Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016, Peter Wentz

Unknown time, but probably less than 25 minutes

I no longer trust the time given online for my solves if I complete the puzzle over two separate sittings, or on more than one device. I am certain that I spent over ten minutes looking at this puzzle last night, and this morning I opened it again and finished it over coffee. I looked up to see the time and it said "12:40," which is probably what I spent on it this morning, but what happened to the time from last night? This probably happened yesterday, too, because 15 minutes is pretty fast for me for a Friday.

All that aside, however, this was another enjoyable themeless puzzle. I got very little up top at first, but JUDGEWAPNER (35A: Arbiter of 1980s TV) was a gimme, and provided a solid foothold in the center. ONETIME (24D: Something Rihanna and Madonna each have), RANK (33D: Malodorous), and the humorous WECARE (21D: Clich├ęd company slogan) all came quickly off of that.

1A: "Yes, I already know her" (WEMET) is a bit of a weak spot, since I'd much prefer "we've met," so I'm giving it a C. I've never heard AWK used as "7D: Aviary cry," but ZEE, for once!, didn't fool me (8D: One of two slices of pizza?). NOSYPARKER (17A: Buttinsky) is a thing I only know from crosswords, but Frannie seems to have heard it before.

Excellent clues for ADREP (43A: One dealing in space and time) and FSTOP (45A: Setting for Ansel Adams) (first thought it would be something "museum-y" and tried "Frame"), but INS (42A: Well-connected people) is weak no matter how it's clued, and I've just about OD'd on ODON. And speaking of ODing, what the hell is BUTTERBEER? Frannie tells me it has something to do with Harry Potter, but I'm much happier thinking of LIMEADES. Although we did have butter tea once at a Nepalese restaurant, and that wasn't half bad. (The tea part was good... [rimshot!])

Favorite clue/answer 40D: Negotiation's terse conclusion (NODEAL). I just love its terseness, for one thing, and it was a funny surprise. At least to me.

Good end to the week. Onward to the non-weekday, and then we start all over again!

- Horace

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016, Brandon Hensley


Man oh man... the last letter I filled in today was the first E in TEES (53D: Butt end?). How. Many. Times. will I be fooled by this type of thing?! And I just mentioned this kind of clue yesterday in the review!! Sheesh! Anyway... well played, Mr. Hensley, well played.

Let's get right down to it. 1A: One inclined to patronize a farmer's market (LOCAVORE). Nice trendy word, good and long... Solid A material. And favorite clue/answer? Well, there are so many fine examples of clueing today, but I think I'll go with one of the marquee answers today - GOLDILOCKSZONE (25A: Region around a star "just right" for habitable planets). It's interesting, it's fun, it's my favorite today.

ALSORANS include ALSORANS (16A: Ones who don't take a seat?), ERASER (58A: Means of getting the word out?), 59A: When many fans come out (HEATWAVE), DYNASTY (40D: Bourbons, e.g.), and 32D: The discovery of penicillin, e.g. (ACCIDENT). And that's just some of the good material! There are excellent clues for oft-seen entries like BYE (19A: It leads to early advancement), ALI (36A: Subject of a museum in Louisville, Ky.), and OED (42D: Time magazine's "scholarly Everest," for short). And how 'bout that strong Gilbert & Sullivan vibe with IDA and SORCERER?

The only things I can think to comment on that were problematic were only so because of my own failings. I've never heard of "Play HOB" meaning to "be disruptive," (short for "play the hobgoblin," I guess), and I've also never heard of ODAY meaning "money" in Pig Latin. In fact, I've never heard of anything changing meaning in Pig Latin. I thought it was strictly a change in formation of words. I didn't know it had its own words. And finally, there's poor ol' Mortimer SNERD - a tired bit of crosswordese if ever there were one. But that's it, and most of it, as I said, is me, not the puzzle. Overall this is beautifully clean and crisp, well clued, and a fun Friday to solve.

- Horace

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


A rather odd Thursday theme of famous people clued with words that can be parsed in such a way as to give their initials and their sex. As in "17A: Malady?" (MARIEANTOINETTE), and "27D: Roman?" (ROYORBISON). Sort of clever, but sort of weird. That second one took me a long time to see because I had "OMyGOSH" at first, instead of the meh-worthy OMIGOSH (54A: "Wow!!"). Also, there's left-right symmetry today, which adds slightly to the oddness. Still, I enjoyed the theme well enough once I figured it out, so I'll give it a solid B. 1A: Undergoes recession (EBBS) is a tad bland, but tricky, at least. How about C+. Maybe even B-.

The fill has some highlights and lowlights, as is often the case. I enjoyed COYOTE (21A: Prairie predator), SPITTAKE (4D: "You did what?" reaction), TIMESINKS (34D: Mindless but addictive app games, e.g.), and LAYETTE (37A: Outfit for newborns). SILENTE (39A: Adventure's end?) is a nice example of a classic clue type, and I also enjoyed the misdirection in 56A: Odyssey, e.g. (MINIVAN). And speaking of misdirections, all I could think of was "tine" for 5A: Dining tip? (PRONG), and "art" for 10A: Works at the Guggenheim (OILS).

On the negative side we have the usual smattering of crosswordese (ERMA, EEOC, NANOS, ATON, TRAC (the Trac II is my preferred razor), and NEO), but overall, I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

My favorite clue/answer pair today is 15A: Hooch (SAUCE), because "SAUCE" is such a fun word for booze. Also, it's mirrored nicely with DRANK (62A: Took a shot, say) down there at the bottom. "DRANK" is a fun word, isn't it? In Dutch, the past tense is "dronk," which is even more fun. Sooo... there's that.

- Horace

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016, John Guzzetta


Way below my average time for a Wednesday.

Overall I don't have a great feeling about this puzzle. First of all, I don't particularly love the theme. Not just because it deals with numbers, but because the word "number" is strangely absent from the whole thing. "The first parts of 17- and 22-Across are always this..." "Natural" and "Whole" are always "INTEGER?" It doesn't make sense without "Numbers." The theme gets a D+, based mostly on execution. (Although I know this will upset a very high percentage of our readers.) (Huygens, you make up at least 25% of the known readership!)

1A: Many Latin ones end in -are (VERBS) gets a higher grade, mostly because I'm a big fan of Latin, but still it's not great. Let's say a solid B. And my favorite clue/answer pair today is 38D: It comes before one (NOON), because it tricked me. I suppose this works especially well today, since there was that whole INTEGER thing going on.

The fill doesn't do much to save this one either. Apart from a few interesting answers like BLUELAW (4D: Sunday shopping ban), NEIGH (25D: Sound from a stable), and ITALIC (13A: Right-leaning), there's a bit too much crosswordese like ETA, ELL, DNA, SRS, NEC, ARI, and SIREE. We also get two networks - CBS and CNN, two dated references LEROY (49D: "Bad, bad" Brown of song), and 66: Broom-____ of the comics (HILDA) (I understand it's still being produced, but this still skews old), and the unusual NAUTILI, STOMA, and WICCA. Then we have BIRTH clued with "Blessed event." Really? Blessed? Egad.

I'm usually not one to SNIPE or SNARL, much less ERUPT in a HUFF, but you can put me down as ANTI on this one.

- Horace

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016, Lynn Lempel


Since I forgot to score 1A yesterday, let's start with that. TALC (Soapy powder mineral) C-. I dislike the word "powder" as it is used in the clue. In its mineral form it's not a powder. It's often made into powder, but that's different.

The theme, on the other hand, is a type that I quite enjoy: The wacky misreading of a word. 17A: Detonates a weapon in the underworld? (BOMBSHELL) Hilarious. 54A: Puts up with one's family? (BEARSKIN). Hilarious. 61A: Scrutinizes the underworld? (EYESHADES). Meh. What is Ms. Lempel's fascination with the underworld?! (See also: 14A: Valhalla's ruling god (ODIN).) Aside from that duplication, I love the theme and I'm giving it an A-.

It's too bad that the long downs couldn't have played a part in the theme as well. "Jack Sparrow is one of the 'in' crowd?" PIRATESHIP, or "Husband made out the inscription on wife's wedding band?" REDHERRING. So close!...

Tried "burn" for ITCH (42A: Something calamine lotion alleviates) and "grub" for EATS (49A: Vittles), but other than that, things went along pretty smoothly. Didn't love RAH, ATRIA, OLESETTE, or AGUE, but WRECKS (30A: Junkyard jalopies), STANCH (41D: Stop the flow of), HEATH (26D: Moor), and FIEND (49D: Diabolical sort) (There she goes again, invoking the Devil!) are all good. My favorite is 67A: Equivocate (HEDGE). Why? You ask? Well... I like the... I mean... it's just that... the way it...

- Horace

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016, Paolo Pasco


I like the unusual layout of the theme answers, and that they occupy both Across and Down space. Really fills out the grid nicely. I also like the detail of not having the letters "IT" appear anywhere else in the puzzle. The IT theme itself is a tad bland, but it's not offensive, and it's well executed, so I'm giving IT a thumbs up. (And a rating of B.)

The fill has some crosswordese (STYES, OJS, OKS, DRNO, ALI, ALOU), but there was some tension generated by wondering whether it would be "avers" or AVOWS for 25D: Boldly states, and I can never remember exactly things like ATP (22D: Org. for Nadal and Federer) and ACC (56A: Duke's athletic grp.), so I needed crosses there, but luckily, it's Monday, they were not long in coming.

My favorite clue/answer today is 51A: Gesture of sarcastic support (GOLFCLAP). I had never heard the term before, but instantly understood it and instantly LOL'd. That's some quality material. Also enjoyed CARTRIP, IMISSYOU, SNICKERS, and the LOMBARDI reference. So timely the day after the Super Bowl.

Solid Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016, Alan Arbesfeld


Adding insult to a less-than stellar Super Bowl result, we have this so-so Sunday puzzle that disses some standard things and phrases. As in TABLEOFDISCONTENTS (29A: Ones giving the waiter a hard time?) and DISBARANDGRILL (113A: Question harshly after not allowing to practice?). Not bad, I suppose. A little tortured, but that's how these wacky themes often go. So how about a C+ for the theme.

The fill, on the other hand, is downright tortured in places. HURTERS (44A: Sadists, e.g.) is very poor, and many of the threes were either weak or obscure - FMS, OSE, REB (clued as 60A: Orthodox Jewish honorific), FLA (clued with "Hollywood's locale: Abbr.), OYL, SCH, SOR, and INE. Plurals include BABAS, DECAFS, FERNS, and ULNAR (45D: Kind of nerve). :) It almost feels like a plural, doesn't it? Lots of proper names, too, some of them quite old: OLAND (9D: Charlie Chan portrayer), DESICA (12D: "The Bicycle Thief" director Vittorio), and MESTA (36D: Legendary Washington hostess), for three.

But I didn't hate everything about it. I loved the look of TOOOLD (119A: Past the cutoff age), those three Os look great. See also the double-N, double-EE in BEINNEEDOF (16D: Require). PROBOSCIS (43D: Schnozzola) is a fun one, and everybody loves BACON and TUNAROLLS. I also enjoyed TAILFIN (1A: Ornamental projection on some 1950s cars), and will give it a B. And my favorite clue answer was 108A: Major in astronomy? (URSA). Although the nicely misleading 80A: Monroe or Taylor (ACTRESS) was a runner-up.

Overall, not our favorite Sunday puzzle.

Poor Cam. I thought it was his year.

- Horace