Tree-lined walkway in France / TUE 1-17-17 / Nubian heroine of opera / Makeup of planet Hoth / Deviate during flight as rocket / Deal with broken teleprompter say

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: A CARRIE / FISHER memorial puzzle (I think) — stuff related to her role as PRINCESS LEIA (53A: Iconic role for 2-/51-Down) in "Star Wars" (a title spelled out in the circled squares):

Theme answers:
  • CINNAMON BUNS (23A: Hairstyle for 53-Across, colloquially)
  • HELP ME OBI- / WAN KENOBI, / YOU'RE MY ONLY HOPE (18A: With 61- and 37-Across, famous line by 53-Across in [see circled letters])
Word of the Day: OLEAN (7D: Brand of artificial fat) —
Olestra (also known by its brand name Olean) is a fat substitute that adds no fat, calories, or cholesterol to products. It has been used in the preparation of otherwise high-fat foods such as potato chips, thereby lowering or eliminating their fat content. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally approved olestra for use as a replacement for fats and oils in prepackaged ready-to-eat snacks in 1996, concluding that such use "meets the safety standard for food additives, reasonable certainty of no harm". In the late 1990s, Olestra lost its popularity due to side effects, but products containing the ingredient can still be purchased at grocery stores in some countries. (wikipedia)
• • •

I want to pretend like this puzzle didn't happen, so I'm going to say only the bare minimum and then move along. Tribute puzzles should be great. Memorial puzzles should be especially great. Average, mediocre, OK—these are not good enough. The puzzle should kill, or it should not run. I suppose it's possible this puzzle was already in the pipeline (?) and they just ran it with a clue for her name that acknowledges her passing. But that doesn't seem too plausible. The whole thing feels slapdash. She's reduced to a single (albeit iconic) role; her character's hairstyle (from the original movie) (which I have never heard called CINNAMON BUNS—it's always "PRINCESS LEIA hair") is randomly thrown in, apparently just for symmetry (?); the circled squares are awkwardly close-to-but-not-quite centered (and aren't that impressive a trick to begin with); OBI-WAN is divided at the hyphen (!?); and the quote is out of order (again, for symmetry's sake). Throw in the fact that the fill quality is below-average (which is to say, Tuesday-average), and you have a puzzle that isn't really worthy of its subject. It's not tight enough. There's no real hook. The circled squares are just a tacked-on bit of artifice. CARRIE / FISHER was iconic for many reasons, and I wish more of those reasons were here, and that the core concept in general was just ... better. Tighter. As amazing as she was.

I like RAP DUO (9D: Rae Sremmurd, e.g.). It's probably important that you commit Rae Sremmurd ("ear drummers" backwards) to memory now, as it is likely to be the RAE of the future (if there must be one, and I assume there must). Take that ... Actress Charlotte of "Facts of Life" and ... Arctic explorer John! Aren't "old, neglected sweaters" MOTH-EATEN? I am having trouble buying MOTHY. Especially having trouble buying it on top of ALL√ČE (garbage fill, esp. for a Tuesday, esp. w/ ALPE, ugh, already in the grid). And crossing OLEOLE (o-lazy) and FETTLE (!) ... maybe MOTHY belongs in that corner. It's certainly "neglected."


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lebanese city that was once enter of Phoenician civilization / MON 1-16-17 / Penny Dreadful channel for short / Intestinal fortitude informally / Arrested suspect informally

Monday, January 16, 2017

Constructor: John Wrenholt

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY (63A: Completely ... with a summation of 17-, 30- and 47-Across) — previous three themers start with ONE WAY, TWO WAY, and THREE WAY, respectively, for a total of "six ways":

Theme answers:
  • ONE WAY OR ANOTHER (17A: Somehow)
  • TWO-WAY RADIO (30A: Walkie-talkie)
  • THREE-WAY TIE (47A: Rare occurrence of "Jeopardy!") 
Word of the Day: SWAG (15D: Lavish party favors) —
The freebie swag, sometimes also spelled schwag, dates back to the 1960s and was used to describe promotional items. According to our files, early swag was everything from promotional records sent to radio stations to free slippers for airline passengers. In short order, this particular meaning of swag broadened and soon referred to anything given to an attendee of an event (such as a conference) as a promotional stunt. // This swag didn't gain much use until the 1990s, but it also didn't appear out of thin air. The newer meanings were based on an older, more established meaning that referred to goods acquired by unlawful means. (
• • •

I do like the revealer phrase, and have been known to use it (or the "from Sunday" variation of it) from time to time. It is a weird idiom with a complicated history (read about it here). [Completely] is not how I use it. I think of it as meaning "all kinds of different ways," but I guess by extension you could get to "in every way imaginable" and thus "thoroughly." At any rate, "Completely" is certainly an accepted definition. But it's a wriggly phrase, in which (according to World Wide Words) the number "six" was only the most common number to be used (probably because of alliteration). All kinds of other numbers can be found in six's place over the years. One place I looked had "Forty ways to Sunday." It's a lively idiom. The theme is clever but also flawed. Adding up the numbers of the ways was strange (not necessarily in a bad way). I'm more concerned that the revealer has this totally non-thematic extra part to it, i.e. "to Sunday." It's fine for themers to have only one phrase part (first word, last word, etc.) involved, but a revealer is supposed to work from stem to stern. A good revealer snaps, and *all* of it is involved in indicating what the hell was up with the theme. This puzzle has zero to do with Sunday. If you want that phrase as a revealer, then it should mean something in its complete form. "To Sunday" just hangs out there ... left over. Unnecessary. Abandoned. Not great.

[Debbie Harry starred in a 1997 crime drama called ... "SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY"]

There was one hard patch in this where the cluing seemed both off and vague. The trouble started with SWAG, specifically a. the fact that the clue indicates a plural so I wanted it to end in "S," and b. the word "lavish." The fake-out on the plural is fair enough, but "lavish" ... ? I guess if you are an Oscar nominee and are at some party hosted by the MPAA, then sure, they'll give you an iPad or whatever, but SWAG is just slang for party favors. A gift bag. A bunch of promotional stuff. Anyone who's ever been given "a bunch of promotional stuff" (yeah, I just quoted myself), knows that ... "Lavish" doesn't enter in. Totally unnecessarily limiting adjective. Also, PEANUTS, in my world, needs "Packing" in front of it to make any sense in this context (4D: Alternative to bubble wrap). Also also, when I finally got SWAG, off of that initial "G" at 22A: Intestinal fortitude (GUTS), I wanted GRIT. I also was very tentative about the second vowel in DIVOT (32D: Golfer's gouge), and couldn't nail either ___ SAFE or GET ___ at first shot. Both of those were access points to other parts of the grid, and both required me hacking a crosses fill them out. Ended with a time slightly, but not significantly, north of normal.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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