Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015, David J. Lieb

9:24

I don't want to get jaded or anything. There were some good things about this puzzle. It's 16 by 16, which gives a little more room for the six theme answers. DOUBLEDOUBLE is okay (not as good an answer as "triple double" would be from a basketball perspective). The other 5 theme answers are solid phrases, and the use of "double" before each word makes a solid new phrase. Nothing very amusing or surprising about any of them.

GOLDENBOY is a fine answer. I like 9D: Like some showers (BRIDAL). 13D: It lacks depth (PLANE) is cute. It's unusual to have a puzzle with this guy in it:

But there are an awful lot of proper names: AGNEW, ABRAM, ABBAS, EUBIE (?), THERESA, KYLE, NEGEV. And the puzzle starts on the wrong foot with UPCAST. Blah.

I guess that's the way I felt about this puzzle. Just not that exciting.

- Colum

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Caleb Emmons

5:42 (FWTE)

Well.

Hmmm.

I've got nothing against a good gimmick. And there is something impressive about a puzzle that uses only one vowel per row, in order of AEIOU, then does it again, and then again. So I acknowledge the artistry of the gimmick. But that's what it feels like in the end, a gimmick, in large part because of the compromises that have to be made to make it work.
Let me start with my errors, which came in the same word. I don't know why I thought CSI would be Cis. That stands for "clinically isolated syndrome" in Neurology, which is the first episode of symptoms in what might or might not become multiple sclerosis down the line. Regardless, it's not a television show, so all of that is just hot air.

Why might I have made that error? Well, let's see. 35D: Make a sibilant sound (SISS). This is not a word. This is not a sound. This is not anything. It has no place in the crossword puzzle. I had SsSS. That at least, somewhat makes sense. I'll admit that what I had at 34D: Call in place of a nudge (PSST) was PiST, and I knew that couldn't be right, but I went with it for some reason.
Other than that issue, the rest is essentially fine, but filled with multiple blah entries. Such as SSTS, RRR, TKT, TWOUP (never heard of it, and had to guess at the last letter), ARIL.

There are some fun answers, especially in the long acrosses. PHILIPIII is crazy looking. THECREEPS is good. I love POLTROON. It's right up there with "Nimrod" from yesterday. AAAMAP is barely acceptable, but I like the way it looks. 5D: Person with lines (ACTOR) is a cute little misdirect.

So, on the whole, okay, but that section mentioned above ruined it.

- Colum

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015, D. Scott Nichols and Zhouqin Burnikel

3:38

Ahhh... that's more like it. I came so close, too!

I did not get the theme while I was solving. I generally don't like to spend too much time looking at the long answers on a Monday because it can really derail you. It almost happened today with GEORGETENET, a name I would never have been able to pull out of thin air, but recognized just fine once it was filled in. As PALINDROMES was the last entry I filled, I got the aha moment after I finished, which is better.
So, four full names, which is nice, including three women, all quite well known to my generation, perhaps less so to younger folks. After all, MONICASELES played her last professional match in 2003, and is unfortunately best remembered for being stabbed. YOKOONO is quite active in art and music circles, as well as being highly politically active, but is still best known for her relationship to John Lennon. DARYLHANNAH I've not heard of since her role in Kill Bill  One man, who, as I've noted above, was also recognizable. He served from 1997 to 2004. That's all. And that gets him the title of "second-longest-serving director" of the CIA, behind Alan Walsh Dulles, of Dulles airport fame.

Actually, the fill skews older as well. Outside of RORY McIlroy, Barack OBAMA, and possibly EMO, most of the references are hardly relevant now. REM's biggest days were in the 1980s. Jean-Luc PICARD last had a TV show in 1994. AMY Tan's book The Joy Luck Club came out in 1989, although she's written plenty since then. DESI, ERROL, MOE, NOLTE... ARARAT?

MAVEN and NIMROD are great words. I eat GRANOLA almost every morning. And I'm out.

- Colum

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015, Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen

NO ESCAPE

There's an awful lot to like about this puzzle, but there are also a few flaws that come close to being fatal. Let's take it one element at a time.

First of all, the theme. I figured out what was going on when I got to 44D: Tire hazard (POT[HOLE]). I had already filled in 36D: Tax dodger's discovery (LOOP[HOLE] - and I'm not sure that clue is exactly correct - after all, loopholes are legal), but initially assumed that it was some weird shorthand. I like this kind of theme in general - we've seen variations on it in the past.

But it definitely got better when I got to the East side of the central hole and realized that gravity had turned the answers backwards. That's a nice piece of crosswordery, if I can coin a word. Obviously, the answers in the South section go from bottom to top as well. The twelve examples of words or phrases ending in [HOLE] were all acceptable examples.
I also like the four long theme answers that relate in some way to black holes. HEARTOFDARKNESS,  FATALATTRACTION, and CENTEROFGRAVITY all act as sideways definitions of the phenomenon, while DISAPPEARINGACT is more of a description of what happens if you get too close.

So I liked the theme quite a bit. The fill worked for the most part. In fact, the puzzle was a bit of rapid romp for me, up until I hit the SW corner, which seemed like it was at a level of difficulty higher than the rest. Of course, if I knew that LEANNRIMES had written that song, it would have been easier. ORAN was unusually clued with reference to Casablanca. ENID was a name from Arthurian legend I was not familiar with.
But the fatal issue was this: 108D: "Darn!" (DRAT) had already been filled in. Then you get to 87A: "Aargh!" (DARNIT). That's not allowed. And it would have been so easy to fix by cluing 108D with something like "Curses!" 87A was not made easier by the arcane plural of IAMBI. That's acceptable, apparently, but it's not the standard choice. It should be iambs, and I'll stick to that.

Otherwise, there's good stuff elsewhere in the grid. 13D: Change places (COINPURSES) is fun. 28A: Remove a piece from? (UNARM) is clever, although I'd prefer "disarm". 93A: 50 or more people? (AARP) is also nice, except for the fact that you start getting mail from an association designed for retired people at the age of 50.
KRAKENS is a great word (although I thought it was a singular beast, not given to running in herds, as there was supposed to be only one). Weird to see SCALA without "la" and LATOSCA with it. Typically we would have cross-referenced the one to the other, except this time they're talking about the original French play instead of the Puccini opera. Speaking of which, I got my classical fix with DEBUSSY.

22D: Greens ___ (FEE) got a "huh?" from me: apparently it's the fee to golf. OHMAGE is also a head scratcher. I understand it's referring to the unit of electrical resistance. I'm pretty sure nobody outside of electrical engineers use it.

A mixed bag. I wanted to really like it, but the SE made it untenable in the end.

- Colum

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015, Kevin G. Der

48:06

Wow, this was a tough one! The clues were uniformly tricky, and even when I had an idea what they were getting at, the crosses were also so difficult that it sometimes took a break and coming back to the puzzle to get my brain in the right tack.

I broke into the puzzle with VIOLASOLO, an answer that was probably a "huh?" for most people, but which for me was straightforward as both my brother and his wife are professional violists. I tried smoOch at 31A: Sloppy kiss (WETONE), but figured out that was wrong when I put STAGESETS in. 26A: Loaded things? (BASES) took a while to figure out, especially since I wanted "peres" or "meres" for 26D: Members of la famille (BEBES). I never heard of a BIBELOT, so that took forever. And I misread 35A: Modern composer's constructions (TONEROWS) as "instructions".

Anyway, I had the entire NE filled in pretty quickly, so I thought things would go smoothly. Unfortunately not. I had TEENPOP going down into the SE, but I had BOXSters (?) at 33D: Some sports figures (BOXSCORE). I love that clue, especially as it misleads you into thinking the answer will end with an S. Finally, I guessed BAEZ for 45D, which enabled BOUNCEHOUSE. I actually think of those as bounce castles, but the entry googles well.

49A: Stopgap for an energy shortage (POWERNAP) is outstanding. I did not see it coming at all. The SE has very nice words in it, including ORANGINA, and ASANA right next to NEPAL.


Still, even with TIBIAS, _ALVES, and SNEEZE, I couldn't get any traction in the SW. It took a long time to see LIBRARIAN (sorry, Frannie), and 29D: Kosher (ALLOWABLE) was a tough get also. But the prize goes to 27D: Dog washers? (FOOTBATHS). Couldn't see it for the longest time! It took the breakthrough of seeing HOLY/GRAIL to open that section and finally break the rest of the NW.


  • 7D: Sliding door locales (MINIVANS) - very nice and not what I was thinking of at all. 
  • 8D: Sting, e.g. (BASSIST) - I'd tried British multiple times. 
  • 2D: Northern hemisphere? (IGLOO) - lovely.
  • 1A: One waiting to go off (TIMEBOMB) - I knew there had to be a bomb in here, but the answer is so perfect for the definition.
  • 25A: Majors, e.g. (BRASS) - very tricky!
The 3-letter answers in this puzzle are: 
  • ITS: common contraction, easily gettable from the clue, even though I don't know the song
  • LAG: common word, clued well enough.
  • ROM: dated word in just about every way. Who records on disks any more? Streaming, baby. That's where it's at.
  • IVE: common contraction, also easily gettable from the clue.
  • ARA: crosswordese, but really really really hard to get from the clue, which refers to a constellation, Norma, I've never heard of before.
  • TRU: title of a Broadway play that I got from the crosses.
Not bad, and the rest of the puzzle is an outstanding challenge.

- Colum

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015, Patrick Berry

15:01

Ah, Mr. Berry. If only all puzzles were as smooth and enjoyable as your themelesses.

I tried "edge" at 1D: Narrow margin (INCH), but took it out when I realized that there were no states that started with D and were nine letters long. After hazarding IMSOSORRY at 4D: "My deepest condolences", I hit upon NEWMEXICO. I did not know that Santa Fe was the oldest capital city in the country. Unfortunately, I had to step away from the NW on account of not being able to figure anything else out.

I got LEAR and ANG, and even ALEVE, but the rest of the W was also opaque to me, so I moved eastward. 13D: "X" signer gave me ILLITERATE, a nice use of an adjectival noun. Isn't 12D: Wood choppers of old (FALSETEETH) excellent cluing? I'm not sure how he got away without using a question mark. 10D: Cause of black eyes? (MASCARA) is nearly as good.

The hits keep coming with 32D: Nobody's home (GHOSTTOWN). Man, that's top notch. I didn't even get it until just now. When I'd had POTTY, SKELETONS, and SWEETNLOW in place, I'd tried putting isOlaTioN in there, but it didn't even make sense at all.

I don't love the brand name COMPUWARE, and ANTINOVEL was unfamiliar. To have SACS in there as well makes the SE my least favorite corner. Still, I can't be too upset when NERO is clued by Poppaea Sabina. And we just ate pesto tonight, so:

I was able to move back across the middle after this. I knew that 36A was referring to Hall & Oates, but it turns out that their names have the same number of letters in them. Once I had a cross in the last name portion, I was able to get it, especially since I couldn't remember Oates' first name.

Should TEARGASSED be spelled with one S? I think we've had this conversation before. In any case, now that I think about it, we'd all agree that "gassed" is correct, rather than "gased." I had some difficulty with GOTOIT as I'd wrongly thought the last three letters would spell "out". GOTOuT seemed like a terrible answer for 23A: "Get cracking!" And it turned out it was terrible, in that it was wrong.

The NW in fact, once I got back to it, turned out to be very strong. I love CHASTENED, which I'd had difficulty figuring out because I'd guessed MIxeS for 7D: Some M&M's (MINIS). 2D: Classic pop (NEHI) referenced the product I'd chosen a picture for earlier this month, so when I got that, the rest of the puzzle fell into place.

Outstanding.

- Colum

P.S. Shout out to Cece, who finished today's Mini puzzle in 17 seconds. Future ACPT champ?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015, Timothy Polin

17:05

[SU][PER][CAL]I[FRAG]I[LIS][TIC][EX][PI][AL]I[DO][CIOUS]

Okay, I just wanted to type all of that out. It's a great idea for a theme, splitting the 13-syllable word into 13 squares using rebuses. I knew it was going to be a rebus when I got to 12D. I actually remember the Jackie Chan movie (THETUXE[DO]) although I didn't see it. But I didn't know where the rebus would be. And my first thought for a 1964 song was "Hard Day's Night".

It became clear when I got to 62A. I had no crossings but confidently entered MARYPOPPINS, and then went through the enjoyable task of figuring out all the rebusy crossings. SPE[CIOUS] and SUF[FRAG]E are my two favorites. I'm not fond of the clue for 39D: Microsoft Office, e.g. ([SU]ITE). And 36D: Not together (A[PI]ECE) seems off as well.

There were a number of really tricky clues, including 18A: 42, for Mo (ATNO); I feel I've seen something similar before, but this is great, because Mariano Rivera (Mo) had 42 as his uniform number. 3D: Workers with pitch forks? (TUNERS) is fun. That corner was made for difficult for me by having entered SHift for SHELF.

10A: Zealot (ULTRA) is weird. Can that word be used as a noun? It shows up on thesaurus. com, but I've never seen it used that way. I did, however, enjoy ROHAN.
There are four very nice long non-theme answers, including DEADBEAT, the well-clued INSTRUMENT, ASSOCIATES (did anybody else try "paralegals"? Same number of letters!), and 57A: Sharp shooters? (NAILGUNS). I also very much enjoyed 53A: What shadows become as they lengthen (BEARDS). Well done, sir. Well done.

ATIP, however, is not so well done. Is that even a word ever at all in the history of language? I also don't love AOKAY, which I think of primarily as being written A-OK.

But otherwise, I liked the nod to English history with HENRYVI ("whose state so many had the managing/that they lost France and made his England bleed"). Not to be confused with this gentleman:
Who knew he had two Oscars to his name?

Fun Thursday puzzle.

- Colum