Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, Gary Cee


Another good early-week puzzle. Similar, in a way, to the Big Five-O puzzle from last week, because there are so many Os, but this one has three sets of ON in each theme answer, including the revealer. Also, they're not all that familiar - especially the first one, TONYTONITONE (20A: 1990s R&B group with a repetitive-sounding name), so it played a little on the tough side. And speaking of tough, ELEMI (33D: Resin used in incense)?!? What the heck is that?

Some people say that solving using only the down clues is one way to improve your speed. Today that method would also bring you to the more interesting fill. Sure, you'd see ESPY, ALAI, and ROUE, but you'd also hit TRANSLUCENT (3D: Like sheer fabric or sautéed onions), WRITINGDESK (23D: Secretary), TEXTBOOK (8D: Required school purchase, maybe), and PINENUTS (38D: Ingredients in pesto) (Colum, did you have any of that while you were in Italy? Or see any VESPAs?), which are all quite good. I also liked SECONDS, PRONTO, ORNERY, and, of course, EROICA (45D: Beethoven's Third).

But the Acrosses also had a few nice non-theme bits, like COAX, YUKON, WAH (28A: ____ pedal (guitar accessory), ERUPTS, and RYE. Mmmmm…. rye….

And right in the middle, we get AOK (38A: Thumb-to-forefinger signal) with a better clue than Sunday. Still a little weird, but better, I think.

This one was AOK with me.

- Horace

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014, Andrea Carla Michaels


I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Any mention of EMMAPEEL (32A: Diana Rigg's role on "The Avengers") is a good thing, as is any reference to FISHANDCHIPS (27A: Some British pub food). VROOM (21A: Souped-up engine sound) and DRECK (37A: Junk, from Yiddish) are fun words, and the theme of "Jelly ____" is decent.

Add to all that the relative cleanliness of the whole thing (I don't particularly like the partials INAS (57D: Bring ____ a third party) or ICAN (29D: "Not if ____ help it), but they're not terrible), and you've got an enjoyable Monday romp.

A few more thoughts - I like the juxtaposition of COCOON (7D: What a butterfly emerges from) and TEEMED (8D: Overflowed (with)), with their symmetrical patterns of the identical vowels. I chuckled at the utter simplicity of the clue for SKY (5D: Clouds' locale), and speaking of straightforwardness and simplicity, I also enjoyed FATALLY (27D: How Hamlet stabs Polonius). No "through an arras," or "mistakenly," here - just "fatally." Heh.

Very nice.

- Horace

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014, Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer


It's all Blindauer all the time this week, and that's not good news for us. Another DNF today thanks to KIEL (40D: German city on the Baltic) crossing ALY (59A: 2012 gold-medal gymnast Raisman). And we are also not really sure why AOKS (38A: Positive signs of life in outer space?) is clued the way it is–what does that mean?

Other than that, though, we generally enjoy Spoonerisms, so we had high hopes. Most of these are so, so forced and weird, and it's a little strange that they sound right but are spelled wrong... oh, I guess they're fine, but too bad it's not yesterday, because I'm pretty sure they'd all look a little better with GEREBOGGLES (68A: Thunderstruck critic's review for actor Richard?) ("beer goggles").

Lots I didn't know today, in addition to the aforementioned - ILOILO (120A: Philippine province with a repetitive name), NELSON (84A: Thriller writer DeMille), RITT (99A: "The Great White Hope" director Martin), and IRV (49A: Hip-hop record mogul Gotti)... never heard the term SPYFI (12D: Ian Fleming genre) before, and I'm not too familiar with 50A: Civil rights leader Roy INNIS. Don't love RASE, ALGA, COINERS, ATLASES (9D: They go around the world) (umm... no they don't), STEROL, TOATINOR, and how many times is Will Shortz going to allow constructors to cough up EGESTS?

On the other hand, PHEASANT (19D: Partridge family member) was beautiful, and (Huygen's alert!) LACE (18D: Teddy material) was a pleasant surprise. INSONG (27D: One way to break out) was fun, and EVANESCENT (44D: Ephemeral) is lovely.

I guess on balance, it's still a "thumb slightly down" kind of puzzle. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's been a long week and a long weekend, and I'm just going to sit here on the couch for a while and watch the NINERs (48D: San Francisco gridder) take on the Bears, but don't worry, I'll keep in mind that 116D: "Too much rest is ____": Sir Walter Scott) RUST.

- Horace

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014, Josh Knapp


Wow, this took us forever. We started this after a dinner party, and after several drinks, and the SW took us forever, and after it all, we had left "MEzCAL" in where, apparently, MESCAL (20D: Agave product) was supposed to be, so…. DNF. Also, we didn't know MOONEY (41D: Comedian Paul), but, luckily, one of our drunken guests did. Another guest posited LYRIC (48D: Words that are rarely spoken), and it's a little ironic that that one took us so long, because all we've been doing all night is singing old seventies songs.

But enough about us. There's some great stuff in here. MAGI (48A: Star followers), BERG (44A: Something that's fallen off a shelf?), and maybe the best one, MOSES (59A: One advised to take two tablets). And there's also some stuff I don't particularly love, like NOUN (45A: What an article may refer to). Can an article be said to "refer to" a noun? Doesn't it just kind of accompany a noun? The noun. And are bulldogs more TENACIOUS than other dogs? Who knows? Not me.

EYESOCKET (58A: Something on either side of a bridge) was kind of gross, and I was all in on it being about a song. Verse… chorus… something like that. ANAGRAM (24A: Anemone, to name one) got me completely, but not Frannie.

A very tough puzzle for us under the circumstances. We like a challenge, and this one had some good stuff, but it was not without problems. I'll give it a thumbs up, though. What did you think?

-          Horace

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014, Michael Wiesenberg


After yesterday, I guess they thought they'd throw us a bone. Many of the elevens went in immediately, like STADIUMROCK (1A: Queen's music) (If we're stretching for another Friday mini-theme, we can pair this with EUROPOP (37D: Abba's music) and call it good) and DEARREADER (12D: Lead-in to some written advice), or with just a couple crosses, like DRIVETOWORK (53A: Commute, in a way) (would have preferred "Bike to work") and HOWONEARTH (26D: Exclamation that might be punctuated with "??!?"). And once you've got a few of those in place, things just kind of fill themselves in. At least they did today. I think my only write-over was going from "plum tomato" to ROMATOMATO (14D: Option for a marinara base). And really, a Roma is a plum tomato, sooo…. Oh, and I wanted "soil" for SITU (1D: Archaeologists often find what they're looking for in this), but really, can you call it "in situ" if it's just in the ground? I mean, it's no longer in the place where it was being used, or was stored. It's in the ground. After being tumbled by some force and then buried. I guess the things unearthed at Pompeii could be said to be "in situ," but could it be said of pot sherds dug up in Tuscany? I don't really think so. Still, it was trying to be cute, so I guess I'll give points for effort.

Pretty clean, overall, with just the somewhat odd YTTRIA (21A: Oxide used in picture tubes) and the completely unknown (to me) NER (30D: ____ Tamid (ever-burning synagogue lamp) to make it look a little more Friday-y. The stacks in the SW and NE make for mini-stacks of threes, but I thought those were clued quite well, so I'm not complaining. ORE (48A: It's often an oxide) was trickier than normal, and DIR (12A: Film developer?: Abbr.) and ADM (18A: Big gun on a ship) were both kind of fun.

When I look at the grid now, all I see is BENICETO (28A: Coddle, e.g.), and I keep thinking, "I don't know who that is…"

Overall, I liked it.

- Horace

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014, Patrick Blindauer

D. to the N. to the F.


I knew I should never have mentioned that other Blindauer puzzle, and I should definitely not have bad-mouthed it. This is my comeuppance, I guess.

Well, ok, we finished this, almost. If not for not knowing 29D: Cambodia's Lon ____ (NOL), we would have completed it in about 1:40:00. We had to look that up. But Frannie figured out that we had to erase all the Across centers and go with the Downs, so we were oh, so close. If there's another level than that, one that, say, clues all the new words, we don't know what it is. And speaking of not knowing things, what's a GORME? Everything else is somewhat familiar as crossword fill.

I guess this is kind of like that Steinberg puzzle where you had to erase, or add, really, Rs to words, and the resulting words weren't really clued. Am I remembering that right? Anyway, it's kind of like that. You are left with new words with no clues. Somewhat interesting, and challenging, but is it art?

- Horace

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014, Jim Peredo


It's kind of odd today that there are two entries longer than any of the theme answers, and, quite frankly, more interesting, too. OCEANBREEZE (24D: Beachgoer's cooler-offer) (ixnay on the ooler-cay offer-ay), is especially appropriate for me today, as I find myself once again (UNABASHEDLY) on the shore of the Atlantic. And furthermore, I happen to be with sometimes-reader EnglishTeacher59, who complains that the theme answers begin quite familiar in tone - HOWYOUBEEN ("What's goin' on?") and PUTERTHERE ("Let's shake") - but the last one, GIVEMETHAT ("Hand it over!") really ought to be "Gimme that" to fit in perfectly. Oh well.

I liked a few things in this - HEM (15A: Shorten, perhaps) was tricky, and HOOHAHS (44D: Big kerfuffles) is good in both answer and clue. But aren't we tired of ECARDS (49A: Online birthday greeting)? And why 12D: The black pawns, e.g. (OCTET) and not the white pawns? I guess that one doesn't matter all that much. And is KARTS (26A: Motorized racers) ok without the "Go" part? Hmmm.... just like "BEEN THERE DONE THAT" ought to end with "Bought the T-Shirt."

Oh, I don't know... it's Wednesday. I guess I get what I get.

- Horace