Political columnist Matt / SUN 10-23-16 / Competitor of Sapporo Kirin / Early British actress Nell / Target customer of Yelp / Title fictional character who sprang from his Platonic conception of himself

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Constructor: Jeff Chen and Ellen Leuschner

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Over / Under" — themer clues all begin "Over the" or "Under the," followed by cross-reference to an Across clue that sits directly over or under the themer, respectively. So, figurative phrases using "Over" or "Under" are represented quasi-literally in the grid:

Theme answers:
  • NO SPRING CHICKEN (22A: Over the 27-Across [HILL])
  • FACING A DEADLINE (34A: Under the 29-Across [GUN])
  • BEYOND BELIEF (57A: Over the 62-Across [TOP])
  • ON THE DOWN LOW (76A: Under the 67-Across [TABLE])
  • IN SEVENTH HEAVEN (94A: Over the 104-Across [MOON])
  • AT THE LAST MINUTE (112A: Under the 105-Across [WIRE])
Word of the Day: BHT (69D: Food preservative abbr.) —
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), also known as dibutylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol, that is useful for its antioxidant properties.[4] European and U.S. regulations allow small amounts to be used as a food additive. In addition to this use, BHT is widely used to prevent oxidation in fluids (e.g. fuel, oil) and other materials where free radicals must be controlled. (wikipedia)
• • •

Theme feels very, very familiar. Which is fine. Bound to happen when you've been solving for decades, as I have. The puzzle is cute and competent and reasonable. Pleasant. Just not that much Fun to solve. It all feels pretty DAD-BLASTED, in that it feels like it came from an era when people might use that term unironically. Or from an era when people wore OPERA COATS, if that's more evocative for you. Plus the fill ... again, totally NYT-normal, but that's not saying much any more. HAH HEEHEE TNUTS OSSA etc. It's all a bit by-the-book and backward-looking. There's a few truly bad things like BOR. ONEI ARAIL DANL EDEL etc., but mostly it's just a deluge of dull and defensible. I spent most of my day alternating between previewing a forthcoming crossword project from Erik Agard and solving the alcohol-themed puzzles in Brendan Emmett Quigley and Francis Heaney's new collection "Drunk Crosswords." It is hard to come back to the NYT after that. Erik and Brendan and Francis are exacting constructors whose work is always current and funny and who put a premium on solver entertainment. Despite the fact that the collections in question are actually quite different from one another (Erik's very hard and conceptually mind-bending, Brendan and Francis's somewhat easier and more conventional), they are both a joy to dip into because of the care, craft, and ambition they evince—things the NYT has too often been lacking. There is nothing really Bad about today's puzzle. But it is backward-looking. It is designed to pass time. To satisfy long-established tastes. There is obviously a reasonably-sized market for such Comfort Puzzles. But the NYT wants to be "the best" (in fact, claims it is "the best"), and you can't be the best by just resting on your laurels and playing the oldies.

My main memory of this puzzle is falling, repeatedly, into pretty deadly traps. I had GO-- at 41D: Silly billy and thought "Silly goat, billy goat ... GOAT!" But no. It's GOOF. Worse (in terms of face-falling) was 95D: Small swigs. I had -IPS so, of course, SIPS. SIPS. Gotta be SIPS. But no. NIPS. Lena says there are no small swigs. Swigs are big. Small swigs are oxymorons. Here is some evidence for her rightness.

Lastly, mistake-wise, I had WA- at 105D: Female W.W. II enlistee and wrote in WAAC, which is literally true for that clue (as much as SIPS was right for [Small swigs]). But no, it's WASP, which is something related to the Air Force, I think. Hang on ... Yep. Women Airforce Service Pilots. So that's a bunch of wrong answers that were very hard to extricate because of being so homologous to the right answers. I just checked with Lena and she said "homologous" is in fact the right word here, so send your complaint letters to her, thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. less than two days left to back Patrick Blindauer's "Piece of Cake Crosswords" project, which I wrote about a couple weeks back. Here's the premise:

"Piece of Cake Crosswords is a proposed yearlong series of easy-but-fun crossword puzzles, one puzzle per week. These will be daily-sized (15×15) crosswords that have fun themes with no sneaky tricks. The grids will be filled with FAMILIAR words, phrases, and names, and they'll be delivered directly to your inbox every Monday morning. Finally: something to look forward to on Monday morning! "

Good easy puzzles are hard to come by. Good for pros and novices. Get on board.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Daughter half sister of Oedipus / SAT 10-22-16 / Four-time NBA scoring champion in 2010s / Maugham's title girl of Lambeth / Rugby rival of Harvard / 1955 R&B hit for Bo Diddley

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Constructor: James Mulhern

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Mulhernity

Word of the Day: ISMENE (4D: Daughter and half sister of Oedipus) —
Ismene (/ɪsˈmn/; Ancient Greek: Ἰσμήνη, Ismēnē) is the name of the daughter and half-sister of Oedipus, daughter and granddaughter of Jocasta, and sister of Antigone, Eteocles, and Polynices. She appears in several plays of Sophocles: at the end of Oedipus the King, in Oedipus at Colonus and in Antigone. She also appears at the end of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes. (wikipedia)
• • •

I am in Massachusetts, which I taught myself to spell on the way out here by focusing on the name on license plates, which I had occasion to see a lot of, as traffic frequently just stopped. I'm at the home of my friends Lena and Brayden working on a super secret crossword project. Also drinking. A lot. Oh, and it's raining. A lot. A lot a lot. A lot. We walked home in a storm. Streets deluged. Clothing—head to toe—sodden. Ensoddened. I've never walked for any length of time in anything like it. Heavens opened. Amazing. All of my clothing is in the dryer. I'm now wearing pajamas and drinking an aquavit toddy and sitting at L&B's dining room table, after having solved this perfectly decent Saturday puzzle. We had been drinking, a lot, and so it took a while to get some traction in this thing. ETSY, I think, was first, then GEENA. Gimme and gimme. Later, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW was also a gimme. That is too much of a giveaway. Or ... just enough of a giveaway, I don't know. Anyway, anyone who knows anything about Pynchon knows that title. Nice to have a 15-letter gimme. Hope you enjoyed it.

Hamburger U. is real. It's a real thing. It's 100x more real than Trump U. Here is Hamburger University's website. It has a curriculum and scholarships and everything. "Quality is an excellence all communities recognize and respect." Already you have learned a great deal. Now you can go on to major in Onions. Congratulations. I like MICKEY D'S over IN AND OUT, because it's very hamburgery, though technically it's IN 'N' OUT. Close enough. Here's the thing. YOU'RE is not acceptable as a way into DARN TOOTIN'. It's YER, if it's anything. Otherwise, it's grammaticality becomes oddly hilarious. YOU ARE DARN TOOTING! No. It's YER. Actually, there is a Laurel & Hardy movie called "YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN'," so I guess I'm wrong. But I'm not. YER. Not YOU'RE.

What is an ISMENE? I have never seen that name ever, that I recall. Not in a puzzle, not anywhere. I thought I knew the Oedipus legend. I guess not. What else? Nothing really. BOOZE. Lotsa BOOZE. Good night!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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