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Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle
A Crossword Blog...

by Rex Parker, published: Fri 24 Oct 2014 06:00:00 AM CEST.

Favicon Title carpenter of 1859 novel / FRI 10-24-14 / Flowering plant named for Greek god / Henchman first seen in Spy Who Loved Me / Richard March inventor rotary printing press / One with short hajj
24 Oct 2014, 6:00 am
Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none — I mean, none on its own. There is, of course, the meta:

Word of the Day: Richard March HOE (25A: Richard March ___ (inventor of the rotary printing press)) —
Richard March Hoe (September 12, 1812 – June 7, 1886) was an American inventor who designed an improved printing press. […] In 1843, Richard invented a rotary printing press that placed the type on a revolving cylinder, a design much faster than the old flatbed printing press. It received U.S. Patent 5,199 in 1847, and was placed in commercial use the same year. In its early days, it was variously called the "Hoe lightning press," and "Hoe's Cylindrical-Bed Press," and was later developed into the "Hoe web perfecting press." (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, I don't think this puzzle has a theme, but who knows? I don't see anything "times"-related except a couple more "X"s (they're baaack…) and that lone watch clue for LCDS (4D: Watch things, for short). Maybe if I blacken all the letters in the word "TIMES," I'll get a picture of a beetle or a pterodactyl or Richard Simmons. I noticed that "ATE" appears 5 times (TIMES) in this grid. I don't think that means anything. I noticed "TEST" appears 3 times (TIMES) in this grid. I don't think that means anything either. I noticed that T.S. ELIOT is an anagram of TOILETS. You can do with that what you will. Mainly I noticed that this is the cleanest grid of the week, perhaps because it was the first one not required to do two things at once (i.e. have a theme *and* relate to the week-long meta somehow). Fill is mostly clean, and there's enough excitement in the SE corner for three puzzles. GIN JOINTS is easily my favorite answer in the whole damned puzzle.

Solved this one in a way that is increasingly familiar: slow start, then traction, *speed*, then slow finish (as, almost inevitably, the last place I arrive at in the puzzle is the toughest for me). At first I didn't have much besides EAU and STD and the incorrect FOBS (instead of LCDS). But for some reason [Patient looks?] all of a sudden became obvious (XRAYS), and that got me going. Never heard of an ORG CHART, but it was inferable, and so I was out of that corner pretty quickly after the initial push from XRAYS. Things sped up from there. The crosswordtastic LENYA got me into the SW and I destroyed that corner in a matter of seconds despite not knowing who UZO Aduba is (I guess I'll be seeing that last name in crosswords soon, too). LET IT BE instead of LET IT GO slowed me down a tad, but GANJA got me back in the game. EGOTISTS over ELITISTS at first (38D: They think they're special), but that didn't last long. Burned my way right up into the NE section, where I experienced my final, slower, push to completion after throwing up not CZARS but TSARS at 10D: Bygone emperors). This made ZIP UP and CRASS harder to get than they should've been. HOE was a mystery, but I expect he was designed to be. In the end, pressure from the words I did know in that corner forced TSARS to turn to CZARS and I was done.

Not sure why APTEST wasn't clued as an AP TEST, since we've already got one (even more strained) superlative adjective in the grid at SEDATEST. But I don't have any other nits, really. This was fine. Excited to see how all these puzzles tie together tomorrow. I've been asked not to comment on tomorrow's puzzle At All (because of the whole contest thingie …). I'll play that by ear. There will definitely be a post. Whether you'll get commentary or a grid, I don't know. Come back and find out, won't you?

Aw crap, I just realized that the first word of the first clue (1A: Times for speaking one's mind?) is TIMES so now it's back to that dimly lit room in my house where I keep all the clues and photos tacked to a wall and connected with pins and string like some cliché detective / serial killer in every hour-long murder drama on TV for the past two decades. I hate it in there!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Favicon Tabasco turnover / THU 10-23-14 / Michael of Weekend Update / Brewster arsenic old lace role / cousin of exampli gratia / Tolkien's Gorbag Bolg / 2006 million-selling Andrea Bocelli album / Designer who wrote things I remember
23 Oct 2014, 6:00 am
Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: [Times Square]— there are four "squares" made out of the word TIME—actually, each "square" is made out of two TIMEs running clockwise. These "squares" are arranged symmetrically in the grid.

Word of the Day: Michael CHE (40A: Michael of "Weekend Update" on "S.N.L.") —
Michael Che (born May 19, 1983) is an American stand-up comedianwriter, and actor. He was briefly a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and has previously worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live. Starting at the end of September 2014, he will serve as a Weekend Update co-anchor for the 40th season of Saturday Night Live, alongside Colin Jost[2] Che will be replacing Cecily Strong in Weekend Update. Che is the first African-American co-anchor in the history of Weekend Update and the first former Daily Show correspondent to leave for Saturday Night Live (although a former SNL cast member has later joined The Daily Show.) (wikipedia)
• • •

Smoother and cleaner today, though the theme is so slight that I nearly missed it entirely. I was actually concerned at the end when I had TIM for the answer to the revealer, and couldn't figure out why I hadn't encountered any other weird, partial, potentially rebus-y answers anywhere in the grid. I figured there'd be a TIMES square. An ambitious rebus, that. But I believed! Sadly, or happily, we got the TIMEs square we got. Four of them, actually. And so another puzzle about "time" goes into the meta mix. Only one "X" today, so the weird "X"-ification that seemed so promising as a meta element in puzzles from earlier this week appears less important now. Nothing about this grid stands out as particularly odd, except perhaps a general dullness. There are no marquee answers, and not much in the way of fresh, colloquial, modern fill. HATE MAIL has some bite. I called that new clue on CHE, by the way. Earlier this month. Here it is. Proof.

No real trouble with today's grid. Wanted HUNK before HULK, though both seem weirdly (if differently) judgmental. Wanted AVALON for [Camry competitor], but Toyota makes both, so probably not a great guess. MORTIMER Brewster was a big "?" but MORITMER's a name I've seen, so getting it from crosses = cake. Probably the hardest answer for me to get today was DAYSAIL, as I don't DAYSAIL or NIGHTSAIL or SAIL and have (thus?) never heard the term. The grid offered up so little resistance that I cut right across (and down) and ended up connecting the NW with the SE before I'd filled much of anything in. AMA MERV VANISH HIE IDOS OPIATE LIED. Boom. Then I went back and filled in the stuff I'd blown by. SW corner was the easiest, SASHIMIS was the iffiest (plural???? that answer is … damn it! I genuinely want to say 'fishy' but I hate puns! I guess it's just 'suspicious' then.).

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Actor Gerard of Buck Rogers / WED 10-22-14 / Mikado maiden / 007 film of 1981 / Biotechnology output for short
    22 Oct 2014, 1:48 pm
    Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

    THEME: smiley face — Black squares in the grid form a smiley face / jack o' lantern image. A few of the Across answers relate to eyes:

    Theme answers:
    • PEEK-A-BOO, I SEE YOU (17A: Words to a baby)
    • FACE / TIME (32A: With 33-Across, meeting with someone in person)
    • "FOR YOUR EYES ONLY" (59A: 007 film of 1981)
    Puzzle note:

    Word of the Day: LEON Czolgosz (65A: Czolgosz who shot McKinley)
    Leon Frank Czolgosz (Polish form: Czołgosz, Polish pronunciation: [ˈt͡ʂɔwɡɔʂ]; May 5 1873 – October 29, 1901; also used surname "Nieman" and variations thereof) was a Polish-American former steel worker responsible for the assassination of U.S. PresidentWilliam McKinley.
    In the last few years of his life, he claimed to have been heavily influenced by anarchistssuch as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    There's an oddball quality to this one that I kind of like, and PEEK-A-BOO, I SEE YOU indeed a great answer, but overall, we seem to be somewhat south of normal quality (normal NYT quality, normal Blindauer quality). A lot is now riding on the meta payoff. Well, nothing is actually riding on it—unless you've hatched some kind of nerdy betting scheme —but since all the puzzles have felt Off in some way so far, and the fill has seem oddly compromised in inexplicable ways, it'll be hard to see how it all was worth it if payoff time doesn't pay off. Now I didn't think today's puzzle was bad, by any means. But again it was weirdly harder than its day of the week would suggest, and the theme was really Really loose (face answers? first and last are about eyes, middle … isn't … ?). The cross-referencing continues apace, for some reason. The triple-cross-ref involving OZONE (and DIOXIDE and OZONE) has to be one of the least exciting reasons for having to move my eyes (!) back and forth and back and forth that I've ever seen (!) in a crossword. Again, Xs are crammed into places in ways that compromise fill (XER not great, XOO tuh-errible). I look at a short abbr. like GMO, which is, to be fair, a thing I can, in retrospect, define (genetically modified ingredient), and wonder why it and proper noun TIMON are even there when that little upper-lip section can be filled So much more cleanly, w/ about 5 seconds work (that's how long it took me). But, again, the fill is not, overall, bad. There are delightful areas—like the chivalric stand-up comedy in the SE (LANCELOT and his ONE-LINERs) and the zaniness of CARL ORFF's YUMYUM NEWSROOM in the SW.

    ROZ Chast gets a mention—her fabulous memoir about her parents, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, just got short-listed for the National Book Award in the nonfiction category, where it is competing with books about the Taliban, China, and evolution, which I'm sure makes sense somehow. I resented being forced to remember "Scent of a Woman" (28A: Emulated Pacino in a "Scent of a Woman" scene => TANGOED); I assumed the answer was ORATED or BLOVIATED or CHEWED THE ***** SCENERY. There were names I didn't really know, but that happens—a GIL here, a LEON there. Having KARATE for KUNG FU really mucked me up for a while. I seem to have transposed "Li'l Abner" and "TIMON of Athens" at 22A: Another time, in "Li'l Abner" (AGIN), as I calmly and wrongly wrote in ANON. I would read a Shakespeare-ified "Li'l Abner" (or a Dogpatched Shakespeare … maybe something about taking up arms AGIN a swamp o' troubles … you get the idea).

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Actress Donovan of Clueless / TUE 10-21-14 / Kristoff's reindeer in Frozen / Rho tau linkup / What Apple's Project Purple became / Big chargers in Africa
    21 Oct 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

    Relative difficulty: Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

    THEME: [TIME] — that's the clue for three long answers; the answers are all definitions of TIME.

    Theme answers:
    Word of the Day: Diane REHM (1D: Talk show host Diane of 31-Down) —
    Diane Rehm (/ˈrm/; born Diane Aed on September 21, 1936) is an American public radio talk show host. Her program, The Diane Rehm Show, is distributed nationally and internationally by National Public Radio. It is produced at WAMU, which is licensed to American University in Washington, D.C. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Well this I liked much, much less. First, it's not a Tuesday by a long shot. My time was way more Wednesdayish. But much (much) more annoyingly, it's a theme type that I find dreadful, and the fill is inexplicable in places. Knowing that we are building toward a meta makes me inclined to reserve judgment a bit, but as a stand-alone puzzle, this felt quite off. MARATHONER'S STAT demonstrates how tortured these answers-as-clues can be. It's 15 letters, yes, but I had most of them and still couldn't make any sense of it. TIME is a Lot of people's "STAT." This identical clue for every theme answer / clue as answer/answer as clue gimmick is an ancient theme type, and the resulting answers are certainly below par for the form. Then there's the fill. Now most of it is OK, but the Scrabble-f***ing in the NW is particularly egregious. I gotta believe those Xs up top (in both the NW and NE) are part of the meta, because otherwise … ugh. I had to run the alphabet at I-HALL (4D: Promising beginning?). Crossing ELISA (!?!?!) with REHM on a Tuesday is nuts. I vaguely know REHM, but was not at all certain of spelling, and ELISA?—no hope. And you've got the lowly / crosswordesey ELIA up there too, with even more crosswordesey (and plural!) ALOUS near by? None of it makes any sense—except, again, as part of some as-yet unseeable meta.

    All the cross-referencing (two to NPR alone) increased the unpleasantness. I do have faith that the meta will be impressive, but so far I'm missing having solid, entertaining puzzles that are great in their own right. Not that the NYT gives me great puzzles on a regular basis, but at least with everyday puzzles I'm not left wondering if seemingly weak spots are weak for some unseen reason. Bottom half of the puzzle is stronger than the top, but by that point I'd somewhat given up on the puzzle. Even if I enjoyed this theme type (and I don't), I just don't think this is a great example of the form.

    So far we have two puzzles about time. I therefore assume that the meta will have nothing to do with time. We shall (!) see.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon John who won 1964 Heisman Trophy / MON 10-20-14 / Gulager of McQ / Time leading up to Easter / Jean of Bombshell / Nonkosher sandwiches / Political conventiongoer
    20 Oct 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

    Relative difficulty: Medium (leaning slightly toward the Challenging side of the Monday spectrum)

    THEME: time keeps on slipping slipping slipping … — actually, that's a terrible description. What's really happening is that as the theme answers progress, the unit of time that is a part of each answer gets larger.

    Theme answers:
    • SPLIT SECOND (17A: Instant)
    • MINUTE RICE (26A: Product that competes with Uncle Ben's)
    • THE WITCHING HOUR (35A: Midnight)
    • "DAY TRIPPER" (50A: 1965 Beatles hit that begins "Got a good reason for taking the easy way out")
    • PASSION WEEK (58A: Time leading up to Easter)
    Puzzle Note: 

    Word of the Day: John HUARTE (29A: John who won the 1964 Heisman Trophy) —
    John Gregory Huarte (born April 6, 1944) is a former American football quarterback and the 1964 Heisman Trophy winner. // […] Huarte played college football for the University of Notre Dame. During his sophomore and junior seasons, he averaged only a few minutes per game due to injuries and the Irish went 5-5 and 2-7, respectively. As a senior, however, he became the starting quarterback as the Irish won all but one game during the 1964 season, in which he was selected as an All-American and won the Heisman Trophy. By the end of the season, Huarte threw for 2,062 yards with only 205 passes, an average of over ten yards per pass attempt, many to receiver Jack Snow. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Obviously I have no idea how this whole "meta-challenge" is going to turn out, but I can tell you right now that if I knew this puzzle, by itself, was a meta, the first place I'd look for answers (assuming the longer answers didn't make the meta plain right away) is in and around HUARTE. That is an Insane answer for a Monday. I've never heard of him, and a sports answer I've never heard of On A Monday is bonkers. Suspiciously bonkers. But metas tend to involve puzzles' longer answers, so … who knows what Saturday's puzzle will require us to do to solve this week's meta. But I'm just letting you know, HUARTE—I see you. I'm putting you on notice.

    So, taken on its own merits as a self-standing puzzle, this is OK. Theme feels old, which is to say it feels like a theme I've seen before, possibly multiple times. Not with these exact theme answers of course. But I'm pretty sure the time unit thing has been done. At least we get a couple of good longer answers out of it: PASSION WEEK, which sounds like a fantastic ratings-grabber for a Christian game show; and THE WITCHING HOUR, which ties in nicely with the Halloween season. Some of the shorter fill is actually interesting / exciting today. See TAX TIP (interesting) and HARLOW (exciting). Most of the rest of the fill is unremarkable. I'm excited to see where this whole meta thing goes. But on its own, as Mondays go, this is about a C. Maybe a C+.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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