Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013, H. David Goering


The theme is somewhat interesting, and it sure is convenient that the longest name for the left hand and the revealer are both 15 letters long, but this puzzle seemed way too easy for a Wednesday, and a little too full of DARER (57A: Courageous one) (all left hand), ASPIRER, ANAEMIAATNO, and ETAL.

I like SCHWAS (5D: Start and end of 3-Down, phonetically), but I never even saw the clue until just now, reviewing the puzzle for this review. And I can't decide whether to love or hate ATHWART (2D: Crosswise). SKIRMISH (9D: Minor battle) is nice, too. And SEAGATE (44D: Channel to the ocean), too, is a good word.

I just didn't love this one as I was doing it, which is too bad, as I review it now, because there really was some nice material. I think it was something about the clueing that turned me against it. Also, our "pigs in blankets" were not WIENERS, they were some kind of ground meat. And the blankets were cabbage leaves. And we had them with raisin sauce. Mmmm..... those were the days.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013, Peter A. Collins


Rolling Stone is a rag, it's pronouncements are meaningless.

Never heard of SEDALIA (70A: Site of the Missouri State Fair), and almost DNF'd in that quadrant, but Frannie saved the day with SAS (65D: Carrier to Oslo) and RIO (67D: Vegas casino).

Enjoyed PERSONA (17A: Who you appear to be), and 28A: Gem of a girl? (OPAL). Is EGGO (19A: Frozen product with blueberry and chocolate chip flavors) still a thing? Sanderson?

- Horace

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013, Andrea Carla Michaels


I like the body theme just fine, but I wish the last two weren't given the same clue. Usually, I enjoy the similar clues, but when there are four theme answers, I'd like them all to be clued differently. Or, alternatively, they could all have the same clue. But two different and two the same... well, it's not my favorite.

Other things rubbed me the wrong way, too, like IGLU (32D: Eskimo home: Var), ESTOP, ABOW, ACAN, and AJAX... wait, no, that last one is fine.

Seriously, though, there's some nice stuff in here. I liked TORPEDO (45D: Underwater missile), LAPAZ (5A: Bolivian capital), and OLEANNA (41A: Two-character David Mamet play). Even though Mamet's lost his way, politically, he still wrote some good stuff.

I also enjoyed this puzzle because tonight Frannie had PADTHAI (7D: Asian noodle dish with peanuts) and I had SUSHI (48A: Japanese fish dish) for dinner. Seems like it was meant to be.

- Horace

Sunday, July 28, 2013, Andrew Reynolds


This puzzle confused me a bit. Why, for instance, did they bother to make that progression of circled letters? Is it purely for the visual interest? If so, I don't think it's worth it. And that NW corner is a jumble of oddities. HOHOHO (1A: Holiday cheer) is a nice enough clue - or would be, in December. Same with USOPEN (19A: P.G.A. event played on Father's Day). Interesting, but slightly out of season. And why clue MOMENT (22A: See 36-Across) in that upside-down way? The whole block just set me off on the wrong foot, as you can plainly see.

The puzzle is, however, almost on the right date to celebrate the sesquicentennial of HENRYFORD's birth (5D: Business titan born July 30, 1863). So, that's nice. Lot's of clues referring to other answers, and the like. It also includes nods to more modern commercial enterprises like TEXACO (20A: Company in a 2001 merger with Chevron), and Whole FOODS (45A: Whole ____). Oddly, though, a Ford rival, GMC is also mentioned (50A: GMC truck (SIERRA)).

There were some clever clues, like 105A: Polo ground? (ORIENT), 28A: Short race? (DWARVES), and 29D: Give the silent treatment? (MIME). And I liked the references to other great Americans who died in the decades immediately prior to Ford's birth. NEVERMORE (31A: Opposite of eternally) for Poe, and "55A: Molding material" for Henry CLAY.

And here's a little trivia for you– I wondered whether or not Chuck LORRE (94D: "The Big Bang Theory" co-creator Chuck) was somehow related to Peter Lorre, because that name isn't all that common, and they're both in show business. Guess what? He was born Charles Michael Levine, and changed his name for personal reasons. Peter Lorre, on the other hand, was born Lásló Löwenstein. So, in short, no. They aren't related.

- Horace

p.s. Other bloggers have commented that the circles represent the literal "building" of a Model T on an assembly line, of sorts. Pretty clever, actually. I wish I hadn't been so blinded by indifference and had noticed it on my own!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013, John Lieb and David Quarfoot


Finished a little fast for a Saturday, perhaps, but this was a decent, interesting grid. Some nice, contemporary fill like, HUGITOUT (40A: Resolve a bromance spat, say), NUFFSAID (32A: "No need to go on"), and PIECEOFWORK (10D: Difficult sort). We would have preferred "Cut class" to SKIPCLASS (64A: Emulate Ferris Bueller), but we still like the Bueller reference.

Our friend Huygens has expressed the opinion that the NYT puzzle is often a little racy, and he shouldn't be disappointed today with SEXTED (23A: Turned on a friend, maybe?) (!), and GSPOT (46D: Sensitive subject?) (and SHAG, if you ignore the clue).

Enjoyed STARKLY (37A: Without embellishment) and PASSE (10A: Out). Had "Le Car" at first where PINTO (58A: 1970s subcompact) belonged (OK, maybe the Le Car was more an '80s thing), and "corpse" went in first instead of the less grotesque CORDON (42A: Crime scene sight).

Some tired crossword standbys made appearances today, too, like SERE, APER, ALOES, and my least favorite today, EERS.

INALL, we enjoyed it, but we expect to be challenged a little more on a Saturday. Now what am I going to do with the rest of the morning? Chores?!

- Horace

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013, Brendan Emmett Quigley


In a word, uneven. There was some very nice fill, WALLACESTEVENS (4D: 1955 Pulitzer-winning poet), AMBROSIA (18A: Olympians' food), and LOSALAMOS (31D: Literally, "the cottonwoods") were all nice, but there was too much RENAIL (14A: Fix, in carpentry), ERODENT (41D: Tending to wear away) (really?), and IDEATE (60A: Philosophize, say) for the two of us to fully enjoy it.

More good stuff - ERIECANAL (12D: Construction project that began in Rome), very nicely clued. BANKSY (58A: Noted graffiti artist), any mention of Banksy is good. SEAOTTER (20A: Animal that catches fish with its forepaws), any mention of sea otters is also good. Even the word "forepaws" is cute, isn't it? They're also one of the softest creatures alive. They were almost hunted out of existence for their pelts, and when Frannie got to feel a pelt out in California one time, it's said she was heard to remark "I'd club one to death myself to get a piece of this." [Frannie would never actually hurt an animal. - Ed.]

ABBAEBAN (9D: Diplomat who wrote "The Tide of Nationalism") is, to me, similar to the name Atom Egoyan, which appeared on July 6th. Seeing it in the grid, I was unsure how to parse it into distinct parts. The puzzle constructor on that day commented on this blog to help me out. I'm hoping someone does the same today. (Brendan? Wanna meet at Crema to talk it over? You can find me there most Wednesdays around 1:00, doing your DIG puzzle!)

This puzzle really did have a lot of good stuff in it, but the weaknesses detracted from the enjoyment. I have come to expect more from BEQ, one of my favorite constructors.

- Horace

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013, Patrick Blindauer


Wow! When I realized what was going on in this grid I almost couldn't believe it. I haven't made any puzzles yet, so I don't know for sure how tough something like this would be, but it sure impressed me.

Here's how our solve went. The middle fell fairly easily, and the revealer, DOUBLEFEATURE (14D: Drive-in theater draw... with a literal hint to 4- and 21-Down), seemed straightforward enough. Almost too straightforward. I thought, well, the other two long clues will be movies, and it'll be like a double feature. I don't know many Jack Lemmon movies, but I figured "The Odd Couple" was a good bet, and it fit, so in it went. Sinatra, well, let's see, what'd he win that oscar for? "From Here to Eternity?" Too long...

So over the puzzle went to the old movie buff, Frannie. I told her I thought something was fishy, because I couldn't verify "The Odd Couple" with much, and I had absolutely nothing over on the Sinatra side. Using another old movie reference, Frannie broke it. Well, we did, but she started it. She said that 22A: Captain von ____ (musical role) just had to be TRAPP, and suggested THEAPARTMENT as another possible Lemmon movie. (Who knew?) Right then I realized what was happening, and I had her put double Ps into that square. I then also felt confident enough to put in KAR[EN] for 51A: ____ Carpenter. Once freed up to lengthen ( - and by the way, 1A: One of the three dimensions (LEN[GT]H) was devious, because both "width" and "depth" fit in without the rebus!) all the answers, we eventually had enough to guess GRUMPYOLDMEN.

On the East side, it was all up to Frannie, because I couldn't come up with any other Sinatra roles. One of the first she thought of was OCEANSELEVEN, which turned out to be perfect, because it was the first of the two, and entering the rebuses after that was easier than if we had had to erase first letter every time. Okay, maybe that comment is just for electronic solvers. Nevermind if you solve on paper. And if you do, I pity you. I can't imagine the mess that would have arisen from me putting in "The Odd Couple" in pen. Egad! What would Felix have said?

Anyway, this was fantastic. One of the best of the year, in my opinion. Sure, the NW had LBS, EEO (?) and NAS, but I'm giving a LOT of leeway to Mr. Blindauer for this trick. And really, much of the rest was also interesting and/or funny. How 'bout that clue for STROHS (45D: Brew whose name is an article of clothing when read backward)?! I almost think he, too, must have spent time in Wisconsin in a campus bar, where such an insight might just come to you after drinking that cheap beer. And I loved 55D: You may be fooled at its beginning (APRIL). There's bonus fill, too, with OSCARS (48D: Star-studded show, with "the").

Great puzzle.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013, Erik Wennstrom


When I finished this last night I thought, "Wow, that was easy for a Thursday." And indeed it would have been, had today been Thursday.

The theme bewildered me slightly. It's just real people's actual names given funny clues, right? Does it seem odd to anyone else? I mean, all of the clues could have just had their first halves, and it would have been fine, but the second half added humor. I guess. Anyway, it didn't really seem all that clever to me. But maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon.

I did, however, laugh slightly (although probably not "out loud") at 1A: "I didn't know I was speeding, officer," e.g. (FIB), and 52A: Limbo need (BAR) made me smile, I think. But when I got to LIE (66A: Not shoot straight), I didn't laugh so much, because having FIB and LIE in the same grid just seemed kind of weak.

It was interesting to learn that MALI is a 9D: Country that's over 50% desert, and that the EGRET is the 54D: Symbol of the National Audubon Society, but after that, it was just full of weak or odd clues. 16A: Kind of solution (SALINE). 4A: Cover sheet abbr. (ATTN). 62A: One-volume works of Shakespeare, e.g. (TOME). Why isn't that plural?

OK, let's end with one last good one and call it a day, shall we? 68A: Official with a list (DEAN). That was good.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013, Jean O'Conor


The beach theme was cute, but unfortunately, today is a rainy day here in the Northeast. The yard and garden desperately need it, so that's good, and I can enjoy the idea of the beach without actually having to go to it, which is really the best way to enjoy it in summer. ("Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.")

There's tons of theme material. Seven theme answers, plus a revealer, plus a bonus answer - BURN (63A: Sunbathe too long). And you could probably have clued 15A: "Git!" (SHOO) with something like "What you might say to the horseflies circling around you while you lie on your blanket in the sun." And 31D: Explosion sound (KABOOM) could have had "Fireworks sound." What's that? Your beach doesn't have fireworks once per week? Pity. And while we're at it, 38D: Wayfarer (VAGABOND) could have been "That guy who goes around collecting returnables out of the beach trashcans." What's that? Your beach doesn't have vagabonds? Well... you win some, you lose some.

At first I thought that CORKS (30A: Red and white stoppers?) were really more brown and dark brown, but then I remembered what they were stopping up, and I liked the clue a lot after that. What a LULU (32A: Doozy) of a mistake that was! And speaking of lulus, who the heck is 33A: Singer Julius of early TV (LAROSA)? Never heard of him.

I guess I'll stop here, before I try to theme-ize another clue by making a joke about LADYLUCK and my new ECRU (24D: Beige-ish) Speedo bathing suit... Come to think of it, I think there's a chapter about that in "ARS Amatoria." ...

- Horace

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013, Ian Livengood


We loved the theme today - BOSTON! And I don't know if it was our familiarity with the subject, or just an exceptionally easy grid, but this was our fastest completion time ever. I think it broke the previous low time by over a minute, and if I hadn't struggled for a bit with the spelling of Shaq's last name, it could have been in the threes!

Even outside of the theme, this was right in our wheelhouse. Even things like MACAW (5A: Noisy bird) and HALER (40A: More robust) went in without hesitation. All the theme answers were immediate gimmies, and though we weren't familiar with things like SKAT (59D: Trick-taking game played with 32 cards) or HEELTAP (25D: Shoe lift), we never even saw the clues until reviewing the puzzle at the end. Another thing we didn't really notice until the end was the bonus, circled MA on the edges. Nice touch.

So, overall, nice clean grid, and a great theme. Coincidentally, I had some BAKEDBEANS (29D: Popular food in 43-Across) yesterday, but I was in the state of Maine at the time, so I'm not sure what to make of that...

- Horace

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013, Artful Thinking by Tracy Bennett

It took us a little while to figure out the very enjoyable theme. Based on the title of the puzzle, Frannie thought we'd see the letters ART used in the long answers somehow, but the puzzle was much more artful, or, perhaps more literally, artistful than that. SMOKEANDMIROS was the first to fall, and reveal the theme. Then, I got a little carried away with 89A, as I somewhat hopefully mispelled Seurat's name as Serat so that I could enter QUESERATSERAT, but Horace quickly put the kibosh on that idea and we ended up with QUESERASEURAT (89A. Artist's expression for "Such is life"?), which is still pretty nice. :) When I entered HEREWEGAUGUIN all I could say is, yes please!

In the fill, I think there was something for everyone, from 32A. Prescription pain medication (PERCOCET) through 72A. Atlantean superhero of DC Comics (AQUAMAN) to EVITA (16D. "On This Night of a Thousand Stars" musical).  I thought there was very little crosswordese to metaphorically OSSIFY the brain (94D. Turn to bone). I also wondered somewhat idly if NOBALLS (93A. Part of an umpire's count) goes beyond crossword answer and into the realm of commentary. Discuss.

I liked NOAH for 118A. Rain man?  and 52A. How you might do something gross (ONADARE), but the real art was in those theme answers. HELLODALI (68A. Artist's favorite Broadway musical?) is a true masterpiece, am I right?


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013, Tim Croce


Deb Amlen, in her crossword blog for the NYT (Wordplay), sometimes will use the word "chewy" to describe a puzzle. I usually resist such a descriptor, but today, once we finally finished this beast, that word, and "crunchy" (which Frannie liked better), both came to mind. This was tough, and when we hit "submit," we were both a little surprised to immediately get the "Well Done" message. I guess it shouldn't have been such a relief, but after a fight like that, you just don't know.

But while this was difficult for us, it was also well done and satisfying. HEYMRDJ (1A: 1993 hit with the lyric "Keep playin' that song all night") is a great way to start. Almost none of that, taken in part, looks immediately promising. And just below that, ICKYPOO (16A: Gross, to a toddler), while valid, is also not a gimme. At least not for us. And just below that, an even grosser clue/answer pair: 17A: A guillotine is used to remove them (TONSILS). Coincidentally, we just saw an episode of "Antiques Roadshow" (it might have been the British version) where someone brought in antique medical instruments. A tonsil guillotine was among them, and the operation was described. I had actually thought/hoped that the practice was now done in a different way. Oh well...

The other seven-stacks were all pretty clean. The clue for MARINES (16A: Blue dress wearers) was a bit tortured, but I guess "Dress Blue wearers" would have been too easy. And who knew MIAHAMM had a clubfoot? Not us. (It's somewhat amazing that "Dempsey" also fits here!) And speaking of interesting trivia alerts, how about 65A: ABC's first color program, with "The" (JETSONS)?

The SE was the last corner for us, and we almost gave up there, until we changed "Falls in" to REELSIN (64A: Gets on the line?), and "Ad blitz" to PRBLITZ (66A: Big spinning effort). Then the groanable ONER (57D: Standout), which we had resisted, had to be entered. We guessed at TSGARP (48D: Literary son of Jenny Fields), and Frannie thought ANNASUI (61A: Fashion designer behind the fragrance Rock Me!) seemed plausible. NEB (62D: Tortoise's beak) was also not known to us.

Some very tricky cluing (54D: Setting of "Love Me Do": Abbr. (GMAJ), for example), and lots of meaty fill (that was for you, Deb), makes for a good Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013, Patrick Berry


I was actually looking forward to the themelesses more than usual this week, and this one didn't disappoint. It fell a little easily, perhaps, but it was fun while it lasted.

Threw in APPIANWAY (16A: Road built during the Samnite wars) immediately (old road = Appian Way). I learned not too long ago that that road was built by a guy named Appius, hence, his road. Who knew? I guess I always thought it was the name of a place, or a battle, or something besides just being an eponym. What next? Someone named Colosseus?

Anyway, it seemed to be right in our wheelhouse. Even things like EPAULET (7D: Uniform ornament) came to mind easily. I'm not a smoker, but CAMEL (26A: Joe who was retired in 1997), also went right in. Put in "Pink" at first for 38A: What the name "rhoda" means. I might have reached a point where I have too much Latin... but it was corrected soon enough. (And besides, it still didn't help me with SINEDIE (37D: How Congress might adjourn). I know what it means, but I didn't know it had a use in that context.) Also corrected somewhat easily (by Frannie) was my initial thought for 54A: "Don't decide right away" ("ThinkONIT).

After one pass through the acrosses and downs, I handed it over to Frannie. When I got it back, it was more than half done, and all that was left for me were things like TARHEELS (6D: Five-time N.C.A.A. basketball champs from the A.C.C.), and the somewhat odd TINCT (9D: Add color to).

Lots of great long stuff (ABREAST, CRUMBLE, HASBEEN, HYMNALS...), and plenty of nice cluing (18A: Game ender, possibly (RAINSTORM)). And did you notice that "Mt. Olympus" fits for 56A: Titan's home (TENNESSEE)(!)? Very nice.

STANDEE (2D: One who's unseated?) was a tiny bit of an eye-roller, but other than that, and really, even with that, this was great.

- Horace

p.s. Remember yesterday when I said that sometimes the daily puzzle and the syndicated end up being by the same constructor? Well, it happened again today!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013, Todd Gross and David Steinberg

approximately 0:30:00

When I first saw the circles, I thought of Superman's shield, but as soon as I had a few letters at the end of 20A: 23-Across singer (MARILYNMONROE), I filled in the name and all the circles without hesitation. Well, at first I had entered it with no apostrophe and an exclamation point at the end, but when that didn't hold, I changed it to the apostrophe - which, by the way, isn't needed, I don't think, for the ABC'S answer. And really, HE'S (58D: "____ a Rebel") isn't the strongest fill either.

Frannie thought it inelegant to have the theme start on the second square of the clue, and I've got to agree. But all was not terrible. SWM (6A: Guy seeking love letters?), for example, was clever, and TARTUP (48A: Decorate flashily, informally) was fun. SLATHER (55A: Lay on thick) is a good word, and the clue for ARIA (24D: Something for trill-seekers?) was awfully cute.

There was, however, a little too much ARR, EXE, URI, AHN(?), and OUS for it to be thoroughly enjoyable. (IOU, on the other hand, was clued beautifully, so I'll let that go.) If Frannie hadn't pulled SNERD (4D: Dummy of old radio) out of her hat, we might never have gotten that NW corner finished. Had "Emeer" (variant, I know...) for OMANI at first, and couldn't think of MOC until it was practically there. Never heard of CAPEK, but Frannie also remembered KIKIDEE once that seemed the most likely. Still, the program we use (iPad app) wouldn't accept "A" for the apostrophe, so we were never able to submit it, and that leaves a bad taste.

- Horace

p.s. Odd symmetry in this one. The 180º, or whatever it's called, looks strange.

p.p.s. It seems to happen somewhat frequently that a constructor has the actual and the syndicated puzzle on the same day. That is true today of David Steinberg.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013, Robyn Weintraub


A fairly easy puzzle made somewhat more challenging by the quote.

My favorite clue: 46A: Horse race rarity (TIE). What an odd and wonderful way to clue that. Also enjoyed 61A: Flee via ladder, stereotypically (ELOPE).

Never heard of 14A: Yma Sumac's homeland (PERU) (well, I've heard of the homeland, obviously...) or 21D: Dover ____ (SOLE). And ODOR (45D: Reminder that the laundry needs doing) is a little too gross for my tastes.

Full disclosure, Frannie did most of this one. She didn't even need me to help out with VOLVO (27D: Car make whose name means "I roll" in Latin). Perhaps she'll chime in someday to say how she liked it.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013, Joel Fagliano


Started out kickin' it old-school with AFROPOP (1A: Musical genre for Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and ESTRADA (9A: Erik of "CHiPs"), but for us old-timers, that was no problem. I always enjoy when the same clue is used twice (or more), and here that is combined with the pro/con theme, and really, it's quite clever and well done. (I'm not sure how many PROTRACTORS can be found at construction sites, but I'm not frequently on construction sites, so I can't really say. Still, it seems unlikely, or at least a little outdated. I don't really mind, but I felt I had to mention it.)

22D: Big money maker in Phila. (USMINT) was a good one, and although OBERLIN being the "38A: Ohio college that was the first in the U.S. to award degrees to women" was news to me, it was not new to Frannie, and she dropped it in without crosses. Both of us chuckled at BEESWAX (64A: Business, slangily).

One complaint I have is the clue 45A: Snick and ____ (SNEE). I've only ever heard "snickersnee" to mean a knife (as in "The Mikado"), and a quick search seems to show "snick or snee" as a more common alternate. It does exist as clued, so I must cede, but I don't like it. There are also maybe a few too many threes, and I've never heard of OEO, but none of that prevented a pretty easy finish.

Overall, a decent Tuesday.

- Horace

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013, Jeff Chen and Angela Olson Halsted


Nice, simple theme of an R progression with Raid, Read, Ride, Road, and Rude. I enjoyed assigning clues to either Jeff or Angela as I went along: CUTER (14A: Cuddlier, say) = Angela; NOLANRYAN (33D: All-time career record-holder [by a lot!] for strikeouts) = Jeff. Too stereotyped? Yes, but can't a guy have some fun while he's doing a Monday puzzle? C'mon, cut me some slack! In fact, I'm gonna take it to the next level - BEERS (31A: Coors and Corona) (Come on, Jeff, you gotta step it up a notch) and GAMS (57D: Pinup's legs) = Jeff. PINK (63A: Flamingo's color) and READINTO (28A: Find a subtext of) = Angela.

Seriously, though, I enjoyed this one for other reasons, too. Like I said, the theme was simple and clean, and RAIDTHEFRIDGE (20A: Get a midnight snack, say) and RUDEAWAKENING (53A: Unpleasant shock) are both really nice 13s. Not really anything groan-worthy. And yes, I'm including YUK (48D: Big laugh), I kind of liked that one, actually. FLAMEWAR (39D: Nasty online arguement) is awesome.

It had a lot of sports-related clues, but I also like the symmetrical musical answers of STAFF (1A: Five lines on sheet music) and RESTS (67A: Pauses on sheet music), with the bonus half-musical answer FRETOVER (5D: Worry about).

Overall, an enjoyable Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, July 14, 2013, Daniel A. Finan


A clever puzzle which lost some of it's appeal when solving on an electronic device, I think. We have a "$" symbol, but not a "¢" symbol, so following the directions in a note accompanying the puzzle, we entered the letters to make the Across clues correct and let the downs fall as they may. For example, CAIHONHAND (3D: Some liquid assets) made me wish we had the paper edition. The answer, obviously, is "Cash on hand," with the I from the across where the S should be. Inelegant.

Frannie did most of the fill on this one. Horace's contribution was the realization of the need for a dollar sign and its composition of an I and an S or C. The force of the theme (Show Me the Money) was strong in this one, with a number of clues and answers related to money in addition to the themed items. I counted at least 20 such, but some of the ones I include in the group (93A. Holiday attraction at a mall SANTA) could be open to debate.

If it were up to me (H), there would be no money. Don't ask me how anything would work, because I don't know. All I know is that they figured it out in the fantasy world of Star Trek, so I figure somebody can figure it out for us here, too. All it really does is cause trouble anyway, so what's the big deal with getting rid of it?

But I'll spare you any further ranting, and get back to the situation at hand with some of the entries we liked the best such as 100D. Unionize? (MARRY) and the pair 79D. See 77-down and 77D. South of 79 down? / which turned out to be PARIS and SUD. A very good value for our dollar.

~Horace & Frannie

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday, July 13, 2013, Byron Walden


Pretty nice, tough Saturday puzzle. Lots of deceptive clues, like 7A: Main means of defense? (SQUIDINK). Early on I thought of the "Bounding Main," but I kept trying to come up with human means of defense at sea. Once QUINCE (8D: It might be in a jam) fell in, it really couldn't have been anything else. Didn't completely love (or, possibly, understand) 16A: Opted to duck (PUNTEDON), and LIMORIDE as a "18A: Prom amenity" didn't seem perfect. Not everyone going to the prom gets a limo (I guess I think of "amenities" as somehow free or included...), but I guess it's fine. In short, that NE corner was somewhat tough, even though we got DERBINGLE (11D: "White Christmas" singer, informally) with only a couple crosses. And we loved the Emerson quote.

Overall, the top went fairly quickly, but the bottom took some work. DRESSSUITS (47A: They're off on casual Fridays), for example, was first "sport coats" and then "dress codes" before we finally got it right. And we weren't familiar with MARINES being called 37D: Devil dogs, so that didn't help. We had just recently looked up the "Levant," so we got NEAREAST without difficulty, but the exact name of OTTERPOPs (52A: Frozen treat with Alexander the Grape as one of its flavors) had to be spelled out for us. Tried "Freez Pop" as a wild guess, but OzE didn't really make sense for "50D: A heavy metal band may have it." (ORE)

Coincidentally, the ATNO of Tungsten was a crucial part of the dénouement in a mystery we just watched the other day. Funny how things come together.

Enjoyed 44A: Dark green? (LUCRE), but we were hoping for more from 45A: Automotive plural selected in a 2011 promotion (PRII). I have no idea what that refers to (aside, of course, from the car itself). I am also unfamiliar with POI as a 25A: Pounded side, but, well, sometimes it's nice to learn things from the grids.

Overall, a good challenge.

- Horace

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013, Matt Ginsberg


Frannie really ought to be writing this, as she broke the code, which allowed us to finish the NE corner that had been holding us back. "KEY/PURE/ICE/UNDER/OWED." Nice. It reminds us of a story one of my brothers brought back from college one day called "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut," (Look! We included a link!) which is the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" told by using completely different words. I looked and looked at the three answers we had - KEY, UNDER, OWED - but nothing made any sense. Only, I guess, after Frannie got DRIVERS (44D: Those who should follow the advice in the sounded-out answers to the five starred clues), did she put it all together. And getting PURE (22A: *100%) and ICE (*Water cooler) really blew that corner apart.

The rest of the puzzle went pretty quickly. I threw in JUSTADROP (1A: "Not much at all for me, please"), JACKPOT (1D: Something good to hit), and SWISSALPS (39A: Skiing mecca) without hesitation. LAZYSUSAN (67A: Revolutionary invention for restaurants?) and CRANKCASE (17A: What gets the shaft?) took a little longer, but the payoff was worth it. We wanted "war torn" for WARWORN (40D: Like Europe in 1945), but the W obviously had to be in OWED for 55A: *Had charges. I also put in "weaker sex" at first, but was happy to change it for GENTLESEX (34A: Women, old-fashionedly) when my error became obvious.

Funny to have NODOZ (53D: Cramming aid) in two days in a row, and there was a bit of technical stuff we didn't know, like DICOTS (6D: Daisies and the like, botanically) and AGOUTIS (12D: Relatives of guinea pigs), but they all worked themselves out. It's lucky I remembered TSR (25A: Co. that introduced Dungeons & Dragons) from earlier puzzles. I played the game in the early '80s, but I never would have thought to think who put it out back then. Games were either from Milton Bradley or Avalon Hill, as far as I was concerned.

Overall, a decent Friday. Somewhat odd to have a theme, of sorts, and maybe a tad on the easy side, but decent.

- Horace

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013, Henry Hook


Loved it! Some very interesting factoids, like ENID being a 14A: U.S. city named for a Tennyson character. The town, by the way, is Enid, Oklahoma. The story given on the Oklahoma State Library page is that a railroad official, upon arriving, asked what the station was named. He was told "Skeleton Station," which he found unacceptable. He said that no one would want to live in a town called Skeleton, so he renamed it after a character in a book he had read on the way there, Tennyson's "Idylls of the King."

The first theme answer, too, was enlightening for us. Some say that the three-ball symbol derives from the Medici family crest, because the Medici were in control in Lombardy, when and where "pawn shop" or "Lombard" banking first originated. The Medici crest has various numbers of "balls," or, I've also heard, "pills," because "medici" in Italian, means "doctors." Another story is that the three gold balls were originally three flat coins on a table, but were made into spheres to better attract attention. Whatever the origin, we didn't even know the symbol existed!

So with a start like that, it's got to be good, right? Right. So much interesting fill! Loved the anagram/cryptic clue for EPISCOPAL (10D: Pepsi-cola mix?), and although I didn't love INONE (9D: Combined) when I wrote it in (two words, seemed a little clunky...), by the time I filled in INTWO (3D: Halved), I immediately looked again at the constructor's name. I'll be watching for you in the future, Henry Hook!

Who knew BISMARCK (39D: State capital whose site was visited by Lewis and Clark) had a C in it? (Yes, it really was named for Otto von Bismarck!) or that those multi-ball toys were called NEWTONSCRADLE? (52A: Gizmo often with five balls that demonstrates conservation of momentum and energy.) (If we embedded photos and videos into our blog posts, this one would be chock full of them!)

The only slight drawback to this grid that I can think of is the spelling of YOWZAH (44D: "Holy moly!") - both of us would leave off the H - but, well, it's no big thing.

Fabulous puzzle.

- Horace

p.s. Oh, and how 'bout 12D: Early bird? (EGG)!! So much good stuff....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013, Ed Sessa


We enjoyed the theme of "really" variants. It reminded us of our as-yet-unperformed play in one act called "Hello." It's kind of hard to explain, without creating a whole crossword grid around it, but take our word for it, it is similar in theme, but much more involved and way better. (Just kidding, Mr. Sessa!)

1A: Venomous African snake (MAMBA) was a gimme, because we caught a documentary about the black mamba snake (and the woman who hunts them down) twice in the past year or so. Never watched it all the way through, but watched it enough to know that their kill rate, without antivenom, is 100%. Not a serpent you want to mess around with.

Anywhoo, what else... Did SAAB (10A: Former Swedish subsidiary of General Motors) buy itself back? Who knew? Another thing we learned from this is that I am a fire sign (14A: ARIES and 36A: LEO) (I'll leave it to you to guess which one). To that I say, as 16A: Krabappel of toondom (EDNA) would, "Meh."

I liked NOTBYAMILE (33D: "Wa-a-ay off!"), but not NSEC (65A: Tiny time interval: Abbr.). Also liked the CRABBY/CABBY combo. It was fine for a Wednesday. Nothing earth-shattering, but not bad.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013, Kurt Krauss


The only clue I helped Frannie with at all in this one was 14A: Jesse who pitched in a record 1,252 major-league games (OROSCO). Had she known that, the time would have been at least five minutes faster, and I wouldn't have seen the puzzle at all until looking it over at the end. I'm pretty sure I had a Jesse Orosco baseball card. I wonder if it's worth much, now that he has a major-league record? I wonder if I could find mine, even if it were? But I digress...

I like the theme of missing middle initials. Which sounds more strange to you, MARYBLIGE or ROBERTLEE? I think it's a toss-up. The other two you could probably get away with in conversation, but not those two.

Frannie liked the Biblical trio (notice I didn't say "Trinity") of ADAM (22D: Genesis man), EVE (50A: Genesis woman), and ABEL (Genesis son), but she didn't love ACERB (5D: Sharp tasting), having first tried "acrid," which probably would have been better. She also thought it odd that NOMAAM (1A: Polite turndown) and NOTI (30D: Claim of innocence), showed up again so soon. "NOMAAM" (27A: Polite denial) and "WHOME" (9D: Words of faux innocence") were both in this past Sunday. And come to think of it, wouldn't that second one have been better in the singular, as "Word of faux innocence?" with "MOI?"

OK, I guess that's enough. Perhaps the solver will comment on it herself, eventually.

- Horace

Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013, Randy Sowell


That's right. DNF. The damned Bible did me in. Had I known Jacob's father-in-law, I wouldn't have needed to know ATTLEE (41A: British P.M. after Churchill) or BARA (45A: Theda of the silents) (??), but as I knew neither of those two for sure, and I certainly didn't know LABAN, it was a DNF through and through. I also didn't know EPPS (1A: "House" actor Omar), but that was irrelevant.

Enjoyed seeing VONNEGUT (39D: "Slaughterhouse-Five" novelist) in the grid, and the "rotating" theme was pretty sweet. All the theme answers were solid. I also liked the clue for CANINE (32A: Dog or dogtooth), but ELHI (16A: Grades 1-12) reared its ugly head again, and I don't really think of a CHORD as being 12D: Part of a guitar riff. Riffs, to me, are more of a single melodic line. I suppose a chord could be thrown in every once in a while... still, not my favorite.

Other than that, not much to say.

- Horace

p.s. Rex Parker and we are often, I think, on the same page with puzzles, but not today. He rated this one "Easiest Monday of All Time." Welp... not for everyone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013, Joel Fagliano



This was a very enjoyable puzzle, which definitely did elicit an AHA (125D: What this puzzle may make you say) from both of us. Frannie figured out half of the trick, by getting things like MOUNTRUSH (6D: It's known for its big busts), but I took it away from her before she was able to check 60A: ---, which, of course, turned out to be HMORE. This realization led us to give up on Ford as a possible answer to 1D: President who was not elected, and put in the also accurate and better fitting FILLMORE (w/26A). Once that was broken, we had the last four letters of all the "---" clues, and that sped things up a bit. Still, it had taken us a good long while to get to that point.

The fill was pretty clean throughout, with several nice, humorous clues. Frannie put in Embalm early for 51D: Treat like a pharaoh?, and the real answer, ENTOMB, is almost as good. I liked learning the word ECOTAGE (34D: Environmental extremists' acts), and I didn't know that it was an ATOM that the woman was holding in the Emmy statuette (I had "ball" in there for a while).

The last area for us was the crossing of SUNG (90A: Belted out) (I had "sang," which loused things up badly), AVEO (96A: Former Chevy subcompact) (Could NOT remember the second letter - L? R?) and the one that Frannie finally shouted out when I changed "sang" to "sung" - LOUVRE (76D: Where the Code of Hammurabi is displayed). Another interesting factoid learned grâce à le NYTX!

Loved 123D: Take the wrong way? (ROB), and 20A: Spanish skating figure (OCHO) was a very tricky one! All in all, a fun Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013, Martin Ashwood-Smith


Tough puzzle. Not even the presence of both my Dad (see yesterday) and one of my brothers could help today. My brother is a chemist, and I thought that he might be able to help with 21A: Neighbor of Telescopium (ARA). He did help, I guess, by telling us that Telescopium is not an element. Turns out it's a "minor southern constellation created in the 18th century by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, a French astronomer and student of the southern skies. Its name is a Latinized form of the Greek word for telescope. It was created in honor of the telescope's invention." You wanna know what I find most interesting about that? "It was created..." Because, really, that's all they are - just creations. Utterly meaningless creations. And this one (they've got a map on Wikipedia, whence I drew that quote) looks nothing like a telescope. If you were going to go so far as to create a constellation in honor of the telescope's invention, wouldn't you pick stars that kind of made a long rectangle?

OK. Sorry. I just had to get that out of my system. ARA, by the way, is one of the constellations described by Ptolemy, so it, at least, has some street cred.

Tried freeMARKET first for OPENMARKET (15A: Its prices are determined by competition), which slowed us down a bit, but BENJI (7D: Dog star) still fit, and I put it right in. After nothing else came to us in the whole NE, I took both answers out, and we started over completely from scratch in that area.

EDDIEMONEY (60A: "Two Tickets to Paradise" singer) was, sadly, one of the first certain gimmies. I would have been happier to come up with the 38A: 1978 Punk classic (IWANNABESEDATED) first, but I was stuck running through the entire catalogs of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and even Elvis Costello. Finally, once "I Wanna B..." appeared, Frannie and I said the title in unison. All we can say in our defense is that "DDT did a job" on us...

PERMANENTRECORD (39A: Transcript, e.g.) could have been clued with something like "I hope you know that this will go down on your ____," and we could have had a real nice Punk theme going.

I thought 61A: Domino getting played (FATS), was a bit of a stretch, but I loved the next musical clue 62A: They take up some measures (RESTS).

It was a tough, slow, slog, but in the end, it was satisfying to finish, even though it took a couple of tries, because the string of letters ATOMEGOYAN (35D: "Chloe" director, 2009) is a complete mystery to me. I don't know if it's one name or two, and if it's two, I have no idea where to split it up. We got hung up on the OBE (56A: Honor for Harry Potter's creator: Abbr.) cross, first trying "D" and then "K," because, well, why not? Call it a DNF if you want, it's all the same to us.

- Horace

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013, Paula Gamache


Today we were with my Dad while doing the puzzle. He also enjoys crosswords, and, more importantly, he knows his U. S. geography. When we called out 1A: Utah’s ____ Range, he suggested the Uinta, but when told that that wasn’t long enough, he offered up WASATCH without missing a beat, which, of course, was correct. How many of us could name two mountain ranges in Utah off the top of our head? And yet, when doing his own puzzle (not the NYT) he will ask things like "Is 'ERA' a stat for pitchers?" or "Is 'mullet' a kind of hairstyle from the '80s?" Well, we've all got our strengths and weaknesses. And one of his strengths today gave us a great start in the NW! The answer led immediately to WASABI (1D: Condiment that can make your eyes water), AROMAS (2D: Coffee and fresh-baked cookies have them), STAINS (3D: Adds color to) and others.

The ISSO/DRT/YAPSAT line (we somehow missed that 28A: Richard Gere title role) is ugly, but I’ll let it pass because the central fifteen is so crazy. It’s not often you get to cram “JULYIVMDCCLXXVI” through the middle of a grid.

The rest of the fill was a bit ECCENTRIC (33D: Odd), but we liked a few of them. UBERGEEK (36D: Epithet for a computer whiz) was funny, and I like the old-timey formality of AFTERSIX (12D: When to wear a cocktail dress, traditionally). OTTOII (45D: Holy Roman emperor known as “the Red”) right beside MAUMAU (46D: Fighters for Kenyan independence) was pretty rough, but we got the crosses, so it’s all fair, I guess.

- Horace

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013, Barry Franklin and Sara Kaplan


This one fell very quickly after the main theme was sussed out. I had thought it might have a patriotic bent, and when 57A: Date on which 17-, 24-, and 36-Across died (THEFOURTHOFJULY) came along, well, it wasn't too much trouble to figure out the rest.

I brazenly put in fIEf for 15A: A title may come with one, but LIEN was a better answer. It was also nice to be reminded of TUSCANY (41A: Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance), where we spent two lovely weeks last year at just about this time. 45A: Pump for a heart, e.g. (ANALOGY) was a nice one, and 11D: Pilot's place (GASRANGE) had me stumped right up until the end.

Frannie knew EDWARDI (27A: English king nicknamed Longshanks) right off the bat, which also helped.

In all, it seemed very easy for a Thursday, but maybe Will's figuring that many people are off today, and they might think of trying the puzzle, so he doesn't want to scare them away. But honestly, who's going to leave the barbecue to go in and get the puzzle? Probably not many people.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday, July 2, 2013, Pamela Klawitter


I kind of liked this theme of store varieties being circled in the corners. It seems a little unusual to me, but it's not very obtrusive.

The grid had some clunkers like ENSILES (24A: Preserves on a farm), AGLARE (49D: Shining brightly), SLIER (54A: More guileful), and YSHAPE (45D: What a slingshot or a wishbone has), and there was more ISA, ABAT, ULT and ATOR than there really ought to be. Also, Jim Beam is a bourbon, not a rye whiskey.

I liked 21A: Vandyke locale (CHIN), and the puzzle did have both TAL and AFB, so that's cool.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013, Daniel Raymon


A fun little anagram theme, yielding some amusing nonsense phrases. YEMENENEMY (18A: Adversary on the Arabian Peninsula?) is fun to say over and over and over, and NEPALPLANE (57A: Part of an air force in south-central Asia?) is just absurd. Do they even have an air force? The big, two-parter, ALGERIA REGALIA (38A: With 40-Across, royal emblems in North Africa?) was very nice as well. It's just a pity that DEMANDS TEENAGE couldn't have been worked out somehow. But that's not really a fair criticism. There were no theme verticals, and the long fill that did run vertically was quite nice. PILGRIMAGE (30D: The fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam) was interesting both word-wise and clue-wise.

The rest of the fill was easy, but really quite clean. Enjoyed the double "Hairspray alternative" clues of MOUSSE and GEL, and it's especially nice since "Hairspray" was an answer in yesterday's grid. FANG (61A: One drawing blood) was fun, as was 36D: They're the pits (SEEDS). And it looks like I'll have to do some Googling after this to see why GOYA might have been called 27D: "The Naked Maja" or "The Clothed Maja." Very interesting.

Frannie sometimes complains about the intra-referencial clues, but today I found them to be fine, especially 21D: Places where people 36-Across (Get married (SAYIDO)) (ALTARS). Once, in a puzzle by Brendan Emmett Quigley, something was just clued by citing two other clues. Like "35-Down 15-Across" or something like that. I enjoy that kind of thing.

Anywho, I thought this was a fine Tuesday puzzle. I don't believe we've seen Mr. Raymon before as a constructor, but I am now looking forward to seeing his byline again.

- Horace

p.s. Those are just both paintings by Goya, not names for him. Sorry for any confusion.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday, Jul 1, 2013, Patrick McIntyre


Nice theme of SHOWDOWNS (21 Decisive confrontations ... or what the answers to the six starred clues are?), or "shows" that run "down" in the grid. Seven theme answers - eight(!) if you count the bonus ACTS (38D: Parts of musicals). That's kind of a lot of theme material, which is great, but the fill is less than sparkling. Well, it's not universally bad, by any stretch, but I might be over-sensitive to things like EAVED (59A: Having a roof overhang), TMS (20A: Regd. names), OHO (47A: "Well, looky here!"), and YOO (48A: "____-hoo!"). And sometimes on Monday the clues are just so ridiculous. Witness 71A: Car gear for backing up (REVERSE). That word is worthy of a more interesting, late-week clue. Sigh. And how 'bout 36A: The second "W" of W.W. II ? For whom is that not a gimme? Well... I suppose on Monday you need a few gimmes...

It's nice, on the other hand, to see LYNN (58A: ____ Swann, Super Bowl X M.V.P.) and SHACKLE (7A: Prisoner's leg restraint) and TROMPE (1D: ____ l'oeil (optical illusion)) are both fun words. And it's kind of interesting (to me) that the frequently-seen ETA received a clue I've not seen before - 5D: Announcement over a plane's P.A. I also liked the clue for BRAT (39D: Baby sitter's headache). And who doesn't love being reminded of SATYRS (74A: Lecherous goat-men)?

I sat down to write today thinking that I would slam this puzzle, but after doing the writing, and reviewing it once more, I have decided that it was AOK for a Monday.

- Horace