Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sunday, June 4, 2023, Rafael Musa


Today's puzzle is flying the PRIDE FLAG colors, and using them in punny ways. Each answer in a band of color is paired with its horizontal partner, where the color is part of the answer. As in:

17A (red-shaded squares): Intermittently (ONANDOFF) - 18A: They're right on an election map ... or a description of 17-Across? (REDSTATES)

37A (orange-shaded squares): Olympics no-nos (STEROIDS) - 33A: Screwdriver component ... or a description of 37-Across? (ORANGEJUICE)

James ENSOR self portrait

So a nice, colorful theme. I like seeing the colors in the grid. I wonder how it looked in print. 

In other news, the puzzle is only 20x21, and maybe that was part of the reason my solve was so fast today. 

I enjoyed the exuberant WOOT ("Yay!," in internet-speak), the uncommon SUCCOR (Relief), and the interesting-but-oh-so-guessable "Language from which Alaska gets its name" (ALEUT). "Unfaithful sort?" (ATHEIST) was very nice, and the pair of "I" clues was fun: "I, in the Greek alphabet" (IOTA) and "I, in the NATO alphabet" (INDIA). 

It's my dad's 91st birthday today, and I have to go frost a cake and then drive out for the party, so that's all from me for today. Frannie takes the wheel tomorrow. Enjoy the ride.

- Horace

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Saturday, June 3, 2023, John Westwig

Sort of a meta puzzle with that PUZZLINGPROBLEM (Stumper) running down the middle. And this was, indeed, the hardest of the week for me, clocking in at 19 seconds tougher than Thursday's. (Although I did have a typo that took a little hunting, so really they might have been about the same.)

4th c. Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, in METZ

But Thursday's grid had no answer longer than eight letters, whereas today's has 14 answers of nine letters or more, including that triple-stack in the middle. And speaking of that, whaTeverYOUWANT fit right in where ANYTHINGYOUWANT ("Don't hold back, it's my treat!") was supposed to be. That held me up for a little while in the West. 

LINGAM (Phallic object worshiped as a symbol of Shiva) was completely new to me, and JUSTINIANII (Byzantine emperor known as "Rhinometos" ("the slit-nosed")) was also unknown. And as usual, popular culture clues are getting less and less easy for me: DAX Shepard? SADIE Sink? Nope and nope. But a game show host who's been doing the same job since I was in high school? OMGYES, I dropped in SAJAK immediately. Sigh.

Hey, and speaking of age, ask the younger people you know whether or not they know what ESP (Medium capacity?) is. We have found that the cut-off is in the low thirties. Below that, they don't know what it stands for. Not sure what that says about society, but it's probably something. Maybe one of those young people will write a dissertation on it.

Thought HWORD ("Hell," euphemistically) was a little far-fetched. Maybe it's another age thing? Like, little kids maybe? Do adults actually say "the HWORD?" The F-word, sure, but Hell? Oh, I don't know. 

"Certain cell provider" (CAPTOR) was disturbing. But I smiled at the effort for CIDER (Apple press release?), and "Apt name for a worrier" was cute for STU.

How'd you like it?

- Horace

p.s. I missed the real theme of "Something/Anything/Nothing" in the triple stack. I think I have been distracted lately. Sorry. You deserve better from a so-called crossword puzzle blogger.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Friday, June 2, 2023, John Ewbank

When you hear DERIVE (Reach through reasoning) doesn't it make you think of the song "Young at Heart?" "And if you should survive to a hundred and five / Think of all you'll DERIVE out of being alive / And here is the best part, you'll have a head start / If you are among the very young at heart." No? Well, it does me.

DONKEY, ASS, Who ever came up with this?

What else? I haven't seen "Source Code," but TIMETRAVEL wasn't the first thing that came into my head when trying to remember "Donnie Darko." And I don't think I've seen either "Dune" or "Flash Gordon," so SPACEOPERA didn't come quickly either.

On the other hand, I knew "One working with a set of keys" would be instrument-related, but I needed crosses before PIANOTUNER rang out. And similarly "General motor?" with its question mark was calling for something tricksy, so ARMOREDCAR could not withstand the crosses for long. Heh. Hey, I'm trying here...

The SW was positively Classical what with ACHILLES (Styx figure) UPTOp, and the CUPBEARERS (Attendants at a saturnalia) marching down the middle. And hey, there's Latin in there too (Post hoc, ERGO propter hoc)! And it's only a causal fallacy sometimes, right?

I like the grid shape. Everything is so open, and there's just that one pin down the middle. And speaking of, don't you wish EVERESTBASECAMP (It's an uphill climb from here) ran up from the bottom? No? Well... 

I enjoyed this one. Nothing really earth-shattering, but solid all the way through. 

- Horace

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Thursday, June 1, 2023, David and Karen and Paul Steinberg

One for the math nerds among us. Three times fractions equaling "half" are used in the Down answers, while the spelled out numbers work for the Acrosses. And if that sounds a little complicated, it is. Let's see if I can show what I mean...

60A: "Made amends" is answered with AT[ONE]D, and 63A: "Reliable, to a lender" is CREDI[TWO]RTHY. And the "one" and the "two" line up one over the other, making 1/2, which is used in the answer TOP[ONE][TWO] (Inning part when the visiting team bats). "Top half." GOTTHAT? The other fractions are 4/8 and 2/4, if you're interested, but I'm not going to write out all that. 

It was slow to come to me, perhaps because deCAF worked so well for "Coffee with less kick" (4/8CAF), but I think it was finally NOT2/4BAD (Pretty darn good) combined with I[TWO]NTHURT (Doctor's reassurance before a shot) and PETIT[FOUR]S (Small, fancy confections) that broke it open for me. 

I thought "Calling for tails, maybe" (FORMAL) was a great clue, and the connected "Food that's folded" (TACOS) and "Food that's rolled" (SUSHI) was a nice touch. "Settings for naval gazing?" (SEAS) was cute, and it's always nice to be reminded of "Christopher Robin's 'silly old' chum" (POOH). Heh. 

A nice start to the Turn. 

- Horace

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Wednesday, May 31, 2023, Brandon Koppy

I was introduced to the BEASTIEBOYS in 1987, at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, when a friend put his Walkman headphones over my ears and had me listen to Brass Monkey. So thanks to Chris Benbow, I got 37A immediately. The theme, however, has little to do with that classic hip hop group, and more to do with a group of men with hip wild animal names: WOLFBLITZER (his actual given name), TIGERWOODS (Eldrick), BEARGRYLLS (Edward), and BUFFALOBILL (William). It makes me wonder if I should take an animal name... I think I might like a bird name like Hawk or Harrier... Falcon Fawley? ... Let's move on.


Speaking of names, I quite like the name VINCENT (Grammy-winning singer St. ____). And is RATSO ("Midnight Cowboy" nickname) a little bonus theme material? Heh. 

"Spooky-sounding lake" for ERIE is fun. And "Gets the lead out" is clever for SMELTS. Hah! But the all-text-based "In which pictures of a bill + gates = a noted business executive" is a long way to go for REBUS. And what about "Boom sticks" for TNT? It is ridiculous and I love it. And finally, in this "interesting clues" paragraph, I will just say that the FIC (I had to look it up in our glossary... "False Imperative Clue") "This sucks!" for STRAW was also amusing.

YEE (Start of a rodeo cry) is tad weak, and there's a little ATA, ABLER, TEM, and PIS, but SHH... we won't mention any of that. I'm still waiting for this blog to GOVIRAL, and nobody likes reading a blog where someone just complains all the time, do they? 

- Horace

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Tuesday, May 30, 2023, Kathryn Ladner

It's an ornithologist's paradise today, as EIGHT BIRDS perch on horizontal branches (answers) in today's grid: robin, eagle, tern, lark, wren, loon, egret, and owl. It's a tidy theme, and they all blended into their surroundings so well that they didn't ruffle any feathers in the fill. I didn't know IMANI Perry (award-winning author of "South to America") or Jennifer EGAN (who wrote "A Visit From the Goon Squad"), but both were gettable, if you knew AMA (Reddit Q&A) ("Ask Me Anything") and MENSREA (Legal term meaning "guilty mind").

Xena and Gabrielle, each sporting an ARMLET

Just two long Downs today - THATSALIE ("Untrue!") and LENTANEAR (Offered quiet sympathy, in a way), neither of which is terribly exciting, but that didn't bother me. There's plenty of other interesting fill to enjoy. GAMUT (Entire range), BASK (Soak up the sun), INGOT (Block of gold), BALSA (Model airplane material), CAGY, HORDES, and everybody's favorite Vergilian hero AENEAS.

It's really quite elegant that the birds are all centered in their containing words, and it's impressive to have found eight such possibilities, and then to have set them in what is really a very clean puzzle. Excellent.

- Horace

Monday, May 29, 2023

Monday, May 29, 2023, Katie Hale and Zachary David Levy

Today's theme celebrates the flexibility of the English language. The endings of all five theme answers sound just the same even though each is spelled in a different way.


Fun! The first one is from the Greek, the second from Old Norse, apparently, and the last three are all from French, but it hardly matters where they are from, because once they get here, we pronounce them the way we want. Right?

UMA Thurman

But then, look at BETE (____ noire (bane)). Why don't we pronounce that like "beet" or with two syllables? Because it's still French? (And did Bette Davis' first name have one syllable or two? (The answer is two.)) Now contrast with NENE. Now with CEDE. Now FETE.

And do you pronounce DEI with one syllable, with two, or as a diphthong? Sure, it's easy to TOSS them off as foreign words, but is any word truly foreign if we use it on a regular basis? When will we be able to get rid of the word foreign? Or use it only for non-terrestrial things? Perhaps that's a rant for another day...

So what else...  LAYTOWASTE (Completely destroy) is fun. As is SPOOFS. Nice to see TOM in the grid. :) And BEMUSE (Perplex) - is that theme-adjacent? 

I approve of this theme, and this puzzle.

- Horace