Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013, Lynn Lempel


Not bad at all, and I love the theme!

Initially wanted "nose" for 1D: What dogs "shake hands" with, but Frannie thought I was probably reading a little too much into a human handshake, to think that it could involve as much information as whatever info a dog gets with a sniff, and she immediately corrected it to PAWS. And I guess 5D: Phonograph needle (STYLUS) might seem a little outdated to some, but it comforts me. And besides, you've got REN (7D: Stimpy's TV pal) right next to it, so that makes up for it, right? Or is that, too, already outdated? ... god I'm old... but hey! I'm not old enough to actually have listened to AMOS (9D: Half of an old radio comedy duo), so that's something, right?

I like the vertical tens, PEJORATIVE (11D: Disparaging) and NATUREWALK (28D: Activity led by a park ranger, perhaps). Also liked the clue/answer 53D: "Hot" lover (FLAME). 

Not a ton of good stuff to call out, but very little bad to say either, and sometimes that's a very good thing.

Also, does this puzzle count for getting us one degree closer to KEVIN 45A: Bacon of "Mystic River"?

- Horace

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013, C. W. Stewart


Not my favorite Monday puzzle. Didn't love the theme. Seemed awfully contrived, and in MOORESSMORES, the vowel sound changes, at least in my dialect. Add to that complaint OVI (39A: Prefix with duct) (yeah, that's an everyday, Monday-type word, right?), EROSE (22A: Jagged, as a leaf's edge) (well, ok, I know that word, but it might just be from crosswords... I can no longer be sure), and AARE (57A: Bern's river) (definitely from crosswords), and, psst!, you've got kind of a weak puzzle.

25D: Direction in which the sun sets? Why not just clue this with 25D: Write W-E-S-T into these four boxes? Influenced, perhaps, by recent sporting events, I was almost tricked by 50D: Augusta's home, but when Georgia didn't fit, MAINE was easy enough.

In looking for other things to write about, I kept imagining other possible ways to clue certain things. Like 52D: ___ ___ half instead of 52D: Admitted at the door, and 53D: Obnoxious recurring character played by Chris Kattan on SNL for 53D: Tropical fruit. And, of course, 67A: Montoya who said: "You killed my father, prepare to die" instead of 67A: Architect Jones.

But let's end on a happy note, shall we? My favorite answer today: IKIDYOUNOT (29D: "No, seriously"). I kid you not.

- Horace

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013, Patrick Berry



After a brief scare last night when the NYT Crossword app sent us the diagramless puzzle by mistake (and not correctly formatted, at that!), the proper puzzle arrived this morning, and we're sure glad it did!

This was a fun Sunday puzzle. The "THeme" answers were mostly hilarious, although, as Frannie said, "No one should ever have thought of" the phrase ASCYTHEFORSOREEYES (95A: Unpopular ophthamologist's implement?).

Remember Jennifer CAPRIATI (94A: 1992 Olympic tennis gold medalist)? Yeah, neither did we, until we got the C and a couple other letters. What ever happened to her?

The cluing in this one was quite good. It starts off strong with 1A: Coating on some facial tissues (ALOEVERA), which could mean that the stuff is on your actual skin (because you applied lotion) or on an actual paper tissue, 'cause they do that sort of thing now, don't they? And 1D: Elementary school group? (ABCS) is also solid. 90A: Form letters (WRITE) was very nice, as were TAILFINS (60D: They were big in the '50s), 97A: Cabinet members? (FILES), 111D: Miss America she's not (HAG), and many more. 50A: Uses a keyless entry system? (BREAKSIN), brilliant. 53A: They go places (ROADS), love it. 101A: What a fist might represent (ROCK)! One of Frannie's favorites was the simple, but perfect, FRO (48D: Back again). And I liked seeing the double double F's of FFLAT and WOLFF.

Clues like 5D: Hound doc (VET) and 99D: Long little doggie (CORGI) show an admirable playfulness, and for that, we're willing to give Mr. Berry the extra leash, as it were, for things like YKNOW (96D: "... see what I mean?").

Zippy, modern fill mixed with the ICHOR of ARACHNE makes for a very satisfying solve(nt?). I'm going on record saying this is my favorite Sunday puzzle of the year so far. What do you think of that?

- Horace

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013, Chris A. McGlothlin


The grid looked Saturday-y, but it filled in like a Thursday. Something of a relief, actually, after last Saturday!

My favorite clue today: 28A: Character in "Unforgiven." We ended up with CAPI_ALU before finally realizing that it was one of those tricky, cryptic-type clues. Sheesh! Good one! Other fun ones included 40A: Holy smoker? (CENSER), 34D: Spirit in a sling (GIN), and 40D: Its patrons are usually kept in the dark (CINEMA). 

On the not-so-great side: NYS (35A: Gov. Cuomo's purview), DEXTRAL (37D: Right-handed), and a healthy dose of crosswordsy stuff: SSTS, OLEA, ORDO, LANI, ESAU...

A lot of it was just kind of boring. Even Cee-lo Green. When is his fifteen minutes going to be up? MAJORIN, ORDERARMS, NOSYPARKER (?), SADDLEBAG... I don't know, it just didn't do anything for me.

- Horace

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013, Michael Ashley


At first, I thought that this was one of those puzzles that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once or twice. There's a name for those... pangram? Is that it? Anyway, the last time I remember this happening, the resulting puzzle was less than ideal. This time, however, it's missing a Q and a V (I'm pretty sure), but maybe that is what saved it from being terrible. There still are a lot of high-point Scrabble letters in here, though, and Frannie, especially, liked working with "all the fancy letters."

Initially, I feared the grid with its nearly sealed-off corners, but there wasn't any trouble getting from one section to another. And with only a few three-letter answers (what are there, six?), and one of those being UTZ (44A: Potato chip brand), well, we have no complaints.

A very clean, enjoyable puzzle. Not too hard, seemingly, or maybe it just fell right into our collective wheelhouses. (Or should that just be "wheelhouse," since I already said "collective?") Frannie just laid down things like ANNEMEARA (17A: "Archie Bunker's Place" actress) and ASHCAKES (20A: Some cornbreads) (odd coincidence, I made cornbread for dinner tonight! But not directly on fiery coals.), while I put in things like OLLIE (18A: No-handed skateboarding trick) and, off that "O,"  BMOCS (10D: Quad standouts), without hesitation. What one didn't know, the other did, and so it went.

LILA (11D: Lee of silent films), was a complete unknown, and I suppose if you weren't familiar with the term "Ollie," you might try some other letter there (S, maybe??). And SWARMS for (1D: A lot) wasn't our favorite answer ever, but these are trifling complaints. Not the cleverest puzzle, but a clean one, and that counts for a lot.

- Horace

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013, Jeffrey Wechsler


Great start today with 1A: It has everything (COSMOS), and it just kept on keepin' on after that. Very little garbage in this one, and what there was (ESA) (for example) was clued very well (44A: What's that to José?). Some answers seemed a little odd (ONEHORSEPLOW, FENCERAIL, HROSSPEROT), but there was nothing wrong with them. They're perfectly acceptable, just, I don't know... odd.

It seemed surprisingly straightforward for a Thursday. No rebuses, no circled letters, no trickery of any kind. Just a simple PRESTOCHANGEO (Magician's phrase ... or a hint to part of 18-, 25-, 34- and 41-Across) theme where each theme answer contains the letters P,R,E,S,T, and O in different arrangements. It took a while to figure it out, and the last theme clue to fall for us was the revealer, so knowing it didn't help the solving at all. It was interesting to learn that the name of that 18A: Classic cartoon in which "Kill da wabbit" is sung to a Wagner tune was WHATSOPERADOC. Who knew? Aside from Jeffrey Wechsler, I mean.

It seems every puzzle will have its OLIOs, its ICCs and its LUANAs (that last one almost killing us until we finally figured out 28D: Lux.'s place (EUR)!), but this puzzle was far heavier on clever clues and interesting answers. 59A: Best way to defuse a bomb, for example (CALMLY). It reminds us of Tom Lehrer's classic song "L-Y" and the line "As you walk along the street / A porcupine you meet / How do you shake his hand when he says hi? / Carefully... carefully... carful ... L-Y"

- Horace

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013, Clive Probert


We didn't know that a PACA was a 1D: Spotted rodent, but it was INFERable (in a way) (27A: Gather, logically) from the crosses. The same was not true, for me anyway, of CSTAR (31D: Astronomical red giant). We will be interested to hear whether or not Huygens knows this term. Me, I hadn't heard it so as to remember it. Nor had I heard (so as to remember) of the city named SOCHI, which is, apparently, the 30A: Russian city, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I guess I'd better start paying attention to more of the so-called News. Oh, and one more thing - we know a lot of French people, and never once have we heard any of them say ALLOALLO (20A: Repetitive French greeting). 

Anywho, enough complaining. We liked plenty in this puzzle. SLOB (9D: One whose work is not picking up?) was nice, and although other reviewers sometimes complain about cross-referencing, we rather like it, so 14D: Least like 9-Down (NEATEST), was fine with us. 47D: Sister (and occasional rival) of Venus, had us both thinking of mythology, and it wasn't until this morning that we finally realized it was really about tennis! And while we're down there in the SE, we put in "Prospector" immediately for 50A: One who hoped things would pan out? It's amusing that FORTYNINER also fits in those same squares. Fortyniner also fits in much better with the "numbers" theme of this puzzle. When it started out with "Fifteen" and "Thirty," I was kind of hoping for "Sixty," but no dice.

Lastly, 36D: Partiers at a hooley made us laugh. I've gotta look that word up, and then start using it all the time.

- Horace

p.s. Totally missed the other theme entries of LOVEBOATS (weak), FORTYNINERS, and GAMESOVER. I guess the sequence did make sense, and I was missing out on more than I realized when I didn't understand "SERENA."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013, Severin T. Nelson


It's kind of cool that all four season have six letters (if you say "autumn" instead of "fall"). Lots of thematic content in this one, and lots of French. Including, I might add, one clue that was exactly the same as one in the Saturday, April 6, 2013 puzzle, but this time, it had what I consider to be a more correct answer. 28D: Laugh, in Lille, was today answered by RIRE, the infinitive, instead of the inflected form, RIS. Bravo on that point, Monsieur Nelson. You lose points, however, for ENDUES (19A: Provides with a quality). While it does appear in my Random House, I do not approve of it appearing in a Tuesday puzzle. And before I stop complaining, let me add that we would have been done ten minutes faster if I had put in GRANTOR first, instead of "granter." Frannie finally noticed that "balleon" (31D: Suffix with ball) (OON) (weak) didn't mean anything. 

So it wasn't perfect, but I did enjoy the theme. I liked the symmetrical VIVALDI (48A: Antonio who composed "The Four Seasons") and POUSSIN (32A: Nicolas who painted "The Four Seasons"), and the symmetrical GATES (7D: Bill who co-owns the Four Seasons hotel company) (really?), and VALLI (57D: Frankie of the Four Seasons). Very nice touch, that, and I guess I have to allow a little more garbage on account of it. 

Favorite clue: 69A: Something you might trip on (LSD). 

I was a little confused by INERTIA (40A: Tendency to remain unchanged) appearing right in the middle of a grid all about constant change, but maybe Severin was thinking about the whole cycle of the seasons as being unchanging. And speaking of that, perhaps I should end with A. E. Housman's translation of what he himself called his favorite poem from Antiquity, Horace's ode 4.7, "Diffugere Nives."

The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

When thou descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.

Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leaves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away. 

- Horace

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013, Allan E. Parrish


I guess I was hoping for some kind of Earth Day theme, but instead, let's see... what was it? I guess it was two-word phrases ending in a three letter word starting with B and ending with T. Seems a little odd as a theme, but hey, it's Monday. At least the vowels go in order, that's nice.

There was some brief trouble at 9A: Born first as I put in oLDEST before realizing that oLATES wasn't quite right for 8D: Thrills. 15A: The "M" in S.M.U.: Abbr. was a missed opportunity for adding a little "edginess" to this puzzle. I guess I smiled a bit at the clue for ESP (33A: "I know what you're thinking" ability, in brief), and I thought KEENS (35A: Wails), was maybe a little Tuesday- or Wednesday-ish. AMAHL (41A: Menotti's "____ and the Night Visitors" takes me back! Huygens, if you think of it, ask the wife if she still remembers singing the lines "AMAHL!" "What do you want mother?" repeatedly for days and days after we saw those performances at Mechanics Hall.

LAN (49A: Computer grouping, for short), was just in on Saturday! But, oh, nevermind, the clue was different - (38D: Certain computer grouping, for short). And it's lucky I review these Monday puzzles for the write-up, otherwise I would have totally missed BOBA (19D: ____ Fett ("Star Wars" villain))! Nice one. I wonder how many boys aged 13-60 had trouble with that? I'm guessing the answer is none. The same is probably not true, however, for ENTEBBE (48D: Ugandan site of a 1976 Israeli rescue), which I knew (with a letter or two) from a Mountain Goats song called "Raid on Entebbe." Thanks, John Darnielle!

I'm conflicted about ETCETC (36D: Yadda yadda yadda). On the one hand, I think it's cheap, because the former is abbreviated and the latter isn't, but I also kind of like the look of it in the grid. Your thoughts?

- Horace

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013, Jonah Kagan


Whew! What a relief after yesterday's debacle to get a nice, big, fun, Sunday puzzle.

I love this theme. Sure, some of them are ridiculous, but hey, that's ok with me. After the absurdity of this past week, a little more fits right in. The first one to break for us was PEEKUNDERWRAPS (34A: Try to see what you're getting for Christmas?). How the heck do people come up with these things? DOOMSWINGS (81A: Playground apparatus of the apocalypse)? Genius. The only one that didn't sit all that well with me was DIALDOWNTHELAW (91A: Be a lenient judge?). I don't love it because the original phrase "Laid down the law" is in a different tense, but really, that's probably over-thinking things. Really, "Dial down the law" is pretty funny. Frannie's favorite was PERPSCHOOL (45A: Academy for criminals?).

It's not all roses and peppermint, though (Is that a thing? Do people say that?). We've got the occasional EMIR (99A: Top Qatari)(although, admittedly, that's a pretty nice clue for it), and NORW (80D: Land on the Arctic Cir.). I suppose they mean Norway, but that's more often abbreviated with Nor., isn't it? I'm inclined to let it go, but I worry that it's a slippery slope from accepting things like ATV, WII, ESL (all side-by-side!), to accepting things like yesterday's puzzle, but honestly, I still think there's a huge chasm to cross before we end up over there. On the dark side.

The hardest cross today, for us, was 111A: Actor Hirsch of "Speed Racer" and 107D: Kipling's "Follow Me ____." The M of EMILE and OME was kind of a guess, but really, it was inferrable.

One last thing, Frannie, in a fit of pique, angrily put in SHHH for 1D: Librarian's urging, and was quite relieved when it turned out to be READ.

In all, there was plenty of fun stuff in here to make it an enjoyable Sunday puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013, David Steinberg



We finished up everything but the SE, and after staring at that, and trying different things for a long while, we finally gave up.

We are not on the same wavelength as Mr. Steinberg. I called his puzzle of March 23, 2013, "more of a boring slog than an enjoyable brain-flexing." Frannie's quote today: "This was a 'ball-buster,' and just for the sole purpose of being a 'ball-buster.'"

I suppose if you're a veteran crossword puzzler, these obscure, never-seen words and questionable constructions make it a little tougher for you. For the rest of us, it's just not very much fun.

ZASINZEBRA? How about "Z is for Zebra?" Find me a children's book with the former and I'll eat it. And HEADTOTAIL? What about "Head to Toe?"



- Horace

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013, Ned White


This puzzle seemed medium challenging to me. With the start Horace had made, I was able to chip away until most of the squares were filled before quitting to get some sleep. One thing is for sure, I found FRABJOUS (34D) neither splendid, nor humorous. Also, I have never heard of BIMINI, (1D: 1935-37 home for Hemingway), but I knew BRATPACKER had to be correct, as did IONOSPHERE, and the reast of the acrosses seemed to hold water, so in it went. DAPHNE (21A: "Scooby-Doo" girl) in the NE helped me break into that corner. Three down clues (48, 49, 50) made it possible for me to break open the long acrosses in the SE. 49D: Private reply, was one of my favorites. I tend to like the question mark clues, and 45D: Reserverd bars? (INGOTS) and 41D: Make It? (TAG) entertained. I also thought, BEANANGEL (51A: Spouse's entreaty starter, perhaps) was downright hilarious. That's what Horace said to me last night as he handed me the puzzle to complete before promptly falling asleep.

- Frannie

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013, Stu Ockman


Two words: Bru. Tal. That's what this was. It had us on the run right from the start, and though we got the revealer - ALPS (68A: High points of which five are found going up in this puzzle) - somewhat early, and we even noticed the slanted letters A-L-P going up in a few places (and down in one!), it wasn't until the two-hour mark that we finally finished the south-central block and were left with LEG (67A: Long writers' blocks?), that we finally had the big breakthrough. That odd answer, combined with NATION (44A: Baseball, in America), finally did it. We both had wanted NATIONALPASTIME from the get-go, and lo and behold, there it was. All we had to do was climb the Alps to get all the answers we needed. Once you're up there the view is clear, but how exhausting! Hoc opus, hic labor est!

I actually like the trick, now that we finally found it, and ordinarily, I'd love such a clever puzzle, but this one fought us so hard even in the regular fill that I just can't give it a thumbs up. POME (14A: Apple, e.g.) crossing OMAR (6D: Stickup man on "The Wire")?? The M was a guess based solely on the French "pomme," and didn't really feel fair. PAROL (43A: Spoken, as evidence)? Again, sounds vaguely French, but I've never heard it used like that, without an E. ALDOL (51D: Perfume ingredient)? Never heard of it. SELAH (26A: Psalm ender)? Whaa? And finally (I could probably go on, but what's the point?) I only know "Aria da capo" from Bach's Goldberg Variations. It is used when the aria from the head (capo) of the piece returns at the end. I have seen many versions of that work, and never, ever, have I seen the words in the order given in this puzzle. They wouldn't make any sense that way. Order is important in Italian. It's not like Latin. "From the head aria" doesn't mean the same thing as "Aria from the head." It doesn't mean anything! Bah!

I loved the clues on FELON, ATLAS, OOM (pah-pah), and MRED. And the clue for the oft-seen AMATI (15A: Instrument bearing the coat of arms of France's Charles IX) was interesting and completely new to me.

A complex puzzle, and a real challenge, but too much obscure fill soured the thrill of completion. We stared at T_U_ and STE_S for a good twenty minutes before those last two squares finally fell. Again, I say, exhausting. Sometimes Thursdays are more work than Friday and Saturday, it seems. Here's hoping I don't have to eat my words tomorrow.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013, Samuel A. Donaldson


I may be hypersensitive, but I found it a little sad that the theme of the puzzle today, two days after the bombing in Boston, was security. But I won't dwell on it. I did that yesterday.

There was some good cluing in this one. Right off, the oh-so-common AMA was given a clue that made me need two crosses to fill it in, 1A: Org. founded by Dr. Nathan Smith Davis. I liked that change, and I also liked the tricky 13A: Minnesota neighbor (MANITOBA), because even though, after going through the neighboring U.S. states and figuring out that it had to be a province, I still needed a couple letters because I couldn't think of the answer right away.

On the down side, and there was a lot of downside, I find answers like ESTOP, REPACK, and ADRIP, kind of lame. I think AMUCK (1D: In a frenzy) is less common than "amok," and MAPLE is less common as a 2D: Bat wood, than "ash," isn't it? Is "Happy Days" still on anywhere in syndication? "Mrs. C." was an easy answer, of course, and I suppose a lot of solvers are my age or older, but jeez, it seems old even to me!

Overall, meh.

- Horace

p.s. Huygens, were you somewhat annoyed that 69A: Primes, e.g.:Abbr. are here reduced to just being NOS?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013, Peter Broda


I found this puzzle somewhat odd. The theme was clever, but didn't it also strike you as a little strange? Maybe it's just that I was doing this puzzle only hours after hearing about the terrible bombings at the Boston Marathon. I was, and am still, distracted and distraught. It makes me deeply sad to see large-scale acts of senseless violence come so close to home. In past Aprils I have stood at that point, across from the bleachers, to watch the end of the race. I know many people who were on the course yesterday, watching or running.

As terrible as it was, it's no worse (and probably quite a bit better) than things that go on in the world every single day. Drone strikes authorized by this country are, apparently, delivering much more powerful blows and causing much more violent death and destruction in other parts of the world. Perhaps experiencing it at home will change our ideas of what's right and what's wrong. Of who should mete out, and who should meet destruction.

But let's return to the puzzle, shall we? To the bread and circuses that placate the masses, that keep them from actually finishing and acting on their thoughts of reform or rebellion.

I've never heard of NEO (16A: Prefix with platonic) or 49A: Suffix with lex- (EME). I don't think I've ever heard of ICOSA as a 5D: Twenty: Prefix (I guess Greek should be next on my list of languages to learn). The use of so many brand and corporate names - REDBULL, NESTLE, GEICO and 12D: Verizon or Sprint - seems a little tawdry. And seeing Nike's old slogan BOKNOWS (13D: Onetime catchphrase for athlete Jackson) seemed a little odd. How long ago was that? Is it already twenty years? And speaking of old-fashioned, 51A: Photo ___ (LAB)? What's that?

On the plus side, I liked HELLA (29D: Very, slangily), and LISP (26A: Someone who has it can't say it). XAXIS (54A: Horizontal graph line) looks nice.

Overall, more bad than good. That's my opinion. Possibly skewed by circumstance.

I'll end with more lines from the 42D: 1971 hit with the lyric "You may say I'm a dreamer," 

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

- Horace

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013, Gayle Dean


Not a bad Monday puzzle. I'm not terribly familiar with Yiddish loanwords, so the theme answers did not come immediately. Still, they are not completely foreign to me, so it wasn't a major stumbling block.

The fill was, I thought, very clean throughout. The only thing that seemed a little unnatural was EULOGIA (44D: Laudatory tributes upon someone's passing), and even that wasn't bad, because Eulogy is already kind of an odd word. LADE (19A: Put on Cargo) is pretty crosswordsy, but I'll let that pass, too. I've never heard of SENNA (67A: Medicinal plant), but instead of feeling like the constructor just jammed something in, I feel that I've learned a little something.

66A: Class struggle? (TEST) was a nice clue, and I'm sure that our frequent commenter Huygens will enjoy seeing CARL (32A: Astronomer Sagan) right in the middle of the grid. I also enjoyed the clue/answer pair 33D: End of a bridal path (ALTAR), and 54D: Nut with a cap (ACORN) is kind of cute.

If you were to ask me, I'd say it played more like a mid-week puzzle than a Monday (I'm looking at you, CODICIL!), but as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with that. Especially after last Monday!

- Horace

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013, Elizabeth C. Gorski



We did this puzzle with our good friend and Sunday commenter, Colum, and I'll be transcribing some of his thoughts about this puzzle as I write this.

Very quick. His brother actually knows this puzzle constructor, and he likes her work, but thought that this was not her best. He liked the theme answers, and the fact that the eight theme answers went down instead of across. BITTERSWEETSYMPHONY (5D: 1988 Grammy-nominated song by The Verve) and SWISSFAMILYROBINSON (26D: Classic novel subtitled "Adventures in a Desert Island," with "The") were very nice long (19-letter) clues. Not too many annoying clues, and the puzzle as a whole had a good flow to it.

YEWTREE (81A: Archer's wood source) was a nice one - Colum knew this right away, but he and I both struggled with CDROM (51D: Flat storage site), until Frannie, the librarian, got it AND MERL (80A: Blackbird) (?!?) right away. Frannie also got ONYX (83A: Panther figurine  material) right off the clue. Colum, a musical sort, was all over 34A: Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni (GABRIELI). 

The two sports-related clues 13A: Pelé's given name (EDSON) and 18A: Jesus, for one (ALOU) were a nice pair. Interesting trivia for the first and a nice cluing of a familiar answer for the second.

Overall there were plenty of clever clues to balance out the short junk. The main problem, perhaps, is that it was a little too easy when all three of us were working on it together.

- Horace

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013, Martin Ashwood-Smith


Overall, not that fun. Slow to start, and then the bottom filled in first. 60A: Light alternative (FOURWAYSTOPSIGN) was a good one. And ASSES (Dipsticks) was unusual. 52A: Catcher of the rye? (BIB) was cute.

A lot of the time I felt like we were guessing, TODS, LAFF, MOVEOFF, AMERCE??, RENE, SESS, ATPAR?, MASHA?. None of those really clicked in, if you know what I mean. I didn't know 29A: Atlas offerings were AUTOMOBILETIRES. And GROVESOFACADEME seems a little "too, too," too. 17A: Not have a hunch? (STANDUPSTRAIGHT) was clever, but the crosses were, "Meh." We would have had a hard time coming up with PASDE (1D: ____ - Calais (French department)) if we had not just watched "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" last week. It's called "Welcome to the Sticks" in English, and it was a fun little movie. I thought I heard that Steve Carrell was going to be in an American remake, but I never saw that come out. Or perhaps it's still in production, I don't know.

But back to the puzzle. There were some funny clue/answer pairs. 10D: Cold war grp.? (AMA), 12D: Military brass (BUGLE), and others I've already mentioned, but there was too much junk to make this into an enjoyable fight.

- Horace

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013, Patrick Berry


This was a fun one! Frannie started it out, and when I first looked at it she had a good amount of the perimeter done, but in the center - well, the lower center - was the single word "NAIFS." No backup, she just put that right in for 33A: Innocents. Sure, it could have been right, but who puts in a thing like that without crosses? I'll tell you who - someone who's "en fuego." She put in a lot of others without much corroborative evidence, like BAKES for 22A: Sunbathes, informally, and FERMI for 44A: Element #100 is named for him, and they all held up. Ah... except "naifs."

Nice to see Roger EBERT (19A: Late critic featured on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) given a tribute so soon, and MAD Magazine makes it in again (they still have very few, if any, ads). Frannie's favorite (once Naifs fell) was LONER (40D: Company boycotter?), and, of course, any mention of Brent SPINER (38D: Brent of "Star Trek: T.N.G.") is ok with her. My favorites were 15A: Key chain (ARCHIPELAGO), and 1D: Dry mounts? (CAMELS). I know some crossword reviewers don't like the question mark clues, but they are favorites with these two solvers, and there were some good ones today. (40A: Country singers?) 

Very few groanable answers. Sure, MANOLETE (29D: Celebrated matador during Franco's reign) and LORELEI (33D: Title maiden in a Heinrich Heine poem) are not, perhaps, household names, but they are interesting, and we had no trouble getting them with crosses. 

Overall, another enjoyable Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013, Jim Hilger


If we had been doing this on paper, we would have finished in about 25 minutes, and we would have wondered about the ALETA (55D: Prince Valiant's love / ESTE (66A: Villa d'____ ) cross, but it probably wouldn't have bothered us all that much. But solving electronically, we put in that T and got a message that the puzzle was not entirely correct. So I spent half an hour trying different letters (S, N, M, L, I?, O?), and I tried to think of other words for SOWED (56D: Scattered), and even wondered if ESTABLISH (34D: Form), could somehow end differently. It was late, and I eventually put it down. Thankfully, while I slept, Frannie, like the elves for that cobbler, made things right. She picked up the puzzle, didn't recognize the name SeTO (4D: 1974 Peace Nobelist), and tried SATO instead. Bingo. I don't think she knew the name Sato either, but she did know that ROMA was a better answer for 14A: Ruler of Gallia and Brittania, once. Give clue names in a different language, get answer in same different language. D'oh!

So, after that long intro, what did we think? Well, as you might guess, it wasn't our favorite. Lots of threes again, but somehow it didn't feel as bad in that respect as yesterday. There were some good ones - did you notice that "obituary" fits exactly in the spot where EULOGIES was needed (20A: Passing remarks?)? I liked seeing TMI (64A: "I really didn't need to hear all that," in texts), and Frannie liked the gender-bending clue 66A: Queen of mystery (ELLERY). SYNOD (12D: Council of clergy) makes us think of the famous "Cadaver Synod," so there's some entertainment value there. And who doesn't like a DONUT?

There were, however, a lot of proper names (SATO, GOLDA, RAISA, NATASHA, DENIS, ISOLDE, ALETA, and, I guess, ELLERY and HADES), and the low point today, I think, was probably 50D: Some reuners. Really? "Reuners?"

The theme was fine, and I thought the five wraparound "Shades" was a nice touch.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013, Julian Lim


Right off I was on this guy's side after 1A: Disgraced Armstrong (Lance). I love seeing the cheater called out. 6A: Energize, informally (AMPUP) was less good, but it kind of went along with Lance, in a way. And then we come to AFI (11A: Movie org. that created a top-100 list from which all of the puzzle's quotes come). Well! That's a long way around to this theme, and it seems hardly necessary, but with so many three-letter answers, I guess you've got to do something. That was Frannie's complaint today, "Too many short ones." Of course, nothing is ever all good or all bad. Her favorite part of the puzzle was a "three" - 41A: Digital communication, for short? (ASL) Brilliant!

Me, I liked seeing 22D: Mad magazine's Usual Gang of ____ (IDIOTS). Coincidentally, I was just reading a copy of Mad this morning, that I had gotten from my Dad, who has a subscription! Can you imagine a cooler thing for a father to have? And speaking of Mad (but definitely not Dad!), I chuckled at 49D: Baked, so to speak.

Lots of theme answers in this one, including some bonus ones like 47D: 2008 Pixar robot (WALLE), 53D: Bygone theater chain (LOEWS), and several others, not least of which the final clue 62D: The ____ [fittingly]. END. 

- Horace

p.s. I thought I'd mention that I recently had my first "crossword-related" injury. While solving in bed, very late at night and after coming home from a bar, I nodded off to sleep still holding my iPad Mini, which is housed in a rather bulky wooden case. It fell from my hands onto my forehead, and drew blood with a cut to the brow. Let that be a warning to you all! Get a nice, soft iPad case!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013, Steve Blais


Hats off, as it were, to Steve Blais. This was what I think an early-week puzzle ought to be. Lots of straightforward answers - some surprisingly so: a RACE is a "Speed competition." Yup. "Smells" are ODORS. Check. A "Pluralizable word" is a NOUN. True. - but also some trickier stuff. I probably show my age when I say that the NFL isn't the first thing that came to mind when I saw the name Merlin Olsen. And I wasn't aware that a SORTIE was a 22A: Military counterassault. I would have thought it was any old mission, and would have guessed a plane had to be involved.

It's nice to see the SHRINKINGICECAP (37A: Global warming concern) getting mentioned. Pretty soon it'll have to be clued in the past tense, like 46D: Andy once of "60 Minutes." 

Just a little bit of geographical crosswordiness with ADEN (43A: Mideast's Gulf of ___ ) and URAL (33D: River through Kazakhstan), and I don't particularly love YULES or OATEN, but overall, this was entertaining.

One last thing, I'm glad Frannie didn't see 58A: "Don't Bring Me Down" grp. (ELO), because if she had she'd be singing that song for the next several days!

- Horace

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013, Janet R. Bender


Boring. I know Monday puzzles are supposed to be on the easy side, but this one just didn't have much zip. I got OPERATING SYSTEM (37A: Windows or Unix) without any crosses. In fact, there were very few that I needed crosses for. GEENA (32A: Oscar winner Davis) and GILDA (32D: Funny Radner) seem a little old-fashioned. As does LIEIN (50D: Pacifists' protest demonstration). Being from Boston, I don't particularly like seeing AROD in the grid, nor do I care for the religious slant of ORIGINALSIN. The somewhat hip answer FRONTS (10D: Is the lead singer of) actually feels a little out of place.

I know that I am not this puzzle's intended audience, but I have enjoyed easy puzzles before. Not this one.

- Horace

p.s. The aforementioned "Operating System" is an example showing the "system" of the theme, which is two-word phrases where the words start with S and O.

Sunday, April 7, 2013, Matt Ginsberg


Some nice anagram work in this one! Frannie's favorite was DORMITORY/DIRTYROOM, and mine might have been SNOOZEALARMS/ALASNOMOREZS, but really, they were all pretty good.

For clever anagrams and beautiful symmetry, we are willing to grant a lot of liberty, and that's just what we did today. ORNIS (71A: Local bird life)? Blecch. MFG (95A: One of the M's of 3M: Abbr.) Blah. 44D: "How can ___ sure?" (IBE). OK, whatever. And there were other little boring bits, but like I said, we put up with them without too much complaining, because there were plenty of good non-theme entries as well.

I liked seeing ABORC (crazy-looking!) (68D: Multiple-choice choices) in there, and we were totally prepared for 48A: Mayo containers? (ANOS) after last Saturday's puzzle (3/30 Important part of mayo). 37D: Georgia neighbor was especially vexing for a while, as ALABAMA and FLORIDA both fit, but it was finally ARMENIA (!) that had to go in. 1A: Postal ID (Idaho) was brilliant! And who doesn't love seeing GENITIVE (97D: Like the word "curiae" in "amicus curiae") in a puzzle? Ahhh... Latin.

Plenty of fun clues/answers + a solid theme = an enjoyable Sunday puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013, Michael Wiesenberg


I could have sworn that ITASCA (6D: Minnesota county west of St. Louis) was spelled with a K, and really, ATkO seemed as plausible to me as a 23A: Label for the Bee Gees as ATCO, but fortunately, Frannie suggested we try the C, and then everything worked out. (I will now remember it with a C, because the Crossword Fiend (see our other blog links) pointed out that the lake is the source of the Mississippi, and the name is said to come from "Veritas Caput." (true head))

Another problem in that same area was having EATS instead of AILS for 23D: Has something, and since we weren't sure of 25A: Rajiv's mother, anything was theoretically possible. Of course, INDIRA sure looks a heck of a lot better than INDaRA, but you never know.

Other than that, this one moved along slowly but surely. Didn't particularly love OVERSTRUNG (12D: Very tense) or LOUT for 46D: Yahoo, but there were some good ones too, like MADLIBS (37D: Game requiring many plug-ins?) and I loved the clue 27D: Its boring bits can be quite long for DRILLPRESS. I got the idea immediately, but wanted DRILL at the end for quite a while, which slowed things down in the SW.

Never heard of 28A: Victor Herbert's "naughty" girl, MARIETTA, but she was eventually filled in, too.

One major problem - RIS does not mean 52A: Laugh, in Lille. RIRE means laugh in Lille. Un éclat de rire. Ris, is the present, active, first and second person singular. Je ris, tu ris, but it is not used as a noun. In fact, I looked up "ris" just now, and the only thing given in my Harper Collins Robert is "ris de veau," or "calf sweetbread". Yecch.

Not a favorite, but decent.

- Horace

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013, Peter Wentz


We're back on track! After a slight hiccup yesterday, we went through this entertaining puzzle with relative ease. Favorites today include EXACTA (18A: It includes picking the place), TEE (39A: Ball-bearing piece), FAMILYREUNION (36A: Relatively important meeting), and KAPOW (1D: "Batman" comics sound). Frannie liked the sound of the word RIBLET, but not the idea of it as actual food. She also wanted to make it known that she is anti-dog-earing.

Least favorite - ICERAIN (28D: Relative of sleet) - Who says that? - but that's about it. Not a lot of slop today. Some we didn't know, like ADLER and AWN (Although I think we're learning that second one. Wasn't it just clued as some kind of stiff-bristle brush?), but they were gettable with crosses. And we should really give a shout-out to our niece Heather, without whom we might never have known about GOODCHARLOTTE. Thanks, Heather!

I thought GIMMEFIVE (31D: "Up top!") was nice, and it's nice to see ELCAPITAN, VWBEETLE and FATBACK in there. Over all, thoroughly enjoyable.

- Horace

Thursday, April 4, 2013, Corey Rubin


Well, DF, but had an error. Had AEo and SADo (I know, funny name for a town). I suppose I might have tried AER later on today, after I'd had a little time away from the puzzle, but there were two other crosses that wore us out. PYE/AYERS and ALEK/KAUAI. We tried both the Y and the K very early on, but when neither set off the "Well Done" notification, we tried other possible word-making letters one after another, and then again. Finally, it didn't seem all that fun anymore.

The puzzle theme was broken early, and once it was, most of the fill was quite easy. It must have been quite a chore putting this thing together, but the payoff was somewhat less than satisfying, partly, to be fair, due to our lack of knowledge, but partly, I think, due to some less-than-fair crosses and some less-than-inspired fill. RLS, ULT, BOSNS, SOTO, OHED, LTS, SADR(!). 

I know, I'm just bitter. Perhaps you had more fun with it. I hope so.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, Gary Cee


Today, I'll begin at the end, which, for us, was the terrible triple cross of the North. 20A: Brzezinski of MSNBC (we don't have cable), and 15A: Asia Trans ___ Range (? Sorry, Dad) crossing 5D: Tot's glassful. I guessed MIKe for the first one, which made solving 5D even harder than it already was. It wasn't until I took the E out again in desperation that I was finally able to see WAWA. Hmpf. Tricky.

OK, there was a theme (there almost always is), but I had to read Rex's blog to figure it out. It was baseball. Obviously, I guess, since Opening Day was this past weekend. Swing, Hit, Run, Slide, Score. Not bad, really.

Some clever clues, some funny stuff, some interesting stuff, but I'm not sure this one had enough. 44A: Key opening? (OSAY) was cute, and WAWA, I suppose, but there was a lot that was just blah. At least for me. But oh well, they can't all be winners, and there's always tomorrow.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013, Ian Livengood


Habemus Papam! And I love that habemus papam in a grid that also includes a SEXT (8D: Message one might not want the tabloids to see), EROTICA (46D: Racy stuff), and the Monster MASH (6A: "Monster ____" (1962 #1 novelty hit)). Mr. Livengood stopped short, however, of clueing NERO with any reference to the Christian-persecuting emperor. I guess that would have been "de trop." I use the French there because I know he'll understand it, since he went ahead and used PNEU (61D: French tire) as though it were a household word, and the slightly more well known (Is that right? It's hard for me to tell, really.) NOTRE (66A: Our, in Montréal), and ROI (23A: "Vive le ____!"). Frankly (see what I did there?), I would have expected more Latin, or at least Italian, in a puzzle centered around the ultimate MANCAVE (22D: Room with a pool table, wet bar and TV, say), the VATICAN (45D: Current home of 63-Across). 

I will confess, however, to liking this puzzle quite a bit. There was a lot of zippy fill, and I liked the contradictions. VATICAN is spooning EROTICA, but then POPEFRANCIS (63A: Official elected March 13, 2013 (also the very day this blog was begun!)), presides over NOTRE and PEACE (67A: "Later, bro!"). 

I'd say the week is off to a very nice start.

- Horace

Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013, Gary J. Whitehead


I quite enjoyed this April Fool's Day edition puzzle. It was a little tougher than a usual Monday, because of all the "Fool" clues. I think there were eleven in all, my favorite of which is probably DUNDERHEAD (18A: Fool), just because it's such a ridiculous word.

As for the regular clues, we had Deco for 5D: 1910s-'20s art movement, which screwed things up for a while in the North. I thought EMEER seemed plausible for 15A: Mideast potentate: Var., because aren't emir, emeer, and ameer all valid variants? Anyway, EoSTASIA (21A: Area including China, Korea and Japan), finally told me that things weren't quite right, so DADA, the art movement had to be.

Nice to see Jack BENNY (64A: Comic Jack of old radio and TV) in there, and I liked IRONMASK, INCISOR, and SVELTE. Didn't particularly love NONROMAN even though it definitely is 50A: Like the Cyrillic and Hebrew alphabets, it just didn't seem all that great. Why not say, Like every great conquering civilization after 600AD? Blah. And EARLAP?? Again? What the hell? I feel Will Shortz is trying to legitimize it by including it once a week! But I don't say the whole puzzle is bad because of a couple, less-than-perfectly-acceptable-to-me clue/answer pairs. On the contrary, I thought it was overall a good, enjoyable puzzle. Especially for a Monday, and that's no joke!

- Horace