Lead role in Boys Don't Cry 1999 / SUN 2-25-18 / Nanki-poo's father / Neighbor of Montenegrin / TV demonstrator at 1939 World's Fair / Bygone deliverers / Seaweed in Japanese cuisine

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Letter Recycling" — pairs of intersecting answers with identical clues are made up of the same set of letters:

  • IRON AGE (2D: Historical period) / GEORGIAN ERA (22A: Historical period spelled using only the letters of 2-Down)
  • ETHAN ALLEN (13D: Revolutionary War hero) / NATHAN HALE (28A: Revolutionary War hero spelled using etc.)
  • POTATO CHIPS (36D: Snack items) / PISTACHIOS 
  • OUTSTANDING (39D: Really impressive) / ASTOUNDING 
  • SCHMEAR (89D: Bagel topping) / CREAM CHEESE

Word of the Day: EGBERT (18D: Grandfather of Alfred the Great) —
Ecgberht (771/775 – 839), also spelled EgbertEcgbert, or Ecgbriht, was King of Wessex from 802 until his death in 839. His father was Ealhmund of Kent. In the 780s Ecgberht was forced into exile by Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, but on Beorhtric's death in 802 Ecgberht returned and took the throne.
Little is known of the first 20 years of Ecgberht's reign, but it is thought that he was able to maintain the independence of Wessex against the kingdom of Mercia, which at that time dominated the other southern English kingdoms. In 825 Ecgberht defeated Beornwulf of Mercia, ended Mercia's supremacy at the Battle of Ellandun, and proceeded to take control of the Mercian dependencies in southeastern England. In 829 he defeated Wiglaf of Mercia and drove him out of his kingdom, temporarily ruling Mercia directly. Later that year Ecgberht received the submission of the Northumbrian king at Dore. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle subsequently described Ecgberht as a bretwalda or 'wide-ruler' of Anglo-Saxon lands.
Ecgberht was unable to maintain this dominant position, and within a year Wiglaf regained the throne of Mercia. However, Wessex did retain control of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey; these territories were given to Ecgberht's son Æthelwulf to rule as a subking under Ecgberht. When Ecgberht died in 839, Æthelwulf succeeded him; the southeastern kingdoms were finally absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex after Æthelwulf's death in 858. (wikipedia)
• • •

This grid looks like it was architecturally challenging to put together: all themers are part of intersecting pairs, and some of those pairs actually abut. ABUT, I say! There's hardly any part of the grid that isn't affected by / impinged on by a theme answer. It's actually astonishing that the grid is as clean as it is, given how grid-pressuring this theme is. That said, I found it really lifeless, so much so that I just ignored the theme, for the most part. You didn't really need to know that the word pairs used the same letter bank. You could just solve them based on their rather general clues. The fact that OUTSTANDING and ASTOUNDING use the same letters just isn't that interesting. I think CREAM CHEESE / SCHMEAR is my favorite pairing, with PISTACHIOS / POTATO CHIPS a close second, but as I say, it's nothing I thought about (or had to think about, for that matter), as I was solving.

  • WE'RE ON
Final score: ON 4, IN 3. Good game, fellas.

Trouble spots:
  • 31A: Order to go (MUSH— wanted SHOO or SCAT or something related to fast food
  • 34A: Woman's name that sounds like its second and first letters, respectively (ELLY) — solving this was like trying to spell AUGUSTA backward the other day: brain-breaking
  • 107A: Bygone deliverer (ICEMEN) — went looking for some folksy, olde-tymey term for OB/GYN
  • 120A: "Aw rats!" ("DARN!") — DRAT, DANG, etc. the usual suspects
  • 6D: Was dateless (WENT STAG) — had the WENT, went with SOLO
  • 47D: Seaweed in Japanese culture (KOMBU) — wait, is this where "kombucha" comes from??? [yes and no: here's an explainer] The only seaweed I know very well is NORI, though KOMBU as crossed my field of vision somewhere before...
  • 103D: Lead role in "Boys Don't Cry," 1999 (TEENA) — I saw this in the theater and don't remember it at all, except Swank was in it. But the puzzle was generally so easy that I didn't have to spend any time wondering about this clue; it filled in via crosses very quickly.
Check out Will Nediger's puzzle blog, "Bewilderingly." You should especially check out 21-Down in his latest puzzle (Puzzle 70: "Not With a Bang"): a cluing choice that other constructors and editors would do well to imitate.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Dolphinfish informally / SAT 2-24-18 / Pennsylvania city where Delaware Lehigh rivers meet / Irvin early cartoonist designer for New Yorker / Italian sculptor Lorenzo Bernini / Hollande's successor

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: REA Irvin (16A: ___ Irvin, early cartoonist designer for The New Yorker) —
Rea Irvin (August 26, 1881—May 28, 1972) was an American graphic artist. Although never formally credited as such, he served de facto as the first art editor of The New Yorker. He created the Eustace Tilley cover portrait and the New Yorkertypeface. He first drew Tilley for the cover of the magazine's first issue on February 21, 1925. Tilley appeared annually on the magazine's cover every February until 1994. As one commentator has written, "a truly modern bon vivant, Irvin (1881–1972) was also a keen appreciator of the century of his birth. His high regard for both the careful artistry of the past and the gleam of the modern metropolis shines from the very first issue of the magazine..." (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello and good morning. Surprisingly good puzzle today. I wasn't so sure about it as I was exiting, or failing to exit, the NW corner, where HORS and AVGAS (whatever that is) had me wondering what I was wandering, or failing to wander, into. Turned out my failure to move down into the center of the grid from up top was due to a little (big) misplay there at 8D: Picker-upper (TONIC). Had the TON-, wrote in ... TONGS! Apt! But wrong. But then, when I couldn't get either of those little Acrosses, I pulled TONGS for TONIC, got PACS, threw down SLOGANEER, and was off: ASIN PIGLET AIRPLAY EDDY IDEAS PLODDER, in case you want to know the exact order of progression. My affection for the puzzle picked up when I picked up SLIPPERY SLOPE—"Alright, the puzzle came to play!" I thought. Sometimes a themeless will just ... lie there. All competent and sturdy and sad. But SLIPPERY SLOPE / PAROLE HEARING / BINGE-WATCHING (!) was a delightfully creamy discovery at the center of my puzzle snack. Nice modern clue on MACRON, up the east coast HEADLONG into the SAD SONG. At this point I'm having so much fun that I don't even scowl at the ETALI? pothole. AESTHETIC drops down easily, MAHI slides over, and I clean up the SE in Monday time—I remembered RIAA today, for possibly the first time ever! And AMATI and RAVI just sort of walked over and said, "Hey ... yeah, we don't know why we're here, all out in the open on a Saturday either. But go ahead, take us." And I did. That corner required only my most BASIC SKILLS. Total PRE-K stuff.

Only a couple tricky areas once I jumped down from the NNW. Blanked on SNOPES (a site I know well) and only half-knew COLLET (as with ROSECUT diamonds yesterday, my jewelry knowledge, she is not so good). Those were easy enough problems to overcome. The real bear down there was the basic word SCIENCE, which had such an odd clue on it (32D: Prestigious academic journal). This "very general category as clue for something specific in that category" is a SLIPPERY SLOPE. [Food] = SOUP? I mean, it's accurate, but ... I think I'm just saying that "Prestigious" and "academic" doesn't really narrow this down much. Not that I could name a ton of "prestigious academic journals" ... but neither did I know that SCIENCE was one. I guess the puzzle was so easy that underclued weirdness was considered necessary. OK. I also had a strange amount of trouble with RESHIPS, mostly because I thought 21D: Forwards was referring to a direction ... on a ship. Like, MIDSHIPS? Is that an area on a ship? Fore, aft, ABAFT, ABEAM ... I was looking for something in that category. UPSHIPS? But "Forwards" was a verb, which I realized only after (finally) getting the "R" from REDS (21A: Section of a Crayola box). So it's just ... RESHIPS. My nautical fantasies, dashed.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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