Pop singer Goulding / SAT 7-23-16 / WW II landing site in Italy / 24-book classic / Biggest rival of US Foods / Year-end tradition since 1966 / Half of 2000s stoner-film duo / Longtime hair lightener brand / Alternative to Flix / Music genre for Miriam Makeba / Last name in funnies for nearly 50 years / First lady Barbara's Russian counterpart

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Constructor: Debbie Ellerin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: KIT CAR (37A: Do-it-yourself wheels)
Not to be confused with KITT.
For other uses, see Kit (disambiguation).A kit car, also known as a "component car", is an automobile that is available as a set of parts that a manufacturer sells and the buyer himself then assembles into a functioning car. Usually, many of the major mechanical systems such as the engine and transmission are sourced from donor vehicles or purchased new from other vendors. Kits vary in completeness, including as little as a book of plans, or as much as a complete set with all components included. // There is a sub-set of the kit car, commonly referred to as a "re-body", in which a commercially manufactured vehicle has a new (often fiberglass) body put on the running chassis. Most times, the existing drive gear and interior are retained. These kits require less technical knowledge from the builder, and because the chassis and mechanical systems were designed, built, and tested by a major automotive manufacturer, a re-body can also lead to a much higher degree of safety and reliability. // The definition of a kit car usually indicates that a manufacturer constructs multiple kits of the same vehicle, each of which it then sells to a third party to build. A kit car should not be confused with a 'hand built' car or 'special' car, which is typically built from scratch by an individual. (wikipedia)
• • •

I told you. Literally, I told you. The last time this constructor published a puzzle in the NYT, I thought that the theme was perhaps a little trite, but that the *execution* was virtually flawless. I then went on to write: "This puzzle doesn't excite me, but it does give me sincere hope for decent future work." Well keep hope alive, yes we can, etc., because here is the "decent future work" I was talking about. And a *Saturday* puzzle, too–way on the other end of the puzzle week from that last puzzle (a Monday). I just Enjoyed this puzzle. It had that nice mix of hard and doable, pop culture and vocabulary, and cleverly tough (or toughly clever) clues that make for a good Saturday work out. I had the feeling of struggling in many places, but I never got truly bogged down. Those corners are all pretty sequestered, and things can get a little frightening when you are in blind alleys, with no way out. But in the end it was like a delicious small-plate meal—I'm still kind of hungry, but what I ate was really satisfying. Maybe if I just have another drink, I'll be good. I might've lost the metaphor there. Now I'm thirsty. It's Really hot and we have AC in only room and that is not the room I am in. I'm gonna run and get water and then start another paragraph.


This one leans a little heavily on proper nouns, for sure, and while this mostly didn't feel excessive, I can see something like ELLIE (16A: Pop singer Goulding) over LIANE (18A: Actress Balaban of "Supernatural") being a real trouble spot for folks (I knew the former, but definitely not the latter—though I think the crosses are gettable enough that I could've blanked on both and still been OK). Names *definitely* helped me get started, as SEURATS was the first thing I plunked in (after inferring the terminal "S" at 1A: Those falling head over heels?). I then followed that up with AMY (Poehler) and "FAMILY GUY," and while that corner still put up a fight, I had enough of a toe hold to get moving. I had TRIMMED for SLIMMED at 33A: Reduced and then *wrongly* inferred the terminal "S" at 33D: Things that one is good at (SKILL SET), so the SW corner was probably the toughest for me. At first, all I had was IVS. But then 46D: Something to carve out seemed to be screaming NICHE, so I went with it, and things panned out. After that, I misspelled FAGAN (thusly) (41D: Charley Bates's mentor, in literature) and mostly guessed and fumbled at the letters in 38A: W.W. II landing site in Italy (ANZIO) (EZIO and PINZA and ANZAC were all shouting at me in my mind). But everything else went pretty smoothly.


I am outta here til August 2. My replacement knows more about crosswords than I do, so you're in good hands. He'll be taking over from Sunday to Sunday. Then it's an Annabel Monday. Then I'm back. See you back here in 10 days.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Eternal water-pourers in Hades / FRI 7-22-16 / Shakespearean duel overeseer / Enfantines composer / Book film title character surnamed Gatzoyiannis / Abstract expressionist who married Jackson Pollock / Big name in Renaissance patronage / Follower of diet system / Much-photographed mausoleum site

Friday, July 22, 2016

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: DANAIDES (36D: Eternal water-pourers in Hades) —
In Greek mythology, the Daughters of Danaus (/dəˈnɪdz/; Greek: Δαναΐδες), also Danaids, Danaides or Danaïdes, were the fifty daughters of Danaus. They were to marry the fifty sons of Danaus's twin brother Aegyptus, a mythical king of Egypt. In the most common version of the myth, all but one of them killed their husbands on their wedding night, and are condemned to spend eternity carrying water in a sieve or perforated device. In the classical tradition, they come to represent the futility of a repetitive task that can never be completed (see also Sisyphus). (wikipedia)
• • •

The 15s / 16s hold up pretty well; the rest ... doesn't. The top and the bottom are full of gunk that made this puzzle icky to move through. Improbably, the quadstack felt like the smoothest part of the grid. Sure, it has a few predictably less-than-ideal crosses (I see you, ECASH), but there's not nearly as much bad short stuff in the middle as there is everywhere else. This makes almost no sense, as one would expect the reverse to be true. Quadstacks put strain on a grid, so that should be where the strain should show. Instead, ADM REA ELENI (!?) DENTE chunk is up top, in the place where the puzzle should be cleanest. And the bottom is even rougher, with PAREE MERLE AAS AREOLA NO FEES AERO being a cavalcade of blah, and ERY APEAR EAPOE (all up against the very tough DANAIDES) is a flat-out disaster. It's as if two different people made this puzzle. Oh ... look at that. I wonder if that had anything to do with this. I won't speculate. Martin's not usually so careless with the tops and bottoms of his centered quadstacks, is all I'm saying. The three 16-letter Downs do add perhaps somewhat more strain to the grid than one might otherwise see in a quadstack. Still...


JAPAN was wickedly clued (1D: Follower of a diet system), especially crossing JAGS, which for some reason I don't think of as [Sharp projections]. They're cats, for short, or they're crying spells, or maybe some kind of generically handsome TV military lawyers, I'm not sure. What "Gear" does OIL protect? Oh, the actual gear of a car? One of many gears? OK. I had many different answers where AHASH (blargh) is supposed to go. Started with A MESS, then went to A MASH, which worked swimmingly ... for a while. I've read a lot of classical literature, but the DANAIDES somehow got by me. Virtually no part of that answer (except the terminal "S") was inferrable to me—this made the (ugly) southern section by far the hardest. Oh, except for the [___ College] / [Cannery row?] crossing. I wrote in COE College, which is a place, and it worked, except ... CARS? Are there rows of CARS at a cannery? Turns out, there are not. JOE College, 20x ugh, who says that anymore? That's some '50s-era stuff. And again down there with the EGRET and ESTE and ORES—really weak fill where it shouldn't be. I did enjoy the longer stuff. I just don't get the quality discrepancy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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