Hit 2017 Jordan Peele thriller / MON 6-26-17 / Given benediction old fashioned way / Turkish pooh-bahs

Monday, June 26, 2017

Constructor: Brian Greer

Relative difficulty: Challenging (30+ seconds over my normal, which is Significant on Monday)

THEME: HARRY / POTTER and THE PHILOSOPHER'S / STONE — anniversary puzzle honoring the debut of the HP series by J.K. ROWLING, whose name is embedded in that center row, across three answers (oh, and DANIEL RADCLIFFE's in there too, for good measure)

Word of the Day: "GET OUT" (13A: Hit 2017 Jordan Peele thriller) —
Get Out is a 2017 American horror film written, co-produced and directed by Jordan Peele, in his directorial debut. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield and Catherine Keener, and follows a young interracial couple who visit the mysterious estate of the woman's parents. // Get Out premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States on February 24 by Universal Pictures. The film has grossed $251 million worldwide against its $4.5 million budget and received universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. (wikipedia)
• • •

This appears to be a debut from this constructor. And I do love HARRY / POTTER (both because I enjoyed the series myself and because of how genuinely important that series was and is to my daughter, who graduates high school next year). So I'm inclined to have affection for this puzzle. And yet ... I can't ignore some of the messier technical details. The fill is rough from the jump and never improves. This is largely because (once again) vaunting ambition got the constructor into jams he just couldn't get out of, and so the grid ends up getting pinned and pasted and paper-clipped together every which way, with material no one would ever use for building anything except in the most desperate of circumstances. I also don't quite get why HARRY and POTTER were hidden like that (not clued in relation to the theme). I imagine the original concept had the theme clue on HARRY, and then someone somewhere got the idea to put it on the "first" (closest to the top) themer. Weirdly, HARRY (67A: Persistently torment) and POTTER (68A: Crafty person at a wheel?) were two of the harder answers to get in this grid. But that's not a problem. The problem is ... it's just weird having him lurking down there, uncredited. And can we talk about the ludicrous letter string (GHIJK)? I mean, it's clear why you felt you needed to do it—consecutive JK is hard to come by—but oof. Your fill is already buckling pretty pad under the weight of the theme. That answer is a laugher, and you don't want a laugher front and center.

There's some great stuff scattered in here. The clue on ALASKAN—mwah! Fantastic. Not Monday by any stretch, but perfect nonetheless (12A: Person in a detached state?). And hurray for the very current clue on "GET OUT," which, unlike most of my friends, I have yet to see. It's streaming now, so it shouldn't be long now. But those were the only two real highlights (besides the considerable highlight of being reminded J.K. ROWLING exists). I was skidding off the road immediately with 1D: Given benediction, the old-fashioned way (BLEST) (!?). Everything about that is Red Flag. Too much gunk up top, with that and ETH and A HOT. Absolutely no reason *that* part of the puzzle should be *that* rough. Down below, roughness makes more sense (more theme-dense by a good margin). AS NEAT = barf. Ditto -IER. ID NO. was ridiculous in that That Number is an SSN and I Know That the Puzzle Bloody Well Knows It (60D: Nine-digit fig. on a Social Security card). How many times in the past quarter century have I written SSN into a puzzle? How many, Lord!? Oh, and EFFS? Eff that. Biggest self-inflicted wound: staring at ST---S for 26A: Units in stables and writing in ... (drum roll) ... STEEDS. The coup de grâce? Putting AVID in right underneath it (37A: Enthusiastic => KEEN). Sigh. Onward!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Second-largest city in Vermont / SUN 6-25-17 / Petroleum byproduct used to make synthetic rubber / Island south of Cyclades / Brenda's twin on Beverly Hills 90210 / Where Sanyo Panasonic are headquartered / Tech company founder Michael

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Cropped" — various crops (!) are "shortened" (into two-letter-per-square chunks) inside the theme answers, with the revealer (VEGETABLE SHORTENING) explaining the gimmick (107A: Canful in a cupboard ... or a hint to parts of six answers in this puzzle):

Theme answers:
  • ASIAN LONG-HORNED (BEET)LE (27A: Tree-damaging pest accidentally introduced to the U.S. in 1996)
  • FOUR (CORN)ERS (44A: Southwest tourist destination)
  • (KALE)IDOSCOPIC (48A: Having a variegated, changing pattern)
  • NATIONAL AR(CHIVES) (68A: Constitution holder)
  • SYMP(TOMATO)LOGY (90A: MCAT subject)
  • COSM(O KRA)MER (93A: "Seinfeld" character)
Word of the Day: Tommy HAAS (56D: Tennis great Tommy) —
Thomas Mario "Tommy" Haas (born 3 April 1978) is a German professional tennis player. He has competed on the ATP Tour since 1996. After breaking into the world top 100 in 1997, and reaching a career-high singles ranking of World No. 2 in May 2002, Haas's career was interrupted by injuries: he has twice dropped out of the world rankings due to being unable to play for twelve months.[1] His first period of injury saw him miss the whole of the 2003 season, and he did not return to the world's top 10 until 2007. He also missed over a year's tennis between February 2010 and June 2011, but has since returned to play on the tour. He returned to World No. 11 in 2013 after reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open for the first time in his career. // Haas has reached the semifinals of the Australian Open three times, and Wimbledon once. He is among a few players to have reached the quarterfinal stage of each of the Grand Slams. He has won 15 career titles in singles, including one Masters tournament(Stuttgart) in 2001, and has a silver medal from the 2000 Summer Olympics. (wikipedia)
• • •

I vaguely remember when shortening came in a can (I'm remembering largish cans of Crisco in the pantry when I was a kid). When I've used it lately, it's come in sticks ... so getting that revealer was a bit tricky. But otherwise, no problems here. At least, not after the gimmick became clear, which didn't take too long. Often with puzzles like this, once you grok the theme, the hunting down of the remaining answers really isn't that much fun, but today I quite liked the vegetable hunt. I had no idea what vegetables were coming up, and at least half the time, they showed up in bonkers (i.e. really unusual) answers like ASIAN LONG-HORNED (BEET)LE (!) and SYMP(TOMATO)LOGY (!). I think a tomato is technically a fruit, but we'll leave that debate to ones pickier than I (you know who you are). Only two things really made me wince, and that was due entirely to their cluing. First, cutesy clues on OBESE now strike me as kind of awful (121A: Like those who really have guts?). Not *offensive* awful, just ... somewhat yucky. Would you tell an OBESE person, "Hey, you're a real *gutsy* person! ... huh? Huh? Get it!?" Probably not. And then there's the clue on NIGEL (22A: British politician Farage). F*** that guy. You wanna *kill* the entertainment, destroy the joy, put that guy in your puzzle. It's like finding mouse poop in your ... well, anywhere. It's mouse poop, basically. There is no other IDI, no other AMIN, but there are sure as f*** other NIGELs, so spare me that racist ********@#$%. Thanks for listening.

I have seen Tommy HAAS in the puzzle several times of late, and since clues keep calling him "great" I imagined he was from the distant past, but no. He's younger than I am by almost a decade. And has never won a major. So ... "great"? Remember, this is a world that contains Serena Williams, so ... "great"? He's clearly very good at tennis. But I feel slightly less bad about not recognizing his name now.

  • 73A: Second-largest city in Vermont (ESSEX) — this is the first I've heard of it. Name recognition has a pretty precipitous drop-off there after Burlington. I was like "... STOWE?"
  • 9D: Often-doubled cry at a play (AUTHOR) — had the "AU-" and wrote in "AUTEUR!" because if the Italians get "Bravo!" then the French should have something ... though I guess they already have "Encore!" 
  • 12D: Former Haitian president Préval (RENÉ) — I somehow mostly remembered this guy's name today. Trivia has a way of Not sticking to my brain, so it's always nice when something takes, or begins to.
  • 29D: Where Sanyo and Panasonic are headquartered (OSA(KA)) — four squares, and I had the "S" ... so I tentatively wrote in ASIA even as I side-eyed the front end of 27-Across...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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