Notes of chord played in rapid succession / MON 4-24-17 / Marksman with M40 / Obstacle for drone / Napped leather

Monday, April 24, 2017

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Medium (i.e. normal Monday)

THEME: idioms involving food  ... or, I guess, idioms that use food metaphorically(?)

Theme answers:
  • WORD SALAD (17A: Gobbledygook)
  • NOTHING BURGER (30A: Big fat zero)
  • COUCH POTATOES (47A: Habitual tube watchers)
  • HUMBLE PIE (63A: What a shamed person has to "eat")
Word of the Day: PEGASUS (9D: Flying horse of Greek myth) —

Definition of Pegasus

  1. 1 :  a winged horse that causes the stream Hippocrene to spring from Mount Helicon with a blow of his hoof
  2. 2 archaic :  poetic inspiration
  3. 3 :  a northern constellation near the vernal equinoctial point (
• • •

Forgot this as soon as I solved it. The answers don't cohere very well at all. Three are prepared items, clearly meant to be eaten (salad, burger, pie), but potatoes ... in COUCH POTATOES, I don't think of food *at all*. With all the others, you have to. You literally figuratively eat HUMBLE PIE. And, as I said, the others are specifically food items. I think of a raw potato when I think of COUCH POTATOES. They're not COUCH HASH BROWNS. I don't care if you think I'm being overly picky here—this is a glaring inconsistency. BAD APPLE (e.g.) would be slightly better because at least I can eat a *raw* apple. Moreover, NOTHING BURGER is a phrase I've barely ever heard, and it's just unpalatable to look at. Aesthetically garbage. WORD SALAD is a little more common, and the others are super-familiar. This one just feels conceptually weak and loose. And there's nothing in the fill to redeem it. Forgettable placeholder.

["FADING Fast"]

Not much resistance today, because it's Monday, and that's how Mondays are. What little struggle I had involved not so much answers as single letters. Only *answer* I had trouble with was 10D: "Save me a ___!" ("SEAT"). I often fail at partials, my mind somehow working differently and more strangely than others' when it comes to fill in the blank. I'd've made a *terrible* Password contestant: Partner: "Black .... ___" Me: "... Death?" All my brain wanted was "Save me a SLICE [or PIECE]." I like pie. And cake. Beyond that, I couldn't even be bothered to read the whole clue at 2D: Time in Manhattan when it's ... see I can't even be bothered to type the whole thing, and then do the time zone math, ugh. No thanks. So I had TWO-M and went to the cross. Had GST instead of GMT (27A: Clock-setting std.), until I realized there's probably no such thing as a SENS department (28D: Store department selling suits and ties). FBI is obviously G-MAN, but I still left the "G" blank and checked the cross for a possible "T" (58D: F.B.I. worker, informally). And then there's the worst square of all, the square in the dead center of the puzzle, the square that asks me, you, every last one of us to believe that PANSY is a "girl's" name. What a *&$^ing abomination of a clue. Nobody is named PANSY. Women (*women*) are sometimes named PATSY. So today, I am declaring ENDTOTE a perfectly fine answer for 26D: Bit of appended text. No one should be forced to write in PANSY. What a godawful, totally unnecessary cluing move. It's a flower. Go with flower. It's fine as a flower. Who the hell is named PANSY!?  That clue is just crazy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Dallas actress J Wilson / SUN 4-23-17 / parvis magna greatness from small beginnings / Sister of Helios Selene / Record label that looks like the name of radio station / Tough draws in bananagrams / Summer piazza treat / One-named singer with #1 hit cheap thrills / Beverage sponsor of old Little Orphan Annie radio show / Occurrences in 30s say

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Constructor: Olivia Mitra Framke

Relative difficulty: Easy

the phrase: QUEEN OF JAZZ

[With apologies for my image-editing skills, which are lacking]

THEME: "A Century of Song" — tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (LADY ELLA) on (a day that is close to) the 100th anniversary of her birth (68A: With 70-Across, nickname for a celebrated performer born on April 25, 1917):

Theme answers:
  • 21A: 1938 #1 hit for 68-/70-Across, which was inspired by a nursery rhyme ("A TISKET A TASKET")
  • 15D: Repeated collaborator with 68-/70-Across (LOUIS ARMSTRONG)
  • 47D: Signature tune of 68-/70-Across ("HOW HIGH THE MOON")
  • 119A: Notable quote by 68-/70-Across ("I SING LIKE I FEEL")  
Word of the Day: SHEREE J. Wilson (19A: "Dallas" actress ___ J. Wilson) —
Sheree Julienne Wilson (born on December 12, 1958[1]) is an American actress, producer, businesswoman, and model. She is best known for her roles as April Stevens Ewing on the American prime-time television series Dallas (1986-1991) and as Alex Cahill-Walker on the television series Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001). (wikipedia)
• • •

Tribute puzzles are almost always underwhelming. The typical move is to fill the grid w/ symmetrical trivia. That's basically what this puzzle does. A thoughtful move is to add some twist or gimmick or *something* that elevates the puzzle above mere symmetrical trivia. This puzzle does that too. I am on record (multiple times) as not particularly caring for the "once you've finished, draw on it!" type of gimmick. If the gimmick doesn't relate to the actual solving experience, then it's not much use to me. Interesting, curious, but not compelling the way a more integral theme concept is. So this one is trivia plus ... children's placemat art. The fill holds up OK but doesn't do much more than just sit there. This is all to say that this is a very very average tribute puzzle. It's serviceable, but it doesn't shine. And yet, two things. One, Ella is Ella, and always a joy to remember. One and a half, Ella is my daughter's name, so bonus points there. And two, that crown thing is actually kind of hard to pull off. It seems like it should be easy, what w/ just a smattering of letters here and there, but filling the grid around letter strings that change elevation is surprisingly hard. I have a puzzle in the works with theme answers that run exclusively on diagonals and Dear Lord it's gonna be the death of me. Essentially, you add a full answer's worth of letters (QUEEN OF JAZZ), but you don't actually lock down *any* answers, while compromising / restricting nearly all of them (at least in the upper-center of the grid). E.g. "Q" has to be a certain place—that's two answers compromised (Across and Down). Repeat that for every letter in QUEEN OF JAZZ. Trust me, it's a choke collar. So pulling it off without egregiously painful fill is a nice little feat.

Delete SHEREE from your wordlists. Please. I beg you. You're using it only as a crutch. Delete delete delete. Also, if an answer causes you pain to look at, causes you to make a face, causes you to have to ask whether it should be allowed to fly, for god's sake, no no no. I'm speaking of course of ENNUIS (23A: Listless feelings). What's the plural of ENNUI? Stop it—that's the plural of ENNUI. Those are my only real gripes today, fill-wise. Nothing much to call attention to outside the theme answers, though I like the MAMMA'S GORILLAS stack, if only because it's a good sitcom premise. There were almost no tough parts today, beyond SHEREE. I misremembered the song as "TOO HIGH THE MOON" (?). I had GRAY as GRIM (71A: Dreary), and NIÑO as NENE (56A: Piñata smasher, maybe). The Z-TILES / ZLOTY cross seemed a little cruel, considering that "Z" is not at all solidly inferrable in the Down, and ZLOTY ... well, you should know it's a currency, but I could see someone's guessing something else (VLOTY?). In the end, the QUEEN OF JAZZ thing gives you yet another way to get it, so no foul. Z-TILES just seems a cheap way to get a "Z."

ACETAL (96D: Perfumer's liquid) ... nope, not known to me. ACETYL? ACETATE? ACETONE? Those are all things, right? I just can't keep up. At least I knew enough to guess TAOIST and not MAOIST at 118A: Lao-tzu follower. When I see "name on a blimp" I think Goodyear and literally nothing else, so FUJI was a surprise (38D: Name on a blimp). My favorite moment of the puzzle (by far) (excluding humming "A TISKET A TASKET" to myself) was when I totally utterly and epically misread the clue at 97D: Summer piazza treat (GELATO). Me: "Summer pizza threat!? Uh ... Ants? How the hell should I know?"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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