Camera named for goddess / WED 3-29-17 / Crisis time / 1974 hit with Spanish lyrics / Leather often treated to look like Morocco / Aromatic additive to natural gas

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Constructor: Jules P. Markey

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: MIDDLE AGE (34A: Crisis time, for some ... or a hint to each of the circled words) — circled letters in the "middle" of four answers are all words that can precede "age" ...

Theme answers:
  • ELECTRIC ENGINES (ICE)
  • LOST ONE'S MARBLES (STONE)
  • ADIRONDACK CHAIR (IRON)
  • MACHINE WASHABLE (NEW)
Word of the Day: ODORANT (38D: Aromatic additive to natural gas) —
noun
noun: odorant; plural noun: odorants
  1. a substance giving off a smell, especially one used to give a particular scent or odor to a product. (google)
• • •

This is poor on several levels. The basic theme conceit isn't stunning (circled squares in the middle of theme answers spell a bunch of things that have something in common, revealer does something hamfistedly punny, tada!—) but it's the kind of familiar, been-done-before, salvageable concept that should be able to get you to Average if you work at it—that is, if your themers are great and your hidden words make a tight set and are properly "hidden." And while you could argue that the themers themselves are perfectly fine answers (all 15s), beyond that, things fall apart. As I've said more, good craftsmanship standards in a "hidden words" puzzle like this dictate that the "hidden" word should touch all elements in the theme answers, i.e. normally, stretch across two words (the way ICE stretches across ELECTRIC and ENGINES in the first themer). But here, not one but *two* of these damned things fail here, and one fails terribly. At least STONE is "hidden" somewhere (between LOST and ONE'S), even if it does have MARBLES just hanging out there in the wind; IRON isn't even trying. It just sits inside ADIRONDACK, cleverness nil, CHAIR just waving from the sidelines. Further, and worse, the set of "hidden" words goes yes yes yes *clunk*, i.e. three actual "ages" and then stupid figurative crystal-wearing bad-music-suffused NEW. No. No to NEW.


The fill is the repulsively rich icing on this lopsided cake. I circled all the tired-to-bad fill and my puzzle printout has a nearly unbroken swath of ink all the way from the SW to the NE corner. Grid is very choppy, esp. toward the middle, and the three- and four-word onslaught gets pretty dire. Once again, I could tell before exiting the NW that things were going to be bad. It was slightly sad how easily I was able to put in the dreadful IREFUL / RELEE crossing. Puzzle's can't even sneak up on me with its blecchness any more. You can just say some of the lines straight across to get a feel for how bad the fill is. OBE EOS MCML!! POS POO RAS CEO! POO on top of "ERES TU," indeed. So, to sum up, workable concept, poorly worked, filled like a landfill.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Illegal pitching motion / TUE 3-28-17 / 18th-century mathetmatician who introduced function / Inspiring 1993 movie about Notre Dame football team / Tom who coached Dallas Cowboys for 29 years

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Constructor: Ryan Milligan

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: adjective --> adverb: relatively famous people have their adjective last names turned into adverbs, as they are imagined saying things in a manner befitting their last names

Theme answers:
  • 20A: "Sorry I'm in your space, it's a n actress thing," said GLENN CLOSELY
  • 28A: "Don't interrupt me on my radio show," said HOWARD STERNLY
  • 46A: "Gotta run, pop concert calls," said TAYLOR SWIFTLY
  • 54A: "Right to the point: You're beautiful, it's true," said JAMES BLUNTLY 
Word of the Day: ALDO Gucci (17A: Designer Gucci) —
Aldo Gucci (26 May 1905 – 19 January 1990) was the chairman of Gucci Shops Inc. from 1953 to 1986. He was the eldest son of Guccio Gucci, who founded the company bearing his name in 1921. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is out of a can. The Tom Swifty, one of the oldest and lowest forms of wordplay, has been used A Lot as the basis for crossword themes, both NYT and otherwise. I rarely like such puzzles at all, but I have seen them done with a certain degree of thoughtfulness and polish—where all the theme answers are thematically linked somehow, for instance (here's a WSJ one that Sam Donaldson did where all the answers are imagined as things a tailor might say). But this one just seems lazy—find (relatively) famous people with adjectives as last names; turn last names into adverbs; write wacky clue. You could do a lot of these. Judith Lightly, Martin Shortly, Jean Smartly, Barney Frankly, Christopher Crossly, Michael Sharply (wink), etc. Today's themers have nothing in common and the clues aren't that funny and The End. Also, the fill is middling to less-than-middling. It's a bust all around. In short, it's a Tuesday.


I saw people (well, person) on Twitter saying the puzzle was extremely easy. My time was totally normal. Theme felt mostly easy, but I had a bunch of little things slow me down slightly. DNA for RNA (31D: Material in strands), for one. Then somehow cluing DRAMA as a "class" made no sense to me and I needed every cross (9A: Class with masks?). Then I rediscovered that I can't spell SPORADIC (I used a "T" !?) (38D: Occasional). Do people really remember who James Blunt is? He strikes me as a one-hit wonder who is not at all on the level of the other theme answers, fame-wise. Also, his one hit is nothing I care to remember—like nails on the chalkboard of my soul. Wincingly cloying. It was massive, for sure. But that clue did not clearly point to a person when I first looked at it (54A: Right to the point: You're beautiful, it's true," said ___), and I imagine it will be the least familiar themer of the day for most folks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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