Wild cards in baseball poker / SAT 1-16-21 / Lead-in to some water-dwelling folk / Visibly dizzy quaintly / Savory snack in England / Disassociate as with a Bluetooth device / River that begins in the Adirondacks / Compound featured in latex / Historic town NW of London where some of the Harry Potter series was filmed / Actor profiled in the biography The Immortal Count

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none 

Word of the Day:
"SAW V" (34A: 2008 horror film sequel) —
Saw V is a 2008 horror film directed by David Hackl (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. It is the fifth installment in the Saw film series. The film stars Tobin BellCostas MandylorScott PattersonBetsy RussellMark RolstonJulie BenzCarlo Rota, and Meagan Good. The plot follows FBI Agent Peter Strahm, who pursues Detective Mark Hoffman after discovering his identity as one of the Jigsaw Killer's apprentices and successor, while Hoffman begins designing his own Jigsaw "games" to test people and tries to frame Strahm to keep his identity secret. The film also explores Hoffman's backstory and explains how he became Jigsaw's apprentice, while continuing several story lines started in Saw IV. [...] The film received generally negative reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 13% based on 76 reviews, with a weighted average of 2.92/10. The site's consensus states "If its plot were as interesting as its torture devices, or its violence less painful than its performances, perhaps Saw V might not feel like it was running on fumes."  Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 20 out of 100, based on 13 reviews. (wikipedia)
• • •

Started this with seven correct guesses in a row: CUTEST APRS LAPUP SPA GAGS GARETH ASIT. Only hesitation there, ironically, was GARETH (ironic because I teach Arthurian literature—had the GA- and thought "GALAH- ... no, GAWAI- ... no. What the ...? Oh, right, GARETH. Deep cut!") (GARETH is one of Gawain's four brothers, killed by his childhood idol Lancelot during the latter's bizarrely heedless rescue of Guinevere near the end of Le Morte D'Arthur). The puzzle opened so easily, I was kind of surprised. Gave me the front end of MERRIAM-WEBSTER (easy), and parts of the front ends of all the top Acrosses. I was having an OK time until I was asked to piece together a hybrid instrument I did not know existed until (checks watch) today. Just now. GUITARLELE is ... and I'm sorry if you're an aficionado ... the dumbest-sounding thing I've ever heard of. Literally awful coming out of your mouth. The sounds don't flow right. The ukulele is already like a mini-guitar, what are you even doing? (I know, string count, whatever.) It just looks so dumb in print. It is not great from a solving standpoint when the letters you have to piece together from crosses are "-LELE." Was that supposed to produce joy? Well, I hope it worked on you. This answer was lethally crossed by LETHALLY, which has the dumbest clue ever written: 3D: Bad way to be poisoned. Me: "... all of the ways?" What are the good ways to be poisoned? So GUITARLELE with that LETHALLY clue chaser, oof. Trying way too hard to be novel in the first place, and then ... was that LETHALLY clue trying to be funny? I don't know. It all just kind of stank. I slowed down in that part of the puzzle, but only from disgust, not from true difficulty.


Also very let down by OBAMA SUPPORTER. The SUPPORTER part, actually, It was easy to get, but it was also so weak-seeming. I got OBAMA and thought, "well, that can't just be SUPPORTER, because then really you could put any politician's name in the grid and follow it with SUPPORTER." So even though SUPPORTER was the first thing that sprang to mind, I didn't write it in. This led to my only (short-lived) experience of being stuck in this puzzle: could not get either M--ON or --DE from their clues. I figured I'd get one of those, and then I'd know if SUPPORTER were right. But neither made any sense to me. So I just abandoned that area and went back to the west and got going again over there. Flew down and around the south, with only CORNISH PASTY holding me up at all (and only because the clue was vague). Finished at perhaps the most disappointing square in the grid: the EASTON (?) / BUSHEY (???) crossing. Two inconsequential place names, crossing each other, fantastic. Luckily I've heard of EASTON. BUSHEY ... is just an excuse for you to gratuitously wedge a Harry Potter clue in here? Why? Why would you do that? If *that* is BUSHEY's claim to "fame," maybe it isn't ... famous? Enough? By the way if you want a good EASTON clue, try ["Morning Train (9 to 5)" singer Sheena ___]. Oh ... wow, I just found out that Sheena EASTON was (hold on to your tams) NÉE ORR. That's some prime crossword DNA. She deserves to be the only EASTON clue. I am now a SHEENA SUPPORTER (where EASTON clues are concerned).


The answers up top are delightful, and I especially enjoyed the clue on MUSEUM EXHIBIT (13A: Remains to be seen, say). TIDEPOD weirdly dates the puzzle (well, the clue does, anyway) (11D: It was once a challenge to eat). UNPAIR is a word that I hate (so ugly) but love (so current and in-the-language). Gratuitous poker reference on my favorite number (NINES) was deeply unwelcome (46D: Wild cards in "baseball" poker). It was all over pretty fast. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Fruits that are the basis of Marillenschnaps / FRI 1-15-21 / Fashion designer's portfolio / Ferrari alternative slangily / Percussion in some folk music that may be improvised / Model Boyd who inspired songs Layla Wonderful Tonight / Topic in property law colloquially / Bottom of an interrobang

Friday, January 15, 2021

Constructor: Josh Knapp

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium ("Medium" only because I had some trouble getting those central Acrosses)


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: EGO DEATH (48A: Complete loss of self-identity) —

Ego death is a "complete loss of subjective self-identity". The term is used in various intertwined contexts, with related meanings. In Jungian psychology, the synonymous term psychic death is used, which refers to a fundamental transformation of the psyche. In death and rebirth mythology, ego death is a phase of self-surrender and transition, as described by Joseph Campbell in his research on the mythology of the Hero's Journey.It is a recurrent theme in world mythology and is also used as a metaphor in some strands of contemporary western thinking.

In descriptions of psychedelic experiences, the term is used synonymously with ego-loss to refer to (temporary) loss of one's sense of self due to the use of psychedelics. The term was used as such by Timothy Leary et al. to describe the death of the ego in the first phase of an LSD trip, in which a "complete transcendence" of the self occurs. The concept is also used in contemporary spirituality and in the modern understanding of Eastern religions to describe a permanent loss of "attachment to a separate sense of self" and self-centeredness. This conception is an influential part of Eckhart Tolle's teachings, where Ego is presented as an accumulation of thoughts and emotions, continuously identified with, which creates the idea and feeling of being a separate entity from one's self, and only by disidentifying one's consciousness from it can one truly be free from suffering (in the Buddhist meaning). (wikipedia)

• • •

This one got better as I went along, and there were a few genuinely good surprises along the way. It was also mostly easy, with the only thing putting the brakes on my solve being the structure of the grid, i.e. how sequestered the NW corner is. I finished up in the NW fairly quickly, but there's just that little exit at the bottom of that corner, and STO- and ST- were no help to me in getting those first two long Acrosses. Thought STO- was gonna be STOOD ... OUT ... somehow. No idea what ST- could be. First passes at the adjacent short Downs (LAMBO, FERAL) yielded nothing, so I had to jump down to the SW and reboot. Luckily, this wasn't hard. FABLE FORGOT POLO POEMS. Swung around to the middle of the grid and got RIGHTS ... but had no idea what kind of RIGHTS (7D: Topic in property law, colloquially). This was now the second time I was thwarted by the center of the grid. No help, stalled progress. So I took hacks at the shorter Downs in the middle. Got MOSHE and (despite its tricky clue) SHIFTS (27D: Uses a manual, say), and the adjacent "FH" there was on its own enough for me to be able to see MAIDS OF HONOR. Things sped up from there. Once middle came into view, SQUATTERS was easy, and the "Q" made "QUEER EYE" easy (actually, that would've been a gimme without the "Q") (16A: Hit Netflix reboot starring the Fab Five), so the NE didn't put up much of a fight. Finished in the SE, which was the easiest section by far. It's just as sequestered as the NW corner (what w/ grid symmetry and all), but having the first letters on the long Downs *really* helped. Got LOOKBOOK off just the "LO" (34D: Fashion designer's portfolio) and RESORTS off the "R," then all the short Acrosses, one after the other, then JEAN and MCS and done. Finished that corner so FAST I surprised myself. So overall, more easy than hard, but the middle of the grid gave me enough trouble to keep it from being too much of a walk in the park. 


Once again, I tripped right out of the starting gate. Went with UMPIRE / ROOD instead of BATBOY / ONUS. And I thought I was so cute getting ROOD so easily, ugh (5D: Cross to bear). This is the kind of error you make when you teach Old English poetry (see "The Dream of the Rood"). Luckily YEP got me out of that error pretty quickly. Forgot Julie BOWEN's last name, so that was the toughest thing up there by far. In fact, as is fairly typical, it's the proper nouns that provided the most significant barriers along the way. For me, today, BOWEN and LAMBO (30D: Ferrari alternative, slangily) and TYRONE (13D: County in Northern Ireland) were the ones that took a lot of hacking to get at. I forgot that anyone called a Lamborghini ... that. And the only TYRONE I know is Power. But at least it was it was a recognizable (presumably Irish) name. The only answer to make me screw up my face resistantly was SPOONS (31D: Percussion in some folk music that may be improvised). This is one of those clues that takes me farther from the actual answer the more it goes on. Can't any instrument be "improvised"? SPOONS aren't part of any "folk music" I've listened to, but ... yeah they are a percussion instrument. Just couldn't get there from the clue. 


The grid overall is remarkably solid. Really enjoyed seeing THE ROBOT, EGO DEATH, and SQUATTERS' RIGHTS. Nothing particularly tricky in the cluing today. Smiled when I got USED CARS (18A: There's a lot of them for sale). Just a nice-lookin' puzzle, honestly.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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