Island once called Serendip / SAT 11-30-19 / 1975 hit with classic saxophone solo / Alternative to Leyden Boerenkaas / Eponymous candy man / Funny Morgan / Bliblical starting material / Noted parliamentary measure of 1773 / Renowned London street in literature

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Constructor: Joe Deeney

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (?) (untimed)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Edward Thomas (6D: Trees that "at the crossroads talk together," in an Edward Thomas poem (ASPENS)) —
Philip Edward Thomas (3 March 1878 – 9 April 1917) was a British poet, essayist, and novelist. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences, and his career in poetry only came after he had already been a successful writer and literary critic. In 1915, he enlisted in the British Army to fight in the First World War and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.

All day and night, save winter, every weather,
Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop,
The aspens at the cross-roads talk together
Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.
Out of the blacksmith's cavern comes the ringing
Of hammer, shoe, and anvil; out of the inn
The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing—
The sounds that for these fifty years have been.
The whisper of the aspens is not drowned,
And over lightless pane and footless road,
Empty as sky, with every other sound
Not ceasing, calls their ghosts from their abode,
A silent smithy, a silent inn, nor fails
In the bare moonlight or the thick-furred gloom,
In tempest or the night of nightingales,
To turn the cross-roads to a ghostly room.
And it would be the same were no house near.
Over all sorts of weather, men, and times,
Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear
But need not listen, more than to my rhymes.
Whatever wind blows, while they and I have leaves
We cannot other than an aspen be
That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves,
Or so men think who like a different tree. 

• • •

I moved really slowly through this one, but I don't think that had anything to do with difficulty. I was just being methodical, and I had just woken up, or rather I was just being methodical *because* I had just woken up. Trying to speed just after waking is a doomed enterprise. I took a look at this grid and didn't like it one bit, but as I solved, I warmed to it, surprised that those isolated corners weren't much more dire (both in difficulty and quality). Most of what annoys me about this puzzle has to do with the cluing voice, which ... whaddyagonna do, that's the editor's responsibility, and there's nothing to be done about that. We're never gonna agree (as often as I'd like) on what's clever or funny. For instance, 42A: "Abyssinia" (TATA). I first learned about this pun ... today, because even my embarrassingly pun-fond friends wouldn't touch this one (which only works in ... writing?). If you are still baffled, it's supposed to sound like "I'll be seeing you" (hence "TATA!"). So my knowledge that Abyssinia was the name of modern-day Ethiopia, well that did me no good. Plus, I already had TTYL ("talk to you later") in the grid (15D: "Until next time," in a text), so I was sort of surprised to see the puzzle bidding me farewell yet again. I heard you the first time, puzzle. Speaking of clueless cluing, please enjoy the following brief conversation about how women have been completely edited out of (or in no way edited in to) this puzzle:

Not a fan of teeny tiny passageways between grid sections (aggressive quadranting!), but since every section had *two* ways in today, I didn't mind as much (though TATA blocked one entryway to the SE, for sure, and PHAT blocked the other (28A: Dope). I had DIRT before PHAT, which is very much a "bygone" term and should be clued as such. There were a decent number of gimmes, which meant that no one corner every got very crushingly hard. First three Downs, all gimmes (AZTEC, REESE, TRACY). Did not like at all the clue on ZEROES OUT (14A: Eliminates), which I think of something you do to scales or odometers, nor did I like "OUT"'s appearing twice not just in the same puzzle, but in the same quadrant (see LEAP OUT, 5D: Be immediately obvious). But that is a very solid if unglittery NW corner, fine. Couldn't get into SW because of the whole PHAT phiasco, so went in to the middle to discover that my cheese knowledge was poor (Leyden? Boerenkaas?), that it was JAM UP not DAM UP (35A: Clog), and that it was REMIT not REPAY (26D: Compensate for something?). Stil, it could've been worse. Out of there and into the NE, which was the easiest section of all (once I changed YENTES (??) to DISHES (9D: Gossips)). 
Not too hard to get into the SE. Somehow BANTAMS came to me with only a little effort (39D: Little chickens), off just the "B," and then I got ENROBE easily, with my brain activity going something like this: "Hmmm [Get ready for court, maybe] ... ugh, they're going to want ENROBE here, aren't they? Why do they insist on cluing justices as if they were chocolate-covered treats!?" Managed to dodge the MESA trap (53D: Tabletop, perhaps was actually SLAB). Just now realizing that this is the corner I finished in, so I must've had a go at the SW earlier. Very much the most daunting, as I couldn't get in from the top and could only back in from ARGUED and MJOLNIR, one of which I didn't know right away and the other of which I forgot how to spell: "... OK there's def a "J" in there and it ends in "-IR" ... stars with "M"? ... and that vowel? ..." (44A: Thor's hammer). I have never been so happy to see an ENERGY drink in my life (41D: ___ drink). From there I could see ICING, which, with the "J" from Thor's hammer got me the JUICE part of PEAR JUICE (lol whaaaaat who is drinking that a. at all, or b. as an [Apple cider alternative]. Apple cider is everywhere this time of year, esp. in these parts (gestures to all of central NY). I've literally never seen PEAR JUICE offered anywhere, or heard anyone utter the words PEAR and JUICE in succession, for that matter. But again, corner after corner, this one was structurally sound and irksome only in its faux-winsome cluing flourishes. Enjoy your last day of November.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. BAKER Street (49D: Renowned London street in literature) is "renowned" because that's where Sherlock Holmes lived, 221B BAKER St. (I had a tabletop game with that exact name as a kid)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Scapegraces / FRI 11-29-19 / "My car's out of commission" / On-scene reporter, in journalist lingo / One making a pet's vet appointment

Friday, November 29, 2019

Constructor: Sam Buchbinder

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Themeless

Word of the Day: TESSERAE (40A: Art tiles) —
tessera (plural: tesserae) is an individual tile, usually formed in the shape of a cube, used in creating a mosaic. It is also known as an abaciscus or abaculusThe oldest known tesserae dates to the 3rd millennium BCE, discovered in the ancient city of Shahdad in Kerman province, Iran.
• • •
Howdy from Thanksgiving break in Dallas, Crossworld! Matthew here filling in for Rex before my food coma sets in (I took an inexplicable 2.5-hour nap this afternoon, so we should be good for a bit longer.) To start by echoing a few nice comments on Crossword Twitter,™ I'm truly thankful this year for the folks that make up this beautifully eccentric internet puzzle community. Crosswording (both solving and constructing (and ranting to anyone who will listen)) has taken up a lot more of my time over the past year than I ever expected it to, but it's been a truly great time. Thanks to all y'all for embracing your very smart and slightly strange — and encouraging others to do so as well.

A quick personal note: My new good friend and puzzler extraordinaire, Sid Sivakumar, generously published a 9x9 puzzle of mine on his blog as a guest spot among his fantastic work. There are things I'd change about it now, but it's great to have something I made out in the world. Enjoy!

*Also a good time to mention — if you're interested (even a little bit!) in constructing your own puzzles and don't know where to start, hit up the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory on Facebook and ask to be connected with a mentor (or DM me and I can help you get started as well).

Anyway, the puzzle! Kudos to Sam for his very solid themeless debut with enough lively bonuses in IM THE WORST / LOVE POTION / SMELL TEST / I NEED A LIFT to make for a satisfying solve. (At the end of the day, any puzzle that gives me an excuse to revisit "Madagascar" is a win, however small.) I ended up working my way through clockwise from the NE, down through the SW and SE and then back up to the very beginning. Even though I threw down WON BIG and MORT in the NW out of the gate, I had a tough time parsing the downs and ripped both crosses out (he's not an AYAY, is it?) before realizing that they were actually right.

Looking back on the completed product, I'd characterize my solving pleasure along the middle-diagonal divide — everything blocked off Northwesterly of ELVIN and GAT was for the most part delightful, while the rest was good for a couple grimaces and a couple "meh" moments. The constructor indicated in his blurb for the puzzle that the SW went through several revisions — if it were up to me, I'd press for one more iteration. The OPERACOATS / NOMINAL FEE stack didn't really do anything for me, and with COPSES and LATEN headlining a ho-hum suite of downs, I wonder if there were a better option here. Similar feelings in the SE, where the CANT DO / DOES TO A TEE formed a strange uncanny valley of grammatical correctness for me (for the record, the former is a Shortz-era debut and the latter is an all-time debut.) And TERRORISTS was just ... fine. Doesn't glisten to me, though the surrounding fill is pretty sound — a welcome sight after some more boggy recent puzzles.

Men/male references: MORT, Rabin (in MEIR clue), Jordan (in BULLS clue), ELVIN, BONO (–5)
Women/female references: MEIR (+1)
Bechdel-ish-test tally: –4

  • IMPS (1A: Scapegraces) — Highlighting this because SCAPEGRACES is actually the coolest word in this entire puzzle. It's fun to say and it's etymology (see below) is super cool. Great clue.
  • ELVIN (28A: N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer Hayes) — Personally love seeing N.B.A. legends recognized in puzzles. Can someone please debut OLAJUWON (8) in 2020?? 
  • BULLS (26D: Organization that Jordan was once part of) — Ibid, your honor.
  • STRAY CAT (35D: Alley scavenger) — Had SEWER RAT.  Happy Black Friday! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Signed, Matthew Stock, Pardoned Turkey of Crossworld

[Follow me on Twitter for crossword musings and weird things my students say]
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bachelor contingent at cotillion / THU 11-28-19 / Dessert drink made with frozen grapes / California city whose name sounds like surprised two-word greeting / Chocolatier of children's literature / First saint of Russian orthodox church

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Well, if I'd looked at the revealer clue earlier, Easy, but since I'm stubborn, Medium+

THEME: "RING OF FIRE" (59A: 17-Across hit ... or a hint to four connected answers in this puzzles) — "Fire" must be mentally supplied to the front ends of four different answers, which form what the puzzle is calling a "ring" at the center of the grid. Further, there is bonus (?) JOHNNY CASH MATERIAL for some reason:

Theme answers:
  • The "Ring" of "Fire": 
    • BALLS (27A: Candies that make your mouth burn)
    • STONE (28D: Big name in tires)
    • DANCE (47A: Performance with twirling torches)
    • BRAND (27D: Agitator seeking radical change)
  • JOHNNY CASH (17A: The Man in Black)
  • JOQUIN / PHOENIX (11D: With 40-Down, Oscar-nominated player of 17-Across)
Word of the Day: AUGUSTO Pinochet (12D: Chilean dictator Pinochet) —
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (/ˈpnʃ/also US/-ʃɛt, ˌpnˈ(t)ʃɛt/UK/ˈpnəʃ,ˈpɪn-/, Spanish: [auˈɣusto pinoˈ(t)ʃe(t)]; 25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean general, politician and dictator of Chile between 1973 and 1990 who remained the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army until 1998 and was also President of the Government Junta of Chile between 1973 and 1981. // Pinochet assumed power in Chile following a United States-backed coup d'état on 11 September 1973 that overthrew the democratically elected socialist Unidad Popular government of President Salvador Allende and ended civilian rule. The support of the United States was crucial to the coup and the consolidation of power afterward. Pinochet had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army by Allende on 23 August 1973, having been its General Chief of Staff since early 1972. In December 1974, the ruling military junta appointed Pinochet Supreme Head of the nation by joint decree, although without the support of one of the coup's instigators, Air Force General Gustavo Leigh. Following his rise to power, Pinochet persecuted leftists, socialists, and political critics, resulting in the executions of from 1,200 to 3,200 people, the internment of as many as 80,000 people and the torture of tens of thousands. According to the Chilean government, the number of executions and forced disappearances was 3,095. (HAPPY THANKSGIVING!) [...] By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations during his 17-year rule and tax evasion and embezzlement during and after his rule. He was also accused of having corruptly amassed at least US$28 million. (wikipedia)
• • •

So, first of all, and most importantly, that's a square. A square of fire. We should be done right here. Just stamp "DOA" on this thing and move on. I fell into a burning square of fires. There's something so sad about this puzzle. Such a great song, and such a bizarre theme execution. First of all, as has been established, not a ring. Just not. Nope. Not. Second, there's hardly any *actual* theme material: four 5-letter answers taking up sixteen squares total. In a good theme, we'd get the revealer and then it would reveal something ... substantial. But here there's almost nothing, so instead what we get to fill the considerable amount of leftover space is a tacked-on JOHNNY CASH theme, and not really that at all, but just JOHNNY CASH ... and an actor who played him, who is only here because his first and last names can be made to fit so neatly into the NE / SW corners. So there's a sad little theme (which is flubbed) and then this JOHNNY CASH and the actor who played him theme. They are separate theme concepts, really, but this puzzle has united them in a bizarre and unsatisfying Frankenpuzzle. I would've thought it impossible to ruin a JOHNNY CASH puzzle, but the NYT does miracles every day.

When I got stuckish, around the middle of the puzzle (no surprise), I knew that if I just looked at the revealer (or probable revealer, in the SE corner of the puzzle) I would most likely have a much better idea of what was going on, but I perversely fought my way through the fog until I figured it out without reference to the revealer. I don't think of fireBALLS as candy and I don't really know what a fireDANCE is and none of the other were *obviously* "fire"-starting words, so I had a minor struggle there. There were two other trouble spots for me. The less troubling was the SW, where ... well I've only ever heard it called "sheep's milk," but EWE'S milk, sure, I guess. And SILT clue was hard (55D: It goes with the flow). And ANIL, ugh, crosswordese that I almost forgot existed (61A: Dark blue). Even with PHOENIX in there as a gimme, I got slowed down in there. The more troubling spot, though, was the far north. I just don't accept that FLORA is a [Nursery display]. On some broad literal level, ugh, I guess. But ugh, "excuse me, where do you keep the FLORA?" "Oh, what a lovely display of FLORA!" these are not things anyone would say. It's hard enough having to figure out which kind of "nursery" the clue is referring to without this not-in-the-language usage of FLORA. LA CASA is not good fill and the clue was annoying in that Felipe VI has nothing specifically to do with the answer. He's just ... Spanish. So that was tough. Also, because I had no idea re: FLORA, and had LANES as LINES (15A: Supermarket checkout choices), I had MI CASA in there at first.


Surprised anyone knows ONEONTA who doesn't live out here (i.e. in central New York—ONEONTA is just an hour or so away) (41D: College town WSW of Albany). Surprised anyone at all has a deep cotillion vocabulary—STAG LINE??? (36D: Bachelor contingent at a cotillion). I can't even see my wheelhouse from that clue. The only thing I enjoyed about the puzzle was remembering JOHNNY CASH. I guess that's something. So Happy Thanksgiving! Allow me to leave you with the immortal words of JOHNNY CASH's first wife, Vivian Liberto, who said, "The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part" (wikipedia). 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Central courtyards / WED 11-27-19 / Dreamcast maker of old / Diktat / Sci-fi sighting

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hi, everyone! It's Clare. I'm coming to ya a day later than usual because it was Rex's birthday yesterday. (Happy birthday, Rex!) And, to all of you: Happy almost Turkey Day! I know I'm planning on making lots and lots of pies and bread rolls and mashed potatoes. (Carbs for the win.) Studying for finals can wait a few days, right? Anywho, doing a write-up on a Wednesday is gonna be a bit different for me, but here it goes!

Constructors: Jeff Chen and Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Pretty challenging for a Wednesday

THEME: GROWTH POTENTIAL (55A: Ability of a company to expand ...  or a hint to this puzzle's theme) and POT (65A: Herb garden vessel ... as depicted four times by black squares in this puzzle) — Black squares in the puzzle represent pots that have circled letters sitting in them that spell out "seed," which have the potential to grow into herbs that are shown in the shaded squares.

Theme answers:
  • PECCADILLOES (2D: Minor indiscretions)
  • MESSAGE BOARD (10D: Where trolls may lurk)
  • ARCHIVE SITE (23D: Where records of old web pages can be accessed)
  • IM IN THE ZONE (24D: Declaration from someone on a hot streak)
Word of the Day: Lenya LOTTE (17A: Singer/actress Lenya)

Lotte Lenya (18 October 1898 – 27 November 1981) was an Austrian-American singer, diseuse, and actress, long based in the United States. In the German-speaking and classical music world, she is best remembered for her performances of the songs of her first husband, Kurt Weill. In English-language cinema, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as a jaded aristocrat in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961). She also played the murderous and sadistic Rosa Klebb in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love (1963). (Wiki)
• • •

I wish I had nice things to say for my first time writing for a Wednesday, but... I don't... I generally like when constructors try to be creative with the theme and the structure, but I felt like this theme just didn't work. There was so much going on with the seeds — well, "seed," but that's a different issue — and growth potential and the pots and the structure that I felt it got too chaotic. Trying to figure out how to write the above description for the theme was legitimately the hardest part of this write-up and the hardest time I've ever had describing a theme. Overall, my biggest gripe was that the picture in the grid as the theme created some ugly fill. Sure, there were some nice, long downs in the puzzle, but the black pots or whatever they were created a lot of ugly three-letter fill, especially in the bottom of the puzzle. It's like the constructors tried to throw every single possible three-letter crossword-y word into the mix. (See: GAP; RHO; OAT; AHA; POT; IMP; ABE; LAW; MBA; PEW).

I also feel like there should be some sort of dictionary for how to consistently spell words in crosswords. It seems like there should be, oh, I don't know, an editor or something whose job it is to create a generic style. Like, I definitely think that NAN (25A: Tandoori bread) should be spelled "naan" every time. When I Google "nan brea," it even suggests I spell it like "naan" instead and only gives me results to spell it that way. Also, I think that UPSY daisy (18A) is much more commonly spelled like "oopsy daisy" or "oopsie daisy." Mostly, I'd really just love some consistency.

  • In my opinion, VAN GOGH is the best artist ever. Side note: I highly recommend watching the episode of "Doctor Who" about Van Gogh ("Vincent and the Doctor"). You will cry in the final scene (where Van Gogh gets to travel to present day to see the impact he's had).
  • I enjoyed the little "legal" bits of the puzzle with PLEA at 15A and LAW at 61D.
  • FIAT (53A: Diktat) is something other than a car? Who knew?
With that, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!

Signed, Clare Carroll, an excited Thanksgiving baker

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Squire in Wind in Willows / TUE 11-26-19 / Classic American novel set in France Spain / Anxiety about exclusion per modern acronym

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Constructor: Olivia Mitra Framke

Relative difficulty: Medium (for me; other people seem to be setting personal records, so i dunno)

THEME: TAROT CARD READER (63A: One examining the starts of 17-, 27- and 48-Across) — themers begin with three different tarot cards: THE TOWER, THE DEVIL, and THE SUN:

Theme answers:
  • THE TOWER OF BABEL (17A: It resulted in human language division, per Genesis)
  • THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (27A: It's better than what's not familiar, in a saying)
  • "THE SUN ALSO RISES" (48A: Classic American novel set in France and Spain)
Word of the Day: ENOS Slaughter (37A: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Slaughter) —
Enos Bradsher Slaughter (April 27, 1916 – August 12, 2002), nicknamed "Country", was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) right fielder. He played for 19-seasons on four major league teams from 1938–1942 and 1946–1959. He is noted primarily for his playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and is best known for scoring the winning run in Game Seven of the 1946 World Series. A ten time All-Star, he has been elected to both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. (wikipedia)
• • •

If you are reading this, I am fifty. Well, at least fifty. It's possible you are reading this in the distant future, I suppose. Anyway, it's my birthday. Sadly, it's also a Tuesday, which is one of my less hopeful crossword days. Tuesdays are so often dismal that there's even slang for a bad easy puzzle: "it tuezzed!" I think my friend Ben coined this. Anyway, Tuesdays are notoriously iffy. Why they should be such a drop off from Mondays, average quality-wise, I don't know. I think they're in a kind of no man's land, difficulty-wise and theme type-wise, and so often things just go awry. It's like a dumping ground for easy puzzles that were maybe too awkward to be truly easy. Anyway, they clunk more than most other days of the week. Given my very low expectations, I thought today's offering was fine. The tarot card choices are totally arbitrary—there are 22 cards, and these are just the three that you can make good 15-letter themers out of, I guess. So little does the tarot deck mean to me, I actually sincerely wrote in ZENER as the first word in the revealer. ZENER cards are used to test ESP, if I remember correctly. The only time I encounter either TAROT or ZENER is in crosswords. Ooh, except I do own a Red Sonja tarot deck, which I haven't opened. It just sits on a shelf here in my office next to my Saul Goodman action figure, a plush pig, an N*SYNC-themed die cast toy truck (Lance!) and a Duran Duran cassette. It's quite a shelf, to be honest.

Where was I? The theme! Arbitrary choices of cards, and honestly I just have to trust the constructor that those are indeed tarot cards, 'cause what do I know? But they're all 15s, which is nifty, and the theme phrases themselves, just taken on their own, are very good. Lively. There's some cringey fill here and there (for the second day in a row I wanted to quit in the NW, almost as soon as I'd started—ASLOW is rrrrough), and the grid is glutted w/ 3s 4s and 5s, but a handful of 8-letter Downs do sneak in there. So overall I'd call this a Satisfactory Tuesday effort.

Five things:
  • 2D: Adolph ___, creator of the slogan "All the News That's Fit to Print" (OCHS) — forgot this. Went with OTIS. The elevator guy. Terrible. Not as auspicious way to begin age 50. 
  • 12D: ___ out a living (barely gets by) (EKES) — eeks. I can (barely) take EKE, but other variations / tenses are a drag, if only because of the ugly clues they entail.
  • 11D: Bum (HOBO) — yeesh, easy on the "bum" stuff. In fact, here, read this: "Unlike a "tramp", who works only when forced to, and a "bum", who does not work at all, a "hobo" is a travelling worker" (wikipedia)
  • 42A: Duke of ___, title for Prince Andrew (YORK) — yes ... yes ... because what everyone wants to see in their light-hearted Tuesday crossword is a gruesome Jeffrey Epstein associate. What a delightful and timely way to clue YORK. (My kingdom for a conscientious or even half-awake editor!)

  • 64D: First of three? (TEE) — because "t" is the first letter ... of the word "three." 
Thanks for listening! Hope your lead-up to Thanksgiving is going swimmingly. Ciao!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


1986 Keith Haring antidrug mural / MON 11-25-19 / Batter's grip-enhancing goo / Distinctively shelled bivalves

Monday, November 25, 2019

Constructor: Daniel Mauer

Relative difficulty: Medium (maybe slightly north of Medium) (3:16)

THEME: ACK ACK — Ack Ack (February 24, 1966 – November 7, 1990) was an American Thoroughbred Hall of Fameracehorse. (wikipedia)

Theme answers:
  • SNACK ATTACK (17A: Reason to raid the fridge)
  • BACK ON TRACK (29A: No longer astray)
  • CRACK IS WACK (45A: 1986 Keith Haring antidrug mural)
  • YACKETY YACK (60A: Gab) (is this really how it's spelled? Not "yakkity yak!"? The song spells it "Yakety Yak" ... not sure where this variant comes from) 

Word of the Day: NASHUA (10D: New Hampshire's second-largest city) —
Nashua is a city in southern New Hampshire, United States. As of the 2010 census, Nashua had a population of 86,494, making it the second-largest city in the state and in northern New England after nearby Manchester. As of 2018 the population had risen to an estimated 89,246. Nashua is, along with Manchester, one of two seats of New Hampshire's most populous county, Hillsborough County.
Built around the now-departed textile industry, in recent decades it has been swept up in southern New Hampshire's economic expansion as part of the Boston region. Nashua was twice named "Best Place to Live in America" in annual surveys by Money magazine. It is the only city to get the No. 1 ranking on two occasions—in 1987 and 1998. (wikipedia)
• • •

Would've quit this about 10 seconds in if I weren't faux-contractually obligated to write about it. Whatever you think about the theme (and I'm pretty neutral toward it), the fill in this is atrocious. There is no reason a Monday puzzle that is relatively light on, or at least not jammed with, theme material should have fill this rough and yesteryear. Seriously, ONENO is one of those answers that makes me want to shut the computer and walk away, immediately. It was never good, and it's especially terrible now, when constructing software can help constructors find at least passable fill in these run-of-the-mill corners. There's literally no excuse for ONENO. I guarantee you that if you pull out the NW and W, even leaving DEALMEIN in place, you (yes you, probably) can get rid of ONENO and probably IDINA and INCAN and NOS in the bargain. Why stop there, though? Keep going. Get rid of RIAL and AGRA, the NEATO BIS, DYAN and her ALGAE, the ASIS KOI the hissing SSS MRI, ANI, WINED, all of it. Or most of it. The best thing in the grid was also the hardest thing for me to recall: CRACK IS WACK! You can dump the rest in the KOI pond. (a friend of mine tells me, per the "constructor's notes," that ONENO was put in *during the editing process*, which ... wow. Wow. I mean, if ONENO was edited *in* to this thing, I don't know which is up or down or left or right (and I don't even want to imagine what the grid looked like originally).

I forgot NASHUA existed, wow. I'm trying not to actually look at that corner because again, the fill is So bad (NES ATA!), but yeah, that slowed me down a bit. I know NASHUA exists only because I interviewed for a job w/ a school in NASHUA 20+ years ago. I have literally never been to New Hampshire. Ever. But then I've only been to Vermont once, and then only just a few years ago. And they're only a few hours from me. Weird. Anyway, NASHUA slowed me a tad. So did WINED (ugh) because of course I had WOOED, which is an infinitely better answer (42A: Romanced, in a way). Wrote in SSA instead of SSS (confusing my terrible and my Very terrible SS_ words). How in the world does this grid require cheater squares?!?!?!  (black squares after GASP / before ASIS—they make grid easier to fill but don't add to the word count; such squares are usually only used if filling the grid cleanly is demanding, which ... why today?? Maybe I should be grateful that this thing isn't filled worse, but I'm not feeling that charitable right now, now that I've found out that this puzzle actually *was* edited and we *still* ended up with this swill. I dumbly wrote in SADAT when I had -ADAT at 57A: Tore into (HAD AT), without even looking at the clue. Bad assumption. I have a feeling this will play somewhat on the harder side for people, but not too hard. Gotta run. Cheers.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Apparently "YACKETY YACK" is indeed something—a 1974 Australian film (thanks for the reference, Brian!). Oh, and also this:

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Wonder-working biblical prophet / SUN 11-24-19 / Hit 1997 film condemned by Chinese goverment / Name originally proposed for Utah / Peak in 1980 headlines / Partly sheltered area near land in which vessels ride at anchor / Nobleman above un conte / Founder of New York's Odditorium in 1939 / House minority leader before Pelosi / Campus abutting Drexel informally / 2004 sci-fi thriller inspired by classic 1950 book / Nanny in Nanjing / Mild light colored cigar / Longtime dairy aisle mascot / Spherical bacterium

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Constructor: Frank Longo

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (11:29)

THEME: "Open Wide!" — it's just a wide open grid ... totally themeless ... :/

Word of the Day: "SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET" (60A: Hit 1997 film condemned by the Chinese government) —
Seven Years in Tibet is a 1997 American biographical war drama film based on the 1952 book of the same name written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer on his experiences in Tibetbetween 1944 and 1951 during World War II, the interim period, and the Chinese People's Liberation Army's invasion of Tibet in 1950. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Brad Pitt and David Thewlis, the score was composed by John Williams and features cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
In the story, Austrians Heinrich Harrer (Pitt) and Peter Aufschnaiter (Thewlis) are mountaineering in British India in an area that is now Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. When World War II begins in 1939, their German citizenship results in their imprisonment by the British in a POW camp in Dehradun in the Himalayan foothills, in the present-day Indian state of Uttarakhand. In 1944, Harrer and Aufschnaiter escape the prison, and cross the border into Tibet, traversing the treacherous high plateau. While in Tibet, after initially being ordered to return to India, they are welcomed at the holy city of Lhasa, and become absorbed into an unfamiliar way of life. Harrer is introduced to the 14th Dalai Lama, who is still a boy, and becomes one of his tutors. During their time together, Heinrich becomes a close friend to the young spiritual leader. Harrer and Aufschnaiter stay in the country until the Chinese military campaign in 1950. (wikipedia)
• • •

LOL "hit 1997 film." I mean ... "hit?" Yeah, it made over $120M at the box office, but $90+M of that was overseas, and honestly, when was the last time anyone, anywhere, referred to "SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET"? I didn't even remember it existed. Wow. I was like "SEVEN ... YEARS ... A SLA...AVE?" Anyway, this puzzle, what to say? I think themeless Sundays are dumb. Just a slog with no point. Who needs a *longer* Friday? I've never thought, after solving a Friday, "I'd like something like this, but just ... bigger." And what is this even supposed to be? Besides open? It's not Fri/Sat hard, for the most part. It's just Big. With lots of open space, just 'cause. Seriously, for no reason except to kind of show off, I guess. It's fine for what it is, but what it is is not really interesting. I actually kind of liked solving it at times, but IDLY, casually, in between moments of ruing the weaker fill, particularly the following (which I have scrawled in the margins of my printed-out puzzle): DUCA, AMATIVE, COALERS, TROYES, ETCHIN. It's actually pretty smooth, otherwise, but it all just feels so pointless. I get that Sundays are hard to do well, but ... you pay like $2250 for them (for vets like Frank, anyway), why don't you have enough good ones to go around? It makes no sense. I think Sundays are probably just kind of a bummer to make. If your theme isn't slamming, then it's gotta be dreary to make, and certainly dreary to solve. I'm not mad at this puzzle. I just think of it as a kind of non-entity. Is it real? Who can say? I solved it, so, probably. Maybe it will be memorable for its ontological indeterminateness, if nothing else.

Usually with corners like these, I can run the Downs and then see the Acrosses pretty clearly, but the shorter Downs were actually harder than normal today. Only had a few in place after my first pass at the NW corner, but thankfully those were enough for me to see DANIEL CRAIG at 1A: Bondsman, of late? After that, the grid wasn't that hard to navigate (if you can get the front ends of those longer answers, whooooosh!). Had similar issues with the bottom R and L corners, but nothing ever caused a real standstill. SEIZER next to TRIODE stalled me a little in the SE, and RUHR for SAAR gunked up my SE briefly (as did NICEST ... does Michelin give stars for niceness????). Also, what are "old DAYS"? (70D: Word after old or dog). I hear "good old days" or "olden days," but "old DAYS" kinda clunks for me. I enjoyed TOOK TO THE SLOPES for sure, but a lot of the other longer ones, while solid, were just ... technical terms. Real things, but about as exciting as, well, someone touting that they sell BRAND-NAME PRODUCTS. Doesn't exactly inspire excitement. Sounds like dull commercialese. USED VEHICLE, same. IONIC BONDS ... very real, but they don't exactly set your arm hairs on end. OMG what is a ROADSTEAD? (102A: Partly sheltered area near land in which vessels ride at anchor). LOL, seriously? It's for ... boats? And has nothing to do with ... a road? OK then. Nice knowing you, puzzle. Bye now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Contemporaries of Pharisees Sadducees / SAT 11-23-19 / Rap group with six grammys / Predominant language in Darjeeling / City that's home to Mausoleum of Aga Khan / Borderer of Mekong / Muslim magistrates / Low-cost carrier based in Kuala Lumpur / She accompanied Ferris on his day off

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (untimed, but definitely easier than it looked like it was going to be, with those horrible open 7x7 corners...)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SHARIFS (32D: Muslim magistrates) —
a descendant of the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatimabroadly one of noble ancestry or political preeminence in predominantly Islamic countries (merriam-webster)
• • •

Took one look at the grid and new it wasn't going to be a great experience. Can't say how grim I find these quadranted themelesses. I don't see the appeal. You get these giant open corners from which no (or little) good can come. At best, your 7x7 corner is going to be Just OK. And I mean *at best*. I have to idea what the appeal of filling such giant holes is besides a certain kind of technical showing off (which isn't very show-offy anymore, what with computer-aided construction). Anyway, sure enough, this topped out at OK, with lots of much lower moments. Nothing good can come of a puzzle (themeless or otherwise) that has only two (2) (TWO!) answers more than 7 letters long. And then the first of those is dull, and the second, which wants to be wacky, has this trip-over-your-laces clue that kind of ruins everything: "after" is in the clue, so ENSUES feels awkwardly redundant. The NYT is a pro at taking a perfectly good colloquial phrase and then hanging the ungainliest clue on it. Here's what I enjoyed seeing: OUTKAST. Maybe AQUAMAN, a little. Not that most of the fill is bad—it's fine, by and large. Just dull and lackluster and not what I solve Saturdays for. Higher word count, more sparkle, pleeeeeease!

Little annoyances abound today. WIT'S END looks weird as a stand-alone. APELIKE is ... ugh. I mean, APE is a synonym of "oaf" and "-like" is a synonym of "-ish," so, sure, that's a safe clue. But it's not a good clue, and it certainly doesn't make the term more attractive. I'd like to stand up for actual apes, who seem nothing like oafs, frankly. Stop hanging guys' bad behavior on apes, man. GOODY, oof. I had GOOD- and still didn't get it. You only get to "perk" via the phrase "GOODY bag," which I think are "perks" of certain kinds of parties. Maybe children's parties? Cookies and candies are goodies. I just don't think "perk" gets at it. "Something that is particularly attractive, pleasurable, good or desirable," says M-W. "Perks" are bonuses. Anyway, dislike. SILENT W is not a thing in my book. Stop trying to find occasions to put any and every letter of the alphabet at the end of SILENT _. I'll give you E for sure—a crucial concept. Sure, other letters can be silent, but they aren't stand-alone concepts. SILENT W!? Remember learning about SILENT W in third grade? No, you do not. :(

Do pros usually MAKE PAR? (11D: What pros usually do) Filled that one in with a grimace. I guess [Straightaway] is being used as a noun in the BEELINE clue? Again, awkward. A straightaway is a straight stretch of road or track. BEELINE is straight, yes, but entirely metaphorical. And since I stood up for apes earlier, allow me to stand up for bees and say, since when do they fly straight??? Have. You. Seen. Actual. Bees? The inaptness of the metaphor is not the puzzle's fault, obviously. Still... and speaking of bees, SACS, yuck, is that an anatomical clue? (32A: Pollen repositories). SAC has a "moist"-like quality for me, in that I find the word semi-repulsive. I wanted something more bee-ish than mere SACS. I have "F.U." written next to the clue for TUE (39D: Calendar abbr.) because I got the "T," which left me with a TUE / THU dilemma, and since the clue is the exact opposite of "vivid" or "lively" or "specific," I just had to wait. Vagueness does add difficulty, but it does not add color. ESSENES running along the bottom of the grid is pure crutch. Expect to see a lot of E S and N in harder-to-fill corners, lots of NESS's and -EST suffixes and plurals and what not. LOTS, I say. Why would you exhume the director of "Birth of a Nation" just to appear in a clue for SEXES!?!? Bizarre. I enjoyed remembering "Ferris Bueller," but that is a pretty niche clue for SLOANE (43D: She accompanied Ferris on his day off). I got it because that movie is in my cultural sweet spot. Might I suggest SLOANE Stephens for something a little more contemporary? She won the 2017 US Open, so she's definitely worthy.

If you don't give me anything fun to distract me, then I tend to chew on all the unpleasant stuff. Hence today's review. Oh, I like FAD DIETS too (36A: Fruitarianism and others). I forgot to mention that. That's good fill. The rest of the grid was subpar, which is another one of those inapt metaphors, since being below par is *good* in golf, which is the only context in which anyone uses "par." But if you just take "par" to mean "standard," then, yeah, being substandard is bad. If you'd like to stop my meandering linguistic disquisitions, kindly give me more material to play with next time, puzzle!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


      © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

    Back to TOP