Prelude to bandwidth throttling / WED 3-29-23 / Ernst who studied sonic booms / Thai dish that translates as fried with soy sauce / Yogi's balancing stance with arms overhead / Specialized tableware for serving some Mexican food

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Constructor: Ben Zoon

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: anagrams — I dunno, I think that's it: four answers that are all anagrams of one another?

Theme answers:
  • DOOR LATCHES (17A: Fasteners near hasps ... and an anagram of 11-Down)
  • TRADE SCHOOL (11D: Vocational training provider ... and an anagram of 55-Across)
  • RED HOT COALS (55A: Challenge for a fire-walker ... and an anagram of 25-Down)
  • TACO HOLDERS (25D: Specialized tableware for serving some Mexican food ... and an anagram of 17-Across)
Word of the Day: PAD SEE EW (51A: Thai dish that translates as "fried with soy sauce") —

Pad see ew (phat si-io or pad siewThaiผัดซีอิ๊วRTGSphat si-iopronounced [pʰàt sīːʔíw]) is a stir-fried noodle dish that is commonly eaten in Thailand. It can be found easily among street food vendors and is also quite popular in Thai restaurants around the world. The origins of the dish can be traced to China from where the noodle stir-frying technique was brought.

The dish is prepared in a wok which allows the black soy sauce added at the end of the cooking process to stick to the noodles for an exaggerated caramelizing and charring effect. The dish may look a little burnt, but the charred smoky flavor is the defining feature of the dish.

The name of the dish translates to "fried with soy sauce". (wikipedia)

• • •

Well I have "WHO CARES!?" and "NOT A THEME" written at the top of my printed-out grid, so ... that's where I am this morning. I do not understand the gimmick. Or, rather, it appears that the gimmick is simply "these are all anagrams of each other," which is about the thinnest theme idea I've ever seen. I mean ... why? *Apt* anagrams I could take, or anagrams that had ... literally any purpose. I can't believe this was accepted, honestly. Obviously, if I am missing some key aspect of the theme, then my bad, my bad, but if this is it ... definitely the puzzle's bad. Sorry, there's nothing more to say about the theme because there's nothing there. Four answers, all anagrams, totally unrelated in any other way. I guess the cluing is supposed to be ... clever? Because it's circular, with one answer being clued as an anagram of another, and then that clue being clued as an anagram of the next, until each answer has referred to one other, and omg I'm boring myself to death just typing this. Right back to "WHO CARES!?"

As an easy themeless puzzle, which basically this is, this one is fine. Clean overall with a few nice bright spots. PAD SEE EW is delicious and looks great in the grid (three "E"s in a row! Not sure why that excites me ... FREE ENTERPRISE wouldn't excite me ... but then again, I can't eat FREE ENTERPRISE, so maybe tasty food gets more leeway). I did TREE POSE just yesterday—a staple of many yoga practices (39D: Yogi's balancing stance with arms overhead). It's a good one for not getting too attached to *success* because you can feel yourself wanting to really nail it (i.e. not fall), but then you're all clenched and goal-oriented and if you fall out of the pose you feel like you haven't "done it right," which is counterproductive and NO FUN, so I like to do variations that make it increasingly likely that I *will* fall (start with hands in prayer, then hands overheard, then you can arch back and look up, and then maybe close your eyes if you haven't fallen already ...). Build failure into the practice, it's fun! 

[she looks amazing! you will never look like this! embrace it!]

It's harder to be excited about something like DATACAP, one of those "original" answers that makes me think "but why?" (23A: Prelude to bandwidth throttling).Everyone out here trying to "debut" answers without thinking if they should, sigh (actually, this is the second appearance for DATACAP, which debuted four years ago, so let's all blame Pete Wentz for this one. Boo, Pete! (Pete is a great constructor, btw, which is why I feel comfortable doing my facetious booing here)). Hardly anyone carries FUEL CANs so that Tesla clue is weird (42D: Something a Tesla driver doesn't need to carry). I do get it, but pfft. Screw that Tesla guy, no way I'm using his car in a clue if I don't have to (and this one really didn't have to). I don't really get CHEAPIES as clued (9D: Bargain bin finds). CHEAPIES is a generic term that really only makes sense if you know the specific thing involved. I would say yes you find "cheap things" in bargain bins, and yes, CHEAPIES means cheap versions of things, but somehow ... you wouldn't say that you find CHEAPIES in bargain bins. Just rings wrong. 

No real struggles today. I had MAA for MOO (2D: Ranch sound) and KWS for KWH (note to self: for the billionth time, actually read the clue!) (40A: E.V. battery capacity unit). Didn't know RIDES, but it was easy to infer (32A: Snowboards, in lingo). Is KNELT not a word? I wrote in KNEELED wondering "is this how I say it?" (50A: Prepared to pop the question, say) That's all I got. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Many a Marvel character / TUES 3-28-23 / Wyatt of the Wild West / Beverages with tasting notes / Bakery unit / Red gemstone

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Hello, everyone! It’s Clare, back for the last Tuesday of March. Hope everyone is having a good start to your spring. I saw the cherry blossoms here in DC yesterday, and they were stunning — the sky was clear and bright blue, and the blossoms were at about their colorful, fragrant peak. It was just… imagine a lot of people… now multiply that by about tenfold. But, yes, I still got some lovely photos. I'm also enjoying the weather warming up because it means I can ride my bike without having to wear seven layers of clothing. And, of course, I’m staying up-to-date on all the sports happenings in the world, especially the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments. 

Anywho, onto the crossword!

 Daniel Kantor and Jay Kaskel

Relative difficulty: Pretty easy
THEME: Emphatic gestures that use a body part

Theme answers:
  • BROW WIPE (17A: [Phew! That was close!]) 
  • KNEE SLAP (26A: [Har-har-har!]) 
  • EYE ROLL (40A: [Puh-lease!]) 
  • FACEPALM (51A: [D'oh!]) 
  • FIST PUMP (64A: [Woo-hoo!])
Word of the Day: IDIOT (35A: Dostoyevsky novel about a "positively beautiful man," with "The") 
The Idiot is a novel by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was first published serially in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1868–69. The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness, open-hearted simplicity and guilelessness lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky set himself the task of depicting "the positively good and beautiful man." The novel examines the consequences of placing such a singular individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved. (Wiki)
• • •
So that puzzle… existed. I don’t know. It was straightforward and fairly easy. The theme wasn’t overly special, but it was at least different from some of the usual themes we get. The gestures generally felt solid — except, I didn’t like BROW WIPE (17A); you wipe your brow, but I don’t think a BROW WIPE is a thing, is it? The theme didn’t take me very long to get, and once I got it, the answers came pretty easily. 

I think if you were in the mood for something kind of meh that you could do while listening to music and watching the South Carolina women win again in the NCAA tournament, you probably enjoyed this puzzle. On the other hand, if you wanted some inventive clues/answers with a really invigorating theme, this may not have been your favorite puzzle. 

I fell somewhere in between. There was some good to the puzzle. I don’t usually love bracket clues, but the theme used them well. PIE HOLE (30D: Mouth, slangily), SATCHEL (49A: Bag with a strap), LEMURS (66A: Madagascar's aye-ayes and sifakas), and TREETOP (28A: "Rock-a-Bye Baby" setting) were all fun words you don’t see that often in puzzles. The fill wasn’t too crosswordese-y. 

But, some of the puzzle just felt off. There was some laziness seemingly with ACT UP (46D: Make Mischief), EVENS UP (44D: Ties, as a score), and SHOOT EM UP (3D: Video game genre for Space Invaders) all having the same ending. Also, while I don’t blame the constructors for this, it was really poor timing to have an answer in the puzzle be SHOOT EM UP given Monday’s horrible events in Nashville. Having CRIMEA (8D: Black Sea peninsula) and RUSSIA (62A: Country that seized 8-Down in 2014) there in the puzzle felt somehow off to me, too — maybe it’s the clue for 62A, where “seized” is a pretty tame word for what RUSSIA did. 

I had “in the nude” rather than IN THE BUFF (36D: Not wearing any clothing) for a bit, which confused the SE corner for me before I saw the clue 68A: Douglas __ and knew the answer had to be FIR. I also had no idea what 25D: Chichi was. I’ve since Googled it, and I’m not convinced the definition of “chichi” really aligns with TONY. It seems the definition for TONY (not the award for excellence on Broadway) is aristocratic manner, fashionable, stylish, expensive. Chichi seems to be more about being elegant or trendy or elaborately ornamented in a pretentious way.

  • I was all set to make EMIL (60D: Actor Jannings who won the first Best Actor Oscar) the “word of the day,” but looking through his Wikipedia page, I quickly learned that he was a Swiss-born German actor and starred in a lot of Nazi propaganda films.He even apparently carried his Oscar around to prove he’d been associated with Hollywood. Not sure we needed him in the puzzle… 
  • Quick aside: Can anyone tell me why doornails are DEAD (57A)?! 
  • With 28D: "Rock-a-Bye Baby" setting, if you look at the lyrics for “Rock-a-bye-Baby,” why in the world is this a nursery rhyme? “Down will come baby, cradle and all.” I guess there’s room for interpretation, but I’m pretty sure the baby dies there. Similar vibes as “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” where the woman drowns. 
  • Thanks, but I didn’t really need another reminder about the TAMPA (12D) Bay Buccaneers winning the 2021 Super Bowl. As if Tom Brady really needed that seventh ring. Just rub it in, why don’t you? At least he’s retired — for now. Also, today I learned the city is just TAMPA, not “Tampa Bay.” 
  • SLOPES (69A: They can be slippery) reminded me of the recent Alpine ski racing season that just ended where Mikaela Shiffrin had one of the most phenomenal years of any athlete in any sport ever. Having just turned 28, she now has the most wins of any skier all time (among a whole bunch of other records she set) and also won the overall title and two discipline titles (aka three Globes). Her win percentage in the races she enters is at about 35 percent, which is just insane and is also the highest of any athlete in any sport (higher than Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods). In case you can’t tell, I’m a big Mikaela Shiffrin fan. She’s pretty much the best. Let’s get her into some crosswords, okay?
And that's it from me. Have a great April!

Signed, Clare [Head Scratch] Carroll

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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