Herbert of old Pink Panther movies / SUN 12-16-18 / Ancient capital of Laconia / Pope who supported house of Borgia / Notable schemer / Tennis commentator's cry / All-star Mets catcher of 1990s-2000s / Colorful treat that resembles rocket

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging (14:02)

THEME: "Top Gear" — a hat ("gear" on "top" of your head???) drops down in the middle of long Across themers; once the name of the hat ends, the answer resumes on the original line; the revealer, of course, is AT THE DROP OF A HAT (108A: Immediately ... or where this puzzzle's five circled squares appear?)

Theme answers:
  • CALLINGINTOQUESTION (27A: Casting doubt on)
  • CYBERETHICS (40A: Topic concerned with hacking and software rights)
  • WHATAMI? (65A: Riddle-ending query)
  • SNAKEPIT (83A: Dangerous environment)
  • BOOKOFEZRA (89A: It comes after II Chronicles)
Word of the Day: "Miss SLOANE" (53D: "Miss ___" (2016 political thriller)) —
Miss Sloane is a 2016 political thriller film, directed by John Madden and written by Jonathan Perera. The film stars Jessica ChastainMark StrongGugu Mbatha-RawMichael StuhlbargAlison PillJake LacyJohn Lithgow, and Sam Waterston.
The film had its world premiere on November 11, 2016, at the AFI Fest, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 25, 2016, by EuropaCorp, before expanding wide on December 9, 2016. It was released in France on March 8, 2017. It received generally positive reviews, and Chastain's performance was acclaimed by critics. [...] Miss Sloane is ranked number 75 by per-theater average on Box Office Mojo’s list of Worst Opening Weekend films released since 1982. (emph mine(wikipedia) 
• • •

TFW you know juuuuuuust enough about Willa Cather's writing to get yourself into terrible trouble.

I like the theme idea here, and the execution is OK, but ... there's just five elements, and the rest of the puzzle is mostly unremarkable, or remarkable only when the obviously beefy constructing software wordlist rears its head with junk like ICANGO INACOMA or INCAPS. Not sure why this one played hard, but it did (for me). Real trouble getting started, largely because of the Willa Cather fiasco. But I just found the fill and cluing to be forced and irksome all over. "IT'S IN!"? ... I mean, I guess. OK. Shrug. VEALER? I'm sure you're right. I'm sure it's valid. It's just ... there's just too much making me go "I guess..." and not enough making me go "ooh, cool." As for the thinness of the theme, there's not much to be done there. Not many hat types are going to work as letter strings inside of longer words or phrases. Maybe you could get TURBAN or MITRE to work out, but, like, FEDORA seems impossible (CHAFED ORANGE? FED ORANGUTANS?), as do most of the hats on the long list of hat types I just looked at. I'm just not sure there's enough action here for a Sunday. The whole thing just feels like a 15x15 idea that got inflated to 21x21, with ... mixed results. Seems kind of sad to have CAP in the grid but not let it go Down like all the other hats (84A: Easy-to-swallow pill => GELCAP)

ABAFT ATEMPO IRENIC AGLET LOM ENCE SABE UPCS KOI-EMS-NAH ... I mean, some of this kind of crud you just have to abide. But do I also have to abide PIUSIIIIIIIIIIII? (45A: Pope who supported the House of Borgia) And I suppose the "red-and-white striped box" is iconic where POPCORN is concerned, but not where I see movies. Not ever. Weird to not even have a "maybe" on that clue. LTGEN (44A: Three-star mil. rank) was blargh city, made blarghier by the fact that I forgot the Mets played at Citi Field and so wrote in NYM for 34D: MetLife Staudium team, on scoreboards (NYG). Were there any LTGENs in "M*A*S*H"? Because honestly if it's a mil. rank that wasn't in "M*A*S*H," I probably don't know it. I'm exaggerating, but only barely. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the giganto-Holiday-crossword in the paper today. I think it's print-only, so run out and get one for yourself. I have no hopes that it will be a great puzzle, but I do have hopes that it will be a Big puzzle. Have a lovely day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Jazzman Earl / SAT 12-15-18 / 1988 security guard comedy / Folklore monster whose name means goat-sucker / Nickname for Ulysses / Setting of 2000s comedy central police show

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging for me  (9:15, w/ an error) but I've seen other times, and it's apparently more Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "RENO 9-1-1" (30D: Setting of a 2000s Comedy Central police show) —
Reno 911! is an American comedy television series on Comedy Central that ran from 2003 to 2009. It is a mockumentary-style parody of law enforcement documentary shows, specifically Cops, with comic actors playing the police officers. Most of the material is improvised, using a broad outline with minimal scripted material. The series spawned a film, Reno 911!: Miami, featuring the same cast. Thomas LennonRobert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver all starred in and are billed as creators of the series. (wikipedia)
• • •

Parts of this were very easy. I came right down the west coast like it was no problem at all, or not much of one. But after dropping ELGRECO into the SW, and then SONAR and HINES into the middle, things started to go very wrong. I just couldn't push up into the NE and couldn't really push down into the SW. Cape ____, I don't know. CIGAR ... what? ROOM? Seemed like a lot of possible four-letter answers (32D: Locale for Cubans). And then ... I just had a problem of not looking at long gimmes soon enough. I was in the SW a while, struggling with Downs, before I looked at 56A: #1 hit for the Jackson 5 and Mariah Carey ("I'LL BE THERE"), a total gimme. Before that, though, I had ELGRECO SELA CERES and a whole lotta nothing. I had COOLER but didn't believe BEER COOLER was a thing. You can put anything in a COOLER, right? Is there one they make *just* for beer? Also, side note: PBRS is an atrocious plural. Whatever, I was slow down there, and very slow getting out because I kept putting SLEDDERS in and taking it out because it was resulting in an impossible cross at 46A: CDD-. Ugh, how is a CD DRIVE a *program* opening. I get that you might put a disc into the drive. But the disc is not the program. There are programs on discs, presumably, but the disc isn't the program. The cluing on this one was irking me all over, from BEER COOLER to CDDRIVE to IRAQI (what's w/ the gratuitous militarism here?) (47D: Operation Red Dawn defender) to HESITATION (I mean, I guess that's a pre-jump thing, but so is vomiting or fainting or shouting 'Cowabunga!' —also it is not an *ideal* pre-jump thing, as I understand it), to CHUTZPAH (5D: Arguing with God, for example) (why are you bringing God into this? that word is used for ordinary stuff). But the worst clues, for me, were in a bunch, in the east. Let's start with GOOSE (33A: Stimulate).

I think it's really "Stimulate" that is the problem here. That word has positive connotations where physical touching is concerned, and the verb GOOSE, as I've most commonly heard it, involves pinching, often men pinching women, often men pinching women's asses. Wow, actually, the M-W definition is much more graphic:

"Upward thrust"!? I did not know that was required, or definitive. So, yeah, the clue is technically correct, for def. 2, but making the clue a positive-touch word when the answer's primary meaning is such a negative-touch word ... not great. Editing! Also, hey, am I the only one who says the "L" (sort of) in POLK? (27D: Apt surname for an acupuncturist?) POKE and POLK sound different to me. Or feel different coming out of my mouth. I hated this version of the "apt name" clue for this reason. I also didn't like the clue on CLAW (37A: Cardinal point?). If I had to name all the parts of the bird, I would never say CLAW, ever. Bears have CLAWs. Birds have talons. Therefore, I wrote in CRAW. This left me with an acupuncturist named PORK, but I didn't really stop to think about that. PORK / CRAW, very real words! Done!

Here's the thing—if I had looked at 5A: Folklore monster whose name means "goat-sucker" (CHUPACABRA) early on, this solve would've gone very differently. Because that long answer was a Gimme. If I'd gone *there* after the NW, instead of struggling in the south and east, I would've gotten PIED PIPER and SIT 'N' SPIN (two answers I could Not get trying to come at them from the puzzle's middle). Also would've come at SOCCER TEAM from the *top* (so much easier than the bottom) (26D: United, e.g.). I was coming at a bunch of answers from the wrong side. CHUPACABRA, a top-row gift, would've changed all of that. Once I (finally) looked at it, the puzzle sped up again. I still would've finished with PORK / CRAW, but I would've finished *quickly*!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS also had a triple-wrong answer fiasco in the SE at one point with NEHI NESS TEAL (instead of TRIX EARP AQUA). Good times.

PPS from reader David P: "While I agree with your criticisms of today's puzzle, there is another, egregious, misclue.  Mono is not a VIRUS.  It is an abbrev for mononucleosis which is a diagnostic criterion for infectious mononucleosis, usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.  (45A)." 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Gathering where burping is encouraged / FRI 12-14-18 / Gamer's likeness

Friday, December 14, 2018

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Easy


Word of the Day: TUPPERWARE PARTY (37A: Gathering where burping is encouraged) —
Tupperware is still sold mostly through a party plan, with rewards for hosts. A Tupperware party is run by a Tupperware "consultant" for a host who invites friends and neighbors into his or her home to see the product line. Tupperware hosts are rewarded with free products based on the level of sales made at their party. Parties also take place in workplaces, schools, and other community groups. (wikipedia)

• • •
Hi-diddly-ho CrossWorld! Aimee Lucido here, filling in for Rex. When I told him I wanted to do a guest post, I was hoping he'd start me off with a nice Monday puzzle, or maybe a Tuesday... you know, something I could for-sure finish. I mean, I *just* started consistently solving Fridays back in July. But this one solved pretty easy for me.

I finished the bulk of this puzzle in just over 15 minutes (which is fast for me, I swear), but I spent five whole minutes trying to figure out what the heck NASARSTRITS were. Turns out I had misread the word "Ziegfeld" in 27A as "Ziegfried" and put in ROY. Not that that's even how you spell "Siegfried" but when you have ?OY, LOY is just about the last guess you'd make there. On top of that I had RETRO for REPRO and all that combined with the fact that it took me far too long to realize the clue on 10D had absolutely nothing to do with traffic, added up to me wasting five whole minutes scanning my grid for my mistake.

The puzzle overall was hit or miss for me. I loved the center downs, I surprisingly got ATLANTAN very quickly, and by the time I hit SOCIAL IQ in the bottom right I found myself thinking SO FAR SO GOOD. 

But moving into the west half of the grid began to get painful. I have a hard time remembering SDS, and the clue on 51A felt icky enough that I was reluctant to put in EXCON. And, since it was crossing OXLIP, I found myself rooting for STT and EUCON to be real, since then my original answer of TULIP would be right, and my icky EXCON answer would be wrong.

But what I really want to talk about is this TUPPERWARE PARTY thing. First of all, I didn't know that Tupperware parties even existed. Is it just me, or does the idea of a party where the guest of honor is a bunch of empty leftover containers sound boring AF? Also, maybe it's because I'm a Millennial, but I have no clue what "burping" has to do with Tupperware. Does one drink carbonated beverages at a Tupperware Party? Or eat foods with a lot of OIL? Or does "burping" just refer to the sound it makes when you pull the lid off a Tupperware container? I've been staring at this clue for EONS and I just don't get it! (Update: You burp Tupperware to get the air out! The more you know...)

  • 39D: Writer of satirical works (PARODIST) — My brain really wanted this to be a specific writer of satirical works. 
  • 49D: Reduces to small bits (RICES) — This is one of those Friday-esque clues that I actually really like. I've never heard "rice" used as a verb before, but it's inferable from the "small bits" part of the clue, and the crosses are all gettable. 
  • 25A: Part of a cable network? (GONDOLA) — Gondola *lifts* not gondola *boats*
  • 8D: Gamer's likeness (AVATAR) — I will never again hear this word without picturing this:

Signed, Aimee Lucido, Scribe of CrossWorld

[Follow Aimee Lucido on Twitter and Facebook]

P.S. Any other Bachelor fans out there hear SOCIAL IQ and picture this?



Classic Declaration in Gotham City/THUR 12-13-18/Acceptances from fellow brainiacs, in slang/One-named 1950's TV Sex Symbol/Some West Point grads

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Constructor: John Westwig

Relative difficulty: Medium, tending towards Hard

THEME: X Marks the Spot — A giant X in black squares on the grid substitutes for different words in the beginnings and ends of the theme answers.

Theme answers:
  • NEW YORK TIMES (X) I see what you did there
Word of the Day: DAGMAR (45D: One-named 1950's TV Sex Symbol) —
Dagmar (born Virginia Ruth Egnor, November 29, 1921 – October 9, 2001) was an American actress, model, and television personality. In the 1950s, the statuesque, busty blonde became one of the first major female stars of television, receiving much press coverage.
Dagmar became one of the leading personalities of early 1950s live television, doing sketch comedy on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, the Bob Hope Show, and other shows. On June 17, 1951, she appeared on the Colgate Comedy Hour with host Eddie Cantor and guests Milton Berle, Phil Foster,
and Jack Leonard. In 1951, she made a TV guest appearance with Frank Sinatra,[4] which prompted Columbia Records producer Mitch Miller to record a novelty duet with Frank and Dagmar, "Mama Will Bark". That same year, she was featured in a Life cover story with Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo of her on the July 16, 1951, issue. For the interior photo essay, Life photographers followed her to rehearsals and accompanied her on a vacation back to her home town in West Virginia.(Wikipedia)
• • •
Hello everyone out there in Rexland, I'm Dan Felsenheld, longtime reader, first time blogger, filling in for Rex while he is on assignment. No really, I volunteered for this. Now to the puzzle! First off, the grid - it's a bit weird because it has "unchecked squares", so right away when I saw it I suspected that something funky was going on. First I thought it was a rebus, especially when I got 8D and I briefly thought it might be NEW YOR(KER) but I quickly abandoned that idea. Overall I had a hard time with this one, initially put OOLONG for MATCHA, had BEHINDS for BOTTOMS, had ETHER for EMBER, and for the longest time I had MANDELA instead of MALCOLM. In fact the last M in MALCOLM was the final letter in the grid. Once I finally got the grid correct (I "finished" but had some errors which I figured out fairly quickly), I had no idea what the them was! After staring for what seemed like an eternity, it finally struck me, the X in the middle stood for different words, duh! Malcolm was the giveaway. I could have used a revealer in there somewhere though 9D was sort of a clue. I thought the fill was pretty clean, not a lot of crosswordese - sure there is our old friend NACRE at 49A, and hi Brian ENO! I raised my eyebrows a bit at SAUTE PAN, it seems a little bit, as Rex would say, GREEN PAINT-ish. 20A: ARMY MEN, this one eluded me for quite a while. When I think of ARMY MEN, I think of these guys that I played with as a kid:
Overall, I liked the concept, it was well hidden (at least from me!) and well executed, since the X stands for four different words. Well done Mr. Westwig. I don't know if this is your debut or if you are even reading this, but if it is (and you are), congrats!

  • NERDCRED — Love this term, and hoping that blogging for Rex increases mine!
  • JJWATT — Truly one of the coolest NFL Players out there and from all accounts a genuinely nice guy
  • I'M BATMAN — I always hear this in a Michael Keaton voice. 
  • HOMEBREW - Once made a case of my own beer at a local brewery
Here's one of my favorite bands with the theme from "Malcolm in the Middle": 

Signed, Dan Felsenheld, Viceroy of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Wilcox daughter in Howards End / WED 12-12-18 / Benchmark figure given how old person is / Vatican diplomat / Lyft alternative / Hit musical set in 1990s New York

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium (v. easy theme to pick up, but the rest, er ...)

THEME: QUEEN's performance at LIVE-AID — some trivia related to this event

Theme answers:
  • FREDDIE / MERCURY (20A: With 58-Across, iconic frontman of 39-Across)
  • QUEEN (39A: British rock band that gave an iconic performance at 25-Down)
  • LIVEAID (25D: 1985 fund-raising event watched by 1.5+ billion people)
  • CONCERT (22A: 25-Down, notably)
  • BENEFIT (55A: 25-Down, notably)
Word of the Day: NUNCIO (10D: Vatican diplomat) —
  1. (in the Roman Catholic Church) a papal ambassador to a foreign court or government. (google)
• • •

The only thing worse than Scrabble-f***ing your way to a pangram is Scrabble-f***ing your way to a pangram with the help of a f***ing NAZI.. That is the most gratuitous NAZI I have ever seen. Ever. Do you know how easy it is to make this a NAZI-free puzzle. The theme is putting Absolutely No Pressure on that part of the grid. Further, if you are the kind of person who oohs and aahs at the miracle that is a pangram, and you just have to have Every Single Letter of the alphabet in your grid because whooppee!, then guess what, it is also easy to get the "Z" into that section WITHOUT THE HELP OF A NAZI. Oh, but look ... oh, no. He didn't have to just cram the "Z" in there: he had to cram the "Z" *and* the "W" in there as well. I'm staring at this grid in disbelief. I am a real-life version of crosswordese, namely AGAZE and AGAPE. Possibly also AGOG. Is AGLARE a thing? Well then, that too. Imagine. Imagine torturing your grid so that you could Put A "W" In Your Grid. So he shoves a "Z" and a "W" into this tiny, insignificant section of the grid so that ... so that ... so that he could have his pangram (which most people won't notice), and you, you lucky solver, you could have your NAZI. Enjoy. Soak it up. Bask in the gratuitous NAZI. It's really something. If your precious pangram is so important, so important that a "Z" and a "W" both have to fit in this 3x4 section, there's this:

Or there's this

Or there's finding literally anywhere else in the grid to put the "W." Or, you know, there's just not giving a good god**** about pangrams and making the grid the best it can be, or, if nothing else, at least NAZI-free.

The theme is one of those trivia themes where you just heap trivia in there. It's not timely, as the FREDDIE / MERCURY movie came out ages ago. Why the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" is in circles at the top and bottom of the grid, I have no idea. It's a QUEEN song. But you knew that. The fill in thing this is atrocious. AGENORM (?) next to NUNCIO (!?) is DIRE indeed. LEROI on its own? APSO on its own? INICE!??! ENRY :( I was just telling my wife the other day that QUEEN's "The Game" was one of the first albums I ever owned that was *my* music, not my parents'. A really important record for me. So I'm primed to love a QUEEN-based puzzle. But I guess I'm also primed to hate a really bad one. Tell him about it, Freddie:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Units of power saved in modern lingo / TUE 12-11-18 / Clooney lawyer often seen in tabloids / Comedian who said in america anyone can become president that's the problem

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging (3:45)

THEME: COMPOST BIN (50A: Place for kitchen scraps, such as those starting 16-, 24-, 32- and 44-Across) — pretty self-explanatory

Theme answers:
  • SHELL SHOCK (16A: Combat trauma)
  • PEEL OUT (24A: Leave quickly, as from a parking spot)
  • GROUNDS CREW (32A: Baseball field maintainers)
  • PIT BOSS (44A: Casino V.I.P.)
Word of the Day: NEGAWATTS (31D: Units of power saved, in modern lingo) —
Negawatt power is a theoretical unit of power representing an amount of electrical power (measured in watts) saved. The energy saved is a direct result of energy conservation or increased energy efficiency. The term was coined by the chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute and environmentalist Amory Lovins in 1985, within the article, "Saving Gigabucks with Negawatts," where he argued that utility customers don’t want kilowatt-hours of electricity; they want energy services such as hot showers, cold beer, lit rooms, and spinning shafts, which can come more cheaply if electricity is used more efficiently. Lovins felt an international behavioral change was necessary in order to decrease countries' dependence on excessive amounts of energy. The concept of a negawatt could influence a behavioral change in consumers by encouraging them to think about the energy that they spend. (wikipedia)
• • •

What kind of SHELL? Like ... a crab shell? Clam? Taco? I don't put those in the compost. Pits either. I don't know why. I just don't. Coffee grounds, sure. Peel, yeah. I don't know. First-words themes have kind of a high bar because they're so basic, and I don't know if this one cleared said bar. Nothing very bin-y about it. Word play is pretty rudimentary. The grid is also segmented in this really annoying way, where you can't get out of the north except by going waaaaay over to the west. Otherwise, I think the grid is really pretty clean and shiny. I don't know that I think it's a Tuesday grid (felt slightly more Wednesdayish, somehow), but except for a couple of very short answers, nothing was jarringly icky. We need to talk about 31-Down, though, because ... that is some nonsense. It's some nonsense for a number of reasons. First of all, I've never heard of it. Fine, I've never heard of lots of things, but really ... never. And I'm not alone. By a long shot.

[these are just from the first half hour after the puzzle was posted]

So someone—maybe the constructors, maybe an aspirationally hip subeditor—thought they'd get cute with their "original" fill and ... wipeout. New for new's sake is dumb and self-indulgent. It's all made so much worse by the fact that a simple one-letter change turns it into a familiar word.

I was slowed down by FILE CLERK, because having FI- in place I wrote in FIRST-YEAR (4D: Low-level law firm employee). Also really struggled with POP BY, even after I got the -BY. And the -PBY. And the -OPBY. Me: "HOP BY????" (5A: Visit on a whim) Oof. PASS ON, also weirdly hard to parse (5D: Forgo). So, yeah, all the difficulty in this one, besides NEGAWATTS, and AMAL (whose name I just plum forgot) (49A: ___ Clooney, lawyer often seen in tabloids) was in the NW. I wrote in ACRE for AREA (18A: Real estate measurement), and that messed things up for a few seconds in the NE. My favorite moment in this puzzle didn't actually happen to me. It happened to a friend who sent me this screenshot with the subject heading: "Uh oh..."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. who PEELs OUT from a *parking spot*. I'm just imagining the parking lot at Wegmans and thinking ... this is not possible, or at least not advised. Try "intersection" next time.

P.P.S. oh hey watch this, it features my friend David Kwong, talking crosswords and magic and stuff (also, he's on The "Today" Show this morning at 9am EST, doing magic, I assume)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Highly successful in theaterspeak / MON 12-10-18 / Texas city seen in many westerns / We on candy heart / Old Russian royals / Sacred peak in Greek myth

Monday, December 10, 2018

Constructor: Alex Eylar

Relative difficulty: Challenging (by the clock ... 3:38, my third-slowest Monday of the timed era)

THEME: THE PLOT THICKENS (37A: "Now things are getting interesting" ... or a hint to the first words of 17-, 24-, 45- and 57-Across) — first words are DIRT ... and then foliage starts growing, leading to GRASS, then BUSH, and finally JUNGLE:

Theme answers:
  • DIRT CHEAP (17A: Extremely inexpensive)
  • GRASS ROOTS (24A: Bottom-up, as a political movement)
  • BUSH LEAGUE (45A: Amateurish)
  • JUNGLE GYM (57A: Bars that kids go to?)
Word of the Day: MT. IDA (31D: Sacred peak in Greek myth: Abbr.) —
Mount Ida, known variously as IdhaÍdhiIdiIta and now Psiloritis (GreekΨηλορείτης, "high mountain"), at 2,456 m (8,057 feet), is the highest mountain on Crete. Located in the Rethymno regional unit, it was sacred to the Greek TitanessRhea, and on its slopes lies one of the cavesIdaion Antron, in which, according to legend, Zeus was born. Its summit (Timios Stavros) has the highest topographic prominence in Greece. A natural park which includes Mt. Ida is a member of UNESCO's Global Geoparks Network. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, the concept is pretty original, I think. It's clever, anyway, though I don't think the progression is terribly logical. I'm not sure in what sense BUSH is being used. Like, shrubbery, or the Australian BUSH, i.e. just ... the wilderness. Actually, Australian BUSH has no vegetation specifications, so that can't be right here. But shrubbery ... doesn't seem like a step between GRASS and JUNGLE. And JUNGLE .... would that ever, ever grow on a "plot," which implies property ownership, development, etc.? It's all pretty loose and wonky, conceptually. I can see how you'd want to make THE PLOT THICKENS into a revealer, seeing as how it's a tidy 15 letters and all. But this progression feels off. Also off was the forms of the long Downs. CARPOOLER. WENT ROGUE. Both fine, acceptable answers, but with -ERing and past-tensing, just tweaked enough to be trouble, especially CARPOOLER, which weirdly vexed me. I had trouble all over the east and (especially) south, where GLUEY (???) (49D: Sticky) was GOOEY (an actual word one might use) and UANDI (50D: We, on a candy heart) was ... well, nothing, really, because what kind of stupid clue is that. The whole point of writing on a candy heart is that you're using cutesy abbrevs., which, admittedly, "U" is, but ... "We" is a mere two letter, whereas UANDI is five, why on god's increasingly green earth would you use UANDI where u could use WE?!!??! This makes no sense. Also making no sense. TEATS / TAO. I'll give you five seconds to get rid of TEATS: go. Seriously, go! (I just hate the word TEATS (22D: Milk dispensers) ... all other words referring to nipples or breasts, I have no problem with; bring 'em on. But TEATS ... TEATS is my "moist"; it just makes me wince a little; totally OK if you have to use it, but if you don't have to ... I would prefer not) (I think I especially hate the clue here ... conflating a beverage dispenser at a buffet with the mammary glands of animals just seems ugh)

Five things:
  • 53A: Texas city seen in many westerns (LAREDO) — Not very iconic for me. Also, this answer went through GLUEY and UANDI, so oof
  • 44A: Bub (BUSTER) — ??? [Boxer Douglas] or [Silent film star Keaton] woulda been helpfuler
  • 33D: Equipment often transported on a car's roof (SKIS) — literally *anything* more specific than "equipment" woulda been nice here
  • 8D: Informal affirmative (YEP) — Is it YEP. YUP, it's YEP. [Affirmative in 53-Across] might've worked here
  • 33A: Pop a fly? (SWAT) — really thought the "?" here meant that "fly" was going to refer to the pants part. I was imagining busting zippers or buttons or whatever.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I had LANAI before KAUAI, which is what happens when you get a generic [One of the Hawaiian islands] clue and the letters you already have in place are just the -AI :(

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Inspector Gadget antagonist / SUN 12-9-18 / Barbie's strawberry blond sister / Asian territory in Risk / Kids tv character who speaks in falsetto / Weather-controlling Xmen character / Certain product of pyrolysis / Massimo who wrote Goodbye Kiss

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Easy (8:24)

THEME: FANTASTIC BEASTS / AND / WHERE TO FIND THEM (62A: With 68- and 74-Across, J.K. Rowling's first screenplay, with a hint to three pairs of answers in this puzzle) — three fantastic beasts and also ... where to find them

Theme answers:
  • ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, cryptid of the HIMALAYAS (91A: Creation after the Indian and Eurasian plates collided)
  • LOCH NESS MONSTER, cryptid of the SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS (115A: Gaelic's home)
  • THE KRAKEN, cryptid of THE NORWEGIAN SEA (105A: It borders Iceland's eastern coast)
Word of the Day: NEROLI (84A: Perfumery oil) —
  1. an essential oil distilled from the flowers of the Seville orange, used in perfumery. (google)
• • •

The story of this crossword is: the revealer was an enormous gimme. So many people will be able to fill it right in, even without any crosses. On top of that, the rest of the puzzle is not very challenging at all. My orange trouble marker (the felt-tip pen I use to mark the trouble spots on my printed-out grid) is not getting much action. Some symmetricalish trouble in the DRCLAW / ASTANA areas, and then holy hell what is NEROLI (?) ... but the lone real trouble spot, for me, took the form of a kind of fault line located (aptly) in the California section of the puzzle, running from SHALE OIL down through CARLOTTO (??!?!?!?!?!) (86D: Massimo who wrote "The Goodbye Kiss"). Where those two plates meet (i.e. OZS and STACIE ?!), there was some shaking, rumbling, and mild property damage. Else, smooth sailing. Grid seemed pretty clean and interesting. The themers play pretty fast and loose with definite articles (including THE here, excluding it there), but conceptually it was consistent. I liked solving this one just fine. I think the gimme revealer is a bit of a problem, but no one but me is going to complain about getting that much help. Many personal speed records will be set today. I was only 40 seconds off my own.

Half of constructing is noticing when words or phrases can be arranged symmetrically or broken down into symmetrical segments, so good catch on the Rowling screenplay title. Honestly, that title seems built for crosswords—fits symmetrically and seems to be dictating the theme concept straight to you. "Yeah, it's not a complicated concept," it seems to be saying, "but it's sturdy and straightforward, not to mention whimsical, and people love whimsy, mate." It's like finding a recipe for a crossword. But ... you can't find it if you're not paying attention, so all credit to the constructor.

Five things:
  • 112D: Angle (FISH) — oy that was hard. Had the FI- and still nothing. So many possible meanings for "angle," but this one really Really didn't occur to me.
  • 123A: Capital of Kazakhstan (ASTANA) — why do I want this to be ASHTANA? It's very much not, not even by pronunciation, but ... I wish I could think of why I want that "SH" sound in there... I did a puzzle recently that contained QAZAQSTAN. That was fun.
  • 127A: What old army buddies might discuss (THE WAR) — uh ... no. Let's just pretend this non-phrase is not even here, shall we? I'd actually like THE BAR better here. Maybe with a clue about raising or lowering or draining
  • 106D: Value system (ETHIC) — one of my least favorite solving issues is ETHIC v. ETHOS. I don't know the difference and even if the difference were explained to me, I would promptly forget it and end up writing this same comment again on a later puzzle. I'm not convinced I haven't written this same comment before. The infinite recursion of ETHICOS!
  • 4A: "Inspector Gadget" antagonist (DR. CLAW) — just realized, just this second, that I had this guy confused in my mind with the antagonist from "The Smurfs" ... argh, what's his name ... had a cat ... wore some kind of ankle-length black dress ... Megulore ... Melmadar ... aargh, GARGAMEL! His cat was AZRAEL! I'm not sure I can even picture DR. CLAW. So here's a picture of DR. CLAW (who also has a cat!):

NOTE: They Might Be Giants have a song called  "Mr. Klaw" *and* a song called "Dr. Worm"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Talisa Maegyr's portrayer on Game of Thrones / SAT 12-8-18 / Symbol created in 1958 as the logo for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament / 2016 WNBA champs, informally

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg and Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: OONA CHAPLIN (19A: Talisa Maegyr's portrayer on "Game of Thrones") —
Oona Castilla Chaplin [ˈuna kasˈtija ˈt͡ʃaplin] (born 4 June 1986) is a Spanish actress. Her roles include Talisa Maegyr in the HBO TV series Game of ThronesThe Crimson Field and the series Taboo.
A member of the Chaplin family, she is the daughter of actress Geraldine Chaplin, the granddaughter of English filmmaker and actor Charlie Chaplin, and the great-granddaughter of American playwright Eugene O'Neill.[1] She was named after her maternal grandmother Oona O'Neill, Charlie's wife.
• • •

Hi there, Rachel Fabi in for Rex today.  First of all, I want to congratulate OONA CHAPLIN for her first full-name NYT crossword appearance, not counting her grandmother's appearance in 1972 under the clue "O'Neill's daughter." You know you've made it when constructors start using the non-OONA parts of your name in puzzles!

This puzzle and I got off on the right foot; I threw down COMIC SANS, OPENLY GAY, MEAN GIRLS, and PEACE SIGN in my first four moves. And then I immediately crashed into a brick wall made of SYSOPS (???). I googled the term after finishing the puzzle, and I honestly still don't understand what it means. I even considered making it the word of the day, but the wikipedia definition is so vague and jargony ("an administrator of a multi-user computer system") that I can only guess it means 6D: Post masters? if SYSOPS are the people who... administer... internet posts?? Commenters, please send help.

SYSOPS aside, however, I don't have much to criticize about this puzzle. The cluing was tough but fair, and occasionally quite funny (see 29D: Really clicks with a partner, say? for TAP DANCES). The fill was also very clean, with the exception of maybe PHU (56D: Vietnam's Dien Bien ___), although the term does make an appearance in a very catchy Billy Joel song, so maybe it is fair game.

I do vehemently disagree with the spelling of SYNCH (does anyone spell it with an H in 2018?), but my delight at seeing THANKS OBAMA in the grid more than made up for it.

I also found the clue for PG THIRTEEN to be exceptionally misleading. After all, when you think of the characteristics of things that are 23A: Like "Wonder Woman," the MPAA rating of the 2017 live action film is probably not high on that list. That said, I don't think it was unfair-- just very, very Saturday.

And I think that may be my final verdict: overall, it was a clean, moderately challenging, Very Saturday™puzzle (let's make that a thing).

  • 36A: Access to the slopes (SKI PASS) -- did anyone else fill this from the downs and then do a double take because your brain parsed it wrong? No? Just me? 
  • 52A: 2012 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, informally (THE EU) -- I just looked to see what they won for, and turns out they got it pretty much just for existing for 60 years and keeping France and Germany from going to war again? Cool!
  • 10A: Rock climber's challenge (CRAG) -- I recently started indoor rock climbing, so I confidently threw down WALL and did not revisit it, making the NE corner the last place I filled. Oops.
  • 12D: Half of a 1980s sitcom duo (ALLIE) -- I do not know who Allie is, nor do I know who the other half of this duo is. 
Thanks to Rex for the opportunity to fill in -- hope to puzzle critique at you all again sometime soon.

Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of CrossWorld

[Follow Rachel on Twitter, where she mostly tweets about public health, ethics, and immigration]


Mindless followers in slang / FRI 12-7-18 / Transformers technology for short / Roth of cinematic gore / Quipster's delivery / Event for enumerator / Base of some aqualculture farms / Viral fear of 2010s / Mythical shooter / Eight english kings

Friday, December 7, 2018

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Challenging (8:50 w/ an error)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ASHCAKE (45A: Southern corn bread) —
(n.) A bread (cake), usually specifically of cornmeal (thus, a cornbread), baked in hot ashes. (wiktionary)

• • •

Much more a Saturday than a Friday for me, in every way. Saturdays tend to be more punishing, less joyful Fridays, and this one was definitely more punishing and less joyful than last Friday. There's something wholly self-absorbed about this puzzle ... something ... it's like ... two "Transformers" clues? Crossing each other? Who even likes or cares about that? And then two more video game clues? On top of each other? In the same section? Of course "Transformers" and video games have their place in the world, and puzzles, but when you just cram a bunch of answers from your *particular* hobbies or obsessions into a corner, this means that people who don't share your demographic or definition of fun just get locked out. You have to take into consideration the solver, including solvers who aren't like you. In short, any field of interest is fair game. But when computergeekboydom gets OVERZEALOUS and has no sense of measure or balance ... ALAS. Just Look Up From Your Wordlist And Consider Solver Experience. SEED OYSTERS? Yeah, it's in your wordlist, congrats, but it's really just a bunch of Es and Ss and it's a technical term no one cares about. There is much to like, fill-wise, in this grid. But it's got that show-offy, "?"-y, look-at-my-wordlist, difficulty-porn vibe that makes me so depressed with puzzbro output these days.

Most of my difficulty was in that NE corner. Worst part was that for all the glitzy answers in this puzzle, I was ultimately undone by ... REOS, the cheapest, dumbest, oldest bit of crosswordese in this thing. That clue, 22D: Some antique buses (???? "buses" ????) meant zero to me. Nothing. None. "Buses." I keep thinking about "buses." I don't even know what image is supposed to be evoked there. I had R--S and no idea. The WII answer I just couldn't come up with (28A: Hand-held game devices). "Oh, it's WII-something ... sigh, I think it's a pun ... ugh, to people even play WII any more?" Had WIIM-TES and *still* didn't get it. WIIMATES? Also, I spelled it SHEOPLE (24A: Mindless followers, in slang). So though I ultimately got WIIMOTES, I had ROOS as the answer to the "buses" clue. Because SHEOPLE. Look, y'all can spell that dumb word (that I've only heard and not seen) however you want, I'm sticking with SHEOPLE. Oh, yeah, that corner also had REGALEMENT ... ... ... ... [sound of wind blowing] [a tumbleweed rolls by] [somewhere in the distance, a coyote howls] ... Interesting.

For once in my life, I spelled UZO ADUBA correctly, straight out of the gate ... but then continued to erase parts of it because the crosses seemed wonky. Hated cutesiness of [You might make one in your lap]. If you're going to torture English like that, at least give me a "?". Huge trouble with 29A: Trinity test subject because I thought it was some religious thing. Also, I very confidently had ISH for 23D: Real close? which made A-BOMB end -HB ... which is one of the reasons I kept doubting ADUBA. When it comes to proper nouns from pop culture with odd spellings (WIIMOTE, UZO ADUBA, DECEPTICON) you really should be careful with your adjacent fill. Less aren't-I-clever sadism, please! LOL, I just noticed BATE. "Come the weekend, I shall party, forsooth! Nay, I shall ne'er BATE my REGALEMENT!" Come on, BATE. How do you not go TATE there??? Enough.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP