Tamiroff of Anastasia / WED 5-27-15 / Jazz players are incapable / Transport in Ellington tune / Singer Perry opted out / Drying-out woe for short / Female producer of lanolin / Ipana competitor / Often-punted comics character

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Constructor: Jim Quinlan

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Contraction/negation — Ordinary words / phrases the end with letter strings that sound like ordinary verbs (e.g. CAN, DID, etc.) have a negative contraction (e.g. "N'T") added to the end and are reclued in a fittingly wacky way:

Theme answers:
  • ANI MUSTN'T (18A: Singer DiFranco should heed a warning) (no "?" on these clues?)
  • CATS CAN'T (23A: Jazz players are incapable)
  • BUSH WASN'T (35A: W. never existed)
  • MATH ISN'T (49A: Calculus disappears)
  • KATY DIDN'T (55A: Singer Perry opted out)
Word of the Day: BUSHWA —
  1. rubbish; nonsense. (google)
• • •

This is bizarre, but not without charm. The concept is creative, but the execution's a bit wobbly. ANI MUSTN'T takes the theme off the rails a bit, as ANIMUS requires the addition of T + N'T to get to wackiness. That is, ANIMUS doesn't end in "MUST," while CAT SCAN *does* end in CAN, MATHIS *does* end in IS, etc. There's the appearance of a verb at the end of all the other theme answers. Further, BUSHWAS—in the plural—is exceedingly rare. It's just not word you'd ever see pluralized. If you google it in quotation marks, you get words lists, and only 7000 or so hit total. FATWAS works better, though it would be pretty hard to clue FAT WASN'T in a plausible way (though it couldn't be much less plausible than the clue for MATH ISN'T). My point is that this puzzle's wacky ambition is adorable, but the assembled themers are not all ready for prime time. Still, I'll take the creative concept that doesn't *quite* come off over a tired concept with all its papers in order.

There are come cool juxtapositions in this grid. I like that the A-TRAIN has pulled up to the STAtion, and that VAN GOGH sits ambivalently between highbrow museum ART and lowbrow museum gift-shop TOTE BAG. I still can't bring myself to accept that a SKIBOB is a thing. I've tried. It's not taking. I had no idea who that AKIM guy was. I had him as an ARAM (8D: Tamiroff of "Anastasia"). My QUITS started out as RESTS. Beyond that, I had zero trouble with this puzzle, which was both smooth and easy. I see that there are some stray not-great answers (CDL, OLA, ITE, AKIM), but they really don't get in the way of puzzle pleasure. If suboptimal stuff is fairly rare and easily dealt with, then I don't care. So this week has started with three puzzles in a row where the fill has been acceptable or better. I have this weird feeling of optimism. I'm sure it's unfounded, but I'm going to enjoy it while it's here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


One who's fluent in both JavaScript Klingon say / TUE 5-26-15 / Foes of Saruman in Two Towers / Mexico's national flower / Cabot murder she wrote setting / Dhaka dress

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Constructor: Gareth Bain

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE" (39A: Beatles hit that's a hint to both parts of the answer to each starred clue) — "LOVE" can precede both parts of theme answers in familiar phrases:

Theme answers:
  • CHILD SEAT (18A: *Removable car safety feature)
  • BIRD'S NEST (22A: *Asian soup ingredient)
  • MATCH GAME (54A: *Classic daytime show hosted by Gene Rayburn)
  • LIFE STORY (61A: *Biography)
Word of the Day: "MATCH GAME"
Match Game is an American television panel game show in which contestants attempted to match celebrities' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions. The precise format of the show varied through five runs on American television: 1962 to 1969 (on NBC), 1973 to 1982 (on CBS and later in syndication), 1983 to 1984 (again on NBC as part of the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour), 1990 to 1991 (on ABC) and 1998 to 1999 (in syndication). Most American incarnations of the show have been hosted by Gene Rayburn.
The most famous versions of the 1970s and 1980s, starting with Match Game '73 (renumbered by year until 1979), are remembered for their bawdy and sometimes rowdy humor involving contestants trying to match six celebrities. The series has been franchised around the world, often under the name Blankety Blanks.
In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #4 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, some weird combo of Firefox (my new most hated browser) and Blogger and me just managed to permanently (it seems) erase 2/3 of my completed write-up, and I just can't bear to do it again. It was fantastic, I assure you. Short version: puzzle is an old concept, well executed. Clean fill. I made many, many errors and missteps (for a Tuesday). I had these listed for you in bullet points (formatting these was where things went very wrong from a technical standpoint). Here's what remains of that list:

  • Had -OG at 62D: Confused state and could think only of GOG. I don't understand, either.
  • The clue on "MATCH GAME" was totally confusing, but now I understand it. It's a game show. Clue it as game show, and I got it. Clue it as "daytime show" (which could be anything), and you lost me (I'm figuring it's something *else* Gene Rayburn did that I didn't know about). But you can't clue it as "game show" because GAME is in the answer. Thus, ironically, I struggled to get my favorite game show of all time.

[Meara + Dawson = peak TV]
    • 57D: Title for a jeune fille: Abbr. (MLLE) — I wrote in ELLE, which is not, obviously, an Abbr. This error contributed mightily to my "MATCH GAME" woes.
    But I'm exaggerating the amount of real struggle. This was still a pretty easy puzzle, and a competently put-together one at that.

    So, yeah. There you go. You get Partial Blog today. Gonna go crush my computer with a mallet now. Eight+ years and I've never lost a write-up. First!

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


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