Mushroom layer of beef Wellington / SAT 5-30-15 / Trademark Isaac Asimov accessory / Footwear donned on camera by Mr. Rogers / Onetime Strom Thurmond designation / Noted employee of Slate / Spectator who got standing O at Wimbledon in 1981

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson and Brad Wilber 

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: DUXELLES (17A: Mushroom layer of a beef Wellington) —
Duxelles is a finely chopped (minced) mixture of mushrooms or mushroom stems, onionsshallots and herbs sautéed in butter, and reduced to a paste (sometimes cream is used, as well). It is a basic preparation used in stuffings and sauces (notably, beef Wellington) or as a garnish. Duxelles can also be filled into a pocket of raw pastry and baked as a savory tart (similar to a hand-held pie). (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello from outside of D.C. I'm solving this puzzle from the living room of my friend Angela (aka PuzzleGirl). Angela and Doug Peterson and my wife and I all solved it individually but simultaneously. The constructors are friends of ours, so it was like they were here too at our virtual reunion. I thought there might be more cursing or cooperative solving, but it was all over much too fast. Too fast because it should've been harder because it's a Saturday and too fast because it was really entertaining and I wish it lasted longer. The first thing we want to say is LESTERS is terrible. As I wrote it in, I said, "Oh, Brad and Sam are gonna hear about this." And now they have. My wife and Angela also expressed deep dissatisfaction with LETTUCES. I pointed out that the LESTERS had to eat *something*, but that was not a satisfying response to them.

Both Doug and I thought MOCS at first for 1D: Footwear donned on camera by Mr. Rogers (KEDS) and both of us figured out our mistake because of EMINENCE (15A: Prestige). It was interesting to solve sitting next to Doug, who is a legit speed solver. He solved on paper and beat me, but not by much. It was nice to commiserate in real time about great stuff. I kept saying stuff like "Oh, good clue on 36-Across (or 9-Down)" or "Oh, man, 27-Down (or 30-Down) is great." Puzzle is solid and (for a Saturday) light. DUXELLES seemed a strong outlier, in terms of general familiarity. I had DUXELLE- and didn't know, so Doug showed me his grid and I was like "Just an 'S' … huh." (I would've got it two seconds later from LESTERS). On the opposite end of the spectrum from DUXELLES is SNERT, which was, I think, all of our first answer. Actually, I went MOCS (wrong) SPIRE (right) SNERT (right) FETE (right). I had KIDS MENU at first, but then 7D: TV honor last presented in 1997 started "NC-" and unless there was an NC WYETH award of some sort, that wasn't going to work. Quickly changed it to KIDS MEAL. What else?

  • 25A: Danger in stories of Sinbad the sailor (ROC) — I thought this was a gimme. Angela went with ORC. Wrong book. 
  • 45A: Annual Vancouver event, familiarly (TED) — None of us were certain what this referred to. We assume it's TED Talks. None of us knew it was "annual" or that it was based in Vancouver.
  • 9A: Like TV's Dr. Richard Kimble, famously (FRAMED) — wife had the best wrong answer (or answer idea) here: PRE-MED.
  • 16A: Spectator who got a standing O at Wimbledon in 1981 (LADY DI) — Doug said, "That's a total Brad clue: it's tennis, it's trivia … and he's got the 'O' there so you know the answer's gonna be a shortened form."
  • 40D: "The Principles of Mathematics" philosopher (RUSSELL) — I had the RUSS- and still didn't know. Doug and I were both thrown by the "Mathematics" part. I know him as an atheist.
  • 38A: Trademark Isaac Asimov accessory (BOLO TIE) — Great clue. This answer made me think that a ROBO-TIE would be a great thing.
  • 1A: It may facilitate playing with one's food (KIDS MEAL) — if only KIDS MEAT was a term, we could've avoided LESTERS entirely. [Chicken nugget, e.g..] => KIDS MEAT? We are all now halfway convinced that KIDS MEAT is a thing. Or could be.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Heckelphone lookalike / FRI 5-29-15 / Steel brackets with two flanges / 1998 coming-of-age novel by Nick Hornby / Setting for hawthorne's marble faun / Ben who played wizard in wicked / First high priest of Israelites / Broadway chorus dancers informally / Arabian port home to Sinbad Island

Friday, May 29, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium or Brutal, depending

THEME: none

Word of the Day: EYE RHYMES (36A: Four-hour tour features?) —
eye rhyme
  1. a similarity between words in spelling but not in pronunciation, e.g., love and move. (google)
• • •

Wow, this did not end well for me. I have not come that close to not being able to finish an NYT puzzle in a long, long time. I can't remember how long. I was cruising along just fine—felt like a pretty normal Friday, difficulty-wise—and I was thinking, "well, it's not the greatest Patrick Berry puzzle I've ever done, but it's pretty good." So all was right with the world. And then, just as I was closing in on the finish line: disaster. Specifically, this:

Actually, when I took this picture, I had already gone forward and come back a few times. I actually had (the correct) GOT TO (34A: Really affected) and (the correct) HATCHES (37D: Sub entries) written in initially, but since I ended up utterly unable to solve any of the remaining answers with those answers in place, I pulled them. Now, as you can see, I should've (as I eventually did) pulled back even further. ASS is wrong. It's APE. And that's part of what is completely brutal about this little patch of answers there in the west-center. If you are familiar with the term EYE RHYMES, then there's a good chance that none of the surrounding stuff gives you any trouble. But if EYE RHYMES is an utter unknown to you (as it was to me—I've been teaching poetry for twenty years and cannot ever remember learning or seeing the term), then all those crosses become lethal. Cluing -SOME an "adjective-forming suffix"!? That's sadism. Cluing GYPSIES as "Broadway chorus dancers"? What? Why would you call them that? I can't even reconcile the image in my head when I see GYPSIES with the image in my head when I see "Broadway chorus dancers." Throw in the easy-to-mess-up APE/ASS issue, and you've got a near knockout punch.

[Busta Rhymes]

I honestly thought I was dead. EYER- couldn't be right … and yet there was no way around it. And EYERH- … that just looked like crazy talk. Weirdly, the *only* way I managed to pull out of it all was to imagine suffixes (staring with "S"?!?!?) that could make adjectives. I just stumbled into -SOME. Tested it … it worked with GOT TO … and then ASS became APE and I was done. The "?" clue on EYE RHYMES … that's the most obscure term in the grid (even if you don't think it's obscure, there's nothing in the grid that's obscurer), and you put a "?" on it? Talk about your Unsatisfying Experiences. How can I know how clever the "?" is if the term itself is meaningless to me?

But perhaps the moral of the story is: "don't give up" or "be patient" or "hang in there, baby." I was done for. I was so done for, I stopped to tweet about how done-for I was. But I waited the puzzle out and scratched and clawed my way up from an F to, like, a D. Good enough!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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