Adherent to the Five K's / FRI 11-11-22 / Sportscaster Adams who hosted Good Morning Football / Film technique for revealing a character's psychological state / Chamber oriented so that those who face it also face Jerusalem / Hit HBO show whose main character worked at the nonprofit We Got Y'all / Popular paper flower variety / Blended style of facial makeup / Creamy South Asian drink
Constructor: Brooke Husic and Erik Agard
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: ESMÉ Weijun Wang (20A: Writer ___ Weijun Wang) —
Esmé Weijun Wang is an American writer. She is the author of The Border of Paradise (2016) and The Collected Schizophrenias (2019). She is the recipient of a Whiting Award and in 2017, Granta Magazine named her to its decennial list of the Best of Young American Novelists. (wikipedia)
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There were many strong spots today, but my favorite moment was probably the clue on WISH LIST (nice to have your apex clue go with your marquee, dead-center answer). That clue is baroque ... and perfect (38A: Noun phrase that's present perfect indicative). A WISH LIST ... is a list of things one would like to receive, so it indicates ... perfect ... presents—just a great repurposing of the grammatical mood ("present perfect indicative"). The puzzle's main strength wasn't so much scintillating answers as overall smoothness and subject variety. This puzzle goes a lot of places, and it goes there so deftly and unclunkily. When I think about what *polished* grids look like, this is something like what I have in mind. It's not that there are *no* repeaters or otherwise familiar crosswordy answers (NOLA LEIA ESME ALOE ECO OLAY ... you see these all the time, of course). It's that a. there are relatively few, b. they are propping up gorgeous longer answers, which are the things that really grab your attention, and c. even as repeaters go, they are real, solid, familiar things. AUK is definitely a Crossword Bird, but it's also just a bird, a real thing, so it doesn't play as tiresome, and it especially doesn't play as tiresome when it's not offered up in a glut of other superfamiliar short stuff. Choose your repeaters wisely, spread them out if you can, and for god's sake let them be in the service of longer, more impressive stuff. Today's puzzle does all this perfectly.
The difficulty returned, a little, at the end of the solve, specifically in the SE corner, which, like the NW corner, gave me some trouble, though this time the trouble came not from my making a highly intractable mistake, but from plain old toughness. The first issue was ... well, it was also a mistake: MEAL for MENU at 30A: Chef's creation. That wrong answer gummed up the works, since those two wrong letters would've provided the first letters in two of the long Downs in that section. Crucial letters ... wrong letters. Sigh. After that, there was a crush of sports trivia that I struggled with to varying degrees. Had to stare at the phrase "sports theater" a while to figure how to get from there to anything that might fit at blank blank E. The staring worked, thankfully, but it definitely caused a solving lull. Then there was TIM Anderson, whom I know very well, but somehow, out of context, and with such a plain last name, I blanked on him. Then there was KAY Adams, whom I didn't know at all because football shmootball (57A: Sportscaster Adams who hosted "Good Morning Football"). Thought she might be a FAY. Anyway, between the incorrect MEAL and the proper noun sports answers, things were slower going in here. Other issues in this section: an owl says what now? ("WHOO!"). Is that ... canonical? I had the "W" and then no idea. That seems like a stretch, and also like a clue that's *designed* to make you write in a wrong answer, namely HOOT. Not thrilled about that. I love SMOKEY EYE as an answer but it still took me a while to pick up. Also, the only association I have with the concept comes from a very stupid controversy involving an innocent joke about a putrid right-wing politician ... so I like it as an answer even though it forces me to remember said putrid human being (never fun).
Just a few other missteps. Empty NETTER before Empty-NESTER (66A: Empty ___). PRESS OP (?) before PRESSER (11D: Event for journalists, informally). Overall, this was a fun, flowing Friday, easy but with enough spice and kick to make things interesting. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
* This article was originally published here