Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013, Josh Knapp


I like this one more and more as I review it. It pushed back at me during the whole solve, but it was a satisfying struggle. Loved the pair of "fall" clues - 12D: It opens during the fall (PARACHUTE) and 67A: Fall fallout, some believe (ORIGINALSIN). And many of the other 11s were good as well. KINGSRANSOM (17A: Fortune), JACKSQUAT (14D: Nada), BLOCKADES (13D: Some trade barriers) (very nice!), and the wonderful MAGINOTLINE (63A: W.W. II defense). And that's just a sampling. There were many more clever entries. 23A: Hudson River school? was nicely deceptive, especially for one who has taken art history, but are there really any SHADS still in that river? Didn't GE pollute it back into the stone age?

For a while I wanted "A pos." for 61A: Many a donor, in brief, but although I didn't remember exactly what it was, I knew that the "54D: Sporty Lotus model" was a woman's name, and "_pise" didn't look very good. And speaking of that quadrant, is OMEGA used in some kind of math as a 52A: Resistance figure? I suppose I could ask someone from the 3D: Quick set. HAH! Those morons.... Oh, and speaking of morons, I've never heard YOS used to mean "5D: His, modern-style?" Who says that? [But wait! It's not possessive, it's plural! Hi! = Yo! ... very nice!]

This is the fifth puzzle we've reviewed by Mr. Knapp, all of them Thursday or later. He's always challenging, but fair, and I think this is my favorite one of his yet. I look forward to the next!

- Horace

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013, David Steinberg


After yesterday's whirlwind, almost any puzzle would be a letdown, but seeing young Mr. Steinberg's name gave me hope. Overall, it was a good one, but I am not without a few complaints. The first of which is any mention at all of MICHELEBACHMANN (1A: First female candidate to win the Ames Straw Poll). I guess that was a historic event, but so was the fire-bombing of Dresden. They're not parallel in any way except that they both conjure up bad thoughts. Anyway, I first tried Hillary, knowing that it couldn't be true, and then tried "Michelle Bachman," before a few crosses corrected my misspelling. THELATELATESHOW (17A: It airs in the morning, ironically) was another answer that came very quickly, as was URBANDICTIONARY (61A: Big source for modern slang). I'm a little surprised that Mr. Shortz accepted that as fill, actually, but maybe he's never really delved very deeply into the resource. And if you, dear reader, are not familiar with it, all I can say is, tread lightly.

So with three fifteens quickly in place, the rest of the fill went pretty easily. It also seemed like we were dialed into this one. ITHACAN (2D: Odysseus, e.g.) was easy with a couple crosses - wasn't his home town just mentioned a week or two ago in a puzzle? And even EPAULET (27A: Possible rank indicator) came without trouble. The same was not true, however, of 47D: Emulates Homer. We were, of course, thinking of Mr. Simpson or the poet, without much success. Eventually, Frannie had PA_NTS, and we finally got it. Incidentally, Homer's house on Prout's Neck is being (or has been) refurbished, and is available for tours through the Portland Art Museum. It's in a lovely setting, overlooking the sea, and the rocks out in front (or is that in back?) were the setting for at least a few of Homer's more famous works.

Favorite clues? Well, 6D: Re-serve judgement? (LET) was right up there, and I loved the inclusion of the word BILIOUS, with it's literal clue: 8D: Ill-humored, and I liked the word AFLUTTER (37A: Like some lovers' hearts) too. "9D: Norwegian Star port of call" (ACAPULCO) was nicely misleading. I was a little shocked when "Oslo" would have left four blank squares! There were lots of good clues, really, but there seemed also to be lots of abbreviations, which I don't love. I know they're a fact of life in crosswords, but there were at least 13, and I'm not even sure whether or not that includes USBPORT (43D: Modern mouse hole?), but really, that one was fine.

It seems Frannie just looked up EGERIA (7D: Female adviser) after seeing it in a puzzle very recently, but neither of us could remember it, so again, we needed all the crosses. Perhaps the next time we see it we'll know it. And speaking of never remembering - things like MST (1D: Yellowstone setting: Abbr.) seem to get me without fail! I don't wear a watch, and I guess I'm just never thinking about time!

Overall this felt a little on the easy side for a Friday, and a little uneven (XESOUT is not a favorite), but it's hard to know if I'm judging it fairly, coming, as it does, on the heels of one of my favorite puzzles of the year.

On to Saturday!

- Horace

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013, Timothy Polin


"Auntie Em! Auntie Em!"

This is why I do puzzles, to run into things like this (and today's syndicated!). I pity the fool who solves this on paper. One of the first clues we plunked down was the obvious answer to 17A: Exonerated [Really!? How did I miss that? - H] boxer who is the subject of a Bob Dylan song, but very soon after that, Frannie was telling me that it looked problematic up there. Sure enough, that whole top was a mess. Many things seemed certain, and they fit, but nothing meshed with anything else. In desperation, I took out some of "Hurricane Carter" and put in "Mouth" for 12D: Be sassy, with "off," and "Ochre" (even this variant spelling worked to help figure it out!) for 13D: Autumnal hue, as both seemed very likely. Luckily for me, U and H are in the middle of those words, and suddenly, it was clear that we were not in Kansas anymore.

Well, there was one other thing that helped. The central EYE (and isn't it nice that this word is palindromic!) had gone in quite early, with "7D: Giant Ferris wheel on the Thames," (LONDON EYE), but that interfered with "Katrina," which we knew to be right for 29A: ____ and the Waves ("Walking on Sunshine" band), so I was already on my guard. When EYE OFNEWT (36A: Ingredient in a witch's potion) put the T of "Est" (39D: Ending for a record-breaker) first instead of last, well, maybe that was part of us getting it, too.

The concept is so beautiful that I wouldn't care much about the fill, but the fact is, it's still good! DEMYHR (9A: Made ends meet?), for example - that's good cluing and good fill! WEDYENOH (38D: Green, juicy fruit) is nice, too. And what about TSYRT (50D: Part of an affair to remember?)! That's good stuff! [For more talk about the fill, by Mr. Polin himself, see the "Wordplay" blog, linked to on the sidebar. - H]

Luckily for me, I had Frannie here to get things like OMERTA (6D: Enforced silence) and NUNCIO (45D: Ambassador from the Holy See), otherwise, I would have been out in the holy sea. And speaking of Frannie, at the very end, when we finished in the NW with THESAURI (2D: Hustling is the same as cheating, according to these authorities), I asked out loud, "What is "The Sauri?" I was expecting some known government agency, or, well, something known! Frannie pronounced it for me as the plural of "thesaurus." D'oh!

This puzzle was great. This is what separates the NYT puzzle from the rest of the bunch. This couldn't have been generated by computer, this was hand-crafted. The grid has a nice swirl in the middle of it, the central "Eye" works beautifully in all four directions, and it spins counter-clockwise, like any good storm should. There's extra bonus fill with "Katrina," TYPHOON, BROOKLYNCYCLONE, and "Hurricane Carter," and to top it off, it's Hurricane season!

Those solving both this NYT daily and the syndicated puzzle (by Patrick Blindauer) today (and I know at least one who is), are doing two of the year's finest puzzles. Thank you, creators, and thank you Will Shortz.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013, Erik Agard


Well, how can you not like a puzzle with this theme? The only drawback was that once I got 1A: With 67-Across, man whose 1930 salary was $80,000 (BABE) (RUTH), the other theme answers were obvious, and 45 free squares on a Wednesday makes for a very easy solve. Well, I hesitated briefly on 38A: Man whose 1930 salary was $75,000 (PRESIDENTHOOVER) when "Herbert Hoover" didn't fit, but it was sorted out soon enough. 17- and 60-Across were immediate.

As for the rest of the fill, I thought it was pretty good. There was a lot of "semi-normal" fill that still might qualify as crosswordese, like ETON (35A: School for James Bond) (I definitely learned this trivia from doing these puzzles), OAHU (33A: Obama's birthplace) (ditto), EGRET (41A: Snowy wader) (didn't learn this from crosswords, but jesus, how often do you see this?), ALES (49A: Newcastle Brown and others) (unusual-ish clue, but still, it's common, and here pluralized, which makes it even more crosswordsy).

Some stuff was nice, though, like STATUTE (27A: It's the law), and ARMADAS (45A: Battlers at sea). I also liked SERENITY (20A: Peace and quiet) and HORRID (52A: Deplorable). And, surprisingly, perhaps, I enjoyed AARGH (25D: "Good grief!"), although I thought the clue was a tad tame for the exclamation.

On balance, I thought this was a fine Wednesday. Fun theme, ok fill.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013, Jacob McDermott


It seems we just saw this theme very recently - last week maybe. Anyway, what does that matter, really? It's a theme you see somewhat frequently, and here it's done in a nice pinwheel symmetry, with a central revealer. Not bad.

Some good stuff in here. I like SCHWA (24D: Vowel sound represented by an upside-down "e"), even though the clue might as well have been "Type in "SCHWA,"" and I like the word BOSH (49D: Claptrap) and its clue, even though no one I know says either one. I'm going to make an effort to use "claptrap" more.

There's interesting trivia with 33D: How many times Laurence Olivier won a Best Actor Oscar (ONCE), but PEEVE (46A: Annoy) crossing TEED (41D: Angry, with "off") is a bit of a peeve, and ticked me off a little. I don't love MOPER or ENGR, and it's almost angering to see LENTO, which gave us such trouble on Saturday with it's clue of "Leisurely," get such simple treatment here (8D: Slow, musically). The theme answers are all decent, though, and overall, it's not a bad Tuesday, I don't think.

- Horace

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013, Ian Livengood


Right in my wheelhouse, and fun. Love seeing LEGIT (1A: For real, in slang) in there, and I also liked the mini-theme of single letters in certain clues - PLANB (20A: Backup strategy), EASYA (23A: Course that's a cinch), HIGHC (66A: Note an alto is unlikely to hit), and DPLUS (59A: Pretty poor grade). I suppose you could also count ITUNES (4D: ____ Store (source of many 99¢ downloads) in that category as well. Impressive.

The real theme of LOWHANGINGFRUIT (7D: Simple things to pick ... or what 5-, 11-, 29- and 38-Down have?) was pretty nice as well. Seems like a lot of theme squares, too - 53 theme squares out of 189 total filled boxes? Is that high? It seems it. Yet the fill was quite clean. Sure, you get APER and ULEE, but really, it was pretty damn good.

Fun Monday.

- Horace

p.s. Mr. Livengood has the syndicated today, too. That happens somewhat frequently, I've noticed. Maybe that's the minimum amount of time that Shortz has decided must pass between publications by the same constructor.

Sunday, August 25, 2013, Victor Barocas



Kind of a nice little trick in this one! It took us over a half an hour to realize what was going on, maybe 45 minutes, but once we did, it was over in no time. We wanted JUN/IPER right away for 37A: Berry used to make gin, but it was quite a while before we saw exactly how to put it in. I mean, it seems straightforward (or, well... crooked...) now, but we weren't sure what to do with the rest of the across. Having the Downs turn into it, and creating capital cities with the parts, well, that's pretty damn cool. Plus, BOSTON gets in, which we like.

My favorite clue might have been 103D: It's been shortening for over 100 years (CRISCO). Very nice. 21A: Lump in one's throat (UVULA) didn't seem quite right, though. I mean, it's not really a lump. It's more of an appendage. "Lymph node," that can be a lump. But, of course, that didn't fit.

Hands up, who else put in "Overtures" for BARITONES (19A: Rossini's William Tell and others)? That really slowed things down in the NW. And I couldn't see the joke in 24A: Rush job? (ROCKCONCERT) until almost the entire thing was filled in. Heh. I blame it on still being a little worn out by the Saturday puzzle...

Overall, I liked this Sunday puzzle more than most Sundays. Sometimes it just seems like a chore to fill in the big grid, but this one, while definitely on the easy side (once you got the trick), was still clever enough to be fun.

- Horace

Saturday, August 24, 2013, Frederick J. Healy


Miracle of miracles, we finished it! But for the first time since this blog began, we are a day late in posting, because we didn't finish it until this morning, when we sat side by side and worked it out together.

In our defense, we were both preoccupied yesterday by preparations for a large gathering at our house, and during that gathering, we handed the puzzle to a friend to look at, to see if he could add anything to the, at-that-time-little-filled-in top section. He didn't, but probably sat looking at it for about an hour. In any event, once the party was over, and our heads cleared a bit, we got it all to come together.

Looking at it now, things like TAKENOPRISONERS (20A: Be ruthless) seem so obvious, but almost none of the Downs came easily. STEINMART (9D: Chain of off-price department stores) (?) Never heard of it. TOSSDOWN (9D: Guzzle) ... would have preferred "gulp down." ETHAN (2D: Brand of literature) Never heard of him. NOOKS (3D: Where seekers may find hiders) ... tough.

In short, we had troubles up there. I think it was ONCUE (18D: As if scripted), and pure guesses at GHANA (10D: Home of the world's largest artificial lake) and FOSSE (13D: "Pippin" Tony winner) that finally allowed us to get the necessary toe-hold. 

The entire bottom, by comparison, was done fairly quickly, partly because 53A: Dual diner dish (APPLEPIEALAMODE) was just in (almost) last Friday! OK, it was just "Pie a la mode" and it was clued as "Hot-and-cold menu item" by Dana Motley, but still ... it rang a bell and went right in. And once that was in, SPARETIRE (28D: Likely result of excess 17- and 53-Across) (almost a Satruday theme!) seemed somewhat obvious. (It didn't help enough for us to get 17A: Malted alternatives, right away, though!) 

Loved STENOPAD (35D: One bound to hold notes?) and AUDIT (49D: Tax burden?), but I'm not entirely sure that the clue for RAKES (11D: Ground crew gear?) needed that question mark. 

We had a tough time with this one, but it was very satisfying to finish it, even a day late. Perhaps circumstances made it a bit tougher than it otherwise would have been, but really, it's hard to say. 

- Horace

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013, Ian Livengood


Well, after I went through the acrosses and downs before handing it over to Frannie, there was precious little for her to go on. When she handed it back, it was three-quarters done! Together, we filled in the rest, ending in the difficult SE.

In addition to not giving Frannie much to work on in the beginning, I also hobbled her with some wrong answers. But can you blame me for thinking that "1A: Human-powered transport," might have been "bicycle" instead of PEDICAB? It's cool that both fit. I've got to believe Mr. Livengood knew that.

TSARISM (21A: Belief opposed by Communists) isn't the greatest word, but it is made better by its proximity to certain TOOLS (22A: Hammer and sickle). And Huygens will no doubt enjoy the symmetrical BRAPADS (9A: Lingerie enhancements) and SEXTAPE (57A: Potentially embarrassing video) (!). Also very good fill, I thought, was RIDESHOTGUN (40A: Not take a back seat to anyone?).

Did not enjoy WHOLEBIT (36D: Everything, with "the"). Who says that? And the definition for EPICWIN (56A: Improbable victory, in slang) didn't seem quite right, but 7D: Spring figure? (BOBBLEHEAD), 42D: Hides from Indians, maybe? (TEPEE), and 34A: Oral reports? (BURPS) were all satisfying gets. Plus, I learned a few things - JUBA is, apparently, the 25D: Capital of South Sudan, and ARIGATO (15A: Japanese "thanks") doesn't have a B in it. Go figure.

I don't know, it was a decent Friday, I guess. Some stuff I found a little boring (CARLOANS, OPENSECRET), but other stuff was good. I guess that's how it goes sometimes.

- Horace

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013, Stu Ockman


Well, well, well, if it isn't our old friend Mr. Rebus! I've always got him in the back of my mind on Thursdays, but we filled in so much of this one before figuring it out that I kind of thought he was gone for another week. Still, there was that three-square 12A: "How to Marry a Millionaire" actress. I thought at one point, "Was Mae West in that? And would they really go with just a first name?" And the same in the other corner - Frannie thought "Doesn't that have to be Maria Callas?" But it was 67A: Extremely tight (TOOCLOSETO[CALL]) that finally cracked it open for us. Once that corner was in, all the others were filled in immediately, and I could finally put in the thing that popped into my head immediately for 38A: Audition rebuff (DONT[CALL]USWELL[CALL]YOU). Whew!

One thing that helped to throw me a bit in this one was all the apostrophes. "17A: Suspended avian home," for example, I wanted to be "oriole nest" when I just had a single cross, but it didn't fit. And the "we'll" of "we'll call you" ... well, ok, that's just two apostrophes. Maybe it wasn't that big a deal. But that ORIOLESNEST didn't fall 'til Frannie landed GOSSIP for 7D: It may be full of dirt.

And speaking of Frannie, she dropped in "Marge" right away for 1D: Homer's Muse, which would have been so awesome. Another one she got right away that actually was right was STPAULIGIRL (65A: Commercial figure holding six beer mugs). Not bad.

Overall, pretty good puzzle. Some nice, tricky clues, and some fun or unusual ones, like HET (51A: Worked (up)) and 25A: Superior home?: Abbr. (WIS). We once stopped in Superior and took a little boat ride out onto the lake before heading over to Duluth, and down into Minnesota to visit my brother, but that was long ago, and I frequently can't remember which city is in which state. This will help, hopefully. That same brother, incidentally, might enjoy the stacking of dog clues at 49A: Lhasa ____ and 56A: Pooch, in Paris (APSOS, CHIEN), but me, well, I would have preferred cat clues. (And I'm not talking about the FATCATs and CAT[CALL]s!)

- Horace

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013, Jonathan Gersch


Let's see... where's that theme? I saw a reference to it while I was doing the puzzle, but I didn't see all the "TANs" until now. Interesting. Kind of an odd theme, really, but not bad, I guess.

Aside from NATANT (12D: Floating), UNHAT (21A: Take the top off of, in a way), SURAL (35A: Relating to the calf), and a few names I didn't know, there wasn't much to complain about. (OK, that's not an insignificant amount of stuff, and I didn't even mention WAAC!) Well - I do prefer seeing TASED (51D: Shocked, in a way) with a Z, but I'm really not even sure if it is the preferred spelling or not. Maybe "tased" is British, and maybe that's the "way" referred to in the clue. Probably not. Hmm... when I type "tazed" into Google, it asks me if I meant "tased." But when I tried to write those into Blogger here, it accepted "tazed," but changed "tased" into "based." Inconclusive.

Anywho... MOES (39A: Where Duff Beer is poured) is pretty good, as far as Simpsons references go, and I like the second Star Trek reference in a row this week - SCOTTY (13D: "Star Trek" character who says "Aye" a lot). I also absolutely love INSTANTANEOUSLY (50A: Without delay). I love it when single words span the grid. They are more beautiful, to me, than broken up phrases.

Let's see, what else? OWNS (10A: Defeats regularly, in slang) is a nice, modern usage, and I love the word SINEW (14A: Muscular strength), although I usually think of it as the physical muscle, not what might flow from the muscle. And is NET really best described as "4D: Last figure on an invoice?" I usually think of "net" when I'm thinking of incoming money, not outgoing.

OK, so I have a lot of NITs (58D: Minor complaint), not least of which is that I hate that word. Weird theme, but a lot of it. Some good clues/answers, but a fair amount of esoteric weirdness, names, partials and abbreviations. Let's give it another Simpsons reference - "Meh."

- Horace

Tuesday, August 20, 2013, Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo


A known thematic trick done pretty well here. Starts of strong with an interesting clue for INTO (1A: Digging ... or word after "digging"). Never heard of ARNEL (16A: Synthetic fiber), but I guess I learned it today.

Frannie was instrumental with some nice long ones like PATTYDUKE (9D: Helen Keller's portrayer in "The Miracle Worker") and the very nice TOUSLES (40D: Messes up, as the hair), but she guessed the wrong persona (Jekyll) for 49D: Half of Stevenson's "strange case" (MRHYDE). Me, I didn't even know to what it referred...

Enjoyed SOUSED (53A: Lit), FSTOPS (22A: Camera adjustments), and the somewhat complimentary ETUDES (47D: 27 Chopin works) and SONNET (43A: One of 154 for Shakespeare).  And a nice nod to Spock with 63A: Vulcan mind ____ (MELD).

Oh, and one more thing - ABSSYSTEM (33D: Auto safety system feature, redundantly) I found oddly amusing.

Overall, a decent Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013, Jean O'Conor


Blah. This wasn't my favorite. It was, like last week, a little harder than some Mondays, but largely because of things that were poor. LEAPER (5A: One jumping to conclusions, say), XOUT (23A: Delete with a cross), OSOS (30A: Spanish bears), ARPS (67A: Some Dadaist pieces), AGEONE (11D: Early toddlerhood)... and how 'bout this line - ONA, ORELSE, TOIT. Even the revealer was broken up into two answers.

I admit, though, that the theme was kind of cool, and there seemed to be a ton of it. Maybe that's why the constructor was forced into so many ugly corners.

On the bright side, I enjoyed the clue for TRACED (43A: Like stencils and missing persons), and ADMONISH (2D: Upbraid) and its clue are both quite nice. And speaking of nice, fancy words, did you also enjoy EXIGENT (19D: Demanding immediate attention)?

I also like seeing mention of 3D: Old TV's Captain ____ (KANGAROO). In all, I enjoyed the downs much more than the acrosses. Especially the somewhat unexpected ROB (59D: ____ blind).

Uneven, but not terrible, I guess.

- Horace

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013 - Elizabeth C. Gorski

I'm on the hook for the puzzle review today. Some of the clues were in my line such as 59A French children's song (ALOUETTE), which was crossed, in fact by the (just-ended) 60D Tour de France season (ETE). See also 84A and 103A. I always enjoy the appearance of a Bobbsey twin, NAN (37A), in this case (good luck fitting Flossie into a grid). Nan was in good company: I counted at least 11 other names in the puzzle, from BEENE (82A) to BRONTE (63A).

Some of the other fill was a little IFFIER (39A) including no one's favorite, 2D Represent as a saint, say (ENHALO). ABACI, (105D Counters) as an answer was no prize either, but it was clued in a nicely ambiguous way. 54D _Light and 106A Ski-_ were a couple of FREETHROWs, contributing to a mixed bag overall.

Of course, all this talk of random clues is skirting the issue of the theme. The puzzle's title 'Edginess" is a cute hint at the theme, but getting it didn't seem necessary to solving the puzzle. However, it is pretty cool that the perimeter held the line(s) the way it did. 

No real complaints, but also very little to push my love over the borderline.

~ Frannie

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013, Ed Sessa


Another challenging Saturday, but somehow this seemed less diabolical than yesterday. There were a few gimmies, at least, like RANDALL (12D: Tony with an Emmy), and before that, even, went in ANDANTE (13D: Like many sonatas' second movements), and, of course, TREVINO (40D: The Merry Mex of golf) was a no-brainer. And after that, the long ones eventually worked themselves out. Our solve kind of went from bottom to top. SORRYFORTHEWAIT (54A: Remark after holding someone up) was the first 15 we got, and SIDEWALKARTISTS (36A: Drawers hitting the pavement) went soon after that. It was the little things that took more time today.

MIROS (5D: "Carota" and "Blue II," for two) took every cross. And the clue for the old standby ARENAS (23A: Engagement rings?) was very tricky! 49A: Ear plug? (RADIOAD) was very tough, too! We had something like "_ADI_A_" and I wanted the O for OTTO (52D: Raiders Hall-of-Famer Jim) but "_ADIOA_" just looked so awful that I started to suspect an error. Luckily, Frannie somehow worked out that whole mess while I was having my coffee. Good ol' Frannie.

It was tough, and it was fun to figure some of them out, but some of the fights ended in things like LAPDESK (3D: Clipboard's relative), NITS (7D: Trivial objections), and, sadly, NEEDERS (24D: Indigent individuals). I was thinking of saying MAKEMINEADOUBLE (32A: Strong order?) and chucking the whole puzzle under the bus, but it is saved from a mediocre review by one clue - 18D: Mad person's question (WHATMEWORRY). How can you dislike a puzzle that has that?

- Horace

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013, Dana Motley


OMG. Let's consider first of all the clue 24D: Summer symbol? You see that and you think of flowers and birds, and maybe beach-related items, and eventually, when you get five or six crosses that you feel good about, you realize that the answer is PLUSSIGN. It is then that you realize you are solving a puzzle created by a different... a deviant mind. Another example might be "9D: Reagan was seen a lot in them." You think of movies, articles of clothing, newsreels, but the answer is EIGHTIES.

This puzzle was devilish. PREEMPTED (32D: Broken into on TV?) is another crazy-looking answer.  We had _REE... for a while and all we could think of was "Free" something. The divided double-E is genius.

We were looking for tricky clues from the get-go. Franny plunked down BALLERINAS (26A: Ones keeping on their toes?) without crosses, and I did the same with ONIONRINGS (17A: Circular side?), but others took almost every cross and then some. The toughest intersection might have been IRIS (55A: Color also known as endive blue) (really? By whom?) and PROSES (43D: Talks tediously). That's not a definition for "prose" that I was aware of, but it is the seventh entry for the word in my Random House, so, well, ok then. I'm not up on my tiny units of measure, either, so MIL (57D: 254,000 angstroms) took two crosses and a guess.

All my complaining aside, however, this is what we expect and, indeed, want from Friday and Saturday puzzles - a struggle. Thanks, Dana Motley, for an hour and a half of challenging enjoyment.

- Horace

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013, Jeff Chen


Again with the grossness, and this time right off the bat! Frannie said she immediately thought of WIPE for 1A: Napkin, e.g., but she didn't want it to be right. But after that, it perked right up. Loved the clues for NEAR (15A: Warm, say), REPOS (37A: Some seizures, for short), and BANJO (39A: Something a picker picks). And I love how WAR is reduced to 1D: Hostilities.

Good musical entries today, too, with PATSYCLINE (3D: "Walkin' After Midnight" singer, 1957) and MCGEE (55A: Bobby in a 1971 #1 hit), but I could do without being reminded of 13D: Seals's partner in 1970s music (CROFTS).

I looked up EFFETE in my Random House just now, and the first definition is "exhausted of vigor or energy; worn out." It's similar to "22D: Washed up," but not the same, I would argue. Neither of us liked that clue.

Even though Frannie hates to see circles in a grid, we both thought that the theme today was well done. I errantly put "Bee in your bonnet" for BEEINONESBONNET, and because of that, the central section was quite difficult. Finally, Frannie struck "your" on the basis of no 35D: French article (UNE) ending with a U. Sure, beginning with a U, that's fine. Good even, as it turned out. BOSOMED (39D: Big or full follower), too, was not easy to guess. (I'm sure Huygens will be adding that to his list of lewd (or should I say OBSCENE (40D: Disgustingly large, as an amount of money) material found in the NYT crosswords!)

Overall, I'd say this was a very well-made puzzle. The long stuff is beautiful (ACAIBERRY, REHNQUIST, SEIZEDUPON... and others already mentioned), and the theme, as we said, was solid. A good Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013, Sarah Keller


Well, I filled in all the boxes in about ten minutes, but then spent many more minutes looking for an error with no success. I handed it to Frannie and she fixed it immediately. As it turns out, the very first thing I put in, and something about which I was inappropriately proud (that my first entry should be a Latin-based clue), was incorrect. AMICI is, of course, the correct plural for 15A: ____ curiae (friends of the court). I could argue that I never even looked into the parentheses, but even then, a female "friend of the court" would have been unusual.

Anyway, enough about that. The rest of the puzzle seemed both easy and disappointing. HEXAD (6A: Legs on an insect or strings on a guitar) I found particularly unpleasant. And I've never heard of a "24A: Bit of ink, for short" called a TAT.

The theme answers were easy enough. I blame Monty Python for my failed attempt to enter (with no crosses) "Jarlsberger cheese" in place of JARLSBERGCHEESE (20A: Norwegian import in the dairy case), but it came soon enough. I love any mention of a WHIFFLEBALL (45A: Bit of equipment for an outdoor kids' game). But... well, I don't know... I just didn't like it. Sometimes that happens.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013, Joel Fagliano


This one seemed slightly harder than usual, too, just like yesterday, but it might have been the fact that both of us were nodding off as we tried to fill in the answers last night. We tend to work from top to bottom, so we had no idea what was going on with the theme until we got the oddly self-referencial 56A: Four units, in 56-Across (BATTLESHIP). After that, the puzzle got a lot easier, as the other theme answers became immediately obvious. I like the nod to the classic game, and in the end it seemed just about right for an early-week puzzle.

I wasn't aware, or didn't remember, that a POLYP was a 27A: Coral producer. I guess I'll try to think of beautiful coral reefs from now one when I hear that word. (Honestly, I didn't like seeing it in the grid and I don't like writing it in the review, but there it is.) (Ahh... beautiful tropical fish and lovely coral...)

And speaking of things I dislike, I generally don't care for quotation mark clues, such as 22A: "You can count on me" (WILLDO) and 40A: "Wowzers" (GOSH). Not that there's anything (terribly) wrong with them. I'm just stating a personal preference. I prefer question mark clues, like 34D: One whose success is well-earned? (OILTYCOON). That's a damn fine clue. Unfortunately, the other question mark clue today is LIPO (19D: Plan for losers, informally?) which makes a particularly disagreeable crossing with the aforementioned P-word.

I thought SETTS (44A: Small paving stones) was a tad obscure, and ONETEN (52A: Early afternoon time) is just plain strange. Bad? Maybe. Especially when followed by NOS (54A: What horizontal head shakes signify). Shouldn't it be "noes" if you're going to use it at all?

I don't know... it wasn't terrible. I loved PETRUCHIO (2D: Kate's groom in "The Taming of the Shrew") and NEPTUNE (25D: Roman god of horses) and MARCH (24D: It was originally first on the Roman calendar) were interesting. And, as I said, the theme was good. Just a little uneven, that's all.

- Horace

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday, August 11, 2013, Daniel Raymon


I enjoyed this one. It was trickier than Mondays often are, and had some nice stuff like SWAIN (29A: One who goes a-courting) (I wanted "Froggy," but it didn't fit!), and VOLTA, clued much differently from the way it was yesterday, which was kind of cool. Things like ENOL (16A: Carbon compound) still trip me up, but there wasn't too much of that.

The theme was simple and clean, although I kept reading the first Across clue as "... and a homophobic hint..." which threw me off for a bit. I liked the "four Is" theme, and I also liked that none of the theme answers had any other vowels at all. Also, could you think of four more disparate pieces of fill than INHIGHSPIRITS, NIHILISTIC, GINGIVITIS and STRINGBIKINI? I doubt it.

- Horace

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013, Dan Schoenholz



We were on vacation last week, and during the week we did a few old NYT Sunday puzzles that I had received maybe fifteen years ago, when someone had enrolled me in the NYT puzzle of the month club, or something like that. They were edited by Eugene Maleska and Will Weng. We have not done many pre-Shortz puzzles, and were surprised by the number of terribly obscure words and crosswordese. I know David Steinberg is working on the Pre-shortzian Puzzle Project, but up until now, I had not looked at it. I hope to spend some time there in the near future, seeing if the obscurity and general "bad-ness" was a hallmark of the pre-Shortz era, or if we just got a few bum puzzles.

Anyway, the experience with the old puzzles was perhaps why I was ready to enter "enholster" for 92A: Cover, in a way (UPHOLSTER), but "imnress" didn't really look good for 95D: Blow away (IMPRESS). We did, however, have to put in one of my least favorite crossword words, REUNE for 112A: Get the old gang together, and TITER (117A: Strength of a solution) is a bit obscure.

At least one of us found the theme to be clever. 102A: Niece's polite interruption? (AUNTIEAHEM) might have been my favorite, but HOOKAHLINEANDSINKER (62A: Equipment list for a hashish-smoking fisherman?) was pretty good, too. In non-theme stuff, I thought FLEA (6A: Cat nipper?) and POESY (57A: Burns books?) were good. But there was a bit too much FARAD, BAWD, ASHY and  ATRI for me to love it.

- Horace

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013, Chris A. McGlothlin


Well, I was a little tipsy when I started this one, but I also did it side-by-side with Frannie, so it's hard to tell which was the bigger help. We finished in under an hour, which qualifies as quick for a Saturday, so let's say the alcohol helped at least a little.

I was surprised that GODELESCHERBACH (1A: Title trio of a 1980 Pulitzer winner) came to me so quickly - with just a few letters - but one of my brothers had that book right when it came out, and I remember seeing it around the house quite often. Most of the fifteens came quickly, actually. Frannie guessed PUTSTHEKIBOSHON (56A: Vetoes) with maybe a single cross. The beginning of ONESECONDPLEASE (49A: Moment's notice?) and the end of STATEASSISTANCE (57A: Some government checks) sat alone for a little while before we figured out the somewhat odd-seeming other halves. I mean, they're not exactly "odd-seeming," but they did seem a little arbitrary.

The middle, and especially the West, were harder for us than the top and bottom. I guessed "pages" for PANES (20A: Stamp purchases), which led to one error message at the end, but it was the first thing we fixed, so we're calling off the DNF. If the cross were anything but NOKOMIS (22D: Hiawatha's grandmother in "The Song of Hiawatha"), I'd hear arguments, but as it is, no DNF. Hey, it's our blog, we call it like we want. When we start entering tournaments, somebody else can call it.

Overall, a little uneven in the cluing. 29A: They're often taken on horses (BETS), 10D: Vehicular bomb? (EDSEL) and 33A: Quail (CRINGE) were quite good, but 18A: French preposition (DES) and 7D: Her, to Henriette (SES) were... well, not great. I did love the nod to the Three Stooges with 39A: "____ wise guy, eh?" (SOA), though, and, actually, 46A: Breakout company of 1976 (ATARI) was great too. OK, I liked it. Good Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013, Patrick Berry


I was three sheets to the wind when I started this one late last night. Maybe that's the way I should do puzzles all the time, because I was dialed in! Frannie didn't even get a chance at it, I'm sorry to say.

I didn't get much the first time through, but once I had a few things to grab onto, everything fell together quickly. TRIBUTEBAND (39A: Dread Zeppelin or the Fab Faux) and TET (36A: Vietnamese holiday) gave me enough to guess OH(!)CALCUTTA(!) (1D: Broadway musical with two exclamation points in its name), and then "at ease," even though it was half wrong, gave me enough to get MEATEATERS (2D: They might have bones to pick). The common, and recently seen, HERONS (4D: Some wetlands wildlife) made it clear that ATHOME was the right answer for 19A: Comfortable, and then the NW was done.

Is it bad that I knew MCRIB (8D: Fast-food debut of 1981) almost from the clue alone? I was thinking that way, and then the C of KICKBOXER (15A: Fighter getting a leg up) gave me the necessary verification.

A favorite answer was TRICORDERS (Hand-held "Star Trek" devices), and KATESPADE (58A: Bag lady?) and REF (26A: Play critic?) were both amusing. SELFSEEKER (30D: Narcissistic one), however, was pretty weak, I thought. And I don't know why ASCOT is the answer to 42A: Gold Cup venue. What does that even mean?

Overall, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. A clean, clever puzzle.

I'll have to test my new solving method again tonight, to see if the effect can be repeated. You know, for science...

- Horace

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013, Daniel A. Finan


This one seemed a little tougher than a normal Thursday, and even though I wrote that yesterday seemed about average for a Wednesday, others I spoke with thought it was on the tough side. With that new information, the whole week seems to have been on the difficult side, which makes me a little wary of the next two days!

But back to this one. DOGGYBAG (1A: It wraps scraps) was a nice start, and I also liked HITHER (26D: This way) and VOODOO (32D: Activity with dolls). DIVORCE (31A: Splitting headache?) was a funny one, and although I immediately thought of DIED for "42A: Was overcome with embarrassment, in slang," it took a while for me to believe it was the right answer.

MENORCA (43D: Mediterranean resort island, to locals) and ASSANTE (45D: Armand of "Private Benjamin") were complete unknowns to us in the SE, but the real trouble was over in the SW. Wanted "phones in" for MAILSIN (46A: Does perfunctorily, as a performance), but it wouldn't fit, so we tried "calls in" for a while. And I put in "USPS" instead of USDA (50A: Letters on a stamp), even though those letters aren't on any stamps that I know of. SMUSHES (39D: Presses together) is a nice bit of colloquialism, but it didn't come immediately, and we had "shrank" for SHRUNK (39A: Downsized), which made HULAHOOP (37D: O) hard to see.

And let's talk a little about that theme... I didn't love it. There. We're done talking about it.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013, Erik Wennstrom


Well, after two harder-than-normal puzzles (according to me), this one seemed pretty much just like a typical Wednesday.

We loved KILLMENOW (53A: *Sarcastic remark upon hearing bad news), so much that I will say right now that we like the puzzle overall. The TWISTOFLEMON (23D: Drink garnish … or a hint to five letters in the answer to each starred clue) was a decent enough theme. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, but it’s a good one. Would have preferred “A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about _____” for REALMONEY (20A: *What paper profits aren’t), but, well… it wasn’t our byline.

ABJECT, SCONCE, PRAGUE…  all good words. And any reference to 56D: Phil who sang “Draft Dodger Rag” (OCHS) is a-ok with us! And an interesting lesson in physics with ERNST MACH.

Nice Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013, Lynn Lempel


Maybe it's just that I'm on vacation, but the first two puzzles this week have seemed unusually difficult. Not "difficult" difficult, mind you, but trickier than usual for early-week. Who didn't put "Fox" in for 1A: Aesop animal (ASS), for example? And I put "Sealy" in for SERTA (14A: Mattress giant), but I'm not going to claim that everyone did that. Or that you put in "North" for UNION (48A: Confederacy foe).

I liked the theme today. Cleptomania is always funny. COPCARS (39A: Make off with some vehicles?) might have been my favorite, but PINCHPENNIES (50A: Make off with some cash?) was also nice.

Is YAKIMA (46A: Washington city in apple-growing country) also the place that they make those bike racks? I've gone with Thule, but I see those Yakima ones around.

There are some words today that I'm getting tired of seeing, like ARENA, INCA, SASS, and ELBA, but really, there wasn't much that was truly terrible.

Now, back to sitting around doing nothing!

- Horace

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013, Alan Arbesfeld


More difficult, I thought, than some Mondays. AGITA (1A: Uneasy feeling) starting it off was surprising. That's not a word I know. Frannie knew it, but on Monday, usually only one of us does the puzzle, so that didn't help me. RIFIFI (18D: Classic Jules Dassin heist film), too, was completely foreign to me. Still, both were easily filled in with crosses. Didn't love OCTADS (8D: Groups of eight) or SHALALA (11D: Song syllables in the title of a 1964 hit) either. Both are perfectly fine, I guess, but that doesn't mean I have to like them.

What I did like, was the universe (-al) theme. I didn't realize that FORDGALAXY was a 24A: Minivan since the mid '90s. Back in my day, it was a sedan. The first car I drove with any regularity was my grandfather's old '68 Custom 500, which was very similar to the Galaxy, and which was not a minivan.

Some other nice stuff, too, like ASCRIBE (44A: Attribute (to)), and EXPIRE (46D: Run out, as a subscription). On balance, a good Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013, Steven Ginzburg



We enjoyed the theme, but there was some junk in here. EYESHADES (29A: Antiglare wear)? Who says that? And 2D: Quatrain rhyme scheme (ABAA) is a little lame. But PURR (1D: Result of some heavy petting?), and AUDI (78D: Car make whose name sounds like a Cockney greeting) were pretty nice. That THERAMS are the "90D: Pride of St. Louis" is a little sad.

The last thing we got was HAVENT (67D: Lack). I didn't know a TAJ was a "75A: Muslim headdress," but, well, that's not that surprising, I guess. For me not to know that, I mean.

I don't know... I tried to get someone else on the porch to write this review, but I didn't have any success. Maybe tomorrow...

- Horace

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013, Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson


We worked on this one all morning, and I'm not sure if the long solve is due to our being distracted by a  porch full of family members, or if it really was this tough. Either way, it was quite a satisfying puzzle. Lots of old-fashioned seeming stuff today. HABERDASHER (4A: Person who might suit you well?) was beautiful, HISMASTERSVOICE (12D: 1899 painting used to promote gramaphones) was a gimme, but it did little to help on the East, surprisingly. And on the other side, it was Frannie who finally got TOAFARETHEWELL (3D: Perfectly). Wow. That's not an expression you hear very often. GOETH (40A: "Pride ____ before destruction": Proverbs) qualifies as "old-timey" too. And while we're at it, WAXTABLET (30A: Ancient scribe's work surface) is pretty old. I originally wanted "parchment" in there, which fit, but it was older still than that!

But it wasn't all ancient history. We've got TIVOS (Show stoppers?) and ONLINEFORUM (54A: Avatar setting).

Some beautifully tricky clues. GASLOG (40D: Ersatz blazer) was Frannie again. Great, great clue. I got 50A: Inventor's undoing? (LIEDETECTOR), which was another good one. Another one I got right away was GOLDENSPIKE (56A: Image on Utah's state quarter), but that didn't help as much as I had hoped, either.

Anyway, this was a very satisfying Saturday. Very clean grid, too. I've been 16A: Transported! At least until tomorrow.

- Horace

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013, Barry C. Silk


A decent Friday from Mr. Silk. I don't particularly love TINCT (13D: Coloring) - I've never heard anyone ever say that word - and do people from Upstate NY say CAYUGALAKE (61A: Ithaca is at its southern end)? or do they say Lake Cayuga, like normal people would? The only lake that I know where the word "lake" comes second is Crater Lake. Otherwise, it's Lake Louise, Lake Eire, Lake Titicaca, etc. Maybe I'm wrong on this, I don't know. Any upstaters care to chime in?

Other than that, though, and ILO (59D: Publisher of Work mag.), SUVA (44A: Largest city in the South Pacific), and ERIS (16A: Plutoid just beyond the Kuiper Belt), none of which I had ever heard of, there was lots of good stuff. BRUSQUE (41D: Curt), AVARICE (39D: Midas's undoing), and EISENHOWER (63A: His Secret Service code name was Providence) are all great. I've never heard of or used a BRADAWL (41A: Cousin of a screwdriver), and for the longest time, I wanted something more like "Manhattan" in there. Alas.

And speaking of the East, it was there that I bogged down this morning, and where Frannie had to pick up the torch. Luckily, she knew DAWS (33D: Crow relatives) (I was thinking "anis"), and that W gave the "awl" part.

I loved the fifth line down from the top, with the symmetrical "lulus" in the middle. Also, I learned from this a more specific definition of the word LATE (11A: Not long-departed), so that's nice.

- Horace

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013, Timothy Polin


The PHYSICSFORMULAS (60A: What the three sets of circled squares in this puzzle represent) were very clever, and the rest of the puzzle held together pretty well. Some oddities, and some crosswordese, but, well, it was worth it today.

I found the clue 50A: The Yoko of "Oh Yoko!" (ONO) to be somewhat odd. I mean, how many Yokos are there? Just one–at least as far as crossword puzzles are concerned. To put it into the clue twice seems, well, odd. I also find that my French major has never come in so handy as it does doing these things. I mean, yesterday we had "Massifs," and today we have DETROP (64A: Too much). I thought of "de trop" immediately when I read the clue, but I then thought to myself, Well, sure, Frannie says that all the time, but it's French, so it can't be the answer. Is it English? Is "de trop" common in English?

3D: Center of a square, maybe (STATUE) was a very nice clue. And who knew there was an EEL river (33D: California's ____ River)? It was nice to see ERECTORSET (28D: Old A. C. Gilbert toy) in the grid, but does ENVIRON really mean to 44D: Form a ring around? (Yup, I guess it does. Who knew?)

In the SW, I had guessed the more popular (and less scary) LSD for 60D: Hallucinogenic inits. (PCP), which started "66A: Some Groucho Marx humor" with a D, so I tried "dark." I think it's kind of funny that "dark" should have turned to PUNS.

Did not like the SMEARY (49D: Like wet paint)/NYX (68A: Greek night goddess) crossing. Really would have felt better about "Nox" as the night goddess, but it said Greek, not Roman, and I didn't know of a goddess with either name, so we went with the Y. Still... "smeary?" EGAD.

- Horace

p.s. I wish it could be settled once and for all whether the drink is "Iced tea" or ICETEA (43A: Ingredient in an Arnold Palmer) as Mr. Polin has it here. (Deb Amlen agrees with me that it should be "iced.")