Subject of repeated warning at Woodstock / WED 2-28-18 / Actress Lisi of How to Murder Your Wife / Classical musician whose given name is toy / Canadian filling station / Position in crew informally / Cookie since 1912 / Modern prefix with warrior

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Trigonometric functions — abbrs. of trig functions embedded in themers (with TRIG embedded in center answer)

Theme answers:
  • STAY INSIDE (17A: Is a recluse)
  • TACO STAND (21A: Shell station?)
  • LEFT, RIGHT (35A: When repeated, marching orders?)
  • WACO, TEXAS (46A: City on the Brazos River)
  • MORSE CODE (52A: Where S is ...)
  • MUSIC SCHOOL (58A: Place where students are graded on a scale?)
Word of the Day: VIRNA Lisi (29D: Actress ___ Lisi of "How to Murder Your Wife") —
Virna Pieralisi (pronounced [ˈvirna pjeraˈliːzi]; 8 November 1936 – 18 December 2014), better known as Virna Lisi [ˈvirna ˈliːzi], was an Italian actress. Her film appearances included How to Murder Your Wife (1965), Not with My Wife, You Don't! (1966), Beyond Good and Evil (1977), and Follow Your Heart (1996). For the 1994 film La Reine Margot, she won Best Actress at Cannes and the César Award for Best Supporting Actress. (wikipedia)
• • •

Completely unremarkable theme. The embedded abbrs. are all really common (less than desirable) crossword answers, and there was no revealer (I'd hardly call that central answer a real revealer) or wordplay or anything, so theme-wise there was no real interest here. I mean, even if you're really into math, I just don't see how there's much here for you, and from a crossword perspective, there's really nothing. You don't need the theme, don't need to know anything about trig, etc. Embedding very short letter strings in longer answers is not hard at all. The theme type is old, as is almost everything about this puzzle, which feels straight out of ... well, decades ago. VIRNA Lisi??? You always gotta be careful with your proper nouns, but especially with older, obscure proper nouns, when your puzzle is already creaking with crosswordese. VIRNA next to ENIAC next to GTOS ... says quite a lot about this puzzle's cultural center of gravity. Then there's the fill, which is very stale on the whole OSHA DIAS ECCE all abutting one another; ESSO crossing OSS; IWO ANS HOS CLIC ... it's very, very rough and stuffy. THANI? HAD ON *and* THREW ON, not just repeating "ON" but repeating the sartorial meaning of "ON"? Puzzle reminds me of the sandwich my wife was served the other night—tough and lukewarm, like it had been sitting out under an insufficiently-powered heat lamp for some time.

I did find the puzzle interesting where my own personal failures were concerned. Sometimes my brain just refuses to process information correctly. I can be humming along, destroying a puzzle, and then I hit a perfectly ordinary clue and for some reason the wheels just come off. The patch of the grid in the northwest, from LOW to VIRNA (inclusive), was quicksand for me today. VIRNA because what the hell?—getting stuck there was not surprising—but LOW? LOW did not make any sense to me until after I was done with the puzzle. I kept looking at the clue thinking "I don't get it. [Gear for going up hills]? LOW? Surely it's TOW ... like TOW bar ... LOW what? Is there some weird rebus happening here?!" I sincerely didn't think of LOW as a gear *on an automobile* until after I was finished. Skiing "gear" was the only gear my brain was entertaining. Bizarre. I don't think I've ever put an automatic transmission in LOW. Maybe it's not called LOW on my car? I remember very well using 1st or 2nd, when I had a manual transmission. Anyway, LOW as a "gear" just baffled me. Ridiculous (by which I mean *my brain* is ridiculous). I also couldn't parse HIT A NERVE to save my life. HIT AN... and I all I can think is HIT AND RUN (which fit, but of course made no sense). If the latter part of HIT A NERVE hadn't involved VIRNA, maybe I'd've gotten traction more quickly. Also had God in mind when I encountered 25D: Lord's subject (SERF), because two seconds earlier I'd encountered 23D: Lord's Prayer possessive (THY). Phew. So LOW-to-VIRNA, disastrous for me. The rest, no memory. Very, very easy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Feet slangily / TUE 2-27-18 / Firebug felonies / Singer actress Gomez / Epitome of stupidity

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Pretty easy

THEME: Dreamers — Famous people known for works drawing on dreams

Theme answers: 
  • LANGSTON HUGHES (19A: “Montage of a Dream Deferred” poet)
  • SIGMUND FREUD (29A: “The Interpretation of Dreams” writer)
  • SALVADOR DALI (29A: “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate Before Awakening” artist)
  • EVERLY BROTHERS (52A: “All I Have to Do Is Dream” singers)
Word of the Day: TAMARIND (36D: Ingredient in Worchestire sauce) —
Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a leguminous tree in the family Fabaceae indigenous to tropical Africa. The genus Tamarindus is a monotypic taxon, having only a single species.
The tamarind tree produces pod-like fruit, which contain an edible pulp that is used in cuisines around the world. Other uses of the pulp include traditional medicine and metal polish. The wood can be used for woodworking, and tamarind seed oil can be extracted from the seeds. Because of the tamarind's many uses, cultivation has spread around the world in tropical and subtropical zones. (Wikipedia)
• • •
I’m baaack! I’m Clare, and I’ll be your host for the last Tuesday of every month. I’m delighted to get the chance to write about more puzzles, and I figure I might lower Rex’s blood pressure at least a bit by relieving him of having to write up quite so many Tuesday puzzles. I signed off last time as a happy Eli (I’m a senior history major at Yale), and I’ve got to say that I’m now an ecstatic Eli — I just found out that Hillary Clinton is going to be my commencement speaker this year!

This puzzle struck me as fine for a Tuesday. The long names for the theme were interesting enough to puzzle out, but I totally didn’t realize they all related to dreams until minutes after I’d finished the puzzle. Knowing the dream connection didn’t matter to the solve. And there sure were a lot of other proper names in there (SELENA, HAMM, TURTURRO and ARISTOTLE) beyond the four theme answers. It’s a bit funny to see SELENA Gomez and ARISTOTLE on the same level.

The grid was overall pretty clean. It was nice to see the G.O.A.T, Mia HAMM, in there! And, shout out to my hometown of MENLO Park (even if the clue was referring to the one in New Jersey, not the one where I grew up in California). I did have a big oops on 62A with “special intuition, for short” because I read that as “institution” at first and couldn’t get that out of my head and get to ESP. I also thought that SOYS was a pretty lame plural — I got stuck because I was trying to make the answer “soya,” instead. And, as a 21-year-old millennial, I can promise you no one says ROTFL anymore! I tried to put “lmfao” in at first (not that it’s used much anymore, either) but then realized that probably wouldn’t be PC enough to put in the puzzle.
It was also nice to see SVEN, the adorable reindeer from the movie “Frozen.” I’m ashamed to admit that my first instinct when I saw “Frozen” in the clue was to type in “Olaf” before realizing it asked for the reindeer, not the snowman. Anyway, “Tangled” is a better Disney movie than “Frozen.”

I got to use some of what I’ve learned in my classes in college in the puzzle. (See, Dad, you’re paying for my education for a reason!). Examples: PLESSY v. Ferguson; knowing SALVADOR DALI because of some art history classes; jumping right to DUEL because of a Hamilton-Jefferson class and, of course, the musical. (My professor Joanne Freeman actually compiled the book of Hamilton’s letters that Lin-Manuel Miranda used for the musical and did research on duels that he put directly into the songs! She even got to meet him, which makes me insanely jealous, because he’d definitely have a seat at my “pick three famous people, dead or alive, to have dinner with” — I’m sure he’s vying for a spot.) For 2D, my mind immediately jumped to hamburgers as the food that symbolizes America, but I suppose APPLE PIE is pretty all-American, too. (In-N-Out would’ve been a correct answer, too, at least for those of us from the West Coast.) The Dalí painting is very… shall we say... interesting. If you figure it out, let me know.

Things I didn’t get:
  • “Feet slangily” is DOGS, though that seems to be a fairly common expression 
  • “Pa Clampett of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’” is JED
  • I’ve never heard of the EVERLY BROTHERS, so that took some piecing together
  • TAMARIND took me a bit because, even though I recognized the word, before this puzzle I couldn’t have told you it was an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce
Now, I’m off to write a full draft of my senior thesis by next week. (Send help!)
Signed, Clare Carroll, an ecstatic Eli
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Discontinued Swedish cars / MON 2-26-18 / Avenging spirits of Greek myth / Pianist radio host John / Simulated smooch / Katherine of 27 Dresses

Monday, February 26, 2018

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels and Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Normal Monday

THEME: SAW (57D: Wise old saying ... like the first words of 20-, 32-, 41- and 52-Across) — first words of those answers spell out "STILL / WATERS / RUN / DEEP"

Theme answers:
  • STILL KICKING (20A: Not dead yet!)
  • WATERS DOWN (32A: Dilutes)
  • RUN ERRANDS (41A: Pick up dry cleaning, go to the post office, etc.)
  • DEEP THOUGHTS (52A: "What is life?," "Why are we here?," etc.)
Word of the Day: Katherine HEIGL (10D: Katherine of "27 Dresses") —
Katherine Marie Heigl (/ˈhɡəl/; born November 24, 1978) is an American actress, film producer, and former fashion model. She started her career as a child model with Wilhelmina Models before turning her attention to acting, making her film debut in That Night (1992) and later appearing in My Father the Hero (1994) as well as Under Siege 2: Dark Territory(1995). Heigl then landed the role of Isabel Evans on The WB television series Roswell (1999–2002), for which she received nominations for Saturn and Teen Choice Awards.
From 2005 to 2010, Heigl starred as Izzie Stevens on the ABC television medical drama Grey's Anatomy, a role which brought her significant recognition and accolades, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2007. Her best known film appearances include roles in Knocked Up (2007), 27 Dresses(2008), The Ugly Truth (2009), Killers (2010), Life As We Know It (2010), New Year's Eve (2011), The Big Wedding(2013), and Unforgettable (2017). Heigl has also starred in several films that have seen limited releases, including Jackie & Ryan (2014), Home Sweet Hell (2015), and Jenny's Wedding (2015). She also portrayed the lead role on the short-lived NBC television series State of Affairs from 2014 to 2015, and has lent her voice to the animated film The Nut Job (2014) and its 2017 sequel.
Additionally, Heigl has established herself as a cover model, appearing in numerous publications including MaximVanity Fair and Cosmopolitan. She is married to singer Josh Kelley, with whom she has one son and two adopted daughters. (wikipedia)
• • •

Placeholder. Nothing happening here. This is an old theme type, and a SAW is an old saying, and the fill was pretty old, and while there is nothing godawful about the grid, neither is there anything remarkable. It's a shrug. A pale three minutes. Maybe if the revealer hadn't been this sad, randomly-placed little three-letter thing, I could've mustered up some affection here. I do like how SMOLDERS kinda sidles up to AIR KISS (hoping for more?), and I kinda like GREW UP ON (despite the fact that it was the answer that gave me the most fits), but this is all just too ho-hum and basic and dated. OH GEE dated. John TESH dated. MILLI Vanilli dated. SAABS dated. Not trying hard enough, not living in this century enough. Not enough.

Flew though it quickly, but stumbled badly in two places. There was the aforementioned GREW UP ON, which I didn't even understand until I'd finished the puzzle (39D: Enjoyed frequently as a child). I think it was the "enjoyed" part that was throwing me. Growing up on something does not necessarily mean "enjoying" it; "enjoyed" led me to think of the expression "grew on," as in "the farther I got in the puzzle, the more it grew on me" (i.e. "the more I *enjoyed* it). But then of course there were four letters after GREW, not two, and then OR WORSE happened (very tough to pick up that snippet of a phrase) and so, yeah, I flailed a little, and what might've been a very fast time ended up just north of normal. I also got slowed down earlier when the the "H" in the second position at 32D: Where ships dock led me to SHORE (?!), which I then "confirmed" (??!) with ROE (43A: ___ v. Wade). Blargh. Turning SHORE into WHARF cost me dearly. The rest of this puzzle was phenomenally easy, though, so it all came out to pretty normal Mondayness—yet another way in which the puzzle was utterly unremarkable. Bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Lead role in Boys Don't Cry 1999 / SUN 2-25-18 / Nanki-poo's father / Neighbor of Montenegrin / TV demonstrator at 1939 World's Fair / Bygone deliverers / Seaweed in Japanese cuisine

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Letter Recycling" — pairs of intersecting answers with identical clues are made up of the same set of letters:

  • IRON AGE (2D: Historical period) / GEORGIAN ERA (22A: Historical period spelled using only the letters of 2-Down)
  • ETHAN ALLEN (13D: Revolutionary War hero) / NATHAN HALE (28A: Revolutionary War hero spelled using etc.)
  • POTATO CHIPS (36D: Snack items) / PISTACHIOS 
  • OUTSTANDING (39D: Really impressive) / ASTOUNDING 
  • SCHMEAR (89D: Bagel topping) / CREAM CHEESE

Word of the Day: EGBERT (18D: Grandfather of Alfred the Great) —
Ecgberht (771/775 – 839), also spelled EgbertEcgbert, or Ecgbriht, was King of Wessex from 802 until his death in 839. His father was Ealhmund of Kent. In the 780s Ecgberht was forced into exile by Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, but on Beorhtric's death in 802 Ecgberht returned and took the throne.
Little is known of the first 20 years of Ecgberht's reign, but it is thought that he was able to maintain the independence of Wessex against the kingdom of Mercia, which at that time dominated the other southern English kingdoms. In 825 Ecgberht defeated Beornwulf of Mercia, ended Mercia's supremacy at the Battle of Ellandun, and proceeded to take control of the Mercian dependencies in southeastern England. In 829 he defeated Wiglaf of Mercia and drove him out of his kingdom, temporarily ruling Mercia directly. Later that year Ecgberht received the submission of the Northumbrian king at Dore. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle subsequently described Ecgberht as a bretwalda or 'wide-ruler' of Anglo-Saxon lands.
Ecgberht was unable to maintain this dominant position, and within a year Wiglaf regained the throne of Mercia. However, Wessex did retain control of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey; these territories were given to Ecgberht's son Æthelwulf to rule as a subking under Ecgberht. When Ecgberht died in 839, Æthelwulf succeeded him; the southeastern kingdoms were finally absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex after Æthelwulf's death in 858. (wikipedia)
• • •

This grid looks like it was architecturally challenging to put together: all themers are part of intersecting pairs, and some of those pairs actually abut. ABUT, I say! There's hardly any part of the grid that isn't affected by / impinged on by a theme answer. It's actually astonishing that the grid is as clean as it is, given how grid-pressuring this theme is. That said, I found it really lifeless, so much so that I just ignored the theme, for the most part. You didn't really need to know that the word pairs used the same letter bank. You could just solve them based on their rather general clues. The fact that OUTSTANDING and ASTOUNDING use the same letters just isn't that interesting. I think CREAM CHEESE / SCHMEAR is my favorite pairing, with PISTACHIOS / POTATO CHIPS a close second, but as I say, it's nothing I thought about (or had to think about, for that matter), as I was solving.

  • WE'RE ON
Final score: ON 4, IN 3. Good game, fellas.

Trouble spots:
  • 31A: Order to go (MUSH— wanted SHOO or SCAT or something related to fast food
  • 34A: Woman's name that sounds like its second and first letters, respectively (ELLY) — solving this was like trying to spell AUGUSTA backward the other day: brain-breaking
  • 107A: Bygone deliverer (ICEMEN) — went looking for some folksy, olde-tymey term for OB/GYN
  • 120A: "Aw rats!" ("DARN!") — DRAT, DANG, etc. the usual suspects
  • 6D: Was dateless (WENT STAG) — had the WENT, went with SOLO
  • 47D: Seaweed in Japanese culture (KOMBU) — wait, is this where "kombucha" comes from??? [yes and no: here's an explainer] The only seaweed I know very well is NORI, though KOMBU as crossed my field of vision somewhere before...
  • 103D: Lead role in "Boys Don't Cry," 1999 (TEENA) — I saw this in the theater and don't remember it at all, except Swank was in it. But the puzzle was generally so easy that I didn't have to spend any time wondering about this clue; it filled in via crosses very quickly.
Check out Will Nediger's puzzle blog, "Bewilderingly." You should especially check out 21-Down in his latest puzzle (Puzzle 70: "Not With a Bang"): a cluing choice that other constructors and editors would do well to imitate.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Dolphinfish informally / SAT 2-24-18 / Pennsylvania city where Delaware Lehigh rivers meet / Irvin early cartoonist designer for New Yorker / Italian sculptor Lorenzo Bernini / Hollande's successor

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: REA Irvin (16A: ___ Irvin, early cartoonist designer for The New Yorker) —
Rea Irvin (August 26, 1881—May 28, 1972) was an American graphic artist. Although never formally credited as such, he served de facto as the first art editor of The New Yorker. He created the Eustace Tilley cover portrait and the New Yorkertypeface. He first drew Tilley for the cover of the magazine's first issue on February 21, 1925. Tilley appeared annually on the magazine's cover every February until 1994. As one commentator has written, "a truly modern bon vivant, Irvin (1881–1972) was also a keen appreciator of the century of his birth. His high regard for both the careful artistry of the past and the gleam of the modern metropolis shines from the very first issue of the magazine..." (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello and good morning. Surprisingly good puzzle today. I wasn't so sure about it as I was exiting, or failing to exit, the NW corner, where HORS and AVGAS (whatever that is) had me wondering what I was wandering, or failing to wander, into. Turned out my failure to move down into the center of the grid from up top was due to a little (big) misplay there at 8D: Picker-upper (TONIC). Had the TON-, wrote in ... TONGS! Apt! But wrong. But then, when I couldn't get either of those little Acrosses, I pulled TONGS for TONIC, got PACS, threw down SLOGANEER, and was off: ASIN PIGLET AIRPLAY EDDY IDEAS PLODDER, in case you want to know the exact order of progression. My affection for the puzzle picked up when I picked up SLIPPERY SLOPE—"Alright, the puzzle came to play!" I thought. Sometimes a themeless will just ... lie there. All competent and sturdy and sad. But SLIPPERY SLOPE / PAROLE HEARING / BINGE-WATCHING (!) was a delightfully creamy discovery at the center of my puzzle snack. Nice modern clue on MACRON, up the east coast HEADLONG into the SAD SONG. At this point I'm having so much fun that I don't even scowl at the ETALI? pothole. AESTHETIC drops down easily, MAHI slides over, and I clean up the SE in Monday time—I remembered RIAA today, for possibly the first time ever! And AMATI and RAVI just sort of walked over and said, "Hey ... yeah, we don't know why we're here, all out in the open on a Saturday either. But go ahead, take us." And I did. That corner required only my most BASIC SKILLS. Total PRE-K stuff.

Only a couple tricky areas once I jumped down from the NNW. Blanked on SNOPES (a site I know well) and only half-knew COLLET (as with ROSECUT diamonds yesterday, my jewelry knowledge, she is not so good). Those were easy enough problems to overcome. The real bear down there was the basic word SCIENCE, which had such an odd clue on it (32D: Prestigious academic journal). This "very general category as clue for something specific in that category" is a SLIPPERY SLOPE. [Food] = SOUP? I mean, it's accurate, but ... I think I'm just saying that "Prestigious" and "academic" doesn't really narrow this down much. Not that I could name a ton of "prestigious academic journals" ... but neither did I know that SCIENCE was one. I guess the puzzle was so easy that underclued weirdness was considered necessary. OK. I also had a strange amount of trouble with RESHIPS, mostly because I thought 21D: Forwards was referring to a direction ... on a ship. Like, MIDSHIPS? Is that an area on a ship? Fore, aft, ABAFT, ABEAM ... I was looking for something in that category. UPSHIPS? But "Forwards" was a verb, which I realized only after (finally) getting the "R" from REDS (21A: Section of a Crayola box). So it's just ... RESHIPS. My nautical fantasies, dashed.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Phoenician goddess of fertility / FRI 2-23-18 / Vehicle used by police to catch thieves / Cream in cobalt blue jar / In classic form of diamond / Co-star of Office who played Ryan Howard

Friday, February 23, 2018

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ROSE CUT diamond (15A: In a classic form of diamond) —
Various forms of the rose cut have been in use since the mid-16th century. Like the step cuts, they were derived from older types of cuts. The basic rose cut has a flat base—that is, it lacks a pavilion—and has a crown composed of triangular facets (usually 12 or 24) rising to form a point (there is no table facet) in an arrangement with sixfold rotational symmetry. The so-called double rose cut is a variation that adds six kite facets at the margin of the base. The classic rose cut is circular in outline; non-circular variations on the rose cut include the briolette (oval), Antwerp rose (hexagonal), and double Dutch rose (resembling two rose cuts united back-to-back). Rose-cut diamonds are seldom seen nowadays, except in antique jewelry. Like the older style brilliants and step cuts, there is a growing demand for the purpose of repairing or reproducing antique pieces. (wikipedia)
• • •

I warmed to this puzzle as it went on. At first, it was very DAD PUZZLE (puzz equiv of DAD JOKE), with its ROSE CUT diamonds and NOXZEMA and kinda limp fill like OXIDATE and DNA LABS and BUTNO and the long crosswordese ASTARTE (13D: Phoenician goddess of fertility). But somewhere around the SWAGGER line it found its swagger and once CTHULHU took the BAIT CAR, I was in. Speaking of CTHULHU, a thousand monkeys typing for a thousand years could probably type out that letter combination but I could not, and cannot, and I *know* the Lovecraftian creature in cwestion. Anyway, that whole SW corner, clues and fill and all of it, is just lovely. AMIRITE? Yes, I am. The rest of the puzzle was just fine, but that's the corner that sold me. [Modern screen test] is especially good for CAPTCHA—it's all kinds of deceptive because of the more common, cinematic meaning of "screen test" (CAPTCHA is the text you have to enter sometimes online to prove you are not a robot—lately I've just had to check "I am not a robot" boxes rather than actually write in a CAPTCHA element ... is CAPTCHA becoming bygone?). The only thing I don't quite understand about this puzzle is why ABU / BIT as opposed to APU / SIT. You can come at APU at least two ways, where ABU there's just the one, and it's not the moooost familiar of proper nouns. Speaking of unfamiliar proper nouns: BJ NOVAK! (8A: Co-star of "The Office" who played Ryan Howard) (jk, I knew him ... but, I mean, he's no MINDY KALING ... where is KALING??? Seriously, I should've seen KALING in a puzzle by now, folks. Work on it.).

Struggled to get started, with BUTNO and XII and OPINE being especially tricky to come up with, for me. Also, NUDE is somehow not on the list of adjectives that quickly come to mind when I think of "The Thinker," despite the fact that he's clearly NUDE, so that was odd. Had real trouble later on with 64A: Places in the field (DEPLOYS) (was "places" a verb or noun? what kind of 'field'?). Last square was the "R" in MARKS (30D: Targets). Again, the verb / noun problem thwarted me, and 36A: Shaker's cry? ("BRR!")was no help until I had that final square surrounded—then the "R" was obvious. I briefly tried to convince myself that UGLI was three syllables, so that was fun (5D: Four-letter fruit pronounced in three syllables => AÇAI). Not sure anything needs explaining today. A POL is a "Party person" in the sense of "political party." Aren't peas an "ingredient," singular? (23A: Shepherd's pie ingredients). Would you really refer to each individual pea as a separate ingredient? Please chew on that. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Request to be connected on social media / THU 2-22-18 / Something unknowns are introduced in / Nonmonetary donation

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: REVERSING COURSE (60A: Backtracking ... or what 17-, 27- and 46-Across are doing?) — theme answers are three different kinds of "courses," all appearing backwards (or "reversed") in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • LANOITANATSUGUA (17A: Home of the Masters) (Augusta National)
  • ARBEGLAERP (27A: Something unknowns are introduced in) (pre-algebra)
  • SREZITEPPA (46A: Starters) (appetizers)
Word of the Day: Alfred ADLER (1D: Alfred who coined the term "inferiority complex") —
Alfred W. Adler(/ˈædlər/German: [ˈaːdlɐ]; 7 February 1870 – 28 May 1937) was an Austrian medical doctorpsychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. His emphasis on the importance of feelings of inferiority, the inferiority complex, is recognized as an isolating element which plays a key role in personality development. Alfred Adler considered human beings as an individual whole, therefore he called his psychology "Individual Psychology" (Orgler 1976).
Adler was the first to emphasize the importance of the social element in the re-adjustment process of the individual and who carried psychiatry into the community.[5]Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Adler as the 67th most cited psychologist of the 20th century. (wikipedia)
• • •

First, let's talk about why this theme is good and that Presidents Day theme a few days ago isn't. So, President's Day! "Let's put presidents' names in the clues!" "OK, that is fine. That gives the theme a kind of unity. What next?" "OK ... let's anagram them!" "Wait, what? Why? Is there a title or a revealer or some catchy play on words that's going to explain why you're doing that?" "No!" Well, that doesn't ma-" "Also, let's add a letter to the president's names before we anagram them!" "[blank stare]" "Random letters!" "[exasperated sigh] Do those letters at least spell someth-" "No! They spell nothing! Random letterssssss!" And ... scene. Now today's. Answers go backwards. OK, why? Well, there's a play on words with the revealer: REVERSING COURSE. OK, but that's hardly enough, just running answers backwards. What's the hook? Each theme answer is actually a different kind of "course" that is being (literally, in the grid) reversed. So the REVERSING part makes sense, and the COURSE part makes sense, and everything you're doing ... makes sense? Sense!? What an idea.

["Set a course for adventure...."]

I woke this morning to NRA in my grid (31D: Publisher of American Hunter magazine, for short) and this in my Twitter feed:

That's not just a sitting member of the US House of Representatives, that's *my* sitting member of the US House of Representatives. She takes gobs of NRA money and they've given her an "A" rating. So, constructors, if there's a way you can, I don't know, avoid NRA, or at least give it a clue that doesn't look like it was written by the NRA PR department, that would be cool.

I found the spelling backward gimmick easy to pick up, but then hard to enter into the grid. Typing words backwards is nuts, and I must've spent 10-25 seconds stumbling over the front (i.e. back?) end of "Augusta." Just couldn't get the letters, particularly the "U"s, in the right place. Also had SPAT for 19D: Bicker (with), and so ended up with PTE ALGREBRA (reversed) at first. Briefly considered AP ALGEBRA (impossible) and then realized SPAR was a better answer than SPAT. Some trouble getting fron AUN- to AU NATUREL at 33D: Nude, but otherwise not much trouble today at all. A brisk and pleasant solve. See you tomorrow...

Oh, wait, one more thing. So I wrote a bit about the AMAL Clooney clue yesterday because she's a human rights lawyer (which the clue mentioned) and I'd seen her name a bunch recently etc. Well, I only just found out, and I really need everyone to know, that the original clue there (the one that actually appeared in the damned paper, the one that some wise person made a late-change to for the digital editions) was [Mrs. George Clooney]. Just like it appears on her checks, I'm sure (!?).

God bless the non-famous crossword people at the Times who scramble to fix tone-deaf junk like this. Not the first time. Almost certainly not the last.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Obama's stepfather Soetoro / WED 2-21-18 / Mixed martial arts cage shape / Tandoor-baked bread / pre-1917 autocrats / Dr Seuss book that introduces phonics

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Constructor: Ori Brian and Zachary Spitz

Relative difficulty: Medium (once you get past that initial ??? period and realize there's a bleeping rebus on a bleeping Wednesday)

THEME: PO BOX (41A: Certain mailing address, for short ... or a hint to 14 squares in this puzzle) — rebus puzzle where "PO" are squeezed into 14 different squares

Word of the Day: AMAL Clooney (58A: ___ Clooney, human rights lawyer) —
Amal Clooney (née AlamuddinArabicأمل علم الدين‎; born 3 February 1978) is a Lebanese-British barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in international law and human rights. Her clients include Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in his fight against extradition. She has also represented the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, and Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy. She is married to the American actor George Clooney. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a puzzle with 14 PO BOXES. That, it is. It is that. My feelings couldn't be more neutral. It is what it says it is. There it is, take it or leave it. Take or leave 14 of these PO BOXES, why don't you? The concept is one that sounds like it would be cool, or cute, or clever, but it most just ... is. The fill also is. There it is. Fill never gets worse than, say, LOLO (16A: Obama's stepfather ___ Soetoro), but it never gets better than, say, MAGNETO, either (27A: Ian McKellen's role in "X-Men" movies). Just a lot of PO BOXES, in a grid, on a Wednesday. The end.
 [these tweets were posted independently of one another, almost simultaneously]

I flailed at first, not surprisingly, since when's the last time there was a Wednesday rebus? Feels like ages. I only look for a rebus on Thursdays, and maybe Sundays. I've seen them on other days, but I don't like them on other days. This one, though, ended up being Wednesday easy once you figured out what was going on. Just ... remember there are "PO" boxes out there to be found, and you're fine. I actually had a good 1/5 or so of the grid filled in before I finally hit a "PO" box. Went down from the NW, through the center and all the way over to 37D: Salk vaccine target (POLIO) before the theme shoved its way into view. I must've gotten PO BOX along the way but no really registered that it was a revealer. No matter. After that, it was just a matter of going back over earlier trouble spots, filling in "PO"s, and then proceeding with "PO"-search powers activated. Honestly, nothing about this puzzle stood out as remarkable to me, one way or the other, except AMAL Clooney, whose name I had literally just (seconds earlier) read on the NYT's home page—she and George are donating $500,000 to the student March Against Gun Violence. Her work with Yazidi refugees was pretty much the centerpiece of David Letterman's recent interview with George Clooney (the second episode of his new Netflix show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction..."). I'm writing about this because, again, there's nothing in the puzzle to write about. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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US marshal role for John Wayne / TUE 2-20-18 / Consumer giant that makes Bounty / Credit card designation / French author who said intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: LEXICOGRAPHERS (51A: Ones who produced the clues for 20-, 25- and 45-Across) — theme clues are written as dictionary definitions; theme answers are familiar phrases that, when taken differently, can appear to be asking for a literal definition of one of the words in those phrases. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • "HIGH" DEFINITION (20A: adj. under the influence of a drug) (the clue is a definition of "high")
  • "OVER" EXPLAINED (25A: adv. across a barrier or intervening space) (the clue is an explanation of "over")
  • MEANING OF "LIFE" (45A: n. spirit, animation) (the clue is the dictionary meaning of "life") 
Word of the Day: GOGO (58A: Big name in in-flight internet) —
Gogo Inc. is a provider of in-flight broadband Internet service and other connectivity services for commercial and business aircraft, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. 17 airlines partner with Gogo to provide in-flight WiFi, including British AirwaysAer LingusIberiaGol linhas aereasBeijing CapitalAeromexicoAmerican AirlinesAir CanadaAlaska AirlinesDelta Air LinesJapan AirlinesJTAUnited AirlinesHainan AirlinesVirgin AmericaVietnam Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Gogo Inc. is a holding company, operating through its two subsidiaries, Gogo LLC and Aircell Business Aviation Services LLC (now Gogo Business Aviation Inc.). According to Gogo, over 2,500 commercial aircraft and 6,600 business aircraft have been equipped with its onboard Wi-Fi services. The company is also the developer of 2Ku, the new in-flight (satellite solution) Wi-Fi technology. (wikipedia)
• • •

Cute, but (for me) hilariously misplaced on a Tuesday. I was north of my average Wednesday time, nowhere my normal Tuesday range of times. I had zero conception of the theme until I was done. I just knew that the clues had nothing to do with the answers in any way that I could see, so I had to get every one of them via crosses, hacking at them until they looked like something, and then filling in the blanks. This meant I also had trouble with the front end of LEXICOGRAPHERS. (P.S. LEXICOGRAPHERS did not "produce the clues"; only editors or constructors can do that, so the clue is simply wrong without a "?" on it). There was also a lot of hard stuff and "?" stuff in the N/NE that slowed me down considerably. But no matter. The concept is pretty good. The first themer is the best one, because it repurposes the meaning of "definition." The others are literalizations without the concomitant shift in the meaning of the lexicographical word, i.e. that is, no new meaning for "meaning," no new meaning for "explained." But insofar as "high," "over," and "life" are all being isolated and treated as words, in dictionary definition fashion, the theme is consistent and fine.

[XTC should be in puzzles more often]

That whole area east of (and including) BLUDGEON was very rough for me. Needed half the crosses even to see BLUDGEON, and then CAHILL (????) (8D: U.S. marshal role for John Wayne). No idea. None. Not even a movie in the clue? (Not that that would've helped). Have watched many John Wayne movies. Many. No idea about CAHILL. Zero. . . OK, now that I look it up, the name of the movie *is* "CAHILL"??? Since when is that famous, let alone Tuesday famous? Dear lord. Full title: "CAHILL: U.S. Marshal" (1973). This isn't even in the top half of Wayne movies, fame-wise, success-wise, I'm gonna guess quality-wise. No idea why you'd put it in a Tuesday. Or even a Wednesday (which, as we've established, this puzzle should've been). So that was a disaster. Moving east from there, the two "?" clues both stymied me. They're both OK clues, but BARTENDS (10D: Makes the rounds?) and SUMO (12D: Battle of the bulges?) held me up and made CAMUS and TROMP much harder to get. Also, like I know who makes Bounty paper towels (PANDG = P&G = Proctor & Gamble —that type of answer, letter+AND+letter = "ampersandwich"; see, for example, BANDB, AANDP, RANDB, etc.). I don't use "in-flight internet" so GOGO was nono for me. And I had no (literally no) idea that The Huffington Post was HUFFPOST at all, let alone *officially* (38D: Popular left-leaning news site). I have only ever heard HUFFPO, which still seems like a much much better, more in-the-language abbr. for that org.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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