Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017, John Guzetta


Today's theme is personally apt - APT! Horace and I are going to see a baseball game tonight. I'm hoping that most of the WHIFFSOFSCANDAL, or otherwise, fall to the visiting team's lot, but in sports, there ARNO real guarantees. We'll see which team will GODOWNSWINGING.

The energy of the theme answers is supported by quite a bit of punchy fill like SPEWCHAOSDIRKSTYEWORF, and STAN (kidding about that last one). We also seem to have a Huygensesque mini theme going on with SPANKKINKY, and, dare I say, ANAL? He might also enjoy SOL and PREALGEBRA, if he's not too mad that there is a thing called PREALGEBRA.

NOLE (Florida State athlete, maybe) and SEGO (State flower of Utah) were not this FAN's FAVORITEs, but it's FEIN.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017, Brian Greer


Happy anniversary to "The Philosopher's Stone"! I can't believe it's been 20 years since the first Harry Potter novel was published. Although, I didn't get on the HP bandwagon right out of the gate. I started reading the books after volume 4 came out, when it was no longer possible to communicate with the nieces and nephews if one didn't. :)

In addition to the two theme-related fifteens (THEPHILOSOPHERS and DANIELRADCLIFFE), we have the STONE standing in the middle plus two non-theme clues that end up making HARRY POTTER appear across the bottom of the puzzle. The constructor conjured up some real hocus pocus to get Ms. Rowling's initials to materialize (38A. Alphabet chunk after D-E-F (GHIJK)) - otherwise an almost unforgivable groaner, even on a Monday. The J and K were circled, along with all the letters in 39A. Column's counterpart (ROW) and the LING of LINGO (40A. Specialist's vocabulary) to complete the author's name: J. K.  Rowling. DARWIN also pops up in the grid along with Rowling, possibly making a micro category of authors whose books have been banned.

There are a few good non-theme clues I wand to call out:
12A. Person in a detached state? (ALASKAN) - apt!
52D. Subject of a long sentence? (LIFER) - ha!

To pull this theme out of the hat, a few answers got SAWed in half including  9D. Biblical verb ending (ETH) and 63D. Comparative suffix (IER). Some of the other spells were more shortened: TBA, TSA, ABA, AWOL, AHOT, and ASNEAT. It's an anniversary BASH, tho, so it's OK.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017, Jacob Stulberg


VEGETABLESHORTENING is the revealer for today's theme. The vegetables BEET, CORN, KALE, CHIVE, TOMATO, and OKRA are squashed into rebus squares in six longer answers. [CH][IV]E was a weird one because it included one letter that wasn't rebused, unlike the rest. This kind of theme makes me wonder where the constructor got the idea for the puzzle in the first place. Was it noticing that COSMOKRAMER contained the word OKRA, or the fact that the word TOMATO appears in SYMPTOMATOLOGY? It's a fine theme, but there's no connection between the vegetable and the clue/answer in which it is found, which makes it less entertaining than some.

My iPad was on the fritz (it's better now, thank you), so Horace and I did this puzzle together on his iPad on the porch of the family beach cottage. Our niece helped us with 4D. NALA (Lion in "The Lion King")  - apparently Scar was another potential candidate - and, as she hails from those parts, Minnesota's state bird (LOON).

I couldn't help thinking that Huygens might have wanted a different answer for 109D. Ta-tas (BYES).

Here are a few answers to which I say AMEN:
121A. Like those who really have guts? (OBESE) - funny.
80D. Do House work (LEGISLATE) - nice not-so-hidden capital
36D. Many a character on "The Big Bang Theory" (TREKKIE) - same.

I was ATSEA when it came to British politician Farage (NIGEL). And I think extreme UNCTION should be called on OVATE (14A. Like most grapes). I would prefer people ovoid that word. :)


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017, Stu Ockman


Despite the rather high number above, I filled in the grid with relative EASE for a Saturday, until I hit the south east. I spent at least half the time struggling with my CORSELET and ALTEREGO. And, while I obviously found this corner challenging, it was, ulitmately, when solved, a little DAYTODAYesque.

There was some NEET fill. I love the expression on the DOLE, though the condition it describes is less appealing. AMBLE is a nice word, but the clue (Many a nature walk) left me hearing crickets. 8D. Company with striking footware (TAPDANCERS) had a little twist to it, but nothing to write home about. Often, clues seemded to lack payoff, e.g. 36D. Like tailgates and trapdoors (HINGED) and 2D. Some whipped creams (AEROSOLS). Meh. Maybe it's just me. At 19A, there's a clue with a question mark, usually indicating a little twist (Bean in a pod?). I got it (ALAN) but I don't get it.

I thought it was odd that the puzzle included both ALAN (as mentioned above),= and ALAR (Now-regulated growth regulator) as well as LAALAA (One of the Teletubbies) and LALA (Karaoke stand-in?).

I realized with some disappointment that New Age retreats is another category of things I'm going to have to brush up on.
I HOPETOGOD that's the last one. :)

Overall, I wanted to get my YAYAS out, but I couldn't.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017, James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson


A Friday puzzle that was obviously right in my wheelhouse and/or this one got assigned to the wrong day. The 16 minute bracket is way below my Friday average, and 16:11 is only 7 seconds slower than Tuesday's time. Maybe they didn't put enough tri in the TRIAGE this week. :)

We have some nice stacks of three ten-letter words in the north east and south west. My favorite might be 16A. Question often asked after twirling (HOWDOILOOK).

The stacks were surrounded by some amusing fill - not quite enough to BUSTAGUT, but enjoyable. Some of my favorites were
5D. One going everyhere on foot? (SHOE) - ha!
36A. Like a pact with the devil (UNHOLY), aptly crossed with ANTIPOPE - Apt!
38A. Jobs in tech (STEVE) - very smooth hidden capital.
39A. Subject of a 1984 mockumentary - who doesn't like a reference to SPINALTAP? No one doesn't.
30. "O" follower (CANADA) - good old America, Jr.
3D. Antic (MADCAP) and 25D. Bop (CONK)- excellent words.
And a fine pair of Sycophants at 9D and 40D: TOADY and LAPDOG.

There were a few answers I wasn't GOOGOOGAGA over. I'm not a big fan of gun-related clues, so starting right off at 1A with AMMO didn't thrill me, although the clue is clever enough. B. At 21A. Coffee shop freebies for LIDS seemed a bit misleading, and not in a good way. 7D. Baby animal in a parable in II Samuel (EWELAMB) seemed a bit over the top - ewe AND lamb?


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin


I enjoyed the puzzle overall, but today's theme didn't do much for me. Each answer was a common expression featuring a body part connected by an action. In the puzzle the verb appeared in the middle connecting the two parts. For example, FACEMEETFACE, which was kind of funny. The drawback was once you got one of the theme answers, it gave a lot away about all the others.

The puzzle contained a nice mix of things that are quite familiar to me: OWEN (Meaney, A Prayer for), SEUSS, ONEAL, GANDHI (of course), AZKABAN, AAAMAP, and PEETA, and others were completely unknown to me. I have never heard of the Israeli resort city EILAT.  I also had no idea that APHIDs produce honeydew when they feed on plant sap. And to think they make melons out of that! And I have known some colossal bores in my time, but had not yet run across a TIDAL bore.

OUTDOORSY is a nice entry. Initiates badly? (HAZES) is clever. and 27A. One flying during the holiday season, informally (STNICK) is cute.

I wonder if Ms. Margolin is from the mid-West. I haven't heard Chicago referred to as CHI-Town since my time in Wisconsin. Or, maybe she's a librarian and the puzzle was timed for the big annual American Library Association meeting in the Windy City. Or maybe not. :)

I didn't eyeseeeye with the constructor on every clue. I thought both STEAD and Place at 47A were kind of bland. And there must be something I'm not getting about 45A. Joins hands? (CLASPS). Why the question mark?

And, speaking of questions, why did LIEINS ever go out of fashion? I could use one right now. :)


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017, Bruce Haight


Today's theme features a quartet of butterflies formed from the black squares in the middle of the puzzle and a set of four words, one in each corner of the puzzle, that when paired with the word butterfly, complete the answers. The revealer at 35A. explains it all and puts, BUTTERFLY, smack dab in the center of the puzzle. I thought it might have been funny if the clue for 8A. were Puccini Optera. Too much?

I was all aflutter over some of the quality fill today. :) My favorite might be 15A. Add salt to the wound (RUBITIN). Apt! I also enjoyed 29D. Pole workers' creations (TOYS) - clever mislead! - 26A. OK summer hrs. (CDT) - amusing - and, perhaps oddly, 16A. Prepare for a physical (DISROBE) - ha! (but not really). The anagramaticity of ERA at 24A followed immediately by EAR at 25A was cool. I also enjoyed the new school/old school means of connectivity at 59 and 61 across: GOVIRAL / HOTLINE.

It took me too long to parse the clue at 4D. (Wounds at Pamplona, say - GORES). I kept trying to think of the Spanish word for wound. Ai ai ai!

Only two answers didn't exactly take wing for me: 44D. Pertaining to aircraft technology (AVIONIC) and 60A. Stephen of "Citizen X" but otherwise I thought the puzzle was FAB.