Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014, Matt Ginsberg


Frannie figured out the title, which refers (we think) to the idea of using the remote to change the channel away from commercials. In other words, to "zap" "ad"s. Does that sound right to you? Personally, we never use the term "zap" to mean change channels, or use the remote, or whatever it means, but I guess we've heard it.

So anyway, the ADs are not included in the Across answers. Well, they can be, and they make a normal phrase, but if they're removed, they fulfill the definition given in the clue. BRO[AD]MINDED for example, is a known phrase, but BROMINDED answers the clue "19A: Focused on one's fellow fraternity members?" in an amusing way. Some are not so funny, like IRISHBALL[AD] (24A: Dublin dance?), but I guess more are funny than are not so. 

It took us a while to finish this, and we ended in the CLARA (10A: Pianist Schumann, early champion of Brahms) quadrant, which is a bit sad, because CLARA was the second answer I put into the grid (ADDS (1A: Interjects) was first), but it was taken out midway through, for one reason or another. Maybe because we tried "stat" for RUSH (13D: "A.S.A.P."), but whatever the reason, it was a bad one. There's a HORUS sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that is pretty much my favorite piece of art in the place, but I didn't know until now that he was an 21A: Egyptian war god. I mean, I knew he was Egyptian, but war? C'mon Horus!

So let's see… ELUCIDATES (111A: Clarifies) is nice, and ZLOTYS (61A: Polish capital) (why oh why did I even bother with "Warsaw" in there?) reminds me of when Frannie's sister and her college boyfriend were traveling in Eastern Europe, because I remember the boyfriend saying it was always good to have a lot of zlotys on your person in case the public stalls were out of toilet paper. I guess the exchange rate was favorable back then.

I liked the symmetrical snark at 69D: Major annoyances (ROYALPAINS) and 16D: "Well, fine" (BELIKETHAT). Didn't know EDESSA (95D: Ancient Macedonian capital), or TONYMARTIN (72D: Singer whose "I Get Ideas" was on the charts for 30 weeks), and probably a few other things, but overall this seemed like a pretty good Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014, Elizabeth C. Gorski


Sometimes we have wondered what a puzzle would look like, and be like to solve, if it contained no THREELETTERWORDs, and now we know. It was a bit of a slow start today, and toward the middle I was thinking that maybe I was starting to miss the three-letter words, but the grid grew on me, and by the end I was a fan.

I always like seeing AENEAS (12D: Principal lieutenant of Hector in the "Iliad") in there, and we're both big fans of James ENSOR (44D: "Masks Confronting Death" painter, 1888). At first, it was simply because we had been introduced to him by the They Might Be Giants song "Meet James Ensor," but since then we've seen some of his works in various museums, and he seemed to have had a sense of humor, as well as being a decent painter.

I loved EVENODDS (33D: They're 50-50), ORDAIN (40D: Transition to fatherhood) was clever, and MUESLI (39D: Food whose name means "little purée) was interesting. ANSONIA (51A: Historic residential hotel in Manhattan) and AROO (41A: "King ____" of old comics) were unknowns. The former has quite an interesting history. It's on Broadway, on the Upper West Side, and when it opened in 1904 it was the largest residential hotel in New York City. It was the first to have air-conditioning, and for the first few years of its existence (before the health department shut it down) there was an animal farm housed on the roof, including chickens, ducks, goats, and cows (transported via a "cow elevator"). Every day a bellhop delivered fresh eggs to all the tenants. Now that's my kind of place! The latter, well, it's said it was an intelligent strip that abounded in sophisticated puns and wordplay, which is probably why it only lasted a short time. It last appeared nearly fifty years ago.

I'm rambling, so I'll close now. It was an interesting Saturday puzzle, and a decent enough challenge.

- Horace

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014, Tracy Gray


Unusual to have a rebus on a Friday, but we'll take it! And perhaps because it is so unusual, it took us a good long while to realize what was going on. We had gotten quite a ways in when finally it just became obvious, and three of the rebuses were filled in almost simultaneously. The fourth, E[SALE]N (64A: Big Sur institute) was only gettable thanks to my Dad referring to ADAM[SALE] (50D: Water) a lot when we were kids. He also familiarized us with the expression "Shank's Mare" for walking, which has also come in handy once or twice while doing crosswords.

So anyway, aside from E[SALE]N, TOT (33A: Small amount of liquor), and EILAT (43A: Gulf of Aqaba resort city), which were unknowns, the rest was pretty darn clean. Sure, SYST, RIA, and SHMO (4D: Ordinary guy: Var.) might get a "hmph," but really, there's quite a bit of good stuff that overshadows anything hmphable.

We love any reference to a TESLACOIL (32D: Electrical transformer), and right beside that, ADMISSION (31D: What a ticket is good for) was one of my favorite answers, just because it is so obvious! I was putting in TEAKETTLE (12D: It whistles while it works) at the very moment Frannie was putting on our tea kettle for a late morning cup, and it's interesting to learn that ADELE is the "2D: Singer who was awarded an M.B.E. in 2013." I kind of like WORDS as a term for "3D: An argument," and BEGAT is a similarly old-timey-seeming word for "29A: Fathered."

The pairs of "Expert" clues (OLDPRO, VETERAN) were fun, as was the BED/COT cross-reference.

In all, it was quite enjoyable. I'm considering making one online purchase today, but so far, nothing else has been bought. We're saving the bulk of the shopping for "Small Business Saturday" tomorrow!

- Horace

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014, Stanley Newman


Happy Thanksgiving!

I am so full right now. Also, in the last 24 hours I made cranberry relish, a mince pie, hard sauce, roasted butternut and acorn squash, stuffing, a horseradish/Brussels sprouts dish, gravy, I cut up carrots and celery into sticks, canned some sauerkraut that I started a few weeks ago, and I cooked an 18-pound turkey, plus I shopped for most of the stuff and did most of the dishes. Also, did I mention that I am too full? Everything was under control until the very end, when I drank the better part of a quart of eggnog. Uhhgggghhhhh...

So anyway, the puzzle was fun enough. Frannie figured out the "language-y" "thank you" theme. What were there, three of those? I think I had something like "__A_ZIEMI__L_" for the Italian one when I handed it over, but I had no idea what was going on.

On the other hand, certain things, like POMELO and SCYLLA went right in. And POTOMAC (34D: It meets the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry) was just beautiful. So evocative! So American! See also 54A: Eastern terminus of the Erie Canal (ALBANY).

I also enjoyed BUZZ (25A: [Wrong!]), POUTS (40A: Classic diva performances?), LAURELS (2D: Honors), and RETORT (42D: Counter with a sharp edge) (Tricky!) But coffee connoisseurs are so "39D: Over and done with" JUTE as a 31D: Coffee sack material. They're being packed in Grainpro®  nowadays, which keep in more of the "coffee-ness," and don't impart so much "jute-iness."

I thought of Huygens when I filled in JUDGEJUDY (31A: Highest paid TV star of 2014, by far), and of Colum when I put in DOSAGES (12D: Doctors' orders), although I don't think he actually writes prescriptions. (Do you?)

Overall, a very clean puzzle (didn't know AUEL, but the crosses were fair), and a decent Thursday puzzle. And before I close, I will say for the both of us, MUCHASGRACIAS, GRAZIEMILLE, and MERCIBEAUCOUP for looking in on us, whether you're one of our two or three regulars, a casual reader, or if this is your first time here, Thanks. We're having fun doing the puzzles and writing a little about them each day, and we hope you're having fun too. Now go eat some more pie!

- Horace

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014, Michael S. Maurer


Frannie here. I went it alone this morning, as you may have already guessed by the number above. Horace had "other things to do" apparently. It took me quite a while to get the key theme answer because I have not historically classified WARGAMES as a sci-fi drama. That was my first mistake. My last mistake was entering IOWAN instead of IOWAS. The singularity of the clue (53D. Midwest tribe) threw me off. I supposed I should have spent a little more time wondering what A, B and C NTS were in D.C., but truth is, I didn't. The other source of trouble for me was BIREME (43D. Old galley) crossed with 42A. Org. originating the three-point shot (ABA). I wanted the letter B in that cross, but I was not familiar old warships with two decks of oars. After the fact, when you think about "bi" and "reme" it makes perfect sense, but I find that is often the case after the fact.

Puzzle carping does not well suit this season of Thanksgiving, so I turn now to clues and answers I enjoyed in today's grid. I thought the theme answers were quite entertaining. Getting to common military phrases through clever alternate clues was fun. I think my favorite was 34A. Inoculation order? (PRESENTARMS). I thought it was a nice touch that most of the theme clues also had a sort of militaryishness about them, although since they didn't all have it, perhaps I am giving credit where credit isn't due. We have the famed potato of KP duty in 17A, the literal word "order" in 34A, and the command-like nature of 49A. I am unable, however, to identify anything even remotely military about 24A. Ebb tide? Drop and give me twenty, Mr. Maurer!

I thought the fill was relatively clean, given the high number of three-letter pit fall possibilities. One that still confounds me is 48A. LAD mag (Maxim or FHM). Is LAD an acronym? Is that really a name for a type of magazine? Huygens, can you shed any light on this one?

Also in the fun bag were BANISH (5D. Exile), SLITHY (6D. Like the toves in "Jabberwocky"), and SLOG (35D. Tough trek). I surprised myself by getting TRADE (10D. Major League Baseball news) right off the bat, so to speak. FRUIT (30D. Most of the symbols on a traditional slot machine) was also easy as pie. SPITBALL (1D. Wet missile) was less appealing. But, being the 40D. Cool CAT that I am, I'll Give it AREST (20D).


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014, Jeffrey Wechsler


When I started this last night, after a day spent writing a paper and a night of drinking, I lasted about three minutes. I couldn't figure out the theme, and nothing would come to me. This morning, with my shot of expresso, the theme was immediately obvious and everything went in easily. Funny how things change, eh? Is it all due to the beverage?

Everybody loves JOEDIMAGGIO (62A: American athlete born 11/25/1914), right? Especially those who never saw him play and who grew up with Simon & Garfunkel. Even Red Sox fans. Right? ... anyway, that's the theme. He was called the YANKEE/CLIPPER, and he hit in FIFTYSIXGAMES. I won't say that everyone knows that, but a lot of people do, and for those people, this puzzle most likely went right along.

As is often the case, it seems, I like several of the downs today. ACETIC (2D: ____ acid) reminds me of being in the darkroom, SONATA (3D: Hyundai model with a musical name) and MOTET (71A: Sacred choral composition) are a nice pair, SPIGOT (59D: Faucet) is an underused and underappreciated word, and the NE and SW are filled with nice, long, answers.

There's a lot of fill, so, sure, there's some dreck, but it's a good Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014, Robert Seminara


Kind of an odd theme today, but it's so unusual that I kind of like it. ROFL (36A: Texter's expression spelled out by the starts of 18-, 28-, 46-, and 59-Across). It kind of leaves things wide open for the theme answers, doesn't it? Still, FLOORMIRRORS (46A: Some dressing room conveniences) is a little odd, no? The others, though, are all perfectly fine. ROLLINGPINS (18A: Items for flattening dough) is even "Thanksgiving-appropriate." If that's a thing. Which it isn't.

It played tough for a Monday, so that's good. Things like COZEN (16A: Deceive), and ILLFAME (20A: Bad reputation) aren't really Monday-ish. I enjoyed EXALT (3D: Glorify) and PROMPTLY (5D: Right away), didn't love YESES (38A: Affirmatives) (I prefer two esses in the middle - I dislike the trend to single letters in this situation in general), and BEDSORE (24D: Long-term hospital patient's problem) is gross. There's some of the usual early-week fare - OGEE, AGAR, CMI, AGAEEL - but AROUSES (44D: Shakes from a slumber) should amuse certain solvers.

Overall, it was a fine Monday. Maybe even a little on the plus side, since it took me so long.

- Horace

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014, Patrick Berry

Surround Sound

Mr. Berry's puzzle is a delight. I smiled my way through the grid. How about 14D. George Eliot, but not Marilyn Manson (WOMAN). Fabulous. 56D. Candy from Austria (PEZ). Delicious. 68D. Require balm, say (CHAP). Hilarious. 87D. Drops out of the sky? (RAIN). Cleverious. 

I think what I like the best in this puzzle is the finesse of the cluing. Every clue means what it says and says what it means. Here are a few examples: 124A. Excommunication provocation (HERESY). 54A. Earnest request (ENTREATY). And the lovely pair SWIVEL (120A. Turn while seated) and SIDLES (11D. Moves obliquely). See what I mean?

But this puzzle is not for MATURE audiences only. There is plenty of entertaining craziness in the theme answers. My favorite was 101A. Provides some idea of an object's size? (MENTIONSDIMENSIONS). Ha!

Of course, no entertainment is complete without a few kernels in the popcorn. Should I know 78D. Five-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner (KELSO) or 121A. "Into the Wild" star Hirsch (EMILE), or any South American capital (37D. ASUNCION) at all? Kidding! Of course I should have known Emile Hirsch.

Oh, and just a RANDOMMEMORANDUM (23A. Office missive sent out arbitrarily), I love DATA mining (122A). Horace left that one for me to enter as a mark of his deep affection for me. Or, maybe he didn't know the answer!

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

~ Frannie

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014, David Steinberg


As Frannie put it, this was "challenging, but not clever." Lots of arcana (RIB (22A: Neuralia : nerve :: costalgia : ____), SERO, EOSIN), proper names (ELIE, MAMET, RENEE, VALERIE, EERO, etc.), and "meh"-type stuff (DROIDRAZR, PFIZER, OXALIC, WIIMOTES).

Frannie did, however, enjoy EXCUSEYOU (15A: Comment to an unapologetic burper, say), which was our entree to the NW, and RRR (30A: School basics, facetiously). And 7D: Start of something big?" (ZYGOTE) wasn't bad. She also got SNEEZED (14D: Exhibited sternutation) from the French for "to sneeze," which is "éternuer." Not too shabby.

There's a nice Huygens crossing at DEIMOS (37A: Moon named after the Greek personification of terror) and GROPES (21D: Feels (for)), and I enjoyed CRAZE (27D: It's temporarily hot).

The highlight today is CECE (26A: Woman's name that sounds like a repeated letter). That's the name of a young crossword solver that we know! The runner up - AFB.

- Horace

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014, Kevin Christian


What a lovely, lovely puzzle. The grid itself is pleasing, there were plenty of fun, interesting, and amusingly clued words, and, well… we loved it!

Let's start with BUTTDIAL (12D: Call from the rear?). That's just beautiful. Add to that JONESING (1A: Having a big itch) (gross), EMOTICON (15A: Sideways look?) (lovely), STREAMED (14D: Like music on Pandora radio), LOCAVORE (57A: Farmers' market frequenter, maybe), and a few others, and you've got a thoroughly modern puzzle.

It's not often you encounter the singular THROE (51A: Paroxysm), and we tried "Clark" instead of KASEM (19A: Late legend in countdowns) at first, and tried "Op Cit" instead of ETSEQ … and HELENA (34A: Home of minor-league baseball's Brewers) was unknown to us, but these things were not really problems. I suppose I could make some throat-clearing noises about ANITAS (59A: Novelist Shreve and others) being a gratuitous plural, or PANED (28D: Like many mirrors) being a bit of a stretch, but things like GAY (33D: Like the out crowd?), GNEISS (8D: Rock with colored bands) (Gem & Mineral show tomorrow!), and PROUST (16A: "Swann's Way" novelist) (gimme alert!) make me quickly forget the problems.

Two more things, FAYS (31A: Elves, in poetry) makes me think of Keats - "… And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,/Cluster'd 'round by all her starry Fays … ). And tomalley is not a delicacy to all who enjoy LOBSTER.

That is all.

- Horace

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2104, Timothy Polin


I love this theme. The many Zs running through the puzzle form the signature Z of ZORRO (44D: Subject of this puzzle), and 'though I was familiar with neither the first episode, nor his real name, that did not detract from the enjoyment. One small detraction, I suppose, could be that the revealer, ZORRO, does not have a symmetrical, theme-related counterpart, but the precise positioning of Zs to form the central Z makes up for it.

Some lovely non-theme fill, too: LEONINE (28D: Having a sense of pride?), BARTEND (22D: Lift others' spirits?), AVARICE (50A: "The spur of industry," per David Hume) (Lovely. Love Hume!), SNORKELERS (25A: They're hooked up to breathing tubes) (very nice!), and BUTTOUT (22A: "M.Y.O.B."), to name but some. And the yoking of OTOE (2D: Historical buffalo hunter) to the very fine FUDD (1D: Fictional rabbit hunter) brought it out of the crosswordese cellar.

It was joint effort today. I did some last night, Frannie filled in a lot this morning, and then I finished things up with the crosswordsy DAP (5A: Skip over water, as stones), which I think I learned from a past puzzle. Overall, quite satisfactory.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014, Jacob Stulberg


THERESNOTWO/WAYSABOUTIT (18A: With 64-Across, words of certainty … or a hint to 23-, 40-, and 56-Across) is an interesting little theme. "NO" and "ON" bracket the three theme answers. Or do we say that there are really five theme answers, since 18- and 64-Across function as revealers? Either way, it's fine for a Wednesday, am I right? A little odd, maybe, but this is exactly where such puzzles belong!

I remember enjoying this one as I went along. RAW (1A: Like a new recruit) didn't come immediately (I tried "p.f.c."), but HOIST (4A: Raise, as Old Glory) did OCCUR (15A: Come to mind) without much trouble, and we were off and running! Don't you always wish, like I do, that the Omega were the 2D: Last Oldsmobile (ALERO)? I mean, it was an Oldsmobile model… it just would have been so perfect! Instead we get ALERO. Meh. And WAXER (3D: Car wash machine)? The "machine," as far I as I could tell back when I bothered to wash my car (Pro tip: It's not necessary! Never do it!), was a spray nozzle, nothing more.

Did you, like me, put FIFE (50A: Instrument in the painting "The Spirit of '76) right away, even though "drum" would also have fit? The thing is - who would clue "drum" like that? No one! Come to think of it, "flag" also fits, and you could be a real jerk about it with the clue "Item held in …" Luckily, this is only Wednesday, and Mr. Stulberg is a decent kind of a fellow.

As I look through this more, I find more to question. OCH (5D: Gaelic "Gee!") is iffy, for example, as is SURER (7D: Not so iffy). Heh. And sure, a SITAR may be an "11D: Instrument with sympathetic strings," but isn't any stringed instrument, really? A piano, for example? Or a harp? Maybe they're not designed that way, but they still are that way.

Meh… it was fine for a Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, Jacob McDermott


Boy, the SE quadrant took me several minutes at the end of this. I did not know KIGALI (50D: Capital of Rwanda), CLAMUP (49D: Stop talking) took some crosses, and the excellent SPANKS (51D: Hits bottom) was not immediately obvious. SOCKS (48A: Low pair?), too, was very tricky! Also, "Louvre" fit into the six boxes clued by 47D: Parisian palace (ELYSEE), so that didn't help… but in the end, it all got filled in, and as I've said many times, I appreciate any extra challenge early in the week, so it's all good.

Not so good, for me anyway, was the theme. POWERCOUPLE (36A: Beyoncé and Jay Z, e.g. … or a hint to 17-, 30-, 44-, and 61-Across)? SUPERSTAR (17A: Luminary among luminaries) is a "power couple?" I guess maybe it's because the two parts of that compound word, when "coupled" become "powerful?" Is a SUPERSTAR powerful? Is a HIGHHORSE (44A: Snooty attitude) (nice!)? No… wait… it's another one of those "both parts can be paired with "power" themes. Sorry for the false alarm. "Superpower," "star power," "high power," "horsepower," … Much better.

After a terrible start (ANAL (1A: ____-retentive) (enough already!), there is lots of good fill today: NAUSEA (2D: Feeling after a roller coaster ride), SCRAPS (9D: Leftovers), NOUGAT (10D: Candy bar filling) (gross!), CAPABLE (25A: Competent) (bonus theme material?), PISTOL (38D: Energetic sort), HECKLE (45D: Shout "Ref, are you blind?!," e.g.), KOOKS (58A: Wackos), and more. That's all good, and the theme (now that I get it) is fine, and the elements of the theme are all pretty good. Let's call it good.

- Horace

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014, Tom McCoy


Tough for me for a Monday, with all those proper names. None of them came to me immediately, and the revealer, even if I had seen it before getting them, would not have helped at all. TWINS (67A: Minnesota baseball team ... or what 18-, 30-, 44-, and 53-Across all are)? Who knew? Mom was a twin, so it's something that interests me.

Nice clue for PHARAOH (5D: Pyramid schemer?), and PRECEPT (43D: General rule) is a good word, as is MONSTROSITY (11D: Freak of nature). And CHICKMAGNET (25D: Sexy guy) is fun. IMAGERY (47A: Descriptive language)... SAUNTER (27A: Mosey)... THIGH (33A: Femur's locale)... there's some good stuff in here. But didn't we just see McCoy's byline like, a week ago? Yes, he did last Sunday's! I used to think there was a certain waiting period between bylines, like a month or so, which is why, I thought, we so frequently see the same name on the daily and the syndicated. Well... maybe not "so frequently," but at least often enough to comment on it. But I have no real proof of an actual policy, and this puzzle seems to contradict my theory, so... nevermind.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Sunday, November 16, 2014, Andrew J. Ries

"Don't Quit Your Day Job"

This was a bit of a disjointed solving experience, and the review might be affected. Negatively? Positively? It's too early to say for sure.

Frannie worked on this as we drove back from Western Mass. on the Pike, and found it a little tough to get started. The theme took a while to understand - I think it might have been one of the most obscure, BOBBYSHORT (90A: Cabaret pianist who would make a lousy electrician?), that was our first one. After that, NICOLASCAGE (57A: Action star who would make a lousy free-range farmer?) made sense, and then maybe JOHNNYROTTEN (33A: Punk rocker who would make a lousy grocer?). Oh, wait... maybe GLORIAALLRED (97A: Lawyer who would make a lousy anti-Communist leader?) is the most obscure. At least Bobby Short rings a faint, distant bell. Do people know who this woman is? Anyone?... Lastly, I want to say that it's nice that I learned the word "mohel" on Wednesday, otherwise 112A: Singer who would make a lousy mohel? (STEVIENICKS) (are women allowed to be mohels?) wouldn't have made any sense. As it is, I'm not really sure I like knowing the word now, because it forces me to understand the clue and consider the "nicks."

Moving on... the theme is fine, I guess. Let's look at the rest of it. As I look at it quickly, there are some good-looking words: JUXTAPOSE (108A: Set side by side), EMPHASIZE (25A: Spotlight), ARDENT (69A: Fiery), FATASAPIG (110A: More than plump) (!), BAUXITE (91D: Main source of aluminum). OK, that last one might be obscure to some, but Frannie asked me this one as I was driving and I gave the answer without any further information - number of letters, crosses, etc. Might be because Dad's a geologist, might be because I bought a hunk of it about thirty years ago at a rock & mineral show (see first part of this sentence)... anyway, I liked it. And heck, I even enjoyed SNEES (86A: Blades that sound like an allergic reaction) today (yeah, the pluralizing is weak) because we were driving back from a Gilbert and Sullivan show. Not Mikado, but still...

Anyway, where was I? I guess it was fine. We finished it. Plus, it has the name BAXTER in it, which was the name of our cat. Poor old guy.

So, ok, maybe it was negatively. Let's move on.

- Horace

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014, Peter Wentz


Once more today we worked in tandem, and once more the puzzle was dispatched in short order (for a Saturday). It's a very clean grid, with lots of decent mid-length entries and very little crosswordese.

Of the twelve (!) nine-letter answers, it's hard to pick a favorite. We hadn't heard AFFLUENZA (20A: "Illness" affecting the wealthy) before, but it's kind of funny. Some were quite straightforward, like APPLETREE (17A: Source of inspiration for Sir Isaac Newton, famously), which was put in without crosses. Did that stump anyone? Do they not learn that in school these days? Other obvious ones took a little longer, but only because they were extended from something normal into something slightly less commonly said, like PIZZAPIES (13D: Certain party deliveries). Reading the clue, we thought immediately of "pizza" and "beer," but had to wait for more evidence before filling it in. HONEYBEAR (44A: Animal with a sweet tooth) is another such example. "Black bear" is probably more correct. Are there actual bears called "honey bears?"

But I sound too much like I'm complaining. It wasn't that bad. Frannie very much enjoyed seeing EMILEZOLA (49A: Author who was the title subject of the Best Picture of 1937) fully included in the grid. She guessed him immediately, although I'm not really sure how. I'm pretty sure she doesn't know the best picture from that year. And speaking of that, it was a very different America back then. Could you imagine that movie winning best picture today? … Oddly, she also guessed TSELIOT (37A: Who said "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood") immediately. Who is this woman?!? (Also, that's a great quote.)

Honestly, I kind of prefer the really tricky Saturdays, like we've seen for the past couple weeks, but this was a perfectly serviceable puzzle. Very clean, as mentioned above, plenty of high-point letters, and nice, chunky corners.

- Horace

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014, Joe Krozel


We solved this puzzle the way I like best - with Frannie and me reading the clues together and just calling out what we know. It's amazing how differently we approach the clues, and how often one will know an answer immediately when the other has no idea whatsoever. 10D: Player with Legos, for example (ERECTOR) had me totally stumped, but Frannie knew it right away (hold your comments, Huygens!). She also got PRINCES (47A: They often succeed) (lovely clue!) off just a cross or two.

Because of the two-headed approach, it seemed to play a little easier than some Fridays do, but it's hard to say for sure whether or not it really was. I can say, however, that I enjoyed it. I liked the little "B" theme in the center, with 31A: B, for one (CAPITALLETTER), 34A: Bb, for one (MUSICALNOTE), and 35A: Bb6, for one (CHESSMOVE). And the four fifteens (again with the horizontal symmetry!) were all good, if not terribly exciting. The best by far was GENERALHOSPITAL (52A: Soap of a medical nature).

I thought we were going to have another DNF for a minute, because the cross of TISHA (28D: ____ b'Av (annual Jewish fast day) (yikes!) and DECADE (36A: Score at the half?) until that clue finally made sense to me - score = 20. Beautiful.

Sooo... some very nice bits, some workaday stuff. Let's say it was decent, but not great.

- Horace

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014, Tracy Gray

FWOE (0:29:08)

Geez, the second DNF in as many days for us. Today it was the TEASELS/SAHEL crossing. I've seen TEASELS (22A: Prickly plants) many times, as it turns out, but I never knew their name. And I was completely unfamiliar with SAHEL (23D: Semiarid region of Africa). Tough crossing in an otherwise moderately challenging, but doable grid.

We've seen themes similar to this, I'm pretty sure, where the physical location is used as a rebus to make compound answers. As in SEAS (17A: Literally, with 20-Across, ski resort purchases) sitting on PASSES (20A) to make "season passes." Cute. HARRIS on FORD was the last one we got today.

Some unpleasantness, with AAHEDAT (30A: Reacted to, as fireworks), MAESTRI (52A: Toscanini and Maazel), and the double Latin crossing of ALII and OLEA in the NW. But then there were plenty of bright spots, too. I enjoyed the other plant clue 43A: Common daisy (OXEYE), and SMACKER (47A: Buck) and SCARFED (44D: Gobbled (down)) was a great crossing of slang. BELTWAY (45A: Baltimore's I-165, e.g.) was good, KISSCAM (4D: Between-innings feature on a Jumbotron) was fun (Frannie got this one!), RUTABAGA (9D: Vegetable whose name comes from the Swedish) was great, and I'm a big fan of the HAIKU (15A: Exercise in brevity).

Lastly, on a personal note, I just accepted a new DESK (68A: ____ job) today! I hope my new boss isn't too EXACTING (40D: Strict). Wish me luck!

- Horace

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Daniel Landman

DNF (0:19:53)

Cool theme today. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in a normal M-W themed puzzle. The word RECORD is BROKEN (37A: With 40-Across, repeat offender? … or something found, literally, in four rows in this puzzle) across black squares. Twice it is broken across two words, twice across three words! Pretty snazzy.

This took me quite a while, and I ended up with a DNF because I did not know MOHEL (9A: Bris officiant) (tried "rabbi" to no avail). I also had "mOuSECAR" for HORSECAR (11D: Transportation in Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A.), and CORDS (19A: Parachute parts) was still floating somewhere up, away from my mind. Tried "pal" for MAC (9D: Buddy)… in short, it wasn't pretty.

The whole thing seemed a little on the hard side, with tricky clues like "51D: Way" for MANNER, and "48D: With bitterness" for ACIDLY.

Seeing RODCAREW (38D: Baseball Hall-of-Famer mistakenly listed in "The Chanukah Song" as a Jew) in there was fun, and it's interesting to get that correction printed. I looked on Wikipedia, and it claims Carew actually wrote Sandler to correct him, and Sandler later removed his name from the song when he sang it again.

SUMAC (5D: Poison ____) makes us think of the famous George Bernard Shaw anecdote - when he was asked "Did you know that "sugar" and "sumac" are the only two words in English which begin with "su" and are pronounced as "she?" He replied: "Sure!" Heh. As with most of those anecdotes, we hope it's true.

BATANEYE (37D: React, just barely) is nice. ENDORSED (12D: Backed) is good. RACIER (53A: Less likely to be G-rated) and TURNRED (7D: Flush) are a nice pair.

Overall, I liked the theme quite a bit. There's quite a bit of junk fill, but I still enjoyed the challenge. Sue me.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014, James Mulhern


Interesting Tuesday theme of DOUBLEUP (60A: Share a single bed … or a hidden feature of 17-, 23-, 36-, and 50-Across), with the letters "UP" appearing twice in each theme answer. Not bad. I've never heard of CHUPACHUPS (50A: Confectionery brand with a logo designed by Salvador Dalí), but the clue validates it.

Nice to see LOUISCK (55A: Stand-up comedian with multiple Emmys) in there. I wonder if this is his first time in a puzzle? AFTERDARK (8D: Under the cloak of night) and LOVECHILD (33A: 1968 #1 hit for Diana Ross & the Supremes) are pretty nice long downs. SPLOSH (45D: Quiet sound of water on the side of a pail, say) is a bit much. ALLCAPS (18D: WHAT THIS IS IN) and PLATEAU (24D: Stop getting any higher), though, are both great.

Overall, this has lots of interesting (MAITAI (57A: Drink that gets its name from the Tahitian word for "good")) and uncommon (TRITON (19A: Moon of Neptune)) fill, which is always welcome, and it played a little harder for me than Tuesdays sometimes do. I give it an enthusiastic "thumbs up!"

- Horace

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014, Bruce Haight


Decent enough theme of "No way!" defined in four different ways. FUHGEDDABOUDIT (17A: "No way!"), while somewhat funny, is the weakest, as its spelling is not rigidly defined. I mean, other variants must exist for this one, right? Or would you say "THATSRIDICULOUS" to that claim?

Lots of usual early-week fare, and some words that exist more in crosswords than in real life. To wit: VEND (3D: Sell), LULUS (19D: Doozies), ISLE (55D: Archipelago component), and RIA (57D: Narrow coastal inlet). There are also appear several names that in these grids are weekly kept alive, like GAYE (35D: Marvin of Motown), BOHR (13D: Physics Nobelist Niels), and THOR (50D: Norse god of war). QUEST (5A: Knight's pursuit) and QUAKED (5D: Trembled, as with fear) provide some excitement in the North, but HIPTO (28D: Savvy about) belies a certain "unhipness" in both clue and answer. See also PONG (39D: Video game with a paddle). Is that trying to trick Wii players, or is it just old-fashioned? Hard to tell.

Not terrible. Not great. Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014, Tom McCoy


Pretty nice theme of letters formed by answers that rely on a certain color, and which can be clued as actual things, like "black eye," "green tea," and so forth. And on top of that, the revealers are all symmetrical. It's a simpler (I imagine) horizontal symmetry, but still, not bad at all.

My favorite part of this thing might be the ridiculous, made-up word MILLIHELEN (34A: Facetious unit defined as the amount of beauty necessary to launch one ship). I've never heard it before, and I thought that Mr. McCoy had brazenly created this word to make the grid work, but it actually has a history. Fantastic. ELEVENTY (48D: 110, to Bilbo Baggins) isn't bad, but it's not nearly as nice as "MILLIHELEN."

In addition, there are many nice bits of long-ish fill. HARMONICA (94A: Relative of a panpipe), MISNOMER (40D: "Koala bear," e.g.), ACETATE (42A: Sodium ____ (potato chip flavoring)), PROMINENT (50A: Leading), ALLEARS (73D: Rapt), and, of course, NEGLIGEE (47D: Honeymoon attire).

Best part of it all - 43D: Who said "I can't prove it, but I can say it" (COLBERT). Brilliant.

An enjoyable Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014, Barry C. Silk


Whew! We haven't worked this hard on a puzzle since, well, maybe last Saturday… but before that it had been a long while. It went slow and steady until we were left with a huge void in the NW. So many things that just did not come to us easily. Perhaps New Yorkers quickly entered BLOOMBERG (17A: Notable switcher from Democrat to Republican to Independent), but to us living (just) outside the metro area, and who do not follow the news directly, it took about five crosses before it came into focus. TWO/IRON (4D: With 22-Across, obsolescent club) was tough with no crosses, TET (19A: Offensive observance?) - tough, ROOTOUT (3D: Get rid of) could have been "rout out" "edit out" "void out"… and so that only helped a little… and maybe astronauts got EARTHRISE (1A: Up-coming world phenomenon?) right away, but we tried "volcanoes" and "lava floes" before being forced into the proper entry. IPECAC (7D: Drug used in aversion therapy)? Tough! Not being familiar with "aversion therapy," we had "prozac" in there for a while, which didn't help. In all, that corner probably took us close to an hour.

But I'm not complaining. We love a good challenge, and this certainly was satisfying to finish. It's like Christmas in November to get a Patrick Berry and a Barry Silk back-to-back. Who's tomorrow going to be? Blindauer? Steinberg? Chen?…

Some cute stuff in here - CEREALBOX (29A: Life preserver?), BATSIGNAL (48A: Searchlight in comics) - and the "searchlight" mini theme was fun, too.

Lots of trickiness, some very tough stuff, and why is QUARK "60A: A tiny bit strange?" I mean, I get that it's tiny, but "strange?"

Oh well… I'm almost too exhausted to go through this again for more material. If you particularly loved or hated parts of it, let's discuss it further in the comments.

- Horace

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014, Patrick Berry


It almost goes without saying, once you look at the byline, that this was a well-done puzzle. Things that seem difficult at first, like 27A: Into very small pieces (FINELY), 31A: It might be beneath your notice (BULLETINBOARD), or 1D: Basic thing (ALKALI) turn out to be the most basic things! And 35A: Put right on paper (INDENT)! And 18A: Observances of the law (STAKEOUTS)! And 15A: Commercial blockers (EMBARGOES)! …

There are also some things that are not so obvious, like GAMMON (3D: Decisive board game victory). This word, heretofore unknown to me (except in its more common combination form), has many colorful definitions, the first of which is used here. As a noun it is also a ham, and/or deceitful nonsense. As a verb it means to humbug (my favorite), or to fasten a bowsprit to the stem of a ship. "I had just gammoned Ol' Sully and was enjoying a bit of gammon when Rochester came down and told me that I was needed up top to help with the gammoning, but it turned out to be nothing but gammon … they had already done it!" … I know English has a lot of words, but sometimes it seems like maybe we could use one or two more.

Good colloquial fill in the SW with BIGBUCKS (31D: Amount in six figures, say), WIPED (34A: Really tired), and UPACREEK (32D: In dire straits). And I was all set to complain about DEMOB (6A: Discharge from the R.A.F.), but Frannie knew that one without hesitation, so I guess it's not completely uncommon. Especially, maybe, to those who read a lot of Trollope? Who knows? Colum?

Anyway, we say this a lot, but we'll say it again, Patrick Berry is one of the best. It's always a treat to see his name come up.

- Horace

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014, Matt Ginsberg


A very clean Thursday with a cute little theme. Well, I suppose I should say with an "epic" theme, because that's what MOSES's PARTING of the RED SEA has become, right? In addition, we have the PHARAOH of EGYPT, and the ISRAELI. Very nice, but don't you kind of miss the "-tes" at the end of that last one? And are EMIGRATED (20A: Left for good) and PESACH (25A: Feast of unleavened bread) bonus theme material? And hey, maybe even SADAT (27D: October War leader) and EBAN (33A: Nonmusical Abba).

The rest of the fill is remarkably clean, and includes such lovely things as BEERPONG (10D: Party game), PTOMAINE (37D: Product of organic decay) (!), GUARANTOR (50A: Co-signer, say), and HEDONIST (15A: One who's just out for a good time). There's some capital symmetry with HONOLULU (28A: Southernmost U.S. capital) and STTHOMAS (44A: Home of Charlotte Amalie), and really, not much to complain about at all. Maybe AVAS, OSTE, or IDAS… but, well… that's not much.

Very nice.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014, Gareth Bain


I'm torn about this theme. On the one hand, I dislike it because I don't really like song titles like these, but on the other hand, what do I care, they're just songs and this is just a puzzle and why do I have to get so uptight about it? (See… I'm practicing this mentality this morning. I figure I'll need it during the next couple years, given the election results today.) So, let's just say the theme is great, and everybody loves the Crash Test Dummies, right? See… there I go again, harshing on everyone's buzz. On the bright side, I do love the song IKOIKO (37A: 1965 hit for the Dixie Cups), but I guess I always assumed that that was not a nonsense title, but just another language. I might be wrong about that, but I'm not going to look it up. I'm going to live deluded, just like a republican does (I can only assume/hope).

And speaking of Republicans, look!, there's AMRADIO (42D: Medium for much political talk) staring me in the face. And MOROSE (49D: Down in the dumps). And RIDER (52D: Equestrian, e.g.) and LOOTS (54D: Pillages), and AMMO (31D: Armory supply, informally), and CSA (58A: Ex-president Tyler sided with it: Abbr.) (interesting), and ISMS (38D: Ideologies), and DUNNO (65A: "Beats me").

In other news, I had "PReMO" for a while. Is that entirely wrong? The other way just looks like "pry-mo," to me, but then, my opinion is often not supported by the majority, it would appear.

In closing, let me try to ALLEVIATE (14A: Take the edge off) matters by posting a photo of somebody that I voted for who actually did win - Maura Healy. Over and out.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Joel Fagliano


You know I love the wacky, and today is no exception. The theme is somewhat normal phrases clued wackily as reviews to give them different meanings. MOONROCKS, for example, becomes 18A: Critic's positive review of drummer Keith of the Who? And they get even funnier when the reviews are negative, as in 32D: Critic's negative review of a newsmagazine? (TIMESUCKS). I usually think of the term as "time sinks," but who am I to argue?

Many lovely down clues today, like REMBRANDTS (24D: Band that sang the "Friends" theme song "I'll Be There for You," with "the"), although with that convoluted a clue, I'd almost rather have seen "famous portraitist's works" or something like that. HOLYSYNOD (31D: Eastern Catholic ruling body) requires that I make my usual comment about the "Cadaver Synod," GROUPHUGS (8D: Many "Family Feud" celebrations) was hilarious when I finally got it, and THEWAVE (4D: Stand-up routine?) was nicely clued.

Other nice touches were the symmetrical "Everglades birds" EGRET and STORK, 22A: Small matter? (ATOMS), SNIVEL (27A: Whine tearfully), and, of course, TOM BLOGGED.

A solid Tuesday.

Lastly, ever since we had to change over to the new NYTX iPad app, we've started doing the "Mini puzzle," and I've noticed that Joel Fagliano does many of them. Today's took me all of thirty seconds to complete, and some have asked "Why bother?" Well, for me, it's good practice on the thumb pad, and maybe it'll help with the real puzzle times eventually. Plus, it's kind of fun to finish a puzzle in less than a minute, even if it is only 5x5. I suppose it could also serve as a gateway puzzle for some who are too timid to even attempt the 15x15. It might give them a little confidence. Who knows? I, for one, enjoy them.

- Horace

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014, Janet R. Bender


A somewhat convoluted concoction of couple-word clauses commencing with C comprises today's theme. Come, come!, you say, it can't be as catastrophic as all that! Well, you decide - is COMPASSCOURSE (20A: Ship heading) something you come across commonly? COLBYCOLLEGE (27A: Liberal arts school in Waterville, Me.), in certain company is commonplace, but my brother went to Bates! And COUNTRYCOUSIN (58A: Person in overall sucking a piece of straw, stereotypically) calls for a chuckle, perhaps, but does any contemporary card use such coinage?

In other corners of the grid, some crunchy fill is found, like INDIGNANT (35D: Highly offended), TYCOBB (4D: Baseball great known as "The Georgia Peach") right beside MAYS (21D: Baseball great Willie), and DONTASK (45D: Exasperated response to "How was your day?") is pretty good. I also appreciate the double-l in CANCELLED (3D: No longer on the air). Overall, though, there's a lot of stuff we often see, and a couple things I'd rather not see, like YOICKS (52D: Bygone cry of high spirits). Really? Bygone indeed, and with good reason!

The inclusion of CEE (22D: Major component of the euro symbol) is a nice touch, though, and it's really not all that bad, given the preponderance of Cs - one of my least favorite letters to have in Scrabble, by the way. The other is V. Yuck. But I digress…

Let's call it a wash.

- Horace

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014, Brendan Emmett Quigley

BP Station

Well, this one has it all, doesn't it? From hidden capitals (1A. Chase things, briefly? (CDS)) to answers that are specific letters in the clue (113A. Dramatic ending? (CEE)) that dupe us every time, to clever theme answers. In sum, we had a pall with this one. My favorite theme answer was 79A. Admonishment to someone eating off your plate at a Polynesian restaurant? (THATSMYPOI), although I can imagine a slightly stronger admonishment coming from Huygens if anyone tried that on him. :)

Speaking of Huygens, I thought of him when I entered PLANETS for 69A. Subject of the mnemonic "My very eager mother just served us nachos". I've never heard that one before, but when I said the first letters out loud to myself, the answer jumped out at me. NEPTUNE is in there, too, for good measure (17D. Astronomical body after which element #93 is named). Plus 115A. ___ Major (URSA). In addition to the above-metioned celestial bodies, there was a little traditional Huygens material as well. 36A. James Joyce's "Ulysses," per a 1921 court decision (SMUT). I wonder if Huygens would include 31A. Baby with a bow (AMOR) in his category.

Speaking of categories, did anyone else notice a rather elevated number of clue 'sets' as I am calling them? Two or more clues with a similar topic base, as above (planets), also terriers (125A. __ terrier (SKYE) and 68D. Certain terrier, informally (WESTIE). If we want to expand that category to dogs, we can include 7D. Hunting dog (BORZOI). I submit quoted expressions as another such category: 39A. "Down in front (ICANTSEE), 75A. "All right already!" (LETITGO), and 76D. "Oh ... come  ... on! (GEEZ). We could further refine that category to quoted expressions indicating annoyance, but that might be putting too fine a point on it. Other sets: Shakespeare 37A. Juliet's combative cousin in "Romeo and Juliet" (TYBALT) and 72A. When Prospero makes his entrance (SCENETWO); Billys: 61A. Melville's "Billy ___" (BUDD) and 78A. Billy of "Titanic" (ZANE); Cards: 120A. Low draw (ONEONE) and the theme answer 85A. What's promising about a K-K-Q-Q-J-J-7 rummy hand? (THETHREEPAIRS); Children: 55A. Waterway of Western Australia? (PERTHCANAL) 41D. Rare birth (TRIPLET) and 92D. Toddler (TINYTOT).

Speaking of AMOR, there were a couple of answers I didn't love, but only a couple. One was 28A. Middle ground, for short. I thought DMZ was on the very fringe of an acceptable interpretation of the clue. And, 96A. Brother's home (CLOISTER). Don't ask me why I didn't like it, I don't know. I just didn't. Also, shouldn't 22A. Ruthless Wall Street sort be trader instead of RAIDER? (Ha!)

We finished in a PLAY[S]OFGLORY with the final L in 77D. William __ + Co. (brokerage) crossed with 99A. Jane of "Frasier". We didn't know either answer, but it FITTED (116A. Like some sheets).


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014, Trip Payne


Wow, what a great finish to the week! It was a good old-fashioned stumper that we passed back and forth while sitting on the couch drinking espresso, then, an hour or more later, tea. It wasn't until well past the hour mark, when we had all of the trick questions, that we finally hit upon the solution to the clues. BATTLEFIELD (19A: 81 ÷ 27), for example, requires you to look at clues 81 and 27, which are PLACE (81A: Cul-de-sac, in some addresses) and WAR (27A: It's conducted in a theater), resulting in "war place" or, BATTLEFIELD. Why division in this case? I don't know. In another case, it's more clear - GROSSPROFIT (33 - 21) is NETSALES - COSTS, and REPEATEDLY (63A: 56 x 42) can be seen as multiplying MANY (many, many) and OVER (over and over). Maybe BATTLEFIELD is a place divided by war. OK, that works for me, and makes this already good puzzle even stronger.

There were "many, many" entertaining clues today, like 88A: Wind stopper (BEANO), 91A: Lay low? (INTER), 22A: Bee relative (OPIE) - tricky!, 9D: Turn down a raise? (FOLD), 20D: Cut from a log, maybe (ERASE), 45D: Change the plot of (REMAP), 68D: Like boxers (CANINE), 31D: #1 fans (EGOTISTS) … so many good ones!

We didn't know CAIMAN (7D: South American reptile), or NELLE (37D: ____ Porter, "Ally McBeal" role) (Really? Ally McBeal?), and it took us forever to remember MEATBALLS (29D: 1979 comedy set at Camp North Star), but I'm actually pretty proud of us for forgetting it so thoroughly.

Overall, a very satisfying Saturday.

- Horace