Mathematician whose name sounds like fuel ship / MON 7-31-17 / Radioer's word after Roger / Pesters repeatedly / Liberal's favorite road sign

Monday, July 31, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging (so, like, 30 seconds north of normal)

THEME: SEATTLE (68A: City that's the subject of this puzzle) — things related to SEATTLE and then a child's menu-quality connect-the-dots Space Needle thingie...

Theme answers:
  • RAIN (2D: Common 68-Across forecast)
  • PIKE PLACE MARKET (17A: Downtown 68-Across attraction) (really thought PIKE'S ... cost me valuable seconds) 
  • MARINER (42A: 69-Across baseball player)
  • COFFEE SHOP (27D: Business on every block in 68-Across, so it's said) (there's a COFFEE SHOP on every block of every city in America; this clue is dumb)
  • PUGET SOUND (31D: Body of water that 68-Across is on)
Word of the Day: MOLESTS (42D: Pesters repeatedly) —
verb: molest; 3rd person present: molests; past tense: molested; past participle: molested; gerund or present participle: molesting
  1. 1.
    assault or abuse (a person, especially a woman or child) sexually.

    "he was charged with molesting and taking obscene photographs of a ten-year-old boy"

    synonyms:(sexually) abuse, (sexually) assault, interfere with, rape, violate; More
    informalgrope, paw, fondle;

    "he molested a ten-year-old boy"
  2. 2.
    pester or harass (someone), typically in an aggressive or persistent manner.

    "the crowd was shouting abuse and molesting the two police officers"

    synonyms:harass, harry, hassle, pester, bother, annoy, beset, persecute, torment;

    "the crowd molested the police"
(google) (emph. mine)

• • •

Hi everyone. Just back from the OBX, which you don't see in puzzles very much (in fact ... [checking] ... never in the NYT), though you do see it a lot on the rear windows of cars owned by people who want you to know where they've been on vacation. At least in the northeast you do. Nags Head (wheres the apostrophe!!!?) was lovely. Gorgeous. If you depopulated it completely: perfect. Populated, it's got a certain Horribleness that's like Southern "heritage" meets New Jersey. I mean, #notallOBX of course, but ... yikes. I tend to like my vacations Confederate-flag-clothing-free. I'm a coastal elite that way. But geographically, it was astonishing. Woke every morning before 5:30 to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic. Walked for an hour or two every morning on perfect beaches that went on forever. The key was being up when almost no one else was. Under those conditions, OBX is heaven. Under normal working-hours conditions, it's a lot louder / whiter / racister / drunker / cheesier. I mean, the first night we ate at a restaurant that was essentially venereal disease-themed.

So, all in all, a mixed bag, but the good was Very good. This puzzle, on the other hand, wasn't very good, *especially* for how Much was going on. Why are we celebrating SEATTLE? Because the Space Needle is, uh, 55 years old this year? RAIN? Really? You're tryna theme that one? Is TRIO themed? No? OK, then no. I love Seattle. My whole family is from the Pacific NW. My dad went to med school at UW. My niece starts undergrad there next month. My mom lived there briefly in the '90s. It's great. But this puzzle is blah. The payoff is ... well ... I mean, *this* is the payoff:

Are you happy? No, you're not happy. Nobody's happy.

Further, there is some serious ugh in the fill and clues. Clue on KEEP LEFT is corny dad humor (4D: Liberal's favorite road sign?). It's wrong and dumb and unfun. I mean ... who the hell has a "favorite road sign"? The very concept is idiotic. Further, let's talk about words and what they mean. First, "chivalry." There is nothing—literally nothing—"chivalrous" about PERMIT ME. See, chivalry relates to horses and horsemanship and (actual) knightly conduct; affected archaisms from goateed dudes in fedoras and cargo shorts Do Not count as "chivalrous." Also, anyone could say PERMIT ME? Also, No One Says PERMIT ME? Maybe, *Maybe*, ALLOW ME. That answer/clue was so bad I almost didn't notice the pitiful ELIE/ELKE cross. And the nearby ALAS BNAI ADMEN STPAT NEE make-it-stop. But back to definitions. Second, MOLESTS... look, I get that the theme kind of pens you in down there, but MOLESTS? With *that* clue?! (42D: Pesters repeatedly). Again, No One uses it that way. Dictionary says "Dated" for a reason. Disingenuous clue only serves to highlight the fact that you've got MOLESTS in your grid. 99% of solvers are going to have a moment of "Really?!?" right at the word MOLESTS? How, from a design standpoint, is that smart? Now it's not the SEATTLE puzzle, it's the MOLESTS puzzle? Are you happy? No, you're not happy. Nobody's happy.

Ah(h), it's good to be back. See ya tomorrow. And big, big thanks to Laura Braunstein (on Twitter @laurabrarian) for holding (down) the fort during my absence.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. ELKS 🙁 🦌🦌🦌

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Last Scottish king to die in battle / SUN 7-30-17 / Mideast royal name / Funny Gasteyer / NFC North rivals Bears / Cellphone chip holder / Loren of "Marriage Italian-Style" / Northern Indiana county seat /

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Constructor: Isaac Mizrahi and David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Average (18:19)

THEME: "By Design" — Idioms are clued with fashion-related jokes.
  • 24A: Flaunt a loose dress at a soiree? (WORK THE NIGHT SHIFT)
  • 33A: Title of a fashion industry seamstress's tell-all? (ON PINS AND NEEDLES)
  • 56A: What some wrap dresses are? (FIT TO BE TIED)
  • 77A: Like a model's hairstyle? (CUT AND DRIED)
  • 99A: Takes fashion photos using an unorthodox angle? (SHOOTS FROM THE HIP)
  • 109A: Shorten some couture dresses? (TAKE UP A COLLECTION)
  • 3D: Preferred means of arriving at a fashion show? (TAXI DOWN THE RUNWAY)
  • 46D: Inspects a fashion designer's offerings? (GOES OVER THE LINE)
Word of the Day: A-BOMB (35D: Little Boy, e.g., informally)
"Little Boy" was the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 during World War II by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces. It was the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. The Hiroshima bombing was the second artificial nuclear explosion in history, after the Trinity test, and the first uranium-based detonation. It exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT (63 TJ). The bomb caused significant destruction to the city of Hiroshima and its occupants. (Wikipedia)
7D:  Stain that's hard to remove (INK SPOT)
The Ink Spots had the definitive version of "We'll Meet Again," the song (Vera Lynn's version) that plays over the last scenes of Dr. Strangelove, the definitive film about the A-BOMB.

• • •
If I might OPINE (20A: Offer a thought): HONESTLY (70D: Cry of exasperation), this felt NOT SO GOOD (78D: Medium-to-poor) for a Sunday theme. I appreciate the intent of the famous-person-and-veteran-constructor match-up, I'm a huge fan of Isaac Mizrahi (I had many of the clothes from the "chic librarian" line he designed for Target, many years ago, including a wrap dress that was FIT TO BE TIED), but this one did not WIN (71A: Get the gold). A SHIFT is both a dress style and a period of working time! TAKE UP means both "collect" and "shorten, as a hem"! TAXI is both something an airplane does on a RUNWAY and a vehicle one could take to get to a RUNWAY, which is also a place where fashion shows are held! (get it? do I need to explicate all of these?). It doesn't feel strong enough to carry a Sunday puzzle; the three or four best of the set could've fit neatly into a Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm sure there are plenty who will like it; however, I was AVERSE (116A: Resistant (to)) -- but I've been told my taste in crossword themes is a bit EDGY (not as in 121A: Uneasy, but as in "risqué" or -- as I prefer to think of it -- "badass").


The best scene from The Mummy (1999)
  • 90D: Creator of an ancient pyramid scheme? (IMHOTEP) — Imhotep was apparently a real historical figure, but he's better known in pop culture (my favorite kind of culture, aside from Saccharomyces cerevisiae) as the title character of The Mummy (played by Boris Karloff in 1932 and Arnold Vosloo in 1999).
  • 61A: ___ pants (HAREM) — I prefer this word clued in this, uh, fashion -- compared to previous approaches.
  • 14D: Christmas threesome (HOS) — 🤔.
  • 11D: Klingons, e.g. (ALIEN RACE) — TlhInganpu' wej chenmoH QeH.
I've really enjoyed blogging the puzzle this week, and thanks for your lovely comments and tweets. It takes a great deal of work to make a daily crossword blog; Rex has written this thing almost every day for more than ten years, just because he wants to, and because he cares about puzzles. I deeply respect and admire him for what he does here -- and even more so after spending eight days in his shoes on his Blogger account. So: thanks to you for reading, and many, many thanks to my friend Rex for giving me a platform to blather at you for a while. I hope to return, but in the meantime, you can find me covering the Tuesday WSJ puzzle at the Fiend, and next Sunday I'll be helping to run Boswords. Speaking of which, we've had so many sign-ups that we're in need of more volunteers: Sunday, August 6, noon-5pm, in lovely West Roxbury, MA -- only 10 miles from Natick! If you're interested (free lunch!), drop a line to boswordstournament [at] gmail [dot] com.

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Floored / SAT 7-27-17 / First cover 1970 Dynamite Afros / 1984 Summer Olympics star / Ayn Rand hero / Rapper role 2015 film Dope / Dinar spenders / Fitness legend Jack / Eli Manning's team / 2015 NFL MVP / Sunset eg

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (8:57)


Word of the Day: HOUR ANGLE (22D: Measurement in a celestial coordinate system) —
In astronomy and celestial navigation, the hour angle is one of the coordinates used in the equatorial coordinate system to give the direction of a point on the celestial sphere. The hour angle of a point is the angle between two planes: one containing the Earth's axis and the zenith (the meridian plane), and the other containing the Earth's axis and the given point (the hour circle passing through the point). The angle may be expressed as negative east of the meridian plane and positive west of the meridian plane, or as positive westward from 0° to 360°. The angle may be measured in degrees or in time, with 24h = 360° exactly. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Barbara Cheeseborough on the cover of the first issue of Essence, May 1970
I'm IN AWE (14A: Floored). What a fantastic themeless by my brilliant friend Erik Agard. So much fun stuff, great clues, entries that surprised me. My favorite: the $ in the name of A$AP ROCKY (7D: Rapper with a role in the 2015 film "Dope") crossing EA$Y MONEY (15A: Gain with little effort).

A$AP Rocky is (was?) dating Kendall Jenner, daughter of 34A: KRIS (First name on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians")

Favorite misdirection: 10D: Hackers' helpers for LOZENGES. I had the Z from MAGAZINE, and I'd thrown in the S for the plural (a solving tactic that helps most, but not all, of the time), and I kept thinking, BAZOOKAS? BUZZSAWS? either of those seem like overkill to get past a firewall ... you can't hack with MEZUZAHS ... or even GAZEBOES ... maybe GAZELLES would help? I also liked 13D: Hole near a tongue for EYELETS (which was prescient after yesterday's mortise and TENON controversy) -- I thought, GROOVE? Nah. And salivary DUCTS (1A: Heating system network) wasn't right. That whole NE section was the last bit I got. Overall, very little not to like in this grid; I guess it did have some CUTELY TWEEST EENY OWIE fill: your EFTS (53D: Pond juveniles), et ALIA (49A: Octavia's "others").

Writing for this blog on East Coast time is brutal; I get the puzzle on my iPad at 10pm, and since I'd rather stay up late than get up even earlier than I usually have to, this has made for a groggy week. What, then, does an intrepid blogger do to stay PRIMED (41D: Ready) for each night's puzzle? She TAKES A NAP (18A: "Rests ones eyes). So, NO BIG (47A: "Don't worry about it," slangily)

Here's a song from my days as a punk rock girl: "Bitchin' CAMARO" (6D: Firebird alternative)

  • 55D: Verizon purchase of 2006 (MCI) — Erik could've clued this as [1101, in Rome] or something else that you've seen 1,101 times. I'd rather have a fresh clue, even if it relies on knowledge of telecommunications mergers.
  • 30D: One lighting up the dance floor (DISCO BALL) — At first I had DISCO BOOT, then DISCO STU (but then I remembered that he doesn't advertise). 
  • 41A: "Close one!" (PHEW) — is what I'm still saying after what the SENS (5D: Political century: Abbr.) just put us through.
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Award for "Hairspray" but not "Hair" / FRI 7-28-17 / Famous 1980s movie quote / The Divine Miss M / Some lipstick shades / Lamp Chop puppeteer / Lug nut hiders / Burl who sang about Rudolph / Coppola film family name

Friday, July 28, 2017

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy (6:53, close to a Friday record)


Word of the Day: TENON (44D: Dovetail component) —
The mortise and tenon joint has been used for thousands of years by woodworkers around the world to join pieces of wood, mainly when the adjoining pieces connect at an angle of 90°. In its basic form it is both simple and strong. Although there are many joint variations, the basic mortise and tenon comprises two components: the mortise hole and the tenon tongue. The tenon, formed on the end of a member generally referred to as a rail, is inserted into a square or rectangular hole cut into the corresponding member. The tenon is cut to fit the mortise hole exactly and usually has shoulders that seat when the joint fully enters the mortise hole. The joint may be glued, pinned, or wedged to lock it in place. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Whenever I blog the puzzle, I play music suggested by the grid (this policy leads to a lot of Brian ENO and ANI DiFranco). Earlier this week it was Iggy Pop, then later, Peter, Paul, and Mary; last night it was Lena Horne and Hot Tuna (that made for an interesting mixtape). Tonight it is BETTE (1D: The Divine Miss M) on endless repeat.

 The opening riff of this song is my ringtone

So much to like about this themeless: the stack of BEST MUSICAL (1A: Award for "Hairspray" but not "Hair"), E.T. PHONE HOME (15A: Famous 1980s movie quote), and THREE IN A ROW (17A: XXX, for example); NORSE (40A: Like some myths) crossing RUNE (34D: It may be carved in stone); and such clean fill -- really, the only area I wasn't crazy about was the SW: ILO (when we also had ILE at 18A), OVI, NEV, ORE (where are CAL and IDA?).

Love the stack of MICROMANAGE (52A: Oversee to a fault), PLAINSPOKEN (56A: Bluntly honest), and HORNET'S NEST (58A: Dangerous situation) in the SE. Together they make a nice sentence: I don't want to MICROMANAGE, but to be PLAINSPOKEN, sometimes anonymous blog comments can be quite a HORNET'S NEST. (Hope that wasn't too OBTRUSIVE [31D: Meddling].)

You've heard IVES (27A: Burl who sang about Rudolph) so many times; the Heat Miser doesn't get quite enough attention. He's certainly one to RUN A FEVER (30D: Have a hot body).

Woman Constructor Watch: Robyn's puzzle today makes 30 out of 179, still holding steady at 14%.

  • 36D: Coppola film family name (CORLEONE) — It's not spoken by one of the CORLEONEs, but my favorite line in The Godfather is "Leave the gun; take the cannoli."
  • 13D: Sriracha ingredients (JALAPENOS) — I actually got up and went to the fridge to look at our bottle of Sriracha (with the rooster on the label, from Huy Fong Foods of Irwindale, California) and while I was doubtful, this is indeed true: it is now made with red jalapeño peppers, formerly with serranos.
  • 24D: "Ten ___ Commandments" (song from "Hamilton") (DUEL) — Another BEST MUSICAL winner (2016). But your man has to answer for his words, Burr.
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Game animals to some / THU 7-27-17 / Out of place obstetric / Nabisco brand since 1912 / Genre for Philip K. Dick / Singer DiFranco / Cleopatra's Mines / Right-hand page / Sunshine Skyway Bridge / "Wind in the Willows" creature / "Playboy of the Western World" playwright

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Constructor: Jeffrey Wechsler

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:00 exactly)

THEME: HOLD DOWN THE FORT -- three across entries "hold down" the word FORT into corresponding down entries in the grid.
  • 16A: Enjoying first-class amenities, say (TRAVELING IN COMF[ORT])
  • 33A: Wind speed metric (BEAUF[ORT] SCALE)
  • 40A: One looking to become rich (F[ORT]UNE HUNTER)
  • 59A: Have charge temporarily ... or a hint to answering this puzzle's three starred clues (HOLD DOWN THE FORT)
Word of the Day: ORESTES (66A: Euripides tragedy) —
[SPOILERS] In accordance with the advice of the god Apollo, Orestes has killed his mother Clytemnestra to avenge the death of his father Agamemnon at her hands. Despite Apollo’s earlier prophecy, Orestes finds himself tormented by Erinyes or Furies to the blood guilt stemming from his matricide. The only person capable of calming Orestes down from his madness is his sister Electra. To complicate matters further, a leading political faction of Argos wants to put Orestes to death for the murder. Orestes’ only hope to save his life lies in his uncle Menelaus, who has returned with Helen after spending ten years in Troy and several more years amassing wealth in Egypt. (Wikipedia)
• • •
As the constructor put 25D: Expenditures of time and energy (EFFORTS) into this puzzle, I was determined to 40D: Sally ___ FORTH into solving it, which was only moderately challenging, given that I have found Thursdays to be my 18D: Strong point (FORTE) -- or at least, my favorite puzzles of the week. There always a moment in these "spillover" (my term) themes when you're all, I know the answer and it won't fit into that space in the grid, and for me that moment was when I thought, I know what the wind speed scale is called, and BEAUFORT isn't fitting there. But will it be a rebus or something else? I liked the way the FORTs were at different positions in each themer: end, middle, beginning.
The NW was last and toughest quadrant for me -- didn't feel like STAVE (3D: Fend (off)) and COVE (4D: Small bay) should be next to each other. RECTO (38A: Right-hand page) in the middle of the grid is a handy (ha!) word from descriptive bibliography. (The left-hand page is the VERSO because it's on the back of the RECTO.) LAND SALES (32D: Some real estate business) -- is that a thing that people say? Or sell? Not much that was tremendously trendy in the fill, but it felt classic rather than dated. There was some dependence in the AFORESAID (12D: Mentioned previously) fill on little bits to hold things together -- RUS HAB EEN UTE HOR RDS MDS -- TIL OMG that's a lot all at once.

I get too hungry for dinner at eight
I like the theater, but never come late
I never bother with people I hate

  • 15D: Things mined in Cleopatra's Mines (EMERALDS) — This is name given to an archeological site near Aswan Dam in Egypt, discovered in the early 19th century. Almost made it Word of the Day, but felt like spoiling the plot of Greek tragedy instead.
  • 64A: Blues-rock group that grew out of Jefferson Airplane (HOT TUNA) — They're still touring.
  • 57A: Bill of Southwest legend (PECOS) — Apparently, Pecos Bill wasn't truly a legend that grew out of folk culture, but a character invented for a series in the early 20th-century magazine The Century (published in New York City), and as such, he is considered fakelore.
  • 13A: Out of place, in obstetric parlance (ECTOPIC) — A very, very, very common complication of pregnancy, not serious if treated promptly. I'm a little surprised this passed the "breakfast test" -- but perhaps that's a sign of progressiveness. 
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld, who will 59A for another three days.

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Common Sense pampleteer / WED 7-26-17 / Rambler maker / 2006 Supreme Court nominee / Mineral in kale / Peter Paul and / Queen of the Nile / Jack's love Titanic / Typeface similar to Helvetica

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Constructor: Brian Cox

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:38)

THEME: Knock-Knock jokes — You know what a knock-knock joke is.
  • 17A: Response to "Knock knock": WHO'S THERE
  • 21A: "Esther ...": ANYONE HOME
  • 36A: "Yvonne ...": TO BE ALONE
  • 42A: "Sadie ...": MAGIC WORD
  • 52A: "Ken ...": I GET AN AMEN
  • 62A: "Luke ...": MA NO HANDS (did anyone else parse this as "man o' hands"?)
Word of the Day: ARIAL (27D: Typeface similar to Helvetica)
Arial, sometimes marketed or displayed in software as Arial MT, is a sans-serif typeface and set of computer fonts. Fonts from the Arial family are packaged with all versions of Microsoft Windows from Windows 3.1 onwards, some other Microsoft software applications, Apple Mac OS X and many PostScript 3 computer printers. The typeface was designed in 1982 by a 10-person team, led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, for Monotype Typography. It was created to be metrically identical to the popular typeface Helvetica, with all character widths identical, so that a document designed in Helvetica could be displayed and printed correctly without having to pay for a Helvetica license. (Wikipedia) [This paragraph is in Arial.]
• • •

Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside and it's ragin'

I love knock-knock jokes, and I had high hopes for this puzzle -- up through 42A I thought there would be some kind of progression, i.e. that the person knocking would say the magic word and be let in. Maybe the magic word was DORIS. Doris who, you ask? Doris locked, that's why I'm knocking. Or maybe it was CARMEN. Carmen who? Carmen let me in! Wait, no, it's HARRY. Harry who? Harry up, it's cold out here! Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Knock knock. Who there? Phyllis. Phyllis who? Phyllis decent but not flashy. I suspect people may trip over HOB (63D: Play ___ with (do mischief to)) -- it's not an expression I'd heard, and most of the sources I'm finding suggest that it's a British idiom. OVINE (66A: Like a merino) is a handy Scrabble word if you're trying to use up a V tile, or if your opponent has played VINE and you have an O. I'm curious about the cluing on AMOS (55D: "Chicago" simpleton ___ Hart) in a Wednesday puzzle, since there's a far more famous Amos.

Also: this is a debut, the first one I've blogged for Rex. Congratulations, Brian! Looking forward to seeing more puzzles from you. 

The only 30D I recognize

No bullets, but a quotation from 1A: "Common Sense"pamphleteer (PAINE) 
“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Discharge as from a volcano / TUE 7-25-17 / Protective embankment / Ambient music as ignorable as interesting / Zoë Avatar / Jason's vessel / House of Elizabeth II / Variety show host 1951-71 / Ibsen's Gabler / Captain Nemo's vessel

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:37)

THEME: SPREAD THE GOSPEL (61A: Evangelize ... or what this puzzle's circled squares do? — Letters in the names of the four canonical gospels are "spread" through four theme entries.
  • 17A: Was loved by MEANT THE WORLD TO
  • 22A: Know-it-all SMART ALECK
  • 39A: Comment after a fortuitous happening LUCKY ME
  • 50A: Frequently going from one post to another
Word of the Day: BLAIR HOUSE (51D: ___ House (Washington landmark)) —
The President's Guest House, commonly known as Blair House, is a complex of four formerly separate buildings—Blair House, Lee House, Peter Parker House, and 704 Jackson Place—located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. A major interior renovation of these 19th century residences between the 1950s and 1980s resulted in their reconstitution as a single facility. The President's Guest House is one of several residences owned by the United States government for use by the President and Vice President of the United States; other such residences include the White House, Camp David, One Observatory Circle, the Presidential Townhouse, and Trowbridge House. The President's Guest House has been called "the world's most exclusive hotel" because it is primarily used to host visiting dignitaries and other guests of the president. It is larger than the White House and closed to the public. (Wikipedia)
• • •
11D: Variety show host of 1951-71

I'm going to go 32A: No holds BARRED on this one: it is my least favorite of all the puzzles I've blogged for Rex. It's not a terrible puzzle, but meh. The theme itself is kinda old fashioned, as is much of the fill (more on that later), and while it was competently executed ... if not for 20A: Zoë of "Avatar" (SALDANA) and 69A: Craft company with a 2015 I.P.O. (ETSY), I could've been solving this with my grandfather in 1982. And as much as I miss those times, and I as much as I miss him, I'd rather solve a better puzzle.
“It’s hard when you go and fight for a role, because they’re like ‘I don’t know, man, you mean, it’s like the blue girl from Avatar? ... I want to go down a different route. I feel like a little bit of an underdog because I live in space, nobody wants me here on Earth.” (Interview in The Independent)
Fill-wise ... TSK (41A: Sound of reproach). We've got our prefixes: LACTI, ALTI, TERA, and ISO. We've got BSIX (take one ADAY). We've got DSHARP crossing ESCARP (I'll bet MSHARP will be glad he ESCARPed this one). We've got ANTE, APSE, ADA, and ENO. SPEW, EEGS! HIE there, RUSSO! ABAFT, PELOSI, say the GOP Reps. I did like to see both fictional ships ARGO (25A: Jason's vessel, in myth) and NAUTILUS (35A: Captain Nemo's vessel).

66A: Family history, e.g.
  • 4D: House of Elizabeth II (WINDSOR) Almost exactly 100 years ago, the British Royal Family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.
  • 23D: What gives you the right to bare arms? (TANK TOP) — Not in Congress, apparently.
  • 9D: Nuisance in an online comments section (TROLL) — Don't be one. 
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Green condiment / MON 7-24-17 / George Rumble in the Jungle / Ke$ha TiK / Ouzo flavoring / Taj Mahal city / Muppet with wings / Milo Verdict

Monday, July 24, 2017

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:17)

THEME: Morphological reduplication (as they call it in linguistics) — An idiom and the names of a person, a brand, and a Muppet repeat sounds (morphemes) in a rhyming pattern.

Theme answers:
  • 28A: Ramen product -- OODLES OF NOODLES
  • 56A: "Sesame Street" Muppet with wings and a magic wand -- ABBY CADABBY
  • 6D: Competing with the goal of victory -- IN IT TO WIN IT
  • 7D: Daredevil in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame -- EVEL KNIEVEL
Do you get enough noodles in your noodle soup?

Word of the Day: RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE (from the clue for FOREMAN [13A: Boxer George who lost the Rumble in the Jungle]) -- almost a reduplication!
The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) on October 30, 1974 (at 4:00 am). Held at the 20th of May Stadium (now the Stade Tata Raphaël), it pitted the undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman against challenger Muhammad Ali, a former heavyweight champion. The attendance was 60,000. Ali won by knockout, putting Foreman down just before the end of the eighth round. It has been called "arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century". The event was one of Don King's first ventures as a professional boxing promoter. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Jeepers creepers! This super-de-duper puzzle was just chock-a-block with boogie-woogie. The nitty-gritty: Peter Gordon gives us a grid with left-right symmetry (as opposed to the standard topsy-turvy rotational symmetry), no doubt to accommodate a set of hodge-podge theme entries without symmetrical lengths. Add the hocus-pocus of crossing the 15-letter OODLES OF NOODLES with the two 11-letter down themers and that's evidence of some razzle-dazzle construction skills.
I wonder if there's a Goth Muppet named AVER CADAVER
The fill was neither fuddy-duddy nor hoity-toity. There's some kind of postmodern fusion cuisine suggested by WASABI (1A: Green condiment served with sushi), TACO BELL (42D: Fast food chain with the slogan "Live más"), and RONZONI (16A: Brand of pasta). You've got your Midwestern cities represented with ST PAUL (11D: Capital of Minnesota) and SHEBOYGAN (38D: Wisconsin city on Lake Michigan). And I have a teentsy-weentsy quibble with SLABBING (45D: Applying thickly, with "on") because it seems a bit hugger-mugger, but okey-dokey.
  • 44A: Milo of "The Verdict" (O'SHEA) — Poor Milo. A long career in British cinema, and you are known forever to crossword solvers as the judge from a 1980s Paul Newman legal drama. I propose that from now on we clue O'SHEA as [Rapper and actor ___  Jackson, better known as Ice Cube].
  • 70A: Molecule components (ATOMS) — Q: Why can't you trust atoms? A: Because they make up everything.
  • 63A: Punk rock's ___ Pop (IGGY) — I'll let Iggy sing me out.
 I see the stars come out tonight

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


1943 French novella / SUN 7-23-17 / Pacific capital / The Big Pineapple / Dance craze 2010s / Agency Human Genome Project / Bert who sang "If I Only Had the Nerve" / 1990 Nobelist Octavio

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Easy (16:36)

THEME: "Back on the Charts" — Names of musical artists are "back" -- i.e. at the end of the entries -- and on the charts -- i.e. in the grid.

Theme answers:
  • 30A: Title character in a 1943 French novella [6] (LITTLE PRINCE)
  • 47A: The Big Pineapple [4] (HONOLULU)
  • 66A: Like some lawyers' work [4] (PRO BONO)
  • 86A: "Why are you looking at me?" [4] (WHAT'D I DO)
  • 100A: 11th-century campaign [4] (FIRST CRUSADE)
    First Crusade
  • 3D: 17,000+-foot peak near the Equator (MOUNT KENYA)  
  • 5D: Make airtight, in a way [4] (HEATSEAL)
  • 10D: Healthy [4] (IN THE PINK)
  • 12D: Nightshade family member [4] (MANDRAKE)
  • 13D: Prized possession [5] (CROWN JEWEL)
  • 26D: One doing routine office work, informally [5] (PEN PUSHER)
  • 51D: Dave of jazz [4] (BRUBECK)
  • 63D: One leading the exercises, for short? [4] (PE TEACHER)
  • 70D: Fruity spirit [6] (PEAR BRANDY)
  • 73D: Vain, temperamental sort [7] (PRIMADONNA)
  • 77D: Band member's main squeeze? [4] (ACCORDION)
  • 82D: 1940 Disney release [3] (FANTASIA)*
  • 87D: Pulling off bank jobs [5] (HEISTING)
* Depending on your preferred cultural frame of reference, this could have also been early 80s synth-rock band ASIA (with their chart-topping hit "Heat of the Moment") or third-season American Idol champion FANTASIA (with her chart-topping hit "I Believe"). Also, dude. DAVE BRUBECK. Take Five and take him back to the charts.

Word of the Day: AGOUTI (69A: Guinea pig relative) —
The term agouti (Spanish: agutí, pronounced [aɣuˈti]) or common agouti designates several rodent species of the genus Dasyprocta. They are native to Middle America, northern and central South America, and the southern Lesser Antilles. Some species have also been introduced elsewhere in the West Indies.[1] They are related to guinea pigs and look quite similar, but are larger and have longer legs. The species vary considerably in colour, being brown, reddish, dull orange, greyish or blackish, but typically with lighter underparts. Their bodies are covered with coarse hair which is raised when alarmed. They weigh 2.4–6 kg (5.3–13.2 lb) and are 40.5–76 cm (15.9–29.9 in) in length, with short, hairless tails. (Wikipedia) [Them are cute rodents. (Me)]
• • •
Hello, CrossWorld! Rex is on a well-deserved vacation, so you get me, Laura, blogging the puzzle through next Sunday. Be confident there will be no disruptions in your regularly scheduled crossword blogging service. Between you and me, I didn't find this a terribly exciting Sunday with which to start our week together. I wanted the theme to do more than just hide the names of chart-topping popular musical artists -- in fact, I even spent a little time browsing the Billboard charts to see if there was any correlation between, say, the entry number and the artist's chart position re their biggest hit -- but, no, unless I'm missing something. (Mansplain at me in the comments, if so.) A few of the artists are hidden beautifully in the entries (86A: WHAT'D I DO, 26D: PEN PUSHER [wait, don't we usually say PENCIL PUSHER? or PAPER PUSHER?]) but others were more than obvious (30A: LITTLE PRINCE, 10D: IN THE PINK). Also -- and this is likely a function of cramming so many (eighteen!) themers into the grid -- we've got some oldies in there -- Dion! Lulu! -- who are outliers from the rest of the late-1980s-to-the-present playlist.

Double helix in the sky tonight

Fill-wise ... wow, lots of little words. I'm working hard on improving my own constructing skills, and I struggle the most with limiting the inclusion of three-letter entries that are abbreviations or tired crosswordese. It's difficult to do this well, and this grid suffers a bit with EST, WTO, AEC, NIH, DSO, DOA, OTB, FCC, CNN, NEA and the like.

  • 89A: Inverse trig function (ARCTAN) — One of my crossword twitter friends (who is also a fine constructor) goes by the handle @ArctanPrime. Being a humanities person/librarian who hasn't taken math since my first year of college, I didn't quite remember what this meant. Now I know! Raising a glass in your general direction, Chris!
  • 99A: Lewis ___, 1848 Democratic candidate for president (CASS) — Is he the most famous CASS out there? Not Ellen Naomi "Mama CASS Elliot" Cohen? Or legal scholar CASS Sunstein? Anyone?
  • 55A Bert who sang "If I Only Had the Nerve" (LAHR)But I could show my prowess/ Be a lion, not a mowess/ If I only had the noive ...
See you tomorrow! And the day after that. And a few more after that!

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Ankh-holding deity / SAT 7-22-17 / cartoon avatars on Snapchat / single serve coffee holders / Wearer of h inscribed hat / Lead female role on Netflix's House of Cards / Big-box store founded in 1946 / Sportscaster Rich

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (suuuuper-easy, I'm told, but I have a slight concert hangover this morning, so I was just fast, not Fast)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ALUM (8D: Application to a cut) —
noun: alum; noun: potash alum
  1. a colorless astringent compound that is a hydrated double sulfate of aluminum and potassium, used in solution medicinally and in dyeing and tanning.
    • any of a number of analogous crystalline double sulfates of a monovalent metal (or group) and a trivalent metal.
      plural noun: alums
• • •

Must be very quick today, as I am writing inside an absurdly small window. Didn't get back from the ELVIS Costello concert at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown until well after midnight, and I have to be out of the house again at 7:30am. So you all get maybe half an hour this a.m.—and I've already used a good chunk of it writing these first two sentences. This puzzle is just fine, though it feels like a parody of a puzzle that's trying extra super special hard to be current. Twitter! Facebook! Two Snapchat clues! Kids like the Snapchat, right? Am I Relevant Yet!? We are living in a digital world, and I am a digital girl boy, but take it easy. I actually enjoyed LATTE ART and FOAM HAND more than any of the marquee social media stuff (or BITMOJIS, for ****'s sake). And it's weirdly extra jarring to see a puzzle be so Now and then have crap like SERT and AMENRA and ATBAR in it. Fustiness stands out by contrast. But as I say, overall, this is a win, and, if you're coming from a certain cultural space (under 50), it was likely Very easy for you (compared to other Saturdays, I mean).

Quick Stuff:
  • ALUM — I apparently have no idea what this is (that is, if it's not someone who's REUNING); a large part of whatever stuck-time I had was spent here, trying to figure out how four letters ending in "M" was not BALM (8D: Application to a cut).
  • KOJAK (27A: Lieutenant of 1970s TV) — In naming the detectives he used to watch on TV, Elvis Costello name-checked this guy last night, though he saved his most effusive praise (rightly, if possibly ironically) for one Ms. Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury of TV's "Murder, She Wrote")
  • LOOSE TEA (34A: What some caddies carry) — got the TEA part fine, but the LOOSE part, ugh. See also the latter part of CREED (26D: Seminary study).
  • SATE (43D: Be adequate for) — Screw this word. One word should not be able to be clued [Be adequate for] *and* [Fill to the gills] (an actual clue once used in a puzzle by this actual constructor). I think it can also mean, simply, [Satisfy] or [Fill to something less than the gills], so this stupid word apparently means every single level of filling, and thus is useless. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Draftkings competitor / FRI 7-21-17 / Formally approve as document old-style / Early Indus Valley settler / Devotee of Motley Crue Megadeth / Player of drug kingpin on Wire / One-named singer with 2016 #1 hit Pillowtalk / 1949 Hepburn Tracy courtroom film / Faddish dance move done to 2015 hit Watch Me

Friday, July 21, 2017

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: BIP (31D: Marcel Marceau persona) —
Marcel Marceau (French pronunciation: ​[maʁsɛl maʁso]; born Marcel Mangel, 22 March 1923 – 22 September 2007) was a French actor and mime most famous for his stage persona as "Bip the Clown". He referred to mime as the "art of silence", and he performed professionally worldwide for over 60 years. As a youth, he lived in hiding and worked with the French Resistance during most of World War II, giving his first major performance to 3000 troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Following the war, he studied dramatic art and mime in Paris. (wikipedia)
• • •

I wonder if the vanity clue on TEEN was Paolo's or Will's (12D: This puzzle's constructor, for one). I mean, Paolo's already been at this for *two years*, so the TEEN thing isn't exactly news. Also not news: the kid is immensely talented, and respected by top editors and constructors across ... let's say, Crossworddom. He is on the constructor slate for the upcoming Lollapuzzoola tournament in NYC (August 19), and he's written puzzles for American Values Club Crossword, and ... probably other stuff. It's sick. This puzzle has a few wobbly moments, but basically looks like what I've come to expect from this constructor: very smooth and very current, with pop cultural predilections. Pop culture is dangerous, though, and I'm betting at least a few people founder and crash on the rocky shores of ZAYN (a massive pop star, but ... I mean, definitely not a gimme for the crossword crowd). My wife had LAID / ZAYD and never questioned it until she got the error message. She then thought, "Hmm, is it LES MIS?!" before eventually figuring out her error. BIGGIE SMALLS and Spike JONZE and IDRIS ELBA add to the pop cultural bro-fest down south. Quite a group.

[d. JONZE]

I didn't expect to end up with a solidly sub-5 time, as I flopped around a lot. A quarterback's asset is obviously his ARM, so I botched that one at first pass (3D: AIM). Did you know "I NEED A MINUTE" fits in the space ALLOTted? It does (19A: Words from one about to break into tears: "I NEED A MOMENT"). I spelled Spike JONES then Spike JONEZ before finally alighting on the correct Spike JONZE (56A: Spike who directed "Being John Malkovich"). I used to watch ESPN a Lot and have seen innumerable ads for fantasy sports apps and still, for the life of me, I couldn't remember the word that followed FAN at 7D: DraftKings competitor. FANZONE? FANBROS? FANDOME? Had to work the crosses to turn it up. Still, despite those hiccups, I found this one very enjoyable.  I would humbly suggest that the constructor (and all constructors) delete the following from their wordlists: BIP, ENSEAL, REMS (plural?), and GALOP (I put GALOPS in my first ever published NYT puzzle and I still haven't forgiven myself).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Edward VII familiarly / THU 7-20-17 / Shorthand system inventor Pitman / Fictional swordsman / Screenplay directive / Massey of old movies

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (my exceedingly slow time was probably highly idiosyncratic)

THEME: ugh, I don't know, some puns on interrogative words or something god it was awful

Theme answers:
  • "WATT'S THE PROBLEM?" (17A: James is keeping me from getting a steam engine patent?)
  • "HOWE'S BUSINESS?" (35A: Hockey, to Gordie?)
  • "HU LET THE DOGS OUT?" (56A: A former leader of China gave his shar-peis some exercise)
Word of the Day: LOBAR (11D: Lung-related) —

adjective: lobar
  1. relating to or affecting a lobe, especially a whole lobe of a lung. (google)
• • •

Painful. Painful because the theme is so groany and old and thin, painful because the puzzle is 100 years old in all the worst ways, and painful because I spent a hard 3-4 minutes just stuck in the NW wondering if I was ever going to get the last four squares. I blame EXEDOUT, one of the dumbest crossword entries in modern times. No One Would Write That. But look, let's just blame my problems in the NW corner on me and get back to the real problem, which is ugh. There are only three of these theme puns. They aren't funny. There is no rhyme or reason to any of this? Why these people? Why not Where or When or Why puns? Why not why (OK, so no one's named WYE probably ... still). Watt and Howe have clues related to what they did, but Hu? Hoo boy, no. Howe and Hu are exact homophones, but Watt is natt. It's a wacky weak not-funny pun puzzle. You wanna pun, you better bring heat. Fire. Or go home. No more of this soft dad humor b.s. It's depressing.

And I haven't even started in on the multiple answers that are deserving of contempt. I have "F.U." (or a longer version thereof) written All Over my marked-up grid. I've already introduced you to EXEDOUT, which crosses COSA (I did not know this meaning) and CUTTO (dear lord that is terrible fill ... "phrase" more than "directive" ... just ugly in the grid). This was my long dark night of the grid. Here's the squares I *didn't* have, for an awfully long time:

EXE---T just would not compute for me at 15A: Edited, in way. Thought for sure that Spanish thing was ESTA or ESTO or ... something like that that I'd maybe seen before. And C-TT- looked utterly wrong. Totally impossible. It got so bad, I was doubting "REBECCA" at one point (1A: Hitchcock film with Laurence Olivier). Only after I ran the Big Ten in my head did I think *O*SU at 24A: Big Ten powerhouse, for short, and that finally unclogged things. But I actually don't have "F.U." written next to any of that (though I probably should). Instead, it's written next to:

  • REWARM (1D: Nuke, maybe) — no. WTF is REWARM. If you "Nuke" something, you REHEAT it, for *$&%'s sake. That's what nuking does. REWARM, ugh, boo. Terrible.
  • OLEOOIL (59A: Margarine ingredient) — stop. Just stop. OLEO is a thing. OLEO OIL is just some vowelly nonsense. Fill your grid better. Your fill is about as scrumptious as OLEO OIL (whatever that is!)
  • BERTIE (25A: Edward VII, familiarly) — What Year Is It? How on god's green do I know what pals called some bygone king who died before I was born. He died in 1910. "Feel the Bert!" Make it stop!
  • ISAAC (31D: Shorthand system inventor Pitman) — Shorthand. Shorthand? Shorthand. Soooo many ISAACs in the world and ... shorthand. Like the puzzle isn't already a parody of the dated NYT old white dude puzzle ... you had to go ahead and add shorthand. Fine.
Also, stacking French words is terrible form (see AMI over ÉCOLE). The end

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. apparently OLEOOIL (I can't believe I have to revisit this junkwad) has a different clue on other platforms. Why ... I have no idea:


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Made for moments sloganeer / WED 7-19-17 / Line from Student Prince appropriate to this puzzle / Early 2000s apple product / anti-doping target, informally / Descriptive of los Andes / Hold aside for year as college athlete

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Constructor: Michael S. Maurer and Pawel Fludzinski

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: DRINK DRINK DRINK (32A: Line from "The Student Prince" appropriate for this puzzle) — this puzzle contains various toasts from around the world

Theme answers:
  • SALUD!
  • L'CHAIM!
  • NEHRU!
  • PROST!
  • ROID!
Word of the Day: "The Student Prince" (See 32A) —
The Student Prince is an operetta in four acts with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly. It is based on Wilhelm Meyer-Förster's play Old Heidelberg. The piece has elements of melodrama but lacks the swashbuckling style common to Romberg's other works. The plot is mostly faithful to its source. // It opened on December 2, 1924, at Jolson's 59th Street Theatre on Broadway. The show was the most successful of Romberg's works, running for 608 performances, the longest-running Broadway show of the 1920s. It was staged by J. C. Huffman. Even the classic Show Boat, the most enduring musical of the 1920s, did not play as long – it ran for 572 performances. "Drinking Song", with its rousing chorus of "Drink! Drink! Drink!" was especially popular with theatergoers in 1924, as the United States was in the midst of Prohibition. The operetta contains the challenging tenor aria "The Serenade" ("Overhead the moon is beaming"). (wikipedia)
• • •
This is terrible. Truly not good, on every level. So bad it makes me almost never want to drink again. We can start with the boring, basic, nothing theme. Let me get this straight—the theme is ... toasts. That's it. Just toasts. And there are just four of them (?). Four ... toasts from around the world. Oh, and then a "formal" and an "informal" ... toast (in English). These latter toasts are at least mildly colorful, but still ... toasts. And the revealer ... wow. Like most of this puzzle, it is out of the past (and not in the good, film noir way). I have no idea what "The Student Prince" is. None. Never seen the movie, wasn't alive during Prohibition to see the operetta. No idea. Didn't matter, as the answer was obvious, but how ridiculous to have a revealer that old and marginal, and on a Wednesday.

Speaking of old and marginal, let's move on to the other reason this puzzle is bad—the fill. I thought we'd finally gotten rid of much of this junk: KCAR? ROK? IDI? ARNE? *&$^ing ALER!? Gah, this is a mess. A mid-20th-century mess. A NEHRU jacket-era mess. Then there's the truly-bad-in-any-era EMAC (40A: Early 2000s Apple product) and SERIE (59A: Something to watch on la télé). Then there's merely bad ALTOS IMIT HOSP. Then there's the complete lack of anything interesting (besides maybe REDSHIRT) (35D: Hold aside for a year, as a college athlete). I mean, C'MON, man. Round these undead answers up and send them back to the tombs whence they came. In the end, the puzzle's only virtue was its short life span—I drove a stake through its heart in less-than-Tuesday time.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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