"Star Wars" princess / TUES 10-25-21 / Shrek's companion in "Shrek" / Spike or Gypsy Rose / Connery who played 007 seven times

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Hi, everyone, it’s Clare for the last Tuesday of October! Happy fall — finally — or, as my sister has been trying to get me to say: Happy spooky season! I’ve been trying to get into the season (my favorite time of the year) by baking pies and reading some ~spooky~ books like “Rebecca,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” and, coincidentally, “Frankenstein,” all of which I loved. The weather has also helped — we just had a massive rainstorm in Northern California (five and half inches of rain!), which was desperately needed but which uprooted trees and caused flooding, giving everything an otherworldly vibe. 


Anywho, on to the puzzle! 

Constructor: Michael Schlossberg

Relative difficulty: Fairly easy
THEME: FRANKENSTEIN (58A: Doctor whose shopping list might include 20-, 34- and 42- Across?) — Each theme answer is something Dr. Frankenstein might use to make his monster. 

Theme answers:
  • NUTS AND BOLTS (20A: Basic, practical details
  • AN ARM AND A LEG (34A: What expensive things cost
  • LIGHTNING ROD (42A: Magnet for criticism
Word of the Day: BEE BALM (7D: Flowering plant also known as horsemint) —
Bee Balm (also commonly known by its scientific name, Monard, or bergamot, horsemint, and owego tea. It is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. The plant is endemic to North America. The genus was named for the Spanish botanist Nicolás Monardes, who wrote a book in 1574 describing plants of the New World. (Wiki)

• • •

I found the theme quite fun and amusing. It was also certainly timely with Halloween coming up this weekend. For some reason, I had a hard time getting going at the top of the puzzle, so I actually solved this puzzle from bottom-to-top in a sort of piecemeal approach. That meant I got FRANKENSTEIN before I got any of the theme answers, which took a bit of the huzzah out of the reveal for me. Still, I appreciated the clever theme. 

The rest of the puzzle was a different story. It felt like the puzzle was made up of mostly three- and four-letter words that were crosswordese or just plain annoying (III, anyone?). For example… CHEF, HOGS, ALB, BLAB, ENGRTGIF, BBC, ARS, LIE, EEO, OHO, PLO, ALDO (why do so many end in O?!). I’ve also never heard of EGO SURFS (18A: Looks for web content about oneself) before, and did we really need plural AMANAS (1D)? I will always hate words like E-CHECK (65A), where there’s just an “e” thrown in front of a word to make it “virtual.” Then, having it cross SNERT (56D: Hägar the Horrible's dog) was particularly irksome for me, because I wasn’t familiar with it. 

I suppose some of the long downs were nice enough (BEGONIA, DEMURE, ELICIT, LAOTSE)? But that’s about it! 

Misc.:
  • I remember reading FRANKENSTEIN for the first time in my 11th grade English class and being very surprised by the fact that Frankenstein is the name of the doctor — not the name of the monster. 
  • OREOs (16A: Treat with a 71%-to-29% cookie-to-cream ratio) are pretty good, but the Double Stuf OREOs — even though they apparently only have 1.86 times the cream of a regular OREO — are most definitely the best. 
  • Whenever I think of SEERS (28A: Crystal ball gazers, e.g.), I can only think of Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter and all of her shenanigans. Guess this is a perfect season for a Harry Potter movie marathon! 
  • Did I finally lose the battle I’ve been fighting with my sister over whether it’s called bubble tea or BOBA (5D: Word before tea or Fett)? Maybe you can all be the judge. I still proclaim that it’s called bubble tea and will die on this hill, while she claims that everyone instead calls it BOBA (tea). (We’ve since learned that it’s mainly called BOBA on the West Coast, where she went to school, and bubble tea on the East Coast, where I attended.) 
And that’s all! Hope everyone has a spooktacular Halloween and a great November! 

Signed, Clare Carroll, a Hocus Pocus devotee

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It's hoisted on a brig in high winds / MON 10-25-21 / the Jet Walker Basketball Hall of Famer / World of ___ Wong / Former CNN anchor with true-crime series on the Investigation Discovery channel / Obsolescent TV hookup / Classic Nintendo character named after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife / Hoppy quaff in brief / Long-haired pot-smoking 1960s stereotype

Monday, October 25, 2021

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Challenging (***for a Monday***)


THEME: EASY PEASY (64A: So simple ... like 17-, 24-, 40- and 52-Across?) — theme answers are all two words, first word starting "P," second word starting "Z":

Theme answers:
  • PAULA ZAHN (17A: Former CNN anchor with a true-crime series on the Investigation Discovery channel)
  • PETTING ZOOS (24A: Places where kids can feed goats and sheep) (how was this not "... where kids can feed kids"???)
  • PRINCESS ZELDA (40A: Classic Nintendo character named after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife)
  • POLISH ZLOTY (52A: Warsaw currency)
Word of the Day:
CHET (the Jet) Walker, Basketball Hall-of-Famer (58A) —

Chester Walker (born February 22, 1940) is an American former professional basketball player.

Born in Bethlehem, Mississippi, Walker played high school basketball for the Benton Harbor High School boys basketball team. He graduated from Bradley University in 1962 as the school's all-time leading scorer. The Bradley Braves won the NIT Championship in 1957 and 1960. Walker's speed and agility on the court earned him the nickname "Chet the Jet." He probably is best remembered as a starting forward on the 1966–67 Philadelphia 76ers team, which some consider the best NBA team of all time. [...] 

A seven-time participant in the NBA All-Star Game, Walker averaged over 19 points and eight rebounds a game for the 1966–67 76ers, who won 68 games and lost just 13—the best record in NBA history at the time. [...] On February 24, 2012 (two days after Walker's 72nd birthday) it was announced that Chet Walker was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame by the veterans committee. He was formally inducted into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 7, 2012. (wikipedia)
• • •

There's nothing particularly "easy" about this theme, or the themers themselves, so I don't really get it, but I guess the idea is that it's Monday, and a Monday puzzle is the easiest puzzle of the week (usually), so ... close enough. That would be fine, except that this puzzle is manifestly tougher than most Mondays. Monday puzzles don't usually contain things / people I've never heard of before, and there are several such answers today, including CHET Walker (a Friday / Saturday answer, maybe) and TRYSAIL, which I just keep laughing at every time I look at it. What? What in the world is a TRYSAIL? Seems like even for nautical terminology, that's ... not a commonly known thing. Hasn't appeared in a NYTXW grid for 24 years, and *that* was on a Saturday, so ... on a Monday? ... yeah, that seems like a stretch. Again, whatever, put it in your puzzle, but the whole premise of the puzzle is "Easy," and since the themers aren't inherently easy, the puzzle should be ... but it's not. Not comparatively. Not compared to most Mondays, that is. Still laughing at TRYSAIL, by the way, what in the world? Also, the THYME clue is really hard (who's going to think of the *bygone* pronoun "thy"??), and what in the world is "The World of SUZIE Wong"??? It rings the faintest of bells. Bygone bells. But it's just clued here in quotes like it's a thing everyone knows—not even a parenthetical explanation. That's like cluing CHET as [___ (the Jet) Walker] and not giving us the "Basketball Hall-of-Famer" part. I like the theme concept fine, but the "Easy" part seems ... unaccounted for. Also, the fill is weirdly bad. That is harder to excuse. Grid just seemed glutted with weak sauce like OCTA REI STLO SEGO EIN IPADS LEB CFL POPO (always cringey) ENT ACACIA URSA ASEA ORSO etc. And there's no relief, no non-theme longer answers to turn to for entertainment, amusement, diversion. Except TRYSAIL, that is. Sigh. 


I will remember this puzzle TRYSAIL, primarily, but also for POLISH ZLOTY, which is an admirably nutty way to fill out this themer set. Most original thing in the grid by far. Weirdest moment for me was getting ZELDA and then, without looking at the clue (not recommended) writing in LEGEND OF ZELDA. It fit! It ... was wrong. Ah well. It was an admirable attempt at a no-look answer. Sometimes risks don't pay off. I love vanilla malts but a. I've never called them "malteds" and b. I've never ever thought of the malt as a subspecies of SHAKE, though ... yeah, I guess it is (54D: Malted, e.g.). They are totally separate categories on most soda fountain or ice cream parlor or Chock'lit Shoppe menus, but they're basically made the same way (+ or - the malt), so OK. Spelled SAGO the wrong way (that way, with the "A"), pfffft, that's some crosswordese I'm doomed to mix up for the rest of my life (48A: Western lily). So, to sum up: good idea, not noticeably "easy"-er than other Mondays (in fact, probably harder), with fill that seems pretty anemic. Oh, and TRYSAIL. Can't forget TRYSAIL.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. To answer my own question from earlier in the write-up: "The World of SUZIE Wong" is a 1957 novel / 1960 movie of some fame. The movie in particular is not always fondly remembered, since (according to some) it perpetuates Western ideas about Asian women that are "stereotypical and demeaning."


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