Egg-shaped Hasbro toys introduced in 1971 / SUN 12-17-17 / Nighttime Cartoon Network programming block / Protagonist in Infinite Jest

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Oh, One Last Thing" — familiar phrases have long "O" sound added to end, resulting in wacky phrases:

Theme answers:
  • STIFF AS A BORDEAUX (24A: Comparatively strong, like some French wine?)
  • VANITY PHARAOH (40A: Egyptian leader obsessed with his appearance?)
  • NEW YORK MEZZO (43A: Certain Lincoln Center soprano?)
  • ROLLING IN THE DEPOT (63A: Shooting craps while waiting for one's train?)
  • I REST MY QUESO (85A: Comment from a cook who cools the cheese sauce before serving?)
  • KOSHER PICCOLO (89A: Woodwind that's O.K. to play?)
  • LOVE IS IN THE ARROW (104A: Cupid's catchphrase?)
Word of the Day: MIRA NAIR (44D: Director of 1991's "Mississippi Masala") —
Mira Nair (born 15 October 1957) is an Indian American filmmaker based in New York City. Her production company, Mirabai Films, specializes in films for international audiences on Indian society, whether in the economic, social or cultural spheres. Among her best known films are Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, the Golden Lion-winning Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay!, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (wikipedia)
• • •

What are we doing here? I mean ... what? Add-a-sound? That's it? What year is it? This was grating. I learned who MIRA NAIR is—that's the puzzle's one upside. I'm genuinely startled by the rest of it. Startle by how ambition-free it is. How 1998 it is. How not funny the theme clues are. Just startled. Also, a hearty "*&%^ you!" to 102D: Go forcefully (through). I had PLO_ and wrote in a "D" ... and then wondered how [Certain soft drinks, informally] could be DEDS. Wanted to change it to DADS (the root beer), but was 99% sure PHEROMONA was wrong. DEWS!? F*** that S***. Seriously, shove your skater-bro-speak nonsense. The puzzle had already lost me by this point, but finishing here, with this weird cross, took me from mere dislike to contempt. Don't get cute, especially when you haven't bothered to get serious about your *&$^ing theme in the first place. Man, I am swearing tonight. I care a lot. What can I say?

Misspelled PHARAOH, probably because of that stupid horse a few years back, and so that section of the puzzle got rough for me. Between the *G* SPOT and the MODEL *T*, parsing many answers in that area proved difficult. Also, I don't really know who LOUIS NYE is, though the name rings a faint bell (21A: Comedian who was a regular on "The Steve Allen Show"). MIRA NAIR, I absolutely did not know. The whole puzzle, I was thinking that "Mississippi Masala" was "Mississippi Burning" (1988, not 1991). Needed every single cross to get her, and still wasn't sure about it at all. Spelled HASEK like so: HACEK (90D: Goaltender Dominik in the Hockey Hall of Fame). Nope. I'm never ever sure if I've got the vowels right in AMIDALA. Can't believe anyone still knows what WEEBLES are (116A: Egg-shaped Hasbro toys introduced in 1971). They were advertised on TV when I was a kid and *I* forgot they existed. Really helped that for Saturday's puzzle I'd spent several minutes combing through Paul ANKA videos on YouTube (38D: Paul who sang "Lonely Boy"). I forgot that "Rolling in the Deep" was a thing, so ROLLING IN THE DEPOT was by far the hardest themer to pick up. But despite the proper noun trouble (all over), this was a pretty quick solve. Until PLOD / DEDS, that is. Ugh. Sundays, man.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


William Shatner sci-fi novel / SAT 12-16-17 / Creatures captured in Herclues 10th labor / De manera elsewise

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: "Marcus WELBY, M.D." (35D: TV M.D.) —
Marcus Welby, M.D. is an American medical drama television program that aired Tuesdays at 10:00–11:00 p.m. (EST) on ABC from September 23, 1969, to July 29, 1976. It starred Robert Young as the title character, a family practitioner with a kind bedside manner, who was on a first name basis with many of his patients (and who also made house-calls), James Brolin, as Steve Kiley, M.D, a younger doctor who played Welby's partner, and Elena Verdugo, who played Welby and Kiley's dedicated and loving nurse and office manager, Consuelo Lopez. Marcus Welby, M.D., was produced by David Victor and David J. O'Connell. The pilot, A Matter of Humanities, had aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on March 26, 1969. (wikipedia)
• • •

Now this is my kind of *Friday* puzzle. Even in blurry, just-woke-up mode, I was able to cruise through this thing in just over 6 minutes. In fact, it was so entertaining, so unfull of garbage, and so doable, that it woke me up in a gentle, pleasant way. In that sense, it functioned a bit like my morning coffee (which I haven't made yet). Easy Saturdays (that are also *good* Saturdays) are delightful things. I have often invoked the 1-Across Rule, which states that if 1-Across is a gimme, the likelihood that the puzzle will play Easy shoots way up. Today, I discovered the 1-Down Rule variant. With nothing in the grid, 1A: Extra-special delivery? was no help (nothing about that clue screams OCTO-!), but 1D: De ___ manera (elsewise: Sp.) (OTRA) was a gimme, even for this Spanish non-speaker, and then boom ANKA! And ANKA gave me two more Downs (TEAK! CHEN!) and zoooom, buh bye. Felt like no time before I went RAW FOOTAGE to PING to ZAPPA, 1, 2, 3. After a brief struggle with TEE UP (28D: Do some course prep?) and SEDGE (29D: Papyrus, e.g.), and a predictable RIP-for-RAP mistake, I was halfway done.

In poetry, there is a term for a strong pause in the middle of a line—it's called a "caesura." Well today, for me, this puzzle *definitely* had a caesura. In fact, the strong pause highlighted the grid's architecture—there are two halves (N/NE and S/SW) joined only by two relatively tiny passageways (roughly, the "P" in UVLAMP and the "T" in TAMALE). I moved quite freely through the N/NE half but then could not squeeze through either aperture into the S/SW. Seemed like every Mexican food item I knew started with "T" (46D: Taqueria offering), so no help there, and I thought bazaars would have TENTS (23A: Bazaar parts), so stuck there too. So I went from a sprint to a dead stop. But then I just inferred the "S" at the end of SHOPS and went from "no idea" to "ohh, right!" at 22D: Start of a fitness motto ("USE IT ..."). Then there was something about a mantis's EAR, and I was back in business. Zoom to the end.

PLEASE STAY doesn't sound like anything a "Courteous host" would say (11D: Courteous host's request). It sounds like something a desperate host, or potentially creepy date, would say. I can imagine contexts where a host might say that, I guess, but that clue still feels off. My only real objection, though, is to the YA in "WHERE ARE YA?" (47A: Informal question to someone who's late). That is baloney. If you're allowing that, you're allowing "YA" to sub for "YOU" in any phrase, anywhere, at any time. In fact, this incarnation of the YOU-to-YA thing feels particularly awkward. Formal sentence structure ... but then just "YA" thrown in there. "WHERE YOU AT!?" That's informal. "WHERE ARE YA?" does not have enough stand-alone cred to warrant that ridiculous spelling change. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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