Wood painted to look like cannon / FRI 7-3-15 / Eyeless in Gaza novelist 1936 / Sir Lancelot portrayer of 1975 / Purchases that are puffed slangily / School head in best-selling series of novels / Rock star's nickname derived from his jewelry / Charlotte cream-filled dessert / Poe gaily bedight gallant knight

Friday, July 3, 2015

Constructor: Brandon Hensley

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: QUAKER GUN (30D: Wood painted to look like a cannon) —
A Quaker Gun is a deception tactic that was commonly used in warfare during the 18th and 19th centuries. Although resembling an actual cannon, the Quaker Gun was simply a wooden log, usually painted black, used to deceive an enemy. Misleading the enemy as to the strength of an emplacement was an effective delaying tactic. The name derives from the Religious Society of Friends or "Quakers", who have traditionally held a religious opposition to war and violence in the Peace Testimony.
• • •

Why would you paint wood to look like a cannon? What kind of absurd art trend is that? There is no way Quakers did that? — this was my reaction to QUAKER GUN, by far the strangest thing in the grid, and, I'd bet my antique hosiery collection, the thing in this grid that the fewest solvers will have heard of. So, the most obscure thing in the grid, I guess. I enjoyed learning about it, though, after I finished and looked it up, so I'm not mad at it. It imparted an odd and curious and not altogether unpleasant flavor to this uneven but mostly decent themeless puzzle. 70-worder really shouldn't have this much dreck in it, but the nice parts are nice. Opened with a couple of proper noun gimmes in the NW:

HUXLEY was the true gimme; SYD was one of those "I think so, but let's see..." answers. When you get a big fat "X" in the middle of your big fat themeless corner, well, advantage you. That corner was done before it knew what hit it. Helped that EARP CIGS and ASA were all gimmes too. Clean corner, nicely done.

Things got a little rougher after THAT. Right around THAT, actually. THAT is a fine answer. But HALEN's a partial and TRAC is junk and ALECS only looks good when you compare it to VERAS (?), which is easily the worst thing in the grid, insofar as ... well, at least several things. LIB is semi-derogatory and "IME" is "IME." No time for "IME" have I (or me). I always thought it was "END SCENE!" Or, rather, I thought it was "AND SCENE," but then thought I must be hearing it wrong (14D: Director's cry with a pause in the middle). ALBUS DUMBLEDORE was too much of a gimme for a central 15 (it's a nice 15, but make me work for it, at least a little) (34A: School head in a best-selling series of novels).  And so, with my joy somewhat diminished after the nice NW opening, I arrived midway on my solving journey at ... this place:

The INCUS EVOKER lay in wait ... (cue scary music)

Very easy to get into the SE corner, since ANTES and AGAPE were hand-outs. Had trouble finishing EPIC VERSE because we usually just call those EPICs. I enjoyed remembering "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and then I was done. Speaking of Holy Grail, or Arthurian literature, at any rate, I learned things today about Marion Zimmer Bradley (whose "Mists of Avalon" I quite admire) that I wish I could unknow. Gonna have to rewatch "Monty Python" a dozen times before I shake the ickiness off. Luckily, rewatching "Monty Python" a dozen times—not a problem.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Onetime lover of Riker on Star Trek TNG / THU 7-2-15 / Father of Erebus Nyx in Greek myth / Soba alternative / James Merritt pioneering lithographer / Protein constituent informally / Depression common during childhood

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (only because of one corner; otherwise Easy-Medium)

THEME: INVISIBLE INK (67A: What six of this puzzle's clues have been written with?) — theme clues are single letters, to which you must add "-INK" to get the full clue; ERGO:

Theme answers:
  • ECCENTRICITY (18A: K) [i.e. Kink]
  • FOUNDER (12D: S) [i.e. Sink]
  • SPLIT SECOND (30A: W) [i.e. Wink]
  • MEDIUM RARE (38A: P) [i.e. Pink]
  • STOOL PIGEON (53A: F) [i.e. Fink]
  • CONNECT (45D: L) [i.e. Link]
Word of the Day: ETYMA (11D: Root words) —
plural noun: etyma
  1. a word or morpheme from which a later word is derived. (google)
• • •

This concept is nice. Grid is oversized (16 wide) and still crammed to the gills with theme material. Perhaps too crammed—fill gets pretty strained at times. But core concept is solid and clever. Two things were weird for me about this solving experience. First, I took a ridiculous, circuitous route through the grid at the beginning, getting real traction nowhere, but somehow managing to proceed by crosses until I'd nearly traversed the whole grid. Second, I got stuck in one of the narrow-exit corners. Can you guess which one? Hint: the SW. It's the SW. I got stuck there. Those corners were much tougher than the rest of the puzzle. Corners that are mostly cut off and barely accessible can get very dicey. Since I moved into the NE from the front ends of some Across answers, I was able to get that corner under control without too much trouble. But backing my way into the SW proved much, much tougher. But let's start with that weird opening:

Look at that nonsense. I'm all over hell and gone. It's not like I didn't *try* to dig into various sections as I moved through them. It's just that I got thwarted, and so kept moving. You can see what thwarted me up top—two wrong answers (PAL for MAC, STEMS for (yuck) ETYMA). Anyway, the meandering you see above is decidedly not normal. But it had this weird, serendipitous upside, which is that the SE was the first corner I really nailed, and that just happened to be the corner that held the key to the whole theme. Thus, very shortly after the CHAOS you see above, I had this:

I was not yet aware that there were two more theme clues lurking in the tinier corners. Anyway, getting the theme revealer opened things right up. And not much later I tried to enter the SW. And failed. Well, mostly failed. I got UH OH and GANG WAR (though I was unsure of the latter). But even with -US ending I couldn't remember GENUS (haven't played Trivial Pursuit in a quarter century). Clues for both MUGGING (43D: Slice of ham?) and I HEAR YA (44D: "Tell me about it!") were opaque. Didn't know who DeWitt Clinton was, so NYC stayed hidden. Got IRE, but it didn't help. Know far, far too many 3-letter synonyms for [Roscoe] (most notably ROD and GUN), so GAT wasn't obvious. It took, finally, just guessing MIC at 43A: Word after open or hot to move things along. Thought I was done, but I'd left a square blank back at IVES / SLIT. So that's where I finished.

Did anyone else have GO UNDER for [S[ink]] at first?
Did anyone expect something much, much more interesting than ECCENTRICITY for [K[ink]]?
No? OK. That's fine.

Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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