Resort island in Firthy of Clyde / SUN 2-7-16 / Orthoodox jewish honorific / Charlie Chan portrayer Warner / Legendary Washington hostess / Luna's Greek counterpart / Southern constellation that holds second-brightest star in night sky

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: "Adding Insult" — "DIS" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky blah blah you know the drill:

Theme answers:
  • DISCREDIT CARDS (22A: Damage a St. Louis team's reputation?)
  • TABLE OF DISCONTENTS (29A: Ones giving the waiter a hard time?)
  • DISPLAYS FOR A FOOL (48A: Harlequin exhibitions?)
  • DISBAND ON THE RUN (63A: Flee in separate directions?)
  • ELLA DISENCHANTED (86A: Result of the Queen of Scat's backup group messing up?)
  • CAMEO DISAPPEARANCE (101A: Jewel heist outcome?)
  • DISBAR AND GRILL (113A: Question harshly after not allowing to practice?)
Word of the Day: CARINA (24A: Southern constellation that holds the second-brightest star in the night sky) —
Carina /kəˈrnə/ is a constellation in the southern sky. Its name is Latin for the keel of a ship, and it was formerly part of the larger constellation of Argo Navis (the ship Argo) until that constellation was divided into three pieces, the other two being Puppis (the poop deck), and Vela (the sails of the ship). (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle is unimaginably bad. Despite the fact that I criticize puzzles, even good ones, every day, all the time, it is actually very rare that I outright Hate a puzzle—that I resent the time it took me to solve it (let alone the time it takes me to write about it). So I'm not gonna waste too much time writing about this one. Let's just say that "Adding Insult" is about right. There are so many HURTERS (what the actual...!?) in this puzzle, it's hard to know where to begin. So I'll begin with the theme, which is tired, lazy, dated hackery of the first order. After I got the first themer (DISCREDIT CARDS, ugh), I said out loud (though no one was around to hear me), "Oh, no, this isn't just gonna be a bunch of DIS answers, is it?" I cannot—I mean canNot—believe this passed muster. First, I've seen variations on this exact theme before. Second, who cares? Why? There is nothing funny or interesting or clever about the resulting "wacky" phrases? Zero. Just add DIS ... over and over and over and over Why? So "Ella Enchanted" becomes "ELLA DISENCHANTED"!? That's it? Dear lord above, that registers like a 0.1 on the Wordplay Scale. Half the time DIS- is just used as a negative prefix. So "cameo appearance" becomes [drum roll] CAMEO DISAPPEARANCE! Get it!? Me either.


And the fill ... I can't believe I'm saying this, I can't believe it's physically possible, but ... it's worse. It's in even worse shape than the sad, hobbling, hackneyed theme. I circled all the semi-to-very objectionable answers on my grid, and it's just an inky mess now. It was like one of those All-Star games where they bring back the old-timers, only instead of people you want to see like Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax, it's ABOU Ben Adhem and Perle MESTA and Mme. de STAEL and Warner OLAND (riding an ELAND). There's LOEWE on IWO. A SOR ON RYE. There's SELENE crossing DE SICA in what will surely be a Natick for someone (SELENA / DA SICA looks totally acceptable). OTOH, there's ULNAR A DUE (because it takes two to ULNAR). There's something I've never seen before called CARINA. The puzzle is sincerely asking me to believe that you can pluralize FM (!?) (37A: Most NPR stations). And then the coup de grace: NOT crossing NOT in the NE. Seriously. That actually happened. In short, this is the most inexcusably bad Sunday puzzle I've seen in ages. From top to bottom, stem to stern, APEAK to PAIUTE. Gooood night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Filmdom's Chucky, for one / SAT 2-6-16 / Its icon contains pair of quavers / 2004 film with tagline One man saw it coming / Swiss treaty city / Duran Duran frontman Simon / So-called commander of faithful / Redolent ring

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: LOCARNO (36D: Swiss treaty city) —
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5–16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 1 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of Central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, and return normalizing relations with defeated Germany (which was, by this time, the Weimar Republic). Ratifications for the Locarno treaties were exchanged in Geneva on 14 September 1926, and on the same day they became effective. The treaties were also registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on the same day. // Locarno divided borders in Europe into two categories: western, which were guaranteed by Locarno treaties, and eastern borders of Germany with Poland, which were open for revision, thus leading to Germany's renewed claims to the German-populated Free City of Danzig and mixed ethnic Polish territories approved by the League of Nations including the Polish Corridor, and Upper Silesia. (wikipedia)
• • •

A very Saturday Saturday. I had to struggle a good deal, but not in ways that I ended up resenting (the way I will when the fill is hyper-obscure or downright awful, or the cluing is suspect or downright awful, etc.). This one's got a nice variety of answers, from a broad cross-section of knowledge bases, and it feels very modern, which I always like (OK I don't *like* SELFIE STICKs, but I like that this puzzle *sees* them, knows they're there, and, I assume, sneers at them the same way I do). LONGING EYES felt wibbly-wobbly (WAWA-wobbly) to me. That is borderline Green Paint—[adjective] + EYES. Is there a famous instance of that exact phrase? BEDROOM EYES, I've definitely heard of. Also BLUE, LYIN', SNAKE, ITCHY WATERY, BEADY, CROSS, and BETTE DAVIS. When I google ["LONGING EYES"] roughly half the hits are for some hymn: "Jesus, Thy Church with Longing Eyes" by William H. Bathurst, 1796-1877." I doubt those were the kind of eyes the clue was going for. Anyway, that one prompted a squint-eyed suspicious glare from me. But all the other longer stuff seemed nice. I do hate DO TO A TEEEEEEEE (both that spelling and that phrase in general) and crossing it with HES? (8D: Drones and such). Ick. But there just aren't many moments like that. Mostly it's all ROSE CEREMONYs and MOONROOFs.


I had DISTRESS instead of ACID WASH right out of the gate (1A: Make look old, in a way). Same material (denim!), different words. I guess you can DISTRESS lots of stuff, but you probably don't ACID WASH anything but denim, right? Early '90s denim? So I was wrong there, but knew I was wrong when no Downs worked. Then I hit onto what is probably the weirdest opening solving pattern I've ever had on a Saturday. If I'd known RABIN Square (9D: ___ Square, center of Tel Aviv), I'd've had an impressively symmetrical, grid-spanning creature of some sort written into my grid:



It's like a one-armed guy waving hello. After this opening play, I figured the puzzle would be Easy. If I could cross the grid with virtually no effort, what could stop me!? (Plenty, it turns out). I know LUCERNE, but not LOCARNO, and they're both in Switzerland, and so,  yeah, with C and R in there, I went with LUCERNE, and that screwed things up. Otherwise, it was just tough. Normal tough. Saturday tough, with a few nice gimmes thrown in for me (Pau GASOL, ROSANNE Cash, Simon LEBON). If I have a relative named BOWSER, I am unaware of it (18A: Relative of Rex). BOWSER, call me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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