Physician Franz who coined term animal magnetism / SUN 3-31-19 / Roc band with 1994 4x platinum album Downward Spiral for short

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (9:55)


THEME: "Take One For The Team" — themers contain the names of Major League Baseball teams + 1 extra letter. The the extra letters end up spelling (when taken in order from top themer to bottom themer) SACRIFICE, which you then enter at 76-Down, which is clued only [See note]. Get it, because "SACRIFICE" is a baseball play and you have to metaphorically "SACRIFICE" a letter to get the actual baseball team name ... yeah, you get it ...

Theme answers:
  • ASPIRATES (25A: Pronounces breathily)
  • MEAT SAUCE (27A: Hearty pasta topping)
  • CASTRO STREET (39A: Historic San Francsico thoroughfare)
  • SCRUB SUITS (44A: Outfits in the operating room)
  • TELEVANGELISM (66A: Some Sunday broadcasting)
  • FRED SAVAGE (84A: "The Wonder Years" star)
  • PAID RESPECTS (90A: Visited out of deference (to))
  • GRAYSCALE (105A: Colorless mode at a copy shop)
  • PORTWINES (107A: Strong servings with dessert)
Word of the Day: Jacky ROSEN (18D: Nevada senator Jacky) —
Jacklyn Sheryl Rosen (née Spektor; August 2, 1957) is an American politician serving as the juniorU.S. Senator from Nevada. Prior to serving in the Senate, Rosen served one term as the U.S. Representative for Nevada's 3rd congressional district. She was elected to the United States Senatein the 2018 election, defeating Republican incumbent Dean Heller.[1] She is the only freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives who won a seat in the U.S. Senate during the 2018 midterm electionsand the only challenger to defeat a Republican incumbent Senator in the 2018 cycle. (wikipedia)
• • •

I'm at the peak of this stupid head cold, so I don't know how much gas I've got in the tank this evening. Let's see. So I've been doing two things a lot for the past 48 Hours (while hydrating, resting, and moaning like a poor baby): solving crosswords and watching baseball. These are two of my favorite things, and I've just been stuffing myself with both. I'm a Tigers fan, so it's largely been a miserable experience. We didn't score at all in Game 1 until Christian Stewart crushed a two-run homer in the 10th to win it. Great. But then we didn't score at all the next game. Or The Next Game. That's 28 total innings worth of plate appearances so far this year, and a grand total of two (2) runs, both of which came in a single inning, on a single swing of the bat. I'm not saying it's going to be a long season. I'm saying it's not a season at all, but some anteroom in hell, and it will never, ever end, and I'm condemned to watch it for eternity with my eyelids propper open. Or so it has felt like. So, solving this puzzle ... didn't feel as bad as watching this so-called "baseball" over the past few days, but it did not feel good. It just doesn't know what it wants to do, what it wants to be when it grows up. It kinda wishes it were a true metapuzzle, where solvers would be given a hint to the final answer and then have to figure it out themselves based on the evidence in the grid. But ... it's not that, because the actual answer is In The Grid (why!?!?!), and while it's unclued, it's not exactly hiding. It was super-easy to uncover SACRIFICE without ever once looking at the Note or trying to figure out what was going on with the theme. Who has the time. I was done in under 10 without even trying to grok the theme. It's such an awkward execution of an idea. No thought seems to have been given to how satisfying this thing will be from the solver's perspective. Puzzle-makers just got all lost in the gimmick, I guess. The execution is lousy. I didn't even have to look at the note to get the theme. The baseball names are pretty obvious (well, at least to me, though admittedly I've been soaking in baseball, so maybe it wasn't so obvious to others). From my solving perspective, this thing was a giant themeless with an unclued answer. Circled squares, unclued answer, none of it did anything for me. Swing and a miss.

The fill didn't exactly sizzle either. ARB, ONLAY (I only know INLAY), ELHI ESO and my all-time non-favorite answer, ALIENEE. Theme density => highly segmented grid (to keep the fill cleanish) => mostly short and dull stuff. Longer stuff doesn't exactly shine either. UTAHNS PERI ADLAI UTNE CHE ISEE. WAF!?!? I liked CASTRO STREET as an answer. GRAYSCALE is Ok too. SCRUB SUITS is redundant. FRED SAVAGE is a cool throwback. Or a throwback, anyway. PORT WINES is redundant. I had BLOB before GLOB (105D: Shapeless mass), and SPY NOVEL before SPY STORY, which is more accurate, but wrong today, I guess (68D: John le Carré specialty). I think I'm gonna go now. I did a really beautiful 17x17 puzzle by Paolo Pasco today (from the American Values Club Crossword), and I'm just gonna count that as my Sunday solving experience. It was everything I wish NYT Sundays could be. Simple and original and delightful.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. almost forgot—loved "MAUDE"; more Bea Arthur, please (1A: Top 10-rated sitcom each season from 1972 to 1976)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Political commentator Pfeiffer / SAT 3-30-19 / Firearms without serial numbers / Ancient supercontinent / deck bodybuilder's machine

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Constructor: Greg Johnson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (6:41)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: NAME DAY (8D: Catholic celebration) —
  1. the feast day of a saint after whom a person is named. (google)
• • •

This one lost me from the jump. GHOST GUNS? This is certainly fresh and original fill, but it puts gun violence right in the lead-off position, and thus totally killed (!) the vibe for me. I actually don't mind names of weapons in my puzzles, but ones specifically associated with getting around background checks and regulation? Yeah, no, you can take that **** out of here. Take it to BOISE! (actually I hear BOISE is very nice and my mom grew up in Idaho and my grandma still lives there, so no offense!). Sincerely, though, it was a mood killer. And the vibe of this puzzle just stayed very ... conservative man. I.T. *GUY*. VIAGRA. Using "Animal House" instead of "Alice in Wonderland" for EAT ME? There are no women in this grid at all, and the only woman to be seen in all of the clues is used to clue her husband (VINCENTE). I guess ELLE is mostly a woman's magazine. That hardly counts. Anyway, even beyond the aggressive dude-ness of it all, the fill just left me cold. ORGANIC MATERIAL?! (17A: It was discovered on Mars in 2018) It's hard to think of a duller 15 than that. And isn't the more common term "matter"? Not that that would've made it more interesting. The puzzle seems sturdy and well enough made, but not for me.

Found this mostly quite easy, though PEEK IN was PEEKED (wrong verb tense!) and PEEK AT at first (20A: Take a furtive look), and PILFER was BUFFET (!) (32A: Lift). Can't airborne things be "buffeted" by the wind? Did I make that up? Ugh, it looks like maybe I was thinking of "buoyed" or "borne" or some other "B" word. Also had MESSIER before MANGIER (38D: More shabby), which caused some minor grief, but only minor. Otherwise, no problems. I've barely heard of NAME DAY, but crosses weren't too hard to come by. The clue on MISADD is very clever (28D: Totally screw up?) (get it, because when you MISADD you "screw up" while "total"-ing... eh? eh? please clap). It doesn't make me like MISADD as fill, but it's clever.

Today we've got a four-day solo male constructor streak going. Gotta go back seven years to find an equivalent streak for women. Oh, and here's a little thread I wrote about how the NYTXW's partner site, xwordinfo, uses deceptive charts to visually misrepresent the data on women constructors. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Combination in the card game bezique / FRI 3-29-19 / Comic Brennan / City that was the first capital of French Louisiana

Friday, March 29, 2019

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: GLISSANDI (50A: Dramatic musical effects)
Per Wikipedia, this is a GLISSAND[O]
In music, a glissando (Italian: [ɡlisˈsando]; plural: glissandi, abbreviated gliss.) is a glide from one pitch to another (About this soundPlay ). It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, "to glide". In some contexts, it is distinguished from the continuous portamento
• • •
Hi all, Rachel Fabi filling in for Rex tonight.

Oh man, this puzzle was so not my speed (which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it!). Between the comedians I was only passingly familiar with (MEARA, BRENNAN), the weirdly Louisiana-specific trivia through the middle (DIXIELANDJAZZ, MOBILEALABAMA), the retro office equipment (DOTMATRIX, apparently a kind of printer?), and the 20th century athletes (DIZ, EDBERG), I really struggled with this one. I also have some serious gripes with the fill.

The puzzle definitely skewed older; in addition to the DOTMATRIX printer, we had a 1929 Gershwin title girl (LIZA), a play from an obscure card game that is related to another obscure card game that is maybe related to Pinochle? (MELD - 23A: Combination in the card game bezique), and plenty of other things that were just so far beyond my own cultural universe that I really struggled to unravel them. Which is fine! Possibly even the point of crossword puzzles! I do not begrudge the constructor his less-than-current fill, any more than other solvers in whose wheelhouse this puzzle comfortably fit might resent a puzzle filled with the neologisms characteristic of younger constructors. Speaking for myself, I do crossword puzzles to learn new (or old) things, so I am definitely not irritated by the things I didn't know. What I cannot forgive, however, is sticking those things together with the fill we have here.
Moe does not approve of your fill

The most egregious of the fill is DERE (38A: In dat place). Absolutely. Not. If you get to a place where you are making up words to put in the clue for a made up word, you need to reevaluate your grid and tear some things out. There will just never be a time when you should be filling your puzzle with non-words (and/or potentially offensive riffs on accents). Also terrible: RIS, an obscure partial from the name of a French dish that really does not google in English; MOE, as in eeny-meeny-miny-moe; LAE (32D: Ka ___ (southernmost point of Hawaii)); the aforementioned DIZ; and DAH, which is a morse code noise.

I appreciated the challenge of this puzzle, and I think the stair-step grid design is funky and interesting with those little YES/MOE cutouts. While the content often escaped me, I don't think anything in the puzzle was unfair; everything I struggled with had reasonable crosses, and I was able to finish only slightly above my average Friday time. Overall, despite my gripes with the fill, I enjoyed it.

  • OATEN (42D: Like some straw) It seems that OATEN is the adjective form of oat, so OATEN straw is straw from oats? Learning new things about agriculture!
  • DIXIELANDJAZZ (31A: New Orleans entertainment) — Have to admire the constructor for really going for it with the X, J, and double Z here. 
Thanks to Rex for letting me stop by! 

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

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


Nickname for Cleveland Browns fans / THU 3-28-19 / Subject of Hemingway's Death in Afternoon / Carla 1960s R&B duo

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Medium (would've been Easy if I'd figured out the theme some time before the 80%-done mark...) (6:10) (3:45 am solve, good morning!)

THEME: GIVE ME SOME SPACE (64A: Request needed to understand four clues in this puzzle) — you need to put a space somewhere in the one-word themer clues to make sense of them:

Theme answers:
  • FROM WHERE I STAND (17A: Tome) (i.e. To me)
  • DECIMAL (30A: Often) (i.e. Of ten)
  • POWERLESS (37A: Notable) (i.e. Not able)
  • PERSIST (49A: Goon) (i.e. Go on)
Word of the Day: CORRIDA (2D: Subject of Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon") —
  1. a bullfight. (google)
• • •

Fell asleep early, woke up Very early (3:30am! Hello!) and then solved this puzzle. If it weren't for the theme answers, I would've killed this puzzle. The only thing that got in the way was the theme, which I didn't understand for waaaaaaay too long, and even after I pieced together the revealer, I still didn't get it, because it says GIVE ME SOME SPACE and there is the letter string "me" in the first theme clue, so I got distracted trying to make that meaningful for a little bit. Went looking at the other theme clues, saw there were no more "me"s, then made a face, then got it (yes, that's a plausible sequence of events). I've definitely seen variations on this theme before, or this kind of wordplay, so my reaction to the revealer was more collapsed shoulders + oof than widened eyes + Oh! Mainly I'm just mad at myself for not figuring out the rather simple theme concept much earlier. Again, really don't like the "ME" in GIVE ME SOME SPACE because it feels superfluous and distractive, from a theme expression point of view. As a stand-alone phrase, GIVE ME SOME SPACE is great, and of course the whole point is that you are repurposing a stand-alone phrase. I get it. It's just weird that nothing happens with "ME," and also weird to imagine that I would "request" something like this. "INNERSPACE" ... now there's a revealer!

Hardest parts for me where the ones that formed the connective tissue in the middle third of the grid. Not understanding the clue on DECIMAL, I really needed the short Downs but couldn't remember which horrific crossword initialism was called for at 25D: Banned pollutants (PCBS) and couldn't decide on which [Childish retort] to use (it was IS SO) (again, I say: worst genre of clue Ever). Also, the clue on B-SIDE was tough (36A: It's generally not played so much) (and people play B-SIDEs all the time, wtf).


Had STIFF for SHAFT, so that caused a real snarl (41A: Give a raw deal). And then there was the ADA / DEW cross, which was my last letter in the grid, and which I just stared at for a few seconds wondering how any letter could make a [Frost relative] (DEW). Ugh. I was like "... NEW ..." Not a fan of the ADA clue (28A: Palindromic girls' name). There are famous ADAs, you know? Come on.

Oh, and then I finished up with a stupid ERROR because of the stupidest reason, i.e. the olde "Which Plural Is It, Latin or English?" dilemma. That is, I had PUPAS at 59D: Cocoon dwellers (PUPAE). Always check your crosses, kids! [Popular bait for catching striped bass] is not SELS, it turns out. Ugh. Anyway, the theme is fine, the puzzle is fine, but there were issues that made my feelings run to tepid. Oh well. Happy Opening Day!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Institutions propped up with government support / WED 3-27-19 / Alternative to Venmo / One profiting through litigation not innovation / Toyota debut of 1982 / Provocative comments on current events

    Wednesday, March 27, 2019

    Constructor: Michael Hawkins

    Relative difficulty: Medium (4:38, rolling out of bed...)

    THEME: FINANCIAL MYTHS (49A: Misconceptions about money ... or a loose hint to 20-, 24- and 44-Across?) — phrases from the world of "finance" that contain "mythical" creatures:

    Theme answers:
    • UNICORN START-UP (20A: Success story like Uber or Airbnb)
    • ZOMBIE BANKS (24A: Institutions propped up with government support)
    • PATENT TROLL (44A: One profiting through litigation, not innovation)
    Word of the Day: PATENT TROLL (44A) —
    1. a company that obtains the rights to one or more patents in order to profit by means of licensing or litigation, rather than by producing its own goods or services. (google)
    • • •

    Hello from 5am! It's nice and quiet here, but solving is always a little slower at this hour. This one felt easy *except* for the themers, two of which I've barely heard of (UNICORN START-UP, ZOMBIE BANKS), and the revealer, which seems like a not-exactly stand-alone phrase. "Green paint," as they say. Two words that make a phrase that one might say, but not a phrase that feels strong enough to stand on its own. For comparison, ["health myths"] googles 10x better, and I don't think that's a great stand-alone phrase either. I'm not mad at the revealer. Just seems a little weak, and it clearly kept you from putting the word "financial" in the clue for ZOMBIE BANKS, which, I submit, that clue really needed (24A: Institutions propped up with government support). "Institutions"??? Could you narrow that downs? Seriously, all my difficulty in this one came in trying to figure out a. UNICORN ___ and b. ZOMBIE ___.  Well, almost all. I love the themers as phrases—just wish I knew them! If you enjoy the world of finance (I decidedly don't) then this likely entertained you, which seems a totally valid response. It wasn't for me, but it wasn't bad. I did like HOTTAKES and OVERSHARE, something I know something about. The theme was just a tad beyond my ken. (Is that a phrase? Did I make that up? Did I mention it's early...?)

    ATTYGEN, which I keep mentally pronouncing as it is spelled, and it sounds like some compound name like Sally Mae or Billy Ray (42D: Chief law officer: Abbr.). It's sooooo long for an abbr. And you have to abbr. two words? The term "AG" already exists. I have no doubt that this abbr. has been used in writing, but it looks so awful in the grid. Abbrs. shouldn't be this long. I have "YIKES" written into the margin of the grid next to the end of this answer. It's the only "YIKES." Beyond the themers and ATTYGEN (ugh), my only struggle was self-induced. I got MINI at 4D: 1" version of a 15-Across and promptly wrote in IPOD at 15-Across, without (obviously) ever looking at the clue (15A: Black-and-white item you can consume whole = OREO). So that sucked. I also couldn't get through the HAT / EAT portion of the grid at all until I came back at it from underneath. Also, the role in hide-and-seek is called a (wait for it) SEEKER, not SEARCHER, dear lord. It's not called *&$%ing "hide-and-search." Finished up with the "C" in FOCI / CAIN, the latter of which had a toughish clue (60A: Something a complainer might raise).

    One last bit of personal news. If you read this blog then you probably know that I have dogs. Well, today I have just the one. Yesterday, we said goodbye to our beautiful 16yo husky/shepherd mix, Dutchess, yesterday. She was part of our family for almost as long as we've owned this home, for almost as long as we've been married. For my daughter's entire living memory. We went to the shelter  in Montrose, PA looking for an entirely different dog but when my wife stopped in front of Dutchess's cage, and especially once we took her out of the cage, it was all over. She was obviously ours. And the best dog anyone could ever have. Easy to train. Laid back. Rugged. Durable. Calm. Sweet. She's been a part of our everyday life for so long. This morning is so weird, without her. She has left a huge hole in our lives, but she has also made our lives better and richer and happier than they would've been otherwise. Caring for her, especially as she got older and frailer, was a great privilege. I miss her soft ears. OK, go kiss your pups or kitties or, I don't know, children if you got 'em. Have a beautiful day. Dutchess Forever!

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    "Yay for us!" / TUES 3-26-19 / Fraction of a bushel / Nursery buy / Dawn's direction

    Tuesday, March 26, 2019

    Hello! It's Clare again — back for another Tuesday. Hope everyone is having a great start to their week! I just turned in maybe my biggest law school assignment yet, and I am SO relieved, so the start of my week has been great. That, plus the fact that March Madness is going on, and baseball's OPENING DAY is Thursday (Go, Giants!), and I feel like this week will be a good one.

    Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: OPENING DAY (62A: Start of the baseball season... or what the start of each starred clue is) — Seven answers in the puzzle begin with the abbreviations of the days of the week, in order.

    Theme answers:

    • SUNG (1A: Like carols and cantatas)
    • MONTECARLO (16A: Grand Prix locale)
    • TUESBELLE (24A: "You're beautiful," in Paris)
    • WEDIDIT (37A: "Yay for us!")
    • THURMAN (39A: Uma of "Kill Bill")
    • FRIARTUCK (50A: Friend of Robin Hood)
    • SATE (70A: Fill to excess)
    Word of the Day: KINTE (52D: Kunta of 51-Down — "Roots")

    Kunta Kinte is a character in the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by American author Alex Haley. Haley claimed that Kunta Kinte was based on one of his ancestors: a Gambian man who was born in 1750, enslaved and taken to America and who died in 1822. (Wikipedia)

    • • •

    I thought the theme overall was clever. Having seven clues correspond to the theme is ambitious, and it was done well. I appreciate the effort that must have gone into constructing a puzzle like this. And, the theme definitely helped me with the solve this week, which is doesn't always do.

    I did have a few nits with the theme, though. One is how the clue for the theme answer was phrased (62A: Start of the baseball season... or what the start of each starred clue is). Shouldn't the clue for 62A send you to look at each starred answer and not the clue? Also, OPENING DAY is Thursday, not Tuesday, so it's strange to have this theme in today's puzzle. Lastly, by having this theme take up so much of the puzzle, the other clues/answers were constricted, and there just wasn't much else about this puzzle that I found particularly clever.

    The fill also confused me in places. I didn't know PLIES (14A) could be tissue layers. LEANTO (46A: Rustic shelter) is more poverty-based than "rustic." I like seeing a word like BLITZES in a puzzle (32D: Intense promotional campaigns), but AD BLITZES seemed kind of made up to me. 9D: That: Sp. could also be "ese" or "esa" and not ESO, so that threw me a bit. I had "rad" instead of FAB for 42A: "Groovy!" I'm not sure that a MOON STARER is a thing. Having an anagram can be clever, so I could almost get behind that answer, but I find it kind of weird. Also, enough with the guns in the puzzle!! It's first of all odd to have "pellets" in both the clue for 7D: Pellet projectors and 21D: Small pellets. Then, the clue for VEST (53A: Bulletproof garment) also related to guns, even though there are so many other ways one could clue to VEST.

    Apparently, I didn't like the puzzle as much as I thought I did when I started writing this. Maybe the theme is the only saving grace. I did like the classic misdirection from 6D: Nursery buy (I was convinced that was a nursery for the baby and not one for plants). My favorite clue/answer combo of the puzzle was probably 64D: Chatty travel companion as GPS. I also thought having FRIAR TUCK (50A: Friend of Robin Hood) in a puzzle was unusual and fun.

    • Whoa. Is that why the saying goes "a bushel and a PECK"?? Mind = blown.
    • I drink so much tea, and the only thing I could think of for a while for a brewed drink at 31D was "ale."
    • Working as a waitress last summer, I definitely made my fair share of cappuccinos and LATTEs.
    • Just gonna put it out there that the Warriors knocked the Houston ROCKETS out of the playoffs last year. Crossing my fingers that happens again in this playoffs. *Knocks on wood.*
    With that, have a great week!!

    Signed, Clare Carroll, a happy law student

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    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

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    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).

      [STAYS MAD]

      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]


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