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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Constructor: John Westwig

Relative difficulty: Medium, tending towards Hard


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

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

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



Signed, Dan Felsenheld, Viceroy of CrossWorld

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Constructor: David J. Kahn

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



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

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

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


Or there's this


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


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


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

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


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

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

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



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

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


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


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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

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


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Constructor: Alex Eylar

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


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

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

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


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

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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Easy (8:24)



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

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

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


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

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

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


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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg and Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

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


THEME: none

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


• • •

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


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


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

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Lily Potter's maiden name / THU 6-6-18 / Alternative to guillotine / Places where some house pets go / Father of Deimos Phobos / Bad role model for Oliver Twist / When doubled dance of 2010s / 1990s commerce pact / High point of To Kill a Mockingbird

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Constructor: Sophia Maymudes

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:58)


THEME: KITTY CORNER (44A: Diagonally ... or a hint to four of this puzzle's squares) — "CAT" rebus, where "CAT" appears in each of the four corner boxes; there's this other theme answer, too: 34A: Places where some house pets "go," in both this puzzle and real life (LITTER BOXES) ... the implications of *that* answer ... well, let's just discuss it below ...

Theme answers:
  • CATTLE / CATALOG (NW)
  • FAT CAT / CATCHY (NE)
  • SNO-CAT / CATERS (SW)
  • MUSCAT / COPYCAT (SE)
Word of the Day: Frank CAPRA (5A: Three-time Best Director of the 1930s) —
Frank Russell Capra (born Francesco Rosario Capra; May 18, 1897 – September 3, 1991) was an Italian American film director, producer and writer who became the creative force behind some of the major award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Italy and raised in Los Angeles from the age of five, his rags-to-riches story has led film historians such as Ian Freer to consider him the "American Dream personified."
Capra became one of America's most influential directors during the 1930s, winning three Academy Awards for Best Director from six nominations, along with three other Oscar wins from nine nominations in other categories. Among his leading films were It Happened One Night(1934), You Can't Take It with You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Capra was nominated as Best Director and as producer for Academy Award for Best Picture on all three films, winning both awards on the first two. During World War II, Capra served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and produced propaganda films, such as the Why We Fight series.
After World War II, Capra's career declined as his later films, such as It's a Wonderful Life(1946), performed poorly when they were first released. In ensuing decades, however, It's a Wonderful Life and other Capra films were revisited favorably by critics. Outside of directing, Capra was active in the film industry, engaging in various political and social issues. He served as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, worked alongside the Writers Guild of America, and was head of the Directors Guild of America. (wikipedia)
• • •

So... yeah, where to start? KITTY CORNER is a good revealer. LITTER BOXES ... is less ... good. It's ... what is it? A "litter" of cats? Those are called "kittens." If those are LITTER BOXES then either the cats all pooped in their corners, or the other meaning of "litter" must be what's being playfully suggested by the clue. But ... again, "litters" contain kittens, not cats. Also, the whole little cutesy play on "go" made me throw up in my mouth a little. If you could keep cat defecation gags (!) out of the revealer, that would be Great, thanks. As for the rebus itself: it was way way way too easy to get. Too basic. It's weird—the concept / KITTY CORNER revealer works, but it's so rudimentary that there's not a lot of challenge or fun. People are setting personal records left and right today because the whole concept here is about as close to a gimme as you're gonna get with a rebus puzzle. I finished quickly, but I'm kind of startled I didn't finish much more quickly. Once you realize that CATs are going to go in *every* corner, then you can just put them there and work your way back out of those corners—huge leg up, given that corners are often hard to get into. If you've got three letters deep in each corner ... well, that's just too much to hand the solver. I mean, people will be thrilled to shred a Thursday, probably, but there's not as much challenge here as the average Thursday solver is probably expecting, or looking forward to.


The trouble for me was that I filled the grid very ILLY right around ILLY. ILLY / LAID / DYE was a very, very rough patch. DYE was the real culprit, as I wanted about a thousand other three-letter things, including RYE, before I finally gave into DYE. Super strange to call DYE just an "Ingredient." Also, "many a breakfast cereal" is not nearly specific enough. None of the breakfast cereals that have ever been in my house have had DYEs (that I know of). [Ingredient in Trix], sure. But there you'd want DYES, plural. Maybe just avoid the breakfast cereal aisle entirely for this clue. Did you know other things are DYEd? It's true.


I also had trouble with the adjacent SW corner, as TAKEN OVER was somehow tough even with TAKE in there (36D: No longer independent), and then SHOVEL was bizarrely / awkwardly clued (57A: Eat quickly, with "in"), and EVANS, despite my having read all the HP books (some of theme twice), was just impossible for me (50D: Lily Potter's maiden name in the Harry Potter books). How prominent is her maiden name in the books? Do they make a big deal about it? When? No, don't tell me—I don't actually care. It's just a weird bit of minutiae to pull from a 7-novel universe. Nothing much else to talk about in this puzzle. Oh, I don't buy that a BEACH TOWEL is an "accessory" (30D: Sunbather's accessory). It's not a bracelet or a belt. It's not primarily about fashion. It's functional. Boo.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

P.S.


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You can't bring in crazed antelope Mr Glass / WED 12-5-18 / Organization honored on October 24 / Suffering caused by reader prejudice / Beekeeper of filmdom

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: I don't know, I just sort of gave up ... probably on the Challenging side because of the gibberish


THEME: UNITED NATIONS (35A: Organization honored on October 24 ... and the theme of this puzzle) — "nations" all shoved together ("united"), and then reimagined as a wacky phrase:

Theme answers:
  • "IRA, NO MANIC ELAND!" (17A: "You can't bring in a crazed antelope, Mr. Glass!")
  • CUB ALE BAN ON (23A: Wrigley Field's beer boycott goes into effect?)
  • MA LIES TO NIA (50A: Mother isn't straight with actress Vardalos?)
  • PERUSER BIAS PAIN (57A: Suffering caused by reader prejudice?)
Word of the Day: ALAN KING (37D: Comic who said "If you want to read about love and marriage, you've got to buy two separate books") —
Alan King (born Irwin Alan Kniberg; December 26, 1927 – May 9, 2004) was an American actor and comedian known for his biting wit and often angry humorous rants. King became well known as a Jewish comedian and satirist. He was also a serious actor who appeared in a number of movies and television shows. King wrote several books, produced films, and appeared in plays. In later years, he helped many philanthropic causes. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't think I'll write much about this one. There are so many obvious problems that it just seems cruel. But a few words before I go. First, when you're dealing with a holiday, or a commemorative day of any kind, it's best to run the puzzle on that day. Barring that, then *near* that day. This is especially true of a day no one knows or cares about. I'm now realizing the whole irksome thing of running an October 24 puzzle on December 5 could've been avoided simply by choosing One Of Probably Infinite Other UNITED NATIONS Clues Available To You. Or, you know, by running this puzzle on the actual date of October 24 ... which was ... Also A Wednesday (!) OMF#@$#$@. Wow. OK. Then there's the theme itself, which is so gibberishy and involved so much repronunciation that it felt more like torture than pleasure. I finished with a typo at ISM (I had IST ... you can guess how thrilled I was to make a typo on that delightful bit of fill) (5D: Suffix with ideal), because my brain was parsing it as "IRA, NOT A NICE ELAND!", which admittedly seems ridiculous, but really ... I mean look at this puzzle. Who is it to tell me what's "ridiculous"? Anyway, figuring out those themers was a chore—one made infinitely more tedious by the dodgy fill that runs through the veins of this entire thing. All I have to do is direct you to column 6 (the ISM column). Just read down. ISM ULEE ESME. There should be some alarm that goes off on your puzzle any time you get a crosswordese bingo in your grid like that. Red lights. Sirens. Sirens that scream "ISM-ULEE-ESME! ISM-ULEE-ESME!" The works.


Someone I know got so annoyed at this grid that they made a whole new one:


This is the extremes to which some solvers will go to find amusement when the crossword lets them down so badly. I like the new grid. Its main problem is that it still contains all the dumb theme stuff. Thank god for crossword Twitter and the #NYTXW hashtag—they are a solace on days like this. Pain is easier to bear when it's shared:





(note: @AVCXWord is the American Values Crossword and @bewildering_ly is the Twitter handle of Will Nediger, whose (free) indie puzzle site is here. OK, back to the tweets...)




OK, then, bye.

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

PS what the hell is up with the clue on STARVE??? (45D: Eschew rather than chew?) Presumably if you're "starving" you just don't have *&^#ing food; you're not "eschewing" anything. This is a clue from someone who has plenty of food and never thinks about, I don't know, the 85K children (to date) who have starved to death in Yemen. "Eschewed"!? And all for a stupid pun?! Amazing. You could've saved this clue for FAST, where it would've been, you know, appropriate.

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Nightclub singer who was given nickname Buddha by Frank Sinatra / TUE 12-4-18 / Brooke Shields sitcom set at trendy magazine

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Easy for all of you, Medium for me 


THEME: S- S- — two-word phrases where both words start with "S" and the second letter of each word moves from "A" (in the first themer) through all the vowels to "Y" (in the last themer):

Theme answers:
  • SAMPLE SALE (17A: Clothing store event to get rid of excess merchandise)
  • SECRET SERVICE (22A: Government agency charged with protecting the first family)
  • SIMPLE SIMON (28A: Nursery rhyme character who met a pieman)
  • SOMEDAY SOON (40A: In the near future)
  • "SUDDENLY SUSAN" (47A: Brooke Shields sitcom set at a trendy magazine)
  • SYLVIA SYMS (57A: Nightclub singer who was given the nickname "Buddha" by Frank Sinatra)
Word of the Day: SYLVIA SYMS (57A) —
Sylvia Syms (December 2, 1917 – May 10, 1992) was an American jazz singer and actress.
She was born Sylvia Blagman in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, she had polio. As a teenager, she went to jazz nightclubs on New York's 52nd Street and received informal training from Billie Holiday. She made her debut in 1941 at Kelly's Stable.
In 1948, performing at the Cinderella Club in Greenwich Village, she was seen by Mae West, who gave her a part in a show she was doing. Among others who observed her in nightclubs was Frank Sinatra who considered her the "world's greatest saloon singer." Sinatra conducted her 1982 album, Syms by Sinatra.
She was signed to a contract by Decca Records, having her major success with a recording of "I Could Have Danced All Night" in 1956, which sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.[2] Syms made regular appearances at the Carlyle in Manhattan. At times, impromptu, while enjoying a cocktail in the bar of the Carlyle, she would walk on stage and perform with the cabaret's other regular, Bobby Short. (wikipedia)
• • •

I could tell this was mostly Really easy as I was doing it, but I made initial errors in two different places, and then just didn't know who SYLVIA SYMS was, so my solving time was quite normal. If I hadn't face-planted twice with dumb bad first guesses, I might be singing a different tune, but with B- at 25D: Nincompoop I went with BOOB and then that first "O" turned out to be right so I was like "woo hoo!" but then [Old Russian autocrat] had me thinking TSAR, which didn't work, so ... I went back to the "B" [Nincompoop] word and changed BOOB to BORE ... BOAR ... nope, it's spelled BOOR, and it's wrong anyway. Great. Cleaned up that mess, but lost many valuable seconds. Then fell into a worse mess at 37D: Blushed or flushed. Had RED-, wrote in -FACED. That pretty much killed any chance I had at a faster-than-normal time. I could survive having to hack my way through SYLVIA SYMS (who I think I've at least heard of), but misguessing twice, that was fatal. Hyperbolically speaking.


The theme ... was a theme. Here it is. Theming all over the place. I don't know. Seems like a placeholder. It works, but it doesn't exactly produce exciting results, and doesn't have any particularly entertaining elements. Theme is consistent, grid is clean, but it's pretty dull overall. Even the fill is a little subpar, now that I look it over. Not terrible by any means, but pretty heavily reliant on repeaters like APOP ATARI ORES PPS ERLE ASSN LTYRS NOELS SSE UHURA ENERO etc. The only truly remarkable thing about this puzzle is the clue on NRA (2D: Org. opposed by Everytown for Gun Safety). I still think constructors should delete NRA from their wordlists completely, but if you're gonna use it, yes, clue it as the ****ing villain. Because it is. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS oh yeah I also floundered a bit trying to understand 64A: Hot Chocolate or Vanilla Fudge (BAND). These were, in fact, BANDs. They were popular 40 and 50 years ago, respectively. Older than "SUDDENLY SUSAN," not as old as Eva PERON. You are forgiven for not knowing them.

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