Chocolate-coated snack stick / SUN 12-10-17 / early 2000s outbreak for short / Irish form of Mary / Traditional Filipino dish marinated in vinegar soy sauce / Hermione's patronus in Harry Potter books / Standout hoopsters

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Constructor: Erik Agard and Laura Braunstein

Relative difficulty: Easy-Challenging (I finished in Easy time, but I had an error; the puzzle is *very* proper-noun heavy, so you just as easily torch this puzzle as fail miserably...)


THEME: "Full-Body Cast" — actors names ("cast"!) have "body" parts embedded (smushed and rebused) inside them—so the rebus squares are BIT PARTS (112A: What eight actors took on for this puzzle?). I guess the body parts are tiny (i.e. shrunk down to fit in one square), hence "bit"...

The Cast:
  • EARTHA KITT (25A: "Batman" actress, 1967-68)
  • DON CHEADLE (31A: "Traffic" actor, 2000)
  • JOHN LEGUIZAMO (36A: "Super Mario Bros." actor, 1993)
  • ELSA LANCHESTER (54A: "Bride of Frankenstein" actress, 1935)
  • DENZEL WASHINGTON (65A: "Training Day" actor, 2001)
  • MICHELLE YEOH (80A: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" actress, 2000)
  • RYAN PHILLIPPE (94A: "Crash" actor, 2004)
  • OLIVER PLATT (102A: "Frost/Nixon" actor, 2008)
Word of the Day: POCKY (73D: Chocolate-coated snack stick)
Pocky (ポッキー Pokkī, Japanese pronunciation: [pokʲꜜkʲiː] (About this sound listen)) /ˈpɒki/ is a Japanese snack food produced by Ezaki Glico. Pocky was first sold in 1966,[1] and consists of chocolate-coated biscuit sticks. It was named after the Japanese onomatopoetic word pokkin (ポッキン). // The original was followed by almond coatings in 1971, and strawberry coatings in 1977. Today, the product line includes variations as milk, mousse, green tea, honey, banana, cookies and cream, and coconut flavored coatings, and themed products such as "Decorer Pocky", with colorful decorative stripes in the coating, and "Men's Pocky", a dark (bittersweet) chocolate and "mature" version. (wikipedia)
• • •

For a Sunday-sized rebus, I solved this one very quickly. Normally rebuses slow me down—even after I've caught on to the gimmick, the rebus squares can still be peskily elusive little buggers.  And I'll admit to having trouble finding the body part in DENZEL WASHINGTON, as well as trouble remembering that RYAN PHILLIPPE even existed (haven't thought about him since "Cruel Intentions" (1999)). But otherwise, I cruised right through this thing, despite (and occasionally because of) all the proper nouns involved. The grid felt very dangerous—the constructors not only larded it with proper nouns, but dropped in some terminology not often seen in crosswords. POCKY! Do you all know what that is? I do ... but I think of it as having emerged as a foodstuff in America well after my childhood, so I don't know how much older folk know about it. And "NARUTO," yikes. I teach comics and *I* had trouble with that answer (largely because I don't read contemporary boy-manga (i.e. shonen)). I am very familiar with the title, but the spelling ... kept eluding me.


But the answer that actually brought me down was an answer I thought was more exotic than it turned out to be. I had the "Traditional Filipino dish" at 56A: Traditional Filipino dish marinated in vinegar and soy sauce as POREADOBO. Once I saw the clue, I figured it would just be some exotic word I didn't know, and I'd have to rely on all the crosses. So I did ... and one of the crosses betrayed me. 37D: Crash, with "out" (ZONK). I had the "Z" early on and unblinkingly wrote in ZONE. I think of "crash" as having to do with losing focus / steam, though it can also mean sleep. I don't feel like "ZONK out" and "Crash" are that interchangeable, whereas I think of "crashing" and "zoning out" as things I start doing every night on the couch around 9pm. Anyway, it's my bad, I'm sure ZONK is the better answer. I just fell in a hole I had no hope of getting out of. It happens. Rarely, to me, but it does.


I enjoyed the puzzle—the grid is full of sparkle. I had a few issues with the theme, though. HEAD, I would argue, includes EAR and EYE. Like, if you brought me a HEAD and it didn't have EARs and EYEs, I'd be like "what did you do to this HEAD!?" So there's redundancy in this body "part" list. Twice. Oh, no, wait: thrice—LEG presumably contains SHIN. You get the idea. Further, the LIVER is an internal organ, so that's ... weird. All the other parts are external / visible. So the assortment of body parts is pretty ragtag. But otherwise it's a pretty solid rebus, one I caught very early (at Cheadle) and only struggled with at OLIVER PLATT (I never saw "Frost/Nixon" and had no idea he was in it—I don't think of him as having any particularly iconic roles). Also, I happily put in RADAR at 103D: Real-time tool for meteorologists, so finding that LIVER was hard. And, again, why would I be looking for an internal organ?? But again, the whole thing was mostly entertaining and enjoyable. T'AIME is very rough, but it's the only answer I would absolutely bounce from the party (62D: "Je ___" (French words of affection)). The rest can stay. I mean, I probably wouldn't *talk* to IATE, but he can still hang if he wants (81D: "Must've been something __").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I finished a new off-season baseball crossword. Enjoy:

Rex Parker's Off-Season Baseball Crossword #2: 
"Angel ... in the Outfield?" (PDF) (.PUZ

P.P.S. I-65 does not run through ATLANTA, so I don't know what happened with that clue. Typo for "I-75," I imagine...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Longtime first name in gossip / SAT 12-9-17 / Doctor of 1960s TV / Whence many paintings of Pueblo Indians / Gladly old style / Old-time worker

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Constructor: Stu Ockman

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Tony ARMAS (48A: Former Red Sox slugger Tony) —
Antonio Rafael Armas Machado (born July 2, 1953) is a Venezuelan former professional baseball outfielder who played in Major League Baseball. He is the father of pitcher Tony Armas, Jr. and the older brother of outfielder Marcos Armas. // Armas Sr. was one of the top sluggers in the American League in the early 1980s. Twice he led the American League in home runs, and topped all of Major League Baseball in runs batted in during the 1984 season. He was, however, prone to injuries that affected his career. In his major league career, Armas went to the disabled list twelve times, missing 302 games. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was pleasantly surprising, for a few reasons. First, I expected it to be not great, possibly bad, because that's a lot of white space and most people can't fill that much empty space cleanly. And yet it was actually pretty good. Remarkably clean, especially given how many longer (7+) answers have to run through other long answers. The fill buckles a bit on the margins, in the short stuff, but that's where it's supposed to buckle (a little) when you're doing showy themelesses. In fact, 1-Across was probably the worst thing in the grid (not a great place to put your Worst Thing In The Grid, btw). Took one look at it, thought, "uh oh, here we go..." But no. I hardly winced at all after that, and honestly, all the longer answers are solid as heck. Not sure I'd call the grid FREAKING AWESOME (7D: Fantabulous), but it's definitely where a NYT Saturday should be, quality-wise.


The other surprise was the easiness. Big corners, a middle without any short toeholds ... I was pretty sure I'd be clawing my way through this slowly, but I hardly broke stride after I got the NW sorted out. Got FREAKING AWESOME off the FREA- and then proceeded immediately to go after the SE corner—via the "M" trifecta of MEESE / MANSE / MAXINE (there are three *more* "M" words down there, but they didn't work in concert to propel me through the puzzle, so screw them). Ironically, the answer I struggled with most down there was Tony ARMAS (48A). I say "ironic" because he was a big deal during my prime baseball card-collecting days, so I should've known him. He's got one of those names that ... rings a bell, but also sounds like a lot of other baseball names. Actually, I think it's a five-letter baseball Tony thing. Tony OLIVA. Tony PEREZ. I think those (more famous) names were blocking my way. But I worked out all the Downs, eventually.


Then back up the grid via PIED-À-TERRE (26D: Home away from home), then easily down into the SW corner (though ON A PLATE was rough—40A: Without putting in any effort), and then finally up into the NE corner, where I thought I might get very badly stuck. None of the Downs were clear to me from their clues. Is "ping resistance" a real thing? When I google it in quotation marks, I get a crossword site first thing. And dear lord just how "old" is the "old catchphrase" for ANACIN!? (11D: Product with the old catchphrase "Mother, please, I'd rather do it myself!"). Before my time, for sure. Nothing about that phrase says "aspirin." (Also, there are at least three answers flagged as "old" in this puzzle, which is two too many, I'm afraid) But I guessed SEEN AS and the short Acrosses came pretty easily. Last letter in was the "R" in TOREROS / RATE. The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I finished a new off-season baseball crossword. Enjoy:

Rex Parker's Off-Season Baseball Crossword #2: 
"Angel ... in the Outfield?" (PDF) (.PUZ

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

Read more...

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