Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


Two word phrases where the inverted phrase (with one homophonically replaced word) makes a new phrase? CANDO! ("dew can"?!) B+ for the 1A colloquialism.

There are four such pairs presented today: STARESDOWN and DOWNSTAIRS, which is very nice; PEACETIME and TIMEPIECE, not quite as good, just because that first word feels not used much (not a comment politically, mind you); PAPERPLANE and PLAINPAPER, pretty good; and REDSEA and SEERED, which was a nice bonus.

I was working through the puzzle pretty quickly when I noticed the repetition of the word "time" in the middle. I thought: "that's an odd duplication..." I didn't realize the theme until I reached the SW corner from the NW. It would have made things much quicker overall if I'd figured it out earlier. As it was, the SE corner zipped by when I put in the theme answer.

Now, SEENOTE, which I like a lot (reminds me of "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls), that is a duplication with SEERED. These things don't bother me so much, but it's slightly less elegant to have it there. I also suppose DOLAPS and SWIM are not cross referenced because it's a Monday puzzle.

The NE and SW corners suffer the most for the closeness of those theme answers. Despite that, there's little to complain about. EXP is SAD ("...nobody knows crosswords as much as I do; lame"), but otherwise pretty good. I laughed at 69A: Ones in suits? (ACES), both for the cute little clue, but also because my college friends used to joke about that word showing up in crossword puzzles. Guess that says something about the type of people I hang out with...

Nice Monday.

- Colum

Sunday, February 26, 2017, Josh Knapp


Oh, when a Sunday theme hits on (over) half of its answers, it feels like a missed opportunity. I loved some of the answers today, but others were just meh at best.

It's an anagram bonanza! Standard phrases have one word anagrammed, and the resulting phrase gets clued appropriately. As we love to say around here, wackiness ensues. When the anagrammed word is particularly long, the results are definitely more interesting. Nobody's interested in TALESOFOWE (anagramming "woe"), are they? And HAVENOFARE (anagramming "fear") is just blah.

Better though is 25A: Assault involving a hatchet? (TINYAXEATTACK - for "anxiety"). Runner up is 82A: "The king really wants to be around people right now"? (MYSIRELOVESCOMPANY - for "misery"). And the winner today? Running away with it, 44A: "Stop insisting Ra doesn't exist!"? (CURBYOURSUNATHEISM - for "enthusiasm"). This had to be the seed entry, didn't it? I just love imagining the conversation where that phrase came up.

Oh, wait! I just realized that the anagrammed words are all feelings: thus the title. That's fun! It makes the less exciting entries a little better. Not great, but better.

1A: Word before "Ooh, didn't mean to make you cry" in Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (MAMA) has to be the longest clue for that word ever dreamed up, and nets it a full increase of one grade from C+ to B+. Because who doesn't love "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Nobody, that's who. I dare you to find one person. ONE!!!!!


Sorry. Anyway, in other news, some nice long answers like SAKEBOMB and the unexpected ALEATORY (there's a fair amount of aleatoric music from the 1950s through 1990s in modern classical music). I liked the clue for DAHLIA and even more for MOMJEANS.

I don't love SHERIF (strange spelling - I wanted SHaRIF). I'm also not convinced by 100A (ANIMALS) - some SHED, others don't.

Over all, I enjoyed it.

- Colum

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017, Mark Diehl


So much to like here! I broke in with 5D: Cross-outs and others (EDITS), and then when I put in TOYCAR, I was able to get TOMRIPLEY, which really opened up the NW. 1A: Reject someone, in a way (SWIPELEFT) gets an A+. Great clue, contemporary answer, made me laugh. Hit the trifecta. I also love ARMADILLO.

With the NW filled in quickly, I was able to hit the NE fairly well, because EXCALIBUR was a gimme with the X and the clue. ABORIGINAL is excellent as well. 14D: Keeps the beat? (PATROLS) didn't fool me for a second, but it took a while to figure out 24A: Without having a second to lose? (SOLO). Pretty clever stuff!

I had newyorkBAY for a while at 40A: Giovanni da Verrazano discovery of 1524 (CAPECODBAY). I daresay the Wampanoag tribe would cavil at the thought that Verrazano "discovered" the water they'd been fishing in for centuries. Perhaps they should have clued it: Verrazano was the first European here in 1524. In any case, I went for New York, thinking of the Verrazano Narrows, across which is the bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn.

34D: "Ya got me?" (CAPISCE) is excellent. Somehow the clue sounds like it's in a Brooklyn accent. The MINIATURE dollhouse furniture reminds me of the character Lester Freamon in The Wire. I'd like to point out that I got 29A from Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" ("Dien BIEN Phu falls, Rock Around The Clock...").

For some unclear reason I tried Brisket at 36D: Entree often served with a moist towelette (BBQRIBS). Sure, you can get brisket at a BBQ joint, but it's a lot cleaner usually than those ribs. In any case, FAQS helped clear that up.

I love 55A: 60s sorts (DSTUDENTS). I did not see that coming, and the DST at the start had me scratching my head for a while. I finished in the SE corner, where ALMADEN was unknown to me. Things I did not like included DEWED, which seems like a possible but never actually used word, and and maybe BLU, but we get so much French and Spanish, it seems reasonable to do Italian once in a while. Otherwise, I liked it all.

- Colum

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017, Andrew Zhou


So, I get back to upstate New York from Houston, where I've been for a conference. Lovely weather down there, upper seventies, no humidity, sunny. Simply gorgeous. Only when I arrive in Albany, the temperature here is 73. February, people! Upstate New York and it feels like Summer.

Anyway, today's puzzle, to take a break from more global concerns, has a pretty impressive setup of 15-letter answers in rows 3, 5, 11, and 13. Rows 7 and 9 have 10-letter answers. All of this to say that that's quite a challenge.

Of the 15s, the best by far is 21A: Their tops can produce "power output" (QWERTYKEYBOARDS) - get it? You can spell the words "power output" using only the top row on a standard keyboard. Very nice work there. I'm sure we've seen BRITISHINVASION before. I'm not sure how I missed the clue on my first pass. I likely skipped the long clue in the interests of filling in easier stuff, but that was a gimme and would have shaved minutes off my time, I'm sure.

44A: Workout area? (EXERCISESCIENCE) is reasonably good, and 52A: Usually anonymous newspaper worker (EDITORIALWRITER) is solid without being exciting. I was definitely impressed by having OLDMASTERS and ORANGEZEST in there as well.

These are crossed in the SW by DRIVETIME and MASERATIS, two things that likely don't really go together in actual life (idling in rush hour traffic in your hot sports car seems like a waste of time) and in the NE by DESIARNEZ (nice full name) and MAINROUTE.

I broke into the puzzle with SEINE (Henry Miller, France, 1930s). 1A: Take a while to wear off (LAST) took a while to enter. I give it a C for a remarkably dull entry to a fairly lively grid. KITER I'd heard of barely, but the definition (a person who writes a check knowing there are insufficient funds to cover the amount) is fun. I don't like plural RENES or the peculiar ENROOT, but otherwise an enjoyable puzzle.

- Colum

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017, Jeff Chen


How much work must this theme have taken? After I finished the whole puzzle and finally figured out what was going on, I realized the challenges Mr. Chen faced in his construction:

1. Find pairs of phrases which share the same second word, and where one of the phrases' first word is one of "ten", "twenty", "thirty", or "forty".
2. Place the other phrase's first word in the appropriate slot in the grid which has the matching clue number from the first phrase.
3. Each one of those clues has to be a unique clue: that is, it can't be at a place where both the across and down clue share the same number.

All four actual theme answers are strong, as are the hidden theme answers. I love the [PET]ROCK turning into THIRTYROCK.

So there's a ton of work to begin with, but also note that two of the misplaced words cross theme answers, while a third is directly parallel to another. That puts a fair amount of constraint on the grid.

And the end result of that is you get areas like the SW corner, where ITZA, OWEN Wister (he wrote The Virginian, so he's definitely crossword worthy, but unknown to me) cross ZELDA and IOWA. That's a lot of proper nouns in a small area. Other corners fare better: the NE has SFPD (with a great clue) as well as classic crosswordese ERSE and NTH. In all, I count 19 answers that are proper nouns. That seems like a lot.

Still, there's room for IDLEHANDS and AIRSTRIKE, both solid answers. 1A: Joan nicknamed "The Godmother of Punk" (JETT) gets a strong B for the excellence of the personage invoked. I also was pleased with the pair of "What might get the ball rolling" clues (INCLINE and PUTT). Oh, and I was totally gotten by 27D: Capital of Sweden (KRONA) for the millionth time. Because it was a Thursday puzzle, I was convinced for a period of time that there had to be a rebus to account for fitting Stockholm into 5 spaces.

I definitely enjoyed this one.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Kyle Dolan


Okay, this is excellent. Instead of your typical word ladders where the rungs are scattered through the grid, we get the word ladders as clues for standard phrases of the form ____to____. All four phrases are well-established ones. SLIMTONONE (and Slim just left town) is my favorite. You could quibble that the theme would be stronger if the word ladders were all equal length, but that doesn't float my boat.

Other than starting with an obscure person's name (to me, anyway - GINA Carano has also been in a number of well-known movies, including Deadpool this past year; still, C+ from me), I thought the fill was pretty good. I liked 20A: "... shall not ____ from the earth": Gettysburg Address (PERISH), especially in its entirety - "that government of the people, by the people, for the people..." Good words for these days. Do you think RENEGE right next to BREXIT is also a political statement?

I enjoyed 39A: Impulse transmission point (SYNAPSE) for obvious reasons. ANTISEPTIC was a nice long down answer. The pair of tennis clues was odd but interesting (MATCH and SETS).

Not too much in the way of clever cluing here. Both BON and BUS were clued with question marks, but neither were particularly tricky. This was a solid effort.

- Colum

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Timothy Polin


Ah, APTESTS... in Spring
Many young persons study;
OSCINE songs taunt them.

It's a week of dense theme so far. Today, eight phrases with the initials AP cross each other in the corners, along with the revealer. That's a total of 76 squares of theme!

LACY leaf in Fall,
Its green color RUSTS away...
Caught on ARTPAPER.

I'm not convinced by TUNAOIL. And I like SEAEELS for the ludicrous letter combo, but otherwise, I feel like most eels are in fact in the sea.

CELLO music slips
past the KOI frozen deep down...
Winter grasps us all.

Cheers for AMYPOEHLER, American as APPLEPIE. I enjoyed having both LEIA and Obi Wan KENOBI in the grid.

Summer evening:
REST is deserved after all
that GORP on the hike.

AGAVES gets a C- for starting the puzzle with a plural. And I'm out.

- Colum