Citrus fruit from Japan / FRI 10-9-15 / Old English letter / Former NBA coach Kruger / Candy bar with crown logo / Former cave dweller informally / Subject of XXL magazine / Risk territory west of Siberia / Automaker that originally sold sewing machines

Friday, October 9, 2015

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SAR (35A: Patriotic org. founded in 1889) —
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, Inc. is a Federally Chartered Corporation located in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that describes its purpose as "maintaining and extending the institutions of American freedom, an appreciation for true patriotism, a respect for our national symbols, the value of American citizenship, and the unifying force of e pluribus unum that has created, from the people of many nations, one nation and one people." Sons of the American Revolution is a patriotic organization. Its members are male descendants of people who served in the Revolutionary War, or who contributed to establishing the independence of the United States. The society is dedicated to perpetuating American ideals and traditions, and to protecting the Constitution. Constitution Day, Flag Day, and Bill of Rights Day were established through its efforts. The society was founded on April 30, 1889. Its official name is the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. It has members in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico,. Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Its national headquarters are in Louisville, Kentucky. // The organization should not be confused with the Sons of the Revolution (SR), a separate organization founded on February 22, 1876 by businessman John Austin Stevens and members of The Society of the Cincinnati. SAR Founder William Osborn McDowell disagreed with the Sons of the Revolution requirement at that time that all societies were to be subordinate to the New York society. (wikipedia)
• • •

I haven't disliked a Steinberg puzzle in a long time, but this one made me wince a lot more than it made me smile. First, it feels like a major step backwards in fill quality. Grid seemed both dullish (with a few notable exceptions in the longer answers) and shaky. When 1-A was RATA, I thought "???" and then when I hit EDH before I even got out of the NW, I knew something was just off. OOHLALA is tired as longer fill goes—especially in a non-themed puzzle, where you have so much latitude. Nothing is locking you in. There's no theme to restrict you, so you can keep at it til you have a super-smooth, super-interesting grid. But here, today, many concessions were made. Too many. There's nothing particularly horrific going on; it's just ho-hum.

I've never heard of SATSUMA—total unknown, making that answer seems like a very strong outlier, familiarity-wise. Not surprisingly, the area around that answer provided the only real difficulty of the day. Specifically, I could not make any sense of 43A: Spray source. This is partly because I wasn't certain of the "U" from SATSUMA, and partly because I had DINGS for 44D: Sharp knocks (ZINGS). No one says "ZINGS." ZINGERS, maybe? I would've clued ZINGS as a verb—certainly makes more sense that way. But no matter; once I took out the "D" in DINGS, the "Z" eventually became clear. [Spray source] is accurate enough as a clue for UZI, but something about instruments of mass killing makes me find jokey clues not so welcome. I guess [Spray source] isn't really a joke ... but it's got that misdirection/wordplay thing going on ... and I'm in no mood for violence dressed up as "clever."

 [Huh. Reallllly looks like an orange. Or maybe a clementine]

See also (much moreso) the outright jokey clue on OSAMA (29D: Former cave dweller, informally); to me, OSAMA is where this puzzle pretty much comes apart. There's a major construction fail there. Clearly that answer should be OBAMA (BAR > SAR by a country mile), but BAR is already in the puzzle at GENIUS BAR, and so we get ... SAR (the worst answer in the puzzle, esp. as clued) (yes, worse than EDH). When that happens—when you opt for terrorist + stupid abbr. over president + actual word simply because of a dupe (in this case, BAR), then the only reasonable thing to do is tear down your SW corner and start again. The combination of crappy fill, terrorist fill, and jokey clue on terrorist fill, makes that little section an out-and-out disaster. I don't understand how that corner wasn't torn out and rebuilt. It's fine if you don't share all my objections there, but OSAMA/SAR is indisputably, objectively worse than OBAMA/BAR, and on the basis of that alone, the grid should not have been allowed to stand as is. It calls attention to its own substandardness in a pretty loud voice.

Here's what my path through the grid looked like. Easy enough opening in the NW:

From there, I hopped right over to the N and just ran the Downs, getting most of them—more than enough to fill in the long Acrosses with no trouble at all.

As you can see, I used that POEM cross-reference clue to go down and pick up an easy IDYLL. But I didn't build off it. Instead, I went back up top and just worked my way down. Here you can see how I went with SATSUMI at first, making it hard to see the TOPLESS DANCERS:

After that, the only thing that awaited me was the ugly OSAMA / SAR cross. That "S" was the very last letter I put in the grid. Not a great way to wrap it up.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bluesman Willie / Talker-upper maybe / THU 10-8-15 / Old court org / Old company whose logo featured torch / Carrots lettuce humorously / 1980s social policy / Alchemist's quest

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Constructor: Stu Ockman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Longest common word in the English language ... that does stuff" — [sigh] some kind of word trivia thing, I guess...

Theme answers:
  • SPOONFEED (17A: ... that has its letters in reverse alphabetical order)
  • DESSERTS (21A: ... that forms another word when read backward)
  • UNCOPYRIGHTABLE (39A: ... that has no repeated letters)
  • QUEUEING (54A: ... that has five consecutive vowels)
  • TORTUROUS (62A: ... that is spelled entirely from the last dozen letters of the alphabet) [dozen??? that is ... arbitrary]
Word of the Day: ROSE TOPAZ (10D: Pink gem) —
a rose-pink form of topaz produced by heating yellow-brown topaz
  (???) (
• • •
TORTUROUS pretty much says it all. This was a dismal, joy-killing puzzle. "Who ****ing cares?" was the only thing running through my head as I tried to put this thing together. This isn't wordplay. This isn't knowledge. This is trivia from some word website, and it's a very, very poor excuse for a crossword puzzle theme. As if the theme weren't depressing enough, the fill was laugh-and/or-cry-out-loud terrible in places. So, here's an unwritten cross-referencing rule: don't cross-reference crap answers that no one but no one is going to be happy to see under normal, non-cross-referenced circumstances. Cross-referencing foreign crosswordese ... that's the work of someone who hates fun, or cares not at all what a solver's solving experience is like. You should be ashamed that you had to resort to both OTROS and ESOS in your grid, but the fact that you're highlighting this colossal failure suggests you don't know that it is, in fact, a colossal failure. Yipes.  And someone needs to lose their job over that SW corner, specifically over USLTA, the single worst crossword answer I've seen in months, if not all year. Was there a Lesbian Tennis Association? What did I miss? When your (5-letter!) abbr. is a. *bygone*, b. hasn't been seen in *any* puzzle in 6 years, c. is in the cruciverb database only four times *total*, and d. isn't even holding anything good together (you've still got USMA and ELHI in there!) ... man. Man oh man OMOO. "Tin ear" is a generous term for what's happening here.

I gotta get back to the baseball game. The sooner we all forget this thing, the better. . . dammit! The baseball game's over. Oh well, I still gotta go. I just ... can't ... with this puzzle. Good day/night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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