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

by Rex Parker, published: Thu 23 Oct 2014 06:00:00 AM CEST.

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:
    • MARATHONER'S STAT 
    • PARTNER OF WARNER
    • WHAT PRISONERS DO
    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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    Favicon Pygmalion's beloved / SUN 10-19-14 / Soprano Licia singer at Met for 26 years / Stew dish known in Thailand as suki / Pull classic internet prank on / Harry Peter Parker's college friend / Gucci competitor
    19 Oct 2014, 6:00 am
    Constructor: David Phillips 

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


    THEME: "Why Not?" — in familiar phrases, words w/ a terminal (or near-terminal) "Y" are changed to homophones that don't have "Y," creating all the wacky you'd ever want.

    Theme answers:
    • TRUSTEE SIDEKICK (3D: Subordinate of a board chair?)
    • IDOLS OF THE KING (24A: Elvis's heroes?)
    • CLEAR THE WEIGH (37A: Embarrassed person's comment after getting off an electronic scale?)
    • SUNDAE BEST (49A: #1 item at Dairy Queen?)
    • SARI STATE (68A: Gujarat or Punjab, dresswise?)
    • CHAISE REBELLION (46D: "I've had enough of this patio furniture!," e.g.?)
    • DEVIL RAISE (85A: Wicked poker bet?)
    • GUISE AND DOLLS (94A: Two concerns of a secretive voodoo practicer?)
    • NO RIME OR REASON (112A: Lack of logic and a frosty coating?)
    Word of the Day: RICKROLL (83A: Pull a classic Internet prank on) —
    Rickrolling is an Internet meme involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch; a person provides a hyperlink which is seemingly relevant to the topic at hand, but actually leads to Astley's video. The link can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. People led to the music video are said to have been rickrolled. Rickrolling has extended beyond web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places, such as a live appearance of Astley himself in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The meme helped to revive Astley's career. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Found this pretty unpalatable. First off, I didn't even see the "Y" thing at first. I just saw a bunch of Terrible homophone wackiness, so I just plowed through and tried to keep the wincing to a minimum. Even after having the "Y" angle pointed out to me, I don't think this is Sunday-worthy. Let's start with the wackiness, which often can't even be clued in a way (!) that makes the least bit of sense. [Lack of logic and a frosty coating?]?? What is that? The clue is nonsense, and not funny ha ha nonsense, but literally completely impossible-to-imagine nonsense. [Two concerns of a secretive voodoo practicer?] works, by comparison. The answer is still wacky, but at least it's a wackiness that can be got at via an almost normal-sounding question. SUNDAE BEST makes no sense syntactically as an answer to its clue, [#1 item at Dairy Queen?]. None. English isn't French—you can't just put the modifier after the noun and expect that to fly. Not in a self-standing phrase like this, you can't. Question requires "best sundae," of course. This is why you don't Touch wackiness unless you know what you are doing. "Wacky" doesn't mean "all rules and laws of grammar and sense are off!" Wacky only plays if you show some sense of awareness of and respect for the way English works. Speaking of, CLEAR THE WEIGH? That little number on the "electronic scale" is called a "weight." Of alllllllll the phrases one might come up with that have the word "WAY" in them, *this* is the one that makes the cut? I do not understand. Also, TRUSTEE requires a pronunciation change—this is a theme failing. It truly is. Your TRUSTEE answer is the answer you brainstorm and then throw out. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. Kill your darlings.


    SARI STATE is a good example of how wackiness oughta work. It's a pun that is also literally true. Unexpected answer, chuckle-worthy—spot-on work. But much of the rest of the theme is a wreck on either the front end (cluing) or the back end (answer). And the fill is … the fill. It's NYT-average (i.e. probably weaker than it should be, but passable).


    Do SHE-CRABs taste different than he-crabs? And, follow-up: Are there such things as "he-crabs," or are those just "crabs"? Whatever the answers to those questions, SHE-CRAB was utterly new to me. See also Harry OSBORN (are there not more famous / actual human OSBORNs out there?). Also had no idea about ALBANESE, a very grid-friendly but not well-known and thus crutchy 8. GALATEA is another long name with favorable letter patterns. Maybe she's more famous than ALBANESE, maybe she's not. Not sure. Since she's ancient, probably. I'm giving +1 to RICKROLL, because I haven't thought of it in a long time; it's a great piece of Dumb Internet History. And I always love remembering SENDAK. But that's about all the love I've got to give today.

    Good day.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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