Activity for Hobbes / WED 8-24-16 / 1/100 of a Norwegian krone / VCR insert / Bronx nine on scoreboards / PBS documentary series since 1988

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Constructor: Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: FANTASY SPORTS (36A: Field of DraftKings and FanDuel ... or 18-, 23-, 52- and 58-Across?) — themers are fictional sports (all from within the genre of "fantasy," broadly defined)

Theme answers:
  • CALVINBALL (18A: Activity for Hobbes)
  • PODRACING (23A: Activity for Anakin Skywalker)
  • QUIDDITCH (52A: Activity for Harry Potter)
  • POOHSTICKS (58A: Activity for Tigger and Eeyore) 

Word of the Day: ØRE (59D: 1/100 of Norwegian krone)
The krone (Danish pronunciation: [ˈkʁoːnə]; plural: kroner; sign: kr.; code: DKK) is the official currency of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, introduced on 1 January 1875. Both the ISO code "DKK" and currency sign "kr." are in common use; the former precedes the value, the latter in some contexts follows it. The currency is sometimes referred to as the Danish crown in English, since krone literally means crown. Historically, krone coins have been minted in Denmark since the 17th century.
One krone is subdivided into 100 øre (Danish pronunciation: [ˈøːɐ]; singular and plural), the name øre possibly deriving from Latin aureus meaning "gold coin". Altogether there are eleven denominations of the krone, with the smallest being the 50 øre coin, which is valued at one half of a krone. Formerly there were more øre coins, but those were discontinued due to inflation // The krone is pegged to the euro via the ERM II, the European Union's exchange rate mechanism. Adoption of the euro is favoured by the major political parties, however a 2000 referendum on joining the Eurozone was defeated with 53.2% voting to maintain the krone and 46.8% voting to join the Eurozone. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a wonderful theme concept, neatly executed. I especially love the alchemy by which it takes something for which I have mostly contempt (FANTASY SPORTS) and turns it into a perfect revealer, turning the phrase away from the corporate synergy of ESPN sportbro culture and toward the world of human creative genius. OK, so "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" was not, itself, genius, but I think the "Star Wars" universe on the whole is a remarkable feat of imagination, and the same can easily be said for all the other works from which the theme answers come. Who doesn't love remembering "Calvin & Hobbes" or the work of A.A. Milne? Hell, I couldn't come up with either CALVINBALL or POOHSTICKS (without a lot of crosses), and I still loved discovering them. The fill is pretty good today, too. I have no idea what caused the constructor / editor to go with the perverse krone-related clue for ORE (crossword arcana at its finest), and even after googling I have no idea what "TV TAPE" is (1D: VCR insert) ... but those (and maybe ILO & UNCAS) are the only real rough spots in an otherwise smooth grid. One of my Twitter followers just now questioned the fairness of the UNCAS / ROSEN cross (53D: The last of the Mohicans, in Cooper's novel / 67A: Al who was A.L. M.V.P. in 1953). I sympathize, as I utterly forgot UNCAS (a non-great answer for sure), but even if you don't know ROSEN either, the "S" feels like the only realistic guess. But this is a good time to remind constructors: *Watch* your proper noun crosses.


Bullets:
  • 3D: The albums "Godspell" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," for two (SOUNDTRACKS) — that's a term I associate with movies, not stage productions, *but* ... since both musicals were turned into movies that did in fact have SOUNDTRACKS, I'll allow it.
  • 15A: Main ingredient in soubise soup (ONION) — "Thinly slice two Spanish onions, and cook ten minutes in one-fourth cup butter, stirring constantly. Add one quart White Stock III, cook slowly thirty minutes, and strain. Dilute three tablespoons flour with enough cold water to pour easily, add to soup, and bring to boiling-point. Then add one cup cream, and one tablespoon chopped green peppers, or one-fourth cup grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper." (The Boston cooking-school cook book, Fannie Farmer, 1918)
  • 64A: Texas landmark that shares its name with a tree (ALAMO) — a tree? That's news to me. After a lot of googling, I *assume* the clue is referring to the Rio Grande Cottonwood, which has "Alamo" as one of its familiar names, though it's very confusing, as the *Fremont* cottonwood is also known as the "Alamo cottonwood" ... Tree experts: have at it. (Well now I see ALAMO's just a *generic* name for "A poplar tree, especially a cottonwood." How disappointing)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Starchy substance found in some plant roots / TUE 8-23-16 / Soda brand introduced in 1924 / Bond player after Brosnan / Duchess of Goya subject / Many flower children these days / Aaron Burr Hamilton song with rhyming title

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium, leaning easy


THEME: SWIRL (60A: Ice cream feature represented four times in this puzzle) — four flavors of ice cream are "swirled" inside nine-letter blocks in the grid; from L to R, top to bottom: CHOCOLATE, RUM RAISIN, BUBBLE GUM, PISTACHIO


Word of the Day: INULIN (32A: Starchy substance found in some plant roots) —
Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides produced by many types of plants, industrially most often extracted from chicory. The inulins belong to a class of dietary fibers known as fructans. Inulin is used by some plants as a means of storing energy and is typically found in roots or rhizomes. Most plants that synthesize and store inulin do not store other forms of carbohydrate such as starch. Using inulin to measure renal function is the "gold standard" for comparison with other means of estimating creatinine clearance. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle was Easy + INULIN. That is some outlying outlierness, that is. Otherwise, things stayed on the easy side of Tuesday, which is impressive considering how big those NW / SE corners are. When I see that much white space in a themed puzzle, I expect a tougher-than-average experience. Not so today. I don't particularly like or even fully get the theme. CHOCOLATE swirl is a thing, but the other swirls are not, as far as a I know, so ... I guess it's just nine-letter ice cream flavors that are spinning. With no theme answers (besides SWIRL), this one just felt conceptually wobbly. As an exercise in easy themlessness, though, it was pretty enjoyable, with fill roughly 100x better than yesterday's. Leaving INULIN aside, there are only a smattering of ugly answers—well below my tolerance level. I really wish LOW-ENERGY had gotten the timely political clue it deserves, even if it would've meant mentioning a certain [choose one: a. DUMBO; b. SLUG; c. BEELZEBUB; d. HOSE] by name.


Bullets:
  • 39A: Gift in a relationship that's getting serious, maybe (KEY) — I have no idea what this means. What year is this from? Did you give him / her your house key? As a "gift"? I don't understand people.
  • 10A: Verbally attach (BASH) — had LASH
  • 58D: Seven Dwarfs' workplace (MINE) — recently watched "Snow White" as part of our ongoing "Watch All The Allegedly Great Movies" campaign. Have any of you seen it recently? It is so fantastically insipid, so intolerably boring, that we just shut it off half-way through. I'm sure the animation was a stunning achievement for its time, but as *movie*? Man, it does Not hold up. Her voice alone made me want to shut the whole thing down immediately. As I said elsewhere, it was like listening to Betty Boop's terribly boring cousin. Don't even get me started on the stupid MINE, where fully cut and polished gems just ... lie about. Intolerable. "Overrated" doesn't even begin to describe this movie.
  • 45D: Drug kingpin on "The Wire" (MARLO) — still haven't gotten around to this show. If it's a "Wire" clue and the answer isn't OMAR, I'm out. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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