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

by Rex Parker, published: Tue 05 May 2015 06:00:00 AM CEST.

Favicon Bygone Korean automaker / TUE 5-5-15 / Small house in Latin America / Shoes named for antelope / Vera of haute couture / Vivacious wits /
5 May 2015, 6:00 am
Constructor: Michael Blake and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (**for a Tuesday**) (time: 4:08)

THEME: ADDIE (69A: Girl's name that's a two-part hint to 1/20-, 27-, 45- and 53-Across) — put -IE on the ends of familiar phrases. You get wacky phrases.

Theme answers:
  • SWEET / GEORGIA BROWNIE (1A: With 20-Across, chocolaty Atlanta treat?)
  • BAR STOOLIE (27A: One ratting out a group of lawyers?)
  • RARE BIRDIE (45A: What the duffer shot on a hole, surprisingly?)
  • SHOCKING PINKIE (53A: Little finger that makes you go "Oh my God!"?) [What? Even with ample wackiness leeway, that clue makes no sense.]
Word of the Day: DAEWOO (10D: Bygone Korean automaker) —
Daewoo Motors was a South Korean automotive company established in 1982, part of the Daewoo Group. It sold most of its assets in 2001 to General Motors, after running into financial trouble, becoming a subsidiary of the American company and being renamed GM Daewoo. In 2011, it was replaced by GM Korea. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't know a single person named ADDIE, real or fictional, so puzzle feels massively contrived. Actually, I think I might know of one. Hang on (… goes to wikipedia…); yes, the basis for the movie Paper Moon was a novel entitled ADDIE Pray by Joe David Brown. My friend Shelah taught me this 20+ years ago (she loved the novel, as I recall). Why I remember this factoid 20+ years later, I don't know … maybe because No One Else In The Universe Is Named ADDIE. So anyway, the theme is odd. The theme *type* is super-basic. The add-a-sound / letter thing is older than God, and here, the wackiness results are just so-so. I don't know what "shocking pink" is. Is it a kind of pink? A shade of pink? I know of "hot pink," but not "shocking pink," so SHOCKING PINKIE is strange to me. All in all, this is a placeholder puzzle. Fill is stale but serviceable, and concept is stale but adequately executed. There are cheater squares* in the E and W (black squares below EARL and above WEAR, respectively), lord only knows why. Tiny sections like that are not hard to fill. Cheaters also follow WATER and precede VIRAL. Theme does not seem so demanding that you have to black-square it to death like this. Whole puzzle feels tired and slapdash. And, most importantly, ADDIE? Shouldn't a name you base an entire puzzle on be a name someone actually has (my apologies if that's your name—the only ADDIE I know is a guy, and he doesn't spell it that way).

Because of the multiple cross-referenced clues, and the very narrow connecting passages between N and S parts of the grid, and some odd, yucky, initially inscrutable fill like ECCLES (?), my time was way slower than normal. I had to recall DAEWOO, which was odd / unpleasant. I also had to go up against the Law Offices of ILO ESSE ESTO ESAI ERI and OLE (they're not good, but they'll bury you in paperwork). Honestly, this puzzle feels just plain lazy. The puzzle equivalent of a shrug. Not enough thought or care went into making this an entertaining, fresh, 21st-century puzzle. It'll do, but it won't do well. Where are SHARPIE? JUNKIE? MOUNTIE? ARCHIE? This could've Easily been a Sunday (and if the theme answers were a lot funnier, it could even have been a tolerable Sunday).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*cheater squares = black squares that do not change the word count (added only to make filling the grid easier)

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Favicon Qatar's capital / MON 5-3-15 / Beethoven's Third / Bullet with a trail / Commercial lead-in to bank / Start of a Mexican calendar
4 May 2015, 6:00 am
Hey, guys, it's Annabel! Please wish me luck on APs this week. (Or, if there's anyone out there who wants to give me a crash course in BC Calculus...)

Constructor: Zhouquin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Step Mama— The center word is STEPMOM, and circled squares repeatedly spell out MAMA in a way that looks like a "step."

Theme answers:
  • HAM A ND EGGS (17A: Traditional breakfast combo)
  • LLAMA (20A: Long-necked pack animal)
  • STEPMOM (39A: Wicked relative of Cinderella...or what each set of circled letters represents?)
  • SAM ADAMS (48A: Brew with the slogan "For the love of beer")
  • ROMA (51A: Locale of the Città del Vaticano)
  • I AM A CAMERAMAN (64A: Hit 1951 play that inspired "Cabaret")
  • DRAMA (67A: "Game of Thrones," e.g.)
 Word of the Day: I AM A CAMERA (64A: Hit 1951 play that inspired "Cabaret") —
I Am a Camera is a 1951 Broadway play by John Van Druten adapted from Christopher Isherwood's novel Goodbye to Berlin, which is part of The Berlin Stories. The title is a quote taken from the novel's first page: "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking." The original production was staged by John Van Druten, with scenic and lighting design by Boris Aronson and costumes by Ellen Goldsborough. It opened at the Empire Theatre in New York City on November 28, 1951 and ran for 214 performances before closing on July 12, 1952.
The production was a critically acclaimed success for both Julie Harris as the insouciant Sally Bowles, winning her the first of five Tony Awards of her career for Best Leading Actress in a play, and for Marian Winters, who won both the Theatre World Award and Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Play. The play also won for John Van Druten the New York Drama Critics' Circle for Best American Play (1952). However it also earned the famous review by Walter Kerr, "Me no Leica".
• • •

It's good to be writing you guys again! And on a puzzle that I could actually complete without too much difficulty! Fill highlights included NADIR, ENERO, and EROICA; I'd say the fill overall was pretty great for a Monday. I'm ready to be done with clues that end in "to a poet" (as in "Before, to a poet" for ERE); I mean, surely there is a more original way to clue for ERE?

The theme was really cute! I didn't even get "step-mama" until after I had finished filling out the whole puzzle and realized that the MAMAs looked like steps. I will say that the fact that I got STEPMOM well before I even got to any of the MAMAs was a little bit of a letdown. I was feeling all Rex-y about it until my mom reminded me that Mondays are for beginners. Anyway, Cinderella's wicked relative is awesome.

Shout-out to my STEPMOM (who I love and who is not even a little bit wicked) btw!

  • SINE (66A: ___ qua non) — This clue reminds me too much of calculus. I should be studying right now...
  • SEX ED (70A: School health course, informally) —  Reminds me of 8th grade, when my teacher put a condom on her arm up to her elbow and the entire class freaked out. She certainly made a point though. Unlike this dude.

  • ARC  (10D: Pigskin path) — Okay, I'm convinced. Someone is deliberately putting these calculus-themed clues in this puzzle to stress me out!  ...I'm going to go study now.
Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired high school student (until June 5!!)

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Favicon Locale of a 1984 industrial disaster / SUN 5-3-15 / Archetypal postwar suburb / New York Giants founder who's in Pro Football Hall of Fame / Constellation next to Scorpius / Benefit offsetter / Epitome of attention to detail
3 May 2015, 6:00 am
Constructor: Dan Schoenholz

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Non-starters" — No "N" starters, i.e phrases starting with "N" have the "N" dropped, creating wackiness that goes on for days and days (actually, just seven answers)

Theme answers:
  • A NOOK OF THE NORTH (23A: Arctic hideaway?)
  • EAR TO ONE'S HEART (34A: Neck-stretching yoga position?)
  • ORMAN CONQUEST (45A: Big win for a prominent TV financial adviser?)
  • ARROW-MINDED (65A: Like makers of one-way street signs?)
  • OISE POLLUTION (85A: Environmentalists' concern in northern France?)
  • ICE PIECE OF WORK (96A: Igloo, e.g.?)
  • EURO TRANSMITTER (111A: One sending money from France or Germany?)
Word of the Day: BHOPAL (105A: Locale of a 1984 industrial disaster) —
The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident in India, considered the world's worst industrial disaster.
It occurred on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals. The toxic substance made its way into and around the shanty towns located near the plant.
Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. A government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases.
The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue that slack management and deferred maintenance created a situation where routine pipe maintenance caused a backflow of water into a MIC tank triggering the disaster. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) contends water entered the tank through an act of sabotage. (wikipedia)
• • •

Sundays have become mildly annoying, because difficulty level appears to have been amped up of late, which would be fine, if puzzle quality had also been amped up, which it hasn't. This is about the most bare-bones, basic, infinitely replicable theme imaginable, and while it might yield hilarious results, I suppose, today it did not. EAR TO ONE'S HEART? [Impossible yoga position?], maybe. Man that clue was irritating. Here I thought "oh, the answer will have something to do with yoga. I got this." But no. Absurd. All the themers are absurd. Cutesy, without actually being cute. Far from hilarious. Not much to say about this one beyond "no." This theme could probably be done all over again, with completely new themers, and be mildly entertaining. But these merit only the mildest of chuckles, at best.

Forgot what APGAR was (56A: ___ score (newborn health measure)), so DONE UP was wicked, wicked hard for me (30D: Beautified). See also REDLINES. I had RE-LINES and had no idea (29A: Strikes). Ran the alphabet. DONE UP and BHOPAL (never heard of it) were total outliers, difficulty-wise. I mean, the whole thing was clued pretty tough, but DONE UP was weirdly, ridiculously resistant to my solving machinations, and BHOPAL crossed LIAO (106D: Chinese dynasty of a thousand years ago), which made it treacherous. Wife knew, when I asked about BHOPAL, what it was, vaguely. I have no memory of it at all. I was 14 when the chemical spill or whatever it was happened. I have never seen BHOPAL in crosswords or encountered it anywhere ever. I accept that it's crossworthy, but crossing LIAO (!?) makes it rough. Chinese dynasties are crapshoots, and among the lowest form of fill there is. I guessed "L." I guessed right. I hate when any square is the result of guessing.

Overall fill is fine. Not great. OK. What the heck is a TIM MARA? Yikes? (18A: New York Giants founder who's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) Needed all the crosses there. Massive outlier, familiarity-wise. Luckily the crosses were all solid (unlike BHOPAL, gah). I am three sheets to the wind (actually one julep to the wind, but man, my wife made it powerful), so I'm gonna go eat some Derby Pie (pecan, chocolate, bourbon, heaven) and sober up. Hope you enjoy your Sunday.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Meteorite impact product / SAT 5-2-15 / Pretty in Pink heroine / Computer data structure / Old German duchy name / Lulu opera composer / Corporate headquarters in Mountainview Calif / Flower-bearing shoot
    2 May 2015, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Barry C. Silk

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: TEKTITE (38D: Meteorite impact product) —
    1. a small black glassy object, many of which are found over certain areas of the earth's surface, believed to have been formed as molten debris in meteorite impacts and scattered widely through the air. (google)
    • • •

    A fine, tough puzzle. I actually don't care for the GOOGLEPLEX / GOOGOLPLEX thing, even though it really helped me out a lot (had the first in place, and then, by inference, got the second off just the "X"). I'd rather a wholly different interesting word go in place of one of those plexes. Also, I didn't know GOOGLEPLEX was a place. I wanted GOOGLEDOME. Sounds much cooler / more sinister. Like Thunderdome or Terrordome or Astrodome. But no big deal. One answer sacrificed to unnecessary cuteness. Rest of the puzzle is smooth, if oddly dull in the longer stuff (except ROY ORBISON). Mainly you get common phrases, which are decent, but not exciting. But the vagueness and toughness of cluing made for a not unpleasant grind. The kind of grind I don't mind on a Saturday.

    Had tough time getting started, as I tried MESTA at 1A: Socialite who wrote "How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man" (GABOR). You know you know too much crosswordese when MESTA is the first thing that leaps to your mind in *any* situation. So I was screwed in that corner. Abandoned it for adjacent area in the north. No luck there. Finally got traction by guessing AGED at 10A: Acquired wisdom, per a saying, then guessing ANNIE (close!) at 10D: "Pretty in Pink" heroine, and then getting ELEC / DETECT / ENURES in pretty quick succession. Was really surprised that worked, as I wasn't certain about any of the stuff that got me going. From there it was most a slowish, steady clockwise trip down, over, and back up again to finish in the NW. Actually, I finished in the far north. Here's the exact square, where I was stopped cold:

    I had no idea. At all. None. As far as I knew, there *was* no word that followed the pattern -LEATE, so I figured I had an error. But I ran the alphabet and then SOAP slipped into view. OLEATE … OK then.

    • 6D: Seat of Monterey County (SALINAS) — I was just in Monterey County last month. Still needed many crosses to pick this one up. 
    • 48A: Divorced title couple of film (KRAMERS) — just watched "Kramer vs. Kramer" earlier this year. It holds up OK, though courtroom scenes, like, apparently, all courtroom scenes in movies, were Preposterous. Also, Streep's whole "I'm just abandoning my child to go find myself" thing felt really poorly motivated and explained, and thus unsympathetic. Still, she was great. But it's mainly a hero-dad picture.
    • 37A: Thou (G-NOTE) — Not convinced this a real thing. Do people really say it. C-NOTE, sure. But a. that's a much rarer "note," and b. no reason a "Thou" should come in a single "note." I wanted GRAND. Then, at GNO-E, I wanted GNOME. Not really. I just like the idea that the puzzle was saying to me "Thou art a GNOME!"
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Orwellian drudge / FRI 5-1-15 / Big tech review site / Dunsinane disavowal / Phencyclidine colloquially / Surrey carriage / Youngest of baseball trio / Holman early basketball great
    1 May 2015, 6:00 am
    Constructor: David Steinberg

    Relative difficulty: Easy

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: Calvin PEETE (48D: Calvin of the P.G.A.) —
    Calvin Peete, whose life traced one of sport’s most triumphant arcs — a school dropout with a crooked left arm who did not pick up a golf club until his 20s, did not join the pro tour until his 30s, and still became one of the leading players of his era and the most successful black professional golfer before Tiger Woods — has died. He was 71. (from PEETE's NYT obituary, published yesterday)
    • • •

    A writer friend of mine wrote me yesterday:
    ... can you explain why anyone gives a crap about symmetry in crossword puzzles?  This is a really odd phenomenon, to me.  I don't see how it adds anything except a very faint sense of order and elegance, but it seems to me it comes at enormous expense. 

    What expense?  Well, the need, for example, to have "corners," which often mean a lot of short clues or whatever.   Not being a constructor, I am ignorant here, really, but wouldn't all sorts of creativity be opened up if we gave up the rawther stuffy conceit of symmetry?
    It seems to me to be the equivalent of rhyme to poetry, only way less satisfying. 
    I print this query here both because I think it's worth thinking about what purpose conventions serve, and because today's puzzle is itself a convention-breaker. Like rotational symmetry, the 15x15 grid size (Mon-Sat) is a convention. The size convention, though, has at least some practical basis, namely that the crossword, having been (and still, for many, being) a part of a newspaper environment, it must fit within a designated, limited space. Now, as puzzles move increasingly to the digital realm, this size constraint is likely to seem more and more anachronistic—a convention based on limitations that no longer exist. But as long as the crossword is made for publication in newspapers, size will matter. Still—why 15? why not 16? Today's puzzle reminds us of how arbitrary the 15x15 convention is. Expand the grid by one column, and an entire new universe of answers opens up. We sometimes see the wider (or narrower) grid in themed puzzles, where the conceit, or some marquee themer, makes the expansion (or contraction) necessary. But we don't see it in themelesses. I'm not saying we never have, but I can't remember when we have. And today's puzzle makes a good argument for opening the 16 floodgates. Think of all the damn 15 stacks we've seen over the years. Maybe it's not the stack itself that's played out—maybe it's the reservoir of available answers. Actually, I think all long stacks are at least slightly dangerous—they're likely to get you into similar problems with overall fill quality, so maybe my enthusiasm should be slightly qualified. But think of the 16 as a vast reservoir that has yet to be tapped. A precious, non-renewable resource that we can exploit for our immediate gratification. I welcome the New Age of the 16-wide themeless. I am certain to eat those words in the not-too-distant future, but for now, lead on, young pioneer Steinberg. Even if it ends up not being any better than the 15-wide, there's no reason it should be any worse, and if nothing else, it's different. Different Is Good.

    That said, MONTE CARLO CASINO has "green paint"* painted all over it. But then, *that* said, the rest of this grid is Fantastic. All the other 16s are Good to Great, and though you have some (predictable) wincers in the short crosses (quoth the raven, MNEMvermore), the trade-off is more than worth it. FEROCIOUS ANGEL DUST livens up the center (which, mercifully, doesn't feature a third 16 stack), the grid even manages to squeeze in some interesting longer Downs like JESUS ALOU and HOT SPRING and JAM JAR, which, OK, isn't "longer," but it's still cool. Only real downside for me today was how easy this thing was. I got Downs 1 through 4 in quick succession, with no hesitation, and that pretty much blew open the top section. From there I found it really easy to send out long tentacles into all the sections of the grid. Here's a pic of my progress just after the 1/3 mark:

    I didn't know the "S" is "lasik" was SITU, and I didn't get that "Brit" was a first name, and so I had a brief moment of "???" at SITU / HUME, but otherwise, this thing flew by. After I sewed up the middle, driving down into the bottom was simply no problem at all:

    At that point I hadn't even looked at the 16s down below. Look how much of a jump I have on them. Needless to say, they were easy to pick off. So this could've been tougher, but otherwise, it was delightful. Unleash the 16s! (Oh, and if you're so inclined, let me know what you think about the symmetry question I opened with)

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    *"green paint" is the term for a crossword answer that is more arbitrary word pairing than solid, stand-alone answer.

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