Bewitched witch in 1960s TV / TUE 10-16-18 / Periodical format not much seen nowadays / Card groupings in canasta

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:25)

THEME: "THAT'S LIFE!" (66A: Comment of resignation applicable to 17-, 28- and 50-Across) — All theme answers could be clues for the word LIFE

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Classic activity for family night (BOARD GAME)
  • 28A: Serving in a bowl with milk (BREAKFAST CEREAL)
  • 50A: Periodical format not much seen nowadays (PICTURE MAGAZINE)
Word of the Day: ENDORA (12D: "Bewitched" witch, in 1960s TV) —
Endora (Agnes Moorehead), is Samantha's mother and Darrin's chief antagonist in the series. Like all witches, she never reveals her surname, indicating to Darrin that he would be unable to pronounce it. Endora finds mortals dull and disapproves of Darrin, as do many of Samantha's relatives. Endora refuses to even speak Darrin's name correctly, alternatively calling him "Derwood", "What's-his-name", "Darwin", "Dum-Dum", etc., all much to his annoyance. She refers to him as "Darrin" only eight times during the entire series. Endora's ploys to provoke a breakup always fail as Samantha and Darrin's love overcomes every obstacle. Even though Endora casts countless farcical spells on Darrin, she never attempts to destroy him outright. During the first season, Endora threatens her warlock husband Maurice, after he destroys Darrin, saying that she will not have a human being on her conscience. It was one of the few times when Endora went out of her way to protect Darrin from Maurice (see episode 1-10). Endora, once, let Maurice kiss her. But, when she realizes that, after he has kissed her and disappeared, she has contracted an illness which leaves her unable to use her powers, she is furious – until Maurice returns to gives her an antidote, and take her to "the place we used to go to on the Milky Way" to have dinner. She doesn't get along with Darrin's mother, Phyllis Stephens, because she gets along too well with Phyllis' husband, Frank. But, they are civil to one another in, what Samantha calls, "killing one another with kindness". Endora does dote on her grandchildren, Tabitha and Adam; They call her "Grandmama". (wikipedia)
• • •

Happy snoozeday. I like how this puzzle is apparently actively hostile to all things that happened after 1980. You know a puzzle skews very, very old when RHEA Perlman is your hip pop culture reference (72A: Perlman of "Cheers"). Canasta clues and Jack PAAR and "CARA Mia" and ENDORA and OMAR Sharif and "MR. ED" ... you know, for the kids! You could at least pretend to be living in the present. I mean, you clued DRAKE via the duck!? I feel like the original clue on ELENA must've been [Actress Verdugo] and someone in editing was like "This is a little too much, even for us." OK, sure, SELFIE's in here, but even then, the cluer thinks people actually take them with those ridiculous SELFIE sticks, which I've not only never used, but never seen. Lots of short common crosswordesey stuff, and a theme so basic that it's barely there. Also, PICTURE MAGAZINE? What ... is that? Cluing it as "format not much seen nowadays" is absolutely no help. That's just a terrible clue. It provides no valuable information. Ugh. Have you looked at most magazines nowadays? You know what they have a lot, and I mean a Lot of? Ads! Also, pictures. The clue on ENDORA is bizarre, too. What is this mythical "Bewitched" that *isn't* "1960s TV"? Why would you add "in 1960s TV" to that clue?  Again, It Adds Nothing. Also, it's your second "1960s TV" clue of the day. Lastly, that SW corner is a real non-winner. Look at all those identical intersecting letter strings. NET crosses NET. ONE crosses ONE. TON crosses TON *and* TON. Rough. Rough all over. Some of the Downs are nice, but overall ... Ruff.

I had two slow-downs today. The first came at 10D: Crowd-wowing (ELECTRIC), a clue I couldn't really process. Even with ELECT-I- in place, I had no idea what was going on. It's election season, so that probably got in my head a little. Anyway, that's a very odd clue for ELECTRIC. The other trouble spot was, unsurprisingly, around the PICTURE part of PICTURE MAGAZINE (again, I renew my ugh). I couldn't get 52D: T-shirt material (COTTON) the first couple of times I looked at it. I guess the connection between that garment and that fabric is really not that intuitive or tight to me. Are all t-shirts cotton? Ah, I do see that the definition of "t-shirt" does say "generally made of cotton," so OK. I feel like there are far, far more interesting and precise clues you could've gone with there, but this clue is very ... this puzzle. So there's something apt.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Hindu divinity / MON 10-15-18 / Eastern ascetic / Night demon / Movie with iconic theme that starts with two alternating notes

Monday, October 15, 2018

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:09)

THEME: YOUNG / AT HEART (67A: With 68-Across, still feeling like a teenager, say ... or a hint to the circled answers) — names for animal YOUNG can be found AT HEART (i.e. smack in the middle) of theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • INCUBUS (1A: Night demon)
  • AKITA (8A: Japanese dog)
  • OPTICAL FIBER (22A: Cable material that transmits data using light)
  • ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (39A: "Really?!")
  • JOHN COLTRANE (49A: Legendary jazz saxophonist)
Word of the Day: DEVA (41D: Hindu divinity) —
  1. a member of a class of divine beings in the Vedic period, which in Indian religion are benevolent and in Zoroastrianism are evil.
    • INDIAN
      (in general use) a god.
• • •

It's been nine years (!) since DEVA was in a puzzle, so if you didn't know that one, you are Forgiven. Certainly eluded me. I had any number of things in there before I got DEVA (entirely from crosses). That was one of a few answers that didn't seem quite *Monday* to me (see also FAKIR), but what *did* seem quite Monday to me was my solving time, so no harm done. It would be great if people stopped pretending that ANATOLE France was a household (i.e. Monday) name. I shouldn't ever see that name unless it's a late-week puzzle with a fairly demanding grid. Modernize your fill! I'm burying the lede here, which is: I thought this was a very good puzzle. The theme was cute and simple and smart and neatly executed *and* dense without being grid-burdening. All the baby animals are, in fact, smack dab in the middle of each theme answer: not just *somewhere* in the middle, but perfectly in the middle. Here's the only problem I had with the theme: the clue on the revealer. [Still feeling like a teenager]??? Uh, yeah, I don't think YOUNG / AT HEART means "still feeling socially and physically awkward and painfully insecure." I think YOUNG / AT HEART is supposed to be a *positive* concept. It doesn't square well with teenagedom. At least not mine.

Had trouble right away, forgetting the word INCUBUS. Also had issues getting OPTICAL FIBER, since the only relevant phrase I know is "Fiber-optic cable." ANATOLE France was a gimme for me, in case you think I complain only about answers I *didn't* know. Also knew FAKIR. DEVA, no so much. Misread 50D: Eight: Sp. as 50A: Eight: Prefix and wrote in OCTO-. Finally, I wrote in NAIAD at 53D: Forest of mountain maiden of myth (NYMPH), which is actually technically possibly true, and is the kind of mistake you make when you know too much myth-stuff and you star with the "N." Blowing NYMPH (!) was a big (well, small) timesuck in the SE, as I got all those Downs in order and then had to figure out which of the Downs was a bummer.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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