Post-Passover period / SAT 1-31-15 / His servant is Kurwenal in opera / Cousins of harriers / Animistic figures / Thickburger seller / Alternative to babka / Part of goth dude's look / Warriors in L'illiade / Carlos Jackal raided its HQ / Song with lyric until we meet again

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: OMER (55D: Post-Passover period) —
Counting of the Omer (Hebrewספירת העומרSefirat HaOmer, sometimes abbreviated as Sefira or the Omer) is an important verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot as stated in the Hebrew BibleLeviticus 23:15-16.
This mitzvah ("commandment") derives from the Torah commandment to count forty-nine days beginning from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing an omer-measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, up until the day before an offering of wheat was brought to the Temple on Shavuot. The Counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Passover (the 16th of Nisan) for Rabbinic Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform), and after the weekly Shabbat during Passover for Karaite Jews, and ends the day before the holiday of Shavuot, the 'fiftieth day.'
The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God on Mount Sinai at the beginning of the month of Sivan, around the same time as the holiday of Shavuot. The Sefer HaChinuch(published anonymously in 13th century Spain) states that the Hebrew people were only freed from Egypt at Passover in order to receive the Torah at Sinai, an event which is now celebrated on Shavuot, and to fulfill its laws. Thus the Counting of the Omerdemonstrates how much a Hebrew desires to accept the Torah in his own life. (wikipedia)
• • •

I want to start with ME LIKEY, because it's creeping me out, but I fully realize that my reaction is not necessarily going to be the most common one. I always felt there was some element of ethnic/racial mockery in that phrase (part of that whole "ching-chong" racist caricature of Chinese English—though some other source I just read claimed the phrase derives from Afr.-Am. / creole speech). People definitely use that phrase, and I'm pretty sure the vast majority use it with absolutely no racial inflection. And yet, I found it icky. I'm not judging: just putting a big "Question Mark" on top of that answer. (Many thanks to Erik Agard for responding to my Twitter query about this phrase with a link to this WaPo article, which refers to what must surely be "ME LIKEY"'s newsworthiness apogee). (And here are more relevant links: one referring to an instance of "ME LIKEY"'s being used in a caricature of Chinese English in a 1930s Charlie Chan film, and the other going into considerable academic detail about the etymological origins of "ME LIKEY," touching on Asian pidgin, creole, Long Duk Dong, and "Family Guy").

I mostly liked this puzzle; it's loaded with colloquialisms, most of them far more unambiguously enjoyable than the one I just mentioned. "I'M AWARE," "HOOK ME UP," "HUMOR ME," and "OH BOO HOO!"—all great. This thing seemed pitched pretty hard, though it may just seem that way by contrast with yesterday's puzzle, which was uncharacteristically easy. Getting started was a bit hard. ARUGULA was a gimme (2D: Plant called "rocket" outside the U.S.), and I clawed my way from there up into the NW corner, but then couldn't escape. Or, rather, I did this weird board game-type move where I landed on one square and used it to jump to a completely different place in the board. That is to say, AGE allowed me to infer YRS (34D: 19-Across units), and then, miraculously, that "Y" bought me GUYLINER. But then I was stuck again. Grid looked like this:

[Minion's reply] = YES … MA'AM? That was all I had for a while. Just couldn't come down out of the NW cleanly. Eventually worked from NEE to get up into the NE (after changing SIGN ME UP to HOOK ME UP). Found the whole NE very hard, despite getting ON A DIME, because HEARTHS was just never gonna come with that clue (8A: Some gathering spots) and I just did an -UP answer and didn't expect to see another so soon (ORDER UP), and Kurwenal shmurwenal and tough (but good) clue on SPELLER (14D: Person breaking his word?). Had to squeeze that corner from both sides to bring it under control. Then went crashing into the SE, thought I was on a roll, but got stuck again, here:

Wanted POOL ROOM and no other ROOM at 63A: You might take a cue from this (REC ROOM). Never heard of OMER (that I could recall—I thought he wrote "L'Illiade") and was never going to get WACO. Also, I appear to have believed that the [Common combo vaccine] was MDM, which, in this case, is 100% wrong, though I am going to assume that there is some similar vaccine initialism out there with at least one "M" in it. At this point in the solve, I was a bit worried, but ETES (50A: Conjugation part between "sommes" and "sont") and NORSK (45A: Like Grieg, to Grieg) ended up being gimmes, and they got me going again in the SW; not much trouble after that. I think I have never heard of EM SPACE. Just "em dash." But inferring was not hard. The end!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Mariposa relatives / FRI 1-30-15 / Foreign fortress / Setting for TV's Mentalist / Chemical synthesis component / Eldest sister in classic 1868 novel / Heavy-metal band with #1 album "Far Beyond Driven" / Popular video game for wannabe athletes / Weapon in fantasy role-playing game

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    Constructor: David Phillips

    Relative difficulty: Easy

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: SEGOS (9D: Mariposa relatives) —
    The Sego LilyCalochortus nuttallii, is a bulbous perennial which is endemic to the Western United States. It is the state flower of Utah. (wikipedia) // Calochortus /ˌkælɵˈkɔrtəs/ is a genus of plants that includes herbaceousperennial and bulbous species. The genus includes approximately 70 species distributed in North America from south west British Columbia to northern Guatemala and east to Nebraska and the Dakotas. Calochortus is the most widely dispersed genus of Liliaceae on the North American Pacific coast. Of these, 28 species are endemic to California. The genus Calochortusincludes Mariposas (or Mariposa lilies) with open wedge-shaped petals, Globe lilies and Fairy lanterns with globe-shaped flowers, and Cat's ears and Star tulips with erect pointed petals. The word Calochortus is derived from Greek and means "beautiful grass". (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Someone tweeted at me that this was the easiest Friday he'd ever done. I saw the tweet before I did the puzzle, so naturally I thought, "well, now I'm jinxed." But no, it was, in fact, easy—not the easiest Friday I've ever done, but in the ballpark (a hair's breadth under 5). I got so much positive feedback on my posts where I walk you through my solve with screen grabs of the grid at various stages of completion that I decided to do it again today. Turns out that when I do this with a super-easy puzzle, the results aren't so interesting. I set the timer for 3 minutes and set out. When it went off, I was here:

    Then I set it for another three minutes and was done well before the timer ever went off. For me, puzzles always look most chaotic in the first third of the solve. I actually started in the NW (where I got most but not all of that section), then jumped to the NE via "SCHOOL'S OUT" (where I got most but not all of that section), and then branched out from there. Filling in the top center put necessary pressure on my problem areas in the NW (where I had WANE for SHED) and NE (where I couldn't find SEGOS or REAGENT, partly because I don't really know what they are…). Once those early rough spots were ironed out, sailing was pretty damned smooth. I rolled tanks over the middle and bottom of this grid. As you can see from the partial grid, I've got NEF- and DRU- just locked and loaded; both of them went down the moment I looked at their clues (though I apparently need several attempts to spell NEFERTITI correctly—I went NEFRI-, I think).

    I actually know what SEGO lilies are, but I had no idea "Mariposas" were also lilies. I thought butterfly. Then I thought, "Oh, these are tribe names I just haven't heard of." But no. Flowers. There were two moments that made this puzzle Really speed up. The first was getting that double-I in WII SPORTS. Obviously WII something (which gave me the "W" I needed for SHREWD), and then two seconds of thought tells me "probably SPORTS." The other quickening agent in this grid was BROAD AX. Got BROAD. Realized SWORD didn't fit. Tried AX. That "X" was all I needed for XEROXED, which blew open the E and SE. It also helped having pop culture gimmes lying around all over the place. "SCHOOL'S OUT" features strongly in one Richard Linklater movie. ETHAN Hawke features strongly in at least four others. So if you're a Richard Linklater fan, this was your lucky day. I never watched "GILMORE Girls" or "The Mentalist" (46A: Setting for TV's "The Mentalist"), but I had enough crosses in place to make the answers to those clues easy.

    [Julie DELPY]

    For a puzzle that went down so easily, it tripped me up a lot. Wrong answers included WANE (for SHED), FOAM (???) (for MOAT), LATTE (for CAFFE), OCTAD (for OCTET), A DOSE (??!) (for A DASH), and TEEN (for GEEK) (50D: Fanboy or fangirl). Overall, I liked the puzzle fine. There was some longer stuff I found less than enjoyable: EPEEIST, CARTOONED, ALLEMANDE, REAGENT. I like CARTOONED right up until the -ED ending, when I liked it less. The ADASH SEGOS REAGENT CEE-LO part is a bit weak. You'd say "IS THAT OK?" not "IS IT OK?" You'd say "IS IT OK if …" Little things like that grate. But overall, this thing has good bones, and the marquee answers are generally quite entertaining. It's weird to me that it's just 66 words, since it played like and looks like a 70- or 72-worder. I think this is a result of all the cheaters (black squares that don't increase word count—i.e. the black squares after SHREWD and before CASBAH, after "SCHOOL'S OUT" and before SACRAMENTO, after OFF HOURS and before PHARAOHS, after PASTES and before IS IT OK? Highly segmented grid, lot of opportunities to get a foothold, clues set to Medium-Low … all this made solving a breeze. A mostly enjoyable breeze.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. The indomitable Bernice Gordon has died at age 101. She was a long- (LONG-) time crossword constructor. Please check out her obituary (beautifully written by Deb Amlen).

    P.P.S. Also read constructor David Steinberg's remembrance of Ms. Gordon, which is awfully touching.


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