Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 1018, David J. Kahn


As a big fan of QUEEN, I am happy to see so much related material squoze into this grid. I remember my oldest brother listening to them in the 1970s, and how much fun I thought their music was at the time. It hasn't faded or become dated (at least the big hits - to be honest, I don't know a lot of the songs outside of the Best of albums). So maybe I should recalibrate my self assessment as a big fan?

So there's a biopic movie now about FREDDIE MERCURY, né Farrokh Bulsara, born in Tanzania. I have not heard anything good about it, but I know that they make a lot of the LIVEAID BENEFIT CONCERT. If anyone has seen it and has good things to say about it, let me know!

I am impressed by the placement of BO/HEMI/AN and RH/APSO/DY symmetrically in the top and bottom rows. The downside of all of this are the many (many!) compromises that have to be made in the fill, including FORA (technically right but never used), BORER, 56D: Professor Higgins, to Eliza (ENRY (!)). That last one at least gets some credit for the chutzpah involved. ETYMA may be music to some solvers' ears, but not mine, and YSER is such a hoary bit of crosswordese.

I feel that the puzzle could probably have been created without resorting to NAZI, even in the "softened" version the clue offers up. But seeing it next to OWIE is really peculiar!

I don't have much else great to say about the puzzle, except that I liked 34D: Lyft alternative (TAXI). How old school.

Here's looking forward to the turn!

- Colum

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


We here in Delmar, NY, have been known to take a COMPOSTBIN, so I was pleased to see today's revealer connect several apparently disparate theme answers and "recycle" them, as it were. I'd thought there was some controversy over eggshells, but Google says go for it. My amusing mistake (quickly corrected) was to enter PITBull at 44A: Casino V.I.P. (PITBOSS), thinking of the rapper.

My favorite answer of the day was new to me, at 31D: Units of power saved, in modern lingo (NEGAWATTS). That's a fine idea, and we should all do our little bit to try and preserve the environment. But the biggest contribution (the mega-negawatts, if you will), must come from our governments.

Boy, I've been preachy lately, haven't I? SARI about that!

Meanwhile, BIRDONAWIRE is a lovely long answer. I feel like I must have seen the movie with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson, but I can't recall it. On the other hand, there is the excellent song by Richard and Linda Thompson, "Walking on a Wire," which I love. I bet the movie would PAIL in comparison.

There are a lot of names scattered in the grid, but what's not to like about JONI, ALDOUS, AUDRA, Jan STEEN, George CARLIN, and Hank AZARIA? The latter has even said he'd stop playing Apu (a regular in the Crossword in his own right) in the classic stereotypical way. Others who have watched the entire run of The Simpsons may have more to say about this than I.

Anyway, ADIEU until tomorrow.

- Colum

Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018, Alex Eylar


Aha! THEPLOTTHICKENS, my dear Watson!

Literally, in the case of this puzzle, where some industrious gardener (not likely myself, given the state of the plants in my office) sees their plot go from dirt to grass to bush to jungle. I like this theme because I had no idea until I was done with the puzzle what the connection from the revealer to the theme answers was. Also the four theme answers are solid phrases in their own right, with none sticking out above the others (although I do like BUSHLEAGUE).

It's ironic (and not in the Alanis Morrisette sense) that the segment of the puzzle with the least aesthetic fill should be the area right around GLUEY. I'm fine with JIF, although it is a brand name entry, but it's a nice and Scrabbly one. But UANDI and IED and FYI make for a bunch of disconnected letters. The symmetric area in the north is definitely better, even with the ancient Maleska era RIATA.

Otherwise, there's the very nice WENTROGUE and the odd CARPOOLER. The chunky NE and SW corners have some nice BOFFO answers, including ATMFEE. Which I don't like in real life, of course. And which are completely unjustified in any real sense, except insomuch as any institution should feel free to bilk people of monies.

And now I fall off my high horse with a loud PHD. I think that's about enough, BUSTER.

- Colum

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday, November 9, 2018, Ross Trudeau


Riffing off of FANTASTICBEASTS / AND / WHERETOFINDTHEM (nice job finding how to make that fit into a symmetric grid, Mr. Trudeau!), we get three examples of "cryptids," also known as "animals whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated," and where they are rumored to be living.

In order to make these fit in the symmetry, some have "the" in the name, while others don't. I mean, if you have THEKRAKEN, shouldn't it be the Loch Ness Monster instead of LOCHNESSMONSTER? And conversely, it's just HIMALAYAS, but THESCOTTISHHIGHLANDS. But this is nitpicking. I enjoyed the fun of the creatures on the top half of the grid (where the first half of the revealer is) and the locations in the bottom half. That's cleverly done.

There are plenty of nice long answers in this puzzle. I particularly liked PENICILLIN and AMAZONECHO (not that I like the product, but it's a good phrase), as well as CHAMELEONS.

And how about 15A: Starbuck's order giver (AHAB) - that apostrophe is important! MOOG is a fun throwback. I was amused by 20A: Best seller subtitled "The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English" (WOEISI).

On the down side, I'm never going to like OZS or ONES (clued as a plural of the button on the telephone...).

In any case, the puzzle went by super fast for me, at around 2/3 the typical time for a Sunday. I enjoyed it enough while finishing it, although it didn't have too many aha moments for me.

- Colum

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday, December 8, 2018, Trenton Charlson and David Steinberg


Not a bad time for me for a Saturday. THANKSOBAMA. :) And I mean that. That is the one answer I knew for sure in the south west, which helped me break into that section.

The south east was the most challenging for me. I was able to get DETOX..., ART..., and STEEL... immediately, but none of the answers' endings sprang to mind. DAB, THEEU, and OUTRE eluded me for quite some time, so I had no help over there. Obviously, I eventually got DETOXDIET, ARTDEALER (well clued by "Forger's mark"), and STEELBLUE. That last reminding one pleasantly of Zoolander.

There's a lot of good long fill in here, especially the stack of three nines in the north west: COMICSANS, OPENLYGAY (with the excellent clue "Out and about?"), and PEACESIGN (☮) - who knew that dated from only 1958?


The clue "Like 'Wonder Woman'" threw me for a loop with its not-hidden-but-ignored-by-me quotation marks. I kept trying variations like 'amazonian' and 'Amazon Queen.' The other great thing about this one is the triple consonant at the start of the answer (PGTHIRTEEN), which, at least for this solver, meant that if you're unsure of the answer, you keep second guessing yourself because what starts with PGT?

And speaking of hidden clue elements, "Female deer" (HINDS) is nice because of its hidden plural - you don't see that every day.

"Plot device?" (HOE) is amusing. "Metaphorical prescription" for CHILLPILL is fun. I overthought "Film villain with one eye" (HAL). I also liked LULL, HUSHPUPPY, and SURPRISEME.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018, Sam Trabucco


As you can see from my time, I HAJ a little trouble with this one, particularly in the north east. And by little I mean AMOR than ILIKE. IKEpt waffling back and forth between "rnS" and DRS (E.R. figures) at the top of that corner. I wasn't helped in my deBATE by "'Transformers' antagonist" because I didn't know the answer, although now that I do (DECEPTICON), color me intrigued. Couple that with the rather odd REGALEMENT for "Wining and dining." Then, add the fact that I decided the answer to "Higher education?" at 14D had to start with SKy. I couldn't get anything to work with that "y," YETI persisted. DOPE.

Of course, in these difficult cases, the crosses ARE Supposed to lend a HAN. But, except for SHEEPLE (awesome!), the crosses were either also unknowns, or tricky for me. The hidden capital in "Total taken in?" (CEREAL) took me in but good. And sure, "Major suit" (CEO) SIMS EASEL now, but I was PEE DEE stuck there for a while. Both those clues are quite clever. "Real close?" (ISM) and "Ball club?" (DISCO) are also very nice.

The rest of the puzzle went pretty smoothly. Highlights include "Event for an enumerator" (CENSUS), "Partner for life" (LIMB), and Military assistants (AIDESDECAMP). I dropped in "layawayplan" at 57A, which, while miraculously having the right number of letters, kind of ignored the fact that the clue specifically mentioned help for ordering not just help affording furnishings (IKEACATALOG).


For all my GRUNTS and groans, though, I eventually bounced back like an EL[AS]HCAKE. OVAL all, it was a fun solve.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018, Sophia Maymudes


Thanks to the clue at 44A "Diagonally ... or a hint to four of this puzzle's squares" (KITTYCORNER) we find a CAT, curled up rebus-style, in each corner of today's puzzle. I enjoy a rebus, but it would have been cool if the word 'cat' could have run diagonally from each corner, so that the entries would have been kitty corner in two ways. My favorite of the eight cat answers is [CAT]CHY. I like how the 'cat' in that word kind of springs out at you. SNO[CAT] and COPY[CAT] are less interesting. And I understand that LITTERBOXES are places some house pets "go" in real life, but I am curious to learn how it is also where some house pets "go" in this puzzle. Anyone care to let the cat out of the bag?

I felt like the cat that swallowed the canary when I entered RBI off the clue "Effect of a sac fly." It was the 'sac' that gave it away. I liked the clue "Create, as a chair" (ENDOW). The "Host" (ARMY) clue-answer pair is nice as is "Fortify" (STEEL). I also liked the clue "Sauce with a vowel-heavy name" (AIOLI). DAINTY is a nice entry and is sometimes used to refur to cats.


I won't pussyfoot around the fact that I didn't like ILLY for "Poorly." In fact, I don't like illy as a word at all. I also disliked DYE for "Ingredient in many a breakfast cereal." Maybe it is true, strictly speaking, that dye is an ingredient, but it seems a bit WIDE of the mark. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and to clue the word 'dye.' In fact, in yesterday's puzzle, I actually considered 'dye' as the answer to 13D. "Means of putting down roots?" A stretch? Maybe - but one that will have you grinning like the Cheshire Cat. :)