Start shooting / WED 8-21-19 / Tuscan home of St Catherine / Phrase used by many easy-listening radio stations / Protest singer Phil

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Medium (4:10) (felt much harder)

THEME: E-stuff — Theme clues are that I guess are actual things starting with an E-prefix (E-waste, really??), and then answers are just an example of the post-E part of the clue in which all the vowels are "E"s:

Theme answers:
  • "THE SECRET" (18A: E-book?) (because "The Secret" is a book title in which all the vowels are "E"s...)
  • DELETED SCENE (20A: E-waste?)
  • TERM SHEET (27A: E-filing?)
  • REFERENCE LETTER (37A: E-mail?)
  • ENTER HERE (45A: E-sign?)
  • SEVENTEEN (58A: E-mag?)
Word of the Day: TERM SHEET (27A) —
term sheet is a bullet-point document outlining the material terms and conditions of a business agreement. After a term sheet has been "executed", it guides legal counsel in the preparation of a proposed "final agreement". It then guides, but is not necessarily binding, as the signatories negotiate, usually with legal counsel, the final terms of their agreement. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this was terrible. I haven't felt so completely put off by every facet of a puzzle like this in a good long while. I mean, everywhere I turned, the fill was atrocious; there was no escape. And the theme, which, in retrospect, might've been at least reasonably well executed, ended up being way too dense, resulting in two bad themers that probably could've been done away with *entirely*, which would've resulted (probably?) in much, much, much cleaner fill. So we get too much of a bad thing, which ends up wrecking everything else. This should've been sent back for serious revisions if the theme ... tickled ... the editor so much. What is E-waste? Whatever it is, it is not remotely as much of an in-the-language thing as all the other E-terms. Chuck that clue and answer in the sea. And TERM SHEET, ugh. There's a term only a lawyer could love. Wife and I had never heard of it. I guess it gets ... filed? And "THE SECRET" ... is your E-book? I barely remember that book. What ... was it? Feels Y2K / magical thinking-ish. Am I in the ballpark? Hang on ... Well, a bit later than Y2K, but otherwise, yeah, garbage:
The Secret is a best-selling 2006 self-help book by Rhonda Byrne, based on the earlier film of the same name. It is based on the belief of the law of attraction, which claims that thoughts can change a person's life directly. The book has sold 30 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages. // Critics have claimed that books such as this promote political complacency and a failure to engage with reality,  and that "it isn’t new, and it isn’t a secret". Scientific claims made in the book have been rejected by a range of critics, pointing out that the book has no scientific foundation. (wikipedia)
Speaking of garbage: the fill. From the ridiculous gunk of ESTD EOS SCH to the alphabet soup of FTC ATF to the never-welcome OOX (a noxious answer whose noxiousness is compounded by its faux-cutesy "aint-I-a-stinker?" cluing, ugh) (35A: It's for naught in noughts-and-crosses) (n.b.: "noughts-and-crosses" is British for "tic tac toe"), to, well, everything. Is it INURES or ENURES, who cares, no one, but you still gotta guess! Sorry, you guessed wrong (41A: Accustoms). Plural DNAS. AS NEAR?? EERO ENRY and the ERN ERA! Then there was SHE-CAT, which ... stop. It's just a cat. OPEN FIRE is super-grim in this ERA of mass shootings.

Lastly, I was racking my brain for an answer that made sense for [City south of Yosemite] ... only to find it was the City I Grew Up In. No one, but no one, would describe FRESNO that way. It is certainly geographically true (lots of cities are south of Yosemite), but it is hours away, in (and I can't stress this enough) an entirely different eco-system, i.e. a valley that is a desert that ... look you're gonna have to trust me here, if I wanted to orient you to FRESNO, I might use Bakersfield or Sacramento or maybe the Sierra Nevadas generally, but Yosemite?? LOL, no. My god I just saw OOX again, so I am nauseated and have to stop. To sum up: theme might've worked OK at four answers; at six, it's a disaster—theme stretched too thin, and grid absolutely rekt. Ugh, SCH. Why? Bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Late Swedish elecgtronic musician with 2013 hit Wake Me Up / TUE 8-20-19 / Cavalryman under Teddy Roosevelt during Spanish-American War / Rapper with 2018 #1 album Invasion of Privacy / Small squirt as of perfume

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Relative difficulty: Easy (2:47—personal best Tuesday time)

THEME: GOLF BALL (60A: Sports item that can be found at the starts of 17-, 21-, 32-, 42- and 54-Across) — places a GOLF BALL might be on the way from the TEE to the CUP:

Theme answers:
  • TEE SHIRT (17A: Souvenir from a concert tour)
  • ROUGH RIDER (21A: Cavalryman under Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War)
  • BUNKER HILL (32A: Revolutionary War battle in Boston)
  • GREEN SALAD (42A: Leafy course)
  • CUP OF COCOA (54A: Hot order with marshmallows)
Word of the Day: AVICII (59A: Late Swedish electronic musician with the 2013 hit "Wake Me Up") —
Tim Bergling (Swedish: [tɪm ²bærjlɪŋ]; 8 September 1989 – 20 April 2018), known professionally as Avicii(/əˈvi/Swedish: [aˈvɪtːɕɪ]), was a Swedish electronic musician, DJ, and songwriter who specialized in audio programming, remixing and record producing.
At the age of 16, Bergling began posting his remixes on electronic music forums, which led to his first record deal. He rose to prominence in 2011 with his single "Levels". His debut studio album, True (2013), blended electronic music with elements of multiple genres and received generally positive reviews. It peaked in the top ten in more than fifteen countries and topped international dance charts; the lead single, "Wake Me Up", topped most music markets in Europe and reached number four in the United States.
In 2015, Bergling released his second studio album, Stories, and in 2017 he released an EP, Avīci (01). His catalog also included the singles "I Could Be the One" with Nicky Romero, "You Make Me", "X You", "Hey Brother", "Addicted to You", "The Days", "The Nights", "Waiting for Love", "Without You" and "Lonely Together". Bergling was nominated for a Grammy Award for his work on "Sunshine" with David Guetta in 2012 and "Levels" in 2013. Several music publications credit Bergling as among the DJs who ushered electronic music into Top 40 radio in the early 2010s.
Bergling retired from touring in 2016 due to health problems, having suffered stress and poor mental health for several years. On 20 April 2018, Bergling died by suicide in MuscatOman. He was buried on 8 June in his hometown of Stockholm. His posthumous third album titled Tim was released in 2019. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't know if I'm still on some kind of speed-solving high from this past weekend of tournament competition, but man did I smoke this one. Set a personal Tuesday best despite multiple wrong answers and assorted sputterings. I think the themers themselves were all so transparent that it was easy get a toehold in every section, and so I covered ground really quickly, in general. I like the theme pretty well. I don't know about the cluing on the revealer—I guess the GOLF BALL "can be found" in those places, some (rare, short-lived times, in the course of play), but the ball cannot actually be "found" there now, so the cluing is weird. I think the revealer ought rather to have highlighted the fact that the first words of the themers trace a theoretical Par 4 hole performance as one might really play it, from the TEE to the ROUGH to a BUNKER to the GREEN and then in the CUP in 4. Missed the fairway *and* put it in the sand, but still got down in 4. CUP OF COCOA is a slightly contrived answer (I mean, BOWL OF JELL-O is a thing, but ... is it?), but I'll allow it. It's a functioning theme, just fine for a Tuesday.

As for the fill, it was OK, though it's kinda wobbly or at least questionable in a number of places. I really want to question AVICII, who was a huge force in the musical world, it's true, and whose name was all over even non-music media a few years ago, after his untimely death, but I would stake my vast blogging empire on a bet that a significant majority of NYT solvers will have little to no idea who he is. It's weird to introduce him to the NYT solving world on a Tuesday (as I suspected, AVICII is a debut appearance). His name is a hilarious outlier, compared to everything else in the grid. It's the only answer I can imagine even a casual solver's not knowing. Well ... there's also MT ADAMS (what the hell?), but at least there, the clue pretty much hands you the answer (50A: Washington peak named after the second U.S. president). I don't know that AVICII is good fill. I am always happy to see the puzzle branch out in terms of its regular fields of interest, and AVICII's popularity is certainly sufficiently substantial (if not with the typical NYTXW-solving crowd), but ... it feels like it was crammed down in that corner just 'cause. Just to get a debut answer in there. You mean I gotta endure UVEA and EFILE and SNOCAT because you desperately wanted to be the first to drop AVICII? On a Tuesday? Feels weird. Like it's not here for good reasons. And I'm saying this as someone who (sorta kinda) knew the name (stored it away after all the obits rolled out). I mean, if you need him, by all means use him, but if you don't ...

I got slowed down a few times, nowhere worse than at the very end, by a cruddy little federal agcy. (61D: U.S. consumer watchdog, for short) (FTC). That's the Federal Trade Commission, right? Ugh, I would avoid fed agcys. when possible—it's just an alphabet soup, and no one's ever happy to see those answers. But if you needed one, why not go with the FDA (an agcy. whose name is way way way more familiar to me) and then just change MOONS to MOODS? You'd get I DID at 63A, which I like better than INIT, even if I SEE is very nearby (so you'd get two "I ___" phrases in close proximity). Actually, all the fill down there could be totally reworked, and maybe should be. None of it is exactly shining. Anyway, sorting that little answer cost me many seconds. I also wrote in ON THE QT before ON THE DL (7D: Hush-hush), ST. PATTY before ST. PADDY (23A: March parade honoree, colloquially), and needed all the crosses for the ugly legalese HERETO (35D: Regarding this point). But again, theme works fine, and I can't really complain about "difficulty" if I set a personal record, so as Tuesdays go, I'm not mad.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. [24D: Song that can't be sung alone] (DUET) ... "Can't" *Can't*? Everyone who has ever sung "Islands in the Stream" in the shower begs to differ.

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