Bit of exercise in Britain / SUN 4-19-15 / Rebellion event of 1676 / Candle in wind dedicatee / Aid to Zen meditation / Atari 7800 competitor briefly / Bass role in Gilbert & Sullivan opera / Asian stew often eaten with dipping sauce / Gershwin portrayer in Rhapsody in Blue / Largest coastal city between San Francisco Portland

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Constructor: Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Double Down" — in Acrosses, two consecutive letters are rebused into one box; Downs that cross those rebused boxes have to be read twice to make sense—first with the first Across letter in place, and then with the second, e.g. "Y" and "L" are in the final box of 5D: One way to complete an online purchase because the answer is PAY PAL (i.e. first word takes the Y, second word takes the L)

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: TANTARA (93D: Bit of fanfare) —
a. trumpet or horn fanfare.
b. sound resembling such a fanfare.
2. hunting cry. (
• • •

Harder than usual, but not more pleasurable than usual. Actually, about as pleasurable as usual—it's just that "usual" these days is not what it once was, sadly. At least I had to fight this one a little. Cluing was tough all over, and I found myself stuck, at least briefly, much more often than normal. Very tough to me to get my head around the theme at first because there is an "L" right above the "INEN" in DIRT[YL]INEN, and I thought somehow that "L" came "Down" … and was also somehow supplying the "L" from PAY PAL (!?). Seriously, the "L" in EATS ALONE threw me quite badly for a decent amount of time. I was mystified. Wasn't til much later (maybe KAL KAN) that I "got" it. I had MAD at 46D: Lunatic and that seemed just fine to me. Never occurred to me it was MAD MAN. Actually, now that I think on it, it must've been HOT POT / LAUNC[HP]ARTY that got me on the right track.  This brings me to the one thematic element that I like, or at least admire—all of the "double" squares happen precisely at the break between two words in a two-word phrase (or compound word). This is what I mean when I applaud "consistency"—not doing things in predictable ways that have been done before, but in setting the bar high / making the requirements stringent, and still pulling it off. Makes the puzzle more elegant and professional. Shows craft.

Still, I didn't exactly enjoy this. I've seen the basic conceit before (though perhaps it's applied slightly differently here), and solving ended up being more slog than revelation. I know I'm repeating myself here, but the fill remains substandard in too many places. The whole TITI BAABAA TANTARA ASWE ESSA section—everything in and around ESSA, actually—is really hard to look at directly. To say nothing of your EGERs and ITORs and EAPOEs (yipes) and et cetera. Wish more craft had been put into the non-theme stuff. But why should constructors care about that if the editor doesn't? I mean that. RESEED RESAND recycle. Longer stuff is pretty nice, but longer stuff often is. Weirdest moment in the solve was somehow remembering QOM and using that "Q" to get the QUOTA in IMPORT QUOTA (that answer was gonna be IMPORT [blank] forever…). Only I spelled it QOM, because … that is an acceptable spelling of that place (it's how it's spelled in wikipedia). Thankfully, RONNING A TAB is manifestly not a thing.

My friend Patrick Blindauer just informed me that the WSJ has a cryptic crossword this week! By Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon! And it's supposed to be Great. So I'm gonna go do that now. If you'd like to do the same, Here You Go (.pdf).

Gonna go watch some more NBAERs play now even though no one calls them that. Go Warriors.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Model in a science class / SAT 4-18-15 / Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu who found sailing route around Africa / Graham old Kellogg's cereal / Foreign state with capital Panaji / Emperor crowned in 962 / Alternative to Beauvais-Tillé / Boogie Nights persona played by Mark Wahlberg / Like spectacled bear / Metal band with 1994 #1 album Far Beyond Driven / Hawaii Five-O imperative / Big Japanese chip maker

    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    Constructor: Damon J. Gulczynski

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: ORRERY (46D: Model in a science class) —
    1. a mechanical model of the solar system, or of just the sun, earth, and moon, used to represent their relative positions and motions. (google)
    • • •

    This puzzle conveniently illustrates the point I made yesterday about How To Build A Themeless Grid. Actually, you can build them all kinds of ways, but if you build them in a way that leaves you with tons of short fill, your end result will likely be less than stunning. Yesterday's went with a half-dozen 15s and not much else in the 6+-letter length category, resulting in some decent 15s (maybe a 2/3 "hit" rate), and then a whole lot of dreck and otherwise forgettable stuff. Today's grid makes for a nice comparison because it's got some of the same issues, just less so. Highly segmented (I always think of these as "bullet-ridden") grid, more 3-to-5-letter answers than you'd really like to see in a themeless, and (thus) some yucky fill issues (I won't list them all—you can see for yourself). But, BUT, the grid is *rife* with answers in the 7-to-12-letter range, i.e. more meaty fill that allows for more wide-ranging, eye-popping, grabby answers. Virtually every 7+-letter answer is at least good, and OKELY-DOKELY, DIRK DIGGLER, BELIEVE YOU ME, SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN, HOW NICE, OH COME NOW … all these are really, really nice. THE CLASH symmetrical with the TEA PARTY! That's what you call running the cultural gamut. Anyway, you can see (I hope) how shifting the grid toward an emphasis on more marquee fill of varying lengths make for a more complex and satisfying themeless puzzle.

    I had a little trouble getting started there in the NW. I think I didn't get much of anywhere until I found the NED Flanders clue, and then guessed FIREPLACE / ASH. It was FIREPLACE / LOG, of course—why would use a poker on ash? But FIREPLACE got me traction. Here's my grid early on in the solve (note the TIMERS mistake at 2D: Meet people—not sure why I was so confident, though, to my minimal credit, I interpreted "meet" correctly):

    With NED in place, OKELY-DOKELY was a gimme (though spelling it wasn't), and I had a pretty fast solve thereafter. Had ESSE for ETRE, TLR for TSR (it's been decades, now, of seeing that damned D&D clue; you'd think I'd have TSR down pat). I had Louise RAINER starring in the "Phantom Lady" instead of Claude RAINES … oh, but it looks like that's not how you spell Claude Rains (also not how you spell Luise Rainer, btw). Looks like the RAINES in question is Ella RAINES, Whoever That Is. Dodged a bullet there, I guess. Finished with ORRERY, a word I've seen often enough, but never quite remember. Luckily, crosses didn't let me down.

    Happy Record Store Day!
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      P.S. I wonder if anyone will go with DARK DIGGLER. I recently watched "Singin' in the Rain" and *still* couldn't have told you there was a LINA in it.

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