Hannibal's men / SAT 4-29-17 / Fictional spy who first appeared in Call for Dead / Writer with given names Robert Lawrence / Capital for King Zog / Brisk competitor / Augmenting old-style

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: GEORGE SMILEY (36A: Fictional spy who first appeared in "Call for the Dead") —
George Smiley is a fictional character created by John le Carré. Smiley is a career intelligence officer with "The Circus", the British overseas intelligence agency. He is a central character in the novels Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People, and a supporting character in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Looking Glass War and The Secret Pilgrim. (wikipedia)
• • •

Whole lot of nothin' at first, and then I went on this weird loping excursion across the grid (unusual—very unusual on a Saturday):

 [note the humiliating misspelling of ABATTOIR]

Aside from that cluster in the North, the first answer I was sure of was ABATTOIR, which luckily I at least partially spelled correctly. Filled some stuff in around its tail end, and bing bam boom I'm way down in the SE corner. From this point on, I generally had enough leverage to work my way through the grid without much trouble. SE corner filled up pretty fast, and once DEAD GIVEAWAY (21D: It's pretty obvious) floated up, that fat, open center became far more tractable, far less daunting. Took me a while to get MARILYN MONROE (15D: Famed Pop Art subject) because I (very) wrongly assumed 13A: Hannibal's men ended in an "S," which gave me the wrong initial letter for the MARILYN answer. I knew -SMILEY (read "Smiley's People" a couple years back) but totally forgot his first name, so getting into the SW corner was a little tricky. Had SUMMERED for WINTERED at 11D: Spent a season in the sun? for a bit, and needed nearly ever cross for NATANT (18A: Swimming), an actual word that I've never seen used anywhere. Biggest problem spot of the day was easily the NW, where [Hannibal's men] ("THE A-TEAM") just destroyed me, and --ART- sent my pattern recognition program straight to ECARTE (3D: Trick-taking card game). Like HEARTS, ECARTE is Also A Trick-Taking Game. Ugh. But at the end of the solve, I was a little bit under 9 minutes—very average for a Saturday. Maybe even a hair's breadth faster than usual. I quite liked this one. The center came out really very good. Connective tissue is mostly strong, with DURA/ITSA being the only weak spot.


I think I mentioned that erstwhile crossword plagiarist Timothy Parker was back publishing puzzles for Universal (a widely syndicated crossword). I thought you'd like to see his latest creation, which is ... notable? ... for two things. One, its theme—the title is "Initial Sandwich"; see if you can figure out why. And while you're at it, please admire the second notable feature—a truly stellar clue (in the blue strip, up top) for SNOB:


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

Read more...

Old RR watchdog / FRI 4-28-17 / Ollie's friend on old TV / Oenophile's pride / Communication service since 2004 / Literally highest city / Highway through Yukon / Hundu aphorisms

Friday, April 28, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: AMARYLLIS (59A: Producer of re-and-white blooms) —
Amaryllis (/ˌæməˈrɪls/) is the only genus in the subtribe Amaryllidinae (tribe Amaryllideae). It is a small genus of flowering bulbs, with two species. The better known of the two, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of the Western Cape region of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest area between the Olifants River Valley to Knysna.[2] For many years there was confusion among botanists over the generic names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum, one result of which is that the common name "amaryllis" is mainly used for cultivars of the genus Hippeastrum, widely sold in the winter months for their ability to bloom indoors. Plants of the genus Amaryllis are known as belladonna lily, Jersey lily, naked lady, amarillo, Easter lily in Southern Australia or, in South Africa, March lily due to its propensity to flower around March. This is one of numerous genera with the common name "lily" due to their flower shape and growth habit. However, they are only distantly related to the true lily, Lilium. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very fast for a Friday. Not record-setting (I'm never at peak speed when I solve first in the morning), but fast. I've largely given up trying to go fast on themeless puzzles. These puzzles tend to be more interesting and enjoyable than the themed puzzles (not true for all puzzles, but definitely true for NYT puzzles), and I don't like the feeling of frustration that can come about from trying to blaze through a puzzle that's designed to be tough. Ironically, or predictably, I still end up solving fast, perhaps faster than if I got into "speed" mode. It's like a lot of things—if you just relax and let the [whatever] come to you, see the [whatever] clearly, don't get ahead of yourself, etc., you'll do very well. Anyway, this puzzle was just plain easy. Only thing I can imagine really holding back a regular solver are (as usual) some proper nouns ("SEXY AND I KNOW IT," e.g.) or specialized terms (I suck at flower names less common than, say, "rose," so AMARYLLIS required a lot of patching from the crosses). Everything else–zoom.

[Phife DAWG]

I enjoyed this one. Solid, if not scintillating, with only the odd ZAK or ENTR' or ALCAN or ANI or ICC gumming up the works. Seriously, wtf is ICC? I'm honestly just seeing it for the first time right now, as I type this... Hmm, google tells me it's the "International Cricket Council," and since I hope nevvvvver to see this answer in a puzzle again, I'm just gonna take google at google's word and move on. Here are the (very few) trouble spots for this puzzle:


In the NW, that was just the usual getting-started issues. Wanted LOCO at 1A: Cuckoo and then really really really badly please-God wanted COZY at 1D: Homey. But no. It was the "Homey" I thought it was. After that, I tore through the grid, with a slight "wha?" at ENTR' (32A: Intermission starter?) (from "ENTR'acte" ...) and from wanting only RIMS OUT at 25D: Doesn't stay in the hole, as a ball (BOUNCES OUT). "In the hole" is colloquial, as is RIMS OUT. BOUNCES OUT is not. BOUNCES OUT is a common enough phrase, but the part of my brain that likes clues to be good / consistent just jammed there for a second. I worked it out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. there's no way that was the original clue for GENTLEMAN'S CLUB (19A: Site where top hats and canes might be checked at the door). No way. None. A simple google search will tell you what a GENTLEMAN'S CLUB really is. The ones nearest you will be right at the top. Pretending you're not talking about strip clubs somehow makes the clue even bro-ier, even more snickering-boy immature. You like tits in your puzzle. Great. At least own it.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

Read more...

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP