Lebanese city that was once enter of Phoenician civilization / MON 1-16-17 / Penny Dreadful channel for short / Intestinal fortitude informally / Arrested suspect informally

Monday, January 16, 2017

Constructor: John Wrenholt

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY (63A: Completely ... with a summation of 17-, 30- and 47-Across) — previous three themers start with ONE WAY, TWO WAY, and THREE WAY, respectively, for a total of "six ways":

Theme answers:
  • ONE WAY OR ANOTHER (17A: Somehow)
  • TWO-WAY RADIO (30A: Walkie-talkie)
  • THREE-WAY TIE (47A: Rare occurrence of "Jeopardy!") 
Word of the Day: SWAG (15D: Lavish party favors) —
The freebie swag, sometimes also spelled schwag, dates back to the 1960s and was used to describe promotional items. According to our files, early swag was everything from promotional records sent to radio stations to free slippers for airline passengers. In short order, this particular meaning of swag broadened and soon referred to anything given to an attendee of an event (such as a conference) as a promotional stunt. // This swag didn't gain much use until the 1990s, but it also didn't appear out of thin air. The newer meanings were based on an older, more established meaning that referred to goods acquired by unlawful means. (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

I do like the revealer phrase, and have been known to use it (or the "from Sunday" variation of it) from time to time. It is a weird idiom with a complicated history (read about it here). [Completely] is not how I use it. I think of it as meaning "all kinds of different ways," but I guess by extension you could get to "in every way imaginable" and thus "thoroughly." At any rate, "Completely" is certainly an accepted definition. But it's a wriggly phrase, in which (according to World Wide Words) the number "six" was only the most common number to be used (probably because of alliteration). All kinds of other numbers can be found in six's place over the years. One place I looked had "Forty ways to Sunday." It's a lively idiom. The theme is clever but also flawed. Adding up the numbers of the ways was strange (not necessarily in a bad way). I'm more concerned that the revealer has this totally non-thematic extra part to it, i.e. "to Sunday." It's fine for themers to have only one phrase part (first word, last word, etc.) involved, but a revealer is supposed to work from stem to stern. A good revealer snaps, and *all* of it is involved in indicating what the hell was up with the theme. This puzzle has zero to do with Sunday. If you want that phrase as a revealer, then it should mean something in its complete form. "To Sunday" just hangs out there ... left over. Unnecessary. Abandoned. Not great.

[Debbie Harry starred in a 1997 crime drama called ... "SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY"]

There was one hard patch in this where the cluing seemed both off and vague. The trouble started with SWAG, specifically a. the fact that the clue indicates a plural so I wanted it to end in "S," and b. the word "lavish." The fake-out on the plural is fair enough, but "lavish" ... ? I guess if you are an Oscar nominee and are at some party hosted by the MPAA, then sure, they'll give you an iPad or whatever, but SWAG is just slang for party favors. A gift bag. A bunch of promotional stuff. Anyone who's ever been given "a bunch of promotional stuff" (yeah, I just quoted myself), knows that ... "Lavish" doesn't enter in. Totally unnecessarily limiting adjective. Also, PEANUTS, in my world, needs "Packing" in front of it to make any sense in this context (4D: Alternative to bubble wrap). Also also, when I finally got SWAG, off of that initial "G" at 22A: Intestinal fortitude (GUTS), I wanted GRIT. I also was very tentative about the second vowel in DIVOT (32D: Golfer's gouge), and couldn't nail either ___ SAFE or GET ___ at first shot. Both of those were access points to other parts of the grid, and both required me hacking a crosses fill them out. Ended with a time slightly, but not significantly, north of normal.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Uber-owned company that makes self-driving trucks / SUN 1-15-17 / Nickname for gilded age businessman with penchant for jewelry / Also-ran for golden apple in myth / Fashion guru Tim / Signal meaning no disease on this ship

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easyish


THEME: "Grammar Lesson" — phrases related to grammar that are reclued super-wackily ("?"-style)

Theme answers:
  • FUTURE PERFECT (24A: Utopia?)
  • INDEFINITE ARTICLE (31A: Piece still under consideration for a magazine?)
  • PASSIVE VOICE (50A: "Village" newspaper that's namby-pamby?)
  • RELATIVE CLAUSES (66A: Santa's nieces and nephews?)
  • PRESENT TENSE (89A: Like shoppers worrying about getting the right gift?)
  • SENTENCE STRUCTURE (103A: Jailhouse?)
  • OBJECTIVE CASE (113A: The Prada that one really wants?)
Word of the Day: FIG WASP (43D: Insect that spends its larval stage inside a fruit) —
Fig wasps are wasps of the superfamily Chalcidoidea which spend their larval stage inside figs. Most are pollinators but others are herbivores. The non-pollinators belong to several groups within the superfamily Chalcidoidea, while the pollinators are in the family Agaonidae. While pollinating fig wasps are gall-makers, the remaining types either make their own galls or usurp the galls of other fig wasps; reports of them being parasitoids are considered dubious. (wikipedia)
• • •


THANK-YOU MESSAGE for the week ending January 15, 2017

Hello, solvers. Just wanted to thank everyone who made a financial contribution to the blog this week. The messages (both e- and snail-) of support, and the various solving war stories, have been entertaining and occasionally inspirational. I never have a very clear of who my audience is, where they live, etc., so it's thrilling (and somewhat educational) to have that audience suddenly become visible. Material. Actual. Real. Thank-you cards are forthcoming for those of you who sent me snail mail (and emails for everyone else). You are, of course, free to contribute at any time during the year. The mailing address...

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

And the Paypal button...

... live full-time in the sidebar of the blog. But this is the last direct pitch you'll hear from me for 51 weeks. It's been a lovely week. Thank you thank you thank you.

----------------------------------------

I like grammar. This puzzle, though, was something less than enjoyable. I solved it around my dinner table with my wife and visiting friends Lena and Brayden, and there was much gnashing of teeth (and swearing) and very few happy sounds and pleased comments. The theme type is very old (take a bunch of terms from any field, reclue them as if they are not from that field), but done well, common theme types can still be wonderful. But this one ... two answers basically ruin this theme. The first is SENTENCE STRUCTURE, which is a total outlier. The other theme answers are distinct, specific grammatical terms, but SENTENCE STRUCTURE is just a very vague, general concept. You can point to all the others. You can't point to SENTENCE STRUCTURE. It's loose. It's a category, and a big one. It can *contain* the other themers (e.g. RELATIVE CLAUSES are part of SENTENCE STRUCTURE). It just doesn't belong. The bigger problem, however, is the clue on OBJECTIVE CASE. First, the connection between Prada and "case" is so loose as to be laughable. If I asked you to name the top ten things you associate with Prada, first, you wouldn't get to ten, but second, however far you got, "case" would not be on the list. If you search [Prada case] you come up with random things like iPhone cases and sunglass cases (not iconically Prada). You also come up with "Prada gender discrimination case." Prada is a terrible, completely inapt point of reference for "case." Further, ironically, I can't make the answer make grammatical sense. Is "objective" an adjective or noun here? Even for fun and hoots and question-markical glee, it doesn't work. The case is your objective, fine, but OBJECTIVE CASE makes zero sense. No sense, on no level.


77-Down is disgusting, and continues the trend of the editor (and constructor, I assume, since they work together) gratuitously shoving neo-Nazis and neo-Nazi sympathizers into the puzzle at every opportunity. Oh, and this puzzle has an actual Nazi too, for good measure. There are any number (i.e. innumerable) ways to clue VON, you know? It's not like you had to clue WERNHER, in which case you'd pretty much have to use this Braun guy. It's all just so gross. TACKY, even. I really don't know what he thinks he's doing. But then I don't get how anyone can justify CSIS. "Oh, I watch many CSIS!" someone somewhere apparently says. Ridiculous.

Bullets:
  • 102A: Specimen, for example: Abbr. (SYN.) — "Specimen" is a SYN(onym) of "example"; tricky.
  • 43D: Insect that spends its larval stage inside a fruit (FIG WASP) — both Lena and Penelope (my wife) knew what this was. I read the clue and both said "wasp!" I said "... something WASP" and both said "FIG!" I didn't know there were wasp types. 
  • 6D: Toddler garment (ONESIE) — I wondered aloud if toddlers wear ONESIEs. Apparently some do. I associate the garment with babies. Newborns. Neonates.
  • 84A: Also-ran for the golden apple, in myth (HERA) — my first thought was HARE (as in "the tortoise and the"), so I was ... close.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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