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Friday, December 31, 2010

"Pret-a-Porter" actress / SAT 1-1-11 / Where the biblical lost tribes were held captive / Area where blood vessels enter an organ / Drawn-out chemical

Constructor: Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: None

Word of the Day: SALADIN (41D: Sultan who captured Jerusalem in 1187) —
Saladin was a Kurdish Muslim who became the first Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt and Syria and led Islamic opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant. At the height of his power, he ruled over Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hejaz, and Yemen. He led the Muslims against the Crusaders and eventually recaptured Palestine from the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem after his victory in the Battle of Hattin. His chivalrous behavior was noted by Christian chroniclers, and despite being the nemesis of the Crusaders he won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart. Rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry. (Wikipedia)
• • •

Well hi there! And Happy New Year! Bet you didn't think you'd be seeing PuzzleGirl again so soon, did you? Neither did I. It's a long story and it's not very interesting so I won't bore you with it. I'll just say that it involves Rex becoming unsure about which day it was yesterday. It actually sounded a little like some kind of alcohol-induced confusion but I don't really have anything to base that on. Total speculation. Absolutely no facts. Nothing at all to indicate that Rex was actually drunk yesterday when he forgot what day it was. I mean I'm sure there are many other reasons a person would be confused about what day it is. Even a person who's drinking! I mean, just because a person is drinking doesn't mean that's the reason they can't remember stuff. Ya know what? Again, this is a completely unfounded rumor — the one about how Rex was drunk and couldn't blog today — so we really shouldn't even be talking about it. Just forget I said anything.

This is going to be a quick write-up because, well, you know, it's New Year's Eve and all. Plus I figure you all are hungover today and probably can't solve the puzzle, much less read some crazy lady running her mouth about it. This New Year's Eve is actually kind of interesting. PuzzleSon, our 6th grader, is at a New Year's Eve party put on by the county at a community rec center. PuzzleHusband dropped him off there at 8:00 and will pick him up at 1:00. That's right. 1:00 A.M. My baby is out there doing God only knows what and we won't see him until practically the middle of the night. It's a little unnerving. Sure, the people running the party were all wearing bright green "STAFF" shirts, and there were two cops at the door, and parents will be required to show I.D. to pick up their kids, but just because the people putting on the party have done every single thing they can do to calm the fears of the overprotective high-strung North Arlington parents doesn't mean that something TERRIBLE WON'T HAPPEN TO MY BABY! I mean they CAN'T ANTICIPATE EVERY POSSIBLE PROBLEM! ::deep cleansing breaths:: Oh man, teenage years are gonna be rough on the Mommy in this house. ::in with the good air, out with the bad air:: Tell ya what — let's talk about the puzzle.

I really enjoyed this one. I plunked in MR. ROBOTO with no crosses whatsoever and felt like I was off to the races. That southwest corner fell pretty easily and that's probably why I have an overall positive feeling about the puzzle. It was so nice and Scrabbly down there! I did run into a little trouble when I plopped in BALE OF HAY where BANJO PICK was supposed to go (55A: Barn dance accessory), but that didn't take long to straighten out. I knew LOKI was right for 59A: Mythological trickster who was punished by being held to a rock, so even though I wasn't entirely sure what 52D would be, I was pretty sure it wouldn't be *FL**. Obviously, you can never be too sure, especially on a Saturday, but it felt like a wrong-wrong start, not just a not-really-wrong-but-tricky start. So I erased BALE OF HAY, caught on to JOEY right away from its clue (56D: Bouncing baby) and was excited to add that J to the U, Y, Z, X, and V already in that part of the grid. Love it!

The rest of the grid was a little tougher. I'm sure I've seen the name ANOUK AIMÉE before (16A: "Prêt-à-Porter" actress), but I have no idea who she is and it took me a lot of crosses before her name actually came into view. Once I got her in there, I thought 7D: Dingbats looked like it should be LOONEYS (which I think is actually a better answer than the correct GOONEYS), so that made LIGHT SHOWS (5A: Concert spectacles) hard to see.

Let's do a few bullets and then you can all get back to nursing your hangovers. My suggestion? Peanut butter toast and 7-Up. Or next time maybe don't drink so much.

Bullets:
  • 1A: Star of India, once (SABU). I do not know what this means.
  • 30A: N.Y.P.D. descriptor (FINEST).
  • 32A: Cry to get 40-Across (SEND HELP). I tried NEED HELP first, which is a crappy answer. Especially cuz it's, ya know, wrong.
  • 42A: "Rock Me ___" (1984 hit) (TONITE). I don't remember this song. At first I was thinking "Rock Me Amadeus," and actually the year isn't that far off (1986). "Rock Me TONITE," though, is a Billy Squier song and its Wikipedia page explains that "The video for the track …, which shows Squier dancing around a room in a pink tank top, frequently appears on 'worst music video ever' lists." Well that's something, I guess.
  • 45A: Simon & Schuster's parent (CBS). I did not know that.
  • 51A: Leaving lines (TA-TAS). Heh heh. You said TATAS.
  • 57A: Onetime Chevy Blazer competitor (ISUZU RODEO). Have any of your ever heard Rosie Pérez say "Isuzu Trooper"? It's the funniest thing. I'm pretty sure it was on Letterman when I saw it, and it was like a real thing. Like Letterman said, "Okay, I've heard you do this before, so now, if you would, please say 'Isuzu Trooper' for this audience." And then she said it and everybody cracked up laughing. I wish I could find a clip of it. (SethG?)
  • 8D: Dug in, with "down" (HUNKERED). This is an awesome, awesome word and we all should use it more often.
  • 11D: Area where blood vessels enter an organ (HILUM). This was my WTF answer of the day. I'm not real good at the science-y stuff.
  • 38D: Hit from the 1983 platinum album "Kilroy Was Here" (MR. ROBOTO). Don't try to act like you didn't know this was coming.



  • 47D: Yanks' foes (BOSOX). I started a new job a couple weeks ago and the guy I work for is a huge baseball fan. He has season tickets to the Nats and that's his main team (he grew up in this area, so he was a Senators fan back in the day). So I cornered him one day and said, "Okay, I know you're a Nats fan, but if you had to pick: Yankees or Red Sox?" He was all, "Ohhhhh, this is a trick question. I really don't want to screw this up." Don't worry, I let him off the hook.
I'll be here tomorrow with a special guest, so come on back and check us out. It's sure to be entertaining. Oh and here's a tip for tomorrow. At the very bottom of the New York Times crossword blog, there's a note: "The Sunday crossword will be available on the Premium Crosswords page in both Across Lite and PDF format …. Three clues in the PDF and print version use foreign alphabets; the Across Lite version uses English-letter transliterations." So make sure you don't let that trip you up. See you tomorrow.

Love, PuzzleGirl

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter] [or PuzzleGirl]

Hey boy, I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me.




Hello sweeties ♥.

Whaou, j'ai l'impression que ça fait une éternité que je ne suis pas venue poster d'article ici ! En réalité, ça fait moins de 2 semaines, ahah. Il n'empêche que vous m'avez manqué ! Mais bon, j'étais totalement prise dans mon mode " je-ne-fiche-rien " pendant ces vacances ... En fait, si, je faisais des trucs, justement. Vous savez, tous ces trucs de Noël quoi, pas la peine de vous faire un dessin. J'espère que tout le monde aura passé un beau Réveillon & un beau jour de Noël, & aussi que chacun aura été bien gâté ! Je vous ferrais une petite vidéo pour vous montrer mes cadeaux ;'D. 
 
Ce soir, donc, nous passerons en 2011. 
Whao'. Ça me fait bizarre, j'avoue. Je crois que 2010 a carrément été ma meilleure année. J'ai eu droit à des concerts magnifiques, des rencontres géniales, des souvenirs en pagaille, des fous rires mais aussi des pleurs. Je crois que 2010 était un peu mon année, & j'espère simplement que 2011 saura être à la hauteur. On verra bien :). 

Ce soir, pas de nouveaux looks donc, pas d'articles particulièrement innovant ni quoi que ce soit, mais simplement une petite rétrospective depuis mon entrée dans la blogosphère ='D.


Whao, it seems like I didn't post anything here for .. An eternity ! Well, in reality, it's been only less than 2 weeks, but anyway, I miss you so much ! 
I was really involved in all those Christmas stuffs, & I know that you see what I mean, lol. 
I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas eve, & also a beautiful boxing day ! I promise that I will show you my presents in a video ;'D. (But I don't know if the video will be in French or in English, we'll see !). 
Tomorrow, we'll be in 2011.
Makes me weird, I admit. I think that 2010 was my best year, seriously. I went to some awesome concerts, I had amazing meetings, a lot of memories, laughs but cries too. 2010 was kind of "my" year, & I only hope that 2011 will be as good as those 365 unbelievable days =').
Tonight, no new outfits, no particular attractive article or so on, but just a retrospective since I arrived in the blog world ='D.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J'ai débarqué ici au mois de Juin ... 

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En Juillet, je ne suis pas vraiment passé, voir pas du tout ... 

Mais au mois d'Août, j'ai explosé mon compteur d'articles ! 

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Le mois de Septembre & la reprise des cours ont ralentit un peu mes posts, mais j'étais toujours là !

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Octobre ... & Des vacances à Paris, comme toujours, mais surtout le froid qui est arrivé pour de bon. 

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& Enfin Novembre & Décembre ... Toujours plus de froid & de boulot au lycée ! 

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& Voilàààààà ! 

Surtout, n'hésitez pas à me dire quelles ont été vos tenues préférées, s'il y a des choses que vous souhaiteriez que j'améliore sur mon blog pour l'année prochaine & etc. 
Je tenais à vous dire que cette année à vous connaître à été magique, que je suis très heureuse de tenir mon blog & que chacun de vos commentaires me fait du bien. 
Que l'année 2011 vous soit douce, remplie de joie & de nouveautés, de santé surtout, de découvertes, de voyages, d'amour, d'amitié, de partage, d'espoir, de rêves réalisés. 
Je vous adore ♥.


Now, the only thing I can wish you is : HAPPY NEW YEAR ! 
I had to say that 2010 was incredible partly because of you guys, because it's such a pleasure for me to write on my blog and then read your comments & so on. I love you so so much, & without you this blog would be nothing.
So thank you so much for all, keep on rocking. 
I hope that 2011 will be for you full of health, joy, love, friendship, travels, hope, achieved dreams & so on.
Don't forget that I love you.




On se retrouve en 2011 pour de nouvelles tenues ;'D. 



See you on 2011, for some new outfits ;'D.




Audrey.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Foster girl / FRI 12-31-10 / Serbian city Constantine Great / Gentille one of song / Humbugs of world author 1865 / Boxer who wrote Reach

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: None

Hi, everybody. PuzzleGirl here with your very last puzzle of the year. What an honor! And it's only because Rex is off drunk somewhere. Allegedly. I mean, that's what I heard, but there really hasn't been any confirmation, so I probably shouldn't say anything. You know what? Let's just forget I said anything. I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason that Rex isn't here today and I'm relatively certain it has nothing to do with alcohol. So let's just move on. Sorry about that.

Hey, look everybody! It's Caleb! Remember how yesterday Andrea was talking about how everybody has a crush on Caleb? Well that's the truth. And if you met him, you'd know why. He's completely adorable. Now, he's got a filthy mouth on him, that's for sure. But other than that? Completely. Adorable. Oh and then there was that one time he used RECARVE in a puzzle. Boy, that was ghastly! But did I mention he's completely adorable? Would you like to see a picture? I know you would.

So here's the thing about this puzzle. There is some awesome, awesome stuff in here. Then there's some stuff that really stinks. So let's just really quickly get this out of the way: NIS is the 25A: Serbian city where Constantine the Great was born. Huh. Interesting? Memorable? Fun? No. ACTA is clued as 32D: Court proceedings. Whatever. S-STARS? IPSA? (Don't try to act like you didn't try "ipso" first.) QUA? ORRS? AITCH? I could definitely do without any of that stuff. Actually QUA wasn't that bad for me because it tricked me: I tried both "per" and "ala" before it finally clicked into place. But that's all I'm going to say about the bad stuff because there's a lot more good stuff to talk about. Like …

STICK IT TO THE MAN (35A: Be revolting). Is that awesome or what? And BROMANCE? Will let's the young kids get away with all that hip slang. And that's a good thing! Plus, how crazy does LAILA ALI look in the grid with all her Ls and As and whatnot (3D: Boxer who wrote "Reach!")? I also like the dueling melt downs of WIGS (10D: Freaks (out)) and LOSE IT (34D: Freak). Everybody chill! Let's just run some bullets and get out of here.

Bullets:
  • 1A: One likely to die on the road? (JALOPY). I know Rex was just talking about the Archie comics here the other day. Did someone in the Archie Gang drive a JALOPY? Because I always associate the word JALOPY with Archie. Or I bet it was Jughead. He seems like he would drive a JALOPY, right?
  • 7A: What something may go down to (THE WIRE). I've heard so many great things about this show. (Yes, I know it's not clued as the show, but I'm just going off on a tangent, try to keep up.) But I've never seen it! Then all of a sudden one day, I'm looking at something on the Internet machine about it and I realize that the brother of a friend of mine was actually on the show. Now I definitely need to see it. Good thing we finally signed up for Netflix last week. What year is it again?
  • 14A: Foster girl (JEANIE). This is a reference to Stephen Foster's famous song "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair." But you knew that.
  • 15A: Poster girl (TEEN IDOL). The most popular poster girl here at the PuzzleHouse is Taylor Swift. In fact, when I got home from work today, PuzzleDaughter and her friend immediately started explaining to me about how they had just been discussing how cool it would be if Taylor Swift came to PuzzleDaughter's birthday party because then maybe they could cut off a little piece of her hair and keep it as a souvenir. Also if she went to sleep, they could take a video of her sleeping. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
  • 41A: San Francisco's Museo ___ Americano (ITALO). Thought we were looking for Spanish here, but I couldn't get Latino, Chicano, OR Mexicano to fit.
  • 47A: Big hit (POW).


  • 57A: "The Humbugs of the World" author, 1865 (P. T. BARNUM). Oh yeah, I liked the two guys with the two initials. J. J. ABRAMS (1D: Creator of TV's "Alias") looks especially cool in the grid with that J collision that seems like it should be totally wrong until you realize what's going on.
  • 63A: 1974 hit with Spanish lyrics (ERES TU). I really wanted this to be "Oye Como Va" for some reason. Oh right, because it's a kick-ass song.


  • 65A: The Allman Brothers Band, e.g. (SEXTET). Okay, one more video, but that's it.


  • 38D: "Gentille" one of song (ALOUETTE). Does this song make anyone else think of Ginger on Gilligan's Island? Just me? Fair enough.
That's it for me for now. I might be back in a couple days. You just really never know who's gonna show up when Rex is … indisposed.

Love, PuzzleGirl

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter] [or PuzzleGirl]

Panda pas géant

Aujourd'hui, je vous propose une tenue très relax.

Déjeuner chez le paternel, on ne va pas sortir l'artillerie lourde hein.

Jean, gilet, bonnet et... Ugg. Oui criez ! Moi qui ai tant craché sur ces pantoufles de rue, je dois avouer que je me suis attachée à celles-ci. Et pourtant qu'est-ce que c'est laid. Nous y reviendrons dans un prochain billet...

Ah et il vous a plus ce petit bonnet panda !

Moi aussi.
Ben oui, je l'avais repéré, je le mettais dans mon panier et j'hésitais à valider.

Puis finalement, je me suis dit "Allez on tente et si on ne l'assume pas, on le refilera aux petites soeurs !".

Quelques jours après je recevais mon petit animal, je sortais avec dans la rue et j'assumais.

Quant au gilet, je l'ai chopé au showroom de la marque Axara.
Axara, marque que je n'avais jamais vraiment envisagé jusqu'à présent mais après avoir entendu de bonnes rumeurs courant sur les collections, je me suis dit qu'il fallait quand même que j'aille y jeter un oeil.

Et je n'ai pas été déçue ! En effet, ce n'est plus la marque de notre adolescence, tout a changé et je suis repartie avec quelques pièces canons.

Le truc, lorsque tu portes une tenue pépère c'est de l'accessoiriser. On n'a pas dit "empouffiasser".
Ajouter quelques bijoux discrets peut faire l'affaire.

Je ne me suis pas contentée de mes bijoux en or tout fins, j'ai tapé dans le "bling-bling" et la bague un peu plus épaisse !

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Jean - Urban Outffiters
Gilet - Axara
Bonnet - Asos
Bottes - UGG
Bracelet dimants - Swarovski
Bague fine - Monsieur Paris
Bague épaisse - Code Jewels


Headquarters for Polynesian Airlines / THU 12-30 / Thomas Moore’s "___Ask the Hour" / Record label for "Ain’t She Sweet" / Town on Lake Geneva opposi

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: Parse a phrase into three separate words.

Hi, Andrea Carla Michaels here, along with PuzzleGirl, filling in for Rex. He finally got on his plane to Florida after a two-day snow delay. If you are freaking out about the delay in the blog’s posting time, it’s bec I’m holding down the fort on the West Coast, PuzzleGirl is back East, while Rex goes South. While Rex has a travel day, I’ll write this up overnight, and PG’ll do her best to make sense out of it first thing in the morning. Relax, it’s New Year’s Eve’s eve. The fact you are even reading this means you may have bigger issues than posting times!

I love getting the chance to sub for Rex, but today he left one big airline seat to fill. Was totally up for subbing, practically begged, and then pleased Rex handed the reins to PuzzleGirl and me. But when I saw it was Joe Krozel and that half the clues were blank spaces, I panicked. I felt like a cross between Arnold Horshack ("Ooh, ooh, pick me, Mr. Kotter, pick me!") and Eminem in his so-last-year’s "Careful what you wish for":
So be careful what you wish for
'Cause you just might get it
And if you get it then you just might not know
What to do wit' it, 'cause it might just
Come back on you ten-fold

What can I say? This was one tough puzzle, as most Joe K’s are…took me almost an hour and I’m no SLO bunny. He’s tricky and not always my fave as a solver, tho I have enormous respect for him as a constructor and innovator. I remember loving his last one, both as a constructor and a solver, so I tiptoed in. In the end, I think it was worth it. That is to say, it was more than just OTAY. Actually, OTAY (41A: “Our Gang” approval) was my first entry and I sort of cringed, as I tend to be to the left of PC (when it suits me). I worried that it seemed mildly retroactively borderline racist, as anything having to do with Buckwheat does. Plus, I’m a gal who likes to start at 1A and go across, and do my little areas, which wasn’t helpful today since 1D was "Rent-___." I incorrectly filled in A-Car. My mistake became clear immediately by 2D: SHULS, as I was confident, as a Jew from (but not in) Minnesota, that I knew the Yiddish for "Synagogues." But "RL" as the first two letters of 20A would have been ugly… so I erased A-Car (for A-COP) and began to skip around.

So, a little STEVIE here, some Suze ORMAN there, a correct guess on KWAI (58D: River in a 1957 hit film). Yet the theme didn’t hit me till more than half way through…got it at 59/61A:
NOTRE SPAS SING = NO TRESPASSING (59A: "Warning to intruders").

Ok, the theme (there are seven entries!!!!) is to take a phrase and split it up into three words, forming totally different words than are in the phrase, but cluing it as a whole. Got that?

Yet the theme didn’t hit me till more than half way through … got it at 59/61A.

Ok, the theme (there are seven entries!!!!) is to take a phrase and split it up into three words, forming totally different words than are in the phrase, but cluing it as a whole. Got that?
  • 12A: One in on the founding of a company (CHARTER MEMBER) [chart term ember]
  • 20A: Production site chief (PLANT MANAGER) [plant t-man ager]
  • 27A: One getting a bouquet? (WINE TASTER) [win etas ter]
  • 37A: Workplace where there are many openings (OPERATING ROOM) [opera tin groom]
  • 43A: Song played at the dance in "Back to the Future" (EARTH ANGEL) [ear than gel]
  • 50A: Officially (FOR THE RECORD) [fort here cord]
  • 59A: Warning to intruders (NO TRESPASSING) [notre spas sing]

I will suspend with the Word of the Day, but mine would have been my last fill: APIA, which turns out to be the capital of Samoa. APIA shares three of its four letters with AsIA … so not a ridiculous guess for 33A: Headquarters for Polynesian Airlines.

APIA/AsIA … I can almost feel hands going up on that one. And I can also almost hear SethG (coincidentally a Jew in, but not from, Minnesota) screaming about the NOTRE/FRERE crossing! While dk (a decidedly non-Jew in, but not from, Minnesota) is tittering over TITTER (44D: Nervous laugh).

If I may get even more insider-y for a moment … If it were not for the regulars on this blog, I would not have been able to get the whole Northeast corner! For example, Retired_chemist (religion and state unknown to me) wrote about IMAGO being his favorite wrong answer of the day for that GHOTI puzzle last week … and here it malapopped into this one today! (8D: “Big bug”) And easily my favorite right answer of the day was CALEB at 19A: Spy sent by Moses into Canaan which I’d NE’ER have gotten otherwise because of that crazy 10D: "Thomas Moore's "___ Ask the Hour" … and I was determined not to Google.

Every constructor male and female, young and old, Monday thru Sunday seems to have a little crush on young Caleb … even my friend Laura Levine who took this cute photo of him as he searched for a gift for Will Shortz in her Mystery Spot shop in Upstate, NY.

OK, back to the puzzle. The theme is super clever, splitting up words in an uber-parsed manner. Perhaps Joe Krozel’s inspiration was Rex’s creation of OOXTEPLERNON, which came into being by reading one line of another puzzle straight across.

The only one of the six theme entries that did not work for me 100% was WIN ETAS TER. I liked the definition a lot (27A: One getting a bouquet?) but both TER and ETAS are a bit of a stretch to begin with. Neither entry barely stands on its own when it has a definition, much less when it does not. TER is either "Thrice, medically" or "Gerard ___ Borch." ETAS is defined either as an awkward plural of a Greek letter or maybe (more appropriately given the national weather scene) as airline board abbreviations. But the bigger iffy-ness to this entry is that both WIN and NO-WIN are in the grid. A classic WIN/NO WIN situation.

As long as I’m at it, I wasn’t crazy about ARNO/ORNO and TNT/NTS, but I’ll let others scream about OUSE, EMPT and KIAS Sorento. (As a professional namer, I object. It’s one thing to add a letter to a name to coin it, but to drop a letter of a real word just looks illiterate and careless). Enough of what I didn’t like, as it is minor in the overall picture. There was a lot more to like.

I liked that there was a lot of bodies-of-water imagery: ARNO, OUSE, KWAI, EVIAN (on Lake Geneva) plus young fish from the Sargasso Sea, not to mention a "sea menace" ORCA swimming by. Loved piecing together and learning that OOLONG was Chinese for "black dragon"! (I plan to slip that into a conversation (over tea!) before oolong.)

Lots of music: OPERA, SING, STEVIE Wonder, EARTH ANGEL, PIANO, OHS, Schubert’s NONET (my first try: etude) … and as a major Beatles lover I closed my eyes (ORBs?) trying to envision 18A Record label for "Ain’t She Sweet." (…but eventually had to open them wide to get all the crossings. ATCO?!! ATCO??!)


The biggest kick out of the puzzle is looking back across and seeing how every line starts to look like it could be a theme. FIS COOL ONG. ASH SLOP IAN O. Hmmm. Maybe not.

Alright, I’ll give it one last try … How about STEVIE OR NO?


So, well done, Joe Krozel … and Happy New Year, everybody!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Two-handled vase / WED 12-29-10 / Card game Spanish origin / Cook Island carving / Evergreen with edible nuts / Syrian presidential family

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: TILDE (58D: Mark used four times in this puzzle's solution) — three theme answers contain a total of four Ñs (which work in the crosses as well)


Word of the Day: OMBRE (36A: Card game of Spanish origin) —
Ombre, English corruption of the Spanish word Hombre, arising from the muting of the H in Spanish, is a fast-moving seventeenth-century trick-taking card game with an illustrious history which began in Spain around the end of the 16th Century as a four person game. It is one of the earliest card games known in Europe and by far the most classic game of its type, directly ancestral to Euchre, Boston and Solo Whist. Despite its difficult rules, complicated point score and strange foreign terms, it swept Europe in the last quarter of the 17th century, becoming Lomber in Germany, Lumbur in Austria and Ombre in England, occupying a position of prestige similar to Bridge today. (wikipedia)
• • •

Don't remember why this took me longer than usual, but it did. Oh wait, now I remember. I don't know who PABLO is (1D: "Tortilla Flat" character), I had Big TEN instead of Big BEN (17A: Big ___), and I still haven't gotten around to accepting ONE-EAR as a thing (23A: Like telemarketing headsets). That's probably the majority of the above-average difficulty right there. I like the basic idea behind this puzzle—it deals with a phenomenon that people gripe about from time to time: a "Ñ" crossing an "N" in the grid, as if they were the same letter. In fact, I'm pretty sure people have wondered out loud in my comments section if anyone had ever tried to construct a puzzle where "Ñ"s crossed other "Ñ"s. Well, now we can definitively answer that question. I'm not sure how much better off we are for it, but there it is. As I said, I like the idea, but there's nowhere much for it to go in a 15x15 execution. Just doesn't feel like much of a theme, and MAÑANA, SEÑOR is a forced answer if ever there was one. It's a phrase someone might say, but so is "MOM, I'M HUNGRY," and I doubt that's puzzle-worthy. Rest of the grid is just fine, I think. The value-added stuff—like ANGLO (43A: Barrio outsider) and OMBRE (36A: Card game of Spanish origin) and AMIGOS (59A: Baja buddies) and (apparently) DAHLIA (22A: Mexican bloom) add a bit of Latin flavor... Oh, so *that*'s what PABLO is doing up there. Providing some kind of tenuous rotationally symmetrical support for TILDE. Innnnteresting.



The TILDEs:
  • 18A: Margarita alternatives (PIÑA COLADAS) / 6D: One of a 15th-century trio (NIÑA)
  • 40A: Salsa verde ingredient (JALAPEÑO PEPPERS) / 28D: It requires one who's blind with a bat (PIÑATA)
  • 63A: Procrastinating words south of the border (MAÑANA, SEÑOR)
    / 52D: Evergreen with edible nuts (PIÑON) + 62D: Yucatán years (AÑOS)


Had several missteps throughout the grid. OH, YES for AH, YES (57D: "But of course") hurt because I couldn't see THREAT for the life of me (55A: Reason for evacuation). Clue on THIRDS was devilish, in that I assumed the hungry person was needy, not just ravished (49D: Helping for the very hungry, maybe). I thought the Obamas were maybe having ceremonies on the EAST LAWN, but no—they're in the EAST ROOM (42D: White House ceremony site). So far, it seems the S/SE was as bad as the NW for me. Yes, there was also the matter of DONATE for DO GOOD (67A: Be altruistic). One stray puzzler—what the hell is "The Gift" (39D: Gift in "The Gift"=>ESP). I wanted "FOB" or "TRESS," but clearly I was thinking of the wrong story (story?). Uh, nope ... "The Gift" is some 10-yr-old Sam Raimi film I've never heard of.

Bullets:
  • 10A: Noise in a comic book gun fight (BLAM!) — I read comics regularly, including ones with gun fights, and I had nothing here. Then I had BANG! Then I had BOOM! :(
  • 29A: Screen role for Skippy the dog (ASTA) — is "the dog" his last name?
  • 68A: Mustachioed "Simpsons" character (NED) — Hens love roosters, geese love ganders ...


  • 21D: Virgins of ancient Rome (VESTALS) — I've heard them called "Vestal Virgins" (mostly in "Whiter Shade of Pale"), but not just VESTALS. Interesting fact—the school where I teach is technically located in VESTAL, NY.
  • 30D: Two-handled vase (AMPHORA) — what's an AMPHERE? 'Cause I had AMPHERE. I think it's some kind of electrified AMPHORA. Or what a really drunk guy calls an "Amphitheater." Or a pan floutist...


  • 47D: Syrian presidential family (ASSADS) — it's a very crossword-friendly name for some reason.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Alors, les vacances ?


Un déjeuner chez Madame Shawn...
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Une soirée avec Margaux...
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Les pandas étaient de sortie....
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Un petit message...
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Company behind game Battlezone / TUE 12-28-10 / Mentalist Geller / Four-lap runners / Distance runner's skirt / Military sandwich

Constructor: Robert A. Doll

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Unprefixed — familiar words have their prefixes moved to the end, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style


Word of the Day: CANAPE (29D: Cocktail hour nibble) —
n.
A cracker or a small, thin piece of bread or toast spread with cheese, meat, or relish and served as an appetizer.

[French, from canapé, couch, from Medieval Latin canāpēum, mosquito net. See canopy.] (answers.com)

• • •

Supremely easy. The theme was utterly nonsensical to me until many seconds after I had finished. I was trying to figure out what the starts or ends of the theme answers had to do with one another, and then noticed that MARINESUB was just SUBMARINE flipped. Then noticed that the others were similarly flipped. Ta ... da? Theme is very thin (compare yesterday's six theme answers), and MINI doesn't stand alone very well, and two of these started out as nouns and two as adjectives ... and this theme seems like it could be spun out ad infinitum; or, rather, that virtually any word with these suffixes might have sufficed. Why not a LARGE EXTRA or GOLF MINI or etc.? The basic idea is kind of cute, but somehow the execution feels slightly SUB par.



Theme answers:
  • 20A: Distance runner's skirt? (MARATHON MINI)
  • 34A: Military sandwich? (MARINE SUB)
  • 45A: Outstanding crowd scene actor? (FINE EXTRA)
  • 55A: Valuable truck? (PRECIOUS SEMI)
Did this one in under three, but there were a few slight sticking points. Tried SLUR for SLAM (1D: Verbal assault). Blanked on CANAPE at first, though it's a perfectly familiar word—I get very impatient with my brain on Mon. and Tues. sometimes. Luckily nearby ARCHIE made that section a cinch — daughter has a Massive ARCHIE Comics collection that she's amassed over the past few years, so I know more about the Riverdale gang than I could ever have imagined (30D: Jughead's buddy). Went with TINTS over TONES in the NE (16A: Color variations), which probably created the most trouble given the 3/5 rightness of the wrong answer. But "trouble" is a relative concept, and today, there really wasn't much of any. Only real question was: EBAN or EBEN (it's the former) (32D: Abba of Israel).



Not much to Bullet today, so I'll just sign off. My flight isn't until Wednesday evening, so I'll be here again tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. this will hurt your soul if you have one...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eskimo boat / MON 12-27-10 / 1986 Keanu Reeves film / Newspaper columnist Kupcinet / Car in Playmates 1958 Beep Beep

Constructor: C. W. Stewart

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "HERE'S JOHNNY!" (60A: Classic TV intro ... or a hint to the starts of 16-, 22-, 30-, 42- and 47-Across) — words that start theme answers are also the last names of famous guys named JOHNNY (I say "famous" despite the fact that I didn't know 60% of the JOHNNYs in question)


Word of the Day: PLINTH (28D: Base of a column) —
In architecture, a plinth is the base or platform upon which a column, pedestal, statue, monument or structure rests. Gottfried Semper's The Four Elements of Architecture (1851) posited that the plinth, the hearth, the roof, and the wall make up all of architectural theory. The plinth usually rests directly on the ground, or "stylobate". According to Semper, the plinth exists to negotiate between a structure and the ground. Semper's theory has been very influential in the subsequent development of architecture. In its most basic form, a plinth is a plain, rectangular block of stone (curved plinths are relatively rare). (wikipedia)
• • •


["I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die" — one of the most hard-boiled lines ever written]

Super-fast solve for me—not at all atypical for a Monday. Struggled briefly to come up with PLINTH, and briefly again to come up with "RIVER'S EDGE," which must be somewhat obscure to a good chunk of you. I mean, it's a movie about teenagers, and I saw it in the theater as a teenager, and I still couldn't come up with the name quickly. What's weirder to me about this theme is the quality of the JOHNNYs. Two are flat-out famous: CASH and BENCH. Country music legend and Hall-of-Fame catcher for the Big Red Machine. The others... didn't know any of them. Scratch that. I *thought* I didn't know any of them, but then posited (to myself?) that JOHNNY NASH was the guy who sang "I Can See Clearly Now the Rain Is Gone" or whatever that song is called. But JOHNNY MILLER (a '70s golfer) and JOHNNY RIVERS (a '60s singer)—not ringing bells. Thankfully, knowing them was completely immaterial to the solving process. Done in 2:36.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: Second-stringer (BENCH WARMER)
  • 22A: Compensation in bills and coins (CASH PAYMENT)
  • 30A: "Great taste ... less filling!" sloganeer (MILLER LITE)
  • 42A: 1986 Keanu Reeves film ("RIVER'S EDGE") — I know it's picky, but I'm not thrilled with the apostrophe in the title; presumably there is no apostrophe in Mr. RIVERS' name
  • 47A: Car in the Playmates' 1958 hit "Beep Beep" (NASH RAMBLER)

I hope no one takes offense when I say that this puzzle seems aimed at somewhat older folks (Keanu Reeves movie aside). It's simply a descriptive statement—I think the general quality of the grid is quite good, especially considering the very high theme density. Hard to keep things Monday-appropriate (predominantly easy, familiar answers) and cram that many theme answers in there. Generally, the more space the theme takes up, the harder it is to keep the fill simple.
Ms. Stewart knows what she's doing on these early-week puzzles.

Bullets:
  • 40A: Eskimo boat (UMIAK) — along with PLINTH, one of two decidedly non-Mondayish answers in the grid. Longtime solvers and Inuit culture aficionados will know UMIAK, but that's a roughie for people trying to break into the solving game.
  • 32D: Newspaper columnist Kupcinet (IRV) — Again, don't know him. I'm guessing this is another answer that will be more familiar to older than to younger solvers (and I don't qualify as "younger" any more, btw). IRV Kupcinet wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times for six decades ('40s-'2000s).
  • 24D: Fish-tailed males (MERMEN) — that's sort of a sassy little answer for a Monday. And under the Eskimo boat and alongside the MORAYS (9D: Some eels)—aquatically appropriate
You were supposed to get a sub tomorrow, but my flight to Philly has already been canceled, so it's very likely I'll still be with you on Tuesday. Happy travels or leftovers or whatever you've got going on.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
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