1965 Shirley Ellis hit full of wordplay / THU 1-27-22 / German physicist after whom a unit of magnetism is named / Republican politico Michael / Garden produce named for an Italian city / Rodomontade / Foofaraw / What two sets of dots within double lines indicate in musical scores / Setting for 2009 film Precious / London district named for its botanic garden

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Constructor: Lewis Rothlein and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging


THEME: REPEAT (47D: What two sets of dots within double lines indicate, in musical scores) — the clue somehow declines to add the ". . . or a hint to what's happening in [all the themers]," but that's what's going on: those answers have the musical notation in them, and you just REPEAT the letters in those sections to get the correct phrase:

Theme answers: 
  • NOWWH:EREW:E (17A: Question after a digression)
  • :GEOR:WELL (30A: Who wrote "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past")
  • NOM:ANIS:LAND (35A: Classic John Donne line)
  • R:OMAT:OES (41A: Garden produce named for an Italian city)
  • R:IDES:ADDLE (57A: Go on horseback à la Lady Godiva)
Word of the Day: GAUSS (5A: German physicist after whom a unit of magnetism is named) —
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (/ɡs/GermanGauß [kaʁl ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈɡaʊs]; LatinCarolus Fridericus Gauss; 30 April 1777 – 23 February 1855) was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields in mathematics and science. Sometimes referred to as the Princeps mathematicorum[ (Latin for '"the foremost of mathematicians"') and "the greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had an exceptional influence in many fields of mathematics and science, and is ranked among history's most influential mathematicians. // The gauss, symbol G (sometimes Gs), is a unit of measurement of magnetic induction, also known as magnetic flux density. The unit is part of the Gaussian system of units, which inherited it from the older CGS-EMUsystem. It was named after the German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1936. One gauss is defined as one maxwell per square centimetre. // As the cgs system has been superseded by the International System of Units (SI), the use of the gauss has been deprecated by the standards bodies, but is still regularly used in various subfields of science. The SI unit for magnetic flux density is the tesla (symbol T), which corresponds to 10,000gauss. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, I had to solve this on the app because of its "special feature," which turned out just to be two dots and two lines (I couldn't even really see the lines), so I had to put up with the grid telling me "you're halfway done!" and then the stupid music at the end ... but if we strip away that those annoying experiential frills, and just focus on the puzzle per se, then it's not nearly so annoying. It's also not that exciting. It's just phrases with four repeated letters, and the answer kind of doubles back on itself. Not a hard concept to grasp, and if you've had any music education then you probably got the concept before you even hit the revealer. The problem is that once you get it ... it's not like it's particularly fun to get. Maybe it makes the puzzle a little easier. It definitely made the theme answers easy to get, now that I think of it. I had a bit of trouble at first sorting out "NOW WH:EREW:E...," mostly because it looks like an *incomplete* phrase, not a doubled-back phrase (I thought maybe the answer veered off in some direction or other, but if I followed STEREO Down, that only took me to "NOW WHERE WERE O ..." so after that dead end, I remembered the musical meaning of the dots and saw what the answer was doing. A couple of times I still had trouble parsing the answers. I wrote in SIDESADDLE for the Lady Godiva one and then wondered how [Something well-placed?] could end in -SIG (it's -RIG because it's R:IDE:SADDLE, i.e. "ride sidesaddle"). The whole thing felt a little INERT to me, and the revealer was a giant let-down (just ... the word ... indicating ... what was obviously going on). But the puzzle sets out to do a thing and it does that thing, so there you go.


There were a bunch of (unintentionally?) paired answers that messed with my brainwaves. Having had KEW Gardens early in the puzzle meant that when I saw the word "Garden" at the beginning of the R:OMAT:OES clue, I kept seeing it as a noun, not an adjective, and so I was looking at first for a place, not a food. My knowledge of German things is apparently very shaky, because I faltered badly with GAUSS and then HESSE, despite having seen both before. And then there were the oil wells, the OIL RIG and the GUSHER. I probably wouldn't have had any trouble with OIL RIG if I hadn't had that whole aforementioned SIDESADDLE error. I guess the paired clues continue with that pair of famous mathematicians, NEWTON and GAUSS. So GAUSS is part of two pairs and an answer I didn't know and it sits at the very tip-top of the grid, so this is now The GAUSS Puzzle, nevermind that he has nothing to do with the theme. 


The hardest part of the puzzle, the one that took it out of the normal / Medium range a bit for me, was the NE, where UNDOSEND was an absolute ???? I didn't know you could actually undo a send, and so parsing that word was a nightmare, down (almost) to the last letter. And that trouble came on top of a brutal (if clever) clue for REMOTE (22A: It can be a show-stopper), which made that section hard to get into in the first place, and a clue on BIG TALK that I had seen before but completely forgot (12D: Rodomontade). I had the -ALK and thought "well, it's probably some kind of WALK." It really sounds like a WALK. Either a walk you do during some segment of some fancy dance, or a WALKway ... perhaps through a garden. "Have you seen Chester?" "Yes, I believe he's taking his morning constitutional on the rodomontade." "Did he have his top hat, monocle, and cane with him?" "Of course he did, he's not a barbarian! Do you think he'd risk causing a foofaraw on the rodomontade? I should think not!" I blame the word "promenade," at least a little, for my "rodomontade" = WALK confusion. 
Other things:
  • The ERMA in 60A: "Forever, ___" (1996 humor book) is ERMA Bombeck
  • ISOLDE is from Wagner's "Tristan und ISOLDE"
  • PUBS are [Round houses?] because you order rounds ... of drinks in them
  • An OIL RIG is "well-placed" because it's placed ... by a well (an oil well)
  • "THE NAME GAME" is ... well, if you don't know if, or if you do, it's a fine way to round out this write-up:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

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Old Toyota coupe / WED 1-26-22 / Sacred Indian plant also called the strangler fig / Minecraft block made from gunpowder and sand

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Constructor: Michael Schlossberg

Relative difficulty: Medium (only because of the made-up, completely improbable "message"; otherwise, Easy)


THEME: "CONGRATULATIONS / ON PASSING YOUR / EYE TEST" (17A / 28A / 47A: "a message suggested by this puzzle's circled letters") — circled squares contain and are arranged like the letters found on a standard eye exam chart. That's it, that's the theme.

Word of the Day: OLAF Scholz (5D: German chancellor Scholz) —
Olaf Scholz (German: [ˈoːlaf ˈʃɔlts] [...] ; born 14 June 1958) is a German politician serving as chancellor of Germany since 8 December 2021. A member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), he previously served as Vice Chancellor of Germany under Angela Merkel and as Federal Minister of Finance from 2018 to 2021. He was also First Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and deputy leader of the SPD from 2009 to 2019. Following the 2021 German federal election, Scholz's federal government is a traffic light coalition composed of his SPD, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't understand making a puzzle like this, mainly because once you conceive of making the eye chart pattern with the letters ... well, there's nowhere to go. You can't use wordplay to get to those letters—they don't function as letters, they spell nothing, they just sit in a fairly arbitrary (if widely standardized) pattern. So what you're left with is this completely absurd message that neither your optometrist nor the person working at the DMV nor anyone would ever say. At an actual eye exam, you don't "pass," so that's out. At the DMV they just make you read a line on the chart, and trust me, they are not so excited about it that they would bother to congratulate you. In any case, solving this puzzle doesn't feel like passing anything, let alone an EYE TEST. I didn't pass that. I just solved a puzzle and some of its letters happened to be arranged in the pattern of an EYE TEST, a pattern that helped me precisely zero because who the hell knows the letters of the EYE TEST chart after that top "E"?! Now, PASSING YOUR / EYE TEST / UNADORNED (as in "naked"), that, that would be something worthy of congratulations! [this is another way of saying putting a long non-theme Across answer directly under your final theme answer is really visually distracting; it overwhelms the shorter answer and takes some of the punch out of it. Better to turn UNADORNED into a 4 and a 4, with the central square made black—if the theme is everything (and in this case, sadly, it is) then design the grid in a way that really sets off the theme. UNADORNED visually smothers the "punchline" of the "message"]

[14A: Blend of black tea, honey, spices and milk]

The puzzle feels a little bit like it was designed for anyone old enough to have driven a PASEO (36A: Old Toyota coupe) or seen "Bedtime for BONZO" in the theater (27D: "Bedtime for ___"). Except for ALTPOP, it stays in pretty familiar, slightly olden crossword territory, though some of the cluing keeps us reasonably up to date: e.g. OLAF Scholz only just took office, and TOBY Keith is ... still alive, presumably. Speaking of OLAF, I made a specific note to remember that there was a new OLAF on the crossword clue horizon and I *still* forgot his name today. Or, rather, I thought, "well it can't be OLAF, that's a Scandinavian name..." Wrong. Well, right, it is a Norwegian name, but apparently it's a name in lots of countries, so ... welcome, New OLAF. I'm guessing you'll be with us for a Very long time. Aside from the hesitation around OLAF, the only other slower-downer I hit today was BANYAN TREE, and only because I figured I didn't know what it was (3D: Sacred Indian plant also called the strangler fig)—I thought "plant" was going to refer to some kind of herb or spice. I don't usually think of trees as plants, though, of course, they are. I left that side of the grid alone, but while I was solving the *other* side of the grid, some background program running in my brain went "psst, buddy—it's BANYAN TREE." And *that*, I've heard of. Seen BANYAN in crosswords. May actually have *learned* BANYAN from crosswords. After that, the only challenge was piecing together the ridiculous theme "message," and that was not, ultimately, that difficult. 


I realized I'm never going to like SPITS clued as a verb (25D: Barely rains). Give me the roasting sticks or give me ... well, nothing. Cluing it in reference to rain doesn't de-salivate the answer, so, no, pass. Not sure why the PROM QUEENS clue (11D: These women "rule" the dance) wasn't something more playful and question-marky like [Women who rule the dance floor?] (that way, the phrasing is more natural and there's no need for the glaring quotation marks around "rule") Also, I think a. increasingly you are seeing PROM QUEENS who are not women (nonbinary and genderfluid people have "won" these "titles" in recent years), and b. schools are starting to do away with the heterosexist king/queen paradigm entirely. Still, I think PROM QUEENS is a good answer. It's a bright, original phrase, and it brings much needed pop to this otherwise fairly plain grid.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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It turns red litmus paper blue / TUES 1-24-22 / Baltimore's seafood specialty / Highbrow tower material? / Miso soup cubes

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hi, everyone! Clare here for the last Tuesday of January. I had such a fun time watching what was quite possibly the most exciting weekend of football; I just couldn’t believe what I was watching! So much last-second drama, and so many incredible passes. I swear Liverpool is going to pull it off and overtake Man City to win the English Premier League title this year. Ooh, did you think I was talking about the super close and intense American football games this weekend? Nah, my Steelers are out of the playoffs now, so what do I care?! European football is where it’s at.

Anywho, on to the puzzle!

Constructor:
Ray Brunsberg and Ellen Brunsberg

Relative difficulty: Fairly challenging
THEME:  Games — each theme answer combines two games whose names are treated as a phrase and given a punny clue.

Theme answers:
  • WAR OPERATION (20A: General's responsibility?) 
  • SORRY OTHELLO (29A: Apology from Iago?) 
  • MONOPOLY RISK (44A: Antitrust concern?) 
  • CLUE CHECKERS (53: Editors of crossword puzzles, e.g.?)
Word of the Day: HIGGS (19A: ___ boson (the so-called "God particle"))
The Higgs boson, sometimes called the Higgs particle, is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics produced by the quantum excitation of the Higgs field, one of the fields in particle physics theory. In the Standard Model, the Higgs particle is a massive scalar boson with zero spin, even (positive) parity, no electric charge, and no color charge, that couples to (interacts with) mass. It is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately. In the mainstream media, the Higgs boson has often been called the "God particle" from the 1993 book “The God Particle” by Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman, although the nickname is not endorsed by many physicists. (Wiki)
• • •

I thought the theme was clever, and the rest of the puzzle was pretty decent. I did find the puzzle to be on the hard side (whether that’s because I was in a bad mood or the puzzle wasn’t on my wavelength or I just couldn’t get a foothold — who knows!), so that might have colored my overall opinion of the puzzle. Looking back a bit later, though, I can appreciate the idea of two games making up each theme answer. It’s interesting and imaginative, and it’s particularly cool considering this is husband-and-wife Ray and Ellen Brunsberg’s debut as constructors. 

While I was solving, the theme answers seemed a bit disjointed to me. But then I had a big aha! moment with the final theme answer — CLUE CHECKERS — at which point I realized what was going on and went up and filled in some missing letters for the other themers. I think my main issue with the theme is that, once you got one theme answer, you couldn’t necessarily get the others. Usually, once you get one theme answer, you can reason something about the others. But, here, the theme answers were two separate things kind of slammed together, and having WAR OPERATION as the first one didn’t trigger any thoughts for me. 

Some other places I got lost were: I put in Holy “Toledo” instead of Holy TERROR (6D); I reflexively wrote“SAT” instead of ACT for 38A: University entrance exam, for short; and I tried putting in “reel” for 37A: Lure (in) instead of ROPE. I also had never heard of LOW (58D: Make oneself heard in a herd) as a sound a cow makes before, so I tried to put in “moo,” instead. I also have a bone to pick with 25A: In which head shots can be taken for SOCCER. I get that the clue was a misdirection designed to make you think “head shots” was referring to portraits being taken, but as someone who played the sport for many years and watches a lot of soccer (or “football” — Go, Liverpool!), I can tell you that the term is “header” — definitely not a head shot. 

KLEPTOS makes sense for 5D: Thieving condors of Mario games and wasn’t particularly hard, but it wasn’t a term I knew off the bat. Coming out of that NW corner, you can usually get some momentum with either the theme answer going across or with the long(ish) down, but I needed another cross to get KLEPTOS and several to get WAR OPERATION, so I was a bit slow to really get going. 

27D: Part of a horror film address, for short with ELM ST was a bit ugly. ELMST? What’s an ELMST? I especially had trouble because the answer crossed 36A: Millennium, at the beginning and end? for EMS. That M was my last square, and I must’ve stared at it for 20 seconds. So, I found that section to be challenging. 

I know that all sounds like a lot of gripes, and I suppose it is, but I did enjoy the puzzle — almost entirely because I thought the theme was clever. The fill of the puzzle was mostly clean (not a ton of crosswordese), and the theme just didn’t leave a lot of room for many fun non-theme answers because of how much space it took up.

Misc.:
  • Seeing Bert and ERNIE (51D) in the puzzle reminded me of the moment that went viral on Twitter last week between Elmo and Zoe over Rocco. (You can watch it here.) Seeing Elmo that unhinged was hilarious. 
  • I recently got into watching “The Great British Bake Off” and am mildly obsessed. The show is mainly about baking, but I still feel tempted to now try all of these supposed 100 ways to cook an EGG (11D). 
  • In my soccer carpool when I was younger, there were five of us who had to find a way to entertain ourselves during the 30-minute drive to practice — and back — so we would bring Nintendo DSs and play, primarily, Super Mario Bros against each other. (Yes, we’d get a tad competitive with each other!) I guess we were playing the wrong type of Mario game, so I missed out on ever seeing KLEPTOS (5D). 
  • I’ve got everyone’s newest obsession, Wordle, on the brain, so when I first opened up the app, this puzzle just looked like one really big Wordle grid! 
Signed, Clare Carroll, a fan of (real) football

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ATV with four tires / MON 1-24-22 / UN agency awarded the 1969 Nobel Peace Prize / Fall bloom that resembles a daisy / One of two royal sleeping options / Mate for Hagar the Horrible / Calvin's tiger companion in the comics

Monday, January 24, 2022

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Medium




THEME: STARTING QB (59A: Key member of a football team, in brief ... or a feature of 16-, 29-, 35- and 42-Across) — two-word phrases where the first word starts with a "Q" and the second word starts with a "B":

Theme answers:
  • QUICK BREAD (16A: It doesn't need time to rise before baking)
  • QUEEN BED (29A: One of two "royal" sleeping options)
  • QUILTING BEE (35A: Social crafting event)
  • QUAD BIKE (42A: ATV with four tires)
Word of the Day: QUAD BIKE (42A) —
An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), also known as a light utility vehicle (LUV), a quad bike, or simply a quad, as defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI); is a vehicle that travels on low-pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control. As the name implies, it is designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other vehicles. Although it is a street-legal vehicle in some countries, it is not street-legal within most states, territories and provinces of Australia, the United States or Canada. (wikipedia)
• • •

Extremely straightforward. I guess the "Q" words make it interesting. More interesting than "R" words or "D" words, for example, probably. I don't know if it's because I don't care about football at all anymore or if it's because the theme is so precisely literal, but conceptually this one just felt flat to me. But there's no question about its "working." That is a fine play on the word "starting," and those are all solid "QB" phrases, so there's nothing much to fault. I don't think I've ever heard the term QUAD BIKE before. I thought it was going to be some vehicle unknown to me, but it turns out it's just ... an ATV. Apparently they also come in 3-wheeled varieties, but I can only ever remember seeing the four-wheelers, so what this puzzle is calling a QUAD BIKE is just an ATV to me. Tellingly, QUAD BIKE is folded into the ATV wikipedia entry, offered as a virtual synonym (see the Word of the Day, above). So that was ... odd. But a QUAD BIKE is very much a thing, and even if the term wasn't well known to me, it was easy to get / infer, both from the "four" in the clue and from the theme itself. There's just not a lot to say about this one. The grid is clean enough. The theme works OK. Here it is. It's NFL playoff season, so the puzzle's got timeliness on its side as well. I like HUGGABLE and STAR TURN as answers—very vibrant. I also loved seeing ELVIS Costello (just as I've loved seeing him literally, in concert, five times). Haven't listened to his brand new album yet ("The Boy Named If"), but this oddly touching interview makes it sound really interesting. ELVIS's late career has been remarkably strong. I thought 2018's "Look Now" was one of the best albums he's ever made.


I had a few dumb hiccups, most notably when I wrote in PRRR (?) at 15A: Contented cat's sound (PURR) and ORCS (?!) at 18A: Monster often seen wielding a club (OGRE). "Monster," singular. Not sure how I missed that, but there it is. I also really thought 38A: Created yarn or tales (SPUN) was LIED. If "yarn" didn't mean "implausible story," I wouldn't have fallen into that weird hole. The only fill I really object to today is ILO (International Labour Organization) and OBE (Order of the British Empire), mostly because they are initialisms that positively reek of bygone-itude. They used to be much more common in the "good" old, pre-construction-software days of the 20th and early 21st centuries; I'd never seen either of them before I started solving, and I honestly haven't seen either of them outside of crosswords, that I can recall. But that's just two short answers; nothing else here clanks or clunks very much. It's a very competent Monday puzzle. Not particularly HUGGABLE, but not bad either. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Cereal once advertised by Woody Woodpecker / SUN 1-23-22 / Old-timey reproach / Duh in modern slang / Streaming service acquired by Fox in 2020 / Nonbinary people informally / 2000s Fox teen drama / Thomas British general at Bunker Hill / Himalayan humanoid

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Constructor: Nancy Stark and Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: "Turns of Phrase" — familiar phrases following an [X] OF [Y] pattern have their [X] and [Y] reversed (or "turned," I guess), creating wacky phrases, clued wackily (i.e. "?"-style):

Theme answers:
  • DRAWERS OF CHESTS (21A: Artists sketching pectorals?)
  • HONOR OF MAIDS (33A: Vow to remain mum about hotel guests' secrets?)
  • FOOT OF FLEET (52A: Small distance covered by a naval armada?)
  • MAN OF RIGHTS (73A: Boxer lacking a left hook?)
  • PLENTY OF HORN  (89A: What brass band music has?)
  • ABSENCE OF LEAVES (107A: Tree feature in winter?)
  • COMMAND OF CHAIN (14D: What a dog walker and a strong-willed pooch might vie for?)
  • BROTHERS OF BAND (45D: The Bee Gees' Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb?)
Word of the Day: SCLC (13A: Civil rights grp. once led by M.L.K.) —
The 
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is an African-American civil rights organization based in Atlanta, Georgia. SCLC is closely associated with its first president, Martin Luther King Jr., who had a large role in the American civil rights movement. // On January 10, 1957, following the Montgomery bus boycott victory against the white democracy and consultations with Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, and others, Martin Luther King Jr. invited about 60 black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Prior to this, Rustin, in New York City, conceived the idea of initiating such an effort and first sought C. K. Steele to make the call and take the lead role. Steele declined, but told Rustin he would be glad to work right beside him if he sought King in Montgomery for the role. Their goal was to form an organization to coordinate and support nonviolent direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the South. In addition to King, Rustin, Baker, and Steele, Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Joseph Lowery of Mobile, and Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, all played key roles in this meeting. The group continued this initial meeting on January 11, calling it (in keeping with the recent bus segregation issue) a Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration when they held a press conference that day. The press conference allowed them to introduce their efforts:
    • communicating what they had included in telegrams sent that day to applicable members of the Executive branch of the U.S. government (President EisenhowerVice President Nixon, and Attorney General Brownell)
    • sharing an outline of their overall position regarding the restrictions against the "elementary democratic rights [of America's] Negro minority"
    • and providing a short list of concerns they wished to raise with "white Southerners of goodwill".

On February 15, a follow-up meeting was held in New Orleans. Out of these two meetings came a new organization with King as its president. Shortening the name used for their January meetings, the group briefly called their organization Negro Leaders Conference on Nonviolent Integration, then Southern Negro Leaders Conference. At its third meeting, in August 1957, the group settled on Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as its name, expanding its focus beyond buses to ending all forms of segregation.

• • •

So I've been solving cryptic crosswords on Twitch ... (I'm trying to imagine time-traveling to the '80s and saying this sentence to teenage me ... yeah, it's pretty funny) ... so I've been solving cryptic crosswords on Twitch (a live-streaming service used primarily by gamers, I think), every Friday night at 7pm, with my friends Rachel Fabi and Neville Fogarty, and just this Friday we solved a cryptic by Will Nediger, and it was a delight. This puzzle here, today, is far far too basic in its concept and too tepid in its humor to be a real delight. You just switch the words on either side of "OF"? Ok, it's true, sometimes very simple themes can work beautifully, but here, the bag is very very mixed. DRAWERS OF CHESTS is kind of funny, but FOOT OF FLEET is virtually nonsensical. BROTHERS OF BAND is syntactically super-awkward. And what is with the completely arbitrary pluralizing of some of the answers. I get why you'd pluralized LEAVES in ABSENCE OF LEAVES—you can't get the foliage pun with ABSENCE OF LEAVE. But why is CHESTS plural but CHAIN not? MAIDS plural but BAND not? I'm sure some of this has to do with just getting the answers to be the appropriate length, so that you can arrange them symmetrically in the grid, but it all seems haphazard. Still, the real problem is the lukewarmness of the whole concept. It hits there, misses there, and generally isn't consistently funny enough, considering how simple the theme is; considering how many ___ OF ___ phrases there are in the world (or in the language, anyway), these should've been funnier. 


I also don't quite understand some of the fill decisions. In particular, I don't get why you'd got with TUBI, a proper noun that is also a company that is also a thing many solvers won't be familiar with, when the perfectly good TUBE and TUBA would've slid right in there. TUBI has only one potential way to clue it, whereas TUBA has many and TUBE, well, the possibilities are endless there. Is the idea to be novel? With your short fill? Needlessly? In manifestly exclusionary ways? I get that you want to seem "current," and I have no problem with TUBI if you need TUBI, but you absolutely do not need TUBI here and I don't get why it's a better choice than the more ordinary words with more interesting cluing possibilities. I also don't quite get SCLC, an initialism I've never seen before and one that has not been seen in the grid for *twenty-seven years*. I wanted SNCC (pronounced "snick" ) here, because, well, I've heard of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and it's also a civil rights org. of the mid-20th century. And it's been in the puzzle a dozen or so times in the Shortz era. But even SNCC I don't think is *great* if you can go with *words* instead of *initialisms*. I couldn't even infer what SCLC stood for. I figured it was Southern something Legal something, but only one of those was right. I'm happy to learn about the org., and again, I think that if you absolutely need SCLC to hold a corner together, then go for it, but this is a tiny and very flexible corner, and you absolutely do not need SCLC. For example:


Now, I'd get rid of SCAD in the singular too, if I could. It's just ... not a thing you'd say. One SCAD? No. I'd also clue J'AIME as the name JAIME, but that's another issue entirely. I guess there was probably some idea of making the grid more diverse or inclusive, which is normally a great instinct. But regular words > initialisms almost every time, esp. when the initialism is not universally familiar. And zero appearances in 27 years suggests it's not the most widely known initialism. These are small issues, in many ways—the crosses were ultimately fair, so who cares, I guess? I'm just expressing a preference for solid non-proper-noun words, in general. You can write more interesting clues for these, and they're gonna be more widely accessible as well. If you feel differently, well, clearly at least some people agree with you!


I think I said "Really?" out loud at the "I" plural EUCALYPTI. I'll take it from ABACI, I suppose, but it seems absurd in the longer answer. I think they're just called "eucalyptus trees," or even "eucalypts," though there is one instance of EUCALYPTI (italicized, i.e. in Latin) on the "Eucalyptus" wikipedia page. Loved the clue on BALD EAGLE (38D: Benjamin Franklin famously considered it " a rank coward" with "bad moral character") because it is hilariously unexpected (far funnier than any of the themers). Also liked seeing ENBIES, although ... hmm ... not sure how I feel about the clue including the word "nonbinary" when ENBIES is derived from the initials of "nonbinary" (i.e. N, B). I guess I'm OK with it, but generally you wouldn't clue initial-based answers using the words those initials stand for. [National Organization for Women, for short] is not an acceptable clue for N.O.W., for instance (albeit an extreme instance). But I'm just happy to see ENBIES at all, so clue shmue, today it's fine. I forgot CORN POPS existed. Do CORN POPS exist? (they didn't cover this in my Cereal Ontology class). I had the CORN and then ... no idea. Wanted CHEX, sorta, but that seemed too niche a cereal for a star like Woody Woodpecker to get involved with. Looks like they do indeed exist. Another Kellogg's product (to go with SPECIAL K earlier in the week). I like the FEE (from ADFEE) and FIE and FOE are in this puzzle, and that GOGO crosses GOOGOO. Sometimes weird little seemingly coincidental details like this can add a little dash of charm to the grid. I also just like the word BORDELLO (82D: Red-light district establishment). It just sounds cool. Fun to say. Olde-timey. So much more melodious than "whorehouse" or "brothel." Aside from SCLC, the only thing that was at all unfamiliar to me was this Thomas GAGE guy, whose name I've probably seen before (71A: Thomas ___, British general at Bunker Hill). I just can't keep all the generals of all the wars of all the wars straight. I just ... can't. But if the crosses are fair, it's fine: I'll deal. See you tomorrow (or next week, if you're one of those Sunday-only people :)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. hey it's time for another installment of the Boswords Crossword Tournament—the next one takes place next Sunday, Feb. 6. Here's the deets from tournament co-director John Lieb:
Registration is now open for the Boswords 2022 Winter Wondersolve, an online crossword tournament which will be held on Sunday, February 6 from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. Eastern. Solvers can compete individually or in pairs and will complete four puzzles (three themed and one themeless) edited by Brad Wilber. To register, to see the constructors, and for more details, go to www.boswords.org.
See the website for more details—John made a little video that explains everything very effectively. If you've never done a tournament before, they can be quite fun, and if you solve the NYTXW regularly, then the answer is yes, you are "good enough" :) You can compete as pairs in this one, so if you're at all reluctant to go it alone, grab one of your nerdy friends (or parents, or children). This should be a fine, fun way to spend a winter's afternoon.

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Gentle giant on Game of Thrones / SAT 1-22-22 / Unrivaled champion in slang / Danish tourist attraction with multiple play areas / Person who lives on discarded food / Kind of coffee made with a flask and a filter

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Constructor: Daniel Okulitch

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: LEGO HOUSE (9D: Danish tourist attraction with multiple play areas) —

Lego House is a 12,000-square metre building filled with 25 million Legobricks in Billund, Denmark, located near Legoland and the headquarters of The Lego Group. It is also known as Home of the Brick with reference to Billund, where Lego originates. Visitors can experience a variety of activities during their visit, including physically and digitally building with Lego bricks, programming robots and animating models. The centre's visitor experience includes four experience zones, two exhibitions and the Lego Museum, which showcases the history of the Lego brand and company. 

Lego House has been recognised for its innovative design, which aimed to reflect the Lego brand. The building incorporates 21 staggered blocks that resemble Lego bricks, with nine roof terraces containing children's play areas. The house was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group and was inaugurated on 28 September 2017. The building is owned and maintained by Lego System A/S. (wikipedia)

"Lego House" is a song by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. It was released on 11 November 2011 as the third single lifted from his debut studio album + (pronounced "plus") of 2011. It was released as the second single in the US on 11 February 2013. It was written by Sheeran, Jake Gosling and Chris Leonard, and produced by Jake Gosling.

The song received its first radio play on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show on 8 September 2011 and was Sheeran's first song to make the BBC Radio 2 playlist. The remix featuring P Money premiered on MistaJam's BBC Radio 1Xtra show on 30 September 2011. The music video features actor Rupert Grint, as a play on their similar appearance. The song did well worldwide, reaching top 5 on Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK Singles Chart, and top 50 on other countries including United States. (wikipedia)

• • •

Aside from the Harry Potter clue, which as usual can **** off, and the "GOT" clue, which, ugh, can someone read a real book, please, or read anything but lowest-common-denominator fantasy, anything, anything at all??? Other genres exist! Or if you need fantasy, there's Ursula Le Guin, she can write! I'd  accept some NK Jemisin ... Marlon James is doing cool things with the fantasy genre right now ... branch out! (and grow up) ... sigh. As I say, aside from the warmed-over Tolkien, I liked this a lot, but it was very, Very easy. The NW corner went up in a flash because I knew HORCRUX, and then just when I thought I might get thwarted trying to turn the corner into the heart of the grid (that BRAILLE clue was hard), I took one look at 32A: Cognitive contortions, looked at the ME- that I already had in the grid, and MENTAL GYMNASTICS went right in. The whole grid just bloomed out from there, with only a couple of small hitches on the way to completion. I wish the clue on MENTAL GYMNASTICS had been better, or more clever. It's just really just [Synonym for 'mental' Synonym for 'gymnastics'], isn't it? Not too much fun. But it's a great central answer, and the reason this grid is 16 instead of the typical 15 squares wide. Ironically, very few MENTAL GYMNASTICS were required today in order to solve the puzzle. There was one slightly harrowing passage, where I had to manage abutting proper nouns I didn't really know (HODOR, SOO), but luckily LEGO HOUSE was inferrable from LEGO --USE, so I slid through there, changed SLURPEE to SLUSHIE, and wrapped things up in the SE corner. Actually, I only thought I changed SLURPEE to SLUSHIE. EGO BOOST made SLURPEE impossible, but somehow I didn't write over the "R" and just left SLURPEE there. I fixed the ending to -IE because ICE CREAM was pretty easy to get (30D: Kind of sandwich), but I still didn't notice that the "P" from SLURPEE was still there, so HIRED GOON ended up being the hardest thing in the grid for me to get (29D: Gorilla with a job to do), but only because of my own error. Nothing to do with the actual difficulty of the puzzle. Must've lost 20 seconds or so wondering how any answer could start PIRED-... No trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself, as they say (as Philip Marlowe says, to be exact). By the way, I don't think you need the "with a job to do" portion of that HIRED GOON clue at all. Accurate, and much more Saturdayish, without it. I finished things up with THE GOAT, and if this puzzle doesn't make you feel like THE Saturday solving GOAT, no Saturday will. An EGO BOOST, for sure.


I do love a POUR OVER, so I'm excited to get this write-up finished and go downstairs for the Chemex ritual that marks the dividing line between early-morning blogging and the Actual Day. Best time of the day, by far: the coffee-making time. Just me, the coffee, the cats, and the morning darkness. The coffee reveries are strong this morning, where was I? ... Oh, yes, this grid is very clean and lively. We've seen FREEGAN recently, but it remains a good, current answer (13A: Person who lives on discarded food). I love a good PLOT TWIST, and I loved "The French Dispatch," particularly the segment that starred Frances McDormand and TIMOTHÉE Chalomet (lots of people thought this was the weakest segment, apparently, but it just *looked* so cool I don't see how that's possible). I enjoyed remembering BOTTOM even though most Shakespeare comedies leave me slightly cold (Looking forward to watching Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington in "Macbeth" some time very soon...; the tragedies, those are my groove). 


I thought 28D: Chips, e.g. (SNACK) was STACK at first, because of poker. I had RES before I had LEX at 5D: Justinian law, which is really the stupidest error. I mean, I saw right through the clue, knew it had to be the Latin word for "law," and wrote in ... the Latin word for "thing" instead. Faceplant, albeit a brief one. The clue on BRAILLE was probably the trickiest one of the day, as it uses " with feeling" in such a misleading way (I wanted something to do with oration or recitation, obviously) (35A: Words read with feeling). I liked seeing HOT COMB, which is the title of a wonderful collection of comics by Ebony Flowers (15D: Hair-straightening tool); it's a collection I've taught in my comics class a few times now. Speaking of my comics class, I really Really gotta get to work on that syllabus today (the semester starts on Tuesday). Hope you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did. Never gonna be mad to see a snappy Friday puzzle on a Saturday. Give me easyish and bright over tough and plodding any day. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

PS very clever, and tough, clue on SPF today (41D: Screen rating, in brief?). Wants you to think of TV/movie ratings, but the "Screen" here is actually sunscreen.

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