Noted French encyclopedist / TUE 1-27-15 / German WWI admiral / Indian state whose name means five rivers / President who lived at Oak Hill /

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Constructor: James Tuttle

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (**for a Tuesday**) 

THEME: Oh …  — all theme answers end with final syllable that rhymes with "Oh"

Theme answers:
  • KILIMANJARO (17A: Africa's highest peak)
  • DENIS DIDEROT (24A: Noted French encyclopedist)
  • SUCH SWEET SORROW (38A: Parting, to Juliet)
  • CENSUS BUREAU (48A: Group you can rely on when it counts)
  • JAMES MONROE (60A: President who lived at Oak Hill)
Word of the Day: LOT (64A: Polish airline) —
Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT S.A. (Polish pronunciation: [ˈlɔt]Flight), trading as LOT Polish Airlines, is the flag carrier of Poland. Based in Warsaw, LOT was established in 1929, making it one of the world's oldest airlines still in operation. Using a fleet of 55 aircraft, LOT operates a complex network to 60 destinations in Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Asia. Most of the destinations are served from its hub, Warsaw Chopin Airport.
As Poland made the transition to democracy from 1989, the airline began a transformation from a Soviet-controlled carrier to a European flag carrier. LOT started a process of fleet renewal with the purchase of Western aircraft to replace old Soviet models. With the arrival of the first Boeing 767-300ER, LOT started inter-continental services to ChicagoNewarkToronto, and New York City. These four main routes have been some of the most popular flights that LOT operates, especially during the summer season when many Poles seek to come back to their homeland for vacation.
LOT found itself undergoing constant management change in the late 2000s due to worsening financials and reductions in market share. After placing orders for several Boeing 787 aircraft and taking delivery of two, the carrier has found itself "nearly insolvent" due to the January 2013 grounding of the 787. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is an odd, loose theme, but I don't mind it. That is, I don't mind the idea. I mind, slightly, DENIS DIDEROT on a Tuesday—his relative obscurity makes him a massive outlier in this line-up. And I mind somewhat more SUCH SWEET SORROW, since it's essentially a partial. It's easy, and hence likely welcome to solvers trying to move through this harder-than-usual puzzle, but it's not good as stand-alone fill. Not at all. So the theme idea is just OK and the execution is a bit wobbly. The fill is quite bad. Demonstrably bad. I count eight (!) entries that I'd consider "Fill Of Last Resort," and that *doesn't* include the more typical crosswordese like AGAR, ONO, ROO, ETAS, OER, etc. On a Tuesday, fill should be *much* much cleaner than this. OLEA? (40D: Olive genus) Bad enough on its own, but somehow worse in a puzzle that already has LEA. Then there's EMER ETH SSE RUS ELUL NOI and SPEE (the last of which I botched because I confused it with that other crosswordese gem, SMEE). And what the hell is up with the clue on LOT? I've been doing puzzles a long, long time, and I'm not sure I've ever seen LOT clued as a Polish airline. I just checked the database: of 253 LOTs, precisely zero have been clued via the airline. None. None. Again, it's Tuesday. I have no idea what that clue was all about.

Scouts earn merit BADGES, so MERITS (?) slowed me down (28A: Scouts earn them), as did my inability to get the vowels right in KIL-M-NJARO. Misread [Part of a televised movie review] as [… movie crew] and so had trouble with CLIP (had GRIP at some point). My SMEE-for-SPEE troubles mean PUNJAB was pretty tough to come up with (46D: Indian state whose name means "five rivers"). Everything else was fairly straightforward, though not necessarily instantly gettable. I was over four minutes today, which is pretty rare for me on a Tuesday. The relatively slow time matters not at all to me. The uneven, ultimately unsatisfying solving experience—that matters.

Hope all you New Yorkers are surviving the alleged End Times Snowstorm. We're only getting an inch or three here in central upstate NY.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Longtime Yugoslav leader / MON 1-26-15 / Tangy teatime offering / West Point newcomer / Looped calf-catcher / Shampoo in green bottle / Chinese-born American architect

    Monday, January 26, 2015

    Constructor: Ian Livengood

    Relative difficulty: Medium-ish (my time was a teeny bit high for a Monday)

    THEME: FRESH START (56A: New beginning … or what 16-, 23-, 31-, 38- and 45-Across each have?) — theme answers are familiar two-part phrases/names where first part can also be a synonym for "fresh" in the sense of … well, multiple senses, actually … I was going to say "sassy," but … just, see below…

    Theme answers:
    • FLIP WILSON (16A: 1970s comedian whom Time magazine dubbed "TV's First Black Superstar")
    • SMART COOKIE (23A: Clever person)
    • PERT PLUS (31A: Shampoo in a green bottle)
    • BOLD TEXT (38A: Type meant to stand out)
    • FORWARD PASS (45A: Counterpart to a lateral)
    Word of the Day: APISH (26A: Copycatting) —
    1. Resembling an ape.
    2. Slavishly or foolishly imitative: an apish impersonation.
    3. Silly; outlandish. ( 
    • • •

    This has a couple problems on the theme front. First, the "fresh"ness of someone who is forward (i.e. the guy who gets slapped by the girl for being excessively presumptuous) is very different from the "fresh"ness of someone who's just giving you lip, backtalk, sass, what have you. And "bold" feels like only the loosest of synonyms. So the "fresh"nesses see like they're offering themselves up as a coherent set, but I don't think they are. Second, BOLD TEXT … sat ill(y) with me. It googles fine, but that "type" is called "BOLDFACE" if it's called anything. I'd've liked that better, despite its X-lessness. Hell, I'd've liked BOLD MOVE better. BOLD TEXT feels "green paint"-ish. Like ITALIC TEXT or UNDERLINED TEXT. Meh. Then there's the fill. Now, I'm a big fan of the multiple long Downs, all of them at least solid. But I'm surprised Ian-not-SEAN (nice vanity clue there) (62A: Ian : Scotland :: ___ : Ireland) had to resort to such low-rent fill so often. GOERS at 1A: Attendees was just painful, and then to have RUER in the puzzle too. Nominalizing verbs w/ -ER always feels mildly half-assed, but some (say, RUNNERs) are better than others (say, GOERS). I have no issues with RISER or PARER, but here they add to an unfortunate overall ER(R)-ness.

    And then APISH, oh, man. No. Here's what happens when you try to google [define apish]:

    See. Google's like "Nah, you mean this other, similarly ridiculous thing, right?" Then when you insist "no, I really mean 'apish'," you get a definition that has only the most tangential relationship to the clue:

    Clue says [Copycatting]. I guess the second definition pictured above covers "copycatting," in that apes are imagined to be copiers of human behavior (hence the *verb* ape, aping). [Copycatting] as APING, I'd buy. But APISH? As you can see by the helpful chart, no. That is not a word one uses these days. And on a Monday? Come on. Anyone using APISH at all, particularly on a Monday, should be a RUER indeed.

    • 62A: Ian : Scotland :: ___ : Ireland (SEAN) — botched this very badly on the first go-round because I didn't fully scan the clue. Had the final "N" and saw "Ireland" and instinctively wrote in ERIN. :(
    • 41D: "The Garden of Earthly Delights" artist (BOSCH) — blanked hard on this. Had -OSC- and could think only of TOSCA. 
    • 30D: Winning "Hollywood Squares" line (OOO) — well, it beats [Losing "Hollywood Squares" line], but not by much.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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