French Sudan today / MON 11-24-14 / Longest river wholly in Switzerland / Shopaholic's indulgence / Beermaking knitting

Monday, November 24, 2014

Constructor: Robert Seminara

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (I mean, yes, easy, but a couple places gave me trouble, which virtually never happens on Monday)

THEME: ROFL (36A: Texter's expression spelled out by the starts of 18-, 28-, 46- and 59-Across) — ROFL stands for ROLLING / ON the / FLOOR / LAUGHING (hence sometimes styled as "ROTFL")


Word of the Day: COZEN (16A: Deceive) —
coz·en  (kzn)
v.  coz·enedcoz·en·ingcoz·ens
1. To mislead by means of a petty trick or fraud; deceive.
2. To persuade or induce to do something by cajoling or wheedling.
3. To obtain by deceit or persuasion.
To act deceitfully.

[Perhaps from Middle English cosinfraud, trickery.] (
• • •

My first question was "do people still text that?" though I'm guessing that the answer is someone, somewhere still does. Having a texting expression as the revealer gives this puzzle a patina of up-to-dateness, though nothing else about the grid feels very hip or modern or contemporary at all (nice contemporary clue on SCOTLAND, though) (40D: Site of a 2014 vote for independence). I'm currently having a back-and-forth with another constructor about ROFL vs. ROTFL (the version of this same expression that includes the "T" for "the"). ROFL and ROTFL mean the same thing, essentially, as far as I can tell, so I don't see the big deal, but his/her point is that ROTFL is a better revealer—you've got a "the" in your answer, and you say your revealer "expression" is "spelled out by the starts" of the answers, then you should have the "T" in your revealer (since it's right there in the theme answer). ROTFL is more precise. Here, "O" stands for "On the," which is at least a little odd. In the texting expression ROFL, the "the" is elided, but when you get into claiming that something is "spelled out" in the puzzle, now you're on shakier ground. ROLLING / ON / FLOOR / LAUGHING is spelled, but that's not how you'd translate the expression. THE is in your theme answer, but it's not "spelled out" in your revealer. Still, I think the stakes are pretty low here, and I have no real problem with the theme's execution.

I don't know what FLOOR MIRRORS are, and don't think I've seen them in dressing rooms. Are they free-standing, just sitting on the floor? Seriously, I've seen lots of mirrors in dressing rooms, but they're always affixed to walls. Anyway, with no hope at the FLOOR part of that answer, that west section all of a sudden got really hard. Had CMI and TAT and *nothing* else west of LEO. Couldn't get any of the Downs from their first and last letters alone. If I hadn't known ROFL, well, LOL. But I knew it, and things fell into place. Got slowed down by weird AGO clue (60D: "Give it A GO!"), and the pretty awkward cross-reference at 59D: See 58-Down (LAB). Rest of puzzle was OK, though it felt safe and old-fashioned. Tepid. Grid is highly segmented, loaded with short fill, and short on interesting stuff (except BEDSORE, which literally made me say EWW…) (24D: Long-term hospital patient's problem). I like the digital spirit of this one, but overall it's just about average.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Rent character Marquez / SUN 11-23-14 / Headmaster honorific / Five-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner / Poem in our eyes per Emerson / Chinese company whose 2014 IPO was world's largest in history / What Gustave Dore's Confusion of Tongues depicts

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Surround Sound" — theme answers are wacky two-word phrases where first word is completely aurally subsumed by the tail-end of the second word. First word is disyllabic in every case:

Theme answers:
  • RANDOM MEMORANDUM (23A: Office missive sent out arbitrarily?)
  • GRANITE POMEGRANATE (30A: Stone fruit?)
  • LUNAR BALLOONER (48A: Aeronaut who's headed for the moon?)
  • ROTC PAPARAZZI (66A: Photographers who stalk future lieutenants?)
  • PEWTER COMPUTER (84A: Desktop machine made of malleable metal?)
  • MENTIONS DIMENSIONS (101A: Provides some idea of an object's size?)
  • COLLIE MELANCHOLY (113A: Lassie's affliction after failing to rescue Timmy?)
Word of the Day: ASUNCIÓN (37D: South American capital) —
Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Asunción (Spanish pronunciation: [asunˈsjon]GuaraniParaguay) is the capital and largest city of Paraguay.
The Ciudad de Asunción is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, called Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San LorenzoFernando de la MoraLambaréLuqueMariano Roque AlonsoÑembySan AntonioLimpioCapiatá and Villa Elisa, which are part of the Central Department. The Asunción metropolitan area has more than 2 million inhabitants. […]
It is the home of the national government, principal port, and the chief industrial and cultural centre of the country. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a passable theme, but I expect more than "passable" from Patrick Berry. Way, way more. To be blunt, Patrick Berry needs to be, minimally, Very Good, every time out. The overall quality of the NYT is really riding on a handful of stalwarts who are capable of producing puzzles of a very high order. Wentz, McCoy, Gorski, Chen, Steinberg, Berry … these people just can't fall down or even trip on the job. They have too much of other people's mediocrity to make up for. Unfair? Of course. But that's the current reality of the NYT crossword. There are definitely some good moments in this puzzle—the acronymic use of ROTC (i.e. relying on how it sounds, not how it's spelled) is inspired , and the clue on COLLIE MELANCHOLY(113A: Lassie's affliction after failing to rescue Timmy?) is genuinely hilarious. But MENTIONS DIMENSIONS and RANDOM MEMORANDUM just lie there. Too much real estate to give over to boring answers, especially in a puzzle whose theme is so basic that it really Needs to be great at every turn.

There were times when this felt like the easiest Sunday I'd done in a while, and other times where I got oddly bogged down by a single word or small handful of them. Turns out I am capable of confidently spelling neither MEMORANDUM (considered -EM ????) nor POMEGRANATE (somehow thought maybe there was another "N" in there just before the "G"; again ????). OXFAM is familiar to me after-the-fact, but during-the-solve, it was nowhere. Needed nearly every cross. I somehow wrote in MOAN at 98D: No longer standing tall? (MOWN), which really stopped me at the end, as I considered TAITTER as an answer to 108A: Feed supplier (good clue for TWITTER, btw). Given a five-letter answer starting with "I" and given the clue [2006 World Cup winner] the only (and I mean *only*) country I could think of was INDIA, which, I was 99.7% sure, was wrong. When I got ITALY, I laughed. Sorry, ITALY. Forgot about you. Also forgot Jessica Simpson's sister's name, mostly because I forgot about Jessica Simpson, who (like her sister) hasn't been relevant for years. Anyway, ASHLEE is spelled thuslee, which caused some minor confusion in the south.

Had LEAD for LEAK (73D: Boon for an investigative journalist), and then RHYME for 45D: What some dreams and themes do (RECUR). I guess I just ignored the "some" in that clue. My bad. But the worst struggle I had was in the NE, where SALE TAG for NAME TAG (16D: Retail clerk's accessory) really gunked things up. Had LILI for MIMI, EASE for WANE, and thus EOLAN for 14D: George Eliot, but not Marilyn Manson (WOMAN). And then I just sat and wondered what the problem could be. Eventually pulled SALE from SALE TAG. Then NAME TAG leapt forth and all the surrounding right answers popped into view. Happy 195th birthday to George Eliot, by the way. Read Middlemarch for the first time this past summer and Loved it.

    Some quick announcements:

    First, though I haven't done all the puzzles this week, I am going to give a Puzzle of the Week nod anyway, this time to Andrew Ries and his latest Aries XWord puzzle, "Symbol Synonyms." Neat gimmick, where all-caps clues are single words which can be reimagined as a Periodic Table abbr. + clue word, which combine to clue a familiar phrase. Thus, [AUGUST] is the clue for GOLD RUSH (AU = gold, GUST = rush, as of wind). [CURING] => COPPERTONE, [CAPE] => CARBON COPY, and [ALBUM] => ALUMINUM CAN. Andrew Ries's Aries XWord puzzles are available only by subscription, but said subscriptions are ridiculously cheap. You can solve free samples at his site. Definitely check him out.

    Next, I am very happy to plug Patrick Merrell's Kickstarter campaign for his graphic novel / puzzle project, "Zep: A Puzzling Adventure." Here's the pitch: "An action-packed tale of adventure, intrigue, and gadgetry for kids; a baffling, multi-step puzzle for adults hidden in the art." Patrick is a professional cartoonist as well as a professional puzzlemaker, and the project looks genuinely fantastic. Read all about it, see samples, and watch a short (adorable) video at his Kickstarter page. Seriously, do it. It's worth a look. The project is a Kickstarter Staff Pick! His book's got a hidden puzzle! An Evil Dr. SUMAC! What's not to love?

    Lastly, a plug for the country's newest significant crossword tournament, The Indie 500, brought to you be a crew of some of today's best young constructors: Erik Agard, Evan Birnholz, Peter Broda, Neville Fogarty, and Andy Kravis (all of whom run independent puzzle sites of their own). The tournament will be held for the first time in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 2015. But more than plugging the tourney itself, I want to call attention to the fact that they are accepting puzzle submissions from novice constructors (with no more than 10 published puzzles) to fill the last slot on their tournament puzzle slate. Eligibility requirements are right here. So mark it on your calendar and, if you're relatively new to constructing and think you've got a great idea for a tournament puzzle, consider submitting. I know all the people running this show, and their collective skills and professionalism are legit. Go. Solve. Do. Fun.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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