Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wednesday, July 28, 2021, Alex Rosen and Brad Wilbur

There's P A I N T everywhere in this puzzle that features the painter JACKSON POLLOCK and his signature DRIBBLE approach to paint application. The circled letters P A I N T appear forward, backward, up, and down within longer theme answers including PADDINGTON and PETUNIAPIG. Quite artful. :)

The solve went right along with relative easel despite some clever clues designed to mislead. I liked "Buds that are very close" (BFFS) and "Letters at a bar" (IPA) as well as "Leaning to the right: Abbr." (ITAL) and its near neighbor "One leaning to the right" (TORY). I particularly liked "Make wise through experience" (SEASON), and Long ride? (LIMO) was cute. Although there never came a point where I thought to myself, "oh gouache, I don't know," I did take advantage of the theme for a little assist with TENNISCAMP ("Where you might find love away from home") - har har. 

52A: URN

I enjoyed the new-to-me clue for our old friend OREO. I wonder how many different clues that word has had. I bet XWordInfo knows! PIP is a good word. And SWABBIE. On the other hand, JELL with a J looks unfinished to me, like it's missing an O. :)

Overall, I think if we canvassed the group, I think we'd find agree that this is a creative theme that portrays the artist with style. 

~Frannie.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Tuesday, July 27, 2021, Jennifer Lee and Victor Galson

Today's theme made me chuckle when I looked at it after completing the puzzle. The revealer is FACIALRECOGNITION, or "Technology used by smartphones nowadays ... or a hint to the ends of 16-, 24-, 44-, and 57-Across." Those ends are IZE, EERS, NOES, and LYPSE -  making a real funny face. Taken at face value, the long answers that included the facial feature endings were all solid. I especially liked APOCALYPSE - good times. :) I think I spotted some ancillary theme material with IPHOTO and FILETYPES ("PDF, JPEG and others").

While the grid included a host of familiar faces such as ALOE, OBOE, LEI, ANTS, and so on, there were some other entries that stuck out in the crowd like DAWG, BELIE (also in yesterday's Spelling Bee!), DELVE, CORNET, and delicious GROG.

44A: VOLCANOES

Some clues caught my eye as well including "Lowdown" for INFO and SHY for "Not having quite enough money." I also liked "Embellish, as a résumé" (PAD). I entered the 'ivOrY' for "Wood for piano keys, once" instead of the correct EBONY - and, although incorrect, you can't argue that together they make beautiful music. :)

All in all, I thought the puzzle cut a fine figure.

~Frannie.


Monday, July 26, 2021

Monday, July 26, 2021, Tommy Pauly

Today's three theme answers are actions taken by a trio of performers trying to promote a JAZZ SHOW. The first member said he'd TOOTHISOWNHORN. I entered this one in pretty quickly having decided to switch to a "Downs First Approach" - or DFA, as it's called in the business - after reading the first clue. Despite the early get, and maybe because of the nearby CHEWY, when I looked at the answer again after completing the puzzle, I read it as "tooth is own horn," which might be a better sell for a circus side show, non? :) The second member of the trio said he'd PULLSOMESTRINGS and the third said she'd DRUMUPBUSINESS. NICEJOB in finding these three expressions that can do double time suggesting both playing instruments and promotional activities.

6D: ALASKA

 Other answers that I thought had a real swing to them were "Make one giggle, say" (AMUSE), "Attired like Batman or Superman" (CAPED), and "Risky things for a car to run on" (FUMES) - as Horace can attest, I get nervous running on anything less than a full tick on the gas gauge! Fill-wise, I liked SEALEGS, DRAB, SLEW, LIEGE, and JAUNTS. ABYSS is a cool-looking word. OHIOU just looks odd. 

I don't take to an AROMA emitted by a bouquet. And, I'd like to respectfully request that we retire the word HAG.

For any Dear Readers who are following along at home, I have a Harry Potter update. I recently embarked on the seventh and final volume of the series. It's been interesting to re-read these books after so many years. I had forgotten a lot of the lesser plot elements. As Philbo put it so succinctly a couple of weeks ago, the books get more interesting and darker as they go along. 

~Frannie.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sunday, July 25, 2021, Chandi Deitmer

STAR SEARCH

This is a beautiful theme. Who doesn't like the big and little dippers? They are depicted fairly accurately here, the little is pouring into the big, as I like to think of it, and the end of the little dipper's handle is situated within its own name - POLAR*S. The stars are made by writing an X and an I in the same space, which gives an asterisk-like thing, which looks like a star. Really lovely. 

DRAKE and HEN

And on top of all that, we get a few bits of trivia about how other cultures have seen these same stars - as a DRINKINGGOURD, the WAGONOFHEAVEN, and as SEVENOXEN. And for all that, the grid only strains at a few places - ENATIC (Sharing maternal lines), and ATLAI (Central Asia's ____ Mountains), for example.

I thought "They have springs in the middle" was tricky for OASES, and "Wouldn't stand for it?" was a cute QMC for SAT. "This is a test" (EXAM) was fun, but what the heck is "Clear, as crystal" (BUS)? What am I missing here?

There's bonus clueing in "In which 'Stella' means 'star'" (LATIN) and "Star performances, maybe" (SOLOS). And I like the literary bent seen in LIBRARY, PABLO Neruda, OPRAH (Noted book club leader), the BRONTE sisters and their pseudonyms, and NOBEL (1938 prize for Pearl S. Buck). Throw in a little Vulcan clue (STOIC (Like Vulcans, typically)), and you've got our attention, Ms. Deitmer! Congratulations on a lovely debut. We'll keep an eye out for you the next time we're over in Davis Square! :)

- Horace

p.s. The Boswords tournament is today, Sunday! I think you still have time to register if you haven't already, and I believe Ms. Deitmer has a puzzle in it!

https://www.boswords.org

Saturday, July 24, 2021, Adam Aaronson and Ricky Cruz

Once again, today, I had to go backwards a little in order to finish. Things went along slowly but surely in all areas except the NW, where I had entered telEPHONE quite confidently for "One might be off the hook." I had INESSENCE (At bottom) and PDAS (Palm products, for short), although I worried that the latter might be too easy for a Saturday and took it out several times. My real problem was that I am not familiar with WHITECLAW (Popular brand of alcoholic seltzer) and I didn't know the term WHIPS (Fancy cars, in modern slang), so I was in a real fix. Finally, I took out the "tele" part of 14-Across and guessed WHITECLAW, and then it all came together.

One of the Myers-Briggs TYPES
It me.

Interesting to learn the first name of Soichiro HONDA. We drove HONDAs for many years, until the Civic became more of a muscle car than an economy car and we had to look to other brands. Sad.

I don't think SANER is quite right for "More with it," but elsewhere, I enjoyed the three French answers, ENTRE, TRES, and the amusingly clued ETAT (French word whose plural is its English translation backward). COINKYDINK (Happenstance, cutely) made me laugh out loud, because Frannie and her sister love to use that word. 

Loved the clues for NOTETAKER (Record producer?) and TATTOOINK (Stuff that's hard to get off your chest?). I am slightly troubled by the clue for ANCHOVY, though. I don't like imagining that there are Caesar salads without anchovies. What's the point?

"Hallus, less formally" (BIGTOE) doesn't fool me anymore. And speaking of that, have you all watched "The Twelfth Man?" I'd explain why those things are related, but it would be TMI.

For me, there was a little too much THEESPYS, MARIOKART, WHITECLAW, and NBAPLAYER for it to move into the upper echelon of puzzle solves, but still it was a solid, challenging Saturday, and that'll do.

- Horace


Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021, Michael Hawkins

The Turn picked right up today with a meaty, tricky offering from Mr. Hawkins. I wouldn't say I CRUSHEDIT, but I did finish it with no errors, which didn't seem all that likely for a while. :)

GOKART

I thought I was starting out strong by guessing "bCcD" for "Looped in, in a way" (CCED), but soon a couple crosses reminded me that I had read about COSTARICA having done away with its military, so that was fixed up in fairly short order. It's a solid 8-stack in the NW, and the crosses - especially TARMAC (Landing place) - are all decent enough. 

In the NE I was all ready to complain about the "fill in the blanks" clue, but when I finally got it and realized what was being done, I thought it was a pretty clever way to clue that old standby, SNL. I might have preferred a different clue for HOTTICKET (Elusive thing for a popular show) but I still love the entry, and "Pool service?" was a tricky QMC for RIDESHARE. So far, so good.

In the SW I dropped in STARFLEET (Enterprise group), and hesitatingly put in MPH (Dashboard abbr.) worrying that it might be too easy for a Friday. HOBART (Tasmania's capital) took every cross, and PLATOON (Company division) also took a very long time. "Maze runner" for MINOTAUR was great, and DABBLEDIN (Experimented with) is a fun phrase. 

My solve ground to a halt in the SE, where DROPCAP (Oversize letter at the beginning of a chapter), UNO (Diciembre: doce :: enero : ____), and MYLAR (Shiny balloon material) went right in, but not much else. I'm not familiar with water parks, so LAZYRIVER was not going to come without a lot of crosses, and I was totally fooled by the clue on SPEEDTEST (One way to gauge how well connected you are). 

Overall, it was just the kind of Friday I like. One that puts up resistance, but when you finally break through - like seeing KNEELS at last for "Initiates a proposal, maybe" - it makes perfect sense. All the eights and nines are lively, and, well, I liked it. How 'bout you?

- Horace

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thursday, July 22, 2021, John Guzzetta

Well, Dear Reader, while yesterday I defended a stunt, today I will do the opposite. Such is the prerogative of the critic, I suppose. It's almost obligatory that we "Not stay neutral" (TAKESIDES) (would have preferred "takeaside").

OTTO

The theme just didn't work for me. There was another puzzle recently where doubled letters like we see today were given a reason to be joined together. But this time, JOINEDATTHEHIP refers only to the Across answers, and we're left with nine misspelled Downs. Oh, I suppose I could stretch my mind and embrace the stretched words, but I get little satisfaction from the effort.

It would be easier to ACCEPPTS, perhaps, if I weren't also forced to accept INANEST, COXAE, PIKA, and SILEX. And when I'm already in a bad mood, I'm more prone to argue that a PITACHIP (Little dipper?) isn't really any smaller than most other chips ... and then the fun of the QMC is lost.

One clue I did enjoy was "Closest living relatives of whales" (HIPPOPOTAMUSES). We saw a Nova one time that explained how whales (and other marine mammals) came out of the water, lived on land, and then after some evolution, went back into the water to live there again. It showed how whales swim with an up and down motion that mirrors the body motion of a running animal, rather than the side to side swimming of fish who never walked on land. So cool.

Anyway, I probably should have taken in a big breath of AIIR and then EXHHALED before starting this review, then maybe it wouldn't have been so TEPPID. Here's hoping thou HAST found the puzzle more pleasing.

- Horace