Saturday, May 25, 2024

Saturday, May 25, 2024, David P. Williams

It's Horace today, filling in for Colum, who is at his daughter's graduation. This particular daughter, Cece, has been a guest blogger here herself a few times, and the blog wishes her all the best at her graduation and beyond.

Inside the MER de Glace

Now, to the matter at hand - could it be that Mr. Fagliano heard a few too many times at the tournament that the weekend puzzles had gotten harder? Because this Saturday didn't put up much of a fight. That's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable. The double-W start with WAMPUM and WIFFLE ball is strong, and brings me back to may days spent in the backyard swinging wildly at wildly curving pitches. And I don't know if my grandfather dug up any wampum, but he sure found a lot of arrowheads digging in the garden at his house by the river.

I don't like the clue for REROLL (Result of getting doubles in Monopoly). It's not a re-roll, it's a free second roll. Not to be an ASSHAT, but a REROLL would indicate that the first roll wouldn't count, but that's not the case. 

Anyhoo ... I did enjoy FOIST (Palm off  (on)), GAUCHE (Lacking social sensitivity), HACKS (Time-saving tricks), CRUST (Piece of the pie), and PATSY (Sap). "Lover of literature" (ROMEO) was cute, as was "Time to take stock" (IPO). 

How did you like it?

- Horace

Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday, May 24, 2024, Carolyn Davies Lynch

You're offering me a Friday themeless pinwheel grid? PLEASEDO! This is why we love THETURN!

I love these grid structures. The flow is so beautiful from area to area, and the large sections of white squares make for nice chunky intersections. The first area I made any headway on was the SW corner, starting from ARTOO, leading to MOTTO. 50A: Consequences of some serious foul play (REDCARDS) was an excellent non-QMC. My first instinct was to think of basketball (and technical fouls), probably due to the NBA playoffs going on right now.

Another really great clue is 44D: Mac maker (KRAFT). Hah! Similarly, 47A: They bring a lot to the table (WAITERS). Loaded with excellent non-QMCs.

I worked my way along the southern edge and completed the SE corner second. With two corners in place, the center started to come together. TWICEASNICE was the first long answer to fall, followed by GETTHESCOOP and then STARTERKITS. Both SOLARNEBULAS and CHACHASLIDE came at a much later point, because of my unfamiliarity with either term.

ANITA Garibaldi

The NE corner came next. SWIFTIES is so au courant, n'est ce pas? 7D: Part of a clutch (CHICK) is another great clue. 

Finally, the NW corner fell. STIMMING is a nice modern word. And 15A: One in the rite place at the rite time? (PRIEST) is a fine QMC.

Excellent puzzle. Looking forward to Saturday.

- Colum

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024, Adam Wagner

For those of you not in the know (I count myself among them), an image of BOXBRAIDS is below. But the trick of the puzzle is not in making literal box braids, but rather in braiding boxes in the puzzle so that two down answers side by side exchange their letters, making two new words. Thus 2D: Academic achievements ([DEGREES]) and 3D: Doesn't allow ([FORBIDS]) exchange alternating letters to become DOGBEDS and FERRIES

It's a fun idea, carried out extremely well. The shaded squares make the theme clearer. Would I have been able to figure it out without them? I think so, although not as quickly. I know opinions vary on the necessity of hints like this, but the puzzle took me a little longer than average for a Thursday, so I'm in favor today, at least.

I'm not certain about the answer BANKSAFE. I've never heard those two words together like that. Most of the time, I'd say the target of a heist is the bank vault, but it wasn't hard to figure out. I did enjoy 19D: Light entertainment? (LASERSHOW) and 27D: Iconic declaration from Bruce Wayne (IMBATMAN).

The quote from TAFT was quite amusing. It took me way too long to get 18A: What a king might sit on? (SLATS) - that's a king-sized mattress. I also liked 24D: Two in a row? (FOES). Very nice.

- Colum

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wednesday, May 22, 2024, Martin Schneider

I like today's grid for the four chunky corners, although the NW and SE are pretty isolated from the rest of the grid. Fortunately, the theme, while fun, is pretty straightforward, once you get the concept.

The revealer comes at 34A: What 18-, 23-, 49- and 56-Across could be called (DOUBLEMISNOMERS). This explains why the theme answers' clues are unfinished. 18A: Carbonated fountain drinks that contain neither ... (EGGCREAMS) - there is no egg and no cream in the drink. Nobody seems to know exactly why it's called that, but it's possible that it was a cheaper version of a drink that did have both.

I'm a big fan of the ENGLISHHORN, a lovely instrument, used to great effect throughout the orchestra repertory. Apparently this name comes from the fact that the bulb at the end of the instrument made it look like horns played by angels in religious images from earlier centuries. Thus, in German, it was called "engellisches Horn," or "Angel's horn." But that word also means "English." I used to think it was called this because it has a bend in it, or "Cor anglé" in French, which could be misinterpreted as "Cor Anglais," or English horn, but no.

Anyway, enough etymology for one blog post. Favorite clue of the day is 8D: They don't appreciate well (INGRATES). We need more silliness like this in our lives. For an unusual QMC, see 62A: Lengthy construction project, per a saying? (ROME) - as in "wasn't built in a day."

- Colum

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Zachary David Levy

Let's start out today by giving a shout out to 19A: Post-panel sesh (QANDA), an answer that looks like it should be the name of an Australian airline company. Did you know that that name is an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services? But here, I am pleased by the opportunity to deviate from the QU___ standard.

Our theme today is BABYPROOF, or here interpreted as proof of there being a baby. Each of the four theme answers (which are not related to infants), start with a word that describes something typically seen in a household with a small human. Thus CRIBNOTES, BOTTLEGOURD, CARRIAGEHOUSE, and MOBILEPHONE. Doesn't that last one feel archaic nowadays? I think most of the time we call them either "cells" or just "phones," showing how far we've moved from landlines.


As I was solving this puzzle, and seeing all of the high-value Scrabble tiles represented, I was certain the grid would be a pangram. But it is missing K. Seems a shame not to have found a way to shoehorn a 5-point tile in. Still, we get lovely words like GENZER (really two words with a suffix added on), VERSACE, and my favorite, ENZYME

The puzzle played slightly tough for a Tuesday, what with ODOULS, NOBS, and NBAJAM. SERGEI was a gimme for this classical music nut, but likely is more of a challenge for the usual Tuesday crowd.

I liked that RIND and STEM, clued the same way, were in symmetric locations. And how about the ludicrous clue at 23A: It might be poked (FUN). Hah!

And who knew that Alec Baldwin's middle name is RAE? That's odd.

- Colum

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024, Jack Scherban

First off, happy birthday to Frannie! Hope you have a lovely day.

It's a Monday, so we're looking for a straightforward and smooth puzzle with a fun theme, and that's what we get. Three well known fictional figures with military titles but no actual military experience lead to the humorous revealer at 49A: Unfazed response to a threat from 20-, 31- or 38-Across? (YOUANDWHATARMY). It's impressive to me that Mr. Scherban came up with three different military titles in SERGEANTPEPPER, CAPTAINOBVIOUS, and COLONELSANDERS that are all fourteen letters long.

It's also impressive to have four down answers that cross three theme answers, and have them be as strong as RAKESITIN, GRAPESODA, ISLANDHOP, and VIDEOTAPE. Nice work!

I had one error today, putting in CHOi for Bok CHOY. The latter is the accepted spelling, so that's a bad on me. 

In other notable features, it's cute having WASNT next to AINT. There ain't many cute clues, it being a Monday, but I smiled at 61A: Swiss borders? (ESSES).

- Colum

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunday, May 19, 2024, Christina Iverson and Katie Hale


Hello everybody! Happy Sunday. Glad to be back after a fine week of reviews by Philbo. The weather is lovely, the porch is open, and this coming weekend, Cece graduates from college. Quite a time!

Today, though, the puzzle makes fun of our Spring allergies. What standard phrases might sound like with a stuffed nose, and then wackily clued, so hilarity arises, as we like to say. Essentially, take the N and replace with D. Clearly, 110A: Tour guide's remark at the challah factory? (THATSADOUGHBRAIDER) had to be the inspiration for the whole puzzle. It's brilliant, and I love it.

I also enjoyed DOASISAYDOTASIDO, since the original phrase might indeed be uttered by a teacher. ITSAHARDDOCKLIFE is fun because of the way "knock" loses its KN in the transition. 

But I think it's high time that this blog addressed an essential question in crosswording, which is this: how good are OREOS, actually? Are they, as Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith of the Great British Bake-Off claim, the second best snack in America? I would disagree, but I ask for your opinions below.

And another essential question in crosswording is the question of question marks. Does the clue 65A: How one might punnily define "Saran" or "sari"? (ITSAWRAP) deserve a QMC? I posit that it does not. The clue already has the fact that it's a pun directly in the wording. Save the QMC for situations where the trickiness needs to be announced to get there. Or does it even? After all, 122A: Supporter of the arts? (PEDESTAL) doesn't need it either, IMO.

Things I enjoyed: 

ANGELOU and LEAVEN, both relating to rising. 

The SW corner with so many repeated letters (WWW, AHH, ZOO, WHOOP). 

91D: They might cover your back (TATTOOS).

Enjoy your Sunday!

- Colum