Gangland rival of Dutch Schultz / WED 8-31-16 / Victims of Morlocks in sci-fi / Mineral used for insulation / Bow-toting deity

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Easy (maybe Easy-Medium)



THEME: MAKE IT LAST (62A: "Use this sparingly" ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) — familiar phrases have "IT" tacked on to the end; wacky clues follow:

Theme answers:
  • YES WE CAN IT (17A: Hormel's assurance that Spam is packed safely?)
  • SWING BANDIT (29A: Playground equipment thief?)
  • SHORT STOP IT (38A: "Enough!" as opposed to "You quit that right now!"?)
  • EMILY POST IT (48A: "Miss Dickinson, put your poem on Facebook"?)
Word of the Day: LEGS DIAMOND (25D: Gangland rival of Dutch Schultz) —
Jack "Legs" Diamond (born John Thomas Diamond; July 10, 1897 – December 18, 1931), also known as Gentleman Jack, was an Irish American gangster in Philadelphia and New York City during the Prohibition era. A bootlegger and close associate of gambler Arnold Rothstein, Diamond survived a number of attempts on his life between 1916 and 1931, causing him to be known as the "clay pigeon of the underworld". In 1930, Diamond's nemesis Dutch Schultz remarked to his own gang, "Ain't there nobody that can shoot this guy so he don't bounce back?" (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a conceptual disaster. First, you can put "IT" on the end of seemingly infinite phrases, so who cares? Second, there is Zero consistency to how the "IT" addition, and the cluing, are done today. CAN IT is a phrase meaning STOP IT (?), but it's clued as "put stuff in a can." STOP IT is a phrase meaning STOP IT and it is clued ... as STOP IT. So ... no attempt to clue it differently. But then POST IT, which is only a thing when hyphenated, is (like CAN IT) clued in a way that takes it away from its familiar meaning (here, just "put something on Facebook"). And then there's BANDIT, which is the outlier of outliers, being the only really interesting version of this theme (where "IT" is added To Create An Entirely New Word). So ... I don't understand why the CAN IT and POST-IT answers didn't get clues related to those actual, stand-alone terms (when STOP IT did get such a clue) and I don't understand why BANDIT is so sad and alone when it's the only one that's actually doing its job, i.e. being interesting. Coulda done stuff with, DIGIT, CUBIT, LEGIT, ORBIT, PERMIT (!?! why is that word in this grid!? No "IT"-enders in non-theme words! That's just sloppy), PULPIT ... pfff. Pretty maddening how poorly executed this theme is.


The fill is also subpar today. BEAHERO!? (42D: Come to the rescue) Yipes. If you're going to do something that iffy, go all in and clue it ["Billy, Don't ___"]. Song partial! It shows you don't care ... With Gusto.



APA ADE ELOI ANO INT OTYPE :( Things just aren't working today. I actually really like MERCH (5A: Stuff for sale at concerts), and (even though it slowed me right down) LEGS DIAMOND. Not much else about this was pleasing. Wanted TAX AUDITORS instead of IRS AUDITORS (which is my bad—"tax" is in the clue—but TAX AUDITORS does outgoogle "IRS AUDITORS" 3-to-1). Otherwise, no issues anywhere. Sub-4 minute time on a Wednesday is def. on the fast side for me. I can tell you with some assurance that tomorrow's puzzle is a good one. See you then.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Bell town in Longfellow poem / TUE 8-30-16 / Vegas resort with musical name / What hath gardener wrought / Electric keyboard heard on I am walrus

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Constructor: Roland Huget

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (on the slow side *for a Tuesday*)



THEME: CHEMICAL SYMBOLS (36A: This puzzle's circled letters, for the words that precede them) — first word chemical, opening letters of second word, that chemical's symbol:

Theme answers:
  • COPPER CUPS (17A: Flower plants from Australia) (?? ..... if you say so)
  • IRON FENCE (26A: What hath the gardener wrought?) (ugh, man, this clue...)
  • SILVER AGE (51A: Second-greatest period in something's history) (comics; that is the only "something" I know where this phrase applies)
  • CARBON COPY (58A: Antiquated office duplicate) (and George Segal / Denzel Washington film of 1981)
Word of the Day: ATRI (42A: Bell town in a Longfellow poem) —
Atri (Greek: Ἀδρία or Ἀτρία; Latin: Adria, Atria, Hadria, or Hatria) is a comune in the Province of Teramo in the Abruzzo region of Italy. In 2001, it had a population of over 11,500. Atri is the setting of the poem, The Bell of Atri, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Its name is the origin of the name of the Emperor Hadrian. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oh my no. So ... revealer is unnecessary / anticlimactic / lacking in any sort of wordplay or cleverness. If I didn't get premise of theme from first themer, I sure as heckfire got it from the second. So revealer = dead / pointless. Theme itself is simply "who cares?" except it's slightly worse than that because COPPER CUPS are fantastically outlier-ish, familiarity-wise. The other themers are, to their credit, things. I'm sure COPPER CUPS are too, but ... just less so. I will say that I think the puzzle squeezed every possible theme answer out of the periodic table. But there remains the question of "to what end?" Surely not entertainment. And what the hell was up with that IRON FENCE clue? It appears to be trying both to pun (?) on the phrase "What hath God wrought?" while also doing some kind of misdirect with the word "wrought" where it is used adjectivally in relation to an IRON FENCE instead of verbally, as it appears on the surface. But the result is a nonsensical disaster. The connection between gardeners and wrought-iron fences is fantastically loose, and the connection between gardeners and God is non-existent. Yikes.

["... and introducing Denzel Washington"]

Then we arrive at the real problem today, which is the fill, much of which REEKS of mothballs. If your (Tuesday!) puzzle has ATRI in it, something has gone very, horribly wrong and you need to fix it immediately (ATLI is worse, but the less spoken about that, the better). ATRI crossing ARIA (a "Vegas resort," really?) will be many people's last letter. Here, look:


But there was also PSEC and BEDECK and RIVE and PIANET (33D: Electric keyboard heard on "I Am the Walrus") and other olde-timey crud as well as new-timey crud like INHD. The clue on ACRES feels like the NYT trying to be inclusive but instead falling on its face yet again (15A: Forty ___ and a mule (post-Civil War allotment)). The clue needs a Lot (!) more context. "Allotment" leaves a lot (!!) out. Like, it was only ever theoretical and never actually got "allotted." Black people never got that allotment, just as they never actually get mentioned in this clue. "False promise" would've at least been closer to reality. Come on, now. [Sigh]. Shred this, start over.


I do credit this puzzle for forcing me to get to the heart of one of my great solving weakenesses: namely, spelling things that rhyme with EBSEN (44A: Buddy who played Jed Clampett in 1960s TV), including EBSEN (but excluding IBSEN, whom I can spell fine):


Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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