Monday, July 4, 2016: “Fourth of July”

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Solving time: 9:11, which is probably not a good time to bring up during July 4th festivities. Anyway, that makes the puzzle medium for me.

Puzzle quality – in honor of the 9 bajillionth CZAR clue (60A: Russia’s Nicholas I or II) to ever appear in the New York Times crossword (has a week ever passed without the word TSAR or CZAR used in a grid?):

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Theme: In celebration of the Fourth of July, each of the four theme answers starts with one of the four letters in JULY. See how that numbering works out!? Must be a sign of the…

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(I love how the Illuminati happens to be connected to a symbol, the Eye of Providence on the dollar bill, that is so inextricably connected to the nation’s roots and thus the Fourth of July.)

Theme answers include the following:

  • J. EDGAR HOOVER (20A: Longtime F.B.I. chief)
  • U-HAUL RENTAL (26A: Van for moving day, maybe)
  • L-DOPA (36A: Drug used to treat Parkinson’s. I’ve never heard of this medication before, but today’s s, Jill Denny and Jeff Chen, probably had to resort to more obscure proper nouns to find a phrase in which the first letter both was an L and was phonetically “separate” from the rest of it.
  • CHROMOSOME (42A: Male characteristic. For those who didn’t understand this clue, females have the XX sex chromosomes, whereas males have the XY sex chromosomes. Hence, the Y chromosome is unique to men.)

Thought of the day: When ENYA packed her MOM JEANS in the RV right before it VROOM[ed] away, she attracted LEERS from the paparazzi, and one even uttered the ZINGER: “OH GOD! If she were any less TRENDY [clue from yesterday], you’d think ART DECO was still in fashion.”

Happy holidays to the original Brexit, everyone!

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A fairly standard Monday (hence the indifferent CZAR), with three exceptions outlined below. The New York Times crossword makes you less of a cultural jejune every day of the week – even on easy Mondays, with their oftentimes derivative and unoriginal clues. Up until today, I didn’t know that the Keystone KOPS (63A: Keystone __ of early film) were “fictional incompetent policemen” in 1910s silent comedies, according to Mr. Wikipedia. I also learned that TIA MARIA (29D: __ Maria coffee liquor) is a drink made with “Jamaican coffee beans” (Mr. Wikipedia again – I appreciated that Denny and Chen did not resort to the typical clue for TIA, which “aunt” in Spanish). Because that answer crossed with L-DOPA (36A: Drug used to treat Parkinson’s), a term that I also wasn’t familiar with, I got stuck briefly on the middle of the grid.

If I told one of my friends that I wanted to TOKE (19A: What can be a real drag?) some weed, they’d probably stare at me in total confusion, especially since the grass would have already made them high. More evidence that Will Shortz is a zombie resurrected from whatever era in which all these words were actually popular.

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LEMMA (32D: Helpful theorem in math) evokes many memories of math classes where multiple sub-proofs and theorems were needed as stepping stones to the larger, overarching proof. MOM JEANS (4D: Much ridiculed pants for women) was highly original, whereas IOU (3D: Payment-to-come-later note), ACE (57D: Expert), and other such three-letter crosswordese; complementary Italian dishes ORZO (51D: Rice-shaped pasta) and TORTE (46D: Rich dessert); and Queen Musician of the Crossword ARLO Guthrie (54A: Guthrie who sang at Woodstock) were ordinary Monday fill.

 

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