Resort near venice / TUE 5-24-16 / African antelope with curvy horns / William Pilgrim father / Luminescent larvae

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Constructor: Jonathan Gersch

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TAPS (71A: Bugle tune ... or what one does to 1-, 18-, 35-, 43- and 62-Across

Theme answers:
  • KEGS (1A: Frat party staples)
  • PHONE LINES (18A: "Open" things for a call-in show)
  • SHOULDERS (35A: Places for shawls)
  • RESOURCES (43A: Coal and natural gas)
  • MAPLE TREES (62A: Syrup comes from them)
Word of the Day: William BREWSTER (41D: William ___, Pilgrim Father) —
William Brewster (1568 – 10 April 1644) was an English official and Mayflower passenger in 1620. In Plymouth Colony, by virtue of his education and existing stature with those immigrating from the Netherlands, Brewster, a separatist, became a regular preacher and the leader of the community. (wikipedia)
• • •

A bunch of things one can tap. Well, a couple observations: as a list, it's pretty dull, and TAPS is an awkward revealer. Plain old TAP, or maybe some phrase containing TAP that allows for wordplay of some sort, would've made more sense. All the answers are plural ... but TAPS (with an "S") doesn't indicate a plural, it indicates the third person. It looks like, in order to get the [Bugle tune] cleverness to match up symmetrically with something, we've pluralized KEGS, and then ... well, that tips the dominoes and every other theme answer gets the "S." The non-corresponding "S"s between themers and revealer ... they're just awkward. It's mainly the third-person conjugation that clunks. I wouldn't notice this if the theme were at all interesting. Theme feels like something NYT used to publish but doesn't / shouldn't any more. I thought that yesterday about a CONEHEADS theme in the LAT, where all the first words of the themers were kinds of cones, but conceptually and execution-wise, that was a superior puzzle.

The fill had some strong points (DAEDALUS!! SAY WHAT?!), but was also heavy on the unpleasantness. Why on god's green would you *highlight* the fact that your grid has terrible abbrs. in it by giving them the same clue (N.C.A.A. part: Abbr.), as if their presence here were some kind of *feature*. There is no redeeming ATH, there is no redeeming ASSOC, and trying to tie them together with the same clue is like throwing water on an oil fire. If you need ATH or ASSOC, you quietly clue them (separately!) and move on. Imagine how "fun" it would be if you cross-referenced SSW and NNE ... [I'm waiting while you do this] ... yes, cluing ASSOC and ATH this way is precisely *that* much fun, possibly less. Grid shape means that there's a ton of 4- and 5-letter stuff, so no surprise that there's a lot of the old gang ("I, TINA"!), but it leaned toward the UGLY side in many places. ETTU, EZEK? I had maybe one wrong turn in this one: wrote in SUPT instead of SUPE (45D: Apartment building V.I.P., for short). My answer was correct. Just not correct for this puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Questlove's hairdo for short / MON 5-23-16 / Early automaker Ransom E / Futuristic mode of transportation in Back to Future films

Monday, May 23, 2016

Constructor: Ori Brian

Relative difficulty: Easy (even for a Monday)

THEME: body part of the something — colloquial phrases following the pattern "___ OF THE ___" where first word is a body part:

Theme answers:
  • BUTT OF THE JOKE (20A: One being laughed at)
  • HEAD OF THE TABLE (28A: Where Mom or Dad sits at dinner)
  • NECK OF THE WOODS (47A: Locale)
  • EYE OF THE STORM (54A: Where it's calmest in a hurricane)
Word of the Day: LIAM Payne (18A: ___ Payne, One Direction heartthrob) —
Liam James Payne (born 29 August 1993) is an English singer and songwriter. He made his debut as a singer when he auditioned as a solo artist for the British television series The X Factor in 2008 with "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra. Though cut by Simon Cowell following judge's house, Payne was encouraged to audition again. He reauditioned as a solo artist in 2010, where he was put into a group along with four other contestants, to form the boy band that would later become known as One Direction. (wikipedia)
• • •

I assume this is a debut (I think I'd've remembered that name). If so, it's a solid one. Very, very Monday. Kind of quintessential—straightforward, simple, clean. No frills, but no gaffes either. I've only got one problem with the theme, and that is that BUTT OF THE JOKE really should've been the *final* themer, not the first. It's got the funniest body part in it (the only slangy one, the only one located below the shoulders), and it makes the perfect "punchline" for this theme. Why would you not put that answer at the bottom (!)) of the grid? Themer order matters, and your final themer should really be the best expression of the theme—it should merit its finality (Merl taught me that). But, as I say, that is the only issue I have. The theme makes sense, and the fill is mercifully clean and even occasionally interesting (HOVERBOARD!). No, wait, I have one more minor issue with the theme—if you ask me [Where it's calmest in a hurricane], I'm going to say "in the EYE OF THE ... hurricane, actually." EYE OF THE STORM is a fine answer. The cluing just struck me as somehow slightly amiss.

There were precisely two trouble parts for me in this one ("trouble" being a relative term, as I finished in 2:39). First, I had fishing in my head when I read 8D: Catch in a net, so I couldn't parse ENMESH at all at first. Needed many crosses. Also, you'll excuse me if I'm not up on all the members of One Direction. [___ Payne] meant nothing to me, though now that I see LIAM in there, that name sounds familiar. I know there's a Harry in there somewhere, and ... sure, LIAM, why not? So there was the problem of ENMESHing LIAM. Then there was just getting a handle on NECK OF THE WOODS. The clue ([Locale]) is so terse and enigmatic that how you were supposed to get from that one word to a 13s-letter phrase was not at all clear. But even after I had N-C-O... I could think of nothing but NECRO-something. But again, this is all happening at pretty high speeds, and a few more crosses took care of the confusion.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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