Area of basketball court near basket / MON 3-25-19 / Roman moon goddess / Bit of pond growth

Monday, March 25, 2019

Constructor: Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Monday) (because of the center) (3:24)

THEME: LPS (62D: Old records ... or a hint for this puzzle's seven longest answers) — two-word phrases, first word starts with "L," second word starts with "P":

Theme answers:
  • LATIN PERCUSSION (17A: Tito Puente's specialty)
  • LEOPARD PRINT (23A: Material that's spotted at a fashion show?)
  • LOW POST (41A: Area of a basketball court near the basket)
  • LAUNCHING PAD (51A: Rocket's takeoff point)
  • LEGAL PROCEEDING (61A: Court case, e.g.)
  • LOTTO PRIZE (3D: Mega Millions jackpot)
  • LATEX PAINT (31D: Wall covering that's washable with soap and water)
Word of the Day: LOW POST (41A) —
A term referring to the area on a basketball court at the bottom of the key, typically on either side of the basket. The key is the rectangular area that encompasses the middle of the floor underneath the basket. It is often shaded and always has a semi-circle attached on the short side opposite the basket. The low post is named in contrast/opposition to the high post, which is at the top of the rectangle away from the basket. (
• • •

Note: don't try to mask your weak theme with a surfeit of theme answers. If it's no good from the jump, more is definitely not better. "Hey, how about another LP phrase!?" No thanks, I'm full. "Seven themers! That's impressive, right?" Not really. LPS is simply not a good basis for a theme, any more than *any* random two-letter abbreviation is a good basis for a theme. Please, if you are a novice constructor (or any constructor), I beg you, don't start in on your DAS puzzle, or your PIS puzzle, or your MCS puzzle ... just don't. And a couple of these themers are kind of weak. LAUNCHING PAD? When I google that in quotation marks, the first thing that comes up in a definition for ... LAUNCH PAD, which is what normals call it. LOTTO PRIZE? "Lotto jackpot" googles 10x better. LOW POST is probably my favorite of them all, but it's pretty damn hard for a Monday puzzle. That whole middle of the grid was a nightmare for me. Cluing RAMON as a San Francisco suburb is ridiculous. I get it, you live in SF, but the rest of the world doesn't, so give RAMON a real clue, please. MAMMAS is an absurd spelling. ASDOI!? You know my feelings about this answer and all his relatives (ASAMI, SODOI, etc.). Yuck. I had _OW--T for 41A: Area of a basketball court near the basket, and I honestly wrote in DOWN NET. Ugh, and that section is all horribly cut off from the rest of the grid, with just those little inroads. Conceptually overly simple, with fill that's at best adequate. No joy solving this one today.

The more I look at the fill, the worse this one gets. I guess we're supposed to look at All Those Themers and just ignore the rest. All the stale, short rest. Aside from DOWN NET (!), I didn't have any initial errors except for LAP AT instead of LAP UP (23D: Drink, like a cat or dog). I blanked on GADOT at first, and couldn't think of a word that could follow LOTTO (which tells you something about the word that follows LOTTO). I'm just looking at the whole north section (PESO PAP ERE) and thinking how easy it would be to make it better. MISO MAP IRE is better. ALSO APP LIE is much better. PAP and ERE just rub me the wrong way. Seems like most corners of this grid could be improved with a tiny bit of elbow grease. You can't do better than ONEA over TTOP? ALGA and AGAR in the same small corner? ANNO x/w ITSO in the NE? AER over TRA? The self-styled Best Puzzle in the World should be cleaner than this.

Congrats to Dan Feyer on winning his record 8th (!!!) American Crossword Puzzle Tournament championship yesterday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. 149 people know what's up:

P.P.S. important AFROS news

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Reformed demon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer / SUN 3-24-19 / Site of 1796 Napoleon victory / Exclamation after performance of Every Breath You Take / Slapstick actor Jacques / Metaphor for aggressive political arena / Dundee dissent

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium (11:18)

THEME: "Code Switching" — familiar words with letter homonyms in them have those homonyms switched to the NATO PHONETIC ALPHABET equivalents for those homonyms, creating wackiness etc.

Theme answers:
  • BOSTON TANGO (i.e. "T", i.e. "tea")  PARTY (22A: *Ballroom dancing event for Beantown residents?)
  • YANKEE (i.e. "Y", i.e. "why") BOTHER (33A: *Annoying member of a New York baseball team?)
  • UNIFORM (i.e. "U", i.e. "you") BET (47A: *Wager in which the winner gets the loser's pants and jersey?)
  • THE PRINCESS AND THE PAPA (i.e. "P", i.e. "pea") (67A: *Duo ruling a kingdom on Take Your Daughter To Work Day?)
  • BRAVO (i.e. "B", i.e. "bee"), STING (85A: *Exclamation after a performance of "Every Breath You Take"?) 
  • CHARLIE (i.e. "C", i.e. "sea") WORLD (100A: *Amusement park named after a "Peanuts" boy?)
Word of the Day: HORAE (12D: Greek goddesses of the seasons) —
In Greek mythology the Horae (/ˈhɔːr/) or Horai (/ˈhɔːr/) or Hours (GreekὯραιHōraipronounced [hɔ̂ːraj], "Seasons") were the goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time. [...] The number of Horae varied according to different sources, but was most commonly three: either the trio of ThalloAuxo and Carpo (goddesses of the order of nature) or Eunomia (goddess of good order and lawful conduct) and her sisters Dike (goddess of Justice) and Eirene (goddess of Peace). (wikipedia)
• • •

Well the glorious four-day streak of enjoyable puzzles comes to a crashing end with this one. The theme answers and (especially) theme clues on this one are so tortured, so unfunny, that this felt much more like a chore than a treat. I honestly didn't fully "get" the theme until I was done, even with the revealer completely filled in. I don't think there's a single answer in this grid that made me smile or think "ooh, nice." Not one. The 7+ non-theme stuff is scant and dull. TOP-LINE? What the heck is that? (57D: Five-star) Also, who knows or cares about the NATO / PHONETIC ALPHABET? At all? The only reason I know anything about it, the only place I ever see it mentioned, ever, is ... [drum roll] ... in crosswords. TEE DEE US. What is an ANYA? (99D: Reformed demon on"Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). What are HAT TREES? Are those like hat racks? ETHENE? UPTREND? Honestly, these are the *high*lights. BEAR PIT!?!?!?! What kind of messed up person uses that (whatever that is) for a quote unquote metaphor. I don't even know what a BEAR PIT is, non-metaphorically, and I've never heard anyone use it as a metaphor for politics. Bear-baiting (cruel), I've heard of. BEAR PIT? Snakes go in pits. Bears go in the woods. Or so I'm told. Save the bears. Hug a bear. Shred this puzzle.

I think I should just cut out now, because the more I look at this, the less I like it. I struggled over dumb stuff like, uh, OLAF or OLAV, and CRT or LCD, and IRA / ARI or ARI / IRA. To me, LODI is a wine region in California. Or a CCR song. I had no idea about this supposed [Site of a 1796 Napoleon victory]. Wow. ANYA shmanya, what was that? And here's the thing that really irks me. No one who knows / loves "Peanuts" would clue CHARLIE (all on its own) as a "'Peanuts' boy." He's Chuck, or he's full-name Charlie Brown. I had ___ WORLD and despite being an avid "Peanuts" fan had no idea what boy could fit there. LINUS, no? SCHROEDER, no? PIGPEN, no? CHARLIE!?!?!?! Yeah, they're always calling him "Charlie," that totally checks out (/sarcasm). The cluing here and all over is just ugly. What does the THE PRINCESS AND THE PAPA clue even mean? If you take your daughter to work, she doesn't actually have a job title. She doesn't actually work. You don't let her fly the damn plane. I realize that particular themer was probably a bear (rawr!!!) to clue, but [Duo ruling a kingdom on Take Your Daughter To Work Day] is particularly clunky. Better to make PAPA refer to the Goldilocks bear (rawrrrr!!!). Gah. Make Sundays Better!!!!!  Better than ALIENEEEEEEEEE argh. I mean, BEAR PIT, really. Dear lord.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Loser in 1872 presidential election / FRI 3-23-19 / Pacific land west of Fiji / Fellow who might go squee / Rosé relatives

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (for me, maybe Easy for you, gauging early Twitter reaction)

THEME: none ... well, I hope not ...  — that grid looks like a cylon bunny rabbit, so I'm half-expecting a theme to hop out at me any second, but so far ... yeah, I think there's no theme

Word of the Day: HORACE GREELEY (35A: Loser in the 1872 presidential election) —
Horace Greeley (February 3, 1811 – November 29, 1872) was an American author and statesman who was the founder and editor of the New-York Tribune, among the great newspapers of its time. Long active in politics, he served briefly as a congressman from New York, and was the unsuccessful candidate of the new Liberal Republican party in the 1872 presidential election against incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant.
Greeley was born to a poor family in Amherst, New Hampshire. He was apprenticed to a printer in Vermont and went to New York City in 1831 to seek his fortune. He wrote for or edited several publications and involved himself in Whig Party politics, taking a significant part in William Henry Harrison's successful 1840 presidential campaign. The following year, he founded the Tribune, which became the highest-circulating newspaper in the country through weekly editions sent by mail. Among many other issues, he urged the settlement of the American West, which he saw as a land of opportunity for the young and the unemployed. He popularized the slogan "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." He endlessly promoted utopian reforms such as socialism, vegetarianism, agrarianism, feminism, and temperance, while hiring the best talent he could find.
Greeley's alliance with William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed led to him serving three months in the House of Representatives, where he angered many by investigating Congress in his newspaper. In 1854, he helped found and may have named the Republican Party. Republican newspapers across the nation regularly reprinted his editorials. During the Civil War, he mostly supported Lincoln, though he urged the president to commit to the end of slavery before he was willing to do so. After Lincoln's assassination, he supported the Radical Republicans in opposition to President Andrew Johnson. He broke with Republican President Ulysses Grant because of corruption and Greeley's sense that Reconstruction policies were no longer needed.
Greeley was the new Liberal Republican Party's presidential nominee in 1872. He lost in a landslide despite having the additional support of the Democratic Party. He was devastated by the death of his wife, who died five days before the election, and died himself three weeks later, before the Electoral College had met. (wikipedia)
• • •

Felt easier than yesterday's puzzle but took me a little longer. The universe has a way of evening things out; yesterday I was fast when everyone was slow, and today I'm mostly medium when lots of people are setting personal records. I just took too long coming out of the gate. Got LEFT JAB (tentatively) right away, but could only get JOAD and ALT to work in the Downs. That TRUES clues is really awful—when would anyone line up a bunch of T's like that? I've seen clues like that for Greek letters, e.g. [H H H] for ETAS, but that's a fairly literal clue. This one, ugh. But I digress. I had LETS ON for 1D: Intimates (LOVERS), and that was pretty much that. I mean, that put a dagger in any ultra-fast solving time that might have been in the offing. Eventually got FANBOY from the "F" (3D: Fellow who might go "Squee!") and the rest of the corner went down. Had some trouble getting out of there because BLUSH WINES is not a phrase I hear. Or, maybe, just not a wine type I drink. Even when I guessed BLUSH I wasn't sure what came next. "Can it just be ... WINES?" It was in fact that simple. I also had trouble with DISTRESSED DENIM, partly because I had LOBAL (?) instead of LOBAR for 28D: Relating to part of the lung, but mostly because I know the phrase DISTRESSED JEANS, not DISTRESSED DENIM, and lastly, "trendy"? Really? Still? But these answers aside, the fill seemed remarkably solid to me, especially when you consider the magnitude of that middle stack, good grief! That's a 3 / 5 / 7 / 9 / 11 / 13 / 15 stack with hardly a wobble in it. Really impressive. If for no reasons other than the insane grid shape and the solidity of that central stack, I really like this puzzle.

Here is my difficulty map:

It should probably say VERY EASY down below, because I came at it from the west, and once I threw SLEEP ON across, I got every short Down, in order, in quick succession, which made the long Acrosses instant gimmes. I was going Monday fast down there. Was a little worried I wasn't gonna get into the NE, when ---EBEFORE wasn't doing anything for me, but then I got COME and both ODWALLA (16A: Juice brand owned by Minute Maid) and MAITAIS (18A: Tiki bar orders) were gimmes from there, and the rest of the corner went down easily. This is the fourth puzzle in a row that I have mostly or totally enjoyed, which feels like something that hasn't happened in ages, so that's nice. Enjoy your Saturday.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Old Scandinavian poets / FRI 3-22-19 / Old World animals sometimes called toddy cats / Brian who was 1980 NFL MVP / Joint pain from playing too many video games / Producer of 1965's Doctor Zhivago / Record holding Italian soccer club whose name means youth / Long-haired cat with sapphire-blue eyes / Facts First sloganeer / Masterwork in philology for short

    Friday, March 22, 2019

    Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

    Relative difficulty: Challenging (not for me ... for you, though, probably, if initial Twitter reaction is any indication ... for me, maybe just north of Medium) (6:19)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: Brian SIPE (19A: Brian who was the 1980 N.F.L. M.V.P.) —
    Brian Winfield Sipe (born August 8, 1949) is a former professional American footballquarterback who played for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL) from 1974 to 1983. He then played in the United States Football League for two seasons.
    Although mostly sidelined for the first several years of his NFL career, Sipe was eventually recognized as one of the better quarterbacks in Browns history, winning the league's MVP Award in 1980. He was a college football star under head coach Don Coryell at San Diego State University, where he studied architecture and became the team's quarterbacks coach in 2009, remaining in that role for five years, through 2014. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    I mostly liked this. But then I collected football cards the one year Brian SIPE happened to be a somebody, so ... yeah. Lots of you were probably like "........ uh, four random letters, then, I guess." That corner is definitely the ugliest part of the grid, in that it also has BAILORS :( and ESSE :( and not much of real worth. I sort of like CIVETS, but I recognize that that is probably an idiosyncratic take (22D: Old World animals sometimes called toddy cats). I did not remember SKALDS, though. Or THIEU (until I got it all from crosses—then it looked vaguely familiar). CARLO PONTI ... I mean ... it's a name I've heard (40A: Producer of 1965's "Doctor Zhivago"). I might've been able to tell you it had something to do with the movies, but I could just as easily guessed something to do with wine. managed to put PONTI together and guessed the CARLO part, so he must be somebody. But not a very identifiable somebody, to me. Cultural critic BELL HOOKS is far more familiar to me than CARLO PONTI (how's that for an apparent non sequitur!).

    [from a NYT interview with constructor Finn Vigeland, here]

    I also managed to piece together BALINESE without exactly knowing how (32D: Long-haired cat with sapphire-blue eyes). If I'd had to name all the cat breeds I know, I would not have remembered that I knew that particular one. And hoo boy, MOAI!? (42A: Easter Island statues) I'm stunned I don't know this. I wrote in TIKI (thanks, terminal "I"!). Oof. But I knew JUVENTUS (47A: Record-holding* Italian soccer club whose name means "youth") which really really helped, since before I saw that clue, I had 47D: Figure in some hymns (JESU) as THOU (thanks, terminal "U"!). So ... sports and obscure names, but roughly on my wavelength (like a radio station that comes in patchily but good enough to not change the channel).


    I want, nay, demand that someone release a rap song about early English history under the name CARDI BEDE (40D: First woman to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album as a solo artist / 55A: Sainted English historian) I want, nay demand, that both OH ME and his brother AH ME take a flying leap. ONE SOCK is pretty weak. You know what would be great: ODD SOCK. Because that's what you mean. You've gone and shoved "ODD" right into SOCK (in the phrase AT ODDS), when it should be where ONE is. Weird. What was your first answer into the grid. Mine: WIIITIS (2D: Joint pain from playing too may video games). No joke. WIIITIS and JUVENTUS and SIPE were all gimmes and lifesavers, and got me through this puzzle relatively smoothly and in a relatively normal time. Good day.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    *"record-holding" is a weird, largely meaningless descriptor for a soccer club. What Record???

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    ER role for Paul McCrane / THU 3-21-19 / Soothing succulents / 2008 movie starring Michael Sheen Frank Langella / Swimmer Ian who won three godl medals in 2000 olympics

    Thursday, March 21, 2019

    Constructor: Christopher Adams

    Relative difficulty: Easy (5:03 just out of bed, which is like a normal 4:00, I think)

    THEME: SLASHER FILM (25D: Movie with graphic violence.... or what 17-Across, 22-Down or 39-Down each is?) — DESCRIPTION

    Theme answers:
    • VICTOR / VICTORIA(17A: 1982 movie starring Julie Andrews)
    • FROST / NIXON (22D: 2008 movie starring Michael Sheen and Frank Langella)
    • FACE / OFF (39D: 1997 movie starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage)
    Word of the Day: Ian THORPE (32A: Swimmer Ian who won three gold medals in the 2000 Olympics) —
    Ian James ThorpeAM (born 13 October 1982) is a retired Australian swimmer who specialised in freestyle, but also competed in backstroke and the individual medley. He has won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian. With three gold and two silver medals, Thorpe was the most successful athlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Gotta be quick as I fell asleep before 10pm last night and have a 7am appointment this morning, wheeee! This puzzle was great. It's always easy to love an easy puzzle, true, but the revealer on this one works mwah, perfectly. "SLASHER" is repurposed, literalized, resulting in what you would otherwise Never refer to as SLASHER FILMs. And the grid has been shaped (and the revealer designed) in such a way that the three films of disparate lengths can still come together in a symmetrical arrangment. The stuff I don't like is small and infrequent and sort of in the "who cares?" category. I'm not spending my time complaining about plural ALOES, is what I'm saying. Damn, I just did! ANYway ... I spelled SAOIRSE correctly, first try, and I think I lost like five valuable seconds doing a little chair-dance of victory! Didn't recognize the actors in FROST/NIXON, so that was the themer that took the longest to come to me (didn't take long, tbh). Totally forgot who Ian THORPE was, and hadn't watched "E.R." since the '90s and didn't recognize the name Paul McCrane and so struggled to come up with DR. ROMANO. "Struggled" is hyperbolic. But I struggled comparatively. Compared to what I did with most other answers. Also, I couldn't get into the SW corner easily, mostly because I didn't look immediately at the clue that finally cracked it all open: 53D: Annual Austin festival, for short (SXSW) (which stands for South By Southwest). Nice to run this puzzle so close to the event (though that's surely a coincidence) (it was last week), and also nice to put SXSW in the actual southwest of the grid.

    The only thing that troubles me about this puzzle is why "each" is in the revealer clue. Pretty sure it's grammatically unnecessary. Other trouble spots? Well, MAD DASH was probably the answer that took me the longest, but it was also in the first section I solved. I had UTE for MAV (1D: Western Conference player, informally). I guess butterscotch is ORANGE, but I actually had to go into the SE corner and get some 4s before I could see that OR---- was ORANGE. I solved in AcrossLite, which doesn't do slashes, so that was awkward. But the overall experience was enjoyable. This puzzle had the perfect revealer, which gave me the perfect revealer reaction: "Nice. Good one." That Is All I Want From My Themed Puzzles!!! Good day.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Japanese lunch box / WED 3-20-19 / 1931 boxing movie for which Wallace Beery won Best Actor Oscar / actress Joan whose last name consists of two different conveyances

    Wednesday, March 20, 2019

    Constructor: Erik Agard, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

    Relative difficulty: Medium (4:08)

    THEME: DISAPPEARING INK (56A: Liquid evidenced by the answers to this puzzle's starred clues?) — letter string "INK" disappears one letter at a time, with each successive themer:

    Theme answers:
    • I CAN'T SLEEP A WINK (16A: *Insomniac's complaint)
    • KITCHEN SIN (23A: *Leaving dirty dishes on the counter, say)
    • HOT P.I. (36A: *Sexy detective)
    • MAKES YOUTH (46A: *Works like an anti-aging serum) (from "makes you think...")
    Word of the Day: "THE CHAMP" (8D: 1931 boxing movie for which Wallace Beery won a Best Actor Oscar) —
    The Champ is a 1931 American pre-Code film starring Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper and directed by King Vidorfrom a screenplay by Frances Marion, Leonard Praskins and Wanda Tuchock. The picture tells the story of a washed-up alcoholic boxer (Beery) attempting to put his life back together for the sake of his young son (Cooper).
    Beery won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance (sharing the prize with Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Frances Marion won the Academy Award for Best Story, and the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. (wikipedia)

    • • •

    Unsurprisingly, DISAPPEARING INK has been a theme revealer a whole bunch of times over the years, but it's never been a executed in quite this way, as far as I can tell. There's one where "INK" is missing a bunch of times, and another where the clues actually proceed INK, IN, I, -, but none where the INK fades one letter at a time. Now, I don't really know how DISAPPEARING INK works, and I doubt it fades one letter at a time, but still, I like the idea of its literally disappearing as the themers progress. MAKES YOUTH is kind of rocky: you really have to screw with the base phrase to get a new phrase (dropping the INK and fusing two words together), and also MAKES YOUTH ... just isn't a meaningful phrase. "Here, this ... MAKES YOUTH!" I mean, maybe if you're not a native speaker and you are selling snake oil, this is how you would say it, but the other answers crackle just by breaking off letters, their wackiness simple and punchy. MAKES YOUTH definitely makes you think, but not really in a good way. Still, overall, theme approved.

    The grid is very clean, fill-wise, but kind of unpleasant to navigate, since it's riddled with a ridiculous number of black squares (40), making the middle into a swiss cheese. This results in a ton of 3- and 4-letter answers, and a very fussy grid to navigate overall. Kudos to the constructing team for having so much short fill and very little gunk. Looks like they dropped a bunch of Downs through three themers, which really locks you in as a constructor, and the offset* 2nd and 5th themers are also unusual, and probably have something to do with the weirdly pock-marked look of the grid (*I mean "offset" here in the sense of neither centered nor flush right/left). It's structurally bizarre, which is weirdly visually distracting to me, but you do what you gotta do to get a clean grid, I guess. Overall it felt pretty easy, with all the difficulty coming in figuring out the wacky themers. Had SLIP before TRIP at 1A: What you might do if you skip a step, and that was probably the hardes thing in the grid, for me. Oh, that and "OKAY, DEAR," which is truly nonsense. It's YES, DEAR or gtfo.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. the clue on 1D: Group making a reservation? (TRIBE) did not sit right with me. It's true enough, but using forced relocation of Native Americans to achieve your cutesy restaurant wordplay clue felt tone-deaf. I don't feel super-strongly about this. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Half of rap duo Black Star / TUE 3-19-19 / Diplomatic controversy of 1790s

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019

    Constructor: Daniel Larsen

    Relative difficulty: Medium ? (oversized 16x15) (3:45)

    THEME: alphabet — theme answers contain consecutive letters of the alphabet from A to Z

    Theme answers:
    • EASY AS ABC (18A: Simple, simple, simple [1,2,3])
    • MOS DEF (19A: Half of the rap duo Black Star [4,5,6])
    • WEIGH-IN (27A: Prefight ritual [7,8,9])
    • DJ KHALED (29A: Singer with the 2010 3x platinum single "All I Do Is Win" [10,11])
    • FILM NOIR (42A: Dark movie genre [12,12,14,15])
    • BACK-UP QB (53A: Substitute for Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, informally [16,17])
    • PR STUNT (55A: Silly marketing ploy designed to get attention [18,19,20])
    • UV WAVE (66A: Tiny bit of sunlight, for short [21,22,23])
    • XYZ AFFAIR (68A: Diplomatic controversy of the 1790s [24,25,26])
    Word of the Day: DJ KHALED —
    Khaled Mohamed Khaled (born November 26, 1975), better known by his stage name DJ Khaled, is an American DJ, songwriter, record producer, media personality, and record executive. [...] In 2015 and early 2016, Khaled gained worldwide attention as a media personality, and subsequently attained a large following on social media. This foresaw the release of his ninth studio album Major Key in 2016. The album attained wholesale critical and commercial success; it debuted atop the Billboard 200, it was certified gold, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. He released his tenth studio album, Grateful, in 2017, which contained the singles "I'm the One" and "Wild Thoughts", which charted at number one and number two on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and was also certified platinum. His eleventh album, Father of Asahd, is due to be released in 2019.
    Outside of music, Khaled has also gained success as a writer, with his book The Keys featuring on the New York Times Best Seller list. He has also featured as an actor, starring in Spies in Disguise (2019), and is due to appear in Bad Boys for Life (2020). (wikipedia)
    • • •
    So we can start with the good. Some of these themers, as stand-alone answers, regardless of theme, are just good. Whatever gets you to put DJ KHALED in a grid is good. Pretty sure that's the only "DJKH" letter string available right now. BACK-UP QB, also nice. And I'm all for FILM NOIR, whenever you wanna give it to me. But the theme itself, just ... walking through the alphabet? ... that didn't do much for me. WEIGH-IN? Not really showy enough. And what is with that extra damn "U"—the one shared by PR STUNT and UV WAVE? It's bizarre. Because UV WAVE is already not great (I know UV better as "rays," not "waves"), and you could've made that answer VW GOLF or VW BUGS and kept your damn alphabet streak perfectly intact, because there's *already* an alphabetical "U" in the answer PR STUNT. This is obvious, right? I don't know how people (any of them ... any of the people) don't see this and fix it. It's fixable. It just means a new SW corner. No big whoop. I mean, I still wouldn't have loved this theme, but at least it would've worked. With a dull routine, you *really* have to stick the landing.

    The real problem with this puzzle is the fill. That's an evergreen sentence if there ever was one. Yet again, I don't know why polishing the grid is not (apparently) anyone's priority. We're falling back on ODA now? ODA? And SEISMO!? Hey kids, it's SEISMO, the Shaky Clown. No, he's supposed to be like that, kids! Oh, kids, don't cry! Why are you running away!? Come back, kids! SEISMO loves you! Seriously, though, prefixes should never ever be that long. SEISMO is the dumbest thing I've seen in a while. ASDOI? Please find your brother SODOI and then both of you go away forever. ALTI, yuck. ONAT, same. ATTWO? Now you're just throwing random phrases out there. This is not the worst puzzle I ever DIDST do, but it had me wincing a lot. More negative than positive today, I'm afraid, though, again, DJ KHALED is making the grid real hard to hate.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Holders for emergency supplies / MON 3-18-19 / Latin motto for go-getter / Popular rodent control brand / Country completely surrounded by Italy

    Monday, March 18, 2019

    Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Monday) (3:25)

    THEME: YES (61D: "That's correct" ... or a hint to the ends of 17-, 28-, 45- and 59-Across) — final words in themers are all homphones of foreign words for "YES"

    Theme answers:
    • PLAIN TO SEE (si!) (17A: Clearly visible)
    • LAH-DI-DAH (da!) (28A: Hoity-toity)
    • AIMS HIGH (hai!) (45A: Sets lofty goals)
    • THE ROYAL WE (oui!) (59A: What egotists use instead of "I")
    Word of the Day: GO BAGS (34A: Holders for emergency supplies) —
    plural noun: go-bags
    1. a bag packed with essential items, kept ready for use in the event of an emergency evacuation of one's home. (google)
    • • •

    OK, let's get one thing out of the way immediately: the clue on MARA is criminal. It's deliberately evoking the leader of a global white supremacist movement. MARA doesn't have to be there at all, and if it *does* have to be there, then there are other MARAs in the world. There well and truly are. And the clue! "Presidential retreat"?!?!? I'll let my friend Austin explain:

    I probably didn't need to post his "Congratulations" and solving time, but it's just prettier that way. Anyway, look, there is no other way to clue IVANKA except via the Trump route (please, constructors, delete her). But there are other ways to clue MARA besides MARA-Lago, which is a rat hole for rich racists, those who aspire to be rich racists, and corrupt entities seeking to purchase access to the president. Every single crossword clue that casually implies that this president* is just another president helps to normalize him. No. Nuh uh. Nah. Screw that. This is an editorial decision, and an editorial fuck-up. Please forgive me: I am still in a fury about the massacre in my wife's home country of New Zealand, so I'm not feeling at alllll charitable toward the white right (or their promoters) at this moment. Not at all.

    I love this theme. I really do. I really wish I hadn't run into *&%^ing MARA because it really soured the whole experience. Nice to get to a revealer that gives you that moment where you look back over the puzzle and go "Oh yeah ... cool." The one area I had trouble today ... well, there were two. First, I had PLAIN and wrote in PLAIN AS DAY for 17A: Clearly visible. Brutal misstep, especially for a Monday. Probably added 10-20 seconds to my time all on its own. Ooh, KTOWN was also tough somehow. Don't know what I was looking for, but it wasn't that (6D: Neighborhood to get kimchi and bibimbap, informally). I stupidly wrote in AMORE at 18D: Sentiment from a Latino lover (TE AMO), so as you can see, that whole area was just a clusterf***. D'OH! (55A: "That was stupid of me!"). But the one that really baffled me was RA-E / -OBAGS (25D: Rant and rave / 34A: Holders for emergency supplies). I know GO BAG as something you can grab when you need to disappear quickly and possibly for a long time. I think of it as including cash, as well as other things you will need if you are on the run. The clue made it sound like some kind of first aid kit, so even with -OBAGS in place I thought maybe the first two letters were initials. Not sure why RAGE troubled me, but the only answer I wanted was RAVE, which was in the clue, so ... :( ... I figured it out, obviously, and it probably took me only a matter of five seconds, but on a Monday, at the end ... it felt like forever. Fill on this one was tight and interesting. Really good work, except for the clue on MARA, which is entirely the editor's fault, in the end.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Old-time Price Is Right announcer Johnny / SUN 3-17-19 / Quad glute exercise / Stereotypical High Times reader

    Sunday, March 17, 2019

    Constructor: Sophia Maymudes and Jeff Chen

    Relative difficulty: Medium (10:50)

    THEME: "That's Another Story" — fiction titles clued as if they were biographies:

    Theme answers:
    • GONE GIRL (31A: Biography of Amelia Earhart?)
    • A GAME OF THRONES (4D: Biography of Thomas Crapper?)
    • MARLEY AND ME (23A: Biography of Ebenezer Scrooge?)
    • LIFE OF PI (34A: Biography of Archimedes?)
    • OF MICE / AND MEN (43D: with 44-Down, biography of Walt Disney?)
    • LORD OF THE FLIES (13D: Biography of Willie Mays?)
    • A FAREWELL TO ARMS (110A: With 112-Across, biography of Elvis?)
    • THE ONCE AND / FUTURE KING (112A: See 110-Across)
    Word of the Day: Johnny OLSON (18A: Old-time "The Price is Right" announcer Johnny) —
    John Leonard Olson (May 22, 1910 – October 12, 1985) was an American radio personality and television announcer. Olson is perhaps best known for his work as an announcer for game shows, particularly the work he did for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Olson was the longtime announcer for the original To Tell the Truth and What's My Line? early in his career and spent over a decade as the announcer for both Match Game and The Price Is Right, and he had been working on the latter series at the time of his death. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    This theme is an arbitrary jumble of book titles. The end. Why "Willie Mays" for LORD OF THE FLIES? That could be [Biography of [any famous outfielder]?). And why aren't these just funnier, or at least more audacious? [Biography of Conan O'Brien?] => THE GINGER MAN. [Biography of Rip Van Winkle?] => THE BIG SLEEP. [Biography of the president?] => WHITE NOISE ... or HEART OF DARKNESS ... you've got options here. My point is you can do this with lots of book titles, and the examples in this puzzle aren't that funny. A FAREWELL TO ARMS is a groaner (literally a dad joke)—so tired that the biography subject (Venus de Milo) is obvious w/o even seeing the clue. Same with THE ONCE AND / FUTURE KING. King, Elvis, yup, not exactly surprise there. The clues are transparent, not trying hard enough. Plus the grid is choppy as heck so there's too much short stuff / not enough interesting stuff. Too segmented. Too many black squares. And then there's the obvious "word list" stuff like ICE CORES and SILENT E'S, stuff that no one would think of and that actually aren't that interesting.

    I thought I was going to die in the SE corner. I had FUTURE and couldn't think of any title with that word in it (hilarious side note: I've taught Arthurian literature for two decades). But I could not get LUNGE or ELF or FREES or SAGES (??) or TINGE (thought maybe TINCT?), but worst of all was SHAKUR. I can't stop laughing at the idea of anyone's just referring to him as SHAKUR. In case you don't know, the person in question is legendary rapper TUPAC SHAKUR, whom (almost) literally everyone calls TUPAC (or just 'PAC). So I had SHA--- for 95D: Artist with seven posthumous platinum albums and just ... nothing. Ravi SHANKAR wouldn't fit. SHAKIRA also wouldn't fit, and is still alive (to the best of my knowledge). "The artist is ... SHAKUR." Nope, can't hear it. I had to exit that corner, get THE ONCE AND, then come back, put in KING, and even then it was dicey. Also, ELF is not not not not not not a [Giant's opposite]. What the hell? Are we talking size? Then it's dwarf. I mean, if we're staying in the realm of fantasy literature. Halfling, maybe, if we're going the D&D route. ELF??? Elves aren't (necessarily) small! Did no one see "Lord of the Rings"!? Which, by the way, was *absolutely* the thing I had in the grid before amending it to LORD OF THE FLIES. Further, SCARY is a pretty weak answer for [Lovecraftian], which suggests EERIE and unCANNY for more than mere SCARY. Here you go. Read up. Oh, I did very much like one thing about this puzzle, and here it is:

    [12D: Elvis Costello hit that starts "I've been on tenterhooks / Ending in dirty looks"]

    Congratulations to Jesse Lansner on winning the Finger Lakes Crossword Competition for the second year in a row. I had a great time there as judge and introductory speaker. It's a nice local charity tournament to benefit Tompkins County Learning Partners, an adult literacy organization. If you live anywhere near the central NY area, you should consider coming next year (roughly same time). OK, bye.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Boxer who retired in 2017 / 1980s spinoff of Dukes of Hazard / 1947 Hope Crosby film / Rural husband in 1940s-50s film series

    Saturday, March 16, 2019

    Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

    Relative difficulty: Easy (5:36) (on an oversized grid!)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: TREF (24A: Like shellfish) —


    Judaism unfit to be eaten or used, according to religious laws; not kosher. (
    • • •

    Weirdly, the part of this puzzle that took me the longest to work out was the MUSIC part of PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC. I wanted DRUGS, but that wasn't working, and since I could not for the life of me figure out how to make anything but SURE out of S--E (31D: Certain), which couldn't be right because it was already in the grid (29D), I just ... went elsewhere. Polished off the rest of the grid and finally just closed in on MUSIC (and SOME). Don't really think PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC is worth a 16-wide grid. Maybe that's because I just don't like that music that much. It's the kind of white-guy music that never did anything for me. I'd much rather listen to the soundtrack to "Risky Business," which I don't even remember except for that "Old Time Rock N Roll" bit with Tom Cruise in his underwear, which clearly isn't TANGERINE DREAM at all, but Bob Seger ... wait, where was I? Oh, who cares? What I did dig were all the D.D. answers. The DON DELILLO DINNER DATE followed by the DATA DUMP. Made me slightly worried there was some kind of theme going on that I just couldn't make out.

    I could do without CSA generally, but if you gotta use it, I'd much rather see it clued via the Much More Common Modern Usage: Community-Supported Agriculture. Just google CSA if you don't believe me. CSAs are Farmers Market fixtures. Common way to eat and support the growing of local produce. So, yeah, I'd like that instead of the slavery-loving traitorous dipshits, please (52A: Grp. with the motto "Deo vindice"). ENTRAIN is another thing I would ditch forever if I ruled the world. Nothing else about this puzzle bugs me much.  Whoops, spoke too soon. I forgot about the clue on E.S.P. (13D: Inexplicable skill). Yeah, it's "inexplicable" because It's Not A Skill At All. It Doesn't Exist. If your clue doesn't indicate in some way that E.S.P. is bullshit, then your clue sucks, and is making all of us dumber and more susceptible to con artists and conspiracy theorists and Dr. Ozzes etc. Here is the way you should always clue E.S.P., imho:

    Got totally fooled by the boxer (or rather, Boxer) clue. Even when I had BARBARA I thought it was some dude's last name, or maybe a stage name (think "barbarous" or "barbarian"). Only other thing that gave me real trouble was OTTO, because I got the "O" first and put in ODIE. [Comics canine] is succcch a dull clue. Something OTTO-specific would've been much more pleasant and entertaining. I feel bad for the non-baseball fans because CHET Lemon is a pretty tough clue, but I don't feel too bad because I'm a Tigers fan and CHET Lemon was cool as hell.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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