Lower leg woe, slangily / FRI-7-31-15 / Turn awkward, as a relationship / "reading room"

Friday, July 31, 2015

Constructors: James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson

Relative difficulty: Easy, I bet, but I was getting up and making martinis and drinking them so it took me an hour

(I do my puzzles on a clipboard, issued forth from a printer with chronically low toner)

Word of the Day: KATY (45A: "___ Bell" (Stephen Foster song)) —
             From http://www.3goodcats.com/katybell.htm:
   Stephen Foster wrote many of the popular songs* in 19th-century America.  I didn't know it when we named our cat, but Stephen Foster wrote the music for an 1863 song called "Katy Bell."  You can listen to it, and if you're as interested as I was, even find the lyrics as well.

* - The most famous:  Oh! Susanna; Camptown Races; Old Folks at Home [Swanee River]; My Old Kentucky Home; Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair; Beautiful Dreamer.

• • •
It's like someone rubbed deodorant all over my printer paper because this puzzle is so fresh. AUTOTUNE, GET WEIRD, ONLINE AD and... CANKLES. Look, I know everyone says something like this in their lifetime but I coined the term "cankles." In college. 2005. It was me; I was the first. I am both proud and ashamed because it's really not a nice thing to say at all, but apparently the term has made its way into one of our most prestigious publications. See, there was this girl who was pretty mean and I didn't like her and she had calves that just wouldn't quit in the downward direction. It was before we started Googling everything we think to make sure it's an original thought so I was almost certainly the first person to portmanteau that shit.

Hi, by the way. I'm Lena: the girl who coined cankles. OH HEY LOOK OVER THERE

It's a Hawk! It's a Pelican! No, it's a CAGER. Womp womp. Sports terms, especially ones like that, are not readily within my KEN, as you can see here at the point where both my glass and mental wellspring went dry:
HULA SKIRT was my first entry, leading to DRAG SHOW and all those goodies in the NW. Then onto the NE, where everything made a pleasing KERPLOP when dropped in-- except STAY DRY. Why? Because my brain parsed it as a noun, like a "lean-to" and I thought WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS? SOME BRITISH THING? "Let us all have a huddle under the stay-dry and sip Pimm's until this thundershower passes." I was still rankled by the time I got to 28A (a tyre may rub against one) and can only think of one word when it comes to Brits and rubbing and it's not KERB, it's "frot." Look it up, as my mother used to say to me. Still does.

Moving right along, I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed this puzzle. Even the little things, like STAB for (5D: Whack). Not that we served KETEL ONE at the fancypants bar (it was that fancy) I worked at a few years ago, but I should have known that way sooner than I did. It would have prevented me from putting in SEASONAL instead of the correct IN SEASON... wow I am getting boring or what?

 Bad fill that peppers you like... bullets!
  • KEPI (35A: Gendarme's topper) — Nrrrgh
  • TKTS (30A: Times Sq. bargain booth)  — Nrrrrrrrrrgh
  • OONA ( 27A: Donald Duck cartoon princess) -- Nrgh
But that's it in terms of what I consider nrrghable fill! A very good puzzle to ring in the weekend.

BONUS: if there's a SNO BALL that has a strong chance in hell...
    Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld


    Something to meditate on / THU 7-30-15 / Whaling ship that inspired "Moby Dick" / Long vowel indicator / Ones in the closet?

    Thursday, July 30, 2015

    Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

    Relative difficulty: Pretty quick solve for me

    THEME: + the names of the sisters from Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"

    Word of the Day: MULLAHS (26D: Muslim V.I.P.s) — as the term is newsworthy today, which compelled me to find a historical definition.
    Muslim title generally denoting “lord”; it is used in various parts of the Islāmic world as an honorific attached to the name of a king, sultan, or other noble (as in Morocco and other parts of North Africa) or of a scholar or religious leader (as in parts of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent). The term appears in the Qurʾān in reference to Allāh, the “Lord” or “Master,” and thus came to be applied to earthly lords to whom religious sanctity was attributed.
    The most common application of the title mullah is to religious leaders, teachers in religious schools, those versed in the canon law, leaders of prayer in the mosques (imams), or reciters of the Qurʾān (qurrāʾ). There are no formal requirements for acquisition of the title, but normally persons called by it have had some training in a madrasah, or religious school. The word is often used to designate the entire class that upholds the traditional interpretation of Islām.


    • • •
    Hello, it's Ben Tausig! I'm editor of the American Values Club xword and am a professor of music so get ready for vids in this review. Nice to meet you.

    So, anyway, caveat, it is very difficult for me to be objective reviewing a Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle because BEQ is a legend and a friend. And I have little will to try in any case, so prepare for generosity and congratulations towards Brendan.

    Great job, Brendan! Brendan has written and continues to construct a staggering number of puzzles, and self-effacing though he may sometimes be, an extraordinary number of them are inspired.

    Real quick, here is a vid from a band, Parquet Courts, that Brendan turned me on to some years ago:

    "Little Women" has been thematically mined at least once, but afaik never to such effect. It's straightforward; MEG, AMY, BETH, and JO sneak into common phrases to yield silly phrases. To wit:

    Theme answers:
    • TOUGHNUTMEG (17A: Hardy brown spice?)
    Decent entry, workmanlike clue
    • BIGAMYBUSINESS (28A: Company that will get you a second spouse?)
    Great entry
    • MACBETHNCHEESE(44A: Extremely tacky production of a Shakespeare play?)
    Moderate ding for the "n," which feels like an orphan in the silly phrase, but good surface sense
    • TRAVELBANJO (57A: Country instrument played by a migrant?)

    Here's a vid from Kurt Vile, who I know Brendan likes:

    I caught the theme quick, after landing TOUGHNUTMEG and seeing BIGAMY at the beginning of the next theme entry. Adding MEG can't signal too many closed sets, and the presence of AMY suggested BIGsomething as a base phrase.

    That made ALCOTT (45D: Creator of the characters added in 17-, 28-, 44-, and 57-Across) a cinch. I hit some snags, though, including the tough vocab pockets of AGATES (11D) and MACRON (44D), and JAMUPS, which is a word but not one that rolled off my typing fingers. I also had a blind crossing, my fault I'm sure, at the junction of ANNA (62A: Actress Gunn of "Breaking Bad") and VAL (58D: Cartoonist Mayerik who co-created Howard the Duck), neither of whom I know. This was exacerbated by the fact that I'd entered HEED rather than HEEL (65A: "Follow"). Here's what it looked like before I realized that there probably wasn't a person named VAD or VID or VED:

    Here's some stuff that reminded me of Brendan and made me happy:
    • PABST (48D: "The way beer was meant to be" sloganeer, once) — Brendan enjoys beer references.
    • PLUGUGLY (3D: Downright homely) — Classic BEQ; familiar, resonant, cool letter sequence. 
    • ENO (2D: Musician who coined the term "ambient music") — Brendan, as mentioned above, enjoys good music. I'm not strongly confident that Eno actually coined this term, although the attribution is common. I'm finishing Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century and am reminded how long sonic texture and atmosphere had been vital principles in western music before Eno put his spin on the idea.
    • AMP (25A: Booster for a band) 
    Here's ENO's "Music for Airports"; his catalog, remarkably, justifies his ubiquity in crosswords:

    Signed, Ben Tausig, person of puzzles. Say hi on Twitter @datageneral or @avcxwords


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