Fishhook attachment / TUE 9-2-14 / Female students condescendingly / Hobo's accessory / Snoop Dogg for one since 2012

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Constructor: Ethan Cooper

Relative difficulty: Challenging (***for a Tuesday***)

THEME: COLLEGE EXPENSES (54A: What tuition and the starts of 17-, 22-, 37-(?) and 47-Across are):

Theme answers:
  • TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE (17A: Perfect illustration)
  • ROOM TO IMPROVE (22A: Unfulfilled potential)
  • BEER NUT (37A: Pub tidbit)
  • BOARD MEETINGS (47A: Gatherings in which C.E.O.'s are chosen)
Word of the Day: PLASM (5A: Blood component) —
'Plasma.' It just means 'plasma.' Apparently you don't gotta say that last 'a' at all. And here I've been saying it with the 'a' all these years, like some kind of time-wasting sucker...
• • •

Mixed but mostly positive feelings about this one. On the plus side, it's timely (university semester starts tomorrow for me, and likely many other tens of thousands of people), and the puzzle overall feels very fresh. Even something like "UM, NO"—it's like when I see a young person wearing something stupid, but wearing it with confidence and style, such that I have to admit I'd rather see said stupid piece of clothing than Yet Another Backward-Baseball-Capped generic-looking dead-eyed conveyer-belt rider wearing what everybody else is wearing. In this example, "UM, NO" is the stupid piece of clothing and, let's say, ULNA is the conformist clothing, and college is the conveyor belt. I just decided that "UM, NO" is a lime green boa. Anyway, this grid has a kind of style. It's up to date on what Snoop's been doing lately, but still finds time for OBOES, and it likes to keep tabs on both the recent Batman moves (NOLAN) and old-school film noir (HUSTON). Seriously, that NOLAN / HUSTON row is pretty cool.

On the down side, this puzzle thinks card tricks are MAGIC (!?) (48D: Card tricks, e.g.). Also, there's a 3x3 patch there in the SE that is almost entirely Ss and Es. The ELSE'S EOE ISMS cluster*uck is kind of gross. I'm grateful that MAXIM is clued as a word and not the idiotic lad mag, i.e. porn for people who are afraid to buy porn. Themewise, there are a few issues. ROOM and BOARD really should be in sequence. They don't travel well alone. Presumably one will buy more than one textbook. Also, since all the other first words of the theme answers are used in non-college contexts, you could've pulled your BOOK answer even further away from the whole college context by going with something like BOOKKEEPER or "BOOK 'EM, DANNO" or something. But that's not a very big deal. The big deal is the BEER NUT answer. This is the answer that divides me in half—the half that thinks "ha, cute, good one," and the half that thinks "ugh, yes, great, let's wink at how awesome it is to binge-drink and date rape and exacerbate depression and all the other unfortunately very real things that often happen when college kids meet beer." That latter half of me is the half that has a daughter going to college in four years. It's also the half that has to overhear dozens of dumbass conversations every week about getting wasted, having gotten wasted, and the prospects for what will become next week's Having Gotten Wasted.

Oh, also, one BEER NUT? Really? A single BEER NUT? When have you ever seen and or eaten just one BEER NUT? That's ridiculous. It's a brand. The brand is BEER NUTS. Also, baseball helmets have earholes, not EARFLAPs (41D: Batting helmet feature). The word "flap" implies a certain mobility, an ability to fold back or away. The word does not apply to baseball helmets. Or shouldn't. So thumbs up to youthful exuberance, thumbs down to the whole fratboy vibe with the BEER and the COEDS (64A: Female students, condescendingly) and the MAXIM (I've decided it's a lad mag after all, no matter the clue).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Socialite who inspired 1950's "Call Me Madam" / MON 9-1-14 / Carpentry spacer / Old politico Stevenson / 1957 hit covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968 / One of 1980s demographic /

Monday, September 1, 2014

Constructor: Allan E. Parrish

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (**for a Monday**)

THEME: TAMES anagrams (30D: Breaks … or an anagram of the ends of five Across answers in this puzzle):

Theme answers:
  • PERLE MESTA (17A: Socialite who inspired 1950's "Call Me Madam")
Word of the Day: PERLE MESTA —
Perle Reid Mesta (née Skirvin) (October 12, 1889 – March 16, 1975) was an Americansocialite, political hostess, and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg (1949–1953).
Mesta was known as the "hostess with the mostest" for her lavish parties featuring the brightest stars of Washington, D.C., society, including artists, entertainers and many top-level national political figures. (wikipedia)
• • •

I finished this in normal Monday time, but the times posted at the NYT website are running much more Tuesday than Monday, so I think this played slightly harder than usual. There might be many reasons for this. PERLE MESTA, for one. No one under 50 knows who that is. And when I say "50" I'm being generous. Clue is no help, as no one knows what "Call Me Madam" is either. Trust me. That's a rough Monday themer for the pre-retired set. I know her because of that one time I didn't know her and fell flat on my face. Since then I've seen either her first or her last name several times in puzzles. Never her full name, though, that I recall, so I almost want to give the puzzle credit for originality there. The theme in general is surprisingly rudimentary—the kind I'm surprised make the grade any more. Feels very MUSTY, to say the least (28A: Stale-smelling). The number of plurals necessitated by the theme makes the puzzle especially blah. And SSGT is bad enough in the singular. In the plural, it literally makes me laugh (49A: Army NCOs). I enjoyed the banks of 7s in all the corners, especially ZERO SUM ICECUBE (3D: Like a game with equal winners and losers + 2D: Drink cooler), which would make a nice band name or title for a dadaist sculpture of some kind. Fill is not terrible, but neither is it above average. It just is. This puzzle is. See you tomorrow.

Happy September.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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