2016 Dsiney film set in Polynesia / MON 2-27-16 / Understand slangily / Jean father of Dadaism / Cross-reference for further information

Monday, February 27, 2017

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Normal / Medium

THEME: two-word answers and reversals — three 2-part answers, and then three more answers where each of those three answers has their 2 parts flipped (w/ respelling of one part):

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: "MOANA" (55D: 2016 Disney film set in Polynesia) —
Moana (/mˈɑːnə/) is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy comedy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 56th Disney animated feature film. The film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams.  The film features music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not that exciting. Feels like it was lifted from a list of such phrases on the back of a kids' placemat at some chain restaurant. Half of the trouble I had with this puzzle consisted in my balking repeatedly at writing words into the grid that I *knew* I had already seen (e.g. PAPER). The other half, ironically, consisted in my muffing the freshest, most contemporary answers in the grid, i.e. "FEEL ME?" (24D: "Understand?," slangily) and "MOANA" (55D: 2016 Disney film set in Polynesia) The former just floored me. I had the "F" but that was useless. Needed most of the crosses to find the answer, partly because I couldn't believe the NYT would go for such a phrase (good for it), and partly because I'm used to hearing the question start with a "Ya" ...

The fact that I totally blanked on "MOANA" is many times more hilarious. First, it's a Maori word. My wife is from New Zealand. I'm usually on top of all pop culture NZ things. Second, it involves the musical talent of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and after The Year Of Hamilton, you'd think that anything he's involved with would've stuck in my head (I know he's developing Patrick Rothfuss's work for film, for instance ... and yet I blanked on "MOANA"?!). I had the "M" and my brain went "... [shrug] ... don't look at us; all we got's 'MULAN'." I have nothing else to say about any of this puzzle. See you on the morrow, good sirs/madams.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Flower named for Swedish botanist / SUN 2-26-17 / One-named singer once married to Xavier Cugat / French region around Strasbourg / Christian school in Okla / Potent sushi bar cocktail / Rapper with most-viewed YouTube video of all time / Stop insisting Ra doesn't exist

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Constructor: Josh Knapp

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Mixed Feelings" — wacky theme answers created by anagramming (or "mixing") a "feeling" in a familiar phrase:

Theme answers:
  • TINY AXE ATTACK (25A: Assault involve a hatchet?)
  • STRUT-WORTHY (23A: Fashionable enough for a runway model?)
  • CURB YOUR SUN ATHEISM (44A: "Stop insisting Ra doesn't exist!"?)
  • TALES OF OWE (64A: Stories from bankruptcy court?)
  • HAVE NO FARE (68A: Be too broke to take the bus?)
  • MY SIRE LOVES COMPANY (82A: "The king really wants to be around people right now"?)
  • UPRISERS' PARTY (109A: Celebration after a coup?)
  • DOWNER WOMAN (112A: Negative Nancy?)
Word of the Day: ALEATORY (6D: Dependent on chance) —
adjective: aleatory; adjective: aleatoric
  1. depending on the throw of a dice or on chance; random.
    • relating to or denoting music or other forms of art involving elements of random choice (sometimes using statistical or computer techniques) during their composition, production, or performance. (google)
• • •

As cornball themes go, this is fine. TALES OF OWE is godawful, and HAVEN OF ARE is not much better (please don't correct me and tell me it's HAVE NO FARE ... my brain has tried to parse it that way and just keeps giving up). But then CURB YOUR SUN ATHEISM is so godawful that it's actually kind of impressive. If you're gonna be godawful, be Epically godawful. The rest of the theme answers are good enough, but the clue writing is really tepid. Funny / adventuresome clues are kind of important in wacko themes, and these clues are awfully, painfully literal most of the time. There were some enjoyable non-theme answers today, most notably MOM JEANS, SAKE BOMB, and WAIT FOR IT ... (that last one strikes me as the most inventive ... though you never know about "invention" these days, what with word lists being sold for hundreds of dollars to constructors too lazy to build their own—to be clear, I don't think *today*'s constructor is lazy; he's a competent, reliable regular. But the mediocre constructor buying a word list in hopes of getting "better" is *definitely* a thing).

This played a notch harder than normal, largely because of the nature of the theme (who knows what "feeling" is going to be "mixed," and in what way?), but also (for me) because of clues I just couldn't grasp easily. You fire a MORTAR straight into the air? 90 degrees? Doesn't it ... come back ... to earth ... presumably on top of you? (1D: Weapon usually fired between a 45˚ and 90˚ angle) (As with AIRSOFT yesterday, I don't know from weaponry. My stupidest mistake today was reflexively writing in ASHE at 4D: With 41-Down, first tennis player to win two Olympic singles gold medals. Tennis, starts "A," four letters—good luck stopping my fingers from typing ASHE. Wanted VALE to be DALE (after I wanted it to be GLEN), and didn't know it was particularly "poetic" (18A: Land between hills, poetically). Forgot who Edmund BURKE was (10D: Philosopher who said "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion") and totally forgot what WOOLITE was (24D: Detergent brand with fabric in its name). Not a huge fan of RISES being in same grid as UPRISERS, and even less a fan of SERIF being not only in same grid as, but practically right next to, SHERIF. Blargh. But overall, this was OK. Occasionally, if infrequently, enjoyable.

If you have 38 minutes lying around today, please consider checking out the latest episode of "On the Grid," my crossword podcast (with my friend Lena Webb). Episode 002 deals with SLOE gin fizzes and EELS ... among other things. Get it here (and find it on iTunes).

 [I concur with this analysis]

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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