Monday, August 22, 2016: “Taste Makers”

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Solving time: 11:37, marking the first time that I’ve surpassed 10 minutes on a Monday puzzle in a long time. Hard for a Monday.

Puzzle quality:

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Theme: The first word in each of the theme answers (or, in the case of 39A, the first half of the first word) is a type of taste, resulting in the revealer TASTE MAKERS (61A: Influential sorts … or a hint to the starts of 17-, 23-, 39-, and 50-Across). Theme answers include:

  • BITTER ENEMY (17A: Archfoe)
  • SALTY LANGUAGE (23A: Profanity)
  • SWEETHEART DEALS (39A: Golden parachutes, e.g.)
  • SOUR PATCH KIDS (50A: Popular movie theater candy)

Welcome to the last-ever Popular Discourse blogpost on the daily New York Times crossword puzzle, at least for the foreseeable future. It’s been a pleasure serving all of the zero average daily readers of our crossword blog.

I actually wasn’t familiar with the phrase in one of the theme clues, specifically 39A. Apparently, a “golden parachute,” which I’ve never heard of before, is “an agreement between a company and an employee (usually upper executive) specifying that the employee will receive certain significant benefits if employment is terminated,” according to Mr. Wikipedia. I didn’t know of the phrase SWEETHEART DEALS either, which are “abnormally favorable contractual agreements.” Mr. Wikipedia actually gives a golden parachute as an example of a SWEETHEART DEAL, so the theme answer is clearly very fitting for the clue.

While I have definitely heard of the phrase SALTY LANGUAGE before, it took me a long time to get that answer from the clue 23A: Profanity, even when I had the letters SALT filled in and a couple of the letters in LANGUAGE filled in as well. I also had SOUR PATCH but was missing the last four letters, until it finally hit me that there’s a specific type of the candy called SOUR PATCH KIDS. My struggles in getting the theme answers were probably the primary cause of my above-average solving time today.

On top of that, there were some rather outdated non-theme answers, including ALL WET (35A: Completely wrong), which I couldn’t seem to get right (hah!) until I had all but one of the letters filled in from the surrounding downs. I’m used to seeing ELIA in crossword grids, but typically paired with the clue “Director Kazan” or something else referring to ELIA Kazan. This time, the clue came in the form of 37D: Charles Lamb’s “Essays of __,” which is apparently a collection of – you guessed it – essays that I’m unacquainted with. Apparently “Put up your DUKES!” is a phrase? If somebody told me to do that, I’d be like what? I’ve heard “duke it out” before, meaning to exchange fists, and apparently “putting up your dukes” has a similar definition of putting up your fists.

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Having LEAK instead of DRIP for 44A: Faucet problem and forgetting the word GELD (26D: Neuter, as a stud) didn’t help my time either.

Resigning from the post,
Kenneth, eternally lowly serf of Crossworld

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