Title mankini wearer in 2006 film / FRI 2-24-17 / It is never too late to mend novelist 1856 / Celebrity astrologer Sydney / Bavaria per part of its official name / It's between Navarre and Catalonia / Once-ler's opponent in children's literature / Where Linear A script was unearthed

Friday, February 24, 2017

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Charles READE (16A: "It Is Never Too Late to Mend" novelist, 1856) —
Charles Reade (8 June 1814 – 11 April 1884) was an English novelist and dramatist, best known for The Cloister and the Hearth.
• • •

Very short write-up this morning, as I have to drive family members hither and yon, and *then* drive myself to the gym at 7:30am. Third day in a row of 60+-degree temperatures in the middle of winter, though, so I can't complain. I just gotta type kinda fast.

[BRITISH INVASION]

I loved this from (literally) square one. Part of that love was from a good first guess at 1A: Take a while to wear off (LAST), which I was able to confirm with the great and (today) heartening and defiant-seeming answer, LGBTQ (1D: Orientation letters?). And then, well, give me the "Q" in the pole position on a 15 and odds are I'm going to take off at good clip. Which is what happened. I had just woken up and was sitting here at my desk, creaky and still bleary-eyed, and still: zing bam pow. Done in under 5. Hummed along so easily I didn't even have to look at clue for DESI ARNAZ (10D: Co-star of a #1 TV show for four seasons in the 1950s); and (as with the "Q," above), plunking that "Z" down did wonders for helping me whip into and through the middle of the grid. I'm just gonna do some bullet points containing the only parts of the puzzle that even tried to block me.

Bullets:

  • WENDY (8D: Darling of literature) — this is "Peter Pan," right. Because baseball season is *right* around the corner, my only thought upon seeing "Darling" was "Ron" (he solves crosswords, look him up).
  • "DIG IN" (20A: What often follows grace) — had the "DI-" and couldn't come up with anything but "DI ... NER?" The gluttonous colloquialism "DIG IN" doesn't seem quite in the same register as the proper-sounding "grace," but the clue's accurate enough.
  • READE (16A: "It Is Never Too Late to Mend" novelist, 1856) — one of the crosswordesiest novelists there is. Get to know him. Or his name, at any rate; I've never read his stuff.
  • DODOS (25D: Pinheads) — as usual, I dropped the wrong DO- answer here at first (DOLTS). I also can never remember if the supplement store in the mall is GMC or GNC (40D: Co. with the longtime slogan "Live well").
  • OBESE (29D: Like cartoondom's Peter Griffin or Chief Wiggum) — Got the "O" and wrote in OVATE and was quite happy with that answer for a few seconds.
  • STIFF (45D: Joe Blow) — this was harder than any other answer by far. I think we get here by way of "working STIFF," but .... I don't know. "Joe Blow" makes me think of Snoopy, even though Snoopy's alter ego was, in fact, Joe Cool.
  • EXERCISE SCIENCE (44A: Workout area?) — Needed the LORAX (30D: Once-ler's opponent, in children's literature) to convince me that this was a thing. This means that almost all the high-value Scrabble letters contributed significantly to my speed-solving today. For that, I thank them.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Actor Turner of Hobbit / THU 2-23-17 / rose English heraldic emblem / Cohen who cofounded ice cream companyDomain of Horus / Home of all-vowel-named town Aiea / Toiletry brand whose TV ads once featured Supremes /

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Eeeeeeeasy


THEME: Number madness — asterisked clues have answers that don't seem right—they're actual phrases, but the first word (a number in every case) doesn't fit the clue, and stands where the "correct" word should be. Turns out that the number corresponds to the numbered square in the grid where you will find the "correct" word.

Theme answers:
  • THIRTY ROCK (3D: *1970s fad item) (30D = PET)
  • TEN PINS (28A: *Bulletin board fasteners) (10D = PUSH)
  • FORTY WINKS (9D: *Pulls a fast one on) (40A = HOOD)
  • TWENTY QUESTIONS (62A: *"Which weighs more — a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?" and others) (20A = TRICK)  
Word of the Day: porte cochère (43A: Establishments that often have porte cochères => INNS) —
noun
 Architecture
noun: porte cochère; plural noun: portes cochères
  1. a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through, typically opening into a courtyard.
    • North American
      a porch where vehicles stop to discharge passengers.
• • •

Hey, this is a nifty theme. I just wish it had been about 3x harder—maybe then I'd've been forced to figure out what the hell the theme even was. This thing was so easy that despite my having no idea what, exactly, was going on with the numbers-replacing-words gimmick, I finished in the low 4s, which is a sizzling Thursday time for me. There's just no resistance anywhere, and there needs to be for the theme to have any real in-game implications. Discovering the theme after all is said and done does not make for a great aha moment. But again, from a conceptual standpoint, as well as a purely architectural standpoint, this crossword is good. Clever and ambitious, with a grid that is very clean, especially considering the constraints of the theme (which are considerable). It must've been interesting to construct. Before the grid is constructed, the long themers all have lots of possibilities where the replaced word is concerned; that is, the THIRTY in THIRTY ROCK could in theory have pointed to any answer at 30D (or 30A, depending on how you made the grid) that fit the "___ rock" pattern. Here, it's PET, but in some alternate universe puzzle it could've been KID or ACID or whatever. Lots of options also for "___ pins." Fewer for "___winks" and "___ questions." Anyway, looks like it would've been challenging (and fun) to make.


OK, well, um, I don't remember anything about solving this, honestly. Hardest part for me to get into, and the place where I wrapped things up, was the west. Just couldn't back into ARRID from the clue (35A: Toiletry brand whose TV ads once featured the Supremes), and SKY was not at all what I had in mind for Horus (I kept thinking "TIME" ... but ... I guess not) (26A: Domain of Horus, in Egyptian myth). If I hadn't had the "Z" from ZELDA, ITZA might've been tough. If I hadn't had the "Q" from QUESTIONS, NIQAB might've been tough. But in both cases, I did and they weren't. PAEAN was hard. I kept wanting PSALM (52D: Song that might have hosannas). But virtually everything else was wicked easy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Episode 002 of "On the Grid," the crossword podcast I do with Lena Webb, is now available. And we're on iTunes now! Check it out.

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