Raunchy 1981 comedy with two sequels / TUE 10-17-17 / South Asian shade tree / Brand of kidswear with superman batman options / Pro at building financial worth slangily / 1951 film featuring Nero / High level HS class with integrals

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (on the slow side for a Tuesday) (3:48)

THEME: CON MEN (43D: People who target the starts of 17-, 30-, 40- and 57-Across) — starts of those answers are words that describe victims of CONMEN:

Theme answers:
  • PIGEON COOP (17A: Base for long-distance carriers?)
  • CHUMP CHANGE (30A: A mere pittance)
  • SUCKER PUNCH (40A: Unexpected hit)
  • MARK ANTONY (57A: Cleopatra's lover) 
Word of the Day: "PORKY'S" (46D: Raunchy 1981 comedy with two sequels) —
Porky's is a 1981 Canadian-American sex comedy film written and directed by Bob Clark about the escapades of teenagers in 1954 at the fictional Angel Beach High School in Florida. Released in the United States in 1982 with an R rating, the film spawned two sequels: Porky's II: The Next Day (1983) and Porky's Revenge! (1985) and a remake of the original titled, Porky's Pimpin' Pee Wee (2009) and influenced many writers in the teen film genre. Porky's was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1982. (wikipedia)
• • •

The theme is typical First Words stuff with a weirdly offset revealer. Nothing to write home about. The only thing I want to talk about is IBANKER (23D: Pro at building financial worth, slangily). I have never heard of this. I needed every single cross and still wasn't sure it was right. After I was finished, it still took me a few moments of thinking to figure out what the "I" even stood for. First tweet I saw online about the puzzle was this:

And I practically shouted "OH THANK GOD." Now I feel I can say, with impunity, that the decision to put this term in this position is profoundly, startlingly misguided. This is what happens when you become overly enamored of your giant word list—which you've apparently amassed without careful thought as to whether the world (i.e. crosswords) would be improved by all the thousands of alleged "slangily" terms there are in the world. You could easily do So Much Better in this section, replacing IBANKER with actual, real words—good ones!—without any, or with only slight, changes to surrounding fill. Don't get high on your own supply, constructors. Make good choices. Wow. OK. Moving on.

This puzzle was harder than normal, both because IBANKER (smh) and because of clues on the themers that are weird and hard. 40A: Unexpected hit (SUCKER PUNCH) was unexpectedly deceptive (I thought "hit" in the Broadway / Hollywood sense). And I have never ever been a fan of "?" clues on themers when "?"s are not part of the theme, i.e. they all should have them or none of them should have them. When I get a "?" on a themer (*especially the first themer*), I naturally assume the "?" is part of the theme. So of course there I am like some sucker / chump / etc., with the PIGEON part of 17A: Base for long-distance carriers?, wondering how the wordplay is going to express the theme... and all I get is COOP. I felt some heady mix of ennui and bathos as I filled in COOP. Is that all there is? Yes, that is all. Oh, and it has nothing to do with the theme. Enjoy.

Then there's the astonishing amount of crosswordese. Veteran constructors should not be serving us this much crosswordese. Conservatively, this is how much crosswordese this grid has:

Note that I let ORE and IOTA and IRA and even BNEG slide. I did enjoy UNDEROOS and "PORKY'S". I did not enjoy ANTONY and ANTONYMS being in the same grid. A six-letter shared letter string!? My construction software flags that *&$% at four. Six!? Wow. Now I want to build a weird crossword theme around the answer MARK ANTONYM. Ooh, if you just move the "M" to the end of MARK ANTONY you get ARK ANTONYM ... maybe there's something there ... I mean, probably not, but only by pursuing your most ridiculous notions are you ever going to find truly interesting themes. Your notebook should be 90% failed ideas! Minimum! Where was I? Oh yeah, IBANKER. Ugh. IBANKER? I hardly I-know her! Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Quaint train amenity / MON 10-16-17 / Substitute terms for sensitive subjects / Long-running PBS film series

Monday, October 16, 2017

Constructor: Jennifer Nutt

Relative difficulty: Medium (i.e. Normal Monday) (3:00)

THEME: KILLER WHALE (59A: Creature found "swimming" in 16-, 22-, 28-, 42- and 47-Across) —letter string "ORCA" is embedded (i.e. "swimming") in all the themers:

Theme answers:
  • RADIATOR CAP (16A: It must be removed before pouring coolant into an engine)
  • WINDSOR CASTLE (22A: Elizabeth II's home outside London)
  • PARLOR CAR (28A: Quaint train amenity)
  • INDOOR CAT (42A: Feline that doesn't stray)
  • LIQUOR CABINET (47A: Where rum and rye may be stored)
Word of the Day: BLAT (34D: Trombone honk, e.g.) —
verb: blat; 3rd person present: blats; past tense: blatted; past participle: blatted; gerund or present participle: blatting
  1. 1.
    make a bleating sound.
noun: blat; plural noun: blats
  1. 1.
    a bleat or similar noise.

    "the blat of Jack's horn" (google)
• • •

Retro City. Reminds me of doing a puzzle in the early '90s, with my good friends OBI and ALEE and AGUE and AGRA and hey there's SRO (Sold Right Out!)*. And the theme—also old school. I've embedded my share of words across two words in a theme answer before, but usually the words change. Ooh, no, the first puzzle I ever ever made had WINK in it four times (in honor of Palin's debate performance, which gives you a rough idea of how long ago I made it). Did a "beer bellies" puzzle once, but the embedded words were all *different* beer types. And revealers should be clever—they should make the whole theme snap into focus in some interesting way. KILLER WHALE is just ... KILLER WHALE. I am unconvinced by the "swimming" part of the clue. It's just an embedded letter string, like so many embedded letter strings in so many puzzles that have come before. As a puzzle from a quarter century ago, it's fine. As a puzzle from today, it's ... a puzzle from a quarter century ago.

This was not hard, but there were definitely sloggy parts. Had LIE for FIB (10A: Something that might be said with fingers crossed behind the back), which is what happens when the "I" is the first thing to go in there. That tripped me. Then I just ... don't think of NGOs, like, ever (well, not in crosswords, anyway), so no idea there. If you'd asked me to name "train amenities" off the top of my head forever, I'd never have arrived at PARLOR CAR (whatever that is). "P.O.V." isn't a show that leaps to mind when I think of PBS (though I do know of it). MS DEGREE is just an odd / unexpected phrase. GRE was cross-referenced. I had the "X" and guessed EXITS before AXLES (51D: Highway tolls may be based on the number of them). My answer is very very good, though. Stupid "X." I like CODE WORDS, but not much else here, though the crossing of TUDORS and WINDSOR CASTLE is pretty cute. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. my wife thought this was a Tolkien-related theme until she got to the revealer

*it's actually Standing Room Only (or, in another context, Single-Room Occupancy)

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