Leather-clad TV warrior / SUN 9-30-18 / Where Karl Benz debuted world's first auto / 16-ounce beers slangily / Feature of probability distribution where extreme events are more likely / Fictional creature whose name is Old English for giant / Builder of Israel's first temple / Collapsed red giant / Canoodles in Britain

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Constructor: Natan Last

Relative difficulty: Challenging (12:35) (I had two drinks beforehand, though, so ... I'm not very confident in this rating)

THEME: "Sleep On It" PRINCESSes (82D: Any of the four people disturbed in this puzzle) on MATTRESSes (14D: Item lain upon four times in this puzzle) on [PEA]s (where [PEA] is a rebus square) (123A: Item that disturbs sleep four times in this puzzle)

Theme answers:
  • BELLE (27A) on QUEEN OF MEAN (31A) on S[PEA]R (36A)
  • LEIA (53A) on FULL-BODIED (61A) on AP[PEA]LS (67A)
  • XENA (69A) on TWIN SISTER (73A) on S[PEA]K (80A)
  • ANNE (95A) on KING SOLOMON (101A) on [PEA]HEN (110A)
Word of the Day: EPHESUS (63D: Home of the ancient Temple of Artemis) —
Ephesus (/ˈɛfəsəs/GreekἜφεσος EphesosTurkishEfes; may ultimately derive from HittiteApasa) was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir ProvinceTurkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.
The city was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus, and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators. [...] 
The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263, and although rebuilt, the city's importance as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. It was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. (wikipedia)
• • •

Conceptually, this is pretty great. I mean, if you wanted to get the whole fairy tale thing precise, then you'd pile the mattresses high and put a single PEA underneath. A single mattress is somewhat wide of the mark, visually speaking. But as a plausible, viable representation of four different PRINCESS-and-the-pea scenarios, this works. I like how wacky the PRINCESS assortment is. Animated princess, warrior princess, space princess, actual princess. Nice. Solving this wasn't entirely fun, though, partly because I had had a little to drink and so (probably) just couldn't get things to click as easily as usual, partly because I was not looking for the PEA and there are so few PEAs that you could, as I did, get very far into the grid before you ever realized there was a rebus going on. 80% of my trouble in this one was in and around those rebus squares, first because I didn't know the rebus existed, and then because I kept forgetting the rebus existed. I had almost the entire top half of the grid before finally stumbling on my first PEA thanks to NEIL PEART (42D: Rock star known for his 360-degree drum set). Because I got stuck at ASIAN--- at 52D: Certain Far Eastern fruits before I knew there was a rebus, it somehow didn't really register to me that it might be a theme answer Even After I'd Discovered the Rebus. Plus I wanted the dog command to be SIT or SIC. Briefly considered SIK (!) before realizing, "Oh, dang, the rebus! It's ASIAN PEARS! And SPEAK! Aargh." Found the SW very hard despite / because of its lack of theme material (besides PRINCESS). HIT COUNTER and IN REAL TIME and ROUST and SHIRT and EMTS and OATS were all not not not coming to me. Also, I was thinking LAO TZU instead of SUN TZU, which really made me mad re: the ABBA song. Me: "I Know All Their Songs, None Are Three Letters Beginning With 'L', Come On!"

BSCHOOL, ugh (62D: Future plan for many an econ major). On multiple levels. Unpleasant. But it is a thing that people call that type of school, so fair, I guess. Just gross. I'm just imagining dudes going there and calling it that and then becoming useless techbro CEOs or something, ugh. Also, FATTAIL is [me making a face]. I mean, congrats on the "probability distribution" terminology, but that should've been RATTAIL, which has the virtue of being both a more vivid and more widely known thing.

Speaking of hairstyles, or rather no-hair styles, I could not process what the clue was looking for at 44D: Parts of Mr. Clean and Lex Luthor costumes (BALD CAPS). It's the "costumes" part that is terrible and confusing. I thought it was part of *their* costumes, i.e. the costumes or outfits that Mr. Clean and Lex Luthor wear, not what some human *might* wear if they were dressing up as Mr. Clean or Lex Luthor. The only thing I could really visualize was an earring. Don't they both have some kind of earring / pirate look going on? Let's see.

OK, so not Lex. Anyway, if you are bald, or shave your head, then you absolutely do not need a ridiculous BALD CAP(S) as part of your "costume." As a mostly hairless human, I could not relate to this clue at all.

Five things:
  • 113A: Western gas brand (TESORO) — I spent my first 21 years in the "west" and I have literally never heard of this "brand." ARCO is the only "western" gas brand I know of.
  • 28D: Jazz's McCann (LES) — oy, this made the PEA area in the NW that much harder. No idea. Stunned I've been doing crosswords going on 30 years and have seen jazz name after jazz name and yet somehow, not this one. 
  • 87A: Paroxysm (THROE) — always gonna look dumb in the singular. Always. 
  • 87D: Grammy winner Meghan (TRAINOR) — young enough to know who she is, old enough to botch the spelling of her name (I had a "Y" in there). 
  • 84D: Where Karl Benz debuted the world's first auto (MANNHEIM) — one week later, an answer that I completely mangled returns to give me a boost! I was like, "Can it be ... is it ... the return of ...?" And it was.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Bahn Vietnamese cake / SAT 9-29-18 / Classic film with screaming boy on its poster / Locale of America's deepest gorge / Algae touted as superfood

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging by the clock, but ... once I finally got traction it felt Easy-Medium, so ... dunno (9:23)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TROY OUNCE (27D: Gold standard) —
Troy weight is a system of units of mass customarily used for precious metals and gemstones. One troy ounce (abbreviated "t oz" or "oz t") is equal to 31.1034768 grams, (or about 1.0971 oz. avoirdupois, the "avoirdupois" ounce being the most common definition of an "ounce" in the US)] There are only 12 troy ounces per troy pound, rather than the 16 ounces per pound found in the more common avoirdupois system. However, the avoirdupois pound has 7000 grains whereas the troy pound has only 5760 grains (i.e. 12 × 480 grains). Both systems use the same grain defined by the international yard and pound agreement of 1959 as 0.06479891 grams. Therefore, the troy ounce is 480 grains or 31.10 grams, compared with the avoirdupois ounce, which is 437.5 grains or 28.35 grams. The troy ounce, then, is about 10% heavier (ratio 192/175) than the avoirdupois ounce. Although troy ounces are still used to weigh goldsilver, and gemstones, troy weight is no longer used in most other applications. One troy ounce of gold is denoted with the ISO 4217 currency codeXAU, while one troy ounce of silver is denoted as XAG. (wikipedia)
• • •

Apparently worst-time-to-solve time is not upon waking in the *morning*, but upon waking after having unexpectedly fallen asleep on the couch for three hours. Long week. Annnnyway, I couldn't do anything with this puzzle to start. I have no idea how long I was floundering, but it felt like forever. Enough time passed that I thought, "UGH, this is just gonna be one of those tough outliers, why would you make 5x7 sections, no good can come of that..." But once I got momentum going ... well, actually, it threatened to peter right out because the sections are so isolated from one another that it's hard to get any real flow, but somehow once I finally put a corner together *and* found a way out of the corner, everything began to click and the puzzle felt like a normal Saturday. I think the puzzle is trying a little too hard to be "hip" and "now" and "hello, fellow young persons!" but looking it over, it seem very solid. I really hate the grid shape (isolated corners = blargh), but that's just a matter of taste.

It went like this: HOLA / SHY / TOE / YELL / nothing. I mean, it just stopped, right there. Actually, thought SHY was AFT at first, but then I got HOLA because (thank god) I had ADIOS already in place (one of only two right answers I'd gotten in the NW, the other being ENTER IN, and the wrong answer I had up there being TEETH (1D: Places for braces (KNEES)). So the tiny west section was useless and, after completely failing to get any of the answers in the middle (was [Turn] GEE or HAW or ...? was [Daring way to go] ALL IN? (No and no)), I wandered (lonely as a cloud) down to the SE where I was pretty sure APRIL was right, and then OPTS OUT seemed OK, and then STALK seemed plausible, and then ELK, really??? OK. And then I was getting somewhere. Could not get out of that section via ___ OUNCE because I had No idea (I had TR-Y OUNCE and still had no idea, tbh), so I got out via THE EMERALD ISLE. I made up for the TROY OUNCE fail with a spectacular SPINNAKER play (I know squat about all things nautical and just pulled that word out of god-knows-where). No idea about Wiz Khalifa or 2 Chainz "hits" at all, but "HOME ALONE," I got that, and so both the NE and the SE were a jillion times easier than the west had been. Finished up in the NE, where I had a hiccup, as (yet again) I didn't know if it was IPAD PRO or AIR, annnnnnd I misspelled SNORKLE.

Five things:
  • 59A: ___ Prize (onetime annual $1 million award) (TED) — UGH. I somehow never want to hear again about anything TED. No TED Talks, not TED Prizes. All things TED feel tiresome to me now. Those talks feel like glorified infomercials or sermons or carnival huckster spiels. The only TED I want to hear about is Danson.
  • 21A: Algae touted as a superfood (SEA MOSS) — I have not seen said touting. The "natural foods" section of my Wegmans is full of All Kinds of Bogus half-science claims, but nothing that I've noticed there contains SEA MOSS. Is there a SEA MOSS ODWALLA?
  • 31A: Commercial name that becomes a Native American tribe if you move its first letter to the end (IHOP) — man, "commercial name" is some deliberately irksome cluing. IHOP is a restaurant. A restaurant chain. In fact, simply "Chain" would've been a million times better than stupidly ambiguous, borderline meaningless "Commercial name." 
  • 33D: Monthly travelers? (OVA) — men's cutesy clues about female anatomy continue to not go over great with me for some reason. 
  • 5D: Where models are assembled? (CAR LOTS) — really wanted this to be CATWALK

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Six-time all-stary Ron / FRI 9-28-18 / Spy who trades sex secrets informally / Assassin Sparafucile in Rigoletto / User of popular social news site

Friday, September 28, 2018

Constructor: Kameron Austin Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:36)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: MT DANA (38A: Peak that marks the eastern boundary of Yosemite Natl. park) —
Mount Dana is a mountain in the U.S. state of California. Its summit marks the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park and the western boundary of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. At an elevation of 13,061 feet (3,981 m), it is the second highest mountain in Yosemite (after Mount Lyell), and the northernmost summit in the Sierra Nevada which is over 13000 feet in elevation. Mount Dana is the highest peak in Yosemite that is a simple hike to the summit. The mountain is named in honor of James Dwight Dana, who was a professor of natural history and geology at Yale. (wikipedia)
• • •

First things first. That PUGS clue is not a dog clue. It's a boxing clue (11D: Boxers). OK then, moving on: this thing must be Super easy, because I solved it upon waking (at 4:15am, don't ask!), which is not, historically, the most auspicious time for me to solve crosswords, but I came very close to my (recent) record, time-wise. KAC's puzzles can be very hard, but this one was right over the plate, for me. Long answers opened right up, and struggles, where they existed, were minimal. The NE and SW are potentially dangerous, in that the ways in and out of them are Very narrow. This caused me a little trouble at the end, in the SW, where I didn't know MT. DANA (38A) at all, and I had not POWER but PAUSE at first for 44D: Remote button, leaving me to fight my way through that corner starting from the inside. Luckily, BRIT-to-SCEPTER-etc. wasn't too tough a fight. I feel like this puzzle will be easy for anyone who knows the song "BOOTYLICIOUS" (so ... for a lot of people) (30A: 2001 Destiny's Child #1 hit with the lyric "I don't think you ready for this jelly"). I had the BOO- already by the time I saw that clue, but I wouldn't have needed it. Gigantic gimme. But why not? Fridays can be fun and easy(ish) from time to time. Give people a lifeline, throw them a long BOOTYLICIOUS rope. Seems a fine, fair thing to do on occasion. Gives tyros a shot at getting into a themeless. It's welcoming, really.

I have only ever seen HOE CAKEs in Robert Townsend's "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987), but it was memorable enough that that answer posed no problem (15A: Cornmeal treat). I like that it comes right after ARAPAHO, so you reading the Across answeres sequentially you get ARAPOHOHOECAKES. I feel like there's a crossword theme here. ARAPOHOHOHOS. BOGOTATATAS. NOSFERATUTUTUS. COLORADODODOS. Etc. OK, it's not great, forget I said anything. The hardest part of this puzzle for me was actually remembering how to spell SADA (!) Thompson's name (5D: Actress Thompson of "Family"). I wrote in SADE, thinking it was an alternate spelling of Sadie, which gave me MEDIEN at 19A: Highway divider, which, honestly, looked possible. Certainly a better answer than AMBIEN, which was my first guess. Me: "Do they spell MEDIEN like that? I guess it's possible?" But then I sort of remembered that her name was maybe possibly SADA, and I went with that. No idea how I remembered BEHR paint, but it was very helpful in the SE. Only part of the center area that gave me pause was NORSE ___ (36A: Figures in the Edda). I was prepared for virtually any word to go in that blank space, but it turned out just to be a synonym of "gods." I've never seen the word LUNULAR (16A: Crescent-shaped), so I needed every cross there, but luckily those crosses were easy to come by *and* LUNULAR clearly makes sense once you've got it in there—shaped like a (crescent) moon! OK, off to my 6am (!) appointment. Bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Early-blooming ornamental / THU 9-27-18 / Dr Foreman player on House / Brand name derived from phrase service games / Word that sounds like state when accented on second syllable rather than first

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Constructor: Daniel Kantor

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:16, and that's with every theme answer essentially unclued; see below)

THEME: dunno ... some visual clues, I guess; here's what the grid looked like on the app:

So I guess the answers are a literal description of either ... what you do or ... where the answer ... is? None of this meant anything to me, as I had a regular grid and all my theme clues said SEE NOTEPAD (I did not, in fact, SEE NOTEPAD, which turned out to be a stupid warning that my software couldn't handle the blah blah blah don't care)

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: SEA LEGS (49A: Good standing in the Navy?) —
  1. a person's ability to keep their balance and not feel seasick when on board a moving ship. (google)
• • •

Once again, the puzzle tries to get fancy with some gimmick that my software won't accommodate. Once again, I don't think the gimmick is worth it at all. This is a Monday puzzle playing dress-up. All non-theme answers are short and boring, and the themers aren't much to look at either. The fact that I could finish this in just over five minutes, having absolutely no information about the theme answers (my theme clues all read SEE NOTEPAD), tells me it was way too weak for Thursday. Further, now that I look at the intended grid, the one with all the visual cues, it's weird-looking, and the difference between the "box" and the "lines" is barely perceptible. You'd think you'd want to do something more visually dramatic, something that would clearly differentiate one theme line from the next. Only the SHADES OF GRAY one is at all interesting, and even then, well, the themers are all inconsistent, parts-of-speech-wise. First one is a command, the second describes the boxes in the answer, and then the third and fourth are prepositional phrases indicating where you write the answer. It's a train wreck. An easy train wreck. Welcome to my midnight metaphoring.


Five things:
  • 9A: Zombie's domain (SCI-FI) — that's more horror than SCI-FI, come on
  • 21A: Word that sounds like a state when accented on the second syllable rather than the first (MISERY) — I mean, it's true, but I did not spend any time trying to work it out. I need a term for a clever clue that is somehow also way too long and involved and therefore nothing I'm going to bother with.
  • 9D: Card letters (STL) — embarrassed it took me five seconds to grok this one, instead of the one second it ought to have taken (STL are the letters on the baseball cap of any given Card, i.e. St. Louis Cardinal)
  • 25D: Org. whose first-ever presidential endorsement was Ronald Reagan (NRA) — f*** this white supremacist terrorist org. A decent editor woulda changed this answer to KIA.
  • 49A: Good standing in the Navy? (SEA LEGS) — probably the best thing about this puzzle. Certainly the thing that gave me the most trouble (I had SEAL and thought there was some other term for Navy Seals ... which you would have to be in "good standing" ... to belong to? )
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy 15th anniversary to my [Lambchop] wife, who is the best

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Horse with evenly mixed black white hairs / WED 9-26-18 / Ghost psychic Oda Brown / Gang pistol in old slang / Quahog geoduck / Island group in Aegean sea / liberal arts school in st petersburg fla

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Constructor: Melinda Gates and Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (4:00)

THEME: doubling of first letters — familiar phrases that start with a single letter have that letter doubled ... and then the whole thing is wackily clued:

Theme answers:
  • XX FACTOR (17A: Part played by women and girls?)
  • CC SECTION (29A: Area below To:" in an email?)
  • JJ CREW (37A: Ones on set with 2009's "Star Trek" director?)
  • AA LINE (40A: Any one of the 12 steps?)
  • BB COMPLEX (46A: Group of buildings housing a King?)
  • EE READER (64A: Lover of Cummings's poetry?)
Word of the Day: BLUE ROAN (12D: Horse with evenly mixed black-and-white hairs) —
  1. 1. 
    denoting an animal's coat consisting of black-and-white hairs evenly mixed, giving it a blue-gray hue.
  1. 1. 
    an animal with blue roan coat. (google)
• • •

Oh, we're still doing the whole "celebrity" co-constructor thing? Really thought that fad was finished, but I should've known better. This is the kind of theme that could've been good if there had been some Reason for the doubled letters. Seems like the potential basis for an interesting meta-puzzle, if you could get the letters to spell something or otherwise work in concert, and the puzzle had a snappy revealer or something. Here, it's just a bunch of double letters. Now, to be fair, most letters of the alphabet don't provide very good answer options when doubled up at the front. Not a lot of TTs out there, for instance. So maybe the list of viable letters for a theme like this is too restricted to do anything Extra. But there was still something slightly unsatisfying about the arbitrariness of the letter choices and answers. Why not AA TEAM or AA LIST—AA LINE is just bizarre. I mean, calling "any one of the 12 steps" a "line" is bizarre. Also, I really wish the NYTX would avoid chromosome clues altogether, largely because they are oversimplistic and essentialist and blargh.

Mainly I just thought the theme clues were far more boring than they ought to have been. [Area below "To:" in an email?]?? Snore. If you ditched the XX answer and replaced it with some initials (LL COOL J? HH MUNRO? WW NORTON?) and then changed the CC one to a clue about pitcher C.C. Sabathia and the AA one to something about Milne, then they would all be about people ... so there'd be some consistency. And maybe there's a phrase out there that would make a nice revealer, I don't know. But there has to be something Extra that could be done to make this pop.

Longer weird answers made this slightly tough in parts. The CYCLADES aren't exactly a household island group name, and I've never heard of either ECKERD College (?) or a BLUE ROAN. The latter created the toughest part of the puzzle by far. I needed almost every cross, especially considering that even black-and-whiteness does not suggest BLUE to me. Yeesh. But most of the rest of the fill was OK. Weakest in the whole ONME / OXO / ECOLI / ECKERD region, but much more solid elsewhere. I probably would've tried to avoid all double letters altogether in a puzzle like this, especially in the Acrosses, just so the theme can, you know, pop. But this puzzle did what it did, and except for that XX clue, the results were largely unobjectionable.

Five things:
  • 7D: Irony? (FERRIC)OK, FINE, that's cute.
  • 42A: Grant with the 1991 #1 hit "Baby Baby" (AMY) — this is such a weird, weird place to go for your AMY. I mean, I knew this because I had a secret affection for this song when I was in my early 20s. But still, of all the AMY clues in the world, you're going with a Christian crossover singer who had a hit 27 years ago?
  • 1D: Freight train part (BOX CAR) — Had this as MOXCAR at first, for obvious reasons
  • 18A: Have hot cocoa on a winter day, say (WARM UP) — before or after you BONE UP? (51D: Study, informally)
  • 24D: Obsolescent TV attachment (VCR) — "attachment" threw me. I was thinking something like "rabbit EARs"—but yeah, I guess you did have to "attach" the VCR to the TV, so, fine.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Hit a four-bagger / TUES 9-25-18 / Casino game / Go a mile a minute / Goat's call

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hi, all! Happy end-ish of September. Hope yours has been better than my super rainy one in DC! The way it somehow manages to be hot, humid, and raining all at the same time is something. I'm currently watching my Pittsburgh Steelers winning the game, so I'm happy — though I will say it is kind of hard doing a crossword while also trying to watch your team play. Maybe that's why I found this puzzle harder than normal...

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Pretty challenging

THEME: MAN SPREADS (30D: Crowds one's seatmates, in a way... or a hint to the circled letters) — "MAN" spreads from the top to the bottom of the puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • SUBWAY (2D: With 12-Down, places where a thoughtless person 30-Down)
  • TRAINS (12D: See 2-Down)
  • MOVE (36A: With 40-Across, comment to someone who 30-Down)
  • OVER (40A: See 36-Across)
Word of the Day: ROE DEER
The European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), also known as the western roe deer, chevreuil, or simply roe deer or roe, is a species of deer. The male of the species is sometimes referred to as a roebuck. The roe deer is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. The species is widespread in Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the Caucasus, and east to northern Iran and Iraq. (Wikipedia)
• • •
I didn't like this puzzle. I found it harder than normal, and I never had any sort of "aha" moment. I thought it was uninspiring fill mixed with weird answers that don't work, surrounded by a strange theme.

I had problems with several parts of the puzzle. Come on, ROEDEER (64A: Eurasian animals with antlers)? Who's ever heard of those before? And, crossing with ELBERT (49D: Mount __, highest peak in the Rockies) and LOA (60D: Hawaii's Mauna __) made it that much harder. LOA could have been any one of: kea, koa, lea, or loa. 38D could easily have been "vertices" instead of VERTEXES  (which isn't even a word). I kept trying to make "vertices" work. Also, HEP (57A: Cool, to a jive talker) is a very strange word. And I haven't even gotten to my biggest nit, which was MAXWELL ANDERSON (59A: Pulitzer-winning playwright for "Both Your Houses"). First, who is that? Second, that's such a big answer in the puzzle; how can that be a relatively obscure guy? I think the puzzle creator just did a Google search to find someone whose name starts with "M" and ends with "N," and is 15 letters long.


  • I kept trying to make nsfw work for 14A instead of NUDE (14A: Like photos that violate one of Instagram's community guidelines).
  • CALVIN (11D: Comics boy who says "Reality continues to ruin my life") and Hobbes is my absolute favorite comic. I so vividly remember having and reading those books as a kid; they were such a big part of my childhood.
  • I'm a Warriors, not Spurs, fan, but MANU (36D: Four-time N.B.A. champ Ginobili) Ginobili is one of my favorite players. I'm just sad he finally retired.
  • I'm lucky I knew how to spell AMY POEHLER (29D: "Parks and Recreation" star), but that definitely could have tripped me up.
  • I'm not sure I've eve used (or even heard) the word VAMOOSED (41D: Skedaddled) before, but I've decided it's fun.
That's it... Hope everyone has a great week!

Signed, Clare Carroll, a very tired law student

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Country below Hungary / MON 9-24-18 / Vegas hot spot / Alcohol that's transparent / Unattractive fruit

Monday, September 24, 2018

Constructor: Michael Black

Relative difficulty: Easy (2:44)

THEME: JEOPARDY (18-Across) and WHEEL / OF FORTUNE (34-Across) — each is a "Popular program shown back to back with" the other

Theme answers:
  • ALEX TREBEK (23A: Host of 18-Across)
  • VANNA WHITE (49A: Co-host of 34-/36-Across)
  • PAT SAJAK (54A: Co-host of 34-/36-Across)
Word of the Day: VIJAY Singh (49D: Golfer Singh who won the 2000 Masters) —
Vijay SinghCF (Hindi: विजय सिंह), IPA: [ˈʋɪdʒəj sɪ̃ɦ]; born 22 February 1963), nicknamed "The Big Fijian", is an Indo-Fijian professional golfer who was Number 1 in the Official World Golf Rankingfor 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005. Vijay was the 12th man to reach the world No. 1-ranking and was the only new world No. 1 in the 2000s decade. He has won three major championships (The Masters in 2000 and the PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004) and was the leading PGA Tour money winner in 2003, 2004 and 2008. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005 (but deferred his induction until 2006). He won the FedEx Cup in 2008.
An Indo-Fijian practicing Hinduism,Singh was born in LautokaFiji and grew up in Nadi. A resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, he is known for his meticulous preparation, often staying at the range hours before and after his tournament rounds, working on his game. (wikipedia)
• • •

What is this? I'm not blogging this. This is not a theme. There's nothing here. Seriously, this concept is so rudimentary, so boringly straighforward, I sincerely cannot believe the puzzle was accepted. The grid as a whole is OK, but this theme is astonishingly substandard. Nothing in the execution of the theme causes it to rise above the most boring TV Guide trivia quiz. Sub-TV Guide, in fact. Actually, I apologize to TV Guide, even though I'm not sure it still exists—their puzzles are unpleasant and trivia-heavy, but they expect you to know much tougher answers. Why does this puzzle exist? Is there an anniversary? Did the TV shows offer financial consideration for this? If so, can they get their money back, because this is bad. Objectively.

Five things:
  • 49D: Golfer Singh who won the 2000 Masters (VIJAY) — knew it instantly, but spelling ... I think I got the MTV VEEJAY (?) spelling in there, and then I went with VEJAY, which is like a typo'd VE DAY ... this was the one moment during the solve where I felt like the wheels were gonna come off. For no good reason
  • 1A: Just one year, for Venus and Serena Williams (AGE GAP) — nice clue/answer to open. SERENA WILLIAMS was a long answer in a puzzle I solve immediately prior to solving this one, so she was on my mind, as she often is.
  • 43D: Ditch for cutting timber (SAWPIT) — this is the one WTF answer in the grid? I have never seen this term, ever. Why are you cutting timber in a ditch? Nevermind, I don't really care. I just know that this is a pretty technical / obscure term for a Monday. Not that it slowed me down much.
  • 9D: Onetime Apple product (iBOOK)— discontinued 12 years ago ... coincidentally (?), this blog turns 12 tomorrow (9/25/18)
  • 35D: Does one's taxes online (E-FILES) — it's how all the E-SPIES do their taxes 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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MI6 R&D division in 007 novels / SUN 9-23-18 / Three of wheel of dharma buddhist concept / 1929 work that is theme of this puzzle / Place for works that are in works / Scores after deuces informally / German city with Pennsylvania namesake / Bit of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Challenging (laughably so—just hit "check squares" at the 15 minute mark because I didn't care anymore ... had four errors ... just the stupidest puzzle ... for reference, I haven't had a single error on a Sunday ... well, ever? ... I mean ...) 

THEME: "The Art of Puzzle-Making" — a puzzle about René MAGRITTE's "TREACHERY OF IMAGES," a famous SURREALIST painting of a pipe with TEXT underneath reading "CECI N'EST PAS UN PIPE" ("this is not a pipe"). In this puzzle, you are supposed connect a bunch of circled letters that spell out the French phrase from the painting and also form the shape of a pipe, so the TEXT makes a kind of PIPE LINE ... and ... oh yeah, also there's a quote from MAGRITTE about the painting, a highly non-famous quote: "IT'S JUST / A REPRESENTATION / IS IT NOT?" Oh, and there's a stray theme answer, LOS ANGELES ... where the painting (apparently!?) is "permanently housed"; ugh there's a note:

Word of the Day: OLIVET (16D: Michigan college or its town) —
Olivet is a city in Eaton County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,605 at the 2010 censusOlivet College is located in the city. (1,605!? This makes IOLA, KS look like a megalopolis) (wikipedia)
• • •

Not gonna write a ton about this one because I have almost nothing nice to say. It was just unpleasant all over the place. My god this puzzle tries too hard. Here's what you need: beautiful concept, elegant execution. What we have here is a nightmare of competing concepts trying to shout over each other and colliding with each other. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings. You can't have Every Single Theme Thing You Can Imagine. But this one ... no judiciousness. No elegance. Just stupid, stupid chaos. A germ of an idea that dies. An "bonus" thing that has none of the joy that "bonus" implies. Connect-the-dots. And then, leaving the theme aside, just clunky weird clues / answers everywhere. Art-based Sunday puzzle can now be imagined on a scale from THIS to Liz Gorski's Guggenheim puzzle. That is the scale. First, puzzle came with a "Note"—sorry, not reading that. Never do. Be good without a note or go home. Second, random circles. Oh, how I do not care. I didn't stop to see what shape they (sorta) made. Probably should've, but am not convinced it would've helped. Third, the actual revealer—what the? Here's the thing: I've seen this painting. It's used as an illustration in Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics," which I teach regularly. But the title, I totally forgot. Also, calling it a "work" means that I had no idea even what genre of thing we were dealing with. Even after I got TREACHERY OF IMAGES, I didn't know what painting it was. I thought it was the Dali one with the clocks. Which one was that? [googles] Ah, "The Persistence of Memory." Well no those don't Sound Alike At All @#$&#$#R@#RH@#DFQWE!!!

Oh, back to the list—Fourth! That quotation. That dumb, random, no one has heard it before piece of junk that you only used because, what, it fits symmetrically. It's a terrible quotation, IS IT NOT? Finally, you shove a gratuitous final themer in the bottom (TEXT) and cross it with some "petroleum giant" (!?!?!) that, again, I have never heard of in a quarter century+ of solving (OXY). OXY is a west coast college. OXY is a zit medication. OXY is a moron. What the hell is this stupid "petroleum" (again, ?!) OXY? Fifth, PIPE LINE might've made a nice revealer but because it's shoehorned into this atrocity of a puzzle that already has like a million other theme elements, it's just slop poured on top.

I had four errors. Now, I should've known that the clue was not plural so ART SALES couldn't be right (53D: Cultural gathering). But I went ART SALES and then AT BEST and so finished with QBR-SCH and B-NNHEIM. Two crossing proper nouns, one of which is fictional and completely and utterly never-before-heard-of by me. I knew the Q-answer had to be the wrong one, but it's not like the right version (Q BRANCH) is so all-fire obviously correct (95A: MI6 R&D division in 007 novels). OK, this is already way more than I wanted to write on this thing. How the *&$^ is the title "The Art of Puzzle-Making" appropriate for this thing? Honestly, this puzzle got Nothing right.

Five things:
  • 93D: Dangerous job (SPY) — what a useless clue for SPY. Had the "S" and wasn't sure if DRIER was that or DRYER ... and SPY was not helping resolve anything
  • 37D: How to get the permit, say (PAY A FEE) — lol no. So bad. "The" permit? ___ A ___? My god, it's like no one cares.
  • 22A: N.F.L.'s Kaepernick (COLIN) — who's what now? I mean ... is this seriously a clue? I mean, he literally, famously is not in the N.F.L. at the moment. How bad at cluing do you have to be ...? Here's the full text of an email I just got from someone who used to be an editor at a major publication—subject line: "Will Shortz should be fired": 
"Saturday's Charlie Rose outrage is followed by Sunday's clue for "Colin": "NFL's Kaepernick." That is clueless to the point of negligence. How can you reference CK without mentioning the newsy Nike ad, or the whole kneeling thing? Plus there's the pertinent fact that CP is NOT currently  in the NFL because of NFL/USA racism. Of all the sloppy nyt  cword editing, which you chronicle so well, this pisses me off the most. The editors are either not even looking at the puzzles they print, or just don't give a shit. It's lazy and insulting to those who do."
  • 52A: Dogie catcher (REATA) — I had RIATA, which gave me DIMOED for 47D: Showed, informally (DEMOED), which I *thought* was my error. But no.
  • 48A: Time for pampering oneself (ME DAY) — a. not a thing, b. I have to go pamper myself now. This puzzle was self-harm.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS apparently this painting was the theme of a Diagramless puzzle in the NYT not too long ago

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Counterpart of iamb / SAT 9-22-18 / Program that analyzes structure of input / Dance in which you bring your knees in tight / O'Hara Martian's host on old TVs my favorite martian / Jon who wrote illustrated smart feller fart smeller

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Relative difficulty: Medium (7:18)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: IOLA, Ks. (?) (6D: City SW of Kansas City) —
Iola (pronounced /ˈlə/) is a city situated along the Neosho River in the northwestern part of Allen County, located in Southeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 5,704. Iola is the county seat of Allen County. It is named in honor of Iola Colborn. (Emphasis Mine) (What The Hell?) (wikipedia)
• • •

[Plaque in front of my daughter's high school]
Well, let's deal with the elephant in the middle of the puzzle first, I guess. Considering the NYT solving base, I don't think that guy should be in any crossword puzzle. I have no idea when this puzzle was constructed—poor NYT constructors sometimes wait many years before seeing their work in print. But that doesn't really matter. The editor has to make decisions about what to run and when to run it, and it's semi-unfathomable that you run This puzzle with This answer in it This week, when a nominee to the Supreme Court stands credibly accused of sexual assault and the accuser is being badgered, harassed, maligned, demeaned and undermined by cretins in both the legitimate and illegitimate press, and in the Senate, where the hearings are being conducted by the party whose leader is himself a 17-time sexual assailant. To say this is bad timing would be a significant understatement. And then you had to throw Les Moonves's wife into the bargain!? There are other CHENs, man. Why run this puzzle? I mean, you know—know!—that you're gonna hear about that center answer. The social media chatter has already begun, and the puzzle hasn't even been out an hour.

The Constructor Himself Acknowledges The Problem:

Decision to go ahead with this puzzle in this climate is at least a little baffling.

But #MeToo issues aside, I found this one delightful in some parts, painful in others. There were just too many obscure (to me) short names (esp. in the Downs, both up top and below). Running IOLA ZOEY and RENI on me so close together like that, yeesh. And then I have no idea who this non-James AGEE is (though I think I've seen him in crosswords before, maybe). TERI and PEEDEE I know only because of crosswords. And I'm not even sure what the clue on TIM is asking for (53D: ___ O'Hara, Martian's host on old TV's "My Favorite Martian"). What does "Martian's host" mean? Like, the Martian lives in his house? I mean, of alllllllll the possible TIM clues in the world, dear lord. So yeah, the names today were a little rough, as was PARSER (?!) and ECT. Longer Acrosses, however (central answer notwithstanding), were generally entertaining. Really enjoyed remembering "THE TIME WARP" and can't believe it took me so long to parse "THE TWILIGHT ZONE" (52A: TV series whose first episode was titled "Where Is Everybody?")—I stupidly had VIN for ZIN (54D: Wine shop offering, informally) and then ENNA for ETTA (50D: Italian diminutive suffix), so parsing those long Acrosses in the south was tough.

Five things:
  • 28A: Garment originally fashionable in the late 1950s (SACK DRESS) — really? Had DRESS and then was like "er.... uh ..."
  • 26A: Shot contents (SERUM) — had the SE- and, well, let's just say nothing came to mind that was right or good
  • 40D: Least in question (SUREST) — tried SAFEST, but, for the first time ever, KIR helped me out (51A: Wine aperitif)
  • 35D: Counterpart of an iamb (TROCHEE) — finally, Finally, my day job pays off. A TROCHEE is just an inverted iamb: a poetic foot that goes STRESSED-unstressed. Pasta. Demon. Parlor. Baby. All one-word TROCHEEs. John Donne uses them strategically at the opening of OK I'll stop.
  • 32A: Childhood home of Grant Wood and Elijah Wood (CEDAR RAPIDS) — had the RAPIDS and went with .... GRAND! Luckily the crosses made no kind of sense with GRAND, and I arrived in CEDAR RAPIDS without too much delay.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. happy 18th birthday to my wonderful daughter, who doesn't read my blog, god bless her

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