Master of cartoon dog McBarker / THU 3-22-18 / Dutch financial giant / Relative of exempli gratia / Lucia di Lammermoor baritone

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Medium (Easy-Medium for me, time-wise, but it didn't FEEL that way...)

THEME: like, social media stuff, I think — theme clues all start [One with a lot of ...] and then the ensuing word sounds like something from social media, but the answer is actually more literal and not social media-related at all:

Theme answers:
  • VALLEY GIRL (17A: One with a lot of likes?)
  • ROCKIN' ROBIN (23A: One with a lot of tweets?)
  • MAJORITY OWNER (35A: One with a lot of shares?)
  • FENCE MENDER (49A: One with a lot of posts?)
  • MOTHER DUCK (57A: One with a lot of followers?)
Word of the Day: EDM (40A: Techno is a subgenre of it, for short) —
Electronic dance music (also known as EDMdance music, club music, or simply dance) is a broad range of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubsraves, and festivals. EDM is generally produced for playback by disc jockeys (DJs) who create seamless selections of tracks, called a mix, by segueing from one recording to another. EDM producers also perform their music live in a concert or festival setting in what is sometimes called a live PA. In Europe, EDM is more commonly called 'dance music' or simply 'dance'. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was so weird. I started out flailing and even after I got a few sections fairly quickly (the NE, the SW), I still felt like I was struggling over and over to understand the clues. You have no idea how many passes I took at YEA big, for instance, yeesh. But then I was done and my time was in the 5s (?) which is ... I don't know anymore, but probably a little on the fast side, actually. I am currently literally laughing at the young person who is trying to make sense of how a ROCKIN' ROBIN has "a lot of tweets." I mean, you really have to know that specific song, and I do, but I'm 48, and that song was well before *my* time. Also, I only really *got* it after I had it filled in. It seems like the kind of puzzle that could Really have stymied people, both because the theme is ... just ODD, with non-intuitive answers ... and because the proper nouns are dangerous. I can see MIRA, JOFFREY, EDM (not proper noun, but still...), ENRICO, ROCKIN' ROBIN, VALLEY GIRL, any of those really throwing someone off. I think the theme has a certain cleverness to it, but I don't really like when the whole "joke" of the theme is exclusively in the clues. I never got a sense of the puzzle's identity, never felt a pattern emerging. The answer set is weird. FENCE MENDER does not feel like much of a thing, and a MOTHER DUCK does not have "a lot" of followers—look:

That's less than a dozen. "A lot" compared to what? I like this suggestion for an alternative answer:

Started with SPAT for RIFT (1A: Falling-out), and then "confirmed" it with TELE (4D: Prompter or printer lead-in), ugh. Could not make any sense of 1D: Gets going (REVS UP) or 5D: Tell (SAY TO) (?) or HIGHCS (6D: Hard-to-hit pitches) or PER or EEL or even SHAPE (5A: Mold). If I hadn't eventually gotten PETRI (27A: Kind of dish), I don't know how I would even have been able to get at that whole N / NW area. The "P" from PETRI was how I knew there was an UP up there, and UP got me USE, and of course there's an "S" before UP ... and that somehow got me SILENT H (!). The rest of the puzzle was thorny but not nearly as bad as the N / NW. So this wasn't terrible but didn't really ... land, the way I like the trickiest theme puzzle of the week to Land.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Reason cow swatted herself / WED 3-21-18 / Many single-gear bike / NLer wearing blue orange / Not so intimidating sort of test

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Constructor: Laura Braunstein

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: animal verbs — verb phrases are clued as if they refer to groups of animals:

Theme answers:
  • DUCKS OUT OF VIEW (20A: Why the hunter couldn't shoot the mallards?)
  • FLIES IN THE FACE (25A: Reason a cow swatted herself?)
  • SEALS WITH A KISS (42A: Circus animal enjoying some chocolate?)
  • YAKS ON THE PHONE (47A: Whose conversation might be about shaggy hair and Himalayan peaks?)
Word of the Day: FIXIE (25D: Many a single-gear bike) —
  1. a single-gear bicycle that has no freewheel, so that its wheels cannot move unless power is applied to the pedals. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hey, it's friend-of-the-blog Laura Braunstein. Laura has written for me a bunch, so, you know, full disclosure and all that, but ... this is very solid work. Felt much, much more like a Monday or Tuesday than a Wednesday, specifically in the non-theme fill, but most Monday / Tuesday grids aren't nearly this clean. The problem with early-week / easy grids that are dominated by 3-5-letter answers is that they usually top out at boring. Like, your goals is to keep the worst junk out, and hope your theme is strong enough to carry the day. But here, not only is the theme solid, but somehow the shorter fill is also occasionally interesting. Yes, you've got old standbys like ECRU and ALOU and OLE and AER and ALII, but also FIXIE and PI DAY, which gave the grid some 'zazz. Maybe fewer partial answers (like FIVE-O and AVIV and AVANT) would've been nice. But at worst, the short fill totally holds up, and at best it's playful and fun. The theme is basic but well done. My only frowny-face moment came at the clue for FLIES IN THE FACE (25A: Reason a cow swatted herself?), which is Not Like The Others in that it not only doesn't describe the animal in question at all, but actually refers to an entirely different animal (i.e. the cow). On its own, I like the clue fine, but it does not fit with the pattern established by the other clues, and the introduction of a different animal felt slightly cheap. *But* the puzzle was so easy that this didn't matter at all. If not for the wackiness of the theme, I would've finished this in a normal Monday time. Wackiness put it at a pretty quick Tuesday. I think this should've been a Tuesday, if only to help poor Tuesday out (still the least pleasant weekday puzzle).

[kind of a weird song to have background dancers for, but ... sure, just go with it!]

Weird / interesting / good (?) to see 'HOOD clued in a way that doesn't refer to "homeboys," "homeys" or "boyz" (2D: Home turf). It's still primarily black slang, or it was originally, but it's crossed over pretty well now. Plus, seeing NYT trying to signify blackness is always slightly cringey so ... just play it straight, that works. I wouldn't have used "home" in the clue since HOME is in the grid (TAKE-HOME), but no big deal. Speaking of TAKE-HOME, the clue on that one is the only thing I really don't like about this puzzle (38D: Not-so-intimidating sort of test). As a college professor, I am familiar (I think) with all the various test types. So I was looking for something "not-so-intimidating" and ... couldn't think of what that would be. TAKE OVER? (like a do-over?). TAKE-HOME exams are not "not-so-intimidating." I've had plenty of in-class exams that were very easy compared to TAKE-HOME exams, which can be *rough*, depending on the time limit and expectations. "Not-so-intimidating" is just wrong here. Nothing inherently unintimidating about the TAKE-HOME exam. In fact, the opposite is routinely true. Boo. But hey, nice recuperation of NERD there at 53D: Put-down that nowadays may be worn as a badge of honor. It's nice to see NERD change, over the course of my lifetime, into something people proudly proclaim themselves to be. It was not ... always so. Ask me about the good ol' days some time, children ...

Til tomorrow...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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