Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thursday, November 30 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic and Jeff Chen

I have nothing but admiration for anybody who can set a NYT crossword.  I wish I could do it myself, and some day I may take a crack at it, but meanwhile, I appreciate the effort and inventiveness that goes into a puzzle.  Especially the themed ones.  I am a sucker for themed puzzles.  Having said that - I found this one particularly outstanding.  I worked my way down a medium-strength grid, encountering + skipping a few answers that didn't seem to make sense, until reaching the science-fiction-y revealer : TIMETRAVEL.  Aha!  But even with that in hand, it took a bit more time to parse everything.  What the setters have done, three separate times, is to put two answers side by side, one containing a time-related word, and TRAVEL the time word over to the other answer, leaving two different answers that are *still valid words/phrases*.  To wit:
So much going on!  In case it isn't clear, the third one (my favourite as I dabbled in the latter answer back in the day) is clued "Armada ship" and "Unscripted comedy", which, absent the above wizardry, would be GALLEON and IMPROV.  See?  The travelling time-words are even taken from the "correct" side of the words!  Bravo, I say.

What else, what else ... A nice collection of amusing clues, starting with "Evidence that one is going into labor?" which, after a bit of pregnancy-related thought, turns out to be UNIONCARD.  (Funny that a few clues later, we get "Sudden contraction" (SPASM)!)  I liked "Zippers on a snowy day" (SLEDS) too.  Brought back memories of metal zippers, jammed and stubbornly refusing to open or close, that when they got cold enough, they'd sometimes freeze painfully onto one's lips.  Neat that a LAKEBED can turn into a salt flat; one thinks of a lake as a body of fresh water...  And ENZYMES ("Chemical kick starters") - a straightforward clue to be sure, but puts me in mind of the manifold miracle of what goes on inside a living thing.  Finally, "Takes in the paper?" is OPEDS, not READS.  Oh and p.s. I bet I'm not the only one who put in ARIA for "Opera piece" (it's ACTI)!

Top marks for this Thursday puzzle.  OK Friday, your work is cut out for you!


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Wednesday, November 29 2923, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Vacillation is the name of the game today!  Four theme answers describe ambivalence in different forms, with varying levels of appropriateness; each is clued similarly as a choice being made between options A and B (and, in one case, C):

  • ONTHEFENCE - yes, quite.
  • WISHYWASHY - I see this as more of a character trait than a decision-making obstacle.
  • OFTWOMINDS - good, nice and literal
  • UPINTHEAIR - my least favourite - would normally refer to the decision, not the decision-maker.
These are all symptoms of DECISIONFATIGUE, the big revealer (sort of) bisecting the grid.  I can relate to this; I get that feeling toward the end of about half of my working days.

These indecisive clues are embedded in a fairly inoffensive substrate.  "Talking point?" gave me early pause until the crossers revealed DAIS.  (Good one!)  I liked the physics-y "Super conductors?", as you don't see MAESTRI every day.  Had to trust the crossers on GELT ("Traditional Hanukkah gift"), as that was brand new to me.  CONEY Island is a peninsula, not an island - who knew? Till today, not I.

I'm cutting this short tonight as it's been a long day and I'm running on FUMES.   Sayonara, all!




Monday, November 27, 2023

Tuesday, November 28 2023, Gia Bosko

Today we've got a chromatic rhyming theme in a left-to-right symmetrical grid, with five colour-related rhyming phrases sprinkled throughout the puzzle, one split into two side-by-side answers (MELLOW / YELLOW, Donovan's hit song from 1966).   I believe the entire point of this construction was the final theme clue, whose answer is ORANGEDOORHINGE - the closest humankind has ever come to a rhyme for the word 'Orange'.  Ha!  I bet Ms. Bosko thought long and hard about getting 'PURPLE' in there too, somehow.  

So I RELISHed this puzzle, because of the refreshing symmetry and also because it put up more resistance than usual for a Tuesday.  I was misled time and again - entering PETDOOR instead of AIRHOLE for 'Opening in a pet carrier' (#facePalm) and ODDBAL (yes, ODDBAL) not ODDONE for 'Quirky person'.  Bogged me down from the get-go, it did.  Fortunately, a few gimmies came to the rescue.  'I, on the periodic table' (IODINE) could have been clued as simply 'I', and maybe it would have, later in the week.  I don't know Uno, but crying the name could only mean ONECARD.  I still have a box of MEMOREX tapes somewhere with a bunch of '80s music on them.  Nothing to play them on any more, sad to say.  I was aware that Captain Kirk never actually said 'Beam me up, SCOTTY!'  Didn't love LATISH ("Not quite on time") - just doesn't look right to me.  I did like the clue for COLONS (appropriately, ': : : : : :') in a weird way.  

What a disjointed, rambling review!  Back at it tomorrow.....


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Monday, November 27 2023, Ricky J. Sirois

 Today's theme, hidden in a clever pun, is all about food.  Not just any food, but four dishes with something in common: each with two-word names, both words starting with the letter 'B'.  A pretty innocent theme, really, though my mouth waters whenever I read BEEFBOURGUIGNON.  Something succulent about the way the B's and the G's roll off the tongue ... but I digress.  The revealer ties it together:  "'Admittedly...', or when said aloud, a punny description of the theme answers" : TOBEFAIR.  Get it?  TWO-B FARE?  I feel like I'm being one of those annoying people who ruin jokes by explaining their punchlines.  Anyway.  The best part of the theme today was this revealer.

Elsewhere - I liked the subtly punny "Pub brawl" (BARFIGHT), and OLGA Korbut brought back memories of watching the 1976 Olympics on our brand new tiny little black-and-white TV, where she was upstaged by the transcendent Nadia Comaneci.  I liked the inventive cluing of CRATER ("Any facial feature of the man in the moon, in reality").

TSETSES ("Fearsome African flies") raised my eyebrows. I don't think this word really has a plural form, though I expect Google would prove me wrong, if I just went one tab over and looked .. 

Not much else of note.  Gentle, sub-three-minute Monday fare.

Onwards and Tuesday-wards!


Sunday, November 26 2023, Adam Wagner and Michael Lieberman

 Greetings all, from crisp cool Toronto-land!  After solving today's puzzle, I am struck with an urge to go stretch my legs (not that my legs need stretching, as those who know me will attest).  The trick today is, seven Down answers have been lengthened by an INCH - literally, by the insertion of 'INCH', transforming common phrases into punnily-clued silliness - and even more literally for me, on my computer screen, those extra 4 squares are almost exactly an INCH long.  I like this multi-level cleverness, though some of the results are quite seriously contorted.  I won't list them all out today, but here's an example:

LATESTCRAZES - perfectly fine, common phrase - becomes LATINCHESTCRAZES, clued "Reasons that South American furniture stores have super-long lines?"

I mean, really.  We're venturing far out into dad-joke land here.  Not that I mind.  I dwell in the domain of Dad Jokes, the more contrived the better.  It might be a bit much for some, though.  (Comments?)  A neat and appropriate twist, having the theme answers all being Down.

As far as the solve went - as usual, I left the theme till the very end, spidering down from NW to SE and working out from there.  I wasn't sure the very first clue "Sweeties" was going to be BAES, so left it at first, but sure enough...  Didn't love SNEERY for "Visibly scornful" - a bit of a hack, there.  Moving diagonally down, I was fully misled by "Release, as a trailer", thinking it had to do with the movies, so the eventual unveiling of UNHITCH was a pleasant "aha".  I needed all the crossers for UTAHUTES ("Brigham Young football rival") - nice construction there, and in the neighbourhood of the most difficult section for me.  I don't visit Natick very often, but the crossing of "Classic name in wafers" and "The ____ Honors (annual picture book awards)" was just about the end of me, even with NE_CO and _ARLE in place.  Fortunately, I twigged to "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and filled in NECCO and CARLE. NECCO must be an American thing, or I don't get out shopping enough (or I'm in the wrong aisles).  This is the sort of thing that just kills at the ACPT.  

Other stuff - SANDALTANS ("Reasons to wear socks post-vacation") was a new one .  Oooo...kay.  ICOSAGON ("20-sided shape") was neat.  Nice to see that word get some air time, instead of its sexier, higher-dimension sibling ICOSAHEDRON...  "One who doesn't have a prayer?" (ATHEIST) - super subtle editorializing maybe?  I'd never heard of YEET ("Hurl with gusto, in Gen Z slang") - guess I'm one or two Gens too old.  And my favourite of the day, just next to that one - "One might improve a pupil's performance" (MONOCLE).  Are monocles a thing any more?  At all?  

Found this a bit tougher than the usual Sunday fare.  Sometimes there's a slight wavelength difference, I find.  All in all, though, fun and no serious gripes.

See you tomorrow!


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday, November 25, 2023, Jeff Stillman

Today's puzzle had a little more meat on its bones, if you will. The solve took me twice as long as yesterday's, partly because I ran into several problem areas. The worst included "Illinois city near St. Louis" (ALTON) and "Actor Rutger ____ of 'Blade Runner'" (HAUER), both crossing "1972 hit whose singer claims to 'know a place'" (ILLTAKEYOUTHERE) - threatening a one-way ticket to Natick. Another problem area involved the crossing of "Network descended from the first national 'superstation'" and the oddish "Rougher-than-usual instance, as of a head cold or thunderstorm," which turned out to be TBS and BADONE. Why 'bad one' is particular to head colds and thunderstorms I will, perhaps, never know. Anyhoo, the gray cells KEPTUP their charge this morning, eventually rerouting the Natick-pportunities to their correct destinations, and I was ABEL to FILLIN all squares after 31 minutes, 27 seconds. 

I first thought of 'Popeye' for "Olive lover?" but then I counted the squares. A false start of 'godS' for "Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune" instead of ORBS in that same area made it difficult to see BLUTO until I re-TOONed my thinking. Nice for Olive to have two WOOERS.

Some of the fill was a little choppy like EEEE, ENNE, MIS, RES, RECTI, and the oddly pluralized DNAS, but the exciting long answers and some fun shorter fill like HISSY, MAPLE, and SPOOF made up for it. The long answers I especially liked were  SCRAMBLETHEJETS and THEPLOTTHICKENS. ROIs for this solver included the French answers ETE and LAI - I was looking at Les Lais de Marie de France on Wednesday! - and everyone's favorite, the SMILEY. :)

The pattern of the grid was interesting. While it might not win an IMAGEAWARD, it made me think of a chocolate chip pancake, and what's not to LIKE about that?


Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday, November 24, 2023, Rafael Musa

After expending enormous effort yesterday on eating as much as I could, it's no surprise that I felt a bit sluggish this morning. Fortunately, that feeling didn't translate to my puzzle performance. I completed the grid in a relatively sprightly (for me) 14:13. 

The one section that gave me trouble was the northeast. "Something a birthday determines" is a very broad category! I don't pay much attention to my own or the STARSIGN of others, so that possibility didn't exactly leap to mind. "Back in" for RETRO was tricky for me, as was the clever QMC "Bad lighting?" for ARSON. Also, for some reason, my mind went in the direction of science lab instead of medical facility for "Workers who must maintain a sterile environment, in brief" (ORNURSES), but other answers eventually NUDGED me in the right direction and I made a full recovery.

But elsewhere, some of the fill seemed surprisingly easy/straightforward for a Friday puzzle, like "Bygone ___" (ERA), "Bury" (INTER), and "Colorado ski mecca" (VAIL), plus several others in the southeast corner: "Hydrogen sulfide has a distinctive one" (ODOR), "Something 'Jeopardy!' gives you" (ANSWER), and "Mr. ___ (1983 Styx hit)" (ROBOTO) - although, that may have something to do with my age. :)


I dropped in EYESHADOW "What might cover a lid," which seems like it should be tricky, but when you think about it, what else could it be? Of course, I liked NERDFESTS, and perhaps, ergo, TAXON. :) I also enjoyed "Come to a point?" for NARROW and my favorite of the day: "Present-day vehicle?" (SLEIGH) - ha! EGGHEAD, PROVISO, SCHISMS, SUEDE, and EXUDED are fun words.  

I'm thankful for the NYTX in general, and a fun, easy-to-digest puzzle after yesterday's gastronomic and social exertions.