Heckelphone lookalike / FRI 5-29-15 / Steel brackets with two flanges / 1998 coming-of-age novel by Nick Hornby / Setting for hawthorne's marble faun / Ben who played wizard in wicked / First high priest of Israelites / Broadway chorus dancers informally / Arabian port home to Sinbad Island

Friday, May 29, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium or Brutal, depending

THEME: none

Word of the Day: EYE RHYMES (36A: Four-hour tour features?) —
eye rhyme
  1. a similarity between words in spelling but not in pronunciation, e.g., love and move. (google)
• • •

Wow, this did not end well for me. I have not come that close to not being able to finish an NYT puzzle in a long, long time. I can't remember how long. I was cruising along just fine—felt like a pretty normal Friday, difficulty-wise—and I was thinking, "well, it's not the greatest Patrick Berry puzzle I've ever done, but it's pretty good." So all was right with the world. And then, just as I was closing in on the finish line: disaster. Specifically, this:

Actually, when I took this picture, I had already gone forward and come back a few times. I actually had (the correct) GOT TO (34A: Really affected) and (the correct) HATCHES (37D: Sub entries) written in initially, but since I ended up utterly unable to solve any of the remaining answers with those answers in place, I pulled them. Now, as you can see, I should've (as I eventually did) pulled back even further. ASS is wrong. It's APE. And that's part of what is completely brutal about this little patch of answers there in the west-center. If you are familiar with the term EYE RHYMES, then there's a good chance that none of the surrounding stuff gives you any trouble. But if EYE RHYMES is an utter unknown to you (as it was to me—I've been teaching poetry for twenty years and cannot ever remember learning or seeing the term), then all those crosses become lethal. Cluing -SOME an "adjective-forming suffix"!? That's sadism. Cluing GYPSIES as "Broadway chorus dancers"? What? Why would you call them that? I can't even reconcile the image in my head when I see GYPSIES with the image in my head when I see "Broadway chorus dancers." Throw in the easy-to-mess-up APE/ASS issue, and you've got a near knockout punch.

[Busta Rhymes]

I honestly thought I was dead. EYER- couldn't be right … and yet there was no way around it. And EYERH- … that just looked like crazy talk. Weirdly, the *only* way I managed to pull out of it all was to imagine suffixes (staring with "S"?!?!?) that could make adjectives. I just stumbled into -SOME. Tested it … it worked with GOT TO … and then ASS became APE and I was done. The "?" clue on EYE RHYMES … that's the most obscure term in the grid (even if you don't think it's obscure, there's nothing in the grid that's obscurer), and you put a "?" on it? Talk about your Unsatisfying Experiences. How can I know how clever the "?" is if the term itself is meaningless to me?

But perhaps the moral of the story is: "don't give up" or "be patient" or "hang in there, baby." I was done for. I was so done for, I stopped to tweet about how done-for I was. But I waited the puzzle out and scratched and clawed my way up from an F to, like, a D. Good enough!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Writer Osnos of New Yorker / THU 5-28-15 / Technology inside Kindles / Savoriness in Japanese / Palo Alto-based car company / Duke's ride / Star Wars whistler

    Thursday, May 28, 2015

    Constructor: Jeff Chen

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

    THEME: ALTERNATION (54A: Duke's ride + slowly = this puzzle's theme) — theme clues refer to three different answers: the first + second answers alternate letters in the grid, combining to create a third answer, which is what's clued on the other side of the "=" sign; actually, I guess the theme is EVEN / ODDS (33A: With 34-Across, 50-50 chance … or a hint to answering six equations in this puzzle). It's really more ODD / EVENS, since the first addend starts with square 1, then square 3, etc., but whatever:

    Theme answers:
    • CELLO SUITES (16A: Hits hard + famed spokescow = some Bach compositions)
    • RAIL PASS (20A: Rends + word of regret = commuter's purchase)
    • CIA SPIES (22A: Cloak + Egyptian deity = some spooks)
    • BLUETITS (48A: Rear + floral rings = colorful birds)
    • FREE MEAL (50A: Relief org. + stagger = soup kitchen offering)
    Word of the Day: CLERISY (1D: Intelligentsia) —
    1. a distinct class of learned or literary people. 
      "the clerisy are those who read for pleasure" (google)
    • • •

    This theme is a kind of curiosity, but it's not very compelling. It has no personality. The theme answers have nothing to do with each other. Answers occasionally feel contrived (CIA SPIES) or highly arbitrary (BLUE TITS). Needs another level of … something … to be good. The theme is both the easiest and least interesting part of the puzzle.  Honestly, the theme is like one of those one-star (difficulty) Games magazines puzzles, shoe-horned into a grid. Diverting little bits of wordplay, but not worth building a whole Thursday puzzle around. The theme is dense, but because it does not take much thought to figure out, and because it's not funny or otherwise engaging, our attention turns more to the fill, which sputters. What's worse, it sputters *and* it's made tougher than usual (to make up for the easy themers), so you have to work harder, but the results are the results, and they include ATTA ETTA CUEIN AYS NSC UAE ARTOO … the justly reviled two-H version of AHH … and the horrid-masquerading-as-hip E-INK (28A: Technology inside Kindles). There were some entertaining bits, and it certainly had enough bite for a Thursday, but no cleverness, no humor, no real cohesion, so not much to be gladdened by. Plus (side note) how does no one, from the constructor to the editor(s) to the proofreaders, pick up the REAR dupe (it's the answer to 42A *and* the clue for half of 48A)?!

    Here's where I figured out the basic gag:

    Here are some things that I thought might need explaining:
    • 5D: Good name for an R.V. inhabitant? (STU) — STU = the letter string between "R" and "V" … so STU "inhabits" an "R.V." question mark? Get it!? Yeah, you get it.
    • 17D: No longer available, as a book: Abbr. (OOP) — this stands for "Out of Print." How could you not know this, you illiterate jerk? A gimme for all the members of the CLERISY, no doubt.
    • 39A: Jumper line (HEM) — I know "jumper" as a sweater (Brit.) (also NZ), but here it's a collarless, sleeveless dress typically worn over a blouse.
    • 24D: Writer Osnos or the New Yorker (EVAN) — like you, I have no idea who this is. And I subscribe. :(
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. two days til this!:

    Go here for more info!

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