Explanation for existence of evil in God's presence / FRI 5-29-20 / Evans who was 2009-10 Rookie of the Year / Thrombus more familiarly / Sister brand of 7Up / Sail-hoisting device / Corn or bean plant perhaps / Relative of histogram

Friday, May 29, 2020

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Not sure ... mostly easy ... I don't really know what a just-rolled-out-of-bed 6:43 time means on a Friday any more. Easy but with a chunk in and around CANNERY that was hard ... 

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TYREKE Evans (57A: Evans who was the 2009-10 N.B.A. Rookie of the Year) —
Tyreke Jamir Evans (born September 19, 1989) is an American professional basketball player. After playing college basketball for the Memphis Tigers, he was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings.[1] Evans went on to win the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013 before being traded back to the Kings in 2017. After successive stints with the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers, Evans, who would have become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season, was dismissed and disqualified from the NBA in May for violating the terms of the league's anti-drug program. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was perfectly fine, though the only part that really sparkled was NIGHTY-NIGHT (4D: "Sweet dreams!"). Most of this was solid, but a little flat. Green-paintish* stuff like RUNS A LAP and ATE LUNCH didn't help. AT THE HEART felt kinda longish for an incomplete phrase. AT HEEL does not feel like a current phrase. Can't imagine using it. TO HEEL I can hear. You can bring a dog TO HEEL. Something might be at *one's* heels. Dunno. The word THEODICY looks and sounds like something I've seen, but I'd be lying if I said I actually knew it (18A: Explanation for the existence of evil in God's presence). ON A kick? Never heard this phrase without some descriptive word following ON A. RCCOLA ... exists still? (Also: 7Up exists still?) (13D: Sister brand of 7Up). Multiple ... THYMES? This just felt a teensy bit stale—the feeling was actually made worse by the *attempts* at contemporary colloquial flash that actually felt like ... well, they would've been much flashier in the '00s (EPIC FAIL, "WHAT THE ...," CYBERanything). Ooh, I enjoyed seeing BATGIRL in a non-gendered clue, that was cool (7D: Enemy of the Joker).

Never a fan of cluing a perfectly good English word (PANE) as if it were foreign (30D: Bread, in Bologna). TYREKE Evans is superobscure if you are not an NBA fan. I follow the major sports loosely, and his name definitely rings a bell, but after that ROTY award (note: I would, in fact, accept ROTY in a puzzle), he didn't do anything exceptional. I mean, he was a pro, so he was obviously very good, but he never made an All-Star team or won a championship or did anything that would make him particularly crossworthy. In fact, I'm looking at a list of NBA Rookies of the Year and TYREKE Evans is one of the only names I *don't* really know from the past 40 years. I'm a little hazy on Michael Carter-Williams (2013-14) and Mike Miller (2000-01), but beyond that you gotta go back to '81-82 to find a name I can't place (that name: Buck Williams ... I just forgot him: he was active during the time I was most pro sports-crazy). My point here is TYREKE looks cool but is more a personal indulgence than a great answer.

Made some costly mistakes today, most notably BOLT for VOLT (23D: Lightning unit). Nice trick, I guess. Feels cheap, since obviously lightning comes in BOLTs, and no one says "ooh, did you see those howevermany VOLTs of lightning," but sure, technically, that clue works for that answer. Lost most time on one of my most hated clue types—the "Name that becomes this thing if you do these things to it"-type clue. Like, find a MYRA to use in your clue or **** ***! Had the "M" and then the "R" and still wasn't sure what was going on. And that answer was adjacent to CANNERY, which took me several seconds to get Even After I Had -ANNERY in place (37D: Corn or bean plant, perhaps). See, it's the factory meaning of "plant," not the plant meaning of "plant." Cute. I also wrote in READ instead of SCAN (got the stupid "A" first and ... d'oh!) (48A: Pore over). I think of "scanning" as reading quickly and "poring over" as reading thoroughly, but whatever, this puzzle has its own ideas. Oh, and off the READ error I wrote in ROOF at 48D: Flat part of a flat. That is the wrong answer I'm most proud of (real answer: SOLE).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I associate the term PAIN PILL not with "relief" but with addiction (29A: What a relief!). :(

*green paint => an arbitrary phrase that, sure, one might say, but that doesn't really work as a stand-alone crossword answer

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Confucian scholar Chu / THU 5-28-20 / Yellow creature in series of hit animated films / Moor's foe in early eighth century / Flagship sch. with famed serpentine garden walls

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Constructor: Tracy Bennett

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (4:40)

THEME: wacky phrases made up of two TV show titles —

Theme answers:
  • GET SMART FRIENDS (19A: What to do if you want to win bar trivia?)
  • DOCTOR WHO CHEERS (37A: Medical professional with a passion for pep rallies?)
  • THE SOPRANOS LOST (52A: Predictable result of a choir's Barry White singing contest?)
Word of the Day: Chu HSI (46A: Confucian scholar Chu ___) —
Zhu Xi ([ʈʂú ɕí]Chinese朱熹; October 18, 1130 – April 23, 1200), also known by his courtesy name Yuanhui (or Zhonghui), and self-titled Hui'an, was a Chinese calligrapher, historian, philosopher, politician, and writer of the Song dynasty. He was a Confucian scholar who founded what later became known as the "learning of principle" or "rationalist" school (lixue 理學) and was the most influential Neo-Confucian in China. His contributions to Chinese philosophy including his editing of and commentaries to the Four Books, which later formed the curriculum of the civil service exam in Imperial China from 1313 to 1905; and his emphasis on the process of the "investigation of things" (gewu 格物) and meditation as a method for self cultivation.
Zhu has been described [as] the second most influential thinker in Chinese history, after Confucius himself. He was a scholar with a wide learning in the classics, commentaries, histories and other writings of his predecessors. In his lifetime he was able to serve multiple times as an government official, although he avoided public office for most of his adult life.[1] He also wrote, compiled and edited almost a hundred books and corresponded with dozens of other scholars. He acted as a teacher to groups of students, many who chose to study under him for years. He built upon the teachings of the Cheng brothers and others; and further developed their metaphysical theories in regards to principle (li 理) and vital force (qi 氣). His followers recorded thousands of his conversations in writing.
• • •

This felt like a Wednesday theme living in a Friday grid. I guess that averages out to a Thursday, but still this lacked the usual Thursday sass / trickery. It's just ... two TV shows pushed together and imagined as wacky phrases. Seems like something you could do and do and do and do, i.e. the themer set is pretty arbitrary. They're all 15s, so that's ... something. But one's an imperative sentence, one's a noun phrase, and one's a declarative sentence. The types (genres) of shows involved are all over the map. It all just didn't feel coherent enough. And the low word-count grid is odd. Feels like a weird way to build in some added difficulty, since the theme doesn't really offer any. But you can get difficulty just from cluing so ... not sure why the word count is way down at themeless levels (72). It doesn't allow for much exceptional fill—if anything, the grid feels strained in parts; low word counts are good for themelesses because themelesses don't have ... themes ... putting pressure on the grid. I liked BAD KARMA and the clue on MOTH (which really tricked me) (33D: Bulb circler) and not a lot else. Didn't strongly dislike much either. Just think it missed the Thursday sweet spot.

[famously deep-voiced, thus ... sopranos are gonna struggle, I guess]

Grid was more crosswordesey than I'd like (NESS ENNE ESOS EDEMA EBRO AMES ENTS RAH DAW OVO HSI NALA ADOS). Had trouble with HSI HALIDE and OSMAN, and because HSI and HALIDE were in the same corner (SW), and that corner also had the ridiculously clued ORTHODOX in it (38D: Keenly observant), that was definitely the roughest part of the grid for me. I get that "Keenly" is supposed to mean "very" here, but you'd never use "keenly observant" to describe someone's religiosity. The only reason "keenly" is there is to make you think a different type of "observant" is intended. I have no problem with that kind of head fake if the clue you offer is in fact plausible. "Keenly" is just a clunk of an adverb to use in this context. The clue feels like cheap trickery, as opposed to the good trickery of, SAY, the clue on MOTH (33D: Bulb circler). There's ambiguity as to what type of bulb is meant, as to what "circling" might mean in this context, etc. I went from "what the hell...?" to "Oh! Oh, that's good." And that is the trajectory you want on a tough / tricky clue. ASNEAT is truly gruesome fill—no AS[adjective] is ever going to be good. Ever. Ever. I've seen lots of them (ASRED, ASBAD, etc.) and ASNEAT is up there with the worst. Just not a stand-alone phrase. FREE AT LAST, on the other hand, stands alone reasonably well, despite being just a fragment—MLK repeats that phrase to great dramatic effect, so it has suitable heft.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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