Private-sector rocket launcher / TUE 8-4-15 / Lee with 2011 #1 album Mission Bell / Yearly gathering for superhero fans / One shopping for old curios / New York county bordering Pennsylvania / Low-growing tree often in dense thickets / Missing part of Great Sphinx of Giza

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Tuesday ... actually, it was just that SW corner that slowed me down ... 3:48 solving time)

THEME: LIQUOR STORE (52A: Where to purchase the starts of 21-, 26- and 45-Across) — starts of said answers are units of booze:

Theme answers:
  • FIFTH AVENUE (21A: Fashionable shopping area in New York City)
  • SIX-PACK ABS (26A: Goal of one doing crunches)
  • CASE CLOSED ("End of discussion")
Word of the Day: SPACEX (3D: Private-sector rocket launcher) —
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company with its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, USA. It was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with the goal of creating the technologies that will enable humanity to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars (fully and rapidly reusable rockets) It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles, both of which were designed from conception to eventually become reusable, and the Dragon spacecraft which is flown into orbit by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to supply the International Space Station (ISS) with cargo. A manned version of Dragon is in development. (wikipedia)
• • •

I was probably supposed to trip on LISTICLE (35D: "21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity," e.g.), which is probably the most modern / least well-known entry in the grid, but that didn't trip me at all, and yet I still managed to fall on my face in that section because of a bummer of a cross-ref (the boring CAR / ACURA) and then TIOGA (living in NY helped some, but not much there), and then GOATS (50D: Their hair makes cashmere). My mind was sending only pictures of ... I think those are llamas. Or alpacas. Not GOATS, for sure. So I flailed around down there some, so my LISTICLE knowledge was for naught. Actually, I don't think I really know what a LISTICLE is. A list that is an article? As I typed that last question out, I became surer and surer that that is correct. But LISTICLE really seems like a brand name. There's probably a Let's see ... hmm, it's actually a dot "co." What the hell is dot "co"? This is too much new info for me to take in in one day. It was enough to learn cashmere = GOATS. Let's just leave today's learning at that.

["The stars are gonna spell out the answers to tomorrow's crossword ..."]

The theme! It was fine. Absolutely respectable for a Tuesday puzzle. In fact, for a *Tuesday* puzzle, it's bleepin' golden. Most Tuesdays end up Trying Too Hard and falling on their faces. This one just steps to the plate and hits a solid single to left, easily driving in the runner on third. This is all to say that the theme is fine, but not the highlight. The contemporary and/or bouncy fill is the highlight. SPACE X! COMIC CON! HOTH isn't contemporary, exactly, but since it's always 1980 in my soul, HOTH! I'd throw AAA and ISTS and maybe ANS. in the trash, but I'll take the rest as is. Nicely done.

  • 27D: Great Plains tribe (KIOWA) — a tribe I learned from crosswords, one that I now know of as "that K one in five letters how does it go again?" My first stab at spelling was pathetically close to KOALA.
  • 61A: What indicates everything that's left? (WILL) — first answer: ET AL. This answer is blatant sucking up to the editor. [and now here's the part where I say "I'm kidding" just in case ...]
  • 47D: Part of E = mc^2 (ENERGY) — I for real had EQUALS.
Thanks to everyone who filled in for me during my time at middle-aged summer camp (one week) and Giant Yearly Family Vacation (another week): Matt, Neville, Eli, Adrianne, Andy, Ben, Lena, Evan, Melissa, and the always lovely and reliable Annabel. It's very (very!) nice to know I can leave for a bit and all the trains will run on time (with fewer Mussolini-esque implications). You might get another pinch-hitter this weekend, as I head to Lollapuzzoola 8 in NYC this weekend (8/8!). Or else I will blog live from the tourney (or just post-tourney), which guarantees certain blog post features, none of which is complete coherence, but you'll live. Oh, and it goes without saying that you should head to Lollapuzzoola 8 this weekend if you are anywhere in or near the northeastern U.S. and also enjoy crosswords (presumably if you are reading this, you fall into the latter category; although if you do not, in fact, enjoy crosswords, please write me and let me know why you are reading my blog, as I am now dead curious).

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS if you somehow can't make it to Lollapuzzoola 8 this weekend, there's an At-Home version of the tourney you can play. Go here for details.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Fictional character who "died" in 1975 / MON 8-3-15 / News service inits. / Singer K. T. / No-sweat shot / Capital of Senegal

Monday, August 3, 2015

MADAM, I'm ADAM. Nah, just kidding...I'm Annabel! Which doesn't really have a palindrome with anything.
Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Hard (to be fair, maybe it would be easier if I had actually been alive in 1975)

THEME: HERCULE POIROT — This theme can be summed up by "I need to read more Agatha Christie." Seriously though, all theme clues are related to her fictional detective Hercule Poirot, who was so beloved that he was the only fictional character ever to have an obituary in the New York Times.

Theme answers:
  • MOUSTACHE (18A: Notable 23-Across feature)
  • HERCULE POIROT (23A: Fictional character who "died" in 1975)
  • LITTLE GREY CELLS (39A: What 23-Across thinks with [as illustrated by this grid?])
  • EGG-SHAPED HEAD (50A: Notable 23-Across feature)
  • DETECTIVE (62A: 23-Across' occupation)

Word of the Day: LITTLE GREY CELLS (39A: What 23-Across thinks with [as illustrated by this grid?]) —
Grey matter or gray matter is a major component of the central nervous system, consisting of neuronal cell bodies, neuropil (dendrites and myelinated as well as unmyelinated axons), glial cells (astroglia and oligodendrocytes), synapses, and capillaries. Grey matter is distinguished from white matter, in that grey matter contains numerous cell bodies and relatively few myelinated axons, while white matter is composed chiefly of long-range myelinated axon tracts and contains relatively very few cell bodies.[1] The color difference arises mainly from the whiteness of myelin. In living tissue, grey matter actually has a very light grey color with yellowish or pinkish hues, which come from capillary blood vessels and neuronal cell bodies.[2]
• • •

Wait, wrong French detective. Here:

Ah, there we go! So anyway, as I mentioned above, the Poirot theme that I knew nothing about made this puzzle very challenging. Too challenging, perhaps, for a Monday? It might have been a LOT easier if all the theme clues helped us figure out Poirot, rather than expecting us to know Poirot to figure out the rest of the theme clues. But hey, Steinberg wrote this when he was 14 (!!!!), cut him some slack.

The rest of the puzzle was pretty rad. Loved the identical clues for SET and LOT as well as for ACHE and LONG. BTW, Davide Steinberg, did you take French in 9th grade? Because  with MASSE, ILS, MLLE, and APERCU - for that matter, HERCULE POIROT - it sure seems like it. Pretty decent fill overall. ALSO, I had no idea that NEAP was such a staple of the crossword world (the crossworld?).  I had HIGH in that spot for the longest time, you know, because high tide is actually a normal concept that normal people know.

  • KEY (22A: Item on a custodian's ring) — That's the name of the school I just graduated from!!!!! The good old Key School, home of the Fighting Obezags. "Obezag" is...just the word "gazebo" spelled backwards because we didn't have a mascot in the 70s and had to make one up so sportswriters could write about us. We even won a contest for Top Mascot. *PTA mom Rex's BFF Liz Glass voice* If you live in Annapolis you should send your kids there!!
  • EGO (35A: Big feature for Donald Trump or Kanye West)— Cue outraged commentors. 

  • MOUSTACHE (18A: Notable 23-Across feature) — Speaking of French...
Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired rising college student


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