Caesar's first stabber / TUE 1-15-19 / Women's clothing chain since 1983 / 1982 film inspired by Pong / 1701 USS Enterprise registry / Eponymous scale inventor

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday) (4:19) 

THEME: welcome comments at a bar — phrases indicating that someone else is paying for your drink:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: CHICO'S (1D: Women's clothing chain since 1983) —
Chico's is a retail women's clothing chain founded in 1983 by a three-person operation on Sanibel Island, Florida. Chico's FAS, Inc. is an American women’s clothing and accessories retailer. The company was founded by Marvin and Helene Gralnick and is headquartered in Fort Myers, Florida. Chico's FAS operates three brands: its namesake Chico's, White House Black Market and Soma. As of November 1, 2014, Chico's FAS operated 1,557 women's clothing stores in the US and Canada and sold merchandise through franchise locations in Mexico. (wikipedia)
• • •

Ouch. Very rough Tuesday. Rough as in "difficult," rough as in "ouch, I am wincing at this fill and these answers." Let's start with the theme, which is completely colloquial, and so when the phrasing isn't just right, it's grating. Feels like an alien life form has learned our language and is trying awkwardly to fit in. Actually, these aren't *that* off, but they veer sharply from the complete-sentence formal of "IT'S MY TREAT" to the where's-the-verb awkward of "DRINKS ON ME." Then there's "I'LL GET THE BILL," which ... ok one might say that, but it's not very bar-y, and like "IT'S MY TREAT" it's got that weird complete-sentence thing going on that you probably wouldn't actually here. "I GOT IT." "IT'S ON ME." "MY TREAT." I can hear these. The others have a weird formalism. Then there's the last one, YOUR MONEY'S / NO GOOD HERE, which is also the best one ... and the one total outlier, since it's the only themer that a bartender / owner would say. The other phrases are things your friends or colleagues might say. So it's all over the map as a theme. Not very tight, not very bar-specific. Also, how is the most common "welcome comment" of all not even in this grid? No ON THE HOUSE? No IT'S ON THE HOUSE? No IT IS ON THE HOUSE? The puzzle needed another answer with something drinky in it, like ROUND, and an answer with ON THE HOUSE in it. The theme as it is just clunks and lurches all over the place.

Then there's the fill / clues, which were super-hard for me, for a Tuesday. I have somehow lived almost half a century and never heard of CHICO'S. There has never been a CHICO'S anywhere I've lived. I have a sister and a mother and a wife and a daughter, so women's clothing chains aren't *entirely* unfamiliar to me, but yeah we found the giant hole in my knowledge base today, for sure. The NW was a disaster for that reason, and also because I misspelled HENNE and also because UNSNAG wtf!?!?! *And* with a "?" clue (3D: Let off the hook?). "CAN I SEE?" is a question and ["Ooh, ooh, let me look!"] is *not*, so that's fun (i.e. terrible). Don't watch that sitcom but guessed SEGAL buuuut the crosses were so weird to me that I kept taking him out when I couldn't get things to work. Pure disaster. And then when I'd go to other parts of the grid, I also couldn't get traction. Ask me about NETH, LOL, wow that is the Worst abbr., and I had NET- and still couldn't get it. My brain wouldn't allow it to exist. Up there with ICEL as Worst Euro Abbr. Wanted an *actual* wood for 28D: Wood in a fireplace, not the hilariously anticlimactic LOG. Cassius and Brutus are on my mind a lot (they figure prominently in Dante's "Inferno") but CASCA??? Totally forgot him (45A: Caesar's first stabber). Again. Just ... ugh. ATOY is horrendous fill and the clue did nothing for me (39A: "This is not ___" (warning to kids)). I have no idea what NCC even is (42A: ___-1701 (U.S.S. Enterprise registry). Seriously?? An abbr. that's cluable only in relation to an *adjacent* abbr.???? It stands for Naval Construction Contract and no, you did not know that.

Then there's ORIENTAL (11D: Avenue between Reading Railroad and Chance) ... I guess nothing says "hey, guys, sorry for BEANER" like ORIENTAL! Which is painfully dated, at best. It's a term that rubs a lot of Asian people the wrong way for reasons I Do Not Have Space or Time or Energy To Get Into. Here is an interview on NPR from ten years ago that puts things in non-inflammatory terms. My favorite part of the interview is when Linda Wertheimer asks Jeff Yang if anyone really *uses* the term ORIENTAL any more (in 2009) and he just laughs. People Still Use It To Describe Asian Things And People In This the Year of Our Lord Twenty Nineteen. ORIENTAL is not BEANER-level jarring, but I wouldn't put it in a puzzle. I mean, you can point to a Monopoly board and yup, there it is. But why are you including terms that need defense? It's common sense. You know it's a racially-loaded term, a term that has been used in racist ways, so why include it at all. Drive Around It. Take a different ... avenue, as it were. Thank you and good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

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Architect I.M. ___ / MON 1-14-19 / "___ ad Eurydice" (Greek opera) / Tippler's favorite radio station? / Peter Fonda title character

Monday, January 14, 2019

Constructor: Craig Stowe

Relative difficulty: Easy-medium

THEME: DISGUSTING— Theme answers contain words you'd say when you find something gross (highlighted by the bubbles).

Theme answers:

  • DOUBLECHIN (17A: Facial feature that could be eliminated by cosmetic surgery)
  • MAGICKINGDOM (23A: Disney World attraction)
  • JUGHEAD (36A: Friend of Archie and Betty in the comics)
  • SAYAFEWWORDS (48A: Speak briefly)
  • DISGUSTING (57A: "Gross" title for this puzzle)

Word of the Day: PECTIN (6D: Marmalade ingredient) —
Pectin (from Ancient Greekπηκτικός pēktikós, "congealed, curdled"[1]) is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot.[2][3] It is produced commercially as a white to light brown powder, mainly extracted from citrus fruits, and is used in food as a gelling agent, particularly in jams and jellies. It is also used in dessert fillings, medicines, sweets, as a stabilizer in fruit juices and milk drinks, and as a source of dietary fiber.

• • •
It's a surprise Annabel Monday! I had to look up why Rex wanted me to write this week instead of last week and was reminded that that was because last week was his donation pitch. I hope he's ok with me thanking everyone that donated! You're the ones who keep Annabel Mondays financially viable at all!!!! Also thanks to everyone else too for just looking at the days when I blog, even the ones who only come complain that I missed something Rex would've gotten, because hey you're usually 100% right and I appreciate constructive criticism. For real, I don't want to get sappy but I love doing this. I love words.

Anyway, today's puzzle left me with...mixed feelings? I didn't even know whether to call it easy or medium, because while there weren't any quadrants that left me staring blankly at the screen for ages, it took me way more go-throughs and wrong guesses than it usually takes to really get into the groove. I found myself scratching my head at vague clues like "__ put it another way..." and "Come to __" (I was so sure that was MAMA!) and "Metropolitan ___." I guess the puzzle suffered from Blank Overload a little bit. The cluing for ESTA also hit one of my pet peeves; just say the language you're referring to, you don't need to name a region or city to try and be clever, honestly. But I did like parts of the setup, like ABCS on top of SINE. And although I had issues with some clues there were some clues I really liked--the one for WINO was funny! One time my local radio station changed their name to WOMB for a day as a prank, I think it was for Mother's Day? It was funny.

The theme was, y'know, a Monday theme. I don't like when letters are circled but you're not going to really do anything with them--write a phrase, do some unscrambling, what have you--but it did help me with SAY A FEW WORDS and MAGIC KINGDOM (I was so sure the latter was going to be one of the rides), and I've always had sort of a weakness for gross stuff. The word choices kind of reminded me of Garbage Pail Kids, which I never had but always eagerly pored over the ads for in my comic books. I guess I'm a grown-up now and can buy them for myself, but they don't hold quite the same appeal as they did when I was ten and thought anything slimy was the coolest thing on earth.
Related image
this is actually the only Garbage Pail Kid I could find on Google Images that didn't make me a little nauseous

  • JUGHEAD (36A: Friend of Archie and Betty in the comics) — Speaking of things I loved when I was ten I used to absolutely devour Archie comics! I feel like I've discussed this before on this blog but I never really "got" Jughead until I became a teenager and truly discovered the appeal of food and naps. I can't find it now, but there was this comic where Jughead discovered a crawlspace and made it into a little secret hideaway where he could stash snacks and hide out from his responsibilities to take naps in privacy, and I really admire that. I think we all deserve secret nap rooms.
  • ELLE (41A: Fashion monthly founded in France) — Hey! See? This is how I would clue a word that also means something in a foreign language! Not just "Her, in Paris." >:P 
  • SETA (31A: ___ good example) — I had thought for sure this looked familiar, like I had seen it as a word in other contexts, but when I did some digging I found out it meant "in biology...any of a number of different bristle- or hair-like structures on living organisms," according to Wikipedia. Apparently geckos have them on the pads of their feet to keep them sticky. So I guess that's a bonus Word Of The Day because I already picked out the first Word of the Day.
  • OGRE (55D: Menacing fairy tale figure) — Actually these days I think most people's first thoughts when they think of ogres are a little more...layered. (Unrelated to Shrek, but the same goes for orcs, because I feel like 99% of my friends are playing half-orcs in at least one Dungeons and Dragons campaign.)
Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired college student. For one more semester. Gulp.

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