Start of recuperative word ladder / TUE 9-27-16 / Taiwan-based computer maker / Orbital high points / Service symbolized by blue white eagle / brand of bubbly familiarly / Andrea ill-fated ship / Morsel for aardvark

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Constructor: Robert Cirillo

Relative difficulty: Challenging (For. A. Tuesday.)

THEME: SICK to WELL word ladder — clue on SICK = 1A: Start of a "recuperative" word ladder ending at 73-Across; Word ladder = SICK SILK SILT WILT WELT WELL

Theme answers:
  • AN APPLE A DAY (30A: How to avoid becoming 1-Across, so they say)
  • CHICKEN SOUP (49A: Aid for getting 73-Across, so they say)
Word of the Day: DAKAR (53A: Capital of Senegal) —
Dakar (English pronunciation: /dɑːˈkɑːr, ˈdækər/;[5][6] French: [da.kaʁ]) is the capital and largest city of Senegal. // It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city in the Old World and on the African mainland. Its position, on the western edge of Africa, is an advantageous departure point for trans-Atlantic and European trade; this fact aided its growth into a major regional port. // According to 31 December 2005 official estimates, the city of Dakar proper has a population of 1,030,594, whereas the population of the Dakar metropolitan area is estimated at 2.45 million people. // Dakar is a major administrative center, home to the Senegal National Assembly and the Presidential Palace. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello darkness I mean Tuesday, my old friend. You've come to be terrible again. Was really hoping for a pleasant diversion (I am current solving / writing in the middle of a self-imposed news blackout 'cause I just can't deal with the debate stuff right now), but this was painful. First, word ladder? What year is it? Always a terrible, boring, old, played-out idea—unless you do something truly remarkable with it, I suppose. That's the thing about Great puzzles: they can sometimes take an old idea and make it new. This ... is not one of those puzzles. Unremarkable word ladder that simply takes up space—and with unclued words (this largely accounts for the "Challenging" rating). Also, AN APPLE A DAY does not fit the word ladder. At all. Sorry. No. Give me another "cure" or give me nothing. And the non-theme stuff, just dreary. Old and stale. KOP THOS ONS. BONA MORA ORA DORIA. LESE AER ECRU ELLA ERIE ELI ERLE. TSETSE TSO OREOS OLIO oh oh oh please dear god send help. The two longer Downs, fine. The rest, scrap.

I fell into one very dark hole, which is the *other* reason (besides the unclued words in the word ladder) that this played harder-than-average for me. With --LEAS- in place, I wrote in RELEASE at 22D: Let loose (UNLEASH). What are the odds you're going to have four letters in place, come up with an answer that fits perfectly, and botch it. Low, I'd say. But today, I botched it. Not an easy pit to climb out of. OUT TO WIN was vicious to parse (21A: Seeking victory). [Socially unacceptable] and NON-PC are not the same. In fact, I don't think NON-PC is a thing. Most "socially unacceptable" things have Zero to do with whatever PC is (and usually "PC" is just what bigots call it when their bigotry gets pointed out). Farting in an elevator—socially unacceptable, nothing to do with "PC." On the flip side, in plenty of social contexts, being so-called "NON-PC" is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged. I hate UNPC and NONPC as answers, generally. Would never ever use them. Bad fill in every way. Delete them from your word lists, please.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


P.P.S. my wife is SICK and I wish she were WELL, not least because today is our anniversary.

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Iron Man's love interest / MON 9-26-16 / Protein rich vegan staple / Old-fashioned address organizer / Chips popcorn in commercialese / Classic comedy set at fictional Faber College

Monday, September 26, 2016

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)

THEME: STUFF IT (38A: "Shut up already!" ... or what you can do to the start of the answer to each starred clue) — things you stuff:

Theme answers:
  • PEPPER POTTS (17A: *Iron Man's love interest)
  • PILLOW TALK (26A: *Intimate chitchat)
  • TURKEY TROT (52A: *Annual Thanksgiving Day run)
  • STOCKING CAP (60A: *Knit headwear that may have a tufted ball at its end)
  • ANIMAL HOUSE (11D: *Classic comedy set at the fictional Faber College)
  • OLIVE BRANCH (25D: *Offer of reconciliation)
Word of the Day: PEPPER POTTS
Virginia "Pepper" Potts is a fictional supporting character and romantic love interest appearing in books published by Marvel Comics, in particular those featuring Iron Man. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Don Heck, she first appeared in Tales of Suspense #45 (September 1963). // In 2007, she joined the Fifty State Initiative under the codename Hera. In 2009, after being given her own suit of armor by Tony Stark, she assumes the identity of Rescue, which lasted until the 2012 storyline "The Future". // The character is portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the films Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers and Iron Man 3. (wikipedia)
• • •

Today has been surreal (I'm writing this on Sunday). It's my blog's 10-year anniversary, so, you know, there's that. Then I wake to find out that one of the most vibrant young players in the Majors, Miami's Jose Fernandez, died in boating accident. Big, exuberant, off-the-charts talented, headed for a Hall-of-Fame career. Refugee, immigrant, Cuban-American hero. Dead. So I cried and walked in the woods and saw a massive hawk just sitting on the power line over my car, which somehow helped. Then I decided to sit and watch an entire baseball game (which I haven't done but once or twice all season). It was the Phillies / Mets, and the last home game of the season for the Mets, who are in a tight race with the Cardinals and Giants for one of the two wildcard playoff spots, and thus need every win they can get. And they win. Boy do they win. They win so bad, the commentators start making football score jokes. "And with that field goal by Reyes, the Mets go up 15-0," etc. Ends up a 17-0 shutout—the most lopsided shutout in franchise history. Elsewhere in the majors, the Astros' Yuri Gurriel becomes the first player in over 40 years to hit into four double-plays in a single game (last was Joe Torre in '75). Then the Red Sox pitchers combined to strike out 23 (!!!) Rays in 10 innings, including, at one point, an MLB record 11 straight. And then lastly, but not leastly, the baseball yin to the morning's baseball yang—Vin Scully calls his final game from Dodger Stadium, after sixty-&%*^ing-seven years of calling games. And the Dodgers win in an extra-innings walk-off. Unreal. What does this have to do with crosswords? I don't know. Nothing, I guess, except for MY LOVE for what I do and my deep respect for people who love what they do and do it brilliantly, enthusiastically, passionately.

This was a nice way to start my second puzzle-blogging decade. A fine revealer, a grid crammed with solid themers and totally reasonable fill. Not sure how I feel about SNAX (the spelling, I mean ... I love snacks)—not sure that "X" was worth it, especially considering you've already got one in the grid—but overall, not too much gunk. I am almost (but not quite) embarrassed to say that despite the fact that I teach a course on Comics, I had *no idea* about PEPPER POTTS. Marvel ... not really my thing. Well, I like the new Ms. Marvel OK, and Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel was good too. Hawkeye is usually decent. Oh, and Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther is definitely worth checking out. But most of the mainstream Marvel universe, which includes its movies, hasn't held any interest for me. So PEPPER POTTS slowed me down pretty bad. So did my CRUDE-for-CRASS mistake (23D: Lacking refinement). Had me all flummoxed, wondering if 32A: Unsettle feeling was ANGST (it's AGITA). Yikes. Lots of sliding around in the WNW. And yet somehow I still broke 3 minutes, which is normal Monday time. (For perspective: Ten years ago, my goal was to break 5 on a Monday) So ... onward, I guess. And goodbye Vin Scully. And R.I.P Jose Fernandez.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. apparently Arnold Palmer just died. This day, I swear...

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