Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015, Stu Ockman


Is it just me, or do OTROS also find "superlatives" like "17A: Longest common word in the English language ... that has its letters in reverse alphabetical order," (SPOONFEED) a little less than scintillating? And with "62A: ... that is spelled entirely from the last dozen letters of the alphabet (TORTUROUS)" the category itself is a bit tortured. But, boy, now I can't wait to find out what the longest common word in the English language is that only uses the last 13 letters! ...

What about 1A: Up (AHEAD). What do we think of that? Well... it had me stumped for a good long while, so that puts it one up (see what I did there?) on the competition, but it's still missing a certain ECLAT. B-.

RABBITFOOD (31D: Carrots and lettuce, humorously) got a bit of a chuckle, and PERMEATE (40D: Spread through), GLASNOST (9D: 1980s social policy) (did everyone think first of "Reaganomics?"), and TINSEL (20A: Fir coat?) were all satisfying. But there's a bit too much USLTA, MLLE, AHOST, ASST, USMA, ZBAR, EXO, and DYERS. It had some nice spots, but overall I want more from a Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015, Julian Lim

0:12:22 (FWOE)

Frannie and I each did this puzzle on our own, but we ended up with the same mistake at the end. We both entered DArN for 23D: "Aw, hell!" (DAMN), which we chalk up to our New England prudishness. ABrS didn't particularly bother me, but it should have. Obviously.

That little coincidence aside, we both quite enjoyed this puzzle. The five theme entries are all perfectly normal phrases, and they are also punny answers to clues like "17A: Amused the singer of 'Raise Your Glass'?" (TICKLEDPINK), "25A: Enchantment of the singer of 'Raspberry Beret'?" (PRINCECHARMING), and "35A: Favoring the singer of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'?" (PROBONO). That's good stuff, and it's especially welcome on a Wednesday!

So what do we pay for such a fun theme? Not much. The rest of the grid is filled with such amusing entries as TATERTOTS, DYNAMICDUO (11D: Nickname for a high-achieving couple), RABBITHOLE, and DRIVETHRU. Add to that ten-cent words like HOAX, POSIT, and ADVENT, and you've got a winning combination. Sure, we get ULAN, OOP, and LRON, but I do not care! I loved it! Frannie, what did you think?

Horace, I enjoyed this puzzle. I thought Mr. Lim really brought it with the theme today. I don't know Seal from Adam, but 57A. Coached the singer of "Kiss From a Rose"? (TRAINEDSEAL) made me LOL. Sure, PKGS could have been rerouted, RECT reshaped, and ABMS diffused, but the lion's Cher of the puzzle was quite nice.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015, Zhouqin Burnikel


Ahh... circles. Not my favorite theme type. They tend to strike me as being a little thin, and this is no exception. Four feelings: "hope," "rage," "love," and "loss" are circled in down answers. Symmetrical theme answers, but not symmetrical circles... not such a big deal, but not beautiful.

Neither of us knew CARLOSSLIM (30D: Mexican once ranked as the world's richest man), and DANECOOK (19A: Comedian with the double-platinum album "Retaliation") only rang a faint bell, but GINSU (65A: Kind of knife once touted in infomercials), on the other hand, was immediate. From the clue, I guess they don't still have those commercials. Are they still sold? Did the "lifetime guarantee" finally put them out of business?...

FRENCHOPEN (3D: Tennis tournament played on red clay) is nice, and Frannie liked the pair of "bunny" clues - 43A: Mogul with a Bunny (HEF) and 51A: Celebration with a bunny (EASTER). DEFT (39D: Nimble-fingered) and BUXOM (41D: Like women in Rubens paintings) are good words, and Massachusetts is nicely represented with CAPECOD (38A: Massachusetts vacation destination), even though we always head north to "old Massachusetts." Isn't that what Maine likes to be called?

There are some unfortunate plurals (CSIS, EVES, OLES, OAFS, AMPS), but, well... it's fine for a Tuesday.

Oh, I almost forgot - 1A: "For more ____ ..." (INFO): D.

Overall, though, maybe more of a C.

- Horace

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015, Mike Buckley


Who doesn't like money? And finding out that there were once THREECENTPIECES in the US? Priceless.

Who knew? But seriously, PENNYDREADFUL (Showtime series named after an old fiction genre) and QUARTERHORSES (52A: Mounts for cowboys) are pretty tough for a Monday, but they get a little easier if you figure out what's going on. NICKELANDDIMING (38A: Charging for every little extra), on the other hand, is pretty much Monday material. Not a bad theme.

1A? CREST (Top of a wave). Pretty nice word. Not offensive, not particularly inspired. B-.

In other areas, we have pretty nice open areas in the NW and SE, and the middle sides. EVILGENIUS (11D: Lex Luthor, for example) and TECHNIQUES (30D: Ways to do things) are both lovely, long downs. DOCILE (21D: Tame, as a pet), AMENRA (37A: Supreme Egyptian god) (we just recently watched the first two "Night at the Museum" movies, so this was fresh in our minds), and REMORA (36D: Fish that can attach itself to a boat) are all pretty nice. But then there's PSAS over PSI, ADEN, UIE, UVEA, KOD, RONI, and partials like MATA and COCA. I guess I'd still come out on the positive side, but it's not exactly OOLALA material.

- Horace

Sunday, October 4, 2015, Jeremy Newton


I found this one hard to get into, so I left it for Frannie and went out to do the grocery shopping. When I got back, she had all but the NE pretty much put away, and there she might have been having trouble because one of the few things I had entered before I left was wrong - "saladA" for NESTEA (31A: Lipton rival). Kind of a crazy one to put in before I had anything to back it up. I tried to see what the theme was, but couldn't figure it out until after I had finished the whole thing and spent a minute or two looking at the eight theme answers.

The revealers are ISNOT and ISTOO, and they affect alternate theme answers. ISNOT, for example, indicates that the "is" sound is missing from FICKLETHERAPIST (21A: *Shrink who's always changing his diagnosis?), which is unfortunate for its possible mistaken reading of "the rapist." With the "is" added, it becomes "physical therapist." Not bad. ISTOO works on the next one, and when we remove the "is" from DANCINGCUISINE (26A: ** What ballet patrons dine on?) (ridiculous), we get "dancing queen." OK. The theme answers as they appear in the puzzle are absurd, as is sometimes the case, with the most natural one being AUTUMNSPECTRUM (113A: *Fall colors?) ("autism spectrum.")

In non-theme material we find some good things. I like the oddness of ABORC (74A: Multiple-choice options), but Frannie thought it could have been "abcord," because most multiple choices, she feels, give four options. Over in that same zone we have the amusingly clued CODED (66A: In need of a cracker, perhaps) and PARDONS (92A: Removes from a can?), and elsewhere I liked HAGGLE (117A: Talk down?) (but the question mark is unnecessary), JUJITSU (13D: It has a variety of locks and pins), and the nicely colloquial pair of LETERRIP (38D: "Fire away!") and OHHELLNO ("Over my dead body!") And I suppose you could add to that set KERPLUNKS (48D: Sounds of fall?), which is also nice.

And what about 1A? Well, I'm sure Huygens would have been happier with a different clue, but the classic "Bye at Wimbledon" didn't fool Frannie, who remembered it from a very recent puzzle. I like it, but I don't love it. B-.

There's the usual smattering of LAMER fill (RETAP, REOPENSOLI, MSU, YSER) and lesser-known names, and on the whole, Frannie didn't think the theme enhanced the solve all that much while it was going on, so we end up giving this one a solid "Meh."

- Horace

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015, Barry Silk

0:30:15 (FWOE)

Frannie and I did this one together, and at the end she saved me from leaving RTa in where RTE (44A: Metro line: Abbr.) belonged, mostly because ENTRY (46D: Password provision) is a word we know, and "antry" isn't. But I don't particularly like that cross, or either of those clues. I suppose a metro line is a "route," and a password grants entry, but I was thinking more along the lines of "Regional Transit Authority" and, well, I don't know what for the other one. Still, we ended up with the dreaded "Finished With One Error" today because we entered OYEz for 57A: Cry for silence and attention (OYES). Oyez Googles up much better, at least the way I did it just now. Incidentally, it comes to us from Latin "audire" (to hear) through French, and it's that second person plural ending that gives the "ez" ending. I guess maybe some people have anglicized it, but not everyone.

But that one sore spot aside, this was a pretty nice Saturday. We both knew approximately what we were looking for with "1A: 1960-62 home of Lee Harvey Oswald" (MINSK), but couldn't come up with it without a couple crosses. The name itself is fun to say, and it's an interesting factoid to bring up, but I have to take points off for the whole killing the president thing, so let's give it a B+.

Elsewhere we have such nice fill as CULMINATE (31D: Wind up), COFFEERUSH (6D: Morning buzz, maybe), TIGERSEYE (12D: Semiprecious pendant option), SCENARIO (30A: Hypothetical situation), and HOEDOWN (49A: Baleful affair?). Cute clue on that last one. I tried "Boston" at 9D: 1912 and 2013 World Series setting (FENWAY), and I won't soon forgive Mr. Silk for choosing for choosing 2013 instead of 2014. Hmph!

Neither of us were familiar with the term TRIJET (39D: 727, e.g.), or remembered 50D: "I Married ____" (1987 ABC sitcom) (DORA), but those were small things. ROBIN (44D: Sidekick of 1960s TV), LECAR (21D: Old alternative to a Rabbit), EIEIO (35D: Letters associated with animal sounds), and CHRISTO (36D: Big name in environmental art) (my mind went first to "Goldsworthy," but that was too long) were all quite fun. Overall, a satisfying Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015, Patrick Berry


What a treat. Yesterday, a rebus, today, Patrick Berry. As usual, though, with Mr. Berry, Frannie and I were all over him. This one was started at the doctor's office as we waited for x-rays of Frannie's hand, which, fortunately, were negative. She already has her right arm in a sling. If it turned out that her left hand also had to be bandaged up, well... that would not have been good. But enough about us, let's talk more about this fast, fun, Friday.

Continuing Colum's theme, we find GARB at 1A (Threads). Not bad. Could have been "duds," as Frannie called out immediately. Or "togs," I suppose. But GARB is good. Not great, but above average. Let's say a solid B.

Off of that, though, we really get started in earnest: GASMETER (1D: It's read for a bill), ALTEREGO (2D: You again?), ROADRAGE (3D: Fits on a hard drive?), and BUGLERS (4D: Base players) are all very good. ROADRAGE is excellent. In other areas FUNGICIDES (9D: Some crop-dusting chemicals) was gross, but solid, and LENTILSOUP (28D: Food that Esau sold his birthright for) is a good answer excellently clued. We also loved LETATCESTMOI (L'état, c'est moi!) (The State, it's me!) (36A: The Sun King's infamous declaration), which we got without crosses. Also without crosses came WENCES (43A: Señor seen on "The Ed Sullivan Show"). S'aright? S'aright.

Sure, EVERTED (25D: Turned inside out) is a little weird, and APSES is "apse," and plural, but so what, because CLARINETS (38A: Black winds) (tricky!), and STAGNATION (17A: Result of standing too long, maybe), MEDIABIAS (24A: Colorer of papers?), TSUNAMI (37D: Coastal hazard), and others, are all so good.

In real life, this month started out very poorly, but on paper, specifically, the New York Times, and even more specifically, on the little rectangular area that is the crossword puzzle, it's starting out very well.

- Horace