Showing posts with label Caleb Madison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Caleb Madison. Show all posts

Popular six-second clips since 2013 / SUN 8-17-14 / Title film locale in Springwood, Oh / Singer with 2009 hit Tik Tok / Accoutrement popularized by a Seinfeld episode / Mortal queen of Thebes who was transfigured into goddess / R&B sing with 2004 #1 hit Goodies

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for reasons I don't understand, as the theme was easy enough to pick up …)



THEME: "Sittin' Solve"— theme answers are "___ AND ___" phrases that have been converted to "___IN' ___" phrases by way of Texan homophony. Yes, Virginia, there is wackiness.

Theme answers:
  • WRITIN' WRONG (20A: Spellin' things incorrectly?)
  • JACKIN' COKE (29A: Stealin' a hard drug?)
  • ROCKIN' ROLL (32A: Pushin' some bread back and forth?)
  • BARRIN' GRILL (66A: Not allowin' anyone to cook burgers and franks?)
  • TIMIN' AGAIN (104A: Recheckin' with a stopwatch?)
  • SHOWIN' TELL (106A: Demonstratin' how to shoot an apple off someone's head?)
  • CUTTIN' PASTE (116A: Usin' less stickum?)
  • HITTIN' MISS (2D: Givin' a female casino patron another card?)
  • BUYIN' LARGE (12D: Makin' some big purchases?)
  • WILLIN' GRACE (38D: Hopin' favor is bestowed?)
  • NIPPIN' TUCK (73D: Btitin' a friend of Robin Hood?)
  • HAULIN' OATS (75D: Carryin' a load of grain?)

Word of the Day: Clark GREGG (79D: Clark ___, "The Avengers" actor) —
Robert Clark Gregg (born April 2, 1962) is an American actor, screenwriter and director, best known for his role as Phil Coulson in the films Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Marvel's The Avengers (2012), and in the television series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which airs on the ABC network. He also voices the character on the animated television series Ultimate Spider-Man. Gregg has also co-starred as Christine Campbell's ex-husband Richard in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, which debuted in March 2006 and concluded in May 2010. He also played FBI Special Agent Mike Casper on the NBC series The West Wing and Cam, the on-and-off boyfriend of Jack (and client of Grace) on the NBC series Will & Grace. [BOOM, stealth "Will & Grace" / WILLIN' GRACE tie-in! All the points to Slytherin'!]
• • •

Former Shortz assistant and former co-constructor of mine Caleb Methuselah Madison has a new offering for us. He wrote me ahead of its publication, not (as I expected) to plead for a kind review, but to ask ("insist" is closer to it) that I tell everyone about his insane summer vacation experiences, about which he has created a most bizarre and mesmerizing tumblr: "If you didn't see on my various social media hubs, I spent [the summer] living in an RV in Forks, Washington with the owner and only tour guide of the last surviving "Twilight" tour company, taking pix and interview people in the town. It was surreal and crazy and what am I doing with my life." So there you go. Now I am going to segue to the puzzle via the observation that, like many of today's young people, Mr. Madison is highly attuned to the tech / pop culture / social media world (witness the tumblr account you have just witnessed) (segue!). This puzzle grid roils with such modern contrivances as The ZUNE The SNAPCHAT and The EMOJI and The VINES (actually *The* VINES are a musical group, which Caleb also probably knows—his name-dropping of CIARA and KESHA and 50 Cent lets you know he's fluent in most popular music forms right up to 2009). Throw in SASHA Fierce and whoever Clark GREGG is, and you can see that Mr. Madison is a young man of this century.


Like Friday's puzzle, this puzzle's theme was somewhat unremarkable (from a solving standpoint) and easy to uncover. Unlike Friday's puzzle, this grid abounds in good fill. It looks like a highly segmented nightmare, scattershot through with black squares, like an English muffin or a honeycomb or some kind of horrid life-size human maze that you'd get lost in as a child. The design made me think the puzzle would be easy to cut through, and that the interesting answers would be few and far between, but I was wrong on both counts. Clues were both smart and tough, so that I *repeatedly* got stuck and had to break my preferred method of constant interlock solving (Always Work Crosses, Never Jump Around … unless ordered to by these guys) and leap into the void anew. It looks like you'd have a million different ways to get into each section of the puzzle, but in practice, if you wanna come down the left and drop into the SW, it's go through INO or go home. You can try to get around via GRAVEN, but that's a narrow aperture as well. Even coming up via V-NECKS really just takes you back to GRAVEN again. What I'm saying is that it was a funhouse of a puzzle, and I got all confused and twisted around. The experience was not entirely unpleasant.


Some of the theme answers did, in fact, amuse me (HAULIN' OATS, for instance), and it's at least somewhat impressive that the Down theme answers run through one and sometimes two other theme answers. Yes, the preponderance of short answers in a big puzzle meant that there was some yuck along the way. I did not stand and applaud for: INO CIARA AGGRESS ELMST ELIE ELS KAN IDE EEO and some other things. But stuff like VERTICALS and MAN PURSE and SNAPCHAT and MORAY EEL kept me very much entertained. ROBOTRY! So proper. That's what Jeeves, my butler, calls it. I'm a rube who says "robotics."


My post-vacation cold means I'm even more behind on puzzle-solving than ever, so it'll be another week, at least, before I discuss the Great Puzzles out there in the rest of puzzle world. I'm all hopped up on the start of the Premier League season today, so I'm gonna go watch highlights and drink some tea and see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Wednesday, April 10

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Easy if you're a movie buff, challenging if not.



THEME: Memorable movie lines — 6 quotes from AFI (11a: Movie org. that created a top-100 list from which all of this puzzle's quotes come)



Word of the Day: DAVIT (38a: Shipboard crane) —
a crane that project over the side of a ship or hatchway and is used especially for boats, anchors, or cargo (Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
• • •

Hello again! Welcome to 20 Under 30 Does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Part III. Alex Blum and Caleb Madison, just a couple of SEX (66a: Kinsey topic) CUTIEs (67a: Adorable one) coming atcha once again from Yale U. What a puzzle! 15x16 with a stack of double 15s in the center (check out that L-square in the mideast!) Julian Lim reels off a smattering of movie quotes... and there's the theme.

Theme answers:
  • 17a: Memorable movie line spoken by... Jack Nicholson (HERE'S JOHNNY)
  • 22a: ...Haley Joel Osment (I SEE DEAD PEOPLE)
  • 37a:...Renée Zellweger (YOU HAD ME AT HELLO)
Caleb insisted this happen. Hungry for more?
  • 40a:...Marlon Brando (STELLA, HEY, STELLA) - we usually think of this as just "STELLA!" but AFI confirms this is the exact quote.
  • 46a:...Greta Garbo (I WANT TO BE ALONE) - this is the only quote we were both unfamiliar with... but it's a thing. 
  • 58a:...Debra Winger (heard but not seen) (E.T. PHONE HOME) - our favorite of the bunch. It looks weird in the grid (ETPH) and we had no idea that she voiced ET!
We like the quotation density and the theme-stacking architectural feat, but the theme itself is a little straightforward. Themes like this, which reveal themselves completely in the first theme answer, run the risk of feeling like an inventory, which is both incomplete and arbitrarily-chosen (or chosen based solely on how they fit into a grid). Still, it was a generally fun solve with some splashy fill in what must have been a tricky construction job.

We also appreciated the bonus movie-related fill: ALI(63a: 2001 Will Smith biopic), ELF(57a: Snap, Crackle or Pop), WALL-E(47d: 2008 Pixar robot), OSHEA(54d: Milo of "The Verdict"), LOEWS(53d: Bygone theater chain), HE-MEN (43a: Many Sylvester Stallone Characters), and AHN (52d: Philip of "Kung Fu").


Bullets:
  • 18d: President Bartlett of "The West Wing" (JED) — you had Blum at "The West Wing"
  • 10d: "Gangnam Style" rapper (PSY) — We thought this was a first! Turns out the Korean dance sensation made his debut in another puzzle by Mr. Lim a few months ago. Still fun to see in the puzzle.

  • 49d: Baked, so to speak (ON POT) — hm... not sure how in the language this is. Most Google hits of this phrase use "on" to mean "concerning" or "about" rather than "under the influence of." Unrelatedly, see EIGHTH (25d: Pizza slice, often), REEK (32d: Stink), ALLMAN (34d: Rocker Gregg who married Cher)... and later probably NACHOS (56a: Cheesy treat). 
  • 11d: There was always a point to what he wrote (AESOP) — We mean, hopefully true for all writers. Originally, we were expecting something like PENNER... or something to do with a nib... Anyway, we think there's a difference between a moral and a point.
This is Blum's Facebook cover photo #RealLife
  • 41a: Digital communication, for short? (ASL) - great clue.
  • 62d: The ___ [fittingly] (END)


Signed, Caleb Madison and Alex Blum, IDIOTS of CrossWorld

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Recurring Stephen King antagonist Randall / SUN 3-31-13 / Device Professor X wears over his head in X-men / 1983 film debut of Bill Maher / One-named R&B singer / Noted American writer in Yiddish / Ones who wrote in Ogham alphabet / Mythological figure kithara / Computer used to predict 1952 election / Aconcagua setting

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: "Special Features" — An Easter puzzle with the revealer EASTER EGGS (115A: Hidden DVD feature ... which can be found, literally, in the answers to the starred clues) — each letter of "EASTER EGGS" (in order) has been added to the first word of movie titles, creating wacky movie titles, clued "?"-style.


Theme answers:
  • 23A: *Movie about ... an intense blinking context? ("STARE WARS")
  • 28A: *... a housecleaner? ("NEAT WORK")
  • 30A: *... a sled racer? ("SNOW VOYAGER")
  • 44A: *... a bee during a downpour? ("STINGIN' IN THE RAIN")
  • 56A: *... actor Jason's fan club? ("BATEMAN FOREVER")
  • 80A: *... Jerry Garcia's band's portraits? ("DRAWN OF THE DEAD") — trying to figure out how grammar on this works ... 
  • 88A: *... a parent's edicts? ("TEEN COMMANDMENTS")
  • 100A: *... a king's brilliance? ("REGAL GENIUS")
  • 108A: *... a harvester? ("GRAIN MAN")

Word of the Day: CEREBRO (72A: Device Professor X wears over his head in "X-Men") —
In the Marvel UniverseCerebro (Portuguese and Spanish for "brain") is a device that the X-Men (in particular, their leader, Professor Charles Xavier) use to detect humans, specifically mutants. It was created by Xavier and Magneto, and was later enhanced by Dr. Hank McCoy. The current version of Cerebro is called Cerebra, to be distinguished from the character of the same name. Cerebro first appeared in X-Men (vol 1) #7 (1964). (wikipedia)
• • •

Well this was a lot of fun. There were some weird moments—I don't know how "DRAWN" (or maybe "OF") is being used in "DRAWN OF THE DEAD"; I loved / was mystified by CEREBRO, which seems nerdily arcane; and though the puzzle overall felt *very* easy, the tiny patch in the NNW was absurdly hard. I spent about a quarter of my time on this puzzle trying to figure out what amounts to little more than a 3x5 patch of land. But none of these things (except the "DRAWN" thing) is knock on the puzzle. Just strange moments that stand out in an overall fast and fluid solve. Having worked with Caleb, I know and value how much care he puts into non-theme fill. Many Sundays, what you get is All Theme, and at best the fill is mediocre, at worst it's been compromised to make the theme work. Here, not only is the fill mostly smooth, but there are these great bonuses in the Downs, CAROL KANE and DEATH METAL (13D: Music genre of Possessed and Deicide), CUT CORNERS and CHEWBACCA (such a good clue—78D: Solo companion). LADIES' NIGHT! The only one I didn't like was "LOST WEEKEND," and the only reason I didn't like it was that it felt mildly distracting to have a long movie title in the puzzle that fell *outside* the whole EASTER EGG theme. Also, I don't like when "THE"s and "A"s are omitted on titles, esp. long ones (4D: 1945 Best Picture winner, with "The"). But again, these are minor quibbles. There are a lot of very good constructors under 30 at this moment, and Caleb (who is Way under 30) might just be the best of them. If he's not, he's close.

Now about that patch of trouble up top. I got "STARE WARS" easily enough, but hadn't yet clearly grasped the theme, so "SNOWV-" did not trigger the movie "NOW, VOYAGER" the way it was supposed to. So I didn't have the back end of that answer, and I didn't know HENRY I (20D: English king who was a son of William the Conqueror) (I had HENGST in there... which is wrong on so many levels—five centuries to early, misspelled, legendary ...). I had ROE but absolute didn't know FLAGG (8D: Recurring Stephen King antagonist Randall ___) or ARGONS (27A: Atoms in some light bulbs) and, most importantly, thought SEL was EAU (19A: It's found in la mer). So ... I was just stopped. For I don't know how long. Once I (finally) ditched EAU, ASSAY and TETRA went in pretty quickly, and then I pieced it all together. Wrong answers are The Worst. Lately, all of my disastrous time losses have been due not to ignorance, but to a wrong answer I am sure is right (so sure that I don't even question it).


There was a good deal of pop culture in the grid, beyond the theme itself (not atypical for a Madison grid). I never saw "D.C. CAB," but I do know it exists, so the odd combination of letters in that answer didn't throw me off (13A: 1983 film debut of Bill Maher). I never listened to MYA, but I know her name (this is true for me of almost all pop singers who got famous after 1996) (95A: One-named R&B singer). I know NATASHA Bedingfield from ... something. "Torn?" Nope, that's Natalie Imbruglia. Hmmm ... It's a name I know from people mentioning it on "Idol" (way back when, when I watched "Idol"). Oh, right, "Unwritten." Some girl sang it and promptly got sent home. Anyway, her name has stuck for some reason (74A: Pop singer Bedingfield).


Bullets:
  • 3D: Mythological figure often depicted holding a kithara (ERATO) — looks forbidding. Isn't. Just good ol' ERATO. A "kithara" is a lyre-like instrument. 
  • 29D: Noted American writer in Yiddish (ASCH) — Sholem. Never read him. Just know him.
  • 35D: Computer used to predict the 1952 presidential election (UNIVAC) — ENIAC wouldn't fit. I have heard of UNIVAC (which always sounds like a vacuum brand to me), but had no idea it predicted anything, let alone the '52 election.
  • 102D: Ones who wrote in the Ogham alphabet (GAELS) — got it off the "G"; I don't know ... just sounded Gaelic. And that's how I solved that.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Popsicle in Fifty Shades of Grey / SUN 10-28-12 / Psychologist Jean / Prime minister of 1945 / 1978-79 CBS detective drama / Softly exhale cheap sentiment / Hoarders airer

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Constructor: Michael Sharp and Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: ???



THEME: "WHAT THE ..." — familiar phrases have the sound "-THE" added to end of a word in that phrase, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Theme answers:
  • 23A: "Come on, woman, shape that wood!"? ("LATHE, LADY, LATHE")
  • 38A: Cheerful superhero? (CAPTAIN BLITHE)
  • 52A: Take a patient approach to revenge? (WAIT AND SEETHE)
  • 71A: Ones who stop giving to their church? (TITHE BREAKERS)
  • 89A: Softly exhale cheap sentiment? (BREATHE CHEESE)
  • 101A: Mad scientist's sadistic exclamation upon attacking the Empire State? ("WRITHE, NEW YORK!")
  • 119A: What the Grim Reaper's backup carries? (SCYTHE OF RELIEF)
  • 15D: "If you don't like my anger, do something about it!"? ("SO SOOTHE ME!")
  • 76D: Hate coke? (LOATHE BLOW)

Word of the Day: "KAZ" (96A: 1978-79 CBS detective drama) —
Kaz is an American crime drama series that aired on CBS from September 10, 1978 to April 22, 1979. // Ron Leibman starred as Martin "Kaz" Kazinsky, a Polish American former convict who became a criminal defense attorney after he was released from prison. Leibman won anEmmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama. Nevertheless, the show failed to capture an audience and was cancelled due to low ratings. In all, 22 episodes aired. (wikipedia)
• • •

Origins (from memory, so I might get a detail wrong here or there): Caleb wrote me with "LATHE LADY LATHE" and asked if I wanted to help build a theme around that answer. We brainstormed a *lot* of words to which you could successfully add "-THE," and then a lot of potential phrases using those words ("LATHE LADY LATHE" is still my favorite, esp. as clued—if you're gonna do wacky, Do Wacky, i.e. Absurd—this is also why I like my second-favorite theme answer, "WRITHE, NEW YORK!"). Once we settled on a symmetrical group of answers, Caleb put together the grid. Fast. One second we were talking about it as a hypothetical, next thing I know, he sends me a fillable grid, with all the theme answers in place, and (impressively) with theme answers even intersecting in the NE and SW. Then we filled it. This is a weird thing to do with two people. I think at first he took the east and I took the west. Then we took passes making things mesh. Back and forth a few times. Done. But ... this is not the grid we initially submitted (dum dum DUM!).


Well, most of it is, but the entire SW corner has been rewritten since we first submitted it. This is because Will liked the theme, wanted to run the puzzle, but balked at including one of our longer answers: Chinese artist and dissident AI WEIWEI. Will wrote:
I like the theme, but ... would you be willing to change the lower-left corner? I'm not crazy about the entry AI WEIWEI. He's not so well-known yet, and his name is crazily spelled and not inferable. IS DONE in the same corner isn't so wonderful either. Maybe the whole area can be improved.
He was certainly right about IS DONE, but I was a bit surprised about the AI WEIWEI rejection. I thought he was pretty famous, or at least NYT-reader famous. Just this week, a video of AI WEIWEI has been making the rounds (via sites like The New Yorker, New York Magazine, etc.). Maybe you've seen it.



Plus, I thought we'd made sure all the crosses were fair, so even people who hadn't heard of him could still solve the puzzle. But Will knows his audience better than we do, so we happily obliged. Since that was "my" corner, I tore it up and started plugging in AI WEI WEI substitutes. Now, both Caleb and I like to make the most of longer answers—to find new, weird, fresh, strange, or otherwise grabby words, names, or phrases to work into the grid. So I started throwing in as many good 8s as I had lying around. I got some of them to work, but there was always something not-quite-right about the resulting fill. Then, perhaps because I was constructing the puzzle at the height of "Fifty Shades" mania, I hit upon SAFE WORD and refused to let go. Hence TROW, which I kinda hate (90D: Suppose, to Shakespeare). But the rest of the adjacent fill works just fine, and I can't tell you how happy I am that SAFE WORD got in, and got in just as I'd clued it (106A: "Popsicle," in "Fifty Shades of Grey," for one).


DAAÉ is one of my least favorite crossword names (55D: Christine ___, "The Phantom of the Opera" girl); it's a name that looks like it was invented by a crossword constructor just to get herself out of a jam. Blecch. But I was intent on marrying Caleb's great SE corner with the fill he had going on up top, and so that middle-right portion of the grid was wicked hard to pull off. I had to invent CABLEMEN (which, thankfully, it turns out, is a real thing; 65A: Some electrical workers), and choke down NHLER and that ugly little LST / ATA crossing, but I was generally happy with the result. There's a Random Roman Numeral in there, so, you know, yuck, but as clues for DLIX go, I like mine (131A: 1,000 years before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I).


Bullets:
  • 19A: Setting for the 2012 film "Argo" (IRAN) — Sometimes Will modernizes the clue. Like here. I certainly didn't know what "Argo" was when C and I were making this puzzle. Other current clues Will added include 95A: San Antonio mayor Julián, keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic convention (CASTRO) (interesting, considering Will took *out* my Republican convention clue for CLINT (16D)... ), and 32D: Replacement refs, maybe? (SCABS).
  • 42A: Oklahoma birthplace of Oral Roberts (ADA) — I'm reasonably certain Oral Roberts did not figure in our original cluing. I just started watching "The United States of Tara" earlier tonight, and in an earlier episode the actor who plays Buster Bluth in "Arrested Development" plays an English teacher named Oral. Or Orel, I guess. It wasn't spelled out.
  • 116A: Canon fodder? (FILM) — nice clue. Not mine. Maybe Caleb's, maybe Will's, can't remember. My wife didn't like the clue until I explained "Canon" referred to the camera. She was thinking of "canon" as a set of great works.
  • 53D: Carnival Cruise Lines stop (ARUBA) — seems pretty vague. I think our original clue had something about the capital, Oranjestad, which now that I think of it would look beautiful in a grid.
Hope you enjoyed the puzzle. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex "Michael Sharp" Parker, King of CrossWorld

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1942 Preakness winner / SAT 8-25-12 / Captain Hook's alma mater / Modern drag / Mariposa's close relative / Chard cab alternative / Hawks old haunt / Teen series title character never seen / Old revolutionist

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: none

Word of the Day: Bobby LAYNE (18A: Football Hall of Famer Bobby) —

Robert Lawrence "Bobby" Layne (December 19, 1926 – December 1, 1986) was an American footballquarterback who played for 15 seasons in the National Football League. He played for the Chicago Bears in 1948, the New York Bulldogs in 1949, the Detroit Lions from 19501958, and the Pittsburgh Steelers from 19581962. He was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 1948 NFL Draft. He played college football at the University of Texas.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968. His number, 22, has been retired by the University of Texas Longhorns and Detroit Lions. (wikipedia)
• • •

This one roughed me up a bit. A maddening mix of some fresh, current long answers and some gut-kicking, hard-to-suss-out shorter stuff (ICOSA, ALSAB, APNEAL, SEGO). Mainly, the cluing was simply very tough. The worst part of it all, for me, was that as I was solving, I kept thinking "I've seen this grid ... Caleb must have showed this to me a while back ... so ... Why Can't I Solve It More Quickly?!" My current theory is that he showed me a version that had some of these long answers but otherwise different fill. At least I hope that's true. Anyway, that long stuff is mostly stuff I'd've gotten immediately either way. TAYLORSWIFT? Gimme (11D: 2009 Grammy winner for "Fearless"). "THEHANGOVER"? Gimme (24D: 2009 comedy whose tagline is "Some guys just can't handle Vegas"). "GOSSIPGIRL"? Well, not a gimme exactly, but a gimme once a couple of letters were in place (28A: Teen series whose title character is never seen). I love all those answers, plus BUZZKILL (1A: Modern drag) and GOOGOO EYES (though the latter gave me fits as I cycled through GOOGLY, GOOGLE, GOOGIE, and even considered GOOGOL ("She had a hundred eyes?") before finally hitting on GOOGOO) (28D: Kitten's look).


I had real problems solving this puzzle, right from the get-go. The NW just lay empty until near the very end, when I somehow managed to stare it down. Wanted ZIN but couldn't get anything to confirm it (3D: Chard or cab alternative). Wrote in AM SO and LIEN instead of IS SO and LOAN, so, yeah, that Hurt. Convinced myself that LIEN didn't fit the clue, then realized IS could work instead of AM. This allowed me to see -SOUP, and that "U" allowed me to see/guess LUC (8D: Jacquet who directed "March of the Penguins"). That was all I needed. Finished in the SE, which was much, much easier. But the part of the puzzle that took me the longest was the area around MALINGERED. This is because a. I thought the "feigned" in [Feigned incapacity] was an adjective, not a verb; b. I didn't know LAYNE, so I kept trying a "K" there and getting MAKING ... something (MAKING ERE- ... what?); and c. I didn't know that's what MALINGERED meant. I think I thought it meant something more MALicious. Like ... loitering with malicious intent or something. How sad for me.

Bullets:
  • 9A: Founding need (METAL) — I had SMELT ... which is ... not right. SMELT is a fish. But you can see, kinda, that my brain was in the right place. A METAL-ish place. 
  • 19A: Captain Hook's alma mater (ETON) — I had no idea *and* it was a gimme. Chew on that.
  • 20A: "Tropic Thunder" director and co-star (STILLER) — still needs about a million more grid appearances before he catches his mom.
  • 40A: Altar adjunct (PRIE-DIEU) — Here's a place where knowing some French helped. Didn't help me at 2D: ___ fois que (as soon as, in Arles) (UNE). I never would've considered UNE. That is one rough clue for UNE. French also didn't help much at 10D: Even, in Évreux (EGAL). I wrote in MÊME. Different meaning of "even."
  • 49A: Hawks' old haunt (OMNI) — another (potentially) very tough clue. A gimme for me, but only because I know something about basketball (and have done enough crosswords to see OMNI clued as a sports arena before).
  • 4D: Defenders' assignments (ZONES) — I *think* this is a basketball clue. Seems like it could apply to a bunch of sports. I had CASES here (one more reason the NW ate me alive a little). 
  • 25D: Yupik lang. (ESK.) — ouch.
  • 37D: She hailed from the planet Alderaan (LEIA) — not so hard if you are a "Star Wars" fan and/or you have done a lot of puzzles. Like ETON, this answer seemed the only plausible one for its clue.
  • 54D: Old revolutionist (RED) — I wrote in REB with little thought, until I considered the resulting BEEN THERE, BONE THAT ... which has a certain ring, but ultimately doesn't work (59A: With 61-Across, "nothing new to me!").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Benjamins / WED 7-4-12/Really irked / Can feature / Unwanted cloud

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Easy



THEME: PIXAR — In which the year of a Pixar movie is given and the movie's name is the answer.


Word of the Day: LEGMEN (48A: Reporters on the scene) —
Legman: A reporter who gathers information by visiting news sources or by being present at news events.
• • •

Constructor Caleb Madison is the boy genius who was the youngest person ever to have a published NYT crossword. He was 15 in 2008 when his first (of 24) puzzles was printed. A small amount of cyber stalking revealed him to be a student at Yale and someone who engages comedians on Twitter. His puzzle construction is impressive - he manages to cram a lot of movie titles in there and he uses very few predictable fill words (ESC, LEI, OAT, SRTA, E.R.A. being notable examples). He also managed to integrate IMAX (22A: Big Picture?) and TOON (37D: Any 40-Across character)  into a movie-themed puzzle, which was a nice touch.

All that said, I found this puzzle to be tedious. I hate to pick on the kid, but I doubt that any vaguely culture-aware human would guess anything other than PIXAR as the "Company whose movies, not counting sequels, are all included in this puzzle". After that, it's just a matter of figuring out which titles go where. The whole exercise felt a bit blah, even though it includes a few interesting pop-references and turns of phrase.

I had a rough time with LEGMEN, as I had only heard that phrase used to describe the opposite of "Breast Men". For some reason, I felt that 12A (Naturalist/TV host Steve) couldn't possibly be STEVE IRWIN since the phrasing implies that he is alive and was not pierced to death by a sting ray.

Theme answers:
  • RATATOUILLE (17A: 2007)
  • BUG'S LIFE (20A: 1998, with "A")
  • TOY STORY (57A: 1995)
  • INCREDIBLES (61A: 2004, with "The")
  • FINDING NEMO (11D: 2003)
  • BRAVE (13D: 2012)
  • MONSTERS, INC (23D: 2001)
  • CARS (27D: 2006)
  • WALL-E (50D: 2008)
  • UP (Circled Squares: 2009)
I've had a crush on Ice Cube for many years. He's one of the original members of seminal rap group N.W.A along with Dr. Dre, Easy-E, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince and MC Ren. Ice Cube's given name is O'Shea Jackson.

By the way, I'm Amy...one of the many non-Rexes here to try and help you forget that Rex is on vacation. Pleased to meet you. 
Bullets:
  • 49D: Place where opposites don't attract (GAY BAR) and 15A: Popular Dude (MR. COOL) are surprisingly square/old fashioned answers for a teenager...especially when the same grid includes N.W.A. (19A: "Straight Outta Compton" rap group) and DAVID LEE ROTH (62D: Singer David ___ Roth).   


  • 3D: Four-footed family member (PET) — I kept wanting this to be "dog" or "cat" or even "Rex". It ultimately makes sense, but it threw me. 
  • 10D: Goes undercover (SLEEPS) — I get it, but I don't like it.
  • 47D: Harried parent's desire, maybe (ME TIME) — Clever and cheeky. Nice one.

Signed, Amy Seidenwurm, Under Secretary of CrossWorld

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1969 Tony winner for Promises Promises / SAT 5-12-12 / 1955 Dior debut / Tiropita ingredient / 1989 EPA target / Quintillionth prefix / Kikkoman options / Producer of venom solenopsin

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: none

Word of the Day: CRYSTAL SET (28D: Early radio receiver) —
crystal radio receiver, also called a crystal set or cat's whisker receiver, is a very simple radio receiver, popular in the early days of radio. It needs no battery or power source and runs on the power received from radio waves by a long wire antenna. It gets its name from its most important component, known as a crystal detector, originally made with a piece of crystalline mineral such as galena.[1] This component is now called a diode. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not among my favorite puzzles by Mr. Madison, for a couple of reasons. First, there's just less sparkly fill and more awkward stuff like ALTERANT (17A: Change-producing agent) and STENTORS (59A: Their voices really carry). Loved BOB BARR (11D: 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate) and really want to love THIRTY ROCK (since I watch it and all) (31A: Emmy-winning show of 2007, '08 and '09) (not the greatest clue), but no one anywhere ever has written that THIRTY out. Now, writing out numerals is a crossword tradition, so the answer isn't exactly wrong, but instead of inducing a "wow" reaction, it got more of a disappointed sigh (disappointed at myself for not getting it more quickly, disappointed that a marquee answer has this numeral/word issue). The other thing that brought me down, was the SE corner, which just blinded me with stuff I didn't know. I thought the difficulty level was pretty normal for a Saturday, maybe even slightly on the easy side, until I got down there. Never heard of CRYSTAL SET, NATHAN (42D: Annual George Jean ___ Award for Dramatic Criticism), or ATTO- (51D: Quintillionth: Prefix), and since they all crossed the not-so-common STENTORS, that corner Wrecked me. So much so that I started doubting stuff that was obviously right, e.g. U.S.S.R. (52D: Locale in a Beatles title) Having all my ignorance concentrated in that one tiny corner was annoying—more my problem than the puzzle's, I guess, but when the tough stuff is just "???" and not "wow," then I'm left a little disappointed. To be completely fair, my biggest problem down there was my complete inability to see how a third-person singular verb could end -US (50A: Starts to stagnate). Brain just kept going "has to be wrong has to be wrong has to be wrong." When I finally (and I mean finally) got PLATEAUS, I think I may have said "(You) idiot!" aloud to myself. At myself.



Several choice gimmes made this puzzle feel relatively easy at first. Too bad BOB BARR and SOON-YI cross (16A: André and Mia adopted her), because I knew them both instantly (better to have my gimmes spaced out—for maximum traction). Also knew A-LINE DRESS (38A: 1955 Dior debut), which somehow got me all the way into the NW. LEE TIDE off the -DE (4D: It goes whichever way the wind blows) and (more impressively) LYRIST off the -ST (5D: Apollo, for one). Confused AVAST and ABAFT (6D: Sailor's behind), but that didn't last long. Didn't know POLA, but it didn't matter—all her crosses were gettable/inferrable (2D: ___ Debevoise, Marilyn Monroe's "How to Marry a Millionaire" role). Loved GUN FOR HIRE (7D: Piece offer?), which allowed me to get RACIER (26A: More likely to be bowdlerized), which beforehand had just been sitting there as -ER. Loved seeing Jerry ORBACH in the puzzle (20A: 1969 Tony winner for "Promises, Promises")—his son Tony is a frequent crossword constructor and all-around nice guy. Hey ... [Tony winner ...] ... and his son's name is Tony. I just got that. Not that there's anything to get, it's a coincidence, but still: there it is. I got Michael STEELE without any crosses (58A: 2009-11 Republican National Committee chairman)—I know him best from his frequent muppet-form appearances on "The Daily Show." He is Reince Priebus's predecessor (which would've made an interesting clue).


ALAR is often in the puzzle, so I got it off the first "A" (46A: 1989 E.P.A. target) but nearby NINES was not nearly so easy (42A: Nearly flawless bodies?). I had -INES and had to run the alphabet (the only way I got enough crosses to infer NATHAN). FETA and FIRE ANT were just good guesses (40A: Tiropita ingredient + 40D: Producer of the venom solenopsin). Clearly I don't know the key words in either of those clues. And SOYS really feels like its missing its SAUCE (53D: Kikkoman options). Really really feels that way. But getting it wasn't hard, so no harm done. Wish I'd liked this one better, but a flawed Caleb Madison puzzle is still a pretty good thing.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Leandro's partner in Handel title / TUE 2-21-12 / Rowdy Rawhide cowboy / Old nuclear regulatory org / Brew named for Dutch river / Like much of Pindar's work / State capital main street Last Chance Gulch

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging




THEME: BEST PICTURE names (59A: What the starts of 18-, 24-, 38- and 49-Across each won) — theme answers are movie people with BEST PICTURE first names

Word of the Day: Rowdy YATES (50D: Rowdy ___, "Rawhide" cowboy) —
Rawhide is an American Western series that aired for eight seasons on the CBS network on Friday nights, from January 9, 1959 to September 3, 1965, before moving to Tuesday nights from September 14, 1965 until January 4, 1966, with a total of 217 black-and-white episodes. Starring Eric Fleming andClint Eastwood, the series was produced and sometimes directed by Charles Marquis Warren who also produced early episodes of Gunsmoke. [...] Usually the episode would be introduced by Gil Favor but sometimes by others. The typical Rawhidestory involved drovers, portrayed by Eric Fleming (trail boss Gil Favor) and Clint Eastwood (ramrod Rowdy Yates), coming upon people on the trail and getting drawn into solving whatever problem they presented or were confronting. Sometimes one of the members of the cattle drive or some of the others would venture into a nearby town and encounter some trouble from which they needed to be rescued. Rowdy Yates was young and at times impetuous in the earliest episodes and Favor had to keep a tight rein on him. (wikipedia)
• • •

Big thumbs up. Clever, toughish, unexpected. The theme is nicely tight—movie names all belong to movie people: director Stone (himself an Oscar-winner), and actors Oswalt, DeMornay, and Feldman. With the exception of Stone, theme answers aren't exactly first-tier celebrity names, which is why I think the puzzle might skew tough for a lot of people. I knew all the names and it still skewed tough for me. I think older solvers will have trouble with PATTON OSWALT (who is a hugely successful comedian / actor with a firing-on-all-cylinders Twitter feed) and younger solvers with MARTY FELDMAN (whom I know only from "Young Frankenstein" and from a parody of "Bette Davis Eyes" called "Marty Feldman Eyes"—he had some congenital issue that made his eyes appear to bug out). REBECCA DE MORNAY could end up stumping young and old. If you missed "Risky Business" (or, slightly less famously, "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," or, much less famously, "And God Created Woman" (1988)), you missed her. I wonder if there are other movie people with BEST PICTURE first names ... didn't Casablanca Jones star in some blaxploitation films in the '70s? What about porn star Cimarron Sinclair? Or pro-wrestler-turned-action-star The Hurt Locker Davis?

Theme answers:
  • 18A: "Platoon" director (OLIVER STONE) — "Platoon," also a BEST PICTURE winner
  • 24A: Comedian who voiced the lead role in "Ratatouille" (PATTON OSWALT)
  • 38A: Tom Cruise's "Risky Business" co-star (REBECCA DE MORNAY)
  • 49A: Igor player in "Young Frankenstein" (MARTY FELDMAN)
I had the most trouble with this puzzle in the south, where YATES was totally unknown to me, and I had TOTALS for 68A: Sends to the dump (TOSSES). I was not aware that BONES was Dr. McCoy's real first name (30D: Sci-fi physician played by DeForest Kelley). Wait, it's not. It's Leonard. So ... is the colloquial "sci-fi" supposed to cue the nickname? That seems a Stretch. Still, I love the answer, and its symmetrical counterpart—from another "Star" franchise (3D: "Star Wars" weapon = LIGHT SABER). The other real winner in this grid is "OH, STOP" (4A: "You flatter me too much!"). Original, colloquial, fantastic. Almost makes me excuse REPINE (???) (15A: Complain). Wasn't too fond of ODIC (25D: Like much of Pindar's work)ERO (22A: Leandro's partner in a Handel title), or singular O'JAY (16A: Any of the singers of the 1973 #1 hit "Love Train") but those are insignificant when the bulk of the grid and the marquee answers are so good.

Bullets:
  • 57A: Old nuclear regulatory org. (AEC) — Atomic Energy Commission. An impt. abbr. to know. The non-old nuclear regulatory org. is named, shockingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • 5D: State capital whose main street is named Last Chance Gulch (HELENA) — wow, that is ... improbable. That's some Knotts-Berry-Farm-recreation-of-a -Wild-West-town naming right there.


  • 46D: Brew named for a Dutch river (AMSTEL) — pretty well-known beer, reasonably common crossword answer. Don't think I knew it was a river. Also, did not know how to spell Bob SAGET's name. I spelled it as if he were the creator of a restaurant guide: Bob SAGAT.
  • 33D: ___ Kross ('90s rap duo) (KRIS) — they had an impossibly infectious song out during my first year in grad school. Ridiculous. Silly. Ubiquitous. Hard to resist. Uh huh, uh huh.



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I'm quoted in this article (on last Thursday's cluing of ILLEGAL) and so are several commenters! 

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