Three-syllable foot as in bada bing / MON 11-20-17 / Nickname of Gen Burgoyne in American Revolution / Coiner of phrase alternative facts / Indian character on Big Bang Theory / Henry British officer who invented exploding shell

Monday, November 20, 2017

Constructor: Peter Gordon

Relative difficulty: Challenging (like, off-the-charts, not-even-close-to-normal-Monday Challenging)

THEME: ALLITERATION (18D: What 17-, 33-, 47- and 66-Across exhibit, despite appearances to the contrary) — two-word phrases that alliterate despite starting with different letters:

Theme answers:
  • GENTLEMAN JOHNNY (17A: Nickname of Gen. Burgoyne in the American Revolution)
  • PHOTO FINISH (33A: End of a close race)
  • CAESAR SALAD (47A: Dish made with romaine lettuce, croutons and Parmesan cheese)
  • KELLYANNE CONWAY (66A: Coiner of the phrase "alternative facts") 
Word of the Day: GENTLEMAN JOHNNY (John Burgoyne, 17-Across) —
General John Burgoyne (24 February 1722 – 4 August 1792) was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, most notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762.
John Burgoyne is best known for his role in the American Revolutionary War. He designed an invasion scheme and was appointed to command a force moving south from Canada to split away New England and end the rebellion. Burgoyne advanced from Canada but his slow movement allowed the Americans to concentrate their forces. Instead of coming to his aid according to the overall plan, the British Army in New York City moved south to capture Philadelphia. Surrounded, Burgoyne fought two small battles near Saratoga to break out. Trapped by superior American forces, with no relief in sight, Burgoyne surrendered his entire army of 6,200 men on 17 October 1777. His surrender, says historian Edmund Morgan, "was a great turning point of the war, because it won for Americans the foreign assistance which was the last element needed for victory". He and his officers returned to England; the enlisted men became prisoners of war. Burgoyne came under sharp criticism when he returned to London, and never held another active command.
Burgoyne was also an accomplished playwright known for his works such as The Maid of the Oaks and The Heiress, but his plays never reached the fame of his military career. He served as a member of the House of Commons for a number of years, sitting for the seats of Midhurst and Preston. (wikipedia)
• • •

Good editing is the difference between a great experience and an annoying one. So ... how did this puzzle get slotted on Monday? It's absurd. It's at least a Tuesday, possibly a Wednesday. Like, it's not close to Monday. I was over a minute slower than my average Monday time. Since I finish a typical Monday in roughly 2:50, you can see how one minute in this case is a ****ing chasm. Yes, the puzzle is oversized, which accounts for some of the extra time, but dear lord, come on. GENTLEMAN JOHNNY!? What the hell was that? (A: not a Monday theme answer). And your 1-Across is a. 7 letters (?) and b. a highly specialized poetic term? (ANAPEST) I'm cool with all of this, but, you know, Later In The Week. This theme is far too dense and intricate (a revealer intersecting every themer!), and has too many odd words and obscurities, to be a Monday. Dude's been editing for decades and couldn't see this? Mind-blowing. The puzzle is actually well made. But not a Monday not a Monday not even close to a Monday. GENTLEMAN JOHNNY, dear lord...

And even familiar stuff like SHRAPNEL had a nightmarish non-Monday clue (16D: Henry ___, British Army officer who invented the exploding shell). I wasn't even a minute into the puzzle and already—some Revolutionary general I'd never heard of and then a British Army officer? Oof. Mix up the frame of reference a little, please. What the **** is TETCHY? (52A: Irritable). Man that was rough. I think I've seen the word before, but I don't know anyone who uses it ever in any context ever. Wanted HIVES for HONEY (57D: Bees' production). IONA for IONE (I know better than that, dang it!) (64A: Actress Skye). I forgot the horrid lying racist sexual assailant president-enabling (did I leave anything out?) person's name, so that also slowed me down. Experienced the predictable NOVAS v. NOVAE hesitation (29D: Suddenly bright stars). Cute theme, good puzzle—but fatally misplaced on a Monday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


The Land Shark's show, for short / SUN 11-19-17 / Staple of Southern cuisine / Rising concerns in modern times? / Certain high school clique / Ones stationed at home

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy-ish

THEME: “Counterproductive" — Theme answers are defined by the number of letters they contain.

Theme answers:
  • MIDNIGHT HOUR (22A: This clue’s 110-Across, timewise) 
  • DIVER’S GOAL (28A: This clue’s 110-Across, at the Olympics)
  • VOTING AGE IN AMERICA (49A: This clue’s 110-Across, as is relevant each November) 
  • BAD LUCK SYMBOL (64A: This clue’s 110-Across, to the superstitious) 
  • ARGON’S ATOMIC NUMBER (81A: This clue’s 110-Across, in chemistry) 
  • REAL LOOKER (102A: This clue’s 110-Across, in terms of attractiveness) 
and then:
  • ANSWER LENGTH (110A: Something to count to understand 22-, 28-, 49-, 64-, 81-, and 102-Across)

Word of the Day: TOUCAN SAM (77D: One with a large bill at breakfast?)
Toucan Sam is the cartoon toucan mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal. The character has been featured in advertising since the 1960s. He exhibits the ability to smell Froot Loops from great distances and invariably locates a concealed bowl of the cereal while intoning, "Follow your nose! It always knows!", sometimes followed by "The flavor of fruit! Wherever it grows!" Another version of this phrase in a string of commercials in the late-2000s presents the character at the end of the commercials saying "Just follow your nose!", followed by a group of children retorting, "For the fruity taste that shows!"
• • •
Alex Eylar here -- I bumped into Rex on the subway; I said “Excuse me”; he said “Hey do you want to cover the puzzle today”; I said “Yeah why not”, and here I am.

This puzzle seems... expository, I guess is the word. Take ARGON’S ATOMIC NUMBER, for example: it contains 18 letters, and argon is atomic number 18, and, well, that’s it. It’s definitely accurate, but it’s not really an Aha! moment.

It doesn’t help as you’re solving it, either. I run across 22A first and I see it references a later clue, and I think to myself, “Welp, guess I’m not filling that in, tra la la la la” And then I think those same thoughts for the next five theme answers. So it’s not as if I’m working out the trick -- I’m just waiting until I get enough crosses that I can maybe figure out what the F these phrases are.

Except, they're not phrases (with the exception of MIDNIGHT HOUR and REAL LOOKER) -- they’re just descriptions of the connotations of a number. And the sentence “descriptions of the connotations of a number” doesn’t inspire a lot of excitement.

It reminds me of this puzzle from April: self-reflexive, but not really in an astounding way. It doesn’t elicit a “Wow!” or an “Oh, I get it!” -- it’s more of a “Huh, all-righty then.” That feeling, combined with the inescapably-fuzzy language of the clues (“Something to count to understand...”) makes the puzzle a bit flat, in my opinion. An interesting idea on paper, but there’s some oomph missing in practice.

I also don’t quite see the point in including the circled FOUR, which has four letters, and yeah. It’s a number describing itself (the only number to do so, fun fact!), but it feels like an afterthought. I appreciate the symmetry and the cascading arrangement of the letters, but what does it add to the puzzle?

That said, this puzzle was definitely on the easier side; finished just two minutes over my best time.

Words of note:
  • TO ARMS! (115A: Dramatic battle cry) — I had CHARGE! at first, which I yell every time I pull onto the 405.
  • HOP IN (6A: Words said through a car window) — For some reason, I pictured the window to be rolled-up, and was searching for a phrase you’d yell through a closed window, all of which are profane. (Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here)
  • EVITABLE (24A: Not definitely going to happen) — I mean... I guess it’s a word, but the opposite is far more friendly.
  • NEVERMORE (12D: Old-fashioned “That’s absolutely the last time”) — The lack of a Poe reference is a gross failure in my book; I love that poem.
  • HOME MOVIE (76D: Family Night entertainment) — I grew up in a boring family too.

Losers: PEELE and PEELER, GOLAN (looks like five random letters to my uncultured eyes), ON MARS (helluva partial), NBAERS (‘ae’ is the ugliest thing ever, trust me, they’re my initials).

Signed, Alex Eylar, Serf of Crossworld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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