Start shooting / WED 8-21-19 / Tuscan home of St Catherine / Phrase used by many easy-listening radio stations / Protest singer Phil

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Medium (4:10) (felt much harder)

THEME: E-stuff — Theme clues are that I guess are actual things starting with an E-prefix (E-waste, really??), and then answers are just an example of the post-E part of the clue in which all the vowels are "E"s:

Theme answers:
  • "THE SECRET" (18A: E-book?) (because "The Secret" is a book title in which all the vowels are "E"s...)
  • DELETED SCENE (20A: E-waste?)
  • TERM SHEET (27A: E-filing?)
  • REFERENCE LETTER (37A: E-mail?)
  • ENTER HERE (45A: E-sign?)
  • SEVENTEEN (58A: E-mag?)
Word of the Day: TERM SHEET (27A) —
term sheet is a bullet-point document outlining the material terms and conditions of a business agreement. After a term sheet has been "executed", it guides legal counsel in the preparation of a proposed "final agreement". It then guides, but is not necessarily binding, as the signatories negotiate, usually with legal counsel, the final terms of their agreement. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this was terrible. I haven't felt so completely put off by every facet of a puzzle like this in a good long while. I mean, everywhere I turned, the fill was atrocious; there was no escape. And the theme, which, in retrospect, might've been at least reasonably well executed, ended up being way too dense, resulting in two bad themers that probably could've been done away with *entirely*, which would've resulted (probably?) in much, much, much cleaner fill. So we get too much of a bad thing, which ends up wrecking everything else. This should've been sent back for serious revisions if the theme ... tickled ... the editor so much. What is E-waste? Whatever it is, it is not remotely as much of an in-the-language thing as all the other E-terms. Chuck that clue and answer in the sea. And TERM SHEET, ugh. There's a term only a lawyer could love. Wife and I had never heard of it. I guess it gets ... filed? And "THE SECRET" ... is your E-book? I barely remember that book. What ... was it? Feels Y2K / magical thinking-ish. Am I in the ballpark? Hang on ... Well, a bit later than Y2K, but otherwise, yeah, garbage:
The Secret is a best-selling 2006 self-help book by Rhonda Byrne, based on the earlier film of the same name. It is based on the belief of the law of attraction, which claims that thoughts can change a person's life directly. The book has sold 30 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages. // Critics have claimed that books such as this promote political complacency and a failure to engage with reality,  and that "it isn’t new, and it isn’t a secret". Scientific claims made in the book have been rejected by a range of critics, pointing out that the book has no scientific foundation. (wikipedia)
Speaking of garbage: the fill. From the ridiculous gunk of ESTD EOS SCH to the alphabet soup of FTC ATF to the never-welcome OOX (a noxious answer whose noxiousness is compounded by its faux-cutesy "aint-I-a-stinker?" cluing, ugh) (35A: It's for naught in noughts-and-crosses) (n.b.: "noughts-and-crosses" is British for "tic tac toe"), to, well, everything. Is it INURES or ENURES, who cares, no one, but you still gotta guess! Sorry, you guessed wrong (41A: Accustoms). Plural DNAS. AS NEAR?? EERO ENRY and the ERN ERA! Then there was SHE-CAT, which ... stop. It's just a cat. OPEN FIRE is super-grim in this ERA of mass shootings.

Lastly, I was racking my brain for an answer that made sense for [City south of Yosemite] ... only to find it was the City I Grew Up In. No one, but no one, would describe FRESNO that way. It is certainly geographically true (lots of cities are south of Yosemite), but it is hours away, in (and I can't stress this enough) an entirely different eco-system, i.e. a valley that is a desert that ... look you're gonna have to trust me here, if I wanted to orient you to FRESNO, I might use Bakersfield or Sacramento or maybe the Sierra Nevadas generally, but Yosemite?? LOL, no. My god I just saw OOX again, so I am nauseated and have to stop. To sum up: theme might've worked OK at four answers; at six, it's a disaster—theme stretched too thin, and grid absolutely rekt. Ugh, SCH. Why? Bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Late Swedish elecgtronic musician with 2013 hit Wake Me Up / TUE 8-20-19 / Cavalryman under Teddy Roosevelt during Spanish-American War / Rapper with 2018 #1 album Invasion of Privacy / Small squirt as of perfume

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Relative difficulty: Easy (2:47—personal best Tuesday time)

THEME: GOLF BALL (60A: Sports item that can be found at the starts of 17-, 21-, 32-, 42- and 54-Across) — places a GOLF BALL might be on the way from the TEE to the CUP:

Theme answers:
  • TEE SHIRT (17A: Souvenir from a concert tour)
  • ROUGH RIDER (21A: Cavalryman under Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War)
  • BUNKER HILL (32A: Revolutionary War battle in Boston)
  • GREEN SALAD (42A: Leafy course)
  • CUP OF COCOA (54A: Hot order with marshmallows)
Word of the Day: AVICII (59A: Late Swedish electronic musician with the 2013 hit "Wake Me Up") —
Tim Bergling (Swedish: [tɪm ²bærjlɪŋ]; 8 September 1989 – 20 April 2018), known professionally as Avicii(/əˈvi/Swedish: [aˈvɪtːɕɪ]), was a Swedish electronic musician, DJ, and songwriter who specialized in audio programming, remixing and record producing.
At the age of 16, Bergling began posting his remixes on electronic music forums, which led to his first record deal. He rose to prominence in 2011 with his single "Levels". His debut studio album, True (2013), blended electronic music with elements of multiple genres and received generally positive reviews. It peaked in the top ten in more than fifteen countries and topped international dance charts; the lead single, "Wake Me Up", topped most music markets in Europe and reached number four in the United States.
In 2015, Bergling released his second studio album, Stories, and in 2017 he released an EP, Avīci (01). His catalog also included the singles "I Could Be the One" with Nicky Romero, "You Make Me", "X You", "Hey Brother", "Addicted to You", "The Days", "The Nights", "Waiting for Love", "Without You" and "Lonely Together". Bergling was nominated for a Grammy Award for his work on "Sunshine" with David Guetta in 2012 and "Levels" in 2013. Several music publications credit Bergling as among the DJs who ushered electronic music into Top 40 radio in the early 2010s.
Bergling retired from touring in 2016 due to health problems, having suffered stress and poor mental health for several years. On 20 April 2018, Bergling died by suicide in MuscatOman. He was buried on 8 June in his hometown of Stockholm. His posthumous third album titled Tim was released in 2019. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't know if I'm still on some kind of speed-solving high from this past weekend of tournament competition, but man did I smoke this one. Set a personal Tuesday best despite multiple wrong answers and assorted sputterings. I think the themers themselves were all so transparent that it was easy get a toehold in every section, and so I covered ground really quickly, in general. I like the theme pretty well. I don't know about the cluing on the revealer—I guess the GOLF BALL "can be found" in those places, some (rare, short-lived times, in the course of play), but the ball cannot actually be "found" there now, so the cluing is weird. I think the revealer ought rather to have highlighted the fact that the first words of the themers trace a theoretical Par 4 hole performance as one might really play it, from the TEE to the ROUGH to a BUNKER to the GREEN and then in the CUP in 4. Missed the fairway *and* put it in the sand, but still got down in 4. CUP OF COCOA is a slightly contrived answer (I mean, BOWL OF JELL-O is a thing, but ... is it?), but I'll allow it. It's a functioning theme, just fine for a Tuesday.

As for the fill, it was OK, though it's kinda wobbly or at least questionable in a number of places. I really want to question AVICII, who was a huge force in the musical world, it's true, and whose name was all over even non-music media a few years ago, after his untimely death, but I would stake my vast blogging empire on a bet that a significant majority of NYT solvers will have little to no idea who he is. It's weird to introduce him to the NYT solving world on a Tuesday (as I suspected, AVICII is a debut appearance). His name is a hilarious outlier, compared to everything else in the grid. It's the only answer I can imagine even a casual solver's not knowing. Well ... there's also MT ADAMS (what the hell?), but at least there, the clue pretty much hands you the answer (50A: Washington peak named after the second U.S. president). I don't know that AVICII is good fill. I am always happy to see the puzzle branch out in terms of its regular fields of interest, and AVICII's popularity is certainly sufficiently substantial (if not with the typical NYTXW-solving crowd), but ... it feels like it was crammed down in that corner just 'cause. Just to get a debut answer in there. You mean I gotta endure UVEA and EFILE and SNOCAT because you desperately wanted to be the first to drop AVICII? On a Tuesday? Feels weird. Like it's not here for good reasons. And I'm saying this as someone who (sorta kinda) knew the name (stored it away after all the obits rolled out). I mean, if you need him, by all means use him, but if you don't ...

I got slowed down a few times, nowhere worse than at the very end, by a cruddy little federal agcy. (61D: U.S. consumer watchdog, for short) (FTC). That's the Federal Trade Commission, right? Ugh, I would avoid fed agcys. when possible—it's just an alphabet soup, and no one's ever happy to see those answers. But if you needed one, why not go with the FDA (an agcy. whose name is way way way more familiar to me) and then just change MOONS to MOODS? You'd get I DID at 63A, which I like better than INIT, even if I SEE is very nearby (so you'd get two "I ___" phrases in close proximity). Actually, all the fill down there could be totally reworked, and maybe should be. None of it is exactly shining. Anyway, sorting that little answer cost me many seconds. I also wrote in ON THE QT before ON THE DL (7D: Hush-hush), ST. PATTY before ST. PADDY (23A: March parade honoree, colloquially), and needed all the crosses for the ugly legalese HERETO (35D: Regarding this point). But again, theme works fine, and I can't really complain about "difficulty" if I set a personal record, so as Tuesdays go, I'm not mad.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. [24D: Song that can't be sung alone] (DUET) ... "Can't" *Can't*? Everyone who has ever sung "Islands in the Stream" in the shower begs to differ.

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French river to English channel / MON 8-19-19 / British hitmaker on Iggy Azalea's Black Widow / Doughnut-shaped roll / Clarinetist Shaw / Mathematician once pictured on Swiss money

Monday, August 19, 2019

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:08 on an oversized 16x15 grid)

THEME: ARTIE (71A: *Clarinetist Shaw ... or, when said aloud, the only two consonants in the answers to the starred clue) — theme answers contain both "R" and "T," and only "R" and "T," as their consonants:

Theme answers:
  • TEETER TOTTER (21A: *Seesaw)
  • TROT OUT (30A: *Bring forward for display)
  • RITA ORA (47A: *British hitmaker on Iggy Azalea's "Black Widow")
  • "TORA, TORA, TORA!" (57A: *1970 war film about the attack on Pearl Harbor)
  • TOO TRUE (4D: *"Sadly, you're right")
  • REITERATE (35D: *Say again)
  • ROTO ROOTER (29D: *Plumbing company whose jingle says "away go troubles down the drain")
  • RAT TERRIER (9D: *Vermin-hunting dog)
  • TREATER (46D: *Trick-or-___ (kid on Halloween))
  • TRATTORIA (11D: *Pasta-serving cafe)
Word of the Day: RITA ORA (47A) —
Rita Sahatçiu Ora (born Rita Sahatçiu; 26 November 1990) is an English singer, songwriter and actress. She rose to prominence in February 2012 when she featured on DJ Fresh's single "Hot Right Now", which reached number one in the UK. Her debut studio album, Ora, released in August 2012, debuted at number one in the United Kingdom. The album contained the UK number-one singles, "R.I.P." and "How We Do (Party)". Ora was the artist with the most number-one singles on the UK Singles Chart in 2012, with three singles reaching the top position.
Ora’s second studio album, Phoenix, was released in November 2018. The lead single, "Your Song", reached the UK top ten, and the subsequent singles, "Anywhere" and "Let You Love Me", reached the top five in the UK; the latter single made Ora the first British female solo artist to have thirteen top ten songs in the United Kingdom. (wikipedia)
• • •

That's eleven (11!) theme answers, if you count the revealer, which you should, so ... that's a lot. That's all I can say about this theme. It's a lot. Putting a lot of words that have just R's and T's in them into the grid ... seems like a very crosswordy thing to do. I mean, that's going with the flow as opposed to against it. Grids are naturally chock full of the RLSTNE (aka "Wheel of Fortune" or WOF letters), so this one is just ... more so? I don't see the point. It's an interesting architectural feat, getting a grid to work with so many multiply intersecting themers, but solving it wasn't terribly exciting. Because of the theme density, and the inherently crosswordesey nature of the theme, the grid tended toward the crosswordesey. Crosswordese *already* tends to be heavy on those letters (ERTE, RETE, TROU, ad infinitum), and then with the theme pressure, the crosswordese of all stripes starts coming out: EVEL, ANI, RARA, EULER, ERNO, three-R'd BRRR, ORNE (oof) and the unforgivable -TION, just to name the most obvious. Some of the themers were interesting answers in their own right (esp. RAT TERRIER), but there's not a lot of genuine word-sparkle here. And letter sparkle isn't a thing, even if R's and T's were sparkly, which they're not.

I think the word "roll" in 51D: Doughnut-shaped roll (BAGEL) really threw me because I had the "B" and wanted only BIALY. Looks like BAGELs and BIALYs are frequently sold together—here are two recent usage examples from (who defines BIALY as "a flat breakfast roll that has a depressed center and is usually covered with onion flakes"):

I had most trouble today with 6A: Disparaging remark (SLUR) because I wrote in BARB, and 14A: ___ box (computer prompt) (DIALOG), both because I barely know what that is and because I spell DIALOGUE thusly. I happened to know who RITA ORA is, but I don't think of her as Monday-famous on this side of the pond at all, and LOL to the idea that using Iggy Azalea in your clue is going to help your typical NYTXW solver figure out the answer. If you don't know who RITA ORA is, seems like an Iggy Azalea hint is likely to be meaningless to you too.

Thank to Chris Adams for filling in for me yesterday. Good thing he did, too, 'cause I drank more than I've drunk since I was in my 20s and was in no condition to write a blog either last night or this morning. Mezcal margaritas! What a revelation. I drank a great deal more than I normally do, but somehow managed to avoid sickness or hangover, so self-high-five for that. I was enjoying the city and being out with friends I get to see only once or twice a year. Oh, and I was celebrating this:
[3rd Place, Pairs Division, Lollapuzzoola 12]
So nice to see so many old friends, and to see so many readers, who were all so kind. I'm a somewhat introverted person who gets easily overwhelmed by crowds, but by and large crossword crowds rule. Plus, they understand if you just need to go stand in the corner and be by yourself for a few minutes to recharge your battery. My favorite moments came when meeting people who didn't know I was "Rex Parker" (I compete under my given name, Michael Sharp). I competed all day at a table with a lovely couple (Pat and Daren), and we chatted quite a bit, and then late in the day, my wife heard Pat say to Daren, "I think that was Rex Parker who just walked by." When my wife intervened to tell her, "Um, Michael [points to me] is Rex Parker," her reaction ... well, I feel lucky to have been there to see it. So special. She was crying/laughing, and then so was I, and it was all perfect. By the time she squeaked out "Thank you for your work," I was practically on the floor. I'm lucky to know so many kind and thoughtful and appreciative people because of this shouting into the cybersphere that I do every day. Even when I am no longer in any way competitive, I'm still gonna go to these tournaments because the company is so *&$^ing great.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Leave off, as the last word of a / Sea creatures that may employ camouflage when hunting / Beginning of the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet / Celebratory Native American feast / "___ quam videri," state motto of North Carolina / Home of the Marine Corps University

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: very easy (5:15)

THEME: "Revolutionary" — four balls in the grid rotate around from left to right; four long down answers through those balls use all four letters instead of just going straight through

Theme answers:
  • GOES FOR A SPIN (24A: Drives around awhile ... as suggested by this puzzle's shaded squares?)
  • TURN TURN TURN (119A: 1965 #1 Byrds hit ... as suggested by this puzzle's shaded squares?)
  • GETS THE BALL ROLLING (3D: Kicks things off)
  • THE HOTL BALTIMORE (20D: 1973 play featuring a sign with a burned-out "E")
  • ALL BARK AND NO BITE (49D: Full of empty talk)
  • SMALL BUSINESS OWNER (42D: Baker or dry cleaner, maybe)
Word of the Day: POTLATCH (23A: Celebratory Native American feast) —
A potlatch is a gift-giving feast practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the United States, among whom it is traditionally the primary economic system. This includes the Heiltsuk, Haida, Nuxalk, Tlingit, Makah, Tsimshian, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka'wakw, and Coast Salish cultures. Potlatches are also a common feature of the peoples of the Interior and of the Subarctic adjoining the Northwest Coast, although mostly without the elaborate ritual and gift-giving economy of the coastal peoples (see Athabaskan potlatch). A potlatch involves giving away or destroying wealth or valuable items in order to demonstrate a leader's wealth and power.

Potlatches went through a history of rigorous ban by the Canadian federal government, continuing underground despite the risk of criminal punishment, and have been studied by many anthropologists. Since the practice was de-criminalized in the post-war years, the potlatch has re-emerged in some communities.

The word comes from the Chinook Jargon, meaning "to give away" or "a gift"; originally from the Nuu-chah-nulth word paɬaˑč, to make a ceremonial gift in a potlatch. [Wikipedia]
• • •
Christopher Adams here once again, filling in for Rex while he's in NYC enjoying Lollapuzzoola (and taking home third place in the pairs division!). Meanwhile, from Twitter, I've got a bunch of FOMO, but I've also heard lots of good things about the puzzles, though, and I'm looking forward to solving them at home (and highly encourage you to do the same).

Speaking of good puzzles: this is one, even though I'm pretty sure I've seen this theme before, as well as some other things. Sure, it's a little weird to not have the balls in the center of the puzzle—but they're all lined up, all rotate clockwise, and the starting point rotates one position each time you move from left to right, which is the sort of small detail that tells me some thought went into this. And sure, it's a little weird to have two sorta-superfluous reveals when one of your long theme answers (GETS THE BALL ROLLING) does a much better job at that, but they're not bad, and something has to go there. And sure, the puzzle certainly feels like a 15x puzzle blown up to a 21x size—cut out the two reveals, shorten the theme answers, and maybe arrange the balls in a square, rather than on one line, and a constructor who is as good as David is could probably fit this in a 15x.

And yet, this doesn't really bother me. What I'm more concerned about is whether the puzzle is done well, whether the fill is good, and most importantly, whether it was fun to solve. And this one checks all those boxes. Very little about this puzzle is difficult—almost no iffy fill, FHASLR, ABO, ENS, and the slightly painty TEN AM aside. And almost no tricky clues; even the few ? clues that do show up are more playful than tricky, and easily figured out (e.g. Ones generating buzz in the music world? for KAZOOS, which brought a smile to my face).

ANITA (40D: Baker with the 1986 hit "Sweet Love")

But yeah, the solving experience was very smooth and very enjoyable. There wasn't much in the way of debut entries—besides the four theme answers and the first reveal, only APPARATED, NOT SORRY, and KOTB were new, and only a few others had only appeared once or twice before. But that's not the only way to good, fun fill—things like IT GIRL, BRAVADO, UPSTARTS, KIRSCH, ROOMBA add flavor to the puzzle, even though they've been used before. And with so much of the fill being solid / good *at worst*, the overall impression gets even better.

To be fair, the grid is somewhat defensively designed, without too many large open areas or entries with lots of constraints. But I don't hold that against either David or the puzzle: part of being a good constructor is knowing how to make a grid that lets you fill it so that the solver can enjoy it, and I'll take a well-constructed, clean, enjoyable puzzle any day of the week.

  • I CHECK (8A: What 13-Down [KNOCK] means in poker) — Presumably this comes from casinos; unambiguous hand motions are a lot easier to detect by the eye in the sky, and thus it's a lot easier to settle debates. Still, all that aside, can we acknowledge the inherent weirdness of televised poker being a thing?
  • ABLE (61A: Beginning of the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet) — This predates the NATO alphabet (which was designed to have as little chance of confusion between letters as possible) and is also the source of "roger" (as in "roger that", meaning "message received").
  • OBI (66D: Something you might take a bow for in the theater?) — One of the rare difficult things in this puzzle; especially crossing ABO. It's not a bad clue, but it does stick out; especially for a crosswordese answer like this, I'd've preferred to see a more straightforward clue.
  • SENATE (125A: Topic of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution) — It gives the Senate the "sole Power to try all Impeachments", and notes that "when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside". 
Yours in puzzling, Christopher Adams, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Shared delusion from French / SAT 8-17-19 / Maternity option involving pool

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Constructor: Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (somewhere in the 7s, and that's with the timer going for at least 30 seconds before I even started, and with me reading some of the clues aloud to my wife, and also I've had four drinks ... so it must be easyish)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: FOLIE À DEUX (58A: Shared delusion, from the French) —
Folie à deuxshared psychosis, or shared delusional disorder is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief and sometimes hallucinations are transmitted from one individual to another. The same syndrome shared by more than two people may be called folie à troisfolie à quatrefolie en famille ("family madness"), or even folie à plusieurs ("madness of several"). (wikipedia)
• • •

Hi from NYC, where I am holed up in a hotel on the Upper West Side trying to crank out a blog post before I pass out from exhaustion. Been a long day—drive over the Beacon, then train down, then walk from Grand Central to hotel to Harlem (so a Lot of walking) and then a big meal and lots of wine and then a subway down to Chelsea for a margarita with other friends, and then another bar one block over where literally dozens of crossword people were already hanging out, and another beer, and so much loud talking (over the music) that now voice is messed up, and then a subway back to the hotel. And here I sit. Oh, right, I'm here in NYC for Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament tomorrow—probably should've led with the context. Four drinks is three drinks more than I normally have so things might be a little shaky tonight. This puzzle felt good, though maybe that's just because I was expecting to do terrible and instead I crushed it. Neither my wife nor I likes SCREENAGER *at all*—first I'm hearing it, boo (17A: Modern young person vis-à-vis video games and smartphones). It sounds like SCREAMAGER, and also it describes ... like, nothing. Look around. Everyone's a SCREENAGER. Stop.

I will take any opportunity I can to mention the fact that I was the first person to put AMY POEHLER in a crossword. This is one such opportunity. I feel like this puzzle either got real easy or real hard depending on where you come down on the FOLIE À DEUX question. Me, I got it off the "F"—leapt right to mind. The whole SE corner actually felt like a Monday or Tuesday to me. The NW (where I started) was probably the toughest to get. All the other long answers fell really quickly. Not too much crosswordese today. Just ANYA, a handy name to know. Oh, and MERL, which, I'm sure, is, in fact, a "Blackbird" but which should, by law, always have to be clued via the late great crossword constructor/editor MERL Reagle (whom you know if you saw "Wordplay," or the "Simpsons" episode about crosswords, both of which he was in). I need to sleep so I can solve puzzles tomorrow. Byyye.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Fictional raiding archaeologist / FRI 8-16-19 / Craft shop item with seemingly redundant name / Best-selling author who used awful lot of commas / Foes of Fido, stereotypically / Hit 2016 film set partly at sea

Friday, August 16, 2019

Constructor: Ori Brian

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (6:05)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LAD MAG (9A: Maxim, e.g.) —
(Journalism & Publishing) a magazine aimed at or appealing to men, focusing on fashion, gadgets, andoften featuring scantily dressed women (
• • •

The fill here is OK. Nothing I particularly love. Solid C. Fine. Acceptable. Workmanlike—emphasis on the "man" because hoo boy, this thing is comically heavy on testosterone. It's basically muscle cars and AMMO and ... yeah, with the ACNE and the BEER KEGS it's got a very fratty vibe. Also a very ogley vibe, what with the LAD MAGs and Phoebe CATES clued via her role as an iconic image of teenage-boy masturbatory fantasy. There are five ... five! ... different male-gendered words in this grid: MALE (from MALE EGO), LAD, DUDES, MEN (from MAILMEN), and MAN (from MANBUN). It feels like a parody of the fairly typical guy-skewing, exclusionary content that is not untypical of NYT crosswords (considering that they remain overwhelming constructed by male lad dudes). But I don't think the puzzle is having a laugh. I think it's just ... not thinking much about offering a a broader (!) view of the world. I liked seeing ABUELA, and, you know, Jackie JOYNER-Kersee is a cool entry, but even LARA CROFT fits right into the highly sexualized male-gaze vibe of this puzzle. Her sex appeal (particularly to young men) is a huge part of her fame. This is just a fraction of the "Sex Symbol" section of her wikipedia page:
"Publications such as PlayGameTrailers, and PlayStation Magazine listed big breasts as one of the character's most famous attributes. After interviewing players in 1998, Griffiths commented that players regularly mention Croft's breasts when discussing her. In 2008, the character was first and second on two UGO Networks lists of hottest video game characters. GameDaily placed Lara Croft number one on a similar list that same year, and PlayStation: The Official Magazine awarded her honourable mention for Game Babe of the Year." (for more, go here)
The whole "game babe" angle would not have occurred to me were she not (today) swimming in a swamp of dicks up there in the NE. It's good to be aware of the overall balance of answers in your grid, and to correct for ridiculous overrepresentation.

Thought I was going to storm this one, but got significant held up trying and failing to parse DOORDIE (47A: Critical). Also got held up trying to get ADMIT, which just wouldn't come until I had A-MIT, ugh. So that SW corner roughed me up, as did my total inability to understand the basic grammar, let alone the significance, of the clue at 32D: Helps for short people, for short (ATMS). Is "helps" a verb or noun, is "short" a matter of stature or money? I really was thinking "short" as in "small," so even with AT--, I was puzzled. Thought UM, NO was UH, NO, and was ready to accept that ATHS was just some weird short-person-helping thing I didn't know. Luckily, I came to my senses. EROS, also not really a thing I knew. I kept thinking the FILTER of INSTAGRAM FILTER must be wrong because surely this is something to do with EGOS ... but no (34D: Freudian focus). Never think of a reed having "keys," so clue on OBOE threw me. Blanked on the "C" in COB. Still felt on the easy side. Oh, yeah, and lastly, I had no idea (or forgot) that ROGET was a PETER. Had PETER (actually had TETER 'cause I thought 24D: Impertinent sort (SNIP) was a SNIT), and then had no idea. What is this "awful lot of commas"?? That is some weird colloquial phrasing. "Awful." What kind of one-off homespun nonsense is that? Odd.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Aspic-like dish / THU 8-15-19 / Filled steamed bun in Chinese cuisine / Bromantic activity / Travelocity mascot

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Medium (6:00)

THEME: REVERSE ENGINEER (55A: Take apart in order to reproduce ... or a hint to what's hidden in 17-, 23-, 34- and 46-Across) — you can find the names of famous "engineers" backwards (or "reversed") inside of the themers (bracketed numbers after each clue indicate how many letters long each engineer's name is):

Theme answers:
  • TRUE OR FALSE TEST (17A: Easy quiz to grade [5]) (Nikola Tesla)
  • MALE BONDING (23A: Bromantic activity [5]) (Alfred Nobel)
  • NO SIDE EFFECTS (34A: Drugmaker's claim [6]) (Thomas Alva Edison)
  • LUCILLE BALL (46A: TV star with a museum in Jamestown, N.Y. [4]) (Alexander Graham Bell)
Word of the Day: GELÉE (33D: Aspic-like dish) —

1a cosmetic gel gelée skin cleansers

2a jellied food an edible jelly peach gelée (
• • •

Really like this theme, and the fill is largely solid, so congrats to the constructor. The editor, however ... let's just get the embarrassing stuff out of the way right off the bat. There is no reason to clue ESTATES like that (13D: Jamaica ___, N.Y. (childhood home of Donald Trump)). Why would you do that? Why drag the most influential white supremacist in the world, the one currently torturing and terrorizing child refugees and working to end *legal* immigration for "takers" (i.e. brown people), why are you waving at him? Do you think, Will, that it's cute. That it's funny to troll "sensitive" solvers (the, uh, ones who hate racists and sexual assailants)? The word was ESTATES. It's a common word you can clue a million ways. It wasn't IVANKA, an answer you can clue just one way. It's ESTATES. ESTATES. And you decided you'd do a little nostalgic trip to the childhood home of the guy who inspired recent mass shootings with his nativist "invasion" rhetoric? Like, for funsies? If it was the constructor's clue, you should've changed it. If it was yours ... I don't even know. I don't understand your love affair with this terrible human being. Inclusion of him here is gratuitous and therefore disgusting.


This felt very easy for the most part, but hoo-boy did I get stymied by the whole RICES / OCEANAUT / GLUES / GELÉE mash-up in the NE. I had RIVES for 16A: Splits into bits (RICES), which kept the already-hard OCEANAUT very very hidden from me (11D: Sub tenant?). And though apparently GELÉE has been in the puzzle multiple times in the nearly 13 years I've been blogging, it's hardly ever had a food-related clue. Before today, just two. Here's the list of GELÉE clues:

[from xwordinfo]
So it's "Aspic-like" but also an aspic modifier in the dish "Aspic GELÉE?" Apparently lots of things are gelée and it's just a culinary term I didn't know. But the "aspic" stuff threw me off badly. So I probably lost a minute or two trying to unknot all that ricing and gluing and what not.

Five things:
  • 4D: Filled and steamed bun, in Chinese cuisine (BAO) — I cannot believe I actually made a pitch for these to appear more often in crosswords earlier this summer, and yet when one appeared, I actually totally blanked at BA-. Wanted BAP for a second. I think (Korean!!!) Bee-Bim-BOP got in my head (I eat BAO at this Asian fusion place). Ugh, so embarrassing. 
  • 35D: Eclipse (OUTRIVAL) — I just want to say how dumb I think this word is. I wanted OUTSHINE. You both try to shine, but one outshines the other. You both try to play, but one outplays the other. You both try to ... rival??? It's weird. 
  • 60A: ___ Mongolia (INNER) — I had OUTER, of course
  • 34D: Attention-getting phrase (NOTA BENE) — oof, also very hard. I was looking for something like PSSSSSST. I guess that's not a phrase. How about PSST AHEM?
  • 3D: So, humorously (THUSLY) — aw, I kinda like good old THUSLY. Don't laugh at poor THUSLY. He means well.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I laughed hard at 4A: Apt hairstyle for a gunslinger? (BANGS). I neeeeeed pictures.

P.P.S. mail of all kinds is always welcome but come on, don't be this person


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Capital whose name derives from Ojibwa word for traders / WED 8-14-19 / West Coast city with popular pier / Repeated cry from Richard III / Casserole dish in trattoria

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:39)

THEME: WOODSTOCK (63A: Iconic August 1969 music festival, four of whose performers appear in answers to 17-, 36-, 46- and 55-Across) — non-consecutive circles contain names of performers at this festival, just like the clue says ... also THE CATSKILLS (20A: Upstate New York area where 63-Across was held) is in here too:

Theme answers:
  • BAKED ZITI (Joan BAEZ) (17A: Casserole dish in a trattoria)
  • SANTA MONICA (SANTANA) (36A: West Coast city with a popular pier)
  • CLOCK TOWERS (Joe COCKER) (46A: Structure in some old town squares)
  • JOB APPLICANT (Janis JOPLIN) (55A: Interviewee, maybe)
Word of the Day: ODIC (56D: Keatsian, e.g.) —
of, relating to, or forming an ode (
• • •

Why do a tribute puzzle if you're not going to make it interesting. The non-consecutive circle gimmick? That tired thing? Why? Four random musical acts whyyyyyyyy? You know, you're not *required* to do a tribute if you don't really have any good ideas. You can just ... let it go. The world did not need a WOODSTOCK tribute puzzle, and it For Sure did not need this one. There is nothing here. This is as programmatic and pro forma as they come. Is boomers' good-vibes nostalgia, along with a surfeit of theme answers (6 long ones!), supposed to be enough to make this one palatable? I just don't know why you do a tribute puzzle if you don't have a good idea in you. "Wow, you mean the letters in SANTANA can be found inside SANTA MONICA!?!?!" Who is the solver that is exclaiming this in his head, and, more importantly, is he (still) high? Conceptually, this is a gigantic miss. A colossal "who cares?" Take THE CATSKILLS and CHOKEHOLDS and RAZE the rest.

I have nothing else to say today. I can't say anything when there's no there there. A non-theme *and* I had to endure ARB and ODIC and SINKSAPUTT!?!? The NYTXW knows it has no real competition  in the world of daily subscription puzzles, so like all monopolies it's gonna give you mediocre junk and you're just gonna take it and like it. This puzzle's reputation is running on nostalgia, and nowhere is that more evident than in this puzzle, which, ironically, can't even do nostalgia justice. ADIEU!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Deep-sea fishing nets / TUE 8-13-19 / Flight amenity that costs extra / Bill killer's position

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:14)

THEME: STAR-CROSSED (23D: With 38-Across, like Romeo and Juliet ... and like the circled words) — words that can precede "star" in common phrases "cross" one another four times in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • ROCK (1D: Alternative to rap and R&B) / CHILD-PROOF (16A: Safe for youngsters)
  • LODE (15A: Rich supply of ore) / MORNING DEW (10D: Droplets seen early in the day)
  • LEAST OF ALL (28D: Lowest in importance) / FILM (63A: Old camera need)
  • STRIKE GOLD (61A: Hit the jackpot) / LONE (57D: Solitary)
Word of the Day: KATIE Ledecky (19A: Ledecky who has been named World Swimmer of Year five times) —
Kathleen Genevieve Ledecky (/ləˈdɛki/Czech pronunciation: [ˈlɛdɛtskiː]; born March 17, 1997) is an American competitive swimmer. She has won five Olympic gold medals and 15 world championship gold medals, the most in history for a female swimmer. She is the current world record holder in the women's 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle (long course). She also holds the fastest-ever times in the women's 500-, 1000-, and 1650-yard freestyle events.
In her international debut at the 2012 London Olympic Games as a 15-year-old, Ledecky unexpectedly won the gold medal in the women's 800-metre freestyle. Four years later, she left Rio de Janeiro as the most decorated female athlete of the 2016 Olympic Games with four gold medals, one silver medal, and two world records. In total, she has won 34 medals (28 golds, 5 silvers, and 1 bronze) in major international competitions, spanning the Summer OlympicsWorld Championships, and Pan Pacific Championships. During her career, she has broken fourteen world records.
Ledecky's success has earned her Swimming World's Female World Swimmer of the Year a record-breaking five times. Ledecky was also named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2017, international female Champion of Champions by L'Équipe in 2014 and 2017, United States Olympic Committee Female Athlete of the Year in 2013, 2016 and 2017, and Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundationin 2017. Ledecky's 11 individual gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships and 15 combined individual titles at the Olympics and World Aquatics Championships are records in women's swimming. (wikipedia)
• • •

This felt so easy that I was slightly surprised that my time wasn't faster—a fast time, for sure, but twenty seconds off my recorded best. Truly felt like a Monday, and played like one. The weird off-centered cross-referenced revealer, plus a few hesitations elsewhere (one of them fairly significant), was enough to inflate my time to merely Regular Easy, as opposed to Spectacularly Easy. The theme seems pretty solid to me—nothing very twisty or wordplayish going on, but the execution is consistent. The whole thing feels very well crafted, and the fill, while light on sparkle, stays clean throughout the grid. This is a good example of a how a puzzle can feel "old" (or "old-fashioned") but still be good; the frame of reference here is decidedly not current, and much of the fill is very familiar crosswordy stuff, but the grid never drifts into crosswordese (e.g. names you never see outside crosswords), and has very little in the way of abbrs., partials, marginal foreign words, obscurities, etc. Feels like a fine Tuesday puzzle from the '90s (the clue on KATIE is the only thing that marks this thing as a 21st-century product). "Polished" is the word that comes most readily to mind as I look over this grid. I wish more constructors took the time to make *every* corner of their grids this neat.

Don't have much to say about this one. I'm not sure about the revealer—why cross STAR and CROSSED? I mean, I get it, there's a whole "cross" theme going on, but the themers cross for very specific reasons, following a pattern that the revealer does not follow itself. And since the revealer cross is wonkily off-center, it kind of makes the whole thing weird. It's an added flourish that actually adds little and creates inelegance. This is a minor criticism, but I think about these things. Maybe you could've done the cross with STAR crossing the central "S" in CROSSED, thus forming a kind of cross? No, that would be a "T," and a top-heavy one at that. STAR is probably in a fine place, all things considered. It just messes with the tidiness of the "cross" theme a little.

My slowness came almost entirely from the bottom half of LEAST OF ALL. Everything after LEAST was ???? since LEAST seemed to encompass the entire meaning of the clue, 28D: Lowest in importance. Even LEASTO- didn't help. And then when I went for help with crosses, I got a misleading clue at 51A: Flight amenity that costs extra (WIFI). That clue *needs* "usually* at the end of it, as several airlines, including Emirates and JetBlue, offer free WIFI. Even with the terminal "I," I didn't know what was up. Considered TAXI (??!). Also really couldn't see FILM, which tells you a bit about how old I am (63A: Old camera need). "Old"! How dare you! Lastly, as far as that corner is concerned, why in the world would you use Desdemona, of all people, as the clue WIFE (51D: Desdemona, to Othello). Me: "well MURDER VICTIM doesn't fit, so ...?" Of all the WIFEs in the world (so many), this paradigmatic example of domestic violence is your example? I'm in no way offended. Just baffled. [Lucy, to Desi] [Marge, to Homer] [Penelope, to Odysseus] etc etc etc. any of those would've worked. Not a strangulation among them.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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