Exemplar of masculinity / MON 8-29-16 / CBS spinoff set in SoCal / Clic Stic pen maker / 1990s fitness fad with infomercials

Monday, August 29, 2016

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (triviality of themers was only hold-up)


THEME: WYOMING (39A: Squarest of the 50 states) — uh ... OK. Some Wyoming things:


Theme answers:
  • OLD FAITHFUL (17A: Famous geyser in 39-Across)
  • DEVIL'S TOWER (11D: Noted rock formation in 39-Across)
  • JACKSON HOLE (24D: Skiing mecca in 39-Across)
  • FORT LARAMIE (60A: Historic trading post in 39-Across) 
Word of the Day: DEVIL'S TOWER
Devils Tower (Lakota: Matȟó Thípila or Ptehé Ǧí, which means "Bear Lodge" and "Brown Buffalo Horn", respectively) is an laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises dramatically 1,267 feet (386 m) above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet (265 m) from summit to base. The summit is 5,112 feet (1,559 m) above sea level. // Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Monument's boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres (545 ha) // In recent years, about 1% of the Monument's 400,000 annual visitors climbed Devils Tower, mostly using traditional climbing techniques. (wikipedia)
• • •

Really? WYOMING? Because ... it's square (-ish). And crosswords are made of squares (-ish)!?!? That is ... not strong. NO FUN. A thematic FLOP. Grid is filled well enough, but Mars must really need Monday puzzles if this is passing muster, theme-wise. The only pleasure I got from the theme was the odd coincidence of solving it right after I'd (re- re- re-) watched "Shane" earlier on Sunday (part of Jean Arthur day on TCM). Watching the intro by Ben Mankiewicz, I learned that George Stevens was very particular about scouting the location for the movie, which ended up being somewhere around ... JACKSON HOLE. Beautiful (the scenery and the movie). But that's not much as theme pleasure goes. Maybe the bar for themes is super-low on Mondays as long as the fill isn't dreck. And the fill isn't dreck. So here we are.


I think I average somewhere in the 2:50s on Monday, and today was in the 2:40s, hence the relative difficulty of Easy-Medium. Would've been super easy but for FORT LARAMIE and DEVIL'S TOWER, both of which required lots of crosses before I got them. MAN'S MAN (nice answer) was also slightly hard to parse (50A: Exemplar of masculinity). Speaking of MAN'S MAN: Shane! That movie is about nothing if not Being A Man. Removing Stumps! Getting in Barfights! Making Hot But Respectful Eyes at Nice Married Ladies! Making Young Boys Worship You! Van Heflin and all those homesteader ("sodbuster") guys are just limp until Shane rides into town and stands up to that terrible Riker gang! (I'm talking about "Shane" so I don't have to talk about this puzzle, about which I have no more to say) Gonna go admire Jean Arthur some more now. Good night, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Green spirit / SUN 8-28-16 / Taiping Rebellion general / Fastener with ring-shaped head / Mythical father of Harmonia strangely enough / Hit upside the head in slang / Cousin of lemming

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: "The First Shall Be Last" — first letter of a word in each themer is moved to the end of the word, creating wackiness galore:

Theme answers:
  • RADAR ANGER (22A: Reason to scream "Why won't this damn thing locate airplanes!"?)
  • DAME CHEESE (23A: Honorary title in Wisconsin?)
  • SENATE IDEA (42A: "Hey, let's gather 100 people to enact laws and ratify treaties"?)
  • HEAR PERLMAN (50A: Listen to violinist Itzhak's music?)
  • SPRITE DE CORPS (65A: Soft drink favored by the Marines?)
  • ASSUMED AMEN (79A: Church response that's taken as a given?)
  • INSIDE OPED (87A: Newspaper essay on why not to go outdoors?)
  • THANE ALLEN (108A: Woody playing a medieval baron?)
  • IM'ED NOVELS (110A: Books written entirely in chat rooms?) 
[UPDATE: I just found out there is an "unofficial" metapuzzle element to this thing. I did the write-up without knowing this (how could I know?) so keep that in mind. If you want to figure out the meta for your self, don't look at the very end of this write-up—I'll add the answer in a P.S.] 

[The meta answer is a nine-letter word] 

[please disregard Everything I say in the write-up about the theme being loose] 

[Again, why on god's green would you keep this hidden from the solving public, WTF?]

Word of the Day: DOPE SLAP (82D: Hit upside the head, in slang) —
A corrective action that consists of the following:
  1. Take open palm.
  2. Deliver slap directly to the back of the skull.
  3. Optional: Ask some variant of "What are you, stupid or something?"
The Dope Slap is a (generally) lighthearted slap (or knuckle tap) to the back of the skull that is intended as a disciplinary move by one character when another character does, says, or even thinks something that is uniformly stupid, or just to shut them up. The slap is almost always in some way played for laughs; think of it as an attempt at Percussive Maintenance on somebody's brain, and thus occasionally overlaps with Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!. Another variation is a "shut up" poke to the ribs with the elbow. Finally, it may also be performed simply by making a slapping motion in the direction of the target, without any actual physical contact occurring. (tvtropes.org)
• • •


This Pasco kid is everywhere of late—or so it seems. He won two different divisions at the most recent Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament (which I missed because my beloved 14-year-old dog was sick, [frowny face]), and he is the constructor of the most recent American Values Club Crossword—a meta puzzle that kinda puts today's puzzle to shame (both of them Sunday-sized, but the AVCX just far more clever and much more fun to solve). I mean, this puzzle is fine, but it's pretty ordinary NYT fare. This is how I now think of the difference between the NYT (the self-styled "best puzzle in the world") and the AVCX (the actual best puzzle in ... well, the country, let's be reasonable; what do I know from "the world"?): the NYT does what it does and what it's been doing for a quarter century-ish, and it does it, most days, relatively well. At least competently. It's certainly still the best daily (though WSJ makes a run at it many days). But for sheer ingenuity and cleverness and especially for pure solving pleasure, the (once-a-week) AVCX is the best thing around. So this puzzle is a victim of its constructor's own success (seriously, you should do his "Girl, Interrupted" AVCX puzzle—it's pretty sweet; and you still have til the end of today to solve the meta and enter the contest).

[PATTI!]

This move-a-letter concept feels old, even if the results are occasionally very funny. Sometime first word, sometimes last word ... so conceptually loose as well. Hey, there's a DOPE dupe (sort of ... play on the phrase "inside dope" and then the answer DOPE SLAP, which ... only barely qualifies as a thing, and is certainly not a thing I've ever heard in my increasingly-close-to-half-a-century's existence). Speaking of near dupes, LAO-TSE and General TSO in the same grid? Those two aren't allowed anywhere near each other. The fill on this is very average, and when it's not, it stands out in not-great ways (see DOPE SLAP). EYE BOLT is pretty original, but it's yet another thing I've never heard of. Honestly, sincerely, I thought it was a term for a piercing, like ... a facial piercing of your eye ... lid? brow? Something. At any rate, puzzle was quite easy except for the SW corner, where all the Downs were hard for me, and I thought BAAS (uck) were MOOS and I thought Robert HAYS was Robert something else, possibly RIES (?), and SALES DAYS is blarghy. I do like ABSINTHE though (79D: Green spirit). A lot. But usually just as a rinse in a cocktail like a sazerac. Too much, and it's SANTA HAT time, in that I might literally put on the SANTA HAT that currently resides on one of the three dog sculptures in my living room.


All of you should find the equivalence of [Intellectual] and EGG-HEADED annoying. Uh, you're the Sunday New York Times Crossword, so who are you calling EGG-HEADED, anyway? Clue may as well have said [Like you, probably]. I would've respected it more. Lastly, re: clue on IM'ED NOVELS ... I don't think IM'ing has a very tight connection with "chat rooms"—I'm sure they are technically related, but the association feels thin, in that plenty of kids IM (or used to, when that was more of a thing) completely outside the context of "chat rooms" (a phrase which reeks of 1998). But an online chat is a form of instant messaging, and insofar as such IM'ing might take place in "chat rooms," I guess the clue is at least semi-valid. Feels imprecise, clumsy, and dated, but defensible. (I feel this about NYT clues not infrequently)

BYE BYE!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. the answer to the meta puzzle is:






REAR-ENDED (a word formed from the moved letters in the theme answers, taken in the order in which they appear in the grid)

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