Deluxe Cuban cigar brand / MON 9-30-13 / Dallas hoopster informally / Emmy-winning AMC series set in 1960s / Reveille's counterpart / Beatty/Hoffman bomb of 1987

Monday, September 30, 2013

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COVERT OPS (58A: Spy activities ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues) — "OPS" is embedded (or hidden, ergo "covert") inside six answers:
17A: *Suddenly slam on the brakes (STOP SHORT)3D: *Stolen car destination, maybe (CHOP SHOP)26A: *Top 40 music world (POP SCENE)36A: *"NYPD Blue" or "Miami Vice" (COP SHOW)49A: *Tricky tennis stroke (DROP SHOT)38D: *Opening segment in a newscast (TOP STORY)
Word of the Day: COHIBA (43A: Deluxe Cuban cigar brand) —
Cohiba is a brand for two kinds of premium cigar, one produced in Cuba for Habanos S.A., the Cuban state-owned tobacco company, and the other produced in theDominican Republic for US-based General Cigar Company. The name cohíba derives from the Taíno word for "tobacco."
The Cuban brand is filled with tobacco that comes from the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba which has undergone an extra fermentation process. Cuban Cohiba was established in 1966 as a limited production private brand supplied exclusively to Fidel Castro and high-level officials in the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuban government. Often given as diplomatic gifts, the Cohiba brand gradually developed a "cult" status. It was first released commercially for sale to the public in 1982.
The US Cohiba brand name was registered in the United States by the General Cigar Company in 1978 and cigars using that trademark have been produced for the American market in the Dominican Republic on a large scale from 1997. This Cohiba is related to the Cuban product in name only, containing no Cuban tobacco, and thus is the only "Cohiba" that can be sold legally in the United States. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very nicely done. Thought it played more like a Tuesday, but then my time was right on my Monday average so I'm not sure what my feeling was based on. Felt a little more wide-open than most Mondays.  The quality of the answers and clues seemed a little tougher, maybe. Needed nearly ever cross to get STOVES, for instance, because of the highly metaphorical use of "centerpieces" (13D: Kitchen centerpieces). Also needed most of the crosses to get COHIBA, a most un-Monday-like answer (if I've heard of it—and if I have, it's only from crosswords—I've barely heard of it). The [Means of music storage] twofer meant that the clue wasn't very direct / obvious for either answer (iTUNES / CD RACK). These are not complaints, mind you. Just attempts to understand why my Monday felt Tuesday. I really like this grid. Very lively, not boring, with hardly an ugsome answer in sight. Only DSO. I really hate that abbr., and all the damn Brit. military awards (DSC, DSM, DSO, whatever else there might be). Too many to keep straight, and I don't really understand how they came to be common knowledge in the U.S. (except, perhaps, through crosswords). But as I say, that little word is an outlier.

MAD MEN / AD REP tie-in (rescuing AD REP from being completely dreary fill). Bit weird to say OREGON is the [Setting for TV's "Portlandia"]. That show is set in a city. That city is in the title. If the show is set in OREGON, it's also set in THE U.S. or NORTH AMERICA, and it would be *technically* true to clue it as such, but also technically stupid. [Setting for "Miami Vice"] = FLORIDA? No. I mean, yes, but no. I do love "Portlandia," though, so I don't know why I'm fighting this clue so hard.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


German Dadaist Hannah / SUN 9-29-13 / Italian princely family name / 1960s-70s pitcher Blue Moon / Bacteriologist Julius / Fourth Arabic letter / Setting of 2012 film John Carter / Medication for narcoleptic

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Constructor: Norm Guggenbiller

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Overheard in New England" — common phrases are reimagined as phrases where "R"s (following "A"s) (except in one case, for some reason) are dropped, creating new, wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Theme answers:
  • 24A: A "Star Trek" officer and a physician are going to board a plane? (SPOCKS WILL FLY)
  • 36A: Atlantic fishery officers? (COD COUNTERS)
  • 59A: Work agreeably in a greenhouse? (POT ON GOOD TERMS)
  • 76A: "Happy Birthday" on a cake, e.g.? (GOBBLED MESSAGE)
  • 95A: Sexy operators? (HOT SURGEONS)
  • 112A: Where frogs shop? (HOPPER'S BAZAAR)

Word of the Day: Hannah HÖCH (29A: German Dadaist Hannah) —
Hannah Höch (German: [hœç]; November 1, 1889 – May 31, 1978) was a German Dada artist. She is best known for her work of the Weimar period, when she was one of the originators of photomontage. (wikipedia)
• • •

I liked virtually none of this. First, right off the bat, looking at the title, I'm thinking "Oh great, another speech parody puzzle. This should be wacky." I sort of remember how it is that New Englanders are supposed to talk, so this should be no problem, I thought. But the phrases in the theme answers are so preposterous and convoluted that I don't get Any for what seems like a very long time. Meanwhile, cluing is off and fill is boring and I'm having a very hard time caring. No one would ever use ENCASES for [Boxes up]. There are many, many [Non-Eur. U.S. ally]s. ESTS are not "probably" close. They're attempts to get close. There's a difference. I finished the puzzle somewhere near ESTS and honestly didn't even know what it was an abbreviation of for several seconds. The frame of reference for this puzzle is decidedly old. The clues seemed pulled from some secret Maleskan file, from SAL Bando to Blue Moon ODOM to the clue on THA (89D: Fourth Arabic letter). Really? Not sure there is anything from this century in the puzzle. Oooooh, the "John Carter" / MARS clue. Dat DERE was Fresh!

Joyless. I don't have much to say. Fill is not good, though I've seen much worse. Theme is a bit stale. Cluing is often off and old all over. But all that is a matter of (admittedly strong) opinion. What *isn't* opinion is what a colossal Failure HOPPER'S BAZAAR is as an answer in this puzzle. This puzzle should've been sent back with a little note saying "you've got a consistency problem there in your last theme answer. See how you've got an 'AR' in there that you haven't changed ... yeah, that's weird. That would not be 'Overheard in New England'—either both "AR"s would be dropped or neither would. And as BAZAAH is not a thing ... no. That answer turns your puzzle into a lie. So please come up with a new theme answer. Thanks." But no. "Close enough! Run it!"

I'll give this puzzle BUG ZAPPER. That, I'll give it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Sauce often served with oysters / SAT 9-28-13 / Woodenware / Former Israeli president Katsav / Plastic that can be made permanently rigid /

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: REMISE (5D: Release a claim to, legally) —
tr.v. re·misedre·mis·ingre·mis·es
To relinquish a claim to; surrender by deed.
• • •

Very hard puzzles should be fun. This was not. It's perfectly adequate, for a 64-worder or whatever it is, but mostly it was tough because of very vague (not clever) cluing. Plus it has stuff like MIGNONETTE as marquee words (28A: Sauce often served with oysters). ORNAMENTAL TREES (17A: Mimosas and such). I know mimosas (only) as drinks. No "aha" on that one. Just ... whatever. A few ugly answers here and there, but for a low-word-count puzzle, this one's actually pretty clean. It's just ... fill by database, cluing by tin ear. I grinded this one out (ground?), but rarely enjoyed myself. When a puzzle takes me forever, as this one did, I always look back and think "how did that take so long?" or "if I'd just looked at this clue earlier ... why didn't I do that?" Today, the thing that took me Forever was TIME SINK (40A: Angry Birds or Tetris, e.g.) (that should Really have been "perhaps," not "e.g."; they are not TIME SINKs per se, though they are for some). But once I (finally) looked at 23D: Occupy opponent, it didn't take me long (with -AN-) in place to get BIG BANK, which gave me the "K", which was all I needed. Dumb. Wait, TREEN? Am I seeing that right? Holy crud, my distaste for this puzzle just jumped upwards (13D: Woodenware). Hard. Gack. What is that? If it were a Thing, we would be seeing it All The Time. Those are common letters. And I thought REMISE was bad. NINS at least was a gimme.

Started in NW with the gimmes NINS and PAW PRINT. Took a little work, but had that corner done pretty quickly. Not so lucky elsewhere. Took a long time for BARTOLI's name to float into view, which is what finally made that SE corner solvable. Repeatedly misread 53A: Words after "say" or before "bad" (IT ISN'T SO) and thus kept trying to make both "say" and "bad" follow the phrase. Last section to fall was the NE, largely because I didn't have the part following ORNAMENTAL. Also because TREEN is from outer space. Those damned NEEDY, always seeking attention (12D: Attention-seeking, say). If only I'd been a heartless ass, I could've gotten that one Much more quickly.

BIG BANK and BIG BANG are the same phrase minus one letter. Crossing them at the center doesn't change this. I know the guy yesterday did it and it was supposed to be all cute but That puzzle had the CHANGE / ONE / LETTER theme and this one ... doesn't.

Why the hell is "[fun fact!]" in that SCHOOLMATE clue. Faux enthusiasm. No thanks. You know what's a fun fact—that TREEN exists and does not mean "the plural of trees."

Enough of this.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Donizetti heroine / FRI 9-27-13 / Landmark anime film of 1988 / Before my birth collagist 1914 / Robert W Service output / Montoya swordsman in Princess Bride / Romanova alter ego of Marvel's Black Widow

Friday, September 27, 2013

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy


Word of the Day: TYRESE Gibson (46D: "2 Fast 2 Furious co-star Gibson) —
Tyrese Darnell Gibson (born December 30, 1978), also known simply as Tyrese, is an American Grammy-nominatedR&B singer-songwriterrapperactorauthortelevision producer, former fashion model and MTV VJ. He is best known for his role as Roman Pearce in the Fast and Furious series. After releasing several albums, he transitioned into films, with lead roles in several major Hollywood releases. (wikipedia)
• • •

A very easy themeless that actually had a theme that actually made the puzzle even easier than it would've been had it been an actual themeless. I did this one faster than I did the "E.T." on Tuesday. That's how easy this was (or how oddly clunky the "E.T."puzzle was). I guess GERMINATE and TERMINATE are opposites, in a way, so you start with one and end with another and that is somehow fitting. OK. Why not? Puzzle seems just fine to me. Breezy and inoffensive. Yes, I know, nobody loves ALOES, but it's an outlier in its ugliness today. Love TAG TEAM and, strangely, CONDO FEE. The latter just seems like a nice invention. Something you'd improvise to get a corner to work. No idea if it's original and am not taking the time to look it up. Either way, I like it. A few proper noun pits to fall into, but I only got tripped up once or twice. LUCIA was a bit of a stumper—big surprise; OPERA shmopera. Never heard of Robert W. Service's "The Cremation of Sam MCGEE." Barely heard of Robert W. Service. Needed every cross for ASHER. Don't read Marvel Comics and yet somehow intuited NATALIA. In other comix clues, "AKIRA" is right in my wheelhouse (7D: Landmark anime film of 1988). A class manga and anime. Also, TYRESE Gibson wrote a comic once. True story. Pretty sure I own the first issue.

[INIGO! Montoya, swordsman in "The Princess Bride"]

I like DOMESTIC PARTNER. But I *love* my wife, Penelope, to whom I have been married ten years, as of ... right now. Today. Whatever bad that has happened or will happen in my life is, I assure you, completely offset by the ridiculous, unmerited good fortune I have had in meeting and marrying my wife. At our wedding I said "Everything about my life is better because of her," and I could barely get the sentence out without crying. I wouldn't have much more luck today. I could give you a list of complaints about my life a mile long—my stupid shoulder appears to be (painfully) frozen and I have a stack of 90 papers waiting to be (ughhhhh) graded and are they really gonna break the final season of "Mad Men" into *two* mini-seasons and stretch it out til 2015!? WTF!?—but all of it just looks silly when my wife and daughter are sitting there in the "Good" column. So Happy 10th Anniversary to my much, much better half. This paragraph notwithstanding, words can't express my joy and gratitude.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Head nurse on Scrubs / THU 9-26-13 / Dance reminiscent of horse's gait / Golden treasure in Bilbo Baggins riddle / Thickness measures / Darth Vader locale / Acid-burned Bat-villain / 30 Rock character or first name of his portrayer

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Constructor: Tom Pepper and Victor Barocas

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: CLOCK (41A: Instrument that hints at the missing parts of certain answers in this puzzle) — border answers must all be preceded by the numbers they would represent were the grid a CLOCK face

Theme answers:
  • 10A: 50% (1 HALF)
  • 13D: Acid-burned Bat-villain (2 FACE)
  • 38D: Like some circuses (3 RING)
  • 63D: Like barbershop harmony (4 PART)
  • 72A: Fin (5 SPOT)
  • 71A: Like a die (6-SIDED)
  • 70A: Sailors' domain (7 SEAS)
  • 58D: Length of a Beatles "week" (8 DAYS)
  • 26D: Popular women's shoe seller (9 WEST)
  • 1D: Annual Car & Driver list (10 BEST)
  • 1A: It has a red striped (11 BALL)
  • 5A: A gross (12 DOZEN)

Word of the Day: "I AM A CAMERA" (65A: Play that was the basis for "Cabaret")
I Am a Camera is a 1951 Broadway play inspired by Christopher Isherwood's novel Goodbye to Berlin which is part of The Berlin Stories. The title is a quote taken from the novel's first page ("I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking."). (wikipedia)
• • •

This is very nicely done. I didn't sense precisely what was going on til near the end—I knew the answers around the edges needed numbers, but I honestly wasn't that sure about ___ BALL or ___ BEST and I kept having trouble shaking the phrase HALF DOZEN from my head because of the proximity of those answers, so I just plowed ahead thinking "OK ... think numbers somehow!" But then I finally got into the center with CLOCK. And then I was done, and *then* could look at how elegantly the theme was executed. It's very simple, especially insofar as it appropriates what is essentially a generic 78-word crossword grid shape. Nothing physical about this puzzle lets you know what's coming. Most of the fill is 3- to 5-letters. Very unprepossessing. And yet there are still some nice longer answers in there—the grid is especially lively for a 78-worder—and the payoff is nice. Icky fill is minimal. Good job.

I was surprised at how quickly I blew through this thing (well under 5) considering the whole HALF DOZEN confusion and the fact that I botched / didn't know / couldn't get *both* cross-references. If I knew the Bilbo Baggins riddle, I forgot it. And ENTER / INTO was just ... not forthcoming. If "a contract" had been in parentheses after [Sign], I might have grasped it more easily. But the whole "as..." thing threw me. That "as..." kind of implies that you're providing simply one example, where in this case you are providing really the only example. No one would consider [Sign] and "ENTER / INTO" synonyms except in the case where "contract" was the object. Clue is fair, in that there is precedent for it, but my brain just couldn't process it. Also had LEER for PEER, which really gunked things up for a bit. MILS was not coming easily, and so I was in real danger there (for a few moments) of getting totally bogged down in the SE. But then I thought about it, and LAMPS had to be right, so everything worked out. I'm vaguely ashamed that ODIC a. was a gimme, and b. helped me out Considerably in the ENTER / INTO region.

  • 43A: ___ Fayed, last romantic partner of Princess Diana (DODI) — this clue creeped me out. I know it's accurate, but the phrase "romantic partner" feels almost prurient. Euphemistically prurient.
  • 61A: Dance reminiscent of a horse's gait (GALOP) — I once put the plural of this word at 1A. Oh, 2009 me. So young, so stupid.
  • 54D: Head nurse on "Scrubs" (CARLA) — I had something else here at first. I forget what. I thought I didn't know this answer, and apparently I didn't. But then I did. 
  • 68A: "30 Rock" character, or the first name of his portrayer (TRACY) — one of the more reliably funny actors/characters on network TV.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This is the answer grid for Sunday's "Letterboxes" puzzle

The dark-bordered rectangles are braille letters.

The "O"s are the bumps.

They spell out: FEEL THE LOVE


Staunton of Harry Potter movies / WED 9-25-13 / Sayers portrayed in Brian's Song / Selena's music style / Early IBM PC standard / Puzzle inventor Rubik / Coastal backflows / directive repeated in aerobics class

Constructor: Victor Fleming and Bonnie L. Gentry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: LINE (58D: Word that can follow each part of the answers to the six starred clues) — just what the clue says

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Deep trouble, informally (HOT WATER)
  • 65A: *Felon's sentence, maybe (HARD TIME)
  • 3D: *Low-lying acreage (BOTTOM LAND)
  • 34D: *Fruity loaf (DATE BREAD)
  • 9D: *Deep-sea diver's concern (AIR SUPPLY)
  • 30D: *Campus transportation, maybe (BUS SERVICE)

Word of the Day: EREBUS (7D: God of darkness) —
In Greek mythologyErebus /ˈɛrəbəs/, also Erebos (GreekἜρεβος, "deep darkness, shadow"), was often conceived as aprimordial deity, representing the personification of darkness; for instance, Hesiod's Theogony places him as one of the first five beings to come into existence, born from Chaos. Erebus features little in Greek mythological tradition and literature, but is said to have fathered several other deities with Nyx; depending on the source of the mythology, this union includesAetherHemera, the HesperidesHypnos, the MoiraiGerasStyxCharon, and Thanatos.
In Greek literature the name Erebus is also used to refer to a region of the Greek underworld where the dead had to pass immediately after dying, and is sometimes used interchangeably with Tartarus. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hey, I found Tuesday's puzzle. Two minutes faster today than yesterday. That is, for me, a massive statistical anomaly. Despite a bunch of answers that struck me as potentially tough (e.g. IMELDA, EREBUS), this one came in well under my Wednesday average. Open corners (fed by interlocking theme answers) should've made this one tougher, but I guess the cluing was just too transparent. Having your first Down be a massive gimme like 1D: Frome and others (ETHANS) sets the solver up with the first letters of All the Acrosses in the NW, right off the bat. I had some trouble seeing EBB TIDES and I wanted THE COPS (too short) and THE POLICE (too long) before eventually hitting on TROOPERS (just right). There wasn't much else that slowed me down as I moved in a pretty regular clockwise motion right around the grid, finishing up with EXUDED in the SW (69A: Radiated, as charm).

As for the theme, I kind of wish constructors would stop making these. This is an ancient theme type that rarely yields very good / interesting results in the theme answers. Today's theme answers are mostly adequate; BOTTOM LAND is not a phrase I know at all, but the others are tight enough. Just not very ... interesting. A puzzle like this may as well be a themeless for all the thematic pleasure it gives. I got to LINE near the very end, having (at that point) no idea what was tying any of this together. LINE was jarring anticlimactic. Oh. LINE. OK. You can make puzzles with this type of theme using any number of different words (and many, many constructors have). BOY. You could probably do BOY. I don't know. All I know is that the theme-type has been Done To Death. Results are not terrible. But not inspired either. Another day another puzzle. This one at least has an interesting theme answer layout. I do appreciate that.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Jazz's Blake / TUE 9-24-13 / What gyroscope may provide / Dodge models until 1990 / Locale of 1864 Civil War blockade / Free-fall effect, briefly / Fifth-century pope with epithet Great / Late thumb-turning critic

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Constructor: Kevin Christian

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: "E.T." — several clues relate to the [circled letters], i.e. "E.T."

Theme answers:
  • 13A: With 59-Across, where [circled letters] came from (OUTER / SPACE)
  • 14D: With 41-Down, composition of a trail followed by [circled letters] (REESE'S / PIECES)
  • 23D: Best Original ___ (award for the film with [circled letters]) (SCORE)
  • 35D: Costume for [circled letters] (GHOST)
  • 20A: Child actress who appeared with [circled letters] (DREW BARRYMORE)
  • 25A: Creator of [circled letters] (SPIELBERG)
  • 45A: What [circled letters] wanted to do (PHONE HOME)
  • 49A: Means of escape for [circled letters] (FLYING BICYCLE)

Word of the Day: MOBILE BAY (33D: Locale of an 1864 Civil War blockade) —
Mobile Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, lying within the state of Alabama in theUnited States. Its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier island on the western side. The Mobile River and Tensaw River empty into the northern end of the bay, making it an estuary. Several smaller rivers also empty into the bay: Dog River, Deer River, and Fowl River on the western side of the bay, and Fish River on the eastern side. Mobile Bay is the fourth largest estuary in the United States with a discharge of 62,000 cubic feet (1,800 m3) of water per second. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, there's a lot of theme material, I'll give the puzzle that. It's all pretty iconic stuff, so that's nice. But it's just trivia. I don't really understand this. Or, I would have understood it, had it come out a year ago in June, on the 30th anniversary of the film's release date. Here, it's just "a bunch of stuff related to a 31-year-old movie." I guess I enjoy remembering the film, but as a puzzle, this didn't really work for me, largely because OMG the fill was (in many places) terrible. Please just stare at the NE corner for ... well, as long as your eyes will allow. Acrosses, uniformly terrible. And isn't it "The Missus"? THE MRS just looks strange. Then there's the AGIO/TOGAE/AGIRL/STAD nexus. Yikes. I've never heard of MOBILE BAY. In my haste, I wrote in MANILA BAY, which, sadly for me, shares many, many letters. Circled letters are particularly useless today since there are just two. I actually couldn't even see one of them when I scanned the grid for them. Harder to pick up when there are so few. ATE DINNER feels about as natural as DID LAUNDRY. Again, this is all very predictable—theme density goes up, fill cruddiness goes up. Generally. EER/EYER! STLEO! Gah. I FELL? Arbitrary. Odd. The clue on LUPE was Laughable. What the hell? (51D: "Little Latin ___ Lu" (1966 hit)).

[I spent soooo much time listening to "oldies" in high school and yet can safely say I've Never Heard This Song. Ever]

Lastly, this is hilariously un-Tuesday in its theme and difficulty level. My time was more like a Wednesday, and not a fast Wednesday either. CALL for YELL. DINGDONG for DOORBELL. COMET for COMER. EAR DOCTOR? What am I, eight? Thumbs up for the movie (shout-out to EBERT), but thumbs kinda ... sideways for this puzzle. Fill is just too rough and weird.

Best wrong answer of the day—wanted SPLAT! for 10D: Free-fall effect, briefly (ZERO G).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Turkish inn / MON 9-23-13 / Short-legged hound / African land whose name consists of three state postal abbreviations / John who succeeded William Henry Harrison

Monday, September 23, 2013

Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "IT'S TIME TO ROLL" (34A: "Let's go!" ... or a hint for the ends of 20-, 28-, 41- and 52-Across) — last word in theme answer is something you might roll

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Food preparation cutting technique (SLICE AND DICE)
  • 28A: School basics (THE THREE R'S)
  • 41A: Look of infatuation (GOOGOO EYES)
  • 52A: Fancy dress affairs (COSTUME BALLS)
[I didn't think the central theme answer was a real phrase that a human being might actually use, but then I found this video. If any human being is real, it's Dale Peterson.]

Word of the Day: IMARET (44D: Turkish inn) —
An imaret is one of a few names used to identify the public soup kitchens built throughout the Ottoman Empire from the 14th to the 19th centuries.These public kitchens were often part of a larger complex known as a Waqf, which could include hospicesmosquescaravanserais and colleges. The imarets gave out food that was free of charge to specific types of people and fortunate individuals. Imarets were not invented by the Ottomans but developed under them as highly structured groups of buildings. Nonetheless, imarets indicate an appreciation of Muslim religious teachings aboutcharity found in the Qur'an. (wikipedia)
• • •

A little on the tough side for a Monday, probably because 74 is a pretty low word count for a Monday. You get a couple biggish corners (NW, SE) and some odd words (MEWL, IMARET), and then something like GOOGOO EYES (I wanted GOOGLE and then GOOGIE ???), and there are enough road bumps to keep your time somewhat north of normal. I made a bunch of dumb mistakes along the way. Somehow *really* botched THE THREE RS by typing too fast and thinking there were *three* letters after THREE instead of just the two, so I thought "how do you spell out 'Rs'? ... 'ARS'?!?!" So that is what I wrote in, only it looked like this: THE THRE ARS. I actually Did check the cross and my brain totally accepted MAWL as an answer for 24D: Whine (MEWL). My problems with GOOGOO EYES made STOOD OVER hard to see for a bit, so that slowed me down. Wrote in ADO for DIN and then ODER (?!) for 42D: French river (OISE). Then I misread the clue on COSTUME BALLS as a singular and so wrote in COSTUME PARTY. So I just got tripped up on my own laces a lot.

The theme is OK, but not great. You want to change the meaning of those end words in the theme answer, and three of them are changed (i.e. the DICE and Rs and BALLS in the theme answers are not the kind you "roll"), but EYES is not. You make GOOGOO EYES with your actual EYES, which are also the ones you "roll." It's a minor flaw, but it's an easy Monday theme, and it should be tight. Also, the grid is weirdly made (big white corners, totally choppy middle), so there's a Lot of short junk. On the plus side, though, the puzzle did inadvertently create a really terrible but (to me) hilarious pejorative phrase—next time you're really angry with someone, try calling her (or him, I guess) the bottom two Acrosses in the SE corner. Then let me know how it goes. My money's on "not well."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Iberian wine city / SUN 9-22-13 / Spiderwick Chronicles co-author DiTerlizzi / my destiny be Fustian Dickinson poem / Old PC monitor feature / Satirical 1974 espionage film / Material beyond terrestrial plane in medieval science / English landscapist famous for burning of houses of lords commons / Classic sci-fi film billed as horror horde of crawl crush giants / 1960s-70s series starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Constructor: Mike Selinker

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Letterboxes" — "Crosswords Contest! In this special contest crossword, the completed grid conceals a familiar three-word phrase related to the puzzle's theme. 70-Across provides a hint as to where to find it, and you will need to print out the PDF to see some heavy lines that cannot be reproduced here ( When you have the answer, e-mail it to Twenty-five correct solvers, chosen at random, whose entries are received by 6 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, Sept. 24, will receive copies of The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles 2014 Day-to-Day Calendar, courtesy of Andrews McMeel. Only one entry per person, please. The answer will appear here on Wednesday, Sept. 25. The winners' names will be announced on Friday, Sept. 27."


• • •

I'm going to respect the contest. That is, I'm not going to reveal any information here. I don't know why, really. I mean, the stakes are soooooo low that I have a hard time imagining anyone even taking the time to enter. A day-to-day calendar?!? Really?

But I'm going to respect the contest anyway. Call it professional courtesy. Call it laziness. Call it whatever. You're gonna have to come up with your own answers today.

I will say one thing: the reveal, i.e. the meta-puzzle, i.e. the "three-word phrase" mentioned in the contest description (above), is Great. A genuinely fantastic punch line. The fill in this puzzle is not great. Painful and cringe-worthy at times. But there's a reason. Is it a good reason? Well ... I've probably already said too much. Just know that the phrase at the end of the rainbow is not a dud. It may not excuse all the ouchy stuff you had to fill in to get there, but it's not a dud.

OK, that's all. Good night. I would say "don't spoil the puzzle in the comments," but you're grown people (mostly) and you can do whatever the hell you want.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld



Susan's family on Seinfeld / SAT 9-21-13 / Oo la la jeans informally / Areas next to bull's eyes / Spotted hybrid house pet / They adhere to brains / 1980s Olympic star with autobiography Breaking Surface / Preceder of John Sebastian at Woodstock

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium to Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ALENÇON (43A: Delicate needlepoint lace) —
Alençon lace or point d'Alençon is a needle lace that originated in AlençonFrance. It is sometimes called the "Queen of lace." Lace making began in Alençon during the 16th century and the local industry was rapidly expanded during the reign of Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who established a Royal Workshop in the town to produce lace in the Venetian style in 1665. The purpose of establishing this workshop was to reduce the French court's dependence on expensive foreign imports. The local lacemakers soon modified the Venetian technique and Alençon emerged as a unique style around 1675. // Though the demand for lace went into sharp decline following the French Revolution, it recovered some of its popularity during the Second French Empire before entering terminal decline at the end of the 19th century with changes in fashion and the development of cheaper, machine-made lace. // Lace making survived on a small scale and the technique was preserved by Carmelite nuns in Alençon. In 1976 a National Lace Workshop was established in the town to ensure that this lace-making technique survives. There is a permanent exhibition of lace and a display showing how it is made in the Musée des Beaux Arts et de la Dentelle, located in the town centre and adjoining the Workshop. The workshops themselves are open to the public only on certain days of the year. // UNESCO recognised the unusual craftsmanship of this lace and added it to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2010. (wikipedia)
• • •

Unless your name is Patrick Berry, 58 words is probably out of your depth. There is not a lot here to like (well, maybe to like, but not to love). Always impressive when anyone can fill a grid like this with legit material, but the material here is mostly dull and weird and often awkward. Lots of "Wheel of Fortune" letters (RLSTNE). There's nothing terrible (except perhaps RESEE and SONDE), but nothing particularly memorable or dazzling, either. I was headed toward a very normal time when I hit the last two squares, --ENÇON. Figured 37D: Shop keeper? was CLAMP (that's a Horribly forced clue, btw), and I wanted an "L" to make ALENÇON, but that left me with ROOLER, which made no sense. Only after I checked all the letters in ROOLER did I realize ROUGH ROAD could be TOUGH ROAD, and then TOOLER (not a winning answer, btw) fell into place, and Mr. Happy Pencil was achieved. Particularly galling to have to struggle with junky stuff like a foreign-named lace and whatever TOOLER is. Liked LOUGANIS (30D: 1980s Olympic star with the autobiography "Breaking the Surface") and SOLO HOMER (38A: Round trip for one?). The rest was OK at times, but mostly a chore to get through.


Forgot PIA MATERS was a thing (not sure I've ever seen it in the plural—see also AMNESTIES). Had KNEE and wanted BRACE. Totally guessed INNERS and was startled to find it right. Not pretty.  I guess 39D: ___ Lucy" (old sitcom) is supposed to make you want "I LOVE," but if you bit on that one, you haven't been doing puzzles long. No way the puzzle would serve up that big a gimme on a Saturday. Never heard of "HERE'S Lucy," so that answer came entirely from crosses. Except the "S"—never heard of SONDE, so had to infer that "S" in "HERE'S" (not hard). Got an easy start in the NW with SASSONS (16A: "Oo la la!" jeans, informally), URBS, ADSORBS, and SPLITTERS, but then stalled trying to move out of there. Rebooted easily in the NE section with BCS (biggest gimme in the puzzle, probably—that, and ALMODOVAR). Not much else to say. How is a BENGAL CAT a hybrid? (29D: Spotted hybrid house pet) According to wikipedia, "Bengals result from crossing a domestic feline with an Asian leopard cat (ALC), Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis." So there you go. 

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Flag carried on knight's lance / FRI 9-20-13 / Fox relative / Relatives of spoonbills / Blake's burning bright cat / Positive thinking pioneer / 1959 #5 hit with the B-side I've Cried Before / Watch brand once worn by 007 / 50s politico

Friday, September 20, 2013

Constructor: Mangesh Ghogre and Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: OSKAR Werner (4D: Werner of "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold") —

Oskar Werner (13 November 1922 – 23 October 1984) was an Austrian actor.
He is known for his film performances in Jules and Jim (1962), Ship of Fools (1965), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968). Werner received anAcademy Award nomination in 1966, two BAFTA award nominations in 1966 and 1967, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture in 1966. (wikipedia)
• • •

Overate. Didn't feel like I was overeating. Felt measured and sensible, my eating. But I was out at a restaurant, and I'd had a drink, and I kept trying stuff, and by dessert, ugh. And now several hours later. Ugh. 43-year-old me simply canNot stuff his face without consequences, the way 23-year-old me (or even 33-year-old me) could. Maybe that's a good thing, but it does Not feel so good right now. I tell you all this mainly to explain how little I trust myself judging the puzzle's difficulty level tonight. I psyched myself out early on, then realized it wasn't that hard, then got ridiculously stalled in the bottom half of the grid. Came out with a higher-than-avg time, but it just can't be trusted. I'm not myself. Looking at it right now, I can tell it's a pretty normal Friday. My problem was that I couldn't bust into those long Acrosses down below, even after I totally busted into their middles via PEALE BEIGES MUSKET PASTORAL. Couldn't get SNIT from [Pet] — obvious now, but that meaning of "pet" is something I see exclusively in crosswords, and it just wouldn't come. Had DDE for IKE (47D: '50s politico). HONOR for VALOR and, off of that, HEMI for V-TEN. Got LEERERS early, but it didn't really help. Tried to get into the SW of the grid from above, but after I wrote in BIZET (27D: "L'Arlésienne" composer), I hit a wall. Nothing west of BIZET. Just, nothing. Many minutes later, after striking out in the SE, I returned to BIZET crosses and instantly got AMAZED (32A: Staggered) and AT IT (39A: Going ___). Where were you the first time, guys!? After that it was ARAPAHO and then (32D: Fox relative), with their front ends in place, the long Acrosses down there fell quickly. Done and done.

Thought the grid was OK, but deeply and obviously reliant on -ER and -S and -ERS words (esp. there in the SE—HEAVER crossing LEERERS kind of hurt). The 15s are very nice up top and just OK down below. The rest of it is solid but not impressive. Doug's stuff usually amazes me more than this puzzle did.

Off to stare at the TV, or the wall, until stomach pain subsides and I can sleep. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Ill-fated mission of 1967 / THU 9-19-13 / Pince librarian at Hogwarts / Nut Gone Flake celebrated 1968 Small Faces album / Posthumous inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame 1979 / Entice with music / Modified as software for different platform

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Constructor: Michael Blake

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: C AND Y COATED (58A: Like M&M's ... or four words to describe 17-, 24-, 35- and 50-Across) — familiar phrases have C affixed to beginning AND Y affixed to the end, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: "OGDENS' Nut Gone Flake" (4D: "___ Nut Gone Flake," celebrated 1968 Small Faces album) —
Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake is a successful concept album by the English rock band Small Faces. Released on 24 May 1968 the LP became a number one hit in the UK Album Charts on 29 June where it remained for a total of six weeks. [...] Side One is a mix of early heavy rock with "Song of a Baker"; psychedelic cockney knees-up songs "Lazy Sunday" and "Rene", the opening instrumental title track (which resembles their second single "I've Got Mine", which was a flop in 1965), and the soul influenced ballad "Afterglow", as it is called on the LP, but is titled "Afterglow of Your Love" on the subsequent single and some compilations. // Side Two is based on an original fairy tale about a boy called Happiness Stan, narrated in his unique ‘Unwinese’ gobbledegook by Stanley Unwin, who picked up modern slang from the band and incorporated it into the surreal narrative. (wikipedia)

• • •

An interesting idea, technically well executed, not terribly enjoyable.  The wacky answers just aren't funny. They don't land. They're dull. They do exactly what the theme answer says they will. They are spot-on from a technical standpoint. But CHOSE DOWNY? Snore. COLD MASTERY? Just ... odd. CLOCK PICKY? Awkward. CART FAIRY, I like. That one works. But the rest are just workmanlike. The revealer is nice, and I want to like the results of the whole thing, but I don't. Not much. Don't hate it, by any means. But in terms of enjoyability, it was somewhat wide of the mark for me.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Ability to survive freezing temperatures? (COLD MASTERY)
  • 24A: Selected a certain fabric softener? (CHOSE DOWNY)
  • 35A: Sprite who helps you find a shopping vehicle? (CART FAIRY)
  • 50A: Super-choosy about time pieces? (CLOCK PICKY)
Somewhat slower than normal time, largely because I failed so terribly in my initial stab at the NW. I had nothing. ESS. I had ESS. Ugh. If I'd been a bit more systematic, I'd've gotten ULAN and possibly ELLE, but I ran all the Downs first—nothing. Two long Acrosses—nothing. I knew PORSCHE (27A: 911 maker), so rode that into the center, where I promptly put CFO where CPA was supposed to go and so had to do quite a bit of hacking about to sort out PEACH and the central theme answer. Floated rather easily from there down to the SE, where AIR BILL was totally unknown to me (64A: FedEx form), but the rest of the corner was pretty pliable. I can't imagine TWEEDLE connoting something enticing, but I'll take the clue at its word (44D: Entice with music). So I got the revealer and understood immediately the whole C/Y bit, but didn't really register that they were "coating" real phrases. Anyway, SW was the easiest section by far. Downs went down 1, 2, 3. Returned to the top where the NE proved a slight problem because I couldn't find the right test to put into 34A: Tests that consist of five subjects, for short (GEDS). Plural, eh? OK. Also, I had "GIT!" for "OUT!" (22A: "Shoo!"). NW was where I finished, with that pesky Roman numeral on the APOLLO mission being my last letter (2D: Ill-fated mission of 1967); [Family pet name] = SIS = strangely baffling.

My main take-away from today was that I really have to commit IRMA to memory (55A: ___ Pince, librarian at Hogwarts). Not that many viable crossword IRMAs. Good to know them.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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