Believer in Ethiopian Zion / THU 4-27 / First commercial film with stereophonic sound 1940 / Afghanistan's third largest city / Longtime New Yorker writer Pauline / Long-running tv drama started in 2003

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SUDOKU PUZZLE (8A: With 67-Across, what the circled part of this crossword represents) — the CENTRAL / SQUARES (1A: With 68-Across, the circled part of this crossword) form a sudoku-type puzzle, with the letters R, A, T, and E instead of numbers.

Word of the Day: Cinnabar (27D: Cinnabar, e.g. => RED) —
noun: cinnabar
  1. a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulfide. It is the only important ore of mercury and is sometimes used as a pigment. [emph. mine]
    • the bright red color of this; vermilion.

      "the blood coagulated in cinnabar threads"
• • •
"I HATE YOU, PUZZLE!" Actually, I have no such strong feelings today, but I do like that little embedded scream there in the SW corner. I have no interest in SUDOKU. Don't get it. Also, don't like the perpetuation of the idea that anyone who's into crosswords must be into SUDOKU. Like we're just pleased to be filling in boxes. SUDOKU is pure logic. The same kind of logic. Over and over and over, with no connection to culture, humanity, etc. No thanks. You guys have fun, but no. Anyway, this puzzle is what it is. Conceptually, I guess it works, but there's one thing I sincerely don't understand: what is CENTRAL / SQUARES doing in this puzzle? Like, at all. That is a whole lot of theme real estate given over to words that are completely redundant and (thus) unnecessary. I can see that the squares are central, in that ... they are circled. There. In the center. The SUDOKU / PUZZLE part tells me to look at those manifestly "central" squares, and tells me what they are. I really thought CENTRAL would tell me about the puzzle somehow. I see that the four letters are all inside the word "CENTRAL," but ... nope, I don't see a pun or trick or anything (unless... that *is* the trick?). The letters in the Sudoku grid are R A T and E. I don't know why (except those are handy letters to use if you're going to run a bunch of answers together). I do know that CENTRAL / SQUARES is not needed here, at all.

This grid was a kind of crosswordese showcase. I mean, any time you can see EIRE *and* ERSE in the same grid, that's a museum-piece puzzle you've got on your hands. Here were some lowlights:

"BACK AT YA" would make great fill. "AT YA" on its own, nope. "NUM" ugh—that bit of garbage actually ended up affecting my solve, as I went for CAP Lock (crossing PTL!?) instead of NUM / MTM, and that made the whole NE kinda hard to get into. PSSST is ridiculous, of course, unless you would also accept PSSSST, PSSSSSST, and NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Speaking of no, ONO. Hawaiian fish? Nice try. All you did was make me have to work (albeit slightly) to get the same old musician / performance artist we always see in the grid. Fun fact: the fish in question is known generally as "wahoo" (WHEE!). "Many Hispanic areas of the Caribbean and Central America refer to this fish as peto." So ... look for PETO in your grid next, I guess.

  • 27D: Cinnabar, e.g. (RED) — total road block, this one. Had no idea what "Cinnabar" was. Could think only of Cinnabun and Edna Ferber's "Cimmaron." Even with RE- in place, I had to get that last letter from the cross. 
  • 11D: Numerical prefix (OCTO-) — oy, not only is this bad fill, the clue doesn't even bother trying. It just sits there sullenly going "I don't know ... just guess ... not my problem ..."
  • 52A: "Inner-city" for "black," to some people (CODE) — hey now! What's this? Hello. Looks like the puzzle woke up and found some attitude. More of this insightful sass, please. (I think "urban" is the more common CODE now, but I'll accept "Inner-city" on Marvin's behalf)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Grenache for one / WED 4-26-17 / Hostility in British slang / Cuneiform discovery site / Extinct relative of kiwi / Second-largest Arabic speaking city after Cairo / Degree of expertise in martial arts / Fifth-century invaders of England / US president who becomes president of future earth on Futurama / SIster chain of Marshalls / Candy often used in science fair volcanoes

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: DOS EQUIS (64A: Beer brand whose logo hints at the answers to 17-, 19-, 38-, 43- and 61-Across) — all those answers have a double "X" in them:

Theme answers:
  • REDD FOXX (17A: "Sanford and Son" star of 1970s TV)
  • NEXXUS (19A: High-end shampoo brand)
  • ANTIVAXXER (38A: Shot blocker?)
  • EXXON MOBIL (43A: BP rival)
  • TJ MAXX (61A: Sister chain of Marshalls)
Word of the Day: VINROSE (42A: Grenache, for one) —
Huh, not a word. Turns out it's two words. Two French words: VIN ROSÉ, i.e. Rosé wine. Wow. OK.
• • •

This is a nice theme. Shoulda been Tuesday—it's more a Tuesday type, more a Tuesday difficulty level, but nice, simple, interesting, with original and unusual themers. Very pleasant. I don't know what NEXXUS is. Is that something available in salons only? It rings the vaguest of bells, but I definitely had to go to the crosses to get that one in there. The others Xers were all very familiar. I particularly like ANTI-VAXXER (as a word, not as a concept or a delusional human). I want to call a massive foul on VIN ROSÉ, though, and not just because the clue [Grenache] was meaningless to me, and not just because when I finally filled it in (entirely from crosses) I had no idea what I was looking at. I didn't know NEXXUS, you'll note, and I ain't mad at NEXXUS. But VIN ROSÉ. I have never seen the phrase. I drink wine not infrequently—I mean, I'm no OENO-phile, but I drink—and while I've heard of rosé (never drink it, but heard of it), the French phrase? No. Do people use it. We say white wine, red wine, rosé. There are French words for wine types, but for just the general category of wine. "Here, try this vin rouge?" No. And if we don't use it in English, why is it here? It's pretty long for a foreign word. If "in France" had been in the clue, maybe. But it's absurd to think that a wine *type*'s being in French is going to tip you to the answer's being in French. For example, [Chenin blanc, e.g.] is a perfectly good clue for WHITE WINE, despite the clue words being French. I would never look at that clue and think, "well, the answer must be French." And yet this stupid Grenache (?!) clue. Oy.

Here are my trouble spots for the day:

The real fly in the ointment, strangely, was SAY NO (21A: Put one's foot down). Metaphors! I had the "S" and blithely wrote in STOMP. That gave me an answer at 22D: Making it big that started TR- (totally plausible), so I never questioned it (until I did). The one other place in the grid I hesitated was at AP---- (31D: Culmination of a challenging H.S. course). We call them AP TESTS. I have a human in my house who is taking two next month. AP EXAMS is probably the official term, and I don't think it's incorrect, I just know people say TEST much more often. OK, done, bye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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