Ancient undeciphered writing system / SUN 3-25-18 / Legal vowelless Scrabble play / Outlay that cannot be recovered / Anthropomorphic king of Celesteville / International conglomerate whose name means three stars

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Follow the Sun" — theme answers have SUN in them, and when the answers get to SUN, the SUN goes down (sets?) in the west (!) and goes up (rises?) in the east ... just like the actual ball of sky fire!

Theme answers:
  • MEGATSUNAMI (26A: Catastrophic event that can be caused by a gigantic earthquake)
  • ACTORS' UNIONS (56A: Hollywood labor groups)
  • ETATS UNIS (98A: Amérique)
  • E PLURIBUS UNUM (102A: Only words on the front of the Great Seal of the United States)
  • MONKEY'S UNCLE (68A: How someone in awe might describe himself)
  • GOES UNDER (29A: Folds, as a business)
Word of the Day: PEDUNCLE (60A: Plant stalk) —
  1. the stalk bearing a flower or fruit, or the main stalk of an inflorescence.
      a stalklike part by which an organ is attached to an animal's body, or by which a barnacle or other sedentary animal is attached to a substrate. (google)
• • •

The theme was very easy to figure out—circling the SUNs gave (probably) far too much information away. Once I realized (at second themer?) that the circles were just gonna be SUNs, the difficulty level of the puzzle dropped considerably. I guess you sort of had to wait to figure out that the SUNs went the other direction in the eastern portion of the grid, but ... not really. That was pretty self-evident—themer heads east, hits a circled square, then heads ... in whatever the direction the circled squares god ... then heads east again. Mostly very intuitive, though occasionally my brain forgot that once you reach the "N" in the SUN, the answer zags back east again; I spent at least a little time wondering what a MEGATSUNG and a ETATSUNNI were. I've never heard of a MEGATSUNAMI (aren't regular ones pretty, uh, devastating), and I don't really believe that there are ACTORS' UNIONS, plural, in Hollywood (there's SAG, and then .... ?). Not too jazzed about PEDUNCLE at all (?) let alone the fact that it pretty much doubles the UNCLE content in that exact portion of the grid. Also the clue on MONKEY'S UNCLE is weird—it really needs some reference to the "I'll be" part of the phrase for it to make real sense. The clue (68A: How someone in awe might describe himself) almost sounds like it's asking for an adverb (?). It's awkward all around there. And yet I don't really care. I mean, the SUN thing is cute-ish, but mainly it's just A Theme, and the enjoyment resides in the rest of the grid, which is really pretty lovely. SUN up, SUN down, fine, but, REAL TALK, the rest of the grid was mostly a joy to move through.

The grid provided lots of happy moments, fill-wise, and how often do I say that? (A: not very). Even the ridiculous stuff (i.e. plural EARTHS) was making me laugh (87A: Planets like ours, in sci-fi). Creative cluing! Make it work! I HEART KUSHNER and AS SEEN ON TV and IT'S ON ME and T MINUS ZERO (!) and I think NERF WAR is fantastically made-up but sure, go ahead. At least it's made up in a way I can imagine. DON'T TELL! PROM DATES! MIC DROP! The grid was working, everywhere. Sun, shmun, this grid was fun. Shout-out to the great clues on ARMHOLE (21A: Sometimes hard-to-find shirt opening) (we've all been there...) and UNWED (103D: Not taken seriously?). I realize that last one is pretty gam-o-centric (or marriage-biased, if you're less lexically adventurous). I'm sure there are people who are taken (seriously) who are not married. Still, throw in that "?" clue, and the clever word play, and I'll allow the normativity at work here. PEDUNCLE seems like something you'd call a dangerous-to-children ... uncle. I really, really don't like any part of that word. Just trying saying it out loud. Is it peDUNCle? PEEduncle? Podunk + uncle, it sounds like.  Let's burn it and bury it and then not mark its grave and never speak of it again.

My greatest Defy-My-Age moment was plunking down NEYO at 49D: R&B singer with the hits "So Sick" and "Mad" ... but then my Nah-You're-Old moment came when I realized I didn't know how to punctuate his name. I knew there was a hyphen, but was not sure where it went (dead center, it turns out: NE-YO). I don't think KPMG is "good" fill (73A: One of the Big Four accounting firms). Totally uninferrable letters. I didn't even know the concept of a Big Four existed among accounting firms. That sounds like some accountants got a little drunk and full of themselves and said "you guys ... you guys ... you guys let's form a club, you guys!" Can you name the other three of the Big Four? I bet over half of you can't name even one without looking it up. Price Waterhouse, is that one? ... holy Krap, I'm right! Woo hoo, wild guessing FTW! Here, read about how it used to be the Big Five. And the Big Six. And before that, the Big Eight. Oh the exciting times you will have reading about this illustrious history of self-important naming!

PS Thanks to everyone who got into the streets yesterday to protest gun violence and lax gun laws. Here are some pics from the Binghamton march (photos courtesy of my wife)

 [moment of silence at the memorial for the 13 people shot and killed at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, NY, in 2009]

And here's a pic of my daughter and her friends in D.C.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Avian epithet fo Napoleon II / SAT 3-24-18 / Rhyming nickname for wrestling Hall of Famer Okerlund / Oper historic concert hall in Frankfurt Germany / Oldl Tv show set on Pacific Princess / Sitcom mother portrayer 1987-97 different show 2002-05

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (except SW corner, which was kind of harrowing)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Ferdinand de LESSEPS (37D: Ferdinand de ___, developer of the Suez Canal) —
Ferdinand Marie, Vicomte de Lesseps GCSI (French: [də lesɛps]; 19 November 1805 – 7 December 1894) was a French diplomat and later developer of the Suez Canal, which in 1869 joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas, substantially reducing sailing distances and times between Europe and East Asia.
He attempted to repeat this success with an effort to build a Panama Canal at sea level during the 1880s, but the project was devastated by epidemics of malaria and yellow fever in the area, as well as beset by financial problems, and the planned de Lesseps Panama Canal was never completed. Eventually, the project was bought out by the United States, which solved the medical problems and changed the design to a non-sea level canal with locks. It was completed in 1914. (wikipedia)
• • •

Usually love Byron puzzles, but this one was a little wobbly, a little too full of stuff that seemed odd, indulgent, and just not interesting to me. EPICISTS? GOPER? The NW corner didn't do much to endear me to this one. I have read Homer. I have taught Homer. I was reading the beginning of the Odyssey just this morning. Literally never heard anyone ever refer to him as an EPICIST. It is barely a word—this kind of esoterica makes me make faces when I solve. GOPER is slightly better, but not much. I guess people say that. Dunno. CLEVER DICK does nothing for me. I have never heard it and likely never will again. British slang that hasn't crossed over in any way? Shrug, not into it. MOTTLERS? Again, a specialty thing outside my ken. Then there's ALTE Oper (??), SIR SPEEDY (??), and LESSEPS (???), none of which I have ever seen before. So mainly the issue was that I just didn't know a lot of stuff. Lots of trivia. Trivia is not what I love about crosswords. There is some other good stuff in here, both answer- and clue-wise, but overall, this one didn't delight as much as I expected it would, other than the fact that it's always at least a little delightful to take a Saturday down in under 8 minutes.

I was so proud of myself that I got ALERT first thing (though I did have to think about it for a few seconds). TRADES RETILES EVITA and off we go. First real test came when I plunked down SLEIGHS at 11D: Haulers on runners (SLEDGES). I don't really know what SLEDGES are. I think they're like SLEIGHS. Hang on ... well, yeah, it's just a sled, and a sleigh is sled drawn by horses (or reindeer, I guess). Anyway, brief moment of chaos there while that answer sorted itself out. The only real Real resistance I got from this one came in the SW, where ALTE / SIR SPEEDY / LESSEPS / GMOS had me frozen. Oh, and ANGLOS for 39D: Whites didn't come easily either. Everything but LESSEPS had inferrable letters, though, which saved me, ultimately. KATEY SAGAL and CASSIS got me traction in the SE, and after a MAB-for-MUM mistake (34A: Queen ___), I was able to muddle my way through MOTTLERS and on to the end of the puzzle.


I feel bad for Napoleon II, as EAGLET does not exactly convey ... power (23A: Avian epithet for Napoleon II, with "the"). Maybe he was just Adorable and never grew taller than 4'2"? Wouldn't you say "HEY, Y'ALL" before "HI, Y'ALL"? I'm way out of my depth with southernisms, but something about "HI, Y'ALL" feels weird. I loved MEAN GENE even though I have no idea who the "wrestling Hall-of-Famer" (really?) Okerlund is. I just like rhyming nicknames. Like Mean Joe Green. The Round Mound of Rebound. Hakeem the Dream. Etc.

Best of luck to everyone at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this weekend. Also, love and respect to all the kids (including my own daughter) who are participating in the #MarchForOurLives in D.C. and all over the country today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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