Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners

0:06:48

I’m sensing a theme this week of very strong themes.
Today we have another novel idea of using the beginning lines of “Blue Suede Shoes” as clues for actual answers. In the song, they’re just – well, I guess I’ve never considered them to refer to anything specific. But now I’ll probably think back to this puzzle every time I hear it from now on. “One for the money” becomes a casual description of a LEATHERWALLET, and BROADWAYTICKETS are a plausible equivalent of “Two for the show.” STOPDROPANDROLL (Three to get ready) is probably the biggest stretch, as that doesn’t happen all that often, but ALLWHEELDRIVE is perfectly acceptable for “Four to go.” (It's close enough to "Go, cat, go"  right?)
No revealer today, but it’s not necessary. What would it even be?
INDUS

There are no non-theme Across entries longer than five letters, but in the Downs we have some sixes, sevens, and even two OCTANT entries: CANTLOSE and MAKESWAR (Launches an offensive). I like any mention of OPHELIA and Hamlet, and TIDAL and WAVESKI are a good excuse to mention that Frannie and I are at the beach today, having taken a rare day off mid-week. It’s not all fun and games, though – we’re meeting some upholsterers for a pick-up/drop-off and then heading straight back home.
Funny to have RUBE and BOOBS in the same puzzle, and wasn’t RERUNS, in the singular, a side character in some cartoon? Was that Linus’s little brother? Or someone on Fat Albert? All those things seem to be blurring together.
Anyway, I APPLAUD the theme, and look OVER the KETT, ETS, and LAI type material.
One last thing, remaining FIDELIS to our local musicians, I will say that BROADWAYTICKETS may now be purchased for ANAIS Mitchell’s show Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre. That is all.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, Evan Kalish

0:06:01 (F.W.O.E.)

Today's theme CHANGESTHEWORLD. Four "worlds," within our little solar system: Earth, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn can be found anagrammized between the following two-word phrases:

IGNO[RETHA]T - 17A: "Oh, it's nothing to concern yourself with"
LEA[VESUN]SAID - 23A: Omits mention of
AR[MYRECRU]ITS - 47A: Ones with private ambitions? (Nice clue.)
BO[NUSTRA]CK - 57A: Extra song on an album

Four perfectly common phrases, and again, a surprising theme. Who does this? Who sees this kind of pattern? Crossword constructors, that's who.

PETE Rose

So the theme is fun, new, and well done. And there's even a little bonus material, maybe, with MOONS (Jupiter's Ganymede and Europa). No? AWMAN!

Nobody's favorite variant TEHEE makes another prominent appearance today, and ABLER is slightly UGG-worthy, but that's just two small things. On the other hand there's MALAISE (Lethargy) (I think of it more as an illness than just plain lethargy, but still I like the word), FANTASY (Genre for the Harry Potter books), and FUTURE (Its time has not yet come), which gets a nice clue.

I had at least three missteps today - WENTsolo for WENTSTAG, Run for RBI, and Atwork for ACTIVE (Not idle). It was the last one that never got fully corrected before the puzzle was filled in. Sure, AtTIVE and tEDE were noticed immediately, and might have been caught before I handed in my paper at a tournament, but in this digital realm, I have to still count it as a "Finished With One Error." :(

My personal misfortune notwithstanding, this was another solid puzzle.

- Horace

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019, Gary Cee

0:04:28

This puzzle really hits the mark! It's got over 60 squares devoted to theme material, and it's spread out over the whole thing. If you're solving on a computer, the themers light up in yellow when you hit 39-Across, and they are everywhere!

ALBEE

With all that theme material locked in place, you'd expect a lot of word putty (sorry Mr. Fromm, I'm stealing that term), and if you want to find some, you can in AUS, TEC, REN, TRI, and APR, but really, none of those bother me. Well, except maybe TEC. I'd bet that that one survives largely thanks to our little community of solvers, but to be sure I'd have to investigate. (*rimshot!)

OTOH, with all the long answers dedicated to theme, there's little room left for standouts. I bet Mr. Cee tried hard to make 26-Down end in "town" to cram in yet another themer, but then must have realized that he had hit the wall, as far as theme goes. Instead we get TARTARE (26D: Served raw, as steak). Does anyone still get steak TARTARE? Me, I've had tuna that way, but never red meat.

Of the seven-letter entries (the longest non-theme) I like IKNEWIT ("No surprise to me!") the best. ACTSUP (Develops a glitch) was good, TOWNIE (42A: Full-time resident of a college community) took me too long, and SAMOA cookies used to be a favorite, although I don't think I've had any since my sister was selling them.

So in the end, it pretty much was all about the theme today, and for my money, it was enough.

By the way, those of you who pay attention to such things might have expected to see Frannie's byline today, and to you, I apologize. It's me again. Frannie's birthday is this week, and on her wish list of presents was a week off from blogging so that she could really RELAX.

I hope that she, and you, all have a great week. Happy Monday!

- Horace

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019, Natan Last

HOOK-UPS

Another puzzle, another new theme. Mr. Last has gone fishing in his own grid, and has found seven fish to hook and pull up to the top of their respective Down answers. In 1-Down, for example, "Gym rat's development," the answer ought to be "workout routine," but the word "trout" that can be found spanning both words has been hooked and pulled up to the top, yielding TROUTWORKOUINE. Odd, but pretty cool. I guess that to create such a thing you'd have to first come up with the phrases, then alter them and put them into the grid, then start to build around them. And the fact that he could find seven such phrases that could be worked into a grid symmetrically is kind of amazing. At least to this MOOK.

MANTARAY

CODMOLLYDLE (mollycoddle) is probably my favorite of the theme entries, but CARPMAGICETRIDE is pretty good too, and the clue for PIKESDPUNCH (What might get you a "ladle" drunk?) was fun.

With the theme running vertically, all of the horizontal space calls out USEME for interesting fill, and so there we find the timely STORMSURGE (Danger for coastal residents), the full PAULSIMON and CANNERYROW, and the full-on French phrase AVOTRESANTE (French toast) ("To your health"). I've heard of "cold fusion," but never COLDFISSION. Is that just what we usually think of as plain old fission?

Favorite clues today included:

27A: It "should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," according to a saying (ART)
33A: War loser, usually (TREY) - The card game, not the military game.
2D: High pitch, maybe (BALL) - Baseball, not music.
13D: Works with numbers (OPUSES) - Music, not math.
64A: They're full of hot air (DRIERS)
87D: Delightful event? (OUTAGE) - Guffaw.

Things I did not know:

ARGOSY = Flotilla of merchant ships
DESI = Member of a South Asian diaspora

I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was going on today. I don't know how they keep coming up with these puzzle theme ideas, but as long as they do, I'll be trying to solve them. :)

- Horace

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019, Erik Agard and Andy Kravis

0:17:29

At first this Saturday grid doesn't appear too FLASHY - no super-chunky corners, no grid-spanners - but the more I look at it, the more I like it.

KISSCAM

First of all, there are several fantastic clues:

15A: Porter of note (COLE) - Hidden capital.
37A: Hard core (PIT) - Like a peach pit. This was my favorite today.
45A: Arizona rival (NESTEA) - I was thinking college sports, and feared I'd never get it!
60A: Something to build on (LOT) - Cute.
17D: One looking for bugs (BETATESTER) - Was thinking of a spy or an ambassador...
32D: That's the ticket! (CITATION)
36D: Bad choices in it might cost you an arm and a leg (HANGMAN). Hah! Nice one.
42D: Foreign correspondent, maybe (PENPAL). Quaint, but still good.

We also had four "spoken word" clues:

26A: "It's futile" (NOUSE)
36A: "Let me demonstrate" (HERESHOW)
53A: "What a jerk!" (SOMEPEOPLE)
21D: "Go right ahead!" (SEEIFICARE)
and one more if you count the one that referenced actual spoken words -
38A: Sports star who once declared "I am America" (ALI)

Yesterday, in talking about his puzzle on xwordinfo.com, Adam Fromm used the term "word putty" for what we often call "glue." Those words, abbreviations, partials, and what-have-you that are often used in crossword construction. They are sometimes foreign (EIN, UNO), sometimes abbreviations (MIN, NSA, AFC, ATV), and sometimes just small words (POX, LOT, MAT). It might seem like a lot of putty today when it's all written out like that, but for me it is thrown into shadow by ENTICING entries like CASABLANCA, MOCCASIN, SHORTRIB, and GRATIN. Mmm... GRATIN....

Overall, this was a fun Saturday.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019, Adam Fromm

0:14:24 (F.W.O.E.)

Rough start today with FRIGGA (Goddess played by Rene Russo in "Thor" crossing GOA (Indian state on the Arabian Sea) and GUS (The Theater Cat in Broadway's "Cats") (Thanks for adding "Broadway" there...). I knew GOA, but not the cat, but I should have guessed the double letter in the across instead of going with the more cat-like pUS (eww, sorry... not very cat-like) for the Down. Oh well. The trio of Downs, however, was lovely (FLING, RONCO (!), IGLOO), and I guess that, along with ATTHEALTAR (Bad way to be left) maybe, was enough to force Mr. Fromm's hand.

HARPSEAL

Aside from my own small problem in the NW, this was a clean puzzle with some lovely fill. I expect some will find UNGULATE (Having hooves) as unknowable as GUS or FRIGGA was for me, but I loved seeing that one. CRUSADES (Single-minded pursuits) and CHUGS (Slowly moves (along)) were also good in the NE.

The triple-stack in the middle was decent, if not scintillating. Today, along with the usual MPG, APA, and EEE-type crosses, we got the fun GRUBBY (Squalid), the nicely-clued RECITE (Rattle off), and the excellently-clued MCC (Three CDs?). What? Shouldn't that have been something like "set?" No, it's Roman numerals. Hah! And another one that I wasn't thinking of properly at first was JINGOISTS. It's not country music superfans, its superfans of a country. Nice.

** Added note: I totally missed the mini-theme in the triple-stack! Three military ranks are stacked at the start of each entry. That adds a nice touch. Thanks xwordinfo.com! (I guess I should wait until after I've had my coffee to start on the puzzle review!)

Lastly, doesn't it seem a little like someone is trying to educate us about Jimmy Dorsey's old standard SORARE? It's showed up enough times in the past few months that I no longer struggle with it, which is, I guess, a good thing. Now maybe I should take the next step and go and listen to it.

I liked the puzzle overall. So far so good on the turn. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow. Happy Friday!

- Horace

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019, Jeff Chen

0:13:52

Today the "revealer" answer, RAMPUP, explains precisely what needs to be done to understand the four seemingly incomplete answers and the four unclued answers. Take the first set, 26 and 20 Across: South American landmark whose name means "old peak." At 26A there is only room for MACH, which, conveniently, is a word, but it's not the word we expected. Then at 20A, the odd ICCHU is revealed. Slowly (ok, maybe that was just me) we notice that there's a "ramp" of black squares connecting the two answers, and if we imagine that ramp as the word "up", the answer becomes the more appropriate "Machu Picchu." Now, if I were the sort to quibble, I'd ask aloud why there were three squares in the ramp instead of two, but since I am instead the "artist" type, I will allow the word, and my mind, to stretch to fill the existing space. I will also declare this a fun, well-done trick puzzle.

KEG

Still, since I am something of a dreamer, let's discuss for a moment the convention of the hyphen clue. It signals immediately that the answer will be a continuation of a previous answer, and I have mixed feelings about its "giveaway" nature. What would it have been like if both fragments were actual words (like MACH, LEASE, and EARS are) and the second, upper word had been clued and answerable separately? The first would still be a word, but just not the word you expected - kind of like that "lop off the ends of the word in the grid to get the real answer" puzzle that we saw a little while ago. I suppose that would be exceedingly hard to do, but still, it would be pretty cool.

But aside from that, is there any other way to treat the hyphen clues? Maybe just not include the clues at all in the list of clues? People would think it was an error, but if it happened four times, one might catch on. Oh, I don't know...

Anyway, the rest of the grid is just the kind of well-made, well-clued affair that you'd expect from a master constructor and fellow blogger. KEYSTROKES (58A: Button-downs?) (a very strong QMC) might be my favorite today, although the far-more-straightforward-but-still-excellent "Inert" (STATIONARY) is also good. Things got a tad strained (CPLS, STRATI) around the revealer, but it's nothing objectionable. Overall, I loved it.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel

0:04:59

Wow, what a strange theme. 14-Down, CROSSDRESSING crosses five different types of salad dressing: House, Caesar, Ranch, Russian, and Italian. Impressive and crazy, and very appropriate that it should run today, as we're right in the middle of Eurovision 2019! Frannie and I jumped through several internet hoops to watch the first semi-final last night, and we'll do it all again tomorrow for the second semi, and then Saturday for the Grand Finale! ... but I very much doubt that was on anyone's mind who had anything to do with creating or running this puzzle...

Australia's entry in this year's Eurovision! (HUMORME)

So back to the puzzle. It starts strong with a solid Question-Mark Clue (QMC) "Trial separation?" for RECESS (Good thing we've watched so much Perry Mason!), then slips right into the EROTIC (Blue). OK, TANTRA is a little odd (see also, the plural SUTRAS), but on the other side we have the solid CREATURE (Beast) and RANSOMED (Freed, but not for free) (nice clue).

I just noticed that the long central theme doesn't really cross any words other than the dressings except at the first or last letter, which is a nice detail. They sure like to be strict about themes at the NYTX, and I doubt that was unintentional.

In the South, I liked IODINE (First-aid antiseptic) because it brought me back to my youth, when Mom would dab that orange liquid onto whatever scrape or sliver-produced cut I happened to get. The stinging meant that it was working! Do people still use IODINE for that? Why don't I have any in my own medicine cabinet? ... maybe I'll look for it the next time I'm at CVS.

EVILER (More malevolent) was weak, despite the nicely alliterative clue, and JOVI looks a little forelorn there without at least the Bon. That would have made it more good. Get it? Bon is French for "good." ... oh nevermind!

Having done my share of CROSSDRESSING back at college, I liked the theme just fine, and the fill had enough good answers (CONJOIN, SASHIMI, SKYDOME (that was renamed?!) among the other already named) and fun clues (like "Avoided elimination in musical chairs" (SAT)) to make me look the other way when I had to.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, Damon Gulczynski

0:05:04

OK, so I guess this is a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"-based theme. I am not a fan of Douglas Adams, but I know many others are, and I hope they enjoy it. I do know that one of the "jokes" in the book is that the number 42 is given as the "answer to everything," and this is how JACKIEROBINSON, whose number was 42, and PRESIDENTCLINTON, who was the 42nd president, are worked into the THEME.


SONOMA


In non-theme material, I liked ECOCIDE (Environmental destruction) (although I don't actually like it, of course), SPLAYING (Spreading out), TUSSLE (Skirmish), and the O-rich oddity of TOOOLD (Like a 14-year-old vis-à-vis the Little League World Series). What a clue! And speaking of clues, I chuckled at "One hell of a writer?" for DANTE. Heh.

Onto the less-than-ideal heap I throw CORERS, TEHEE, OBLADI, and even SAUD (Mideast royal name). I'm not sure whether or not the two long Down answers are involved in the theme, but they both do, at least, share a "spoken language"-type clue - "'Peace out'" for SEEYOULATER and "'That's impossible!'" for ITCOULDNTBE. I guess they're ok, but they don't really do much for me. Perhaps the former could/should have been clued with "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

In the end, there's nothing terribly wrong with it, and I'm sure that fans of the Hitchhiker book(s?) will appreciate the tribute.

- Horace

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019, Gary Larson

0:03:43

A sporting theme today, with things that can be found around a baseball diamond - A DH, Home (plate) (or is that a Homer?), a Bat, and a Mitt. And the items are all extended out into men's names, making a nicely consistent theme. Two of the men are contemporary, one, D.H. Lawrence, is well-known, and the other two, though contemporaries of the author, are much less well-known. At least to me. Their names rang a bell, but it was a distant one, and I could not have written the clues, which is to say, I needed several crosses for each. Claude AKINS, Jack PAAR, and TRINI Lopez seem positively modern compared to those guys!

Dick Van DYKE

I enjoyed SHARDS (Bits of broken glass), METAPHOR (Nerves of steel, e.g.), ENAMOR (Captivate), DEVIANCE (Change from the norm), and ISOMER (Chemical cousin). AVIATORS (Pilots) and CAMELOT (King Arthur's home) weren't bad either.

There's a smattering of Spanish (BESO, OLE, & ESTAS), a little more French (AULAIT, ETUDE, MOI (& ESTEE?)), one (in) Latin (UNUM), and a touch of poetry (POE, MORN, and even DHLAWRENCE).

Entries like STEVIA (Sugar substitute) and TITER (Solution strength) got groans, but I think there was enough solid material to AVERT disaster and keep this one from dropping over the EDGE.

- Horace

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday May 12, 2019, Victor Barocas

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

Good Morning, Readers! It's Horace, taking over again after two excellent weeks of reviews by Frannie and Colum. Thanks once more, and as ever, to my two excellent compatriots!


Today's theme features four famous measurement systems, each running diagonally in circled letters through the thing they measure. Cool! Two are observational scales (Mohs & Beaufort), one is based on seismic wave amplitude (Richter), and one, Celsius, is based on water and temperature - but on May 20 of this year, Celsius will be redefined so that its value will be determined by definition of the Boltzmann constant. (It's too complicated to get into here, so I provided a link for the curious.)

Incidentally, Mr. Celsius originally had 0 as the boiling point and 100 as the freezing point, but these values were reversed in 1743, just a year before he died. I wonder what he thought about that!

So the theme is solid. I'd put it somewhere between quartz and topaz. Everyone enjoys quantification, right? Heck, what is this blog, or any review, but quantification? It's one of life's great pleasures - and problems. As Hamlet says, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

So let's get right to it, shall we?

Pro:

98D: Unlike most of Perry Mason's clients (GUILTY). Hah!
52A: Follow-up shot (BOOSTER). Vaccinate!
54A: Besmirch (TAR).
80A: Clubs, e.g. ... or entry requirement for some clubs (SUIT).
84A: Not fast (EAT).

CON:

65A: Q-V link (RSTU). The Richter scale really shook up this area, apparently, as we also find here ENOL, MCCOYS, TERP, and RETHREW.
95D: Preliminary exam: Abbr. (QUAL)

Finally, although it's tempting to try to craft such a thing, we're not (at least for now) instituting a HAFDTNYTCPFCA scale, we're just going to give you an overall feeling. The theme is interesting and well done, the triple-checked squares cause a little strain here and there, but it's not too bad, and overall, I give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie says "I wanted to put 'delicious' in for 'Like bourbon,' but it doesn't fit."

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019, Robyn Weintraub

7:49

I have learned over lo these many years of puzzling that seeing Ms. Weintraub's byline means we're going to get a high quality themeless puzzle, and today's does not disappoint. In fact, this has been one of my favorite weeks of blogging in quite some time.

First off, is it possible that STKITTS and NEVIS were the seed entries for the puzzle? Or was it simply happenchance that they could fit in so neatly near each other as the rest of the puzzle came together? I thank my unhealthy interest in Sporcle quizzes for my knowledge of tiny Caribbean North American island countries.

I love how all the long answers in this grid intersect. SCHNITZEL (such a lovely crunchy word) meeting STRINGTHEORY, crossing CONTOURMAP and INNERPEACE. So excellent.

The NW section also has a primer on the difference between QMC and non QMC clues. At 17A: Car owner's manual? (STICKSHIFT) is a classic QMC. Here the trickiness is the alternate meaning of the word "manual," from a how-to book to an adjective describing the gearshift mechanism. On the other hand, at 20A: One might get stuck in an office (POSTITNOTE) is tricky only in that the word "one" is referring to an object rather than a person.

On the whole, I enjoy the non QMC clues better, because they don't alert you to the presence of trickiness, making the "aha" moment more enjoyable. For example, 8D: Giraffe's sound? (SOFTG) was a gimme because of the question mark. Whereas in the past, I have been repeatedly fooled by this kind of clue. Or maybe I've just gotten wise to their sneaky ways. Those sneaky sneaky crossword constructors!

Finally, my favorite clue and answer came at 48A: Unlucky phrase to end on (HELOVESMENOT). That's fun stuff.

- Colum

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019, Andrew J. Ries

8:59

Pretty much an all around outstanding themeless puzzle today, in my humble opinion. I broke in with 3D: One might sense bitterness (TASTEBUD), and knew we were in for a fun time.

It was a playground for our favorite kind of clue, the non-question mark tricky kind. Just a few to note here: 5A: Trip ... or start a trip (SETOFF) - nice because I was definitely not thinking of that first definition of triggering as an alarm. 15A: Toy in a purse, perhaps (POODLE) - really outstanding. My mind was way far away from that as an answer. And how about 12D: Frequent losers at casinos (DEUCES)? Hah! I love it.

I almost forgot one of the best! 26D: They always proceed in a biased way (BISHOPS) - referring to the chess pieces, I assume. I hope. Or maybe it's a veiled commentary? I won't walk down that garden path.

The QMCs were less enjoyable, or maybe my opinion is colored by the unpleasantness at 26A. 46A: Diamond in the rough? (SANDLOT) is pretty good.

The long intersecting answers in the middle are all pretty good. I like SENIORPRANK and DEPECHEMODE, and any reference to LENAHORNE is a winner in my book.

Finally, two other references make this puzzle my favorite of the week so far. The first is to that classic of slapstick humor, Airplane! (TED). And of course, the greatest classical composer of all time gets a nod with 42D: B in music class? (BRAHMS). The other two Bs, Bach and Beethoven, are pretty good too. I guess.

- Colum

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Thursday, May 9, 2019, Lewis Rothlein

7:23

I realized something was going on in the NW. Mind you, that's not a huge surprise on a Thursday, the tricksiest of the theme days. But I wasn't sure exactly what until I filled in the NE.

Basically, six times in the puzzle, the answer to the given clue has to be found by lopping off the sides (i.e., the first and the last letters). Nicely, however, the answers with the letters still in place are well accepted words or phrases.

My favorites are the ones where the added letters make you reparse the original word. Thus, 60A: Not this or that takes "other" and turns it into SOTHERE. Similarly, 59A: 30th anniversary gift takes "pearl" and turns it into UPEARLY. Those are some really nice finds. 14A: Two-masted vessel (SKETCHY) is the least interesting to me.

In essence, this is really a themeless puzzle. The structure, especially the large chunky corners of white spaces, looks like a Friday or Saturday puzzle. And that doesn't bother me at all. I think as the years have gone by of solving the NYT puzzle, I've grown to enjoy the last portion of the turn the most.

Some great words here: HARBINGER is lovely, as is MANIACAL. And in terms of clues, 3D: Second person? (ALTEREGO) is excellent, as is 14D: Rod on reels (STEIGER). For just plain silliness, we can all enjoy 7A: Verses versus verses events (SLAMS).

And for yet another day, NEURO makes an appearance. It's as if they knew I was writing the reviews this week!

- Colum

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Stu Ockman

4:45

I've always loved PING / PONG, also known as TABLETENNIS, and today we get a puzzle whose theme is grid art about the game. We're looking at the table from the side, with the NET right in the middle, while one competitor hits a BACKSPINSERVE from the left (I assume). Me, I usually go for topspin on my serves, but it's good to change things up once in a while.

I am impressed by how well Mr. Ockman works those triple-checked letters into the grid. Certainly MARMS and EEE are not the greatest, but IMPINGE is excellent. It's also not a very theme dense puzzle (c.f. Monday and Tuesday blogs for the ongoing debate), which leaves the south half of the grid pretty wide open.

Three very nice NQM clues today are 24A: They're nuts for dessert (PECANS), 21D: It might be a blot on your record (INK), and 50A: Unidentified date (PLUSONE). All are actually precise definitions, just twisted by the syntax of the clue. Meanwhile, the only QM clue I really liked today was at 1A: Arm twister? (ULNA). To me, that could have been a NQM candidate as well.

Some might find 34A: Rosalinde's maid in Strauss's "Die Fledermaus" (ADELE) to be esoterica. NOTI! I have a deep fondness for that operetta, and the overture is just a confection of great music.

And finally, a tip of the hat to ELSTON Howard, who broke the race barrier on the New York Yankees. True, it came 8 years after Jackie Robinson first played for the Dodgers. At the same time, the Red Sox didn't break that barrier for another 4 years.

- Colum


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Ross Trudeau

4:33

Today's puzzle is the other side of the argument I put forth yesterday. With five long theme answers, the 15 x 15 grid is definitely strained. Note the five answers that have to cross three theme answers. I am impressed by Mr. Trudeau's work here: of those answers, only POPON seems ad hoc. And CRAISINS (despite the brand name) and NOTAGAIN are very nice.

Still, I think the presence of answers like those old chestnuts, ALOU, IROC, and ITT show how hard this kind of puzzle can be to fill well.

Meanwhile, the FINISHINGTOUCH here is well done. At the end of the other theme answers is a synonym for touching, in each case used in a sense that does not mean to touch within the phrase. Thus, BUYAPIGINAPOKE, where the "poke" comes from the French "poche" for bag. See? Learning something new from the NYT crossword is so much more fun than high school history class. For example.

The puzzle won me over with two answers: THISISSPINALTAP, one of my all time favorite movies, especially wonderful when you realize just how much of it was improvised. The other answer comes from my work environment: I was astonished to find BROCASAREA in the puzzle, especially on a Tuesday! This portion of dominant hemisphere frontal lobe cortex is essential for expression of language. For a Neurologist, it's like a little birthday present there in the SW corner.

Meanwhile, the rest of the grid does not cover itself in GLORY. I think I need say nothing more than ZINCS and we'll have done with it.

- Colum

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday, May 6, 2019, Peter Gordon

3:08

We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA enjoy when the English language is shown in all of its absurdity. How often in our mother tongue accidents of etymology leave non-native speakers spluttering. "Though, enough, thought?!" Today, we have three EYE / RHYMES that end in -anger. Although, to be fair to English, one of our examples is borrowed from France. In any case, TEXASRANGER, CLOTHESHANGER, and PRETAMANGER are excellent entries, and I enjoyed the theme.

With only three long theme answers, the rest of the puzzle is wide open for some very nice fill. It's the standard question - how much is extra theme worth it? It might be glittering and exciting to put so many theme answers in, but the cost can be painful at times. On the other hand, some will complain at the lack of theme today, but I'll put myself in the column of enjoying all that nice stuff.

1D: Works like "Animal Farm" and "Gulliver's Travels" (SATIRES) got me off on just the right foot. To add EPIDEMIC and ATTAGIRL (the full phrase is nice to see) is lovely. There are a lot of nice crunchy Scrabble tiles with a couple of Xs, a Z, two Ks and so on.

I did wonder part of the way through where Mr. Gordon's mind might be, what with TIT, PATOOT, NETHER, and AFFAIRS? WHEW, say I. Enough with the SAX already.

Anyway, there are definitely some less exciting areas (relying on former Indiana governor Evan BAYH is a stretch), but over all I'd call myself an ADMIRER.

- Colum


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sunday, May 5, 2019, Samuel A. Donaldson and Doug Peterson

PAPER WORK

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Every Sunday that I start my week of blogging, I look over the previous week's work by Frannie, and despair of achieving that level of wit and clever punning. ORALB shocked the day I match her style!

Anyway, today's constructors come up with ten ways to reinterpret phrases that include the word "paper." All ten are well recognized phrases, which is a great start. All ten reinterpretations come up with phrases which are well recognized, and which all have a different word to mean the paper piece of the phrase, so that's pretty darned good as well. My three favorites today are 36A: Construction paper? (BUILDINGPERMIT), 119A: Crepe paper? (BREAKFASTMENU), and the best of all, 100A: Wall paper? (COLLEGEDIPLOMA). I like that last one the best because it breaks the previous pattern in that the paper is simply on the wall, not about the wall, if you see what I mean.
He played for the Sox for a hot second
Some amusing clues today include 6A: Purchase of proof? (ALCOHOL), which is sort of an inverse theme answer; 14D: Rules of engagement? (PRENUP), and 54A: That stinks! (ODOR). I also enjoyed the symmetric answers CRASHCYMBAL and MADEASPLASH.

There is a fair amount of not great fill though, perhaps due to having ten theme answers. I'll point out LGE, RGS, TURTLER (it exists, and maybe it's more common parlance in other parts of the world), LANS, and DVI.

On the plus side, I liked BEGONE for its oldfashioned appeal, and BELLYRUB, because dogs.

- Colum


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Saturday, May 4, 2019, Mark Diehl

27:09

I was not getting much traction as I made my first pass through the acrosses this morning, but when I reached the last one, "Recipient of the wish at 1-, 8-, 53-, and 55-Across" I got my start. And, while the full word "fourth" fit the grid at 8A, it was pretty clear that the complete phrase MAY THE[4]TH BEWITH YOU was wanted. A quick check on 11D: "Toyota models since 1984" confirmed my suspicion that we were looking at a single number square à la the now-famous MAROON5 in Bruce Haight's 2017 ACPT puzzle. Having the four corners definitively filled in kick started the rest of the solve for me.

But, the energy of the fourth waned a bit with the two rather humdrum fifteens, PROCEDUREMANUAL and BALANCEDBUDGET, not to mention  OURTEAM ("Heading over a list of leading figures on a business's website"). Other fill including THEUNIVERSE (Space for everything), Solar or lunar eclipse, e.g. (EVENT), Wet ___ (NAP), Polite kids' plea (COULDWE), and Full monty (WHOLEBIT) tended toward the dry.

But, as a MODERATE, I'd also like to point out some of the WRIEST clues and answers:

Tail end of a dog? APSO - took me more than a few mos to get this one
Jeer leaders? (BOOERS) - the clue alone is great
Fashion lines? (ADLIB) - excellent
Took a spill, say? (MOPPED) - funny
Ones making glowing recommendations? (NEONS) - ha!

In the non QMC category I also enjoyed:
Some headway (DENT)
Finally hit the big time (ARRIVE)
Playfully fantastical (SEUSSIAN)
Makers of fine combs (BEES)

Also, nice to see ABEAM (Laterally, in a way) and then its matey, in a way, STERNS (Rears) right across the middle.

NASSAU

In sum, I would say that I felt like the fourth was strong in this one. And, as it's Saturday, and this is my last review for a while, I look forward to a fifth.

~Frannie.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Friday, May 3, 2019, Trenton Charlson

24:27

A pleasing shape to the grid today, with some pleasing fill such as SEXPERT, CLAMSUP, KUNGPAO, BRAYS, and SYSOP,  The clue/answer pairs "Dry" (SOBER) and "'Bones'" (DICE) were also nice. I also liked what I'm calling the mini "Clue" theme. At 3D we have "Any character with a token in Clue" (SUSPECT) which ties in nicely with 61D: ___ Peacock (MRS), and from there on to "Peacock feature" (EYESPOT) - not exactly board game related, but still.

I've never heard of IZOMBIE, but was able to figure it out from the clue, which was good, I guess, but also gross. I've never heard of TRIMSPA (Bygone brand of weight-loss pills), either. I looked it up on the Wikipedia. The pills main ingredients were ephedra and caffeine. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2008. I've missed my window.

In other food for the LOSTART of conversation, this puzzle revives the age-old QMC versus NQMC controversy. I made another list of QMC and NQMCs to try to assess the difference.

QMC:
Opportunities to watch the big game? (SAFARIS)  - good one
Record collection? (DATASET) - I liked this one better than "Record holder" (RADIODJ).
One with no class? (DROPOUT)
Fall guy? (ADAM)
Recess appointment? (PLAYDATE)
Boxer rebellion? (DOGBITE)

NQMC:
Stopped lying (AROSE) - turns out stOod fits, too. Looking at yesterday and today's false starts, I seem to be a letter-O savant. Also, good one!
As low as you can go (NADIR)
Festival display (POMP)
Staying power (LEGS)
Band aid (AMP)
MOONPIE


My personal BADAPPLEs:
Useful piece of code (APP) - BAH.
Impales (STICKS) - the answer pales in comparison to the clue, IMO
Biological rings (AREOLAE) - I wish this old chestnut would fall into one of the circles of hell and stay there. Too much?

Also, is it too soon to comment on the new Avengers movie? Has everyone seen it who is going to see it?

~Frannie.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Thursday, May 2, 2019, Julie Bérubé

20:36

In today's puzzle we find classic opposites ON and OFF, in rebus form, in five theme answers. Neatly, the two words appear cheek by jowl in each answer, such as S[ON][OFF]RANKENSTEIN, and my favorite, PERS[ON][OFF]AITH - do they believe, or don't they? :) And we have a stealth revealer, of sorts, at 39A: Intermittently ([ON]AND[OFF]). It seems like it would take almost an ENIAC to find so many phrases that have this kind of ON/OFF switch, and then fit them all in the grid. I couldn't do it, CANOE? In related news, coasting to work on my bike this morning, thinking about the review, I noticed that adding the letter 'D' to both 'on' and 'off' creates another nice pair of opposites: Don and Doff, which I thought TWAS PERI NESS.

I didn't really make any LUGE mistakes, but I did make a few false starts by entering pOker where MONTE belonged (Betting game), tOes in place of NOSE (Frostbite site), and pOsh in place of TONY (Uptown, so to speak)? On the upside, I got 30D: German for 72-Across off KU_S_ with only the A of ART showing (Notoriously hard thing to define).

To add to Ms. Bérubé's triumph, the rest of the puzzle didn't really suffer at the hands of the theme. I liked both clue and answer "Lummox" and LOUT. I also enjoyed "It can be bounced off someone" (IDEA), "Tearjerker?" ([ON]ION), and "Flying start?" (AERO). And how about "Springs for vacation?" (SPAS) - APPS!

BLEU

I OBJ only to [OFF]AL, but merely because the thought of it puts me off my chum. The clue made up for it, though: "Variety meat." Right on.

~Frannie.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Joel Fagliano

12:01

Today's starred theme answers are anagrams, apparently, of STATECAPITALS. In the short amount of time I have to write this review this evening (we are leaving soon for a showing of the new Avengers movie!) I was able to de-anagramize two of them: MALES (Salem) and ROVED (Dover). I hope those are both state capitals, anyway. I'll confess that they are easier for me to get as anagrams than in their natural states, so to speak. When Horace and I started dating, in 5 BCE, the first gift he gave me was a set of U.S. State flash cards. I'm not sure why I've never been able to memorize them. Maybe I need more VITAMINS.

For fill, I like MAILFRAUD, NOUGAT, PARADE, CHISEL, and FANSITE.

UPLAST and DUEUP were a nice pair, as were THEEU and ANTIUS - the latter one took me a while to parse - I kept reading it as all one word.

EMMA

My favorite clue/answer pair was "Substance for a juicer" (STEROID), but I also liked "Killer Bee?" (SAMANTHA), "When doubled, uncritically enthusiastic" (RAH), and "What keeps a part apart" (HAIRGEL) - ha!

Another bonus for me, "'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' author" (VERNE). I'm in the middle of his 'L'Ile Mysterieuse' at the moment. Boise, is it good. :) ALCU tomorrow!

~Frannie.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Erik Agard

9:04 FWOE

Today's theme packs a one-two punch thanks to a GROUP of SHOTS with the word shot left off and the word cat written in in crayon. Wait, that's something completely different. The four starred answers are common two word phrases, each word of which makes another common phrase when combined with the word SHOT. For example, we have 17A: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band with the hits "The Flame" and "I want you to want me" (CHEAPTRICK), which gives us CHEAP SHOT and TRICK SHOT, thematically. My favorite is often a DOUBLE SHOT - of rye whiskey. :)

I made my false step at UTEP (Lone Star State Sch.), for which I confidently and erroneously entered UTEx. The other answers in the area seemed to fill themselves in and I never checked the crossing down. A HEADSLAP ensued when I saw what had happened. Some hotshot. :(

I thought this was a very smooth solving puzzle overall with excellent clue-answer harmony throughout. Some of my favorites were
City choker (SMOG)
"The very IDEA!"
"'Believe it', as a retort" (WAY)
and my favorite, "Had a little lamb, say?" (ATE). Ha!

Fill-wise, I enjoyed ALOHA, FAKEDEEP, SPLASH, MAYICUTIN, GULLIBLE, and BUBBA.

ROYGBIV

The only parting shot I'll take is that RAYON doesn't feel like silk - not by a LONG SHOT.

~Frannie.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019, Andrew Kingsley

7:39

I like the theme revealer today, GETCRACKING, but while great as an answer for the clue "Hop to it," I found it less than exactly apt for "what to do to the various eggs in this puzzle's shaded squares." Maybe I'm being too literal, but there are no eggs in the shaded squares, only three birds and one prehistoric reptile. I suppose we could assume "eggs" understood, but I don't take an egg, if I can avoid it. I do like the popped up letter that creates the crack in each theme answer. If you get rid of the "S" from DINO[S]AUR, the popped up letters spell ROC - not even scrambled - and then you could add a mythological egg to your basket. I also wondered if ROE could be considered bonus theme material.

In the lower half of the grid, I enjoyed the sweet run of COCOA, TOBERLONE, LATTE,and KIMCHI, mmmm, Kimchi... Too bad TOASTING wasn't clued with marshmallows for the pig out pentfecta! As it happens, not one of these fine treats calls for an egg.

OAK

Boy, oh boy there are a lot of men in this puzzle. There are at least 18 males, both IRL and fictional: OLAF, Red ADAIR, ICHIRO Suzuki, MRT, Peter RODINO, ANDY, LEIF Ericson, Jon SECADA, LAD, DOC, Clark KENT, NATE Silver, FOUR Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Alexander PAYNE, ISAAC, Citizen KANE, Ang LEE, and, as a bonus, GILLETTE ("'The best a man can get' solganeer"). Maybe they are cheaper by the dozen.

~Frannie.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019, Brendan Emmett Quigley


WORDS OF INTRODUCTION
Maybe I’m missing something big in the theme, but for me, it is barely a thing worth mentioning. I will, though, in an effort to both explain it and show, perhaps, my lack of understanding of it. Take, for example, KOHINOORDIAMOND, clued as “KIND words?” First of all, the very existence of this named diamond is only on the edges of my knowledge (and caring). That it can, or should, presumably, be broken down into four parts, “Koh I Noor Diamond,” is a new realization, and maybe then a language barrier enters the picture, but why those four parts have any relation to the word “KIND,” or, indeed, should fall under the title “Words of Introduction” is not clear to me. Sure, I see that the first letter of each part spells KIND, but why? Is it just a way to give us four letters of the answer? … The other theme answers are similarly random.
PLATTE


So let us look for meaning, or at least fun and excitement, in the other areas of the puzzle.
I did enjoy learning the trivia that ANKARA is said to have been founded by King Midas, and also in that NW corner, the clues “Earns a bronze?” (SUNS) and “Opinion piece?” (ITHINK) were fun.
In the NE corner, ABCB (Rhyme scheme of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was a bit outré, but CRACKER (What Polly wants) was entertaining. And who knew an EEL could swim backward!? More good trivia! And speaking of trivia, how ‘bout that REUEL (Moses’s father-in-law)? How many of you dropped that right in without crosses? Not this guy!
In other areas, the clever clue “Ones who can’t change large bills?” for TOUCANS made me almost feel sorry for them. Do you think they’d ever want to? I mean, those things must be heavy!
I guess in the end, I would have been happier if this had been run as a themeless, and all the theme answers been given normal clues.
XOX
- Horace

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday, April 27, 2019, Joe Deeney

0:16:57

Another fun Saturday with some challenging, convoluted clues. I particularly enjoyed "Scamper" (DART), "Pain in the ass?" (BRAND) (poor donkey), "Subjective evaluation" (ESSAYEXAM), and "Not permanent" (ACTING). And in the lower right corner, the desire to mislead is almost palpable in both "Start running off?" (GOTOPRESS) and "Fail to come to?" (OVERSLEEP).

We get two fully-named Britons today, with JOHNCLEESE and NEILGAIMAN, and two references to an older Briton in "If thou DOST marry, I'll give thee this plague for they dowry": Hamlet," and ALLISTRUE (Original title of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" (the latter not used until the First Folio in 1623)). Both are boring titles, but at least "Henry VIII" insists less upon itself.

EARTHRISE

Interesting that both TNT and DYNAMITES are included today. DITKA is always fun to think about, and he and KNELT (Protested, in a way) remind us that the start of football season is still several months away.

Remember the ATKINSDIET craze? Heh. Almost as irrational, in its way, as the TULIPMANIA. Silly humans.

A couple of specialty terms today in ROLF (Massage deeply) and TAMPS (Presses down), and speaking of that last one, it's time for me to go make myself another espresso. Ahh, Saturday mornings, when I have the LUXURYOFTIME.

- Horace


Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019, Kyle Dolan

0:18:56 (F.W.O.E.)

I was worried when I knew I would need a lot of crosses for 1A, and even then, I would be guessing at what might possibly be a song title, but slowly it did come, thanks to a gimme at 1D (SPOT (Help out, in a gym) and crosswordsy standards AKIN (Related) and TARED (Like goods weighed on scales). For the record, I think of the scale as being TARED before the goods are put on it, but perhaps there are variant meanings.  

FLASHCARD (Classic bit of study material) brought back good memories, and ITBURNS (Shout of pain) brought a laugh as I remembered a Simpsons episode where Moe Szyslak yells that as he splashes some holy water up onto his face. Heh.

OLIVEBREAD

The inclusion of an answers like HARDASS (Tough, demanding type), HANGRY (Cranky due to lack of food), and SODOM (Scene of biblical destruction) let you know we've reached the weekend. As do clever clues like "Where you might be given the third degree" (GRADSCHOOL) (see also: "Rap mogul of the highest degree?" (DRE) (That's "Dr. DRE" to you)), "Place for an anchor" (DESK) (a news anchor), and "Peak service?" (ACE). And I only just now realized that "It may precede 'copy'" (OVER) must be referring to walkie-talkie talk.

I lost my way today in the NE, where, when faced with _AIA I guessed gAIA as the "Mother of Hermes" (MAIA). At the time, I didn't have the cross (EMBED (One reporting a fight)), and it was only after the bell rang that I went back and noticed the error. Every once in a while, I try to memorize those Greek and Roman genealogies, but there are just so many characters, and it's quite convoluted!

Anyway... I liked much of this one. JOHNDONNE is a favorite, and I wish I knew more about the PEACETOWER in Ottawa. It was interesting to learn a bit of trivia about ICEICEBABY, and words like SIPHON, GAWK, and PYRE are all good. I didn't love the long Downs in the NE (SAUSAGEDOG and PICKSADOOR), and it seems OCEANSPRAY could have been clued a bit more poetically somehow... but overall I enjoyed the challenge.

And finally, just for the record, MAIA is the oldest of the Pleiades, so named because they are the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. According to Homer (according to Wikipedia) "Zeus in the dead of night secretly begot Hermes upon Maia. ... After giving birth to the baby, Maia wrapped him in blankets and went to sleep. The rapidly maturing infant Hermes crawled away to Thessaly, where by nightfall of his first day he stole some of his half-brother Apollo's cattle and invented the lyre from a tortoise shell."

Hmm.. kind of makes me think I should get up off this couch and get my own day started!

- Horace

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019, Jon Olsen

0:23:08

Boy, this one almost got me! Everything but that middle section went right along - even kind of easy-seeming for a Thursday - but then I don't know how long I fretted over that PIA_ATS and PLY_ section. I knew KAPPA (24A: ____ Alpha Theta, first Greek-letter sorority in the U.S.) and SILVER (30A: Argentina was named after it) had to be right, and what else could "34A: Assents at sea" be except AYES?

NOICE

I don't know why it took me so long, since the answer was practically spelled out for me with the rest of the themed clues: HAPPYFACE, COLONHYPHEN, PARENTHESIS, and EMOTICONS. At last, I entered the "Elements of a [HAPPYFACE]" into 39A, and finally made sense of "39D: Blot on a landscape" [EYES]ORE, "25D: Perches for some musicians" PIA[NOSE]ATS, and "26D: ____ Rock" PLY[MOUTH]. Whew! LOCO!

Once I had entered the entire words into the squares and finished the puzzle, they turned into the traditional COLONHYPHEN and PARENTHESIS, but I'm not sure whether I could have just entered those elements instead of the words ... probably I could have. If you did, let me know.

I enjoyed seeing the mnemonic "Every good boy does fine," and quickly entered "gclEf," before correcting it to NOTES. And speaking of things musical, I did not realize - or at least did not remember - that the "End of every verse of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'" is BRAVE. Interesting.

A few other tricky clues: 19D: It's more than a fling (HEAVE). Nice. 31D: Center of the Krupp family dynasty (ESSEN). Who? 44D: Raised block of the earth's crust, to a geologist (HORST). OK, if you say so. (Dad, did you drop that one right in?), and 63D: Alternative to Gain (ERA). I take it GAIN is some kind of detergent?

I liked the challenge today. The theme was fun, the rest of it was fine.

- Horace

p.s. It's a debut! Congratulations, Mr. Olsen!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday, April 24, 2019, Evan Mahnken

0:05:36

When Shakespeare was my age, he'd been dead for a year, as the old joke goes.

LIBRA

The anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, and death, is traditionally celebrated yesterday, April 23rd, but all that is known for certain about his very early life is that he was baptized on April 26, 1564. That he was not born on the 26th is almost certain, and the convenience and tidiness of placing his birth and death on the same date is powerfully attractive. That such a named man existed is unquestioned, and leaving aside the authorship question (so as not to DEFAME anyone), the plays that were collected into that "First Folio" in 1623 have been read, translated, performed, and adapted continually since then. Why, just a few weeks ago, Frannie and I saw a very good, modern-dress version of Romeo and Juliet at the Huntington Theater in Boston. And at tonight, if we were so inclined, we could celebrate our anniversary by seeing a performance of Twelfth Night at the Lyric Stage. You can hardly walk through the theater district in any city without passing one putting on a SHAKESPEAREPLAY!

Today we have four film adaptations, FORBIDDENPLANET (The Tempest), SHESTHEMAN (Twelfth Night), WESTSIDESTORY (Romeo and Juliet), and KISSMEKATE (The Taming of the Shrew). The only one I had never heard of is SHESTHEMAN. And it's also from the only original that I have never seen. Maybe we should change our plans! :)

It's a coherent theme, well done. That Mr. Mahnken was able to find this symmetrical arrangement is, to me anyway, quite impressive. I don't know how these constructors do it!

In the fill I enjoyed the inclusion two additional literary figures, AESOP (52A: Fabulous writer?), and, to a lesser extent, TALESE (59A: Gay of the New Journalism movement). And the crossword darling EMOTES takes on slightly more relevance today. Heck, I suppose even PEN (11D: Write down) could be seen as bonus material.

I liked the all-French-all-the-time OUI (28A: "Bien sûr!"), the pair of "ring figure" clues (CARATS & ALI), the ridiculous "34D: Herd noise" (MOO), and my favorite clue today - 43D: Business whose income is computed quarterly? (ARCADE). That's been in a lot lately, it seems, but they're keeping it fresh!

Sure, there's some MSS, NES, and KOP -type stuff, but overall I enjoyed this one.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

0:05:32

Sandwiched between "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's," at #2 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Albums" list is PETSOUNDS, and today we have actual PETSOUNDS sandwiched inside longer answers like HO[MEOW]NER and T[HISS]IDEUP. I suppose some people might think, "Sure, I have heard of a pet cat, a pet dog, and even a pet snake, but what about that 'oink' in TATTO[OINK]?" Well, I would have been one of those people, if not for the fact that my cousin's wife is somewhat famous in our family for having kept a pet pig as a child.

The animal noises each span two words, they're a consistent four letters each, and they're all standard English spellings. So as far as I'm concerned, the theme works perfectly.

OCONNOR

In addition to that goodness, there are several excellent words in the non-theme fill today too, including THWART, WINNOW, CHOLERA (well, nice sounding word - less nice if you have it), ETHANOL, CORONET, and KINGTUT (43D: Jokey 1978 Steve Martin song), not to mention TWINE and GUST. And I actually admire the SASSINESS of getting OOO (32D: Tic-tac-toe win) in there.

There are a few ODD entries, like the French plural TES, and the possessive partial LARAS, and I'm not really sure I understand why the "out of state" part was important to include on USETAX, but that's probably more on me than the puzzle.

Two last things: 1. After having watched all six episodes of "Planet Earth II," I have come to understand that many birds, not just SWANS mate for life, which is interesting and cool, and 2. "THAR she blows!" will forever remind me of the old restaurant Yoken's, and the many stops my family made there on our way to or from a cottage in Maine. Good memories...

So the UPSHOT is, I liked this one quite a bit.

- Horace

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019, Bruce Haight

3:56

A cute little tennis theme today, and if you're a bit flexible with your imagination, you can see the long central entry, CONTEMPTOFCOURT (37A: Dislike for tennis?) as a net, and then the two theme entries above and below, touching opposite sides, are kind of like a volley going back and forth. And the CALLS (51D: "Let" and "Fault," from a chair umpire) come in right at the center edge, where the umpire sits! I like it a lot, and the silly cluing is just icing on the cake.

ALICE

The two long Down answers are both solid. INSERTCOIN (10D: Arcade game instruction before playing) brings me back to my youth. Ahh... remember arcades? Do they even still exist?

BIGAMY (6D: Problem with more than one marriage?) and PISA (39D: Italian city you might be "leaning" toward visiting) were amusing, and a brother of mine is in Seoul at this very moment, so KOREA (12D: Locale for Pyongyang and Seoul) was fun to see.

Nothing much that I got HUNG up on, and nothing to WHINE about. Overall, a solid start to the week!

- Horace


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday, April 2019, Grant Thackray

THE INSIDE STORY

Here's a fun fact - if you total up Colum's solve times for Monday through Friday of this week, and add about two minutes, you get the time it took me to solve today's puzzle. :)

IBEAM

"The Inside Story" today is movie titles. Each theme answer is a PICTUREINPICTURE, turned into a new phrase, and clued accordingly. I am so in awe of the idea itself that I am loath to complain about the less good ones like BO[THERING]RAT (52A: Traitor who gets on one's nerves? [2006, 2002]). It's just so absurd. And what about PET[IT]ERPAN (77D: Smaller piece of cookware? [1953, 2017])? I don't know if I've ever heard anyone say "petiter."

My favorite might be THELITTLEM[ET]ERMAID (24A: Who has trouble reaching a windshield to place a ticket? [1989, 1982]). That one works well.

It's Easter today, and I'm sitting here in the house I grew up in, with my Dad and my sister and one brother, Huygens, and Frannie. We had a nice dinner, and now we're sitting around in the living room talking. It's a little difficult to concentrate on writing a review.

So I'll just mention a couple that I did like. MARCO (38A: Shout at a pool) brought back good memories of playing in the pool at our cousin's house, ROME (66A: Long building project, in a cliché) took a minute to get, and SLOP (117A: School cafeteria food, pejoratively) was amusing.

Things I had never heard of: STRINE (120A: Broad Australian accent, informally), and MIRIAM (115A: Sister of Moses).

OK, that's all I can manage. It's chaos here. I hope you're all having a lovely day.

- Horace

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday, April 20, 2019, Kevin Adamick

16:40

Solved with my mother, in NYC, and a good thing too, or it would have taken even longer! I am very much in favor of tougher Saturday puzzles. Recently, they've seemed a bit straightforward. This sort of grid lends itself to a harder grind, with those very large sections of white space in each corner, and only a tiny little middle segment to give some entree into each section.

We got going in the NE - the NW was too challenging to get a foothold, especially when you drop Marlon Brando incorrectly into 2D (I also considered Orson Welles before finally hitting on the correct one, Peter OTOOLE, a crossword boon of a name if ever there was one, both a celebrity and chock filled with vowels).

I note that three of the four corners have one answer that's hard to IDEALIZE. In the NE, it's REALER. It's acceptable, of course, but don't we typically just say "more real?" In the SE it's ROADER. This one's a real stretch, as is 3D: Hardly the silent type (YELLER). Couldn't we just have had a clever clue about the dog?

My mother knew Anna KARINA, which certainly helped open up the SW corner.

The NW was the last to go, and once again, my mother came up with ROLLOVER. I love all those Vs in that corner, and my favorite clue is at 21A: One after another? (ELEVEN). The other clue I enjoyed was 25D: Canine's woe? (DECAY).

Even though there were no really exciting sparkling entries, this is a solid and smooth 60-word puzzle, and a fun solve overall.

- Colum

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019, Caleb Madison

6:08

Let's start with the clue that gave me the most trouble, at 28D: Round parts? (BEERS). It only just came to me, as I am writing this blog post and drinking a Brooklyn Brown Ale, just what the clue is getting at.

I'll tell you one thing I am SUREOF: it helps in the solving of a puzzle when 1A falls right into place. I feel like we only just had MWAHAHA as an answer, so I barely hesitated at all in entering it. Perhaps I might have hesitated a little had I been solving on paper with a pen, but it was confirmed very quickly by several crosses. I sort of like that we also have MALALA in this grid. Just imagine if Ms. Yousafzai were hatching a nefarious plan. Would she laugh just like that?

Other clues that were right in my wheelhouse included 26A: What "epistaxis" is a fancy medical term for (NOSEBLEED). Also 31A: Epcot's Spaceship Earth, architecturally (GEODESICDOME).

At one point in the solve, I was considering whether a person domesticating a Canadian duck would use a whip, before realizing that MoTE was incorrect. Once I replaced it with MITE, LIONTAMER came into focus. Much more appropriate.

I enjoyed 20A: Game where you don't want to reach the top (TETRIS) as well as 7D: Like some suits and states (ALTERED).

Perhaps the SE corner isn't as strong as the rest of the puzzle, but that's just a BLIP on my radar. Good stuff.

- Colum

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners

7:48

It's been a long time since we've had a good "letters spell out a picture" type of puzzle. I am always incredibly impressed by the care and thought that go into the construction of a grid like today's. Coming up with an image that can be represented by connecting the dots in a 15 by 15 puzzle, and then those letters are fixed in place.

Today we get a spring-like image of a CATERPILLAR turning into a BUTTERFLY in a CHRYSALIS. It's all very lovely. On the other hand, it doesn't make for a great solve. Knowing that the letters are going to draw an image doesn't really enhance the process of filling in the puzzle. So the theme loses impact during the solving process, making only for a nice sort of nod at the end.

That being said, there are some nice clues, including the sort of thing I always fall for at 52D: Pay for play (RHYME). Arg! Once again, I had no idea until four of the five letters were filled in. Nearby is a similar sort of thing at 58D: Married couple? (ARS). Is that how we spell the letter? I guess so.

The pair of French bakery offerings (GATEAU and ECLAIR) were sweet. As it turns out, I awoke this morning from the middle of a dream where I was picking out really nice cookies from a bakery, so I was definitely in the mood for some fancy confections.

Some of the readers here will laugh at me for incorrectly putting in COStas at 28A: Sportscaster in the documentary "Telling It Like It Is" (COSELL). But in my defense, Bob Costas is a sportscaster, and was in several documentaries. In any case, it corrected pretty quickly.

In the area of entries to OVOIDAL at all costs? Very little. It's a smooth puzzle.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019, Alison Ohringer and Erik Agard

3:44

Gosh, seems like I might be the only one around here who doesn't take a tapioca. But that's okay, because today, we get to FIXBREAKFAST, the best and most important meal of the day!

I am still chuckling at this theme. The revealer, coming at 38A, rephrased like a plaintive question, is just too absurd. Meanwhile, around the grid are scattered unappealing ruined breakfast foods. Although I will admit that I don't take an apple with my breakfast, but each of the other things are not unknown on my morning table.

The remainder of the puzzle I also enjoyed. I mean, sure, there's your ETTA and ETTU in the same grid, and that's not ideal. But who doesn't enjoy the blandly nonspecific clue at 42A: Chest coverer (BRA)? Or 37D: Sound of failure (PFFT)?

I also very much liked 55D: It gets bigger in the dark (PUPIL). So many potential ways to go wrong with that one. OOPSY!

So many good clues. How about 36D: Roll with a hole (BAGEL). Just that little extra touch of whimsy can make a puzzle so much better.

Anyway, I just liked the puzzle, so if you have a problem with AEON or ANIMES, I just call that crying over SPOILEDMILK.

- Colum

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Gary Cee

4:24

Do you think that Mr. Cee, given his name, would naturally be drawn to a theme where a letter sound is played upon? Well, perhaps. In any case, today trots out five phrases where the last sound is a version of the letter K. Or just is the letter K in one case.

I figured out what was going on when I had TOOTHDECAY and COMMUNIQUE in place. I was then a little disappointed in SOBRIQUET. Yes, it's spelled differently from the other French export, but really it's the same game.

MURRAYTHEK was a very odd answer. I had never heard of this gentleman before, born Murray Kaufman. Apparently he was an early adopter when it came to The Beatles, and they liked him so much George Harrison called him the "fifth Beatle." Nice to get some trivia, certainly, but the chutzpah of that unadorned K is shocking.

Well, maybe not shocking. That's a strong term. But in crossword blogging! I stand by it.

So readers of this blog may know that I'm not a fan of puzzles where sections are nearly completely cut off. And we get two here in the NW and SE corners. Fortunately they're large sections, so there were many ways to get toeholds inside of them. But I much prefer more flow.

On the positive side, 2D is right up my alley, synaptic gaps and all. I can do without TAPIOCA, although I know some around here have been known to take one. 44D: Non-prophet foundation? (ATHEISM), on the other hand, fits me to a T.

I didn't love the fill (SAK, SEN, OYS, ERN) but the theme was interesting, 'K?

- Colum

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday, April 15, 2019, Patrick Blindauer and Samuel A. Donaldson

3:18 (but really DNF)

You know what everybody needs more of on April 15? The IRS, am I right?

And furthermore, does that segment of the executive branch of the United States government undergo "reform," or is it the tax code itself that gets reformed?

Either way, on this tax day, as many of us see DOLLARSIGNS going down the drain, we are treated to all possible variations of the three letter string containing I, R, and S, each time hidden inside a longer phrase. Nicely, all of the variations span across words in their respective phrases, with 36A: "If memory serves..." (ASIRECALL) getting the bonus points for spanning all three words. This phrase made me think of the original Iron Chef program from Japan, where the "Chairman" would always open the show saying "If memory serves me correctly..."

How did I DNF a Monday? I rushed through, thinking I was very close to the under 3 minute range. And I messed up by putting Opal in at 43A: Black gemstone (ONYX). In my defense, an opal can in fact be black. But onyx is the obvious correct answer. I did not take any time to look at crossings, and thus I get the Monday DNF. Shame on me.

Things I liked today:

30A: Reference point during a piano lesson (MIDDLEC).
50D: Rob who directed "The Princess Bride" (REINER) - only one of the best movies of all time... but if they'd referenced "When Harry Met Sally" or "Spinal Tap" I would have been equally delighted. Some folks here might be interested to find out that it's not possible to put an umlaut over the letter N. I'm disappointed.

And of course, RYE. Which I think I'll have some of right now, and not the bread variety. And raise a glass to Notre Dame.

- Colum

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019, Will Nediger

LEFT/RIGHT SYMMETRY

Today's puzzle is an impressive piece of construction on many levels. On the most basic level, the grid is set up in left-right symmetry. On the next level, Mr. Nediger has found five pairs of words  or phrases where the substitution of L for R (or vice versa) creates a new crossword acceptable word or phrase. And finally, you'll note that the entire remaining grid is free of Ls or Rs except for those ten instances.

My favorite pair of answers is 1D: What some carefree beachgoers do (GOTOPLESS) and 18D: Start printing (GOTOPRESS). I will just mention for the record that I must not be carefree - I wear a rash guard whenever I'm out in the sun to protect my fellow beachgoers from my blindingly white skin. My initial thought about the theme was that the circled squares would be Schrödinger squares, where either L or R could equally go. But as I was getting started on my solve and put 1D in, I thought to myself, "go topress" isn't a phrase. Just goes to show how much I know.

All that being said, I didn't find the solve all that much fun. The "aha" moment was not particularly exciting, and there aren't many sparkling long entries. That can't be too surprising. When you eliminate two of the eleven top most common letters in the English language, your flexibility has got to be limited. After all, in this paragraph, twenty-two of the sixty-nine words contain those letters in them.

So how about some fun clues?

53A: They're full of holes (SIEVES)
56A: Popular girl's name any way (ANNA)
84A: Artless nickname? (STU)
97A: Some breads ... or a homophone for what bread loaves do (RYES)

- Colum

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday, April 13, 2019, Debbie Ellerin

20:00

How about that for a beautiful time?! Numerically and visually, of course, not so much solvally. Lovely as it is, though, it's a bit of an artificial result. I got stuck in the north east at the cross between 11D: "Suitor" (BEAU) and 22A: "Actress Aduba of 'Orange is the New Black'" (UZO). I spent at least 3 minutes running the alphabet for that one square, telling myself it had to be a vowel, but yet somehow still skipping over "u" each time. I don't know why, but I frequently have trouble with words multi-vowel runs in puzzles. Anyhoo, Horace and I ended up discussing the situation, as that section was giving him a LADLE trouble, too, and he revealed the missing letter to me. So, in short, it should say DNF up there at the top, but the time was so perfectly lovely on its own, if something of a sham, I decided to not to mess it up with a fess up up there.

The Good:
Country singer with a cityish name (URBAN)
Doesn't look too well? (OGLES)
U people? (PROFS)
Hula hoop? (LEI)
[I'm still here, you know] (AHEM)
Plus, SEABREEZE, DREAMTEAM, NOTORIOUSRBG, BOOST, HERO, KALE, and GLOSS.

The Bad:
BUSHWA, ENNUI, GREENGOBLIN, EVILQUEEN, NERO, and, presumably, because he opposed Rocky, IVAN (Drago).

IMDB


And the UGLI. Ha!

~Frannie.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday, April 12, 2019, Howard Barkin

14:25

BASING my rating on my solve time, I'd say this one was pretty easy. Although, traditionally, Friday puzzles are themeless, I thought I detected one or two rogue THAMES in the grid including word shortenings like MORPH, PHENOM, and TOTES ; food bits such as CHIPOTLE (smoked jalapeno! who knew?), EXTRACRISPY (I preferred original recipe, back in the day), MCCAFE (Starbucks competitor?) - (ETUDE Brute?), STREETFOOD, and, for our local readers, SHAYS ; and, last but not least expressions-whose-principle-vowel-is-the-letter-O: YOOHOO, OOH, and, my favorite, SONOFA. :)

Clues which, if they had hands, I would have high FIFED:
Barely communicate? (SEXT)
Title character not requiring an actor (GODOT)
19th-century author whose works are still read word for word (ROGET)

CURACAO

Although, as I said, the puzzle was on the easy side, things did get a little MESSI for me in the middle when I tried COrny instead of CONIC (Like Bugles snacks). It didn't help that I am not familiar with MIASARA - I'm not even sure how to parse that to make a name -  But, that was really my only trouble spot. While we often expect more of a challenge on a Friday, if I may MAXIMize for a moment, don't look a gift solve in the mouth.

~Frannie.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019, Brendan Emmett Quigley

29:41

Not so cool-looking a time today as yesterday, but not bad time-wise for this solver on a tricky Thursday.

A co-worker who is new to solving the NYTX told me he was completely stumped by today's theme and gave up. I tried to explain the theme to him, as I will now try to explain it here, but I feel there has to be a better, more succinct explanation than this. The theme answers are three common phrases and one name of a famous personage with an extra syllable at the beginning, all entertainingly clued for the bonus version. So we have "Ornately decorated money?" BAROQUEBREAD (broke bread), "March meant to end a drought?" PARADEFORRAIN (prayed for rain (I think)), "Bumper version of a cart?" COLLIDEBARROW (Clyde Barrow), and my favorite, "What the trees by Walden Pond provided?" THOREAUSHADE (throw shade) - ha! I think Henry David would have enjoyed that.

And, while we're all going all literary 'n' sh*t, I'll add that I learned two new words from the puzzle today. One was in the clues: "Perfervid" apparently means ARDENT, although I see Blogger's spell checker isn't familiar with it either. :) I also didn't know DIDO (Mischievous trick). I looked it up in a couple of online dictionaries. According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, it is of unknown origin. Maybe I'll look it up in a paper dictionary later. It has to come from somewhere!

Clues that pleased or entertained:
Guy in a restaurant (FIERI) - amusing hidden capital.
What might have a crush on you? (BOA) - let's hope not!
Tucson school, informally (UOFA) -  I really wanted it to be sOFA.
Commotion (HOOHA) - quite the word-about-town this week!

I also liked both SHH ("I'm trying to work here") and YAWN ([Been there, done that].

LEIA


While I found "Dissolve" / MELTAWAY, "Bend over backward" / ARCH, and "Let go" / FREED to be lovely clue-answer pairs, I thought BOSSY for "Demanding" was much less pleasingly matchy matchy, but that may be a difference between MeENUS.

~Frannie.