Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen


Frannie and I split the work on this nice, meaty grid with an appropriately macabre and Halloweenish mini-theme of "The Cask of Amontillado." BURIED ALIVE (32A: Like Fortunato, in Poe's …) and HORRORSTORY (33A: "The Cask of Amontillado," e.g.) are lovely central fill. COGNOSCENTE (29A: Expert) we are less thrilled with. Frannie guessed "cognoscento" at first, which I disliked at least as much as the correct answer. "Cognoscenti," sure… people say that in English, but "cognoscente?" Not so much.

But I'm not going to let that spoil a perfectly good puzzle, especially one that starts so beautifully with 1A: Boston and Chicago, but not Seattle (ROCKBANDS). I thought briefly of "Title Towns," but alas, it didn't fit. ADVISABLE (16A: Recommended), MOUSEOVER (49A: Get ready to click, maybe), and COEXISTED (54A: Didn't kill each other) are all good. The last is amusingly literal, which is not quite true of INCARNATE (52A: Having human form). Wouldn't "In the flesh" be more accurate? Not that it matters, it's still a great word.

Good stuff is everywhere. BOOBTUBE (32D: Idiot box) - classic, and I like the pair of 33D: Desire (HOPEFOR) and 11D: Desire (APPETITE). Verb, noun. Nice. COINAGE (12D: Introduction to English?) - Great clue! NOBRAINER (7D: Easy decision), fun. Too much good stuff to call it all out, and overall, a very good Friday. So far so good on the Turn. Here's hoping for more of the same tomorrow!

- Horace

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014, David Woolf


A good ol' Thursday rebus puzzle, just like I like! I was temporarily thrown off by the image in the black squares, which looks more like a Ritz cracker to me than a CHOCOLATE[CHIP]COOKIE, and that [CHIP] all the way at the bottom was the first one to come to me, but it quickly made previous instincts ([CHIP]MUNK & [CHIP]SHOT) make sense. I had thought of Alvin for "26D: Nonhuman singer of a 1958 #1 song," but the length was off. Same thing for "44D: They may be made with pitching wedges" - obviously chip shots in golf, but again… too short. Of course, having such occurrences on a Thursday makes you suspicious, and eventually it was the cookie that made it all crumble. (Do they award Pulitzers for blogs yet? Asking for a friend.)

I like how the [CHIP]s are randomized around the grid, and I like all the words made with them. [CHIP]OTLE (29D: Fast-food chain named after a spice) was interesting, especially because I first thought of Chili's. Heh. Who doesn't love any mention of the [CHIP]PEWA (16D: Tribe of the Upper Midwest)? And [CHIP]ENDALESDANCERS (16 Entertainers with something to get off their chests?) was a surprising and hilarious answer, once I finally worked it out.

Now, as I said yesterday, I am not a puzzle constructor, but as you already know, that will not stop me from making pronouncements on the relative difficulty or ease of constructing. Today's, it seems to me, with it's "picture" of a cookie (Ritz… button… whatever), it's five rebus squares, its good mix of high-point letters without tipping over into pangramville, and it's overall interestingness and cleanness, seems like it would be a pretty hard thing to do. Sooo… well done, Mr. Woolf!

A few more things: ELOCUTE (49A: Engage in oratory) is a good word with a slightly odd clue. SINUSES (13 They may be blocked in the winter), ditto. Wouldn't spring or fall work just as well? VERONIQUE (37A: French woman's name meaning "bringer of victory") is interesting, as is AR[CHIP]ELAGO (42A: The Bahamas, e.g.). Who knew?

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Frannie, who helped bring this one home. I spent several minutes staring at the NW, where my brain was not FLUID (1A: Moving) enough to get 1A, and PEARCE (10A: Actor Guy of "Memento") (and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!) would not come to me. Nor would LAUDS (2D: Hails) nor ICEL (4D: NATO member with the smallest population: Abbr.) (odd abbrev.). But PEARCE did come to her, and then the rest was made easy.

It's not a perfect grid - the NE is sketchy - but it was certainly good enough to be entertaining.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014, Elizabeth C. Gorski


A pleasing theme today, running all around the grid with a cross in the middle. It seems to me, someone who has never constructed a puzzle, that it must be on the easy side, just having "IT" in every theme answer, but then, what do I know? 

Difficulty aside, I still like the entries. All of them. A FRUITSALAD (17A: *Chilled appetizer or dessert) would be lovely right about now, SPLITSCREEN (24D: *Feature of many a TV interview) makes me realize that it's something Charlie Rose almost never uses on his show, and QUITSMOKING (11D: *Kick the habit, say) is sound advice.

The NW has some of the usual stuff, like LIU, SELA, and SPF (didn't we just see this?), and the same is true of the other tight areas. There's also REATAS, EGIS, and EVERTS (30D: Turns inside out). I thought SESAMEOIL and KNEEBENDS were both good, though, and even BEFOGS (22D: Obscures) is ok in my book. BONGS (48A: Stoners' purchases) was a big surprise, too, when that turned out to be right. I tried "drugs" first.

I don't know… it's kind of a split decision I think.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014, Andrea Carla Michaels


Odd theme today related to the NBA (48A: Org. whose only members with nonplural names appear at the ends of 17-, 25-, 410, and 56-Across). To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I could have told you that "Thunder" was the name of a team now. I pretty much stopped following the NBA a year or two after Kevin McHale started playing for the Celtics. They're still a team, right? The Celtics?

Theme aside, the long downs today were all quite good. CATALYST (4D: It makes things happen), GLITTERATI (11D: Fashionable celebs) (love it!), and even DISCOUNTED (25D: Not full-price) isn't bad. As a photographer, I have mixed feelings about ANSELADAMS (26D: Famous Yosemite photographer). He was a great technician, and developed the zone system and all that, but I'm not convinced he was a revolutionary artist. But then, they also serve who only stand and develop photos of lovely scenes, right?

Other interesting fill include ZOWIE (15A: "Holy cow!"), NERDY (60A: So unhip as to be hip, maybe) ("hip" and "nerdy" don't mix - they don't need to!), and GUAVA (45A: Exotic jelly fruit). Less than stellar fill include ILIAC, ANDI, IMA, and LTYR. I didn't include AERIE (39A: Place for a kiddie hawk?) because it had such a fine clue.

Overall, a decent Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014, Stanley Newman


This is a pretty straightforward Monday puzzle, with a pretty weak theme. DICKVANDYKE (21A: Eponymous star of a 1960s sitcom, the only American TV star with his three initials), DEATHVALLEYDAYS (37A: Long-running western anthology, the only American TV series with its three initials), and DVDRECORDER (53A: TV hookup option … or what you are by solving this puzzle?). Lame.

Pretty much the only interesting fill is NERVECELL (8D: Place for an axon).

The end.

- Horace

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014, Caleb Emmons


SCHLUBS (1A: Boors) is a very nice entry to today's grid. The rest of the Acrosses in that NW corner are also very nice, and the clash of HERCULES and the HYDRA gets everything off on the right foot.

The battle theme is a good one, we think, and I really like all the matchups. ALI/FOREMAN, ACHILLES/HECTOR, BATMAN/THEPENGUIN, TORTOISE/HARE, KASPAROV/DEEPBLUE, KINGKONG/GODZILLA... they're all classics! I wondered if you needed to choose the winner and put that entry's letter into each "winner's circle," and I bet that would have worked, but we entered them all as rebuses, and that worked, too. But here's the kicker - if you put in all the winners' letters and rearrange them, it spells "CHAMPION." And the kicker to the kicker? If you put in the losers' letters and rearrange them, it spells "DEFEATED." That's very, very nice. I don't really even have to say anything else about this one. So, to quote a cantata that I saw earlier this week, "Ich habe genug."

- Horace

Saturday, October 25, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


We held off on the review of this puzzle until tonight in deference to the contest, which ended at 6pm. Now all may be revealed.

The early references to time (Monday's second-to-week time progression, Tuesday's TIME clues for all the fifteens, Thursday's "Times" squares) were relevant, and Wednesday's PEEKABOOISEEYOU and face could maybe be tied to today's XMARKSTHESPOT (9D: Map phrase ... and a hint to finding this week's final answer) as we need to look closely at all the Xs in all the puzzles this week. When we do, we note that they all occur on the upper half of the grid. They also occur only in numbered squares, and if we write down the numbers and line them up with the alphabet, it spells out "TEMPUS FUGIT," or "Time Flies." Not bad. It seems a little straightforward, but I suppose I could be missing a further level of complexity.

Frannie and I were joined by our friend, frequent commenter, and occasional guest-blogger Colum Amory when solving this puzzle, and together, we pieced out the meta in short order. We were momentarily stalled because the Saturday puzzle would not show as completed and correct until after 6pm tonight, but we didn't realize that at first, and spent quite a bit of time looking through it, trying to find an error, but in reality, we didn't have any!

Apart from the meta, this had some nice bits. AMENS (19A: Shows of appreciation for services provided?) was nice, 21A: Prideful? (LIONS) and 23A: Figureheads? (CPAS) are cute, RENEE (22A: "Born again" woman) (from French!) is nice, and OATS (29A: Some Arabian food) (horses!) was tricky! UPDO (57A: It's hair-raising) is also quite good.

We didn't (none of us!) understand why NENES (12D: Leche drinkers) was right. Is that a Spanish term for baby? And XDIN (7D: Double-crossed) wasn't a favorite. OTIC, STETS, STES... not the greatest, and it just seemed odd that EMTS was clued with "51D: Some N.F.L. workers."

Overall, it was an above average week of puzzles, and the added meta angle was fun.

- Horace

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


Frannie did most of this one while I was out at the symphony, but it was great to find a corner left when I got home. What guy doesn't love to hear his wife say that when she read clues like 44D: Rhododendron relative (AZALEA) and 60A: Flowering plant named for a Greek god (PEONY), that she knew he'd know those right away, so she didn't even bother with them? As it turns out, I didn't know PEONY immediately, but I got it from only a couple crosses. (Paeon was the god of medicine and healing - I looked it up for you. And yes, peony petals are edible, but I doubt they'll heal you of much... probably not even of hunger!) That SW corner held our only problem spot, though, because even though Frannie said "Are you spelling that right?" when I typed in WaNTON for 45D: Chinese appetizer (WONTON), I did it anyway and ended up with a FWOE! Whot wos I thinking?

So anyway, this was a good Friday. Frannie says so, and as I review it I agree. ORALEXAMS (1A: Times for speaking one's mind?) is a great start, and I don't even mind ORGCHARTS (1D: Diagram showing company positions, briefly). We hear that a lot where I work, and as one co-worker put it recently, it's a "doubleplusgood" word! (See: Orwell, Newspeak, 1984) 15A: Spot for shooting stars (REDCARPET) is an excellent clue, as is 16A: Finish putting on pants (ZIPUP), and 17A: Became a bachelor, maybe (GRADUATED). 12D: It may elicit a shrug (APATHY), beautiful. SPIDEY (14D: ____ sense), nice. 48A: Pusillanimous (TIMID), great word. 36A: Groups with play dates? (TROUPES), cute. GINJOINTS (61A: Saloons), excellent. They just don't stop!

Well, ok, they stop a little in certain areas (COMS, UZO (?), MEETERS, TGI), but overall, this was a fun one. Oh, and before I go, Frannie would probably like me to say that she got ADAMBEDE (3D: Title carpenter of an 1859 novel) off the clue. I would like to think that I would have gotten TSELIOT (34A: "Ash Wednesday" poet) off the resulting E, but we'll never know now.

Lastly, I like to think that 63A: "Boy, am I having fun!" (ITSABLAST) is coming directly from Mr. Blindauer, referring to getting to do a week of puzzles. Was it fun, Mr. Blindauer? We've enjoyed it so far!

- Horace

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


We're back to a "time" theme, with the word TIME running twice around four black squares in the grid. Rather nice, really. It's cool, I think, how 56A: Where the ball drops on New Year's Eve ... as depicted literally in four places in this puzzle (hmm... how do I indicate the answer here?) is the only one of the "times" squares that uses it literally. It's a very nice theme/not theme, you know what I mean?

Again today, as always this week, there are some tricky and interesting clues and fill. OVENMITTS (26A: Range wear?) elicited an audible response when it finally came to me, and I thought "50A: Holds" was a great clue for CITADELS. OHPLEASE (29A: "Give me a break already!") seems to go well with "Go Pfft" from yesterday. MOSEYS (21D: Strolls) is a great word, and HATEMAIL (10D: Letters that are hard to read) was another tricky one.

Of course, all those "Time"s make some near-duplication necessary, like TEMPS and ATEMPO, and, for that matter, ATTEMPTED, and MIT, OVENMITTS, and DMITRI, but those last ones aren't really all that similar. I forgive it all! Also, I liked seeing "Clark" in the clue for MIT - it is my Dad's alma mater!

Lastly, for your information and enjoyment, I have included today a photo of a 1965 Jaguar XKE convertible, once owned by Sir Elton John. As the locals might say around the Clark campus, "Nice caaahh!"

- Horace

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


Blindauer week rolls on. I think I could get used to this - slightly harder-than-usual puzzles, very well done, with smart clueing and interesting fill. I'm learning a lot of new names, too, like Huarte, Rehm, and now CARLORFF (36D: "Carmina Burana" composer). I wasn't even sure where to parse that one! (It's Orff.)

It's a little strange to have DIOXIDE (6D: Compound containing 10-Down) and OXYGEN (10D: Element #8) in the same puzzle, and I'm guessing it was forced, in a way... but we're not talking about that, are we?

So, let's see, the theme moves from "time" to "vision" today. We have PEEKABOOISEEYOU (17A: Words to a baby) and FORYOUREYESONLY (59A: 007 film of 1981), and a smiley face right in the middle of the grid. Kind of cool. He does what he wants, apparently, Mr. Blindauer.

Speaking of doing what he wants, I wasn't sure how I felt about GOPFFT (1D: Die) when I filled it in, but I have come around on it and now I like it quite a bit. Interesting factoid about Medici in SPINACH (14A: Catherine de'Medici is said to have eaten it at every meal), and, being half Finnish myself, I enjoyed FINNS (23A: Fjord explorers?). I did not particularly enjoy XOO (16A: Losing line in tic-tac-toe), XER (21A: Ballot marker), or that damn AFTA (55D: Aqua Velva alternative), but that's not much, and besides, we've got the excellent KUNGFU (18D: A master of this really knows his chops), the very nice LANCELOT (39D: Model of chivalry), the tricky SANGRIA (42A: Strong punch), and YUMYUM (48D: "The Mikado" maiden). Any reference to the Mikado is ok in my book.

Overall, very nice. Keep 'em comin'!

- Horace

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


This is the second in a week of puzzles by Patrick Blindauer, all of which make up part of a "meta" challenge. The challenge will somehow be announced through the Saturday puzzle, and a selected few correct entries received by the NYT by 6pm Sunday will win one-year subscriptions to the puzzle. I will refrain from talking about any of the meta elements, should I be able to discern them, until Monday, October 27. If you're not sure what a meta challenge might be, you can read about one that was done by Patrick Berry back in 2011 on this page. (I promise, no Rick-rolling this time!)

So, how was today's puzzle? Pretty good, I thought. The three fifteens are all clued the same way, with "TIME," and they are all normal enough. MARATHONERSSTAT is a little odd, maybe, but I guess it makes sense. WHATPRISONERSDO is my favorite of the three.

The ?? crossing for me today, and one I guessed wrong on, was REHM (1D: Talk show host Diane of 31-Down (NPR)) and ELISA (14A: Actress Donovan of "Clueless"). I didn't know either of those two, and guessed A, probably because of Rahm Emanuel. Oh wellz.

XACTO (5D: Craft knife blade) and XRATED (13D: Like "Midnight Cowboy," originally) look kind of cool. Those two, plus SQUEAK (22D: Tiny complaint), SAWYER (Fictional prankster), HUMVEE (21D: Gulf war vehicle) and NAVYSEAL (38D: Elite fighter) make me think "pangram," but there's no Z. There are loads of Vs, though. One of which is in SVEN (48A: Kristoff's reindeer in "Frozen") prompts me to say that Frannie and I watched that movie recently on the recommendation of our niece, and we liked it quite a bit. I found it refreshingly different from what I expected.

ALOUS (23A: Baseball family of note), OPES (58D: Unlocks, in verse), and ELIA (2D: "On the Waterfront" director Kazan) are all old standbys, but MIGRATOR (3D: Seasonal traveler), DINOSAUR (6D: Natural history museum display), RHINOS (47D: Big chargers in Africa), and the pairs of ADO/APU and AVA/EVE were nice touches, and more than made up for the few crosswordsy things. I'd say this was an above-average Tuesday.

I don't know about you, but I find this whole meta thing kind of exciting! I can hardly wait for the weekend!

- Horace

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014, Patrick Blindauer


I apologize for the lateness of my review today, and for the past several days, actually. Over the weekend, it was at least in part due to our lack of constant internet, but today it was because my old iPad app finally stopped working, and it took until a few minutes ago for me to finally admit that it was time for me to move over to the new app. That might have happened sooner, but I spent most of the day writing a three-page paper about Machiavelli's thoughts on society, laws, and security, and then I had a two-hour class. But you probably don't care about all that. Or perhaps you do, but you realize that this is not the proper venue for me to discuss it any further.

So let's move on. No, wait, I have to go back to the app for a sec - it's not as bad as I feared it would be.  It will take us a few puzzles to get the hang of the new location for the "next" and "previous" buttons, and looking at the down and across clues together under the grid might eventually be quite helpful, but today it confused me and led me to try to enter things in the wrong place a few times. OK, now we can move on.

The theme was a very nice time progression, from "second" to "week." Most of them came to me in a SPLITSECOND (17A: Instant), including DAYTRIPPER (50A: 1965 Beatles hit that begins "Got a good reason for taking the easy way out), but PASSIONWEEK (58A: Time leading up to Easter) took about ten crosses. Shows where my priorities lie, perhaps...

The only part that made me say OUCH (25D: Response to an insult) was HUARTE (29A: John who won the 1964 Heisman Trophy). Why is he allowed in the grid? Was he famous at all in the NFL after that? Let's see... he was drafted by the Jets as the twelfth overall pick, but did not start for them. The starter for the Jets that year was the first overall pick, Joe Namath. I wouldn't normally consider a Heisman Trophy winner as unacceptable fill, but this guy is pushing it. I don't even know how to address the acceptability of CLU (65A: Gulager of "McQ"). I don't know who he is, what McQ is, when it existed, or anything. And I don't even feel like looking that one up.

The rest of the fill was decent enough. Are TEN (70A: Number of years in a decade), CEN (19D: 100 yrs.), and SPAN (33A: Bridge) bonus fill?

Lastly, HARLOW (38D: Jean of "Bombshell") reminds me of the humorous (though possibly apocryphal) anecdote about her showing up for a party hosted by Margot Asquith, and after mispronouncing the hostesses first name, Ms. Asquith replied with "The 't' is silent, dear, as in 'Harlow.'"

- Horace

p.s. Another thing about the new app is that it does not show the "note" field automatically before the puzzle appears, so I did not see it until after going and reading other blogs. If you didn't see it either, for whatever reason, it says that the puzzles this week were all done by Patrick Blindauer, and they contain a "meta" element, which will become clear, hopefully, on Saturday. We'll see. Should be a fun week!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014, David Phillips


Kind of a funny theme of replacing one word in a phrase with a Y in it with a homonym without a Y, and then cluing the phrase in a wacky way. It annoyed me at first, for some reason, but it grew on me. The turning point might have been CHAISEREBELLION (46D: "I've had enough of this patio furniture!," e.g.?) - so ridiculous. IDOLSOFTHEKING (24A: Elvis's heroes?) isn't bad either, I suppose. References to Tennyson and a bit of old Massachusetts lore ... how can you not enjoy that? Plus, there's theme running both horizontally and verically, which is always a nice touch.

As for the rest of the fill, I don't want to give it a BADRAP (51D: Unfair condemnation) or BOOHISS (1D: Expression of disapproval), but it ain't exactly full of SIZZLES (93D: Is hot, hot, hot). Lots of proper names - I won't list them all - I don't love ALLEGER (79D: Plaintiff, e.g.) or RESAVE (60A: Back up, as a backup), and ALEKEG (15D: Bass drum?) was a bit of a stretch. A keg of ale. Bass ale. Hmmm...

On the other side of the scales we put SOIR (67D: Nuit lead-in) and DEER (77A: They're game) which are nicely clued, and RAKISH (16D: Debonair) which is nice all-around. 58D: Arriviste (UPSTART) and DEIGNED (120A: Condescended) are nice, too. Overall, I guess it was pretty good.

And finally, we just witnessed Peyton Manning's 509th touchdown pass, which is the most any football player has thrown to date. In case you missed it, there was a really nice graph in the NYT today. If the link still works, you can see it here.

Now, back to the game!

- Horace

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014, Evan Birnholz


Mr. Birnholz, you had me at CROTCH (9A: Pants part).

I got precious little on my first pass through this thing, but I handed it over to Frannie, who had just finished her breakfast and was to shortly head out for her annual shopping spree, and she used her limited time to fill in a healthy amount of material. And after that, we worked together to finish it off.

Lots of very nice fill today. PSYCHOPATH (23A: The Joker, e.g.), DIRTYHARRY (45A: Scorpio hunter of film), KICKSTARTER (5D: Modern kind of campaign) (is "kind of" necessary here?), AUTOCORRECT (25D: Aid for clumsy thumbs), ONTIPTOE (37D: Walking very quietly, say), TRUTHINESS (12D: Subject of "The Word" on the first episode of "The Colbert Report"), COHERED (40D: Stuck), ASTUTE (18A: Sharp)... there's tons of good stuff! Also, when we were in Talant, France this summer, we met a British guy who brought one of the COOPERS (38A: Classic British cars that pioneered in rear engines) with him to race, and Frannie almost convinced him to let her take it for a spin!

Of course, if you're going to have a lot of good fill, it seems you frequently will have things like RAS (10D: "Batman" villain _____ al Ghul) (Whaaa??), STINGO (38A: Strong ale, in British lingo) (umm... ok), SOLER (36D: Cobbler, at times), and my old non-favorite ROLEO (48A: Competition where the last one standing wins). Someday, I suppose, by some terrible misfortune, I will probably attend a ROLEO, and then maybe I'll change my tune, but for now, no.

We enjoyed it, but we don't have much power on the iPad, and Huygens is chary with his hotspot service, so this ends now.

- Horace

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014, Michael Ashley


As a person who refuses to admit that George Clooney, both as a real person and as fictional characters, has eyes for anyone but me, 55D. Danny Ocean's ex-wife in Ocean's Eleven (TESS) is not only way out of my wheelhouse, but unguessable, as were many other clues in this puzzle. Lucky for you all, it wasn't down only to me. Horace did the bulk of the puzzle. I glanced over drowsily from time to time and made a few suggestions, but Horace, gifted though he is, can't drive and write a puzzle review at the same time, so the review falls to my lot tonight. Here are a few others I didn't know:

10A. "The Waltons' co-star Ralph (WAITE) [wait, wait, DO tell me - ed. ]
57A: "V for Vendetta" writer (ALANMOORE) [good movie, btw - ed.]
62A. Lead character in seasons 1-3 of "Homeland" (BRODY) [ahh, Adrien - ed.]

Along with the above mentioned clues that demonstrated the vacuum in my acumen, this OLIO (51D. Potpourri) [French for rotten pot - ed.] also contained some nice items. The one that most captured my heart was 32D. Player motivator (RAH). The singular, stand-alone form of this cheer seems to embody its opposite. 6D. Things dealt with in passing? (ESTATES) was also clever. And who doesn't like a reference to IAMAMERICA [and so can you? -ed. ]? No one doesn't. :)

I know it is customary in these pages to call out poor quality fill, but you all know which ones those are, right? Let's end on a lighter, happier note and picture "Magnum, PI" in a LEI (5D.)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014, John Farmer


Yesterday we were cutting out a part of the words, now we're collapsing the words. I didn't notice that the letters that collapsed, or are REPEATed, as the revealer would have it, are themselves words. I guess that is a little more interesting, but I hardly think it was necessary. Let's see, PIE, LET, SHE, DON, and PAL… hmmm… I don't think there's anything more there. Still, I enjoyed the playfulness of today and yesterday, even if they were a bit on the easy side.

The longer downs were nice again today, too, with CORNUCOPIA (28D: Abundant supply) (it's almost Thanksgiving!), and the rare TRIPLEPLAY (17D: Ultimate rally-killer). I suppose you could have a no-out rally, but is it really called a rally at that point? Well, maybe if it's late in the game, I suppose it could be… AMTRAK (4D: Pacific Surfliner operator) is nice, and makes me think of my Dad, who loves riding AMTRAK. And BUOYUP (47D: Bolster) is pretty good, too. It also makes me want to dream up a scenario where I could say that someone could "man up" to "buoy up" a situation. Heh.

Not too much trash today - maybe DEREG, NEBS, and DIORS are a bit MESSY (30D: Convoluted), but they're not terribly egregious. And I don't necessarily think of a FRAPPE as a 38A: Chilled coffee drink, but then again, I don't drink many chilled coffee drinks, so what do I know?

Loved the clue for RBI (50A: What you get for bringing someone home), and 31A: Fall guy's partner? (EVE) was also cute. LAPD (26D: Hollywood force, in brief) was also good - Frannie got that one as she looked over my shoulder. Never heard of ADA (67A: Computer language named for Lord Byron's daughter), but I might now look into it.

Not fantastic, but not bad.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014, David Poole


What ho? A puzzle with a trick on Wednesday?! Today we are asked to "chuck 'berry'" in all the theme answers except the revealer, which is, of course, CHUCKBERRY (56A: One of the original Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, whose name is a hint to the answers to the four starred clues). Cute, and how can you argue with Chuck Berry?

I actually finished with one error (FWOE), and spent almost two full minutes looking for it! I had entered "IdLE" at 55A: Man or Mull, perhaps thinking of Eric Idle as a man, and that to mull might mean that you were idle. Sue me. I didn't find it until I went through the downs, and "AIRdEA" didn't make as much sense as AIRSEA for 44D: Like some rescues. Oh well. That's what I get for trying to blaze through these things.

My own shortcomings aside, I think this was a heck of a Wednesday grid. EARLGREY (37D: Tea choice for TV's Frasier Crane) (and a certain starship captain), DECLAWED (10D: Rendered harmless, in a way) (not recommended for house cats), ASCRIBES (3D: Attributes), and ANODYNE (42D: Pain reliever) are just some of the nice answers. Sure, we see familiar entries like Mr. RUBIK (27A: Cube creator), the RHINE (23A: Swiss/Austrian border river), ELOI (18A: "The Time Machine" vegetarians), and ETON (29D: View from Windsor Castle), but we learn a little about those last three, at least. Who knew the famous Eloi were vegetarians? and who knew Eton was right there next to Windsor Castle? Well… probably many, many people, but not me.

Other things I didn't know were the names KONRAD (8D: German chancellor Adenauer), SCHIRRA (1D: Astronaut Wally, the first person to go into space three times), and BEN (39A: ____ Savage, player of the boy on "Boy Meets World"), but they didn't slow me down much, nor did they take much away from my enjoyment.

Cute crossing animal clues for BOA (31A: It can take your breath away) and MEOW (24D: Request for milk, maybe). Also, today I learned what a BOLERO jacket is, and the word hallux. I suppose our resident former resident knew that second one already… and, quite possibly, the first.

I like the theme, I like much of the fill, and I like the puzzle. That is all.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Adam G. Perl


A solid Tuesday. Solid-looking, too, what with all those fives stacked together, and a few long answers tying things together. The theme is one I enjoy - a common expression given a new definition. Mundane PLOTPOINTS become "36A: What mathematicians do?" … ok, that's still mundane, but it's hard to tart up math, isn't it? How about HANDLEBARS becoming "42A: What bouncers do?" That's a little better. You've got bikes, which are great, and bars, which can also be good.

Let's move on. My favorite entry might be HITTHEROOF (32D: Go ballistic), because it reminds me of my sister, who likes to warn of that happening. VANNA (35D: Woman who has a way with words?) had me stumped for way too long, as did LAVA (38A: Slow flow), so that area was the last to get finished. Can you blame me, though? Lava doesn't always flow slowly, but I know they're thinking of the oozing that you always see in those nature documentaries, not the fast-acting killing machine that results from a violent explosion.

And speaking of lava, there's some stuff I wouldn't mind throwing into a volcano, like IWO, AMAIN, NITRE, and ALERO. There's some ancient stuff, too, like BRENDA (52A: Starr of old comics) (Remember Basil St. John and his black orchids? No? I'm not surprised…), ALVA, BENJI, LARA, and TELEX. Still, though, I enjoyed this on the whole. Maybe it was the theme, maybe it was things like SMUSH (47A: Squeeze, informally), maybe it's just that I don't have very high standards for a Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014, Greg Johnson


This Monday puzzle was more difficult than usual, and a bit meatier, too, with six stacks of seven-letter answers. There's a game in the middle of each stack, one more in the middle, and a revealer running vertically through the center game. Kind of elegant, really.

And in spite of all that theme action, the fill is pretty good. There's 18 or so three-letter answers, so you're bound to get some ESE, LTR, ILS, HAN, DOS, and TRI, and who's heard of PANAY (9D: Philippine island in W.W. II fighting), raise your hand? Not me, that's for sure. Other than that, though, you've got a lot of interesting entries, so I think it ends up with more good than bad.

A few highlights: SPACELY (8A: ____ Sprockets, George Jetson's employer) (I needed a few crosses), PORSCHE (1A: German auto whose logo depicts a rearing horse) (If they had just gone with "European auto" I bet a lot of people would have tried "Ferrari."), and HEROICS (59A: Brave deeds).

Not tremendous, but certainly a fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014, Pawel Fludzinski


A good ol' rebus puzzle - in the old sense of the word. We used to love doing those "wacky wordy" puzzles in Games Magazine, and elsewhere. And today's theme renders a bunch of old saws visually, as in HANDGOTOHELLBASKET (97A: Deteriorate rapidly), and ROUNDSQUAREPEGHOLE (37D: Misfit). Not bad at all.

I know we all like to OBSESS about our travels, so let's just get this out of the way immediately - Frannie and I drove along the "Côte d'Opale" from CALAIS (14A: French port just up the coast from Boulogne) to Boulogne-sur-mer this past summer, and never was it just referred to as "Boulogne." Always, on every sign, it had the specifier added on. So, needless to say, it did not come as quickly as it might have.

But really, that's not a big deal. I mostly just wanted to talk about our trip.

This was a fine puzzle. I liked MTEVEREST (48A: Locale that made Hillary famous) (thought only of Mrs. Clinton for a long time), CLOTHES (91D: Gaps are filled with them) (Nice hidden capital!), EARP (46D: Tombstone figure) (Ditto.), and FATCHANCE (89A: "I wouldn't bet on it!"). Frannie enjoyed AMY (9D: Girl's name that becomes a different girl's name if you switch the first two letters) and the o-so-clever 85D: Third person masculine? (ABEL). I particularly enjoyed NERF (69D: Gun brand not endorsed by the 111-Down). Hah! And what about CHUG (82D: When repeated, party cry)? That's funny! And REF (81A: Game warden?), and ARGO (58A: First steamship with a planned circumnavigation of the globe)… and 92A: Top of the Eiffel Tower? (BERET)?! Nice.

There's plenty of good stuff in here, and it's appropriate, perhaps, that this should have the old-fashioned-feeling (at least to us, but remember, it's in a good way) theme, because the whole puzzle brought me back to a time when I used to enjoy doing these larger grids with the funny themes. Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf. Perhaps I'll stop being such a curmudgeon and a themeless snob…

We'll see. If all the Sundays from now on are this good, I just might.

- Horace

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014, Evans Clinchy


Some nice stacks of eleven and a central fifteen give the grid some decent chunkiness, and there were some fun clues like 49A: Manhattan architect? (BARTENDER), 36A: Get rid of jerks? (GREASETHEWHEELS), and 25A: Group of very small stars? (DLIST). We also enjoyed ACME (24D: Cartoon supplier), HAYS (4D: Makes bale?), and BASS (30D: Deep end?). 18A: Burmese greeting (MEW) is cute, and Frannie liked DIVA (50D: Many an exploding star) quite a bit.

On the other hand, we had difficulty understanding 60A: Millions of people swipe them (SMARTPHONES). Does that reference the act of finger-swiping through the start-up screen? Hmmm… maybe. As some of you might know, neither of us owns a smartphone, but we do have iPads, and you do have to swipe through the opening screen on those, so maybe. Frannie greatly disliked the clue for BABYSITTERS (17A: Ones in praise of angels?), but I think it's actually not bad. One that I didn't love was TEAKS (44D: Some desk materials). Is teak really used much for desks? How about deck furniture instead? And isn't teak kind of anti-environmental these days?

We've got AGHA and EMIR, and ESTEEMING and MATURATES are a little much. TRAVE (2D: Architectural crossbeam) was unknown, and WEBER (3D: 100,000,000 maxwells) was a guess (a third of our time was spent in the NW), but I did remember KIP (48A: Laotian money) from a few days ago. It's the same as the Dutch word for chicken. I'm kind of happy that neither of us knew FROGMARCH (32D: Force to walk with arms pinned behind), actually.

It's a mixed bag today, but I feel there was slightly more good than bad. I'll give it a thumbs up overall.

Favorite clue 23A: Game of pure chance (WAR). It's funny if you think of actual war. Funny and not funny.

- Horace

p.s. People shouldn't keep turtles in TERRARIUMS, or anywhere. Just let them be.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014, David Steinberg


A very nice Friday grid from Mr. Steinberg. He's used a Z shape before, and I was a little worried at first that the one-square channels between sections would make for difficult transitions, but it didn't work out that way at all.

Only four three-letter answers today, three of which are quite nice! AVE (40D: Hail and farewell) (everybody loves Latin!), ENG (25A: Bath site: Abbr.) (tricky!), and ADA (6D: Org. concerned with bridges and canals) (great clue for a common entry). The other one, well… let's put it in the same group with ENISLE (9D: Strand, in a way), and ROMNEY (16D: Presidential candidate who wrote "No Apology") (personally, I'd like one). But seriously, "Romney" is perfectly fine. He votes in my precinct, after all!

Aside from those few entries, however - ok, and maybe PANTY (13A: Raid target) it's a cute clue, but it just seems wrong - there's not much to complain about. My favorite clue might be 38A: Olympian's first name that sounds like another Olympian's name (APOLO). It's so obvious, but, like CHROME (32D: 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California ____), it took me a couple crosses to get it.

Enjoyed TROUSSEAU (14A: Something a bride brings to a marriage), TROUPE (14D: Play group), CHOCULA (20A: Count at the breakfast table) (I always preferred Boo Berry or Frankenberry myself), CHARTED (32A: Was a hit, say), WARRIOR (36A: Mars, notably), COMET (41A: Cupid's teammate), OVERALLS (42A: Ranch dressing?) (excellent), BARCELONA (39A: Site of the largest sports arena in Europe), and FREEWAY (1A: Major artery) (actually tried "carotid," briefly, which fit!). That's a lot of good material, and really, it's not all of it! There's the lovely "CH" cluster in the middle too. It's a little thing that's obviously just done for the fun of it, because it can be done. Mr. Steinberg is an interesting constructor. He is looking beyond the mere fact of filling the grid. I feel that even in the short time I've been doing his puzzles I've gained a better appreciation for his work, and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future. I feel he is capable of great things.

Frannie liked the grid mostly because she got to work on it, but she also enjoyed MACRO (35D: Certain shortcut) and REINHOLD (27D: Judge of movies), both of which were key to breaking the SE.

It's a solid Friday puzzle, and there's probably more to say, but we've had plenty of CHIANTI already, so we'll cut this off now and see you tomorrow.

- Horace

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014, Joel Fagliano


A notice appears, when solving today's crossword in the iPad App, warning that certain elements of the puzzle cannot be reproduced in Across Lite. We are instructed to use the PDF, or one of the other electronic versions. I am not using Across Lite, but I could not understand what elements of this puzzle could not be reproduced, so, perhaps still stinging a bit from missing yesterday's lovely touch, I went and looked at The Crossword Fiend to see if I missed something again today. Reader, I did, but it cannot be blamed on my ignorance this time. In the print version, apparently, there were no "Down" or "Across" indications, so that the first clue "Corn or Cotton" was just given a "1," and it was up to you to decide whether it was across or down. On the iPad, the clue was given for 1A, and 1D had a "-." That first clue should probably have given it away, as it seems unlikely that one of the two would be simply unclued, but, well… maybe I just had it easy with that "-." As it happened, it was 15: Homer Simpson's workplace (POWER/PLANT) that gave it away for me, then I quickly went back and filled in CASH/CROP for 1. It was a cute theme, and well executed, but man, it unravelled pretty quickly once I caught on to the "two-way" thing.

Plenty of enjoyable stuff in the fill - YOLK (35A: White's counterpart), SKINNYDIP (63A: Be unsuited?), RAKE (67A: Be a fall guy?), and OEDS (43A: Meaningful sets, for short?). Sets full of meanings. HA! I've been writing a few haiku recently, so 52D: "An old silent pond / A frog jumps into the pond / Splash! Silence again," e.g. (HAIKU) was nice. And I like the name ARAPAHO (58A: Buffalo hunters, once).

There was nothing much that was objectionable, and there was a lot of theme material. Quite a nice grid, really. Just went maybe a tad quick for a Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen


Five (!) vertical fifteens shred the grid, leaving, in one reviewer's opinion, somewhat strange-looking black blocks that also run vertically. Maybe there should be more vertical themes, but they are like vertical photographs, I guess, which is to say, less common than horizontal ones.

MANIFESTDESTINY (3D: Expansionist doctrine) went right in, probably because it took me so long to understand that term in History class, which resulted in me really understanding it. I also thought immediately of THRILLAINMANILA (9D: Big 1975 boxing showdown), because I'm old and I have brothers who watched boxing, but I thought of it with the "The," as I always do, so it took a cross or two before I figured that one out. I am not familiar with THEDESCENTOFMAN (11D: Darwin work … with a hint to three consecutive letters in 3-, 4-, 7-, 9- and 11- down), but it wasn't too hard to figure out.

I don't particularly love the clue "14A: Knock silly" for DAZE, nor with "19A: Honest with" for TRUETO, but, well… what am I gonna do? I chuckled momentarily at CAB (38A: One with a checkered existence?) and UMP (52A: Official with a whisk broom, for short) (is it really a broom or a brush?), groaned at AND (43A: First-goal link), and enjoyed the three two-word sentence INONIT (45A: Privy to a practical joke, say). There's some deep Simpsons trivia in MONA (37A: Homer Simpson's mother) (I needed crosses for this!), and deep Native American trivia with 50A: Onetime tribe of the Upper Midwest (SAC) (ditto).

Lots of the usual stuff in here, and some of the not-so-usual-but-it's-really-better-that-way stuff (EZINE, ANTIS, ATRIA…), but, well, I don't know… it's Wednesday, I guess.

- Horace

p.s. After I write the blog, I often go see what Amy Reynaldo thought of the puzzle, and she points out that the letters "MAN" not only appear in every theme answer, but move progressively (descend) lower and lower, which is a really nice touch. Still, the density of theme material, and the added bonus theme element, really compromise the rest of the fill. Is it worth it? Again, it's Wednesday, so maybe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014, Matt Skoczen and Victor Fleming


It is perhaps appropriate that I should have completed this at around midnight last night after a few drinks, no? It's a grid full of one "Oktoberfest exclamation," or TOAST after another, like SALUD, LCHAIM and CHEERS. Nice enough.

The rafts of small stuff bothered me a little more today than they did yesterday: UNE, DER, AAR, NCO, LAS, TEL, INA, NIA, STA, etc. On the other hand, the longer stuff was decent - GROWTHS (3D: Warts and such) (nice enough fill, gross clue), PELLETS (48D: Some rabbit food), ASPHALT (46D: Paver's supply), SAUCY (9D: Impertinent) (ok, not that long, but I liked it), and STANDOUTS (35D: All-stars) were all nice enough.

I kind of like how KEYEDUP (24A: Amped) is symmetrical with GOESMAD (50A: Loses one's grip?), but maybe that's reaching a bit for something to say. So instead of trying to reconstruct my mindset while doing this, I'll go further back to a class I was in last night where the word "monger" came up, as in "war monger." Now, I usually say this (and hear it) with a hard G sound, but the person talking used a soft G, as the second one in "ginger." He claimed he did not know of a rule in English which determined which was right. Frannie and I later talked it over, of course, and came up with other words where an O precedes the NG, like "longer" and "stronger," where the G is definitely hard. We haven't yet done any research into it to see if there actually is a published "rule," but 15-Across today, "Fisher with a pot" (EELER), made me think of it again, because that obviously conjures up the word "conger" (see what I did there?), and honestly, I don't know if that has the hard G or not. Anyone? Little help?

- Horace

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014, Robyn Weintraub


It's fall in New England, and we're all missin' the warmth of summer, but at least we don't have to be carryin' on without a good Monday puzzle!

This was a fun one. It started out a little blah up in the NW with BSA (1A: Org. with merit badges) and OAS (13A: Western Hemisphere treaty grp.), and maybe you could throw OBOE, OTERI, and ESSEN into the "been there, done that" pile, but it opens up well with SINGININTHERAIN (24A: Title hit of a 1952 Gene Kelly musical). Coincidentally, I just watched "An American in Paris" for the first time this past weekend. (Frannie has, who watched old movies a lot with her dad when she was younger, has seen it many times.) I don't want to give anythin' away, but that lead character was pretty light on his feet. Seriously. He just floats around, doin' whatever he wants!

So anyway, where was I? The four nine-letter downs are all lovely. HERCULEAN (30D: Almost impossible, as a task) might be my favorite, but they're all nice. And little, unusual fill is all over the place - MORPHS, PROPEL, GIMLET, RAMPARTTROVE, BALMY… well, maybe not all over the place, but certainly those NE and SW corners are full of great stuff. AROAR (10D: Loud, as a crowd) kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, but it's not that bad, I guess. It makes me think of Al Michaels, for some reason. Can't you just hear him sayin' that "the crowd is aroar" at some football stadium? (I feel like I've said this exact thing before...)

A propos of nothin', when is IMA (68A: "____ changed man!") goin' to be clued with "____ let you finish…"?

But back to the theme - I notice that the first and last, and the two middle theme answers are related. The outer ones deal with breakups, and the inner ones are famous dance numbers! And the revealer is one of the funniest and cleverest I can remember in recent weeks - MISSING (38D: Lost … or, in two words, an apt description of 17-, 24-, 47-, and 59-Across).

Lovely Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday, October 5, 2014, Samuel A. Donaldson


I did the lion's share of the puzzle today, so Horace decided to palm the review off on me. I wood have written it sooner, but I branched off into other activities. Now, it's time to get on board.

The general impression I have is that overall, it was a fine puzzle. The falling trees didn't trip me up much, but I don't love the dangling bits covered by the dashed clues that read like junk (RMARY and HING, for example). But, I suppose the constructor's attitude was, "let the chips fall where they may!"

The clue that gave away the gimmick for me was 27A. Lucy Ricardo's friend (ETH/ELM/ERTZ). The rest was ASEASYASABC (24A. Very simple). My favorite one was 58A. Cavorted (PRAN/CEDAR/OUND). Horace and I were just saying to each other last night that one doesn't see quite as much prancing as one used to.

We learned a lot about word origins from 2D. Source of the words "mamba" and "chimpanzee" (BANTU) and 30A. Source of the word "mantra" (SANSKRIT). That should help the CSTUDENTS (70A. They're around 2.0) next time they are ASSESSED (109A. Sized up). There's a nice bit o' British slang in 'ere, too, for all us logophiles.

I'm going to guess that Huygens was all over 74A. Shortest Old Testament book (OBADIAH), as that's right in his tree house, so to speak. Funny that he's so knowledgeable about the Good Book AND a fan of  RISQUE material (4A. Suggestive). Other fill he might have enjoyed today 53D. Beach tops (BRAS), although the clue and answer seem a little mismatched to me, but what do I know, I'm just one woman? And 66a. Lathering (SOAPING), which also fits nicely with his love of cleanliness. Hey, that's next to Godliness, right?

OK, you're probably looking for more synthesis, but I've got to make like a tree and leaf!


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014, Julian Lim


It's finally time to call out Julian Lim as one of our favorite constructors. He's been a bit of a sleeper in this blog, I think, but today I looked back at our past reviews of his puzzles (there have been several Saturdays), and he has been consistently praised. Today will be no different.

Starting off with BROMANCE (1A: Two-man band?) and RIBALD (9A: Blush-inducing) is a great way to get on our good side. The clue for 1A is excellent, but I imagine there was some debate about whether or not having "man" in the clue was too much of a visual doubling of the answer. I think it was actually all we had in that spot at one point, though, and it still took one more cross before it was filled in. Oh, come to think of it, we had "last" for 1D: Like some straws (BENT) for a little while too, which didn't help.

MARIONETTE (31A: One being strung along?) is excellent fill with an excellent clue. GOTORACKANDRUIN (35A: Decline dramatically) is lovely. DERNIERCRI (29D: Newest fashion) and AGNI (30A: Lambs, to Lucius) are some next-level language fill, and DURIANS (20D: Southeast Asian fruits with large, thick spines) was fun, and it went right in thanks to my brother who is now living in Singapore, and who has willed himself (I believe) into actually enjoying the "aromatic" fruit.

Good stuff is everywhere. MATRIARCH (31D: Mother superior?), VACUITY (27D: Empty-headedness), RELIGIONS (9D: Service providers?), DIETCOKE (54A: Mixer for losers?) (hilarious!) … even lowly abbreviations are made interesting, like TUES (32D: It's named for a Scand. god of battle) and OSHA (3D: Org. that, when spelled backward, is an old-timey exclamation) (!). "Old-timey," … ok, Julian...

I'm not totally crazy about ABOUTTURNS (37A: 180s), IDY, or RIAA, but those are a small price to pay for a puzzle this enjoyable and this solid. Excellent work.

- Horace