Stola woman / FRI 11-27-15 / Halluces / Follower of Able / Supports for gypsum boards / Adventurer in Grouchland in 1999 film / Onetime Ice Cube collaborator informally

Friday, November 27, 2015

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium (tilting toward Easy)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: PETARD (40D: Small bomb used for breaking down gates) —

• • •

Started out crushing it, as I often do with Wentz freestyles, but then got repeatedly stymied, sometimes by my own mistakes, sometimes by genuinely puzzling / tough stuff. Maybe it's the alcohol or the pie or the seconds I had of both alcohol and pie. Maybe the puzzle is actually very easy and my brain was just in a feast-induced fog. But I don't think so. Thanksgiving dinner already feels like it happened a million years ago. Or yesterday, at least. The whole early eating thing is lovely when it's happening, but disconcerting later. All night, I kept wondering how it could be as early as the clock was telling me it was. I've been falling asleep early lately, it's true, but ... 7pm? My body was like "Yes!" but my brain was like "Bad idea." And my brain won. Anyhow, eating and drinking are both far enough in the past that I don't think they played a role in any solving slowness. Plus, I've had a Ton of coffee, so alertness is not an issue. No, I think this one was a pretty normal Friday, difficulty-wise. Quality-wise, I think it was solidly above average.

I was a bit clunky out of the gate, as I wrote in ZINS for CABS (1A: Napa options, informally), and had trouble convincing myself that Sublime were really SKA. But once I got LURK (15A: Browse without comment) and changed ZINS to CABS, those Downs started to drop and after just a minute or so I was already here:

It probably helped that I'm a huge John O'HARA fan and that I'd seen that exact clue on M.I.A. very recently (19A: "Bad Girls" rapper) and that I eat BOK CHOY with reasonable frequency (22A: Chinese cabbage). From here, it looked like I was going to sail easily into the NE—SNAP ON, in, TODAY, in, and then ... 7D: "Goodness!" I had ---Y and went with "OH, MY!" And that, right there, was probably the difference between Easy-Medium and Medium for me. A dumb little four-letter answer, but it kept me from getting Any of those Acrosses up there. Total stymification. So I went down and got RESPECTS and followed it further down into the SW corner, which seemed pretty easy until I got to AVERAGE ... what? I wrote in JOE at first, but there are multiple reasons why *that* was obviously wrong (51A: Regular joes). I wrote in MEN but took it out because AVERAGE MEN is not a phrase. And yet ... there it is. That is easily the most disappointing thing in the grid. I wrote in "AVERAGE JOE" for a reason—because that's the phrase. I'd also accept AVERAGE GUY. But MEN? Blargh.

I managed to crawl up the central passage to the NW, where I finally got OH, MY changed to I SAY!, and then that just left the SE, which was weirdly full of pitfalls. Dropped ENGINE ROOM no problem (28D: Scotty's domain on "Star Trek"), but other stuff proved harder. Got vocabbed to death there with both "stola" and "halluces" being huge WTFs for me. Even with -OG- in place at 35A: Stola : woman :: ___ : man (TOGA), my only thought was "... DOGE?" And [Halluces] had me thinking (perhaps not surprisingly) "hallucinates." Wrong. Also, the (awesome) clue on TEXT was tough to see through (35D: Exchange between cell mates?). Finally ended it all by conceding that the MEN in AVERAGE MEN had to be right. Is BAKER part of some radio alphabet or something. "Able, BAKER ... Candlestickmaker?" Who knows? All I know is that I got the Happy Pencil. Game over. Had a great birthday/Thanksgiving. Looking forward to a long weekend of leftovers and lollygagging.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Whale constellation / THU 11-26-15 / Trans-Siberian Railway hub / Fluid-filled sac near joint / Computer cursor advancers / Accommodations along Black Sea / Lead in to boom de ay

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: TEN (71A: Number of mispelled [sic] words in this puzzle's clues (oh, by the way, watch out for those tricky circled squares!) — circled squares are areas in common words that are often misspelled. Today, the common misspellings will actually give you a *correct* answer in the Downs/crosses. Hence the "watch out" admonition in the revealer clue:

Theme answers:
  • PHARAOH / BALD and OHS (not BOLD and AHS!)
Word of the Day: PELHAM (45A: New York's ___ Bay Park) —
Pelham Bay Park is a public park located in the northeast corner of the New York City borough of the Bronx and extending partially into Westchester County. It is, at 2,772 acres (1,122 ha), the largest public park in New York City. The section of the park within New York City's borders is more than three times the size of Manhattan's Central Park. The park is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. (wikipedia)
• • •

I actually liked how this one started out. There were lots of snappy little words like CHOKED and DOCILE and BAD COP, and the clue on UNZIP was especially nice (18D: Drop, like flies?). But after POP TAB (which I enjoyed), the bottom started falling out of this thing. The fill started to deteriorate badly, and when you first themer is the horribly dull OCCURRENCE, well, that doesn't promise good things. As I went along, I saw that the random circles were filled with random vowels, vowels that didn't appear to anagram to anything or form any kind of pattern ... and I'm wondering what kind of dumb post-solve puzzle I'm going to have to solve. And then after enduring TARARA and PSAT and RELO and ATAP and IFAT and SSRS and ILA and All Of It (please let constructing software help you ... please!) I got to the revealer clue. My first two thoughts were negative: "Who cares if words in the *clues* are misspelled?" and "Who cares that people often misspell those words? How many people a. solve the NYT crossword and b. somehow *don't* know how to spell PHARAOH or DEFINITELY? If you are a reasonably good speller, this puzzle will go right by you." OK, I'm not sure that second thought was so coherent at the time, but that's the gist of it. It was only after a few moments, after I considered the implications of misspelling the words in the grid, that I noticed that, technically, all the crosses would *work* with the misspellings. *This* made me admire the puzzle, conceptually, a heck of a lot more, even though the only one of these misspellings with any hope of tripping me is "SEPERATE," which even now looks correct to my eyes. So though it wasn't terribly fun to solve and is way, way too chock full o' junk, the theme had real cleverness to it.

Why does the puzzle think I will want to count things in the clues? It tried to get me to count 49 "R"s a while back, and now it wants me to count misspelled words? No. Pass. Also, all hail the arrival of the new Stupidest E-Word Ever: EBATE!! I went initially with ESALE, as that seemed equally stupid but no less plausible. With each new dumb E-word, I e-love ECIG more. Let's see, what else? I think PELHAM is probably the hardest thing in the grid (for non-New Yorkers), and I definitely would've clued that thing ["The Taking of ___ 1, 2, 3" (1974 thriller set on a New York City subway car)], but the crosses all seem fair—unless, somehow, you've never heard of a DACHA, which seems slightly possible (25D: Accomodations [sic] along the Black Sea) (oh, look, I unintentionally found one of the misspellings!). Since the puzzle was so easy, I didn't make many mistakes. TAB SETS (is that a thing?) instead of TAB KEYS at first (44D: Computer cursor advancers). CERUS for CETUS (36A: Whale constellation). I think CERUS has to do with wax." Oh, ha ha, I quickly wrote in EVITA before fully reading the clue at 23A: Musical character who sings "Wouldn't it be loverly?" (ELIZA). Else, no problems.

["Let's not split at Thanksgiving / That would be too rough"]

Happy Thanksgiving, which is also my birthday. Just FYI—the proper way to give thanks for me is with bourbon and pie, though regional traditions do vary.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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