Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday, April 6, 2020, Andrea Carla Michaels and Brian Thomas


The devil, as they say, is in the details. One detail I missed as I was solving the puzzle was the fact that 17A: Another name for [See shaded squares] (MRSCRATCH) was not referring to that well-known female role from an Eighteenth-century novel, Mrs. Cratch. I figuratively scratched my head for a few seconds when I filled it in. But then I moved on.

Before anybody complains that such a character never existed, I made her up.

It's a fun theme, though. SPEAKOFTHEDEVIL runs across the middle, and in each corner is found another name for the fallen angel. My favorite will always be LUCIFER. He's an important character in Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, The Sandman, and it was this version of him that was portrayed in the television series of the same name. One nice touch, as you will see below, is that his speech bubbles had a lovely ancient font.
I would say on the whole that this puzzle was more difficult than your typical Monday offering. I hold up as examples of this somewhat more challenging proper names such as DOONE, RHONE, TIMOR, KOBE, and KOLN. I also imagine that AEONFLUX, which was an objectively awful movie, would be a hard to get answer for many.

On the plus side, everybody likes a HOLODECK.

- Colum

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sunday, April 5, 2020, Jim Peredo


Hello all! Good to talk with you virtually, as there is virtually no other way for me to talk with you. I hope you haven't gone stir crazy, wherever you are. It's definitely a strange world out there right now. I am still working out of the house as essential personnel (nice they finally recognized it), but my wife and two daughters are trying to find things to do. Let's just say there's been a lot of baking involved.

Fortunately, one constant in this mixed-up time is the NYT xword! Today's brings a welcome modicum of humor to this early Spring Sunday. Mr. Peredo has found seven examples of standard phrases or quotations, and has clued them cleverly with two word phrases of the form XY, but reparsed as "statement Y about situation X."

Turns out it's sometimes not so easy to explain a theme. That was a lot of words where an example might do better.

Thus, TURNABOUTISFAIRPLAY is clued as "Just saying?" That in turn is now seen as "a saying about being just." I particularly liked GOAHEADWITHOUTME being a "Sentence telling you to run on," and THEAYESHAVEIT being a "comment about passing."

Some very nice things in the fill: I was amused by 5D: "4-Down-choo!" (SNEEZE), when 4D was AAH. That's a great way to make up for the less exciting word. GUSTAV Mahler is always welcome in my grid.
Wouldn't you be worried about hurting the ORCHID in this corsage?
Two entries today I often make mistakes on: 32D: Young weaned pig (SHOAT) - I want StOAT, but fortunately I already had TOES in place, and TT___ seemed highly unlikely for a long answer (if it were short, TTOP would be in play). The other is 84D: Mortimer ____, dummy of old radio and TV (SNERD). I really want SNEaD, the other old-timey personality from the world of golf. Again, I was saved by 101A: Trade jabs, which could only be SPAR.

My favorite pair of answers came right next to each other. 52D: Lower extremity affliction (SCIATICA) is great both for the association with Neurology, and for just the fun-ness of the word. Better is 53D: Secret target (BODYODOR). That's Secret, the deodorant brand, with a lovely hidden capital in the clue.

I will pick a nit with SCRUBBEDUP. When you clean your hands for surgery, you scrub in. I see that the other term Googles well, but I've never heard it used.

Stay healthy and safe out there!

- Colum

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday, April 4, 2020, Yacob Yonas


Today's puzzle also played on the easy side for this solver. I immediately got GRIND ("Tedious work") - don't ask! - and I recognized ALPHANERD straight away. The French word for "Before" (AVANT) posed no problems, and neither did EMOTE, LASE, or ULTRA. The clever clue for PODIA (Talking points?) did hold me up briefly because at 11D: ("My suspicion is..."), I had only the vowels at first (I_A_E_A_), making it difficult for me to see the answer (IDARESAY). "Queen or king maker" in that corner was also good. I knew a mattress brand was wanted, but I had taken a cautious approach on the first pass and entered only the S because I didn't know if the answer would be Sealy or SERTA.

In the southwest, thanks to CROPTOP I was able to drop in CSIMIAMI, which had the added benefit of getting me to flip my initial answers to the two "Numbskull" clues. I had entered IDIOT first and then MORON.

The one real slow down for me came in the south east. My thoughts were centered on a more delicious answer for "Chocolate ___" than LAB. :( Additionally, even though I didn't know "Nymph who divulged Jupiter's affair with Juturna, in Ovid" I went ahead and guessed LetA, which, dear readers, you all know was doubly wrong. Fortunately, LASHAT disabused me of that incorrect notion, but it still left me with one blank square because I didn't know A_IOSO ("Melodic passage"). I ran the alphabet and finally decided R made the most sense in both directions.

Elsewhere in the puzzle, I enjoyed the matching pair of Pluto clues (Pluto, e.g.), the answers to which were DWARF and ROMANGOD. I find it amusing that those two words are both correct answers to the same clue. I thought "Pen pal?" for  CELLMATE was excellent. "Where you might incur charges overseas" (ONSAFARI) made me think of that old joke, "How do you stop a rhinoceros from charging?" Take away its credit card! Ha! "PIN point" at 51A wasn't difficult but it is a fun clue for our old friend ATM. I also enjoyed GAPINGMAW as fill - so evocative! And who knew RAMADA meant "Covered porch"? That explains a lot.


I found "Barb from the mouth" on the odd side as a clue for BLOWDART. Also odd was the "comments" part of "Some online comments, for short" (IMS), which I think of more as a medium for conversation than for comments, but that may be due to my limited experience of the social media world. 

Well, dear readers, I hope you all manage to CARRYON in good health and humor, and that you are finding many and various ways to SETATEASE the concerns of the day.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020, Joe Deeney

18:10, FWOE

Sure, going absolutely nowhere for three weeks, working from home every day, and zigzagging across the street every time you see someone walking towards you on the sidewalk takes a bit of getting used to, but you know things are really weird when the Friday NYTX puzzle has a theme, albeit a modest one [GAPE]. The revealer, U2's first Billboard #1 hit WITHORWITHOUTYOU, provides a hint to four other answers in the grid. Two of the answers are family names in Shakespeare, both of which contain the letter U (MONTAGUE and CAPULET). The other two theme answers are the same family names without the U (MONTAGE and CAPLET). Funny that Mr. Deeney noticed the sit'ation and was able to tie it together with the U2 song.

Overall, I thought the puzzle played a bit easy for a Friday. I expect at least some of our esteemed readers to raise an eyebrow as they read that statement in light of the glaring FWOE above. Readers, I erred. I entered ERin at 6D (Language in which 'Hello, how are you?' is 'Halo, ciamar a tha thu?'). The first two letters, being correct, caused no trouble. As soon as I got the theme, the fourth letter was corrected, but I never revisited the clue/answer as a whole. When I got to 18A: "Some phone notifications during March Madness," I saw UPiETALERTS. Even as both a non-phone user and a non-March Madness person, I knew that couldn't be right, but I thought UPnETALERTS seemed plausible and ERnE, at a glance, seemed like a perfectly cromulent answer - and it is - just not for that particular clue. The correct answer, UPSETALERTS, once I saw it, was particularly apt. Apt!

Also in re: Friday puzzles, I thought that one pair of clues nicely illustrated our ongoing QMC/non-QMC conundrum (see glossary):

QMC: "Help to get back on one's feet?" REANIMATE
Non-QMC: "Apple varieties" (IMACS)

In other news, Jai ALAI is back! When was the last time that was in the puzzle? (Answer: over a year ago). The form of the clue (Jai ___) made it a gimme, as was also the case with __ Jima (IWO). Clues like those two, plus the fact that once you got one theme answer, the other three were pretty obvious, contributed to making the puzzle seem on the easy side.

"Leaves on the line" LETSDRY

I was entertained by the two "pound" clues: "One might be measured by the pound" (MUTT) and "Place for a #" (TWEET). I thought "In one year and out the other" (FADS) was a fun clue. I also enjoyed "True that" (ITIS) and In need of toning down (ABITMUCH). GINGERED (up) is ALLNEW to me, and an interesting expression to boot. GELID is nice. I've always liked the word COY. And who doesn't like a PIECEOFCAKE?

I haven't heard or thought of Xavier CUGAT in years. According to the Wikipedia, he was married to Charo for 12 years. She was his fifth wife, apparently. MYSHARONA!

In this time of physical distancing, I thought I'd mention that we welcome your comments on the daily puzzle here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA (see glossary). Input from the outside is the only way we'll know we haven't SEEST to exist.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thursday, April 2, 2020, Evan Mahnken


Everybody's favorite Thursday puzzle type - the rebus! And a multi-rebus at that. I knew there was something afoot at 17A: "Social media fad that went viral in 2014" because I couldn't get ICE[BUCK]ETCHALLENGE to fit. A little further along, however, I got [BILL]MAHER (TV host once with an "Explaining Jokes to Idiots" segment) and things started to make cents. Once I figured out that even though 'fur'OR might be a reasonable guess for "Ado" at 38A, 'fur'CHOWDER was a non-starter, I was able to throw in [CLAM] and get the rest of my ducats in a row. I had the most trouble with the northeast. I didn't know ANN Wilson, lead singer of Heart, and at first I couldn't make heads or tails of 10D: Part of a diner showcase, until PIE finally hit me in the face.

At first, after completing the grid, I was a little puzzled by the revealer FIVEDOLLARWORDS because the rebii seemed to be $1 words rather than $5 words, but when I mentioned it to Horace he explained that I had mis-parsed the answer. What seemed a little like a minor incongruity turned out to be perfect when understood as 'five (the quantity) dollar words' ([NOTE], [BUCK], [BILL], [SINGLE], [CLAM]).  Ha! Now that's using your cabbage!


If I have one bone to pick, it's the cross between 21A: Jack of Rio Lobo" and 9D. "Tryst locale". I almost FWOED because I didn't know Mr. ELAM and I had entered [NOTE]LLhOTEL instead of the correct and excellent [NOTE]LLMOTEL]. D'oh!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020, John Ficarra and Patrick Merrell


Three clues in today's puzzle appear to call for some very specific geographic knowledge including an historic town in Hungary noted for its baroque architecture, the left tributary of the Vitim River in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, and the village between Kruszyna and Jacków in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. In place of the geographic names, the answers are, from top to bottom, AREYOUKIDDINGME, WHOTHEHELLKNOWS, and IHAVENTGOTACLUE - answers I've thought in my head a hundred times, but they've never been correct before now. Ha!

I didn't clap on to the alternative answers right off the BAT. When I read the first clue, I found myself hoping that the down answers would reveal the name of a place that I didn't know I knew, if you see what I mean. When I got to the second clue, though, I thought, uh oh, I'm never going to get this one. When I got to the third clue, I thought I had figured out the trick - the answers were going to be a place or river name but they were going to sound like a recognizable phrase. Wrong. After filling in a bunch of the downs in the bottom third of the grid, the correct answer became clear, and then the other two answers came in pretty quickly.

I was curious about what the correct geographic answers to the clues might be, so I did a little research. The location referred to in the first clue appears to be a city called Pàpa. The left tributary of the Vitim River (if I understand what left means in this context?) appears to be Mama, and the village in Poland (pop. 305) seems to be called Baby.  April Fool's joke, or Easter egg? You be the judge. However it was intended, I loved it. Highly entertaining!


The theme is not all there is to like in this puzzle. The term WIDOW for "Short line at the top of a column, in typesetting" was interesting and NEWTO me. I liked HOPON for "Board a moving vehicle. "Doozy" and LULU are both fun. And who doesn't enjoy a reference to "Scotty's domain on the U.S.S. Enterprise" (ENGINEROOM)?

Other clue answer pairs that get a BIGA from me are:
"One thing ... or a twosome" (ITEM)
"Like Gruyère or Grandpa" (AGED)
"Idiots" (YOYOS)
"What the Lord sometimes does, in a classical expression" (TAKETH)
"Where fruit picking originated" (EDEN) - some creative cluing for an old chestnut. Speaking of old chestnuts, EELS shows up today, too ("Serpentine swimmers"). I wonder what the total number of clue variants for these two crossword darlings is.

On the BLIP side, I'll admit I have a thing against AGIN and the plural IRES gives me fits, but these complaints are trifles because this puzzle is a real LOL. Can I get some AMENS?


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday, March 31, 2020, Christina Iverson and Ross Trudeau


Today's theme includes two answers I'm not familiar with. One is the revealer itself. I've never heard of CLAPBACK("Respond quickly and sharply to criticism ... or a hint to 17-, 28-, and 46-Across"), but, after consulting some example sentences, I am chalking it up to me being out of the loop on today's social media interactions. For the theme answers themselves, one must add the word CLAP to the "back" of each answer. So for ROLLINGTHUNDER that gives us THUNDER CLAP, there's also LETSTAKEITSLOW CLAP, and the other new-to-me term: GOLF CLAP. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary it's "an instance of deliberately restrained clapping by an audience, of a type considered appropriate during a golf tournament but expressing a lack of approval or appreciation in other contexts." I think I will be able to find situations in which the golf clap will come in handy when I'm back in circulation. :)

I was off to a good start with ABBA, MAKEDO, and RIO, but I dropped the BALL when it came to "Frisbee sport." I backed myself into a corner by confidently entering 'ultimate' - the other 8-letter Frisbee sport - instead of the correct DISCGOLF. Progress also slowed in the south west. I entered the incorrect BiANCA for "Like the middle band of the flag of Mexico" (BLANCA) and I didn't know "Bruins' sch." but luckily I realized UCiA wasn't likely to be correct before the final buzzer went off. It's times like these that I feel I'm back to square one on sports trivia.


I liked MENSCH, KITTENHEEL (as a word, not to wear), and LEAPSECOND. I also chuckled at DINGO, thinking of that bit in Seinfeld, but I just read about the origin of the phrase and maybe that one should take a back seat.