Obama's stepfather Soetoro / WED 2-21-18 / Mixed martial arts cage shape / Tandoor-baked bread / pre-1917 autocrats / Dr Seuss book that introduces phonics

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Constructor: Ori Brian and Zachary Spitz

Relative difficulty: Medium (once you get past that initial ??? period and realize there's a bleeping rebus on a bleeping Wednesday)



THEME: PO BOX (41A: Certain mailing address, for short ... or a hint to 14 squares in this puzzle) — rebus puzzle where "PO" are squeezed into 14 different squares

Word of the Day: AMAL Clooney (58A: ___ Clooney, human rights lawyer) —
Amal Clooney (née AlamuddinArabicأمل علم الدين‎; born 3 February 1978) is a Lebanese-British barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in international law and human rights. Her clients include Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in his fight against extradition. She has also represented the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, and Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy. She is married to the American actor George Clooney. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a puzzle with 14 PO BOXES. That, it is. It is that. My feelings couldn't be more neutral. It is what it says it is. There it is, take it or leave it. Take or leave 14 of these PO BOXES, why don't you? The concept is one that sounds like it would be cool, or cute, or clever, but it most just ... is. The fill also is. There it is. Fill never gets worse than, say, LOLO (16A: Obama's stepfather ___ Soetoro), but it never gets better than, say, MAGNETO, either (27A: Ian McKellen's role in "X-Men" movies). Just a lot of PO BOXES, in a grid, on a Wednesday. The end.
 [these tweets were posted independently of one another, almost simultaneously]

I flailed at first, not surprisingly, since when's the last time there was a Wednesday rebus? Feels like ages. I only look for a rebus on Thursdays, and maybe Sundays. I've seen them on other days, but I don't like them on other days. This one, though, ended up being Wednesday easy once you figured out what was going on. Just ... remember there are "PO" boxes out there to be found, and you're fine. I actually had a good 1/5 or so of the grid filled in before I finally hit a "PO" box. Went down from the NW, through the center and all the way over to 37D: Salk vaccine target (POLIO) before the theme shoved its way into view. I must've gotten PO BOX along the way but no really registered that it was a revealer. No matter. After that, it was just a matter of going back over earlier trouble spots, filling in "PO"s, and then proceeding with "PO"-search powers activated. Honestly, nothing about this puzzle stood out as remarkable to me, one way or the other, except AMAL Clooney, whose name I had literally just (seconds earlier) read on the NYT's home page—she and George are donating $500,000 to the student March Against Gun Violence. Her work with Yazidi refugees was pretty much the centerpiece of David Letterman's recent interview with George Clooney (the second episode of his new Netflix show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction..."). I'm writing about this because, again, there's nothing in the puzzle to write about. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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US marshal role for John Wayne / TUE 2-20-18 / Consumer giant that makes Bounty / Credit card designation / French author who said intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)


THEME: LEXICOGRAPHERS (51A: Ones who produced the clues for 20-, 25- and 45-Across) — theme clues are written as dictionary definitions; theme answers are familiar phrases that, when taken differently, can appear to be asking for a literal definition of one of the words in those phrases. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • "HIGH" DEFINITION (20A: adj. under the influence of a drug) (the clue is a definition of "high")
  • "OVER" EXPLAINED (25A: adv. across a barrier or intervening space) (the clue is an explanation of "over")
  • MEANING OF "LIFE" (45A: n. spirit, animation) (the clue is the dictionary meaning of "life") 
Word of the Day: GOGO (58A: Big name in in-flight internet) —
Gogo Inc. is a provider of in-flight broadband Internet service and other connectivity services for commercial and business aircraft, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. 17 airlines partner with Gogo to provide in-flight WiFi, including British AirwaysAer LingusIberiaGol linhas aereasBeijing CapitalAeromexicoAmerican AirlinesAir CanadaAlaska AirlinesDelta Air LinesJapan AirlinesJTAUnited AirlinesHainan AirlinesVirgin AmericaVietnam Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Gogo Inc. is a holding company, operating through its two subsidiaries, Gogo LLC and Aircell Business Aviation Services LLC (now Gogo Business Aviation Inc.). According to Gogo, over 2,500 commercial aircraft and 6,600 business aircraft have been equipped with its onboard Wi-Fi services. The company is also the developer of 2Ku, the new in-flight (satellite solution) Wi-Fi technology. (wikipedia)
• • •

Cute, but (for me) hilariously misplaced on a Tuesday. I was north of my average Wednesday time, nowhere my normal Tuesday range of times. I had zero conception of the theme until I was done. I just knew that the clues had nothing to do with the answers in any way that I could see, so I had to get every one of them via crosses, hacking at them until they looked like something, and then filling in the blanks. This meant I also had trouble with the front end of LEXICOGRAPHERS. (P.S. LEXICOGRAPHERS did not "produce the clues"; only editors or constructors can do that, so the clue is simply wrong without a "?" on it). There was also a lot of hard stuff and "?" stuff in the N/NE that slowed me down considerably. But no matter. The concept is pretty good. The first themer is the best one, because it repurposes the meaning of "definition." The others are literalizations without the concomitant shift in the meaning of the lexicographical word, i.e. that is, no new meaning for "meaning," no new meaning for "explained." But insofar as "high," "over," and "life" are all being isolated and treated as words, in dictionary definition fashion, the theme is consistent and fine.

[XTC should be in puzzles more often]

That whole area east of (and including) BLUDGEON was very rough for me. Needed half the crosses even to see BLUDGEON, and then CAHILL (????) (8D: U.S. marshal role for John Wayne). No idea. None. Not even a movie in the clue? (Not that that would've helped). Have watched many John Wayne movies. Many. No idea about CAHILL. Zero. . . OK, now that I look it up, the name of the movie *is* "CAHILL"??? Since when is that famous, let alone Tuesday famous? Dear lord. Full title: "CAHILL: U.S. Marshal" (1973). This isn't even in the top half of Wayne movies, fame-wise, success-wise, I'm gonna guess quality-wise. No idea why you'd put it in a Tuesday. Or even a Wednesday (which, as we've established, this puzzle should've been). So that was a disaster. Moving east from there, the two "?" clues both stymied me. They're both OK clues, but BARTENDS (10D: Makes the rounds?) and SUMO (12D: Battle of the bulges?) held me up and made CAMUS and TROMP much harder to get. Also, like I know who makes Bounty paper towels (PANDG = P&G = Proctor & Gamble —that type of answer, letter+AND+letter = "ampersandwich"; see, for example, BANDB, AANDP, RANDB, etc.). I don't use "in-flight internet" so GOGO was nono for me. And I had no (literally no) idea that The Huffington Post was HUFFPOST at all, let alone *officially* (38D: Popular left-leaning news site). I have only ever heard HUFFPO, which still seems like a much much better, more in-the-language abbr. for that org.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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