Physicist Nathan who postulated wormholes / SUN 5-29-16 / 1880s-90s veep P Morton / Enlightened buddhist / Drive street where Harry Potter grew up / Dweller along Mandeb Strait / TV inits since 1975 / Never in Nikolaus

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (closer to Medium)

THEME: "Best Picture Adaptations" — Best Picture titles that have had one letter changed, resulting All The Wacky:

Theme answers:
  • BEER HUNTER (21A: Best Picture adaptation about ... a search for the perfect brew, with "The"?)
  • SILENCE OF THE IAMBS (24A: ... inaudible metrical poetry, with "The"?)
  • THE VAST EMPEROR (37A: ... a fat Eastern monarch?)
  • DUNCES WITH WOLVES (50A: ... fools accompanying a pack of wild animals?)
  • GONG WITH THE WIND (67A: ... a reed and percussion duet?)
  • FRENCH CONFECTION (84A: ... an éclair or crème brûlée, with "The"?)
  • A BEAUTIFUL MINK (99A: ... gorgeous fur?)
  • GERMS OF ENDEARMENT (my favorite) (113A: ... cooties from hugs and kisses?)
  • MY HAIR LADY (also good) (122A: ... a salon woman I go to?)
Word of the Day: OEO (65D: War on Poverty agcy.) —
The Office of Economic Opportunity was the agency responsible for administering most of the War on Poverty programs created as part of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society legislative agenda. (wikipedia)
• • •

Kevin Der is a great constructor, which is why I keep looking at this grid and wondering what I missed. I wrote out all the letter changes to see if there was some kind of sequence or hidden message in either the original or the new/wacky letters, but I just got gibberish. I don't fully understand why the letters that were changed ... were changed. Why not THE LUST EMPEROR? Or SILENCE OF THE LAMPS (or LIMBS) (or JAMBS)? A BEAUTIFUL RIND? TERNS OF ENDEARMENT?  If the only criterion is a single letter change, it seems like you should've been able to get better humor mileage out of these "adaptations." That said, I thought the answers were pretty cute, and I enjoyed remembering movie titles and figuring out which word would be changed how, so there was definitely some entertainment value here. And again, I would not be shocked to learn that there was some Deep Der Stuff going on in this puzzle that I just can't see.

If you knew your crosswordese, then you had a leg up today. AIT crossing ARHAT! (29A: River islet / 12D: Enlightened Buddhist). Two words I only ever seen in crosswords (OK maybe I've seen AIT in the wild, but not much). You were also ahead of the game if you knew a Slew of short proper nouns. You were also ahead of me, as I knew virtually none of those shorties. The fact that they were densely clustered around RAVE REVIEW, an answer I didn't understand until the very last letter I put in the grid, made the NW by far the toughest section to solve. Let's meet the mystery players:
  • LIV! (23A: Disney Channel's "___ and Maddie") — you can just stop at "Disney Channel"
  • LEVI! (27D: 1880s-'90s veep ___ P. Morton) — uh ... no.
  • PEGG! (57D: Simon of the "Mission: Impossible" films) — OK now that I realize we're talking about the modern films and not the original series (my bad!) I can actually picture this guy. But while solving, I figured he was just some olde-timey actor I'd never heard of.
All that, and the fact that [****] was a baffling clue for RAVE REVIEW (which I assumed would be some kind of plural...), conspired to hold me back up there. But I just left it for last and luckily, once I circled back around, the dominoes fell, however slowly. As far as the cast of mystery players, I also didn't know who ROSEN (44D: Physicist Nathan who postulated wormholes) or EVIE (92A: Daughter in E.M. Forster's "Howard's End") was.

Other trouble spots involved my comical inability to anagram "snake" (I don't think of snakes as SNEAKy, as I nearly step on them all the time in the woods), my layman's understanding of [What stars do] (GLIMMER, I wrongly assumed), and my utter non-understanding of what "sponsorship packages" even means (TIERED? If you say so!). Still, because the film titles were so familiar and the changes to said titles so minuscule, I made pretty good time. Not lightning fast, but better than average.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Hey, Rich and J.T.—I know you send each other emails with the subject line "FRP," and I know what the "F" stands for. So ... thanks for acknowledging my fearlessness. XO 

P.P.S. Lollapuzzoola, one of my two favorite crossword tournaments, is accepting crossword submissions for its tourney this August. Here's a message from tourney organizer Brian Cimmet: ""Lollapuzzoola, the greatest crossword tournament ever held on a Saturday in August, is accepting submissions! Our 9th annual tournament is happening on Saturday, August 13 in New York City — and it could feature YOU! Do you have a puzzle that is brilliant, clever, inventive, mildly wacky, curiously strong, and can measure up to the unrehearsed nonsense of Lollapuzzoola? Send it our way! We'll take a look at themes, concepts, completed grids, etc. (but don't feel pressured to finish cluing or filling). Submissions will be accepted until June 1, 2016. Please send your work to"

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Miss Hungary of 1936 familiarly / SAT 5-28-16 / 1960s sitcom matriarch / Sights at Supercharger / Sound effect in comic BC / French frozen desserts / 1999 parody featuring starship Protector / Title brat of kid-lit

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Constructor: Frederick J. Healy

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ATTELET (20A: Decorative skewer for serving hors d'oeuvres) —
n.1.(Cooking) a type of skewer with an ornamental handle which is used for holding foods for presentation at the table, but not while cooking. (thefreedictionary)
• • •

Constructing software (armed with a sizeable wordlist) can help constructors do really nice things, like running stacked 11s through stacked 11s (as in the center part of this grid). It can also convince you that putting stuff like SUL and THEICE and ATTELET in your puzzle is a good idea. Google didn't even believe me when I told it [define attelet]
I think the good far outweighs the bad today, though. Your marquee answers here are all wonderful, the corners are OK, and the bad parts (ATTELET notwithstanding) are hardly flagrant. So, YIPPEE, I guess.

I tore this thing up thanks to some very helpful letters in very helpful positions. Let's start with the letter "Z"—two of them, actually. First answer into the grid was ZSA ZSA (1D: Miss Hungary of 1936, familiarly). Why did I know that? Dunno. Just did. And I didn't "know" it. It just felt right. And right away—two "Z"s. Two high-value letters. I knew ZOT was right, and after trying A LIFE for 27A: "Get ___!" (A GRIP), I put in PATHS and thus got a grip on the NW corner. Done, and fast. PETE (or, to be precise, PE_E...) was there before I ever saw the clue at 14D: He said "You kind of live and die by the serve" (eloquent!), so no problem there. The most important answer for me in the top half, though, was SELIG (25A: Manfred succeeded him as baseball commissioner). Not only was it a gimme, but it gave me a terminal "G" at 7D: "Morning Mood" composer. I wrote in GRIEG reflexively, and that gave me all the first letters of the Acrosses in the NE. One letter in one easy answer opened an entire section of the puzzle right up.

[So ... "Peer Gynt" composer, really, then ...]

"GALAXY QUEST" (31A: 1999 parody featuring the starship Protector) was a flat-out, no-crosses-needed gimme, and... look at that: an "X" *and* a "Q"! The whole puzzle just flowered out from there. I did have awful trouble, however, with DELUXE MODEL (17D: Provider of more bells and whistles). Got the DELUXE part OK, but the second part ... less easy. Eventually, with DELUXE MO-EL in place, I went with [drum roll] DELUXE MOTEL! Then I went with EATST at 43A: "___ thou no poison mix'd ...?": "Romeo and Juliet" (HADST). Threw that awesome wrong answer out pretty quick, but only at the very end, after starting to run the alphabet at -OPED / -ATST, did I see it was actually HOPED / HADST. The "D" there was my last letter.

  • IN STIR (18A: Doing time) — I have a vast reservoir of olde-timey expressions no one uses any more, like ... lots of synonyms for "money" and "jail." Speaking of olde-timey expressions: NATTY (38A: Spruced up). Got it off the "N." 
  • HAN SOLO (35D: [Spoiler alert!] He dies in "The Force Awakens") — cute clue, but Monday-easy.
  • AS TO (48D: Repeated words in a multiple-count verdict) — can't say I like ASTO as fill, but I admire this highly original clue.
  • STRIPE (12D: IBM logo feature) — that is the weirdest, randomest STRIPE clue ever. I can see the logo in my mind's eye, vaguely, but of all the STRIPE-y things in the universe ... blah. Pretty blah. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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