Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013, Ian Livengood


What was the theme? Phrases with "OPS" in them? Strange, but fine, I guess.

Let's see... what can I talk about? COHIBA (43A: Deluxe Cuban cigar brand) - that's a thing? A known thing? Hmm... And I get ERST (21A: Previously, in old usage) again, so that's nice. Doesn't it always make you think of Sonnet #12?

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
  And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
  Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

A perfect poem for Fall, and it's always good to think about one's own mortality, and if that's all that we take away from a Monday crossword puzzle, well, I think it's enough.

- Horace

p.s. Many years ago, I sent a postcard with this poem on it to a friend when I heard that he and his wife were expecting, or perhaps had delivered, a child. He never commented on it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013, Norm Guggenbiller



Is everyone from New England as tired of hearing people try to correctly pronounce the accent as I am? And are they as irritated as I am when it is not done right? Does "cod" really sound like a Bostonian saying "card?" Maybe if you're JFK saying both words, and you assume that "cod" itself isn't being pronounced correctly, and maybe then it rhymes with the way he might say "card," but that's a bit of a stretch. If, on the other hand, you're assuming that we say "card" the way the rest of the country says "cod," well, I think that you're crazy. Now, if you're talking about my nephew Jeremy, then yes, he would, probably, say "card" like you say "cod," but he's an unusual case.

So, the theme didn't go over well. Did that poison the rest of the puzzle for me? or was it really as bad as I think it was? ESTS (1D: They're probably close: Abbr.)? Weak. CERO (3D: Large sport fish)? Really? ERN (6D: Directional suffix)? Really? That's half of the first six downs! It'll take me forever if I want to get all the way to SOONEST (122A: Immediately) (No.).

We did, somewhat coincidentally, get NEAT for 2D: Undiluted, which Huygens was just talking about recently... so that's nice. Maybe I'll go pour myself something neat.

Did. Not. Like.

- Horace

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013, Joe Krozel


A decent challenge from Mr. Krozel today. Our solve went more or less counter clockwise from 1A. The first few passes yielded very little, but as we handed it back and forth (and yes, the tandem solve made this one much easier today), each of us was able to build on what the other had figured out, and, well, eventually we got there.

Some good, some bad. Let's start with the good. The favorite might have been 26A: It can be found beneath the lower crust (PIETIN). I wrote in "mantle" at first, even though "lower crust" in the context of layers of the earth didn't really make sense to me. 33A: Beginning of time? (BIGBANG), on the other hand, was an impulsive, immediate fill-in that held up. Not bad. 50A: Mobile advertising medium? (TSHIRT) was pretty good, and 6D: What the French think? (IDEES) was a fun one for us francophiles. And speaking of France, 39D: Ones above military heads (BERETS), and GARNI (43D: Adorned, per menus) were also good, and it's lucky I read so much about cooking, because while I don't know how to make a MIGNONETTE (28A: Sauce often served with oysters), I do know it as a sauce name, which helped. Lastly, in the plus column (well, not that this is all of the good, but it's all that we're writing about), 46D: Something with round parts? (BOUT) was nice.

In the other column, there were proper names I didn't know (MOSHE, HUA, BARTOLI, OSSIE), and things like GERMAN LIT (43A: With 32-Across, study of Hesse and Mann, informally) and TURNALOSS (30D: See red?) (Isn't "turn" used more often with "a profit?"). Not that they're terrible, or unfair, but they just weren't to my liking. And what the heck is TREEN (13D: Woodenware)? Well, I'll tell you - "Small domestic wooden objects, esp. antiques." Seems legit. I've never heard it before in my life, but I'll try to start using it from now on.

Overall, it had lots of clever stuff, and it was a decent challenge. So... good Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013, Peter A. Collins


Frannie is away on an overnight trip, so I was forced to fend for myself on this one. It was definitely trickier than yesterday's, but I seemed to get into a pretty good groove. It didn't take too, too long, but it did still take a few "closing the iPad and walking away" episodes before everything fell into place. I sometimes think those interludes should be factored in somehow, since my brain is probably still mulling things over while I make dinner, or a drink, or whatever, but, well, that would be difficult to do, and who really cares, anyway? I'm not in a tournament. I only started writing my times down on this blog so that normal solvers would have a more reasonable benchmark than those posted by the "professional" puzzle solvers.

But enough about me, let's talk about some clues! 22A: Fixer, perhaps (VET) was clever, and 24A: Phony blazers (GASLOGS) had me stumped for a good long while. I misread, or misunderstood, the clue for the somewhat common ANODE (16A: Magnetron component), and could think only of "X-Men" and/or Megatron, and I was thinking things like "metal helmet?" "Transformable arm/guns?" Yeah... way off.

The theme (can we call it that on a Friday?) was cool and elegantly done. Nice symmetry for the central instructions, which were flanked by the odd "Robert W. Service" pair. I was not familiar with his 33A: Robert W. Service's "The Cremation of Sam ____" MCGEE. Perhaps I'll look it up. There is also some nice balancing of the GERMINATE/TERMINATE pair with two women's names in the NE and SW. I doubt that was intentional, but I still mention it.

Who doesn't enjoy the mention of INIGO (58A: ____ Montoya, swordsman in "The Princess Bride"), and I like when puzzles have something like 61A: End (TERMINATE) as the last across clue. It's kind of like a sign-off. Yesterday, the clue there was "Fin," and although it was referring to a "{FIVE}SPOT" I still enjoyed thinking of it as French for "end."

And that's probably a good place to end.

- Horace

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013, Tom Pepper and Victor Barocas


The theme/trick/gimmick of this puzzle is beautiful, truly beautiful, but was it or was it not the easiest Thursday in recent memory? Frannie and I passed this back and forth leisurely, and we still finished under twenty. If we had pressed it, we could have maybe gotten very near ten. But what is time? Does it matter? Well, on Thursday, I think it should start to. Certainly, as ET59 argues, we should get a decent challenge on Friday and Saturday, but does such a lovely, perfectly symmetrical, all-around theme deserve a little "slack-cutting?" I say it does.

Still, let's consider, for just a moment longer, the gimmies in the first few Downs alone. 2D: "... baked in _____" (APIE) is an immediate fill-in for anyone who can write. 4D: Car that leaves you with a sour taste? (LEMON) is a cute clue, but again, immediate fill. 6D: Some tram loads (ORES) might be tricky to one new to crosswords, but to us seasoned pros (and who reading this blog can claim to be otherwise?) it's easy. 7D: Galifianakis of "The Hangover" (ZACH) - ok, maybe you can't remember if it's a C or a K, but if you're alive today, you know who they're talking about. 11D: Marketing pro (ADMAN) - here again, easy if you do crosswords, maybe tough if you don't. 13D: Acid-burned Bat-villain ({TWO}FACE), and, "Boom", you've figured it out. One more word about the top, though - I liked that you could easily fill in 10A: 50% ({ONE}HALF) without understanding that it was a theme answer.

There is, however, plenty of decent fill in here. HIGHERED (10D: Colleges and universities, informally) was, I thought, very nice, and LEANINGON (3D: Using for support) is one of those "obvious but still solid" phrases that almost always takes a few crosses to figure out. LATENT (25A: Not obvious) (not obvious) is quality fill, and IAMACAMERA (65A: Play that was the basis for "Cabaret") is good "trivia fill."

To recap: Very easy. Almost too easy. There was some junk in here (I'm looking at you MILS, AMAD, ODIC, and others), but I'm giving it all a pass because the theme is so damn nice. But dammit, Will, you'd better have some nice, chewy* puzzles in store for the weekend.

- Horace

p.s. A big shout out for my favorite arcade game Asteroids! (55D: Creator of Asteroids)

* Deb Amlen reference.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013, Victor Fleming and Bonnie L. Gentry


I lit'rally fell asleep doing this puzzle. Not from lack of interest, but because it was after midnight and I was very tired. I don't think that's happened before. I got about half the top done, and then conked out. Frannie, like that old cobbler's elves, finished it up while I slept.

As I review it now, there were some entertaining clues in here. 2D: It's more useful when it's busted (BRONCO), 38A: Hated to death, say? (ANAGRAM) (I love these every time), and 58A: Kittens come in them (LITTERS), for example. And there were only one or two that made me say "Meh," like 1D: Frome and others (ETHANS).

The theme is a time-honored one, and there's a lot of it. Six symmetrical theme answers, and twelve words that can all precede the word "line." Not bad. And I'm especially grateful that the constructors clued AIRSUPPLY in something other than a musical way.

Overall, a nice Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013, Kevin Christian


I'm guessing it's the anniversary of the release of "E. T." Hmmm... nope. It was released in the U.S. on June 11, 1982. I went to opening night in Worcester with my friend Matt. While we were in line, someone came around handing out buttons that said "I Saw E.T." I believe I still have that somewhere. Anyway, that was, what, 31 years ago? Also, I'm old.

It was very nice to see DREWBARRYMORE (20A: Child actress who appeared with [circled letters]) in the grid. She's been a favorite of mine ever since that day. I think she was also the first theme answer we got. After that, it was basically a fill-in-the-blanks for all related clues, and it seemed like there were a lot of them. I enjoyed the movie when I first saw it way back then, but we watched it again much more recently, and maybe I've just outgrown my childish sense of wonder, but the whole thing just seemed so sappy and terrible to me now. And that includes the horrible, swelling SCORE (23D: Best Original ____ (award for the film with [circled letters])).

The rest of the fill was actually pretty decent, I thought. The NE looks crazy with THEMRS (9D: One's wife, informally) next to ZEROG (10D: Free-fall effect, briefly)(Sounds more like a Superman villain), and TZUS (9A: Shih ____ (diminutive dogs)) on top of HESA (16A: "For ____ jolly good fellow") (ok, that's weak), but I don't mind it, for some reason. Maybe because I like the word ERST (19A: Once, old-style) so much. TOGAE (6D: Forum robes) is a little much, but, well, I guess I'm in a good mood today, because I'm not going to complain about it. I loved the clue for SHINGLES (37D: They're "hung out" by professionals), and I learned how to spell PYLON (45D: Traffic cone). Plus, we got "Thos." yesterday, and AMY (44D: Adams of "The Fighter") today, so that's nice. (And yes, "Thos." is a common abbreviation for Thomas. I've seen "Thos. Jefferson" a lot, for example.)

Maybe I'm blinded by Drew, but I thought it was an OK Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013, Susan Gelfand


Rolling right along on Monday, I nearly missed the theme today, but let's see... "roll the dice," "roll your eyes," "roll the ball," and "Roll - ers?" Is that what it's supposed to be? Hmmm.... no. It's rolled Rs, like the one in "raha," which means "money" in Finnish.

I don't particularly love ETCETC (22A: And so on and so forth: Abbr.), but I still like it better than defining "cetera" as "so on." Sure, Ms. Gelfand uses "so on" in the clue here, but she's not claiming it's a literal translation. And besides, I very much enjoyed her other Latin clue - 63A: Bellum's opposite (PAX). And speaking of foreign languages, I didn't know that the RIALTO was a 2D: Theater district. I just thought it was a bridge in Venice. And SOG is 36D: Soak, in dialect? Do they mean "get wet" or "rip off?" And in what dialect?

I like a lot of the words in here. MEWL, CRAW, SORCERERS, MANX, ACHOO... they're the kind you don't see very often, but there are a lot of abbreviations, proper nouns, and foreign words. PSY, TUE, THOS, VET, CAL, USNA, ENS, ABS, ISM, DES, LEO, SADIE, ELWAY, TYLER, ANN, IMARET, MALAWI, OESTE, OISE, MESSRS, ELO, SIKH.

I didn't hate it, but it wasn't one of my favorites. How's that?

- Horace

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013, Mike Selinker

Today's puzzle is a contest, and submissions are accepted through Tuesday, so we will not be posting our commentary on it until after that time.

Good luck!

- Horace



Well, this was a pretty easy puzzle to complete, but the contest part took us a little longer to figure out. Still, though, not that long. The answer, above, seemed very apropos for a puzzle based on the Braille alphabet. Pretty clever. Did you notice, also, that 1D and 97D were further clues? Nice touch.

The fill got a little sketchy in parts. Witness SHA (13A: "La-La" lead-in in a 1974 Al Green hit), CRT (99A: Old PC monitor feature) (let it die), and 75A: Numerical prefix (OCTO) smacks of "I give up"-type clueing. Also, I've taken a lot of Latin, and EDILES (53D: Roman magistrates) is not familiar to me. Might say more about me than anything else, but I just put that out there.

But there was way more good than bad. PRESSSECRETARY (31A: Mouthpiece for the head?), GAT (37A: Old piece) (gun), and LIT (116A: Snockered) were all good. I like the word BEDSTEAD (47D: Where a mattress goes). I love the inclusion of AETHER (51A: Material beyond the terrestrial plane, in medieval science), and I double love the clue for EEL (77A: Part of a wriggly field?). I don't know whether I need to explain this or not, but when Frannie and I started this blog, and just before that time, "eel" was everywhere, all the time. It must have been in ten or eleven puzzles in one two-week span. It's the kind of thing that critics love to hate, but we turned our frowns upside down, and now we love to love it. So seeing it again here, with such a ridiculously wonderful clue, well, it's just nice, that's all. And there are many more that I liked, but one must draw the line somewhere.

Lastly, one benefit of having lived a while is that answers like TOUCHTONEPHONE (107A: Rotary alternative) come immediately. Gosh, remember when that was new? It was the coolest thing...

- Horace

p.s. Although we got the answer and entered the contest, this was technically a DNF. Didn't know 13D: "____ Mater" (hymn) (STABAT) (guessed SHABAT), and couldn't figure out 21A: What X-O-X lacks? (TAC). As I started to write that I still didn't get it, I guess I figured out, just now, for the first time ever, that the name "Tic, Tac, Toe" refers to the name of (?), or what you call out as you announce (?) your row of three identical symbols. Huh. You learn something new every day!

Saturday, September 21, 2013, Tim Croce


INAWORD (2D: Not at length): hated it. And my response is about as accurately relevant to the clue as any in the puzzle. There, I said it. Can we talk about 14D: Remedy for a bad leg (KNEEPATCH)? Or 12D: Strongmen of old (TSARS)? In a word, for real this time, LAME. And what's with ADSORBS and EGESTED? They are like absorbed and ejected only MORESO (36D: Beyond that), and not in a good way.

Those of you who know me, would, I think, agree that I like to learn a new thing or two now and then, but SAMISEN (32D: Geisha's instrument) and PIAMATERS (26A: They adhere to brains)? I suppose it is a Saturday puzzle, but it was TOUGHROAD through those two, especially the latter. Next time I hope either Mr. Croce or Mr. Shortz RESEES (47a: Brings in for more tests, say) a puzzle like this and realizes that it is not done TOATURN (16D: Flawlessly) and gets a mechanic, or, say a TOOLER to help them out.

I'll turn the podium over to Horace so he can address the few interesting and clever clues that appeared in this puzzle.

~ Frannie

Well, let's see... I also hated UNDOCK (13A: Shove off), and who, tell me, says URBS (25A: Heavily populated areas, informally)? "Yeah, I live in the Urb. You know, the urb of Boston..." Uh huh.

SONDEs (49A: Meteorological probe) like neither of us liked it, right? Well, although that is true, there were some nice parts, especially in the lower-middle. 30A: Students with outstanding character? (LETTERMEN) gets points for effort. And 36A: Gifted trio? (MAGI) and 37A: Follow the party line? (CONGA) were both very nice.

This was harder than yesterday, and that should make our friend englishteacher59 happy, but at too high a cost, we think. Give us a clean, clever puzzle any day. This kind of slog just angries up the blood.

- Horace

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013, Mangesh Ghogre and Doug Peterson


Well, I should say right off the bat that Frannie did the bulk of the work on this one. She asked if she could look at it for a minute before she fell asleep, and when she handed it back, several minutes later, most of the top was complete, and there was enough on the bottom for me to get ATEENAGERINLOVE (45A: 1959 #5 hit with the B-side "I've Cried Before"), which opened up a lot more. I would be surprised if that clue helped anyone at all get the proper answer. I only got it because Sha Na Na made me familiar with the song, and eventually, the crosses revealed enough to let me see it.

You know, I just started taking German for the first time, and it seems like all this week there have been German words in the grids. Like SIE (20A: What you might be overseas?), and "Guten Tag" in that "tent" puzzle. And there was another one yesterday, I think. There's always French (and yes, Huygens, "Cette fille" (this girl) and its answer "elle" (she/her) are French. It's a lot like 36A: One of the girls (SHE), come to think of it...), but is there always so much German?

This was a nice, clean puzzle. I can't speak to the difficulty, really, because I just filled in a few things here and there. I didn't know the word PENNON (9D: Flag carried on a knight's lance), but, well, now I do. The fifteens were all decent enough. Probably the weakest was RAISEDANEYEBROW (15A: Expressed slight surprise), but only because the other three were so natural.

42A: Pipe holder? (PAN) was especially nice, and 33A: Many chains are found in them (MALLS) had us fooled for a while. Another tough one was 35A: Works at a museum, say (BUSTS). We tried "dusts," because we actually know people who work at museum and whose job it is to dust, but "peiges" didn't really work with 35D: Pale shades (BEIGES). For some reason, I really hate the answer VTEN (41A: Powerful engine). I've looked it up, and some modern cars do use them, but who ever thinks of a V-ten? A V-eight, sure. But a V-ten? And SNAPS (23D: "Your mama wears army boots" and such)? Really?

But really, I don't want to end on a bad note. There was some nice long stuff in here, and aside from my few complaints, it really was quite clean.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013, Michael Blake


I had a hard time parsing the revealer correctly. I struggled for a while trying to think of how CLOCKPICKY (50A: Super-choosy about timepieces?) (weak) was "candy-coated," but when I saw a few others, like CARTFAIRY (35A: Sprite who helps you find a shopping vehicle?) (also weak), I was finally able to read it as "C and Y coated." I suppose that's supposed to be funny. If all the answers were somehow as tricky as ... wait a minute! They are tricky! Lock Pick. Art Fair. Old Master. Hose Down. And Coate? OK, that one doesn't count. Well, it's somewhat clever, but the new phrases are just so ridiculous.

Huygens gets a little here, with BACKEND (38D: Caboose), EROTICA (40D: "Fifty Shades of Grey" genre) and ORGY (26D: Bacchanalia). I also liked MARTYRS (13D: Ones making sacrifices). It's not given the greatest clue ever, but the word looks good in the grid. And I learned that TWEEDLE is more than just a Lewis Carroll character's first name. It is, apparently, to 44D: Entice with music. Amusingly, another definition given in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is "to play negligently on a musical instrument." One could imagine that both sometimes occur simultaneously.

I guess this one is winning me over as I write it up. It wasn't great or anything, but (especially after yesterday) it was decent enough.

Lastly, I found the HOYLE (41A: Posthumous inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame, 1979) clue/answer pair was quite interesting. I looked into it a little more, and Edmond Hoyle was inducted - as a charter member - for his contributions to gaming in general, even though he died several decades before the game of Poker was invented.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 18, 2013, Paul Hunsberger


Frannie told me it was a rebus, but I didn't believe her until she started putting them in. A rebus on a Wednesday!? What does that mean for tomorrow??

But let's get to the fill. I like OCTOPI getting a shout out as 1A: Highly intelligent invertebrates. I gave up eating them when I started seeing surveillance lab videos of an octopus getting out of its own tank at night, traversing - out of water - to another tank to eat fish, and then going back into its own tank again. There's video of them using tools, hiding themselves with large shells, camouflaging themselves in ways that make chameleons look like cheap amateurs... anyway, if you're still reading, and you eat octopus from time to time, stop doing that. Or do it more, maybe, because in a few years they'll probably be rounding us up to work in their prawn and crab hatcheries. They'll use their "55D: Arm of the sea?" to keep order...

Where was I? KIT[TENT]AILS (11D: Plant with fluffy flower spikes)? I didn't know the name, but I think I can picture them. TEMPLETON (46A:"Charlotte's Web" rat)? Didn't remember it, but I like any reference to E. B. White. ASWAN (59A: Egyptian dam site)? Huh. Didn't know that one either.

One that I did know, however, was 70A: The "cetera" of "et cetera." The "cetera" is "the rest." It is not, "so on." If you're going to ask for a translation of Latin, make sure that your answer is the correct translation of Latin, not some idiomatic version of it. That clue/answer made me dislike this puzzle very much. I'd blame the creator, but LISTEN, this puzzle has an editor, and it is that editor's job to check for ERRORS, is it not, and to do so COMPTE[TENT]LY? Maybe we should find an octopus and make it editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle.


- Horace

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013, Peter A. Collins


Frannie and I came home late from the bar last night, both a little tipsy (we had a driver). We worked on the puzzle side-by-side, and were very close to finishing in a single pass from top to bottom. There were a few things we skipped, like maybe PAVLOVA (12D: "The Dying Swan" ballerina), and I doubt we remembered AWN (17A: Grain beard) right away, but whatever we passed on at first, was quickly filled in. I suppose that's the way it goes on a Tuesday, when you have two well-oiled minds working together.

The theme was, I thought, poor. Maybe it's just that I'm a little unclear on the concept, but is THEGRADUATE (51A: 1967 Dustin Hoffman film) really a "date movie?" And the circles... well... Frannie dislikes them in general, and this one was not my favorite circle puzzle, let's leave it at that.

I remember liking a couple of golf-related clues: 53A: Not a club for big shots? (NINEIRON) and, well, now that I'm looking for the other one, I realize that it was a clue that I mistook for a golf clue, but wasn't - 59D: What a caddy may hold. Not a "tee," but TEA. Not bad. Also, I enjoy the word LENTEN, and like any reference to The Simpsons (64A: Neighbor of Homer (NED)). And I have a feeling I've seen the clue 33A: Drilling site (MOLAR) before, but I still liked it.

Lastly, I very much doubt that the use of UMLAUTs in Mötley Crüe's name was facetious, at least as I understand it. If you're just using the word to mean "funny," but not necessarily intentionally funny, then, ok, yes. Maybe.

- Horace

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013, Ed Sessa


If not for Frannie, this would have been another Monday DNF for me. I know a little too little about religion and/or White House financial advisory groups, because the "B" of BAAL (45A: False god) would not come to me. I also spelled MYNAHS (48D: Bird mimics) with an "I," which Frannie also corrected. Neither of us was familiar with MAMMYYOKUM (52A: Dogpatch matriarch). I assume that relates to a comic strip.

The theme of having four "M"s in six symmetrical answers was ok, I guess. The only one it actually helped me on was the MILLIONMOMMARCH (40A: Washington rally of 5/14/00), because I had guessed "Million Man March" erroneously.

Things like ENORM (12D: Huge, in poetry), RETAB (13D: Adjust the margins again), AROO (34A: Suffix with buck), and MOOED (58D: Made a cow call) turned me against this one. And the audacity of cluing MAC with "67D: McDonald's Big ____" actually angered me a little. I know it's Monday, but really?

Onward to Tuesday!

- Horace

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013, Joe DiPietro

That Girl

How many wheelhouses can a person have? Today, I found another one. I went from 1A. Monopolizer (HOG) to 96D. "Luck be a Lady" composer/lyricist (LOESSER) with nary a snag. I might even call the puzzle ABREEZE (95D. Something as easy as pie). The first theme answer I came to 23A. Confiscate a chef's appetizer? (SEIZEHERSALAD) went right in and turned out to be my favorite of the set. I've been accused in the past of having a penchant for the blue material, which may explain why I couldn't help thinking that most of the theme answers could be described by Horace's new term as "Huygens material," especially RUBHERCHICKEN and COUNTHERPARTS. In fact, I would not be surprised if today's solvers got 18A. Hot and bothered (ALLUPSET) by the raciness of the content. I thought LICKHERBOTTLE and JUMPHERCABLES were rather strong. Some may say I am taking this blue material thing too far, but I didn't find 104A. Asian holidays (TETS) the least bit offensive.

There were a few favorites amongst the fill. The best of which, IMHO, are 45A. Old Roman well (BENE), 65A. Feu fighter? (EAU) and 7D. Barely moves? (STREAKS). Ha! There's that Huygens material again. And who doesn't love any reference to 27A. Charles Nelson __, old game show staple (REILLY)? Did I already say this puzzle was right in my wheelhouse?


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013, Jeff Chen


This was a lot of fun. Very tough, and if we weren't solving "in tandem," as one commenter recently put it, I doubt it would've been completed. At least it would have taken quite a bit longer.

Let's see, where to begin? How about with 1A: Where a lot of dough gets thrown around (PIZZAJOINT). The answer just had to be something like this, but "Pizza parlor" didn't fit, so I put in "Pizza place" at first, and that stayed for a while. And strangely, it was an incorrect answer for a down that got us the correct answer for the across. Frannie got ANTIMATTER (15A: Fuel for a warp drive engine on "Star Trek") (We so wanted "dilithium"...) and then WHITENOISE (17A: Sleep aid, for some), and then 7D: Winnebago relatives (OTOES), which we both knew had to be a tribe, looked like this _TO__, and the first thing that popped into my head was "Otomi." That's a tribe, isn't it? Anyway, that immediately gave us "joint." And that's why I'm telling this story, right?

But while we're up in that section, let's just think a minute about PAWN (1D: One with promotional potential) (!) and ZTILE (3D: "10" is inscribed on it). Both of those are beautiful. And even though this very morning I took breaks from the puzzle to make moves in Scrabble games, I still couldn't come up with that second one!

Other beauties - INHERIT (23A: Get by force of will?), ESSO (14D: Standard breakup creation) (possibly the best clue I've ever seen for "Esso"), GOWEST (25D: Follow the sun?), TIEONEON (29A: Become stiff), and the nice couplet of ATTACKS and RETREATS, both clued with "Follows a military order."

I didn't love BIODATA (38A: Info about a person's education and work history), perhaps because the clue was so prosaic, but, well, if that's the worst of it, you're not too badly off.

It's been a good week.

- Horace

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013, Patrick Berry


If there's anyone who's wheelhouse we are solidly in, it's Patrick Berry, but he sure keeps a fine wheelhouse. He of the "Soft T's" Sunday (remember "A scythe for sore eyes?"), the "Two by Fours" ("W[ER]N[ER]KLEMP[ER][ER]"), and now five Fridays since our blog began, all of which we have dispatched in just about thirty minutes or less. He is always entertaining and clever.

Frannie, especially, seems to share his 2A: Way of looking at things (ANGLE). Some of her favorites today were 14A: Reading light for an audiobook? (LASERBEAM), 15D: Depression creator (METERORITE), and 36D: Car collectors? (OILPANS). Oh, and, of course, 23A: Seat cushions? (GLUTEI). We had put in "Glutes" immediately, but had to change the ending when we ran into 24D: Old-fashioned respirator (IRONLUNG). What a nice entry, that. Iron Lung.

I tried "Slazenger" at first, for 33A: They make a racket (CONARTISTS), which would also have been tricky, I thought. If, that is, Slazenger is still a company. [They are. - H.] Oh, and 40A: Change places (COINPURSES) was another nice clue. So many in here, really. Frannie also liked the intersecting of LUNK (34D: Lamebrain) and HULKING (42A: Heavy and clumsy).

So, yet another fun, clean puzzle from Mr. Berry, if a little on the easy side.

- Horace

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013, Ian Livengood


The "quote puzzle" is not usually a favorite of mine, because once you know the quote, you have a lot filled in. But today's added three extra pieces that were not immediately obvious, given the quote. In fact, "18A: Film lead character featured in a Disney World attraction" was almost the very last thing we filled in! The last time I was at Disney was just over a decade ago. Maybe not before the first JACKSPARROW movie, but certainly before the ride appeared.

Some nice, tricky stuff, like 26A: Hamlet's parts (ABODES), which took me a second or two even after it was filled in!, and I couldn't decide if 28: They're often seen with bows (TUXES) meant "bows" like in one's hair (or in one's tie), or like "taking a bow," but either would work, I guess. And I love a straightforward, but still misleading clue, like 64A: Was attractive (DREW). And it's not just because I am a photographer that I enjoyed 9D: Where a photographer might take shots? (WARZONE). That was a good one!

Lastly, EnglishTeacher59 pointed out, a couple days ago, that the "Amen" at the bottom of the grid could be taken as a part of the "touchdown" theme. Today I'm willing to bet that Mr. Livengood put that SCORE (63: XX) in there as an exclamation (the clue itself could be seen as a type of sign-off, too, I suppose...), after jamming in all that theme material and making it work, AND making it a pangram as well! Quite the accomplishment!


- Horace

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013, Patrick Blindauer


This was a good one, I thought, with lots of fun clues. EASEL (47D: Sitting stand), IRE (8D: Pique condition?), and OWS (22D: Punch lines?) to name just a few. Oh, and let's not forget 38A: Part of a stable diet (OATS). That might have been my favorite!

The theme wasn't bad either. Not terribly exciting, but a nice enough word chain running from "warm" to "cold." Frannie wondered if this puzzle was published now to coincide with the coming change in the weather - although it's going to be a scorcher today in Boston, they say. The theme "containers," if you will, were all decent enough. Again, the clue for MATERNITYWARD (23A: Birth place) was clever, and for some reason I really liked the contrast between an exciting clue "47A: A fan might need one," and the mundane answer EXTENSIONCORD.

We've seen two grids by Blindauer now. The first was one of my favorites of the year ("Double Feature"). This one isn't up in that category, but it's clean and fun, and really, what more can one ask of a puzzle?

- Horace

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013, Zhouqin Burnikel


Kind of an odd puzzle, if you ask me. It's interesting to know that those words come from the Chinese, but it all seemed a bit random. Still, the Chinese added a nice variety of words into the grid. KUMQUAT (1A: *Relative of an orange) is good, but the resulting QID (quater in die?) isn't something that I am familiar with, even though I can figure out the Latin. And while we're up there in the NW, we thought UTERI was weak. And, really, who says KALES (1D: Nutrient-rich cabbages)?

I did like some of the clues, especially 25A: Race with lots of passing (RELAY), and 33D: Foofaraw (TODO). I am amused by the various words that the constructors come up with for "to do" and "ado." Like David Steinberg's choice of "Rowdydow" for "ado," for example. Perhaps you have your own favorites.

- Horace

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013, Gary Cee


A spectacularly easy puzzle, in my opinion, but not objectionable. The theme seems to relate to the start of the NFL season, with answers such as SALARYHIKE, PRESSPASS, GOODCATCH, RABBITRUN, and MUSICSCORE. I didn't notice what was going on while I was solving, but that's really quite nice. It reminds me of a similar puzzle that ran at the start of baseball season, I think, but I don't remember liking that one so much. For a while, I thought the theme was asking for an increase in the amount of money given to constructors for each daily puzzle ($200, I think, which some criticize as being far too low), with answers like the aforementioned SALARYHIKE, RAISEEARNS, RAKESIN, and ELATE. OK, maybe no one else thought of that...

Not much to report on... so I'll just say that BAMBOO (46A: Panda's favorite plant) reminds me that there was a nice article on pandas, and the difficulties that they have mating in captivity, in a recent New Yorker.

I enjoyed the sequential inclusion of both NADA (64A: Zippo) and DADA (65A: Mama's counterpart). I like the word SPATE (66A: Flood), and I also enjoy it's "matched clue" word TORRENT (3D: Flood). And have I now put two newly gleaned pieces of knowledge together to understand that the "11D: Best Actor for "Hamlet," 1948" that OLIVIER won was his only Oscar? Or was that someone else who only won once?... Somebody help. Don't make me go back through my posts!

I wanted "Hella good" instead of HELLUVA for "39D: Terrific, in slang," but I guess I'll just have to create my own if I want to get that newer slang into the grid...

I liked it. A good Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013, Pete Muller and Sue Keefer



I mentioned our friend Andrew yesterday as being instrumental to our solving the puzzle, well, he enjoyed the experience so much that he started the puzzle today, and was reluctant to give it up! Instead, he read clues aloud to a a group of us, and we shouted out answers. It went along pretty well, except that he was intent on trying to work on the theme answers before we really understood what the theme would be, or had any crosses. We tried to explain that you usually can't just do that. Eventually, the message got across, I think.

Anywho, the theme, once discovered, was clever and enjoyable. BOBCATRABBITACCORD (55A: Peace treaty between a predator and its prey?) was a personal favorite, and MIDGETOUTBACKEXPLORER (116A: Diminutive Aborigine?) was right up there.

Pretty nice, clever clues. 35A: Sticky handle? (ELMERS) and 94A: Magazine user (UZI) were fun,  and SHANKS (98A: Mistakes made by some bad drivers) was nicely misleading. 71D: Speak pigeon (COO), too, was very nice. It's funny, I don't remember seeing GMA ever before, and suddenly it's in two days in a row.

I think that a few weeks ago I admitted that I don't usually like Sunday puzzles, but now we've had three in a row that I've liked quite a bit. Welp, I guess maybe I'll have to change my mind!

- Horace

Saturday, September 7, 2013, Julian Lim


BURJKHALIFA? (1A: World's tallest building). OK, Mr. Lim, we see how it's going to be...

This one was tough, but I liked it. So many tricky clues. Like 11D: Forward, back or center (ATHLETE) for example... or 36A: Belfast is on its shore (MAINE)! We had a tough time in the NE, but almost everything, once it was gotten, elicited a sigh of understanding rather than a groan. "23A: She's beautiful, per a popular song," for example, (AMERICA), was great. And 12D: Like every Bond film since 1989 (PGTHIRTEEN) had us going down many, many wrong paths.

If it wasn't for our friend Andrew, who knew 7D: "I shall not find myself so ____ die": Antony (APTTO), AND KTOSLIN (5D: Singer of the 1987 #1 country hit "Do Ya"), we might never have finished, because you know we didn't know the name of that building!

This not only seemed especially tricky, it also seemed particularly clean. Sure, the somewhat common TSR (54A: Co. purchased by Wizards of the Coast) was there (but with a clue we'd not seen before), and YAGO (45D: ____ Sant'Gria (wine choice)) was right next to IGOR (46D: Servant in the "Discworld" novels), and we knew neither, but the crosses were gettable, and good, so I don't much mind.

Lastly, Frannie didn't love CRANIA as "43A: Trepanning targets," thinking that trepanning really just went through the crania, and targeted something on the other side, but, well, neither of us are doctors, so perhaps we're missing something. (If only Colum looked at this blog on days other than Sunday...)

Regardless of that detail, I thought this was a good, satisfying solve.

- Horace

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013, Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson


This solve went the same way that Hemingway says you go bankrupt - "gradually, and then suddenly." We started it while we watched the NFL season-opener, and both of us were a little drowsy. I immediately got a few things, like CARROTCAKE (17A: Dessert often with cream cheese icing) (a personal favorite!) and then PUCE (1D: Brownish-purple) (Really? Wasn't that JUST in?!), EWOKS (26D: Endor natives) (Ditto! ... or was it "Endor?" Or both?), and a few other things. Frannie got APPLECIDER (12D: Press production) and KTEL (39A: Onetime TV music vendor), IND (22D: Not the party type? Abbr.) (Nice!), and several others. Then we both drifted off while the Ravens looked to be beating up on the Broncos.

When I woke up, Peyton had taken charge. Seven TD passes!? Really? It got interesting for a minute there in the third when that idiot dropped the ball before crossing the line, but not quite interesting enough to keep me from picking up the puzzle again. And this time, things just started to drop.

A lot of it today just seemed like tricky clues for very standard entries. I thought of LPGA immediately for 18A: Ironwoman org.?, but hesitated because I didn't (and still don't) know exactly what they're referring to. Is that a specific tournament? Is it because "irons" are used in golf? Anyway, all I really needed was female + sports organization = LPGA. And the same was true of the clue immediately above - 16A: Only event in which Venezuela medaled at the 2012 Olympics (EPEE). Had no idea that that was true, but fewer puzzles DON'T contain "epee" than do. That kind of thinking ended up working against me, though, with 49A: "Revolution 9" collaborator. I thought "music person + somewhat unusual + three letters = "Eno."" Nope. Did John Lennon even know Brian Eno? I kept asking myself. Are the ages too different? Duh. It was ONO.

Not a terribly exciting puzzle. Good "Huygens material" though, with BCUP (48D: Smallish lingerie spec) and OTHERWOMAN (56A: One-third of a triangle, maybe). The latter was also one of the better clues. Much of the long fill was just kind of boring.


- Horace

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013, Damon Gulczynski


Seemed very easy for a Thursday. Our time would have reflected it better had we not fumbled for several minutes trying to get it accepted by the iPad app. Sure, it says things like MORT, and CORP, but it'll only take a rebus with both. Hmpf.

The trick was cool, I'll give it that. I actually changed Frannie's STUTTERED (50A: Bumbled verbally) to SPUTTERED because I had never heard of a TANSY (51D: Flowering plant). I think we also changed DUST (56D: Sign of neglect) to RUST when we put in RICERS (56A: Kitchen gadgets). It took us forever to realize that either one was possible. As I said, cool. It's really quite a thing that Mr. Gulczynski was able to work four "_ or _" words into the grid AND eight changeable answers. Impressive.

Aside from all that, though, there were several things that seemed tailored to me and my family in this one. For instance, I just took the first German course of my life mere hours before starting this puzzle, and it already helped, with 15A: Eins und zwei (DREI). We did numbers tonight, and I was able to figure it out! Thanks, puzzle, for helping with my homework! Also, my oldest brother and his family are big "Settlers of Catan" players, and he could have helped me with ORE (8D: Resource in the game Settlers of Catan). That same brother is a Reds fan, so CIN (27A: Reds, for short) made me think of him again. And STRATEGO (46A: Game with scouts and miners) went in immediately, too, because my brothers and I used to play that a lot when we were younger.

One thing I'm a little tired of, however, is OSOS (31A: Bogotá bears). That's been in a LOT recently. And I don't often spell TRANKS (69A: Downers, in brief), but when I do, I prefer the spelling "tranqs." Not that either is very good. There's plenty of crosswordsy stuff in here, but the theme is clever, and he stuck in a bunch of "semi-theme" "ors" like ORR, OER, ORE, and NOR so, let's call it a wash. Well, ok, how 'bout slightly better than that.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013, Joel Fagliano


Yesterday, I loved the theme, and because of that, I could overlook whatever garbage fill there happened to be. Today, I hated the theme, and because of that, it's difficult to find anything good at all to say. And they were both, strangely, homophone-based. I guess. Wouldn't you say that of today's? RTJOHNSON (17A: "Laugh-In" comic) for "Arte Johnson?" Gosh, that's awfully clever. ... Maybe it's just me, but just the look of ENFLEMMING (21A: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" author) makes me unhappy. It is, of course, an interesting factoid, but somehow that's just not enough today.

Favorite clue: 72A: Life partner? (DEATH). Runner up: 51A: Rightmost column (ONES).
Least favorite: 5D: "Sounds dandy!" (FUN).
Favorite clue that I didn't see until just now: 53D: Highest and lowest black key on a piano (BFLAT).

There you have it.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013, Dan Schoenholz


"Criticism is easier than craftsmanship," as they say, so let's start with some of that. AONE (13A: Top of the line) and LASE (14A: Use a surgical beam on) are things that I mostly only see or hear in crossword puzzles. "A-One" is, I guess, something you might hear someone say, but who ever says "lase" in normal conversation? I hold that even in a conversation about laser surgery, you'd be more likely to hear "Yeah, they're going to cut it off with a laser" rather than "They're going to lase it off." And I'm much more likely to use the "take advantage of" definition of AVAIL than the "16A: Be of use to" definition. Not that it's wrong. Not that any of these are wrong, but they're just, well... crosswordsy. As is, in my opinion, the AMEBA spelling of amoeba. Also, before I get on to the "praise" portion of this review, let me just say that I thought CDE (43A: Start of a musical scale) was very weak. It's exactly what I thought of (yes, even starting on C), but I really hoped it wasn't the actual answer.

I did enjoy the homonym theme quite a bit. I love the directness of the answers, especially, for some reason, FRENCHFORYES (23A: Oui), and PERSONALPRONOUN (35A: We). I also enjoyed the clues for MINTS (19A: Money makers), ACES (61A: They aren't returned), and the very nice "62A: Impudent" for WISE. 33A: Org. for Wizards and Magic (NBA) was fun, too. And I even liked the quaint cwossing of ANON (3D: Soon, quaintly) and YON (20A: Farther away, quaintly).

So despite my bellyaching, I thought this was a decent enough Tuesday. Monday through Wednesday, a good theme can go a long way.

- Horace

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013 - Jim Peredo

Hello fellow word enthusiasts! Frannie here, sitting down to comment on today's puzzle. I did the puzzle last night,or, perhaps, more correctly, very early this morning at about 1:30AM. Apparently, I completed it in a little over 10 minutes. I have almost no memory of it. Thinking about it later in the day, I did remember one answer, STEELYGAZE (96A: Intense look). I wanted the answer to be Blue Steel, or Magnum, but neither fit. I'm guessing that the ease with which I was able to enter most of the answers contributed to my poor recall. Many of the them were right in my wheelhouse. Could it be that Mr. Peredo is as old as I am? Clues such as 15A Record for later viewing (TAPE) and 16A Leaf gatherer (Rake) and, of course, 1A and 5D, APAIN/NECK give the impression of someone who has seen a few years go by, and might, by Zoolander's standards be OLD (60A Aged). Given some of these clue and answer pairs (HAPPYDAYS (33D The Fonz's sitcom) for example), maybe he even knew NOAH (64A Ark builder). Kidding! But it was a different time when HOES were still Tilling tools (27D). And when was the last time WAITERS were good at taking orders? (46D) Ha! Of course, ALIST (1D Group of preferred party attendees) and OAKLANDAS (11D Team in "Moneyball" (2011)) are more current. Possibly, the puzzle was written by a very young man back in 1993, and Will Shortz finally approved it. I kid, I kid.

LEST the way I phrase seem like puzzle malaise, I want to give Mr. Peredo's rhyming due praise. The only thing that would more amaze would have been the inclusion of Rutherford B. Hayes. :)


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013, John Farmer


I liked it. We put in the names first, but that didn't seem to work, so then we put in the numbers, and that did work. It is an obvious criticism, I think that the theme squares change with the Across and Down answers, but didn't someone once say that the definition of intelligence is the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in the mind at the same time? Or something like that. Perhaps I'm holding the actual quote and a slightly paraphrased one in my mind together. Does that count? [Before you send hate mail, I looked it up, and F. Scott Fitzerald said something very close to what I wrote. Also, I found another nice quote by a guy named Albert Edward Wiggam (no relation to the Chief, I don't think, who, incidentally, spells it "Wiggum") "Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without education. Education enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence." Hah!]

Anywho, the puzzle was pretty standard fare for a Sunday, I thought. We finished in the far East, with such answers as HAIRCUT[100] (43D: 1980s British band), MHO (42A: Electrical unit, old-style), and STADIA (56A: Olympic venues). Winners all. And in other areas, is AALARGE (115A: Certain 111-Across specification) redundant? I usually just see "Large."

I was just about to question the answer ROOMER (79A: Letter with a limited amount of space), when I finally parsed the clue correctly and realized that the first word means "renter" not "epistle." One answer that I couldn't figure out, however, was AMESLAN (91D: Acronym for the hearing-impaired).  I've looked it up now, to save you the trouble, and it's short for "American Sign Language." Huh. Well, I've learned. Do I now put that into the "intelligence" or the "education" category? HA!

As I said at the outset, I liked it. It was challenging enough, and there were some pretty witty clues. Plus, there's that nice dollar sign in the middle of the grid. Hurricane symbol on Thursday, and the dollar sign today... fancy!

- Horace