Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013, David Kwong


Well, at first, I thought this was a silly idea, because once you get the trick, the two sides can be solved almost simultaneously, but we got mired, as you maybe did too, in the SE. I thought that I was so clever by entering "nothing" in for 65A, but it didn't work out the way I thought it should. Finally, Frannie said "It's like it shouldn't even exist at all," and bingo, we were done. I tried getting the puzzle to "check" with empty boxes, but that didn't work, so I put in Xs, and that did.

Overall, the last little gimmick saved this one for me. It's a nice Halloween-y theme, but as stated already, it played a little easy. And there's been so much backward stuff lately. None, none, none, and then all the time. I'm not complaining, but it just seems a little odd.

15A: Not yet delivered (INUTERO) was a nice way to clue that, and I don't think I've ever heard the term 23A: Clusterfist (MISER) before, so that was interesting. Also, I love seeing JSBACH (35A: "St. Matthew Passion" composer, for short) in the grid. Ahhh... Bach...

Lastly, is MITTENS really a 10D: Nickname for a 2012 presidential candidate? I thought that was just our pet name for him!

- Horace.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013, Joel Fagliano


Maybe I'm just a little heady 'cause I'm coming off that cold, but I really enjoyed this one. Right from the get-go, I loved the irreverence of 1A: What quoth the raven? (CAW)(!), and then SPRY (4A: Moving well for one's age) is another great word, and soon enough, the whole puzzle was filled with candy! What's not to like? Of course, I didn't know PUSHIT (9A: 1988 Salt-N-Pepa hit). All I know about Salt-N-Pepa is that Patrick Stewart introduced them when they were on Saturday Night Live, and I always say their name (when on those rare occasions it is required) in his voice, but really, I don't know any of their songs. Maybe they even sang "Push It" on that episode, and maybe I saw it, but did it sink in? No. But did that in any way diminish my appreciation of this puzzle? No.

The main difficulty for me was that I put "INStatE" in for INSPIRE (12D: Give rise to). I was thinking that "RTI" could have stood for the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and I had frankly never heard of BORODIN (27A: "Prince Igor" composer)(another Halloween-y clue?), and that could have had an A in it... in short, I was confused, but "Not I" is not the answer to 31A: "Me neither" (NORI), so, eventually, things got fixed.

There were some fun clues in here. 33A: Breathtaking creatures? (BOAS), 59D: Groovy music (LPS), and 58D: Say "I do" when you don't? (LIE). And 44D: Spare wear (GSTRING) was also nice (eh, Huygens?).

Overall, a very nice Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013, Robert Cirillo


Doesn't this just scream "Tuesday NYT puzzle?" Or maybe even Monday. It's loaded with puzzle-y words like TERNS, EGRET, RHINE, EPEE, ALB, and RUES, yet it keeps you interested with entertaining clues like 8D: Almost any character on "The Big Bang Theory" (DORK), 11A: Car with a checkered past? (CAB), and 19D: Place to get free screwdrivers, say (OPENBAR). It's also got a 25¢ word or two, like ASPERSE (5D: Bad-mouth) or AVERT (12D: Deflect), and then there's at least one nice puzzle flourish like the intersection of BIRTH (13D: Word with canal or control) and BERTH (24A: Ship slip). And I haven't even gotten to the theme yet!

Today's theme is the somewhat common "Word that can follow both halves of..." variety, and it seems like there's a ton of it. Four nines, two eights, and a five-letter revealer. None of the theme answers seem strained, and all of the "house" constructions are common enough, even if "Fire House" is somewhat outdated.

This is a fine early-week puzzle.

- Horace

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013, Ed Sessa


I got WHEREOHWHEREHAS/MYLITTLEDOGGONE (17A: With 62-Across, question in a children's song) very quickly, but didn't see where he had gone until after I was all finished. He's scattered about between the two lines. SPOT, REX, ROVER, MAX, and am I right in thinking that SONIA and ELSIE could also be seen as theme material? Not everyone has male dogs, right?

I thought this a good, clean puzzle with a lot of good fill for a Monday. ROCOCO (15A: Elaborate architectural style), REGALE (27A: Entertain in a festive manner), PLENA (40A: Full political assemblies) - are these Monday words? And there seemed to be a lot of the more crosswordese-type fill, like OREM (34D: City near Provo), REATA (27D: Rodeo rope), and the ubiquitous ELAL (55D: Airline to Israel). I don't include CLU (24D: Gulager of "The Last Picture Show") because I've never, ever heard of him or her.

But I still thought it was decent. It's Monday, after all, and it pushed back a little, at least. I also appreciate the nod to my current illness with ACHOO (9D: Sneezer's sound). That was a nice, touch, and I'm touched, but now it's time to go rest again.

- Horace

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013, Brendan Emmett Quigley



This took us forever, and was technically a DNF, because the last half hour was spent looking for an error, and I finally ended up running the alphabet to get the first letter of TNT (71A: Great leveler). It's a very nice clue, now that I understand it, but it just wouldn't click today, and I had no idea what 62D: SAG's partner (AFTRA) was. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes.

I'm a fan of Mr. Quigley's puzzles, and I enjoy seeing his more "unedited" works in The Weekly Dig (or maybe it's just The Dig now - it had the "Weekly," then it didn't, then it did, and then I lost track), a free paper found in boxes around Boston. I've heard he lives in Cambridge, and I keep thinking I'll see him while I'm sitting outside of Crema solving one of his puzzles, but I'm not really sure I'd recognize him, so he'd have to initiate the contact, and, well, that just seems very unlikely... Anyway, in general, I'm a fan, but this one just didn't do it for me. The backward circled name theme just seems odd, and some of the fill is pretty sketchy. I mean, you've almost always got a little, but right off the bat, you've got PCBOARD (1A: Etched computer component). What is that? It's not the mother board, is it? Is it a card? I've helped to build a computer from scratch, and I don't remember any talk of a "PC Board."

And Frannie complained a bit about the word "sacred" in the clue 37A: Attack on sacred custom (LESEMAJESTE). It's more an attack on the monarchy or the state, and sure, the word "sacred" can be used loosely, blah, blah, blah... I guess I'm just in a bad mood after the DNF.

But maybe I'm grousing too much. There was, of course, some very nice fill, too. I liked IMMORTAL  (31D: Any Mount Olympus dweller), and it's lucky it was knowable, because I've never heard of MCA (44A: ____ Nashville Records). And speaking of that one, I think the "C" was the last thing put in (aside from the aformentioned "T"), and MACED (32D: Like some rioters) was pretty funny. Not for the rioters, of course, but for us solvers, whoooeeee, it's funny.

Look, I'll level with you, I've got a cold. I hate being sick. I didn't love the puzzle. I hope you did.

- Horace

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013, Barry C. Silk


A lovely Saturday puzzle. Took us just about an hour, which, for us, is a good Saturday time. Good in that it is not too fast or too slow. And it was satisfying. Sure, there's an RST and an IERE here and a NOLOS there, but come on, there's tons of fantastic material, too. So let's get started, shall we?

My favorite of the ten-letter answers has to be PHONEBOOTH (28D: DC transformation location). That is a fantastic clue. As Frannie put it, first she thought of Washington, then she thought of a power source. And speaking of power sources, I also enjoyed SOLARARRAY (29D: Collection of green panels) even though the clue was positively pedestrian compared to the previous one. And BATTERYBOX (14D: Its contents provide juice) up in the NE, was pretty weak. The other two up there, LOOKATTHAT (12D: Head-turning cry) and ARRIVELATE (13D: Make a fashionable entrance?) (What about that question mark? I think it makes sense.) were both good.

As for smaller stuff, I loved OOMPH (25D: Juice) for the word that it is, and for its call-back to 14D. And speaking of "call-backs," the 11A: Sing (BLAB)/69A: Sings (NAMESNAMES) pair was quite good. Especially the latter. It was down in the SE that we ended (this morning, after putting it down unfinished last night). BROODMARES (63A: Important stud farm visitors) and ITALIANART (67A: Pre-Raphaelite ideal) just would not come. It didn't help that I had put in "males" at the end of the stud-farm clue, thinking that it might be right. It's funny that "male" and "mare" are just one letter off.

You know, I just looked up Pre-Raphaelite art, and I now think it is a good contender for worst entry in the grid. I mean, "Italian Art" itself, as an answer, is fine, but to say that it is the Pre-Raphaelite ideal is problematic. As I now understand it, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was rebelling against standards of art found in Raphael (an Italian) and Michelangelo (another Italian) in favor of the work of the Quattrocento period, which harkened back to the styles of Roman (ok, sort of Italian) and Greek (not Italian) art. So.... kind of confusing.

But let's not get bogged down. MUTED (36D: Like some colors and cornets) had a nice clue, and howzabout OTTOMAN (45D: Raiser of dogs?)!? Nice! Especially so, after the 40D: Grp. concerned with feeding the kitty (SPCA) clue. It was Frannie who got SINBIN (47D: Penalty box, to sports fans), which neither of us had ever heard, but which is funny. And I have always thought DARK (20A: Giving no performances) a wonderfully descriptive theater term.

Lastly, I looked up ERICAS (46A: Bell heather and tree heath). I didn't know the term, but was not too surprised to learn that it is a genus of flowering plants. We have nieces named Erica and Heather, and it is interesting to learn that their names are basically the same!

- Horace

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013, Martin Ashwood-Smith


These quad-stack puzzles are always a little daunting, and when FFF (22A: Blasting, musically) was the first solid thing I put in (I couldn't really believe that the simple, obvious and weird ODE was correct for 21A: Suffix with electr-), I was even more worried. But the bottom went better than the top, and by the end I just plunked down puTSONAPEDESTAL (57A: Idolizes) (soon corrected), and things were looking up.

On a Friday, to me, "things were looking up" can mean having a smattering of disconnected, possible answers, which is pretty much what I had when I handed it over to Frannie. (No side-by-side solve today.) When she handed it back, there were only four or five squares left! Leave it to her to know CHANSONSDEGESTE (56A: Old French epics) and STURM (28A: Tempest, to Theodor). And she very much enjoyed "24A: Bay, say ... or bring to bay (TREE). One of the only things left for me to help with was AXL (33A: ____ Rose), and as soon as that A was in, she called out RANK for 26D: What stars may indicate. In a perfect world, she'd be doing this review, but she's away at a conference, so you're stuck with me again.

These seem like impressive feats, these stacked puzzles, and the cross fill has to be challenging. Today's is decent enough, I think, although why, I wondered, would you clue MEAT with "50D: Sinatra's "Meet ____ the Copa"? It's weird that "meat" rhymes with "meet," but why not just clue with "Flesh?" or "Steak, say" or anything, really, that isn't a partial? Is it just to get Sinatra in there?

I liked SILVERAGE (32D: Second-greatest period in the history of something) quite a bit, and MONIEDMEN (5D: What Hamilton called the wealthy) is a nice term to know. Lastly, nice clue for ORES (14D: Sought after rock group?).

Decent Friday.

- Horace

p.s. The "Crossword Fiend" blog (see sidebar) tells me that MEAT was clued as a partial so as not to duplicate the "meat" in "mincemeat." Fair enough, I guess.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013, Peter A. Collins


Another side-by-side solve, and as such, it went down fairly easily. Got TWOWAY/STREET (5D: With 6-Down, mutual relationship) very quickly, and then we knew what to expect for the rest of the grid. As we were doing it, I felt that the theme was very thin. It seemed like there were only four short theme-related answers, but really, there are eight, plus the 15-letter revealer, AND, four of the answers are upside-down, so I think I have to reconsider my complaint of "not much theme for a Thursday." As I look more and more at it, it's really quite slick.

Neither of us could believe it when PIEHOLE (28A: Trap) started to come into focus. Both the answer and clue are great. (Huygens, maybe this kind of thing will get Sue more interested?) And off of that, LOCAL (30D: What pulls out all the stops?) was another good clue. As was the clue for RENEWED (15A: Bought more Time?). For "18A: One-third of a French revolutionary's cry," (EGALITE) we both frantically counted out the letters of each word, only to realize that we could only put in the "té" at first, then had to wait for more crosses.

When Frannie saw Rubens mentioned in 21A: Like the women in a famous Rubens painting (SABINE), she immediately threw out "zaftig" as an option. I had never heard that, but it would have fit, and it could have been appropriate. More my speed were the dual "QB" questions, but I couldn't think of either Jim MORA (32A: Either of two N.F.L. coaches named Jim) for the life of me. Sigh.

Funny about 45A: What the Beatles had but Wings didn't? (ARTICLE), eh? But then why, if it's part of the name, don't they capitalize "The" in "The Beatles?" Because it's not really a part of the name, right? But then how can they be said to "have" it? Just because you have to use it when talking about them? Ugh. I'm just confusing myself needlessly, I fear.

Lastly, the clue "49A: Flotsam or Jetsam in "The Little Mermaid" was so novel that we didn't even really notice that it was our old favorite crosswordese, EEL!

- Horace

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013, Robyn Weintraub


We both quite enjoyed this one, and this time, instead of doing it together, we did it one after another. (The iPad Mini grid can be cleared once it's filled in.)

It seems we've seen a similar theme before, but it was still entertaining, especially SORRYOTHELLO (48A: What a remorseful Iago might have said). We were chuckling about that one for quite a while.

We also enjoyed the clues for ARIA (16A: Gershwin's "Summertime" is one), LIAR (30D: "That is so not true!")(my favorite "quote" clue in a long while), and IOU (25A: Note in a poker pot). GOODCOP (46D: Half a police interrogation team, maybe) was good all around, and "26D: Shot to the solar plexus sound" (OOF) was hilarious. I don't know, they just seemed refreshingly different.

There was no challenge today, but ELATE (51D: Make up?) was tricky, and I put in "Tick" instead of TOCK for 56D: Clock sound.

Is this Prince GEORGE's (43A: New British royal of 2013) first inclusion in a puzzle, I wonder?

Overall, a clean, enjoyable Wednesday. I'll let ETH and HOS go. This time.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 2013, Kevan Choset


Ahhh, another joint solve after coming home from a bar. Since englishteacher59 likes to comment with alarming frequency about his exact location while doing the puzzle, I will add that Frannie and I solved this one while lying in bed. TMI? Well, I figured I've got to do something to try to get the numbers up. To increase the traffic on this blog, I mean. Of course.

Anyhoo, I liked this puzzle just fine. I don't remember seeing Mr. Choset's name before, and this puzzle actually did feel somewhat fresh. The clue for DLI (11A: 551, once), for example. We've seen Roman numerals many, many times, but this simple change of wording was enough to make us smile and comment on it. I also enjoyed DOOHICKEY (11D: Thingamajig) and THRACIANS (32D: Allies of the Trojans in the "Illiad.") It's not "The Illiad?" Hmm... I've got to look that up. Why not just say "in 'Illiad'" if it's not? I started thinking about the addition of "the" back when I realized that the name of the band "Talking Heads" was not "The Talking Heads," which, come to think of it, was probably about the time that the live album titled "The Name of this Band is Talking Heads" came out. Go figure.

I like that we have another cooking word to learn today (because I, unlike Frances and Huygens, actually enjoy cooking) in SHIRR (34D: Bake, as eggs). Coincidentally, Frannie got PEANUTOIL (33D: What pad Thai is often cooked in) immediately, not because she has ever made pad Thai, but because she eats it about once per week. Mmmmm.... spicy tofu pad Thai.....

For all the good stuff, there was at least as much crosswordsy stuff (ARCO, REA, ARR, BEHAR, VSO, ENTR, SIB, ASTI...), but I enjoyed the theme, and I loved the movie IHEARTHUCKABEES (38A: 2004 film featuring Dustin Hoffman), so I'll let it go.

Lastly, such is the lopsided "right brain" nature of my brain that I asked Frannie repeatedly what "Line Art Thinking" was. Luckily, she's more left-brained, and she's also kind, so she didn't mock me too much.

- Horace

p.s. I looked at the Wordplay blog to see about whether or not this was a debut puzzle, and, well, it's not. This is Mr. Choset's 25th puzzle in the NYT, but it's the first of his that we've seen, so, he's still new to us. He talks a bit about this puzzle on the WP blog, if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013, Gary Cee


To get out of making dinner, a chore I dislike, I agreed to do the puzzle and write the review today - an act that seems like a faint echo of today's puzzle theme. My bargain was something of an ESCAPECLAUSE (47A: Stipulation that frees one of liability). Now, however I have a YEN to BREAKOUT of my agreement, and lie SUPINE for a spell (67A: Japanese money, 28A: Newly famous celebrity [modified to suit my purposes], 36A: Lying on one's back). However, I will exercise my AXONS (37A: Conductors of impulses from nerve cells) and DECLARE (43D: State openly, as for a customs official) my thoughts ASAP (40D: Inits. on a rush order).

The puzzle posed no problems. I didn't know the theme answers off the bat, but they filled themselves in as I completed the rest of the puzzle. I was entertained by the inclusion of Mutual of OMAHA (14A). I have the jingle from those old TV ads permanently burned into my brain. I also learned a new word, FUMET (66a: Strong, seasoned stock, in cookery  (which, BTW, shares a suffix with crock or mock (10D)). Maybe it's a common word among chefs, but, see above.

Right around 44A: Abbr. after a lawyer's name (ESQ), I thought to myself that the grid was in a fair way of including all the letters of the alphabet. When I got to 64A: Bronx __ (ZOO), the series was complete, and so is my review

Now I'm going to TAKEOFF and QUAFF a few.

~ Frannie

Sunday, October 20, 2013, Elizabeth C. Gorski



A few months ago, I was listening to my Doc Watson channel on Pandora when a version of "Hard Travelling" came on. I heard the line "I've been walking that Lincoln Highway, I thought you knowed," and I thought to myself, "What is the Lincoln Highway?" I looked it up, and read all about it on Wikipedia, and I noticed that this year is the 100th anniversary of its creation. I said to myself that I should create a crossword puzzle to commemorate it. Well, Ms. Gorski beat me to it!

I got the theme very quickly, and the long 21-letter answers came easily enough. The last one was a nice touch, with the answer running from east to west. I kept trying to jam Times Square and Lincoln Park in there, but it never worked out.

The rest of the fill was ok. A fair amount of crosswordsy stuff, but it seems like there was a ton of theme material, so I suppose that was somewhat necessary.

We've been away, and this is late already, so I won't linger over it. Decent enough. Nice theme.

- Horace

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013, Peter Wentz


Well, unlike yesterday, when we put the last letter into this one, we got the "Well Done!" screen and we weren't at all surprised. That's not to say it wasn't tough, but, well, it just didn't have as much stuff that we positively did not know.

WHATSUPG (1D: "How's it goin' dawg?") was a bit of a shock, and if they're going to go there, why not go all the way and have it be "What up, G?" instead? What gangster bothers to put on that apostrophe s?

That whole area was the last to fall. I'm not sure why it took us so long to think of WHIPIT (1A: 1980 new wave classic), but it did. Much of it, HAMELS (15A: Cole ____, 2008 World Series M.V.P.), TRUTV (19A: "Bait Car" channel), and UDE (25A: Ulan-____ (city in Siberia), and ILUV (5D: "____ It" (2006 Young Jeezy single) might as well have been written in Gaelic for all it meant to us. Frannie had put in SADO (22A: It can precede masochism) early, and then pulled PINCENEZ (29A: Wear for Teddy Roosevelt) out of her waistcoat pocket, and we were able to grimp our way up from the bottom. I'm sorry, is that French? Well, I'm not apologizing to Mr. Wentz for it, that's for sure!

In the opposite corner, which was the first to go, UNDERGOD (34D: Follower of one nation?) seems out of its element between GONZO (46D: Outrageously freewheeling), SEXSELLS (36D: Marketing mantra) and MMMMGOOD (35D: Soup line). And it's crossed by a gun, pop music, jewelry, barbarians and gluttony. And speaking of that last one, love seeing GORGE (50A: Have thirds, say) in the grid. And FAZOOL (55A: Rhyme for "drool" in a Dean Martin classic) isn't bad either.

Elsewhere, I enjoyed the side-by-side JARJAR (39D: Sci-fi's ____ Binks) and ONEONE (40D: Many an early tie), even though any mention of Jar Jar Binks is unfortunate. Me so tired of that'a creature.

All in all, a pretty nice Saturday. And in closing, RELEASE THE KRAKEN!

- Horace

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013, David Steinberg


It was nice to see Mr. Steinberg's name pop up today. Seems like it's been a while. We can always expect a challenge when we encounter him late in the week, and today was no exception. It was a funny puzzle, though, because we filled the grid in completely in under half an hour, but it didn't take. There were so many crosses we were unsure of that I started to despair, but in the end it was a simple typo that did us in (and, officially, gave us the DNF) - we had LEONTiNE (48A: Price of an opera?), and I was so concerned with crosses elsewhere in the grid that I never got down to the SE to check on it.

So, all this talk of "problem areas," well, let's get to a few. Right off the bat, neither of us knew for sure about STILLDRE (1A: 1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg). I mean, sure, it seems plausible because of Dr. Dre, but maybe Snoop was on a little temperance kick, and it could have been "Still Dry," and the 8D: Dutch city ESE of Amsterdam could have just as easily been "Yde" as "Ede" as far as we knew. And then there was the 29D: Mary ____ (doomed ship) (DEARE) crossing DESERET (29A: Informal name of the 45th state). I have since looked up "Deseret," and it derives from the word for "honeybee" in the Book of Mormon. Damn mormons. I've heard of "the Beehive State," sure, but "Deseret?" Well, I've learned something new, so that's good...

And finally we have the STEARNES (35A: Turkey ____, baseball Hall-of-Famer from the Negro leagues)/TESSA (36D: Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Virtue and others)/DEODATO (33D: Musician who arranged the theme for "2001") cluster. It all seemed reasonable, but we weren't really certain about any of it. Still, if not for that Y, we would have finished very quickly. So close!

Anyway, aside from all our drama, there were some great entries in here. Great cluing for TRIPLED (17D: Didn't make it home, say), THEOREMS (38A: They get tested), CONEHEADS (13A: Classic TV family), and the aforementioned LEONTYNE. And there was tons of interesting fill like - TELEXES, GALILEE, FAUNAS, ARCTANGENT, AMOEBAE (love the proper spelling!), and BISCAYNE.

Great challenge for Friday. I'm a little sad about our little mishap, but hey, we're not solving for money or fame, only for fun, and this had plenty of that.

- Horace

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013, Gary J. Whitehead


This was one of those puzzles that we literally did together. At the same time. I held the iPad Mini, and Frannie looked over my shoulder and called out answers when she knew them. The puzzles often fly by when we do it that way, and today was no exception.

We enjoyed the APPENDAGE (35A: Wing, e.g. ... or a hint to answering 17-, 23-, 49-, and 56- across) theme. The best, probably, was ESTREETBANDAGE (49A: First-aid supply for Springsteen?), but SCOTLANDYARDAGE (17A: Distance at St. Andrews golf course?) was right up there.

Seemed to play a little easy (even without the double-solve it would have, I think), with the exception of some very tough short stuff. I'm guessing that the 20A: Org. of which 18 U.S. presidents have been members (BSA) is not the "Boston Society of Architects." Wait a minute... just now, as I write this, the Boy Scouts of America spring to mind. Hmm... interesting. I'll have to look it up to see which 18 were scouts. Let's see if the same sudden realization works for ANSA (64A: Vase handle) or OMB (38A: White House fiscal grp.). Nope. I had never heard of NAT (23D: Writer Hentoff), or GARN (37D: Only U.S. senator with a unit of measure named after him), and didn't remember TEK (31D: William Shatner's sci-fi drug) or ENA (55A: Aunt in Bambi). I might have heard both, but the original Star Trek and Bambi are both fading memories.

I enjoyed the clue for LSD (10D: Trip inits.), and the one for TOES (13D: Low digits).

It was a decent enough theme, and I liked seeing things like NAMATH, OBERLIN, MACBETH and STAGGER, but there's kind of a lot of weird stuff. Meh. I guess it's fine.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013, Samuel A. Donaldson


For the second day in a row I used the puzzle theme to my advantage. I was foundering for a while in various areas, but I had guessed the revealer outright (and it looked good with what crosses I had), and I had filled in HERSHEYBABY (56A: Toddler raised on chocolate?) with crosses, so I tried to see how the two went together. After seeing the "His & Hers" connection, I was able to get the other three theme answers more quickly, and that pretty much iced it.

I enjoyed the theme just fine, but I didn't particularly love the many, many "quote" clues, nor did I love things like COE (16A: Cedar Rapids college) (?), OAS (40A: Western treaty grp.) (?), or ONS (60A: Slip-____ (some shoes)) (lame). And what about NIDI (38D: Spiders' nests)? Really?

Interesting to learn that the HSIA was the 41A: First Chinese dynasty. It ran from c. 2070 - c. 1600 BCE, if you're interested. That's well before the founding of Rome. Before the Golden Age of Athens. Before Homer and all that he wrote about. (Let's just assume, for the purposes of this review, that Homer was the writer.) It is not, however, before the pyramids. But I digress...

OK, there was some junk, but I think the theme was really pretty nice. It was a decent enough Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Patrick Blindauer and Andrea Carla Michaels


A nice, simple, vowel progression starting with M. I actually find this kind of theme quite pleasant. It's not intrusive, it doesn't insist upon itself, and it barely registers until you actually go looking for something. It's maybe a little weird today because the big 15-letter MICKEYMOUSECLUB (37A: People in this may have big ears) could actually work for the "MO," but then it's doubled with MOCASSIN (45A: Sioux shoe). Not a huge deal, but interesting and, well, a little odd, that's all.

I had a very slow start, not getting any of the Acrosses across the top right away. GRUB (1A: Cowboy chow) was not immediately obvious to me. I'm not sure I like the clue for AILS (5A: Distresses). It just seems a little off, and I waited for all the crosses before committing to it. I wasn't sure about JIHAD (9A: Word from the Arabic for "struggle") either, but I liked learning the etymology. Finally, LISA (14A: Simpson who said "Beneath my goody two shoes lie some very dark socks") was a gimme, and I was off to the races.

I enjoyed the clue for LIAR (23A: Pinocchio, periodically), and I liked seeing EEK (43A: "Criminy!") right under "mouse" in the grid, but I really didn't like the clue. Who says "Criminy?" And when they do, do they really mean "Eek!"? I would have thought they'd mean something more like "Oh geez..." but who am I to say, I don't often say "Criminy."

It's funny that AKITA (5D: Japanese dog breed) is in again so soon after Frannie had trouble with it on Sunday. And if I had to guess Rex's "Word of the Day" for today, I'd say it would be BASILISK* (4D: Legendary lizard with a fatal gaze). I've never heard of it, but I'll be looking it up presently.

Finally, I liked DEED (13D: Monopoly card) because I don't often think of the property cards, only Community Chest and Chance, and it took a while to get what I though should be a simple answer.

A nice clean grid, a fair amount of LEAS, EKED, ANEW, REDO - type crosswordese, but nothing too terrible. A fine Tuesday.

- Horace

* Rex went with KOKO, and he didn't even mention BASILISK. Shows what I know of Rex and his ways. The "Crossword Fiend," however (link on sidebar), calls it the "best word in the grid." That's fine with me, because I tend to agree with her more often anyway.

For those who are interested, the Basilisk is a legendary creature. The name comes from Greek meaning "Little King," and the small snake-like creature was reputed to be king of serpents, and could, as the clue states, cause death with a single glance. One method of killing the creature was to have it look into a mirror, thus killing itself. Wikipedia gives accounts from Pliny the Elder, Chaucer, and Leonardo da Vinci, among others. The last thing I'll mention here is that it is the guardian creature and traditional symbol of Basel, Switzerland. Fascinating.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013, Zhouqin Burnikel and D. Scott Nichols


Well, I didn't love this one, but I did have a moment, when I saw "USU" starting a clue, that the grid might include the word "Usufruct." It didn't, sadly, but I amused myself by thinking of trying to put that into a grid someday. And while I was so distracted, I put in "Hee" for 35D: "____-haw!" (YEE) and then spent about a minute or so looking for an error when the "Well Done!" screen failed to materialize.

The theme seems a little weak. Is one of the U.S. Opens going on right now? I don't think so, but I could very easily be wrong. This is one of the very rare times, however, where knowing the theme gave me an answer. I had put in USAINBOLT (16A: Jamaican sprinter nicknamed "The Fastest Man on Earth") and USUALFARE (20A: Nothing daring in terms of offerings), so when I came to 37A: PC outlet, I thought briefly of a store, but then realized that it was probably a port instead, and the memory of the two Us gave it to me. I hadn't yet realized that it was "US," but, well, maybe it's better to just think of it as a bunch of words starting with U. That way, you get to add ULEE (43A: Title beekeeper in a 1997 film) and UNRESTS (37D: Turmoils), to the mix.

I am familiar with neither NALA (9A: Simba's best friend in "The Lion King") (a Kimba rip-off, btw), nor ATTAR (10D: Fragrance of roses), but I made a lucky guess. And what the hell is 21D: "The ____ Daba Honeymoon?!?" And lastly, I didn't know that a BOSC pear was a 30A: Winter pear, so that's something I learned. Other than that, it was a rather boring Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, October 13, 2013, Jeff Chen

Taken To Task

Sisyphus and his task are aptly referenced here - aptly! I had to complete this puzzle on my own. Or, more correctly, largely on my own. Horace was out of town and left the puzzle machine with me. Things worked out well for me on Saturday, eventually, but Sunday, not so much. I chipped away at the puzzle all day and into the night during breaks from other projects. I managed to fill in all the squares, but not correctly. As it happened, the answer I thought was wrong, 93D: Actually (INESSE) [who says that?] was right, but a couple of other clues I thought were OK, were not. To wit: 59D: Helen Keller brought the first one to the U.S. (AKITA). While I did have a vague notion in my head about the song Iko, Iko, I do, I do seemed reasonable. I decided AdITA was some kind of machine for people who had difficulty seeing or hearing. Plus, I've never heard of an Akita. Luckily, Horace had, and when he returned he corrected that mistake and fixed up the other problem area over in the high nineties. I had IONe for 95A: Isle where Macbeth is buried (IONA), YAp for 98A: Jaw (YAK), and was quite comfortable with pELELfor 99D: Onetime Krypton resident (KALEL). Horace seemed to know his Kryptonians.

I disliked the many short answers and abbreviations right out of the gate, but found several clues to enjoy. I thought 21A: Name-dropper's word? (NEE) was particularly good, along with 67A: '50s duds (EDSELS) and 92A: Went off? (DIGRESSED). I also loved the answer BEAUT, for 90A: Doozy. Plus, I learned two new words, the aforementioned Akita, and xistera (jai alai equipment, apparently).

I didn't love 62A: No longer exists (ISNT), or 111D: Talking-__ (TOS), or 72A: AARP concern (IRA) and their ilk, but I SPOSE (52D: Imagine, informally) they were necessary to fill in around the theme answers.

There are a few nods to Huygens in here as well, including 38A: Whistle-blowers? (LOTHARIOS) andd 35A: Kind of raid (PANTY). Everyone enjoys those. 

The moral of this story is, when you have to roll a BOULDER up a hill, and it feels like MISSIONIMPOSSIBLE, get some ALES and some MEATPIE and a friend and put your NOGS together. It'll be RXS (105A: Just what the doc ordered).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013, John Farmer


Well, I was one last-look-at-the-puzzle away from a DNF over here. In fact, I had just written to Horace to say that short of a brain-wave miracle, I was going to have to concede defeat. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, brain-wave miracles do happen!

Initially, we crushed this puzzle. Horace made the first pass and completed a lot of it, then passed it to me to be charitable rather than because he needed help. I filled in most of the rest, except for a little problem spot in the NE (that's the upper left, right?) If you're keeping track at home, we have now completed 99% of the puzzle in 23 minutes. You may note a much higher number above where we write the completion time. The spot where three unknowns came together cost us 30 minutes. We had no knowledge of the following: 7D: "Criminal Minds" agent with an I.Q. of 187 (REID); 8D Singer of the #1 single "Try Again," 2000 (AALIYAH); and 24A: San __, Calif. (border town opposite Tijuana) (YSIDRO). I can only hope our fellow solvers have either watched more TV than we have, or traveled to sunny, southern CA. I won't wish that anyone has heard the song because judging by the song's title and the spelling of the singer's name, I don't think it will be anyone's cup of tea. OK, maybe I'm still a little bitter about the two As, and what seemed like, for a very long time, two Is. We had iSIDRO for 24A, but when I looked at it one more time, I thought to myself, could that be spelled with a Y? The answer is yes, yes it can. Okay, that's probably enough about this win that was pulled from the fire. On to other parts.

 96A: Sci-fi battle site (DEATHSTAR)
10D: Vacancy clause? (NOBODYSHOME)
13D: One in a Kindergarten? (EINE) - I thought it could also have been EINs
37D: Shade that fades (TAN)

10A: Body parts often targeted by masseurs (NAPES)
16A: Hatch in the upper house (ORRIN) - Ha!
36A: Pens for tablets (STYLI) - too recherche
1D: Beats at the buzzer, maybe (NIPS) - maybe not
11D: Like the crowd at a campaign rally (AROAR)

I could go on, but suffice to say that Owen Wilson's character in "Midnight in Paris," (GIL), the Jackson/Kingsley film scripted by Harold Pinter (TURTLEDIARY), and Molly Bloom's soliloquy were 'gettable' but are not in my wheelhouse

There was also some nice Huygens material in here:
2D: (ANAL)


Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013, Peter A. Collins


A very enjoyable Friday. We finished it quicker than yesterday's, but it felt plenty tricky. I surprised myself by putting in FAWN (1A: Forest newcomer), immediately, and I put in ABBA (5A: Group whose last Top 40 hit was "When All Is Said and Done") because the group is often in the grid, and the song rang a faint, distant bell, but other things, like LASSO (28D: Stockholder) (!!), took a little more time. And there were some things like PSEUD (27D: False start?) and PISAN (35A: Fibonacci, notably), that just seemed so, so "late week clue." I can't really hate them, but I don't love them. And speaking of "late week clues," howzabout 67A: Court suspensions (NETS)? Now that's a good one! And what about 10D: Were present? (ARE). Very nice.

As a Bostonian, I enjoyed seeing ESPO (36A: Hockey Hall of Fame nickname) in the grid, and 43A: Papa ____ (Northeast pizza chain) was another nice nod to the region. I thought that, being the more musical of the pair, I would somehow figure out 40A: Stat. for Re, La or Ti, but no, it was Frannie, the more left-brained one, who got ATNO. Very nice deception, that. And speaking of electron shells (oh wait, that was yesterday, with Oxygen), I loved the clue for PIES (50A: They have edible shells). It reminded me of that clue a while back "It's under the lower crust" for "pie tin."

The double "vein" clues were nice, with the latter, 18D: They may be used around veins (TRAMS) being the better clue/answer pair. The double "sense" clues... meh. And of the double "revolving feature" clues, I liked the second one better (47D: Revolving features? (VEES)), even though they got me AGAIN!

My favorite 15 was 59A: Universal query? (WHERESTHEREMOTE). That's really very good. But ENOTE (32D: Cybermemo)? E-nope. Nice trivia, though, with 54D: Day of the week of Jul. 4, 1776.

We quite enjoyed this offering from Mr. Collins. Good grid.

- Horace

p.s. I think it's a sign that I've been doing a lot of crosswords lately that I figured out CWTS (51D: 1/20 tons: Abbr.) without any difficulty.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013, Jeffrey Wechsler


Whew! That middle took us quite a while, but it was finally the combination of [SUN]YATSEN (36D: Revered Chinese figure) (Thank goodness Frannie has been reading Pearl S. Buck!) and [THU]CYDIDES (37D: Athenian general who wrote "History of the Peloponnesian War") (Thank goodness we're both such nerds!) that finally did it for us. We thought of the latter first, but when we had everything but the first letter for the first one, and it just had to be "Sun," well, then the rest of the puzzle flew by like a short work-week. The last, REMAIN[SAT] (15D: Doesn't leave) is, by far, the weakest of the bunch, but the rest are so far above it that no sour taste is left.

The rest of the fill is mostly solid, with some very good and some less-than-good. Loved 31D: Some keep waiting for them (TIPS), and 40D: Nonspeaking role on "CSI" (DEADBODY) was very nice. I yelled out "They got me AGAIN!" after putting in TAU (27D: Leader of ancient Troy?). When, oh when, will I be prepared for those?!

Frannie took issue with VARIATION (25A: Basic process of genetics), calling it a "result" and not a "process," but I think that it could be seen the other way, too. I mean, the imperfections inherent in the DNA system lead to variation, and it is through variation and adaption that gene mutations are carried on. Still, the wording is not perfect. Neither is it perfect, I don't think, in the ARE[WED]ONE (26D: "Anything else that you require?") clue. It seems that the tone of the two statements is too disparate. The clue seems polite, reverential even, and the answer is crude and rude.

Still, overall, it was a good Thursday challenge.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013, Jason Flinn


If you are familiar with 42A: Author Philip K. ____ (DICK), you might well have breezed through this grid, since no fewer than 64 out of 191 letters are theme-related. If, however, like us, the name is known, but the titles only started to look familiar, or make sense, when you could see 90 or 95 percent of them, well, it might have taken you a little longer than Wednesdays usually do. (see above)

All of that aside, however, any grid that starts with RADS (1A: Exposure units), CAPED (5A: Like many a superhero), and PSST (10A: Cheater's sound, maybe), is going to be fighting an uphill battle with my affection. It doesn't really get a whole lot better, either, with ESAU, IVANI (what did I just say yesterday?... well, I guess, then, I can't complain about this one), and ABLEST. Also, UNIE (60A: Together, in Toulouse) is weak. It's the feminine form of the adjective, and if you're just using the word generally, it would be in the masculine form. Oh, and let's not forget REPEN (64A: Put back in the fold. And I won't even start on the Downs...

On the bright side, ERUPT (27A: Go ballistic) and PIGOUT (51A: Eat, eat, eat) were both nice, and ADULT (43A: XXX) is nice "Huygens material." COMMIE (23A: Cold war foe, slangily) was ok, too.

And that's about it for the good stuff.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013, Tim Croce


HEYHEYHEY (64D: With 64-Down and 64-Down, Fat Albert's catchphrase) I liked it!

It's a bit of a silly theme, but I really enjoyed it. Many of the theme answers made me smile, and there were a ton of them. I count 16! Is that a record?

There was a little weirdness in the fill, with ARTI (16A: Introductory drawing class) (But I don't mind, really, when an I or a V, say, serves double duty), ATTA (39A: Lead-in to girl), and TBTEST (33A: Med. exam involving an injection into the forearm), and I don't really like WEEUNS (42A: Tots), but, well, I'm giving it all a pass.

I liked the simplicity of 19A: Not found (LOST), 45A: & (AND), and 20A: Play in the N.H.L. (SKATE), and the directness of 8D: "Green thumb" or "purple prose" (IDIOM). I'm sure Huygens will enjoy mention of the COSMOS (9D: Universe), and I find it reassuring that after the napalming on Saturday, DRESDEN is now the 10D: German city rebuilt after W.W. II.

Very fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013, Amy Johnson


A decent enough Monday. I was annoyed for a second at the theme, because I didn't see them all as blues songs, but then I re-read the revealer clue, 63A: What the artists of 16-, 27-, and 49-Across are doing (in reference to the last words of their hits)? (SINGINGTHEBLUES), and I realized that it was more about shades of blue than the blues, so, not bad after all. Only four answers are involved in the theme, but they're huge (2 15s and 2 13s), so it still adds up to a lot of theme squares.

Some nice non-theme long stuff in here, too. GETTYSBURG (29D: Locale for an 1863 address), AREWEALONE (2D: "Can anybody hear us?"), and the WOEISME (6D: "Alas!")/RUBITIN (9D: Gloat) pair. I don't know why I think of them as a pair, but I do. Both seven letters?

Some somewhat unusual stuff, especially for a Monday, like 17D: Nobel-winning author André (GIDE), and SENEGAL (44D: Dakar's land), and some all-too-normal stuff, like TSAR and ASEA. But overall I liked it just fine.

- Horace

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013, Patrick Berry


Kind of a quick Sunday. It was a fun theme, though. I think my favorite might have been GARBAGECANTO (88A: Portion of Dante's "Inferno" that was wisely excised?). That's some quality fill and clueing right there. And BUYONEGETONEFRITO (58A: Stingy snack vendor's special offer?) is hilarious.

I learned today that the Lincoln Longwool produces the heaviest, longest, and most lustrous fleece of any breed of sheep in the world (20A: Like Lincolns/OVINE). And I had completely forgotten about the existence of Josip Broz Tito. That was probably the weakest of the theme answers. (41A: The Josip Broz Memorial Trophy?/CUPOFTITO). And while I'm in this vein, if you SKIPOFF, is that really a good way to 14D: Leave surreptitiously? Seems like it might kind of attract attention, actually...
And who knew sulfuric acid was OILY?

Nice to see mention of the useful Scrabble word "cwm" (66A: Like the word "cwm"), and Frannie knew that it was WELSH, so that helped. She sometimes quotes the old Dave Barry joke - "It's tragic to listen to Welsh mothers teaching their children traditional songs like 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm' and lapsing into heart-rending silence when they get to the 'E I E I O' bit."

I'm in kind of a big Keat's phase, so it was nice to see 98A: "Here lies One ____ Name was writ in Water" (words on Keats's tombstone)(WHOSE). I believe he ordered those lines himself. Who else would or could have, I suppose?

A lot of the other fill just seemed kind of, well, normal, but 4D: Service manual? (HYMNBOOK) was quite nice. And 97D: Pop lover (MOM) was very cute.

Clean and fun. Not stellar, or anything, but solid.

- Horace

Saturday, October 5, 2013, Byron Walden


Frannie and I passed this back and forth with Huygens, and although the time says it was a decent challenge, it never really felt that way to me. Three people doing a puzzle together makes it seem pretty easy. Still, there were plenty of interesting and/or fun clues.

The side-by-side pair of 34D: Tip used for icing (SILENCER) and 38D: They will be missed (DODGERS) was good, and ENS (7D: Nissan bumpers?) is a nice twist on the “_____ starter”-type clue.  It was also interesting to learn (or relearn) that NAPALM was used as the 43D: Dresden decimator of 1945.

How many tragedies are five act (ACTFIVE) (1A: It may provide closure in a tragedy)? And what locals, exactly, call MANX CATs “stubbin?” Do they come from the Isle of Man?! Interesting. And I did not realize that DOYOUWANNADANCE was a 50A: 1965 Beach Boys hit. I know it from John Lennon’s “Rock and Roll” album, and before that I would have guessed it was the Everly Brothers, or someone more like that. I also had no idea that FLAX was used as a 10A: Cigarette paper source. And while I’m in this vein, I might as well ask if anyone knew that “monitor” in the clue 16D: Large monitors (KOMODODRAGONS) referred to “any of a family (Varanidae) of usually very large, flesh-eating lizards of Africa, S Asia, and Australia: from the notion that they warn of the presence of crocodiles?” I did not. Very interesting, indeed.

Loved KABOOM (40D: Major report). Enjoyed SEWER (45D: Something beyond the grate divide?). Really, there wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy in this.

A fine Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013, Bruce R. Sutphin


A pretty fun Friday. Some nice stuff, like TRAPEZE (26D: Bar that's set very high), ENCAMPS (37D: Does some outdoor pitching), CHUNNEL (15A: Very long European link), and others. Got tricked in a few places - for example, I tried "Bon Jovi" for 1A: Hall-of-Fame rock band or its lead musician (SANTANA), and I had "You Tube" at first for 8A: It sends out lots of streams (NETFLIX), but once the downs started dropping in, those were fixed up.

The NW was where we ended today. I got tricked on one of my favorite kinds of clues: 5D: Mediums for dummies, say, Abbr. (ANAG). Sheesh! That's another good one of those! But even though we got hung up in a few places, nothing seemed too terribly hard. I'm not familiar with the EURE river or department, but those crosses going through it were so good that I hardly noticed it at all. TORNADO (43D: What might take up residence?) and SPEEDOS (44D: Truncated trunks?) are both quality material.

Overall, quite enjoyable.

- Horace

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013, Evan Birnholz


A very clever Thursday, shot full of holes. The "To be or not to be" theme is very, very good. For across clues, the answer is yes, for Downs, it's no. Really, it's quite beautiful.

Some of the fill is almost shocking in its modernity. Witness SUCKS[BB]YOU (17A: "Good thing I don't have the same problem!"), and SCREWIT (45D: "Whatever!"). Very fresh fill, in two ways! I'm sure that the AMISH (30D: Some buggy drivers), and whoever wrote ADESTE (22D: Christmas hymn beginning) Fidelis would blanch at the sight of such entries!

The asymmetry of the rebus squares is key, as it keeps one from simply filling in the corners, or all the Vs, for example, once the pattern is learned. Here, the eight "BB" holes must be found separately. Well, except for the revealer, I guess. Once you get the beginning, you get the end, or vice versa.

I like PHOENIX (20A: River of film) as fill, and 23A: That's the point (DOT) was good. I struggled a bit when "lunch" didn't work out for 24A: Meal at which to drink four cups of wine (SEDER), but the crosses fixed that right up. 25A: Part of a pickup line? (TAXI) was excellent, and I was on the right track for 42A: One who may need a shower? (BRIDE[BB]), but it was not the first rebus I figured out, so it took a while for me to get it right. Oh, and the very next one, CHESSSET (44A: Holder of a pair of queens) was brilliant, too. So much good stuff!

On the down side, OHOS (14A: "Look what I found!" cries) is pretty weak, but I'm going to cut Mr. Birnholz quite a bit of slack today. Great theme/trick, lots of clever/interesting fill... Great Thursday!

- Horace

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013, Paula Gamache


I tend to enjoy this kind of jokey wordplay theme. JUMPATTHECHANTS (58A: Be startled by singing monks?), is maybe my favorite, and PRINTSOFTHIEVES (17A: What Ali Baba found on the treasure in the cave?) is my least. It's clever, but wouldn't the treasure be gone?

Decent enough fill, I guess. You've got your OONAs and your OBEs and stuff like POLI and ELEV, but, well, it's fine. The crossing of AIDAN (14A: Actor Quinn) and ADIN (3D: Deuce follower) is interesting, and we've got both GIG (24D: Booking) and GIGI (54A: Lerner/Loewe musical set in Paris), and TMEN (51D: Eliot Ness and others) and TBIRD (31D: Car mentioned in the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun"), which is a little weird. Is that kind of thing intentional? or just coincidence? I'm gonna go with intentional.

Favorite clue/answer: 49A: You'll need to take steps to get to it (ATTIC). Nice.

It wasn't my favorite ever, but you won't hear any BOOING from me. A decent Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Joel Fagliano


Man, this, to me, seems like a perfect early-week - or even mid week - NYT crossword puzzle. Very clean fill, and a beautiful, elegant theme. Really, it's just gorgeous. I guess it forces a 180-degree symmetry instead of the usual rotational symmetry, but that doesn't bother me a bit. And didn't the black squares in the middle (minus the vertical line at the bottom) kind of look like an excited cartoon dog, jumping up and putting his arms up? Well... they did to me...

The fill is mostly unstrained, despite the heavy "V" requirements. Well, except maybe for KISLEV (28A: Hebrew month when Hanukkah starts). Do all Jews know the Hebrew calendar? I sure don't. But on the plus side, I thought that all the 10-letter answers were better than average. LOVERSLANE (3D: Make-out session spot), LIVINGWILL (11D: Medical directive), VICARIOUS (35D: Experienced through another), and VENETIANS (37D: Shakespeare's Antonio and Bassanio, e.g.) were all quite good. Maybe because of all the Vs, I don't know.

I like that OWL (33A: Hundred Acre Wood resident) is chosen today from the group, instead of the more usual "Roo" or "Pooh." REVIVAL (34A: Place to hear fire and brimstone) was refreshingly unusual, and WHO (38A: Personal question?), while being a little odd by itself, is made better by its symmetry with "Owl."

We've seen puzzles with Mr. Fagliano's byline a lot since starting these reviews, and we haven't always loved them, but he nailed this one.

- Horace