Pope who excommunicated Elizabeth I / SUN 3-18-18 / Huck Finn possessive / Judas's question to Lord / Term for whole in Swiss cheese / Metallic S-shaped piece

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Constructor: Daniel Raymon

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Taking Your Q" — You don't actually "take" the Q anywhere; You put a "QU-" where a hard "C" sound should be, creating wacky answers, clued "?"-style:

Theme answers:
  • QUERY WASHINGTON  (24A: Interrogate a founding father?)
  • TRENCH QUOTE (39A: "There are no atheists in foxholes"?)
  • BABY QUAKES (46A: Tremors?)
  • "HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, QUID" (72A: Comment by a Brit down to his last coin?)
  • QUICK BOXER (93A: One knocking out an opponent in the first round?)
  • PEACHY QUEEN (105A: Monarch who's fine and dandy?)
  • ORDER IN THE QUART (122A: Have a little ice cream delivered?)
Word of the Day: Kerry Washington (basis for QUERY WASHINGTON) —
Kerry Marisa Washington (born January 31, 1977) is an American actress. Since 2012, Washington has gained wide public recognition for starring in the ABC drama Scandal, a Shonda Rhimes series in which she plays Olivia Pope, a crisis management expert to politicians and power brokers in Washington DC, and also is a producer. For her role, she has been nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama SeriesScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series. (wikipedia)
• • •

The title doesn't really work. Also, this kind of simple sound-change theme only works if the results are legit funny, and ... I don't know. Seems like the clues could've been a lot more inventive. Again, with Wacky puzzles, go *Wacky* or go home. None of this tepid wackiness. Tepid wackiness is wack. All the "?" clues are actually fairly straightforward. The overall result is a very doable but very dull puzzle. The abundance of "Q"s livens up the grid a little, but not enough (some of those "Q"s are wasted on horrible stuff like ESQS and SEQS (?)). Surprised how easy this played, given how many things I didn't know, or barely knew, beginning with 1A: Big name in computer networking (CISCO). I mean, now that I look at it, yeah, sure, I've seen that. But it didn't come easily to me. Neither did MARACAIBO or MCLAREN or RABE or ROHAN or EAMONN (notice the common thread—all proper nouns). But none of those was anything more than a slight speed bump.

My biggest problems actually came from ticky-tack little bad-fill answers, most notably OSSEO- (!?!) (29A: Bone: Prefix). What the hell? OSTEO-, I know. OSTEO-, I was sure had to be the right answer. I have no doubt that there is some context in which OSSEO- applies, but wow I don't know what it is. I also have no idea about random popes and so when it started with a "P" (63D: Pope who excommunicated Elizabeth I), I wrote in PAUL and then waited for the Roman numeral. Got the "V" and thought, "Sure, why not? PAUL V!" And that's only two letters off, and one of those letters was in the horrid 71A: Suffix in Sussex, where -ASE seemed ... possible? It was finally having TRULTY at 80A: True that made me have to reinterrogate all my crosses. Thus PAUL became PIUS. This is why random Popes are so much fun.

I have so many announcements this week, where to start? First, today was the Finger Lakes Crossword Competition, at which I have been a speaker and judge for several years now. Had a wonderful time, as usual. Congratulations to Jesse Lansner, who won it handily (He's a very fast solver who will be competing at next weekend's ACPT). Lots of people were there because they'd heard me talk about the tournament in the past. One woman—Mickey Schied—was there in part because she heard the episode the "Allusionist" podcast about last year's Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament, then saw that *this* tournament was happening closer to her home, and she recognized my name from that same podcast, so bam, she decides to show up and compete ... and then WIN the Easy Division. Awesome.

 [Jesse and his championship bracelet]

[my wife, Penelope, and Mickey Schied]

So that was fun.

Now for news you can use:

QUEER QROSSWORDS (queerqrosswords.com) — Nate Cardin organized and edited this collection of crosswords made (and edited) entirely by LGBTQ+ folks. 22 puzzles, from established pros as well as newcomers, all yours (in the form of a .PDF) when you make a new donation of at least $10 to the LGBTQ+ charity of your choice and forward the receipt to the editor. Instructions are on the website. I gave to the Southern Tier AIDS Program. Good puzzles, good cause(s), not expensive. What more do you want?
Also, this announcement from Ben Tausig, ed. of the American Values Club Crossword (AVCX):

Good chance to try out the best of what AVCX has to offer. You should already be a subscriber, but if you're not ... here, try these.
What else? Oh, I was interviewed for a podcast called "Teaching in the Arts"—it's mostly about teaching, but there's crossword content in there as well. Here's a link to the podcast page at iTunes; or you can just listen to the episode on the web, here.
And lastly, in crossword business news, Peter Gordon, ed. of Fireball Crosswords, just announced a 50% pay raise for constructors ($451 / puzzle), meaning that once again his independent outlet pays better than the NYT. The NYT's rates remain shamefully low, given how much profit their puzzles generate. I love that Peter is not afraid to enumerate allllll the ways that making puzzles for him is a superior experience to making them for the NYT.

Also, it goes without saying that if you like good, hard, tricky puzzles (think Thursday themes with Friday/Saturday difficulty), then you should definitely be a Fireball subscriber.

Enjoy your Sunday. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Parsons of old Hollywood gossip / SAT 3-17-17 / Rotating part of tape recorder / Official on Segway / Epitome of completeness / Belbenoit noted escapee from Devil's Island

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Constructor: Roland Huget

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "LE CID" (46A: Massenet opera) —
Le Cid is an opera in four acts and ten tableaux by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis GalletÉdouard Blauand Adolphe d'Ennery. It is based on the play of the same name by Pierre Corneille.
It was first performed by a star-studded cast at the Paris Opéra on 30 November 1885 in the presence of President Grévy, with Jean de Reszke as Rodrigue. The staging was directed by Pedro Gailhard, with costumes designed by Comte Lepic, and sets by Eugène Carpezat (Act I), Enrico Robecchi and his student Amable (Act II), Auguste-Alfred Rubé, Philippe Chaperon and their student Marcel Jambon (Act III), and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Act IV). The opera had been seen 150 times by 1919 but faded from the repertory and was not performed again in Paris until the 2015 revival at the Palais Garnier. While El Cid is not in the standard operatic repertory, the ballet suite is a popular concert and recording piece which includes dances from different regions of Spain. It was specially created by Massenet for the prima ballerina Rosita Mauri. (wikipedia)
• • •
Well that was oddly easy. Tons of white space—the part in the middle looked particularly daunting—but those 15s were easy to get from just a few letters, and gave you (I hope) a foothold in every corner of the grid. Those highly secluded corners (really hate that in a grid design) can be terrifying, but again, the 15s always gave you something to work with. The problem with a grid like this is that, beyond the 15s, nothing was very interesting about it, and a few of those answers, esp. the technical ones (SHEERED?) were kind of unpleasant. It's a pretty clean grid overall. Acceptable, solid stuff. But after the 15s, which were fun, the rest just felt like work, though admittedly the work was pretty light.

Got started in a semi-weird way, I think. Took one look at 1A: Official on a Segway, maybe, and, after ruling out some intensely dumb indoor sports thing (POLO REF?), I thought "Oh, it's some kind of COP. Put in COP, bam, Down goes CLEO, OED *and* PRIORENGAGEMENT (!!).

[so weird, I stopped to take a picture]

Then "What kind of COPs are there ...? MALL!" And sis boom bah the NW corner is done and I'm zooming across the grid with the next 15! (Do not come at me with '90s-era k.d. lang, crossword!)

LOL that I'd remember the name of the captain in "Billy Budd" (VERE), but the crosses were fair, so whatever. I slowed a teeny bit in the center, largely because of DIETETICS, a word I almost never see and definitely could not parse. Had _I_TETI_S and was baffled at how a "science" (21D: Nutrition science) could end with "-I_S." It was only when I realized the first part had to be DIET that DIETETICS (which sounds too much like DIANETICS for me to take seriously) became clear. The reason I had those particular gaps in DIETETICS? I thought the "honor" in 20A: It's an honor (ODE) was an OBE (this is your brain on crosswords); I didn't know if the thing about changing course "at sea" was SHEARED or SHEERED; and I was not parsing "LE CID" at all—thought "LE-ID" was one word (one usually encounters "LE CID" in his infinitely more common Spanish form). But again, done fairly quickly, and 15s again gave me the escalator / elevator help I needed to ascend / descend into the remaining parts of the grid.

It was only the technical stuff that stalled me in any way. CAPSTAN, not a familiar thing to me (8A: Rotating part of a tape recorder). TUMBLER ... I know it *is* a part of a lock, but I honestly couldn't tell you *which* part ("a pivoted piece in a lock that holds the bolt until lifted by a key." ... OK). My favorite part of the solve was getting KNESSET off just the "K" (nice clue) (40D: Mideast diet). Only had a few moments hesitation at the dumb "letteral" clue of the day (where the clue literally points (via a jokey "?" clue) to a letter of the alphabet): 59A: Depot's terminus (SILENT T). Those corners could've been brutal, even with assistance from the 15s, but they just rolled over. I'm not disappointed, exactly. It was all just a bit anti-climactic. 15s good, rest meh. But solid and clean, so that's something.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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