Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015, James Mulhern


Another fun, tricky puzzle. A couple of gimmes from my teen years helped me get into this one fairly quickly: THEDOORS (15A: 1960s - 70s band that took its name from an Aldous Huxley title) and VONNEGUT (39D: Author who created the fatalistic optometrist Billy Pilgrim). Coincidentally - sort of - Frannie and I recently saw Jim Morrison's grave in Paris. Hi-ho.

And speaking of my younger days, boy oh boy did I dislike Pete Rose in 1975. (It looks like this photo might even have been taken at Fenway.) But nowadays, I side with those who say he should be in the Hall. There, I said it. He was a damn good ball player. (But still I like to imagine that Fisk is holding the ball in his glove here... heh heh heh...)

And one last one from my past - STRATEGO (35A: Capture-the-flag game). Some time ago one of my older brothers confessed that he always let me have red and go first because the red pieces were translucent with a light on behind me. Older brothers... on the bright side, I like to think that losing every game I played - chess, monopoly, basketball, whiffle ball, hockey - until I was about 16 somehow made me into a better game player. I know Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi or some other famous coach once said "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser," but, well... I don't agree.

So where was I? I guess we could segue from the coaches to XSANDOS (8D: Chalk talk symbols), which I enjoyed, once I got it. And off that, I considered "woosh" and "thuck" before getting TWANG (20A: Sound of an arrow being shot). And I'm not familiar with LOEWE as a "6D: High-end fashion brand), but I see now that it's a Spanish brand that's been around since the mid-ninteenth century! 

I liked DOUBT (55D: "The beacon of the wise," per Shakespeare), I didn't know that MIT was the 61A: Alma mater for Benjamin Netanyahu, or that "lutra" was Latin for OTTER. It's from the word "luo" which means "to wash." I don't think I've ever seen Eminem in a DORAG - it's usually a hoodie or a cap - so I didn't love that one, and 34D: Global superpower? was cute-ish for ATLAS, but also not quite right, it didn't seem. 

And finally, I enjoyed the combo of ETILES (50D: Most plentiful pieces in a certain board game) (I was lost for a while when "pawns" was too short), and RSTLNE (51D: Bonus round freebies on "Wheel of Fortune"). 

An enjoyable Saturday.

- Horace

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015, Joe Kroezel


Man, I loved this one! I got in quickly with STINKSTANKSTUNK (17A: "The three words that describe" the Grinch, in song), and ran from there.

I loved the cluing here, especially 10D: What irregulars go for (LESS), 23D: Otto's preceder (SETTE) (Italian. You were thinking rulers, like me, right?), 35A: Subtractions from the division? (AWOLS), 16D: Heeded a herald, say (HARKED), and many others. I tried "STUCKTOtheRIBS" for "12D: Was satisfying, as a hearty meal", but when that didn't fit, I tried the old crossword standby STUCKTOONESRIBS and what do you know, it stuck!

I ended up in the West (and speaking of that, having a vane visible out my window all through childhood made 29D: N-E-W-S directors? (VANES) quite easy), where the D in IODATE (30A: Disinfect, in a way, as a wound) was an educated guess that panned out. Again it was my youth, and the memory of the orangy-red stain that the iodine eyedropper put on each little sliver or paper cut that gave me the right answer. Because EDELS (28D: Writing brothers Leon and Abraham) was never, ever going to come to me.

The fifteens were all decent, the earlier "ones" comment notwithstanding. Again, I loved the cluing on those, too - 44A: Not discouraging feedback (OPENTOCRITICISM), 2D: One doing the rounds very quickly (AUTOMATICWEAPON), and 3D: Something to level with (TRINITROTOLUENE). Good ol' TNT. You don't see it written out all that much, but it'll level just about anything you put it near. Hah!

It had some odd stuff that I had never heard of (EDELS, OHKAY, DAMES), but they didn't hold me up any, and overall, I really enjoyed it.

- Horace

Thursday, April 23, 2015, David Steinberg and Bruce Leban

0:12:11 (DNF)

Boy, this one flew by. Maybe because I had heard the quip already. I was done in about ten minutes, but I had one problem square. I guessed wrong, and ended up having to run the alphabet, which, in my book, is a DNF. The square in question was the M in CIMINO (46D: Michael who directed "The Deer Hunter" and TCM (52A: Setting for many old films). I saw "The Deer Hunter," but I did not take note of the director's name, apparently, and having never had cable television, "Turner Classic Movies" is not something I think about. I barely even know about it. I know TBS, sure, but TCM? Not so much. So there you have it.

Aside from that, there was some stuff I liked in here, and some that I did not like. I enjoyed SLAMMER (5D: Pen), MAZE (10A: Way-out challenge?), MORNAY (27A: Sauce made with roux, milk and cheese) (Good ol' Julia...), HEAP (34A: Jalopy), NOB (53A: Bean), GEESE (64A: Simpletons), and ESCHER (45D; Tessellating artist). SINAI (43A: New York's Mount ____ Hospital) made me think of Colum (as did MED (51A: ____ school) and 50A: Rake in (EARN.)) :) And the full MAUNAKEA (3D: Highest Hawaiian peak) made me think of Huygens.

I didn't think "23D: Chisel, maybe" was just right for ETCH. Does that count as etching? Isn't that more like sculpting? Well... what do I know of it? And is LAPCAT (30D: Pet that likes to be petted) a thing? Isn't it mostly "lap dog" that people say? Oh, I don't know... I guess writing this review has talked me into liking this one. As I was doing it I didn't love it, because I don't particularly like the "quip" type of puzzle, and little things like ENAMELER and NOS bugged me. But on balance, there seems to be more that I enjoyed than stuff I did not enjoy, so let's give it a tepid thumb's up.

- Horace

p.s. Is EPIC going to be in the puzzle every day now? Doesn't it seem like we've seen that an awful lot lately?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015, Alex Vratsanos and Sam Ezersky

0:08:34 (FWOE)

I was so proud of myself for coming up with cHI almost immediately for 14A: Greek letter that's also an M.L.B. city on scoreboards), but in the end it was what cost me a perfect puzzle. I didn't check the down, and AcP didn't make any sense for 1D: 99¢ purchase, often (APP). Always check the crosses!

OK, now that that's out of the way... I liked this theme of PAIRSOFCARDS (56A: Some poker holdings ... or a hint to 20-, 24-, 30-, 41-, and 52-Across). Each theme answer (and it sure seems like the theme is dense in this one - six answers!) can be broken into two words, each of which can be put before "card" to make a common object. "Credit card," "report card," "hole card" (poker reference), etc. I tend to like this type of theme, and this one is done particularly well, I think. The revealer itself is probably the weakest link, as it sounds a bit odd.

The fill is good, too, with lots of nice sevens running into and out of the theme material. Doesn't THECOPA (2D: Hangout in a Barry Manilow hit) always bring a smile to your face? And I kind of like the side-by-side OLDDAYS (45D: Bygone times) and SMASHUP (46D: Major wreck) in the opposite corner. And speaking of that corner, we also find AMY down there! ICEFREE (44D: Navigable in winter, say) seems the most arbitrary of the bunch, but still it makes sense, so it's not much of an issue.

You know, maybe I'm getting a little soft, but it almost makes me smile to see things like ELOI, IPOD, and TOPE in a puzzle. They're like old friends. ACEY and AAS is pushing it, but overall, there wasn't too much of that kind of thing.

Thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015, Gerry Wildenberg


The theme today seems to be a double S vowel progression, with five two-word answers, each beginning with the letter S and having as their second letter each vowel in order. Kind of cool, but right from the start it feels a little strained with SATURDAYSABBATH (17A: Jewish observance). Is that what it's called? I mean, Saturday is the Sabbath, but does anyone talk about the "Saturday Sabbath?" I don't know. Same with the SOLIDSOUTH (49A: Voting bloc from Reconstruction to the 1960s). I haven't heard this term, but maybe that's just because it only was in place, as they say, until the 1960s. If it ever was a thing, it hasn't been a thing for fifty years, and maybe that's a reason to pick something else. And lastly, the theme made no impact on me, apparently, as I was solving the puzzle, because when I got to 55A: Power strip part (SURGESUPPRESSOR), I tried "surge protector," but it was, of course, one letter too short, not to mention not a "double S" phrase.

So overall, the theme felt a little blah to me today. Did the fill make up for it? Well.... not really. The longest of the non-theme material is one plural French word (cross-referenced twice), and a football player who played his last game before the end of World War II. Meh.

Then there's ALTI, ELAND, ADE, EMOTER, CLARO, PRESEXC... and APU doesn't even get a Simpsons clue! Well, that last isn't really a fair complaint, but it did make that clue much harder for me!

This one just felt a little stale. Sometimes that happens, I guess, and when it does, there's always tomorrow. That's the great thing about a daily puzzle subscription!

- Horace

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015, Tom McCoy


A fun theme today of LADIESFIRST (59A: Chivalrous rule obeyed in this puzzle) - four familiar couples have their usual order reversed. For instance, 37A: Grimm fairy tale (hint: 59-Across) is answered by GRETELANDHANSEL. We also get JULIETANDROMEO, JANEANDDICK, and MARYANDWILLIAM (23A: Virginia university).

The fill is pretty clean overall, with some nice bits. I like the word TOUSLE (32A: Mess up, as the hair) for instance, and 12D: Tall Paul (BUNYON) had me stumped for a while. I'm not too familiar with the name OJIBWA (45D: Tribe traditionally living around Lake Superior), but I do know their more common name - Chippewa. DOWNTON (26D: "____ Abbey") is current, OHFUN (55D: Sarcastic comment about the task ahead) is fun, and nobody minds being reminded of the great OTOOLE (44A: Peter who played Lawrence of Arabia).

There were lots of threes, but the worst was probably MTG (29D: Business appt., often), and that isn't even all that bad. Except that it reminds me that I've got a lot of them coming up this week! I never used to have meetings before I took this new job, and now I have them all the time! Ugh.

A fun theme, decent fill, solid Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, April 19, 2015, Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel


I found this to be a pretty tough Sunday, and I was a little surprised when I got the "Congratulations!" screen. It had, for instance, the most obscure Hebrew bible cross-reference I've ever seen - 21A: Source of the line "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind" (HOSEA) and 48D: Follower of 21A (JOEL). Wow.

The "Double Down" theme consisted of a rebus square that allowed several Down clues to be read twice, giving a two-word phrase. For example, "12D: Later" is answered by making the phrase "Not now" (NO[TW]). Get it? Another nice one was 46D: Lunatic (MA[DN]) "Mad man." In the across clues, the letters were just used in succession - 23A: Moving in a nice way (HEAR[TW]ARMING) and 57A: Friendly (GOO[DN]ATURED). Not a bad theme, I guess, but not really earth-shattering. My favorite bit of it might be EVENIN[GS]TAR (83A: Venus), just because it's such a nice sounding name, and it conjures up a peaceful image of being outside in the evening and star-gazing.

There were, I think, eight rebus squares, and they seemed to strain the fill in some unfortunate ways. For example - QUM (72A: Iranian pilgrimage city), TITI (91A: Long-tailed monkey) (it's lucky we just recently saw this!), EGER (25A: Hungarian city), TATATANTARABAABAA, ESSA, ENDOHAIG & HAAG, and some odd-looking partials - ITOR, ASWE, AJAM, ASTO, and IBE. I didn't particularly love EBONIES (53A: A piano has 36 of them), or SAPOR (76A: Flavor), or RESANDS or RESEEDS (87A: Changes the placement of in a tournament bracket), but what are you going to do?

There were also, of course, some clues that made me smile once I came up with the answers. 13A: Mini revelation? (THIGH), for example, was excellent. And coming off of that one, HOMOERECTUS (14D: Old man?) wasn't bad, either. I'm pretty sure Frannie was recently in Den HAAG for something or other, and today she's in London, perhaps doing a few PRESSUPs in the hotel room. (I'd bet a lot of money that she's not actually doing any.) INSINUATION (42D: Sly suggestion) was nice, and the MIKADO always makes me smile.

Overall, I guess I didn't love it.

- Horace