Multimedia think piece / FRI 8-26-16 / City with world's largest clock face / Statue outside Boston's TD garden / Only highest-grossing film of year that lost money

Friday, August 26, 2016

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: DROP CAP (40D: Large letter in a manuscript) —
In desktop publishing, the first letter of a paragraph that is enlarged to "drop" down two or more lines, as in the next paragraph. Drop caps are often seen at the beginning of novels, where the top of the first letter of the first word lines up with the top of the first sentence and drops down to the four or fifth sentence. (webopedia)
• • •

Just solved this, on Friday morning, after a long sleep after a two-drink meal after my first day of classes, so I was a little ... sluggish. Groggy. Foggy. Boggy. I adjusted the difficulty level accordingly (i.e. this was more in the Medium-Challenging range, solving time-wise). You know that thing I have said a lot about 1-Across gimmes and how they are predictive of the overall easiness of the puzzle? Yeah, well, the opposite is apparently true, too. I had no idea about 1A: Social app with the slogan "the world's catalog of ideas" (PINTEREST), and so after about a minute in the NW, I had (fittingly) nothing but ERR. I know very well what PINTEREST is, but I would never ever have called it a "social app" (largely because my experience of it has only been on my laptop) and I had no idea that site was associated with "ideas" (?!). "The world's catalog of ideas??" Not the world's catalog of gluten-free brownie recipes and babies wearing cute knit caps? "Ideas" makes it sound pretty high-falutin'. Anyway, crash and burn there. Steph Curry got me going, finally, in the NE (MVP), and things flowed from there, however unspeedily. I think starting in the NE is really bad way to proceed: you're basically solving the grid right-to-left, i.e. backwards., i.e. entering all the Acrosses from the back (!). If you're continually front-of-the-word-blind, you aren't going to make great time. Consider: it took me until the very last cross to get BE THERE! When you come at it backwards, GET HERE! seems a very distinct possibility.

There were good parts and not-so-good parts to this puzzle. CLOSE VOTE (12D: Feature of the 1876 or 2000 presidential election) feels very much like Green Paint, and EX-GOV feels even greener (56A: Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, informally) (and both of them involve Bush ... weird). Nobody says ENOUNCE or PAH, LOD is a real place but not really a place you wanna go with your grid, and EARED ... just makes me laugh (11D: Like some seals). I get that there are seals without ears, but EARED is about as ridiculous-looking as NOSED without an adjective-hyphen in front of it. None of the stacks really gleamed. ANTI-TOXIN and TEEN ANGST are a very nice pair, but the rest are ho-hum. I did love some of the cluing, esp. on MOAT (54D: It's water under the bridge) and ATTACK ADS (61A: Spots that might smear). I also loved the clue on "CLEOPATRA" (58A: Only highest-grossing film of the year that lost money), a legendary over-budget and mediocre-to-bad film. Also, coincidentally, the first drink I ordered last night was called an "Elizabeth Taylor"—probably for the color more than anything, although it also smelled good (I'm imagining Elizabeth Taylor did too):

[Shout-out to Lost Dog Cafe]

Most confusing clue was 42A: Bit of bronze (TIN). I get that bronze is an alloy made of TIN and other metals, but "bit" implies something discrete and countable. Also, confronted with [Bit of bronze] and T-N ... well, TAN seemed like a perfectly good answer.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Rippled and lustrous / THU 8-25-16 / In a comfortable position / In a state of entanglement / Gymnastics position

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: THE ROAD TO HELL—The road to hell is a PAVED ROAD, paved with GOOD INTENTIONS, and the road spans this crossword grid diagonally.  Hell is a single square rebus. Literally. Also ST BERNARD may be responsible for the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"

 Theme answers:
  • PAVED ROAD (6A: What the circled squares in the puzzle symbolize) 
  • SEAS (HELL)/RAISE (HELL) (66A: Beach souvenir)/(49D: Cause a commotion), with the "Hell" getting rebus'd in the last box in the grid, and becoming the terminus of the PAVED ROAD
  • GOOD INTENTIONS (The circled letters; the pavement) 
  • ST BERNARD (65A: French abbot thought to have originated the saying depicted symbolically in this puzzle) 
Word of the Day: SLEEP SOFA (57A: Something pulled out before turning in)

• • •

Hi-- Lena here for a quick sub-in.  This is an awkward theme. See how awkward my theme description ended up being? Outside of the two longer theme entries being symmetrically placed in the grid, the sum of all the parts feels haphazard/clunky. I barely even realized that ST BERNARD was part of this puzzle's theme because when a clue starts with "French abbot" I immediately look for cross clues to bail me out and be done with it.

I didn't know (9D: Romanian composer George): ENESCU and the clue didn't even make me feel bad about since there's no "most famous/beloved/important" before "composer." In addition to being a great composer his surname is itself composed of great crossword letters. It took me a bit to get GREEN PEAS (18A: Goya or Del Monte product) because I was looking for "can" somewhere in the answer. Those companies don't produce peas, they produce canned/dried/frozen  peas. I had another production issue with (47A: Where many drafts are produced) BAR-- I get it, but "produced" is weird and ultimately doesn't make the clue witty/funny to me. Even if the answer was about cold air coming through a window, I wouldn't say "brrr this window is producing a draft." Why not go with "flow?" Drafts flow through windows and flow into glasses. Windows are made of glass... lots more opportunities for cleverness if you ditch the stuffy "produced." It's Thursday, go nuts.

I liked the conversational SNAP OUT OF IT (30A: "Focus!") right before HERE I GO (38A: Announcement after a deep breath)-- very cinematic. Also BE THERE (42D: "Show up... Or else!").

I got RONCO (15A: Brand with a trademark on the phrase"Set it and forget it") right away, but definitely didn't remember that the phrase referred to an in-home rotisserie! I thought it was an egg timer or something but no, it's a tricked out toaster oven that fits two (TWO!) chickens inside.

Perhaps RONCO is also responsible for the SLEEP SOFA (57A: Something pulled out before turning in)? The answer didn't give me any technical difficulties but I certainly hadn't heard that abbreviated form of sleeper sofa before.

Crossword staple SOD gets a clever clue here (21A: Soccer coverage?) and we get a better-than-average "first letter spelled out" clue for VEE with (8D: Village leader?). GITMO gets a pretty neutral clue, huh (39D: U.S. Base in Cuba, for short). While, sure, it's literally a base in Cuba, it's also a place where people are tortured and detained and *that* is what it's known for. Don't be coy.

<record screech> Oh wow, POGS (6D: 1990's fad)! I was the right age for POGS but the wrong kind of kid (the only time I was bullied to my face by my peers was when I asserted that Vivaldi is more talented than New Kids on the Block-- BAD MOVE, LENA). I definitely side-eyed POGS just like NKOTB-- they're just ugly pieces of cardboard. I was about to specify that I was referring to the POGS but:

The puzzle gets a B from me because it's the first day of college for many and you gotta set the bar high-- at least for the first few weeks. Gotta write a few SEE MEs. I really don't like the single rebus square move, the ST BERNARD trivia adds no fun, and while I do like the visual of seeing a road lead straight to hell the rest just isn't tight enough or challenging enough.

Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

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