Onetime lover of Riker on Star Trek TNG / THU 7-2-15 / Father of Erebus Nyx in Greek myth / Soba alternative / James Merritt pioneering lithographer / Protein constituent informally / Depression common during childhood

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (only because of one corner; otherwise Easy-Medium)

THEME: INVISIBLE INK (67A: What six of this puzzle's clues have been written with?) — theme clues are single letters, to which you must add "-INK" to get the full clue; ERGO:

Theme answers:
  • ECCENTRICITY (18A: K) [i.e. Kink]
  • FOUNDER (12D: S) [i.e. Sink]
  • SPLIT SECOND (30A: W) [i.e. Wink]
  • MEDIUM RARE (38A: P) [i.e. Pink]
  • STOOL PIGEON (53A: F) [i.e. Fink]
  • CONNECT (45D: L) [i.e. Link]
Word of the Day: ETYMA (11D: Root words) —
plural noun: etyma
  1. a word or morpheme from which a later word is derived. (google)
• • •

This concept is nice. Grid is oversized (16 wide) and still crammed to the gills with theme material. Perhaps too crammed—fill gets pretty strained at times. But core concept is solid and clever. Two things were weird for me about this solving experience. First, I took a ridiculous, circuitous route through the grid at the beginning, getting real traction nowhere, but somehow managing to proceed by crosses until I'd nearly traversed the whole grid. Second, I got stuck in one of the narrow-exit corners. Can you guess which one? Hint: the SW. It's the SW. I got stuck there. Those corners were much tougher than the rest of the puzzle. Corners that are mostly cut off and barely accessible can get very dicey. Since I moved into the NE from the front ends of some Across answers, I was able to get that corner under control without too much trouble. But backing my way into the SW proved much, much tougher. But let's start with that weird opening:

Look at that nonsense. I'm all over hell and gone. It's not like I didn't *try* to dig into various sections as I moved through them. It's just that I got thwarted, and so kept moving. You can see what thwarted me up top—two wrong answers (PAL for MAC, STEMS for (yuck) ETYMA). Anyway, the meandering you see above is decidedly not normal. But it had this weird, serendipitous upside, which is that the SE was the first corner I really nailed, and that just happened to be the corner that held the key to the whole theme. Thus, very shortly after the CHAOS you see above, I had this:

I was not yet aware that there were two more theme clues lurking in the tinier corners. Anyway, getting the theme revealer opened things right up. And not much later I tried to enter the SW. And failed. Well, mostly failed. I got UH OH and GANG WAR (though I was unsure of the latter). But even with -US ending I couldn't remember GENUS (haven't played Trivial Pursuit in a quarter century). Clues for both MUGGING (43D: Slice of ham?) and I HEAR YA (44D: "Tell me about it!") were opaque. Didn't know who DeWitt Clinton was, so NYC stayed hidden. Got IRE, but it didn't help. Know far, far too many 3-letter synonyms for [Roscoe] (most notably ROD and GUN), so GAT wasn't obvious. It took, finally, just guessing MIC at 43A: Word after open or hot to move things along. Thought I was done, but I'd left a square blank back at IVES / SLIT. So that's where I finished.

Did anyone else have GO UNDER for [S[ink]] at first?
Did anyone expect something much, much more interesting than ECCENTRICITY for [K[ink]]?
No? OK. That's fine.

Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


Eniwetok blaster informally / WED 7-1-15 / Abu Simbel's waterway / Flanged construction beam / Toon tots of 90s-00s TV / Cause of 1773 party

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: lisping on the front end —familiar phrases that start with "S" have that changed to "TH-" and (with appropriate spelling changes) wackiness ensues:

Theme answers:
  • THAW / MILL (1A: With 68-Across, release philosopher John Stuart from cryonic suspension?)
  • THICK / PUPPY (9A: With 66-Across, slow learner in the litter?)
  • THIGHS OF RELIEF (20A: Turkey servings for the famished?)
  • THUMBER OLYMPICS (38A: Quadrennial competition for hitchhikers?)
  • THEME'S OK TO ME (53A: TV critic's approval of a show's opening tune?)
Word of the Day: OMRI (57D: Father of King Ahab) —
Omri [...] (fl. 9th century BC) was the sixth king of Israel after Jeroboam, a successful military campaigner, and the founder of the House of Omri, an Israelite royal house which included other monarchs such as Ahab, Ahaziah, Joram, and Athaliah. Along with his predecessor king Zimri who ruled for only seven days, Omri is the first king mentioned in the Bible without a statement of his tribal origin: although some scholars speculate that Omri was from the tribe of Issachar, this is not confirmed by any biblical account. // Mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as well as extra-biblical sources such as the Mesha stele and the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Omri is also credited with the construction of Samaria and establishing it as his capital. (wikipedia)
• • •

Been in a murderous mood all day for no clear reason, so I'm going to try hard not to take it out on the puzzle, but it's not going to be easy because the concept here is tired and the fill is truly wretched. There's no way your really good constructors are gonna subject you to a raft of junk like this. The very fact that we're subjected to two "flanged" clues, like that's a clever/good thing, tells you how far from self-aware this puzzle is of its repugnance. At best, the fill is tired: ARLO TOSCA ELCID (those are all in one little section) etc. But it gets much worse. TNUT HBAR KER HOO EDA and then honestly the worst little corner I've seen in ages—that SE corner. There's no excuse for OMRI EMAG EGAL. Barf. Really, truly unprofessional. When ARIA is not even the third lamest thing in your tiny 4x4 corner, something is terribly, desperately wrong. That corner does have a bit of theme pressure on it, but then explain the next section over—the OLDE FDIC ILSA section. ONE CARD is not a thing. ASTRA next to NIHIL is lazy Latin terribleness. This, novice constructors, is a lesson in how Not to fill a puzzle. Embarrassing.

The theme is what it is. It feels old hat, but it has a certain cuteness. Didn't enjoy the fact that two of the themers were so radically cross-referenced. Awkward. Gimmick was obvious from the get go. Here's the opening:

Jeez I can barely look at this grid. Look how UGLI that initial fill is. Gah. Anyway, bing bang boom, cut through two *$%&ing "H-" answers (BOMB, BAR), and we get another cross-referenced themer:

The lisping gimmick was slightly weird, as it applied only to the first "S" sound and not to others. Long themers are mildly funny. But this is some prehistoric, wholly unsatisfactory grid-filling here today, folks. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]

P.S. D CUPS > C CUPS (27D: Features of many bras) ... not intrinsically, just, you know, today.


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