Maude's cousin on 1970s TV / SAT 5-23-15 / to the stars autobiographer / Mork's supervisor on Mork & Mindy / Led Zeppelin's final studio album appropriately / County of Lewis Carroll's birth / Hollowed out comedic prop / It's not for me to say crooner / Form of xeriscaping

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium (leaning toward the easier side)


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: STEM fields (31D: ___ fields) —
STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science,[note 1] technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term is typically used when addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools to improve competitiveness in science and technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy. The acronym arose in common use shortly after an interagency meeting on science education held at the National Science Foundation chaired by the then NSF director Rita Colwell. A director from the Office of Science division of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists suggested the change from the older acronym SMET to STEM. Dr. Colwell, expressing some dislike for the older acronym, responded by suggesting NSF to institute the change. (wikipedia)
• • •

Nice work from Mr. Wentz, full of all kinds of traps and potholes, but ultimately very solvable. Fill is fantastically polished (except ONEHR, wth?), and the grid is teeming with good-to-great longer answers. It was a light workout, but I'll get my heavy workout (probably) tomorrow with the Newsday Stumper. This one fought me hard enough. I made many mistakes, but none of them fatal. I like a scrappy puzzle that isn't dickishly hard or full of rank obscurities. Here's what my opening gambit looked like:

[Me, after getting 17A: "Is that racist?" Answer: "No, not really"]

Solving this puzzle felt a bit like solving a maze, where I kept going down routes that turned out to be dead ends, then backing out and finding the right way again. Lather rinse repeat. It was a strange experience, being so often wrong but never having the feeling of being frustratingly stuck. How many mistakes did I make? Let's count. So ... I wrote in THIEF for 1D: Member of a den (HYENA). At some point I wrote in ARIA for 19A: "O Sanctissima," e.g. (NOEL). Had YEAH, I'LL BET for YEAH, I'M SURE (15A: "A likely story ..."). Then ENTIRE for EN BLOC (25A: All together). Further, EBAY for ETSY (30D: Modern collection of vendors). Must've had several varieties of wrong answer just trying to find the correct plural at 51A: Swedish coins (KRONOR). I moved over EXIT RAMPS before EXIT LANES (33D: You might move over for them on the highway). And between RAMPS and LANES, I made my last and greatest mistake—a twofer that involved SCARFS for SNARFS (46D: Gobbles) *and* MERCER for LERNER (48A: "My Fair Lady" lyricist). So, how many genuine mistakes is that? [1, 2, 3 ...]. I count nine. Nope, whoops, left one out. I had AGA and ALY before A LA (62D: Lead-in to a chef's name) because I misread the clue. Can you guess *how* I misread it? Yeah, you probably can.


Hardest answer for me to get was, oddly, OINK (39D: Word repeated before "here," in song) ("SONG" is in the grid (14D) ... but we'll just let that slide). This is partially because I misread the clue (yet again), and was thinking not "repeated before" but "before and after. Wanted OVER here... then thought maybe O, I AM here ... you gotta get pretty deep into "Old MacDonald" before you hit "with an OINK OINK here ..." It's not exactly a definitive lyric. Hence my struggle. So, yes, many traps, but still not too much difficulty. Fine weekend fare.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


P.S. we're just one week away from the inaugural Indie 500 Crossword Tournament in lovely downtown Washington, D.C.  Solve six puzzles by some of the top young constructors in the country! Hang out with dorks just like you! Realize you have no hope of winning and realize also that you don't care because that's not why you go to crossword tournaments! (That last one applies especially to me). Also, there will be pie. I have been promised. The puzzles will be good and the vibe will be loose and fun and if you've ever been tourney-curious, this will be a good place to start. All the info you need is here. Hope to see you there: Saturday, May 30, D.C.

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1950s Reds star Ted for short / FRI 5-22-15 / Longoria with two Gold Gloves / Message accompanied by red lips / Peak in eurozone / Saturday in Seville / He partnered with Bear in 1923 / Ancient medical researcher

Friday, May 22, 2015

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Fela KUTI (23A: Fela ___, Afrobeat music pioneer) —
Fela Kuti (born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti;[1] 15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), also known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick. (wikipedia)
• • •

Sleep nearly took me out early again tonight, but I had to be up late because my daughter was getting back from a trip to NYC at close to midnight, so ha, sleep, you lose. Still awake. OK, I might've rested my eyes there for a little, but I'm awake now, which is the point. This puzzle was weird for me, perhaps because of the heretofore mentioned "resting of the eyes." I started in on this puzzle as I usually do with such stack-oriented puzzles: I went for all the Downs up top, one after the other, without even looking at the Acrosses until I'd made my way all the way across the top of the grid. This may not actually be the most efficient solving method—perhaps one ought to at least glance at the long Across clues—but it feels efficient to me, and usually yields great results once I've traversed the grid and finally look at the Acrosses. Even if several of the Downs are wrong (they usually are), I'm often able to see the correct answers through all the muck. Pattern recognition! Anyway, my first pass through the Downs up top yielded very little, so I ended up getting my first real start in the grid at a very odd place—sort of ENE, starting around KUTI (a gimme) and working down toward the middle. Like so:

 ["A CUPS in T TOPS!" Coming soon to Cinemax.]

You can see that my northern grid is a pathetic combination of empty and wrong, with a smattering of right. Don't speak Spanish, so just had the first two letters of SABADO there. I was wrong about KIA; I knew there was a KIA with a short model name (it's the RIO), so I just wrote in KIA and waited. I see now that I could also easily have gone with the equally wrong answer, HYUNDAI. Interesting. I'd be surprised if I was the only one who dropped ADESTE in there without hesitation. As six-letter carol starters go, none ranks higher, grid frequency-wise, than ADESTE (of "Adeste Fideles" fame). IT CAME ... would not have occurred to me (it's by far the most terrible answer in the grid, one of the dumbest 6+ partials I've ever encountered). But KUTI got me going, and then all that failure up top turned quickly to success when I noticed 15D: Many an Instagram had to be SELFIE. With those last three Downs in place up top, the long Acrosses went down fast. Despite the wrong answers I had in place, I saw ALL OVER THE PLACE almost instantly after SELFIE dropped. The -ISS at the end of 1A: Message accompanied by red lips suggested KISS, which then suggested the rest of the answer. And then it was just a matter of LUGGAGE or BAGGAGE CAROUSEL (the latter, it turned out). So after a terrible first trip across the top of the grid, I caught fire and ended up here in what felt like no time:


As for the bottom of the grid, it might as well not have existed. I've never finished that much of a late-week puzzle that quickly. With the first three letters of the long Acrosses in place, I got ON HANDS AND KNEES and then TRACTOR TRAILERS. With one more cross (the "S" from 51D: CSA), I got RUSSIAN ROULETTE. The Downs were helpless at that point. I picked them off methodically without even seeing the shorter Across clues toward the middle there. You're welcome for GALEN, by the way (46D: Ancient medical researcher). (I jokingly brought him up in the write-up of that ANGEL anagram puzzle earlier this week, and now, several days later, he materializes, like some kind of slow-to-respond genie).


Despite some iffiness here and there in the fill, this seemed an entirely acceptable puzzle. Too too easy down below, and with no real killer answers, but solid nonetheless.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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