Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle

Constructor:

Kameron Austin Collins

Relative difficulty:

Challenging

THEME:

my ignorant ass

— it’s a themeless, actually

Word of the Day:

LEN BARRY 

(17A: Jukebox crooner with the 1965 hit “1-2-3”) —

• • •

1D: Something you might haul) and saw through the

ADVERB

clue pretty quickly (1A: Now or never)), the only thing I wanted to put in front of “decimal” was “Dewey,” not

DUO

– (2D: Lead-in to decimal), but worst of all … did you know that STITCH and

SUITOR

are the same length and have three letters in the same position? Sigh. It’s true. And when you give me Penelope, I think about … well, she was weaving, not STITCHing, wasn’t she? Well, my brain was like “She’s doing things with fabric! STITCH!” (in case you don’t know / forgot: Penelope weaves Laertes’s shroud by day and unravels it by night as a way of deferring her

SUITORs

). I pulled myself out of that hole easily enough, but it was an omen. It boded. Bade? Whatever, bad things were in store for me, is the point.

That set of long Downs in the middle was actually the easiest part of the grid for me, largely because

XGAMES

was a gimme (coming out of the NW with the “XG-” in place), and then

TAZO

gave me that “Z” that made LAMAZE very clear (great clue on

LAMAZE CLASS

, btw (16D: Recommended labor practice)).

BANANA PEELS

was pretty transparent (18D: Yellow slippers?) and so with the center settled I sort of slid right down into the SE corner—once I’d changed BOLTS to

BRADS

(44D: Carpentry supply), which gave me

PRESS BOX

(48A: Writer’s block?)

, which gave me

XOXO

, and two “X”s was more than enough to handle that SE corner. So without too much more than regular Saturday effort I ended up here:


LEN BARRY

. I had put LEN BAKER in there, but when that didn’t work out, I just left it. That far SW part of the SW corner —

SPECIALS ERRANDS TESLAS

— filled itself in pretty quickly, which I thought boded omenly in a good way! Good boding! But the Opposite Was True. I got my hopes up but then precisely zero of those long Downs wanted to play along. Worse, the short Acrosses weren’t too helpful either. [Calendar abbr.]s aren’t gonna help anyone. “Pfft, good luck guessing us, idiot,” they seemed to sneer. I kinda wanted

IMAY

but I kinda wanted a bunch of stuff and kinda wanting never locked anything down. Finally decided it was

CREMA

 (36A: Espresso foam) and not FROTH because 33D: “Pass” was probably NA- (W? H?), and 32A: Yank slightly was probably

TUG ON

(not TUG AT, as I had conjectured) (FROTH is more cappuccino than espresso, anyway).

NAH

gave me

OPRAH

(educated guess! five-letter “host” of something where “People Are Talking”? Ending in “H”? I have a guess!). And down the long answers came.

AMOUR-PROPRE

, oof, ouch, wow, parsing that was … something (21D: Self-esteem, from the French). I know it, but haven’t thought about it in god knows how long. Wish that corner hadn’t ended on

MINT COIN SET

, which felt awkward and kinda made-up, or at least didn’t strike me as a coherent, recognizable, on-the-nose Thing to me. I know coins can be mint, and you can buy them in sets, but

MINT COIN SET

somehow doesn’t land. Only answer that really made me wince and cock my head and go “really?” Whereas AMOUR-PROPRE, despite being harder, felt like an old friend. Not necessarily a good friend, but an old one. “Oh … it’s you. I know you.” A more satisfying feeling of recognition. 

As you can see, no idea about. I had put LEN BAKER in there, but when that didn’t work out, I just left it. That far SW part of the SW corner —— filled itself in pretty quickly, which I thought boded omenly in a good way! Good boding! But the Opposite Was True. I got my hopes up but then precisely zero of those long Downs wanted to play along. Worse, the short Acrosses weren’t too helpful either. []s aren’t gonna help anyone. “Pfft, good luck guessing us, idiot,” they seemed to sneer. I kinda wantedbut Ia bunch of stuff andnever locked anything down. Finally decided it was) and not FROTH becausewas probably NA- (W? H?), andwas probably(not TUG AT, as I had conjectured) (FROTH is more cappuccino than espresso, anyway).gave me(educated guess! five-letter “host” of something where “People Are Talking”? Ending in “H”? I have a guess!). And down the long answers came., oof, ouch, wow, parsing that was … something (). I know it, but haven’t thought about it in god knows how long. Wish that corner hadn’t ended on, which felt awkward and kinda made-up, or at least didn’t strike me as a coherent, recognizable, on-the-nose Thing to me. I know coins can be mint, and you can buy them in sets, butsomehow doesn’t land. Only answer that really made me wince and cock my head and go “really?” Whereas, despite being harder, felt like an old friend. Not necessarily a good friend, but an old one. “Oh … it’s you. I know you.” A more satisfying feeling of recognition.

As for the NE, that initially looked much dicier than the SW—didn’t get much help from those longer Acrosses leading into that deep corner. “

LOOK HERE!”

was good, and then I got MEH, which felt probably right, but

MIMICS

felt like a bit of a guess, so the whole situation seemed tenuous until I lucked into

SPEED SKATES

(off just the initial S-E-). Being able to drop a long Down early made everything easier than it had been in the SW, even though that NW corner is *full* of things I simply didn’t know.

IDEAL GAS LAW

? LOL, whatever you say. SISTA Monica Parker, WES Studi … this corner was here to remind me that however good I am at crosswords, I am actually one sorry ignorant human being, because that is the condition of being human, so you better stay curious and stay (reasonably) humble or you are not going to enjoy the ride. In the end, I enjoyed this ride, even if it leaned a little more heavily into trivia I typically like.  

Notes:

  • 46A: ___ Studi, first Native American man to receive an Oscar (2019) (

    WES

    )— his Academy Award was an Honorary one. I assumed I didn’t know this guy, but boy was I wrong. He has appeared multiple (hilarious) times as Bucky on “Reservation Dogs”—my favorite current TV program (now that “Better Call Saul” is off the air).

[

WES

Studi is the dude in the jean vest who says “same as mine!”]

  • 59A: In descending order: Mount Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga, ___ (

    LHOTSE

    ) — hoo boy, no idea … but that corner was so easy that the answer just came together from crosses. I never even saw the clue until I had the answer completed.

  • 35A: Blues singer ___ Monica Parker (

    SISTA

    )— wrote in SANTA, SANTA Monica being a thing I’ve heard of / place I’ve been / boulevard I’ve driven. Parker sang blues and gospel and died fairly young (age 58, in 2014)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook

— it’s a themeless, actually) —See, this is the problem with taking away my Friday themeless—I have no warm-up puzzle that allows me to prepare for the Saturday. You need Friday to get you in the right mindset for Saturday, especially when the Saturday is a (gigantic grizzly) bear like this one. But instead I got that bizarre and relatively easy TETRIS concoction. That puzzle did nothing to prepare me for *this* puzzle, which fell on me like a ton of bricks or lead weight or collapsing roof (we’re currently having our roof replaced, so let’s go with the roof metaphor). I felt out of shape doing this puzzle, or like I hadn’t stretched properly or something. Even though I had flashes of brilliance right out of the box (dropped ASS right in () and saw through theclue pretty quickly ()), the only thing I wanted to put in front of “decimal” was “Dewey,” not- (), but worst of all … did you know that STITCH andare the same length and have three letters in the same position? Sigh. It’s true. And when you give me Penelope, I think about … well, she was weaving, not STITCHing, wasn’t she? Well, my brain was like “She’s doing things with fabric! STITCH!” (in case you don’t know / forgot: PenelopeLaertes’s shroud by day and unravels it by night as a way of deferring her). I pulled myself out of that hole easily enough, but it was an omen. It boded. Bade? Whatever, bad things were in store for me, is the point.