Sweet Rosie of old song / THU 5-23-19 / Game with maximum score of 3,333,360 / Host Allen of TV's Chopped / Gulager of old TV and film / Fictional schnauzer / Animal feared by Winston in 1984

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:35)

THEME: Belaboring the point — actually FOURTEEN POINTS (59A: With 61-Across, what President Wilson proposed for a lasting peace ... or what's missing from the starred clues): well there are literally fourteen answers here for which you have to mentally supply "point" as the second word in order for them to make sense:

Theme answers:
  1. PIN
  3. PLOT
  6. BALL
  7. STAND
  8. EXTRA
  9. POWER
  10. GRADE
  12. DATA 
  13. WEST
  14. SET
Word of the Day: Sarah ORNE Jewett (40D: Author Sarah ___ Jewett) —
Sarah Orne Jewett (September 3, 1849 – June 24, 1909) was an American novelistshort storywriter and poet, best known for her local color works set along or near the southern seacoast of Maine. Jewett is recognized as an important practitioner of American literary regionalism.

• • •

This was easy and the theme was incredibly dense, so people will be aglow from personal success and perhaps impressed by the technical achievement. These are wrong and bad feelings and you should throw them out the window because this puzzle was tedious and "theme density" is not not not, in and of itself, a good quality. It is often, as it was today, a punishing quality, as it compromises the quality of the overall fill and, if the theme is relentlessly the Same, just pummels you with its repetitiveness over and over and over. I will say that, given the theme density, the fill could've been much worse. But there I go, making excuses for CLU and ORNE etc. I should not have to do that. You wanna go dense, that grid better hold. Full stop. End of sentence. There are a few nice answers here, like CHEAT DAY (a phrase I despise, personally, but an original phrase nonetheless) and GUT PUNCH, but overall the grid is (again) choppy and the short stuff is (again) stultifying. Once I got the "point" I just went on a "point" scavenger hunt, which, let me tell you, is the saddest scavenger hunt that ever was. Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point. Uncle! A lot of something is not a good something.

I knew ORNE and CLU and ASTA (sorry for those of you not well versed in the pantheon of crosswordese) but O'GRADY, hoo boy, what? I do not have a clue who this [Sweet Rosie of old song] is. I'm guessing we're talking very, very old song. Wow, yeah, looks like late 19th century. There are barbershop quartet versions. Here's a Bing version.

Gail O'GRADY was great on "NYPD Blue" and is still working. Just FYI. I have no idea what the clue on SWAGS means. Swag curtains? And they're called SWAGS? This "word" has appeared just once in The Entire Time I've Been Blogging (i.e. since Sep. '06). In 2010 it was clued as [Festoons], so clearly even in Crossworld there's no agreement about what the hell this thing means, so let's banish it to wherever it came from for another nine years at least. I thought the GORES might be the DOLES, which share 3/5 of the GORES' letters, so that was odd. I had the "C" and put [Homer's home] down as ITHACA, for reasons (not good ones, but sorta kinda understandable ones). Seth ROGEN appears a number of times in the new Wu Tang Clan documentary on Showtime, which I'm very much enjoying. (WUTANGCLAN has appeared once in the NYTXW, WU-TANG no times; since they are frequently colloquially referred to as just WU-TANG, please add WU-TANG to your word lists and unleash it at will, thanks).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. ASTA was definitely a schnauzer in the book, please stop sending me your misguided outrage, thanks

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Surfboard kayak hybrid / WED 5-22-19 / Religion with apostrophe in its name / Redhead on kids tv / Pioneering computer operating system / Ancient land conquered by Caesar

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:32)

THEME: "one for the money etc." — I guess this is a counting rhyme? I know it only as the opening to "Blue Suede Shoes"; anyway, the theme clues are "One for the money" "Two for the show" "Three to get ready" and "Four to go" (not "Go cat go," sadly):

Theme answers:
  • LEATHER WALLET (19A: One for the money)
  • BROADWAY TICKETS (24A: Two for the show)
  • STOP DROP AND ROLL (43A: Three to get ready)
  • ALL-WHEEL DRIVE (50: Four to go)
Word of the Day: WAVESKI (9D: Surfboard/kayak hybrid) —
  1. Short water craft seating one rider, propelled by a two-ended paddle, designed for surfing waves. (yourdictionary.com) (I wanted to use wikipedia, but the entry was "written like an advertisement")
• • •

This is an "F" right out of the gate. Well, not right out ... but once you get to that third themer, yeah, fail. How did STOP DROP AND ROLL get by the constructor himself, the editor, proofreaders, etc. Already a bunch of solvers are remarking publicly on how it doesn't work. We saw it instantly—how do the people making these things not see it? The *&$^ing complacency of this old boys' network, I swear to *&$^! Hey, fellas, you have confused STOP DROP AND ROLL (which you do after you are already on fire) with DUCK AND COVER, which is what you do "to get ready" for, let's say, a nuclear attack.

So the theme is DOA. There's not much reason to go on about it, but I will say it's not that interesting to begin with, in that it puts all the theme "interest" in the clue, and the answers just end up being pretty tortured examples. The LEATHER in LEATHER WALLET is a million percent arbitrary. And then the grid today, again, is just chop chop choppy, with lots of unfortunate short stuff, and almost nothing of note in the longer answers. The one answer that actually *tries* to be of note is WAVESKI, which is ... I don't know. Not interesting to me at all. Not even known to me. If you want to be original, why not do it ... in some more satisfying way. "Oh, some arcane 'sport' ... how fun!" Bleh.

IN IT, CAB IT, RAP AT, OCTANT ... where is the good here? The NYT's themed puzzles really, really should not be this miserably mediocre. LAI BAHAI KAUAI goodbye.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Primary outflow of Lake Geneva / TUE 5-21-19 / Automaker with supercharger stations

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:52)

THEME: CHANGES THE WORLD (35A: Has a huge impact ... or a hint to this puzzle's circled letters) — two-word phrases contain letter strings (circled squares) that are anagrams of planets, which I guess we're calling "worlds" now. Anyway, "CHANGES" = anagram, "THE WORLD" = one of the planets:

Theme answers:
  • "IGNORE THAT!" (Earth) (17A: "Oh, it's nothing to concern yourself with")
  • LEAVES UNSAID (Venus) (23A: Omits mention of)
  • ARMY RECRUITS (Mercury) (47A: Ones with private ambitions?)
  • BONUS TRACK ((Saturn) 57A: Extra song on an album) 
Word of the Day: GRIEG (14A: "Peer Gynt" composer) —
Edvard Hagerup Grieg (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈɛdvɑɖ ˈhɑːɡərʉp ˈɡrɪɡː]; 15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions brought the music of Norway to international consciousness, as well as helping to develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius and Bedřich Smetana did in Finland and Bohemia, respectively.
Grieg is the most celebrated person from the city of Bergen, with numerous statues depicting his image, and many cultural entities named after him: the city's largest concert building (Grieg Hall), its most advanced music school (Grieg Academy) and its professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor). The Edvard Grieg Museum at Grieg's former home, Troldhaugen, is dedicated to his legacy. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was an unpleasant solve. There was simply no joy anywhere. The theme answers were blah, the theme was a let-down ("WORLD" as a synonym for "planet" = disappointing / off). And the fill, yeesh. A 78-worder where 65 (!?) of the answers are five letters long Or Shorter!?!?! That's 65 of 73 non-themers! So choppy, so relentlessly crosswordy. And with no real interest in the actual themers, or even in the few "longer" non-theme answers, this one was just a slog. People seem to be finding it easy (perhaps *because* of all the short stuff), but it was a grind for me. Choppy grids really slow me down, and I wasn't only this puzzle's wavelength At All with regard to Anything. From 3D: Let secrets out (SING), and over and over again, I just couldn't lock on to the cluer's sense of cluing. Had ANTS for MICE (26D: Little scurriers), couldn't get DYE at all (41A: Red 40 or Yellow 6), and so I couldn't get SYNC at all either until I got that terminal "C" (37D: Match up). Struggled to make sense of most of the themers. Really wanted CHANGES THE GAME for the revealer but it wouldn't fit. Had to make up the phrase "IGNORE THAT!", which seems about as strong as "IGNORE THIS!" (i.e. not strong). LEAVES UNSAID is not exactly sparkling. The whole SW was a nightmare for me because I had no idea what kind of RECRUITS these were, and my first pass at the answers in that section yielded almost nothing. It's trying to be repeatedly colloquial, in a very tiny area, which made things dicey. "WHO ME?" crossing "AW, MAN" crossing a "?"-clued GYM RAT? I mean, we're not talking Saturday-level difficulty here, but for a Tuesday, I was very very slow through here. In the end, it's a weakish theme with an incredibly tepid grid. I felt run down by the EEK ATIT URSA UAE IDA ERIE onslaught—no one answer particularly terrible, but en masse, ouch.

Not sure why GYM RAT even had a "?" clue, given that its clue was pretty literal (43D: One doing heavy lifting, informally?). I get that "doing heavy lifting" is a metaphorical phrase that is being used literally here, but ... literal is literal is literal. "?" clues should really yank you off of the expected path. This one did not. TDPASS was hard for me to parse, but it's clear I didn't really read the clue while solving (10D: Six-point accomplishment for a QB). I just kept expecting those letters to arrange themselves into something familiar, but because they looked insane (starts "T" ends "-ASS"??), I had to keep filling in crosses. The answer that most irked me though, both because it cost me time and because the clue was just wrong (actually, it cost me time because the clue was wrong), was MALL (53D: Development that might compete with a downtown). Have you been to a town with a MALL lately?? Hoo boy, no. All over the country, MALLs are falling apart, losing anchor stores as people increasingly shop online, etc. Our MALL is quickly turning into an abandoned building. Next stop: actual ruin. Actually, they're trying to figure out what its future is, because it will not continue on as a MALL, that's for sure. This clue was very true for 1989, but in 2019, nonononono. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Massage intensely / MON 5-20-19 / Girl Scout cookie with geographical name / Much visited site in Jerusalem

Monday, May 20, 2019

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "HIT IT!" (39A: "Start the music!" ... or what one could do to the finish of the answer to each starred clue) — last words in themers can complete the phrase "hit the ___"

Theme answers:
  • DEBT CEILING (17A: *Government's credit limit)
  • HACKY SACK (28A: *Beanbag juggled with the feet)
  • CHECK MARK (46A: *Symbol for "O.K.")
  • WESTERN WALL (61A: *Much-visited site in Jerusalem)
  • CLAM SAUCE (11D: *Seafood topping that may be red or white)
  • LOWER DECK (34D: *Part of a ship just above the hold)
Word of the Day: ROLF (32A: Massage intensely)
  1. treat (a person) using Rolfing, a proprietary term for a massage technique aimed at the release and realignment of the body.

    "I had the negative emotions Rolfed out of me" (LOL) (google)
• • •

Too old-fashioned and too rough, fill-wise, for my tastes. It's a pretty mundane "last words"-type puzzle, with many many many other possible last words that weren't used (I always find it really distracting when very colorful possibilities are left out of a theme like this: ROAD BRICKS HAY LIGHTS BOOKS CLUB DANCEFLOOR GROUND ICE JACKPOT etc. LOWER DECK is also pretty weak, as DECK-ending answers go. UPPER DECK is actually Much Much Better (it has baseball cred). This is one of those themes that confuses being dense with being good. The choice to include so many themers undoubtedly has something to do with the mediocre-to-poor overall quality of the fill. That NENE / INURN (!?!?!) / TRI area down below is quite hard to look at, as is TEC over EEK crossing OGEE, as is the whole western section. OTOE / OTOH looks like the stuff of parody, and ROTC / ROLF isn't helping matters. TAR crossing TARTARE is absurd (I'd've preferred CAR there, and CHEM in the cross,\—one of the few times you're going to find me advocating for the abbr.). I like the image of DEBS smoking E-CIGS, but on their own, as fill, I'm not as big a fan. I tore through this, but it was a largely TEPID and EMPTY experience.

Five things:
  • 10D: Motorized two-wheelers (SEGWAYS) — lost time trying to spell this SEGUES (like the actual word). I can't believe self-respecting people actually ... drive? ride? ... these.
  • 65A: Bury, as ashes (INURN) — this answer bothers me on so many levels. It's an ugly, rare word, so I just don't like it, but also shouldn't it refer to the act of putting the ashes *in* the urn, and not the act of putting the urn *in* the ground? Bah!
  • 20A: Like many infield grounders (ONE-HOP) — "ONE-HOP grounder" is actually not that common a phrase on the internets (~3,000 hits). "ONE-HOP groundball" is even rarer. It's totally intelligible, but you're gonna call that a "one-hopper" most of the time (~17x more often, if my ["one-hopper" baseball] search is at all meaningful). Or you'll say the infielder fielded it *on* ONE HOP. I don't really think ONE HOP stand well on its own, is the upshot of this comment. It's a minor nit, I know, but I'm tired of the puzzle mucking up or otherwise only half-nailing clues and answers from baseball, a game I love.
  • 55A: Like a gift from above (GOD-SENT) — another clunker for me. "Heaven-sent" makes sense to me. A "god senD" is certainly something I've heard of. But I've never heard anything described as GOD-SENT. Remember: "Dictionarily defensible" and "good" are not the same thing.
  • 18D: Org. concerned with ecosystems (EPA— can we stop pretending the EPA cares about anything any more besides abetting polluters and destroying as many species as possible?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Member of South Asian diaspora / SUN 5-19-19 / Miser's daughter in Moliere's The Miser / Male buddy in slang / Steinbeck novel featuring madam Dora Flood / 1984 Steve Perry hit

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Constructor: Natan Last

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:25)

THEME: "Hook-Ups" — themers are all Downs containing a letter string that is also a fish; this fish name has been "hooked" and pulled "up" to the top of the answer

Theme answers:
  • TROUT WORKOU / INE (workout routine) (1D: Gym rat's development)
  • COD MOLLY / DLE (mollycoddle) (4D: Act overprotectively toward)
  • BASS LA / ISTANT (lab assistant) (12D: Role for a biology grad student, perhaps)
  • CARP MAGIC / ET RIDE (magic carpet ride) (26D: The "Aladdin" song "A Whole New World" takes place on one)
  • TUNA CAUGH / WARES (caught unawares) (48D: Surprised)
  • PERCH SU / ARGED (supercharged) (56D: Gave extra juice)
  • PIKE S / D PUNCH (spiked punch) (63D: What might get you a "ladle" drunk?)
Word of the Day: MOIRA (43A: Fate, in Greek myth) —
The name Moira is a given name of Greek origin, deriving from μοῖρα, meaning "destiny, share, fate". In Greek mythology, the Moirai (Greek: Μοῖραι, plural for μοῖρα), often known in English as the Fates, were the white-robed incarnations of destiny. (wikipedia)
• • •

Normally I hate Sundays and normally I am opposed to answers that come out as nonsense in the grid, but today is Sunday and the resulting theme answers are nonsense and yet I really, TRULY liked this puzzle. I had to hack at the grid quite a bit to get TROUTWORKOUINE (!?!?) to fall into place, and my first reaction was "Ugh, what?" but as the solve went on, I found myself kinda looking forward to the next themer, seeing if I could infer the fish up front and then mentally plug it into a phrase that might make sense as the overall answer. It was fun. That was enough. Actually, the relatively smooth quality of the fill helped as well. Really lit up at STEAMPUNK and STORM SURGE, and though the grid was pretty choppy, and there's def some chunks of crosswordese in here, once I got my theme footing, I really sank into this one and enjoyed it.

Sailing was not smooth for me at first, though. Severe flailing all over the NW corner, as the first themer made no sense to me (yet) and I got increasingly furious that I couldn't drop the damn Steve Perry song in instantly. How could there be a 1984 (my sweet spot!) Steve Perry "hit" that I did not know well enough to just plunk in. Steve Perry is the former lead singer of Journey, just FYI, and I've never been more pop-music alert than I was in 1984, probably. But my brain was like "OH, SHERRIE?" and when I said "no" my brain was like "FAITHFULLY?" and I was like "That's Journey! You're useless, brain!" Honestly, I could hum precisely no bars of "SHE'S MINE" right now if I had to. I'm going to look it up, and I am 97% certain it will be very familiar to me when I hear it, but on its own, the title "SHE'S MINE" is meaningless to me. "The Girl Is Mine" (McCartney/Jackson) is familiar to me. "The Boy Is Mine" (Brandy/Monica) is familiar to me. "She's Gone" (Hall/Oates), familiar to me. But "SHE'S MINE," no, nope, and nah. OK, here goes, Look-up, commencing ...

The charts are so weird, man. Like, this only went to #21, and though I've definitely heard it, I probably haven't heard it (or thought about it, clearly) since 1984. But then something like "Foolish Heart" (another Steve Perry "hit" off this same album, "Street Talk"), which only went to #18, is very very familiar to me. Why? Three positions on the chart shouldn't make That much of a difference, but it's night/day with these two songs. "Oh, Sherrie" (the uber hit off this album) went to #3 and was a radio / MTV juggernaut. Thank you for coming to my Steve Talk (suck it, Ted Talks!).

Hardest part of puzzle for me was DESI over MOIRA (!?!!??!!), especially since CLUB worked very well for 40D: Clobber (DRUB). I have heard of DESI (40A: Member of a South Asian diaspora). I have never ever heard of MOIRA in this context (43A: Fate, in Greek myth). That is, I've never heard of MOIRA except as a woman's name. So much for my "education." Also ugh to [Bygone Apple laptop] let's never speak of IBOOK again. I wrote in EBOOK in defiance (actually, just instinctively, as EBOOK is a real, if not exciting, thing). Not that thrilled with MOOK, either, as it feels borderline ethnic slur, even if it only rhymes with ethnic slur. [1930s uncertain origin] says the google dictionary. So it's fine. Just skeezes me out a little. I knew ARGOSY because it was a popular pulp magazine in the early 20th century. I always want SIOUAN to have an "X" in it. No idea who this ELISE is (61A: The miser's daughter in Molière's "The Miser")—and I'm damn sure I've read "The Miser" (in French, in fact, where it's "L'Avare"). But that was bloody yesterday (i.e. 33 years ago), so no hope. Felt like I plodded through much of this puzzle, but my time was quite normal, and, as I say, the time I had was delightful.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Stadium divertissement / SAT 5-18-19 / Classic opera set in Cyprus / Conflict that saw sieges of Ladysmith Kimberley / Like lion slain in Herclues' first labor

    Saturday, May 18, 2019

    Constructor: Andy Kravis and Erik Agard

    Relative difficulty: Easy (5:04)

    THEME: none (I hope ... I don't think I missed anything ...)

    Word of the Day: Richard ADLER (4D: Richard who composed the music for "Damn Yankees" and "The Pajama Game") —
    After establishing their partnership, Adler and Ross quickly became protégés of composer, lyricist and publisher Frank Loesser. Their first notable composition was the song "Rags to Riches",[5] which was recorded by Tony Bennett and reached number 1 on the charts in late 1953.
    Richard Adler (August 3, 1921 – June 21, 2012) was an American lyricist, writer, composer and producer of several Broadway shows.
    At the same time Bennett's recording was topping the charts, Adler and Ross began their career in Broadway theater with John Murray Anderson's Almanac, a revue for which they provided most of the songs.
    Adler and Ross's second Broadway effort, The Pajama Game, opened in May 1954 and was a popular as well as a critical success, winning Tony Awards as well as the Donaldson Award and the Variety Drama Critics Award. Three songs from the show were covered by popular artists and made the upper reaches of the US Hit Parade:  Patti Page's version of "Steam Heat" reached #9; Archie Bleyer took "Hernando's Hideaway" to #2; and Rosemary Clooney's recording of "Hey There" made it to #1.
    Opening almost exactly a year later, their next vehicle, Damn Yankees replicated the awards and success of the earlier show. Cross-over hits from the show were "Heart", recorded by Eddie Fisher and "Whatever Lola Wants", by Sarah Vaughan.
    The duo had authored the music and lyrics for three great Broadway successes in three years, and had seen over a half-dozen of their songs reach the US top ten, two of them peaking at #1. However, their partnership was cut short when Ross died of a lung ailment[4] in November 1955, aged 29. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Very nice work. Kind of reserved for these two. Only a couple showy answers, not much that's ultra-contemporary. But overall smooth and entertaining, if much easier than a Saturday normally is or should be. Predictably, my main troubles involved unknown-to-me proper nouns—ADLER and ELIAS specifically, though now that I think about it, I must have read or otherwise "known," at some point, that ELIAS was Disney's middle name. I know at least one ADLER (Irene) and at least one ELIAS (Sports Bureau), but not these ADLER/ELIASes. But no matter. I was able to move right through them anyway because of very gettable crosses. The biggest hold-up (again, predictably) was an unforced error on my part. Over and over, time and again, the biggest time loss I experience while solving involves leaving a wrong answer in place for too long. Today, it was a stupid ticky-tack coulda-gone-either-way foreign language error: UNE instead of UNO (27D: One overseas). "Overseas," :( Give me a crack at the damn country, you stupid clue. Anyway, Faced with UN-, I chose the French over the Spanish. That vowel was vital, as I could not parse TIGER-PROOFING at all until I changed it (I was coming at it entirely from the back end) (33A: Measures taken to make golf courses tougher in the early 2000s). Later, I also botched CAPOS (I was like "Ooh I know this!" ...  and wrote in COPAS). That made the SE probably the diciest section. But again, the confusion didn't take long to clear up. Had SIN for MIN (confusing trig and calc, I guess) (54D: Calculus calculation, for short). But otherwise, not much resistance to be found in this one. Just a smooth good time.

    ["That's OK, SEE IF I CARE!"]

    I just saw another VR- answer recently (maybe it was actually in the NYT...) and so I'm super-on-the-lookout for them. Got today's (VR HEADSET) off just the "V" (30D: Modern game equipment). Saw right through 1A: Jets are found in it, though did have to work crosses to see if it was NFL or AFC. Grateful for easy crosses because both E STREET and G CHORDS would've been total guesses for me at their first letters. "SEE IF I CARE" is a nice answer, but the one answer that really made me sit up and say "dang!" was "SOME PEOPLE..." which was the perfect Saturday combination of hard and clever (53A: "What a jerk!")—brutal to parse, but then boom, a wonderful revelation.

    Thanks to Rachel for subbing for me yesterday. I'll be on every write-up from now through the very end of the month, at which point I will be at the Indie 500 Crossword tournament in Washington, D.C. and yeah, you'll probably get a sub or two. I'm lucky to have so many able and willing back-ups. See you tomorrow.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Daughter (and granddaughter) of Jocasta / FRI 5-17-19 / John who wrote "Appointment in Samarra" / Photographer Goldin / Mr. Microphone manufacturer

    Friday, May 17, 2019

    Constructor: Adam Fromm

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

    THEME: Themeless (?)

    Word of the Day: UNGULATE (18A: Having hooves) —
    Ungulates (pronounced /ˈʌŋɡjəlts/) are any members of a diverse group of primarily large mammals that includes odd-toed ungulates such as horses and rhinoceroses, and even-toed ungulates such as cattlepigsgiraffescamelsdeer, and hippopotamuses. Most terrestrial ungulates use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving.
    The term means, roughly, "being hoofed" or "hoofed animal". As a descriptive term, "ungulate" normally excludes cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises), as they do not possess most of the typical morphologicalcharacteristics of ungulates, but recent discoveries indicate that they are descended from early artiodactyls.[4]
    • • •
    Hello! Rachel Fabi in for Rex today.

    Fridays tend to be my favorite puzzles of the week. The themelessness usually means that you can expect new and exciting entries or an interesting grid design (or both!). This particular Friday was a bit of a disappointment, for a not particularly good reason, which will be revealed AFTER the rest of the write-up.

    First: the good news. Maybe an unpopular take, but I love triple stacks. When I open a puzzle and see that wide open space, the anticipation of finding out how the constructor filled it always kicks off the solve on a high note.

    Not suitable for a general audience
    The bad news: This triple stack is kind of dull! MAJOR LEAGUE GAME, PRIVATE PRACTICE, and GENERAL AUDIENCE are all pretty bland, and the clues are also a let down. Yes, ESPN airs MAJOR LEAGUE GAMEs in the summer. Sure, some doctors and lawyers work in PRIVATE PRACTICE. I'm not totally clear on how a GENERAL AUDIENCE is "sanctioned" by a G-rating; it's not like a GENERAL AUDIENCE needs official permission to attend, but I guess that's a plausible clue.

    The dryness of the entries was not limited to the triple stack, although I enjoyed the long downs. I like JINGOISTS (as an answer, not IRL) and its clue (32D: Country superfans), and I added DEAD AGAIN to my mental Netflix queue (but not my actual one, because it's not on there. I checked.).

    I ended up with a pretty average Friday time, but my solve was verrrry patchy. I particularly struggled in the Northeast, as evidenced by the "pencil" squares in the screenshot above. I may have heard the term UNGULATE before, but if I did, the brain cells that previously stored that information have long since been appropriated for other purposes, like maintaining my mental Netflix queue. I had never heard of bubble and squeak, and now that I've googled it, I can't say I'm particularly excited to try it any time soon, despite my love of SPUDs. I was also unfamiliar with the HARP SEAL, but I am so glad I know what they are now, because:

    My lack of jazz knowledge really slowed me down on this solve. I had no idea that TRANE was a nickname for John ColTRANE, and I am unfamiliar with Jimmy Dorsey's SO RARE. Fortunately, the clue on that one (25D: Jimmy Dorsey standard with the line "You're like the fragrance of blossoms fair") hinted that the answer rhymed with "fair," so I got there eventually. I know this wasn't a universal experience, and that more cultured solvers probably flew through these clues without pause, but jazz is just not my thing.

    Overall, this was a decent but kind of boring Friday puzzle that was not my speed. Thanks to Rex for letting me review at you! See you next time.

    • OHARA (45D: John who wrote "Appointment in Samarra") — I loved this for two reasons: (1) I'm happy to see OHARA clued as something other than Scarlett, and (2) This story featured heavily in an excellent episode of Sherlock, which I love. I didn't know the author of the story, and I'm glad to have learned it!
    • MCC (35D: Three CDs?) — If you must use Roman numerals, this is the way to do it! It took me some longggg seconds to work out that CD = 400 so Three CDs = 1200 = MCC. Into it.
    Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rachel Fabi on Twitter]

    Oh you thought the write up was over? SO DID I. And then I saw that I had twitter notifications from Rex, and now we all have to keep going, because:

    Ok, so, for those of you sticking around for the coda: I wrote that entire write up ^^^ twice. Because when I went to edit it to include some points about the FRIGGING MINI-THEME, my entire post was deleted. It's been a long night, and it made me EVEN CRANKIER about the "mini theme" than I otherwise would have been.

    So. The triple stack has military ranks in it. MAJOR, PRIVATE, GENERAL. The end.

    Theme answers:
    • MAJOR LEAGUE GAME (30A: Summer broadcast for ESPN)
    • PRIVATE PRACTICE (37A: What many doctors and lawyers work in)
    • GENERAL AUDIENCE (38A: It's sanctioned by a "G")
    Signed (again), Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day-and-an-extra-hour of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rachel Fabi on Twitter ]
    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    South American landmark whose name means old peak / THU 5-16-19 / One-named singer with "ö" in her name / Not kosher in Jewish law / Superhero with lightning bolt symbol /

    Thursday, May 16, 2019

    Constructor: Jeff Chen

    Relative difficulty: Medium (5:36)

    THEME: RAMP UP (45D: Increase rapidly ... or a hint to connecting four pairs of answers in this puzzle) —in four themers, the letters "UP" are represented in the grid by a "RAMP" of three black squares. So answer starts on one plane and finishes two rows higher, three columns over:

    Theme answers:
    • MACHUPICCHU (26A: South American landmark whose name means "old peak")
    • "KUNGFUPANDA" (29A: 2008 animated film set in ancient China)
    • "IFYOUPLEASE" (47A: Start of a polite request)
    • D'ANJOUPEARS (51A: Fruit named for a region of France)
    Word of the Day: D'ANJOU PEARS (51A) —
    The D'Anjou pear, sometimes referred to as the Beurré d'Anjou or simply Anjou, is a short-necked cultivar of European pear. The variety was originally named 'Nec Plus Meuris' in Europe and the name 'Anjou' or 'd'Anjou' was erroneously applied to the variety when introduced to America and England. It is thought to have originated in the mid-19th century, in Belgium or France. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Yikes, that D-apostrophe at the front of the anjou pears answer was dire. Didn't really register that that answer was a themer at first, and when I finished with DANJO all I could think of was how my fruit knowledge had failed me. That was probably the toughest part of the puzzle for me, aside from the typical Thursday challenge of figuring out just what the hell the gimmick is. I got MACH and knew that the rest of the answer had gone ... somewhere, but I had no idea where. This pattern continued. The rest of the answer reappeared nowhere in direct proximity to where it got lopped off, so eventually, when I hit the "-" clues, I just looked back at / tried to remember the answers with their latter halves missing, and filled in those squares that way. My brain does not like the fact that "UP" is two letters and the "RAMP" is three squares long. That non-correspondence is real nails/chalkboard stuff for me. Buuuuut I can appreciate how the RAMP is just an entity that is going UP, and that if you don't have an obsessive brain that needs letters and boxes to agree in number, that is enough. I do like the Chutes & Ladders quality of the grid, with answers just whack-a-mole'ing / wormholing up in completely unexpected places.


    I had:
    • RATS for NUTS (5D: "Dagnabbit!")
    • CON for FOR (11D: One side of a debate)
    • KRONER for KRONOR because Swedish monetary plurals lord have mercy (43D: Money in Malmö)
    • LOAFS for LOLLS (42A: Wears pajamas all day, e.g.) — this clue is dumb and judgey. I've definitely word pajamas all day while actually working so take that, you smarmy button-down Madison Avenue go-getter of a clue
    Other issues:
    • I misspelled POLLACK, of course (POLLOCK!?)
    • I feel bad for all the people who are encountering TREF for the first time today (53D: Not kosher, in Jewish law). Crashing and burning on this answer is a rite of passage for many. Welcome to the club. 
    Good day.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Hindu aphorisms / WED 5-15-19 / Canadian stadium renamed Rogers Centre in 2005

    Wednesday, May 15, 2019

    Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

    Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging (4:26)

    THEME: CROSS-DRESSING (14D: "Mrs. Doubtfire" plot device — or what the letters in this clue's answer do five times?) — this answer runs through five kinds of "dressing":

    Theme answers:
    • JAILHOUSE ROCK (18A: Elvis Presley hit inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame)
    • "HAIL, CAESAR" (24A: Forum greeting)
    • DUDE RANCH (34A: Vacation spot for city slickers)
    • RUSSIAN MOB (44A: Gangster group in "Eastern Promises")
    • "THE ITALIAN JOB" (51A: 2003 film starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron)
    Word of the Day: FTC (7A: National Do Not Call Registry org.) —
    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of  consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anticompetitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly. It is headquartered in the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C. 
    The Federal Trade Commission Act was one of President Woodrow Wilson's major acts against trusts. Trusts and trust-busting were significant political concerns during the Progressive Era. Since its inception, the FTC has enforced the provisions of the Clayton Act, a key antitrust statute, as well as the provisions of the FTC Act15 U.S.C. § 41 et seq. Over time, the FTC has been delegated with the enforcement of additional business regulation statutes and has promulgated a number of regulations (codified in Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations). (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Found the top half of this rough and annoying, but the bottom half very easy. When I finished, I didn't feel like I'd had a very good time. Then I saw what the theme did, and was very impressed. But there's one major issue for me. If it's not a fatal flaw, it's certainly a giant wart. All of the dressings are specific dressings you might find in most any restaurant, or in bottles in the store, *except* "HOUSE" dressing, which ... isn't that just whatever any specific restaurant says it is??? "Our house dressing is a raspberry vinaigrette." There's no such thing as just "house dressing." All the other dressings are specific things; house dressing is contingent—not the same from restaurant to restaurant. So "HOUSE" dressing simply doesn't belong in the same category as the others. Merriam-Webster dot com defines "house dressing" as "the regular salad dressing in a U.S. restaurant"; I'm told it's *usually* a vinaigrette, but so is ITALIAN, isn't it? Anyway, if you saw the dressings listed on the menu, you'd know what all the others are, but You'd Have To Ask What the "House" Dressing Was. Because it's not actually a dressing. Broken. The theme is broken. Which is a shame, as the concept is so lovely. Also, "THE ITALIAN JOB" starred Michael Caine, what is this 2003 remake crap!?

    How is [Trial separation?] RECESS? What is being separated in a recess? Are you breaking the trial into parts? Separating parts ... of the trial? Did not get / like that. Had CONNECT before CONJOIN (3D: Link). No clue on SONAR (30A: Sub system). Honest-to-god just stared at F_C / _ENS because I forgot what oldetymey slang "sawbucks" was and couldn't remember the stupid gov. initialism. Definitely considered that "sawbucks" were hundreds and maybe CENS was some kind of slang for those. You know, 'cause "cen." is short of "century," which is 100 years... so maybe that's slang for 100 dollars? Ugh. Anyway, FTC, [raspberry]. Thought CRUD was CRAP (26D: "Phooey!"). I've heard of REDKEN, sort of, barely, but that's OK (12D: L'Oréal hair care brand). Lots of product names are apt to get by me. I'm just explaining why the top half killed me, while the bottom half ... the only thing I've even bothered marking on the bottom half of my printed-out grid is the "P" is APIA, which I had as an "S" at first (53D: Where Samoa Airways is based). That's it. Hard up top, easy down under, very cool theme with super major flaw. The end.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Obsessive fan in modern slang / TUE 5-16-19 / Mer contents / Belly in babyspeak / Cereal brand wth weight-loss challenge / Mideast royal name / Skill tested by Zener cards for short

    Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

    Relative difficulty: Medium (3:50 on oversized 16x15)

    THEME: THEME (42A: < — What this is for this puzzle) — the theme is "42" (the clue number for that clue):

    Theme answers:
    • THE MEANING OF LIFE (18A: What the computer Deep Thought was programmed to figure out in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")
    • JACKIE ROBINSON (37A: Hall-of-Fame player whose number has been retired by every team in Major League Baseball)
    • PRESIDENT CLINTON (56A: He served between Bush 41 and Bush 43)
    Word of the Day: STAN (54D: Obsessive fan, in modern slang) —
    noun: stan; plural noun: stans
    1. 1. 
      an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.

      "he has millions of stans who are obsessed with him and call him a rap god"
    verb: stan; 3rd person present: stans; past tense: stanned; past participle: stanned; gerund or present participle: stanning
    1. 1. 
      be an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.

      "y'all know I stan for Katy Perry, so I was excited to see the artwork for her upcoming album"
    Origin early 21st century: probably with allusion to the 2000 song ‘Stan’ by the American rapper Eminem, about an obsessed fan. (emph mine) (google)
    • • •

    I should've had more fun solving this than I did. In retrospect, it's a pretty solidly built Tuesday. The theme is simple but well executed—just three themers, but those were all iconic, no stretches, and the reduced THEME pressure gave the grid room to breathe, which meant (for the most part) the fill was clean, and occasionally even interesting. I think my brain just wasn't fully awake and working at capacity when I solved this, so I didn't really get the theme until very late, even thought the *first* thing I thought of when I got THE MEANING OF LIFE was, of course, "42." Somehow, in continuing to solve, that little moment of thought drifted out of my head. I got JACKIE ROBINSON instantly, off the first word in the clue ("Hall-of-Famer..."), and got PRESIDENT CLINTON off of just the [He served...] part (thank you, crosses!), and so I never had occasion to think specifically about "42" again. This made the clue for THEME read like something ridiculous. That little left-pointing arrow ... I thought was somehow referring to the concept of a "clue" ... I don't know. I got it eventually, but it just didn't snap in. I was annoyed while solving at the grid shape, which seemed excessively fussy (with lots of crannies, ergo lots of short stuff) for a puzzle with just the three themers. And some of the fill I encountered early on was off-putting in a way that stayed with me. And then I got to NOE very late and honestly couldn't remember what the last letter was: NOA, NOH ... NOE is super duper crosswordese. Half mad at the answer itself (for adding to my crosswordese gripes), half mad at myself for not getting it instantly. I knew it. I just forgot it. So it's a good puzzle. But I found it frustrating more than I found it enjoyable.

    Here are some bad answers I never want to see again. First, ECOCIDE. I have seen this often in crosswords, and literally no place else. Why in the world does it appear in crosswords with such frequency? Well, it's the alternating vowel-consonant pattern, and the beginning and ending in vowels, that makes it so grid-friendly. But like most ECO-things (see ECOCAR), I don't believe it really truly exists. "Environmental destruction" certainly exists, 24/7/365, all over the world, but ECOCIDE is just a no from me, dawg. Another no: TEHEE. "Laugh syllables" in general are The Worst (you know, your HEEs HAHs HARs etc.), but this lopsided weirdo answer has no place in the puzzle or on this earthly plane of existence. And yet people Love to put it in their grids. Whyheee? It's obviously "TEE HEE" when you say it, so why are you writing it like the first syllable is some short-voweled unstressed accidental sound. It's like you meant to say "TEE" but maybe coughed or choked on something? Anyway, here's the kind of confusion that can result when you use this stupid non-laugh:

    I don't think HONED is nearly as good as TONED for 35A: In good shape), but I gotta say you are forgiven for believing HEHEE over TEHEE (despite the former's being also absurd). Then there's OBLADI. It's half a Beatles song. It's always terrible. Not as bad as OBLA (which I've seen a whole bunch!), but still, this is some rough fill. Easy to get, but ugly. Again, the alternating vowel-consonant patter proves too seductive for constructors to resist. But resist you should! JOHN was gross (please don't toilet an answer that does not need toileting) (and the clue should say [Place to solve a crossword, *slangily*]—you can't treat JOHN like it's just a normal word, boo!) (and you see how the visual is terrible, right? Keep your toilet-solving habits to yourself). And ONRUSHES just flummoxed me. Another word I never hear / say.  But that's honestly not the puzzle's fault.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. I'm gonna get very pedantic here and question THE MEANING OF LIFE. What Deep Thought is "programmed" to figure out?? If I search [Deep Thought programmed] the first hits I get are ... crossword answer sites, i.e. references to the clue for this puzzle. If you actually look at the book, "42" is not offered as THE MEANING OF LIFE. Rather, it's the Answer to the Great Question ... well, here. Just read it. Here's the quote from "Hitchhiker's...":
    "All right," said the computer, and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable."You're really not going to like it," observed Deep Thought."Tell us!""All right," said Deep Thought. "The Answer to the Great Question...""Yes..!""Of Life, the Universe and Everything..." said Deep Thought."Yes...!""Is..." said Deep Thought, and paused."Yes...!""Is...""Yes...!!!...?""Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.” 
    So ... "The Answer to the Great Question Of Life, the Universe and Everything. Not THE MEANING OF LIFE. OK bye.

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