Financial writer Marshall / THU 7-31-14 / Noire Russie borderer / Sardonic Larry / Antipolio pioneer / Pacific nation once known as Pleasant Island / Hit 1996 live-action / animated film

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Constructor: Jeff Chen and Jill Denny

Relative difficulty: Challenging



THEME: [SPACE BAR] (55A: Visual representation of this puzzle's theme) — rebus puzzle where  you have to insert (or imagine) "SPACE" in each of the squares in 55A in order for all the crosses to work. Two other theme answers take [SPACE BAR] as their clues (one straight, one wacky):

20A: 55-Across, e.g. (COMPUTER KEY)
28A: 55-Across, e.g.? ("STAR WARS" CANTINA)

SPACE answers:
  • AIR SPACES (41D: Areas that may be protected by military jets)
  • DISK SPACE (36D: You might need a lot of it for your files)
  • "SPACE JAM" (56D: Hit 1996 live-action / animated film)
  • SPACE AGE (57D: We're living in it) (I thought I was living in the Digital Age)
  • SPACE BAR (58D: Name for 55-Across)
  • DEEP SPACE (37D: It's far out)
  • SUBSPACES (43D: Regions within regions)

Word of the Day: ANDREA Bargnani (9D: Bargnani of the N.B.A.) —
Andrea Bargnani Italian pronunciation: [anˈdrɛa barˈɲani] (born 26 October 1985) is an Italian professional basketball player who currently plays for the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected first overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He is a power forward/centerstanding at 213 cm (7 ft 0 in) and weighing 113 kg (250 lbs). Prior to his NBA career, Bargnani played for Benetton Treviso in the Italian Serie A and theEuroleague. In his first two seasons with the Raptors, he helped the team reach the NBA Playoffs. They won the Atlantic Division title in 2006–07. (wikipedia)
• • •

This one was doubly tough—first, the theme was nowhere to be found up top (except possibly by inference from COMPUTER KEY if you were able to piece that one together entirely from crosses) and took some work to uncover even when I got down to where the [SPACE BAR] was; second, the cluing on the short stuff was toughened up quite a bit in places (see, for instance, [Where the nose is] for BOW (of a ship), or [Stroke, in a way] for OAR or [It might make one's shadow disappear] for RAZOR, etc.). I don't normally like definitions as answers, but the cleverness of "STAR WARS" CANTINA as an additional type of [SPACE BAR] won me over. The SPACE crosses were a little ugly on the ends, with the plurals, and I thought 54A *was* the [SPACE BAR], so having [SPACE] BAR be a separate answer was slightly odd / redundant, but otherwise I thought this pretty solid and entertaining. Tough, though. Not brutal, but definitely well on the tough side of Thursday.


Where did I shoot myself in the foot today? Well, the foot, presumably. The question kind of answers itself. But where, geographically? Well, worst early mistake was having --TA- at 32A: Come to and writing in GET AT. I was thinking that one might "come to" one's point, i.e. GET AT something. It's a poor answer, I admit, but there it was. Stalled me over there. Oh, that error was compounded by a (possibly) worse one at 5D: Who said "The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers" (CHOPRA). I would like to apologize to Frederic CHOPIN for ever considering that me might have uttered / written such a banal piece of bathroom-mirror affirmation nonsense. Well, not nonsense. I'm sure it's true enough, the sentiment. But it's hardly an original thought. Here is some CHOPIN as a token of my sincere regret at the brief misattribution.



Bullets:
  • 1A: Financial writer Marshall (LOEB) — No idea. Never had one, never will. I am doomed to continue not knowing this person's name forever. I accept this.
  • 10A: Captain played by Patrick Stewart (AHAB) — Here's where I first suspected a rebus, because PICARD didn't fit...
  • 25A: Dangling piece of jewelry (EARBOB) — [frowny face]. This differs from an EARRING how? Oh, not at all. I see. Wonderful.
  • 34A: Antipolio pioneer (SABIN) — I got caught in no man's land among SALK, (Nick) SABAN, and (Carl) SAGAN. Apologies to you, too, Mr. SABIN.
  • 22D: Nebr. neighbor (KANS.) — Ouch. That's about as bad as OREG. … which I have also seen, sadly. My guess is that whoever is still using these four-letter abbrevs. is also wearing EARBOBs.
  • 51D: Pacific nation once known as Pleasant Island (NAURU) — I kind of have to let "Pacific nations" slowing come together from crosses. I feel like there are a bunch of 5-letter ones, though write now I can think only of TONGA and PALAU. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Romanian Rhapsodies composer / WED 7-30-14 / Karmann classic German sports car / Rapper with 3x platinum single Hold On We're Going Home / Dress smartly in old parlance / Turbo Tax alternative for short

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Constructor: Jean O'Conor

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium



THEME: Recluing kitchen stuff — items found in the kitchen are clued ("?"-style) as if they are not items found in the kitchen, but some other items altogether.

Theme answers:
  • COOKIE SHEET (17A: List of user IDs?)
  • MEASURING CUP (22A: Undergarment fitting device?)
  • CAN OPENER (30A: Jailer with a key ring?)
  • MICROWAVE (43A: Hardly an attraction for a surfer?)
  • CUTTING BOARD (49A: Directors in charge of downsizing?)
  • CHAFING DISH (58A: Attractive but annoying date?)

Word of the Day: "Cookie" (COOKIE SHEET (17A: List of user IDs?)) —
cookie, also known as an HTTP cookieweb cookie, or browser cookie, is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while the user is browsing that website. Every time the user loads the website, the browser sends the cookie back to the server to notify the website of the user's previous activity. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information (such as items in a shopping cart) or to record the user's browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited by the user as far back as months or years ago).
• • •

The theme on this one holds up pretty well. The fill really should've been edited into much better shape. It's rough and musty all over the place. Clearly someone got in there mucked with the cluing at 54D: Rapper with the 3x platinum single "Hold On, We're Going Home" (DRAKE), a clue that stands out like a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake [simile stolen from Raymond Chandler] compared to the hoary quality of the rest of the clues. But rapping up one clue hardly constitutes serious editing. In America, we say "first grade," not GRADE ONE (55A: Elementary start). We also never say TOG UP ever. GHIA is horrible as a stand-alone answer (though KARMANNGHIA would be righteous). Many NEINS? Nein. Then there's your usual assortment of tired stuff like ISAO and ENESCO (the grid-friendlist 6-letter composer—can also be ENESCU: handy!). STELA SAXE OSAGES-plural. NUM! I mean, you've got two sets of cheaters* (SW, NE)—the fill in those tiny sections should at least be passable. How 'bout GHEE! GHEE is a thing. A real thing. GHIA wishes it were GHEE.


The theme clues felt a tiny bit tortured, though I got a kick out of the CHAFING DISH clue, for sure. Reasonable theme, weak fill. Pretty much par for the course, of late. Actually, a bit better than some of the stuff I've seen since returning from my time among the MAORI (6D: Most Cook Islanders).

One thing about the theme—seems like you could make a pretty funny Sunday-sized puzzle out of it. The options seem manifold, if not limitless: [Sex in southern Ireland?] (9), for instance.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*cheaters (or cheater squares) are black squares that do not increase word count, inserted primarily to make a grid easier to construct [today, black squares before 10A and below 12D, as well as their rotational symmetry counterparts]

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