Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016, Robert Cirillo


A word ladder today, running from SICK to WELL in six easy steps, with two bonus answer/clues in the center - ANAPPLEADAY (30A: How to avoid becoming 1-Across, so they say) and CHICKENSOUP (49A: Aid for getting 73-Across, so they say). The word ladder itself is neatly done, and the two eleven-letter answers tie it together. I like it.

There are a few unfortunate occurrences - GUNG (46A: ____-ho), LESE (36A: ____- majesté), and ATWT (43A: No. on a periodic table), for example. I'm pretty tired of that last one, but maybe not as tired of it as I am of AMTOO (41A: "Are not!" retort) or ATEAT (66A: Really bothered). ONS, on the other hand, is saved by its very tricky clue - "Switch ups?" That question mark is definitely justified!

But that last paragraph sounds awfully negative, and I didn't feel that way while solving. In fact, my experience was quite the opposite. I liked the long non-theme Downs CENTRALBANK (The Fed, for example) and DONTGOTHERE ("Can we not talk about that!"), and (ZIPLINES (Wires for thrill-seekers), COALESCE (Come together), and APOGEES (Orbital high points) are all quite zippy. I even like the two "un" answers UNLEASH (22D: Let loose) and UNREAD (47D: Not book-smart).

1A can't really be rated, as it is theme material, so I'll skip that. My first confident entry was THOS (5A: Pres. Jefferson).

Overall, another thumbs up from this quarter. Looks like the month is set to go out with a bang.

- Horace

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016, Timothy Polin


The crossword week has started off strong with this fine Monday grid from Mr. Polin. It played slightly harder than normal for me, which is a plus, and the theme (STUFFIT) is dense, and runs both horizontally and vertically, which, in my opinion at least, is another plus. Down with uniquely horizontal themes! (pun intended)

1A: Diminishes in intensity (ABATES) gets an A. It's an interesting six-letter word, and on a Monday, that's all it takes, apparently, to get an A. Either that, or the picture of PEPPERPOTTS has put me in such a good mood that I'd have given an A to "erne." The first answer I put in confidently was ARAB (7A: Resident of Oman or Yemen).

Even with the dense theme - I count 71 squares, some of it interlocking - the fill does not contain any real clunkers (with the possible exceptions of SNAX and AGITA), and Mr. Polin has managed to get in some rather interesting entries. BUSHWA (10D: Complete rubbish) will be, I'm guessing, the most controversial, but I applaud the gutsy entry. It's another word that I will try to incorporate into my speech more often. Soon everything I say will come from the NYTX. Yes, I might be a DORK...

I enjoyed BADEGGS (47D: Perpetual troublemakers), DOWEL (12D: Carpentry pin), ROGUE (24D: Charming scoundrel), and speaking of French, I also enjoyed PRIX and ETOILE, though non-Francophiles might cry Mon Dieu!

Overall, I very much enjoyed this one. How about you?

- Horace

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016, Jim Holland and Jeff Chen


I smiled a lot while solving this puzzle. The theme of adding "-ing" to one word in each theme answer produced some very amusing wackiness. BUMSTEERING (68A: Hobo at the wheel?) and LUCKYSTREAKING (46A: Gangster Luciano performing a risqué prank) have somewhat obscure original sources, but they still work. My favorite theme answer is probably LIGHTSWITCHING (105A: Mild form of corporal punishment), but SQUAREROOTING (15D: Cheering done in a plaza?) is also quite good.

The fill has a lot of shortish material, but it's mostly solid. I liked seeing, for the first time ever, I think, "dunzo" written out, in the clue for GONER ("23A: One who's dunno").

25A: Dancer's leader (SANTA) was lovely. That and "86A: Drops a line" ANGLES had me fooled for quite some time. HA! And it's hard to justify now, but I kept reading 4D: How many college textbooks are bought (USED) as though it were looking for a quantity, like "a lot," and I think I needed two or three crosses before I could see it correctly.

1A: Lament after being backstabbed (ETTU) gets a B+. It's crosswordese, but it's well-clued. My first confident answer was ASSAY (10A: Test one's metal?). Cute.

So overall, the theme and the enjoyable cluing made for an enjoyable Sunday grid.

- Horace

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016, Mary Lou Guizzo


There were three squares that did me in, two of them contained in the name MALALAYOUSAFZAI (17A: Youngest-ever Nobel Prize recipient). She was a co-recipient of the Peace prize in 2014, and was the subject of a documentary in 2015 called He Named Me Malala. If only I had seen that documentary! As it was, I did not know REA (4D: New Deal power agcy.) (I fouled up that section for a while by brazenly guessing "TVA"), and I had guessed Ppt for 11D: Many an email attachment (PDF). PDF is much more common, of course, and CORDITE (16A: Smokeless explosive) sounds better than CORpITE, but the latter is not unthinkable. So anyway, that's too many errors.

My troubles aside, I did enjoy the challenge, and I really like the look of this grid. Four fifteens running around the outer region, open corners, and a classic X design in the middle. My first confident answer was ZIN (21A: Cab alternative). 1A: Collection of high lights? (STARMAP), gets an A-.

The aforementioned fifteens are all solid - even the name, which is perfectly fair game for a Saturday. Heck, the youngest winner, and just two years ago! I should keep up more with world affairs... but who has the time?!

Favorite material - CODERED (25D: [Emergency!]), 57D: "I already have other plans," often (LIE), 22A: Cold shower (HAIL), DAMSELS (42D: Fairy tale figures), ETERNAL (41D: Like the Olympic flame, PURGED (40A: Got rid of). Least favorite - STEPINS, ETAILER, RETIN (39D: ____-A), OLDAS (26A: ____ dirt). I'll just give the usual ESAS, LTS, RRS, and ONT type stuff a pass. I liked the challenge, but it wasn't my favorite Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016, Andrew Zhou


This was a fun one! I think the first answer I put in confidently was GRAS (21A: Fat: Fr.), but it could have been OZAWA (7D: Conductor who has a hall at Tanglewood named after him), and from there I was off and running.

I love INANIMATEOBJECT (17A: It has no life) because it makes me think of the Simpsons episode where a ticker tape parade is held for an inanimate rod. Hahahahaha! Anyway, WAXPOETIC (20A: Become flowery) is very nice, BOETHIUS (11D: "The Consolation of Philosophy" author) was surprising, but so appropriate beside the ANCIENTS (12D: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes). Those three were more ancient even to BOETHIUS than Chaucer is to us!

44D: Places for pilots (STOVES) was tricky (perhaps because pilots are being phased out), as was 4D: Film setting? (CANISTER). And 38D: Farm butter (RAM), too, was fun, and not given away - as USBPORTS (39D: Openings in the computer field?) was - by a question mark.

SHOCKJOCK (1A: One making waves over the waves) gets a B+. It's a nice Scrabble-y entry, and current, but I just don't like the whole idea of a SHOCKJOCK, so it doesn't get into the As. Some uncommon proper names provide glue (TYNER, ROCHE, HONORE), but overall there's not too much objectionable material. If there were any complaint it would be that it went a bit too quickly for a Friday. But so many good answers (YOUVEBEENSERVED, STREISAND (63A: Broadway star who was on Nixon's list of enemies) (Nixon was quite mad. In both senses.), EMBOSS, SOLEMN...) that it still gets a thumb way up.

- Horace

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016, Jeffrey Wechsler


What a fun Thursday theme we have today. It's not a rebus, but it is multi-lingual! I'm not sure which is my favorite, I like them all so much. Maybe HUITFIELDS (57A: A number of grain-producing sites in Normandy?). But what about DREIMARTINIS (23A: A number of cocktails in Berlin?), which reminds us of the excellent Thurber quote, "One martini is all right, two are too many, and three are not enough."

1A: Writer whose wife said he's a "genius, but what a dirty mind he has" (JOYCE) gets an A. Interesting trivia about an interesting writer. The first answer I put in confidently was ICON (15A: Something to mouse over).

In addition to the fine theme, we have a couple of nice long downs in TECHSECTOR (30D: Part of the Dow) and LIAMNEESON (11D: Voicer of Aslan in "The Chronicles of Narnia") (full names are always appreciated). I can't decide how I feel about DIECI (6D: Italian ten). It's not really bonus theme material, and in a way it kind of dilutes the overall effect. I guess I don't like it. I also didn't love EVENER (29D: Less bumpy), and SINES and EOE are a little gluey, but overall, this is still a thumbs up. Good start to the Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, Matthew Sewell

0:18:28 (F.W.O.E.)

Today's theme didn't have quite the impact on me that it certainly will on other solvers, because I was not familiar with the term SCRAMBLETHEJETS (57A: Spring into action ... or an apt directive for 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across). It comes from the Strategic Air Command, apparently, and means that pilots should get their planes off the ground as soon as possible. In common parlance, it means to get moving quick! It reminds me of another puzzle by Ed Sessa that we reviewed back in 2013 that included the phrase "Ball the Jack," clued as "Go for broke." I had never heard that before either, and it's not the same thing, but I remember thinking that I would like to start using that phrase more. Perhaps now I can use them together.

Anywhoo, the theme is a somewhat common one, where the letters of JETS are re-ordered and included in various phrases. I know that Colum likes it when the scrambled word spans both (or all) words in the phrase, and that is the case here. It's well done, I think, the only "meh" answer being METSJERSEY (23A: New York sports fan's purchase). It could also have been "Jets," I suppose... but then, I guess it really couldn't have been. Never mind.

In the fill, we've got the nice e-words EMULSION (20A: Mayonnaise, for one) and ESPRESSO (55A: Trattoria shot), and I like both of the vertical eight-stacks. The top is nice and old-fashioned, with PERORATE (10D: Give a long, grandiloquent speech) and LARKSPUR (11D: Buttercup family member with irregularly shaped blossoms), and the bottom is more modern, with CALLERID (36D: Phone screening service) and ONDEMAND (37D: Movie screening service), neither of which do Frannie and I have at home.

I had a devil of a time in the South, where LEK (60D: Albanian coin) crossed OKSO (65A: "And I should care because ...?"), and I tried several letters there before almost stumbling onto the K. Oh well. I will blame the sun and the salt air. Speaking of which, I should get back down to the beach!

This was a fine Wednesday, and I'm looking forward to the Turn!

- Horace