“THE EX-FILES” by José Chardiet
Roll up your sleeves and sharpen your iPads, solve the puzzle, then read on
Constructor: José Chardiet
Theme: Each theme answer is missing DATA. (It’s reinserted in the list below for clarity.)
- 11A: SA DA TAY – *Classic Pootie Tang-ism roughly meaning “That’s the way it is”
- 20A: HAD A TASTE FOR – *Found delicious, as vampires vis-a-vis blood
- 26A: CALLED A TAXI – *Used Uber, maybe
- 38A: AVOID AT ALL COSTS – *Steer clear, as I do of any physical altercations
- 53A: MIRANDA TATE – *Alias of Talia al Ghul in “The Dark Knight Rises”
- 68A: SODA TAX – *Recent 1-cent-per-ounce levy aiming to promote healthier diets
- 59A: DATA LOSS – Virus symptom that occurs six times in this puzzle
Lena: I thought this was a nice easy Thursday theme. It quickly became obvious that something tricksy was afoot, the revealer clears it up right away, and off you go to chuckletown. Was it too easy? Nah, life is hard enough– the portions of it that come before Fridays especially– so I’ll lark it up with this one as best I can.
Michael: Unfinishable. NE corner = no way in hell. This is, by far, the worst BZF we’ve had to date. Caleb did not bring the cluing under control. We get it, you listen to rap. It is a great genre. But this thing was ridiculous. MIRANTE? SAY? I can’t even make DATA fit in there. PES? GRAE? These are terrible answers. And when it’s not mired in its own personal pop culture bog, we get ASSESS? TOSSTO? IDES? This just hurt and hurt and hurt. I’m begging Caleb et al to make these puzzles for a broader audience. Youthy, good. This … train wreck. How is [rn] ATM? If TRU is a “shouted” ad lib, why is it spelled that way? Jesus … awful.
Lena: I liked that 3-letter answers SOX and SAY turned out to be theme answers– it surprised me! I had DATA LOSS early on, and AVOILLCOSTS is the themer that let me know I’d need to squeeze DATA into each starred clue somewhere– the stars were helpful, but whenever I run across long answers with gibberish I start looking for stuff to flip/add/remove.
Lena: I will say that my easy time with this puzzle came to a screeching halt in the face of another couple of tiny answers: YUM (13D: “that’s rich!”) and the wicked, wicked ATM (19A: rn). The lowercase thing made it hard for me to realize that I was looking for an acronym… an acronym I have never used.
Michael: WHAT IS IT???!? WHAT ACRONYM?
Lena: “rn” is “right now” and “atm” is “at the moment” but this was all guesswork. Honestly, I thought “rn” was a typo at first and it took me until this morning, when I saw that it ended up in the published puzzle, to figure it out. Pretty rough for a two-letter clue and a three-letter answer, huh?
Michael: I honestly have no more to say. “Too easy” is fucking hilarious. Hard from front to back. Never once easy. Also, not rewarding. Nonsense theme answers. The T-Swift puzzle on Monday had the same issues, but this one is Worse. Your imagined audience (super hip millennials who are rap aficionados and know almost nothing outside of pop culture?) Can Not Solve This. Ditto your actual audience (me).
Lena: To be clear, I thought the theme was easy– the fill is a different story. In cases like this I typically slip into what I call a “Solver’s Fugue” and things I don’t know, like PES and GRAE, just end up filled in without me even realizing it happened. Like, I’m just now looking at the clue for ISH (27D: Word in many a radio edit instead of the s-word, shit) and, uh, wait what? ISH isn’t a word! Plus I’ve never heard that kind of bleep-out. I agree– lots of bad fill with unredeeming clues.
Lena: I flat out didn’t like ANGRY SEX (38D: Act of tough love). “Make-up sex” is a thing, but angry sex? I… don’t really want to know what that is. Why would you be angry? You’re having sex! I hope no one has ever been mad at me during sex. I guess if I wasn’t aware it would be more like passive-aggressive sex. . . Is it that you’re angry about something else while having sex, or angry at the person you’re having sex with?
Lena: Michael? Are you still there?