Like amoeba reproduction / MON 7-25-16 / Bart Simpson's siter / Harvard rival

Monday, July 25, 2016

Constructor: Kevin Christian

Relative difficulty: Easy like Monday Morning

THEME: HEY JOE — each theme entry begins with a familiar Joe

Word of the Day: CAMELCASE (28A: Style of "iPhone" or "eBay," typographically)
camelCase (also camel caps or medial capitals) is the practice of writing compound words or phrases such that each word or abbreviation begins with a capital letter (and omits hyphens). Camel case may start with a capital letter (called PascalCase or UpperCamelCase) or, especially in programming languages, with a lowercase letter. Common examples include: "PowerPoint" or "MySpace" and "iPhone" or "eCommerce" or in online usernames such as "JohnSmith"  -- Wikipedia

• • •

Theme answers:
  • (20A: 1899-1901 uprising in China) BOXER REBELLION
  • (28A: Style of "iPhone" or "eBay," typographically)  CAMELCASE
  • (45A: "Great!")  COOL BEANS 
  • (50A: Vacillate)  BLOW HOT AND COLD 
  • (1D/63D: With 61-Down, Jimi Hendrix's first single ... or a hint to the starts of 20-, 28-, 45- and 50-Across)  HEY/JOE
If you're like me, you filled HAHA in at 1-A, looked at the clue for 1-D, filled in HEY and then JOE at 63-D, and then once you had BOXER REBELLION you knew the puzzle's theme. This is why the revealer should go as low in the grid as possible. No credit for half of it going in the bottom-right, since "Hey Joe" isn't exactly an obscure song so a lot of people are going to have the reveal as their second and third answers in the grid. So a pretty big ding for solving experience there, like telling everyone who the murderer is on page 4 of the mystery. Only to be done with a good reason, which there isn't here. Granted, HEY JOE isn't an easy entry to fit as the last Across in a puzzle grid, but 1-D can't be the right solution.

The chosen Joes are good: none is a specific, real person, so that's interesting. No actual Joes. Tightens it up in a quirky way. The grid has some nice stuff (BAD LUCK, DUE NORTH, ASEXUAL, STEELERS) but also some unnecessary dreck, like ETUI, APER, and CANER, all of which could've been easily cleaned up.  CAMELCASE is undoubtedly a cool entry; because those capital letters resemble a camel's hump(s), get it? And sneaking those two J's into the lower-right was some fancy footwork as well.

There are 42 black squares in the grid, which is a lot. Normally 38 is considered the upper limit, with 40 only permitted in special circumstances, and anything over that should be rare and with good reason. This grid isn't really challenging enough (52 theme letters) to necessitate that; the two "cheater squares" on either end of the central entry D-PLUS should've at least been worked out, getting us down to 40.

Clues are dryasdust: EMILY is (Poet Dickinson), AIDAN is (Actor Quinn), ALLAN is (Writer Edgar ___ Poe), STEELERS is (Pittsburgh N.F.L. team), and so on. Perhaps I'm being harsh; let's find the three best clues. (Ride to an awards show) for LIMO, (One of 22 for Jon Stewart) is EMMY, and (Handled tunes at a dance, say) is DJED. Not sabotaging here, I really think those are the three best clues.

I'm grading the puzzles this week, and my first two grids have each had D-PLUS as an entry. Somebody trying to tell me something? This one had an OK but misplaced revealer, an unexciting theme per se but with a good set of theme entries, a reasonable grid, and clues that were rather stale. Sounds like a C+ effort in my book.

Not exactly off to a roaring start this week, but we'll see if the NYT squad can get us out of C-ville tomorrow.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 6 more days

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Palindromic elemento / SUN 7-24-16 / Common Coke go-with / Friend of Lucy Ricardo

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SPACE INVADERS — grid is a representation of a screenshot from the video game

Word of the Day: BIG DIG (Boston megaproject completed in 2007, informally) —
The Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T), known unofficially as the Big Dig, was a megaproject in Boston that rerouted the Central Artery (Interstate 93)—the chief highway through the heart of the city—into the 3.5-mile (5.6 km) Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel...The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests,[2][3] and one death.[4] The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998[5] at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006).[6] However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%)[6] as of 2006.[7] The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038. -- Wikipedia
• • •

Matt Gaffney here, filling in for Rex for the next eight days, which he'll spend at the baccarat tables in Monte Carlo (I'm guessing). I write a daily crossword here and a weekly crossword contest every Friday here. My latest crossword book is this.

Crossword wunderkind David Steinberg is our constructor today; I think he's the only teenager who's won my Crossword of the Month award (September 2015).

His puzzle is a SPACE INVADERS (91A: 1970s-'80s craze that's the theme of this puzzle ) screenshot in cruciverbal form, and there's a lot going on: a MOTHERSHIP in circled letters up top; nine entries invaded by ETs; SAFE spelled by four unchecked letters in the bottom section of the grid, indicating those boulder-like things you could hide under in the game; a LASER pointing upward in the upper left of the grid, hidden in the downward PRESALE (6D: Event for select customers) indicating the lasers you'd fire; and a cannon-shaped CANNON in the lower-left.

Phew...that's a lot of different ideas tossed into the mix, but I'm afraid this comes off as more of a big, confusing mess than a coherent and pleasant return to childhood. Lots of "well, not quites" as I looked over the grid later: the Space Invaders shot downward at the player, which isn't represented; using ET as your "Space Invaders" conflates two very different early '80s things (E.T. was sweet and ate candy, Space Invaders were trying to destroy your civilization); SAFE seems like an arbitrary word for those shelters down below, since the Space Invaders' missiles ate away at them, and they disappeared altogether when the Invaders got low enough; that thing was called a MOTHERSHIP? And why is it in that loop shape? Part of the problem is that Space Invaders was one of those games that was more popular in its Atari 2600 version than its arcade version, and the two were stylistically not identical. David used the arcade version here, so this didn't hit my nostalgia radar correctly. Are ROCKET FUEL (112A: Mission requirement) and AIRPORT BAR (116A: Place to get drunk before getting high?) supposed to be theme? I don't think so.

With all that going on, the fill took some hits: SSE / OSS / SSR / SSN / EEE / HET / RET / ORO isn't a great worst-of list for 3-letter entries. But the constructor also managed to sneak a lot of nice entries in as well, such as ETHEL MERTZ (41D: Friend of Lucy Ricardo), CHEAP DATE (49A: One not looking for an expensive night on the town), and ELDERBERRY (45D: Fruit used in wines and syrups).

The best part of the theme is the nine "Space Invading" ET's. PREEN, DOH, MINUS, DIED, TAKEN, GAME, DUO, MARKING and ABS became PRETEEN, DOETH, MINUETS, DIETED, TAKE TEN, GAMETE, DUE TO, MARKETING, and ABETS. Maybe this could've been a decent theme by itself, without all the other stuff, and then that "E.T." does not equal "Space Invaders" wouldn't have bothered me since you're just using "Space Invaders" to mean "E.T. was from space, and he's invading these entries". That might've been the way to take this. But with all the other elements in there it becomes a disharmonious mishmash.

It's schoolmarmish, but I assign grades to puzzles when I fill in for Rex, and I'll give this one a C-. When David Steinberg's Greatest Hits is released someday it will be a very nice volume, but I don't think this puzzle will make the cut. No worries, he has plenty of others to choose from. 

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 7 more days

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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