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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: cities that contain their own state codes

Theme answers:
  • OZARK (5A: Southern city just south of a national forest with the same name)
  • ASTORIA (7D: City almost at the end of the Columbia River)
  • TUSCALOOSA (3D: Where the Crimson Tide play)
  • GRAND FORKS (11D: Red River Valley city in the upper Midwest)
  • BLOOMINGTON (25D: State university city in the Midwest)
  • SANTA MONICA (28D: Sunny city with a famous pier)
  • ALBANY (46D: Original eastern terminus of the Erie Canal)
Word of the Day: ASTORIA
Astoria is a port city and the seat of Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, the city was named after John Jacob Astor, an investor from New York City whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site in 1811, 206 years ago. Astoria was incorporated by the Oregon Legislative Assembly on October 20, 1876. // It holds the distinction of being the first permanent United States settlement on the Pacific coast and for having the first U.S. post office west of the Rocky Mountains. Located on the south shore of the Columbia River, the city is served by the deepwater Port of Astoria. Transportation includes the Astoria Regional Airport with U.S. Route 30 and U.S. Route 101 as the main highways, and the 4.1-mile (6.6 km) Astoria–Megler Bridge connecting to neighboring Washington across the river. The population was 9,477 at the 2010 census. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is filler. The very definition of filler. Cities that contain their own state codes? You wanna know how hard that is? Here, I'll show you: PORTLAND. That is how hard it is. Want more: WALLA WALLA! CARMEL! I haven't even left the Pacific Time Zone. What is clever about this? What is entertaining about this? Precisely nothing. I finished the puzzle very quickly having no idea what the theme was except "longish city names." Cities have nothing in common except including their own state codes. This may be the most forgettable puzzle ever made. There is nothing in the fill to redeem it either. It's not god-awful. It's just borderline non-existent, and fantastically disappointing (if you expect any bang for your considerable NYT dollar). Does anyone outside Oregon know there's an ASTORIA, OR??? Its Population Is Under 10K!!! And who the hell thinks of OZARK as a "city" anyway? Come on, man.

I can never remember LLB or how it differs from LLD or L... TD? LLC? TLC? LST? I guess "B" is for Bachelors and "D" (in LLD) is for Doctorate? Yeah, that's not gonna help, I guarantee you. The fill is so boring, I don't know what to talk about. ZOOM IN ON is coolish, but its coolness is undermined by existence of yet another longer "IN" answer (SWOOP IN). The only two good answers in the grid, and they're fighting with each other. I slightly like CHAKRA, as a word (43A: Spiritual center, in yoga). Is there a CHAKRA, Alaska? No? Too bad. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Feet in the city / MON 8-21-17 / Computer savvy office fellow / Friendly communist ghost / Head off to star at some pictures / Slim monarch who gets around fast

Monday, August 21, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Challenging (misplaced, strange)

THEME: THE GAP (39A: Something to mind ... in 18-, 24-, 47- and 58-Across) — you have to imagine a "gap" in the theme answers for the wacky clues to make any sense; so:

Theme answers:
  • URBAN LEGENDS => Urban Leg Ends (18A: Feet in the city? (3 wds.)
  • KINDRED SPIRITS => Kind, Red Spirit (24A: Friendly Communist ghost? (3 wds.)) 
  • QUICK THINKING => Quick, Thin King (47A: Slim monarch who gets around fast? (3 wds.))
  • GOOGLE IMAGES => Go Ogle Images (58A: Head off to stare at some pictures? (3 wds.))
Word of the Day: TOULON (42A: City in southern France) —
Toulon (French pronunciation: ​[tu.lɔ̃]; Provençal: Tolon (classical norm), Touloun (Mistralian norm), pronounced [tuˈlun]) is a city in southern France and a large military harbour on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department. // The Commune of Toulon has a population of 165,514 people (2009), making it the fifteenth-largest city in France. It is the centre of an urban area with 559,421 inhabitants (2008), the ninth largest in France.[1] Toulon is the third-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice. (wikipedia)
• • •

You call that a "Mind THE GAP" puzzle? That's not a "Mind THE GAP" puzzle. *This* (NYT, January 17, 2013) is a "Mind THE GAP" puzzle (and a good one) (seriously, it is—much better than today's).

So many problems. You widened the grid for this? First, the whole "Mind THE GAP" premise really doesn't have much to do with putting a break into words. Find the gap, maybe, but you "mind THE GAP" so as not to hurt yourself by tripping on or otherwise stepping into an actual gap that is there in physical space. You don't provide it. It's just there. Also, THE GAP is terrible as a revealer. Full phrase or go home. THE GAP is a store. Stop it. Further, all you're doing is breaking words into two words ... that is the Full Extent of this puzzle's cohesiveness. Nothing related to subways, nothing related to anything. Just "hey I broke a word in two and there was wackiness." In so many ways, this theme is not ready for publication. It's undercooked *and* it's missing some crucial ingredient to make it all come together. As is, it's a runny mess. Moreover. TOULON is a bonkers word to have in a Monday grid, or any grid. On a Friday or Saturday, fine, but a Monday? It is a hilarious familiarity-outlier. Like ... nothing in this grid comes close to how not-well-known that answer is. The fifteenth-largest city in France? The ninth-largest urban center? On Monday? Astonishing that no one, from constructor, to editor, to testers, thought that was an issue. Lastly, this is really more a Wednesday-type theme. Clues were Monday-easy on the the non-theme stuff, but usually this level of wackiness, with zero indication of the base phrase that is being punned on, wouldn't see light of day til mid-week. So yeah, myriad problems here. Sometimes I think no one is minding the store.

Meanwhile, I had a nice weekend.

I attended Lollapuzzoola 10, the world's greatest NYC crossword tournament, and, well, see pictures, above. My wife and I did OK. The tournament was (as usual) great fun—jam-packed, with tons of new faces—and I got to meet interesting people (a lot of younger people just getting into crossword nerddom!) and eat interesting food and see a Mets game. Lovely lovely lovely. A great way to bring my summer to an official close (teaching starts Thursday). Thanks to Tyler Clark for covering for me Friday and Saturday. And oh, yeah, if you want to do the Fantastic tournament puzzles (all by top-notch constructors) you're in luck. You can get them here, cheap.

See you tomorrow.

Signed (from 37 stories over Manhattan), Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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