Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, Christopher Youngs

I think this is one of my favorite types of theme - the "add letters to a normal phrase to make it absurd" theme. For example - take four things, a podcast, cranapple juice, med school, and a TED Talk. Most people have heard of all of them. Then, just because you can, jam the letters "ium" into them, and clue wackily. The result?

PODIUMCAST - Group of winners at a film awards show?
CRANIUMAPPLE - Target for William Tell?
MEDIUMSCHOOL - Where séance leaders get their degrees?
TEDIUMTALK - Lo-o-ong lecture from a parent?

OK, so only the last two clues are good, but I still like the idea. :)

I had never heard of LUCIAN before - in either context - as "One-named ancient satirist ... or a Pokémon character," and I didn't know that to DECOMPILE something meant to "Convert into a higher-level language, as computer code." Should I have?

Looking through the answers today I came to SHOT and, like the word "forlorn" for Keats, the very word was "like a bell / To toll me back from thee to my sole self!" Even the crossword cannot cheer my sad heart this morning. Pandemic, war, subway shootings, and now grade-schoolers. Again. 

O, for a draught of vintage ... that I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Tuesday, May 24, 2022, Ella Dershowitz

We have a friend who enjoyed doing the Mini Crossword so much that she moved on to solving Mondays too. I will nudge her to take the next step and move on to Tuesdays, because she and her husband just got back a weekend in NYC where they saw two Broadway shows! Hadestown and A Strange Loop, and even though neither of those two featured today, I still think she'd like this puzzle. :)

If you hadn't realized what the circles were doing by the time you got to the middle, the revealer MUSICALCHAIRS made you sit up and take notice of four musicals in chair form - Newsies, Cabaret, Chicago, and Aladdin. A puzzle at the A.C.P.T. this year used this same convention, but with "sitting presidents" instead. I think it works well for both.


I've learned a lot about the EEL recently. Today I find it is an "ambush predator," last week that it could swim backward, and last month that, as a sushi fish, it is not served raw. Just three reasons that it is one of my all-time favorite crossword words. :)

"Place for a poser" (YOGAMAT) and "People who might bug others" (SPIES) were cute C/APs. CALUMNY (Slander) and RAWSILK (Material used for Indian dresses) (did you happen to notice that RAWhIde also fits?) were fancy entries, and "Sites of frequent touchdowns" (AIRPORTS) was a good non-QMC. 

On the whole, this puzzle had it all, fun clues, AHA moments ("Has an open tab, say" (OWES)), athletes (PELE), writers (AYN, POE, TAMA), musicians (WEIRDAL, NSYNC), candy (DUMDUM, SNOCAPS), and French (EAU, ARRET). Me, I liked it quite a bit.

- Horace

Monday, May 23, 2022

Monday, May 23, 2022, Simon Marotte

Fun start to the week! Four items that can be CAST to start off the theme answers - a net, a play, a spell, and a shadow. Lovely. 


I like seeing NETNEUTRALITY in the grid. It's sad that it's a topic of debate at all, and in all likelihood, it will soon only be remembered with nostalgia. PLAYPOSSUM is certainly a familiar expression, but when's the last time you said it? SPELLCHECK is a blessing and a curse (well, I guess autocorrect is really the curse part), and as for SHADOWCABINET (Opposition party group in British politics), I've heard of it, but I'd be hard pressed to explain it.

TALENTSHOW and SEEYALATER are nice as bonus long fill, and don't you think LEGALID should become a new word meaning "legal id?" It would be pronounced like "eyelid," but with one more syllable. 

STINKO (Drunk, in dated slang) is a word GROUCHO might have used, and ETAPE (French word for a leg of the Tour de France) seems a little récherché for a Monday, but all in all, I thought this was  a solid start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunday, May 22, 2022, David and Karen and Paul Steinberg


What is this, a 19x23 grid? I like it! And I also like that it was constructed by Mr. Steinberg and his parents! Very cool. 


I remember thinking he was gutsy and original after he made a puzzle that included the answer DAVIDSTEINBERG, but after that, I sometimes thought that I might be a little out of his target demographic. Perhaps the collaboration with his parents is what makes this one of my favorite Steinberg puzzles ever!

The "Separate" answers running down, then forward and backward, is a pretty phenomenal trick. I never like seeing clues that read "See 12-Down" - and there are eight of them here - but would it have been better to clue each of those answers with real clues? Frannie says it would have allowed people to solve it more easily without understanding the trick, and that might be true, but I'm not sure it would really take anything away... how did you REACTTO it? Would you rather have seen clues for STOPSIGNS, REVERENCE, etc? Or do you have NOREGRETS?

In addition to the theme, we have several good mid-length entries. The less-than-ideal MDPHD at 1A gives MASCARA, DETOXES, and PROGENY. As well as Shakira's HIPS Don't Lie. A fair trade-off, I'd say. 

Elsewhere we find the delicious ARANCINI, CITRON, and LAVACAKE. And I've got a soft spot for Wisconsin. I've actually never been to KENOSHA, that I know of, but I did spend four years in that state.

Good theme, good clues, good unusual shape - Good Sunday!

- Horace

p.s. Shout out to CECE!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Saturday, May 21, 2022, Ryan McCarty and Yacob Yonas

Tomorrow is the last day of my vacation, but today we go to pick up Cecelia from college, so that makes up for a lot. She's been super productive this year, and her art is just blowing my mind. Looking forward to having her around the house for a little while!

It's been a good week both vacation-wise and crossword puzzle-wise. Today's solve was sort of steady and non-stop. My only difficulty really came from putting in OPERACloak (is that a thing? apparently it is) rather than OPERACAPES. The clue does not give a hint as to singular or plural. I more frequently notice clues that indicate a plural but the answer is a group noun without an -S at the end.

I started out with 2D: Nipple ring? (AREOLA), confirmed by SAT and ALIT. It's one of my favorite ways to start a chunky white square grid like this, with the 3- and 4-letter answers that sit at the bottom of the NW corner. 1D: They can lead to long sentences (COMMAS) is an excellent non-QMC clue. 1A: Rolls dough, perhaps? (CARPAYMENT) was a tough get. I was thinking some sort of counterfeiting operation.

Jules et Jim

I was unable to exit the area however. I suspected YOUHEARDME was going to be something along those lines, but didn't feel comfortable putting it in. And 9D: Michelangelo, e.g. (NINJATURTLE) is such an excellent answer and vague enough clue that I didn't recognize which direction to go in, at least until I started the NE corner and ended up with JETSKIS.

In the SW corner, 35D: Positive impression (GOODVIBE) is a very modern answer. Nowadays I hear the word "vibe" used in all sorts of ways. Back in my day, we never thought of using it that way. Kids these days.

I like 28A: What a duck might be (BATHTOY) and 31A: Climb the social ladder, in a way (MARRYUP).  And as a final note, 51D: Results of some successful defenses (PHDS) is excellent.

Well, that's it for me this week. Back to Horace tomorrow. Have a great weekend!

- Colum

Friday, May 20, 2022

Friday, May 20, 2022, Hal Moore

Happy birthday to Frannie! I hope your day is as funny and clever as you are.

You certainly got a fun themeless puzzle for your special day. I have to assume that the seed for this grid are the crossing answers MOZAMBIQUE and VELAZQUEZ. I don't think you could chance into those entries. I love the trivia clues for both of them. Just for completeness' sake, the other countries with all 5 vowels are Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, and Equatorial Guinea, which manages to do it all in the first word.

So many good long entries today: LAKEGENEVA, SURFTHENET, CURRYFAVOR, and SUPERSONIC, to name a few. I like the word PRESCIENT as well.

I need to learn my chemical symbols. My first reaction to 25A: As seen in chemistry class? (ARSENIC) was "astatine," whose symbol is At. It's a fine clue though, with the hidden capital. But on a Friday, one's thoughts quickly turn to cleverness rather than straightforwardness.

Catherine OHARA and Eugene Levy have been together in a lot of things

Another sort of cleverness comes with pairings like 3D: Close (NIGH) and 18A: Close (SHUT). They look the same, but they don't sound the same. Even better when the two entries cross.

Then there's the sort of clue that seeks to go into the gutter, but actually doesn't. 64A: Its website has a "Fantasy" page (ESPN) is a good example. Our previously prolific commenter Huygens was wont to bemoan a lack of "blue" cluing, but here's one for you, sir!

Nothing really to complain about today, which is nice. I like the 10 Cs, the 3 Zs, the Q and the multiple Vs. Scrabble has its place in the crossword puzzle.

- Colum 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Thursday, May 19, 2022, Alex Rosen

Today the temperature is in the 50s. Tomorrow in the 90s. Maybe nearly 100 on Saturday. Makes you think about end times, doesn't it?

But no reason to be maudlin. Not with a fun and tricksy Thursday puzzle to review! The trick today comes with four words or phrases which can't be entered into the spaces allotted. The reason is clear when you answer the next across clue (on the same row, even). As an example, 17A: Punishes, should lead to the answer "disciplines." However, after reading 19A: Interrupt (CUTIN), you realize you take the IN out of "disciplines" to get DISCIPLES.

Impressive that the words that result from removing the indicated letters are all acceptable crossword puzzle answers in their own right. Thus SPORTED (from "supported"), HOMEICE (from "home office," a timely answer nowadays), and FLING (from "flouted"). Also nice that each of the phrases that tell you to remove specific letters use different synonyms for removal, like SCRUBUP or STRIKEOUT. Very nicely done!

I found this harder going than it might have been because I often work my way down the left side of the grid, and this is where all of the confusing answers were. The first point where I realized that there were clues in the right half of the grid which might help me out came at 48A and 50A. I actually got it at 64A and 66A, then worked my way back up.


Some fun clues today:

10A: Something to sleep on with no springs (WATERBED) - and hopefully no leaks.

63A: One of the pounds in a pound cake (EGGS) - the others are flour, sugar, and butter.

22D: It's said to be "the art of recognizing when to be big and when not to belittle" (TACT) - excellent!

I could do without Holy Roman Emperor [name followed by roman numeral] - in this case OTTOII. He ruled for a total of 10 years before dying of malaria at the age of 28. Hard to see how this justifies his being in the NYT crossword puzzle, but sometimes you just have to make do.

On the other hand, Frederik POHL was an author I very much enjoyed as a child. Perhaps as a 50s, 60s, and 70s era Sci-Fi author, he too is dated. But it's my review today, so my opinion is the one that matters.

- Colum