Faerie Queene woman whose name means peace / MON 6-27-16 / Spanish red wine / Insult slangily / Admonishment for public displays of affection / Vaping need informally / Lyft competitor

Monday, June 27, 2016

Constructor: Kevan Choset

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: LIVES OF EASE (59A: Carefree existences ... or, punnily, what 17-, 27- and 45-Across have) — answers are LIVES (i.e. human beings) with only "E"s as vowels in their names:

Theme answers:
  • PEE WEE REESE (17A: 1940w-'50s Dodgers great who lent support to Jackie Robinson)
  • ELLEN DEGENERES (27A: Comedian who hosted the 2014 Oscars)
  • RENEE ZELLWEGER (45A: Actress with the classic line "You had me at hello")
Word of the Day: RIOJA (1A: Spanish red wine) —
Rioja [ˈrjoxa] is a wine region in Spain, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca., "Qualified Designation of Origin"). Rioja wine is made from grapes grown in the autonomous communities of La Rioja and Navarre, and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions, though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines. (wikipedia)
• • •
I have 15 minutes to write this. Can I do it? We'll see.

Finished in 2:40, despite what felt like many hicc- and f*ck-ups. Stymied right away at 1A: Spanish red wine. Only five-letter wine my brain wants is SOAVE, for some reason. Move to 1D: In awe, and confidently write in AGOG. So we're off to a roaring start. Luckily for me, Ed ASNER got me the right track and then PEE WEE REESE catapulted me into the grid (though not before I had a RIOJO/A trip-up; this is why you check your crosses, always. RIOJO / ORE would've looked fine to my eyes ... but 5D clue says otherwise). After I got the NW squared away, I entered answers almost as fast as I could type, with only two real moments of hesitation. The first was at 27D: Vaping need, informally. First, I read it as "vamping" and wanted MIKE (you know, microphone, "informally"). My iPhone autocorrect also insists that "vaping" is "vamping," by the way. When I realized, no, it's "vaping," I just froze. What does one need in order to vape, except possibly "desperation" or "lack of dignity"? E-CIG? That's a weird way to clue E-CIG. Like cluing FOOD [Eating need]. Gah. The less you ask me to know about or think about vaping, the happier we're all gonna be.

The next and final slow-down was the revealer. Had LIVES OF ... and wanted EASE, but the phrase LIVES OF EASE has so little snap, so little crispness, that I couldn't take it seriously as a revealer. The plural is what makes it weird. It's a limping revealer. But it's accurate enough, and the LIVES part takes what could be a supremely dumb idea (themers where the only vowels are Es!!!) and gives it focus and specificity (all the answers are people, i.e. LIVES). Approved.

13 minutes! Unh! In your face ... time!

Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Queen pop music nickname / SUN 6-26-16 / OutKast chart-topper / Supercontinent of 200 million years ago / Subj for radio astronomer / Food feelings after big meals / River tributary of Thames / Tree with catkins / Seal of Solomon others

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Constructor: Priscilla Clark and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium (assuming you know all the MLB teams)

THEME: "Sports Page Headlines" — phrases that look like baseball headlines are clued as ... I don't know, something else:

Theme answers:
  • MARINERS BATTLE PIRATES (23A: Conflict at sea) (bad outlier—all the others are about losses)
  • TIGERS CAN'T HANDLE CUBS (47A: Parenting problem at a zoo) (how are these not "?"'d?)
  • YANKEES DEFEAT REDS (69A: Cold War synopsis)
  • PADRES BOW TO CARDINALS (94A: Show of respect at the Vatican)
  • NATIONALS TOPPLE ROYALS (120A: Overthrow of a monarchy)
Word of the Day: KOSS (8D: Big name in headphones) —
Koss Corporation is an American company that designs and manufactures headphones. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin since 1958, the company invented the first high fidelity stereophones. Koss continues to design and manufacture headphones and audio accessories. (wikipedia)
• • •

I am huge baseball fan, so I should've loved this, but Oh Man I did not. I thought that at least I might get *different* "sports" (as implicitly promised by the puzzle's title), but no. It's just all .. baseball teams. And all ... imagined headlines of hypothetical outcomes, four of which involve losing, and one of which involves simply "battling." For some reason. God how I wish interleague play weren't a thing, both because I genuinely hate it and because then 80% of these imagined sports headlines would be inconceivable (except as World Series headlines) and then maybe this puzzle wouldn't exist. It's hard to explain how joyless I found this. Perhaps this is because I Love crosswords and I Love baseball, and when you put them together, I expect Love-squared greatness. But here, what I get is so dull and straightforward, I don't really understand how it qualifies as a theme. Certainly not a theme in the self-described "best puzzle in the world."

 [At a Yankees game last year: (top) Mike Nothnagel, Doug Peterson, (bottom) Brad Wilber, Sam Ezersky, me; not pictured: the rest!]

Are NATIONALS ... what are nationals? They're just citizens of a particular country. Does the puzzle mean "nationalists"? I can't imagine a political headline of "NATIONALS TOPPLE ROYALS." And "Yankees" is not a term associated with the Cold War. Google [Yankees Reds Cold War] and you get some baseball sites, some Cold War sites that explicitly exclude the word "Yankees" from the search, and also you get a one hit for the official blog of the NYT Crossword itself (telling you how great this puzzle is, no doubt). This is botched left right and center, at the thematic level. As for fill, it's fine. Acceptable. Neither great nor terrible. But the theme is D.O.A. and then some. The only one of these that works on any level is TIGERS CAN'T HANDLE CUBS (it's cute to imagine). None of the other team names *really* go together. They're forced. And in the service of what? Bland, boring, monotonous.

No real trouble except in the HAN / TOTO section. I don't remember TOTO harassing the Cowardly Lion. I wanted FEAR there. Or maybe GNAT, I don't know. HAN I know as a Chinese ethnicity, not as characters. GEM did not come easily at all for the Pink Panther clue. HOVER CAR seems made-up. I absolutely needed to know TIGERS were a baseball team to get that section, which made me pity all the non-sports fans who do the puzzle. Normally, I don't pity these folks at all, but today, it's just the *one* sport, and there are ten different team names to get here. You should be able to get them all, but I can see non-baseball fans getting slowed down badly. *I* got slowed down just by mentally scrolling through all the teams trying to find the right one. Ugh. Death this puzzle was. Next!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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