Rippled and lustrous / THU 8-25-16 / In a comfortable position / In a state of entanglement / Gymnastics position

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: THE ROAD TO HELL—The road to hell is a PAVED ROAD, paved with GOOD INTENTIONS, and the road spans this crossword grid diagonally.  Hell is a single square rebus. Literally. Also ST BERNARD may be responsible for the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"



 Theme answers:
  • PAVED ROAD (6A: What the circled squares in the puzzle symbolize) 
  • SEAS (HELL)/RAISE (HELL) (66A: Beach souvenir)/(49D: Cause a commotion), with the "Hell" getting rebus'd in the last box in the grid, and becoming the terminus of the PAVED ROAD
  • GOOD INTENTIONS (The circled letters; the pavement) 
  • ST BERNARD (65A: French abbot thought to have originated the saying depicted symbolically in this puzzle) 
Word of the Day: SLEEP SOFA (57A: Something pulled out before turning in)

• • •

Hi-- Lena here for a quick sub-in.  This is an awkward theme. See how awkward my theme description ended up being? Outside of the two longer theme entries being symmetrically placed in the grid, the sum of all the parts feels haphazard/clunky. I barely even realized that ST BERNARD was part of this puzzle's theme because when a clue starts with "French abbot" I immediately look for cross clues to bail me out and be done with it.

I didn't know (9D: Romanian composer George): ENESCU and the clue didn't even make me feel bad about since there's no "most famous/beloved/important" before "composer." In addition to being a great composer his surname is itself composed of great crossword letters. It took me a bit to get GREEN PEAS (18A: Goya or Del Monte product) because I was looking for "can" somewhere in the answer. Those companies don't produce peas, they produce canned/dried/frozen  peas. I had another production issue with (47A: Where many drafts are produced) BAR-- I get it, but "produced" is weird and ultimately doesn't make the clue witty/funny to me. Even if the answer was about cold air coming through a window, I wouldn't say "brrr this window is producing a draft." Why not go with "flow?" Drafts flow through windows and flow into glasses. Windows are made of glass... lots more opportunities for cleverness if you ditch the stuffy "produced." It's Thursday, go nuts.

I liked the conversational SNAP OUT OF IT (30A: "Focus!") right before HERE I GO (38A: Announcement after a deep breath)-- very cinematic. Also BE THERE (42D: "Show up... Or else!").

I got RONCO (15A: Brand with a trademark on the phrase"Set it and forget it") right away, but definitely didn't remember that the phrase referred to an in-home rotisserie! I thought it was an egg timer or something but no, it's a tricked out toaster oven that fits two (TWO!) chickens inside.


Perhaps RONCO is also responsible for the SLEEP SOFA (57A: Something pulled out before turning in)? The answer didn't give me any technical difficulties but I certainly hadn't heard that abbreviated form of sleeper sofa before.

Crossword staple SOD gets a clever clue here (21A: Soccer coverage?) and we get a better-than-average "first letter spelled out" clue for VEE with (8D: Village leader?). GITMO gets a pretty neutral clue, huh (39D: U.S. Base in Cuba, for short). While, sure, it's literally a base in Cuba, it's also a place where people are tortured and detained and *that* is what it's known for. Don't be coy.

<record screech> Oh wow, POGS (6D: 1990's fad)! I was the right age for POGS but the wrong kind of kid (the only time I was bullied to my face by my peers was when I asserted that Vivaldi is more talented than New Kids on the Block-- BAD MOVE, LENA). I definitely side-eyed POGS just like NKOTB-- they're just ugly pieces of cardboard. I was about to specify that I was referring to the POGS but:


The puzzle gets a B from me because it's the first day of college for many and you gotta set the bar high-- at least for the first few weeks. Gotta write a few SEE MEs. I really don't like the single rebus square move, the ST BERNARD trivia adds no fun, and while I do like the visual of seeing a road lead straight to hell the rest just isn't tight enough or challenging enough.


Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Activity for Hobbes / WED 8-24-16 / 1/100 of a Norwegian krone / VCR insert / Bronx nine on scoreboards / PBS documentary series since 1988

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Constructor: Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: FANTASY SPORTS (36A: Field of DraftKings and FanDuel ... or 18-, 23-, 52- and 58-Across?) — themers are fictional sports (all from within the genre of "fantasy," broadly defined)

Theme answers:
  • CALVINBALL (18A: Activity for Hobbes)
  • PODRACING (23A: Activity for Anakin Skywalker)
  • QUIDDITCH (52A: Activity for Harry Potter)
  • POOHSTICKS (58A: Activity for Tigger and Eeyore) 

Word of the Day: ØRE (59D: 1/100 of Norwegian krone)
The krone (Danish pronunciation: [ˈkʁoːnə]; plural: kroner; sign: kr.; code: DKK) is the official currency of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, introduced on 1 January 1875. Both the ISO code "DKK" and currency sign "kr." are in common use; the former precedes the value, the latter in some contexts follows it. The currency is sometimes referred to as the Danish crown in English, since krone literally means crown. Historically, krone coins have been minted in Denmark since the 17th century.
One krone is subdivided into 100 øre (Danish pronunciation: [ˈøːɐ]; singular and plural), the name øre possibly deriving from Latin aureus meaning "gold coin". Altogether there are eleven denominations of the krone, with the smallest being the 50 øre coin, which is valued at one half of a krone. Formerly there were more øre coins, but those were discontinued due to inflation // The krone is pegged to the euro via the ERM II, the European Union's exchange rate mechanism. Adoption of the euro is favoured by the major political parties, however a 2000 referendum on joining the Eurozone was defeated with 53.2% voting to maintain the krone and 46.8% voting to join the Eurozone. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a wonderful theme concept, neatly executed. I especially love the alchemy by which it takes something for which I have mostly contempt (FANTASY SPORTS) and turns it into a perfect revealer, turning the phrase away from the corporate synergy of ESPN sportbro culture and toward the world of human creative genius. OK, so "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" was not, itself, genius, but I think the "Star Wars" universe on the whole is a remarkable feat of imagination, and the same can easily be said for all the other works from which the theme answers come. Who doesn't love remembering "Calvin & Hobbes" or the work of A.A. Milne? Hell, I couldn't come up with either CALVINBALL or POOHSTICKS (without a lot of crosses), and I still loved discovering them. The fill is pretty good today, too. I have no idea what caused the constructor / editor to go with the perverse krone-related clue for ORE (crossword arcana at its finest), and even after googling I have no idea what "TV TAPE" is (1D: VCR insert) ... but those (and maybe ILO & UNCAS) are the only real rough spots in an otherwise smooth grid. One of my Twitter followers just now questioned the fairness of the UNCAS / ROSEN cross (53D: The last of the Mohicans, in Cooper's novel / 67A: Al who was A.L. M.V.P. in 1953). I sympathize, as I utterly forgot UNCAS (a non-great answer for sure), but even if you don't know ROSEN either, the "S" feels like the only realistic guess. But this is a good time to remind constructors: *Watch* your proper noun crosses.


Bullets:
  • 3D: The albums "Godspell" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," for two (SOUNDTRACKS) — that's a term I associate with movies, not stage productions, *but* ... since both musicals were turned into movies that did in fact have SOUNDTRACKS, I'll allow it.
  • 15A: Main ingredient in soubise soup (ONION) — "Thinly slice two Spanish onions, and cook ten minutes in one-fourth cup butter, stirring constantly. Add one quart White Stock III, cook slowly thirty minutes, and strain. Dilute three tablespoons flour with enough cold water to pour easily, add to soup, and bring to boiling-point. Then add one cup cream, and one tablespoon chopped green peppers, or one-fourth cup grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper." (The Boston cooking-school cook book, Fannie Farmer, 1918)
  • 64A: Texas landmark that shares its name with a tree (ALAMO) — a tree? That's news to me. After a lot of googling, I *assume* the clue is referring to the Rio Grande Cottonwood, which has "Alamo" as one of its familiar names, though it's very confusing, as the *Fremont* cottonwood is also known as the "Alamo cottonwood" ... Tree experts: have at it. (Well now I see ALAMO's just a *generic* name for "A poplar tree, especially a cottonwood." How disappointing)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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