Schmooze / TUE 7-28-15 / Berliner's exclamation / Mork's planet / Hand ball?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Constructor: Caleb Emmons

Relative difficulty: EASY



THEME: Secret theme! A-E-I-O-U—each row includes only one vowel, in that order: rows 1, 6, and 11 contain only A, rows 2, 7, and 12 contain only E, and so on.

Word of the Day:  "Poltroon" (20A: "Utter coward") —

"An utter coward" (Google) [ಠ_ಠ -Ed.]

"A spiritless coward: craven" (Merriam Webster)

• • •

Hello, I'm Adrianne Jeffries, live from New York. I'm sorry I'm not Rex! I'd be disappointed if I were you, too.

Speaking of disappointment, boy what a not-fun puzzle this was for me! The A-E-I-O-U ploy is super clever, but 1) it doesn't present itself until the end of the downs, and 2) at what cost?


The puzzle starts off Tuesday-ily enough, as we CHAT and AT BAT and TBA, all normal normal, until we hit POLTROON, which, if anyone organically got this answer, I'll eat my hat.

But okay, while recovering from POLTROON, we hit a run of mediocrity with SISS ("to make a hissing sound"), FRAS (this will be good for Scrabble), and SSTS ("supersonic transport), plus ELL and RRR and ICI. We have the "Peter, Paul & Mary" clue, which we also had yesterday, except today they're a TRIO.

RUFUS as in Wainright felt like the freshest clue in the puzzle:


Speaking of freshness, FRESHETS is a word I learned ("a great rise or overflowing of a stream caused by heavy rains or melted snow," says Merriam Webster).

I don't think I need to say which answer felt the mustiest:


Oh look, it's making a comeback! Source: Google's Ngram Viewer, which searches for phrases in books.

I'm scanning the puzzle for answers I liked and keep spotting more duds, like TKT. I did like THE CREEPS and SNOOT, because they are words for humans.

The thing with the rows and the vowels was really nifty. My crossword partner and I basically gasped when we realized what that clue was saying. For that kind of acrobatics, Caleb, I'll forgive you PHILIP III, OOO, and AAA MAP. The rest of the fill here looks ham-handed, though—especially when compared to the deftness of the theme trick.

Signed,

Adrianne Jeffries, just some blogger, basically (special thanks Sam Thonis)

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Jean-Luc of the U.S.S. Enterprise / MON 7-27-15 / Slapping stooge / Zoo heavyweight, informally / Doofus

Monday, July 27, 2015

Constructor: D. Scott Nichols and Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (***FOR A MONDAY*** (Rex always does this, so I will, too))



THEME: "Palindromes" — The last word of theme answers are all palindromes. Easy enough.

Word of the Day: ATTAR (35A. _____ of roses) —
Rose oil (rose ottoattar of rose, or attar of roses) is the essential oil extracted from the petals of various types of roseRose ottos are extracted through steam distillation, while rose absolutes are obtained throughsolvent extraction or supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, with the absolute being used more commonly inperfumery. Even with their high price and the advent of organic synthesis, rose oils are still perhaps the most widely used essential oil in perfumery.
• • •
Hello, CrossWorld! I'm Eli Selzer, filling in for Rex, today only! Who am I, you ask? I'm a screenwriter in LA (I'll save you the IMDB search: nothing produced. I've had multiple scripts in development over the last 5 years at fairly well-known companies, but still no credits to my name. It's a cruel business). You may have met me at the Crosswords LA Tournament, where I've managed to not embarrass myself on 3 separate occasions. I've not yet attended ACPT. I've never constructed a puzzle, so I don't tend to notice things like cheater squares (or fully understand them, honestly), but I tend to agree with Rex's opinions on puzzle quality. I'm not overly-familiar with most constructors, aside from a few favorites. So how did I get this sweet gig, then? Simple: I asked, and Rex said yes.

On to the puzzle!

Theme answers:
  • GEORGE TENET (11D. *C.I.A.'s second-longest serving director)
  • MONICA SELES (17A. *Youngest French Open Champion)
  • DARYL HANNAH (24D. *"Splash" star)
  • YOKO ONO (39A. *"Double Fantasy" singer)
  • PALINDROMES (60A. What the ends of the answers to all the starred clues are)
This seemed like a straight-over-the-plate Monday. My time was a bit over my average Monday (3:13), but I had a few typos (the danger of only solving on my phone, which is how I solve 95% of the time). Also, I was taking my time because I knew I had to blog about it when I was done. Theme was straight-forward with a revealer to match. Nothing much to tie the answers together other than the fact that they're all people with palindromes for last names.

Side note: In elementary school, I had an English book with a story called "Hannah is a Palindrome," where a teacher allows her class to mercilessly pick on a girl named Hannah because she is a palindrome until Hannah takes the initiative to look up "palindrome" and turns the tables on a boy named Otto. That story is still what I think of every time palindromes come up. So... good job, story, I guess?


The themers didn't give me much trouble. I'm a bit embarrassed that I read "Youngest French Open Champion" and immediately thought of men. I'm better than that, both as a solver and a human being. Also, drew a blank on GEORGE TENET, but it didn't really slow me down. Fill overall seemed pretty solid; I'm not drawn to any obvious garbage. The partial INS isn't ideal, especially paired symmetrically with the partial TOS. I guess looking it over again, there's a pretty fair amount of partials throughout, but it didn't stand out while solving, so I'll give it a pass. ATTAR feels like the difficulty outlier to me. It's not inappropriate for a Monday, just stuck out a bit. I felt like I had one error slow me down, but looking over the puzzle, I can't for the life of me remember what it was, so I'll just say that it was a solid, if somewhat unremarkable, puzzle that I largely enjoyed. Not bad for a Monday!

Bullets:
  • NOLTE (29A. Nick of "48 Hrs.") — Makes me think of Rifftrax (the current project of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew), and specifically, of Mike Nelson's impression that comes up in so many of their riffs.

  • NAME (32A. Peter, Paul or Mary) — Or John or Finn or Elliot or Stu or Joe or Thor or Melissa or Ahmed or Geena or Lindsay or Lindsey or...
  • PICARD (5D. Jean-Luc of the U.S.S. Enterprise) — Automatic bullet for TNG references.

  • MOE (34D. Slapping Stooge)— My wife likes the Three Stooges more than I do (I'm more of a Marx Brothers guy). But I'm highlighting this clue because I couldn't write a post for this blog without a Simpsons reference.
  • PAEAN (57A. Song of triumph)— Fun word. But only pointing it out to get in another one:

So, this has been fun! Thanks to Rex for letting me fill in. I emulated him as best as possible by solving and blogging with a glass of bourbon. I recommend it.

Signed, Eli Selzer, um... what title hasn't been taken? False Dauphin? I'll go with that.

Signed, Eli Selzer, False Dauphin of CrossWorld

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