Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014, David Woolf


A good ol' Thursday rebus puzzle, just like I like! I was temporarily thrown off by the image in the black squares, which looks more like a Ritz cracker to me than a CHOCOLATE[CHIP]COOKIE, and that [CHIP] all the way at the bottom was the first one to come to me, but it quickly made previous instincts ([CHIP]MUNK & [CHIP]SHOT) make sense. I had thought of Alvin for "26D: Nonhuman singer of a 1958 #1 song," but the length was off. Same thing for "44D: They may be made with pitching wedges" - obviously chip shots in golf, but again… too short. Of course, having such occurrences on a Thursday makes you suspicious, and eventually it was the cookie that made it all crumble. (Do they award Pulitzers for blogs yet? Asking for a friend.)

I like how the [CHIP]s are randomized around the grid, and I like all the words made with them. [CHIP]OTLE (29D: Fast-food chain named after a spice) was interesting, especially because I first thought of Chili's. Heh. Who doesn't love any mention of the [CHIP]PEWA (16D: Tribe of the Upper Midwest)? And [CHIP]ENDALESDANCERS (16 Entertainers with something to get off their chests?) was a surprising and hilarious answer, once I finally worked it out.

Now, as I said yesterday, I am not a puzzle constructor, but as you already know, that will not stop me from making pronouncements on the relative difficulty or ease of constructing. Today's, it seems to me, with it's "picture" of a cookie (Ritz… button… whatever), it's five rebus squares, its good mix of high-point letters without tipping over into pangramville, and it's overall interestingness and cleanness, seems like it would be a pretty hard thing to do. Sooo… well done, Mr. Woolf!

A few more things: ELOCUTE (49A: Engage in oratory) is a good word with a slightly odd clue. SINUSES (13 They may be blocked in the winter), ditto. Wouldn't spring or fall work just as well? VERONIQUE (37A: French woman's name meaning "bringer of victory") is interesting, as is AR[CHIP]ELAGO (42A: The Bahamas, e.g.). Who knew?

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Frannie, who helped bring this one home. I spent several minutes staring at the NW, where my brain was not FLUID (1A: Moving) enough to get 1A, and PEARCE (10A: Actor Guy of "Memento") (and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!) would not come to me. Nor would LAUDS (2D: Hails) nor ICEL (4D: NATO member with the smallest population: Abbr.) (odd abbrev.). But PEARCE did come to her, and then the rest was made easy.

It's not a perfect grid - the NE is sketchy - but it was certainly good enough to be entertaining.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014, Elizabeth C. Gorski


A pleasing theme today, running all around the grid with a cross in the middle. It seems to me, someone who has never constructed a puzzle, that it must be on the easy side, just having "IT" in every theme answer, but then, what do I know? 

Difficulty aside, I still like the entries. All of them. A FRUITSALAD (17A: *Chilled appetizer or dessert) would be lovely right about now, SPLITSCREEN (24D: *Feature of many a TV interview) makes me realize that it's something Charlie Rose almost never uses on his show, and QUITSMOKING (11D: *Kick the habit, say) is sound advice.

The NW has some of the usual stuff, like LIU, SELA, and SPF (didn't we just see this?), and the same is true of the other tight areas. There's also REATAS, EGIS, and EVERTS (30D: Turns inside out). I thought SESAMEOIL and KNEEBENDS were both good, though, and even BEFOGS (22D: Obscures) is ok in my book. BONGS (48A: Stoners' purchases) was a big surprise, too, when that turned out to be right. I tried "drugs" first.

I don't know… it's kind of a split decision I think.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014, Andrea Carla Michaels


Odd theme today related to the NBA (48A: Org. whose only members with nonplural names appear at the ends of 17-, 25-, 410, and 56-Across). To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I could have told you that "Thunder" was the name of a team now. I pretty much stopped following the NBA a year or two after Kevin McHale started playing for the Celtics. They're still a team, right? The Celtics?

Theme aside, the long downs today were all quite good. CATALYST (4D: It makes things happen), GLITTERATI (11D: Fashionable celebs) (love it!), and even DISCOUNTED (25D: Not full-price) isn't bad. As a photographer, I have mixed feelings about ANSELADAMS (26D: Famous Yosemite photographer). He was a great technician, and developed the zone system and all that, but I'm not convinced he was a revolutionary artist. But then, they also serve who only stand and develop photos of lovely scenes, right?

Other interesting fill include ZOWIE (15A: "Holy cow!"), NERDY (60A: So unhip as to be hip, maybe) ("hip" and "nerdy" don't mix - they don't need to!), and GUAVA (45A: Exotic jelly fruit). Less than stellar fill include ILIAC, ANDI, IMA, and LTYR. I didn't include AERIE (39A: Place for a kiddie hawk?) because it had such a fine clue.

Overall, a decent Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014, Stanley Newman


This is a pretty straightforward Monday puzzle, with a pretty weak theme. DICKVANDYKE (21A: Eponymous star of a 1960s sitcom, the only American TV star with his three initials), DEATHVALLEYDAYS (37A: Long-running western anthology, the only American TV series with its three initials), and DVDRECORDER (53A: TV hookup option … or what you are by solving this puzzle?). Lame.

Pretty much the only interesting fill is NERVECELL (8D: Place for an axon).

The end.

- Horace

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014, Caleb Emmons


SCHLUBS (1A: Boors) is a very nice entry to today's grid. The rest of the Acrosses in that NW corner are also very nice, and the clash of HERCULES and the HYDRA gets everything off on the right foot.

The battle theme is a good one, we think, and I really like all the matchups. ALI/FOREMAN, ACHILLES/HECTOR, BATMAN/THEPENGUIN, TORTOISE/HARE, KASPAROV/DEEPBLUE, KINGKONG/GODZILLA... they're all classics! I wondered if you needed to choose the winner and put that entry's letter into each "winner's circle," and I bet that would have worked, but we entered them all as rebuses, and that worked, too. But here's the kicker - if you put in all the winners' letters and rearrange them, it spells "CHAMPION." And the kicker to the kicker? If you put in the losers' letters and rearrange them, it spells "DEFEATED." That's very, very nice. I don't really even have to say anything else about this one. So, to quote a cantata that I saw earlier this week, "Ich habe genug."

- Horace

Saturday, October 25, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


We held off on the review of this puzzle until tonight in deference to the contest, which ended at 6pm. Now all may be revealed.

The early references to time (Monday's second-to-week time progression, Tuesday's TIME clues for all the fifteens, Thursday's "Times" squares) were relevant, and Wednesday's PEEKABOOISEEYOU and face could maybe be tied to today's XMARKSTHESPOT (9D: Map phrase ... and a hint to finding this week's final answer) as we need to look closely at all the Xs in all the puzzles this week. When we do, we note that they all occur on the upper half of the grid. They also occur only in numbered squares, and if we write down the numbers and line them up with the alphabet, it spells out "TEMPUS FUGIT," or "Time Flies." Not bad. It seems a little straightforward, but I suppose I could be missing a further level of complexity.

Frannie and I were joined by our friend, frequent commenter, and occasional guest-blogger Colum Amory when solving this puzzle, and together, we pieced out the meta in short order. We were momentarily stalled because the Saturday puzzle would not show as completed and correct until after 6pm tonight, but we didn't realize that at first, and spent quite a bit of time looking through it, trying to find an error, but in reality, we didn't have any!

Apart from the meta, this had some nice bits. AMENS (19A: Shows of appreciation for services provided?) was nice, 21A: Prideful? (LIONS) and 23A: Figureheads? (CPAS) are cute, RENEE (22A: "Born again" woman) (from French!) is nice, and OATS (29A: Some Arabian food) (horses!) was tricky! UPDO (57A: It's hair-raising) is also quite good.

We didn't (none of us!) understand why NENES (12D: Leche drinkers) was right. Is that a Spanish term for baby? And XDIN (7D: Double-crossed) wasn't a favorite. OTIC, STETS, STES... not the greatest, and it just seemed odd that EMTS was clued with "51D: Some N.F.L. workers."

Overall, it was an above average week of puzzles, and the added meta angle was fun.

- Horace

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


Frannie did most of this one while I was out at the symphony, but it was great to find a corner left when I got home. What guy doesn't love to hear his wife say that when she read clues like 44D: Rhododendron relative (AZALEA) and 60A: Flowering plant named for a Greek god (PEONY), that she knew he'd know those right away, so she didn't even bother with them? As it turns out, I didn't know PEONY immediately, but I got it from only a couple crosses. (Paeon was the god of medicine and healing - I looked it up for you. And yes, peony petals are edible, but I doubt they'll heal you of much... probably not even of hunger!) That SW corner held our only problem spot, though, because even though Frannie said "Are you spelling that right?" when I typed in WaNTON for 45D: Chinese appetizer (WONTON), I did it anyway and ended up with a FWOE! Whot wos I thinking?

So anyway, this was a good Friday. Frannie says so, and as I review it I agree. ORALEXAMS (1A: Times for speaking one's mind?) is a great start, and I don't even mind ORGCHARTS (1D: Diagram showing company positions, briefly). We hear that a lot where I work, and as one co-worker put it recently, it's a "doubleplusgood" word! (See: Orwell, Newspeak, 1984) 15A: Spot for shooting stars (REDCARPET) is an excellent clue, as is 16A: Finish putting on pants (ZIPUP), and 17A: Became a bachelor, maybe (GRADUATED). 12D: It may elicit a shrug (APATHY), beautiful. SPIDEY (14D: ____ sense), nice. 48A: Pusillanimous (TIMID), great word. 36A: Groups with play dates? (TROUPES), cute. GINJOINTS (61A: Saloons), excellent. They just don't stop!

Well, ok, they stop a little in certain areas (COMS, UZO (?), MEETERS, TGI), but overall, this was a fun one. Oh, and before I go, Frannie would probably like me to say that she got ADAMBEDE (3D: Title carpenter of an 1859 novel) off the clue. I would like to think that I would have gotten TSELIOT (34A: "Ash Wednesday" poet) off the resulting E, but we'll never know now.

Lastly, I like to think that 63A: "Boy, am I having fun!" (ITSABLAST) is coming directly from Mr. Blindauer, referring to getting to do a week of puzzles. Was it fun, Mr. Blindauer? We've enjoyed it so far!

- Horace