Guardian Angel Curtis / SUN 5-27-18 / Bygone Cambodian leader with palindromic name / Query from Judas / Shape of every Baha'i temple / Alias of rapper Sean Combs / Former Nebraska senator James

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Constructor: Andrew Chaikin

Relative difficulty: Easy or Easy-Medium

THEME: "21" — "21" = definition for all themers / all themers are 21 letters long (standard Sunday grid width) (there are also assorted incidental clues containing the number "21" throughout the grid)

[21] answers:
Word of the Day: Curtis SLIWA (69D: Guardian Angel Curtis ___) —
Curtis Sliwa (born March 26, 1954) is an American anti-crime activist, founder and CEO of the Guardian Angels, radio talk show host, media personality, and chairman of the Reform Party of New York State. (wikipedia)
• • •

Grueling. I finished very quickly, but like all painful experiences, it felt eternal. There are several reasons why a puzzle like this is never gonna be a CROWD PLEASER (to borrow a term from Saturday's lovely puzzle). First, definitions as answers ... always dicey. At best, dull. At worst tortured. *Especially* tortured when you have to make those answers fit into 21 squares exactly. Thus the phrasing on precisely None of these seems just right. AGE FOR DRINKING LEGALLY is something ALIENS would say when trying to pass as humans. "We should consume alcoholic beverages now, perhaps from one of the more popular TAVERNS in this urban area. Everyone here is the AGE FOR DRINKING LEGALLY, correct? Splendid!" That, or the never-released sequel to "The Year of Living Dangerously." GUNS IN A MILITARY SALUTE is probably the tightest of the bunch, while SPOTS ON ALL SIDES OF A DIE is like having your pinky sawed off with a butter knife. WINNING BLACKJACK *TOTAL*??? Torturing the English language, you are. Further ... there's nowhere for this puzzle to go. It's just a relentless death march of [21]s. The final themer is kind of a revealer, or a twist, but even it kind of whiffs. "THESE" hardly seems specific enough. Theme answers, longer answers, long Acrosses ... say what you mean. THESE? Everything about the themers is just ... off, phrasing-wise. My only serious probably came in trying to parse SPOTS ON ALL SIDES OF A DIE, and that was largely due to my writing in NECCA instead of NECCO (53D: Brand of wafers).

Then there's the fill. The grid ... it's trying to have a low word count, I think, which is not a great idea. I mean, hurray for ONE TOO MANY and MALEFICENT, but man, overall the fill suffers pretty bad. ELRIO? SNCC? TERNI??? SLIWA!?!?!?! That SLIWA SNCC area in the middle is just dire. And then there's ON A STAR (??), a phrase that should never stand alone. See also Friday-less TGI. And CASE OF, dear lord (73D: Start for every Perry Mason title, wiht "The"). And many more. Too many. CLEA! ITA! GUVS!?!? It's ALOAD, it's ATRAIN, it's ABLAST, it's ... ADLAI! I did this at high speed, but it felt like HI-SPEED (80D: Unlike dial-up internet service, informally), i.e. something ungainly and faux whimsical and sad. QUESTIONS IN A BASIC GAME (21)? NUMBER OF TV'S JUMP STREET (21)? Is it theme? Did I theme? 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Patronize off-track betting say / SAT 5-26-18 / 2014 Facebook acquisition / Portrayer of Warren Buffet in HBO's too big to fail / Intimate practice done at distance / War-torn mideast city

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (7:02) (honestly thought I was like a minute faster, oh well...)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LARGO (8D: Slow and dignified) —
adverb & adjective
  1. 1. 
    (especially as a direction) in a slow tempo and dignified in style.
  1. 1. 
    a passage, movement, or composition marked to be performed in this way. (google)
• • •
Thought I was going to go to sleep and solve this one in the morning, but then I couldn't fall asleep right away (I blame my afternoon nap) and then my wife began solving the puzzle Right Next To Me,   which made sleep impossible ("what's she writing? she's writing fast, is it easy? why can't I turn this part of my brain off?"), so I had to just get up and solve the thing. I don't think I was as affected by near-sleep as I am when I try to solve immediately after actual sleep, but some kind of slo-mo effect did seem to be in place. I thought I torched this, but my time was just Pretty Good (by my standards). My fingers apparently weren't moving as quickly as I thought they were. I expect the puzzle to be a CROWD PLEASER, both because it's on the easy side (for Saturday) and because the marquee answers are both bright and familiar. Nothing very obscure in this grid (except Thatcher's husband's name, wth!?). My only gripe is that the SE is just a little too overladen with techy stuff. Two 8-letter apps *and* HTTP in the same little corner = overkill. Spread it oouutt. Oh, and no way the clue for THE CURE should refer to the song "Friday, I'm in Love" when IN LOVE is also in your grid. That is an editing error. THE CURE's catalogue is pretty sizable. No reason for that to happen.

The vast majority of this grid felt quite easy for a Saturday, but there were a few answers in key positions that I struggled to come up with. Slowish start in the NW where I dumbly passed up the chance to write in AZT (4D: Drug marketed as Retrovir), because even though it was my first guess, I thought, "that can't be right ... 'retrovir' sounds more like some kind of Viagra-type pill—Retrovir: Returns Your Manhood!" But the three-letter pill was Of Course AZT, so boo hiss to my instincts. I also opted for LENTO over LARGO, because I will forever get those two confused. But after that initial awkwardness, I settled in. Still, here are the handful of answers that noticeably stopped my flow:

Flow stoppers:
  • 32D: Margaret Thatcher's husband (DENIS) — again, I ask, wth? (who the hell?). That's a French St.'s name and that's really all that that name is. 
  • 41A: Heat (ESTRUS) — as this answer crosses DENIS, you can see how things got a little mucked up there in the middle east of this puzzle. Talk about your vague-cluing. [Heat]! That could go a ton of ways. I had EST- and never once considered ESTRUS. That's not a word I've thoguht of or seen in a long long time. [Heat] has so many literal and slang meanings. Argh. So, yes, the DENIS-in-ESTRUS portion of our puzzle was rough going.
  • 36D: Certain voter ID (DEM) — I am booing this answer so hard. This is an answer where the constructor high-fives himself and the solver just stares at him, eyes half-lidded.
  • 47D: "Never stop improving" sloganeer (LOWES) — I am truly terrible at all slogans. Even the ones I know (from TV advertising) I think, "Oh, right that ... slogan ... what was that advertising again?" So now of course I can hear the LOWES guy's voice sloganeering this slogan, but while solving, nope.
  • 58D: Some shelter volunteers, briefly (RNS) —that danged first letter! I should've just left it and it would've filled itself in easily enough from the cross, eventually, but of course I had to sit there and *think* about the stupid letter. Costly, time-wise. 
But again, mostly this thing was not a struggle at all. Had a ton of trouble parsing "THE LEGO MOVIE" (39A: Blockbuster 2014 animated film), but parsing problems are part of the package. That's just Saturday being Saturday. All in all, a solid production, with a HOT PHONE SEX bonus. How lucky we are to be alive right now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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