Jokey 1978 Steve Martin song / TUE 4-23-19 / Shrek's wife / Charge for some goods bought out of state / RVer's stopver for short / Futuristic movie of 1982

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (probably more Medium) (3:31)

THEME: "PET SOUNDS" (64A: Beach Boys album with the hit "Wouldn't It Be Nice" ... or things hidden in 17-, 31-, 37- and 49-Across) — MEOW, WOOF, OINK (!), and HISS (!?) can be found embedded in the theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • HOMEOWNER (17A: One who may have a mortgage)
  • TWO OF A KIND (31A: Twins)
  • TATTOO INK (37A: Liquid supply for body art)
  • THIS SIDE UP (49A: Message between two arrows on a shipping container)
Word of the Day: MUFTI (22D: Civilian clothes for a soldier) —
  1. a Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious matters. (google)
  1.  also:
  1. ordinary dress as distinguished from that denoting an occupation or station 
    a priest in muftiespecially civilian clothes when worn by a person in the armed forces (m-w)
• • •

This was just goofy enough for me to like it. Given the cover of the album in question, I really would've liked to have seen a goat sound somewhere in the puzzle, but I can live with the sound assortment I've been given. This theme was pleasantly light-hearted, and even though the latter two "pets" aren't exactly as common as the first two, I liked that the "pets" got more improbable as you worked down the grid. Guessing that was just coincidence, but whatever. It works. I also liked that the theme actually meant something to me *while I was solving*. I sort of spilled down the grid from the NW to the SE. Hmm, maybe I took a brief trip north to pick up the NE corner, but otherwise, I just fell diagonally down the grid and got "PET SOUNDS" before I really noticed what was going on (at that point, hadn't even noticed the MEOW or the WOOF). So the sounds were on my mind when it came to parsing the second two themers. Always nice when I can enjoy (and use) the theme while solving. With early-week puzzles, that doesn't always happen. I have some issues with some of the fill, but overall, I think this holds up, especially for a Tuesday, which, after Sunday, is the day most likely to bomb.

The most eventful thing to happen during this solve was the horrible decision I made to yank CORONET. I put it in off just the "C," and immediately wrinkled my nose and worried I had the word wrong. "Is it CORNET? CORONET? Which one is the horn and which one the crown?" I went to confirm the answer off the first short cross I could find, and that was 35A: Indian flatbread. Knowing ("knowing") that [Indian flatbread] = NAAN, I pulled CORONET. Ugh. NAAN is leavened, ROTI not (paratha and chapati, also unleavened, in case that ever comes up, which in crosswords, it probably won't). Mistakes are Killing me lately. It's one thing not to know an answer, but it's kinda worse to plunk down a wrong word with confidence. Somehow TRIED TO and HOLDS ON, with their twin two-letter endings, were slightly hard to parse coming at them from the top. SASSINESS felt wrong, in that SASS all on its own seemed like the correct answer for 34D: Cheek. SASSINESS feels different from backtalk. Somehow I relate it more to swagger or style in general. Mainly I think people just say SASS if they mean lip (or cheek) (weird how two different facial parts are slang for sass). So I had SASS and then had no idea where to go. Luckily SW was very easy.

Five things:
  • 3D: One with a squeaky wheel? (HAMSTER) — tough clue for a Tuesday. Also, can't decide if it's wonderfully apt or annoyingly superfluous, given that it involves around a pet ... sound.
  • 11D: Send beyond the green, say (OVERHIT) — Maybe this is a valid golf term, but I don't like golf and this answer feels like it should be OVERSHOT so I have only side eye for this answer
  • 60A: Digitally endorsed (E-SIGNED) — woof. No. Put an "R" or a "D" at the front of that thing or lose its dumb E-ass entirely.
  • 43D: Jokey 1978 Steve Martin song ("KING TUT") — sincerely read this as [Jockey in a 1978 Steve Martin song] and thought "yeah that sounds like a thing that might be in those lyrics." I was likely confusing "jockey" with "donkey" and "honky." Luckily for me, [Steve Martin song] alone would've done the trick.
  • 63D: Big D.C. lobby (NRA) — because nuns' rights are very important*
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*I figured that today instead of yelling about the NYTXW's continuing to boost white supremacist terrorist organizations, I'd just pretend NRA meant something else

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Sporty Pontiacs introduced in 60s / MON 4-22-19 / Soda in old blind taste test / Hairy Himalayan humanoid

Monday, April 22, 2019

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:03)

THEME: Tennis, anyone? — familiar phrases reclued as if they have something to do with tennis:

Theme answers:
  • POP SINGLES (17A: Tennis with dad?)
  • GIMME A BREAK (23A: Losing tennis player's prayer?)
  • CONTEMPT OF COURT (37A: Dislike for tennis?) [note: "Contempt" is much, much stronger than "dislike"]
  • WHAT A RACKET! (48A: "Wow, no wonder you're playing such great tennis!"?)
  • FALL IN LOVE (59A: Lose every set of a tennis match 6-0?)
Word of the Day: BACK / NINE (26D: With 28-Down, part of a golf course) —
  1. the final nine holes on an eighteen-hole course.

    "he had a double bogey and a triple bogey on the back nine" (google)
• • •

I am routinely stunned that the NYT is still accepting puzzles that are this conceptually remedial. This loose, shabby assortment of tennis terms held together with weak Wackiness™really should not be good enough to make the Best Puzzle in the World (or whatever the NYT is calling itself these days). You can find a bunnnnnch of similar kinds of themes in the databases, usually in much older puzzles, back when just having a random set of last (or first) words from some field (any field) was considered substantial enough to make a crossword theme. But most older puzzles of that ilk at least had something else holding them together, not just a grab bag of terms. There's more than one that runs through the series GAME, SET, MATCH:

And here's one that's got a revealer: 

I don't really see how NET, BALL, COURT, and RACKET are related very closely to TENNIS ELBOW, specifically, but ... you get the idea. You can find a bunch of "these words are from tennis" puzzles. It's been done. But even if it were being redone, that's not a reason to condemn it. It's just that this is so lackluster. So pointless. How can submissions to the NYT be so sparse and poor that this is what's passing muster? The fill is mercifully clean, I'll give it that. I mean, not great, but not wretched. The theme tries to rise above its boringness with these wacky clues, which only make the puzzle sadder. The wordplay is poor. The choice of SINGLES as one of your tennis words is bizarre. It's a term, sure, but there have to be many, many others that could've given you phrases more amenable to evocative cluing than POP SINGLES (?). Something SERVE? Something FAULT? Something SET? I dunno. And this is the problem. There are scores of familiar tennis terms. Why these? What's the rationale? There is none. Ye OLDE SLOP

Five things:
  • 1A: Turn away, as one's gaze (AVERT) — missed a chance at EVERT here. Weird.
  • 39D: Italian city you might be "leaning" toward visiting? (PISA) — Me: [reads first two words of clue and writes in ASTI]
  • 26A: In a trite way (BANALLY) — I dare you to actually say this word in conversation. I guarantee you're gonna get a "wha?" Sounds like DENALI or, I don't know, some kind of Polish food. "Tritely" actually seems much more likely to be a word one might say.
  • 2D: Relative of a cello (VIOL) — gotta say, my hopes sank here. VIOL is crosswordese, and felt like an omen of bad things to come. But as I say, the fill largely held up. 
  • 13D: Snide remarks (SNARK) — looks like a plural—not a plural. Luckily, I had the "K" before I ever saw the clue (weirdly finished in the NE)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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