Eponymous Belgian tourist locale / WED 12-7-16 / High-end British sports car / Mexican tourist city known for its silver / Diminutive fashionwise / Obese Star Wars character / Bluff-busting words

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: PAST TENSE (58A: Like either word in the answers to the five starred clues) —the puzzle is as described:

Theme answers:
  • FIXED COST (16A: *Expense independent of production)
  • LEFT-HANDED (23A: *How Clayton Kershaw pitches)
  • CUT ROSE (36A: *One of a dozen for a sweetheart)
  • SHOT PUT (38A: *Decathlon event)
  • LOST GROUND (47A: *Something to make up)
Word of the Day: MCLAREN (44A: High-end British sports car) —
McLaren Automotive (often simply McLaren) is a British automaker founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren and is based at the McLaren Technology Campus in Woking, Surrey. It produces and manufactures sports and luxury cars, usually produced in-house at designated production facilities. (wikipedia)
• • •

This has to be in the running for one of the dullest themes of all time. I don't understand why this concept ever seemed remotely interesting. A theme like this should involve a kind of aha moment where you notice that the revealer asks us to radically imagine the meaning of the words in the themers. But ... the first word in all of these answers is already past tense in the base phrase—or, rather, it's an adjectival form of the past tense, i.e. the cost is fixed 'cause someone FIXED it, the rose is cut 'cause someone CUT it, etc. There's just *one* answer where that does not hold true: LEFT-HANDED. So there isn't really much in the way of reorienting our understanding of nearly *half* the words in the themers, and the one answer that *does* reorient that first word is an outlier. Thus, even though we're asked to look at "either word," it's really only the second word that's being reimagined in any kind of remotely interesting way. Further, "remotely" is the key word there. "Oh yeah, COST can be a PAST TENSE verb ..." is about as much of an excited thought as you are going to have while solving this. Actually, you were probably more excited by DEAD DROPS (10D: Spy communication spots) and DEETS (27D: Specifics, slangily) than you were by *anything* having to do with the theme.


"Like either word" puzzles are often unpleasant because constructors tend to force words to go together that don't really want to do so, and so you get barely passable or awkward phrases. That wasn't so much a problem today, though I definitely lost some time with RED ROSE instead of CUT ROSE. I mean, when I got to a florist to buy flowers and ask for roses, they never bring me entire bushes to look at, so ... the phrase CUT ROSE, while it makes sense to me, isn't really familiar to me. Completely unfamiliar to me was MCLAREN. Needed every cross. Never heard of it. I must not live a very "high-end" lifestyle. MCLAREN / COOPTS was the toughest area of the puzzle for me, partly because I kept insisting on seeing the latter as a one-syllable word. Lastly, to acknowledge the elephant in the room, yes, IS BAD is bad.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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End to seasonal song / TUE 12-6-16 / Alfred who was follower of Freud / Filmdom's Flynn

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (only because I couldn't make any sense out of the revealer at first, and also the fill is awful down there so I kind of stopped trying/caring)


THEME: "Little Drummer Boy" — circled squares at beginning of theme answers spell out PA-RUM-PUM-PUM-PUM and then last answer is 53A: Following the circled squares, the end to a seasonal song ('ME AND MY DRUM'); the song in question is "The Little Drummer Boy," in case that wasn't obvious.

Word of the Day: "Mr. PIM Passes By" (47D: Milne's "Mr. ___ Passes By") —
[some Milne play for which I could find no short synopsis except "When a woman's 'dead' husband returns she refuses to remarry her second until he consents to her niece's wedding," which comes from the imdb page for the 1921 silent movie of the same name]
• • •

ME AND MY DRUM. Couldn't pick it up. Such a weird phrase to stand alone. It fits here, since it is, in fact, the end of the seasonal song in question, and does follow the rum puh pum pum bit (I never say, nor have heard, that first PUM as PUM; it's more like "rump-a-pum-pum"...). But I had DRUM and then the whole preceding part was blank and I kept thinking of kinds of drums etc. The idea that a lyric was involved ... didn't occur to me. Didn't help that the fill in that trouble area was just stale and blargh and whatever PIM is. ADLER TNOTE SARAN AGATE ERROL ERGO it's *all* of it out of Common Boring Stuff That's Been Around Forever And Isn't Interesting. Of course the rest of the grid has a bunch of that too, but it was real bad down there. ULTIMA, ugh (45D: Final syllable of a word). [Like some boarding schools] = ??? I had PREP- and *still* had no idea. Because clothes are PREPPY, people are PREPPY, schools are preparatory. They're called prep schools for a reason. But the idea of an entire school being "PREPPY," again, not something that occurred to me. I LOST. NOT IN. Also, is this crossword an ad for Big Pharma. PFIZER *and* PROZAC (crossing AZT)? What gives?


Nothing more from me. I love Christmas music, I love my Christmas tree, I was very much in the mood for holiday puzzle goodness. This wasn't it. The fact that this particular Christmas song is one of my least favorite probably didn't help matters.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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