Mario character with a mushroom head and pink braids / SAT 12-31-22 / Forum that provides material for many BuzzFeed articles / His initial stands for Tureaud / Rear-view feature on a Jeep / Fast-food fare in which two pancakes form a sandwich

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Constructor: Billy Bratton

Relative difficulty: Easy (extremely easy for a puzzle wherein I had little-to-no clue about at least three longish answers)

THEME: UP, UP and ... UP ... and another UP ... I mean, there's no theme, I'm just counting "UP"s at this point, you can move on ... 

Word of the Day: ESPERANTO (34D: Language with its own "green star" flag) (why is "green star" in quotes?—there's literally a green star on the flag) —

Esperanto (/ˌɛspəˈrɑːnt/ or /ˌɛspəˈrænt/) is the world's most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Created by the Warsaw-based ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof in 1887, it was intended to be a universal second language for international communication, or "the international language" (la lingvo internacia). Zamenhof first described the language in Dr. Esperanto's International Language (Esperanto: Unua Libro), which he published under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto. Early adopters of the language liked the name Esperanto and soon used it to describe his language. The word esperanto translates into English as "one who hopes". [...] Esperanto is the most successful constructed international auxiliary language, and the only such language with a sizeable population of native speakers, of which there are perhaps several thousand. Usage estimates are difficult, but two estimates put the number of people who know how to speak Esperanto at around 100,000. Concentration of speakers is highest in Europe, East Asia, and South America. Although no country has adopted Esperanto officially, Esperantujo ("Esperanto-land") is used as a name for the collection of places where it is spoken. The language has also gained a noticeable presence on the internet in recent years, as it became increasingly accessible on platforms such as DuolingoWikipediaAmikumu and Google Translate. Esperanto speakers are often called "Esperantists" (Esperantistoj). (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello, I'm currently "celebrating" my considerable jet lag by staying up to blog the crossword instead of getting up at 4:30am to do it, which is the normal M.O. Any unsavory, untoward, or incoherent parts of this write-up are to be blamed on the jet lag, whereas any good parts are to be credited to my talent, handsomeness, and heroic commitment to the public good. Let's begin. This puzzle is extremely online and really Really wants you to know it. Like, really. OK, message received. On computers, playing games, asking Reddit things for some reason ... got it. Not a huge fan of getting your freshness exclusively from a rash of proper nouns that really require you to belong to certain FAN BASES in order to know them. To be clear, I actually like the answer FAN BASES, but TOADETTE (18A: Mario character with a mushroom head and pink braids) ... not so much. I have "oof" and [frowny face] written in the margin of my puzzle next to ASK REDDIT (3D: Forum that provides material for many BuzzFeed articles). Also, does BuzzFeed even exist any more? When it stopped having a crossword, I stopped paying attention, and honestly I don't see anyone linking to it much, if at all, any more. As for Reddit, I know people who are DEDICATEd Redditors (ugh, that word) and find a lot of value in it, but I have been there for a few things, including certain crossword conversations, and the vibe ... not for me. I don't like hive minds and I don't like being online more than I already am, so ASK REDDIT, I will not be doing. I'd sooner Ask Jeeves, which was a thing, in the last century, or else I fever-dreamed it, also possible. Much of the '90s internet feels that way (not always in a bad way). Is "SO DOPE" really the equivalent of "Da bomb" (speaking of the last century ...)? [Da bomb, today] feels like it would've been closer to correct, and at least gets at "Da bomb"'s semi-comical datedness. There is something trying-too-hard about this puzzle's attempts at Now-ness. But then there are undeniably interesting parts to it. My Goodwill Meter went down to about zero after ASKREDDIT but the puzzle got all of it back with ZIGGY STARDUST—would've loved a (much) harder clue on that one, but ... it's hard not to love a puzzle with *that* as the central, marquee answer. 

And then BAD HAIR DAY and MCGRIDDLES (two things I never have) take the puzzle all kinds of funky places, as does the made-up (sorry, "constructed") language of ESPERANTO, which I always thought was a Utopian (IDEALIST) goof but apparently the dream is still alive. Actually, lots of really interesting connections to spiritism. For instance: "The Brazilian Spiritist Federation publishes Esperanto coursebooks, translations of Spiritism's basic books, and encourages Spiritists to become Esperantists." And: "William T. Stead, a famous spiritualist and occultist in the United Kingdom, co-founded the first Esperanto club in the U.K." (wikipedia). Did you know that William Shatner starred in a 1966 horror film ("Incubus") filmed entirely in ESPERANTO!? Well, now you do:

The one objectively terrible thing about this puzzle is not one not two not three but four UPs. What the hell? Are you doing a bit? Is there a hidden UP theme? Because ... yeesh. And three of those UPs are crammed into the bottom left corner, and two of them are crossing. Just a sloppy wreck. Lots of other preposition-ending answers: SIT BY, ACT ON, FIT IN, WISE TO ... But those prepositions are all fine, largely because There Aren't Four Of Them. TERAFLOP is another one of those "extremely online" answers that alienated me a bit (37D: Large unit of computing speed), but that one's entirely on me. There are some things that you don't know that you just know you should know, you know? I, like many of you, probably, some of you, surely, went with TERABYTE and then couldn't square the (intriguing!) -YY ending on 57A: At a high interest rate? (KEENLY) and so SCRAPPED TERABYTE. Then wanted something like TERAFLOW (reasoning—reasonably, I thought—that "computer speed" might be measured in terms of "flow"). But nope. FLOP. My solving skills there, not SO DOPE. But despite being occasionally way out of my wheelhouse and tonally ... not my thing (much of the time), I did enjoy working it all out. I'm oddly impressed by "OW! OW!" (48A: "Man, that hurts!"). Feels original. I like its compactness, as well as its expressiveness. I had YEOW there at first, as, again, I'm sure, many, or at least some, of you did as well. 

What else?:
  • 21A: ___ Solo, son of Leia Organa (BEN)—LOL, BEN Solo, really? I am so tired of having to learn tertiary and even more minor characters in these damn IP universes I swear to god ... BEN Solo is the TOADETTE of the "Star Wars" universe. [update: unsurprisingly, "Star Wars Universe" fans are in a "well, actually ..." furor about this comment ... and to be fair, I am wrong here about one thing; the character is not tertiary. I just have never seen him / heard of him as BEN, who is better known (in puzzles, if not elsewhere) as Kylo REN (BEN is his birth name). REN has been in the NYTXW a lot ... but as BEN, never, not once]
  • 20A: Jollity (MIRTH)—had the "M" and went with MERRY, as in "to make MERRY"
  • 23A: Perfectly cromulent (FINE)—I believe I used "cromulent" the other day in a puzzle write-up. I love that a made-up word from a decades-old throwaway "Simpsons" joke has now become simply "a word":
  • 56D: Patty and Selma's workplace on "The Simpsons," for short (DMV)—look, puzzle, if you're trying to win me over by leaning heavy into the sitcom that absolutely defined my young adulthood, then you can just ... keep going, actually. It's working great. Patty & Selma > BEN & TOADETTE
  • 54A: Producer of many popular singles (KRAFT)—did someone say "64 slices of American cheese"!?
  • 27A: His initial stands for Tureaud (MR. T)—this is Charles Entertainment Cheese-level inside info. SO DOPE!
OK, good enough. Happy New Year's Eve! See you tomorrow for the first puzzle of the new year!

P.S. anyone else give this answer a shot? [see below] I wrote it in as a mini-prayer: "please oh please let this be right so the Angry Villagers can burn CrossWorld to the ground and we can start anew..." But it was not to be [warning: profanity! run away!]:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Peppery orange-red condiment / FRI 12-30-22 / "September 1, 1939" poet / Metric unit equal to 100 square meters / Cuppa from China / World capital whose name means "elephant trunk" in Arabic

Friday, December 30, 2022

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium (my time was a little slow for a Friday, but I wasn't really rushing).

THEME: NONE — Welcome to Friday

Word of the Day: ANNATTO (16A: Peppery orange-red condiment) —
Annatto (/əˈnæt/ or /əˈnɑːt/) is an orange-red condiment and food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), native to tropical America.[1] It is often used to impart a yellow or orange color to foods, but sometimes also for its flavor and aroma. Its scent is described as "slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg" and flavor as "slightly nutty, sweet and peppery". (wikipedia)
• • •
Happy Friday! It's Eli back again after a one day hiatus. I'm writing this on Thursday night, which means I'm sipping on a strong rum drink from a fancy carved mug. At the beginning of home isolation during the pandemic, my wife and I setup a weekly Thursday happy hour over Zoom with some friends who had moved to Maryland. Those friends have now moved back to Los Angeles, but the happy hour tradition has carried on. Tiki is the order of the evening this week, so I'm in an exceptionally good mood. Oh, right, the puzzle. Let's get into it!

Today's puzzle is by the man, the myth, the legend: Brendan Emmett Quigley. BEQ was the first indie crossword blog I discovered, and it really opened up the puzzle world to me. I still solve his puzzles twice a week, and he's one of the first constructors I recommend if people ask me for NYT alternatives. This wasn't my favorite puzzle of his that I've solved, but I didn't really have many issues with it. Maybe it's the rum. I'm also blaming the rum for my slower than average solve time. The cocktail is called the Spirit of Aloha, and I guess I'm feeling that spirit tonight.

I like a themeless, and I felt like this played appropriately for a Friday. Starting off with SOFA LEG at 1A wasn't an auspicious beginning. It took me a long time to see and something about it just seems off to me. Don't know why. It's not quite Green Paint, and seems legit enough, it just feels a little arbitrary somehow. Maybe it's just me. DOG SHOW JUDGE has a similar vibe to me, though the clue is top notch (18A: Toy inspector?). A OR B (33A: Simplest choice) jumps out as less than ideal, and I've never liked having to figure out how a puzzle wants me to spell UEY (21A: Missed-the-turn manuever). Other than that, I'm not seeing anything to really carp on. 

Overall, it was a pretty straight-forward themeless. The grid-spanning answers are fine and in the language but not the flashiest phrases. Maybe I'll just throw out a few of the things that crossed my mind while I solved. 

  • ELTON JOHN (6D: His "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" was the first album to debut at #1 on Billboard) — Fun trivia, but I mostly wanted to brag that I was on the field for his final concert at Dodger Stadium (the one that was streamed on Disney+). It was an amazing night. Here's a picture of the hoodie I bought there with my tiki drink setup for the evening:

  • SCROOGE (54A: One who is mean as the Dickens?) — I liked the clue and the seasonality, but I've used weaker excuses to share Muppet Christmas Carol clips:

  • JOE D (39A: M.L.B. great with a famous "unbreakable" streak, familiarly) — I knew this was Joe DiMaggio immediately, but I don't think I've ever heard him called Joe D. Joltin' Joe is the nickname I always think of.
  • BAT (45A: Mexican free-tailed ___ (world's fastest horizontal flier) — BAT!

  • ANNATTO (16A: Peppery orange-red condiment) — I cook a lot, but this is entirely new to me. I'll have to try it!
That's about all I've got for today. Wishing you all a happy end to the holiday season. Whether you're celebrating Kwanzaa (I believe tonight the focus is Nia or "Purpose," but I'm no expert; I just think it's nice) or looking forward to New Year Celebrations, stay safe and enjoy your festivities. Thanks to Rex for letting me crash here again, and enjoy the weekend ahead!

Signed, Eli Selzer, False Dauphin of CrossWorld

[Follow Eli Selzer on Twitter]


Easter starter? / THU 12-29-22 / Hayek who portrayed Frida Kahlo / Draped garment / World Cup datum / Sections of a barn / Cry of accomplishment

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Constructor: Rachel Fabi and Claire Rimkus

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: LATE SHIFT — In four rows of the grid, the word LATE "shifts" from one entry to the other

Word of the Day: CLAMATO (42D: Hybrid beverage in a Bloody Caesar cocktail) —
Clamato /kləˈmæt/ is a commercial drink made of reconstituted tomato juice concentrate and sugar, which is flavored with spices, dried clam broth and MSG.[1] Made by Mott's, the name is a portmanteau of clam and tomato. It is also referred to colloquially as "clamato juice". It is consumed in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, to a lesser extent. It is very often mixed with alcohol to make a drink similar to a Bloody Mary.
• • •
Theme answers:
  • (LATE)RALLY / TEMP(LATE)S (17A: Gathering of protesters / 19A: Models used in copying)
  • CIRCU(LATE)S / EMUS (24A: Makes the rounds / 26A: Large, flightless birds)
  • COLD / CLEAN S(LATE) (51A: Chilly / 54A: Fresh start, metaphorically)
  • TRANS(LATE) / VENTI(LATE) (59A: Work as an interpreter / 62A: Size option at Starbucks)
  • LATE SHIFT (37A: Overnight work assignment ... or a hint to understanding four rows of answers in this puzzle)
Hi everyone -- it's Rafa back for another puzzle write-up! Hope everyone is having a pleasant and restful holiday period. I'm catsitting so it's a one-human two-cat household around here these days. Sadly they do not get along and have to be kept in different rooms, but I've been enjoying plenty of feline snuggles.

Onto the puzzle! I really enjoyed this, as expected by these two constructors I really admire! LATE SHIFT is the perfect revealer to explain what's going on with the theme answers. And the theme answers (both the "shifted" versions in the grid and the "unshifted" versions that are clued) are super solid in-the-language words and phrases. One downside of this type of theme is that you often end up with single-word answers that are maybe less "exciting" entries -- stuff like LATERALLY and COLLATED and CIRCULATES etc -- but one benefit is you get twice as many theme entries because each one has to work both with and without the LATE!

Big Sur! Mac OS but also very pretty!

The theme was solid, but my absolute favorite part about this puzzle was the fun clue echoes. We had both TEN and CHI clued as [X], consecutive [Chicken king?] for PERDUE and [Chicken ___ king] for ALA, [Camper's protection] for DEET and [Camper's detritus] for ASH -- great stuff! I also loved [Euphemism for a lesbian couple] for GAL PALS, both because it's a fresh angle and because I'm a fan of Gay Things In My Puzzles.

If there's one thing I learned from doing crosswords, it's that the EDSEL was a flop

Not much else to say here! The grid was super clean so there's really nothing to complain about ... maybe IN SO is a weird partial? But that's me looking really hard for something to ding. Just super solid gridwork and a delightful theme.

  • TYVM (15D: "I really appreciate it!," in textspeak) — It's rare that a 4-letter entry is my favorite in a puzzle but this might be it for me! I'd never seen this in a puzzle before (turns out it is a NYT debut) but it's something I use all the time!
  • BLAISE (49A: Good name for a firefighter?) — This seems like an apt name for a pyromaniac ... or I guess a particularly self-loathing firefighter
  • SCYTHE (45D: Cutter with a curve) — This is a fun word
  • ELIOT (14A: George who wrote "Romola") — I recommend everyone read "Middlemarch" if you haven't already!
Signed, Rafa

[Follow Rafa on Twitter]


Vancouver Island city for which a chocolate treat is named / WED 12-28-22 / Brit who wrote "The Vanishing Half" / "Rule" stating that the number of transistors per microchip doubles every two years / Compser Schumann

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Constructor: Josh Goodman

Relative difficulty: Easy-ish (felt pretty fast for me, but it was also straight in my wheelhouse)

THEME: Once, Twice, er... Two Times a Lady 53A - With 60-Across institution in which 19-, 25- and 37-Across are (thus far) the only three women ever to be inducted twice

Word of the Day: NANAIMO (12D: Vancouver Island city for which a chocolate treat is named)
Nanaimo (/nəˈnm/ nə-NY-moh) is a city on the east coast of Vancouver Island, in British ColumbiaCanada. As of the 2021 census, it had a population of 99,863,[2] and it is known as "The Harbour City." The city was previously known as the "Hub City," which was attributed to its original layout design, whose streets radiated from the shoreline like the spokes of a wagon wheel, and to its central location on Vancouver Island.[4][5] Nanaimo is the headquarters of the Regional District of Nanaimo. (wikipedia)


The Nanaimo bar /nəˈnm/ is a bar dessert that requires no baking and is named after the Canadian city of Nanaimo in British Columbia.[1] It consists of three layers: a wafer, nut (walnuts, almonds, or pecans), and coconut crumb base; custard icing in the middle; and a layer of chocolate ganache on top. (wikipedia) 

• • •
Hey everyone, it's Eli back for another day of fun (and apparently your second day in a row be a Liverpool fan)! I'm spending a rare rainy few days in LA catching up on some of the movies I missed in the last year - Glass Onion, Bros, RRR, Top Gun Maverick, and Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe. It's a pretty eclectic mix, but I actually liked all of them quite a lot. Today's puzzle appears to be the NYT debut for Josh Goodman, and according to his Twitter bio he's also remixed the Comedy Bang Bang plug bag theme 3 times, so he's good people in my book (#OhNo). 

As for the puzzle itself, I think I enjoyed it. The fill stretches thin in a few places, but it's a lot of theme to fit in for a Wednesday. By its very nature, the puzzle has a lot of proper nouns, which I know can throw some people off, but the trivia head in me has never really minded. 

Theme answers:
  • TINA TURNER (19A: As part of a performing duo in 1991; as a solo artist in 2021)

  • STEVIE NICKS (25A: As part of a band in 1998; as a solo artist in 2019)

  • CAROLE KING (37A: As part of a songwriting duo in 1990; as a solo artist in 2021)

  • ROCK AND ROLL (53A: With 60-Across institution in which 19-, 25- and 37-Across are (thus far) the only three women ever to be inducted twice)
  • HALL OF FAME (60A: See 53-Across)
Regarding the theme, I guess my only question is, "Why now?" This year's induction ceremony was almost 2 months ago. If you're going to run something that feels like a tribute or event puzzle, I'm going to look for a reason. Ah well. At least it's a tight group of themers and a good excuse to post some great music. Tina Turner and Carole King also have had biographical jukebox musicals on Broadway, but not Stevie Nicks (what a story that could be). I digress.

I said above that the puzzle was easy-ish, but looking back over it to blog, I'm seeing a few things that would have tripped me up if I had noticed them at all while solving. I know I already highlighted it above, both in the title and the word of the day, but Nanaimo is a complete blank for me. Don't know the city, don't know the treat. It's fun to learn! I also didn't know BENNET (47A: Brit who wrote "The Vanishing Half"), and looking her up I was surprised to learn that her NAME is Brit and that she's actually American. That's some really solid cluing, assuming you know the name.

Getting back to movies of the year, Weird Al went to Cal State Poly in San Luis OBISPO (6A) and wrote a song about it before he had made a name for himself:

The "biopic" WEIRD was one of the silliest things I've ever seen, and I loved every minute of it. Daniel Radcliffe deserves an Oscar for his commitment to the bit. Also, Janelle MONAE (67A) was in Glass Onion, and she was fantastic in it, as one might expect. Pretty sure I highlighted her last time I blogged here, too.

Hey, look! I'm in the grid! ELI (51A: Former Giants QB Manning). One of my goals in life is to be prominent enough to become a new cluing option. I have a ways to go. 

Overall,  this felt like a solid debut puzzle, bearing the heavy burden of trying to figure out what a Wednesday puzzle should be. I think you have Rafa here tomorrow, but I'll be back again on Friday. See you all then!

Signed, Eli Selzer, False Dauphin of CrossWorld

[Follow Eli Selzer on Twitter]


Helpful pollinator / TUES 12-27-22 / Passing craze / "Honest" guy on a five / Reddish purple / Catching some Z's

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Hello, everyone! It’s Clare, back for the last Tuesday of December, which feels wild to say. How is it almost 2023?! It’s been quite the year — starting my first law-related job, learning I have to be gluten-free, getting into rock climbing, watching all the sports possible, and, of course, continuing to blog about crosswords here with you all. Hope that each and every one of you had a great and fulfilling 2022 and that 2023 continues in the same vein (or is even better). 

As you might expect, I’ve been spending this final month of the year watching World Cup soccer and cheering on the GOAT (Messi, of course; who’d you think?) and, like the rest of this country, falling a little in love with USMNT captain Tyler Adams. The Premier League is finally back, and I gasped in relief at seeing Mo Salah,Virgil van Dijk, and Jordan Henderson all back on the same pitch. This year’s iteration of the Steelers is, to put it kindly, a work in progress, but I was rooting for them hardcore on Christmas Eve against the Raiders in the 50th anniversary game of the Immaculate Reception, especially because the absolutely wonderful Franco Harris died just a few days before. 

I’ve been sequestered from the bad weather while I’m out in California with my family; I hope all of you have been able to stay safe and cozy. I’m sending warm wishes your way. Anywho, on to the puzzle…

Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: DOUBLE CROSS — (64A: Betray … or a hint to what’s found in this puzzle’s shaded squares) — There are four shaded crosses in the puzzle where the intersecting words each could be placed after the word “double” to form a common phrase

Theme answers:
  • STAND AT EASE / SPARKLE (17A: Command for a soldier to relax / 6D: Glisten) 
  • BEAGLE / MAGENTA (34A: Snoopy’s breed / 25D: Reddish purple) 
  • BILLY / BEANSTALK (Melville’s “____ Budd” / 11D: Means to a goose laying golden eggs, in a fairy tale) 
  • CHINA / DIPLOMACY (39A: Tableware for special guests / 33D: Negotiator’s skill)
Word of the Day: MOSELLE (9A: White wine named for the European river valley where it’s produced) —
A river that rises in the Vosges mountains and flows through north-eastern France and Luxembourg to western Germany. It is a left bank tributary of the Rhine, which it joins at Koblenz. A small part of Belgium is in its basin as it includes the Sauer and the Our. Moselle wines are mainly white and are made in some of the coldest climates used for commercial winemaking. (Wikipedia)
• • •
I was so hoping for a puzzle I could rave about to close out 2022. And this… isn’t that. I mean, it’s fine. It’s inoffensive. It’s sort of interesting. It moves smoothly enough. But it didn’t give me any of the “aha!” moments I craved. 

My main issue with the puzzle centered on the theme. I wanted some pizazz, but this theme just fell flat. The positioning of the themers was odd — they’re just kind of thrown in at random spots with abandon, which means giant sections of the puzzle (aka the bottom third of the puzzle) have no theme answers. Also, thinking about the breadth of options that could have gone alongside “double” and then looking at what we got was a bit disappointing. Sure, DOUBLE DATE and DOUBLE EAGLE, etc… work, but why choose them among a whole host of other options, such as: double entendre, double trouble, double whammy, double check, double shot, double scoop, etc? Then, the theme didn’t help with the solve, because, even though I got DOUBLE CROSS (64A) easily, I wasn’t using it to go back and figure out what the shaded sections could possibly correspond to. 

I hit a snag at 26A: Pretends with LETS ON. The colloquial expression LETS ON to me means something much different from “pretends.” I Googled it, and “pretend” does show up as the second definition for “let on,” but I maintain that the phrase means something much different… As my ninth grade English teacher might remind me, connotation and denotation are different things. I also had such a hard time getting LETS ON partially because I didn’t know MOSELLE (9D), which strikes me as a slightly hard word for a Tuesday (or maybe I’m just salty because I like white wine, yet this style was not in my vocabulary). It also took me a bit to get the “e” for STEREO (10D: Sound upgrade from mono) but that just might be on me. 

The rest of the puzzle was decent. Words such as DIPLOMACY, BEANSTALK, DERANGE, RENEGE, CORRAL, LAMENTS, and GRAVEST worked nicely and are ones that don’t often populate an early-week crossword, even though, as Lynn Lempel showed here, they easily could. 

I noticed a mini-theme in the puzzle with animals. There was BAA (11A: Sheepish utterance?) with EMU (16A: Relative of an ostrich) right below it. Then, there was a BEE (42D: Helpful pollinator) in the crossword, CORRAL (50D) was clued with horses, Snoopy a BEAGLE (34A) was almost smack dab in the middle of the puzzle, and LARVA (52D) was clued as a caterpillar or tadpole.  

There was some of the usual three-letter fill such as ALA/LOL/BAA/EMU/FCC/AHA/IRA/SAY that irked me a bit. Some other three-letter fill, SYD/PLY/FAD/AID/PVC, worked a little better. ATARI (22D) and OREO (67A) were other crosswordese. I didn’t know KYD (46A: "The Spanish Tragedy" dramatist Thomas) or NEA (23A), so those threw me for a few seconds.

  • W.H. AUDEN’s (13D) poem “Funeral Blues” is probably my favorite poem ever. It’s absolutely stunning. I’ll put just this stanza below, but I encourage you to check the full poem out here
    • "He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong."
  • My family has a Snoopy ornament we all fight over to hang on the Christmas tree, and I got to be the person to hang him on the tree this year. Then, a day after we decorated the tree, it decided to go timberrrrr… While we had several ornament casualties, Snoopy luckily came out unscathed. 
  • SYD (38D) and KYD (46A) crossing each other was fun for a Pittsburgh fan like me. Although I assume the cross wasn’t intended as a reference to “Sid the Kid” Crosby, I thought of the Penguin player who, at 35, might not be such a “kid” (or KYD) any more but who is still worthy of loads of notice. 
  • I quite liked the clue/answer for 28D: Org. that oversees court battles as NBA. I was wracking my brain trying to think of a law-based answer for this (getting so far as putting “ABA” in as the answer) before I realized what the clue was getting at. 
And that’s all from me! Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season and stays safe and warm. See you next month IN 2023!!

Signed, Clare Carroll, a doubly invested Liverpool fan

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Like old-fashioned railroad crossing signs / MON 12-26-22 / Landslide of wet sediment / Princess who says into the garbage chute flyboy / 97.5% of a penny / Bitter part of an orange /

Monday, December 26, 2022

Constructor: Kurt Weller

Relative difficulty: No Idea (did it Downs-Only to escape potential boredom)

THEME: CLOCKWORK (59A: Epitome of precision ... or a description of 20-, 34- and 43-Across?) — familiar phrases that also sound like verb phrases related to "working" on a "clock":

Theme answers:
  • MAKE A FACE (20A: Stick your tongue out, say)
  • SWITCH GEARS (34A: Move onto a new topic of conversation, metaphorically)
  • CHANGE HANDS (43A: Pass to a different owner, as a business)
Word of the Day: "The Wall" (3D: Pink Floyd's "The Wall," for one => ROCK OPERA) —
The Wall
 is the eleventh studio album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released on 30 November 1979 by Harvest/EMI and Columbia/CBS Records. It is a rock opera that explores Pink, a jaded rock star whose eventual self-imposed isolation from society forms a figurative wall. The album was a commercial success, topping the US charts for 15 weeks and reaching number three in the UK. It initially received mixed reviews from critics, many of whom found it overblown and pretentious, but later received accolades as one of the greatest albums of all time and one of the band's finest works. [...] The Wall is one of the best-known concept albums. With over 30 million copies sold, it is the second best-selling album in the band's catalogue (behind The Dark Side of the Moon), the best selling double-album of all time, and one of the best-selling albums of all time overall. Some of the outtakes from the recording sessions were used on the group's next album, The Final Cut (1983). In 2000, it was voted number 30 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums. In 2003, 2012, and 2020, it was included in Rolling Stone's lists of the greatest albums of all time. From 2010 to 2013, Waters staged a new Wall live tour that became the highest-grossing tour by a solo musician. (wikipedia)
• • •

This seemed like a pretty remedial theme at first—parts of a watch, big whoop. But then I read the revealer clue a little more closely and realized that the theme answers didn't just have watch parts as their final words, they appeared to specific things one might do while "working" on a "clock"—someone engaged in such CLOCKWORK might MAKE A (clock) FACE or SWITCH (clock) GEARS or CHANGE (clock) HANDS. This gives the theme a little something extra. Not that it made it any more interesting to solve, but conceptually, at least, it's got the kind of next-level ambition and elegance that you'd hope to find every day in your NYTXW themed puzzles. I can't really speak to what it was like to solve normally, as I solved it very abnormally—by looking only at the Down clues. Downs-only solving puts you into a whole other world, one where you avoid the help—and the pitfalls—that Across clues normally provide. So you can go very very fast, but also, you can get very, very stuck. I did a little of both today. The hardest thing was probably (to my mind) the iffiest thing in the grid: MUDFLOW. Uh, what? What is ... that? Is it ... mud ... that flows? I was not aware that that was a phenomenon noteworthy enough to be its own answer. I've damn sure heard of MUDSLIDES, but just MUDFLOWs? Mmm, no. And since I couldn't get ZINC (7D: 97.5% of a penny) I was trying to make the first themer into MAKE A .... DATE? Something like that. Really not a fan of the MUDFLOW.

The other main Downs-only issue I had was ANTITOXIN (36D: Venom neutralizer, e.g.). My brain was like "ANTIVENOM!" and I was like "look, brain, 'venom' is in the clue, it can't be ANTIVENOM" and then brain was like "ah well, can't help you, gonna think about Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' now" and I said "oh come on, brain" but it plugged its ears and started shout-singing: "We Don't Need No / ANTIVENOM!" So childish, sometimes, brain is. Probably the funniest part of Downs-only solving was getting PENI- (!) over EREC- (!!) there in the SW corner and thinking "well, I've gotta have an error there ... I hope I have an error there ... because ... OK, what is happening!?" I couldn't think of anything that could complete PENI- and also be allowable in mainstream crosswords. Crosses were leading me to PENIN but all I could think was "well, that's not a word." Then I thought "oof, it could be an awful partial." And then I thought, oh, it's just a verb phrase ... OK, then." Remarkably hard, from a Downs-only standpoint, was 30D: Bitter part of an orange (PITH). You think, "how many four-letter answers can there be?" Well three, at least, I can tell you from experience. I had PEEL at first (back when I wanted CHANGE HANDS to be CHANGE LANES). Then I thought, "well, if it's not that, then maybe ... RIND?" Maybe, but also maybe not. Sigh. Your brain really has to work in weird ways to suss out these Down-only dilemmas (or trilemmas). 

I've never really heard anyone say "CLOCKWORK" unless they said "like" first, or happened to be discussing a very famous Kubrick film. But that's alright. It's a word, you can't dispute that. Overall, the experience was entertaining, though I think most of the entertainment came from the self-imposed Downs-only restriction, rather than from anything inherent in the theme or fill. Putting together those long Across themers with absolutely no clues was an adventure: MAKE A DATE! CHANGE LANES! CLONE WARS! (before CLOCKWORK, LOL). SWITCH GEARS was the only themer that really wanted to stay put. 
I'm leaving Dunedin tomorrow and will be in transit for a few days, so after your regular monthly Clare Tuesday tomorrow, you'll have Mali one of the days and I think Eli the other two. Then I'm back for good on Saturday. I'll fill you in a bit on my NZ adventures then. Here's a picture of me today at the beach, where it was sunny and 75 degrees and ice cream trucks had long lines and a seal kept trying to play with all the surfers who were out there floating, waiting for waves. Then the seal tried to play with people just walking on the beach and that was a little less fun, a little more frightening. But everyone gave Mr. Frolic Seal a lot of room and he headed back to sea. Good times. 
Oh and then a seagull got on my car and said 'hey'; slightly menacing, but mostly just ... close. 
Oh, and since [A rainbow may be seen as a good one] is in the puzzle today (OMEN!), here's an incredible full rainbow I saw walking home from Christmas lunch at my mother-in-law's yesterday:
OK, enough pics. See you later this week.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP