Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014, Joel Fagliano


Strings of words that sound something like BESTPICTUREWINNERs (109A: What you get when you say 23-, 31-, 47-, 64-, 79- or 97-Across out loud). The toughest one, for us, was HOWTOUGHHAVERIGA (97A: "In what way?"/Like overcooked steak/Possess/European capital on a gulf (1985)) - Out of Africa. Jeepers. HONDAWATTAFFRONT (31A: Toyota rita/Measure of power/Insult (1954)), on the other hand, was easy. I guess I like it overall. It's absurd, and that's usually a good thing.

The fill was pretty tight, and it "kept us working," as Frannie puts it. Interesting to learn that Halle Berry was once runner-up in the MISSUSA pageant. That was in 1986, incidentally, and that same year she finished sixth in Miss World. Who knew? I'm sure Huygens (and everyone else) will enjoy mention of the OORT (27A: ____ cloud (source of comets)), and in related material, MOON (29A: Spend time in idle reverie) is given a tricky clue. And speaking of tricky, I also enjoyed 26A: Ring material (CANVAS) and 86A: Load bearer (HAMPER). You don't hear that word much anymore. At least I don't. We always had one when I was growing up, but now we just have a basket, and we don't call it a hamper. Also, I did not expect WUSSY for 72A: Like a milquetoast. I think I tried "timid" until COLDWAR (50D: It was satirized in "Dr. Strangelove") changed the first letter. Then I think it was Frannie who finally filled it in.

Was it just yesterday that I railed against clues like 38A: Parisian possessive (SES)? Well, at least today's is more realistic.

There were no real groaners, and plenty of unusual, interesting, or funny things, and how can you not smile at a puzzle that includes 93A: "That's what she ____" (SAID)?

Thumbs up.

- Horace

Friday, August 29, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014, David Steinberg


This one came in fits and starts. Things like INTEGRA (20A: Bygone Acura), BASSALE (12D: Beverage with a triangular logo) and ROSANNE (62A: Cash in a country bar) (when Johnny didn't fit, what else could it have been?) came quickly, but, to me at least, the clues for SEERESS (38A: Sybill Trelawney, in the Harry Potter books), ATOMANT (42D: Ferocious Flea fighter, in cartoons), and  ALDENTE (54A: Trattoria specification) were more opaque. Luckily, Frannie didn't have that much trouble with them. We ended working together to finish up with TALARIA (57A: Mercury's winged sandals) (wow.), PLIED (50D: Worked with) (hmm...) and PAPAS (50A: Ones with issues?). That last one was pretty good, actually.

"41A: Piece of trash?" is a pretty weak clue for JUNKART, if you ask us. And enough with the damn 5D: Parisian possessive (ALUI). It's like "Spanish this" or that, or these... and what's more, it's not even a normal possessive. If you wanted to say "his book" for example, you'd say "son livre," not "le livre à lui." It's absurd. And while it's not technically wrong, I'd still say it's wrong. "A toi, à moi, à lui"... are we also going to allow "à eux," "à vous," and "à nous?" And what about "sien," "tien," "votre" and "notre?"

My favorite part of this is the NW, with LAZARUS (1D" "The Raising of ____" (Rembrandt painting)), ZZZQUIL (17A: Vicks product) (nice), and OZZFEST (2D: Annual heavy metal tour). AZOBLUE (18A: Synthetic purplish colorant) is kind of a steep price to pay, but I'll pay it here.

Nice to see MAME (26A: Musical title character who "made us feel alive again" ) in the grid. I just quoted her earlier in the week. And speaking of the grid, it's lovely, with that X right in the middle.

Frannie calls the puzzle a mixed bag. I agree.

- Horace

Friday, August 29, 2014, Daniel Raymon


Well, this was a big, fat, DNF. We were down to four squares in the morning, then we looked at it after work and got two of them, but the last two, the I and C of ICET (28D: Player of Fin Tutuola on TV) (Who?) were not going to come. The crosses, RERI (28A: Soprano Grist) (Who?) and RICO (30A: Anti-Mafia measure, for short) (Whaa?) were decidedly not going to happen. Even now, they make no sense to me. And, to top it all off, we had an error over at the intersection of EMLEN (11D: Football Hall-of-Famer Tunnell) and NEVIS (27A: Neighbor of St. Kitts). That one's partly due to solving in tandem, because I had guessed "Emmet" for the football player, and then Frannie had put in other stuff and we were left with "Emlet," but probably more due to the fact that we didn't know either one.

So that's what we didn't know. Well, we didn't know RONELY (2D: Doc Savage portrayer) either, but  REG (18A: Short order?) kind of had to be right, so we got that one.

But that's ok. It's ok to not know things. Perhaps many other solvers are familiar with the coloratura who debuted in 1964, in Salzburg, and ended her professional career in 1991, in Amsterdam. We were not. But we are not the pure philistines you surely think us - Frannie got MARIACALLAS (68A: Singer known as "La Divina") off the MA, and she might not even have needed that. Soo....

Things I actually didn't like include BEBOPPED (22D: Played like Bird or Trane) (Was Coltrane Bebop? Surely not on "Blue Train"), RICAN (52A: Costa ____) (why is an adjective ok here?), PLEB (28A: Ordinary person) (not in the ordinary language of an ordinary person), XIN (62A: Mark, as a survey square), MMIV (58A: Year Bush was re-elected) (why you gotta go there?).

Things I liked include THAR (54A: Whaler's direction?) (ahh, remember Yokens?), MVP and LARAIDER (44A: & 18D: Bo Jackson was one in '89) (ahh, remember Bo Jackson?), and the eight-stacks in the NE and SW were quite nice. The ten-stacks in the other corners had good fill, but the clues seemed slightly odd for some of them. "1A: Poll internet users on, perhaps" for CROWDSOURCE? Is that really what that is? Isn't it putting the power of many people to work on one problem? and 67A: Words following an understatement? for ANDTHENSOME? I'd like an example.

I guess I can't really decide whether or not I liked it. I mean, there were some cute clues, like 18A: W. Coast airport one might think has poor security? (LAX), but there were a lot of proper names, some junk, and, of course, there's that pesky DNF situation. Oh, and who the hell is LIAT?

- Horace

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014, Ned White


Seemed like a Wednesday. Four WARD clues traveling vertically DOWN the grid. Hmmm…

Enjoyed: ARABLE (4D: Good for planting) (one of the first things in the grid), AMINUS (8D: Nearly perfect), MAESTRO (15A: Toscanini, for one) (Would you ask him to conduct an harmonica band?), OUTERARM (23A: Part of a spiral galaxy farthest from the center) (a bit of a long way to go for this fill, but I'll take it), and DIARIST (36A: Adolf Hitler, e.g., according to a 1983 hoax).

Did not enjoy: ESTO (6D: This, in Tijuana) (enough already with the "this, in a Spanish-speaking place"), RETITLE (37D: Give an alias), RECUE (31A: Feed a line to again), NOTASTE (17A: Kitschy quality) (seems inaccurate), and wanted "a gut" for ARIB (19A: Bust ____ (laugh hard)). Also, 22A: "We Three Kings of Orient Are," e.g. is NOEL? Does NOEL mean "Christmas carol" now? Wait… yes. Yes, it does. Huh.

Trickier clues than usual on COP (13D: Lift), EAT (30D: Not fast), and CANOE (48D: Dugout, for one). Great clue on ESS (41A: What makes a top stop?). Terrible clue on WAWA (40A: H20, to a tot). And while we're talking about clues, I had a strong feeling that I've seen 54A: Something not seen on a nudist, maybe (TANLINE) before, but I still enjoyed it. And 45A: Diner or sleeper (TRAINCAR) made me think of my father, who has ridden some enormous number of miles on AMTRAK. Maybe over 100,000?


- Horace

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014, Gareth Bain and David Poole


Boy, I really enjoyed this one. It's perfect for New Englanders, who tend to drop Rs where they do appear, and add them where they don't. We don't do this personally, but we hear it an awful lot. Anyway, all the theme stuff made me chuckle. Maybe FRANKZAPPER (24A: Microwave for hot dogs?) (the answers made me chuckle more than the clues) is my favorite, but I am, of course, partial to CONGERLINES (17A: Libretto for "Eel Trovatore"?) (ok, that clue is awesome), because it references our favorite crossword word, EEL.

The other two long answers, WHATALAUGH (29D: "That is SO stupid!") and FOAMPEANUT (17D: Bit of packaging detritus) are both excellent, and, really, so is a lot of the rest of the fill. TRIPE (12D: Horsefeathers) is a great word, VISTAS (10D: Prospects) is nice, SPARTAN (48A: Lacking the traditional comforts) (a friend has long referred to our house as "Sparta") is lovely, and ABJECT (1A: Showing hopelessness) is a fine start.

It is odd to see ROADEO (14A: Truckers' contest) again so soon, and there are a few other minor annoyances, but overall, I thought this was very nicely done. And is it just me, or did it feel a little harder than Wednesdays sometimes do? Maybe it's a function of having two constructors working on the puzzle, but I really felt out of sync with some of this as I was doing it. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

There's much more I could call out, but I think you get the idea. I thought it was a very good Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014, Victor Fleming


Kind of a drab puzzle today. Two-word phrases starting with certain letters, and that second one, MILKPUNCH (23A: *Eggnog relative)?!? What the hell is milk punch? And another thing that got me started on the wrong foot with this was STRIKE (4D: X, in bowling). When I bowled, filling in two corners was what symbolized a strike. Filling in one corner was a spare. An X meant you got a ten.

After that, it was hard to get back. EELERS (30A: Anglers after morays) set the scene nicely for an onslaught of crosswordese - TET, ATNO, ADLIB, EDS, ACRO, LASE, TRYST, CREE, ASSN, &etc.

It's nice to have ONEACRE (38A: 70 yards square, approximately) laid out in such simple terms. Hopefully, that will help me to remember a heretofore elusive measurement. And it's also interesting to learn what the initials stand for in 41A: Department store founder James Cash ____ (PENNEY).

Other than that, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

- Horace

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014, Greg Johnson


So, no revealer today. Is it a Monday themeless, after the themed Saturday? Well, let's see... there's a lot of "B" answers - BLUNDERBUSS (Muzzle-loading firearm), STUMBLEBUM (28D: Second-rate prizefighter), BUMBLEBEES (11D: Big pollinators)... is that what it is? B-related answers? But let's see... there's that MYBAD (37A: "Oops!") in the center. Aha! It's a KLUTZ (49D: One who might cry "Oops!")-progression! Very nice. If only Mr. Johnson had been able to work in Chevy Chase somehow...

The fill is very clean, too, I think. I enjoyed ALTA (17A: Baja's opposite) and BEAMS (44A: Smiles proudly), and APLOMB (48A: Self-confidence) is a nice word. And I suppose I have heard once (or more) that AKRON is the 48A: All-American Soap Box Derby city, but I did not remember it.

A very nice Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014, Patrick Berry


We enjoyed this puzzle. A full review will be posted on Monday. Sorry for the delay.

- Horace

We have come to expect big things from Mr. Berry, and he delivers again today. The theme is beautifully done and often hilarious. Frannie's favorite was LEIDETECTOR (28A: Device that can tell if someone's recently vacationed in Hawaii?), and mine, I think, was the ridiculous CLODCEREAL (58A: Honey Bunches of Oafs, e.g.?), but CROONERSINQUEST (113A: What might determine if the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie is truly amore?) puts up a good fight in the "ridiculous" category. Fannie also wants to point out that SATINLESSSTEEL (89A: Novelist Danielle without her glossy dress?) (look at those Ss!) is quite a transformation - from stainless steel to satin! How does his mind work?!

Enjoyed the pair of AVAST (49A: Nautical command) and BELAY (14A: Fasten, as rope), and that's quite a clue for ADS (94A: Channel-surfing catalysts). I also enjoyed the straighforward, yet tricky clue for AXIOM (112A: Given). And it's fascinating to learn the original definition of SCUTTLE (118A: Send to the ocean bottom). It seems that it's really the act of cutting a hole in the ship, but the purpose is to sink it.

It just oozes interestingness and cleverness, and those are two very good traits for a puzzle to have. 11D: Last thing bid? (ADIEU) and 48D: Garbage collection? (FLIES) - clever. 38D: Bugs that weigh tons (VWS) - fun. 92D: "It's true whether or not you believe in it," per Neil deGrasse Tyson (SCIENCE) - awesome.

He is and remains our favorite constructor.

- Horace

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014, Timothy Polin


Yet another late-week themed puzzle. This one really could have been a Thursday, I feel. I went through all the Across clues, guessing at one or two, thinking "Either this is going to be impossible, or there's something I'm not seeing." Then, I think at 7D: Kid of poetic work (ODE) it finally hit me, and then it was just a matter of filling things in.

As an exercise in clue-writing, this is a beautiful piece of work. As a Saturday puzzle, it was a bit of a let-down. Frannie didn't even get a chance to see it, which she doesn't like at all.

As a Thursday puzzle, on the other hand, this would have been fun. Lots of Scrabble-y letters, some nice long stuff (MEATFREE (2D: Vegas would love this type of world) sitting beside BACCARAT (3D: Casio game) is a complex juxtaposition), and really quite clean. I don't love TINCTS (55A: Adds a little toe to), but there's not too much else to complain about.

It would get a thumbs up on the genius of the clueing alone (33D: Doe, e.g. (POET)), but the fill is really great in parts - PHALANX (27D: Wig of the old Greek army), ERSATZ (11D: Margarie might be described thus), ASUNDER (23D: I pieces) (one of the weakest clues, perhaps), and more - so I guess I cat really fault it.

- Horace

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014, Sam Ezersky


I love a puzzle that we start late at night, that we both take a stab at, and that we eventually have to finish in the morning. That's what happened today. That NE corner was intractable for a good long time. Then the "ym" ending appeared and HOMONYM (14D: Cache for cash, say) (we should know better!) dropped in, then we tried BAM (18A: Sound of a slug) and HIBACHI (12D: Literally, "fire bowl") came clear, and finally, somehow, DCON (28A: Brand of bait pellets) (wow. I had pretty much written off any chance of getting this from the beginning) came to me, and that was the lynchpin for ENAMORS (13D: Doesn't just attract). Whew!

Great stuff everywhere today, starting with BBQSANDWICH (1A: Something that goes from a pit to your stomach?). Very nice, that. Things like BLISTERPACK (60A: Pill holder), PARTI (53D: Epic start), and LAKEONTARIO (65A: Member of a "great" quintet) seem so obvious now, but they did not come easily. And I quite enjoyed the dismissiveness of ITSMAGIC (38A: Unhelpful reply to "How did you do that?") and HEH (12A: Snarky sound).

On the down side, there's the odd DRYFARM (45D: Raise crops on the Plains, maybe) - is that a thing? - and INO (16A: Queen of Thebes, in myth). You know, I've been reading the Oedipus trilogy, which is partly set in Thebes, and I'm pretty sure INO hasn't come up yet. And last Saturday we had "Her poison killed Creon" (MEDEA), and although Creon is king of Thebes during part of the Oedipus story, I haven't yet gotten to his death. How many of these damn classics am I going to have to read before I know all this stuff?!?

Where was I? ... anyway, there's a little of the necessary, crosswordsy stuff in here - who the hell is EDEL (22D: 1963 Pulitzer winner Leon) (cruel, really, since this was right during Leon Uris's heyday, but no Pulitzers for Uris) - but not too much, and there's tons of stuff that we really liked. A very good Friday.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie wondered aloud whether GARP (31D: T.S. of literature) were a Robin Williams tribute. Let's all agree that it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014, Jules P. Markey


Two things about the theme - 1. It is somewhat odd that the revealer begins with a "PO" that is not in rebus form. 2. The clue of the revealer "39A: Mail conveniences ... or a hint to eight square in this puzzle" (POSTOFFICEBOXES) gives away too much. I don't think we had any of the rebus squares yet when we read this, but after reading it, you know what you're looking for, even if you don't get the answer right away.

On the brighter side, it's nice, I guess, that the rebuses are all contained in symmetrical long answers (although some critics find that sort of structure in a rebus puzzle also gives away too much, once you catch on to it).

I also enjoyed much in this puzzle. SHIITE (32A: Ayatollah Khomeini, e.g.) was good, GARTER (44A: Hose attachment) was tricky for me, but Frannie got it quickly. ASHE (18A: 26-Across of a North Carolina "-ville") (candidate for "Most Opaque Clue" of the year!) and E[PO]NYM (26A: See 16-Across) (gee, thanks) were tricky for both of us, but it eventually made sense. Wow, though. Really?

ANA (22A: Carrier to Tokyo) is unfamiliar, and MESNE (47A: Intermediate, in law) was too, even with some Latin. And even after looking it up, I'm still not certain I know whether or not it is related to "demesne." ITER (20A: Roman road), on the other hand, was a gimme. And speaking of legal matters, 56A: Legal borders? (ELS) totally got me today! They love that kind of clue, and I know it, and it still got me!

Lastly, I feel I must point out that "Wizard of Oz Week" continues today with TOTO (24D: Film pooch) (I originally tried "Asta").

Overall, I guess I liked it more than I didn't like it. You?

- Horace

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014, Zhouqin Burnikel


When I caught on to 1A: Start to grunt? (HARDG) right away, I had a good feeling about the way things might go. Unfortunately, I tried "Lemon" for 6A: Air freshener scent (LILAC), but it was fixed pretty quickly, and things actually did move right along after that.

The theme is a tad odd, but very nicely done. The letters RSTLN and E are now given automatically in the "bonus round" of the show Wheel of Fortune. It didn't used to be that way. Remember when that giant lazy susan full of products with prices would turn, and the contestants would take the remainder on account? Those were the days… but I digress. As I was starting to say, the letters are all used as single letters, and the revealer, FREE (55D), is at least in the middle, even though it has no symmetrical clue up top.

There were some nice entries in here, but before I highlight any of them, I just want to say that I was surprised to find out that EDYS is the 58D: Brand known as Dreyer's in the West. I thought I just learned through another clue that EDYS was some guy's last name. Why would it be called by a different name in the West? Well, perhaps you've already guessed, but I'll tell you anyway. The company was started as "Edy's Grand Ice Cream" in Oakland, in 1953, by two guys named Joseph Edy and William Dreyer, but in 1947 the company was dissolved. Later, Dreyer Jr. got control somehow, and changed the name to Dreyer's, and then later still, the Edy's name was resurrected when the company expanded east of the Rockies, so the product wouldn't be confused with Breyers. Stranger still, when we were in school in the Midwest, there was a local ice cream place called Dryan's… but that has little bearing on this puzzle.

Other things I liked were CHESS (10D: Game in which pieces can be forked), NOMEN (65A: "Julius," e.g., in Gaius Julius Caesar) (as opposed to the praenomen and cognomen), RHAPSODY (3D: Liszt piece), and GREWWEARY (5D: Tired) (nice double Ws). FIST (59A: Symbol of authority) was nice, too, and it took me three crosses before I realized what it was! Also, it's symmetrical with WEAK (21A: Watered down), coincidence? I wonder. And who doesn't love the AMISH (15A: Plain people) (at least it wasn't "Otoes").

My biggest complaint might be that SAE (58A: Autograph seeker's encl.) is less familiar than "SASE," but coincidentally, there was an SAE (sigma alpha epsilon - I don't want to bother finding a Greek keyboard) fraternity at that same school that was near Dryan's. Interesting, no?

- Horace

Tuesday, August 19, 2014, Sam Buchbinder


According to the Wikipedia, they're one week late for the anniversary of the original release date of August 12, 1939. But hey, it's probably close enough for a 75th anniversary, right? And really, this is a heck of a tribute puzzle. Look at all that theme material! Four fifteens, a centrally-located DOROTHY/HEROINE pair, and a couple of circled letters. That's a lot!

The theme material is great, but as you might expect with some 40% of the letters being theme-related, there are going to be some compromises elsewhere. And yes, there are. Here's a little list of crosswordese and odd fill - EIRE, ALI, CGI, ARA, POL, ROAN, SSNS, OREO, LAS, ASL, THA, ATOI, ROO, OTOE, DATS, AER, EDYS, REM, BYS, ALKA, WEI, ODS, AVER… and I'm not even counting names like BIALIK, ZAC, AKIVA and ENZI.

That's a lot, but I think the theme still wins out. I mean, come on, who's going to challenge the Wizard of Oz? And somehow there's still room for some nice non-theme stuff, like QUASH (22A: Put down, as an uprising) (are we thinking of Ferguson here?), STACKS (47D: Library area) (Frannie would love this if she had done this puzzle), HECKLE (48D: Jeer) (great word), NAKEDEYE (64A: Unaided vision, with "the"), and KLUTZY (65A: Ham-handed).

Lastly, not knowing the name BIALIK (15A: Actress Mayim of "The Big Bang Theory") or THA (20A: "____ Carter III" (Lil Wayne 3x platinum album)), it took me a full minute or more at the end to complete S_I_AT (SKIHAT (6D: Top of a mountain?)). Hah. Funny. Ish.

On balance (and my those scales are full), I give this one the thumbs up. For theme, and because Mr. Buchbinder didn't try to cram in a J for the pangram.

- Horace

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014, Ian and Katie Livengood


A solid Monday offerring, with a decent theme and some unusual fill.

Let's talk about the theme first. The "bait, cast, bite, reel" sequence makes sense, and the two-word phrases that house them are mostly fine. I'd rather have seen some kind of printing problem clue on COLORCAST (21A: Like most TV shows starting in the 1960s), but I suppose that would only appeal to a very small subset of solvers. The very idea of OSCARBAIT (17A: Film designed to attract Academy Awards consideration), too, is repulsive to me, but I guess it's normal enough.

In the fill we see such lovely things as CHECHNYA (23A: War-torn part of Russia), TOUCANSAM (9D: Avian Froot Loops mascot), DSTUDENTS (32D: Pupils who score in the 60s) (it's a bit unorthodox, but why not? I like it!), and STATESEAL (37D: Louisiana's has a nesting pelican with three chicks). I also quite enjoyed BLACKEYE (58A: Shiner). COACHESUP (5D: Instructs, informally)? Well… ok, I guess that's fine.

The clue for YARD (58D: One of 10 in a series of football downs) seems needlessly complex and, in the end, almost nonsensical. One yard in a series of downs? But I enjoyed the accuracy of the paired, foreign-language "goodbye" clues - 24D: Informal goodbye (CIAO), and 52D: Formal goodbye (ADIEU).

ASS (25A: Ninny) and ASSET (36A: Liability's opposite) looked a little too similar one on top of the other, but overall, a decent Monday.

- Horace

p.s. The embedded image is a fiction, and does not indicate endorsement by Toucan Sam, Mel Blanc, Kellogg's, or any parent company.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014, Caleb Madison

Sittin' Solve

I chuckled my way through this puzzle. Horace had run once across and down and handed it over to me, as usual on a Sunday. The first theme answer I got was WRITINWRONG (20A. Spellin' things incorrectly?) Then, I was off and runnin'. A favorite was 75D. Carryin' a load of grain? (HAULINOATS). Mr. Oates, the singer, figured in a clever clue/answer pair yesterday, if I remember correctly.

In addition to the humorous theme answers, were several other chucklers, such as 89A. Union formation? (MRS), 7D. Make a note of? (SING), and 58D. Dealbreaker? (NARC). I also enjoyed 101A. 1/4 of zero? (ZEE) and thought it might appeal to Hyguens as well, who I'm guessing also enjoyed 66D. Big goof (BONER) and 114A. Accouterment popularized by a "Seinfeld" episode (MANPURSE). [Editorial aside, Accouterment, as spelled in the puzzle is marked by the Google as a spelling error. Google appears to prefer the more Frenchified accoutrement. Hmm.]

Nice cross of 36A. Beak (NOSE) and 21D. Cyrano de Bergerac, famously (WOOER). Other nice ones were 61A. 50 Cent piece (RAPVIDEO) and 4D. Old-timey medicines (TONICS). I also liked both clue and answer for 122A. Madcap (NUTTY).

The professional librarian in me enjoyed the related clues 88A. Bibliography listings (SOURCES) and 120A. Put in a bibliography (CITE). And, as a fan of identical clues with different answers, I very much enjoyed 46D. and 97A. Deeply impressed (AWED and GRAVEN respectively), however, today's other pair of identical clues, 74A. and 71D. Hardens, had answers that were too similar to be cool (CONGEALS and GELS respectively).

Although the clue for 11D. was cute (You can count on them), the answer was the ridiculous plural ABACI. When, oh when, will a puzzle constructor take on the challenge of fitting abacuses into a puzzle? [Editorial note: ABACI is marked as misspellt by the Google, abacuses is not so marked]. As much as I love robots, 59D. Engineering topic, being answered with ROBOTRY was on the lame side. Also, I didn't love the clue for 65A. H.S. Dropouts' documents (GEDS) because not all dropouts get GEDs. But I AGGRESS. In sum, as I completed the puzzle, I LOLLed (50A. Lie around), and also LOLed.

~ Frannie

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014, Peter Broda


Boy, it's been a while since a Saturday felt this hard. We started strong, getting the daring 1A: Genre for Django Reinhardt (GYPSYJAZZ) right off the bat, and then much of that NW corner soon after, but over in the NE, EPCOT (10A: Spaceship Earth setting) was, I think, the last thing in. And we've been on Spaceship Earth! That's the one that I usually think of as "The Land of Tomorrow," right? Oh well, it's a great clue no matter how dense I am, or what the ride actually is. And there was more great stuff all over the place in this one.

Loved that whole NW, with NOTYOUTOO (15A: "Has the whole world gone mad?!"), YOHEAVEHO (2D: Cry that helps people pull together) (beautiful), PTARMIGAN (3D: Prey for an Arctic fox) (lovely), and SYMMETRY (4D: Palindrome property). I didn't even notice YOO (5D: Start of an attention-getting cry) going in, and now that I see it, it's a little weird, but I'm going to let it slide.

One thing I won't let slide without a little fuss, however, is DIDISTUTTER (39A: Rude response to "Excuse me?"). Have you ever heard anyone say that? Is that a thing? Are we just not hanging around in rude enough circles? It took us a long while to see ULULATE (21D: Lament loudly), and for a while we wondered if it was "Did I sputter?" In fact, from there on up into the NE corner there was a large swath of white for a very long time. We are not aware of MSOLYMPIA (24A: Winner of an annual "posedown"), but Frannie guesses it's something like Mr. Universe. It also took us forever to remember poor old PLUTO (18A: Recipient of a major downgrade in 2006). I mean, now that we have everything filled in, it all looks so sensible, but man, we had a hard time up there. PLASMS (11D: Cell interiors) - not something I think of often. OTERI (13D: 1995-2000 "S.N.L." cast member) - I should have gotten that sooner. And so on, and so on.

It was solid, I think, with a few unknowns (MRBLUE (41D: 1959 #1 hit for the Fleetwoods) for example), and some decent long stuff. I'll just highlight two more items - OGLES (25D: Gives elevator eyes) because it makes the word "ogles" even creepier by using a phrase we've never heard before, and STARWIPE (37D: Tacky television transition) because it (as most things do) reminds us of The Simpsons, and the episode where Homer makes a dating video for Ned Flanders. "And 'star-wipe,' and we're done." I think Lisa, who has done all the editing work, decided to take her name off the project right after that line.

Anywhoo, it was a good, challenging Saturday. Star-wipe, and we're done.

- Horace

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014, Jeff Chen


I got very few answers when I made my first pass through this one, but I got a good feeling about it just from reading the clues. 3D: Letter number (ZIPCODE) (excellent), 22A: Quanta (AMOUNTS), 27A: Capillaceous (HAIRLIKE), 45A: Elation (RHAPSODY), 4D: Deutsch marks? (UMLAUTS)… odd juxtapositions, uncommon vocabulary, and lots of clever misdirection! 50A: Sonatas have four of them (TIRES), 29A: What a check might be delivered in (CHESS)… there's just so much good stuff!

On the other hand, we feel a certain rebuke in clues like 19A: Iraqi P.M. ____ al-Maliki (NOURI) and 47A: ____ Wuornos, "Monster" role for which Charlize Theron won an Oscar (AILEEN). Sure, we could pay more attention to the news and to popular culture… but hey, we got them eventually.

I think I said just last Friday that I don't mind a mini-theme on the weekend, but let's not get carried away. Maybe if we're going to have them two weeks in a row, we can also have a mid-week themeless? Is that too much to ask? Perhaps so. Still, the PANAMACANAL theme is well done here, running symmetrically through the bodies of water at both ends. Really quite elegant. And you get a little "theme teaser" in APLAN (16A: "Sounds like ____"), which couldn't really have been clued with "A man, ____, a canal, Panama," but makes you think of it all the same.

I've never, ever, heard of an "7D: Air bubble" being called a BLEB. It does not appear in my trusty red Random House dictionary, nor does it Google terribly well as an air bubble. It also sits in a particularly bad section of the puzzle, with ERLE, PCBS, and SESE, but, well, I guess we just have to put up with that because the rest of the grid is so good.

We loved seeing the Simpsons' word MEH (28D: So-so) in there. I was amused by MRED (30D: Stable role on TV?), who gave us so much trouble yesterday as an incorrect guess. And THEPILL (36D: Medical product with no conceivable use?) took almost every cross, but it was worth the wait. HAH!

Not perfect, but pretty damn nice.

- Horace

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014, Jason Flinn


Well, this was a toughie! Even though we have learned that "-" clues mean that the answer will be a continuation of a previous entry, it still took us until almost the very end–when we had all but the beginnings of those words on the left side–before we finally broke through. And then it was over in a flash.

One thing that held us up for a good long while was my guess of "Mr. Ed" for 19A: Lovable 650-pound TV character (GENT/LEBEN). It felt wrong from the moment I put it in, really, because we wanted DOLEOUT for 3D: Apportion, but I didn't see what else it could be until we finally got SHOPA/HOLIC (12A: One who gets a charge out of charging?), which Frannie had wanted from the moment she read the clue, and then everything started to fall into place.

Anywhoo, I guess it's a cute theme, even if it does trouble me a little that, in the first place, I think of the structure more as an "overpass" than an "underpass"–the "underpass" part is pretty much just a result of building the "overpass,"–and in the second place, there is nothing "under" there at all. We are to just accept that the words have a giant gap in them. I guess it would be very hard/impossible/totally unfair to create a grid where letters were simply assumed, but still, it troubles me.

The concessions to the theme were heavy in places - HUS (Czech reformer Jan), ABT (13D: N.Y.C.-based dance group) (?), HEL (15D: Daughter of Loki), and NOMAN (29D: Another name for Odysseus) (tough!), for example, but I guess that's to be expected, though not relished, in a puzzle this complex. And there were some good parts, too. I enjoyed the very easy TOOSOON (41D: "We're not joking about that yet"), and I like ANOMALY (33A: Outlier) and this use of REPAIR (6D: Withdraw (to)).

I guess in the end this is one of those puzzles that I enjoy not because it sparkles with WIT (57A: Wordplay, e.g.) (although ASL (61A: One way to see a talk, for short?) is very good), but because it presents a strong challenge. Thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014, Dan Schoenholz


Boy, I did myself in on this one with my uncertainty. I entered STEPPE (1A: Eurasian plain) without hesitation, but almost as quickly took it out again when I couldn't immediately get any of the downs. Then I went over to the NE and solved pretty much in a clockwise manner, finally ending up at STEPPE again. Well, MENIAL (15A: Like McJobs) (nice!) was actually the very last thing in, but who's keeping track?

On the other hand, I put in BUGJUICE (7A: Sugary punch, slangily) immediately too, but I loved it too much to take out again, and besides, the crosses there came more quickly. BUN, GIGI, and JOEL anyway. CEN (13D: 2000s, e.g.: Abbr.) (okay…), and EPT (14D: Competent, facetiously) (wow, they went there) took a little more time. I'd complain about those last two, but as I said, I like BUGJUICE an awful lot, and EPT is actually kind of funny.

And that's how it went today. Give me BUGJUICE and ECLAIRS (48D: Oblong pastries), and you can have all the ROS, EDS, LOD, SMA, OHO, and INS you want. Well, ok, that's kind of a lot, but hey, look, 56A: Loser to paper (ROCK)! That's worth a lot… and what about ENGARDE (3D: Fighting words, sort of)?! That's some quality clueing right there, I tell you what.

And I haven't even touched on the theme! Nature abhors a LANGUAGEBARRIER (64A: Foreigner's obstacle … or a hint to hidden words in 17-, 29-, 37-, and 49-Across), yet there it is. And there, too, are GERMAN, LATIN, THAI, and HEBREW hidden in the long theme answers. Mr. Schoenholz, you had me at LATIN.

I'm calling it good. I enjoyed myself. Thank you. Over and out.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 12, 2014, Robyn Weintraub


I finished this one in a normal amount of time - maybe seven minutes - but did not get the "Well Done!" message. I looked through quickly for a typo, then went through every entry twice more and still could not find an obvious error. Finally, I handed it to Frannie, who read the first word in "22A: Annoyed one's bedmate, perhaps" as a verb, as it was intended, and quickly righted things. I had read "Annoyed one" together to mean "the one who was annoyed", and entered "SNOREr" instead of SNORED, since the one doing the annoying in that case would be the snorer… oh well. And an RNA lab seemed plausible to me, but now that I see DNA (23D: ____ lab), I guess it is more likely.

The theme of IMNOTADOCTOR BUT IPLAYONEONTV was slightly amusing, but I don't think I've ever seen an entire episode of any of the shows from which the four doctors were chosen. Quincy is the only possibility, as it could have been on while I was in the room, but the others are definite nos.

So, with a tepid response to the theme, I looked to the fill for entertainment, but found precious little. Lots of NYSE, ADZ, ARR, DIDI, DYAD and ONOR, and too few clever clues like 36A: Brown beagle? (SNOOPY), which I only now realize refers to the family that owned Snoopy. Not bad, really, but not enough.

It is already a banner week for 1D: Douglas who wrote "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (ADAMS), though. I wonder what tomorrow's Adams clue will be?

- Horace

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014, David Steinberg and Bernice Gordon


Another collaboration from the dynamic duo of Crossword Puzzledom - the youngest and the oldest NYT constructors - and a fine effort indeed.

It took me several crosses to get both 1A: Give for free, as a ticket (COMP) and 1D: Grow in popularity (CATCHON), and when that happens on a Monday, I start to panic a little. I "caught on" to the theme after HELLENISTIC (23A: Of an ancient Greek period), however, and putting in all those letters without a second thought (yes, even HOLLANDAISE), really makes things go pretty quickly. I, for one, enjoy a vowel progression, and this one, using H_LL as a base, is quite nicely done.

The fill was above average, and showed an appropriate mix of fresh and stalwart with COLBERT (52A: Comedy Central's "The ____ Report") and ATEIT (59A: Swallowed a loss) vs. PESTLE (4D: Mortar's partner) and OLDCHAP (37D: British buddy). See also: SPLATS (33A: Food fight sounds) vs. LECH (58A: Polish hero Walesa) and UNTO (61A: "Do ____ others as …").

Interesting trivia in 36D: Company said to use about 1% of the world's wood supply (IKEA), a timely clue on TEESHOT (43D: Start of a hole) (Congrats, Mr. McIlroy), and fans of Douglas Adams (and I know we have at least one in our readership) will certainly enjoy 63A: iPhone assistant who says that "42" is the meaning of life (SIRI). That last, by the way, is a good example of a clue that adds interesting information just for the sake of adding interesting information, as surely no one needed anything but the first two words to get the answer, if they were going to get it at all without crosses, that is.

In all, a very good Monday. Nice, thick corners, and I'll take HED, ELI and SLR all day if the rest of the fill is going to be so solid.

- Horace

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014, Elizabeth C. Gorski


Not being much of a fan of canines, this one left me a little flat. The title is cute, and the image of the dog in the black squares is fancy, but between the very fine 1D: Give some relief (EMBOSS), and our ending at the completely unknown MARL (121A: Earthy deposit), where we guessed at the final L, also not knowing NELLIESMALL (67D: *Singer with the 1964 #2 hit "My Boy Lollipop" [the Bushes 41]), there wasn't much joy in solving. Also, the Johnsons had a dog called "Her?"

I don't know, the whole thing left me flat. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

- Horace

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014, Josh Knapp


A decent enough Saturday. The SW is a little rough, with OWOE, ASWIRL, and THOM, but MEMES (47A: Some modern fads) is a good, contemporary word. For non-contemporary fill, see 8D: Case for a bootblack (SHINEBOX).

It was nice to see crossword puzzle darling ROBERTELEE (24D: Arlington House is his memorial) in more complete form than usual. Thanks, Ken Burns, for teaching us that Lee's former estate was made into Arlington National Cemetery by the bitter, spiteful Northerners, who buried those Lee killed in his own rose garden. But all's fair, eh?

On the other hand, we learned GLASSONION (25D: Monocle, in British slang) from this puzzle. The Beatles song makes so much more sense now, so thanks, Mr. Knapp!

There were several false starts today, all thanks to me. I tried "back packs" and then "rucksacks" for KNAPSACKS (1D: Contents of some lockers), "sea monster" for SEASERPENT (32A: Image on many an old map), and "total loss" for LASTSTAND (28D: The battle of Thermopylae, for the Spartans). I like my answer better, frankly, as it wasn't really a "last stand" for the entire race, so much as a severe beating in one battle. The Persians eventually lost that war, right? And we're guessing that they paid heavily for killing those three hundred guys...

But overall, we enjoyed it. CARPE (38D: "____ mañana" (procrastinator's jokey motto)) was funny, and PENDANT (19D: One may have a cameo at the end) was very well clued. TATTOO (18D: Tomahawk for Andrew Jackson, surprisingly) was an interesting bit of trivia, as was NAUTILUS (13A: Creature that moves by jet propulsion). They don't have a foot like other snail-type things? Are they even gastropods? No! They are cephalopods. I wish I could tell you more, but all I have in front of me right now is a dictionary. The web doesn't exist where I am. I have to walk into town to get connected and send this out. I mean, I could look it all up when I get over there, but then I'd have to bring the portable keyboard with me or thumb-type it in, and nobody wants that.

Anywhoo, Frannie and I did this side-by-side, which I always enjoy, and it was tough enough to make it fun. A very good end to our vacation week.

- Horace

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014, Bruce Haight


I kind of like that they allow a mini-theme every once in a while on a Friday. I couldn't see the fish for the oddly filled crosses, but Frannie realized pretty quickly what was going on. Cute. And appropriate, since we're on the shore this week.

Nice start today with the GAGNAM (1A: "____ Style," first video with a billion YouTube views) entry, although what has Psy done for us lately, except annoy with that follow up video? I kind of liked LETINON (38D: Told, as a secret), SUNBELT (41D: Where snowbirds flock), and SEDATED (44D: Under). There were plenty of good long-ish clues, actually. LOOKSEE (62A: Gander) is nice and fresh, and TOPSEED (64A: A wild card is unlikely to beat one) was well-clued.

Some odd, small, stuff - HOS (22A: Sounds from some mall temps) was difficult to figure out, being so far out of season as it is, and NGO (36A: Vietnam's ____ Dinh Diem) is not familiar, but other small stuff was quite nicely done, like CAD (52A: Many a base player) and INRE (48A: Dictator's beginning).  RUBE (55A: No sophisticate) now makes us think of The Simpsons ("So many rubes..."), so that's nice, and ALLTHAT (37A: Excellent, in slang) is also good, but, just like a vacationer of a late afternoon, it kind of needs a bag of chips. Speaking of... I've gotta go.

But before I do, I'll say that I enjoyed it. It seems like there have been a slew of good puzzles lately. Maybe it's me, maybe it's them, but whatever it is, I hope I haven't just jinxed it, because Saturday is my favorite day of the week! I'll see you tomorrow.

- Horace

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014, Joe DiPietro

Quip puzzles are not a favorite puzzle type of mine, but when I finally read the entire quip today, I literally LOLed. As it happened, I got the last part of the quip first, and couldn't imagine for the life of me how OFEM could possibly be right. Funny.

In fill, I very much enjoyed LADIDA (1D: Pretentious) and coming off that, DITSY (17A: Like a dingbat). Another good pairing was LUSH (10A: Sot) and SIN (12D: Sloth, for one). Also good were NOCOMMENT (18A: Stonewaller's response), MANUP (6D: "Stop being such a wuss!"), and KFC (56D: Company with a bucket list?). And I smiled at the word "liquidy" in 48A: Still liquidy (UNSET).

In the unknown/whaa?/something we've learned department is OPS (18A: Saturn's wife). And here's an odd coincidence, after we finished the Wednesday puzzle yesterday, I went back into the archive and started a Thursday puzzle from April 19, 2012, and in it was the clue "He once wrote 'Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague," and today we have 45D: Wordsmith who wrote "Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague" (SAFIRE). Since it was a different constructor, we think it might be a favorite quote of Shortz'.

In the end, the quip was excellent, and the fill was above par. A satisfying Thursday.

Favorite clue/answer pair: 44A: Trap (KISSER). So inappropriate.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014, Brendan Emmett Quigley


An fun Wednesday grid from Mr. Quigley. It took me almost until the very end to figure what he meant by the very clever BBQ (63D: Summer event, briefly … or a phonetic hint to 19-, 26-, 47-, and 53-Across) (we also noticed that it rhymes with B.E.Q., by the way). "'B' be 'Q.'" Very nice. My favorite might be QUEENSIZEQED (58A: Royal ending to a mathematical proof?). So absurd. Love it!  Frannie's was THEFAQFOUR (28A: Quartet on an help page?).

JUJU (1A: Tribal symbol of luck) was unknown to me (although Frannie dropped it right in), and UVA and JAX were maybe not the greatest, but I'll put up with that, BRRR (5D: "It's f-f-freezing!"), ATNO and the rest for a theme like this. And some of the other fill is quite nice. SHIFTY (23D: Deceitful) is a good one, and EMINEM (46D: Rapper with the autobiography "The Way I Am") and UPDIKE (49D: John who won two Pulitzers for fiction) are strange bedfellows. In a good way. 

As I look through it now, and talk it over with Frannie and Huygens, I note that the central South quadrant contains a full measure of obscure crosswordese, but 56D. Dreyfus Affair chronicler (ZOLA) and 58D. Classic Nestle drink (QUIK) balance it out a bit. Sometimes, with a strong theme like this, SOITIS (31D. "You're right about that"). 

-          Horace

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014, Lynn Lempel


It should come as no surprise to you, Dear Reader, that I enjoy this type of punny theme. And since I just recently visited Fenway, the baseball aspect was both timely and appropriate (for me). My favorite was probably PATSDOWN (26A: "Uh-oh, Sajak has fallen in the field!"). Who doesn't like Pat Sajak?

And maybe it's just that we're on vacation this week, but the fill seemed fine to me, too. I like the many interesting ones like SLURP (7D: Eat noisily), OPULENT (48D: Splendidly luxurious), ROMP (18D: Cavort), and FACET (53D: Aspect). I don't really like the word BUGABOOS (25D: Persistent problems), but I admit that it's unusual, and therefore somewhat more welcome in the puzzle than OLEO (2D: Promise, product), for example.

There's lots of good stuff - BREWPUB (28A: Spot for some local suds), TEMPEST (48A: Shakespearean storm), MARSH (9A: Swampy tract), and even TINSEL (35A: Christmas glitter) - and very little to complain about. I needed a surprising number of crosses (maybe all of them?) before I saw DEED (23A: Monopoly acquisition) (Frannie got it immediately - we solved it separately), but honestly, I probably got it through the excellent downs in that quadrant. ROMEO (11D: The "thou" in "Wherefore art thou?"), SHREW (12D: Headstrong woman, as in Shakespeare), and HAYDN (13D: Joseph who wrote the "Surprise" Symphony).  Lastly, ALI (31A: Ring king, once) got a new (to us) clue, too.

I'll call this a very good Tuesday. Now, it's back to Vacationland.

-          Horace

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014, Joel Fagliano


It doesn't take much to sway me one way or the other on a puzzle. This one started out on my good side, with interesting information like CALCUTTA (3D: India's capital before New Delhi) and GONZO (18A: Muppet with a long bluish nose), but is ENORMITY really 4D: Sheer awfulness? Is that what that means now? And is SEVENTY really a 40D: Common highway speed limit? Maybe in Michigan? But not out here in the Northeast.

EVILTWIN (34D: Facetious fall guy for one's wrongdoings, maybe), and MISUSAGE (35D: Malapropism) look good side by side, and Frannie would have enjoyed the cluing on EMMA (34A: Jane Austen classic), had she been the one solving today. The theme, however, left me a little cold, and by the end, the Monday-ness of the clues was getting me down. 36D: Like guys (MALE), 37D: Pub orders (ALES), 46D: Zapped, as during an arrest (TASED)… and why "during an arrest?" It annoys me, as do AMMO and OWNAGUN, in a similar way. Not that they're inappropriate, per se, or anything, but they, like GAZA and GOLAN and even STONED conjure up controversial topics that I'd rather not think about on a Monday morning.  Call me sensitive. Others have before you.

Overall, though, I can't really fault the puzzle. There's some good stuff in here, and it's a fine Monday.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014, Ian Livengood


Another Sunday that seemed a little harder than usual. The theme was fun, but I found THELONESTARCHYSTATE (64A: Only form that carbohydrates take?) to be a little odd, both in clue and answer. It seems to be the only theme answer to which the "Y" sound was added just for the hell of it. I mean, Nietzche is a real thing, but what is "starchy state?" The rest, though, use normal names or words that were clued as a different phrase without the "Y" sound, to great comic effect. TABLEFORTUCCI (97A: Actor Stanley's dinner reservation?), for example. My favorite is IGUESSSOCHI (80A: Unsure answer to "Where were the 2014 Winter Olympics held?)? The triple S is very nice.

There's a lot of very nice fill, today. ERADICATE (2D: Do away with?), BATTLEAXE (114A: Arm that's swung), LYRICPOEM (76D: Classical work accompanied by a musical instrument), and TROUT (64D: Game on the line?), for example.

Overall, I thought it was solid, but I'm a little distracted at the moment, so this is all I've got.

- Horace

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014, Kristian House


We did this while sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean. It's a pretty nice way to do a puzzle, and it seemed to work out for us, as we finished in just over a half an hour. Frannie blew the middle apart, getting ARTISAN (29A: Craftsperson), ORWELLIAN (32A: Like a Big Brother society), and ROALDDAHL (44A: Subject of the 2010 biography "Storyteller"), which really opened things up.

The hardest part, for us, by far, was the SE, which took us a good ten minutes on its own. We just could not understand how 66A: Left part of a map? (BLUESTATE) and 64D: Frequent winner in a 66-Across: Abbr. (DEM) would work together. We were at an impasse until OTBS (55D: Some parlors, for short) finally fell. It's funny, because there were a couple of gimmies in that section that helped us get going - RUY (63D: Chess's ____ Lopez opening), and the fun TETE (59D: First of many body parts in "Alouette"), but we can never remember SKAT (58D: It uses sevens through aces), and PULP (Trashy, in a way) took us forever!

There were a handful of groan-inducing bits - OWER, PRIERS, and ENDERS, for example - and we think USERFEE (39A: Charge at a state park) is a bit of a stretch. "Entrance fee" would be better, wouldn't it? but LUBRICANT (33D: It helps get the wheels turning), MANENOUGH (1A: Not too wimpy), ONONEKNEE (15A: Begging, perhaps), and many others, make those little annoyances bearable. And can we talk for a minute about BUTTNAKED (10D: Completely bare)? Isn't that just a corruption of "buck naked?" And either way, shocking!

Overall, though, this was a good Saturday grid, with some nice "paired" clues, some nice trivia, and lots of long, interesting answers. Plus, it's a lovely, overcast day on the beach, which reminds me, I've gotta go!

- Horace