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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Fake eyelash slangily / WED 6-24-20 / Jed's adviser on West Wing / Hungarian sporting dog / Closest dwarf planet / Geometric figure with equal angles / Barrier dismantled in 1991

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Constructor: Joe Deeney

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (4:58)

THEME: COLD OPEN (59A: Start of each "S.N.L." episode ... or a hint to the initials of the words in 17-, 24-, 35- and 47-Across) — "OPEN"ings (i.e. the initials) of the words in the themers are I.C., which, when said aloud, make "icy," which is a word meaning "COLD":

Theme answers:
  • IOWA CITY (17A: It served as its state's capital before Des Moines)
  • IRISH COFFEE (24A: Joe and Jack, say?)
  • INFORMED CONSENT (35A: Medical ethics topic)
  • IRON CURTAIN (47A: "Barrier" dismantled in 1991) (the "quotation marks" are weird here)
Word of the Day: SLOVAK (55A: Bratislava resident) —

The Slovaks (or SlovakiansSlovakSlováci, singular: Slovák, feminine: Slovenka, plural: Slovenky) are a West Slavic ethnic group and nation native to Slovakia who share a common ancestryculturehistory and speak the Slovak language.
In Slovakia, c. 4.4 million are ethnic Slovaks of 5.4 million total population. There are Slovak minorities in many neighboring countries including AustriaCroatiaCzech RepublicHungaryPolandRomaniaSerbia and Ukraine and sizeable populations of immigrants and their descendants in AustraliaCanadaFranceGermanyUnited Kingdom and the United States among others, which are collectively referred to as the Slovak diaspora. (wikipedia)

• • •

Monday concept with Thursday cluing. The result: weird and mostly unpleasant. COLD OPEN is a great idea for a revealer, but more for a Monday puzzle where all the first words of themers are cold or can follow the word "cold" (CUT, COMFORT, etc.), something like that. But "I.C."??? That's corny, and using the initials (plural) as OPEN (singular) feels awkward. The fill is all over the place, too, as the grid appears to be trying desperately to be ZANIER than your average grid (what with the "Z"s all over) but somehow it did not have a sizzling feel. Came out clunky, though that was also a result of the cluing, which was oddly (and not very cleanly) ratcheted up (I guess 'cause the theme was so straightforward). ET TU, TNUT!? NYE, NYSE! AMO, LIS! These are just random entries that I didn't care for, that seemed to pile up. The puzzle started out seeming very easy (in the NW), but then when I hit the ISOGON (?) GRAYLY (??) part, things slowed way down. Ditto the R.H. MACY part, wow, initials? (21D: Department store founder). Yeeeesh. FALSIE is a word I've heard, but Not for eyelashes (?) (26D: Fake eyelash, slangily). Anyway, INFORMED CONSENT (a fine answer) took a lot of work, and the whole middle just bogged me down in unpleasant ways. Oh, and one other thing about the themers: since when does Tennessee whiskey go in IRISH COFFEE (24A: Joe and Jack, say?). That clue was brutal, in more ways than one.

So proud to know VIZSLA, but not proud enough to spell it correctly. Even now it feels like the "S" and "Z" should switch places. That little letter transposition hurt more than it should have. I had a very very hard time parsing "NO TAKERS?" (38D: Anyone? ... ANYONE?"). It started with NOT so I wanted NOT phrases, oof. Forgot Lindsey VONN's name, which is definitely my bad (56D: Winter Olympics star Lindsey). I know the word NARY but somehow [Old-timey "not"] didn't do it for me. ["My turn"] is a terrrrrrrible clue for "I'LL GO," since "I'LL GO" is a phrase of volunteering, one you'd use when it's not clear who should be going, whereas "My turn" is a phrase of certainty. If you say "My turn" it is definitely your turn, whereas if you say "I'LL GO" it is not at all clear that it is your turn, but since no one else is stepping up, well alrighty then. If you can't hear the difference between these two phrases, I can't help you, and since I can't help you ... I'LL GO.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. huge thumbs down to not one not two but three [___ tourist destination]s (two of which are "Italian"). Write a clue, why don't you?

P.P.S. base on early Twitter chatter, I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that the VIZSLA / ZAC crossing is gonna mess a bunch of people up today (it's a very bad cross)

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Sticker on green products / TUE 6-23-20 / Group on top of loose football / Bellicose Greek god / Forrest Gump's favorite soft drink / Means of climbing over rural fences

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:20-something, though I had not one but two typos I had to track down)

THEME: STRAIGHT EDGES (14D: Rulers, e.g. ... or what the letters in 3-, 7-, 27- and 34-Down all have) — if you write them in sans-serif caps, the left edges of all the letters in the themers are all straight (i.e. letters in themers are drawn entirely from the set: BDEFHKLNPR. According to "Notes" on the puzzle:
In the print version of this puzzle, each square in 3-, 7-, 27- and 34-Down contains a short vertical line in the left half of the square.
Theme answers:

  • KEEBLER ELF (3D: Mascot on cookie boxes)
  • FEEL FREE (34D: "Be my guest!")
  • DR PEPPER (7D: Forrest Gump's favorite soft drink)
  • "REBEL REBEL" (27D: David Bowie hit with the lyric "You've torn your dress, your face is a mess")
Word of the Day: RAREFY (13D: Make thinner, as air) —

1to make rare, thin, porous, or less dense to expand without the addition of matter

2to make more spiritual, refined, or abstruse (
• • •

This is one of those ideas you have when you're just brainstorming and you jot it down in your notebook and you realized it can't possibly produce a joyful result so you scrap it. Or, you don't, I guess. Not sure how you get away with a theme like this. Must be nice. Yeesh. Look, the theme does Not work electronically, which is how So Many people solve now, so it's a giant F.U. to them, and honestly, even if I was solving this on paper, I'd resent the NYTXW putting in little "vertical lines" for me to use like a little trellis on which to build the rest of the letters that go in those squares. I wonder how many people started solving and just wrote in the letters to the side of the damned "vertical lines" only to realize later on, "oh, I was supposed to ... make letters ... that incorporated those lines ... huh." "REBEL REBEL" is a great song and I'm never going to object to seeing Bowie in the grid, but the fact that you have a to repeat a word to get this theme to be In Any Way interesting tells you something.

The fill seems ok. ET TU, TUTEE is making me laugh, in a "so bad it's good" way, though ... that SW really isn't good. I had PLEAT before DRAPE (7A: Arrange in folds). I wrote in RARIFY and BORE instead of RAREFY and BORN, so that was bad work on my part. RAREFY just looks so awfully wrong. Also, the clue ... [Make thinner, as air]? ... that is so weird. "We need to RAREFY this air, stat!" I only ever (and I mean Only Ever) hear the word used adjectivally, in the purely metaphorical phrase "rarefied air." I think of that air as being the effect of high elevation, like "la-di-dah, look at you up there ... breathing your rarefied air like some kind of duchess ..." Actually, I would never use the phrase. The point is, it's hard to imagine someone "rarefying" anything, least of all air. I'm not sure I ever saw "Crash," and when I think of the expansive oeuvre of Mr. Brendan FRASER, that movie doesn't come to mind; luckily, there aren't that many actors named Brendan, so FRASER came quickly enough. ERR ERSE ERNST ELSE OER ONO EBB SELA ETTU ATIT TUTEE this could've been cleaner. Much cleaner. Big come-down after yesterday's nifty number.

iconic FRASER
See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Hate U Give heroine / MON 6-22-20 / Percussive piece of jewelry for Indian dancer / Lowest acceptable offers in stock market lingo / Typical physique for middle-aged guy

Monday, June 22, 2020

Constructor: Sid Sivakumar

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (2:53)

THEME: ESCAPEE (39A: Fugitive who, phonetically, is "hiding" in certain letters in 17-, 21-, 52- and 61-Across) — letter string "SKP" can be found inside all four themers:

Theme answers:
  • DESK PHONES (17A: Lines at the office?)
  • RISK-PRONE (21A: Willing to accept danger)
  • ASK PRICES (52A: Lowest acceptable offers, in stock market lingo)
  • JAMES K. POLK (61A: President between John Tyler and Zachary Taylor)
Word of the Day: Hula HOOP (5A: Hula ___) —
hula hoop is a toy hoop that is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck. The modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur K. "Spud" Melin and Richard Knerr, but children and adults around the world have played with hoops throughout history. Hula hoops for children generally measure approximately 70 centimetres (28 in) in diameter, while those for adults measure around 1 metre (40 in). Traditional materials for hoops include willowrattan (a flexible and strong vine), grapevines and stiff grasses. Today, they are usually made of plastic tubing. (wikipedia)
• • •

Conceptually, this is wonderful. If I didn't literally "aha" when I figured out the theme (after I was done), I came close. I make this face when I don't get the theme immediately upon finishing, and I was just starting to make it, thinking it maybe had something to do with a letter "E" that had "escaped" from the themers (don't do that, please), and then I noticed the "hiding" letter string SKP and then I was like "o, wow, well, yes, that works perfectly ... [says ESCAPEE out loud] ... yup, checks out!" There is a small part of me that thinks getting the "K" from the single initial "K" in JAMES K. POLK (where it's already sounded out as a letter) is a minor flaw, and a bigger part of me that doesn't give a f*** about "stock market lingo" and thinks ASK PRICES sounds super dumb. But whatever, SKP is probably hard do perfectly and this one works and I finished in under 3 and had a genuine aha so Not Mad. Well, tiny bit mad at the revealer clue—the ESCAPEE is hiding in the answers, not hiding "in certain letters in" the answers. The ESCAPEE literally *is* the letters, and those letters are "hiding" inside the larger phrase. The clue phrasing is awkward and to my ear incorrect.

My cat does not get SLOBBERY when he gets a CAT TREAT, but some cats do and I like that those answers are symmetrical. TSKED is awful but I'm pretty sure I've used it in actual conversation ... semi-ironically, but still. BARPIN is about as boring a word for a piece of jewelry as I can imagine. I was like "OK, some kind of PIN ... EAR PIN? ... wait, BAR PIN? Really? Yuck. Snore." There is an "ear pin" in this puzzle, it turns out, but it goes by the name of "stud" and it goes in the PIERCED EAR at 18D: Place to insert a stud. Anything else to say about this? Not really. Nice work.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Greatest Father's Day moment was learning that my daughter is dropping sub-5 times on Monday puzzles now. I had no idea. She keeps her training to herself. Here I am being characteristically encouraging :)

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Coastal environment simulator at aquarium / SUN 6-21-20 / Nonvenomous fast-moving snake / Onesie protector / Cabinet inits since 1980 / Geographical locale whose name means waterless place

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Constructor: Byron (old like me) and Harrison (EIGHT YEARS OLD) Walden

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:15)

THEME: "Animal Crossings" — "What do you get when you cross ___ with ___?" riddles, where the ___s literally cross right next to the answers to each riddle:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: HASSAN Rouhani (13A: Iranian president Rouhani) —
Hassan Rouhani (Persianحسن روحانی‎, Standard Persian pronunciation: [hæˈsæn-e ɾowhɒːˈniː](About this soundlisten); born Hassan Fereydoun (Persian: حسن فریدون‎) on 12 November 1948) is an Iranian politician serving as the current and seventh President of Iran since 3 August 2013. He was also a lawyer, academic, former diplomat and Islamic cleric. He has been a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts since 1999, member of the Expediency Councilsince 1991, and a member of the Supreme National Security Council since 1989. Rouhani was deputy speaker of the fourth and fifth terms of the Parliament of Iran (Majlis) and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from 1989 to 2005. In the latter capacity, he was the country's top negotiator with the EU three, UK, France, and Germany, on nuclear technology in Iran, and has also served as a Shi'ite ijtihadi cleric, and economic trade negotiator. He has expressed official support for upholding the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. In 2013, he appointed former industries minister Eshaq Jahangiri as his first vice-president.
• • •

You know what can make me like corny dad-joke riddles? Puzzles co-constructed by 8yo boys and their dads, that's what. Everyone should co-construct with a kid. They should do a whole week of that. Co-constructor has to be in elementary school, go! OMG this puzzle even has a title of that app or game that I keep seeing people mention but that I've been studiously ignoring because why are grown people playing children's games but here it is on a puzzle constructed by an actual child, so I am All In, sign me up, etc.! Only SMILES, sorry folks, I know you kinda like the grouch but Not Today. OK, if I were being really truly Scroogey, I would say EXTRA DRUMSTICKS isn't as much of a coherent stand-alone concept as the others, and LIGHTNING SPEED is not an entity, which makes it weird as a result of even fantastical cross-breeding, and crossing plural animals with singular animal is ... interesting. But pffffffffft, don't care. I think these are cute. The grid actually played hardish for me in places, though my time was totally normal (it's a post-Negroni time, too, so ... you should probably shave a minute off my time if you want to know what my time would be like under normal, not slightly buzzed conditions). I liked that there was a WAVETANK to go with all these EELS and FISH and what not, though tbh WAVETANK took me a long time to get. Also difficult for me: CAT'S EAR (don't ... know what that is), and AREOLE (did not know that sense of the word and also spelled it AREOLA at first). Oh, and HONEYBEE! Napoleonic symbol? News to me! Funniest word in the grid to me is ADZING, a present participle so improbable it makes me giggle.

I don't think I understand RECAST as the answer to 23A: Put in another light. Oh crud I just got it. I could not shake the idea that someone was changing a lightbulb ... or RECASTing a play and the star of the play was somehow metaphorically a "light." But "in another light" is metaphorical. Gotcha. Never heard of a RACER, so that "C," yipes (3D: Nonvenomous, fast-moving snake). NOMEN was hard because Latin (I thought "NOMEN" was just "name" but I guess it's the second of three usual names in ancient Roman, huh). Wrote in EAST END before WEST END, that was dumb (69A: London theater district). I hope that Harry was happy that he got to put PEE in the grid, though tbh it was probably Byron who was tittering at that one (118D: 16th letter). OUTOFIT is a really fantastic entry that I had trouble parsing. It's weirdly rare—twice this year now, but only five times in the Shortz era total. It took me til the last letter (which, ironically, was the first letter) to figure out. Seriously thought AUTOFIT might be a thing (64A: Dazed and confused), but it made zero sense for the clue.

Have as happy a Father's Day, or just day, as you can. XO

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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