Bantu speaker of southern Africa / TUE 2-9-16 / Unwelcome sign for latecomers / Soapy powder mineral / Apple CEO beginning in 2011

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Normalish?


THEME: THEME — compound words where the second part begins with "S" are reimagined as if they are verb phrases where the "S" is transferred to the end of the first part:

Theme answers:
  • BOMBS HELL (17A: Detonates a weapon in the underworld?)
  • UPS TARTS (21A: Raises the price of some pastries?)
  • TIMES HARES (34A: Clocks trainees for a fabled race rematch?)
  • CHOPS TICKS (43A: Cuts up little bloodsuckers?)
  • BEARS KIN (54A: Puts up with one's family?)
  • EYES HADES (61A: Scrutinizes the underworld?)
Word of the Day: Diana NYAD (57D: Long-distance swimmer Diana) —
Diana Nyad /ˈnˌæd/ (née Sneed; August 22, 1949) is an American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer. Nyad gained national attention in 1975 when she swam around Manhattan (28 mi or 45 km) and in 1979 when she swam from North Bimini, The Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (102 mi (164 km)). In 2013, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West (110 mi or 180 km). Nyad was also once ranked thirteenth among US women squash players. (wikipedia)
• • •

This gimmick is timeworn, but neatly executed. There's one wonky thing about this puzzle that is bugging the heck out of me. I noticed late that the first long Down is *also* a themer (PIRATES HIP) only ... it's not. No question mark clue ([Steals designs for a joint replacement?]). And the symmetrical Down (RED HERRING) has no theme qualities at all. My point here is the PIRATES HIP highlights the fact that you could replicate this theme All Day Long, with any compound word where the second part both begins with "S" and forms a new word when you remove the "S." The STICK possibilities alone are legion. So the theme is cute, but not exactly tight. And it's definitely been done. Strange and kind of funny—in a good way—to begin and end in the "underworld." I don't think UPS TARTS works that well, sense-wise; it's definitely the most strained phrase, in that all the others make instant (however bizarre) sense, but the price-raising meaning of UPS isn't readily apparent without the clue. You do the verb to the *price* of the tarts, not the tarts themselves (I think the clue is totally defensible, just wobbly compared to the others). Also, back to my point about how this theme is virtually infinite ... UPS WINGS, also viable. But it'll do. The fill is fine—better than fine, even. Very clean and very ... varied. Very varied. Very varied. Weird to say out loud, but it's accurate.


I can't be trusted as to Difficulty Level, as I solved first thing upon waking, when I'm frequently slow on the uptake. I had no idea what the theme even was until the grid was half filled. NW was filled very quickly, but I didn't trust the HELL part of BOMBS HELL for some reason, and wrote in TUTU for ZULU (an insane error where my brain was thinking TUTSI but ended up with Bishop Desmond TUTU). Took forever to get [Moor] to mean HEATH. Brain passed through at least two other "moors" before getting the right one. Had TAKE TO instead of MAKE DO at 45A: Get along. Wrote in THREE at 29D: Musketeers and blind mice, then used TIM / COOK to fix it (40A: With 43-Down, Apple C.E.O. beginning in 2011), but my "fix" led me to ... TRIAD. Clue is plural, answer should've been plural, but good luck telling 5:30am brain that.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Blue creature of old Saturday morning TV / MON 2-8-16 / 1962 007 villain

Monday, February 8, 2016

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Normal, probably


THEME: IT COUPLES (61: Tabloid twosomes ... or a hint to the answers to the starred clues)— theme answers have a couple of "IT"s each:

Theme answers:
  • ITSY BITSY (17A: *Like a nursery rhyme spider)
  • NITTY GRITTY (11D: *Basics, informally)
  • SWIMSUIT EDITION (39A: *Big seller for Sports Illustrated)
  • CAPITAL CITY (26D: *Place often marked with a star on 24-Down [i.e. MAPS])
Word of the Day: ATP (22D: Org. for Nadal and Federer)
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was formed in September 1972 by Donald Dell, Bob Briner, Jack Kramer, and Cliff Drysdale to protect the interests of male professional tennis players. Drysdale became the first President. Since 1990, the association has organized the worldwide tennis tour for men and linked the title of the tour with the organization's name. In 1990 the organization was called the ATP Tour, which was renamed in 2001 as just ATP and the tour being called ATP Tour. In 2009 the name was changed again and is now known as the ATP World Tour. It is an evolution of the tour competitions previously known as Grand Prix tennis tournaments and World Championship Tennis (WCT). // The ATP's global headquarters are in London, United Kingdom. ATP Americas is based in Ponte Vedra Beach, United States; ATP Europe is headquartered in Monaco; and ATP International, which covers Africa, Asia and Australasia, is based in Sydney, Australia. // The counterpart organization in the women's professional game is the Women's Tennis Association (WTA). (wikipedia)
• • •

My time was ridiculous on this—Wednesdayish—but that's because I had a typo that led to a cross I could Not get, namely 22D AT- / 32A -RIT (should've been -RIG). I had no idea what the tennis org. was, and the only answers I was considering were ATA and ATF. If that final letter had been inferrable, I'd've caught my typo much quicker. Gah. I often make typos on early-week puzzles, because my fingers are awful clumsy on the keyboard, but those typos rarely lead to my getting (fake-) Naticked. While the fault is entirely mine, I don't understand putting ATP in this puzzle. It's not a well known initialism, not like NFL or MLB or NHL or NBA, so while it's definitely valid, it's not something I'd use unless I *had* to (i.e. it's not, uh, good). And here, you don't  have to. LOB / OTT is better. Even LIB / ITT is better, frankly. It is true that PRIG beats TRIG for, let's say, color, but ATP is sub-desirable, for sure, and since it's easily eradicated, it should've been. Still, I must concede, I'm probably not pointing out this minor infelicity if I don't typo my way into a mess there.  Maybe OTT would've been seen as too close to OTTO, and ITT to ITSY BITSY (?). It's possible.


The theme! It's pretty OK. I had to look up to see if people still use the term "IT COUPLE(S)," and it looks like they do. Mildly impressive there are zero "IT"s outside the theme answers. The fill was clean and lively for a Monday. I especially approve of GOLFCLAP, as I was the first person ever to put that answer in one of his puzzles.* And in *exactly* the same position in the grid, too. Thanks for the homage, Paolo.

 [LAT, Jan. 19, 2011]

I should also point out the impressive arrangement of themers, with that central SWIMSUIT EDITION cutting right through the two long Downs. Always tricky to run long themers through one another. I also wanna give a shout-out to SNICKERS, which was the name of my childhood cat, as well as the name of the candy bar that my wife and I *demolished* in Wegmans today. I mean, I grabbed it at the register, total impulse buy, then the cashier asked if I wanted to "hold it" and I was like, "Do I!" Then I tore it open and bit and handed it to Sandy and she bit and that thing was gone before we hit the exit doors. It really satisfied us. Thanks, SNICKERS.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*Someone in comments claims that GOLFCLAP was in a Jonesin' crossword from 2004. Not in any database I use / have seen, but it's entirely possible. Also, "my" LAT puzzle from 2011 (pictured above) was actually *co*-constructed with Angela Olson Halsted.

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