Situ's love in Hindu lore / THU 6-17-21 / Vedic religious text / Accouchement / Frontal or lateral speaking features / Mary whose short story The Wisdom of Eve was the basis for 1950's All About Eve / Whence the Portuguese creole language Patuá / Historical lead-in to evna or evich / Finishing touch on the first transcontinental railroad

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Constructor: Blake Slonecker

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: FISH / HOOK (1D: With 11-Down, what each of this puzzle's groups of circles represents — four theme answers end in a FISH HOOK shape—the hook is represented by circled squares, and each "hook" contains the name of a four-letter fish (so, answers shaped like a FISH HOOK, last four letters are a literal FISH (name) HOOK):

Theme answers:
  • GAME CONSOLE (4D: Xbox or PlayStation)
  • GOLDEN SPIKE (8D: Finishing touch on the first transcontinental railroad)
  • MILKSHAKE (37D: Drink that might be served with a metal cup)
  • UPANISHAD (38D: Vedic religious text)
Word of the Day: Accouchement (25A: Accouchement = LABOR) —
the time or act of giving birth (
• • •

I didn't enjoy this one all that much. This probably has something to do with the fact that I didn't see the fish-name gimmick until after I was done, so for most of the solve, I had this dragging "so what?" feeling. You figure out the deal with the theme answers themselves very early, with FISH / HOOK giving it all away at the top of the grid there. Since I got FISH / HOOK very easily, I figured, well, the answers hook, that's what the circled squares represent, ta da, the end. I didn't really top to think "wait, why *these* answers?" until I was finished, and finishing mostly meant dealing with a ton of overfamiliar short stuff (SSNS and AROD and INSTA ESTES ASADA KEA SNL etc. and somehow QUA *and* ERAT?), or short stuff with deliberately toughened clues, like the clues on ORR, say (28A: Mary whose short story "The Wisdom of Eve" was the basis for 1950's "All About Eve"), or LABOR (25A: Accouchement)I figured "Accouchement" had something to do with sleep ... but then it was LABOR, and I was like "huh, that's work, work's not sleep," and *then* (when I finally looked it up) I was like "ohhhh ... that LABOR"). I liked DIASPORA (5D: Group migration), and the theme answers themselves are pretty colorful, but there was just too much 3-4-5 stuff for me to get much of a joyful rhythm going, and it's hard to get terribly excited about something like INK STANDS. I see now that the FISH / HOOK theme has its two layers, and I think it's reasonably clever. But the actual solve was kind of plodding and by-the-numbers. 
Beyond "accouchement," I only had a few other trouble spots. The first was actually right up top, with the clue on FROG (1A: Animal symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt). I've been doing crosswords so long that I I thought for sure I was familiar with all the ancient Egypt-related animals. Your ASPs and your ibises and scarab beetles and what not. But don't ever remember FROG being clued this way. Even after getting -RO- I could think only of CROC, which seemed wrong on several levels. So I had to hack a lot to make FROG show up. But by far the biggest obstacle for me today was MILKSHAKE, or, rather, MINT JULEP, which is what I wrote in there after getting that initial MI-. Was that a planned trap, because wow it felt perfect. MINT JULEPs are, in fact, served in metal cups sometimes, and MINT JULEP fit perfectly. I felt so powerful dropping MINT JULEP down off the MI-. I like MINT JULEPs, I like figuring out long answers from just a few letters, it was a huge win-win. Until it wasn't. Now, I also like MILKSHAKEs, but, as with the order in which they appeared in my puzzle today, MILKSHAKEs finish second to MINT JULEPs in the 9-letter MI-drink category, for sure. Last obstacle today was spelling UPANISHAD correctly. First of all, I'm used to hearing them referred to collectively: the UPANISHADs. So having just one here was slightly disorienting. But more disorienting was the "I," which I had as an "A"—very glad I eventually caught STYLA there at 55A: Accessories for tablets and changed it (to STYLI). 

Five more things:
    (23A: Ailurophiles)
     — "CAT PEOPLE" is a classic Val Lewton horror movie; you can clue CAT LOVERS as [Ailurophiles], but you cannot pass up a Val Lewton horror movie title when you have your shot at one, because, I mean, when is "I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE" ever going to appear in a grid, realistically? Also, clue VAL as Val Lewton. Also, LEWTON, VALLEWTON, all VALid answers. 
  • TSAR (56A: Historical lead-in to -evna or -evich) — I had IVAN :(
  • MALLORCA (7D: One of las Islas Baleares) — the biggest of the Balearic Islands, which are spelled "las Islas Baleares" here because the answer has the Spanish spelling of the island (two L's) and not the English (a J)
  • LISPS (25D: "Frontal" or "lateral" speaking features — well at least the puzzle isn't mocking speech disorders today, as it so often has
  • KALE (48D: Trendy ingredient in a healthy smoothie) — stop treating KALE like it's some hipster fad. The "trendy" bit here is *$%&ing annoying and completely embarrassing. [Ingredient in a healthy smoothie]—you see how that works just fine, right? KALE is a really healthy leafy green vegetable and it's everywhere, in all kinds of things, all the time. Eat it, don't eat it, whatever, but this weird thing where people treat a simple green leaf like a "lifestyle choice" is beyond me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Indigenous people of Easter Island / WED 6-16-21 / Jim Sheridan gives Daniel Day-Lewis nothing to work with in this Irish dramedy / Gossip in slang

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Easy (unless you are very unfamiliar with movie titles, possibly) 

THEME: MISDIRECTED (65A: Led astray ... or like the films at 19-, 25-, 40- and 57-Across?) — theme answers are film titles in which "direction"-related words have been changed to their opposites (so the titles are "MIS-DIRECTED"); these titles are then clued as if the films were made poorly (i.e. MISDIRECTED) :

Theme answers:
  • "MY RIGHT FOOT" (19A: Jim Sheridan gives Daniel Day-Lewis nothing to work with in this Irish dramedy (1989)) (from "My Left Foot")
  • "KNIVES IN" (25A: Rian Johnson helms this snoozer of a whodunit starring Daniel Craig (2019)) (from "Knives Out")
  • "WEST OF EDEN" (40A: Elia Kazan bungles this John Steinbeck novel adaptation (1955)) (from "East of Eden")
  • "STEP DOWN" (57A: Anne Fletcher misses the mark with this first film in a dance franchise (2006)) (from "Step Up")
Word of the Day: HANGUL (55A: Korean alphabet system) —

The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul/Hangeul in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is a writing system for the Korean language created by King Sejong the Great in 1443. The letters for the five basic consonants reflect the shape of the speech organs used to pronounce them, and they are systematically modified to indicate phonetic features; similarly, the vowel letters are systematically modified for related sounds, making Hangul a featural writing system.

Modern Hangul orthography uses 24 basic letters: 14 consonant letters (            ) and 10 vowel letters (         ). There are also 27 complex letters formed by combining the basic letters: 5 tense consonant letters (ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ), 11 complex consonant letters (ㄳ ㄵ ㄶ ㄺ ㄻ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㄿ ㅀ ㅄ) and 11 complex vowel letters (ㅐ ㅒ ㅔ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ). Four basic letters in the original alphabet are no longer used: 1 vowel letter (ㆍ) and 3 consonant letters (ㅿ ㆁ ㆆ).

The Korean letters are written in syllabic blocks with the alphabetic letters arranged in two dimensions. For example, Hangeul in Korean is spelled 한글, not ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅡㄹ. [...] 

As it combines the features of alphabetic and syllabic writing systems, it has been described as an "alphabetic syllabary". As in traditional Chinese and Japanese writing, Korean texts were traditionally written top to bottom, right to left, and are occasionally still written this way for stylistic purposes. Today, it is typically written from left to right with spaces between words and western-style punctuation. (wikipedia)
• • •

speaking of 
This was one that got better upon further reflection. Or more impressive, anyway. Noticing things after you finish doesn't exactly change the solving experience, but can make you appreciate what you experienced a bit more. In this case, I actually had a good time solving the puzzle, but the concept seemed slightly thin to me—I thought movie titles were being changed simply by turning one word in the title into its opposite. So when I was done I thought, "Cute, but it's not a very tight themer set. What about all the other opposites out there: day/night, good/bad, right/wrong... this group feels pretty arbitrary." At this point, I thought MISDIRECTED referred solely to the fact that titles were merely wrong/changed. Sometimes, though, thinking about why something is weak can lead you to realizing it's actually strong and you (me) just missed the trick. When I realized that all the title changes related specifically to direction—that all the changed words were specifically direction-related words—well, then I was like "Ohhhhhh ... sorry, puzzle. My bad. That actually is pretty tight." I kinda want a North/South answer now. But not enough to be mad about it. Good theme!

It's an oversized grid today (16x15), so if you thought your time was fast, well, it was faster than you know. Grid had to be an even number of squares wide in order to situate the 10-letter "WEST OF EDEN" directly in the center. Seemed like the puzzle was trying to add bonus movie answers all over the place, with actors HUGH Jackman and O'SHEA Jackson forming a little JackPack there at 9- and 10-Down, and then there's DR.EVIL, and, looks, even some BIOPICS for your VIEWING pleasure. I didn't struggle very much, though there were a bunch of answers that for some reason did not leap out at me. STYMIE required many crosses. ONE just would not come. Wanted ANON. and then, weirdly, ONO (33D: Unnamed person)—I think my brain decided to process the clue as "One-named person," but even that makes no sense for ONO, so who knows. Did not know the Shak. clue for VIOLENT (and am generally hugely opposed to fill-in-the-blank Shak. quotes, as they are fussy and dull and rarely give you enough context for you to appreciate them—at least tell me the play this is from!) (47D: Word that fills both parts of the Shakespeare quote "These ___ delights have ___ ends") (it's "Romeo & Juliet," Friar Lawrence talking about R & J's teenage feelings). I had never heard (I don't think) of the movie "Step Up," but it wasn't hard to infer my way to "STEP DOWN." The one word that was totally new to me was HANGUL. Did not know the Korean alphabet had a name. Good to know! All the crosses were fair there, so even that answer didn't slow me down much. 

Only things I didn't really like today were D.I.Y.-ERS (I have aesthetic aversion to most abbr. + -ERS formulations, e.g. NHLERS, NBAERS, ATFers ... OK, that last one's not a thing. Yet. The other icky one is CRIT. Read a ton of literary criticism in grad school. Wrote some too. "Lit CRIT" is just not a term I ever heard ever. It just sounds awful. Like you're trying to say something sexual and just garbling it. Lastly, why would you ever clue ABBA as a rhyme scheme? Do you hate joy?

That's it! Fun puzz! Bye!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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