Strict sabbath observer of old / SUN 4-30-17 / 1920s anarchist in prominent trial / Discontinued Toyota line / Gifford's successor on TV / Kenan's former Nickelodeon pal / Activity in dohyo / Yankee Sparky who wrote Bronx zoo / Special agent gibbs's beat

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "New England Chatter" — I have no *&$%ing idea what is happening. I think there's some attempt to make wacky phrases based on the idea of a "New England" accent, but mainly there appear to be simply a dropping of Rs (?). Just seems pseudo-British, really...

Theme answers:
  • SPOCK PLUGS (22A: Commercials for a "Star Trek" movie?) (why "movie"?)
  • A CALL TO OMS (24A: Yoga teacher's invitation?) (oy, see below)
  • HOT SPECIALIST (36A: Weather forecaster in Phoenix?)
  • THE BOD OF AVON (51A: Most in-shape person at a cosmetics company?)
  • PASSING MOCK (69A: Ridicule shouted out of a moving car?)
  • INSTANT COMMA (87A: Quickly added bit of punctuation?)
  • A SHOT IN THE DOC (100A: What allowed one physician to get through flu season?)
  • LOW COB DIET (116A: Regimen with limited intake of corn?)
  • IT'S MY POTTY? (119A: Toddler's cry upon entering the bathroom?) (ICK
Word of the Day: EUTERPE (38D: Sister of Erato) —
In Greek mythology, Euterpe (/juːˈtɜːrp/; Greek: Eὐτέρπη, Greek pronunciation: [efˈterpi], Ancient Greek: [eu̯térpɛː]; "rejoicing well" or "delight" from Ancient Greek εὖ 'well' + τέρπειν terpein 'to please') was one of the Muses, the daughters of Mnemosyne, fathered by Zeus. Called the "Giver of delight", when later poets assigned roles to each of the Muses, she was the muse of music. In late Classical times she was named muse of lyric poetry[1] and depicted holding a flute. A few say she invented the aulos or double-flute, though most mythographers credit Marsyas with its invention. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is the most ill-conceived, DOA Sunday theme I can remember seeing. Ever. The fact that this saw the light of day indicates that Sunday submissions must be at dire, emergency levels. Even if this puzzle had Nailed It, conceptually, managing to turn ordinary phrases into phrases that sound like a Bostonian was saying them, it would've been corny and old hat. Done, done and done. Trite. Again, that's the *best* case scenario for this theme. The actual case scenario is a disaster, a mishmash of sound changes that resemble precisely nobody's accent. Drop the "R" appears to be the theme. -ARKs and -ARTs go to -OCKs and -OTs. First problem, that is not, in and of itself, characteristically "New England." It's not, as my friend just wrote me, "pahk the cah in hahvad yahd." Just say SPOCK PLUGS. There's nothing "New England" about it. It's just a dumb phrase. And what is up with the title: "New England Chatter." Is that supposed to be a play on "New England Chowder"? Has to be, right? But ... but ... that sound change ... doesn't fit ... at all. Seriously, what is happening? But the biggest, most ridiculous failure of this theme is 24A: A CALL TO OMS. No one—literally, no one—pronounces OMS like it rhymes with MOMS. It's a long "O." It is. It really is. Like, really. Here. Look. Here is a site called "Om Cooking: Food to Enlighten Your Palate." Because the pun is on HOME!!!!!!!! OM rhymes with HOME. *Everybody* *Knows* *This*. Is no one minding the store?

Jaw-dropping that this puzzle was accepted. The concept and execution are both sub-3rd-rate-in-flight-magazine fare. The emperor continues to have few if any clothes. I'm done here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. since I'm using their image, I should probably at least tell you that the "comma chameleon" shirt is a real thing you can buy.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hannibal's men / SAT 4-29-17 / Fictional spy who first appeared in Call for Dead / Writer with given names Robert Lawrence / Capital for King Zog / Brisk competitor / Augmenting old-style

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: GEORGE SMILEY (36A: Fictional spy who first appeared in "Call for the Dead") —
George Smiley is a fictional character created by John le Carré. Smiley is a career intelligence officer with "The Circus", the British overseas intelligence agency. He is a central character in the novels Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People, and a supporting character in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Looking Glass War and The Secret Pilgrim. (wikipedia)
• • •

Whole lot of nothin' at first, and then I went on this weird loping excursion across the grid (unusual—very unusual on a Saturday):

 [note the humiliating misspelling of ABATTOIR]

Aside from that cluster in the North, the first answer I was sure of was ABATTOIR, which luckily I at least partially spelled correctly. Filled some stuff in around its tail end, and bing bam boom I'm way down in the SE corner. From this point on, I generally had enough leverage to work my way through the grid without much trouble. SE corner filled up pretty fast, and once DEAD GIVEAWAY (21D: It's pretty obvious) floated up, that fat, open center became far more tractable, far less daunting. Took me a while to get MARILYN MONROE (15D: Famed Pop Art subject) because I (very) wrongly assumed 13A: Hannibal's men ended in an "S," which gave me the wrong initial letter for the MARILYN answer. I knew -SMILEY (read "Smiley's People" a couple years back) but totally forgot his first name, so getting into the SW corner was a little tricky. Had SUMMERED for WINTERED at 11D: Spent a season in the sun? for a bit, and needed nearly ever cross for NATANT (18A: Swimming), an actual word that I've never seen used anywhere. Biggest problem spot of the day was easily the NW, where [Hannibal's men] ("THE A-TEAM") just destroyed me, and --ART- sent my pattern recognition program straight to ECARTE (3D: Trick-taking card game). Like HEARTS, ECARTE is Also A Trick-Taking Game. Ugh. But at the end of the solve, I was a little bit under 9 minutes—very average for a Saturday. Maybe even a hair's breadth faster than usual. I quite liked this one. The center came out really very good. Connective tissue is mostly strong, with DURA/ITSA being the only weak spot.

I think I mentioned that erstwhile crossword plagiarist Timothy Parker was back publishing puzzles for Universal (a widely syndicated crossword). I thought you'd like to see his latest creation, which is ... notable? ... for two things. One, its theme—the title is "Initial Sandwich"; see if you can figure out why. And while you're at it, please admire the second notable feature—a truly stellar clue (in the blue strip, up top) for SNOB:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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