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.

Bullets:
  • 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

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Italian for sleeves / FRI 5-27-16 / Longtime All My Children role / First novel of Great Plains trilogy / Hybrid woman-bird monster / Magna carta drafters / Title trio in 1986 comedy

Friday, May 27, 2016

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Medium (leaning somewhat toward easy)


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: TAXON (18A: Phylum, order or genus) —
In biology, a taxon (plural taxa; back-formation from taxonomy) is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit. Although neither is required, a taxon is usually known by a particular name and given a particular ranking, especially if and when it is accepted or becomes established. It is not uncommon, however, for taxonomists to remain at odds over what belongs to a taxon and the criteria used for inclusion. If a taxon is given a formal scientific name, its use is then governed by one of the nomenclature codes specifying which scientific name is correct for a particular grouping. (wikipedia)
• • •
Taxon. Tax off. Taxon, tax off ... the taxer. TAX TAX.

[You're welcome]

I'm trying to think of things to say about this puzzle, but I'm fantastically distracted by my Twitter feed, which is half live-tweets of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and half animated discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of "High Society" (1956). It's all too enthralling. Allegedly, there's an important NBA playoff game on right now as well, but I haven't heard a peep about it. This puzzle was enjoyable, mostly. West fell fast, east ... didn't. After a couple early miscues (AGE for SWM, ENYA for ERTE) I went sweeping down the west side of the grid pretty easily, then moved into the middle and kinda got stuck for a bit (finished in 6:09, so not *that* stuck, but stuckish). First there was the ON ICE / IN ICE problem (IN makes me wince), then the NE, where ... let's see. I threw AVAIL in and then crossed it at the "V" with ... OVATE. But when the "T" cross was some kind of green (er, that is, 13D: Kind of blue that's close to green), I somehow ... I ... well, I changed OVATE to OVOID and went with NILE. NILE blue. Is that a thing? It felt thingish. It was wrong. MIENS and DENS helped out and things settled down. Really really really thrown off by the word "attraction" in 34A: Attraction temporarily shut down and partly moved to Siberia during W.W. II, so much so that even with LENIN in place I still thought I was dealing with some kind of carnival ride. The LENIN SWING or something.... but it was just his TOMB.

[This video is unrelated to anything in the puzzle. It was on 89.3 The Current (Minneapolis!) as I was writing this, so I just stuck it in here, why not?]

Yucked out at the awkward EMBANK, where -MBAN- did zero for me (PET rock ... cute) (29A: Kind of classic rock?). Thus stuck, I switched to the SE to see what I could do—and bam, off the "O" got "O, PIONEERS," and RIC OCASEK would've been a gimme even without the initial "R" in place. Filled the grid back up to horrible EMBANK, ending with that "E."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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