Bird with forcepslike bill / WED 9-28-16 / Vashem Israel's Holocaust memorial / Bunt villainess in On Her Majesty's Secret Service / Specialty skillet / Murder crows turkeys

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Constructor: Morton J. Mendelson

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: Across/Down answers that share a first letter also share a clue

Theme answers:
  • ZEST / ZILCH [Zip]
  • STERN / SPONSOR [Back]
  • BEAK / BANK NOTE [Bill]
  • GRIN / GIRDER [Beam]
  • STY / SELL [Dump]
  • SEVER / SHARE [Cut]
  • AFRESH / AT AN END [Over]
  • SCREEN / SKIN [Hide]
  • TAKE FIVE / TAME [Break]
Word of the Day: PORTO (15A: City north of Lisboa) —
Porto (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpoɾtu]; also known as Oporto in English) is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. The urban area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 1.4 million (2011) in an area of 389 km2 (150 sq mi), making it the second-largest urban area in Portugal. Porto Metropolitan Area, on the other hand, includes an estimated 1.8 million people. It is recognized as a gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, the only Portuguese city besides Lisbon to be recognised as a global city. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this was bad. Worse than yesterday. This is as bad a two-day stretch as I can remember. Not just bad. Old. Like, really stale, written 20+ years ago old. Yesterday, a word ladder with not a lot of sense and a grid with awful fill. Today, a theme ... that has even less internal logic, and a grid with fill that's nearly as YAD. Sorry, bad. Bad. This is a cry for help. The best constructors in America simply aren't giving their best work to the NYT any more. In some cases, those constructors aren't giving Any of their work. Think of constructors you used to love whose names you rarely if ever see any more. Good chance they have, for various reasons (at least some of which has to do w/ slow production schedule and insultingly low pay) moved on. So we're getting hack work. Not always. But way too often. So what if every time an Across and Down share a first letter, they get the same clue? Who cares? Nine times this happens. What is the pattern? Do the clues spell out a message? Why Am I Suffering Through This Stupid Exercise?

Because there are so many one-word clues doing double-duty, the puzzle plays way harder than normal. Just seeing BANK NOTE (a phrase I never use) took a Lot of crosses. So Many of the clues are lame one-worders—all the themers, but also a substantial number of others. This added to the overall tedious and dull feel of the puzzle. PORTO APSE KETT EPEE ISLET ENE etc. Yet another grid that makes me want to just list the junk. Not even any good longer answers today. None. NAMER? Come on. Do people really call groups of turkeys RAFTERs? Ever. Wife, answering my bewilderment from next room: "Those [animal collective names] were all made up by some lady in the 19th century." I'm not going to bother fact-checking that, 'cause it *feels* true and I'm American and that's enough "evidence" for us. ADES?! Are sources of vitamin C. Literally no one has ever thought or claimed that in the history of humankind. I barely know what an ADE is. Juice you add sugar to? In which case, uh, it's the juice that provides the C. No one uses ADE as anything but a suffix anyway. Crosswords are the only place where people pretend this isn't true. Dear NYT, please double the pay rate for constructors so some of the talent comes back. Pretty please. The crossword is your one true cash cow. You can afford it. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Start of recuperative word ladder / TUE 9-27-16 / Taiwan-based computer maker / Orbital high points / Service symbolized by blue white eagle / brand of bubbly familiarly / Andrea ill-fated ship / Morsel for aardvark

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Constructor: Robert Cirillo

Relative difficulty: Challenging (For. A. Tuesday.)

THEME: SICK to WELL word ladder — clue on SICK = 1A: Start of a "recuperative" word ladder ending at 73-Across; Word ladder = SICK SILK SILT WILT WELT WELL

Theme answers:
  • AN APPLE A DAY (30A: How to avoid becoming 1-Across, so they say)
  • CHICKEN SOUP (49A: Aid for getting 73-Across, so they say)
Word of the Day: DAKAR (53A: Capital of Senegal) —
Dakar (English pronunciation: /dɑːˈkɑːr, ˈdækər/;[5][6] French: [da.kaʁ]) is the capital and largest city of Senegal. // It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city in the Old World and on the African mainland. Its position, on the western edge of Africa, is an advantageous departure point for trans-Atlantic and European trade; this fact aided its growth into a major regional port. // According to 31 December 2005 official estimates, the city of Dakar proper has a population of 1,030,594, whereas the population of the Dakar metropolitan area is estimated at 2.45 million people. // Dakar is a major administrative center, home to the Senegal National Assembly and the Presidential Palace. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello darkness I mean Tuesday, my old friend. You've come to be terrible again. Was really hoping for a pleasant diversion (I am current solving / writing in the middle of a self-imposed news blackout 'cause I just can't deal with the debate stuff right now), but this was painful. First, word ladder? What year is it? Always a terrible, boring, old, played-out idea—unless you do something truly remarkable with it, I suppose. That's the thing about Great puzzles: they can sometimes take an old idea and make it new. This ... is not one of those puzzles. Unremarkable word ladder that simply takes up space—and with unclued words (this largely accounts for the "Challenging" rating). Also, AN APPLE A DAY does not fit the word ladder. At all. Sorry. No. Give me another "cure" or give me nothing. And the non-theme stuff, just dreary. Old and stale. KOP THOS ONS. BONA MORA ORA DORIA. LESE AER ECRU ELLA ERIE ELI ERLE. TSETSE TSO OREOS OLIO oh oh oh please dear god send help. The two longer Downs, fine. The rest, scrap.

I fell into one very dark hole, which is the *other* reason (besides the unclued words in the word ladder) that this played harder-than-average for me. With --LEAS- in place, I wrote in RELEASE at 22D: Let loose (UNLEASH). What are the odds you're going to have four letters in place, come up with an answer that fits perfectly, and botch it. Low, I'd say. But today, I botched it. Not an easy pit to climb out of. OUT TO WIN was vicious to parse (21A: Seeking victory). [Socially unacceptable] and NON-PC are not the same. In fact, I don't think NON-PC is a thing. Most "socially unacceptable" things have Zero to do with whatever PC is (and usually "PC" is just what bigots call it when their bigotry gets pointed out). Farting in an elevator—socially unacceptable, nothing to do with "PC." On the flip side, in plenty of social contexts, being so-called "NON-PC" is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged. I hate UNPC and NONPC as answers, generally. Would never ever use them. Bad fill in every way. Delete them from your word lists, please.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


P.P.S. my wife is SICK and I wish she were WELL, not least because today is our anniversary.

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