Knuckleballer Wilhelm / WED 7-29-15 / Russell of "Black Widow" / More than half of Israel / Breath mint in a tin / It lacks depth

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Constructor: David J. Lieb

Relative difficulty: Smooth sailing


THEME: "DOUBLE DOUBLE" — Each of the theme answers is a two-word phrase (or compound word) where both words (or parts of the word) can be preceded by the word "double" to make a new phrase

Word of the Day: SPOOKY (34D: Like a haunted house) —

  
Not to be confused with "spoopy" or "Shipoopi."
• • •
Andy Kravis here, filling in for Rex. Today, David J. Lieb messed* around and got a DOUBLE DOUBLE (65A: Statistical achievement in basketball ... or what the answer to each starred clue is). 


There are some naughty words in this video. You have been warned.

In basketball, a double-double is achieving a double-digit number in two positive statistical categories (two of, in order of frequency: points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocked shots). You can't get a double-double in turnovers and number of terrible teammates, but if you could, James Harden would've been NBA MVP last year.

In this puzzle, though, a DOUBLE DOUBLE is a phrase where both words can be preceded by the word DOUBLE to make two entirely different phrases.

Theme answers:
  • STANDARD TIME (18A: *It's divided into four zones in the contiguous U.S. states). DOUBLE STANDARD and DOUBLE OVER. Is it just me, or is "U.S. states" a weird construction? Maybe this was just a typo in the online version, and the print edition says something different.
  • TAKEOVER (27A: *Coup d'état, e.g.). DOUBLE TAKE and DOUBLE OVER
  • CROSSTALK (33A: *Incidental chatter). DOUBLE CROSS and DOUBLE-TALK (which according to whatever dictionary Google uses, is "deliberately unintelligible speech combining nonsense syllables and actual words." You might know it better as doublespeak.) 
  • PLAYBILLS (47A: *Handouts to theatergoers). DOUBLE PLAY and DOUBLE BILLS (I had no idea what "double bills" were. It turns out to be a synonym for "double features." Maybe it's a regional/generational thing, but I've never heard the phrase "double bill" before.)
  • BACKDATE (53A: *Make retroactive). DOUBLE BACK and DOUBLE DATE.
Including the revealer at 65A, there's an impressive amount of theme (6 entries, 58 theme squares)! The base phrases are all very much in-the-language, even if a couple of the "double ___" phrases were beyond my ken. This kind of theme (i.e., this word can precede theme answers X, Y, and Z) has been played out quite a bit, but I really appreciate that (a) the revealer word can precede both parts of every theme entry, (b) that there were five two-part theme entries besides the revealer, and (c) that the revealer does double duty in not only telling you the preceding word but also telling you that both parts of every themer can take the preceding word. Really nice stuff IMHO.

Given how densely packed this grid was with theme content, the surrounding fill wasn't bad. As in most puzzles, there was some stuff I didn't love: 'UNS, AN OUT, ESTAB., ELLS crossing ESSES. But mostly the fill was reasonable for a Wednesday, and there were a few nice long answers (notably COATROOMS and GOLDEN BOY, but also NOOGIE, SPOOKY, CAJUN, STIGMA, CAR WASH, and "I'M SOLD"). Also, ALTOID singular!

Bullets:
  • 42A: HOYT (Knuckleballer Wilhelm) — Hoyt Wilhelm (not the order you thought those names were gonna go, huh?) was an MLB pitcher in the 1950s and 1960s, most notably with the World Series-winning 1954 New York Baseball Giants. In 1985, Wilhelm became the first relief pitcher to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • 57A: THERESA (Russell of "Black Widow") — "Black Widow" is one of these late '80s/early '90s films with a femme fatale (see also "Fatal Attraction," "Basic Instinct," "Damage," "The Last Seduction," etc.). In this one, Theresa Russell plays a woman who kills a bunch of wealthy middle-aged white dudes for who-knows-what-reason, and Debra Winger's character has to try to bring her to justice.
  • 12D: NEGEV (More than half of Israel) — The Negev is a desert that covers most of southern Israel. Now you know.
  • 56D: EUBIE (Ragtime pianist) — A true master.

In conclusion: nice puzzle, good job.

Now, I'd like to bring your attention to a couple of excellent crossword-related items:

1) If you're here, you love crosswords. And if you love crosswords, you will love Lollapuzzoola 8: Lollapuzzocho, an upcoming crossword tournament in NYC. It's on August 8th (that's a Saturday in August), and it is absolutely not too late to sign up! It is always the most fun, and the lineup of constructors is terrific (Do the names Anna Shechtman, Mike Nothnagel, Doug Peterson, joon pahk, Patrick Blindauer, and Kevin G. Der do anything for you? Of course they do). Feel free to bring a friend. If you can't make it to the live tournament, you can still sign up for the At-Home Division to get the puzzles by PDF shortly after the tournament ends. 

2) Friend and frequent collaborator Victor Barocas has just launched an awesome project on Kickstarter! 

Ada Cross, Crossword Detective will be a series of murder mysteries featuring a detective (Ada) and her colleagues. You'll solve a series of meta-crosswords along with Ada to solve murders. In addition to the text and the puzzles, the stories will have illustrations by Hayley Gold, who writes the Across and Down webcomic. 

You can read more about (and back) the project on this Kickstarter page. If you like crosswords (and especially if you like metas), you will like this. 

Signed, Andy Kravis, (H/T)ipster of CrossWorld

*If you're reading this, Ice Cube, I'm sorry I messed around with your artistic integrity. In spite of the fact that it's a modern classic, "Today Was A Good Day" falls a little below the breakfast Mendoza line.

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Schmooze / TUE 7-28-15 / Berliner's exclamation / Mork's planet / Hand ball?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Constructor: Caleb Emmons

Relative difficulty: EASY



THEME: Secret theme! A-E-I-O-U—each row includes only one vowel, in that order: rows 1, 6, and 11 contain only A, rows 2, 7, and 12 contain only E, and so on.

Word of the Day:  "Poltroon" (20A: "Utter coward") —

"An utter coward" (Google) [ಠ_ಠ -Ed.]

"A spiritless coward: craven" (Merriam Webster)

• • •

Hello, I'm Adrianne Jeffries, live from New York. I'm sorry I'm not Rex! I'd be disappointed if I were you, too.

Speaking of disappointment, boy what a not-fun puzzle this was for me! The A-E-I-O-U ploy is super clever, but 1) it doesn't present itself until the end of the downs, and 2) at what cost?


The puzzle starts off Tuesday-ily enough, as we CHAT and AT BAT and TBA, all normal normal, until we hit POLTROON, which, if anyone organically got this answer, I'll eat my hat.

But okay, while recovering from POLTROON, we hit a run of mediocrity with SISS ("to make a hissing sound"), FRAS (this will be good for Scrabble), and SSTS ("supersonic transport), plus ELL and RRR and ICI. We have the "Peter, Paul & Mary" clue, which we also had yesterday, except today they're a TRIO.

RUFUS as in Wainright felt like the freshest clue in the puzzle:


Speaking of freshness, FRESHETS is a word I learned ("a great rise or overflowing of a stream caused by heavy rains or melted snow," says Merriam Webster).

I don't think I need to say which answer felt the mustiest:


Oh look, it's making a comeback! Source: Google's Ngram Viewer, which searches for phrases in books.

I'm scanning the puzzle for answers I liked and keep spotting more duds, like TKT. I did like THE CREEPS and SNOOT, because they are words for humans.

The thing with the rows and the vowels was really nifty. My crossword partner and I basically gasped when we realized what that clue was saying. For that kind of acrobatics, Caleb, I'll forgive you PHILIP III, OOO, and AAA MAP. The rest of the fill here looks ham-handed, though—especially when compared to the deftness of the theme trick.

Signed,

Adrianne Jeffries, just some blogger, basically (special thanks Sam Thonis)

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