Final Trojan king / SAT 9-30-17 / Island after which lizard is named / Secondary personas in role-playing game lingo / Substance obeying Boyle's Law / Brand of machine that turns change into cash vouchers / Flower whose name is Greek for flame

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Constructor: Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: RIJKSMUSEUM (49A: Home of Rembrandt's "The Night Watch") —
The Rijksmuseum (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈrɛiksmyˌzeːjʏm]; English: National Museum) is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw. (wikipedia)
• • •

RIJKSMUSEUM is a perfectly good answer. Looks great in the grid. How. Ever. With a proper noun like that, especially one that is not LOUVRE / PRADO / MOMA-famous, you have to watch the crosses. Now the crosses on the MUSEUM part, maybe you can be less careful about, because if you get just part of MUSEUM, the rest is inferrable. But the crosses on the *&$^% Dutch part better be very fair, very clear. I now call your attention to 46D: Time of surrender in '45. And I now call your attention to the definition of V*E* DAY (per wikipedia):

Victory in Europe Day, generally known as V-E Day, VE Day or simply V Day, was the public holiday celebrated on 8 May 1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces.

I then call your attention to the fact that that definition has both "1945" and "surrender" in it. And then I rest my case, my case being "man you people really don't take design as seriously as the self-styled Best Puzzle in the World should." I mean, yes, the "J" is Dutchier-looking, I guess, but ... that is a stupid thing to have to go on. Again, the museum's name isn't the problem. The terrible vague clue on VJ DAY is. Proper nouns (esp. foreign ones, esp. not-universally-famous ones) require special editorial attention in the crosses. Failure to give such attention here meant that my solving experience went from mostly delighted (it's a very nice grid) to eye-rollingly disappointed yet again.

God bless NPR's LAKSHMI Singh, the only LAKSHMI I know (32A: Hindu goddess of prosperity). I didn't know that was a goddess's name, but I had the LAK-, and I've heard Ms. Singh say her name so many times over the years, that I figured it was worth a shot; and it was. I always think it's KIMONO Dragon (41D: Island after which a lizard is named), so between that and the odd MAYBES, I had a small amount of trouble getting down into the SW corner. I have no idea how I remembered the term IDEAL GAS. Residual chemistry knowledge somewhere in my brain, I guess. Thought I really gunked things up at first in the NE when I had PHS- at the beginning of 6A: 7 is in the middle of it. I'd had the PH- and thought it was going to have something to do with a PHONE (the keypad, maybe(s)???). But the "S" was undeniable and I quickly realized "ah, PH SCALE." Nice, tricky consonant pile-up. Hardest part for me was that SE corner (that museum!). I had to dive into that corner with zero help from crosses (always daunting). But I got ARTE quickly (47A: Musica o danza) and guessed UBER (though LYFT also seemed possible) (52D: 9-Down [i.e. CAB] alternative), and then things really broke open with the obvious 55A: San Luis ___ (OBISPO). Cal Poly San Luis OBISPO was on my daughter's potential college application list for a while. Plus I grew up in CA so I just know the place. So the SE corner worked itself out. Then I was left to deal with the stupid VE/VJ DAY problem. So I'll leave you there as well. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Judith of TV's Nashville / FRI 9-29-17 / Sweet love of my lifei n 1976 bob dylan song / Brand of fruit-flavored hard candy / English socialite Middleton / Modern transports used while standing

Friday, September 29, 2017

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: PHALANGE (38D: Bone of the hand or foot) —
another term for phalanx (sense 2). // i.e.
a bone of the finger or toe. (google)
• • •

This is a fine puzzle. Lots of zingy longer fill, very modern, very colloquial. Entertaining. The only parts that were truly irksome were those that were anomalously old and dumb like MOT (14A: Zinger). No one says MOT for "zinger." Maybe ironically, but not actually. I'd rather see this clued as a partial (e.g.  [Bon ___], [Le ___ juste]) or even just as Fr. word meaning ... well, "word." Only the hyper-pretentious are going to call a "zinger" a MOT. Also no one says I DARE NOT (except maybe the guy who says MOT). That answer took me a while because it's impossible to imagine a non-fictional human saying it. I also got a little confused on the GENDER BINARY clue (20A: Male-or-female). Is it GENDER hyphen BINARY, i.e. is this a compound adjective??? The clue looks adjectival ... so ... yeah, the clue and answer don't swap out that well, to my ear. "GENDER-BINARY thinking" = "Male-or-female thinking"? ... I guess. Maybe. Anyway, that threw me. (My friend Angela literally just emailed me, unsolicited, complaining about this very answer, and calling the clue "hyphen abuse")

My biggest struggles (which were few) all came in and around the long Downs in the east. I just couldn't get any of the short Acrosses to go at first, and so couldn't see the Downs very well. I actually wanted both PSY and USA, but the first seemed dumb (though I guess as an abbr. it's not inaccurate) (no one calls it that, but those are the three letters one would see in a course catalogue, say), and then the second (USA) I just wasn't sure of. And then there was MIC, with its ridiculous [insert tab A into slot B and fold into a swan to get the answer!]-type clue, which my brain always just rejects (62A: Item that names a person holding it when its middle letter is removed). I take one look and go Nope and move to crosses. See also the clue on TRES, ugh (39A: French 101 word or, with a different meaning, Spanish 101 word). Almost everything *not* on the east coast of this puzzle was super-easy. And, as I said up front, pretty fun.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Popular beige work boots colloquially / THU 9-28-17 / Org with millions of members HQd in Fairfax va / Hale House majority leader of 1970s / Widely played sport developed at Amherst College in 1960s

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: PIÑATA (44D: Party item depicted in the middle of this puzzle's grid) —isolated bit inside the (alleged) PIÑATA is CANDY (35A: Likely contents of a 44-Down), which, a note tells me, is "C and Y"—two letters that appear nowhere in the rest of the grid ...

Word of the Day: Hale BOGGS (10A: Hale ___, House majority leader of the 1970s) —
Thomas Hale Boggs Sr. (February 15, 1914 – presumably October 16, 1972 but not declared dead until January 3, 1973) was an American Democratic politician and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the House majority leader and a member of the Warren Commission. // In 1972, while he was still Majority Leader, the twin engine airplane in which Boggs was traveling disappeared over a remote section of Alaska. The airplane presumably crashed and was never found. Congressman Nick Begich, of Alaska, was also presumed killed in the same accident. [...] Hale and Lindy Boggs had four children: U.S. TV and public radio journalist Cokie Roberts, born December 27, 1943, and the wife of journalist Steven V. Roberts; Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., a prominent Washington, D.C.,-based attorney and lobbyist; Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who served as mayor of Princeton, New Jersey; and William Robertson Boggs, who died as an infant on December 28, 1946. In 1982 Mrs. Sigmund lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to Frank Lautenberg. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is so poorly conceived. It's like one concept, with an entirely unrelated concept tacked on to it for no apparent reason. Who cares that there is no C or Y in the non-CANDY part of the grid? Those letters are not not not not not hard to do without. The puzzle wants you to think that a non-accomplishment is an accomplishment. Then there's the (alleged) PIÑATA, which I thought was a dog on some kind of weird leash (not sure if that was before or after I thought that it was some kind of desk or workbench). I do not read notes, ever, before solving. Unless your puzzle is a meta-puzzle, it should be solvable without reference to any "note." The PIÑATA would not hang properly if that's where the string met the horse's torso. Further, those legs are ridiculously long and skinny. Also, I'm told that on the website, the PIÑATA answer is yellow (!?), which, visually, is ... interesting.

So the theme, in all its parts, is just a mess. It's like a bar bet puzzle. "I bet I can do this?" "Who cares?" "BET ME!" "OK, jeez, take it easy." I think the stack in the NW corner is nicely done, and GO JUMP IN THE LAKE is not bad, though I thought it was *A* lake. It's supposed to be a metaphor, not a recommendation regarding a nearby body of water. But I see THE is well attested, so some of my fondness for that answer remains.

There's not a single woman in this grid. There is only one woman mentioned in all of the clues, and she is mentioned only in relation to a man—and What a man! It's this editor's favorite man, the man he can't help working into the puzzle seemingly every day. Another day, another gratuitous Trump reference (57A: Melania Trump ___ Knauss) (NÉE). The guy really, really doesn't know (or respect) his solving base. But this sad NÉE clue is fitting for this puzzle, with its G.I. JOE and the NRA and all that fake manly crap and no girls allowed. A tiresome sausagefest of a party (with the world's dumbest-looking PIÑATA). I mean, the puzzle even manages to shit on the lone female *animal* in the puzzle (39A: No Triple Crown winner ever = MARE). That's some high-end chauvinism right there.

  • 10A: Hale ___, House majority leader of the 1970s (BOGGS) — there's only one BOGGS. He played 3B for the Red Sox and then the Yankees and then I think maybe the (D)-Rays, but that last part I tend to block out.
  • 16A: "Get ___, you two!" ("A ROOM") — since this is up there in the NE corner, I assume "you two" refers to G.I. JOE and ELMER Fudd.
  • 34A: Well-planed (EVEN) — yes, I too read this as "well-planned." I'm guessing that was the plane.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Dwarf planet beyond Pluto / WED 9-27-17 / Victims of fictional Morlocks / Epoch characterized by rise of mammals / Hip hop group with triple-platinum album black sunday

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (except for the mistake I made, ugh)

THEME: THREE-RING CIRCUS (42A: Confusing situation ... or what this puzzle contains literally?) — three "rings" (represented in the grid above by circled squares) contain acts one might see at a circus ... I think:

The Rings:
Word of the Day: SELAH (9D: Interjection occurring frequently in Psalms) —
exclamation: selah
  1. (in the Bible) occurring frequently at the end of a verse in Psalms and Habakkuk, probably as a musical direction. (google)
• • •

I've never seen any of those things at a circus. So there's that. Also, those aren't "rings." So there's that, too. Both the grid shape and the longer Downs in this one are pretty intriguing, and the fill is mostly clean ... except, you know, around those "rings." There, things get dicey ASSAI ESSES HESSE SWE dicey. In fact, so dicey, for me, that I finished with an error—one that I never would have found had the circled circus acts not been a part of the puzzle. I had GRAFT instead of GRIFT. These words aren't that different, either in look or in meaning. Obviously, if you ask me to choose which, of these two, better fits 64A: Petty swindle, I'm gonna go with GRIFT. But that is not how crosswords play themselves out. It woulda been *super* nice if the cross had been *any* help, but how the hell am I supposed to know how Ray NAGIN spells his damn last name. I mean, sure, there's FAGIN, for comparison, but there's also PAGAN and SAGAN. So the "A" went in easy and never came out. I cannot stress how bad that NAGIN / GRIFT cross is, at a basic design level. You know that second vowel in NAGIN's name is not gonna be a slam dunk, and then the plausible crosses are both Types Of Crime!? It was bad enough to have F-STAR up there (5D: Polaris, e.g., in astronomy), with its stupid take-a-random-guess first letter making that square essentially uncrossed (i.e. you better get FLAPS because I know you don't know what letter star Polaris is; no you don't, shut up). But then the whole NAGIN thing, ugh. You notice that all this weakness is Right On Top Of the stupid "rings." That is not a coincidence. Rings put a Ton of pressure on the grid. But it's the constructor's (and, uh, editor's) responsibility to make sure cleanness, clarity, and solvability reign.

Outside of the ring areas, the puzzle played pretty easy. The cluing was no great shakes. Take the clue on GRIFT64A: Petty swindle. Now look it up on google. Go ahead. I'll wait. No I won't, here it is:

See? That's just ... lifting. Nothing colorful, thoughtful, specific, inventive. Just a definition lifted straight from a rudimentary google search. Most of the clues here are straightforward and dull. Even some of the longer fill, while original, is not exactly scintillating. TAX CLINIC? SAND GROUSES? Applause for novelty, but I hardly thought, "Dang, nice." I did think "Dang, nice" with CYPRESS HILL, though (24A: Hip-hop group with the triple-platinum album "Black Sunday"). That answer was satisfying to me, EMOTIONALLY.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy anniversary to my wife, whom I love an awful lot

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Writer Lowry with two Newbery Medals / TUE 9-26-17 / Robust-sounding teens of children's books / Prof's URL ender / Superfood Amazon berry

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Constructor: Joy Behar and Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (gotta know comedian names *and* figure out all the punniness...) (still finished in just a shade over 3:30)

THEME: Comedian puns — familiar phrases reclued (and -spelled) as if they had something to do with famous comedians:

Theme answers:
  • PURPLE HART (17A: Comedian Kevin after having a sloppy jelly snack?)
  • PAW PRINZE (25A: Get frisky with comedian Freddie?)
  • PRYOR COMMITMENT (40A: Comedian Richard being sent to a psychiatric facility?)
  • BARR FIGHT (51A: Cause of comedian Roseanne's black eye?)
  • FALLEN IDLE (62A: Result of comedian Eric's untied shoelaces?) 
Word of the Day: Freddie PRINZE (25A) —
Freddie James Prinze (/ˈprɪnz/born Frederick Karl Pruetzel; June 22, 1954 – January 29, 1977) was an American actor and stand-up comedian. Prinze was the star of 1970s NBC-TV sitcom Chico and the Man. He is the father of the actor Freddie Prinze Jr.. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle was ... a joy. (Sorry. Sorry ... But only kinda sorry.) The theme is simple but consistent, tight, and appropriate (to the celebrity constructor), and it all just works. Much more delightful and interesting than your average Tuesday puzzle—a low bar, yes, but it's the only bar that matters for a Tuesday puzzle. The fill is pretty darned clean, and you get some interesting longer Down answers in the bargain (I particularly liked RESCUE DOG). The comedians skew ... let's not say "old." Let's say, "established." Kevin HART is (by far) the youngest of the bunch, and the only one still doing stand-up. Unless Roseanne is still doing it and I'm just unaware. I don't think Eric Idle ever did stand-up. The other two comedians are long dead. You definitely have to be Of A Certain Age (i.e. my age or older) to remember Freddie Prinze, who died in 1977, in his early 20s. His son (Jr.) is a pretty successful actor.

The puzzle is pretty name-heavy—both because of the nature of the theme, and because of a lot of incidental names—and this sets up some pretty serious possibilities for failure. I had no idea how SUSIE Essman spelled her name, so I'm just lucky that I had (vaguely) heard of LOIS Lowry (and that LOIZ is not, you know, a plausible human name). It is absolutely completely possible to be a reasonably intelligent person and never have heard of LOIS Lowry or SUSIE Essman *or* Freddie PRINZE, in which case, yikes. NYAD is another bygone name that's come swimming out of the past and into this puzzle (44A: Swimmer Diana), and she could cause trouble, as her weird name has two *other* names crossing it; but dear god let's hope solvers know AMY March and IDA Lupino. That's pretty basic stuff. (Although now I kinda hope some poor sap out there guessed IRA Lupino)

I didn't like the clue on NOTORIETY, which is too abstract and vague a concept to qualify as an "Achievement." An "achievement" should be a specific thing, like a rank or a prize, not FAME or ILL-REPUTE or RENOWN etc. Maybe I would accept ORGASM, but that's not exactly NYT territory. Also, booo to the corniness at 54D: What Tarzan's friends advised him to do? (GO APE). Why are there friends here? Who "advises" a "friend" to do that?! The whole hypothetical situation is ridiculous and contrived. I mean, you can have your Tarzan/APE joke, I guess, but ditch the "friends." They just make it weird.

I haven't heard "Attention K-MART shoppers!" since I was a kid. Wikipedia tells me that: "At the height of Kmart's popularity, the phrase "Attention Kmart shoppers!" entered into the American pop psyche, appearing in films and other media such as Troop Beverly Hills, Six Days Seven Nights, Rain Man, Beetlejuice, Madea Goes to Jail, and Dawn of the Dead." That is one hell of a motley watch list. But now if anyone ever asks you what Troop Beverly Hills and Dawn of the Dead have in common, you'll have at least one answer. Unless there's a zombie Shelley Long in Dawn of the Dead that I forgot about. Then, two. Two answers.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Old coupon for needy / MON 9-25-17 / Soupy oliver twist fare / Active during daytime

Monday, September 25, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (i.e. slightly harder than the average Monday puzzle, solely because of the crossing and cross-referenced themers)

THEME: hyphenated 10-letter adjectives where both halves (before and after the hyphen) intersect at the middle letter 

Theme answers:
  • HANDY / DANDY (17A: With 3-Down, useful)
  • HOITY / TOITY (19A: With 11-Down, snobbish)
  • HOTSY / TOTSY (39A: With 29-Down, sophisticated)
  • LOVEY / DOVEY (58A: With 48-Down, affectionate)
  • NAMBY / PAMBY (60A: With 51-Down, weak and indecisive)
Word of the Day: DIURNAL (43D: Active during the daytime) —
adjective: diurnal
  1. 1.
    of or during the day.
    synonyms:daily, everyday, quotidian, occurring every/each day

    "the patient's moods are determined by diurnal events"
    • Zoology
      (of animals) active in the daytime.
    • Botany
      (of flowers) open only during the day.
  2. 2.
    daily; of each day.

    "diurnal rhythms"

    synonyms:daily, everyday, quotidian, occurring every/each day

    "the patient's moods are determined by diurnal events" (google)
• • •

Hey all. I hope you had fun in my absence. Many thanks to my sterling stand-ins, Lena and Laura, who responded to my emergency call. Actually, it was a double emergency. Emergency 1: my internet got (mysteriously) shut off. Just ... dead. All remedies useless. All technical assistance futile. Didn't get back up til today, when the cable guy got out of his van, took one look up the pole, and said, "Yeah, your cable was mistakenly disconnected." Good to know! And then there was Emergency 2: I had urgent business in New York City on Friday. You see, it was my daughter's 17th birthday, and somebody (possibly the world's greatest father) got her (and her best friend!) tickets to see some show called ... [checks Playbill] ... "Hamilton"? Have you heard of it? Grudgingly, my wife and I came along as chaperones:

Basically the (absolutely real) internet outage neatly coincided with my Broadway plans. Some tragedies have upsides. Note: Today's puzzle is not one of those tragedies. The quaintness here is cloying. Also, I don't think anyone says HOTSY / TOTSY ... like, ever. Wasn't one part of that expression recently in a grid? And it made everyone groan in anguish and the horribleness? Yes, I'm sure that happened. I honestly don't even know what HOTSY / TOTSY means. I would not have guessed [Sophisticated]. Sounds more like [Having pretensions to sophistication]. So befuddled was I by the expression that I spent many seconds looking at HO-SY / TO-SY wondering what else could work there *besides* the "T." My second biggest theme answer objection related to NAMBY-PAMBY, which is pejorative slang for a "weak and indecisive *man*." It's basically related to SISSY and therefore can f*** right off. It's meant to suggest "effeminacy," and it's meant to suggest it negatively (duh), so pfffftfefpfdgt bite me.

FOOD STAMP in the singular is weird—never seen it that way before (33A: Old coupon for the needy). DIURNAL is a pretty high-and-in-fastball SAT word, but I must've picked it up in some poetry class somewhere. Sounds Wordsworthian. Oh, snap! I just googled [Diurnal poem] and Wordsworth was the first hit! Shout-out to Arden Reed, my Romantic Poetry professor (Spring 1990). Some of it stuck!

Overall, the fill is just OK, but about as polished as it has any right to be given the onerous pressure the theme puts on the grid. BULLMOOSE is welcome in my grid any day (8D: Symbol of Teddy Roosevelt's political party).

Happy 11th birthday to this blog. The Bloggiversary is always a good time to revisit the first comment my blog ever got. A classic of its kind. Everything about it is so pure. Enjoy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Tennis world since 1968 / SUN 9-24-17 / St Louis Arch / Det Tutuola / Where Spartacus was from / Financial insititution whose parent is Canadian / Salinger title name / Rice-a- / Hydroxyl compound / Resort near Snowbird / Shepherd Moons singer / Oscar-winning foreign film of 2005 set in South Africa / Walter Dodgers owner / Writer of the Gnat and the Bull / Sister of Helios / Art Cleveland Browns owner

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy (19:00 exactly)

THEME: "State Lines" — Phrases are reinterpreted as if two-letter words were state abbreviations.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: "Try not to miss Bangor and Lewiston"? CATCH ME (Maine) IF YOU CAN
  • 34A: 2:00 in New York vis-à-vis St. Louis? ONE MO (Missouri) TIME
  • 50A: Whistler from two Eastern states? MA (Massachusetts) AND PA (Pennsylvania) KETTLE
  • 68A: "We shouldn't sell our Fort Wayne home"? LET'S KEEP THIS IN (Indiana) HOUSE
  • 86A: "Sooner this, Sooner that ... can't you talk about any other subject? EVERYTHING'S OK (Oklahoma)
  •  100A: Deal another blackjack card to a young woman from Salem? HIT OR (Oregon) MISS
  • 117A: Midwest state secedes and will join the United Kingdom? OH (Ohio) TO BE IN ENGLAND
Word of the Day: EDH (5D: Icelandic letter) —
Eth (/ɛð/, uppercase: Ð, lowercase: ð; also spelled edh or eð) is a letter used in Old English, Middle English, Icelandic, Faroese (in which it is called edd), and Elfdalian. It was also used in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages but was subsequently replaced with dh and later d. It is often transliterated as d (and d- is rarely used as a mnemonic). The lowercase version has been adopted to represent a voiced dental fricative in the International Phonetic Alphabet. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Given my extensive familiarity with the Icelandic alphabet, I confidently typed in ETH, and was stymied in the NW until finishing the puzzle. Actually, I LIED (105D: Fabulist's confession) -- I don't know any Icelandic. We've seen many, many state abbreviation themes, and this is a reasonably unique twist. Had a chuckle at LET'S KEEP THIS IN HOUSE and OH TO BE IN ENGLAND. MA AND PA KETTLE and ONE MO TIME seemed a bit of a stretch. There are a few missed opportunities with this one -- how about YOU CAN CALL ME AL (Mobile nickname?), or CO OPERATION (Legal weed business?), or DOOGIE HOWSER MD (Neal Patrick Harris dramedy set in Baltimore?), or KY JELLY (Homemade strawberry preserves from Louisville?). But overall, it MADE SENSE (47D: Added up), even if it was not necessarily TOP HOLE (52D: First-rate, in British slang). While we're making WACKO (12D: Nutsy) jokes about states, why isn't MO's motto "Missouri Loves Company"?

Gonna bring you barley, carrots and pertaters

So... my understanding is that repeated three-letter strings are awkward but often unavoidable, but that constructors should be STEERED (124A: Directed) away from repeated four-letter strings. That's why I had a bit of a 119D: "Who'da thunk it?!" (GEE) moment to see both MOAN (43A: Haunted house sound) and MOANA (95A: Big 2016 film set in Polynesia). I appreciated that AA MEETING (42D: Part of a recovery effort) and IN REHAB (65D: Getting help getting clean) were clued without cutesy jokes about addiction. EWE ELK EEL ETE EPI, EERO EDGE ESME ETUI.

  • 125A: Having braids (TRESSED) — I don't think that's a thing. It's been used before, but, no. I'm sTRESSED just looking at it.
  • 108D: Jeff ___, leader of the Electric Light Orchestra (LYNNE) — For once, ELO gets to be a clue instead of an answer.
  • 28A: Kind of torch on "Survivor" (TIKI) — So remember how this photo went viral on the internets after those Nazi assholes marched in Charlottesville and carried TIKI© Brand torches while spewing racist crap? Turns out that even though the manufacturer of TIKI© Brand torches did indeed issue a statement denouncing the use of their product for racist crap by Nazi assholes, this particular sign regarding the use of TIKI© Brand torches for racist crap by Nazi assholes was actually a stunt by a Funny or Die writer.
Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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Calculator math sects / SAT 9-23-17 / Wayne Manor manservant / 29% cream / Redhead of Hogwarts / Neuwirth designer jewelry / Summer Olympics discontinued 1936 / Opposite of schadenfreude / Davy Crockett's rifle / Tony winner Neuwirth

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Medium (16:17)


Word of the Day: IRENE (2D: ___ Neuwirth (designer jewelry brand) —
A native of Southern California, Irene's fundamental inspiration is the ocean. Its purity, power and colors are all key elements at the origin of her designs. Her fascination with intense colors and raw, un-manufactured gem cuts, have become signature trademarks of the line. (
• • •
Rex continues to have computer problems, so you had my PEN PAL (34A: Friend of note?) Lena yesterday as PART ONE (36A: Start of a series), and you get me, Laura, today and Sunday. I'd better GET BUSY (41A: Work order?). This puzzle certainly felt like it hit the SWEET SPOT (12D: Perfect place) of difficulty; I breezed on through most of every quadrant, then rounded on home up to the NW, and ... stared. For like 10 minutes. My time isn't anywhere near my HIGH SCORES (1A: List on a video game screen) for Saturdays, but I appreciated the challenge, and there's no need for the 36D: Opposite of schadenfreude (PITY) or a 14D: Sound of condescension (TSK). Funny thing, I love riddles like 5D: It has arms, legs and feet, but no hands (SOFA), and I had just typed SOFA in 25D: Part of many a studio apartment for DINETTE because I wanted SOFABED instead. Because the studio apartments I had -- no room even for a DINETTE. If I HAD UP (1D: Hosted at one's loft, say) a friend or two, well, we dined sitting on the SOFABED or the LOFTBED. Or practically in the BATHTUB.

 Goodnight IRENE

Someone asked in the comments yesterday how Rex and/or the guest hosts decide which clues go in the title field of the blog post. Can't speak for others, but I tend to put clues that I figure people are most likely to google: proper names, interesting or unusual formulations, clues that are actually google-able, as opposed to something like 44D: Advantage, which would be to no AVAIL. Way back, many years ago, when I was first solving regularly, that was how I stumbled upon this site (wow, I thought, people actually blog about this stuff? cool!). There is no shame in researching answers as a way of finding out something new or learning about how puzzles are constructed.

Woman Constructor Watch: Robyn's puzzle today is just the third Saturday by a woman in 2017, for a total of 36 women out of 230 constructors this year, or 15.6%. Jeff Chen calls it at 14%, because he's averaging the percentages of women constructors over the week. In either case, as stated before, I'd like to see more women get published in the New York Times, and I'll reiterate my call for other women constructors who might be interested in sharing ideas and helping each other to get in touch with me. Hey Laura, ARE YOU DONE? (15A: Question after a rant). Nope. IT FIGURES (32D: "Why am I not surprised!").

  • 46D: Old ___, pet name of Davy Crockett's rifle (BETSY) — Honestly, can't remember much Davy Crockett lore, except for the catchy TV show theme song, and that he died at the Alamo. But somehow it occurred to me that BETSY would be a good name for a rifle.
  • 57A: Redhead of Hogwarts (RON WEASLEY) — The entire Weasley family attended Hogwarts, and all were notoriously redheaded. Perhaps Ron is simply the most prominent.
  • 43A: Window component (JAMB) and 28D: Window component (PANE) — Had SASH for both of these at certain points in the solving process.
Ok, now I'm done. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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PC Key / FRI 9-22-17 / PC Key

Friday, September 22, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Difficult

THEME: No theme

Word of the Day: TAPIOCA (35D: Thickening agent) —
Tapioca (/ˌtæpɪˈkə/; Portuguese pronunciation: [tapiˈɔkɐ]) is a starch extracted from cassava root (Manihot esculenta). This species is native to the northeast region of Brazil, but its use spread throughout South America. The plant was carried by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies and Africa and Asia. It is a tropical, perennial shrub that is less commonly cultivated in temperate climate zones. Cassava thrives better in poor soils than many other food plants.
Although tapioca is a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries, it is devoid of nutrition and low in food energy. In developed countries, it is used as a thickening agent in various manufactured foods. (Wikipedia)
• • •
TAPIOCA is great. It's the boba in BOBA TEA ((7) yet to appear in a NYT crossword puzzle) and it's in the pudding that you perhaps instinctively avoided as a child. I say let's bring it back, elevate TAPIOCA pudding, "Chef's Table" style. Hi, it's Lena filling in for Rex today.

Well I have to say it was weird having to jump out of the nest with barely any feathers into a tri-stack of 14s. I had to treat this like a downs only puzzle for a bit there and that put it on the challenging side for me. I hung around in the middle and then it was SARDINE (8D: Fish typically preserved in olive oil) that got me up to the North, followed by SEEN (5D: Not overlooked) and CERAMIC (3D: Kind of tile). Speaking of chefs and their tables, there is a nice restaurant here in Boston called haley.henry and they focus on tinned fish-- SARDINEs, anchovies, EEL-- and exceptional wines. And chips.

Anyway, are those would-be marquees ultimately worth not being able to get started in the across direction right away? Sure. ROMANTIC PERIOD (49A: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron wrote in it) is kinda boring but the rest, especially ICING ON THE CAKE (54A: An additional plus) and MI CASA ES SU CASA (1A: Welcoming words), are fun-- and all except THREE CAR GARAGE (16A: Roomy storage space) are debut entries.

I had ROUTS for ROMPS (44A: Humiliating defeats) because, well, of course that's what I'm going to put there-- I look up ROUT and get "disastrous defeat" whereas ROMP's main definitions have nothing to do with either humiliation or losing. We will, we will ROMP you <stomp stomp clap>

The short fill caused by the stacks isn't too bad but I was aware of the presence of both CTR (NFL Position: Abbr.) and CTRL (11D: PC Key). SIGURD (9D: Brynhild's beloved, in Norse legend) certainly did not spring out of the brain easily, and I hadn't heard of conductor ESA-Pekka Salonen-- so overall I would say the North gave me the most trouble. In the South, I enjoyed the tricky clue for DOCTOR (41D: One who's gotten the third degree?) but didn't feel similarly about the one for TIME INC (36D: Life preserver?). Then I started getting cranky about both of them. "What if you didn't get your Masters in between undergrad and grad school? Do you count your high school diploma?"

Overall though there are lots of clever clues in this puzzle (ONE (39D: Small square)!) and I liked INHERES (2D: Exists naturally) because now I have a deeper understanding of the word "inherent." Ta-da! So even though it was slow-going for me at times it was satisfying in the end, and an interesting grid with those 14s-- cheater marquees?

Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

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1927 automotive debut / THU 9-21-17 / Formula One racer Prost / Operative villains often / Vacuum tube innovation of 1946 / Ragtime legend Blake / Helmer of Doll's House

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: UEY (57D: Often-illegal maneuver that is key to answering the asterisked clues) —answers double back on the subsequent Across line (once they hit the black square):

Theme answers:
  • TWO-TIM / EL OSER (1A: *Adlai Stevenson as a presidential candidate, e.g.)
  • SALAR / Y CAPS (21A: *Limits on team payrolls)
  • STRIK / ES A BA / LANCE (31A: **Doesn't go to either extreme)
  • TATTL / ETALE (47A: *Snitch)
  • PRIVAT / E LINES (60A: *Individual telephone connections)
Word of the Day: GIVE EAR (25A: Listen (to)) —
Verb1.give ear - give heed (to); "The children in the audience attended the recital quietly"; "She hung on his every word"; "They attended to everything he said" (
• • •

So the basic concept is solid—answers do a U-turn, and the comeback portion of the answer is itself a viable word in the Across. The double-UEY in the middle of the grid is a nice twist. The fill is just OK, but the theme is pretty demanding, so no strong complains there. What I dislike, to the point of resenting, is the deliberate trap set in the west. Now traps are fine, but when you set them where your Stupidest answers are, then falling into them is deeply unpleasant. A good trap should make you go "Ah, right, good one." But GIVE EAR (?!) is a phenomenally stupid thing, and crossing VEEPSTAKES ... ? Is VEEPSTAKES the thing where candidates decide on VP candidates? We gave that a name? The clue makes it sound like an official thing. It's not. There is not necessarily a "stakes" involved. Just pick a running mate. Anyway, back to the trap. 25D: A whole bunch (_O_S) ... crossing 36A: Social gathering (_E_). The latter was what really got me. I wrote in TEA and then that gave me LOTS for [A whole bunch]. And that was pretty much that. Had LI_EEAR and _EAPSTAKES and couldn't see how any answers I had were wrong. Because they weren't wrong. They were just wrong for This Grid because stupid GIVE EAR and stupid VEEPSTAKES thought they'd have a stupid party for ugly answers. Luckily at some point my "tear it all out" instinct kicked in, and somehow I was able to get to GIVE / GOBS / BEE / VEEP. Again, theme was solid, but not solid enough to absorb the blow from the GIVE EAR train wreck.

MISCALL is superdumb (28D: Poker blunder). What the hell is that? Where you call but shouldn't have? How is there a name for that kind of stupidity? What is an ALAIN Prost? (48D: Formula One racer Prost) People know that? People know Formula One racers? Talk about niche sports. Worst mistake I made all day wasn't the LOTS / TEA thing (that was a very reasonable mistake). No, it was reading "Scoville scale" (40D: Topping the Scoville scale) but thinking "Beaufort scale." So I could see the answer wanted to be HOTTEST, but ... winds aren't measure by hotness.

My favorite clue in this thing is probably 43A: George I or V? (SOFT G). Clever. Take it from an erstwhile medievalist, a knight does not "need" a LANCE, no way, no how, no. NOSED IN is almost as dumb as GIVE EAR. But again, most of the fill (though oldish and awkward at times) holds up, and the theme is fine.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Fitness program done to Latin music / WED 9-20-17 / Scottish hillside / Citrus named for its appearance

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy (like, really really easy, if you make the smart choice and completely ignore the Note and the bracketed numbers)

THEME: ab bc cd etc — here's the note:

So the clues are numbered 1 to 25, and 1 has "AB" in it, 2 has "BC" in it, 3 has "CD" in it, etc. etc. Are you not entertained!?

Word of the Day: SUVA (44A: Capital of FIJI) —
Suva (Fijian pronunciation: [ˈsuβa]) is the capital, second largest municipality and largest municipality with city status in Fiji. It is located on the southeast coast of the island of Viti Levu, in the Rewa Province, Central Division. [...] At the 2007 census, the city of Suva had a population of 85,691. Including independent suburbs, the population of the Greater Suva urban area was 172,399 at the 2007 census] Suva, along with the bordering towns of Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori have a total urban population of around 330,000, over a third of the nation's population. This urban complex (not including Lami) is known also as the Suva–Nausori corridor. (wikipedia)
• • •

The puzzle is not in a good place right now. It just can't find its mojo, can't catch a break. I'm sure this theme sounded good ... in the constructor's head (??) ("I'll show 'em!"). But there is literally zero interest from the solver's point of view. Who. The. Hell. Cares. About two-letter strings? The entire puzzle seems to have been conceived to justify the entry BMWXSERIES (62A: Line of upscale German autos [23]). Like someone bet him that he couldn't pull this theme off because no way he could pull off "WX," man, that would be like jumping the Snake River Canyon! But then the constructor was like "Hold my laptop" and hopped onto his rocket-propelled motorcycle and zoom! "QR" required some ingenuity as well (BBQ RIBS). Beyond that, it's all very dreary. Yes, you get BWXSERIES, but you also get BCE and (ugh) OFGOD and PALME etc. Not worth it. I might've been at least mildly impressed if there had been only one instance of each sequential letter pair in the grid. But there are two "NO"s and like half a dozen "RS"s. So ... yeah, NO.

If any good comes of this puzzle, it's that I pass along to you how much I like WIM Winders movies (28A: Wenders who directed "Buena Vista Social Club"). His Road Movie trilogy (starting with "Alice in the Cities" 1974)) is quirkily beautiful. I've got "Hammett" (1982) set to record later this week, and "Until the End of the World" just sitting on my DVR waiting for a time when I have an unbroken 4 hr. chunk to dedicate to it. Gonna watch "Paris, Texas" next, since Harry Dean Stanton just died. A bunch of WIM Wenders movies are on FilmStruck (which, along with TCM and Netflix and all the EPIX channels, is practically all I watch). Anyway, WIM! That is my recommendation for the day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I had one "uh oh, careful" moment as I was zooming through the grid, right when I got to 58A: Fleur-de-___ (LYS). I wrote in LIS but my brain immediately registered the possibility of a different spelling, and wouldn't let me leave the corner until I had checked the cross (probably seconds later). And thus I never had to hunt down that error (as many will have had to)

P.P.S. I met a dog named "Hester" in the woods today (3D: Hawthorne who created Hester Prynne) (NATHANIEL). YEAH, I too thought it was weird. I mean, if your dog is an adulterer, no judgment, but do I really need to know that?

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Vegetation along British golf course / TUE 9-19-17 / US city whose name looks oxymoronic / Aid in producing suspect's picture

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Constructor: Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SILENT PARTNER (57A: Nonactive member of a firm ... or what G, H and W each have in 20-, 29- and 49-Across) — two-word phrases where both words have the same silent letter, therefore each letter is SILENT and has a PARTNER (twin) who is also silent:

Theme answers:
  • CAMPAIGN SIGNS (20A: Yard displays at election time)
  • GENGHIS KHAN (29A: Mongol Empire founder)
  • WRONG ANSWER (49A: "Nope, guess again")
Word of the Day: IDENTIKIT (32D: Aid in producing a suspect's picture) —
noun: identikit; plural noun: identikits
a picture of a person, especially one sought by the police, reconstructed from typical facial features according to witnesses' descriptions. (google)
• • •

If you know people are going to have visceral, negative reactions to an answer, why do you put it in your grid? No one has ever put DOG MEAT in a NYT grid before ... and there's a reason for that. It is a divisive answer, as the clue itself points out (3D: Serving in Asia that's taboo in the West). This is a western paper, so even if we decide fine, different cultures, different ways, there's still going to be a repulsion factor here for many solvers, one that is totally and utterly avoidable if you're the constructor. It's incomprehensible to me that a constructor would think, "You know what this grid needs: DOG MEAT?" What value is added to the puzzle? You have to weigh the potential costs against the potential gains, and this is a totally undemanding corner to fill—why do you go here? Also, please note: I don't know about "taboo," but it's literally illegal to consume DOG MEAT in parts of *Asia* (specifically Taiwan). Also, there's something oddly stereotype-reinforcing about this clue ("Serving in Asia..."). Consumption of dog appears to be a. not that common in Asia as a whole, and b. declining.  I recommend the DOG MEAT wikipedia page specifically for its matter-of-fact-references to the unregulated brutality of so much dog slaughter around the world. This answer is far too unappetizing a way to begin a puzzle. I barely noticed the rest of the grid. And next to DR. LAURA? Come on. Have mercy.

I think this theme is OK, and the fill (DOG MEAT aside) pretty weak overall. Most of the answers are dull or dated or kinda icky (HOS, SKEE, SNO, MAA).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Ogden Nash's two-l beast / MON 9-18-17 / Start end of Greek spelling of Athena / ex of marla ivana informally

Monday, September 18, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: color-bodyparted — themers follow that basic pattern:

Theme answers:
  • WHITE-KNUCKLED (20A: Visibly tense)
  • GREEN-EYED (32A: Extremely jealous)
  • RED-HANDED (44A: In the very act)
  • YELLOW-BELLIED (56A: Deplorably cowardly)
Word of the Day: EUROPA (25A: Figure in Greek myth after whom a continent is named) —
Europa, in Greek mythology, the daughter either of Phoenix or of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. The beauty of Europa inspired the love of Zeus, who approached her in the form of a white bull and carried her away from Phoenicia to Crete. There she bore Zeus three sons: Minos, ruler of Crete; Rhadamanthys, ruler of the Cyclades Islands; and, according to some legends, Sarpedon, ruler of Lycia. She later married Asterius, the king of Crete, who adopted her sons, and she was worshipped under the name of Hellotis in Crete, where the festival Hellotia was held in her honour. (britannica)
• • •

If you like gated communities and grinding your teeth and modern Republican politics, welcome. Here is your puzzle. I wrote yesterday that the editor had a little love affair with the current White House. Then I briefly felt bad about that joke. I no longer feel bad about that joke. And RUBIO to boot? Gross. I'm all for the puzzle's reflecting the world at large, but when the world at large is this ****ing dystopic, I think it's reasonable not to feed the Publicity Obsessed White Supremacist in the White House With Yet More Publicity. I can barely even look at 11-Down. It's disgusting that anyone ever thought "let's give it a nickname, it'll be cute."

This seems like a theme that's been done, but not with these words, or in this exact way, I guess. YELLOW-BELLIED is the only one I really like. The only one that stands strong alone. RED-HANDED needs somebody who's been "caught," WHITE-KNUCKLED needs to ditch the "D" and then put itself before "RIDE," and GREEN-EYED needs "MONSTER" to be anything close to plausible. I never got a good solving rhythm going—felt like I was all over the place, and also solving my way through mud. But then the clock said 2:39 which is a well-below-average time for me. Weird. 

Wife is annoyed at how frequently KNEEL is clued in relation to knighthood (21D: Prepare to be knighted). "Where's the Kaepernick clue!?" Good question.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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