Bookmaking frame that produces paper with rough edges / SAT 7-4-20 / Bush campaign manager of 1988 / Subject of 1927 royal charter / Martial art with rhyming syllables / Satirical website once owned by The Onion

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium (8:04)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: WUSHU (51A: Martial art with rhyming syllables)
Wushu (/ˌwˈʃ/), or Chinese Kungfu, is a hard and soft and complete martial art, as well as a full-contact sport. It has a long history in reference to Chinese martial arts. It was developed in 1949 in an effort to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts, yet attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier, when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanking in 1928.
"Wushu" is the Chinese term for "martial arts" (武 "Wu" = military or martial, 術 "Shu" = art). In contemporary times, Wushu has become an international sport through the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years; the first World Championships were held in 1991 in Beijing. The World KungfuChampionships are held every four years subset International Wushu Federation, as well. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was pretty joyless, which surprised me, as I usually groove on Peter Wentz puzzles. A few key answers felt obscure or just off, and much of the difficulty felt highly contrived, e.g. calling END OF DAYS a "setting" or calling BYLAWS "lines of code." Like, yes, I see what you're doing there, but meh. Trying hard to see what the marquee answers were supposed to be in this one. Maybe P.F. CHANG'S or CLICKHOLE? Those are at least current and freshish. The rest of the longer stuff was ... well, stuffy. Too much of this grid either clunked or just felt flat. It's AHOY, MATE*Y*, for starters (57A: Call overseas?). RAPS as a noun always feels verrrrrrrry NYT, i.e. very "hello, fellow youths!" i.e. like someone who doesn't listen to rap pretending he does. Much better as a verb, especially when talking about whole-ass songs ("chart-toppers"). The grid was very very namey too, which I guess I should be happy about, since I knew most of them, but ... nah, I wasn't happy about it. And what is ROCK-RIBBED (?), who says that? And FIVE-WAY??? Really? (8D: Like some complex intersections) That answer was easy enough to get, but ... not really believable as a thing. Possibly more believable as a sex thing than as an intersection thing, frankly. The only thing I actually enjoyed today was getting "LA STRADA" (38D: Fellini's first Oscar-winning film). I'm overstating how unpleasant this one largely because my expectations from the byline were so high. I wonder how much of any given puzzle's unpleasantness is actually editorial. I've said this before, but I think it's the overall "voice" of the puzzle that often leaves me cold, and that is very much an editor thing.

Most of my trouble came early, when I couldn't get the NW corner to work—holy crap, DECKLE!?! (1A: Bookmaking frame that produces paper with rough edges). I get it that you want to be the first to put some niche word in the grid, but oof, yipes, and all the YEOWS (plural, really?). DECKLE?! Wow. OK. I learned a word (that I will forget immediately). I think I would've resented this obscurity much less if it hadn't been 1-Across, an answer that matters very much even if you think it shouldn't. It can be hard or easy, but it shouldn't, when I finally get it, leave me going "....... what?" and disbelieving every single cross. Only other memorable trouble I had was at WUSHU, which ... is weirdly the name for all Chinese martial arts and somehow (more recently) the name of a specific, standardized martial art. Anyway, I figured the answer would be some martial art I had never heard of. But then it was this, which I know about vaguely, but only as a synonym for kung fu (i.e. Chinese martial arts generally). Weird how a five-letter answer can cause so much trouble. The clue was probably necessary to keep people from guessing ARIEL at 52D: Archangel of the Apocrypha (URIEL). Didn't know BIANCA, but the name was easy to piece together from crosses. Worst name in the puzzle by far (which I got easily, because I lived through his racist bullshit) is ATWATER (40D: Bush campaign manager of 1988). Really, really not the name you want to be floating across your grid in the summer of the year of our lord 2020. Just an asshole of the first order. Southern strategy guy. Willie Horton guy. F*** him and the party he helped steer toward the cruel racist disaster you see around you today. Homophobia: check. Smear campaigns based on stigmatizing mental illness: check check. Here, read more about this awful human being for yourself. Or don't. Black lives matter. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Hearst mag founded in 1886 / FRI 7-3-20 / Pitcher's push-off point / De y de sombra isabel allende novel / Singles player in 1950s

Friday, July 3, 2020

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:16)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "De AMOR y de Sombra" (Isabel Allende novel) (50D) —
Of Love and Shadows (SpanishDe amor y de sombra) is a novel written by Chileannovelist Isabel Allende in 1984. // Irene is a magazine editor living under the shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Francisco is a handsome photographer and he comes to Irene for a job. As a sympathizer with the underground resistance movement, Francisco opens her eyes and her heart to the atrocities being committed by the state. Irene and Francisco begin a passionate affair, ready to risk everything for the sake of justice and truth. // In 1994, this novel was adapted into a film starring Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Connelly. (wikipedia)
• • •

Isn't Hal Moore the Green Lantern? Did we have this conversation? Oh, dang, it's Hal Jordan. Nevermind. I'm surprised it took this long to get ANTHONY BOURDAIN into a NYTXW grid, what with his themeless-friendly 15-letter name and all. He's definitely the highlight today, though there are a handful of other colorful longer answers that keep this one interesting. Stuff like PHOTOCURRENT and FIREIRONS and PIANOTEACHER just kinda lie there, for me, but I like NONSEQUITUR and SCOUTSHONOR and HUMANOID and "I'M IN HEAVEN" just fine. Short fill gonna short fill, for sure, and the SE corner is particularly wobbly (INURES BDAY ECARD EIRE plural SKYES), but it's clean enough. Passably clean. Though there really is a lot of short (5 and under) stuff. It's a good thing the longer stuff is mostly able to carry the load today, because even when it's reasonably clean, sub-5 stuff is hard to take in large doses, esp. on a Friday or Saturday, when your puzzle really should pop and sizzle and not bore. Every LEA and ACRE and AMOCO and ETON and NOTI makes a little deflating sound. But in the end, more good than bad. All credit for the enjoyable solve goes to ANTHONY BOURDAIN (37A: Author/TV personality who wrote "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park"). Without him, this thing sputters.

My slowness / errors were all in the dumb short stuff areas. ABASE for ABASH, for instance—ugh, one of those only-yet-somehow-often-in-crosswords dilemmas where even choosing correctly doesn't feel very good. I had BUSSERS before BUSBOYS (24D: Some restaurant staffers) because I thought "oh, the clue is gender neutral, so the answers will be too," wrong. I know too many Los ___ places from having grown up in California, and so I was both unlucky and lucky today. Unlucky in that my first answer was Los BANOS, lucky in that I know Los GATOS and that slid in easily once my initial error became apparent. Had the most trouble deciphering the clue on PRIOR (60A: Record component), for obvious reasons (but I'll tell you anyway: the ambiguity of the meaning of "record"). Dumbest thing I did was not fully read the clue on the Beatles song (52A: Beatles hit about "a man who thought he was a loner"). Got cocky and figured I'd be able to just fill in a Beatles hit from the letters I had in place (the first few, I think). But my mind went blank. Even with "GET..." all I could think of was "GET A JOB" (not a Beatles song). Then I had EVITE instead of ECARD so that screwed with my Beatles mojo even more (48D: Modern party planning aid). Finally worked out "GET BACK" (a song I know well). Then I went back and read the whole "GET BACK" clue (52A: Beatles hit about "a man who thought he was a loner"). Would've gotten the answer immediately if I had just read the whole clue. Of course I would've had to speed-sing the song in my head from the lyric in the clue up to the "GET BACK" part, but that still would've taken less time than whatever the hell I did today. Partial clue reading is one of the dumb things you (I) do when you're (I'm) speed-solving. Whatever. Coulda been faster, but still fast. The moral of the story is take the *probably no more than two seconds* to read every clue to the end, sigh.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Emulate Ferris Bueller / THU 7-2-20 / Small photo processing center / Radio journalist Stamberg / Hello in world's most common first language / Rug maker's supply

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Constructor: Yacob Yonas and Chad Horner

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:34) (16x15 grid)

THEME: SKIP SCHOOL (65A: Emulate Ferris Bueller ... or a hint to understanding the answers to the starred clues) — answers literally SKIP SCHOOL, in that there is a school name right in the middle of the answer, so the answer sort of "skips" over it ... creating a new word/phrase that is unclued:

Theme answers:
  • COMMITMENT (17A: *Express one's view) ("comment" skips MIT)
  • STAY ALERT (26A: *Kick off) ("start" skips YALE)
  • SUNCHIPS (40A: *Sends) ("ships" skips UNC)
  • GAS PRICES (57A: *Reacts to an amazing magic trick say) ("gasps" skips RICE)
Word of the Day: Harold ROSS (21A: Harold who co-founded the New Yorker magazine) —
Harold Wallace Ross (November 6, 1892 – December 6, 1951) was an American journalist who co-founded The New Yorker magazine in 1925 and served as its editor-in-chief from its inception until his death.
Ross was one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table. He used his contacts in "The Vicious Circle" to help get The New Yorker started.
Ross, said by Woollcott to resemble "a dishonest Abe Lincoln," attracted talent to his new publishing venture, featuring writers such as James ThurberE. B. WhiteJohn McNultyJoseph MitchellKatharine S. WhiteS. J. PerelmanJanet Flanner ("Genet"), Wolcott GibbsAlexander WoollcottSt. Clair McKelwayJohn O'HaraRobert BenchleyDorothy ParkerVladimir Nabokov, and J.D. Salinger. (wikipedia)
• • •

There's something kinda sweet about this puzzle. Its gimmick is pretty simple, and it's executed nicely. Nothing showy, nothing stunty, nothing where you have to squint at the end to see whatever image you're supposed to see, or where you have to connect the dots to find the treasure map, or where you're asked nay begged to titter at a math pun. None of that. Honestly, it feels like a good, somewhat swole Tuesday puzzle. (Swole in that it's literally bigger than normal and also swole in that it's flexing in a way a Tuesday puzzle usually doesn't) The fill could've been livelier perhaps, but all in all I thought it was a clean and largely irritation-free solve. The only irritation I felt was the whole "Is It LOA or Is It KEA" thing, uggggggggh, just clue KEA as a parrot, please, they're super common in NZ and I hate hate hate having to wait on KEA v. LOA it's not like there's cleverness in [Mauna ___], or difficulty, it's just ugh waiting and checking. Of course I guessed wrong at first pass and then didn't clean it up properly and had LEA for a bit, sigh :( Also slightly irritated by TECH being in the grid when "MIT" is also in the grid; I know MIT doesn't "end" in TECH the way Virginia TECH or Georgia TECH does, but TECH is short of "Technology," which the "T" in MIT definitely stands for, so boo. Very easy to boot TECH from your grid. Bootable. Boot it.

Besides my LOA for KEA mistake, I also misspelled NIHAO (as NIHAU, which is a Hawaiian island (well, NIIHAU is), which I feel like I *just* learned last week ...). Never heard of a MINILAB, though it was ultimately pretty inferrable (10D: Small photo processing center). Those big NE / SW corners were probably the toughest parts of the puzzle to tame. ACCREDIT is an odd verb and didn't come to me quickly (11D: Sanction), and "Sanction" is also an odd verb in that it has possible meanings that are opposites of one another. I forgot Harold ROSS and SUSAN Stamberg (59D: Radio journalist Stamberg), but crosses were so easy I hardly felt those bumps. AGE ONE is weak (55D: Time to take first steps, maybe). As is AGE TWO, if that ever shows up. But I liked SYRUPY and SALSA BAR and SO CUTE and as I say, the theme just works. It's a nice, light, mercifully unobnoxious Thursday puzzle. Cool.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Comedian Sherman creator of TV's I've Got a Secret / WED 7-1-20 / Primary ingredient in snack Muddy Buddies / Indian tourist destination / Short-beaked bird / Retweets photo of US gold repository / Uploads photo of government security / Joins Federal Reserve Facebook group

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Constructor: Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (a bleary-eyed 4 minutes, first thing in the a.m.)

THEME: SOCIAL CAPITAL (54A: Network of personal relationships ... or a punny hint to 3-, 7- and 11-Down) — themers are all phrases where first part (verb) is an action one might perform on "social" media and second part (noun) is a form of $$$ (or "capital"):

Theme answers:
  • FOLLOWS THE MONEY (3D: Joins a Federal Reserve Facebook group?)
  • POSTS BOND (7D: Uploads a photo of a government security?)
  • SHARES THE WEALTH (11D: Retweets a photo of the U.S. gold repository?)
Word of the Day: Michael NOURI (39D: "Flashdance" actor Michael) —
Michael Nouri (born December 9, 1945) is an American television and film actor. His father, Edmond Nouri was born in Iraq.
He may be best known for his role as Nick Hurley in the 1983 film Flashdance.[1] He has had recurring roles in numerous television series, including NCIS as Eli David, the father of Mossad officer (later Special Agent) Ziva DavidThe O.C. as Dr. Neil Roberts, and Damages as Phil Grey. He also appeared as Congressman Stewart with Queen Latifah in the 2006 comedy movie Last Holiday and LAPD Detective Thomas Beck in the science fiction action film The Hidden. He also starred opposite Julie Andrews as King Marchand in the 1995 Broadway adaptation of Victor/Victoria. (wikipedia)
• • •

Good morning and happy July. I am solving / writing early in the morning for the first time in a long time. Once we got the kitten (mid-May), going to sleep early became nearly impossible, as his nighttime routine involved being a terrorist until well after 10pm (and then sleeping very peacefully in a very large dog crate next to our bed for the whole night). In short, I could not just crash out in bed when tired because he is still very much a kitten and will attack all of your parts relentlessly if he is awake and not properly distracted. Sooooooo ... I've been writing at night while P puts the cat through his go-to-bed routine, and then sleeping "in" (which, for me, is ~7am). But last night I finally cracked; just couldn't make it to puzzle time, couldn't imagine being clear-headed enough to write. So I passed out on the couch, then went to bed after cat and wife were zonked, THEN woke up at 4am anticipating my alarm going off (man, that dawn chorus of birds starts Early), then lay there half awake until 5ish. It's now 5:34. You actually didn't need to know any of this. The main point is that I adore my kitty but also am kinda looking forward to the day when he is a giant slug of a cat who will let me just fall asleep at night (if he wants to wake me at 5am for food, that's fine, it's the Getting to sleep that's the issue). He may end up sleeping in his own room very soon. My sister keeps her kitty downstairs in her own room. But OK, right, this is a puzzle blog. Puzzle!

I like the unusualness of this one. The grid shape was weird in a cool way, and despite the choppy grid with lots of short stuff, it often felt (in a good way) like a themeless. The upper middle was by far my favorite part, with WIPER BLADES (29A: They go back and forth in bad weather) crossing ARENA ROCK (6D: Style of music for Pat Benatar or Bon Jovi) and ON THE LINE (8D: At risk). As for the theme, it definitely works, even if it isn't a theme that's going to delight *me* in particular. Financial stuff just leaves me cold, and also the whole revealer didn't land right. Didn't aha me. I had to think about it and then rule in its favor, which is a whole different mental process and feeling. The revealer should be les mots justes, bam, nailed it. This one ... I didn't really like the clue on the revealer, since your "network" of "personal relationships" is, of course, your "social network" (a very snappy phrase—also the title of a movie ... a movie about social media, it turns out). SOCIAL CAPITAL is a fine phrase, but I don't think of it as your network per se. It's something bigger and more ineffable. It's clout, not the contents of your rolodex (omg I wish rolodexes were still a thing, the way I wish pay phones were still a thing ... I watch a lot of old movies). I think it's the uncountable noun "capital" that's throwing me. Anyway, it's all technically defensible. I told you financial stuff just leaves me cold.

There's some junk in the grid but not much, and I didn't get too hung up on it, which is really key if you need to put junk in your grid (and sometimes you do). EAPOE, for instance—an abbr. I despise, but it was easy (53A: "The Pit and the Pendulum" author, in brief). Slammed right through it, no time to brood on its regrettability or make a sad WAH WAH sound in its honor. It helped to know your crosswordese names like EVEL TAYE GOA OCHOA not to mention OTTO and RHEA. And then stalwarts like OKAPI LOOIE SRO ERE OXEYE EASYA IOTA RAE STYE ... it is to the puzzle's credit that these answers are all rendered fairly unobtrusive, so that the longer answers can shine. Only trouble for me today was right out of the gate, with GIFS for PDFS (1A: JPEG alternatives), and then a bizarre struggle just to see LOOT (14A: What might be taken away in a getaway). Sometimes I struggle for what, in retrospect, is no good reason at all. After that, the puzzle actually felt Very easy except for the NOURI / MARTA crossing, which is *kinda* harrowing. I will never remember MARTA (51A: Atlanta's public transport system). Thank goodness NOURI's name has somehow sorta stuck. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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King or queen / TUES 6-30-20 / Talking horse of old TV / Not sit idly by / Scenic views

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Hello, everyone! It's Clare for the last Tuesday of June. I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe (and wearing masks!!), as COVID cases are spiking again. I've been pretty much just staying in my little bubble while finding ways to occupy my time, including... crossword puzzles!

Constructor: Zachary David Levy

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: JUSTICE GINSBURG (54A: Subject of this puzzle, who once said "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you") — Each theme answer relates in some way to the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Theme answers:

  • ON THE BASIS OF SEX (17A: 2018 biopic about 54-Across)
  • FLATBUSH (22A: Brooklyn neighborhood where 54-Across grew up)
  • THE NOTORIOUS RBG (34A: Tongue-in-cheek nickname for 54-Across)
  • COLUMBIA (47A: Law school where 54-Across finished at the top of the class)
Word of the Day: ABSCAM (42D: Sting that was the inspiration for the 2013 film "American Hustle")
Abscam (sometimes written ABSCAM) was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sting operation in the late 1970s and early 1980s that led to the convictions of seven members of the United States Congress, among others. The two-year investigation initially targeted trafficking in stolen property and corruption of prominent businessmen, but later evolved into a public corruption investigation.. "Abscam" was the FBI codename for the operation, which law enforcement authorities said was a contraction of "Arab scam". (Wiki)
• • •
I think this was my favorite Tuesday puzzle I've done a write-up on in a while, largely because I enjoyed the theme, and the construction of the puzzle was pretty good. I was really happy to see RBG in this puzzle, as I'm bit in love with her — as both a general fan of her and her life and as a law student who really admires her opinions. The theme is also quite timely, as the Supreme Court has been issuing a lot of opinions lately, including a decision on an abortion case on Monday, and RBG is known for her stance on women's rights (which is essentially the whole plot of ON THE BASIS OF SEX).

While I got the theme pretty quickly, I did pause for a bit at the revealer because I wanted to make "Ruth Bader Ginsburg" fit at 54A instead of JUSTICE GINSBURG. Once I got the "j" in JAR at 54D, though. it became pretty obvious to me what 54A was. It also took me a little time to get FLATBUSH (22A), which is just an area I've never heard of before. On another note, I really liked the fact that the first answer in the puzzle was PREAMBLE, dealing with the Constitution, which ties into a puzzle about RBG very well.

I also liked the structure of the puzzle a fair amount — many long acrosses that led to some more interesting, longer answers. While that structure did lend itself to a lot of three-letter downs, I think the constructor kept the clues/answers pretty varied. Sure, there were some crossword-ese words like ODE, USE, TAD, and TSP, but I found the puzzle to be overall pretty surprising and not as much of a "typical Tuesday."

I did get stuck in a few places, which moved this puzzle more toward a medium Tuesday rather than an easy Tuesday. I've never heard of HILO (35D: Biggest city on the island of Hawaii); I tried to make "Oahu" or really anything else fit there. I also hadn't heard of TRAC (34D: Gillette brand name) and tried to put "Atra" there instead, as that's more of a typical answer in a crossword puzzle. So, having HILO, TRAC, and then ALIF (41A: Start of the Arabic alphabet) made that section challenging for me. I also really wanted to put slightly wrong answers in a lot of places — I wanted "macro" or "micro" for 32A instead of SOCIO economics; I wanted 61A: What to do "and weep," in an expression to be "read it" and not READ EM. I originally put "boast" instead of BOOST at 23D: Help by speaking well of.

There was some added flavor in the puzzle with a couple of clues in particular. I got a little chuckle out of 33D: Places dogs go at cookouts as BUNS. And, while it took me seemingly forever to get 62A, as my mind went to royalty, chess, playing cards, etc. before realizing it was talking about a  MATTRESS, I enjoyed it.

I did have a few nits with the puzzle. Having Netanyahu (6D as BIBI), who's facing criminal charges, in the puzzle wouldn't be something I'd do. I though ICE at 37D: Word repeated in __  or no __? was pretty cheap — so many words could have fit in there. Calling it a "pod" of whales is much more common (as far as I know) than referring to a group of whales as a GAM.

  • I don't think my dad and sister (who have both worked at newspapers) would appreciate me referring to a newspaper as a RAG (44A)!
  • I'd bet that the southwest corner caused some stumbles among people — you've got ABSCAM (42A), which is older; there's SIA (56D), which skews younger; and then there's ASIANA (59A), which isn't even South Korea's largest airline — it's number 2, so unless you're a massive airline enthusiast, you might struggle a bit.
  • PROSIT (1D): I've heard a lot of toasts before, including prost, but I've never heard of this one; do people actually say that?
  • Congrats to the constructor Zachary David Levy for a super strong debut! He says that this puzzle is dedicated not only to RBG but also to his wife, who happened to cross paths with RBG as an 11-year-old immigrant from Ukraine and is now a successful oncologist. Here's a link to his amazing dedication for this puzzle.
Stay safe, everyone!

Signed, The Notorious CMC

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Lymphocyte-producing organs / MON 6-29-20 / Annual award for architects / Pop-up store opportunity for bargain hunters

Monday, June 29, 2020

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Extremely easy (2:22, the fastest I've ever solved a NYTXW)

THEME: Two-word phrases where letters in second word appear in order inside the first word

Theme answers:
  • SENATE SEAT (18A: Position sought every six years)
  • MAIN MAN (20A: Close guy friend)
  • SURROUND SOUND (26A: Home theater feature, maybe)
  • PRITZKER PRIZE (43A: Annual award for architects)
  • BEST BET (52A: Safest course of action)
  • SAMPLE SALE (56A: Pop-up store opportunity for bargain hunters)
Word of the Day: PRITZKER PRIZE (43A) —
The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually "to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture". Founded in 1979 by Jay A. Pritzker and his wife Cindy, the award is funded by the Pritzker family and sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation. It is considered to be one of the world's premier architecture prizes,[2]and is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture. (wikipedia)
• • •

Whoa. Beat my old speed record by about 10 seconds, which is kinda stunning. I was wondering if I'd ever see the 2:30s again, and then bam, low 2:20s. Weird. I credit my speed not to actual speed, but to a more efficient way of moving through the grid (which led to actual speed, I guess, but honestly I don't think I was getting answers quicker or typing faster than I normally do). My friend Rachel Fabi told me once that she starts easy puzzles (so, M or T, say) by getting the first three Acrosses in order (so, the answers along the top of the grid) and then turning to the Downs and just solving straight through, all the Downs that start at the top of the grid, bang bang bang thirteen times. Today I did that and managed to get all 13 of those Downs on the first try (though I misspelled ABSALOM, the second and third vowels being kind of a crap shoot for me (5D: Son of David in the Old Testament)). Solve was more chaotic as I moved down the grid, but any Across that gives you the first letter in a bunch of Downs is clearly the best Across to get. Like, SELMA and RESET are both five-letter Acrosses, but SELMA is way more valuable because it gives me the first letters in the two longer Downs that go through the middle of the grid, whereas RESET gives me jack.

I also benefited from a. having heard of the PRITZKER PRIZE, and b. never seeing the ALGORE clue, which would've taken forever to read and would've befuddled me (22A: In his Webby Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech (which is limited to five words), he said "Please don't recount this vote"). You see how ALGORE gives you no first letters of Downs? No point looking there unless you have to. Also, the puzzle was just easy. Anyhoo, so fast! Despite the ABSALOM spelling trials and not getting the HEROS clue at all (I get it now) (38D: Long lunches?), and not being sure of SPLEENS until I had the first three letters (41D: Lymphocyte-producing organs). Total cakewalk. Also probably helps that I didn't have a drink w/ dinner tonight. Alcohol, I am finding, is a *definite* slower-downer, where solving is concerned. Even one drink (which is all I ever have) just screws with the synapse firing or whatever the hell happens in your brain. Solve sober, kids. Unless you don't give a damn about speed, in which case solve as drunk as you like. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Ship with three banks of oars / SUN 6-28-20 / Kingdom east of Babylonia / Jocular lead-in to macation / Slacker role for Jeff Bridges in Big Lebowski / What digitigrade stands on / Foe of Morlocks in sci-fi

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Constructor: Jon Schneider and Anderson Wang

Relative difficulty: Medium (10-something)

THEME: "Power-Ups" — the theme is EXPONENTS (20A: Mathematical concepts suggested eight times in this puzzle) ... so the answers to various phrases are various "___ to the ___" phrases, but instead of "to the" being in the grid, it's represented by the post-to the" part of the phrase being (literally) raised "to the" next level in the grid, the way an exponent is written up and to the right of the number of which it is an exponent ... look, I last took math in 1987 and got a C+ in Calc II so I dunno, you get it the whole exponent business, I hope. Sorry I didn't explain it gooder:

Theme answers:
  • PLAY to the GALLERY (30A: With 25-Across, get as much approval from an audience as possible)
  • ROOTED to the SPOT (33A: With 29-Across, like a deer in headlights)
  • PREACH to the CHOIR (50A: With 47-Across, not change anyone's mind, say)
  • CUTS to the CHASE (53A: With 48-Across, stops wasting time)
  • WASATCH to the PIETA (just kidding)
  • THREW to the WOLVES (92A: With 88-Across, sacrificed)
  • CLOSE to the BONE (90A: With 85-Across, uncomfortably accurate)
  • RACE to the BOTTOM (113A: With 107-Across, bad sort of competition)
  • WELCOME to the CLUB (116A: With 112-Across, "Your misfortune is nothing special")
Word of the Day: WASATCH (42A: Utah mountain range) —
The Wasatch Range (/ˈwɑːsæ/ WAH-satch) is a mountain range in the western United States that runs about 160 miles (260 km) from the Utah-Idaho border south to central Utah. It is the western edge of the greater Rocky Mountains, and the eastern edge of the Great Basin region. The northern extension of the Wasatch Range, the Bear River Mountains, extends just into Idaho, constituting all of the Wasatch Range in that state.
In the language of the native Ute people, Wasatch means "mountain pass" or "low pass over high range." According to William Bright, the mountains were named for a Shoshoni leader who was named with the Shoshoni term wasattsi, meaning "blue heron". (wikipedia)
• • •

I am so saddened by Sundays. They don't seem to know how to be. I feel bad. It's hard to make a good Sunday, because you have to cover a lot of ground, themewise, and so your theme has to have legs. It has to go the distance. It has to be interesting conceptually, but more importantly, it's gotta have gas in the tank. Whatever your gimmick is, it's gotta hold up over 6 to 10 answers, across a 21x21 grid. This means that the individual answers have to have interest; they have to work with the theme but also have some kind of inherent interest—be amusing or cute or novel or something. Also, the non-theme fill should be delightful and occasionally surprising—you gotta get us through a long journey, and just filling the fill with fill from fillville isn't gonna cut it; The Drive Is Too Long. This is a long-winded prelude to my comments on this puzzle, which are, briefly, as follows: the concept is just fine, cute even, but I somehow enjoyed virtually none of it. Not the figuring out the themers and definitely not the filling in the rest of the grid. I just don't think the concept can endure. It's a one-note thing ... and yet there are eight notes, plus the revealer. And the non-theme fill offers virtually nothing interesting. Also, consider: literally Every Single One of your theme clues is a cross-reference—begins "With blah blah blah." That is some built-in tedium right there. Hey, look somewhere else, eight times! Have fun! So, sure, having the theme answer continue up and to the right of where it started, as a way of representing an exponent (and the phrase "to the") is, in fact, clever. But ... I got tired of actually Doing It sooooo fast. And then there's just the fill, which ... well, see below.

PLO-UGH! Is it THE L-WORD or THE L-BOMB? I guess THE L-WORD is the TV show about lesbians, but I think it's also "love," so ... that was odd. I never really got the whole "___ bomb" thing (see also "F-"). I guess I was trained / raised to just say what the f-bomb you mean. Anyway, I bombed that answer. Also bombed WASATCH. The only Utah mountain range I know is UINTA (very crosswordy), and I remember it's in Utah because of the U-thing. WASATCH ... I got no mnemonic for that. Also, I'm unlikely to see WASATCH again, whereas I will *definitely* see UINTA again (five letters, starts "UI-"—your options are pret-ty limited). Not really familiar with term CAT'S PAW either, and PLAY and YEA had tricky clues, so I weirdly struggled in the NW (tho probably not for too long). That NEST clue was weird; wanted PEST (duh) (79D: Exterminator's target). AOKAY is an abomination, never ever written that way, stop. Also stop with ART SCAMS, what? That just doesn't feel like a strong ... thing (87D: They might involve impersonating a dealer). Weird to have a plural of a thing I can't really name more than one of. Name the ART SCAMS! Uh, OK, forgery! There's one. Also ... uh ... uh ... uh ... etc. MEMORY is important for ... school? (125A: Important faculty for school). I mean, I guess. It's important for lots and lots and lots of things. Like finding your way home. I get that you are enjoying your "faculty" pun there, but worry about *others'* enjoyment, and accuracy / aptness, please. ONLAY??? (108D: Dental covering similar to a crown). I know INLAY and then I'm out of _NLAY dental answers. ELAM / ASSAM crossing is not great. I thought a [Place that processes ore] was a SMELTERY. Yes, the SMELTER is the one who dealt ... in smelting, the SMELTERY is the "place" where the smelting happened. Why is this cluing so off and botched. Hit your marks!

I loved "Parasite" but didn't know CHOI Woo-shik's name, so that was a little tough (43D: ___ woo-shik, co-star of 2019's "Parasite"). If you liked "Parasite," I recommend "The Host," a 2006 horror film also directed by Bong Joon-ho. In fact, "The Host" felt very much like a prequel to "Parasite" in many ways (or, I guess, "Parasite" was the sequel—I just didn't see them in that order). Also, if you haven't even seen "Parasite" yet, what the heck? Come on. What else? Nothing. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Italian playwright who won 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature / SAT 6-27-20 / Theatergoer's reproof / Miss Beadle of Little House on Prairie / He's waiting in sky in classic David Bowie song / Republic of theocratic setting of Handmaid's Tale / Baker's Joy alternative

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Constructor: Ryan Mccarty

Relative difficulty: Easy (except for SE corner, which destroyed me) (90% done in about 4 minutes ... 3+ minutes to get the rest)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: DARIO [space] FO (32D: Italian playwright who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature) —
Dario Luigi Angelo Fo (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdaːrjo ˈfɔ]; 24 March 1926 – 13 October 2016) was an Italian actor, playwright, comedian, singer, theatre directorstage designer, songwriter, painter, political campaigner for the Italian left wing and the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature. In his time he was "arguably the most widely performed contemporary playwright in world theatre". Much of his dramatic work depends on improvisation and comprises the recovery of "illegitimate" forms of theatre, such as those performed by giullari (medieval strolling players) and, more famously, the ancient Italian style of commedia dell'arte. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oof. This makes a good contrast to yesterday's puzzle. Yesterday: bouncy fun. Today: easy boringness, followed by grueling proper name fiasco. I remember nothing about this puzzle except DARIOFO (whom I am meeting today for the first time) and almost every answer crossing it. It's so bizarre that you would make / edit a puzzle to come out this way—to have this lone not-well-known proper noun sitting there, when the rest of your grid is so easy, so straightforward. DARIOFO is the sorest of sore thumbs. Literally none of the letters were inferrable. Until I looked him up (after I was done), I didn't even know it was a first *and* a last name. I thought it was just one name, a last name, possibly with an apostrophe in it, like D'ARIOFO! I'm sure he was someone, but wow, nope, no idea. It's entirely possible I've come across his name before, but not in any context where it would've stuck. What is his major work? No idea. Looks like he was a 9/11 Truther, so that's fun. Sigh. A name like that ... look, I don't know lots of names. I have no idea who this EVERETT person is (41A: Betty who sang "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)"), but I plunked EVERETT down pretty readily once I had a few of the (consonant) crosses, because EVERETT Is A Name That I Can Recognize As A Name. If DARIOFO had been a single reasonably common Italian last name, I could've done same. But no. D'ARIOFO! So MAGE was MUSE and DOURER was, ugh, DOWNER, maybe (39A: More morose), and YORK was nothing because after ERIE I have no idea about 4-letter Pennsylvania counties (52A: Pennsylvania county or its seat).

I had MUSCLY but kept doubting MUSCLY because nothing else would work (36D: Jacked). Oh, AGENDER I know, but I kept wanting ASEXUAL and ... I just couldn't get any help from the crosses. Could not get the CODE part of HONOR CODE (had ROLL, then ... no idea) (45A: What has a large following on a college campus?). How would the clue writer know how "large" a following an HONOR CODE has. Do most colleges actually have them? I mean, there are rules about cheating. Looks like my university has an "Honesty Code" buried in the University Bulletin under "Academic Policies and Procedures." If you hadn't decided to get all cute and "?"-ish with the clue, maybe, but dumb / off clue = ??? Also, I figure most college students have broken some form of the academic honesty rules at least once, if they're being honest.

"EEK!" has literally nothing to do with "OMG!," so that was rough. You know what an audible "OMG!" is? It's "OMG!" I mean, You Put It In Quotation Marks!!!! That Means Someone's Saying It! Yeesh. Like I said, I don't get why you make your puzzle so lop-sidedly difficult like this. Not like I was gonna remember the rest of the grid anyway, since it was bland (esp. compared to yesterday's gem), but still, this dumb SE corner pretty much ensures that I'm only gonna remember this one little corner. I mean, what else is there? AAACELL?? AAAh no. OSMOSED?? Mosed-efinitely not. BAVERAGE?? I'm thirsty, I'd lack a BAVARAGE, playse! Pffft. Nothing here. I SEE SLOGS. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Hawaiian raw fish dish / FRI 6-26-20 / Mother of Hamnet Shakespeare / Love of Tony in hit 1978 song

Friday, June 26, 2020

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy to Easy-Medium (4:46)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: KITTEN HEELS (22D: They can give you a bit of a lift) —
kitten heel is a short stiletto heel, usually from 3.5 centimeters (1.5 inches) to 4.75 centimeters (1.75 inches) high, with a slight curve setting the heel in from the back edge of the shoe. The style was popularized by Audrey Hepburn, and recent followers of the fashion include Theresa MayMichelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton.
Shoes with kitten heels may be worn at work in an office setting by people who wish to wear feminine attire that is still practical. For parties, kitten heels are an alternative for those who find high heels uncomfortable. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is the Friday puzzle I keep talking about. The type that I live for. The type that I hope to encounter on Friday, so I can get the various recent themed disappointments out of my head. Wash the blues away! On Friday, I want a fresh, fun, bouncy grid that I can spar with for 4 to 7 minutes. I don't want your stunt grids, your structural feats, your whatever the hell you are doing to the grid to try to look cool or different when all you're really doing ultimately is creating dazzle camouflage to mask your weak fill and distract from a substandard solving experience. Nothing under 68 words, thank you very much. 70 or 72 preferred. And cleeeeean. Friday has the best potential every week to be The Best Day, and as I've said many times, if I could choose just one Friday constructor, I'd want Weintraub on that byline. Today's puzzle had everything I could ask for. Note that it also had junk like HES and STET and ABBR and weirdly plural OUZOS, but then note how I don't ****ing care because I'm too busy enjoying all the delightful answers dancing across the grid. Now maybe you're thinking, "YOU'VE CHANGED, man!" Well no. No I have not. These have been my themeless values all along. Why the NYTXW can't produce puzzles this current and fun every weekend, I don't know. Not my fault. DON'T LOOK AT ME.

["YOU'VE CHANGED ... your place in this world"]

Seriously look at all these long answers, covering such a wide variety of subjects. You get a COOL BREEZE in your PRIVATE BOX and then later you meet a FIELD MOUSE on your ESCAPE ROUTE (No I don't know what your escaping from, maybe something bad happened at the ballgame you, just roll with it...). My proudest moment, by far, was having the K-TT at the front end of 22D: They can give you a bit of a lift and thinking "KITTEN? ... are KITTEN HEELS a thing!? Let's try that!" And pow, right answer! I must've heard the term somewhere before, so I'd like to thanks my brain for actually retaining something useful for once. A RARE TREAT! Having KITTEN on the brain lately probably also helped.

May 17, 2020
June 25, 2020
Everyone thinks they're RAVENCLAW but a lot of y'all are Hufflepuff and that's OK. Own it! I had most trouble, weirdly-not-weirdly, with the worst stuff in the grid: ABBR. (25D: Ph.D., for one) and HES (46A: Ganders, e.g.) and STET (48D: Decide to keep after all), but the trouble was never considerable. VAUNT also eluded me for a bit (20A: Acclaim), mostly because I never use VAUNT and I never use "Acclaim" as a verb. Wasn't sure about the first letter in DALES (21A: Low-lying areas). Aren't VALES low-lying as well? Had STOP IN before STOP BY (23A: Visit). Just whiffed on the STONER clue (28A: One taking the high road?). That might've been the last thing I put in the grid. It's possible that some people will have trouble with the POKE / PEELE crossing, but you really should know Jordan PEELE by now (42D: "Get Out" director). Prominent director, great name for crosswords. He'll be in grids for decades. I appreciate this clue for POKE (42A: Hawaiian raw fish dish). And now I'm hungry and it's way too late for me to eat so now I'm sad. I'll just think some more about this puzzle and maybe the sadness will go away.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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When doubled 2010s dance / THU 6-24-20 / Efficiency symbol in physics / Golfer Poulter with three PGA Tour wins / 1950s-60s sitcom nickname / makes the going great old ad slogan

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni 

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (4:58)

THEME: GO OUT ON A LIMB (51A: Act riskily ... or what three answers in this puzzle do) — three answers go out (i.e. off the edge of the grid) on a limb (the part hanging off the edge of the grid is also the name of a limb, such as one might find on a human, or turkey):

Theme answers:
  • WORKS LIKE A CH(ARM) (20A: Totally does the trick)
  • "(LEG)ALLY BLONDE" (35A: 2001 comedy starring Reese Witherspoon)
  • WHISTLE BLO(WING) (42A: Reporting internal wrongdoing)
Word of the Day: PLAYMAT (40D: Crawl space?) —
  1. mat (flat piece of material) designed for a young child to play upon. (, whatever that is)
• • •

I have seen "off the grid"-type themes before, for sure, but this one makes pretty good use of its revealer. A bit weird to have your limbs be arm, leg ... and wing. One of those is not like the others, no matter which animal you take the limbs from. Humans don't have wings. Chickens don't have arms. Maybe it's supposed to be a joke? I dunno. Anyway, might've been cool to do arm twice and leg twice—get all the human limbs *and* stick with one species. Also, might've been much cooler if the letters that appear in the grid were actual words. ALLY BLONDE fits the bill, but ugh WORKS LIKE ACH and WHISTLE BLO are ... rough. I guess both ACH and BLO can stand alone as crossword answers, so maybe you could say they're not total nonsense, but ... I just wince when my grid is full of nonsense. I know I know, you add the limb and poof, no nonsense. But grids should look good as is. The fact of ACH at the end of WORKS LIKE ACH really hurt me, as did the cluing of regular old SETH as some Egyptian god (!?!?!) (12D: Egyptian god of chaos). I had SETT for the god and WORKS LIKE ACT as the answer. I was certain that the theme was somehow going to involve MAGIC ... like ACT was somehow standing in for "MAGIC" (i.e. "works like magic"), since "magic act" ... is a thing. This made total sense to me as I was solving, though *exactly* how I thought this whole "MAGIC" dealie would play out, I don't remember. You know, you're solving, you get a themer, maybe you have only a vague idea of how it works, but you keep plugging and have faith that things will become clear later. Well, I finished the grid and still had SETT up there. So boo. Error. Oh well.

Hardest part for me was the mid-east, largely because I didn't really understand the theme yet (even though I was almost done) so the BLO part wasn't obvious. Also, PANAM slogans are wow, yeah, before my time (40A: "___ makes the going great" (old ad slogan)). And I thought [Dum-dum] (37A) was maybe some kind of drum because I would never spell it without the "b"s on the end (i.e. "dumb-dumb"). A Dum-dum is a (delicious) lollipop. So BOZO, couldn't get. Was proud that I remembered the NAE (NAE), and that Definitely helped me get things sorted in there (50A: When doubled, a 2010s dance). Only other snag was in the west, where I had CLOSE TO before CLOSE BY (14D: Near) and NYSE before NYNY (29D: Big Apple inits.), and both of those errors were running right through the front end of the themer ALLY BLONDE (and again, at that point I still had no idea about all the limb business). Rest of the puzzle played pretty easy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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