Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014, Joel Fagliano

Season's Greetings

I think it took quite a bit of ESPRIT (97D. Lively intelligence) to come up with today's theme answers, especially my favorite, 117A. Stuff your dad finds ridiculous? (HOKUMTOPAPA). That clue is quite a stretch, but it works and it entertains. Many of the other theme-related material had enjoyably unusual parts to them: HOKEY, HOEDOWN, HOBO, and DINGER. I noted two additional theme-related clues in the grid - kind of a meager haul. At least there wasn't any coal. :)
88A. "It came __ a Midnight Clear" (UPON)
46D. Some Christmas decorations (HOLLIES)
There were a few other answers I enjoyed:

7a. Without a mixer (NEAT) - right in my wheelhouse because I take my drinks neat, like my men.
30A. Majors in acting (LEE) - six million dollar answer.
96A. Seeks change (BEGS) - See, change can also mean coins, or money.
110A. Where the big buoys are? (OCEAN) - Ha!
13D. Return to one's seat? (REELECT) - Nice one.

I learned a few things about Italian word origins from Mr. Fagliano. He included two food-related items of interest:
38A. Sauce with a name derived from the Italian for "pounded" (PESTO)
77D. Pasta with a name derived from the Italian for "quills" (PENNE)

I did have a few quibbles:
70A. Soon gonna (ABOUTTO) - the informal nature of the clue doesn't match the answer.
102A. What vinegar has a lot of (USES) - I can name quite a few other things that have a lot of uses.
103A. Proctor's charge (TESTEES) - this one was wrong on several levels, as I'm sure you are all aware.

I have to sign off now - my Pad THAI (45A. (noodle dish)) has arrived!

~ Frannie

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014, Kevin G. Der and Ian Livengood


Boy, this started out easy as pie - mostly on the east side - and then it ground down to a halt on the west. POTFARMS (1A: Where much grass grows) took a few crosses, for instance, and STARBASE (17A: Enterprise headquarters) took far longer than it should have! 19A: Place for a sucker (TENTACLE) was great, and ABBA (5D: Ones repeating "I do" in 1976?) was also fun. My only quibble with the NW is that I usually think of TRANK (3D: One delivering a knockout, informally) as being spelled with a Q.

The SW took the bulk of our time on this one, but as I look at it now, the downs just look so obvious! I mean, PARTYTRAY (27D: Caterer's preparation)?! We were making things for a PARTYTRAY as we were doing this one! Frannie's family holiday party was this afternoon! But could we think of it? No. My favorite in that area was the last one we entered - APLENTY (35A: In abundance). I needed every cross for that one. Honestly. (Did I mention that I was fighting a cold this week?…)

On the other hand, things on the other side, even things like DOCILITY (31A: Tameness), IGUANA (16A: Creature with a crest), UNODUETRE (13D: Italian count?) and CROSSWORDS (56A: Cross words?) went right in with a cross or two. Sometimes it goes that way.

Overall, a decent challenge.

- Horace

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014, Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson


This is a strong puzzle with long, triple-stacked corners. Frannie got a foothold in the SW with DRACOMALFOY (56A: Fictional school bully with henchmen named Crabbe and Goyle), and from there we worked more or less counter-clockwise, ending with what is probably the weakest triple-stack, in the NW. But still, the weakest here isn't really all that bad. I didn't love POLOPONIES (2D: Ones involved in horseplay?), but ANKLESTRAP (3D: Stiletto attachment, perhaps) wasn't bad, and it might please at least one frequent reader.

I guess enough time has passed, because I actually cracked a smile when OJTRIAL (36A: Major media event of '95) became apparent. Heh. Slow-speed Bronco chase...

LEADVOCALS (28D: Frontman's assignment) was clever, in that obvious kind of way, and all we could think of for a long time for 62A: Track star of 1977 (SEATTLESLEW) were humans like Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, and Bruce Jenner. Not that all of those would fit... but still.

SPIREA (45A: Flowering shrub whose name comes from the Greek for "coil") is one of my favorite plants, and I'm happy to have learned something about its name today. What the heck, let's put in another photo:

There, isn't that nice?

Anywho... there was the usual smattering of schlock, but overall, I liked this one.

- Horace

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014, Timothy Polin


Another tricky puzzle! We took forever in the NW today, finally settling on DIPS (1A: Nincompoops) and DOJO (1D: Good place to kick back) (Neither of us was terribly familiar with this word, and I thought it was actually a martial arts teacher), so when we got the error message, we thought a little more about what else the D could possibly before looking further into the grid. As it turned out, we had the very center square wrong, having guessed "ole" instead of OYE (38A: "____ Como Va"). It was only after Frannie put in the Y that BYE (34D: What a seed often has) made sense. I even thought of the sports context, but could not come up with "BYE." Oh well.

The eme-thay, we iked-lay just ine-fay. KNUCKLEDRAGGER (41A: *Outlay) is such a wonderfully descriptive term, and I've always like the expression "As I LIVEANDBREATHE" (32A: *eBay).

MIRAGE (64A: Rival of Caesars) was a tricky one, STODGY (8A: Opposite of hip) is a good word, and it's always nice to be reminded of the Stooges (SHEMP (6D: One of the original Stooges). On the down side, there were a couple proper names we didn't know - SEATON (67A: George who directed "Miracle on 34th Street") (How timely!), and MARA (56D: Rooney ____, star of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), the MHO (15A: Former name of the physics unit siemens) wasn't on the tip of our tongues, we've never heard of GSN (63D: TV channel with the slogan "Get Smarter Now") (too bad, I guess…), and I prefer the old-fashioned "two-S in the middle" spelling of YESES (13D: Acceptances)… but not knowing things doesn't make for a bad puzzle, of course, it just makes for a tricky puzzle.

Overall, I guess I liked it. DOLLOP (33D: Spoonful, say) was fun, and REDUCEDFAT (30D: Attribute of the 1%) was brilliant. How could I pan a puzzle with pig Latin and that clue? Well, I can't.

- Horace

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014, Stu Ockman


MAKEHASTESLOWLY (22A: Oxymoron for cautious travel) my foot! It seemed like a pretty fast solve for a Wednesday, but after my troubles yesterday, I'll take it.

ASTHICKASABRICK (50A: Simile for denseness) makes us think of the classic Jethro Tull album (although he didn't use the first "as"). So what is it, just a figure of speech theme? Hyperbole, Oxymoron, Litotes, and Simile? The only one that people might not know for sure, I'm guessing, is litotes, but who knows… maybe I overestimate people. Or underestimate them. 

GALLEONS (4D: Many Spanish Armada ships) is lovely. And speaking of overestimating people, you might have guessed I'd know whence "Ave Maria," but no, I learned it from this puzzle. OTELLO (12D: Opera with "Ave Maria"). 

I didn't love KUE (55D: Scrabble 10-pointer, spelled out). I think "cue" Googles a bit better (in my ten-second search), but I wanted "kew" instead, but then, that was already in the grid… KEW (52D: London's ____ Gardens). KUE sounds more European, where they don't have that diphthong-y sound, but say it more like "coo." Oh well. NENE (56A: Leakes of reality TV) was a tough clue I'd never seen for that before, nor was I familiar with ADELA (21A: Writer ____ Rogers St. Johns), or RITT (16A: "Nuts" director Martin), or LUKAS (6D: "Last Days" actor Haas), or UTHER (46D: King Arthur's father ____ Pendragon).

I guess four fifteens is a decent amount of fill, and the phrases are all decent, so even though the fill is a bit strained (TRITEST, EELER, ANIS), and it's packed with obscure names, I still didn't really think it was terrible. Let's call it a wash.

- Horace

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014, Joel D. LaFargue


Today we had an epic "kit-wo" moment, and because of it, the typo remained unfound for several minutes while we tried to figure out what DOOK (33A: Scrape by) could possibly mean. "Kitwo moment" comes from a puzzle we did last New Year's Day with Colum, where he, Frannie and I stared at the entry "KTWO" for a long time saying "kitwo?" back and forth, before someone finally said "K2!" Today, we finally said "Do OK!" Whew! So anyway, I had an E where the I goes in ARIA (35D: Puccini's "Un bel di," e.g.) and RONIN (43A: Robert De Niro spy thriller). Either one of those should have tipped me off, but I guess "Ronen" didn't look bad enough, and it got through.

So let's see... what was the theme? Oh, right, THEBEEGEES (60A: Trio whose members start 17-, 26-, and 44-Across). Very nice. Plus, they got a bonus ROBINWILLIAMS (26A: Late comic genius) tribute in, so that's nice.

I don't like GEWGAW (5D: Showy trinket) (I guess I would slightly have preferred "Geegaw," which is listed as a variant), but what are you going to do with all those Ws? And KEPI (53D: French army headwear) crossing SAPOR (63A: Flavor) seemed a tricky cross for a Tuesday. I did, however, like the clue for BULLMARKET (28D: Something you won't see many bears in), which was also tricky, until suddenly it wasn't. Heh.

Overall, I guess I liked it all right, even though I didn't really dook enough to finish without an error.

- Horace

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014, Zhouqin Burnikel and Dennis Ryall


STOP is today's theme, or "S to P." It's fine, I guess. I like STEELTRAP (56A: *Sharp mind, figuratively) and SKINNYDIP (20A: *Go swimming in one's birthday suit).

Nothing too outrageous today. Maybe ERL (9D: Schubert's "The ____ King"), but I'm pretty sure Colum will know that, so I can't complain too loudly. ALAE, ESAI, EPEE… the usual stuff.

LASHES (29A: Punishment for a mutineer) was colorful, and took a few crosses, WEAPON (45A: One-third of a Clue accusation) was fun, and could have been "person," I suppose. And ALFAROMEO (34D: Sports car with a Spider model) was unusual to see, although not at all difficult.

Best clue: 50D: Trash-talking Muppet? (OSCAR).

- Horace