Longtime Syrian strongman / MON 11-30-15 / Stereotypical parrot's name / Body of water between France Switzerland / Tibetan watchdogs

Monday, November 30, 2015

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: MID-As TOUCH (64A: Moneymaking skill ... or, when read as three words, what happens in 17-, 21-, 35-, 45- and 54-Across) —five 10-letter themers, each made of two 5-letter words where first word ends in "A" and second word begins with "A" ... thus, the "A"s "touch" "mid-"answer:

Theme answers:
  • OPERA ARIAS (17A: Songs for divas)
  • FIONA APPLE (21A: 1997 Grammy-winning artist whose last name is a fruit)
  • LHASA APSOS (35A: Tibetan watchdogs)
  • PAULA ABDUL (45A: Former "American Idol" judge)
  • SANTA ANITA (54A: Noted California horse-racing venue)
Word of the Day: BOLLS (26A: Pods of cotton) —
• • •

This is pretty damned elegant, especially for a puzzle of the phenomenally easy variety. The revealer came as a real "wow," which is a rarity on Any day of the week. I could see that it was MIDAS TOUCH but didn't stop to read the clue that closely and could only think, as I was speeding off to finish the rest of the grid, "Uh ... where's the gold in these answers? How does 'AA' represent gold?" But it doesn't. Instead "A"s touch in the "mid"dle of the answers. The exact middle—a nice "touch." I'm not sure I like OPERA ARIAS that much as an answer, since it seems almost redundant—where the hell else am I going to hear ARIAS? And you have to cheat a little bit with the pluralizing to get LHASA APSOS to come off. But let's just call that "creativity," not "cheating." Why can't I learn how to spell LHASA. It always comes out LLASA on first try. Like ... I confuse LLAMA and LHASA. And yet I would never ever spell the animal LHAMA. Maybe writing about this will help settle this issue in my brain. And yet, somehow, I feel I have written these exact words before, to no avail.

I was down near my record time on this one. Where were the hiccups. Well, LHASA, obviously, though that was easily fixed. Honestly, the only other issues I had involved my clumsy fingers, which will apparently never obey me well enough to allow me to break the 2:20 mark. I was right at 2:30 today. I got lucky at a couple turns. I had LAKE and threw down GENEVA more as a hope than a certainty. That worked out. Also, I was able to make the turn into the center of the grid via the *back* end of PAULA ABDUL without any trouble (she's a gimme for me ... I had a ... let's call it a "phase" ... in college; an ABDUL phase ...). Fill here is pretty clean, with some pretty exciting longer answers (yes, I am someone who finds CLIPBOARDS exciting, for real) (11D: Ones providing backing for writers?). Nice Monday work, for sure.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Archenemy of Mattel's He-Man / SUN 11-29-15 / Decepticon's foe in Transformers / Ill-fated seducer in Tess of D'urbervilles / Olshansky first soviet-born NFL player / Little visitor to Slumbrerland in old comics / QB Bobby curse on Detroit Lions / Male lead in Disney's frozen

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Four-Letter Words" — clues are made up of two of the "four-letter" words in the corners of the grid For Some Reason...

Theme answers:
  • EXPENSE TYPE (over / head)
  • BEYOND THE TIME LIMIT (over / long)
  • WENT TOO FAR (over / shot)
  • RECKLESSLY (head / long)
  • YEARBOOK PHOTOGRAPH (head / shot)
  • NOT A GOOD BET (long / shot) 
Word of the Day: Bobby LAYNE (28D: QB Bobby who purportedly put a curse on the Detroit Lions) —
Robert Lawrence "Bobby" Layne, Sr. (December 19, 1926 – December 1, 1986) was an American football quarterback who played for 15 seasons in the National Football League. He played for the Chicago Bears in 1948, the New York Bulldogs in 1949, the Detroit Lions from 19501958, and the Pittsburgh Steelers from 19581962. He was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 1948 NFL Draft. He played college football at the University of Texas. // He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968. His number, 22, has been retired by the University of Texas Longhorns and Detroit Lions. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was one of the least enjoyable Sunday puzzles I've solved in a long time, which is saying A Lot. I've seen Sunday grids that are much worse filled, but I've rarely seen a theme this thin, pointless, and radically unentertaining. What is the pleasure here? Where is the fun? I suppose you can somehow admire the construction (if you are being awfully generous), but did anyone consider the solver here—how it would feel to solve this? Where is the *payoff* for waiting for those stupid "Four-Letter Words"? What was the point? That you could do it? It makes no sense. I got through the whole thing with no idea what was going on, only to find out that I *did* know what was going on and that thing was nothing. So LONG / SHOT can be a clue? So? So can LONG / AFTER? Who. Cares? And the themers? BEYOND THE TIME LIMIT? What is that? That's a clue, not an answer. EXPENSE TYPE? Has God ever invented a duller non-answer than EXPENSE TYPE? No. No She has not.

There were a few nice moments, where I got to see answers I've never (or rarely) seen before like "EVE'S BAYOU" (totally forgot about that movie) (3D: 1997 Samuel L. Jackson film) and AUTOBOT (50A: Decepticon's foe in "Transformers") and SKELETOR! (63D: Archenemy of Mattel's He-Man) But then there was stuff I hadn't seen and didn't really care to see like ... SEA DUCK? (85A: Goldeneye or harlequin) and AGEMATES (?) (8D: Fellow students, generally) and "K"-NARK? (74D: Informer, informally) WTH is that? And then name parts like KONG and FASO and a bunch of OCA-esque crosswordese and blah blah blah ETUI TAW multiple D'OHS. Massive disappointment overall. Nothing more to say. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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