Casio game / SAT 8-23-14 / Refusal from boy lass / Arm from Mideast lad / Margarie might be described thus / Covered with slug mud / Mesa prerequisite / Sci-fii character remembered for her large bus / Part of euro

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


Word of the Day: BACCARAT (3D: Casio game) (so … [Casino game])—
Baccarat (/ˈbækərɑː/French: [bakaʁa]) is a card game played at casinos. There are three popular variants of the game: punto banco (or "North American baccarat"), baccarat chemin de fer (or "chemmy"), and baccarat banque(or "à deux tableaux"). Punto banco is strictly a game of chance, with no skill or strategy involved; each player's moves are forced by the cards the player is dealt. In baccarat chemin de fer and baccarat banque, by contrast, both players can make choices, which allows skill to play a part. Despite this, the winning odds are in favour of the bank, with a house edge no lower than around 1 percent. (wikipedia)
• • •

A slog, but not a hard slog, just … like walking through mud. You know you can do it, it's clear you'll make it to your destination, but the whole process is just somewhat slow and possibly unpleasant. The whole concept here is so arbitrary that I just didn't get it. I mean, I guess there are some cute N-less clues, misdirecting you now and again, but the thing is, once you grok the theme, they aren't cute—I'm no longer seeing their surface; I'm just scanning for a place to drop the "n." So maybe I was supposed to laugh at something like [Refusal from a boy lass], but that didn't happen. I guess the main variable here is "how long did it take you to figure out the theme?" Time to discovery is going to vary Wildly, I'm guessing. But once you do pick it up, you can (surprisingly) pretty much immediately fill in the "theme" answers (directions! who doesn't love those! I mean, me, but who else!?). The instructions are astonishingly literal. There is not twist, turn, or punchline (that I can see). You just go through the motions until you are done. Grid is decent but unremarkable. I feel slightly ripped off—this should've been a Thursday. I want my hard themeless Saturday back.

I could tell very early on something was off—as I'm sure was the case with virtually everyone. None of the clues make sense without the "n"s, after all. But [Hardly ice outside] tipped me off that there'd be letters missing in the clues (though when and where, I didn't know). And then … [Kat's "I"] … I didn't know what to do with "Kat," but figured ICH had to be right, or might be right. Then I "confirmed" it with MANIA for 1A: Rage. But then I also, off the "C" in ICH, managed to get PEACE for 14A: Quiet parter?. Then I began to see the "n"-ness of it all, and started fixing and adding answers accordingly. NE probably gave me the most trouble, but none of it was very hard after I understood the theme. Slower than normal, but only because of the added step of having to supply the damned "n" in every clue.

  • 20A: Arc's target, maybe (XTC) — Even when I knew that I was dealing with a "Narc," this was hard to get, as I had the "X" but didn't know the drug Ecstasy, or "X," was spelled that way. To me, XTC is a band. A great band.
  • 11D: Margarie might be described thus (ERSATZ) — this was the troublemaker in the NE—I had the terminal "Z" but could Not think of a word describing margarine that fit the bill. Also, I don't think that is how the name "Margery" is spelled. I see from googling that the name (as spelled) exists, but yuck.
  • 33D: Doe, e.g. (POET) — I liked this one. Simple, elegant, massive change in apparent meaning. (The clue should be [Donne, e.g.], of course) 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld / Mayor of Simpleto


1963 Pulitzer winner Leon / 8-22-14 / Brand of bait pellets / Juan's sweetheart / Dos little words / Member of great quintet / So-called Helen of West Indies / Raise crops on Plains maybe / Literally fire bowl / Killing star Mireille

Friday, August 22, 2014

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Medium (maybe slightly tougher)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: DRY FARM (45D: Raise crops on the Plains, maybe) —
dry farming
A type of farming practiced in arid areas without irrigation by planting drought-resistant crops and maintaining afine surface tilth or mulch that protects the natural moisture of the soil from evaporation.
• • •
Decent effort here. Gave me a little more trouble than a Friday usually does, almost entirely because of the SE corner. Is it YANK ON or YANK AT, which White House nickname, which Mideast president, what is DRY FARM, etc.? Nothing in the NW corner gave me much trouble, and virtually everything in the SE did—so much so that when I was done, I had an error, and only after I'd methodically checked every answer (and I mean Every answer: all the Acrosses and all the Downs) did I finally arrive at PAS … which is the French word for "not," but NOT the Spanish word for "peace"; that would be PAZ (63D: Guerra's opposite). I never did like EZER in my grid (like EDEL, as well as EDER (not pictured), it's pernicious name-crosswordese), and while I like him slightly better in his full-name form (67A: Mideast president who wrote "The Battle for Peace," 1981), I apparently can't spell his name. Went with WEISMAN. But no. I also didn't know "RAGA rock" was a  thing, got stymied by the tough/good clue on PART I (53D: Epic start), and want to punch LA-Z in the face with all my might (61D: ___-Boy). Until an L.A. sports team called the Zippers comes along, and they are depicted "on the scoreboard" as LAZ, I never want to see that "answer" again. Thank you.

What is a BBQ SANDWICH? I'll admit I don't eat much meat, but I assumed that, with BBQ, the meat … was named … somehow. "Want a BBQ SANDWICH?" "Sure. [takes bite]." "You like it?" "Mffyeah … shsgood … [chew chew]." "It's rat." "[spit take]!" Thus concludes my mystery-meat BBQ SANDWICH skit.

SE corner aside, this puzzle was full of things I'm quite familiar with, for better or worse. I knew FRANK GEHRY—I've been to the very distinctive, lovely hall mentioned in the clue (30A: Walt Disney Concert Hall designer). I got IBN and TE AMO and MPEG and INO and DCON and LIRR and LYE and ENOS and 3/4 of EDEL (22D: 1963 Pulitzer winner Leon) so easily that I kind of wanted to high-five myself a few times, mid-solve. Except for GEHRY and possibly DEEP THROAT (47A: "All the President's Men" figure) and eventually BLISTER PACK (60A: Pill holder), there wasn't a lot that excited me. But overall, this is fairly solid work.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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