Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


Blindauer week rolls on. I think I could get used to this - slightly harder-than-usual puzzles, very well done, with smart clueing and interesting fill. I'm learning a lot of new names, too, like Huarte, Rehm, and now CARLORFF (36D: "Carmina Burana" composer). I wasn't even sure where to parse that one! (It's Orff.)

It's a little strange to have DIOXIDE (6D: Compound containing 10-Down) and OXYGEN (10D: Element #8) in the same puzzle, and I'm guessing it was forced, in a way... but we're not talking about that, are we?

So, let's see, the theme moves from "time" to "vision" today. We have PEEKABOOISEEYOU (17A: Words to a baby) and FORYOUREYESONLY (59A: 007 film of 1981), and a smiley face right in the middle of the grid. Kind of cool. He does what he wants, apparently, Mr. Blindauer.

Speaking of doing what he wants, I wasn't sure how I felt about GOPFFT (1D: Die) when I filled it in, but I have come around on it and now I like it quite a bit. Interesting factoid about Medici in SPINACH (14A: Catherine de'Medici is said to have eaten it at every meal), and, being half Finnish myself, I enjoyed FINNS (23A: Fjord explorers?). I did not particularly enjoy XOO (16A: Losing line in tic-tac-toe), XER (21A: Ballot marker), or that damn AFTA (55D: Aqua Velva alternative), but that's not much, and besides, we've got the excellent KUNGFU (18D: A master of this really knows his chops), the very nice LANCELOT (39D: Model of chivalry), the tricky SANGRIA (42A: Strong punch), and YUMYUM (48D: "The Mikado" maiden). Any reference to the Mikado is ok in my book.

Overall, very nice. Keep 'em comin'!

- Horace

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


This is the second in a week of puzzles by Patrick Blindauer, all of which make up part of a "meta" challenge. The challenge will somehow be announced through the Saturday puzzle, and a selected few correct entries received by the NYT by 6pm Sunday will win one-year subscriptions to the puzzle. I will refrain from talking about any of the meta elements, should I be able to discern them, until Monday, October 27. If you're not sure what a meta challenge might be, you can read about one that was done by Patrick Berry back in 2011 on this page. (I promise, no Rick-rolling this time!)

So, how was today's puzzle? Pretty good, I thought. The three fifteens are all clued the same way, with "TIME," and they are all normal enough. MARATHONERSSTAT is a little odd, maybe, but I guess it makes sense. WHATPRISONERSDO is my favorite of the three.

The ?? crossing for me today, and one I guessed wrong on, was REHM (1D: Talk show host Diane of 31-Down (NPR)) and ELISA (14A: Actress Donovan of "Clueless"). I didn't know either of those two, and guessed A, probably because of Rahm Emanuel. Oh wellz.

XACTO (5D: Craft knife blade) and XRATED (13D: Like "Midnight Cowboy," originally) look kind of cool. Those two, plus SQUEAK (22D: Tiny complaint), SAWYER (Fictional prankster), HUMVEE (21D: Gulf war vehicle) and NAVYSEAL (38D: Elite fighter) make me think "pangram," but there's no Z. There are loads of Vs, though. One of which is in SVEN (48A: Kristoff's reindeer in "Frozen") prompts me to say that Frannie and I watched that movie recently on the recommendation of our niece, and we liked it quite a bit. I found it refreshingly different from what I expected.

ALOUS (23A: Baseball family of note), OPES (58D: Unlocks, in verse), and ELIA (2D: "On the Waterfront" director Kazan) are all old standbys, but MIGRATOR (3D: Seasonal traveler), DINOSAUR (6D: Natural history museum display), RHINOS (47D: Big chargers in Africa), and the pairs of ADO/APU and AVA/EVE were nice touches, and more than made up for the few crosswordsy things. I'd say this was an above-average Tuesday.

I don't know about you, but I find this whole meta thing kind of exciting! I can hardly wait for the weekend!

- Horace

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


I apologize for the lateness of my review today, and for the past several days, actually. Over the weekend, it was at least in part due to our lack of constant internet, but today it was because my old iPad app finally stopped working, and it took until a few minutes ago for me to finally admit that it was time for me to move over to the new app. That might have happened sooner, but I spent most of the day writing a three-page paper about Machiavelli's thoughts on society, laws, and security, and then I had a two-hour class. But you probably don't care about all that. Or perhaps you do, but you realize that this is not the proper venue for me to discuss it any further.

So let's move on. No, wait, I have to go back to the app for a sec - it's not as bad as I feared it would be.  It will take us a few puzzles to get the hang of the new location for the "next" and "previous" buttons, and looking at the down and across clues together under the grid might eventually be quite helpful, but today it confused me and led me to try to enter things in the wrong place a few times. OK, now we can move on.

The theme was a very nice time progression, from "second" to "week." Most of them came to me in a SPLITSECOND (17A: Instant), including DAYTRIPPER (50A: 1965 Beatles hit that begins "Got a good reason for taking the easy way out), but PASSIONWEEK (58A: Time leading up to Easter) took about ten crosses. Shows where my priorities lie, perhaps...

The only part that made me say OUCH (25D: Response to an insult) was HUARTE (29A: John who won the 1964 Heisman Trophy). Why is he allowed in the grid? Was he famous at all in the NFL after that? Let's see... he was drafted by the Jets as the twelfth overall pick, but did not start for them. The starter for the Jets that year was the first overall pick, Joe Namath. I wouldn't normally consider a Heisman Trophy winner as unacceptable fill, but this guy is pushing it. I don't even know how to address the acceptability of CLU (65A: Gulager of "McQ"). I don't know who he is, what McQ is, when it existed, or anything. And I don't even feel like looking that one up.

The rest of the fill was decent enough. Are TEN (70A: Number of years in a decade), CEN (19D: 100 yrs.), and SPAN (33A: Bridge) bonus fill?

Lastly, HARLOW (38D: Jean of "Bombshell") reminds me of the humorous (though possibly apocryphal) anecdote about her showing up for a party hosted by Margot Asquith, and after mispronouncing the hostesses first name, Ms. Asquith replied with "The 't' is silent, dear, as in 'Harlow.'"

- Horace

p.s. Another thing about the new app is that it does not show the "note" field automatically before the puzzle appears, so I did not see it until after going and reading other blogs. If you didn't see it either, for whatever reason, it says that the puzzles this week were all done by Patrick Blindauer, and they contain a "meta" element, which will become clear, hopefully, on Saturday. We'll see. Should be a fun week!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014, David Phillips


Kind of a funny theme of replacing one word in a phrase with a Y in it with a homonym without a Y, and then cluing the phrase in a wacky way. It annoyed me at first, for some reason, but it grew on me. The turning point might have been CHAISEREBELLION (46D: "I've had enough of this patio furniture!," e.g.?) - so ridiculous. IDOLSOFTHEKING (24A: Elvis's heroes?) isn't bad either, I suppose. References to Tennyson and a bit of old Massachusetts lore ... how can you not enjoy that? Plus, there's theme running both horizontally and verically, which is always a nice touch.

As for the rest of the fill, I don't want to give it a BADRAP (51D: Unfair condemnation) or BOOHISS (1D: Expression of disapproval), but it ain't exactly full of SIZZLES (93D: Is hot, hot, hot). Lots of proper names - I won't list them all - I don't love ALLEGER (79D: Plaintiff, e.g.) or RESAVE (60A: Back up, as a backup), and ALEKEG (15D: Bass drum?) was a bit of a stretch. A keg of ale. Bass ale. Hmmm...

On the other side of the scales we put SOIR (67D: Nuit lead-in) and DEER (77A: They're game) which are nicely clued, and RAKISH (16D: Debonair) which is nice all-around. 58D: Arriviste (UPSTART) and DEIGNED (120A: Condescended) are nice, too. Overall, I guess it was pretty good.

And finally, we just witnessed Peyton Manning's 509th touchdown pass, which is the most any football player has thrown to date. In case you missed it, there was a really nice graph in the NYT today. If the link still works, you can see it here.

Now, back to the game!

- Horace

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014, Evan Birnholz


Mr. Birnholz, you had me at CROTCH (9A: Pants part).

I got precious little on my first pass through this thing, but I handed it over to Frannie, who had just finished her breakfast and was to shortly head out for her annual shopping spree, and she used her limited time to fill in a healthy amount of material. And after that, we worked together to finish it off.

Lots of very nice fill today. PSYCHOPATH (23A: The Joker, e.g.), DIRTYHARRY (45A: Scorpio hunter of film), KICKSTARTER (5D: Modern kind of campaign) (is "kind of" necessary here?), AUTOCORRECT (25D: Aid for clumsy thumbs), ONTIPTOE (37D: Walking very quietly, say), TRUTHINESS (12D: Subject of "The Word" on the first episode of "The Colbert Report"), COHERED (40D: Stuck), ASTUTE (18A: Sharp)... there's tons of good stuff! Also, when we were in Talant, France this summer, we met a British guy who brought one of the COOPERS (38A: Classic British cars that pioneered in rear engines) with him to race, and Frannie almost convinced him to let her take it for a spin!

Of course, if you're going to have a lot of good fill, it seems you frequently will have things like RAS (10D: "Batman" villain _____ al Ghul) (Whaaa??), STINGO (38A: Strong ale, in British lingo) (umm... ok), SOLER (36D: Cobbler, at times), and my old non-favorite ROLEO (48A: Competition where the last one standing wins). Someday, I suppose, by some terrible misfortune, I will probably attend a ROLEO, and then maybe I'll change my tune, but for now, no.

We enjoyed it, but we don't have much power on the iPad, and Huygens is chary with his hotspot service, so this ends now.

- Horace

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014, Michael Ashley


As a person who refuses to admit that George Clooney, both as a real person and as fictional characters, has eyes for anyone but me, 55D. Danny Ocean's ex-wife in Ocean's Eleven (TESS) is not only way out of my wheelhouse, but unguessable, as were many other clues in this puzzle. Lucky for you all, it wasn't down only to me. Horace did the bulk of the puzzle. I glanced over drowsily from time to time and made a few suggestions, but Horace, gifted though he is, can't drive and write a puzzle review at the same time, so the review falls to my lot tonight. Here are a few others I didn't know:

10A. "The Waltons' co-star Ralph (WAITE) [wait, wait, DO tell me - ed. ]
57A: "V for Vendetta" writer (ALANMOORE) [good movie, btw - ed.]
62A. Lead character in seasons 1-3 of "Homeland" (BRODY) [ahh, Adrien - ed.]

Along with the above mentioned clues that demonstrated the vacuum in my acumen, this OLIO (51D. Potpourri) [French for rotten pot - ed.] also contained some nice items. The one that most captured my heart was 32D. Player motivator (RAH). The singular, stand-alone form of this cheer seems to embody its opposite. 6D. Things dealt with in passing? (ESTATES) was also clever. And who doesn't like a reference to IAMAMERICA [and so can you? -ed. ]? No one doesn't. :)

I know it is customary in these pages to call out poor quality fill, but you all know which ones those are, right? Let's end on a lighter, happier note and picture "Magnum, PI" in a LEI (5D.)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014, John Farmer


Yesterday we were cutting out a part of the words, now we're collapsing the words. I didn't notice that the letters that collapsed, or are REPEATed, as the revealer would have it, are themselves words. I guess that is a little more interesting, but I hardly think it was necessary. Let's see, PIE, LET, SHE, DON, and PAL… hmmm… I don't think there's anything more there. Still, I enjoyed the playfulness of today and yesterday, even if they were a bit on the easy side.

The longer downs were nice again today, too, with CORNUCOPIA (28D: Abundant supply) (it's almost Thanksgiving!), and the rare TRIPLEPLAY (17D: Ultimate rally-killer). I suppose you could have a no-out rally, but is it really called a rally at that point? Well, maybe if it's late in the game, I suppose it could be… AMTRAK (4D: Pacific Surfliner operator) is nice, and makes me think of my Dad, who loves riding AMTRAK. And BUOYUP (47D: Bolster) is pretty good, too. It also makes me want to dream up a scenario where I could say that someone could "man up" to "buoy up" a situation. Heh.

Not too much trash today - maybe DEREG, NEBS, and DIORS are a bit MESSY (30D: Convoluted), but they're not terribly egregious. And I don't necessarily think of a FRAPPE as a 38A: Chilled coffee drink, but then again, I don't drink many chilled coffee drinks, so what do I know?

Loved the clue for RBI (50A: What you get for bringing someone home), and 31A: Fall guy's partner? (EVE) was also cute. LAPD (26D: Hollywood force, in brief) was also good - Frannie got that one as she looked over my shoulder. Never heard of ADA (67A: Computer language named for Lord Byron's daughter), but I might now look into it.

Not fantastic, but not bad.

- Horace