Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tuesday, July 23, 2019, Kyle Dolan


Today's theme did not immediately come to me ; it took a "we" to discover the both of US. At first, I had tried to figure out what the parts of each theme answer (EXCUSESEXCUSES, MARCUSAURELIUS, WALRUSMUSTACHE) had in common with each other, but no, the revealer was, as it often is, quite literal. When I chatted with a coworker about the puzzle, she called up the completed puzzle on her monitor and it was then that the pairs of US jumped right out at us two. The obvious favorite is WALRUSMUSTACHE because it has the words walrus and mustache in it.

The puzzle included an interesting note about KARAOKE (Literally, "empty orchestra"), and, in a surprising twist, we learn that Twizzler's contains RED DYE. Other other clue/answer pairs we OKED include:
Squarish (BOXY) - pleasing all around.
Branch of the Olympics? (LAUREL) - cute.
It's groundbreaking (HOE) - HEHE.
Alternatives to Ho Hos (YODELS) - mmm, Yodels.

SEDUM lanceolatum

It seems to me that SEEME has been quite popular of late. And STU is back, today referenced as the Disco character on "The Simpsons,"which is great, but I also very much enjoyed "Man's name that's an alphabet run" on Saturday.

I say TUT to the word SKED (Slated events, in brief). Also, TNG and OSO are not SUPE as fill. ASTO other problem areas, I thought the "Hamilton climax" clue should have come with a spoiler alert. Anyone else?


Monday, July 22, 2019

Monday, July 22, 2019, Lynn Lempel


As I began to write the review today, I wished I had a fairy godmother to ENDOW me with REMUS of ideas , or a genie who could ADOS things for me, or at the very least, have Rumpelstiltskin show up and turn this review of straw into gold for me, but alas, IRA OUT a luck.

While I was unable to conjure the straw-to-gold spinning imp myself, if one combines the first part of each of the four theme answers (RUMMAGESALE, PELICANSTATE, STILTON, and SKINNYDIPPER) his name magically appears. Besides contributing part of the answer to the question WHATSMYNAME, each of the theme answers is excellent in its own right. I especially liked the clue for SKINNYDIPPER (One barely in the water?) - Ha!

I'm SERTA that any and all denizens of the fairy kingdom would also appreciate other fantastical fill like mushroom CAP, a "slippery" ELM tree, anything PONIED, and the mythical beauty, EUROPA. There be PERILS, too, including a STOVE, a CREEP, a DARE, plus RATS and a PIPE. Oh my.


Well, there it is, today's review. I really OPED it would end better, maybe with something along the lines of "And they all puzzled happily ever after," but I am afraid I am less perfect than LORE.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday, July 21, 2019, Jeff Chen and Jason Mueller


It will come as a surprise to no one that we now have a puzzle commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I haven't watched any of the TV shows that I've seen advertised, but I did recently visit an exhibit on same at the Houghton Library at Harvard. It's a nice show, and free and open to the public, so if you're in the area, you might want to pop in. One thing that I learned from it is that Buzz Aldrin would probably be pretty annoyed to see Neil ARMSTRONG in the center of the grid, as it has been said that Aldrin "resents not being first on the Moon more than he appreciates being second." It's good, though, that EGOS did not provide an obstacle to teamwork on that mission!

This puzzle is really quite impressive. First, there's the face in the middle, complete with Apollo-style helmet surround. That's already a good start. And then we've got the theme answers pretty much all over the place! APOLLOELEVEN, MANONTHEMOON, ONESMALLSTEP, ONEGIANTLEAP, TRANQUILITY, THEEAGLEHASLANDED, ARMSTRONG, and the bonus ITSAGO, SEP (Mo. in 1962 in which J.F.K. gave his "We choose to go to the moon" speech), and maybe even "What goes up must come down" and others (ADAGES). And then there's the rebus (small) [STEP] and the appropriately larger, four-square "leap" in the bottom two corners. Really, it's just so well done! And what do we have to suffer for it? Just tiny things that I'm not even going to bother mentioning.

Outside of the theme, we find even more to like - GIL (Good name for a fishmonger?), TELEPATHS (They don't keep their thoughts to themselves), HAM (Someone who might engage in a hobby with some frequency?) (Hah!), FOODCHAIN (Hawk -> snake -> frog -> insect, e.g.), NOTION (What's gotten into your head), and more that I'll leave to you to discover.

Well done, sirs! I hope both Mr. Chen and Mr. Mueller are sitting back in IDLESSE and saying BEERME to a receptive and willing ear.

- Horace

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Saturday, July 20, 2019, Sam Trabucco


A really nice puzzle today. Looking at it now, the shape looks a bit unorthodox - at least to this untrained eye - but I like the swirling paths from the NE down into the East, the reverse of that in the SW, and the fairly open center. There are those narrow straits in the NW and SE, but overall, it felt open.


I guessed "Save" at 1D: Prime directive? (SHOP) (better), and wasn't fooled by 3D: Guy's gal (AMIE) or 7D: Class in which kids may learn about sin? (TRIG), but I feel my big break came at 8D: Best-selling game with a hexagonal board (SETTLERSOFCATAN), which I was able to drop in thanks to my oldest brother's family, who play this quite frequently.

Off of that, SGTPEPPER ("Bandleader" with a 1967 #1 album), LAM (On the ____), ELROY (Man's name that means "the king"), and even TOPFORTY (Hit list) and NERDFEST (Comic con, e.g.) were made much easier.

Along with all of that, I made several missteps: ahIsEeIT for OHIGETIT, SLEDdIng for SLEDRIDE, MADEASceNe for MADEASTINK, and AintthISTHELIFE for AHTHISISTHELIFE. I think those were the big ones.

There's good material all over the place. BEERME, SEESAW, PARITY, APERITIFS, LUXE, LONEWOLF, HOMECURE, SPAMBOTS, and more. Sure, SLEDRIDE is not natural-sounding, and nobody wants to be reminded of the STARR Report, but overall, this was a high quality puzzle.

One last thing - I kind of wish HATARI had been clued as Iceland's 2019 Eurovision entry, but I suppose that kind of reference will have to wait a few years. The U.S. is supposedly getting its own version of the European blockbuster in 2021. You heard it here first!

- Horace

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday, July 19, 2019, Peter Wentz

0:12:48 (F.W.O.E.)

I marred my pretty-good-so-far week today by committing the cardinal crosswording sin - not checking the crosses. :( I was humming along (even after starting with the "too clever for my own good" "sec" at 1A "Like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, typically" (DRY)), and when I hit 24D: Puts off (DETERS), I had the "DE.." already and I just plunked in DEfERS. Sadly, for me, there's nothing on the back of a baseball card called "staf."


Aside from that, though, this was a fun puzzle. Well, even with that. Many of the longer answers fell pretty quickly for me, but not ABNEGATIVE (Type least likely to turn up in a hospital)! Boy was that a tricky clue. For a while, when I had "...A_IVE" I was thinking it would end in "alive." I'm not sure why, as most people who do turn up in hospitals are, in fact, alive. But anyway, that's sometimes how my panicked mind works when solving, I guess.

I didn't particularly enjoy discovering ATHIRST (Quite eager) in the grid, GUMS is gross, and although I am now getting used to ADSORB (Gather on the surface, chemically), I have not run into it much outside of crosswords. Speaking of that, though, a coworker the other day used the word "agita" in casual conversation, so who knows, maybe ADSORB will come up in conversation soon.

Love the word LACKEY (and "Underling"), and I always love the kind of trivia in "Country that has approximately 0% arable land" (OMAN).

Overall, a fun puzzle.

- Horace

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thursday, July 18, 2019, Matthew Sewell


So what shall we call this theme? Take a phrase (from the sphere of entertainment) that includes a two-letter component, and then re-imagine the two-letter part and clue accordingly. With wacky results.

Maybe it's better if we get right to the examples. The first one that I understood while solving was LIFEOFPI (Backstory for TV's Magnum?). Kind of simple - using the "biography" definition of "life" - but it works. For the first one I had the Z, and entered THEWIZARDOFoz almost instinctively, even though it didn't really fit with "Bouncer who can always spot a fake?" It wasn't until much later, when TRADEFOR (Acquire midseason, as a sports team might) became clear, that I finally changed it to THEWIZARDOFID - which is much better. "The Wizard of I.D." And I think it was even later than that before I understood IMABELIEVER (Advice for how the pope can reach out online?). I think it was the "online" part of the clue that confused me there - do people really consider IMs to be "online?" I realize that they are carried by the same network, but when I hear "online" I think of things that are available on the World Wide Web, which is not how I think of IMs, but that could just be a function of my coming from a generation that knew the world without the Internet. Or it could be simple ignorance. I'll let you decide.

Anyway, I liked the theme. And I liked the puzzle, even though it was one of those Thursday puzzles that falls into the category of "harder than Wednesday and easier than Friday." Well, I can't really say that yet, but that's the way Mr. Shortz has described his criterion for Thursday. It doesn't always have to have a trick. And that's fine by me. Without a standard, nothing would shine. Of course, this reminds me of a line from the Tao te Ching -

  When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly.
  When people see some things as good, other things become bad.

Sometimes competition and comparison can be destructive. The important thing, I guess, is to understand where that's true and where it's not. Otherwise, what have we been doing these past many years? Why are we discussing the puzzles at all? Maybe it isn't to compare them, but to share them with others, to create community and belonging, rather than to tear down or lift up. Of course, maybe we have done a little of each in the past, but, to continue that verse:

  Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything.
  Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go.
  She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect.
  When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Adam Nicolle


Kind of a cool theme today, where appropriate verbs are found within long entries, proving, once again, that "There are more things in heaven and earth, HORATIO / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Who comes up with this stuff? Oh, right, crossword constructors! And for Mr. Nicolle, this is a debut! I look forward to seeing more of his ideas.

It seems like it would be fun to search for more of these - perhaps when I'm not writing a review...

They're all pretty good. "Ran" ERRANDS looks so tidy there in the center, with its verb exactly in the middle, and "Drove" a LANDROVER is a pretty excellent find. Maybe PENNYDREADFULS are a bit obscure, but it might be fun for fans of the Netflix series to know where the term originated.

As is frequently the case, the long downs contain some of the more interesting entries. I particularly enjoyed EYELEVEL (Five to six feet high, roughly) and STUPORS (Dazed states) down in the SE corner. And the clues for BED (Something most people lie about?), EDEN (Apple's first location?), and RULES (Sped-up part of a contest commercial) were amusing. EMERALDS (May birthstones) is sparkly, and RECIPES (File box filler) reminds me that I've got a file box filled with my grandmother's Finnish recipes that I've got to make time to look through! So much to do! So many things to learn!

Still, it's nice to get a new puzzle every day, and taking a little time for that is also important, right? Anyway, I think so. I hope you do too.

- Horace