Castle town in 1937 film / SAT 11-22-14 / Q preceder / Stowe antislavery novel / Moon named after Greek personification of terror / Fictional locale of John Wayne western / Classic sea adventure of 1846 / Grocery product with a multiply misspelled name

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none

Word of the Day: "RIO LOBO" (48A: Fictional locale of a John Wayne western) —
Rio Lobo is a 1970 American Western film starring John Wayne. The film was the last film directed by Howard Hawks, from a script by Leigh Brackett. The film was shot in Technicolor with a running time of 114 minutes. The musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith and the movie was filmed at Cuernavaca in the Mexican state of Morelosand at Tucson, Arizona.
It was the third Howard Hawks film varying the idea of a sheriff defending his office against belligerent outlaw elements in the town, after Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado(1966), both also starring John Wayne. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oh, well, this is more like it. Hold this up to yesterday's to see the difference between night and day. No, that's no good as a metaphor. First it's cliché and second it doesn't get at the quality gap here. How about "the difference between chocolate and carob." Not perfect, but closer, This grid has the same (high) word count as yesterday's, but the results are electric. This is partly because even though he's just a high school senior, Mr. Steinberg is an old pro, and partly because he didn't try to cram a "Q" into the grid just 'cause. (The second part of that sentence is related to the first part.) Here's what happens when your long answers, all the way around, are fresh and cracking—your less toothsome answers? Nobody cares. I don't like RRR or TARARA or EOSIN any more than you do, but they are *not* what I remember about this puzzle, not what I see when I look at this grid. I see an aggressively contemporary puzzle packed with "Z"s and "X"s and colloquialisms both fresh and "dated" (nice save on FOSHIZZLE there, David and/or Will). This is among my favorite D.S. themelesses, if not the best he's ever done.

["NO SOAP, Mr. Norton!"]

The SE felt a little makeshifty, as MIAMI AREA sets an odd "any city + AREA" precedent, and DROID RAZR … oh, that's a thing now, I see. Motorola (the name I normally associate with RAZR) "resurrected the RAZR brand for a line of Android smartphones" (per wikipedia). I see that there is one called the DROID RAZR MAXX—consider that particular gauntlet thrown, constructors.

I mostly breezed through this puzzle. You can tell that 1D: "The ___ the words, the better the prayer": Martin Luther was a comparative adjective, so I put in the -ER. Then when I couldn't remember the damn Fashion designer Saab's name, I saw 4D: "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" philosopher. Total gimme (HUME). I once studied in Edinburgh, so that might've helped there, but I think I would've picked up HUME from that title anyway. So then I remembered the Saab was ELIE, then I guessed the "acid" in the 2D "bleach ingredient" ended in -IC, then I easily picked up CECE (26A: Woman's name that sounds like a repeated letter) and RIB. Then SCRIBE. And I was off. One major, nearly fatal hitch. I hit a brick wall at the end, with the following holes:

  • WIIMO-ES (13D: Handy things in the game world?)
  • -U-E (29A: Turn off, maybe)
  • -A-ET (29D: David who wrote the screenplay for "The Verdict")
  • DEI-OS (37A: Moon named after the Greek personification of terror)

This caused me a very, very frustrating 45 seconds or so. WII MOVES? Is that a thing. That seemed the only possible answer, but a. it sounded stupid, and b. -UVE made no sense for [Turn off, maybe]. It makes no sense at all, actually. The moon answer, pfft. And I was never gonna get to MUTE from that clue. It's an oblique clue. I MUTE the TV while it's still on. You can MUTE the sound, I guess, but you'd say you MUTEd the TV. Anyway, no big deal—I just wasn't gonna get it from that clue with those letters in place. That left the screenplay guy. Somehow "David" and "screenplay" eventually triggered MAMET—a name I know well, but Not At All from "The Verdict," an early-'80s Paul Newman film I never saw. So I was in real danger of a triple-proper-noun beatdown there for a little bit. But then David MAMET saved the day.


    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Kinkajou's kin / FRI 11-21-14 / Country Girl memoirist O'Brien / Source of delicacy tomalley / Late legend in countdowns / Title woman of 1977 Neil Diamond hit / Novelist Shreve / State bordering Poland

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Constructor: Kevin Christian

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: LOCAVORE (57A: Farmers' market frequenter, maybe) —
    locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. One common - but not universal - definition of "local" food is food grown within 100 miles of its point of purchase or consumption. The locavore movement in the United States and elsewhere was spawned as a result of interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness becoming more prevalent. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Trying to pinpoint why this one was slightly dissatisfying, despite the presence of gems like BUTTDIAL and LOCAVORE. I think, with a word count this high (the themeless max of 72), there should simply be more gems, and there should certainly be a greater overall level of fill quality. The puzzle is by no means poor, but it felt adequate rather than carefully crafted. Every corner in a puzzle like this should feature at least one thing that is new and great. Nothing in that NW corner sufficiently offsets the crosswordesiest golfer and the world's worst [Footnote abbr.]. The words leading out of that section, NO CLASS and GNEISS, both made me slump a little in sadness (when I eventually got them, which was Not right away). PANED is a bit icky and I'll never understand the choice of "F" in the 31 square when so many other letters would've put you in a clearly preferable non-FAYS situation. (Wait … I'm being told this puzzle is a pangram … and … whaddya know, there's our only "F" ... [audible sigh] …). ET SEQ makes so much "sense" … now.


    I can't even continue writing about a mediocre puzzle when I am now aware that the mediocrity is clearly and directly tied to the stupid pangram stunt. Good night.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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