Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018, Milo Beckman and David Steinberg


O brave new world, that has such puzzles in't!

First, we get the shape, which comes in at 17 x 13. At 221 total squares, it's 4 squares fewer than our standard 15 x 15, but allows for a different kind of setup.

The theme is brilliant today. Every evenly numbered row contains answers that can only be considered complete by adding a color to the front of the word. Each row's answers require the same colors, so that you have [RED]EYES, [RED]CARPET, and [RED]BARON in row two. The six colors represented are the primary and secondary colors, and they are ordered as they appear in the rainbow from top to bottom. Sadly, indigo is left out, but we'll all agree that we have a hard time distinguishing that color from its neighbors blue and violet (here purple).

It is impressive fitting 16 theme answers, and all so close together. All told, 90 squares are theme answers, which, with the 12 black squares necessary in those rows, make up 46% of the available real estate in the grid. That has to be a record in the NYT, I would think. All of the answers are recognizable as well, which is nice. I particularly like [BLUE]MEANIES and [ORANGE]BITTERS.
Not the correct HYDE park
In exchange, of course, there is a ton of not so great glue in the fill. I will point at 8D-10D, next to 24D as examples: MPG EEO NTSB ICC. That are a ton of abbr. ltrs. GRU GRO SAK. Oof.

Still, overall, I think the puzzle OWNSIT, and I enjoyed solving. Here's to more atypicality at the Grey Lady!

- Colum

*** Having read commentary elsewhere, I see the colors are meant to represent the rainbow flag, not the rainbow. Thus Purple instead of Indigo and Violet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018, Jeffrey Wechsler


Sometimes, no matter how positive you want to be, you are faced with a bit of ALGA at 1 Across.

Fortunately, there is much left in the puzzle after you put 1A in. Today, Mr. Wechsler has provided us with five examples of phrases with a word in them with the "OU" diphthong. Dropping the O has created a new set of silly phrases. My favorite is 37A: TV bleep? (CURSECORRECTION). How à propos. How, shall we say, apt? I was also amused by CURTREPORTERS.

PALACECUP is not as clever, nor is PROPERNUN (how many nuns are there who are improper, outside of Maria from The Sound of Music? And maybe Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act? Both of whom are hardly actual nuns?). Still, the concept is very nice, and I liked the collection overall, especially without an otherwise unneeded revealer.

We just saw a CAPER movie this past weekend, and it was delightful froth, featuring several actresses I enjoy watching. I wanted "heist" there, which held me up momentarily. Probably my favorite clue and answer today came at 29A: Spring sound (BOING). Yes, precisely. The other excellent one came at 66A: What teens do that most twentysomethings don't (GROW).

So, looking back over this slim volume of my critique, I wonder if I'd stopped after the first line, would anything have been missed? Only you can tell, oh my handful of faithful readers, my unHORDElike following.

- Colum

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018, Peter Gordon


I figured out, after it was all over, that on the first day of the 2018 ACPT, I sat across the aisle from Mr. Gordon for the morning's solving. I would have tipped my hat to him, had I known who he was, and had I been wearing a hat. Which I almost never do, honestly. So there's that.

The revealer today, innovatively split and placed in the extreme east and west zones, is TRIGGER / WARNING. I won't go on an extended rant about this newfangled business. I recognize that there are people who have gone through traumatic experiences for whom discussion of related topics will cause distress, a la PTSD. But when, as in the experience of one of my daughters, a college satire magazine feels it must publish trigger warnings without any sense of irony involved, the practice has conceivably gotten out of hand.

Um, so that was a little extended. My apologies.

But in the lovely little make-believe land of the crossword, here, the warning is just that the theme answers have actual firearms repurposed for their phrases. Which is amusing, because discussion of such items could in fact cause some people to feel triggered, given the current state of affairs in the ole U S of A.

RIDESSHOTGUN is not a great example of repurposing. I feel certain that the phrase originated because the non-driver of, say, a Western Union mail carriage, would in fact hold the firearm for the purpose of defense. And in fact, I am correct. The other two theme answers, however, holster their weapons more secretively. BAZOOKABUBBLEGUM in particular was lovely to see all the way down the center.

I liked much of the rest of the puzzle. Your ORDERER, HRS, DDR aside, there's the lovely ALLSPICE above ZOOTOPIA (a blast of a movie), symmetric to FIREPLUG and ROUSSEAU. And who doesn't like a good WANGLE now and again? Unfortunately, there were really no clues to EMUS us, though.

And scene.

- Colum

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday, June 18, 2018, Ross Trudeau


Our thanks to my esteemed colleague, Mr. Horace Fawley, Esq., for another week of entertaining and edifying reviews. And, as he so eloquently put it, our thanks to our dozens (tens? handful?) of loyal and persevering readers, without whom... without whom, we would have no readers, I suppose.

Every now and then, dear readers, I find myself waxing philosophical about this PASTIME of ours. Within the walls of this blessed plot, this grid, this realm, this... well, this puzzle, most commonly numbering only fifteen squares a side, roam the unfettered imaginations of our noble constructors. Drawing from fabled realms as far removed as ancient CANAAN and sunny WAIKIKI, crossing a MACADAMIA from far Oceania with the mundane ACORNS, reminding us of great personages such as ISAAC Asimov while also teasing us with TANIA Raymonde, each doth bestride the puzzle like a colossus!

I guess my point is that this is all in good fun. And even when a grid TEEMS with items such as EKING or AMAT (which this one really doesn't), it's usually worth it for a moment of relaxation away from the terrifying headlines and other flotsam and jetsam of the real world.

So, yeah. Fun theme, and I needed the revealer to see the connections. I'd quibble slightly with the inclusion of PHONEJACK, as that is so clearly related to calling someone up, but there's probably little way to include "phone" at the start of a word that doesn't. And UNICOLOR seems ad hoc to me. Is it? It certainly googles, but I don't think it's common usage.

But these are quibbles. Let us gather our rosebuds while we may (to quote a different other chap, but from the same time period).

- Colum

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sunday, June 17, 2018, Erik Agard, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


Boy, this was a fun one! And one where the revealer truly did reveal the trick to me. Before getting to it, I had entered the names as rebuses, and even though I saw that they were kind of copied in the Down answers and I sensed that something wasn’t quite right, I wasn’t sure what to do until it was spelled out to me with LASTONESTANDING. Excellent.

There was a bit of an older vibe with the theme answers, and it carried over into the fill in 6D: Arts-and-crafts kit trendy in the 1970s-‘80s (SHRINKYDINKS). We never got any, but I sure remember the ads for them that would run during the Saturday morning cartoons!
Happily, this crossword provided several audible AHAS for this solver. Well, chortles anyway. How about 89D: One who cries “Uncle!”? (AUNT), or 63D: Nursing facility? (MAMMARYGLAND)? Shocking! And what about 27A: ____-backwards (ASS)?!
The long Down material contains TONS of great material. SMALLWORLD (37D: “Huh, you know him, too?!”), TAKETOTHEHILLS (50D: Flee), TIDINGS (42D: News), BROCADE (14D: Upholsterer’s fabric), the full ANNODOMINI, and even POPULAROPINION (13D: In view?).
There were lots of names I didn’t know, and most were crossed fairly, but where two crossed each other, I ended up with a mistake. I know the song “Little Latin LUPE Lu” through Jonathan Richman, who mentions the title in another song, but I had never seen it written down, and I didn’t know the “Ernest who wrote ‘Ready Player One,’” so my guess of LUPI went uncorrected until after the buzzer had sounded. DRAT! Still, I really enjoyed this one. That makes two Sundays in a row I’ve liked. It might be a record!
I understand Frannie has brokered another week-swap, so Colum will be taking the reins for the next seven days. And 'though we don't say it enough, we always mean it - Thanks for reading, and Happy puzzling!
- Horace

Saturday, June 16, 2018, Sam Trabucco

0:15:36 (F.W.T.E.)

I recognize that they're probably including a few puzzles with soccer references because the World Cup is going on, I just wish I had paid more attention to 10D: Argentine soccer star, informally (LEOMESSI) before I finished filling in the grid. See, I had guessed THEzOnE for 21A: Former reality TV show first hosted by Anderson Cooper (THEMOLE), and then never went back to verify the soccer star or 12D: Be hot, which, as it turns out, was not BOIn. Sigh... but the rest of this went pretty quickly for a Saturday, I thought.


The verticals in the NW were great - ABCISLANDS (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), ZEROTOHERO, EGOBOOSTER - even if they did have to be anchored by a car name at 1A. And as much as I enjoy the convenience of Netflix, I still don't love seeing a big advertisement right through the middle. IOBJECT!

I was temporarily fooled by 10A: Letters before Q (LGBT), where I cringed and entered "mnop" at first (I should have known better!), and at 40A: 9-Down (SUSHI) selection (AHI), I tried "eel," but that didn't last long.

Funny to see ONFLEEK (48A: Flawlessly styled, in modern slang) on top of VIAVENETO (53A: Major thoroughfare in Rome).

Fun clues today included:

56A: Real lifesavers (ANTIDOTES) - excellent
26A: Hero of New Orleans (POBOY) - Got me!
44A: Embiggen (ENLARGE) - It's perfectly cromulent.
57A: Tub-thump (ORATE) - "Tub-thump." Hah!

Oh what the heck, here's a nice LEOMESSI goal in GIF format. Enjoy!

- Horace

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018, Sam Ezersky


A fun Friday from Mr. Ezersky today. The staggered answers in the middle were particularly nice, I thought, with MADMAGAZINE (30A: Pac-Man was its "Man of the Year" in 1982) (this was my second guess, with no crosses, after "Time Magazine" was too long), DOOMSDAYCLOCK (32A: It counts down to disaster) (first answer, no crosses. It's been in the news a little too much recently.), and DOTHEHUSTLE (35A: Perform a disco dance) (needed a few for this one). I also enjoyed the full AGAKHAN (6A: Muslim V.I.P.), DOLLOPS (32D: Large spoonfuls) (good word), and COERCE (39D: Pressure). And who doesn't love any reference to music (GCLEFS) or beautiful river names (WABASH) (the main tributary to the OHIO)? From the all-knowing Wikipedia I learn that the WABASH was derived from "the Miami-Illinois word for the river, waapaahsiiki, meaning "it shines white," "pure white," or "water over white stones," a reference to the clarity of the river where it ran across the famous Indiana limestone. The same limestone used in the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, Yankee Stadium, and 35 of the 50 state capitol buildings. Balancing out the positive Native American reference is FTROOP.

I was unhappy to learn the word SWOLE (18D: Very muscular, in slang), I know nothing at all about OTCSTOCK, and there were a few other answers to which I gave a little eye roll as I filled them in - IONGUN, ICEMAN, ACETALAPIA, and ARR, in particular. But HEMMED (23D: Spoke with hesitation) was unusual in a good way, PHOENICIA was fun, and I guess overall I'll give this one a thumbs up.

- Horace