Green spirit / SUN 8-28-16 / Taiping Rebellion general / Fastener with ring-shaped head / Mythical father of Harmonia strangely enough / Hit upside the head in slang / Cousin of lemming

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "The First Shall Be Last" — first letter of a word in each themer is moved to the end of the word, creating wackiness galore:

Theme answers:
  • RADAR ANGER (22A: Reason to scream "Why won't this damn thing locate airplanes!"?)
  • DAME CHEESE (23A: Honorary title in Wisconsin?)
  • SENATE IDEA (42A: "Hey, let's gather 100 people to enact laws and ratify treaties"?)
  • HEAR PERLMAN (50A: Listen to violinist Itzhak's music?)
  • SPRITE DE CORPS (65A: Soft drink favored by the Marines?)
  • ASSUMED AMEN (79A: Church response that's taken as a given?)
  • INSIDE OPED (87A: Newspaper essay on why not to go outdoors?)
  • THANE ALLEN (108A: Woody playing a medieval baron?)
  • IM'ED NOVELS (110A: Books written entirely in chat rooms?) 
[UPDATE: I just found out there is an "unofficial" metapuzzle element to this thing. I did the write-up without knowing this (how could I know?) so keep that in mind. If you want to figure out the meta for your self, don't look at the very end of this write-up—I'll add the answer in a P.S.] 

[The meta answer is a nine-letter word] 

[please disregard Everything I say in the write-up about the theme being loose] 

[Again, why on god's green would you keep this hidden from the solving public, WTF?]

Word of the Day: DOPE SLAP (82D: Hit upside the head, in slang) —
A corrective action that consists of the following:
  1. Take open palm.
  2. Deliver slap directly to the back of the skull.
  3. Optional: Ask some variant of "What are you, stupid or something?"
The Dope Slap is a (generally) lighthearted slap (or knuckle tap) to the back of the skull that is intended as a disciplinary move by one character when another character does, says, or even thinks something that is uniformly stupid, or just to shut them up. The slap is almost always in some way played for laughs; think of it as an attempt at Percussive Maintenance on somebody's brain, and thus occasionally overlaps with Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!. Another variation is a "shut up" poke to the ribs with the elbow. Finally, it may also be performed simply by making a slapping motion in the direction of the target, without any actual physical contact occurring. (
• • •

This Pasco kid is everywhere of late—or so it seems. He won two different divisions at the most recent Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament (which I missed because my beloved 14-year-old dog was sick, [frowny face]), and he is the constructor of the most recent American Values Club Crossword—a meta puzzle that kinda puts today's puzzle to shame (both of them Sunday-sized, but the AVCX just far more clever and much more fun to solve). I mean, this puzzle is fine, but it's pretty ordinary NYT fare. This is how I now think of the difference between the NYT (the self-styled "best puzzle in the world") and the AVCX (the actual best puzzle in ... well, the country, let's be reasonable; what do I know from "the world"?): the NYT does what it does and what it's been doing for a quarter century-ish, and it does it, most days, relatively well. At least competently. It's certainly still the best daily (though WSJ makes a run at it many days). But for sheer ingenuity and cleverness and especially for pure solving pleasure, the (once-a-week) AVCX is the best thing around. So this puzzle is a victim of its constructor's own success (seriously, you should do his "Girl, Interrupted" AVCX puzzle—it's pretty sweet; and you still have til the end of today to solve the meta and enter the contest).


This move-a-letter concept feels old, even if the results are occasionally very funny. Sometime first word, sometimes last word ... so conceptually loose as well. Hey, there's a DOPE dupe (sort of ... play on the phrase "inside dope" and then the answer DOPE SLAP, which ... only barely qualifies as a thing, and is certainly not a thing I've ever heard in my increasingly-close-to-half-a-century's existence). Speaking of near dupes, LAO-TSE and General TSO in the same grid? Those two aren't allowed anywhere near each other. The fill on this is very average, and when it's not, it stands out in not-great ways (see DOPE SLAP). EYE BOLT is pretty original, but it's yet another thing I've never heard of. Honestly, sincerely, I thought it was a term for a piercing, like ... a facial piercing of your eye ... lid? brow? Something. At any rate, puzzle was quite easy except for the SW corner, where all the Downs were hard for me, and I thought BAAS (uck) were MOOS and I thought Robert HAYS was Robert something else, possibly RIES (?), and SALES DAYS is blarghy. I do like ABSINTHE though (79D: Green spirit). A lot. But usually just as a rinse in a cocktail like a sazerac. Too much, and it's SANTA HAT time, in that I might literally put on the SANTA HAT that currently resides on one of the three dog sculptures in my living room.

All of you should find the equivalence of [Intellectual] and EGG-HEADED annoying. Uh, you're the Sunday New York Times Crossword, so who are you calling EGG-HEADED, anyway? Clue may as well have said [Like you, probably]. I would've respected it more. Lastly, re: clue on IM'ED NOVELS ... I don't think IM'ing has a very tight connection with "chat rooms"—I'm sure they are technically related, but the association feels thin, in that plenty of kids IM (or used to, when that was more of a thing) completely outside the context of "chat rooms" (a phrase which reeks of 1998). But an online chat is a form of instant messaging, and insofar as such IM'ing might take place in "chat rooms," I guess the clue is at least semi-valid. Feels imprecise, clumsy, and dated, but defensible. (I feel this about NYT clues not infrequently)


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. the answer to the meta puzzle is:

REAR-ENDED (a word formed from the moved letters in the theme answers, taken in the order in which they appear in the grid)

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Title princess of comic opera / SAT 8-27-16 / Monogram for Christ / Yasmina two-time Tony winning playwright / Political pundit Perino / Postcard printing process for short / Biblical name meaning exalted father / Set of seven countries informally / Way down in Wayne Manor /

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Constructor: Jim Page

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: IHS (58A: Monogram for Christ) —
In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and so among Catholics and many Protestants today), the most common Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, IHΣΟΥΣ, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ. (wikipedia)
• • •

Piece O. Cake, that is. My 1-Across Theory of Solving Difficulty continues to pan out, as today's 1A: Where to belt one down and belt one out (KARAOKE BAR) was completely transparent, and I ended up with a time in the low 6s. Saturday average is more in the 8-10 range. Today's puzzle made me miss yesterday's puzzle. I think this one has the slight edge as far as interesting quadrants (I liked the stacks in one quadrant yesterday, I like them in two today (NE, SE)), but the fill is kind of yucky. Like, the yuck is real yuck. Not just the sad, common yuck, but the "ew, no" kind of yuck. KETT yuck. REUNE yuck. SHEB yuck. Triple &%$^ing suffix yuck (-OIS *and* -EAN **and** -ATOR!? That is completely terrible. Massive deduction). Long Acrosses toward the center give this one some added sparkle. But, come on, ESCS are not "keys"; there is an ESC key on my keyboard. One. Singular. It is not pluralizable. See also ALTS and CTRLS and FNS. All the fun answers in the world won't matter if you're using some off-brand pseudo-Elmer's to hold it all together. Way too much junk short fill. Poor craftsmanship. Back to drawing board.

I had a couple moments of struggle, first in trying to get into the NE. No idea on IDA (22D: Title princess of a comic opera), so couldn't swing Acrosses into that quadrant. Had the bottom Acrosses, but it's really really hard to solve long answers from the back end (or can be ... statistically harder than solving them with same amount of information on the front end), so I stalled a bit. But NOV gave me OZONE HOLE, and then I slowly clawed my way into and out of that section. ATOR! [Most of the way through the alphabet?] Ugh. Also had issues with IHS / SQMI. And then I found the long Down clues in the SW all pretty hard. But the Acrosses weren't (I've actually listened to Brian ENO's "The Ship," so that was a surprise ENO-gimme). Done, ho-hum, moving on.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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