty wonky in places. Not bad, just not good enough. I like "I" phrases just fine but I weirdly got tired by the third one (I FORGOT, I CAN WAIT, I NEED A RIDE). I, MAN—it grates on you after a while. FRET AT feels super-awkward. Don't you fret *over* something? Well, at least it's not as awkward as TESLA CARS (!?!?!?). Is that to distinguish them from TESLA DETERGENT or TESLA HAND PUPPETS. Teslas are cars. TESLA CARS ... are redundant. I found this whole puzzle very hard to move through, in general, and yet I ended up with a time in the mid-5s, which is actually (I think) slightly below normal. I lucked out, though, in that I knew Robert LOWELL and Chase UTLEY. Good luck to those who didn't, yikes.

CITIBIKES is a nice, fresh answer at 1A: Wheels for rent in the Big Apple, but nothing after that was nearly as appealing. I don't quite get the clue on CADS (1D: Bad catches?). Are you dating the CADS? I don't think of CADS as having anything (necessarily) to do with "catches"? Now that I look at it, I'm not even sure I understand how "catches" is being used here, or what the phrase "bad catches" is even punning on. When would you use the phrase "bad catch," in any context? I think "catches" here means, like, "dates" or "boyfriends" or something (as in "he's a good catch"), but ... CADS mostly describe guys you're *not* dating ... right? My biggest problems today were, first, in the SW, where hard clues on SCAN (52D: Emailable picture) and CANES (?) (59A: They may go on long walks) and NEWLY (65 ___ revised) (?!!) made the corner hard despite the sweet SMEW gimme (52A: Duck variety). And then I couldn't come up with ANALGESI*A* (61A: One effect of marijuana). Wanted ANALGESI*C*. That corner was particularly rough where short fill was concerned: ANNO, GRO, ISAO. I also wanted OH OH OH instead of OOH OOH, which is one hell of a silly trap to fall into (11D: Eager student's cry). I'm just glad I can move on now. Fridays are my favorite days, so it's always disappointing when they fall short.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Pioneering 1990s computer game / THU 11-16-17 / Frequent vag gogh setting / 22+ pages of the Oxford English dictionary / German steel city / Some yacht assitants / Brand trusted by cooks who know / celeb chef Batali

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Constructor: Alex Eylar

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Now "See" this! — clues with answers describe the clues themselves:

Theme answers:
  • TAUTOLOGY (17A: See 58-Across) (58A: See 17-Across)
  • RECURSION (25A: See 25-Across)
  • A WILD GOOSE CHASE (36A: See 66-Across)
  • AMBIGUITY (46A: See ??-Across) 
Word of the Day: Mike ROWE (28D: Host Mike of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It") —
Michael Gregory Rowe (born March 18, 1962) is an American actor primarily known as a television host and narrator. He is known for his work on the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs and the CNN series Somebody's Gotta Do It. He also hosts a podcast, The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe, which he describes as "short stories designed specifically for the curious mind plagued with a short attention span". Rowe hosts a series produced for Facebook called Returning the Favor, Rowe finds people doing good deeds and does something for them in return. Rowe has narrated programs on the Discovery Channel, The Science Channel and National Geographic Channel such as Deadliest Catch, How the Universe Works, and Shark Week. He has appeared on commercials for firms such as the Ford Motor Company. He has served as a social activist on the causes of economic growth and job expansion as well. Past efforts include being an opera singer and a salesman. (wikipedia)
• • •

The concept here is clever, and I'd say 60% of these themers land (that is, if you count both TAUTOLOGY entries—if not, then half, I guess). A WILD GOOSE CHASE is the obvious winner of the bunch: a perfect 15, right down the center of the grid, delivering a genuinely amusing aha moment. TAUTOLOGY x 2, also cute. Clue on AMBIGUITY just seems wrong. Putting "??" in there doesn't make things AMBIGUOUS; it makes them downright indeterminable. Unknown. AMBIGUITY implies that you have some basis for understanding, but things remain unclear. "??" gives us nothing. Nothing is not AMBIGUITY. Nothing is nothing. And RECURSION ... I'm sure that's an accurate use of that word, and I understand the basic concept at play, but RECURSION was a rough word to come up with. I had the adjective RECURSIVE in there at first, because that's a word I've actually seen. I think I know the noun as "recursiveness." RECURSION is maybe a math thing (?). Anyway, that whole corner was rough for me because I just couldn't come up with the right word. Plus the SAFARI clue had forced ambiguity with the inclusion of that "the" (9D: What you might see the big game on), so of course I wanted some kind of TV ... and then my quartet had a VIOLA at first (12D: Quartet member). So no joy in RECURSION-ville. But TAUT TAUT GOOSE was good. Ditch the others, and you're in business.

["COUNT ... ON ... IT?"]

Let's stay in that corner for a little longer. I feel like I've been having train-wreck corners lately, where the rest of the puzzle goes fine, and then there's one corner where one little thing goes wrong and the wheels just come off. I wrote in BUM DEAL (22D: Short end of the stick) and OMIT (30A: Strike out), but OMIT gave me a terminal "I" for that damned "the big game" clue, so I doubted it and pulled it. Then went to RAW DEAL. Ugh. What's more humiliating—the thing that bailed me out up there: crosswordese! All hail OOXTEPLERNON (the god of short bad fill)! I was saved by ESSEN and ARLES! Lord help me.

How many damned HAMS are you eating at Christmas? Jesus! Seriously, Jesus! I have never had a ham at Christmas (which I treat as Thanksgiving II), so that answer eluded me. As did NIBLET (43D: Corn kernel, e.g.), because it is probably the grossest word since "moist." Its proximity to EGESTS is apt. Barf. OK, that's all, bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Dagwood's bratty neighbor / WED 11-15-17 / familiar voice since 2011 / Mushroom used in sukiyaki / Learjet competitor

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Constructor: Steven A. Atwood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BRITISHISMS (11D: Words found in the answers to this puzzle's starred clues) — familiar phrases are reimagined (via "?" clues) as phrases related to specifically British terms:

Theme answers:
  • FLAT RATE (17A: *Monthly charge for a London apartment?)
  • POKER CHIPS (26A: *French fries on a London card table?)
  • MACBOOK (40A: *Catalog from a London raincoat designer?)
  • BOBBY SOCKS (51A: *Part of a London police officer's uniform?)
  • SHOPLIFT (62A: *Conveyance in a multilevel London store?) 
Word of the Day: PYRITE (48D: Fool's gold) —
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, also known as fool's gold, is an iron sulfide with the chemical formula FeS2. Pyrite is considered the most common of the sulfide minerals. // Pyrite's metallic luster and pale brass-yellow hue give it a superficial resemblance to gold, hence the well-known nickname of fool's gold. The color has also led to the nicknames brass, brazzle, and Brazil, primarily used to refer to pyrite found in coal. (wikipedia)
• • •

Today is a day when I really wish the NYT crossword puzzles had titles. I have no idea why Sunday gets one, but none of the other days do. Actually, I can guess why—it likely has something to do with the amount of space the paper is willing to devote to the daily puzzle. But a title does not take up much space, and it would benefit the puzzle tremendously. One, if done right, a title is a great opportunity for clever, suggestive wordplay. Further (and this is where today's puzzle comes in), a title would eliminate the need for dull, descriptive revealers like the one we get today. I can *see* that the words involved in these themers are all BRITISH—you've got "London" in every clue, for ****'s sake. Plunking the unwitty and grid-warping BRITISHISMS down there does nothing but gum up the works. Look at this lopsided grid. You can see how those NW / SE corners are all wee, and cut off from the rest of the grid, whereas their counterparts in the NE / SW are these much larger, unwieldy things (you can see that the constructor struggled with filling them cleanly—hence the black squares in the corners).  If you ditched the revealer, you could build a nicer, cleaner grid, and still have a couple of jazzy longer Downs, one of which is not just a dull signpost.

The fill on this one is reasonably solid, though things get a bit rough in the south with COSEC, EPOS, TOATEE, and ELMO (esp. as clued—an obscure "Blondie" clue? In 2017?) (67A: Dagwood's bratty neighbor). That was the only area of the puzzle where I got much resistance—starting at PYRITE (the name of which I just forgot) and headed through the SOCKS part of BOBBY SOCKS (I am more familiar with the term "bobby-soxer"—as in the Cary Grant film, "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947)—so the full spelling of SOCKS was oddly, if only briefly, confusing) and then down to ELMO (which was a huge "?"). Oh, and that area also contains KAHLO (54D: Frida who was portrayed in film by Salma Hayek), who is famous enough, but whose name I still struggle to spell correctly (got it right today, but am somehow always willing to entertain KHALO). So, my main takeaway today is: I wish there were titles. But like my wish that constructors were paid anywhere near their actual worth, I expect this wish to go unheeded for the foreseeable future.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. about that COPS clue (70A: Beat people?) ... yeesh.

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Video game lover of Princess Peach / TUE 11-14-17 / Carved figurine popular around Christmas / Yale affectionately / UN agcy headquartered in Geneva

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Constructor: Jerry Miccolis and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Challenging (a minute off my average, which on a Tuesday is a ton)

THEME: TRIPLE / DOUBLE (37A: With 39-Across, impressive basketball feat ... or a feature shared by the answers to the six starred clues) — themers all have three sets of successive double letters:

Theme answers:
  • SWEET TOOTH (17A: *Sugar craving)
  • WOOD DEER (21A: *Carved figurine popular around Christmas)
  • GOOD DEED (23A: *What never goes unpunished, it's said)
  • HEEL LOOP (53A: *Wheelchair foot strap)
  • FEED DOOR (56A: *Pet cage feature)
  • BOOKKEEPER (60A: *Figurehead?) (again with the dumb "?" in a non-"?" theme) 
Word of the Day: SPOT AD (33D: Expense item for a political campaign) —
a brief advertisement broadcast in a programme break (Collins)
• • •

I've never heard of half the themers, so yeah, this didn't go well. I can kind of sort of imagine what a FEED DOOR is (I imagine it's for ... gerbils or something?) and I can kind of sort of imagine what a HEEL LOOP is (does it keep the leg elevated?) but a WOOD DEER, no, that I cannot imagine, unless it is some kind of Rudolph figurine, in which case, a. it's a "wooden" deer, and b. those are not and have never been "popular." You've got three solid themers—much better to find an equally solid fourth, and then make a clean grid. No need to crowd the damn thing so much, especially when you're crowding it with weakness. Those mystery themers kept me far more stuck than I normally ever get on a Tuesday. Oh, I should probably mention, for you non-basketball fans, that a TRIPLE / DOUBLE is when a player hits double-digits in three of the five main statistical categories: points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals (usually points, assists, rebounds).

I was over my *Wednesday* average. I mean, WOOD DEER, come on. And SPOT AD was another disaster for me. That crossing FEED DOOR, with a very vague INCIDENT clue (38D: Episode) and a clue for CRETIN that I did not know was the meaning of CRETIN (47D: Dimwit) all combined to make that SW corner hellish. Even that ACCT clue had me going "???" (46A: Website subscriber's creation: Abbr.) Considering how dense the theme is, the fill is actually fairly decent. I have of course seen ELI plenty, but OLD ELI—that's one I wasn't ready for. Since the SPOT AD clue mentioned political campaigns and I had "S" in place, I kept wanting something like SMEARS. Clue on HIDEF, also hard (70A: Far from fuzzy, for short) (I had HAIRY at first). Honestly, things basically went south right away, at 1-Across, where I wrote in OFAGE instead of GROWN (1A: No longer a minor).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. a fun game is coming up with other TRIPLE / DOUBLEs, e.g. QUEEN NOOR. You try!

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City with piers / MON 11-13-17 / Alternatives to mums

Monday, November 13, 2017

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (slowish for a Monday) (3:18)

[I seem to have leaned on the keyboard at 39-Down... it's Monday, I'm sure you can figure out the right letters]

THEME: "COOL / HAND / LUKE" (65A: With 66- and 67-Across, source of this puzzle theme's quote) — a quote theme to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this movie's release (Nov. 1967): "WHAT WE'VE GOT / HERE IS FAILURE TO / COMMUNICATE" (20A: With 37- and 52-Across, #11 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years ... 100 Movie Quotes" list)

Word of the Day: Susan ISAACS (39D: Susan with the 1978 best seller "Compromising Positions") —
Her first novel (and first attempt at fiction), Compromising Positions, was published in 1978. It was chosen as a main selection of the Book of the Month Club and, like all of her subsequent novels, was a New York Times bestseller. Her fiction has been translated into thirty different languages all over the world. She has also written a work of cultural criticism, Brave Dames and Wimpettes: What Women are Really Doing on Page and Screen. // In addition to writing books and screenplays, Isaacs has reviewed fiction and nonfiction for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Newsday. She belongs to the National Book Critics Circle. Isaacs has written about politics, including a series of essays on the 2000 presidential campaign for Newsday. She has also authored op-eds and articles on feminism, film, and First Amendment issues. (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't know how the constructor or editor or someone couldn't see what a bad idea this quote puzzle was right away. Most people (esp. those who haven't seen the film, i.e. most people today) think that the quote is "WHAT WE'VE GOT HERE IS ***A*** FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE" (or, if you're a spelling hero like me, "WHAT WE'VE GOT HERE'S A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE." I get that the quote here is technically accurate, but honestly I don't care if it came from a ****ing shooting script with Donn Pearson's own damn signature on it—it's Monday, and most people the quote only one way. Now I have listened to the quote in question, and there is no doubt that the puzzle quotes it precisely and accurately. And Yet. The quote is famously "misquoted" for a reason—because it is *requoted* in the movie itself with the damned *A* in there. Here. Here. Lisssssten.

So the accuracy of the original quotation doesn't matter, for Monday puzzle purposes. Most solvers—or ... let me dial that back and say "a good number of solvers" (like every one I've spoken to so far tonight) are going to flail around in that "A" / no "A" portion of the quotation, and that will be all they remember about the puzzle. Or it will take up most of their attention. Not the effect you want to have, esp. on a Monday. And I mean, for what—a basic quote puzzle? Gotta be a better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this movie's release.

Puzzle was definitely on the slow side for me, both because I had to work out the quote thingie, and because originally I didn't see that the theme clue was asking for a quote. I thought it was asking for a movie, because my solving software broke the loooong clue just after "Movie" and so the word "Quotes" went totally out of my sight line (clue appears at top of grid in Across Lite, and when it's really long the font gets really tiny). So for something like 20 seconds I was wondering how in the world there was a movie with a title that long that I'd never heard of that was somehow also the 11th greatest movie of all time (!?!?). Fill on this one is pretty blah, but that's what happens with you have a lot of short Downs. Only the SW corner is really icky. The rest holds up OK. And actually the longer Acrosses are pretty nice. Lots and lots and lots of names in this grid, but only ISAACS gave me any trouble (no idea who that is) (39D: Susan with the 1978 best seller "Compromising Positions"). I also don't really know MITA, but I also never saw that clue for MITA, so that was convenient. I thought [Alternative to mums] might be DADS but it wouldn't fit :(

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Spinny pool shot / SUN 11-12-17 / Alter ego on SImpsons / Buccaneer's quaff / Flower colored by Aphrodite's blood / Fast-paced two-player card game / Alleged psychic exposed by Amazing Randi / Fictional creature made from heat slime / Philbin's onetime morning cohost

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ""S-Q's Me!"" — phrases that start "W" are changed to wacky phrases starting "SQ" dear lord take me now...

Theme answers:
  • SQUANDERLUST (23A: Prodigality?)
  • SQUEALER DEALER (33A: Hog seller?)
  • SQUINTER'S TALE (57A: Mr. Magoo biopic?)
  • SQUIRRELY BIRD (80A: Cuckoo or dodo?)
  • SQUARES THE BEEF (102A: Prepares cube steak?)
  • SQUAWKATHONS (114A: All-day gripe sessions?)
  • SQUIRM HOLES (32D: Ways out of embarrassing situations?)
  • SQUISH LISTS (49D: Enumerations of things to be sat on?) 
Word of the Day: EDILE (58D: Early title for Julius Caesar) —
a magistrate in ancient Rome in charge of public buildings, streets, services, markets, games, and the distribution of grain. (
• • •

How are Sundays still allowed to be this sickening combo of moth- and cornball? It's "*The* Winter's Tale," by the way, jeez louise, everything about this is wince-inducing. GISINQFEU, you guys, GISINQFEU! That is what I say to this puzzle. The answers were so ridiculous that even though the theme was transparent, I still had no idea what most of the themers were until I had 75+% of the answer in place. The themer clues are torturous. I had to think about the clue on SQUISH LISTS forever before I (sort of) "got" it (49D: Enumerations of things to be sat on?). Me: "You sit on ... a squish?" I guess they are lists of things that you want to squish ... by sitting on them? It's all so, so bad. Theme had me in such a bad mood that I couldn't even enjoy a wicked clue like 43A: Trouble maker (HASBRO). Took me forever, and when I got it, though I knew it deserved applause, I just gave it the finger for making me have to linger in this putridly-themed puzzle any longer than I had to.

Answers that I labored over:
  • 54A: A part of Life? (OAT) — was thinking only board game. Devastating.
  • 76D: Vacuum tube component? (DYNODE) — I ... don't know what that is. I kept thinking DYSON...
  • 93A: Resembling down (FLOSSY) — I ... also don't know what this is. I know this word as slang for "high-class"
  • 12D: Gilbert who wrote "Love and Death on Long Island" (ADAIR) — I ... ??? If the ADAIR's not Red, I don't know it.
There's not much more to say about this. Sunday is currently my most hated day of the week (objectively), and today didn't change anything.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Mediterranean to ancient Romans / SAT 11-11-17 / Polymathic Isaac / 1964 role for Honor Blackman / Whose tears create morning dew in myth / Eponymous weapon designer

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Constructor: George Barany and Michael Shteyman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ELEVEN / ELEVEN (i.e. VETERANS DAY) — today is 11/11. There are 11 11-letter answers in this grid

Theme answers:
  • VETERANS DAY (34A: Time for remembrance)
  • ELEVEN (60A: How many letters are in the longest answers in this puzzle - or how many of these answers there are)
Word of the Day: RIN (35D: 1/1,000 of a yen) —
a money of account of Japan, the thousandth part of a yen or the tenth part of a sen. (
• • •

I need people to understand that this is not a theme. Having eleven 11-letter answers, none of which bear any relation to each other, is called being a "themeless" puzzle. I can't begin to say what a fraud this puzzle is. It is not a thing, not a feat, not hard, to fill a puzzle like this. It is 70 words. It's just a themeless grid, with two answers that are pretending real hard that they are a theme, but no. I see you, and no. So you gunk up yet another lovely themeless day with a fake-ass "theme," a., and then b. it's not even about VETERANS DAY. How does this celebrate, honor, or even vaguely refer to veterans. Please don't point to ARES, because that is bull. IKE? Come on. He's in like half of all puzzles in some form. GUADALCANAL? OK, that is a war thing, but still, there is nothing here cohesive enough to qualify as a theme, and what *is* here does nothing to actually honor veterans. You wanna do a VETERANS DAY theme, do a real VETERANS DAY theme. You wanna do an ELEVEN theme, well, unless it's based on "Stranger Things," I'm not interested.

While some of the longer fill is pretty sweet, the amount of garbage is kind of startling. SEPTAL? RIN? And the pièce de réstistance, AWS!? (41A: Comments like "Yer joshin'!") What the af? I'll give the 11s this: they are solid. NETIZEN will never not be crud, but QUEEN BEY and ROBERT STACK liven up any party. I didn't have any trouble with this at all. I guess I forgot the NOSTRUM part of MARE NOSTRUM, and that ate up some time. Oh, and I couldn't come up with the DRAFT part of DRAFT ANIMAL. Had MOVIE in there before FLICK. But these were all minor bumps. I should probably rate this one Easy, but I feel like I need to beat 6 minutes for a Saturday to qualify as truly Easy, and I was mid-6s, I think, so ... just easyish. AWS!? Sorry, I'm still smh over that one. Oh well, that's all for today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Retired hoopster Odom / FRI 11-10-17 / Human member of old TV trio / Bit of attire for bellhop

Friday, November 10, 2017

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: MESS JACKET (10D: Bit of attire for a bellhop) —
The mess jacket is a type of formal jacket that ends at the waist. It features either a non-fastening double breast cut or a single-breasted version that fastens. The jackets have shawl or peak lapels. Used in military mess dress, during the 1930s it became a popular alternative to the white dinner jacket in hot and tropical weather for black tie occasions. It also was prominently used, in single-breasted form, as part of the uniform for underclassmen at Eton College, leading to the alternate name Eton jacket. A female version of it, called a spencer, was popular during the Regency period. (wikipedia)
• • •

Vintage Berry. Extremely careful, clean, smooth. There's virtually nothing to CARP about here. The answers weren't what you'd call scintillating, but man is it nice to see an exquisitely crafted grid. I found it mostly phenomenally easy, but the metric ton of "?" clues and the fact that I know nothing about sailing (HALF-MAST) or, apparently, bellhop attire (MESS JACKET) meant that I wasn't going to break any records today [update: HALF-MAST refers to the position of a flag ("Standard"), not a sail, my bad]. Still, absolutely no significant trouble spots. In retrospect, DE LA RENTA ended up being a Huge giveaway at 15A: Dominican fashion designer's last name ... because of the way the clue was tied to 16A: ... and first name (OSCAR). I started (naturally) in the NW, so when I saw [... and first name], I had to look at the previous Across, which took me to another section entirely. At that moment, I had enough info to write in his full name. Again, normal (i.e. efficient) solvers Do Not read the Acrosses in order, so the little [... ...] effect in the sequential Acrosses just doesn't land the way it's supposed to, ugh. But today at least I got a free pass into the NE corner, so that was nice. That corner still ended up being the hardest part of the puzzle for me, but I appreciated the assist that the ellipse-linked clues provided.

I think I knew Jason ALDEAN's name before the Las Vegas shooting, but I *definitely* know it now (7D: Jason with the #1 country hit "Dirt Road Anthem"). Terrible way to have your name cross over. Took me a while to get HELLBOY because despite being very familiar with it as a title (I've spent my fair share of time in comic book stores...), I've never read it. Or seen the movie. So "superhero"?—I don't think I knew that he fit into that category (6D: Superhero with hooves and a tail). Had HAD A FIT before HAD A COW, and spelled JIBE wrong, ugh (23A: Match up, as accounts). I resent that both JIBE and GIBE are real words. We should look into fixing that. Confusing. This (from Merriam-Webster) isn't helping!

Lastly, the capital of CROATIA is Zagreb, in case you were wondering (35D: U.N. member whose capital comes last alphabetically).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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General Mills corn snack bit / THU 11-9-17 / James Luther of R&B / Orator who declared laws are silent in times of war / Battle of 1797 Napoleon victory

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Challenging (though once you grasp the theme, it's not hard at all)

THEME: BACK — phrases ending in "BACK" have, instead of the word "BACK," the penultimate word in the phrase turned "BACK" around (i.e. reversed)

Theme answers:
  • "... AND DON'T COME BACK" --> "... AND DON'T EMOC"
Word of the Day: UBS (36A: Credit Suisse rival) —
UBS AG is a Swiss global financial services company, incorporated in the Canton of Zurich, and co-headquartered in Zürich and Basel. The company provides wealth management, asset management, and investment banking services for private, corporate, and institutional clients worldwide, and is generally considered to be a bulge bracket bank. In Switzerland, these services are also offered to retail clients. The name UBS was originally an abbreviation for the Union Bank of Switzerland, but it ceased to be a representational abbreviation after the bank's merger with the Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998. The company traces its origins to 1856, when the earliest of its predecessor banks was founded. UBS has over CHF 2.8 trillion in invested assets, and remains a leading provider of retail banking and commercial banking services in Switzerland. It is the biggest bank in Switzerland, operating in more than 50 countries with 59,387 employees around the world, as of 2016. (wikipedia)
• • •

This managed to combine being very hard with being very stale (theme-wise). Me, after spending a long time trying to figure out the theme: "Oh ... you just turn the answers ... back ... great." I've actually seen variations on this reversal sort of thing before, though maybe not quite in this way. The whole thing is deadly, until you "get" it, and then it's just a boring sprint to the end. Took me about 8 minutes (ridiculously high for a Thursday), of which 5 or 6 were probably spent just trying to understand the theme. After I got it, the rest was no sweat. I knew something was off, so I went looking for a rebus. I kept thinking of the phrase "We'll be back after this" and kept trying to see how that concept might fit into the space for the first theme answer. Then wanted "I take it back" for the next theme answer, but couldn't make that do anything either. I could see "back" was involved, but didn't know how. Then ... honestly, I don't know the exact moment the concept snapped into focus. It was probably after having finally worked out most of the end of the third themer, checking All the crosses, realizing they were all unimpeachable, and then ... there it was. Turning, back. It was a legit "aha" moment, which is nice to get, but it was less "wow" and more "ugh, jeezus, how did I not see that hack idea earlier!?" Shame on me.

I think INGRAM (5A: James or Luther of R&B) might create problems for some; crosses ultimately seem fair, but if you don't know that name, that part UP TOP could get very, very rough.  So many things I didn't know. MORDECAI? Big whiff. Needed tons of crosses. I just stared at 8D: Agcy. issuance wondering a. if an uglier clue had ever been written, and b. what the hell it meant. I had RE- and *still* no idea what letter was supposed to round it out. Had SPORT instead of SHIRT for 23A: Polo, for one (as the clue writer clearly intended). Didn't know who wrote "The Black Tulip." Barely know UBS (Are there a lot of three-letter banks? It seems like there are). Getting to DECAL from [Transfer] took me forever. Things were just rough all over. But all that struggle came before I got the theme. Afterward, no sweat. There's still too much junk in this grid (PSY, ONAT, REG, HOOHA (!), ICER, NIA, NOL, OER... YARNED?!!?), but overall it's at least NYT average. All the longer Downs are just fine. I just wish the payoff on this theme had been more ... rewarding.

The only thing really amusing me is the crazy menu in the center/east, where a BANANA EGGO is being served with a side of BUGLEs and a shot of STOLI. I am not sure those things GO WELL together. If anyone wants to try that combo out, please report back.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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1/100th of Polish zloty / WED 11-8-17 / Domain of Pan in Greek myth / Actor George with over 10 million Facebook followers / Classical music style whose name means new art

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Constructor: Joel Fagliano and Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging (over 5!?)

THEME: phffffff .... OK, so regular words are clued by lists of three things, and you take the first letters of those things (in order) and then the type of thing those things are and then you get the answer ta da!

Theme answers:
  • M, A, R KINGS (19A: Midas, Agamemnon, Richard)
  • P, A, S SPORTS (32A: Polo, archery, soccer)
  • H, U, S BANDS (51A: Heart, U2, Slayer)
  • A, P, O STATES (15D: Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio)
  • D, I, A TRIBES (27D: Dakota, Iroquois, Arapaho)
Word of the Day: GROSZ (7D: 1/100 of a Polish zloty) —
noun: grosz; plural noun: grosze; plural noun: groszy
  1. a monetary unit of Poland, equal to one hundredth of a zloty.

Polish; compare with groschen. (google)
• • •

This was super-rough for me. I mean, really hard. NW a disaster, as both the themer and DAD ROCK totally eluded me (perhaps because the biggest Steely Dan fan I know is a woman in her 30s) (3D: Genre for Dire Straits and Steely Dan, facetiously). Eventually, finally, picked up theme at APOSTATES, but even knowing the theme, it was a slog. ARCADIA, hard (2D: Domain of Pan, in Greek myth). ARS NOVA, nuts (29D: Classical music style whose name means "new art"). Zloty, I know, but GROSZ? No. And then soooo much ugsome cross-referencing. Had GOOD DAY before NICE DAY (26A: Something much-wished-for for people), and so CLEAR SKY (31A: Feature of a 26-Across, maybe) was not at all, uh, clear. And then [Heavy 39-Down]? And then [In this puzzle it starts B-E-L]??! So fussy. Kind of a drag to solve. And what the hell is NON-GAY about? (6D: Hetero, say). When are you using that? I see some pretty innocuous uses of it around the internet. For instance, an article entitled, "What's It Like Being Gay and NON-GAY Identical Twins?" (Vice). So, you know, it's defensible. Just ... I dunno. I'm eyeing it warily.

As for the theme, it's pretty clever, and definitely unusual. Once you grasp the concept, the themers fall pretty easily (maybe that's why the rest of the grid has been toughened up so much). The constructors are both Shortz employees, so I expect their work to be tighter than average—and I think this puzzle is. I like that they are *trying*, you know, with NON-GAY and DAD ROCK, to be all colloquial and contemporary or whatever. But that stuff can get dicey, esp if it brings stuff like LCD and AMENRA and ODON in its wake.And DAD ROCK is suuuuch an imprecise term. Also slightly snide and ageist, but whatever. They're trying and largely succeeding here, so if the options are YES OR NO, then OK, fine, yes.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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