Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday, April 6, 2020, Andrea Carla Michaels and Brian Thomas

3:33

The devil, as they say, is in the details. One detail I missed as I was solving the puzzle was the fact that 17A: Another name for [See shaded squares] (MRSCRATCH) was not referring to that well-known female role from an Eighteenth-century novel, Mrs. Cratch. I figuratively scratched my head for a few seconds when I filled it in. But then I moved on.

Before anybody complains that such a character never existed, I made her up.

It's a fun theme, though. SPEAKOFTHEDEVIL runs across the middle, and in each corner is found another name for the fallen angel. My favorite will always be LUCIFER. He's an important character in Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, The Sandman, and it was this version of him that was portrayed in the television series of the same name. One nice touch, as you will see below, is that his speech bubbles had a lovely ancient font.
I would say on the whole that this puzzle was more difficult than your typical Monday offering. I hold up as examples of this somewhat more challenging proper names such as DOONE, RHONE, TIMOR, KOBE, and KOLN. I also imagine that AEONFLUX, which was an objectively awful movie, would be a hard to get answer for many.

On the plus side, everybody likes a HOLODECK.

- Colum

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sunday, April 5, 2020, Jim Peredo

DOUBLE TALK

Hello all! Good to talk with you virtually, as there is virtually no other way for me to talk with you. I hope you haven't gone stir crazy, wherever you are. It's definitely a strange world out there right now. I am still working out of the house as essential personnel (nice they finally recognized it), but my wife and two daughters are trying to find things to do. Let's just say there's been a lot of baking involved.

Fortunately, one constant in this mixed-up time is the NYT xword! Today's brings a welcome modicum of humor to this early Spring Sunday. Mr. Peredo has found seven examples of standard phrases or quotations, and has clued them cleverly with two word phrases of the form XY, but reparsed as "statement Y about situation X."

Turns out it's sometimes not so easy to explain a theme. That was a lot of words where an example might do better.

Thus, TURNABOUTISFAIRPLAY is clued as "Just saying?" That in turn is now seen as "a saying about being just." I particularly liked GOAHEADWITHOUTME being a "Sentence telling you to run on," and THEAYESHAVEIT being a "comment about passing."

Some very nice things in the fill: I was amused by 5D: "4-Down-choo!" (SNEEZE), when 4D was AAH. That's a great way to make up for the less exciting word. GUSTAV Mahler is always welcome in my grid.
Wouldn't you be worried about hurting the ORCHID in this corsage?
Two entries today I often make mistakes on: 32D: Young weaned pig (SHOAT) - I want StOAT, but fortunately I already had TOES in place, and TT___ seemed highly unlikely for a long answer (if it were short, TTOP would be in play). The other is 84D: Mortimer ____, dummy of old radio and TV (SNERD). I really want SNEaD, the other old-timey personality from the world of golf. Again, I was saved by 101A: Trade jabs, which could only be SPAR.

My favorite pair of answers came right next to each other. 52D: Lower extremity affliction (SCIATICA) is great both for the association with Neurology, and for just the fun-ness of the word. Better is 53D: Secret target (BODYODOR). That's Secret, the deodorant brand, with a lovely hidden capital in the clue.

I will pick a nit with SCRUBBEDUP. When you clean your hands for surgery, you scrub in. I see that the other term Googles well, but I've never heard it used.

Stay healthy and safe out there!

- Colum

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday, April 4, 2020, Yacob Yonas

14:32

Today's puzzle also played on the easy side for this solver. I immediately got GRIND ("Tedious work") - don't ask! - and I recognized ALPHANERD straight away. The French word for "Before" (AVANT) posed no problems, and neither did EMOTE, LASE, or ULTRA. The clever clue for PODIA (Talking points?) did hold me up briefly because at 11D: ("My suspicion is..."), I had only the vowels at first (I_A_E_A_), making it difficult for me to see the answer (IDARESAY). "Queen or king maker" in that corner was also good. I knew a mattress brand was wanted, but I had taken a cautious approach on the first pass and entered only the S because I didn't know if the answer would be Sealy or SERTA.

In the southwest, thanks to CROPTOP I was able to drop in CSIMIAMI, which had the added benefit of getting me to flip my initial answers to the two "Numbskull" clues. I had entered IDIOT first and then MORON.

The one real slow down for me came in the south east. My thoughts were centered on a more delicious answer for "Chocolate ___" than LAB. :( Additionally, even though I didn't know "Nymph who divulged Jupiter's affair with Juturna, in Ovid" I went ahead and guessed LetA, which, dear readers, you all know was doubly wrong. Fortunately, LASHAT disabused me of that incorrect notion, but it still left me with one blank square because I didn't know A_IOSO ("Melodic passage"). I ran the alphabet and finally decided R made the most sense in both directions.

Elsewhere in the puzzle, I enjoyed the matching pair of Pluto clues (Pluto, e.g.), the answers to which were DWARF and ROMANGOD. I find it amusing that those two words are both correct answers to the same clue. I thought "Pen pal?" for  CELLMATE was excellent. "Where you might incur charges overseas" (ONSAFARI) made me think of that old joke, "How do you stop a rhinoceros from charging?" Take away its credit card! Ha! "PIN point" at 51A wasn't difficult but it is a fun clue for our old friend ATM. I also enjoyed GAPINGMAW as fill - so evocative! And who knew RAMADA meant "Covered porch"? That explains a lot.

SARIS

I found "Barb from the mouth" on the odd side as a clue for BLOWDART. Also odd was the "comments" part of "Some online comments, for short" (IMS), which I think of more as a medium for conversation than for comments, but that may be due to my limited experience of the social media world. 

Well, dear readers, I hope you all manage to CARRYON in good health and humor, and that you are finding many and various ways to SETATEASE the concerns of the day.

~Frannie.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020, Joe Deeney

18:10, FWOE

Sure, going absolutely nowhere for three weeks, working from home every day, and zigzagging across the street every time you see someone walking towards you on the sidewalk takes a bit of getting used to, but you know things are really weird when the Friday NYTX puzzle has a theme, albeit a modest one [GAPE]. The revealer, U2's first Billboard #1 hit WITHORWITHOUTYOU, provides a hint to four other answers in the grid. Two of the answers are family names in Shakespeare, both of which contain the letter U (MONTAGUE and CAPULET). The other two theme answers are the same family names without the U (MONTAGE and CAPLET). Funny that Mr. Deeney noticed the sit'ation and was able to tie it together with the U2 song.

Overall, I thought the puzzle played a bit easy for a Friday. I expect at least some of our esteemed readers to raise an eyebrow as they read that statement in light of the glaring FWOE above. Readers, I erred. I entered ERin at 6D (Language in which 'Hello, how are you?' is 'Halo, ciamar a tha thu?'). The first two letters, being correct, caused no trouble. As soon as I got the theme, the fourth letter was corrected, but I never revisited the clue/answer as a whole. When I got to 18A: "Some phone notifications during March Madness," I saw UPiETALERTS. Even as both a non-phone user and a non-March Madness person, I knew that couldn't be right, but I thought UPnETALERTS seemed plausible and ERnE, at a glance, seemed like a perfectly cromulent answer - and it is - just not for that particular clue. The correct answer, UPSETALERTS, once I saw it, was particularly apt. Apt!

Also in re: Friday puzzles, I thought that one pair of clues nicely illustrated our ongoing QMC/non-QMC conundrum (see glossary):

QMC: "Help to get back on one's feet?" REANIMATE
Non-QMC: "Apple varieties" (IMACS)

In other news, Jai ALAI is back! When was the last time that was in the puzzle? (Answer: over a year ago). The form of the clue (Jai ___) made it a gimme, as was also the case with __ Jima (IWO). Clues like those two, plus the fact that once you got one theme answer, the other three were pretty obvious, contributed to making the puzzle seem on the easy side.

"Leaves on the line" LETSDRY

I was entertained by the two "pound" clues: "One might be measured by the pound" (MUTT) and "Place for a #" (TWEET). I thought "In one year and out the other" (FADS) was a fun clue. I also enjoyed "True that" (ITIS) and In need of toning down (ABITMUCH). GINGERED (up) is ALLNEW to me, and an interesting expression to boot. GELID is nice. I've always liked the word COY. And who doesn't like a PIECEOFCAKE?

I haven't heard or thought of Xavier CUGAT in years. According to the Wikipedia, he was married to Charo for 12 years. She was his fifth wife, apparently. MYSHARONA!

In this time of physical distancing, I thought I'd mention that we welcome your comments on the daily puzzle here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA (see glossary). Input from the outside is the only way we'll know we haven't SEEST to exist.

~Frannie.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thursday, April 2, 2020, Evan Mahnken

23:44

Everybody's favorite Thursday puzzle type - the rebus! And a multi-rebus at that. I knew there was something afoot at 17A: "Social media fad that went viral in 2014" because I couldn't get ICE[BUCK]ETCHALLENGE to fit. A little further along, however, I got [BILL]MAHER (TV host once with an "Explaining Jokes to Idiots" segment) and things started to make cents. Once I figured out that even though 'fur'OR might be a reasonable guess for "Ado" at 38A, 'fur'CHOWDER was a non-starter, I was able to throw in [CLAM] and get the rest of my ducats in a row. I had the most trouble with the northeast. I didn't know ANN Wilson, lead singer of Heart, and at first I couldn't make heads or tails of 10D: Part of a diner showcase, until PIE finally hit me in the face.

At first, after completing the grid, I was a little puzzled by the revealer FIVEDOLLARWORDS because the rebii seemed to be $1 words rather than $5 words, but when I mentioned it to Horace he explained that I had mis-parsed the answer. What seemed a little like a minor incongruity turned out to be perfect when understood as 'five (the quantity) dollar words' ([NOTE], [BUCK], [BILL], [SINGLE], [CLAM]).  Ha! Now that's using your cabbage!

MSDOS

If I have one bone to pick, it's the cross between 21A: Jack of Rio Lobo" and 9D. "Tryst locale". I almost FWOED because I didn't know Mr. ELAM and I had entered [NOTE]LLhOTEL instead of the correct and excellent [NOTE]LLMOTEL]. D'oh!

~Frannie.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020, John Ficarra and Patrick Merrell

9:04

Three clues in today's puzzle appear to call for some very specific geographic knowledge including an historic town in Hungary noted for its baroque architecture, the left tributary of the Vitim River in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, and the village between Kruszyna and Jacków in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. In place of the geographic names, the answers are, from top to bottom, AREYOUKIDDINGME, WHOTHEHELLKNOWS, and IHAVENTGOTACLUE - answers I've thought in my head a hundred times, but they've never been correct before now. Ha!

I didn't clap on to the alternative answers right off the BAT. When I read the first clue, I found myself hoping that the down answers would reveal the name of a place that I didn't know I knew, if you see what I mean. When I got to the second clue, though, I thought, uh oh, I'm never going to get this one. When I got to the third clue, I thought I had figured out the trick - the answers were going to be a place or river name but they were going to sound like a recognizable phrase. Wrong. After filling in a bunch of the downs in the bottom third of the grid, the correct answer became clear, and then the other two answers came in pretty quickly.

I was curious about what the correct geographic answers to the clues might be, so I did a little research. The location referred to in the first clue appears to be a city called Pàpa. The left tributary of the Vitim River (if I understand what left means in this context?) appears to be Mama, and the village in Poland (pop. 305) seems to be called Baby.  April Fool's joke, or Easter egg? You be the judge. However it was intended, I loved it. Highly entertaining!

MOD

The theme is not all there is to like in this puzzle. The term WIDOW for "Short line at the top of a column, in typesetting" was interesting and NEWTO me. I liked HOPON for "Board a moving vehicle. "Doozy" and LULU are both fun. And who doesn't enjoy a reference to "Scotty's domain on the U.S.S. Enterprise" (ENGINEROOM)?

Other clue answer pairs that get a BIGA from me are:
"One thing ... or a twosome" (ITEM)
"Like Gruyère or Grandpa" (AGED)
"Idiots" (YOYOS)
"What the Lord sometimes does, in a classical expression" (TAKETH)
"Where fruit picking originated" (EDEN) - some creative cluing for an old chestnut. Speaking of old chestnuts, EELS shows up today, too ("Serpentine swimmers"). I wonder what the total number of clue variants for these two crossword darlings is.

On the BLIP side, I'll admit I have a thing against AGIN and the plural IRES gives me fits, but these complaints are trifles because this puzzle is a real LOL. Can I get some AMENS?

~Frannie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday, March 31, 2020, Christina Iverson and Ross Trudeau

9:28

Today's theme includes two answers I'm not familiar with. One is the revealer itself. I've never heard of CLAPBACK("Respond quickly and sharply to criticism ... or a hint to 17-, 28-, and 46-Across"), but, after consulting some example sentences, I am chalking it up to me being out of the loop on today's social media interactions. For the theme answers themselves, one must add the word CLAP to the "back" of each answer. So for ROLLINGTHUNDER that gives us THUNDER CLAP, there's also LETSTAKEITSLOW CLAP, and the other new-to-me term: GOLF CLAP. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary it's "an instance of deliberately restrained clapping by an audience, of a type considered appropriate during a golf tournament but expressing a lack of approval or appreciation in other contexts." I think I will be able to find situations in which the golf clap will come in handy when I'm back in circulation. :)

I was off to a good start with ABBA, MAKEDO, and RIO, but I dropped the BALL when it came to "Frisbee sport." I backed myself into a corner by confidently entering 'ultimate' - the other 8-letter Frisbee sport - instead of the correct DISCGOLF. Progress also slowed in the south west. I entered the incorrect BiANCA for "Like the middle band of the flag of Mexico" (BLANCA) and I didn't know "Bruins' sch." but luckily I realized UCiA wasn't likely to be correct before the final buzzer went off. It's times like these that I feel I'm back to square one on sports trivia.

ROSIE

I liked MENSCH, KITTENHEEL (as a word, not to wear), and LEAPSECOND. I also chuckled at DINGO, thinking of that bit in Seinfeld, but I just read about the origin of the phrase and maybe that one should take a back seat.

~Frannie.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday, March 30, 2020, Lee Taylor

6:44

Today's six theme answers are two-word phrases that all contain a first name, but as compound words, refer to (mostly) non-human things. I've never heard of SNEAKYPETE, but the rest, BLOODYMARY, EVENSTEVEN, SLOPPYJOE, JOLLYROGER,and LAZYSUSAN are old friends. The theme entertained, but I do worry that the NYTX is pushing the limits of social distancing by crowding those six individuals into a 15 x 15 grid, not to mention LESAGE, LEROY, ELMER, and GAVIN.

The puzzle also features the "Sign of the Ram" or ARIES, which is the sign for people born between March 20th and APR 21st. Happy birthday to all the Aries out there, especially anyone whose birthday is today!

ALPS

And speaking of the ALPS, Horace and I took an AERO plane earlier this year to attend a work conference in Innsbruck, where one can see what are apparently called the Northern Limestone Alps. Whatever you call them, they make for stunning scenery. In the city, it was just cold enough to wear WOOL. When we climbed an Alp to go sledding, we could see ITALIA in the distance. Horace and I travelled through the CANTON of ZURICH en route to Paris. No DUTCH this time. We returned from Europe only six weeks ago, but it's a different world now.

~Frannie.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday, March 29, 2020, Ricky Cruz

KEEP THE CHANGE

This puzzle lost me at BONESAW (Surgeon's tool). Before that, I'd been chugging along, entering things like DISTURBIA (2007 Shia LaBeouf thriller or a 2008 "#1 hit by Rihanna), BARF ("Eww, gross!"), SQUALID (Like a pigsty), SAC (Ink container), OPIOIDS (Some pain relievers), and VEAL (____ parm) without thinking too much about it. But BONESAW? OOF.

I finished it off, eventually, and then stared long and hard at what I thought for a while were two shaded Ns. Finally, I realized that they were actually shaded boxes, and the circled letters were the only different letters in the entire 5x5 squares. All the other letters, and even the black squares, were just the same. Kind of cool, but also kind of weird that they are so arbitrarily cut from longer words all around them. They are nicely side-by-side and centered in the grid, but, well, ...

And what about that TELLRIGHTFROMLEFT entry? We're supposed to SPOTTHEDIFFERENCE between the left and the right squares, and then enter the circled letters into the unchecked slots at either side, but does it really matter which side is which? And why "Keep The Change?"

I don't like unchecked entries, no matter how carefully spelled out, unless there is an exceptionally clever or necessary reason to (self)isolate them. To me, it was all very unsatisfying. But tomorrow is another day, and another reviewer! Here's hoping the new week brings better things.

- Horace

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday, March 28, 2020, Erik Agard

0:15:40 (F.W.T.E.)

OK, well, I didn't know HAUDENOSAUNEE (Native name for the Iroquois Confederacy), but the puzzle did prompt me to look at the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Web site a bit. I have long been interested in the groups that were here in America before we arrived, but my focus, when I did focus, was on the groups in the Pacific Northwest. The HAUDENOSAUNEE are in the eastern Great Lakes/upstate New York region.

EDNA St. Vincent Millay
My favorite American poet
It's good to learn of them, but the ending of their name, combined with the obfuscation of the clues for 38D and 47A, gave me some trouble. I ended up guessing incorrectly on 38D, and I'm actually not quite sure whether I initially had an E starting it or not, but whatever the case, it wasn't until I tried one or two nonsensical combinations around the X that I finally saw INT and EXT as the opposite kinds of shots "in a screenplay." It was that "in a screenplay" that really made me over-think it.

Anywhoo, aside from that area, this moved along rather fluidly. STILETTOHEELS (They don't give you much to stand on) and ITSRAININGMEN (1980s disco hit that became a gay anthem) came pretty quickly, and helped to pull the middle together. Up in the NW, I tried getACAB at first, and sofaS instead of COATS (Chesterfield and others), but my French helped again today with ATOI ("Merci ____ aussi"), and then PALEOLITHICDIET (Vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots and meat, classically) eventually helped to clear things up.

ETESIAN (Kind of wind across the Aegean) is another entry that is entirely new to me, but fortunately, the crosses in that quadrant were more to my liking.

Favorite clues: "Person on horseback?" (CENTAUR) and "Rider on a carousel?" (SUITCASE). Those were the days... remember when we could travel? Sigh.

- Horace

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020, Kyle Dolan

0:14:44

A solid Friday today, showcasing ten ten-letter answers. My favorite set was the triple-stack in the NE, partly because I've been all about ticking one more ACTIONITEM off the list this week! Seriously, who knew I could be so productive working from home?! (I've been working so much that I haven't even had time to get the review out at a reasonable hour!)

(One of the mermaid statue) NUDES

SHEETGLASS (What a pane!) was cute, and even though my roommate at Beloit made his own out of plywood and some trucks and wheels he found in the trash, it still took me forever to get LONGBOARDS. (Tim, if you're out there, say hi in the comments!) That's a really tough clue for a skateboard, but it is Friday...

Speaking of tough clues, "Africa's largest city that's not a national capital" (LAGOS) was just one of those that will require all the crosses. I'm guessing CANEM (Cave ____ (beware the dog)) was like that for some folks, but that one I was able to drop in. Thanks, Latin! And speaking of foreign language, you don't see SEUL (Alone, to Alain) much in a grid.

The pair of "Series of tweets" clues (THREAD and BIRDSONG) was nice. "Didn't use the can?" got a raised eyebrow, and I think I was almost more upset than I thought I might be when the answer turned out to be LITTERED. I mean, one is biodegradable, at least...

I don't have much else today. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners

0:11:33 (F.W.O.E.)

Is Mercury in retrograde? No, not right now. It was earlier this month... but it sure seemed like something was, because I kept looking back to previous CLUES to see if I really did just see "Mercury" mentioned a couple clues back. Turns out I did. Mercury is paired with five other, different members of our solar system, and each time, the answer is in a new category.

Mercury or Sun, e.g. - WNBATEAM
Mercury or Venus, e.g. - ROMANGOD
Mercury or Earth, e.g. - INNERPLANET
Mercury or Mars, e.g. - MUSICIAN (Freddie and Bruno)
Mercury or Saturn, e.g. - AUTOMAKE (both now defunct)

Not a bad set, but only barely Thursday-esque.

EYE of Providence
"Approved undertakings" "A new order of the ages"

I said OHNO to a few answers, like SOAKAGE (Liquid absorbed by surrounding soil), FIERO (Sporty 1980s Pontiac) (Remember those? No?...), and OPIUMS (Poppy products), but one must ACCEDE to such inclusions from time to time. Especially when they allow for more interesting fill like ASTARTE (Bronze Age fertility deity), OCELOTS (Striped and spotted felines) (This was my favorite animal in grammar school), and SABERS (They go into battle at the sides of cavalrymen). That last one is fun, and it didn't exactly trick me, but I did enter SwordS at first, which slowed that NW corner down a bit.

My FWOEment came at the intersection of ANYA (Novelist Seton) and ADVERT. I had entered ANne originally for the author, thinking, I suppose, of Anne Sexton, and I eventually changed NnE to NYE ("Bill ____ Saves the World"), but I never looked back at that E. Tant pis.

Not one out of the GILDED Age of puzzles, perhaps, but a decent enough start to the Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Laura Taylor Kinnel

0:09:26

I like Spring, and I like this theme. The months of that best of seasons are found - in order - in the names of different fictional characters (roles), and even though I had a hard time coming up with some of the names (I'm looking at you, APRILKEPNER), I thoroughly enjoyed the concept. Also - they're all women, which is nice, as, if you'll remember, this is Women's History Month.

There were several entries in here that came slowly to me, making it seem a little on the hard side. Not having gotten quite so caught up in the Bible or the Godfather as others have, neither ROMANS (New Testament epistle) nor CAPO (Sonny Corleone, for one) was on the tip of my tongue. And FILCH (Swipe) is a word I would never have come up with without crosses. See also: OPI (Big name in nail polish). That is the first time I've ever seen those three letters standing alone in my life.

JUNECLEAVER

Speaking of odd three-letter entries, that was some good trivia for PEI (Canada's smallest prov.).

In COVID-19-related fill, we have CARRYOUT (To-go), (what all food service establishments are reduced to, at least here in Massachusetts), AMA, ONCALL, ICU (Where R.N.s are always needed), and CURLSUP (Gets cozy), which is the best that we can hope for while we are all ALONE. And finally, IMISSYOU (Avowal to a long-distance lover), which is what everyone is saying to everyone.

Stay safe out there, and don't forget about the archive of puzzles available to you with your NYTX subscription. You can try any puzzle from the entire Shortz ERA! So sit back, DIVE into another crossword, and try to keep LOOSE.


- Horace

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Olivia Mitra Framke

0:04:51

What a delight, in these dark days, to solve such a smile-inducing puzzle this morning. The theme involves four phrases clued as if they were happy gatherings:

TVRECEPTION (The sitcom writers met at a ...)
TRIGFUNCTION (The mathematicians met at a ...)
MEDICINEBALL (The pharmacists met at a ...)
SEARCHPARTY (The Google employees met at a ...)

And the revealer just might be that central FARCE (Wacky comedy). :)

not so BIGCATs
Can you think of any others? "The auto-shop workers met at a 'tire blowout?'" "The balloonists met at an 'updo?'" ... My mother's sisters met at an 'anti-social?'" That actually wouldn't work in my corner of the map, but I understand it would in many other parts of the country.

So already, this one's off to a great start. Add to that a ton more fun fill and good-natured cluing, and you've got yourself a winner. A few of my favorites are: OCTET (Maids a-milking, e.g.), OWES (Is shy, in a way), and EARTHLY (Terrestrial). GENDERGAP and BRASSIERE are interesting symmetry mates. And is it ok for me to mention that I noticed that BRASSIERE was right next to RACK?

I initially entered dRY for "Like some humor," but the well-known Franklin quote "A constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy" (WINE) straightened that out. Me, I'm an AGNOSTIC at best, but a good quote is a good quote, IRECKON.

This puzzle is good proof that crossword constructors love to see us happy. And we're happy they do.

- Horace

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020, Ed Sessa

0:04:31

"AHOUSEDIVIDED against itself cannot stand." So said ABE Lincoln, quoting, most likely, the Bible, where it appears twice in the gospels. (I looked that up.) And if you'd prefer something more secular, Thomas Hobbes used a very similar phrase in Leviathan. (I actually read that one for a class somewhat recently.)

Jesus was proving that he wasn't working with the Devil, Hobbes was explaining government, and Lincoln was talking about slavery. Today, Mr. Sessa's use of it is all about wordplay. The word "house" is literally divided in each theme answer, split into "ho" and "use," and between those two sides, letters are crammed in to create HOPELESSCAUSE, HOLDTHEAPPLAUSE, and HOWCOULDIREFUSE. It's fun to imagine these three also being associated with Lincoln - the first was what he heard from critics when he suggested that the U.S. could be preserved, the second was what he might have said after the Gettysburg Address, and the last when he was re-elected. Too much? Probably.

SUN

So anyway, today my "interesting entries" include the fun words SKIFF (Flat-bottomed boat) and HORDE (Teeming throng), the excellent QMCs "Sleep-inducing pill?" for BORE, and "What may descend before the moon?" for TROU. Hah! It's odd to see RAYKROC (Founder of the McDonald's empire) right in the middle of the grid without him having anything to do with the theme, but I guess that's fine. It probably would have been tough to squeeze in one more split house in that spot. "Hot fuse?" (Electrician's problem), "Hoop use?" (Hula-ing, e.g.), "Hop user?" (Brewmaster)... yeah, probably best that slot was left out of the theme...

I tried CHERe instead of CHERI at 40D Dear: Fr., and I still think "chère" is better. Sure, CHERI does mean "Dear," as in "Mon cheri," but it's odd to see it A. without the "mon" and B. in the masculine. Still... I get it. It was crammed in there, crossing two theme answers and I'm sure the options were limited. At least TETE (Head: Fr.) was straightforward.

Overall, a fun theme.

- Horace

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020, Brendan Emmett Quigley

BRING YOUR "A" GAME

Before I get started on today's review, I just want to draw attention to Colum's special report (previous post) on the Crossword Tournament From Your Couch. The event, that took place yesterday afternoon, was a really lovely thing. Congratulations to Tyler Hinman, Will Nediger, and Sam Ezersky and Madison Clague, the winners in the three categories, and congratulations too, to Kevin Der, who - they say - pretty much single-handedly wrote the code for the puzzle-solving platform in less than a week. That he and Finn Vigeland, and the constructors, and, I'm sure, others I don't know the names (or duties) of, could bring this from conception to reality in such a short time is incredible.

It was great to see so many familiar names among the contestants and in the chat stream on Facebook, and even though I don't know very many of them personally, I felt a real camaraderie in the group. We're in a pretty strange time right now, and this event provided a real service to many people. Thank you.

Now, on to today's offering from Mr. Quigley. I like it! 

BLUECAP

(I thought for quite a while just now about leaving the review just like that, but I will elaborate a bit.)

The repetitious theme is pleasing. Soothing, even. Just say them out loud and revel in what tiny differences you can force. AVOWELAVOWAL. Are they both schwas? Or can you justify a tiny difference between the E and the A? Or between the initial A, as an indefinite object, and the first A of avowal? ...  ACQUIREACHOIR is tougher. Where are you going to bring in different sounds there? And in ARIVALSARRIVALS all you can do is add pauses. Am I making any sense? Anyway, I loved the theme.

A few other things: I love the way MTETNA (Sight from Catania, in brief) looks. "Spot for cannonballs" was a cute clue for POOL. I liked PUMMELS (Pounds), I always like reinforcement on different cooking terms (MILANESE (Dipped in egg and bread crumbs, then fried), and SATHOME (Didn't go out) is so very, very apt. :(

If I were an "Abolitionist Horace," I might try to root out PENTODE, ANIS, SERE, and NEHIS, but as I am, on the whole, a more lenient MANN, I say thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Virtual Update from Crossword From Your Couch tournament

Hey everyone! Bonus post from myself. Horace, Frances, and I have all participated today in the Crossword From Your Couch tournament. It was organized by Kevin G. Der, with a lot of assistance from Finn Vigeland, and featured two warm-up puzzles and then four tournament puzzles, with a finalist puzzle for the top three finishers in each category.

Hosted by Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht, who have a crossword podcast, which I had never heard about before. It's called "Fill Me In," and I will definitely be checking it out. They capably filled in spaces between puzzles with banter, interviews with crossword puzzle constructors, and explanations of tricky clues and themes.

I am happy to say that I finished all four puzzles with no errors, which was satisfying. I had the most difficulty with the third puzzle. Although I got the theme pretty quickly, I thought the revealer was going to be much more tricky than it turned out to be, and that entire corner was therefore challenging. I think I lost a couple of minutes, maybe even as many as four, figuring out that section. In fact, the fourth puzzle, which stood in for the infamous puzzle #5 from the ACPT, was easier, because you could solve without figuring out the theme at all, which is what I did.

So, finishing in 193rd place out of over 1600 participants is certainly really awesome. When you see the times on some of these participants, you just have to shrug and say, well. I'll never get to that speed. I've finished one Monday puzzle in under 3 minutes in my life, and there are people here who are finishing puzzles in under 2 minutes and a Sunday-sized puzzle in under 4 minutes.

I want to give a shout out to all of the amazing people who are in fact using the Internet the way we always hoped it would be used: to bring people together, to participate in events at the same time, to remind us of the fun we can have together, the odd quirky activities we share. Speaking of which, my daughter is currently doing a ballet class on Zoom with friends from college.

Fun times had by all, and congratulations to Tyler Hinman, who won by a nose!

- Colum

Saturday, March 21, 2020, Damon Gulczynski

12:01

I disinfected my house this morning, with diluted bleach. That's what it's come down to, folks. Do you know how many knobs there are in my kitchen? I think 49.

I also read in the New Yorker that as restrictions on movement in Shanxii province were released this past week, the divorce rate jumped way up.

So, if those are not some good reasons to escape into a crossword puzzle, I don't know what would be. And what a fine example we have today. Mr. Gulczinski hit on each and every one of his long answers, YESINDEED he did.

Let's start in the SE corner, where 60A: Race car, e.g. (PALINDROME) is a piece of beauty. I had incorrectly entered AmIr at 53D: Arabic leader (ALIF, the letter), which made things a little difficult to see. But you also have the lovely SWITCHEROO and 65A: Ones trying to cover all the bases (INFIELDERS). Ah, baseball. We might get some before the summer is over.

The NW corner was more challenging for me. I had OAHU and ESSAY as things I was sure about, but I made life harder for myself by dropping in "ona" for ACL. Finally I got WARTHOG and figured out LUTE, and then things made more sense. 17A: Fakes (CHARLATANS) is great, 15A: They come with strings attached (PARACHUTES) is also good (I really wanted something like "marionettes" but it just didn't fit), but the perfect start to the puzzle is at 1A: Slangy part of a conversation recap (SOIWASLIKE).

With MEDGAREVARS and DELTABURKE as well as everybody's favorite satay dip, PEANUTSAUCE, this is a winning grid all around.

- Colum

P.S. Don't forget the virtual crossword puzzle tournament today at 1 PM!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020, Wyna Liu and Paolo Pasco

DNF

First off, I'd like to post the link to the virtual crossword puzzle tournament that our regular commenter Jim Kingdon mentioned in the comments the other day. Here it is:

http://www.crosswordtournamentfromyourcouch.org

The tournament takes place tomorrow, starting at 1 PM. There is no cost to enter, and constructors include multiple favorites of mine, so I'm sure they'll be fun and challenging. In this time of social distancing, I love the idea of using the internet to bring us closer together. So puzz away!

So, on to today's puzzle. It's always painful to have to write those three letters at the top. I have my own rules for errors, etc. I allow one or two, in which case I use the FWOE or FWTE abbreviation. But if I have more than two, it's a DNF. Today, I guessed SARees for 28A: Required wear in some Hindu temples (SARONG). Perhaps I should have known GORDO, although I do not know Spanish at all, from Rancho Gordo. Meanwhile, JeAN seemed as likely as JOAN, and I did not parse REELIN, instead settling on the odd REELIe. Reelie?
A ROB Roy, that well known SCOT
Ah well, this sort of thing can't detract from a fine themeless puzzle. CARETOELABORATE? Why, yes I will, thanks for asking!

WHOWOREITBETTER is excellent, and I love the NW and SE corners, including ATHLEISURE, TWITTERATI, and ZAGATRATED. 17A: Acted cheekily (in two senses?) (STOLEAKISS) gets the nod for best clue of the day. Although part of me was hoping for something having to do with heinies. You can't have it all.

21A: They touch people's funny bones (HUMERI) is a lovely non-QMC. So literal. The funny bone, for those who don't know, is actual the ulnar nerve just behind the medial epicondyle of the elbow. For those who did know, I apologize profusely for neuro-splainin'.

Stay safe, y'all. And do lots of crossword puzzles.

- Colum

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020, Wayne Bergman and Gary Otting

8:18

Today's puzzle comes up with a CTRL-N twist on an old idea: replacing parts of phrases with the SHORTCUT you would use in a word processing program. And CTRL-A of them are spot on! Nothing I would CTRL-Z.

Okay, enough of that.

I filled in the NW corner quickly enough, aided by everybody's favorite auntie, MAME. So I knew right off the bat that something was up, but couldn't figure out the answer at 19A: Protection from piracy (CTRLCRIGHT) - copyright. So I worked my way up from the SW corner instead. I like the two "Elude" clues, leading to old friends DODGE and AVOID.

In fact, the first theme answer I got (after the revealer) was TOOTHCTRLV. Which I first entered as TOOTHpaste. And then it hit me. My favorite of the four is NICECTRLF. That's fun!
FETA - yum!
I notice a number of odd answers such as VDAY, CFLAT, EASTLA. I wonder if the theme answers with strings of consonants forced some different style of words. The note, which only ever shows up in G-flat major or E-flat minor for the most part (why write in C-flat major when B major with five sharps is equivalent?), is one of those ad hoc answers, nearly as problematic as TENTOONE. It is an ubiquitous time. Happens twice a day. But still, one of these days we might end up with "eightfortytwo" as an answer.

On the other hand, I enjoyed POOHBEAR, a rarely seen but completely acceptable version of his name.

- Colum

P.S. - A double debut puzzle! Congratulations to Mr. Bergman and Mr. Otting.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Ricky Cruz

4:12

Welcome to day three of quarantine, as my two daughters are fond of saying. They've got a jigsaw puzzle out and are making excellent progress on it. In other positive news, the young doctor in my department who came down with a cough and a fever last night tested negative. So at least we have that.

We also have the crossword puzzle, which today is not full of it at all, but rather full of FUL. Each of the theme answers takes a standard two word phrase, appends -FUL to the end of the first word to make a new word, and reclues wackily. I really loved 60A: Terrible attempts at peeling corn? (AWFULSHUCKS). That's worth a good chuckle.

I liked CAREFULBEARS and PLAYFULDEAD just fine, but I'm not sure about 45A: Exam in an interior design class? (TASTEFULTEST). What the clue is describing is a test about taste, while the answer seems to be describing a decorously put together examination. Too much? NAH. That's the point of a blog: to enjoy all the good and simply note the parts that don't quite make the same impact.
Just a NIP
Meanwhile, NEWSFLASH! I love a lot of the fill here. 8D: Introductory scene in some rom-coms (MEETCUTE) is excellent. We watched La Bohème on the Met Opera On Demand last night, and the first act is all about the meet-cute. In fact, there's very little tragedy in the opera until the last fifteen minutes or so. Could it be called a rom-com-not-so-com?

Cece was helping me out today and got both FONSI (thank God, because that one would have required all the crosses for me) and DENMARK.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Ross Trudeau

4:00

Do you want to know what I have MIXEDFEELINGS about right now? No, never mind, that doesn't even work. My vibes are hardly ambivalent. They're just all negative regarding said situation in the world right now. Fortunately, we have a crossword to keep us on a more even KEEL.

The grid today is a rare 15 x 16 mirror symmetry exemplar, which allows Mr. Trudeau to include three long answers in the form "blankANDblank" where the two blanks are different feelings, thus the revealer. I will give you PRIDEANDJOY and SHOCKANDAWE, but it's a little odd to have FEARANDLOATHING without "in Las Vegas." Still it's a fun theme, and the odd grid allows for some really fun long answers.

First off, INTERREGNUM. That's got to be a first in NYT xword history. Hang on...

[Goes to xwordinfo.com]

Turns out it was used in the pre-Shortz era (read: Maleska ... boy, those days were rough). I also liked JUDOTHROWS and YOURERIGHT. AHISTORICAL was what I just wasn't.
My personal favorite RYE
ECIG is rough: both the abbreviation and the E- prefix. Other less than ideal entries include ITSA partial, and that's about it. I definitely liked the two bottom corners for the stacks of three 7-letter words. And anyone who knows me will know that my favorite entry in the entire puzzle came at 64A.

Overall, a fun experiment, fitting for a Tuesday.

- Colum

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020, Gary Cee

3:53

Today's puzzle reminds us just how extra everything has been recently. You know what you can't have a ton of at once? People, that's what. You can't have so many of them. Not even ten. So stop hoarding all the people, people.

Right, so today's revealer, 39A: "I'm deeply indebted" ... or a hint to the ends of 17-, 25-, 51- and 64-Across (ITMEANSALOTTOME) gives a literal twist to the last words of each of the other theme answers: each one is defined as "a lot." The best of these is SEATTLESLEW, because the second part of the horse's name is actually a simplification of "slough," which doesn't have anything to do with a large amount of something, and because it's a great answer. PAPALMASS and BATTERYPACK are neutral, and SCRAPHEAP is too close to the twisted definition.

Meanwhile, the rest of the puzzle has some nice long answers in it, such as THENATURAL, an old favorite of mine (the movie that is, not the novel, which I did read years ago, and I think enjoyed) and GULFSTATES.
PLATO
There are an awful lot of proper names, including SALLY, STARR, and ANI. And if you have a problem with them (and I don't because there weren't any that were hard to get), I say POOH to you!

MYOPES was a tough get for a Monday. Or really any day. I mean, I rarely go about describing myself and my wife as a couple of myopes.

In any case, if you're stuck at home, it's time to break out the Sambuca, as we did last night, and shout SKOL!

- Colum

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday, March 14, 2020, Nancy Stark and Will Nediger

READY, SET ... GETS LOW!

What a crazy few weeks it's been, and I don't see any sign of things changing soon. So first off, words of caution: please stay safe, and practice good social distancing. And wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. As a physician, I can assure you that these are the best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to flatten the curve.

On a happier note, I'm glad to see that the ACPT has been rescheduled for September 11-13 in Stamford, CT. I hope we'll see all of you there!

Today's puzzle is all about spoonerisms, that oddity of the human language where, most commonly, initial morphemes are traded between consecutive words, to unintentionally hilarious results. The name comes from the Reverend William Spooner of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Oxford. In fact, he claimed that most of the examples of spoonerisms attributed to him were apocryphal. Oh, well. It's all lost in the hists of mime.

The theme answers are examples of same, where two words are then followed by their spoonerized companion pair, and clued wackily. My favorite by far is 114A: Piano that plays only a certain three notes? (BCHORDKEYBOARD), with the three notes being B, D-sharp, and F-sharp. I love how the spoonerization creates a completely different looking set of syllables. The other excellent one comes at 78A: Where a demanding dockworker gets supplies? (STEVEDOREDIVASTORE), reminding us that the first word is pronounced in three syllables.
TEAPOY: Has nothing to do with tea
The others didn't do much for me, but there's plenty in the fill that tickled my fancy. 31A: West of Chicago (KANYE) had a nice hidden capital. Another good non-QMC was 112A: It's not legal (LETTER), referring to paper sizes. And even better was 28A: Put down in print (LIBEL). Hah!

In the QMC department, 82A: Snack item with a salient anagram? (SALTINE) is fun. And 24D: Vocal quintet? (AEIOU) is nicely done.

Otherwise I enjoyed EUCHRE, AWEEBIT, and SAYHEY.

- Colum

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saturday, March 14, 2020, Peter Wentz

36:13

Well, I didn't DNF today, but the way things were going for a while, I really thought I might. I finished all but the mid- to southeast in about 15 minutes, but it took me an XTRA twenty minutes or so of putting my brain to UTES before I could complete the puzzle.

As usual, it was the massing of unknowns in one region that caused the slowdown. The rather vague (to this solver) "Green org." (USGA), followed by "Participant in a 1990s civil war" (SERB), followed by my misreading of "It comes three after pi" (TAU) as "It comes after pi" (rho) threw a real wrench. It didn't help that I had PaTS for "Rewards for good behavior, maybe" (quite a less satisfying reward than the real answer for most, I imagine), and no ideas for N.L. Central player. The unknown-to-me Lou DOBBS and the tricky "Pat on the back" (BURP) conspired to leave me answerless in the bottom southeast corner. But, perseverance paid off, and once I guessed US as the start of USGA, and took out the aTS of my erroneous 'pats', I finally saw SETTLEDOWN for "'Quit horsing around'" and that was enough to get me through the BELLAP.

I thought the overall difficulty level was good for a Saturday. A few answers that I was able to drop in like JANEDOES, FLICKR, FAKEID, AIRJORDANS, and HEFTY enabled me to get some of the long downs like CARAMELCORN and CADILLACMAN, and off I went like a JESUSLIZARD. :)
DAHLIA


There are some  beautifully tricky twists in the cluing, my favorite of which is the very clever "Complex figure?" (OEDIPUS) - that's one for the books! Also good were "Refuse to go there!" (DUMP) and "Make a delivery" (SPEAK). I liked ASKANCE and SPENDY as fill.

Here's where I should be saying, "see you all next week," but as most of you know by now, we crossword enthusiasts won't be able to gather next week for the this year's ACPT. The Tournament has become a highlight of the year for us here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA. We'll miss the camaraderie of fellow solvers and the chance to pit our wits against the best. Take care out there, keep puzzling, and see you next year, if not sooner.

~Frannie.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners

17:51, FWOE

Today's puzzle theme celebrates National PANDA day (March 16th) with a very nice grid depicting the face of a panda. If I'm honest, however, I'm a little down right now on words that start with 'pand.' Starting Monday ATNINE, my co-workers and I are all required to work from home for indefinite period of time. ACK!

But I digress. We get two nice long theme answers in parallel Downs in the east and west: BLACKANDWHITE and WASHINGTONZOO. I like to think SPIRITANIMAL, another nice long down, is bonus theme material. And no self-respecting panda-themed crossword puzzle would be complete if it didn't also contain the classic black-and-white treat, OREOS. :)

NEAPOLITAN

In case you're wondering, I FWOE'd over in the far west. I didn't know "Tony-winning actress for 'Miss Saigon'" (LEASALONGA) and the spelling of her name makes it a little difficult to guess. PLUS, I wanted eeK for "Yikes!" - so much so that I ended with eCK after PESCETARIANS (People who do not eat meat but do eat fish) forced out the middle 'e'. Derp.

Some of the non-theme clues were quite colorful including:
"Something drawn for sport" (BOWANDARROW) - I don't know if I would have come up with this one without the downs!
It has a lot of competition on TV (ESPN) - see what happened there?
Good name for a financial advisor (IRA) - ha.
Put on (GAIN) - very good
Strain to recall? (ECOLI) - groan
Rivers of New York City (JOAN) - nice hidden capital

I also liked VERISMO, which I've never heard of, but was happy to learn, and SOANDSOS, which is funny on at least two levels.

Let's hope things will start to look up for everyone in the not-too-DISTAL future.

~Frannie.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday, March 12, 2020, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

11:09

Today, in place of a traditional theme, we have a SIXWORD story attributed to ERNESTHEMINGWAY: FORSALE BABYSHOES NEVERWORN. Horace looked into the story a little and, according to the Wikipedia, Arthur C. Clarke mentioned in a letter that Hemingway won a wager with this story from a group at either Lüchow's or the Algonquin. Although the anecdote is unsubstantiated, the story sure does convey a lot with a little.

I found the cluing so apt that I often immediately knew the answer. For example, when I read "Elevate, redundantly," I dropped in RAISEUP. Other such examples include "Divulged" (SPILLED), "Unwelcoming" (ICY), Oust (DEPOSE), and "Feeling of a frosty wind" (NIP), all of which helped contribute to a fast Thursday time for this solver.

I thought the question mark clues (QMCs) were all amusing, and one or two produced outright yuks.
Bed of roses? (SOIL)
Gator's tail (ADE)
Not so fast? (LOOSER) - very nice!
And my favorite: Burning desire (ARSON) - ha!

I also liked, "It adds punch to punch" (RUM) and "People found in rows"(GARDENERS).

SEINE

And speaking of la belle France, Hyguens, how about today's non-skirt clue for MIDI?

~Frannie.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Erik Agard


0:06:50

Ever since my last vacation I’ve been feeling kind of PORGIE and trying to shed a few pounds, so finding pie, cake, candy, and a muffin in the grid isn’t really helping, thank you very little!

COBRA

Seriously, though, this is a fun and interesting theme of compliments (can we call them that these days?) based on food items. And I love the grid art, too, which seems to be a cute smiley face with hands out saying “How do you like this one?” How could I HATESON a puzzle while staring at that little guy? Unpossible.

There’s an edible bonus at 1A - PECAN (Ingredient in many a sandie cookie), and a fakeout at 32A: Sticky roll (TAPE). And after all that sweet stuff you’ll have to go see the DENTIST!

I liked the spirit of the cluing today quite a bit. There’s cleverness at 1D: Apt surname for a close-up magician? (PALMER), groan-worthy punning at 34D: What MoMA knows best? (ART), and puzzle/trivia-geek camaraderie at 10D: Ending of four state capitals [Can you name them all?] (CITY) (Jefferson, Salt Lake, Oklahoma, & Carson). And I liked getting caught up on the all the modern lingo with BOUGIE (Concerned with wealth, possessions and respectability, in modern lingo), LATINX (Gender-neutral neologism added to Merriam-Webster in 2018), and GAYMER (Portmanteau coinage for a queer-identified e-sports player, say).

Overall, a tasty Wednesday grid. Now it's time to GINUP!

- Horace

p.s. Frannie will be back tomorrow, I'm just filling in for a day.

p.p.s. We just learned that the A.C.P.T. has been cancelled. See the official site for Will Shortz's message. We're sorry to hear it, but we completely understand.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020, David J. Kahn

7:57

Today's theme answers are first and last names of famous people who share their first name with "saintly" cities in CALIFORNIA. So we have JOSEFERRER representing San Jose ('San' understood). I've never heard of San RAFAELNADAL, but I've visited San FRANCISCOFRANCO, and I even lived in San DIEGORIVERA as a youth. Good times.

I was happy to be able to drop BRIAR right in (23A: "Pipe type") because Horace and I very recently completed a giant puzzle (706 across and 692 down, according to the blurb) that we received from Games magazine in the 80's. That puzzle also contained the clue "Pipe type." We had B_IAR, but the across for the missing square was "Odd, in Inverness" (ORRA - who knew? not us). BRIAR seemed very likely, but ORRA not so much, so we looked that one up at the end to confirm it. And you know what? Bowls of tobacco pipes are commonly made of briar wood. It seems rather LAX of Mr. Shortz to allow an exact repeat of a clue and answer after only 35 years. :)

I enjoyed the two question mark clues, "Fix a clog?" (RESOLE) and "Company with a can-do attitude?" (ALCOA). I also liked BARGE, MAZE, MOJO, APOP, FOSSIL, and HEREIAM.
NEON
OSE, DAS, ASALE, and AERO may not be great, but they, too, have their place in the puzzle world.

~Frannie.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday, March 9, 2020, John Lampkin

5:30

Today's theme was a quantity of enjoyment. :) How much, you ask? It ranged from a GRAINOFSALT to a TONOFBRICKS. Interesting that 'a grain of salt' featured in yesterday's theme as well.

There were a number of fun clues. I especially liked "What a robber hopes to get?" (AWAY). As an added bonus, that one crossed "How robbers get caught" (REDHANDED). Apt! I also enjoyed 60D: "Why is a flower like the letter A? A: Because a BEE goes after it." Ha. I appreciate any mention of ERLE Stanley Gardner as I am a big fan of the old show Perry Mason. As I re-watch episodes, I notice that many episodes feature the introduction of then-new technologies like immediate check cashing verification (by phone), pocket-sized sound recording equipment, and in "The Case of the Medium" (1961), ESP testing!

Also in the grid I found an ample allotment of fun fill including FORAGE, PLY, FEASTS, NEON, and HOGTIE - we've all been there!
FIG (Newton)
I wanted to use ARCS for the image today, but in available pictures I found of falling stars, it was all straight lines - none looked the least bit like arcs. I suppose, like much in this world, it's a matter of perspective.

As a person who very rarely DOLLSUP, it is perhaps not surprising that I have never heard of GELEE in a cosmetics context. Anyone know if it's any good for hiding a POUNDOFFLESH? :)

~Frannie.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunday, March 8, 2020, Laura Taylor Kinnel

"What's Shaking?"

Well, I'd like the answer to today's theme question to be 'the patriarchy,' but we know that isn't so. Howsoever that may be, we've enjoyed a great week of puzzles thanks to seven representatives of half of the world's population. Huzzah!

I'll get off the soap box now and pick up the shaker to address today's very brine theme. What is literally shaking in this puzzle are the letters in rebus squares that flip from [SALT] in the across answers to [NACL] in the down answers. For example, at 65A we have "Boardwalk buy" ([SALT]WATERTAFFY) while at 35D, we have "Shows how it's done" (PUTSO[NACL]INIC) with NACL where the answer crosses the SALT cube of 65A. The theme answers are nicely sprinkled all around the grid. As an added bonus, a good number of female figures SPICESUP the grid, to wit: Australia's national women's basketball team, the OPALS, Harper LEE, TARA Westover, MAE Jemison, EVAN Rachel Wood, EMILIA, LEILA, Shirley MACLAINE, and Joni ERNST(S). Sometimes, the preponderance of males in a grid strikes this solver as a little CLUE LESS.
STE
Jeanne d'Arc à cheval. Miniature issue du manuscrit "Les vies des femmes célèbres" d'Antoine Dufour, 1504, Nantes, musée Dobrée.
I got stuck only briefly in the south west where I entered 'sum' for "Descartes's conclusion" (IAM). Amusingly, it was the only answer in that quadrant that I didn't think twice about. Does that mean I ISNT?

Clues I thought had a little extra flavor include:
"Sounds 'everywhere,' in a children's song" (BAABAA)
"Jam producer" (TRAFFIC)
"Big feller?" (AXE)
"Nursery rhyme couple (SPRATS)
"Memorized" (PAT)
"Lightly roast" (TEASE)
"Agent of change" (DYE)

I also liked VIM, WUSS, OODLES, DEKED, SWIG, DRIVEUPAWALL, SLOSH, and PURL.

In sum, a very enjoyable Sunday solve. Happy International Women's Day everyone.

~Frannie.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Saturday, March 7, 2020, Robyn Weintraub

0:13:09

Called it! And I'm delighted about it. There are so many great things about this that I don't know where to start!

I choose to begin with the side-by-side entries WHEREWEREWE (Query following an interruption) and SESAMESEED (Bit on a bun). The clues fine - what I like is that both contain a tripled letter and so many Es! I don't know... I just love the look of them.
WIS
For more traditional puzzle praise, your author now SPOTLIGHTS his favorite misdirections:

14A: Fit for a sweater (AGUE). I first thought "is this just going to be AGed? Do you need to be old to wear a sweater these days?" ... but no. It's a fit of AGUE that makes you sweat.

27A: Small cardinal (TWO). First I went to birds, then to religion, and then only when pretty much forced to (as usual for me) to math.

33A: It might go over some students' heads (PAPERAIRPLANE). Hah! Lovely.

46A: Seafood in shells (FISHTACOS). Not oysters. Not clams. Shells of corn, not chitin.

48A: End notes (CODA). I dropped in "obit" thinking I was all that and a bag of chips.

8D: Brown alternative (PENN). Not color, college.

26D: One of seven in 14th-century Avignon (POPE). Now this probably didn't fool many people like it did me, but I immediately though of the song "Sur le pont d'Avignon," and I assumed that maybe there were more than just one pont, so I put that in. Nope.

That's probably enough listing of things.

The stepped triple-stack in the middle is solid, the long Downs are solid, we've got fun words like MAGMA and MINX, and overall, this is a lovely Saturday puzzle. Great way to start the day and finish the regular-sized puzzle week.

- Horace


Friday, March 6, 2020

Friday, March 6, 2020, Caitlin Reid

0:14:26

The Turn continues in fine fashion with a fun-filled Friday offering from Ms. Reid. She threw in a little something for everyone today - a nod to the Boomers (or their parents) with HAIRTONIC (Men's grooming aid), to the Gen-Xers like yours truly with THECASBAH (Place "rocked" in a 1982 top ten hit), a gem for the "Crystal collectors, maybe" (NEWAGERS), and a raised MOCKTAIL to today's trend-setters. And to the one who doesn't find herself among those groups, "POORDEVIL."

Marianne MOORE


I always enjoy a nice "double clue," as we find in the NW ("Oath locale" for COURT and ALTAR), and I loved three of the four Downs in that quadrant. POLO is fine, but AUTO (An exhausted person might be on it) was unexpected, DRAFTY (Like a hospital gown, maybe) was oh so vivid, and STRAIGHTS (They're in good hands) was straight-up clever!

Another pair of clues that had me stumped for a while was "Threat bearing small arms?" and "Subject of a scandal, maybe." I had everything but the X for a minute or two, before finally getting SEXT. The clue for TREX, now that I get it, is hilarious.

Other QMCs that got a chuckle were "One famous for seeing double?" (NOAH) and "Old knockout?" (ETHER). And on the other side, "Sources of buzz" (HIVES) was also fun.

There's more I could mention, but IDONTHAVEALLDAY. It's been a great week of puzzles so far, and I'm already looking forward to tomorrow! (My money's on Ms. Weintraub.)

- Horace

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday, March 5, 2020, Zhouqin Burnikel

0:15:45

As I look at my completed puzzle grid just now, 36-Down is highlighted - (MA)LICE (Evil intent), which seems perfectly appropriate for Ms. Burnikel's assault on solvers' minds today.

SERFS

Everything started simply enough, with a straightforward "MAD" rebus at 1A, making "made faces" and "Madonna," but then in the very next Across, things got messy. "Web master" seemed perfect for "Site administrator," but the "MAS" rebus was slightly different from the first one, and it didn't work well with 12-Down, "Food cooked in a cornhusk," which just had to be "tamale." And below that, the crossing answers "maladies" and "remain" each needed something... but again, they didn't work together...

I think it was the intersecting theme answers that made this so difficult for me, because it focussed my efforts on finding a single rebus that would work for both at the same time, or at least something that would unify the different rebi. Slowly, I started to notice that although my rebuses were slightly different - mad, mas, mal, man, mai - they all contained the same first two letters. And then, suddenly, NOMAS made sense. The trick is to remove all the MAs! The theme answers intersect, but that is not relevant to the final solution. Whew!

And the beautiful thing is that without the MAs, the puzzle is still filled with valid words (or names). Very nice.

And on top of that APLUS theme, we get a couple lovely Non-QMCs at 28D: Dancer's horn (ANTLER) (Think Christmas.) and 15A: Preceder of many N.H.L. games (OCANADA). And I found it kind of amusing that PANGRAM was in the grid, even though the puzzle itself is seven letters short.

I enjoyed the mind-bending challenge today.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Wednesday, March 4, 2020, Tracy Gray

0:07:59

OOH! A Wednesday puzzle with a trick! I'd say this bodes very well for the rest of the week, as the constructors try to ONEUP each other by bringing their AGAME. :)

SWANSON

I finished this puzzle without really understanding what was going on, but I knew the Downs were correct, and the "odd space" was consistently an O. What I didn't notice until after the fact was that each odd O was the bottom of an upside-down "one," and those letters are used to complete the Across answer. It's obvious if you read the revealer, or are more observant than I am while solving, but I think that SE corner was completed using Downs only, so I never even saw it. Sometimes it goes that way.

So anyway, I really enjoyed this one. First of all, I love a trick puzzle, and I love it especially when it comes as a surprise on a day other than Thursday. And ADDEND to that, the grid is AGLOW with HOT answers like SWOLE (Extremely muscular, in slang) (gross), CARESS, GAZEINTO (Stare at, as another's eyes), ANIMAL, and AROMAS (Memory triggers, for many). Speaking of that, I read yesterday that AROMAS are now being used to "brand" hotels and stores. Companies are pumping scent into lobbies, rooms, and retail spaces. I find this trend horrifying. When smells are impossible to get away from, they can be very disturbing. If there are any heads of industry reading, please know that not all of your customers want to be subjected to signature scents!

OK, rant over.

I love how CLAUDEMOT looks in the grid. It would be a good pen name for a French author. Hah!

- Horace


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tuesday, March 3, 2020, Lynn Lempel

0:05:22

Women's Week continues today with a star-studded puzzle from Lynn Lempel. Five famous figures are playfully clued:

ANNIEOAKLEY - Shooting star?
ALROKER - Morning star?
SIMONEBILES - Gold star?
SANTACLAUS - Pole star?
PAULBUNYAN - Giant star?

I was worried at first that the clue for the last one was referencing a sports team, but was happily proven wrong. My favorite is "Pole star?," because who doesn't smile when thinking of Santa?

Boston's Orange Line ELS have been put underground, and so are still not at street level

I also smiled to find TSAR (Ruler in the Romanov line) at 1D after mentioning the spelling of that word yesterday. Huygens, in the comments, brought up my own spelling - "gzar" - which I use at work, where I am the self-styled "Green Gzar." And now that I think about it, I guess I would prefer that the spelling change as necessary. I can imagine a "Traffic Tsar," a "Commerce Czar," and maybe even a "Health Hzar." The first letter is silent anyway, so what does it matter?

GOESNUTS (Flips out) is fun, "Big pig" was kind of cute for BOAR, "Put in stitches" was a good Non QMC for SEWED, and while PARIAH and TRAVESTY are not good things, they are good words.

In addition to the two female theme answers, we've got MILA Kunis, AVA DuVernay, Lucy LIU, and the prehistoric SUE. I would also like to announce that Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have won the Pritzker Architecture Prize this year. It's the first time that two women have won the award. Nothing to do with crosswords, but a happy occurrence during Women's History Month and Women Crossword Constructors Week.

Overall, a fine Tuesday offering.

- Horace

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Monday, March 2, 2020, Andrea Carla Michaels

0:03:45

Here's what I learned from today's crossword, that Monday is the first day of the week. Officially! Wonder no more about the Sunday/Monday controversy. According to ISO 8601, it is Monday. Case closed. And just as the United States abides by ISO 31-1 (measurement standards), we abide by ISO 8601. Well ... at least we do here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA, and apparently they do at the NYTX too.

It makes sense, then, that this commemorative week of puzzles created by women to mark the first full week of Women's History Month should start on Monday.

Anyway, today it's Andrea Carla Michaels, and I can't help but wonder whether her puzzle has a hidden message about how much she thinks Women's History Month means to most Americans. I hope it's not true, but then, I hope a lot of things.

Where once there was a CRAG that looked like a GRANITE face

I was not previously aware of SQUATJUMPS. We used to do "squat thrusts" in grade school, but I watched a video just now and SQUATJUMPS are not at all the same thing. Seems like they'd be great for toning up the legs, but I'm not sure my knees would enjoy them. Or even tolerate them.

I was happy to see my preferred spelling of my non-preferred system of government, CZAR, in the grid today. All you CZAR-SYMPATHIZERs SNAPOUTOFIT!

I wouldn't know LAMAR ODOM from ZEROMOSTEL, but IDO know who Greg LEMOND is! Kind of sad, though, that I'm ending this review with the names of three men. I look forward to more female-constructed puzzles for the rest of this week, and, hopefully, for the rest of time.

- Horace

Sunday, March 1, 2020, Sam Trabucco

LETTER DICTATION

Greetings, Dear Reader! Horace here, taking over after two weeks of excellent reviews from Frannie and Colum. From the heights of humor and erudition, you now get a week of grumpery from this LAZYBUM. So let's get right to it.

HANSOLO shot first

My reaction today was "Too clever by half," as my mother-in-law used to say. I generally like word games - I do write a crossword blog, after all - but this morning the nonsensical all-cap clues got on my nerves quickly. "GAZACHO," for instance, yields SPLITPEASOUP, and you see that and you think ok, it's a soup, gazpacho, from which the letter P has "split." Clever, yes, ok. And really, they're all clever. "ENTURIES" uses LONGTIMENOSEE ("centuries" is a "long time" but there's no C)...

It's nice that Mr. Trabucco found eight phrases containing a "dictated letter" (and by the end there are even two "spoken letters" in the answer - AREYOUWITHME for "RUMYSELF"), but I guess what I don't really like is that the clues are nothing more than creations that cannot stand alone. Too picky? Perhaps. I guess they're essentially rebus puzzles - the old kind, not the multiple-letters-in-one-crossword-square kind. I used to like those, so maybe I should lighten up...

So that's some grumpiness for you, to get the week (and the month!) started. Now let's look for some TRESBON material. How about "Something that's not easy to blow" (SMOKERING). That's a non-QMC that's a BARRELOFFUN. Another non-QMC I loved was "Obstacle-free courses" for EASYAS. Hah! And on the other side of the coin, we have the fun QMCs "Happening again?" for RETRO, and "Rock standard?" for CARAT. I also enjoyed "Help line?" for SOS. We did just see that answer clued as "Help wanted sign" (non-QMC) on Friday, though, which made it easy to get today.

The "false capital" in "John, to Lennon" confused me for some time before LOO became clear, but I wasn't fooled at all by "Old Spanish bread" (PESETA). Frannie and I, back when money-changing in Europe was a big bother, left Spain with only three PESETAs between us. This was before international ATMs, when you had to go to a bank or the American Express office to change travellers checks. Remember those? Sheesh! We were kids, and we didn't have much money anyway, and you seemed to lose a little every time you went from one currency to another, so the trick was to get only what you needed in each country. Anyway, that was our best one. Three PESETAs back then was mere pennies.

Where was I? ... I had never heard of a KILLFEE (Payment to a freelancer for unpublished work), so that was interesting. And "Annoyance for Santa" (SOOT) was amusing. So on the whole, still an enjoyable solve.

- Horace

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Saturday, February 29, 2020, Andrew J. Ries

10:18

It's Leap Day! The birthday of Frederick, from The Pirates of Penzance. Here's a little trivia question for you: what birthday would good old Frederick be celebrating today? Answer below!

We don't get any nod towards this quadrennial event in today's puzzle, just a very nice themeless. I wonder if JANELLEMONAE was the seed today. She was excellent in Moonlight, but I know one of her songs only, Make Me Feel, which was written by Prince and you can tell. Her intro to the Oscars this year was a big mess but a good one.

For your non-QMC style clues today, a good one is found at 36A: Frank type (BEEFHOTDOG). It's a very nice bit of deception because it's so straightforward on a Saturday, that is assuming you figured out that the first word was a noun and not an adjective. Another good one is at 49D: A boom might come out of it (MAST). On the other hand, 43A: Skort circuit? (LPGATOUR) is quite amusing. 3D: List of frozen assets? (DESSERTMENU) just misses, in my opinion. Too many opportunities for non-frozen delights on a dessert menu.
The CROTONRIVER, just a little South of me

I like it when I know a bit of trivia that helps out. For example, 25D: Site in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco, for short (USMINT) went right in. Similarly with HAGAR.

I was slowed down by putting in EGGRaceS (?!) at 21A: Easter activities (EGGROLLS). I mean, I'm not far off. But the eggs aren't racing, so I was definitely off here.

So much good: BOYARDEE, JAMESON, KOALAS. I also keep on misparsing FUNKRAP as "fun krap," which I suppose is a faint compliment.

Good times. I pass off to Horace starting tomorrow. See you all soon!

- Colum

P.S. The answer to the above riddle, for those who care about Gilbert and Sullivan. Frederick states that "In 1940 I of age will be..." So he will celebrate his 21st birthday that year, or so he believes. The difficult thing is that he (and presumably Gilbert) may have forgotten that there would be no Leap Day in 1900. How can we tell whether he did or didn't?

Well, if he did remember that, he would have been born in 1852, and if he didn't he would have been born in 1856. Since the events of the operetta take place 21 years later, it could either be in 1873 or 1877. But we have a definitive hint: the Major General sings that he can "whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore," and HMS Pinafore was first staged in 1878. Well, that must mean that Frederick was actually born in 1860, so the events of the play could take place in 1881 (I think we have to assume that the Major General doesn't have precognition). Which means that in 1940, he was actually celebrating his 19th birthday.

And that means that in 2020 (remembering that 2000 was a leap year), Frederick is celebrating his 39th birthday.