Noted jazz trombonist's nickname / SAT 2-13-16 / Neocon's target of derision / Charm City landmark / Arbiter of 1980s TV / Quaff at Three Broomsticks inn / Possible OMG follow-up

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SRSLY (58A: Possible "OMG!" follow-up) —

• • •

Played harder than usual for me, and Way harder than Wentz puzzles usually play for me.  I solved upon waking, though, and that's never (or rarely) a good idea, if being at the top of my solving game is the goal, so I adjusted difficulty level accordingly (back to Medium). The puzzle looks like something that should've been far easier than it was. I needed only a little help to get ERYKAH BADU, and no help at all to get JUDGE WAPNER and IGGY POP. And thank god for BUTTERBEER (50A: Quaff at the Three Broomsticks inn), or I'd still be sweating out that SE corner. Clues on EONS (38A: Mountains have grown over them), F-STOP (45A: Setting for Ansel Adams), MUST-DO (?) (48A: Critical assignment), MEL (I had BOB) (48D: Krusty's sidekick on "The Simpsons") and OTTERS (39D: Some pups) were all uncrackable to me. And I seriously could not bring myself to believe in SRSLY. I wanted only "ORLY?" And the short stuff down there was useless to me: three-letter TV station next to three-letter TV station? Ugh. But TACT + TET + BUTTERBEER eventually rescued me, allowing me to finish the puzzle.


I've barely heard of NOSY PARKER (srsly), and getting to IVORY TOWER from 14A: Neocon's target of derision was rough. I was like, "Why would they deride the IVORY COAST?" and then later, "Do they really deride the IVORY TRADE? That's ... weird." All the little Acrosses in the NE were hard. I had STAN (10D: Van Gundy of the N.B.A.) and still couldn't get any. STEM for SLAB (10A: Foundation piece). TAPE for TIVO (16A: Prepare for a later showing, maybe). Later, misspelled WOPNER (thus) and thought Rihanna and Madonna had -NOMY, like ... MONONOMY, only that wouldn't fit (they have ONE NAME, of course). Wish ANTI had gotten a Rihanna clue. That would've been a nice (timely) cluing twofer.


I should probably say that I thought this puzzle was first-rate. Hard, wide-ranging, clean. Everything good.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Wrath of Titans antagonist / FRI 2-12-16 / Naval hero with five US counties named for him / Baby one is called cria / Cetacean's closest relative / Presenter of many listicles / Bega with hit Mambo No 5 / scholarly Everst / Conservation org with panda logo / sci-fi fole for Zoe Saldana / Region around star just right for habitable planets

Friday, February 12, 2016

Constructor: Brandon Hensley

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Anita O'DAY (6D: Jazz singer whose surname came from pig Latin) —
Anita O'Day (October 18, 1919 – November 23, 2006) was an American jazz singer.
Born Anita Belle Colton, O'Day was admired for her sense of rhythm and dynamics, and her early big band appearances shattered the traditional image of the "girl singer". Refusing to pander to any female stereotype, O'Day presented herself as a "hip" jazz musician, wearing a band jacket and skirt as opposed to an evening gown. She changed her surname from Colton to O'Day, pig Latin for "dough," slang for money. (wikipedia)
• • •

I remember thinking GOLDILOCKS ZONE would make a nice crossword answer the first time I heard it, five years or so ago (25A: Region around a star "just right" for habitable planets). It's a 14, and you don't see 14s very often (they are pains in the ass to construct grids around unless you really plan for them, for reasons I won't get into here; just trust me). I think 14s should be the new 15—constructors should hoard them and bring them out more often as marquee answers. They're really under-utilized. *Any*way, this puzzle might've been easier for me than it was for others because GOLDILOCKS ZONE came so readily. I have no idea how commonly known that phrase is. Of course everyone today is obsessed with this gravitational waves news (look for LIGO—Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory—coming to a grid near you, soon ... or not). But as for GOLDILOCKS ZONE, I'm not sure where I first heard it—probably from Neil deGrasse Tyson on "NOVA Science Now," which my daughter used to watch a lot. At any rate, it's the star (!) answer in this grid. CRY YOUR EYES OUT, also pretty wonderful. Most everything else is solid but unremarkable. Have we had BUZZFEED in a grid before? (64A: Presenter of many listicles) Feels ... not new, but that may just be because I solve the BUZZFEED crossword regularly and so the name has lost all 'zazz and novelty for me. Still looks nice in the grid. (PS, you should probably do today's BUZZFEED crossword—I haven't actually solved it yet, and I don't know what time of day it'll be up, but I know it's by Doug Peterson and Neville Fogarty, who are reliably fantastic) (Update: here it is)


This puzzle was very close to "Easy," but I got slowed down considerably in the final (SW) quadrant, and so while I still ended up on the easy side of things, I wasn't close to breaking any personal records. Always helpful when 1-Across is both long and a total gimme, as it was today (1A: One inclined to patronize a farmer's market => LOCAVORE).


After that my second through sixth answers into the grid were 4- through 8-Down, all in a row, bam bam bam (bam bam). After that, moved easily into the center of the grid and then NE and SW quadrants. Ended up not having an easy time entering the SW. DECATUR took some guessing (52A: Naval hero with five US counties named for him), and DYNASTY was very well hidden (some solvers affiliated with BUZZFEED were so eager to show off that their employer was in the puzzle that they tweeted spoilers just minutes after the puzzle went live ... which was partially annoying, but partially funny, in that the grid image I saw had some pretty important errors, one of which was WHISKEYS for 40D: Bourbons, e.g.; the other was GO FOR IT instead of GO CRAZY (20D: "Knock yourself out")). The classical lit dork in me loved the AENEID crossing ODYSSEYS crossing both GODDESS and ARES. That is one insane mythological party going on up there. Approved.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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