Bookmaking frame that produces paper with rough edges / SAT 7-4-20 / Bush campaign manager of 1988 / Subject of 1927 royal charter / Martial art with rhyming syllables / Satirical website once owned by The Onion

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium (8:04)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: WUSHU (51A: Martial art with rhyming syllables)
Wushu (/ˌwˈʃ/), or Chinese Kungfu, is a hard and soft and complete martial art, as well as a full-contact sport. It has a long history in reference to Chinese martial arts. It was developed in 1949 in an effort to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts, yet attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier, when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanking in 1928.
"Wushu" is the Chinese term for "martial arts" (武 "Wu" = military or martial, 術 "Shu" = art). In contemporary times, Wushu has become an international sport through the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years; the first World Championships were held in 1991 in Beijing. The World KungfuChampionships are held every four years subset International Wushu Federation, as well. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was pretty joyless, which surprised me, as I usually groove on Peter Wentz puzzles. A few key answers felt obscure or just off, and much of the difficulty felt highly contrived, e.g. calling END OF DAYS a "setting" or calling BYLAWS "lines of code." Like, yes, I see what you're doing there, but meh. Trying hard to see what the marquee answers were supposed to be in this one. Maybe P.F. CHANG'S or CLICKHOLE? Those are at least current and freshish. The rest of the longer stuff was ... well, stuffy. Too much of this grid either clunked or just felt flat. It's AHOY, MATE*Y*, for starters (57A: Call overseas?). RAPS as a noun always feels verrrrrrrry NYT, i.e. very "hello, fellow youths!" i.e. like someone who doesn't listen to rap pretending he does. Much better as a verb, especially when talking about whole-ass songs ("chart-toppers"). The grid was very very namey too, which I guess I should be happy about, since I knew most of them, but ... nah, I wasn't happy about it. And what is ROCK-RIBBED (?), who says that? And FIVE-WAY??? Really? (8D: Like some complex intersections) That answer was easy enough to get, but ... not really believable as a thing. Possibly more believable as a sex thing than as an intersection thing, frankly. The only thing I actually enjoyed today was getting "LA STRADA" (38D: Fellini's first Oscar-winning film). I'm overstating how unpleasant this one largely because my expectations from the byline were so high. I wonder how much of any given puzzle's unpleasantness is actually editorial. I've said this before, but I think it's the overall "voice" of the puzzle that often leaves me cold, and that is very much an editor thing.


Most of my trouble came early, when I couldn't get the NW corner to work—holy crap, DECKLE!?! (1A: Bookmaking frame that produces paper with rough edges). I get it that you want to be the first to put some niche word in the grid, but oof, yipes, and all the YEOWS (plural, really?). DECKLE?! Wow. OK. I learned a word (that I will forget immediately). I think I would've resented this obscurity much less if it hadn't been 1-Across, an answer that matters very much even if you think it shouldn't. It can be hard or easy, but it shouldn't, when I finally get it, leave me going "....... what?" and disbelieving every single cross. Only other memorable trouble I had was at WUSHU, which ... is weirdly the name for all Chinese martial arts and somehow (more recently) the name of a specific, standardized martial art. Anyway, I figured the answer would be some martial art I had never heard of. But then it was this, which I know about vaguely, but only as a synonym for kung fu (i.e. Chinese martial arts generally). Weird how a five-letter answer can cause so much trouble. The clue was probably necessary to keep people from guessing ARIEL at 52D: Archangel of the Apocrypha (URIEL). Didn't know BIANCA, but the name was easy to piece together from crosses. Worst name in the puzzle by far (which I got easily, because I lived through his racist bullshit) is ATWATER (40D: Bush campaign manager of 1988). Really, really not the name you want to be floating across your grid in the summer of the year of our lord 2020. Just an asshole of the first order. Southern strategy guy. Willie Horton guy. F*** him and the party he helped steer toward the cruel racist disaster you see around you today. Homophobia: check. Smear campaigns based on stigmatizing mental illness: check check. Here, read more about this awful human being for yourself. Or don't. Black lives matter. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Hearst mag founded in 1886 / FRI 7-3-20 / Pitcher's push-off point / De y de sombra isabel allende novel / Singles player in 1950s

Friday, July 3, 2020

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:16)



THEME: none

Word of the Day: "De AMOR y de Sombra" (Isabel Allende novel) (50D) —
Of Love and Shadows (SpanishDe amor y de sombra) is a novel written by Chileannovelist Isabel Allende in 1984. // Irene is a magazine editor living under the shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Francisco is a handsome photographer and he comes to Irene for a job. As a sympathizer with the underground resistance movement, Francisco opens her eyes and her heart to the atrocities being committed by the state. Irene and Francisco begin a passionate affair, ready to risk everything for the sake of justice and truth. // In 1994, this novel was adapted into a film starring Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Connelly. (wikipedia)
• • •

Isn't Hal Moore the Green Lantern? Did we have this conversation? Oh, dang, it's Hal Jordan. Nevermind. I'm surprised it took this long to get ANTHONY BOURDAIN into a NYTXW grid, what with his themeless-friendly 15-letter name and all. He's definitely the highlight today, though there are a handful of other colorful longer answers that keep this one interesting. Stuff like PHOTOCURRENT and FIREIRONS and PIANOTEACHER just kinda lie there, for me, but I like NONSEQUITUR and SCOUTSHONOR and HUMANOID and "I'M IN HEAVEN" just fine. Short fill gonna short fill, for sure, and the SE corner is particularly wobbly (INURES BDAY ECARD EIRE plural SKYES), but it's clean enough. Passably clean. Though there really is a lot of short (5 and under) stuff. It's a good thing the longer stuff is mostly able to carry the load today, because even when it's reasonably clean, sub-5 stuff is hard to take in large doses, esp. on a Friday or Saturday, when your puzzle really should pop and sizzle and not bore. Every LEA and ACRE and AMOCO and ETON and NOTI makes a little deflating sound. But in the end, more good than bad. All credit for the enjoyable solve goes to ANTHONY BOURDAIN (37A: Author/TV personality who wrote "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park"). Without him, this thing sputters.


My slowness / errors were all in the dumb short stuff areas. ABASE for ABASH, for instance—ugh, one of those only-yet-somehow-often-in-crosswords dilemmas where even choosing correctly doesn't feel very good. I had BUSSERS before BUSBOYS (24D: Some restaurant staffers) because I thought "oh, the clue is gender neutral, so the answers will be too," wrong. I know too many Los ___ places from having grown up in California, and so I was both unlucky and lucky today. Unlucky in that my first answer was Los BANOS, lucky in that I know Los GATOS and that slid in easily once my initial error became apparent. Had the most trouble deciphering the clue on PRIOR (60A: Record component), for obvious reasons (but I'll tell you anyway: the ambiguity of the meaning of "record"). Dumbest thing I did was not fully read the clue on the Beatles song (52A: Beatles hit about "a man who thought he was a loner"). Got cocky and figured I'd be able to just fill in a Beatles hit from the letters I had in place (the first few, I think). But my mind went blank. Even with "GET..." all I could think of was "GET A JOB" (not a Beatles song). Then I had EVITE instead of ECARD so that screwed with my Beatles mojo even more (48D: Modern party planning aid). Finally worked out "GET BACK" (a song I know well). Then I went back and read the whole "GET BACK" clue (52A: Beatles hit about "a man who thought he was a loner"). Would've gotten the answer immediately if I had just read the whole clue. Of course I would've had to speed-sing the song in my head from the lyric in the clue up to the "GET BACK" part, but that still would've taken less time than whatever the hell I did today. Partial clue reading is one of the dumb things you (I) do when you're (I'm) speed-solving. Whatever. Coulda been faster, but still fast. The moral of the story is take the *probably no more than two seconds* to read every clue to the end, sigh.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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