Baby animal in parable in II Samuel / FRI 6-23-17 / Subject of 1984 mockumentary / Edible seed of pumpkin squash / Verdi opera set in fifth century

Friday, June 23, 2017

Constructor: James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: PERCALE (20D: Bedsheet material) —
noun: percale
  1. a closely woven fine cotton or polyester fabric used especially for sheets. (google)
• • •

Expected something a little showier here, but all in all it's decent and clean. The long Acrosses don't really sing, though I do like the juxtaposition in the north, i.e. the idea of someone (I assume drunkenly) twirling in SWEAT PANTS while asking "HOW DO I LOOK?" I finished in just over 6. I don't know if the puzzle was easier or harder or exactly as hard as I rated it because I was aided somewhat in the NW, and mightily in the SE, by that niche knowledge I have only because I solve a ton of crosswords, i.e. by crosswordese. I got a superfast start by guessing AMMO right out of the box (1A: They may make the rounds) and then confirming it with (drum roll) ARNESS! (crosswordese the first) (1D: "Gunsmoke" actor James). And then at the end, in the SE corner, I just had blank space below SPINAL TAP, and got a little panicky. Then I tried ATTILA (42D: Verdi opera set in the fifth century). Now I know squat about opera, and I know zero about ATTILA, but something about the clue jogged the answer loose. I didn't trust it At All, but after stumbling with PHOTON instead of PHASER at 43D: Particle beam weapon, I could see it was all going to work out. Shoulda been able to get GARTH from just the "G"; shoulda been able to get PEPITA from the "PE-" ... but shoulda woulda coulda didn't. ATTILA to the rescue.

Other trouble spots:
  • Wanted MU SHU at 2D: Kind of pork, but saw the number of squares and wrote in MOO ... SHO :(
  • Had the "B" at the end of 7D: Baby animal in a parable in II Samuel and wrote in BEAR CUB
  • Wanted THE KEYS instead of CAR KEYS for some reason (35A: Request to Dad, perhaps)
  • Could remember only ASNER and ZOOEY DESCHANEL as Ferrell co-stars in "Elf" 
  • Could picture SLUGGO perfectly in my head (I own two fat volumes of "Nancy" comics) but for some reason his name eluded me and it came out BLUTTO (39D: Nancy's friend in the comics). 
  • TEST SCORES is boring and annoying because when I had ___ SCORES, I expected something specific. I wrote in PSAT, knowing full well no one puts those on their actual applications (do they?)
  • 34D: Arm that's tucked away (COVE) — just brutal. Way harder than anything else in the puzzle.
  • DRAT for CRUD (48A: "Oh, darn!")
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Japanese chess / THU 6-22-17 / Balaam's talking beast / Katniss's partner in Hunger Games / Prison guarded by Dementors /

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Constructor: Ruth B. Margolin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: EYESEEEYE — phrases following pattern "___ [body part] to [body part]" are represented in the grid with the "___" part literally between the [body part]s:

Theme answers:
  • HANDPASSHAND (pass from hand to hand) (20A: Transfer, as in a bucket brigade)
  • EARSMILEEAR (smile from ear to ear) (33A: Grin broadly) (I think "grin from ear to ear" is the more common phrase, but this is acceptable)
  • TOESTANDTOE (stand toe to toe) (40A: Confront one another head-on)
  •  FACEMEETFACE (meet face to face) (50A: Rendezvous)
Word of the Day: TIDAL bore (41D: Like some colossal bores)
noun: tidal bore; plural noun: tidal bores
  1. a large wave caused by the funneling of a flood tide as it enters a long, narrow, shallow inlet. (google)
• • •

Jet. Lag. Jetlag. Why didn't I get someone to cover today? Dunno. But here I am after west-to-east travel that got me home around 1 a.m. this morning and now it's some other a.m.  this morning and I'm solving and writing. It's fun. So I'd like to thank Ms. Margolin for lobbing a softball this morning—one that took me something like the usual amount of time, but that I knew was easier than usual. The basic concept is simple but effective, and was very easy to pick up. And then once you pick it up, it had the same advantage palindromic themes have, in that if I got one end, I could fill in the other immediately. Again, my tired brain and body thank you, Ms. Margolin. The puzzle was probably more interesting in the fill than in the theme, where OUTDOORSY and AZKABAN were both genuine pleasures, the clue on SIGH gave my weary brain a slap in the face (1D: Heaved "ho"?), and AAAMAP (25D: TripTike, e.g.) provided sufficient visual weirdness.

This puzzle would've been "Easy" even for sluggish me if I'd ever (ever) head of a TIDAL bore (41D: Like some colossal bores). Add to my never-heard-of-it the fact that it had a ruthlessly tricky clue, and then add in the fact that I got NICEAN instantly (and spelled it thusly) (29D: Christians' ___ Creed) and that little inch-wide section in the SW explains almost all my "difficulty" today. Proud to have remembered EILAT even if I had to leave the last vowel blank because of non-remembering. Had ILLS for AILS but there's no shame there (53D: Troubles). [Book of the Bible after Amos] is a pretty hilarious clue for me, in that it supposes that I have any idea where Amos is (OBADIAH). There are three "IN"s in this grid, but that doesn't really bug me. Today, I'm just happy to be here, at my good old desk with my good old writing set-up, even if I do have a good old travel headache. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. CHEEKDANCECHEEK would've made a Very cool 15.

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