Cyclical paradox discussed in "Gödel, Escher, Bach" / MON 4-12-21 / Sports metaphor used to describe esoteric knowledge / Hypothetical musings / Modern pet name

Monday, April 12, 2021

Constructor: Aimee Lucido and Ella Dershowitz

Relative difficulty: Challenging (LOL, slow Tuesday time for me)


THEME: INSIDE BASEBALL (62A: Sports metaphor used to describe esoteric knowledge ... with a hint to the circled letters) — circled letters contain the names for single members of three completely random MLB teams:

Theme answers:
  • BREAKFAST ROLLS (16A: Cinnamon buns and such)
  • STRANGE LOOP (29A: Cyclical paradox discussed in "Gödel, Escher, Bach")
  • "THE WEST WING" (48A: Onetime TV political drama set in Washington)
Word of the Day: STRANGE LOOP (29A) —

strange loop is a cyclic structure that goes through several levels in a  hierarchical system. It arises when, by moving only upwards or downwards through the system, one finds oneself back where one started. Strange loops may involve self-reference and paradox. The concept of a strange loop was proposed and extensively discussed by Douglas Hofstadter in Gödel, Escher, Bach, and is further elaborated in Hofstadter's book I Am a Strange Loop, published in 2007.

tangled hierarchy is a hierarchical consciousness system in which a strange loop appears. (wikipedia)

• • •

So many problems today. Let's start with the stuff that's intrinsically wrong, and then we can move on to the stuff that's not really the puzzle's fault. The theme just doesn't work. I say this as a fairly serious baseball fan. Multiple-podcast-listening serious. Watch-my-Tigers-even-though-they're-awful serious. 43-years-of-fandom serious. First, INSIDE BASEBALL means what it says; it doesn't mean BASEBALL INSIDE. Second, what is "inside" is not ... "baseball." It is three totally arbitrary team names, and not even team names, but the name that you would call a single player on that team. So "a single baseball player inside" is what is happening. And the teams involved have nothing in common except that they're all in the American League, which ... I don't think is relevant to how the theme works. No MET, no RED, no idea why. So the group isn't even tight. The themer set is just way, way too loose an expression of the revealer phrase. Further ... BREAKFAST ROLLS are not a category that exists in my head, and since only one type of "roll" was in the clue, I thought the answer was going to be way broader. Had BREAKFAST and then ... nothing. FOODS? Who knows. Also STRANGE LOOP, LOL, what. Nothing about the answer, nothing about the clue, Nothing About The Wikipedia Definition Posted Above has me any closer to understanding what that is. I mean, BRANGELINA is sitting right there and you just leave it? So what if it's not the same length as "THE WEST WING," find a new themer with RED or MET in it ... something. STRANGE LOOP is bizarro, and it's especially bizarro *on a Monday*. Wow. OK.


This was definitely not a Monday puzzle. My time said more T or even W. The weird themer set alone should've bumped it to Tuesday. Are we still all required to have a Ph.D. in Yale trivia? It's exhausting. I have no idea what the damn BULLDOG's name is (11D: Yale's Handsome Dan mascot, for one). I guess I knew that was their team name / mascot, but ugh. I had BU-L--- and no idea. Wrote in BUILDER. Dan the BUILDER, Bob's incompetent brother. A [Slight coloring] is a TINGE, but a TINT is just a ... coloring? Totally forgot that right-wing goon Mike ROWE's name (54A: Mike of TV's "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It"). For a reason. Ugh. All I could come up with was REES. Had GET TO IT before GET ON IT (42D: "Now, work!"). Had AL- crossing R-NT at the end and honestly just stared for a second or two before realizing it was ALE / RENT. I go to bars to drink cocktails, so having [Bar serving] be both BEER *and* ALE today was ... let's say, not on my wavelength. The "?" on RENT just made no sense to me (39D: Figure in home economics?). Fine clue, but again, not Monday stuff. Loved WHAT-IFS, but again, next to GETONIT, not Mondayish. Now, I typo'd IMP somehow, and it went in as MIP, so the fact that it took me a seeming eternity to pick up the revealer phrase, that's totally on me. In fact, you can put this entire second paragraph on me. But the busted / tenuous nature of the theme, that's not my fault. If you're gonna do baseball themes, do them well. I love crosswords. I love baseball. This puzzle ... I wish I loved more. Really hate when Mondays are off. They usually hit more than they miss.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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1981 hit Genesis album whose name resembles a rhyme scheme / SUN 4-11-21 / Italian poet Cavalcanti who influenced Dante / Birkin stock / Oscar-winning lyricist Washington / Lower-cost option on a popular rideshare app / Waldorf the so-called Queen B or Gossip Girl / Iraqi city on the Tigris

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Constructor: Dick Shlakman and Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: "Merger Mania" — familiar phrases are clued as if they were "mergers" between two companies, the first word in the phrase being a thing that one company makes, and the second word being something the other company makes. Wackiness all around:

Theme answers:
  • LIFE COACHES (23A: Result of a merger between Quaker Oats and Greyhound?)
  • SINGLES BARS (46A: Result of a merger between Kraft and Hershey's?)
  • DRIVE NUTS (51A: Result of a merger between Google and Planters?)
  • TROUBLESHOOTERS (68A: Result of a merger between Hasbro and Nikon?)
  • TIDE POOLS (91A: Result of a merger between Procter & Gamble and Jacuzzi?)
  • SPAM FILTERS (94A: Result of a merger between Hormel and Instagram?)
  • POLO GROUNDS (120A: Result of a merger between Ralph Lauren and Starbucks?)
Word of the Day: JABOUKIE Young-White (13D: ___ Young-White, comedian/correspondent for "The Daily Show") —
Jaboukie Young-White (born 1994) is an American stand-up comedian and writer. [...] In 2017, he was featured on Rolling Stone's "25 Under 25: Meet the Young Musicians, Actors, Activists Changing the World" list. The following year, he was included in Vulture's "20 Comedians You Should and Will Know" list. In 2020, Young-White was placed on BET's "Future 40" list, which is a list of "40 of the most inspiring and innovative vanguards who are redefining what it means to be unapologetically young, gifted & black". Since 2017, he has performed stand-up twice on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. // As of 2018, he writes for the Netflix television shows Big Mouth and American Vandal. In October of that year, he was hired as a correspondent on The Daily Show; he made his first appearance opposite Trevor Noah on October 11, 2018.
• • •

Typical Sunday, i.e. long, full of corny humor, and decidedly not for me. The concept seems decent in theory, maybe, but in practice it's ragged and groan-some. Some of the answer parts are brands (LIFE cereal), some are generic words for a type of product (NUTS), some are features of a product (Instagram FILTERS) ... I mean, what the hell is up with GROUNDS? Starbucks doesn't sell GROUNDS. It sells ground coffee, but that ... that's not GROUNDS. GROUNDS are what are *left over* after you have made the coffee.  SHOOTERS and COACHES aren't even words people really use. It's all so sub-dadjoke. And then the cluing was clearly toughened up above normal, with the huge corners (NE, SW) making the puzzle feel Friday-Saturdayish at times, which, in a big puzzle where the theme is weak, just makes an unpleasant experience longer, ergo worse. Is Jacuzzi known for making POOLS? Whirlpools, yeah, but if they're in the general pool business, that news got by me. This one just clunks and SPUTTERs all over the place. 


The NE section was by far the toughest for me. JABOUKIE is a great name, but not anyone I've ever heard of (I stopped watching "The Daily Show" and *all* late-night comedy after the Last Guy got elected, as none of it was funny any more, and it all just seemed impotent and sad). And if you don't know JABOUKIE, wow is that a tough name to get a handle on. Thank god for CELESTE Ng! Without her, the only thing I'd've had in that entire corner that I was at all certain about was OBI (11D: Kimono accessory). I had UHOH for OHNO (17D: "Oops!"), and TEAM instead of RACE (because I didn't read the RELAY / RACE clue correctly) (30A: With 18-Down, what has four legs and sprints?) (I was counting human legs ... maybe ... and not thinking of "legs" as race segments). Wanted STEM but wasn't sure at 19D: Part of a musical note). Wasn't sure what letters preceded Gerald R. Ford and Ronald Reagan (34A: U.S.S.). Total mess up there. Though it has the same dimensions, the SW ended up being a lot easier. I did not know a PEASANT did the "lord's work" (92D). I had no idea what Birkin was (still don't) (109D: Birkin stock?). Looks like they are a line of tote BAGS by Hermès. Huh. OK. "Stop your foolishness outside!" is one of the most awkward imagined clue phrases I've ever seen (123A: "GET IN HERE"). I can't imagine those words coming out of anyone's mouth in any context. The attempt to get cutesy with identical sequential cluing at 69- and 70-Down (both [A head]) is awful, as the indefinite article ruins the clue when it's applied to LOO. You just never use "A" like that in cluing. Head = LOO. The "A" is superfluous garbage.


I know that some birds are migrating birds, but I didn't know you referred to them as MIGRANTs (!?) (72A: Bird like the Canada goose or arctic tern). Had SAILS before MASTS (72D: Clipper parts). Had MEET and GEO before MESH and ISO (55D: Come together / 66A: Prefix with thermal) (note: MEET and GEO are both obviously better answers). DEM before REP at 49D: A.O.C., e.g. Just slog slog slog. The only real bright spot was IDA B. WELLS (83D: Co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P.) and the aforementioned CELESTE Ng, my personal puzzle savior today. On to the next. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Reposting this for the Sunday crowd!


"These Puzzles Fund Abortion" is a pack of 14 puzzles edited by Rachel Fabi and featuring an all-star list of constructors to benefit the Baltimore Abortion Fund (BAF). BAF provides financial assistance to people who live in or travel to Maryland for abortion care. The puzzles are currently available for preorder through a donation to BAF here. Donors who choose to donate anonymously can forward their receipt to the email address listed on the fundraiser page in order to receive the puzzles (they will not be sent automatically).   

The constructor slate really is top-notch (Erik Agard! Robyn Weintraub!), and having been a test-solver, I can say that the puzzle quality is really quite high—far more polished and entertaining than your average daily crossword. Do yourself and others a favor and go get these puzzles. The fundraising goal for this puzzle collection has gone from $5000 to $10,000 to now $20,000. I expect supporters to crash right through that $20,000 mark by Monday morning. Please help make that happen. And if you could spread the word, that would be great. Thank you. 

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