Rowers workout machines infomrally / SAT 9-21-19 / Suckerfish / Noted film festival site since 2002 / Performer in first U.S. public radio broadcast, 1910 / Like some nonbinary people

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Constructor: Joon Pahk and Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Challenging (interrupted solve, but somewhere in the 9s, I think)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: AGENDER (37D: Like some nonbinary people) —
of, relating to, or being a person who has an internal sense of being neither male nor female nor some combination of male and female of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is genderless or neutral (
• • •

Very tough for me. The fact that my dog wouldn't setting down and kept clacking around the hardwood floor outside my office was Not Helping (I need quiet to solve, especially tough puzzles), so I had to get up and shut the door, and then had to loudly call out "Lie Down," at which point my wife responded "it's me" 'cause I guess she had just gotten up to go downstairs. ANYway, frustrating. I lost some time in there. I wish I'd enjoyed this more. The grid is very nice in places, but the cluing had a kind of forced hardness that I found sort of off-putting. By "forced" I mean that the toughness felt like it was coming by an attempt to get cute that went a little awry. At some point, after I looked at what felt like the fourth "?" clue in a row, I got a little exasperated. I'm still trying to make [Baby buggy?] work right for LARVAL. It's not the greatest fill to begin with. I get that baby bugs are larva and so if "buggy" is an adjective meaning "of or related to bugs," then ... LARVAL. But it doesn't quite hit the mark. I think it's 'cause LARVAL is not a word you can use in an everyday sentence, so it's hard to swap out, or reimagine, or something. Just awkward. I wish the fill had been more IMPRESSIVE. It's solid and clean overall, for sure, but mainly this puzzle exists to be Hard. And you can make any grid Hard with the right cluing. The only really fresh thing was AGENDER (37D: Like some nonbinary people), which, bizarrely, I don't remember ever seeing before (whereas I've seen "non-binary," "NB," and even the written-out term "enbies" (which I love) a heckuva lot). But AGENDER wasn't hard to infer, and it's a very real term that just somehow missed me. Original. Like it.

Much of my struggle came from NE, where LARVAL and the CREW part of CAMERA CREW (32A: Group that's on the take?) just wouldn't come. Also had real trouble in the SE because of (again) the "?" clue on 43A: Spot starter? (TEA KETTLE). I had TEA and guessed KETTLE but did Not like it (it "starts" TEA? Because ... you pour water from it? My "kettle" heats water. You pour tea from a tea pot. And in either case, "starter" is dubious. I actually pulled KETTLE at one point because I couldn't get Downs to work. This turned out to be because I had SURE IS! instead of SURE DO! (48A: "You got that right!") (impossible to differentiate between IS, DO, AM, ugh), and RARER instead of RIPER (54A: Tenderer, maybe). This meant the only Down I had down there was EUREKA (44D: Exuberant cry). I had TRANIS for 45D: Some Caribbean islanders (TRINIS), so I *definitely* knew something was messed up. Aren't STEP-INS women's underwear? I'm pretty sure they're women's underwear. I always thought laceless shoes were SLIP-ONS. That one was weird. Luckily, the Acrosses and the short Downs in that corner were way easier. The answer that really broke me, though, was MAJORING IN (36A: Reading, to Brits). Parsing that answer, my word. And just understanding the clue ... I assumed the trick was that "Reading" was the city or the railroad (thanks, Monopoly!). Eventually I was like "MAJOR what?" and then got it. It's a great clue / answer. Just ground me into powder. Anyway, enjoyed the struggle, mostly

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Balm with oxymoronic name / FRI 9-20-19 / Chandler four-term US senator who helped faound Republican Party / Like a novel with roguish adventuring hero / Cloud name prefix / Fashion portmanteau exemplified by wearing yoga pants all day / First name in 1990s rap / Journalist whose mother father sister husband all won Nobel prizes

Friday, September 20, 2019

Constructor: Luke Vaughn

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (on paper, untimed)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ÈVE CURIE (4D: Journalist whose mother, fagther, sister and husband all won Nobel Prizes) —
Ève Denise Curie Labouisse (French pronunciation: ​[ɛv dəniz kyʁi labwis]; December 6, 1904 – October 22, 2007) was a French and American writer, journalist and pianist. Ève Curie was the younger daughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie. Her sister was Irène Joliot-Curieand her brother-in-law Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Ève was the only member of her family who did not choose a career as a scientist and did not win a Nobel Prize, although her husband Henry Richardson Labouisse, Jr. did collect the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 on behalf of UNICEF. She worked as a journalist and authored her mother's biography Madame Curie and a book of war reportage, Journey Among Warriors.[1][2] From the 1960s she committed herself to work for UNICEF, providing help to children and mothers in developing countries. (wikipedia)
• • •

The SE corner here is fantastic, and I did it last, so this was one of those seemingly rare times when the puzzle ends on a highpoint (and not with me jammed up at the worst / knottiest part of the grid). The rest of the grid was fine, but nothing to write home about. TWITTERATI is still not a thing and by now it's a dated non-thing, not the "fresh" thing you think it is, so please stop. I really haven't missed seeing ENESCU, a crosswordese trickster whose name can also be spelled ENESCO for some reason! (9D: "Romanian Rhapsodies" composer) This ÈVE CURIE person is hilariously uncrossworthy. The way that I know is because of how you have clued her, i.e. in relation to the human beings in her family that people might actually know (not, tellingly, in relation to anything specific that she did or wrote). Nice to see more women in the grid in marquee positions (i.e. in long answers), but who? But as I say, that SE corner rocks, and the fill in general is at least a solid average, so overall positive marks for the constructor.

The editor, on the other hand ... OOF. It's possible that *all* these clues were the constructor's, but it's the editor who has to take the reins and bring the cluing under control, so he's ultimately responsible for the cluing, and yeeeesh. It's bad today. If you're gonna open with two (2) "?" Across clues, they should be, uh, good. Stick the landing! These are Terrible and Merely Bad, respectively. SPEED DATES are "Plays?" Even with pun leeway on High, that is rough. I guess people are making "plays" for ... prospective dates? But then the "matches" would be after the "play" (presumably). The whole thing requires a compass and protractor if you wanna make any clear sense out of it. Bad. I get that a STUB has been "ripped off" of the original complete ticket ... OK, maybe that one's more tolerable (and just tough). Other horrible clues: 25A: Comment like "And now here's Pam with sports. Pam?" ("OVER TO YOU"). No, "Over to You" is, itself, a comment. If somehow throwing it to another presenter is called an OVER-TO-YOU (like it's a category of comment) then that is some inside-newsroom stuff. Hated this. Merely disliked 34A: "That may not have been entirely accurate ..." ("I LIED"), which are patently not the same thing. They are in the same large category, but at opposite ends. The "may not" is key here. ASSAULTS are not [Batteries]. That's why the phrase "assault & battery" exists. Because ... they are different. "Oh, well, you see, 'assaults' is here being used in the more general..." [harsh loud buzz sound] sorry, no. You can try to lawyer that one if you want, but it's bad.

Lastly, there were entirely too many names, esp. with clues of the fill-in-the-blank variety, followed by a lengthy-ish description of the thing they did that allegedly makes them puzzleworthy, but it always sounds like just so much special pleading. ZACHARIAH ... he did this thing. LYDIA ... you know, from that other thing? This novelist! That former Mexican president ('s middle name!)! Half a rap name! Now I knew some of these and not others, but but the barrage of blank so-and-so clues for like an assault (as opposed to a battery). But let me end by saying, once again, that SE corner is fantastic. PICARESQUE to ATHLEISURE to CHEAP SEATS is the crossword Tinker to Evers to Chance. Mwah!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Site of Herculean feat / THU 9-19-19 / Stats for eggheads / Track that hosted Seabiscuit's final race / Futuristic assistants / Isolates in business speak

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Constructor: David Kwong

Relative difficulty: Easy (untimed clipboard solve)

THEME: PRI(ME) TI(ME) EMMY (62A: What each of the programs in this puzzle has won at least once) — a "ME" rebus where the "ME" squares are all inside shows that have won an Emmy (phonetically represented by the M, E):

Theme answers:
  • 9A: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 ("MAD (ME)N")
  • 18A: With 71-Across, 2016, 2018 ("A(ME)RICAN CRI(ME) / STORY")
  • 24A: 2015, 2016, 2018 ("GA(ME) OF THRONES")
  • 40A: 2012 ("HO(ME)LAND")
  • 53A: 1949 (first winner) ("PANTOMI(ME) QUIZ")
Word of the Day: "PANTOMIME QUIZ" (53A) —
Pantomime Quiz, initially titled Pantomime Quiz Time and later Stump the Stars, was an American television game show produced and hosted by Mike Stokey. Running from 1947—1959, it has the distinction of being one of the few television series—along with The Arthur Murray PartyDown You GoThe Ernie Kovacs ShowThe Original Amateur Hour; and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet—to air on all four TV networks in the US during the Golden Age of Television. // Based on the parlor game of Charades, Pantomime Quiz was first broadcast locally in Los Angeles from November 13, 1947, to 1949. In that format, it won an Emmy Award for "Most Popular Television Program" at the first Emmy Awards ceremony. The competition involved two teams of four contestants each (three regulars and one guest). In each round, one member acts out (in mime) a phrase or a name while the other three try to guess it. Each team had five rounds (in some broadcasts there were only four); the team that took the least amount of time to guess all phrases won the game.
Home viewers were encouraged to send in suggestions for phrases to be used in a telecast. Those that were actually used earned cash or a prize for the people who sent them. A bonus was given if the team trying to solve it could not do so within two minutes. (wikipedia)
• • •

Let's start with the theme concept, which I like a lot. The fact that "ME" appears twice in PRIME TIME adds some sparkle to what could've been a much more tepid revealer, i.e. just EMMY or EMMY AWARD. The rebus was easy to pick up, and once I realized the rebus squares were going to be the same every time, things got even easier. Very breezy, as rebus puzzles go. This particular set of themers, though, makes for a bunch of odd bedfellows. Actually, the only odd one here is "PANTOMI(ME) QUIZ," which ... what? All the others are from the last decade, and then there's this ridiculously obscure ancient program just dropped in from outer space to complete the set. So everything is from the last ten years, except this answer which is *seventy years old*. Jarring. It's also in a completely different genre from the other shows (which are all dramas) (at least I think they are: I have actually never heard of "A(ME)RICAN CRI(ME) / STORY" unless, now that I think of it, it's that documentary about that murderer dude that was controversial for some reason I forget, and that I had no interest in at all... is it that? ... whoa, no, what? It's the *anthology* series, of which "The People vs. O.J. Simpson" and "The Assassination of Gianni Versace" are installments!?!? I know those show titles very well. I had *zero* idea they were part of an anthology called "A(ME)RICAN CRI(ME) / STORY." I am also very familiar with "American Horror Story," which was created by the same people, but is very very very much known as "American Horror Story" (even abbr. "AHS" in recent advertising), unlike (as far as I can remember) "A(ME)RICAN CRI(ME) / STORY." This makes this themer set even weirder, in that I'd've said "The People vs. O.J. Simpson" won the Emmy. That's certainly how everyone talks about that show. Me after getting "A(ME)RICAN...": "Horror Story! No ... Vandal! No ... dammit!). Anyway, unsurprisingly, the only difficulty I had in this puzzle came with the titles I didn't know. Again, theme concept great, themer set weird).

My main issue was just getting the word "QUIZ," as two other confusing / problematic clues were adjacent to that word, making it harder to turn up than it should've been. First, I had the DRO- at 51A: Futuristic assistants (DROIDS) and wrote in DRONES, which ... felt right. I mean, I guess DRONES are "assistants" now, but they still seem "futuristic" to me. But the bigger (and certainly ickier) problem for me in this area of the grid was IQS (52D: Stats for eggheads). First of all, it's a stat. It's just a stat. It's not a stat *for* anyone. People with very low IQS still *have them*. Ugh. Also, as everyone knows by now, it's a discredited stupid stat that has no bearing on anything meaningful in life, and if you are one of these MENSA-joining types who somehow takes *pride* in your IQ, seriously, what is wrong with you? I feel bad for all the "eggheads" out there who have been so badly and awkwardly represented by this clue and answer.

Five things:
  • 37D: Chain letters? (S & M) — whoooaaaa ... racy! (presumably the "chain" part refers to the proverbial "whips and chains" of sadomasochism)
  • 67A: Half of nine? (ENS) — the letter "en" makes up half of the word "nine," you're welcome, ugh
  • 23A: Here, in Havana (ACA) — yeesh, really? You coulda made this AAA or MCA but you went with this foreign word that isn't even the best-known word for "here" in its own language? Odd choice. 
  • 11D: "___ and the Lost City of Gold" (2019 movie) (DORA) — nice, current way to clue our old friend the Explorer
  • 60A: Principal (STAR) — lol me. I had STA- and just gawked at the answer for a few seconds wondering what the hell. "STAY? Like ... mainSTAY?" Sometimes the misfires are very, very bad
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Dark-tongued Chinese dogs / WED 9-18-19 / Prominent cockatoo feature / Green-headed duck

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Constructor: John Wrenholt

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:42)

THEME: DOWN THE PIPE (53A: How a perfect pitch comes ... or a hint to the missing parts of the circled answers) — circled-square answers are [word in the grid] + PIPE, which you have to mentally supply; the PIPE answers are arranged like a PIPE descending the grid in staircase fashion

"Pipe" answers:
  • HALF (3D: Feature of a skate park)
  • TAIL (24A: Muffler attachment)
  • STOVE (29D: Hat worn by Abraham Lincoln)
  • LEAD (45A: Weapon in Clue)
  • WIND (49D: Trachea)
Word of the Day: MANSE (60A: Rector's residence) —


the house and land occupied by a minister or parson.
the dwelling of a landholder; mansion. (
• • •

There's a little wobbliness to this theme, in that the overall shape of the "pipe" (from top to bottom of the grid) doesn't really suggest "pipe" that well, and a pitch that comes DOWN THE PIPE is the very opposite of the puzzle's "pipe" shape, i.e. it travels a pretty straight path. That said, I think the theme basically works. It has an admirable complexity (a missing "pipe" layer, and then an overall descending "pipe" layer) and a snappy revealer. The fill is no great shakes, but neither is it barfsome. Tending toward HO-HUM, but without causing me any SPLEEN or ODIUM. I was heading toward what felt like a record time, but then spun out with not one but two wrong answers, and so ended up with just a good time. My wrong answers: SEEDY for SHADY (33D: Of questionable repute) and CLOCK TOWER for WATER TOWER (11D: Tall landmark in many a town). I like both of my wrong answers, but particularly the latter one, as a CLOCK TOWER seems like a landmark you might actually treat like one, i.e. "meet me by the CLOCK TOWER at 7." Do people use WATER TOWERs as reference points? Anyway, WATER TOWER is a fine enough answer, I just had the misfortune of coming at that answer from underneath, i.e. I had TOWER and put CLOCK *right* in ... then it didn't work. Then I tried to move into the middle of the grid and work my way back to the NE, but that's where SEEDY was mucking things up. So, like I said, the wheels came off for a bit. But I put them back on.

Wanted SNORE at 1A: "Bor-r-ring" (HO-HUM) to start the puzzle, but then couldn't get a [Cobra feature] from S--- and then once I got DEF Leppard, I figured out the cobra had a HOOD, and then I made very few errors thereafter. I found "LET ME" a little hard to get ahold of (45D: "I can take it from here"), and I stalled briefly on both CHOWS (36A: Dark-tongued Chinese dogs) and AIRSHIPS (I had the AIR- and just blanked) (9D: Blimps and zeppelins). I had no trouble with the revealer, but I do think the clue is slightly off. A "perfect" pitch is likely not coming down Broadway; those are the kinds of pitches that tend to get clocked. I guess if you're the batter, a pitch that's DOWN THE PIPE is perfect. "Right over the plate" would've been more accurate / less ambiguous.

See you Thursday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Old British coins worth 21 shillings / TUE 9-17-19 / 2012 film about so-called Canadian Caper / Convenience from auto garage / Virtuoso taking bow before performance / Color akin to eggplant / Maryland collegian informally

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Constructor: Paul Coulter

Relative difficulty: Medium (felt easier, but at 4 in the morning, my fingers don't obey brain commands so good) (3:41)

THEME: Like a happy ___ — idioms meaning "happy," clued as if they related to particular kinds of people:

Theme answers:
  • OVER THE MOON (17A: Like a happy astronaut?)
  • SITTING PRETTY (24A: Like a happy portrait model?)
  • ON TOP OF THE WORLD (38A: Like a happy mountaineer?)
  • IN GOOD SPIRITS (49A: Like a happy medium?) (this should've been *bartender*!)
  • ON CLOUD NINE (59A: Like a happy meteorologist?)
Word of the Day: WORD (CLUE) —
• • •

Wait a minute, does SITTING PRETTY mean "happy?" I thought it meant "in an advantageous spot," which is a way of saying "satisfied," I guess, but it doesn't seem like a good equivalent for "happy" to me, and definitely seems like a hard outlier compared to the rest of the set. Yup, here we go, SITTING PRETTY: "To be or remain in an ideal situation or advantageous position" (thefreedictionary). I feel like the puzzle is just done, right there. DOA. "Happy" is in all the theme clues, the other themers all mean "happy," to some degree, but SITTING PRETTY ... doesn't. SITTING PRETTY might make you "happy," but so might WINNING LOTTO or EATING A SANDWICH. It's a collateral effect. This is a fatal flaw. Which is too bad, because conceptually, even though this theme is corny and super old-fashioned, it works. Would've been nice if the grid had been filled even halfway decently. It's mostly just boring, because of the preponderance of short answers (grid design does not allow for much over 5 letters), but if you design a grid that's easy to fill, then it should at least be *passably* filled. ESIGN in a grid like this, not passable (22A: Complete, as a PDF contract). DEOXY, extremely not passable (53A: Prefix with ribonucleic). That was awful. This whole "my building superintendent lives in apt. ONE A" conceit that the puzzle has been perpetrating since time immemorial has got to go. What kind of fictional yesteryear sitcom world is this from? "Many a building superintendent?" "Many?" How many? Mainly I'm just mad at ONEA as fill (again). The whole random apt. number thing just caused added annoyance because I thought for sure they were gonna pull some ONEB crap on me.

MENA ... I mean, uh ... she seems kind of obscure now (30D: Actress Suvari). Has she been in stuff? Apologies if yes, but I feel like I haven't seen her name since the '90s, and even then, she wasn't even MIRA Sorvino famous (that's the name my brain wanted here even though my brain *knew* that wasn't right). Old-fashioned theme brought with it a very old-fashioned vibe. I have said this before, and I'm saying it again, no one calls it IDIOT BOX or has for years and years. Even in that expression's heyday ... whenever that was ... no one really said that. Maybe it was a phrase in the media? Anyway, BOOBTUBE, tons of currency (back in the day), IDIOT BOX, blargh. Some '60s dad said that, just as some '60s kid said NEATO. This whole puzzle is "Leave It To Beaver"-land, basically. Did I like MOUE? NAE, I did not. GUINEAS (47A: Old British coins worth 21 shillings), SET POINT (23D: Score of 5-4, 40-15, say), even PUCE (28D: Color akin to eggplant), yeah, I liked those, but there's not nearly enough in the "Liked" column today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Nickname of King Edward VII / MON 9-16-19 / June observance commemorating the Stonewall Riots / Nietzsche's ideal man / Quaff made with honey / Dish of thinly sliced raw meat

Monday, September 16, 2019

Constructor: Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau 

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (3:40) (I have had a drink, and the grid is 16-wide, but still, it felt a bit on the hard side for a Monday)

THEME: JUST FOR THE RECORD (58A: "To be totally clear" ... or why to bring in a 17-, 27- or 45-Across?) — themers do things related to records:

Theme answers:
  • GUINNESS OFFICIAL (17A: Adjudicator of an attempt at a physical feat, say)
  • STUDIO SINGER (27A: Vocalist who doesn't tour)
  • STENOGRAPHER (45A: One versed in shorthand)
Word of the Day: ANIL (50A: Deep blue dye) —


a West Indian shrub, Indigofera suffruticosa, of the legume family, having elongated clusters of small, reddish-yellow flowers and yielding indigo.
indigo; deep blue.(
• • •

The revealer shoulda been, simply, FOR THE RECORD... and then, you know, get a regular-sized grid and lose the stupid GUINNESS OFFICIAL (?) answer, what the hell? That is not a thing. Not enough of a thing to be first themer in a Monday puzzle. Yipes. STUDIO SINGER is a thing, but ... it doesn't google that well (I feel like the more common term is "session singer"), and how do you know they don't tour? You don't know. I'm sure some STUDIO SINGERs do tour sometimes. Just 'cause you sing in the studio doesn't mean you don't also tour sometimes. I get that you are trying to find a way to suggest "studio" in your clue, but that ain't it. Why are there cheater squares* in here? (above 16D, below 48D). Doesn't seem like a particularly demanding part of the grid. Weird. The fill in this one is OK, but there are some hard clunkers. ANIL and INURN should go out on their boat for a three-hour tour and never come back. INONE can go with them. How the hell am I supposed to know the [Nickname of King Edward VII]? What day is this? It's Monday, right? C'mon, spare me this olde-timey cutesy nicknames for monarchs, BAH. I liked PRIDE MONTH (11D: June observance commemorating the Stonewall Riots) and CARPACCIO (37D: Dish of thinly sliced raw meat). The clue on GAYER should've been (34D: More gleeful).

Slowed down by a. one fairly strong drink and b. (related to a.) hella typos. Not even sure where I put the "N"s and "S"s on my first pass at GUINNESS, but I know it wasn't in the right place. Had C'MON before "I'M IN" (23A: "Let's do it!"). No idea what L.A.'s NOHO Arts District is (again, doesn't seem like a Monday clue), so I probably had SOHO in there at first. Definitely had HOIST before HEAVE (51A: Throw, as an anchor). I guess HOIST is ... the opposite? Whatever, how are there *two* five-letter anchor-related verbs starting with "H"?! That's just cruel. Thank god there was some terrible fill ("ET TU"!?) to help me out of that mess. Looking for a tighter theme and cleaner fill tomorrow (and every day). Peace.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*cheater squares = black squares that do not affect the word count; they are occasionally added to make grids easier to fill.

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Marine mollusks that cling to rocks / SUN 9-15-19 / Film monster originally intended as a metaphor for nuclear weapons / "Way to go, team!" / Quattroporte and GranTurismo

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Get Your Mind Out Of The Gutter" — Several long downs are puns with bowling terminology, plus ten down answers feature ten PINs in formation

Theme answers:
  • STRIKE ZONES (3D: Perfect places for bowlers to aim?)
  • NO TIME TO SPARE (5D: Comment when you need a serious comeback at the end of a bowling game?)
  • SPLIT DECISION (12D: Whether to aim at 7 or 10, in bowling?)
  • LANE CLOSURE (14D: Disappointing news for a bowler?)
  • FRAME RATE (73D: Pace at which bowlers complete their games?)
  • ALLEY CATS (78D: Hip bowling enthusiasts?
Word of the Day: MEZCAL (32D: Smoky agave spirit) —
Mezcal or mescal is a Mexican distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave. Most mezcal is made in Oaxaca. It can also be made in Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacan and the recently approved Puebla. A saying attributed to Oaxaca regarding the drink is: "Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, también." ("For everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, as well.").

• • •

Happy Sunday from beautiful St. Louis, CrossWorld! Matthew back today, filling in for Rex after emailing him only yesterday morning request for a guest blog appearance. The King delivers!

I'll be honest: I much prefer weekday puzzles, both as a solver and now as an emerging constructor. There's so much that goes into a good puzzle — I'd recommend you all to try constructing even *one* puzzle to share in this appreciation — and the Sunday stakes feel much higher with the larger grid and increased budget for theme squares.

I enjoyed Andrew's theme set here, and I especially liked going back and spotting the 10 PINs after I finished my solve (impressive, especially given that I didn't feel tripped up by all the strings of Ps, Is, and Ns!). Definitely appreciate how unabashedly all-in the puzzle goes on bowling.

So, pro: there's something related to the theme in every corner of the grid.

Con: The corners of the grid were absolutely brutal. I don't understand why the SW and SE are so segmented, with only one way in or out. With as much space as a 21x21 grid allows and with as top-heavy as the long downs are, it definitely feels like there was a missed opportunity in grid construction to open up into the center a bit more (and bring the word count down from its current 140, the Times Sunday limit) (perhaps take out the cheater squares below 54D and 56D? The squares between 97A/98A and 99A/100A? That weird cross thingy at the bottom? All certainly easier said than done).

To make matters worse, those corners are full of crummy short fill. NOTER ERSE TNUT (rising rapidly on my least-favorite-short-fill list with every passing day) are all kinda yucky. So is REGS — even VSIGN (?) and OPART (??) left a sour taste in my mouth working through the bottom of the grid alone. With some more bummers in the top and some truly strange cluing choices along the way that I don't really care to track down, it's a fine puzzle but nothing to write home about.

Another con: There are no TURKEY references in this puzzle! One of the best sports terms out there deserves its day in the sun and today should have been it!

Bullets: Looking back through the puzzle for bullets, I realized there's no single answer outside the theme set that I really truly love besides GODZILLA. Better luck next week.

Signed, Matthew Stock, Alley Cat of CrossWorld

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Marriageable quaintly / SAT 9-14-19 / One of 23 for Matt Stairs / Symbol of angular velocity / Fish with symbiotoic relationship with sharks / supra Latin phrase in a scholarly paper / Biggie in rap business / European coal center / Where Joan of Arc was held captive

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (6:27)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: IN STIR (17A: Finishing a sentence, say) —

STIR—noun Slang.

prison. (
• • •

LOL white men putting VIRTUE SIGNALING in the grid (10D: Sharing of a moral viewpoint to gain social approval). This puzzle is so on-brand. I mean, this is exactly the kind of term I'd expect to find in a puzzle that just this week was reminding us all of the glory of Confederate monuments. That's a term used predominantly by those who are real mad that they can't be as openly racist and homophobic as they used to be in the good ol' days. People who use that term also use terms like "P.C." and "SJW" and NUBILE (probably) (41D: Marriageable, quaintly). Super-popular term with right-wing "thought" "leaders." Aggrieved white men love the term. And it's rich coming from an editor who has struggled to keep racism / sexism / classism out of his puzzles. I say "struggled," but that implies he cares or is trying, so maybe not. Anyway, you can dodge criticism of your terrible behavior by calling the criticism "VIRTUE SIGNALING," but your behavior won't be any less terrible. I'm not "virtuous" for pointing this out. Just a sentient person with a capacity for empathy. It's fun! Costs nothing! Try it out!

Maybe worry less about VIRTUE SIGNALING and more about filling your grids well, woof. EDATE OCTAL ELOI AGO OLEOLE INSTIR RIEL IDEE PALUP HRE. Maybe you get half of those, but even then only if the rest of the grid is really wonderful (this one isn't). As usual, longer answers are the only point of interest (DETAILS TO FOLLOW and PINCH-HIT HOMERUN are nice) and most of the rest is just there to be hacked through with a machete on the way to the end. I really ruined my chances for true speed by having the first thing I put in the grid be PAWNS (!?!?), which ... I mean, you can see why I put it in there, kiiiiind of, but not really (2D: Things that are sometimes brokered). I just figured the term "pawnbroker" had to come from *somewhere*, and also maybe it was a chess term?? This error kept me from getting into the NW, and particularly from seeing the front part of PINCH-HIT HOME RUN (15A: One of 23 for Matt Stairs (an M.L.B. record)). I was able to move quickly in the other direction though, moving through middle of grid and down the east coast without too much trouble. Had most trouble with PAL UP (?) and UBI (I've read many scholarly papers, never ever seen "UBI supra," though I am very familiar with the "UBI sunt" motif in Anglo-Saxon poetry).

Had RIAL before RIEL, which kept me from seeing LEECH for too long (21D: Little sucker). Had EDITS for EDATE because really, EDATE?? (47A: Excel spreadsheet function). Not much else to cause resistance today. Took me a while to build SENSATIONALIZES (from the bottom up), but otherwise, the smooth was fairly steady, if also fairly unpretty.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if you think I'm exaggerating about VIRTUE SIGNALING being a pet term of right-wing (anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, anti-queer) white guys, just google image search the term and scroll away to your heart's content. Enjoy the endless stream of "humor" from some of life's biggest winners...

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French protesters beginning in 2018 / FRI 9-13-19 / Teen drama set in SoCal / Artist who created chance collages / Substance whose primary use earned its discoverer 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology but is now banned

Friday, September 13, 2019

Constructor: Anne and Daniel Larsen

Relative difficulty: Medium (6:06) (others seem to be finding it Easy, though, so who knows?)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: EREBUS (6D: Darkness personified) —
In Greek mythologyErebus /ˈɛrɪbəs/, also Erebos (Ancient GreekἜρεβοςÉrebos, "deep darkness, shadow" or "covered"), was often conceived as a primordial deity, representing the personification of darkness; for instance, Hesiod's Theogony identifies him as one of the first five beings in existence, born of Chaos. (wikipedia)
• • •

I could tell from the shape of this grid that it would be disappointing. It would be very hard, even for seasoned constructors, to do anything very interesting with this grid—those 6x8 corners aren't gonna help you do anything good. The best you're gonna get is passable, and the worst ... well, I don't like to think about that. These corners end up being mostly passable, though BAD ART is dumb and THE POOR is creepy and patronizing—do people still speak that way? AGASP is awful and "THEOC" again?! But again, overall, things come out less bad than they could have. But that's the point. Why give yourself a grid that's pretty much bound to be Just OK at best. Why not give yourself more of an opportunity to unleash fresh, interesting fill. YELLOWVESTS is the only reason for this grid to exist (51A: French protesters beginning in 2018). Its symmetrical pal FRAPPUCCINO isn't bad either (23A: Hybrid Starbucks product). But there's literally nothing else interesting here. I guess you could argue that some of the clues are clever, but that can always be true. The Friday bar is high—you have so much leeway, you should really be able to make something breezy and contemporary and delightful. This was oddly stuck in the past (ON TAPE? GOOOOBERS?? AGASP!?) but mostly just dull.

Also, it just wasn't on my wavelength at all. All the names were clued in ways that were meaningless to me. This includes EREBUS, which ... I mean, I vaguely know, but it's not like he's a top tier figure in mythology. I know EREBUS mainly as a volcano. Now CEREBUS, that dude / those dudes I know. AMANDA, LOL my knowing Spock's mom. EMILIO someone. ANDRE someone. No clue. Is HER HONOR a title. People say "your honor," and judges are referred to as "the honorable so and so." I had no trouble there, but "title" feels odd. I resent the clue on BAY AREA, as I usually do, as the clue implies a specific place, but ... no. REFS is super bad as clued (just go with the football REFS). No one says "Chuckleheads" *or* GOOBERS, so blecch. Not sure what a trolley car has to do with a (single?) POLE (35D: Trolley car feature). Is it that you hold one while you ride? Is there just the one? It's such a weird clue. I think that DOT is the [Equivalent of "x"] in mathematical notation, i.e. both can signify multiplication. But again, yuck to that clue. Soooo many ways to go. Why be tedious and pedantic? I really should've gotten RANDALL much faster. That one stumped me for too long. Wrote in MOM before DAD (5D: #1 ___ (mug inscription)). Is a DAD mug more iconic? Anyway, this one's over. Mediocre Fridays are super depressing to me, because it's my favorite puzzle day of the week. The puzzle has been worse than usual of late. It's distressing. I can't all this bad, but it's really not as entertaining as the alleged best puzzle should be.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Flowers named after Greek physician of gods / THU 9-12-19 / Refrain from Mulan before with all force of great typhoon / 2001 title role for Audrey Tautou / Place in canopic jars say / Longtime staple of Thurs night TV

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Constructor: Grant Thackray

Relative difficulty: Medium? (computer froze / rebooted in the middle, had to start over)

THEME: Q puns — familiar phrases respelled as Q-containing homophones, then clued wackily:

Theme answers:
  • WIDOW'S PIQUE (19A: Fury at a husband leaving his entire estate to his mistress?)
  • CLIQUE BAIT (25A: What an in-group uses for fishing?)
  • THAT'S MY QUEUE (37A: "Oh, I'm supposed to be in the line over there?)
  • BOOT LIQUOR (54A: Some alcohol smuggled into a rodeo, say?)
  • MARQUEE MARK (59A: Smudge on a theater sign?)
Word of the Day: NO SOAP (68A: "Fuhgeddaboudit!") —
No luck; no chance; certainly not. (Often said as a response, indicating a total refusal orrejection.) Primarily heard in US. (
• • •

Solved first thing in the morning, which is never ever a good time for my brain to try processing wacky homophonic phrases, ugh. These are fine, though honestly it has taken me a while to see what, exactly, is *consistent* about this theme. Middle themer threw me because it wasn't a rewrite of a terminal "K" sound. It was an initial hard "C" instead, which, OK, is the same sound, technically, but spelled with a different letter and, in this case, at the front of the word, not the back. MARQUEE MARK was the hardest for me to get, because, like SEEST and ESSO and ERAT and NO SOAP, he is bygone. Also, on that one, the stress is on the wrong syLLAble, i.e. it's Mar' ky Mark but MARQUEE' MARK. This grid was 16 wide so that the even-numbered third themer could sit squarely in the middle. The fill was occasionally good (MAN OH MAN!) but mostly skewed toward dull and occasionally yuck. It's a super broken-up / segmented grid. Felt fussy to solve. Lots of short stuff with vague cluing. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't like it either. I'm going to leave off the evaluation portion of the program now, as INURN is really trying to make the case for "bad" and I don't want to let it (58A: Place in canopic jars, say).

NO SOAP is familiar to me because I like old-timey movies and expressions, but many people today are going to be wondering what the hell? "Fuhgeddaboudit!" is pretty contemporary, whereas NO SOAP is decidedly bygone, a relic from the early / mid 20th century. There's a good write-up on the idiom here. The salient quote from the article, though, is this: "From my vantage point in the UK, this classic Americanism appears to have largely died out, remembered and occasionally used only by older people" (worldwidewords). You have a responsibility to clue things in roughly equivalent fashion, and these clues don't feel equivalent to me, particularly in that one is current and one is not. I actually use the phrase NO DICE, but only use the phrase NO SOAP when talking about a regrettable restroom. 

Liked seeing RPG (not that I really like abbrs. that much, but the one for "role-playing game" is a familiar, common one I don't recall seeing very often). Didn't really like the clue on ONEA, but I'm never gonna like ONEA, no matter what clue you throw at it (15A: What Elvis Aaron Presley's middle name is spelled with on his birth certificate). "BE A MAN" probably shouldn't be in a grid with "MAN OH MAN"—certainly not in the same half of the grid. Oh, BARBQS is horrible-looking (4D: Some Labor Day events, informally). BAR-B-QS? How do you punctuate that? I think the plural is making it worse. That's all for today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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