Abu Bakr others / THU 9-29-16 / Staples of Indiana Jones films / Designer Mode of Incredibles / Numero of Disney Caballeros / Onetime Venetian leaders / Sullivan who taught Helen Keller / Uber calculation briefly / Noted exile of 1979 / Spanish provincial capital / Like Aramaic language

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Constructor: Jonathan M. Kaye

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DIVIDED [BY] (61A: ÷ — word "BY" in theme answers reads as [DD] (for "B") in one Down and [VI] (for "Y") in the other because


See, it's like someone took the word "BY" and "DIVIDED" it in two, horizontally.

Theme answers:
  • BYPRODUCT (17A: Carbon dioxide or water vis-à-vis cellular respiration)
  • MADE BY HAND (29A: Artisinal, maybe)
  • BOOBY TRAPS (46A: Staples of Indiana Jones films) (I just remember the one, but if you say "staples," I'm gonna trust you...)
Word of the Day: GSA (44A: Fed. property overseer) —
The General Services Administration (GSA) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S. government offices, provides transportation and office space to federal employees, and develops government-wide cost-minimizing policies, and other management tasks. (wikipedia)
• • •

Clever theme (I've seen the bifurcated letter gimmick before, but not like this, I don't think). Fill was ecru-boring—exceedingly unremarkable and stale—but not, it is worth noting, Bad. Not ugh-laden. Just boring. Not a clever, interesting, remarkable, noteworthy answer In The Bunch. That in itself might be a feat. A terrible feat, but a feat. But (as is not atypical) the theme carries all the interest, and it is interesting. There's only one issue with this puzzle—grasping the gimmick. After that, ho hum. In fact, the puzzle gets considerably easier after that. So the issue is, how / when did you grasp it. I got the "DD" / "VI" thing pretty early, after I could tell in the NW that IN VITRO was gonna have to be the answer at 2D: Kind of fertilization. Thought at first there'd be a state rebus ("NV"), but no, it was the "VI." After a "DD" pulled up right alongside it, my first thought (not surprisingly) was "Oh, a Roman numeral ... something. So, what is that ... hmm ... carry the 2 ... 1006 PRODUCT? What the!?" Sometime a little bit later, as I was working on another part of the grid, the fact the answer had to be BYPRODUCT occurred to me, and there was my aha moment. After that—fill in the blanks.

NE might've been the hardest section to get into, largely because I didn't know who Abu Bakr was (10D: Abu Bakr and others => CALIPHS), but SHAH was a gimme (9D: Noted exile of 1979) and OVERLAID wasn't too hard (I had -LAID in place) (11D: Like veneer), so that corner wasn't actually hard at all. None of it was. I'd've rated this Easy, but the time spent figuring out the gimmick, plus the slightly time-inflating trick-square-hunting put this one overall in average difficulty territory. I wish the fill had any life to it, so that I felt like commenting on it, but it doesn't, and I don't, so I'm off to watch Sam Bee. Good night. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bird with forcepslike bill / WED 9-28-16 / Vashem Israel's Holocaust memorial / Bunt villainess in On Her Majesty's Secret Service / Specialty skillet / Murder crows turkeys

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Constructor: Morton J. Mendelson

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: Across/Down answers that share a first letter also share a clue

Theme answers:
  • ZEST / ZILCH [Zip]
  • STERN / SPONSOR [Back]
  • BEAK / BANK NOTE [Bill]
  • GRIN / GIRDER [Beam]
  • STY / SELL [Dump]
  • SEVER / SHARE [Cut]
  • AFRESH / AT AN END [Over]
  • SCREEN / SKIN [Hide]
  • TAKE FIVE / TAME [Break]
Word of the Day: PORTO (15A: City north of Lisboa) —
Porto (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpoɾtu]; also known as Oporto in English) is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. The urban area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 1.4 million (2011) in an area of 389 km2 (150 sq mi), making it the second-largest urban area in Portugal. Porto Metropolitan Area, on the other hand, includes an estimated 1.8 million people. It is recognized as a gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, the only Portuguese city besides Lisbon to be recognised as a global city. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this was bad. Worse than yesterday. This is as bad a two-day stretch as I can remember. Not just bad. Old. Like, really stale, written 20+ years ago old. Yesterday, a word ladder with not a lot of sense and a grid with awful fill. Today, a theme ... that has even less internal logic, and a grid with fill that's nearly as YAD. Sorry, bad. Bad. This is a cry for help. The best constructors in America simply aren't giving their best work to the NYT any more. In some cases, those constructors aren't giving Any of their work. Think of constructors you used to love whose names you rarely if ever see any more. Good chance they have, for various reasons (at least some of which has to do w/ slow production schedule and insultingly low pay) moved on. So we're getting hack work. Not always. But way too often. So what if every time an Across and Down share a first letter, they get the same clue? Who cares? Nine times this happens. What is the pattern? Do the clues spell out a message? Why Am I Suffering Through This Stupid Exercise?

Because there are so many one-word clues doing double-duty, the puzzle plays way harder than normal. Just seeing BANK NOTE (a phrase I never use) took a Lot of crosses. So Many of the clues are lame one-worders—all the themers, but also a substantial number of others. This added to the overall tedious and dull feel of the puzzle. PORTO APSE KETT EPEE ISLET ENE etc. Yet another grid that makes me want to just list the junk. Not even any good longer answers today. None. NAMER? Come on. Do people really call groups of turkeys RAFTERs? Ever. Wife, answering my bewilderment from next room: "Those [animal collective names] were all made up by some lady in the 19th century." I'm not going to bother fact-checking that, 'cause it *feels* true and I'm American and that's enough "evidence" for us. ADES?! Are sources of vitamin C. Literally no one has ever thought or claimed that in the history of humankind. I barely know what an ADE is. Juice you add sugar to? In which case, uh, it's the juice that provides the C. No one uses ADE as anything but a suffix anyway. Crosswords are the only place where people pretend this isn't true. Dear NYT, please double the pay rate for constructors so some of the talent comes back. Pretty please. The crossword is your one true cash cow. You can afford it. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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