"___ a lot!" (Dracula's expression of gratitude?) / WED 10-5-22 / Ancestor of a termite, surprisingly / "Silent" prez

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Constructor: Jason Reich

Relative difficulty:  Medium? I "check puzzle"-ed once (8:48)



THEME: We are adding an O to some phrases for absolutely no reason in the entire world!!!!!

Theme answers:
  • Memoirs of a dance contest champion?-- LIFE AND LIMBO
  • Brushing, flossing, and avoiding sugar?-- FINE TOOTH COMBO
  • Disney classic without any extra features?-- JUST PLAIN DUMBO
  • What Mary might have had if she were into Italian sports cars?-- A LITTLE LAMBO

Word of the Day: HEDY (Actress / inventor Lamarr) —
At the beginning of World War II, she and avant-garde composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although the U.S. Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi. This work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
• • •

Hey besties! It's Malaika, here to hang out on a rainy, fall Malaika MWednesday, and before we dive in I would like to briefly advertise the Boswords fall themeless league. Every Monday for eight weeks, a new themeless puzzle is released. One of them is written by me, but I'm not allowed to say which one :) We've already released the first puzzle, but there's still time to join and solve and compete with us!


Okay, onwards to our regularly scheduled programming. This puzzle took me under ten minutes to solve. I listened to this song (it starts at 1:38) three times during the solve. I got trapped at the top: I refused to believe the Times would allow such an egregious dupe in ARE NOT / ARE SO, and I had "said no" rather than TOLD NO, and "Doom" rather than THEM (I don't watch old movies or horror movies). So I hit the trusty "check puzzle" button and that helped me see where I went wrong.

I think some people consider that to be a DNF, or a "did not finish" but that kind of confuses me... I did finish the puzzle! And, to be clear, there are some puzzles that I simply do not finish. Natan's on Saturday is an example; it was too hard-- I got a few entries, and then stopped solving. I did not reveal the grid, or look anything up. I just put it down and never came back. To me, that's a DNF. But maybe I am just not clear on the jargon.

Anywayyyyyy... themes like this are doomed from the start on the "Impress Malaika" front because I simply do not think that a phrase can be made funny by adding a letter. I am a lost cause. I have solved many puzzles and these never make me laugh. The only hope is to find a good revealer, like ATTACHE, to make me say "Okay, cool, yeah." When there is no revealer, I shake my fist at the sky and say "What was the point of all of this???"


On top of that, there were no long answers that were non-theme (although FAIL UP was nice). And some weird stuff like RIEN and LIC and OLAS and TRA and ACT I and NHL FAN and SMALL B and NON US. I suppose I am, in a word, underwhelmed! What about y'all? Whelmed? Overwhelmed? Let me know in the comments.


Bullets:
  • [Stars that are blowing up?] for NOVAE — I don't like how there are some plural words (like NOVAE / novas) where both answers are acceptable and the clue doesn't give us any hint to the final letter. It's the same vibe as [That, in Spanish] and you don't know if it's "eso" or "esa." 
  • [Inc. or Ms.] for MAG — This took me a sec because I expected titles to be stylized in some way (italics or quotes)
  • San Luis OBISPO — I filled this in with no crossings and I have no idea why. Why do I know this?? Is this in crosswords? I don't even know what this is! A city, presumably? But where? Who put this info into my brain???
  • [Champagne name] for MOET — Me and my sister were discussing whether we could tell champagne from Prosecco in a blind taste test. She thinks we both could, I think that she could but I couldn't. We both agree that we don't prefer one to the other.

xoxo Malaika

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John who wrote How Does a Poem Mean / TUE 10-4-22 / Walking Dead actress Lauren / Great pope between Sixtus III and Hilarius / Anglican bishop's headwear

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Constructor: Joe Deeney

Relative difficulty: Medium (parts played easy, parts played hard, not much in-between)


THEME: EYES ON THE PRIZE (57A: "Stay focused" ... or a punny description of the placement of this puzzle's circled letters) — circled "I"s sit "on" top (at either end) of a word meaning "prize"

Theme answers:
  • ASTROPHYSICIST (15A: Neil deGrasse Tyson, for one)
  • PLAYED CUPID (27A: Set up a couple on a blind date, say)
  • ZOOMED ALONG (43A: Kept moving quickly)
  • EYES ON THE PRIZE
Word of the Day: John CIARDI (55A: John who wrote "How Does a Poem Mean?") —

John Anthony Ciardi (/ˈɑːrdi/ CHAR-deeItalian: [ˈtʃardi]; June 24, 1916 – March 30, 1986) was an American poet, translator, and etymologist. While primarily known as a poet and translator of Dante's Divine Comedy, he also wrote several volumes of children's poetry, pursued etymology, contributed to the Saturday Review as a columnist and long-time poetry editor, directed the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont, and recorded commentaries for National Public Radio.

In 1959, Ciardi published a book on how to read, write, and teach poetry, How Does a Poem Mean?, which has proven to be among the most-used books of its kind. At the peak of his popularity in the early 1960s, Ciardi also had a network television program on CBS, Accent. Ciardi's impact on poetry is perhaps best measured through the younger poets whom he influenced as a teacher and as editor of the Saturday Review. (wikipedia)

• • •

This was strange. First, it's undersized (14x15), so if it seemed like you finished more quickly than usual today, there's one reason. I, however, did not finish appreciably faster than usual, despite the fact that the puzzle was just giving "I"s away. Totally unknown-to-me COHAN (14A: "The Walking Dead" actress Lauren) crossing not-your-typical-Tuesday-fare PHILIPPIC (9D: Damning verbal attack) next to not-too-familiar-to-me CIGNA (25D: Big name in insurance) slowed me down enough that my overall experience actually felt like a toughish Tuesday, maybe even Wednesday. Then there's the theme, which actually took me a while to see. I finished and ... nothing. I wonder if the app somehow gives you more visual indication of how the theme works. Once I saw it, it was obvious, but it's definitely more of a later-week theme, conceptually. And while it did give me a definite "aha" moment when I finally saw how it worked, that "aha" did not end up feeling worth the journey. The grid felt creaky and musty right from the jump, with IPASS SHE'S MITRE and LEOI setting a tone and then CRU ENS ILE ESO EDSEL ... it just felt considerably less fresh and clean than a puzzle with this little theme material should feel. Now maybe we can blame the "I"s, which must have brought considerable pressure to bear on this grid; a stray "I" here and there may not seem like it should complicate matters, but every letter you fix in place makes the grid that much harder to work out cleanly. Every "I" really narrows the possibilities for both the Down and Across it appears in. The "I"s also explain why we get the bygone names we get, specifically the "I"-ending YANNI and CIARDI (apologies to YANNI, who is not actually "bygone," but I haven't seen a reference to YANNI outside of crosswords in thirty years, since roughly the time of the whole Acropolis concert thing). By the time I finished with that SE corner, with its CIARDI ETAS ADZES ESE, I was done. *I* CONCEDE. *I* PASS. AYE ay ay! Hook up my *I*V LINE and get me my *I*PAD ... the "I"s have it today, and by "it" I mean "a swarmy, exhausting quality." The wordplay involved in the revealer phrase is not without cleverness, but in the end, I don't think just setting "I"s on top of words meaning "prize" was worth it. Not in this incarnation, anyway.


[a YANNI update]

I'm stunned that the puzzle thinks CIARDI is a Tuesday answer. I teach Inferno regularly, so I know the guy's name (he was a prominent translator of Dante), but yeesh and wow he was never what you'd call a household name and I can't believe very many people under 60 would have any clue who he is. And yet it's not the first time he's appeared in the NYTXW, by a longshot—this is the 6th appearance in the Shortz era, but the first time he's appeared earlier than *Thursday*. He was probably a reasonably well-known public intellectual in the mid-20th century, someone whom college-educated, northeastern NPR listeners might know. But now, 50 years later, I dunno. If you need him on Saturday or even Sunday, I guess, but Tuesday? 


PLAYED CUPID is the weakest of the themers simply because "CUP" isn't broken across words in its answer. Probably very, very hard to split up "CUP," but still, these "hidden word" themes are more elegant when every word in the theme answers touches every "hidden word" somehow. Exception can be made for the final theme answer, since it's already doing double duty (as a revealer *and* a theme answer). But "CUP" just seems sad. Or, rather, PLAYED seems sad. Sitting there. Looking on. With no PRIZE of its own to hold.  Theme is executed best with ZOOMED ALONG—the PRIZE is broken across both words in the phrase, and the phrase itself is vibrant and fun. There are other good answers here as well. PLAYED CUPID is wonderful as a standalone answer, as is UP TO SPEED. And I actually like the word PHILIPPIC. It just startled me to see it on a Tuesday. PHILIPPIC: Good phil! Weird day to see it. This puzzle gets high marks for imagination, but falters in the execution.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Initialisms aren't always familiar to everyone, so to whom it may concern: RPGS = role-playing games (34A: Dungeons & Dragons and Diablo, in brief)

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