King of gods in Wagner's ring cycle / MON 5-22-17 / Inverse trig function / Form of papyrus document

Monday, May 22, 2017

Constructor: Gary Kennedy

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Monday*) (still under 4 minutes) (relax)

[oversized grid: 16x15]

THEME: SWISS / ARMY / KNIFE (1A: With 43- and 76-Across, camping aid) — four functions of said knife:

Theme answers:
  • CAN OPENER
  • CORKSCREW
  • SCISSORS
  • TWEEZERS 
Word of the Day: WOTAN (2D: King of the gods in Wagner's "Ring" cycle) —
Ultimately from Proto-Germanic *Wōdanaz, cognate with English Woden, Old Frisian Weda, Old Norse Óðinn. Attested since the 12th century in the Chronicon of Godfrey of Viterbo, where it is spelled Wotan. In Old High German, the name could be spelled Wodan, Wotan, Wuotan or Woatan, depending on regional dialect. // After Christianization, the name persisted in folklore and formed various derivations, such as Old High German Wuotunc, Wodunc, medieval Wüetung. In modern (19th century) folklore, invocations of the god could still be found (Grimm, w:Deutsche Mythologie), especially in Westphalia as Wuodan and in Mecklenburg as Wode (also spelled Waur after its approximate pronunciation). However, they descend not from Old High German but from Old Saxon Wodan and Middle Low German variant Wode. // In literary modern German, the spellings Wodan and Wotan competed during the early 19th century, but Wotan became prevalent in the wake of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, published in 1853. (wiktionary)
• • •


WOTAN? Pfffft, man, was that a harbinger. What a dreadful, ridiculous word to put in a Monday puzzle. Just bonkers. But I guess it did prepare me for the Avalanche of crosswordese that followed. This is a solidly Maleskan puzzle. It seriously felt like the early '90s (when I first started solving), when opera trivia roamed freely across the grid and SSTS flew the skies and ... well, IKE wasn't still president, but he may as well have been, as far as the crossword was concerned. If you are putting Cheri OTERI and N*SYNC in your puzzles in order to be hip, with-it, and up-to-date, you are doing something very wrong. And for what? Four functions of a SWISS / ARMY / KNIFE? That is a straightforward, dull-as-dishwater theme. The only thing I admire about it is the grid construction, specifically the breaking of the revealer into three, in order to accommodate the four other themers. Of course, this is also the thing that, from a solver's perspective, I enjoyed the least about the theme. Cross-referenced / themed 1As are Not fun. Also, having themers at the first and last Acrosses still really restricts your grid and puts pressure on the fill, and boy does it show. See WOTAN, above.


Other trouble spots: SHIPLOAD (!?). What a bizarre answer / clue (5D: All a tanker can hold). I assume a SHIPLOAD is *whatever* the so-called "tanker" is holding. The "All" part had me all "???" And that was hot on the heels of The WOTAN Clan (which is what I'm calling that answer now, to amuse myself). Rough. PARTD was also very hard for me to parse (41A: Medicare drug benefit). But my worst wipeout came at 63D: Where all roads lead, it's said. Maybe it says something about my state of mind by that point, but I quickly (and sincerely) wrote in HELL. Let me tell you, it really *felt* right at the time. So right. But then another member of the crosswordese posse (EMERIL!) showed up and I changed HELL ... to HOME. Good look getting 62A: Fad when you're staring down CHA_E. Ugh. But of course all roads lead to ROME, in an old (very old, like everything about this puzzle) saying. Next!!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Political writer Kenneth / SUN 5-21-17 / Peer Gynt character / Two-time Wimbledon winner Lew / Japanese relative of husky / Setting for spring in Vivaldi's four seasons

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: No, yes, whatever, who cares? Let's say "Easy"


THEME: "Misquoting Scripture" — "puns" (loosely defined) based on familiar phrases of biblical origin:

Theme answers:
  • AN AYE FOR AN AYE (22A: The Bible on political horse trading?)
  • THE FLASH IS WEAK (29A: The Bible on camera problems?)
  • ASSAULT OF THE EARTH (42A: The Bible on an alien invasion?)
  • GARDEN OF ETON (58A: The Bible on where Prince Harry learned horticulture?)
  • FALSE PROFITS (71A: The Bible on bad business practices?)
  • THE ROUTE OF ALL EVIL (82A: The Bible on directions to hell?)
  • IN THE BIG INNING (95A: The Bible on a climactic part of a baseball game?)
  • A MARK UPON CANE (107A: The Bible on ruined sugar crops?)
  • LET THERE BE LITE (16D: The Bible on diet food?)
  • FORBIDDEN FLUTE (48D: The Bible on a taboo musical instrument?)
Word of the Day: Kenneth VOGEL (66D: Political writer Kenneth) —
Kenneth Vogel is an American journalist. He is the chief investigative reporter at Politico. He is also the author of Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp–on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics. Vogel's writing often focuses on money in politics. As part of his work, he focuses on political fundraising with particular emphasis on the political activities of the Koch brothers. (wikipedia)
• • •

Just when you think the NYT might be righting the ship ... Sunday! Talk about wronging the ship. This is precisely the tired, hackneyed weaksauce the NYT has taken to serving of late, in increasingly frequent and unpalatable helpings. A pun / homophone puzzle had better be brilliant if it's going to carry an entire Sunday. Merl Reagle could do Fantastic Sunday-sized pun puzzles. Ridiculous, baroque, dazzling, theme-dense creations that had been meticulously thought out and planned, for months, sometimes years, as he waited to find just the right combination of answers, just the write "punchline" (usu. that final themer, which would often have *two* theme elements in one answer—the man was a genius). Now, no one can make a wacky puzzle like Merl could, but this thing isn't even in the ballpark. Not the same city, state, or solar system.


THE FLASH IS WEAK—what is that!?!?! If you're gonna pun, *pun*. At least make the clue a taunt from Superman, say. Better yet, change the answer to THE FLUSH IS WEAK, and give it a toilet clue. Instantly better. I mean, nothing is going to save this terrible theme from its terrible self, but if you're going down in flames, the more outrageous the better. THE FLASH IS WEAK ... ugh, who is chortling at that? There puns are So Tepid. Also, FLUTE for FRUIT is ridiculous and has nothing in common with the other "puns" (where you're dealing either with straight homophones or with a vowel change). And "a salt of the earth"—is that the phrase??? Is it? Because I thought it was "THE salt of the earth," in which case The Pun In This Grid Makes No Sense. It's not "A Farewell to Oms"-bad, but it's bad. And then there's the fill, which is predictably nightmarish. I actually stopped solving at 3D: Setting for spring in Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," partly because I literally choked while gasping at how bad that answer is, partly to take a screenshot in order to commemorate the moment. I titled this .jpeg "Vomit":


I was already annoyed that 1A was STK (ugh), and then after getting the "S" and "T" crosses, I tried the "K," and ... nothing. "Is there a ... KEYOTE? Where they grow peyote? What is Happening." Then I got KEYOFE, and after pronouncing it Key-OH-fay in my head a few times, I saw what the clue meant by "Setting." Dear lord. KEY OF E!? Do we have KEYOFA, KEYOFB, etc. to look forward to? Hot. Garbage. Lew HOAD? I don't believe any human was ever named that. SAFARIED as a past-tense verb is ridiculous-looking, and yet it is just about the only part of the grid that has any personality whatsoever, so good for it (46A: Went on an African hunting expedition). Why is the "hill of beans" LIMAS? I mean, as opposed to any other bean? Why "hill"? What is the pun? I *know* that "it doesn't amount to a hill of beans" is an idiomatic phrase, but Why. LIMAS? Could the answer just as easily be KIDNEYS? What is happening? ASE!? ADDA!? ITOFF!? -GENIC? PREV.!? Multiple TADAS? It's ruthless, this thing. A joy-sucking monster where the "best puzzle in the world"'s best puzzle should be.




Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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