Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018, Josh Radnor and Jeff Chen


What a weird-looking grid today! The middle section seems isolated from the north and south swaths of white, but the flow was not really all that bad for me. And that start of the puzzle was outstanding, with the triple stack of 8-letter answers.

So Mr. Radnor, who I recognize barely when I Google his name and see his picture, has crafted a winner of a celebrity puzzle, with Mr. Chen's expert help. I really love the revealer, which definitely wins for best revealer of the week so far (perhaps the previous two days set the bar a bit low, I admit). 50A: Calculated ... or a punny hint to 18-, 24-, 32- and 44-Across (PREMEDITATED) is a lovely way to reveal why OM- was added to each of the theme answers. I didn't need "punny" in the clue, however.

Meanwhile, the theme answers are pretty good. My favorite is 44A: Makes an unabridged humor book? (OMITSNOJOKE). It takes a definitely recognizable standard phrase ("it's no joke"), completely reworks it by adding the OM-, and then has a truly wacky clue. The idea of an immense book of jokes that leaves not a single one out is chuckle-worthy.

The others aren't quite as good, although I'm impressed by finding so many ways of using the OM- starter, particularly OMALLEYRATS, with the unexpressed apostrophe.

Meanwhile there is so much lovely stuff in the fill. I had a good feeling with 1A: Not seen by the theater audience (OFFSTAGE), perhaps a nod to Mr. Radnor's day job. But then to include the Ferris Bueller reference with DRONESON, and the fine clue at 16A: Women rush to get into it (SORORITY) was fine stuff.

I'm not convinced by OCTOPOD, but we ended with a nice reminder of things we hope to see on Sunday with TDPASSES. Oh, and 38D: It has no point (INTEGER) is going on the list of best clues of 2018.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018, Emily Carroll


Certainly today's revealer answer is more appealing to the esthetic senses than yesterday's. Even if it brings to mind specific activities that take place at the less appealing end of your pet dog. But taken literally, HOUSEBROKEN refers to the fact that four kinds of houses are split in pieces across different answers. I find it interesting that they change levels as well. For DUP / LEX, that makes the most literal sense. For RAN / CH it makes no sense at all. I suppose an AF / RAME and a CHAL / ET could go either way.

The things I liked about this puzzle include the two long down answers. 3D: Growing problem in cities? (URBANSPRAWL) adds a decent clue. 27D: Subject of some September sports reporting (PENNANTRACE) is a bit of a tortured clue. I also really enjoyed the clue at 5A: Like the Llwynywermod royal estate (WELSH). It could be nothing else. And I challenge you to pronounce it correctly.

I can see how all those circled letters probably constrained the grid. Ms. Carroll has done an excellent job in segregating these sections of words by all of the diagonal black squares. It also makes for a bisected puzzle, which is never high on my list of things that I am fond of.

Meanwhile, my heavily penciled corrections show a slew of errors. Somehow I spelled AMNOT as AMNOn. I wanted ADmEn for ADREP, which in retrospect ignores that the clue specifies an individual, not several individuals.  I wanted GOTyou for GOTCHA and spYHOLE for KEYHOLE. And that about explains the longer time than expected for a Tuesday.

In the end, I didn't love it, but it's definitely interesting.

- Colum

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018, Lynn Lempel


What an excellent Monday! I've been trying to be more positive in my approach to reviewing, especially in light of others in the NYT Xword blogosphere, and also in response to my sunnier co-reviewers. But today it wasn't really a stretch.

The theme is fun, outside of the negative connotations of the revealer at 62A: Diminish the work force ... or a literal hint to the answers to the four starred clues (DOWNSIZE). I like that the answers progress along the standard list of sizes of S-M-L-... uh, J? Well, I guess XL wouldn't have worked, and once you open that can of worms, in modern day America, you'd have to include XXL and XXXL, I imagine.

I also enjoyed that the sizes themselves move downward from top to bottom in their respective answers: thus SMALLWORLD has "small" at the top, while MUMBOJUMBO has its size at the bottom, with the other two in between.

Meanwhile, you find REDDIWIP and LASSI in the fill, two things that don't really do much to fill you up, in my experience. There's a NAUTICAL ADMIRAL, and Hedy LAMARR ("That's Hedley!").

MINGLER is not a great answer, and ESSES always feels a little desperate. But otherwise I have little to complain about. I appreciated having MODELUN and WEBMD on a Monday. A little tougher than usual!

- Colum

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018, Priscilla Clark and Jeff Chen

Surprise Endings

Fun theme today, and one that aptly describes both the theme answers in the puzzle, and today's review. I'll write the beginning of the review, and then our esteemed colleague, Mr. Amory, will takes over and who knows what he'll write. Something for us to look forward to. For once. :)

Today's theme clues summarize movie plots and then offer a twist on the endings. The answers are the corresponding movie titles with the last letter changed to match the plot twist (which is what, aptly, the circled letters spell out. Aptly!) My two favorites are LICENSETOKILT and ABOUTABOT. TAXIDRIVEL is nice, too, and we've all been there. NOLIE.

Regular readers may not be surprised to hear that I enjoyed the north east corner with AIME crossing AMOUR and with a Spanish TILDE thrown in to accent the foreign language mini theme. I also enjoyed the shout out to the old school Boston area word for soda pop, tonic.


The plural OJS for Tropicanan products isn't ACES, but nothing to open a VEIN about. It took me a long time to figure out the clue "Bon" time (SOIR), but I console myself with the thought that it's a weird clue.  :)


What, it's already time for me to start blogging again? I didn't sign up for this. Oh, wait, yes I did.

No worries. I'm back from a week in sunny Los Angeles (work-related though), so what better to do than write some paragraphs on the puzzle? At first I didn't love this theme, until I picked up on the meta aspect. See, the changed letters spell out PLOTTWIST. That's fun! TAXIDRIVEL was my favorite theme answer.

My favorite non-theme answer was:

Let's have a fun week!

- Colum

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018, Mark Diehl


My time is nothing to CROW about, but at least I completed the JOB today, which cheered me up after yesterday's DNF fiasco. For me, the solve alternated between AHH (That's the spot) and WIDE (Hard to get around, say). MIDMARCH, MARIECURIE, and MOZART made the north west go like a hot knife through butter, while JANEANE and ERRATAPAGE quickly broke open the south east for me. But it was LATE before I could populate the diagonal swathe running from the bottom left to the top right. Problem areas for me included HEME (Deep red pigment), TRASHMOUTH (One spewing obscenities), and CLAMJUICE (Ingredient in a Caesar cocktail - I was sorry to learn about that. Ignorance was bliss!) I also had way too much trouble with "Word with mother or sharp" (TONGUE). That one took me forever, but it shouldn't have. I felt like  a real POMACE when I finally figured it out.

In the south west, I got nowhere fast thanks to Native of Thimphu (BHUTANI). "Tied up, in the operating room' (LIGATED) was another no know for me. And, also, ick.

I enjoyed Space race? (ALIENS) and its companion EARTHLINGS. I thought Side with? was a great clue for ABUT, even though it gave me a lot of trouble. "Hellenic character" was a nice clue, especially as there are six possible Greek letters that fit. I enjoyed BEERGUT and UMLAUTS (the rock variety in this case), and TEMPEH, although I prefer its relative, Tofu). I was surprised by the clue, "Coconuts, to a maroon on an island, maybe" (STEADYDIET). I didn't think anyone but Bugs Bunny could use maroon as a noun.

DINGER reminds me of the excellent Simpsons episode where Bart discovers that Major League Baseball is spying on everyone. When Bart asks Mark McGwire why, he replies, "do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?"

The puzzle contained a number of words I've never encountered before including HEME, POMACE, and PAWL, while at the same time duplicating an entry from Thursday's puzzle, causing me to wonder, is SITBY the new eel?

I thought D.C body (CONG) was weak, and  I wasn't  less keen on THINKYOUNG as the answer to "Be open-minded, maybe." I am going to respectfully disagree with Mr. Diehl on this one. In my experience, open mindedness isn't  a function of age. There, I said it.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018, Caleb Madison


I ran out of time today. I had to get some answers from Horace so I could finish the puzzle and get the review out before the clock strikes midnight. I'm not sure I could have finished even if I had more time. Mr. Madison and I do not appear to be on the same clue/answer wavelength. I was able to fill in the bottom half of the grid, but on the way to the top, my ability to figure out the answers MAKESAUTURN - and not in a good way. I didn't  know TORTA, NYRANGERS, EROS, CARRERE, or LORDE in the north east. I should have been able to get SPLIT and SITINON (among others) but I had tried so  many different guesses up there that I had some wrong letters stranded in the grid and wrong-headed notions stuck in my mind. In the north west, it was KARATEKID, ANION, and AKON for the block.


Sharp-looking footwear (STILETTOS) was nice, likewise "Act without originality" for COVERBAND, but generally speaking, I found the clues in this puzzle less apt than I like. In particular, I didn't like "Dead" for INANIMATE or "Sloppy planting job?" for WETKISS. And, I might clue both KIDDO and REUNE as WORDVOMIT.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018, Alex Eaton-Salners


Today, we go ISLANDHOPPING (Yachter's itinerary, maybe, or a hint to understanding the answers to the starred clues) and boy am I pooped. Ha. The revealer is encircled by four theme answers, each harboring an island within it that has to be "hopped" to connect the beginning and end of the answer word. My favorite was S/CUBA/TANK (CUBA/STANK) (Smelled). I couldn't help but think of Hoobastank, a band, I read on the Wikipedia, that initially signed with Island Records. Quelle coincidence! Of the other three island visits, I stayed the longest on CON/CRETE/S because it was surrounded on all sides by the unknown: to the north and south by OLINE and ORS and to the east and west by CANOEING and NOHO -  I knew this last one was some kind of HO, I just didn't know which direction to go with it. It didn't help that OLES and RAHS have been so drummed into me, that it took me a minute to figure out today's "Stadium sounds" (ROARS).

9D (Part of España) confused me briefly, too. I very much wanted something like estado, but that was incorrecto. TILDE was a nice twist. Likewise, I thought "Is from Issy?" (EST) was a nice twist, but that one didn't trick me. Other fun clues were Tiniest complaint (PEEP) and Ball boy? (DESI).

Interesting to learn about the book, "Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages." I wasn't aware of it, but I sure wish I had thought of that idea first.

We have another royal appearance today (WILLIAM), along with a relative of a royal (PIPPA). Horace and I have recently been enjoying "The Windors," a spoof of the current British Royal Family on The Netflix. The Pippa character is a hoot.

Durant and Love may be greats in the NBA, but KEVINS isn't great fill, and TEL (Hotel room feature: Abbr.) is weak, but really, that's all I have to complain about. I loved SADLOT, OHSNAP, EVILTWIN, BERTOLT, MONOCLE, INDENIAL, and SUAVE. And while there were a number of three-letter chestnuts (EDU, ANT, ONO, the aforementioned EST) most were enhanced with fun or interesting clues. Certainly not enough to end on a SOURNOTE.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018, Kathy Weinberg


Ms. Weinberg has at three long answers for today's theme by adding the letters AT to the ends of them. The added letters convert common things to less commons things described by funny clues. My favorite, for both clue and answer, is MAMMOTHCAVEAT (Big but?). Ha! HONEYCOMBAT (Fight between two lovers?) is also good.

The top corner kicks ASPS into even deeper dislike by pointing out that adding a "w" to the beginning turns it into another kind of menace - as if we needed another reason not to like asps. I had to take a second look at UPONE at 36A (Barely leading) in the grid before being able to parse it out. Same with ASAMI (Likewise) at 1D. You don't hear 'likewise' every day. I think it should make a come back.

Other fill that LEAPT off the page for me includes PRIMP, TRAMPLED, and EMBROILED. I also enjoyed the self-referential clue "Member of a crossword zoo?" (EMU) at 24A. And, interesting that "Bullies" and COWS are synonyms, one acting, the other acted upon.

We appear to be graced with a mini royal theme as well: SIRE, ORB, TIARA, and ASCOT.


If I were a DANE, I would say nej tak to AXIL. Likewise EUR.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Jim Hilger


I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Shortz knows that it's my week to write the puzzle reviews. Yesterday, we got APT as an answer, and today, Apt features in the clue for the theme revealer at 68A: "Apt word to follow each row of circled letters." From north to south, the circled letters give us wing, cheese, magazine, middle age, point, and bed, all of which could be, more or less, aptly followed by the word SPREAD. In fact, they are all pretty apt, but I think wing SPREAD is less apt than wing span. My aunt and uncle used to bring a cheese spread to holiday gatherings at my parents' house that was actually called Middle Age Spread. Apt!

Other nice entries were spread around the grid. I like OCTANE, TACT, VERGE, VALID, and SOSOON. You don't see ORANGERIND every day, well, that is, unless you juice your own OJ quotidianally. I liked TAKE AMEMO for several reasons, although I was sorry it couldn't appear as one long answer. I wonder how often one hears this request in today's offices. It brings to mind the song, "Take a letter, Maria," which came out in 1969. That's about the era I associate the activity with.

I think the clue for 51D, Deep sleeps (COMAS) should have added, "but not in a good way." Did anyone else try conSTANtinopLe instead of ISTANBUL at 56A? :)

There were a few entries I would not have OKED, given the opportunity. My least favorite, even if this is a Tuesday puzzle, is 8D, U-turn from SSW (NNE). Hmph. Other VALID, but on the VERGE of being a LOAD include REL, UVW, LOD, ITEN, GARS, OBOLI, SEM, and ITER. Just my OPEDS.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday, January 22, 2018, Paolo Pasco


A clever theme that really grew on me. Ha! Today's revealer, EROSION, was applied to five answers, chipping away, first to the left, then to the right, at the letters of the second word. We start solidly with EMMASTONE at 18A, and by 61A we are left with just a STANDINGO. Very handily done.

There were some other gems in this pile of squares. SCAMSSCROD, SCORN, and SNORTS are fun. It's nice that TANLINE lies right next to SPEEDOS. And while I liked the clue and answer pairs Jiffy and TRICE (39D) and Swirled and EDDIED (38D), I think faithful readers have probably already guessed my favorite clue today: "Like the name 'Robin Banks' for a criminal" APT! Genius. :)

I am also a big fan of ERNIE, clued today as "'Sesame Street' character long rumored to be Bert's lover." I checked out the rumor on Snopes, which, of course, debunks it. More entertainingly, while on the site, I found that there's a new rumor running around that Norway is changing its name to Shithole to show solidarity with African countries recently dissed by he-who-shall-not-be-named. Also not true.

If I'm honest, there were a couple of answers that may have elicited a reaction along the lines of IMEANCOMEON: Since when are AFTS "Times past noon, informally"? And MUTER is a bit much for less talkative. There, I said it.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018, Victor Barocas and Andy Kravis


Well, well, well, it's been an odd week of puzzles. Kind of a lackluster turn, and then a Sunday that I ended up liking rather a lot. Unusual.

54-Down (sort of)

I started this out racing right through the top, and as I was getting what I assumed would be the first few theme answers (the long Across answers), I was both unimpressed and confused. How did PLAYFORTIME (23A: Stall) or NOTSAFEFORWORK (33A: At risk of being offensive) relate to today's title, "Substitutes?" They didn't, that's how. And so I just kept solving. On the lower half, answers like TEMPORARYEMPLOYEE (73A: Seasonal cry (remember 43-Across)) referred back  to the top clues, but still it made no sense. Finally, I finished the puzzle by filling in TELECOMMUTE (111A: Not safe at home (remember 33-Across)), but I was thoroughly confused. I had parsed 95A as "Elizabeth: An Era," and I was pretty sure that wasn't in our Riverside Shakespeare, so I spent a little more time and finally realized that the first theme answer provided the key to understanding 95A. The clue "Play of Shakespeare" had substituted PLAYFORTIME, and I had to switch it back, giving "Time of Shakespeare" which was, of course, the Elizabethan Era. Aaaahhhh... it all makes sense now!

So, a pretty clever theme. And clean, too, as all the answers are standard, in-the-language material. And speaking of clean, Frannie and I talked it over a bit, and we agree that this is an exceptionally clean Sunday grid. Sure, you've got an occasional OATEN here and a PETGOAT there... you know, my dad's family had a goat when he was little. I guess it was kind of a pet, but they also got milk from it, so was it?

Some great clues today, one of which has already made it into our "Favorite Clues" post: 70A: It's said to cause a smile (CHEESE). Lovely. Also liked 49D: They're charged for rides (TESLAS). And I, for one, was happy not to see "irate" at 120A: Ticked off (ANGRY).

Well, it's Sunday (isn't it nice how NFLGAME runs right down the middle today?), and this is the day we switch off reviewers, so Frannie will take it from here...

Frannie here, ready to GOPRO.

One of my favorite clues, featuring everyone's favorite, the hidden capital, was Goofy drawing? (CEL). Ha! I liked the pair of "Enjoy some rays" clues, with and without the ? (SCUBA and BASKS).

I thought the puzzle had a lot of fun, less-frequently-seen-fill like ALOP, TWEE (the word, more than the attitude itself), CANARDS, JUT, TUBETOP, and the preferred form of BARRE. :) While solving, I got the impression that Mssrs. Barocas and Kravis are real FUNGIs.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018, Alex Vratsanos


Nice find at 1A: Blondie's maiden name in "Blondie" (BOOPADOOP). I am pretty sure my father (REL) would have known this off the clue, but he's always shied away from the NYT puzzles, preferring to stick with the dailies in his local paper. Dad still loves talking about the comics, and I think he's disappointed that I no longer read any of them, because I don't ever read the paper. When we were younger, he made up a quiz wherein he drew all the comic creator's signatures exactly as they appeared in the strip, and we had to pair them up with the strip names. I no longer remember if I got Chic Young, but I'm sure it was on there.

Thinking back on all this, I looked up "Blondie," to see how long ago it ceased production, but lo and behold, it's still going! Chic Young started it in 1930, and his son took over and is still going with it. I haven't read it in years (obviously), and I wonder if it's still as sexist as it ever was. Seems hard to believe, but one never knows. Lastly, the surname was taken from the song "I Wanna Be Loved By You," if that wasn't already obvious.

OK, enough on that. And on the very anniversary of the Women's March!


I like the shape of this puzzle. Is it a button? A Ritz cracker? A wheel? It doesn't matter, really.

One of my favorite entries today is MARIONETTES (13D: Howdy Doody and others). Not really a knock-out clue, but a very nice word. One of the better clues today was for BIGTICKETITEM (12A: One taking a lot of credit, maybe?), and 30D: Changers of locks (HAIRDYES) was also cute. I had HAIRcutS for quite a while.

There's a fair amount of mid-length glue today, like ODIST, SYNODAL, HELLENE, SALLOWED, and VSHAPES. And then we have names like ANSELMO and AMATO that feel like glue. At least to me.

The West was my favorite section, with YESMASTER (14D: Toadyish response), BOSTONCREAM (12D: Kind of pie that's actually a cake), and SISTERSOULJAH (10D: Hip-hop icon born Lisa Williamson). I was not familiar with her, but she seems great.

Overall, it was fine. Certainly more enjoyable than yesterday, but perhaps that's unfairly faint praise. I guess some of the clues just seemed a little too straightforward. 10A: Post something (SENDALETTER), 11D: Paper signed before filming begins (RELEASEWAIVER), and 20A: Mosaicist (TILER) were a little too PLAIN (25A: Hamburger order).

I did enjoy 28A: "Because I said so" is not one (REASON). Let's end on that.

- Horace

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018, David J. Kahn


This was a tough one for me, and I finished with a total mess in the NW corner. I had entered tIT for 32A: Small grouse (NIT), thinking of birds rather than complaints, and then ALLINONEPRINTER just would not scan for me. Added to my misery was my insistence on Neo-cOns at 19A (NOIR), and GRipBAR (?) at 1A: Help during the fall? (GRABBAR). In short, it was a real BEAR.

So I was stung by being beaten today, but honestly, I'm glad it still happens from time to time. Well... glad? I don't know, but maybe you know what I mean.

6-Down ASTER = "STAR" in Latin

So what about the hidden composer and listening device? When I saw the H I immediately thought of Haydn (sorry Handel fans!), but soon enough it became clear that they were looking for Beethoven, and earphones. Is it worth the giant H? Does the giant H make any sense? Not really. I would have preferred a mini-theme that actually had something to do with the letter. Kind of more like Bruce Haight's "I" puzzle that I disliked so much. :) (Sorry Bruce!) It's ok, though, we've talked it over, and I've come around at least a little on stunt puzzles. But here, the stunt just doesn't make any sense.

Elsewhere, I felt that 38A: Nap sack (COT) was a bit of a stretch. Sure, we say "hit the sack," so I suppose one could say that any bed-like thing is a "sack," but I don't think it really works like that, especially when there are such things as "sleep sacks" and sleeping bags. And "42A: Fluff" for ERROR? That's also a stretch. Not unfair, but tough. And Googling to find evidence of the SAAB slogan "The relentless pursuit of common sense" brings up only references to today's crossword, and one print ad with that line that also says "This is not an original SAAB advertisement, but it could be." Combine all that with EDATE, MEI Lan, and lots of other clueing that was steeply SLOPEd, and it makes for a kind of a slog solve. At least for me.

It's always a DELICATEBALANCE, I suppose, and you can't always please everyone. Hopefully, you liked it better than I did.

- Horace

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018, Ryan McCarty and Alan Southworth


A classic  what shall we call it? - subtraction theme today, where a word (or syllable) is left out of theme answers and clued wackily. Or, in three of the four cases today, not so wackily. 17A: Rooftop heist? (HIGHROBBERY) is the only funny one. The other three are straightforward almost to the point of absurdity. ONESTREET (46A: Della or Picabo?) is interesting only when one realizes that the original was "one-way street," and even then it's just kind of "well, ok, I see what you did there."

NOT 22-Across

My favorite clue today is 24A: Diamond club (BAT). So unexpected. And right beside it was another nice one - 28A: Dateless, say (ALONE). Whenever I hear "dateless" I am reminded of Sonnet 30, and "precious friends hid in death's dateless night." So that's good, right?

The eight-stacks in the SW and NE are nice, but they force rather a lot of TOV, ANO, DEN, ENE, and ERE. With those concessions we get STOCKADE, ANTERIOR, and PEASANTS, though, so maybe it's worth it?

On the whole I am not convinced. REVOTE, the oddly spelled (to me) TOOTSY, the redundant and unnatural CEMENTMASON... and then there's that "22A: Flowerless plants" clue.  See above.

- Horace

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018, Jules P. Markey


DOWNFEATHERS (11D: Warm winter coat contents ... or what is present in the answer to each starred clue?) is the revealer today, and it tells us that four feathered friends are to be found amid the very long down answers. WAYNEGRETZKY (25D: *Sports legend who was an M.V.P. for eight consecutive seasons) hides an egret, TELLMEANOTHERONE (7D: *"A likely story!") holds a heron, and so on. Quite nice, in my opinion.


We get some nice Classical references with STOA (6A: Site of Zeno's teaching) ("Athens" wouldn't fit!) and ERATO (28A: Lyrist of myth) (Good thing they didn't try to put "lyrist" in as an answer!). And lots of paired clues in "Solidify" (CLOT & SET), "One side of a debate" (CON & PRO), and "Sense" (INTUIT & FEEL). See also "Boatloads" (ABUNCH) and "Boatload" (TON).

It's funny to see RIPON (63A: Bad-mouth) in the grid with that clue, because as one word it is a college in Wisconsin that two of my cousins went to. I went to another Wisconsin school (and consequently knew OHARE (58D: Its symbol is ORD) off the clue), but I never had thought of RIPON as two words before.

Colum and I were just talking about the many ways to clue ATE (32A: Made a fast stop?), and I thought this was a particularly good one. And the excellent entry APOSTROPHE gets a classic self-referential clue "66A: Maker's mark?" Hah!

I have never liked the term DORAG, and LASE always seems a little crosswordy, but we were generally spared the LAMEST kind of crosswordese today. Plus, I like birds. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

0:05:56 (F.W.O.E.)

Cute theme. When I first started to consider what the revealer was revealing, and looked at 18A - SASSAFRAS, I thought it might be that swear words were actually hidden in the theme answers. But "ass," while it is a swear (of sorts), it is not actually a four-letter word, so I thought that couldn't be it. And indeed, it was not it. The type of FOURLETTERWORDS that they are talking about are those that only use four letters in the spelling. Unfortunately for me, LOLLIPOP (26A: What always deserves a good licking?) would use only four letters whether it were spelled with an I or a Y, as I originally tried. SENSEI, however, can't have a Y. I don't think.


Lots of colloquialisms in this puzzle: BADPR (6A: What a divorce may generate for a celeb), KTOWN (17A: Neighborhood where kimchi might be found, informally), ZEROG (11D: Weightless state, informally), FINITO (19D: Over and done), and SORTA (51D: "Ish") to name just five. And on the other hand we have such RECHERCHE words as COPSE (21D: Thicket), ASCOT (65A: English horse-racing venue) (tough clue for this on a Tuesday), and PITON (30D: Climber's spike). 

You know, when Frannie and I were kids, we somehow made it out of Spain with only three PESETAS between the two of us. And this was long before the age of "paying with your phone," or even ATMs! If we wanted any more money, we'd have needed to cash in a Traveller's Check. Remember those? Hah!

I enjoyed the puzzle. The theme answers were all good finds, and the fill was really quite clean. A little ROCHE here, a ZUMBA there, but nothing to utter any OATHs about.

- Horace

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018, Zouqin Burnikel and Agnes Davidson


I'm not sure what to think of this theme. It's appropriate for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but using Dr. King's famous words to "reveal" synonyms for "free" seems, to me, an unfortunate cheapening of the message. Oh, I know it's only a game, a puzzle, and there seems to be some larger question being asked today about whether words don't matter at all or whether they matter a great deal. Perhaps this puzzle is a representation of that very dichotomy. Or maybe I'm just overthinking this.

It's odd, too, because the words aren't hidden at all, they are just the last words of the phrases. I suppose that happens sometimes, doesn't it? Anyway, my favorite is THECOASTISCLEAR (39A: "We can go safely now"), just because it's the most dramatic, what with its spanning the grid and all.

It's odd to me that ODOR should be clued with "Distinctive smell." Why not just "smell?" Perhaps to throw us off the scent? (Guffaw!) But TOGO being clued with "Like food from a West African drive-through?," well, that's entirely different!


I liked the full OLIVEOIL, and POWDERKEG (3D: Volatile situation) was very nice.

In the end, I come away from this, as I usually do when anything at all reminds me of it, thinking of that famous speech. We are, none of us, as free as we could be. In America today, the vicious racists are not solely down in ALAbama, they are in the very White House, and if America is to be a great nation, this must not be true. But somehow I think we all still hope for a day when freedom rings from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado, and from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. It's silly, but I still believe. Someday. Someday.

- Horace

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday, January 14, 2018, Joel Fagliano


Colum: Sunday's here, which means it's handoff time, and I don't mean of the football variety, even though that's been going on all day. No, instead in our new system here at Horace & Frances (featuring yours truly), it's switchover day. Horace and I thought we'd discuss the puzzle together by phone and then trade off paragraphs.

Today, we both agreed that the theme is a construction of real beauty. For most of the puzzle, I had no idea what was going on. I was solving with Cece, and I commented that it felt like a themeless (and a fairly easy one at that). I was somewhat annoyed that both NSC and NSA were in the grid, but it turned out that former was necessary. Then eventually I saw the clue for 67A: Illegal interference ... or what can be found in this puzzle's 1st, 3rd, 7th, 15th, 19th, and 21st rows? Even then, it didn't become clear until I solved it and found OBSTRUCTIONOFJUSTICE. That together with the puzzle's title finally made it clear just exactly what was going on.

Horace: I was cruising right along on the top, and when I got to 67A (the revealer) I had enough crosses to drop it in right away. The theme answers lit up, as they do, and I think I looked first at the 22A row, in which I could see nothing, so I thought nothing more about it until after I finished. As previously stated, I thought the theme was outstanding. I was not previously aware of ANSONIA (110A: Connecticut city near New Haven) (population c. 19,000. For comparison, Natick, MA is c. 32,800.) so I wasn't so happy about that clue. Also, OTRANTO (pop. 5,700) is not exactly on the Grand Tour circuit.

Aside from that, Colum, on the phone, pointed out pointedly that BREYERS (120A: Häagen-Dazs alternative) is a little weak, being simply a possessive of the Justice's last name.

So now what? Do you do another paragraph Colum? And who picks the photo?

Colum: Oh, yes I do indeed do another paragraph, having just witnessed the ludicrous miracle comeback win by the Vikings (or was it a blown loss by the Saints?). Did you know that Häagen-Dazs was a completely made up name, created by a Brooklyn Jewish man, supposedly because he wanted to acknowledge all the Danes had done for the Jews during the Holocaust? Mind you, that's about as far from Danish as the subtitles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail are from Swedish.

I think I've gotten off track. Horace and I agreed that the clue for 16D: Closest to base? (EVILEST) is likely the best in the puzzle, and that 91: Got down (ATE) is yet another in a long line of clues that surprise us by being about eating. Elsewhere, STUPIDS still has me chuckling. Because it's so stupid, dum-dum!

Right. So. On to another week, with Horace blogging. It's been fun! And it's my week, so it's my photo.

- Colum

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018, Alan Derkazarian


My goodness, I finished a Saturday more quickly than the Friday the day before. IMIMPRESSED!

It's always nice to start with a 1A that you know. In this case, 1A: What a physiognomist studies (FACES), I learned this word (or its root) from listening to Cats in my early years. While I heard it through Andrew Lloyd Webber, the original line is by T.S. Eliot (TSE, as Horace noted from yesterday's puzzle):

"At the sight of that placid and bland physiognomy,
When he sits in the sun on the vicarage wall,
The oldest inhabitant croaks:
Well of all things...
I believe it is old Deuteronomy!"

Anyway, things moved a pace from there. I enjoyed 22A: 30 on a table (ZINC). I was not surprised by the hidden capital in 14D: Field work (NORMARAE), but I was set back by having LANGUid instead of LANGUOR (wonderful word). The other misleading capital clue, 29A: London or Manchester (WRITER) definitely threw me for a loop.
Which do we like better? The real Anthony EDEN, or the one played by Mr. Knightley?

It's a bit of a SORESPOT to me that two different fast food chains are referenced here, first with EGGMCMUFFIN, second with the COLONEL (although I do appreciate the absurdity of the recent commercials for that particular chain). It reminds me too much of the Glutton-In-Chief.

It was also ROUGHIT to come across both REARER and FUELERS, not to mention HIREES. These are terms that are only in currency in crossword puzzles, it seems to me. I'd never heard of Charles HAID, but the crosses were fair here.

But overall, I enjoyed this solve. It was challenging, but moved fairly smoothly. Whenever I felt stuck, I discovered I'd overlooked a clue that helped me along. And after all, any time EULER is represented, it's a good day.

GODEEP, Auntie Mame! GODEEP!

- Colum

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018, Erik Agard

11:53 (on paper) - should I stop saying that now??

I remember a time - back when I first committed to doing this crazy thing where we write reviews of the NYT xword daily - yes, I remember, I say, a time when a quad-stack would have sent me into paroxysms of despair. We haven't seen many of them since Martin Ashwood-Smith took his leave from constructing. I was under the impression that Mr. Shortz had outlawed them.

But here is a really top example of the genre. There are seven 15-letter answers in the grid, four in the top stack, one in the middle, and two at the bottom. That's a little more manageable than a dual quad-stack, for sure. I rank the answers in the following order:

1. THATSATALLORDER - excellent start to the puzzle at 1-across, with a complete phrase.
2. ARAISININTHESUN - also nice to have the complete title, and a fine movie as well.
3. SPAREDNOEXPENSE - it feels a bit like a partial, but that X is very nice.
4. VICTORIASSECRET - for the clue: "Where people may order push-ups" - hah!
5. MAKEAFRESHSTART - this is really fine. Just the others are better in my opinion.
6. EACHONETEACHONE - hmmm. Is this a real phrase? [Googles] - oh, yes! Actually, very interesting, as it appears to have originated among African Americans during slavery. I'm moving it up to 3. Only I'm not actually going to move everything around. Just imagine it in your mind.
7. INDEPENDENCEAVE - just because of that abbreviation. I know it wouldn't fit otherwise.

Really, though, those are seven top-notch exemplars. Really top drawer. (Somebody's been watching a certain movie this holiday season...)

So, in exchange, we do get a bunch of not such great short answers. ACAKE and ANIF right near each other, with the following names: THIEL, SOSA, OCHS, and RHETT. Mind you, I do like DOSAS, so that's in its favor. Oh, and ABCDE. That's particularly arbitrary.

But I enjoyed solving it (Cece helped), so that's all good. Good continuation to the turn. Looking forward to tomorrow!

- Colum

Some of Our Favorite Clues

9D: Co-written best seller - THEBIBLE - Thursday, January 11 - Sam Trabucco

66A: Maker's mark? - APOSTROPHE - Wednesday, January 17 - Jules P. Markey

70A: It's said to cause a smile - CHEESE - Sunday, January 21, 2018 - Victor Barocas and Andy Kravis

58A: Like the name "Robin Banks" for a criminal (APT) - Monday, January 22, 2018 - Paolo Pasco

38D: It has no point (INTEGER) - Wednesday, January 31, 2018 - Josh Radnor and Jeff Chen

63A: Band not known for music? (AMRADIO) - Thursday, February 8, 2018 - Erik Agard

19A: That's a moray! (EEL) - Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - Natan Last, the J.A.S.A. Crossword class, and Andy Kravis

1D: School card (CLASSCLOWN) - Friday, March 16, 2018 - Robyn Weintraub

56D: Baby sitter? (LAP) - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - Peter Koetters

33D: Preceder of first (ZEROTH) - Friday, March 30, 2018 - Sam Trabucco

59D: Teens fight, for short (WWI) - Friday, April 6, 2018 - David Steinberg

41D: Answer to the riddle "What cheese is made backward?" (EDAM) - Thursday, May 31, 2018, Dominick Talvacchio

55A: Leave one's drawers in the drawer, say (GOCOMMANDO) - Friday, June 8, 2018, Caleb Madison

115A: Where Scarlett got a letter? (TARA) - Sunday, June 10, 2018, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

48A: Not taking a bow? (ASTERN) - Sunday, June 10, 2018, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

56A: Real lifesavers (ANTIDOTES) - Saturday, June 16, 2018, Sam Trabucco

16D: Childlike personality? (CELEBRITYCHEF) - Saturday, June 23, 2018, Byron Walden

42A: They're answered once and for all (FAQS) - Saturday, June 23, 2018, Byron Walden

31A: This pulls a bit (REIN) - Thursday, July 5, 2018, Randolph Ross

51D: Decrease? (IRON) - Friday, July 6, 2018, Robyn Weintraub

64A: Stingy sort? (BEE) - Sunday, August 26, 2018, Olivia Mitra Framke

23A: It takes time to sink in (QUICKSAND) - Friday, September 7, 2018, Josh Knapp

7D: Irony? (FERRIC) - Wednesday, September 26, 2018, Joel Fagliano and Melinda Gates

34D: Store that really should have a spokesperson (BIKESHOP), Friday, September 28, 2018, Kameron Austin Collins

26A: Means of drawing up solutions (PIPETS), Saturday, October 13, 2018, Kevin G. Der

55A: Isn't discrete (OVERLAPS), Saturday, October 13, 2018, Kevin G. Der

114A: They vary from past to present (TENSES), Sunday, October 14, 2018, Ross Trudeau

1A: Something you must be willing to leave? (ESTATE), Thursday, November 1, 2018, Matt Ginsberg

18A: It follows directions (ERN), Saturday, December 8, 2018, Trenton Charlson and David Steinberg

3D: Field of flowers (BOTANY) - Saturday, February 9, 2019, Ryan McCarty

26D: They always proceed in a biased way (BISHOPS) - Friday, May 10, 2019, Andrew J. Ries

98D: Unlike most of Perry Mason's clients (GUILTY - Sunday, May 12, 2019, Victor Barocas

58A: Button-downs? (KEYSTROKES) - Thursday, May 16, 2019, Jeff Chen

35D: Three CDs? (MCC) - Friday, May 17, 2019, Adam Fromm

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018, Sam Trabucco

12:53 (on paper)

Oh, boy, this was tougher than I expected. When I started solving on paper, I figured that my times on the easier days would definitely suffer, but that I'd make it up on the harder puzzles, where rushing through clues would not be the order of the day.

Well, not today. Or maybe Thursdays are not the best test of that theory, due to the trickery involved. And today's has a wonderful trick.

"Line from someone who's been interrupted" is the clue for each of the "15-letter" answers that span the grid at 16A, 36A, and 55A. In fact, each answer is 17-letters long, but they're interrupted after letter 14 to make an extra 3-letter answer that sits at the beginning of the line below. To fill out the grid spanners, a "-" is put into its place, just as you would when reading a book. That dash is then incorporated into the down answers appropriately. I think it's brilliant.

I like the first and the third of the theme answers better than the second, if only because DOILOOKLIKEIMD-[ONE] puts the line break in a place that would never occur in print because it's not between two syllables. The other two theme answers do obey that rule, and thus work much better.

Also nice that the 3-letter leftovers work as answers in their own right. To that end, ISH and ONE are clearly better than ING, which is clued as a partial key signature. It is certainly true that Beethoven's Minuet in G is very well known, and is typically called that, so that improves the quality, but still.

Finally, the three down answers that use the dashes are reasonably well accepted. I like HI-C and NO-NO better than A-Z. When I first had A_Z in place at 35 down, I thought about sticking a rebus "to" in that square, recognizing the Thursday-ness of the puzzle, but couldn't see how that would work with the across answer.

My errors which slowed me down included:

22A: CALtech (I should have known better)
5D: "avast" (reasonable)
21A: "intro" (very reasonable - and I'd say a better answer than BASIC)
26A: iRAqi (very quickly recognized that this couldn't be correct)

The rest was just struggle recognizing the theme.

Also - I'll shout out JELLYROLLS, TALKSTRASH, and probably my favorite of the year so far, 9D: Co-written best seller (THEBIBLE). I also found 40A: Is appealing (PLEADS) such a great unexpected twist of a normal appearing clue. Finally, how about the little Marcel Marceau mini-theme with MIME, NON, et OUI? Très Français!

All so good, I'm overlooking that ABRA at 1A.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, Senator Joe Donnelly and Michael S. Maurer

7:19 (on paper)

I've lost track of how many celebrity puzzle creators we've had so far. But I'll go on record as saying that I like the concept. Today's blurb provided a big hint to the theme when it called Senator Donnelly a "basketball loving" gentleman. And in fact, he does seem to have a fondness for the game, as he has provided five basketball related terms, clued wackily. My favorite by far is 18A: Gutterball? (ALLEYOOPS). That's a winner in my book. I also enjoyed 60A: Something bleeped out of television? (FOULLINE). I'm less enamored of BANKSHOT (and its unpleasant cousin at 38D) or of FASTBREAK, which feels too close to the actual terminology for any dinner that ends a period of fasting.

I brayed at 7A: Smart farm animal? (WISEASS), and the pair of clues for The end of the British monarchy? (ZED and ARSE) also gave me no end of amusement.

I had only one place where I had to erase today, at 32D: One might say "Happy Birthday." Here I had CA__ in place already and went with CArd. In fact, and reasonably so, the answer was CAKE. It slowed my entry into the SE corner, which along with the NW corner were unfortunately segregated from the rest of the puzzle. It didn't help that LINSEEDS was an answer that entered the corner, even once I'd corrected my mistake. (Note that the equivalent answer exiting the NW is SEVAREID, another real tough one). It seems to me that if you're going to compartmentalize the grid, it's worth your while to make it a little more gettable to make the move in or out.

How many people spell 1A: Exchange of words (DIALOG) that way? My instinct is to add the -UE at the end.

It's not a puzzle I'm going to OBSESS over, but it's certainly better than MEH.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tuesday, January 9, 2018, Peter A. Collins

5:40 (on paper)

Day 2 of my new endeavor went well... or perhaps today's puzzle was a little easier than yesterday's? Likely a combination of the two. I also had many fewer missteps. The only place I had to erase was at 5A where I tried fLAp instead of SLAT, a term I much more closely relate to window blinds and crib construction than airplane wings. I did use Frannie's advice in one square, where I now have a heavily penciled R over a previous V.

I am amused by today's theme, revealed by the homonymic MEETINTHEMIDDLE. We get four instances of meats hidden in the middle of longer phrases. The print version had these squares in gray, making it too obvious what was going on as I was solving. I'd much rather they'd just left them white. Then it would have been fun discovering the various viands.

Meanwhile, it's an excellent job of hiding the instances of cooked animal flesh across words in the various phrases. I particularly liked LIVEALIE, as the hidden victual crosses three words! NORTHAMERICA was the least impressive, although who doesn't like ham? Well, observant Jews and Muslims, I suppose. But maybe it's just because they haven't tried it.

Too soon?

Anyway, the fill was reasonably good. I enjoyed ZOOTSUIT and SPACEX. Having TBTEST right next to MSNBC was pretty harsh, as I spent some time convinced I had messed something up. I also liked MONKEYED. I'm not convinced by CFLAT. Coming across one of those notes in a score means the composer is just mean. (That's not entirely true - if you're playing a piece in G-flat major, it will come up a whole bunch. F flat would be much worse).

Well, that's my JOBS done for the day. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday, January 8, 2018, Sam Ezersky

6:08 (on paper)

Well, it's a new year, so it's time to try something new. Yes, that means switching reviewers on a weekly basis, but also, for me, I'm going to work on speeding up my solving times on paper.

And I see I have a ways to go. About one to two minutes slower than my average time on the iPad app. I made a ton of errors along the way here as well. A few examples:

1D: tried ohmyGOD.
26A: tried theWEST.
5A: tried urge.
59A: tried elan, followed by Zest.

Erasing takes a lot longer with a pencil than with the iPad, it turns out!

So, maybe this is the first step towards actually going to the ACPT this year.

Meanwhile, I didn't see what the theme of today's puzzle was until I finished the whole thing. And let me say, I love this one. Five different rhymes for "oh-ay", and all five are spelled differently. My favorite is probably YOUWILLOBEY, for the simple audacity of the command.

Also, the fill is strong, including KLATCH, OTHELLO, and YEAHFINE. Nothing much to complain about, except perhaps the peculiar plural of HIHOS.

I'm looking forward to this week!

- Colum

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018, David Steinberg

Vowel Play

I hope this puzzle was more fun to create than it was to solve. I found it more of a grind than a joy, although local circumstances may have put a LIMIT on my enthusiasm. I solved the 140-word puzzle on my iPad, which made for very small squares and something of a muddle where the answers had multiple multiple vowels. Plus, I was somewhat pressed for time this morning because we have tickets to a show this afternoon and today is the inaugural "hand-off" review, so I wanted pass the baton to our esteemed co-blogger Mr. Amory as early as possible.

Never having constructed a puzzle myself, it's difficult for me to ASSESS the difficulty of creating such a puzzle, but it seems like it must have been quite a challenge. After I got the trick of it and entered a few of the theme answers, I wanted to put it down. It might have been more fun if there had been fewer of the trick answers and if those few had been clever or interesting pairs. But, of course, such pairs may not exist. :) DANGEROUS/DUNGAREES might be my favorite, but I also enjoyed FOULCALL/FUELCELL. I thought the clue for FUELCELL (Juice container?) was nice  I also like ICHOR (Olympian blood). You don't see that every day.


The "Vowel Play" caused some CARFIRES in the grid. All right, that's some STRONGTEA, but entries like LAMIN[AE], TOG[AE], [OA]TSEED, EL[EA], EL[IA]S, and D[UE]IN left me underwhelmed. I did enjoy the entry SA[OI]RSE mainly because I had just seen Actress Ronan on SNL where she sang an amusing song about her name. Unfortunately, the song focused on pronunciation rather than spelling, so I still got a little hung up at WHATATOOL/WHITETAIL, but I got there in the end, so to speak. :)

Over to you, Mr. Amory!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday, January 6, 2018, Peter Wentz

52:46 FWME

It's puzzles like yesterday's and today's that cause me to question everything. How does it come to pass that I don't know that people apparently (and unfortunately!) call digital cameras DIGICAMS, or that there's a popular (popular!) pricing game on "The Price is Right" called PLINKO, or the names of all high-end Hyundais (AZERA) and other cars? It makes me wonder what I've been doing with my life. But, 2018 is a new year, and IDARETODREAM that my puzzle solving POWERLEVEL will increase someday.

So, obviously, quite a few FUFs in this puzzle, slowing me down left and right - literally. I entered DIGItAlS instead of DIGICAMS in the south west. It fit beautifully with INtoNE, my answer for Recite. I accepted the crosses HUll and KoTlY, since I didn't know either party. Using the Google just now, I find that Brit HUME is a journalist, so, if one knows of him, that's a nice clue. And, I think we can all agree that KATEY is more reasonable than KoTlY, now that I compare the two. Did anyone else enter sOfa for Chesterfield before correcting to COAT?

In the north east, I had trouble with the Azera/Zahn cross. I have heard of Paula ZAHN, but I haven't thought of her in ages. She is most famous (to me) as my high school German class mnemonic for the word zahn, which means tooth, because she smiled a lot. I didn't remember that she was an early anchor on CNN. Derp.

I got a little help with Friendly term of address (SPORT) from one of our bits about Trader Joe's. We like to imitate the cashiers who call you Champ or Sport and comment on your purchases as you go through the check out: "Two cases of wine, Champ? I hope everything's all right."

I have not seen the word CADENT (Rhythmic) before. It seems like an unusual form of cadence, but yet I liked it. Others may feel differently. I liked CHICHI for Precious at 38D and WAFTS (Moves lightly through the air) at 5D, but my favorite clue today was 24A. Something only I can go on? EGOTRIP. Ha!


I didn't love VOODOODOLL for Sticking point? or OOF for "You got me good!" I see where Mr. Wentz is going with both of them, but I thought they missed the MARX slightly.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday, January 5, 2018, Ned White


ITSSAD, but the northwest was so packed with Frannie-unfriendly factoids (FUFs) that I couldn't complete the corner. For good or ill, I've never taken an interest in wrestling, lapso post cargo, I've never heard of SMACKDOWN. It's true that once Horace told me the answer, I thought I could maybe have figured it out IF I had come up with KLEE (Bauhaus figure). It didn't help that my years in the circus offered more experience with whipped cream pies than TAMALEPIEAMITOBLAME if I was more focused on perming my clown afro and learning to ride a unicycle in the 1980s than on the skiing exploits of Mr. MAHRE? Maybe the mismatch between my background and the knowledge needed for many puzzles can be chalked up to the vas deferens between men and women.

On the upside, I was FWOEless in the rest of the puzzle. I jumped right in with WHALE at 10A. I don't know the constellation, but I do know what Cetus means. I liked ONALARK for "Just for the fun of it," and in that same vein, both Ricochet and CAROM are nice words (44A). Also, I'm a big fan of the modern slang word TOTES. I thought it would be funny to have a canvas bag company called Totes Adorbs. I'm sure someone has beat me to it.

There's some nice Category 2 Huygens material in here including the aforementioned constellation, ORBIT and CACAOTREE. There's also a bit of Category 1 material at 4D with Heine (CAN). Ha.


I thought the clue at 42A, "Game you never want to get your fill of?" (TETRIS) was clever, but I was not a big fan of STANDEE (One up?). I wondered why WEMADEIT was a cry at the end of a *family* trip, and not just any trip. There must be something I'm not getting. Maybe family is the SECRETWORD.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday, January 4, 2018, Daniel Mauer


I got this puzzle's number starting with the grid-spanning revealer 4WARDINGADDRESS. Well, sort of. I felt that I knew 38A had to be [for]warding address, but couldn't make it fit, so I thought, aha! a rebus. Which it was, sort of; the unexpected numerical rebus - with a twist! The puzzle had four clues that read, "Answer found elsewhere." Then, elsewhere, solvers were given the answer as the clue, and in the grid, when correctly completed, the location where the answer should be entered. So, the clue for 18 across was "Answer found elsewhere." The clue for 13D was Macarena, but the answer was 18ACROSS, so we put MACARENA in at 18A. Somehow, it was easier to solve than it is to explain. There was one of these clue/answer/clue pairs in each quadrant, and each location answer crossed its clue answer. But, clever as this trick puzzle may be, I didn't really love being handed the answers just by solving the locations, which were largely given away once you figured out the trick.

Today's not-so-hidden capital at 14A (Many-hit Wonder: STEVIE) didn't fool me anymore than yesterday's did, but the one at 7A sure did. I don't spend much time on social media, so when I looked at 7A Yelp alternative, I thought, oh boy, what's another thing like Yelp? Well, another thing like yelp turns out to be ARF. Ha!

The pair of Hill workers clues spiced up the old chestnuts SENS (Hill workers: Abbr.) and ANTS (Hill workers) a bit. And 30D Angels might come to its aid (STARTUP) was nice.


I didn't DOTE on the number of abbreviations ALLOWEDIN like ACC, NEV, PRES, XII, SSRS, OVA, and ACR, even as valiantly clued as they were. And entries like Right-angle pipe (ELL), Desk chair part (CASTER), One providing input (ENTERER), and Approached dusk (LATENED) weren't gr8, but I suppose that's the price of a complex trick puzzle like this.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wednesday, January 3, 2018, Bruce Haight


Today, it's a queso four theme answers that incorporate snack items into common phrases. My early favorite was "Don't worry about my cheesy chip" (ITSNACHOPROBLEM), but the more I thought about ICANNOLIIMAGINE ("That Italian dessert truly boggles the mind") the more I LOL'd. In addition to the LOL factor of the answers we get some unusual letter combinations like YAW at the beginning of 42A and the double II in 55A that made the solve a little tougher, at least for me, until I figured out what was going on. 

I love the seemingly endless synonyms for JAIL, in today's case Pokey (1D). I also enjoyed how weird TOAT (Perfectlylooks when considered as one word. Both the clue Humdinger and the answer LULU at 10D are real pips.I enjoyed 48A What underwear may do, annoyingly (RIDEUP). We've all been there.

We find a possible pair of Peers in the south east corner with SIRE (Regal term of address) and GUV (British term of address). And a nice hidden capital at 56D John, in Britain (LOO), but, if I'm honest, I wasn't fooled for a minute.

I was surprised to see OZAWA (40D Longtime Boston Symphony maestro) in the puzzle for the second day in a row. Who would have thought it? NO UN.


I hope Mr. Haight won't think I'm a LAOS, but I do have a not-so-FABFOUR:
14A Northern Florida county seat (OCALA)
20A Hwys. (RTES)
37A Bygone Yankee nickname (AROD)
2D Lead-in to cumulus (ALTO)


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018, Zhouqin Burnikel


Today's theme answers suggest what might happen if common types of orders in the clues are disobeyed, creating a fun set of clue/answer pairs of opposites. My favorite was 65A Disobey a pecking order? (STEALAKISS). Ha! Disobey a standing order at 49A (HAVEASEAT) was also nice. There was no shortage of other commands in the puzzle with 7A Exhortation after "Supplies are limited!" (CALLNOW) and 16A "Follow me!" (COME) at 16A.

In addition to the funny theme clues, I enjoyed 44A First lady's man (ADAM). I also liked both clue Jaunty and answer PERT at 13D.

My food COMA (1A) started at Thanksgiving and isn't over yet, although, I am resolved to take action (see above) and start disobeying my brain's food orders.

I noted five musical clues, creating a mini theme if you will, including LYLE Lovett, RAP (genre for 21 Savage and 50 Cent), Maestro Seiji OZAWA, ARIA (musically named Vegas hotel), and STANZA (One of four for "The Star Spangled Banner").

As I was looking over the puzzle while writing the review I noticed that AMELIA and the first six letters of EMAILALERT are anagrams. Wacky.

Overall, I thought this was quite a good puzzle with a well-executed and entertaining theme, solid fill with only a few abbreviations, and some interesting trivia. Who knew the VOLGA was the longest river in Europe?


I take it as a good omen that my first puzzle to review in 2018 contains EEL (Fish with more than 100 vertebrae in its spine, 43A). Here's hoping for an EELy good year of puzzles and puzzling.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018, Matthew Sewell

Happy New Year!

Horace and Frances and Colum are all together in one place this morning, and we've been talking a little about how to shake things upon the old blog. Today, for example, we'll each be writing a paragraph or two in the same review. I hope we can do this more in the future, but I think we all realize that that would be very hard to pull off every day. Maybe we can manage to do that on Sundays.

Anyway, what we are definitely going to do is shorten up our turns to a week or two. We're hoping that will allow us to stay fresher when thinking/writing about the puzzles, and it might also make for some continuity between reviewers - following up on new ideas... modifications to new ideas... who knows? Anyway, that's what we're thinking.

Now about this puzzle... I finished in 7:43 with one error. I blame last night. I spelled CALAMARI wrong. Too many Is. And coincidentally, it crossed my least favorite answer: ATTHAT (33D: To boot). That doesn't work for me. I'm not even sure how it's supposed to work.

- Horace


Colum here, taking over for a paragraph. I finished today's puzzle in 3:59, slowed down in several sections. I don't have much extra to say about this fine Monday effort which has not been said elsewhere, except to note that AAAA is really not necessary. That is to say, it was probably quite necessary from a grid construction perspective, but I didn't need it in my life. But I would like to say that I've been thinking a lot recently about friends and traditions. I feel very lucky to have had Horace and Frances as part of my life for a number of years now. This blog is a daily reminder of that connection, and a celebration of puzzles, thinking, logic, and fun. Even on days when it feels more of a slog than usual to produce a review, it's worth it, and I am grateful to be included in the project. Colum out!


Today's puzzle has me all fired up to start writing the reviews, especially since it's only for a week this time. :)  There's fire on all side with five theme answers featuring fire words in song titles. My favorite, due to a deliberate misreading is BURNINGLOVE. We started singing, "hunk a hunk of burnin' glove." Ha. I am unfamiliar with the Bon Jovi and Bangles songs, but didn't have much trouble with them thanks to straightforward crosses. I was slowed briefly in a few places by confident but completely incorrect answers like "lard" where SUET belonged (55A Fat used in mince meat) and "pair" where SYNC was wanted (57A Match up). That, together with a more-populated-than-usual morning solve lead to a slower than usual Monday time 10:26. I liked BELEAGUERED and PIQUANT, but I also give AAAA an F.