Bard of Gaelic legend / WED 1-18-17 / Boyfriend after breakup perhaps / Inept boxers in slang

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Constructor: Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: FAST BREAK (57A: Dynamic basketball sequence represented by the starts of 17-, 23-, 30-, 40- and 49-Across) —just what it says:

Theme answers:
  • BLOCK HEEL (17A: Platform sandal feature)
  • REBOUND GUY (23A: Boyfriend after a breakup, perhaps)
  • PASS JUDGMENT (30A: Render a verdict)
  • DRIBBLE GLASS (40A: Novelty shop buy)
  • SHOOT 'EM UPS (49A: Space Invaders and Asteroids, for two)
Word of the Day: SHOOT 'EM UPS (49A) —
Shoot 'em up (also known as shmup or STG) is a subgenre of the shooter genre of video games. In a shoot 'em up, the player character engages in a lone assault, often in a spacecraft or aircraft, shooting large numbers of enemies while dodging their attacks. There is no consensus as to which design elements compose a shoot 'em up. Some restrict the definition to games featuring spacecraft and certain types of character movement; others allow a broader definition including characters on foot and a variety of perspectives. Shoot 'em ups call for fast reactions and for the player to memorize levels and enemy attack patterns. "Bullet hell" games feature overwhelming numbers of enemy projectiles. (wikipedia)
• • •
I had to look up whether recovered BLOCKs were actually scored as REBOUNDs, and they are, so play on, I guess. As first-words-sequence themes go, I like this one fine. The theme answers themselves are also lively / unusual. I'd never heard of a BLOCK HEEL, though the HEEL part was easy enough to infer. The concept of the "rebound" in dating is familiar enough to me, but the phrase REBOUND GUY felt slightly off, like there was another "rebound" phrase more commonly used ... and yet I can't come up with it. I think of SHOOT 'EM UPS as westerns, and I played Space Invaders and Asteroids as a kid and literally never heard anyone call 'em SHOOT 'EM UPS. Love the phrase, but to this Gen X'er's ears, the '70s/'80s video game clue seemed INAPT. But again, basic theme concept here is sound and the answers generally pleasing. The fill on this one is a mixed bag. Excellent pair of Downs in the NW corner (I'm partial to olde-timey sports slang, and PALOOKAS definitely fits the bill) (2D: Inept boxers, in slang). Most of the rest is just OK, but there are several pretty awful parts. I consider SECADA (21A: Jon with the 1992 hit "Just Another Day") and OSSIAN (35A: Bard of Gaelic legend) desperation fill, and there shouldn't have been any need for desperation today. And I consider SURETÉ beyond desperation (21D: ___ du Québec (police force)). You've fallen into the foreign word vat and can't get out. Not at all a commonly known word, even for someone like me who had many years of French in school. It *is* crossed fairly, but that SURETÉ / TEACUP cross held me up more than anything by far (36A: ___ Chihuahua (tiny dog)) . SECADA could easily have tripped me (his brief period of fame quite behind us now) but as I said: Gen X'er. Still listened to radio / watched MTV a lot in 1992. I know SECADA. Guiltily.


So, yeah, OK puzzle. If there hadn't been all this dumb Scrabble-f***ing around the margins of the puzzle, maybe the fill could've been stronger, but maybe not. Except SURETÉ, none of it was particularly egregious. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Tree-lined walkway in France / TUE 1-17-17 / Nubian heroine of opera / Makeup of planet Hoth / Deviate during flight as rocket / Deal with broken teleprompter say

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: A CARRIE / FISHER memorial puzzle (I think) — stuff related to her role as PRINCESS LEIA (53A: Iconic role for 2-/51-Down) in "Star Wars" (a title spelled out in the circled squares):

Theme answers:
  • CINNAMON BUNS (23A: Hairstyle for 53-Across, colloquially)
  • HELP ME OBI- / WAN KENOBI, / YOU'RE MY ONLY HOPE (18A: With 61- and 37-Across, famous line by 53-Across in [see circled letters])
Word of the Day: OLEAN (7D: Brand of artificial fat) —
Olestra (also known by its brand name Olean) is a fat substitute that adds no fat, calories, or cholesterol to products. It has been used in the preparation of otherwise high-fat foods such as potato chips, thereby lowering or eliminating their fat content. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally approved olestra for use as a replacement for fats and oils in prepackaged ready-to-eat snacks in 1996, concluding that such use "meets the safety standard for food additives, reasonable certainty of no harm". In the late 1990s, Olestra lost its popularity due to side effects, but products containing the ingredient can still be purchased at grocery stores in some countries. (wikipedia)
• • •

I want to pretend like this puzzle didn't happen, so I'm going to say only the bare minimum and then move along. Tribute puzzles should be great. Memorial puzzles should be especially great. Average, mediocre, OK—these are not good enough. The puzzle should kill, or it should not run. I suppose it's possible this puzzle was already in the pipeline (?) and they just ran it with a clue for her name that acknowledges her passing. But that doesn't seem too plausible. The whole thing feels slapdash. She's reduced to a single (albeit iconic) role; her character's hairstyle (from the original movie) (which I have never heard called CINNAMON BUNS—it's always "PRINCESS LEIA hair") is randomly thrown in, apparently just for symmetry (?); the circled squares are awkwardly close-to-but-not-quite centered (and aren't that impressive a trick to begin with); OBI-WAN is divided at the hyphen (!?); and the quote is out of order (again, for symmetry's sake). Throw in the fact that the fill quality is below-average (which is to say, Tuesday-average), and you have a puzzle that isn't really worthy of its subject. It's not tight enough. There's no real hook. The circled squares are just a tacked-on bit of artifice. CARRIE / FISHER was iconic for many reasons, and I wish more of those reasons were here, and that the core concept in general was just ... better. Tighter. As amazing as she was.


I like RAP DUO (9D: Rae Sremmurd, e.g.). It's probably important that you commit Rae Sremmurd ("ear drummers" backwards) to memory now, as it is likely to be the RAE of the future (if there must be one, and I assume there must). Take that ... Actress Charlotte of "Facts of Life" and ... Arctic explorer John! Aren't "old, neglected sweaters" MOTH-EATEN? I am having trouble buying MOTHY. Especially having trouble buying it on top of ALLÉE (garbage fill, esp. for a Tuesday, esp. w/ ALPE, ugh, already in the grid). And crossing OLEOLE (o-lazy) and FETTLE (!) ... maybe MOTHY belongs in that corner. It's certainly "neglected."

Bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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