Distribute cash at the end of a shift in restaurant lingo / TUE 12-7-21 / Some Xmas card attire / Pasta popular on the Sopranos / Sinister fish in the Little Mermaid / Close follower of the horse race / One remedy for a hangover supposedly

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Constructor: Margaret Seikel

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: MATCHING PJS (57A: Some Xmas card attire ... or a hint to 18-, 23-, 37- and 48-Across) — four two-word phrases: first word "P," second word "J":

Theme answers:
  • PICKLE JUICE (18A: One remedy for a hangover, supposedly)
  • PIZZA JOINT (23A: Place to pick up a pepperoni pie, perhaps)
  • POLITICAL JUNKIE (37A: Close follower of the "horse race")
  • PRIVATE JET (48A: Aircraft that's 1% full?) [i.e. full of the very wealthy, i.e. "the 1%"]
Word of the Day: ILANA Glazer (29A: Actress Glazer of "Broad City") —
Ilana Glazer (born April 12, 1987) is an American comedian, director, producer, writer, and actress. She co-created and co-starred, with Abbi Jacobson, in the Comedy Central series Broad City, which is based on the web series of the same name. She was twice nominated for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for the series. Glazer also starred in the 2017 film Rough Night and released her debut stand-up comedy special, The Planet Is Burning, in January 2020. (wikipedia)
• • •

Opened the puzzle, saw Margaret Seikel's name on the byline, and actually, or possibly just in mind, exclaimed, "Ooh, I'm Seik'd!" So, two things. One, I assume I'm pronouncing that right (rhymes with "psyched") but for all I know it's SAY-kel and I botched the whole pun. Two, I don't know why her name should've provoked such an ecstatic response in me. I think I've done some of her puzzles and liked them well enough, but I just had this weird feeling of "Yes, this is the one! Come on, Tuesday!" It's like I really needed a win and thought, "Yes, I trust Margaret!" Well, whatever the hell was going on in my brain, I got what I wanted, which is a largely delightful Tuesday puzzle, praise all the crossword gods, even OOXTEPLERNON, the God of Bad Fill, hallowed be his name. Hardly any offerings to OOXTEPLERNON today—you're supposed to throw him at least some kind of sacrifice or he returns to wreak havoc on your grids and your children's grids, as it was told. Today, I guess he was satisfied with, I dunno, KAT? OWS? GNC? There's really nothing particularly crosswordesey here. It's really a very clean grid. And the theme is simple and seasonal and right on the money ... except ... (Sorry, there's one "except," there's always at least one, you know the deal) ... while I love the phrase MATCHING PJS, both on its own and as a revealer *concept*, it seems ... either off or redundant in this case. The "MATCHING" part I mean. The answers are just ... PJs. There's nothing "MATCHING" about them except their "PJ"-ness. That is, if these are MATCHING PJS ... what do un-MATCHING PJS look like? My guess is ... the same. Since the answers themselves are not identical (which ... would be weird ... what would that look like? PIZZA JOINT PIZZA JOINT PIZZA JOINT?), I'm not really getting the "MATCHING" part. Everyone is wearing PJs, yes, but nothing about the PJS says "MATCHING." So ... there. Still had a good time. It just ended with a bit of a headcock / puzzled-face / three question marks in the margin of my puzzle print-out. But it left me wanting to curl up on the couch with my cats and a mug of cocoa and John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas on the hi-fi, so yes, I call that a win.


The joyous feeling was helped along considerably by the first long Down:


And, later, the second long Down:


I don't use NECK PILLOWs when I fly—they're awkward and don't work for me, so I just resign myself to not sleeping—but it's a vivid object with a very specific purpose and I enjoyed recalling it, even if it did remind me of all the dopes who wear theirs around the terminal (sorry if you're one of those dopes, you gotta carry them somewhere, I guess!). As for "MAKE IT WORK," it's such a beautiful low-key signature phrase, and it made me miss that show, which I haven't thought about for a long time, and which is probably the last "reality" show I ever watched (besides "The Great British Bake-Off," which is religion, not "reality TV," how dare you!). When you've got a cute, simple theme *and* you nail the two long Downs, you are cooking. TIP OUT—also wonderfully original (as clued) (63A: Distribute cash at the end of a shift in restaurant lingo).


The only "difficulty" I had was with the latter ends of the themers. I solved straight down the west coast of the puzzle without even trying to throw themers across, and then the first time I looked at them, I could see POLITICAL but had no idea what came next, PIZZA, same, and I wanted PICKLE to end with BRINE. It would help if I could remember JEN *&#$^% Psaki's dang first name (19D: Biden White House press secretary Psaki). Her last name is on lock, but despite seeing her first name in puzzles a bunch, I keep botching it. Today I had her as a DEB (!?). I ended up getting the JUICE part of PICKLE JUICE from crosses in the far NE, and then once I got the JOINT of PIZZA JOINT, I was like "oh, PJs! cool!" and so the other themers fell much more easily. But again, it was never not easy. Just had to work crosses a little on the back ends of the themers. That's all. Light work even for a Tuesday. Beyond that, I went with STOIC before STONY (a kealoa* I hadn't yet come across since coining the term) (41A: Poker-faced), but made no other errors that I can recall. Breezy! Beautiful! Tuesday! Your turn, Wednesday!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*short common fill that you know but can't write in because Even With Certain Letters In Place it could be one of two (or more) options. From the classic [Mauna ___] KEA/LOA conundrum.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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1998 Hanks/Ryan rom-com / MON 12-6-21 / Follower of open and pigeon / Peas to some classroom pranksters / Something waved at concerts prior to the age of cellphones / Semihard Dutch cheese

Monday, December 6, 2021

Constructor: Emily Rourke

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: "YOU'VE GOT MAIL" (55A: 1998 Hanks/Ryan rom-com ... or a hint to the starts of 20-, 34- and 41-Across) — first words are all things that might come in the mail:

Word of the Day: LETTER PRESS (34A) —

Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing. Using a printing press, the process allows many copies to be produced by repeated direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets or a continuous roll of paper. A worker composes and locks movable type into the "bed" or "chase" of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type, which creates an impression on the paper. // In practice, letterpress also includes other forms of relief printing with printing presses, such as wood engravings, photo-etched zinc "cuts" (plates), and linoleum blocks, which can be used alongside metal type, or wood type in a single operation, as well as stereotypes and electrotypes of type and blocks. With certain letterpress units, it is also possible to join movable type with slugs cast using hot metal typesetting. In theory, anything that is "type high" and so forms a layer exactly 0.918 in. thick between the bed and the paper can be printed using letterpress.  // Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century to the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. Letterpress printing remained the primary means of printing and distributing information until the 20th century, when offset printing was developed, which largely supplanted its role in printing books and newspapers. More recently, letterpress printing has seen a revival in an artisanal form. (wikipedia)

Theme answers:
  • BILL OF RIGHTS (20A: Early addendum to the Constitution)
  • LETTERPRESS (34A: Gutenberg invention)
  • PACKAGE DEAL (41A: Sauna plus massage at a spa, perhaps)

• • •

I've got nothing against Hanks/Ryan, but do yourself a favor and watch The Shop Around the Corner, which is not only the best Christmas movie, but one of the best movies ever made. From scene one, the storytelling, acting, character development ... it's stupid how perfect it is. I watch it over and over this time of year, just to admire the craftsmanship and laugh and feel the love vibes. Ernst Lubitsch! THE LUBITSCH TOUCH is 16 letters long, but there's an answer I would mind seeing a grid go oversized for. Or maybe there's a way to use it on a Sunday. Good stuff. Lubitsch is my No. 1 ERNST, followed by ... I guess Max ERNST. Surrealism is fun. My point is, watch The Shop Around the Corner. And if you need more Christmas fare, move on to Christmas in Connecticut, and if you're still yearning for yule, try Holiday Affair, and then if you're bummed out by all the black & white, watch The Ref (the best Christmas movie shot in color). OK, back to the puzzle. The theme is just fine. Aces. Bills and letters and packages do indeed come in the mail (esp., if you are lucky, this time of year), and here they are all found inside answers where they are clued differently from their mail meaning. The bill in the BILL OF RIGHTS is a non-mail bill, the LETTER in LETTERPRESS, same, and so forth. The one briefly toughish part, for me, was LETTERPRESS, since I really wanted Gutenberg to have invented the PRINTING PRESS, because he did invent the PRINTING PRESS, in 1440—LETTERPRESS was the technique (movable type, in a bed, impressed on paper), PRINTING PRESS was the machine. But since I got the front end first, from crosses, I wrote in LETTERPRESS pretty readily and then was happy to find out it was right.

[Christine Baranski!! Mwah!!]
 
There was one downside, and a big one, to this puzzle, which is a couple of Wince Words. Long ones that just genuinely made me cringe and stop to take screenshots. Here's Wince Word One:


And here's Wince Word Two:


In both cases, I thought "ew, that can't be right, not on a Monday!?" and then slowly felt myself sink as all the crosses checked out. No one uses these adjectives. They just don't. They are arcane and odd and ... like, not *hard* to get, but just not in-the-language. I'm trying to imagine using SORORAL instead of "sisterly." And NATANT instead of "floating." Oof. It's all very olde-tymey professorial, and it's no fun at all. There's no reason an easy Monday grid should be gunked up by this stuff. Let the fill be plain and let the theme shine and there you are, a wonderful Monday. But NATANT SORORAL FARE is literally no one's idea of a good time. You'd have to tear those sections out and redo them, but it would be worth it. I don't understand why certain words don't set off red lights / alarm bells in constructors' / editors' heads. Maybe you let yourself get away with one of these fussy rarely-used adjectives, but definitely not both.


Ran up against yet another kealoa* today when I had the "V" at 52D: Give the slip (EVADE) and wrote in AVOID. That clue can actually kealoa in two different directions: if I'd had the "E" I would've probably written in ELUDE. As for the rest of the fill ... SAFE SPACE is a nice newish answer. SMOLDER is always hot. The rest is just fine. Somewhat better than MEH. That's all. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*short common fill that you know but can't write in because Even With Certain Letters In Place it could be one of two (or more) options. From the classic [Mauna ___] KEA/LOA conundrum.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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