Allen whose #3 was retired by 76ers / MON 8-31-15 / Heroine of Purim

Monday, August 31, 2015

Constructor: Michael Dewey

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: diving stuff, I guess — three idioms related to diving

Theme answers:
  • DIVE IN HEAD FIRST (17A: Attack an endeavor vigorously)
  • TAKE THE PLUNGE (37A: Get hitched)
  • GO OFF THE DEEP END (58A: Lose one's mind)
Word of the Day: Allen IVERSON (20A: Allen whose #3 was retired by the 76ers) —
Allen Ezail Iverson (born June 7, 1975) is an American retired professional basketball player who played for four different teams (Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies) during 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played both the shooting guard and point guard positions. Iverson was an eleven-time NBA All-Star, won the All-Star game MVP award in 2001 and 2005, and was the NBA's Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2001. (wikipedia)
• • •

There's nothing here. There are only three themers, they barely hold together, the fill is from ... well not MEDIEVAL times, but olde tymes for sure. It's a mystery how something this ordinary and unplayful and unambitious is being run in the "greatest puzzle on earth" or whatever it's calling itself this week. The whole thing today is thin to the point of transparency. Pointless. Filler. I don't think there's even anything to say about this puzzle. I asked for help on Twitter and one of my Followers said "I guess the public pool is closing for the winter and the constructor is really sad about it?" Sure. Why not? Who knows? The longer answers are fine, so there's that. But yeesh. It took all my will to go on after I hit this bit, ten seconds in:

A HOER and his OLEOS are soon parted. I need a drink. Good day.

Hey, if you want to remember greatness, listen to me talk about Merl Reagle on the radio. Segment's about 20 min. long, and starts right at the top of the show, around the 1:20 mark.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Steer closer to wind / SUN 8-30-15 / Figure in Jewish folklore / Emoji holder / Comedian Daniel musician Peter / Michael Sheen's character in Twilight / Checked online reviews of modern-style / Ambient music innovator Brian / Emulate Isocrates

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Constructor: Lee Taylor

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Conflicting Advice" — adages that are clued via adages that say the opposite, i.e. ["this adage, but ..."] and then the answer is THIS OTHER ADAGE THAT CONTRADICTS THE ADAGE IN THE CLUE. Yes, I swear this is the theme.

Theme answers:
  • OPPOSITES ATTRACT (3D: "Birds of a feather flock together, but ...")
  • FOOLS SELDOM DIFFER (6D: "Great minds think alike, but ...")
  • TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN (34D: "Slow and steady wins the race, but ...")
  • IGNORANCE IS BLISS (38D: "Knowledge is power, but ...")
  • LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP (24A: "He who hesitates is lost, but ...")
  • CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN (111A: "You can't judge a book by its cover, but ...")
Word of the Day: LOLO Soetoro, stepfather of Barack Obama (51A) —
Lolo Soetoro, also known as Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo or Mangundikardjo (EYD: Lolo Sutoro) (Javanese: [ˈlɒlɒ suːˈtɒrɒː]; January 2, 1935 − March 2, 1987), was the Indonesian step-father of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States . // In his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father, Obama described Soetoro as well-mannered, even-tempered, and easy with people; he wrote of the struggles he felt Soetoro had to deal with after his return to Indonesia from Hawaii. He described his stepfather as following "a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths." In a 2007 article, Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Kim Barker reported that Soetoro "was much more of a free spirit than a devout Muslim, according to former friends and neighbors." (wikipedia)
• • •

This just doesn't work. Not at the theme level, and definitely not at the fill level. It is mildly interesting that there exist this many adages that conflict one another, and that you can arrange them symmetrically in the grid, but I'm not sure the existence of such is a strong enough base on which to build and Entire Sunday Crossword Puzzle. They layout of the themers is probably the most interesting thing about this puzzle—highly unusual majority-Down set-up reverses the standard way of doing things, which I'm all for. Mix it up. But there's just nothing in the grid to overcome the dullness of the theme. No interest. No fun. No humor.

And this is a grid that has clearly been hand-filled without the apparent aid of any software—I am very supportive of the idea of novices hand-filling grids to get a sense of how they work, how they don't work, what the challenges are in filling them, etc., but that's for the learning stage. Not the prime-time stage. Grids *need* to be much, much more polished than this, and the cold truth is that the only people who can completely hand-fill grids to modern standards, with no digital assistance, are super-experienced pros. People who have 15+ years experience doing this stuff. People who learned to make puzzles in the pre-software era and then *upped their game* when the digital age forced their hands. (Most constructors I know work without computer assistance initially, but then rely on software to help them see the variety of what's possible, fill-wise, much faster and more completely than the human brain can; if you're at all confused about this process, I highly recommend Matt Gaffney's book Gridlock). This grid has been segmented like crazy in a way that increases drastically the amount of short stuff, and then the grid is loaded with "I've seen it before so it must be acceptable"-type fill. ADREM and ABO and ARA and SST and two -AE ending words and on and on. Only TOSHES is truly ridiculous, but the cumulative weight of uninteresting fill really causes this thing to drag. Here's the point at which I sighed because I realized I still had a long way to go and just didn't care any more:

Oooh, look, you can see the error that would eventually come back to haunt me. Had CHEF 44D: One on staff? because Barack Obama's stepfather was a giant ???? to me (and because, honestly, LOHO seemed like something that this puzzle would have in it ... I mean, it's got TOSHES, for &$%'s sake!). Also, there is a famous LOLO, which I figured would've been used if the answer was actually going to be LOLO:

But to be clear, I checked out on this puzzle Well before the end (when I realized I had an error). The DIPSO ARCED APORT because the AMAH would FAIN something something ADREM. It's brutal. My favorite part was right here, at 41A: Half-and-half, maybe—because I couldn't fathom any answer except one answer, which was the wrong answer, but it made me laugh anyway:

I mean ... a BUTT is kind of "Half-and-half," especially if you tack "maybe" on the end there. Like, there's one half ... and then there's the other half ... leading to the complete BUTT. Made sense to me. One last thing: If I check Yelp, I'm Yelping? Do I have that right? Just *checking* means I'm Yelping? That seems off. Yelp me out here. (40D: Checked online reviews of, modern-style => YELPED)

I'll be on the radio today (WMNF, Tampa), on the show "Life Elsewhere," talking about the late and also great Merl Reagle. You can catch it live at noon here, or in an archived version, which I'll post whenever it becomes available. (UPDATE: Here's an archived version—Listen Now) (my segment starts near top of the show, around 1:20 mark...)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. the theme has been done before, and in the Shortz era. It was Jan. 3, 1999, too long ago for most solvers to notice (or care). Still ...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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