Hardy hog breed / THU 4-17-14 / Pioneer in New Criticism / Palestinian nominee for Best Foreign Language Film of 2013 / Fine dandy in old slang

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Constructor: Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (though once again, I wouldn't really know, as the NYT continues to fail to put out a readable .puz file on time so I'm using their truly terrible "Play For Fun" interface, which advances the cursor against your will to apparently random parts of the grid once you've completed an answer … it's like the Enjoyment Crushing Society over there, my god…) 

THEME: THINK / THROUGH (45A: With 61-Across, carefully consider … or a clue to this puzzle's theme) — you have to mentally supply THROUGH in intersecting phrases, as the first word in the phrase *literally* runs through the latter part of the phrase:

Theme answers:
  • WENT [thru] THE ROOF
  • PAID [thru] THE NOSE
  • SHOT [thru] THE HEART
  • ROSE [thru] THE RANKS
Word of the Day: DUROC (50A: Hardy hog breed) —
noun: Duroc; plural noun: Durocs
  1. 1.
    a pig of a reddish breed developed in North America.
early 19th cent.: from the name of a stallion that is said to have been bought by the breeder Isaac Frink on the same day as the pigs from which he developed the breed. (google)
• • •

Mixed bag. Novel grid design is a plus, and the core concept is clever. I did not, however, like the way the theme execution made for nonsense words in the Downs. I guess I'm questioning the way "THROUGH" is being used here. Intersecting conveys a better sense of THROUGH. Here, it's like THE just stepped a little to make room for the first word. THEN ROOF just looks silly. [Direction from caveman contractor following "Put up walls"!?]. Revealer oddly wasn't. I.e. I picked up on the concept reasonably early, so when I got to the "revealer" it was a gimme, not a revelation.

Fill on this one was so-so. I LOST IT and STINK AT feel barely legitimate as cohesive phrases, and I'm somewhat surprised a lot of the short fill is as mediocre as it is. DUROC, yikes (50A: Hardy hog breed). DUROC is the new ATLI (see yesterday). Lots more iffy short fill—too much to list. I've seen I AM SO DEAD before — twice — so though you may like it, it's straight out of a constructing software word list. Clue on TROT is not good, but we are subjected to it because of the perceived "need" to have three identical clues in a row (48D: Go quickly). It's telling that all the actual examples of TROT in a sentence, if you google it, refer to its slowness relative to an *actual* quick pace. "The horses trotted slowly through the night. "Our horses slowed to a trot." So, yes, it's faster than walking. But only in a fairly tortured and tenuous way would you use it to mean "go quickly."

AM NOT is a retort to a specific accusation, not a broad existential statement. How ["You know nothing about me"] works, I have no idea. [Stare with an open mouth] is GAPE. If not, it's GAWK. It is GAWP … well, never in real life, but in crossword puzzles, it's real life shmeal life. The clue on OKE is unintentionally hilarious: ["Fine and dandy," in old slang]. Old? You mean, older than "fine and dandy"? Wow, that is old. When "fine and dandy" is your "After" photo, that is … something. But again, the theme has a certain charm, and the puzzle is kind of smiling at you, so why not just focus on that. Also, this puzzle was half-written by a woman, so the three-week-long sausagefest has … well, not ended, but been slightly mitigated, at any rate. Hurray?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Mythical king of huns / WED 4-16-14 / Yellowstone bugler / Cuddly sci-fi creature / What scientists use to predict rates of chemical reactions / Arkansas footballers informally

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Constructor: Michael Dewey

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (again, no idea, as the AcrossLite file at the NYT site was Once Again "corrupt") (it's kind of an embarrassment how bad they are at the tech stuff over there) (oh hey, look, I bugged the right person and the file is no longer corrupt. Too late for me, but …)

THEME: "TITANIC SINKS!" (58A: Headline of April 16, 1912) — theme answers are, in whole or, in the case of one answer, in part, related to the sinking of the Titanic...

Theme answers:
  • MAIDEN VOYAGE (20A: Post-christening event)
  • COLLISION THEORY (28A: What scientists use to predict the rates of chemical reactions)
  • TIP OF THE ICEBERG (49A: Small part that's visible)
Word of the Day: ATLI (45D: Mythical king of the huns) —
A legendary king corresponding to the historical figure of Attila. In the Volsunga Saga he is the second husband of Gudrun. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

This doesn't work. First, there's the not major but still significant problem of this "tribute"'s having been done before—and recently, at a time that made much more sense, i.e. just two years ago, when it was the 100th anniversary of the disaster. Second, there's the tepidity of this theme execution. Weak, obvious, untricky answers, including one (COLLISION THEORY) that has a word in it  (THEORY???) that has Zero relationship to the disaster (the collision is not a theory; what caused the collision is not a theory … boat hitting iceberg caused the collision; there were theories about what caused the ship to sink … at first … but … now we know it was an iceberg, right? So ...). Just so weird / awkward to have all the other theme answers be spot-on and literal (to the point of dullness) and then have this lone outlier, totally unrelated to the Titanic except in a half-metaphorical kind of way. I'm baffled. Why was this even accepted? Further: fill is very much subpar. ATLI is ghastly, bottom-of-the-barrel crosswordese. In fact, it's almost definitive in its crosswordesiness. AGER and EDO and KAT, not much better.

I did like OH BOTHER, appropriately/ironically. Had LEAP for [Bound] at 1A, so not the fastest start. I had MAGI for MARY at 10D: Crèche figure—kinda knew I was wrong, as MAGI are figures, plural, but MA- + "Crèche" = MAGI in my brain. Wanted I GOT IT before I DID IT (50D: Cry of success). Odd coincidence (I assume) that I have seen ECLIPSE (5D: Sun block?) at least three times in the past few days, considering there was a lunar ECLIPSE, what, just yesterday? Thought [Globe's place] as a clue for BOSTON was pretty clever. But outside of that answer and the Pooh answer, there's not much here to love.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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