Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014, Patrick Berry

Surround Sound

Mr. Berry's puzzle is a delight. I smiled my way through the grid. How about 14D. George Eliot, but not Marilyn Manson (WOMAN). Fabulous. 56D. Candy from Austria (PEZ). Delicious. 68D. Require balm, say (CHAP). Hilarious. 87D. Drops out of the sky? (RAIN). Cleverious. 

I think what I like the best in this puzzle is the finesse of the cluing. Every clue means what it says and says what it means. Here are a few examples: 124A. Excommunication provocation (HERESY). 54A. Earnest request (ENTREATY). And the lovely pair SWIVEL (120A. Turn while seated) and SIDLES (11D. Moves obliquely). See what I mean?

But this puzzle is not for MATURE audiences only. There is plenty of entertaining craziness in the theme answers. My favorite was 101A. Provides some idea of an object's size? (MENTIONSDIMENSIONS). Ha!

Of course, no entertainment is complete without a few kernels in the popcorn. Should I know 78D. Five-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner (KELSO) or 121A. "Into the Wild" star Hirsch (EMILE), or any South American capital (37D. ASUNCION) at all? Kidding! Of course I should have known Emile Hirsch.

Oh, and just a RANDOMMEMORANDUM (23A. Office missive sent out arbitrarily), I love DATA mining (122A). Horace left that one for me to enter as a mark of his deep affection for me. Or, maybe he didn't know the answer!

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

~ Frannie

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014, David Steinberg


As Frannie put it, this was "challenging, but not clever." Lots of arcana (RIB (22A: Neuralia : nerve :: costalgia : ____), SERO, EOSIN), proper names (ELIE, MAMET, RENEE, VALERIE, EERO, etc.), and "meh"-type stuff (DROIDRAZR, PFIZER, OXALIC, WIIMOTES).

Frannie did, however, enjoy EXCUSEYOU (15A: Comment to an unapologetic burper, say), which was our entree to the NW, and RRR (30A: School basics, facetiously). And 7D: Start of something big?" (ZYGOTE) wasn't bad. She also got SNEEZED (14D: Exhibited sternutation) from the French for "to sneeze," which is "éternuer." Not too shabby.

There's a nice Huygens crossing at DEIMOS (37A: Moon named after the Greek personification of terror) and GROPES (21D: Feels (for)), and I enjoyed CRAZE (27D: It's temporarily hot).

The highlight today is CECE (26A: Woman's name that sounds like a repeated letter). That's the name of a young crossword solver that we know! The runner up - AFB.

- Horace

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014, Kevin Christian


What a lovely, lovely puzzle. The grid itself is pleasing, there were plenty of fun, interesting, and amusingly clued words, and, well… we loved it!

Let's start with BUTTDIAL (12D: Call from the rear?). That's just beautiful. Add to that JONESING (1A: Having a big itch) (gross), EMOTICON (15A: Sideways look?) (lovely), STREAMED (14D: Like music on Pandora radio), LOCAVORE (57A: Farmers' market frequenter, maybe), and a few others, and you've got a thoroughly modern puzzle.

It's not often you encounter the singular THROE (51A: Paroxysm), and we tried "Clark" instead of KASEM (19A: Late legend in countdowns) at first, and tried "Op Cit" instead of ETSEQ … and HELENA (34A: Home of minor-league baseball's Brewers) was unknown to us, but these things were not really problems. I suppose I could make some throat-clearing noises about ANITAS (59A: Novelist Shreve and others) being a gratuitous plural, or PANED (28D: Like many mirrors) being a bit of a stretch, but things like GAY (33D: Like the out crowd?), GNEISS (8D: Rock with colored bands) (Gem & Mineral show tomorrow!), and PROUST (16A: "Swann's Way" novelist) (gimme alert!) make me quickly forget the problems.

Two more things, FAYS (31A: Elves, in poetry) makes me think of Keats - "… And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,/Cluster'd 'round by all her starry Fays … ). And tomalley is not a delicacy to all who enjoy LOBSTER.

That is all.

- Horace

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2104, Timothy Polin


I love this theme. The many Zs running through the puzzle form the signature Z of ZORRO (44D: Subject of this puzzle), and 'though I was familiar with neither the first episode, nor his real name, that did not detract from the enjoyment. One small detraction, I suppose, could be that the revealer, ZORRO, does not have a symmetrical, theme-related counterpart, but the precise positioning of Zs to form the central Z makes up for it.

Some lovely non-theme fill, too: LEONINE (28D: Having a sense of pride?), BARTEND (22D: Lift others' spirits?), AVARICE (50A: "The spur of industry," per David Hume) (Lovely. Love Hume!), SNORKELERS (25A: They're hooked up to breathing tubes) (very nice!), and BUTTOUT (22A: "M.Y.O.B."), to name but some. And the yoking of OTOE (2D: Historical buffalo hunter) to the very fine FUDD (1D: Fictional rabbit hunter) brought it out of the crosswordese cellar.

It was joint effort today. I did some last night, Frannie filled in a lot this morning, and then I finished things up with the crosswordsy DAP (5A: Skip over water, as stones), which I think I learned from a past puzzle. Overall, quite satisfactory.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014, Jacob Stulberg


THERESNOTWO/WAYSABOUTIT (18A: With 64-Across, words of certainty … or a hint to 23-, 40-, and 56-Across) is an interesting little theme. "NO" and "ON" bracket the three theme answers. Or do we say that there are really five theme answers, since 18- and 64-Across function as revealers? Either way, it's fine for a Wednesday, am I right? A little odd, maybe, but this is exactly where such puzzles belong!

I remember enjoying this one as I went along. RAW (1A: Like a new recruit) didn't come immediately (I tried "p.f.c."), but HOIST (4A: Raise, as Old Glory) did OCCUR (15A: Come to mind) without much trouble, and we were off and running! Don't you always wish, like I do, that the Omega were the 2D: Last Oldsmobile (ALERO)? I mean, it was an Oldsmobile model… it just would have been so perfect! Instead we get ALERO. Meh. And WAXER (3D: Car wash machine)? The "machine," as far I as I could tell back when I bothered to wash my car (Pro tip: It's not necessary! Never do it!), was a spray nozzle, nothing more.

Did you, like me, put FIFE (50A: Instrument in the painting "The Spirit of '76) right away, even though "drum" would also have fit? The thing is - who would clue "drum" like that? No one! Come to think of it, "flag" also fits, and you could be a real jerk about it with the clue "Item held in …" Luckily, this is only Wednesday, and Mr. Stulberg is a decent kind of a fellow.

As I look through this more, I find more to question. OCH (5D: Gaelic "Gee!") is iffy, for example, as is SURER (7D: Not so iffy). Heh. And sure, a SITAR may be an "11D: Instrument with sympathetic strings," but isn't any stringed instrument, really? A piano, for example? Or a harp? Maybe they're not designed that way, but they still are that way.

Meh… it was fine for a Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, Jacob McDermott


Boy, the SE quadrant took me several minutes at the end of this. I did not know KIGALI (50D: Capital of Rwanda), CLAMUP (49D: Stop talking) took some crosses, and the excellent SPANKS (51D: Hits bottom) was not immediately obvious. SOCKS (48A: Low pair?), too, was very tricky! Also, "Louvre" fit into the six boxes clued by 47D: Parisian palace (ELYSEE), so that didn't help… but in the end, it all got filled in, and as I've said many times, I appreciate any extra challenge early in the week, so it's all good.

Not so good, for me anyway, was the theme. POWERCOUPLE (36A: Beyonc√© and Jay Z, e.g. … or a hint to 17-, 30-, 44-, and 61-Across)? SUPERSTAR (17A: Luminary among luminaries) is a "power couple?" I guess maybe it's because the two parts of that compound word, when "coupled" become "powerful?" Is a SUPERSTAR powerful? Is a HIGHHORSE (44A: Snooty attitude) (nice!)? No… wait… it's another one of those "both parts can be paired with "power" themes. Sorry for the false alarm. "Superpower," "star power," "high power," "horsepower," … Much better.

After a terrible start (ANAL (1A: ____-retentive) (enough already!), there is lots of good fill today: NAUSEA (2D: Feeling after a roller coaster ride), SCRAPS (9D: Leftovers), NOUGAT (10D: Candy bar filling) (gross!), CAPABLE (25A: Competent) (bonus theme material?), PISTOL (38D: Energetic sort), HECKLE (45D: Shout "Ref, are you blind?!," e.g.), KOOKS (58A: Wackos), and more. That's all good, and the theme (now that I get it) is fine, and the elements of the theme are all pretty good. Let's call it good.

- Horace

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014, Tom McCoy


Tough for me for a Monday, with all those proper names. None of them came to me immediately, and the revealer, even if I had seen it before getting them, would not have helped at all. TWINS (67A: Minnesota baseball team ... or what 18-, 30-, 44-, and 53-Across all are)? Who knew? Mom was a twin, so it's something that interests me.

Nice clue for PHARAOH (5D: Pyramid schemer?), and PRECEPT (43D: General rule) is a good word, as is MONSTROSITY (11D: Freak of nature). And CHICKMAGNET (25D: Sexy guy) is fun. IMAGERY (47A: Descriptive language)... SAUNTER (27A: Mosey)... THIGH (33A: Femur's locale)... there's some good stuff in here. But didn't we just see McCoy's byline like, a week ago? Yes, he did last Sunday's! I used to think there was a certain waiting period between bylines, like a month or so, which is why, I thought, we so frequently see the same name on the daily and the syndicated. Well... maybe not "so frequently," but at least often enough to comment on it. But I have no real proof of an actual policy, and this puzzle seems to contradict my theory, so... nevermind.

Thumbs up!

- Horace