Hoopster observing Ramadan / Ankle-exposing pants / Baked with breadcrumbs cheese / Narrow arm of sea / Dangerous backyard projectile / Pluto flyby org

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Constructor: Jim Holland and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Adding On" — you add "-ING" on to the ends of one of the words in a familiar phrase, yielding wackiness:

Theme answers:
  • FASTING FORWARD (29A: Hoopster observing Ramadan?)
  • LUCKY STREAKING (46A: Gangster Luciano performing a risqué prank?)
  • BUM STEERING (68A: Hobo at the wheel?)
  • STOCKING MARKET (88A: Where to buy certain Christmas decorations?)
  • LIGHT SWITCHING (105A: Mild form of corporal punishment?)
  • SQUARE ROOTING (15D: Cheering done in a plaza?)
  • GOLDING DIGGER (57D: Big fan of the "Lord of the Flies" author?)
Word of the Day: CYGNET (55A: Young swan) —
noun: cygnet; plural noun: cygnets
  1. a young swan. (google)
• • •

Oh well. I was hoping for a much nicer puzzle on this, my blog's 10-year anniversary. But you get what you get, and I get an add-ING puzzle, somehow. Perhaps because I was terrible to animals in a past life, I don't know. And I thought add-a-*letter* puzzles were stale. This add-ING thing, yeesh. I mean, it yields an interesting answer or two (see FASTING FORWARD and the amusingly kinky LIGHT SWITCHING), but the rest is tepid cornball.  SQUARE ROOTING is just [Cheering done in a plaza?]? That is boring af. At least make the SQUARE a nerd or something. Something! With ultra-basic, throwback-basic themes like this, you gotta bring the wacky. Tepid wacky is unbearable wacky. [Hobo at the wheel?] for BUM STEERING? Try [Driving with your ass?]. See? 100% better. Possibly 200%. Even the title is half-hearted and bland. "Adding ... On." Which is really just add-ing. You add "ing." Title may as well be "Adding." But it's "Adding On." Because that's a phrase. Of sorts. Why not something ridiculous, like, I don't know. "Tacking Liberties"? 'Cause you're taking liberties with the original answers as well as tacking "ing" onto words in those answers. Or make your theme answers wackier. CHARLIE BROWNING! HYDE PARKING! LOWING ON THE TOTEM POLE! Come on! Some. Thing. Something!

I emphasize passion and commitment because even (especially?) when I have not enjoyed a puzzle, I have tried, day in, day out, for 10 *&$^&ing years, to bring not just cogent analysis, but genuine, heartfelt, occasionally absurdly emotional engagement with the damned crossword (fittingly, Sia's "Cheap Thrills" is blaring as I type this). I'm currently watching my sportswriter friend Adesina Koiki live-tweet the BYU/WVU football game like his life depended on it—like it was the most important, most amazing thing happening on planet earth right now. He's ALLCAPS into it. And I know that I'm not ALLCAPS into the puzzle every day. But lord knows I try to bring something of my passion for puzzles, something of my personal, idiosyncratic insight, something of my gosh-darn soul to every write-up, in however small a way. I am so grateful for your readership and for the crossword community and for the many genuinely brilliant, warm, and funny people I've met and become friends with as a result of this blog. I know sometimes it seems like the puzzle is trying to suck my soul out of me through my, uh, let's say, eye sockets. But I still care about crosswords. I care about good crosswords. And more than that, I enjoy the company of people who share this care with me. Thank you a gazillion or a bajillion, your choice. 10 years!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. a little history for you. Here's the very first comment I ever got on my blog:

And the second:

Moral: Don't be a grandpamike. Or do. Maybe you'll inspire someone to adopt the same "*$&% you" spirit grandpamike inspired in me.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Indian-born maestro / SAT 9-24-16 / Electron's area around atom / Capital of French department of Loiret / smokeless explosive / like safeties vis a vis field goals / Italian food named after queen

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Constructor: Mary Lou Guizzo

Relative difficulty: Medium (probably Easy if you knew Malala's last name)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Stanislaw LEM (44A: Science fiction author Stanislaw) —
Stanisław Herman Lem (Polish pronunciation: [staˈɲiswaf ˈlɛm]; 12 September 1921 – 27 March 2006) was a Polish writer of science fiction, philosophy, and satire, and a trained physician. Lem's books have been translated into forty-one languages and have sold over forty-five million copies.  From the 1950s to 2000s, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological. He is best known as the author of the 1961 novel Solaris, which has been made into a feature film three times. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon wrote that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world. // Lem's works explore philosophical themes through speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of mutual communication and understanding, despair about human limitations, and humanity's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books // Translations of his works are difficult due to passages with elaborate word formation, alien or robotic poetry, and puns. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hey all. First I want to thank Lena for filling in for me yesterday—cable was out, internet was out, my life reverted to some kind of weird 1970s state because all I could do was read and watch "The Bob Newhart Show" (which I happen to have on DVD). Wait, no, it wasn't quite 1970s, because home *phone* was out too, so my only lifeline was my cell. I did the crossword puzzle in the actual newsPaper. It would all have been just fine if not for the fact that I do this thing with the "internet" every single night. Soooo, Lena to the rescue. Fully intended to blog today's puzzle last night, right when it came out, but cocktail + "King Kong" (1933) put me right to sleep at some ridiculously early hour (actually "King Kong" was remarkably good, if unintentionally funny—but I was fighting sleep the whole time, and when it was over, Good Night). And so to puzzle. Morning solving is always slower solving, but even though I didn't get 1-Across off the bat (surest sign of an easy puzzle), I got the NW without too much trouble, sent ALL KIDDING ASIDE sliding down the western part of the grid, and felt pretty good about my chances:

ANAIS (6D: Writer Nin) and "PSYCHO" (7D: Classic film whose soundtrack is famously composed entirely of strings) were flat-out gimmes, so that helped get me going. But you can see where trouble lies ahead for me. With apologies to MALALA, every letter of her last name was a mystery to me. I'm quite sure I've seen and heard it multiple times, but since she's known almost exclusively as MALALA (see, for instance, the title of her book, "I Am MALALA"), that last name never sank in. And sure enough, the NE ended up taking me longer than all other parts put together. But there were problems much further south than YOUSAFZAI. For instance, my inability to spell MARGHERITA (I came at that answer from the back, with -RITA, and thought maybe it was the pizza but only wanted to spell MARGARITA thusly; as in "The Mistress and the ___" or "I'll have another ___"). So the simple 50A: Hold (DEEM) was in no way possible. Oh, and after guessing MEHTA correctly (46A: Indian-born Maestro), I took that "M" and made VROOM (29D: Engine sound => THRUM). Big problem.

Never heard of "Love is Strange" so ultra-common TOMEI had no shot. The worst problem in all this, though, was SCULPTOR (8D: One going around the block?). That clue is clever but hyper-oblique. I had ---LPT-- and could not see it as one word. Seriously considered that in the morgue sometimes they instead of a toe tag they used a SCALP TAG. Yikes. eventually I figured out the PIZZA problem, confirming the "Z" with ZIN (21A: Cab alternative), and that section started to come together (though SCULPTOR held out til the bitter end).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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