JFK landers until 2003 / WED 10-26-16 / Inner Hebrides isle / Certain pool sites for short / Not dress overmodestly

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Constructor: Scott Yut

Relative difficulty: Easy (ridic-easy)

THEME: SHOW SOME LEG (55A: Not dress overmodestly ... or what 18-, 25- and 43-Across each do?) — leg parts hidden in theme answers (broken across two-word phrases):

Theme answers:
  • BANK LENDING (18A: Source of start-up cash perhaps)
  • TROPICAL FRUIT (25A: Guava or papaya)
  • RIDGEMONT HIGH (43A: "Fast Times" school)
Word of the Day: "Fast Times at RIDGEMONT HIGH"
Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a 1982 American coming-of-age teen comedy film written by Cameron Crowe, adapted from his 1981 book of the same name. Crowe went undercover at Clairemont High School in San Diego, and wrote about his experiences. // The film was directed by Amy Heckerling (in her feature film directorial debut) and chronicles a school year in the lives of sophomores Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Mark Ratner (Brian Backer), and their respective older friends Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and Mike Damone (Robert Romanus), both of whom believe themselves wiser in the ways of romance than their younger counterparts. The ensemble cast of characters form two subplots with Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), a junior, carefree stoned surfer, facing off against uptight history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), and Stacy's brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), a senior who works at a series of entry-level jobs in order to pay off his car, and who is pondering easing out of his relationship with his girlfriend, until she herself dumps him. // In addition to Penn, Reinhold, Cates and Leigh, the film marks early appearances by several actors who later became stars, including Nicolas Cage (then billing himself as Nicolas Coppola), Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony Edwards. Among the actors listed, Penn, Cage, and Whitaker would later on in their careers win the Academy Award for Best Actor, with Penn winning twice. // In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
• • •

The theme answers actually HIDE SOME LEG, so there's a little conceptual problem there. But let's interpret "show" somewhat more broadly—I think the revealer is interesting and the theme is fine. BANK LENDING is a painfully dull answer; also, the clue seems to want BANK LOAN(S)—the "source" is a loan, not a lending. But it's tolerable, and the other themers are solid. RIDGEMONT HIGH is my favorite, for generational reasons (i.e. I was an adolescent when that came out and I watched it over and over and over and was just listening to Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby" on SiriusFM's "80s on 8" and thinking "man, I should watch 'Fast Times...' again..."). Jennifer Jason Leigh should be in more movies! This is my takeaway from this puzzle. Unforeseen.

Fill is not good. Out of the box. The old box. The box in the rec room that smells faintly of mildew, the one that's got all the old toys and board games in it. Except not as fun. MRE ASA NIL stack! IT'S SO AMNIO ENERO SST etc. And the fill quality is especially troublesome given that it took four cheater squares* to get it to even *this* level of tolerable. Even the long stuff is kinda struggling to get by. AMERICA'S is a partial. PSEUDO is a prefix. Somehow multiple YMCAS *and* multiple LIBIDOS are rolling around together. NAN is never ever ever [Indian bread]. NAAN is [Indian bread]. NAN is a Talese. You shouldn't cross I'Ms like that (5D, 15A). FINAGLE is always a good word. This puzzle was Monday-easy—a full minute faster than yesterday's. Total misplacement. Why? BEATS ME.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*'cheater squares' are black squares that don't increase word count, so-called because they are a cheap / easy way of making the puzzle easier to fill. Today's cheaters are the black squares directly above 28D, below 26D, above 41D, and below 19D

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Device that keeps ship's compass level / TUE 10-25-16 / Big name in bicycle helmets / Tuliplike flower whose name means butterfly in Spanish / Longtime Federer adversary / Hidden symbol between E X in Fedex logo / Coal-rich German region

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Constructor: John E. Bennett

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a TUES.)

THEME: "THE ROUND'S ON ME" (35A: Offer at a pub ... as suggested by this puzzle's circled squares) — types of liquor / beer form a vaguely "round" shape in the grid

Word of the Day: MASTIC (12D: Tile adhesive) —
noun: mastic; plural noun: mastics; noun: mastic tree; plural noun: mastic trees

  1. 1.
    an aromatic gum or resin exuded from the bark of a Mediterranean tree, used in making varnish and chewing gum and as a flavoring.
  2. 2.
    the bushy evergreen Mediterranean tree of the cashew family that yields mastic and has aromatic leaves and fruit, closely related to the pistachio.
  3. 3.
    a puttylike waterproof filler and sealant used in building. (google)
• • •

That revealer is a swing and a miss. Big miss. Terrible miss. THIS ROUND'S ON ME is a phrase. A fine phrase. A grid-spanning 15-letter phrase. THE ROUND'S ON ME is something the alien pretending to be a human might say. Also, it's not an "offer," as the clue seems to think. It's a declaration. Further, the kinds of alcohol are pretty arbitrary, and only a few of them really fit the whole "this round's on me" thing. A round of cognac? Really? Lastly, the shape is not, in fact, round. It's octagonal. An interesting concept, totally botched in the execution. Don't do this.

[from Letterman—OMG that CD longbox!]

This played somewhat harder than normal for me (4:01) first because of the ludicrous revealer, and then because of several words I just didn't know: GIMBAL (48A: Device that keeps a ship's compass level), MASTIC, and GIRO (26D: Big name in bicycle helmets). That last one especially, hoo boy. Really stymied my eastword motion. I think my last letter was the "A" in GIMBAL. Might've been the "B" if I hadn't already changed THE NET to THE WEB (29D: What Wi-Fi can connect you to). Had LAST LAP instead of LAST LEG (25A: Final part of a relay) and zero idea what a [Common name for a cowboy] could be, despite having watched untold number of westerns. DESTRY Rides Again. I have no idea who this DUSTY guy is, to say nothing of his allegedly numerous namesakes. The lower part of the SW corner is a boatload of atrocious fill, and RETESTS abutting EAGEREST (!?) is also not great to look at. UNREAL is pretty good, as clued (2D: "That is SO incredible!"), but the rest doesn't have much going for it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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