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

by Rex Parker, published: Wed 16 Apr 2014 06:00:00 AM CEST.

Favicon Mythical king of huns / WED 4-16-14 / Yellowstone bugler / Cuddly sci-fi creature / What scientists use to predict rates of chemical reactions / Arkansas footballers informally
16 Apr 2014, 6:00 am
Constructor: Michael Dewey

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (again, no idea, as the AcrossLite file at the NYT site was Once Again "corrupt") (it's kind of an embarrassment how bad they are at the tech stuff over there) (oh hey, look, I bugged the right person and the file is no longer corrupt. Too late for me, but …)

THEME: "TITANIC SINKS!" (58A: Headline of April 16, 1912) — theme answers are, in whole or, in the case of one answer, in part, related to the sinking of the Titanic...

Theme answers:
  • MAIDEN VOYAGE (20A: Post-christening event)
  • COLLISION THEORY (28A: What scientists use to predict the rates of chemical reactions)
  • TIP OF THE ICEBERG (49A: Small part that's visible)
Word of the Day: ATLI (45D: Mythical king of the huns) —
A legendary king corresponding to the historical figure of Attila. In the Volsunga Saga he is the second husband of Gudrun. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

This doesn't work. First, there's the not major but still significant problem of this "tribute"'s having been done before—and recently, at a time that made much more sense, i.e. just two years ago, when it was the 100th anniversary of the disaster. Second, there's the tepidity of this theme execution. Weak, obvious, untricky answers, including one (COLLISION THEORY) that has a word in it  (THEORY???) that has Zero relationship to the disaster (the collision is not a theory; what caused the collision is not a theory … boat hitting iceberg caused the collision; there were theories about what caused the ship to sink … at first … but … now we know it was an iceberg, right? So ...). Just so weird / awkward to have all the other theme answers be spot-on and literal (to the point of dullness) and then have this lone outlier, totally unrelated to the Titanic except in a half-metaphorical kind of way. I'm baffled. Why was this even accepted? Further: fill is very much subpar. ATLI is ghastly, bottom-of-the-barrel crosswordese. In fact, it's almost definitive in its crosswordesiness. AGER and EDO and KAT, not much better.

I did like OH BOTHER, appropriately/ironically. Had LEAP for [Bound] at 1A, so not the fastest start. I had MAGI for MARY at 10D: Crèche figure—kinda knew I was wrong, as MAGI are figures, plural, but MA- + "Crèche" = MAGI in my brain. Wanted I GOT IT before I DID IT (50D: Cry of success). Odd coincidence (I assume) that I have seen ECLIPSE (5D: Sun block?) at least three times in the past few days, considering there was a lunar ECLIPSE, what, just yesterday? Thought [Globe's place] as a clue for BOSTON was pretty clever. But outside of that answer and the Pooh answer, there's not much here to love.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Middle part of pedestal / TUE 4-15-14 / TV show anchored by Bill O'Reilly from 1989 to 1995 / Holder of tomorrow's lunch
    15 Apr 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Gary Cee

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: BASE ON BALLS (63A: Batter's reward after pitches like those described at the starts of 17-, 24-, 39- and 51-Across) — first words of theme answers can also describe non-strike pitches in baseball. Four misses, four balls => walk, i.e. BASE ON BALLS

    Theme answers:
    • LOW BLOW
    Word of the Day: DADO (26D: Middle part of a pedestal) —
    1. Architecture. The section of a pedestal between base and surbase.
    2. The lower portion of the wall of a room, decorated differently from the upper section, as with panels.
      1. A rectangular groove cut into a board so that a like piece may be fitted into it.
      2. The groove so cut.

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/dado#ixzz2yuuo6IIB
    • • •

    This is a perfectly reasonable puzzle. About as exciting as a walk, to me, but … hey, walks can be exciting. If they come late in the game, with the score even or close to it, perhaps. There's really nothing here to fault. There just isn't much to get excited about either. I like that none of the themers use their first words in positional ways, i.e. the words are used metaphorically, as opposed to the way they're used in baseball (literally). Always good to have your "first words" being used, in their own answers, in non-theme contexts. But the themers themselves aren't particularly original or scintillating, and neither is the fill—though DOGGIE BAG (3D: Holder of tomorrow's lunch, maybe) and MARSEILLE (35D: "The Count of Monte Cristo") have a certain unusualness and vividness that I like. This is a placeholder puzzle. Well made but instantly forgettable.

    [Submit, as clowns]

    This puzzle must've been pretty damned easy, in the main, because I made two major mistakes, resulting in a good deal of fumbling around, and yet I still came in at just over 3. My brain clearly took in the "Mumbai" part of 20A: Music of Mumbai (RAGA), but apparently it took in little else, since, with RA- in place, I wrote in RANI. This made both DOGGIE BAG and ENHANCE impossible to get at first. The other mistake I made—again off the first two letters—came at 47D: Orange source. I had OR- in place, so naturally I wrote in [...drum roll…] ORLANDO! Ugh. Became clear very quickly, as I tried to work the crosses in that SE corner, that something was wrong. Knew the [Old record player] couldn't start with "F," so wrote in HIFI and instantly saw ORCHARD. The rest of the puzzle–a blur of fast typing. I might've gotten held up near the center, with DADO, a word I only ever see in puzzles … but the point is that I *do* see it in puzzles (learned it from puzzles), so I *did* remember (after a second or two of cogitation), so no harm done. Oh, I also wrote in ASKED instead of PRIED, since nothing about the clue  (57A: Was inquisitive) suggested the inappropriateness or excessiveness implied by PRIED.

    Just a note: the NYT published only three female constructors in March. No woman has yet been published in April.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Caribbean island nation south of Martinique / MON 4-14-14 / Famous debate words from Reagan to Carter / Endorsement from Tony Tiger / Churchill's description of the Royal Air Force during W.W. II /
    14 Apr 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Gareth Bain

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (I have no idea; I solved on paper because stupid .puz file was "corrupt," and can't really gauge Monday "difficulty" when I solve on paper … beyond "yeah, it's Monday, so of course it's easy…")

    THEME: THAIR???  — homophones??? Is that it? I guess so.

    Theme answers:
    • "THERE YOU GO AGAIN" (17A: Famous debate words from Reagan to Carter)
    • THEIR FINEST HOUR (37A: Churchill's description of the Royal Air Force during W.W. II)
    • "THEY'RE GRRRRREAT!" (58A: Endorsement from Tony the Tiger) (this spelling is either arbitrary or inaccurate. The cereal boxes I'm seeing have three "R"s. If you go with five "R"s, you should have some basis for doing so … perhaps there is one, but I have no idea what it is)
    Word of the Day: ST. LUCIA (49A: Caribbean island nation south of Martinique) —
    Saint Lucia Listeni/snt ˈlʃə/ (FrenchSainte-Lucie) is a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Seaon the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2(238.23 sq mi) and has a population of 174,000 (2010). Its capital is Castries. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    I had to ask around about what the theme was because I couldn't believe it was just THERE / THEIR / THEY'RE, a concept so slight I can't believe it made the grade. Taken on their own, the theme answers vary in quality. Taken together as a theme … well, that's more USA Today-level stuff. Now, Gareth generally builds beautiful puzzles, and this one is more than solid, fill-wise—bit heavy on the short ordinary stuff, light on the longer interesting stuff, but in no way lazy or tiresome. Still, this puzzle has that first theme answer and not a lot else to recommend it. I have to call b.s. on that last theme answer. You can't just add "R"s to suit your fancy. This seems to be a case of "if wikipedia says it, it must be true." But the expression is in print enough that the three-R version should be taken as the established spelling. Picky? Yes. But accurate is accurate and verifiable is verifiable and made-up is made-up.

    Gotta go eat and then make Tom Collinseseses because "Mad Men."

    See you tomorrow.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon El cheap cigar slangily / SUN 4-13-14 / Actor Gulager of old TV / Tony-winning Robert Morse role / Triatomic oxygen molecule / 1980s Chrysler offering
    13 Apr 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Dan Schoenholz

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: It's Taxing! — familiar phrases are wackily clued ("?") as if they have something to do with taxes.

    Theme answers:
    • WITHHOLDING CONSENT (25A: Agreement for an amount to be taken from one's salary?)
    • MANY HAPPY RETURNS (33A: What C.P.A.'s wish for their clients?)
    • ROLL THE CREDITS (49A: C.P.A.'s advice for lowering future-year liabilities?)
    • TABLE FOR TWO (67A: Chart used to calculate a married couple's taxes?)
    • SCHEDULE CHANGE (81A: I.R.S. update?)
    • EMERGENCY SHELTER (93A: Last-minute way to reduce tax for a desperate filer?)
    • BRILLIANT DEDUCTION (104A: C.P.A.'s masterstroke?)
    Word of the Day: PILE (39A: Reactor) —
    1. A quantity of objects stacked or thrown together in a heap. See synonyms at heap.
    2. Informal. A large accumulation or quantity: a pile of trouble.
    3. Slang. A large sum of money; a fortune: made their pile in the commodities market.
    4. A funeral pyre.
    5. A very large building or complex of buildings.
    6. A nuclear reactor.
    7. A voltaic pile.

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/pile#ixzz2yik56qUz
    • • •

    If you're going to make a puzzle about taxes, you should go out of your way to make it much, much more interesting than actually doing your taxes. This one was pretty boring, I thought. Yes, "withholding," "returns," etc. are all words that have tax-related meanings, but there's just no joy in this wackiness. Taken on their own, virtually all of the theme answers make me sleepy (I am one whisky sour to the wind, it's true, but puzzles are supposed to *reverse* alcohol's soporific power, not aggravate it). Taken as joke answers … well, the jokes just aren't funny. Most of the theme answers sound like tax-related answers all by themselves. The reorientation of the "?" clue isn't reorienting enough for there to be a real jolt of humor. These are the kind of lame puns unfunny CPAs might make around the office. Fill is adequate but forgettable. This one must've tickled Someone. Just not me.

    Solving issues—I have no idea how PILE is a [Reactor], and I apparently can't spell HAMAN (46A: Purim villain), so that eastern section took a while to come together. Vague cluing on RAPID (59A: Fast) meant delay in the symmetrical western section as well. EBANKS is horrible (76A: Websites of interest?). LENITY is real but dated / old-fashioned / strange / [frowny face] (99D: Laxness). A single DREG is more amusing than anything else. Face with FT--- at 74D: Army base near Petersburg, Va. I tried ORD and DIX. It was LEE. Frowny face on *me* there. I remembered ECOTONE! Well, I kinda sorta thought it was ECOTYPE, but still! Close! (52D: Transition area from deciduous to evergreen, e.g.REDBONE was … unexpected. Also unknown. Well, unknown as a [Breed of hunting dog]. The blues musician, I'm familiar with. Or there's these guys…

    Puzzle of the Week! There were three that stood out to me this week. The first was Byron Walden's great American Values Club puzzle, "Equal Say" (get it here) (read about it here). Byron gets an astonishing amount of mileage out of relatively simple concepts. His themers tend to be both wildly inventive and *legitimately* funny. Next was Peter Wentz's Friday themeless, which I rhapsodized about two days ago. Jam-packed with fantastic fill, and smooth from stem to stern. Really great work. But the ribbon this week goes to Frank Longo for his Saturday Stumper (Newsday), an epic themeless that kicked my ass up and down the block earlier today. What made the puzzle great was the combination of solid, interesting fill and unbelievably brutal cluing. [They develop less of a head cold] for BEERS. [Electric splitter, maybe] for ROOMIE. [Once common stage direction] for WEST (I might actually have stopped and applauded that one). If you like real challenges—the kind that might require many sittings before you conquer it—then you should definitely be doing the Stumper (available in many local papers, as well as here, every week).

    Lastly, two plugs that have nothing to do with crosswords. Just want to promote a couple of artists whose work I admire. The first is Amelie Mancini whose amazing baseball art — which includes baseball card packs with themes like "Bizarre Injuries" and "Marvelous Mustaches" as well as cool t-shirt designs and assorted other stuff — can be found at Left Field Cards. I get compliments on my "Knuckle Ball" t-shirt all the time. I caught a girl sketching it on the subway ride to Yankee Stadium last summer. Anyway, Amelie's work makes me smile, so maybe you'll like it too. And then there's the new graphic memoir by my friend AK Summers, who used to be in a writing group with me Back In The Day. I was so so excited to see that her brilliant book "Pregnant Butch" had come out this year. I was lucky enough to get to read parts of it in its very early stages. I learned a lot about comics from reading her drafts, and from the conversations our group would have about her book's tone, pacing, layout, humor, etc. Here is a very nice interview with AK at The Guardian, which will give you some idea about who she is and what the book's about. Get her book wherever book-type things are sold. Here, try Powell's. They're cool.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Favicon Popularity boost due to certain TV endorsement / SAT 4-12-14 / Mythical abode of heroes slain in battle / Fur Traders Descending Missouri painter 1845 / 21st-century pastime for treasure hunters / Pungent panini ingredient / Collages novelist 1964
    12 Apr 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: Mel Rosen

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: ASCI (47D: Sacs studied by 58-Across) —
    An ascus (plural asci; from Greek ἀσκός "skin bag") is the sexual spore-bearing cell produced in ascomycete fungi. On average, asci normally contain eight ascospores, produced by a meiotic cell division followed, in most species, by a mitotic cell division. However, asci in some genera or species can occur in numbers of one (e.g. Monosporascus cannonballus), two, four, or multiples of four. In a few cases, the ascospores can bud off conidia that may fill the asci (e.g. Tympanis) with hundreds of conidia, or the ascospores may fragment, e.g. some Cordyceps, also filling the asci with smaller cells. Ascospores are nonmotile, usually single celled, but not infrequently may be coenocytic (lacking a septum), and in some cases coenocytic in multiple planes. Mitotic divisions within the developing spores populate each resulting cell in septate ascospores with nuclei. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    I liked this puzzle way more than I thought I would. Figured Mel Rosen's sweet spot would be somewhat far afield from mine, and while perhaps on other days that has been true, today: false. Or, rather, partially true, but in a way that still allowed me a pleasurable experience. Flummoxed by PYE DOGS, ALEKSEI, ASCI and BINGHAM (this despite living in Binghamton … no connection, I presume). But everything else was either reasonably common knowledge or slightly uncommon knowledge that I also happened to share. I took one look at 1A: Popularity boost due to a certain TV endorsement and thought COLBERT BUMP. Then thought, "No way. Too show-specific." But it fit so I wrote it in and went after the crosses. Astonished/thrilled when I got a few to work. Pretty timely 1A, I gotta say, what with Colbert getting the (future) Late Show gig just yesterday. I look forward to the inevitable on-air self-celebration caused by this "honor." Anyway, longtime viewers of his Report will be very familiar with the BUMP; others … I don't know. I guess you'll just have to fight your way out of that corner with a sharp object and gumption.

    I felt like I kept lucking into answers. 1A was the luckiest, but … take SAFECO. I only learned just last week that SAFECO was an insurance company. Today, that info helped a ton with getting into that SE corner. I filed my taxes today, so I think I just saw that damned IRS logo. It seemed like I was either making lucky initial guesses or having just enough crosses to be able to make sense of some of the longer answers. I got GEOCACHING off the "G," and I'm not sure I would even  have needed that (27D: 21st-century treasure hunters). I spend a lot of time in the woods, and every once in a while you see people who look lost, or at least out of place. Geocachers, it turns out. This puzzle has some odd words, but overall it's pretty clean, laudably contemporary, and entertainingly varied in its range of answers. Its faults (there are a few, mainly in the short fill) are eminently forgivable.

    Finished in just over 8, though I must've lost at least half a minute in pure Lionel Richie Frustration. I could not accept not knowing a 1987 Lionel Richie hit. "Truly" … "Hello" … "Dancin' on the Ceilin'" … COME ON! I do not remember SELA at all. I'm playing it now … barely registering. "Hit?" It's got a super reggae feel. I guess it beats yet another SELA Ward clue.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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