Chess-playing movie villain / WED 11-22-17 / Eurus in Greek mythology / Affluent Connecticut town / Novelist Charles with appropriate surname / Minnesota NHL team from 1967 to 1993 / 1986 rock autobiography / Pea with thick rounded pod

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (despite all the—eventual—giveaways)

THEME: world map — answers along north side of grid start with NORTH (which you must mentally supply), along west side start with WEST, etc. grid also has the tropics (CAN / CER, CAPRI / CORN) and EQUATOR (38A: Dividing line) in their more or less correct positions

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: ALOIS Alzheimer (61A: Eponymous Dr. Alzheimer) —
Aloysius Alzheimer (/ˈɑːltshmər, ˈælts-, ˈɔːlts-/; German: [ˈaːloˌis ˈalts.haɪmɐ]; 14 June 1864 – 19 December 1915), known as Alois Alzheimer, was a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist and a colleague of Emil Kraepelin. Alzheimer is credited with identifying the first published case of "presenile dementia", which Kraepelin would later identify as Alzheimer's disease. (wikipedia)
• • •

Kinda straightforward, kinda workmanlike. I've seen versions of this theme before, but not with the tropics and EQUATOR, I don't think. Of course those elements further stress the grid, making an already dense theme even denser and resulting in fill that is, let's say, less than ideal. In parts, brutal. There's a semi-interesting gimmick here, but once you get it, there's not much delight in getting the theme answers, and there is plenty of non-delight in the rest of the answers. We still doing "I, TINA"? And ENOW? And ANOS without the REQ'D tilde on the "N"? Alrighty. Roughest part for me was ALOIS (?!!?) over N-TILE (i.e. sommmmme letter-TILE) (64A: Scrabble 1-pointer (but a Words With Friends 2-pointer)). I love how the clue thinks parenthetically adding the Words With Friends bit to the clue is going to help me, or anyone. Talk about your useless qualifying information. With a very non-specific clue on (West) BANK (53D: Area of longtime contention), it took quite a bit of effort to get things to work out down there. Had similar, if slightly lesser, trouble in the NE, where that damned novelist nobody read(e)s was up there with a defunct hockey team. This puzzle is maplike. It has the proper specifications, everything checks out, but as a puzzle, it scores pretty low on the Delight meter.

Having (West)PORT at the 1-Down was pretty damn provincial. That's easily the least well-known theme answers, well beneath even the Minnesota (North) STARS. I have only ever heard SUGAR SNAP with the word "pea" actually following it. Didn't know the phrase could stand on its own. Only just learning now that Eurus is the (East) Wind. I'm just glad Eurus didn't decide to blow into the grid itself. I had A BAG of rocks before I had A BOX, not sure why. Maybe because of that time Charlie Brown went trick-or-treating ...

See you tomorrow. Safe travels if you're traveling! Hope you survive your family!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Religious recluse / TUE 11-21-17 / Hook's henchman / Wife in Oaxaca / Rare grandfather clock numeral

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Constructor: Brian Thomas

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: some kind of car race in eastern Europe? — theme clues are fill-in-the-blank quotes from an imagined car race commentator (?); the answers are all puns on ... ugh, looks like both adjectives related to countries in (roughly) eastern Europe and nouns describing inhabitants of those countries...

Theme answers:
  • 19A: "The race has just begun, and it looks like the car from Warsaw will POLE INTO FIRST!" (this pun made Super-awkward by the fact that "pole" is, in fact, a racing term—and one related specifically to the *start* of a race (i.e. pole position))
  • 30A: "Listen! You can hear the thundering roar as the car from Moscow goes RUSSIAN PAST!" (oh yeah, race commentators say stuff like this *all* the time ...)
  • 39A: "We're getting close to the end as the car from Helsinki leads the way to the FINNISH LINE!"
  • 52: "Wow! The car from Prague ekes out the victory by a nose and takes the CZECHERED FLAG!") 
Word of the Day: EREMITE (22A: Religious recluse) —
noun: eremite; plural noun: eremites
  1. a Christian hermit or recluse. (google)
• • •

This is brutal. This is a cry for help. This is a regression to times of yore when weak-ass awkward cornball pun puzzles were all the rage. LETT MY PEOPLE GO! The theme is an outright disaster. Why am I listening to a race announcer? Why is this race in eastern Europe? Why are the puns so bad? Why aren't the punning words *&$^%ing consistent in terms of being the same parts of speech?! A POLE is an inhabitant of Poland. The adjective is "Polish." A "Finn" is an inhabitant of Finland. The adjective is "FINNISH"? Your puns are all inhabitants or all adjectives—they are not *&$^ing mix-and-match. I can't believe I'm actually trying to fix this dismal excuse for a theme, but lord in heaven if you're going to commit atrocities, at least show some respect for your craft.

Then of course there was the fill, which just took this from a Tuezday (your typical trainwreck of a Tuesday theme) to a Sooper Tuezday. Once I hit EREMITE crossing IIII (!!!!), I knew I was in for whatever the opposite of "a treat" is. MONTE on its own is dumb (5D: Hustler's game). A [Wound on a dueler] is a SCAR or SCAB—STAB is an action, or should be, esp. on a Tuesday. I think of a single person as a RASTAFARI*AN*, not a RASTAFARI (which is the movement / religion itself) (10D: Person with dreads). Actually, looking over the fill now, it's not so much terrible as it is choked with overfamiliar stuff (SMEE, AVAST, SLOMO, ADIN, OMEN, ESAY, IMAC, etc). But seriously, this puzzle should've been rejected. It doesn't feel sound enough to fly in one of the lesser dailies, let alone the daily with the self-described "Best Puzzle in the World." Why not reject with advice on improvement? Why not wait til the puzzle comes back to you in acceptable shape? Sigh. FLIPFLOP (37D: Switch positions) and SCRUNCHIE (32D: Ponytail holder) are fine answers and don't deserve to be associated with this mess. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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