Sport similar to paintball / SAT 2-25-17 / Corrupt in British slang / Number of bacteria living on surface that has not been sterilized / Sociopathic role for Alain Delon Matt Damon John Malkovich / Vegas hotel with name from English legend / Giovanni Verrazano discovery of 1524

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Constructor: Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: AIRSOFT (26D: Sport similar to paintball) —
Airsoft is a sport in which participants eliminate opponents by hitting each other with spherical non-metallic pellets launched via replica weapons called airsoft guns. //  Airsoft guns are replica weapons used in airsoft sports. They are essentially a special type of low-power smoothbore air guns designed to pressurize air within an internal chamber to shoot non-metallic spherical projectiles (often incorrectly referred to as BBs) typically made of (but not limited to) plastic or biodegradable resin materials. Airsoft guns and pellets have significantly less penetrative and stopping powers than conventional air guns, and are generally safe for competitive sporting and recreational purposes if proper protective gear is worn. // Depending on the mechanism for propelling the pellet, an airsoft gun can be operated manually with a spring-loaded air pump, or on an automatic cycling basis which is implemented either pneumatically with prefilled bottled gas (such as compressed green gas or CO2), or mechanically driven by an electric motor gearbox. // As toy weapons, airsoft guns can often be designed to realistically resemble genuine firearms in appearance, and it can be very difficult to distinguish from one. It is notable that despite their appearance, airsoft guns cannot be adapted to use deadly ammunitions. (wikipedia)
• • •

Took me almost twice as long as yesterday, but since it's Saturday, and yesterday was very easy for a Friday, we're just talking about a regular old Saturday, difficulty-wise. Puzzle is fine. Way out of my wheelhouse, and a bit crusty for my tastes (despite the bold bid for contemporary relevance at 1A: Reject someone, in a way (SWIPE LEFT). I just didn't know a bunch of this stuff. Like ... half a dozen answers, I'd either flat-out never heard of (AIRSOFT? ALMADEN?), or only sort of barely know exist (CAPE COD BAY ... I know the cape, but the bay ... is not something I ever think about). BIOBURDEN was totally unknown to me, but I kind of liked figuring it out. The same cannot be said of REDBONE. I used to obsess over dog-breed books (I love dogs, of all and no breeds), so I was slightly stunned to have no recollection of ever seeing that particular [Hunting dog breed]. The NW corner was pretty tight, but after that, the puzzle was just OK. Nothing special. Adequate. Friday's puzzle was clearly the big winner this week, with Thursday a close second.


How did you get into this thing? I did what I typically do—go straight to the short answers and hope they give me enough information to net one of the longer crosses. Good strategy for biggish corners like NW and SE. Today, I started at COE (28A: Iowa college) and ITSY (25A: Wee, informally) (both gimmes). That led me to IMMERSE and TOM RIPLEY (which was also a gimme, but, as I say, I never look at clues to longer answers until I have had at the short stuff). Despite the gruesomeness of the faux-quaint clue and answer at 22A: "Cheese and rice!" ("NERTS!"), I thought that corner came together pretty nicely. But coming out of there proved both tough and less interesting. Couldn't spell Linda ELLERBEE's name (last letter was "Y" for a while). And then AIRSOFT (total mystery) kept me from having any hope of getting into SW. NE was fairly tractable, despite REDBONE. Needed APED / CAPISCE to get started again in the SW. Finished in the SE. Didn't know BIOBURDEN, as I said, and had a few seconds of bewilderment trying to figure out what answer could possibly start DST- at 55A: 60s sorts (D STUDENTS). Finished at CAMPS, which gave me my final letter—the "M" in ALMADEN. I was born and raised in California. Never heard of ALMADEN. I'll have to try some. Perhaps one of their chardonnays would pair nicely with some DEWED NERTS. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Title mankini wearer in 2006 film / FRI 2-24-17 / It is never too late to mend novelist 1856 / Celebrity astrologer Sydney / Bavaria per part of its official name / It's between Navarre and Catalonia / Once-ler's opponent in children's literature / Where Linear A script was unearthed

Friday, February 24, 2017

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Charles READE (16A: "It Is Never Too Late to Mend" novelist, 1856) —
Charles Reade (8 June 1814 – 11 April 1884) was an English novelist and dramatist, best known for The Cloister and the Hearth.
• • •

Very short write-up this morning, as I have to drive family members hither and yon, and *then* drive myself to the gym at 7:30am. Third day in a row of 60+-degree temperatures in the middle of winter, though, so I can't complain. I just gotta type kinda fast.

[BRITISH INVASION]

I loved this from (literally) square one. Part of that love was from a good first guess at 1A: Take a while to wear off (LAST), which I was able to confirm with the great and (today) heartening and defiant-seeming answer, LGBTQ (1D: Orientation letters?). And then, well, give me the "Q" in the pole position on a 15 and odds are I'm going to take off at good clip. Which is what happened. I had just woken up and was sitting here at my desk, creaky and still bleary-eyed, and still: zing bam pow. Done in under 5. Hummed along so easily I didn't even have to look at clue for DESI ARNAZ (10D: Co-star of a #1 TV show for four seasons in the 1950s); and (as with the "Q," above), plunking that "Z" down did wonders for helping me whip into and through the middle of the grid. I'm just gonna do some bullet points containing the only parts of the puzzle that even tried to block me.

Bullets:

  • WENDY (8D: Darling of literature) — this is "Peter Pan," right. Because baseball season is *right* around the corner, my only thought upon seeing "Darling" was "Ron" (he solves crosswords, look him up).
  • "DIG IN" (20A: What often follows grace) — had the "DI-" and couldn't come up with anything but "DI ... NER?" The gluttonous colloquialism "DIG IN" doesn't seem quite in the same register as the proper-sounding "grace," but the clue's accurate enough.
  • READE (16A: "It Is Never Too Late to Mend" novelist, 1856) — one of the crosswordesiest novelists there is. Get to know him. Or his name, at any rate; I've never read his stuff.
  • DODOS (25D: Pinheads) — as usual, I dropped the wrong DO- answer here at first (DOLTS). I also can never remember if the supplement store in the mall is GMC or GNC (40D: Co. with the longtime slogan "Live well").
  • OBESE (29D: Like cartoondom's Peter Griffin or Chief Wiggum) — Got the "O" and wrote in OVATE and was quite happy with that answer for a few seconds.
  • STIFF (45D: Joe Blow) — this was harder than any other answer by far. I think we get here by way of "working STIFF," but .... I don't know. "Joe Blow" makes me think of Snoopy, even though Snoopy's alter ego was, in fact, Joe Cool.
  • EXERCISE SCIENCE (44A: Workout area?) — Needed the LORAX (30D: Once-ler's opponent, in children's literature) to convince me that this was a thing. This means that almost all the high-value Scrabble letters contributed significantly to my speed-solving today. For that, I thank them.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Episode 002 of "On the Grid," my crossword podcast w/ Lena Webb, out now.

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