1980s Pakistani president / TUE 4-25-17 / Wind tile in mah-jongg / WW II era British gun

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead

Relative difficulty: Probably normal ... don't know. I stopped to take a screenshot mid-solve, so my time tells me nothing ...

THEME: HOME (71A: There's no place like it ... or a word that can precede either half of the answer to each starred clue) — just what it says...

Theme answers:
  • BODYGUARD (17A: *V.I.P.'s security agent)
  • GAMEBOY (22A: *Nintendo hand-held)
  • COMPUTER PORT (27A: *Place to plug in a USB cable)— ouch. I think the answer you're looking for here is "USB PORT"
  • MOVIE THEATER (48A: *Multiplex, e.g.
  • ICELAND (56A: *NATO's smallest member, populationwise) — I had IRELAND briefly :(
  • FRONT PAGE (63A: *Where a newspaper's biggest stories go)
Word of the Day: ZIA (41D: 1980s Pakistani president) —
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Urdu: محمد ضياء الحق‎; 12 August 1924 – 17 August 1988) was a four-star rank general who served as the 6th President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988, after declaring martial law in 1977. He was Pakistan's longest-serving head of state. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is the second time in recent memory where I would've stopped solving if I hadn't had to write about the puzzle. And in this case, I would've stopped almost immediately. Wrote in 1A: IRAQ, then went straight to "Q" for the cross ... QTY? First thought: "Dude, that "Q" was not worth it." Went on to next answer: 14A: Suffix with refresh or replace. And right there, I was out. Done. I'm three answers in and the fill is already a war crime.

This is a small corner. There is noooooo reason for -MENT to be in your small corner unless your small corner is Very compromised by the theme *or* you don't know what you're doing. You can look at that corner and see that it didn't get better. REORG URI and EGESTS? Disaster. By the time I made my way to the center, with its improbable (and ultimately self-referential) ZZZ string, I figured the theme was some weird thing with "Q"s and "Z"s because why else would they be in this grid when the fill is so terrible. There must be a reason .... there was no reason. The theme type was one of the oldest in the book, one that provides all the pleasure of re-reading the theme answers while inserting "HOME" before each part. Which is to say, no pleasure whatsoever. On the day that the NYT takes it mini puzzle into the land of Snapchat (something called Snapchat Discover), it continues to take its *real* puzzle into the grave and heap dirt upon it. We're in an astonishing run of non-inventive puzzles, non-current, running-on-fumes-of-the-1990s puzzles. But hey, you can get the mini crossword in Snapchat now, so everything's fine, I guess.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I love this article about the NYT's move into Snapchat Discover because it contains this sentence: "It even includes a mini-crossword puzzle for its younger readers."

P.P.S. the Philadelphia Inquirer has changed its crossword to the "Universal Crossword," which would not be notable at all except that Universal = notorious crossword plagiarist, whom you may remember from this story at fivethirtyeight.com last year. He's still widely syndicated. Even merriam-webster runs his puzzle (on their website, I just found out). There's no law against his continuing to be published, just as there's no law against my occasionally reminding you that "unrepentant crossword plagiarist" is a concept that exists in the world. (Thanks to Evan Birnholz for calling this to my attention)

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Notes of chord played in rapid succession / MON 4-24-17 / Marksman with M40 / Obstacle for drone / Napped leather

Monday, April 24, 2017

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Medium (i.e. normal Monday)

THEME: idioms involving food  ... or, I guess, idioms that use food metaphorically(?)

Theme answers:
  • WORD SALAD (17A: Gobbledygook)
  • NOTHING BURGER (30A: Big fat zero)
  • COUCH POTATOES (47A: Habitual tube watchers)
  • HUMBLE PIE (63A: What a shamed person has to "eat")
Word of the Day: PEGASUS (9D: Flying horse of Greek myth) —

Definition of Pegasus

  1. 1 :  a winged horse that causes the stream Hippocrene to spring from Mount Helicon with a blow of his hoof
  2. 2 archaic :  poetic inspiration
  3. 3 :  a northern constellation near the vernal equinoctial point (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

Forgot this as soon as I solved it. The answers don't cohere very well at all. Three are prepared items, clearly meant to be eaten (salad, burger, pie), but potatoes ... in COUCH POTATOES, I don't think of food *at all*. With all the others, you have to. You literally figuratively eat HUMBLE PIE. And, as I said, the others are specifically food items. I think of a raw potato when I think of COUCH POTATOES. They're not COUCH HASH BROWNS. I don't care if you think I'm being overly picky here—this is a glaring inconsistency. BAD APPLE (e.g.) would be slightly better because at least I can eat a *raw* apple. Moreover, NOTHING BURGER is a phrase I've barely ever heard, and it's just unpalatable to look at. Aesthetically garbage. WORD SALAD is a little more common, and the others are super-familiar. This one just feels conceptually weak and loose. And there's nothing in the fill to redeem it. Forgettable placeholder.

["FADING Fast"]

Not much resistance today, because it's Monday, and that's how Mondays are. What little struggle I had involved not so much answers as single letters. Only *answer* I had trouble with was 10D: "Save me a ___!" ("SEAT"). I often fail at partials, my mind somehow working differently and more strangely than others' when it comes to fill in the blank. I'd've made a *terrible* Password contestant: Partner: "Black .... ___" Me: "... Death?" All my brain wanted was "Save me a SLICE [or PIECE]." I like pie. And cake. Beyond that, I couldn't even be bothered to read the whole clue at 2D: Time in Manhattan when it's ... see I can't even be bothered to type the whole thing, and then do the time zone math, ugh. No thanks. So I had TWO-M and went to the cross. Had GST instead of GMT (27A: Clock-setting std.), until I realized there's probably no such thing as a SENS department (28D: Store department selling suits and ties). FBI is obviously G-MAN, but I still left the "G" blank and checked the cross for a possible "T" (58D: F.B.I. worker, informally). And then there's the worst square of all, the square in the dead center of the puzzle, the square that asks me, you, every last one of us to believe that PANSY is a "girl's" name. What a *&$^ing abomination of a clue. Nobody is named PANSY. Women (*women*) are sometimes named PATSY. So today, I am declaring ENDTOTE a perfectly fine answer for 26D: Bit of appended text. No one should be forced to write in PANSY. What a godawful, totally unnecessary cluing move. It's a flower. Go with flower. It's fine as a flower. Who the hell is named PANSY!?  That clue is just crazy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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