Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013, Alex Vratsanos and Jef Chen



It is somewhat unusual for the pattern in a crossword to have anything to do with the puzzle, but here we have an M on the top of the grid and a W on the bottom, and what do you know, all the theme answers are two-word phrases, starting with M and W. And of those answers, MAKINGWHOOPEE (52D: Euphemism used often on "The Newlywed Game") might be my favorite. I looked up the phrase, because I thought it might sometimes be spelled with an "IE" at the end, but that spelling seems to be reserved for "Whoopie Pies," and the double E is used for the phrase. Interesting. To me, anyway. 58D: Money raised by members of Congress? (MINIMUMWAGE) was a nice, tricky clue.

Make Way for Frannie. I liked the theme/gimmick for being non-intrusive. Horace started the puzzle, then turned it over to me. I didn't know the title and I didn't see the shapes, but that didn't slow me down. I went through the puzzle like a hot knife through butter. There were a few poor entries (110A Certain singers (ALTI) was no prize), but overall the fill was clear, easy and fun. I enjoyed many of the clues with question marks like 28A Opening words? (SAYAH) and  38D Still dripping? (BOOZE). Also, "64A Piece longer than its name suggests" elicited a chuckle. I guess the puzzle crafters and I have Matching Wits. :)

- Horace & Frannie

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013, Joe Krozel


The butterfly grid looks demanding, and todays effort did not meet the challenge. Consider the SE wing, where we find such answers as SNEERER (29D: Elvis Presley, notably), BILLERS (33A: Accounting department employees), DETERGE (38A: Wash), RETEAM (40A: Join up for another collaboration), and SSRS (42A: Georgia and neighbors, once: Abbr.). Each more groanable than the last.

That was the worst area, but there were clunkers everywhere. OUTSKIP (16A: Defeat in a jump-rope competition, say) in the NW, ADSITES (19A: Craigslist and others) and PEERSAT (5D: Views through a periscope, say) in the NE. Why "periscope?" and why not "peers up?" And how often do you hear the phrase "Stand to reason?" It stands to reason that objections will be raised to the changing of familiar idioms for the purpose of forcing them into a crossword grid. And in the SW we find such lovely fill as HAVOCS (30D: Post hurricane scenes, e.g.), and NOSEATS (37A: "Standing room only").

It's a sad day when the most interesting answer is MENNEN (8D: Speed Stick brand), because it reminds you of a product that you haven't thought of in maybe ten years. "Oh yeah... Mennen... is that still a company?"

- Horace

p.s. Other sites report that this puzzle set the record for fewest words (50). It's a pity that record-keeping does not exist for solving satisfaction, for this could have contended for two "lowest" awards at once!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013, Ian Livengood and Brad Wilber


The theme of this themeless puzzle was definitely "X," and accordingly, that's how we solved it. Frannie started it off and filled in a solid swath from NW to SE, and then handed it over to me to complete the NE to SW arm. Some lovely fill in this one. SASHAY (51A: Walk ostentatiously), STANCH (30D: Stop), and LARYNX (9D: Pitch producer), to name just a few. For those, and all the "fancy letters," we'll swallow a fair amount of RESNAP (41D: Close again, as a change purse), and ASHIER (19A: Not so apple-cheeked).

Loved the tricky clue for OSOLEMIO (33D: Common number of gondoliers), and Frannie loved the simplicity and straightforwardness of HAT (7D: Monopoly token). We both liked the mention of Earl Scruggs and his BANJO. And speaking of proper names, Frannie just plopped down WINFREY for 36A: O, more formally, thinking that it would be nice if it were true, but thinking it probably wouldn't be. Similarly, I put in ESCALATORS (17A: They may lead to another story) with a single cross. It seemed we were both in the groove.

Neither of us knew the term HORSEOPERA (59A: Many a John Wayne pic), and EXITLINE (13D: Rhett Butler's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," e.g.) seemed a little strained, but over all, this was a fun and interesting puzzle.

- Horace

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013, Sean Dobbin


Fun theme. All four answers made me laugh. TIGERSTRIPE (45A: Michigan ballplayer's rubbish) might have been my favorite, though, because of the rubbish/tripe combo. Both great words. GIANTSQUID (20A: California ballplayer's pound?) was pretty nice, too. Bonus quasi-theme bonus material with BATSMAN (5D: Cricket player).

Clue of the day: 5A: Apple grower? (BEATLE) (!!) Needed at least four crosses before that clicked. Wait, it was definitely four, because I never would have gotten ERIQ (6D: La Salle of "Coming to America") or ATTU (7D: Aleutian island) on my own. And by the way, is Apple still a record label? or did it rot on the tree after those first growers called it quits?

I learned a little something about Chicago's airport with 51D: Airport named for a naval war hero (OHARE), so that's nice. 38D: One doing the lord's work (SERF) was pretty good, and I actually considered "Super-A" for 46D: Top-notch, before realizing that "Super-B" was a word that didn't need a hyphen. It's funny how the brain gets all tangled up sometimes. In the same vein, we had K_EE for "54D: Attack at close range, maybe" for a good long while before the N finally came to us. Couldn't the clue for RUTS (14A: Wagon trails have them) been "Wagon trails are them?" And I don't usually think of ARTHUR (15A: Boy who pulls the sword from the stone in "The Sword in the Stone") as a boy, but maybe that's referencing a specific cartoon or something. Of course, Arthur probably was pretty young when he did it anyway... and besides, every male under 35 is starting to look like a boy to me...

The hardest part for me was the West. I left D__T and A__EAN unfilled last night before going to sleep. This morning, Frannie filled them right in. At least I'm guessing those are the ones she figured out, since I don't think OLINS (37A: Actors Ken and Lena) or SLADE (41A: Band with the 1984 hit "My Oh My") were known by either of us.

All in all, a good Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013, David Steinberg (16) ad Bernice Gordon (99)


Soon it will be called "The New York Times Crossword, featuring David Steinberg."

I kid, I kid... It's nice to see him back so soon, and this time perhaps going for the record books as part of the youngest/oldest pair ever to publish a puzzle. I'm not familiar with Ms. Gordon, but I'm guessing she was the one who clued 29A: Laker legend Bryant (KOBE) and 9D: Chillax, with "out" (VEG). But seriously, it would have been fun to have a few more super old-timey words in the grid to go with the theme. I guess we got some Latin with 2D: Number between quinque and septem (SEX) and 1A: "Per aspera ad ____" (ASTRA), and I guess BEAU (45A: Belle's caller) is a little old-timey. Come to think of it, ENOCH (67A: Cain's eldest son) is too. I wonder if he was a beau to Bernice's belle?

OK, so they did add some nice old-timey clues, which is just gravy, because the theme was already quite nice. A couple clues with "AGE" added, a couple with it taken away, and a self-referencial revealer. Not long ago, the young Mr. Steinberg put his own name right through the middle of the grid. This time he's being a little more subtle, but he's still calling attention to the puzzle constructors. Heck, we think it's great. Er, I mean, Horace Fawley and Frances Page think it's great! Name recognition is important!

But back to the puzzle. Nice, clean fill, and lots of interestingness for a Wednesday. The first two puzzles this week left me a little cold, but this was a good lead-in to the big end-of-week trio. (I never know what to do with Sundays. They seem so different from the dailies that I can't really include them in the same category, so the "big end-of-week trio" for me is Thurs./Fri./Sat.) I liked the pair of Snow White clues - 57A: Prop in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (APPLE) and 70A: Beardless dwarf (DOPEY). The IGLOO clue was very nice (68A: Home unlikely to have air-conditioning), and for a while, the crosses had me wondering if 40A: Palms, e.g. was going to somehow be "conifers." It wasn't. (CONCEALS)(Not only are palms not conifers, they're not even true trees!)

Wow, there are tons of old clues if you look long enough. 49D: Keen (PEACHY), 41D: 1813's Battle of Lake ____ (ERIE)... and more. Now I'm starting to think maybe there should've been more "young" clues...

OK, that' probably enough on this one. Lots of good clues and fill. Very nice Wednesday.

- Horace

p.s. Craziest theme clue/answer - 25A: Looting of a legislature? (DIETPILLAGE). It's nice, but I think that "Diet" in the case of the legislature is pronounced "DEET." Not terribly problematic, but I couldn't help mentioning it, and now I keep thinking of "deet pills."

p.p.s. You really should read the "Wordplay" blog entry for this puzzle (I link to the blog in the sidebar), in which both constructors are quoted extensively. Very interesting!

p.p.p.s. (This will be all, I promise!) Another of the blogs I link to (Diary of a Crossword Fiend) links to an interview that David Steinberg conducted with Bernice Gordon. Also very interesting. She was the first to publish a "rebus" puzzle in the NYT!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013, Joel Fagliano


I don't know... the theme seemed a little thin, and the fill was often strained. Like ARIOSE (64A: Melodic)(?) and THEMAMBO (39A: Tito Puente specialty) - how often is the article included in an answer? But in other areas, it was fine. I liked COINAPHRASE (12D: Be inventive with language) and EDENPRAIRIE (25D: Minnesota city SW of Minneapolis so named for its fertile soil). Something just put me off. Sometimes it's hard to tell just what does what.

Favorite clue: 45D: Keep it in the family? (INBREED) Runner up: 7D: Ship that was double-booked? (ARK).

That's all for today. I've gotta get to work!

- Horace

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013, Robert Seminara


I love all the long fill in this paean to the s'more. GRAHAMCRACKERS (26A: Ingredients in a 38-Across), CHOCOLATE, and HOTMARSHMALLOW (at first I thought that it was odd to say "hot" marshmallow, but I guess "toasted" would be too long a combo for a weekly grid), and even the non-theme CHESTNUT (52A: Joke you've heard many times before) was nice to see. Frannie loved that one.

Much of the rest, however, was less than great. It seemed odd, for example, to have SMASH (19A: Huge hit) and BASH (9D: Big party) so close together, and RELET (27D: Found a new tenant for) and RENEW (32D: Extend, as a lease) were odd, too. It might not have struck me as odd if the "lease" idea hadn't been used for that second one. I usually spell GISMO (26D: Gadget) with a "Z," and UTEP (45A: Lone Star State ssh. near the Rio Grande) is not at all familiar to me. U. Texas, El Paso, I presume. Meh. Got EELS (4D: Fish caught in pots), however, so that's nice...

STANHOPE (20A: Light horse-drawn carriage with one seat) seemed out of place here. I guess clueing it with a reference to Doug Stanhope would be out of the question. Still, it would be nice to get ol' Dougie into a grid.

Again, the theme was nice, and it was interesting to learn that the Girl Scouts may have been the first to make s'mores, but after that, it wasn't all that interesting.

- Horace

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013, Patrick Berry

Well, Mr. Berry is clever. The rebuses (rebi?) inserted into the grid were many and mighty, from the ERER at the end of W[ER]N[ER]KLEMP[ER][ER] (73A: German-born emmy winner of 1960s TV) to the beautifully spaced ARs in M[AR]G[AR]ETF[AR]R[AR] (61D: Classic name in crossword puzzles). Horace deserves all the credit for putting together the two-by-fours that supported the main structure of the puzzle. I came late to the scene and contributed only a little to the fill, which I thought was pretty solid. The clues were strong overall, with a nice mix of degrees of difficulty, and we didn't get much crosswordese FOISTED (97A: Palmed off) upon us. I learned a new verb meaning drink to excess TOPE(d) (33D), which could come in handy some day. The inclusion of both NOAH (102A: Patriarch who lived 950 years) and ARARAT (93A: Welcome sight after a flood) was nice. I also liked 90A Holders of addl. thought (PARENS), and 35A Give one's address? (ORATE). A favorite of Horace's was 106A French or Italian bread (EURO). Berry clever, indeed.

~ Frannie

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013, Bruce Sutphin and Doug Peterson


Strong puzzle! Lots of great tens! Really, every one of them was solid, but my favorites might have to be GOTHAMCITY (26D: Penguin's habitat?) (Lovely hidden capital!), GUILLOTINE (50A: "A Tale of Two Cities" ender?) (Harsh!), and INSTAMATIC (1A: Old easy-to-load shooter). APPLETINIS (13D: Cosmo alternative), was also nice.

For all the great long stuff, I suppose you can't get away from at least a couple things like REWOVE (24A: Fixed a broken web link?) (but we give them credit for trying to spice up the clue), and REOIL (38A: Keep the squeaking out of, say), but really, it's a very solid grid. Lots of foreign language stuff like ESSE, SITU, STES, APRES, MOLTO and SENORITA, all pretty cleverly clued. They could have done something with SPECK, too, to get out of the Romance languages a bit...

Sometimes I wonder what the Alou family thinks of their crossword puzzle fame. They must be aware of it, right? Anyway, it was nice to see the nephew today, MOISES.

Not much to say, really, except that it was a good Saturday puzzle.

- Horace

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013, Michael Sharp


Well, well, well! This was our first chance to try a NYTX by the illustrious Rex Parker himself! I was set up to be extra critical of the critic, but this grid was pretty good. Frannie started it off, at first having little success, but after a few things went in, it was all of a sudden three-quarters done! I just had a bit of work to do in the north and east.

I liked the symmetrical ten-stacks running around the perimeter, and the words were interesting and/or current. Except for EARLMONROE (12D: N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer who, with Walt Frazier, formed the Knicks' "Rolls Royce Backcourt."), that is. After reading regularly about the lacunae in Rex's knowledge base, sports trivia among them, I have to think he just found that this name existed in Google and happily used it. That's fine, of course. It's also possible that Rex knows him. He did, after all, play for the Knicks. But I'm dwelling too much on that. It's fine, and the others - TABLECLOTH (1A: Dinner spread), GREGARIOUS (13D: Outgoing), ASSAILANTS (14D: Hit makers, say), OPERATIONS (28D: They're ordered by mathematicians) (nice!), were all good. I don't watch PORTLANDIA (27D: TV sketch comedy set in the "city where young people go to retire") or know who TYLERPERRY (61A: Movie mogul whom Forbes magazine once named the highest-paid man in entertainment) is, but it didn't matter, because Frannie filled those in! Hah!

One thing I'm pretty sure Rex does know is poetry (I think he's an English teacher), so I'm assuming that SMA (11D: Kind of request in a Robert Burns poem) is an actual thing that people might know. I like poetry, and I've read some Burns, but I don't know what request is being made here.

Frannie's favorite part was the 16A: Roman 18-Across/18A: Greek 16-Across combo. She knew what was going on immediately, but had to wait for a letter or two (Juno and Hera could also have fit) before filling in MARS and ARES.

Overall, it was solid. A little on the easy side, especially for a Friday, but decent. Here's hoping Rex was just being melodramatic when he said in his blog yesterday that this would probably be his last for the NYT.

- Horace

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013, Elizabeth C. Gorski


This was a tough Thursday for us, mostly because we didn't know 3D: Jerry of "Law & Order" (ORBACH), or 16A: Degrees for foreign attys. (LLBS). Also, I had originally entered OKieDOKE for 10D: "Fine by me" (really, I would prefer "okiedokie," or some spelling variant thereof), and since neither 21A: Norse love goddess (FREYA) nor 18A: Wolf in Kipling's "The Jungle Book" (AKELA) meant anything to either of us, it took a long while to change it to OKEYDOKE.

The theme was interesting and we've never seen a word ladder in a crossword before. I like how it goes with the central INSTANTWINNER (36A: Lucky lotto participant), although getting from POOR (1A: Start of a word ladder whose first and last words are suggested by 36-Across) to RICH (65A: End of the word ladder) in eight moves isn't exactly instantaneous. But then, I guess they didn't say that it was, all they said was that the first and last words are suggested by it. OK, fair enough.

Tried "Appia" for SACRA (22A: Via ____ (main street in ancient Rome)), but I guess the Via Appia ran more out of the city to the south. At least that's where the remaining parts are now. Still, who doesn't think first of the Appian Way when thinking about streets in ancient Rome? And speaking of ancient things that we will now think of when doing crossword puzzles, we thought of "Essene" for 33A: Abstainer (NONUSER), but luckily, it didn't fit.

I liked the KNEE (39A: Place for a skateboarder's pad)/KNEADED (40A: Worked, in a way) combo, but I didn't so much like the NAGAT (51A: Bother persistently)/BITAT (57A: Tried to nip) combo. And isn't it really more like "nipping at" is trying to bite? And are we calling OMAR Khayyám by just his first name now? (6D: "While you live,/Drink!" poet) Shall I write a clue for "Birches" poet, expecting the answer "Robert?" 

- Horace

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013, Richard F. Mausser


Pretty clever theme, the money thing. I don't know whether the $1,000 and the $10,000 have ever been in general circulation in the U.S., but I still remember them from my youth, when I had a fascination with the large bills. It's just too bad that Mr. Mausser couldn't cram in a Wilson100000.

The fill seemed generally decent. Frannie didn't like the awkwardness of AGEONE (11D: Time of first steps, often), and I thought the same of PLAYON (13D: Not stop a musical gig), but the majority of it was fine. I enjoyed 41D: Check the figures? (OGLE), even though it was right next to one of the least-ogle-able figures in all of cartoondom, OLIVEOYL (40D: Toon with 14-AAAAAA shoes).

I liked the contemporizing of OCCUPY (46A: Modern protest name) and IRS (65D: Org. in a 2013 scandal), and 60A: HI-strung instrument (UKE) was cute. I didn't know that there was a place called Acre in ISR, so it's lucky that we knew that the ISERE was 14A: Grenoble's river. We haven't seen Grenoble, but we have seen the Isère where it starts, high in the Alps. Nevermind the skiing, Val d'Isère is beautiful in the summertime. Makes me want to start looking at airfares just thinking about it!

- Horace

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013, Tim Croce


This started off strong with the self-referential 1A: Self-descriptive crossword answer (ABBR), and after that, it was easy-ish, but solid enough. Lots of cutesy clues, like 66A: What an ET pilots (UFO), and 34A: Musical key appropriate for an apartment dweller? (AFLAT). The RANDD (40A: Corporate division, imformally... or a hint to the answers to the eight starred clues) was a familiar gimmick. It seems that they don't always star the clues in themes like this. Is it really necessary? Also, FWIW (35D: "Take that as you will," in internet shorthand), I was just wondering what ever happened to RAYDAVIES (20A: *Lead singer of the Kinks). I've been singing the song "Apeman" to myself for weeks.

It seems Tim Croce might be about our age, as there is a lot of cultural stuff that is right in our wheelhouse. ASTRO (1D: "The Jetsons" dog), CPO (9D: Sharkey's rank, in '70s TV), ELLY (24A: ____ May of "The Beverly Hillbillies"), HAILE (48A: ____ Selassie), and others. QEII (11D: Long-reigning English monarch, informally) looks crazy, but I like it. I also like the pair SNOOZE (70A: Nap) and NODS (71A: Shows signs of wanting to nap).


- Horace

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013, Johanna Fenimore and Andrea Carla Michaels


Not bad for a Monday. We didn't know the exact spelling of HARA (6A: ____-kiri), and the 3D: Swiss river (AARE) is only familiar to us from crosswords, and didn't come immediately. Isn't there also a mountain range or peak spelled "Aar?" Anyway, many of the clues were just a matter of punching in letters, as is often the case on Mondays.

Franny liked the 37D: Nutty (COCKEYED) and 51A: More nutty (KOOKIER) pair. Lots of Cs and Ks in that corner. Also, she wrote in "tape" for 1D: Record for later viewing, in a way (TIVO), which shows our age a bit, I guess. We were also familiar with both parts of 10A: Rubik's Cube and troll dolls, once. There were trolls in both our households as youths. There were also Tiddlywinks, for that matter. And we thought 47A: Fan setting of 1, say (LOW) was a good one.

The theme was solid and beautifully symmetrical, and the POPUP (69A: Easy to catch hit... or what 1- 21- 26- 48- 55-Across all do) was a nice call back to David Steinberg's "POPUPTOASTER" on Thursday. And speaking of callbacks, 33D: Class after trig (CALC), sounded awfully familiar. Did we just see that recently as "Class before Calc?" I couldn't find it in a quick search of the last few days, but I'm almost positive it was in the last week. The long answers were all interesting, and the fill was relatively clean. A few things like SRA, ORO and ORIG, but it wouldn't be a crossword puzzle without a few of those.

- Horace

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday, Jun 16, 2013, Mel Rosen



Blah. Impressive, I guess, that he crammed so much into this one, but the result was not very satisfying. TRINARY? (23A: Three-part), SIEUR (16D: French lord) (Sure, it's a word (think of "monsieur"), but it's none too common in French or English!), TENAM (98D: Late office opening, say) (really?), HIRER, MALABAR, HOO, ANERA, ASSYRO... and the center block isn't even solid enough to require one solution. I, of course, picked the wrong one first.


Nice nod to Father's Day with 46D: June honoree (DAD). They spend three entire puzzles on Mother's Day, and Father's Day gets one three-letter answer in a puzzle crammed to the teeth with crosswordese. Or should I say crosswordeez, or crosswordeze, or xwrdeze? You can say anything you want in a crossword puzzle, apparently.

But there's no sense ARGUING (96D: At it). I get what I get, and I don't get upset. Or I do. What difference does it make?

- Horace

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday, June 15, 2013, Ned White


We stared at two blank squares in the NE for about an hour, and finally gave up. As it turned out, we had one further error that might have been complicating things up there. Frannie knew of the BAOBAB tree (9A: With 25-Across, it has a huge trunk), but had it as BeOBAB, which made figuring out ASA (10D: White sheet insert?) almost impossible. I had even considered that it might be a cryptic-type clue, but just couldn't come up with it. ESSENE (16A: Ancient abstainer) and BECHET (9D: Saxophone great Sidney) were completely unknown to us, and so the E-S just wouldn't come. Couldn't come. Well, maybe the S could've eventually, and maybe we would have tried "Essene" because it sounds like something... but that's a lot of "ifs." I blame it at least a little bit on the fact that we're both somewhat drained by a home renovation project that just began at the end of this past week. But I'm not making excuses, it was a DNF, and that's ok.

On the bright side, VUVUZELA (17A: Buzzer sounded during a match) was pretty sweet, and 1A: Place to pick vegetables (SALADBAR) was clever, as were 40A: Four French quarters (ANNEE) and ICESTORMS (41A: They're likely to result in broken limbs). I love the clue/answer 43A: Claptrap/ROT, and I also like ADEQUATE for 15A: C-worthy. It reminds me of another favorite clue/answer that we wrote about a while ago - "What D means" (POOR).

And speaking of poor, AQUAPLANE? ARNHEM? ELEA? ANTISERUM? (ok, that one was at least a little funny), ALIMENTS? DUZ? ATLI? (We were ready for ATLI this time, but we still don't love it.) OK, OK, we got all of those from crosses, so they were fair game, I guess. And when you're using a ball-winder, are you really knitting? I don't think so. You're preparing to knit, sure, but when I'm filling the tank can I be said to be "driving?"

OK, enough griping. I'm bitter, sure, but there were lots of clever clues in here. It wasn't all bad, it just had two too many things we didn't know.


- Horace

p.s. Favorite clue: 52A: Vindictive Quaker of fiction (AHAB). Whaa?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013, Patrick Berry


It seems there's been a string of decent puzzles lately. This one starts out strong with YAWN (1A: Low interest indicator), and the first two coming off of that word are nice, too. YECCH (1D: Less polite way of saying "no thanks" to offered food) (the proper, MAD Magazine spelling!), and ACHOO (2D: Evidence of an alergic reaction). I like WHAMS (3D: Collides with noisily) slightly less, but I appreciate that those three words are not really normal words, and I like that.

Frannie got CHARLESDEGAULLE (16A: His death prompted Georges Pompidou to say "France is a widow") with no crosses, and soon after that got COMMERCIALBREAK (19A: Show stopper), and after that, the answers just cascaded down the grid. Except for PHARLAP (23: Celebrated racehorse nicknamed "The Red Terror"), that is. It's hilarious to me now that we saw PHA first, and said, "Oh, it must be Phantom," and then when we got LABORS (15D: Exerts oneself) and saw PHAR we said, "Oh, right, it must be Pharaoh." HAH! After we got LAUREL (9D: Daphne, after her mythical transformation), we just left the final two letters to be filled in by crosses.

Lots of fun ones: SLANG (35A: Bad, for good); DEW (25D: Ground water?); BEE (30D: Wax worker); and CAGES (42D: Bar rooms?), among others. We got DENEB (36D: Summer triangle star) this time with only a few crosses, and learned the word "caravel" from PINTA (41D: Historic caravel) (Nice, specific clue).

Lots of proper names we didn't know, and lots of product names, it seems, (AUDI, ZALES, GLAD), but really, nothing really objectionable. Nice clean fill, and a fun solving experience. Now we've got to get back to our "bottled poetry." Happy weekend, all!

- Horace

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013, David Steinberg


This is the fourth time we've seen my old friend/nemesis David Steinberg in as many months, but it's the first time we've met up with him on a day other than Saturday. This played a little tougher than some Thursdays, but we finished in under an hour, so it was definitely easier than the last three.

I liked it from the first clue 1A: Rowdydow (ADO) (I immediately wanted "to do," but it wouldn't fit), which I didn't know immediately, but which was inferrable once we got the D off of DIAZ (2D: "Bad Teacher" star, 2011). After that, though, the NW stayed unfinished right up until the very end. That was at least in part due to my errant "dAyTRIPS" entry for 17A: *Some vacation travel. It took us longer than it should have to figure out the fairly straightforward theme of "window" starters, and when we finally did, it was changed to CARTRIPS, and then RIG (14A: Fix)(always a tough clue), OGRE (3D: "Hop-o'-My-Thumb" figure)(?), and ARC (1D: Tangent starter?) (I guess because a tangent is made up of a line and an arc?... no, maybe it's "arctangent") finally fell into place. Whew!

Lots of other tricky and fun clues in this one. I always enjoy internal pairs, or whatever you want to call them, in the clues, like 5D: and 18D: Virginia ____, and 14A: Fix, 8D: ____ fixes (IDEES), and 9D: Fix, in a way, as golf clubs (REGRIP). And the internal rhyme of PUFF and BUFF was another nice touch. And I suppose you could also pair 63A: Acts the curmudgeon (GRIPES) with SARTRE's great quote from "Huis Clos:" "L'enfer, c'est les autres." (58A: He wrote "Hell is other people.") Frannie and I have been known to cite this line from time to time.

My favorite clue might have been 6D: *What makes bread rise? (POPUPTOASTER), but 20A: 90 degrees from N? (ZEE) was also nice. I liked CUSP, LOCHS, DEFT and OCCULT. All interesting words not commonly found in the grid. The familiar ALOE was given a tricky clue (15A: African healer), and when 16A: Eerie phenomenon, started to look like this - D_JAV_, we panicked for a moment, but suddenly had a feeling we had seen those letters in those spaces before...

Never heard of EGOYAN (19A: Atom who directed "The Sweet Hearafter"), and there was a typo on another unknown proper name clue - 28D: French composer "douard," but neither unknown really made any difference, because we were able to get the crosses, which is good.

Lastly, I think this is the first time we've had to enter an actual digit into the grid. We first tried a rebus (even though we thought it very odd that there would only be one in the grid), but the 8 is way better (as long as you don't mind the whole Microsoft thing, which I do, but this is not the proper forum for such venting).

Very nice.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013, Todd Gross


I really liked this one. The theme of ice cream flavors dropping through the grid (or, I guess, piled up in the grid), was very nice, and the fill was decent and interesting. Although I usually like to see OOLALA (25A: "C'est magnifique!") spelled with an H, I didn't mind the naked Os here because A. Maybe that's how the French would spell it, and B. They go nicely with the Os in OMOO (38A: Novel subtitled "A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas"). The sub-theme of proper names (if we include SEENOEVIL (39A: Part of a three-monkey phrase) as the name of that particular monkey) was also nice. My friend KATESMITH (32A: Singer who said "Thanks for listenin'") just had a baby a few days ago, so it's nice to see her mentioned in the grid as well.

Recently, frequent commenter Huygens said that he often found these puzzles a bit racy. He won't be disappointed today, with answers like LUST (10A: The hots), and NUDE (27D: Like some sunbathers), and HOER... oh wait, that's something different...

Nice gratuitous Simpsons clue at 57D: "____ my shorts!": Bart Simpson (EAT), and I like my namesake getting a shout out at 25D: Works of Horace (ODES). He wrote other things, of course, but he is, as he knew he would be, best remembered for those odes. Like the last one from his third book, which begins:

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar, multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitnam. Usque ego postera
crescam laude recens.
... and so on.

(I have created a monument longer-lasting than bronze
and higher than the royal structure of the pyramids
which neither the devouring rains, nor the violent North Wind
can demolish, nor the infinite
succession years and flight of time.
I will not wholly die, and a greater part of me
will avoid the goddess of death. And I, in posterity,
will increase in praise received...)

Hey, maybe this blog will do that for me, too. It's kind of the same thing, right? [*crickets*]

Favorite clue: 22A: Reason to drill (DECAY) (31A: Hangman turn (GUESS) was the runner-up.)
Least favorite answer: MUSCLY (44A: Bulked up like a weightlifter), but hey, if that's the worst of the day, it's a pretty good day.

- Horace

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013, Pete Muller

Heigho, Frannie here again. I only have time for a quick BLURB (47A. Judgement on a book's cover?) about this puzzle. While it was as simple as EINS, zwei, drei (39D), I didn't really WARMTO it. (41A: Grow fond of). It was fun to have Living [blank] INSIN (12D) and PERDITION (11D: Hell) right next to each other. Those two make a nice trinity with 30D: Place to congregate? PEW. However, I'm not a fan of ATTABOY (46D: "Good Going!") no matter where it appears.

The theme clue MIXEDBAG (62A: Assortments... or what you'll find in 17-, 25-, 30-, 44-, and 50-Across?) didn't help with the solve, but I found it moderately interesting upon review of the puzzle after completion.

Overall, I thought the fill was fine. I liked the two crossing clues featuring the OED (40A: Ref. work that took 70 years to complete) and ZED (35D: Final section of the 40-Across), I am not familiar with ZENO (59D: Paradoxical Greek). Something for me to look up.

As Horace completed a substantial amount of the puzzle, I think it would be NEAT (49A) if he'd chime in with comments.Perhaps he'll ECHO  (5A) my remarks, TERSE (19A) though they are.

~ Frannie

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013, Zhouqin Burnikel


This was a pretty fun Monday. The revealer, COMETOPAPA (59A: Casino cry... or a hint for 16-, 23-, 37- and 45- Across) didn't really serve as a hint, since it was the last theme clue I solved, but I was on the right track after getting (with no crosses) PATPAULSEN (!) (16A: Comedian with a mock 1968 presidential campaign), and (with a few crosses) PARTPAYMENT (23A: Money that doesn't completely satisfy a debt).

It seemed a little tougher than Mondays sometimes are, with clues like 21A: Puff piece? (CIGAR), two uncommon proper names crossing in the South. And I thought ACTAS (24D: Represent) was a little tricky. I liked seeing "Fur ELISE" (62A: Beethoven dedicatee) in there, but I thought TWERP (7D: Insignificant punk) and LIKEICARE (34D: "Whatever!") were oddly EARTHY (43D: Coarse, as humor).

CRTS (9A: Old PC Monitors) confessed to being old-fashioned, but CYBER feels just as old these days, yet it claimed to be a 21D: Modern lead-in to cafe. I'm not sure I'd define 45D: Sang-froid as POISE, it seems more sinister, and I take mild offense at ARTY being defined as 5A: Pretentious. But perhaps Mr. Burnikel simply meant them as JESTS (47D: Remarks not to be taken seriously).

Lastly, although I think RLESS is pretty weak as fill, I let it pass today because of its fine clue - 50D: Like non-oyster months.

- Horace

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday, June 9, 2013, Elizabeth C. Gorski

Fast One

I don't like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'd say today's solver didn't need a lot of horse sense to complete this grid. Working the theme from the puzzle title to the fancy image made with the circled letters, they weren't horsing around. Oh, wait, yes they were. We raced through it, but this horse wasn't without a few Trojans. We hit two snags.15D, Hybrid musical instrument with a shoulder strap (KEYTAR) where it crossed with 38D Biblical dry measure (OMER), held us up for a while, but at least we knew that spot was trouble. When we considered the letter R for that spot, and said Keytar out loud, it finally made good horse sense. Neither of us was familiar with Omer, but I'm guessing that Huygens, with his extensive knowledge of the Bible, will have made hay with this one. Our other problem came from Frannie blithely putting in Sock instead of Deck (52 D, Really wallop) due to a soft spot for the word sock, meaning to strike, from the Philadelphia Story. Since I didn't know 52A, Star in the Swan constellation, SENEB seemed fine, although, here again, I'm sure Huygens was way out in front on this one. Luckily, and correctly, Horace was not happy with MoETS for 59A, Crosses, which led, finally, to the necessary corrections in that area.

Favorites: JANITOR (6D: Key employee?) ; SHIRLEY (24A: Temple in Hollywood) ; DIPLOMA (84D: Academic paper?) ; WAG, always a favorite (106D: Jokester) ; Kickin' it old school with TILTON (77A: Charlene who played Lucy on 'Dallas') ; and not one, but two clues that mention dumbwaiters (1D and 53D). Crazy.

Longshots: NBAERS (107A: Bull or Celtic) Ugh ; EYER (35A: Assessor) ; and HIKEUP (37A: Lift).

Over all, easy, but good, clean fun. There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013, David Quarfoot


What a wonderful puzzle. Tons of tricky fill, almost nothing objectionable, and a couple answers that I just didn't know at all. UNGAVA (12D: Northern Quebec's ____ Peninsula) was one such, but it finally got filled in once we grasped the fabulous DCUPS (10A: Big top features?) (Frannie: "They went there?!"). Anybody want to explain LST (27D: W.W. II inits.) to me? I know the other W.W. II inits. answer, thank you.

We don't exactly love the phrase IMPUMPED (1D: "Can't wait!"), but it looks freakishly great in the grid. And 51A: Trix alternative? (ENNE) is very clever. I guess they feel they don't need the hyphen because it's Saturday.

I was excited about finding out the answer to 1A: One was first purchased in 2008, but felt strangely let-down when the answer turned out to be IPHONEAPP. I can't really explain why... I just wanted something different, I guess.

We loved 50D: Bacon product (ESSAY), 34A: Game with points (DEER) (!!), and 9D: 6 is a rare one (PAR). BABYDADDY (63A: Child support payer, in modern lingo) seems cutting-edge for crossword puzzles, and the old standby Ille NASTASE (29A: 1991 International Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee) gets his last name in the grid for a change.

LIV (33D: Roman numeral that's also a name) is a cute one, and IOUSA (48D: 2008 documentary about the national debt) is such a clever name that I now want to look that movie up!

Another fun, brain-flexing Friday/Saturday combo. Keep em' comin' Shortzy!

- Horace

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013, Ed Sessa


Jesus, what a tough puzzle! If only we had remembered Huygens' explanation of MRE (61D: Post-hurricane handout, for short), we wouldn't have been groping for so long in the SW.  PENROSE (63A: Mathematical physicist Roger)? And who knew that Natty BUMPPO (45D: "Leatherstocking Tales" hero) had two Ps? And then there was the middle. How we stared at the middle. Frannie suggested DRIB or "drab" early on, but I resisted. Finally, near wit's end, I put DRIB (39D: Smidgen) in, and then, finally, with that final I, I was able to see JIMI (47A: "____ Plays Monterey" (posthumous 1986 album)), which gave us the end of BALLTHEJACK (18D: Go for broke). What the? "Ball the Jack?" Has anyone ever heard that before?? I looked it up just now, and the Urban Dictionary definition is "From the '30s, means going really fast, mainly with a car or any vehicle." The examples they give are: "You can really ball the jack in Germany" and "I was late, so I balled the jack on my way downtown." Now I love the expression. I will be using it all the time from now on.

Where was I? Oh yeah... does anyone know BETTYS (23A: "____ Bein' Bad" (Sawyer Brown country hit))? After that Ball the Jack experience, I'm a little afraid to look it up. I might get a new favorite song out of it.

Anywho, there was a lot that was good in here, it just sometimes took us forever to see. Like TKO (40A: Swinging halter, for short). I had put in VaN for 36D: Part of many a German name, and had ended up with TKa, which didn't make any sense, but I still couldn't get it. Frannie, luckily, said "Van is more Dutch, I think this should be VON, and finally, TKO was all spelled out, and only then could I see it was a boxing reference. Wow. COMEDUE (1D: Mature) took a while, CAROUSE (43D: Whoop it up), same. A lot of the long ones fell fairly easily, like LIFEISVERYSHORT (12D: Why "there's no time for fussing and fighting," per a Beatles hit), but they didn't help with the middle. Even when we had OVERTHEEDGE (37A: Flipped out), we still couldn't get things like YETI (34D: Humanoid cryptid) or SEEM (35D: Feel) (this, to me, seems like a slight stretch). 

So I could go on and on, but perhaps that's enough. Wait, just one more - ANAGRAM (2D: Antes up for peanuts?) BRILLIANT! Ok, that's really it. This was a nice challenge after last Friday's cakewalk, but at the end we were just grasping at straws. Technically, a DNF, but we did finish unassisted after getting the error message a few times. Now I'm gonna go ball the jack to the packy and try to forget all about it.

- Horace

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013, James Tuttle


The rebus that wasn't! It's Thursday, and I was sure I had sussed out a rebus, but then the downs always seemed to have two spaces too many. Finally, while Frannie had it in her hands, I realized that Mr. Tuttle wouldn't have said FALLINGOUT (66A: Quarrel... or a feature of five answers in this puzzle) if he hadn't meant it. "They fall!" I shouted. And right under the revealer, as though he were gently mocking us, was ITOLDYOU (68A: "See!"). Very clever.

Pretty clean fill throughout, with only a few clunkers. I never really like ECASH (1D: PayPal funds, e.g.), but I guess it's legit, and it is usually a gimme, so that's nice, at least. CONCEDED (14A: Accepted defeat), ESCAPISM (39D: Much film watching, e.g.), ELDORADO (11D: Conquistador's quest) - all quite nice. Nice clue for ARTICLES (17A: A and others), and Frannie liked seeing one of the lesser-known 18A: Horse-drawn vehicle[s] (LANDAU) being trotted out. Winner for "most interesting clue" was 22A: Lines first used on a pack of Wrigley's gum: Abbr. (UPC). Trivia!

Many nice ASPECTS (58A: Faces) to this puzzle, and quite an enjoyable solve.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013, Mark Bickham


Overall, meh. And not just because we had problems.

We had all but four squares in about fifteen minutes, but it took us 25 more minutes to get PALAU (32A: 2005 "Survivor" island nation), PART (32D: Reader's goal) (shouldn't have been that hard), LOLL (34D: Hang loose), and ROLF (41A: Massage deeply). The P, R, L and L of those crossing words held us up for quite some time. Really, I think it was because we put "Macau" into the "Survivor" spot, and we were stuck on that for far too long.

But even if we hadn't had that problem, the puzzle wasn't all that sparkling. The theme was so-so, and there was a lot of mediocre fill. AMOF, ONS, SES, NTWT... it just wasn't all that interesting. Also, I'm sick of IMHIP (2D: Beatnik's "Gotcha"), "Hep" and all the other beatnik or "hip" clues. Let's just get over it, shall we? No one's said any of those things for decades.

And what's with 24D: Hangout for teachers (STAFFLOUNGE)? What about "Teacher's Lounge?" That's what people called it. Teachers aren't called "staff," they're called "teachers." Ugh.

As you can see, it didn't do it for me. I hope you had a better experience.

- Horace

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013, Kristian House


I gotta admit, I forgot about the circles until just now. Last night I even said to Frannie, "Gee, there's only two theme answers..." but today as I sit down to discuss it, I noticed all the snakes! That makes it much better. In fact, I kind of love it. Circled letters like this sometimes seem kind of cheap, because how hard is it to find words like that?, but today, it totally works.

ROUÉ (14A: Lascivious sort) is new to me, which is somewhat surprising, both because I know French adequately well, and, well, you know... The word comes from the idea that that type of person should be "broken on the wheel." Nice.

Nice tribute to Jean Stapelton today with EDITH (15A: Archie's sitcom wife). My Random House entry for ENURES (36A: Accustoms) tells me to see "Inure," which is what I wrote in initially, and would rather see in that space. Also, weak clue for ICON (23D: A browser has one). Just seems too vague.

The puzzle seemed filled with ODDBALLS (6D: Strange birds). Lots of crosswordsy stuff like AMAH, DRNO, THO, SCHED, & ARBS, but then there's some nice stuff, too, like RESENTFUL (4D: Like Cain, toward Abel) (see also, "Dangerously resentful"), and UNDERWEAR (37D: Drawers in drawers) (probably the best clue today, although ARMCANDY (40D: Companion who's a knockout) was also good). I also like seeing mention of IMELDA (42A: Marcos of the Philippines). We just read a "Talk of the Town" piece about her in the New Yorker, and she seems like quite the hot ticket!

So, on balance, I'm giving this one a thumbs up. Now I've gotta get back out on that SCAFFOLD (32A: Painter's support) and do some more work!

- Horace

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Monday, June 2, 2013, John Lampkin


Do you ever get the feeling that Will Shortz is toying with us. I mean, how often lately have we seen IRAE (15A: "Dies ____" (Latin hymn)) and EGGY (19A: Like custard and meringue)? Does he bunch them up on purpose? There are weeks where it seems like "eel" is in the puzzle every day, and lately "ELHI" has been a favorite. Anyway, I've been wondering about such things.

We liked the "pig" theme today. And we liked that some were across and some were down, which seems unusual. Funny double clue of "Wood for a chest" getting (1A) CEDAR and (9D) OAK. And it's funny to see AOK (23D: Just fine) so close to OAK. And speaking of odd proximities, how 'bout JIHADS on USA? And really, how often do you see "Made in USA" on garment labels these days? If you can find more than one in your closet or bureau, I'd say you're in the minority of Americans.

But let's not get dragged down into negativity. This was a fine puzzle with plenty of interesting fill. Not a bad Monday at all.

- Horace

Sunday, June 2, 2013, Elizabeth C. Gorski



The blue/red rebus was very clever, but the iPad wouldn't take "bluered" as correct, so we spent about fifteen or twenty minutes changing all of them to "redblue," then, after reading Deb Amlen's blog, to just "blue," and finally it took it. It didn't help that we also had an error at "YMHo" (89D: Jewish males' org.). I couldn't make HoTE make any sense for 107A: Hardly fancy?, but I put it in anyway. Turns out it was YMHA and HATE. Much better on the across. The down, well, it could have been "organization" just as easily as "association," as far as we knew.

So anyway, all that gave us a little bit of a negative feeling, but really, the grid wasn't that bad. As we noted, the purple theme was nice, and consistently blue-across/red-down, which was good and, I suppose, necessary. Never heard of OLETA (9A: Adams with the 1991 hit "Get Here") or an HORA (40A: Part of a wedding celebration), and I can't decide whether I love or hate ELECT crossing ERECT. It's odd. 24A: One who works at home (UMPIRE) was cute.

I am so sick of seeing ELHI in the grid. "Eel" has grown on us, and we almost hope for it, but "ELHI" is not the same. Does anyone ever say that? What ever happened to the not-crossword-friendly "K-12?"

I don't know, as I review this, I like it less and less. I'd better stop here.

- Horace

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013, Barry Silk


This was a fun one! Lots of clever clues, and "Aha!" moments. For example, 15A: Great depression (HURRICANE), and 22A: Considered revolting (DETESTED). Both are nice, misleading clues. And I loved 19A: Short play (REC). 21A: Like some taxes and questions (EVADED) is very nice. 61A: Painful spa treatment (BIKINIWAX) and 10A: Yoke attachment (OXBOW) are not exactly clever or funny, or, in the case of the former, very pleasant to think about, but they are interesting answers to see in the grid.

Not much to complain about, which is nice. STE and RTE both showing up is less than stellar, but I'll take it. I don't even mind XED (24A: Struck).

Loved the clue/answer 44: Game of falling popularity? (TETRIS) for its double entendre. Very nice. And 2D: Nepalese bread (RUPEE) eluded me right up to the end.

ERECTORSET and COGRAILWAY are both terrific. All in all, a very satisfying Saturday.

- Horace