Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014, Zhouqin Burnikel


Well, I'm a Mac, as the old ad campaign used to say, and I enjoyed this unusual theme. The grid is strange, almost as if Mr. Burnikel were trying to make a picture… wait, I think it's an apple with a bite taken out! If you squint just right…

There were a lot of threes, but I didn't hate them. I'm a little tired of NIA (38: Peeples of "Fame"), and ACR (20A: Puzzlers' direction: Abbr.) seemed oddly "meta," but what rare you going to do? The longer, theme material was all good. STRIPCLUB (16A: Bada Bing!, on "The Sopranos") (I never watched the show, so that needed a lot of crosses), TRUMPCARD (61A: Winning advantage) (oddly clued), and POPCULTURE (10D: Movies, TV, hit songs, etc.) were all good. SHARPCURVE (28D: Hairpin, e.g.) is fine.

I liked being reminded of NEWHART (22A: Sitcom set at a Vermont Inn), even though it made me feel old. LIPBALM (50A: Stick in a purse, maybe) was nicely clued, as was PARSE (51D: Break down, in a way), and I think they're taunting me now that I said I was slacking off in my Vergil class by including AENEID (48D: Post-Trojan War epic)!

Finally, is it just me, or should SKOSH (12D: Wee bit) never be spelled out? I think of it more as a sound than an actual word. Kind of like "smidgen."

Not a bad Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014, Jules P. Markey


So the theme is "Newspaper names in the beginning of phrases, in vertical columns?" OK… Why not, I guess.

That aside, I disliked certain things about this. How common a phrase is 18A: "Parade ____" (REST)? Is that something that's "in the language," as they say? I imagine it's a thing that's sometimes said by a parade marshall, but should we also prepare to see "Close ____" (CABINDOORS)? I think pilots say that sometimes. Perhaps I'm still NEWAT this, and a SANER reviewer would just accept such EMERGENTS and thank their stars for non-JADED fill that can't be entered by ROTE.

On the bright side, there's a better clue for EEL (44A: Unagi, in sushi) today, and COVERALLS (57A: Some work clothes) is a fun word and a fun piece of clothing, and UMAMI (3D: One of the five basic tastes) is tasty. But then we still have HIERO, OSE, ALA, OSA, IRREG, ASSNSORALB, and a few others that are on the VERGE of being a BORE.

Favorite clue: 42A: Stay in the fight? (TRUCE). Most interesting clue: 33D: Cookie that's kosher (OREO). What makes it kosher? Are all cookies kosher?

- Horace

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014, Jim Modney


Not a bad Monday offering. The theme seems a little simplistic, but it's clean enough - symmetrical in position and in length of words. And the revealer, BODYDOUBLES (35A: Star stand-ins … or a hint to 17-, 25-, 48- and 58-Across) is kind of cute. 

Got held up in the NE by mistaking "titles" for DEGs (44A: M.A. or M.B.A.: Abbr.) in 10A: Titles for attorneys: Abbr. (ESQS) (tried "llds"), but QUIETED (12D: Shushed) straightened me out. It's quite the Scrabble-y corner, eh? What with QUIETED and SQUEEZED (11D: Hugs tightly) side-by-side. Or should I say "côté à côté?"

In the "things I learned" department we have CAIRN (15A: ____ terrier (dog breed)), and the fact that the ANJOU is a "61A: Winter pear."
Frequent commenter and recent world-traveller Colum should be happy with his possibilities for Italy name-dropping today, with both GELATO (31A: Italian ice cream) and MILANO (45D: Certain Pepperidge Farm cookie), while Huygens will have to content himself with ONADATE, INSERT, and COMENOW.
Decent Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, April 27, 2014, John Lampkin



Fun theme. Types of people taking their leave in a punny way. 25A: The paparazzo … (WASGONEINAFLASH), and 60A: The lingerie manufacturer (SLIPPEDAWAY), for example. 

Some nice, punny, clues as well, as in 10A: Where auto racers retire? (PITS), 118A: Showplace? (STAGE), 1D: Pet door opener (PAW), and Frannie's favorite - 58A: One heading to the cape? (TORO). 

We like the words PURVIEW (96A: Range of understanding), CLOUT (70D: Political muscle), and GHASTLY (87D: Horrifying). And we disliked STRO (116A: Houston pro, informally) (Maybe it's just that we live too far from Houston…), REGREW (4D: Greened up, perhaps), IDENT (71D: PIN part: Abbr.), and SPR (14D: Origin of a stream, Abbr.), but none of it was too terribly bad. 

106A: Some hibernators (TOADS) was tricky, as "bears" also fit there, and, hey!, the UTNE Reader is named after 99A: Magazine founder Eric? Who knew? It was also interesting to learn that SIEG means (105D: Victory, to Wagner), and, of course, that an ecdysiast is a stripteaser. The word was coined in 1940 by H.L. Mencken! (Ecdysis is "the shedding of an outer layer of skin or integument, as by snakes or insects.") The things we learn in crossword puzzles!
Decent Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014, Evan Birnholz


Sorry for the late post today, we are completely removed from the interwebs this weekend. The only way we were able to get the puzzle in the first place was by walking the streets until we picked up free wifi, and if you're reading this now, we did the same thing to upload it.

But enough about us, let's talk about the puzzle. We liked it all right. A little on the quick side, maybe, for a Saturday, but it had some nice entries. WALTDISNEYWORLD (7D: Home to Main Street, U.S.A) was a gimme, and the other fifteen CALVINANDHOBBES (39A: They created the Get Rid of Slimy Girls club) should have been, but alas, wasn't. We needed quite a few crosses before we remembered those two. ONEARM (6D: Physical feature of Herman on "The Simpsons") was another easy one, but maybe only because we've seen a lot of Simpsons episodes. Infinitely more, by the way, than we have seen of WIFESWAP (54A: Reality show documenting a two-week trade). OK - one last gimme that I'll brag about (don't you hate it when reviews are all about what the review knew or didn't know?) - DIDO (17A: Trajically heartbroken figure of myth). She was jilted by Aeneus, and even though I skipped out on the classes that covered that intense event at the end of book three, it still came up enough during other classes that it stuck with me. YAY for continuing education! Thanks, Professor Thomas, even though you probably think I'm a slacker (a charge I can't really refute), at least I got something out of the course!

18A: Office addresses? (INAUGURALS) was a fun one. As was 32D: Course obstacle? (TEST), and its paired clue 60A: Dreaded messge on a returned 32-Down (SEEME). My favorite clue, and the last one to be entered today, was 22A: Bit of audio equipment? (EAR)(!). I had "amp" in there for a long time, but nothing worked. Finally, Frannie got 14D: Red giant that disintigrated (USSR) (lovely clue), and that opened things up for OLLA (13D: Pueblo cooker) (I liked "It's a crock" better!), and so on.

I'll end the way I began, by saying that it had a lot of good in it, but that it played a bit easier than we like them on Saturdays.

Now it's off to try to poach some bandwidth!

- Horace