Physicist Mach / TUE 3-3-15 / Flagmaker Ross / 1982 double-platinum Duran Duran album / Treat similar to Yodel / Neighbor of Ricardos / Foot for Greek god Pan / Space station that crashed in 1979 / Likable prez / Event featuring motocross snocross /

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: HUNTER S. THOMPSON (35A: Author of 50-/55-Across) — some answers related to the late writer

Theme answers:
  • JOHNNY DEPP (18A: He played one of the lead roles in the film version of 50-/55-Across)
  • GONZO JOURNALISM (23A: Writing style popularized by 35-Across)
  • "FEAR AND LOATHING / IN LAS VEGAS" (50A: See 35-Across)
Word of the Day: SKYLAB (9D: Space station that crashed in 1979) —
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA and was the United States' first space station. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a weight of 169,950 pounds (77 t). Three manned missions to the station, conducted between 1973 and 1974 using the Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) atop the smaller Saturn IB, each delivered a three-astronaut crew. On the last two manned missions, an additional Apollo / Saturn IB stood by ready to rescue the crew in orbit if it was needed. […] Plans were made to refurbish and reuse Skylab, using the Space Shuttle to boost its orbit and repair it. However, development of the Shuttle was delayed, and Skylab reentered Earth's atmosphere and disintegrated in 1979, with debris striking portions of Western Australia. (wikipedia)
• • •

Straight-up info puzzle. Just as I enjoyed remembering "The Sound of Music" on Sunday, I enjoyed remembering HUNTER S. THOMPSON today, but as puzzle themes go, this type always feels blah to me. (And, to be fair to Sunday, that had the whole musical scale thing going on, even though, as a very experienced puzzle-maker friend of mine pointed out, SOL should not have been the rebused note in that puzzle, since the lyric is not, obviously, "SOL, a needle pulling thread…" But I really, really digress) Nothing here elevates this theme above the literal plane: this is a man, he did this, he wrote this, this actor played him. The fill is pretty smooth, and there are lots of zingy little answers (HAD A GO, HELL NO, CUDDLE UP, X GAMES), so solving it was in no way an unpleasant experience, but themewise, it's a bit flat. Luckily, the themers themselves are inherently lively, so the puzzle doesn't feel as boring as it might. It's worth noting, also, that, though Kristian House (today's constructor) has published many puzzles in the NYT, this was the first one he ever had accepted (!), way back in 2008 (!?). He actually asked for it back about a year ago so he could clean up the fill some. Good for him for taking that initiative. And as for the editor's holding a puzzle for that long … I don't know, man. I just don't know.


Bullets:
  • 1D: Tried (HAD A GO) — this answer, and my initial answer of SEALAB (!?!?) for SKYLAB, and my balking at MERTZ because I thought the clue suggested a plural (it doesn't) (41D: Neighbor of the Ricardos on "I Love Lucy"), meant that my time came out relatively average, rather than well below average, which is what I thought was going to happen. When with only minimal initial help from some crosses, you can fill in the entire set of theme answers without thinking, that puzzle falls under the "Easy" category, no matter what my time says. 
  • 1A: Treat similar to a Yodel (HO-HO) — Wasn't entirely sure. Brain got stuck in between and wanted YOHO initially. 
  • 8D: Aristocrats (GENTRY) — this answer may also have added slightly to my time, as it was a plural clue with a non-"S"-ending answer. Throwing "S" down quickly ended up being the wrong move there, obviously. See the flip problem at 33A: Fragrant neckwear (LEIS), where an apparently singular clue has a plural (and "S"-ending) answer.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. please enjoy this ironic picture I took of my television screen last night:


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Colorists / MON 3-2-15 / "Momma" cartoonist / Sign between Cancer and Virgo / Peruvian author Mario Vargas _

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hey, everyone, it's an Annabel day and boy am I excited! Not only was this a great puzzle, but I went to my first convention this month - Katsucon - and it was loads of fun. I got to meet the creator of one of my favorite webcomics, bought a new poster print for my room, and there were so many amazing costumes! Here I am in mine.*

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: "Triple L" — Theme words had three L's.

Theme answers:
  • STILL LIFE (17A: C├ęzanne's "The Basket of Apples," e.g.)
  • CALL LETTERS (23A: Radio station identification)
  • MELL LAZARUS (51A: "Momma" cartoonist)
  • TWO-L LLAMA (61A: "A beast," according to Ogden Nash)

Word of the Day: ECHOS (52D: Pioneering 1960s communications satellites) —
Project Echo was the first passive communications satellite experiment. Each of the two American spacecraft, launched in 1960 and 1964, was a metalizedballoon satellite acting as a passive reflector of microwave signals. Communication signals were bounced off them from one point on Earth to another. The Echo satellite program also provided the astronomical reference points required to accurately locate Moscow. This improved accuracy was sought by the US military for the purpose of targeting intercontinental ballistic missiles. (wikipedia)
• • •

Definitely one of the most fun puzzles I've solved in a while. Props to Andrea Carla Michaels for using her own NAMES  for that answer's clue (34A: Andrea, Carla and Michael)! Not to mention PHIAL's spelling;  never even saw that before. But OHGOD, am I ready for the era of ERA, especially with predictable clues like  "measure of time" or "time in history," to be over. Also, I ended up stuck on the northeast corner for a while (for some reason, that corner always trips me up?), but I loved the southwest corner with its proliferation of O's.

Not a lot to say about the theme. Typicalll, simpllle Monday.

Bullets:
  • 61A: "A beast," according to Ogden Nash (TWOLLLAMAS) — Okay, how could I see this and not address the fact that the llamas got lloose in Arizona and everyone talked about it so much that #llamadrama becomes a trending hashtag (the best ever, in my opinion) on Twitter? I mean, come on. The llamas were even crossword colors. Here, have a 26-minute long video of the llama chase...because apparently that exists.
[but the best part is that I rode on a llama at Homestead Gardens once]
    • 31A: Layered hairstyle (SHAG) — I had honestly never heard of a shag before doing this puzzle and had to guess at this one for a while. My mom was shaking her head at me because my sister was watching Scooby-Doo, with Shaggy and his shag haircut, right in front of me. Maybe she's just old. (Rex, don't tell her I said that!!) 
    • 18A: Exams for future attnys. (LSATS) — Omigod you guys, with this word bisecting EMMETT, Elle Wood's love interest, I just couldn't not post some LEGALLY BLONDE!(This is totally what college is going to be like, right?)
    ["but, first you'll need an LSAT score of more than 174" ...see...posting songs from this musical is totally relevant]
    • *9A: Ponzi scheme, e.g. (FRAUD) — Okay, so I didn't actually link to pictures, I just Rickrolled you all. Because, y'know, I'm a fraud. And also because ASTLEY (50D: Rick with the #1 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up") was one of the clues. The Katsucon part wasn't a fraud, though!! That was seriously one of the most fun things I've ever done. I cosplayed (nerd-convention slang for "dressed up as") April Ludgate from Parks and Rec, and my friend was Tom Haverford. Good times.
    Shout-out to MELL LAZARUS, the "Momma" cartoonist, because it's my "Momma" 's birthday on Thursday! I'm sure Rex will send her a BFF present.

    Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired high school student. Live long and prosper. (To Leonard Nimoy's ghost: I'm sorry about that time I put a figurine of you in my shoe.)

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