Indian crepes / TUE 11-12-19 / 1960s activist Hoffman / Scottish funeral accompanist / Item with dollar sign on it in cartoons

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Constructor: Gabrielle Friedman and Jakob Weisblat

Relative difficulty: Challenging-ish (I just woke up, but still, mid 4's is slow)

THEME: "BYE BYE BYE" (58A: 2000 'N Sync hit ... or a hint to 17-, 26- and 45-Across) — all themers start with "bye" homophone:

Theme answers:
  • BI-CURIOUS (17A: Interested in experimenting sexually, maybe)
  • BUY AMERICAN (26A: Stick with U.S.-made products)
  • BY A LONG SHOT (45A: Easily)
Word of the Day: TEST BED (23A: Experimental setting, as for a new initiative) —
a vehicle (such as an airplane) used for testing new equipment (such as engines or weapons systems)broadly any device, facility, or means for testing something in development (merriam-webster)
• • •

So there are issues. Let's start with themer 1, which is gonna rub some solvers the wrong way, for a variety of reasons. Now, I'm slightly outside my area of expertise here, but my understanding is that BI-CURIOUS is kind of a dated term, with the term "Questioning" being preferred in cases of not-conventionally-fixed sexual identities. Defining BI-CURIOUS solely in terms of *sexual* experimentation kind of makes "bi" seem like a. just a sex thing, and b. not a real identity. I don't think bisexual people like it. Again, I absolutely do not speak for all or even some bisexual people. I'm just already seeing pushback online. So there's that. It's definitely a term that people use, and it's in the dictionary in a non-pejorative sense, so fair game. But you gotta be concerned about how words are gonna land, not just whether the Dictionary gives you the thumbs-up. The next major issue for me today is ... WHY make a Tuesday puzzle with a themeless grid? 70 words is Absurdly low for an early-week themed puzzle. It's the word count you'd expect to see on Fri or Sat. When you have just four themers, you should think of that as an opportunity to make the grid sparkly *and* clean. Clean, I say. This grid, ugh. Yes, there are lots of longer answers, but they are not all good, and the shorter stuff starts to come apart. Could've done without NO TAR, NOT PASS (yuck), a single TONG, DII, ARTE, LINEA, XYLO (!?), INHD, etc. ROBING is patently not a thing. HOODING takes place at Ph.D. ceremonies. ROBING ... is what I did ... I guess ... to myself ... before I walked at H.S. and college graduation? And then the activity would be ... self-robing? Do graduating people have servants who robe them? Genuinely bizarre. Wheels came off for me at LOOT BAG (43D: Item with a dollar sign on it, in cartoons). Just, no. I'd sooner accept LUTE BAG, as in, "Where did I leave my lute...?"

Never heard of TEST BED, so that was rough. Clue on YES I AM was inscrutable to me (8D: Personal affirmation). Kept wanting "Yes, Ma'am" to fit. "Personal" ... made me think ... well, not of the self. Had PHONE CHAT before VIDEO CHAT (11D: Skype call, say). ROAMS before ROVES, of course (9A: Travels here and there). Forgot what DOSAS were (my bad) (63A: Indian crepes). Totally forgot the 2013 film for which Judi Dench received a Best Actress nomination  ("PHILOMENA"). Like, completely forgot. I could see the poster, and maybe Judi's ... son? On that poster? But that's it. Put in PHILOMELA, which is a poetic word for "nightingale" (w/ a gruesome back story). Thought [Stick with U.S.-made products] was referring to an actual stick. Like a selfie stick or deodorant stick. Sigh. Very dumbly wrote in STATE TAX before STAMP TAX (53A: Colonial grievance that was a cause of the Revolutionary War). Did not (at all) expect 45A: Easily (BY A LONG SHOT) to be BY phrase. Maybe a WITH phrase? Not sure. There were likely other hiccups, but I don't care to rehearse them. The theme was an old type, but fine on its face

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Rapid green growth in lake or pond / MON 11-11-19 / 1960s-70s teen idol with the hit Julie Do Ya Love Me / General Mills cereal since 1937 / 760-mile river that starts in Switzerland / Protection sold at Apple store / Southwestern plant with swordlike leaves

Monday, November 11, 2019

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:12)

THEME: THINK TANK (64A: Research institute ... or, when read as a direction, a hint to the ends of the answers to the starred clues) — last words of themers are kinds of "tanks":

Theme answers:
  • POOL SHARK (17A: *Hustler with a cue stick)
  • WINDMILL DUNK (24A: *Showy basketball two-pointer)
  • TEARGAS (40A: *Riot dispersal weapon)
  • BOBBY SHERMAN (51A: *1960s-'70s teen idol with the hit "Julie, Do Ya Love Me")
Word of the Day: BOBBY SHERMAN (51A) —
Robert Cabot Sherman Jr. (born July 22, 1943) is an American singer, actor and occasional songwriter, who became a teen idol in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He had a series of successful singles, notably the million-seller "Little Woman" (1969). Sherman mostly retired from music in the 1970s for a career as a paramedic and later police officer, though he occasionally performed into the 1990s. (wikipedia)
• • •

Found this one largely boring. The longer Downs would've been a nice bonus feature of an otherwise easy Monday if they'd been at all interesting, but they were just OK, and the theme ... well, I'm biased. Roughly a decade ago now, a friend of mine and I had a "tank"-based puzzle rejected by the current editor because He Had Not Heard Of Either Of Our Sherman Options. The theme was TANK TOP and the themers all ran Down and the first words (i.e. the "top") of the themers were all tank types. We had reasonably famous author SHERMAN ALEXIE in our initial draft. No dice. OK, hey, what about SHERMAN POTTER, who was, you know, a central character on "M*A*S*H" for, like, ever? Still no dice. Whatever, we submitted it to the LA Times and it ran with our original Alexie answer. The point is—BOBBY SHERMAN?!?!?! You've heard of BOBBY SHERMAN!?!?! Who was famous for like 10 minutes when I was like 4 years old!?!? I wanna say "OK boomer," but a real boomer Would Have Heard of Sherman Potter. Oof. Anyway, THINK TANK is somewhat clever as a revealer, but overall I didn't find the theme or themers very moving. The grid is also loaded with over-familiar stuff (NIA EENIE NENE ENOKI ASAHI HUH AAH ECARD).

TEAR GAS is somewhat grim. Does PASS GAS pass the breakfast test? I'd take it before TEAR GAS. Might make your eyes water, but not part of a gruesome police state violence ... I don't think. I can't believe this puzzle missed the chance to use "BABY SHARK" for the first themer. When you accept puzzles months if not years in advance, you're less nimble to cultural trends. "BABY SHARK" would've made this thing much more current. POOL SHARK is fine, but not as exciting. I guess the idea is that all of the "tanks" are used non-tank contexts, i.e. the second word changes meaning in a "tank" context (basketball dunk becomes dunk in water, tear gas becomes gasoline, etc.). So I get it. POOL SHARK makes for greater consistency, I guess. But it's less fun. In much more particular-to-me news, I hate the word ALGAL when I see it alone in a grid and I don't like it any better here in ALGAL BLOOM (30D: Rapid green growth in a lake or pond). Had ALGA and then no idea. The fact that that answer crosses BOBBY (about whom, also, no idea), took me from a probable comfortable sub-3 time to a very average 3:12. I mean, really, BOBBY SHERMAN. I had the SHERMAN and, sincerely and truly, wrote in ALLAN, who is, I'm sorry, the more famous first-name-five-letters-last-name-SHERMAN. Blah. Good day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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