Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014, Timothy Polin


Yet another late-week themed puzzle. This one really could have been a Thursday, I feel. I went through all the Across clues, guessing at one or two, thinking "Either this is going to be impossible, or there's something I'm not seeing." Then, I think at 7D: Kid of poetic work (ODE) it finally hit me, and then it was just a matter of filling things in.

As an exercise in clue-writing, this is a beautiful piece of work. As a Saturday puzzle, it was a bit of a let-down. Frannie didn't even get a chance to see it, which she doesn't like at all.

As a Thursday puzzle, on the other hand, this would have been fun. Lots of Scrabble-y letters, some nice long stuff (MEATFREE (2D: Vegas would love this type of world) sitting beside BACCARAT (3D: Casio game) is a complex juxtaposition), and really quite clean. I don't love TINCTS (55A: Adds a little toe to), but there's not too much else to complain about.

It would get a thumbs up on the genius of the clueing alone (33D: Doe, e.g. (POET)), but the fill is really great in parts - PHALANX (27D: Wig of the old Greek army), ERSATZ (11D: Margarie might be described thus), ASUNDER (23D: I pieces) (one of the weakest clues, perhaps), and more - so I guess I cat really fault it.

- Horace

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014, Sam Ezersky


I love a puzzle that we start late at night, that we both take a stab at, and that we eventually have to finish in the morning. That's what happened today. That NE corner was intractable for a good long time. Then the "ym" ending appeared and HOMONYM (14D: Cache for cash, say) (we should know better!) dropped in, then we tried BAM (18A: Sound of a slug) and HIBACHI (12D: Literally, "fire bowl") came clear, and finally, somehow, DCON (28A: Brand of bait pellets) (wow. I had pretty much written off any chance of getting this from the beginning) came to me, and that was the lynchpin for ENAMORS (13D: Doesn't just attract). Whew!

Great stuff everywhere today, starting with BBQSANDWICH (1A: Something that goes from a pit to your stomach?). Very nice, that. Things like BLISTERPACK (60A: Pill holder), PARTI (53D: Epic start), and LAKEONTARIO (65A: Member of a "great" quintet) seem so obvious now, but they did not come easily. And I quite enjoyed the dismissiveness of ITSMAGIC (38A: Unhelpful reply to "How did you do that?") and HEH (12A: Snarky sound).

On the down side, there's the odd DRYFARM (45D: Raise crops on the Plains, maybe) - is that a thing? - and INO (16A: Queen of Thebes, in myth). You know, I've been reading the Oedipus trilogy, which is partly set in Thebes, and I'm pretty sure INO hasn't come up yet. And last Saturday we had "Her poison killed Creon" (MEDEA), and although Creon is king of Thebes during part of the Oedipus story, I haven't yet gotten to his death. How many of these damn classics am I going to have to read before I know all this stuff?!?

Where was I? ... anyway, there's a little of the necessary, crosswordsy stuff in here - who the hell is EDEL (22D: 1963 Pulitzer winner Leon) (cruel, really, since this was right during Leon Uris's heyday, but no Pulitzers for Uris) - but not too much, and there's tons of stuff that we really liked. A very good Friday.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie wondered aloud whether GARP (31D: T.S. of literature) were a Robin Williams tribute. Let's all agree that it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014, Jules P. Markey


Two things about the theme - 1. It is somewhat odd that the revealer begins with a "PO" that is not in rebus form. 2. The clue of the revealer "39A: Mail conveniences ... or a hint to eight square in this puzzle" (POSTOFFICEBOXES) gives away too much. I don't think we had any of the rebus squares yet when we read this, but after reading it, you know what you're looking for, even if you don't get the answer right away.

On the brighter side, it's nice, I guess, that the rebuses are all contained in symmetrical long answers (although some critics find that sort of structure in a rebus puzzle also gives away too much, once you catch on to it).

I also enjoyed much in this puzzle. SHIITE (32A: Ayatollah Khomeini, e.g.) was good, GARTER (44A: Hose attachment) was tricky for me, but Frannie got it quickly. ASHE (18A: 26-Across of a North Carolina "-ville") (candidate for "Most Opaque Clue" of the year!) and E[PO]NYM (26A: See 16-Across) (gee, thanks) were tricky for both of us, but it eventually made sense. Wow, though. Really?

ANA (22A: Carrier to Tokyo) is unfamiliar, and MESNE (47A: Intermediate, in law) was too, even with some Latin. And even after looking it up, I'm still not certain I know whether or not it is related to "demesne." ITER (20A: Roman road), on the other hand, was a gimme. And speaking of legal matters, 56A: Legal borders? (ELS) totally got me today! They love that kind of clue, and I know it, and it still got me!

Lastly, I feel I must point out that "Wizard of Oz Week" continues today with TOTO (24D: Film pooch) (I originally tried "Asta").

Overall, I guess I liked it more than I didn't like it. You?

- Horace

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014, Zhouqin Burnikel


When I caught on to 1A: Start to grunt? (HARDG) right away, I had a good feeling about the way things might go. Unfortunately, I tried "Lemon" for 6A: Air freshener scent (LILAC), but it was fixed pretty quickly, and things actually did move right along after that.

The theme is a tad odd, but very nicely done. The letters RSTLN and E are now given automatically in the "bonus round" of the show Wheel of Fortune. It didn't used to be that way. Remember when that giant lazy susan full of products with prices would turn, and the contestants would take the remainder on account? Those were the days… but I digress. As I was starting to say, the letters are all used as single letters, and the revealer, FREE (55D), is at least in the middle, even though it has no symmetrical clue up top.

There were some nice entries in here, but before I highlight any of them, I just want to say that I was surprised to find out that EDYS is the 58D: Brand known as Dreyer's in the West. I thought I just learned through another clue that EDYS was some guy's last name. Why would it be called by a different name in the West? Well, perhaps you've already guessed, but I'll tell you anyway. The company was started as "Edy's Grand Ice Cream" in Oakland, in 1953, by two guys named Joseph Edy and William Dreyer, but in 1947 the company was dissolved. Later, Dreyer Jr. got control somehow, and changed the name to Dreyer's, and then later still, the Edy's name was resurrected when the company expanded east of the Rockies, so the product wouldn't be confused with Breyers. Stranger still, when we were in school in the Midwest, there was a local ice cream place called Dryan's… but that has little bearing on this puzzle.

Other things I liked were CHESS (10D: Game in which pieces can be forked), NOMEN (65A: "Julius," e.g., in Gaius Julius Caesar) (as opposed to the praenomen and cognomen), RHAPSODY (3D: Liszt piece), and GREWWEARY (5D: Tired) (nice double Ws). FIST (59A: Symbol of authority) was nice, too, and it took me three crosses before I realized what it was! Also, it's symmetrical with WEAK (21A: Watered down), coincidence? I wonder. And who doesn't love the AMISH (15A: Plain people) (at least it wasn't "Otoes").

My biggest complaint might be that SAE (58A: Autograph seeker's encl.) is less familiar than "SASE," but coincidentally, there was an SAE (sigma alpha epsilon - I don't want to bother finding a Greek keyboard) fraternity at that same school that was near Dryan's. Interesting, no?

- Horace

Tuesday, August 19, 2014, Sam Buchbinder


According to the Wikipedia, they're one week late for the anniversary of the original release date of August 12, 1939. But hey, it's probably close enough for a 75th anniversary, right? And really, this is a heck of a tribute puzzle. Look at all that theme material! Four fifteens, a centrally-located DOROTHY/HEROINE pair, and a couple of circled letters. That's a lot!

The theme material is great, but as you might expect with some 40% of the letters being theme-related, there are going to be some compromises elsewhere. And yes, there are. Here's a little list of crosswordese and odd fill - EIRE, ALI, CGI, ARA, POL, ROAN, SSNS, OREO, LAS, ASL, THA, ATOI, ROO, OTOE, DATS, AER, EDYS, REM, BYS, ALKA, WEI, ODS, AVER… and I'm not even counting names like BIALIK, ZAC, AKIVA and ENZI.

That's a lot, but I think the theme still wins out. I mean, come on, who's going to challenge the Wizard of Oz? And somehow there's still room for some nice non-theme stuff, like QUASH (22A: Put down, as an uprising) (are we thinking of Ferguson here?), STACKS (47D: Library area) (Frannie would love this if she had done this puzzle), HECKLE (48D: Jeer) (great word), NAKEDEYE (64A: Unaided vision, with "the"), and KLUTZY (65A: Ham-handed).

Lastly, not knowing the name BIALIK (15A: Actress Mayim of "The Big Bang Theory") or THA (20A: "____ Carter III" (Lil Wayne 3x platinum album)), it took me a full minute or more at the end to complete S_I_AT (SKIHAT (6D: Top of a mountain?)). Hah. Funny. Ish.

On balance (and my those scales are full), I give this one the thumbs up. For theme, and because Mr. Buchbinder didn't try to cram in a J for the pangram.

- Horace

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014, Ian and Katie Livengood


A solid Monday offerring, with a decent theme and some unusual fill.

Let's talk about the theme first. The "bait, cast, bite, reel" sequence makes sense, and the two-word phrases that house them are mostly fine. I'd rather have seen some kind of printing problem clue on COLORCAST (21A: Like most TV shows starting in the 1960s), but I suppose that would only appeal to a very small subset of solvers. The very idea of OSCARBAIT (17A: Film designed to attract Academy Awards consideration), too, is repulsive to me, but I guess it's normal enough.

In the fill we see such lovely things as CHECHNYA (23A: War-torn part of Russia), TOUCANSAM (9D: Avian Froot Loops mascot), DSTUDENTS (32D: Pupils who score in the 60s) (it's a bit unorthodox, but why not? I like it!), and STATESEAL (37D: Louisiana's has a nesting pelican with three chicks). I also quite enjoyed BLACKEYE (58A: Shiner). COACHESUP (5D: Instructs, informally)? Well… ok, I guess that's fine.

The clue for YARD (58D: One of 10 in a series of football downs) seems needlessly complex and, in the end, almost nonsensical. One yard in a series of downs? But I enjoyed the accuracy of the paired, foreign-language "goodbye" clues - 24D: Informal goodbye (CIAO), and 52D: Formal goodbye (ADIEU).

ASS (25A: Ninny) and ASSET (36A: Liability's opposite) looked a little too similar one on top of the other, but overall, a decent Monday.

- Horace

p.s. The embedded image is a fiction, and does not indicate endorsement by Toucan Sam, Mel Blanc, Kellogg's, or any parent company.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014, Caleb Madison

Sittin' Solve

I chuckled my way through this puzzle. Horace had run once across and down and handed it over to me, as usual on a Sunday. The first theme answer I got was WRITINWRONG (20A. Spellin' things incorrectly?) Then, I was off and runnin'. A favorite was 75D. Carryin' a load of grain? (HAULINOATS). Mr. Oates, the singer, figured in a clever clue/answer pair yesterday, if I remember correctly.

In addition to the humorous theme answers, were several other chucklers, such as 89A. Union formation? (MRS), 7D. Make a note of? (SING), and 58D. Dealbreaker? (NARC). I also enjoyed 101A. 1/4 of zero? (ZEE) and thought it might appeal to Hyguens as well, who I'm guessing also enjoyed 66D. Big goof (BONER) and 114A. Accouterment popularized by a "Seinfeld" episode (MANPURSE). [Editorial aside, Accouterment, as spelled in the puzzle is marked by the Google as a spelling error. Google appears to prefer the more Frenchified accoutrement. Hmm.]

Nice cross of 36A. Beak (NOSE) and 21D. Cyrano de Bergerac, famously (WOOER). Other nice ones were 61A. 50 Cent piece (RAPVIDEO) and 4D. Old-timey medicines (TONICS). I also liked both clue and answer for 122A. Madcap (NUTTY).

The professional librarian in me enjoyed the related clues 88A. Bibliography listings (SOURCES) and 120A. Put in a bibliography (CITE). And, as a fan of identical clues with different answers, I very much enjoyed 46D. and 97A. Deeply impressed (AWED and GRAVEN respectively), however, today's other pair of identical clues, 74A. and 71D. Hardens, had answers that were too similar to be cool (CONGEALS and GELS respectively).

Although the clue for 11D. was cute (You can count on them), the answer was the ridiculous plural ABACI. When, oh when, will a puzzle constructor take on the challenge of fitting abacuses into a puzzle? [Editorial note: ABACI is marked as misspellt by the Google, abacuses is not so marked]. As much as I love robots, 59D. Engineering topic, being answered with ROBOTRY was on the lame side. Also, I didn't love the clue for 65A. H.S. Dropouts' documents (GEDS) because not all dropouts get GEDs. But I AGGRESS. In sum, as I completed the puzzle, I LOLLed (50A. Lie around), and also LOLed.

~ Frannie