Titular elementary school on TV / FRI 5-31-24 / Clementine lookalikes / Prized mushroom / Female flying group in W.W. II / Disrupt with technology, as an existing industry / Name meaning "father of many" / When repeated, informal term for supper / Musical originally released as a French concept album, for short / Built-in Windows application with a palette logo, familiarly / Holmes founder of the website Jezebel

Friday, May 31, 2024

Constructor: Aidan Deshong

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: WASPS (49D: Female flying group in W.W. II) —
In the 
United StatesWhite Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASP) is a sociological term which is often used to describe white Protestant Americans of Northwestern European descent, who are generally part of the white dominant culture or upper-class and historically often the Mainline Protestant elite. Historically or most consistently, WASPs are of British descent, though the definition of WASP varies in this respect. WASPs have dominated American society, culture, and politics for most of the history of the United States. Critics have disparaged them as "The Establishment". Although the social influence of wealthy WASPs has declined since the 1960s, the group continues to play a central role in American finance, politics, and philanthropy. (wikipedia) [... whoops, sorry, wrong WASPS ... here we go]The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) (also Women's Army Service Pilots or Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots) was a civilian women pilots' organization, whose members were United States federal civil service employees. Members of WASP became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft and trained other pilots. Their purpose was to free male pilots for combat roles during World War II. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in the creation of the program, the WASP and its members had no military standing. (wikipedia)
• • •

Haven't found a late-week themeless puzzle this unpleasant in quite a while. First off, it's got that super-segmented, every-corner-a-separate-puzzle design that tends to impeded flow and generally feel sloggier than other grids. But many puzzles have gone that route and still been enjoyable. This one just missed me in terms of its overall sensibility, that sensibility being that of the techbro / biznessspeak / "apps will make it better" / wealth extraction culture that makes so much of modern life so grim. "Convince me you're not a robot!" This was not the future I was promised. Robots asking me to prove I'm not a robot so that I can, what, download an app that mines my data or fill out some survey that is also a game that is also an ad. Ugh, "disruption" culture, so grim, esp. from a labor standpoint. I can't think of an uglier word than "UBERIZE" (17A: Disrupt with technology, as an existing industry), unless that word is "SYNERGY," are people still saying that? (65A: What might cause 1 + 1 > 2). Can someone disrupt "SYNERGY," please? Can someone UBERIZE "SYNERGY"? GAMIFY is what the NYT is doing to the crossword, as the puzzles get easier and more like Candy Crush ("look at the post-solve animation!"). More phone-friendly, but not necessarily (or at all) better, as puzzles. I know I'm going full "Old Man Yells at Cloud" today but kindly shoot UBERIZE and GAMIFY and DATAMINE and SYNERGY into the sun. And while you're at it, throw NUNHOOD in there too, what the hell? (59A: Sisters are a part of it). When the answer wasn't NUNNERY I thought "what is it? NUNDOM?" "He's entered the priesthood," yes. "She's entered the NUNHOOD?" That sounds like she has donned a very large hooded nun garment, or else has moved to a neighborhood made up exclusively of nuns. Also, LES MIZ has a "Z" (43A: Musical originally released as a French concept album, for short = LES MIS). Just take the "Z" from UBERIZE—he won't be needing it where he's going (i.e. the sun). It's not that the fill is A MESS (although A MESS is not great), it's that the fill is so personally off-putting that I just couldn't get into it. It has some nice answers, but the funk of late-stage capitalism was just too much for me today.

["It takes a very STEADY hand ..."]

The three long answers through the center are solid enough, but not exactly exciting. The best answers in the grid are oddly symmetrical—"NO IT'S NOT" has both snappy colloquial energy and a fun hard-to-parse quality that made it fun to figure out (39D: "Nuh-uh!"). Side note: NUH-UH! has appeared twice in the NYTXW, and I wouldn't mind seeing it more. So hard to make five-letter answers interesting. The letters in NUH-UH! are not exactly grid-friendly, which may account for why we haven't seen it that much. But back to the puzzle. I also liked "NO IT'S NOT"'s counterpart, FIENDING (12D: Hankering, slangily). It's not a word I'd use (I'm still an old-fashioned JONESING guy...), but it's got a spicy slanginess that makes it more interesting than most answers today. 

Seems a (long) stretch to say that opera lovers are SERENADED. By ... the people on stage? The recording on their home stereo? I thought "serenading" was when someone sang *to* you, not *at* you or *near* you. Also, "Like many opera lovers"? Which? And which ones aren't being SERENADED? I'm so confused. [NOTE: I have apparently misread the clue—see below] Not much else was genuinely confusing today. I hadn't heard of the WASPS (or had heard, and then forgot), so that took some work. Also, I haven't bowled in quite a while so that "/" clue had me needing four crosses before I got it ("/" indicates a SPARE in bowling scoring) (32D: What "/" can mean). I knew ALONSO (or rather, I was able to remember it from the -SO ending) so that helped a lot with getting into the NE, which was the last section to fall. I'm normally put off by all the corny punning that tends to happen around cannabis cluing, but the clue on STONERS today is actually pretty good (16D: Ones dealing with joint inflammation?). As someone dealing with (minor) joint inflammation in his wrist, maybe I should try a ... new remedy? (jk, smoking is very much Not For Me, I'll stick with drinking my problems away, thank you very much) (jk, I never have more than one drink, except for last night—sometimes you just gotta celebrate life's small wins).

Happy last day of May. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Large aquatic insect / THU 5-30-24 / Investment bank that folded in 2008 / Space on a CD track where a hidden song can be placed / Onetime head of the Chicago Outfit / California red, informally / Leaves with no moves, as a chess piece

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Constructor: Royce Ferguson

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "THE WALLS HAVE EARS" (7D: "Shh! People may be listening" ... or a hint to eight squares in this puzzle) — a rebus puzzle where "EAR" can be found in four boxes along the left edge (or "wall") of the grid and four boxes along the right. 

Theme answers:
  • WEAR AND TEAR (1D: Routine damage)
  • HEART-TO-HEART (36D: Distinguished students)
  • "HEAR YE, HEAR YE" (13D: Cry from a town crier)
  • BEAR STEARNS (45D: Investment bank that folded in 2008)
Word of the Day: PREGAP (4D: Space on a CD track where a hidden song can be placed) —
pregap on a Red Book audio CD is the portion of the audio track that precedes "index 01" for a given track in the table of contents (TOC). The pregap ("index 00") is typically two seconds long and usually, but not always, contains silence. Popular uses for having the pregap contain audio are live CDs, track interludes, and hidden songs in the pregap of the first track (detailed below). // The track 01 pregap was used to hide computer data, allowing computers to detect a data track whereas conventional CD players would continue to see the CD as an audio CD. // This method was made obsolete in mid 1996 when an update to Windows 95 in driver SCSI1HLP.VXD made the pregap track inaccessible. It is unclear whether this change in Microsoft Windows' behavior was intentional: for instance, it may have been intended to steer developers away from the pregap method and encourage what became the Blue Book specification "CD Extra" format. // On certain CDs, such as Light Years by Kylie Minogue, HoboSapiens by John Cale, or Factory Showroom by They Might Be Giants, the pregap before track 1 contains a hidden track. The track is truly hidden in the sense that most conventional standalone players and software CD players will not see it. // Such hidden tracks can be played by playing the first song and "rewinding" (more accurately, seeking in reverse) until the actual start of the whole CD audio track. // Not all CD drives can properly extract such hidden tracks. Some drives will report errors when reading these tracks, and some will seem to extract them properly, but the extracted file will contain only silence. // Other CDs contain additional audio information in the pre-gap area of other tracks, resulting in the audio only being heard on a conventional CD player if the CD is allowed to "play through," but not if you jump to the next track. // Some CDs also contain phantom tracks consisting of only index 0 data, meaning the track can only be played on a conventional CD player by allowing the CD to play through a previous track to the next track. (wikipedia)
• • •

Rooms have four walls, not two, so unless we are supposed to be in some kind of hallway (or, since the puzzle seems so canal-obsessed, canal), then the theme is kind of wobbly at its foundations. I got the revealer first and expected to find "EAR"s on all of the walls. But no. Just the east and west walls. Not only did the puzzle neglect to EAR two walls, it also made the EARs ridiculously easy to find, arraying them very neatly, two in each of the four "wall" answers. It is very, very easy to get a longer answer when you know, before you even look at the clue, that it will contain not one but two "EAR"s. At about the halfway point, I decided to see if I could just fill in the remaining two "wall" answers with absolutely no assistance from crosses, and, sure enough:

That's a lot of real estate to just give away. In fact, the revealer itself gives most everything away, leaving us with nothing to do but find "EAR"s, like some kind of autumnal version of an EGG hunt (I'm imagining that the ears are ears of corn, but you could imagine that they are actual human ears if you wanted to go more of a Blue Velvet route). Hear an EAR, there an EAR. Shrug. The puzzle has a good concept, or at least a promising one, but (as happens so often) the execution doesn't really do the concept justice, failing to give us the proper four-walls experience, and failing to consider that once you get the revealer, it's just EAR EAR EAR etc. a barrage of EARs, all in predictable places. So, not nearly as much fun, nor as tough, as it should've been.

I took a weird route through this puzzle. When I couldn't get 1A: Chicken (WIMP) to work—I could think only of (COW)ARD but did not have enough (i.e. any) evidence to suggest there was a "COW" rebus afoot—I moved to the neighboring (due north) section and plunked down my first answer: EAU (6D: French homophone of "haut"). And then ... the revealer was just right there. I didn't have to go down to the bottom of the grid to retrieve it; it just leapt into my boat. I had a few crosses in place before I saw the clue, but I don't think I would even have needed them. After that, I went EAR-hunting, and, well, ducks in a barrel at that point (what good are metaphors if you can't mix them?)

The grid holds no real interest outside of the theme. It's solid enough, but there are no surprises. No good ones, anyway. But hey, if, in addition to the economic disaster of 2008, you like thinking about the horrors of war (NAPALM) or the overturning of Roe v. Wade, then maybe this grid is your thing. The only interesting answers were more "interesting," quote unquote, in the sense that I'd never heard of them and I doubt the constructor had heard of them, since they seem like things that only an overstuffed Wordlist would know, or suggest. STONEFLY? (12D: Large aquatic insect)? PREGAP? (4D: Space on a CD track where a hidden song can be placed)? Leave it to the NYTXW to go all in on the technical minutiae of a music format only after it has become borderline obsolete. I've heard of hidden tracks, but PREGAP, yeeps, no. What an ugly word.  Me, I've lived my entire life in the POSTGAP era (The GAP, like me, having been established in 1969). 

As for STONEFLY, well, it got me to look up STONEFLY, and man are they ugly. I thought they were going to be cool-looking, like dragonflies—you know, maybe OPALESCE a little—but no. They look like sticks. Actually, there are apparently ~3,500 species of them (and counting), so they probably look all kinds of ways. Despite being "common," they haven't been seen in the NYTX for almost forty years (last appearance was in the pre-Shortz era, 1988). STONEFLIES has yet to appear, so some ambitious entomology-minded constructor has a real opportunity there...

Quick Notes:
  • 36A: California's ___ Mudd College (HARVEY) — The editor is winking at you here, since Joel, like me, went to Pomona College, one of the five Claremont Colleges. Those five colleges: Pomona, Pitzer (my sister went here), Claremont McKenna (aka CMC), Scripps (women's college) ... and HARVEY Mudd (Nerd City for math/science students ... actually more Nerd Village, since the total population is under 1,000 students) (also, I mean "Nerd" very affectionately here, so please, no indignant letters) (seriously, though, is there still a unicycle club there?) 

  • 27A: Leaves with no moves, as a chess piece (TRAPS) — ah, chess lingo. Where would the crossword be without you? I had MATES and when that didn't work, pffft. Just waited for crosses to do their magic.
  • 58D: California red, informally (ZIN) — short for "Zinfandel"
  • 8D: One way to prepare crèpes (SUZETTE) — good luck getting to SUZETTE any other way than through crèpes. All roads lead through Crèpetown. Just google [suzette] and find out. Whoever the crépes were named after (disputed!), they have faded into obscurity. Only the Crépes Survive!
  • 35A: Opera singer Norman with a National Medal of Arts (JESSYE) — literally have a collection of her arias sitting near my turntable right now and *still* couldn't spell her name.
  • 59A: Unpaid debt (ARREAR) — I am always going to complain about singular ARREAR. Its wikipedia entry, its dictionary entry—plural. Always plural. Only the crossword thinks a single ARREAR is a thing. It's enough to drive me to drink multiple ALCOHOLS
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. I did an interview with Edith Zimmerman for her "Drawing Media" column at kottke.org. As the title of the column suggests, the interview is *illustrated*! Lots of stuff about the media I consume (books music newsletters TV etc.). Also stuff about my cats. You might enjoy it.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Actor Josh who was once married to Fergie / WED 5-29-24 / Currency debut of 2002 / Magazine with cover exclamations like "Bigger Biceps!" / Avignon affirmatives

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Constructor: Jeanne Breen and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: RECIPE FOR / DISASTER (46A: With 56-Across, what each of the starred clues is?) — mixed drinks named after natural "disasters" are clued via their "recipes":

Theme answers:
  • MUDSLIDE (17A: *Vodka + coffee liqueur + Irish cream + heavy cream)
  • HURRICANE (26A: *Light rum + dark rum + orange juice + passion fruit syrup)
  • FLAMING / VOLCANO (36A: *With 38-Across, rum + brandy + pineapple juice + orange juice + orgeat syrup + fire)
Word of the Day: Josh DUHAMEL (43A: Actor Josh who was once married to Fergie) —

[This Fergie, not that Fergie]
Joshua David Duhamel (/dəˈmɛl/ də-MEL; born November 14, 1972) is an American actor. After various modeling work, he made his acting debut as Leo du Pres on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children and later starred as Danny McCoy on NBC's Las Vegas.

Duhamel has ventured into film, appearing as one of the main protagonists in four of the Transformers films, most recently in the fifth entry, Transformers: The Last Knight (2017). He has also appeared in When in Rome (2010), Life as We Know It (2010), New Year's Eve (2011), Safe Haven (2013), and You're Not You (2014). In 2015, Duhamel co-starred on the short-lived CBS crime drama Battle Creek. He has also starred in several video games, most notably Call of Duty: WWII (2017). In 2018, he appeared in the coming of age film Love, Simon. In 2021, Duhamel starred in the role of Sheldon Sampson in the Netflix superhero series Jupiter's Legacy. He also played the role of Jacob Lee in the 2022 survival horror game The Callisto Protocol. [...] 

He planned to attend dental school,
 but dropped out one-and-a-half credits shy of his undergraduate degree. He later completed his credits, and received his degree in 2005. // Duhamel has stated, "After college, I followed an ex-girlfriend to northern California, did a bunch of odd jobs." He won the title of Male Model of the Year in an International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) competition in 1997 (the runner-up was actor Ashton Kutcher). [...] In 2005, he became the co-owner of 10 North Main, a restaurant in Minot, North Dakota.
Duhamel is a spokesman for North Dakota tourism and has appeared in promotional videos for the state over the past decade. In 2022, Duhamel was paid $75,000 to become the face of the State’s Tourism Campaign for the next two years. // Duhamel met and began dating singer Stacy Ann Ferguson, better known by her stage name Fergie, in September 2004 after Ferguson appeared on Duhamel's show Las Vegas with her then-band The Black Eyed Peas. The couple wed on January 10, 2009, in a Catholic ceremony at the Church Estate Vineyards in Malibu, California. They have a son born in August 2013. On September 14, 2017, the couple announced that they had separated earlier in the year. On June 1, 2019, the couple filed for divorce after two years of separation. As of late-November 2019, their divorce was finalized.(wikipedia)
• • •

My favorite thing about this puzzle was discovering that Josh DUHAMEL had not, in fact, been married to the Duchess of York. Old people out there know what I'm talking about, but for the youngsters:

Sarah, Duchess of York (born Sarah Margaret Ferguson; 15 October 1959), also known by the nickname Fergie, is a British author, television personality, and member of the extended British royal family. She is the former wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who is the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and a younger brother of King Charles III. (wikipedia)
The "Fergie" in question today is a pop star—a solo artist as well as a member of the hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas. Would've helped (a lot) if I'd known who the hell Josh DUHAMEL is. As soon as I looked him up, I was like "oh, that guy." But like lots of handsome guys who came to fame in the aughts—like most pop culture from that entire decade, honestly—I missed him, and never managed to quite pick him up. In my head he was a fuzzy mix of Josh Brolin and ... what's that guy from Justified? ... Oh yeah, Timothy Olyphant! (who was in a movie from 1999 called Go, which also stars Sarah Polley before she became a director (and Oscar-winning screenplay writer), and which I tried to watch but it made me dizzy and a little bored so I stopped—might try again, though). OK, so ... DUHAMEL. Isn't that a sauce? No, that's béchamel. Anyway, he is much more famous than I thought he was, possibly because I thought "is marrying a duchess really the thing he's best known for?" (to reiterate, he never actually married a duchess—just a pop star who shares a nickname with a duchess ... and who also named her first album The Dutchess what the hell!?) Just as it seems kinda demeaning to clue accomplished women via their more famous husbands, so it seems demeaning to do the reverse, as this clue does. Clue the guy via his work or don't clue him, thank you. You learned this lesson with AMAL Clooney, now apply it writ large.

As for the rest of the puzzle ... I guess there are several cocktails named after natural disasters. That is my takeaway today. Is there supposed to be a secondary implication that these drinks will f*** you up? That they will be "disasters" for you (the next day) if you have one too many? Because if not, my question is "why do all the recipes involve liquor?" Why aren't there other kinds of "recipes?" Probably because most foodstuffs do not have elaborate metaphorical names (except "toad in the hole," that's a good one). My point is, I feel like there's a low-key "severe drunkenness / hangover" theme here, but I can't prove it. So let's just say the "disaster" refers solely to the drink names. That's safest. I love cocktails but hate the overly sweet nonsense that tends to dominate bar menus, fussy concoctions for people who want to get drunk but don't actually like the taste of liquor. So while I've had scores of different mixed drinks, these "disasters" are not among them. Never even heard of the FLAMING / VOLCANO. As far as I'm concerned, there's only on "flaming" cocktail, and it's fictional, and its secret ingredient is ... cough syrup.

The grid is varied and bouncy enough (not to mention clean enough) to keep the solving experience interesting, even if drinks are not your thing. I LOL'd at THEEURO (7D: Currency debut of 2002), mostly because I was thinking about how all the people who complained about THEEU a few days ago were really gonna lose it today. I too am not a big fan of random definite articles, and don't like the "THE" here much at all (any more than I'd like THEDOLLAR), but I am a fan of comments section meltdowns, so THEEURO ended me up making me laugh rather than wince. Now I'm imagining a romantic comedy set in Elizabethan England entitled "THEE, URO" (people are named URO, right?). Think of it as a prequel to the Josh DUHAMEL movie Love, Simon.

Only a couple of write-overs today—ROLL (!) before SELL (41A: Pitch) and DRY before WRY (22D: Droll). Let's go to the Bullet Points:

Bullet Points:
  • 1A: "For ___" (greeting card section) (HIM) — who's HIM? Is it God? No? Is it Santa? Gotta say, "For HIM" sounds like a sex thing, but I may just be influenced by those (old?) ads for condoms that are ribbed, "for HER (pleasure)." Or by the men's sexual health company Hims
  • 11D: Believer in the principle of "I and I," for the physical and spiritual selves (RASTA) — cool trivia. Better than most RASTA clues. I double dog dare you to put IANDI in a puzzle, constructors. Come on—looks good, doesn't it. Tempting. You're salivating like a cartoon wolf right now, you know it.
  • 50A: Losing tic-tac-toe line (OXO) — this clue is for OOX, XOO, XOX, XXO, OXX—all the terrible three-letter combinations that can't be clued any other way. This clue is not for OXO, which can be clued multiple other ways, most notably as the kitchenware brand. Also, the band I saw open for Hall & Oates in 1983. But unless it's Saturday and you're really trying to mess with solvers, the kitchenware brand is probably the way you wanna go.
[OXO is also an impact crater on the dwarf planet Ceres]
  • 24D: "Ungula" is Latin for this word, hence "ungulate" ("What is HOOF, Alex?") — seriously, this is some "Jeopardy!"-ass cluing. 
  • 30D: Magazine with cover exclamations like "Bigger Biceps!" (MEN'S HEALTH) — [whispers rapidly] "please let him be on the cover of MEN'S HEALTH please let him be on the cover of MEN'S HEALTH..." Ha ha ha, yesssss! That's the stuff! The DUHAMEL / MEN'S HEALTH crossing, irl, baby!:
[2,143 tips! Start reading, boys!]

And again!

[234 ways! You thought there were only 216, because you're weak!]

Did you know DUHAMEL anagrams to "MALE—DUH!"? It's true. Also HAM DUEL. See you next time.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Famed fireman Red / TUE 5-28-24 / Singer Sands of the '60s / Flying adversary of Godzilla / Shot at a doctor's office, slangily / Mythical river nymph / Neopagan religion / Slangy goodbye

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Constructor: Chris Leatherberry

Relative difficulty: Medium (i.e. a normal Tues.)

THEME: WATER / SIGNS (38A: With 42-Across, zodiac trio that hints at the longest answers in this puzzle) — longest answers are literal signs (i.e. "postings") that relate to water in some way:

Theme answers:
  • WASH HANDS BEFORE / RETURNING TO WORK (17A: With 23-Across, restroom posting for employees)
  • WARNING: HIGH TIDE (53A: Beach posting)
  • CAUTION: WET FLOOR (63A: Posting after a spill)
Word of the Day: EVIE Sands (47A: Singer Sands of the '60s) —

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

Sands' music career spans more than 50 years. In the mid-1960s, while still a teenager, she began her career and eventually found chart success in 1969. Sands retired from performing in 1979 to concentrate on writing and production. She experienced a surge in cult popularity in the 1990s and returned to live performance in mid-1998. Sands continues to write and perform. (wikipedia)

• • •

The wording of the "signs" is a *little* contrived, in order to get them all into 15-letter slots. The sign in restrooms about washing hands always has "EMPLOYEES MUST" in front of it, doesn't it? Dumping the "employees" part into the clue feels like a bit of a cheat. Tides go in and out every day, so I wasn't quite sure what the WARNING: HIGH TIDE sign was warning against, but it looks like on occasion there are specific times of day associated with such signs, letting you know when high tide is, so you don't get stuck on rocks or other places, cut off from the shore, or so you don't park your Jeep or other beach vehicle somewhere where the sea can take it. Most places I've been, the tide just kinda slowly comes in, then slowly goes out, no big deal. No signs. As for CAUTION: WET FLOOR, no problem there, that seems right on the money. Anyway, the "joke" here (take the zodiac term literally) works. I do not love the split revealer with a word in between—there's something aesthetically displeasing about a revealer (moreso than any other answer in the grid) being split in two. It wants to be one, or at least split in a way that keeps the parts adjacent. Actually. I think you either don't split the parts, split them but with nothing in between the parts, or you really really split them (opposite sides of the grid). Here, the single word in between WATER and SIGNS really calls attention to the split and makes the answer look weird: WATER LAD SIGNS! Who is WATER LAD?, the puzzle makes me wonder. Sounds like a character in the '60s superhero discard bin.

Today's fill was pretty rough. What are you doing with Red ADAIR? And BATE?? (19D: Hold, as one's breath). Come on. No one says BATE. People talk (clichély) about "BATEd breath," and that is the only way anyone uses "BATE" as a verb (except as a letter string in common verbs like ABATE, DEBATE, REBATE). It is possible to get high on the dictionary, letting it convince you to put some dumb *&$% in the puzzle that you *know* isn't really (in practice) a thing. If the answer makes you balk in the slightest, a good rule of thumb is: chuck it. Chuck BATE, for sure. The crosswordese comes a bit thick in this one generally, from ETNA NENA to that ugly ACH CHA pair to multiple prefixes (UNI, INDO) to stuff like EERIE and ORATE, which are obviously fine ordinary words, but which add to the overall crusty-crossword feel of a grid when so many other words are subpar or otherwise failing to be interesting. There are only two longer non-theme answers, and one of them is that horrible CANNIBAL joke, ugh (second one of those in recent months) (6D: Someone you might be reluctant to give a hand to?). The humor also misses bad at ETA Pi (which makes me think people are pronouncing the Greek letter "eat-a"?? though I guess the correct pronunciation does sound like "ate-a," which validates the corny fraternity joke) (46A: ___ Pi (fraternity for the sweet-toothed?)). There's just lots of crummy short stuff today. Lots. And food-based fraternity and cannibal puns somehow didn't aBATE the crumminess.

Bottom half of the grid felt much rougher / tougher than the top to me. I couldn't figure out what kind of "Citation" the clue meant at 52D: Citation abbr. (commendation? speeding ticket?), so ET AL was weirdly slow, and since it was adjacent to "I'M OUT" (hard to parse) and DIONE (unknown, then misspelled) (58D: Moon of Saturn), that whole SE section was messy. But not nearly as messy as everything around VIEIRA, which I spelled like "Sierra" (i.e. VIERRA). I'm just dead lucky that I knew who Meredith VIEIRA was at all, since that "V" cross was a doozy—I initially had 47A: Singer Sands of the '60s (really? just ... "of the '60s!?"), as EDIE. Seems like a bad cross, EVIE / VIEIRA. Maybe Meredith is famous enough to eliminate all troubles, but that "V" sure seems like a place someone might trip. To a lesser extent, I'd say the same thing about the "A" at NENA / WADI. Just don't confuse the "99 Luftballons" crosswordese with the Hawaiian goose crosswordese and you'll be fine. I know WADI, but largely from crosswords, I think. If that word is new to you, you aren't alone (whether people will admit it or not). The hardest answer in the puzzle for me was HEW TO (56D: Follow, as orders). You follow orders, you obey orders, you do not HEW TO orders, that is So Awkward. I had the answer as SEE TO for a bit, which isn't good, but it's at least as good as HEW TO (as clued). You HEW TO a norm or standard or set of specifications. It has to do with conforming, not obeying. Those are related, but they are not the same. It's already an ugly piece of fill—botching the clue just makes things worse. Overall, the theme concept was good, the execution so-so, and the fill (and its cluing) somewhat below average. Oh, and note to self (and others?): the sculptor is RODIN, the Japanese movie monster is RODAN (argh!) (7D: Flying adversary of Godzilla).

[this was literally my introduction to RODAN, circa 1982. God bless you, Michael Nesmith—"Elephant Parts" was everything to me as a kid]

See you next time.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. about those side-by-side TOs (DECIDE TO & HEW TO) — nobody's gonna care about your "TO" dupe unless you make them walk hand in hand like that. There's another "TO" up there in RETURNING TO WORK, and I didn't notice or care ... until the TO-TO twins here decided to get cute.

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Offer kudos, in modern lingo / MON 5-27-24 / Rare tennis feat in which one player wins 24 straight points / Programming language since 1995 / Soft leather variety / Ref. that added "turnt" and "deepfake" in 2023

Monday, May 27, 2024

Constructor: Christopher Youngs

Relative difficulty: Easy (if only I knew how to spell NOVOCAINE...) (solved Downs-only)

THEME: PUT ON A SHOW (62A: Keep up appearances, say ... or what to do with the ends of 17-, 24-, 39- and 50-Across) — ends of the theme answers are things related associated with a theatrical or movie production:

Theme answers:
  • JAVASCRIPT (17A: Programming language since 1995)
  • GOLDEN SET (24A: Rare tennis feat in which one player wins 24 straight points)
  • PODCAST (39A: Audio download)
  • GIVE PROPS (50A: Offer kudos, in modern lingo)
Word of the Day: GOLDEN SET (24A) —

In tennis, a golden set is a set which is won without losing a single point. This means scoring the 24 minimum points required to win the set 6–0, without conceding any points.

In professional tennis, this has occurred twice in the main draw of top-level events. It has also happened a number of times in the pre-tournament qualifier of the lowest-level events. Bill Scanlon had a golden second set in his win over Marcos Hocevar at the 1983 Delray Beach WCT event. Yaroslava Shvedova had a golden first set in her win over Sara Errani at the 2012 Wimbledon ChampionshipsSteffi Graf came close to achieving the feat in the finals of the 1989 Virginia Slims of Washington tournament, winning the first five games to love against Zina Garrison, before winning the match 6–1, 7–5. At the 2023 Western & Southern OpenTaylor Fritz won the first five games to love in his round of sixteen match before his opponent, Dusan Lajovic, retired. 

golden match is when a player does not lose a single point in the entire match. There are five documented cases of this at low-level events. Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman did so in a 1910 amateur match in the state of Washington. Then it happened twice in France in the qualifiers of lowest-level professional events, two of them in the span of two months, both against the same 55-year-old man, Tomas Fabian. A more recent televised Golden Match involved Krittin Koaykul beating Artem Bahmet during a qualifying match at ITF World Tennis Tour event in Doha, and scoring the minimum 48 points to win. (wikipedia)

• • •

This theme seems fine. A basic "last/first-words-associated-with"-type theme. Pains have been taken to make sure that all of the relevant words appear in decidedly non-theatrical contexts in their respective answers, which is nice. Fill's a little flaccid (esp. down below, in the OVULE PETE'S ELENA RESEW area), but I've seen worse. I don't think PUT ON A SHOW is exactly equivalent to [Keep up appearances], but I guess it's close enough. It was a fairly forgettable solving experience but for two moments. First, I technically failed my Downs-only solve because I finished with a misspelled NOVOCAINE. I had it as NOVACAINE (crossing SNARES) as opposed to NOVOCAINE (crossing SNORES). It's a word I've struggled with before, which is why I convinced myself NOVACAINE was right. See, I wanted NOVOCAINE, but because I had misspelled it in the past, or else had seen it written out at some point and thought "that spelling is weird," I assumed that the spelling I wanted was the wrong spelling, so I went with the weirder-looking spelling, NOVACAINE, which honestly still looks pretty good. Maybe it's because it shares its first six letters with the familiar "NO VACANCY." Anyway, wanted the right thing, second-guessed myself and went with the wrong thing, end of story. 

The other thing about this puzzle that is semi-memorable is GOLDEN SET, which made me groan when I got it. Well, no, not groan. It made me make a horrible, dubious face. I got every letter of GOLDEN SET from crosses, checked all those crosses a second time, and then had to concede that yes, the answer was probably GOLDEN SET, but what the hell is that? I figured it was a mathematical term (like the "golden ratio"). After I finished, I looked at the clue and saw that it was a tennis term, which, as someone who played tennis a lot as a kid, and followed professional tennis reasonably closely for a time, was news to me. Never heard of it. When they say "rare," they aren't kidding. See the "Word of the Day" entry for details, but tl;dr it's only ever happened twice at the top level of professional play for men or women. I can't even believe there's a name for it, that's how rare it is. EGOTs are common compared to GOLDEN SETs. So I'm not in love with GOLDEN SET as the chosen (Monday) SET. Must've been pretty hard to find a six-letter set, I guess. I like HORSEY SET, myself. STEREO SET would've worked just fine. But I guess if everything else is Monday easy (and then some—seriously, zero resistance today outside this answer), then you can introduce your weirdo GOLDEN SET. But I will say that looking up GOLDEN SET did lead me to one of my favorite sports stories, out of France—it involves Tomas Fabian, the Czech player who was on the losing end of not one but two (!) golden matches (!!!) inside of two months (!!!!). Wikipedia actually contradicts itself here—the body of their GOLDEN SET write-up says both losses were golden matches, but the match details below say he actually managed to score one point in one of those matches. No matter, still a colossal (under-) achievement. Check out this French write-up of one of those matches. It's amazing:
Le Blockbuster Tomas Fabian a encore frappé ! Ce Tchèque Non Classé de 55 ans s'amuse à écumer les tournois ITF, offrant un étrange spectacle aux yeux ébahis des spectateurs puisqu'il ne sait pas du tout jouer au tennis. Le suspens est toujours à son comble quand il a la raquette à la main : va-t-il, ou non, remporter un point ou offrir un golden score à ses adversaires ? Joffrey De Schepper, tête de série n°3 (25 ans, 1035 ATP) des qualifications du tournoi de Rodez a manqué de peu le score parfait. 48 points à 1 et 21 minutes de jeu plus tard, il a pu poursuivre son chemin et retrouvera au prochain tour Pierre-Olivier Lassalle. (Tennis ACTU)

Blockbuster Tomas Fabian strikes again! This 55-year-old Unranked Czech has fun roaming the ITF tournaments, offering a strange spectacle to the amazed eyes of the spectators since he doesn't know how to play tennis at all. The suspense is always at its height when he has the racket in his hand: will he, or not, win a point or offer a golden score to his opponents? Joffrey De Schepper, seeded n°3 (25 years old, 1035 ATP) in qualifying for the Rodez tournament, narrowly missed the perfect score. 48 points [to] 1 and 21 minutes of play later, he was able to continue his path and will meet Pierre-Olivier Lassalle in the next round. (Google Translate) (emph. mine)
As a 54-year-old unranked American, I adore this "55-year-old unranked Czech" who apparently has no idea what to do with his tennis racket. Tomas Fabian! Where is his Wheaties box!!? Thank you, Monday puzzle, for giving me a new sports idol.

I've heard of "kid gloves" but not DOESKIN gloves (43D: Soft leather variety). Still, I was able to infer it from just the "D" (which I had because what else is gonna go in the "SWE-E" spot?). I forgot for a second that Adobe made PHOTOSHOP, but again, crosses came to the rescue and I got a good "D'oh" out of it once I finally saw it. I would've gone to DOTED U. but got rejected and had to go to a small liberal arts college instead, boo hoo (9D: End of an academic URL). I hear they treat you pretty good at DOTED U. — MAID service, PICASSOs in every room, the works. Must be nice. 

[45D: Painter with a noted "blue period"]

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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