Rufous ruminant / SUN 2-18-18 / Simple variant of baseball / Rani's raiment / Suggestion of what to do slangily

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Constructor: Elizabeth A. Long

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "SEE 68-ACROSS" (68A: Supercilious sort ... or the title for this puzzle)  — Across themers are wacky "?"-clued phrases that are really ordinary phrases that have had a common "name" "dropped" from them. The dropped name can be found literally dropped (i.e. hanging, appended) to the Across themer:

Theme answers:
  • PHONE MARS / PHONE MANNERS (omg what the hell are "phone manners????")
Word of the Day: TAMMIE Green (37D: Green of the L.P.G.A.) —
Tammie Green (born December 17, 1959) is an American professional golfer. // 
She started her professional career on the Futures Tour, on which she won 11 tournaments and was Player of the Year in 1985 and 1986. In 1986, she qualified for the LPGA Tour by finishing tied for second at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. She was LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 1987. She was named Most Improved Player by Golf Digest in 1989. She won seven times on the LPGA Tour, including one major championship, the 1989 du Maurier Classic. Her best placing on the money list was 5th in 1997, which was one of four top ten seasons. She played for the United States in the Solheim Cup in 1994 and 1998. She was a member of the LPGA Tour Player Executive Committee from 1992–94. In 2004, she was inducted into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame(wikipedia)
• • •

Puzzle tries to make me hate it from the jump by naming itself after the worst kind of crossword clue: the cross-reference. "SEE 68-ACROSS" is a horrendous title. Horrendous. It's like ... "Uh, I give up, just look at the revealer, here it is, bye." I have no idea why you decide to go with a title so singularly unimaginative, so repulsive in its evocation of the worst that crosswords have to offer. Mind-boggling.* That said, this puzzle, while not terribly enjoyable, was certainly better than most Sunday puzzles have been of late. There's an interesting two-tiered quality to the themers, with both the wackiness and the "name" getting their own clues, and with the "names" literally "dropping" down from the wacky answers. I love the fact that the theme answer with BING in it is clued [Search engine failure?]. So true, so true. I haven't the faintest what "phone manners" are. "Table manners" are a thing. "Phone manners" is from god-knows-when. Before my time, for sure. People don't even talk on the phone much any more, and when they do ... I mean, have you seen people? "Manners"? LOL, no. "Phone manners" is a. not an in-the-language phrase, and b. utterly irrelevant to the times in which we live. But the other themers seems to work just fine. Theme's not too dense, so the grid doesn't get tooooo bogged down in junk, though it could've been a Lot less junky. There's like half a dozen French words alone. DEUX AMIES spent HIER on an ALPE? OUI. This is still a ways from "enjoyable," but by recent standards, it's a definition improvement. So let's just call it even.

I found this one harder than normal because of the way the theme was structured. Was hard for me to get theme footing for a while. But then some of the hardness was of my own making, like when I thought 36D: Left only the exterior of (GUTTED) was PITTED, or when I wrote in the French MES at 70D: Mine, in Milano (MIO). Thank god I grew up in and went to college in California, because TORRANCE?! (25A: City in Los Angeles County) Really, people know that place? People from California barely know that place. URETHANE was not easy for me (21D: Pesticide ingredient). Seems like there's probably a lot of crap in pesticides. AFLERS hurt, as did TAMMIE, and UNLEARN, and ARREAR (just one!?). And there's nothing like that special feeling you get when you discover ONE?CAT in your puzzle and leave that one square blank because who the hell knows if this amazingly bygone game found only in crosswords will be spelled with an "A" or an "O." A special, special feeling.

On the plus side, DEE got a cool and very contemporary clue (101A: "Mudbound" director Rees). Can't believe ["Mudbound" director Rees] made it into the puzzle before ["Mudbound" director Dee]. That's a name that's gonna get good crossword use for some time. My favorite part of Lent is the PIEROGI part (42D: Polish dumpling). Wife picks them up every Friday from St. Michael's. Had our first batch last night. So buttery and oniony and potatoey and glorious. Mmm, Lenten! See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. The WaPo Sunday is the better Sunday puzzle again this week. You can get it easily from their website.

*It occurs to me that perhaps the idea with the puzzle title ("SEE 68-ACROSS") was supposed to be that the NAME of the puzzle was being DROPPED (from its normal place) *into* the grid. There are several problems with this idea: the puzzle hasn't "dropped' its name, but has substituted one name ("SEE 68-ACROSS") for another; further, this new title now simply points to the revealer, which, eliminates the possibility that the solver will have the pleasure of discovering the trick on her own; and lastly, most importantly, cross-reference clues are a joyless void that are never enjoyed, but merely endured, even under the best of circumstances. This is like naming your kid TBD. Actually, no, I take that back. That would at least be interesting.

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Three-lobed design / SAT 2-17-18 / Brand with slogan fill your glass / Fixed cord for paratrooper / Book in which Israelites are rebuked for idolatry / 2007 satirical best seller

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Jung CHANG (29A: Jung ___, author of the 1991 best seller "Wild Swans") —
Jung Chang (simplified Chinese张戎traditional Chinese張戎pinyinZhāng RóngWade–GilesChang JungMandarin pronunciation: [tʂɑ́ŋ ɻʊ̌ŋ], born 25 March 1952) is a Chinese-born British writer now living in London, best known for her family autobiography Wild Swans, selling over 10 million copies worldwide but banned in the People's Republic of China. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oh yeah, this had everything yesterday's puzzle didn't. Zing and zazz and freshness and all the good stuff. In fact, I finished it faster than yesterday's puzzle, so really this is the Friday puzzle I wanted. I got it a day late, which is better than not at all. Wentz puzzles are very often very hard, but sometimes I get right on that Wentz wavelength and it feels pretty great—leads to maximum appreciation of artistry. Actually, a grueling puzzle can leave me very impressed, it's just that the difficulty has to feel earned. I have to respect it. I don't want to get destroyed by obscurities or icky cluing that was trying too hard to be clever. The great brutal clue will have me baffled, and then when I finally get it, I have to admit, "yeah, that's good." Anyway, not sure what I'm on about, because this puzzle wasn't brutal, but it was wonderful. Stacks and columns other flashes of 7- and 8-letter answers, and all of it solid-to-brilliant (even if I don't really know what a STATIC LINE is) (12D: Fixed cord for a paratrooper). In fact, there was lots I didn't know in this puzzle that I loved. Never heard of Jung CHANG *or* the "1991 best seller "Wild Swans" that she (she?) supposedly wrote. I want to thank Jung, though, because she put ERICA *JONG* in my head well before I encountered her in the SE (where I recognized her instantly). No idea about a G&S opera with YEOMAN in the title. No idea about BOONE, NC (40A). And hoo boy, TREFOIL (22A: Three-lobed design). That word is vaguely familiar, but that didn't stop TRIFORM from getting in there and mucking things up. But these obstacles are what make puzzles fun—assuming there is gold to be found in the grid. If a grid is just workmanlike, or worse, sad and limp, then all the ??? and difficulty feels not challenging, but punishing.

Had some good luck getting a few long answers easily, like "I AM AMERICA" (by Stephen Colbert) from just the "I" (27D: 2007 satirical best seller) and ANTS ON A LOG from the -L-G (would've gotten it from nothing) (11D: Celery sticks topped with peanut butter and raisins). Had a few mishaps, though. Stared at SAMADA- (42A: Brand with the slogan "Fill your glass") and wondered what kind of exotic wine or tea brand it was going to be. Then got to 31A: "Breaking Bad" protagonist, had -A--, and wrote in ... HANK. [Sad emoji]! Loved the clue on OPTICS (5D: Public perception). So wonderfully current. Loved the clue on FOAL (30A: It's generally up and running within a few hours). Fantastic misdirection. Super-loved the MBA DEGREE / NBA GAMES crossing. And FARM TEAMS, oh man. Talk about an answer that destroys you but forces you to respect it. I had FARMT and absolutely believed that the [Professional feeders] worked on a farm, possibly feeding the livestock. FARM TEAMS are of course minor league teams that "feed" the pro leagues. Just great stuff.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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