Two-masted vessel / TUE 2-28-17 / Infamous prison featured in 1969 best seller Papillon / Breakfast food with rhyming slogan / Setting for much of movie Lion / Quaint inn informally

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for Tuesday—time just over 4)


THEME: STAND-UP GUYS (28D: Honest sorts ... or what the circled squares contain?) — circled squares contains synonyms for "guy" running "up"...

Theme answers:
  • NET NEGATIVE (4D: Outcome that's overall unfavorable)
  • RADICAL LEFT (26D: Socialist Workers Party's ideology)
  • ILE DU DIABLE (9D: Infamous prison featured in the 1969 best seller "Papillon") 
Word of the Day: ILE DU DIABLE
île du Diable ("Devil's Island") is the third-largest island of the Îles du Salut island group in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located approximately 14 km (9 mi) off the coast of French Guiana in South America just north of the town of Kourou. It has an area of 14 ha (34.6 acres). The island was a part of a controversial French penal colony located in French Guiana for 101 years, from 1852 to 1953. Although it was the smallest part of the penal colony, it is notorious for being used for internal exile of French political prisoners during that period. The most famous political prisoner on Devil's Island was Captain Alfred Dreyfus. (wikipedia)
• • •

Why do I feel like I've seen this exact theme before, but done with stand-up comics (e.g. LENO) instead of words for "guy"? Dunno. I do a lot of puzzles. Anyway, this seems a fine idea. Not one that really helps you solve the puzzle, or one that you even really notice as you're solving, but ... there it is! It played much harder than average for me, largely because of the beyond-Tuesday themer ILE DU DIABLE (real outlier, familiarity-wise), but also because of ugh-ish cluing on ERRED (25A: Muffed one), which I read as "adj. noun" and thus had as ERROR. This meant that with BANDB in place, I went with AT WAR for 7D: Not on good terms (with) (IN BAD). I also did not know a BRIG was a ship (I actually wanted BRIG, but talked myself out of it: "That's a ship's *prison*" I said to myself) (23D: Two-masted vessel). Had "Ready, SET" not "Ready, AIM" at 24A. Finally, couldn't figure out 44A: Things ghosts lack (BODIES). They have BODIES. They're just not ... solid? I don't know; something about that clue seems wrong / dumb. Oh, and I started with ELSE instead of ALSO at 3D: In addition. If you draw a line across the grid from NW to SE corners, virtually all of my trouble was on the upper (NE) side. That was like a Wed./Thur. puzzle for me. Rest was normal Tuesday.


How come VALE is just, like, an ordinary word today, and not all "poetic" or whatever it was a couple days ago? (54D: Area between mountains). It was not at all clear to me that 57D: Breakfast food with a rhyming slogan (EGGO) wanted a commercial product. "Slogan" didn't tip me off. After all, milk and eggs have councils that produce ads with slogans (e.g. "Got Milk") so ... yeah, went with EGGS at first. What is the movie "Lion"? (36A: Setting for much of the movie "Lion"). Is that famous? Ah, I see it was nominated for a bunch of Oscars this year. I literally have never heard of it until just this second. Meanwhile, I watched my 60th (!) movie on TCM since Christmas today. "Mildred Pierce" (1945). I am rapidly becoming not just old (i.e. stuck in my own past), but hyper-old (stuck in my grandparents' past). I'm hoping it at least pays some crossword dividends.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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2016 Dsiney film set in Polynesia / MON 2-27-16 / Understand slangily / Jean father of Dadaism / Cross-reference for further information

Monday, February 27, 2017

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Normal / Medium


THEME: two-word answers and reversals — Four 2-part answers, and then four more answers where each of those three answers has their 2 parts flipped (w/ respelling of one part):

Theme answers:
  • STARES DOWN / DOWNSTAIRS
  • PLAIN PAPER / PAPER PLANE
  • PEACE TIME / TIMEPIECE 
  • SEE RED / RED SEA 
Word of the Day: "MOANA" (55D: 2016 Disney film set in Polynesia) —
Moana (/mˈɑːnə/) is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy comedy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 56th Disney animated feature film. The film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams.  The film features music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not that exciting. Feels like it was lifted from a list of such phrases on the back of a kids' placemat at some chain restaurant. Half of the trouble I had with this puzzle consisted in my balking repeatedly at writing words into the grid that I *knew* I had already seen (e.g. PAPER). The other half, ironically, consisted in my muffing the freshest, most contemporary answers in the grid, i.e. "FEEL ME?" (24D: "Understand?," slangily) and "MOANA" (55D: 2016 Disney film set in Polynesia) The former just floored me. I had the "F" but that was useless. Needed most of the crosses to find the answer, partly because I couldn't believe the NYT would go for such a phrase (good for it), and partly because I'm used to hearing the question start with a "Ya" ...


The fact that I totally blanked on "MOANA" is many times more hilarious. First, it's a Maori word. My wife is from New Zealand. I'm usually on top of all pop culture NZ things. Second, it involves the musical talent of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and after The Year Of Hamilton, you'd think that anything he's involved with would've stuck in my head (I know he's developing Patrick Rothfuss's work for film, for instance ... and yet I blanked on "MOANA"?!). I had the "M" and my brain went "... [shrug] ... don't look at us; all we got's 'MULAN'." I have nothing else to say about any of this puzzle. See you on the morrow, good sirs/madams.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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