Fictional work that eschews literary conventions / FRI 5-25-18 / Sister chain of applebee's / Rocker nicknamed Motor City Madman / Time-killing plays for quarterbacks / 12x platinum compilation album by Rolling Stones / Reality show whose contestants must be good with numbers

Friday, May 25, 2018

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium? I slept from 8:30pm to 2:00am, then solved, so ... I feel like I'm out of space and time right now, as I type this at 2:39am. I think my time is a Medium time, maybe tilting Easy (5:52)

THEME: none, except there's a field goal shape and the long answer is NUCLEAR FOOTBALL ... do you kick ... that? Does TED NUGENT kick it? USA USA?

Word of the Day: HOT ROCKS (37D: 12x platinum compilation album by the Rolling Stones, familiarly) —
Hot Rocks 1964–1971 is the first compilation album of Rolling Stones music released by former manager Allen Klein's ABKCO Records (who gained control of the band's Decca/London material in 1970) after the band's departure from Decca and Klein. Released in late 1971, it proved to be The Rolling Stones' biggest-selling release of their career and an enduring and popular retrospective.
After reportedly having been duped by Klein to unknowingly sign over the recording copyrights to all of their material from 1963 to 1970, The Rolling Stones left Decca and formed their own label, Rolling Stones Records, with a new distributor. They recorded Sticky Fingers throughout 1970, releasing it the following spring. Although Klein—and now ABKCO—no longer had The Rolling Stones as clients, their fruitful catalogue was ripe for the picking and, thus, Hot Rocks 1964–1971 was quickly compiled as a double album greatest hits package. (wikipedia)
• • •

Ironically, or aptly, couldn't get 1A: Frustrated solver's cry ("I"M STUCK!") and so the NW ended up being a total bust at first past. I managed to get IHOP / PORN in there (which I'm fairly sure is the name of somebody's tumblr feed, somewhere ... just sexy music and slo-mo syrup etc. ...) but nothing followed, so I had to roam the grid in search of a gimme to get me started. Thank you, Bobby SEALE (20A: Co-founder of the Black Panther party). SEALE ADA ELDER ENDER'S EDU got me started, but then I stalled and had to roam some more. Picked things back up with TASE ERIE SSN EATS* EAVE, but I pulled EATS because I was least sure of it, and could think of lots of other things that could go there (most notably, FOOD) (28A: Grub). Pulling it let me see the SCENT in PINE SCENT and the NOVEL in ANTI-NOVEL, and that's all I needed. Back-filled the NE and then devoured the rest of the puzzle in methodical clockwise fashion. Seriously, just did a lap around the puzzle, finishing up a the "T" in STARBURST (3D: Fireworks effect). Had a brief scare when I couldn't make continuous progress coming down into the SE—had THE but couldn't see VOICE, had HOT and couldn't remember ROCKS—so I restarted in SE and bang, DLINE (another football answer!) (51D: Gridiron group that tries to sack the QB, collectively) got me going again. Second half of the puzzle (south and west) went much, much faster.

For novice or still-struggling-with-Friday/Saturday solvers out there, maybe it's worth saying that when I say I got IHOP / PORN right away, I did this not because I actually *know* that IHOP is the [Sister chain of Applebee's], but because I know that IHOP is a chain restaurant that's four letters long. That is how crossword brain works—clue narrows it down to a category, brain rolodexes through known items in that category that fit whatever pattern the grid is presenting. I actually wanted SMUT at first for 19A: Steamy fare, but checking the restaurant cross, I thought "hmmm, IHOP?" Which gave me the "P" and that stands for PORN and also stands for "pool" (it stands for "pool"!), 76 trombones! "Gary, INDIANA, Gary INDIANA"! (consider yourselves THANKED for indulging me in this "Music Man" digression")

Is DEEP FAT real? I mean, it's not a thing, is it? How is it "deep"? How deep is your fat!? I really need to learn. Seriously, though, I thought it was "deep" only insofar as you had to put enough of it in the fryer to submerge stuff. It's a weird thing to see stand on its own, without "fried" or "fryer" after it. AD UNITS is so phenomenally dreary as an answer, it makes me hate comprehensive crossword compiler word lists, and I have been in English departments in one way or another for three decades and have literally never come across the term ANTI-NOVEL (I'm sure they exist, they just ... don't, for practical purposes, is what I'm saying). But I mostly enjoyed solving this. Solid grid, whimsical grid shape, snazzy fill here and there (FAIR SHAKE, HOT ROCKS, LET'S ROLL, HATES ON). OK, so no one actually says AH, BLISS, and VROOMED is super-weird in the perfect tense, but those are at least colorful answers. It's fine.

PS LOL OBAMA crossing NUCLEAR FOOTBALL. You *wish* he still had the football. Congrats on your well-considered choices, USA. How'd that North Korea summit thing work out for you? Good? Well, you'll always have the coin.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Seinfeld's stringed instrument / THU 5-24-18 / output of spinning jenny / Portable music player brand / City center of 1890s Klondike Gold Rush

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Constructor: Erik Agard and Andy Kravis

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (hard to say, though, since I have to adjust for a. morning solving and b. oversized grid) (6:59)

THEME: SPOON-ERISMS (61A: What 18-, 25-, 37- and 52-Across all are (whose circled letters name something used with the base phrases)) — spoonerisms of things that can be eaten (or served?) with a spoon...

Theme answers:
  • WHINNY MEETS (18A: Horse races?)
  • JERRY CELLO (25A: Seinfeld's stringed instrument?)
  • PASTY HOODING (37A: Particularly pale Ph.D. ceremony?)
  • PAY GROUPON (52A: Pony up for a certain online deal?)
Word of the Day: DAWSON City (1D: ___ City, center of the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush) —
The Town of the City of Dawson, commonly known as Dawson City or Dawson, is a town in Yukon, Canada. It is inseparably linked to the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–99). Its population was 1,375 as of the 2016 census. [...] Dawson City was the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush. It began in 1896 and changed the First Nations camp into a thriving city of 40,000 by 1898. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town's population plummeted as all but 8,000 people left. When Dawson was incorporated as a city in 1902, the population was under 5,000. St. Paul's Anglican Church built that same year is a National Historic Site. [...] In 1978, another kind of buried treasure was discovered when a construction excavation inadvertently uncovered a forgotten collection of more than 500 discarded films on flammable nitrate film stock from the early 20th century that were buried in (and preserved by) the permafrost. These silent-era film reels, dating from "between 1903 and 1929, were uncovered in the rubble beneath [an] old hockey rink". Owing to its dangerous chemical volatility, the historical find was moved by military transport to Library and Archives Canada and the U.S. Library of Congress for both transfer to safety film and storage. A documentary about the find, Dawson City: Frozen Time was released in 2016.
The City of Dawson and the nearby ghost town of Forty Mile are featured prominently in the novels and short stories of American author Jack London, including The Call of the Wild. London lived in the Dawson area from October 1897 to June 1898. Other writers who lived in and wrote of Dawson City include Pierre Berton and the poet Robert Service. The childhood home of the former is now used as a retreat for professional writers. [...]
The city was home to the Dawson City Nuggets hockey team, which in 1905 challenged the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup. Travelling to Ottawa by dog sled, ship, and train, the team lost the most lopsided series in Stanley Cup history, losing two games by the combined score of 32 to 4. (wikipedia)
• • •

This shouldn't have been so hard, but getting spoonerisms from wacky clues (what other kind could you use?) turns out to be hellishly difficulty. Even when I got WHINNY, I had no idea what kind of "races" I was dealing with, and since at that point I had no idea spoonerisms were even in play ... that whole area was a disaster. I forgot about Imelda MARCOS and could think only of Corazon Aquino, who refused to fit (5A: Onetime big name in Filipino politics). I had -AYS and still couldn't get 5D: Parts of springs (MAYS). Brutal. ARM (6D: Inlet)? Brutal (wanted RIA?). SRSLY? (10D: "Are you kidding me?," in texts)? Brutal (I wanted some version of ORLY?)

It felt like forever before I got the theme, I had the better part of three themers and still nothing. Then I wrote in JOEYS but typoed LOEYS, which mean I kept seeing the *wrong starting letter* for JERRY CELLO (awkward in the non-possessive, but I'll allow it, I guess). Wrote in PASTY HOODIES at first because, as you can see, I had no idea what the theme idea was. "Oh, they're calling Ph.D. hoods "hoodies?" What fresh joke is this!?" Considering the grid is oversized and I was trying to solve upon waking, I have nooooo idea how I squeaked in under 7 minutes. Even reviewing it now, the puzzle feels hard hard hard. I love spoonerisms, and this one has a nice little twist with the whole spoon angle. The spooniness of the themers kind of falls apart as the themers progress. I definitely eat cereal with a spoon, and jello, well, I don't eat that, but sure, I would use a spooon. Hasty pudding???? I don't know what it is, besides a Harvard humor org. of some kind. But assuming it is anything like other kinds of puddings of which I'm aware, spoon seems like the reasonable implement. Grey Poupon, though? I mean, if you're just straight eating Grey Poupon with a spoon, I'm sorry, man. Things must be pretty bad.

Cluing just seemed harder than normal all over. Check out the undercluing at 45D: Some "me" time (SPA DAY) and 30D: Best Buy buy (HDTV). It was like getting [Food item] as a clue for PIZZA or something. You could narrow it down A Little. And then the short vague stuff like 56D: Out for ALIBI, yipes. And then 50A: Doctor or engineer for RIG. Good clues, but hard. Felt like they were trying to compensate for a theme they didn't think was too tricky, but then the theme was plenty tricky, so the overall result played quite hard. But again, my time says it wasn't That hard. Some good fill and clues in here. I especially enjoyed 62D: Opposite of a poetry slam? (ODE), which I wrote in thinking, "yes, ODEs are much more formal and stately than slam poetry," and only later figured out that an ODE praises something instead of "slamming" it. Nice. F*** the NRA, though. Surprised these particular constructors are still using it in puzzles (42A: Grp. with a firearms museum).

[11D: R&B singer who had a 2015 #1 hit with "Can't Feel My Face"]

  • 31A: Literary character with a powerful face (HELEN) — because it launched a thousand ships, per Marlowe. I am obsessed with the Trojan War and I teach Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and I still had trouble getting this one from the clue!
  • 44D: Portable music player brand (DISCMAN) — ... of yore
  • 12D: Mulligan in a dice game (REROLL) — "Mulligan" = do-over. Term from golf (I mean, I think—I've never played golf in my life)
  • 36D: What queso de bola is another name for (EDAM) — learned this recently in another puzzle. Sadly, did not remember it today.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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