Iron Man's love interest / MON 9-26-16 / Protein rich vegan staple / Old-fashioned address organizer / Chips popcorn in commercialese / Classic comedy set at fictional Faber College

Monday, September 26, 2016

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)

THEME: STUFF IT (38A: "Shut up already!" ... or what you can do to the start of the answer to each starred clue) — things you stuff:

Theme answers:
  • PEPPER POTTS (17A: *Iron Man's love interest)
  • PILLOW TALK (26A: *Intimate chitchat)
  • TURKEY TROT (52A: *Annual Thanksgiving Day run)
  • STOCKING CAP (60A: *Knit headwear that may have a tufted ball at its end)
  • ANIMAL HOUSE (11D: *Classic comedy set at the fictional Faber College)
  • OLIVE BRANCH (25D: *Offer of reconciliation)
Word of the Day: PEPPER POTTS
Virginia "Pepper" Potts is a fictional supporting character and romantic love interest appearing in books published by Marvel Comics, in particular those featuring Iron Man. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Don Heck, she first appeared in Tales of Suspense #45 (September 1963). // In 2007, she joined the Fifty State Initiative under the codename Hera. In 2009, after being given her own suit of armor by Tony Stark, she assumes the identity of Rescue, which lasted until the 2012 storyline "The Future". // The character is portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the films Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers and Iron Man 3. (wikipedia)
• • •

Today has been surreal (I'm writing this on Sunday). It's my blog's 10-year anniversary, so, you know, there's that. Then I wake to find out that one of the most vibrant young players in the Majors, Miami's Jose Fernandez, died in boating accident. Big, exuberant, off-the-charts talented, headed for a Hall-of-Fame career. Refugee, immigrant, Cuban-American hero. Dead. So I cried and walked in the woods and saw a massive hawk just sitting on the power line over my car, which somehow helped. Then I decided to sit and watch an entire baseball game (which I haven't done but once or twice all season). It was the Phillies / Mets, and the last home game of the season for the Mets, who are in a tight race with the Cardinals and Giants for one of the two wildcard playoff spots, and thus need every win they can get. And they win. Boy do they win. They win so bad, the commentators start making football score jokes. "And with that field goal by Reyes, the Mets go up 15-0," etc. Ends up a 17-0 shutout—the most lopsided shutout in franchise history. Elsewhere in the majors, the Astros' Yuri Gurriel becomes the first player in over 40 years to hit into four double-plays in a single game (last was Joe Torre in '75). Then the Red Sox pitchers combined to strike out 23 (!!!) Rays in 10 innings, including, at one point, an MLB record 11 straight. And then lastly, but not leastly, the baseball yin to the morning's baseball yang—Vin Scully calls his final game from Dodger Stadium, after sixty-&%*^ing-seven years of calling games. And the Dodgers win in an extra-innings walk-off. Unreal. What does this have to do with crosswords? I don't know. Nothing, I guess, except for MY LOVE for what I do and my deep respect for people who love what they do and do it brilliantly, enthusiastically, passionately.

This was a nice way to start my second puzzle-blogging decade. A fine revealer, a grid crammed with solid themers and totally reasonable fill. Not sure how I feel about SNAX (the spelling, I mean ... I love snacks)—not sure that "X" was worth it, especially considering you've already got one in the grid—but overall, not too much gunk. I am almost (but not quite) embarrassed to say that despite the fact that I teach a course on Comics, I had *no idea* about PEPPER POTTS. Marvel ... not really my thing. Well, I like the new Ms. Marvel OK, and Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel was good too. Hawkeye is usually decent. Oh, and Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther is definitely worth checking out. But most of the mainstream Marvel universe, which includes its movies, hasn't held any interest for me. So PEPPER POTTS slowed me down pretty bad. So did my CRUDE-for-CRASS mistake (23D: Lacking refinement). Had me all flummoxed, wondering if 32A: Unsettle feeling was ANGST (it's AGITA). Yikes. Lots of sliding around in the WNW. And yet somehow I still broke 3 minutes, which is normal Monday time. (For perspective: Ten years ago, my goal was to break 5 on a Monday) So ... onward, I guess. And goodbye Vin Scully. And R.I.P Jose Fernandez.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. apparently Arnold Palmer just died. This day, I swear...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hoopster observing Ramadan / Ankle-exposing pants / Baked with breadcrumbs cheese / Narrow arm of sea / Dangerous backyard projectile / Pluto flyby org

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Constructor: Jim Holland and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Adding On" — you add "-ING" on to the ends of one of the words in a familiar phrase, yielding wackiness:

Theme answers:
  • FASTING FORWARD (29A: Hoopster observing Ramadan?)
  • LUCKY STREAKING (46A: Gangster Luciano performing a risqué prank?)
  • BUM STEERING (68A: Hobo at the wheel?)
  • STOCKING MARKET (88A: Where to buy certain Christmas decorations?)
  • LIGHT SWITCHING (105A: Mild form of corporal punishment?)
  • SQUARE ROOTING (15D: Cheering done in a plaza?)
  • GOLDING DIGGER (57D: Big fan of the "Lord of the Flies" author?)
Word of the Day: CYGNET (55A: Young swan) —
noun: cygnet; plural noun: cygnets
  1. a young swan. (google)
• • •

Oh well. I was hoping for a much nicer puzzle on this, my blog's 10-year anniversary. But you get what you get, and I get an add-ING puzzle, somehow. Perhaps because I was terrible to animals in a past life, I don't know. And I thought add-a-*letter* puzzles were stale. This add-ING thing, yeesh. I mean, it yields an interesting answer or two (see FASTING FORWARD and the amusingly kinky LIGHT SWITCHING), but the rest is tepid cornball.  SQUARE ROOTING is just [Cheering done in a plaza?]? That is boring af. At least make the SQUARE a nerd or something. Something! With ultra-basic, throwback-basic themes like this, you gotta bring the wacky. Tepid wacky is unbearable wacky. [Hobo at the wheel?] for BUM STEERING? Try [Driving with your ass?]. See? 100% better. Possibly 200%. Even the title is half-hearted and bland. "Adding ... On." Which is really just add-ing. You add "ing." Title may as well be "Adding." But it's "Adding On." Because that's a phrase. Of sorts. Why not something ridiculous, like, I don't know. "Tacking Liberties"? 'Cause you're taking liberties with the original answers as well as tacking "ing" onto words in those answers. Or make your theme answers wackier. CHARLIE BROWNING! HYDE PARKING! LOWING ON THE TOTEM POLE! Come on! Some. Thing. Something!

I emphasize passion and commitment because even (especially?) when I have not enjoyed a puzzle, I have tried, day in, day out, for 10 *&$^&ing years, to bring not just cogent analysis, but genuine, heartfelt, occasionally absurdly emotional engagement with the damned crossword (fittingly, Sia's "Cheap Thrills" is blaring as I type this). I'm currently watching my sportswriter friend Adesina Koiki live-tweet the BYU/WVU football game like his life depended on it—like it was the most important, most amazing thing happening on planet earth right now. He's ALLCAPS into it. And I know that I'm not ALLCAPS into the puzzle every day. But lord knows I try to bring something of my passion for puzzles, something of my personal, idiosyncratic insight, something of my gosh-darn soul to every write-up, in however small a way. I am so grateful for your readership and for the crossword community and for the many genuinely brilliant, warm, and funny people I've met and become friends with as a result of this blog. I know sometimes it seems like the puzzle is trying to suck my soul out of me through my, uh, let's say, eye sockets. But I still care about crosswords. I care about good crosswords. And more than that, I enjoy the company of people who share this care with me. Thank you a gazillion or a bajillion, your choice. 10 years!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. a little history for you. Here's the very first comment I ever got on my blog:

And the second:

Moral: Don't be a grandpamike. Or do. Maybe you'll inspire someone to adopt the same "*$&% you" spirit grandpamike inspired in me.

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