Finance reporter Ron / SAT 9-26-20 / Atoms that have same number of neutrons / Click the X when vexed maybe / HSN alternative / Classic makeshift solution / Rachel seven-season TV role for Meghan Markle

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Medium (8 to 9, somewhere in there, solving slowly, early in the a.m.)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: KIRI Te Kanawa (9D: Soprano ___ Te Kanawa) —

Dame Kiri Jeanette Claire Te Kanawa ONZ CH DBE AC (/ˈkɪri təˈkɑːnəwə/; born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron, 6 March 1944) is a New Zealand former opera singer. She had a full lyric soprano voice, which has been described as "mellow yet vibrant, warm, ample and unforced".

Te Kanawa has received accolades in many countries, singing a wide array of works in many languages dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries. She is particularly associated with the works of MozartStraussVerdiHandel and Puccini, and found considerable success in portraying princesses, nobility, and other similar characters on stage.

Though she rarely sang opera later in her career, Te Kanawa frequently performed in concert and recital, gave masterclasses, and supported young opera singers in launching their careers. Her final performance was in Ballarat, Australia, in October 2016, but she did not reveal her retirement until September 2017. (wikipedia)

• • •

Proper names made this one a real minefield, or potential minefield, I guess. I'm not real big on using marginal names to achieve difficulty, and I don't know what INSANA and (as clued) ZANE are here if not marginal. Seven seasons on a TV show that the clue doesn't even name ... doesn't strike me as a thing. Did anyone really watch "Suits"? That "Z" took me a weird lot of time, as I scrolled the alphabet (all the way to "Z"!) to figure out how WI- could be [Virtuoso, informally]. Of course when I got it, it was a 'duh,' so maybe if I'd just been quicker i.e. more awake I would've blown past the ZANE thing too quick to be irked by it, who knows? INSANA was way more of a problem. No way I'm guessing any of those letters, and in terms of a "field from which names come," you couldn't pick one farther from my realm of caring than "hedge fund manager." Again, not even a show or a network to go on with INSANA (not that it would've helped). RAPINOE is very (recently) famous. LUCINDA ... well, she's very famous to me (saw her at the Beacon in '05) but even if you somehow don't know her, and least LUCINDA is ultimately a recognizable name (unlike, say, INSANA). It just seemed like there were a lot of places in the grid where solvers could into Name Trouble, which honestly is not the most enjoyable kind of trouble. KIRI / ROMERO? Gimmes for me, but I can imagine possibly not for others. 

On the other hand, there are some delightful moments, like CHEERIOS sticking together (never saw that coming, really looking for something science-y there), or the simple backyard pleasures of CORNHOLE (it's my understanding that you can watch competitive CORNHOLE on one of the ESPNs, during CORNHOLE season, whenever that is—the guys on my favorite baseball podcast talked about getting weirdly into it during the early pandemic, when all normal traditional sports had been effectively brought to a halt). And if you're gonna cross proper names at a vowel, then RAPINOE crossing LUCINDA in the dead center of your grid is probably the most glorious way to do that. Some of the relative current fill today actually felt weirdly ... well, kinda old already. That may be because I've already seen it in grids and therefore its novelty isn't as striking to me. Stuff like GLAMPING and RAGEQUIT (perfectly good fill, just lacking the zing it likely once had). NERD CRED ... is just an odd phrase to say (67A: Something you might earn by having a long crossword-solving streak, informally). Say it. NERD CRED. It's like much in your mouth. Reminds me of the "30 Rock" episode where everyone kept having to say the ridiculous movie title "The Rural Juror" over and over. Awkward. 

Biggest struggle was in the SW. I blame INSANA, though I also blame my inexplicable failure to come up with the BIKE part of ROAD BIKE (35D: Transport not meant for trails). Oh, and worst of all down there, I had PLIÉ instead of KNEE (56D: It's a real bender). Really really wanted EARS right from the jump, but I guess PLIÉ must've prevented me from going for it. Oh, sorry, there's another worst of all, which is, worst of all, PLIÉ baited me into putting RAISIN (!!!) in KAISER's place (64A: Kind of roll). When four letters "confirm" your answer, your answer is *usually* safe. Usually. No other real issues today. PENCIL before PENCAP, that's about it (7D: Ink saver). Have a lovely Saturday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lowest rating in showbiz's Ulmer Scale / FRI 9-25-20 / Sister channel of HGTV / Basketball highlight informally / Kind of paste in East Asian cuisine / Half bird half woman creature / Subject of J.J. Thomson's "plum pudding" model / Star Wars spinoff set five years after Emperor Palpatine's fall / Fantasy Focus podcast airer

Friday, September 25, 2020

Constructor: Rachel Fabi

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:39)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Stanley TUCCI (34D: Actor Stanley) —

Stanley Tucci (/ˈti/; born November 11, 1960) is an American actor, writer, producer, film director and former fashion model. Involved in acting from a young age, he made his film debut in John Huston's Prizzi's Honor (1985), and continued to play a wide variety of supporting roles in films such as Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry (1997), Sam MendesRoad to Perdition (2002) and Steven Spielberg's The Terminal (2004). In 1996, he made his directorial debut with the cult comedy Big Night which he also wrote and starred in alongside Tony Shalhoub. He also played Stanley Kubrick in the television film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Tucci is also known for his collaborations with Meryl Streep in films such as The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and Julie & Julia (2009). Tucci gained further acclaim and success with such films as Easy A (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger(2011), Margin Call (2011), The Hunger Games film series (2012-2015), Spotlight (2015), and Beauty and the Beast (2017).

He has won three Emmy Awards. One for Winchell (1998); one for a guest appearance on the USA Network comedy series Monk; and one for being a producer of the web series Park Bench with Steve Buscemi. (wikipedia)

• • •

I could not have asked for a better blog anniversary present! Today, my blog turns 14, the big one four, and, as if favored personally by the crossword gods, I am blessed with a puzzle by one of the best friends I have in all of Crossworddom (you may remember Rachel from the video of her and me co-solving a Saturday puzzle that I posted here recently). Also, this puzzle is really clearly obviously a good puzzle, so I can mostly just celebrate. I'm looking around for Things That Normally Irritate Rex and honestly there are only a few and they're all three letters long, so pfffffffffft, don't care. And so many things I like ... like POSTERIORS and PRIDE PARADES, OCEANOGRAPHERS and TURING TESTS, Elvis Costello lyrics ("DON'T GET CUTE...") and cheesy Gino Vanelli songs ("INTO THE NIGHT") and mythological metamorphoses (ACTAEON) and olde-timey ways of saying numbers (THREE SCORE), it's all here! I don't give a damn about that "Star Wars" show, but it seems popular, and it's certainly current, so throw that in the Good column too. In short, I was rarely stuck and rarely unhappy while solving this baby. The thing that held me up the most was actually a stupid typo—I wrote in LATES for LATEX and then kept wondering what this fantastic word could be that's 12 letters long, means "Avant-garde," and starts ESPER-... ESPERANTOISH! That would be pretty avant-garde. 

["DON'T GET CUTE ..."]

Rachel just sent me this screen shot, which I found pretty funny. It's xwordinfo data about her puzzle. Apparently she and this "Michael Sharp" guy think a lot alike, huh, weird:

This is a max word-count themeless (72), which I find often leads to maximum awesomeness precisely because you can get a lot of marquee stuff in there and still have wiggle room to make sure that your fill comes out squeaky clean. No stacks here, just a lot of interlocking gorgeousness—six 10+ answers crossing four 10+ answers, for a total of ten 10+ answers, none of which are weak. The only places I had trouble were RED BEAN (just couldn't come up with it, not sure why) (23A: Kind of paste in East Asian cuisine) and OOP (I get that this is a shortening of "alley-oop," but I can't recall hearing anyone say this ... then again, my basketball fandom is mildly out of date, so what do I know?) (31A: Basketball highlight, informally). Oh, and I wanted a few other things before INTO THE NIGHT. INTO THIN ... something? INTO THE ... MISTS? I don't know, don't remember. But THE NIGHT required crosses. Other than that, this puzzle ran mostly resistance-free. So congratulations to Rachel, and congratulations to me on writing this dang blog for 14 years, and congratulations to you ... for I don't know what, but surely you can think of something. Have a great day, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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