Longtime NBC newsman Roger / MON 5-30-16 / Showtime's serial killer protagonist familiarly / Lover of Tristan in legend

Monday, May 30, 2016

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: TOSSED SALAD (62A: Common first course ... or what's literally contained in 17-, 23-, 32-, 44- and 49-Across) — circled squares in the theme answers contain are scrambled versions of the word "SALAD"

Theme answers:
  • PIÑA COLADAS (17A: Tropical drinks often served with umbrellas)
  • SALSA DANCING (23A: Spicy ballroom activity?) 
  • DEAD LAST (32A: Finishing eighth out of eight, say)
  • ROAD SALT (44A: Application to highways before a winter storm)
  • DOUGLAS ADAMS (49A: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" author) 
Word of the Day: "RED" (61A: 2012 #1 album for Taylor Swift) —
Red is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on October 22, 2012, by Big Machine Records, as the follow-up to her third studio album, Speak Now. The album title was inspired by the "semi-toxic relationships" that Swift experienced during the process of conceiving this album, which Swift described the emotions she felt as "red emotions" due to their intense and tumultuous nature. Red touches on Swift's signature themes of love and heartbreak, however, from a more mature perspective while exploring other themes such as fame and the pressure of being in the limelight. The album features collaborations with producers and guest artists such as Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeran and is noted for Swift's experimentation with new musical genres. Swift completed The Red Tour in support of the album on June 12, 2014, which became the highest-grossing tour of all time by a country artist, grossing over $150 million. (wikipedia)
• • •

Mixed feelings. The theme is so hackneyed that I'm stunned it hasn't been done before. Cursory look through the cruciverb database doesn't turn up anything, though, so ... it's simultaneously original and old-as-dirt. But who cares? I didn't even see the theme. How could I? The puzzle was (until the very very very end) so easy I didn't have time to think about what was going on in those circled squares, or much of anything beyond the nice long Downs. And the fill was smooth enough, and grimace-free enough, that it didn't call attention to itself in either a bad or good way. It just flew by. Short fill is dull in parts, but not ugly. I don't like that the tossed "salad"s are not all broken across two words; PIÑA COLADAS is a yucky outlier in this regard. Should've been chucked. Boo. But overall, the puzzle was fine. I like how timely the puzzle is—at least for me, personally. As I write this, I am at the end of a Very LAZY SUNDAY (29D: Relaxing time after church, say), with a G&T in my rearview mirror and homemade mint chip ice cream (with mint from the garden) waiting for me when I'm through here. Hiked in the woods with dogs much earlier in the day, but the rest of the time I spent organizing my comic collection (which I'd let get disgustingly disorganized over a period of many years) and listening to music. If it were a tad less, uh, sweaty, today would've been perfect.

I thought I was gonna come close to my Monday NYT record solving time (which ... I actually don't remember, though I think it's 2:36. I've been faster on other easy puzzles, but not the NYT). And I would've gotten it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids, by which I mean a Taylor Swift album name I totally blanked on and a "Longtime newsman" whose name I am never going to remember no matter how many times I see it in puzzles. Roger O'NEIL? Sure, why not? Not in my time, but great—his name crossing "RED" meant a hiccup of untold seconds, resulting in a final time of 2:45, which is still fast, but ... it's infinity far from from 2:36, in my experience. I see 2:40s a lot. I see 2:30s virtually never. I have dumb fat clumsy fingers, too, which ... don't do me any favors.

That's all. Stay authentic, colloquially! See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Physicist Nathan who postulated wormholes / SUN 5-29-16 / 1880s-90s veep P Morton / Enlightened buddhist / Drive street where Harry Potter grew up / Dweller along Mandeb Strait / TV inits since 1975 / Never in Nikolaus

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (closer to Medium)

THEME: "Best Picture Adaptations" — Best Picture titles that have had one letter changed, resulting All The Wacky:

Theme answers:
  • BEER HUNTER (21A: Best Picture adaptation about ... a search for the perfect brew, with "The"?)
  • SILENCE OF THE IAMBS (24A: ... inaudible metrical poetry, with "The"?)
  • THE VAST EMPEROR (37A: ... a fat Eastern monarch?)
  • DUNCES WITH WOLVES (50A: ... fools accompanying a pack of wild animals?)
  • GONG WITH THE WIND (67A: ... a reed and percussion duet?)
  • FRENCH CONFECTION (84A: ... an éclair or crème brûlée, with "The"?)
  • A BEAUTIFUL MINK (99A: ... gorgeous fur?)
  • GERMS OF ENDEARMENT (my favorite) (113A: ... cooties from hugs and kisses?)
  • MY HAIR LADY (also good) (122A: ... a salon woman I go to?)
Word of the Day: OEO (65D: War on Poverty agcy.) —
The Office of Economic Opportunity was the agency responsible for administering most of the War on Poverty programs created as part of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society legislative agenda. (wikipedia)
• • •

Kevin Der is a great constructor, which is why I keep looking at this grid and wondering what I missed. I wrote out all the letter changes to see if there was some kind of sequence or hidden message in either the original or the new/wacky letters, but I just got gibberish. I don't fully understand why the letters that were changed ... were changed. Why not THE LUST EMPEROR? Or SILENCE OF THE LAMPS (or LIMBS) (or JAMBS)? A BEAUTIFUL RIND? TERNS OF ENDEARMENT?  If the only criterion is a single letter change, it seems like you should've been able to get better humor mileage out of these "adaptations." That said, I thought the answers were pretty cute, and I enjoyed remembering movie titles and figuring out which word would be changed how, so there was definitely some entertainment value here. And again, I would not be shocked to learn that there was some Deep Der Stuff going on in this puzzle that I just can't see.

If you knew your crosswordese, then you had a leg up today. AIT crossing ARHAT! (29A: River islet / 12D: Enlightened Buddhist). Two words I only ever seen in crosswords (OK maybe I've seen AIT in the wild, but not much). You were also ahead of the game if you knew a Slew of short proper nouns. You were also ahead of me, as I knew virtually none of those shorties. The fact that they were densely clustered around RAVE REVIEW, an answer I didn't understand until the very last letter I put in the grid, made the NW by far the toughest section to solve. Let's meet the mystery players:
  • LIV! (23A: Disney Channel's "___ and Maddie") — you can just stop at "Disney Channel"
  • LEVI! (27D: 1880s-'90s veep ___ P. Morton) — uh ... no.
  • PEGG! (57D: Simon of the "Mission: Impossible" films) — OK now that I realize we're talking about the modern films and not the original series (my bad!) I can actually picture this guy. But while solving, I figured he was just some olde-timey actor I'd never heard of.
All that, and the fact that [****] was a baffling clue for RAVE REVIEW (which I assumed would be some kind of plural...), conspired to hold me back up there. But I just left it for last and luckily, once I circled back around, the dominoes fell, however slowly. As far as the cast of mystery players, I also didn't know who ROSEN (44D: Physicist Nathan who postulated wormholes) or EVIE (92A: Daughter in E.M. Forster's "Howard's End") was.

Other trouble spots involved my comical inability to anagram "snake" (I don't think of snakes as SNEAKy, as I nearly step on them all the time in the woods), my layman's understanding of [What stars do] (GLIMMER, I wrongly assumed), and my utter non-understanding of what "sponsorship packages" even means (TIERED? If you say so!). Still, because the film titles were so familiar and the changes to said titles so minuscule, I made pretty good time. Not lightning fast, but better than average.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Hey, Rich and J.T.—I know you send each other emails with the subject line "FRP," and I know what the "F" stands for. So ... thanks for acknowledging my fearlessness. XO 

P.P.S. Lollapuzzoola, one of my two favorite crossword tournaments, is accepting crossword submissions for its tourney this August. Here's a message from tourney organizer Brian Cimmet: ""Lollapuzzoola, the greatest crossword tournament ever held on a Saturday in August, is accepting submissions! Our 9th annual tournament is happening on Saturday, August 13 in New York City — and it could feature YOU! Do you have a puzzle that is brilliant, clever, inventive, mildly wacky, curiously strong, and can measure up to the unrehearsed nonsense of Lollapuzzoola? Send it our way! We'll take a look at themes, concepts, completed grids, etc. (but don't feel pressured to finish cluing or filling). Submissions will be accepted until June 1, 2016. Please send your work to brian@bemoresmarter.com" http://www.bemoresmarter.com/

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