Cosmetic injections for guys / When repeated, cry in Matthew 27 / Abstract Expressionist Rauschenberg / John who directed "Tarzan, the Ape Man" / Nairobi-to-Johannesburg dir. / Grp. recognizing international titleholders in 18 different weight classes

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Constructor: Andy Kravis

Relative difficulty: reasonably easy (4:04, difficulty not found)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SPATLESE (27D: German wine made from late-harvest grapes) —
Spätlese (literal meaning: "late harvest"; plural form is Spätlesen) is a German wine term for a wine from fully ripe grapes, the lightest of the late harvest wines. Spätlese is a riper category than Kabinett in the Prädikatswein category of the German wine classification and is the lowest level of Prädikatswein in Austria, where Kabinett is classified in another way. In both cases, Spätlese is below Auslese in terms of ripeness. The grapes are picked at least seven days after normal harvest, so they are riper and have a higher sugar content. Because of the weather, waiting to pick the grapes later carries a risk of the crop being ruined by rain. However, in warm years and from good sites much of the harvest will reach Spätlese level. 
The wines may be either sweet or dry; it is a level of ripeness that particularly suits rich dry wines from Riesling, Weißer Burgunder, and Grauer Burgunder grapes for example, as at Auslese levels the alcohol levels may become very high in a dry wine leaving the wine unbalanced, making wines with at least some residual sweetness preferable to most palates. However, most German wines are traditionally dry, and the amount of sugar is not the only factor balancing a wine. Dry German wines can be very balanced, and usually get higher rates from German wine journalists than a comparable wine with more sugar. 
Many Spätlese wines will age well, especially those made from the Riesling grape. (wikipedia)
• • •
A bit about me first: I'm Christopher Adams, and I'm a prolific solver and constructor of crossword puzzles. Most of my puzzles are at my own site, but a few have made it to dead tree media, including last Thursday's LAT and next Tuesday's NYT. A lot of my philosophy as a constructor comes from my feelings as a solver, but some it also comes from advice from veteran constructors, including one Andy Kravis, whose puzzle I'm EXCITED to be blogging today.

Full disclosure: when Rex offered to let me blog this Saturday, I already knew it was going to be an Andy Kravis puzzle. In fact, Andy had even told me ahead of time that he thought I'd like it, and that he had a good feeling about my time on this puzzle. And he was correct on both counts.

Looking over the grid post-solve, I was reminded of this article I came across recently, in that there were quite a few clues near the beginning that I latched onto from having seen (in some form) and remembered. ROTE, appropriately, but also WAR ACE, ATARI, HERS, EXE, NOSE. That cleared out most of the top middle and fed nicely into the center stagger stack, where the first two answers (the wonderful AVA DUVERNAY and E-CIGARETTES) dropped in nicely.

Possibly the only thing stopping me from going much faster was the third answer in that stack (Mr. Television, by another name). I dropped in MILTON BERLE first, and then UNCLE MILTON, and only finally, near the end, fixed it to MILTIE. That error, coupled with the always vague Roman numeral clue at 43A (Late sixth-century year), as well as a wine (SPATLESE) and country music artist (ERNIE Ford) I didn't know, made for a corner that was slightly more difficult than the rest of the puzzle. I suspect some solvers might be naticked at the crossing of SPATLESE and ERNIE; I guessed that square, but I also figured the E looked more right, and SPATLESE vaguely rang a bell somewhere.

reminded of this by 19A: Crane arm (JIB)

But that's just one corner, and there's much to ADMIRE here besides the aforementioned stagger stack. BROTOX filled itself in from crosses, but it elicited a nice chuckle from me. ROLLED R, especially with the clue (Churro ingredient?), brought back memories of high school Spanish (which was, unfortunately, taught by a Brazilian).  Similarly, GRANOLA (Bar food?) had a nice punny clue. I do wish ARCHRIVAL had been clued with respect to the Yankees and Red Sox, who I gather kicked off a series Friday, but other long entries, like REMARRIED and CONSTANTINE, had fun facts for clues, and I enjoyed learning a little something while I solved.

Perhaps the only thing that took away from this was the shorter fill when considered IN ALL. On the whole, I tend to be very particular about fill in my puzzles, and this puzzle does very well for the most part. No one entry sticks out; however, while solving, I did notice a glut of NSA FAA NBA ORS SSW WBO DXC: mostly abbreviations and things that feel like that. But it was mostly spread out, and the entire puzzle was clean and smooth, so no harm overall.

Yours in puzzling, Christopher Adams, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


"Voila!" / FRI 6-29-18 / They provide quarters for dollars / "This is killing me!" / Luxury bathroom features / Middle of a dash?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Standard Friday for me (11:13)


Word of the Day: SCIPIO (38A: Hannibal's foe in the Second Punic War) —
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (/ˈskɪpioʊ/; 236–183 BC), also known as Scipio the African, Scipio Africanus-Major, Scipio Africanus the Elder and Scipio the Great,[3] was a Roman general and later consul who is often regarded as one of the greatest generals and military strategists of all time. His main achievements were during the Second Punic War where he is best known for defeating Hannibal at the final battle at Zama in 202 BC, one of the feats that earned him the agnomen Africanus. Prior to this battle (near modern Zama, Tunisia) Scipio also conquered Carthage's holdings in the Iberian peninsula, culminating in the Battle of Ilipa (near Alcalá del Río, Spain) in 206 BC against Hannibal's brother Mago Barca. 
Although considered a hero by the general Roman populace, primarily for his contributions in the struggle against the Carthaginians, Scipio was reviled by other patricians of his day. In his later years, he was tried for bribery and treason, unfounded charges that were only meant to discredit him before the public. Disillusioned by the ingratitude of his peers, Scipio left Rome and withdrew from public life. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Happy Friday, everyone!  We've made it to the end of the week (and oof, what a week. *waves hand in the general direction of the news*).  I'm Ben Smith, your Substitute Rex for this final Friday of June.  You might know me from covering the AV Club or BEQ Thursday puzzles for Diary of a Crossword Fiend, or, if you're part of Crossword Twitter, I'm the person who runs Did The Tuesday NYT Crossword TUEZ.  When I'm not passing judgement on grids, I also co-host a podcast about the Eurovision Song Contest aimed at Americans, if you're into that sort of thing.  Anyways, enough about me, let's talk about today's puzzle from David Steinberg.

As far as BYLINES go, David and I are both within the "millennial" age range (though I'm on the old end of that), which meant that this week's Friday puzzle felt very much on my wavelength.  I'm not the biggest fan of sets of triple-(or especially quadruple-)stacks in a grid, since the wow factor of the long fill stacking neatly often means some less-than great stuff will be going on in the down clues to support it.  This appears to mostly get around that - BADA BING BADA BOOM, IMAGINARY FRIENDS, and DUKE OF WELLINGTON link nicely with only NAWLINS getting a little bit of a stink eye from me along the top, and TALENT MANAGEMENT, CHRISTIANO RONALDO (nicely timed for the World Cup), and MASTER CONTROLLER work nicely on the bottom with only OENO being SO-SO fill.

"AIN'T It Fun" is a great Paramore song that won the 2014 Grammy for Best Rock Song.  Their latest album, After Laughter, was one of my favorites last year and is also worth your time. 

2014 seemed to be a mini-theme in the puzzle, with the NAE NAE dance craze also popping up.  This whole solve was pretty on track for me - the lower right corner took me the longest, since the double A in AARGH looked like a mistake for a long time, especially since I couldn't decide if the grid's desired coffee size was a GRANDE or the heftier TRENTA.  This puzzle made me want to walk to my local 7-Eleven for SLURPEES, so excellent product promotion, NYT.  It also reminded me that the CAPYBARA (39D: Cousin of a guinea pig) is one of nature's chillest animals, as seen here:

I leave you with that image as we head into the weekend.  I liked this one!  I hope you did too.
Yours, Ben Smith, Chancellor of the Exchequer of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Chest protectors? / THU 6-28-18 / Holds / Ones going down the tubes? / Macbeth and Macduff / Literally, "big wind"

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ENTER (37A: Key that moves the cursor to the next line...or a hint to answering five clues in this puzzle) — The solver presses an imaginary ENTER key in the middle of each theme answer, causing the second half of the entry to appear on the next line. You can think of ENTER as an "invisible" rebus that must be placed between the two stacked answers to complete the theme entry.

Theme answers:
  • TAKE CENTER STAGE (1A: Assume a leading role)
  • CARPENTER ANTS (15A: Insects that nest in deadwood)
  • USS ENTERPRISE (32A: In sci-fi, it had the registry number NCC-1701)
  • THE ENTERTAINER (49A: Classic Scott Joplin rag)
  • CHICKEN TERIYAKI ("Fowl"-tasting Japanese dish)

Word of the Day: PETRA (16A: Jordanian tourist site) —
Petra (Arabic: البتراء, Al-BatrāʾAncient Greek: Πέτρα), originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu, is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies on the slope of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah valley that run from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.[3] Petra is believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 BC, and it was possibly established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.
• • •

Hello CrossWorld! My name is Don and I will be your guest blogger today. As you probably know, Thursday is the day of the week where the NYT puzzle gets a bit tricky and tries to throw something at us we don't expect. Today's offering from veteran constructor Jeff Chen does not disappoint in that regard. I struggled with some of the fill more than I'm used to on a Thursday, but I thought this theme was clever and innovative.

I had trouble getting a foothold in several sections of this puzzle, starting right with 1A (Assume a leading role) when neither STAR IN nor STEP UP would fit. PETRA was a gimme for me, but with 13A un-clued, I still couldn't get anywhere with the downs in that corner other than ATE, so I moved to the top middle section. Luckily, I was able to drop in FREE SPIRITS from the F in FROS, so with ESTEE's help I made it back and completed that NW corner. I saw that the theme involved the missing ENTER, but I didn't fully understand it until I worked my way down the left side and found USS [ENTER]PRISE. After that, I immediately and confidently dropped in THE [ENTER]TAINER with no crosses, but that's where the fun ended. I made my way through the rest of the grid, but I just could not manage to see either of the other two theme entries. I can't blame the puzzle, though, because I was stuck on wrong answers: KEY for CAY (fine) and SHEELA for SHEEHY (no idea what I was thinking). I got there eventually, but finished with one error: MAU / MANTRA. MAU did not sound right, but TANTRA was just not coming to me.

I thought this theme was very creative and evoked a fun image of the line break upon hitting the ENTER key. My favorite entries were the ones I struggled with: CARP[ENTER] ANTS because each word stands on its own, and CHICK[EN TER]IYAKI because it breaks the word ENTER. The theme is especially impressive considering these constraints: each theme entry must (1) have the letters ENTER embedded in it, (2) have a sufficient number of letters on each side of the word ENTER, and (3) must be "stackable" in just the right way to work in Down answers - the two entries can't be staggered or the "tab" of the page won't look right, so there is no discretion as to how to stack them. I imagine this was very challenging to construct.

That challenge may be evident in the fill, some of which suffers under those stacked theme entries. With only 50 theme squares, one would normally expect a pretty clean grid and some nice colorful long non-theme entries. But 45 of those squares have to be stacked, and that leads to a little more crosswordese than we are used to seeing from Mr. Chen. The southwest one-third of the puzzle seemed to take the brunt of the damage - DCUP, CSIS, USSRSISISTR, CEES, SSNINGA, URSAANIL. The long answers don't fare much better, in that they're just not very exciting - if CREDENTIALS and ACCRUAL don't put you to sleep, wait until you meet ATTRACTANT.

I thought that the novelty of the theme justified the sacrifices made in the fill. Thursday is probably my favorite day to solve because I enjoy puzzles that get out of the box a little and offer something different. Sometimes, that comes at a cost, but today Mr. Chen's puzzle was challenging and novel enough to warrant the price. I will be curious to see in the comments if you agree.

Thanks for reading, and happy solving!

Signed, Don McBrien, Assistant to the Regional Manager of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Pretty easy for a Wednesday 

THEME: Drop The THE (57A - Sean Parker's famous advice to Mark Zuckerberg in naming The Facebook...)

Theme answers:

  • 17 ACROSS:  Early "Saturday Night Live" camera command? CUT TO CHASE
  • 24 ACROSS: "You want Pepsi or Coke? eg  POP QUESTION
  • 36 ACROSS:  Chauffeurs the actor Kevin to his house? BRINGS HOME BACON
  • 46 ACROSS:  Basic query to a physicist?  WHATS MATTER
Word of the Day: ASL 23 Across: Nonverbal communication, for short
American Sign Language is the natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of Anglophone Canada. 

• • •

Hello!  I'm Karen, first time guest blogger here in Baltimore - home of The Wire, some frustratingly uneven sports teams and snowballs with marshmallow sauce.  I'm taking a short break from my regular gig as a yoga teacher while I recover from surgery on a previously fractured hip.  The injury was unrelated to yoga so my current situation shouldn't discourage you from taking a class.  Yoga is great and everyone should do it.  (I can't say the same for bicycling in Copenhagen while it's raining and you have jet lag). 

Ok, here goes...This puzzle gave me some anxiety because a) I'm a blogging novice and b) it's been consistently theme-y all week and I wasn't expecting another theme today.  Once I settled in, things proceeded smoothly.  Except for the theme clues, everything else was relatively simple. I was particularly pleased with the abundance of British references: 14A Archibald LEACHCarey Grant's real name having just seen a fascinating documentary about and 64A ANNE, the English Princess (who never gets enough credit for being the workhorse of that family if you ask me). Following the Anglophilia trope here, we had 61A EARL, "Downton Abbey" title and 45D ARTHUR, Excalibur's owner.  I had no idea that 30A ANTS leave pheromone trails or that the 65A 1953 A.L. M.V.P. was Al ROSEN (the Hebrew Hammer), but the corresponding down clues made those easy to get. Also, 7D, TRANQ was not a word I'd heard to describe calmer, but I was glad for the Q because it allowed to get that second themed clue POPQUESTION.  The four themed across clues were nicely constructed to be fairly clever homographs, CHASE, POP, BACON, and MATTER and the theme's modern cultural reference was a nice change in a week with puzzles featuring lots of the classic clues.

  • 32A Haiti's Papa Doc or Baby Doc DUVALIER - The family of authoritarian dictators in Haiti until they were overthrown in 1986.
  • 1A Insurance giant based in Columbus, Ga AFLAC - They started with that duck in 2000. It's been 18 years of that duck.
  • 33D Sharp footwear ICESKATES - The first ones were made from the leg bones of a horse and attached to the feet with leather straps.

Signed, Karen Segall, Blogging Novice

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hello! It's Clare, again. Hope everyone is having a great summer so far! I'm up in Lake Tahoe enjoying the glorious weather and lake while wearing holes in my shoes from how much walking around the restaurant I'm doing as a waitress. I've been trying to squeeze in as much World Cup watching as possible around work. As a huge Lionel Messi fan, I'm rooting for Argentina to win, but they haven't looked so hot so far. I might have to get behind Mexico or Belgium (or Germany for my sister) instead.

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Fairly easy for a Tuesday

THEME: ALTOGETHER (45D: "One more, please")— Five answers have AL repeated back to back in them

Theme answers:
  • CENTRALALPS (3A: Popular European skiing region)
  • INLALALAND (18A: Spaced out)
  • KUALALUMPUR (26D: Capital of Malaysia)
  • HALALFOOD (33D: Meals permissible under Islamic law)
  • IAMMALALA (44A: Autobiography of Nobel laureate Yousafzai)
Word of the Day: IMAN (40D: Mogadishu-born supermodel) —

Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid (born July 25, 1955), mononymously known as Iman ("faith" in Arabic), is a Somali-American fashion model, actress and entrepreneur. A pioneer in the ethnic-cosmetics market, she is also noted for her philanthropic work. She is the widow of English rock musician David Bowie, whom she married in 1992. (Wikipedia)
• • •
I mentioned this so many times in my last write-up, and I feel the need to make sure you remember: The Warriors won the NBA Finals!! I'm pretty excited about that, if you couldn't tell.

Anyway, on to the puzzle. This might have been the easiest time I've had with a Tuesday puzzle — at least since I started these write-ups — and may even be my fastest time ever on a Tuesday. The fill was pretty easy, I thought, albeit often uninspiring, and the theme actually helped me solve some of the puzzle. The theme had answers that were both across and down this time, which was a nice change of pace. CENTRALALPS and HALALFOOD were bland theme answers, but KUALALUMPUR was interesting, INLALALAND was clever, and the book IAMMALALA is amazing. There were a good number of theme answers, and they were all tied together nicely with ALTOGETHER (59A).

I did have a bit of trouble with the southeast corner. For me, 63A: Boy of Mayberry: OPIE (a name I'd never heard of) crossed with 64D: Citizen competitor: SEIKO (a company I've never heard of), meant some fiddling. I also had never heard of a literary OMNIBUS. There were a few other answers that felt obscure, too: 14D: ASIANA, 19D: ANI, and 9D: POLECAT.

  • Apparently I don't learn from my mistakes very well. On the last Tuesday of last month, there was a clue for 39D that was "snow many push them back, for short," and I really wanted to make it "etas" instead of "etds." Oddly enough, today's puzzle had a very similar clue. 38A: It may be delayed by snow: Abbr., and I again tried to make it "eta" instead of ETD.
  • Also, like last month, there were quite a few names in the puzzle: DEL TORO, LAILA, OPIE, SHERA, ADAM, ABEL, IMAN, ERROL, LEBRON, AND MYERS.
  • I had no idea that OREO was the sister brand of Nilla wafers. That's probably the most bizarre way I've ever seen OREO clued — and it's been clued a lot of ways.
  • My favorite fill clue was 60D: summer sign as LEO.
  • I've spent a lot of time listening to The Weeknd's music, but I had no idea his real name was ABEL Tesfaye. Fun fact: He chose the Weeknd as his stage name because he and a group of friends just left home one weekend and never went back. (He dropped the "e" because there was already a band called "The Weekend.")
  • 45D: "One more, please" as ANOTHER made me think of this scene from the first Thor movie (you only need to watch about the first 20 seconds):
  • In case it hasn't yet been made obvious that I'm a Warriors fan, I must once again point out that the Warriors swept LEBRON in the Finals.
  • 47A: "College GameDay" channel as ESPN. My freshman year, ESPN had College Gameday at Yale for the Big Game against Harvard. Harvard's football team won, sadly. And, I didn't get on camera.
  • Learn something new every day: Before this puzzle, I had no idea both bagels and vodka originated in POLAND. But I'm very grateful to the Poles for them. Sorry you didn't make it to the next round of the World Cup.
ANOTHER Tuesday, ANOTHER crossword puzzle. I'll be on the lake or waiting tables until next month. Happy almost 4th of July!

Signed, Clare Carroll, sunburnt Tahoe waitress

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Louis who developed a rabies vaccine / MON 6-25-18 / Apparel also known as clamdiggers / Speed readers? / Fly ball catchers / Mountain goat

Monday, June 25, 2018

Constructor: Kathy Wienberg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ADD TO CART (63A: Message clicked by an online buyer ... or a hint for 17-, 24-, 39-, and 51-Across) — The first word of each themer can precede "CART".

Theme answers:
  • TEA GARDEN (17A: Locale for a traditional Japanese ceremony)
  • SHOPPING LIST (24A: Slip of paper to take to the grocery)
  • GOLF TOURNAMENTS (39A: The Masters and others)
  • APPLE STRUDEL (51A: Classic Austrian pastry)
Word of the Day: FINESSE (48A: Risky bridge play) —
In contract bridge and similar games, a finesse is a card play technique which will enable a player to win an additional trick or tricks should there be a favorable position of one or more cards in the hands of the opponents. (Wikipedia)

 • •

Hi folks, it's day two of Guest Blogger Week here while Rex is away. And, like last Monday, it's another first-words-type puzzle. I suppose these sorts of Mondays are a symptom of having increasing difficulty over the week: the truly creative themes that twist your brain a little get kicked down to Wednesday or Thursday, while the old-school theme patterns that are easy due to familiarity get slated earlier. The best we can hope for with these is a well-executed version with some good fill.

I'm not sure that's what we got, though. The themers are perfectly fine, and there's some credit to be given for having four plus the revealer instead of just three. But in looking over the puzzle, it's not just the theme that's dated. Any of these clues and answers could have appeared in a puzzle twenty years ago and would have fit right in, save for the fact that Finding NEMO wasn't released until 2003. I don't need a hyper-modern puzzle to enjoy it, but when the cultural references bend in the opposite direction, with POGO and RHETT Butler and bridge terms (FINESSE), I think it's fair to complain.

Some long non-themers here in CAPRI PANTS, SOLAR PANELSSEAPLANE, and FIELDERS, which are all solid, if not terribly exciting. We've got some rough fill in ONOEBONGTOSETH, and TRA. The irony is that the crosswordese helped the solving process for me, but in particular, the UNAGI / GTOS cross might Natick a casual Monday solver who hasn't seen either before.

I don't want to sound too cranky about this puzzle (although I guess with Rex gone, someone needs to fill that quota) - it's a perfectly adequate Monday. It just doesn't seem to rise above perfectly adequate.

Signed, Brian Amos, Serf of CrossWorld


Opposite of colorblindness? / SUN 6-24-18 / "Coo-oo-ool!" / Aromatic yellow citrus / Dr Sattler Jurassic Park paleobotanist / Friendly cartoon character / Expenditures counterpart / Fairy tale lump / Modern subject of FAA regulation

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy, except for the top middle section (15:29)

THEME: "Creature Feature" — A "Jaws"-themed puzzle featuring sharkish references as well as five rebus FINS that can be connected by a line to depict, um, a fin.

Theme answers:
  • DORSAL FIN (24A: Worrisome sight for a swimmer)
  • FINNS (32A: Some northern Europeans)
  • FINISHERS (43A: Ones eligible for marathon prizes)
  • HUFFINESS (59A: Peevish quality)
  • REFINANCE (61A: Get a new mortgage)
  • SEA MONSTER (68A: Scylla or Charybdis)
  • DEEP THREAT (74A: Speedy wide receiver, perhaps)
  • GREAT WHITE (86A/87A: What might cost you an arm and a leg?)
  • SHARK (99A: Menace in 106-Down)
  • JAWS (106D: 1975 summer blockbuster)
  • SPIELBERG (3D: 106-Down director)
  • AMITY ISLAND (112A: Fictional setting for 106-Down)

Word of the Day: YUZU (90D: Aromatic yellow citrus) —
Citrus junos or yuzu is a citrus fruit and plant in the family RutaceaeThe yuzu's flavour is tart, closely resembling that of the grapefruit, with overtones of mandarin orange. It is rarely eaten as a fruit, though in the Japanese cuisine its aromatic zest (outer rind) is used to garnish some dishes, and its juice is commonly used as a seasoning, somewhat as lemon is used in other cuisines.
It is an integral ingredient (along with sudachidaidai, and other similar fruits) in the citrus-based sauce ponzu, and yuzu vinegar is also produced. (wikipedia)
• • •
Craig Mazin here, guesting for Rex. I was honestly hoping for a puzzle I could feel passionate about one way or another, and in a nice bit of serendipity, I'm a screenwriter who happened to get a movie-themed Sunday to review.

Then the anti-serendipity kicked in, and I ended up with sort of a middling puzzle. It's doing a lot... there are loads of themers in the grid, plus a rebus, PLUS a connect-the-dots game at the end... and maybe that's the problem. There wasn't much stylistic cohesion to the gimmicks, and given that "Jaws" isn't exactly an underexamined cultural phenomenon, this one kinda just bobbed in the SALT BATH for me.

Let's start with the good: the grid is very light on junky fill, with only ARR, HES, HGTS, STDS, NTH and ANA making me say UHOH (don't you dare suggest ESAI is bad fill, as he has become a lovely comfort to an OLD HAND like me). Along the way, I nodded at BOBA TEA (my daughter is obsessed with that boba stuff, which I find way too SLIMY) and the almost-a-themer REEL BIG FISH (66D: Ska-punk band with the 1997 song "Sell Out").

But the grid design! What's happening here? There's no rotational symmetry, so I'm guessing the placement of the black squares indicates... is it the shark's wide open mouth coming to eat me?

No, that cross in the middle is a mast! Hmmm, maybe it's the boat (which was named "Orca," and honestly, how can you not include ORCA in a grid about Jaws when ORCA shows up in 94% of all crosswords in general?).

The truth is, I'm not sure what I'm looking at, and so I'm a little irked by the tricky design. It failed to make me smile, but it definitely got me grouchy at the very top middle, where OLDHAND, REVENUE and DORSALFIN were really pinched off, and the downs didn't make solving that walled-off section much easier-- DVR as a verb, HES, LEOS (it's fine to expect us to know the names and symbols of astrological signs, but please don't ask me to learn what nonsense personality qualities they're supposed to indicate), and our first FIN rebus in DEFINES.

Once that initial FIN fell, I presumed I'd be finding bits of SHARK all around... maybe a TOOTH, a GILL, or even a DOLLSEYE...

...but nope. Just more FINS. Fins that I was told to connect together to create a picture of .... OOH, WHAT WILL IT BE? WILL IT BE A-- oh... it's another fin.

Which immediately made me think:

The FIN FINALE occurred before reaching the midline of the grid, at which point the puzzle sort of turned into a "look at all the shark and movie words" game, which.... not a great game.

As I reached the southwest corner, I became concerned that there was yet another theme fragment emerging, as a bunch of Z's started cropping up... but that was a red herring, and this is a white shark puzzle. I did enjoy the way WARE squeezed in between ANAL and STDS... wow, we almost had an ANAL/WART/STDS stack in the New York Times, folks.

And then there's everyone's favorite SEA MONSTER duo, Scylla and Charybdis. No doubt most of you know them as the two monsters featured in The Odyssey (well, sort of monsters, inasmuch as they took the form of a sea cliff and a whirlpool), but I first learned about them from Professor Gordon Sumner, aka Sting. Scylla and Charybdis make a lyrically ambitious cameo early on in "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police.

Finally, while everyone knows SPIELBERG directed JAWS, there wouldn't have been anything to direct had there been no screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and Peter Benchley.

Carl Gottlieb, by the way, managed to write Jaws and The Jerk... two of the best J movies ever made, and two wildly different films. Carl is definitely an ALLTIMER.

Signed, Craig Mazin, Resident of CrossWorld


Literally foundation / SAT 6-23-18 / Depart unceremoniously in slang / 1991 self-titled debut album / Song that debuted on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880 / Naira spender

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Medium (9:09) (felt easy, but clock says otherwise)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Lake EYRE (10D: Lake ___, Australia's lowest point) —
Lake Eyre (/ɛər/ AIR), officially known as Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, contains the lowest natural point in Australia, at approximately 15 m (49 ft) below sea level (AHD), and, on the rare occasions that it fills, is the largest lake in Australia covering 9,500 km2 (3,668 sq mi). The shallow endorheic lake is the depocentre of the vast Lake Eyre basin and is found in Northern South Australia, some 700 km (435 mi) north of Adelaide.
When the lake is full, it has the same salinity level as the sea, but as the lake dries up and the water evaporates, salinity increases.
The lake was named in honour of Edward John Eyre, who was the first European to see it, in 1840. The lake's official name was changed in December 2012 to combine the name "Lake Eyre" with the indigenous name, Kati Thanda. The native title over the lake and surrounding region is held by the Arabana people. (wikipedia)
• • •

I feel like we get a Byron puzzle about once every season, and it is reliably good-to-great. His is a name that puts me at ease, not because I know the puzzle will be easy (the opposite!) but because I know the puzzle will be ambitious *and* carefully constructed. Very underrated constructor. Look at all that white space, and yet hardly any weak fill. It's Berry-esque, but actually somewhat more contemporary and playful than most Patrick Berry puzzles. I really enjoyed this, despite starting out really annoyed—not at the puzzle, but at myself for forgetting to stay off Twitter until I've finished solving. Jackasses who apparently have zero crossword-solving friends will occasionally just post the grid in various states of completion because they want to talk about it so bad, and so I know better than to look at my "crossword" feed ... until tonight, when I needed to DM someone real quick about a logistical thingie and bam, I saw a partially filled grid that someone had posted. I was like "what's this?!" and then instantly was like "Ahhhh, my eyes! No!!!!!" Luckily, the only thing that stuck with me was RADICAL FEMINIST, which, honestly, I probably would've picked up pretty quickly anyway (51A: Fierce opponent of patriarchy). My solving time suggests that I hardly got any advantage. Most of what was in the grid just didn't register. But it sucked to have that answer spoiled for me, because it's a great answer, and clue, and I would've loved to have come across it naturally and had the "whoa, cool" experience that I deserved.

I was really impressed by the cluing in this one. I mean, I was impressed by an ELOPE clue (19A: Depart unceremoniously?), and that ... is a rarity. Everyone eventually tries to get cute with their ELOPE clues. It's probably the most "?"'-clued of all answers of all time. And often the clues make me groan, but this one was low-key clever and subtle and nice. I also really liked that the clue then got doubled up and reused, w/o the question mark, at 21A: Depart unceremoniously, in slang (BAIL).  Another great question mark clue today was 16D: Childlike personality? (CELEBRITY CHEF). I had CELEBRITY and then no idea what could follow. Only when I was done did I realize, "Oh, *Julia* Child! Clever." I've seen STREEP clued as [Child actress] before, which is nice. Julia Child just has a great name for crossword misdirection. In non-question mark clues, I think I actually laughed, or at least internally chuckled, when I finally got AFFAIRS at 32D: Business, either personal or otherwise. It seemed like such a dull clue at first, but then AFFAIRS gave "Business" a sexual implication that I was not expecting. At least that's how I read the "personal" part of the clue.

Hardest part of the puzzle for me was ANA (45A: Japanese carrier) and FAQS (42A: They're answered once and for all) crossing AL QAEDA (34D: Literally, "the foundation"). I actually "knew* ANA from crosswords of old, but then I second-guessed it because I couldn't get the whole area to work. Real problem was the "Q". I was looking at AL--EDA at the only thing I could imagine was ALAMEDA. Which is a city in California, near Oakland. Seemed awfully obscure. Because it was wrong. That "Q"! Clue on FAQS is perfect, but also super hard. Once I let ANA be ANA, I saw AL QAEDA, and moved on to the SE, where I finished up. Did not remember BEEBE at all, but the crosses were all fair (47A: "A Room With a View" clergyman). My one mistake down south came at 40D: Nurse (SUCKLE), where I had SUC- and wrote in SUCCOR. All in all, a lovely, vibrant puzzle.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. I don't think I'd put AL QAEDA in a grid, myself. Likely to bum a lot of people out. See also NAZI.

    P.P.S. if you ever see the clue [Literally, "mall"], *then* the answer is ALAMEDA

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Pioneering photojournalist Jacob / FRI 6-22-18 / Polish-language film that won 2014 Oscar / Big espresso purveyor since 2001

    Friday, June 22, 2018

    Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

    Relative difficulty: Medium (5:53) (I'm tired and I've had a bit to drink, so it might be slightly easier)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: Jacob RIIS (8D: Pioneering photojournalist Jacob) —
    Jacob August Riis (/rs/; May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformerGeorgist, "muckrakingjournalist and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of "model tenements" in New York with the help of humanitarianLawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.
    While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    in a purple state
    Did an infuriating crossword just before this one, so wasn't in the best frame of mind. Also feel very, very tired—late dinner, late drinking. So I just pushed through this one; didn't enjoy or disenjoy it. I think the thing I like most is the grid shape. The arrangement of longer answers is interesting. Leaves the center all isolated and full of short fill (not great), but also gives us not just the (pretty standard) long answers in the four quadrants, but also these long Downs (four of 'em) that shoot through the puzzle (TELEPROMPTER, POSTRACIAL, DRAFT KINGS, PURPLE STATES). We poor for it in short fill, of which there is a Lot, but I think the trade-off might be worth it. None of the longer answers are that noteworthy. I just saw HOMOEROTIC in a New Yorker crossword last week, so that one didn't have the novelty impact that it was probably designed to have. Interesting to have that answer appear hot on the heels of yesterday's Pride-themed puzzle. But then, not that interesting. Gayness exists, homoerotic content exist, and the puzzle should and does regularly note this; it's no longer shocking or even surprising to see LGBTQ stuff in puzzles, and this is a good thing. A welcome turn of events. I mean, it's not like we've cured bigotry here, but the more ordinary, visible, and everyday queerness becomes, the better off we all are.

    LAPEL LIZARDS sounds like a band. A band that might open for SAPIENT FUTON. I had a bunch of trouble witih short answers during he first half of the solve, and then virtually no trouble with the second half. Just couldn't get RODE or SOAR, even after a couple of crosses, so the NW took longer to fill in than it should've. Wrote in MPAA for RIAA (15D: Pirate-fighting org.). RIAA remains an initialism that I routinely forget. Biggest hang-up of the day by far was, weirdly, ATE IT (10D: Wiped out). Had that final "T" and wanted only SPENT (perhaps because that was how I was feeling and continue to feel, man I can't wait to be asleep...). And the "E" from SPENT worked for EDIE, which I *knew* was right (18A: Actress Sedgwick of Warhol films). Wanted SAPIENT (a word you learn in high school and promptly never use again), but couldn't figure out how a word could end -EIT. Much later, I found out it was not a word. It was two words. After that, not a hitch, except for UZIS (57A: Action film weapons). I got it easily enough, I just hate it. Ironically, I also hate UNARM. But I hate the latter as a word (the word is "disarm"), whereas I hate UZIS because guns suck. Good night.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    LGBT activist Savage / THU 6-21-18 / DC comics hero with magic ring / Path in hit 1939 film / Salad items picked at midpoint of their maturity / Villainous army in 1968 Beatles film / v ohio landmark case barring illegally obtained evidence from being used in court

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    Constructor: Milo Beckman and David Steinberg

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: Pride Flag — Different rows of the crossword have answers that are missing an initial color—supply the color (literally) and you get the Pride Flag

    Theme answers:
    Word of the Day: ICC (24D: Old transportaiton agcy.) —
    The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads (and later trucking) to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. The agency was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.
    The Commission's five members were appointed by the President with the consent of the United States Senate. This was the first independent agency (or so-called Fourth Branch). (wikipedia)
    • • •

    I spent more time coloring the grid than I did solving the puzzle, but had a good time doing both. I didn't actually grasp that it was a Pride Flag until I was done and thought, "Oh, a rainbow ... flag ... and it's Pride Month! Oh, yeah, that's nice." The gimmick is easy to pick up, and most of the color answers are (then) very easy to get, except for a couple. I had no idea what kind of PEPPERS I was dealing with (there are so many colors), and I totally forgot that LAWS even was a theme answer, and so got a bit bogged down right there trying to figure out what [Shopping restrictions] could possibly be in four letters. Only when I was done with the puzzle did I finally see that it was (BLUE) LAWS. Weird that there was no revealer, though cluing ERA as [The Gay Nineties, e.g.] was pretty clever, and there were a couple of explicitly LGBT clues. Most of the fill was solid, and the very worst of the fill was a direct result of the stringency of the theme—ICC and SAK both have their first and last letters fixed by theme answers, and so it's not terribly surprising that that's where the grid strains a little. But emphasis on "little." Overall, as I say, it holds up well. It's a charming and timely puzzle.

     Picked this one up early with (ORANGE)MEN, then got nearby (RED)EYES, and quickly understood that this was a pattern that was going to continue (though I had no idea at that point what colors were coming, or where). Only a few spots gave me trouble. ICC was bad (never heard of it). USO clue didn't mean anything to me, and still ... doesn't (4D: What gets the show on the road, for short?). Is it that USO shows travel... to where troops are? It seems a pretty forced "?" clue. Beyond that, though, I had USE for PLY (unexciting) (32D: Wield), and had never heard of a PASTORATE (11D: Minister's office). Even with PASTOR- in place, I didn't know where that word was going. I assume the clue means "office" in the sense of a job, not a physical space [looking it up] ... yes. Also can refer to a body of pastors. Beyond that, there was no real resistance today. I don't really know Den HAAG, but I've seen it before, and crosses were easy (though I guess if you didn't know Delaware's mascot was the (BLUE)HEN, you might've gotten into trouble with that "H" cross. I can imagine a mascot named BLUE BEN. BLUE KEN, less so. Oh, I also had trouble with 47D: Home to every M.L.B. club whose name starts with "A" (AL WEST). True for team names: A's, Angels, Astros. But the only "A" I could picture in mind (despite being a very avid baseball fan) was the "A" on the cap of the Atlanta Braves ... who play in the NL EAST. I should probably mention that ALORS is very hard if you have no French (51D: Then: Fr.). Very, very. Crosses seem gettable, but who knows? I was lucky enough to get ALORS immediately, but it could easily cause some solvers to spin out. I hope not, though. It's the kind of puzzle that people should be able to take pride ... in solving.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Alice's cat in Through Looking Glass / WED 6-20-18 / Small Eurasian songbird / Goes by livery taxi / Firecracker goes in one / Religious leader usually sporting beard / Real dogs eat meat sloganeer

    Wednesday, June 20, 2018

    Constructor: Jeffrey Wechsler

    Relative difficulty: Medium (4:59, slowish for me, but I'm getting over a cold and my eyes are dry and the fan was irritating them etc. ...)

    THEME: OU -> U — phrases with "ou" words have the "o" removed, creating good old-fashioned wackiness...

    Theme answers:
    • PROPER NUN (17A: Well-behaved sister?)
    • FUR ON THE FLOOR (23A: Evidence of a cat fight?)
    • CURSE CORRECTION (37A: TV bleep?)
    • CURT REPORTERS (45A: Impolite press conference attendees?)
    • PALACE CUP (59A: Part of the queen's tea service?)
    Word of the Day: Jacques PÉPIN (48D: TV chef Jacques) —
    Jacques Pépin (French pronunciation: ​[ʒak pepɛ̃]; born December 18, 1935) is an internationally recognized French chef, television personality, and author working in the United States. Since the late 1980s, he has appeared on French and American television and written an array of cookbooks that have become best sellers.
    • • •

    I just don't care about this. It's not trying to be anything but a warmed over puzzle from 1982. There's not even a clever revealer. Take out the "O" ... tada? Besides BULLFINCH (9D: Small Eurasian songbird) and GOOD FAIRY (3D: Tinker Bell, e.g.), there's nothing good here. HIRES A CAR made me want to SHUT A COMPUTER, namely my own. Super-choppy grid with infinite 3-to-5-letter words, most of them repeaters. Proper n(o)uns are mostly from the olden days (e.g. GARBO, PÉPIN). Alice's cat??? And any puzzle that contains UEYS is going to get multiple NAYS from me. Puzzles simply must be more colorful, more current, and more ambitious than this. Demand better. Sorry I can't do more for you today, but this puzzle just doesn't warrant it.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


      © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

    Back to TOP