Old RR watchdog / FRI 4-28-17 / Ollie's friend on old TV / Oenophile's pride / Communication service since 2004 / Literally highest city / Highway through Yukon / Hundu aphorisms

Friday, April 28, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: AMARYLLIS (59A: Producer of re-and-white blooms) —
Amaryllis (/ˌæməˈrɪls/) is the only genus in the subtribe Amaryllidinae (tribe Amaryllideae). It is a small genus of flowering bulbs, with two species. The better known of the two, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of the Western Cape region of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest area between the Olifants River Valley to Knysna.[2] For many years there was confusion among botanists over the generic names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum, one result of which is that the common name "amaryllis" is mainly used for cultivars of the genus Hippeastrum, widely sold in the winter months for their ability to bloom indoors. Plants of the genus Amaryllis are known as belladonna lily, Jersey lily, naked lady, amarillo, Easter lily in Southern Australia or, in South Africa, March lily due to its propensity to flower around March. This is one of numerous genera with the common name "lily" due to their flower shape and growth habit. However, they are only distantly related to the true lily, Lilium. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very fast for a Friday. Not record-setting (I'm never at peak speed when I solve first in the morning), but fast. I've largely given up trying to go fast on themeless puzzles. These puzzles tend to be more interesting and enjoyable than the themed puzzles (not true for all puzzles, but definitely true for NYT puzzles), and I don't like the feeling of frustration that can come about from trying to blaze through a puzzle that's designed to be tough. Ironically, or predictably, I still end up solving fast, perhaps faster than if I got into "speed" mode. It's like a lot of things—if you just relax and let the [whatever] come to you, see the [whatever] clearly, don't get ahead of yourself, etc., you'll do very well. Anyway, this puzzle was just plain easy. Only thing I can imagine really holding back a regular solver are (as usual) some proper nouns ("SEXY AND I KNOW IT," e.g.) or specialized terms (I suck at flower names less common than, say, "rose," so AMARYLLIS required a lot of patching from the crosses). Everything else–zoom.

[Phife DAWG]

I enjoyed this one. Solid, if not scintillating, with only the odd ZAK or ENTR' or ALCAN or ANI or ICC gumming up the works. Seriously, wtf is ICC? I'm honestly just seeing it for the first time right now, as I type this... Hmm, google tells me it's the "International Cricket Council," and since I hope nevvvvver to see this answer in a puzzle again, I'm just gonna take google at google's word and move on. Here are the (very few) trouble spots for this puzzle:

In the NW, that was just the usual getting-started issues. Wanted LOCO at 1A: Cuckoo and then really really really badly please-God wanted COZY at 1D: Homey. But no. It was the "Homey" I thought it was. After that, I tore through the grid, with a slight "wha?" at ENTR' (32A: Intermission starter?) (from "ENTR'acte" ...) and from wanting only RIMS OUT at 25D: Doesn't stay in the hole, as a ball (BOUNCES OUT). "In the hole" is colloquial, as is RIMS OUT. BOUNCES OUT is not. BOUNCES OUT is a common enough phrase, but the part of my brain that likes clues to be good / consistent just jammed there for a second. I worked it out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. there's no way that was the original clue for GENTLEMAN'S CLUB (19A: Site where top hats and canes might be checked at the door). No way. None. A simple google search will tell you what a GENTLEMAN'S CLUB really is. The ones nearest you will be right at the top. Pretending you're not talking about strip clubs somehow makes the clue even bro-ier, even more snickering-boy immature. You like tits in your puzzle. Great. At least own it.

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Believer in Ethiopian Zion / THU 4-27 / First commercial film with stereophonic sound 1940 / Afghanistan's third largest city / Longtime New Yorker writer Pauline / Long-running tv drama started in 2003

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SUDOKU PUZZLE (8A: With 67-Across, what the circled part of this crossword represents) — the CENTRAL / SQUARES (1A: With 68-Across, the circled part of this crossword) form a sudoku-type puzzle, with the letters R, A, T, and E instead of numbers.

Word of the Day: Cinnabar (27D: Cinnabar, e.g. => RED) —
noun: cinnabar
  1. a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulfide. It is the only important ore of mercury and is sometimes used as a pigment. [emph. mine]
    • the bright red color of this; vermilion.

      "the blood coagulated in cinnabar threads"
• • •
"I HATE YOU, PUZZLE!" Actually, I have no such strong feelings today, but I do like that little embedded scream there in the SW corner. I have no interest in SUDOKU. Don't get it. Also, don't like the perpetuation of the idea that anyone who's into crosswords must be into SUDOKU. Like we're just pleased to be filling in boxes. SUDOKU is pure logic. The same kind of logic. Over and over and over, with no connection to culture, humanity, etc. No thanks. You guys have fun, but no. Anyway, this puzzle is what it is. Conceptually, I guess it works, but there's one thing I sincerely don't understand: what is CENTRAL / SQUARES doing in this puzzle? Like, at all. That is a whole lot of theme real estate given over to words that are completely redundant and (thus) unnecessary. I can see that the squares are central, in that ... they are circled. There. In the center. The SUDOKU / PUZZLE part tells me to look at those manifestly "central" squares, and tells me what they are. I really thought CENTRAL would tell me about the puzzle somehow. I see that the four letters are all inside the word "CENTRAL," but ... nope, I don't see a pun or trick or anything (unless... that *is* the trick?). The letters in the Sudoku grid are R A T and E. I don't know why (except those are handy letters to use if you're going to run a bunch of answers together). I do know that CENTRAL / SQUARES is not needed here, at all.

This grid was a kind of crosswordese showcase. I mean, any time you can see EIRE *and* ERSE in the same grid, that's a museum-piece puzzle you've got on your hands. Here were some lowlights:

"BACK AT YA" would make great fill. "AT YA" on its own, nope. "NUM" ugh—that bit of garbage actually ended up affecting my solve, as I went for CAP Lock (crossing PTL!?) instead of NUM / MTM, and that made the whole NE kinda hard to get into. PSSST is ridiculous, of course, unless you would also accept PSSSST, PSSSSSST, and NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Speaking of no, ONO. Hawaiian fish? Nice try. All you did was make me have to work (albeit slightly) to get the same old musician / performance artist we always see in the grid. Fun fact: the fish in question is known generally as "wahoo" (WHEE!). "Many Hispanic areas of the Caribbean and Central America refer to this fish as peto." So ... look for PETO in your grid next, I guess.

  • 27D: Cinnabar, e.g. (RED) — total road block, this one. Had no idea what "Cinnabar" was. Could think only of Cinnabun and Edna Ferber's "Cimmaron." Even with RE- in place, I had to get that last letter from the cross. 
  • 11D: Numerical prefix (OCTO-) — oy, not only is this bad fill, the clue doesn't even bother trying. It just sits there sullenly going "I don't know ... just guess ... not my problem ..."
  • 52A: "Inner-city" for "black," to some people (CODE) — hey now! What's this? Hello. Looks like the puzzle woke up and found some attitude. More of this insightful sass, please. (I think "urban" is the more common CODE now, but I'll accept "Inner-city" on Marvin's behalf)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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