Robinhood competitor / FRI 2-26-21 / Fencing sport with bamboo swords / Flavoring of Cedilla liqueur / and Ole stock characters in Upper Midwest jokes / Equatorial plantation crop / Bring aboard sci-fi style / Follower of McCarthy

Friday, February 26, 2021

Constructor: Chuck Deodene

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (???!) (no idea, solved it on ZOOM whilst chatting)


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: GIO Ponti (19A: Italian architect Ponti) —

Superleggera chair
Giovanni "Gio" Ponti (18 November 1891 – 16 September 1979) was an Italian architect, industrial designer, furniture designer, artist, teacher, writer and publisher.

During his career, which spanned six decades, Ponti built more than a hundred buildings in Italy and in the rest of the world. He designed a considerable number of decorative art and design objects as well as furniture. Thanks to the magazine Domus, which he founded in 1928 and directed almost all his life, and thanks to his active participation in exhibitions such as the Milan Triennial, he was also an enthusiastic advocate of an Italian-style art of living and a major player in the renewal of Italian design after the Second World War. From 1936 to 1961, he taught at the Milan Polytechnic School and trained several generations of designers. Ponti also contributed to the creation in 1954 of one of the most important design awards: the Compasso d'Oro prize. Ponti died on 16 September 1979.

His most famous works are the Pirelli Tower, built from 1956 to 1960 in Milan in collaboration with the engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, the Villa Planchart in Caracas and the Superleggera chair, produced by Cassina in 1957. (wikipedia)

• • •

Hello! It's time for my monthly Zoom-solve with my friend and fellow central New Yorker, crossword constructor Rachel Fabi. Normally we'd do it on the 23rd, but ... you know, circumstances, so here we are, solving a Friday puzzle on the 26th. 


Our overall take was: very nice central stack, decent long Downs, rough everywhere else. Which seemed upside-down, as pulling off a clean 15 stack seems like it would be more challenging than simply filling a relatively small and highly sequestered corner, but, yeah, none of the corners was very good, and one (the NE) was just baffling. You can watch the video and see us solve it in real time, but if you're not so inclined, I can tell you there is a good chunk of time where I just keep changing IMPASTO (!?!?!) to IMPASSE over and over and over again. The IMPASTO / TAW (!?!?!?!?!) cross is extremely likely to cause some subset of solvers to just stare at the grid in befuddlement. I don't think IMPASTO or TAW is particularly good on its own, but I *know* they're awful when they team up to cross at that "T." It's been 60 years since anyone could tell you the different marble types—since anyone played marbles at all, honestly—so what in the hell is that clue even doing? IMPASSE / SAW / ERS ... why did the puzzle not go this direction? I'm all for the road less traveled, but sometimes you don't travel down a road because it's full of potholes or leads off a cliff. It's true that TO SEE is already in the grid, and maybe you don't want SAW and SEE in the same grid, but. you can clue SAW as a noun, a bunch of ways, so that ... really shouldn't be a problem. Honestly, on every level, IMPASTO / TAW is such a terrible choice. To make things worse, someone's gone and parked a GREEN CAR up in that corner as well. I've only just begun to accept ECOCAR, so there is no way I'm accepting GREEN CAR ... unless the car is actually painted GREEN or belongs to singer Al GREEN. The other corners are merely mediocre and mildly tiresome, but that NE corner has me just shaking my head.


But the middle part, as I say, is wonderful, with PUT A FACE TO A NAME occupying its rightful place of glory at center stage (38A: Meet somebody you've heard lots about). This puzzle played hard for me, with a bunch of names I just didn't know (GIO, SVEN??) and cluing I couldn't make sense of very readily. There are many more little details in the video. Enjoy! Or don't! See you tomorrow!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Architect of original Sisyphean task / THU 2-25-21 / Collaborator on 1968's Two Virgins familiarly / Garment whose name comes from Malay for sheath / Surname of two former Chicago mayors / Vintage diner fixture in brief / Psyche's mate in Greek mythology

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Constructor: Dylan Schiff

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: DOUBLE DOWN (32D: Blackjack bet ... or a hint to applying the five circled regions in this puzzle) — wow, "applying" is a weird word here; you just "Double" the circled squares in the long "Down" answers to get your actual answers:

Theme answers:
  • HANGING INDENT (3D: Feature of some bibliographic citations)
  • COVER VERSION (36D: Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," for example)
  • HEART MURMUR (6D: Stethoscope detection)
  • BARBARA BUSH (41D: Former first and second lady)
  • STEAK TARTARE (10D: Dish often topped with raw egg yolk)
Word of the Day: Bill AYERS (22A: Bill ___, noted Vietnam War-era activist) —

William Charles Ayers (/ɛərz/; born December 26, 1944) is an American elementary education theorist. During the 1960s, Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground that opposed US involvement in the Vietnam War. He is known for his 1960s radical activism and his later work in education reform, curriculum and instruction.

In 1969, Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, a self-described communist revolutionary group that sought to overthrow imperialism. The Weather Underground conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings (including police stations, the United States Capitol, and the Pentagon) during the 1960s and 1970s in response to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Ayers is a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, formerly holding the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar.[ During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, a controversy arose over his contacts with then-candidate Barack Obama. He is married to lawyer and Clinical Law Professor Bernardine Dohrn, who was also a leader in the Weather Underground.

Also

William Oscar Ayers (September 27, 1919 – September 24, 1980) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher from Newnan, Georgia. He played for the New York Giants during the 1947 season. (wikipedia)


• • •

Interesting concept, but very unevenly developed, and with a high level of thematic density that causes the grid to groan terribly under the pressure. My first thought with the theme was "Why three letters?" and "Why *these* letters?" When the answer ended up being "no reason, totally arbitrary" to both, things got less interesting, and when the final (moving west to east) three themers all ended up having their three letters merely repeated inside of one word instead of strung across two (which is the much much the more interesting / elegant way to do things), well, that was pretty deflating. The revealer felt like kind of an afterthought at that point—not surprising or clever enough to rescue the ho-hum theme execution. At least HANGING INDENT was tough to work out, its three letters doubled across two words and masked by not being doubled in sound. COVER VERSION was likewise an interesting choice here—it's the same sound doubled, but each VER is in a separate word, so the doubleness doesn't announce itself so strongly, and you probably need to get crosses to work it out. Whereas ... MURMUR and BARBARA and TARTARE were all painfully simple to discover because the repeats are such distinctive and obvious parts of these single words/names (esp. MURMUR, the cheapest repeat of them all, and TARTARE, a close second). There's just nothing creative about those last three themers. You'd think a three-letter repeat could've yielded more interesting answers, where the repetition was more disguised and harder to suss out. 


The fill was especially weak today. It was so bad early on that I stopped to take a photo:


Note: I took the photo *before* filling in OCTANT (more unloveliness). ATHOS is an age-old repeater, but if your fill around it is fresh and clean, an age-old repeater can be highly tolerable. And yet ... today ... we got from ATHOS straight into a truly ugly abbr. (ATTS) (I like this better clued as a QB stat, but I like it best when it's not in my grid at all), and then TROU, ugh, a "word" that baffles so many solvers (esp. younger solvers) every time it appears because no one says it except maybe in some olde-tymey jokey way; I have never heard it except in the phrase "drop trou" (i.e. "pull your pants down"), which I have heard only in movies??? Not sure. And yet I see it in crosswords All The Time (or ... far too regularly for my taste). So, ATHOS ATTS TROU. That's your opening gambit. And then TONTO!? LOL, nice save there, I guess, with the clue, but the thing about TONTO, however you clue it, is that people still see the Lone Ranger's sidekick, which evokes all the racial unpleasantness your new clue is trying to avoid. And then there's OCTANT! ATHOS ATTS TROU TONTO OCTANT. Quite a series. At that point, I truly wanted out. And things don't get much better: REWON and REUSE. The vintage crosswordese horror that is ONERS. Some relatively harmless classics like AGORA, ALERO, and the OGEES. Pretty crusty all over. Some obvious Scrabble-f***ing in the NE and SW corners, but those corners are so cut off that there's no way the Q and J and K can really compromise anything. They're actually handled fairly neatly.


The names might prove slightly troubling today, esp. since ALLIE (a toughie) and DALEY cross. DALEY is such a major name in politics that I assume he'll take care of any problems with ALLIE, but still, any letter can cause trouble when you're dealing with an uncommon name like ALLIE, which I couldn't remember at all (Holden, Phoebe ... that's it, that's all I got in the Catcher memory bank). I know AYERS only from all the Obama-era "controversy." AYERS has more commonly been clued as AYERS Rock (Australia), but that's a colonialist term no longer in use. It's officially ULURU now. Put that in your grid and smoke it (seriously, ULURU deserves grid time). 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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