Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013, Josh Knapp


A shockingly quick finish for a Friday. It's our fastest Friday since the "iPad Mini era" began (last Christmas), and less than half of our average time for a Friday. Combine that with the fact that this is a pangram puzzle (uses all letters), and you might think that a bad review is on its way. Well, think again. We loved it!

Just yesterday, englishteacher59 commented on the syndicated puzzle, agreeing with me that every grid had its share of lousy fill. Well, today that gets challenged. I suppose we could complain about the partial SONIN (15D: ____-law) or ONIT (45A: Kool & the Gang's "Get Down ____"), and some (not us) might be annoyed by newer terms like NETIZEN (7D: YouTuber, e.g.) or MANI (36D: ____-pedi), but that's pretty much it. Everything else is solid, and not only that, it's interesting, real, and/or fresh, and most of it is clued excellently. Consider words like MARIACHI, ENIGMAS, UNABASHED, GAMEOVER, AQUALUNG, ONTHEQT, and DIVINGBELL. All fantastic. And there are so many clever clues I don't know where to begin. How about SONATA (15A: Series of movements), THINE (30A: What was once yours?), or MERRYMEN (53A: Hood's support). Or Frannie's favorite AGENDA (1D: Big to-do, maybe?). Or ROB (5D: Take the money and run?). Or EXISTENCE (29D: It's a living thing). We could go on and on.

The one clue we either didn't know or couldn't parse was 55A: Stir (THECAN). Any help?

A fantastic puzzle.

- Horace

p.s. It has been brought to our attention that "stir" is one of the many synonyms for "jail."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013, Julian Lim


Pretty decent theme, and the bonus of beginning with an E and ending with a W was a nice touch. Frannie figured it out while not actually looking at the puzzle. Sometimes that seems to work well - when you hand over the puzzle, but are still turning it over in your head. She had wanted "Ebb and Flow" for 17A: Tidal movement, and finally she just shouted out "Maybe it's backwards!"

A lot of gimmies (BAHS, GITA, LOSLOBOS, JEANNIE (although I originally wanted "Genie" and gave up, but Frannie put it right in), NAP, IVE, SEC...) made it easy to get into this one, but there were also a fair number of trickier ones to keep it interesting. NEUTERS (48A: Fixes) took a while to see, and ROBOTS (8D: Men of steel?) was pretty nice. And 28A: Triple, quadruple or more (SOAR), and 45A: Passion (ELAN) both required a bit of a leap. We were both looking for "Boar" or "Bear" for 1D: Big game, so BOWL was a nice surprise.

I liked seeing odd words like AMBLE, EGGY and ASPECT in the grid. I'm a little sick of seeing ELHI and TSO, but the rest was good enough here that I won't complain too much.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013, Gary Cee


What's the theme? "Two-ball?" There are six two-part answers, all with "in." Not exactly my favorite thing. The whole thing seemed a little on the easy side for a Wednesday, and the fill was erratic. There was some nice stuff like METAPHOR (28A: Sand in an hourglass, for time), NINEIRON (49A: Club providing lots of loft), and ISURRENDER (11D: "Uncle!") - but only for the answers, not so much for the clues. I also like seeing CHOWS in the grid.

We had "Rub on" for RUBIN (31D: Apply, as lotion), and got no help from 45A: South American monkey (TITI), but Frannie suggested that as a possible change after we got the "Incorrect cells" message.

I don't know... it was erratic. It wasn't horrible or anything, but I didn't love it.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013, Dan Feyer


We loved the theme. I'm not sure what to call it, but the letters "GE" are added to several answers, making funny answers. CHARLIECHANGE (20A: Swawpping out Sheen for Rose?), for example, and Frannie's favorite, ORIGINALSINGE (54A: Caveman's injury after discovering fire?).

The rest of the fill was not exactly what I would call "sparkling," but it was decent. I didn't particularly love ORACULAR (3D: Providing hints of the future), and there was the usual smattering of EZRA, ABA, and STYE. Also, I think YUL might be becoming the new "EEL."

There was a nice nod to RICHIE (4D: Havens who sang at Woodstock), who passed away recently. I also liked the nod to PLINY, who passed away some time ago. I would have preferred "Pliny the Elder," but you can't have everything.

I also liked BREWSKI (18D: Cold one), ZURICH (45D: City NE of Geneva), and, for a reason I can't quite pinpoint, BRUISE (22A: Fall result, maybe).

Overall, satisfying and funny.

- Horace

p.s. The "Crossword Fiend" linked to constructor Dan Feyer's own post which discusses this puzzle. I found it interesting.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013, Doug Peterson


A pretty clean Monday with a solid theme. What more can one ask?

PERFUNCTORY (65A: Just going through the motions) is lovely 11-letter fill, and WELLGROOMED (18A: Neat in appearance) isn't bad either. The five theme answers plus the revealer drop symmetrically like raindrops through the middle of everything.

If I were pressed to call out drawbacks, I might mention OFA (36A: "The Tears ____ Clown"), RECUE (69A: Signal again, as an actor), and TSKED (72A: Expressed one's disapproval). And in the downs, ANDS, ATRUE, and TAPA (35D: Finger food at a fiesta). Does one ever hear that in America without the final "s"?

But I am not pressed to call out the bad, and I don't really want to focus on it today. This puzzle has enough decent material for a Monday. It's funny to see ELM TREE again so soon, and it's kind of funny to see ULE so close to YUL, although the former is quite weak.


- Horace

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013, Joon Pahk and Jeremy Horwitz



Hey, guess what? I guessed GAVOTTE (13A: Baroque French dance) immediately and put it right in. Such is the nature of doing a puzzle on the iPad Mini. I knew it was a dance, but I wasn't sure it would be the dance. (Like the answer to 12D: Santiago's milieu in a Hemingway novel - not just a sea, THESEA!) It held up, though, and was the first of a véritable tempête des mots français in this grid. ARGOT (68A: Trade talk), TGV (79D: French high-speed inits.), MERCI (77A: Comment that might get the response "de rien"), ENTRE (102D: ____ nous), ETE (29A: French word with two accents) (weak clue), 40A: Arriviste (UPSTART), and, perhaps the best one - ROIS (76A: Old French line). Enfin bref, il y en avait beaucoup! (MATTE... MITRE...) (Finally, that French major is paying off!)

But there was lots to love even for non-francophiles. Greek scholars may have enjoyed 16D: Original opening to Homer's "Odyssey"? (OMICRON), IOTAS (41A: Greek vowels), and CROESUS (118A: Fabulously rich ancient king), and Italian-speakers may have smiled at GIORNO (70D: Day, to da Vinci), and maybe even AMO (92A: Livy's "I love").

In addition to all that, there were some very nice, clever clues - 6D: Whale of an exhibition (SHAMU), 105A: Parliament constituent? (NICOTINE) (!), 73D: Has an adult conversation? (TALKSDIRTY), and perhaps the best of the day - 91A: Concave object of reflection? (INNIE). And it's nice to see ANAPEST worked into the grid. Also, I just noticed that "anapest" is, itself, an anapest. Cool.

The theme left me a little cold, and there were some groaners. HUGER (31D: Even more vast), AMENU (98D: "I'd like to see ____"), and SERIOUS doesn't seem to be an exact parallel to 25A: "I'm not kidding." Shouldn't it be "seriously?" Seriously!

Still, overall there was more good than bad. What's more, I learned that the symbol of my own state is the ELMTREE (116A: State symbol of Massachusetts). It was so designated because George Washington took command of the Continental Army beneath an American elm on Cambridge Common in 1775. That tree, like so many other elms in this country, is now gone. I wonder if they'll change the state symbol once the last elm succumbs to dutch elm disease?



- Horace

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013, David Steinberg


David Steinberg, you crazy bastard! You put your name right through the middle of your own puzzle. And with that brazen flourish, you have won me over.

First, a little history (for all we have time for in our short-lived blog is a little). We have encountered his name twice already – the first time we finished, but not happily, the second time, after nearly four hours, we gave up. When I saw it again today I was worried, but after one pass, I was already changing my mind. The gimmies of PURPLEHAZE (1A: What's "all in my brain," in a 1967 rock classic), and PATSYCLINE (63A: "So Wrong" singer, 1962) got us started off pretty well, and put us into a better mood. 39A: Caterpillar roll ingredient (EEL) only added to our delight. After my first run-through, I handed it off to Frannie and promptly fell asleep.

I woke up before six this morning (highly unusual) thinking about the puzzle (not terribly unusual). It was more than halfway done by then, and I was able to fill in all but four squares in the NE. Before we get to those, let's take a minute to review some nice clues. ING (34A: Having one 49-Across) took me a while to understand, even after I got 49A: See 34-Across (SHARP), but finally I saw it as "In G" instead of "-ing," and it was like an F-sharp went off in my head! 60A: Figure taking a bow? (EROS) was another one that took a second look even after the answer was in. Not a bend-in-half bow, an arrow-filled bow! Nice. 61A: No-strings declaration? (IMAREALBOY) was very clever, too. I kept thinking of things like "I'm free..." or "I'm available."

The Downs were loaded with good clues as well, starting right away with 1D: Labor leader's cry? (PUSH), and 7D: Headbands? (HALOES). 26D: Building with many sides (DINER) makes me want to go right out and get an order of fries.

But now we have to get back home to the North East. We were missing the first and third letters of 11D and 13D. Frannie finally put in IONS for 13D: Makeup of some beams, which made BANS the only reasonable answer for 18A: Blacks out, which left us with only the first letter of 11D: Violent sandstorm (_ABOOB), and 11A: Dynasty founded by Yu the Great (_SIA). It's probably not "Asia," and there are only so many letters that usually appear before "S" in Asian languages. We put in "T" first, because it made the ridiculous sounding "TABOOB," and then guessed "H," and that was it. Whew!

- Horace

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013, Joe Krozel


An odd puzzle. Twelve 15s and lots and lots of 3s makes for a somewhat disjointed solving experience.  Not bad, exactly, just strange.

I could feel my brain digging through its store of 3-letter crossword rubble for every last NEA, TOR, EKE, and TET. And once you punch enough holes into the 15s, they can usually be guessed. The first of those to go today was THESAHARADESERT (9D: Large portion of Africa), which seemed so straightforward. We much preferred the more clever PETRIFIEDFOREST (11D: Source of hardwood?), GASOLINESTATION (31A: It may help you get from E to F) (!), and CARELESSABANDON (41A: Bad quality for dangerous work) (a hard clue to parse, at first). My own favorite, however, might have been PROCRASTINATING (24A: Off-putting?), both for the nice clue and for the simple fact that it's a 15-letter word. It looks so cool running all the way across the grid on its own.

Surprisingly little junk, and the clues for some of the 3s were especially nice. 21A: Some bulls (ELK), 30A: Pajama-clad exec (HEF), and 46A: Google finding (HIT), for example. We will never, apparently, remember the name of Prince Valiant's son, but, well, it still sounds more familiar to me than 65A: Georges who wrote "Life: A User's Manual" (PEREC). In fact, that ANOLE/PEREC cross was pretty tough, but Frannie had a hunch about the first E in PEREC, and thankfully, she was right. Tater tots all around!

- Horace

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013, David Levinson Wilk


Started out right away liking this one. Not because of 1A: 'Twilight' author Stephenie - I didn't know that one, or the SETH 6A: Green of TV's "Robot Chicken," or the LBJ 10A: Texas' ____ Ranch... Come to think of it, it took a little searching to get my first answer, which I think was LUMP (20A: Mattress problem). The next one was ALGIERS (25A: Setting of Camus's "The Stranger"). I was pretty proud of remembering that one. Actually, I put in Algeria, first, but corrected it when I got CUR 19D: Snarler, of a sort. Before we go any further, I'd just like to comment on the use of apostrophe ess after Camus, but not after Texas. Interesting, no?

Anywho, even though I didn't immediately figure out "18A: With 50-Across, how one can tell that this puzzle was up all night waiting to be solved?", the very idea made me smile. I like that the theme was announced in two 12s, and then there was a bonus 15 running right through the middle. What I'm trying to say is that the very structure of the puzzle won me over before I even solved anything. Does that make sense? Am I crazy? Oh, and the clue 32A: Not merely a (THE). Even though I got it immediately, it was still a satisfying, amusing clue.

Maybe that's what it's all about, the cluing. Like 33A: Genteel affairs (TEAS), and 34A: Firebrand (AGITATOR). Who ever gets to use or hear the word "Firebrand?" It's lovely. And 42A: Some of Vanna's letters? (ENS). When I first read it, I thought it could be any letters at all, but, of course, they come from the name Vanna, as they must. 65A: A shot in the arm, say (DOSE), is also nice, and 25D: Side effect of a withdrawal? (ATMFEE) was Frannie's favorite.

I'm fussy, though, when it comes to certain things. For example, I'm fine with YEROUT for 24D: Ump's cry (and I'm pretty sure that EnglishTeacher59 will be reminded of the old Intellivision baseball game, as we were), but for 3D: "Bleah!", I prefer the MAD Magazine spelling of "Yecch" with two Cs. And I expect a W in front of RASSLE (5D: Scrap). (Another nice clue for that, though.)

Overall, we still enjoyed this one quite a bit. Easy-ish, but fun. What's wrong with that once in a while?

- Horace

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013, Kevin Christian


This one was fun. The theme (odd rhyming couplets with Xs and Ks) (sooo many Xs and Ks!) was hard to guess at, but once one or two fell, the rest were quite easy. Still, they all made me smile.

Favorite clue: 22D: Where "K-I-S-S-I-N-G occurs, as taunting kids say" (INATREE). Least favorite: 9D: Keebler cracker brand (ZESTA). Never heard of it. And having entered "PREs" for 6A: Chief exec, we had to guess at that Z after we got the "There are incorrect squares in this puzzle" announcement. 

Also enjoyed EARSHOT (20A: Hearing range), MITOSIS (25D: Cell division), and any mention of SKEE (31D: ____ - Ball (arcade game)). 

A fair amount of AXER, IMAM, TSAR, and SSRS, but hey, it was ok.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013, Patrick McIntyre


Not much to report. The "Who, What, Where, When, Why" is fine, and we have only have a few complaints. ASCH (7D: Author Sholem) and DOHA (8D: Qatar's capital), side by side, required all the crosses, but they were easy enough. STAGER (9D: One putting on a show) and ALOEVERAS (63A: Soothing lotion ingredients) were a little much. If aloe vera had been singular it would have been fine, nice even, but as a plural, well, it isn't. And does anyone ever actually say or use the term EDATE (32D: Online time stamp)?

On the plus side, we enjoyed POLICEMAN (10D: One keeping the beat?), and the SPOOL/SCREW pair. SOUNDBITE (37D: Media-friendly quote) is an interesting long one, and you totally got us with 64D: Little wriggler. We put in "eel" immediately.

Other than that, it doesn't seem like there's much more to say. Perhaps you thought otherwise?

- Horace

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013 - Tim Croce

This puzzle was TOOEASY for us (67A) except for SLATY (52D) "Dull blue-gray" and YOGIC (21D) "Like some meditative exercises." Every where else it was more of a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Tricky of President and Michelle Obama to give 5-letter names to both their daughters White House Girl (43A), but not tricky enough to stop this train. ONELLAMA (54A) "'He's a priest,' per Ogden Nash" is great fill, but it was in another puzzle very recently. What's up with that? So, while this puzzle was not the APOGEE (47D) of toughness, the inclusion of OUIDA and VASCODAGAMA raised it above the DUMBDORA level, I think.

- Frannie

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013, Jean O'Conor


Frannie did the bulk of this one, but I did enough to notice it was a "letter replacement" theme. We've seen these before - one letter, in this case a "v" is replaced by another letter ("b") creating new, humorous phrases from stock ones. My favorite of these might have been 28A: Tour guide's comment at the primate house? (THATSAGIBBON), but HOTDOGBENDER (107A: Stadium binge?) (coincidentally, Frannie just remarked yesterday upon the New Yorker's spelling of "vender") and LEAVEITTOBIEBER (65A: Let Justin take care of everything?) were both pretty nice.

Some fun clues: 22A: Some bookmarks, for short (URLS); 55A: '60s White House name (ABE) tricked us for a while. I kept thinking "Ike," because he just barely got into the 1960s... but no; 83A: What often follows you (ARE) was pretty clever; and we enjoyed 3D: Near-perfect rating (NINE) and BEE (41D: Comb filler). The FLED/BLED pair was also nice.

AXER (2D: Woodchopper, say) and IRES (7D: Steams) were tired, INI (39D: Ristorante menu suffix) was a bit much, and does a RADIO (75D: It has buttons but no buttonholes) still have buttons? Are there even still radios that people use? I don't know... it had a lot of small stuff, and much of it was just so-so, but we enjoyed the theme.

- Horace

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013, Martin Ashwood-Smith


Epic. Double quad-stacks. Quite a daunting grid, and one we did not get very far on at all last night. It required at least an hour of combined, caffeine-driven work to break this one, but it was largely a satisfying experience. Just like a Saturday should be.

The first fifteen to go was REGULARGASOLINE (63A: Past pump preference). I was on the right track immediately, but "leaded gasoline" didn't fit, so I had to wait it out a bit. It was little gimmies that got us going. Foreign language clues like 15D: Quarter of doce (TRES), and 28D: Quarter of vingt (CINQ). Those and the "boy clues" like 51D: Porsche 911 model (TARGA), and 11D: Their caps have a stylized "C" (REDS). Still, though, it was slow going.

The top two fifteens we got from the endings of "credit" and "error," eventually working backward to fill in AVAILABLECREDIT (1A: What you may charge with) and PERCENTAGEERROR (16A: Indicator of how accurate a numerical guess is). But that third one was nearly the death of us. Frannie got DRAY (13D: Transporter of beer barrels) (an old draught horse, apparently, or the cart it pulls), and she had tentatively put in ERIE (12D: Language related to Wyandot), but we had also tentatively guessed at IOnE (14D: Captive of Heracles), and that held us up for a while. EGONS, too, (9D: Painter Schiele and composer Wellesz) could have been "Egans" as far as we knew, or really, "Egins?" Who knew? It was only when we took out all those third letters and just started throwing out French words that we finally ended up with ETENTECORDIALE (17A: Bringer of peace). Tough, tough, tough.

Some favorites: ANTITANK (6D: Like bazookas) (perhaps another "boy clue"); CEREAL (10D: Life is one); NACL (34A: Curing stuff, symbolically) (Frannie got this one somehow - maybe because we've stared making pickles and sauerkraut); OCANADA (39A: Northern game preceder); ONED (47A: Flat); and the nice, "kickin' it old school" clue for WALDO (23A: Not just another face in the crowd?).

Less than favorite: ICERS (4D: They might design roses) (nice try, but still, no), and SPOTTV (45A: Much commercial production) (really?). Also, too many proper nouns: EGONS, SAKI, KLAUS, YEATS, KAYE, EMIL, EGER, ILIE, INCE (?), MILNE (although we like any reference to the horrible Heffalump!). And what's with 65A: Information information for STREETADDRESSES? Is that the information you get if you call "Information?" Ugh.

Not a bad puzzle, and it was satisfying to finish it, but it certainly wasn't in our wheelhouse, and it certainly wasn't perfect.

- Horace

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013, Josh Knapp


When I started this puzzle I was half watching TV, and after my first pass on the Acrosses, I had just one answer filled in: SECRET (56A: It can be dangerous when leaked). I had better luck with the Downs, getting six or seven. Then I passed it over to Frannie, whose frequent chuckles and cries of understanding announced that she was having a better time of it. When she handed it back to me, the rest fell like a house of cards, and I wasn't sure how I missed things like 18A: Key represented by all white keys on a piano (CMAJOR), or 14A: Summer time eponym (AUGUSTUS) (although, isn't the eponym the word that is derived from the name?) (hmm... I guess not. The first definition is the person from whom..., the second is the name or noun formed in such a way. I've learned something!)

But back to the puzzle - any puzzle with DRSTRANGELOVE (34A: '60s film character wearing one black glove) is all right with us. That's gotta be one of the top five movies ever made. So good... And Frannie's favorite (and one of the ones that elicited a big "Aha!") was ETA (6D: Attic character). Nice hidden capital! There was tons of good stuff in here. 47D: Neckline? (FRET), 9A: Brothers' keepers? (ABBOTS), 9D: Sock sound (BAM) (I'm thinking "Batman" here)... and even the more normal fill is interesting - TRUDGE (21D: Proceed wearily), MEWL (49D: Baby sound), PRAGMATIC (31D: Sensible). It's pretty much all good.

We would have finished about fifteen minutes earlier if it hadn't been for two errors (both my fault) that kept us from figuring out 48D: Union ____. The first was that I put in TUa, for 53D: Yours, in Turin (stupid genders), which led me to guess TanLESS for 57A: Like some sunbathers. I thought it was clever, but it made SHOn the answer to 48D: Union ____, and that didn't make any sense. Finally, working from that problem, I tried SHOP, and then Frannie called out TOPLESS!, and that's always a good way to finish.

- Horace

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013, Brendan Emmett Quigley and Elizabeth Donovan


I was excited to finally see Brendan Emmett Quigley's name today. He's from Boston, and for a while his puzzles ran weekly in "The Dig," a free paper available in boxes throughout the city. Frannie and I actually composed, anonymously, a couple puzzles for The Dig many years ago, but Brendan's were of a different caliber, and, sadly, he was too good for them. One day they just stopped running a puzzle altogether. I sort of assumed that either they were too cheap to pay him, or that he had just grown too big to continue dealing with such a rag. Elizabeth Donovan is new to me, but I look forward to running into her again in the future now, too.

Anyway, that's the backstory– what about today's puzzle? Well, we enjoyed it. Clean overall (with a few exceptions), with some of the clever cluing that I've come to expect from B.E.Q. How 'bout that gimmie: 36A: "____ aren't the droids you're looking for" ("Star Wars" line)? (THESE). Do they really have to cite the movie? Anyway, it's nice to get one of those on a Thursday. It really opened up that somewhat tricky Eastern section. Phil NIEKRO (25D: Baseball Hall-of-Famer nicknamed Knucksie) might trouble those not up on the history of the game, and TOSSIN (26D: Give, as a little extra) and ONEUPS (27D: Tops) took a cross or two.

ITGUY (58A: One providing assistance after a crash) was very nice, as was CRIB (65A: It's got all the answers). DJED (1D: Entertained at a reception, maybe), is a nice tricky one. Nobody expects a J. And speaking of expectations, I wanted "Morgan" for 28D: Funny Tracey (even though he's not all that funny to me), and was somewhat relieved when ULLMAN showed up.

Franny thought it had a striking mix of very easy and challenging clues, but maybe that's what you need on a Thursday that's got a trick. Oh, and speaking of the trick - MANOVERBOARD (51A: Emergency shout ... or a possible title for this puzzle) - we got that before getting any of the other theme answers, and it helped immediately. First with DARINCHINESE (20A: Language that gave us "kowtow"), then with UALTRANSMISSION (28A: Clutch performer?) (very nice). The last one fell once it was riddled with crosses, but I kept looking for them in the downs, too. Like, is it really, "The Man Champ?" or "The Champ Man?" for 5D: 1931 film for which Wallce Beery won Best Actor (THECHAMP), probably not, but you see what I mean. Maybe.

The last section today was the very bottom center. I had "Vice" for 53D: No. 2, and nothing else would fall. Finally, when nothing is working, you've gotta start erasing, and the change to VEEP made everything hunky-dory.

Nice puzzle. Keep up the good work, Brendan and Elizabeth.

- Horace

p.s. I have learned since writing this that Brendan and Liz are husband and wife. They are now an inspiration to Frannie and me. Someday, maybe, we'll make the jump from The Dig to the Big Time, too! We can always dream, can't we?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013, David Sullivan


I've said it before, and I hope to say it many, many more times – when you have two people doing a puzzle at the exact same time, it can go very, very quickly. Frannie and I worked together on this one and went easily from top to bottom with very few wrong guesses. I put in "doeth" for DOEST (25D: Biblical verb) just off the idea that the first letter would be a D (it was), but it wasn't hard to fix once we read 44A: Dog that bit Miss Gulch (nice clue!) (TOTO).

Another good thing about having two people looking at a puzzle is that when one (read: me) says to the other (read: Frannie) that he doesn't think there's a theme, that other might say something like, "Well, there is something going on with STRONGWEEK (17A: Good stretch for the Dow), and THEYREHERE (59A: Cry accompanying the arrival of visitors). And whaddya know? She's right. Homonym opposites. Very clever Mr. Sullivan. The other two are nice, too: HIDDENSCENE (23A: Extra after a movie's credits, perhaps), and BRAKEREPAIR (50A: Midas service).

All in all, it had very little junk. The classic YSER (37D: North Sea feeder), and ARG (5D: Falklands War side: Abbr.), and ENO and YAO... but really, quite clean. Even those aren't bad, just somewhat common in crosswords.

Lastly, if I didn't know better, I'd think Will Shortz is playing his own little game with day-to-day carryover. Consider "27A: Try to impress at a party, say," the answer, NAMEDROP, was the theme of yesterday's puzzle. I've been complaining a bit lately about the same words being used in subsequent puzzles, but now I'm starting to think it's intentional! I don't have sufficient proof yet, but I'm going to be on the lookout. An explanation like that would be surprising, but oh, so satisfying. Here's hoping!

- Horace

p.s. I forgot the theme answer that's right in the middle! LOSTONE (39A: 2006 Jay-Z single).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013, John Lieb


We flew through this one, but there were some nice answers. THEWAVE (15A: Thousands of fans might do it), and RIPOPEN (17A: Unwrap in a hurry) were nice, and I enjoyed seeing MANTLE (22A: Layer of the earth between the crust and the core). ISBN (46A: 13-digit library info) has been hot lately. It was in at least twice in the last week, I'm pretty sure.

The clues for TANLINE (66A: A lifeguard's whistle might create one) and PLEDGES (69A: Pinto and Flounder, in "Animal House") were original, I thought, but the clues for LOSS (34A: Destruction) and TARRED (55A: Sealed, as a driveway) seemed a little off.

The theme (NAMEDROPPER (12D: Status-seeking sort... or a solver of this puzzle, initially?)) was ok, I guess. All the names start with N and D. I guess it's fine, and I love the clue for NANCYDREW (20D: Amateur detective in 1967's "The Clue in the Crossword Cipher"). That was a nice touch.

As I review it, it seems like there's a fair amount of crosswordy material, but we filled in the longer clues so easily that we didn't even notice all the ORG, NAE, ALS, LEI, OTIC, AHI, CTR, CSA stuff at all. On balance, an enjoyable enough puzzle.

- Horace

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013, Allan E. Parrish


It's always a bit of a shock to do a Monday puzzle right after making it through the weekend, and that seems even more true if, like me, you didn't work on the Sunday much at all. Encountering clues like 27D: "Thank you very ____" (MUCH), 55A: "You ____ what you eat" (ARE), and 39A: New Jersey's capital (TRENTON), after dealing with the Friday and Saturday puzzles – well, it's very different. I can't really complain about simplicity on Mondays, and so I won't, but today's puzzle, while having the above clues and many more like them, also had a few clues that seemed incongruously difficult. 21D: Circumference (AMBIT), 51D: Small Indian drum (TABLA) (I got this one immediately, because a girl I had a crush on in high school played it, but I don't think it's a household word in too many American households), and 66A: Philosopher John who posited a theory of social contract (LOCKE). They're not impossible, but it seems like a big jump from one group to the next. Maybe I'm wrong... I don't know.

Also, I read a comment from the constructor Matt Ginsberg, who made last Saturday's puzzle, wherein he said that that very puzzle was submitted to the NYT more than two years ago, and just ran two days ago. It seems that with that kind of lag time/preparation time, they could avoid having a clue like 9D: ____ passage (NASAL) yesterday, and 41D: ____ decongestant (NASAL) today. Or 17D: Lunchbox treats (OREOS) yesterday, and 52D: Nabisco cookies (OREOS) today. A conservative estimate would claim that there are at least 200,000 distinct words in the English language. Add to that a smattering of acceptable foreign words, proper names, and abbreviations, and it seems that one shouldn't have to have multiple duplicate words in subsequent puzzles. I know, I know– I haven't made a puzzle myself, and I don't understand how hard it is to fill a grid, but my job today is critic, and that, dear reader, is my criticism.

The unannounced theme today is a simple one that I enjoy: an anagrammed word in four theme entries. MESA, becomes AMES, SAME and SEAM at the beginning of four long answers. Not bad.

Lastly, I've decided to drop our cumulative scores. I have found them troubling, slightly unfair, and ultimately unnecessary.

- Horace

p.s. I almost forgot to mention my favorite entry today - ROTTENEGGS (18A: Last ones in the pool, say). Loved it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013, David J. Kahn (2-0)

A certain laureate once told me, to thine own self be true. And what is true about this puzzle, is that I did it mostly mine own self. Horace was busy cooking up a storm, so I dedicated myself to unlocking the secrets of the grid. If being part of a team means solving most of a Sunday Times puzzle alone, then SOBEIT (52A). I had very little trouble or ALARMS (102A). If I had to give this puzzle a LETTERGRADE (24A), it would be B+. I will take a moment to mention a favorite clue or two: Senate cover-up TOGA (31D); Helps in a bad way ABETS (46D); [blank] passage NASAL (8D); and EXGI for Nov. 11 honoree (79D). I did not expect that. And, it's always nice to see ASIMOV (90D), "Nemesis novelist" mentioned.  In addition to the smooth flow and very natural language of most of this puzzle, it offered some sage advice: Potential Consequences of a plan or decision one cannot reverse should be heeded prior to the time an action is effectuated. True dat.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013, Matt Ginsberg (2-0)


Loved it. Yep, even with LAMINA (26D: Veneer, e.g.), and RATITE (63A: Ostrich, e.g.), and ENIWETOK (wha?) (65A: 1950s H-bomb test site), we still enjoyed this one. Why? Because it's clever, and the unknowns are crossed by knowns. (I'm pretty sure I didn't even see RATITE until we reviewed every answer at the end.)

Let's start with my favorite clue, 38A: Vein gloriousness?, for the very common ORE. Brilliant. No vainglory for Mr. Ginsberg if he pats himself on the back for that one. "It ain't braggin' if it's true," right? (This is the same constructor who, in a recent puzzle, trotted out the clue "Postal ID" for Idaho.) And regular readers will know I'm a sucker for doubled-up clues, like 7A: St. John's, for one (BASILICA) and 19A: St. John's, for one (WORT).

I also loved the sheer variety of words in this. Sure, there's AMIRS (3D: Bahrain bigwigs: Var.), and ITE (62D: Samson's end?), but it's also crammed full of REMORA, BASILICA, PARAGUAY, WOJTYLA, and YANGTZE! It's a thing of beauty, I tells ya.

And to top it off, you've got the "theme" of linked location clues. I groaned and groaned as I came across the "taking into account its 61-Across" clues. Frannie finally figured it out, and then my groans of frustration turned to groans of approval.

Well done.

- Horace

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013, Derek Bowman


This was a toughie! Started off with a few helpful gimmies, like BAUHAUS (27D: Mies van der Rohe was its last director), and although my initial guess ARI was wrong for 31A: Phoenix setting: Abbr., I was right on with ASHES for 53A: Phoenix setting? Wanted "Little league" something for 35A: It has short shortstops, but it took a while to get LITTLELEAGUETEAM, partly because I had errantly entered "Itsy" instead of EENY for 38D: Kids' rhyme starter. But eventually it came, and even before it did, BASEBALLDIAMONDS (42A: Places for a 35-Across) was easy enough. 

So the triple-stack took care of itself, and with it that whole middle section. And before falling asleep, I got into the NE, with it's clever COB (8D: Middle ear?) and strange OPAL (9D: It's often set in a ring) (tried what I thought was the cleverer "bout" first). 

There were still large swaths undone, but this morning Frannie, with her coffee, after announcing that there were probably some that we just wouldn't get, proceeded to announce triumph after triumph. TEJANO (65A: Certain Mexican-American) led to SHOJI (48D: Japanese sliding door), and then TARZANTHEAPEMAN (4D: Much-filmed swinger) revealed YOWZA (20A: "Incredible!"), and SCOW (3D: Trash hauler), and then OSCARNODS (14A: Stars are recognized with them), and suddenly it was done.

As Frannie said, when you start a puzzle with RESTAIN (1A: Finish differently, say), you're not setting out on a very good foot, but breaking this STINGY puzzle was satisfying, and after that initial clunker, there wasn't too, too much that was objectionable. It was a little boring in parts (23A: Closest to zero / LEAST), maybe, but not in a terrible way.

- Horace

p.s. Favorite clue - 58D: Pull felt on Earth (ONEG). 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013, Patrick Merrell


Boy, they're really hammering Mother's Day this year. I'm wondering if Will Shortz has signed a deal with Hallmark...

This one seemed quite easy for a Thursday. It seemed to fall right into our collective wheelhouse, as it were. I went merrily along the acrosses filling them in like it was Monday. "Acne," of course, for 14A: Teen woe (MONO), caused a little trouble later down the line, and the NE was the last to fall, partly because of that, and partly because I don't know what AMB (1D: Government rep.) stands for, and I don't really know of any real 2D: Cartoon character with shades named JOECOOL. Is he a real character? Who knows?

I liked the clue pair 4D: Melees (ROWS) and 10D: Like melees (NOISY). And the clue for WONDERWOMAN (28A: Wearer of a red-starred tiara) was quite nice. Lots of other small, good stuff, like 21D: Personal letters (SWF) and 25D: Can (COMMODE), and the very-obvious-once-you-get-it 16D: Lawyer's need (CLIENT!). Also, 32A: One in the doghouse? (FLEA), and 20A: Hosts prefer them (ALISTS). Very nice. I'll have to look up SMEW (72A: Northern duck), and there were a few other things that were less-than-perfect, but overall, this gets a thumbs-up.

Oh, and one last thing, I'm guessing that Patrick Merrell's mother's, or wife's, name is AMY (51A: Grant or Carter), and that the horizontal line AMY LEADINGLADY is no accident. If I'm right, it's a nice touch.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013, Bruce Venzke


EELER (38A: Lamprey hunter) makes an appearance! (Although I think technically, lampreys are not eels.) And didn't we just see NAW (39A: Hillbilly negative) very recently in a puzzle? Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems an uncommon word, and not all that crosswordy, so you'd think it wouldn't show up very often. Maybe I just don't know yet what's crosswordy and what isn't...

Enjoyed the clue 58A: Famous rescue vessel for ARK. Didn't particularly love LAVES (69A: Employs soap and water). IDI AMIN (6D: With 25-Down, 1979 Exile) really has no place in a puzzle devoted to Mother's Day, and that top middle section has three proper names stacked side-by-side. Doesn't seem right.

I learned today that 10D: G.I., in old slang is DOGFACE, and I love the directness of 21D: What "D" means (POOR). But having OHME (41D: Words of woe), not only in the same puzzle as, but almost right next to OHOS (47D: Cries of discovery) seems a little weak. And that first one really ought to be "Ah, me" shouldn't it? I didn't hate this puzzle, but some things just seemed a little off. Like INCA (57D: ____ Empire (bygone domain)). Isn't it more common to say "Incan Empire?"

I think we're going to call this one a draw.

- Horace

p.s. When we opened this puzzle on the NYT Puzzle app on our iPad Mini, it had an extra message that read:

"The print version of this puzzle contains the following additional clue after the Across and Down clues:"

And all there was was the "OK" button. No extra clue.

After reading other blogs, I have learned that we should have seen: "Diagonal 1. Annual message."

The diagonal message, which I didn't actually notice, reads: HAPPYMOTHERSDAY. Now I see why things might have felt a little odd in this one. It's a nice touch, that message, and I have to cut him a little slack, but it's still a draw.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013, Jeff Chen


I like this theme of "Water, water everywhere." Who doesn't love a Coleridge reference right in the middle of his crossword puzzle? And the water molecules... well, I don't know about you, but I liked those too. It's just a pity that one of Handel's "Water Music" suites isn't in EMAJ (19A: Key of Haydn's Symphony No. 12 or 29).

Perhaps I'm reading too much into things again, but I enjoyed the other watery references in this puzzle, like HOTBATH (7D: Relaxing conclusion to a long, hard day), ARUBA (One of the ABC Islands), and the unusual clue, 58A: Down a sub, e.g. for EAT. 

In other news, I liked seeing TYCHOBRAHE (29D: Astronomer who coined the word "nova") (questionable) in the grid, as well as EXHORT (37A: Urge strongly), and PATHOS (49D: Pity). And I loved the clever, musical-ish clue for SEEME (53D: Note accompanying an F, maybe). 

All in all, a pretty clean puzzle, and a fun one, right up to the ending of 73A: "This looks bad!" (OHGOD). IMHO (68A: Texter's disclaimer), that was hilarious.

- Horace

p.s. Starting today (and when we remember), we're going to assign a cumulative score for each constructor with at least two puzzles in this blog. This is the second puzzle we've seen by Jeff Chen, and we are happy to report that he is now 2-0.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013, Joel Fagliano


This one was all over the place and, unless we're missing something, themeless. It had odd variants like HOODOO (22D: Jinx) instead of the more common voodoo, and AWMAN (9D: "This is the worst!") instead of the all-to-common adman. And we've got UNAPT (40D: Not fitting) (don't we wish!), and STET and ESTE... no "eel," but then, you can't have everything.

On the plus side, we could find some enjoyment in the utter absurdity of UCANTTOUCHTHIS (51A: Signature song for MC Hammer) crossing OHOLYNIGHT (31D: Carol with the words "hear the angel voices"). It's May, in 2013, right? And not December, 1990?

We liked NEATNIKS (39D: Tidy types), SLOSH (65A: Wade noisily), and MEME (18A: Viral phenomenon), and the puzzle did require a little more effort than most Mondays (we actually got to pass it back and forth once or twice!), so on balance, it comes out slightly ahead.

- Horace

p.s. We did miss the theme. The answers for 20A, 3D, 38A, 31D, and 51A start with the five vowels.

p.p.s. I almost liked it better before learning that.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013, Alan Arbesfeld



Another fun Sunday puzzle. Even though there were several answers that I just didn't know (ORIBIS (30A: Small African antelopes) (how many of those are there?), OYER (49A: Court hearing) (wanted "oyez"), ESNE (35A: Feudal laborer) (wanted SERF, of course), SEATO (89A: Defense grp. that disbanded in 1977), RUDI (105A: Designer Gernreich), MRES (125A: G. I. rations) - and that's just the acrosses! - we still enjoyed this one. And have you ever heard "tapas" in the singular? (114A: Toledo tidbit / TAPA) or heard anyone say 87A: Not give ____ ARAP? (I like how the C sitting just above tries to correct the saying...) As I look through it now, there really does seem to be a lot of crosswordese, but even with all that, we still smiled a lot more than we frowned while solving this.

77A: Jobs in technology (STEVE), 39D: Nursery gift? (GREEN[THU]MB), 106D: 50-page book, maybe? (U[SAT]LAS), 6A: Turning point at the station? (GASCAP), and 43A: Food to go? (STE[WED]EDPRUNES) were all quite good. And Frannie was happy to get ONEON (13D: Situation after a leadoff single) on her own.

Enjoyed the pairings of SPATS (1A: Fancy footwear) and SPATE (75D: Flurry), and 22D: Amérique du ___ (SUD) and ETAT[SUN]IS (94A: ____ d'Amérique). I'm never sure, but I like to think that pairs like that are done on purpose. Maybe thinking that spats/spate was intentional is pushing it, but, well, I'm still entertained...

Lastly, ONELLAMA (59A: Priest, in an Ogden Nash poem) was a gimme for us, as my dad likes to recite that poem from time to time. Any puzzle that mentions Nash, SYD (5D: Barrett of Pink Floyd), BETTY[FRI]EDAN (93A: Big name in feminism), and CRIS (111D: Sportscaster Collinsworth) is all right in our book.

- Horace

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013, Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber


Not bad, but a few things left me a little cold. Let's start with the good.

Frannie thought of RIPVANWINKLE (25A: Ne'er-do-well who stayed out for a long time?) pretty much immediately, and from there things flowed pretty well. 15A: Yarn suppliers? (RACONTEURS) was nice, but INARTISTIC (17A: Lacking in drawing power?), while given a good clue, just felt a little too, I don't know... inartistic? Enjoyed TRICE (1D: Twinkling), and INTERIM (5D: Stopgap).

We were stranded for a little while over in the NE until Frannie got the very nice, old-timey SKATEKEYS (12D: Quaint toe clamp tighteners) (remember those?), and SOLARLAMP (13D: Green light?) eventually dawned on me. ASST (11A: Right hand: Abbr.) took forever to see, and I loved TKOS (16A: What severe cuts may result in, briefly) when that finally hit me.

I am a little surprised that neither of us has ever heard of NURSERATCHED (44A: #5 of the American Film Institute's all-time top 100 movie villains), but not at all surprised that the same is true of OLIN (55A: "Alias" actress), REDD (53D: "Tennessee Waltz" lyricist ____ Stewart), and SYMS (38A: Sylvia of jazz). 

It's nice that they came up with something other than "Blackbird" for ANI, and the clue 51D: Impressionism? means that I can't hate APERY too, too much, but, well, I don't know... it was fine. It wasn't great.

- Horace

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013, David Kwong


As Frannie put it, this puzzle "lacked afflatus." 10A: ____- car (RENTA) and 13A: "____ it?" (ISNT) - boring, and just kind of arbitrary seeming. And consider these four stripes across the puzzle: DAE, KFC, DAG; LAE, AAH, OSHA; STEN, FEN, ENG; DET, AGO, FUR. It just doesn't feel like it's hitting on all cylinders.

I liked certain pieces of it. Enjoyed the clue for HAL (7D: 1968 space movie villain), and I didn't mind 14D: Staying power (LEGS). 42D: Passed out (DEALT) was nice. And I generally like classical references, like ELECTRA and ORESTES (mythological brother and sister), but the Latin was a little drab. IPSE (59D: ____ dixit), and IDEM (instead of IBID) for 56D: Ditto, in footnotes. 

The one clue I kept thinking of after we finished was 18D: Cappuccino choice. We both drink a lot of coffee, and we thought to ourselves, "What could that possibly be?" And eventually the answer, which was really the only answer it could possibly be without being "small" or "large" (which would have been terrible) was DECAF. How is it that we can both be so stumped by such an obvious answer? Perhaps there's a research paper in the reason somewhere.

Overall, too much boring WNET and YAWED, and not enough sort-of-clever 62D: It may be said with a raised hand and 48D: Feline in un jardin zoologique. 

- Horace

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013, Josh Knapp


Technically, a DNF, but really, we did finish, but we had an error. Shouldn't there be a slightly mitigated title for that sort of thing? DNFC (Did Not Finish Correctly?), or DNFCUBIOAEBNTEW (Did Not Finish Correctly Until Being Informed Of An Error But Not Told Exactly Where?... ok, maybe that's a little cumbersome.) I mean, we eventually figured it out, but it took about twenty-five minutes for us to discover that CHACO (48A: New Mexico's ____ Canyon) isn't spelled Chaqa. The Q is sort of understandable, maybe, but I don't know how Frannie let my misspelling of WONTONS (44D: Soup dumplings) stand for so long.

Other than that, we liked the puzzle just fine. Decent theme, and some fun clues and answers. Liked seeing ROFL (46D: Modern response to hilarity) in there, and COPIOUS (2D: Plentiful), EXISTENT (6D: In the real world), INSTEAD (22D: Alternatively), and AMIDST (47D: In), are all semi-normal words that are not often included in puzzles. At least not in my limited experience. SCREWIT (38D: "Forget that!") was unusual, and NITWITS (21A: Mental lightweights) was nice.

MELVIN (8D: Director Van Peebles), 50A: "American Pie" actress Tara (REID), and SAOTOME (12D: Island off the Gabonese coast) are all only vaguely familiar, but that's ok, I guess. You can't know everything.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013, Paula Gamache


An interesting puzzle. Frannie was bothered by AGLARE, AFLOW, APLOT, ALEVEL, and others, and I tend to dislike brand names (PURELL, AFLAC, PIELS), FELID (34A: Member of the cat family) is somewhat painful, and it felt a little heavy on the awkward small stuff, but even with all those complaints, I still came out with an ok feeling about the puzzle. I didn't love it, but I think it was kind of a cool idea.

Some of the clueing was nice. 38A: Gray head? (LEE) took us a while to figure out even after we had all the letters (Think "Civil War"). 61D: Short winter holiday? (XMAS) was cryptic-ish. And we liked seeing LUMMOX in there. I'm going to have to look up 58A: Clodhopper, as I wasn't really sure of that word before. One of Frannie's favorites was 68A: Look like a creep (LEER).

Again, the theme was cool, and we liked the symmetrical HULAS and ALOHA. Some good stuff, some bad stuff. How's that for thorough, critical insight?

- Horace