Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle: Cyclical paradox discussed in “Gödel, Escher, Bach” / MON 4-12-21 / Sports metaphor used to describe esoteric knowledge / Hypothetical musings / Modern pet na

Relative difficulty: Challenging (LOL, slow Tuesday time for me)

THEME: INSIDE BASEBALL (62A: Sports metaphor used to describe esoteric knowledge … with a hint to the circled letters) — circled letters contain the names for single members of three completely random MLB teams:

Theme answers:

BREAKFAST ROLLS (16A: Cinnamon buns and such)

STRANGE LOOP (29A: Cyclical paradox discussed in “Gödel, Escher, Bach”)

“THE WEST WING” (48A: Onetime TV political drama set in Washington)

A tangled hierarchy is a hierarchical consciousness system in which a strange loop appears. (wikipedia)

• • •

So many problems today. Let’s start with the stuff that’s intrinsically wrong, and then we can move on to the stuff that’s not really the puzzle’s fault. The theme just doesn’t work. I say this as a fairly serious baseball fan. Multiple-podcast-listening serious. Watch-my-Tigers-even-though-they’re-awful serious. 43-years-of-fandom serious. First, INSIDE BASEBALL means what it says; it doesn’t mean BASEBALL INSIDE. Second, what is “inside” is not … “baseball.” It is three totally arbitrary team names, and not even team names, but the name that you would call a single player on that team. So “a single baseball player inside” is what is happening. And the teams involved have nothing in common except that they’re all in the American League, which … I don’t think is relevant to how the theme works. No MET, no RED, no idea why. So the group isn’t even tight. The themer set is just way, way too loose an expression of the revealer phrase. Further … BREAKFAST ROLLS are not a category that exists in my head, and since only one type of “roll” was in the clue, I thought the answer was going to be way broader. Had BREAKFAST and then … nothing. FOODS? Who knows. Also STRANGE LOOP, LOL, what. Nothing about the answer, nothing about the clue, Nothing About The Wikipedia Definition Posted Above has me any closer to understanding what that is. I mean, BRANGELINA is sitting right there and you just leave it? So what if it’s not the same length as “THE WEST WING,” find a new themer with RED or MET in it … something. STRANGE LOOP is bizarro, and it’s especially bizarro *on a Monday*. Wow. OK.

This was definitely not a Monday puzzle. My time said more T or even W. The weird themer set alone should’ve bumped it to Tuesday. Are we still all required to have a Ph.D. in Yale trivia? It’s exhausting. I have no idea what the damn BULLDOG’s name is (11D: Yale’s Handsome Dan mascot, for one). I guess I knew that was their team name / mascot, but ugh. I had BU-L— and no idea. Wrote in BUILDER. Dan the BUILDER, Bob’s incompetent brother. A [Slight coloring] is a TINGE, but a TINT is just a … coloring? Totally forgot that right-wing goon Mike ROWE’s name (54A: Mike of TV’s “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”). For a reason. Ugh. All I could come up with was REES. Had GET TO IT before GET ON IT (42D: “Now, work!”). Had AL- crossing R-NT at the end and honestly just stared for a second or two before realizing it was ALE / RENT. I go to bars to drink cocktails, so having [Bar serving] be both BEER *and* ALE today was … let’s say, not on my wavelength. The “?” on RENT just made no sense to me (39D: Figure in home economics?). Fine clue, but again, not Monday stuff. Loved WHAT-IFS, but again, next to GETONIT, not Mondayish. Now, I typo’d IMP somehow, and it went in as MIP, so the fact that it took me a seeming eternity to pick up the revealer phrase, that’s totally on me. In fact, you can put this entire second paragraph on me. But the busted / tenuous nature of the theme, that’s not my fault. If you’re gonna do baseball themes, do them well. I love crosswords. I love baseball. This puzzle … I wish I loved more. Really hate when Mondays are off. They usually hit more than they miss.

A long time ago, I was solving this puzzle and got stuck at an unguessable (to me) crossing: N. C. WYETH crossing NATICK at the “N”—I knew WYETH but forgot his initials, and NATICK … is a suburb of Boston that I had no hope of knowing. It was clued as someplace the Boston Marathon runs through (???). Anyway, NATICK— the more obscure name in that crossing—became shorthand for an unguessable cross, esp. where the cross involves two proper nouns, neither of which is exceedingly well known. NATICK took hold as crossword slang, and the term can now be both noun (“I had a NATICK in the SW corner…”) or verb (“I got NATICKED by 50A / 34D!”)

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