Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, Ed Sessa


AGIO (2D: Foreign exchange fee)?! What the hell is that? It wouldn't have mattered if our African geography were up to snuff, or if we knew the first thing about Mötley Crüe, but it isn't and we don't. I also couldn't think of anything to go with 17A: ____ pink (TICKLED), but luckily, Frannie noticed that the circles all had TICK or TOCK in them, so that helped a lot.

Best clue: 62A: Half moon? (BUTTOCK). Second best: 18A: Fruitcake (NUTCASE). Honorable mention: 60A: It may be read to a miscreant (RIOTACT).

I didn't love this. Lots I didn't know (HENTOFF, AUDIE, CLARO, some I didn't like AMOF, AROO, EEKS, AOKS, and "58A: :-), for one" - that's an EMOTICON, not just an ICON.

Lastly, it's Earth Day, and I wish that had been commemorated with more than the clue for 1D: Smoky-voiced Eartha (KITT) :-). I kid, but seriously, why not? We get puzzles for Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and the I Have A Dream speech, and who knows what all else. Perhaps Earth Day should be the theme for the first puzzle I submit to the NYT…

- Horace

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014, John Lieb


If I were faster with the thumbs this could have been a record. Very little resistance was put up by this one. I started with the downs, and when I checked the long crosses they were almost all done. Except, I guess, for CENSUSTAKER (47A: Decennial official). I couldn't make heads or tails of the clue, so I really did need for it to be pretty much completed by crosses.

The theme is great, in my opinion. A simple phrase - COUNTEREXAMPLES (58A: They disprove claims … or 17-, 23-, 38- and 47-Across, in a way?) - is given a twist to define occupations that require counting. Very nice.

In the fill, I don't count too many grumblers. Maybe TOS, TSOS, and ANE, but nothing truly hatable, and there's some very nice bonus fill in MOCCASIN (29D: Comfortable footwear), PRATFALL (18D: Buster Keaton specialty), and SULTAN (45D: Ottoman bigwig) (It's not agha or emir!).

All in all, I count this as a pretty nice Monday.

- Horace

p.s. It's a John Lieb twofer today, as he also has the syndicated.

Sunday, April 20, 2014, Elizabeth C. Gorski



Totally missed the theme today while solving. Well, we realized that all the circles had Os in them, and I thought maybe it was supposed to be like Easter Eggs, but it's so much more than that. The cirlces and Os are wheels, and they sit symmetrically underneath car models. One is even contained within a car (GEO (99A: Former Chevrolet division)), but I think that was mere coincidence. It's a little weird, because there are other Os all over the place, and sometimes they're also under the car name (see - CHARGER), but I guess it's kind of cool. Now that I see it.

Even knowing the theme, the puzzle didn't wow us. It took us forever to finish, and it never felt terribly fun. Even the inclusion of perhaps my favorite album ever ELLA (18A: "____ and Louis," 1956 jazz album) couldn't save it.

We foundered in the East, in the morass of proper names. CAVUTO (44D: Neil of Fox News), OLIN (45D: Ken of "Brothers & Sisters"), KHLOE (47D: One of the Kardashians) (why?), and SAENS (48D: Composer Camille Saint-____) (I knew this one) - that's a lot all in one place. And STOPCOCKS (43A: Pipe valves) isn't exactly a gimme!

There were nice clues for - CRIERS (7D: Ones who are the talk of the town?), CALDER (33A: Mobile home seeker?) (wow, really?), ALOHA (52A: Greeting that includes a Spanish greeting in reverse?) (convoluted, but still cool), and EMBARGO (58A: Complete shutout?). And there was some fancy fill like LISLE, ANDRONICUS, SNOWYEGRET, but there were also words like SCAB, PORE, EARTAG, and STOOL, which are, as Franny says, "Icky." And WORDAGE? Come on.

Let's call it a mixed bag, or, since it's Easter, a mixed basket.

- Horace

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014, Stu Ockman


After yesterday, this was a cakewalk! The stacks were paper tigers, as the phrases fell ONEAFTERANOTHER (16A: Sequential). Frannie got THEGOBLETOFFIRE (17A: Harry Potter series part) first, and then things just kept rolling. A few tricky parts here and there, like the crossing of KENAI (26A: Alaska's ____ Fjords National Park) and LATAKIA (9D: Principal port of Syria). That is one that I think is totally unfair, but the rest had crosses that made them easier. SCACCHI (35D: Greta of "The Red Violin") and SNCC (35A: March on Washington grp.) was another guess, but really, it couldn't be many letters with that name.

I enjoyed the clues for SPOSE (53A: Quickly imagine?), and MELDING (7D: Putting one's cards on the table, in a way) (makes me think fondly back to playing canasta when I was much younger), and COFFER (11D: Strongbox) is a good word. NUEVA (30D: ____ York) and OSMOSES (39D: Seeps) (that's a verb?) seemed kind of cheap, and I'll have to defer final judgement to my astronomer friends, but EYELENS (44D: Telescope) also seems a little iffy. Isn't it an eyepiece?

Lots I didn't know - RESNIK, MIASARA, UAR, SCACCHI, LATAKIA, HAME… but it all went down, so I guess it's all right.

Favorite part? 58D: Bad computer? (HAL)

Decent enough.

- Horace

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014, James Mulhern


Nice and tough, just like a Friday ought to be, with a great 1A, FOSHIZZLE (1A: "Definitely, dawg!"). ATHANAEUM (15A: Reading room) is another very nice word, and STANDINGO (17A: Reward for knocking 'em dead), well... I guess that's how you'd spell that.

There are a few things that we scowled at, like ETALII (24A: Name dropper's phrase) (mostly saved by the great clue), CELLI (10D: Parts of many chamber groups) (seems a little cheap), WANS (36D: Pales) (so "wan" is a verb now?), and we're not quite convinced that "learn" is a true ANTONYM of "teach" (45D: Learn to teach?).

But the puzzle was so good in other ways that we're (at least I am, anyway) letting it slide. How 'bout that clue for MANO (55A: A leader and follower?), and I see that "supply" is given as an alternate form of "supplely," but the latter would not have been so devilish in 18A: Moving supply (LITHE). Egad! The whole right side took the lion's share of the time today. I finally got CANST (10A: Art enabled), and that opened it up a little, but "student" fit where SCHOLAR (13D: 15-Across frequenter, maybe) belonged, and then those two quotes were very slow in coming.

Lastly, I didn't realize that marmot was the name of a large class of animals, as well as being the name of quite a few species. Neither did I know that the woodchuck and the groundhog were the same thing, and that it is also sometimes called a land-beaver, or a whistle-pig. You learn something new every day!

Again, we enjoyed the challenge today. Good, tough, Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen


Sort of a strange grid pattern today. Side-to-side symmetry and that cross in the middle. I mean, there is a "crossing" theme of sorts, but, oh, wait … maybe it has to do with Holy Week? I thought to myself "that's a little morbid, to have that cross right in the middle like that…" but now I guess it's because of Easter. Well… maybe more because of Good Friday than Easter, but, well… ok. The rebus theme - and this is actually more of a rebus than those multi-letter-in-one-square puzzles that everyone calls rebuses, because this one is a picture puzzle, with certain words going right through other words, and the word "through" being used in the answer - was pretty nice, and had nothing, so far as I could tell, to do with any religion.

Let's look at a few - WENT through THEROOF (23A: With 13-Down, blew one's stack) - nice clue, PAID through THENOSE (24A: With 15-Down, spent way too much money for something) - nice phrase that you don't see in crosswords, and SHOT through THEHEART (43A: With 30-Down, hit dead-on) - this is what would have happened in 33 C.E. if the Romans had had firearms. Too soon?

It was a fairly easy solve, but maybe because Frannie understood the rebus pretty quickly, and then everything except the NW went quite smoothly. It was Frannie, again, who thought of GOON (1A: Mob muscle), because I was completely blanking on that one. Had "GApe" and then "GAWk" before finally ending on GAWP (1D: Stare with an open mouth) thanks to PROWESS (19A: Superior skill). That's a nice word, PROWESS, and I'm going to need more of it before going to the crossword puzzle tournament next year!

Astronomy buffs will certainly enjoy seeing TYCHO (15A: Astronomer ____ Brahe) in the grid, and the same goes for poetry/criticism buffs and TSELIOT (21A: Pioneer in New Criticism). There are a lot of threes, and one sees the seemingly inevitable junk like NES, KAT, SDS, ASA, DRT, and MUS, but even with all that, I still enjoyed the puzzle. I guess I just like a gimmicky puzzle. Is that so wrong?

- Horace

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014, Michael Dewey


Most of the puzzle was smooth sailing, but I got in over my head in the northeast. First I put in killer for 4D. Kind of instinct, but that didn't float. I thought my ship had come in when the lower crosses supplied MAL. I tried aniMAL, but I had a sinking feeling when I couldn't get any crosses. Eventually my ship came in when  JUMP sprang to mind (1A. Bound), and I realized it was PRIMAL going down.

The raft of clumping of hair clues in this one did not float my boat. (63A. & 64A. Clump of hair (KNOT & TUFT)). On the other hand it was swell to have two Winnie-the-Pooh clues, especially his catchphrase (9D. OHBOTHER). I say that myself sometimes when the waters are troubled.

Quite a surge of Huyguens material, if you were on the look out for it: 6D. Lumber (WOOD); 13D. Unyielding (STEELY); 24D. Eleven plus one (NOON); and 73A. Cry at deli (NEXT).

Surprisingly little side-splitting humor, but I did enjoy 2D. One side in a close encounter (UFO) and 5D. Sun block? ECLIPSE.

Oh, and did I mention that the theme was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic? Although, as regards 28A What scientists use to predict the rates of chemical reactions (COLLISIONTHEORY), I might ask, too soon?