Heavy cart pulled by a carriage / SUN 6-4-23 / Glam rock band with six #1 hits in England in the 1970s / Bygone medical device used in electrotherapy / French pet name that means cabbage / Ornamental tree with fan-shaped leaves / ___'s number cognitive limit to how many relationships a person can maintain / Implement used with a Venetian fórcola / Tarot card figure classically depicted in ragged clothing / Title TV character whose name is an acronym / Irish Rose lover

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Constructor: Rafael Musa

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Flying Colors" — six answers are shaded in the colors of the PRIDE / FLAG (i.e. rainbow colors (minus indigo)) (57A: With 58-Across, what's represented by this puzzle's colored "stripes"). Those colored answers have literal clues, but there are also adjacent answers that explain the color; for instance, ON AND OFF are clued normally but also clued by the adjacent RED STATES (because ON and OFF are "states" and the answer ON AND OFF appears in red-colored squares). And so:

Theme answers:
  • ON AND OFF (colored red) (17A: Intermittently) are RED STATES (18A: They're right on an election map ... or a description of 17-Across?)
  • STEROIDS (colored orange) (37A: Olympics no-nos) are ORANGE JUICE ("juice" is slang for STEROIDS) (33A: Screwdriver component ... or a description of 37-Across)
  • DARK ROOM (colored yellow) (48A: Negative space?) is a YELLOW LAB (51A: Marley in "Marley & Me," e.g. ... or a description of 48-Across?)
  • CASSETTE (colored green) (76A: Device with a pair of spools) is a GREEN TAPE (73A: Bureaucracy surrounding environmental legislation ... or a description of 76-Across)
  • PEACOATS (colored blue) (allegedly) (Double-breasted outerwear) are BLUEJACKETS (Columbus's NHL team) (95A: N.H.L. team from Ohio ... or a description of 93-Across)
  • BRADBURY (colored violet) (111A: "The Martian Chronicles" author) is a VIOLET RAY (108A: Bygone medical device used in electrotherapy ... or a description of 111-Across?)
Word of the Day: Titus O'NEIL (40D: Titus in the WWE Hall of Fame) —

Thaddeus Michael Bullard Sr. (born April 29, 1977) is an American professional wrestler and former arena football player. He is the Global Ambassador of WWE and also performs for the promotion as a wrestler under the ring name Titus O'Neil. Described by the company as "one of the most philanthropic Superstars in WWE history," Bullard is the recipient of the WWE Hall of Fame 2020 Warrior Award.

Bullard played college football for the University of Florida, and thereafter played in the Arena Football League (AFL). His career as a professional wrestler began in WWE's developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), before being moved to  NXT where he was part of the second season and fifth season, NXT Redemption. In WWE, he is a former one-time WWE Tag Team Champion as part of The Prime Time Players with Darren Young and a one-time WWE 24/7 Champion, being the inaugural holder of the latter title. In 2021, Bullard was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Warrior Award, honoring his charitable work – especially in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. In the summer of 2021 a public school in Tampa was also named after Bullard honoring his charitable work and contributions to and for the Hillsborough County public school system. (wikipedia)

• • •

I realized today, just now, why I never, ever solve the puzzle on the website or in the app unless (like today) I absolutely have to—it's because I print out the puzzle when I'm done (I need to mark up the finished puzzle with my notes, and I need it sitting here on the desk beside me as I type), and you absolutely cannot print out a finished, solved puzzle from that stupid site. You can print out a blank puzzle, of course. You can also (for some completely incomprehensible reason) print out The Solution Only (seriously, no clues, just ... the finished grid, which, today, was offered to me in glorious ... black & white) (Who Is Printing Out Just The Solution???). But you cannot print out the puzzle as a whole, clues and answers, completed, inside the dumb dumb applet. Why is everything so badly built over there, they're swimming in puzzle subscription money ffs. None of this is the puzzle's fault, I know, but I have a very specific job that I do, and while the NYTXW website has zero obligation to accommodate my admittedly niche needs, maybe now you will understand why solving inside their proprietary, data-mining environments is of no real interest to me on a daily basis. I download the puzzle. Then the puzzle is mine. And I use Black Ink software to solve. And that software is easy to use and it prints my puzzle, solved, complete, bam. But that software cannot handle technical gimmicks, which the NYTXW seems to be resorting to more and more. I have learned to check "Puzzle Notes" to make sure there's not some element I'm going to be missing by solving in Black Ink, but 9 times out of 10, when there *is* such a gimmick, hauling my ass over to the actual website to do the puzzle ends up Not being worth it. Today, though ... well, the color thing was cute, I'll admit, though either my eyes are bad or the color on my screen is bad because that ... that is not blue (see PEACOATS, in the posted grid, above). That's ... kind of purplish. You see DEPART over in the SE (where the cursor is in the posted grid, above)? Those squares are blue. That is blue. Compared to that, those PEACOATS squares—Not Blue. Also mysterious: VIOLET. I kept trying to make something PURPLE happen in that answer. VIOLET RAY is a real reach (what the hell is it? a bygone what now?) and easily the worst thing about this themer set. Other than that, though, I thought the theme was kinda fun, if terribly, terribly easy to solve once you suss out the gimmick (well, those last two themers excluded ... but I wrote all but one of the color answers in immediately):

 I got the revealer (the oddly offset PRIDE / FLAG) very late in the game, and literally said, out loud, "Really!?" Like, yes it's Pride Month, but nothing about the content of the grid suggested Pride *at all* until that moment, so it really came as a surprise. I mean, obviously the PRIDE / FLAG is a rainbow, so it was in front of me all along, but none of the answers were PRIDE-related, so ... yeah, a late surprise for me there. Cool. 

I kept forgetting that the colors in the various theme answers referred only to the *literal* color of the cross-referenced answers in the grid, so I kept having moments like "Wait, are PEACOATS blue?" and "How the hell is a CASSETTE green??" But no, with BLUEJACKETS, the word meaning "Jackets" (PEACOATS) appears in "blue" squares; with GREEN TAPE, the word meaning "tape" (CASSETTE) appears in "green" squares, etc. I'm impressed by the construction here, not so much architecturally (the colors unfortunately don't really end up evoking the flag that well, given their positions) but conceptually. You're not just dealing with your typical wacky clue / theme answer pair. You've got to get two-part answers that begin with each of the colors, and then get the second part of those answers to clue a second, adjacent answer, and get alllll of them to line up symmetrically. For instance, I might like GREEN CARD better than GREEN TAPE, but then I'd need an eight-letter word meaning "card" to go where CASSETTE is now. Perhaps doable, perhaps not. So if you're the constructor, you're juggling several considerations with every themer pair. The colors themselves are merely decorative, but the way the answers are laid out and the way the cluing actually works, that's quite complex. This is definitely an above-average Sunday puzzle. Plus it's pretty. And it's proud. Win win win. 

I started this one off feeling very powerful, as somehow every Down answer I plunked down up front turned out to be ... right? How!?

Never heard of DUNBAR's number (1A: ___'s number, cognitive limit to how many relationships a person can maintain), but shocked myself by filling all in from crosses immediately, bam bam bam bam bam bam! Love when the initial guesses all break my way! The SW corner is the only part of the puzzle that really made me make faces. First, there's VIOLET RAY, which as I say, wtf. But then there's also a bunch of ragged fill (DESEXED LTE EPS LEDTV ATTN). Getting through there did not feel so great. But most of the rest of it seemed smooth and bright and pleasingly varied. Never can and never will spell GINKGO right on the first try (35D: Ornamental tree with fan-shaped leaves). Never gonna love the double-S spelling of YESSES (117A: R.S.V.P. tally). I kept wanting 30A: Reference for exploring America to be U.S.A.-something, but U.S.A. what? Needed almost every cross to see that the answer started not U.S.A. but U.S. ... U.S. ATLAS (the "America" in the clue should've tipped me off that "A" wouldn't be part of the answer, but it didn't). Haven't seen AJA in a while (used to see it all the time), and I've been on a big Steely Dan kick lately, so I was happy to welcome AJA back to the grid (hopefully it won't wear out its welcome, again). Speaking of musical acts, I was also happy to see glam rock legends SLADE and T REX.

"WHO? YOU?" was very inventive, if initially very confusing (20A: Taunting response to a challenger). I had the "YOU" part but couldn't work out the "taunting" part. "Uh ... 'BOO, YOU!'? 'POO, YOU!'?" But no, it's two one-word standalone questions. Creative. Hope you found things to like about this one. See you next week (or Monday, or however your schedule works).

P.S. The Kickstarter for Peter Gordon's "A-to-Z Crosswords 2023" (aka "Petite Pangram Puzzles") ends at 10pm tonight. The subscriber funding goal is in sight, so if you'd like to add a peppy little puzzle to your regular solving regimen, I really recommend these puzzles. Pangrams don't normally impress me, but getting all 26 letters into such a small package—the grids are just 9x11—makes things more interesting. Here's the blurb I wrote for the 2022 version of this project:
My experience is that these are very tasty snacks. More meaty than a mini, but small enough and doable enough to knock off during a spare 5, 10, 15 minutes or so (depending on your skill level). The pangramitude means that the fill gets pretty lively in places, and you also always know, if you’re struggling, that until you’ve ticked off all 26 letters, well, those remaining letters are definitely out there ... somewhere. Knowing you gotta touch all 26 actually helps with the solving at times. These puzzles are unusual and fun and snackable. Worth it, for sure.

Would make a nice little addition to your solving routine. Might be great for someone who’s just getting into crosswords (or someone you want to encourage to get into crosswords).
It's a 13-week subscription, with new puzzles every day of the week (including weekends). That's 91 puzzles! For just $14!? Come on. Go get them.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Phallic object worshiped as a symbol of Shiva / SAT 6-3-23 / Enthusiastic approval in a text / Byzantine emperor known as "Rhinotmetos" ("the slit-nosed") / Part of the Tuscan Archipelago / One of the so-called eight limbs of yoga / City in northeast France home of the country's oldest church

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Constructor: John Westwig

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SOMETHING / NOTHING / ANYTHING — [shrug] it's ... something, alright

Word of the Day: LINGAM (28D: Phallic object worshiped as a symbol of Shiva) —
lingam (Sanskritलिङ्ग IASTliṅga, lit. "sign, symbol or mark"), sometimes referred to as linga or Shiva linga, is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu god Shiva in Shaivism. It is typically the primary murti or devotional image in Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva, also found in smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects. It is often represented within a disc-shaped platform, the yoni – its feminine counterpart,consisting of a flat element, horizontal compared to the vertical lingam, and designed to allow liquid offerings to drain away for collection. Together, they symbolize the merging of microcosmos and macrocosmos, the divine eternal process of creation and regeneration, and the union of the feminine and the masculine that recreates all of existence. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, the best part of this is certainly the middle, and I thought that *before* I ever noticed the SOMETHING ANYTHING NOTHING ... thing. It just felt smooth, so I liked it. The one thing I noticed about that section that seemed like a bit of a cheat (i.e. a gimmick to make the Down crosses easier to manage) was the -ING stack. "Really going all in on those -INGs there, yeesh." It was only after I'd completely finished the puzzle that I noticed there was a method to the madness. The discovery was far more a disappointed "oh" than an elated "aha." Do a theme or don't do a theme! This in-between stuff is meh. But as I say, I'm not too mad, because that stack *was* the best thing in the puzzle, so ... whatever works, I guess. The NW and SE corner were fine but not terribly remarkable (SE somewhat better than NW), and the other corners just didn't work well for me, despite having those showy long answers. In fact, it's the showy long answers that fell flat. NEO NOIR FILM feels awful in my mouth. I wanted that answer to stop at NEO-NOIR, which is commonly used as a noun on its own (a substantive, or nominalized, adjective, i.e. an adjective that stands alone as a noun). NEO-NOIR FILM just feels redundant. It's not that the phrase doesn't make sense, it's just ... I'd say NEO-NOIR (alone) or NEO-NOIR MOVIE before I'd say NEO-NOIR FILM. You'd only call "The Usual Suspects" a NEO-NOIR FILM if you didn't know it was a film in the first place. Otherwise, it's a NEO-NOIR. It's the redundancy that's irking me, but I just taught a whole class on Noir (1940-80), so my ear may be way too finely tuned, I'll admit. But ARMY TRAINEE doesn't improve the section. It's fine, but it screams "my wordlist told me to do this." Plus, I already had to linger on a military answer by that point (NCO), and I'd had enough. 

As for JUSTINIAN II, LOL wow that is a deep cut (12D: Byzantine emperor known as "Rhinotmetos" ("the slit-nosed")). I didn't love it, but I was super proud of myself for remembering that that was a name and writing it in with just the -ANII in place. I felt like I was taking a wild leap there, but I immediately crossed the "J" with SAJAK and knew my guess was right. ASSUMED NAME is fine, OK. I think the real disappointment of the grid was the marquee Down answer: PUZZLING PROBLEM (8D: Stumper). Again, like NEO-NOIR FILM, something about it felt redundant and off. I had PUZZL- and was not sure where it was going. Then PUZZLING ... and still no idea. When I finally got PROBLEM, the feeling was, Again, more "oh" than "aha." Anticlimactic. A letdown. If it weren't PUZZLING, would it even be a PROBLEM? Aren't non-puzzling problems ... not problems at all? I just don't like it. I also don't believe H-WORD (35D: "Hell," euphemistically). You need to be hyperspecific about what kind of demonstratively prudish culture you're dealing with here, because the very fact that the puzzle could put "Hell" in the clue tells you that almost no one thinks "Hell" needs to be bowdlerized. I imagine cluing FWORD in such a straightforward way. You can't. H-WORD, smaitch-word. I got it easily enough, but boo. 

Easy puzzle overall, with nearly all of my struggle coming with NCO / DAX (in the NW) and LINGAM (a thing I kinda sorta knew, but couldn't spell, especially that second vowel—I wanted "U" I think). If you put a specific mil. rank in your clue I expect a specific rank as the answer, but NCO ... both corporals and sergeants are NCOs. I always thought of NCO as a category. [One below a lieut.] may be on some level accurate, but bah. With the "C" in place from EXCALIBUR, NCO was the only thing I could think of, but I was sure it was wrong. Not specific enough. But then it was right. Oh well. As for DAX Shepard, I wanted him to be SAM, and when he wasn't ... well, let's just say I was lucky "X" was the only thing that worked in DEO-IDIZE, because I kind of thought DAX was DAZ. Turns out there are no DAZzes of note, except DAZ Cameron, a former Detroit Tiger outfielder you've probably never heard of. I thought DAZ was the name of a star NFL quarterback, but turns out I was thinking of DAK Prescott (Cowboys), whose name you weirdly never see, given how good he is—a two-time Pro Bowler, and *currently* famous. Despite not caring about football any more, I think I'd rather see DAK clued as [2x N.F.L. Pro Bowl-er Prescott] than as an abbr. for DAKota, which is what the NYTXW has been relying on for its DAK clues all these years. (Thinking about this is way more fun than thinking about DAX Shepard, whom I don't really know. No wait, isn't he ... Kristen Bell's husband? Is that right? Yes. Phew. My memory still has some battery power left).

I see what the puzzle was trying to do here with the whole "mini-theme" thing, and it's not Not cute, but ... it may in fact be too cute, for me, for a Saturday, when all I want is grueling beauty, themes be damned. I think my favorite answer of the day was actually a little six-letter critter: "OMG YES!"  (25D: Enthusiastic approval in a text). It's current and (to my ear and experience) pitch perfect. I would, in fact, text that. Wish "OMG YES!" was how I felt about the puzzle as a whole, but you get what you get. This wasn't bad, by any means. See you tomorrow (unless you scorn Sundays, in which case see you whenever).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. 33D: Middle of to-day is THIS because that’s where THIS goes in the phrase “to THIS day…”

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP