Calculator math sects / SAT 9-23-17 / Wayne Manor manservant / 29% cream / Redhead of Hogwarts / Neuwirth designer jewelry / Summer Olympics discontinued 1936 / Opposite of schadenfreude / Davy Crockett's rifle / Tony winner Neuwirth

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Medium (16:17)


Word of the Day: IRENE (2D: ___ Neuwirth (designer jewelry brand) —
A native of Southern California, Irene's fundamental inspiration is the ocean. Its purity, power and colors are all key elements at the origin of her designs. Her fascination with intense colors and raw, un-manufactured gem cuts, have become signature trademarks of the line. (
• • •
Rex continues to have computer problems, so you had my PEN PAL (34A: Friend of note?) Lena yesterday as PART ONE (36A: Start of a series), and you get me, Laura, today and Sunday. I'd better GET BUSY (41A: Work order?). This puzzle certainly felt like it hit the SWEET SPOT (12D: Perfect place) of difficulty; I breezed on through most of every quadrant, then rounded on home up to the NW, and ... stared. For like 10 minutes. My time isn't anywhere near my HIGH SCORES (1A: List on a video game screen) for Saturdays, but I appreciated the challenge, and there's no need for the 36D: Opposite of schadenfreude (PITY) or a 14D: Sound of condescension (TSK). Funny thing, I love riddles like 5D: It has arms, legs and feet, but no hands (SOFA), and I had just typed SOFA in 25D: Part of many a studio apartment for DINETTE because I wanted SOFABED instead. Because the studio apartments I had -- no room even for a DINETTE. If I HAD UP (1D: Hosted at one's loft, say) a friend or two, well, we dined sitting on the SOFABED or the LOFTBED. Or practically in the BATHTUB.

 Goodnight IRENE

Someone asked in the comments yesterday how Rex and/or the guest hosts decide which clues go in the title field of the blog post. Can't speak for others, but I tend to put clues that I figure people are most likely to google: proper names, interesting or unusual formulations, clues that are actually google-able, as opposed to something like 44D: Advantage, which would be to no AVAIL. Way back, many years ago, when I was first solving regularly, that was how I stumbled upon this site (wow, I thought, people actually blog about this stuff? cool!). There is no shame in researching answers as a way of finding out something new or learning about how puzzles are constructed.

Woman Constructor Watch: Robyn's puzzle today is just the third Saturday by a woman in 2017, for a total of 36 women out of 230 constructors this year, or 15.6%. Jeff Chen calls it at 14%, because he's averaging the percentages of women constructors over the week. In either case, as stated before, I'd like to see more women get published in the New York Times, and I'll reiterate my call for other women constructors who might be interested in sharing ideas and helping each other to get in touch with me. Hey Laura, ARE YOU DONE? (15A: Question after a rant). Nope. IT FIGURES (32D: "Why am I not surprised!").

  • 46D: Old ___, pet name of Davy Crockett's rifle (BETSY) — Honestly, can't remember much Davy Crockett lore, except for the catchy TV show theme song, and that he died at the Alamo. But somehow it occurred to me that BETSY would be a good name for a rifle.
  • 57A: Redhead of Hogwarts (RON WEASLEY) — The entire Weasley family attended Hogwarts, and all were notoriously redheaded. Perhaps Ron is simply the most prominent.
  • 43A: Window component (JAMB) and 28D: Window component (PANE) — Had SASH for both of these at certain points in the solving process.
Ok, now I'm done. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Laura Braunstein, Sorceress of CrossWorld

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PC Key / FRI 9-22-17 / PC Key

Friday, September 22, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Difficult

THEME: No theme

Word of the Day: TAPIOCA (35D: Thickening agent) —
Tapioca (/ˌtæpɪˈkə/; Portuguese pronunciation: [tapiˈɔkɐ]) is a starch extracted from cassava root (Manihot esculenta). This species is native to the northeast region of Brazil, but its use spread throughout South America. The plant was carried by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies and Africa and Asia. It is a tropical, perennial shrub that is less commonly cultivated in temperate climate zones. Cassava thrives better in poor soils than many other food plants.
Although tapioca is a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries, it is devoid of nutrition and low in food energy. In developed countries, it is used as a thickening agent in various manufactured foods. (Wikipedia)
• • •
TAPIOCA is great. It's the boba in BOBA TEA ((7) yet to appear in a NYT crossword puzzle) and it's in the pudding that you perhaps instinctively avoided as a child. I say let's bring it back, elevate TAPIOCA pudding, "Chef's Table" style. Hi, it's Lena filling in for Rex today.

Well I have to say it was weird having to jump out of the nest with barely any feathers into a tri-stack of 14s. I had to treat this like a downs only puzzle for a bit there and that put it on the challenging side for me. I hung around in the middle and then it was SARDINE (8D: Fish typically preserved in olive oil) that got me up to the North, followed by SEEN (5D: Not overlooked) and CERAMIC (3D: Kind of tile). Speaking of chefs and their tables, there is a nice restaurant here in Boston called haley.henry and they focus on tinned fish-- SARDINEs, anchovies, EEL-- and exceptional wines. And chips.

Anyway, are those would-be marquees ultimately worth not being able to get started in the across direction right away? Sure. ROMANTIC PERIOD (49A: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron wrote in it) is kinda boring but the rest, especially ICING ON THE CAKE (54A: An additional plus) and MI CASA ES SU CASA (1A: Welcoming words), are fun-- and all except THREE CAR GARAGE (16A: Roomy storage space) are debut entries.

I had ROUTS for ROMPS (44A: Humiliating defeats) because, well, of course that's what I'm going to put there-- I look up ROUT and get "disastrous defeat" whereas ROMP's main definitions have nothing to do with either humiliation or losing. We will, we will ROMP you <stomp stomp clap>

The short fill caused by the stacks isn't too bad but I was aware of the presence of both CTR (NFL Position: Abbr.) and CTRL (11D: PC Key). SIGURD (9D: Brynhild's beloved, in Norse legend) certainly did not spring out of the brain easily, and I hadn't heard of conductor ESA-Pekka Salonen-- so overall I would say the North gave me the most trouble. In the South, I enjoyed the tricky clue for DOCTOR (41D: One who's gotten the third degree?) but didn't feel similarly about the one for TIME INC (36D: Life preserver?). Then I started getting cranky about both of them. "What if you didn't get your Masters in between undergrad and grad school? Do you count your high school diploma?"

Overall though there are lots of clever clues in this puzzle (ONE (39D: Small square)!) and I liked INHERES (2D: Exists naturally) because now I have a deeper understanding of the word "inherent." Ta-da! So even though it was slow-going for me at times it was satisfying in the end, and an interesting grid with those 14s-- cheater marquees?

Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

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