Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Constructor: Michael Sharp. Alias, Rex Parker

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Rear-end COLLISIONS (64-A) — Four answers end in a synonym for blemish or mar (something that'd happen to a car in the event of said collision)

Word of the Day: SCRIMS (46-Down, Theater drops) —

    noun /skrim/ 
    scrims, plural

    1. Strong, coarse fabric, chiefly used for heavy-duty lining or upholstery
      • A piece of gauze cloth that appears opaque until lit from behind, used as a screen or backdrop
        • A similar heatproof cloth put over film or television lamps to diffuse the light
          • A thing that conceals or obscures something
        • • •
        Hi everyone! Caleb Madison here filling in for our eccentric crossword-critic hero who seems to have become somewhat of a recluse, forced to take a 8 year hiatus after being blamed for the murder of HARVEY DENT (18-Across, Gotham district attorney who becomes Batman's nemesis Two-Face). Oh wait that's that guy from yesterday... Weird spike in Batman-related answers since the release of "Dark Knight Rises" (which I've seen twice so far and it's my favorite one of the trilogy and I am obsessed with Bane's voice if you were wondering). Even previous Batman nemeses make brief appearances (24-D, WAG: Joker). Is Shortz a big Dark Knight nerd too?

        Theme answers:
        • [18-A, Gotham district attorney who becomes Batman's nemesis Two-Face] HARVEY DENT
        • [22-A, Central figure in a Clement C. Moore poem] SAINT NICK
        • [38-A, Barely legible handwriting] CHICKEN SCRATCH
        • [58-A, Having razzle-dazzle, to a Rat Packer] RING-A-DING. This is the only one I don't know. Didn't they also say BADA-BING? 
        • [64-A, Cause of some rear-end damage, as represented by the rear ends of 18-, 22-, 38- and 58-Across] COLLISIONS
        Some input from the Sharpman himself:

        Things I want to say. 

        I wrote this almost two years ago. It was accepted Jan. '11.

        I hate IMONA more than any of you possibly could.

        I assumed puzzle would be rejected on basis of HARVEYDENT (too comic nerdy?)

        Matt Jones ran a puzzle w/ identical theme (diff. answers) months after I submitted this to NYT. I wrote him immediately and told him. I even considered w/drawing the puzzle. But the theme answers were so different and most of the audience for the NYT would never have seen Matt's puzzle, so I just let it ride (again, figuring it would be rejected).

        He changed some clues, but fewer than he has in past. Nothing drastic. Obviously "TED" wasn't out two years ago, so that's his. So are a bunch of others. Whatever. It's OK. I consider it the last of my "First Wave" of puzzles. I.e. my next batch will be a step up. I still like this.

        I still like it too! It's a perfectly simple yet elegant Tuesday theme (and Tuesday themes are the semicolons of themes... amirite????). I wish the whole phrase REAR END COLLISIONS made an appearance instead of it being half in the clue, but... what can ya do? IMONA [17-A, "___ roll!"is, as Sharpie admits, not very pretty. Clue should have been "___ Boat" (SNL Digital Short starring T-Pain). I don't totally like INRED [63-A, "The Lady ___"] but it's more forgivable. Especially since the theme answers are partially stacked!

        • [16-A, Birthplace of Obama's father] KENYA — What a coincidence! I'm headed off the Africa (not Kenya... Seth Efrica) on Wednesday. J-Burg and Cape Town. Listening to a lot of Paul Simon to prepare.
        • [13-D, Pain relief brand] ANACIN — The first three versions of the drug ANACIN were really good, although it went under a different name then, DARTHVADER. Then they made three more versions chronicling the early years of the drug as ANACIN. They blew a lot of money. Sorry for this extended pun... for those of you who are confused:

        • [6-D, Hit 2012 film with a talking stuffed bear] TED — I'm a pretty big Seth MacFarlane fan from "Family Guy" so I was expecting a lot from "Ted". I liked it, but think he can and will do better in the future. I would have also been happy with a "Breaking Bad" clue. Maybe [What the T stands for in the "Breaking Bad" episode, "I.F.T."]. Fans rejoice.

        • [10-D, Early phonograph] VICTROLA — Cool word / answer. I am currently obsessed with this album:

        • [15-A, Uptight, informally] ANAL – yeah, sure. Uptight. Let's go with that. That's what it means. The image in everyone's heads when they write that answer will be... up...tight... 
        Signed, Caleb Madison, DOCENT [32-A, Museum guide] of CrossWorld


        MON 7-30-12

        Monday, July 30, 2012

        Back by popular demand* it's Liz and Jenny.  Our BFF Rex cannot tear himself away from the ping-pong on the TV, so he begged* us to substitute again.  And there's nothing we would rather do than help our bestie out...we're here anytime you need us Rex!  Because, you're our bestest PAL [22A-Buddy]!

        Constructor: Rosemarie Dolan and Christopher Geach

        Relative difficulty: As easy as beating Michael Phelps in the 400 IM in the London Olympics

        Word of the Day: ASTERISK
        An asterisk (*; Late Latin: asteriscus, from Greek: ἀστερίσκος, asteriskos, "little star")[1] is a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star.  The asterisk is used to call out a footnote, especially when there is only one on the page. Less commonly, multiple asterisks are used to denote different footnotes on a page (i.e., *, **, ***). Typically, an asterisk is positioned after a word or phrase and preceding its accompanying footnote.

        Nope...not in the puzzle.  But we didn't know how to add footnotes, so we used asterisks in our almost entirely true introduction.  For example, we actually asked Rex if we could blog again today.  This sounds boring and self-promoting, so, with an asterisk, we changed this to the more colorful version presented above.  Enjoy!

        THEME: Batman (oy-too soon!)—Theme answers all relate to Batman. 

        We're not a fan of the genre.  We much prefer Archie Comics, especially Betty and Veronica (go team Betty!!).  But we'll take George Clooney as Batman any day.  Does anyone remember when he used to be on "Facts of Life" and "Roseanne"?  Speaking of hot guys, OMG Ryan Lochte.  Not to DIS [46A-Insult, slangily] our hometown boy, Michael Phelps, but, as soon as we laid eyes on this beautiful swimming phenom, we were all..."Michael Phelps who?"  It was LUST [52A] at first sight.  Hey Ryan...call us!! xoxo

        While we're on the subject of the Olympics, we wished we had PONIED [5D-Paid (up)] up the dough to [53A-Schlep] LUG ourselves across the pond to go shopping at Harrods, have a spot of tea, attend a RAVE with Pippa and Harry, and maybe take-in some of the Olympics (we hear that the ping-pong is just riveting, right Rex?)

        Theme answers:
        • 17A [Alternative name for 42-down] DARK KNIGHT
        • 33A [Alternative name for 42 down] CAPED CRUSADER
        • 58A [Alternative name for 42-down] BRUCE WAYNE
        • 13D [Home of 42-down] GOTHAM
        • 42D [Comics Debut of 1939] BATMAN

        As we said, we're not really a fan of Batman.  There is however, a man in a cape that we're a HUGE fan of:

        Speaking of Seinfeld, Liz got tripped up on [11D-Protein-rich vegetable soup].  It was just one of those times when you know the answer, but it won't get out of your head.  But, the crosses were easy enough to fill this one in pretty quickly.  And as for LENTIL soup?  Yuck...no soup for us!

        In the words of Rex Parker, YAY!  We'll be back next Monday!!
        Signed, Liz and Jenny, Rex's BFFs.


        Female counselor / SUN 7-29-12 / Neighbor of Draco Hercules / Bob Marley tune made popular by Johnny Nash / 1972 Bill Withers hit / Aristotle's fifth element

        Sunday, July 29, 2012

        Constructor: Kevin G. Der

        Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

        THEME: "Debut Promos at the World's Fair" — imaginary (I assume) come-ons for products that were debuted at World's Fairs (with the relevant year for each product in parentheses at the end of each clue)

        Word of the Day: EGERIA (100D: Female counselor) —
        Egeria was a nymph attributed a legendary role in the early history of Rome as a divine consort and counselor of the Sabine second king of RomeNuma Pompilius, to whom she imparted laws and rituals pertaining to ancient Roman religion. Her name is used as an eponym for a female advisor or counselor. (wikipedia)
        • • •

        A cute and simple theme. Might've been cooler if the World's Fair angle had been in the grid rather than the title. Or maybe that would've been too obvious. I mean, I could tell what the gist of the theme was after I got the theme answer, and at that point I hadn't even looked at the title. I'm a little disappointed, I guess, that there was nothing to "get." It was all so straightforward—though the theme cluing does have a bit of cleverness to it at times, I found the theme answers remarkably easy to get (except WALL OUTLET ... possibly because I don't think it its being a Thing ... I mean, clearly, it is, but it's not a discrete thing ... or doesn't really exhibit its thingness unless it's attached to a WALL, which you can't really handle or ride ...). All the challenge was in the fill, where the cluing was pretty tough at times. I got hung up all over the place, though not in any kind back-breaking way. Nice, diverting work, with a theme a little too obvious and too easy to work through, but fill that provided just enough crunch to keep things interesting.

        Theme answers:
        • 23A: "Get an inside look at our booth" (Buffalo, 1901) (XRAY MACHINE)
        • 25A: "Come by and chat at our booth" (Philadelphia, 1876) (TELEPHONE)
        • 41A: "You've gotta get your hands on this" (Knoxville, 1982) (TOUCHSCREEN)
        • 44A: "Puts the keys of the future at your fingertips" (Philadelphia, 1876) (TYPEWRITER)
        • 59A: "Bring your dogs to our booth" (Philadelphia, 1876) (HEINZ KETCHUP) — my first answer here, because I had REV at 46D: Small energy boost?: VETERINARIAN. But I sort of assumed that was wrong and that the real answer would have to do with shoes ...
        • 69A: "The fair's toughest man alive" (New York City, 1939) (HUMANOID ROBOT)

        • 79A: "Get the scoop on our new hand-held offering" (ICE CREAM CONE)
        • 94A: "Fairgoers may be in for a shock" (St. Louis, 1904) (WALL OUTLET)
        • 97A: "Starting a giant revolution at the fairgrounds" (Chicago, 1893) (FERRIS WHEEL)
        • 117A: "Getting fairgoers moving on the right track" (Paris, 1900) (ESCALATOR)
        • 119A: "Now showing our big vision of the future" (Osaka, 1970) (IMAX THEATER)
        So, where was the trouble? The trouble was ... well, first, having no memory at all of a movie called "SHARK TALE" (53D: 2004 Will Smith animated film). Also, not seeing (and barely seeing now) how to get from 52A: Ones with natural curls? to ASPS. Also, having no idea that EWW was a "word" (I had EEK). Also, OSMIUM? EGERIA? EINER? All over my head. (114A: Densest natural element / Female counselor / 9D: Mussorgski's "Bilder ___ Ausstellung") I'm sure I've seen them all before (I *know* I've seen stupid horrible EGERIA), but that didn't matter. Total blanks. Designer Pucci? I know Gucci. Not Pucci. Certainly not EMILIO. I figured a Met someone? would be an OPERA STAR, not just a stupid GOER. A "someone" should be noteworthy, not just any schmo with a ticket. That mistake cost me. I also had CAFE for CHEZ (42D: Part of many a bistro name), EARTH for ETHER (57D: Aristotle's "fifth element"), and ON CALL for ON SALE (71D: Ready to move). And the aforementioned REV for RAH (46D: Small energy boost?). Otherwiiiiiiiise—no problems!

        • 30A: Early 20th-century modernist (MAN RAY) — Kept wanting MANET or MONET to fit, despite the fact that they are neither of the things mentioned in the clue.
        • 83A: Bob Marley tune made popular by Johnny Nash ("STIR IT UP") — ON CALL screw-up kept this hidden for a while, despite the fact that I could hear the song, faintly, in the back of my head, somewhere ...
        • 125A: Source of the Hulk's power (RAGE) — most parodied superhero on the internet. Lots of Twitter versions of Hulk. Just like there are lots of Tumblr versions of Ryan Gosling.
        • 127A: "Shepherd Moons" Grammy winner (ENYA) — New Agey title, Grammy-winner, 4 letters. Next!
        • 36D: Neighbor of Draco and Hercules (LYRA) — oh, these are constellations, right? I just (literally, as I was typing out the clue) got that. Before that: "What does Malfoy have to do with Hercules, and who's this LYRA person?"
        • 96D: 1972 Bill Withers hit ("USE ME") — easily my favorite bit of musical crosswordese. It comes up a lot. Seriously, you should commit it to memory now, as it will come back. ENESCO will also come back. But he won't be as groovy.

        Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

        P.S. Lollapuzzolola 5, NYC's most lovable crossword tournament, is this Saturday. If you have ever been even slightly curious about tournaments but aren't sure you're "good enough" or whatever, this is the one to go to. It's somehow both a serious tournament with great puzzles *and* a not-at-all serious tournament with scores of other lovely crossword enthusiasts like yourself. I've met some of the Nicest People In The World at this tournament. You should go! And if you can't physically be there, there's a "Compete From Home" option. Details here.


        Landmark also known as Kissavos / SAT 7-28-12 / Knox co-star Lon Chaney Mummy's Tomb / Les Pecheurs de Perles composer / Capital of Iran's Fars province / O'Connor's successor / Reference program launched in 2005 / Sight along una calle / Fourth caliph in Sunni Islam

        Saturday, July 28, 2012

        Constructor: Victor Fleming and Sam Ezersky

        Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

        THEME: none

        Word of the Day: Will ARNETT (28D: Actor Will of "Up All Night") —
        William Emerson "WillArnett (pronounced /ɑrˈnɛt/; born May 4, 1970) is a Canadian actor andcomedian best known for his role as George Oscar "G.O.B." Bluth II on the Fox comedy Arrested Development. He is also known for his role as Devon Banks on the NBC comedy 30 Rock. Since his success on Arrested Development, Arnett has landed major film roles. He played supporting roles in the comedy films Semi-ProBlades of Glory, and Hot Rod. He starred in 2006's Let's Go to Prison and 2007's The Brothers Solomon. Arnett has also done work as a voiceover artist for commercials, films, television programs, and video games. He is currently starring in the NBC show Up All Night as Chris Brinkley. (wikipedia) [co-starring in a sitcom w/ Christina Applegate, married to Amy Poehler ... *and* my wife thinks he's cute. So the guy pretty much has it all]
        • • •

        This one went from rough to easy on a dime, almost by sheer force of will. I was stumbling around the grid, getting frustrated here, held up there, and then I just stopped and made myself go back to square one (literally). Starting over in the NW, I found the whole puzzle just fell into place. Fast. So maybe it was easy easy, but my time said Easy-Medium. I got distracted from the get-go by LEELEE, whose name I can never quite believe (42A: Actress Sobieski). I wrote in LEILEI, because it always seems somehow more namelike to me. And then I got distracted by not being able to get a Hall & Oates hit (!?). I take these kinds of failings way too personally. That is something I absolutely should know. With no crosses. Instantly. But when I ran the songs I could remember from the '70s, I came up with only "Sara Smile" and "Rich Girl" (which, sadly, fit). So I lost time harrumphing about my stupid brain's pop culture failure (eventually got "SHE'S GONE," which I know well, of course) (38D: 1976 Hall & Oates hit). Toyed with writing in SATIE where (it turned out) BIZET was supposed to go (44D: "Les Pêcheurs de Perles" composer). Then I saw a nice FAT gimme at 28D: Actor Will of "Up All Night" (ARNETT). He was on "Arrested Development" (great) and is married to Amy Poehler (great) and is on "Up All Night," which we discovered on Hulu+ and really love. So, yeah, knew him. But he got me only a handful of answers before I was flailing again. This is when I forced myself to reboot. Then it was ALITO / FAT / SPIFF and off to the races (3D: O'Connor's successor / 19A: Thick / 1D: Neaten (up)).

        I think of "giving lots of ... criticism" as PILING ON, not PILING IT ON, but I guess the clue works well enough. I love the parallel internet phenomena PHOTOBUCKET (11D: Picture-hosting website) and GOOGLEEARTH (24D: Reference program launched in 2005). The clue on CELLMATE is good (though I got it instantly) (62A: Pen pal?) and the clue on CALORIES is *$&%ing fantastic (33A: They may be empty in a vending machine). In fact, with the exception of CEIL (ouch) (36D: Put a cover on), I liked most things in this puzzle just fine. Took me just 40 seconds less to solve than yesterday's, but provided tons more solving pleasure.

        • 9A: Appliance maker that porduced the first microwave oven for household use (1955) (TAPPAN) — wow. That's early. How do I know TAPPAN? One of the last things I got, but with a few letters, it just came to me.
        • 18A: Landmark also known as Kissavos (MT. OSSA) — no idea. But there are some clues (Greekness) that allowed a reasonable guess. Actually, when I first looked at this answer, I already had -OSSA in place, so I wasn't really guessing, I guess.
        • 27A: "Copper Canyon" and "Coroner Creek" (OATERS) — never heard of either. But again, inferrability is afoot. I like the alliteration.
        • 40A: Genre of Lauren Weisberger's "The Devil Wears Prada" (CHICK LIT) — had the CH-, so no sweat. This is the answer that allowed me to see PHOTOBUCKET (thank you, K—once again, you are my hero-letter). 
        • 51A: Like Jesus on the Shroud of Turin, many believe (IMAGED) — I don't think I understand how this word is being used. Is it that his "image" is supposed to be on it, so he is ... IMAGED? Like Tony the Tiger is IMAGED on a box of Frosted Flakes?

        • 55A: Capital of Iran's Fars province (SHIRAZ) — tough. Wine clue would've been more accessible, but it's Saturday, so this is more than fair.
        • 14D: Spring's counterpart (NEAP) — at first I thought LEAP (you know ... "spring" is a synonym of LEAP ... made sense to me). "Spring" is a kind of tide here. 
        • 48D: ___ Knox, co-star of Lon Chaney in "The Mummy's Tomb" (ELYSE) — this is one of those Sat. clues that no one is really supposed to know. You just know it's a name, and then you have to infer the name from crosses. It's common for short names to get blisteringly obscure clues on Saturdays. Nice (cruel) way to keep the solver from getting traction.
        So, thumbs up. Amazing what you can do with a 70-word grid, creativity, and a desire to entertain.

        Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


        French-built rocket / FRI 7-27-12 / Undergoes liquefaction as gel / Wearer of triregnum crown / 1984 film based on 1924 novel / South Pacific girl / Actresses Kristen Graff / Tamid synagogue lamp

        Friday, July 27, 2012

        Constructor: Joe Krozel

        Relative difficulty: Medium

        THEME: none

        Word of the Day: GERENTS (16D: Rulers or managers) —

        GERENT n.
        One that rules or manages.

        [From Latin gerns, gerent-, present participle of gerereto manage.] (freedictionary.com)

        • • •

        Don't want to write much about this one, because I've said it all before. It's clear that Will has an affection for high-difficulty grids that I just don't share. The interlocking pairs of 15s that run around the grid's perimeter are a construction feat, and the fill is ... defensible, at worst, adequate at best, so ... run it. That seems to be the deal. I wish it were not the deal. But it's not my call. For me, the fill is so off-putting here that I don't even notice the 15s—none of them bounces or pops or makes me say 'wow,' so why bother? When you finish a grid and your only thoughts are "that's a word?" (GERENTS, SOLATES, CENCI) (16D: Rulers or managers; 30A: Undergoes liquefaction, as a gel; 39D: "The ___: A Tragedy in Five Acts" (Shelley work)) and "you can do that?" (LED INTO *and* LEAD-IN?) (Not to mention EASE INTO for another INTO ... not to mention MAP ONTO), I don't think you can call the grid "successful." As I was writing in "-ICIAN" I said, out loud, "man, I really hope that's not right" (26A: Suffix with diet) When ARIANE (19A: French-built rocket) went into the grid (grade A crosswordese, first thing I wrote in), I thought, "man, that doesn't bode well." More than one ILENE? OK (32A: Actresses Graff and Kristen). Will and I sometimes just have very different tastes. He seems to love this stuff. I'd sooner do a zippy Monday or even a run-of-the-mill Wednesday than sit through this again. If I have to chew on a puzzle for a (comparatively) long time, I'd like it to at least taste good.

        That said, the top 2 15s are nice (15A: 1984 film based on the 1924 novel=A PASSAGE TO INDIA; 17A: Causes for some wars=DISPUTED BORDERS), DATAMINES feels fresh (6D: Finds customers from social media, perhaps), and CHOSEN FEW has a certain elegance (29D: Elite). EPISTEMOLOGICAL ain't bad either (2D: Like questions of what is knowable). It does repeat the five-letter EPIST- sequence in PASTORAL EPISTLE (3D: 1 or 2 Timothy), but the words are different enough that it hardly matters. I want to hate PHONE NO. but can't (31A: It may have an ext.). It's kind of inventive, fill-wise. LORES is LO-RES, btw (40D: Unlike HDTV screens). Someone asked me, so I assume there are others who aren't quite sure.

        You've got a couple potential Naticks here, as far as I can see. I didn't know NER (!?) (24A: ___ Tamid (synagogue lamp)), so I had real I/E issues with EPISTE (I?) MOLOGICAL. Honestly, "I" looks more correct to me. If I didn't know the word "episteme," I would've screwed that up. As it was, I guessed. And I knew ARIANE from considering and rejecting it in puzzles I've made, so the cross with GERENTS wasn't an issue, but I'm guessing not everyone has heard of ARIANE, and I *know* not everyone has heard of GERENTS, so ... trouble.

        I think that'll do.

        See you tomorrow.

        Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


        1975 Tony winner for best play / THU 7-26-12 / European blackbirds / Sportscaster Scully / Time's 1986 Woman of Year / Pioneering Isaac Asimov book / Unit of length that's roughly diameter of proton

        Thursday, July 26, 2012

        Constructor: Joel Fagliano

        Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

        THEME: Double U — Rebus puzzle where (on 8 occasions) one square represents "UU" in the Across answer and "W" in the Down [grid is 16 wide to accommodate the 14-square central theme answer] 

        Word of the Day: MERLS (28A: European blackbirds) —

        See blackbird.

        [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin merulus, merula.]
        • • •

        I figure this theme was pretty easy to pick up if you A. know who Corazon AQUINO is (2D: Time's 1986 Woman of the Year) and B. have at least heard of the play "EQUUS" (15A: 1975 Tony winner for best play). Anyway, that's how I figured it out (very early). Still, despite understanding the theme, this one still took me a hell of a long time. 9:59 on paper. This is mostly due to my rusty Latin, which figured that a [Will-'o-the-wisp] must be an IGNUM FATUUM  (this despite the fact that if you had asked me the nominative singular for the Latin "fire" I would've told you IGNIS immediately ... ugh). Wouldn't have been so bad except that the IGNUM / IGNIS screw-up essentially blocked my flow into the bottom of the grid. Just cold blocked it.  SEDGE (58D: Water chestnut, e.g.) and SILENT (51D: Not providing any hints, say) were impossible to see with the error in place. So I had to come back around and attack from the SW, going DATABASE (39D: Researcher's electronic tool) to "I SEE..." to VIN (a gimme that really helped finish things off down there) (64D: Sportscaster Scully). Walked face first into MUUMUU—had no idea there would be anything down there. Absolutely love that the grid "ends" with a 1-2 UU UU combination. Nice exclamation point.

        Theme answers:
        • 19A: Situated somewhere between two extremes (ON A CONTINUUM)
        • 24A: Forever (IN PERPETUUM)
        • 39A: "Capeesh?" ("YOU UNDERSTAND?")
        • 57A: Will-o'-the-wisp (IGNIS FATUUS)
        • 64A: Like some bags of food (VACUUM-SEALED)
        • 70A: Colorful dress (MUUMUU)

        I've seen a theme very much like this before—in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. 2007 or 2008, somewhere in there. But I don't think it had the rebus or the directional variation, so ... good for Joel. Joel attends college at my alma mater and currently, as in Right Now, works for Mr. Shortz as a summer intern. He's reading / accepting / rejecting several of my puzzles as we speak. I love you, Joel! Here's the positive review you asked for!

        • 1A: White-robed figure of Greek mythology (FATE) — Weren't they all wearing white robes? They were in Clash of the Titans, anyway.
        • 21A: It orbited Earth 86,331 times (MIR) — big fat gimme. An orbiter in 3 letters? How is that not MIR?
        • 44A: Torque symbol (TAU) — hard, until I saw it ended in "U"—then easy.
        • 49A: 1894 opera set in Alexandria ("THAÏS") — once again, the plural of THAI gets passed over for the relatively obscure opera. You THAIS who solve the puzzle need to put a bug in Will's ear.
        • 55A: Gymnasium floor choice (MAPLE) — Wow. Is this common knowledge? The wood type of gym floors? I was not looking wood. I was looking, I don't know, MATs or something MAT-like. Maybe parquet.
        • 72A: Rays' home, informally (ST. PETE) — went looking for the ballpark itself, not the city. THE ... something, I figured. Only I wanted THE TROP, which didn't fit. (I am happy to report, however, that I was right about THE TROP being the ballpark's informal name)
        • 1D: Unit of length that's roughly the diameter of a proton (FERMI) — no idea. Even when I had 3/5 of a physicist in place ... no idea.
        • 12D: Best pal in a 1950s sitcom (ED NORTON) — first thought: "ETHEL MERTZ"
        • 22D: Pioneering 1950 Isaac Asimov book ("I, ROBOT") — a not-uncommon crossword answer. Something about its starting with the "I" and having alternating vowels and consonants seems to make it useful.

        • 50D: How Perry Mason often caught the guilty (IN A LIE) — first of all, this is how almost all "the guilty" are caught, whoever they are and wherever they're caught. Second, hurray for Perry Mason. I just started reading the Perry Mason books (by xword stalwart ERLE Stanley Gardner) this past month while on vacation. Formulaic, for sure, but in a way that really works. Gardner is a really good writer. Scenes are vivid. The prose, economical. He cut his teeth in the pulps—as writing training grounds go, you could do worse.
        Finally, from the self-promotion department, a couple things. First, if you missed it while I was gone, I have an article in "Rock Cellar Magazine" this month—"A Crossword Revolution? Indie Puzzle Makers and the Music That Moves Them." You should check it out. Also, next week's Tuesday NYT (July 31) is mine. I'll let someone else blog it, partly because I don't want to blog my own puzzle, and partly because I'll be out of town *again* (this time, Oregon). No, wait, I don't leave til Tuesday, which means I'll still be here Monday night to blog, so ... nah, I'm handing it off. I don't know which puzzle of mine it is (Will has a few in his possession). So we'll all be surprised together.

        Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


        Fools evaluate bodies of water / Ben-Gurion successor / WED 7-25-12 / Less Than Perfect actress 2002-06 / Flier of legend / Lyre-holding muse

        Wednesday, July 25, 2012

        Constructor: Daniel Raymon

        Relative difficulty: Challenging if you are jetlagged; else ... MEDIUM?

        THEME: THREE WORDS / LETTERS (8A: With 68- or 69-Across, what 16-, 32-, 42- and 60-Across each consists of) — 15-letter three-word (nonsense) phrases that use only three letters

        Theme answers:
        • 16A: Fools evaluate bodies of water? (ASSES ASSESS SEAS) — hard to love an answer consisting predominantly of Words Constructors Generally Try To Keep OUT Of Their Grids
        • 32A: Renter finds a buyer for fish? (LESSEE SELLS EELS) — ditto
        • 42A: Musical combo designs experiments? (SESTET SETS TESTS)
        • 60A: More embarrassed forest creature screwed up? (REDDER DEER ERRED) — really wanted this answer to involve an Ewok in some way.

        Word of the Day: ESHKOL (15D: Ben-Gurion successor) —
        Levi Eshkol (Hebrewלֵוִי אֶשְׁכּוֹל‎‎, born Levi Shkolnik (Hebrewלֵוִי שׁקוֹלנִיק‎‎) 25 October 1895 – died 26 February 1969) served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office. (wikipedia)
        • • •
        Testing ... testing ...

        Is this thing on ... ?

        OK, so ... hi there. Let's see if I remember how to do this.

        I just woke up at a normal time from a solid 8 hours of sleep, which, given my state about 24 hours ago (driving blearily through PA after well over 24 hours of car and plane travel) is a minor miracle. Apparently the thing about forcing yourself onto local time as fast as possible is true. It works. Not that it's pleasant — you should've seen us yesterday, zombifying our way around, trying to "get things done" (ha) and not fall asleep. Found myself standing in doorways and forgetting why I was there, staring at items in the grocery store as if they held the secret to the Meaning of Life, etc. But now, fingers crossed, I feel solidly EDT. I'll tell you about the trip in bits and pieces, as seems appropriate. Overall, great. First vacation in recent memory where I didn't get sick, first of all. Then there's the fact that virtually every view in New Zealand is a picture postcard, and their "winter" hardly deserves the name, and etc. etc. So, verdict: good.

        This puzzle was less good. Nonsense phrases chock full of 1-pt Scrabble tiles? (Wait, how much are Ds worth? Wait wait, don't tell me, as I couldn't care less about Scrabble) Not feeling the sizzle. The fill seems fine, though the plague of 1-pt Scrabble tiles is kind of pervasive, and the dense theme structure makes longer answers (usually the more interesting ones) hard to come by. And when they do come, they look like EVACUEE (6D: Runner from a bomb scare, e.g.) or SARA RUE (44D: "Less Than Perfect" actress, 2002-06), which ... I don't even know what a SARA RUE is. I've never even heard of the alleged show she was allegedly in ("Less Than Perfect" ... why is that making me think Jamie Lee Curtis? ... Oh, she was in "Perfect" (1985) with John Travolta. Also, "Anything But Love" with Richard Lewis (1989-92), which is neither here nor there). I'd never heard of ESHKOL before, so that section was très tough for me (15D: Ben-Gurion successor). I also assumed 26D: Like chicory vis-à-vis coffee would render a comparative (i.e. -ER) adjective, so ERSATZ (a Grrrreat word) caught me off guard. Errors included SUBSIST for SURVIVE (13A: Get by), both UDON and RICE for MISO (5D: Bowlful at a Japanese restaurant) (mmm... hunger ... rising...), and BLEND for ALLOY (41A: Amalgam, e.g.).

        [Heard this on vacation ... I forget where ... and could Not get it out of my head, so ... be warned]

        Lastly: CURST? (54D: Subjected to a hex) I purst my lips at that one. Clue really should've included the phrase "olde tyme" or "ye olde" or "Bard-style." Or read [Typo of bread part].

        It's nearly 9am now, so I should post this. Supposed to go to yoga soon with wife, but she's still sleeping, and I am *not* messing with that. On a good day, you don't wake a sleeping Sandy. On a first-day-back-from NZ day ... shhhhhhhh.
          Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


          Historian Will or Ariel / TUE 7-24-12 / Marat's counterpart in a Peter Weiss title / Galvanic cell component / Thick-trunked African tree

          Tuesday, July 24, 2012

          Constructor: Andrew Marc Greene

          Relative difficulty: Easy

          THEME: Ain't That a B — Vowel progression puzzle in which each theme answer is a two-word phrase where both words begin with B and are followed by the same vowel in each word (BA___ BA___, BE___ BE___, etc).

          Word of the Day: HABIB (31D: Diplomat Philip)
          Philip Charles Habib (February 25, 1920 – May 25, 1992) was a Lebanese-American career diplomat known for work in Vietnam, South Korea and the Middle East. The New York Times in observing his death described him as "the outstanding professional diplomat of his generation in the United States."

          Beginning in 1949, his foreign service career took him to Canada, New Zealand, South Korea (twice), Somalia, and South Vietnam. He held the State Department position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1967–1969 and was part of the Vietnamese peace talk delegation in 1968. Habib acquired increasingly important posts, serving as Ambassador to South Korea (1971–1974), Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1974–1976), and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1976–1978), during which time he was the chief mediator for the US between Israel and Egypt in the Camp David Peace Accord. According to some reports, he intervened to save the life of South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung during a kidnapping in 1973. (Wikipedia)

          • • •
          Greetings, CrossWorld -- Evan Birnholz again, reporting for duty.  I am the last thing standing between you and the Return of the King, as Rex Parker himself will be back tomorrow.  He will no doubt be shocked at how we substitutes have trashed the place in his absence.  So let's get down to business and trash the place one more time before he CRASHES the party.

          Today's puzzle by Andrew Marc Greene takes a simple concept -- two-word "BB" phrases, proceed in order by vowels -- and provides a solid grid with some good theme answers and decent fill.  There were a few not-so-great entries (A DAY here, A-BOO there, some URBS and the partial I NEED), but the grid is otherwise very clean.  It wasn't a terribly challenging puzzle, although the southeast corner did give me a little more trouble than the rest of it.  That's where I ran into the B-heavy twins BAOBAB (54D: Thick-trunked African tree) -- which I only recall from reading The Little Prince in high school French class -- and NABOB (50A: Big wheel), which was confusing because I don't normally think of "wheel" as a slang term for "guy" unless it's referring to someone as a "third wheel."  I didn't know the equally B-heavy HABIB either, but I didn't have to, as all of the crosses there were straightforward.

          Theme answers:
          • 18A: A.T.M. printout (BANK BALANCE) — A legit phrase, but it's probably the weakest of the theme answers.  In my experience it's usually shortened to just "balance."
          • 32A: Joe Six-Pack's overhang (BEER BELLY) — So, the Joe Six-Pack of this clue doesn't have six-pack abs?  That's false advertising, man.
          • 41A: Yellow "Sesame Street" character (BIG BIRD) — Weird coincidence: When I subbed for Rex about two weeks ago, "Orange TV character" was the clue for ERNIE, and now, I get the yellow TV character from the same show.  I know today was an early-week puzzle, but would it be too much to ask that the next time ELMO makes an appearance that it not be clued simply as "Red TV character" but with something more....ahem....colorful, like "Muppet who saved Christmas in a 1996 TV special"?
          • 48A: Portable sources of music (BOOM BOXES) — Not much anymore these days, after they got mostly swept to the dustbin of audio history along with the monstrosity known as the Dictabelt.  The last time I saw anyone non-ironically carrying a boom box was when the Joker's henchman Lawrence jammed with one in Flugelheim Museum in the 1989 Batman movie. As I recall, he throws the boom box at Batman at the end of level 3 in the Sega Genesis game of the same name. 
          • 63A: It appeared before Moses on Mount Horeb (BURNING BUSH) — Didn't it also make a cameo appearance in the cursed video tape in "The Ring"?  Or was that a burning tree?  YouTube says it was a tree.  Whatever.  The point is, fire.
          One other interesting little tidbit: This is the first puzzle that I can explicitly recall where there were no clues with a question mark at the end -- you know, when they insert puns or other clever wordplay into the clue.  Even in an early-week puzzle, there's usually at least one of them.  Not so today.  That probably helps explain why it *felt* easier than normal for a Tuesday.

          (Fair warning: Some R-rated lyrics and content in this video)

          • 3D: One reciting others' lines (QUOTER) — Not really a fan of this word, or most words where if you add an R or an -ER onto the end of a verb it becomes a noun that no one really says, where the definition is just "[verb + R] = One who [verb]s."  And that's basically what the answer and its clue are: A QUOTER is one who quotes.  Just like a STANDER is one who stands.  A CRASHER (10D: Uninvited partygoer) is better, though.  That leads me to....
          • 8A: William Tell, for one (ARCHER) — I so, so wish the clue had been a reference to the animated FX TV show "Archer."  My soon-to-be wife and I just started Season 3.  It might not be for everyone -- it's very fast-paced and very racy, and has quite a lot of 43A: Driver's license datum humor....I mean SEX humor in that show -- but if it's your type of comedy, holy hell is it funny.  Observe clip #1:

          And now clip #2:

          • 14A: Mich. rival in the Big Ten (O.S.U.) — A Big Ten rival of both schools just got hit with some big penalties: A four-year ban on Bowl games and saw all of its wins dating back to 1998 officially wiped off the books.
          • 16A: Historian Will or Ariel (DURANT) — Neither one was familiar to me.  They probably should be since I'm gunning to be a historian. The Durant I'm much more familiar with is the three-time NBA scoring champ Kevin.
          • 33D: "Still mooing," as burgers go (RARE) — I have not heard this expression before.  If your burger actually does start mooing right before you start eating it, then....you might want to get that checked out.  Both the burger and yourself.
          • 39D: Feline's "feed me" (MEOW) — Whoa, when did the New York Times acquire the ability to speak Cat?  How did they know what the feline meant?  Cats meow all the time even when they're not hungry, especially my cat, who whines whenever I'm not in the same room as she is. You could have inserted anything inside those quotation marks and it would have been just as good a clue, and you know why?  Because MEOW is all they say.  Yeah, maybe it's sometimes it's "mew," or perhaps "rrrrowwww," or....however you spell it when they do that weird hissing sound.  But it doesn't matter.  Because they're cats.  And cats can't talk, except to say "meow."
          • 66D: Echolocation-using mammal (BAT) — I originally misread the clue as "elocution-using mammal," which would most likely be MAN.  Instead it was BAT.  Speaking of both, can you tell by all my repeated references to Batman now that I recently saw "The Dark Night Rises"?  Oh man, I should tell you all about it!  The best part of that movie was when [comment redacted] and [no spoilers here, sorry] totally did the [thing that if I told you was it was, it would ruin everything and you'd hate me oh-so-much for spoiling it for you] and so they [Batman].
          Alright, so now that I've blogged about Beer, Burning Stuff, the Sega Genesis, Batman on several occasions, and a couple of videos that alluded either to Sex, Drinking, and/or Gambling, I'd say I've done a half-decent job of sufficiently giving this blog a final good trashing.  And if Rex or anyone else should think it wasn't ruined enough, here's my response:

          And with that, I and all other pretenders for Rex's throne during these past several weeks wish you good BYE.

          Signed, Evan Birnholz, Earl of CrossWorld


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