Antique medical device used for electrotherapy / MON 3-19-18 / Taiwanese computer brand / DC Comics superhero with sidekick Speedy / Bureaucratic rigmarole / Cowpoke's sweetie

Monday, March 19, 2018

Constructor: Michael Wiesenberg and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium Monday

THEME: RAINBOW (48A: What the starts of the answers to the seven starred clues constitute) — all the colors...

Theme answers:
  • ORANGE PEEL (17A: *Garnish for a cocktail)
  • INDIGO GIRLS (26A: *"Closer to Fine" folk-rock group)
  • YELLOW LIGHT (44A: *Caution to slow down)
  • GREEN ARROW (60A: *DC Comics superhero with the sidekick Speedy)
  • BLUE BIRDS (10D: *Symbols of happiness)
  • RED TAPE (23A: *Bureaucratic rigmarole)
  • VIOLET RAY (35D: *Antique medical device used for electrotherapy)
Word of the Day: FWIW (56A: Letters suggesting "I'll just go ahead and throw this out") —
acronym for "for what it's worth". Used mainly in computer-based conversation (instant messaging, email, text messaging, etc.) (online slang dictionary)
• • •

Well yes those are the colors of a RAINBOW ... OK. Pretty literal, pretty basic, pretty bland. Doesn't seem NYT-worthy, conceptually. No wordplay or cleverness here at all. The colors are actually the colors. The peels are orange, the birds are blue. The girls aren't actually indigo, though. That must be metaphorical. Or maybe related to denim. VIOLET RAY is almost painfully literal, in that its first word is the color and the second word relates to light. YELLOW LIGHT not doing much better. At least a YELLOW LIGHT is a thing people know. [Antique medical device used for electrotherapy]?? That is a long, grim, bygone way to go to get VIOLET RAY. The fill here is acceptable but no better. Teeters at times, but mostly stays upright. Pretty BLAND overall. Not sure why this gets made, published. Hoping for slightly more adventurous and ambitious stuff tomorrow.

INDIGO GIRLS is a smug little insidery wink (NYT loves those)—the INDIGO GIRLS were featured in the documentary "Wordplay" (2005) as one of a handful of celebrity solvers (including pitcher Mike Mussina, president Bill Clinton, and comedian Jon Stewart). They were charming, and I have always enjoyed their music. Saw them live twice when I was in college—once in Edinburgh, opening for 10,000 Maniacs; then again, headlining at the Pantages in L.A. I went to Pomona College with Emily Saliers' sister, Carrie. Annnnnnnyway, nice to see the duo's name today.

I had a lot of little trouble in this grid. Mostly it was a breeze, but I had weird blanking moments. When BAR didn't work at 25A: Place for drinks, my brain just refused to see PUB, even with the -UB in there. Was just looking at an old collection of "Li'l Abner" in the bookstore yesterday, thinking "Who the hell reads this?" And here we are with PAPPY. Abnerspeak (or "Dogpatch") is an old crossword standby. Like, really old. Never bothered to learn much about it. It mostly drifted into the mists of yore. Just not today. Balked at VIOLET RAY because wth is that? Had LOAN for LEND, as I always always do (55D: Supply temporarily). Couldn't make sense of plural GRIEFS for a while (45D: Intense sorrows). Could think only of the grieving sound of GROANS. Really really couldn't make sense of FWIW, which was clued as if it was referring to trash (56A: Letters suggesting "I'll just go ahead and throw this out"). When Green Lantern didn't fit, and Green Hornet didn't fit, I drew a blank at that last themer. Still an easy puzzle. A normal, easy, Monday puzzle. Goodbye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Pope who excommunicated Elizabeth I / SUN 3-18-18 / Huck Finn possessive / Judas's question to Lord / Term for whole in Swiss cheese / Metallic S-shaped piece

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Constructor: Daniel Raymon

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Taking Your Q" — You don't actually "take" the Q anywhere; You put a "QU-" where a hard "C" sound should be, creating wacky answers, clued "?"-style:

Theme answers:
  • QUERY WASHINGTON  (24A: Interrogate a founding father?)
  • TRENCH QUOTE (39A: "There are no atheists in foxholes"?)
  • BABY QUAKES (46A: Tremors?)
  • "HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, QUID" (72A: Comment by a Brit down to his last coin?)
  • QUICK BOXER (93A: One knocking out an opponent in the first round?)
  • PEACHY QUEEN (105A: Monarch who's fine and dandy?)
  • ORDER IN THE QUART (122A: Have a little ice cream delivered?)
Word of the Day: Kerry Washington (basis for QUERY WASHINGTON) —
Kerry Marisa Washington (born January 31, 1977) is an American actress. Since 2012, Washington has gained wide public recognition for starring in the ABC drama Scandal, a Shonda Rhimes series in which she plays Olivia Pope, a crisis management expert to politicians and power brokers in Washington DC, and also is a producer. For her role, she has been nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama SeriesScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series. (wikipedia)
• • •

The title doesn't really work. Also, this kind of simple sound-change theme only works if the results are legit funny, and ... I don't know. Seems like the clues could've been a lot more inventive. Again, with Wacky puzzles, go *Wacky* or go home. None of this tepid wackiness. Tepid wackiness is wack. All the "?" clues are actually fairly straightforward. The overall result is a very doable but very dull puzzle. The abundance of "Q"s livens up the grid a little, but not enough (some of those "Q"s are wasted on horrible stuff like ESQS and SEQS (?)). Surprised how easy this played, given how many things I didn't know, or barely knew, beginning with 1A: Big name in computer networking (CISCO). I mean, now that I look at it, yeah, sure, I've seen that. But it didn't come easily to me. Neither did MARACAIBO or MCLAREN or RABE or ROHAN or EAMONN (notice the common thread—all proper nouns). But none of those was anything more than a slight speed bump.

My biggest problems actually came from ticky-tack little bad-fill answers, most notably OSSEO- (!?!) (29A: Bone: Prefix). What the hell? OSTEO-, I know. OSTEO-, I was sure had to be the right answer. I have no doubt that there is some context in which OSSEO- applies, but wow I don't know what it is. I also have no idea about random popes and so when it started with a "P" (63D: Pope who excommunicated Elizabeth I), I wrote in PAUL and then waited for the Roman numeral. Got the "V" and thought, "Sure, why not? PAUL V!" And that's only two letters off, and one of those letters was in the horrid 71A: Suffix in Sussex, where -ASE seemed ... possible? It was finally having TRULTY at 80A: True that made me have to reinterrogate all my crosses. Thus PAUL became PIUS. This is why random Popes are so much fun.

I have so many announcements this week, where to start? First, today was the Finger Lakes Crossword Competition, at which I have been a speaker and judge for several years now. Had a wonderful time, as usual. Congratulations to Jesse Lansner, who won it handily (He's a very fast solver who will be competing at next weekend's ACPT). Lots of people were there because they'd heard me talk about the tournament in the past. One woman—Mickey Schied—was there in part because she heard the episode the "Allusionist" podcast about last year's Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament, then saw that *this* tournament was happening closer to her home, and she recognized my name from that same podcast, so bam, she decides to show up and compete ... and then WIN the Easy Division. Awesome.

 [Jesse and his championship bracelet]

[my wife, Penelope, and Mickey Schied]

So that was fun.

Now for news you can use:

QUEER QROSSWORDS ( — Nate Cardin organized and edited this collection of crosswords made (and edited) entirely by LGBTQ+ folks. 22 puzzles, from established pros as well as newcomers, all yours (in the form of a .PDF) when you make a new donation of at least $10 to the LGBTQ+ charity of your choice and forward the receipt to the editor. Instructions are on the website. I gave to the Southern Tier AIDS Program. Good puzzles, good cause(s), not expensive. What more do you want?


Also, this announcement from Ben Tausig, ed. of the American Values Club Crossword (AVCX):

Good chance to try out the best of what AVCX has to offer. You should already be a subscriber, but if you're not ... here, try these.


What else? Oh, I was interviewed for a podcast called "Teaching in the Arts"—it's mostly about teaching, but there's crossword content in there as well. Here's a link to the podcast page at iTunes; or you can just listen to the episode on the web, here.


Further: in crossword business news, Peter Gordon, ed. of Fireball Crosswords, just announced a 50% pay raise for constructors ($451 / puzzle), meaning that once again his independent outlet pays better than the NYT. The NYT's rates remain shamefully low, given how much profit their puzzles generate. I love that Peter is not afraid to enumerate allllll the ways that making puzzles for him is a superior experience to making them for the NYT.

Also, it goes without saying that if you like good, hard, tricky puzzles (think Thursday themes with Friday/Saturday difficulty), then you should definitely be a Fireball subscriber.


And *lastly*: The Indie 500 crossword tournament (Saturday, June 2, Washington, D.C.) is now open for registration. There is a solve-at-home division if you'd like to solve the puzzles but are unable to make it to the tournament in person. This year's tourney is called "Dressed to Fill," and has a theme: FASHION! Check out the tourney home page for all the information you need. I've been to every Indie 500 so far and always have a really good time. The slate of constructors looks fantastic—lots of young faces, lots of female faces (yay!). So I'm excited. Please come and solve and meet lovely people and have a good time.

Enjoy your Sunday. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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