Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014, Robert Crillo


Nowhere near the four-minute mark today, but I enjoyed the slightly more challenging Monday. The "Ma and Pa" (could have been "Ma and Par," but that doesn't make any sense…) theme was fine, and the extra-long (for a Monday?) theme entries were all quite good. I've heard the name MACARTHURPARK (42A: *1978 #1 Donna Summer hit that covered a 1968 #2 hit by Richard Harris) a lot in my life, but I couldn't have told you that either one of those people had sung it, nor can I sing any of it myself. I'm guessing I might recognize it, but I cannot conjure it out of nothing. Also, is it a little weird to you that the first (MASQUERADEPARTY (18A: *Where Romeo and Juliet meet)) and last (MARDIGRASPARADE (58A: *New Orleans event with floats)) theme entries seem somewhat related? No? OK.

The longer non-theme stuff is quite good today, too. BARBARELLA (10D: 1968 Jane Fonda sci-fi film), INQUEST (4D: Official investigation), and STORMSURGE (26D: Rise of seawater that might accompany a hurricane) are all solid. Sure, there's a little too much "A-something" (AFAR, ANAP, ADUE…), but overall, this is a fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014, Peter A. Collins

Musical Interpretation

Here I am giving Horace (and of course, you, our dedicated readers :) a treat for his birthday by writing up today's puzzle. Ever since I started the puzzle this morning, a phrase has been rattling around in my head: "regrettable gettables." This puzzle seemed like a festival of abbreviations, word parts, and product names that were easy to get, but not fun, although NYTOL amuses me. To wit:

Abbreviations and Partials:
11A. Abbr. at the top of an email (BCC)
101A. Meatless day in W.W.II: Abbr. (TUE)
113A. Suffix with salt (INE)
1D. Org. (ASSOC)
6D. Suffix with major (ETTE)
9D. Bank ID (ACCTNO) (least favorite)
38D. Info for an airport greeter, for short (ETA)
44D. Prefix with thermal (EXO)
49D. New York arrival of '77 (SST)
50D. BBC std. (GMT)
77D. The "s" in Awacs: Abbr. (SYS)
78D. Dose meas. (TSP)
84D. Graz's land: Abbr. (AUS)

Commercial entities:
35A. Purveyor of the Doublicious sandwich (KFC)
55A. Dr Pepper alternative (MRPIBB)
105A. Some lawn mowers (TOROS)
4D. Some versions of Windows (NTS)
18D. Competitor of ZzzQuil (NYTOL)
74D. Brand of pickles (VLASIC)

On the upside, the theme was fun,. Who doesn't love a Wacky Wordy when she can get one? My favorite was NOOMDAB (BADMOON rising) 90D. 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit?, but LOATEENAGERVE was also nice, and the last one we got. It looks really weird in the middle of the puzzle there.

Also sprinkled in were a few clever clue and answer pairs. Horace mentioned in particular 93D. Rubber from Arabia? (ALADDIN). It took me a minute to get it - not the kind of rubber I was thinking of. Which reminds me to note that there's not much Huyguens material here, except maybe 107D. Longing looks (LEERS).

Despite the less entertaining parts of the puzzle, overall it's nothing to SNOOK at.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014, Barry C. Silk


Whew! What a difference a day makes! Much of the SE fell quickly, but everything else took a long, long time to come into focus for us today. When we had "_ _ _ _ NXL__E" for example, I thought we had a mistake for sure, but Frannie all of a sudden said SPHINXLIKE (31A: Enigmatic), and finally we were getting somewhere!

As usual with a Barry Silk puzzle, the fill is high-quality. The NE and SW corners are tight, and contain some of the weakest stuff today (KTS (18A: They often land next to queens: Abbr.) (strained, I think), and UEY (59A: 180) (We've seen this a few times, but we're not digging it)), but we'll suffer that without too much grousing in exchange for POOLTABLE (32D: Shark's place), HUDSONBAY (33D: Polar Bear Provincial Park borders it), CORNCOBPIPE (1A: It's made from an ear and put in the mouth), ANCIENTROME (58A: Forum setting), OKEECHOBEE (28D: Locals call it the "Big O"), and DANUBERIVER (54A: It's between Buda and Pest).

Frannie enjoyed TEACOZY (42A: Knit at a social function), and we both groaned at PURR (8D: Himalayan production), but in a good way. Really.

I don't know who ELSA (41A: Orphaned lion of literature) is, but I did remember AMAH (34A: Nanny, in Nanjing) and ISAO (9D: Golfer Aoki), so that helped a little.

Not the most exciting puzzle, maybe, but a nice challenge for us today.

- Horace

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014, David J. Kahn


This grid put up very little resistance as we worked on it in unison last night. We started with the Down clues, and after getting a few of those, the fifteens all fell easily. Then it was just a matter of filling in.

Didn't know KLEBAN (24A: "A Chorus Line" lyricist Ed) or what (32D) year the Angels won the World Series (MMII), and TRILBY (47D: English hat similar to a fedora) sounded familiar only after it was filled in, but those things mattered little today. We enjoyed seeing ALEXANDERCALDER (61A: Mobile creator) in there… he's always a favorite. And that's a very different clue for ALI (34A: Iran's Ayatollah ____ Khamenei)! We didn't know that either.

Never saw the movie referred to in the mini-theme, but Frannie remembered CAPTAINPHILLIPS after I remembered SOMALIPIRATES, so that went well, too. Heck, I even remembered ARA (28A: Constellation described by Ptolemy)! He described a lot of them, but only a few have made it into the crosswords I've seen.

As for enjoyment factor - well, I didn't love the cross-referenced EST/ARR/ETAS nonsense, and ATRA, EPEE, ERST, ELAN, IRES (plural - blah), and YSER are all seen rather too often. One of Frannie's least favorite entries also made an appearance - ENOTE (12D: Modern message), and while I'm grousing, I might as well add that I prefer the "ae" spelling of ETHER (46A: Upper regions of space).

On an up note, my BLUECHIPS (3D: Relatively low-risk investments) made something like 40% last year, so I'm happy about that.

Overall, 7D: Meh (SOSO).

- Horace

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014, Jean O'Conor

about 27 minutes

Very distressing. We finished the puzzle in a little under a half an hour, but did not get the "Well Done!" message, so we looked around for typos, etc. This morning, I looked one more time and, unable to find our "error," consulted the blogosphere, where I learned in the comments of one blog that the puzzle required that "PI" be entered where "2" belongs, in SIDE2 (47A: Where to find "Yesterday" on the album "Help!"). I tried it, it worked. Very distressing.

We got the theme and rebus somewhat early, with MAGNUM[PI] (58A: Tom Selleck role) and LIFEOF[PI] (20A: Best seller about shipwreck survivors) in combination with the FULL / CIRCLE entries. We knew both formulas (yes, even I knew them!), but it took awhile before we understood what was meant by RMOVIES (58A: "The Godfather" parts I, II and III, e.g.). R-rated. Blecch. RMONTHS (24A: September through April, in a culinary guideline) (think: oysters) is also meh-worthy.

We liked ARTEMIS (38A: Temple of ____, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) (I knew memorizing those would pay off!), TAXEVADER (4D: Shirker of one's duties?) (cute), BIKINITOP (38D: It wraps around a chest at the beach), ELASTIC (58A: What gives?), HOEDOWNS (8D: Do-si-do whoop-de-dos), SERENADED (9D: Courted with love notes?), and a few others, but it's hard to come away with a good feeling about this one. Maybe it's more the fault of the NYT than of the constructor, but still, that's the way it goes. "Side Pi." Ugh.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014, Alex Vratsanos


I liked this one. It played almost like a themeless, and I'm not sure I ever would have gotten the theme if not for the two-part revealer. Very nice overall, with a few (ok, one more than a few) obscure (at least to me) answers. ARRAU (25D: Pianist Claudio), PHILLIP (48A: Australia's Port ____ Bay), ROBB (47A: Eldest Stark child on "Game of Thrones"), and NHRA (38A: Drag racers' org.), were four I didn't know.

Much of the rest, though, was quite nice. COPPERHEAD (29D: *Anti-Civil War Northerner) sounds somewhat familiar, but I'd never have come up with it without crosses. And in other theme news, did you notice that "mimeOgraPh" fit in perfectly where CARBONCOPY (6D: *Typist's duplicate of old) belonged? I did, and it cost me a little time!

I always like seeing OCHS (3D: Protest singer Phil) in the grids. I know he has a convenient name, but we're also fans. And speaking of things I like, SCALLOP (40D: Bit of surf in surf and turf) (odd clue) doesn't get nearly enough play. In puzzles, or on my plate!

I think it's been a good week, but I've given it short shrift. Again, today, I'm very late with the review, and I feel pressure to just push the "Publish" button. Luckily, for me and for our readers, our faithful commenters have added nicely, as they always do. Thanks, guys!

Now that our brief travels are over, I hope to be able to devote more time to "the turn," and, indeed, to all future puzzles.

- Horace

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, David Woolf


This played slightly tougher for me than a usual Tuesday, I think, but I welcome the added challenge. Another quote puzzle, with two sports-related entries to go along with it. It's March Madness, which I know because I happen to be in Raleigh, NC as I write this, and it's also, I understand, Spring Training, so this is perfectly timed.

Like yesterday, the fill is largely free of cringe-worthy fill (ENISLE being a notable exception). There's a couple of designers - MANOLO (5D: Shoe designer Blahnik) and OLEG (32A: Designer Cassini). I like FSTOP (48D: Aperture setting), although I know it's getting a little old-fashioned.

RABAT (23D: Capital of Morocco) (It's not Casablanca?) is good trivia, and there's some nice long stuff, like SHISHKEBAB (4D: Serving with a skewer) and RICHARDIII (30D: Shakespeare character who says "I have set my life upon a cast"). ZAFTIG, too, (40D: Pleasingly plump) is quite nice.

Overall, a nice Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014, Tom Pepper


A somewhat surprising DIRTYWORDS (60A: Curses ... or the starts of 17-, 27-, and 44-Across?) theme today, with three nice long theme entries. My personal favorite of those being GREASYSPOONS (27A: Low-class diners). I love a good greasy spoon, but and have seen too many disappear. First The Tasty in Harvard Square, then that little place on Church Street, and now Leo's Place just closed! Where will I get breakfast?! But I digress.

I liked the puzzle just fine. SPURN (39A: Give the cold shoulder), GENDER (57A: Male or female), STUNG (28D: Attacked by bees), ARGYLE (48D: Diamond-shaped stocking design)... those are all good words. And there's some good long stuff, too, like SPLITPEA (52A: Kind of soup), and THECLOUD (27A: Where many digital files are now stored).

Sure, I don't love ACNED (43A: Pimply), for many reasons, but overall, I like the puzzle just fine.

- Horace

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014, Ian Livengood



So is it some Edison anniversary? The theme is thick today, with lots of quote, name (without the oh-so-crosswordsy middle name), nickname, hidden light bulb shape, circled "Aha moment," and even a plus sign in the middle, signifying, at least to one, energy itself. That's a lot! And the fill didn't suffer too much. It was, however, somewhat less than an enthralling solve. That could, however, be somewhat due to the fact that Frannie and I solved this in the car, on the second day of a long road trip, after a night spent tossing and turning in a hotel. So, we were a little tired.

Is EOS (7A: Sister of Helios) part of the theme? because she represents the coming light of day? No, probably not.

I don't know, maybe I'm just out of sorts. Things I might normally think were clever, like 42A: Sticks in the closet? (MOPS), and 68A: Couple at the altar? (IDOS) (ok, that one might be a stretch even on a good day), I didn't think much of today. And what is LEDES (58D: Starts of news articles)? Why isn't it "leads?"

I'll say again, it's an impressive amount of fill. Let's leave it at that. It's not you, Ian, it's me. I need some sleep.

- Horace

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014, Greg Johnson


As usual on the weekend, we started slow, almost fearing disaster, and then things started to work themselves out.

First off, I like the sideways bow-tie grid. Sure, there's just that one, tiny opening into the NW and the SE, but everything else is nice and open. What are there, two threes in this whole thing?

Second - well, ok, I don't know if this deserves second billing, but I'm doing it anyway - How 'bout GAZEBOS (7D: Outdoor wedding settings) getting in twice this week? I don't know about you, but that word always makes us think of the Simpsons ("How many gazebos do you she-males need?"). OK, many things make us think of the Simpsons. "What's wrong with that?" ("It's a Wonderful Life"). I swear, between the Simpsons and It's a Wonderful Life, we could reference every single thing we say, see, hear, and do. "But that's not important right now." (OK, and "Airplane.")

Really wanted ALTERing for ALTERANT (16A: Change-making), and I still think it's a little stretched as it is. And does Stetson really make all the STETSONS that are used as 14D: Troopers' toppers? I hardly ever think of them as a still-viable company. Still up in that quadrant TEXAS (20A: Locale of three presidential libraries) gets in twice in a row! Odd. And STPAT (9D: Green party V.I.P.?) was nice, too. I actually considered "Nader," but I still hold a grudge against him, so I didn't write it in.

Oh, one more thing. I think we got this entirely on crosses, but LIT isn't exactly the same thing, to me, anyway, as 21A: Fried. "Fried" implies, more, "baked," or, "high," and "lit" is more "tipsy" or even "drunk." What I'm saying is, Fried = marijuana, lit = alcohol. Your thoughts?

But I quibble. This puzzle was thick with lovely fill. HERALDS, OPAQUE, GRIFT, LEGIONS (although I prefer to use it as a singular adjective), FRIEZE, ENVISION, HORDE, BORAX (never heard that definition before), SEXTON, SLEAZE… so much good. I'll suffer the occasional OMAHAN (51A: Many a worker at Union Pacific headquarters). I don't care if it really is what you call them, it still looks dumb.

Lastly, I liked learning that WHALES are 4D: High rollers, in casino lingo. It's so beautifully descriptive.

Lovely Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014, Brendan Emmett Quigley


Whew! Mr. Quigley can make a very difficult puzzle when he wants to, and we had to put this one down unfinished last night. This morning, we worked on the NE corner together and finally brought it home. The second T of LANOTTE (25D: 1961 Michelangelo Antonioni drama) (didn't he do "Blow Up"? … yes, yes he did, but I've never heard of this one) where it crosses STINE (45A: "A Midsummer Night's Scream" author) was an educated guess, but really, how many other letters could it have been, I guess. BESSEMER (7A: Sir Henry ____, pioneer in steelmaking), STAN (10D: Pollster Greenberg), and CARYN (30A: Figure skater Kadavy) were all unknowns, and we had EXITrAmp for a long time instead of EXITLANE (16A: Getting-off point), which didn't help things. REASON (14D: "The natural organ of truth": C. S. Lewis) (too bad his deserted him …) and ENERGY (13D: Cabinet department) were inferable, but not known. In short, the whole quadrant was very difficult for us. Perhaps you fared better.

Oh, and one last thing about that corner - TEXASTEA (18A: Drink made with tequila, rum, vodka, gin, bourbon, triple sec, sweet-and-sour mix and Coke) sounds dreadful. Does anyone, aside from, obviously, idiotic college kids, drink that?

Oh, wait, I forgot EXEDRA (8D: Semicircular recess in Roman architecture. I'm a Latin student and an architectural photographer, and this word is not in my general vocabulary. Plus, it crosses ONERS (25A: Standouts), which is itself a standout of a certain kind.

Whew! And on the bottom we have such gems as CRUMHORN (58A: Renaissance woodwind), GAFFS (47A: Barbed spears for fishing), and EDDA (49A: Classic work in Old Norse) (Frannie knew this one!, which helped a lot).

Another appropriate anagram of "notes" is "tones," but STENO (6D: Anagram of "notes," appropriately) is also good, and the S is better placed.

A tough puzzle with some rough spots, but overall, we finished, and that's always satisfying.

- Horace

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014, Victor Barocas


A very nice Thursday with a clever twist.

Having become familiar, now, with the "-" type of clue, I understood quickly that certain clues would span more than one answer space. The first one I got was COLLEGETOWNS (50A: Amherst and Orono, for two ["Get up!"]), but I did not immediately see that "GET" was split out and going "up." I ended up with ABRIDOOFAR (61A: 1977 W.W. II film ["Get lost!"]) by getting all the crosses, but I kept looking for the missing letters nearby. "Get gone!" might have been clearer to me, but luckily, Frannie quickly figured out what was going on. The trickiest one, I think, was PATEGURNER (18A: Gripping read ["Get back!"]), and it was a little odd pushing the "check puzzle" button, even though we got the trick, with that looking the way it does.

Haven't seen TIGE (68A: Buster Brown's dog) for a while, but Frannie remembered it from previous fill. Also in the "know it from crossword puzzles" is ALEX (14A: "A Clockwork Orange" protagonist). Sure, I saw the movie 30 years ago, but my memory has at least been reinforced by the puzzles.

Nice central crossing of first words with YOU (39A: First word of "Huckleberry Finn") and NOW (34D: First word of "Richard III"). I like that flourish.

We know SKUNK (29D: Leave scoreless) as a cribbage term, where no one is ever left truly scoreless, but we suppose it must be used elsewhere as well, with the stated meaning. And SKI (40A: One passing a gate) seems a little much. "Skier" would have been better, no? "One going through a toll booth" could be "tire," but would it be? I don't know… maybe I'm quibbling. I liked the puzzle a lot. Let's not spoil it this way.

I'll end on a happy note and say that Frannie got GAZEBO (52A: Where Maria and the Captain have their first kiss in "The Sound of Music") after I simply read the clue to her aloud. No crosses, no number of spaces, no nothing. Gotta love that.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19, 2014, Samuel A. Donaldson


Frannie and I enjoyed this cute puzzle as we solved it, cutely, side-by-side. Sorry for the grossness, I couldn't resist. But really, doesn't everyone enjoy pig Latin - AMSCRAY (40A: Go away as a speaker of pig Latin might?)? And the classic MAKELIKEA/BANANA/ANDSPLIT (58A: With 63- and 65-Across, go away as a soda jerk might?) always delivers. And BEATIT (18A: Go away as a Michael Jackson impersonator might?)? Also cute.

We got caught up briefly by trying "reb" instead of JAY (20A: Yank rival), but ABBA (9D: Group featured in "Mamma Mia!") quickly righted that. The regular Latin really paid off today, too, as I entered BEWARE (15A: The "cave" of "cave canem") ("Beware of dog") immediately. That might be  the same in regular Italian, too, come to think of it, but I'm not sure.

I don't particularly love KGS (25D: British scale divs.) (isn't kg enough?), and I don't often think of Orel Roberts University (2D: Tulsa sch. with a Prayer Tower (ORU)). And XOX (34D: Worthless tic-tac-toe row) is a bit random. At least they didn't clue it with "Losing line," which has stumped me for much longer in the past. But really, most of those things were filled in before we even read the clues. This was a Tuesday-level puzzle, maybe, but it was a good one. And hey, I can't forget to mention DARCY (27D: "Pride and Prejudice" protagonist)! That automatically shoots the puzzle up in Frannie's estimation, at least. (And mine, really. It's a great book.)


- Horace

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014, David Kwong


BWI (47D: Home of the Bahamas, once: Abbr.), TORV (42D: Star of "Fringe," Anna ____), and BEBE (50D: Early film star Daniels) all crossing DEATHWEDOVER (52A: Exchange of vows again for the Grim Reaper?)?!? Too heavy a toll for too little a payoff. I stared at those three crosses for maybe fifteen minutes before Frannie figured out that the original phrase must be "Death warmed over."

I guess I like that AFAREWELLTOARMS (38A: W.W. I novel ... hinted at by 17-, 24-, 52- and 64-Across) spans the middle, and the idea of taking some letters out is fine, but if it's "A Farewell to Arms" shouldn't ARMS be taken out, instead of ARM? (Yes, I get that there are multiple instances of "ARM" being taken out, but still...) And what is meant by "hinted at?" It's really that the incredibly lame theme answers are a result, not a hint. Ugh. I hated this.

- Horace

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014, John Lieb


Nice vowel progression puzzle. Was cruising along nicely and suddenly came upon 56A: Burma's first prime minister (UNU). Hah! I panicked briefly when I couldn't think of GUISE (49D: False front), and I put in "floor" for AISLE (63A: Most accessible seating choice), so everything was a mess down there for a while. Well, ok, probably ten or twenty seconds, but on Monday, those seconds add up!

I don't know about the disturbing sub-theme of the LUSTY (52D: Robust), SEDUCTIVE (11D: Alluring) FANTASIES (37D: Excursions to la-la land) about JIMPALMER's (34D: Orioles Hall-of-Fame pitcher who modeled Jockey underwear) DRESSCODE (4D: Casual Friday relaxes it), but, well… I SPOSE (53D: "Assuming it's true …," informally) I'll AVOID (33D: Steer clear of) comment on that.

Decent Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, March 16, 2014, Jeremy Newton



Is it? I'm not so sure. ICERUN (10D: Spring river breakup) is that a thing? AGUAS (44A: Glassfuls in restaurantes), umm… ok. URIM (66D: ____ and Thummim (sacred Judaic objects)? If you say so. ENTHUSE, AEGISES, RARER, EXFED, RSTU … blah.

I liked EPHEMERA (74D: Things for here and now), ROMCOMS (40D: "Clueless" and "Bridget Jones's Diary"), OMINOUS (61D: Like gathering storm clouds), ADAMSALE (115A: Water, wryly) (Dad likes to call it that), and a few others, but the theme did little for me, and I really hated certain sections. Kind of a let-down after yesterday, but that's no surprise.

- Horace

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014, Ed Sessa


Wow. This puzzle was so very far from normal. It was a struggle the whole way, but thoroughly fresh and satisfying. KISSYFACE (17A: Indication that one wants to get smacked) was one of our first indications that this would not be full of standard fare. BRAINFREEZE (11D: Cold discomfort, of sorts), TWITTERJAIL (22D: Penalty for some overly prolific posters), BODACIOUS (49A: Sexy) (Frannie finally got that one!)… these are all great. And the cluing was very tricky, too! For "26D: Skin behind a slip, perhaps" had us thinking "something thigh?" "something leg?" but BANANAPEEL was quite good.

ELYSIAN (5D: Blissful), MUTANTS (36D: Staples of Marvel Comics), BEEKEEPER (54A: One controlling drones), HUMANRACE (29A: People everywhere)… so much good.

I don't really know what else to say. It was better than Cats. We want to solve it again and again.

- Horace

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014, Alan Olschwang


I found this one tough, but I liked it. I started things off and got precious little, then I handed it to Frannie and by the time she handed it back, there were only a few problem areas left. I filled them in, mostly, but when I went to hand it back, she had fallen asleep, so I was left to fend for myself with the pesky left-brain question 10D: Mathematics branch associated with fractals (COMPLEXANALYSIS) (beautiful fill!). I was missing the L and the X, and 25A: Magazine Industry's equivalent of a Pulitzer (ELLIE) was no help at all. I had guessed "ELsIE," and sort of convinced myself that "CompSetAnalysis" could be a thing, but I couldn't understand 35A: Vet (EXGI) as "EtGI" for the life of me. All I could think of were animal doctors and the verb meaning to carefully examine. If I had carefully examined the word a little more, I might have come upon the important third meaning, as an abbreviation for "veteran." Oh well. I looked around the whole grid for a while, and then fell asleep myself. In the morning, Frannie took one look at it and finished it immediately. That's why we're a team, dammit. I'm going to see if Will Shortz will let us compete together somehow next year at the tournament... 

Anywho, as I said, I thought this was pretty darn good. Lots of fifteens, but not in an overly aggressive way, and they were all solidly real things. I've never heard of THENOONDAYDEVIL (3D: 1985 Ralph McInery novel), but I'm sure others must have. I have, of course, heard of COMPLEXANALYSIS (and Mandelbrot, FWIW), and I've done some complex analysis... but not the math kind. Hah. Other things I didn't know were SACHA (59A: Gervasi who directed 2012's "Hitchcock"), RON (12D: Jockey Turcotte)... and is ROTOS (47A: Old paper parts) meant to stand for "rotogravures?" As in, "On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us/And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure?" Lastly, I assume also that ENTR (40A: Start of an intermission?) is the start of "entr'acte." I get it, but it's a bit of a stretch. Frankly, I almost prefer IIN (20A: "Am ____ France?": King Lear) as fill. Oh, and one last complaint is that YESES (15D: Many nods) only has one S, when I prefer two. I know the tide is changing ("travelling/traveling, shovelling/shoveling" etc.), but "YESES" just looks so wrong.

But even with all that grousing, I stand by my opinion that this was a good, challenging puzzle. Very little of the stale kind of crosswordese, and lots of good, long fill. I guess I'll take weird fill like IIN and GOTAB, over stuff like SETT, ARA, and ETUI. Et tu?

- Horace

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014, Alex Vratsanos


Today marks the one-year anniversary of our first post here at Horace and Frances, and we'd like to thank every one of you who's stopped by to read, whether it was just once, looking for an answer, or nearly every day to join in the conversation. Frannie and I have had a lot of fun doing the puzzles, and are repeatedly amazed by the creativity and cleverness of the constructors. We have talked of trying to create a puzzle of our own, but so far, that hasn't happened. I can only assume that when it does, we'll have even more respect for those who do it so well.

Today's puzzle was very good. I thought I had sniffed out a rebus early when I saw 35A: Rembrandt van ____ (RYN). I wanted "RijN," but I couldn't really convince myself that the rebus could be "IJ," unless it was made to look like a smiley-face somehow… but even that didn't really work. Luckily, I was wrong, and there was no rebus at all. Only COLORBYNUMBER (13D: Kid's art activity … or something seen four times in this puzzle's solution?) (OK, why the question mark there? They're question mark happy at the Times!). We've seen side-by-side themes, or "under" or "over" themes, but I don't remember one done exactly this way.

The NW was the last to go for us today. I knew that 5D: Mashie niblick (SIXIRON) was a club, because I had once bought either a mashie or a niblick at an old church fair. I hadn't known that together they made their own club, but I guessed it was an iron. I was thinking along the lines of "one" or "two," so BOARS (1A: Swine), and BRUNEI (12A: Country that calls itself the "Abode of Peace") were hard to figure out. Also, I don't know why RATEDX (15A: Like only one Best Picture in Academy Award history (1969)) (!) took us so long. What else could it be, really, once "documentary" didn't fit? Anyway, I eventually reasoned that 1A might end in S, and then everything fell into place rather quickly. It probably shouldn't have taken as long as it did, but it was very late, and I was very tired.

Some nice internal pairings - KTS (23 Gold units: Abbr.) and DPS (46A: Diamond stats) That was tricky! (baseball: double-plays), but maybe not as tricky for non-sports fans as RHE (54A: Line score inits.), which is, I believe, "Runs, Hits, Errors." And speaking of baseball, what the heck is "SFO" in 22D: SFO opponent in the 2012 World Series (DET)? Is that just a typo?

TORPOR (60A: Lassitude), BLACKOPS (9D: 2010 installment of Call of Duty series), SERENADE (58A: Play to the balcony?) - those are all quite nice. And SEAGREEN (33D: Teal relative) was always my favorite Crayola color. All in all, it's a great anniversary puzzle!

- Horace

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Jeff Chen


Well, it took me longer than yesterday's puzzle, but only because I had to hunt for the error that I made in my haste - "CaVE" for COVE (9D: Pirate hide-out, often). I never even saw UPBOW (14A: What a "V" signals to a violinist). (It wasn't "arco!")

But that's neither here nor there. I enjoyed the puzzle and its theme of liquid refreshment! Throw in a bonus 15-letter revealer - DRINKSALLAROUND (38A: "I'm buying!," at a bar ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) - and you've got a mighty fine Wednesday.

The sevens, eights and nines were all pretty good, I thought. EAGLEEYE (41A: Good-looking person?) (nice clue, and yes, the question mark was valid there), PLOTLINES (54A: Story threads), RISOTTO (44A: Alternative to pasta)... all fine. When you get into the shorter stuff you start to see EPEE, ESAU, ELEC, and some others, but nothing too terrible.

Am I being too lenient on early-week puzzles? Should I be moaning about every last bit of stale crosswordese, like other crossword bloggers? Or should I find some joy in a fun, well-executed theme? I say the latter.

But tomorrow starts "the turn," as I like to call it (Thursday, Friday, Saturday), when the puzzles should get both harder and cleaner. At least that's how I see it.

- Horace

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014, Mel Rosen


It's been a long winter, and I'll take any hopeful thing I can get, so today's theme was perfect. INBUD (49D: About to bloom … or a hint to 20-, 33-, 41- and 52-Across) meant that all four theme answers were "wrapped" in the word "BUD." BURMAROAD (33A: Allied supply route to China during W.W. II), for example.

The rest of the fill was decent. Some clever cluing, like 6D: Flaming felony (ARSON) and 39D: Volume that requires lots of preparations to complete? (COOKBOOK) were both pretty good. And I like the uncommon BUSS (33D: Smooch), the French angle (somewhat common) in SEINE (12D: What the Left Bank is a bank of) and BERET (43A: Tête topper).

As usual, we see ANIL and OBIS, and the unknown (to me) ILIA (38A: Olympic skating champ Kulik), but overall, this was a fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014, Kelly Clark


I liked this one just fine. Simple theme, TOOLBOX (40A: Handyman's tote), with four symmetrical tens pinwheeling around the grid, each ending with a tool name. Nice.

I don't know Nicholas Gage or his memoir (ELENI), and SEAEEL (20A: Sushi fish) is a new one, too, at least to me. I suppose they're different from river and/or lake eels? But isn't "eel" enough? HAHAS (43A: Big laughs) seem a little more like regular laughs (guffaws? yucks? howls?) but, well, that's fine. All over the place there's crosswordsy-type stuff - OBIS, ILIEOTT, EKED, STEN, SSTS, ELLS, SRTA, but, well, it's Monday, and I'm still going to ENDON (24A: ____ a happy note).

I liked PROXY (26D: Authorized substitute) and STIFFS (48D: Doesn't leave a tip), and you know what? I even liked TENKS (13D: Marathon warm-up races), although I think you'll need a little more than a 10K before you run a marathon.


- Horace

Sunday, March 9, 2014, Brendan Emmett Quigley



We're a little down on Mr. Quigley just now, because his puzzle in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament derailed us terribly. It was horrible. We both kept checking the clock, panic set in, and everything fell apart. I think that when time ran out we had fifteen or twenty blank squares left. Of course, after that, when we were at our leisure again, we completed the remainder in about five minutes. But that's the thing about tournaments and tests, eh? Time is an issue.

Really, though, Brendan, we appreciate the challenge. And your clue/answer pair "Evening aid (PLANER)" is one of the only things that I remember clearly from any of the puzzles. Well, that and Mr. Blindauer working in the names of all five boroughs across answers in his grid. They were both things of beauty.

Overall, our first experience with the ACPT was a lot of fun, but it also taught us (ok, mostly me - Frannie argued for prudence, but I was impulsive) a few lessons. One is, check to make sure that all the squares are filled in before you submit your puzzle. Duh. (We left one square open in Puzzle 2, dammit!) The second is, a correctly completed puzzle is more important to your score than a quickly finished puzzle with an error (We could have caught our one bad letter in puzzle 7!). There's a 150-point bonus for having no errors, and only a 25-point bonus for each minute by which you beat the limit. So, one error is worth six minutes. Plus, there's a 25-point deduction for each error, so really you can spend seven minutes checking things over (way more than you ever would spend checking things over) before you are doing yourself any real harm.

We finished in the middle of the pack, a little below the middle, actually, but as I said, we had fun getting nervous and trying to imagine ourselves actually in the room with everyone else. We're not even sure how it works at the tournament. Do people solve on paper? Do they all sit at computers? And if it's on paper, how is the timing worked out with so many people? These answers will hopefully be answered next year when we attend for real! It's moving back to Stamford, CT, and it will happen just before my birthday, so the stars are definitely aligning. I can't wait!

So, anyway, let's see… today's puzzle was pretty good. The "add the -sy sound and clue wackily" theme produced some fun answers. HAZYSAILOR (36D: Barely remembered seaman?) (The clue wasn't perfect, but I like that he chose to use "Hey, Sailor" as a base), BOISEWONDER (103A: Marvel from Idaho's largest city?), and so on.

Mr. Quigley loves his French. Today there was a lot, including DEUX (40A: Haitian couple), MOI (83A: French 101 pronoun), 64A: Billet-doux recipient (DEAREST), CERISE (93A: Bright red), ARGOT (95D: Specialized talk), and the kicker, ETRE (75D: "Fûmes" is a form of it). As Frannie said, "He went there." That's passé simple! And that's not simple!

FRESHEN (1A: Top off, as someone's drink) and LARYNXES (16D: Talking points) were good, and what's up with EMUS (76D: Birds with inflatable neck sacks)? Really? Also, I bet Dad would know STEPTOE (8A: Isolated hill surrounded by lava), but we didn't.

Decent, but overshadowed, at least for us, by the weekend, and his puzzle in the tournament.

- Horace

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014, David Steinberg


I think I know too much about David Steinberg. Or perhaps I have made too many assumptions based on the little knowledge that I have. I know primarily that he is young. A crossword wunderkind, according to some. I know, also, that he is spearheading a project to digitize and render searchable and analyzable all the crossword puzzles run in the New York Times prior to November 20, 1993, the date the current editor, Will Shortz, assumed that role. He is obviously wise beyond his years, extremely well-versed in crossword clues and answers, and the possessor of a mind to be reckoned with. Still, I sometimes can't shake the feeling that some of his fill is more "looked up" than "known." Am I prejudiced against him unfairly? Am I jealous? Does it matter? And doesn't "looking up" eventually, ideally, mean "knowing?"

I have seen him respond to accusations leveled in the comments of another blog about how he "couldn't possibly know" certain things. He argues that he puts a great deal of time, care, and research into his puzzles, and I don't doubt that it's true. Why should it matter that SEXYSADIE (62A: She "made a fool of everyone," in song) came out nearly thirty years before he was born? It's a song by the most influential and popular band ever. Why shouldn't he, too, have gone through a Beatles phase? I loved the movie "Breaking Away," and maybe he does, too. And maybe he went a step farther than I did and noticed who directed it (YATES (61A: "Breaking Away" director)). OTIS (19A: Old sitcom sot)? Hey, the Andy Griffith Show is probably still in reruns somewhere, and besides, it's famously fertile ground for crossword names, so why shouldn't he be familiar with all the characters? (Besides, using the crosswordese "sot" in the clue could almost be seen as helping, in that it refers to another bit of crosswordese… or maybe I'm over-thinking it.)

OK, I'm glad we've had this talk. I think I've come to a better place about the situation. David, if you're reading (we've appreciated your comments in the past, and if you're still checking in, Thanks!), I'm going to say right now that I'm over it. I'll still complain a bit about ARIOSI (46D: Some opera passages) and KIP (9D: 100-at currency unit), and CONDOR (31D: Hole in one on a par 5 hole) and ARAGONESE (60A: Like Francisco Goya) seem a bit recherché, as Frannie put it, but overall, this was a very nice grid.

Frannie started this off with some good long fill like APOLLOXII (15A: It included a moonwalk), EXHALES (7D: Uses a drunkometer, e.g.), and CLARITIN (13D: Big name in allergy relief), but it still took us quite a while to fill things in completely. And speaking of that "drunk-o-meter" clue, this puzzle seemed a little alcohol-heavy for having been made by a minor! STOLI (16A: Spirit of St. Petersburg?) (nice!) crossing/mixing with COKEZERO (12D: Tab alternative), ROSSI (6D: Martini accompanier), and then a MOJITO (34A: Havana highball) ("highball" here seems a stretch)? Sounds like somebody is looking forward to college! :)

My favorite clue/answer might have been NEST (41A: Beech house?), and Frannie's was META (29A: Prefix with data), but only 'cause she's a nerd. She also enjoyed 26A: Turn the air blue (SWEAR), but only after we understood was meant by that odd construction. There were other good things, but this is getting pretty long, so I'll leave it to our myriad (ok, two, sometimes four) commenters to mention their own favorites.

Good luck, everyone, in the ACPT!

- Horace

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014, Matt Ginsberg


Another tough Friday! This one took two sessions, one last night and one this morning, before we finally got the thing done. The satisfaction was marred somewhat by ENISLE (6D: Put on a key?), and opaque clues like 26D: Word on a biblical wall (MENE), 38D: Alexander who directed "Nebraska" (PAYNE) (We watched the whole Oscars, too!), and, at least at first, 3D: "Etta ____" (old comic strip) (KETT). Sure, it makes sense now! And ACTAEON (47A: Greek hunter trained by Chiron) rang a faint bell once we got it, but jeez!

And speaking of the Greeks, I am reading Book Two of the Aeneid right now (in it, Aeneas recounts the end of the Trojan war for Dido), and consequently felt quite confident entering "gReekS" for 57A: Trojan rivals. That is, of course, exactly what Mr. Ginsberg wanted me to do. I don't know what BRUINS are in this context, but I'm guessing that they are a brand of condom. Either that, or I have yet to reach the point in the story where Troy is also besieged by bears.

The "Friday Theme," as we'll call it, was actually pretty good. THENANNY LOST ALLMYCHILDREN. Hah! Up in the NW we had almost nothing, and once Frannie put in INASTATE (4D: Worked up), I actually wondered if it might be "Seinfeld lost all my children." In other absurdities, I also tried "detWIN" for 7D: Isolate, somehow (SNOWIN), and then "uNtWIN," which actually gave us, with ENISLE, all the Ns for THENANNY. Whew! OMG, TMI, right?

Any time you can work in SCHADENFREUDE (27A: Guilty pleasure?) (no question mark needed!), the puzzle can't be all bad, and this one wasn't. Frannie and I disagreed somewhat on the exact appropriateness (to the clues) of HAZMATSUIT (29D: Requirement for special handling?) and CARVE (48D: Chisel), but I liked them just fine, and I'm the one who's writing, so overall, I'm giving this challenging grid a thumb's up. I'm not sure it's one up, one down, but it's at least one up.

- Horace

p.s. Tomorrow, Frannie and I will be solving online the puzzles used at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. We considered making the trip to Brooklyn, but couldn't swing it this year. It's 20 bucks for the online puzzles, and you aren't actually competing for anything, but at least you can feel a part of it. We'll report more on that on Sunday.

p.p.s. Wait, is it the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans? Damn college sports...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014, Daniel Raymon


Today the revealer helped quite a bit, as we figured that (37A: Platform ... or something that appears four times in this puzzle? (SOAPBOX)) out before we got any of the rebī, and after MOONS[TONE]S (29D: Opalescent gems), we knew what we were looking for. I couldn't get "Budapest" out of my head, though, in the SW, but luckily, Frannie got BAK[LAVA] (65A: Honey-soaked dessert) and BRATIS[LAVA] (42D: Capital on the Danube), so everything worked out just fine.

It seems like it's been a while since we last had a rebus, so that was nice. It was less-than-perfect that two of the answers had gratuitous esses in one direction ("seizes" & "moonstones"), but we'll let that pass. There was a good amount of Scrabble-y letters, with JAMBS (1A: Side pieces) (another gratuitous S!), JIBES (26A: Agrees)("), JINX (26D: Curse), KARAT (49A: 24-____) (tough one), KABOB (49D: Item purchased at many a food cart), OKAPI (34D: Relative of a giraffe), and others.

As always, there's a smattering of EMIR, ANIL, WNW, but not too, too much. Anyway, I like a rebus puzzle, so they have to go pretty far afield to wreck it for me.

Oh, I almost forgot the symmetrical cities of PASADENA (6D: Annual parade locale) (really? Frannie must have gotten this one) and BRUSSELS (38D: European city whose airport is the world's largest chocolate-selling point) (interesting).

All in all, a decent Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Evan Birnholz


Frannie here. Horace is out saving the world. Before he left, when I asked what he thought of the puzzle, he said, "meh." I had to wonder what I thought of the puzzle because we did it together after getting home late from the bar again last night. I think I dozed off around BEATSME, but came back in time for 57A, the big revealer: Phrase that defines (and describes) the other theme answers, IHAVENOCLUE. The parenthetical (and describes) makes it funny. My favorite of the theme answers is HELLIFIKNOW (18A). Starting with HELL makes it funny. 44A. Mark one's words? (EDIT) is also funny.

14A. Bottom line? (HEM), a faux financial clue, was funny, but 41A. Money spent (OUTGO), an actual financial clue, was not. I found the inclusion of both OTO (12D. Ear-related prefix) and OTOE (45A. Siouan tribesman) odd, too.

36D. Fred and Barney's time (STONEAGE) brought me back, so to speak, as did 65A. Nancy Drew creator Carolyn (KEENE), and 50D. Don of "Trading Places" (AMECHE).

I'm going to guess that Huyguens enjoyed 11D. They have umbras and penumbras (SUNSPOTS), but that he probably would have enjoyed it more if it had focused on the 'bras' instead. :)

I fear our loyal readers would not be satisfied without a review of interesting fill. In this category, I would include 1D. CHAMPS, 20A. MYRIAD, 49D. ERSATZ, and 53D. ARETE. Not too much fill fell into the poor category, but there were a few such as 34D. GOOD, 7D. MIL, and 39D. MUS.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014, Bruce Haight and Peter A. Collins


Put me down as being a fan of this kind of variant puzzle. The diagonal symmetry and the kite image was quite a refreshing break! The theme fill seemed adequately dense, and I loved the way it herringboned. The other fill was, I'd say, above average, especially for a Tuesday. There was a point when I saw "LA_" meeting up with "AMI_," and I sighed and looked for the clues "First name in tyranny" and "Office setup," but got instead 25D: Surrounded by (AMID) and 33A: Young chap (LAD). It's a small thing, perhaps, but it made me happy.

On a slightly larger scale, you've got such quality (every time I write the word "quality" I have to suppress the urge to spell it "kwality") fill as PHENOMS (34D: Sports wonders, say), RAVISHED (2D: Enraptured), SENSEI (49A: Martial arts instructor), and QUELLS (30A: Silences).

It was tough getting started up in the NW, as neither DRDOOM (1A: Archenemy of the Fantastic Four) nor JARULE (12A: Rapper with the 2002 #1 hit "Always on Time") came without a few crosses. All in all, though, I'm quite happy with it.

- Horace

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014, Andrea Carla


A fun Monday puzzle. The theme is cute. I wonder which one Ms. Carla thought of first? My money is on LEARNLEAR (63A: Memorize lines for a Shakespearean king?) for some reason. It seems the least convoluted. Well… maybe DIVANDIVA (17A: Operatic singer on a sofa?) could have come up in conversation somehow… Anyway, I like them all just fine, and there's a sort of semi-related entry in 10D: New Jersey governor whose first name starts his last name (CHRISTIE).

It started out rough with WALSH (1A: "America's Most Wanted" host John) (no idea), and then we had AMIE (2D: Parisian girlfriend) (just saw this yesterday) (not Andrea Carla's fault), AMATI (14A: Prized violin), and LAVE (3D: Wash), but things perked up again with STANZA (4D: Lyric unit). I also enjoyed 7D: Software platform suitable for Starbucks? (JAVA) and 22D: Quarter of a quart (CUP) (this seems to be on the same "theme" wavelength, n'est-ce pas?), and who doesn't like a REPO (50A: "____ Man," Emilio Estevez film) reference?

Sure, there's a lot of standard stuff, plus IBE, IFWE, THEX and GOA, but today I don't care. 'Tis, perhaps, NOBLER in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fill if, as today, the theme makes me smile. Sometimes that's enough on a Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014, Alan Arbesfeld

Oscar Double Features

Due to a Sunday full of activities involving other humans and starting as early as 7:30AM, we didn't get a chance to tackle the puzzle until late in the day. We completed it while watching the Oscars. Ellen Degeneres is funny. My favorite of her jokes so far is, "Good job, sir," said to the man impersonating Liza Minelli. Ha! Almost like a female Bea Arthur. But I digress.

I felt no love for this puzzle. The theme was, in a word, weak. Horace claims the theme clues were the clever part, but I found them to be uninspired. Here's one example: 118A. Seaside outing? [1955*, 1954] (PICNICONTHEWATERFRONT).  Is the question mark there because seaside and waterfront are not really equivalents? That's probably why, right?

Let's focus on the positive. I did enjoy a few old favorites who turned up in the answers including MARLO (2D. Thomas of TV), TATI (43D. Star of "Mr. Hulot's Holiday"), LONI (80D. Actress Anderson). You may have gotten the impression that I HATES (110D. Can't stand) the puzzle, but I think  LACK (17D. Deficiency) sums it up a bit better. Now, back to the show.


I concur. Ellen is hilarious. About the puzzle, however, I have to disagree, at least a little anyway. I thought the two-Oscar-winning-or-nominated-title answers were clever. Come on, GOINGMYWAYBABE (86A: Cheesy pickup line? [1944, 1995*]) was good! And what about ROCKYWITNESS (30A: One giving unreliable testimony? [1976, 1985*])?

The fill suffered somewhat for all the long theme material with some odd FEH (25D: "Yuk!") & BAFF (27A: Strike the ground in a golf swing), obscure ALOIS (108D: Dr. Alzheimer) & REDAN (104A: V-shaped fortification), and forced NYM (65A: Ending for acro- or homo-) & EAUDE (75A: ____ cologne), but you also get some nice stuff, like FINAGLED (63D: Achieved through trickery), PINPRICKS (81D: Small irritations), and TOUSLE (13A: Muss). Both the clue and answer on that last one are great words.

It wasn't the best puzzle ever, but it's not a bad tribute puzzle, and it's certainly not all bad.

- Horace

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014, Ian Livengood & J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


After yesterday (and even without taking yesterday into consideration), this felt more like a Wednesday than a Saturday. Put in LABAMBA (1A: 1987 #1 hit with the line "Yo no soy mariner, soy capitán") without much hesitation, and went steadily on from there. Frannie and I did this "as one" with her looking over my shoulder as I typed in the answers, which always seems to make them go more quickly.

We enjoyed KTHXBYE (18A: Curt chat closing), and ATAVIST (8A: Throwback) was a tricky one. SNAKEBITTEN (35A: Subjected to venomous attacks?) seemed a little random, and I dislike both the clue and the answer for LENSMAN (43D: Photog). I would not like to be called either, thank you. But there was probably more good than bad in here. Some clever clueing - 59A: Sack dress? (PAJAMAS) and 28A: One's own worst critic? (SUPEREGO), for example.

Never heard of BATE (3D: Moderate), ASHANTI (10D: Ghanaian region known for gold and cocoa) only rang a faint bell, and I learned from the Crossword Fiend (sidebar) that ARTE (7D: Danza, e.g.) is Italian for art, as "danza" is for dance. Ahhh… Also, somehow Frannie knew UNCLE (40A: Pawnbroker, in slang), which helped a lot in the middle.

A decent, if quick, Saturday.

- Horace