1999 prequel that grossed over billion dollars familiarly / FRI 10-20-17 / Symbol for member of Anonymous / Arabic name that sounds like reply of agreement / Frequent locale in comic strip Andy Capp / Big name in digital security

Friday, October 20, 2017

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: none 

Word of the Day: HODA KOTB (56A: "Today" co-host beginning in 2007) —
Hoda Kotb (/ˈhdə ˈkɒtb/ HOH-də KOT-bee; Arabic: هدى قطب‎‎ Hudā Quṭb Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ˈhodæ ˈʔotˤb], born August 9, 1964) is an American television news anchor and TV host known as the co-host of NBC's Today Show's fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gifford. An Egyptian American, she won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2010 as part of the Today Show team. Kotb is also a correspondent for Dateline NBC. (wikipedia)
• • •

Pretty nice work. I have a few ... issues (see below ... and every day, I guess) but overall it was satisfying: wide-ranging, currentish, and amply tough. That SE corner in particular really made me work. I am very aware of who HODA is, but I know her only as ... HODA. "HODA & Kathie Lee..." That last name ... I don't even know how to pronounce it. Now that I look at it, I've definitely seen it before, but I'm all of a sudden very aware of how I *know* the last names of the all the other one-named talk-show celebrities (I think), but have never even heard hers said out loud. Why don't people say her name? Have they been saying it all along and I've just been mishearing it as something else? Say her name! Anyway, she is famous and I am not sufficiently attuned to daytime television, so the KOTB part took Work. That corner had a lot of names, including a non-specifically-clued YASIR (49A: Arabic name that sounds like a reply of agreement)  (I considered YEMEN .... like "yeah, man"? ...) and our good old friend LAO-TSE, who somehow remained completely inscrutable to me until the very last cross (which was the "T" in KOTB). I also misread "service" as "device" in 42D: Digital storage service (iCLOUD), so that was semi-baffling. Oh, and lastly, I confused my Bucks and went with OWENS over O'NEIL at first (41A: Buck ___, first African-American coach in Major League Baseball). Good thing LOU Gramm was a gimme. That is one name-y corner!



Bullets:
  • 15A: 1999 prequel that grossed over a billion dollars, familiarly (EPISODE I) — yeeeeesh no. I mean, OK, in some contexts, sure, but no. "Familiarly" would be "PHANTOM MENACE." So weird to put forth this answer as the actual title, even "familiarly." Or maybe there's some Latin-speaking "Star Wars" subculture and this answer is EPISO DEI, i.e. the ... something ... of God.
  • 3D: Chucklehead (DIMWIT) — ah, the super-dated slang clue. Fittingly, I had NITWIT.
  • 40D: ___ ape (gibbon) (LESSER) — I thought this was going to be someone's name. Like, maybe someone named LEVIN discovered the ape and it's now known as a LEVIN'S APE. Something like that.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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French network / THU 10-19-17 / One of billions in puffball / Sch backer

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: HEAD OVER HEELS (39A: **One way to fall in love ... or a hint to the answers to the starred clues) — Two stacks of [Honcho] (i.e. a "head") over [Louse] (i.e. a "heel"), and then a [Honcho] over HEELS and a HEAD over [Louse] toward the middle of the grid (hence the "**" on the revealer ... I think)

Theme answers:
  • NUMERO UNO over SCOUNDREL
  • TOP BANANA over NO-GOODNIK
  • BIG WHEEL over "HEELS" 
  • "HEAD" over DIRTY RAT 
Word of the Day: LUSAKA (50D: Zambia's capital) —
Lusaka is the capital and largest city of Zambia. One of the fastest developing cities in southern Africa, Lusaka is in the southern part of the central plateau at an elevation of about 1,279 metres (4,196 ft). As of 2010, the city's population was about 1.7 million, while the urban population is 2.4 million. Lusaka is the centre of both commerce and government in Zambia and connects to the country's four main highways heading north, south, east and west. English is the official language of the city, but Nyanja and Bemba are also common. (wikipedia)
• • •

Getting a late start tonight, and have to get up early tomorrow, so I'll keep this brief. The theme is cute—the center is weird because the HEAD and HEELS are literal there, whereas up top and down below they are a [Honcho] or a [Louse], respectively. The two asterisks on the revealer clue are more bizarre than helpful. Also, aren't the stacks in the NW and SE really "HEAD OVER HEEL," singular? If this theme were done perfectly, then the various [Louse]s would be in plural form, giving you actual singular "head"s over plural "heels." The more I look at this thing, the wobblier it gets, so maybe I'll just stop looking.


The fill is really pretty bad. I've scrawled a list of the crosswordese on my printed-out copy of the finished grid, and I stopped at about twenty entries—the scrawl starts in the margin above SASHA and then continues unbroken, clockwise, all the way down to the margin outside OBLIGES. I started with RUDI and stopped at O-TYPE and you're just going to have to take my word for it that there are lots of answers in between. Speaking of O-TYPE, yuck. Here's a tweet about it, from a pediatrician.



RUES x/w VUE is NOTOK. I didn't have much trouble with this, except for a little bit in the SW, where I didn't know LUSAKA (my bad) and the whole STOPGO / SHOT thing was hard for me to figure out. I was lucky enough to pull NOGOODNIK out of thin air—no crosses; just tried it and it worked. I can see someone getting destroyed by the TOPOL / LUSAKA crossing. I certainly wouldn't have any idea about TOPOL if it weren't for crosswords, and we've already established that I didn't know LUSAKA, and if you don't know either, then that "L," well ... good luck! OK, I'm done. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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