March Madness quartet / TUE 1-28-20 / Branch of mathematics concerned with Möbius strips Klein bottles / Keyboard shortcut for undo on PC / Disposable drink receptacle popular at parties / Parlor ink for short / Body scan for claustrophobe

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Easy (untimed clipboard solve)

THEME: FINAL FOUR (62A: March Madness quartet ... or, collectively, the second parts of 17-, 25-, 37- and 51-Across?) — second parts of themers are W, X, Y, and Z, respectively, i.e. the FINAL FOUR letters of the alphabet:

Theme answers:
  • COMPOUND W (17A: "The wart stops here" sloganeer)
  • MALCOLM X (25A: Civil rights activist with a Harlem thoroughfare named after him)
  • GENERATION Y (37A: So-called "millennials")
  • CONTROL-Z (51A: Keyboard shortcut for "undo," on a PC)
Word of the Day: NRA (43A: New Deal inits.) —
The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was a prime New Deal agency established by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) in 1933. The goal of the administration was to eliminate "cut throat competition" by bringing industry, labor, and government together to create codes of "fair practices" and set prices. The NRA was created by the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and allowed industries to get together and write "codes of fair competition." The codes intended both to reduce "destructive competition" and help workers to set minimum wages and maximum weekly hours, as well as minimum prices at which products could be sold. The NRA also had a two-year renewal charter and was set to expire in June 1935 if not renewed. (wikipedia)
• • •

How hard would it have been to run this on a Tuesday in, let's say, March? I know the theme doesn't have anything to do with college basketball, but with a revealer clue like that, running the puzzle in any month but March just seems silly. You've got at least four Tuesdays in March, right? I doubt you've already got four March-specific Tuesday puzzles lined up for 2020, so why not hold this one? First Tuesday in March? Would've made the revealer much punchier, much more Aha! Oho! AHH. One of those. Running it in January is a bit of a GROANER. But that's not the puzzle's fault, obviously, and I think as Tuesday puzzles go, this one was fine. And it was Very easy, so people are going to enjoy it for that reason if for nothing else. The letter string gimmick feels slight—you could do it with other letter strings—say A, B, C, D or L, M, N, O, P—though the revealer gives it some cohesiveness (yet Another reason to run this thing in the correct month—that revealer has to do a lot of work: help it out!). I found the start of the solve slightly off-putting—all HOODOO and warts—but after that, with the exception of the occasional short gunk you get with almost every puzzle, the fill on this was smooth and even vibrant at times (OPEN MRI, TOPOLOGY, GRANDEUR, THE SAMECOYOTE ... I like all canids). And the themers were also interesting—though I've never used CONTROL-Z in my life and no one uses GENERATION Y. Still, those are valid phrases. Overall, very acceptable work.

The only speed bumps today came early on with the perennial "is it AAH or AHH????" question right off the bat at 1A: Sigh of satisfaction (AHH), an (ironically) unpleasant way to begin. I always want AAH for the relaxation sound, as the vowel should be drawn out (to my ear), but today, AHH it is. Then just figuring out HOODOO took most of the crosses (2D: Jinx). Thought there might be something about "hoax" in there, and then even after getting HOOD- thought, "HOODED?" Then since I thought 24A: Zoom up was something you do on your motorbike, not your airplane (SOAR), well, I think I spent more time with that answer than I spent with the entire bottom half of the grid. I didn't even see some of the Acrosses in the SW (where I finished up). Glad I didn't see NRA—I'm grateful they didn't use the gun clue, but if you throw a random Alphabet Soup clue at me, I'm just going to be confused. Do you have any idea how many [New Deal inits.] there are?? But I lucked into getting all the crosses and never actually seeing the clue. Hurray! I think I had RAVED before I had RAN ON (15A: Yakked and yakked)—I definitely wanted one past-tense word—but nothing else in the grid proved an obstacle for even a moment after I got out of the N/NW. Tight theme, smooth fill, easy clues. I've done (much) worse Tuesdays.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Gaucho's weapon / MON 1-27-20 / Utah city of more than 100,000 / Avian hooter / Culinary concoction much used in French cuisine / Title role for Jude Law in 2004 remake

Monday, January 27, 2020

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (actually slow for me at 3:17 because of a couple wrong short answers)

THEME: MOUSTACHES (60A: Archetypically villainous features possessed by the answers to the starred clues) — sigh, whatever

Theme answers:
  • DR. FU MANCHU (18A: *Sinister genius in a series of Sax Rohmer novels)
  • YOSEMITE SAM (23A: *Quick-tempered, gun-toting, rabbit-hating toon)
  • SNIDELY WHIPLASH (38A: *Dudley Do-Right's enemy in old TV cartoons)
  • CAPTAIN HOOK (51A: *Chief pirate in Neverland)

Word of the Day: BOLA (17A: Gaucho's weapon) —
a cord with weights attached to the ends for throwing at and entangling an animal (
• • •

This is a weak theme with terrible fill. Seriously, the short stuff is overwhelmingly yuck. Inexcusably hackneyed and tired. And the theme, sure, if you are an older person who likes remembering ... things  ... then yay, there's SNIDELY WHIPLASH, I guess, but the very premise of this theme is absurd in 2020. Or even 1980. Tom Selleck would like a word, is what I'm saying.

[every dude on this show had a mustache!]

I guess this puzzle is fueled by pop culture nostalgia ... of some kind. I don't get it. MOUSTACHES is a dud of a revealer. Also, in American English, it's more (or very) commonly "mustaches." Look it up!

So much of this puzzle is "of old." You can start with the entire set of themers. But then "I'M A PC" is old (and not even iconic, frankly), the very idea of an AD WAR, or a HI MOM sign, seems old. Even the remake of the old movie feels old (7D: Title role for Jude Law in a 2004 remake) (ALFIE). But mostly the fill just feels stale and tired or odd. A single MADLIB? The absurd "laugh" TEHEE. ATON of ETTA and ONAIR and EST SHO ETAIL PSST ACCT YEP OUTTA SOPH AGLOW SWM ALMA. The best thing in the grid is IDLE THREAT, which I had a ton of trouble getting because I had ASAP at 47A: "Right away!" ("STAT!"). Man, it really hurts when you make a mistake you would never have made if you didn't have that *one* letter in place (in this case, the "A") that just happens to be shared by the correct answer and your wrong answer. Anyway, stared at IDLE P- for too long before realizing the "P" was wrong. Weird that the thing that held me up the most was the thing I liked the most, but there you are. Not much else to say. A shrug of a theme with a dud of a revealer and fill from Olde-Timey Mediocrity Land. I will admit to being in something of a bummer of a mood because of the death of LAKER legend Kobe Bryant and his 13yo daughter, Gianna, as well as another family, in a helicopter crash on Sunday. News that Kobe died stunned me. News that his daughter also died broke me a little. I don't have anything profound to say about all this. Just trying to give context to my solving / blogging mood. Take care, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

UPDATE: On second thought, maybe "villainous" isn't soooo wrong...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP