Celebrity couple portmanteau / THU 9-18-14 / Tree in giraffe's diet / Tree-dwelling snake / Unhelpful spelling clarification #1 / Female motorcyclists in biker slang

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: CASEY (16A: Man trying to clarify the spelling of his name in 21-, 25, 38-, 52- and 57-Across) — Theme answers all start "C as in …," "A as in …," etc. with each answer ending (unhelpfully) in a word that sounds like another letter of the alphabet; thus:
  • C AS IN CUE
  • A AS IN ARE
  • S AS IN SEA
  • E AS IN EYE
  • Y AS IN YOU
The "punchline" being that one might think the fellow's name is "QRCIU" (66A: What the listener might think 16-Across's name is?)

Word of the Day: KIMYE (32D: Celebrity couple portmanteau) —
Proper noun
  1. (slang) The couple consisting of celebrities Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Origin
Blend of Kim and Kanye. (yourdictionary.com—"Your Dictionary: The Dictionary You Can Understand")
• • •

This was a weird one—mostly in a good way. 16 wide. That's a little weird. I got the basic theme concept early on, at C AS IN CUE. Before I had that answer filled out, I thought it was going to be something playing on different possible pronunciations of "C"—something like "C AS IN CEL." Once I got it, though, I saw that the resulting words were going to sound like different letters. Cool. Funny. And the man's name is going to be CASEY. Great. Let's go. The problem for me was mainly one of let-down. First, the other theme answers, by their very nature, didn't have much playfulness about them and (since I knew the core concept) were in no way surprising. And since the grid has no real sparkle—it's very clean and solid, but it's mostly Monday-level fill with no remarkable longer answers—I worked through it without that much pleasure (except a bit of smug pleasure, which turned quickly to guilty pleasure, at getting KIMYE and YOLO so quickly).


Let-down part II was that the revealer is an absurdity. I don't just mean that QRCIU is literally absurd, i.e. meaningless, but that the core conceit—that one would think that that is how the fictional CASEY was spelling his name—is preposterous. If you say "C AS IN CUE," no one thinks you are saying the first letter is "Q." Actually, scratch that. With "C AS IN CUE," the conceit actually kinda Does work, in that there is a word that sounds like CUE (namely QUEUE) that *does* start with "Q." It's the other letters where it doesn't work. Anyone hearing "blank as in blank" knows that the first blank is a letter and the second blank is a word. Not a letter. A AS IN ARE could not lead anyone to think that the second letter is "R" because there is no word *starting* with "R" that sounds like "ARE." And I see there is a "?" on the end of the 66-Across clue, so … OK, but this is simply not how the "blank as in blank" thing works. I can see now that picking up on the "the last words in the theme answers all sound like letters" concept almost instantly really spoiled whatever the revealer was supposed to do for me. So I started out impressed, but the feeling wore off a bit by the end.


Best wrong answer—66A: What the listener might think CASEY's name is?: QUE SI.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Dickens' scheming clerk / WED 9-17-14 / Original Veronica Mars airer / Literary hybrid / Drink made with Jameson / Gender-bending role for Barbra Streisand

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: POLLINATION (62: Job done by the insects seen above the circled words in 17-, 26- and 50-Across) — grid features three flowers (IRIS, ASTER, ROSE) and a "BEE" atop each one:

Theme answers:
  • IRISH COFFEE (17A: Drink made with Jameson, maybe)
  • YES, MASTER (26A: Genie's reply)
  • PROSE POEM (50A: Literary hybrid)
Word of the Day: POGO (42D: Okefenokee possum) —
Pogo is the title and central character of a long-running daily American comic strip, created by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973) and distributed by the Post-Hall Syndicate. Set in theOkefenokee Swamp of the southeastern United States, the strip often engaged in social and political satire through the adventures of its anthropomorphic funny animal characters.
Pogo combined both sophisticated wit and slapstick physical comedy in a heady mix ofallegory, Irish poetry, literary whimsy, puns and wordplay, lushly detailed artwork and broadburlesque humor. The same series of strips can be enjoyed on different levels by both young children and savvy adults. The strip earned Kelly a Reuben Award in 1951. (wikipedia)
• • •

Good morning. Late post today (7:15 am-ish). Poor night's sleep on Monday + full day teaching Tuesday + long walk in the woods with the dogs + first night of Binghamton Restaurant Week last night (which involved a Little alcohol) = me walking in the door last night and almost instantly falling asleep for ten hours. These things happen. The puzzle was cute. I didn't notice the theme at all until I'd finished, and then I had a nice little moment of "oh, look at that: BEEs." You usually see "hidden" (in this case "circled") words straddling the two words of a theme answer, but they're pushed off to one edge here for a reason—in order to more easily accommodate the BEEs. So that seems fine. Grid isn't crowded with theme answers, so the fill has a little room to breathe and as a result is not terrible. If I could send one answer back, it would probably be REDOSE. Maybe ROLEO or EDA, neither of whom I have ever seen outside a grid. But like I say, the rest seems pretty solid, particularly the long Downs. SWEET TALK wins Best Answer (11D: Cajole).


SWEET TALK was also the hardest thing for me to see. I did most of this puzzle at a Monday pace, but that NE corner held me up a bit because I couldn't see either of those long Downs for a bit. Had AMS (?) for 16A: Like early morning hours (WEE(pro tip: when the clue clearly calls for an adjective, try an adjective). Never heard of Fort Donelson National Battlefield, so TENNESSEE had to come from crosses. Forgot there was a PETER Farrelly. And worst of all, had Mountain DEW *and* had never (ever) heard of "mountain ASH." I assume it's a … tree? Yes! "Mountain ash is a name used for several trees, none of immediate relation" (wikipedia). Useful! So there was a little struggle up there. The rest of the puzzle put up no resistance, except Miss ELLIE (51D: "Dallas" matriarch). She was a little ornery. Got her confused with a cow there for a bit (ELSIE).


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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