Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014, Kyle T. Dolan


Man I really plowed through this one. When I got to 18A: Modern host of 35-Across (DREWCAREY), I had enough crosses to fill it in immediately, then I filled in 35-Across immediately, and when I got to the third one, I had that too. The "circled-letter" part of the theme I just noticed now. If you start at the 3:00 position and go clockwise, it spells out "SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN." Huh. I guess it's supposed to look like that big wheel they spin? Odd.

Despite the fast time, it did not start well for our hero. The two long downs in the NW were not obvious to me. I tried "stirred up" for BREWEDUP (4D: Fomented trouble), and when that didn't work, I gave up and moved on. GASRING (24D: Blue circle on a range) was another one that drew a blank at first, and I couldn't think of BILBO (1A: Friend of Gandalf) either, so I panicked momentarily before zooming through such crosswordese as TORI, SOYA, ARIL, and NANA, which got me back on track.

In other places, even somewhat trickier stuff like IDLEWILD (37D: Original name for J.F.K. Airport) came bubbling back up from the depths of my memory. I think I learned that little tidbit from listening to Mel Brooks' "2000-Year-Old Man" on LP. HAH! I wasn't just wasting my time! (The name change took place in 1963, by the way.)

Plenty of good, interesting fill in here. URANUS (10D: Planet with 27 moons) is not commonly seen in the grid, and I just mentioned MOHS (27D: Mineralogist for whom a scale is named) a day or two ago, so it's nice to see him again. The reckless driving duet (WEAVES, SPEED) is fun, and I'm glad BEERCAN wasn't clued with something like "Item thrown from the window of a recklessly driven car." TERCE (45D: Canonical hour before sext) and ABBAS (44D: Palestinian leader Mahmoud ____) might be a tad non-Tuesday-ish, but I didn't actually encounter them while I was solving, so I guess it didn't matter much. 

Finally, did anyone else chuckle at 56A: "O, I am ____!" (Polonius's last words)) (SLAIN)? They've really been pounding that scene recently. You think Mr. Shortz just re-read Hamlet? Or maybe he played Polonius in a high school production, and he's working out some demons. Hahahahaaa… Just kidding, Will. We love you!

- Horace

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014, Eric Sydney Phillips


Cute theme today of a "local success story." The grid is pushed out to 15x16, and is filled in, for the most part, with pretty clean fill. I don't love SHEP (34D: Herding dog, informally) (does anyone say that?), and we get some of the tired fill like OED, ABEL, NCO, HRE, OREOS, and YEGGS, but they're not too, too terrible.

On the brighter side, I enjoyed HEREBY (21D: As a result, in formal language), AGHAST (4A: Shocked … SHOCKED!), and LOITER (15A: Hang around a public place), and NINEMONTHS (31D: Pregnant pause?) had a lovely clue. It probably doesn't need the question mark, but I'm giving up caring about that issue. Sometimes they help, sometimes they help too much, sometimes they just confuse, sometimes they seem unnecessary and/or inappropriate. There. I've summed it up, now let's move on.

As I look around, there's not much more that jumps out at me. There's so much theme - 57 letters worth - that there really isn't that much room for long, interesting, non-theme. And the more I look, the more I see things like ADA, SER, ITLL, TRYA, ANO, SRO, and DIO. Not the greatest. One weird thing is that we just saw ABEL yesterday, and we also saw a clue very like 11D: Start of a web address? (IMHO), but the answer was different, so that threw me for a minute or so. Which reminds me, when I saw the clue 34A: Longtime Pittsburgh product (STEEL), I briefly considered "paint." Wouldn't that have been tricky? But I decided there was no way that could be the answer on Monday, so I went with the more obvious choice.

Sooo… it's not a PAN, and it did have a little too much BLAH, but as I said, the theme was cute and clean, and there was a lot of it. And I kind of like the name OZARK, so let's call it a decent enough Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014, Todd Gross


Sometimes the Sunday grids look more huge than other times, and this is one of those weeks. Is it really just a 21x21? I guess so, but damn, look at it! So many letters! … and no, I'm not drunk.

So it's six four-word phrases made up of four-letter words. That's the theme? And one is a Reagan quote? Hmph. My favorite one is SALTLAKECITYUTAH (48A: The Crossroads of the West), because it's such a real thing. It just IS, know what I mean? And no, I haven't even had a drink!

Loved certain parts of this, like the cute (can it be called cute? Is it "too soon?") clue for JOANOFARC (80A: Historic figure with a reputation at stake?), CALORIE (21A: Small thing to burn) - because I've been successfully counting them since April (why yes, I've lost about twenty, thanks for asking!), ABUT (87A: Go cheek-to-cheek with) - because we are obviously meant to think "a-butt," and STOIC (98A: Unflinching) - because I just read all about them and their "front porch" philosophy. They took their name from the place they used to meet - Zeno's front porch, or, in Greek, his stoa. POLL (126A: Take in some views?) was nicely clued, and ENCLAVE (124A: Vatican City vis-à-vis Rome) is a nice word.

There's some junk in here, as is often the case on a Sunday. ASAMI (32D: "Ditto") seems oddly forced, some weird prefixes and abbreviations like IDENT, STETHO, OVIACTH, and NEURO. I kind of hate the word CAGER, and I also dislike being reminded of SCALIA and the NSA.

The toughest area for us was in the NE, where SERIN (15D: Relative of a canary) (pictured above) crossed TANEY (35A: Chief Justice during the Civil War) (three Supreme Court names!). I had guessed "edgy" for 29D: Hard to grasp (EELY), which made that area and LOINS (39A: Private parts) (Huygens!) very difficult, but Frannie finally worked through it and we guessed correctly on the N in TANEY. Phew!

My favorite clue - 99D: No one can drive in this (NEUTRAL). Hah!

On balance, it was a decent enough Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014, Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany


Boy, it's been a while since we've seen Mr. Ashwood-Smith, and just before Frannie opened this one up, I wondered aloud if we would see him today, after seeing another of our favorites yesterday. True story.

Today's central quadstack pushed this one into an oblong 16x15 grid, and the connections between the segments were tight, so that the flow felt slightly restricted. Or, rather, it felt like three, or maybe even six separate puzzles.

The center fell relatively quickly (after the NE), and I broke into it with the amusing BREAKERONENINER (38A: Words from a good buddy). I always said "Breaker one nine," but I certainly heard "one niner" plenty. I loved NATIONALAVERAGE (37A: Country standard), and can I imagine Mr. Ashwood-Smith himself using ICALLEMASISEEEM (32A: Straight talker's slangy phrase) to answer anyone who GROANSAT the use of "one" in the final 15.

Lots of double Es that look weird. IBEFOREE (1A: Start of a weird infraction) (lovely clue), EENIE (8D: Start of an elimination), BEEBE (2D: Deep-sea explorer William), and SEETO (48D: Mind). Well, ok, that last one doesn't look too, too strange, but if you think of it as one word it does. And as for BEEBE, the cross with ABBA was the last thing in today, and it took one guess at another letter before I went back to my original choice of a B. I talked myself out of it by thinking that they would have just gone with an "ABBA the band," clue if it were really ABBA. Oh well. You win some, you lose some, right Martin?

Lots of good, interesting, and clever things in here. Took us forever to get REBS (23A: Gray figures?), and Frannie put "PhD" in right away for 29A: Only one U.S. prez has had one (MBA), thinking of Wilson, not #43, which slowed us down slightly. On the other hand, she also put in SEALSKIN (16A: Eskimo wear), ARABIC (56A: Whence the word "alcohol"), and ESPRESSO (62A: Tiramisu ingredient) without hesitation, which helped a lot in those areas. The SW was particularly tough, and ARABIC eventually led me to guess EIRE (53D: Country name pronounced by natives in two syllables), which led to TOPTENLIST (49A: High ranking?), and then things finally fell. TAWS (49D: Shooters), was puzzling, but now that I've looked it up, it is familiar. I'm pretty sure Frannie's dad has told us about playing marbles in the past, and he probably used that word.

SENESCENCE (28D: Old age) is a good word, I liked MEANINGLESS (29D: Inane), and the inclusion of the recently deceased JOANRIVERS was a nice nod.

Anywho, we love a good Saturday challenge, and this fit the bill nicely.

- Horace

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014, Patrick Berry


Another lovely grid from Mr. Berry. I think of that central, staggered stack as something of a trademark of his. Three perfectly normal two-word entries, crossed with nothing but solid fill and good clueing.

Interesting trivia in 52A: 1963 song investigated by the F.B.I. for supposedly obscene lyrics (LOUIELOUIE). Really? REALLY?? … our tax dollars hard at work. In other news, I didn't realize that PABST was the "1D: Brewer of Schlitz, nowadays," but that's kind of like hearing that all of the burgers at Jack In The Box are made by Denny's. It's something that will never affect me in any way and makes no difference to anything, anywhere.

Enjoyed GEOLOGIST (32D: Fault finder?), MORASS (24D: Hard-to-escape situation), BACKTALKS (30D: Answers wrongly?), and the clue for UMPING (27D: Working while others play?). There's some sub-par stuff, like OMAN, OAKEN, SKAT, and DOIN, INGE, AGRA but they're really not that terrible. Just a little dull, maybe.

I enjoyed it well enough.

- Horace

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014, Alex Vratsanos


An interesting "Word Search" puzzle theme today, with ten three-letter body parts hidden in the Across answers. Let's see, we find GUM, TOE, JAW, RIB, EAR, ARM, HIP, LIP, EYE, and LEG. That's ten. It is rather interesting that BOSOM, and rather unfortunate that ANUS can also be found. And ORA is Latin for "mouth." EGO is in there a couple times, but I guess that's not physical. And lastly, way down in the SE, you can find a slightly bent NOSE. Is that enough?

My primary complaint with this puzzle is its use of TALCUM as a 52A: Soft rock. The son of a geologist, I put "gypsum" in there immediately, which is number two on the Mohs scale, and would definitely qualify as a "soft rock." Talc, is number one, of course, and sure, it comes from the Latin, and maybe that's a valid scientific alternate, but nobody calls it that. Why not just clue it with a reference to the powder?

Another slightly odd clue was 21A: It may be raised in a company's new building (MORALE). Yes, I suppose that's true, but it just strikes me as an odd choice of morale-raiser. On the other hand, we loved the trivia in 21D: According to legend, at age 2 he identified a pig's squeal as G sharp (MOZART). What else could it have been?, but still, it's fun. And nice trivia also in BEIJING (42D: Literally, "northern capital.") As opposed to "Nanking?" Yes. cf. Taipei and Tainan.

The West was where we finished today. I put in ONATEAR (35A: Rampaging) on my first pass, emboldened by the fact that it held an EAR, but 27A: Series of watering troughs? (AEIOU) held us back for quite a long time. MOGULS (29A: Big guns) was very clever, and JARULE (18D: Rapper who co-starred in 2002's "Half Past Dead") did not come quickly, perhaps because we had gone with the "G" spelling of SACAJAWEA. The JAW should have tipped us off sooner, but, well, it didn't.

As a Bostonite (no, nobody says that), it was nice to see ESPOSITO (39D: First N.H.L. player to score 100 points in a season) in there instead of the usual "Orr." And lastly, we liked the one-two combo of SPOCK (47A: TV character who says "Captain, you almost make me believe in luck") and SPACESHIP (48A: Enterprise, for one), although I was briefly stalled there by wanting "starship."

Overall, a fun challenge.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014, Andy Kravis


It's a whole new world. Harder-than-normal puzzles Monday through Wednesday. I could get used to this. Today I handed it to Frannie not just because I didn't get everything immediately, but because I genuinely had no idea what to do. I had put in "SlAp" for SWAT (36D: Whack), which left "lET_ELL" for 36A: Battery containing a liquid electrolyte" (WETCELL), and even though I guessed the C, I had some kind of block against the "wet" part. And to top it all off, I did not remember "The Lovely Bones" (THELOVELYBOXES (48A: Film about an elegantly made crossword? (2009))) as a movie, so that was just not making any sense. Luckily, she did not have such shortcomings.

Even if I overlook all that trouble, there were still many parts of this that were not straightforward. (Which, remember, is a good thing, not a bad thing. I'm afraid that it might sound like I'm complaining here, but I'm not.) ARGOT (14A: Shoptalk) (I think of it more just as "slang"), ONEAM (15A: Weest of wee hours) (It took FOREVER for me to see that as "wee-est" ("most wee")), NORMA (6A: Bellini opera) (?), NIM (35A: Logic game with matchsticks) (I guess I know the kind of thing they're talking about, but I've never heard that name), BRANDTS (58A: First family of Germany, 1969-1974) (should I know this?), STAEL (68A: "Delphine" author Madame de ____), and so on.

The silly Xed out movie title theme was amusing. Especially the first answer MARXATTACKS (17A: Film about a Communist invasion? (1996)). God that movie was awful.

LEVITATE (37D: Get off the ground) was nice, as was 56A: Licit (ALLOWED). It's always nice to see Latin clues. The rest is just a BLUR.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014, Gerry Wildenberg


First of all, this one had circles, which, as you may know, is not our favorite theme type. Second, it started with a product name, which is not our favorite type of fill. Third (ok, now I'm just reaching for a third thing…), the fourth line includes NLERS, RIATA, and AAR. If that's not pure crosswordese gold, I don't know what is.

On the other hand, like yesterday, this played above it's "day grade," as it were, and those bits of easy (for the habitual solver) crosswordese can sometimes really help to open up the grid. I was not at all sure where they were going with 5A: Big balls (GALAS), for instance, and they avoided the obvious in a big way with MAGDA (15A: One of the Gabor sisters), too. "Citizen Kane" gets another nod today with SLOANE (11D: Everett ____, player of Mr. Bernstein in "Citizen Kane") - and that's not exactly a gimme, nor was 26A: Actor Claude of "B. J. and the Bear" (AKINS). Remember "B. J. and the Bear?" No? Neither do I.

This puzzle went so slowly for me, in fact, that Frannie got to take a crack at it, which doesn't usually happen on a Tuesday. SLIPSLOP (40D: Twaddle), KASDAN (27D: Lawrence who co-wrote two of the "Star Wars" films), HEGOAT (32D: Billy) - not the easiest of fill.

As it turned out, the theme was fine. Not worth its weight in gold, perhaps, but fine. The direction alternated a lot, so you couldn't just fill them in once you figured it out without at least two of them filled in, which was a nice feature. In fact, it really didn't affect the solving at all. I guess that's how it ought to be during the week, you do the puzzle and then think, "Oh, look. A theme."

In the end, I appreciate the challenge. A decent enough Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014, Ian Livengood


A straight-up theme today, with STICKUPMEN (17A: Bank heist group), CANESUGAR (24A: Sweet rum component), POLECAR (37A: Indy 500 leader), STAFFCUTS (47A: Company downsizings), and RODSTEWART (57A: British rocker with the 1979 #1 hit "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"). Jeez, was it really spelled that way? Ick.

Played a little tougher than Mondays sometimes do - I needed crosses in a lot of places before things became clear. Lots of nice down fill, with NECKTIE (4D: Item not worn on casual Fridays), STATURE (10D: Height), KEEN (18D: Astute), and ENFORCE (41D: Carry out, as a law).

I wondered whether there was a reference to a certain recent negative vote with RODSTEWART, AWEEBIT, and 26D: To no ____ (AVAIL) and SOSAD (53A: "A pity!"). Heh. Probably not. But maybe even GANGWAR (43D: Fight over turf) could have been a part of it.

Strangest clue: 5D: Fight between late-night hosts, e.g. (FEUD). (Another mini-theme entry?)

And wouldn't it have been cute if they clued 25D: AWEEBIT with "A tad," and 54D: ATAD with "A wee bit?" I suppose that's not allowed, but I would have liked it. Especially on a Monday.


- Horace

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014, Michael Ashley


We had fun with this one, even though neither of us follows NASCAR, or listens to any of the music listed. My favorite might be WONTGETFUELEDAGAIN (27A: "Hey, what did you think when you missed that last pit stop?" [The Who, 1971]), but IKISSEDAGRILLE (42A: "Did you do anything for luck before today's race?" [Katy Perry, 2008]) is just absurd enough to be funny. I guess the theme was fine.

The general fill started off very well with 1A: Coping mechanisms? (SAWS) (Ha!) and 1D: Only Literature Nobelist to also win an Oscar (SHAW). That's some interesting trivia! (The former was general, the latter was for Pygmalion.)We enjoyed the wordy clues for CITIZENKANE (114A: Movie with the line "Old age. It's the only disease, Mr. Thompson, that you don't look forward to being cured of.") and THEFLEA (7D: Posthumous John Donne poem that includes "It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee"). I would have gotten that last one without crosses, I think, but I didn't know it was posthumous.

There was a ton of small stuff that looked terrible - ELO, ENOL, SSE, GHI, XER, SST, OSU, LPS, OMS… and some long stuff that was less than stellar - NEEDER, IKONS, ENORMHITAT, EMAILER… but, oh, I don't know, I didn't mind it all so much today. I was consoled by nice fill like DOGGEREL (44D: Almost any poem that starts "Roses are red …"), NOTDONE (89A: Unacceptable to polite society), STEAMER (70A: Soft-shell clam), and SCOUTMOTTO (76D: "Be prepared").

We didn't know OREL (86A: City SSW of Moscow) or, sadly, TIRANA (71D: European capital) (got to learn more about Albania!), so we finished with one error, but everything else went fairly easily.

I'm a little distracted today, but I guess it was fine.

- Horace

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014, Erik Agard


Lots of great fill today - ASPECTRATIO (20A: 16:9, say) (the first thing entered into the grid), PANOPLY (13D: Splendid array), SLEW (26A: Raft), UNWIELDY (12D: Hard to handle), SCOUR (46D: Comb), STREAKS (1A: Goes quickly after takeoff), and STREWN (18A: Randomly distributed), to name just seven. The two "bow" clues were both quite good - COX (21D: Sportsperson who may take a bow?) and VIOLAS (43D: They take bows), and we liked the three French clues, too - ENTRE (9D: Word with deux or nous), LAIT (39A: It might be found in a café), and ENFANT (44D: Terrible one?). I guess you could also count 40A: Legerdemain (MAGICTRICKS). We both tried the more literal "sleight of hand," but no dice.

We found the intentionally misleading punctuation in 30A: Some nerve! (OPTIC) unusual. It's not often that they do something like that. I guess they treat those differently from question marks. Or, more likely, they treat Saturdays differently from the rest of the week.

Didn't love OARERS (59A: Galley slaves, e.g.) or HOF (53A: Cooperstown inst.), and SODDY (32A: Nobelist Frederick ____, pioneer in radiochemistry) is completely unknown, but I guess Nobel Prize winners are all fair game, and the crosses were all gettable. And hey, one of them was SNL, which I just mentioned yesterday as a crossword darling. And speaking of recurring themes, isn't it funny how this Hamlet clue 5D: Hamlet takes a stab at it (ARRAS), also goes with our conversation of this past Monday about the answer "FATALLY?"

Let's see, what else… we thought the theme was both a little light and a little weak. CTR in the middle of four answers, two of them being slightly off-puttingly commercial? Well, ok. I guess it's fine. Did you happen to notice that "What Not To Wear" (it ran 2003-2013) fit in perfectly where PROJECTRUNWAY (33A: Fashion series since 2004) belonged? I did.

Lots to love in this one, and not much SLOP. Thumbs up.

- Horace

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014, Finn Vigeland


This one felt pretty much like a Friday ought to feel - hard but workable. Various things were dimly familiar to one or the other of us, and finally came with a few crosses, like HUMBLEBRAG (1A: Self-praise couched in self-deprecation, in modern lingo) for Frannie (she says the Berkman Center folks use it a lot), and LENADUNHAM (17A: 2013 Golden Globe winner for "Girls") for me. (I know her only through her appearance on SNL (another crossword darling) last year.) Incidentally, the ten-letter answer sandwiched between those two was the last thing to be filled in for us today. We had INADE_UATE, and we kept thinking "In a ____," which was never going to work. Making matters worse, I had removed the U from Lena Dunham's name, thinking I might not be right about it, but I finally put it back in, which left E_UAL for 6D: Level (EQUAL), and just when I put it in, I said "Equal!" and Frannie said "Inadequate!" at just about the same time. Funny. To us, anyway.

In other areas, RELLENO (12D: Stuffed chili pepper) rang one of those distant bells, but it sounded slightly louder than LLANERO (24A: South American cowboy). That cross, combined with ELEA (18A: Colony in ancient Magna Graecia) and NEO (30A: ____-soul (style of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill) made that corner quite difficult.

In the SW, I had tried the old standby "spas" where INNS (57A: Resort options) belonged, and neither of us was really sure about LAUTNER (39D: Taylor of "Twilight") (another hazy memory), but that slowly came together, too, with the help of crosswordese-y ARA (44A: Coach Parseghian) and SATIE (53A: Contemporary and compatriot of Debussy), the latter of which I guessed off the E.

Not much to write home about in this one. Maybe PALETTES (27D: Spots where artists mix?), which was clever, or PEIGNOIR (36D: Negligee), which is a nice word (and with BOOP and SEXPERT, constitutes today's Huygen's material), but other than that, it was just a slow plow through the grid. Nothing wrong with that. It can be quite satisfying sometimes.


- Horace

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014, Joel Fagliano


Wow, I don't remember liking a puzzle this much for quite a while. The theme of CASEY (16A: Man trying to clarify the spelling of his name in…) to QRCIU (66A: What the listener might think 16-Across's name is?) is hilarious, and even though, once you got it, the "ASIN" part of the clues could be filled in without thinking, I still laughed every time. And really, we didn't have much left to fill in by the time we figured it out.

And even with all the exacting, symmetrical theme, the fill was actually very good. In fact, there was so much fun clueing (52A: College softball? (EASYA) & 27D: Support staff (CANE)), interesting factoids (4D: Elasticity symbol, in economics (EPSILON) & 5A: Like more than a third of U.S. immigrants nowadays (ASIAN)), and modern stuff (KIMYE (32D: Celebrity couple portmanteau) & YOLO (58D: Modern acronym suggesting "seize the day")), that a slightly larger-than-normal 16x15 grid was needed to fit it all!

As I look through this, it is taking some effort to both not call out every other clue as one I like, and to find any clue or answer that I don't like. It's just that good. Take the clue pair 43A: Fair (EXPO) and 48A: Not fair (RAINY) - neither is what I first expected! 6D: General reception? (SALUTE), brilliant. 5D: Tree in a giraffe's diet (ACACIA), interesting. 35D: Part of a black cloud (GNAT), nice clue. 38D: It's always underfoot (SOLE) (tried "soil" first), tricky! A little French, a little Italian, a little Spanish, a little Latin… it's got everything. I loved it, and so did the MISSUS.

A thoroughly enjoyable Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014, Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo


How can I not like a puzzle about the bees? POLLINATION (62A: Job done by the insects seen above the circled words in 17-, 26-, and 50-Across) is a great revealer, and I like that the bees are on flowers. A circle puzzle that I like! Stop the presses!

But all was not asters and roses. I didn't really love REDOSE (5A: Medicate again), HELOTS (31A: Spartan serfs) is hella hard for a Wednesday, as were, for me at least, EDA (61A: Author LeShan), OLE (63D: "____ ELO" (1976 album), and ELOISE (67A: Plaza Hotel girl). And finally, in this category, ROLEO (38D: Loggers' contest). What the…?

But really, hard ones aren't bad ones, and even if we did count them in the debit column, the assets would still win out. It started off strong in the NW, where I found the clueing quite enjoyable. 14A: Complaint (BEEF), 20A: Fix (RIG), 24A: Dumb as a box of rocks (DENSE), for example. And there's nothing wrong with 1D: Car in the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun" (TBIRD) either, or 3D: Hold the scepter (REIGN). In other areas, the nines in the SW and NE were all lovely, and really, good stuff was everywhere. SHEET (27D: Word before cake or music), POGO (42D: Okefenokee possum) (Dad would have enjoyed this one, were he to do the Times puzzle), NOHELP (30D: Totally useless). It just goes on and on.

Overall, a good Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, Gary Cee


Another good early-week puzzle. Similar, in a way, to the Big Five-O puzzle from last week, because there are so many Os, but this one has three sets of ON in each theme answer, including the revealer. Also, they're not all that familiar - especially the first one, TONYTONITONE (20A: 1990s R&B group with a repetitive-sounding name), so it played a little on the tough side. And speaking of tough, ELEMI (33D: Resin used in incense)?!? What the heck is that?

Some people say that solving using only the down clues is one way to improve your speed. Today that method would also bring you to the more interesting fill. Sure, you'd see ESPY, ALAI, and ROUE, but you'd also hit TRANSLUCENT (3D: Like sheer fabric or sautéed onions), WRITINGDESK (23D: Secretary), TEXTBOOK (8D: Required school purchase, maybe), and PINENUTS (38D: Ingredients in pesto) (Colum, did you have any of that while you were in Italy? Or see any VESPAs?), which are all quite good. I also liked SECONDS, PRONTO, ORNERY, and, of course, EROICA (45D: Beethoven's Third).

But the Acrosses also had a few nice non-theme bits, like COAX, YUKON, WAH (28A: ____ pedal (guitar accessory), ERUPTS, and RYE. Mmmmm…. rye….

And right in the middle, we get AOK (38A: Thumb-to-forefinger signal) with a better clue than Sunday. Still a little weird, but better, I think.

This one was AOK with me.

- Horace

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014, Andrea Carla Michaels


I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Any mention of EMMAPEEL (32A: Diana Rigg's role on "The Avengers") is a good thing, as is any reference to FISHANDCHIPS (27A: Some British pub food). VROOM (21A: Souped-up engine sound) and DRECK (37A: Junk, from Yiddish) are fun words, and the theme of "Jelly ____" is decent.

Add to all that the relative cleanliness of the whole thing (I don't particularly like the partials INAS (57D: Bring ____ a third party) or ICAN (29D: "Not if ____ help it), but they're not terrible), and you've got an enjoyable Monday romp.

A few more thoughts - I like the juxtaposition of COCOON (7D: What a butterfly emerges from) and TEEMED (8D: Overflowed (with)), with their symmetrical patterns of the identical vowels. I chuckled at the utter simplicity of the clue for SKY (5D: Clouds' locale), and speaking of straightforwardness and simplicity, I also enjoyed FATALLY (27D: How Hamlet stabs Polonius). No "through an arras," or "mistakenly," here - just "fatally." Heh.

Very nice.

- Horace

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014, Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer


It's all Blindauer all the time this week, and that's not good news for us. Another DNF today thanks to KIEL (40D: German city on the Baltic) crossing ALY (59A: 2012 gold-medal gymnast Raisman). And we are also not really sure why AOKS (38A: Positive signs of life in outer space?) is clued the way it is–what does that mean?

Other than that, though, we generally enjoy Spoonerisms, so we had high hopes. Most of these are so, so forced and weird, and it's a little strange that they sound right but are spelled wrong... oh, I guess they're fine, but too bad it's not yesterday, because I'm pretty sure they'd all look a little better with GEREBOGGLES (68A: Thunderstruck critic's review for actor Richard?) ("beer goggles").

Lots I didn't know today, in addition to the aforementioned - ILOILO (120A: Philippine province with a repetitive name), NELSON (84A: Thriller writer DeMille), RITT (99A: "The Great White Hope" director Martin), and IRV (49A: Hip-hop record mogul Gotti)... never heard the term SPYFI (12D: Ian Fleming genre) before, and I'm not too familiar with 50A: Civil rights leader Roy INNIS. Don't love RASE, ALGA, COINERS, ATLASES (9D: They go around the world) (umm... no they don't), STEROL, TOATINOR, and how many times is Will Shortz going to allow constructors to cough up EGESTS?

On the other hand, PHEASANT (19D: Partridge family member) was beautiful, and (Huygen's alert!) LACE (18D: Teddy material) was a pleasant surprise. INSONG (27D: One way to break out) was fun, and EVANESCENT (44D: Ephemeral) is lovely.

I guess on balance, it's still a "thumb slightly down" kind of puzzle. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's been a long week and a long weekend, and I'm just going to sit here on the couch for a while and watch the NINERs (48D: San Francisco gridder) take on the Bears, but don't worry, I'll keep in mind that 116D: "Too much rest is ____": Sir Walter Scott) RUST.

- Horace

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014, Josh Knapp


Wow, this took us forever. We started this after a dinner party, and after several drinks, and the SW took us forever, and after it all, we had left "MEzCAL" in where, apparently, MESCAL (20D: Agave product) was supposed to be, so…. DNF. Also, we didn't know MOONEY (41D: Comedian Paul), but, luckily, one of our drunken guests did. Another guest posited LYRIC (48D: Words that are rarely spoken), and it's a little ironic that that one took us so long, because all we've been doing all night is singing old seventies songs.

But enough about us. There's some great stuff in here. MAGI (48A: Star followers), BERG (44A: Something that's fallen off a shelf?), and maybe the best one, MOSES (59A: One advised to take two tablets). And there's also some stuff I don't particularly love, like NOUN (45A: What an article may refer to). Can an article be said to "refer to" a noun? Doesn't it just kind of accompany a noun? The noun. And are bulldogs more TENACIOUS than other dogs? Who knows? Not me.

EYESOCKET (58A: Something on either side of a bridge) was kind of gross, and I was all in on it being about a song. Verse… chorus… something like that. ANAGRAM (24A: Anemone, to name one) got me completely, but not Frannie.

A very tough puzzle for us under the circumstances. We like a challenge, and this one had some good stuff, but it was not without problems. I'll give it a thumbs up, though. What did you think?

-          Horace

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014, Michael Wiesenberg


After yesterday, I guess they thought they'd throw us a bone. Many of the elevens went in immediately, like STADIUMROCK (1A: Queen's music) (If we're stretching for another Friday mini-theme, we can pair this with EUROPOP (37D: Abba's music) and call it good) and DEARREADER (12D: Lead-in to some written advice), or with just a couple crosses, like DRIVETOWORK (53A: Commute, in a way) (would have preferred "Bike to work") and HOWONEARTH (26D: Exclamation that might be punctuated with "??!?"). And once you've got a few of those in place, things just kind of fill themselves in. At least they did today. I think my only write-over was going from "plum tomato" to ROMATOMATO (14D: Option for a marinara base). And really, a Roma is a plum tomato, sooo…. Oh, and I wanted "soil" for SITU (1D: Archaeologists often find what they're looking for in this), but really, can you call it "in situ" if it's just in the ground? I mean, it's no longer in the place where it was being used, or was stored. It's in the ground. After being tumbled by some force and then buried. I guess the things unearthed at Pompeii could be said to be "in situ," but could it be said of pot sherds dug up in Tuscany? I don't really think so. Still, it was trying to be cute, so I guess I'll give points for effort.

Pretty clean, overall, with just the somewhat odd YTTRIA (21A: Oxide used in picture tubes) and the completely unknown (to me) NER (30D: ____ Tamid (ever-burning synagogue lamp) to make it look a little more Friday-y. The stacks in the SW and NE make for mini-stacks of threes, but I thought those were clued quite well, so I'm not complaining. ORE (48A: It's often an oxide) was trickier than normal, and DIR (12A: Film developer?: Abbr.) and ADM (18A: Big gun on a ship) were both kind of fun.

When I look at the grid now, all I see is BENICETO (28A: Coddle, e.g.), and I keep thinking, "I don't know who that is…"

Overall, I liked it.

- Horace

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014, Patrick Blindauer

D. to the N. to the F.


I knew I should never have mentioned that other Blindauer puzzle, and I should definitely not have bad-mouthed it. This is my comeuppance, I guess.

Well, ok, we finished this, almost. If not for not knowing 29D: Cambodia's Lon ____ (NOL), we would have completed it in about 1:40:00. We had to look that up. But Frannie figured out that we had to erase all the Across centers and go with the Downs, so we were oh, so close. If there's another level than that, one that, say, clues all the new words, we don't know what it is. And speaking of not knowing things, what's a GORME? Everything else is somewhat familiar as crossword fill.

I guess this is kind of like that Steinberg puzzle where you had to erase, or add, really, Rs to words, and the resulting words weren't really clued. Am I remembering that right? Anyway, it's kind of like that. You are left with new words with no clues. Somewhat interesting, and challenging, but is it art?

- Horace

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014, Jim Peredo


It's kind of odd today that there are two entries longer than any of the theme answers, and, quite frankly, more interesting, too. OCEANBREEZE (24D: Beachgoer's cooler-offer) (ixnay on the ooler-cay offer-ay), is especially appropriate for me today, as I find myself once again (UNABASHEDLY) on the shore of the Atlantic. And furthermore, I happen to be with sometimes-reader EnglishTeacher59, who complains that the theme answers begin quite familiar in tone - HOWYOUBEEN ("What's goin' on?") and PUTERTHERE ("Let's shake") - but the last one, GIVEMETHAT ("Hand it over!") really ought to be "Gimme that" to fit in perfectly. Oh well.

I liked a few things in this - HEM (15A: Shorten, perhaps) was tricky, and HOOHAHS (44D: Big kerfuffles) is good in both answer and clue. But aren't we tired of ECARDS (49A: Online birthday greeting)? And why 12D: The black pawns, e.g. (OCTET) and not the white pawns? I guess that one doesn't matter all that much. And is KARTS (26A: Motorized racers) ok without the "Go" part? Hmmm.... just like "BEEN THERE DONE THAT" ought to end with "Bought the T-Shirt."

Oh, I don't know... it's Wednesday. I guess I get what I get.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014, Ed Sessa


Hmmm… a fun theme, now that I notice it. For the second day in a row the puzzle skews old, with CHUBBYCHECKER (10D: Starter of the dance craze in 18-Down), NINETEENSIXTY (18D: See 10-Down), and the theme itself, which is "The Twist." It sure seems like those were simpler times, doesn't it? But lenses into the past are rarely sharp. It was just after the McCarthy Era, and just before the Cuban Missile Crisis. But let's not get bogged down in all that.

I thought this was a pretty good grid. Maybe it's 'cause I'm nearing the Big Five-O, but maybe it's because of things like MANNERISMS (17A: Behavioral quirks), ACCEDE (28A: Bow (to)), the STYX/HELL pair, TILT (62A: Pinball infraction) (hah… another oldie!), and CHICO (6D: TV's "____ and the Man"). OK, I just put that last one in because it, too, is quite old. And speaking of old words, I like ALMS and GLEAN too. Sue me.

OK, the more I look at this, the more old, stale fill it's got. BUT, I like PIKE, and I like the voting theme. It's primary day today in Massachusetts, so whether you're PRO, or one of the ANTIS, and even if you're living in the WEST (54D: Last part of the country to report election returns, usually, with "the") - Get out and vote!

- Horace

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014, Dan Schoenholz


Before I start this review, I'd like to take a minute to discuss a variety puzzle by Patrick Blindauer which was raved about by both Amy Reynaldo (Crossword Fiend) and Michael Sharp (Rex Parker). We've raved about Mr. Blindauer's puzzles in the past, so we thought we'd spend the $1.00 and try it. In the end, I respect the amount of work that went into the puzzle, and it took a certain amount of work to finish it, but I found it flawed in some ways and in the end, not that satisfying. If you decide to try it yourself, let me know and I'd be happy to discuss it further.

All that just as a preface to say that this Monday puzzle was almost shockingly easy in comparison. I know Monday's are easy, but when you've just come off a "five-star" puzzle, well, it just seems even moreso.

But I liked it fine. THEBIGFIVEOH (53A: Milestone birthday, informally … with a hint to 20-, 31-, and 41-Across) is no longer very far ahead of me, so this puzzle was like a little pin in my own personal VOODOODOLL (41A: Black magic item). On the bright side, although I'm not old enough to have seen her skate, I am old enough to have at least heard of 39A: Skater Sonja who won three Olympic gold medals (HENIE). Of course, a regular solver of any age would also know her name.

In fact, there are quite a few women's names in here that would be familiar to any WWI VETERAN or EDSEL driver, GARBO, MADAME (24A: "____ Bovary"), OLIVE (32D: ____ Oyl), and let's not forget about EVE. Heh.

Not a ton to say. I dislike FOTO (21D: Pic) (would anyone spell it that way?), but it's a nice touch putting SORORITY beside FRAT. And I guess 12D: "Act your ____!" AGE could be a little bonus theme material.

It was a decent enough Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014, Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen


Well, this is the second Sunday in a row that we've enjoyed. I wonder if that's a record?

All snarkiness aside, this was really quite nice. I enjoyed the full symmetry of the grid right away, but it took us putting our heads together toward the end to figure out exactly why it had such a look and what was going on. We looked at the unchecked squares and saw, W, N, and E, and quickly realized part one, that the compass points had something to do with it. Then, shortly after that, we saw that our main problem areas were in symmetrical sections. AHA(S)! For a moment I wondered whether each quadrant would be represented by its respective location - NW, N, NE, E, SE, etc. - but that was quickly overruled, and then it all fell together. The only question, which we did not get right at first (I wanted the more natural NSEW or even NSWE), but when that didn't work, we remembered the old NYTX maxim "Across is more important than Down" and WENS (gross) got the "Well Done!"

Nothing too long today, which I think is partly why I liked this one so much. It was more like a big weekday grid than the usual Sunday 21x21. Know what I mean? Nothing over a ten (or, with the rebus, eleven). Sure, there was a lot of familiar material, but I don't know… it just didn't bother me.

Plenty of nice fill - JUNKET (20A: Some politicians' trips), ORSON[WE]LLES (33A: Film director who said "I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time"), SCRAMS (87A: Hightails it), BEFUDDLES (80D: Discombobulates) - and fun, clever, answers - PDA (71D: Bussing on a bus, briefly?) (lovely), OPER (28A: Abbr. not found on most smartphones), and TIM (117D: "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" enchanter) ("You're a busy man, o Tim").

A couple of unknowns - MASER (83A: Atomic clock part), and ZENO (37A: Paradoxical figure?), and of those two, the more interesting to me is the latter, a fifth century BCE philosopher famous for using paradoxes. He is also credited with being one of the first to use the reductio ad absurdam argument, and - Huygens alert! - one of the first to discuss the idea of mathematical infinity. This, in fact, was the foundation of some of his paradoxes. Here's my favorite of the three I just read about on Wikipedia -

Arrow paradox[edit]

If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless.[12]
– as recounted by AristotlePhysics VI:9, 239b5
In the arrow paradox (also known as the fletcher's paradox), Zeno states that for motion to occur, an object must change the position which it occupies. He gives an example of an arrow in flight. He states that in any one (durationless) instant of time, the arrow is neither moving to where it is, nor to where it is not.[13] It cannot move to where it is not, because no time elapses for it to move there; it cannot move to where it is, because it is already there. In other words, at every instant of time there is no motion occurring. If everything is motionless at every instant, and time is entirely composed of instants, then motion is impossible.

Now there's a good definition of being INIDLE (95D: Not going anywhere)!

Lastly, since we're talking about Greeks, wouldn't it have been better if the 97A: Last Oldsmobile (ALERO) had been the Omega?

- Horace

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014, James Mulhern


Tricky! A lot of fun stuff in this one, which was technically a FWOE for us because I entered "eSE" for OSE (30A: Malt finisher?), and never looked back, even when ORSINe was filled in for ORSINO (12D: Duke of Illyria, in Shakespeare). Other than that, though, no troubles.

Some nicely misleading clues here. 16A: Point of origin for some flights (AERIE) had us stumped for a long time on a very common crossword entry. 19A: Cause of many unwelcome lines (AGE) was cute, but I got that one right away. One of the benefits of being so old, perhaps… I enjoyed the references to Ratso Rizzo (ENRICO (21A: Ratso's given name)), and the ROADRUNNER (24A: Predigital beeper?).

Frannie seemed to recognize that PINKYSWEAR (48A: Use a two-digit confirmation code) was a thing. I was thinking along those lines, but was stuck on "Scout's Honor," even though that's three, I think. Was Cub Scouts two? Anyway, it's not important.

SQUIRTGUN (57A: One may soak a competitor) and PUTSASIDE (61A: Tables or shelves) (great clue!) was a good pair down in the SE. Crossing NEOLOGIC (37D: Linguistically adventurous) and GERTRUDE (38D: "Most seeming-virtuous queen," in Shakespeare) too. A lovely corner.

Also enjoyed, for once, a HANGOVER (2D: It can be a headache), IDEEFIXE (3D: Preoccupation) was some nice French (that major is finally paying off!), and MAGNUMOPUS (10D: Prime piece) is lovely.

Not super-familiar with the expression 54D: Give ____ (have any interest) ARAP, but I suppose I ought to be. One little thing, though - Couldn't a MYOPE (10A: Person lacking foresight?) be thought of as someone who has "fore" sight?  I mean, I get it, they can't see into the future ("far"), but it sounds like the opposite, doesn't it?

Overall, this was a very enjoyable Saturday puzzle. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014, Joe Krozel


The theme of this one blew me away. I mean, who notices that WAITING (20D: On hold … or what the seven rows of black squares in this puzzle's grid spell in Morse code) can be worked into a puzzle grid so that it is symmetrical? It's brilliant!

Really. I just think it's so cool that I hardly even want to dissect the puzzle at all. I just want to bask in the glory of the theme. The getting-almost-routine Friday mini-theme.

But I suppose I have to say one or two things. I'll start with a bad one, so I can finish up with more good things. OLDAGEPENSIONER (1A: Elderly person on a fixed income) seems a bit awkward. There. Also, I've never heard of VOSS (18A: 1957 Patrick White novel adapted into a 1986 opera). Should I have?

OK, if you look around too much, you see ALDO (47A: Ray of old pictures) (who? Why not clue this with the shoe brand?), POLA (51A: Silents actress Negri), ITT, ETH, INON, PGS, GES, and so on.

The rest of the fifteens were pretty decent, though. I enjoyed RACETOTHEBOTTOM (17A: Deterioration of standards by competitive forces) and STEMLESSGLASSES (60A: Tumblers) the best.

Also enjoyed FAZOOL (21D: Pasta ____ (Italian dish, informally), and the too-too clever PAT (7D: Word that is its own synonym when spelled backward).

Lastly, I feel we triumphed in a small way today by making good on a promise made earlier this week. We did not hit "submit" as soon as we put in the last letter, but reviewed (we found two typos!) and revisited a known problem area for us - the H in CHAW (48A: It's a mouthful) and HOTL (49D: Lanford Wilson's "The ____ Baltimore"). I think I had an R in there, but "ROTL" made no sense. "HOTL" didn't make much either, but I assumed that it must be short for "hotel," and Frannie thought maybe it was like a neon sign with a letter out. Either way, we went with H and got the "Well Done!" Very satisfying.

Happy Friday!

- Horace

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014, Samuel A. Donaldson


I entered "helmet" and "sombrero" immediately on my trip through the Acrosses, but when a few downs showed them to be incorrect, I worried that I was missing something big. Then when the M in FARREMOVED (17D: Very distant) fell into the space where "sombrero" had been, I all of a sudden figured out that it had to run backward - ORERBMOS (31A: Siesta shader)! Before getting any of the other ones, I worked out that the revealer must be FLIPONESLID (61A: Go crazy ... or a hint on how to enter five answers in this puzzle), and was momentarily put off by 1. the word "ones" and 2. how it seemed rather a vague way to say that some entries had to be backwards. Then I realized that a sombrero was a "lid", and that it had been flipped. D'Oh! I quickly put in REKLATSREED (17A: Sherlock Holmes accessory), TEMLEH (28A: Biker gear), and ARODEF (48A: Sinatra cover) (nice clue) and thank goodness I did figure it out, because E_LU_RAY (47A: Orthodox trademark (EKLUMRAY)) was looking terrible.

The non-theme long fill today was quite good, I thought. FARREMOVED (17D: Very distant), TYRANNIES (38D: Oppressive regimes), and MIXOLOGIST (30D: Bartender) are three nice examples. TASSE (28D: French cup) is probably foreign to many (see what I did there?), but it is what told me that "helmet" wasn't right the way I had first entered it. I like the clue for HERO (27D: Lover of Leander, in myth), and it was probably that one that told me "sombrero" was wrong. But getting back to French, the clue for OUI (60A: Parlement assent) was devilish, I thought, because a quick scan might allow you to believe it was really "Parliament assent," which would lead to something like "yea" or "aye," but I thought they were making up a French word "parlement" to mean, sort of, "speaking," but in French, giving "oui." It turns out, I guess, that "parlement" means "parliament" in French, but I've never heard it before. Maybe it's French Canadian. Who knows. Bottom line, though - tricky.

More good - INPEN (6A: Improper way to take the SAT) is funny because it's true, FIB (11A: Not a very big invention) was cute, and it seems that every single thing I see from the ONION (50A: Source of the headline "Study Finds Blame Now Fastest Human Reflex," with "The") is hilarious. How do they do it?

Not-so-good - ASIP 51A: Take ____ (sample some). I guess it's fine, but I didn't love it. ILEUM (65A: Small intestine section). I suppose Colum will know this immediately, but, well, I didn't, and who wants to think about the small intestine? LLB (62D: Legal deg.) OK, sure, whatever. Plural ELKS (3D: Game with horns) seems odd. Took a guess that 42A: The economist Adam Smith, for one was a SCOT. Never heard of GINO (58D: Pop singer Vannelli), and it was another case where a quick glance might have led one to enter "MILI," even though that would have been wrong on several levels. Not that I did that or anything, and not that that really jammed up the SE for a long time...

Overall, I guess I liked it.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 3, 2014, Peter A. Collins


It's been a string of uncharacteristically difficult puzzles this week. I handed this one over to Frannie when I was about half done, as nothing was coming to me immediately. She filled in everything but the "WC" of WCHANDY (38A: "St. Louis Blues composer) (who?), but we got that when we looked at the puzzle's theme. HEADSTARTS (59A: Race advantages … or a hint to 17-, 23-, 38- and 49-Across) is kind of funny, really, except that it gives us the aforementioned WCHANDY and the somewhat unusual PRIVYCOUNCIL (23A: Monarch's advisers).

Lots of unknowns today - ROSCOE (9D: Mobster's gun), DAKTARI (26A: 1960s TV show featuring the cross-eyed lion Clarence) (wow), DEE (60D: Joey ____ & the Starlites), SEAN (62A: ____ Parker, first president of Facebook), and LANTANA (42D: Showy flower). And in the "did not enjoy" category we find FORA (18D: Words with time or song), CANTI (12D: "Ple-e-e-ease?"), and NEAPS (52D: Minimum range tides).

On the brighter side, ISAACSTERN (11D: Musician with a Presidential Medal of Freedom) and KAZAKHSTAN (28D: Former Solviet republic) (why didn't they say "Former SSR," since they love that abbreviation so much?) were lovely tens. And PROMPTS and PAYDAYS weren't bad either, although the second being pluralized takes a point or two off, I suppose.

I don't know, it seemed very non-Wednesday-ish, which I suppose is good, and the theme is nice (especially "can"), but I didn't end up loving it.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014, Ethan Cooper


I think that, in preparation for any future participation in crossword puzzle tournaments, I should start to review puzzles before submitting them. Today's puzzle was a DNF, or a FWOE (Finished With One Error) as I prefer to call it, because I had initially guessed "mMNO" (ridiculous, I know) for UMNO (16A: "Let me think … yeah, that's stupid"), leaving me with NmMERAL for NUMERAL (10D: What's required in some passwords) at the end. The error took me about two seconds to find as I quickly scanned the grid for irregularities. Why didn't I just do that before I submitted? Well, who knows, but I'm going to put a little more effort into taking that last step from now on. Frannie and I competed online at this years ACPT, and found that the bonus for having no errors upon completion is greater than the penalty for taking, say, one more minute to complete a puzzle, so it just makes good sense.

But enough about all that, let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? It's another "back-to-school" theme, and I enjoyed it pretty well. I like the brazenness of including beer in the COLLEGEEXPENSES (54A: What tuition and the starts of 17-, 22-, 37-(?), and 47-Across are). I notice, only now, that they put a question mark after the beer one, but still, I chuckle. There's bonus theme-related fill, too, with MIXER (3D: First-week-of-school social event) and COEDS (64A: Female students, condescendingly).

It's odd, don't you think, that we see NETLOSS (4D: Unfortunate bottom line on an earnings report) so soon again, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it. There might be reason to nix APPLET, though, as that word seems to have gone out of style in favor of "app." Or am I so out of touch myself with the programming world that it is I, not the word, who has gone out of style? And speaking of out of style, 25D: Late, as a video store rental (OVERDUE). Video store rental?? Today's college kids probably don't even remember them. Oh, and speaking of that, I might as well put in a plug for my old college advisor's creation, the Mindset List.

But there's some lovely fill, too, like MAXIM, INGENUE, VENOM, ALBEIT, PLASM and TABLA (35D: Indian drum) which reminds me of an old high school crush who played one. Who plays the tabla in high school? Well, Suzy did. Angelically.

Favorite clue 32D: Place where one can come home and chill? (IGLOO).
Runner up, another "home" clue: 38D: Home located in the sticks? (NEST).

Least favorite clue: 59D: Groups of cops: Abbr. (PDS). What is that? Police divisions?

- Horace

Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014, Allan E. Parrish


Well, it's back to school time, and Mr. Parrish has given us a trickier-than-usual Monday to usher in the new season of study. Many subjects are covered today. From Economics we have ZEROSUM (3D: Like a game with equal winners and losers) and NETLOSS (40D: Business setback recorded on Schedule C), from Science we see STAPH (9D: ____ infection), ETHYL (48A: Car fuel additive) (see also 11D: What's filled in a fill-up GASTANK), and DISSECT (13D: Cut up, as a frog), and from English/Vocabulary we get ATROPHY (41D: Wither away) and JAPES (5A: Mocking remarks). There's a little geography quiz in the NE, with 12D: and 16A: "African country bordering [each other]" ALGERIA & MALI. and then there's the History extra-credit question that separates the honors kids from the lower tracks (do they still track? I thought I heard that that had gone out of fashion some time ago) 17A: Socialite who inspired 1950's "Call Me Madam" PERLEMESTA. Knowing that one will surely get you a star.

And if you enjoy the subject of History, you will surely delight in ADLAI (4D: Old politico Stevenson), NAPALM (40A: Vietnam War weapon), and SUSIEQ (25A: 1957 hit covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968), all of which are a bit MUSTY (28A: Stale-smelling). YUPPIE (55A: One of a 1980s demographic) skews slightly newer, but not much.

The anagram theme is well-done, and the central revealer looks elegant, just sitting there in the middle by itself. There was some less-than-stellar stuff, but nothing too terribly bad. It might sound like I have been complaining, but I welcome a greater challenge in the early-week puzzles.

Oddest clue 25A: First word in many newspaper names (THE).

Thumbs up.

- Horace