Al Capp diminutive / WED 3-1-17 / Unlawful behavior in strict Muslim countries for short / Monster beheaded by Perseus / Autos with charging stations / Sitcom extraterrestrial

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Constructor: David Phillips

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: two-word phrases where second word starts A- imagined as three-word phrases where "A" is a stand-alone word. It's wacky, trust me

Theme answers:
  • STUDY A BROAD (17A: Read up on a woman, old-fashionedly?)
  • RISK A VERSE (24A: Take a chance on a work of poetry?)
  • TICKET A GENT (35A: Cite a chap for speeding?)
  • LEAD A STRAY (48A: Coax a lost dog to follow you?)
  • SNIFF A ROUND (58A: Check the aroma of a few beers?)
Word of the Day: Richard BRANSON (12D: Richard who founded Virgin Atlantic) —
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (born 18 July 1950) is an English business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies. (wikipedia)
• • •

No. This is D.O.A. Should've been sent back immediately because of one obvious, important defect: TICKET AGENT doesn't work. It doesn't. Does. Not. Say all the other themers aloud to yourself—see how naturally they sound like both themselves *and* their imagined wacky counterpart. Effortless. Seamless. Just fine. But in America (and everywhere else English is spoken, I imagine), AGENT has the emphasis on the first syllable, making the whole TICKET A [space] GENT move absurd, wrong, off, terrible, no. TICKET AGENT and TICKET A GENT simply do not sound the same. Honestly, this is glaring and obvious. It's unbelievable this wasn't sent back for a simple redesign. Repeal and replace!!! PULL A HEAD, TAG A LONG (... actress Shelley?), CLIMB A BOARD, BLOW A PART (miscomb your hair?). I don't even know what to say. He's just tolerating slop now. I guess submissions must be (way?) down.

More trouble: you aren't sidestepping the weird ogley sexism of STUDY A BROAD with your little "old-fashionedly" clue addendum. Further, what is up with the clue on PDA (6D: Unlawful behavior in strict Muslim countries, for short)? That is gratuitous and weird and strange and at least vaguely hostile. Unnecessarily so. Why do you go out of your way to bring "Muslim countries" into your clue for stupid PDA, which is a distinctly American initialism / concept? I do not understand these editorial choices. Beyond that, the grid was OK, though PENSÉE + AMIES = too far down French road. I did enjoy the clue on PAPER CUT (11D: Small slice of one's workday?). Enough about this puzzle. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. this puzzle was super-easy. 30 seconds faster than yesterday, down at my normal Tuesday time.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Two-masted vessel / TUE 2-28-17 / Infamous prison featured in 1969 best seller Papillon / Breakfast food with rhyming slogan / Setting for much of movie Lion / Quaint inn informally

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for Tuesday—time just over 4)

THEME: STAND-UP GUYS (28D: Honest sorts ... or what the circled squares contain?) — circled squares contains synonyms for "guy" running "up"...

Theme answers:
  • NET NEGATIVE (4D: Outcome that's overall unfavorable)
  • RADICAL LEFT (26D: Socialist Workers Party's ideology)
  • ILE DU DIABLE (9D: Infamous prison featured in the 1969 best seller "Papillon") 
Word of the Day: ILE DU DIABLE
île du Diable ("Devil's Island") is the third-largest island of the Îles du Salut island group in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located approximately 14 km (9 mi) off the coast of French Guiana in South America just north of the town of Kourou. It has an area of 14 ha (34.6 acres). The island was a part of a controversial French penal colony located in French Guiana for 101 years, from 1852 to 1953. Although it was the smallest part of the penal colony, it is notorious for being used for internal exile of French political prisoners during that period. The most famous political prisoner on Devil's Island was Captain Alfred Dreyfus. (wikipedia)
• • •

Why do I feel like I've seen this exact theme before, but done with stand-up comics (e.g. LENO) instead of words for "guy"? Dunno. I do a lot of puzzles. Anyway, this seems a fine idea. Not one that really helps you solve the puzzle, or one that you even really notice as you're solving, but ... there it is! It played much harder than average for me, largely because of the beyond-Tuesday themer ILE DU DIABLE (real outlier, familiarity-wise), but also because of ugh-ish cluing on ERRED (25A: Muffed one), which I read as "adj. noun" and thus had as ERROR. This meant that with BANDB in place, I went with AT WAR for 7D: Not on good terms (with) (IN BAD). I also did not know a BRIG was a ship (I actually wanted BRIG, but talked myself out of it: "That's a ship's *prison*" I said to myself) (23D: Two-masted vessel). Had "Ready, SET" not "Ready, AIM" at 24A. Finally, couldn't figure out 44A: Things ghosts lack (BODIES). They have BODIES. They're just not ... solid? I don't know; something about that clue seems wrong / dumb. Oh, and I started with ELSE instead of ALSO at 3D: In addition. If you draw a line across the grid from NW to SE corners, virtually all of my trouble was on the upper (NE) side. That was like a Wed./Thur. puzzle for me. Rest was normal Tuesday.

How come VALE is just, like, an ordinary word today, and not all "poetic" or whatever it was a couple days ago? (54D: Area between mountains). It was not at all clear to me that 57D: Breakfast food with a rhyming slogan (EGGO) wanted a commercial product. "Slogan" didn't tip me off. After all, milk and eggs have councils that produce ads with slogans (e.g. "Got Milk") so ... yeah, went with EGGS at first. What is the movie "Lion"? (36A: Setting for much of the movie "Lion"). Is that famous? Ah, I see it was nominated for a bunch of Oscars this year. I literally have never heard of it until just this second. Meanwhile, I watched my 60th (!) movie on TCM since Christmas today. "Mildred Pierce" (1945). I am rapidly becoming not just old (i.e. stuck in my own past), but hyper-old (stuck in my grandparents' past). I'm hoping it at least pays some crossword dividends.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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