Friday, July 3, 2020

Friday, July 3, 2020, Hal Moore


Let's just say that this week has been more stressful than most, so I'm happy to have the crossword puzzle to turn to in order to escape the difficulties of life for a few moments.

Or more than a few moments, in the case of today's puzzle. Some various guesses I made put up roadblocks to my completion. For example, at 35A: It doesn't follow (NONSEQUITUR) I put in NONSEnsical. Which is correct but not as correct as the actual answer. I also had ABASe instead of ABASH, which made HAWAII much harder to see. Finally, I had ANdnOw for 27D: "Moving right along ..." (ANYHOO).

That middle set of three answers is excellent. The lynchpin is ANTHONYBOURDAIN, an amazing man whose life came to a tragic and premature end in 2018. However, he absolutely lived by his quotation. I also enjoyed 39A: Swear words? (SCOUTSHONOR).

Crossing these answers is 21D: Coach for the bench players? (PIANOTEACHER). Hah! Very clever. PHOTOCURRENT is not as great an answer.
Different OMAR
I imagine seeing QUOTIENTS made Huygens say IMINHEAVEN.

My favorite clue is 56A: Present time, for short (BDAY). This is a great example of a non-QMC. And no question mark is needed, in my opinion, although I can see some thinking it would be necessary because of the punny nature of the reinterpretation of the first word.

With GETBACK and the very nice pair of "One might be drawn" clues (Answers: STRAW and BATH), this was a fun Friday themeless that played harder for me than usual.

- Colum

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thursday, July 2, 2020, Yacob Yonas and Chad Horner


To say I didn't understand what was going on here is an understatement. I completely and correctly filled in the entire grid, and then stared at the theme answers for a few minutes before understanding.

See, I thought the revealer SKIPSCHOOL meant you had to add the word "school" to the theme answers to make them comprehensible. Instead, you look at the answers and take out a school name to get the resulting answer to fit the clue. Thus, 17A: *Express one's view (COMMITMENT) has MIT in the middle. Take it out, and you get "comment."

Similarly with: STAYALERT - Yale = "start," SUNCHIPS - UNC = "ships," and GASPRICES - Rice = "gasps."

Wow. Those are some nice finds. All four are good phrases, with good solid schools. So I like the theme.

But in these days of unclear college plans, it strikes a sad chord in me. Much like so many things. Cece will have a college to go to in August, but it will be diminished and without the usual social interactions. But it's okay. We all know who to blame.

Meanwhile, there's not much in the way of clever clues or really exciting fill outside of the theme. I chuckled lightly at 69A: Pack of smarties? (MENSA) and at 37D: A lecture on it might be full of tangents (TRIG).

I think what we all need right now is a COSMO(politan).

- Colum

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau


Middle of the week, middle of the year. Guess it doesn't get much more "hump day" than that, huh?

Never have I wanted the NYT crossword more for its ability to lighten the day and improve the mood. So in honor of that, let's just get some of the negative out of the way first, shall we?

To hit STYE and CYST within the first 30 seconds of solving was somewhat alarming. Add to that CLAP and RASH, and you've got a veritable grab bag of bodily afflictions. I know, I know, the latter two aren't clued that way. Just be glad I didn't include JUNK. Or ACME. Heh heh...

Also, the crossing of NOURI and MARTA is a rough go. I guessed correctly, but I can see that many would not have done so.

All right, with that over and done with, let's acknowledge the good. The theme is very clever and quite unusual. The revealer is at 54A: Network of personal relationships ... or a punny hint to 3-, 7- and 11-Down (SOCIALCAPITAL). The twist here is to treat that as working with money through social media networks.

The answers referenced are three phrases begin with verbs that work within social media and end with synonyms for cash. Thus FOLLOWSTHEMONEY is clued as "Joins a Federal Reserve Facebook group?" I like that all three examples are in the 3rd person present tense. It makes it consistent.

There's not a ton of fascinating fill otherwise. I am surprised to note that of the last eleven Across answers, eight are proper nouns/names. I liked 20A: Things that magnets and barbershops both have (POLES). Also 46A: Connections on Air France? (ETS). Cute!

- Colum

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020, Zachary David Levy


Every day is a good day to celebrate THENOTORIOUSRBG. Although I can't help but feel that the impetus for the creation of this puzzle is the realization that, along with the nickname, ONTHEBASISOFSEX and JUSTICEGINSBURG are all 15 letters long.

Well, just for good measure, we also get FLATBUSH and COLUMBIA, two stopping points along her biography. I did not see the biopic movie referred to in 17A, but I did see the documentary RBG, which was fascinating and well done. The idea of bringing a sexual discrimination case to the Supreme Court where the plaintiff was a man was brilliant. And sad at the same time.

Anyway, enough about discrimination, politics, and... well. Let's just say ICANT. It's time to think about BUNS instead.

I was slightly concerned on opening the puzzle to see the massive NW chunk of white squares. Fortunately 1A: Segment of the Constitution that starts "We the People" (PREAMBLE) was a gimme. I wasn't sure about how to spell PROSIT, so that took a little working around. Similarly, ANISETTE always makes me pause: is it 2 Ns, 2 Ss, or 2 Ts?

62A: King or queen (MATTRESS) is a nice misdirect of a clue. There's not too much to complain about or make too much noise about. It's a fine Tuesday puzzle, if nothing mindblowing. At the same time, it's yet another debut, so welcome to the NYT, Mr. Levy!


- Colum

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020, Peter Gordon


Today was an early solve late on a lazy Sunday. Writing two blog reviews in one day? What is the world coming to? Cats and dogs, living together... mass hysteria!

Well, maybe not anything quite as catastrophic as that, he said doggedly.

Right. Today's theme is kind of fun: two word phrases, where the second word can be found in order within the first word. Thus, 18A: Position sought every six years (SENATESEAT). The colored squares are somewhat necessary. Would I have figured out the theme without them? Possible. But would I have realized that MAINMAN and BESTBET were part of the set of six? I doubt it.

There's some fun fill in the puzzle. I liked ABSOLOM, an unusual find on a Monday. I think of the Faulkner novel, "Absolom, Absolom!" Beyond that, I thought the actual biblical character was in a Handel oratorio, but I find that was Saul and David, but not the son.

EPILEPSY is right up my alley, of course. The clue is technically correct: the disease is defined as the condition of multiple electroconvulsive seizures. As a cause, however, it's a little short of the mark. Idiopathic epilepsy is when we can't find a specific cause, but presumably there's something in the brain that's making the electrical storms happen, we just can't see it with current imaging techniques.

On a completely separate note, Hope and I were discussing Laverne and Shirley ("Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hassenpfeffer Incorporated!"), which comes to mind because of Penny Marshall's shortlived marriage to Rob REINER. We couldn't remember David Lander, who played Squiggy. Oh, Frannie! Where art thou? I feel certain you would have come through.

Finally, I'm not convinced by 63A: Erotic (SEXY). There are plenty of things that are the latter but not the former, at least in any one individual's eyes. For example, I'm completely willing to grant that Idris Elba is sexy, but I do not find him erotic. Especially in Cats.

- Colum

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020, Jon Schneider and Anderson Wang


Hey, everybody! I'm up early today because I dropped my older daughter at the airport. She's headed off to Wyoming to visit her girlfriend. Turns out you can still travel on airplanes. Remember those? NOLIE: I'm just a bit nervous about her traveling, but she's not going to any hotspots, so hopefully it will all be just fine.

Anyway, after two weeks of fine reviews by Horace and Frannie, you get a week of me. I'll try to keep the level of play up to their usual excellence.

Today, we get a mathematical theme, in a sense. I imagine that should make Huygens approve. The revealer comes at 70A: Mathematical concepts suggested eight time in this puzzle (EXPONENTS). Throughout the puzzle, there are eight pairs of answers which are cross referenced. Each pair is set up so the second answer is up one row and to the right of the first answer, and the two are connected by an understood "to the". Thus, 113A: With 107-Across, bad sort of competition (RACE[TOTHE] / BOTTOM). If you need a visual to understand why this is an exponent:
It's a nice idea, and all eight phrases are strong. I like PLAY[TOTHE] / GALLERY and THREW[TOTHE] / WOLVES the best.

I'm impressed by the cleanness of the grid. The longest answers today have nothing to do with the theme, and most of them are fun, like ELMSTREET, TOPTENLISTS, and ETHIOPIAN, a cuisine which everybody should try. I also liked THELBOMB and THEFATES.

There are hardly any misdirecting or funny ha-ha clues. It's a nice Mae West quote: "SEX is an emotion in motion." She was the Oscar Wilde of Brooklyn, NY. Bet you didn't know that's where she hailed from!

It is odd to see ELOI and OLEO, two ancient crosswordese, in an otherwise very clean grid. But these are classic ways to make sections hang together, and in a way they're old friends at this point.

Well, that's all he SCRAWLED for today. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

P.S. A double debut today! Congratulations, Messrs Schneider and Wang!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday, June 27, 2020, Ryan McCarty


I'm really not sure how best to record my time for this puzzle. All of the above are correct, in a way. The app stopped at 54:33 when I correctly completed the puzzle, but I doubt I would have finished it at all if left to my own devices, but I did finish it thanks to a little help from a friend. Here's how it happened:

The top half of the puzzle went right along - ONESIES here, a TWIN there -  making me think I NEEDNT PANIC, but that turned out not to be the case as I ground to a halt after completing the upper two thirds. I put the puzzle down for a while. 

A short time later, Horace announced that he was never going to be able to finish the puzzle. I countered saying, "of course you will, you always do." But after a time, he repeated his pronouncement and I was still completely stumped, so we decided to work on it together. We were both stuck in the same place: the southeast corner. I also had a number of empty squares in the southwest, but more about that later. 

We both had DAY at the top of the section, ASKSIN in the middle, and we were pretty confident of ANNUALFEE (Deterrent to getting a credit card) toward the bottom, but when nothing was working we cancelled the FEE. We felt even more morose when we took out DOURER. But, as it happened, the locus of the problem was at 45A: "What has a large following on a college campus?" We had both tried HONORrOll, but it just wasn't working. Horace thought of HONORClub, which, while incorrect, accidentally and fortuitously supplied the correct C, after which a suggestion of MAGE for "Enchanting sort" worked like a charm. At that point we had MU_ and then the lucky C, leading Horace to suggest MUSCLY for "Jacked. Then the G in MAGE conjured up AGENDER (Nonbinary, in a way), which finally gave us HONORCODE . Phew! 

With that taken care of, I soldiered on alone to the southwest corner, which Horace had already solved on his own. Thankfully, before he wandered off, he corrected my guess for "Bulk purchase at the post office" from 'tapE' to PANE, which I doubt I ever would have come up with on my own. I guess I can see that PANE works in this instance, but to me it seems like a clue written more for misdirection than cleverness. Of course, if a person knew that PEPSI Center is home to the Denver nuggets, PANE might have been less of a pain, but still. And also in that corner, for "Something you wouldn't use your hands to touch" I was trying too hard for an answer with a little flair, like 'heart' maybe. When I realized it was PEDAL, I was disappointed. I also wasn't thrilled with the answer to "Double shifts at work, e.g." I would call working a double shift a slog, I would not call each one a slog and both shifts together SLOGS. I might, however, call my journey through the southeast and west corners of today's puzzle slogs. It sounds like I've eaten some of those proverbial grapes, doesn't it?

Clues I did like in the southwest were "Miss-taken identity?" for JANEDOE and "Pair of overalls?" for (ELS). Another clue I liked was "Bring about, as confusion" (SOW). I also liked "Baldness is the result of losing them" (TREADS). COASTTOCOAST was a nice long clue - too bad it's not quite long enough to span the entire grid. "What to do if you'd like a hand" (ANTE) is also good. 

To sum up, today's puzzle contained both SWEETANDSOUR for this solver. It's always fun doing the puzzle with Horace, and there were some clever clues, but some just weren't to my taste.