One who's fluent in both JavaScript Klingon say / TUE 5-26-15 / Foes of Saruman in Two Towers / Mexico's national flower / Cabot murder she wrote setting / Dhaka dress

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Constructor: Gareth Bain

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Tuesday)



THEME: "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE" (39A: Beatles hit that's a hint to both parts of the answer to each starred clue) — "LOVE" can precede both parts of theme answers in familiar phrases:

Theme answers:
  • CHILD SEAT (18A: *Removable car safety feature)
  • BIRD'S NEST (22A: *Asian soup ingredient)
  • MATCH GAME (54A: *Classic daytime show hosted by Gene Rayburn)
  • LIFE STORY (61A: *Biography)
Word of the Day: "MATCH GAME"
Match Game is an American television panel game show in which contestants attempted to match celebrities' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions. The precise format of the show varied through five runs on American television: 1962 to 1969 (on NBC), 1973 to 1982 (on CBS and later in syndication), 1983 to 1984 (again on NBC as part of the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour), 1990 to 1991 (on ABC) and 1998 to 1999 (in syndication). Most American incarnations of the show have been hosted by Gene Rayburn.
The most famous versions of the 1970s and 1980s, starting with Match Game '73 (renumbered by year until 1979), are remembered for their bawdy and sometimes rowdy humor involving contestants trying to match six celebrities. The series has been franchised around the world, often under the name Blankety Blanks.
In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #4 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, some weird combo of Firefox (my new most hated browser) and Blogger and me just managed to permanently (it seems) erase 2/3 of my completed write-up, and I just can't bear to do it again. It was fantastic, I assure you. Short version: puzzle is an old concept, well executed. Clean fill. I made many, many errors and missteps (for a Tuesday). I had these listed for you in bullet points (formatting these was where things went very wrong from a technical standpoint). Here's what remains of that list:

  • Had -OG at 62D: Confused state and could think only of GOG. I don't understand, either.
  • The clue on "MATCH GAME" was totally confusing, but now I understand it. It's a game show. Clue it as game show, and I got it. Clue it as "daytime show" (which could be anything), and you lost me (I'm figuring it's something *else* Gene Rayburn did that I didn't know about). But you can't clue it as "game show" because GAME is in the answer. Thus, ironically, I struggled to get my favorite game show of all time.

[Meara + Dawson = peak TV]
    • 57D: Title for a jeune fille: Abbr. (MLLE) — I wrote in ELLE, which is not, obviously, an Abbr. This error contributed mightily to my "MATCH GAME" woes.
    But I'm exaggerating the amount of real struggle. This was still a pretty easy puzzle, and a competently put-together one at that.
    ***

    So, yeah. There you go. You get Partial Blog today. Gonna go crush my computer with a mallet now. Eight+ years and I've never lost a write-up. First!

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]

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    Mountain Dew alternative / MON 5-25-15 / Polynesian carvings / Island nation for which distinctive cat is named

    Monday, May 25, 2015

    Constructor: Jennifer Nutt

    Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)



    THEME: "I NAILED IT" (57A: Appropriate exclamation upon solving this puzzle?) — last words of theme answers describe a manicure (I think): first CLIP, then FILE, then BUFF, then SHINE, then POLISH. I hope I have this right.

    Theme answers:
    • VIDEO CLIP (17A: Excerpt shown on TV)
    • CIRCULAR FILE (23A: Wastebasket, jocularly)
    • TRAIN BUFF (33A: Visitor at a railroad museum, say)
    • MOONSHINE (39A: Product of a backwoods still)
    • SOCIAL POLISH (45A: What a boor sorely lacks)
    Word of the Day: BABYLON (9D: Ancient Hanging Gardens city) —
    Babylon [...] was a significant city in ancient Mesopotamia, in the fertile plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The city was built upon the Euphrates, and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. // Babylon was originally a small Semitic Akkadian city dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BC. The town attained independence as part of a small city state with the rise of the First Amorite Babylonian Dynasty in 1894 BC. Claiming to be the successor of the more ancient Sumero-Akkadian city of Eridu, Babylon eclipsed Nippur as the "holy city" of Mesopotamia around the time Amorite king Hammurabi created the first short lived Babylonian Empire in the 18th century BC. Babylon grew and South Mesopotamia came to be known as Babylonia. // The empire quickly dissolved after Hammurabi's death and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. After being destroyed and then rebuilt by the Assyrians, Babylon became the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 609 to 539 BC. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city came under the rules of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid empires. // It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world from c. 1770 to 1670 BC, and again between c. 612 and 320 BC. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000. Estimates for the maximum extent of its area range from 890 to 900 hectares (2,200 acres). // The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris. (wikipedia)
    • • •
    I know nothing about manicures, but this theme strikes me as both clever and tight. I don't think I know what "SHINE" means. I mean, of course I know what that word means, but the difference between "SHINE" and "POLISH" is lost on me. Maybe there's some clear stuff that goes on before the "POLISH." If my daughter were nearby right now, I could ask. But she's not, so I'm 'just going to trust that this puzzle has the whole manicure verb progression right. Speaking of polish—the fill on this thing looks great. It's not what you'd call zippy, but that's understandable, given that the grid's trying to keep *six* long themers in place without having the rest of the grid go to hell. Failing to go to hell is all the non-theme parts of the grid had to do, and they did that admirably. All in all, a promising start to the work week ... only it's Memorial Day, so nobody's working, so ... just "week."


    There were a couple things I didn't understand. One is technical—why are there cheater squares* (black squares before 31A and after 41A, respectively? Those sections should've been awfully easy to fill without having to add the cheaters. But I assume the constructor tried that, and just couldn't get the fill to come out clean enough, and so added the cheaters and got the job done. It's a very minor thing. I'm not even complaining—just wondering aloud, from a constructor's standpoint, why one would resort to cheaters *there*. The other thing I don't understand—why TRAIN BUFF?? I mean ... trains? If you needed "train" for your theme to work, OK, but "train" has nothing to do with the theme, so why not go with the much more familiar MOVIE BUFF? There are millions of MOVIE BUFFs and, like, seven TRAIN BUFFs in the world, so ... that choice mystifies me. Again, not complaining. Just standing here, baffled.


    I got slowed down a bit by TRAIN BUFF (had TRAIN and had no idea what could come after). I also took a while to come up with SOCIAL POLISH, since it's not a phrase that stands alone that well. "Social graces" googles about 25 times better, for instance. It's an actual phrase, it's just not snappy or self-evident, hence the delay in my figuring it out. I also hesitated at SEIZE because I Swear To God I never know the I/E order there. SIEGE, I then E, SEIZE, E then I. I can tell myself that now, but in the heat of solving, that knowledge just isn't accessible and I end up guessing / checking crosses.


    Lastly, sadly, Anne Meara died yesterday. I should say Anne MEARA, since her last name has been common crossword fare for decades now. She was also a crossword buff (!) herself, and a nice person to boot. Oh, and a comedy legend, obviously, but I just took it for granted that you all knew that. I hope someone's making a (good) tribute puzzle for her right now. She deserves it.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    *cheater squares = black squares that don't add to the word count (generally added by constructors solely for the purpose of making the grid easier to fill)

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