Longtime Yugoslav leader / MON 1-26-15 / Tangy teatime offering / West Point newcomer / Looped calf-catcher / Shampoo in green bottle / Chinese-born American architect

Monday, January 26, 2015

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Medium-ish (my time was a teeny bit high for a Monday)



THEME: FRESH START (56A: New beginning … or what 16-, 23-, 31-, 38- and 45-Across each have?) — theme answers are familiar two-part phrases/names where first part can also be a synonym for "fresh" in the sense of … well, multiple senses, actually … I was going to say "sassy," but … just, see below…

Theme answers:
  • FLIP WILSON (16A: 1970s comedian whom Time magazine dubbed "TV's First Black Superstar")
  • SMART COOKIE (23A: Clever person)
  • PERT PLUS (31A: Shampoo in a green bottle)
  • BOLD TEXT (38A: Type meant to stand out)
  • FORWARD PASS (45A: Counterpart to a lateral)
Word of the Day: APISH (26A: Copycatting) —
adj.
1. Resembling an ape.
2. Slavishly or foolishly imitative: an apish impersonation.
3. Silly; outlandish. (thefreedictionary.com) 
• • •

This has a couple problems on the theme front. First, the "fresh"ness of someone who is forward (i.e. the guy who gets slapped by the girl for being excessively presumptuous) is very different from the "fresh"ness of someone who's just giving you lip, backtalk, sass, what have you. And "bold" feels like only the loosest of synonyms. So the "fresh"nesses see like they're offering themselves up as a coherent set, but I don't think they are. Second, BOLD TEXT … sat ill(y) with me. It googles fine, but that "type" is called "BOLDFACE" if it's called anything. I'd've liked that better, despite its X-lessness. Hell, I'd've liked BOLD MOVE better. BOLD TEXT feels "green paint"-ish. Like ITALIC TEXT or UNDERLINED TEXT. Meh. Then there's the fill. Now, I'm a big fan of the multiple long Downs, all of them at least solid. But I'm surprised Ian-not-SEAN (nice vanity clue there) (62A: Ian : Scotland :: ___ : Ireland) had to resort to such low-rent fill so often. GOERS at 1A: Attendees was just painful, and then to have RUER in the puzzle too. Nominalizing verbs w/ -ER always feels mildly half-assed, but some (say, RUNNERs) are better than others (say, GOERS). I have no issues with RISER or PARER, but here they add to an unfortunate overall ER(R)-ness.


And then APISH, oh, man. No. Here's what happens when you try to google [define apish]:


See. Google's like "Nah, you mean this other, similarly ridiculous thing, right?" Then when you insist "no, I really mean 'apish'," you get a definition that has only the most tangential relationship to the clue:


Clue says [Copycatting]. I guess the second definition pictured above covers "copycatting," in that apes are imagined to be copiers of human behavior (hence the *verb* ape, aping). [Copycatting] as APING, I'd buy. But APISH? As you can see by the helpful chart, no. That is not a word one uses these days. And on a Monday? Come on. Anyone using APISH at all, particularly on a Monday, should be a RUER indeed.


Bullets:
  • 62A: Ian : Scotland :: ___ : Ireland (SEAN) — botched this very badly on the first go-round because I didn't fully scan the clue. Had the final "N" and saw "Ireland" and instinctively wrote in ERIN. :(
  • 41D: "The Garden of Earthly Delights" artist (BOSCH) — blanked hard on this. Had -OSC- and could think only of TOSCA. 
  • 30D: Winning "Hollywood Squares" line (OOO) — well, it beats [Losing "Hollywood Squares" line], but not by much.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Republican politico Michael / SUN 1-25-15 / Embroidery loop / Did 1930s dance / WIth Reagan memoirist / Secure as sailor's rope / Cutlass model of 1980s-90s / Whirlybird source / Kiss drummer Peter / She's asked When will those clouds all disappear in 1973 #1 hit

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: "Twist Ending" — familiar phrases where last two letters have been switched ("twist"ed?) to create wackiness (with customary "?" cluing)

Theme answers:
  • I CANNOT TELL A LEI (23A: "Those wreaths all look the same to me!"?)
  • SCAREDY CAST (3D: Group of actors who all have stage fright?)
  • YOU'VE GOT MALI (39A: Start of an oral listing of African nations, perhaps?)
  • RAISING THE BRA (53A: Showing less cleavage?)
  • A QUARTER TO TOW (84A: Cheap roadside assistance?)
  • ILLEGAL A-LINE (99A: Knockoff dress labeled "Armani," say?)
  • ANNIE, GET YOUR GNU (116A: Caution to an orphan girl not to leave her wildebeest behind?)
  • OBTUSE ANGEL (70D: Lovely but stupid person?)

Word of the Day: LINDIED (96D: Did a 1930s dance) —
The Lindy Hop is an American dance that evolved in HarlemNew York City, in the 1920s and 1930s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazztapbreakaway and Charleston. It is frequently described as a jazz dance and is a member of the swing dance family. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is not the kind of theme I expect to be able to pass muster anymore. Can't imagine why it was accepted. It's completely adequate, but the core concept is ancient, and not terribly imaginative, and Sunday is a marquee day. I don't understand how a theme like this deserves showcase status. This theme is (more or less) infinitely replicable. Just find any word where the "twist" thing with the last two letters works, find a phrase that ends in one of the variations, boom, theme answer (DIRTY POLO, FORD PINOT, etc.). Now, it's possible that if your answers and/or clues are truly, genuinely funny, then the tiredness of the concept won't be an issue, and this puzzle does manage to get off a couple good phrases, most notably RAISING THE BRA and ANNIE, GET YOUR GNU (which is enjoyably ridiculous). The rest are just OK, at best, and I CANNOT TELL A LEI doesn't make sense at all, even as clued. You can't tell them … apart … you mean? Right? You would never use that phrasing to mean what the clue says you mean. Never.


The fill here is often ILLY chosen. It's probably average-ish, over all. The NE and SW corners deserve some praise, but there's probably a bit too much ENERO ATEM AMENRA for my taste. This puzzle has this weird thing it's doing with both adjectival and past tense -ED suffixing. That is, stuff, that I never see with that suffix somehow has that suffix. ENCORED? PILLARED? LINDIED? All defensible, I'm sure, just like PETTER (?) is probably defensible. It's just odd. ANISES? If you say so. At least that one makes me (or my inner 8-year-old, which is just a euphemism for "me") laugh.

[Time has made this … disturbing. Moreso …]

I published a puzzle once called "Final Twists" (Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzles, ed. Ben Tausig). But there, the "twists" involved the whole word (not just the final two letters) *and* (this is key), they all involved titles of crime novels (which, of course, typically feature "final twists"). [Raymond Chandler crime novel about giant banana skins?] = THE BIG PEELS. Etc. So the theme, you know, made sense. Here, "Twist Ending" is just this random thing you're doing to totally unrelated phrases, so the theme lacks coherence. Also, A QUARTER TO TWO would never fly as a crossword answer, so it shouldn't be able to fly as a base answer for a theme phrase.

Hey, the 3rd Annual "Finger Lakes Crossword Competition" is coming up on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Ithaca, NY. I'll be there again this year, doing a Q & A and judging. Ithaca's own Adam Perl will be constructing puzzles especially for this competition. You Northeasterners (and esp. you central NYers, you know who you are) should consider coming. Last year was a lot of fun. Proceeds benefit Tompkins Learning Partners, which supports adult literacy in the community. Click HERE to get more info.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Patrick Blindauer's "Space Puzzlefest" — 13 interconnected puzzles that lead to a final answer — is now available at his website. It's a contest, the grand prize of which is a book of poetry written by Eugene T. Maleska (who knew?). Here's the "Space Puzzlefest" description:
Patrick Blindauer's Space Puzzlefest consists of about a dozen crosswords, each of which leads to an answer (in a different way each time). All of these answers get combined at the end to form a final answer, which you can email to Patrick to be entered in the Feb. 27th drawing for the Grand Prize: a copy of "Sun & Shadows," a book of Vogonesque poetry written by former New York Times crossword editor Eugene T. Maleska. You can enroll at http://patrickblindauer.com/puzzlefest.php; for only 17 Buckazoids you'll receive an invitation to Patrick's Space Puzzlefest Google Group where you can access the PDF of puzzles. Come on a stellar puzzventure with Patrick Blindauer's "Space Puzzlefest" (oxygen not included)!

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