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.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Friday, February 28, 2020, Aimee Lucido

6:08

After yesterday's astounding puzzle, it was going to be hard to keep up the momentum on The Turn this week. But Ms. Lucido has put together a lovely themeless for today's Friday. It's filled with fun entries and clever clues. Not to mention one of the oddest bits of crossword trivia I've come across in years. Who knew that a TOAD was called Bufo bufo in scientificese? Not I, that's for sure.

I count fourteen answers in today's grid of at least eight letters. That's a nice haul, and only one of them, CONTAINING, is sort of boring. That's thirteen at least mildly sparkly longer answers, and some of them, like SHARKNADO and SIXTHSENSE (I liked the second movie much better than the first - but to be honest, I never saw the first). MAKEITRAIN is also a very fun answer.

We start the puzzle off with a great clue and answer with 1A: See the seasons pass quickly? (BINGEWATCH). Hah! That's great. And it's followed quickly by 14A: Something that requires thinking inside the box? (ESCAPEROOM). Good stuff.

Little touches make a puzzle leap up from good to great. Things like 18A: They're often high, but never dry (SEAS). Or 15A: What mustache-twirling might suggest (EVIL). Or how about 43A: Help wanted sign (SOS). Great non-QMC! It's how you turn even the smallest bit into something that makes you smile.

Of course we have much less interesting stuff, like EPH, RECUT and RELIGHT. And the clue at 41D is queeb inducing. Even though the novel is brilliant, it's subject matter is horrifying. I've been reading Kate Atkinson's latest Brodie Jackson novel, which is as always, completely brilliant. But her theme throughout these books is the ways in which young girls and women are used and discarded. At least #MeToo had a win this past week.

No EARTHSHATTERING insights today. Just admiration.

- Colum

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020, Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb

7:26

Remember what I said yesterday about not ever being a constructor because I couldn't come up with these ideas? Yup, count today as extra proof of concept. The little blinking clue at the top of the puzzle tells us that today's offering has sixteen (16!) solutions. This was what gave away what was going on for me.

I recognized that there were going to be rebuses in the puzzle when I hit 18A: Mantra chants (O[MS] or [OM]S). I chose to put the rebus in the second square to create 1D: Sounds that can startle (BOO[MS]). But it could equally have been BOOS, just as 1D could be answered with WHO or WH[OM].

And that happens three more times, each time at the site of what look like they're going to be 2-letter answers, which are typically forbidden in standard crossword puzzles. Instead, each one is a 3-letter answer, with equal potential for the rebus to be in either square, creating four possible answers at each intersection. For the record, my favorite pair of alternate answers comes at 33D: Go to extremes, foodwise (FAST vs [FE]AST). That's great, the answers encompassing opposite definitions.

To make things more clever, we get 6D: Quantum mechanics thought experiment in which contradictory states exist simultaneously (SCHRODINGERSCAT), which is one way of thinking about what's going on in these eternally flipping rebus squares. But if you wanted two other ways of thinking about them, you can look at the NE and SW corners. One has 14D: With 16-Across, travel internationally (CROSS / THEBORDER), which the middle letter of each rebus jumper is doing. The other has 42D: With 55-Across, breakup line (INEED / SOMESPACE), with the middle letter leaving each relationship to join the other letter...

Wow. That's a ton. To make it more fun, when I finished the puzzle, the app automatically made the alternate rebuses move back and forth with the middle letter in blue. It's fun to watch.

I'd be happy with this puzzle just with this, but you also get MAROONED, NEWBLOOD, and the great Rod CAREW. I can overlook a RVER for all of that.

- Colum

P.S. Look at the letters that skip back and forth for yet another layer to this brilliant theme.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020, Francis Heaney

5:10

Today's theme is an example of how I know I would never make it as a crossword puzzle constructor. I did not see this coming at all, as I worked my way through the puzzle, and only after finishing and carefully reading the clue at 67A did I get what was going on.

BIL/LIE/EIL/ISH, winner of four GRAMMYs this year, one of which was Best Record of the Year for BADGUY. We're all huge fans in the Amory-Perlman household, and have been for a while. How brilliant is it to recognize that her name could be broken down into four 3-letter strings, each of which could make up the ending of a longer answer?

My favorite is hiding in TROMPELOEIL, an example of which we saw at The Getty Museum in Los Angeles this past weekend, but the other three are all strong, especially HIPSDONTLIE. Shakira really proved that at the Super Bowl earlier this month.
Proof that the Manx cat has, in fact, NOTAIL

The puzzle as a whole has me AGOG. So much that is good, and very little that I MOANED about while solving. I can point to TWOPM, a random time answer, and that's about it.

Meanwhile, I can certainly ATTESTTO the fact that Ms. Eilish's music is neither ATONAL nor AUTOTUNED.

I love HOTFUDGE, and KATYDID is an excellent answer. Overall a brilliant piece of work by Mr. Heaney.

- Colum

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020, Peter Gordon

5:09

How many of us know our own STATE's MOTTO? I was surprised to find out that New York's is "Excelsior." My esteemed colleagues who make their home in Massachusetts may not know that theirs is "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem." Showoffs. Translated, it states: "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty."

This puzzle's theme is individual state's mottos hidden as the first word of a common phrase. It's a tight theme group, as there are in fact only four states whose mottos consist of a single English word, and all four are represented here. That being said, the revealer is more of a "Huh." moment than an "aha!" moment.

Did you know that in the new XFL, you can throw more than one FORWARDPASS, as long as both are released behind the original line of scrimmage? This is one of the many XFL rules I think ought to be moved into the pro game, but the NFL is a stodgy beast.

Meanwhile, I had a few moments that nearly made me cry "SHEETS!" Okay, I exaggerate. I entered PRude for 7D: Strait-laced person (PRISS), which led to 24A: "Quite true" (ITISSO) being incorrectly guessed as soISee, and thus the NW corner was locked out until the end. Particularly since I had a mind block and couldn't recall JONAS Salk.

Unfortunately, the fill is rife with things like plural GILAS (which only ever googles as Gila Monsters), ORCH, ORTHO and random ONEAM. I do appreciate other entries like the peculiar ACTIII, AWSHUCKS, and TRIPOLI.

Anyway, I think that's an OEUF, don't you?

- Colum

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monday, February 24, 2020, Jacob Stulberg

3:34

Well, I’m back in upstate New York, AWASH in colder air than what I’ve been used to in Southern California. It’s a tough transition, but all vacations must come to an end at some point, and it’s the return that helps us remember how special our time away was. Still, going in to work tomorrow will not SUET me at all.

Today’s puzzle was fun. I always enjoy when the theme answers are in the downs instead of the acrosses. The revealer comes at 15D: Activity depicted in a famous 2/23/1945 photograph ... and in three of this puzzle’s answers (RAISINGTHEFLAG). The photograph in question is from Iwo Jima, and yesterday was its 75th anniversary. We’re one day off, but it probably would have been harder to do this theme on a Sunday, requiring six or seven theme answers.

This grid requires only three answers where the word “flag” is hidden backwards (or upwards, to be precise). DININGALFRESCO is the best of the three, with KINGALFRED next and LEGALFORCE last, because it doesn’t feel as organic as the other two. Or perhaps only the first is organic? Especially if you buy free range, antibiotic and hormone free.

Huh. That was a bit forced. Apologies.

The fill felt a tad violent today, what with POLICEDOGS doing FACEOFFS while one cop OPENSFIRE and another several DOSHOTS. Around this time, I suspect, you’re all wishing Horace or Frannie were doing the reviews this week.

To which I say, APSES makes the heart grow fonder.

[Mic drop]

- Colum

Sunday, February 23, 2020, Sophia and David Maymudes

RESOLVED

Hey, everybody! Apologies for the lateness of the review, but I’m on West Coast time here INLA. I know some of the reviewers on this site have been traveling in fancy-schmancy places like France and Europe and stuff, but us true Red-Blooded Americans only travel within the 50 states, to places like Los Angeles. It’s been pretty amazing here; definitely the highlight was seeing the Getty Museum. I highly recommend it.

But back to more important stuff like reviewing today’s puzzle. It’s a pretty classic concept: take a well known phrase, stick the letters RE- on the front to make a new verb at the outset, clue wackily, and hilarity ensues, as we like to say. My favorite examples are usually the ones where the added letters require a degree of reparsing. Today’s was 69D: Places to swim during school? (RECESSPOOLS). Note how the original word has now been split in half to make sense of the new entry.

My second favorite is 70A: Hate getting ready to move? (RESENTPACKING). This time, the reparsing makes you change the pronunciation of “sent.” Otherwise, I was amused by RESTOCKSANDBONDS, but the others were fairly neutral. Your milage may vary.

In other news, there are plenty of fine entries in the non-theme entries. I’m not fond of a DEATHTRAP in real life, but I like it in my puzzle. Also, STRUCKOUT and SIDCAESAR are excellent. I also am fond of a RINGCYCLE, although I’ve never had the opportunity to see one or even any of its component parts.

Fun clues include 7D: Bad records to have (RAPSHEETS), especially when the puzzle also includes a reference to Guinness’ Book of Records. I also was amused by 11A: Calendar abbr. that’s also a French number (SEPT).

I’m flying most of the day tomorrow, but should have time along the way to get the review done.

- Colum

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday, February 22, 2020, Trenton Charlson

34:43

My first entry in today's puzzle was 59A: "'____ Lupin Versus Herlock Sholmes' (1910 story collection)" because Horace started the puzzle before me and called out the clue out to me knowing that just last week, while we were in Paris, I bought and read an ARSENE Lupin book called L'Aiguille Creuse that featured Mr. Sholmes.  Quelle co├»ncidence!

And get THIS, we are spending the weekend with friends and at the breakfast table, out of the blue, one of them started singing "Lido Shuffle"! And what do we have at 28A? None other than "'Lido Shuffle' singer Boz" SCAGGS. OMG!

The two sets of long answers in the top and bottom of the grid are notable for their stacked Q answers: QUIZZICALLOOK (very nice fill in and of itself) over QUOTATIONMARKS above and FROZENDAIQUIRI over DENOFINIQUITY below. Quite Qool.

MOA

I liked "To the nth degree" (ROYALLY), "Bygone sovereigns" (CZARINAS - with the rarely seen CZ spelling!), and "Bad, bad, bad!" (FORSHAME).
I also enjoyed the ambiguity of the clues "Going by" for (NAMED), "Sweets" for BABE, and the lightly humorous "Sound made by a slug" for BAM.

After this fun Saturday solve, I'm OFFTO rejoin the group in the kitchen and BEAPAL.

~Frannie.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Friday, February 21, 2020, Eric Agard and Anne Flinchbaugh

15:20

I don't usually comment on, or indeed notice, the shape of the puzzle grid, but I couldn't help it today. The grid looks a bit like two big Z's linked by a strip down the middle. The word in the join strip is REFERENDA, which I thought was apt for a word between two sides or options. Probably not what the constructors were going for, but still apt!

Although I got off to a slow start, as I went along I found enough clues in my wheelhouse to contribute to a fairly good Friday time - for me. I got going with FLORALPRINT (Common Hawaiian shirt design) and then dropped in MRT, DOGE, CRAFT, PAINE, and CHATS. I did go with 'daleS' where GLENS belonged, but the above acrosses were still enough to give me a solid start in the center and the rest came along nicely.

The clue "Egyptian Nobelman?" (SADAT) and 25A: Mount Sinai people: Abbr. (DRS) both had some capital elements. I also enjoyed "Decks revealing the cards you've been dealt" (TAROTS) and "A mare might be found in one" (LUNARCRATER). But the crown goes to 4D: "They range from terrible to great" (TSARS). Really top drawer.

There was also some fine fill including SIDEBET, ROLODEX, EVILGRINS, SITPAT, and DIRGES.

CAT

Although there were a few words or expressions I'm not familiar with like BEEFED as a verb, OVULAR as an adjective, CHEATCODE, JOSHING, and SWEARJAR (the clue for which made me LOL once I figured it out), I just DELT with it.

All in all, I thought my solve went pretty well. How about EWERS?

~Frannie.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thursday, February 20, 2020, Joe Deeney

22:47

What did I think of today's puzzle theme? I 8 it up! The clever two-way rebus tucked PIECESOFEIGHT into 8 places around the grid. The eights were represented by the letters [ATE] in the Across answers, and took the form of two O's (picture them stacked one on top of the other) to represent the number 8 in the Down answers. I first realized we were in a rebus situation when I got to "'We can't joke about that yet?'" at 28D. The answer had to be T[OO]S[OO]N (or (T[8]S[8]N)), but obviously, it didn't fit when spelled out. It wasn't until I wanted THEFOURTHEST[ATE] (or THEFOURTHEST[8]) at 20A that I got the ATE option. I ended up using the two O approach in my rebus squares all across the grid instead of the actual number 8, which I kinda regret, but which made some of the theme answers look pretty funny in the completed grid. My favorite was H[OO]RSGONNAH[OO]. Unintended (?) hilarity.

There were a few clues that were real treasures including "Pockets of the Middle East?" (PITAS), "Nation's borders?" (ENS), "Support for a religious group?" (PEW), "Oscar-nominated actor with nearly synonymous first and last names" (RIPTORN) - Ha!

I was confounded for a time at the cross between 67A: "Chicago's ____ Expressway" and 55D: "Blyton who wrote 'The Enchanted Wood.'" I didn't know either one. But since I had ENI_ for Blyton, I thought ENID was a pretty good HUNCH.

WHIRLP[OO]LS

I enjoyed the trio of PARDON, SALUT, and KEPI as reminders of our recent visit to Paris. Also quite nice was Horace's (original version - although I'm pretty sure our esteemed co-blogger Horace would concur) description of MUSIC as "Sweet and healing medicine of troubles." And now I know that ASADA means grilled. WH[OO]PI! This puzzle solving hobby is really paying off.

~Frannie.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners

12:45

One of the best features of today's theme, IMHO, is that someone thought of it. The variety and cleverness of themes that constructors conceive of and then carry out never ceases to amaze me. Way to go! In an unusual turn of events, we get two revealers today, one from each side of the grid: SWIPELEFT (on the right) "Reject romantically ... or a hint to the starts of the answers to 18- and 35-Across, phonetically" and SWIPERIGHT (on the left) "Show interest romantically ... or a hint to the ends of the answers to 20- and 44-Across, phonetically." Two theme answers, each containing a synonym for the word 'swipe' in either the left- or right-most position, are associated with each revealer. For example, on the right side, we have BLUESTEEL (steal) and on the left we have LYFTDRIVER (lift).

For this solver, clues ranged from drop-in easy (ETRE, PEROT, ATOM, RAVEN) to some posers - including both 'Pony" clues ("___ pony" (POLO) and "Pony ____" (KEG)), for some reason. PEROT and GRAPE gave me 'PG' at 9D very early on, but it still took me forever to figure out "What a curse might lead to" (PGRATING). Tricksy! I also liked "Drop a line?" (FISH), "Not get above 60, say" (FAIL), and "Picture from a parlor, informally" (TAT).

Another notable feature of this puzzle is its preponderance of Ks. Two of the theme answers, KNICKKNACKS and KEYSTONEKOP are lousy with K's, not to mention KOJAK and TIKTOK. Kinda Kool.

CAKE

In my ongoing quest to understand QMCs, I do wonder why "Go the distance?" (TREK) has a question mark in the clue. I am at a LAOS to understand it. Another clue at 66D ":15 number" (III) had me totally FLORAd. I would never have gotten that one without the crosses. Horace claims the III represents the number three on a grandfather clock which is equivalent to 15 minutes past the hour. Wacky, but mind expanding, like everyone likes, right?

~Frannie.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tuesday, February 18, 2020, John Guzzetta

7:19

I think we all Congaree that today's theme is pretty neat. The circled letters in the parallel diagonals are names of national parks: REDWOOD, ARCHES, GLACIER, ACADIA, and DENALI. The revealer, "Does a driving test task - or an apt description of the five circled diagonals in this puzzle" (PARALLELPARKS) is apt indeed. Apt! While it often happens that I don't pay attention to themes until after I've finished the puzzle, this time the theme saved my bacon. I was dragging for a while in the Badlands where there were three clues that stumped this solver all bunched together. I had B_I_N for "Guitarist May of Queen," but my head was a real Wind Cave when it came to the downs "Father of Rachel and Leah in Genesis" and "Needlefish." I was Petrified of getting another FWOE! Luckily, one of the letters I was missing was part of the theme (GLACIER). That gave me the A of LABAN, which made BRIAN pretty obvious. It was a Mammoth effort that paid off.

In the rest of the grid, there was a veritable Hot Springs of good fill including HIE, DOTARD, CERBERUS, SENSEI, ACRID, and KEISTERS. I also want to mention a couple of clues Yosemite like such as "Mandates" (DICTA) and "Plying the waves" (ASEA). But, the Pinnacles for me were Made the bed? (GARDENED) and "Shadows that have grown long?" (BEARDS). Ha! Real Bryce.

ATOLLS

There was a regular Mesa Verde of Dry Tortugas like AIG, RDA, YTD, TCU, and SSA, but as they were employed in the service of this park-friendly puzzle, I'm not inclined to fuss. Mr. Guzzetta seems to be able to keep his Zion the prize.

~Frannie.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020, Sally Hoelscher

8:00, FWOE

A FWOE is not the best way to start off one's week of reviews. I can claim jet lag as a mitigating factor, NON? Horace and I are just back from an EPIC trip seeing the ALPS, doing ALOTOF ESSEN, and experiencing other fun things.

I completed the grid in fairly short order. My problem, which took me forever to locate, was that I got *too* affectionate with the U.S. flag and called it OLe GLORY. For some reason, MOeS, as an informal name for Internet forum overseers, didn't throw up any red flags. I needed a PEEKOE the solution to CLEAR up such AMESS.

Today's theme clues contained titles of memoirs by First Ladies and their publication dates. The solver's job was to match the correct First Lady with the corresponding book title. The only title I knew right off the bat was "Becoming" (MICHELLEOBAMA), but given the theme, and the years in the rest of the clues, the others weren't too difficult.

I was entertained by the clue/answer twist "Ire" for ANGER; it's almost always t'other way 'round. I  thought "Suitable for the country" (RUSTIC) was a good, slightly ambiguous clue for a Monday. I enjoyed PLUTO and NUBBLY, but GLUEY less so. I also noted real eggcess in the southeast where OVOID crossed OVUM.

EJECTOR

I thought AME (Inits. in some church names) was a little lame, but otherwise there's really not a LOTTO to complain about. Except, of course, my self-created TANGOS. Thank OVENS I have a few more days this week to try to redeem myself.

~Frannie.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday, February 16, 2020, Sam Ezersky

NUMBER THEORY

Who doesn't love a good language theme? Niemand, that's who.

Despite the deceptive "Number Theory" title, this puzzle is all about being LOSTIN TRANSLATION, and it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time for Frannie and me, DUETOTHEFACTTHAT we have spent the last two weeks awash in a mix of FRENCH, GERMAN, and English. And did you notice that each foreign number is repeated in a "non foreign" way? I only just did as I was reviewing the puzzle, but it's kind of an interesting detail. QUINCEJELLY and QUINCE, for example, and SEIZE POWER and SEIZE. Is there a reason for it? I'm not sure.


I've never heard of a restaurant offering special DIETMENUS. Is that really a thing? And SLIMUP (Shed some pounds) - while being something that I will definitely need to do after this period of gorging on ├ęclairs, baguettes, and beurre - is not all that common an expression, I don't think.

It's funny what will get on my nerves. MAESTRI, for example, while obviously defensible, seems forced to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed SCIENCY (Like most medical journal articles). I also liked SLIPSHOD (Sloppy), HOTTAKES (Openly controversial opinions), GENYER (Millenial, informally), and the very silly OOOO (New pedometer reading). There's some nice musical trivia in LEIPZIG (Where Wagner was born and Bach died), and speaking of music, it's always nice to be reminded of the "1974 Eurovision winner that went on to international stardom" (ABBA).

Perhaps I'm missing a level of theme that explains the English repetition of the foreign numbers, or maybe Mr. Ezersky just thought it was interesting. I mean, it is interesting, but is that enough? Not sure. Anyway, Frannie takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you in a few weeks!

- Horace

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday, February 15, 2020, Randolph Ross

0:12:11 (FWOE)

Today's puzzle had many ALEVEL Saturday entries:

INHERED (Was naturally a part of something) - Never heard in the wild.
TORTOLA (Largest of the British Virgin Islands) - Probably known to many, but not to me.
HASHEESH (Pipe filler) - When I typed it into the search bar I got back "Did you mean "Hashish?"
LEVERETS (Young hares) - I know this (and "Deseret") only from crosswords.
PELAGE (Fur)
HEL (Daughter of Loki, in Norse myth)
And I suppose some might also include EOCENE (Epoch when modern mammals arose) and ESTERS (Fruity and fragrant compounds).

TAPIR

But in spite of all that esoterica, the puzzle played fairly easy for me thanks to gimmies like CHRISSIE Hynde, Bob KEESHAN (I was a Captain Kangaroo watcher), and the very recently referenced SELENE (Sister of Helios).

A careless mistake took me over two minutes to find today, because SaTSHIVA and aNHERED looked ok if you didn't re-read the clues. :( But one should always read the clues carefully, of course, and then one would get the tense correct and enter SITSHIVA (Mourn, in a way). I have got to be more careful!

There were some strong non-QMCs in "It had a major part in the Bible" (REDSEA), "Things picked up on beaches" (TANLINES), "Gets the lead out" (ERASES). But the QMCs were also good - "Takes stock?" (LADLES), "Call on a hot line?" (PHONESEX), and "Subjects of baseless charges?" (AWOLS), "Knight mare?" (STEED), and "What are depicted in some blue prints? (THESMURFS). After PHONESEX, I was thinking along different lines for that last one.

I groaned a bit at CHANTER, and VEINY is gross, but overall it was a pretty clean puzzle.

- Horace

Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020, Daniel Larsen

0:10:25

Is it just me, or is there a theme here? We start with SCHRODINGERSCAT, for which, in the famous thought experiment, THEREISNOESCAPE. Sure, sometimes you will open the box, thinking the cat will be living, only to shout "No you ARENT!" But other times, just as you are learning to COPE, the eigenstate VALUE will be reversed, and INTHATCASE, you will SEE ol' ELI, or ALEC, or whatever you have named him, happily purring away. And really, this OPENSET is just one of the MICROCOSMS OVERLAIN the fabric of reality. They HINT THA everyone is a ONER in THIS world, and we AWL HAVE just one brief hour to TROT about the stage before "OAT, OAT, brief candle!" and then DEADCALM.

Gulf (and port!) of ADEN

Wow. Too much? IHOPE I have not alienated EVEN our loyal readers with my strange SONG. Perhaps I can blame it on LUNA, who has followed me across the water to the land of the EURO. Or is blaming Selene like blaming a STAR, and just as silly as a SPACEOPERA?

OMG! What a RAVEL my mind is!

Interesting word, RAVEL. As a noun, it means "a tangle," but as a verb it means "to untangle." So I will be a man of action and climb out of this SUMP.

The top went quickly, thanks to the gimmes of THESTOOGES (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band led by Iggy Pop) and TROT (Intermediate gait). The whole thing might have gone even faster for me had I not tried to spell the Austrian physicist's name with an "oe" instead of a simple "o."

It was a little sad being reminded of William BRENNAN, given the recent EBB of liberalism, but perhaps, one day, we'll open our eyes to SEE these DESPOTS gone. And when that happens, let's all dance!

Para bailar LABAMBA 
Para bailar LABAMBA
Se necessita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mi, para ti, ay arriba, ay arriba
Ay, arriba arriba
Por ti sere, por ti sere, por ti sere

Happy Valentine's Day!

- Horace

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

0:14:15

Today we ROLLTHEDICE. Four randomly-spaced (though shaded) four-square boxes containing the letters D-I-C-E. Each time we encounter one, we need to roll through the letters clockwise in order to complete the Across answer. So we get:

INSERV[ICED]AYS (Times when teachers go to school but students don't) - Never heard of these.

SAU[CEDI]SH (Vessel for dipping at a dinner table) - First of all, no one uses these. I guess maybe I've heard of them, and I suppose they might have used them on Downton Abbey, but no one in my acquaintance has ever used one of these.

REVERS[EDIC]TIONARY - (Reference that arranges words by concept rather than alphabetically) - Again, this is a thing that I have never seen or used. I guess, like the so-called sauce dish, I am familiar with the concept, but it's not a real-world thing, as far as I'm concerned.

SHAVE[DICE] - (Cousin of a sno-cone) - If I were to call it anything else, which I wouldn't, I would call it "shave ice."

So that's four for four on the complaint list. It's funny, I didn't see it coming, but this review suddenly looks like a pan. While I was solving, however, I had NOIDEA that would be the case.

STAGE

I do like ARISTOTLE (Pioneer in syllogistic logic), VALHALLA (Locale in Wagner's "Das Rheingold"), and GRATIS (On the house). "Counterpart of sin" is a great clue for COS, and EINE and MEIN remind me of my recent stay in Austria. Ahhh... I remember it like it was only three or four days ago... I also like it anytime somebody calls pants TROU. So that's all good.

There's a little bit of EAN, AER, and RGS, and nobody likes an ORG chart - makes the workplace seem too much like a FIEF, but I'm going to be NICER about that stuff since I was so hard on the themers.

- Horace

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wednesday, February 12, 2020, Rich Proulx

0:06:40

I think today I will give up saying things like "I usually don't like circles." Today's theme would be very difficult to see without them, and it's so good with them. I suppose there could somehow be an instruction like "find the hidden god, spelled out in order..." but at that point, what's the difference? This way, there's still an "Aha moment" as you read each one and realize how cool it is that Mr. Proulx has found four perfectly normal theme entries that can work this way. Bravo and OLE!

Lorena OCHOA

And that's not all! The rest of the grid is loaded with good fill like ANOINTS (Selects, as a successor) (Tricky clue), HERMETIC (Airtight) (Always reminds me of Carnac the Magnificent), EXERTS (Puts forth, as effort), and SIDELONG (Indirect, as a glance). I don't hear many people using the term TENTSHOW, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone use the term THEOLDS, happily. I don't really like that one. Stupid teens...

In the always popular "interesting trivia" section, we have REO (Old auto with its founder's monogram). It's a little odd that they chose to go with "Old" in the clue when the man's name was Olds, isn't it? Or was that just to make it a little more "Wednesday level?" And here's another piece of deep trivia for you - the letters in Pontiac's GTO, which was named by John DeLorean (yes, that DeLorean) stand for "Gran Tourismo Omologato." Or, approved for the Grand Tourer class (it's an auto racing thing).

As regular readers will KNOW, I'm over here in a city full of wonderful food options, but seeing REINS in the puzzle makes me a little homesick for a good turkey reuben. Mmmm.... Reins Deli....

OK, to help me get over this nostalgia I'm going to go out and eat a croissant. Then have an expresso at a cafe, then maybe an eclair... I'll really DOITUP! Ahh... HEAVEN.

And speaking of HEAVEN - is that bonus fill? Or is that only for the Catholics? Maybe all these Greek, Roman, and Norse gods have their own places to live. I suppose they must. Mount Olympus... or Asgard... something like that.

Anywho, it's a solid Wednesday. Good week so far, selon moi. I hope you're enjoying it too.

- Horace

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Jeff Chen and Neil Padrick Wilson

0:05:35

I love this vibrant theme of FLYING COLORS! And I like that the four colorful items are so very different in form. Light beams in the LASERSHOW, a waving RAINBOWFLAG, the sparkly GLITTERBOMB, and the little flying, splattering PAINTBALL. I've got to admit, though, that I'm not all that familiar with the GLITTERBOMB. Is it really a thing that there have been packages armed with them? I'll have to look that up.

Represent!

In the fancy long Down spots we find lots of good entries: JOHNMUIR is one of the real APOSTLES, who was always working toward more FRESHAIR; LINGUINE is tasty; and ALTEREGOS are intriguing. And in the not-so-fancy spots, I liked the little pairing of "Those in favor" - PROS & AYES, and I've been watching a ton of billiards on Eurosport TV, so BREAK made me chuckle. 

Not much to INSULT about the puzzle today. ITSABIGIF whether people will remember DINA Merrill, or even PIA Zadora, but the crosses were all fair, I thought. 

Overall, I won't give the constructors any GRIEF, so there's no need to FRET. In fact, I enjoyed it HUGELY

- Horace

Monday, February 10, 2020

Monday, February 10, 2020, Bruce Haight

0:04:33

Another Oscar-related theme today, with familiar phrases that all contain words that are activities related to movie-making - shot, extra, crew, cut, score, and take - clued in a way that makes it obvious. The best has got to be ALITTLEEXTRA (Movie munchkin, maybe?), but WORTHASHOT (Suitable for moviemaking?) is also strong. We get a piece of bonus fill in BEST ( ____ Picture (Oscars category)), but what's TONY (Broadway award) doing there? Is it oblique bonus fill, or is it just throwing us off the scent?

TORSO
My brother Rich always used to say that if he had a girl, he would name it SARAN. And if he had a boy, he'd name it "Egg." As far as I know, has has not had any kids.

I'm not too familiar with the term MOIL (Drudgery, in older usage), nor could I immediately come up with BILOXI, AIWA, ETONIC, or ESAU. On the BRIGHTSIDE, though, I find the word LURCH (Move suddenly and unsteadily) interesting, and I also enjoyed ITSOK, HIHAT (I tried "snare" at first), and MARSHY.

SKIER (Chairlift rider, perhaps) gives me an opportunity to let you know that we're on our way out of Innsbruck today. I'm actually writing from aboard a train! At Logan airport, on the way over here, we were somehow randomly selected to receive TSA PRE √, but there's none of that nonsense necessary when riding the rails. We've got plenty of leg-room AREA, free wifi, a cafe car, our luggage is all readily accessible, and we can EXHALE and watch the lovely scenery roll by. Ahhh...

Nice start to the week.

- Horace




Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sunday, February 9, 2020, Brian Kulman

THE EMOJI MOVIE

Guten tag, Lieber Leser. It's Horace here, coming to you from Innsbruck, Austria, and taking the reins after a great week of reviews from Colum.

Today's puzzle theme of movie titles clued with emoji triplets is perfectly timed for the Oscars. Frannie and I will miss the show this year for the first time in decades, because we are not prepared to stay up all night just to watch it, but life is sometimes about trade-offs. As all crossword solvers know. [see: yeterday's review; later in this review; and pretty much every other crossword review ever written.] :)

One of the LORISES

I've always been a fan of the original text-based emojis [see above], but I suppose this theme would be impossible without the more elaborate version seen in today's theme clues. Take 38A, for example. I'm not sure how you'd ever get the ship or the artist in simple typewriter characters. By the way, TITANIC aired on Austrian TV last night. It was up against "Rocky II" on a different channel. (We didn't watch either one.)

It's interesting to me that the movies were all pretty obvious even with just a few emojis. It seemed like it was always three emojis per movie, but then I only saw two for CITIZENKANE, a newspaper and a bag of money. Is there no [spoiler alert!] sled emoji? Or was that just an outlier in the theme?

The puzzle seemed a little on the easy side, but there were still a few answers that I did not know, like PRESTON ("Sergeant ____ of the Yukon" (old radio and TV series)) and LORISES (Bug-eyed primates). I looked up the latter, and have two things to report. 1. They are often called "Slow Lorises," which amused me, and 2. They are the only venomous primate. They have very sharp teeth, and they can secrete some kind of toxin that they rub into bite wounds to make them heal more slowly. Seems downright evil for such a meek-looking animal.

There were a few trade-offs today, like NAMER (Parent of a newborn, typically), ADORING (Like the Magi), and RARES (Some steak orders), but the theme was new and somewhat fun. Anybody else drop in "moe," only to have to change it to APU (Cartoon character voiced by Hank Azaria)?

Not the most FLAIR-filled Sunday, but a novelty, and yet another debut - Congratulations!

- Horace




Saturday, February 8, 2020

Saturday, February 8, 2020, Hemant Mehta

11:02

And so another week of blogging comes to an end. It's been a good one, finished off with this meaty (or not, if you take a BOCABURGER) grid. It's much easier to get at a tough themeless when the 15-letter answer is one you can drop right in. In this case, 35A: Musical alter ego of Donald Glover (CHILDISHGAMBINO) was a gimme for this solver. That is to say, because Hope was right there, and she reminded me of the correct answer. A real gimme.

Even so, once that grid-spanner is in place, the SE corner filled right in. 34D: They get big bucks from big Bucks (NBAAGENTS) is a cute clue, and MOODS for "Climates" is not what I was expecting.

I next worked my way up from the SW corner, where BBOY and YEAH got things rolling. I don't personally take a BLUEMOON. I like my beers darker and maltier. I liked the pair of 42A: One way to take stock? (LASSO) and 42D: Pet peeve? (LEASH).

Now with ____TONGUE in place, I was able to STRIKESOUT northwardly. I've never heard of HOTDESKING, but the crosses made it reasonably clear. The pair of STEEDS and MOUNT made another nice crossing in the NW. I think SOG is an odd answer, and would prefer not to have it in my grid, but these are the little compromises we have to make.

SACRILEGE and OBSCENELY make another unusual pairing, IMHO.

Overall, it's a well made but not super impressive puzzle today. I liked Thursday and Friday better, but one of the three puzzles in the Turn must be the least good, I suppose.

Tomorrow, Horace takes over. Have a lovely time puzzling for the next two weeks!

- Colum

P.S. Today's puzzle is a debut for Mr. Mehta, so congratulations!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Friday, February 7, 2020, Mary Lou Guizzo and Erik Agard

9:18 (FWOE)

When it comes to making errors in solving a puzzle, IBLAMEMYSELF. Not many other people I can blame, I guess, when it comes down to it. Today's mistake was definitely avoidable. I had put EQUAlLY in at 24D: In an even manner (EQUABLY), which is certainly a reasonable guess. But the last word I had to fill in was 40A: Sty occupants (SLOBS). That's a fine clue, by the way. So I was looking at possibly having "SLOlS" in that place, and I hesitated not once but twice before putting the last letter in.

So, a good rule of thumb should be that when you see something that just can not be correct in any way, shape, or form, don't put that last letter in. And I really questioned every crossing letter of that answer but the mistake. So another good rule of thumb is don't fall in love with your own assumptions.

But enough self-flagellation. Let's focus on all the great stuff, shall we?

So many great long answers today. I'm fond of a good colloquial phrase, like WEREALLSET. Also, PADMALAKSHMI is an outstanding answer, a full name, and a celebrity minority woman, so many nice things there.

9D: Case opener (EXHIBITA) is a great example of a tough clue, and a really difficult answer to figure out. I had E_H_BITA and was certain I'd done something wrong. TREX was a tough get as well, but such a great aha moment in a puzzle full of AHAS!

Speaking of which, how about 1D: Tanning agent (SUN)? Oh, that's brilliant. And a non-QMC to boot! What a way to elevate a simple answer. For an excellent example of a QMC, see 63A: Defaults? (EDITS). So good.

We just finished watching a movie featuring a STUNT double, namely "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood." It was... good? I think? We loved everything up until the last half hour, which I will not spoil. We also saw Ford v. Ferrari, which was a lot of fun. My pick for best picture? Little Women, which will not win.

Great first two parts of the turn this week. Here's looking forward to tomorrow's!

- Colum

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thursday, February 6, 2020, Jake Halperin

9:56

We often talk about The Turn here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA. The definition of these terms is in the Glossary to your right, but simply put, the last three 15 x 15 puzzles of the week. It's what I most look forward to in my puzzle solving week, and today's is no exception to the rule. In fact, it might be my favorite theme in a very very long time. It took me a while to figure out Mr. Halperin's ingenious trick, but once I did, I couldn't stop chuckling.

In fact, it was the lowest theme answer that I got first, at 54A: Cows' various glands? (UDDERSANDOTHERS). Dang, I'm laughing out loud right now, looking at that piece of ludicrous flimflam. Beautiful. Each one is a piece of art. 47A: Things that scouts earn badges for? (KNOTSANDWHATNOT) was my least favorite at first, but now I'm finding myself deeply amused.

And how about ALIETALII? Or even better, SETTERSETCETERA...

So hats off, everybody. You'll rarely see a theme so fabulously carried out, especially with four 15-letter answers.

Now, as you might imagine, there is a definite tradeoff. I'm looking at you, VERANDAED. When I had the last four letters in place, I took them out, questioning what I was doing. Others issues include any time a constructor needs to use a _BEAM as an answer, in this case TBEAM. "AWK-ward!" said the Parrot.

I wanted liABLE instead of SUABLE, which is a "huh?" word.

But in other high notes, there are some fun clues. I liked 2D: Fool's gold? (FAKETAN), and 63A: Where the batter eventually goes to the plate? (IHOP). Also, EDEN and XANADUS is a nice pair, although I will point out that it is odd to think of more than once Xanadu.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Wednesday, February 5, 2020, Ross Trudeau

5:12

Hidden words are always fun, in my opinion. I'm not a big fan of having circles in the answers, because it makes the game too obvious up front. Once I filled in 19A: Brief hookup (ONENIGHTSTAND), the theme became completely apparent, and the only question was what the revealer would be. Still, the other pieces of USEDFURNITURE are well disguised. I particularly liked the seat for the feline (CATCHAIR).

With six theme answers and 62 squares devoted to theme, you can well imagine that some compromises needed to be made in the fill. But I found myself more amused by most of the potential nits rather than annoyed. Witness 9D: Daily run, for short (MTWTF). Some of you might in fact be asking WTF about this set of letters, but they're short for Monday through Friday. Add to that the very amusing 7A: Where you might go through withdrawal? (ATM), and the section is definitely improved. There have been a lot of excellent humorous clues for ATM recently.

45D: Blind followers (SHEEP) is excellent. I also loved 48A: What an ID may substitute for? (IDAHO). That made up for ENEWS and the odd PWAVE. I should know IOLANI Palace better, and the L was the last letter I entered, mostly because I looked at 37A: American ____ (another name for the century plant) (ALOE) and thought they meant a factory rather than a piece of vegetation. Just so we're all clear, "steel" didn't fit, so I moved on...

The folks round here do love a PROCEDURAL. May I highly recommend "Unforgotten," a British detective series surrounding a unit that investigates cold cases? Three seasons, all excellent.

And with that, he EXITED, pursued by a bear.

- Colum

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tuesday, February 4, 2020, Queena Mewers and Alex Eaton-Salners

4:15

I am always delighted when I don't see the connecting theme of disparate long answers until the revealer shows up. And for this musicophile, I do enjoy the surprising connection, MUSIC. The disparate instruments hidden in the answers would essentially never be in a single ensemble. It's almost a baroque group such as you might find in a Brandenburg concerto, but for the triangle. And all of them could be in a modern orchestra, with the exception of recorders. It would certainly make for an interesting OCTET.

I was a little offput to find SEXORGANS in my grid. "How vivid," as Auntie Mame would say. I'm not a prude by any means, and I often enjoy things that are a little blue or risque, but this one is perhaps too salient, as it were.

Otherwise, there is a little much of the sort of thing like IOTAS, OOHS, INRI. But I found the overall solving experience enjoyable.

Note the excellent OKILLBITE (which now looks oddly like an exhortation to murder someone). I also really love the word CHICANERY. Fortunately, it seems that there was no such activity underlying the inability of Iowa to report out the results of yesterday's caucuses. By the way, count me in as one voter who is unclear why Iowa holds such an important role in our democracy. For a year now, the Democratic candidates have been living in that state and New Hampshire. And there is simply no way that the electoral votes from those two states will have any impact on the outcome of November's election.

SOMANY and SCADS are the ways in which I am not a CUBER. My nephew, however, is one. He can solve a Rubik's cube in 30 seconds from a random state. And he's ten.

But I use my IDLE time to much better purpose. For example, in case you hadn't heard, I write a blog on the NYT crossword...

- Colum

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monday, February 3, 2020, Michael Schlossberg

3:21

It's a real menagerie in here! Well, if you count three animals and an insect as a menagerie. I'm trying to figure out if there's a deeper layer of meaning in this theme other than four well-known phrases which have a living creature preceded by the definite article. When I first finished it, I thought, well, we just had the Chinese lunar New Year: they're all animals of the Chinese Zodiac, except for the bee. So I guess not.

In any case, I've always loved the phrase THEBEESKNEES (look at all of those Es!), and THEMONKEYSPAW is a perfect little thrilling story. I have never partaken of THEHAIROFTHEDOG, despite having a perfectly good dog in the house. And EYEOFTHETIGER is iconic, so a good set of theme answers.

The rest of the puzzle is reasonably smooth, with a few notable exceptions. I'm always going to raise an eyebrow at something like 49D: Suffix with direct or deposit (ORY). That's a real stretch, but I can see how the choices were limited. Other short fill like EEO and ITO are more acceptable to help a puzzle come together.

On the positive side, 11D: "I know you think this is a ludicrous idea, but ..." (HEARMEOUT) is excellent, as is MYMISTAKE. Also, I've always been fond of AIMEE Mann.

Anyway, that's ENOS of that.

- Colum

P.S. For some reason, I missed that each theme answer also has a body part. Also, it's a debut, so congratulations to Mr. Schlossberg!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sunday, February 2, 2020, Brian Herrick and Christopher Adams

AUDUBON SOCIETY

Hey everybody! Happy to be back on blogging duties, and with such a fun Sunday puzzle to get us started. Definitely on the extremely easy side (it took me less than half the time to finish this large grid than yesterday's brainbuster 15x15 grid), but what a fun theme!

The revealer comes at 115A: 2017 film nominated for Best Picture ... or a hint to the answers to the eight starred clues (LADYBIRD). By the way, it was a great movie, and I highly recommend it. I also appreciate not cluing the former First Lady, Mrs. Johnson, because that would have messed with the consistency of the theme. See, all the theme answers are women, fictional or real life, whose last name is a kind of bird. And even better, all of the answers include the full name.

All of them are well known to me, with the exception of PAMELASUEMARTIN, because I never watched the soaps. This is a lie. I used to watch As The World Turns after getting home from school. At least, I think that was the soap I watched. I really remember nothing about it.


In any case, it's really impressive getting eight complete names into the grid, and if you're doing the puzzle on an electronic device, and click on 115A so all the theme answers are highlighted, you can see how Messrs. Herrick and Adams have accomplished it. There are only two points of contact for all of these answers. Otherwise they're all well isolated, which gives a nice degree of freedom.

For the record, my favorite is definitely CLARICESTARLING, because Jodie Foster, and that movie is such a cultural touchstone. Fortunately I need not choose between the rest, but I'll give a nod to SCOUTFINCH.

Some good QMCs today:
20A: Part of a theater? (ROLE)
21A: Do for a few months? (PERM) - did anybody want "temp?"
95A: Bottom of Britain? (ARSE) - my favorite by far.

Other clues and answers I liked:
58A: Lend a hand when one shouldn't (ABET)
87A: "Don't include me in this!" (WHOSWE) - hah!
97A: Bill passers, briefly (ATMS) - not "sens" ...

Good start to the week!

- Colum

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Saturday, February 1, 2020, Mark Diehl

Untimed

Today's puzzle was a doozy. I made two runs through that resulted in 4 solid answers (SYNE, CRED, LIFE, THOU) and a handful of guesses. I put the puzzle aside for a bit and when I returned, Horace reported having a similar experience, so we kicked it old school and solved the puzzle together. Fun! We had most of the same shoo-ins, but happily we had more variety in our guesses which helped us complete the puzzle.

One difference we noted immediately was that I had "gOtoetotoE" for 17A,  supported by correct answers THOU and NEE and by the incorrect guesses citE and 'nutmeg', but troubling when one wanted RTE for "Suggestion from Waze: Abbr. Horace had "facETOfacE" in that spot, blocking THOU but allowing RTE. Amusingly, the direct confrontation happened in neither of the locales we had chosen but NOSETONOSE.

We also enjoyed "Line at the bar" WHATLLITBE in that section. And DIDNTGETTHEMEMO across the middle is also excellent. Some of the long Downs were also outstanding including ALTERNATEDAY, IFSTATEMENT, and DIYPROJECT.

Another section we had some trouble with was the southeast. We both incorrectly assumed the World Series in the clue at 54A referred to baseball. We did have GAMES early on from the easternmost Downs, but MILITIAMAN and the MALIK/ALEK cross gave us some trouble. It wasn't until we got MOP ("Finish off, with 'up'" that we hit the jackpot with POKERGAMES.

Other trouble spots included "Cape Canaveral sight." Did anyone else try "launch" there first? It seemed so apt. Apt! But, no, it was GANTRY. Also, for some reason SAUTERNES over in the midwest took us forever. And "Ear locks?" for CORNTASSELS?!?! Mercy.

Some FINE clue/answer pairs added to our AMOR for the puzzle including "Make a full court press?" (SUE), "Noted org. with a brief history? (ABA), and my favorite "Issue a charge against" (TASE) - ha!

ONEMANBAND

There were some tough nuts for this solver, but that's part of the ATTRACTION of a Saturday puzzle, non? At least know I'll know what AWNS are next time they come up in conversation. :)

~Frannie.