Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sunday, January 29, 2023, Rich Katz

THE FINAL FRONTIER

Hello Dear Reader, Horace here, back for another week of talking about the little black and white squares. When I saw the title today, I was ONALERT for a Star Trek theme, and, well, the revealer is SPACETRAVEL, but here it's not traveling through space, it's the traveling of space - the space between two words, that is. Hah! Very nice. 

DUAL IPA

This theme seems tailor-made for a crossword, or an old Latin text, because in both there are no spaces between words. All the letters just run together and we are left to do the parsing as necessary to make sense of things. So when we see DEATHEATER, we can either think of creatures in Harry Potter, or we can make it into the "Staging of a narc sting?" or "DEA theater." Harry Potter enters into it again at 77D "Terrific messenger at Hogwarts?" (SUPERBOWL). And in other areas we can look at PARKAVENUE and think of N.Y.C., or we can think of the Iditarod, a "parka venue" if ever there were one. Heh.

So, good theme, and there's a lot of it, but somehow we still have lots of fun, long entries like TEASEDHAIR (What a beehive is made of) (Nice!), PROMPOSALS (Portmanteau invitations) (Never heard this before, but I chuckled), HORSESENSE (Street smarts), and RIGAMAROLE (Frustrating process). That last reminds me of a colleague who likes to talk about all the "Rigamaroo" at work. Heh.

"Sovereign's singular" (ROYALWE) is lovely. "Metric for a Met, for short" is a wonderful clue for RBI. And "Series of trade discounts?" is a straight-up cryptic clue for AEIOU

Overall, I thought this was an out-of-this-world Sunday with a real GOODEARTH. A very promising debut! 

How'd you like it?

- Horace


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Saturday, January 28, 2023, Kevin Christian

I thought I was going to blaze through this puzzle when I entered 1A: U.S. Holiday beginning in 2021 (JUNETEENTH) right off the clue. And in fact, I had three-quarters finished super fast, but that last corner... ooh boy. Took some time.

It's a lovely chunky grid with large corners, each with triple stacks of 10-letter answers. ARISHAPIRO deserves his status as an outstanding reporter. Why should a MALTESECAT be blue and a Maltese dog be white? Answer me that, pundits!

The SW stack is not as strong, although MOOCHEDOFF is a great answer. ALPHAVILLE I'd barely heard of. A German band from the 1980s, they're still around. Perhaps I should try some of their music. And SLEEPINGIN is something I can't seem to do any more. Ah, the halcyon years of the 1980s, when I was just a lad...

58A: TV bar with frequent health code violations overlooked by the city's mayor (MOESTAVERN) could only have one answer, amirite? ONTHEFENCE and DESERTROSE are very nice answers.

EVILDEAD 2

The real trouble came in the NE corner. I had very little going into this section. I guessed that  "Something that isn't assumed" must be REALNAME at 24A, but a silly guess at 16A: Cousin of the Spanish chirimía or Italian piffero (OBOE) put me back. I tried Oreo. Seemed a little odd at the time. In retrospect, "piffero" should have clarified the woodwind aspect here so I could replace one crosswordese with another.

Meanwhile, 21A: They form lines for their work (POETS) was difficult to see, and POSTMALONE was not going to come to my mind any time quickly. Fortunately, I got SETSEYESON which clarified my earlier mistake, and it all fell after that. I love the clue at 12D: Props for some plays (OBIEAWARDS). Hah!

So that's another week of blogging done. You can't say you weren't entertained. Or at least not so I can hear it. Tomorrow Horace takes over.

- Colum

Friday, January 27, 2023

Friday, January 27, 2023, Joe Deeney

I think we need a new term for this kind of puzzle: it's a themeless puzzle, only there's kind of a little theme. I'm leaning towards a semi-themed puzzle, but happy to take suggestions!

In any case, Mr. Deeney offers up two pairs of stacked 16-letter answers where the top is the name of a piece of entertainment art, and the bottom is the name of a person involved in the making of the art. Thus, THESOCIALNETWORK starred (in a supporting role) JUSTINTIMBERLAKE. And JAGGEDLITTLEPILL, that watermark album of the 1990s was recorded by ALANISMORISSETTE. I'm very impressed that Mr. Deeney got the latter in particular to work, because there are no other choices.

To be fair, only Mr. Timberlake supplies the correct number of letters. Jess Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield both come in at 14 letters, while Dakota Johnson has only 13. So, not many choices there.

SYD Barrett

But look at the crosses over these pairs of answers. The lower half is incredibly smooth, and allows for NBAJAM, the excellent HOOLIGAN, as well as the amusing C/AP at 44D: Industry with lots to offer (REALTY). I also love 39D: That's what you think! (OPINION). It's as if the constructor is pointing at the answer and exclaiming about it!

In the upper half, things are not quite as smooth. STJOES is acceptable, although non-fans of NCAA basketball might have trouble. MOILS and ITRY are a little rough. On the other hand, Philbo probably lit up with CNTOWER (nice ROI there! "Tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere"). And TOAMOUSE and ARKANSAS (only active diamond mine in the US?! ROI!) were nice additions.

Anyway, that's my opinion. What do GNU think?

- Colum

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Thursday, January 26, 2023, Dan Ziring and Quiara Vasquez

Partial debut alert! Welcome to Ms. Vasquez. And what a fun puzzle to break in to the NYT with!

I do love a tricksy Thursday, and this one had me guessing far longer than typical. The clue comes at the revealer, 33A: Developing phenomena literally depicted three times in this puzzle (SNOWBALLEFFECTS). And the three answers are clued at 1A, 10A and 54A with "Gradually develop, literally). You are then asked to spell out the answer with rebuses, adding one more letter in each square to create GROW, FORM, and SWELL.

Boy, I had no idea what was going on until finally I realized that the answer I'd wanted for 3D: Punished for the weekend, perhaps, was in fact [GRO]UNDED. Then I saw [GROW]LERS, and the other shoe dropped.

I love the move from [SW]EET to [SWE]ATY to [SWEL]TER. Very descriptive of what it might be like in RO[SWELL] in the Summer. Particularly nice is the connection to the first answer of this series, ETS. Way to connect it all together!

SHEENA

The puzzle is very nicely constructed all around. Some good C/APs are:

5D: One might hit a very low pitch (BASSTUBA) - indeed.

36D: You might make waves when you lie about this (WATERBED). Hah!

39D: Fried food whose name translates to "breaded" (EMPANADA). Nice ROI. 

31A: Leaves in the kitchen? (BASIL).

I also enjoyed TOPSHELF. Anything that comes close to an Auntie Mame reference works in my book.

Fun puzzle! 10:15.

- Colum


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wednesday, January 25, 2023, Nancy Serrano-Wu

When do sports and alcohol mix? When don't they!

Okay, I'm clearly influenced by my Joke-a-Day calendar (gifted to me by Horace and Frannie). 

But today's theme takes sports related phrases where the last word is also an alcohol reference, and clues each with "Sports bar purchases?". This is excellent stuff: I love FANTASYDRAFTS particularly. TRIPLEDOUBLES is also excellent (for our non-sports fan readers, this is when a basketball player gets double digits in three statistics in one game, typically in points, assists, and rebounds). I can imagine PENALTYSHOTS occurring in drinking games. It's rounded out with STARPITCHERS.

In direct opposition to the sports and alcohol, we get LISZT at 1A. I am very amused by this. I can't entirely explain why. Perhaps the ballet reference below (ONTOE) and the super sophisticated European AVION at 17A reinforce that impression?

Is that TENABLE?

Big PAPI

CATSMEOW is the bee's knees, if you ask me. Otherwise there's not that much in terms of clever clues, except 1D: Apt shoe for a bread maker? (LOAFER). Apt!

Fun Wednesday. And in the words of the infamous Austin Powers, IMSPENT.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, Aaron M. Rosenberg and Jeff Chen

Extra big Tuesday today, at 15x16 (I think that's correct - across before down). The theme is very cute, with the revealer coming at 39D: Beverage mixed with tapioca pearls ... or a description of this puzzle's circled letters? (BUBBLETEA). I love making the circles part of the theme answer! Each entry has a hidden kind of tea, nicely split across multiple words of the phrase.

I figured out the tea aspect with TOOLONGDIDNTREAD, often abbreviated as TL;DR. Hidding "assam" across three words in PASSAMILESTONE is very nice. And I never realized "herbal" was in WEATHERBALLOON until this puzzle. "chai" in SPEECHAID is the weakest of the answers.

I'm not sure why the constructors decided to have the theme answers going down instead of across as is typical. As our readers are fully aware, I'm sure, any puzzle can be essentially flipped to switch across and down clues. I wonder if it has to do with space in the paper? Probably not. There's nothing about the theme that requires the teas to go down.


The fill in the puzzle is pretty straightforward. OHSURE and CMON add a nice touch of colloquialism to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative (sorry, Pooh-Bah took over the blog for a second there). 

It's odd to imagine MATZO and a STEIN so close to each other. Was that a CHEAPSHOT?

In any case, the puzzle played slightly long for a Tuesday, which I blame on the extra 15 squares. 3:58.

- Colum

Monday, January 23, 2023

Monday, January 23, 2023, Adrian Johnson

It's a cute theme today, in Monday land. When is a wind instrument not a wind instrument? When it's a CHAMPAGNEFLUTE, a SHOEHORN, or a TAPERECORDER. The only other examples I can think of off the top of my head would be an ear trumpet, and maybe a whistle stop?

Regardless, it's excellent advice to a musician holding one of these objects: DONTBLOWIT. Hah! I chuckled out loud, and that's a good sign on a Monday.

Meanwhile, there were a number of fun clues in the mix. How about 4D: High-level cover up? (ECLIPSE). Perfect! I did not see that coming. 13D: Holey shoe (CROC) is amusing. A little math for Huygens with 17A: 5, for the set [2, 4, 6, 8] (MEAN). 

And the best yet - 58D: [Excuse me, this is a library ...!] (SHH). What a great way to liven up a three letter answer.

There are definitely nine of them

In the ROI (References of Interest) category, we get Alessandro VOLTA, CAMEROON (Thanks, Sporcle, for allowing me to get this one off the clue), MONGOOSE, PITUITARY, and OSIRIS. All very gettable, and adding to the general knowledge base is always welcome.

I very much appreciate a Monday puzzle that hits on all the cycles, while still being in the welcome to newcomers range. 2:40.

- Colum