Danish tourist attraction since 1968 / SUN 3-29-20 / Title for many a W.H. aspirant / Nintendo character with green cap / Whistle-blower in 2013 news / Mount much hiked peak in Yosemite / Golden Flashes of Mid-American Conference

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Constructor: Ricky Cruz

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (the clues just seemed hard a lot of the time, not sure why) (11:39)

Ugh, this puzzle has notes that are so complicated, but if you do it in app / on paper, you maybe don't need notes because your grid looks like this:

image courtesy of Jake Goldstein
THEME: "Keep the Change" — looks like the idea is that there are two nearly identical 5x5 blocks in the middle of the grid, with the only difference being five squares that spell out BLACK in the left block v. five squares that spell out WHITE in the right block. What "black" and "white" have to do with anything, or why the words BLACK and WHITE are unchecked on either side of the grid, I have zero idea. There are two theme-related answers:

Theme answers:
  • TELL LEFT FROM RIGHT (26A: Make heads or tails of a situation ... or an alternative title for this puzzle)
  • SPOT THE DIFFERENCE (110A: Kind of visual puzzle ... or what to do with each line in this puzzle's two shaded areas)
Word of the Day: DISTURBIA (3D: 2007 Shia LaBeouf thriller or a 2008 #1 hit by Rihanna) —
Disturbia is a 2007 American thriller film directed by D. J. Caruso, written by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth and stars Shia LaBeoufDavid MorseSarah Roemer and Carrie-Anne Moss. The film follows a teenager who is placed on house arrest for assault and begins to spy on his neighbors, believing one of them is a possible serial killer. (wikipedia) // "Disturbia" is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna for Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded (2008), a re-release of her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). It was written by Andre Merritt, Chris Brown, Brian Kennedy and Rob. A!, with production of the song helmed by Kennedy. The song was released as the third single from the reloaded edition of the album, and seventh overall. "Disturbia" was sent to US Contemporary hit radio on June 17, 2008, and was released as a CD single in the United Kingdom on July 22, 2008. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was a drag from the second I opened the file. There were puzzle notes, and I thought fine, I'll read them, but they were soooo long and tedious that I just ignored them and solved without understanding what I was supposed to be seeing. This is because in my software, there were no shaded squares. Black Ink (which I love) still can do only black or white squares, I guess, so that's how I solved this thing. Eventually the circles that spelled BLACK and WHITE filled themselves in, and so it was easy enough to write BLACK and WHITE in the spaces along the edge of the grid, but ... why? I read the two long themers and their clues: still no idea. I looked at the circles and thought, "well, yes, the one on the left is different from the one on the right, and yes, I can SPOT THE DIFFERENCE ... what is the point of any of this?" Finally I went back and read the puzzle notes and painstakingly recreated the two sets of 5x5 shaded squares and noticed that both shaded areas are exactly identical, throughout the whole 5x5 region, *except* for the letters that make up BLACK and WHITE, respectively. Ok, but, so ... why? There's just a huge W H Y? hovering over this whole enterprise. I kept thinking "what is the metaphor? Chess? Backgammon? Surely I'm supposed to see ... something. The whole kids' placemat puzzle conceit ... that can't be it—those are never BLACK and WHITE, have nothing to do with BLACK and WHITE ... [exasperated sigh]." And it's all so condescending: can I SPOT THE DIFFERENCE? Well, yeah, you Circled The Letters That Are Different, so ... I do indeed "spot" that, yes. Yes. I have no idea what any of that has to do with telling my left from my right (which, in its phrasing here, feels awkward—without the personal pronouns, i.e. my left, my right, or her left, her right, etc., the phrase feels strange). And, as I've said, the isolation of BLACK and WHITE on the grid's edges also makes no sense to me. It's a fussy gimmicky puzzle with no payoff. Please don't make these.

If I just ignore the theme, then there are some nice parts to this. BONESAW is slightly gruesome, but SPONGEBOB is cute, CUTTING EDGE is edgy (cliché in real life, but somehow nifty in the grid). REAL DEAL and LEGOLAND are pretty flash as well (though LEGOLAND took me So Long to get, as there are LEGOLANDs all over, including the one I went to near San Diego, so if the "Danish" part was supposed to tip me off, well, it did not). I think of AWS as cries of cuteness, not [Cries of disappointment]. GET OFF A SHOT ... get a shot off ... not sure where I fall on the phrasing there. I guess it's fine. It's an unusual answer, at any rate, so that's good. I had some trouble in the area between the two shaded areas, especially with LEXEMES (65A: Units in linguistics). I came at that answer from the back and it just seemed like there were a Lot of potential [Units in linguistics] that end with -EMES. Graphemes? Phonemes? Morphemes? I guess none of those fit, but the fact that I could think of three very quickly made me not at all confident of anything I might put in there. Also, instead of NIX and ACE I wanted AXE and PRO, so things were quite messy through the middle for a bit. I like the expression NO DICE. I use it. Feels slightly olde-timey, but not in an overly quaint or affected way. Or maybe I am quite quaint and affected and just living in denial. That's fine. Denial is truly my preferred residence at the moment.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. some users have been getting "this site might be dangerous" warnings from their browsers when trying to access my site. My site is definitely not dangerous; I'm working to see if there's anything to be done on my end, but in the meantime, if you use are a Comcast/Xfinity user, try turning your "Safe Browse" setting to "Off"—here's how. This is the one thing that I know worked for at least one user. Anyway, there are no safety issues, only miscommunication issues between browsers and my site. If the problem is on my end (in part or in full), it will get fixed shortly. Turns out I have some helpful readers who know how to do computer things! Anyway, thank you for your patience!

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Native name for Iroquois Confederacy / SAT 3-28-20 / Kind of wind across Aegean / 1980s disco hit that became gay anthem / Section often symbolized by speech bubble / Kevlar developer

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Medium (untimed)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ETESIAN (57A: Kind of wind across the Aegean) —
The etesians (/ɪˈtʒənz/ or /ɪˈtziənz/Ancient Greekἐτησίαιromanizedetēsiailit. 'periodic winds'; sometimes found in the Latin form etesiae), meltemia(Greekετησίες,μελτέμια; pl. of μελτέμι meltemi), or meltem (Turkish) are the strong, dry north winds of the Aegean Sea, which blow from about mid-May to mid-September. The Etesian winds are a dominant weather influence in the Aegean Basin. [...] The word etesian ultimately derives from the Greek word ἔτος etos "year", connotating the yearly fluctuation in frequency of appearance of these winds. Etesians have been described since ancient times; their Turkish and the Modern Greek names are probably a loan from Italian mal tempo 'bad weather'. Though it is sometimes called a monsoon wind, the meltemi is dry and does not correspond to an opposite wind in the winter. However, the etesians are distantly correlated with the summer monsoons of the Indian subcontinent, as it is a trough of low pressure into the Eastern Mediterranean region that enforces, if not causes, the etesians to blow in summer. A Mediterranean climate is sometimes called an etesian climate. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well that was mostly delightful. There was not a single letter in HAUDENOSAUNEE that I knew or had any hope of inferring (37A: Native name for the Iroquois Confederacy). Not a one. But, hey, fair crosses work wonders. Outside of that, only ETESIAN gave me any proper name trouble. The rest of the grid was just regular Saturday-hard, and it was full of interesting fill and clues. "IT'S RAINING MEN" is of course great (and a huge gimme—sometimes the puzzle gives you HAUDENOSAUNEE, sometimes it gives you "IT'S RAINING MEN"; you lose some, you win some, that's life) (35A: 1980s disco hit that became a gay anthem). BOO HISS, TRAVEL MUG, and PAIN MED (esp. with that clue) (52A: Number in a pharmacy, informally): all winners. I have trouble believing in the reality or validity of HAIRSPA, but I think that's just me wishing people didn't invent stupid names for things (18A: Salon, fancily). The clue did say "fancily," but I'd say "pretentiously" or "preposterously" is probably more accurate. Unless we're actually talking about a spa facility that is also a hair salon, in which case ... the clue [Salon] isn't really accurate. Looks like HAIRSPAs are just fancy (expensive?) places to have your hair not only washed and styled but "massaged" in some fashion. Your hair gets pampered as if it were an independent being or a pet.  Did I mention I have no hair?

[THE WEATHER GIRLS (15) — put 'em in a puzzle, people!]

HOP A CAB was such a nice way to start things out. So bouncy and colloquial. And nostalgic. Reminds me of a bygone time when people left their homes and went somewhere. To the HAIRSPA, perhaps. [Person on horseback?] (CENTAUR) was one of those clues that annoy you initially, but then grow on you; once I got the answer, I went from making a dubious, pained face to shrugging and eventually nodding "OK," all in the space of about three seconds. "Oh come on, that's ... well ... yeah, that's pretty good, I guess." The toughest thing in the puzzle for me (outside the Iroquois Confederacy dealie) was AEON (21A: Timeline swath). Had it down to A-ON and still had no idea. In retrospect, this seems impossible. But I think of timelines as being filled with meaningful events, named periods. I have a hard time imagining one with a segment ("swath," if you must) labeled simply "AEON." Vast period of time, sure, that's an AEON. It's the word "timeline" that really messed me up.

Coulda done without the whole INT/EXT intersection/crossreference (47A: Kind of shot that's the opposite of a 38-Down in a screenplay / 38D: Kind of shot that's the opposite of a 47-Across in a screenplay), which is just bad fill joining together and calling attention to itself, noisily. And yet I did have a weird jolt of delight when I figured it out, so I guess it wasn't all bad. ERUCT is close to all bad, as only a 19th-century osteopath would say such a thing. Not a big fan of cluing plural TEEPEES with singular "lodging." You can line up your lawyers to explain to me how "lodging" is a singular noun that might refer to a plural entity (see, say, "fare" or "equipment"), but ... bah I don't really have the energy to argue with this clue. It just seems like one of those "watch me try to trick you" clues, which I never like. I like tough clues, but I don't like when the toughness seems cheaply come by, as it does here. BOO HISS. I also am not a fan of PALEOLITHIC DIET, both because everyone everywhere shortens it to just PALEO and also because the clue doesn't distinguish between the fad diet and the actual diet of paleolithic-era people (3D: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots and meat, classically). I need something in this clue that indicates that we're dealing with the diet for people who want to cosplay cavemen. "Classically"?? LOL. That's a pretty fancy word to use in conjunction with a phenomenon that is younger than Miley Cyrus. Again, maybe the clue is trying to point us to the actual dietary patterns of paleolithic-era people, but the phrase PALEOLITHIC DIET really only has legs in our culture as a modern fad diet. A marketing term. And, again, it's usually just PALEO DIET. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if you are mad about MENS crossing "IT'S RAINING MEN," well, the fact that I didn't notice doesn't mean you're not right—duping the word "MEN" in a grid isn't *so* bad, but crossing MEN answers is probably not the best look.

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