Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, Matthew Sewell

0:07:06 (F.W.O.E.)

The sport of basketball is featured today, and the actions of one of its "dynamic" plays are represented with "block," "rebound," "pass," "dribble," and "shoot." That's how a FASTBREAK usually goes, and I find the sequence to be adequately evocative, so thumbs up there.

There sure is a lot of theme material (62 squares!), and several down entries pass through three (!) theme answers. Three of those four are fine, good even, in the cases of ANECDOTAL (10D: Not based on fact or research) and SIDEORDER (31D: Fries or slaw, usually), but SURETE (21D: ____ du Québec), on the other hand, is very obscure. Its cross SECADA (21A: Jon with the 1992 hit "Just another day") is even more difficult (to me anyway), and I argue that neither is crossword-worthy. OK, maybe on a Saturday, but not Wednesday. I stared at that square for quite a while, and even when running the alphabet it took me more than a moment to prounounce "sûreté" properly. Very, very tough.

Is it all worth it? Maybe. The theme answers are ok. Many platform sandals have a wedge heel, but some have a BLOCKHEEL, and SHOOTEMUPS put me in mind more of Halo and Grand Theft Auto than the much more innocent Space Invaders and Asteroids, but, well... Oh, ok, I'll say it. The cluing was not entirely to my liking! Whew.

There are, however, good non-theme entries, like PALOOKAS, CABARETS, HADAGO (11D: Tried one's luck), ITSON (14A: "Game time!"), and UTURN (54A: One-eighty). For once it's not "uey."

UPC (1A: Scanned bars, for short) gets a C-. I don't know why it's not a D, but it's not. Overall, the puzzle's not bad, but that one square kind of soured me on it.

- Horace

p.s. And speaking of that, is "soured me on it" or "soured it for me" better? The latter seems to make more sense, but the former came to my mind first. Grammar nerds, ITSON!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017, Timothy Polin


CARRIE FISHER tribute puzzle today from Mr. Polin. It's a little odd (ok, kind of a lot odd) to have her quote broken up such that the second part comes after the final part, and the WANKENOBI line is especially unfortunate on its own, but I'm going to give it all a pass ("This is not the criticism you're looking for..." I hear Mr. Polin telling me...), because, come on, it's CARRIE FISHER!

Lots of theme material, and a couple tie-in clues: 5D: "____ a trap!" (ITS) and 10D: Makeup of the planet Hoth (ICE). Of course, with all the theme come entries like MOTHY (64A: Like old, neglected sweaters, maybe), ALPE (24D: Mont Blanc, e.g., to locals), and ALLEE (67A: Tree-lined walkway, in France), but what are you going to do?

I like FETTLE (50D: In fine ____ (healthy)) and CRUX (16A: Essential point) and ADLIB (8D: Deal with a broken teleprompter, say). Not sure what to think of SODOI (44A: "Same here!"), TILNOW (47D: So far, informally), ONARUN (29A: Hitting blackjack after blackjack, say), and WINSAT (45A: Is victorious in). I guess I like the first two better than the last two. My favorite clue/answer is 56D: Real head-turners? (OWLS), plural and all. 1A: When Polonius says "Brevity is the soul of wit" (ACTII) gets a D+. The plus is for Hamlet.

Overall, it's a (hastily constructed - it's only three weeks since she died) tribute puzzle for a beloved screen icon. Perfect Tuesday fare.

- Horace

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017, John Wrenholt


One, two, three, SIXWAYSTOSUNDAY! A fun theme, and a nice reminder of Frannie's mom, who used to use that expression. The three themers adding up to the revealer are solid, although some may argue that THREEWAYTIE is a tad ad hoc.

There are many quality bits of fill in this one: TOPSECRET (14A: Highly classified) is fun, and PINGPONG (45A: Table tennis) ought to please Mr. Fob as much as it must please Mr. Shortz himself, as I know both of those men enjoy the game. There's the nutty cross of PEANUTS and PECAN, with BEECH in symmetry at the bottom, and at the bottom, a TREESTUMP. I like GETBUSY (46D: "Hop to it!") and EATUP (26D: Readily accept) for their colloquialness.

Starting with SHO (1A: "Penny Dreadful" channel, for short) (D) is unfortunate, and there's EDUC, ASST, OED, SEL, and a few other bits of the usual glue, but overall, I thought this a good Monday, and especially good for a debut! I'll look forward to seeing Mr. Wrenholt's byline on a Tuesday next, as he works his way through the week.

- Horace

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017, Joel Fagliano


If there's one thing we like here at Horace and Frannie and Colum, it's wacky cluing, and when you throw grammar into the mix, it's better still. FUTUREPERFECT (24A: Utopia?) is brilliant, SENTENCESTRUCTURE (103A: Jailhouse?) is also strong, and INDEFINITEARTICLE (31A: Piece still under consideration for a magazine?) is pretty good. Some of the others seem a little forced, but only OBJECTIVECASE (113A: The Prada that one really wants?) is objectionable.

In addition to the fun theme, I enjoyed many of the non-theme clues today, starting with SCISSOR (1A: Kind of kick) (B+), which was both unexpected and evocative. In fact, that whole top row is strong. SEASALT (8A: Product of evaporation) is one of my favorite things, and I love the misdirection (for regular crossword solvers) of 15A: Apple product (CIDER). It's not a hidden capital, it's a false capital! What!?

29A: Packers' grp.? (NRA) is funny-ish, SLOG (48A: Interminable task) is nice and modern, and I like the symmetrical PROPPLANES (97A: Fleet for many a commuter airline) and YELLOWFLAG (42A: Signal meaning "no disease on this ship") (interesting trivia alert). And right near that first one is the amusing "102A: Specimen, for example: Abbr." (SYN). Tricky!

It's a big puzzle with a lot of good stuff. This is my favorite Sunday in a while.

- Horace

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017, Andrew Kingsley


A very fast Turn for me this week, with all three puzzles coming in under fifteen minutes. I've been very busy with other thoughts, and perhaps having so many active thoughts clears the mind, in a way, or at least opens a little wider the channels of thought. I'm not sure I'm explaining this well, but I'm thinking of how Glenn Gould said that he had a breakthrough while practicing piano in a room where someone was running a vacuum cleaner. I think he frequently practiced with a vacuum cleaner running beside him after that. Of course, he was a world-famous genius, and maybe these were just slightly easier puzzles than normal. Either way, I think Glenn Gould and I are pretty much identical.

Did I mention that I've been working a lot and I'm tired? ...

So anyway, this was another solid puzzle. Attractive grid - maybe a tad tight getting into the NE and SW, but the long pins, GRASSSTAINS (10D: They often turn knees green) and HAREBRAINED (22D: Cockamamie) are good, and the corners are wide open.

1A: Back in (RETROCHIC) gets an A-. It's a fun start, and it was one of the last things I put in. I had RE_R... for a while, and I got caught up thinking of "rear-something," as if you were backing up a car. Also, that CRAPS/SPRAT (19A: Anchovy or sand eel) cross was my final square, and for it I had to run the alphabet in my head. I love anchovies, but I had never heard the term SPRAT before. I like learning it, though, just as I liked learning of the pulse food group from crossword puzzles a couple years ago.

Love SPATE (55A: Run), and THEPOPE (40D: Obviously Catholic person, in a snarky rhetorical question) makes another appearance today (after being invoked by "Popemobile" yesterday), but really, what else could that have been?

Overall, maybe a little too easy for a Saturday, but no big complaints.

- Horace

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017, Andrew J. Ries


I love the trivia in "19D: The first one was a modified Ford D-Series truck" (POPEMOBILE). Hah! And PARODYACCOUNT (39A: is hilarious. ("I make onions cry.") But BUYERSREMORSE (35A: New homeowner's feeling, maybe) seems wrong. When we bought our house we were very happy! Isn't everyone? Buyer's remorse comes with impulse buys, doesn't it? Anyway, that's just one little thing. Most of this is great!

RYEWHISKY (36D: George Dickel product) was tricky, because George Dickel is probably the only whiskey maker outside of Scotland who spells it without an "e," and 38D: Some French votes (OUIS) could just as well have been "nons." And I don't know about you, but I was having a hard time coming up with a U.S. president who wrote plays, but I never thought to think of other countries'  presidents (HAVEL).

41A: Updated art? (ARE) made me LOL, even though I've seen that type of thing before. Overall, I really enjoyed this. I'm afraid I'm too tired today to give it the review it deserves, but I hope you liked it too.

- Horace

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017, Joe Krozel


Wellity, wellity, wellity.... I'm pretty sure I've ever seen a grid like this. BUS/TED APART, as it were. BRO/KEN INTWO. And the third (what I'll call) theme entry BAN/ANA SPLIT made me LOL.
It was a strange solving experience. Our colleague Mr. Amory is wont to complain about tight passageways between sections of a puzzle, but today we have a complete divide, only bridged by the continuity of the theme answers, which themselves have their first word broken. As you might have noticed, it went rather quickly for me today, despite the oddness, but it sure was fun while it lasted.

I liked the fill a lot. TAXICAB (17A: Its distance is measured within a meter) is remarkably clever, I like the word IKEBANA (18A: Japanese flower-arranging art), and wish I could have remembered it without crosses, 38A: Throw on the floor (AREARUG) is another strong clue, and I enjoyed THENORM (40A: How things typically are) too. I don't know about you, but I was surprised by NEIGHED for "55A: Called from a stall, say," and was thinking more along the lines of "Any paper over there?"

I could go on and on. 21D: Subject of an old wives' tale? (HUSBAND) got an LOL, and the bonus 15 TRANSISTORRADIO (11D: It could carry a tune in the 1950s) got a smile, too. I love the word AWEIGH (39D: Out of bed, in a way?), but I'm not entirely sure I understand the clue, and MASERS (42D: Atomic clock components) I am entirely sure I don't understand.

Overall, I liked this a lot. I even smiled at TPING (32D: Pulling a prank outside a house), and the somewhat pedestrian BUS (1A: Route follower) gets a B, even though it is part of the theme. That's just the kind of good mood I'm in.

- Horace