Cambridgeshire cathedral city / THU 1-31-19 / Old plume source / Soccer star Chastain / Symbol in logo of Democratic Socialists of America / 1986 Elton John love song / Aesir trickster / Palindromic number / Part of white script on red can

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy, I think (I solved on paper, on a clipboard, in a comfy chair, untimed)

THEME: 212 (68D: Palindromic number) — Three long answers have this answer (212), as their clue. You have to figure out that numbers go in the "212" squares. Uh ... that's it.

Theme answers:
  • NEW YORK'S AREA CODE (18A: 68-Down)
  • LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY (42A: 68-Down with a "/" inside it)
  • H20'S BOILING POINT (67A: 68-Down with a "º" after it)
Word of the Day: KIEV (49A: Capital on the Dnieper)
Kiev (/ˈkɛf-ɛv/ KEE-ef, -⁠ev) or Kyiv (UkrainianКиївtranslit. Kyiv [ˈkɪjiu̯] (About this soundlisten)RussianКиевtranslit. Kiyev [ˈkʲi(j)ɪf]Old East SlavicКыѥвъtranslit. Kyjev) is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine, located in the north-central part of the country on the Dnieper. The population in July 2015 was 2,887,974 (though higher estimated numbers have been cited in the press), making Kiev the 7th most populous city in Europe. (wikipedia)
• • •

Got up very early and decided to forego speed-solving and just print the thing out and solve it on the clipboard. A minute or so in I was wondering what had happened to my Thursday puzzle. This felt verrrry easy and pretty non-tricksy, despite the fact that the long themers had only [Panlidromic number] as their clue and I didn't know what that number was. I balked at NEW YORK'S AREA CODE because it was my understanding that y'all had *several*. Kinda weird to just declare that 212 is it. But I digress. This was ridiculously easy, making me wish I had been speed-solving. There wasn't even any particularly hard fill or names or nothing. Even with that grid at an oversized 16x15, I feel like I'd've set a record. Oh well. There was just the one tough part for me—those 9 squares in the SW. HAW seemed obvious, but I still wasn't sure what the palindromic number was, or what three-letter thing's BOILING POINT I was dealing with, and (the real problem) I had COLA at 62D: Part of a white script on a red can (COCA), which meant my [Steak accompanier] read A--AULE. I thought maybe it was some French sauce I was unfamiliar with. I then wrote in OSS and could see the H20 thing, then I wrote in 212 and everything was cool. Moved on to the mostly empty NE corner, which was Monday-easy, and finished up there. The end. Since New York (City) has more than one area code and today *isn't* LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY, I don't really get the theme. "Here's a thing I can do with a number" is not, on its own, that interesting to me. And since the theme is so slight, and the fill unremarkable, the only joy I got from this was the joy a lot of people will have experienced: the joy of crushing a Thursday puzzle.

[The Cold War was wild, man]

Five things:
  • 33A: Novelty singer/songwriter ___ Sherman (ALLAN) — I know this from "The Simpsons," which is true of roughly half the answers in any given puzzle, and half the things I know, period

  • 57D: Teaser that may include pluses and minuses (REBUS) — ok this was slightly tricky, largely because "teaser" can mean a lot of things (I think of it as a promotional ad of some kind)
  • 34D: Self-reflective question ("AM I?) — Something about this paired (in my mind) with "I DID" (43D) is making me laugh and I'm not sure why.
  • 12A: Leaves after dinner? (TEA) — who has TEA after dinner? I've seen this play on "leaves" a bunch before. Pretty OLDSCHOOL way to clue SALAD, actually (e.g. [Leaves before dinner?])
  • 6D: Old plume source (EGRET) — the ladies hat industry at one point (around the turn of the last century, I think) actually decimated bird life in the Everglades, if I'm remembering my documentaries correctly (though now I can't remember if it was a bird documentary or a fashion documentary or what ...). Here's an article about the feather trade from the Smithsonian.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


South American corn cakes / WED 1-30-19 / Dallas hoopster / Wedding gown designer Di Santo

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Constructor: Emily Carroll

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (4:46, but just woke up and brain is moving like molasses)

THEME: FRUITLESS (35A: Unproductive ... or, literally, a hint to the answers to this puzzle's starred clues) — phrases where first word is a fruit and second word means "departs," so that each phrase can be read as if it pertained to a "fruit" that goes away, leaving you FRUITLESS:

Theme answers:
  • GRAPE LEAVES (18A: *They get stuffed at Greek restaurants)
  • BANANA / SPLITS (23A: *With 50-Across, classic ice cream treats)
  • LEMON / DROPS (30A: *With 44-Across, sour candies)
  • ORANGE PEELS (55A: *Garnishes for old-fashioneds)
Word of the Day: LA PLATA (2D: Seaport near Buenos Aires) —
La Plata (Spanish pronunciation: [la ˈplata]) is the capital city of Buenos Aires ProvinceArgentina. According to the 2001 census [INDEC], it has a population of 765,378 and its metropolitan area has 899,523 inhabitants.
La Plata was planned and developed to serve as the provincial capital after the city of Buenos Aires was federalized in 1880. It was officially founded by Governor Dardo Rocha on 19 November 1882. Its construction is fully documented in photographs by Tomás Bradley Sutton. La Plata was briefly known as Ciudad Eva Perón (Eva Perón City) between 1952 and 1955. (wikipedia)
• • •

Sleepy morning solve, and was quite worried right up front that I wasn't going to get anywhere today. Brain: "Well, it's Wednesday, and you're stuck ... I guess we had a good run. Let's stop and go drink coffee." But I persisted, and that NW corner finally crumbled, and none of the rest of the grid was that hard, except maybe the FRAT ROW / TEENIE / INES area, which I fumbled around in for a bit. As I was solving, I had no idea what was going on, theme-wise. I could tell fruits were involved. I hit FRUITLESS and though "uh ... don't get *that* but alright ..." Then finished and thought "I have no idea how FRUITLESS makes sense. I think there's a slight design / execution problem here. The first issue is that the first themer one is likely to encounter (and for me, the first and second themers I encountered) were broken. Split. Divided. Making it look like something had been broken off the end of a fruit. BANANA ... SPLITS really looks like the theme has something to do with the answer "splitting" in two. So I thought the FRUITLESSness had to do with the themer division. Then I noticed those two that *aren't* divided, and I was back to non-understanding. Then I got it. The other problem is "literally a hint" doesn't quite help enough with clarifying what's going on. Here's a somewhat better suggestion, I think:

You wouldn't have brackets in the actual clue, but you get the idea

The reason I think the revealer clue needs to be a tad more specific is that ORANGE PEELS really doesn't work nearly as well as the others. "Leaves" and "splits" are right on the money, "drops" is in the ballpark, but "peels" is lost somewhere uptown. If "peel" can mean "depart" all on its own, then it's not a usage I've heard. Bail, bounce, jet, scoot ... but peel off? peel out?" It's harder to lawyer that one into alignment. I think the concept here is really nice, actually, and am surprised you can get even *three* themers to behave this way. But the execution here is somewhat clunky / messy.

Five things:
  • 27A: Something divided in W.W. II (ATOM) — hard and gruesome. Again, that corner ... KIN for FAM (21D: Relatives, casually), MRI or CAT (scan?) for TAT (32A: Body image). ACROBAT clued toughly. OLD FOES??? (20A: Enemies from way back) Glad I eventually escaped that wasp's nest
  • 34D: Emulated Pinocchio (TELLS A LIE) — this is the OLD FOES of the southern half of the grid. Actually, this is just green paint* (the verb-phrase version of which I always think of as "eats a sandwich").
  • 48A: Wedding gown designer Di Santo (INES) — Can't find anything about her that isn't promotional copy. No wikipedia page, somehow??? Anyway, apparently she designs wedding gowns.
  • 8D: South American corn cakes (AREPAS) — so good! I only learned what these were in the past few years. Had them first, weirdly (?), in Minneapolis. There's a guy who makes them at our local farmers market every weekend now. Mwah!
  • 9D: Air race marker (PYLON) — I couldn't describe an "air race" to you if I tried. Also, I read this as "Air Race maker" and thought I was looking for some brand of model airplane.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

Constructor count: Men: 26.5 / Women: 3.5

*a phrase you might use in conversation but that doesn't seem strong enough to be a stand-alone answer

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lion in the heavens / TUES 1-29-2019 / Paragon / Orange Muppet / German mark

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Hi, all! It's Clare — back for another Tuesday. Hope everyone is staying warm and preparing for what very well could be record lows in much of the country this week! In D.C., I think we're supposed to avoid the worst of it, but I'm still hoping for a snow day, even though in law school they make you make up any classes you miss! I'm also prepping for the Super Bowl on Sunday, and, because I know you all to be smart people, I know you all hate the Patriots as much as I do. Go, Rams!

Constructor: Benjamin Kramer

Relative difficulty: On the easier side

THEME: VOLLEYBALL (57A: Sport hinted at by the ends of 17-, 24-, 36- and 47-Across) — Phrases that end in words that all relate to volleyball

Theme answers:

  • LIP SERVICE (17A: Empty talk not backed by action)
  • COLBERT BUMP (24A: Boost after appearing on a certain old Comedy Central show)
  • TELEVISION SET (36A: Product from RGA or LG)
  • GOLDEN SPIKE (47A: Symbol of the completion of the Transcontinental railroad)
Word of the Day: Tatooine (36D: Luke Skywalker's home planet)
Tatooine is a fictional desert planet that appears in the Star Wars space opera franchise. It is beige-coloured and is depicted as a remote, desolate world orbiting a pair of binary stars and inhabited by human settlers and a variety of other life forms. The planet was first seen in the original 1977 film Star Wars and has to date featured in a total of six Star Wars theatrical films. (Wikipedia)
• • •
I thought this puzzle was just meh. While I liked the idea behind the theme, the execution wasn't overly inspiring. VOLLEYBALL wasn't clued very cleverly, and I found it was pretty easy to get the theme description and the ends of the theme answers once I got SPIKE and then SET at the ends of 47A and 36A, respectively. Even just getting the "b" in VOLLEYBALL made me realize the word would most likely end in "ball." It was pretty clever, though, how the themes work in sequence — you have a SERVICE, then the BUMP, SET, and SPIKE. My favorite theme answer was COLBERT BUMP — it's something I haven't seen clued before, and I do always love Stephen Colbert. I would've thought that more of a bump would have come from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, but what do I know?

A lot of the fill was just pretty bland, I thought. Especially the three-letter answers, like: BTW; ITS; BAG; BYE; ODE; BED. Those are all so basic and, frankly, boring. DEER MEAT (12D: Venison) was also dull. And, AS TO (35D: Apropos of) should just be banned from crosswords, in my opinion. (Am I starting to sound like Rex yet?) LEI (55A: Gift for which you might reply "Mahalo") was at least clued a little bit differently this time, which I liked.

There was a bit of international flavor in this puzzle, which was fun. There was QUINOA and OUZO crossing each other in the northwest corner. Then there were COUPE, UMLAUT, and PAELLA all in the southeast corner. Not to mention DEGAULLE (11D: Airport named for a president) and, I suppose TATOOINE, if you count an alien planet as being international.

I found MARLO and ADLER crossing each other to be kind of weird. I've heard of ADLER (15A: Psychologist Alfred), but I've never seen The Wire, so MARLO (5D: Kingpin on "The Wire") took some guessing on my part. The Wire is that show that's always at the top of my "to-watch" list, but I always seem to pass it over for something a little lighter and, more likely than not, for something that I've already seen a million times before. I also struggled in a few random places because I put in the wrong words originally: Had "thin" instead of SLIM for 21A: Slender, which hurt me some at the top; had "blast" instead of BLARE for 22A: Play loudly, as music; and wanted "rew" instead of REC for 8D: DVR button. It took me a bit to get airports like Kennedy and Reagan out of my head for 11D: DEGAULLE and realize that the puzzle wasn't referring to an American airport.

  • MACRO: Please don't remind me of my introduction to economics days from freshman year of college. Those were dark times.
  • I'm not sure I really need slaves in a puzzles with ENSLAVED (37D: Forced into bondage)
  • 54A: Work without __ A NET threw me for a bit of a loop. I kept trying to tie this into current events and really wanted to somehow make this about working without "pay."
  • QUINOA — I've never jumped on this trend and don't really have a taste for it, but other people seem to love it... (like, ahem, my sister, who keeps trying to make me like it)
  • OUZO — Legit never heard of this before — maybe my tastes just aren't refined enough yet. We certainly weren't drinking OUZO in college.
Signed, Clare Carroll, brrrraving the cold in DC

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Classic typewriter brand / MON 1-28-19 / Extra job in gig economy / Giving away unwanted items rather than trashing them / Obsessive to fault

Monday, January 28, 2019

Constructor: Thomas van Geel

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:03)

THEME: KICKSTARTER (62A: Crowdfunding site ... or a hint to the beginnings of 17-, 30- and 46-Across) — first words (or "starters") in themers are also types of "kicks":

Theme answers:
  • FREECYCLING (17A: Giving away unwanted items rather than trashing them)
  • SIDE HUSTLE (30A: Extra job in the gig economy)
  • DROP THE MIC (46A: Dramatically end a speech, in a way)
Word of the Day: OLIVETTI (40D: Classic typewriter brand)
Olivetti S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of typewriterscomputerstabletssmartphonesprintersand other such business products as calculators and fax machines. Headquartered in Ivrea, in the Metropolitan City of Turin, the company has been part of the Telecom Italia Group since 2003. The first commercial programmable "desktop computer", the Programma 101, was produced by Olivetti in 1964 and was a commercial success. (wikipedia)
• • •

This felt so much harder than it was. I think the very long Downs in the NW and SE made it feel ... actually, it was pretty low word-count for a Monday (74)—that's just a couple black squares away from a themeless-style grid (72 is max word count for themelesses). And then the themers were really very contemporary phrases, which means I really had to think about them (well, the first two—I had the MIC part before I ever read the DROP THE MIC clue, so that was easier). I also got slowed by wanting only KNEECAP for 3D: Patella, and not really understanding what was going on. KNEEBONE ... OK, I guess that's a thing. Seems like there are maybe multiple "bones" in your knee, whereas "patella" is specifically the kneeCap, but OK. Sure. Had a little trouble with SEEST, and, since literally all laugh syllables are vile, terrible answers, I struggled a bit with HEH (31D: When repeated, a sneaky laugh). But I knew OLIVETTI, as I love both typewriters and great graphic design (for which their ads were very well known). I can see that answer potentially derailing some people, as it crosses a couple of proper nouns (namely FILAS and EVAN). Finished up in the SW and was surprised to see the clock at only a shade over 3 minutes—a very normal Monday time. Because the revealer and all the themers are quite fresh, and the wordplay in the revealer really works, and the puzzle was Monday-easy overall while still being interesting, I really liked this.

I think I put ANAL in a grid once, but I would never do it again. Maybe once is enough. I've tried it. Check. Moving on. INESSE is hot garbage, but seriously the only part of this grid I really don't like. I think SIDE HUSTLE is really good as fill, though I really don't like the term, as it's a lousy attempt to make job insecurity and lack of benefits sound Sex-ay! Boooo. Speaking of KICKSTARTER, Peter Gordon's Newsflash Crossword made its KICKSTARTER goal yesterday after I wrote about it, and as I said yesterday, you should definitely get in on that. Much fun. I think I don't have much more to say about this one. Let's just let it be. It's nice. See you tomorrow.

2019 NYT Crossword Constructor Count: Men: 25.5 / Women 2.5

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Headgear for knight / SUN 1-27-19 / Okinawa port / Bob 1968 record-setting long jumper / Royal Charlotte's father / Two-masted sailing vessel

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging (11:31)

THEME: "Unemployment Lines" — I don't even know how to describe this ... so themers are nonsense phrases, where first word has an apparently but not always actually negative prefix like DIS- or DE- and second word is a kind of profession ... and then the clue is [Unemployed [synonym for the second word]?] and then the verb that follows the negative prefix is somehow related to the profession, in different ways for each theme answer, dear lord, this theme is a mess...

Theme answers:
  • DISTRESSED HAIRDRESSER (22A: Unemployed salon worker?)
  • DEFILED MANICURIST (29A: Unemployed nail polisher?)
  • DISPATCHED TAILOR (46A: Unemployed men's clothier?) (why "men's"?)
  • DEGRADED TEACHER (63A: Unemployed educator?)
  • DISTRUSTED BANKER (83A: Unemployed loan officer?)
  • DERANGED CATTLEMAN (100A: Unemployed rancher?)
  • DISILLUSIONED MAGICIAN (111A: Unemployed prestidigitator?)
Word of the Day: PUT (71A: Wall Street order) —
A put is an option which gives the owner the right, but not the obligation, to sell an asset at a pre-determined price within a given time period. (Wall Street Oasis) (?)
• • •

DISCARDED DEALER? DEMORALIZED PREACHER? DISBANDED SINGER? DISCOVERED SPY? Am I doing this right? Who even knows? What a disaster this is. It took me forever to get even a single complete theme answer because I kept expecting actual phrases, or twists on actual phrases, to materialize, And They Never Did. The wordplay involved here is so loose and messy and convoluted, I don't even know how this cleared standards. Grading is what a teacher *does*, a *tress* is a thing a hairdresser works *on*, a range is place *where* a cattleman works. I don't even know *what* a banker's relation to trust is supposed to be, exactly. He/she works there? And with the prefixes ... it's DIS-, or it's DE- ... but is the DIS- in DISPATCHED even negative? Can you be patched? I'm tired of wondering aloud about this thing. Grinding, grueling, joyless work, this one. Never got a rhythm going, never hit an answer I genuinely liked, got stuck over and over on lousy fill. Oh, MISS ME!? I like (72A: Question after "I'm back"). Ha! Said a nice thing! And I do enjoy some CASEY KASEM whenever I get the chance (his old shows are in various places online). Some of the other long Downs are also OK. But hoooo boy no to *all* of the theme stuff and most of the rest of it.

Here is the large patch of grid where I just died ... like ... dead calm, no wind, no real idea what was happening:

ATTHAT ... means "In addition"??? Er ... OK ... I must never or almost never use that phrase. I just couldn't parse it at all. Had AS PIE for 11D: Easy ___ (ASABC). THIEU, LOL, no. I just am not up on my Vietnam War-era presidents that are not US presidents (12D: President during the Vietnam War). RARE GEM (24D: Beauty that's seldom seen) makes me GROAN. ADMIRED is not the same as [Used as a role model]. I ADMIRED Ted Williams, but role model? No. Forgot Bob BEAMON existed (27A: Bob ___, 1968 record-setting long jumper), possibly because, like THIEU and the overall cultural center of gravity of this puzzle, he is from the Vietnam era. So so so rough. Also rough: BEEPERS (lol) / PUT (what the?). I ran the alphabet at that crossing once and came up with *nothing*. Only on the second run did BEEPERS make any sense to me. That clue, ugh (53D: You can page through them). BEEPERS does deserve some praise, at least, for being hella modern compared to the rest of this grid. Did they have BEEPERS when THIEU and BEAMON were knocking around? I like to think of BEAMON just paging THIEU every once in a while, just to see what's up. They were good friends, in my imagination. As I was typing the last sentence, this Tweet popped into my feed:

The THIEU / BEAMON bond is quite rarefied and not understood by many.

And lastly, ARMET (103D: Headgear for a knight)ARMETARMET. ARMET. That's a word. There it is. You can't deny its wordlike qualities. Put it on. Try it out. Wear it on your head. ARMET. Did you know the ARMET originated in NAHA? (31D: Okinawa port) Well, it didn't. I just wanted to work NAHA into the conversation. NAHAHAHAHA bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Peter Gordon is firing up his Newsflash Crosswords again for the 2019-20 season, and today is the last day of the current Kickstarter campaign. If you haven't done these before, you're in for a treat. The puzzles feature loads of names and events ripped from the headlines (I could phrase this in a less cliché and sensational way, but I'm not gonna!). They reward people who keep up with current events, and they help people who maybe don't keep up on current events as much as they'd like by teaching you new names, which in turn prepares you to do battle with future puzzles you might encounter. They are, for me, about a Wednesday-level of difficulty, and they are great fun. A different crosswording experience from anything else out there. Highly recommended. Get on board.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Statement in old Apple ad / SAT 1-26-19 / Grocery chain that closed in 2015 after 156 years in business / Classic video game hero's catchphrase / Underlying as metabolism / Short cut that bypasses a canal

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Constructor: Grant Thackray

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:18)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Giovanni RIBISI (3D: Actor Giovanni of "Avatar") —
Antonino Giovanni Ribisi (Italian pronunciation: [antoˈniːno dʒoˈvanni riˈbizi]; born December 17, 1974) is an American film and television actor known for his roles in the TV series Sneaky Pete, and the films AvatarA Million Ways to Die in the West and Ted. He also had recurring roles in My Name Is Earl and Friends. (wikipedia)
• • •

I solved this at the kitchen table and so of course my wife and dogs walked in in the middle and my wife tried to talk to me and I was like "SHHHH! I'm sorry I'm sorry..." but she understands. Still, I blame that very minor distraction for my not solving this even faster than I did. Looking back over it, I'm not sure why it took me even a second longer than yesterday's (in fact it took me 13 seconds longer than yesterday's). I had the usual minor trouble getting started, but after that, it was a quick reverse "S" path from start to finish. It's a very solid, but to me not-at-all exciting grid. I've seen ALABAMASLAMMERS before a bunch (I mean, a "bunch" as 15s go, so maybe a few times). Other people have done IT'SAMEMARIO, so it feels not-so-fresh now. Everything works but nothing goes pow. I think my favorite thing was the clue on CESAREAN SECTION (48A: Short cut that bypasses a canal?). There are three "IT"s in this grid. An ITCREW, if you will. I don't care that there are three "IT"s, but I noticed, so I'm telling you.

There wasn't much in the way of difficulty here for me, but I did stumble or struggle a few times. First, I had a mistaken aha moment when I threw down GASPAR at 13D: Who stabs the beast in "Beauty and the Beast" (GASTON). If I'd just sung the damn song to myself, I would've remembered that no one fights like GASTON, and that would've been that. Who the hell is GASPAR??? Hmm, no one? GASPARD is a character in "Tale of Two Cities." Gah. Anyway, flubbed that. Next trouble came in SW, where "I'M A PC" was very slow to fall (not intuitively an *Apple* expression). Not sure I like the idea of "statements" in "old ads" very much. At all. Slogans, sure. But just ... statements?? Not good fill. Also had weird trouble getting MEIN (38A: Lo ___). But I bypassed my issues there by putting the "S" at the end of what would end up being PRUNES (45A: Trims), and then from that dropping SECS (46D: Ticks), and then from there, with just the "D" and "C" in place, dropping DEMOCRATICALLY, then DELANY, then BID BENE BASAL, all without much hesitation. No idea who BECCA was and absolutely no idea about BERTHA (47A: Big name in weaponry), so that whole "these answers start w/ B" section was a minor slog. But eventually I came back across the bottom pretty easily and dusted off the SW. And done

Five things:
  • 7D: Letters for potential college students (ETS) — just go with the aliens. ETS are not letters anyone really *knows*, even if they have to deal with them (Education Testing Service)
  • 51D: ___ Genevieve (Missouri county or its seat) (STE) — had the "T" so this was my first guess, but with nothing indicating an "abbr." in the clue, I was really unsure.
  • 41A: Grocery chain that closed in 2015 after 156 years in business (A AND P) — ah. Classic ampersandwich.
  • 5D: Whip wielders, for short (DOMS) — pretty racy...
  • 14D: First, in Latin (PRIMUS — this might be a clue most people can suss out, but I still don't know how you put PRIMUS in a grid and you *don't* clue it via the band:

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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Stern competitor once / FRI 1-25-19 / Big name in cookware / Longtime Yankee teammate of Sandman / Where TV's Flo waitressed

Friday, January 25, 2019

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (5:05)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ADP (43A: Payroll service co.) —
Automatic Data Processing, Inc., commonly known as ADP, is an American provider of human resources management software and services. As of 2010, ADP was one of four American companies to have a AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's (S&P) and Moody's. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow this one ran the gamut ... or my emotions ran the gamut, maybe that's the better way to put it. Dizzying highs, terrifying lows, creamy centers. There were a couple things, like TRUE-TO-SIZE and "ME AGAIN!," that seemed delightful. Interesting and different. But then the whole NE corner was pretty blah, what with STUPES (people say that?) over ATTA, crossing TETE-A-TETE (a 9-letter word I weirdly feel like I see a lot). Then there was stuff like RAN TRACK, which felt slightly "green paint"-ish (i.e. like a phrase someone might say, but not so great as a stand-alone answer), and MALAPROP, which really feels like its missing its -ISM. A [Language blooper] is a noun, and the noun is "malapropism." From Mrs. MALAPROP. Or so I thought. I got that one easily enough, it just felt weirdly incomplete.

[64A: Reveler's cry => "LET'S PARTY!"]

Then there was the "what? ... oh ... oh yeah, that's pretty cool" feeling of letting the clue for SOCIETY kinda wash over me (39A: Upper crust). Then there was the harrowing near-trauma of not one but two total-guess crosses. NE- / -OREY had me guessing "C" solely because COREY was the only name I could make from -OREY (that, and COREY Pavin *kinda* rang a bell). And then there was EMM- / -DP. Even though I've seen ADP before, it's such a horrible boring bad corporate initialism that there's no way I'm ever going to remember it. And as for EMMA, I just *could not* figure out what the clue was on about: [31D: Top name in a Social Security Administration list every year from 2014 to 2017]. It was the "a SSA list" bit that confused me. I think of social security as something you collect. When you're older. I don't think of SSA as a keeper of *baby name* records. I mean, it makes sense. but the vague "a list" left me at sea. As with COREY, I guessed EMMA just because EMMA is a name. I thought maybe EMMY or even EMME (is that someone?) but in the end I just went with the odds (i.e. the most common name I could make). And, bingo! So I was pretty fast, and I guessed right twice. So the adrenaline rush of near-failure and the quick completion kind of offset my annoyance at having to guess in the first (and second) place. Whole thing felt uneven but not unsatisfying.

Five things:
  • 23A: "Planet Money" producer (NPR) — wrote in CNN, ugh. Having NPR and IRA Glass in the same grid should be illegal based on too much on-brandness, NYT.
  • 44A: Figures by a float (PARADERS) — even though my first thought was a *parade* float, PARADERS ... was not a word I considered, or would consider in ordinary conversation, I don't think. 
  • 1D: Draft pick (STEIN) — you 'pick' the *container* ... of your 'draft'? This feels odd.
  • 18A: Possible reply to "Who's responsible?" ("NOT I") — and then there's the possible reply to "NOT I," which is of course NORI.
  • 50D: Lacking face value (NO PAR) — shoot all the --PAR answers into the sun. Well, both of them: NO and his brother AT. Also all weird bridge answers, while you're at it. Bye bye, ONENO! See ya, TENACE! Not sure why I'm going after bridge, since it didn't do anything to me. Not today, anyway.
Constructor count: Men: 22.5 / Women 2.5 (today's constructor accounts for two of those)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I love baseball but that's an Awful lot of four-letter baseball names: MAYS and then *stacked* AROD / RYNE. Lots of people aren't so conversant in sports, so crowding a small area with names from the *same* sport seems a little mean

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Air carrier from Taiwan / THU 1-24-19 / Unlikely source of Top 40 song / Instrument that opens Stravinsky's rite of spring / Spamalot lyricist

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Constructor: Stu Ockman

Relative difficulty: Medium (6-something, almost a minute of which was spent trying to dig myself out of a terrible predicament in the SW corner ...)

THEME: GOO GOO EYES (66A: Adoring looks seen 10 times in this puzzle's grid) — rebus puzzle where "OO" appears in a single box ten different times (including inside GOO GOO EYES itself)

Theme answers:
  • VOODOO DOLL (17A: One stuck abroad?)
  • FOOLPROOF (26A: Risk-free)
  • TOO RICH FOR MY BLOOD (41A: "I'm out")
  • FOOTSTOOL (50A: Ottoman)
Word of the Day: STAG beetle (53A: ___ beetle) —
Stag beetles are a group of about 1,200 species of beetles in the family Lucanidae, presently classified in four subfamilies. Some species grow to over 12 cm (4.7 in), but most are about 5 cm (2.0 in). // The English name is derived from the large and distinctive mandibles found on the males of most species, which resemble the antlers of stags(wikipedia)
• • •

Sincere question: what makes the eyes "GOO GOO"? I see that two "O"s can represent eyes, fine, but how are those eyes "GOO GOO"? They look like wide open or surprised eyes, maybe? But I honestly don't see how two "O"s next to each other gets you an "adoring look." I do see that "GOO GOO" gets you two sets of eyes inside the revealer itself, which is a cute touch, but the central idea—that the "OO"s represent specifically GOO GOO eyes, and not just, uh, eyes—that, I don't get. I got the theme very early, after CROON wouldn't fit and then VOODOO DOLL was indisputably a right answer. Still struggled a bit here and there trying to find the "eyes"—didn't know there would necessarily be such an orderly distribution. Slightly (read: very) odd to have non-theme answers (CRITICAL, MOUSSAKA longer than two of the themers, but I guesssss the rationale is that if you count all the letters in those themers, and not just the boxes, then they are longer. I love how TOO RICH FOR MY BLOOD fits so neatly across the middle; it's a wonderful, colorful phrase, and my favorite thing about the puzzle by far. Doesn't change the fact that the theme doesn't really deliver what it says it delivers, though. Mostly I am mad that, between the revealer and VOODOO DOLL, this puzzle has made me remember the Goo Goo Dolls, and so now this will be in my head all night:

Had trouble with SEAL (23A: It can make an impression in correspondence) and wrote PEONS for PLEBS (28D: Commoners). Balked at I CAN'T because I kept wondering "you can't *what*!?" (36D: "That's beyond me") Also had to talk myself into REGINAL, because ??? Didn't really know what a STAG beetle was, so getting into the SE corner was a little challenging. DESI, not a term I remember hearing / seeing before. But by far the toughest hurdle for me was the SW, where everything was going great until TAX---. I had zero zip no idea about EVA Air (!??!) (64D: ___ Air, carrier to Taiwan), and—the real issue—I wrote in REF instead of REC (65D: Supporting letter, informally). REC is better, but "letter of reference" is a common enough term. I write these things all the time, and somehow when looking at RE- my brain couldn't come up with anything but REF. This was unfortunate, not just because it was wrong, but because it made me think TAX--- had to be TARIFF (71A: Revenue-raising measure). But TIMEX *had* to be right. Blargh. Eventually worked it out, but the corner ate up way way more time than it should've.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I guess in other formats you have to enter the "O"s in a kind of googly way and so the GOOGOO part of GOOGOO EYES makes sense on the page. As you can see from my printed grid above, that did not come through for me.

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Group organizing Mardi Gras parade / WED 1-23-19 / First pope to be called Great / Trotter's course / Bowl trendy healthful food / Maternity ward worker who counts each day's births / Cable airer of NBA games / Scraped knee in totspeak

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

Relative difficulty: Medium for me (4:15), but Easy for everyone else, apparently

THEME: GENDER NEUTRAL (56A: Like 20-, 28- and 45-Across vis-à-vis the female-sounding phrases they're based on?) — a familiar base phrase has its final "-ESS" removed and then the aural remnants are reimagined and reclued, wackily:

Theme answers:
  • DELIVERY ADDER (from "delivery address") (20A: Maternity ward worker who counts each day's births?)
  • FLYING BUTTER (from "flying buttress") (28A: Dairy item thrown in a food fight?)
  • BLOW-UP MATTER (from "blow-up mattress") (45A: Dynamite?)
Word of the Day: KREWE (27D: Group organizing a Mardi Gras parade) —
  1. (in the US) an organization or association that stages a parade or other event for a carnival celebration. Krewes are associated especially with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. (google)
• • •

First off, hurray for half of a woman constructor! It's now 22.5 men and 1.5 women. Parity, here we come! (But seriously, hurray). Big non-hurray for this theme though, which clunks the way only an off-the-mark sound-based theme can clunk. That extra syllable is just a horrible dealbreaker. ADDRESS is two syllables. Removing its "female-sounding" part (!) just leaves ADDR-, which sounds like "uh-DRUH-" The idea that taking away the "-ESS" leaves ADDER is completely preposterous. An "address" is something. An "adder" is something. An "adderess" is ... like, a female snake? I dunno. I just know that all of these themers simply do not work at the level at which humans form sounds with their mouths and larynxes. Matteress? Butteress? How is "delivery address" a "female-sounding phrase." It's barely a phrase at all. Has anyone ever thought, "'mattress' ... that's kind of like feminine 'matter'?" And by "anyone" I mean "anyone who wasn't super high." The great thing about watching instant reaction to the puzzle on Twitter at #NYTXW is that you can see trends. This puzzle was apparently very easy and also, to a good number of people, completely baffling. So many people out there are like, "I set a personal record time for a Wednesday but I do Not understand the theme." I too couldn't understand it for something close to a minute (roughly).

The fill also shouldn't be this blah when the theme isn't taxing the grid that much. The long non-theme answers are fairly dull and the short stuff is overrun with NYSE AONE STLEO ADREP ENS ACAI SSS NNE-level gunk. It's funny that people found this so easy. These imaginary-phrase themes always slow me down. Also, I just didn't see any of the answers clearly. CRAB no CLODS no VOL no ... had NAVE for APSE (not a big churchgoer, or church-understander, apparently), SPRUNG for SPRANG, blanked on KREWE, balked at AMEN and WEST, wasn't entirely sure about MEEMAW, had LET ME instead of LEMME (which ... what the hell is with that corner!? LEMME is so bad and unnecessary; you could do a million other things down there—you could also just change it to DEMME and turn LAV (ugh, again?) into DAD. OK, that's all. I'll leave you with a couple of interesting solver gripes. Good night:

4D: Agnostic's lack => BELIEF
5A: Some lines drawn with protractors => ARCS

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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YouTube popularity metric / TUE 1-22-19 / Lee Browne actor director in Theater Hall of Fame / Certain close-knit social media group / Hobbyists' racers controlled remotely

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Constructor: John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday) (4:05)

THEME: "WATCH YOUR STEP" (35A: "Look out!" ... and warning when encountering the circled things in this puzzle) — there are four snakes in the puzzle, spelled out in four sets of winding circled squares: KINGCOBRA / SIDEWINDER / COPPERHEAD / PUFFADDER

Word of the Day: ROSCOE Lee Browne, actor director in the Theater Hall of Fame (5D) —
Roscoe Lee Browne (May 2, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American actor and directorknown for his rich voice and dignified bearing. He resisted playing stereotypically black roles, instead performing in several productions with New York City's Shakespeare Festival Theater, Leland Hayward's satirical NBC series That Was the Week That Was, and a poetry performance tour of the United States in addition to his work in television and film.
In 1976, Browne was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series for his work on ABC's Barney Miller. In 1986, he won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series for his work on NBC's The Cosby Show. In 1992, he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance as "Holloway" in August Wilson's Two Trains Running.
In 1995, he received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for his performance as "The Kingpin" in Spider-Man.
Browne was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977 and posthumouslyinducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2008. (wikipedia)
• • •

I was on Twitter before and after solving this puzzle and let me tell you the reaction to 21A: Certain close-knit social media group (TWIBE) was a swift and definitive hell no.

I really don't understand this cavalier indulgence of slang. It's clearly not a word the constructors themselves use, as it's a "word" I've never seen used at all, despite the fact that I'm on that "certain" social media site ... a lot. I've seen "tweeps" a bunch, but never ever TWIBE. Again, *this* is the problem with giiiiigantic word lists compiled indiscriminately—they convince constructors that all the words are perfectly *good* words, or that they are fresh or hip or have currency. Wordlists can discourage constructors from using their ears, and from exercising good judgment. The grid is already in trouble because it's severely stressed by the theme—a majority of answers have theme squares in them, making the grid very very hard to fill cleanly. Given that level of difficulty, the grid isn't bad. But ... it's still not good. Plural TSKS and esp plural WHAMS (?) and LII and ADREPS and TIEBAR SSN AFC x/w UFC, ERR and ERE ... DURA ESAU ERAT ... it's a lot to take. And all for a theme that's no help at all when solving. There's really only one theme answer. Hard to see the snakes til your done. The idea is cute, but the actual solve wasn't fun.

Five things:
  • 33D: Ore, for one? (TYPO— this is what happens when you're so in love with your own cleverness that you ignore plausibility. I get that you're trying to do a cute play on the "for one" (i.e. "for example") convention in crossword cluing, but, see, "ore" is not a plausible TYPO for "one"—look where "r" is on a keyboard. Now look where "n" is. Oh god I just saw ELEA—man, the fill in this thing is not good...
  • 51D: What follows the semis (FINAL) — this is correct, but man did I / do I want FINAL*S*
  • 32A: Guinness record holder for the U.S. city with the most consecutive days of sun (768), informally (ST. PETE) — I got so bored reading this clue that I never got to the end, so I kept expecting it to look like an actual city name (not an abbr. city name).
  • 2D: Super Bowl of 2018 (LII) — there are few clues I resent more than "Surely You Know The Roman Numerals Associated With All 52 Super Bowls!" clues. Super Bowl III was the last one where the Roman numeral seems historical and noteworthy. (UNITAS v. Namath, the year I was born)
  • 10D: YouTube popularity metric (VIEWS) — wanted LIKES. Then ... well, this answer got all caught up in the TWIBE nonsense. Since I had TRIBE, I ended up with VIERS ... which I was hoping and praying was not some horrid now-speak contraction of "viewers"

2019 NYT Crossword constructor count: 
  • M: 21 (including four (!!!?) all-male teams)
  • W: 1
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

P.S. . . well I missed this . . . and I solved this *on* MLKJR day . . .

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