Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

0:19:26

Sort of a strange grid pattern today. Side-to-side symmetry and that cross in the middle. I mean, there is a "crossing" theme of sorts, but, oh, wait … maybe it has to do with Holy Week? I thought to myself "that's a little morbid, to have that cross right in the middle like that…" but now I guess it's because of Easter. Well… maybe more because of Good Friday than Easter, but, well… ok. The rebus theme - and this is actually more of a rebus than those multi-letter-in-one-square puzzles that everyone calls rebuses, because this one is a picture puzzle, with certain words going right through other words, and the word "through" being used in the answer - was pretty nice, and had nothing, so far as I could tell, to do with any religion.

Let's look at a few - WENT through THEROOF (23A: With 13-Down, blew one's stack) - nice clue, PAID through THENOSE (24A: With 15-Down, spent way too much money for something) - nice phrase that you don't see in crosswords, and SHOT through THEHEART (43A: With 30-Down, hit dead-on) - this is what would have happened in 33 C.E. if the Romans had had firearms. Too soon?

It was a fairly easy solve, but maybe because Frannie understood the rebus pretty quickly, and then everything except the NW went quite smoothly. It was Frannie, again, who thought of GOON (1A: Mob muscle), because I was completely blanking on that one. Had "GApe" and then "GAWk" before finally ending on GAWP (1D: Stare with an open mouth) thanks to PROWESS (19A: Superior skill). That's a nice word, PROWESS, and I'm going to need more of it before going to the crossword puzzle tournament next year!

Astronomy buffs will certainly enjoy seeing TYCHO (15A: Astronomer ____ Brahe) in the grid, and the same goes for poetry/criticism buffs and TSELIOT (21A: Pioneer in New Criticism). There are a lot of threes, and one sees the seemingly inevitable junk like NES, KAT, SDS, ASA, DRT, and MUS, but even with all that, I still enjoyed the puzzle. I guess I just like a gimmicky puzzle. Is that so wrong?

- Horace

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014, Michael Dewey

0:16:44


Most of the puzzle was smooth sailing, but I got in over my head in the northeast. First I put in killer for 4D. Kind of instinct, but that didn't float. I thought my ship had come in when the lower crosses supplied MAL. I tried aniMAL, but I had a sinking feeling when I couldn't get any crosses. Eventually my ship came in when  JUMP sprang to mind (1A. Bound), and I realized it was PRIMAL going down.

The raft of clumping of hair clues in this one did not float my boat. (63A. & 64A. Clump of hair (KNOT & TUFT)). On the other hand it was swell to have two Winnie-the-Pooh clues, especially his catchphrase (9D. OHBOTHER). I say that myself sometimes when the waters are troubled.

Quite a surge of Huyguens material, if you were on the look out for it: 6D. Lumber (WOOD); 13D. Unyielding (STEELY); 24D. Eleven plus one (NOON); and 73A. Cry at deli (NEXT).

Surprisingly little side-splitting humor, but I did enjoy 2D. One side in a close encounter (UFO) and 5D. Sun block? ECLIPSE.

Oh, and did I mention that the theme was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic? Although, as regards 28A What scientists use to predict the rates of chemical reactions (COLLISIONTHEORY), I might ask, too soon?

~Frannie

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, Gary Cee

0:09:28

Kind of a cute baseball theme today, with the starts of the first four theme answers defining pitches outside the strike zone, and the fifth giving the result: BASEONBALLS (63A: Batter's reward after pitches like those described at the starts of 17-, 24-, 39-, and 51-Across). The theme answers are all perfectly normal, too, which adds to the cleanliness of the theme.

I think "21A: ____ clef" is an odd way to clue BASS, but maybe one gets tired of a fish clue after a while. And speaking of odd clues, I thought "6D: Position" for STEAD was unusual, too. And I've known about USA Today for quite some time, but I don't think I've ever known that it was published by Gannett. You?

PRECIS (27A: Concise summary) might be a little précieux for a Tuesday, and DADO (28D: Middle part of a pedestal) is pretty obscure, too… but what are you gonna do?

Overall, I thought it was a little boring. My favorite clue was probably 64D: Repeated request from an Alabama cheerleader (ANA), and when ANA is involved in your favorite part of a puzzle, the puzzle might be lacking a little interest. Well… MARSEILLE (38D: "The Count of Monte Cristo" setting) is good, too, but maybe only because it evokes a story that is much more exciting than this puzzle. It's not that it is bad - there's not much groanable fill - but it didn't sing. But maybe that's just because I don't much care about baseball these days.

- Horace

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014, Gareth Bain

0:07:20

A little homonym practice today, with three phrases demonstrating proper usage of "there," "their," and "they're." I dislike most references to Ronald Reagan (17A: Famous debate words from Reagan to Carter (THEREYOUGOAGAIN)), so that got me off on the wrong foot as far as "feeling good about the puzzle" goes, and I never fully recovered. I didn't ABHOR (28D: Hate, hate hate) it, but it wasn't grrrrreat either. Also adding to my GLOOM (9A: Atmosphere of despondency) was the fact that I over -thought "38A: Sported, as a sports jacket" and entered the past participle "worn" instead of the simple past "WORE," and that took quite a while to find, as I never even looked at 19D: Some daisies (OXEYES). Oh well…

So…. it was fine.

- Horace

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014, Dan Schoenholz

1:04:17

IT'S TAXING

This seemed a little tougher than Sundays usually do, and we actually finished with an error - I had entered "assured" instead of ENSURED (42D: Double-checked, e.g.), and not knowing for sure 46A: Purim villain (HAMAN) (Hamas seemed plausible) or 39A: Reactor (PILE), the error went unnoticed until we were forced to hunt for it. But that's not even the area that gave us the most trouble (or, I guess it really was, but I didn't realize it at the time…). It was in the lower-middle left that we ended. I didn't know the quote off the top of my head (60D: "There is no greater evil than ____": "Antigone" (ANARCHY)), and had entered "dinners" where REPASTS (59D: Important parts of Thanksgiving and Easter) belonged, so it was slow going for a long while. Now that it's done, I can say that PANT (71A: Have a series of sudden inspirations) was brilliant. Another funny clue was 21A: It's organized in a family (CRIME). I tried "order" in there first, because, you know, "Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus…" But not today.

And speaking of today, it's almost tax day (ours are done, thank you), and the theme is a re-purposing of familiar phrases for tax-related purposes. They ranged from the humorous - MANYHAPPYRETURNS (38A: What C.P.A.'s wish for their clients?) to the mundane SCHEDULECHANGE (81A: I.R.S. update?), but really, the idea is a clever one, so I give Mr. Schoenholz full credit. Well, except for my least-favorite entry today - ILLY (110D: In a bad way). That's just awful, but it's one of only a few "blah" pieces of fill (ELHI, EBANKS, and CLU I'm looking at you!), so I'll let it slide.

I've never heard of a REDBONE (49D: Breed of hunting dog), but I'm guessing that at least one frequent reader has. And talking about things I didn't know brings me back to HAMAN - I looked him up. He tried to convince King Ahasuerus (probably Xerxes I) to kill all the Jews in Persia, but the Queen, Esther, herself a Jew, foiled the plot. The Jewish holiday Purim celebrates Esther's triumph, and the book of Ether is traditionally read during Purim services, which are held on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (itself a useful thing for crossword-solvers to know!).

Nice dual Hamlet references today with ARAT (5D: "How now! ____?": Hamlet) (did you ever see that "Hamlet on Facebook" thing? This would directly precede the line "Polonius is no longer online"), and ANNEAL (119A: Strengthen). It's a stretch, I know, but it makes me think of the ghost's line: "… cut off even in the blossoms of my sin, unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled…"

OK, I'm getting a little far afield, perhaps it's a good time to cut this off. I liked it fine for a Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014, Mel Rosen

1:07:17

Boy, two great puzzles in a row! This one was nice and tough, too, and it took a combined effort to finally slay the beast.

I like the tricky clues for usual fare, like 31A: Composers of some rhapsodies (ODISTS) (ok, it's usually just "ODE," but I'm still counting it) and 34A: Cousin of an agave (ALOE). 7D: Old dynasts (TSARS) and 12A: Rebel in a beret (CHE) don't really count because they were still pretty easy. CHE was so easy, in fact, that I kept thinking that it must really be something else, because it is Saturday, after all. But no.

Loved the clues for DOCENTS (42A: They often provide illumination in galleries) ("windows" also fit) and DANGS (31D: Alternative to shoots?) (I had "hangs" in there briefly, which kind of grossed Frannie out). And I was thinking of 17A: Diet, e.g. in the right way for a long time, but still didn't come up with CONSULATES until we had a ton of crosses. I guess I was thinking more "governments" or something.

Frannie finally came up with MRROARKE (10D: "Fantasy Island" host). I don't know how she remembers this stuff. And coincidentally, the "Space Seed" episode of Star Trek was on one of those retro channels last night. We watched a bit of it.

Nice timing, too, on the COLBERTBUMP (1A: Popularity boost due to a certain TV endorsement). I wonder if this puzzle was rushed into the lineup by Will Shortz, hoping for his own Colbert bump.

Lastly, PYEDOGS (11D: Stray mongrels)? What's up with that? The Free Dictionary says it's from a Hindi word, pahi, which means "outsider." Huh. Well, that's part of the great thing about the Saturday puzzles - you often learn a thing or two. Like who knew two famous explorers both had the first name VASCO (29D: Balboa's first name) (wasn't it also DaGama's? Yes. Yes it was.).

A nice, challenging puzzle with very little (ACC, SELA, URU, ASCI) to complain about. Lovely.

- Horace

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014, Peter Wentz

0:42:00

Boy, this one scared me for a while. I started it late last night and got very little, handed it over to Frannie and fell asleep. It doesn't really sound like I was that scared, but I think I probably had bad dreams. I don't remember. In the morning I saw that she had finished maybe half of it, but there was still a ways to go and I really didn't have a handle on it. Luckily, it all worked out, ( I know - "and then a miracle happened," but I can't really explain it, it just got finished), still, this one felt different to me. I'm not sure why.

I liked it a lot, though, now that we're done with it. Answers like POPELEOX (50A: Head of the Catholic Church when Luther's "95 Theses" was posted) (nice clue!) and THEASP (58A: Daddy Warbuck's henchman) (?) look ridiculous. Maybe it's that there were so many multi-word answers. IDECLARE (54A: "Gracious me!"), TEDTALKS (58A: Lecture series with well over a billion views) (one of the few gimmies), NOLOSE, TOOTOO, TAPDANCERS, SHEDTEARS, SQUAREDEAL, EATAWAY, VELVETROPE, BIGGAMES, BLUEJEANS…. and that's not all of them! I like all of those, don't get me wrong, it's just that maybe I wasn't thinking about multi-word answers. But who cares about me, really?

Did you notice that "dungarees" fits in where BLUEJEANS (9D: Alternative to cords) went? I did. Frannie took it out quickly, though, as it really fouled things up. I was confused for longer than I should have been by 20A: Foe of the Vikings (PACKERS). I thought to myself, does 'everyone' fit? KINESCOPE (32D: Part of a TV archive) was a nice word, although I don't fully understand why that would be part of a TV archive… and KAFKAESQUE (32A: Maddeningly surreal)? Lovely.

In all, it was a great challenge, and a lively, interesting grid. Keep 'em coming Wentz!

- Horace