Feet in the city / MON 8-21-17 / Computer savvy office fellow / Friendly communist ghost / Head off to star at some pictures / Slim monarch who gets around fast

Monday, August 21, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Challenging (misplaced, strange)


THEME: THE GAP (39A: Something to mind ... in 18-, 24-, 47- and 58-Across) — you have to imagine a "gap" in the theme answers for the wacky clues to make any sense; so:

Theme answers:
  • URBAN LEGENDS => Urban Leg Ends (18A: Feet in the city? (3 wds.)
  • KINDRED SPIRITS => Kind, Red Spirit (24A: Friendly Communist ghost? (3 wds.)) 
  • QUICK THINKING => Quick, Thin King (47A: Slim monarch who gets around fast? (3 wds.))
  • GOOGLE IMAGES => Go Ogle Images (58A: Head off to stare at some pictures? (3 wds.))
Word of the Day: TOULON (42A: City in southern France) —
Toulon (French pronunciation: ​[tu.lɔ̃]; Provençal: Tolon (classical norm), Touloun (Mistralian norm), pronounced [tuˈlun]) is a city in southern France and a large military harbour on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department. // The Commune of Toulon has a population of 165,514 people (2009), making it the fifteenth-largest city in France. It is the centre of an urban area with 559,421 inhabitants (2008), the ninth largest in France.[1] Toulon is the third-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice. (wikipedia)
• • •

You call that a "Mind THE GAP" puzzle? That's not a "Mind THE GAP" puzzle. *This* (NYT, January 17, 2013) is a "Mind THE GAP" puzzle (and a good one) (seriously, it is—much better than today's).

So many problems. You widened the grid for this? First, the whole "Mind THE GAP" premise really doesn't have much to do with putting a break into words. Find the gap, maybe, but you "mind THE GAP" so as not to hurt yourself by tripping on or otherwise stepping into an actual gap that is there in physical space. You don't provide it. It's just there. Also, THE GAP is terrible as a revealer. Full phrase or go home. THE GAP is a store. Stop it. Further, all you're doing is breaking words into two words ... that is the Full Extent of this puzzle's cohesiveness. Nothing related to subways, nothing related to anything. Just "hey I broke a word in two and there was wackiness." In so many ways, this theme is not ready for publication. It's undercooked *and* it's missing some crucial ingredient to make it all come together. As is, it's a runny mess. Moreover. TOULON is a bonkers word to have in a Monday grid, or any grid. On a Friday or Saturday, fine, but a Monday? It is a hilarious familiarity-outlier. Like ... nothing in this grid comes close to how not-well-known that answer is. The fifteenth-largest city in France? The ninth-largest urban center? On Monday? Astonishing that no one, from constructor, to editor, to testers, thought that was an issue. Lastly, this is really more a Wednesday-type theme. Clues were Monday-easy on the the non-theme stuff, but usually this level of wackiness, with zero indication of the base phrase that is being punned on, wouldn't see light of day til mid-week. So yeah, myriad problems here. Sometimes I think no one is minding the store.


Meanwhile, I had a nice weekend.



I attended Lollapuzzoola 10, the world's greatest NYC crossword tournament, and, well, see pictures, above. My wife and I did OK. The tournament was (as usual) great fun—jam-packed, with tons of new faces—and I got to meet interesting people (a lot of younger people just getting into crossword nerddom!) and eat interesting food and see a Mets game. Lovely lovely lovely. A great way to bring my summer to an official close (teaching starts Thursday). Thanks to Tyler Clark for covering for me Friday and Saturday. And oh, yeah, if you want to do the Fantastic tournament puzzles (all by top-notch constructors) you're in luck. You can get them here, cheap.

See you tomorrow.

Signed (from 37 stories over Manhattan), Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Inspector Clouseau's employer / SUN 8-20-17 / "A Navel" artist, 1923 / Wine-and-cassis drink / Third one's a harm? / Moaning Hogwarts ghost / From the top, to a musician / The first pope, to French speakers / Part of a locust tree / Baseball exec Bud / Hansen of a 2016 Broadway hit

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Constructor: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium



THEME: Found In Your Inbox — Punny email subject lines that become more familiar phrases when preceded by RE-.

Theme answers:
  • [RE]QUEST FOR PROPOSAL (22A: Re: ___ (suitor's subject line))
  • [RE]TREAT IS NOT AN OPTION (29A: Re: ___ (stingy date's subject line))
  • [RE]VERSE COURSE (45A: Re: ___ (song lyricist's subject line))
  • [RE]ACTION TIME (65A: Re: ___ (film director's subject line))
  • [RE]AD ONLY FILE (69A: Re: ___ (sales agent's subject line ... with an attachment))
  • [RE]MOTE CONTROL (88A: Re: ___ (duster's subject line))
  • [RE]WARD FOR INFORMATION (104A: ___ (prison librarian's subject line))
  • [RE]ACHES FOR THE STARS (115A: ___ (celebrity physician's subject line))
Word of the Day: WORD (FAUVE) —
Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for "the wild beasts"), a loose group of early twentieth-century modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were André Derain and Henri Matisse, whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as means of communicating the artist's emotional state.
• • •
I officiated a wedding for a lovely couple in Slippery Rock, PA, Saturday afternoon, just a couple of hours before tackling this puzzle, so I felt a weird kinship with it when encountering ALTAR (53A: Place to say 9-Down) paired with I DO (9D: See 53-Across).

Substitute crossword blogger Tyler here for Day 2 of 2, welcoming you to the Sunday puzzle, whether you're CROAT (10D: Dalmatian, e.g.) or SCOTTISH (14D: Like the people who invented golf), a resident of ASIA (54D: China setting) or an admirer of MAO (58A: World leader who proclaimed "Women hold up half the sky"). And I'm including if you're one of the 4.5 million OMANIS (62A: Dwellers on the Arabian Peninsula) or a citizen of OSLO (123A: European capital).



We'll start with the good stuff. VIDIOT (16D: Couch potato) was new to me. Since I couldn't find a toe-hold in the NNW (we'll come back to it), I didn't have SAVE yet (14A: Back up on disk) and needed to see most of IDIOT to intuit the portmanteau that was expected. I liked RAIL clued as (51D: Third one's a harm?). (If you're not previously familiar with the term "third rail", you may hear it again in discussions of political issues.)



I liked APERCUS (100A: Pithy observations) and GMC TRUCKS (78D: Sierras, e.g.). Also, we had IPOD NANO (86D: Apple product discontinued in 2017), where we usually just get one or the other. Then there's the topical EVAN (108A: Hansen of a 2016 Broadway hit), which hit won 6 of the 9 Tony Awards for which it was nominated this year.



There are a couple of family movie references, in ALDRIN (15D: Astronaut after whom Buzz Lightyear was named) and MYRTLE (63D: Moaning Hogwarts ghost). Well, and MONTY (68D: ___ Python), depending how early you're willing to introduce your kids to their oeuvre.



Now, I have two complaints about this puzzle. The first is musical. The correct abbreviation for the musical term Staccato is not STAC (31D: Short and detached, in music: Abbr.) but rather stacc. I could find a hundred examples in fairly short order to share with you, and in all the music I read studying percussion, piano, voice, conducting and ultimately getting my degree in musicology, I don't ever recall seeing it abbreviated with a single C. So, that's annoying. Here's just one example, from Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring:


The second is the NNW block. This whole SAKI (6A: H. H. Munro pseudonym) / KIR (8D: Wine-and-cassis drink) / ARP (7D: "A Navel" artist, 1923) / SURETE (6D: Inspector Clouseau's employer) / ST PIERRE (26A: The first pope, to French speakers) chain is ugly. I wonder if I would have liked it better if SAKI / I DO was instead SAKE / EDO? Or even cluing SAKI as an alternate spelling of Japanese wine? Maybe I'm just bitter that I still haven't memorized SAKI = H. H. Munro, whom I've never read, although I recognize it as crosswordese-that-I-should-know-by-now. It's just a lot of short, ugly stuff connected to some long, foreign stuff, and I didn't like it. Am I alone on this?

Bullets:
  • DA CAPO (74D: From the top, to a musician)Capo meaning, literally, head
  • THORN (49A: Part of a locust tree) — As opposed to roses
  • SELIG (85A: Baseball exec Bud) — Presided over the steroid era
  • AFRO (34A: Hairstyle rarely seen in the military) — A fresh clue on a common answer
  • AUTO (82D: Motorcade unit) — This felt fairly generic for the clue; or was I supposed to appreciate the misdirection to LIMO?
  • ON TOAST (97A: "Down," at a diner) — It's possible I'm not frequenting enough diners

Signed, Tyler Clark, Fan of CrossWorld

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