Mythical king of huns / WED 4-16-14 / Yellowstone bugler / Cuddly sci-fi creature / What scientists use to predict rates of chemical reactions / Arkansas footballers informally

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Constructor: Michael Dewey

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (again, no idea, as the AcrossLite file at the NYT site was Once Again "corrupt") (it's kind of an embarrassment how bad they are at the tech stuff over there) (oh hey, look, I bugged the right person and the file is no longer corrupt. Too late for me, but …)

THEME: "TITANIC SINKS!" (58A: Headline of April 16, 1912) — theme answers are, in whole or, in the case of one answer, in part, related to the sinking of the Titanic...

Theme answers:
  • MAIDEN VOYAGE (20A: Post-christening event)
  • COLLISION THEORY (28A: What scientists use to predict the rates of chemical reactions)
  • TIP OF THE ICEBERG (49A: Small part that's visible)
Word of the Day: ATLI (45D: Mythical king of the huns) —
A legendary king corresponding to the historical figure of Attila. In the Volsunga Saga he is the second husband of Gudrun. (
• • •

This doesn't work. First, there's the not major but still significant problem of this "tribute"'s having been done before—and recently, at a time that made much more sense, i.e. just two years ago, when it was the 100th anniversary of the disaster. Second, there's the tepidity of this theme execution. Weak, obvious, untricky answers, including one (COLLISION THEORY) that has a word in it  (THEORY???) that has Zero relationship to the disaster (the collision is not a theory; what caused the collision is not a theory … boat hitting iceberg caused the collision; there were theories about what caused the ship to sink … at first … but … now we know it was an iceberg, right? So ...). Just so weird / awkward to have all the other theme answers be spot-on and literal (to the point of dullness) and then have this lone outlier, totally unrelated to the Titanic except in a half-metaphorical kind of way. I'm baffled. Why was this even accepted? Further: fill is very much subpar. ATLI is ghastly, bottom-of-the-barrel crosswordese. In fact, it's almost definitive in its crosswordesiness. AGER and EDO and KAT, not much better.

I did like OH BOTHER, appropriately/ironically. Had LEAP for [Bound] at 1A, so not the fastest start. I had MAGI for MARY at 10D: Crèche figure—kinda knew I was wrong, as MAGI are figures, plural, but MA- + "Crèche" = MAGI in my brain. Wanted I GOT IT before I DID IT (50D: Cry of success). Odd coincidence (I assume) that I have seen ECLIPSE (5D: Sun block?) at least three times in the past few days, considering there was a lunar ECLIPSE, what, just yesterday? Thought [Globe's place] as a clue for BOSTON was pretty clever. But outside of that answer and the Pooh answer, there's not much here to love.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Middle part of pedestal / TUE 4-15-14 / TV show anchored by Bill O'Reilly from 1989 to 1995 / Holder of tomorrow's lunch

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Constructor: Gary Cee

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: BASE ON BALLS (63A: Batter's reward after pitches like those described at the starts of 17-, 24-, 39- and 51-Across) — first words of theme answers can also describe non-strike pitches in baseball. Four misses, four balls => walk, i.e. BASE ON BALLS

    Theme answers:
    • LOW BLOW
    Word of the Day: DADO (26D: Middle part of a pedestal) —
    1. Architecture. The section of a pedestal between base and surbase.
    2. The lower portion of the wall of a room, decorated differently from the upper section, as with panels.
      1. A rectangular groove cut into a board so that a like piece may be fitted into it.
      2. The groove so cut.

    Read more:
    • • •

    This is a perfectly reasonable puzzle. About as exciting as a walk, to me, but … hey, walks can be exciting. If they come late in the game, with the score even or close to it, perhaps. There's really nothing here to fault. There just isn't much to get excited about either. I like that none of the themers use their first words in positional ways, i.e. the words are used metaphorically, as opposed to the way they're used in baseball (literally). Always good to have your "first words" being used, in their own answers, in non-theme contexts. But the themers themselves aren't particularly original or scintillating, and neither is the fill—though DOGGIE BAG (3D: Holder of tomorrow's lunch, maybe) and MARSEILLE (35D: "The Count of Monte Cristo") have a certain unusualness and vividness that I like. This is a placeholder puzzle. Well made but instantly forgettable.

    [Submit, as clowns]

    This puzzle must've been pretty damned easy, in the main, because I made two major mistakes, resulting in a good deal of fumbling around, and yet I still came in at just over 3. My brain clearly took in the "Mumbai" part of 20A: Music of Mumbai (RAGA), but apparently it took in little else, since, with RA- in place, I wrote in RANI. This made both DOGGIE BAG and ENHANCE impossible to get at first. The other mistake I made—again off the first two letters—came at 47D: Orange source. I had OR- in place, so naturally I wrote in [...drum roll…] ORLANDO! Ugh. Became clear very quickly, as I tried to work the crosses in that SE corner, that something was wrong. Knew the [Old record player] couldn't start with "F," so wrote in HIFI and instantly saw ORCHARD. The rest of the puzzle–a blur of fast typing. I might've gotten held up near the center, with DADO, a word I only ever see in puzzles … but the point is that I *do* see it in puzzles (learned it from puzzles), so I *did* remember (after a second or two of cogitation), so no harm done. Oh, I also wrote in ASKED instead of PRIED, since nothing about the clue  (57A: Was inquisitive) suggested the inappropriateness or excessiveness implied by PRIED.

    Just a note: the NYT published only three female constructors in March. No woman has yet been published in April.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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