Japanese PC maker / WED 2-10-16 / Hobos conveyances / Bodybuilder's dirty secret informally / Celeb parodied by Maya Rudolph on SNL / Exodus hero Ben Canaan

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: INTEGER (37A: The first parts of 17- and 22-Across are always this, the first part of 46-Across is sometimes this, and the first part of 55-Across is never this) — first parts of themers are NATURAL, WHOLE, RATIONAL, and IMAGINARY, respectively ... these are adjectives that (when they precede "number"?) do what the INTEGER clue says they do.

Theme answers:
  • NATURAL DISASTER (17A: Tsunami, for one)
  • WHOLE BEAN COFFEE (22A: Grinder input)
  • RATIONAL THOUGHT (46A: Sound judgment)
  • IMAGINARY FRIEND (55A: Hobbes, in "Calvin and Hobbes") 
Word of the Day: NEC (32D: Japanese PC maker) —
NEC Corporation (日本電気株式会社 Nippon Denki Kabushiki Gaisha) is a Japanese multinational provider of information technology (IT) services and products, with its headquarters in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. NEC provides IT and network solutions to business enterprises, communications services providers and to government agencies, and has also been the biggest PC vendor in Japan since the 1980s. The company was known as the Nippon Electric Company, Limited, before rebranding in 1983 as just NEC. Its NEC Semiconductors business unit was one of the worldwide top 20 semiconductor sales leaders before merging with Renesas Electronics. NEC is a member of the Sumitomo Group. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've heard from at least a couple people already tonight that they set personal Wednesday records with their solving times on this one, but it played only *sort of* easy, not very easy, for me (*last* Wednesday's was very easy—record-settingly so). Something about SEA ROVERS (?!) and STOMA and NEC provided enough resistance to keep things plausibly Wednesdayish, but I'm guessing most people who time themselves will find themselves on the fast side today. As for the theme—I don't care. I look at that Eternal clue on the revealer (INTEGER) and my head hurts. I'm sure that what it says about INTEGERs is true, but this adds nothing to the pleasure of the solving experience. Between the length and tediousness of that damned clue, and the fact that NUMBER is what follows NATURAL, WHOLE, RATIONAL, and IMAGINARY most readily in people's minds, I give this theme a 10 for technical accuracy but a 2 for joy.  In fact ... where is "number" here? "The first parts of 17- and 22-Across" are NATURAL and WHOLE ... but don't they need to be "NATURAL number" and "WHOLE number" to be an INTEGER? "NATURAL" is not always an INTEGER. That just makes no sense, grammatically. So I'm really confused as to how this is supposed to work on a basic, literal level. As for the fill, it is pretty much NYT-average; no great moments, but not much that's terrible either. A placeholder of a puzzle. Adequate and forgettable.

Stupidest move by me was looking at 6D: Herod's realm, seeing the letter pattern --DE-, and writing in ... [drum roll] ... HADES. In my defense ... ugh, I don't have much of one, but when my brain scrolled through "realms" that fit that pattern, and it hit HADES, some part of it must've gone "Herod ... bad man ... sure, go with it." This made the north very rough (the only section that played that way). I wrote TIFF for HUFF (51D: Fit of pique). Again, brain misfired here—seems to have merged SNIT and HUFF and ended up with TIFF. Gonna go back to CNN now and catch the tail end of the NH Primaries coverage. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bantu speaker of southern Africa / TUE 2-9-16 / Unwelcome sign for latecomers / Soapy powder mineral / Apple CEO beginning in 2011

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Normalish?

THEME: THEME — compound words where the second part begins with "S" are reimagined as if they are verb phrases where the "S" is transferred to the end of the first part:

Theme answers:
  • BOMBS HELL (17A: Detonates a weapon in the underworld?)
  • UPS TARTS (21A: Raises the price of some pastries?)
  • TIMES HARES (34A: Clocks trainees for a fabled race rematch?)
  • CHOPS TICKS (43A: Cuts up little bloodsuckers?)
  • BEARS KIN (54A: Puts up with one's family?)
  • EYES HADES (61A: Scrutinizes the underworld?)
Word of the Day: Diana NYAD (57D: Long-distance swimmer Diana) —
Diana Nyad /ˈnˌæd/ (née Sneed; August 22, 1949) is an American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer. Nyad gained national attention in 1975 when she swam around Manhattan (28 mi or 45 km) and in 1979 when she swam from North Bimini, The Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (102 mi (164 km)). In 2013, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West (110 mi or 180 km). Nyad was also once ranked thirteenth among US women squash players. (wikipedia)
• • •

This gimmick is timeworn, but neatly executed. There's one wonky thing about this puzzle that is bugging the heck out of me. I noticed late that the first long Down is *also* a themer (PIRATES HIP) only ... it's not. No question mark clue ([Steals designs for a joint replacement?]). And the symmetrical Down (RED HERRING) has no theme qualities at all. My point here is the PIRATES HIP highlights the fact that you could replicate this theme All Day Long, with any compound word where the second part both begins with "S" and forms a new word when you remove the "S." The STICK possibilities alone are legion. So the theme is cute, but not exactly tight. And it's definitely been done. Strange and kind of funny—in a good way—to begin and end in the "underworld." I don't think UPS TARTS works that well, sense-wise; it's definitely the most strained phrase, in that all the others make instant (however bizarre) sense, but the price-raising meaning of UPS isn't readily apparent without the clue. You do the verb to the *price* of the tarts, not the tarts themselves (I think the clue is totally defensible, just wobbly compared to the others). Also, back to my point about how this theme is virtually infinite ... UPS WINGS, also viable. But it'll do. The fill is fine—better than fine, even. Very clean and very ... varied. Very varied. Very varied. Weird to say out loud, but it's accurate.

I can't be trusted as to Difficulty Level, as I solved first thing upon waking, when I'm frequently slow on the uptake. I had no idea what the theme even was until the grid was half filled. NW was filled very quickly, but I didn't trust the HELL part of BOMBS HELL for some reason, and wrote in TUTU for ZULU (an insane error where my brain was thinking TUTSI but ended up with Bishop Desmond TUTU). Took forever to get [Moor] to mean HEATH. Brain passed through at least two other "moors" before getting the right one. Had TAKE TO instead of MAKE DO at 45A: Get along. Wrote in THREE at 29D: Musketeers and blind mice, then used TIM / COOK to fix it (40A: With 43-Down, Apple C.E.O. beginning in 2011), but my "fix" led me to ... TRIAD. Clue is plural, answer should've been plural, but good luck telling 5:30am brain that.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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