Pretentious in modern lingo / TUE 4-30-19 / Patron saint of lost causes / Youth-oriented Condé Nast publication / Believe it as retort

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:49)

THEME: GROUP / SHOTS (38A: With 28-Down, multisubject photos ... or a hint to the answers to the four starred clues) — answers to the starred clues are all two-word phrases where both words can precede "shot" in a familiar phrase:

Theme answers:
  • CHEAP TRICK (17A: *Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band with the hits "The Flame" and "I Want You to Want Me")
  • HEADSLAP (4D: *Relative of a facepalm)
  • BODY DOUBLE (58A: *Actor's stand-in)
  • LONG JUMP (39D:*Track-and-field event)
Word of the Day: St JUDE (56A: Patron saint of lost causes) —
Jude, also known as Judas Thaddaeus (GreekΘαδδαῖοςCopticⲑⲁⲇⲇⲉⲟⲥSyriac/Aramaic: ܝܗܘܕܐ ܫܠܝܚܐ),[5]was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is generally identified with Thaddeus, and is also variously called Jude of JamesJude ThaddaeusJudas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus. He is sometimes identified with Jude, the brother of Jesus, but is clearly distinguished from Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus prior to his crucifixion. Catholic writer Michal Hunt suggests that Judas Thaddaeus became known as Jude after early translators of the New Testament from Greek into English sought to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and subsequently abbreviated his forename.[6] Most versions of the New Testament in languages other than English and French refer to Judas and Jude by the same name.
The Armenian Apostolic Church honors Thaddeus along with Saint Bartholomew as its patron saints. In the Roman Catholic Church, he is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.
Saint Jude's attribute is a club. He is also often shown in icons with a flame around his head. This represents his presence at Pentecost, when he received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles. Another common attribute is Jude holding an image of Jesus Christ, known as the Image of Edessa. In some instances, he may be shown with a scroll or a book (the Epistle of Jude) or holding a carpenter's rule. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle is going over very well with crossword Twitter but I was not really feeling it. I don't feel negatively toward it, exactly. But I have very high expectations for Erik's puzzles, and this just felt ... too plain. The theme type is old, and not particularly interesting from a solver's point of view. OK, so "shot" can follow all those words. That's a thing that is true, but it's not like the array of themers is particularly stunning. They're fine. It's all fine. The revealer tries to raise things out of "dad puzzle" territory, but I think it actually muddies the waters more than it clarifies. What is the "group." Is two a "group"? If two people were in a "shot," I would not call it a "group shot." But the starred clues have answers that have two words in them, two "shots." Two is a pair. Three+ is a "group." I thought maybe the fact that the themers intersected other themers was what made the "shots" "GROUP / SHOTS" (four "shots"!), but that's probably being generous. So, on the theme front: old theme type, adequate themers, awkward revealer. Also, just felt structurally weird to have absolutely no theme action in the entire SW and NE corners. Those are big corners—ironically, they're also the parts of the puzzle I liked the best, with "MAY I CUT IN?" and especially TEEN VOGUE being my favorite answers.

Apparently FAKE DEEP has currency right now as a phrase. It doesn't feel like "modern lingo" to me—just a phrase anyone might've said at any point in the last, say, forty years. But I'm assured by my self-described "zillennial" friend Jenna that it's very much a thing right now, and I trust her. From my old-ass POV, it just seemed like a random phrase whose meaning was obvious but whose stand-alone cred seemed wobbly. Also, I hope I'm not the only one who got HEAD- at 4D: *Relative of a facepalm and wrote in HEADDESK. I mean, I was Certain that was right. HEADSLAP is practically the same thing as a facepalm, and certainly HEADDESK is more a "relative" if we are judging relatedness by how relatively modern-slangy the terms are. HEADSLAP is old school. Not complaining here, just wishing the answer had been something it ultimately wasn't. Alas. Again with the CRIT today? Shudder. Maybe I'm just too close to the world of that abbr., but it makes me cringe. I love NINA / SIMONE so was very frustrated to have struggled to get her today because the song used to clue her is not what I think of as iconically hers. It's iconically Screaming Jay Hawkins'. Her version is Great, as is virtually everything she does. This, for instance, is my favorite song:

But when I see the title "I Put a Spell on You," this is what I hear:

SZECHUAN is a great-looking word. I had PAPA before PAPI—last letter in the grid! That's one that requires confirmation from the cross. I keep looking at AND SOON to remember what the clue was, only to remember, "oh right, it's AND SO ON" (23A: Et cetera). I never even saw the clue for WAY until someone just now asked me what the hell it meant. This is my main frame of reference:

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Peter Nixon impeachment hearings chairman / MON 4-29-19 / Cuban born Grammy winner Jon / Alexander who directed Nebraska Sideways / 181-square-mile country in Pyrennes / Triangular Swiss chocolate bar

Monday, April 29, 2019

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:02)

THEME: GET CRACKING (37A: Hop to it ... or what to do to the various eggs in this puzzle's circled squares) — circled squares contain animals that lay eggs ... and they are, I guess, "cracked" ... because they are broken across two words, with one letter leaping a black square, which I guess represents a "crack," but ... "I" didn't "do" anything to "the various eggs," because the circled squares are already there, all pre-cracked, and anyway, those aren't "eggs," in any sense. If you told me those circled squares represented hats, I'd be like, "sure, OK ..." At any rate:

  • GO(O)SE
Word of the Day: Peter RODINO (28A: Peter ___, Nixon impeachment hearings chairman) —
Peter Wallace Rodino Jr. (June 7, 1909 – May 7, 2005) was a Democratic United States congressmanfrom New Jersey from 1949 to 1989. Rodino rose to prominence as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where he oversaw the impeachment process against Richard Nixon that eventually led to the president's resignation. He was the longest-serving member ever of the United States House of Representatives from the state of New Jersey. (wikipedia)
• • •

Mondays rarely miss this badly. I am dumbfounded at how ill-conceived and -executed this puzzle is. I'm not sure where to start, but I'll just go ahead and start with the revealer, which makes no sense at all. I cannot "crack" anything, and I'm not even sure what "cracking" means here. The Circled Squares Are Already There, All Lined Up In "Cracked" Formation, so I, me, I, the solver, "crack" nothing. Also, those aren't eggs. They are a line of letters that tick up for one letter—an appallingly poor representation of a "crack," if, indeed, that is what those are supposed to be, which, as I say, I hardly know. Further, why would anyone crack a dinosaur egg? That outlier, I realize, is trying to be cute, but ugh. Also, "dinosaur"? That's like having "bird" as one of your "eggs." You have specific birds, why don't you have a specific dinosaur?

Also, why is this puzzle running now and not on Easter, when it would've been Sunday and you would've had a big grid, which would've allowed you to let some of these themers breathe. Instead, they are crammed into a space too small for them, which puts incredible pressure on the grid, which results in truly dire fill. Just awful. These names. Red ADAIR *and* Jon SECADA *aaaaand* Peter RODINO!?!? I know a. only from crosswords, b. only from having been a fairly young, radio-listening person for the three years Jon SECADA was famous, and c. not at all. Not At All. Please, tell me how important RODINO is while I tell you he hasn't appeared in the NYTXW since '04, and only two times in the Shortz era before today (and never on a Monday). That's fifteen years of people dying who would've known who RODINO was. I was four when Nixon was impeached. Thank god I know what NEC is, which ... again, this is a mark of a terrible puzzle—I'm reliant on crosswordese (I never see NEC anywhere outside of grids) to avoid a full-on Natick*. On a Monday. Actually, I guess I could've used the theme to complete those squares, in an emergency. Ugh. That I finished this puzzle in normal Monday time is a bleeping miracle.

Is it OLAV or OLAF? GAIA or GAEA? Oh what fun** we get up to on Mondays! I teach college English, have for over two decades, literally never heard anyone anywhere ever refer to Lit CRIT (certainly not as a "course") (4D: Lit ___ (coll. course)). TMI? IMO, no! Are you really gonna follow KIM (56A: One of the Kardashians) with KIM... CHI? (57A: Spicy Korean side dish). That weird KIM dupe is so bad, it could really only have been unbaddened if you'd followed with CHI on the other side, creating KIM KIMCHI CHI. I'd've stood and clapped for that. There's just so much depressing fill here. AMER is just making me sad. I'd've taken a RRN (Random Roman Numeral) at 49D (DLI), just to get ATHENS at 48D and thus AMEN and NATS at the bottom of the grid. [The "A" of U.S.A.: Abbr.]??? Do you see how sad that clue is?—you clued an abbr. with a shorter version ... of the abbr.? The "A" is short for "America"; nothing is short for AMER. You avoid all this nonsense by not having stupid AMER there in the first place. OK, that's all. Make Mondays Fun Again. Please.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    *see the "What is a 'Natick'" section in the first sidebar on my website
    **not actually fun

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    KIND words / SUN 4-28-19 / Tributary of Missouri / Charlie of Stranger Things / Old SeaWorld attraction /.2002 2019 Super Bowl player / Colonial merchant Sameul after whom famous island is named / Airport whose name is also big brand of nail polish / National chain selling crafts fabrics / Rhyme scheme of rime of ancient mariner

    Sunday, April 28, 2019

    Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

    Relative difficulty: Medium (11:36)

    THEME: "Words of Introduction" — clues all follow patter [[ALL-CAPS WORD] words?], where the clue itself is a familiar phrase, but the answer is a phrase that comes from treating the ALL-CAPS clue word as an acronym:

    Theme answers:
    • KOH-I-NOOR DIAMOND (21A: KIND words?)
    • HEART AND SOUL (35A: HAS words?)
    • BELIEF IN GOD (60A: BIG words?)
    • RUN OUT OF TOWN (82A: ROOT words?)
    • SET A FINE EXAMPLE (99A: SAFE words?)
    • BEYOND ALL DOUBT (15D: BAD words?)
    • LIKE A SORE THUMB (44D: LAST words?)
    Word of the Day: REUEL (98A: Moses' father-in-law) —
    [from the "Jethro" wikipedia page] In the Hebrew BibleJethro (/ˈɛθr/HebrewיִתְרוֹStandard Yitro Tiberian Yiṯerô; "His Excellence/Posterity"; Arabic شعيب Shuʿayb) or Reuel was Moses' father-in-law, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian. In Exodus, Moses' father-in-law is initially referred to as "Reuel" (Exodus 2:18) but then as "Jethro" (Exodus 3:1). He was the father of Hobab in the Book of Numbers 10:29. He is also revered as the spiritual founder and chief prophet in his own right in the Druze religion and is considered an ancestor of all Druze. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Well this is slightly better than most recent Sunday offerings but still nowhere near as enjoyable as the NYT's marquee puzzle oughta be. Astonishingly, this one gets a DQ right out of the gate because of the first themer: KOH-I-NOOR DIAMOND. Aside from the fact that it's just obnoxious—obscure and very difficult to parse—it simply doesn't fit the pattern for the rest of the themers. "Koh-i-Noor" is not three separate "words." That is a hyphenated phrase; you can't treat "i' like a separate word. I didn't find the theme thrilling to begin with, but this Koh-i-Noor nonsense doesn't even conform to the theme's own rules. I had KOHINOO- and I was like "Oh, the themers go backwards or there's a code or something, weird." But then I got DIAMOND and the answer looked like [randomletters]DIAMOND but then I remembered some earlier crossword where this diamond came up (never seen it mentioned out of crosswords), and since all the crosses checked out, I just left it. But when I came back to figure out the K, I, N, D of it all, I was like "nahhhhh. nope." SET A FINE EXAMPLE feels mildly forced, BELIEF IN GOD probably couldn't stand on its own in non-theme circumstances, but only that diamond answer is truly egregious. A deal-breaker. Lethal. No idea what people were thinking there.

    REUEL? I mean ... the alternate name of Jethro, who isn't exactly well known to begin with. Survey says: oof. Ultra-rare for good reason.

    And FETOR? I'm laughing just typing it out, what??? My god. This is its first appearance Since I Started Blogging (i.e. 2006; actually, first since 2004). That ORDO FETOR INTOTO is fetid. It's like the Latin motto of Oz, or Kansas, translating roughly to "Order of the Little Dog Who Rolled in some Animal Carcass or Something." I believe we call credit cards "no-fee," not NON-FEE (lah-di-dah, is that the formal version? Is that how Charles Entertainment Cheese describes his credit card?). And [Tic-tac-toe loser] is always such an unfortunate clue. Up there with the worst of all clues, leaving the solver with "OK, a random string of X's and O's, just not OOO or XXX, This Should Be Fun!" And then there's IVANKA ... man, this one really ticks a sizable number of the unpleasantness boxes. Where is SEE-THRU used? I'm imagining some kind of peep-show Drive-Thru... oh, man, turns out it's used on all kinds of commercial nonsense, ugh. So OK, that one's technically valid. Dumb-looking, but valid. Most of my trouble today came around bad stuff I've already whined about, but I also struggled with one perfectly fine part of the grid: PASS KEY over PLATTE. Just couldn't figure out either of those, and didn't really trust NESTS, so I really had to come at that patch from both sides before I could get it to fall. Otherwise, mostly clean grid, not terrifically difficult, an OK way to pass the time, but not what an NYT Sunday puzzle should be.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. Hey, what's the KOH-I-NOOR DIAMOND's favorite Simon & Garfunkel song? That's right, it's "Cecilia." Yeah, I don't get it either. Wait, maybe I'm misremembering the riddle. Oh well. Have a nice day.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Briton who wrote Fish Called Wanda / SAT 4-27-19 / Dutch craze of 1636-37 first major speculative bubble / Crowdsourced compendia / Half of long-running Vegas show / Early 2000s low-carb fad / Five-time pro-bowler with Chicago Bears / Alfalfa's sweetie in Little Rascals /

    Saturday, April 27, 2019

    Constructor: Joe Deeney

    Relative difficulty: Easy (6:21, not fully awake)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: Lake MEAD (50A: Lake on the Arizona/Nevada border) —
    Lake Mead is a man made lake that lies on the Colorado River, about 24 mi (39 km) from the Las Vegas Strip, southeast of the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the states of Nevada and Arizona. It is the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of water capacity. Formed by the Hoover Dam on September 30, 1935, the reservoir serves water to the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada, as well as some of Mexico, providing sustenance to nearly 20 million people and large areas of farmland.
    At maximum capacity, Lake Mead is 112 miles (180 km) long, 532 feet (162 m) at its greatest depth, has a surface elevation of 1,221.4 feet (372.3 m) above sea level and 247 square miles (640 km2) of surface area, and contains 26.12 million acre feet (32,220,000 ML) of water.
    The lake has not reached full capacity, however, since 1983 due to a combination of drought and increased water demand. As of August 2017, Lake Mead was at approximately 40% of full capacity with 10 million acre feet (12,000,000 ML) of held water.] It has been smaller than Lake Powell (the second largest US reservoir when both are full) since 2013.
    • • •

    Tore through this thing even though my brain was working pretty poorly. I had trouble seeing simple things like G-MAN (5A: Extra in 2009's "Public Enemies") and IOWA, which I totally forgot was in the Big Ten (and I went to a Big Ten university for grad school). So the fact that I was able to finish somewhere in the 6-minute range tells me that overall this must have been very easy. I also found it mostly delightful. THE LUXURY OF TIME really looks like an answer I wouldn't like (something about the definite article...) but I can tell you that I got a real thrill getting that one off just the "XU" and "F." It's an unusual marquee answer, and I like it (37A: What one doesn't have in an emergency). Not as big a fan of obscure stuff like "ALL IS TRUE" (I teach Shakespeare, know exactly when the First Folio came out and why it's important, and have never heard of this original title of "Henry VIII," which is a play no one reads anyway). Also obscure: TULIP MANIA (though that one was highly inferrable, and honestly I got almost all of it from crosses before I ever saw the clue) (53A: Dutch craze of 1636-37, considered the first major speculative bubble). I'm not mad at TULIP MANIA because it's such a vivid phrase, and the "speculative bubble" bit gives it some historical relevance. But "ALL IS TRUE" is not vivid or relevant. Just awful. But that's all the complaints I have today, I think. Oh, well, RARED is not especially lovely. But the rest: clean and yummy.

    Started with some luck, in that I wanted PEEL TASE URSA for the Downs. Now I balked at first two because they made impossible "PTU-" formation at beginning of 1A: Selling point (PLUS). But I went down and got LEAF PEEPER off just the "EA" (woo hoo!) (If you've never heard of LEAF PEEPERs, then you don't live in the northeastern U S of A). Put PEEL back in and it wasn't long before NW corner was worked out. Trouble with second half of both long Acrosses up there, especially ESSAY EXAM, which I had as a TEST. Easy fix, though. Slowish going through the DART / TAMPS / MEAD section, mostly because ON REPORT was so touch to see / parse. Had TUG AT before TUG ON (49D: Gently pull). But that's it for roughness. Finished in the NE, where yet another Shakespeare clue, this one a fill-in-the-blank, slowed me down a little, but not much. Main trouble up there was that I always spell BONSAI with a "Z." They really shoulda called it the ATKINZ DIET (11D: Early 2000s low-carb fad). The "Z" gives it a whole retro '90s vibe and maybe would've helped them make inroads in the rad teen market. The last thing I read before going to bed last night was the second volume of NEIL GAIMAN's "Sandman," so that was an odd coincidence. Speaking of ... time for green tea and comfy chair and morning reading. Good day.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. There hasn't been a solo woman constructor in two weeks. Just two woman co-constructors. So that's 13/14 men. In case you're wondering what the trend is.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Ancient dweller beyond Hadrian's Wall / FRI 4-26-19 / Mild cheese with orange rind / Scrubber sold in yellow box / Classic bit of study material / Kukoc 6' 11" NBA star of 1993-2006 / #1 Taylor Swif song about defying one's critics / Beverage brand with wave in its logo / Harmonia's opposite in Greek myth

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    Constructor: Kyle Dolan

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (very easy except for that damned cheese, wtf?)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: PORT SALUT (33D: Mild cheese with an orange rind) —
    Port Salut is a semi-soft pasteurised cow's milk cheese from Pays de la Loire, France, with a distinctive orange rind and a mild flavour. The cheese is produced in wheels approximately 23 cm (9 inches) in diameter, weighing approximately 2 kg (4.4 lb).
    Though Port Salut has a mild flavour, it sometimes has a strong smell because it is a mature cheese. The smell increases the longer the cheese is kept — this however does not affect its flavour. It can be refrigerated and is best eaten within two weeks of opening.
    The cheese was developed by Trappist monks during the 19th century at Port-du-Salut Abbey in Entrammes. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    There was enough good here for me to enjoy myself, but there were some clunkers in here. The NE just doesn't work. It's a "weiner (wiener?) dog," not a SAUSAGE DOG. And it's actually just a dachshund. Is SAUSAGE DOG some regionalism?  And PICKS A DOOR is just awful. EATS-A-SANDWICH bad. Absurd verb phrase that has no place in any puzzle. Clean up your word list. Speaking of word lists: PORT SALUT? Wow, I thought I had a decent cheese knowledge but yikes. Had PORT and then .... nothing. Wanted SMITH. That answer was the difference between me having a time in the 4s and me having a time in the 5s. It completely stopped my flow, making me unable to go down into that SE section from the center. Had to come down via JOHN DONNE instead, which ... about that ... I teach Donne regularly and yet I have never taught and have barely heard of "The Triple Fool" (the poem quoted in this clue) (34D: Who wrote "I am two fools, I know, / For loving, and for saying so / In whining poetry"). That is some obscure stuff, and the weird (anomalous) short lines and sing-songiness makes it look like a much more modern poet. I honestly took one look at the clue and wanted OGDEN NASH (which fit), but luckily HANGRY was already in there and made Nash impossible. Bad Donne clues make me mad. So much great writing, and you yank out this obscurity? Bah. MAIA, also obscure (16A: Mother of Hermes). And AT *THE* LEAST just felt off. Human say "at least." No THE. Make your puzzle sound like humans made it.

    All the other long answers are solid, and I especially like the clue on CLINTON ERA (55A: Bushes are found on both sides of it). Old trick—hide the proper noun by putting it at the beginning of the clue (where *all* words are capitalized). But a good trick. "IT BURNS!" is a nice cry, if there can be said to be such a thing. I nailed PICT (38A: Ancient dweller beyond Hadrian's Wall) because I studied medieval Scotland in GRAD SCHOOL (39A: Where you might be given the third degree), but it's possible that answer will have given some solvers trouble (38A: Ancient dweller beyond Hadrian's Wall). I'm inferring this from the fact that my friend Brian Cimmet is furious about it right now. But he knew the cheese, so we're even—1 in the knowledgeable column, 1 in the ignorant column, for both of us. UEYS, always terrible fill, delete it from your word list (I know you won't, but you should) (also UIES, which is somehow worse). Lastly, re: WINCH / WEND:

    If you go with a "P" there, you get sooooooo many more opportunities to clue *both* words in interesting ways. The "W" locks you in to very specific, not terribly common terms. Editor should've changed it. A million ways to come at PINCH. WINCH, not so much.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Raised block of earth's crust to geologist / THU 4-25-19 / Home to mythical ferry / Blot on landscape / Onetime competitor of RCA Columbia / Online moderator for short / Center of Krupp family dynasty

    Thursday, April 25, 2019

    Constructor: Jon Olsen

    Relative difficulty: Easy if you figured out those center squares faster than I did; spent 5 min. on everything but the center, then another 90 seconds+ trying to work out the center (~6:30)

    THEME: :-) — long themers lay out in detail all the elements of a HAPPY FACE (3D: Response to solving this puzzle) (not at all) when you represent it as an EMOTICON(S) (don't ask why EMOTICONS is in the plural, it's terrible, I know) (35D: Images such as 3-Down). COLON, HYPHEN (18A: First two symbols in a 3-Down), and PARENTHESIS (61A: Final symbol in a 3-Down) are represented visually in the center of the grid as a rebus (where EYES, NOSE, MOUTH appear in successive boxes) (39A: Elements of a 3-Down)

    • (EYES)ORE (39D: Blot on a landscape)
    • PIA(NO SE)ATS (25D: Perches for some musicians)
    • PLY(MOUTH) (26D: ___ Rock)
    Word of the Day: HORST (44D: Raised block of the earth's crust, to a geologist) —
    1. a raised elongated block of the earth's crust lying between two faults. (google)
    • • •

    What is with the painfully straightforward earnest puzzles. Yesterday's was a remedial trivia test, and today, an extended explanation of what, exactly, an EMOTICON is (weak that the revealer is in the plural, considering there's just the one, but that's the least of this thing's problems). First, it's a SMILEY FACE, not a HAPPY FACE. Second, it's not just PARENTHESIS. It's very specifically the close PARENTHESIS. Please do not tell me the distinction does not matter. It is, in fact, the determining difference between a smiley face and a frowny face. You can't just say PARENTHESIS without specifying which one. One thousand boos! What else? Well, EMOTICONS are pretty dated now, what with the advent of emojis, but that's not really the puzzle's fault. The NYT is always living like 5-to-50 years in the past, so if we get an EMOTICONS puzzle 10 years after the heyday of EMOTICONS, you can't be too surprised. And most smiley face EMOTICONS lack the nose, honestly. Sigh. And the cutesy smugness of that clue on HAPPY FACE, ugh (3D: Response to solving this puzzle). Don't clue self-congratulatorily, people, please.

    But then there are those center squares ... on the one hand, they're the only interesting thing about this theme. On the other, they occupy such a teensy (not EENSY, no one says that) portion of the grid that they hardly seem worth it. Oh and also they make things very messy. PIANO SEATS???? Benches or stools, OK. But SEATS feels forced. And EYESORE doesn't effectively bury the EYE. That is, it's got EYE in it, as a body part, so that feels like cheating. Note that the MOUTH in PLYMOUTH does not refer to the body part, nor the NOSE in PIANOSEATS. But the EYES in EYESORE are definitely the body part in question. So more boos! This just feels like a desperate HEAVE—lots of elements, but conceptually messy and awkwardly executed. Also, man did I want black squares to be involved somehow. I mean, how are black squares *not* involved in a puzzle about EMOTICONS!? If ever there was a theme begging to have black square design involved, this is it. Oh, and another thing—very bad editing to allow EMO in the same grid as EMOTICONS. You could've at least tried to deny the affiliation by cluing EMO the old-fashioned way: via [Comedian Philips]. But no. It's the [Indie rock genre], where the EMO refers to EMOTION just as it does in EMOTICONS.

    As I look around the grid, I'm seeing that the fill is pretty weak overall, but with this much theme material, I'm not that surprised. EX-JETS? No one refers to Mickey Mantle as an EX-YANKEE. Curtis Granderson is an EX-YANKEE, but that's because he's still playing baseball ... for another team (currently, the Marlins). Do you mean "EX-" in that they are now retired football players, in which case they are EX-all the teams they played for. Needless to say, I had NYJETS here at first. I sincerely thought NOICE was one word—an affected way of saying "nice" (i.e. ["Neat"]). My struggles in the center were hampered considerably by a. writing in SNEERS at first for 46A: Shows derision, in a way (SNORTS), and b. not having any idea what a HORST is (44D: Raised block of the earth's crust, to a geologist). What do I look like, a geologist? I know, I know, a HORST is a HORST, of courst, of courst ... BAH!

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Legendary snake exterminator for short / WED 4-24-19 / Bynes Channing Tatum / 1953 musical with songs by Cole Porter

    Wednesday, April 24, 2019

    Constructor: Evan Mahnken

    Relative difficulty: Very Easy (2:56) (personal record)

    THEME: SHAKESPEARE PLAY (54A: What the film answering each starred clue was inspired by) — that clue is a pretty straightforward description of the theme:

    Theme answers:
    • "FORBIDDEN PLANET" (17A: *1956 sci-fi movie with Robby the Robot)
    • "SHE'S THE MAN" (22A: *2006 rom-com starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum)
    • "WEST SIDE STORY" (35A: *1961 musical for which Rita Moreno won an Oscar)
    • "KISS ME KATE" (45A: *1953 musical with songs by Cole Porter)
    Word of the Day: "SHE'S THE MAN" (22A) —
    She's the Man is a 2006 American romantic comedy sports film directed by Andy Fickman and starring Amanda BynesChanning TatumLaura Ramsey and Emily Perkins. It is inspired by William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night.
    The film centers on teenager Viola Hastings who enters her brother's school in his place, pretending to be a boy, in order to play with the boys' soccer team after her team gets cut at her school. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    First things first: Shakespeare's birthday was ... yesterday. So, this raises the question: why in the gosh-darned world would you not run this on Tuesday??? Please don't say it has anything to do with difficulty level, because I and virtually everyone I know set personal Wednesday records on this puzzle. This was easier than Tuesday *and* Monday. So you had a perfect opportunity to run this On The Correct Day and you decide, instead, to miss it by one!? This is editorial malpractice. It's just plain stupid. Now, to be fair, April 23 is a mild guess—they only know the date of his baptism (Apr. 26, 1564), but April 23 is the generally accepted birth date. Also, coincidentally, his death date (1616). So off by one day—ridiculous unforced error, own goal, choose your sports metaphor. Further, this theme is soooooo straightforward it's kinda boring. I love remembering easy trivia and torching puzzles as much as the next solver, but this was kind of a nothing. Too easy, not clever enough. And the revealer ... just SHAKESPEARE PLAY? It's terribly anti-climactic. The fill is fine but forgettable.

    [there's a remix out there featuring Billy Ray Cyrus ... this song, man ... can't wait to see LILNASX in the grid, full name]

    Here are the only time I even hesitated: I read 30A: Put 10,000 hours into, it's said as past tense and so put a "D" at the end, then convinced myself that DEMIT was correct for 32D: Cancel, as a fine (REMIT); I briefly forgot how to spell SHAKESPEARE (there's a no-terminal-E variant, but that's hardly an excuse); I failed to write in "MY SIDES" (62A: "I'm laughing so much it hurts!") even though that's what the letters suggested because I couldn't believe that was really a thing. That's it. I didn't even see many of the Across clues. I thought I tore through this puzzle because just prior to solving, I had been watching Andy Kravis and Joon Pahk solve a Newsday Saturday Stumper Downs-Only on Twitch, and so my brain felt very very warmed up for puzzle action. But then I saw that everyone did very well on the Wednesday, so maybe warming up by watching the crossword equivalent of extreme sports had no effect. Speaking of solving Downs-Only, there's an article about the phenomenon in today's Wall Street Journal. Here's a link to it, though it's now behind a paywall (I was somehow magically able to read it earlier in the day). It's fun, and I'm not just saying that because I'm in it.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Jokey 1978 Steve Martin song / TUE 4-23-19 / Shrek's wife / Charge for some goods bought out of state / RVer's stopver for short / Futuristic movie of 1982

    Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (probably more Medium) (3:31)

    THEME: "PET SOUNDS" (64A: Beach Boys album with the hit "Wouldn't It Be Nice" ... or things hidden in 17-, 31-, 37- and 49-Across) — MEOW, WOOF, OINK (!), and HISS (!?) can be found embedded in the theme answers:

    Theme answers:
    • HOMEOWNER (17A: One who may have a mortgage)
    • TWO OF A KIND (31A: Twins)
    • TATTOO INK (37A: Liquid supply for body art)
    • THIS SIDE UP (49A: Message between two arrows on a shipping container)
    Word of the Day: MUFTI (22D: Civilian clothes for a soldier) —
    1. a Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious matters. (google)
    1.  also:
    1. ordinary dress as distinguished from that denoting an occupation or station 
      a priest in muftiespecially civilian clothes when worn by a person in the armed forces (m-w)
    • • •

    This was just goofy enough for me to like it. Given the cover of the album in question, I really would've liked to have seen a goat sound somewhere in the puzzle, but I can live with the sound assortment I've been given. This theme was pleasantly light-hearted, and even though the latter two "pets" aren't exactly as common as the first two, I liked that the "pets" got more improbable as you worked down the grid. Guessing that was just coincidence, but whatever. It works. I also liked that the theme actually meant something to me *while I was solving*. I sort of spilled down the grid from the NW to the SE. Hmm, maybe I took a brief trip north to pick up the NE corner, but otherwise, I just fell diagonally down the grid and got "PET SOUNDS" before I really noticed what was going on (at that point, hadn't even noticed the MEOW or the WOOF). So the sounds were on my mind when it came to parsing the second two themers. Always nice when I can enjoy (and use) the theme while solving. With early-week puzzles, that doesn't always happen. I have some issues with some of the fill, but overall, I think this holds up, especially for a Tuesday, which, after Sunday, is the day most likely to bomb.

    The most eventful thing to happen during this solve was the horrible decision I made to yank CORONET. I put it in off just the "C," and immediately wrinkled my nose and worried I had the word wrong. "Is it CORNET? CORONET? Which one is the horn and which one the crown?" I went to confirm the answer off the first short cross I could find, and that was 35A: Indian flatbread. Knowing ("knowing") that [Indian flatbread] = NAAN, I pulled CORONET. Ugh. NAAN is leavened, ROTI not (paratha and chapati, also unleavened, in case that ever comes up, which in crosswords, it probably won't). Mistakes are Killing me lately. It's one thing not to know an answer, but it's kinda worse to plunk down a wrong word with confidence. Somehow TRIED TO and HOLDS ON, with their twin two-letter endings, were slightly hard to parse coming at them from the top. SASSINESS felt wrong, in that SASS all on its own seemed like the correct answer for 34D: Cheek. SASSINESS feels different from backtalk. Somehow I relate it more to swagger or style in general. Mainly I think people just say SASS if they mean lip (or cheek) (weird how two different facial parts are slang for sass). So I had SASS and then had no idea where to go. Luckily SW was very easy.

    Five things:
    • 3D: One with a squeaky wheel? (HAMSTER) — tough clue for a Tuesday. Also, can't decide if it's wonderfully apt or annoyingly superfluous, given that it involves around a pet ... sound.
    • 11D: Send beyond the green, say (OVERHIT) — Maybe this is a valid golf term, but I don't like golf and this answer feels like it should be OVERSHOT so I have only side eye for this answer
    • 60A: Digitally endorsed (E-SIGNED) — woof. No. Put an "R" or a "D" at the front of that thing or lose its dumb E-ass entirely.
    • 43D: Jokey 1978 Steve Martin song ("KING TUT") — sincerely read this as [Jockey in a 1978 Steve Martin song] and thought "yeah that sounds like a thing that might be in those lyrics." I was likely confusing "jockey" with "donkey" and "honky." Luckily for me, [Steve Martin song] alone would've done the trick.
    • 63D: Big D.C. lobby (NRA) — because nuns' rights are very important*
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    *I figured that today instead of yelling about the NYTXW's continuing to boost white supremacist terrorist organizations, I'd just pretend NRA meant something else

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Sporty Pontiacs introduced in 60s / MON 4-22-19 / Soda in old blind taste test / Hairy Himalayan humanoid

    Monday, April 22, 2019

    Constructor: Bruce Haight

    Relative difficulty: Medium (3:03)

    THEME: Tennis, anyone? — familiar phrases reclued as if they have something to do with tennis:

    Theme answers:
    • POP SINGLES (17A: Tennis with dad?)
    • GIMME A BREAK (23A: Losing tennis player's prayer?)
    • CONTEMPT OF COURT (37A: Dislike for tennis?) [note: "Contempt" is much, much stronger than "dislike"]
    • WHAT A RACKET! (48A: "Wow, no wonder you're playing such great tennis!"?)
    • FALL IN LOVE (59A: Lose every set of a tennis match 6-0?)
    Word of the Day: BACK / NINE (26D: With 28-Down, part of a golf course) —
    1. the final nine holes on an eighteen-hole course.

      "he had a double bogey and a triple bogey on the back nine" (google)
    • • •

    I am routinely stunned that the NYT is still accepting puzzles that are this conceptually remedial. This loose, shabby assortment of tennis terms held together with weak Wackiness™really should not be good enough to make the Best Puzzle in the World (or whatever the NYT is calling itself these days). You can find a bunnnnnch of similar kinds of themes in the databases, usually in much older puzzles, back when just having a random set of last (or first) words from some field (any field) was considered substantial enough to make a crossword theme. But most older puzzles of that ilk at least had something else holding them together, not just a grab bag of terms. There's more than one that runs through the series GAME, SET, MATCH:

    And here's one that's got a revealer: 

    I don't really see how NET, BALL, COURT, and RACKET are related very closely to TENNIS ELBOW, specifically, but ... you get the idea. You can find a bunch of "these words are from tennis" puzzles. It's been done. But even if it were being redone, that's not a reason to condemn it. It's just that this is so lackluster. So pointless. How can submissions to the NYT be so sparse and poor that this is what's passing muster? The fill is mercifully clean, I'll give it that. I mean, not great, but not wretched. The theme tries to rise above its boringness with these wacky clues, which only make the puzzle sadder. The wordplay is poor. The choice of SINGLES as one of your tennis words is bizarre. It's a term, sure, but there have to be many, many others that could've given you phrases more amenable to evocative cluing than POP SINGLES (?). Something SERVE? Something FAULT? Something SET? I dunno. And this is the problem. There are scores of familiar tennis terms. Why these? What's the rationale? There is none. Ye OLDE SLOP

    Five things:
    • 1A: Turn away, as one's gaze (AVERT) — missed a chance at EVERT here. Weird.
    • 39D: Italian city you might be "leaning" toward visiting? (PISA) — Me: [reads first two words of clue and writes in ASTI]
    • 26A: In a trite way (BANALLY) — I dare you to actually say this word in conversation. I guarantee you're gonna get a "wha?" Sounds like DENALI or, I don't know, some kind of Polish food. "Tritely" actually seems much more likely to be a word one might say.
    • 2D: Relative of a cello (VIOL) — gotta say, my hopes sank here. VIOL is crosswordese, and felt like an omen of bad things to come. But as I say, the fill largely held up. 
    • 13D: Snide remarks (SNARK) — looks like a plural—not a plural. Luckily, I had the "K" before I ever saw the clue (weirdly finished in the NE)
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Broad Australian accent informally / SUN 4-21-19 / Boatercycle / 1958 #1 hit in foreign language / Let float as currency

    Sunday, April 21, 2019

    Constructor: Grant Thackray

    Relative difficulty: Medium (11:40)

    THEME: "The Inside Story"PICTURE-IN-PICTURE (70A: Small screen superimposed on a large screen ... or a hint to this puzles' shaded squares) [above, circled squares]—movie titles embedded in other movie titles, creating wacky phrases

    Theme answers:
    • THE LITTLE METER MAID (24A: Who has trouble reaching a windshield to place a ticket?) [1989, 1982]
    • CRAYON TACT (17D: Good manners in kindergarten drawing?) [1997, 2004]
    • MINI-CARSONS (42A: Talk show host Johnny's children?) [2015, 2006]
    • BOTHERING RAT (52A: Traitor who gets on one's nerves?) [2006, 2002]
    • PETITER PAN (77D: Smaller piece of cookware?) [1953, 2017]
    • STARTED WARS (102A: Initiated global conflicts?) [1977, 2012]
    • GETS CREAM OUT (95A: Prepares for guests who don't like their coffee black?) [2017, 1996]
    • DOCTOR'S WALLET RANGE (123A: Selection of billfolds for medical professionals?) [2016, 2008]
    Word of the Day: STRINE (120A: Broad Australian accent, informally) —
    1. 1. 
      the English language as spoken by Australians; the Australian accent, especially when considered striking or uneducated.
    1. 1. 
      relating to Australians or Australian English.

      "he spoke with a broad Strine accent" (google)
    • • •

    The revealer should've been the title. Mostly because the title is terrible and inaccurate (there's also an "outside" story so wtf?), and also because the fill could use a little breathing room. One less theme answer might've let some air in, let some actually interesting non-theme answers in. I think this is an ingenious play on the phrase PICTURE-IN-PICTURE, though the results are a real mixed bags. Too often, the resulting wacky phrases are painfully contrived, so much so that they can't even be clued very plausibly. CRAYON TACT makes sense on no lever. The clue doesn't help, but honestly, there isn't a good clue, because the phrase is nonsense. BOTHERING RAT, also awkward. Clue turns "bothering" into an adjective ... which, again, awkward, as no one uses "bothering" that way—to mean, essentially, annoying. Then there's STARTED WARS, which is so ordinary a phrase that it undermines the whole premise. We were promised wacky! Seems like something close to cheating to use so many very short movie titles as the inserts. "IT"? Really? That's a novel, and it (!) is not much of an accomplishment, inserting that into a film to get a wacky phrase. Watch: "PULPIT FICTION." Nailed "It"! Check please!?

    Further: "IT" is a novel. I know, it was made into a movie. But if you put, say, "EMMA" in this puzzle, while you'd technically be correct (there are movie versions of the Austen novel), "EMMA" is really best known as a novel. See also "Doctor Strange," who is a comic book character. His self-titled movie ... man, who can keep track of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). I've seen every MCU movie thru "Black Panther" and I couldn't tell you a damn thing about "Doctor Strange," because he's not popular and no one cares. Hey, did you know there *is* a movie called "Doctor Strange ... love?" It's true! Really wish that could've been the movie involved here. Biggest theme no-no is having a stray "shaded square" (i.e. circled square in my grid) from a Down themer appear in the middle of an Across themer. Keep your shaded squares discrete. Only shaded squares in a themer should be ones involving the movie title. Stray shaded squares = sloppy. Also, re: "PETITER PAN"?—"Petiter"??? Use words that people actually use! Sounds like you don't know how to say "potato."

    SAWS LOGS is no good because it's practically adjacent to RIPSAW. That's a SAW too far. I think the WET dupe might actually be worse, though, as WET WIPE (47A: Moist towelette) and WET ONE (133A: Slobbery kiss) are actually The Same Thing (though I see how you've tried to clue WET ONE as a kiss ... nice try):

    SLOP. I struggled in two places. First, I had Beetle Bailey as a SGT (6D), so for the second day in a row, wrong answers cost me dearly. Since PBANDJ had a very tough clue (I guess it's "packed with juice" in a child's lunchbox?), and "boatercycle" is a stupid term I've never heard, and I thought the father on "black-ish" was maybe ABE (??), and I kept wanting to change BOLT DOWN to WOLF DOWN (7D: Eat quickly), that section was a nightmare. But it all started with SGT. The other tough part was STRINE. That is a word known only to Australians. My Kiwi wife hadn't even heard of it, though god bless her for saying it out loud, because until she did, I actually had no idea how to pronounce it or how it might signify a "broad Australian" accent. If you say STRINE (rhymes with "line"), then I believe you are modeling how someone with said broad Australian accent would, in fact, say the word "Australian." Anyway, this is the most obscure thing I've ever seen in the puzzle. This is someone trying very very hard to be oh-so-clever and get a "new" word into the grid, reasonableness be damned. Annoying.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. "I DIG" does not mean "sounds good!" At all. No. It means, "I understand."

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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