Constructor: Andrew Ries
Theme: Rebus puzzle in which two symmetrical black squares represent the word COCK.
- 38A: COCK BLOCK – Terrible wingman, slangily, hiding literally twice in this puzzle.
- 10D: PEACOCK – Festive feather fanner
- 22A: POPPYCOCK – “Bullshit!” to old British chaps
- 24A: COCKPIT – Workplace for those getting everyone really high?
- 29D: COCK ROCK – Testosterone-fueled music genre, in slang
- 38D: COLDCOCK – Completely knock out
- 54A: HANCOCK – 2008 Will Smith movie about an alcoholic superhero
- 55A: COCKTAILS – They’re shaken behind bars
- 60D: COCKNEY – Person who makes a hash brown ash brown
Ben: This is the first BuzzFeed puzzle that I’ve had kind of mixed feelings about, and it took me a little while to understand why.
Lena: I knew I was headed towards a major eye-narrowing when I had the two Ks in the the theme answer and dropped in COCK BLOCK like it was hot. And kinda gross.
Ben: I don’t love the theme here, and at first I thought it was just the obscene phrase that I didn’t like, but upon reflection I don’t think that’s it. I don’t have any inherent problem with sexual slang being used in puzzles — it’s just that COCK BLOCK is a phrase that I’ve only ever heard used by obnoxious frat boys and their ilk. Basically, anyone who uses the phrase unironically is somebody who I’m probably not going to enjoy spending time with.
Lena: It reminds me of the horrible book “The Game” that details the “art” of sexual harassment– women are for sport, conquest, etc.
Ben: I don’t think I’d object to COCK BLOCK as fill for a themeless or something, but as the central theme of an entire puzzle — I found it more obnoxious than funny. I suspect this is a case where people’s mileage is going to vary depending on how they feel about the base phrase.
Lena: I agree re: themeless fill, depending on how it’s clued. Phrase-wise, yesterday Michael said he’d take PENIS over SEMEN in a puzzle, and I’ll add that I’ll take PENIS over COCK— I just find the latter too pornographic. And with LOADS still fresh from yesterday…
Lena: God, I feel the need to say VAGINA to clear the air in here!
Ben: Putting aside my issues with the theme, this is nicely crafted. I did like that seven of the eight themers include COCK in its non-genitalia meaning to avoid repetition — the lone exception being COCK ROCK (29D: Testosterone-fueled music genre, in slang) which I’d honestly never heard of before this puzzle. (The fact that the clue is a straight definition suggests I might not be alone there)
Lena: I liked that the theme required some puzzling, and I’ll admit to drawing little penises in the black squares. Also, I’ve encountered a lot of puzzles lately that involve writing in the black squares– I’m going to have to get a metallic glitter pen.
Ben: My favorite theme clue was definitely COCKTAILS (55A: They’re shaken behind bars)
Lena: As a former bartender I also enjoyed that one! Just as long as nobody is shaking a martini…
Ben: In order to accommodate the rebus squares, we have a very segmented grid today — there’s really only two pathways into each of the mini-puzzles in the NE and SW. Fortunately, LIMP BIZKIT (6D: “Nookie” rap metal band, which was voted Worst Genre Idea by “My Mind Monthly”) and DOLLAR SIGN (32D: Cha-ching indicator) are both strong entries and easily gettable (although I’m not 100% sure I understand the clue on the latter).
Lena: I guess ETILLS don’t make that sound when you need ECHANGE for your ECASH.
Ben: Even though I wish that the sections flowed more smoothly into each other, I do admire the smooth fill here. There’s some fun mid-length stuff that I haven’t seen much in crosswords, like ORDINAL, FRENEMY and THE BEEB. None of the short stuff stuck out while solving, and I appreciated TEN PM (which always strikes me as a very arbitrary answer) being clued modernly as 9D: When “American Horror Story” airs.
Lena: I’ve been accused of being too dupe-sensitive, but REMARRIED and RENAMES as longer answers stuck out IMO. I was also definitely aware of ORAL B, EOS, EERO, PTA and, of course, SSS. But how can I stay mad at SSS when it’s “[Like the only thing a snake can say]”? Sometimes it’s, like, the only fill you can fill.
Ben: Favorite clue by a mile: SAMSON (18A: Biblical figure whose hair game was strong). Next runners up: REMARRIED (30A: Gave lifelong, unbreakable promises (again)) and ERGO (26D: “So, if my logic is correct and I’m super pretentious…”). I think since Monday the cluing has been striking a better balance between the vaguely obnoxious BuzzFeedy voice and sassy wordplay (which I love).
Lena: I think my favorite clue is 19A: [Does some digital processing?] => ADDS. Now this is super clever and misdirecting in a way that still incorporates those modern feels.
Ben: I am curious whether INUITS (61A: Arctic Natives who believe the main problem with humans is everything we eat has a soul (I’m paraphrasing)) gave anyone trouble — it was pretty much an instaget for me off the first two words of the clue, but I don’t know if Canadian First Nations tribes are common knowledge in the States.
Lena: Looks like INUIT/S has appeared in NYT puzzles 31/4 times– I expected more due to those fill-friendly letters!
Lena: Oh, and did you notice that the TUT clue (62D: He ascended the throne of Egypt by age ten, must have been quite a college essay!!!) repeated the “quite a college essay!!!” part from the clue for ABIGAIL Breslin in yesterday’s puzzle? I checked to see if it was a meme, but it doesn’t seem to be… yet! Stay tuned.