Six-time N.B.A. All-Star Kyle / SAT 11-26-22 / Key piece of an overlock sewing machine / "Crazy Rich Asians" actress Gemma / Mountain whose name means I burn / The first Black American sorority in brief

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Constructor: Kanyin Ajayi

Relative difficulty: Very Easy

THEME: maybe? — there are some suggestive symmetries, but theme? I don't think so ...

Word of the Day: Paulo COELHO (35A: Paulo who wrote "The Alchemist") —
Paulo Coelho de Souza (/ˈkwɛl.j, kuˈɛl-, -j/, Portuguese: [ˈpawlu kuˈeʎu]; born 24 August 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002. His novel The Alchemist became an international best-seller and he has published 28 more books since then. (wikipedia)
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A literary puzzle for me, a literature professor, on my birthday (true story). I absolutely crushed this puzzle, as many of you will have as well, since it is basically a Tuesday / Wednesday-level themeless. Hmmm, perhaps if you are completely unfamiliar with "WIDE SARGASSO SEA" (16A: Jean Rhys novel that's a response to "Jane Eyre") and "THINGS FALL APART" (56A: Chinua Achebe novel that's a response to "Heart of Darkness"), the puzzle might've played more like a Saturday for you, but those titles are CANTERBURY TALES-level familiar to me, so whoosh, I lit them up. I really liked the literary pairing there, one grid-spanning post-colonial novel echoing the other. But that wasn't the only symmetrical echo. HIT OR MISS gets paired with RIDE OR DIE, and then there are the TWOSOMES who TIE A KNOT. I know, technically the term is "tie the knot," but I still choose to see this as a mini matrimonial theme, which gets TIE A KNOT a pass on its EAT A SANDWICH-ness. TIE A KNOT is (k)not good, but as part of a matrimonial twosome with TWOSOMES, it magically becomes good. So you've got yourself a themeless puzzle here, but there's a certain attention to symmetrical pairings that gives it some semi-thematic playfulness. I really liked it, on the whole. 

LOOPER was by far the hardest thing in this grid (45D: Key piece of an overlock sewing machine). I wrote in LOOMER at first because .... uh .... "sewing machine" and LOOM seemed to have something to do with one another, clothing production-wise. Thankfully, I knew that the Chinua Achebe title was not "THINGS FALL ... A MART!" so I was able to change LOOMER to LOOPER—which is a reasonably well-known movie, directed by Rian Johnson, whose "Glass Onion" just opened this weekend (so excited to see it!). I would've loved a movie clue for "LOOPER," but instead we get this somewhat obscure sewing machine terminology ... and it still doesn't really slow me down in any appreciable way. There were some other things I didn't know. Gemma CHAN, for instance (40A: "Crazy Rich Asians" actress Gemma). But crosses made it clear it would be CHEN or CHAN, and then COCOA sealed the deal (it's CHAN!). I had SAN before SAO, but that didn't last long. I had COEHLO before COELHO, but that didn't last long. I forgot Kyle LOWRY existed, but then I remembered (couldn't tell you a thing about him, but I follow basketball enough to know his name) (26A: Six-time N.B.A. All-Star Kyle). If there were other pauses or hesitations in my solving experience, they were minor. Overall, this puzzle was SASSy and I enjoyed it. 

Bullet points:
  • 1A: Influential book sellers? (BLURBS) — this is a very good clue. I hate (most) BLURBS—they're (mostly) embarrassingly similar in their hyperbolic / cliché language. And do they really "sell" books!? Sigh. OK. Anyway, my feelings about the blurb industry aside, this clue is good.
  • 23A: Finish that's rough to the touch (STUCCO) — sincerely tried to make STUBBLE work.
  • 3D: Locale in Dante's "Inferno" (UNDERWORLD) — so ... Inferno, then. "Inferno" means "Hell," which is the UNDERWORLD. So this is like cluing HELL as [Locale in Dante's "Hell"]. Unless Dante's "Inferno" is really a story about the criminal UNDERWORLD and I've been teaching it wrong all these decades ... entirely possible. 
  • 44A: Bugs's archenemy (ELMER) — OK, you're stretching "arch-" pretty thin here. ELMER is a dope who never poses any genuine threat to Bugs. This is like saying The Harlem Globetrotters' "archenemy" is The Washington Generals. Come on.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Victoria singer known for her gothic blues style / FRI 11-25-22 / Coffee-brewing portmanteau / Biryani base / Site of 2022's Woman Life Freedom protests / Costumer's measurement / Annual bodybuilding competition won 10 times by Iris Kyle / Title girl of a 1957 Dale Hawkins hit

Friday, November 25, 2022

Constructor: Simon Marotte

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ADIA Victoria (51D: ___ Victoria, singer known or her "gothic blues" style) —


Adia Victoria (born July 22, 1986) is an American singer and songwriter. In addition to playing and writing music, she also writes poetry. She is currently based in Nashville. [...] Victoria is sometimes associated with Americana music, she has distanced herself from the genre, saying, "I’m not an Americana artist. I have no interest in being appropriated by that genre." However, her position seems to have softened as, in 2022, she performed at a nominations event hosted by the Americana Music Association and was nominated for their Emerging Artist of the Year award at their 21st awards ceremony. [...] Rolling Stone describes her as "PJ Harvey covering Loretta Lynn at a haunted debutante ball." (wikipedia) [it's pronounced 'uh-DEE-uh' I believe]
• • •

I am way too full of Thanksgiving to be of much use to anyone, for anything, but I'll give this a (short) shot. It thought it was decent. Just fine. Very easy. All of the difficulty came from a couple of single-letter errors that I made along the way. The first, and worst, of these was writing in PANCHO, as in "PANCHO & Lefty,"  rather than PONCHO, as in raincoat, at 39A: Garment that's pulled over the head. That "A" absolutely killed me, as I took one look at MSA- at 33D: Annual bodybuilding competition won 10 times by Iris Kyle and wrote in MS. AMERICA. Sounded right, felt right, and ALIT (60A: Came down) "confirmed" the last "A," so I was really locked in. Total amount of time spent extricating myself from this whole probably didn't amount to much, but considering how easy the puzzle was otherwise, it felt like a major hold-up. I also wrote in IPAD instead of IPOD (of course) (32A: Touch, for one), so I had 27D: Performer whose face is rarely seen as a BAD-something or other (instead of the correct BODY DOUBLE). Beyond that, the only issues I had were parsing / spelling problems on the slangier answers. I DON'T felt straightforward, so I was a little hesitant with WANNA, but it worked out (6D: Whiner's "You can't make me!"). Later, I couldn't stop reading the answer at 11D: "Beats me" as "I GOT NO ___," and since the blank was four letters, I wanted only CLUE or IDEA, both of which were clearly wrong (the answer was "I GOT NOTHIN'"). I also had some hesitancy / uncertainty in that same corner with  [___ party] (POOL) and the front end of 10D: Enlist (ROPE IN). I think I wrote SIGN IN at first. But these were all really minor frustrations. Mostly I tore through this, even with the Thanksgiving Torpor upon me.

Really hate seeing SCUM at all, ever (45A: Film about fish tanks?). It's just a repulsive word, no matter the clue. A jarring tone shift in an otherwise light and breezy puzzle. Loved seeing PRAIRIE DOG, as I have loved seeing PRAIRIE DOGs all week here in Colorado. We've been walking in various nature preserves and around various lakes and any time there's a large expanse of flat open ground: prairie dogs. Highly social, highly alert, highly adorable, occasionally hilarious. One of them started screaming loudly as I came walking up the path in its direction, but the other PRAIRIE DOG who was with him just looked up from his digging, took one look at me, and went "nah, that's nothing," and went back to digging. So the first guy stopped screaming, but he did not stop staring. Extreme "I'm watching you, mister" stare. There are very large raptors in the area, so those prairie dogs have a lot to watch out for. Speaking of raptors, we saw any number of hawks, not one but two bald eagles, and, best of all, a great horned owl that looked just like part of a tree until its head moved. Eventually we got too close and it took off in silent, gorgeous, probably murderous flight. Spectacular. Anyway, it's back to Binghamton tomorrow, where there are no PRAIRIE DOGs, though there are bald eagles, and probably owls, if I'm just attentive enough to notice. Last word on the puzzle: nothing really Grabbed me, but it was a solid overall effort, and I really admired the clue on NIGHT SHIFT (30D: Late assignment). Perfect clue, perfect misdirection. I don't think anything requires any special explanation, so I'll sign off now. See you tomorrow, assuming all my plane stuff goes OK. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. OK, a few explanations, just in case: "bones" are slang for "dice," hence 14A: Funny bones? = LOADED DICE. And IAN FLEMING created James Bond, hence the [Bond issuer?] clue. Swim and track MEETs have different segments or "heats," which makes a MEET (today) a [Heated competition?]

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