Thrill seeker's appurtenance / FRI 1-19-18 / Third largest city in Switzerland / Last new Beatles track before their split in 1970 / 1966 Pulitzer-winning Edward Albee play

Friday, January 19, 2018

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: BEETHOVEN (35A + 36A) on EARPHONES (21D + 39D) — there is a note:

Word of the Day: PARADOR (8A: Spanish hotel) —
  1. a hotel in Spain owned and administered by the Spanish government. (google)
• • •

Why? Why would you do this? Fridays are the Best Days for puzzles. My favorite day. Themeless puzzles that are on the easier side. These are usually the most delightful puzzles of the week. So why would you run this Saturday+-difficulty Maleska-era-skewing wisp-of-a-joke puzzle today!? If you had to do it, do it Tomorrow. It was certainly hard enough (my time was 2x normal Friday and well above my normal Saturday). This was a whole lot of brutality just so I could notice the "H" at the end. I probably could've made the experience slightly easier if I had Bothered To Look At The Note At All, but I resent notes and never read them until after I'm done. I take it as a personal challenge. A dare. If I need your note, your puzzle's no good and I'm no good as a solver. If I'd read it, I *probably* would've pieced together that the central answers were involved, and that would've given me BEET (instead of ACAI, ugh), and that western section might've fallen a Lot sooner (it was a nightmare). But I'm not playing your stupid reindeer games on Friday. Just *seeing* the little yellow "Note" symbol in my software gave me ill will toward this puzzle. And then it was hard and full of weirdness and obscurity and "clever" cluing, and Then the payoff was ... what it was. If you absolutely had to make this "joke," why not do it inside a clean, modern, delightful grid, instead of this painfully BORESOME one (I hope I'm using that "word" right—I refuse to look it up).

No idea:
  • GRAB BAR (1A: Help during the fall?) — ?????????????? Brutal. Do you mean "hand rail?" What the hell is a GRABBAR!? This was the beginning of the end for me in the west, as I had 5D: Smoking GUN. And thus -R--GAR at 1-Across. Forever.
  • ACCORDS (1D: Grants) — Oh, it's a verb. How nice. Not how I was reading it.
  • BEAR (4D: Difficult thing to do, informally) — without GRABBAR, no hope
  • PARADOR (8A: Spanish hotel) — a what now?
  • ABILENE (16A: Hardin-Simmons University setting) — I teach at a university and have never heard of this university, and thus could not have known where it is located
  • ABASE (9D: Mortify) — Kept thinking about someone being "mortified" and just refused to accept that "abased" meant the same thing
  • COY (26A: Hardly fresh) — ugh these words. What decade are these gender politics from? I had CO- and had to run the alphabet. Twice
  • SLOPE (27A: It's not on the level) — SLANT
  • PIERO (28D: Renaissance artist ___ della Francesca) — cannot keep all those guys straight, and without SLOPE ... nope
  • BEET (35A: Healthful juice source) — ACAI, as I (a) say above
  • GOPRO (37A: Thrill-seeker's appurtenance — just brutal, this clue. I forgot these exist. They don't have anything to do with the "seeking" of the thrill, just the recording of it. The word "appurtenance" is a horrifically ugly thing to have to look at. 
  • MEI (47A: ___ Lan (giant panda born at the ATLANTA zoo)) — there are so many damn zoo pandas at this point, expecting people to know the particular three-letter Chinese name part at this point is ridiculous. The cross-reference adds nothing here.
  • ELENA (50D: "The Vampire Diairies" protagonist") — nope, but luckily ELENA is a name that appears on crosswords a lot
  • ISN'T (52A: That right introduction?) — this may be the most painful "?" clue I've ever read, whereas my wrong answer is probably the best wrong answer that ever was. I had: STET. "DELE? No, that right! STET!" Me: "I don't know why the editor is talking like that, but OK."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Foot baby-style / THU 1-18-18 / Jewel case insert / Group rallied by Mao Zedong / Lady Ashley Jake Barnes's love in Sun Also Rises / Some roles in Jack Benny film College Holiday

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Constructor: Ryan McCarty and Alan Southworth

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: NO WAY (69A: "Forget it!" ... or a hint to 17-, 30-, 46- and 62-Across) — DESCRIPTION

Word of the Day: "KUBO and the Two Strings" (58D: 2016 animated film "___ and the Two Strings") —
Kubo and the Two Strings is a 2016 American 3D stop-motion fantasy action-adventure film directed and co-produced by Travis Knight (in his directorial debut), and written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. It stars the voices of Charlize TheronArt ParkinsonRalph FiennesRooney MaraGeorge Takei, and Matthew McConaughey. It is Laika's fourth feature film produced. The film revolves around Kubo, who wields a magical shamisen and whose left eye was stolen in infancy. Accompanied by an anthropomorphic snow monkey and beetle, he must subdue his mother's corrupted Sisters and his power-hungry grandfather Raiden (aka, the Moon King), who stole his left eye.
Kubo premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival and was released by Focus Features in the United States on August 19 to critical acclaim and has grossed $77 million worldwide against a budget of $60 million. The film won the BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Visual Effects, becoming the second animated film ever to be nominated in the latter category following The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). (wikipedia)
• • •

Weird, we get a My Chemical Romance clue (45A: My Chemical Romance genre => EMO), but ... NO WAY?*

[*Gerard WAY is the lead singer for My Chemical Romance]

Two things about this puzzle are startling. First, the theme, which is so conceptually remedial, I have a hard time imagining its running in any majoy daily, let alone the "gold standard" puzzle. You just take WAY out? To get tepid phrases that are sometimes actual things and sometimes non-things? ONE STREET? That's funny? That's ... what is that? This is a puzzle you make early in your career and it gets rejected and then you learn to make your themes more interesting. When I got to the revealer ("NO WAY!"), I thought, "That ... that can't be it. Is that it?" It was it. And the resulting answers: HIGH ROBBERY, not a thing (unless you smoke pot and then knock over a bank, I guess), SUBSTATIONS, absolutely a thing, ONE STREET, a thing but not a standalone thing ... and then there's RUN A TRAIN. This is where I really, really wonder if anyone took any time editing this thing. The *only* reaction to this puzzle that I saw on Twitter last night involved this answer. Go ahead and google RUN A TRAIN (in quotation marks) if you don't know what that phrase means in common parlance. Let's just say that if the NYT does indeed have a "breakfast test" for its answers, this one proooooooobably doesn't pass. Surely Will's younger assistants know the slang meaning of this phrase. I wonder if the constructors thought they were being cute, or had a bet, or something. "We'll never get this by him!" "Let's try!"

I found the puzzle really easy except for the far north, where BRETT (???) (6A: Lady ___ Ashley, Jake Barnes's love in "The Sun Also Rises") and BOBBER (it's not just "bob"?) (6D: Tackle box item) and especially RUBADUB (who doesn't love a partial nonsense phrase!?) (7D: Start of a children's rhyme) really gummed things up. The SW also slowed me down, as all that Cockney nonsense was unintelligible to me. Neither LONDONER (37D: Cockney, e.g.) nor 'ERE (68A: "Listen ___!" (Cockney cry)) came into view easily. I thought maybe the Cockney person (?) was saying "Listen 'A ME!" Ugh. Oh, and I forgot what a "jewel case" was (oh, these modern times!) and so CD-ROM (bygone!) was rough for me as well (53A: Jewel case insert). Also got thrown by the theme-length answer with the "?" clue that was *not* a themer (I really hate that sort of junk). CEMENT MASON is as long or longer than all themers and (like the themers) has a "?" clue, so I went looking for a missing WAY. To no avail. But the rest was a cinch and even these problem areas weren't tough to work out. But overall, this was unpleasant, in more ways than one.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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