Spills the beans / TUES 9-26-23 / Home of the palace Hanaiakamalama / First-year law student, for short / Cub Scout units

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hi, everyone, it’s a Clare Tuesday! Hope you all have had a good month and are staying safe and healthy while it seems like everyone is getting sick. I’ve been enjoying work and also enjoy all the biking I do with my commute and otherwise — and it’s getting even better now that the weather is becoming a bit cooler as we head into fall. Fall also means that football is back. (Go, Steelers!)! My Steelers had a rough opening game but have been looking better. And Liverpool has been doing great so far this season, with some new players on our team, so I’ve been pretty happy. We’ll see if any of this changes by next month, though… Anywho, on to the puzzle.

Shannon Rapp and Rebecca Goldstein

Relative difficulty: Fairly easy (one of my faster Tuesday times)

THEME: FOOD WEB (38A: Dietary network in an ecosystem … or a punny hint to the answers to the starred clues) — All theme answers related to both food and computer terms  

Theme answers:
  • SPAM FILTER (17A: Program that detects junk emails) 
  • SPAGHETTI CODE (23A: Slang term for convoluted and unstructured computer programming) 
  • HAMBURGER MENU (49A: Online icon comprised of three parallel horizontal lines, familiarly) 
  • JAVA UPDATE (60A: Download that may improve streaming lags)
Word of the Day: CHLOE Zhao (6D: "Nomadland" director Zhao) —
Chloé Zhao (born Zhao Ting, 31 March 1982) is a Chinese-born filmmaker. She is known primarily for her work on independent films. Her debut feature film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015), premiered at Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and earned a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Zhao garnered international recognition with the western film Nomadland (2020), which won numerous accolades. Earning four Academy Award nominations for the film, Zhao won Best Picture and Best Director. Throughout her filmography, Zhao carries relatively the same styles and techniques. The main actress in her film Nomadland, Frances McDormand, told Rolling Stone about Zhao's process, saying "she's basically like a journalist... she gets to know your story, and she creates a character from that" and that she "draws a razor-sharp line between sentiment and sentimentality". A Filmmaker Magazine article quoted Zhao saying "I want to find new ways to place the camera to evoke more of a feeling. My goal is to put the camera inside of [the character]". (Wiki)
• • •
This was a rather enjoyable puzzle! The theme was pretty cute and fun — it was nice that all of the theme answers were not only food items but were tied to computers. FOOD WEB (like the World Wide Web) worked really well as a revealer. I also liked that it was smack dab in the center of the puzzle. That’s a standard place for a revealer, but I thought the placement added extra meaning because the term functions as the center of a sort of WEB that’s reaching out to the theme answers. I love the visual that I get with SPAGHETTI CODE and am happy I’ve now learned the term. I also learned what a HAMBURGER MENU is. I will say that I’m not sure how a JAVA UPDATE relates to a streaming lag, but maybe my lack of data/computer knowledge is showing. 

To extend the food theme, there were some other answers in the puzzle that related back (whether intentionally or not). CHOP (6A: Hack (off)), which could be a pork chop; ALLA (19A: Penne ___ vodka); JAM (60D: Toast topping); FAT (48A: Major component of a ketogenic diet), that one gets from meat or nuts in the diet; ACME (63A: Tiptop), a supermarket chain where they sell food; and MOLE (67A: Beauty mark), which is a Mexican sauce. I liked how those were woven in there. 

Other than the theme, I really liked the long downs in the NE and SW corners. I especially loved SALAD BARS (11D: Places to see the romaines of the day?) because it made me chuckle, and I for some reason really like the word HUNCH, so 32D was fun. I’LL BE FINE (12D: "Don't worry about me") was the only long down that I thought was just fine. For another long-ish down, I liked RAMPART (4D: Fortification in "The Star-Spangled Banner"), which isn’t a word you often see. And the clue/answer for 45D: Parent in a blended family as STEPDAD is nice. 

There were a lot of clues with quotation marks, which I don’t always enjoy but didn’t mind too much in this puzzle (see: 10A, 12D, 18D, 33D, and 53D). Except I would like to never ever see the word NEATO (53D: “Cool beans!”) again. 

While the solve was pretty smooth and easy for me, I did have a few hang-ups. I had SPAM “folder” instead of FILTER for a while, which threw me off from the start. I could not wrap my head around 22D: Pre-year 1, in brief (BCE) and understand that it wasn’t referring to a specific year but rather an era. I was thinking the answer related to a kid being in pre-k or pre-school or something along those lines. I also had a hard time getting HIT IT (7D: Bandleader's direction) because I had no idea this is something a band leader ever says/said – no band I follow has ever uttered the phrase. My dad tells me HIT IT is actually a thing, but even Google doesn’t give me much information about it. When I think of HIT IT, I think of going water skiing or being in a tube on a lake and telling the driver of the boat to HIT IT (and then go faster). I also couldn’t get PHOTO (31A: Camera output) for a bit because that was just so obvious that it didn’t even cross my mind it would be the answer. 

I found GAVEL (51D: Courtroom banger) to be amusing. And then it tied in with ONE L (59A: First-year law student, for short) for a mini legal theme. HOE (28A: Groundbreaker?) also got a laugh out of me, which I think is more a sign that I need sleep than anything else.

  • With LOVER (34D: 2019 Taylor Swift album with a romantic theme), we have to talk about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce and their (completely PR, methinks) relationship. She went to his game yesterday and was in a box with his mom and seemed invested in the game. The Chiefs blew out the Bears, and then he rented out a restaurant for the Chiefs and Taylor Swift, fueling talk that maybe Kelce is Swift’s new LOVER
  • When I see the topic of the mercator MAP (46A: Mercator projection, e.g.), I will always think of this clip from The West Wing where C. J. Cregg (the press secretary) meets with cartographers who argue for a different map. It’s absolutely incredible (and mind-blowing to realize just how distorted the sizes of some countries and continents are on the mercator MAP!) 
  • I loved seeing CHLOE Zao (6D) and AVA Duvernay (56A) in the puzzle. They’re both incredible directors. If you haven’t seen Zhao’s movie “Nomadland” or Duvernay’s show “When They See Us,” do yourself a favor and go watch them now. 
  • My family of professional writers has shaped me (warped me?) enough that a grammatical mistake in the clue at 49A (Online icon comprised of three parallel horizontal lines, familiarly) jumped up and bit me on the nose. It should be “composed,” not “comprised.” As my dad has drilled into me, the whole comprises its parts, but the whole is composed of, or made up of, those parts. 
  • For 13D, I was thinking about what a steeped drink was and had a kind of brain freeze. And then I took a sip from my mug… of TEA
And that’s it from me! Stay safe and have a great and ~spooky~ October.

Signed, Clare Carroll, your resident INTERNET COOKIE

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Slender tower of a mosque / MON 9-25-23 / Math diagram with an array of dots / Colombia/Venezuela border river / Alif ba ta or hamza / Temporary as a position of leadership / Monkeys with long snouts

Monday, September 25, 2023

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for me, solving Downs-only)

THEME: "SO WHAT'S THE STORY?" (62A: "Care to fill me in?" ... or a hint to 17-, 23-, 37- and 55-Across's final words) — last words of themers are components of stories:

Theme answers:
  • ARABIC CHARACTER (17A: Alif, ba, ta or hamza)
  • SCATTER PLOT (23A: Math diagram with an array of dots)
  • EARTH TONE (37A: Color such as khaki or ocher)
  • GOAL-SETTING (55A: Preplanning activity)
Word of the Day: BABOONS (41D: Monkeys with long snouts) —

Baboons are primates comprising the genus Papio, one of the 23 genera of Old World monkeys, in the family Cercopithecidae. There are six species of baboon: the hamadryas baboon, the Guinea baboon, the olive baboon, the yellow baboon, the Kinda baboon and the chacma baboon. Each species is native to one of six areas of Africa and the hamadryas baboon is also native to part of the Arabian Peninsula. Baboons are among the largest non-hominoid primates and have existed for at least two million years.

Baboons vary in size and weight depending on the species. The smallest, the Kinda baboon, is 50 cm (20 in) in length and weighs only 14 kg (31 lb), while the largest, the chacma baboon, is up to 120 cm (47 in) in length and weighs 40 kg (88 lb). All baboons have long, dog-like muzzles, heavy, powerful jaws with sharp canine teeth, close-set eyes, thick fur except on their muzzles, short tails, and nerveless, hairless pads of skin on their protruding buttocks called ischial callosities that provide for sitting comfort. Male hamadryas baboons have large white manes. Baboons exhibit sexual dimorphism in size, colour and/or canine teeth development.

Baboons are diurnal and terrestrial, but sleep in trees, or on high cliffs or rocks at night, away from predators. They are found in open savannas and woodlands across Africa. They are omnivorous and their diet consists of a variety of plants and animals. Their principal predators are Nile crocodilesleopardslions and hyenas. Most baboons live in hierarchical troops containing harems. Baboons can determine from vocal exchanges what the dominance relations are between individuals. (wikipedia)

• • •

[GIBBONS (not pictured: BABOONS)]
Oof. That was rough. Those 7s (the longish Downs in the corners) really roughed me up, particularly in the NW, where neither PORSCHE nor ATAHALT would come. At all. Plus, never heard of a SCATTER PLOT, so I just stared at S--TTERPLOT like "???" Maybe I have heard of SCATTER PLOT, because eventually that's what I (tentatively) guessed, and that helped me see PORSCHE, but yeesh and yikes. PORSCHE is so far down my mental list of German automakers. Me: "BMW, AUDI, VOLKSWAGEN, MERCEDES ... OPEL? ... man, I am out of ideas." And ATAHALT, so ugly. That section was the toughest overall, but it was not the section that really did me in. That honor belonged to the southwest, but in that case, the problem was All Mine. See, I had -ONS at the end of 41D: Monkeys with long snouts, and while my brain definitely pictured BABOONS, my brain wrote GIBBONS. And the "G" worked and the "I" worked and the "B" (!) worked and the second "B" ... didn't. It gave me MBAT at 58A. And I knew that was wrong. I prayed that was wrong, anyway ... and it was. So I just kept pulling GIBBONS out and then ... putting it in ... and then ... trying to think of other monkeys, and then ... wondering if anything else might be wrong (it wasn't). I kept thinking "OK, what if that cross is MCAT? MEAT?" Only after a bit did I decided to run More of the alphabet, hit the "O," and go "O .......... d'oh! It's BABOONS!" It's BABOONS. (And MOAT)

As for the theme, it feels a little off to me, somehow, starting with the revealer. I found it really hard to parse, and even when I got it I wasn't sure I had it. I can definitely hear someone saying it, exactly as written, but the "SO" part also feels a little extraneous. Beyond that, it's just a "last words"-type theme. CHARACTER, PLOT, and SETTING make sense. TONE ... less so. I mean, yes, stories have tone, but all writing has tone, whereas the other words are all associated much more strongly with fiction in particular. Also, as I say, no idea what SCATTER PLOT. That's on me, for sure; it just seems very non-Monday, as theme answers go. But while that answer is merely somewhat harder than normal, I think GOAL-SETTING is actively not good. I had it correct but could not conceive how it would be clued. I just looked at the phrase like "what ... is that?" Turns out it's the setting ... of goals. PLACE SETTING and JET-SETTING are much much better SETTING answers. TREND-SETTING too. GOAL-SETTING feels forced somehow. BURIAL PLOT & JET-SETTING are the same length and seem like better themer options than their counterparts here.

["Me and Rex took the car, ha ha! Stay home ... Stay."]

Other than the [German automaker] and GIBBONS debacles, my only issue was how to spell NASSER (50D: Egypt's Lake ___, near Aswan Dam). I had NASSAR at first, which gave me ATON in the cross, which is a totally plausible answer. But NASSER ended up feeling more right. Or, rather, NASSAR started feeling wrong. Started looking like a typo of NASCAR. And since ETON > ATON (barely), I decided to gamble on ETON, and it paid off. That's enough for today. See you tomorrow

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Happy 17th birthday to ... this blog :) Thanks to everyone for reading and hate-reading me all these years. I really appreciate it.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Literally "Three teeth" / SUN 9-24-23 / Reaction to the 1950s culture of commercial consumerism / Insurance company with a purple heart logo / First plant on earth it's thought / Marine character whose name has four consecutive vowels / Product once marketed with dancing silhouettes / Dutch explorer Tasman for whom an island is named / SNL characters who coined the term parental units

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Constructor: Joel Fagliano & Christina Iverson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Rebrandings" — wacky puns on company names, clued as if they are "rebrandings":

Theme answers:
  • LITTLE SEIZERS (23A: We've rebranded! Now we sell tiny tongs!) (Little Caesars)
  • WALL GREENS (We've rebranded! Now we sell ivy!)
  • BUD WISER (35A: We've rebranded! Now we run an advice column on friendship!) (Budweiser)
  • HOLE FOODS (49A: We've rebranded! Now we sell doughnuts and bagels!) (Whole Foods)
  • BEST BYE (52A: We've rebranded! Now we help write breakup letters!) [probably shouldn't use "write" here since another of your themers is WRITE-AID (see below)] (Best Buy)
  • AMERICAN HEIR LINES (68A: We've rebranded! Now we do genealogy for the U.S.'s rich and famous!) (American Airlines)
  • PROCTOR / AND GAMBLE (84A: We've rebranded! Now, with 86-Across, we operate a test-taking facility/casino!) (Procter & Gamble)
  • TALK O' BELLE (98A: We've rebranded! Now we produce a "Beauty and the Beast"-themed podcast!) (Taco Bell)
  • WRITE-AID (101A: We've rebranded! Now we sell only pens and pencils!) (Rite-Aid)
  • EMBASSY SWEETS (115A: We've rebranded! Now we sell candy to diplomats!) (Embassy Suites)
Word of the Day: MOE Berg (116D: ___ Berg, baseball player turned spy) —

Morris Berg (March 2, 1902 – May 29, 1972) was an American catcher and coach in Major League Baseball, who later served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Although he played 15 seasons in the major leagues, almost entirely for four American League teams, Berg was never more than an average player and was better known for being "the brainiest guy in baseball." Casey Stengel once described Berg as "the strangest man ever to play baseball".

A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Berg spoke several languages and regularly read ten newspapers a day. His reputation as an intellectual was fueled by his successful appearances as a contestant on the radio quiz show Information Please, in which he answered questions about the etymology of words and names from Greek and Latin, historical events in Europe and the Far East, and ongoing international conferences.

As a spy working for the government of the United States, Berg traveled to Yugoslavia to gather intelligence on resistance groups which the U.S. government was considering supporting. He was sent on a mission to Italy, where he interviewed various physicists concerning the German nuclear weapons program. After the war, Berg was occasionally employed by the OSS's successor, the Central Intelligence Agency. (wikipedia)

• • •

I'm a bit puzzled out tonight, what with solving and blogging the Saturday puzzle early this morning, then going to Ithaca for the Finger Lakes Crossword Competition, where I spoke briefly and also solved a lot of puzzles and also served as a judge, which meant checking over lots of contestant grids. And now after a little break for dinner I'm back solving and blogging again. So when I say this seemed a little lackluster, it could be that I'm just a little burned out. I did have a little aha moment when I finally got my first themer—which was technically WALL GREENS, but I wasn't *entirely* sure that was misspelled, so I didn't really Get the theme until LITTLE SEIZERS. So yeah, uh, cute, but really it's just wacky puns. I've seen Sunday puzzles do this a million times. Today the theme is: companies. And you've got the whole "rebranding" angle, which adds a certain surface-level sparkle and cohesion, but basically it's just wacky puns, the bread and butter of Sunday puzzles since time immemorial. I wish more of them were genuinely clever. LITTLE SEIZERS was pretty good, but with some of them, I can barely see the rebrand, so the wackiness feels muted. I've mentioned WALL GREENS, which barely changes the spelling of the original company. Then there's the stretches, like BUD WISER (?). How do you get from "advice column" to BUD WISER? Has "BUD" been made into a verb here, meaning "to be someone's pal (i.e. bud)"? Like, "Read our advice column! We'll help you BUD ... WISER"? It's a grammatical wreck, that one. 

Then there's PROCTOR AND GAMBLE, which, right now ... honestly I don't know which part is misspelled (or "rebranded"). Is it PROCTER normally? Yep, that's it. Really hard to get excited about wordplay that tepid. I'm not even sure that counts as play. The most inspired answer may be TALK O' BELLE, but that one made me mad because it was the Only one to play the "rebranding" game in both parts of the company name. All the others just change one element (SEIZERS, WISER, WALL, HOLE, etc.) but both "Taco" and "Bell" get new looks in TALK O' BELLE. I don't know if I'm mad because it's odd man out or mad because the other answers are nowhere near as good. Probably the latter. Anyway, not really my thing, but as I say, It's been a long and very puzzly day.

Felt like I was getting assaulted by "?" much of the time, though I think that there are only eight such clues in total, so maybe I just had the misfortune of running into a bunch in quick succession. None of them was particularly bad, I just had that "oh cut it out already" feeling after I'd seen like what felt like one too many. I think they're all clear enough. Christmas (or Yule) ORNAMENTs might be "ball"-shaped. A person UNZIPS (or "drops"?) their "fly" (well, some people, sometimes, with some pants). You "roll" dice to win "dough" at a CRAPS TABLE. Bakers use whisks, so a BAKERY is a [Whisk-y business?] (pun on "risky business"). Etc. The only answers that gave me any trouble all seemed to be concentrated in NW. The POP ART clue was tough for me (1A: Reaction to the 1950s culture of commercial consumerism). If I'd know the "reaction" was aesthetic, that might've helped. I was looking for ... I dunno, some kind of movement, like, oh, the Luddite movement or something like that (but more modern). Maybe some kind of religious revival or consciousness-raising group or something. But no. It's Lichtenstein and Warhol. Tough. But not as tough as the clue on TEEN, my god (6D: Louis Braille, when he invented Braille). I guess the "when" part was supposed to clue me into a "stage of life" answer. but all I could think was nationality or ethnicity. "Uh, SERB? LETT? CELT?" I'd've been guessing all day without crosses. TEEN. That has to be the most esoteric way of getting at something as banal as TEEN that I've ever seen. Nothing else in the puzzle was nearly as hard as those two (crossing!) answers. Nothing non-thematic, anyway.

I had BULKY before BURLY (52D: Powerfully built) and PSG (Paris Saint-Germain!) before POR (Portugal) (59D: Cristiano Ronaldo's team: Abbr.). The latter mistake is what happens when you simultaneously know both too much and too little about soccer. Messi played for PSG, but Ronaldo never did, as far as I can tell. Oh well. Got confused by the clue on OTTAWA, / ONTARIO, mostly because I didn't understand "selected" (15D: With 22-Across, world capital selected by Queen Victoria). "Selected ... for what?" I wondered. But I guess she just .... chose that city to be the capital of the country? For some reason? Why? Did she just close her eyes and plunk her finger down on a map? I think that's what she did. I like the image, so that's the reality I'm going with. Over at Bluesky, the newish Twitter (now, stupidly, "X") alternative, posts are most commonly referred to as SKEETs, so look for that definition of SKEET to appear in crosswords ... some time. Probably. Maybe. For now, [Sport with clay disks] will have to do.

It's almost time for the Boswords Themeless League to start up again. Registration is open for the Fall League. It's a fun way to "compete" from the comfort of your home. If you love crosswords and want to add a new, entertaining dimension to your weekly solving repertoire, consider signing up. Here's the blurb from League co-ordinator John Lieb:
Registration for the Boswords 2023 Fall Themeless League is open! This 10-week event starts with a Preseason puzzle on Wednesday, September 27 and features weekly themeless puzzles -- clued at three levels of difficulty -- from an all-star roster of constructors and are edited by Brad Wilber. To register, to solve a practice puzzle, to view the constructor line-up, and to learn more, go to www.boswords.org
The constructor line-up looks good, and Brad is a wonderful, experienced editor, so these should be a treat. That's all from me today. And a mini shout-out to everyone at the Finger Lakes Crossword Competition who came up and talked to me and said nice things etc. I had a blast. I was particularly excited (literally bouncing on the balls of my feet at one point) when younger people (Cornell students! Several! Hi, Ben) would tell me they solved and read the blog on a regular basis. So cool (to me) to see people their age so enthusiastic, so ready to embrace their word nerdiness and hang out with their elders. I took pictures with people, signed autographs (!!!), it was great. Great. More than I deserve. This was the first tournament of any sort I'd been to in person since before the pandemic. The whole event had a laid-back and friendly vibe. I hadn't realized how much I missed being around fellow enthusiasts. Very wholesome. Very energizing. I mean, I'm tired right this moment, but energized overall, and very grateful to be doing what I'm doing every day. See you tomorrow, or next week, or whenever.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Cretaceous critters / SAT 9-23-23 / Decluttering method featured on Netflix / Slaves away old-style / Sporting event that started as a religious ritual / National Park in southwest Texas / Classic song with the lyric "Girl you made me love you And now now now your lovin man has gone" / Dutch city with a palindromic name

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Constructor: Robert Charlton

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ROBERT I (35D: Father of William the Conqueror) —
Robert I of Normandy (22 June 1000 – July 1035), also known as Robert the Magnificent and by other names, was a Norman noble of the House of Normandy who ruled as duke of Normandy from 1027 until his death in 1035. He was the son of Duke Richard II; the brother of Duke Richard III, against whom he unsuccessfully revolted; and the father of Duke William who became the first Norman king of England in 1066. During his reign, Robert quarrelled with the church—including his uncle Robertarchbishop of Rouen—and meddled in the disorder in Flanders. He finally reconciled with his uncle and the church, restoring some property and undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, during which he died. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well we should probably start by discussing the elephant, or rather, the APELET in the room, because there's an APELET in the room, and what the hell? (8D: Small simian ... that's one letter away from a small computer program). This puzzle died at APELET. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to go on taking a puzzle seriously when it gives me APELET. And then the clue ... somehow it made it worse. Like, let me make up the word APELET based on [Small simian]. I'll get there. In fact, I got there, without reading the rest of the clue. I had the -LET suffix and wrote in APE half-jokingly. But it was a lot less funny when it ended up being right. And the latter part of the clue, where it tries to make make up for the obvious horrible non-wordness of APELET by doing a desperate wordplay tap dance, yeesh. "APELET ... it's one letter away from APPLET! Fun, right?!" Wrong. This puzzle had a lot of crummy fill—a Lot—but nothing to top the Olympic-level crumminess of APELET. How do you put that in a grid without cringing and going "uh ... what?" What duplicitous word list lied to you and told you APELET was OK? Even Eugene Tiberius Maleska, Will Shortz's predecessor and lover of all fill arcane and junky, only touched APELET once, and that was back in 1991—the last time anyone saw an APELET in the wild. Will Weng (the editor that preceded Maleska) liked APELETs a little better (he had two of them). Margaret Farrar (the NYTXW's first editor), by comparison, adored them. Four APELETs on her watch! But that was the cretaceous age of crosswords, there were only like 23 words in the whole Universe back then, so she gets a pass. This puzzle, today's puzzle, no, no pass. No pass for making APELET rise from the grave after (one two three four...) thirty-two years! You were APELET-free, Will Shortz! Why would you ruin your legacy like this!? smh ...

The highs weren't high enough today, and the lows were kinda low. In addition to the small simian who shall no longer be named, we had a bunch of olde-tymey crosswordese like EDE and STLEO and EDMEESE, then whoever ROBERT I is (there are so many ROBERT Is, it took some repeated googling to get the one I wanted), and then especially MOILS, oof, erp, uck, yuck (42A: Slaves away, old-style). I threw down TOILS and then thought "oh, no, that's not "old-style" enough, they're gonna try to perpetrate MOILS here, aren't they?" Indeed. (Sidenote: I'd keep "Slaves" out of my clues if it was at all possible, which it was). MOILS ended up being adjacent to what was, for me, the toughest part of the puzzle. It's bad enough that the puzzle keeps foisting "Star Wars" crap on me (second day in a row!), but please do not expect me to be able to spell these made-up names. I knew AMIDALA by sound ... but not be spelling, apparently, because AMADALA looked Just Fine. That apparently erroneous "A" corresponded Just Fine with the answer I had for 46A: Sounds of success. That answer: BANGS. "Hey, how was your daughter's wedding." "Oh great, it went off with a bang!" i.e. was very successful. This left me with BINOS for 46D: Cretaceous creatures, which ... well, I think (no, I know) I confused "Cretaceous" with "cetaceous," so I thought they were sea creatures, and I thought BINOS was just some cutesy name for a sea creature I couldn't think of. Some kind of bivalve? I don't know. BINOS looked wrong enough that I pulled it and stared ... and then pulled BANGS ... and then thought "... BINGS? PINGS? These all sound like 'success' to me." But it was DINGS, as in "ding ding ding, correct answer!" And DINOS, a stupid abbrev. no one says after age 8. All this because AMIDALA is spelled with an "I" and not an "A." What a dumb thing to trip on.

These tri-stacks are often unpleasant because the fill tends to suffer. Today's long answers are solid, but not exciting, except for ANTICOLONIALIST (54A: Like the writing of Chinua Achebe and Mahatma Gandhi), which I wanted to be ANTI-IMPERIALIST (it fit!) and then ANTICAPITALIST (it didn't). That was a good answer. CARBONATED WATER, less so, at least as clued (51A: Certain drink mixer). You use soda water or tonic water in mixed drinks. Yes, they're CARBONATED, but CARBONATED WATER is just not the term you'd use. Seltzer, maybe? Club soda? Answers should be appropriate to the context of the clue (and/or vice versa). The other 15s are shrugs. They fit. They're fine. They aren't remarkable. KONMARI is a fresh answer (named for its creator, Marie Kondo) (2D: Decluttering method featured on Netflix) . Also a harrowing answer, in that I forgot what it was called at first, and then remembered but wasn't sure, and so had to tiptoe through the crosses, praying that they were all indisputable (they were). Lots of mistakes today. TIRED for TRITE (4D: Banal). GIVE and then CAVE before CEDE (23A: Yield). AXE before BAN (6D: Deodorant brand)

[I know I used this video yesterday for LIPS but it's even more fitting today so sorry not sorry]

Got my start on this one the way I always get my start in puzzles with banks of long answers—I worked the short crosses. Only there weren't that many, so it took some work to get going. I got a few (ETAS, DARTH, TRIS), but the answer that really got me going was KEYLESS (15D: Like some ignition systems). Wasn't sure about it, but I crossed it with GIVE at 23A: Yield ... which was wrong, but it led me to look at the clue for 23D: Rooster for roasting, which I was 83% sure was CAPON, so ... change GIVE to CAVE (still wrong), but then get ISO- MUSES MAGES STUPORS TILLS BLENDER all IN ONE GO (fittingly, the answer I got next). Eventually pulled CAVE, wrote in CEDE, remembered that "C.C. RIDER" was a song, and bang (I mean, ding), I had my first grid-spanner:

[Sincerely thought "McTwist" was a McDonald's breakfast sandwich at first]
[1A: McTwist, for one]

Once you get one, the crosses and then the other grid-spanners start falling like flies. Top section was done fast, but then had some of that same initial slowness getting traction down below. Luckily DEALTIN EDMEESE and RESORTS were all pretty easy, so despite not being able to drop into the bottom section of the puzzle in the SW or South, I was able to work those long answers from the back end. Not much else to say, except that 20A: Love, by another name was a cute (and tough) clue for NIL (it's tennisspeak for NIL). And is CORRIDA really a "sporting event" (33A: Sporting event that started as a religious ritual)? Tell that to the bull. Would you consider getting ritually and spectacularly murdered in front of a roaring crowd "sporting?" Seems doubtful. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. blog comments are great, but postcard comments are mwah 💋 perfect, please, never hesitate to deliver even your angriest commentary in postcard form, I will love you for it 🥰

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Animal in the Qatar Airways logo / FRI 9-22-23 / Dish whose name means stuffed in Turkish / Object pantomimed by extending one's thumb and pinkie / Dapper pachyderm / 2018 film set in Mexico that was nominated for best picture / Furry animals with black-tipped tails / Eponymous town in SE Connecticut / Urgent, hyperbolically

Friday, September 22, 2023

Constructor: Rafael Musa and Michael Lieberman

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Lady PENH (53A: Lady ___, founder of Cambodia's capital) —
Penh (Khmerពេញ [pɨɲ]), commonly referred to as Daun Penh (Khmerដូនពេញ [doːn pɨɲ]; meaning "Grandmother Penh" or "Old Lady Penh") or Lady Penh, was a wealthy woman who is credited as having founded Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, in 1372 AD. // Her statue can be seen near Wat Phnom. (wikipedia) // Phnom Penh (/pəˌnɒm ˈpɛn, ˌpnɒm -/; Khmerភ្នំពេញPhnum Pénh [pʰnomˈpɨɲ]) is the capital and most populous city of Cambodia. It has been the national capital since the French protectorate of Cambodia and has grown to become the nation's primate city and its economic, industrial, and cultural centre. [...] On the banks of the Tonlé SapMekong, and Bassac Rivers, Phnom Penh is home to more than 2 million people, approximately 14% of the Cambodian population. (wikipedia)
• • •

I almost laughed out loud, this was so good. I was like "yesssss, whoosh whoosh, that's what I'm talking about! Where have you been?" Feels like Fridays have been a little ... I dunno, stalled, sluggish, stale for a while, with Saturdays coming in behind and doing their best to make things fun, but, you know, you can't put too much "fun" burden on Saturday, because it's Saturday, and its job is primarily violence. Things have felt out of whack on the weekends, is what I'm saying, but today, hallelujah. I spun my wheels for a bit in the NW and then I got traction and then down I went, all in a rush:

It's so nice to have a huge breakthrough after fussing around in a cramped corner for a while, and TOO BIG TO FAIL definitely gave me that breakthrough feeling. I mean, I hate the concept of TOO BIG TO FAIL, but it's a great phrase for crosswords. And then when the next fast drop into the grid came from a clue that actually used the phrase "downhill fast," well, I had to stop to take a picture. After that, the hits kept coming—so many that I kept blinking and shaking my head wondering how long the puzzle could keep it up. The excitement of LIFE OR DEATH alongside COLD FUSION. The complete sentence of JAMES JOYCE ACTS NORMAL ("Does he?" I wondered). The surrealism of OXYMORONIC CARROT CAKE (Man Ray wishes he painted that!). And then especially the modern colloquialisms "END OF RANT" and "YOU HAD ONE JOB!" The latter really felt like an exclamation point—an ironic exclamation point, because if you round off your pyrotechnic puzzle with "YOU HAD ONE JOB!," well, you're definitely doing your job. I'd have to go Way out of my way to find fault here ("I still hate the word E-CIGS!" I halfheartedly wanted to declare ... "Stop making me know recent 'Star Wars' things!" I briefly grumbled). But nah, this is close to ideal. Friday is back. At least for today.

The hardest part was getting started. No way I was getting STOATS from that clue (1A: Furry animals with black-tipped tails). I thought maybe COATIS (!?). I got SCOT and TIX but then figured that the animal on the Qatar Airways logo was a LYNX. "Four letters, ends in 'X', obviously LYNX, woo hoo! Wait, why would a snow cat be in Qatar? Ah well, who knows why people put things on their logos, better not overthink it, since it's obviously LYNX" (it was not LYNX). I forgot that ORYX was even a thing. Here is the thing that ORYX is:

You used to see ORYX in crosswords sometimes, back in the day. I think. Actually, looks like we've seen it plenty in recent years as well (first time this year, but 20th time (!) since I started blogging in '06). Also it's in the Margaret Atwood title Oryx & Crake (I always thought those were people's names ... hmm, looks like that is indeed what they are ... I should really read more). With LYNX locked in there, all the Acrosses looked a mess. And while I got ARM, I could not figure out TAXI even with that terminal "I" (2D: Cry made while waving, perhaps). I thought it was going to be "[something] HI!" "OH, HI" seemed an unlikely "cry," but maybe "YO, HI!" or "HI! HI!"? So I was kinda stuck, but Trust The Process, as they say—and on Fridays, with grids like this, with banks of long answers, The Process is "Work The Downs." To that end, I went COBS LANA LSD DEC and then looked back at the mess that was the front ends of those first long Acrosses. And the power of all the correct crosses basically bored a hole right through LYNX, i.e. I could see the Acrosses clearly despite the stupid cat's trying to block my view. After that, I was out of the gate and downhill fast.

I could actually see the Man Ray painting in my head, but all I could think was SMILE, which wouldn't fit (22A: Prominent feature of Man Ray's painting "Observatory Time: The Lovers"). When I got LIPS I felt good that at least I'd pictured the right thing. I had "END OF ..." at 35A: "OK, I'm done complaining" and couldn't remember what came next. First thought: "END OF THAT!" I think I was thinking of the expression "Well, that's the end of that," which may not even be an expression—just a thing I'm hearing in my head right now that seems plausible. Anyway, once I got RANT, I thought "of course." I actually laughed out loud at BUD ICE. Are beers still calling themselves "ICE"? Feels like a late '90s marketing gimmick ... like the mid-'80s clear beverage craze. Pepsi Clear! That was a thing, right? Gah, no, it was Crystal Pepsi, of course it was Crystal Pepsi. Somehow BUD ICE is even stupider when you know they once used a "sinister penguin" in their ads. I'm guessing "once" means ... it didn't go so well. "The penguin ... his Q score ... it's so bad ... Shut It Down!" (It's possible the penguin was in fact quite popular):

I went from thinking "I don't know this 'Star Wars' crap!" to "Ooh, I remember now, it's definitely ANDOR!" to "Wait, are you sure? I mean, the Ewoks live on ENDOR" back to not caring and letting the crosses handle it. I had PUGS before POMS (30D: Some small dogs, familiarly) and SWIM NOODLE before POOL NOODLE (11D: Water aerobics aid). My worst moment was completely blanking on Gatsby's first name. "English Professor Can't Remember Gatsby's First Name" read the headline in the imaginary shame-based newspaper in my head. I did remember. But only after thinking things like "... ROY? ROY Gatsby? Wow, that really sounds wrong." Indeed. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Happy 23rd birthday to my daughter, who recently moved from Minneapolis/St. Paul to a little town called New York City. Be nice to her, New York! XO

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