Dadaist Max / MON 12-22-14 / Ugly Middle-earth characters / Title cop played by Al Pacino / Hidalgo home / Repeated word in Banana boat song

Monday, December 22, 2014

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: PED XING (39A: Something often seen on a street corner, briefly … or , literally, something seen in eau corner of this puzzle) — four crossing "PED" letter strings:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: SOLON (70A: Wise man) —
Athenian lawgiver and poet. His reforms preserved a class system based on wealth but ended privilege by birth. [Thus…]n.
1. wise lawgiver.
2. legislator. (

• • •

Seen it. Well, a version of it, back in 2009, when the crossing PEDs were rebusized. But no matter—this is clean and reasonably clever. Very theme-dense. My only beef is … well, two beefs. 1. I prefer when the hidden/embedded word spans two words (as in SHARP EDGE) rather than simply sits inside a word (STAMPEDE) or (worse) sits inside one word in a two-word phrase, leaving that second word just flapping there in the non-thematic wind (SPED AWAY). There are many PEDs to deal with here, so phrase-spanning PEDs in every case would be too much to ask for, but it would have been elegant to have them in all the longer answers. And then 2. I prefer when embedded words find themselves in phrases in which their base meaning is disguised. In this case, that would've meant no "PED" where "PED" was referring to feet. But both IMPEDIMENT and PEDAL have the same Latin root (interestingly, STAMPEDE appears to have no etymological relationship to L. pes, pedis 'foot'). I can forgive IMPEDIMENT, since it isn't so obviously foot-related, but PEDAL feels too spot-on. Too related to the PED in PED XING. Yes I'm over thinking this, but (also) yes I think elegance is a worthy consideration, even in a Monday.

  • 11D: Simple aquatic plant (ALGA) — this is one of three spots where I had some hesitation. Actually, here, I wrote in a flat-out wrong answer: ALOE. 
  • 32D: Late (TARDY) — Had TAR-Y. Wrote in TARRY—a weirdly related but clearly wrong answer. 
  • 70A: Wise man (SOLON) — Had the S- and couldn't come up with it immediately. Forgot SOLON was a generic term and not just a specific Athenian lawmaker.  
That's all for today. My holiday eating regimen is sapping my energy a bit ...
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Actress Strahovski of 2000s TV / SUN 12-21-14 / Computerdom informally / Roy Rogers's real last name / Risky chess move / Zion National park material / Tree whose pods have sweet pulp

    Sunday, December 21, 2014

    Constructor: Joel Fagliano

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: "Season's Greetings" — add "HO" sound for wackiness:

    Theme answers:
    • HO HUM DINGER (22A: Homer that leaves people yawning?)
    • HOKEY WORD (24A: "Shucks!" or "Pshaw!"?)
    • BLACK-EYED HOPIS (42A: Southwest tribe after a fistfight?)
    • DESPICABLE HOMIE (67A: Backstabbing pal?)
    • NO-MONEY HOEDOWN (91A: Barn dance that's free to attend?)
    • CROSS HOBO (114A: Vagrant after getting kicked off a train, say?)
    • HOKUM TO PAPA (117A: Stuff your dad finds ridiculous?)
    Word of the Day: MARA Liasson (111D: ___ Liasson, NPR political correspondent) —
    Mara Liasson (/ˈmɑrə ˈl.əsən/; born June 13, 1955) is an American journalist and political pundit. She is the national political correspondent for National Public Radio[1] and also a contributor at Fox News Channel. (wikipedia) (I will never not make public radio correspondents my WOTD … I'm coming for you, Ira Flatow …)
    • • •

    If you never solved a Christmas-themed puzzle in your life before today, this one likely seemed cute to you. And it is, without a doubt, a well-made puzzle, with a consistent theme and very good, fresh fill. If Joel (who works for W.S.) is being groomed for Will's job, well, fine by me. He's super-talented and lives in the 21st century, so thumbs-up. But back to the theme—I knew what it was before I started. Or, rather, I said to myself, "It's not just adding 'hos' to things, is it?" And then that's exactly what it was. Very good HO-adding, for sure, but very predictable HO-adding nonetheless. Either I am some kind of psychic *or* I've seen this theme before at least once. I mean, seriously, it was the most obvious / cliché theme I could think of off the top of my head, so it must've been done more than once. Still, though, these answers are new to me, and pretty funny on the whole. And you'll struggle to find bad fill here. The future looks bright. Here's to more careful editing, better attention to detail, and cleaner fresher fill in 2015. Not sure why I'm making the New Year's speech now, but I am.

    My coup of the day was remembering SLYE (14D: Roy Rogers's real last name). Took me just 25 short years to commit that old-school GEM to memory. Yay me. TIM COOK (5D: Steve Jobs's successor at Apple) and EBOLA VIRUS (16D: Cause for quarantine) give the puzzle a very up-to-the-minute feel, while YOGA POSE and SOY LATTE show that the NYT *knows* its demographics. KUDOS also to BAR SCENE and its clue (11A: Likely feature of a college town). Took me a lot of crosses too see it, but when I did: your prototypical "aha" moment.

    PUZZLE NEWS: Matt Gaffney's (amazing) Weekly Crossword Contest is going to a subscription-only basis in 2015 (and good for him—good puzzles are worth paying for). 52 top-tier meta-puzzles for just $26. All the details here. For aficionados and aficionados-in-the-making. Get some.

    See you tomorrow.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. SOY LATTE anagrams to SLYE TO A T. Like, when you describe a young Roy Rogers perfectly. "That's SLYE TO A T!" she said, delightedly.


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