Quaint dagger / TUE 6-27-17 / Florida state athlete slangily / Broody rock genre / Gene singing cowboy / Copper alloy used on jewelry / Military unit assembled for sudden attack / Company that was first in US to air TV ad with gay couple 1994

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: GO DOWN SWINGING (48A: Fight to the better end ... or a hint to the starts of 20-, 32- and 40-Across) — themers being with three words related to swinging and missing a baseball ... but they're Not a great set ...  ugh ... I love love baseball, so double ugh ...

Theme answers:
  • WHIFF OF SCANDAL (20A: Slight sense that something is seriously shady)
  • FAN FAVORITE (32A: One who really brings out the crowds)
  • STRIKE FORCE (40A: Military unit assembled for sudden attack) 
Word of the Day: ROSE GOLD (38D: Copper alloy used in jewelry) —
Rose gold is a gold and copper alloy widely used for specialized jewelry. Rose gold, also known as pink gold and red gold, was popular in Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and was also known as Russian gold although this term is now obsolete. Rose gold jewelry is becoming more popular in the 21st century and is commonly used for wedding rings, bracelets, and other jewelry. (wikipedia)
• • •

Whiff is right. At the theme level, at the fill level, this one just doesn't work. Typical Tuez. I knew before I even got out of the NW that the puzzle was gonna be rough. SHAH PACA HATH ET AL ACAI ... how do you get so much mediocrity in such a tiny space. Astonishing. And then ANAL SOL ARNO ... seriously, there is No Reason your short fill should be that dire. The theme is Not Demanding At All, so boring / ultra-common words should not dominate. I mean ANAL SOL. Really? Come on. The theme doesn't work either. Three strikes would've worked, except fan doesn't really work as a noun (the way the other two do) and strike doesn't really work as a verb (as the other two do), and "fan" usually means the full strikeOUT, so ... blah. As a baseball fan, I found the yuck factor kind of intolerable. Luckily, this was one of the easiest Tuesdays I've done in a long time. A long long time. Finished in under 3 (a full 35 seconds faster than yesterday). Speaking of yesterday, i.e. speaking of substandard puzzles, and being particularly annoyed by bad puzzles with themes relating to things you Love ... you should do this crossword by Finn Vigeland, which is a direct response to yesterday's anemic "tribute" puzzle. Finn loooooves yesterday's puzzle topic, and so, in less than 90 minutes, stem to stern, he made a decent tribute puzzle. Better than decent. And Way better than the one that appeared in the NYT. Here it is (PDF; .puz).

Gene AUTRY and ARTIE Shaw and ESAI Morales and on and on. This really is OLDE, in all the worst ways. And [Quaint dagger]? I doubt anyone ever thought of any "dagger" as "quaint." Pretty sure DIRKs kill people, so ... I think you mean "quaint word for 'dagger.'" Kind of a big difference. Also, DIRK is a name, so you could've avoided the dagger route altogether. I have never heard of ROSE GOLD. Neither has my wife. It's real, but ... it's not interesting. Make sure your themes work. Polish your grids. Try harder, everyone. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hit 2017 Jordan Peele thriller / MON 6-26-17 / Given benediction old fashioned way / Turkish pooh-bahs

Monday, June 26, 2017

Constructor: Brian Greer

Relative difficulty: Challenging (30+ seconds over my normal, which is Significant on Monday)

THEME: HARRY / POTTER and THE PHILOSOPHER'S / STONE — anniversary puzzle honoring the debut of the HP series by J.K. ROWLING, whose name is embedded in that center row, across three answers (oh, and DANIEL RADCLIFFE's in there too, for good measure)

Word of the Day: "GET OUT" (13A: Hit 2017 Jordan Peele thriller) —
Get Out is a 2017 American horror film written, co-produced and directed by Jordan Peele, in his directorial debut. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield and Catherine Keener, and follows a young interracial couple who visit the mysterious estate of the woman's parents. // Get Out premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States on February 24 by Universal Pictures. The film has grossed $251 million worldwide against its $4.5 million budget and received universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. (wikipedia)
• • •

This appears to be a debut from this constructor. And I do love HARRY / POTTER (both because I enjoyed the series myself and because of how genuinely important that series was and is to my daughter, who graduates high school next year). So I'm inclined to have affection for this puzzle. And yet ... I can't ignore some of the messier technical details. The fill is rough from the jump and never improves. This is largely because (once again) vaunting ambition got the constructor into jams he just couldn't get out of, and so the grid ends up getting pinned and pasted and paper-clipped together every which way, with material no one would ever use for building anything except in the most desperate of circumstances. I also don't quite get why HARRY and POTTER were hidden like that (not clued in relation to the theme). I imagine the original concept had the theme clue on HARRY, and then someone somewhere got the idea to put it on the "first" (closest to the top) themer. Weirdly, HARRY (67A: Persistently torment) and POTTER (68A: Crafty person at a wheel?) were two of the harder answers to get in this grid. But that's not a problem. The problem is ... it's just weird having him lurking down there, uncredited. And can we talk about the ludicrous letter string (GHIJK)? I mean, it's clear why you felt you needed to do it—consecutive JK is hard to come by—but oof. Your fill is already buckling pretty pad under the weight of the theme. That answer is a laugher, and you don't want a laugher front and center.

There's some great stuff scattered in here. The clue on ALASKAN—mwah! Fantastic. Not Monday by any stretch, but perfect nonetheless (12A: Person in a detached state?). And hurray for the very current clue on "GET OUT," which, unlike most of my friends, I have yet to see. It's streaming now, so it shouldn't be long now. But those were the only two real highlights (besides the considerable highlight of being reminded J.K. ROWLING exists). I was skidding off the road immediately with 1D: Given benediction, the old-fashioned way (BLEST) (!?). Everything about that is Red Flag. Too much gunk up top, with that and ETH and A HOT. Absolutely no reason *that* part of the puzzle should be *that* rough. Down below, roughness makes more sense (more theme-dense by a good margin). AS NEAT = barf. Ditto -IER. ID NO. was ridiculous in that That Number is an SSN and I Know That the Puzzle Bloody Well Knows It (60D: Nine-digit fig. on a Social Security card). How many times in the past quarter century have I written SSN into a puzzle? How many, Lord!? Oh, and EFFS? Eff that. Biggest self-inflicted wound: staring at ST---S for 26A: Units in stables and writing in ... (drum roll) ... STEEDS. The coup de grĂ¢ce? Putting AVID in right underneath it (37A: Enthusiastic => KEEN). Sigh. Onward!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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