Romanian Rhapsodies composer / WED 7-30-14 / Karmann classic German sports car / Rapper with 3x platinum single Hold On We're Going Home / Dress smartly in old parlance / Turbo Tax alternative for short

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Constructor: Jean O'Conor

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Recluing kitchen stuff — items found in the kitchen are clued ("?"-style) as if they are not items found in the kitchen, but some other items altogether.

Theme answers:
  • COOKIE SHEET (17A: List of user IDs?)
  • MEASURING CUP (22A: Undergarment fitting device?)
  • CAN OPENER (30A: Jailer with a key ring?)
  • MICROWAVE (43A: Hardly an attraction for a surfer?)
  • CUTTING BOARD (49A: Directors in charge of downsizing?)
  • CHAFING DISH (58A: Attractive but annoying date?)

Word of the Day: "Cookie" (COOKIE SHEET (17A: List of user IDs?)) —
cookie, also known as an HTTP cookieweb cookie, or browser cookie, is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while the user is browsing that website. Every time the user loads the website, the browser sends the cookie back to the server to notify the website of the user's previous activity. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information (such as items in a shopping cart) or to record the user's browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited by the user as far back as months or years ago).
• • •

The theme on this one holds up pretty well. The fill really should've been edited into much better shape. It's rough and musty all over the place. Clearly someone got in there mucked with the cluing at 54D: Rapper with the 3x platinum single "Hold On, We're Going Home" (DRAKE), a clue that stands out like a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake [simile stolen from Raymond Chandler] compared to the hoary quality of the rest of the clues. But rapping up one clue hardly constitutes serious editing. In America, we say "first grade," not GRADE ONE (55A: Elementary start). We also never say TOG UP ever. GHIA is horrible as a stand-alone answer (though KARMANNGHIA would be righteous). Many NEINS? Nein. Then there's your usual assortment of tired stuff like ISAO and ENESCO (the grid-friendlist 6-letter composer—can also be ENESCU: handy!). STELA SAXE OSAGES-plural. NUM! I mean, you've got two sets of cheaters* (SW, NE)—the fill in those tiny sections should at least be passable. How 'bout GHEE! GHEE is a thing. A real thing. GHIA wishes it were GHEE.

The theme clues felt a tiny bit tortured, though I got a kick out of the CHAFING DISH clue, for sure. Reasonable theme, weak fill. Pretty much par for the course, of late. Actually, a bit better than some of the stuff I've seen since returning from my time among the MAORI (6D: Most Cook Islanders).

One thing about the theme—seems like you could make a pretty funny Sunday-sized puzzle out of it. The options seem manifold, if not limitless: [Sex in southern Ireland?] (9), for instance.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*cheaters (or cheater squares) are black squares that do not increase word count, inserted primarily to make a grid easier to construct [today, black squares before 10A and below 12D, as well as their rotational symmetry counterparts]


Mujer of mixed race / TUE 7-29-14 / Rapper who hosted MTV's Pimp My Ride / Away from a chat program say / Noted filmmaker with dog named Indiana

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: Plants with animal names — First theme clue begins "Nursery worker's suggestion …" and then each clue simply follows the pattern "… for a ___"; nothing in the clues about animals, so that's just an added thing you have to figure out (after you figure out which kind of "nursery" the clue is on about, and after you figure out where the "first" theme clue is so you know what the first part of the theme clue phrase is, because w/o it, you've just got these ellipsis clues staring at you, which can be maddening …)

Theme answers:
  • SNAKEPLANT (18A: Nursery worker's suggest for a backstabber?)
  • CRABGRASS (3D: … for a grouch?)
  • DOGWOOD (36A: … for a scoundrel?)
  • WOLFSBANE (32D: … for a lothario?)
  • GOATSBEARD (57A: … for a fall guy?)

Word of the Day: MESTIZA (49D: Illusions) —
noun: mestiza; plural noun: mestizas
  1. (in Latin America) a woman of mixed race, especially the offspring of a Spaniard and an American Indian. (google)
• • •
At a minimum, it was interesting. And it was certainly way harder than the typical Tuesday, what with the rather complicated / double-unstated theme (unstated first because there's no clue tip to the animal angle, and unstated second because unless you know which theme answer is the so-called "first" one, all your theme clues are just partial clues). Seems like 3D should've been "first," in that it is closest to the upper left, where most people start, but there certainly is convention on the side of making the "first" theme clue be the first theme clue that appears in an Across position. Anyway, my first theme answer was SNAKE PLANT, a thing I've never heard of, so I just … had no idea what was going on. Eventually, after figuring out a bunch of themers via crosses, I could see that we were dealing w/ animal plants, and things got a tad easier. But then there was the whole XZIBIT (!) MESTIZA area, which is right hard for any day. I actually know both the rapper and the "mixed race" term, but the latter never dawned on me (til late) and the former … is he still somebody people know? Seems like he is solidly and completely bound in amber from circa 2003.

I fell into a horribly stupid self-made pit when, faced with --KEN at 64A: Wheelbarrow or thimble, in Monopoly, my eye took in only the first word and I wrote in (with what, in retrospect, was a weird amount of confidence) OAKEN. This did two things. First, it gave me a perfectly acceptable word at 58D: Spanish "that" (ESO—I had ESA); second, it gave me -IO as the last two letters of the rapper, and wham bam thank you COOLIO! Then things got ugly. Because just as I'd never heard of SNAKE PLANT, I'd never heard of GOAT'S BEARD, and the leap from "fall guy" to GOAT (given all the imaginative thematic nursery leaps I was already having to make) was pretty far. When I see "fall guy" I just see Lee Majors doing stunts and … what, solving crimes? Did he do that? I never actually watched the show.

So theme was … let's be generous and say "layered" in an "interesting" way. Felt a bit wonky as set up, clue-wise, and as I said, at least two of the plants meant nothing to me, so I didn't Love the theme, but the core concept holds up, and I rather like most of the fill. Except ICE FOG. I'm not fully convinced that's real. ICE stuff is like E-stuff, in that the puzzle keeps trying to sell me new products, and I just get increasingly skeptical. ICE TEA ICE RUN ICE AXE. I think I draw the line at ICEAX(E). OK, that's all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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