MI6 R&D division in 007 novels / SUN 9-23-18 / Three of wheel of dharma buddhist concept / 1929 work that is theme of this puzzle / Place for works that are in works / Scores after deuces informally / German city with Pennsylvania namesake / Bit of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Challenging (laughably so—just hit "check squares" at the 15 minute mark because I didn't care anymore ... had four errors ... just the stupidest puzzle ... for reference, I haven't had a single error on a Sunday ... well, ever? ... I mean ...) 

THEME: "The Art of Puzzle-Making" — a puzzle about René MAGRITTE's "TREACHERY OF IMAGES," a famous SURREALIST painting of a pipe with TEXT underneath reading "CECI N'EST PAS UN PIPE" ("this is not a pipe"). In this puzzle, you are supposed connect a bunch of circled letters that spell out the French phrase from the painting and also form the shape of a pipe, so the TEXT makes a kind of PIPE LINE ... and ... oh yeah, also there's a quote from MAGRITTE about the painting, a highly non-famous quote: "IT'S JUST / A REPRESENTATION / IS IT NOT?" Oh, and there's a stray theme answer, LOS ANGELES ... where the painting (apparently!?) is "permanently housed"; ugh there's a note:

Word of the Day: OLIVET (16D: Michigan college or its town) —
Olivet is a city in Eaton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,605 at the 2010 censusOlivet College is located in the city. (1,605!? This makes IOLA, KS look like a megalopolis) (wikipedia)
• • •

Not gonna write a ton about this one because I have almost nothing nice to say. It was just unpleasant all over the place. My god this puzzle tries too hard. Here's what you need: beautiful concept, elegant execution. What we have here is a nightmare of competing concepts trying to shout over each other and colliding with each other. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings. You can't have Every Single Theme Thing You Can Imagine. But this one ... no judiciousness. No elegance. Just stupid, stupid chaos. A germ of an idea that dies. An "bonus" thing that has none of the joy that "bonus" implies. Connect-the-dots. And then, leaving the theme aside, just clunky weird clues / answers everywhere. Art-based Sunday puzzle can now be imagined on a scale from THIS to Liz Gorski's Guggenheim puzzle. That is the scale. First, puzzle came with a "Note"—sorry, not reading that. Never do. Be good without a note or go home. Second, random circles. Oh, how I do not care. I didn't stop to see what shape they (sorta) made. Probably should've, but am not convinced it would've helped. Third, the actual revealer—what the? Here's the thing: I've seen this painting. It's used as an illustration in Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics," which I teach regularly. But the title, I totally forgot. Also, calling it a "work" means that I had no idea even what genre of thing we were dealing with. Even after I got TREACHERY OF IMAGES, I didn't know what painting it was. I thought it was the Dali one with the clocks. Which one was that? [googles] Ah, "The Persistence of Memory." Well no those don't Sound Alike At All @#$&#$#R@#RH@#DFQWE!!!

Oh, back to the list—Fourth! That quotation. That dumb, random, no one has heard it before piece of junk that you only used because, what, it fits symmetrically. It's a terrible quotation, IS IT NOT? Finally, you shove a gratuitous final themer in the bottom (TEXT) and cross it with some "petroleum giant" (!?!?!) that, again, I have never heard of in a quarter century+ of solving (OXY). OXY is a west coast college. OXY is a zit medication. OXY is a moron. What the hell is this stupid "petroleum" (again, ?!) OXY? Fifth, PIPE LINE might've made a nice revealer but because it's shoehorned into this atrocity of a puzzle that already has like a million other theme elements, it's just slop poured on top.

I had four errors. Now, I should've known that the clue was not plural so ART SALES couldn't be right (53D: Cultural gathering). But I went ART SALES and then AT BEST and so finished with QBR-SCH and B-NNHEIM. Two crossing proper nouns, one of which is fictional and completely and utterly never-before-heard-of by me. I knew the Q-answer had to be the wrong one, but it's not like the right version (Q BRANCH) is so all-fire obviously correct (95A: MI6 R&D division in 007 novels). OK, this is already way more than I wanted to write on this thing. How the *&$^ is the title "The Art of Puzzle-Making" appropriate for this thing? Honestly, this puzzle got Nothing right.

Five things:
  • 93D: Dangerous job (SPY) — what a useless clue for SPY. Had the "S" and wasn't sure if DRIER was that or DRYER ... and SPY was not helping resolve anything
  • 37D: How to get the permit, say (PAY A FEE) — lol no. So bad. "The" permit? ___ A ___? My god, it's like no one cares.
  • 22A: N.F.L.'s Kaepernick (COLIN) — who's what now? I mean ... is this seriously a clue? I mean, he literally, famously is not in the N.F.L. at the moment. How bad at cluing do you have to be ...? Here's the full text of an email I just got from someone who used to be an editor at a major publication—subject line: "Will Shortz should be fired": 
"Saturday's Charlie Rose outrage is followed by Sunday's clue for "Colin": "NFL's Kaepernick." That is clueless to the point of negligence. How can you reference CK without mentioning the newsy Nike ad, or the whole kneeling thing? Plus there's the pertinent fact that CP is NOT currently  in the NFL because of NFL/USA racism. Of all the sloppy nyt  cword editing, which you chronicle so well, this pisses me off the most. The editors are either not even looking at the puzzles they print, or just don't give a shit. It's lazy and insulting to those who do."
  • 52A: Dogie catcher (REATA) — I had RIATA, which gave me DIMOED for 47D: Showed, informally (DEMOED), which I *thought* was my error. But no.
  • 48A: Time for pampering oneself (ME DAY) — a. not a thing, b. I have to go pamper myself now. This puzzle was self-harm.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS apparently this painting was the theme of a Diagramless puzzle in the NYT not too long ago

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Counterpart of iamb / SAT 9-22-18 / Program that analyzes structure of input / Dance in which you bring your knees in tight / O'Hara Martian's host on old TVs my favorite martian / Jon who wrote illustrated smart feller fart smeller

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Medium (7:18)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: IOLA, Ks. (?) (6D: City SW of Kansas City) —
Iola (pronounced /ˈlə/) is a city situated along the Neosho River in the northwestern part of Allen County, located in Southeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 5,704. Iola is the county seat of Allen County. It is named in honor of Iola Colborn. (Emphasis Mine) (What The Hell?) (wikipedia)
• • •

[Plaque in front of my daughter's high school]
Well, let's deal with the elephant in the middle of the puzzle first, I guess. Considering the NYT solving base, I don't think that guy should be in any crossword puzzle. I have no idea when this puzzle was constructed—poor NYT constructors sometimes wait many years before seeing their work in print. But that doesn't really matter. The editor has to make decisions about what to run and when to run it, and it's semi-unfathomable that you run This puzzle with This answer in it This week, when a nominee to the Supreme Court stands credibly accused of sexual assault and the accuser is being badgered, harassed, maligned, demeaned and undermined by cretins in both the legitimate and illegitimate press, and in the Senate, where the hearings are being conducted by the party whose leader is himself a 17-time sexual assailant. To say this is bad timing would be a significant understatement. And then you had to throw Les Moonves's wife into the bargain!? There are other CHENs, man. Why run this puzzle? I mean, you know—know!—that you're gonna hear about that center answer. The social media chatter has already begun, and the puzzle hasn't even been out an hour.

The Constructor Himself Acknowledges The Problem:

Decision to go ahead with this puzzle in this climate is at least a little baffling.

But #MeToo issues aside, I found this one delightful in some parts, painful in others. There were just too many obscure (to me) short names (esp. in the Downs, both up top and below). Running IOLA ZOEY and RENI on me so close together like that, yeesh. And then I have no idea who this non-James AGEE is (though I think I've seen him in crosswords before, maybe). TERI and PEEDEE I know only because of crosswords. And I'm not even sure what the clue on TIM is asking for (53D: ___ O'Hara, Martian's host on old TV's "My Favorite Martian"). What does "Martian's host" mean? Like, the Martian lives in his house? I mean, of alllllllll the possible TIM clues in the world, dear lord. So yeah, the names today were a little rough, as was PARSER (?!) and ECT. Longer Acrosses, however (central answer notwithstanding), were generally entertaining. Really enjoyed remembering "THE TIME WARP" and can't believe it took me so long to parse "THE TWILIGHT ZONE" (52A: TV series whose first episode was titled "Where Is Everybody?")—I stupidly had VIN for ZIN (54D: Wine shop offering, informally) and then ENNA for ETTA (50D: Italian diminutive suffix), so parsing those long Acrosses in the south was tough.

Five things:
  • 28A: Garment originally fashionable in the late 1950s (SACK DRESS) — really? Had DRESS and then was like "er.... uh ..."
  • 26A: Shot contents (SERUM) — had the SE- and, well, let's just say nothing came to mind that was right or good
  • 40D: Least in question (SUREST) — tried SAFEST, but, for the first time ever, KIR helped me out (51A: Wine aperitif)
  • 35D: Counterpart of an iamb (TROCHEE) — finally, Finally, my day job pays off. A TROCHEE is just an inverted iamb: a poetic foot that goes STRESSED-unstressed. Pasta. Demon. Parlor. Baby. All one-word TROCHEEs. John Donne uses them strategically at the opening of OK I'll stop.
  • 32A: Childhood home of Grant Wood and Elijah Wood (CEDAR RAPIDS) — had the RAPIDS and went with .... GRAND! Luckily the crosses made no kind of sense with GRAND, and I arrived in CEDAR RAPIDS without too much delay.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. happy 18th birthday to my wonderful daughter, who doesn't read my blog, god bless her

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El Chapo, notably / FRI 9-21-18 / Polenta base / "Do You Hear What I Hear?," e.g. / French aperitif

Friday, September 21, 2018

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium (Easy-ish for a Friday)


Word of the Day: TATAMI MAT (55A: Sight in many a Japanese restaurant) —
tatami () is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms. Traditionally made using rice straw to form the core, the cores of contemporary tatami are sometimes composed of compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam. With a covering of woven soft rush (igusa 藺草) straw, tatami are made in standard sizes, with the length exactly twice the width, an aspect ratio of 2:1. Usually, on the long sides, they have edging (heri縁) of brocade or plain cloth, although some tatami have no edging. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hi ho! Keri Gagnon here filling in for Rex today and already checking "Muppet reference" off the list in my first line. I have to admit that I normally print the crossword out because I really enjoy hand-writing it in pen (we type everything these days!), but a photo of my printed out (and scribbled on) crossword seemed sad, so here we are.

Sometimes I love a good themeless puzzle because of the random long form answers the constructor is able to cram in there (hellooo STALINERA and EMPTYWORDS). This one I found pretty enjoyable, and with NATALENOEL, and ICEPALACE, we almost have a pseudo-winter/Christmas theme going on.

I'll admit I got good and stuck in the SW for a while ... I had BAA instead of MAA (56D: Goat's cry) because apparently I can't keep my ovine and caprine sounds straight. TEE I filled in easily (58D: One of 18 on a golf course) as well as CMAS, helping me get to ICEPALACE. But I can't say I've ever had PASTIS in my life and I had SCALIA instead of SOUTER (45D: Colleague of 23-Down for 15 years) so I floundered for a bit. With OCONNOR (23D: Retired justice who wrote "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court") as the linked clue I was loving the timely SCOTUS references because well, have you read/watched the news at all lately? I always appreciate when the NYTX feels current because so often it just... doesn't.

Well, that's it for me tonight -- thanks for joining me in one of my favorite corners of the interwebs. I'll leave you with some highlights of mine and a song that never gets old.

  •  2D: Unwanted messages (HATEMAIL) — This one tripped me up for a bit because I kept reading it as ---EMAIL and could only think of SPAM. Once STUBS fell into place (also great cluing) it dawned on me the answer was mail of the snail variety.  
  • 19A: Instagram filter shade (SEPIA) — The cluing on this one was clever because SEPIA isn't a filter name on Instagram but it is technically a shade of a filter. Show me a puzzle with INKWELL in it and then we're talking. And yes, I know I am showing my millennialism here and I'm sorry.  
  • 32A: Fruits that ripen after being picked (AVOCADOS) — Despite the fact that living in California we put avocados on just about every thing here, this answer didn't immediately occur to me due to the lack of GUAC/GUACAMOLE reference. I liked it. And yes, I will take avocado on my puzzle, please. 
  • 62A: Took courses under pressure (STRESSATE)— Oh, how I loved this one. Clever, modern, and who doesn't do this sometimes?!?

Signed, Keri Gagnon, Enthusiastic Citizen of CrossWorld

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Six-time MLB all-star Rusty / THU 9-20-18 / Opening between vocal cords / One from Land of Cakes / Fantasy creature spawned from mud / Longtime parent of Parlophone

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging (by the clock—though the grid is odd-sized, and I solved upon rolling out of bed, and my software kept moving my cursor around in weird ways because of those damned unchecked squares ... it actually felt pretty Medium) (8:28)

THEME: String Trio — three themers contain letter strings that form STRING and two words synonymous with STRING; those strings sort of weave their way through the grid by going up and down, through a series of unchecked squares (i.e. squares with no crosses):

Theme answers:
  • MESSAGE THREAD (17A: Series of exchanges in a chat window)
  • INTERLACED WITH (35A: Woven into)
  • STRING SECTION (53A: Group that bows on state)
Word of the Day: Rusty STAUB (13A: Six-time M.L.B. All-Star Rusty) —
Daniel Joseph "Rusty" Staub (April 1, 1944 – March 29, 2018) was an American professional baseball right fielderdesignated hitter, and first baseman. He played in Major League Baseballfor 23 years with five teams. He was an original member of the Montreal Expos and the team's first star; though the Expos traded him after only three years, his enduring popularity led them to retire his number in 1993. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well LOL on me, I only just now bothered to read the note in my Across Lite software, which tells me:

Yes, I was just about to say "What the hell is up with putting the clue at 53-Across when the answer actually starts in that unnumbered square way over on the left side of the grid?!" Very disconcerting to have the Across answer start materializing *behind* the clue number. I like Across Lite, I am used to Across Lite, I downloaded it because it was free and the NYT promoted it (many years ago?), but now I guess they want me using the dumb app. It's like they're punishing Across Lite users. Anyway, my difficulty level was Challenging and *now* you know why—I had to deal with **** most of you didn't. So just go with Medium.

This is a nice theme. My one grump is that center answer, which A. doesn't have LACE as a freestanding word (the way the other theme words are freestanding: THREAD and STRING), and B. I could not figure out which Across was the jumper, i.e. I thought 32A: Hosp. procedure with a readout (ECGwas the long, thready answer, ending in -DWITH (bandwith??). I was basically following the pattern of the first themer, and wanting to drop down for the first thread letter, not jumping up. So problems in that region of the puzzle, esp. in the western part of the center, really slowed me down Didn't help that I had ETH for 19D: Series finale?—made sense to me—and HNBC for whatever the stupid Jay Leno channel was ("Siri, show me the show, of all the shows in the universe, that I am least likely to watch!"). Maybe NBC has a home channel now, I reasoned. Further, "I GET IDEAS"? (46A: 1950s title lyric after "When we are dancing and you're dangerously near me ..."). What year is it? Oh, right, it's 1950. Yikes. Pardon me while I go get my SAL soda (which I assume is from the '50s, as I have never seen it outside crosswords). I had I GET and .... tumbleweeds. And the tumbleweeds part crossed COAGENT, which, again, what? What is that? 38D: Associate in finance, say. Between Jay Leno's stupid cars and this inscrutable "finance" answer, the puzzle was not exactly welcoming me. But I hacked through it in the end. Theme was pretty easy to pick up, and the fill was strange and surprising and only rarely yuck.

Five things:
  • 8D: Fantasy creature spawned from mud (ORC) — I had ENT. Because trees come from ... mud ... kinda.
  • 58A: In a frenzy (AMUCK) — not the spelling. I really demand a "quaintly" or (Var.) marking here. Here is the only time that spelling has ever been acceptable:
  • 55D: Tour division (GIG) / 56D: Barnyard male (TOM) — first word I had in that section was GYM SOCK, and off of that I write in LEG for [Tour division] and RAM for [Barnyard male]. Sigh.
  • 27D: Half a laugh (HEE) — laugh halves are always much, much less than half a laugh. I'll say it again, Worst Clue Genre Ever.
  • 1D: Venue near Penn Station, for short (MSG) — not hard unless you read it as [Avenue near Penn Station, for short], as I did. Tried ... a bunch of stuff, including LEX. Is that even near Penn Station? I've been coming into Grand Central pretty exclusively. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because I simply read the clue wrong. I also though 1A: African menace was EBOLA. So, yeah, that was a rough start. But good old Rusty STAUB got me through. Thank you, baseball, for leading me out of the darkness, yet again.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Locale of Tuvalu and Nauru / WED 9-19-18 / Frank Sammy ultimate event 1989 documentary / Naively optimistic muppet

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Constructor: Scot Ober and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:40)

THEME: YIDDISH (38A: Source of the six longest Across answers in this puzzle) —

Theme answers:
  • TCHOTCHKE (16A: Knickknack)
  • SCHMALTZ (20A: Excessive sentimentality)
  • CHUTZPAH (24A: Shameless audacity)
  • OY, GEVALT! (47A: "Jeez!")
  • MEGILLAH (53A: Long, involved account)
  • VERKLEMPT (58A: Choked up with emotion)
Word of the Day: MEGILLAH (53A) —

1a long involved story or account [so clue is just lifted from dictionary (nearly) verbatim, boo] Shaffer has Salieri declaring war on Heaven … and determined to ruin Mozart because God's voice is speaking through him. Shaffer turns Pushkin's metaphor into a whole megillah.—Paulene [sic!] Kael

2aan elaborate, complicated production or sequence of events Today's affair is a luncheon … . In fact, the whole megillah has a furtive vibe to it, half shameful …—Jeff MacGregor… a simple matter of identifying the dead man … turns into a big political megillah.—Marilyn Stasio
beverything involved in what is under consideration BALL OF WAX"The only thing that could interest me is if I could win. I'm not talking about the nomination, I'm talking about the whole megillah."—Donald TrumpThat's $18 million between the whole group. Throwing in Miller makes $22 million. Say they decided to donate the whole megillah last year.—Jason Rhode (m-w) (my emph)
• • •

Is this a Yom Kippur puzzle? Is that what this is supposed to be? There are two weird things about that. One, it's Just A Bunch Of Yiddish Words. No twist, no wordplay, no nothin'. There must be something you could do, themewise, with, say, ATONE, or something, but all we get is a word list. So, yeah, there's Jewish content, but nothing very interesting or Yom Kippur-specific. It's a boring dumb list, UGH. Also, it is my (new) understanding that very observant Jews do not write, at all, on Yom Kippur, which means, uh, no crossword (I assume). For instance:

So the whole concept, and execution, and timing—it's all mildly bizarre to me. From a strictly puzzle standpoint, though, I can't say this strongly enough: a bunch of YIDDISH words isn't a theme. It's a list. Yes, there are Yiddish words that have entered English. There are lots of words that have entered English via lots of languages. Unless you're gonna do something interesting with that fact, you don't have a theme. You don't. It's not. Also, DR. OZ is a quack and his very presence ruins everything I hope you're happy.

Five things:
  • 44A: Rose Bowl, e.g. (OVAL) — *that's* your iconic OVAL? Ugh. Tracks are ovals, The Rose Bowl is an arena, or a game, or etc. Boo. 
  • 62A: Naively optimistic Muppet (ERNIE) — I had -IE and wrote in ROSIE (thinking ... that the "optimistic" part was some kind of hint). Is there a ROSIE? O M G ROSIE is the name of ERNIE's bathtub!?!?!?!?!?! Also that answer is right on top of SOAP, so my mistake has unlocked a whole weird world of Muppet coincidence...
  • 56D: Major N.Y.S.E. events (IPOS) — bricked it and wrote ISPS. Stupid common crossword initialisms!
  • 53D: Org. advocating highway safety (MADD) — very, very generic clue for the *specifically against DRUNK (and possibly now DISTRACTED?) driving* org. that is MADD. I was looking for some kind of government initialism concerned with overall safety. 
  • 35D: Alternative to Israir Airlines (EL AL) — OK first of all, ISRAIR!? If that's a known thing, how has it never been in the crossword!? And second, please don't give this answer credit for being "bonus Jewish content." Same with SINAI. Those damned words are always hanging around the grid. They get no credit for showing up today. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. since when is a MINIBAR "Fancy"??? (42D: Fancy hotel room amenity)

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Of the cheek / TUE 9-18-18 / Clothing brand with horse head logo / Dance in days of doo-wop / 1990s BP acquisition

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Constructor: Greg Johnson

Relative difficulty: By the clock, Medium-Challenging, but I solved at 4:45am, so ... adjusting for brain fog, probably more Medium (3:37)

THEME: gases — letters form molecule annotations for three gases at three different points in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • METHANE (20A: Flammable gas represented in 18-Across and 9-Down)
  • CARBON DIOXIDE (38A: Respiratory gas represented in 36-Across)
  • AMMONIA (55A: Pungent-smelling gas represented in 57-Across and 49-Down)

Word of the Day: MALAR (34D: Of the cheek) —
  1. 1. 
    relating to the cheek.

    "a slight malar flush" (google)
• • •

It is what it says it is. There's the gas, there's the molecule. Ping, pong, ping, pong, ping, pong. Not a lot going on. Maybe there aren't that many "HNH" or "HCH" answers in the world, and somehow getting the molecule thing to work out is supposed to elicit an ooh and/or aah, but this felt pretty dull and pointless to me. Further, the grid was choked with crosswordese (in a way that the NYT has, to its credit, increasingly avoided, of late). All IMACs and IPADS and DON HO's OBI and OHO UHUH! extra-H AHCHOO! ECONO-OWIE! EMT ETO ESTOP! You could say the grid was AWASH in such answers. Brutal. I got held up in a number of places for the dumbest of crossword reasons, to wit: is it SCAT or SHOO!? (1A: Shout to a pest). Is it HEWN or SAWN!? (5D: Cut, as logs). Is it AHA or OHO!? (58D: "Well, what have we here?!"). You see how fun this is! In the end, molecules are written out as adjacent letters and crosswords have adjacent letters and that is apparently good enough for a random three-gas theme with no wordplay or "play" of any kind. Tuesday!

Five things:
  • 19D: Means of hair removal (HOT WAX) — another point of slowage. Had the "H" but needed many crosses to get it. Not surprisingly, I think it was the "X" that gave it to me.
  • 42A: Part of da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM (IAMB) — I'm literally going to be teaching the concept of IAMB later today and *I* had no idea what this clue was doing. But, yes, one "da-DUM" is, technically, an IAMB (a poetic foot that goes unstressed-STRESSED)
  • 11D: Word after fire ... or a synonym of fire (AXE) — too much information for a Tuesday. Didn't appreciate what was going on here (i.e. that the post-ellipsis part of the clue had a different meaning of "fire") until, well, a few seconds ago.
  • 34D: Of the cheek (MALAR) — well you don't see that one that often. Probably for reasons. (Seriously, it's been E L E V E N Y E A R S since this word last appeared in the NYTX)
  • 50A: Devices that may serve as cash registers (IPADS) — the answer that took me the longest. Just couldn't process it, despite having people process my purchases with IPADS literally every week at the farmers market. I think ... yeah, I don't think of them as "cash registers" because, well, there is no "cash" in them. We'll be calling IPADS "cash registers" thousands of years, when "cash" is some archaic word that exists only in dictionaries and crosswords.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Eco-conscious Dfr. Seuss character / MON 9-17-18 / Apple tablet with attachable keyboard

Monday, September 17, 2018

Constructor: Caitlin Reid

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:21)

THEME: FISH (71A: Use the items found at the ends of the answers to 20-, 31-, 47- and 56-Across) — last words are fishing-related stuff

Theme answers:
  • TELEPHONE POLE (20A: Holder of wires along a street)
  • SLIDE TACKLE (31A: Aggressive defensive soccer maneuver)
  • BLOOPER REEL (47A: Series of funny outtakes)
  • FIDGET SPINNER (56A: Toy in a 2017 craze)
Word of the Day: ENOS (60D: Grandson of Adam and Eve) —
Enos or Enosh (Hebrewאֱנוֹשׁ‬ ʼEnōš; "mortal man"; Arabicأَنُوش/يَانِش‎, translit. Yāniš/’AnūšGe'ez: ሄኖስ Henos), in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, is the first son of Seth who figures in the Generations of Adam, and consequently referred to within the genealogies of 1 Chronicles.
According to Christianity, he is part of the Genealogy of Jesus as mentioned in Luke 3:38. Additionally, Enos is also mentioned in Islam in the various collections of tales of the pre-Islamic prophets, which honor him in an identical manner. Furthermore, early Islamic historians like Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham always included his name in the genealogy of the Prophet Muhammad, (Arabic’Anūsh أَنُوش or [commonly]: Yānishيَانِش). (wikipedia)
• • •

Slow today, for me, because ... well, several reasons. First, 1A: Part of a bed's base (SLAT) made No sense to me. I had SLA- and thought "they don't mean SLAT, do they?" I just couldn't process it, largely because I haven't seen or slept on a SLATted bed in a long time. I think my futon in grad school was on a slatted frame of some kind. Ugh. Also wrote in ANGRY for 16A: Livid, which is total amateur hour; of course it's IRATE, it's always IRATE. Then is it COLA or SODA at 40D: Fizzy, sugarless beverage (DIET SODA)? And is it IONE or IONA at 65A: College in New Rochelle, N.Y?  Worst wound was totally self-inflicted, though. I wrote in OUTTAKE REEL at 47A: Series of funny outtakes (BLOOPER REEL). Yeah, that was wrong. It's called a GAG REEL. When that wouldn't fit, my brain (apparently forgetting the exact wording of the clue) just toggled to the next plausible answer that fit.

But let's leave my floundering aside for a moment and talk about the theme, which just doesn't work. On many levels. There's a decent, albeit dated and time-worn, concept here, right? Last words are all part of X group. Today, fishing. So first, FISH is a terrible revealer. I mean ... a boringish theme like this needs a zazzy revealer, and FISH is about the least zazzy imaginable. Then there's the set of last words. They are motley, at best. Having REEL but not ROD felt odd, but the bigger problem was SPINNER, which is not nearly as solidly iconic as the other fishing words (it's a kind of ... lure?). I mean, why not BAIT. CLICKBAIT, JAILBAIT, I don't know, be creative. Did you just want to get the pseudo-current but actually dated FIDGET SPINNER in there? But I haven't yet mentioned the biggest problem, and that's TACKLE. It's not a separate item, it is All The Other Items. They are all a subset of TACKLE. You can't list POLE *alongside* TACKLE when It Is TACKLE. Here's the definition of TACKLE:
Fishing tackle is the equipment used by anglers when fishing. Almost any equipment or gear used for fishing can be called fishing tackle. Some examples are  hookslinessinkersfloatsrodsreelsbaitsluresspearsnetsgaffstrapswaders and tackle boxes. (wikipedia)
How do you let that one go, editors? You could've encouraged this constructor and shepherded this theme along into some kind of polished shape, but no. You just run with this broken theme. This is the kind of theme that someone like Lynn Lempel or Liz Gorski woulda *nailed* in the not-so-olden days. Don't submit unless you know you stuck the landing. That is the rule.

Five things:
  • 1A: Shoot out, as 14-Across (SPEW) — Cross-referenced 1-Acrosses: Not a fan
  • 49D: Like clarinets and oboes (REEDED) — If you want to get your name (kinda) in the grid, do it with an actual good answer. ;) This adjectivization of reed is awk. 
  • 44D: Apple tablet with an attachable keyboard (IPAD PRO) — yeah, this one hurt. I had IPAD AIR. Pffft. I mean, I'm all for being "current," but I hate how much "current" has come to mean "some brand name tech stuff." 
  • 63D: The laugh of someone who's up to no good (HEH) — really glad I never saw this clue because man [laugh syllable] is the worst clue genre
  • 9A: Demanding that people do this and that (BOSSY) — only just now realizing that I totally misread this clue as [Demanding people do this and that]. I was like, "Wait, what? Is it the this or the that that you want?" Thought some "___ & ___" expression was involved. Again, self-inflicted pain. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Flower said to cover plains of Hades / SUN 9-16-18 / Large mobile devices to use modern portmanteau / Ontario city across river from Buffalo for short / Gig for aspiring electronic musician / Popular Belgian brews informally

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy (9:43)

THEME: "Uh, What?" — "Uh" sound added to words in familiar phrases, creating new, wacky words / phrases, clued "?"-style:

Theme answers:
  • OREGON TRANSPLANT (as opposed to "organ transplant") (23A: One who's just moved from Portland?)
  • TURN THE CORONER (35A: Convert a morgue worker into a spy?)
  • KING JAMES BUYABLE (48A: LeBron basketball sneaker, e.g.?) (not sure how I feel about "buyable" as a noun, but ok)
  • RIOTING ON THE WALL (69A: Intense blowback against a signature Trump policy proposal?)
  • PROJECT RUNAWAY (82A: Bad person to get paired with for a class assignment?)
  • SENATOR OF GRAVITY (99A: Nickname for a superserious congressman?)
Word of the Day: FT. ERIE (104A: Ontario city across the river from Buffalo, for short) —
Fort Erie is a town on the Niagara River in the Niagara RegionOntario, Canada. It is directly across the river from Buffalo, New York and is the site of Old Fort Erie which played a prominent role in the War of 1812. (wikipedia)
• • •

OK, so I'm liking this modest, scaled-back, super-polished theme puzzle trend I'm seeing, or believe I'm seeing (if I'm wrong, please do not break the spell that I am under). The concept here is super-basic, but executed (mostly) creatively and unpainfully, and with just six (!) themers in the grid, there is plenty of room for the fill to breathe and therefore not, you know, suck. You get a moist delicious grid cake with a light layer of theme icing, as opposed to dry some cakelike gunk troweled with heaps of cloying, granular frosting. The latter probably looks more impressive, or at least more garish, but try eating it. This one, however—OK, not earth-shatteringly great, but delightful. A pleasant 10-minute diversion during which I groaned only, like, three times (I can tell you that is Quite a low number of groans for a Sunday). And the cluing on this one felt elevated. Crisper and cleaner than usual. Clever without being that obnoxious kind of clever where someone has to explain it to you and you're like "Oh ... heh ... great." The other kind of clever. The good kind. I mean, [Workers who are always retiring?] for PIT CREW!? That is good. I don't think art is better when it's fine, though. I get the "fine art" wordplay thing you're trying to do there, but better than what? Street art? Pop art? Gonna say no (or not necessarily) on both counts. And many other counts. Also, PHABLETS is a word that makes me want to phomit (72A: Large mobile devices, to use.a modern portmanteau). But it's original, I'll give it that.

Not many sticking points today. Had trouble dropping CONAGRA (9D: U.S. food giant) and YES MAN (10D: Suck-up) down up top because I had OREGON TRA- and I decided, in a fit of foolhardiness, to fill in the next two letters: "-IL." I think CONAGRA and YES MAN were gonna be tricky *anyway*, but with wrong letters in the way, they were especially so. Also totally stymied by ARES, of whom I have no memory from "Wonder Woman," which is odd, as I teach (Golden Age) Wonder Woman in another couple of weeks. To me, a four-letter foe of Wonder Woman is always, and I mean always, gonna be NAZI. Most significant error today was getting the initial "T" at 63D: Music genre at a rave (TRANCE) and dropping in TECHNO. Luckily, nothing worked after that. I say "luckily" because if *anything* had worked, I would've stuck with my understandable-but-stupid wrong answer a lot longer.


Five Things:
  • 74A: Hair net (SNOOD) — Me: "Oh, it's that horrible-sounding word, the one that sounds like a disease or a vestigial appendage or something ... oh, yeah: SCROD!"
  • 38D: Uncool (LAME) — I would not use this word. Also, even if you *would* use this word, it's so easy, so so easy, to avoid here. NAME / NORA. DAME / DORA. Even if you don't believe LAME is ableist, you know there are disabled people who do, so why go with LAME? So you can get the scintillating LIRA!? 
  • 45D: What "..." may represent (TYPING) — so good. Would be better if the ellipsis did that little bubble dance that the actual TYPING dots do when the person you're texting is, you know, TYPING, but ... maybe someday: animated clues!
  • 77D: Words from a T.S.A. agent before a pat-down ("ARMS OUT") — again, so good, so fresh, so current. 
  • 65A: Flower said to cover the plains of Hades (ASPHODEL) — Yeow! I am currently reading about Hades (actually, Dante's "Inferno," but ... close) and I did not know this. This answer could easily have been the death of me, as I don't think I've ever seen it. Looks vaguely like a bunch of words I know, like "espadrille" and "Astrophil," but ... it's just lucky for me that the crosses were all solid.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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