Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014, John Lampkin


Well, where yesterday I felt completely at a loss, today I felt like everything I guessed at turned to gold ("L'Or de la Vie?" no… too sticky). I finished this before Frannie even had a chance to look at it, but while I got through it quickly, I did not especially like it.

Take 2D: Pluto and Bluto, e.g. (TOONS) - I just don't think of them as "toons." "Toons" is too new a word for those old cartoon characters. And then ROUTS (3D: Debacles) - it just doesn't seem perfectly parallel. SPREE (1D: Tear), on the other hand, I like a lot. I had "ShrEd" in there for quite a while, which really slowed down the NW.

Other things I enjoyed were ENTRAILS (19A: Innards) (nice fill, even though it came very quickly), ENHANCE (5D: Intensify), EMANCIPATE (48A: Free) (lots of good "E" words), ELGRECOS (4D: Some Prado hangings) (bonus for full name, slight deduction for pluralization), and GOBANANAS (13D: Flip out). Love that phrase. An old co-worker used to say everything was"cuckoo bananas" when she was stressed. I still smile thinking about that. TIGERMOTH (27D: A woolly bear becomes one), too, was good. I put "MOTH" in at the end immediately, but I couldn't remember the specifier without a few crosses.

So there's a lot I did like, but for some reason, I wasn't loving it while I solved it. Maybe REROOTED rubbed me the wrong way… or STJOE (26A: Missouri city, informally). I suppose that's Saint Joseph, MO? Well, since I'm struggling to justify my less-than-wowed reaction, I guess I'll have to give this one a thumbs up.

- Horace

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014, James Mulhern


When I went through the clues for the first time, I feared not only a DNF, but that half of the squares might be left blank. Then Frannie took it for a while, and when I saw it again there was only the SE left to work out. And work it out, we did, but now I'm left without much of an idea about what to say, other than, I thought it would be impossible and then it was done.

Looking back at it now, I like seeing SAPPHIRE (31A: Star of Bombay, e.g.) in there, and UNUSUALLY (29D: Very, very) looked very very unusual when it was still mostly Us. I asked Frannie, who works in the library for the history of women in America, about HERSTORY (59A: Subject that includes women's suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment) and she said that she had heard it, but that it is in no way mainstream. I guess maybe it's as mainstream as "womyn," which is to say, not very. "Very, very," maybe?... Still, it's fine on a Friday.

Also enjoyed OVERSHARE (17A: Elicit a "T.M.I.") (do we really need the periods there?), and ELSIE (53A: Old pitcher of milk?), but does any LADIESMAN (14A: He may have many lines memorized) actually use "lines?" Does anyone? Perhaps it's oversharing, but I don't remember ever using one without trying to be funny.

It was a fine puzzle overall, I think. Nothing too special, but a decent Friday challenge.

Favorite clue/answer: 44A: À gogo (GALORE).

- Horace

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014, Anna Shechtman


Forget yesterday. Yesterday was nothing. Yesterday was an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill. This is the best of the week, and it will take something special to knock it out of that position.

We've not seen Ms. Shechtman before, and honestly, I was a little surprised to see a woman's name that I didn't recognize on a Thursday byline. It's just that far fewer women than men construct puzzles. At least that's the sense you get by looking at bylines in the NY Times. Is it wrong of me to think that answers like PANTSUITS (6D: Hillary Clinton wardrobe staples), UTERI (62A: Things twins share), and HELLNO (45A: "Not in a million years!") are more likely to have been written by a woman than a man? (And by the way, that last one might be my favorite "quote" clue ever!) But I'm not saying it to complain. I think it's a good thing. I hope for more puzzles from women - especially Ms. Shechtman!

Today's theme clues were a beautiful misdirection that I only fully understood when I answered my last one - POUNDSIGN (33A: #2). Only then did I realize that the "#" was a part of the clue. Before that, I was trying to think of a relationship between TICTACTOEBOARD (20A: #1), SPACEMARK (#2), and TWITTERHASHTAG (#4), but nothing was coming to mind. Frannie, btw, got that last one. Glancing over at the iPad in a half-asleep stupor, she noticed I had something like "_ A_HFAG" at the end, and said, "Could that F be a T, because that looks a lot like "hashtag." And so it was. I guess that one should have tipped me off to the theme, but it didn't somehow.

But let's move on to the fill, and more specifically, to SHTUP (38A: Sleep with, in slang). !! When I had SH I knew what was coming, but I refused to believe it and made myself do all the crosses. (Knowing the U, though, helped with OUTRE (31D: More than quirky) (great fill!)). Amazing. Also great were EPICNESS (5D: Condition of being awesome, in modern slang), GAYANTHEM (10D: "It's raining men," for one), BUBBLEWRAP (27D: It might pop in the post office) (nice tie-in with the less-good-but-made-better-by-association EURO (7D: Start to pop?)), NEARSHORE (38D: Littoral) (I like this one because I learned it in Latin class), ZINC (3D: Brass section), and more. Good geography clues with EGYPT (29D: Memphis's home) and IONA (60A: Where Macbeth, Malcolm and Duncan are buried)… and you know what? I don't care at all about any of the stuff that's in here just to make the other stuff possible. I'm not even going to mention it. I'm that happy that the other stuff was made possible.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014, Tim Croce


The best of the week so far. That's not really saying much, but really, this had some fine clueing, and the animal simile theme is one I haven't seen before. The first themer FATASACOW (20A: Scale-busting) was almost jarringly colloquial, as was WUSS (35A: Wimpy sort), but that's a good thing! Especially after the stale and boring start to the week.

Fun clues for ERIC (11D: Holder of a cabinet position), EMBERS (8A: Ones dying in a fire?), TAILS (21D: Half of all flips), and even stalwart STA (4D: Stop on the tracks: Abbr.) is given a fresh clue. On the other hand, I didn't love LAMES (26A: Shoots in the foot, maybe), and I didn't know what OSAGE (47D: _____ orange) was (it's a tree that grows mostly in Texas). I also have never heard the expression BALDASACOOT (17D: Like a chrome-dome), but I'm assuming others have.

As I said, it's the best so far, but I'm still holding out for better things as we enter "the turn."

- Horace

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014, James Tuttle


Is a FLIPPHONE (*28A: Samsung or LG product) still a thing? I mean, I still use one (from Motorola) that I bought in 2007, or possibly before, but I thought everything today was an iPhone or an iPhone knockoff. Oh… why do I bother asking? I don't really care.

This is a known theme, and, aside from the possible antiquity of "FLIPPHONE," it's done pretty well. "BOOK" can be added to each part of the compounds in the compound word theme answers. "Flip book." "Phone book." Come to think of it, "phonebook" itself is outdated now, isn't it?

Almost everywhere you look you get a little crosswordese. AMAT (14A: Amo, amas, ____ …) up in the NW, SLO (10D: _____-mo) in the N, SAS (11A: Carrier in the Star Alliance) in the NE, and then you come to my current "least favorite" ATTA (24D: Lead-in to girl) in the W. I am so tired of ATTA.

I will give Mr. Tuttle credit for including quite a bit of theme material today, including a couple of verticals, which, as you heard yesterday, I like. BABYBLUE (3D: *Like many a heartthrob's eyes) might be my favorite themer, actually.

DOSSIER (32A: F.B.I. file, e.g.), PRORATE (42D: Divide appropriately), and ASCENT (12D: Mountain climber's climb) are all interesting words, and not the usual crossword fare, but overall, this had a bit to much OON, INRE, and RTS, for me. Not ADOG, but not great.

- Horace

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014, Dan Margolis


Kind of an interesting theme of putting songs into genres that they clearly do not belong in by taking their titles literally. WHITERABBIT (17A: "Hip-hop" song of 1967) is the only one requiring a slight "leap," if you will, by using the fact that rabbits "hip-hop" along. KNOCKONWOOD (29A: "Rap" song of 1965) is more of a 1:1 relationship, and the last two use actual words in the titles. None of the songs was written fewer than 40 years ago, but still, I enjoyed it.

The puzzle as a whole, on the other hand, felt kind of stale. When's the last time "38A: 'No, No' woman of Broadway" (NANETTE) was in production? And "1A: Afternoon TV's Dr. ____" (PHIL) might still be doing a show (I have no idea, really) but his cultural significance has long been in decline, hasn't it?

Furthermore, the AMISH (32A: Mennonite group) are not Mennonites, are they? I thought they were distinct groups? Sure, they're both religious, but I think it would be like calling Congregationalists a Baptist group.

ITNO, AONE, TETRA, OKIES… it didn't have much to grab onto but the theme, and even though I liked it, it wasn't enough.

Favorite clue: 22D: Fictional Tom or real-life Diane (SAWYER).

- Horace

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014, Dan Schoenholz



Fun theme: TV shows homonymized and clued for comic effect. Frannie's favorite was AWLINTHEFAMILY (110A: Cobbler's heirloom?), and I think mine was probably THEAWEDCOUPLE (48A: Dumbstruck duo?), but there were a few nice ones. I also like that the theme answers were both horizontal and vertical. That's always a nice touch.

The grid is, as usual, filled with familiar friends such as AERIE, EWOK, ALII, ATM, SRA, and the ever-popular STLO ... and there are a few that push the bounds a bit, like ADDL, ACU, and GELEE (38D: Sylist's goop). Is it really called that? Maybe. I don't get out to the stylist's much. And speaking of things I don't know, is SALIENCE (14D: Highlight) a noun that means, more or less, the salient point? "The salience" of that story was...)? Is that a thing anyone has ever said? I mean, I know it is a word, but it just doesn't seem equivalent to "highlight." Or maybe I'm thinking of "highlight" wrong?

I love the cluing on ENNUI (81D: Taedium vitae). If you're going there, you might as well go all the way. The only better way to clue it, for me, would be to include a Baudelaire reference. AGHAST (98D: Left open-mouthed, say) is a nice word, as is AUSTERE (88D: Spare). But, I don't know, I think I just don't like Sunday puzzles all that much.

- Horace

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014, Peter Wentz


Kind of a boring, almost unpleasant Saturday. Lots of two-word phrases, like NICEWORK (16A: "Good going!"), UPNEXT (17A: Words before many a commercial), GOTAHEAD (58A: Succeeded), IMEANT (59: "ER … uh …"), and RECKONSO (58A: "Sounds about right"), among countless (ok, maybe there were fifteen or so more) others. We didn't know a lot of them right off - how could you, almost - but they were guessable with a cross or two. Boring.

I wanted BUMS immediately for "18D: They're often seeking change" (decent clue), but was a little surprised they actually went there. Also surprised, and annoyed, by THEWOMB (27D: Life starts in it). Seems almost political, and couldn't a case be made to say that both sperm and egg are "alive" before they get together? "It all depends on what your definition of 'is' is," right? … Blah.

Favorite clue/answer - SAM (39A: Merrie Melodies sheepdog), which Frannie got immediately. Pop Quiz - What was Wile E. Coyote's name?

I guess all I'm going to do is BLEAT and give more YOWLS, so I'll close now. I hope you enjoyed it more than we did.

- Horace

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014, David Steinberg


A lovely offering from the wunderkind. Just lovely. When you can make the whole grid into a Z, and then stuff a symmetrical core of eight Zs into it (with no Zs anywhere else) (not that that's all that tough), then I'll put up with the occasional SERENEST, FOOZLER, and a few names I've never heard of (VEIDT, MINETA, & GAZZARA).

LOVED TONTINE (33D: Life insurance plan), which we know from The Simpsons. Grampa (the oft-seen Abe) was in a tontine with his old army buddies, and he won. I was thinking of "life insurance," like the kind you can buy, but living the longest means you win the tontine, so it's kind of insuring that you'll do what you can to preserve your life. Clever. Also liked EMBEZZLER (14D: Crooked bank manager, maybe), POSEURS (9D: Affected sorts), and OREGANO (4D: Purple-flowered perennial). We've got oregano. I've seen the flowers, but I didn't think of it until we had a ton of crosses.

CAROUSES (1A: Tears) is a very nice intro, and we thought Mr. Steinberg must have been happy to get PUZZLEOUT (26D: Solve) in there. Frannie enjoyed seeing one of her favorite movies - AUNTIEMAME (42A: Rosalind Russell title role), and it took me far too long to come up with BODEREK (20A: Actress in a best-selling 1979 swimsuit poster). I kept wanting Fawcett, Brinkley, or Tiegs. Mmm.... Tiegs....

It was challenging, but, as Frannie says, "You couldn't call this one a snoozzzzzzzze." Very nice work, Mr. Steinberg.

- Horace

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014, Adam G. Perl


I didn't do much of this puzzle, but I had the breakthrough on the theme answers, so here I am, writing the review. Speaking of the theme answers, I liked 'em. Very clever, especially 41A (CIBEFOREEEXCEPT). TIMETIME we get stumped when the answer relates to the literal words in the clue, rather than what the clue seems to mean. This one was a beaut. Another such in the grid today was 1D. Role for Helen Mirren, briefly (QEII). It just looks so awesomely weird in there.

I had a good feeling about this puzzle from the little I did do, but now that I've read every clue and answer, I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. There were nice clue pairs like 1A. Pound (QUID) and 16A. Part of a pound (CAGE), were a nice pair, so to speak. (I thought I'd better add some Huygens material to the review since there wasn't much in the puzzle.) SITH 21D. Jedi foes and SNIT (23D. Pet) were pretty parallels.

Others I thought were excellent fun include:
17A. Caesarean section? ISAW

61A. One acting on impulse? AXON
68A. Start to do well? NEER - especially awesome because the clue makes it seem like good will come, but it's really the opposite.
5D. Sugar substitute? HON
36D. Pick up spot? NAPE

When I did finally get 41 A, I thought it would help me with 32D, for which I was trying, unsuccessfully, to think of a language, but it didn't. Horace finally completed the center square, and not with Paul Lynde, and the answer was RUR. Our well-informed and slightly nerdy readers might have already known whence robot, but I didn't. I looked it up and here's a slightly edited explanation from the Wikipedia:

R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The English phrase Rossum’s Universal Robots had been used as the subtitle even in the Czech original. It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word "robot" to the English language and to science fiction as a whole. (

Fun fact in a fun puzzle.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014, Mike Buckley


I had to tackle this puzzle alone today. Is this what the young people call a selfie? I kid, I kid. I know that has something to do with job hunting.

In a word, mixed bag. While I was not ESTOPed (14A. Legally impede(d)), neither did I race through the puzzle with EASE (47D. Relaxation). I had some trouble in the NE corner and my hopes for an OOH-worhty outcome without a call to Horace were briefly BLIGHTSed, but then I RALLYed (var.) thanks to IVY (18A. Wall cover) and was able to successfully conclude my selfie.

I was mildly amused by the homophonic theme, with my favorite answer being BANNEDLIEDER (28A. Music forbidden in Germany?). WHIRLEDPIECE (44A. Top?) was a cute twist (if I may) on an old bumper sticker slogan.

TVVIEWERS (34D. Nielsen group) didn't present any problems, but looked quite wild in the grid, don't you think? I was happy to see 7D. Albertville's locale (ALPS). And 50D. "__ sera" (BUONA) brings back delightful memories of the passegiate of days gone by.

I did find a few of the answers to be conTORSIed. When was the last time someone BEWIGged themselves, for example (53A), or got ICEdIN at a ski lodge (46D. Strands, as at a ski lodge)? But, overall, a fairly upstanding puzzle.

~ Frannie

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014, Peter A. Collins


One of the reasons I liked yesterday's puzzle so much is that it made me think more than a Monday usually does, and I ended up finishing in just over ten minutes - which is kind of long for a Monday puzzle. Well, today I was less than 30 seconds off my fastest time ever for a Tuesday, but I still liked it, so I guess I have to find myself a new criterion.

The HIDDENCOST (59D: Unexpected expense … or a feature of 17-, 23-, 35- and 49-Across?) was well done. The theme answers were all normal things, and the "cost" was split exactly in half between each of the two words. Elegant. Also, it seemed like a lot of theme material (41 squares - is that a lot?), without significant concessions in the fill. Sure, it had the usual smattering of SRA, OTOE, APO, and ORD (and a few others), and LIRE (15A: Cassino cash, once) (that's a city in Italy?) crossing CES (9D: These: Fr.) might have been a little dicey for some. And speaking of French, the cluing for SANS (65A: Avec's opposite) seems to assume a pretty decent knowledge of the language… but even with all that, I thought it was still an enjoyable solve.

I liked seeing DUSTUP (12D: Minor melee), and the clue for TAROT (22D: Medium deck?) was cute. I don't play enough to know that an ACE is "33D: Part of a soft hand in blackjack," but I'm glad to know it now. And, finally, the word SYNOD, as we've said before, reminds us of the wonderful story of the "cadaver synod." If you aren't familiar with it, you're in for a real treat! Ahh… humans. So vengeful.

- Horace

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014, Michael Hawkins


A very nice start to the week! I enjoyed the "phone" theme, and the non-theme answers were full of good stuff! SYMBIOSIS (5D: Relationship between barnacles and whales, e.g.) (I had "symbiotic" for a long time), COLOSSEUM (12D: World's largest amphitheater), and DAPPERDAN (38D: Sharply dressed guy) (Frannie liked this one a lot) were all interesting and unusual, and who doesn't love TATERTOTS (36D: Cylindrical alternative to French fries)? And the doubling up of the tens was a little bonus in the NE and SW.

Very little AWFUL fill, and a few that were, like, OHWOW. It seems I'll never remember that SAGO is a 44D: Kind of palm, and RARED (6D: Stood on hind legs, with "up") taught me that I've been wrong thinking it's "reared" all this time. Are they related? My dictionary is not at hand. Perhaps I'll comment on this again later, or maybe someone will look it up for me.

In short, I loved it.

- Horace

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014, Joe DiPietro


On the first pass through this I felt like I entered quite a bit of crosswordese, and that got me off on the wrong foot. ALVA (21A: Edison's middle name), ENLAI (27A: China's Zhou _____), SWAK (31A: Love letters?), ALEE (55A: "Hard ____")… well, ok, that last one was somewhat clued somewhat differently than usual, but you get the idea. It just felt like it was full of the stuff.

I was tricked up, though, by 56: Digs of pigs (PEN), which I thought would be "sty." They all seemed like good ending letters… but no.

My mood changed, however, when I realized that the theme would be the classic Irish name joke. I actually thought of PATTYOFURNITURE (63A: Irish woodworker?), and predicted the theme before we had any of them figured out. I particularly enjoyed ANGIEOGRAM (22A: Irish chemist?), and JEANOTYPING (32A: Irish secretary), but thought WILLOTREES (24A: Irish arborist?) was somewhat weak. And what is a COREYOGRAPH (47A: Irish algebra teacher?)? Oh…. wait… choreograph. Nevermind.

18A: Quarter back, possibly (CHANGE) was beautifully clued, and I liked being able to put in PAPERLACE (107A: Band with the 1974 #1 hit "The Night Chicago Died") without crosses. Yes, I'll admit it, that was my favorite song at one point, and I think I still know all the words.

It wasn't a great Sunday, but it wasn't all bad.

- Horace

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014, Brad Wilber


This went by too quickly for a Saturday. We got in fast with AUTOLOAN, DEER, DOCE, LAWOMANDRDRE, DOLAPS, and FAULT, and then SATURN, LUCKBEALADY, and even CAMERATRIPOD came easily with a few crosses.

So, CAMELCAVALRY (7D: Once-common desert fighting force) was a real thing? And I'm not terribly familiar with, or fond of, the term BUGBEARS (17D: Sources of chronic annoyance), but it is not wholly unknown. Also into the questionable category I add ACERBITY (33D: Tartness). I'm sure it's a thing, but it just seems odd.

BRUCELEE (12D: Many watch his movies for kicks), on the other hand, is fill I heartily endorse. PAOLOVERONESE (32A: Italian artist with the largest painting in the Louvre) is also good, full-name fill, as well as being interesting trivia.

Loved the clue for PURITANS (32D: Group living at zero latitude?), and I tried "undead" for 51A: Cousin of a zombie (MAITAI). Hah!

It was decent enough, but maybe too much of it was too squarely in our collective wheelhouse.

- Horace

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014, Martin Ashwood-Smith


It's our old friend "Cordwood," going a bit easy on us today with just a central quadstack. Other bloggers may complain, but he's found his niche - why not ride it for a while? Stacks are a part of crossword-puzzle life, and you might as well embrace it, right? 

We finished this in a little over a half an hour, but it wasn't right. We spent another twenty minutes or so looking for the mistake, and finally gave up. Well, I should probably say that I gave up - Frannie almost never does. I looked it up, and found that we had SEiSE instead of SENSE (50D: Pick up). I guess I had convinced myself that "seise" was a Britishism or something. I think I even tried ROzY at one point. But the mistake wasn't in the S, it was in the I. ISiT had been entered pretty confidently for 58A: "Who ____?" (ISNT), and we still think "is it" would be more common in that phrase, but, well, we're also aware of the other phrase - who isn't?

In other areas, it's always nice when you can get one or more of the fifteens right off the bat. Today I got WHATEVERITTAKES (39A: At any price) without any crosses. Well, I had "whatever it costs" first, but it was quickly righted. (I also got LETITBLEED without crosses. Not a fifteen, but still nice.) The lyrics in 38A: 1959 hit with the lyric "One day I feel so happy, next day I feel so sad" brought back a distant memory, but I needed several letters before the familiar ShaNaNa version of TEENAGERINLOVE came fully into my head. And now I've been singing it all day, thank you very much, Mr. Ashwood-Smith!

I liked the non-Ilie Nastase clue for ILIE (14A: Paradoxical assertion, perhaps), and HST was also saved by its clue (23A: He called the U.S. pres. a "glorified public relations man"). COASTTOCOAST (20A: Like some long flights) was good, as was its sister answer TETEATETES (38D: Heart-to-hearts). Frannie remembered that there was a reeve in the Canterbury Tales, so that helped over there, since SPEE (29A: Admiral who bombarded Tahiti in 1914) was a total unknown. 

Overall, a pretty nice Friday quadstack offering. We should maybe have figured out SENSE, but, well... we don't mind a DNF now and then. Keeps us humble.

- Horace

p.s. There's a lot of discussion today (in the crossword blogosphere) about how "TEENAGERINLOVE" is overused as a fifteen in puzzles. Well, perhaps, but I, personally don't remember it being used before, and besides, the song brings back old memories, so I don't mind. Also, in his commentary on today's puzzle, Mr. Ashwood-Smith imagined a possible fifteen - SORTONESONESOUT ("Do a cashier's job, maybe") - which made us laugh and laugh. If I ever do get it together and construct a grid, I am going to steal that.

And finally, if you're out there, Martin, we'd certainly have preferred the alternate grid, since it didn't include the dreaded ISNT!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014, John Lieb


ANIFORANEYE (62A: Misinterpretation of a biblical code … or the key to answering 18-, 24-, 40- and 50-Across) is in the singular, but all the answers use the plural "eyes." Does it matter? I guess not. But it just seems a tad inelegant. As does starting off the grid with NTH (1A: Ultimate).

Nice little pairing of 44D: Some lose it in their teens (BABYFAT) and 59D: Some get them in their teens (ZITS), but "zits" is an ugly word.

I did unreservedly enjoy the full HUGHLAURIE (3D: "House" star) (coincidentally, we just finished watching "Stephen Fry in America" the other night, and I recommend it highly), and RAZORSHARP (29D: High-definition) (something that Fry and Laurie are, I think, though not as defined here. Except, maybe, if you're talking about costume… but then I still don't know). NEXUS (4A: Link) and NEURON (28A: Cell in a network) are also good.

The theme is fine, and there's some good stuff. OK, how about we say it was fine.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014, Victor Barocas


I did this last night, after having a few drinks, and right before conking out. When I thought back on it during my walk at lunch today, I could remember nothing at all – not the theme, not a single entry.

Looking at it now, however, it comes back to me a bit. The theme of TURNINGAPROPHET (64A: Punny description of the circled letters in 17-, 27-, and 48-Across) was kind of "meh." The entries that the prophets are in, however, are great. I wonder if SWARTZENEGGER (48A: Governor elected in a 2003 recall vote) was the seed entry? ESPRESSOMAKERS (27A: Barista-operated gadgets) (or, "Horace and Frannie-operated kitchen necessity," more like!) was very good, and WINSOMELOSESOME (17A: Words of resignation) makes me wonder why "losesome" isn't a word like "winsome" is. What a winsome word, winsome.

And after a few near-misses lately, we finally get a pangram. They love a pangram, those constructors. We have complained in the past about how they sometimes cause tortured fill, but today's was pretty good, I thought. OLEO, PTL, JAS, OTO, and ADES (why oh why isn't this accepted in Scrabble?) aside, that is, but that's not too much, and it's outweighed by interesting fill like SKEWER, MAGPIE, SLOTH, MISHAP, PRONTO, and others.

A decent red-headed stepchild.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Tracy Gray


Frannie here, late to the blogging. I did the puzzle last night, but I couldn't finish it! The NW had me stumped until I looked at it long and hard again this evening. I began with fete for 1A, before I looked at any of the down clues. I ran through gala and ball before BASH finally broke through. I didn't know 1D Brazilian state northeast of Sao Paulo (BAHIA), nor did I know 3D. Alaskan panhandle city (SITKA), although, I have heard of it. Geography is my Waterloo, if you will. As is music. I didn't know 17A 1987 Buster Poindexter hit (HOTHOTHOT) which added more confusion to the corner. I had to struggle for many of the theme answers, but they all solved in eventually.

Also, I hated 67A. Sport-___ (UTES).

More as time permits...


Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014, Gary Cee


I thought for a moment that my dreams had been answered, and that this was a themeless Monday, but they were too SMART for me. Or should I say QUICK, or SHARP, or FAST? Still, it played exactly like a themeless, because I had no idea what the theme was, or even that there was one, until after I finished.

It's a pretty nice grid, I'd say. The theme compound phrases are all solid, and the long non-theme answers are very good: BRETHREN (9D: Fellow members of a congregation) and ALPHABET (42D: Kindergarten learning). Come to think of it, I suppose HOTFOOT (25D: Hurry, with "it") and RAREBIT (27D: Melted cheese on toast) (so that's what that is!?) could be part of the "clever" theme as well.

There's really a lot to like in here - BARHOP paired with RAWBAR, SEETHE, WILDE, ATTACK… and there's very little that gets the ol' hackles up. DYNE (74A: Unit of force) and LILI (10A: 1953 Leslie Caron musical) don't seem very Monday-ish, and KLEES (57D: Some German/Swiss artworks in MoMA) is one of those ridiculous, forced plurals, but on the whole, this is a pretty good start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014, Peter A. Collins



The black squares spell out "MOM," and there are six unchecked boxes in the grid that spell it out twice more. Add to that a smattering of "Mother ____" clues, a final wish at 122D, and you've got a nice Mother's Day tribute puzzle.

All that black square manipulation resulted in OVOLO (22A: Quarter-rounded molding) (?), POLEBARN (59A: Simple storage unit on a farm) (huh?), LEUMI (75A: Bank of Israel) (You don't say), ISSY (129A: Paris suburb on the Seine) (We've been to Paris a lot, and we still think this is a stretch!), but still, there's some very nice fill, too. It's a small thing, perhaps, but I like seeing WHET (30D: Hone) in there, and there are a lot of good, long, down answers. AVANTGARDE (60D: Pushing the envelope, say), MATURATION (28D: Coming of age), LAUGHLINES (75D: Most people don't think they're funny) (nice), are all nice.

Interesting clue for SHIHTZU (100A: Literally, "lion dog"), and 118A: What unicorns don't do (EXIST) made me laugh, and they got us AGAIN with 102A: Second of six? (SHORTI)! But how is 59D: See 54-Across (AI) a clue for KOREA?

Lastly, I don't think UDDERS (101D: Milk dispensers) or SEXUP (107D: Make more alluring) should have been included in a puzzle devoted to mothers.

It seemed like I complained a bit about this, but I still think it was a pretty good Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday, May 10, 2014, Barry C. Silk


A decent Saturday challenge. Enjoyed the clue for BONSAI (33A: Small job for a gardener?), AMARYLLIS (52A: Girl in "The Music Man"" with a floral name) is lovely fill, and I liked MANUAL (8D: Stick) (Frannie and I still drive one). The intersecting nine-stacks in the NE and SW are filled with some pretty good stuff. I think my favorite set is the IONIANSEA (12D: Where Syracuse is a port)/ ONINYEARS (13D: Elderly)/ NECTARINE (14D: Relative of ocher) threesome. The other "47D: Relative of ocher" clue didn't seem quite as fair, since a TOPAZ can be pretty much any color.

This wasn't the most beautiful Barry Silk puzzle that we've seen (didn't love SHAK, OLEIC, ASE… and ALLES (40A: Über ____) and HEBREW (41A: Origin of the word "behemoth") are strange bedfellows alone on one line, aren't they? Especially with the two black crosses in the grid. I know, I'm definitely over thinking it…), but it wasn't bad. Oh, except for CRAZYBONE (16A: Something you shouldn't knock?). That's called the funny bone, and it's crazy to think otherwise.

Lots of Scrabble points, and some very nice fill…. as I said, decent.

- Horace

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014, James Mulhern


I tore through sections of this like a hot knife through butter, but in other areas I could get no traction at all. LCHAIM (1A: Toast often given with Manischewitz) seemed like an odd gimme for a Friday, but maybe they were hoping we'd think of the bread kind of toast? And off that, LLAMA (1D: Source of very soft wool) seemed obvious, too. HAMMY (3D: Oh-so-dramatic) was entered quickly, though somewhat reluctantly. Even MOTJUSTE (6D: Perfect expression) fell into our francophile wheelhouse.

Over in the NE, I got KIBBLE (7D: Pet food in the form of pellets) off the B in MUMBOJUMBO (18A: Psychobabble, say), RENOIR (8D: "Luncheon of the Boating Party" painter) (it's at the MFA Boston), had the O, but we didn't need it, and MIME (11D: Storyteller who needs no words) seemed blatant. But the cross of KRUGMAN (7A: Nobel-winning economist who wrote "Fuzzy Math") and UTO (9D: ____ - Aztecan) (?) was the last thing we entered, and it was an educated guess. Frannie had heard of DIETRITE (15A: Longtime Tab competitor) (anybody else have "dietcoke" in there for a while?), but I hadn't.

SHEERAGONY (25A: Hell) is great fill that took forever to see, and CATCHACOLD (40A: Pick up something common?) was well-clued. I'm not familiar with KEYTAGS (59A: Accessories purchased just for openers?), and I'm not even sure now what they are. Bottle openers? Is it a regionalism?*

It was a puzzle of mini-themes. The art theme, the constellation theme, the surname theme. I guess it was good, it just felt odd. Some parts very easy, others very hard. What'd you think?

- Horace

* Rex Parker has a photo of KEYTAGS on his blog today, and, ok, I know what they are, but it's not a word I say or think of much.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014, Matthew Lees


"A paradox, a paradox
A most ingenious paradox!"

Frannie got the whole paradox thing, and didn't find it all that ingenious, but I thought it was fine.

I liked DOWSE (30A: Use a divining rod) and FLOUT (46A: Openly disregard) quite a bit, and I loved SPY (61A: Stratego piece with a monocle), but I don't think I much like DADAS, especially when clued with "47A: Pops." COWGIRL, AROUSESUNDERDOG, EXERCISE, LOSTSOULPLASTER… all good. And I enjoyed the pair SOANDSO (14D: Scoundrel) and XANDY (36D: Familiar axes).

I tried "intercom" where Frannie finally put PASYSTEM (50A: Medium for school announcements). I saw it and thought, "what's a pasy stem?" Also tried "shore" for 31D: Word after lake or sea (TROUT).

There was some tired stuff like RIAL, ARIA, ROUE, ERN, and EIRE, but it didn't sour my MOOD too much.

Decent Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014, Kurt Mueller


Man, what a nice Wednesday puzzle! It took me forever to see TROU (14A: Drop ____ (start to strip)), and then a little longer to actually believe that they would use that, but when it finally went in, I was quite happy.

Other than that, the top was a little lackluster. Somewhat difficult clues for OTHER (1D: Remaining) and ARENA (2D: Where the action is) kept things open up there for a while, but I liked the back-to-back French of ENTRE (20A: ____ nous) and OUI (21A: French vote). Also, just after bashing themes yesterday, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this one. They skew old, but hey, I'm old, and I watched all of these when they were actually airing except for the Jackie Gleason Show. I have a special fondness for AONEANDATWO (24A: Lawrence Welk intro words), because my sister and I used to watch that at my grandparents' house. Well, Sue and I would mostly be coloring in coloring books on the floor in front of the TV, but we'd look up occasionally, and the music, of course, didn't need looking at.

I give Mr. Mueller extra credit for coming up with a new (albeit impossible) clue for ENO (33A: Will ____, "The Realistic Joneses" playwright), and I also enjoyed the paired art clues 35A: Setting for many van Gogh paintings (ARLES) and 70A: Settings of Delacroix and Ingres paintings (HAREMS). Tough, that second one. STEAL (48A: Diamond datum), too, was quite difficult, especially as "karat" also fits there.

There's a lot good in here. The Emerson quote, the classical reference to Icarus... and I just had a good feeling about it.

I'll say it again - a nice Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014, Alex Bajcz


A very nice Tuesday puzzle. The theme was well-hidden for most of the solve, and it played more like a themeless, which, frankly, I prefer. Is it just me? Do people need these little themes to stay interested in puzzles? Do constructors like making them more than they like making themeless? What is driving it?? I mean, a great theme can make a puzzle better, but things like vowel progressions, things like this, where the last word of every theme can be connected somehow, and even circles, like yesterday's, well… they aren't all that exciting most of the time. You say, "Huh," and then you move on.

Anyway, today, the almost unexpected revealer PICKUP (47D: Learn … or a word that can precede the ends of 20-, 29-, 44- and 53-Across) finally gave this puzzle meaning and purpose, and there was much rejoicing. By some. I guess. No, that's too harsh. I liked it, really I did. I just wonder sometimes about why we need themes five out of seven days of the week.

But with or without the theme, this is a fine puzzle. It starts out on shaky ground with NES and OLE, but ELICIT (2D: Bring out) saves that NW corner, and then things generally PICKUP from there. PICAYUNE (6D: Paltry), ANIMATE (7D: Bring to life), and TENTHS (8D: Kind of a place to the right of a decimal) (somewhat tortured clue, but still I like it) are all lovely in the North, and there's more good fill scattered all around.

If Huygens liked "ALG," he will certainly also like PRECALC (9D: Advanced algebra class, informally), not to mention BIKINI (32D: Pageant wear, at times). CUTSINLINE, SWIZZLESTICKS, GIZMOS… it's crammed with good fill. I can swallow a lot more IMRE, APIA, and ETAL when a puzzle has so much ZIP. Nice job.

- Horace

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014, Lynn Lempel


I didn't catch the theme until I was done, even after getting ITSABOUTNOTHING (61A: Why this puzzle is like "Seinfeld"?). I was too busy filling in answers to even notice the circles. Now that I'm looking it over, however, I like it just fine. Two nice fifteens running through, and pretty decent theme answers. I even remembered TRINILOPEZ (23A: Singer with the 1963 hit "If I had a Hammer") with only a couple crosses! It's only a V short of a pangram, but I give Ms. Lempel extra credit for not trying to cram one in.

Some nice fill - SQUIRMY (3D: Having ants in one's pants) (fun!), PEZ (5D: Dispenser candy) (also fun), DANUBE (59D: Vienna's river) (always lovely to think about), and LACONIC (46D: Terse) (a nice ten-cent word!). I'm less fond of TINMINE (11D: Source of a metal once used for foil) and SESTETS (12D: Ensembles for six), but they're fine, really. Just a little odd.

It's a decent Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014, Mary Lou Guizzo



A pleasant enough Sunday puzzle. All the answers along the outer edge were preceded by an understood "double." I'm not quite sure how the title corresponds to that fact, but perhaps it's something clever that I'm missing. The revealer, though, is clearer - DOUBLEEDGED (70A: Like some swords … or a hint to this puzzle's theme).

Before I got the theme, I tried "sawed off" for 1A: Like many shotguns ((double)BARRELED). How cool would that have been? (By the way, I am loath to give up the double letter in words like "barrelled," but I know it is changing. At least the good ol' New Yorker is still with me! And speaking of the New Yorker, I liked the reference to 38A: "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for ____" (1985 best seller) (AHAT), by contributing writer Oliver Sacks.) Another nice clue was 53A: Water checker? (DAM).

Did you wonder, like we did, about the RAMOS 21A: ____ gin fizz? Well, it appears to be a southern thing, so I was all ready to use that as an excuse for not knowing it, but it was invented in 1888, in New Orleans, so… that's kind of a long time ago. Another reason that I might not have heard of it is because it sounds kind of gross. Gin, lemon juice, lime juice (I know, sounds good so far, right?), egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water, and soda water. It was, apparently, a favorite of Huey Long.

GELD (47A: Neuter) was a good one, but the other two on that line (EAP and CESTA) are less exciting. And it's similar, I think, to the "PLACENAME" answer yesterday, but somehow I like TITLEROLES (79A: Thelma and Louise, e.g.) much better. Maybe I just liked this puzzle better, so I was in a better mood by the time I hit it. That, maybe, and the fact that it's followed by the similarly clued BETTES (82A: Davis and Midler). We enjoy touches like that.

Finally, some very nice fill in here - CLEARTHEAIR (105A: Dispel differences), ELONGATE (45A: Stretch out), BOOLEAN (112A: Kind of algebra), HASBEENS (39D: Dimmed stars?), and others.

Nice Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014, Sam Ezersky

D. N. F.

Very hard. We were booked and on the move today from 9:30am until almost 9:30pm, but before and after that, we spent well over an hour on this thing before getting it all filled in, only to find that we had a mistake that we just couldn't find! Our "Men in Black" agent names are a bit rusty, so when "Agent B" seemed as good as any other letter, and "Do the bob" seemed like it could have been a terrible, but at least possible, answer to 14D: Cut it (DOTHEJOB) (could have been talking about hair, right?), well... that's what happened to us. We also weren't entirely sure of the ESAI (8D: Morales of film) (When will I remember this!?)/DIETZ (30A: ____ & Watson (big name in deli meat)) crossing, or the meaning of HEELERS (44A: Many party hacks).

We said just yesterday that we like a challenge, but when you struggle and struggle, and the answer turns out to be PLACENAME (31D: Boson, Chicago or Kansas), it doesn't quite feel worth it. ALASKANKINGCRAB is 35A: One with long, luscious legs? Luscious? Really? Yuck. And speaking of yuck, MILK, MAMA, and FETUS weren't the greatest trio.

I don't know... I don't want to just slam it, I guess, but we didn't love it. Perhaps others will comment with things they liked about it. Me, I'm going to go rest, and look forward to tomorrow's grid.

- Horace

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014, Brendan Emmett Quigley


Mr. Quigley is making some tough puzzles lately. His puzzle in the ACPT this year really did a number on us, and in the beginning of this one I felt that same dread as almost nothing went in easily. He's in my head, man!…

So many things we didn't know today, mostly proper names. HENRIETTA (15A: London's ____ Barnett School) (are we supposed to know this?), NORAH (16A: News anchor O'Donnell) (or this?), LEANNE (26A: Fashion designer Marshall) (or this?), DOTTIE (32A: West of Nashville) (?), JONAS (34A: "Martin Chuzzlewit" villain), FIVETHIRTYEIGHT (35A: Silver screen name) (so named because there are 538 electors in the U.S. electoral college), ALLENDE (49A: Novelist Isabel) (Chilean, I'm guessing?), DAVE (54A: Actor Franco of "Now You See Me") (?), FIONA (60A: Female lead in "Brigadoon"), KIM (5D: 1901 Kipling book), ANDRE (10D: Physicist ____ - Marie Ampère), and VARDALOS (37D: "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" writer/star) (ok, we recognized that one, at least, but could not pull it out of the aether. That seems like a lot. And it doesn't even include other, somewhat obscure, proper nouns that we did know, like CHIRAC, LENAPE, and OLLIE.

But even with all that, we somehow finished. Of the long downs, I preferred ANOINTEDONE (27D: Messiah) (nice) to CROSSEDEYES (4D: Strabismus), but at least we learned the word "strabismus," which seems to be a more general term for any condition where the eyes are not properly aligned. I suppose "crossed eyes" is fine, because it's one possible manifestation, but we did not give such latitude to GRINNING (12D: Looking sheepish, say). One can have a sheepish grin, but just saying "looking sheepish, say" doesn't really seem to imply "grinning."

All that being said, I still rate this as an above-average Friday. We enjoy being pushed like this, and some of the clues were quite good indeed. 61A: They'll never hold water (STRAINERS), 17A: One who's not out all night? (INSOMNIAC), 31A: Ship captained by Vicente Yáñez Pinzón (NINA) (guessed it immediately, was happy when it panned out), 50A: Where one might take a bullet (STA) (excellent clue for mediocre fill), and 8D: Not this type?: Abbr. (ITAL) (ditto) were all quite nice.

Keep 'em coming Mr. Quigley!

- Horace

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014, Brandon Hensley


Natick, thy new name is CERS (56D: Reacts fearfully). What are we missing here? What does that mean? And furthermore, in what way are CARDS (58A: Some runners)? Thinking of Keats, we tried "pards" ("Not charioted by Bacchus and his 'pards…"), but no.

I think it must be very difficult to position nine rebus squares in a specific pattern, such as a spaceship, and then run a related phrase all across the top of the puzzle. It is done pretty well here, but I just can't get over that crossing.

OK. I looked at another blog because I knew we just had to be missing something, and we were. The spaceship is, apparently, abducting a [COW], giving "cowards" and "cowers." What the?!? Aliens abduct cows? And 1A said nine squares would be involved - well… they are all that's involved in the spaceship, but jesus, I mean, how is the cow connected? It's in the middle of a crooked line. And why oh why does the program accept some rebus squares with [ET], and then another rebus square with just a C? All or nothing at all, guys.

I could rant on and on, but I did want to say that today had the best clue for OMOO (20D: Polynesian term for an island hopper) that I've ever seen.

It's a well done puzzle, but I am not aware of cow abductions, and the puzzle was accepted with a C in it instead of a COW.


- Horace