Greeting that might follow fist bump / FRI 5-31-19 / Group of close friends in modern slang / Sister company of Peugeot / Chemical group with formula -OH / Singer Sharp with 1962 hit Mashed Potato Time / Sort of pricing model with multiple tiers / Uncle main role on Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Friday, May 31, 2019

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: No idea (solved on paper, in leisurely fashion; felt normal)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: FREEMIUM (17A: Sort of pricing model with multiple tiers) —
Freemium, a portmanteau of the words "free" and "premium", is a pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering or an application such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for additional features, services, or virtual (online) or physical (offline) goods. The business model has been in use by the software industry since the 1980s as a licensing scheme. A subset of this model used by the video game industry is called free-to-play. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a sold grid, but it's filled with things that just aren't that interesting to me. It's a super bro'y puzzle that looks and sounds like a dude who watches a lot of sports at his frat house and is totally gonna get a job on Wall Street as a financial ANALYST after graduation, FAM! Gotta get that lettuce (?), son! (see 57D). There's only one woman in all of the answers (and clues!) (DEEDEE), and she's obscure, and she's only there because she provides useful letters (18A: Singer Sharp with the 1962 hit "Mashed Potato Time"). I mean, there's one BROAD, but that hardly counts (see 44A). The cluing just felt off to me too, all over the place. "WHAT'S NEXT?" is a pretty weird thing for someone who is merely "anxious" to ask. That's someone in the middle of a catastrophe, or series of catastrophes. "I SEE" is a good fit for "Gotcha"—I SEE *IT* ... less so. Then there's M.A. DEGREE, which, first of all, doesn't signal the abbr. in the clue (boo), and second of all, is a redundancy. I mean, if you believe that M.A. doesn't need to be indicated by an abbr. signal in the clue because everyone knows what that is, then you also believe that every knows that what that is is a DEGREE, so why is DEGREE there? "I got my M.A." not (probably) "... my M.A. DEGREE." Bleh. Opening with guns at 1- and 9-Across (a metaphor, and then an actual murder) ... bang bang ... feels very This Puzzle (1A: Stick to one's guns / 9A: Mission for a Mafia member). I enjoyed seeing Uncle PHIL and the GOOD DOGGY. Didn't enjoy too much else. Again, this grid is well built. Just not at all for me.

Got SOFT G instantly (for once!) but (off that "T") thought 19A: ___ bar was TIKI ... my god was TEND a let-down. I'm fine being wrong, but then to have the right answer be that weak (as fill-in-the-blanks go), ugh. That was the only serious snag for me today. Definitely didn't know HYDROXYL, but was able to work through it without too much trouble (9D: Chemical group with the formula -OH). I forgot that TYMPANI was spelled with a "Y" so I freaked out briefly when I had TYM- to start that answer, but ... nope, that's how it's spelled, so all's well. BRO-HUG is pretty much the defining entry for this puzzle, in that it feels like the thing the puzzle is most proud of, and it's the very thing that makes me want out. Oh, wow, this article ("Get Over Here, Man: Decoding the Bro-Hug") (written by a woman!) totally gets me today: after rooting the BRO-HUG in the history of African-American resistance to white norms of social decorum, she goes on: "When you see twenty-something investment bankers using it to greet each other at a happy-hour spot, chances are they’re not using it to subvert an oppressive institution; more likely they’ve adopted the bro-hug for its social function." BRO-HUG to SAKE bomb to CFO—that's a career arc right there. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Big sender of CDs in 1990s / THU 5-30-19 / Outed covert CIA officer Valerie / Knight renowned for heroism chivalry / System used in hematology / Enchilada topper / Arya's father on Game of Thrones / Sport competed in barefoot in brief

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Constructor: Brandon Koppy

Relative difficulty: Medium (6:02)

THEME: words that can follow ... words that can follow ...  — sigh ... OK, so ... familiar two-word phrase is the clue, only it's presented as [First word ... / second word ...], the idea being that the answer in the grid will have Zero to do with the clue phrase, but will instead be a New two-word phrase (or compound word) made up of a Word That Can Follow The First Word (in a familiar word or phrase) + Word That Can Follow The Second Word (in a familiar word or phrase) ... so essentially four different phrases are involved in every themer, somehow ...

Theme answers:
  • JACKSON HOLE (17A: Peter ... / Rabbit ...) (Peter Jackson / Rabbit hole)
  • TIME FLIES (24A: Space ... / Bar ...) (Spacetime / Bar flies)
  • BEAT BOX (30A: Dead ... / Drop ...) (Deadbeat / Dropbox)
  • POTHEAD (42A: Jack ... / Cheese ...) (Jackpot / Cheesehead)
  • POWER PLAY (49A: Fire ... / Screen ...) (Fire power / Screenplay)
  • PADDLEBOARD (59A: Dog ... / Star ...) (Dogpaddle / Starboard)
Word of the Day: cheesehead (see 42A) —
  1. 1. 
    a resident of Wisconsin, especially a fan of the Green Bay Packers football team.
  2. 2. 
    a blockhead; an idiot. (google)
• • •

I find fill in the blank clues, i.e. [Word ___] exasperating, so solving this was double the "fun." I should've spent less time with the themers themselves, and just kept hacking at the crosses until something legible appeared as a themer. This is essentially a 2x "words that can follow" theme, with no actual clues anywhere, and so it's just a lot of rolling possibilities through your mind until one of them "worked." I found it really unpleasant to solve. I can't say that the concept is bad, and I don't think the puzzle is poorly made. I'd just rather never solve this type of theme again. Its cleverness is the kind you have to draw diagrams, or at least slow way down, to appreciate. And even then, I don't know exactly how clever it is. Seems like an awfully boring theme to conceive of, actually. I came up with [Knock ... / Out ...] (DOWNSIDE) pretty quickly, but I wouldn't want to have to do that a bunch more times. Since you can make clues / answers like this forever and ever (theoretically anyway), the themer group feels arbitrary. Solving this felt more like solving a two-star quiz in Games magazine than solving a crossword puzzle. Like one kind of puzzle shoved into crossword form. Not my thing. Though, as I say, not bad. Fill is actually nice in places, AMIRITE!?

You can shove KEN STARR, though. Shove him all the way back through his ill-fated Baylor presidency (mishandling sexual assaults) through the Clinton era back to oblivion. I'm gonna tolerate PACK HEAT only because it's a colorful and slightly old-fashioned phrase I might find in the hardboiled / noir fiction I enjoy. Love PALADIN because it reminded me of being a nerdy D&D-playing middle schooler. "Good" times!

Small words were the most vexing today. Most of the grid, outside the themers, was pretty easy. Cleaned up the NE and SW corners in lightning-fast time. All of my non-theme trouble came from very short answers. First TAX (24D: Duty). Ugh, that one-word clue. Ask me to define "duty" and it's gonna be a while before I remember it has anything to do with taxing. And then PAY, which I had as AGE, and then, even when I had -AY, I couldn't understand. I finished up the grid the first time with HAY / HOTHEAD (!?!?). I clearly had given up on even looking at the words in the theme clue (as "jackhot" is not a word" and HAY is not a [Sensitive figure to ask someone about], I don't think. No idea about HAAS. Misspelled PLAME the first time (PLANE). No idea about WEBER (well, only the dimmest of ideas, from the last time I took Physics, i.e. 28 years ago). No idea about VESTED (?) either. I know the word, but not the technicalities of the stock meaning. So the themers and a few choice small answers slowed me way down, resulting in a slightly above-average, but still pretty average, time. Decent, considering how much I disliked solving the themers, and considering I solved it first thing in the morning.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Old Soviet naval base site / WED 5-29-19 / Bygone Mideast inits. / Hoppy quaff for short / Slider on abacus / Marriott competitor / Exemplar of innocence

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Constructor: Jules Markey

Relative difficulty: Medium (4:05)

THEME: "Say Say Say (Say)" or "Talk Talk" / "Talk Talk" or ...   — theme "?"-clues that seem to be about speaking have answers that are (in regular usage) not at all about speaking (... except the last one ... although I guess the speak in SPEAK VOLUMES is almost always metaphorical so ... OK):

Theme answers:
  • UTTER RUBBISH (19A: Talk trash?)
  • STATE MOTTOES (33A: Recite aphorisms?)
  • EXPRESS LINES (41A: Perform poetry?)
  • SPEAK VOLUMES (54A: Narrate audiobooks?)
Word of the Day: BENICIO Del Toro (8D: Del Toro of "The Usual Suspects") —
Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez (born February 19, 1967) is a Puerto Rican actor. He won an Academy AwardBAFTA AwardGolden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of the jaded but morally upright police officer Javier Rodriguez in the film Traffic (2000). Del Toro's performance as ex-con turned religious fanatic in despair, Jack Jordan, in Alejandro González Iñárritu's 21 Grams (2003) earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as well as a second Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination and a BAFTA Awardsnomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. [...] His noteworthy body of work also includes portrayals of the Collector in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in Escobar: Paradise LostLawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and codebreaker DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was Medium in just about every way. My time was Medium and my feelings are Medium and fill quality is Medium. SO-SO, stem to stern. The theme was reasonable right up until the end, where you really have to lawyer that last one into agreement. In the other themers, the clue truly repurposes the first word, away from a completely non-talking-related word and toward talking. "Utter" = total. "State" = part of the union. "Express" = fast. "Speak" = ... well, speak, just a metaphorical kind of speak?? The repurposing there is super-weak, and since that's the final themer (assuming you're solving top to bottom, as I did), the theme really ends with a thud, a pfft, a whimper. Obviously the phrase SPEAK VOLUMES has been reimagined by the clue, but it's still a swing and a miss. Or maybe a pop-up, or a weak grounder. Anyway, it's 3/4 solid and 1/4 wonky, which is actually probably above average for a NYT themed puzzle these days. Still not terribly satisfying, but not fundamentally broken, at least, which is something. The fill is also not atrocious. UAR (23A: Bygone Mideast inits.) (United Arab Republic) was the only answer that had me going "oh, wow, ok, are we doing this?" But most everything else was just fine. Totally unexciting / inoffensive fare. I did like seeing BENICIO Del Toro and SOFTPEDAL (the marquee answer of the day, for me).

I did not like the grid shape, in that it was black-square heavy, super-segmented (i.e. fussy), and it's got what I'd call 'useless corners': these completely cut off little 3x4 bits in the NE and SW that require you to go up and get them, but only out of a sense of duty—they connect to nothing, and they contain no revelations (how can they? they're 3x4). These are segments where a constructor will be tempted to Scrabblef*ck with you, in the mistaken belief that a J-tile will make your efforts in these dusty corners feel worthwhile. The good news is, you can't really Scrabblef*ck a 3x4 corner too bad if it's not compromised by the lone answer running into it. Thus, nothing awful about those corners. I just resented having to go into them to pick up a bunch of short stuff I didn't even really want. Highly segmented grids slow me down and add unpleasantness, but sometimes the grid just is what it is and you have to roll with it.

Slow parts for me: figuring out that the "meal" in 5D: Fine meal (FLOUR) was not a repast; figuring out that RUS- did not not not have a fourth letter "H" at 20D: Prepares on short notice (RUSTLES UP); figuring out that 36D: Slider on an abacus (BEAD) was not DISC or BALL; figuring out what the hell could in -OTTOES (!?); figuring out SORE ARM and especially NO LOSS (I was just slow on those). The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Japanese comic art / TUE 5-28-19 / Have the wheel / Superbrainy sort / Tuna type

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Hi, all!

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day and will enjoy this short week! I've officially started my law clerk summer job, and so far my only complaint is that I have to deal with rush hour times on the Metro in DC. Ugh!

Anyway, on to the puzzle!

Constructor: Aimee Lucido

Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: BUTT HEADS (64A: Disagree... or a hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 40- and 49-Across) — Four answers all begin with some synonym for the word "butt."

Theme answers:
  • BUM AROUND (17A: Wander locally with no plans)
  • REAR WINDOW (26A: Hitchcock movie with James Stewart and Grace Kelly)
  • BEHIND THE SCENES (40A: Backstage)
  • BOTTOM LINE (49A: Final amount)
Word of the Day: DELLA (66A: Street in "Perry Mason")
“Della Street is the fictional secretary of Perry Mason in the long-running series of novels, short stories, films, and radio and television programs featuring the fictional defense attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner” (Wikipedia)
• • •

So that was a pretty weird-ass puzzle, wasn't it? And, to that effect, what a weird "ass" puzzle. Ha ha. Get it? I thought the theme was fun and surprising, albeit kind of weird. It was certainly different and unexpected. I definitely chuckled when I figured out what the theme was. At first, I thought the puzzle might lead to something with an acting theme, with REAR WINDOW and BEHIND THE SCENES, but that never went anywhere. (Side note: Anyone who hasn't seen "Rear Window" before should go see it ASAP — it's Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly at their absolute best.) It turns out the puzzle was getting a little saucy with a theme of BUTTHEADS, along with DAMNRIGHT (3D: "Hell, yeah!"), which I initially had as "darnright." We usually don't see any curse words in the puzzle.

Overall, I liked the construction. It didn't feel super heavy, and, though I got a bit stumped in some places, the puzzle never felt like a slog. The theme answer all the way across worked well in the middle of the grid and provided some support for those clues I was struggling with.

I did get stuck in the southwest with BEADS (49D: Alternative to a door between rooms) crossing DELLA. I mean, I've seen beads in doorways before, but they're really a '70s thing, and it never crossed my mind that that was what the puzzle was referring to. Especially because I had no idea who DELLA Street was (a character who, while famous in her time, was in a show that went off the air in 1966). So, I lost a lot of time trying to puzzle that crossing out.

In general, the fill was clean — if you don't mind the usual ETTE, ELL, NEO, SSN, ERE, EAU, ARAL, and SPA. I'm against seeing RAE (15A: Singer Carly __ Jepsen) in puzzles now because I feel like I've seen her on overload recently — the Times could learn a couple more current singers. Or something. But I do like her music, so it's nothing personal!

Overall, there were some fun words and themers. I particularly liked BUMAROUND. And, seeing DUNGEON (21A: Basement of a castle, perhaps) in the puzzle was kind of fun (mostly becaue it's medieval, and that just appeals to me). I'm not sure, though, about INTERFACE at 37D: Communicate (with). I at first thought it was kind of cool and just a different word, but I now wish it had been clued differently because, as I've learned from my grammar freak Dad, INTERFACE is actually a noun, not a verb.

  • I liked the clue for LIBRA (52D: Cooperative, balanced type, they say) because I definitely wasn't originally thinking about Zodiac signs, so I found it amusing when I worked it out. I don't put much stock in Zodiac, though, because I'm a Cancer, and Cancers are supposed to be super emotional, and I'm just... not!
  • I grew up singing the song "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" by Shania TWAIN (9D), so it's fun to see it in the puzzle — though it must've been something to see a 10-year-old singing a song about being a woman. (As I'm writing this, the song is playing in the Bruins-Blues hockey game. Maybe Boston's good taste in music is the reason the Bruins won the game.)
  • I could eat NUTELLA (27D: Chocolatey spread) by the spoonful. I will again say that NUTELLA is the best thing to put on crepes. 
  • I found the clue for 68A as UNCLE cute because I love the royal family and, like most girls, once dreamed of being a princess. I do feel bad for Prince Louis, who apparently, didn't rate for this puzzle.
  • Loved the clue/answer for 67A: Basket part grabbed after slam-dunking as RIM. You didn't think I could finish a write-up at this time of year without talking about my Warriors, did you? I can't wait to see some epic dunks from the Warriors where they grab the RIM — I'm just glad we don't have to face Giannis, who might've been the one doing the dunking against the Dubs. (Anywho, go, Warriors!!)
  • Jesse OWENS (22D) is one of the greatest American athletes of all time and a huge inspiration to me.
  • I only know HEATH (16A) bars because it's a candy I got at Halloween each year that I'd always threw away.
Signed, Clare Carroll, a happy law clerk

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Cheers in Berlin / MON 5-27-19 / Desert crossed by ancient Silk Road / Old office worker who took dictation

Monday, May 27, 2019

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Easy (2:42) (undersized grid, tho) (14x15)

THEME: MULTIPLE CHOICE (58A: Kind of test ... and a hint to a word hidden three times each in 16-, 22-, 38- and 48-Across) — the word is "OR"

Theme answers:
  • CORPORATE WORLD (16A: What M.B.A.s enter upon graduation)
  • WORD FOR WORD (22A: Verbatim)
  • TORONTO RAPTORS (38A: Canadian team in the N.B.A.)
  • HORROR STORY (48A: Tale that might feature a haunted house)
Word of the Day: PROST (33D: "Cheers!," in Berlin)
One of the most important Oktoberfest words, prost is German for ‘cheers’ (and is useful outside Oktoberfest contexts, as well!). You will notice that Oktoberfest visitors like having a toast before drinking, a so-called Prosit. Alternatively, you could also say ‘Zum Wohl’ (‘To your health’). ("18 Essential Words for Oktoberfest" at Oxford Dictionaries)
• • •

This isn't a good representation of what a MULTIPLE CHOICE exam is (there are no "OR"s involved) and hiding "OR" doesn't seem like that great a feat (even if you are hiding it 3x) and there are far too many stray "OR"s around the grid. If you wanna put all your eggs or OVULEs or whatever in the "OR" basket then no WORN, no SNORE, no ODOR. If you're gonna do a theme, and especially if you're gonna do it with a meager, emaciated grid, at least do it cleanly. The long Downs are pretty good, but the rest of the fill is quite stale. I was tired of this thing already by the time I hit the north (BEAUT, OER (!), BAA, OUT OF, STENO, ONO, SAO ... it's a lot to take in one gulp). OD ON and ON CD are not good and especially not good in the same grid. NEYO LETO PSST TSAR, ECO x/w ECON ... there's just an accretion of crosswordesey stuff. You're allowed a little, but come on. The only real positive thing I have to say about this thing is that it's oddly, coincidentally timely, in that the central answer, the TORONTO RAPTORS, literally just this past weekend (Saturday, to be exact) advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time ever. So if you wanna read this as a little shout-out, a little low-key tribute to KAWHI-have-I-never-been-in-a-crossword-grid Leonard et al, then cool. I can live with that.

Didn't know ADLER (though I guess I've heard of the planetarium, in retrospect) and really didn't know PROST. Oh good, looks like it's very uncommon—only third time I've seen it in my blogging lifetime, and I've never seen it on a Monday before today (other times: Sat., Wed.). We went 17 years between PROST appearances (2000-17). Let's revisit those halcyon days. Well, maybe not the Bush years, but def. the Obama era—blissfully PROST-free. OD ON crossing LETS DIE is pretty morbid. I tried to make TURBOCHARGE happen before realizing it had too many letters. Slightly wrong kind of OOMPH, I guess. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this more than I did. Better luck (for me) tomorrow!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Title role in Christmas opera / SUN 5-26-19 / Coat-of-arms border / Shaw of 1930s-40s swing / Famous Musketeer / Nickname of 2010s pop idol / Interviewer who asked Buzz Aldrin whether people on the moon were friendly / Big-spending demographic group / Cherry Orchard daughter / Katniss' partner in Hunger Games

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Constructor: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:26)

THEME: "Buzz Cut" — I don't really understand the title, but the theme premise is that voiced "S" (i.e. "Z") sounds at the ends of phrases (most of them plurals) are rewritten as if they are just the regular hissing "S" sounds, which entails all new words and spellings and, if you're lucky, wackiness and hilarity:

Theme answers:
  • JURY OF YOUR PIERCE (23A: Facebook friends weighing in on the new belly button ring?)
  • TWO-PIECE IN A POD (44A: L'eggs brand bikini?) (LOL this is gonna need so much explanation to someone who has no idea what the L'eggs egg is, i.e. most people under 40???) ("Though the L'eggs egg became integral to the brand and their marketing and advertising, in 1991 Hanes ceased packaging the hosiery in the hard plastic containers, as the plastic eggs were seen as an example of wastefulness."—wikipedia) (looks like they brought the eggs back for a limited time in 2014 as part of some promotion)
  • HISS AND HEARSE (70A: Final scene of "Antony and Cleopatra"?) (there was a "hearse" in that play?)
  • DOWN ON ALL FORCE (96A: Like a confirmed peacenik?)
  • CAN'T BELIEVE MY ICE (120A: "Our driveway has been incredibly slippery since the storm!"?) (this phrase is very weird without the subject, "I")
  • TELL ME NO LICE (16D: Parent's fervent prayer to the school nurse?)
  • WARM AND FUSSY (64D: Like a sick baby?)
Word of the Day: MASER (60D: Atomic clock timekeeper) —
  1. a device using the stimulated emission of radiation by excited atoms to amplify or generate coherent monochromatic electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range. (google)
• • •

ILRE *and* ORLE in the same damn grid? To say nothing of all the other klassic krosswordese in this thing: MASSIF, NEY, AMAHL, ALIG, ARTIE, ANYA, TENTER (?), TEENER ... I mean, there's the tell: if you think TEENER is a word, then your frame of reference is a good half-century out of date. Also, if you think L'eggs still come in a plastic egg (i.e. "pod"), which hasn't been true for 28 years, this puzzle will be right up your alley. Otherwise, yikes. There are some more modern things here (E-SPORTS, The BIEB) but mostly this puzzle was *aggressively* dated. Again, we aren't talking about some stray answers—we're talking about a strong, persistent, overall vibe. This puzzle is only for people who have been doing puzzles forever, and particularly for those who cut their teeth in a much earlier, much stodgier era. This puzzle might have been fine in the '80s, but today it feels exclusionary. Only for the cognoscenti, the longtime, inveterate solvers, the Maleskavites among us. I myself am a former Maleskavite. I left the Party after Maleska's death and, after a brief flirtation w/ Shortzianism in the late '90s / early '00s, found myself firmly in the neo-Tausigian camp (if you don't know what that means, then you don't subscribe to the American Values Club Crossword (AVCX), and, honestly, why is that? You should change that.). Seriously, though, ILRE is the worst thing I've ever seen in a grid, ever (well, worst thing that wasn't absolute sexist / racist garbage). And crossing ADLER and a weirdly "?"-clued REHAB, oof and woof and ouch. My printed-out grid is just a lot of angry ink in that section.

It's a piercing, not a PIERCE, so that first themer is rough, but I do like the effort. It's really trying to be clever and current. I actually don't mind the theme that much. I didn't really grok the premise very clearly as I was solving, but in retrospect, it's executed pretty cleanly and consistently, and the resulting themers aren't totally unfunny, as change-a-sound puns often are (that is ... they are, often, unfunny ... and here they aren't ... that is, they are ... funny). I made pretty good time, but then I know ORLE, which will not be true of most solvers. Well, of most younger / newer solvers. Can't much more obscure than heraldic terminology. What's next, GULES? (no, seriously, that's a thing—trust me, I'm a medievalist!). Weirdly, the very very hardest part of the grid for me, the very last part I finished, was the section in and around MASSIF. Biggest problem (besides not really knowing MASSIF) was that I could not, for the life of me, parse "I MIGHT" (45D: "It depends on my schedule"). That stuff about a "schedule" had me thinking the answer would be some much more specific phrase, and when I got "IM-" I thought it was "I'M... something." Didn't trust RIBMEAT, didn't trust GRANNIE (-IE??? not -Y?), and didn't even get HISS AND HEARSE at all. HISS part was all screwed up because of the MASSIF section, and the HEARSE part was all screwed up because what in the world is MASER?!?!?!? (60D: Atomic clock timekeeper). Apparently this is the fourth time it's been in a puzzle in the Rex Parker era (i.e. since '06), and somehow I've never bothered to look it up. So now it's my Word of the Day. You're welcome.

Someone should now do an inversion of this theme, with answers like BRUISE LEE (see 112A: Actor with a famous side kick). What does "Buzz Cut" mean? Nothing is "cut." There's no such thing as a "bus cut." I'm so lost. Oh well, it's not the first time. Hope you enjoyed this more than I did.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Tarot card that bears numeral XIII / SAT 5-25-19 / Top of Pacific island chain / City sobriquet for New Haven / Hebrew scripture commentary

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (6:21)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Howard ASHMAN (54A: "The Little Mermaid" lyricist Howard) —
Howard Elliott Ashman (May 17, 1950 – March 14, 1991) was an American playwright and lyricist. He collaborated with Alan Menken on several works and is most widely known for several animated feature films for Disney, for which Ashman wrote the lyrics and Menken composed the music. Ashman and Menken began their collaboration with the musical God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1979), for which Ashman directed and wrote both book and lyrics. Their next musical, Little Shop of Horrors (1982) for which Ashman again directed and wrote both book and lyrics, became a long-running success and led to a 1986 feature film. The partnership's first Disney film was The Little Mermaid (1989), followed by Beauty and the Beast (1991). After his death, some of Ashman's songs were included in another Disney film, Aladdin (1992). [...] On the night of the 62nd Academy Awards, Ashman told Menken that they needed to talk when they got back to New York, where he revealed to Menken that he was HIV positive. He had been diagnosed in 1988, midway through the making of The Little Mermaid. During the making of Beauty and the Beast, the Disney animators were flown to work with Ashman at his home in Fishkill, New York. There they discovered that he was seriously ill. He grew weaker but he remained productive and continued to write songs. After the first screening for Beauty and the Beast on March 10, 1991, the animators visited Ashman in the hospital. He weighed 80 pounds, had lost his sight, and could barely speak. The animators and producer Don Hahn told him that the film was incredibly well received by the press. On the early morning of March 14, Ashman, age 40, died from complications from AIDS, in New York City. Beauty and the Beast is dedicated "To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991." Ashman was survived by his partner Bill Lauch, his sister Sarah Ashman-Gillespie, and his mother Shirley Thelma Glass. He is buried in Oheb Shalom Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well this was probably my least favorite Paolo Pasco puzzle ever, and I really liked it—just to give you some sense of how far beyond most constructors this kid is (he's my daughter's age, I get to call him "kid"). ONALEASH was a little wobbly and RATA and ENE, bleh, and who the hell says "DASH IT!" and I just personally hate the phrase "drop TROU" (not the puzzle's fault, exactly) and I have never seen GLADHAND (57A: Insincere welcome) as a noun (as a verb, yes, and GLADHANDer, yes), and ASHMAN strikes me as pretty obscure (only his second appearance of the millennium, and the center stack, though very solid, is not exactly scintillating, and (saving worst for last) ILIADS, plural, dear lord no, the dictionary has betrayed you! (34D: Epic narratives). OK, so on one side there's all that, but on the other side, everything else was delightful and current and smooth and occasionally EDGY, drawing from all over the knowledge spectrum, and some of the clues were so great (don't know if they were Paolo's or the editor's, and I don't care—just glad they made their way to me). Stupid fun clue on DELIS (20A: Establishments whose products might be described by this answer + H), interesting and original clue on NON (56D: Prefix with binary), and great deception all over, including [Push-ups, e.g.] for LINGERIE and [Off in biblical lands?] for SMITE. Honestly, this thing had me at CHRISTIAN MINGLE (8D: Website relative of JDate)—finally, a reason for having suffered through those TV ads so many times. What show was I even watching when the CHRISTIAN MINGLE onslaught happened? I don't remember. But this payoff is sweet.

I was cruising—absolutely shredding this thing in the NW and then down through CHRISTIAN MINGLE—but those three central Acrosses just wouldn't budge. I had the vast majority of all of them filled in before even one of them fell. I'm embarrassed that HAWAIIANSHIRT took so long (33A: Top of a Pacific island chain), but CATE BLANCHETT ... I'm not even sure what movie she won the Oscar for (36A: Only person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar-winning actress). I thought she won for "Blue Jasmine"? She played an Oscar-winning actress in that? I never saw it. Whoops, nope, she played Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator," and won Best Supporting Actress for that (she won plain old Best Actress for "Blue Jasmine"). Well, at least I know this trivia for future use now. As for MICHELIN GUIDE, I had considered at least two other kinds of "stars" for the frame of reference (movie, outer space), but neither one was any help (37A: Book of stars?). I didn't get hung up, but I definitely had to labor my way through the middle. And finally the SW was really threatening to sink me for a bit. MIDRASH / MIDROSH??? Couldn't decide, and that vowel is the first letter in ASHMAN, which I didn't know at all. In the end, OSHMAN seemed far less like a name, so "A" won. STOPGO was hard (59A: Congested, in a way). I had STUFFY at first. So I ended up with a good but not great time on this good if not great puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Fictional land named in some real-life international law cases / FRI 5-24-19 / Euphemism for Satan / Inventor of 17th-century calculator / Horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage / Priciest 1952 Topps baseball card / Cold War opponent informally

Friday, May 24, 2019

Constructor: Stanley Newman

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (6:43)

THEME: QUEEN VICTORIA (35A: So-called "Grandmother of Europe," born 5/24/1819) — actually it's a themeless with this commemorative answers just plunked in the center

Word of the Day: LANDAU (2D: Horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage) —
landau is a coachbuilding term for a type of four-wheeled, convertible carriage. It was a city carriage of luxury type. The low shell of the landau made for maximum visibility of the occupants and their clothing, a feature that makes a landau still a popular choice for the Lords Mayors of certain cities in the United Kingdom on ceremonial occasions. (wikipedia)
• • •

This??? This is your Queen Victoria's 200th birthday tribute puzzle? Just ... her name? Look, do a damn tribute or don't do a tribute, but this half-assed half-themed junk has got to go. I kept looking around for Victorian material. Kept thinking there was some theme building that I just couldn't see. Seriously, when I got to the cross-reference clue at 65A: Some descendants of 62-Across (MEXICANS) I briefly thought "... MEXICANS are descended from QUEEN VICTORIA???" But no. "Grandmother of Europe," ugh, why are we "honoring" her? Was the idea ... what was the idea? Just put her name in the middle and then build a very old-fashioned, very old, kinda mediocre themeless around her? LINDY in a LANDAU, that's what this thing was. For the NONCE. It's painfully hoary, and could not have been more off my wavelength if it tried. This was some classic Maleska-era stuff, complete with your classic crosswordese (ÉTÉ! ODIE! LANDAU!!) and your almost exclusively olde-tymey frame of reference. Who the hell is Manchester, the WRITER (24D: London or Manchester). That clue killed me, and kept me from accessing the NE in a way that had me wondering if I was even going to finish. Satan is The DEUCE!?!? LOL, when? Who? Woof.

But seriously, Manchester? There is a guy I found named that, and he wrote books, but I would submit to you that he is not not not famous enough. Which is why I'm not naming him—I think I must be overlooking someone. But I can't figure out who. [Do so hope]??? I just stared at that going "what does that ... even mean? When would you say that????" The phrasing ... so archaic and forced and sad. Why is an EDGER [Tool used while on foot]??? You might use any tool while on foot. Why would *that* be your clue? The cluing here is perverse in stupid ways—designed to make things hard, no doubt, but mostly just off. If you're gonna go hard, you better be on. And this thing is off fro stem to stern.

OK, since no one has offered a better explanation, it looks like the Manchester in question is William Manchester, a historian and biographer (!?!?) that I've never ever heard of. The idea that you think he is an iconic WRITER on the level of Jack London (or Jack Vance or even Jack LaLanne) is hilarious. Did you really want your English city "joke" so bad, So Bad, that you went with William (??) Manchester!? Every idea this puzzle has about being "difficult" is actually bad. It's sour. It's off. EMAILS are not a "cause" of flooding. They are the substance. Whoever's sending them is the cause. Some bot or spammer or whatever. Or, just, all the people who (still) email you for some reason. (Thanks to my friend Helen for pointing out that particular cluing infelicity). Also, EMAILS with an "S," ugh. Grating. I felt guilty getting ABRAM instantly. I Don't Even Know Whose Middle Name That Is, but I've done enough crosswords to know that it's a [Presidential middle name], ugh. I also felt guilty at having the entire arsenal of carriage lingo at my fingertips thanks to decades of doing dated puzzles. LANDAU! (ask me about the SURREY, the HANSOM, the TROIKA, etc.)

Had KEPT TO for HELD TO (9D: Didn't stray from), AMASS for HOARD (9A: Stockpile), AMENS (?) for SMARM (21A: Unctuous utterances) (had the "M" from ST. ELMO, my first answer in the grid). No idea who Jamie DORNAN is (45D: Jamie ___, co-star in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie). Please stop putting TEC in puzzles, as I can assure you, as someone who studies and teaches crime fiction, it's a non-thing. No one says that. Even re: Spade. At least indicate its datedness, its bygoneness, whatever. Quit passing it off as an ordinary slang term. It isn't.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:35)

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

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

• • •

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

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

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

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:32)

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

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

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

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

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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP