Aquatic dragonfly larva / SAT 6-30-12 / Fuzz Flap in comics / Cousin of kinkajou / German granny / Jumping ability in hoops lingo / Spec of Dust singer 1982 / Toilet playwright Jones

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Talisa SOTO (32A: "Licence to Kill" Bond girl Talisa) —
Talisa Soto (born March 27, 1967) is an American model and actress. [...] [S]he auditioned and landed the role of "India" in her feature debut, Spike of Bensonhurst, a comedy which starred Sasha Mitchell and Ernest Borgnine. In 1989, she was cast as Lupe Lamora, in the James Bond film Licence to Killstarring Timothy Dalton and as Maria Rivera in The Mambo Kings.[6]

Soto has participated in more than twenty films, among which are: Mortal Kombat (1995) as KitanaIsland of the Dead as Melissa O'Keefe;Piñero (2001) as Sugar, starring Benjamin Bratt; and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) as Ryne alongside Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas. Soto also made two guest appearances on the television series C-16: FBI. In 1995, she played the role of Doña Julia, one of Johnny Depp's many love interests in the tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy Don Juan DeMarco, Depp playing the title role. She also made an appearance in Marc Anthony's music video for "I Need to Know". In 1996, Soto played the title role in the campy film Vampirella based on the comic book character. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was pretty grim. ONE FINGER SALUTE (1A: Bird) is the most original thing here, and even that wasn't as entertaining as it thought it was. Seems both crass and old-fashioned. I mean, hurray for colloquialisms, but I just didn't find this one that exciting. CALIFORNIA GIRLS is the new SCARLET TANAGERS (which was the new A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE). That is, I've seen it a bunch (or so it seems). A FIGHTING CHANCE isn't bad (17A: What every honest competitor deserves). I might actually like that better than 1A (friend of mine does *not* like that indefinite article, but I think the phrase coheres best with the "A" attached). But everything down below is dull. The rest: well, some it's OK, but a lot of is it crosswordese dressed up like it's something special (see clues on LOA, OLAV, ONO, TEL, NAIAD, ESE, OMA, AAAS, OCALA, UPS, CSA, etc.). 15 stacks are old hat—if you're going that route, make sure they really sizzle. Otherwise, use your 70 words to make a grid where "great" trumps "15."

I'm out of here for a while. A long while. I'll pop in now and again, but otherwise, you will be getting a host of guest bloggers for the next three or so weeks. And by "a host," I mean ... well, a lot. Some have filled in before, but fully eleven (by my count) have not. So be nice. And I'll see you in mid-late July.

  • 18A: Fuzz and Flap, in the comics: Abbr. (LTS) — no idea which "comics" ... ah, "Beetle Bailey," I see. I don't believe anyone's actually read it since 1970. It lives on due to some strange (and enormous) MOMENT OF INERTIA.
  • 28A: Jumping ability, in hoops lingo (UPS) — true enough. Wanted HOPS. No fit.
  • 45A: Johann ___ Koss, speed skater with four Olympic golds (OLAV) — nothing more exciting than semi-obscure Olympians' middle names.
  • 60A: "Spec of Dust" singer, 1982 (ONO) — no idea, but seeing three letters, I dropped ONO right in.
  • 1D: Southern city called the Horse Capital of the World (OCALA) — "the world?" You'd think if you were the capital, then you'd have to be one of the top 100 cities I think of when I think of horses. But no. Top 500? No again.
  • 14D: "CrazySexyCool" R&B trio (TLC) — early into the grid. Total gimme. They were massive in the '90s. I still often find "No Scrubs" running through my head for no particular reason.

  • 24D: Cousin of a kinkajou (COATI) — No idea what a kinkajou is (some kind of Pokemon?), but I got this off the C- nonethless. Behold the Power of Crosswordese!
  • 36D: "The Toilet" playwright Jones (LEROI) — wanted INIGO, but he was more stage designer than playwright.
  • 53D: Eight-time Best Opera Recording Grammy winner (SOLTI) — this guy and other conductors like OZAWA and ARTURO TOSCANINI (who was the old A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE), show up a lot in crosswords. Even if you aren't that into classical music, you learn them.
  • 63D: German granny (OMA) — better than a suffix? If you're German, I guess.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Guitarist Segovia / FRI 6-29-12 / Callas contemporary / Ethan Frome's sickly wife / Werther's love in Goethe novel / Literally man of forest / 1970s-80s band whose debut album was soundtrack to Richard Pryor film

Friday, June 29, 2012

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ROSE ROYCE (17A: 1970s-'80s band whose debut album was the soundtrack to a Richard Pryor film) —
Rose Royce is an American soul and R&B group. They are best known for several hit singlesduring the 1970s including "Car Wash," "I Wanna Get Next to You," "I'm Going Down", "Wishing on a Star", and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore". // The Los Angeles-based group originally comprised Henry Garner (drums), Terral "Terry" Santiel (congas), Lequeint "Duke" Jobe (bass), Michael Moore (saxophone), Kenny Copeland (trumpet, lead vocals), Kenji Brown (guitar, lead vocals), Freddie Dunn (trumpet), and Victor Nix (keyboards). The group began in the early 1970s, when members of several backup bands from the Watts andInglewood areas of Los Angeles united under the name Total Concept Unlimited. In 1973, this collective toured England and Japan behind Motown soul star Edwin Starr. Starr introduced them toNorman WhitfieldMotown's 'psychedelic shaman' who was responsible for bringing a progressive funk-rock slant to the company, via such productions as Starr's "War", The Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes" and The Temptations "Papa Was A Rolling Stone". [...] The movie Car Wash and the soundtrack were great successes, bringing the group national fame. Released in late 1976, the soundtrack featured three Billboard R&B Top Ten singles: "Car Wash," "I Wanna Get Next to You," and "I'm Going Down." The first of these was also a number one single on the Billboard popular music charts, and "I Wanna Get Next to You" reached number ten. (wikipedia)

• • •

This one felt much harder than it was—this is usually the case when much of the puzzle is easy, but parts are murder. Overall time ends up somewhere in the normal range, but the frustration of being very stuck for a while leaves you feeling like the puzzle was hard in general. Actually, there was no part of the puzzle I thought was Very easy. Maybe the NE, where I started, but that's only because PIA ZADORA was a gimme (11D: 1982 Razzie winner for "Butterfly"). And even then stuff like HIPPO (9A: One form of the Egyptian god Set) and ONION (16A: Light bulb, maybe) didn't exactly come quickly. Had CARUSO instead of SCOTTO in the NW (6D: Callas contemporary), so that mucked things up for a bit (TAYE was a rock-solid gimme, so knowing that helped a little; 7D: "Private Practice" actor Diggs). NEMO for LILO in the SE held me up there for a while (54D: Title character of a 2002 Disney film), as did SMUT for SCUM (46D: Disgusting film), but the "U" got me UTILITIES (56A: Some Monopoly holdings), and the rest fell once LILO fell. That left the SW, the hardest section (for me) by far. Actually guessed COCA first (27A: Something to chew on), but couldn't get any of the downs off of that, so took it out (ugh). Had ENTER and LIANE, but put in ANDREI (?) instead of ANDRES at 42D: Guitarist Segovia, and so couldn't figure out what Latin plural could be the answer at 59A: They have two legs. I eventually got to -ANTI and started running the alphabet when I realized "Aw, *&$&, it's an 'S' not an 'I'" (thus, PANTS). HOME HELP = yuck (33D: Shut-in's caregiver, in Britain). Biggest breakthrough was getting CONTINENT (finally—I knew the "crust" involved was the earth's right away, but couldn't think of a technical term). Last letter was "H" In HOUND / HOMEHELP.

I have to stop and go watch season premiere of "Louie" now ...

OK, that's over.

  • 17A: 1970s-'80s band whose debut album was the soundtrack to a Richard Pryor film (ROSE ROYCE) — brutal. And *I've* actually heard of them, which will not be the case for almost every solver under, say, 35. And probably many over.
  • 33A: ___ Chicken Shack (Chicago-based restaurant chain) (HAROLD'S) — again brutal. Never heard of it. A partial is only a tiny step up from a plural name, especially when the partial is whatever this is.
  • 5D: Military decoration that depicts a flying eagle (AIR MEDAL) — the medal you get when you don't take gold, silver, or bronze.
  • 28D: Literally "man of the forest" (ORANGUTAN) — rough. No idea where to start with this. Really needed crosses. I was thinking far more figuratively with "man of the forest." My mind went to some dark places I don't care to recount or even recall.
  • 36D: High-hat (SNOBBISH) — an adjective? 
  • 48D: Werther's love in a Goethe novel (LOTTE) — this, paired with 50D: Ethan Frome's sickly wife (ZEENA), was (again) brutal. Two obscure literary loves with insane exotic five-letter names? Practically right next to each other? If I hadn't gotten ABLAZE (47A: Going up) ... well, I'd still be wondering what these women's names were (though LOTTE I probably could've inferred).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Singer with 1990 #1 album To the Extreme / THU 6-28-12 / Pond youngster / Exodus figure / Instrument in Picasso painting / Eye cream additive / 1970s cop show / Cathedral facing New York's Rock Center

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TIME FRAME (34A: Window, of sorts ... or a hint to completing 10 answers in this puzzle) — all answers on periphery of the grid (the "FRAME") must be followed by TIME in order to make sense.
  • HARD (1A: You might give this to someone)
  • SNACK (5A: When to have a nosh)
  • HALF (10A: Football break)
  • FEEDING (13D: When the zookeeper makes the rounds with a bucket)
  • QUALITY (44D: Focused face-to-face contact)
  • PLAY (64A: School recess)
  • NIGHT (63A: Dark hours)
  • LEAD (62A: Period for preparation)
  • ARRIVAL (37D: Flight board listing)
  • HARVEST (1D: Autumn, typically)

Word of the Day: Ashley TISDALE (38D: Actress Ashley of "High School Musical") —

Ashley Michelle Tisdale (born July 2, 1985) is an American actress and singer who rose to prominence portraying the candy-counter girl Maddie Fitzpatrick in Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and the female antagonist Sharpay Evans in the High School Musical film series. The High School Musical series became a successful franchise which included two television films, a feature movie, a spin-off and numerous soundtrack albums. The popularity earned by Tisdale in High School Musical led her to sign a solo record deal with Warner Bros. Records in 2006 that allowed her to release two studio albums, Headstrong (2007) and Guilty Pleasure (2009).
Tisdale has a prominent voice role as Candace Flynn in Disney Channel's Phineas & Ferb, a cartoon which became television's most-watched animated series among kids and tweens and had been met with acclaim by critics.[1][2][3] She also owns a production company named Blondie Girl Production and has worked as an executive producer in a number of movies and television shows that includes the ABC Family television film Picture This and the Bravo's 2012 unscripted seriesMiss Advised. During 2009 and 2010, Tisdale had her first major broadcast role in The CW's television series Hellcats as Savannah Monroe, an intense and very religious cheerleader. In 2012, she was cast in a leading role in Scary Movie 5, the fourth sequel to the 2000 movie, set to premiere in 2013. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've seen variations on this gimmick before, but that didn't keep me from enjoying this version well enough. I copped to the theme Right away, and yet still found the puzzle a reasonable Thursday challenge, both because the cluing was tough in places and because not all of the TIMEs came to me right away. LEAD and PLAY and QUALITY were particularly elusive. Went in the direction of APACHES / IPSE instead of ARAPAHO / IRAE in the NE (11D: Wyoming tribe + 16A: Requiem Mass word). Had PLAN instead of PLOT (19D: Map (out)). Never heard the phrase "A LIE gets halfway around the world ..." and never heard of Ashley TISDALE in the SW. Don't know why BARBQ is a [Good grilling?]. I get the "grilling" part, but not the "Good." So that answer was tough, as was the SE—toughest section for me by far. I had to rely on knowing stupid RIEL (55A: Cambodian cash) in order to open things up. Felt almost like cheating, using crosswordese like that. Perhaps worst of all, mistake-wise, I was sure the revealer would be TIMES SQUARE. When that didn't fit, I just stared dumbly at the middle of the grid for a bit. TIME FRAME is nice too.

  • 14A: Baseball brother (ALOU) — first answer in the grid. Today is a good day to brush up on some important crosswordese, including this answer, EFT (23A: Pond youngster) (a young newt), and ARI (26A: "Exodus" figure) (the Uris novel, not the Bible book). I thought 10D: University of Hawaii campus locale was going to be MAUI or OAHU, but those are Hawaiian crosswordese *islands*. Clue was asking for the Hawaiian crosswordese *city* instead: HILO.
  • 56A: Singer with the 1990 #1 album "To the Extreme" (VANILLA ICE) — highlight of the puzzle for me: "To the extreme I rock the mic like a vandal / Light up the stage and wax a chump like a candle!"

  • 5D: Cathedral facing New York's Rock Center (ST. PAT'S) — Just a good guess on my part. The parallel possessives of ST. PAT'S and NOAH'S make for one of the less appealing parts of this grid.
  • 28D: Mrs. ___, "Beauty and the Beast" character (POTTS) — probably should've inferred this more easily considering all those damned inanimate objects (candlesticks and clocks and what not) talked in that movie.
  • 35D: Instrument in a Picasso painting (MANDOLIN) — specifically, in "MANDOLIN and Guitar." I sometimes get his stuff confused with ... that other guy ... dang, what's his name? ...  G-something? Yes, Juan Gris, who painted "Guitar and Clarinet," for instance:

  • 42D: Eye cream additive (RETINOL) — could think only of Preparation-H. Where did I see someone talk about putting that under their eyes ... ?
  • 43D: 1970s cop show ("BARETTA") — whoa, vague clue. Keep your eye on the sparrow ... 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS you should do the LA Times puzzle today because my friends PuzzleGirl and Doug Peterson made it. (Here's the URL for the .pdf)


Pioneering jazz standard 1917 / WED 6-27-12 / Penniless in Pennington / Repeated Laura Petrie line on Dick Van Dyke show / 2011 Grammy-winning song by Jay-Z Kanye West / Its symbol is AA on New York Stock Exchange / Like areas where cattails thrive

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Constructor: Mike Buckley

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: PENTOMINOES (37A: Complete set of 12 shapes formed by this puzzle's black squares)— that's pretty much it. Plus two more theme answers, which are accurate enough, but ... I don't get how they provide essential information:

  • 15A: Descriptive of this puzzle's grid (LACKING SYMMETRY)
  • 54A: Like this puzzle's 37-Across (NON-INTERLOCKING)

Word of the Day: "TIGER RAG" (35D: Pioneering jazz standard of 1917) —
"Tiger Rag" is a jazz standard, originally recorded and copyrighted by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. It is one of the most recorded jazz compositions of all time. (wikipedia)

• • •

This puzzle is lost on me. I'm just not qualified to evaluate it fairly. No idea what PENTOMINOES are (though now that I see them, I get it—shapes made out of five contiguous squares). No idea why LACKING SYMMETRY or NON-INTERLOCKING should be relevant phrases here. I like that this grid looks weird, and I like STORM IN A TEACUP (7A: Much ado about nothing) and BIG OX (42A: Oaf), but otherwise it's a lot of black squares and a concept I don't really get. I hope many of you felt otherwise. I guess that because of the concept, there had to be that lone unchecked square. Haven't seen a *truly* unchecked square in ... I don't know how long. Since no one is in danger of not getting ARENA, I guess it doesn't matter much.

Started with SWAMPY and SEC rather than MARSHY (1A: Like areas where cattails thrive) and MIN (1D: One sweep of a hand: Abbr.), so that wasn't good. Otherwise, the only trouble I had was the *entire* length of PENTOMINOES (?) and the "LOCKING" part of NON-INTERLOCKING. I had NON-INTERSECTING. Never heard of "TIGER RAG" or PIC (!?!?!) (23A: Jack Kerouac's last novel). Or SKINT, yipes (53D: Penniless, in Pennington). Still came in at *precisely* my average time for Wednesdays.

  • 17A: Its symbol is AA on the New York Stock Exchange (ALCOA) — had the final "A" and guessed that there must be another on the other end. Then just ... thought of a company. Bam.
  • 50A: 2011 Grammy-winning song by Jay-Z and Kanye West ("OTIS") — I somehow managed to ignore that album last year. Too much hype. And I've ignored the Grammys for years, so this one was a Mystery.

  • 26D: Repeated Laura Petrie line on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ("OH, ROB!") — classic. Knew it. Thanks, re-runs.
  • 6D: Verb from Popeye (YAM) — as in "I YAM what I YAM"; in case you doubt the officialness of the "verb"—proof:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Napoleonic marshal / TUE 6-26-12 / Film about 1919 Black Sox scandal / Island group east of Philippines / Colored like boat in Edward Lear's Owl Pussycat

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Constructor: Mike Torch

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: THE DEAD MAN'S HAND (38A: What 17-, 26-, 46- and 57-Across's beginnings represent) — ACEs over EIGHTs

Word of the Day: DEAD MAN'S HAND 
The dead man's hand is a two-pair poker hand, namely "aces and eights". This card combination gets its name from a legend that it was the five-card-draw hand held by Wild Bill Hickok, when he was murdered on August 2, 1876, in Saloon No. 10 at Deadwood, South Dakota. (wikipedia)
• • •

This wasn't just my fastest Tuesday since I started keeping track (mid-March), it was faster than all but three of my Monday's in that time period as well. Faster than yesterday, even, by a few seconds, and yesterday was Easy for a Monday. So, to reiterate, Easy. I was able to write in ACE VENTURA and PEA GREEN and EIGHT MEN OUT and even STATUTES without even looking at the clues, just based on the crosses I already had in the grid. No write-overs. Only a couple of slow-downs—at PALAU, and then at OCHRE, waiting on the spelling (-ER or -RE?). None of the fill, including the theme answers, is that interesting, but I like the theme idea OK, and the fill is nothing if not solid. No complaints.

No complaints is Not what the NYT will be facing in the coming weeks now that they have decided to deny home delivery subscribers access to the puzzle online (at their Premium Crosswords page). I started getting (uniformly miffed) email in the middle of the day yesterday informing me of the change. Here is a quote from the email sent to home delivery subscribers, which I posted on my Facebook page yesterday: "Starting July 9, Home Delivery Subscribers will no longer have free access to Premium Crosswords. You can, however, continue to access Premium Crosswords by subscribing at a special low rate being offered only to Times subscribers." So if you get the paper delivered to your home, you can enjoy all the same content online ... except the crossword. That, we're gonna make you pay (again?) for. They should've added: "And even though we realize how phenomenally valuable the puzzle is to us, monetarily (after all, why would we gouge you if this were not the one part of the paper that was raking it in?), we have absolutely no intention of paying constructors any more than the measly $200 they currently earn for a daily puzzle. Suck it, everyone." 

I can't say I'm surprised by this development, but I hope it drives two things home to people. 1. The puzzle is worth far more to the NYT than anyone would believe or than the NYT would likely be willing to admit, and 2. (related) $200 isn't even in the ballpark of a small percentage of what an individual puzzle is actually worth to the NYT (it is my understanding that constructors only get *that* much because Will really pushed for the pay to be increased from whatever paltrier amount it had been previously). There are many reasons why constructor pay won't change; mostly they have to do with the kinds of people who create them, not with the NYT, which is only doing what corporations do—paying as little as possible for the type of product they want to deliver. Annnnyway, clearly I'm coming at this from a constructor pay angle, while many of you will be coming at it from a home subscriber angle (or no angle at all). The economics of crosswords are highly obscured and sometimes deliberately obfuscated, largely because the very phrase "the economics of crosswords" seems, on the face of it, laughable. The NYT is content to have you laugh.

Theme answers:
  • ACE VENTURA (17A: Jim Carrey title role)
  • ACE HARDWARE (26A: Company for which John Madden was once pitchman)
  • EIGHT MEN OUT (46A: Film about the 1919 Black Sox scandal)
  • EIGHT TRACK (57A: Old tape format)
  • 14A: Hill in Hollywood (JONAH) — My go-to five-letter Hill is still ANITA. She's not right for this clue.
  • 43A: Shinto temple gateway (TORII) — kind of arcane, but you pick it up eventually if you do enough crosswords. A nice follow-up to yesterday's doughnut-shaped TORI.
  • 12D: 1984 best-selling Ed Koch memoir ("MAYOR") — Did not know that. Of course by the time I saw the clue, I had MAY-R in place and was only checking to make sure the clue didn't have something to do with musician John MAYER.
  • 9D: Colored like the boat in Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat" (PEA GREEN) — a long (and interesting) way to go for a simple color. Hurray for giving some life to clues, even (especially) in easy puzzles. 

  • 52A: Napoleonic marshal (NEY) — Do I like this answer? "Nay!" It's pretty crosswordesey. But I never ever saw the clue (filled it in entirely via crosses), so I never had a chance to get consternated. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Here's an interesting take on the NYT online-puzzle-grab debacle; brings up an issue I hadn't thought of:  

Letter from a reader: "It was great that you brought up the change the NYTimes is planning to make regarding the online premium crossword. In addition to it being outrageous to charge those of us who are subscribing to the home deliver edition of the paper, I consider it age discrimination.

It is much easier for me to do the crossword puzzle online that it is in the physical paper. I am 66; I am sure many older people like me will feel it's harder to fill out the tiny squares in the physical paper than it is online; the correlation of the clue and the blank in the puzzle is easier, and the issue of ink versus pencil just doesn't come up.

I have called the NYTimes to let them know I will be cancelling my home delivery, plus the two papers I have delivered to my main office, if they go forward with this plan."

I'm getting many "I'm canceling" emails this morning. Not sure the trend will be big enough to cause any change, but I'm certainly seeing more outrage than I expected.


Doughnut shapes / MON 6-25-12 / Cowboys of Big 12 Conf / Aid for night photos once / 1978 Rolling Stones hit / French city where Van Gogh painted

Monday, June 25, 2012

Constructor: Nancy Kavanaugh

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Quickly — first words of theme answers mean "a short amount of time"

  • TWINKLING EYES (20A: Santa Claus facial feature)
  • FLASH BULB (35A: Aid for night photos, once)
  • JIFFY LUBE (41A: Oil change chain)
  • INSTANT COFFEE (58A: Drink made with crystals)

Word of the Day: MITER saw (15A: Kind of saw in a workshop) —

miter saw (also spelled mitre) is a saw used to make accurate crosscuts and miters in a workpiece. [...] A power miter saw, also known as a chop saw or drop saw, is a power tool used to make a quick, accuratecrosscut in a workpiece. Common uses include framingoperations and the cutting of molding. Most miter saws are relatively small and portable, with common blade sizes ranging from eight to 12 inches.

The miter saw makes cuts by pulling a spinning circular saw blade down onto a workpiece in a short, controlled motion. The workpiece is typically held against a fence, which provides a precise cutting angle between the blade and the longest workpiece edge. In standard position, this angle is fixed at 90°.
A primary distinguishing feature of the miter saw is the miter index that allows the angle of the blade to be changed relative to the fence. While most miter saws enable precise one-degree incremental changes to the miter index, many also provide "stops" that allow the miter index to be quickly set to common angles (such as 15°, 22.5°, 30°, and 45°). (wikipedia)
• • •

Fine work. Only mildly shaky theme answer is TWINKLING EYES. I assume this idea comes from the Clement Clark Moore poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (i.e. "Twas the Night Before Christmas..."). If so, then clue should say so. It's a very specific word to use for his eyes (considering He Is Fictional), so attribution is only fair. What's interesting is that the Moore poem contains *both* senses of the word "twinkling." First this:

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

And then this:

His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face, and a little round belly

That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:

This was one of the first poems I ever heard as a child—I had whole passages memorized simply from having my mother read it to me over and over again. It's weird to look at it now and have it be so terribly familiar.

Seems like there might've been more sparkly things one could do with both FLASH and INSTANT, but the puzzle is what it is, i.e. totally adequate.

I feel like it's only recently that TORI (50A: Doughnut shapes) has become acceptable Monday fare (as clued). Much better than [Actress Spelling], imho, though I like [Singer Amos] well enough. I had some hiccups during the solve, like when I started to write in REEF (!?) for 8D: Titanic's undoing (BERG), and when I had EAR- at 46D: One of two on a winter cap (EARFLAP) but refused to write more for fear I'd get something like EARHOLE. In retrospect, unlikely. But mostly I cruised through this one. Just finished watching Ken Burns' "National Parks," where John MUIR is one of the main stars. Just went to see "Rock of Ages" featuring Catherine ZETA-Jones (40A: Actress Catherine ___-Jones), though I can't recommend you do same. Love the Stones song "MISS YOU" (11D: 1978 Rolling Stones hit) and am finding FATIGUE (43D: Tiredness) a rather attractive word this evening, lord knows why. I need to wrap up now, 'cause wife will soon be home. With pie.

See you tomorrow

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Media executive Bob / SUN 6-24-12 / 2012 Mark Wahlberg comedy / Ukrainian city formerly / 1998 Alanis Morissette hit / Tough-actin medication / 1138 1971 sci-fi film / Girl With Hoop Umbrellas

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Constructor: Liz Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Element of Surprise" — A CARBON FOOTPRINT puzzle. The "Element of Surprise" is CARBON. What is "surprising" is that when you connect all the Cs in the grid, you get the rough outline of a human footprint. Rest of the theme clues are environmentalist terms or catchphrases

Word of the Day: "THANK U" (48D: 1998 Alanis Morissette hit) —

"Thank U" is a song by Canadian recording artist and songwriter Alanis Morissette, for her fourthstudio album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998). The song was written by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, who produced her previous album. Morissette wrote the song after she came back from India.
"Thank U" is an experimental rock song, which features instrumentals like guitars andsynthesizers. It also features very small portions of synthpop music. The song received generally positive reviews from music critics. The song also received acclaim in the record charts, peaking in the top ten in different countries. An accompanying music video was released for the single, featuring Morissette nude in different streets in New York City. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, but received mild controversy, due to nudity in the video. It was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards.

• • •

Yes. Now *that* is a Liz Gorski puzzle. Bold, ambitious, clever, multi-layered. So what if my "footprint" looks more like a drumstick or a lopsided ice cream cone. It's pretty dang close. Getting all the Cs to do that inside an already fairly thematically dense puzzle—one that is very conceptually tight, I might add—is really impressive. This reminds me a bit of her Guggenheim puzzle a few years back, and reminding me of that puzzle is never a bad thing. Fill is astonishingly solid given the thematic constraints. Yes, there's an O IS here and an I AS there and an LVOV over there (113D: Ukrainian city, formerly), but c'mon, besides "THANK U" (I'll see your RICEU and CORNELLU and raiseu) there's hardly anything in either the "Ugh" or the "What the!?" columns. Good clean fun.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Every chemical element has one (ATOMIC SYMBOL) — this was the one place I got slowed down, very early on, because I threw down ATOMIC NUMBER with such confidence; please note how SYMBOL and NUMBER share -MB- placements.
  • 40A: Worrisome Arctic and Antarctic developments (OZONE HOLES)
  • 69A: Conservationist's catchphrase (SAVE WATER) 
  • 94A: Arborist's catchphrase (PLANT A TREE)
  • 117A: Environmentalist's catchphrase (CONSERVE FUEL) — maybe the earlier clue with "Conservationist" in it should've been rewritten. Maybe not.
  • 14D: Atmospheric worries (GREENHOUSE GASES)
  • 42D: Global warming calculation whose shape is suggested by connecting 14 squares in this puzzle in a closed loop based on the appropriate 23-Across (CARBON FOOTPRINT)
Couple of clever clues today in 11A: Pop's relative? (BANG!) and (esp.) 74A: Falls for married women? (NIAGARA). I wish I'd encountered the latter before I already had most of the letters—no Aha moment because by the time I saw the clue, I was really just checking to see if the answer was, in fact, NIAGARA, which is what the letter pattern I already had in the grid suggested. NIAGARA is the black sheep of Ken Burns' "National Parks" documentary, in that it is used as the reason National Parks are needed—no one wants Yosemite, or Yellowstone etc. to turn into "another NIAGARA" (i.e. an overdeveloped commercial hell hole).

  • 18A: 18th-century Russian emperor (PETER II) — not a fan of the "you can guess the name but good look with the random Roman numeral" tsar/king/pope answers, but sometimes you need to stick some Is on to the ends of your LEOs and OLAFs and what not.
  • 21A: Media executive Bob (IGER) — I'd've made this AGER or USER or UBER and/or shuffled some things around or done Anything not to have some random "media exec"'s name in my grid. Hell, I'd've changed him to the "Sopranos"' Robert ILER even, though I think avoiding the odd/crosswordy proper noun altogether, when possible, is usually the best bet.
  • 27A: "Tough-actin'" medication (TINACTIN) — hard to forget this commercial phrase once you've heard it on TV a jillion times.
  • 32A: 2012 Mark Wahlberg comedy ("TED") — pretty sure this is the Seth MacFarlane movie about the teddy bear ... yup.

  • 47A: Popular Caribbean destination, informally (ST. BART'S) — had no idea that was "informal."
  • 51A: "___ 1138" (1971 sci-fi film) (THX) — "Thanks, 1138!"

  • 5D: Dampier of the N.B.A. (ERICK) — I knew it was ERIC-, but was not sure about the last letter (H? K?). I'm guessing many of you were not sure about the whole dang thing. He's not the highest-profile name, but he *is* 36th on the N.B.A.'s all-time blocks list, so that's something.
  • 26D: "Girl With a Hoop" and "The Umbrellas" (RENOIRS) — didn't recognize either of the titles. Still not hard.
  • 38D: 45th American vice president (GORE) — Those guys are harder to keep track of, and (clearly) you can't rely on their number matching up with the pres's (e.g. Obama = 44, Biden = 47)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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