Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015, Jeff Stillman


The theme today is pretty good. I mean, I like BONDTRADERS, and TRIPLEAXEL is cute. I only ever saw Beverly Hills Cop and its sequel. I missed the third one, I'm pretty sure. ROCKYSTART is fine, but PLAYINGSOLO is a bit off. It doesn't quite ring true to my ears. Three out of four ain't bad, and I like most of the movies referred to.

The fill has its ups and downs as well. I like the pairing of ALDENTE and CHIANTI: it reminds me of some lovely memories from nearly a year ago, when we visited Italy. And the clue for the latter: "Wine traditionally sold in a fiasco" is a nice piece of trivia, while at the same time it sounds like there should be a recognized label for what to drink when everything goes down the tubes.

Other nice entries include CETOLOGY and DACTYLS.

I didn't like the pair of footnote answers, ETAL and IDEM. I tried "ibid" for the first, with predictably poor results. Likewise, the pair of "Skedaddles" answers (GITS and SCATS) felt like they might have been clued in a much less fortunate way. SERIN, DORY (what, no reference to Finding Nemo?), ELBE, GSA, ENS, all were not so welcome.

Of interest, yesterday Dr. Withingston gave me a badge for having walked the periphery of Lake Titicaca. I took the time to Google Map the location of said lake, so the answer to 35D: Land bordering on Lake Titicaca (PERU) was a snap.

It's a mixed bag for me.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015, Kristian House

Well... Finished with three errors? (5:02)

That's what I get for trying to beat 4 minutes on a Tuesday. I would have come very close, except for entering BETtY for Ms. BETSY Ross, mistyping EDSELS with a T on the end, and the not-so-excusable RIBhUT (thinking ShAM for "Flimflam" instead of SCAM). No real defense except for the typo.

Anyhoo, it's my birthday today, and I get the redoubtable HUNTERSTHOMPSON as a theme. In fact, off of _ONZ____ I got the entire theme in seconds, which is why I was moving so fast through the puzzle. It's actually a reasonable theme, overall. Three 15s, although the third is a partial of the whole book/film title (FEARANDLOATHING/ INLASVEGAS). Still, how exciting it must have been for Mr. House to recognize that the second partial matched JOHNNYDEPP in number of letters. In fact, I only heard of Mr. Thompson later in life, well after meeting his caricature Duke in Doonesbury. I don't think I've ever read anything by him.

For the rest of the puzzle, there are some nice bits, such as the GENTRY/NOBLE pairing, CUDDLEUP, and Big Papi ORTIZ. Speaking of which, the Sox opened spring training today. Hope this year's better than last year. I also like KOALA bears, as well as the clue for ONRED ("How some right turns are made").

Not at all a fan of ACER, LUXE, HESHE, or RIBCUT (?). NAV seems like a highly questionable abbreviation to me.

One thing I will say, though: I'm not planning on sniggling anytime soon.

- Colum

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015, Andrea Carla Michaels


On this my first day of jury duty in the County of Albany, New York, I am greeted at 1A with JAILS and at 18D with LSATS. I am in tune with the universe.

If only I was in tune with the rest of this puzzle. So the theme appears to be answers with three Ls in a row, split across two words. It may bother some in the Solver's Universe that one of the answers has one L before the split whereas the other three have 2 Ls before the split. Not me. That doesn't bother me nearly so much as the "so what?' factor. I guess I'm looking for a unifying revealer. Otherwise it's just the weirdness of seeing three Ls in a row.

Otherwise, this puzzle feels old... so old, I'm going bullet style:

  • LENNY Bruce - died 1966.
  • Paul REISER - Mad About You went off air in 1999.
  • EMMETT Kelly (1989-1979). 
  • Better Than EZRA (last album in 2005). 
  • ESAU (Old Testament figure).
You get the picture. Not to mention MELLLAZARUS - Momma cartoonist? I mean, apparently it's still going (the gentleman was born in 1927, which makes him 88 this year), but I haven't read the comics in years and when I did, Momma wasn't there, let me tell you.

EXPLODED makes a nice counterpart to FLEETING, and any reference to Ogden Nash (even if he is very old) is welcome in my book.

There, I said something nice, so let's end the review there.

- Colum

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015, Finn Vigeland


Cece started this puzzle while I was doing the dishes from breakfast. While Horace and Frannie gad about in Paris, we had Phoebe's pen-pal friend and her stepsister, from Beaune and Dijon respectively, so there was a Gallic feeling here as well. We fed them pancakes, scrambled eggs, and pepper-encrusted bacon pour le petit déjeuner américain. Not so petit, actually. The bacon is from a bacon-of-the-month club I got for Christmas, and was very delicious.

Um, I got sidetracked.

Right, the puzzle. So, Cece started it, calling out clues, after announcing the title. When 49A: Opening lyric of 118-Across was called out, the theme fell in seconds. Not really difficult after the recent Oscars telecast, where the only thing that was truly astonishing was how beautifully Lady Gaga sang the medley from THESOUNDOFMUSIC. "Boyhood" should have won, says I, who never saw "Birdman." Of the long theme answers, the only one I'm not fond of is BESTPICTUREOSCAR. I mean, yes, it's correct, only it's not something you say. "Academy award for best picture," or "Oscar for best picture." The other way around feels awkward.

What took way too long, however, was the rebus that tied everything together. It's a great idea, with DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-TI-DO rising up like a scale from the bottom left-hand corner to the top right-hand corner. Cece actually suggested a rebus when we tried to put ESSEN[TI]AL into one too few squares available, but I pooh-poohed it. The theme was already obvious. What could the rebus be?

It became apparent to me when I had SASHI_ and _SSU__. The [MI] went in, and then the whole rest of the puzzle went quickly thereafter. It made much more sense out of 85D: Part of the food pyramid ([FA]TS instead of aTS) and 12D: 1961 Disney villainess (CRUEL[LA]), where I was sure that one L looked off.

Other clues I liked included the Tchaikovsky quote for MOZART (always knew Pyotr worshipped Wolfgang), 66D: Cave opening? (HARDC), and 64A: Raid target (ROACH) with its hidden capital. Although I don't like the image, come to think of it. 90A: Port authority? (WINO) is almost a good clue, but I rather suspect your run-of-the-mill alkie is not imbibing a 20-year-old Tawny.

The degree of dross in the grid is reasonably minimal for so much theme. Overall I'm giving it a thumbs up.

- Colum

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015, Barry C. Silk


This one started slowly, but can you blame me? I opened the puzzle for the first time while seated at an outdoor table at a Brasserie in Paris, sipping a cold beer under a hot heat-lamp, waiting for Frannie to come back from her trip to the bookstores and bouquinistes of the Rive Gauche. I filled in about six things, at least three of which turned out to be wrong, then closed the iPad and people-watched for an hour.

The first thing I entered was "fist in air" for 15A: Classic symbol of rebellion" (IRONCROSS), but is an Iron Cross really a symbol of rebellion? It just makes me think of the Third Reich. I guess it's used by motorcycle gangs, but is that really rebellion?

But I don't mean to grouse. I liked this puzzle just fine. All the other nine-letter answers were very good. I loved the lower stack, with STRETCHER (62A: Battlefield transport), WEARISOME (65A: Yawn-inducing), and FRYOLATOR (67A: Greasy spoon appliance). Those are all excellent. The crosses are just ok, except for SMELTER (43D: Where to get the lead out?) - which I loved.

PHOTOBOMB (48A: Laugh-inducing pic) is great, SHOEBOX (40D: Holder of many a diorama) is nicely clued, and is unusually tied to 5D: Last name on a 40-Down (MCAN). And speaking of tie-ins, we noticed only after getting OPERA (16A: "Bluebeard's Castle," e.g.) that it was pretty much given to us with 53A: "Bluebeard's Castle" librettist Balázs (BELA). I mean, what else has a libretto?

Did not enjoy APODAL (11D: Without feet), SMEARER (47D: Mudslinger), or TITFER (49D: Bit of headwear, in British lingo) (huh?) (oh, ok... Cockney slang. Still, though...), but there was more bad than good, so thumbs up!

Favorite clue: 36A: Opening piece (KNOB). We needed K_OB before that one came clear.

- Horace

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015, Julian Lim


Boy, this one fell into line quickly. The first things I got were ANT (18A: Hill worker) and BOT (19A: Google worker), but soon bigger things started to come, like STEPHENJAYGOULD (52A: Evolutionary biologist who wrote "The Panda's Thumb"), which was a gimme. They could probably just have stopped at "Evolutionary biologist" and I still would have tried Gould. THISISSPINALTAP (14A: Classic 1984 film in which most of the dialogue was ad-libbed) took more crosses than it should have, but it eventually came, and then the whole top fell into place. Interesting that Sartre and Churchill were each once a PRISONEROFWAR. Churchill was a civilian reporter when he was captured in the Boer war, but escaped after just four weeks by vaulting over a wall and making his way to the train. Sartre, on the other hand, spent nine months as a POW before gaining release on the basis of his poor health. Quite a contrast.

I love the row containing YOUANDI (43A: We) and SHALLWE (48A: "Ready to go?"). SPARETHEROD (55A: Be lenient) is also nice. As is TRAMP (14D: Galumph). It's not often you hear the word "galumph." And I liked the combo of 17A: & 25D: "Certain shooter" (CATSEYE & BBGUN). I tried "aggie" for the second one, but no dice. (Get it, they're another "shooter." ... Groan.)

NONZERO (40A: Positive or negative) is odd, and REGLUED (36D: Fixed, as a model airplane) is downright poor. But there's not too much of that sort of thing.

Overall, I enjoyed it.

- Horace

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015, Caleb Emmons

FWOE (0:23:18)

The theme came quickly here, as I knew that the Kennedy half-dollar (KENNEDYDOL) was released in 1964, but at first I just entered "halfdollar," because I had not yet figured out the trick. Soon after, though, I got IDES (2D: May 15, e.g.), PAN (4D: Give two thumbs down), and then ELYSE (6D: "Family Ties" mom), and that was that on the theme. OLEMISS (5D: Oxford university, informally) took way too long, as I was thinking just like Mr. Emmons wanted me to, of England, and I kept thinking, "It's just Oxford!" But no. It was Oxford, Mississippi. HOODWINKS (8D: Tricks), on the other hand, came very quickly, (maybe because I had just been hoodwinked!) even though I worried, as I did with FACEVALUE (31D: 1¢, for a penny) that because it was so long it would also be a part of the theme. I guess the cut-off was ten letters today for theme material. 

And getting back to the theme, I didn't love SUPERBOWLTI (24D: Occasion for a much-hyped performance). I mean, I guess that halftime is the occasion, still I wanted "Halftime Show," but that, of course, would not have worked well. The other two, GOINGOFFCOC (10D: Acting rashly) and FLYINGATMA (54A: Signaling remembrance, in a way) were both good. 

I enjoyed the clue for HIKE (1D: Up). So tricky. And "1A: Nile wader" had me thinking of a stork, or some other fragile bird, not a HIPPO. Hah! And in the other corner of the grid, CHARGER (40D: Cell need) had us stumped for a good long while. Right next to that, GRIN (42D: Small beam) and TAILS (46D: Flip response?) were both excellent. But it was ELLEN (58A: Liberian president and Peace Nobelist, ____ Johnson Sirleaf) that got us. I made two guesses on letters in that name, and got what should have been the easier one, in retrospect, wrong. I put in "AgE" for 55D: Draft classification (ALE) (better), and then guessed correctly on KANE (52D: Rapper Big Daddy ____). Oh well. If I had just been more up on world politics, it wouldn't have had to happen this way.

Overall, though, a decent Thursday puzzle. Some zippy fill, and a fun theme. 

- Horace