Aware of in cool cat slang / MON 1-23-17 / Little shaver to Scot / 50s Ford flops / Many John Wayne film informally / Corkscrew-shaped noodles

Monday, January 23, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (2:48)

THEME: FAIRY TALE (60A: What the starts of 17-, 26-, 35- and 50-Across are) — those beginnings spell out "RUMP/EL/STILT/SKIN"

Theme answers:
  • RUMP ROAST (17A: Slow-cooked beef entree)
  • EL DORADO (26A: Fabled city of wealth sought by conquistadors)
  • STILT WALKER (35A: One with a leg up in the circus business?)
  • SKIN GAME (50A: Gambling scam)
Word of the Day: ETHAN Hawke (32D: Actor Hawke of "Boyhood") —
Ethan Green Hawke (born November 6, 1970) is an American actor, writer, and director. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards and a Tony Award. Hawke has directed two feature films, three Off-Broadway plays, and a documentary, and wrote the novels The Hottest State (1996), Ash Wednesday (2002), and Rules for a Knight (2015). // He made his film debut in 1985 with the science fiction feature Explorers, before making a breakthrough appearance in the 1989 drama Dead Poets Society. He then appeared in numerous films before taking a role in the 1994 Generation X drama Reality Bites, for which he received critical praise. In 1995, Hawke first appeared in Richard Linklater's romance trilogy, co-starring opposite Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, and later in its sequels Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013), all of which met with critical acclaim. // Hawke has been twice nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; his writing contributions to Before Sunset and Before Midnight were recognized, as were his performances in Training Day (2001) and Boyhood (2014). Hawke was further honored with SAG Award nominations for both films, along with BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for the latter. // His other films include the science fiction drama Gattaca (1997), the contemporary adaptation of Hamlet (2000), the action thriller Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), the crime drama Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), and the horror film Sinister (2012). (wikipedia)
• • •

This may as well be a themeless, so unremarkable is the theme. There are a few nice answers, most notably in the south (MISCAST alongside ASK AWAY; and I especially like I'M A FAN), but way too much short gunk / crosswordese. And, as I say, a super-blah theme. I wasn't yet out of the NW before I knew the fill would be a problem. It's HEP TO MOO WHAP! I like LASER fine but for some reason LASE in its various verb forms irks and even ires me (if IRES were a thing, which, I maintain, it is not and never will be, sorry crosswords) (yes, I know IRES isn't in this puzzle; it's just that even thinking about it gets me so IRED, I ...). In the end, though, this was more plain old dull than bad. Musty. If your dad was HEP TO EDSELS when you were a WEE LAD, maybe this spoke to you.

Difficulty-wise, it was just a shade easier than average for me. Had some hesitation at the phrase ON MIKE (had the ON, but the second part needed crosses, since AIR came up short) (3D: Like a live radio announcer). Also needed all the crosses for WHAP because WHAP, WTF? (6D: Fly swatter sound) I don't really know the phrase SKIN GAME, but that answer must've just filled itself in via crosses. The biggest trap in the puzzle is probably the CLUMSY / KLUTZY one (38D: All thumbs), which I clumsily and / or klutzily fell into. Luckily for me I saw that that made the ending on the central themer -ALCER, and my spidey sense told me that was unnnnlikely. So change: to KLUTZY, to ZALES, to zip zap zoom ET AL. And done. Wish there were more to say. There is not.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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1960s sitcom set in 1860s / SUN 1-22-17 / Grammy winning drummer Lyne Carrington / Piano dueler with Donald in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Constructor: Dan Schoenholz

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Mishmash" — familiar phrase ends in a word which is then repeated with a vowel change, creating a kind of sing-songy nonsense phrase that gets a "?" clue:

Theme answers:
  • POWDERED-WIG WAG (23A: Witty British judge?)
  • JOINED-AT-THE-HIP HOP (38A: Three-legged race, e.g.?)
  • FINGERTIP TOP (55A: Nail?)
  • "OF THEE I SING" SONG (66A: "America"?)
  • LET HER RIP RAP (81A: Grant a girl permission to dis Drake?)
  • NEW YORK KNICK KNACK (98A: Ability to score at Madison Square Garden, e.g.?) (whoever clued this has not seen the Knicks play lately)
  • TRIPLE FLIP FLOP (117A: Diving disaster?)
Word of the Day: RIPRAP (81A) —
Riprap, as rip rap, rip-rap, shot rock, rock armour or rubble, is rock or other material used to armor shorelines, streambeds, bridge abutments, pilings and other shoreline structures against scour and water or ice erosion. It is made from a variety of rock types, commonly granite or limestone, and occasionally concrete rubble from building and paving demolition. It can be used on any waterway or water containment where there is potential for water erosion. (wikipedia)
• • •
I don't have the inclination to deal too much with this inanity today. I'm still filled with hope and optimism after seeing the Women's marches all over the world today, and I'm not gonna let this puzzle get me down. I'd never heard of WIGWAG or RIPRAP, but they both appear to be things, so all the ping-pong ding-dong clip-clop endings are real things, hurrah. The whole thing didn't feel clever so much as awkward. I kept having to think about how the phrase worked, exactly. None of them ever seemed funny. Luckily, the puzzle was so easy that I didn't have time to dwell much on how sub-entertaining it was. Finished in well under 9, which is down near record territory for me on a Sunday. Is my fingernail the top of my fingertip? That seems ... wrong. Directionally wrong. The finger tip is the end. It has no top. I guess the nail is on "top" of my finger, in a way, but the lack of spot-on-itude there (and elsewhere) was irksome. It's "let 'er rip"; the idea anyone's saying that "h" is pretty hilarious. A very enthusiastic elocution coach, perhaps. You don't "hop" in a three-legged race, do you? The "third" leg consists of two legs moving as one, but not ... hopping. What is a triple flip? I am guessing it is a thing where you flip three times, but it's hardly a snappy diving phrase, like a pike or a tuck. There is no "flip" in Olympic diving. Somersaults are involved, but ... you see, all these phrases just feel off. Like carob. It's not chocolate. You can fool some rube who wants to be fooled, but I like chocolate, and you can't fool me.

I had MALT for ICEE (5D: Drink commonly served with a spoon straw) and I did not know COPs were called [Bluecoat]s. I was thinking it was some Revolutionary counterpart to the Redcoat. Beyond those initial hiccups, I don't remember any resistance whatsoever. Fill isn't terrible. It just is. I need to get back to drinking and watching TCM now. Bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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