John who won 1964 Heisman Trophy / MON 10-20-14 / Gulager of McQ / Time leading up to Easter / Jean of Bombshell / Nonkosher sandwiches / Political conventiongoer

Monday, October 20, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Medium (leaning slightly toward the Challenging side of the Monday spectrum)



THEME: time keeps on slipping slipping slipping … — actually, that's a terrible description. What's really happening is that as the theme answers progress, the unit of time that is a part of each answer gets larger.

Theme answers:
  • SPLIT SECOND (17A: Instant)
  • MINUTE RICE (26A: Product that competes with Uncle Ben's)
  • THE WITCHING HOUR (35A: Midnight)
  • "DAY TRIPPER" (50A: 1965 Beatles hit that begins "Got a good reason for taking the easy way out")
  • PASSION WEEK (58A: Time leading up to Easter)
Puzzle Note: 



Word of the Day: John HUARTE (29A: John who won the 1964 Heisman Trophy) —
John Gregory Huarte (born April 6, 1944) is a former American football quarterback and the 1964 Heisman Trophy winner. // […] Huarte played college football for the University of Notre Dame. During his sophomore and junior seasons, he averaged only a few minutes per game due to injuries and the Irish went 5-5 and 2-7, respectively. As a senior, however, he became the starting quarterback as the Irish won all but one game during the 1964 season, in which he was selected as an All-American and won the Heisman Trophy. By the end of the season, Huarte threw for 2,062 yards with only 205 passes, an average of over ten yards per pass attempt, many to receiver Jack Snow. (wikipedia)
• • •

Obviously I have no idea how this whole "meta-challenge" is going to turn out, but I can tell you right now that if I knew this puzzle, by itself, was a meta, the first place I'd look for answers (assuming the longer answers didn't make the meta plain right away) is in and around HUARTE. That is an Insane answer for a Monday. I've never heard of him, and a sports answer I've never heard of On A Monday is bonkers. Suspiciously bonkers. But metas tend to involve puzzles' longer answers, so … who knows what Saturday's puzzle will require us to do to solve this week's meta. But I'm just letting you know, HUARTE—I see you. I'm putting you on notice.


So, taken on its own merits as a self-standing puzzle, this is OK. Theme feels old, which is to say it feels like a theme I've seen before, possibly multiple times. Not with these exact theme answers of course. But I'm pretty sure the time unit thing has been done. At least we get a couple of good longer answers out of it: PASSION WEEK, which sounds like a fantastic ratings-grabber for a Christian game show; and THE WITCHING HOUR, which ties in nicely with the Halloween season. Some of the shorter fill is actually interesting / exciting today. See TAX TIP (interesting) and HARLOW (exciting). Most of the rest of the fill is unremarkable. I'm excited to see where this whole meta thing goes. But on its own, as Mondays go, this is about a C. Maybe a C+.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Pygmalion's beloved / SUN 10-19-14 / Soprano Licia singer at Met for 26 years / Stew dish known in Thailand as suki / Pull classic internet prank on / Harry Peter Parker's college friend / Gucci competitor

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Constructor: David Phillips 

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: "Why Not?" — in familiar phrases, words w/ a terminal (or near-terminal) "Y" are changed to homophones that don't have "Y," creating all the wacky you'd ever want.

Theme answers:
  • TRUSTEE SIDEKICK (3D: Subordinate of a board chair?)
  • IDOLS OF THE KING (24A: Elvis's heroes?)
  • CLEAR THE WEIGH (37A: Embarrassed person's comment after getting off an electronic scale?)
  • SUNDAE BEST (49A: #1 item at Dairy Queen?)
  • SARI STATE (68A: Gujarat or Punjab, dresswise?)
  • CHAISE REBELLION (46D: "I've had enough of this patio furniture!," e.g.?)
  • DEVIL RAISE (85A: Wicked poker bet?)
  • GUISE AND DOLLS (94A: Two concerns of a secretive voodoo practicer?)
  • NO RIME OR REASON (112A: Lack of logic and a frosty coating?)
Word of the Day: RICKROLL (83A: Pull a classic Internet prank on) —
Rickrolling is an Internet meme involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch; a person provides a hyperlink which is seemingly relevant to the topic at hand, but actually leads to Astley's video. The link can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. People led to the music video are said to have been rickrolled. Rickrolling has extended beyond web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places, such as a live appearance of Astley himself in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The meme helped to revive Astley's career. (wikipedia)
• • •

Found this pretty unpalatable. First off, I didn't even see the "Y" thing at first. I just saw a bunch of Terrible homophone wackiness, so I just plowed through and tried to keep the wincing to a minimum. Even after having the "Y" angle pointed out to me, I don't think this is Sunday-worthy. Let's start with the wackiness, which often can't even be clued in a way (!) that makes the least bit of sense. [Lack of logic and a frosty coating?]?? What is that? The clue is nonsense, and not funny ha ha nonsense, but literally completely impossible-to-imagine nonsense. [Two concerns of a secretive voodoo practicer?] works, by comparison. The answer is still wacky, but at least it's a wackiness that can be got at via an almost normal-sounding question. SUNDAE BEST makes no sense syntactically as an answer to its clue, [#1 item at Dairy Queen?]. None. English isn't French—you can't just put the modifier after the noun and expect that to fly. Not in a self-standing phrase like this, you can't. Question requires "best sundae," of course. This is why you don't Touch wackiness unless you know what you are doing. "Wacky" doesn't mean "all rules and laws of grammar and sense are off!" Wacky only plays if you show some sense of awareness of and respect for the way English works. Speaking of, CLEAR THE WEIGH? That little number on the "electronic scale" is called a "weight." Of alllllllll the phrases one might come up with that have the word "WAY" in them, *this* is the one that makes the cut? I do not understand. Also, TRUSTEE requires a pronunciation change—this is a theme failing. It truly is. Your TRUSTEE answer is the answer you brainstorm and then throw out. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. Kill your darlings.


SARI STATE is a good example of how wackiness oughta work. It's a pun that is also literally true. Unexpected answer, chuckle-worthy—spot-on work. But much of the rest of the theme is a wreck on either the front end (cluing) or the back end (answer). And the fill is … the fill. It's NYT-average (i.e. probably weaker than it should be, but passable).


Do SHE-CRABs taste different than he-crabs? And, follow-up: Are there such things as "he-crabs," or are those just "crabs"? Whatever the answers to those questions, SHE-CRAB was utterly new to me. See also Harry OSBORN (are there not more famous / actual human OSBORNs out there?). Also had no idea about ALBANESE, a very grid-friendly but not well-known and thus crutchy 8. GALATEA is another long name with favorable letter patterns. Maybe he's more famous than ALBANESE, maybe he's not. Not sure. Since he's ancient, probably. I'm giving +1 to RICKROLL, because I haven't thought of it in a long time; it's a great piece of Dumb Internet History. And I always love remembering SENDAK. But that's about all the love I've got to give today.

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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