Underwear for tycoons / MON 4-30-18 / It goes from about 540 to 1700 / Silvery hair color / Furry sitcom alien

Monday, April 30, 2018

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:42, solidly Tuesday time)

THEME: underwear — wacky theme clues all start [Underwear for ...?], resulting in ordinary phrases where the last word is underwear-related:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Underwear for judges? (LEGAL BRIEFS)
  • 24A: Underwear for Frisbee enthusiasts? (DISC JOCKEYS)
  • 34A: Underwear for beginners? (AMATEUR BOXERS)
  • 47A: Underwear for actors? (MOVIE SHORTS)
  • 55A: Underwear for tycoons? (CASH DRAWERS)
Word of the Day: HUMPH (32D: "Well, I never!") —
  1. used to express slightly scornful doubt or dissatisfaction. (google)
• • •

My god this theme is botched. Let's start with the fact that this is obviously a Tuesday puzzle, not a Monday. "?" clues on the themers almost certainly takes the difficulty level up a notch from regular Monday puzzles, and in this case, the theme answers were so odd and shaky much of the time that figuring out what the "?" clues were getting at was not especially easy. MOVIE SHORTS in particular felt off and odd. Short films, short subjects, or just "shorts," I hear all the time. MOVIE SHORTS is tin-eared. Does not google (in quot. marks) well at all. Weirdly, theme clues sometimes take the answers out of their normal frame of reference (e.g. DISC JOCKEYS clued in relation to Frisbee), but sometimes ... don't (e.g. LEGAL BRIEFS clued in relation to judges). The real wobbly part, though, is the fact that the "underwear" words are related to (men's) underwear in different ways. You've got, in order, underwear type, underwear brand, underwear type, underwear synonym, underwear synonym. Shaggy as heck. This set of themers starts off with the most hackneyed of puns (how many times have I seen some dumb-ass winky "LEGAL BRIEFS" joke in my life? please don't answer), and then rambles and trips and ends. No. EWW (which is itself a truly horrible answer).

Few words are INANER than INANER. The world is tyrant- and conspiracy theory-driven enough without IDI and FAKED (as clued) gumming things up. The answer that took me the longest to get was HUMPH (ironic, as I am H(arr)UMPHing at this puzzle right now). There is no way that HUMPH achieves "Well, I never!" levels of pique. HUMPH is way, way less offended. The definition (above) even says, "slightly"—"slightly scornful doubt or dissatisfaction." Truly bad clue. Laura vis-a-vis Rob Petrie = WIFE. They are both already on TV. You could say MTM* was DVD*'s TV WIFE—that would make sense. But Laura is just Rob's wife. Oh, and OH YAY was, like HUMPH, hard, because it was, like HUMPH, badly clued. No one says "OH YAY!" unless they are saying it ironically. "Woo-hoo!" doesn't cut it, and it's just not a great answer to start with. Trying too hard and botching the works. Not my idea of a good Monday (I usually like Mondays better than all other themed days ... HUMPH!).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*Mary Tyler Moore / Dick Van Dyke

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Ecuadorean coastal province known for gold / SUN 4-29-18 / Dreyfus Affair figure / It dethroned Sophia as #1 baby girl's name in 2014 / Country whose capital lent name to fabric / Bar that might be dangerous / Subject for The Source magazine

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hey y'all - Erik here, subbing for Rex today. I'll be shaking up the order of proceedings a bit, because I'm a loose cannon who doesn't play by the rules. You can find the review a few paragraphs down, but let's start things off with a plug:
Women of Letters is a collection of 18 thoroughly excellent crosswords, and you can get it by donating to one of the charities listed on the website and sending proof of your donation to WomenofLettersCrosswords@gmail.com. Win-win-win!

The puzzles are constructed by Tracy Bennett, Laura Braunstein, C.C. Burnikel, Amanda Chung, Debbie Ellerin, Gail Grabowski, Tracy Gray, Mary Lou Guizzo, Angela Olson Halsted, Pam Amick Klawitter, Sarah Keller, Lynn Lempel, Donna S. Levin, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin, Andrea Carla Michaels, Robin Stears, and Robyn Weintraub, and edited by Patti Varol and Amy Reynaldo. These are "Avengers: Infinity War"-meets-Kevin-Durant's-Golden-State-Warriors levels of wall-to-wall star-studdedness.

It's also a lot of women! In fact, there are more woman-constructed crosswords in this collection than there have been published by the New York Times so far this year. Those who fail to see the urgency in closing the gender gaps in crossword constructing and editing often posit that 'you can't tell the difference between a crossword written by a woman and one written by a man' (ergo, whether women are equally represented has little bearing on the end product, so why should we care). The puzzles in Women of Letters disprove that thesis in a big way, through the dizzying array of less-traveled roads explored by themes, grids, and clues alike. From the juiciest marquee answers in the themelesses to the simplest choice of referencing a legendary actress by her accolades and not just [Bond girl], the collection never ceases to be a breath of fresh, inimitable air. (As the young people say: "Your fave could never.")

Get the puzzles.

• • •

And now for something completely different: Erik Agard Does the NYT Mini!

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Challenging

This one took me 13 seconds, which means it was pretty hard for a Mini. Between EULER and POLIO, there was an air of erudition about it, which is rarely my wavelength. My favorite parts were GO OUT, with that odd-looking three-vowel string, and the clue 1D: Numbers that grow every year for AGES.

Onto bigger things:

• • •

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Measium

THEME: Mis-Unabbreviated — familiar phrases that start with abbreviations have those abbreviations unabbreviated to different unabbreviations than what they were previously abbreviated from:

Theme answers:
  • WATER CLOSET FIELDS (22A: Meadows filled with loos?)
  • PHYSICAL THERAPY BOATS (38A: Where sailors recover from their injuries?)
  • ADVANCED PLACEMENT NEWS (55A: Goings-on in accelerated classes?)
  • POLITICALLY CORRECT LAB (80A: Dog that doesn't offend people?)
  • PUBLIC SCHOOL I LOVE YOU (100A: Cry of devotion from a non-academy student?)
  • ANTE MERIDIEM RADIO (117A: Morning zoo programming?)
(edited to add the "real" unabbreviations - in order: William Claude, Patrol Torpedo, Associated Press, Personal Computer, Postscript, Amplitude Modulation)

Word of the Day: R-LESS (23D: Like poor months for oysters, it's said)
The idea of not eating oysters during months without an 'R' comes from the fact that the summer months are the prime breeding time for "red tides," or large blooms of algae that grow along the coast and have the tendency to spread toxins that can be absorbed by shellfish, including oysters. This is especially an issue for places with warm water temperatures, and eating locally raised seafood raises your risk of ingesting the toxins. (mentalfloss.com)
• • •

I solved this one acrosses-only, which is a shame in retrospect because I missed the two best clues in the puzzle, 60D: Caesar dressing? (TUNIC) and 81D: Inclined to stress? (ITALIC). Very solid work. Oh, and I learned some stuff - JAWS had three sequels, and OSIRIS had green skin. SICK!

I only got majorly held up in a couple places during my solve - didn't know JANE PAULEY (I mentioned I'm uncultured, right?), and plunking down HDTVS instead of HDDVD off the HD?V?, with the toughish clues for ENDS (46A: Quashes) and DADDYO (61A: "My man"), made that section difficult for me to close.

(Also, I put MERIDIAN for MERIDIEM despite having taken two years of Latin, but let's not dwell on that.)

The theme wasn't hitting on much for me - nothing particularly uproarious (though WATER CLOSET FIELDS is a pretty funny image), the word "zoo" in reference to morning RADIO in 117A confused the heck out of me, and I've always found PC LAB to be a bit on the "green paint"-y side as a crossword answer. Oh, and I guess LAB is the only theme answer where the meaning of the last word changes, so that's inconsistent, technically. All in all, though, it was a perfectly functional theme, one that's simple and elegant in its execution and makes good use of all that extra Sunday space.

Plus, a nice smooth grid from Wentz the themeless ace! Lots of fun stuff like SIT WELL, DADDY-O, EMOJI, SKYCAM, ALL-NBA TEAM, MIA HAMM, and WHAMMY, with only SEM., R-LESS, and perhaps EL ORO (I can be talked out of that one, but it seems like it's only here because of its convenient letter pattern - never seen GUAYAS in a puzzle) as unsightly glue words. This balance of dazzlers to clunkers is very hard to pull off in a 140-word Sunday grid, so color me impressed.

Many thanks to Wentz and the NYT team for all the solving fun today!

Signed, Erik Agard, CrossWorld First Team All-Defense

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

In case you were curious how the numbers stack up, here's how many puzzles constructed by women have been published by various outlets so far this year. Mixed-gender collaborations were counted as 1. Women's names that are anagrams of "really Mike Shenk" were counted as 0. If anyone has data on the venues I'm missing, give me a shout.

Crosswords with Friends: 33/119 = 27.7%
Los Angeles Times: 31/119 = 26.1%
American Values Club: 3/18 = 16.7%
New York Times: 17/119 = 14.3%
Chronicle of Higher Education: 2/16 = 12.5%
Wall Street Journal: 9/99 = 9.1%
Fireball: 0/19 = 0%


Fu legendary Chinese sage / SAT 4-28-18 / Shot that determines who gets to break in blilliards / Tony winning choreographer for Movin Out / Candy in straw / Tony early Macy's Day Parade balloon designer

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Fu-HSI (26A: Fu-___ (legendary Chinese sage)) —
Fuxi (Mandarin: [fǔ ɕí]Chinese伏羲), also romanized as Fu-hsi, is a culture hero in Chinese legend and mythology, credited (along with his sister Nüwa女娲) with creating humanity and the invention of hunting, fishing and cooking as well as the Cangjie system of writing Chinese characters c. 2,000 BCE. He was also known as Paoxi (t 庖犧, s 庖牺), also romanized as Pao-hsi. Fuxi was counted as the first of the Three Sovereigns at the beginning of the Chinese dynastic period. Fuxi was an ancient Chinese god who was said to show the ancient Chinese people how to domesticate animals. (wikipedia) [why have we not seen FUXI in the grid yet!?!?!]
• • •

Just no wavelength vibe at all today. So many names, so very many names, and I could barely remember any of them, and when I did, I couldn't spell them right. I like NO PUN INTENDED (37A: Comment that might follow "I used to be a banker until I lost interest"), but the rest of it is kind of blah for me. And when it's not "blah," it's a gratuitous spelling nightmare. PIXY STIX, dear lord (20A: Candy in a straw). And RAMI MALEK!? I know exactly who that is, and I know his name ... by sound. But I realized I had absolutely no idea about *any* of the vowels. Well, I guess the "A" in MALEK I knew, but first "A" coulda been an "E," the "E" coulda been an "I," and, well, the "I" sure as hell coulda been a "Y"—which is what I had, i.e. I finished with an error. One I only caught after scouring the grid methodically for a couple minutes. I think I had REMY in there for a bit (a real human name) and then changed the "E" to "A" because of RARE (57D: Like $10 gold eagle coins). But I didn't ever change the "Y." Why? Why did I not change the "Y"? Well, check out the *$&%^&#&$ing cross? DRILY!?!?!? I had DRYLY, which is, as you will see here, a totally correct answer. Exhibit A, the only one you will need:

I honestly don't understand how you can cross a highly unusual name with DRILY at the *#$@#*&$ing "I." It's astonishingly terrible constructing / editing / etc. I guarantee you there are tons of paper solvers out there right now who have No Idea they have an "error" in that square. RAMY MALEK looks totally fine to me, even now.

  • 4D: Till compartment (TENS) — had ONES
  • 8D: The Grand Prix used to have one (TTOP) — had STOP (?); I thought it was a race (?)
  • 6D: More familiar name for Enrico Rizzo in an Oscar-winning film (RATSO) — this one is on me; should've gotten it easily. I have no idea how, but for some reason my brain believed the clue was asking specifically for a race car driver's name. I blame "Grand Prix" in the 8D clue. I think I was thinking of SENNA (also five letters)
  • 32A: Capital of Nigeria (ABUJA) — I mean, eventually ... but not right away, by any means.
  • 26A: Fu-___ (legendary Chinese sage) (HSI) — Fu ... is right. F + U.
  • 35A: ___ law, principle stating that computer processing power doubles every 18 months (MOORE'S) — pfft, nope. Probably heard of it, but today, irretrievable. 
  • 45A: Tony ___, early Macy's Day Parade balloon designer (SARG) — See "Fu," above.
  • 64A: Common fossil in Paleozoic rocks (TRILOBITE) — the name is familiar, but it evokes only computer storage measurements and those fluffy things from that one "Star Trek" ep. "The Trouble With TRILOBITEs," I think it was ...
  • 22A: Shot that determines who gets to break, in billiards (LAG) — uh uh. Nope.
Soooo much trivia, which is not at all my favorite kind of puzzle. Name after name after name. I knew a bunch (SIMONE, JESSE, KELSO, ESPERANTO, EDD), but the prevalence of them just felt excessive. Mainly I just think the RAMI / DRILY cross is an atrocity. I shouldn't knock all the names, though. If Twyla THARP hadn't attended my alma mater, I might not have paid so much attention to her over the years, and thus might still be struggling to put much of anything in the grid. So thanks, Twyla.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Once again I direct your attention to "Women of Letters," the collection of crosswords edited and written by women, to benefit women's charities. More info here.

P.P.S. Currently spell-checking this write-up, and my computer thinks DRILY is wrong and DRYLY is juuuuuuust fine.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


One-named folk singer / FRI 4-27-18 / Mechanical calculator pioneer / Greek goddess of witchcraft underworld / Cat known as Shirazi in mideast / Showy ballet leap / Mine shaft borer / English industrial city described by Dickens as odious place

Friday, April 27, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy or Easy-Medium, not sure (5:08)

THEME: no, just that ill-advised 1A/1D nonsense

Word of the Day: ENTRECHAT (2D: Showy ballet leap) —
  1. a vertical jump during which the dancer repeatedly crosses the feet and beats them together. (Google)
• • •

OK, first things first, just *no* to the SEETHING / SEETHINGS crossing. I get it, you noticed a word thing and wanted to show it off, but unless you are using it in some kind of thematic capacity, it's just an eight-letter word and then that same eight-letter word again, with an S. A huge dupe. Ridiculous. And super-duper ridiculous, 'cause a huge chunk of solvers aren't even gonna notice anyway. There's clever, and then there's cute, and then there's too cute. This was too too. Which is too bad, as I liked most of this puzzle. Longer theme answers are interesting, and have a lot of room to breathe, though this grid was oddly heavy on the super-familiar stuff (TTOP KIR EDSEL ERMA EKE etc). ESTO was the only crosswordese that made me audibly gag, but this one just had more HAR INE IRE etc. than I'd expect in a Steinberg 70-worder (i.e. a high word-count themeless from a very experience constructor). Speaking of HAR, god I hate the [Laugh syllable] clue genre. At least four different plausible answers come to mind. I mean, if you can only give me a "syllable," maybe it's not a good answer to begin with and you should do something else.

I hung HEH (pfft) INE NCAA GELT right across the top of the grid to start things off, and that was enough to get ENTRANCE and ETHEREAL and zoom, off I went. First hold-up came trying to get up into the NE corner. Couldn't get PATNESS off the "P" (26A: Smooth talker's quality) and couldn't get either PARIAH (9D: Outcast) or AVANTI (10D: Classic Studebaker) from just their fourth and sixth letters. LAD / LEEDS rescued me from my floundering, and from up there, CABLE TELEVISION came straight down. Wouldn't have another hiccup until ELECTRO, which is not a "dance music subgenre" I'm familiar with. EDM, Electronica, Techno, those I know. ELECTRO sounds oddly made-up, or like it's a piece of some larger genre name. But no, it's a real, if niche, and largely bygone, thing. Anyway, I inferred it from --EC-RO, and that SW corner fell and I was done. I did an American Values Club crossword puzzle as a tune-up for this one, and I remain convinced that pre-solving other crosswords makes your NYT times faster. It's like warming up, but for your brain and eyes and fingers.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey there. What's up? So there's this collection of crosswords, edited by Patti Varol, called "Women of Letters." All-female constructor line-up, lots of familiar names. How do you get it? Screenshot your donation of > $10 to one of many "women-centric" charities (listed on the puzzle website), then send that in to WomenOfLettersCrosswords@gmail.com and get the puzzle pack in return. All relevant information can be found here. Nice way to spotlight a wide array of pro-women organizations while also showcasing women crossword constructors. Twofer!

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Hau pioneering physicist from Denmark / THU 4-26-18 / Bell Atlantic merger partner of 2000 / Greek peak on which Zeus was hidden as infant / Mideast city with stock exchange / Classic catalog provider

    Thursday, April 26, 2018

    Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

    Relative difficulty: Medium (or brutal, depending on how you navigated that ridiculous proper noun crossing at 28A/23D)

    THEME: "with respect to this answer's location" — themers are phrases where the number of the clue is the first part of the phrase; theme clues refer you to other answers in the grid, which provide the real clues. Thus:

    Theme answers:
    • 1A: 5-Across, with respect to this answer's location ((1) OVER) — because (the number of the clue) OVER is a BOGEY, which is the answer to 5-Across: Golf score
    • 24A: 22-Across, with respect to this answer's location ((24) SEVEN) (22A: Without stopping = ENDLESSLY)
    • 40A: 41-Across, with respect to this answer's location ((40) WINKS) (41A: Time out? = NAP)
    • 50A: 46-Across, with respect to this answer's location ((50) FIFTY) (46A: In fairness = EQUALLY)
    Word of the Day: LENE Hau, pioneering physicist from Denmark (23D) —
    Lene Vestergaard Hau (born November 13, 1959 in VejleDenmark) is a Danish physicistwith a PhD from Aarhus University. In 1999, she led a Harvard University team who, by use of a Bose-Einstein condensate, succeeded in slowing a beam of light to about 17 metres per second, and, in 2001, was able to stop a beam completely. Later work based on these experiments led to the transfer of light to matter, then from matter back into light, a process with important implications for quantum encryption and quantum computing. More recent work has involved research into novel interactions between ultracold atoms and nanoscopic-scale systems. In addition to teaching physics and applied physics, she has taught Energy Science at Harvard, involving photovoltaic cellsnuclear powerbatteries, and photosynthesis. As well as her own experiments and research, she is often invited to speak at international conferences, and is involved in structuring the science policies of various institutions. She was keynote speaker at EliteForsk-konferencen 2013 ("Elite Research Conference") in Copenhagen, which was attended by government ministers, as well as senior science policy and research developers in Denmark (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Not hard to understand this theme, but weirdly awkward to describe. I think of "this answer's location" as referring to its position in physical space, not its clue number, so the theme clue phrasing was hard to understand at first. I saw that OVER was just to the left of, or before, or adjacent to BOGEY, and I didn't quite get how OVER's "location" was relevant. Also, OVER itself seemed to want to be a direction. I quickly saw, though, that its clue number was relevant. Anyway, "location" is not the most helpful or accurate word to use in the theme clues, but like I said, you can suss out the meaning without too much trouble, I think. I liked the theme fine. The rest of the grid, though, had some major issues, the biggest of which is a proper noun crossing which should be Lit Up Neon for any constructor, any editor, any proofreader, dear lord, somebody intervene. RYN / LENE is a goshdarn absurdity. Everyone knows Rembrandt, but that "van RYN" part is far far less well known, and when you cross the "N" with LENE ... holy moses, that is rough. LENE Hau sounds remarkably accomplished, but a. she's hugely obscure, as crossword names go (if she weren't, you'd've seen HAU by now), b. her name is highly uncommon, c. her name is largely uninferrable. That *entire* NW corner should've been gutted and redone. I see that there is the little problem of *two* different theme answers being involved, but when you end up with RYN / LENE, *and* you have ANSE (!?!?!), which is possibly more obscure than LENE, I mean ... you really oughta rethink what you're doing here. I beg all constructors to erase ANSE from your wordlists. It's rank obscurantism and makes people want to punch their crosswords (even / especially those of us who know it).

    Always tricky to figure out verb phrases that end in prepositions. Should be a word for that wincey hesitation that comes when you write, say, OPENS ... INTO? ... er ... ONTO ... no? ... how about ... oh, really, IN ON? Huh. EASED BY was less difficult to figure out, though even then I considered "IN" before "BY." I had trouble with the Japanese airport NARITA (27A: Airport serving greater Tokyo) because I now have an interference problem from the popular manga NARUTO, which I have also seen (though far less commonly) in crosswords. But beyond that, and the entire WNW area, there weren't many snags in this one. Pretty smooth sailing. Theme was complicated-seeming, but honestly didn't cause many STRUGGLES. I liked it, but I wish constructors would understand that your clever theme won't be what people remember if you can't handle the fill in the rest of the grid. One **** crossing like RYN / LENE, and the whole thing blows up in your face.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. Here is a hilarious bit of editorial self-defense from the *last* time the NYT tried to foist LENE on the solving public (h/t Andy Kravis). For the record, I prefer *this* LENE, but mostly I prefer no LENE.

    P.P.S. ALL is duped in this grid (7D: GO ALL / 42D: ALL HERE), which isn't great form, but someone else pointed it out to me, so I can't get too mad about it.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Diana 1969 Bond girl / WED 4-25-18 / Toffee candy bar / Christian inst in Tulsa / Office inappropriate briefly / Online aid for finding contractor

    Wednesday, April 25, 2018

    Constructor: Adam G. Perl

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (4:01)

    THEME: angles — circled letters both form and spell out angle types, and then there's a revealer clue: 36A: Is an expert on this puzzle's theme? (KNOWS EVERY ANGLE)

    Word of the Day: Diana RIGG (10D: Diana ___, 1969 Bond girl) —
    Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth RiggDBE (born 20 July 1938) is an English actress. She is known for playing Emma Peel in the 1960s TV series The Avengers (1965–68), and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2013–17). She has also had an extensive career in theatre, including playing the title role in Medea, both in London and New York, for which she won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She was made a CBE in 1988 and a Dame in 1994 for services to drama. (wikipedia)

    • • •

    Adam Perl writes the crosswords for the annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition, so I've solved many of his puzzles and worked with him at the tournament for several years now. I typically find his puzzles slightly challenging, in that I just operate on a different wavelength for some reason, but this one actually went down easier than normal, perhaps because the theme had almost no effect on my solve. I finally got KNOWS EVERY ANGLE (after dropping in KNOWS EVERYTHING at first), and then somewhere in the back of my brain a little voice went "uh, so, those circled squares probably form angles or something" but the bigger voice in the front of my brain went "shhh, I'm working here!" Knowing the theme might've helped me a little, but it's more likely that it would've distracted me and taken me out of my rhythm. I usually find that if I try to get ahead of myself and fill in themers early (i.e. before I get to their section of the grid via normal progress), I don't actually gain time at all. I think if I'd been thinking straight, I might've been able to pick up a few seconds in the SW by putting in the letters in ACUTE, but it's just as likely I would've lost those seconds and more trying to figure out what the hell the letters in the SE were doing—I'd've wanted to write in OBTUSE, but of course that's already in the grid in the NW. If I ever knew what a REFLEX angle was, I completely forgot. Thus, keeping my head down and just plowing ahead without much attention to the theme was probably the smart move.

    Having the revealer be in a third-person verb phrase is *slightly* awkward, and honestly REFLEX and OBTUSE look identical, so it's hard to appreciate the distinction. It's an OK theme with an OK revealer. The fill gets wobbly in places (ROBT, UNS, PARAS, ALIENEE (the longest crosswordese?), NATANT (!)), but mostly it just gets very old-fashioned and familiar: EER OED ETNA MPAA ATT INT ORU OGEE etc. But the longer Acrosses in the NW / SE keep things interesting, as do the long Downs (loved ANGIE'S LIST in particular) (28D: Online aid for finding a contractor), and PIROGI are delicious (8D: Ravioli relative), so while this puzzle wasn't exactly to my taste, it also wasn't particularly off-putting. It was a puzzle!

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    • 16A: Kings' guards may be taken in it (NBA DRAFT)—the Sacramento Kings are an NBA team
    • 62D: "Towering" regulatory grp.? (FAA)—because they oversee control ... towers ... I assume
    • 8A: Legal assistants, for short (PARAS)—as in "PARAlegalS"

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Furniture superstore / TUES 4-24-2018 / Polish seaport / Hunky-dory / Mortise's partner

    Tuesday, April 24, 2018

    Hi, crossworders! It's Clare, and I'm back for yet another Tuesday puzzle. By the time we meet again at the end of May, I'll have graduated! Maybe I'll even have figured out where I'm going to law school by then. As it is, I've turned my thesis in and have just one week of classes left, so it's now a battle between my senioritis and me.

    Constructor: Peter Gordon

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Difficult for a Tuesday

    THEME: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND (55A: John Donne quote disproved by 17-, 25- and 43-across?) — Parts of the names of the theme answers are also islands

    Theme answers:
    • BRET EASTON ELLIS (17A: Author of "American Psycho")
    • CUBA GOODING JR (25A: "Jerry Maguire" Oscar Winner)
    • IDRIS ELBA (43A: Star of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom")

    Word of the Day: GRIZABELLA (29D)
    Grizabella is the "Glamour Cat" in the musical production Cats... Grizabella is, at the time of her appearance, a very old cat, withered by her age to the point that she no longer resembles the proud, carefree, flamboyant dancer of her youth... Possibly because of this, it is Grizabella whom Old Deuteronomy consigns to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. During her change, Grizabella sings the song "Memory," which has been thought of by audiences as a very emotionally touching, profound, and even mysterious composition. It has been recorded by over 150 different artists, including Barry Manilow, Michael Crawford, Barbra Streisand, and Kikki Danielsson. (Wikipedia)

    • • •

    I thought the theme was clever. It didn't help me solve the puzzle at all, but it was a fun "aha" moment when I looked back after I had finished. Elba has just a brief role in history, but it did provide for that nice Napoleon palindrome, "Able was I ere I saw Elba." (As an aside, IDRIS ELBA definitely has my vote to be the next James Bond).

    So, there were lots and lots of names in this puzzle — SO many names. Beyond the names in the themers, there's GARR (32A), ERMA (18D), OLGA (36A), and GRIZABELLA (29D). Even JAKE (30D), although it's clued as an expression and not a person. (The term is such an old-fashioned way to describe hunky-dory that, gasp, it isn't even in Urban Dictionary.) I got so caught up in the names that I convinced myself that 60A: Mortise's partner (TENON) was going to be talking about an old crime show duo or something, not a way to form a joint.

    There was also a fair amount of obscurity (by Tuesday standards). The cluing for SERTA (33A) felt pretty strange — I had no idea they were known for numbered sheep plush toys. HD TV SETS (24D: Modern hotel room item) are not really a modern contraption. The old way of talking about them is often "tv sets," and the new way is "HD TVs" or just "TVs," but certainly not combining the terms. CRUDITY (40D: primitiveness) seemed like it was making fun of itself — that word is a crudity. NONCE? ANON? Those are so old that they weren't a big problem; they just provided a musty air for the puzzle.

    I had trouble in the SW corner. It seems odd to describe Mao and Xi as ICONS (47D) in China. Leaders, sure, but icons? DR MOM (48D: She might check for a fever with her hand) is a weird way to talk about something every Mom (and Dad) does. It also took me a little while to figure out that 46A: Approach furtively, with "to" was SIDLE UP and not "sneak up." Mix all those in with a 60-plus-year-old Patti Page song, I CRIED, and I stared at the screen for a while. (In the interest of improving this millennial's culture, I listened to I CRIED on YouTube after this puzzle, and it's a very nice jazz song!)

    • Why do crosswords love the color ECRU (2D) so much? I swear there are many more interesting colors than that. Maybe try chartreuse next time?
    • I'm starting to feel bad for ORCAS! They're usually described as killer whales, but this puzzles says they're 28A: Menaces of the deep, which is kind of sad. They're just trying to survive in a dark and dangerous ocean!
    • The new racing bike attachment is clipless pedals; definitely not TOE CLIPS (23D). Those went out of fashion for racers a long time ago.
    • 5D is clever (They're likely to get into hot water: TEABAGS) but felt like it should have a question mark at the end of the clue because it seemed pretty punny.
    • A 13th anniversary gift is LACE (61A)? Who came up with these lists anyway? When I get married, I'm certainly not going to be getting my husband lead for our 7th anniversary... (And just imagine if he tries to give me some)
    • My thesis is on the Confederados, the thousands of Southerners who fled after the Civil War and settled in Brazil, so I was glad to see I'm not the only one with BRAZILIANS  (27D) on my mind.
    Hope you all have a great week!

    Signed, Clare Carroll, an almost-done-with-college Eli.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Suffragist Carrie Chapman / MON 4-23-18 / sea snail with mother of pearl shell / Irene of old Hollywood / Semiconductor device with two terminals

    Monday, April 23, 2018

    Constructor: Lynn Lempel

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (the "Medium" is almost solely for a themer I've never heard of) (2:53)

    THEME: GO FIRST (38A: Lead off ... or a hint to the circled letters) — words meaning "Go!" are contained in the circled letters, which are the first letters in the themers:

    Theme answers:
    • SCATTER RUG (17A: Small floor covering)
    • SCRAMBLED EGGS (23A: Standard breakfast order)
    • LEAVENED BREAD (50A: Passover no-no)
    • SHOOT HOOPS (61A: Play H-O-R-S-E)
    Word of the Day: SCATTER RUG (17A) —
    1. another term for throw rug. (google)
    • • •

    This is pretty classic fare from Lynn Lempel: simple theme, lively answers, clean fill. The revealer is spot-on. My only beef, which is not one, is that SCATTER RUG meant zilch to me. Zero, nada. I guessed the RUG part because, well, there were three letters left and the clue had "floor covering" in it, but that term means nothing to me. Is it a regionalism? An older ... ism? "Throw rug," I've heard of. And it's the same thing, so ... shrug, no idea. I also stumbled out of the gate by thinking 1A: Engaged in country-to-country combat (AT WAR) wanted a perfect-tense verb, and then by thinking that 1D: Likewise (ALSO) was SAME! Non-auspicious beginning, and yet I finished under 3, which tells me the puzzle was, in the main, quite easy. Monday easy, maybe even easier than usual. Once I got out of the NW, I paused only a handful of times while writing in answers, and lost time only because I remain the world's worst, most fat-fingered and clumsy keyboard navigator. I'm all typos and misplaced cursors and other nonsense, especially at high speeds.

    [LIE TO]

    My favorite corner was the NE, both because it's got the star of "Bullitt," which is one of the greatest movies of all time (I know it's not *that* Steve MCQUEEN, but try telling my "Bullitt"-loving brain that); it's also got Irene DUNNE, whom I adore, especially opposite Cary Grant (see "The Awful Truth," "My Favorite Wife," "Penny Serenade"). And finally, the corner has its own fabulous soundtrack: Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T."! Pretty YOUNG THING! He tells you what the letters mean in the song. He also tells you that TLC means Tender Lovin' Care, so it's a song both danceable and informative.

    I am hopelessly DEVOTED to LAURA Linney forever and ever no matter what amen, so it was NICE to see her name here today. Ooh, and Johnny MATHIS. I finally finished cataloguing my LP collection, and there were two or three of his in there, including this ultra-cool one where he's smoking on the cover. I know smoking's bad blah blah blah but it's dumb to pretend some people don't make it look cool.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Ocean buildup / SUN 4-22-18 / Title city in 1960 #1 song / 1899 gold rush destination / Script suggestion about starting fight scene / Tally in Britain / Supergiant in Cygnus / Early Chinese dynasty / Root beer brand since 1937

    Sunday, April 22, 2018

    Constructor: Ross Trudeau

    Relative difficulty: Challenging (14:50) (I've had a ballgame beer and a martini, tho, so ... !)

    THEME: Pluses and Minuses [read: Plus E's and Minus E's] — familiar phrases have E's added to one word and dropped from another word, creating wacky phrases, clued wackily:

    Theme answers:
    • STARES AND STRIPS (23A: Makes eye contact before undressing?)
    • FATHER IN ONE'S CAPE (39A: Parent wearing your Superman costume?)
    • NOTE A MOMENT TO SPAR (54A: Script suggestion about starting the fight scene?)
    • JETE-PROPELLED PLAN (78A: Ballet choreography?)
    • HAD LESS HORSE MANE (96A: Was harder for the bronco buster to hold on to?)
    • LEAST BUT NOT LAST (115A: Like the digit "0" in 2018?)
    Word of the Day: SEA OOZE (62A: Ocean buildup) —
    1.Same as Sea mud

    • • •

    ERM, no. I mean, specifically, ERM is a terrible answer, and also, no, I didn't really enjoy working out this theme. Every answer felt painful. Like ... E is dropped where? And added where? Why are there Other Random Es In These Answers?! Shouldn't themers like this have two and only two Es? I will give props to the title, which is perfect, but ugh, slog city, working this thing out. I also think SMALL OJ and SEA OOZE (!?) are just junk. I mean, they seem like they came from a purchased wordlist, something a computer recommended and the constructor failed to override. SMALL OJ might've been ok if it had been clued differently, perhaps with reference to, I don't know, its *abbreviatedness* or *beverageness* or anything. Took Forever to get that, and since it intersected two already-hard-to-get themers, ugh, the slogginess. Not knowing the tail end of HYPNOS also complicated things. SEA OOZE, also, come on. And lying right alongside a themer, man, that was rough. Ugh, and with [Giggle syllable] in there (worst crossword clue type ever, could be a jillion things), and the totally enigmatic 50D: Tip of the tongue? (ESE) (!?) (because languages, or "tongues," end ... in -ESE ...), yeesh, that central area was a bear. And for what? NOTE A MOMENT TO SPAR? Pfffft, and I was having such a nice day up to this point. Got some great records this morning because it's Record Store Day 2018! And went to a baseball game this afternoon and saw a Tigers prospect with a great name (Funkhouser!) who struck out Tebow, twice. And it's sunnnnnnny for the first time since, I think, 1936, so ... yeah, my mood was good. And now it's less good. But the martini is still kinda working its magic, *and* I'm listening to Talking Heads "Remain in Light," so ... OK, things could be worse.

    Got upended all over the place. Misspelled DIEZ as DIES, which made GRAZE super duper hard to pick up (69A: Eat a little here, a little there). I honestly, repeatedly considered ERASE. Also thought SADIES at first, not SALLYS (111A: Actresses Field and Hawkins). Sally Hawkins was in "The Shape of Water." Which I saw. I just ... Hawkins made me go SADIE. Reflex. I also totally tanked the southern part of the grid, everything around ORIANA, whose name I forgot and botched like nine times before I got it right. ALOP? Oy, no. PIANO, no. IS APT TO, ouch. Is it AS DO I or AS AM I??? Again, all of this stuff crossed *two* themers, so ... Slog City. Maybe some of the theme answers end up being clever or cute ... I guess I can see that. But getting there was awfully painful work. I did love "LA CUCARACHA," though!

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


      Fourth god to exist in Greek myth / SAT 4-21-18 / Currency unit equal to 100 kurus / Teacher of lip-reading to deaf / Wite-Out manufacturer

      Saturday, April 21, 2018

      Constructor: Daniel Nierenberg

      Relative difficulty: Easy (mid-6s, but that's with ~30 seconds of "taking screenshots" time—uninterrupted time would've easily been somewhere in the 5s)

      THEME: none

      Word of the Day: Ron KOVIC (46D: Ron who wrote "Born on the Fourth of July") —
      Ronald Lawrence "RonKovic (born July 4, 1946) is an American anti-war activist, writer, and former United States Marine Corps sergeant, who was wounded and paralyzed in the Vietnam War. He is best known as the author of his 1976 memoir Born on the Fourth of July, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film in 1989 directed by Oliver Stone.
      Kovic received the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay on January 20, 1990, 22 years to the day that he was wounded in Vietnam, and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category. (wikipedia)
      • • •

      Wow. This was easy. Eerily easy. I did my usual thing of throwing down all the short Downs I could make fit at first guess in the NW, and then checking to see where I was at with the long Acrosses. Shockingly, with the exception of ITSY for ITTY (ick), allll of my first guesses up there were right, and all of the long Acrosses fell pretty much immediately. Here's my very first pass at the NW:
      And then it just Kept Going. This was a very open grid, with lots of ways to get at every corner, so there really was no getting stuck. Once I committed to ORALIST (I might've ... gagged on that one, a little) and -LYSIS (definitely gagged there), moving down into the rest of the grid was quite easy. The only slight roadblocks were: I wanted SURE for SOLD (25A: Convinced) and then wanted NOT ART for NON-ART (21D: Dada, to its critics), which is a non-answer as far as I'm concerned, but that's non of my business, moving on. I probably had more trouble with CLARET than with anything else in the grid, which is really strange given that I know the word. I think of it as wine and not color, I guess. Just couldn't come up with it. Honestly, there's no more resistance in this puzzle. I could've written in GAY MARRIAGE for 58A: Subject of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges with no crosses if I'd had to, but I didn't even have to do that, as I'd already plunked THE EYE and DIORAMA down there. 
      No idea about RIGGS (44D: One of the detectives in "Lethal Weapon"), but it hardly mattered—it just filled itself in from crosses. I actually liked most of this grid, just not the ITTY ORALISTLYSIS up top. BRAE is some old school crosswordese (51D: Landform near a loch), but it felt like an old friend more than a nuisance today. If I'm not being bombarded by crosswordese and otherwise bad fill, I'm remarkably cool with the stray quaint old term. An ETUI here, an ASTA there, just fine with me.

      Anyway, today I did not NEED HELP. Everything just clicked. I'm definitely much faster solving at night than solving in the morning. And I've also found that if I do a hardish puzzle right before I do the NYT, it helps a lot. Today's pre-NYT warm-up puzzle was Peter Gordon's latest Fireball Newsflash puzzle; these are always replete with very recent and newsy answers—brutal proper nouns, but always crossed fairly. Anyway, it helped me keep up with some current events *and* got me in fighting shape for this puzzle, which I destroyed.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


      Kepler's contemporary assistant / FRI 4-20-18 / Topic of mnemonic Eat Apple As Nighttime Snack / Desperately in need of approval in modern slang

      Friday, April 20, 2018

      Constructor: Joel Fagliano

      Relative difficulty: Man, I'm slow when I roll-out-of-bed-solve... (9-something)

      THEME: sadly, yes

      Theme answers:
      • TWENTY-FIVE / THOUSANDTH (10D: With 26-Down, the place of today's puzzle among all New York Times crosswords)
      Word of the Day: HOLT (6D: Otter's den) —
      1. 1
        the den of an animal, especially that of an otter.
      2. 2
        NORTH AMERICANdialect
        a grip or hold. (google)
      • • •

      ELEPHANT, in room, not forgetting
      Firstly, you can shove this self-congratulatory bullshit and start paying constructors somewhere, anywhere near what the puzzles are worth to you, NYT. The peanuts-level pay (fractions of a penny per dollar profit) remains a fantastic embarrassment and ensures that puzzle-making remains largely the purview of a smallish clique of (mostly) white (mostly) guys who would and could do it for nothing. Already well-off white dudes are the Best because they don't harsh your buzz with talk about *money*, ick, how déclassé. And the Powers That Be have always been dismissive and condescending (and largely silent) on this issue. Extremely so. I've got friends who complain all day long (*as they should*) that women and people of color are underrepresented in the world of crossword constructors and editors, but never make a peep about fair pay. About selling your work to a giant corporation, with no hope of residuals, and being paid largely in "hey, look, your name's in the paper!" Why anyone sells to the NYT for less than $750 for a daily is beyond me (it's currently a laughable $300, with a secret $350 level for the oft-published favorites—by comparison, Peter Gordon's *independent* Fireball Crosswords pays $451). I have no problem with the NYT's using the crossword to help fund "real" news? But come on. They could double, triple, quadruple the pay rate and stil just be printing money. TWENTY-FIVE THOUSANDTH crossword? So? What? I mean, this is an institution that took years and years to Put The Constructor's Name On The Puzzle, then even more years to Put The Name Where People Can See It. See, you're supposed to worship the Institution, and the Editor. Constructor shmonstructor. I would love for an honest accounting of just how much money there is, and where the money goes, crosswordwise. Let everyone see. Go ahead. I dare you.

      Secondly, and more strongly, you can take DEEP STATE (58A: Entrenched network inside a government), and everything you've done to normalize this racist, conspiracy-theory-driven administration, and shove it very, very far.


      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      P.S. I know it's 4/20, but I swear I did not write this high.

      P.P.S. Here, please enjoy this puzzle from Brendan Emmett Quigley and 2018 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion Erik Agard?

      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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