Bash some tobacco holders / MON 9-30-19 / Strikebreaking worker / John who arrived on Mayflower / Action accompanied by MWAH

Monday, September 30, 2019

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:02)

THEME: Bash Brothers! — famililar phrases are clued as if they were verb phrases where the first word means "Bash" (as in "criticize")

Theme answers:
  • PAN PIPES (16A: Bash some tobacco holders?)
  • TRASH PICK-UPS (19A: Bash some small trucks?)
  • RIP TIDE (39A: Bash a luandry room brand?)
  • PUT DOWN ROOTS (57A: Bash an Alex Haley classic?)
  • BLAST OFF (61A: Bash a bug repellent brand?)
Word of the Day: John ALDEN (23D: John who arrived on the Mayflower) —
Capt. John Alden Sr. (c. 1598–1687) was a crew member on the historic 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. Rather than return to England with the ship, he stayed at what became Plymouth Colony. He was hired in Southampton, England, as the ship's cooper, responsible for maintaining the ship's barrels. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact. He married fellow Mayflower passenger Priscilla Mullins, whose entire family perished in the first winter.
He served in a number of important government positions such as Assistant Governor, Duxbury Deputy to the General Court of Plymouth, Captain Myles Standish's Duxburymilitia company, a member of the Council of War, Treasurer of Plymouth Colony, and Commissioner to Dartmouth. (wikipedia)
• • •

I was finished before I figured out / realized that the answers had something in common besides puns. This seems impossible, in retrospect, since every clue begins [Bash...] but I bounce around so much, and "?" are always an extra layer of difficulty for me, so I was distracted and didn't see the coherence (not that it would've helped me solve faster). The theme is just fine, and it's pretty dense ... which may be why the grid overall feels a bit stale. I won't list all the dull repeaters, the common short stuff that's gunking up this grid, because I don't have to. Just plunk your finger down in the grid, you'll hit something. ROO? DST? Yeah, you see it. None of it bad, but ... just, a Lot of it. A lot of old stuff. Old vibe. MORTON SALT old. The 6+-letter Downs give the grid some solidity as well as some crunch, but for Ms. Lempel, whose work is regularly stellar, this feels somewhat below average.

My time was normal, which was weird because I felt very slow. Also, my fat fingers were typo'ing all over the place. Felt like half my time was spent trying to undo typing mistakes. Some of the cluing seemed off today. Not sure "AHA!" is a very good equivalent of 14A: "Like I told you!" I mean, I can hear someone saying "Like I told you!" immediately after saying AHA! but I don't like it as a swap-out. I also really hate the clue on IRMA (17D: Woman whose name is an anagram of MIRA). Give a girl a clue, would you? Yeesh. Non-clues are not fun. There are cluable IRMAs, pick one! I always forget ALDEN, so luckily today I got him mostly from crosses before I ever saw his clue. "NOT SO!" feels very formal compared to 37D: "That's just wrong!" Oof, the worst moment for me was writing in UPTICK for UPTURN (32D: Improvement, as in the economy). What was worst about it was it gave me a terminal "I" at 46A: Diamond Head's island (OAHU), so naturally (?) I wrote in MAUI. Blargh. Entirely my own fault. HEWED screwed me up because I only wanted HEWN, which of course didn't fit (47D: Chopped). See also SAWN (weird that both of these -WN past participles are essentially synonymous ... omg MOWN too ... it's all chopping and cutting, what the hell?)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Coin in Potterverse / SUN 9-28-19 / End of oyster season / Lead-in to ville in children's literature / Central region of Roman empire / Banker in Penny Lane never wears one in rain very strange / Voice role for Beyonce in 2019 Lion King

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Medium (10-something on the timer)

THEME: "Now Weight Just a Second" — familiar phrases are made wacky by changing a single two-syllable word from one whose stress ("weight") is on the first syllable to one whose stress is on the "second":

Theme answers:
  • SHIP OF THE DESSERT (22A: Cruise that specializes in baked alaska, e.g.?)
  • NOBEL-MINDED (33A: Like ambitious scientists?)
  • THE MORALE OF THE STORY (49A: How everyone on this floor is feeling?)
  • IT'S NOT ROCKETTE SCIENCE (68A: "Our lab studies regular dance moves rather than high-kicking"?)
  • I CAME I SAW I CONCURRED (86A: Summary of an easy negotiation?)
  • SEMI COLOGNE (105A: What a truck driver puts on before a date?)
  • MAJOR THOREAUFARE (116A: The main food served at Walden Pond?)
Word of the Day: KNUT (94A: Coin in the Potterverse) —
Wizarding money is [...] old-fashioned; whilst Muggle Britain was decimalised in 1971, Magical Britons continued with their system of 17 silverSickles to a gold Galleon, and 29 bronze Knuts to a Sickle. Also, magical currency is all metal coins, and there is no paper money. (wikipedia)
• • •

Didn't care for this much as I was solving, as I had no idea what was going on, and didn't find the puns that funny. As soon as I finished, it dawned on me what the "weight" in the title of the puzzle meant. First themer looks like an add-a-letter theme, and the third themer (which I ran into second) seems to confirm this. But then I got NOBEL but didn't know the second part and didn't know NOBEL was the altered word, so that was no help. So I stumbled to the end never once really being amused by the themers. Then, when I figured it out, I dunno, something about the way not just the stress ("weight") but the vowel sound seemed to change in the second syllable of COLOGNE and MORALE really bugged me. But I was primed to be bugged because the theme just never clicked for me (I can see already from early social media reaction that I won't be alone in this). At least I figured it out eventually, I guess. I think it's very clever, but the solving experience was kind of a dud for me, despite some real winning moments in the fill. I think this is one of those days where the puzzle is probably actually good, but just not for me.

[warning: profanity]

Here's what I quite enjoyed: GADGETRY (16D: Fancy gizmos) and DEATHSTAR (108A: Massive weapon of sci-fi)! I also enjoyed seeing HEARST (100D: Leader in yellow journalism and an inspiration for "Citizen Kane"), whose name is oddly rare given what looks like such a favorable letter combination (hasn't appeared in the NYT in four years). Did you know "yellow journalism" had its origins in the comics pages with the Yellow Kid, the world's first comic strip star, whose iconic color came to stand generally for newspapers' willingness to do anything to sell papers? The Yellow Kid was the star of a strip called "Hogan's Alley," which started in Pulitzer's New York World, but then HEARST bought it for his New York Journal. Pulitzer then responded by running his own Yellow Kid (copyright laws involving comics not being very well defined, apparently). The Kid was thus a central figure in the newspaper sales wars of the late 19th century, and since the comics pages and sensational, muckraking journalism came of age together, the yellow of the Yellow Kid became symbolic of drive to sell papers at any cost, no matter how cheap and tawdry! Extra, extra! Lesson over!

I really really liked COURT / ORDER, which is probably the only time you'll hear me say I liked a [With such and such a clue / See such and such]-type pairing (43D: With 44-Down, judge's mandate / 44D: See 43-Down). Normally I resent having to go hunt down the second (or first) half of some split answer, but here, today, the two halves stand right alongside each other like a couple of pals, each word the same length. There's something very neat and elegant about that. Here's where I struggled: first, GLASSWORK, specifically the -WORK part (30A: Tiffany lambshade, e.g.). Had GLASSW- and wrote in (I think) GLASSWARE, which actually worked with LAHORE (7D: Capital of Punjab), but then SETTO seemed right but wouldn't work, and then I somehow opted for EVENNESS at 8D: State of stability (EVEN KEEL), so there was a lot of writing and unwriting going on there for a bit. Also had no idea about BILL TO; I had SELL TO, then realized I had no idea what that answer could be (29D: Words on an invoice). I also could not get / understand 29A: Quickly go through the seasons, say (BINGE). It's a great clue, though the "the" there is kind of a cheap way to get your misdirection (making you think of winter spring etc. and not TV, where you would only say "the" if it were clear what show you were talking about, and maybe not even then). Anyway, I wanted FLY BY. Like ... Time ... quickly goes through the seasons? Throw in odd ELFIN clue at 14D: Diminutive, and you've got a real mess (in "The Hobbit," elves are far less "diminutive" than hobbits and dwarves, so I don't put smallness and elfinity together). Bottom half of the grid didn't offer any equivalent challenges.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Japanese instrument with 17 bamboo pipes / SAT 9-28-19 / Sweet treat depicted in this puzzle's grid / Hit FX police drama of 2002-08 / Nina accompanier / Street food prepared on rotisserie

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:26 without trying hard at all)

THEME: no nope not counting it you can't make me

Word of the Day: SHO (4D: Japanese instrument with 17 bamboo pipes) —
The shō () is a Japanese free reed musical instrument that was introduced from China during the Nara period (AD 710 to 794). It is descended from the Chinese sheng,[1] of the Tang Dynasty era, although the shō tends to be smaller in size than its contemporary sheng relatives. It consists of 17 slender bamboopipes, each of which is fitted in its base with a metal free reed. Two of the pipes are silent, although research suggests that they were used in some music during the Heian period. (wikipedia)
• • •

Really enjoyed this Friday puzzle. Yeah, I know it's Saturday, but this wasn't anywhere near the difficulty level you'd expect from a Saturday. It was an easy breezy Friday with interesting fill. The puzzle can call itself a Saturday if it means that much to it, but it's not fooling anyone. I tend to despise themed puzzles that show up on my beloved themeless days (Fri, Sat), and I see how this one is trying to convince me that it's themed (what with the clues on SWISSROLL and PATISSERIE), but it's all pretense. Just as it's not a Saturday puzzle, it's not a themed puzzle. Know thyself, little puzzle! I got off to a rough start because I had SAT instead of ESL (3D: Subj. of many an after-school class) and had not idea what a SHO was (besides an HBO competitor) and thought the stat in question at 6D: Defensive football stat: Abbr. (INTwas a plural ending in -S. Also, I blanked on the FX police drama, which is absurd. I must have missed the "FX" part and only registered "police drama," because the "FX" part would've been a dead giveaway. Ugh. Anyway, clunky start. Not really sure who DEWITT Clinton or Clinton DEWITT is, and SPICES, really??? (15A: Big exports of Sri Lanka). All of them?!?!?! SPICES is weak. I wanted something specific. Give me a specific country, I expect a specific export. It's like getting [New Zealand dwellers] for a clue and having the answer be BIRDS. Boooo! But after I got stuff up there straightened out, zoom down the east coast and through the bottom section in like a minute, and then back up top to move methodically into the center, which I devoured last and fast. Last square was the very very bottom of the swirl (the "U" in the 18 square).

Speaking of swirl, I had SWI- at 16D: Sweet treat depicted in this puzzle's grid and wanted it to be a SWIRL ... something. SWIRL ROLL, maybe. I know SWISS ROLLs exist, but I've never seen one in the wild or on a menu and never had one, to my knowledge. I see them on the Great British Baking Show, that's how I know they're real. I went to lots of PATISSERIEs in Montreal, don't remember seeing a SWISS ROLL. Anyway, it just didn't come to me quickly, is all I'm saying. Other issues included going with CBS before TBS (30A: Final Four airer in even years), hesitating briefly on the middle letter of TAT (thought maybe TIT would be involved), and tentatively writing in SHAWARMA, which looked fake to me, as I'm pretty sure I first encountered it as SHWARMA (with just the two A's) (10D: Street food prepared on a rotisserie). I also don't really know what TEAR SHEETS are so I wanted TEST ... something (1D: Printing samples). Thank goodness I watched a lot of ESPN at one point in my life. I forget who, but one of the anchors on SportsCenter would routinely talk about a hot player (hot in terms of success, not looks!) as being EN FUEGO. Crossing that with PURTY seems slightly risky, but it's hard to imagine someone's getting genuinely hung up there. OK, good, fun time. See you tomorrow.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. It looks like a lot of people don't know who WALLACE STEVENS is ... which ... advantage, English professor, I guess, but I thought he was super famous (as poets go). Shows what an ivory-tower dwelling tweed-wearing pipe-smoking New York Review of Books-reading snoot I am. (Actually, I've never read WALLACE STEVENS and totally confuse him with William Carlos Williams)

P.P.S. here's a definition of "diet" for those confused about the LEGISLATORS clue (55A: Ones on a diet)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Give a false impression of eco-friendliness / FRI 9-27-19 / ___ Addiction, alternative rock band that headlined the first Lollapalooza / Fruit with a cedilla in its name / What the "E" of Euler's formula V - E + F = 2 represents / Traditional crop grown by a small farm, maybe / Activity for a storm chaser

Friday, September 27, 2019

Constructor: Jack Mowat

Relative difficulty: Easy


Word of the Day: GREENWASH (39A: Give a false impression of eco-friendliness) —
noun: greenwash; noun: green-wash
  1. disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.
• • •
Hello, everybody! It's Aimee Lucido here taking over for Rex for the day to justify me shamelessly using his platform to plug my brand new book that just came out on Tuesday!

But first, the puzzle:

I always let out a sigh of relief when I'm on the hook for a blog post and I end up solving the puzzle relatively quickly. In this case, I solved the puzzle in 28:02 (which is about 10 minutes below my average Friday (please don't judge me for being slow)), but I spent about 8 of those minutes stuck in the NW.

I tore my way through the SW, loving ICEBREAKER and TAG TEAMED, wanting MAKES BANK for MAKES A MINT even though it didn't fit, and figuring out TRACKING before I got TORNADO for 7D. I figured out GREENWASH (great word!) from the straightforward clue, even though I'd never heard of it before, and the NE and center fell from there. But I struggled significantly in the NW because I had LOOS for IANS and refused to put NON-GMO as the first six letters in 3D because of how non-thing-y it seemed.

Overall, I found the grid mostly solid, if a little sleepy, with the only things that I didn't know being ZUNI and TOPOS, but I balked at some of the "green paint" answers in the grid. TENNIS SHOT? Does that mean we can use SOCCER SHOT or BASKETBALL SHOT or LACROSSE SHOT in our grids? NON-GMO CORN could have just as easily have been NON-GMO BEAN or, I dunno, NON-GMO PEAR. CHOCOLATE RABBIT seems to open up the door for CHOCOLATE SANTA or CHOCOLATE EGG or CHOCOLATE HEART. CHOCOLATE HAND? Why not!

These phrases in the grid are by no means bad, and I would even say some are good, but the excitement is lost a bit in the arbitrariness of the adjective/noun pair. By contrast, however, URBAN DECAY is a thing all its own, and replacing URBAN with, say, RURAL completely negates the meaning. This to me is why URBAN DECAY or GREENWASH make me happy, but NON-GMO CORN makes me sad.

I found the cluing on this a little too straightforward, as I usually hope to walk out of a Friday with at least one or two meaty "?" clues, but I did enjoy learning that MR T used to be a bouncer and that "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" was sung by BRENDA LEE.

  • 31D: Like good cakes and bad cellars (MOIST) — I wonder how many solvers cringed when they put this word in. It's never bothered me, but I know a lot of people hate this word. Moist, moist, moist. 
  • 53D: ___ pad (LILY) — I reaaaaallly wanted MAXI here.
  • 35A: Person put in a box  (JUROR)— I enjoyed this clue! It made me think contortionists and I spent a lot of time trying to think of a five-letter synonym for that.

  • 18A: Hand-held anxiety reliever (STRESS BALL) — This was a debut word in all the databases that I have access too, and I really liked seeing it!
  • 100A: Middle-grade book written by Aimee Lucido about girls learning to program computers that got a starred review from Kirkus (EMMY IN THE KEY OF CODE) — Wait, this wasn't in the puzzle! Oh yeah, it's my brand-new book that I'm shamelessly plugging! Check it out here!
Signed, Aimee Lucido, Scribe of the CrossWorld

[Follow Aimee Lucido on Twitter and buy her book on Amazon or Indiebound]
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Marvel hero who manipulates weather / THU 9-26-19 / Mid-March shout / Famed firefighter Red / Pluck idly as harp / Rival of Pac-12 Cougar / Band with 1970s-'80s hits "Sexy Eyes" and "Only Sixteen" / Singers Evans and Bareilles / 1985 Phil Collins hit with improvised title

Thursday, September 26, 2019

*********NOTE: the puzzle in the actual paper (at least the one that came to our door this morning) is a different puzzle from the one released online, and as of now, I have no idea why************

*********NOTE TWO: I have to go to work so if you got the Randolph Ross puzzle in your Thursday paper, and not the Doug Peterson puzzle, well that is just bad luck for you on I'm guessing at least two levels************



Constructor: Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Easy (very very) (untimed on clipboard, but I hesitated exactly once during the entire solve)

THEME: ENGAGEMENT (RING) (61A: It's usually presented in a small box, as seen six times in this puzzle's answer) ("answer," singular??) — six RINGs appear in six (small) boxes in the grid (the *grid*, not the "answer," what the heck?)

Theme answers:
  • BRINGS INTO PLAY (17A: Employs) / SYRINGE (2D: Hypodermic)
  • RINGO STARR (25A: "Yellow Submarine" vocalist) / ALLURING (8D: Seductive)
  • CRINGEWORTHY (32A: Extremely awkward) / PRINGLE (27D: Snack in a stack)
  • PULLS STRINGS (42A: Exerts one's clout) / PARINGS (35D: Discarded parts of apples and potatoes)
  • ERIN GO BRAGH!  (53A: Mid-March shout)/ WRING OUT (50D: Dry, as a washcloth)
Word of the Day: THRUM (30D: Pluck idly, as a harp) —

1to sound with a monotonous hum

2to play or pluck a stringed instrument idly STRUM

1to play (something, such as a stringed instrument) in an idle or relaxed manner

2to recite tiresomely or monotonously (
• • •

Well this was a roller-coaster ride. Hmm. That may not be the best metaphor. It was very easy and over quickly, so it never went up and down and all over the place difficulty-wise, but quality-wise, hoo boy. Doug is a good friend of mine, and his puzzles are generally stellar; his Newsday Saturday Stumper puzzles, both solo and with Brad Wilber (under the pseudonym "Lars G. Doubleday") are really wonderful (if you're not doing the Saturday Stumper, you should get on that—*by far* the hardest puzzle of any given week; makes the NYT Saturday seem like a Monday). I don't see his byline nearly as often in the NYT as I would like, so I was excited today. And the theme works really well, I think. OK, sure, the boxes are actually normal-sized and it's the RING that has been made "small," but I think that visually, the gimmick works very well. But some of this fill, a surprising lot of this fill, is C(RING)EWORTHY (which is, ironically, a great word—you're really just gonna hand me this word, Doug? OK... :)

I opened with ISPS / ICBM, which ... didn't bode well. Throw in PSST and you've got a crosswordese-laden corner, right off the bat. And now, here comes the roller-coaster ... up and down ... I've got smiley faces and frowny faces *all* over this grid. AZO, THO :( "SUSSUDIO" KINDA SORTA :) :) UTE ADAIR NOES OPE :( :( CRINGEWORTHY DR. HOOK :) :) plural YALES *and* plural SARAS :( :( MEATCASE TWOSOME :) ONEA SASE SNO STR :( ... I was happy one second, and then practically shouting "Noooo!" the next (not actually shouting, as I was solving in the middle of the night and my wife and dog would likely not have appreciated it). Back-to-back IDAs! That's neat. But yeesh, all over the map, this one was. Overall I have good feelings about this one because the theme is so solid and *some* of the fill is so wonderful. I'll chalk the not-so-great fill up to the theme density (six rings!).

People are gonna be mad about 22D: Rival of a Pac-12 Cougar because the UTEs are (I think?) more likely to be thought of as rivals of the BYU Cougars (who are not in the Pac-12), than of the Washington State Cougars (who are). Not sure if the clue was trying to be tricky or clever or what, but it comes off confusing and awkward. I honestly didn't notice the clue much. Blah blah college athlete three letters starts with "U" no problem. Puzzled much more (but not much more) over USC (40D: Sch. whose mascot is a horse named Traveler). The only answer in this puzzle that slowed me down in any way was THRUM. This is because I came at it from below, and so if there's plucking and the answer is five letters ending -RUM ... you know, you pick STRUM, which is a word people actually use. I'm not mad at THRUM, though. I kinda (sorta) like it, as a word. And at least it provided a little resistance, unlike the rest of this puzzle, which was a cakewalk.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. just found out there's a back story to the puzzle (involving, not surprisingly, a marriage proposal).  You can read about it here.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Ally in bygone legal drama / WED 9-25-19 / Setting for Forrest Gump movie poster / Prop for dancer Gypsy Rose Lee / Fashion trend that involves comfortable regular looking clothes

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Constructor: Natan Last, Andy Kravis and The J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:47) (it's undersized, so not terribly surprising my time was fast)

THEME: BREXIT (34A: Subject of a 2016 U.K. referendum ... or a hint to 16-, 25-, 41- and 55-Across) — wacky two-word phrases where second word is just the first word again, without the "BR" (which has "exited"):

Theme answers:
  • BRITCHES ITCHES (16A: Results of having ants in one's pants?)
  • BREYERS EYERS (25A: Ones considering which brand of ice cream to buy?)
  • HOMBRES' HOMES (41A: Casas?)
  • CEREBRAL CEREAL (55A: Food for thought?)
Word of the Day: NORMCORE (15A: Fashion trend that involves comfortable, regular-looking clothing) —
Normcore is a unisex fashion trend characterized by unpretentious, normal-looking clothing. Normcore fashion includes jeans, t-shirts, sweats, button-downs, underpants, socks, and sneakers. Clothing is considered to be normcore when it is both cute and comfortable, and is viewed as 'normal' by all people. // Normcore is a portmanteau of the words normal and hardcore. The word first appeared in the webcomic Templar, Arizona before 2009 and was later employed by K-HOLE, a trend forecasting group, in an October 2013 report called "Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom".
As used by K-HOLE, the word normcore referred to an attitude, not a particular code of dress. It was intended to mean "finding liberation in being nothing special." However, a piece in New York magazine that began popularizing the term in February 2014 conflated it with "Acting Basic", another K-HOLE concept which involved dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. It was this sense of normcore which gained popular usage.The characters featured on the television series Seinfeld are frequently cited as exemplifying the aesthetics and ethos of normcore fashion.
The word normcore was named runner-up for neologism of the year by the Oxford University Press in 2014. It was added to the AP Stylebook in 2016. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, this was a nice way to wake up. You're usually in good hands when the byline includes either Andy Kravis's or Natan Last's name, and the J.A.S.A. puzzles are usually very carefully constructed, so disaster is unlikely. I found this one both simple and lively—probably more appropriate to a Tuesday than a Wednesday, but that's neither here nor there, really. Theme is very (very) straightforward, and the "singsongy phrases" route is whimsical in an old-fashioned (good old-fashioned) way. Though the theme type and execution are crossword NORMCORE, the fill is frequently flashy. You do have a lot of short fill, much of it created by the way the middle of the grid has been designed, but that very design seems to have been aimed at keeping the fill clean, and it worked, as the short stuff tends to be familiar but not gross. And the longer stuff often shines. It goes to NORMCORE, gives you a few SLY LOOKS, and then bang! It RAISES HELL with a GUITAR SOLO! It's got my favorite album from middle school ("RIO") and one of my favorite film noir actresses / directors (IDA), and, well, to be frank, this puzzle is by far the best thing to come out of the whole BREXIT debacle. Turning *that* into gold is some pretty amazing alchemy.

There's some clues I don't like (or get). [Much graffiti] is ART? What? All graffiti is ART. Or none of it is? Or ... who's to say whether it is or isn't. That's a weird judgment call, a weird, very very non-specific judgment call. And wet hair is LANK??? Who says that? Tall gaunt people are LANK. I see Merriam-Webster's got "hanging limp without spring or curl" as definition 3 (!) so OK, but I am curious if people actually use the word that way any more. I have no idea what it means to tip a DART, but I'm assuming it's some technical thing ... fine, I'll look it up ... not seeing it. Is it just that DARTs have .... tips!? What? Are there untipped DARTs? What would that even mean? Clue says it "might" be tipped. This clue is baffling. So many potentially great clues, not sure why this one went technical / confusing. My Playstation Vue kinda flattens all TV into one TVscape so I am really bad at determining what network different shows are on. Thus I wrote in SHO instead of HBO at 52A: "Big Little Lies" network (hazard of getting the "O" first). I never have any idea about the various -OHOs and where they are and what they are and what they mean, so I had to wait for the "S" to show up today (11D: Upscale London district). Favorite screw-up of the day, though, came after getting BREXIT, when I went straight to the "B" cross and, as a result of not reading the clue carefully at all, ended up adding "BILL O'Riley" to The Who's catalogue (you probably know it better as "Late Middle-Age Wasteland").

Speaking of "BABA O'Riley" aka "Teenage Wasteland" ... today is this blog's 13th birthday!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. did you know Gypsy Rose Lee (of 29D: BOA) was in a 1966 movie called "The Trouble With Angels," directed by IDA Lupino? Well now you do (I learned this just last night)

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Addie's husband in As I Lay Dying / TUE 9-24-19 / Aromatic shrubs yielding an essential oil / Religious symbol resembling plus sign / Annual parade since 1890 / Playground game with teams

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Medium (felt easy, but clock says ... 3:48, i.e. normal)

THEME: GREEK CROSS (51A: Religious symbol resembling a plus sign ... or a hint to the three groups of circled squares in this puzzle) — Greek letters (embedded inside answers in circled squares) "cross" three times in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • FINAL PHASE (18A: Project's windup) / AIRHOLES (5D: What jars with fireflies need)
  • RIOT ACT (36A: It's "read" during a reprimand) / FREEZE TAG (14D: Playground game with teams)
  • HOME GAMES (39A: About half of a regular-season schedule) / ON THE TAKE (24D: Accepting bribes)
Word of the Day: Kirk ALYN  (61A: Kirk ___, first actor to play Superman on the big screen) —
Kirk Alyn (born John Feggo Jr., October 8, 1910 – March 14, 1999) was an American actor, best known for being the first actor to play the DC Comics character Superman in live-action for the 1948 movie serial Superman and its 1950 sequel Atom Man vs. Superman, as well as Blackhawkfrom the Blackhawk movie serial in 1952, and General Sam Lane in 1978's Superman: The Movie. (wikipedia)
• • •
GREEK CROSS (n.) a cross having an upright and a transverse shaft equal in length and intersecting at their middles (

Well, two problems here: the theme and the fill. The theme *sounds* like a good idea, and the themers yield some answers that are pretty colorful (ON THE TAKE and FREEZE TAG being the highlights of the day), but your revealer literally, explicitly describes a shape to you ("resembling a plus sign") and then gives you only one of them. Those other two crosses: Not GREEK CROSSes. Not. Not not. You point to a specific shape, and then you make three different shapes, only one of which is actually the shape you mention!?!? No. Nah naw and nope. THETA / OMEGA form an actual GREEK CROSS. You can hear the angels singing over there. But that's a non-GREEK CROSS up top (on its side), and, I don't know, scissors (?) over there in the east. Just wrong.  

And the fill, yikes. Here's a quick way to determine of the fill in your grid is bad: does it contain ANSE? (8D: Addie's husband in "As I Lay Dying") Honestly, even if the rest of your grid is pristine, the rotting stench of ANSE is so pervasive that net grid quality won't matter. Even with ANSE levels at one PPM, you're in trouble. And sadly, here, ANSE is just the worst of a whole slew of answers that need to be bounced from this particular bar. I'll mention just a couple. LIENEE (32A: Holder of a collateral loan) ... [hard sigh] ... I mean, it's not ALIENEE, but I'm not sure if that's worse or better. It's a word, but it's a tiresome word only a crossword (or banker?) could love. And then (much worse) ALYN. I mean, who? Ha ha ha what? What year is it? Who do you think is solving this? Was there no way to scrub this answer from your grid. 'Cause a conscientious constructor should've scrubbed until their fingers bled trying to get this answer (and ANSE) out. Archaic niche proper nouns are the mothballs of the puzzle world. There's lots of other icky abbrev'y SECY stuff in here, but I think I've made my point.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Vegas casino named for African locale / MON 9-23-19 / Some hippie neckwear / African nation whose name consists of three US state postal abbreviations / Culture medium in lab

Monday, September 23, 2019

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Easy (2:48)

THEME: yak yak yak — terms for people who talk a lot:

Theme answers:
  • TALKAHOLIC (17A: One who yaks, yaks, yaks ...)
  • BLABBERMOUTH (27A:  ... yaks, yaks, yaks ...)
  • BLATHERSKITE (44A: ... yaks, yaks, yaks ...)
  • CHATTERBOX (59A: ... yaks, yak, yaks)
Word of the Day: BLATHERSKITE (44A) —
1. babbling, foolish person.
2. Blather.

[blather + dialectal skitecontemptible person (from Middle English skitediarrheafrom OldNorse skītrexcrementfrom skītato defecatesee skei- in Indo-European roots).] (thefreedictionary)
• • •

Super-excited to record a legit fast (for me) time in what feels like forever (not actually forever), and super-excited to see puzzles constructed by solo women on back to back days in what also feels like forever (and is probably fairly close to forever), but not very excited by this theme, or the fill. Let's start with the theme. The first themer is not a thing. Chocoholic: thing. TALKAHOLIC: extreme non-thing. And BLATHERSKITE!? Whoa. I mean, it's a cool word, but two things: a. it is not a Monday word in the slightest, and b. it doesn't mean someone who yak yak yaks. Not merely talkative. It's someone who talks nonsense. And BLABBERMOUTH? That too simply does not mean someone who yak yak yaks. A BLABBERMOUTH is someone who talks when they shouldn't, who reveals too much, exposes secrets, etc. The dictionary sometimes has someone who talks indiscreetly *or* incessantly, but common usage (and certainly the only usage I've ever heard) relates primarily to indiscretion of the speech, not the mere volume. Basically, CHATTERBOX is the only themer that I fully and whole-heartedly accept.

The fill, yeesh. "Retro" would be a very, very polite way of describing it. Why is there a plural CIAOS in ... well, any puzzle, but especially in an easy-to-fill Monday. Mainly the fill is just stale. AGAR SIAM IBET ... overwhelmingly 5-letter or shorter. The bottom of the grid is particularly substandard. HEH is never not bad, ATIE, same, and SHLEP is a var. spelling, isn't it? Really feels like it. I'd tear that whole section out and rebuild it with real words. I'm surprised I was as fast as I was today, given that I'd never heard of TALKAHOLIC, I'd barely heard of and certainly couldn't retrieve BLATHERSKITE, and I wrote in I'M OUT for I FOLD at 50D: "Too rich for my blood." Took me a bit to get TRASHY, too, and MUSE was clued like a thing, not a person, so slow there as well (52D: Creative inspiration). Also, ugh, casino clues. The worst. The worst. What a horrible waste of SAHARA (5D: Vegas casino named for an African locale). Oh well. Off to watch the Emmys so I can root for all the crossword solvers among the nominees (I know of at least four). See you later.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Large decorative letter at start of chapter / SUN 9-22-19 / Hairstyling icon Vidal / Athlete's knee injury, familiarly / 2010s dance move involving dipping head to elbow / Feature of many Cape Cod house / Former leader of Sinaloa drug cartel / Method for identifying mystery callers / Lopes of R&B's TLC

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Medium (probably easy, but I've had a couple ... (drinks, I mean drinks))

THEME: "On the Up and Up" — themers all contain a word followed by "up"; instead of "up"'s being in the grid, the word that precedes "up" actually goes up, i.e. vertically (in circled squares)

Theme answers:
  • (KEEP) [UP] APPEARANCES (25A: Maintain the impression of well-being)
  • KISS AND (MAKE) [UP] (39A: Reconciled, as a couple)
  • (SIT) [UP] BENCH (41A: Ab-targeting exercise equipment)
  • REVERSE PHONE (LOOK) [UP] (67A: Method for identifying mystery callers)
  • (PIN) [UP] GIRLS (91A: Some cheesecake photos)
  • HIGH-SPEED (DIAL) [UP] (95A: Accelerated alternative to broadband)
  • (STEP)-[UP] TRANSFORMER (108A: Voltage-increasing eelctrical device)
Word of the Day: DORMER (97D: Feature of many a Cape Cod house) —
dormer is a roofed structure, often containing a window, that projects vertically beyond the plane of a pitched roof. A dormer window is a form of roof window.
Dormers are commonly used to increase the usable space in a loft and to create window openings in a roof plane.[2] The term "dormer" is commonly used to refer to a "dormer window" although a dormer does not necessarily contain a window. A dormer is often one of the primary elements of a loft conversion. As a prominent element of many buildings, different types of dormer have evolved to complement different styles of architecture. When the structure appears on the spires of churches and cathedrals, it is usually referred to as a lucarne.
• • •

Really thought I was killing this one, but I've been drinking (lightly, but still), and so ... my sense of time, and my own prowess, were both a bit off. My time was average. Also, this puzzle was average. I've seen gimmicks like this many times before. This one was no better and no worse than all of those. The title was both unnecessarily helpful (I got theme easily, without even noticing the title) and misleading (there's just ... the one "up" per themer, so having "up and up" in your title is very dumb). I've heard of a reverse phone book, or something like it, but the exact phrase REVERSE PHONE LOOK-UP feels awkward to me. Not as awkward, however, as STEP-UP TRANSFORMER. Actually, that one's not so much awkward as "???????" LOL at the idea that I am familiar with all the types of "transformers" there are in the world. I've never even seen the movie "Transformers," how in the world am I supposed to know what a STEP-UP TRANSFORMER is. Absurd, that one. I have used a SIT-UP BENCH at the gym, and yet I still don't like it as an answer. The others all feel very much in the language. Just fine. Not exciting, but adequate. Fitting. Apt. This puzzle feels like an inoffensive placeholder. Nothing much to recommend it, but nothing much to make you throw your computer across the room either.

Question-mark clues once again are making me want to heave them bodily from the room. 31D: A quarter to four? (ONE). ONE is a quarter *of* four. A quarter *to* four (as in, the relationship of 1/4 to 4) is ONE SIXTEENTH. I like KERI as the actress on the amazing show "The Americans," far far less as .... some kind of lotion (although I can hear the ads: "KERI is so very ..."):

POW does not "come with a sock" unless you are illustrating comic books. I had TOE here. EWASTE remains the worst, no matter how valid it is. LISA Lopes clue is missing the *crucial* "Left Eye" part (38A: Lopes of R&B's TLC). She's LISA "Left Eye" Lopes, dang it. Leaving that out feels blasphemous. TORNMCL is some "look at my wordlist" fill. Of course you can tear your MCL, just as you can tear a bunch of things, but iconically (i.e. crossworthily) you tear your ACL. I thought a zebu had a distinctive HORN (95D: Distinctive part of a zebu) (HUMP). I thought an [Act of self-aggrandizement] was EGOTISM. I took Latin for a couple years and still thought SANCTI was too Latin-y (for a crossword) (unless it appears in the phrase "... et spiritus SANCTI" and even then, I dunno. The clue on YASMINE was precisely zero help (16D: Woman's name that's one letter off from a fragrant flower). I doubt that many people have heard of the yasbine flower. Unfair!* OK, I'm done with this. See you tomorrow.

Oh, and happy birthday to my brilliant and beautiful daughter, who is nineteen today and does not read my blog, god bless her
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    *I'm kidding, there's no such flower as the yasbine. The flower in question is obviously the gasmine**

    **Still kidding, please don't send me explanatory emails

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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