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

by Rex Parker, published: Thu 02 Jul 2015 06:00:00 AM CEST.

Favicon Onetime lover of Riker on Star Trek TNG / THU 7-2-15 / Father of Erebus Nyx in Greek myth / Soba alternative / James Merritt pioneering lithographer / Protein constituent informally / Depression common during childhood
2 Jul 2015, 6:00 am
Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (only because of one corner; otherwise Easy-Medium)

THEME: INVISIBLE INK (67A: What six of this puzzle's clues have been written with?) — theme clues are single letters, to which you must add "-INK" to get the full clue; ERGO:

Theme answers:
  • ECCENTRICITY (18A: K) [i.e. Kink]
  • FOUNDER (12D: S) [i.e. Sink]
  • SPLIT SECOND (30A: W) [i.e. Wink]
  • MEDIUM RARE (38A: P) [i.e. Pink]
  • STOOL PIGEON (53A: F) [i.e. Fink]
  • CONNECT (45D: L) [i.e. Link]
Word of the Day: ETYMA (11D: Root words) —
plural noun: etyma
  1. a word or morpheme from which a later word is derived. (google)
• • •

This concept is nice. Grid is oversized (16 wide) and still crammed to the gills with theme material. Perhaps too crammed—fill gets pretty strained at times. But core concept is solid and clever. Two things were weird for me about this solving experience. First, I took a ridiculous, circuitous route through the grid at the beginning, getting real traction nowhere, but somehow managing to proceed by crosses until I'd nearly traversed the whole grid. Second, I got stuck in one of the narrow-exit corners. Can you guess which one? Hint: the SW. It's the SW. I got stuck there. Those corners were much tougher than the rest of the puzzle. Corners that are mostly cut off and barely accessible can get very dicey. Since I moved into the NE from the front ends of some Across answers, I was able to get that corner under control without too much trouble. But backing my way into the SW proved much, much tougher. But let's start with that weird opening:

Look at that nonsense. I'm all over hell and gone. It's not like I didn't *try* to dig into various sections as I moved through them. It's just that I got thwarted, and so kept moving. You can see what thwarted me up top—two wrong answers (PAL for MAC, STEMS for (yuck) ETYMA). Anyway, the meandering you see above is decidedly not normal. But it had this weird, serendipitous upside, which is that the SE was the first corner I really nailed, and that just happened to be the corner that held the key to the whole theme. Thus, very shortly after the CHAOS you see above, I had this:

I was not yet aware that there were two more theme clues lurking in the tinier corners. Anyway, getting the theme revealer opened things right up. And not much later I tried to enter the SW. And failed. Well, mostly failed. I got UH OH and GANG WAR (though I was unsure of the latter). But even with -US ending I couldn't remember GENUS (haven't played Trivial Pursuit in a quarter century). Clues for both MUGGING (43D: Slice of ham?) and I HEAR YA (44D: "Tell me about it!") were opaque. Didn't know who DeWitt Clinton was, so NYC stayed hidden. Got IRE, but it didn't help. Know far, far too many 3-letter synonyms for [Roscoe] (most notably ROD and GUN), so GAT wasn't obvious. It took, finally, just guessing MIC at 43A: Word after open or hot to move things along. Thought I was done, but I'd left a square blank back at IVES / SLIT. So that's where I finished.

Did anyone else have GO UNDER for [S[ink]] at first?
Did anyone expect something much, much more interesting than ECCENTRICITY for [K[ink]]?
No? OK. That's fine.

Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Favicon Eniwetok blaster informally / WED 7-1-15 / Abu Simbel's waterway / Flanged construction beam / Toon tots of 90s-00s TV / Cause of 1773 party
1 Jul 2015, 6:00 am
Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: lisping on the front end —familiar phrases that start with "S" have that changed to "TH-" and (with appropriate spelling changes) wackiness ensues:

Theme answers:
  • THAW / MILL (1A: With 68-Across, release philosopher John Stuart from cryonic suspension?)
  • THICK / PUPPY (9A: With 66-Across, slow learner in the litter?)
  • THIGHS OF RELIEF (20A: Turkey servings for the famished?)
  • THUMBER OLYMPICS (38A: Quadrennial competition for hitchhikers?)
  • THEME'S OK TO ME (53A: TV critic's approval of a show's opening tune?)
Word of the Day: OMRI (57D: Father of King Ahab) —
Omri [...] (fl. 9th century BC) was the sixth king of Israel after Jeroboam, a successful military campaigner, and the founder of the House of Omri, an Israelite royal house which included other monarchs such as Ahab, Ahaziah, Joram, and Athaliah. Along with his predecessor king Zimri who ruled for only seven days, Omri is the first king mentioned in the Bible without a statement of his tribal origin: although some scholars speculate that Omri was from the tribe of Issachar, this is not confirmed by any biblical account. // Mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as well as extra-biblical sources such as the Mesha stele and the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Omri is also credited with the construction of Samaria and establishing it as his capital. (wikipedia)
• • •

Been in a murderous mood all day for no clear reason, so I'm going to try hard not to take it out on the puzzle, but it's not going to be easy because the concept here is tired and the fill is truly wretched. There's no way your really good constructors are gonna subject you to a raft of junk like this. The very fact that we're subjected to two "flanged" clues, like that's a clever/good thing, tells you how far from self-aware this puzzle is of its repugnance. At best, the fill is tired: ARLO TOSCA ELCID (those are all in one little section) etc. But it gets much worse. TNUT HBAR KER HOO EDA and then honestly the worst little corner I've seen in ages—that SE corner. There's no excuse for OMRI EMAG EGAL. Barf. Really, truly unprofessional. When ARIA is not even the third lamest thing in your tiny 4x4 corner, something is terribly, desperately wrong. That corner does have a bit of theme pressure on it, but then explain the next section over—the OLDE FDIC ILSA section. ONE CARD is not a thing. ASTRA next to NIHIL is lazy Latin terribleness. This, novice constructors, is a lesson in how Not to fill a puzzle. Embarrassing.

The theme is what it is. It feels old hat, but it has a certain cuteness. Didn't enjoy the fact that two of the themers were so radically cross-referenced. Awkward. Gimmick was obvious from the get go. Here's the opening:

Jeez I can barely look at this grid. Look how UGLI that initial fill is. Gah. Anyway, bing bang boom, cut through two *$%&ing "H-" answers (BOMB, BAR), and we get another cross-referenced themer:

The lisping gimmick was slightly weird, as it applied only to the first "S" sound and not to others. Long themers are mildly funny. But this is some prehistoric, wholly unsatisfactory grid-filling here today, folks. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]

P.S. D CUPS > C CUPS (27D: Features of many bras) ... not intrinsically, just, you know, today.

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Favicon Early Sony recorder / TUE 6-30-15 / 1990s Indian PM / Singer Josh whose self-titled 2001 debut album went 4x platinum
30 Jun 2015, 6:00 am
Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Tuesdayish, maybe a tad harder than normal

THEME: famous person does something — noun phrases are reimagined as verb phrases involving famous people of various sorts:

Theme answers:
  • ROCK GARDENS (17A: Comedian cultivates flowers?)
  • POUND SIGNS (23A: Poet inks a contract?)
  • PRICE TAGS (33A: Opera singer scrawls graffiti?)
  • FIELD TRIPS (48A: Actress stumbles?)
  • BACON STRIPS (53A: Philosopher removes his clothes?)
Word of the Day: BETACAM (38D: Early Sony recorder) —
Betacam is a family of half-inch professional videocassette products developed by Sony in 1982. In colloquial use, "Betacam" singly is often used to refer to a Betacam camcorder, a Betacam tape, a Betacam video recorder or the format itself. (wikipedia)
• • •

This felt a bit hack-y, the noun-to-celebrity-name gimmick. ROCK GARDENS in particular seemed really, really familiar. So I did a little archive digging. Actually ROCK GARDEN(S), though it has been used many times, has never been used in a Chris Rock switcheroo theme answer, the way I had imagined. But I knew this basic concept had been done before, possibly to death, so I went after a few more of the theme answers. Then I just searched *POUND* in the cruciverb database and, well, bingo, of sorts. A Monday NYT puzzle from seven years back with the following themers:
  • 18A: Poet Ezra's favorite desserts? (Pound cakes)
  • 4D: Writer Anne's favorite dessert? (Rice pudding)
  • 27D: Writer Jack's favorite entree? (London broil)
  • 62A: Essayist Charles's favorite entree? (Lamb shanks)
Now, it's been seven years, and the theme this time around has a different slant (verb phrases intstead of food types), so, probably no harm done. It's just ... two things. One, I'm quite sure this one example of the theme type is not the only one out there. With more digging, I'd certainly find more. And two ... this earlier puzzle, this food one ... is by the same constructor. She seems to have semi-plagiarized herself, or at least recycled a basic (very basic) wordplay concept that she had used before. I think as a constructor, if you have only one guiding principle, let it be that you don't make lame Ezra Pound jokes twice in your career. Pound me once, shame on me, etc.

In terms of difficulty, it's interesting that this puzzle didn't provide the famous person's first name, the way that 2008 puzzle did. Definitely adds a modicum of difficulty, withholding that name. But providing it, esp. in the case of someone with a name like Leontyne (!), would perhaps have rendered the puzzle too easy. Who knows? My time came out Tuesday-normal, so this cluing seemed fine to me. Fill is OK today—more junk than you want to see, but lots of interesting longer answers in the Downs. I had trouble coming up with both LOSER and POSER, which is probably telling, hopefully to my credit but maybe not from where you're sitting. My only real struggle, though, was in the SW, where I went with BRAVERY and BETAMAX, side by side. Luckily, the wrongness thereof was readily apparent. Finished with the "G" in Josh GROBAN, whom I once saw on the streets of Carmel, CA. This was peak GROBAN (so, like, a decade ago), and man the middle-aged ladies were happy to see him. He wasn't mobbed (Carmel's too sleepy for mobs), but he was, let's say, surrounded. Politely and lovingly surrounded.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Favicon Bot that systematically browses internet / MON 6-29-15 / French city historically known for silk / Liesl's love in Sound of Music / Capital of Bangladesh old-style / Boo follower in triumphant shout / 1982 Harrison Ford sci-fi film
29 Jun 2015, 6:00 am
Constructor: Todd Gross and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (FOR A MONDAY) (3:11)

THEME: evolutionary succession of some kind

Theme answers:
  • WEB CRAWLER (17A: Bot that systematically browses the Internet)
  • ALICE WALKER (28A: "The Color Purple" novelist)
  • BLADE RUNNER (48A: 1982 Harrison Ford sci-fi film)
  • RADIO FLYER (64A: Classic red wagon)
Word of the Day: LYON (30D: French city historically known for silk) —
Lyon or Lyons [...] is a city in east-central France, in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located approximately 470 kilometres (292 miles) from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) from Marseille, 420 km (261 mi) from Strasbourg, 160 km (99 mi) from Geneva, 280 km (174 mi) from Turin. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais. // The small municipality (commune) of Lyon proper has a population of 491,268 (January 2011), and as such is France's third largest city after Paris and Marseille, but together with its suburbs and satellite towns Lyon forms the 2nd-largest metropolitan area in France with a population of 2,188,759 at the January 2011 census. Lyon is the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region, as well as the capital of the smaller Rhône département. // The city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lyon was historically known as an important area for the production and weaving of silk. Since the late 20th century, it has developed a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France and in the world. // It has a significant role in the history of cinema due to Auguste and Louis Lumière, who invented the cinematographe in Lyon. The city is also known for its famous light festival, 'Fête des Lumières,' which occurs every 8 December and lasts for four days, earning Lyon the title of Capital of Lights. (wikipedia)
• • •

OK I guess. I don't really understand the progression. That is, I see that it goes from earth to sky, but I don't know why—what is being suggested or imitated in that progression? Some vague evolutionary idea, I guess. I don't know. It's a 76-worder and felt a little heavier, a little slower than your average Monday. Fill's not great, but it's also not terrible. I mean besides XCI and YAH and ONEG and DACCA (Mondays should not have to resort to "old-style" anything). Mostly I found this one dull. Not much to say about it. What to say? YAH is not detachable from BOO, no way no how. LYON, in my mind (and in reality, too) has an "S" at the end, so that was tougher than it should've been. ROLF was unknown to me. I know about "The Sound of Music" largely by rumor. I think of "Requisite" as an adjective, so NEED was odd. This dull accretion of solving details is precisely how exciting this puzzle was to me. Adequate. That's what the puzzle is. It's adequate.

I just finished watching "From Here to Eternity" (1953), which features several of today's answers, most notably SERGEANTs and LEIs (it's set in Hawaii in late 1941, and concludes with the attack on Pearl Harbor and its immediate aftermath). The rolling-in-the-surf bit with Deborah KERR and Burt Lancaster takes all of 5 seconds, and it comes early in the movie. Given how iconic that scene is, I expected more. A lot more. More surf-rolling! Instead it was a lot of drinking and men punching each other. I liked it a lot, it's just ... my surf-rolling expectations went unmet. It did cause me to look up Jack Warden because he has one of those "wait I know that guy from everywhere!" faces. Turns out he was the president in "Being There," which I saw earlier this year, and also had Matthau's coach role in the TV version of "The Bad News Bears" (this is *surely* how his face was imprinted onto my brain). Warden used to be a boxer, and "From Here to Eternity" was a lot about boxing. Also, Lancaster's character in "From Here to Eternity" was named Warden. Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine and Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed and Claude AKINS were in it too.

Maybe this theme was supposed to evoke a speech given by MLK (27A: "I have a dream" monogram) at a high school in Cleveland, OH on April 26, 1967 (text and audio here). It is, as usual, eloquent and moving, and it ends like this: "Well, life for none of us has been a crystal stair, but we must keep moving. We must keep going. And so, if you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Favicon Green dwarf / SUN 6-28-15 / Actress Birch of "American Beauty" / Admiral Zumwalt / The City of a Thousand Minarets / Physics Nobelist Martin, discoverer of the tauon / Mountain, in Hawaiian
28 Jun 2015, 6:01 am
Constructor: Jeremy Newton

Relative difficulty: Big

THEME: "Getting in the Final Word" — Theme answers are familiar phrases containing the word "in." The phrases are situated so that the first part crosses (goes "in") the second part.

Hi, everyone! PuzzleGirl with you for your Sunday puzzle. Not sure how I always seem to get stuck with Sundays when I fill in. I find Sunday puzzles really ... big. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. It's just my preference to have my puzzles a little smaller. I guess what I'm saying is size does matter, people. Anyway.
I got an emergency call from Rex tonight because his power went out and so here we are. Unfortunately, I was pretty busy today and I've got an early start tomorrow, so I don't have a lot of time to be hanging out with you. Or maybe that's fortunate. Depends on who you are, I guess. Let's just make the best of it, shall we? Here are your theme answers.

Theme answers:
  • WHAT HAPPENS [IN] VEGAS (30A/13D: Shorthand pact for a wild trip)
  • YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND [IN] ME (52A/49D: 1995 Oscar-nominated Pixar theme song)
  • COULD YOU PUT THAT [IN] WRITING (80A/58D: Request for an official document)
  • DOUBLED OVER [IN] PAIN (101A/90D: Reacting to a gut punch, perhaps)
  • JUST [IN] CASE (3D/18A: "To be on the safe side...")
  • KEEPING [IN] MIND (16D/21A: Remembering)
  • CALLING [IN] SICK (67D/104A: Talking with a fake rasp, perhaps)
  • CAME [IN] LAST (109D/125A: Got the booby prize)
I rather enjoyed this puzzle. The theme was pretty easy to figure out and then it was just a matter of coming up with the phrases. Not too much junk in the fill either. For a Sunday anyway. "YO, DOG" (6A: "Sup, homie") tripped me up a little. Shouldn't that be DAWG? But my only erasure was RANTS for VENTS (103D: Lets it all out), so I guess it was overall easy? I don't know. So hard to judge difficulty.
"NAG NAG NAG!" (23A: "Geez, get off my back already!"), TOWN DRUNK (114A: Stock character like Mayberry's Otis), and OPIUM DEN (36D: Smoke-filled establishment) are all fantastic entries. And I loved the clues on ST. PETER (89A: Guard at a gated community?) and TATTOO (70D: Something you can't get off your chest?). Other than that, well, I thought it was just a big old Sunday-sized puzzle that was pretty fun to slog my way through. Let me know what do you think! And with any luck, Rex will be back tomorrow.

Love, PuzzleGirl

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