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A Crossword Blog

older | 1 | .... | 104 | 105 | (Page 106)

    0 0

    Constructor: Joon Pahk

    Relative difficulty: Easy (3:53)

    THEME: SODA MIXER (60A: Ingredient in some cocktails ... or a hint to the last words in 17-, 23-, 32-, 43- and 48-Across)— the last words of the themers can be "mixed" (i.e. anagrammed) to make the name of a "soda":

    Theme answers:
    • 17A: It might pop out of a kid's mouth (BUBBLE GUM) (Mug)
    • 23A: Heavy metal band whose name is a euphemism for "Jesus Christ!" (JUDAS PRIEST) (Sprite)
    • 32A: Main connections, of a sort (GAS PIPES) (Pepsi)
    • 43A: Fashion designer whose namesake brand features a rhinoceros in its logo) (MARC ECKO) (Coke)
    • 48A: Swinger's club [wink] (BASEBALL BAT) (Tab)
    Word of the Day: JUDAS PRIEST (23A) —
    Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band formed in West Bromwich in 1969. The band have sold over 50 million copies of their albums to date. They are frequently ranked as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. Despite an innovative and pioneering body of work in the latter half of the 1970s, the band struggled with indifferent record production, repeated changes of drummer, and lack of major commercial success or attention until 1980, when they adopted a more simplified sound on the album British Steel, which helped shoot them to rock superstar status. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Jooooon! Haven't seen his name on an NYT byline in a while. So my first impressions of this puzzle are that it's a Wednesday puzzle. It was Wednesday-easy, and it was really a Wednesday type of puzzle. Tuesday, even. The only thing "Thursday" about it had nothing to do with the solving experience and everything to do with figuring out what the hell SODA MIXER has to do with those "last words." So the difficulty, such as there is, comes entirely post-solve. There are so many short answers that the puzzle is very, very easy to tear right through, despite a preponderance of narrow passageways (you know, those one-square-wide openings connecting one segment of the puzzle to another—they're all over the place, and they can inhibit flow ... but not today). What's really cool about this grid, and really instructive (I hope) to other constructors, is that The Fill Doesn't Suck. Usually, when a grid is designed such that 3- and 4-letter words abound, all kind of crap finds its way in there. And, OK, I'm not swooning over AAS or AMINO, but the point is that there's not a boatload of junk here. No random Roman numerals, no awkward abbrevs., and a bunch of very short two-word phrases that keep the those smallish corners unpredictable and interesting (NEW AT, TO NOW, SET UP, SIT AT, IN USE). Ironically, the only place where my progress through this grid was INHIBITED was ... (guess).

    There is something really off about the revealer. The "ingredient" is SODA WATER. The word MIXER ... well, first, let's just say the phrase "SODA MIXER" googles pretty poorly. Even googling ["soda water" mixer] yields considerably more results. The word MIXER contains the idea of an added "ingredient," so SODA MIXER feels like not just a weak answer, but a semi-redundant answer. You would never, ever see an "ingredients" list for a cocktail that called for a SODA MIXER. The ingredient is "soda water" or "club soda." I know that the entire, admittedly cute theme rests on the phrase SODA MIXER, but I like cocktails almost as much as I like linguistic precision, so this answer was off-the-plate for me.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: ROBYN WEINTRAUB

    Relative difficulty: Medium (until the bitter end, when things got ... frustrating)

    THEME: Themeless

    Word of the Day: TANEY (13d: Roger ___, fifth chief justice of the Supreme Court) —
    Roger Taney delivered the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), that ruled, among other things, that African Americans, having been considered inferior at the time the United States Constitution was drafted, were not part of the original community of citizens and, whether free or slave, could not be considered citizens of the United States. This ruling created an uproar among abolitionists and the free states of the northern U.S.

     • • •
    Hello lovely solvers and T.G.I.F. from your podcast-enthused, baseball-distraught cruciverbalist companion filling in for Rex today.

    You know that feeling, when things are all going smoothly, and then suddenly *WHAM* you come to a crashing halt?

    Well, that's about how I can summarize my run through this puzzle (and my only explanation to the Cubs early playoff exit. There's always next year.) I got off to a torrid pace by my Friday standards, throwing down most of the 5–7 letter acrosses in the middle of the grid without so much as a second thought. And once HAIRDYE, CAPONE, COLD ONE, TINKERED and GENERAL TSO were all firmly in place, I was able to parse the long downs without much trouble. Aided by the all-too-familiar ALBA, APSE, ET AL, I cruised through the rest of the grid and was sure my screen would play the *NYT Puzzle Success* jingle ...

    ... until it didn't. Something was wrong. And it took me some truly excruciating extra innings before I found a fatal flaw in the SW which brought this otherwise smooth-sailing Friday endeavor to an unglamorous end. CLEAN and ONES are both words! Of course! But alas, not those we needed today.

    I enjoyed this puzzle all the way down to the last DRAM. The triple stacks in the NW and SE are pretty original (though I was ~shocked~ when IN THE CLOSET didn't fit for 56a: Waiting to come out), the long downs (with the exception of the bit-too-clunky SET A RECORD) are great, and there's a happy blend of generational answers — from "Family Ties" to FLASH MOBS. Though we can all agree that the DAB is for all ages.

    And while I did feel like I actually learned a lot from this puzzle, I do wish that the clue on TANEY (see above) captured more of his grave historical significance — especially given ... well, all of American history since Dred Scott.

    • DEAD LINE (35d: Newsroom concern) — Super relevant, especially for my work tomorrow! Check out Apple Podcasts in the evening for my show's newest episode. 
    • PERIWINKLE (15a: Purple-blue shade or the flower it's named after) — My proudest achievement as a colorblind person was knowing how to spell chartreuse and what it was.
    • CLICHE (41a: Like a kid in a candy store, e.g.) — Love the cluing on this. But as a radio producer and sports fan, *hate* cliches. My personal pet peeves are "take it one game at a time" and "blood, sweat and tears." Let me know yours in the comments.  
    • ARIL (48d: Seed case) — As a precocious kindergartner, I memorized a song about different plant parts and performed it for my parents. Yes there is video evidence, and yes it was an all-time great song.
    Signed, Matthew Stock, melancholy Cubs fan in for Rex
    [Follow Matthew on Twitter for podcast recs and countdowns until the 2019 baseball season]
    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Lewis Dean Hyatt

    Relative difficulty: Medium (7:19)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: SZA (10A: Singer with the 2017 #1 R&B album "Ctrl") —
    Solána Imani Rowe (born November 8, 1990), known professionally as SZA (/ˈsɪzə/ SIZ), is an American singer and songwriter. SZA was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, later relocating to Maplewood, New Jersey. In October 2012, SZA self-released her debut EPSee.SZA.Run, which she then followed up with her second EP, titled S, in April 2013. In July 2013, it was revealed that she had signed to the hip hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment, through which she released Z, her third EP and first retail release, in April 2014.
    SZA's debut studio album, Ctrl, was released on June 9, 2017, to universal acclaim from music critics. It debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album and its songs were nominated for four Grammy Awards, while SZA was nominated for Best New Artist at the 60th annual ceremonyCtrl was ranked as the best album of 2017 by Time. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    This grid was weird, in that when I looked at it, I thought it was a mid-week grid—looks like it's got 74 words or so, but actually has just 66 (?!). It's that choppy middle, and the lack of discrete segmentation, that makes it look more themed than not. I was a little worried we were gonna get a themed puzzle on Saturday, and you know how I feel about that (I'm against). But nah, it's just a themeless, and a pretty ordinary one to boot. Nothing special going on here. It all felt very safe and OK, very ... lowest common denominator—not too much of the olden, not too much of the new, not too much of the highbrow, not too much of the pop ... lots of familiar phrases that the whole family can enjoy. There are some high points and low points, but overall ... it happened, and I ZINCED (er, I mean WINCED) hardly at all.

    Speaking of ZINCED, this is the single stupidest moment of the entire puzzle. And I say this as someone who loves that SZA album and is generally happy to see her in my puzzles. But you cannot opt for the ludicrous ZINCED over more common and non-insane words like WINCED or MINCED. First, because the latter two offer so many more (and better) options for cluing (this is one of the most important reasons you don't go the narrow, technical route with your fill If You Don't Have To); second, because you've put a pop culture name in the grid that is completely uninferrable *and* you've crossed it with a ludicrously technical word. If you don't know SZA (and I know you people and have been knowing you for a long time now, so ... yeah, LOTTA you people did not know her), it's totally plausible that you end up in a weird guessing game with that middle square. The clue is not clearly asking for "zinc" (not "clearly" to a non-chemist, anyway). So you have needlessly added a stupid word and needlessly created a potential pop culture Natick square, all so that ... what, you could get a "Z" in the grid. Again, love SZA, pro-SZA, but in this instance, ugh. Also, this smacks of an editorial change (just a gut feeling—but this grid seems like it woulda had "M" there to begin with, and someone in editorial decided to get cute trying to avoid the crosswordese of SMA. Shoulda gotten cute trying to avoid the horror that is DORADO, imho).

    Wait, no, there is something worse than that "Z" square. I forgot about the clue on DEAF. Again, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Why would you clue DEAF as [Unmindful]!?!?! Do you really have no idea how this is going to land with a good segment of your solving population. Here's a taste.

    And before you get all "well, actually..." on me, here you go:

    Don't come at me with your tertiary dictionary definitions. You had an opportunity here to clue DEAF any number of ways, any number of neutral ways, any number of "let's use a DEAF person as a clue" ways. But you did this casual, sloppy thing where you equate disability with deficiency. This is a cruel world, a world where cruelty seems to be the very gas in the tank, and it would be great if we had an editorial team that was at least half-aware of the cultural context, that could read the room, and that could really watch out for racist / sexist / generally discriminatory baloney. 

    Five Things:
    • 18A: Like some pans (SCATHING) — I had such an unhappy face on when I was trying to piece this answer together. Once I had no choice but to go with SCATHING, I realized this was not the "pans" of "pots and pans," but the "pans" of "his reviews of crosswords are more often pans than raves."
    • 25A: Hungarian-born mathematician Paul (ERDOS) — er ... ok. I don't know this, but it's hauntingly familiar. I managed to make EULER known to myself. ERDOS has yet to get assimilated to my brainscape.
    • 55A: Mahi-mahi, by another name (DORADO)— DOR, A DO, a female d'oh! (what the hell is happening here!?)
    • 54A: Prone to sarcasm (IRONICAL) — no one but no one is saying this word except, fittingly, IRONICALly. 
    • 15A: Cookie for the calorie-conscious (OREO THIN) — I went with OREO LITE (if you're actually "calorie-conscious," whatever that is, try OREO NOT-AT-ALL). I also thought about THAT'S THE TICKET for 16D: "Now you're talking!" I think those were my only notable missteps.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Tom McCoy

    Relative difficulty: Challenging by the clock, but it felt more Medium-Challenging, and also I've had a drink (12:52)

    THEME: "MIND THE GAP" — self-referential answers that involve first word being interrupted in some way by a random circled letter, e.g. R(S)AIL SPLITTER, where "S" is a literal "splitter" of the word "rail"—the circled letters spell SQUARE PEG

    Theme answers:
    • R(S)AIL SPLITTER (22A: Another nickname for Old Abe ...)
    • OUT(Q)ER SPACE (27A: Astronaut's place ...)
    • RO(U)OM DIVIDER (42A: Screen or partition ...)
    • NA(A)SAL CAVITY (51A: Where decongestant spray goes ...)
    • SECUR(R)ITY BREACH (64A: Cyberexpert's worry ...)
    • PA(E)PER CUTTER (84A: Office device ...)
    • S(P)AFE CRACKER (90A: Heist figure ...)
    • LUCK(E)Y BREAK (106: Bit of good fortune ...)
    • GRAN(G)D OPENING (114A: Store banner ...)
    Word of the Day: ERNST Mach (13D: Physicist Mach) —
    Ernst Waldfried Josef Wenzel Mach (/ˈmɑːx/German: [ˈɛɐ̯nst max]; 18 February 1838 – 19 February 1916) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher, noted for his contributions to physics such as study of shock waves. The ratio of one's speed to that of sound is named the Mach number in his honor. As a philosopher of science, he was a major influence on logical positivism and American pragmatism. Through his criticism of Newton's theories of space and time, he foreshadowed Einstein's theory of relativity. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Not gonna spend much time on this one because I just didn't enjoy it. I think the theme is clever, but solving it was a drag, both because of the unchecked squares (which ultimately weren't unchecked, I guess, but whatever) and because of the annoying fill and vague clues. Just no fun. I also found this one ridiculously hard to get started on. I blame EPIZOA (!?!?) (18A: External parasites) and also UZI, which, guns, ugh, stop. In the same category of Ugh, Stop, only moreso: NOBAMA (98A: Coinage during the 2008 presidential election). Screw you. Shove your Tea Party rhetoric up [r e d a c t e d]. There. Phew, that felt good. OK, back to this mirthless, too-cute-for-its-own-good puzzle. I finished with an error, sort of. I just couldn't be bothered to look at all the circled squares; if I had, I would've seen my error, which was ARF for 116D: Scottie's warning (GRR). You'll note that the first letter of that answer is one of the aforementioned "unchecked squares," and the last letter is in the stupid answer SHEERS (122A: Some see-through curtains). I figured SHEEFS was some stupid technical ... curtain .... term? It's not like SHEERS, plural (!?), is much better. It's such an AARGH suckfest down there. Again, the whole self-referential theme gag was cute, and since the letters in SQUARE PEG all appear in circles, i.e. round holes, I guess that is also clever, but not the kind of clever that is genuinely impressive. More the kind that makes me go "oh ... [forced grin] ... I see what you did. Great."

    My greatest delight re: this puzzle came when I had just finished writing "40 YEARS!" in the margin of my printed puzzle (as in "I've been following baseball for 40 YEARS and have never once heard a SOLO HOMER referred to as a "singleton") (5D: What a "singleton" is, in baseball lingo) and all of a sudden I get a Twitter DM from an actual sports broadcaster informing me, and I quote,"I played baseball in college, worked for multiple minor league teams as a p/b/p man, and have covered MLB since 1995, and not one time have I heard anyone call a solo HR a 'Singleton.'" The clue, as he goes on to say, is baffling. Get things right or don't get them. How hard is it, really?

    Five things:
    • 83A: Clutch (BROOD)— is this, like, about hens or something? I thought BROOD was the actual chicks but a "clutch" was a group of eggs. And there are so many clues for BROOD. But we get ... this. Delightful.
    • 101A: "Spider-Man" baddie (DOC OCK) — careful with the parsing on that one
    • 91D: "Aw, nuts!" ("FOO!") — no dumb bad stop please
    • 45D: Publisher's announcement ("IT'S OUT") — again, no, no way, uh uh, in no universe, etc. You'd sooner say this of a SOLO HOMER. Well, *you* might say "IT'S OUT," casually, if a friend asked whether your book had been published yet. But a *publisher* would not "announce" the publication this way.
    • 87A: "That's my intention" ("I PLAN TO") — I had "I MEAN TO," so that hurt. I also had LEAK for CLOG (108D: Problem for a plumber), but that didn't last long
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

    Relative difficulty: Easy / Easy-Medium, harder if you've never heard of LIMP BIZKIT (2:53)

    THEME: AIRPORT (38A: Where to find the ends of 17-, 27-, 50- and 65-Across) — just what it says:

    Theme answers:
    • BATTERY TERMINAL (17A: Anode or cathode)
    • GOLDEN GATE (27A: Iconic San Francisco bridge)
    • CANNERY ROW (50A: Steinbeck novel set in Monterey)
    • TAKING A BACK SEAT (65A: Letting others occupy the spotlight)
    Word of the Day: LIMP BIZKIT (29D: Rap rock band with the 7x platinum album "Significant Other") —
    Limp Bizkit is an American rap rock band from Jacksonville, Florida. Their lineup consists of Fred Durst (lead vocals), Sam Rivers (bass, backing vocals), John Otto (drums, percussion), DJ Lethal(turntables), and Wes Borland (guitars, backing vocals). Their music is marked by Durst's angry vocal delivery and Borland's sonic experimentation. Borland's elaborate visual appearance, which includes face and body paint, masks and uniforms, also plays a large role in the band's elaborate live shows. The band has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, have sold 40 million records worldwide and won several other awards. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    The ROW and the SEAT are really part of the airplane, not the AIRPORT. I mean, the plane is there, sometimes, but SEAT is not anywhere on my list of "Top 100 Things You Might Find At An AIRPORT." I do like how the last words track your progress from curbside to your specific place on the plane, but still, AIRPORT doesn't quite work as a revealer. And even if it did, it still kind of Thuds. No wordplay or cleverness, just ... AIRPORT. I think the grid is pretty nice, though. Clean, no wincing. Only trouble I had came in the SW, where I couldn't get [Admission of perjury] (I LIED) right away, and so faced with T-P--- for 48D: Pinnacle, I wrote in TOP--- figuring that would be ... right somehow. Mostly I just flailed around a little, and then regained my footing without too much effort. Also couldn't come up with NO NAME right away, hesitated on everything following TAKING at 65A, and couldn't really believe that SEW was the answer for [Make clothing]. It's right, of course, but there seems a big gap between SEW and [Make clothing]. SEW is pretty humble and generic, and I associate it more with mending.  Lastly, I hesitated a bit at ON THE __, unsure if it was gonna be QT or DL (4D: Discreetly, informally).

    Five things:
    • 73A: 1800s president nicknamed "His Accidency" (TYLER) — that dude is smack dab in the middle of "presidents I don't know anything about. Clue may as well have just said [One of them there US presidents]
    • 63D: Cut (down) (PARE)— weird how something so simple can be mildly confounding. I looked at this, had no idea, and just filled it in from crosses
    • 11D: Relative of alcopop (WINE COOLER)— in the 80s, we did not have "alcopop," but we definitely had these things. Very big with the kids who wanted to get drunk but didn't like the taste of booze.
    • 55A: Daytime store window sign (OPEN) — pretty presumptuous clue. Some stores are OPEN after sundown
    • 34A: Response to "Who wants to go?" ("I WILL") — I prefer this "I WILL":

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Natan Last, Andy Kravis and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging to Challenging, largely due to proper nouns and "?" clues (3:51)

    THEME: HIDDEN FIGURES (49A: 2016 Best Picture nominee ... or a hint to the circled letters in 20-, 25- and 43-Across) — "figures" can be found spelled out in the circled squares inside of the theme answers:

    Theme answers:
    • PLURIBUUNU(20A: Coined phrase?) (prism)
    • SECURITY BLANKET (25A: Something Linus carries in "Peanuts") (cube)
    • NO SURPRISE THERE (43A: "Just as I expected!") (sphere)
    Word of the Day: SKYLAR Astin (5D: Actor Astin of "Pitch Perfect") —
    Skylar Astin Lipstein (born September 23, 1987), known professionally as Skylar Astin, is an American actor, model and singer. He became known for portraying Jesse Swanson in the musical films Pitch Perfect (2012) and Pitch Perfect 2 (2015). He was also in the original cast of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, and has since appeared in films such as Hamlet 2 (2008), Taking Woodstock (2009), Cavemen (2013), and 21 & Over (2013). (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Yeah, that dude is *not* Tuesday-famous. I get trying to be all "Hello, Fellow Youths of America!" with your "What's the DEALIO?" (who says that ... anymore?) and your YOSHI and all, but the SKYLAR guy is a bit much. For Tuesday, as I say. But that's a minor issue. The (very) major issue here is this theme, which is not good. Those "figures" are not "hidden"—they are not there. They don't exist. There's as much as hidden PRISM in E PLURIBUS UNUM as there is a hidden PLUM, as much a hidden CUBE in SECURITY BLANKET as there is a hidden CITY. Is there a hidden SISTER in NO SURPRISE THERE? Simply finding a phrase—any phrase, especially a *15*-letter phrase, with any random four or five  or six letters in it, in non-consecutive order, doesn't strike me as particularly noteworthy. HIDDEN FIGURES is just begging to be a revealer, so I get why you'd go there, but this result is shockingly insufficient. I'm used to JASA puzzles being somewhat more solid, theme-wise.

    The grid was way more lively than most Tuesdays, I'll give it that. Probably more Wednesday in difficulty level, again, largely because of SKYLAR (who, I guarantee you, will be the biggest mystery in the puzzle for most) (yeah, yeah, I see you, genius, but you're a single data point, not most) (and again, I'm sure SKYLAR's lovely, but Tuesday material, not yet). Thought the longer Downs were good, for the most part, except, oof, NO BUENO. Allow me to add my non-mock-Spanish expression of disapproval here. Please stow your "Mock Spanish." I just can't. Not in this country, not at this time, no. Tired tired tired of CASUAL racist crap. Such a blot on this otherwise smooth and inclusive grid. The other blot is the plural ETHERS, but that's somehow not as off-putting.

    Five things:
    • 23A: Bob who won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature (DYLAN)— totally forgot this happened, so when I went with SKYLER (with an "E") at 5D, well, my guesses for this Nobel guy were all over the map. Bob TYLER? Did Bob TYLER write something? Ugh.
    • 55A: Item cut up for a salad, informally (CUKE) — This is all perfectly true, but somehow I drew a total blank. Something about "item" for an edible object just seemed sterile and weird, and also infinity number of things might go on a "salad," so ... yeah, all from crosses.
    • 4D: Puzzle (NONPLUS)— yeah I totally forgot this is what NONPLUS means. I try not to think about what NONPLUS means. I avoid it. Just like I avoid "begs the question." I'm never going to understand, and I'm just not going to enter the fray.
    • 30D: "Parsley, sage, rosemary and ___" ("Scarborough Fair" lyric) (THYME) — wow this is pretty obscure, who remembers jk this is ridiculous. You may as well just say "the answer is THYME, folks, move along." Too many clue words wasted on something too too obvious. Even for a Tuesday.
    • 49D: It may wind up at the side of a house (HOSE) — really feel like I've seen this clue before, but still love it.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (low Medium time on an oversized grid) (4:14) 

    THEME: ALPHABET (67A: Series whose first seven members are sung to the starts of 18-, 26-, 41- and 54-Across)— the first seven notes of the alphabet song are represented in solfège at the beginning of the theme answers:

    Theme answers:
    • DODO BIRD (18A: Onetime resident of Mauritius)
    • SO-SO REVIEWS (26A: They might have 2 1/2 or 3 stars)
    • "LA LA LAND" (41A: 2016 Best Picture "winner" (for about two minutes))
    • SO HELP ME GOD (54A: Swear words?)

    Word of the Day: Daniel INOUYE (21A: Former Hawaiian senator Daniel) —
    Daniel Ken "DanInouye (井上 建 Inoue Ken/ˈnˌ/ ee-NOH-ay;[1] September 7, 1924 – December 17, 2012) was a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1963 until his death in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate (third in the presidential line of succession) from 2010 until his death,[2] making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in U.S. history.[3] Inouye also chaired various Senate Committees, including those on Intelligence, Commerce and Appropriations.
    Inouye fought in World War II as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment. He lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations, including the Medal of Honor (the nation's highest military award). Returning to Hawaii, Inouye earned a law degree, was elected to Hawaii's territorial House of Representatives in 1953, and was elected to the territorial Senate in 1957. (wikipedia)
    (He's also been credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment by multiple women, so there's that) (also, someone is being very vigilant about keeping this off his wikipedia page)
    • • •

    This is a lot of fuss for not a lot of payoff. And it's oversized? And it's pretty crosswordesey IN SPOTS? (I haven't seen BRAE in what feels like forever). Also, I prefer SOL to SO (it's not SO-fège), but there's no such thing as SOLSOL, I guess, so ... Look, this is a complicated theme, but it was no help to me while solving and feels like an elaborate joke that the teller has to explain, where you're like "Oh ... yeah, that's clever." But you didn't laugh. The premise is too thinky and awkward in its punch, and you really have to know what solfège is to fully appreciate the theme. I'm guessing there are at least a few solvers, possibly younger solvers, who are unclear on just how the DODO stuff works. Further, SO-SO REVIEWS is super-weak as a stand-alone answer. And a DODO is just a DODO. There's no DODO turtle or DODO car. I also found the last theme answer really annoying, because it's the one that *doesn't* have the repeated sound at the beginning. Just the SO(L). And then because they've also gone and given this outlier answer an equally outlier "?" clue, well, the whole SW all of a sudden became much rougher than it should've been.

    I've never heard the phrase "a PRIORI" outside of grad school, and even then only seldom, so I never particularly enjoy seeing it in crosswords (where it is wildly over-represented, even considering how seldom it appears). I can never spell RIHANNA correctly, because Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and wouldn't you love to love her, so that slowed me down. Wanted the [Designer of attractions at Walt Disney theme parks] to be an actual human being, so IMAGINEER, a horrid branded term, didn't drop as fast as it might have. I'm just gonna pretend the designer *is* an actual human being—a human being named IMA GINEER. Nice work, Ima. No idea about KOOPA, but put it right in based on inference (49D: ___ Troopa (Mario foe)). If this week is any indication, we can look forward to decades of Mario-related answers. [Cough]. Wonderful.

    Again, the toughest part of the grid for me was the SW, where my two ways into that corner were blocked, one by a "?" anomalous theme clue, the other by ASH PLUME, which, man alive, I could not figure out. I had the ASH, but ... yeah, ASH. Volcanoes discharge ASH. I remember Mt. St. Helens. We drove up there that summer to visit relatives and there was ASH everywhere. But the phrase ASH PLUME, while it describes a real phenomenon, doesn't leap to mind with volcanoes, for me. ASH and LAVA and I'm out of ideas. Had to start over, unconnected, in that SW corner. Not easy. S AND P will surely trip a few people, as it's an ampersandwich, normally written "S&P," and people aren't usually on the lookout for those (they're pretty rare) (54D: ___ 500). And the clue on DILEMMA is not what I'd call strong (69A: To eat a late lunch or wait until dinner, say). Just eat, man. Eat a little now, a little later, what is your problem?

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Constructor: Johanna Fenimore and Jeff Chen

    Relative difficulty: Easy (4:27)

    THEME: NO BRA DAY (61A: Annual event to support breast cancer awareness ... or a hint to answering 16-, 22-, 24-, 35-, 53- and 55-Across) — theme answers have letter string "BRA" in them, which you must remove for the answer to make any sense vis-a-vis the clue:

    Theme answers:
    • BRAIDING (16A: Picking out of a lineup, e.g.)
    • LAB RATS (22A: Upper body muscles, for short)
    • BRAVERY (24A: Extremely)
    • LEFT BRAIN (35A: Didn't delete)
    • VIBRATO (53A: First name in "The Godfather")
    • BRAKING (55A: Chess piece)
    Word of the Day: CINERAMA (7D: Precursor to IMAX) —
    Cinerama is a widescreen process that originally projected images simultaneously from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto a huge, deeply curved screen, subtending 146° of arc. The trademarked process was marketed by the Cinerama corporation. It was the first of a number of novel processes introduced during the 1950s, when the movie industry was reacting to competition from television. Cinerama was presented to the public as a theatrical event, with reserved seating and printed programs, and audience members often dressed in their best attire for the evening. [...] The word "Cinerama" combines cinema with panorama, the origin of all the "-orama" neologisms (the word "panorama" comes from the Greek words "pan", meaning all, and "orama", which translates into that which is seen, a sight, or a spectacle). It has been suggested that Cineramacould have been an intentional anagram of the word American; but an online posting by Dick Babish, describing the meeting at which it was named, says that this is "purely accidental, however delightful."
    • • •

    Where to start? First, what is ... this? Is this "day" really a well-known thing? I've never heard of it until just now. Looking it up online, it does appear to be real—so I'll give it that—but it also appears to date from 2011 (!) and also to have been spun off of (!?) BRA Day, which was a Breast Reconstruction Awareness day started by a plastic surgeon. Wikipedia notes: "The day is controversial as some see it as sexualizing and exploiting women's bodies while at the same time belittling a serious disease." Also, well, here's my other favorite tidbit from the wikipedia entry on this alleged "day":

    I don't think this "day" is sufficiently well known to be a viable theme answer. It's Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I am all in favor of drawing attention to that in crossword form, but this cutesy use of a not-famous "day" feels a little off. Also off—the date. I mean, if you're going to use a "day" as the basis for your puzzle theme, maybe run the puzzle on the actual day. NO BRA DAY is, technically, Saturday (Oct. 13). Lastly, I get that you have to take the BRAs out to make the clues make sense, but visually it just looks like you've put a bunch of bras *in* to your puzzle. So it's more SIX BRAS DAY than NO BRA DAY.

    [15% of respondents are serious "The Good Place" fans]

    LAB crossing LAB? NO, DOG(S). No. Just no. I mean, you cross a couple of "UP"s, something small like that, no one's really gonna care. But you can't cross LAB with LAB. They aren't even different meanings of the word LAB, really. I get that the *actual* "no-bra" answer doesn't have LAB in it, but the grid does, so ... no. LABRATS was interesting, though, as it was the answer that tipped me to the theme (I already had BRAIDING but didn't really get it), and the clue sent me into some weird wrong-answer territory. I had LABRUMS in there at one point. Are those muscles? No, it's cartilage. Well ... it was anatomical, anyway, so I'm gonna give my wrong answer partial credit. The hardest part of this puzzle for me was, weirdly, IROC (47A: Car named after an automotive competition). I had the "I" and then the "O" and thought "I know four-letter car names, what the hell?!" Ugh. IROC. Do they even make those any more? Also, how in the world is that clue supposed to be useful??? There's nothing helpful about it, nothing competition-y about its name. Nothing. Bizarre clue choice. The fill on this one is clean enough. No serious complaints. And it's nice to crush an easy puzzle every once in a while. But the theme just came up short on multiple levels.

    Five things:
    • 26A: Pulitzer Prize winner for "A Death in the Family" (AGEE) — ok maybe I spoke too soon about fill quality, as the grid is a bit heavy on the crosswordese, at least up top. Near AGEE is ISM and ELIA (which, like yesterday's BRAE, has been largely absent from grids for a while). Crosswordese makes me solving life easier, as I am, uh, fairly fluent, but it's not particularly enjoyable.
    • 42A: One choice in a party game (DARE)— first thought: SKINS. Weird.
    • 18A: Sign at some beaches (NO DOGS)— booooooooo! Beach near my parents' home is very dog-friendly and if you've ever seen a dog on a beach, you'd never deprive a dog of a beach again. It's basically like dog heaven.
    • 44D: She helped Theseus navigate the Labyrinth (ARIADNE) — ... and then he promptly ditched her on some island. Ovid has all the juicy deets on these jackass womanizing heroes. Oh, and you'll want to confuse her with ARACHNE. Don't.
    • 2D: Scale awkwardly, with "up" (CLAMBER) — Not sure why, but I find this word adorable. This may be my favorite thing in the grid.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Constructor: Erik Agard and Bruce Haight

    Relative difficulty: Easy (4:55)

    THEME: LIGHTBULB (49A: Item suggested visually by the black squares in this puzzle's grid) — yeah, the black squares mostly do that, though I don't really buy that the ones in the far E, W and N actually "suggest" anything. I assume WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? (17A: Question after "Hey!") is also a themer

    Word of the Day: Enid BAGNOLD (32A: Enid who wrote "National Velvet") —
    Enid Algerine Bagnold, Lady Jones CBE (27 October 1889 – 31 March 1981) was a British author and playwright, known for the 1935 story National Velvet. (wikipedia)
    • • •
    You know I'm not a big fan of themed Fridays (or Saturdays), but this theme managed to stay the hell out of my way—cutely decorative without in any way interfering with my always much-anticipated themeless Friday feast. Black squares make a LIGHTBULB, and a LIGHTBULB can represent an idea, as in "WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?" Great. Also, not taxing on the grid and not asking a lot of me in terms of theme comprehension, i.e. the theme is transparent, and also you don't even have to know there is a theme to finish. Weird grid shape was a ton of fun to navigate—I thought the center might get very dicey, but LIGHTBULB to SNOWCRAB to MCS to MEGADETH, 1 2 3 4, meant that that whole section just lit up (!). I can count on one hand the number of places I made initial mistakes or struggled in any way. 1. I had SERIES and SERIAL (?) before SATIRE at 4D: HBO's "Veep," e.g.; 2. I misspelled SELINA (had the "I" as an "E") at 42D: ___ Kyle, Catwoman's alter ego (this despite being a regular reader of Catwoman); 3. Wrote in RIIS instead of RHYS (thinking Jacob and not Jean) at 30A: Jean who wrote "Wide Sargsasso Sea"; and, off the FA-, wrote in FAVOR instead of FANCY for 48A: Like.

    But just because it was easy doesn't mean it wasn't fun. I mean, there's a BADASS LATINO AVENGEr in this damn thing, what more do you want? My proudest moment was remembering JUBA, as I am godawful at remembering world capitals, or ... well, lots of things that I don't actually use on a regular basis. But world capitals, for sure. The worst thing about this puzzle, by a country mile, is ECHOBOOMERS, which couldn't be less of a real thing if it tried (2D: Millennials, in relation to their parents). This is the NO BRA DAY of today's puzzle (please see yesterday's puzzle if you're not following). Nah and nope. I don't even know why such a term would exist; like, why would anyone think it necessary? What kind of relationship is being suggested? Also, isn't "Millennials" bad enough? Do we really need yet another stupid label for this unfairly maligned, ridiculously amorphous group of people? Don't put these trash ephemeral concepts you saw once in some think piece in your puzzles; it's embarrassing.

    Five things:
    • 60A: Reduplicative dance name (NAE NAE) — seriously considered NEH NEH and NAY NAY there for a bit
    • 32A: Enid who wrote "National Velvet" (BAGNOLD)— really all she's famous for. She is one of the more common ENIDs of puzzledom, up there with the ENIDs of Arthurian legend, Oklahoma, and Blyton
    • 31A: [Don't you think you're milking it a bit too much?] (MOO) — this is bizarre, in that it is a "?" clue inside of an imagined cow-thought clue. I can accept that a cow's MOO might mean a lot of things, but that the English translation of that thought would involve a "milking it" ("it"?) pun, no, I can't accept that. Sincerely bad.
    • 40A: Focus of Boyle's law (GAS) — learned it from crosswords and somehow remembered it today
    • 44D: Go on and on (JABBER) — had -ABBER and somehow wasn't sure what letter went in the first position. Words like YAMMER and NATTER and probably GAB (8D: Go on and on) were creating a lot of interference.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Kevin G. Der

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (I think I was around 6 minutes (?), but I don't know, 'cause I had an error only *I* could've made (see below), so I didn't notice the clock when I put in the last letter)

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: ZOE KAZAN (29A: Lead actress in 2017's "The Big Sick") —
    Zoe Swicord Kazan (born September 9, 1983) is an American actress and playwright. Kazan made her acting debut in Swordswallowers and Thin Men (2003) and later appeared in films such as The Savages (2007), Revolutionary Road (2008) and It's Complicated (2009). She starred in happythankyoumoreplease (2010), Meek's Cutoff (2010) and Ruby Sparks (2012), writing the screenplay for the last. In 2014, she starred in the film What If and the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, for which she received an Emmy nomination. In 2017, she portrayed Emily Gardner, based on Emily V. Gordon, in the film The Big Sick. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Very nice work here from Kevin, and I did so well. So so well. Until the end, when I finished but had an error. No Happy Pencil! I knew it had to be in the answer I'd never heard of—49D: Global currency market with a portmanteau name (FOREX). LOL, I can't even guess the basis of the portmanteau, that's how little the actual answer means to me. The problem—and I acknowledge that this is a problem that only I, and possibly other teachers of poetry, had—was that I didn't even hesitate at 60A: Volleyball team, e.g. I wrote in SESTET. The End. That is to say, I ended with FORES for the "portmanteau" ("Formidable Resolution"? "Forbidden Reservations"?). So the "S" should've been an "X." I was worried for a sec that the "F" was wrong, because FATE seems like a really bad answer to 49A: Theme in some time travel fiction. FATE is the main theme in the Aeneid, a mostly non-time travel epic poem. Not sure how FATE is involved more heavily in time travel fiction than in Any Other Genre, so yeah, thought maybe "F" was wrong, but what then? HATE? I mean, it's probably true. Travel through time to kill the person you HATE? Or GATE? "Stargate" is a thing, right? MATE? First mate on a starship, or maybe ... you have to time travel to find a MATE. But the answer was FATE. And the answer was SEXTET. And now this is all that I'm going to remember about this puzzle, which is sad, because I remember enjoying it.

    Felt very very easy to start with, because SHONDA was a gimme (1A: Rhimes who created "Grey's Anatomy"), and then NONOS DUDS and ATSEA went right in. Every first guess seemed to be right for me today. KNESSET KESTRELS CORELLI, all just dropping in no problem. ZOE KAZAN is a regular crossword solver, so she'll probably be pretty chuffed today. The SE was the hardest part of this thing by a wide, wide margin, starting with my having no idea what followed the NOT in NOT BAD (33A: Fair). Me: "NOT ... TAN?" And then PIMAS!? Forgot they existed. ISOPOD? Needed many crosses. APERÇU? LOL, uh, I mean, I know the word (solely from crosswords), but yeep. And of course this is where FORE(X) and SE(X)TET were all hanging out, so it was a sandstorm of confusion. So much tentative fill down here that I even second-guessed MURANO, which I *knew* was right (56A: Nissan crossover named for an Italian city), but ... I also kept wanting to call it the "Mitsubishi MURANO," so ... oy. Rough. But again, the first 75% was a rollicking good time.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    0 0

    Constructor: Ross Trudeau

    Relative difficulty: Medium (12-ish)

    THEME:"Game Hunting"— theme answers have board game names in them, and are clued as if someone was speaking about board games (i.e. wackily):

    Theme answers:
    • THE RISK IS TOO HIGH (23A: "We can't play that game—I can't reach it on our shelf!")
    • SORRY NOT SORRY (38A: "My sincerest apologies, but that game is off the table")
    • I HAVEN'T A CLUE (54A: "We can't play that game unless we borrow someone else's")
    • PLEASE DON'T GO (76A: "I'm begging you, let's not play that game!")
    • LIFE'S TOO SHORT (85A: "No, that game would be over in a flash")
    • ASKING FOR TROUBLE (103A: "I've finally decided! I'm ...")
    Word of the Day: COMAKER (82D: Secondary loan signer) —
    one that participates in an agreementspecifically one who stands to meet a financial obligation in the event of the maker's default (
    • • •

    There are just so many things wrong here. First, the title: "hunting" has nothing to do with the theme. Nothing at all. Second, this theme has been done before; or, rather, a tighter, more modest version of it has been done before (here, April 12, 2010). Third, the cluing conceit, the whole gimmick, results in extreme awkwardness. PLEASE DON'T GO, in a game context, makes absolutely no sense. It's like PLEASE DON'T LIFE or PLEASE DON'T MONOPOLY, i.e. a game name cannot be a verb. Also, the last theme clue doesn't have the word "game" in it—unlike literally every other theme clue; if you're going to do a running theme clue ... thing, at least follow through. As for the fill, it's all over the map; there's some great stuff, but a lot of it looks like it was filled in by software powered by a purchased wordlist. There's longer stuff that is unusual but also kinda dull, like ONE'S COLUMN and SADDLE JOINT and the plural (?) MARGINS OF ERROR. Also, ULTRA MAN—what the hell is that?; I teach comics, I don't know what that is. Google is insisting that it's a '60s Japanese TV series, so I'm very confused. Anyway, NO BALLS? COMAKER? This isn't good fill. This is stuff a computer told you was valid. Humans should make human choices to please humans. It's great to get assistance from software, but reasonable human judgment is still required.

    I thought this was easy enough, but then got very, very held up around words I didn't know. The first was COMAKER (!?!), a word that hasn't been in the puzzle since '04. Because it's dumb. If you asked me to to define COMAKER, I would've thought, well, that's easy: someone who makes something (say, a quilt) with others. But no. It has some dumb financial meaning that skews the meaning of "make" beyond recognition. Also, the "M" cross could easily have been an "H"(92A: Common filler words = UMS, and I kept wanting UHS). The other, larger tough section was everything in and around the SADDLE in SADDLE JOINT. HAD AT and not SET AT??? HARD SET (!?!?!?!). CAJOLERY! And with the "J" hidden behind a very vague clue for HAJ (59A: It's a trek). The thing that made this section really miserable, though, was figuring out, finally, that the answer to 56A: Laughs and laughs was ... HAS. Imagine, *imagine* having a very basic, infinitely cluable English word like HAS in your grid and thinking, "You know what would be fun...?" Dear lord. Again, stupendously bad human judgment.

    ["Nobody likes to be *too* close to Lubbock"]

    Five things:
    • 113A: Officials in ancient Rome (TRIBUNES) — again, I don't understand the decision here. Why isn't this TRIBUTES—a much more common word with (and this is the important part) infinitely more cluing possibilities? TRIBUNES is more obscure *and* it locks you into a very restricted set of clues. Not so TRIBUTES. Maybe FIT (which would be the second "T" cross in this scenario) is already in the grid somewhere ... that's the only reason I could think of not to go with TRIBUTES.
    • 53A: What's plucked in "she loves me, she loves me not" (COROLLA)— ugh, no, stop. Shove your botany, this is "she loves me," no one is plucking a COROLLA. They're plucking petals. *Petals*. Be human!
    • 18D: Kind of number not much seen nowadays (FAX) — I figured the clue was doing that "number" switcheroo gag and so I wanted a three-letter synonym of ETHER
    • 81A: Island greetings (ALOHAS) — there are a lot of dumb plurals today. Well, there's this, and UNISONS. Oh, right, and of course MARGINS OF ERROR, who could forget?
    • 36A: Turning point in history (ONE B.C.) — I would've thought ONE A.D. was the "turning point, ONE B.C. being just another year as far as anyone knew then. But whatever.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    0 0

    Constructor: Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

    Relative difficulty: Medium (3:09)

    THEME: YOUNG / AT HEART (67A: With 68-Across, still feeling like a teenager, say ... or a hint to the circled answers)— names for animal YOUNG can be found AT HEART (i.e. smack in the middle) of theme answers:

    Theme answers:
    • INCUBUS (1A: Night demon)
    • AKITA (8A: Japanese dog)
    • OPTICAL FIBER (22A: Cable material that transmits data using light)
    • ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (39A: "Really?!")
    • JOHN COLTRANE (49A: Legendary jazz saxophonist)
    Word of the Day: DEVA (41D: Hindu divinity) —
    1. a member of a class of divine beings in the Vedic period, which in Indian religion are benevolent and in Zoroastrianism are evil.
      • INDIAN
        (in general use) a god.
    • • •

    It's been nine years (!) since DEVA was in a puzzle, so if you didn't know that one, you are Forgiven. Certainly eluded me. I had any number of things in there before I got DEVA (entirely from crosses). That was one of a few answers that didn't seem quite *Monday* to me (see also FAKIR), but what *did* seem quite Monday to me was my solving time, so no harm done. It would be great if people stopped pretending that ANATOLE France was a household (i.e. Monday) name. I shouldn't ever see that name unless it's a late-week puzzle with a fairly demanding grid. Modernize your fill! I'm burying the lede here, which is: I thought this was a very good puzzle. The theme was cute and simple and smart and neatly executed *and* dense without being grid-burdening. All the baby animals are, in fact, smack dab in the middle of each theme answer: not just *somewhere* in the middle, but perfectly in the middle. Here's the only problem I had with the theme: the clue on the revealer. [Still feeling like a teenager]??? Uh, yeah, I don't think YOUNG / AT HEART means "still feeling socially and physically awkward and painfully insecure." I think YOUNG / AT HEART is supposed to be a *positive* concept. It doesn't square well with teenagedom. At least not mine.

    Had trouble right away, forgetting the word INCUBUS. Also had issues getting OPTICAL FIBER, since the only relevant phrase I know is "Fiber-optic cable."ANATOLE France was a gimme for me, in case you think I complain only about answers I *didn't* know. Also knew FAKIR. DEVA, no so much. Misread 50D: Eight: Sp. as 50A: Eight: Prefix and wrote in OCTO-. Finally, I wrote in NAIAD at 53D: Forest of mountain maiden of myth (NYMPH), which is actually technically possibly true, and is the kind of mistake you make when you know too much myth-stuff and you star with the "N." Blowing NYMPH (!) was a big (well, small) timesuck in the SE, as I got all those Downs in order and then had to figure out which of the Downs was a bummer.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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