Second-largest city in Ark / THU 10-31-13 / Shetland islands sight / Acupressure technique / Comic strip infant / Nickname for 2012 presidential candidate

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Constructor: David Kwong

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: monsters in MIRRORS (23D: Things worth looking into?) — MIRRORS sits in middle of the grid; on one side, there are four Universal movie monsters. On the other side (reflected in the MIRROR(S), presumably), the mirror images of those monsters, which, in DRACULA's case, is [nothing]  ('cause DRACULA doesn't have a reflection!)

Theme answers:
  • 1A: Universal Studios role of 1941 (WOLFMAN) (8A: NAMFLOW)
  • 17A: Universal Studios role of 1931 (MONSTER) (18A: RETSNOM)
  • 59A: Universal Studios role of 1925 (PHANTOM) (61A: MOTNAHP)
  • 64A: Universal Studios role of 1931 (DRACULA) (65A:        )

Word of the Day: LUNE (3D: Crescent shape) —
In geometry, a lune is either of two figures, both shaped roughly like a crescent Moon. The word "lune" derives from luna, the Latin word for Moon. (wikipedia)
• • •

A cute punchline, but that's a long way to go, and a lot of puzzle to sacrifice, for that one punchline. I have to write in three answers backwards ... for no real reason. MIRRORS is plural when there is really only one mirror here, and also technically in a mirror the letters would be flipped ... so the conceit is far-fetched. Further, MONSTER made me go "???" Only later did I realize "oh, he means *Frankenstein's* MONSTER" ... but technically all these theme answers are monsters, so that answer felt weird/weak/odd. Again, no-reflection DRACULA, cool. Just not worth all the contrivances required to pull it off. IMHO. Puzzle too easy and only really interesting in one, highly localized place.

I can't imagine it took people that long to figure out the non-existent ALUCARD thing. I wrote in ALUCARD and then had [Place to be pampered] as SPA ... D. When crosses checked out, I figured out the gag and just removed ALUCARD. Done and done. Nothing else in this grid is tough, though I did have a slight problem getting started, because of LUNE (?) and FT. SMITH (!?!?!) (4D: Second-largest city in Ark.). But crosses were favorable. Funniest thing in the puzzle was MITTENS (10D: Nickname for a 2012 presidential candidate), as I totally forgot about that nickname. Hell, to be honest, I mostly totally forgot Romney exists.

Off to watch the Sox polish off the Cardinals. Or so I assume. It is Halloween Eve or Devil's Night or Mischief Night or whatever, so who knows what could happen ... as I type this, the Cards have the bases loaded in the 7th ... spooooky.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Savory deep-fried pastry / WED 10-30-13 / Battling Bella of 70s politics / Prince Igor composer / 1988 Salt-N-Pepa hit / Thick sweet liqueur / Pizzeria owner in Do Right Thing

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Part of a Halloween dinner? — that is the clue for all the theme answers, which are candies with names the second parts of which sound like foods one might have at dinner:


Word of the Day: RISSOLE (40D: Savory deep-fried pastry) —
rissole (from Latin russeolus, meaning reddish, via French in which "rissoler" means "to [make] redden") is a smallcroquette, enclosed in pastry or rolled in breadcrumbs, usually baked or deep fried.[1] It is filled with sweet or savory ingredients, most often minced meat or fish, and is served as an entréemain coursedessert or side dish. (wikipedia)
• • •

It's not Halloween yet, but why not? This is a cute way to frame what is essentially just a candy-brands puzzle. Fish, beans, corn, tamales, roll. That's actually a pretty plausible meal. I don't think it's a requirement of the theme that the "foods" all go together, but I like that they don't seem far-fetched or disgusting in combination. I also like this grid's odd shape. It's not jarringly strange, but something about the layout makes the grid look more like a floor plan than most grids. The N/S and NW/SE in particular seem like little self-contained rooms. And those corners are all quite big—seemed like a lot of white space to get through, and a couple of answers were real stumpers (to me), but in the end, my time was actually under my normal Wednesday time.

NW was easy once I got JELLY BEANS because that "J" made CARL'S JR. obvious (1D: Fast-food chain with a smiling star in its logo). SE, also easy, but those big NE and SW corners posed more of a problem. Clue on HAIRDOS totally baffled me (11D: Bob and others). Very clever use of misdirection there with the initial (and thus capitalized, and thus name-like) "Bob." "Afro" or "Page boy" would've been more transparent. As it was, I kept thinking "who is Bob HAI ... something?" Thankfully the surrounding answers were easy enough (I somehow even remembered BORODIN) (27A: "Prince Igor" composer), and I figured the "Bob" thing out without too much struggle. The opposite corner was tougher, as RISSOLE was utterly new to me. Couldn't infer a thing about it. Had to trust that all the crosses were correct. Seems a real outlier in this puzzle, but ... it's a thing, and the crosses were more than fair, so I'm not exactly outraged. Enjoyed seeing ABZUG and "PUSH IT." I like tough broads. Very disappointed to find out that the very Halloween-y 1A: What quoth the raven? had nothing to do with Poe ("quoth the raven, 'CAW'" = first draft stuff).

Great clues:

[Spare wear] = G-STRING
[Black and blue, say] = TWO-TONE

Not so fond of plural TAHINIS (13D: Pastes used in Middle Eastern cuisine) — is that what you make HUMMUSES out of? (note to constructors: that was a joke; please don't ever use HUMMUSES)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Haile Selassie disciple / TUE 10-29-13 / Regulatory inits since 1934 / Priest's garment / Yule libation / Sharer's opposite

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Constructor: Robert Cirillo

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: HOUSE (37A: Word that can follow both halves of 18-, 20-, 32-, 40-, 54- and 57-Across) — just what it says

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Military muscle (FIREPOWER)
  • 20A: Sign of change at the Vatican (WHITE SMOKE)
  • 32A: Functional lawn adornment (BIRD BATH)
  • 40A: Take every last cent of (CLEAN OUT)
  • 54A: "Go" signal (GREEN LIGHT)
  • 57A: Using all of a gym, as in basketball (FULL COURT)

Word of the Day: ALB (33D: Priest's garment) —
The alb (from the Latin Albus, meaning white), one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman CatholicAnglicanLutheran, and many Methodist churches, is an ample white garment coming down to the ankles and is usually girdled with a cincture. It is simply the long linen tunic used by the Romans. In early Medieval Europe it was also normally worn by secular clergy in non-liturgical contexts. (wikipedia)
• • •
Seen it. Sort of. Here's a 2008 version of this same theme (with fewer answers and a longer but more absurd reveal).

I have advocated that this theme type ("both halves of phrase can precede X") be retired, and this puzzle only strengthens my opinion. Theme answers are in the service of a concept that a. is not appreciable while solving and b. is not really "aha"-worthy after solving. If you just look at the grid, it looks like the world's dullest puzzle. Maybe not dullest, but up there in dullness, for sure. As I've said before, the bar seems to have been raised in terms of theme density required for this theme type, but why is theme density good when the theme answers aren't entertaining and don't add any real value? Also, HOUSE? You could go on for an eternity with ___ HOUSE phrases. That 2008 puzzle shares only one theme answer with this one, and this one has several non-theme words that can precede house. DREAM. OPEN. ICE. Without a sensational revealer and very interesting theme answers, this theme type is just an exercise. A ho-hum curiosity. Doesn't help that the fill in this one is PRETTY AWFUL. Five mediocre to bad answers before I even get out of the NW. Seriously. Come on, man. ASPERSE? Don't blow your longer answers on junk like that.

Clue on FULL COURT is phenomenally tone deaf, sports-wise. [Using all of a gym]? I can't even conceive of a context in which that phrase has meaning. Does your gym have only the one court? No other parts? Like stands or sidelines or a locker room or something? "Gym" is, in no universe, synonymous with "court." FULL-COURT press is a type of basketball defense. But as far as I know, the defense uses the court, not The Whole Gym (also, if the game is going on, you are technically "using" the whole court at all times). Gym is the building, court is in the building. Here, I'll let Homer explain it to you.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


British luxury SUV / MON 10-28-13 / Star-making title role for Mel Gibson / Gulager of Last Picture Show / Thinker's counterpart / Full political assemblies

Monday, October 28, 2013

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: dog names — iconic dog names can be found at the end of four theme answers

Theme answers:
  • 30A: *It's a happening place (IN SPOT)
  • 34A: *Sophocles tragedy ("OEDIPUS REX")
  • 43A: *British luxury S.U.V. (RANGE ROVER)
  • 45A: *Star-making title role for Mel Gibson (MAD MAX)

Theme is tied together by the two-answer song lyric "WHERE OH WHERE HAS / MY LITTLE DOG GONE" (17A: With 62-Across, question in a children's song)

Word of the Day: MAD MAX
Mad Max is a 1979 Australian dystopian action film directed by George Miller, written by Miller and Byron Kennedy over the original script by James McCausland, starring Mel Gibson.
It became a top-grossing Australian film, holding the Guinness record for most profitable film for decades and has been credited for further opening up the global market to Australian New Wave films. It was also the first Australian film to be shot with a widescreen anamorphic lens.[3] The first film in the seriesMad Max spawned sequels Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) in 1981 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. A fourth installment, Mad Max: Fury Road starring actor Tom Hardy as Max, is currently in production. (wikipedia)
• • •

First, the question is "OH WHERE OH WHERE etc." There is an initial "OH." You can't just leave it out. Or, rather, apparently, you can, but that's just stupid.

[Stupid wrong answer was almost worth it just to get to see this LOL-bad animation]

Second, OH ME is not a thing. Leaving aside the replication of OH from the stupid wrong / incomplete song lyric, OH ME is just not a thing. It's part of a thing, maybe. "OH ME OH MY" is a part of some song lyrics, somewhere. But OH ME? No. No me. Look, if you have to have ridiculous "quaint" expressions no one actually says in your puzzles, I'll give you (barely) "AH, ME" (which you do see from time to time, sadly). Otherwise, you'll have to go with the more normal "OH MY!" or you'll have to tear out your easily refilled corner and do something less lazy. IMHO.

[Yes, this is permissible]

Third, MAX is not an iconic dog name. No. No. Yes, there are surely dogs named MAX in the world; MAX is probably a reasonably common dog name. But it is no REX. It is no SPOT. It is no ROVER. It is no, let's say, FIDO. That is, it doesn't even come close, in its iconic quality, to those other names. LADY is a. a more iconic dog name, and b. a name that might work as the last word in a reasonably common phrase, i.e. there are surely theme answers ending in LADY out there. Maybe not six-letter ones, but why not go HOT SPOT (waaaaaaaaay better than IN SPOT) and FAT LADY ([It's not over until she sings, in a famous expression]). 7 and 7. Rebuild your grid around those. But in the NYT's current low-bar environment, I guess easy suggestions for improving a puzzle aren't seen as worth making. Too time-consuming? Too much of a hassle to polish a Monday? Probably. I mean, it's "just a puzzle."

There are some nice answers in here (I'm a fan of PRESAGES, and MAD MAX, despite its utter inaptness as a theme answer, is great fill), but this thing's dead in the water. A non-starter. A possible starter, but as it stands, in its current state, a wholly inadequate offering.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    SAG's partner / SUN 10-27-13 / One White of rock's White Stripes / Etched computer component / Primitive radio receiver / British novelist Anthony

    Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: "Who's Left?" — five men's and five women's names run backwards (i.e. to the 'left') inside theme answers

    Theme answers:
    • 2A: McMansion's storage (THREE-CAR GARAGE)
    • 37A: Attack on sacred custom (LÈSE-MAJESTÈ)
    • 39A: Dotty? (PIXELATED)
    • 50A: Piece of road construction equipment (CONCRETE PUMP)
    • 67A: Lot (FAIR AMOUNT)
    • 69A: Badgering (HARASSMENT)
    • 80A: What the Red Baron engaged in (AERIAL COMBAT)
    • 91A: Generally speaking (ON AVERAGE)
    • 96A: Famous (WIDELY KNOWN)
    • 113: They may keep you on your toes (BALLET SLIPPERS)
    Word of the Day: COHERER (2D: Primitive radio receiver) —
    The coherer is a primitive form of radio signal detector used in the first radio receivers during the wireless telegraphy era at the beginning of the 20th century. Invented around 1890 by French scientist Édouard Branly, it consists of a tube or capsule containing two electrodes spaced a small distance apart, with metal filings in the space between them. When a radio frequency signal is applied to the device, the initial high resistance of the filings reduces, allowing an electric current to flow through it. The coherer was a key enabling technology for radio, and was the first device used to detect radio signals in practical spark gap transmitter wireless telegraphy. It became the basis for radio reception around 1900, and remained in widespread use for about ten years. It was superseded by more sensitive electrolytic and crystal detectors and became obsolete, although in the 1950s a coherer was briefly used in at least one radio-controlled toy. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Well made but strange. I thought there must be something more to the names than just ... names. But no. Makes the whole enterprise feel very void of context. The title doesn't really mean much on its own, as a self-standing phrase, so I'm not really sure what to think. The grid is solid, occasionally entertaining, but this doesn't have the usual zing I've come to associate with BEQ's puzzles. His NYT stuff, when it appears, always feels a bit ... on leash. I know that a lot of these clues were changed. Tamed. Neutered. Sometimes you can see something Quigleyesque sneak through, but otherwise his puzzles have to be, let's say, mainstreamed (in case you didn't already know, BEQ has his own site where he publishes a couple of independent puzzles every week—well worth checking out). He also has a band:

    I have never heard of either PC BOARD (1A: Etched computer component) or COHERER, so that NW was, uh, interesting. Never heard of CONCRETE PUMP, either, and briefly imagined that the piece of road construction equipment was a CONCRETE BUMP. Seemed plausible-ish. Only other never-heard-of was AFTRA, and to be fair, I've probably *heard* of it, somewhere, some time, but it doesn't mean I could define it (I can't) (American Federation of Television and Radio Arts—sometimes I can be bothered to look things up!) (62D: SAG's partner). My favorite answer, in that it is the loopiest, most roll-your-own, most desperately creative thing in the grid, is PREWWI (13D: Like the time of Franz Ferdinand's reign). The more you stare at it, the awesomer it looks. See also ISAOAOKI, which is not in any way made-up; it's just that you rarely see it (in xwords) all complete and laid out like that, with the insane double-consecutive "AO." Nothing else in the grid really catches my fancy, except MIAOWS, which is by far the fancier spelling of that "word."

    I thought LANNY was a LONNY (72A: Lawyer Davis who served in the Cinton and Bush administrations). Had trouble picking up IMMORTAL for a while (ironically, that word can be parsed "I'M MORTAL") (31D: Any Mount Olympus dweller). Not much else here to gawk at.

    See you tomorrow.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Swimmer featured in 2013 film Blackfish / SAT 10-26-13 / Spotted South American mammal / Tourist novelist Steinhauer / 2008 title role for Adam Sandler / 99+ things in Alaska / Penalty box to sports fans / Collection of green panels / Bell heather tree heath / Asian silk center / Olympic Tower financier

    Saturday, October 26, 2013

    Constructor: Barry C. Silk

    Relative difficulty: Easy

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: ERICAS (46A: Bell heather and tree heath) —
    (Bot.) A genus of shrubby plants, including the heaths, many of them producing beautiful flowers.

    Read more:
    • • •

    Hello ANEMONE, my old friend. I had to clue that in a puzzle I made a long time ago, and for soooommmmme reason, despite my knowing little about botany and not having thought about that word for years, my first thought upon seeing 5D: Buttercup family member was "... wait ... is that ... it can't be ... is that you, ANEMONE?" And it was. Also, I nailed ERICAS, so I feel pretty safe calling myself a botanist now.

    This puzzle was easy. Yes, I had ANEMONE to help me out up top, but I also had IRIS and USED / CAR and SIX A.M., which made CRUST easy to see, and I'd already been thinking PIZZA at 1A: Domino's bottom?, so bam bam. That corner was fried quickly. Middle was also a cinch; tore right through it all the way down to the OTTOMAN. Weirdly had trouble moving from middle to west because I couldn't remember which MOM Sarah Palin said she was. I remember GRIZZLY MOM and LIPSTICK ON A PIG and not a lot else. Eventually the phrase "soccer mom" came to me and then I thought Alaska, and so ... HOCKEY MOM (34A: Sarah Palin called herself an average one).

    Might've been screwed in the SW had it not been for my brilliant guess of HYDE (as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr.) at 68A: Bad side of literature? That "H" made PHONE BOOTH pop into view clear as day, and that was all the handle I needed. SOLAR ARRAY was really hard to see—needed most crosses to bring it down. And OLEN? Shrug. But crosses took care of me. I don't really get how ITALIAN ART is an "ideal" (67A: Pre-Raphaelite ideal). All of it? From all time periods? There must be some kind of parameters for this ideal.  Otherwise I thought the cluing was pretty good. PHONE BOOTH clue was especially great (28D: DC transformation location)—I thought the misdirection was toward power, away from our nation's capital. But instead those were both misdirections, and what was meant by "DC" was DC Comics. Nice. I am not a hockey fan but I've certainly listened to a lot of hockey highlight coverage and have never heard SIN BIN (47D: Penalty box, to sports fans). Guessed it pretty easily though, with BIN in place. NOAM Pitlik won an Emmy!? Wow, really should file that away, as the only NOAM I know is Chomsky (56D: "Barney Miller" Emmy winner Pitlik). I assume a hailstorm is a PELTER because ... it pelts you? With hail? Mmmmmokay.

    The worst thing here is -IERE, but you knew that.

    Fun, easy puzzle.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Title priestess of opera / FRI 10-25-13 / Gershwin biographer David / Allure alternative / Tempest to Theodor / 1931 Best Picture / Old French epics / Painter della Francesca

    Friday, October 25, 2013

    Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: "LAKMÉ" (39A: Title priestess of opera)
    Lakmé is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille. The score, written in 1881–1882, was first performed on 14 April 1883 by the Opéra Comique at the Salle Favart in Paris. Set in British India in the mid-19th century, Lakmé is based on Theodore Pavie's novel (including "les babouches du Brahamane") and novel Le Mariage de Loti by Pierre Loti. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Quad stacks. Saw the grid and knew who made it without even looking.  It's officially a shtick.

    As quad stack grids go, it's pretty clean, which means there is of course a bunch of gunk (most of it in the quad crossers), but most of the 15s appear to be real things, with nary a ONE'S in sight (e.g. A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE, etc.). I thought the puzzle was going to play quite hard, as my first pass across the top, through all the Downs, yielded almost nothing. I had WKRP instead of MEL'S at 1D: 1970s-'80s sitcom setting, and then Nothing except CCLI and a tentative ERTES and a so-tentative-I-didn't-write-it-in ORES. Went to work on the little pockets in the middle. Failed in the east, but then finally struck oil with FFF at 22A: Blasting, musically, followed quickly by FEDEX, FEES, and BEEFS. Still, that was not enough to blast me out of there. Had to restart in the west, with OJS, TOJO, URSA and the rest, which finally gave me the center 15 (weakest 15 of the bunch), MORSE CODE SIGNAL, and from there I got going in earnest.

    MASTIFFS took me up. Gave in to AFIRST and then got -WARFARE, then all its crosses, and then backed into all those 15s up top. The one nice thing about stacks of 15s is that once you make a little headway with the Downs, esp. adjacent Downs, you can do some real damage very quickly. It's getting in that's the tough part. Bottom half proved much much easier than the top. The crosses were just so much more gettable. Only hiccup down there was PUTS rather than SETS ON A PEDESTAL. Oh, and I somehow thought SILVER ERA instead of SILVER AGE (32D: Second-greatest period in the history of something). The comic book fan in me was so proud to have thrown that one down off just the SI-, but ... ERA? Dumb mistake.

    Back to baseball.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    New World monkeys / THU 10-24-13 / Singer/actress Lenya / Asgard ruler / Like women in famous Rubens painting / Danced to Julio Sosa music / Chenoweth of Broadway's Wicked / Karina in many Jean-Luc Godard film

    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Constructor: Peter A. Collins

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: BOOMERANG EFFECT (36A: Unwelcome reversal ... or a title for this puzzle?) — four theme answers run Down and then boomerang back up (in the adjacent Down space); all said answers are things that, in some way, come back:

    Theme answers:
    • 5D: With 6-Down, mutual relationship (TWO-WAY / STREET)
    • 9D: With 10-Down, critical comments (NEGATIVE / FEEDBACK)
    • 37D: With 38-Down one who may give you a lift (ELEVATOR / OPERATOR)
    • 46D: With 47-Down means of getting home, maybe (RETURN / TICKET)

    Word of the Day: ANNA Karina (3D: Karina in may a Jean-Luc Godard film) —
    Anna Karina (born Hanne Karin Bayer; 22 September 1940) is a Danish, now French citizen, film actress, director, andscreenwriter who has spent most of her working life in France. She is known as a muse of the director Jean-Luc Godard, one of the pioneers of the French New Wave. Her notable collaborations with Godard include The Little Soldier (1960), A Woman Is a Woman (1961), Vivre sa vie (1962), and Alphaville (1965). With A Woman Is a Woman, Karina won the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Seems very solid. I've seen many different puzzles that involve some kind of reverse-entry of answers, but this one is remarkably tight, especially considering that two of the theme answers symmetrically cross the central revealer. Nice construction / dumb luck. Puzzle played pretty easily for me, with the only significant resistance coming in the largish rectangle of answers in the center-east. PAGE-A was a mystery to me. Had -AGE- and couldn't think of anything. WORD-A-day calendars are things that sound familiar to me. But the 365-page calendar is not something I'd call a PAGE-A-day calendar (though I don't doubt it's a calendar type). Anyway, that answer, and PIEHOLE for [Trap] and ARTICLE for [45A: What the Beatles had but Wings didn't?] and ONE B.C. for [End of an era?] (!?) and LOCAL for [What pulls out all the stops?] all gave me fits. Three of those are "?" clues, so no surprise there, I guess. The LOCAL stops at all the stops ... so I'm not sure how "pulls out" is being imagined in that clue. "Pulls out" as in "produces"? As in "watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat"? ("Again?").

    No time for extensive commentary tonight. The World Series calls. My first [Paella ingredient] was CORN. Had Square ONE before Square PEG, and LORD before DEAR (2D: Prayer starter, often), and LIE before FIB (57D: Small story). No trouble with TITI (54D: New World monkey). You know you do a lot of crossword puzzles when *that* clue is a gimme. My Google News search turned up many instances of FLOUTER, but they were all from French articles. Don't suppose that word actually gets used a lot in English. Oh, well, they can't all be gold. There really aren't that many clunkers today.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      High-pitched group with 1958 #1 hit / WED 10-23-13 / Rush-hour subway rider metaphorically / Band with 1987 hit Need You Tonight / New British Royal of 2013 / Carnaby Street's locale / Spanish province its capital / Tito King of Latin music

      Wednesday, October 23, 2013

      Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

      Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

      THEME: BACK-TO-BACK GAMES (62A: Doubleheader ... or what 17-, 29- and 48-Across are?)— theme answers are the names of two games, imagined as a wacky phrase (clued "?"-style)

      Theme answers:
      • 17A: Tornado monitors? (TWISTER CHECKERS)
      • 29A: What the only detective on a case has? (CLUE MONOPOLY)
      • 48A: What a remorseful Iago might have said? (SORRY, OTHELLO)

      Word of the Day: Jean-LUC Godard (7D: Director Jean-___ Godard) —
      Jean-Luc Godard (French: [ʒɑ̃lyk ɡɔdaʁ]; born 3 December 1930) is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is often identified with the 1960s French film movement La Nouvelle Vague, or "New Wave". (wikipedia)
      • • •

      My fastest Wednesday in the last two months, but other people's times seem to be running somewhat closer to normal. I just don't see anything tough here. Maybe if you don't know the names of common games, this would play offer some resistance, but otherwise, all terms and phrases are right over the plate. The fill is solid to the point of boring, though some of the mid-range stuff is colorful ("I GOT IT!", FAKE ID, GOOD COP). The theme works fine, but the wacky phrases involved don't yield much humor. Also, so many game names were left on the table. Seems like there should've been wackier / wilder possibilities out there. LIFE? OPERATION? BATTLESHIP? Those are just off the top of my head. There must be tons of viable game names. And we get just three theme answers. Six games. Kind of underwhelming. But still, as I say, the theme's core logic is sound and the fill is sturdy. Hard to fault it for anything other than a vague kind of dullness.

      I keep looking at HOS and forgetting what the clue is (4D: Yuletide interjections). Really think ARCS / SOS was the way to go there. Actually, there are probably a ton of other ways to go in that little corner of the grid. HOS bugs me. It's so a. not a thing and b. unnecessary. I find myself without much of an opinion about any of the rest of this, so I'll just stop.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      2004 film featuring Dustin Hoffman / TUE 10-22-13 / He-Man's sister / Instruction to play with bow / Old draft category for civilian workers / Allies of Trojans in Iliad

      Tuesday, October 22, 2013

      Constructor: Kevan Choset

      Relative difficulty: Medium for me, apparently harder for others...

      THEME: MIDDLE EARTH (59A: "The Lord of the Rings" setting ... or a feature of 17-, 24-, 38- and 49-Across) — the letter string "EARTH" is embedded inside four theme answers:

      Theme answers:
      • 17A: Overcome an unpleasant misunderstanding (CLEAR THE AIR)
      • 24A: Left-brain activity (LINEAR THINKING)
      • 38A: 2004 film featuring Dustin Hoffman ("I HEART HUCKABEES")
      • 49A: Reason to see a rheumatologist (ACUTE ARTHRITIS)

      Word of the Day: HALAL (2D: Special-request flight meal option) —
      Ḥalāl (Arabicحلال‎ ḥalāl, 'permissible') is any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. The term covers and designates not only food and drink as permissible according to Islamic law, but also all matters of daily life. The opposite of this word is haraam. (wikipedia)
      • • •

      [This theme has been done before, relatively recently, in the L.A. Times. See that puzzle here.]

      Tore through this one pretty easily, but the times being posted at the NYT site are definitely running high. I tied or beat people who are much better solvers than I, so I must've just had this puzzle's number. Lucky day. I do like the revealer on this one. The theme answers themselves seem fine. Reasonably tight. I think there are probably a lot of people who are not familiar with the film "I HEART HUCKABEES"—maybe that's part of the reason times are running slow. I never saw the film, but I'd heard of it, and had most of the middle crosses before I ever looked at the clue. Even though it wasn't the most popular film ever made, I think it's a reasonable Tuesday theme answer. But the fill—it's somewhat less reasonable. Or less pretty, anyway. Lots of rather icky stuff. DLI OID in the NW, ESA IN REM in the SW, and then, all over the place, INI ARR ANY TWOA STPAT SHA ENTR ISOK ARCO VSO OTERI CTA ... that's a lot of sub-optimal fill. Three of the four long Downs are quite good (I'll let you guess which one I didn't care for), but overall, too much short junk.

      That's all I've got to say about this one. Talk to you tomorrow.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      Strong seasoned stock in cookery / MON 10-21-13 / John Cusack thriller based on Grisham novel / D of PRNDL / Atoll composition

      Monday, October 21, 2013

      Constructor: Gary Cee

      Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

      THEME: Bust loose — first words / phrases of the theme answers involve fleeing and/or possibly breaking out of prison ...

      Word of the Day: FUMET (66A: Strong, seasoned stock, in cookery) —
      (Cookery) a strong-flavoured liquor from cooking fish, meat, or game: used to flavour sauces
      [French, literally: aroma]

      (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Zoology) (often plural) Archaic the dropping of a deer
      [C16 fewmet: probably via Old French from Latin fimāre to spread dung on, from fimus dung]
      • • •

      This has some good fill in it (YAWNER, POGO STICK, QUAFF), but all I will remember is FUMET. I have never heard of this word. Neither has the cruciverb database, which means not only has it never appeared in a Monday puzzle, it has never appeared in a puzzle, period. Not a mainstream puzzle, anyway. At least not in the past (roughly) 20 years. It's unFATHOMable to me how you make a Monday (easy) puzzle with an absurdity like FUMET in it. It's not like the grid is demanding. LAZY doesn't even begin to describe it. I'd like to blame it on the stupid pangram thing (one of every letter in the grid! Amazing! (said no one)), but there are no letters down there in the SE corner that can't be found. So you have to really *want* FUMET. Incomprehensible. I don't even know what to say anymore. A remedial theme concept + pointless pangram + word from mars + some good fill here and there. All in all, not a great outing.

      Theme answers:
      • 17A: John Cusack thriller based on a Grisham novel ("RUNAWAY JURY") — I would also file this under "Not Really Monday Fare," but it's gettable-ish
      • 28A: Newly famous celebrity (BREAKOUT STAR)
      • 47A: Stipulation that frees one of liability (ESCAPE CLAUSE)
      • 62A: Part of a ski jump just before going airborne (TAKE-OFF RAMP)
        Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


        Eurasian ducks / SUN 10-20-13 / Bell Anne Bronte pseudonym / 1796 Napoleon battle site / Times Square flasher / Italian writer Vittorini / 1980s-90s German leader Helmut / Actress Graff

        Sunday, October 20, 2013

        Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski 

        Relative difficulty: Easy

        THEME: "Country Road" — a puzzle honoring the centennial of the LINCOLN HIGHWAY (122A: With 124-Across, dedicated in October 1913, project represented by the 13 pairs of circled letters). States that the highway runs through are represented in the grid by their location and state codes.

        Theme answers:
        • 25A: Nickname for the 122- / 124-Across (MAIN STREET ACROSS AMERICA) — I made a "Hands Across America" reference just a few hours ago, while eating Jacques Torrès chocolates with my wife. They sometimes have these little patterns on them, and ... well, you can see it there.
        • 40A: With 105-Across, historical significance of the 122- / 124-Across (THE FIRST MAJOR MEMORIAL TO / THE SIXTEENTH PRESIDENT)
        • 148A: Follows the east-west route of the 122- / 124-Across (TSAOC OT TSAOC MORF SLEVART) — i.e. "travels coast-to-coast" backward)

        Word of the Day: LINCOLN HIGHWAY —
        The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental improved highway for automobile across the United States of America. Conceived in 1912 by Indiana entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, and formally dedicated October 31, 1913, the Lincoln Highway spanned coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, originally through 13 states: New YorkNew JerseyPennsylvaniaOhioIndianaIllinoisIowa,NebraskaColoradoWyomingUtahNevada, and California. In 1915, the "Colorado Loop" was removed, and in 1928, a realignment relocated the Lincoln Highway through the northern tip of West Virginia. Thus, there are a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and over 700 cities, towns and villages through which the highway passes at some time in its history. (wikipedia)
        • • •

        Never heard of it. Literally, never. Almost 44 years old, driven across the country several times and ... never. Just one of the many yawning gaps in my knowledge of ... everything, I guess. Not knocking the puzzle, just explaining why it doesn't have much meaning to me. I've seen the "states represented in the grid" thing before, and I've seen the backward thing before, a lot (here, awfully gratuitous—no reason to go east-west except just 'cause). It's nicely executed, and I like the mirror-symmetry grid with the weird black shapes. Fill is rough in patches but given the relatively challenging theme, that's not that surprising. Had a bit of a scare at the proper noun crossing of ELIO (104A: Italian writer Vittorini) and ILENE (95D: Actress Graff), but the "L" was inferable (actually I knew the "L"—but I had the actress as ILONA at first; that's Massey. ILONA Massey. Also an actress. This Graff person ... ?). Probably the toughest part for me to get was APPLIED TO (138A: Concerned). I see the connection now, but it wasn't computing mid-solve. Overall, however, this one was stunningly easy. I was done in just over 11 minutes, and this is an *oversized* Sunday grid (23x23 instead of the more standard 21x21).

        "Hedgehop" is a word I don't know, so AVIATE (esp. crossing ACTON (33A: ___ Bell (Anne Bronte pseudonuym)) took some work. A lot of the NE was thorny, but somehow I was able to drive enough crosses through there to unlock the tricky multi-word answers and the proper noun I couldn't remember (MORITA) (18D: Sony co-founder Akio). Spelling JANEANE is always dicey. I completely failed my first time through. Had HORNED instead of HOOFED at 125D: Like cattle and reindeer. Wonder if that trap was intentional. It's a good one. Had the war heroes as NCOS (?) (137D: Some war heroes = ACES). Loved discovering IN DRAG at the end of my solve (136A: Wearing clothes fit for a queen?)—nice to finish on a high note. So all in all it's a very professionally made puzzle, but my ignorance of the subject coupled with my having encountered the various theme elements before meant that it didn't resonate much with me.

        Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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