Restaurant cook on TV's Two Broke Girls / FRI 3-16-18 / Fictional queen of Arendelle / Hepatologist's study / Product introduced in 1984 with ad titled 1984

Friday, March 16, 2018

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy (with a detour into Medium territory because I made one stupid mistake that it took me far too long to undo)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BEALE Street (42D: Memphis blues street) —
Beale Street is a street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, which runs from the Mississippi River to East Street, a distance of approximately 1.8 miles (2.9 km). It is a significant location in the city's history, as well as in the history of the blues. Today, the blues clubs and restaurants that line Beale Street are major touristattractions in Memphis. Festivals and outdoor concerts periodically bring large crowds to the street and its surrounding areas. (wikipedia)
• • •

HEMOPHILIA *and* ULCER *and* HEROIN ... Kind of a downer of a day at Crossword General Hospital. Beyond that, I thought the grid was pretty delightful. Pretty clean, with some interesting, lively answers. There's very, very little in the way of obscurity here, and the whole thing played very easy *except* for the part where I tried to come out of the west into the center / bottom of the grid. I should've just kept going right across the top, swept down the east coast, and then backed into the center and SW corner. In retrospect, that would've been pretty easy. But instead I tried to come through the VEGETARIAN / WINEMAKER nexus and got bogged right down. Why? Well, you kind of need VEGETARIAN and WINEMAKER to catapult or slingshot or other action verb you into the new sections of the grid if you're coming out of the W/NW.

And things looked good. Had VEGE- and WINE-, nice head starts on the front ends of both those answers. So what do I do? Well, first, and worst, I drop VEGETABLES into the grid. This doesn't *quite* feel right, but it fits. And then with WINE-, I ... just don't know. Since the clue is looking for an "authority," I am not not not thinking a wine producer. I'm thinking a wine aficionado, a wine enthusiast, a wine ... lover!? It fits. And that, my friends, is how you drop the ball. Hit the easy overhead smash into the net. Fumble on the five yard line. Again, choose your metaphor. I eventually figured it out (MIKES to -MAKER to MESONS, huzzah!), but given how fast I did the rest of the puzzle, that VEGETABLES fiasco took me from what would've been something like a record time to something like average.

Some of the cluing I could've done without. I have "F.U." written next to 14A: Partner of 5-Across (FREE) (it is not the "partner" of EASY as EASY is defined in its clue, 5A: "Calm down, ace"; so boo) and again at 4D: Where you might hear someone say "Duck!" (POND!? That scenario is preposterous. What are you, hanging out with sheltered 3-year-olds?). Clues on BIDEN (34A: 2017 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) and CHARON (44A: Largest moon of Pluto) were just [shrugs]—you gotta be able to do better than boring trivia clues like that. CHARON is the damned ferryman! Do some punning or wordplay or Something. My worst moment of the day (after The VEGETABLES Fiasco) was having -ARDEN at 40D: Make a bed? and having absolutely no idea what word that could be. I still can't see anything but HARDEN, even with GARDEN clearly written in there).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Tail-shedding lizard / THU 3-15-18 / Hebrew name meaning he has given / Frenzied trading floor metaphorically / Voltaire religiously / Sponge alternative

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Constructor: Joe DiPietro

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: THE IDES (38A: Date that provides a phonetic hint to four other answers in this puzzle) — today is THE IDES of March (?) and four answers begin with "I'D" so there are many "I'D"s ... in the grid ...

Theme answers:
  • "I'D TAKE THAT" (3D: "Sounds like a deal")
  • "I'D BE HONORED" (20D: "Yes, how nice of you to offer")
  • "I'D RATHER NOT" (15D: "Count me out")
  • "I'D BETTER GO" (30D: "It's getting late")
Word of the Day: BREN (11D: Air-cooled machine gun) —
  1. noun
    1. a lightweight quick-firing machine gun used by the Allied Forces in World War II.
• • •

THE IDES cannot stand alone like that. I have never seen or heard THE IDES given as a "date." "Hey, what's the date?" "Oh, it's THE IDES." Only in crosswords have I ever seen anyone posit that IDES might stand alone at all, as the midpoint of *any* month. If people know IDES it's in the phrase "THE IDES of March" and that is all. THE IDES, on its own, is a metric ton of preposterous. This puzzle was pretty easy, except for that "date." I had THE, and then THEI, and no idea how those letters might make a "date," and so I went from a lightning fast west half of the grid to a halting, awkward, slower east half—just because of the non-answer THE IDES. I was just lucky to know someone named NATAN, or moving in a connected fashion from the western to the eastern half of the grid might've proved totally impossible. There were answers and clues I liked in this puzzle (never heard BEAR PIT, but TAX DODGER (18A: One with a no-returns policy?), ELAINE MAY (60A: "A New Leaf" actress/director, 1971), and THE PILL (!) (42D: Sponge alternative) were very nice, but the themers almost all seemed misclued, or inadequately clued. ["Yes, how nice of you to offer"] sounds like someone offered you a ride home. Nothing about being "honored" in that clue. "I'D RATHER NOT" is at least somewhat less definitive an answer that ["Count me out"]. And "I'D TAKE THAT" barely sounds like something someone one would say at all. I see how IDES / "I'D"s is a cute thing, but the execution here, and specifically the stand-alone-ness of THE IDES, is kind of gruesome.

The fill in this one started out very rough. Tiny NW section gave me SUPE, POTTY and ETALII (ugh), and then NUTLIKE (??), so I was not hopeful, but the grid pulled out of its nosedive and ended up being reasonably clean and interesting, in the main. ROLLS DICE is not a phrase—the "THE" is kind of crucial if you want to sound plausibly human. And another day, another machine gun, I guess (BREN). This time, it's a machine gun from WWII that is just four letters long that somehow, in my god-knows-how-many years of solving, I've never seen. So we've gone deep into ancient crosswordese (I'm guessing) to bring you your machine gun today. On the day after UZI. On the day after #NationalWalkOutDay. Truly amazing timing on the NYT's part.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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