Kepler's contemporary assistant / FRI 4-20-18 / Topic of mnemonic Eat Apple As Nighttime Snack / Desperately in need of approval in modern slang

Friday, April 20, 2018

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Man, I'm slow when I roll-out-of-bed-solve... (9-something)

THEME: sadly, yes

Theme answers:
  • TWENTY-FIVE / THOUSANDTH (10D: With 26-Down, the place of today's puzzle among all New York Times crosswords)
Word of the Day: HOLT (6D: Otter's den) —
  1. 1
    the den of an animal, especially that of an otter.
  2. 2
    a grip or hold. (google)
• • •

ELEPHANT, in room, not forgetting
Firstly, you can shove this self-congratulatory bullshit and start paying constructors somewhere, anywhere near what the puzzles are worth to you, NYT. The peanuts-level pay (fractions of a penny per dollar profit) remains a fantastic embarrassment and ensures that puzzle-making remains largely the purview of a smallish clique of (mostly) white (mostly) guys who would and could do it for nothing. Already well-off white dudes are the Best because they don't harsh your buzz with talk about *money*, ick, how déclassé. And the Powers That Be have always been dismissive and condescending (and largely silent) on this issue. Extremely so. I've got friends who complain all day long (*as they should*) that women and people of color are underrepresented in the world of crossword constructors and editors, but never make a peep about fair pay. About selling your work to a giant corporation, with no hope of residuals, and being paid largely in "hey, look, your name's in the paper!" Why anyone sells to the NYT for less than $750 for a daily is beyond me (it's currently a laughable $300, with a secret $350 level for the oft-published favorites—by comparison, Peter Gordon's *independent* Fireball Crosswords pays $451). I have no problem with the NYT's using the crossword to help fund "real" news? But come on. They could double, triple, quadruple the pay rate and stil just be printing money. TWENTY-FIVE THOUSANDTH crossword? So? What? I mean, this is an institution that took years and years to Put The Constructor's Name On The Puzzle, then even more years to Put The Name Where People Can See It. See, you're supposed to worship the Institution, and the Editor. Constructor shmonstructor. I would love for an honest accounting of just how much money there is, and where the money goes, crosswordwise. Let everyone see. Go ahead. I dare you.

Secondly, and more strongly, you can take DEEP STATE (58A: Entrenched network inside a government), and everything you've done to normalize this racist, conspiracy-theory-driven administration, and shove it very, very far.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I know it's 4/20, but I swear I did not write this high.

P.P.S. Here, please enjoy this puzzle from Brendan Emmett Quigley and 2018 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion Erik Agard?

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Seuss's star-bellied creatures / THU 4-19-18 / Word before Johnny Lucy / Disney movie set in Arendelle / Chocolaty breakfast cereal

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Easyish (4:48)

THEME: COUNT THE SQUARES (35A: How to find out what "this many" is in 17-, 21-, 52- and 57-Across) — themers have "this many" as part of their clues, and "this many" = number of letters in the answer:

Theme answers:
  • BEETHOVEN (17A: He wrote this many symphonies)
  • MISSOURI (21A: It borders this many other states)
  • ARACHNID (52A: It has this many legs)
  • MARK SPITZ (57A: He won this many Olympic gold medals)
Word of the Day: KEENAN Wynn (3D: Actor Wynn of "Dr. Strangelove") —
Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn (July 27, 1916 – October 14, 1986) was an American character actor. His expressive face was his stock-in-trade; and, though he rarely carried the lead role, he had prominent billing in most of his film and television roles. (wikipedia)

• • •

This feels underbaked. Four pretty short themers, and a revealer that is not ... a thing people say. Not a stand-alone phrase. Not wordplayesque. Painfully literal instructions. Just not a lot of there there. Also, the number of letters is pretty iconic for three of the themers (BEETHOVEN's symphonies, spider's legs, Spitz's medals), but number of states that MISSOURI borders? It's an interesting piece of trivia (MO is tied with TN for state that borders most other states) but when I think Missouri I do not think "Oh, sure ... eight." The whole thing just doesn't quite come together on the thematic level. There's some quite delightful fill, though. AE HOUSMAN (10D: "A Shropshire Lad" author) and CROUPIER (11D: Casino employee) in the NE, ULULATES (37D: Grieves loudly) and SNEETCHES (33D: Seuss's star-bellied creatures) in the SW. I like those. Those were by far my favorite things about this puzzle. But the theme is kinda sorta very important on Thursdays, of all days, and outside those longer Downs the rest of the fill is OK but actually a bit on the weak side, so it's hard not to feel a tad disappointed by this one.

Started stupidly slow on this one. I blame POKE, which is horribly clued (1A: Slow sort, informally). Uh, I've heard "slow POKE," but never POKE on its own. The "slow" is necessary to make POKE make any sense, and "slow" is already in the clue, so ... yuck. I'm sure there's some example somewhere of POKE standing on its own, but come on. The phrase is "slow POKE" and everyone knows that so stop getting cute. Better to have [Slow ___], honestly. Hard, and accurate. Forgot KEENAN, never considered OREO OS, and thought 1D: Classic Milwaukee brews (PABSTS) could be lotsa things. Worst of all, I dropped ELENA into 20A: First name on the Supreme Court (SONIA) without hesitation. Dead certain. Whoops. Besides SSN, I didn't get a damn thing until I picked up UNO, and then the whole north section, and then backed into BEETHOVEN (without really understanding why—just saw ----OVEN and "symphonies" and plunked down the obvious answer). I thought maybe the clue number was the "this many," and so MISSOURI was a revelation. "21 states!? Wow ... I have completely misremembered my US map." Even after COUNT THE SQUARES, I didn't really put things together (this often happens when I'm flying). It was only at ARACHNID that I was like, "OK, hey, even I know spiders don't have 52 legs..." I did (very briefly) think some creature did, though, because I just had the -NID when I read the clue. "52 legs!? What ... the hell creature ... is that?" Only *then* did the full meaning of COUNT THE SQUARES hit me. So in went ARACHNID, and that heretofore pesky SW corner folded, and I was done.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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