Cousin of apple cobbler / WED 8-12-20 / Chart-topping R&B funk band / Weasellike animal with dark fur / Iconic 1971 blaxploitation film / Jazz great with Egyptian sounding name

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Constructor: Adesina Koiki

Relative difficulty: Easy (very: faster than yesterday, almost as fast as Monday) (3:11)

THEME: OHIO PLAYERS (60A: Chart-topping 1970s R&B/funk band suggested by the starts of 17-, 26-, 39- and 50-Across) — first word of each themer is also the name of an individual PLAYER on a sports team based in OHIO:

Theme answers:
  • BENGAL TIGER (17A: Animal accompanying Pi in "Life of Pi") (Cincinnati Bengals) (NFL
  • BROWN BETTY (26A: Cousin of an apple cobbler) (Cleveland Browns) (NFL)
  • RED WHITE AND BLUE (39A: U.S. flag, with "the") (Cincinnati Reds) (MLB)
  • INDIAN FOOD (50A: Biryani or vindaloo) (Cleveland Baseball Team) (MLB)
Word of the Day: Dr. KILDARE (48A: "Dr." of 1960s TV) —

Dr. Kildare is an NBC medical drama television series which originally ran from September 28, 1961, until August 30, 1966 for a total of 191 episodes over five seasons Produced by MGM Television, it was based on fictional doctor characters originally created by author Max Brand in the 1930s and previously used by MGM in a popular film series and radio drama. The TV series quickly achieved success and made a star of Richard Chamberlain, who played the title role. Dr. Kildare(along with an ABC medical drama, Ben Casey, which premiered at the same time) inspired or influenced many later TV shows dealing with the medical field.

Dr. Kildare aired on NBC affiliate stations on Thursday nights at 8:30-9:30 PM from September 28, 1961 until September 1965, when the timeslot was changed to Monday and Tuesday nights at 8:30-9:00 PM until the end of the show's run on August 30, 1966. (wikipedia)

• • •

Ha ha ha, yesssss! I opened the puzzle, saw my friend's name, had a brief feeling of elation, then immediately thought, "Oh, c'mon, please be good...." And it was! There was a bit of creaky fill along the way, but that revealer really sealed the day. Rollercoaster! 

This puzzle also had SUN RA (37D: Jazz great with an Egyptian-sounding name) and SHAFT (11D: Iconic blaxploitation film), so I was very much digging the vibe from start to finish. Seeing Addy's name was just such a nice surprise, and I need all the nice surprises I can get right now, to be honest. I've known Addy for something like a decade. I must've met him at an ACPT a while back but he's definitely been a regular at Lollapuzzoola in NYC every August*, and that's where I see him most often. Here we are at Yankee Stadium in 2013:

It's just nice to see a familiar face pop up in the constructor byline totally unexpectedly. It's also nice (very nice) to absolutely crush a Wednesday puzzle like it was Monday. I honestly thought I was gonna break three minutes. I don't remember hitting any real snags or slowdowns. All the proper nouns were in my wheelhouse and none of the fill was that weird or jarring or difficultly clued. I misspelled AHH, LOL. There really should be some kind of standard for the two-A and the two-H varieties! I also briefly thought WHOA was "WHAA...?" (27D: "What just happened where ... ?!"). I resented having to stop to figure out a dad joke, but it is *such* a dad joke that I actually laughed (51D: "What do you call cheese that isn't yours? ___ cheese!" (dad joke)). I've written down SHA ITE ADES AHH AMAIN OSOLE and INGE as Fill I Could Do Without, but honestly that is a pretty short list. Anyway, this puzzle is all about the theme, and specifically the Perfection of the revealer. Fiiie-uh!

So, yes, full disclosure, grain of salt, the constructor is my friend, I like him, I'm happy he has his debut today. I also genuinely enjoyed the solve. Have a nice day!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*Lollapuzzoola is all-online this year, and it's This Saturday. I've told you this many times, but I'm telling you again, just in case you missed it. More info here!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Viking who was first ruler of Normandy / TUE 8-11-20 / Pocketbook portmanteau / Popular shooter in old west / Collaborative online reference

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Constructor: Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (3:30)

THEME: EIEIO (37A: Refrain in a children's song ... or a literal feature of 17-, 25-, 42- and 55-Across)EIEIO => the vowels (in order of appearance) in each of the themers:

Theme answers:
  • DERRINGER PISTOL (17A: Popular shooter in the Old West)
  • REWRITES HISTORY (25A: Puts one's own slant on the past)
  • PRESIDENT WILSON (42A: W.W. I leader)
  • VERMICELLI BOWLS (55A: Vietnamese noodle salads)
Word of the Day: ROLLO (31D: Viking who was the first ruler of Normandy) —

Rollo (NormanRouOld NorseHrólfrFrenchRollonc. 860 – c. 930 AD) was a Viking who became the first ruler of Normandy, a region in northern France. He emerged as the outstanding warrior among the Norsemen who had secured a permanent foothold on Frankish soil in the valley of the lower Seine. After the Siege of Chartres in 911, Charles the Simple, the king of West Francia, ceded them lands between the mouth of the Seine and what is now Rouen in exchange for Rollo agreeing to end his brigandage, and provide the Franks with protection against future Viking raids.

Rollo is first recorded as the leader of these Viking settlers in a charter of 918, and he continued to reign over the region of Normandy until at least 928. He was succeeded by his son William Longsword in the Duchy of Normandy that he had founded. The offspring of Rollo and his followers became known as the Normans. After the Norman conquest of England and their conquest of southern Italy and Sicily over the following two centuries, their descendants came to rule Norman England (the House of Normandy), much of the island of Ireland, the Kingdom of Sicily(the Kings of Sicily) as well as the Principality of Antioch from the 10th to 12th century, leaving behind an enduring legacy in the histories of Europe and the Near East. (wikipedia)

• • •

I can't say I find this quirk that interesting. Nice that they're all 15; that adds at least a little bit of architectural elegance to the thing. But the answers themselves aren't that interesting in their own right, and the fill is pretty tepid, with one of the longer Downs absolutely wasted on the bizarre legalese / partial WHEREFORES. Makes BATH TOWELS almost seem sparkly by comparison. Almost. Just seems like a "huh, interesting" kind of concept, without any grid oomph to make the whole experience more, I don't know, energizing and engaging. I actually do like VERMICELLI BOWLS as a stand-alone answer, but it's offset by DERRINGER PISTOL, which ... those are just called "derringers." It's not that DERRINGER PISTOL is wrong, it just feels oddly formal and slightly redundant. Thankfully, I never saw the clue and didn't have to think about it too much; I had drilled so many of the Down crosses into place that most of DERRINGER PISTOL was in place before I ever even looked at it. 

Felt pretty easy overall, though ROLLO really slowed me down. Despite being very aware of the Normans and the Norman Invasion and the post-Invasion effects on England, I never learned the story of Normandy's origins well enough to keep ROLLO in cold storage for when I needed him. Reading about him, I realize that I have indeed read about him before, but it just didn't stick. His name, specifically, didn't stick. There is only one ROLLO for me, and he lives in the "Nancy" universe:

I had DOLT for TWIT (52D: Nincompoop), but no other missteps, though the SW corner was awkward and sloggy in a way that made me doubt I had it all in order. AYS!?! (61A: Captains' cries). I don't think I get it. The only nautical cry I know is AYE with an "E"—what is this "E"-less AY? That whole corner could use redoing, though honestly it's only AYS that's beyond the pale. I'm actually stunned at how often this answer has appeared in the NYTXW. OK, not often, about once a year. No, on second thought, that *is* too often. None of the really good constructors will touch it. Delete delete delete. Thank you.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

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Seoul automaker / MON 8-10-20 / Launch vehicle for many NASA missions / Bright sunny area of a house / Destination of rover Perseverance

Monday, August 10, 2020

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium (3-ish)

THEME: KEYS (56D: Typically lost items that are "found" in the starts of 16-, 24-, 45- and 57-Across — first words of themers all have, or are associated with, KEYS:

Theme answers:
  • ORGAN DONOR (16A: Designation on many a driver's license)
  • FLORIDA ROOM (24A: Bright, sunny area of a house)
  • ATLAS ROCKET (45A: Launch vehicle for many NASA missions)
  • LOCK OF HAIR (57A: Ringlet on a salon floor)
Word of the Day: FLORIDA ROOM (24A) —
(US, Canada, especially East Coast US and Florida) A room within or adjoining a residence which is designed to admit considerable sunlight and fresh air, especially one which is not heated and is used only in the warmer seasons; a sunroom. (wikitionary)
• • •

Found this one actually slightly harder than your typical Monday puzzle, largely because none of the themers were obvious to me. Needed many crosses for all of them, even the hair, one (had OF HAIR, still wasn't sure what came first). Nothing in the ORGAN DONOR clue is very specific (lots of data on a driver's license). I think this may be the first time I've heard the term FLORIDA ROOM (though I did guess FLORIDA off just the -DA, so maybe it was in my brain somewhere). Don't pay very close attention to NASA missions so ___ ROCKET wasn't getting me anywhere either. I think the main problem was I backed into so many of these themers. Some kind of ROOM, some kind of ROCKET, something OF HAIR—that's what I encountered the first time I laid eyes on each of the last three themers. Just made things slower going than usual. Also found TROIKAS slightly hard to come up with (after TRIADS my brain blanked on other [Groups of three]). Same with PRAY DO (wow, "quaintly" is right, yikes) (35D: "Yes, proceed!," quaintly), and even BABY BONNET just wasn't coming quickly for me—even after I got the BABY part. What year is it that we're putting "wee ones" in "bonnets"? I think babies just wear sun hats now. Or ... we're just not putting babies in the sun, I don't know. I don't think Ella ever wore a bonnet. So ... Add in the inevitable hesitaiton created by 10D: Oodles (today, A LOT, some other day, A TON) and the fact that I had RAVING before RAHRAH (32A: Uncritically enthusiastic, colloquially), and you (I) have a solving time slightly north of average. That said, it's Monday, and it was easy. 

As for quality, I'm not too RAHRAH about the reveals, which is just KEYS and thus kind of a pfft. I see how they try to get cute with the whole lose your keys / "find" your keys conceit in the clue, but the lack of a good revealer makes plain old KEYS kind of sad. These are the days I wish the NYTXW had *titles* like the WSJ and Newsweek and most indies. A good title obviates the need for a revealer (if there's not hot revealer to be had). But sure, those first themer words are all things associated with KEYS. It's a good set, but FLORIDA ROOM clunks a bit, mostly because it's the only themer where that first word isn't completely reimagined by KEYS—that is, KEYS takes the organ from body organ to musical instrument organ, and takes Atlas from god ATLAS (I assume that's the basis of the rocket's name) to map atlas, and takes LOCK from hair unit to security item. But FLORIDA ROOM ... I assume tthe room is named after the state, and the KEYS are in the state, so there's no real redirection. FLORIDA is FLORIDA is FLORIDA. Plus I just don't know the term, so I'm already not inclined to *love* it. But mostly my problem is with the "Meaning Not Reimagined" part. The grid seems average. Old-fashioned, but clean enough, fine enough. Enough. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Struck old-style / SUN 8-9-20 / Ferris Bueller's girlfriend / First Alaskan on major U.S. party ticket / Where to get mullet trimmed / Painter of four freedoms series 1943 / Bygone apple messaging app / Hogwarts professor who was secretly a werewolf

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Constructor: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (a shade under 10 min.)

THEME: "Craft Show" — you draw on your puzzle at the end and make a kind of boat. The revealer and its clue explain: 66A: In perfect order ... or, as two words, what's formed by applying the answers for the five starred clues to the circled letters (SHIPSHAPE) (so ... you make a ship shape ... based on the shapes described in the ...

Theme answers:
  • LOVE TRIANGLE (36D: *Rick, Ilsa and Victor had one in "Casablanca")
  • SECURITY LINE (35D: *Airport logjam)
  • STORY ARC (84A: *Multi-episode narrative)
  • TOWN SQUARE (113A: *Civic center)
  • SKI SLOPE (48A: *Winter vacation destination)
Word of the Day: ST. PIERRE (53D: French island off the coast of Newfoundland) —

Saint Pierre and Miquelon, officially the Overseas Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (FrenchCollectivité d'outre-mer de Saint-Pierre-et-MiquelonIPA: [sɛ̃.pjɛʁ.e.mi.klɔ̃]), is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France, situated in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near the Canadian province of  Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the only part of New France that remains under French control, with an area of 242 square kilometres (93 sq mi) and a population of 6,008 [ed: !!!?!?!?] at the March 2016 census.

The islands are situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the entrance of Fortune Bay, which extends into the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They are 25 kilometres (16 mi) from the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland and 3,819 kilometres (2,373 mi) from Brest, the nearest city in Metropolitan France. (wikipedia)

• • •

Whole lotta mixed feelings about this one. Nice to (finally) see a solo female constructor after more than two weeks without one. And this is conceptually ... well, interesting, at least. You draw a ship on the finished puzzle, and I can tell you I have *definitely* been asked to do that with a Sunday puzzle before (I feel like it was a puzzle about a painting that had been hung "upside-down" in some gallery for a long time and nobody noticed? Does that sound familiar? I may be conflating that puzzle with an entirely different draw-a-ship puzzle—I've been doing this for almost fourteen years ... there've been a lot of puzzles). But you build the puzzles out of shapes, and the themers describe both the shape and the letters you need to connect to make that shape: that is definitely clever. Whether I enjoyed the solving and (esp) the drawing, that's another question, and the answer to that question is an extremely equivocal, "I've definitely had worse times on a Sunday than I had today." The grid has a slightly oldish feel and the fill creaks a bit in places. And yet, honestly, it was probably smoother and more solid than most of the Sunday puzzles of late. The SW corner gets very very rough, but that's also the most thematically dense portion of the grid, with a whole bunch of circled squares crammed into a very tight area, so the roughness is at least explainable. I have never enjoyed puzzles that asked me to treat the finished grid like a child's placemat at IHOP, connecting dots and drawing pictures and what not, but if that sort of thing is your sort of thing, I don't know how you dislike this puzzle. It's ambitious and interesting. It's not for *me*, but it's not bad.

The main issue for me, from a satisfaction standpoint, is that I literally have no idea what two of these ship shapes do. Is the TOWN SQUARE some kind of ... tiller, is it? (nope, it's the rudder ... to my very very small credit, the tiller does control the rudder). And the SKI SLOPE is like ... some kind of narwhal unicorn dealie? Ooh, a bowsprit, is it a bowsprit!? [checks internet] Hoooooooly ****, it is! Ha ha, I'm nautical now, mateys!
It's weird how I know things that I don't know I know. 

I had lots of trouble in precisely two sections of this grid: the aforementioned SW (with its NWT and OHI and TNOTE and plural ANTICS with a singular-looking clue) and then the NW, which was where I started, to very little avail. I had AROAR and ERS and that is it. The clue on NOODLE was completely inscrutable to me, to the bitter end, and ADDL had me ... that's right, addled. I figured [Not incl.] was EXCL. though I also figured that was far too stupid to be plausible. I imagined the coast after a storm would be strewn with driftwood and other detritus, not ERODED. I just whiffed the whole thing and had to back into it later, and even then, that NOODLE answer had me sweating til the very last letter. Other parts of the grid caused pain (SMIT!? LOL wha?) but not the kind associated with real difficulty. I had TIMESUCK before TIMESINK (52D: Endless YouTube viewing, e.g.), SCANTY before SKIMPY (63A: Meager), MOSTLY before MAINLY (119A: By and large), and could not process the silverback gorilla clue at all ("why ... is the answer ALOHA?). That's it, that's the whole experience.

Your final reminder: Lollapuzzoola is one of the best crossword tournaments in the country, is entirely online this year, and it takes place THIS SATURDAY (Aug. 15) from 1pm-7pm. There are lots of different ways to compete, or just get the puzzles and solve in a leisurely fashion at home. All the details are here. Highly recommended.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Conjoined title character of 1990s-2000s Nickelodeon cartoons / SAT 8-8-20 / Sitcom regular at Monk's cafe / Super Six of old autodom / Demographic myth often used with respect to Asian Americans

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Constructor: Brooke Husic and Sid Sivakumar

Relative difficulty: Medium (around 8 min.)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: EVIE Sands (49A: Singer/songwriter) —

Evie Sands (born July 18, 1946) is an American singer, songwriter and musician.

Sands' music career spans more than 50 years. She began her career as a teenager in the mid-1960s. After a rocky start, she eventually found chart success in 1969, before retiring from performing in 1979 to concentrate on writing and production. She experienced a fashionable, UK-led surge in cult popularity beginning in the 1990s and returned to live performance in mid-1998. Sands continues to write and perform. [...] 

In 1969 Sands finally scored with the A&M single "Any Way That You Want Me", a Chip Taylor composition previously recorded by both the American Breed and the Troggs in 1966. A No. 1 hit in Birmingham, Alabama, Sands' "Any Way That You Want Me" also reached the top ten or better in Columbus, OhioHouston, Texas; San Diego, California; and a number of other cities. The record reached No. 53 on the Hot 100and tied with Don Ho's "Tiny Bubbles" for most weeks (17) on that chart in the 1960s with a sub-50 peak. (wikipedia)
• • •

Before I get to what I liked about this puzzle (a lot), I gotta start with the one big Don't Like, and that is the answer MODEL MINORITY and *especially* its clue, 21A: Demographic myth often used with respect to Asian Americans. Let's be crystal clear here: the idea of a MODEL MINORITY is racist. Racist. That word is crucial here. "Demographic myth" sounds like some generic concept of how humans behave, but the idea of a MODEL MINORITY isn't just racist against Asian Americans, it's used as a super duper racist cudgel against Black and Hispanic Americans in particular. I have a hard time imagining what kind of "demographic myths" the crossword might accept about, I don't know, Jews, or Black people. The fact that MODEL MINORITY sounds nice should not exonerate it or allow it to pass as something other than the outright racist concept that it is. "Demographic myth," man, I almost literally choked on that little euphemism. Call racism racism, please and thank you.

OK, the rest of the puzzle! It was very entertaining—definitely out of my, uh, demographic at times ("CAT DOG" missed me, and MEGYN whoever on whatever "Rules of Engagement" is, also not on my radar), but only lightly so. I have no problem with proper nouns beyond my ken and out of me demo if the puzzle is well balanced overall, and the crosses on said proper nouns are fair. The REPORTS part of UFO REPORTS felt a little weak to me, somehow, but I cannot argue with PAYTOILET, SOFTPEDAL, BEERRUNS and especially POTDISPENSARY. I live in the state of New York where pot is not currently legal, so visiting my sister in Colorado last year was a *trip*. Dispensaries everywhere. It wasn't so much alarming as it was kinda sad. Just total saturation. Even when we were way out in nowhere SW Colorado, just as we were heading to the New Mexico border, near some lonely off-ramp next to some generic gas station ... bam! Dispensary! I guess you gotta load up on your pot and edibles and what not before heading back into joyless New Mexico, I don't know. Anyway, good answer, I say. I also weirdly like GOOUT. Solid and fresh, which is not something I normally have occasion to say about a five-letter entry. 

  • 15D: Film ___ (NOIR) — my baby! my precious! the genre of my soul. I was like "this *better* be NOIR" and it was, hurrah. Really helped me out up there in the NE.
  • 22D: It has four bases (DNA) — Had "RNA" ha ha I am dumb at science. The best part about that error was ending up with MOREL MINORITY ... and thinking "... do they mean MORAL? But ... no, that's definitely an "E" so ... what are the "demographic myths" about Asian Americans and mushrooms? I am *so* confused..."
  • 51D: Zoom call option (MUTE) — I very much relate to this clue and answer. Very much.
  • 46D: Throw out (EVICT) — Had E---T. Wrote in EJECT. Nope. Thought maybe EGEST. Nope. 
  • 10D: Big name in luxury handbags (FENDI) — wrote in PRADA and immediately thought "but what if it's FENDI!?" Please clap for my knowledge of luxury handbags.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. a little birdie (actually just my friend Rachel) told me that *both* of today's constructors will have puzzles (individually) in next weekend's Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament, which is entirely online, and which you should very much participate in. This is a tournament that puts a premium on fun, so if you're at all tournament-curious, this is literally the easiest way to dip your toe in that world. You don't even have to leave your home! You can even enter the "Next Day" division, which allows you to solve all the puzzles without any time pressure whatsoever. More info here.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Spicy condiment from North Africa / FRI 8-7-20 / Crunchy candy bar since 1930 / Broadway hit informally / Drink that's hard on the stomach / High-risk bond rating / Breaker of celebrity breakup maybe / Symptom Checker offerer / Line-skipping option at airport for short

Friday, August 7, 2020

Constructor: Tom Pepper

Relative difficulty: Medium (not sure, solved on paper in leisurely fashion)

Theme: none

Word of the Day:
NOYES (32D: Poet whose name consists of side-by-side opposites) —
Alfred Noyes CBE (16 September 1880 – 25 June 1958) was an English poet, short-story writer and playwright. [...] "The Highwayman" is a romantic ballad poem written by Alfred Noyes, first published in the August 1906 issue of Blackwood's Magazine, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The following year it was included in Noyes' collection, Forty Singing Seamen and Other Poems, becoming an immediate success. In 1995 it was voted 15th in the BBC's poll for "The Nation's Favourite Poems". (wikipedia)
• • •

I see that this grid has a bunch of reasonably modern answers, and yet the smell of mothballs and mildew and staleness on this one is Strong. Puzzle started losing me almost immediately with a. a "?" clue at 1-Across (I wasn't in the mood to start that way) and (more substantively) b. BOFF. If I have to think of this (olde-timey, right?) bit of Broadway slang, it's BOFFO, isn't it? Yes, yes it is. "Extremely sensational," says But BOFF ... BOFF is a verb, and, uh, not a verb you'd expect to see in the NYTXW. 
The informal term is BOFF*O* and BOFF is vulgar slang. Maybe somebody sipping SANKA while reading Alfred NOYES and tsking "THAT'S A SHAME" calls a Broadway hit a BOFF, but that answer feels like insular, musty slang. The old-fashioned AURA kept creeping back into this puzzle. I think it's an editorial oldness, like the frame of reference for the clues is super-familiar and 20th-century. High-risk bonds and minor poets and quaint slang and twee French phrases and the like. In short, "youthful" answers like FAN SITES and UBERED and TMZ and POPO are fooling no one. I very much liked SCOOCH OVER (though spelling SCOOCH was an adventure), and ROLEPLAY and BODYSHOT are just fine, but most of the rest of it was without snap crackle or pop. The construction is solid enough, I guess, but the whole frame of reference, in the fill and particularly in the cluing, just felt ... unfresh. Tippi HEDREN, DANNY OCEAN and "ZELIG"—they're all fine, but with no modern cultural counterbalance, they really anchor this grid in the long-ago and the far-away. The EPIGRAMS of Martial and the [Ancient Greek birthplace of Parmenides] aren't helping. The bar is high on Fridays, and this one just didn't clear it. Not enough delight. 

I posted my hand-filled grid today so you could be reminded of my terrible handwriting and so that you could see both my annotations and my hesitations. For instance, if you look closely, you can see where I wanted 5D: "C'mon, tell me!" to be SPILL ... something (it's "SPIT IT OUT"), and also where I wanted THEN to be THUS (39D: "And so ..."). Erasures are a map back in time, traces of your solving path and your struggle. The immaculate, software-smooth final grid is fine for public consumption, but there is this way that it hides yourself from yourself. Look up your errors, ye mighty, and despair! Also, if I'm solving in pencil, I can make my puzzle annotations in real time. For instance, that "UGH" pointing to NOYES is very authentic. Could not wait til I was done to write that bit of marginalia in there. Also, you can see how I wrote an "ugh" out of frustration and then changed it to "OK" after I got the actual answer at 41A: "Too bad" (THAT'S A SHAME). I had "THAT'S ..." and it seemed like infinity things could follow, so I wrote an annoyed "ugh" in the margin. But later I had to admit that that was just a frustration ugh and not a "this is genuinely terrible" ugh. As much as software-solving makes my life easier, there's something to be said about the personality-revealing aspects of hand-solving.

The thing that actually made me write profanity in the margins, though (not pictured), is the clue on TENURED (42D: Hard to let go of, in a way). There's something about living through a crisis in which teachers are being denigrated and demeaned, in which huge swaths of the public want to use teachers as lab rats in a return-to-school experiment, in which the OPED PAGE contains condescending calls for teachers to "do their jobs" in the fall, as if "subject yourself to disease and death" were in the job description, as if most teachers weren't actually working twice as hard to figure out how to  "do their jobs," as well as *take care* of their students emotionally (which is work nobody talks enough about), yes, there's something about being alive now and being married to a teacher now that makes me not want any part of your cutesy-clued fantasy of firing teachers. Oh, are TENURED teachers "hard to let go"? Are they? THAT'S A SHAME. Hey, you want to know who's *really* "hard to let go," let's talk about the editor of the NYTXW. I mean, if we're being honest. In short, tax billionaires, feed / educate / love children, vote for competent leadership, and STFU. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. an EASTER EGG is a hidden / bonus feature on a DVD / Blu-Ray, in my experience, though the term might apply elsewhere (35D: Bonus feature, of a sort)

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Woman's name that means violet / THU 8-6-20 / Political party founded in 1966 / TV host with memoir born a crime / Container brand that lost its trademark status in 1963

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Constructor: Derek Allen and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy (5-ish)

THEME: GRAY / AREA (28D: With 32-Down, ambiguity ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) — there are four "gray" squares, where a "BLACK"-containing square crosses a "WHITE"-containing square (black + white = gray, and in print and in the app, I'm told, those rebus squares are actually gray):

Theme answers:
  • THE BLACK PANTHERS (19A: Political party founded in 1966) / RED WHITE AND BLUE (3D: Old Glory)
  • EGG WHITE (9A: Ingredient separated and whipped in meringue) / BLACK HOLE (12D: Outer space phenomenon photographed for the first time in 2019)
  • TELLING A WHITE LIE (56A: Saying "You've never looked better," maybe) / ROLLING BLACKOUT (25D: It might prevent an overload of the power grid)
  • BLACKTOP (67A: Many a country road) / SNOW WHITE (52D: "Grimms' Fairy Tales" heroine)
See also OTHELLO (43D: Game whose dual-colored pieces are apt for this puzzle's theme)

Word of the Day: Judith IVEY (57D: Two-time Tony-winning actress Judith) —

Judith Lee Ivey (born September 4, 1951) is an American actress and theatre director. She twice won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performances in Steaming (1981) and Hurlyburly (1984).

Ivey also appeared in several films and television series. For her role in What the Deaf Man Heard (1997), she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. (wikipedia)

• • •

This whole thing was pretty straightforward. Took me almost no time to figure out the gimmick, and ... I mean, it's just "black" one way, "white" the other, the end. Not too exciting. The GRAY / AREA bit is kind of a clever twist (black and white do technically make gray), but then that little bit didn't show up in my software, so I had to read about it in a note. I thought the revealer was oddly placed—it seemed off-center—but then I realized this was a sixteen-wide grid, and thus there is no central Down column and the two-part revealer does in fact sit in the center, with the two parts of the answer rotationally symmetrical to one another. With the theme being a kind of non-event (containing no revelations and causing no struggles), the fill became more important, or I noticed it more, and was bothered by it somewhat more than I would've been (probably) if the theme had been captivating. I got real mad at SML, which is horrible fill to begin with, and then the way it's clued seems to ask for a plural, so I thought the answer would have to be SMS (like ... "smalls"?) ... but it's SML as in "small, medium, large," which, if you've bought any article of clothing with that sizing system, you know is an incomplete list of options (things go to XL at a minimum, and often many Xs higher). I'm not sure how you can justify (any more?) SML as a stand-alone answer. Retire it, please. Thank you. Anyway, SML and IONE (as clued) (46A: Woman's name that means "violet") and ANA (which I can never remember, as clued) (40D: Carrier to Tokyo) slowed me down a bit there in the east. Nothing else proved very difficult at all, except TREPID, which I kind of refuse to accept as a word without its IN- lead in (4D: Hesitant to act). Literally never seen anyone described as TREPID. TREPID is like "choate" or "gruntled"—not buying it.

BLIND PIG was cool (26A: Speakeasy, by another name), but in general I expected the fill to be nicer, given the wider grid and the way two of the theme squares are buried in the corners, leaving the grid as a whole without a ton of thematic pressure on it. Or maybe there actually *was* a lot of thematic pressure on the grid from those longer crossing themers and I should be impressed the grid is as clean as it is. I can't really tell. I just know that I kept running into not-great overfamiliar stuff like ELIHU and AANDE and ONEBC. I think STET is better than STES (69A: Fr. religious figures). "IS IT?" you might ask. Yes. Yes it is. In all, I think this puzzle is fine, if bland. I mean, GRAY ... it fits. It's apt. It's not sunny, it's not dark, or stormy, it's just ... gray. Gray can be nice. I sometimes like a gray day. But it doesn't crackle and you're not apt to remember it. Oh, and before I forget, TELLING A (WHITE) LIE is inching toward EATING A (BIG) SANDWICH territory. I'll give you TELL A LIE, and, *maybe*, past tense (TOLD) or 3rd-person (TELLS) variations. Make it a participle phrase, and I start to balk. Add (WHITE) and I very much balk. You have entered the realm of green paint. It stands out because all the other themers (to their credit) are tight (and ROLLING BLACKOUT, btw, is the best thing in the grid, imho).

Take care. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. I am having the MOST annoying problem with tags in Blogger so if you have good computer skills and think you can help me figure out how to deal with deleting ALL tags that aren't days of the week or constructor names, please shoot me an email at rexparker at icloud dot com, many thanks

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2002 basketball movie starring Lil Bow Wow / WED 8-5-20 / Major oenotourism destination / Believer in Five Thieves / Big draw for Icelandic tourism

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Constructor: Michael Paleos

Relative difficulty: Medium (Easy except for the west, which, yeesh)

THEME: EVERYTHING BAGEL (39A: Breakfast order suggested by the answers to the starred clues) — answers to starred clues either begin or end with an ingredient in the seasoning for said bagel:

Theme answers:
  • POPPY FIELD (17A: *Wicked Witch's trap for Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz")
  • OPEN SESAME (10D: *Storybook password)
  • VERUCA SALT (29D: *Bratty girl in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory")
  • ONION DOMES (60A: *Colorful architectural features of Moscow's St. Basil Cathedral)
Word of the Day: GANYMEDE (42A: Largest moon in the solar system) —
Ganymede /ˈɡænɪmd/, a satellite of Jupiter (Jupiter III), is the largest and most massive of the Solar System's moons. The ninth-largest object in the Solar System, it is the largest without a substantial atmosphere. It has a diameter of 5,268 km (3,273 mi), making it 26% larger than the planet Mercury by volume, although it is only 45% as massive. Possessing a metallic core, it has the lowest moment of inertia factor of any solid body in the Solar System and is the only moon known to have a magnetic field. Outward from Jupiter, it is the seventh satellite and the third of the Galilean moons, the first group of objects discovered orbiting another planet. Ganymede orbits Jupiter in roughly seven days and is in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance with the moons Europa and Io, respectively. [...] In Greek mythologyGanymede /ˈɡænɪmd/ or Ganymedes /ɡænɪˈmdz/ (Ancient Greek: Γανυμήδης Ganymēdēs) is a divine hero whose homeland was TroyHomer describes Ganymede as the most beautiful of mortals, and in one version of the myth, Zeus falls in love with his beauty and abducts him in the form of an eagle to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus. (wikipedia)
• • •

Getting kind of tired of seeing men's names in the by-lines. Been almost two weeks since we've seen a solo woman constructor. Still can't believe that the inequity is this bad, this late in the game. Oh, hey, in totally unrelated news, did you see the Time article about the editor of the USA Today crossword, a certain Mr. (checks notes) Erik Agard? It's worth reading (and the USA Today crossword is now very much worth doing).  But on to this puzzle, which ... Shrug, I guess, is my main feeling. Those are definitely things that can be on an EVERYTHING BAGEL, though the seasoning mixture is in no way standardized or uniform, and seems very frequently to include garlic, so ... I dunno. I think you are supposed to be impressed that two of the themers actually cross the revealer. That's one of those "feats of construction" that just don't matter that much to me. Cool if you can pull it off, but if the core concept isn't great, then I just don't care how many themers you cram in there or whether they cross or not. So this theme is fine—some of the theme answers are nice in their own right—but not particularly innovative or clever.

Fill is decent if uninspired, until you get to the west, where it is inspired ... but not by any force of good. It's always a bad sign when my printed-out / marked-up puzzle has all the green ink in one section of the grid (green pen is what I use to highlight trouble spots). EKE BY is awful in its quaintness and MY GOSH is equally quaint but much more frustratingly vague (lots of stuff could've gone after the initial "MY";  I first had "MY OH MY") (36D: "Goodness me!"). "LIKE MIKE" is a minor movie from 18 years ago, and since it stars the former Lil' Bow Wow (now just Bow Wow, I think), I wanna say ... woof! And yet when I looked the movie up just now the cast list was kind of amazing—Fred Armisen, Crispin Glover, Jimmy Kimmel, Eugene Levy (!), Vanessa Williams, Robert Forster (!!), and, best of all, the legendary Anne Meara (!!!). I didn't like seeing the title while solving, but now I'm starting to come around on it. One answer I will never come around on, however, is PREV (26A: <<< button: Abbr.). Let's start with the fact that PREV under any circumstances, with any clue, is a horrible abbr. Now throw in the fact that three (3) (???) left-facing arrows is not a thing. When I googled "prev button" and did an image search, there were lots of single arrows, some double arrows, and precisely no triple arrows. Also, I've never seen a PREV button in my life. Unless you count this — |< —that is, vertical line followed by left arrow, which I think of as "go back to the PREVious track or PREVious chapter in your Blu-Ray or DVD." Constructors used to just cop to the fact that they were using a bad abbr. for "Before," but the last two clues have tried to work this remote button angle, and it's terrible. A garbage answer in an already half-garbagey section of the grid. Again, I say, woof.

  • 6D: Portuguese king (REI) — botched this one (REY)
  • 12D: Leader of Kappa Lambda Mu? (IOTA) — "Leader" here = letter of Greek alphabet that precedes the sequence in the clue (that is, Kappa Lambda Mu is not, not my knowledge, a sorority)
  • 43A: Tickle Me Elmo toymaker (TYCO) — me: "it's TYCO ... wait, that's the astronomer ... no, wait, that TYCHO Brahe ..."; also me: "They still make ... this toy??"
  • 19A: This, in Spanish (ESTO) — absolutely my least favorite commonly accepted crossword answers are the one where the language being clued has gender but since ours doesn't, there's no way to tell which letter to put in the final slot. OTR-? EST-? Blargh. Not Spanish's fault. Just one of those ambiguous moments that always makes me sigh and makes my shoulders collapse a little in sadness while I'm solving. See also AM-M, which today I guessed very much wrong (4D: Switch on a clock radio). Nobody likes your little "radio" misdirection!!!!
  • 62A: Pop sensation (IDOL) — hey, there's this great site dedicated to vintage paperback books called "Pop Sensation"; dude hasn't updated it in nearly a year but I hear he might be starting up again soon ... 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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