Colony in ancient Magna Graecia / FRI 9-19-14 / Alcopop relative / South American cowboy / One living in urban poverty pejoratively / Toon toned down for 1930s Hays code / Divine showbiz persona / Nickname for Oliver Cromwell

Friday, September 19, 2014

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none

Word of the Day: PEIGNOIR (36D: Negligee) —
n.
A woman's loose-fitting dressing gown.

[French, from Old French peignouer, linen covering used while combing oneself, from peigner, to comb the hair, from Latin pectināre, from pecten, pectin-, comb.]


Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/peignoir#ixzz3DizUihDf
• • •

This has charm and bounce. It's contemporary, but also features PEIGNOIRs and Oliver Cromwell, so it's got range. ONE POTATO is making me laugh—out of its cluing context, it makes about as much sense as THREE ORANGES. But it recalls singsongy childhood incantations, so even its relative partiality, I like it. SLUMDOG I like less (48A: One living in urban poverty, pejoratively). When it's not part of a movie name, it's pejorativity really leaps off the page. The NE corner stands out as dull and weak in a puzzle that is otherwise solid and entertaining. RELLENO and LLANERO are virtual anagrams of one another (just one letter difference), and when combined with all the common fill / common letters in much of the rest of the fill up there (ELEA, TELE, ATEIN, NEO), the result is an anemic corner—though it's anemicness is probably highlighted today by contrast with how good the rest of the grid is, particularly the NW.


Speaking of the NW—HUMBLEBRAG was an instant gimme at 1A: Self-praise couched in self-deprecation, in modern lingo, and launched me into the grid with such force that I finished the whole thing in roughly a Wednesday time. That might be bragging, but I assure you, it is not humble. I just crushed this thing. Maybe it's because Finn and I are friends … OK, so we just went out to dinner that one time, and it was with a bunch of other people, but that's the closest thing I have to "friends" so just let me have this one, OK? He's my friend! We act alike and think alike and even finish each other's … sentences! That's right? How did you know I was going to say that? Are you and I also friends? No? HOMIES? Hmm. At any rate, I felt a mind meld going on, and consequently I Owned this puzzle.


LENA DUNHAM was on the cover of the New York Times Magazine this week. The clue for her was far too easy, I think. I'd've gone with [something writer actress something blah blah who is writing a four-part story for Archie Comics in 2015]. It makes me almost giddy to know that Archie will be my daughter's gateway drug to LENA DUNHAM. My daughter, having just started high school, having just started having a meaningful SOCIAL LIFE, having (god bless her) no interest in "Twilight" or Taylor LAUTNER, could use, I think, some LENA DUNHAM in her life. But baby steps. Archie steps.

Gonna go watch the Scottish referendum returns. Looks like NAE, but the night's still young …



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Celebrity couple portmanteau / THU 9-18-14 / Tree in giraffe's diet / Tree-dwelling snake / Unhelpful spelling clarification #1 / Female motorcyclists in biker slang

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: CASEY (16A: Man trying to clarify the spelling of his name in 21-, 25, 38-, 52- and 57-Across) — Theme answers all start "C as in …," "A as in …," etc. with each answer ending (unhelpfully) in a word that sounds like another letter of the alphabet; thus:
  • C AS IN CUE
  • A AS IN ARE
  • S AS IN SEA
  • E AS IN EYE
  • Y AS IN YOU
The "punchline" being that one might think the fellow's name is "QRCIU" (66A: What the listener might think 16-Across's name is?)

Word of the Day: KIMYE (32D: Celebrity couple portmanteau) —
Proper noun
  1. (slang) The couple consisting of celebrities Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Origin
Blend of Kim and Kanye. (yourdictionary.com—"Your Dictionary: The Dictionary You Can Understand")
• • •

This was a weird one—mostly in a good way. 16 wide. That's a little weird. I got the basic theme concept early on, at C AS IN CUE. Before I had that answer filled out, I thought it was going to be something playing on different possible pronunciations of "C"—something like "C AS IN CEL." Once I got it, though, I saw that the resulting words were going to sound like different letters. Cool. Funny. And the man's name is going to be CASEY. Great. Let's go. The problem for me was mainly one of let-down. First, the other theme answers, by their very nature, didn't have much playfulness about them and (since I knew the core concept) were in no way surprising. And since the grid has no real sparkle—it's very clean and solid, but it's mostly Monday-level fill with no remarkable longer answers—I worked through it without that much pleasure (except a bit of smug pleasure, which turned quickly to guilty pleasure, at getting KIMYE and YOLO so quickly).


Let-down part II was that the revealer is an absurdity. I don't just mean that QRCIU is literally absurd, i.e. meaningless, but that the core conceit—that one would think that that is how the fictional CASEY was spelling his name—is preposterous. If you say "C AS IN CUE," no one thinks you are saying the first letter is "Q." Actually, scratch that. With "C AS IN CUE," the conceit actually kinda Does work, in that there is a word that sounds like CUE (namely QUEUE) that *does* start with "Q." It's the other letters where it doesn't work. Anyone hearing "blank as in blank" knows that the first blank is a letter and the second blank is a word. Not a letter. A AS IN ARE could not lead anyone to think that the second letter is "R" because there is no word *starting* with "R" that sounds like "ARE." And I see there is a "?" on the end of the 66-Across clue, so … OK, but this is simply not how the "blank as in blank" thing works. I can see now that picking up on the "the last words in the theme answers all sound like letters" concept almost instantly really spoiled whatever the revealer was supposed to do for me. So I started out impressed, but the feeling wore off a bit by the end.


Best wrong answer—66A: What the listener might think CASEY's name is?: QUE SI.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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