Coins of ancient Athens / TUE 1-23-18 / Subtext of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit / Strip discussed in Oslo Accords / Elongated heavily armored fish / Film editor's gradual transition

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Constructor: Jim Hilger

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (above average difficulty *for a Tuesday*)

THEME: SPREAD (68A: Apt word to follow each row of circled letters) — nonconsecutive circles in six different rows spell out a kind of "spread":

  • WING ("wingspan" is what humans say ... C'MON)
  • BED (really? really? Three meager letters and you want that to count as some kind of theme feat?)
Word of the Day: Wingspread  —
Wingspread, also known as the Herbert F. Johnson House, is a historic house at 33 East Four Mile Road in Wind Point, Wisconsin. It was built in 1938–39 to a design by Frank Lloyd Wright for Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr., then the president of S.C. Johnson, and was considered by Wright to be one of his most elaborate and expensive house designs to date. The property is now a conference center operated by The Johnson Foundation. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. (wikipedia) 
• • •

Non-consecutive, non-symmetrical, spread-all-over-hell-and-gone circles that spell ... words. These things are never, ever pleasant to solve. Just looking at the grid put me off the puzzle, and then having it be ORANGE RIND and not ORANGE PULP really locked my mood in at "Low." Encountering primo junk like ITEN, ITER, and OBOLI (jeez louise), didn't help matters. With a theme this weak, and especially early in the week, the grid needs to gleam and sparkle, and this didn't even come close.    A vintage Tuezday (i.e. a total bust). I guess Tuesday was getting jealous that Sunday has taken over the "Worst Puzzle of the Week" spot. Well, game on, apparently.

Got slowed down all over by ambiguity / weirdness / badness. First the PULP thing, then the clue on ROWING left me blank (4D: Olympic sport with strokes), then 7D: Elongated, heavily armored fish should've been GAR but that didn't fit ... oh, you mean "fish" as a plural? (GARS) "Clever." I thought GAR *was* a plural, but what(so)ever. Got the WHERE in WHERESOEVER (18A: In any place) and didn't know what came next because the answer to that clue in everyday speech is clearly WHEREVER. There should've been some "quaint" or "bygone" or "in poetry" or something to clue the "SO" part of WHERESOEVER. By far the biggest hurdle, though, was (no surprise) the stupidest, bygonest, olde-tymiest, Maleskiest answer in the grid. At 19D: Coins of ancient Athens, I wrote in OBOLS. Which is by far the preferred plural for that *bygone* coin. But the puzzle wanted funky alt-ending OBOLI. And of course that was the one square that linked the NE to the E. So ... dead stop. Monday: OBLASTS. Tuesday: OBOLI. Been a weird week for OBscurities so far, and it's only Tuesday. Here's hoping for a happier Wednesday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Administrative regions in Russia / MON 1-22-18 / Stoic politician of ancient Rome / Wallace co-founder of Reader's Digest / Fish typically split before cooking

Monday, January 22, 2018

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (slightly tougher than normal, for a Monday)

THEME: EROSION (46D: Natural process illustrated by the last words of 18-, 24-, 37-, 534- and 61-Across) — Final word of first themer undergoes process of EROSION in successive themers, with one letter disappearing each time, until we go from STONE to O:

Theme answers:
  • EMMA STONE (18A: 2016 Best Actress Oscar winner for "La La Land")
  • QUARTER TONE (24A: Half of a half step in music)
  • METRIC TON (37A: Weight unit equal to about 2,205 pounds)
  • "I MEAN, COME ON!" (54A: "Puh-LEEZE!")
  • STANDING O (61A: Enthusiastic audience response)
Word of the Day: OBLASTS (40D: Administrative regions in Russia) —
plural noun: oblasts
  1. an administrative division or region in Russia and the former Soviet Union, and in some of its former constituent republics. (google)
• • •

Would've liked this better on Tuesday—both because this was more in line with Tuesday difficulty, and because Tuesdays often suh-uck and this did not. I feel like I've done a version of this theme before, somewhere ... but that doesn't diminish the way it's done here, with remarkably fresh and clean answers. Just lose OBLASTS (not really a Monday-level answer) and make the clues *slightly* easier, and you have a perfect Monday puzzle. As it is, you have a very good one. Once again, the puzzle's heavy reliance on colloquialisms made it tough for me to move quickly. Just the simple "OH, FUN" required many crosses, as it really could've been "OH, a lot of things" (GEE, WOW ... RAD?). Same thing with the I MEAN part of "I MEAN, COME ON!" It's a great expression, but I had the "COME ON" part and ... ??? Just wanted "Oh." I was also slowed by not considering CHALUPA a real food (I've never heard of it anywhere but in Taco Bell commercials—I figured they just made it up), and by repeatedly misparsing words. STANDINGO in particular was a disaster, as I solved it from the back end and kept wondering what was going to happen to the DINGO.

S answers that gave me trouble:

  • 28A: Abbr. in an office address (STE) — seems a hardish clue for STE (here, an abbr. for "suite")
  • 35D: Look down on (SCORN) — I just couldn't find the handle here, no idea why. SNORT and SNEER and various condescending faces were coming to mind, but not SCORN.
  • 68A: Fish typically split before cooking (SCROD) — me: "Uh ... all of them?" This seems like kind of a deep cut, SCROD-knowledge-wise. [this answer appears to have a different clue in the app: [Fish often used in fish fingers] — not sure if it was always this way, or if they changed it, or what. Seems to be a lot of last-minute clue tinkering across formats lately...]
  • 45D: Bond film after "Skyfall" ("SPECTRE") — Me: "Uh ... SKYFALL? No wait, that's in the clue. Uh ... SKYFALL?" Total blank.
  • 19D: Sailor's patron ("ST. ELMO") — Had "STEL-" and wanted STELLA ... because it means "stars" ... and sailors ... navigate ... by those? STELLA!!!!!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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