Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015, Herre Schouwerwou


Another somewhat quiet Thursday theme today - rhyming proper name homonyms of common words given wacky clues. The first one I got was CHERWEAR (12D: Clothing line from an Oscar-winning singer?) (shareware). Another, better one, is POEHLERBARE (19A: Naked "Parks and Recreation" star?) (polar bear). I wonder if that was the seed for this whole idea? It certainly wasn't HERRKERR (39D: The Galloping Gourmet in Germany?) (hair care), or BELLEHEIR (20D: Offspring of Beauty?) (Bel Air?), but it could, I suppose, have been THOREAUFAIR (61A: Event at Walden Pond?) (thoroughfare). I guess it's fine. I just didn't wow me.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the puzzle, though. I liked a lot of the non-theme sixes, sevens and eights. Well, eight. DISROBED (7D: Stripped was good), NONMETAL (41D: Any of about 18 elements on the periodic table) was odd. "About 18 elements?" It's interesting to think that all the other elements are metals, and even more interesting to think that some are questionable. So ok, maybe I do like both eights.

The middle had DOWEL, CADENCE, FREAKY, and HOKUM (45A: Balderdash), all of which were good. MUFFLES (46D: Quiets) was nice, SPRUCES (69A: Neatens (up)) made me think of Frannie, because she likes to use that term. She also likes HANKERS (18A: Longs), btw. ALDENTE (68A: Firm, in a way) and ORIGAMI (15A: Paper work not usually done at the office) (I actually tried "a resume" in there for a few moments) have good clues, and I liked the Lyndon Johnson quote leading to WARTIME. Poor guy didn't get his wish.

Overall, I really like the fill, and the theme is fine, sooo.... good Thursday!

- Horace

p.s. This month has flown by, and Colum takes over again tomorrow. See you in June!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Daniel Landman


Frannie here. When Horace asked me to take over for the day, I started to think about an angle for the review, and then it hit me: how about a RECTANGLE! That's when the review really started to take shape.

The whole thing went right along for me except the NW corner. I got stuck on both foreign language clues, believe it or not. I entered ellA where DONA belongs and it took me a few moments to back out of that one (so to speak). 14A. 2013-'14 N.B.A. All-Star Joakim was NOAH help to me at all. And, while trying to figure out 1A, I was certainly using expressions of frustration abroad of my own, just not the correct (or printable) ones! (ACHS).

Theme-wise I thought the puzzle held up pretty well. I thought Huygens was probably enjoying it. I am a big fan of PARALLELOGRAM, both the word and the shape. Two lines that never meet. We should be able to come up with a joke that has that as an element or punchline, shouldn't we? What do you call two building additions? Pair o ells? Okay, that might need some more work. But it does feature our old crosswordese friend ELL! The shape theme clues helped me get 54A. "Wake Up With AL" co-host. I am not familiar with the show, but I had three of the four letters for 58A. GEAR, geometrically, so I knew the bottom right corner had to be an R, and the only unused letter remaining in the theme clues was K, so I put those in the correct circles and immediately realized the answer was ROKER. Ha!

On a SIDENOTE (11D. Incidental remark), there were a few clunkers. To wit: 50D. Nearing midnight (ELEVEN), which I found unlovely and uninspired. Another non-favorite was 66A. Symbol of authority (REIN). Meh. There also a couple of POOR fillers like SDAK, GTE, and LIRR. I'm fairly sure Huygens is not going to like38D. Lumbago (BACKPAIN) due to troubling associations, but you have to admit Lumbago is a pretty great word.

On the DOS side (13D. Commendable activities), there were several fun clues. I quite enjoyed 69A. Excels over, in slang (OWNS). It was nice to be reminded of Lady ELAINE, from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (53D), and who doesn't love ERNIE (18A. Resident of 123 Sesame Street)? 71A. Halves of an old item? (EXES) is also humorous. Once I got ellA out of DONA's spot, the clever HANGAR (3D. Jet setting) went in and lead to the completion of the puzzle.

In sum, a LARGELY (55A. For the most part) satisfying theme plus some amusing clues to round out the puzzle.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015, José Chardiet

0:10:02 (FWOE)

I quickly realized that today would not be a day that I try for a record time. The NW and NE sections of threes went easily enough, and I actually kind of liked the irreverence of 16A: Icky ____ (awful, in baby talk) (POO) (it's so bad it's good), but that thick central section slowed me right down. After trying "money" for DEEDS (4D: Monopoly pile) and "DOnate" for DOGOOD (4A: Contribute to society), I was off to a slow start. But really, that's refreshing on a Tuesday. I used to advocate more often for an increase in difficulty in the early week puzzles, and this seems just about perfect for a Tuesday. At least for me.

In addition to the added difficulty, I really enjoyed some of the unusual cluing and fill in this one. NOOGIE (44D: Painful bit of horseplay) is something you don't see very often in a puzzle, and with BOOBOOS (2D: Owies) and the aforementioned POO, makes a trifecta of childish fill. Then there's stuff like CABOOSES (3D: Ones back on track?) with its excellent clue, the Monopoly "deep cut" POORTAX (41D: Chance card in Monopoly with a $15 fee), and the Simpsons' twofer (sort of) of BART (27A: Cartoon character voiced by Nancy Cartwright) and SETLOOSE (37D: Release, as the hounds).

And we haven't even gotten to the theme yet! Fourteen SQUAREROOTS are scattered around the grid. I realized what was going on somewhere midway through my solve, but as often happens with an early-week theme, it didn't really come into play at all. It's kind of cool.

There was a potentially difficult spot at the crossing of ROHE (54A: Architect Ludwig Mies van der ____), PERES (50D: Israel's Shimon), and STROPHE (61A: Poetic stanza), but the spot that got me was the crossing of SAGETEA (22A: Healthful herbal beverage) and PEG (15D: Good name for a baseball pitcher?). I guess I've seen that SAGETEA before (in puzzles, I mean, never at a coffee shop or tea house), but I couldn't come up with PEG. It just doesn't make sense to me. 

- Horace

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015, Johanna Fenimore


For a while I was thinking that it might be funny to not do a review today, indicating that the puzzle had "left me speechless," but then, well... it probably wouldn't be interpreted that way by everybody, and, well, it's also not that funny. So let's get on with it, shall we?

The only theme answer that literally means, "left speechless" is DUMBSTRUCK, all the other ones mean, more or less, "Wowed," but I guess "left speechless" means that too, so I don't know why I'm fighting with it. I didn't mind it so much while I was solving it, and I like all the expressions, especially GOBSMACKED.

I also liked all the two-word answers in the grid. HECKYES (21A: "You betcha!"), TAKETHAT (8D: "So there!"), ONESEC (45D: "Hold on ...!"), GREEKGOD (37D: Hermes or Hades), and even the partials APTTO (31: Is ____ (probably will)) and NOTOF (28D: ____ this world), the latter because it looks so odd.

I didn't particularly like the "informally" clues - 14D: Precious stringed instrument, informally (STRAD) and 65A: Transylvanian count, informally (DRAC). But on the other hand, I enjoyed CANTO and KNACK, and HOOKAH, so on balance, I'd give this a thumbs up.

- Horace

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015, Patrick Berry


An amusing Sunday theme. The "ch" sound is replaced by "sh" in several common phrases, and then clued in a humorous way. Frannie's favorite today was 82A: What I unexpectedly had for breakfast? (MUSHTOMYSURPRISE), and I found SHEAFINSPECTOR (112A: Reviewer of the paperwork?) unexpectedly amusing.

There's a ton of theme here - ten long answers! - and yet the rest of the fill isn't too, too strained. There's HYOID (57A: ____ bone (U-shaped bone above the larynx)) (did you know this one, Colum?), COATI (42D: Raccoonlike animal), ETAIL - is this a real thing or just a puzzle thing, I don't get out enough to know for sure?, and a slew of plurals - but really, there's not much that's objectionable. But why should we be surprised? It's Patrick Berry!

Being a Francophile (or am I just a poseur?), I enjoyed the meeting of POSEUR (122A: Fraud) and METIER (93D: Occupation). French fans also get ETRE (17D: Raison d'____) beside DIOR (16D: New Look pioneer).

Frannie tried "molar" for "2D: It's down in the mouth," but you had to go a little further down for UVULA. And I tried "mattress" for "6D: Sleep on it," but for that one you had to go a little higher - BEDSHEET.

I loved the clue for SLAP (24A: Indicator of freshness?), and 7A: Like some photographs and cliffs (SCALED) was unusual. 37D: Flip response? (HEADS) was cute, and 41D: "Dagnabbit!" (BYGUM) was nice and old-timey, and "53D: Arm twister's need?" is the best clue I've seen for ULNA. Also, "63D: Unfair?" is very good for RAINY. And it's just icing on the cake that it's followed by 65D: "____ fair!" (NOT). There are other good clues, but I'll save some of them for you to find as you complete this enjoyable Sunday grid for yourself.

- Horace

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015, James Mulhern


Another fun, tricky puzzle. A couple of gimmes from my teen years helped me get into this one fairly quickly: THEDOORS (15A: 1960s - 70s band that took its name from an Aldous Huxley title) and VONNEGUT (39D: Author who created the fatalistic optometrist Billy Pilgrim). Coincidentally - sort of - Frannie and I recently saw Jim Morrison's grave in Paris. Hi-ho.

And speaking of my younger days, boy oh boy did I dislike Pete Rose in 1975. (It looks like this photo might even have been taken at Fenway.) But nowadays, I side with those who say he should be in the Hall. There, I said it. He was a damn good ball player. (But still I like to imagine that Fisk is holding the ball in his glove here... heh heh heh...)

And one last one from my past - STRATEGO (35A: Capture-the-flag game). Some time ago one of my older brothers confessed that he always let me have red and go first because the red pieces were translucent with a light on behind me. Older brothers... on the bright side, I like to think that losing every game I played - chess, monopoly, basketball, whiffle ball, hockey - until I was about 16 somehow made me into a better game player. I know Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi or some other famous coach once said "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser," but, well... I don't agree.

So where was I? I guess we could segue from the coaches to XSANDOS (8D: Chalk talk symbols), which I enjoyed, once I got it. And off that, I considered "woosh" and "thuck" before getting TWANG (20A: Sound of an arrow being shot). And I'm not familiar with LOEWE as a "6D: High-end fashion brand), but I see now that it's a Spanish brand that's been around since the mid-ninteenth century! 

I liked DOUBT (55D: "The beacon of the wise," per Shakespeare), I didn't know that MIT was the 61A: Alma mater for Benjamin Netanyahu, or that "lutra" was Latin for OTTER. It's from the word "luo" which means "to wash." I don't think I've ever seen Eminem in a DORAG - it's usually a hoodie or a cap - so I didn't love that one, and 34D: Global superpower? was cute-ish for ATLAS, but also not quite right, it didn't seem. 

And finally, I enjoyed the combo of ETILES (50D: Most plentiful pieces in a certain board game) (I was lost for a while when "pawns" was too short), and RSTLNE (51D: Bonus round freebies on "Wheel of Fortune"). 

An enjoyable Saturday.

- Horace

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015, Joe Kroezel


Man, I loved this one! I got in quickly with STINKSTANKSTUNK (17A: "The three words that describe" the Grinch, in song), and ran from there.

I loved the cluing here, especially 10D: What irregulars go for (LESS), 23D: Otto's preceder (SETTE) (Italian. You were thinking rulers, like me, right?), 35A: Subtractions from the division? (AWOLS), 16D: Heeded a herald, say (HARKED), and many others. I tried "STUCKTOtheRIBS" for "12D: Was satisfying, as a hearty meal", but when that didn't fit, I tried the old crossword standby STUCKTOONESRIBS and what do you know, it stuck!

I ended up in the West (and speaking of that, having a vane visible out my window all through childhood made 29D: N-E-W-S directors? (VANES) quite easy), where the D in IODATE (30A: Disinfect, in a way, as a wound) was an educated guess that panned out. Again it was my youth, and the memory of the orangy-red stain that the iodine eyedropper put on each little sliver or paper cut that gave me the right answer. Because EDELS (28D: Writing brothers Leon and Abraham) was never, ever going to come to me.

The fifteens were all decent, the earlier "ones" comment notwithstanding. Again, I loved the cluing on those, too - 44A: Not discouraging feedback (OPENTOCRITICISM), 2D: One doing the rounds very quickly (AUTOMATICWEAPON), and 3D: Something to level with (TRINITROTOLUENE). Good ol' TNT. You don't see it written out all that much, but it'll level just about anything you put it near. Hah!

It had some odd stuff that I had never heard of (EDELS, OHKAY, DAMES), but they didn't hold me up any, and overall, I really enjoyed it.

- Horace

Thursday, April 23, 2015, David Steinberg and Bruce Leban

0:12:11 (DNF)

Boy, this one flew by. Maybe because I had heard the quip already. I was done in about ten minutes, but I had one problem square. I guessed wrong, and ended up having to run the alphabet, which, in my book, is a DNF. The square in question was the M in CIMINO (46D: Michael who directed "The Deer Hunter" and TCM (52A: Setting for many old films). I saw "The Deer Hunter," but I did not take note of the director's name, apparently, and having never had cable television, "Turner Classic Movies" is not something I think about. I barely even know about it. I know TBS, sure, but TCM? Not so much. So there you have it.

Aside from that, there was some stuff I liked in here, and some that I did not like. I enjoyed SLAMMER (5D: Pen), MAZE (10A: Way-out challenge?), MORNAY (27A: Sauce made with roux, milk and cheese) (Good ol' Julia...), HEAP (34A: Jalopy), NOB (53A: Bean), GEESE (64A: Simpletons), and ESCHER (45D; Tessellating artist). SINAI (43A: New York's Mount ____ Hospital) made me think of Colum (as did MED (51A: ____ school) and 50A: Rake in (EARN.)) :) And the full MAUNAKEA (3D: Highest Hawaiian peak) made me think of Huygens.

I didn't think "23D: Chisel, maybe" was just right for ETCH. Does that count as etching? Isn't that more like sculpting? Well... what do I know of it? And is LAPCAT (30D: Pet that likes to be petted) a thing? Isn't it mostly "lap dog" that people say? Oh, I don't know... I guess writing this review has talked me into liking this one. As I was doing it I didn't love it, because I don't particularly like the "quip" type of puzzle, and little things like ENAMELER and NOS bugged me. But on balance, there seems to be more that I enjoyed than stuff I did not enjoy, so let's give it a tepid thumb's up.

- Horace

p.s. Is EPIC going to be in the puzzle every day now? Doesn't it seem like we've seen that an awful lot lately?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015, Alex Vratsanos and Sam Ezersky

0:08:34 (FWOE)

I was so proud of myself for coming up with cHI almost immediately for 14A: Greek letter that's also an M.L.B. city on scoreboards), but in the end it was what cost me a perfect puzzle. I didn't check the down, and AcP didn't make any sense for 1D: 99¢ purchase, often (APP). Always check the crosses!

OK, now that that's out of the way... I liked this theme of PAIRSOFCARDS (56A: Some poker holdings ... or a hint to 20-, 24-, 30-, 41-, and 52-Across). Each theme answer (and it sure seems like the theme is dense in this one - six answers!) can be broken into two words, each of which can be put before "card" to make a common object. "Credit card," "report card," "hole card" (poker reference), etc. I tend to like this type of theme, and this one is done particularly well, I think. The revealer itself is probably the weakest link, as it sounds a bit odd.

The fill is good, too, with lots of nice sevens running into and out of the theme material. Doesn't THECOPA (2D: Hangout in a Barry Manilow hit) always bring a smile to your face? And I kind of like the side-by-side OLDDAYS (45D: Bygone times) and SMASHUP (46D: Major wreck) in the opposite corner. And speaking of that corner, we also find AMY down there! ICEFREE (44D: Navigable in winter, say) seems the most arbitrary of the bunch, but still it makes sense, so it's not much of an issue.

You know, maybe I'm getting a little soft, but it almost makes me smile to see things like ELOI, IPOD, and TOPE in a puzzle. They're like old friends. ACEY and AAS is pushing it, but overall, there wasn't too much of that kind of thing.

Thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015, Gerry Wildenberg


The theme today seems to be a double S vowel progression, with five two-word answers, each beginning with the letter S and having as their second letter each vowel in order. Kind of cool, but right from the start it feels a little strained with SATURDAYSABBATH (17A: Jewish observance). Is that what it's called? I mean, Saturday is the Sabbath, but does anyone talk about the "Saturday Sabbath?" I don't know. Same with the SOLIDSOUTH (49A: Voting bloc from Reconstruction to the 1960s). I haven't heard this term, but maybe that's just because it only was in place, as they say, until the 1960s. If it ever was a thing, it hasn't been a thing for fifty years, and maybe that's a reason to pick something else. And lastly, the theme made no impact on me, apparently, as I was solving the puzzle, because when I got to 55A: Power strip part (SURGESUPPRESSOR), I tried "surge protector," but it was, of course, one letter too short, not to mention not a "double S" phrase.

So overall, the theme felt a little blah to me today. Did the fill make up for it? Well.... not really. The longest of the non-theme material is one plural French word (cross-referenced twice), and a football player who played his last game before the end of World War II. Meh.

Then there's ALTI, ELAND, ADE, EMOTER, CLARO, PRESEXC... and APU doesn't even get a Simpsons clue! Well, that last isn't really a fair complaint, but it did make that clue much harder for me!

This one just felt a little stale. Sometimes that happens, I guess, and when it does, there's always tomorrow. That's the great thing about a daily puzzle subscription!

- Horace

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015, Tom McCoy


A fun theme today of LADIESFIRST (59A: Chivalrous rule obeyed in this puzzle) - four familiar couples have their usual order reversed. For instance, 37A: Grimm fairy tale (hint: 59-Across) is answered by GRETELANDHANSEL. We also get JULIETANDROMEO, JANEANDDICK, and MARYANDWILLIAM (23A: Virginia university).

The fill is pretty clean overall, with some nice bits. I like the word TOUSLE (32A: Mess up, as the hair) for instance, and 12D: Tall Paul (BUNYON) had me stumped for a while. I'm not too familiar with the name OJIBWA (45D: Tribe traditionally living around Lake Superior), but I do know their more common name - Chippewa. DOWNTON (26D: "____ Abbey") is current, OHFUN (55D: Sarcastic comment about the task ahead) is fun, and nobody minds being reminded of the great OTOOLE (44A: Peter who played Lawrence of Arabia).

There were lots of threes, but the worst was probably MTG (29D: Business appt., often), and that isn't even all that bad. Except that it reminds me that I've got a lot of them coming up this week! I never used to have meetings before I took this new job, and now I have them all the time! Ugh.

A fun theme, decent fill, solid Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, April 19, 2015, Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel


I found this to be a pretty tough Sunday, and I was a little surprised when I got the "Congratulations!" screen. It had, for instance, the most obscure Hebrew bible cross-reference I've ever seen - 21A: Source of the line "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind" (HOSEA) and 48D: Follower of 21A (JOEL). Wow.

The "Double Down" theme consisted of a rebus square that allowed several Down clues to be read twice, giving a two-word phrase. For example, "12D: Later" is answered by making the phrase "Not now" (NO[TW]). Get it? Another nice one was 46D: Lunatic (MA[DN]) "Mad man." In the across clues, the letters were just used in succession - 23A: Moving in a nice way (HEAR[TW]ARMING) and 57A: Friendly (GOO[DN]ATURED). Not a bad theme, I guess, but not really earth-shattering. My favorite bit of it might be EVENIN[GS]TAR (83A: Venus), just because it's such a nice sounding name, and it conjures up a peaceful image of being outside in the evening and star-gazing.

There were, I think, eight rebus squares, and they seemed to strain the fill in some unfortunate ways. For example - QUM (72A: Iranian pilgrimage city), TITI (91A: Long-tailed monkey) (it's lucky we just recently saw this!), EGER (25A: Hungarian city), TATATANTARABAABAA, ESSA, ENDOHAIG & HAAG, and some odd-looking partials - ITOR, ASWE, AJAM, ASTO, and IBE. I didn't particularly love EBONIES (53A: A piano has 36 of them), or SAPOR (76A: Flavor), or RESANDS or RESEEDS (87A: Changes the placement of in a tournament bracket), but what are you going to do?

There were also, of course, some clues that made me smile once I came up with the answers. 13A: Mini revelation? (THIGH), for example, was excellent. And coming off of that one, HOMOERECTUS (14D: Old man?) wasn't bad, either. I'm pretty sure Frannie was recently in Den HAAG for something or other, and today she's in London, perhaps doing a few PRESSUPs in the hotel room. (I'd bet a lot of money that she's not actually doing any.) INSINUATION (42D: Sly suggestion) was nice, and the MIKADO always makes me smile.

Overall, I guess I didn't love it.

- Horace

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015, Damon J. Gulczynski

0:17:56 (FWOE)

Damn that ETYMON (50A: Linguistic root)! I guessed "etymol" early on, grasping at the idea that the beginning of "etymology" might be able to be called a "root," and at the end I was so caught up in the intersection of DIAS (22A: Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu who found a sailing route around Africa) (I was wondering for a minute if he might have been a "good" guy whose name was "Hope"... get it?) and BABYSIT (7D: It's easy to do for an angel), that I forgot to check 37D: "Phantom Lady" co-star (RAINES). Was Claude Raines in that, I wonder? No. It was Ella Raines. Who?

Oh well, you can't win 'em all. But my own personal troubles aside, I rather liked this puzzle. The fifteens are solid, and I love the pair of 11s - OKELYDOKELY (3D: All right, to 42-Across (42A: Rod and Todd's dad, in TV cartoondom (NED))), and DIRKDIGGLER (24D: "Boogie Nights" persona played by Mark Wahlberg). And the colloquial flavor of several of the clues felt fresh, too. BELIEVEYOUME (20A: "... and that's no joke!"), OHCOMENOW (32D: "Puh-lease!"), HOWNICE (41D: "Isn't that special!"), and SOUNDSLIKEAPLAN (57A: "Yes, lets!"). And to think I once said I disliked the "quotation mark" clues. Well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, I guess.

I enjoyed learning the word ORRERY (46D: Model in a science class), which is one of these things -

An important early one of which was presented to the Earl of Orrery, and that name apparently stuck. Speaking of etymology, that's a strange one.

ELEANORRIGBY (54A: Beatles song in which no Beatle plays an instrument) got a great clue, and I liked VULGAR (19D: Base). There was definitely a bit of "glue" - as one reviewer put it recently - like OTO, UTE, GOA, ARY, LINA, and a few others, but the big stuff overpowered the small stuff today, and any puzzle that includes the Beatles, THECLASH, Chubby Checker, Isaac Asimov, and The Simpsons gets a thumbs up in my book.

- Horace

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015, Mary Lou Guizzo


My guess is that today's "stunt," if indeed there is one, has to do with the Scrabble point value of the grid as a whole. It's not a pangram, but there are a lot of big point letters. Aside from that, I got nothin'.

photo: Tim Pierce

I was very happy to see our senator, ELIZABETHWARREN (11D: Senator who wrote "A Fighting Chance," 2014) in the grid. I'm guessing this is the first time her full name has appeared in the NYTX. And she was just one of six fifteens slicing through this puzzle, all of them, I thought, very good. HOSTESSTWINKIE (5D: Longtime food product with a mascot in a cowboy hat) (Twinkie the Kid!) made me smile, but the first one I got was MISTERPRESIDENT (9D: Cry at a White House press conference), which really opened things up for me, after having gotten started with crosswordese like ILIE, NTHS, STRO, and OLE.

There was a lot good in this one, but some really tough stuff, too. I didn't know, for instance, that the Sioux were divided into different groups, or that "46D: Sitting Bull, e.g." was in the TETON division. Also a semi-wild guess for me was SAINT BEDE (early adopter of the A.D. dating method). And I think I probably ought to have known BARI (51D: Port of Italy), but I didn't. I've never been down by the heel.

Overall, I liked this one. A fun Friday.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015, Joe Krozel and Peter Collins


Maybe I was ready for this because of "stunt week," but I put in BACKWARD (33A: How the Across answers appear in the bottom half of this puzzle) with no crosses when I came to it, and then worked the downs hard and filled in the backwards answers when I could. Even though I sussed it out early, overall, I loved it. I especially like how the middle row is all palindromes. That's a nice touch. Although, what else could you do, really, in this situation? And the thematic YOUGOYOURWAY/ENIMOGLLIDNA is another nice touch.

This is, to me, just what a stunt puzzle should be. Pretty much the only thing that I had any quarrel with was LBOS (23A: Some mergers, for short), and it's quite possible that many people in the world of finance will recognize the abbreviation for "leveraged buyout." I did not, but the crosses were all fair. Well, if you're familiar with the OBIE awards, that is. Even though they're as old as my oldest brother, I still only know the award from crosswords.

Even with the whole "backward" thing going on, the constructors (Hi Mr. Collins! I'm sure glad I like the first puzzle of yours that appeared after I met you at the ACPT!), in addition to working their first names into the grid, managed to get in some above-average fill. RINGLET (5D: Certain lock), ACERBIC (9D: Sharp), and the pair of "I'm outta here" clues (ADIOS & SEEYALATER) are all quite good. And that clue for SEED (62A: Discord on the far left and far right) is very nice. Sure, we get ESAU, EDUCASHY, and DESREE (who?), but with a puzzle this fun, that stuff doesn't bother me a bit.

I ended up in the SE corner today. Being a Wisconsin fan, I won't mention 51D, but I will say that I liked the clue for IKAHK (61A: Material for work?), and RUOCS (57A: Search hard) is a good word. And, of course, everybody loves NOAM (52D: Linguist Chomsky), right?

Thumbs up. Great start to the turn, but I wonder... what kind of stunts can be pulled on Friday and Saturday? We'll see, I guess.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015, Joel Fagliano


Well OK, it's "stunt puzzle" number three, and so far this is my favorite by a longshot! Mr. Fagliano, you had me at ALLYALL (14A: *Southern pronoun). Franny likes to throw that around from time to time. And frankly, the bilaterally symmetrical entries look really weird if you stare at them for a while. GIORGIO (16A: *Designer Armani), MADEMAD (15A: *Angered), DINEDIN (62A: *Enjoyed home cooking), ILLWILL (59A: *Animus), and DOSIDOS (63A: *Square dance moves). I guess it's true that they are divided into equal halves, but don't you kind of want to see things like "damemad" and "lliwill?" Not that you'd be able to clue those very easily, but still...

There was a point in my solve where I had almost nothing on the right hand side except the erroneous "cheetahs" for LEOPARDS (10D: Antelope stalkers) and the equally wrong "mer" for EAU (12D: Poissons swim in it), but I had wanted JOLIET (8A: Illinois city about 40 miles SW of Chicago) from the beginning, and TDS (13D: Passing concerns, for short?) supported it, so I took out "cheetahs" finally, and that set the whole thing in motion. I'm not crazy about ODEUM (9D: Concert hall), or JANDJ (8D: Tylenol producer, for short), or even GIRDUP (19A: Encircle with a belt) (whaa?), but there's enough good in here that I can overlook those three. And SPAYER

I love ONEOFUS (17A: An ally), which is another thing Frannie likes to say from time to time. I like EARWIG (45D: Insect with pincers), even though I hate earwigs in real life. MARAT (35D: French revolutionary figure) is fun (and sad). And I like the colloquial nature of answers like UMOKAY (29D: "So I guess that's a thing now"), HIYA (41D: Casual greeting), and GLOM (54D: Latch (onto)). And even though I had no idea who he was, I like the "up and down symmetry" of the answer LON (NOL) (60D: With 60-Down reversed, 1970s dictator).

This isn't spotless, but it's interesting, it's got a Gandhi quote, it's got Latin, French, chess... and it's got some tricky cluing - HERD (41A: Drove), and some fun cluing - TIDE (51D: It comes in waves). 

Overall, thumbs up. 

- Horace

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015, Bruce Haight


Another blogger called yesterday's puzzle a "stunt puzzle." Well, this seems like another one. I wonder if Mr. Haight originally tried to use only the letters in his last name, but then had to give in and tack on two from his first name - E and R - for it to work out right? It makes me wonder just how few different letters have been used in a NYT puzzle? Is this the record? I might have to go over to to find out!*

But before I do, let's talk about how this one worked out. We see plenty of crosswordese, abbreviations, and gratuitous plurals in here, too. Maybe it'll be kind of a "here's all the junk you have  to learn in order to whip through a puzzle" week at the Times. You've got your AGHA, ETA, SHAH, ERTE, IRREG, ATRA, EEG... and then you've got some normal ones that have been pluralized, like AGGIES, AHS, SEERS, RAES, SSGTS, HIES, STETS... and then you've got the just plain odd, like REES, ASTR, ISHETRE, TITI, and ARTI. And that's just most of the funny stuff. I didn't even get to SIGHER or RAREE (39A: ____ show, (part of an old carnival)). Whaa?

The big, long, EASTEREGGS (11D: Hidden treasures) makes me wonder if I'm missing something fundamental here. Like really there's something hidden in this puzzle that I'm not seeing. If there were, I'd be much happier about it, but I'm not sure how much time I'm going to invest in looking for such a thing. The other ten-letter entries are all perfectly good, but overall, I'm gonna have to give this one a thumbs down. It just didn't do it for me.

- Horace

* I checked, and yes, this is the lowest letter count for a NYT puzzle. The previous low was ten.

p.s. I have now read that Will Shortz announced that this would be an entire week of "stunt" puzzles.

Monday, April 13, 2015, Alex Silverman

0:06:47 (FWOE)

I knew every one of the Beatles songs immediately, but I was typing so fast over existing crosses that I somehow ended up with PAPEpBACKWRITER (55A: Author's favorite Beatles' song), and it took me about two minutes to find the mistake. Oh well. Haste makes waste, as we all know.

Kind of an odd puzzle today. I like the Beatles, and as I said, I know all these songs, but all of them are now very nearly fifty years old. And are they worth the crosses? Just look at the NW alone, where we find SYST, LEHI, ELEM, and POL. Continuing on through the downs we have SUVS, OBIS, BIOTA, SEEST, SAUR (!), RHEUM, BMWS, RUHR, AVILA, LUXE, QUAYLES, BRYN, NBAER (yuck), ABOY, ITSO, NEUR, and ERNS. And I didn't even mention the odd-looking duplication of FOR and FORM. In my book, the price is too high. Everywhere you look, there's something off-putting. SRA, ARI, AYES, IRS, ETAS. GRR!

The one bright spot, so to speak, is GALILEO (21D: Astronomer who discovered the main moons of Jupiter). And GROWTH (42D: Expansion) isn't bad.

It's kind of special, I guess, to get five fifteens on a Monday, and the little FAB FOUR off to the side is a nice touch, but too much had to be sacrificed, I think, to make this work.

- Horace

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015, Jeff Chen


Well, it was going to happen sooner or later. I was going to have to review a puzzle by someone I met at the ACPT. Mr. Chen was a friendly, likable guy, and what's more, he's now linking to our blog on his own site, How could I possibly give one of his puzzles a bad review? Well, luckily for me, I don't have to face that problem today. This puzzle was a rare Sunday treat - a fun theme, with interesting, non-stale fill. Let's get right to it.

First of all, the theme. Well, let me say one more thing about the ACPT... I was so intent on finishing the puzzles, that I never looked at any of the titles. If I had looked at the title of Mr. Chen's "Puzzle #5," I'm pretty sure I could have figured out the theme in time to salvage a lot more of my score. Today, I read the title and was expecting pretty much just what happened. Frannie's always asking me what the title is (even during the weekdays!) because, I guess, she's one of those people who likes to read the directions before filling in a test. I should take a lesson.

So anyway, we have several Down answers that double back on themselves to complete the answer. As in 2D: Postcard message (WISHYOUWEREH/ERE), and 59D: Wins (TAKESTHETOPS/POT). Very nice. It looks to me like all seven theme answers turn up to use three of the letters over again. They're all symmetrical, and they are all pretty normal phrases. I usually say "On a scale of one to ten," but ONASCALEFROMONETO/TEN (22D: How things may be rated) is perfectly fine, I guess. That's the only one I really have any problem with, and it may just be a regional dialect thing. Or just my own ERROR. The others are perfectly fine.

Second, the fill, in which we find such beauties as LALALAND (83D: Dreamland), GUTBOMBS (21A: Hard-to-digest food items, in slang), and GOTOTOWN (116A: Do something extravagantly). Those are all fantastic. I also enjoyed BATPHONE (4D: Line in Gotham), ECOTAGE (104A: Environmental terrorism), OEUVRE (16A: The works?), SPRAT (58A: Big name in lean dieting) (heh), FARMBOY (74A: Young Clark Kent, e.g.), and REPLETE (60A: Stuffed), just because I like the word.

Sure, there were a few boring bits - ACAI, AGER, STALER... - but overall this was a very good Sunday. No complaints. You keep bringing your AGAME, Mr. Chen, and I can keep giving GRADEA reviews. That way, everybody's happy.

- Horace

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015, Martin Ashwood-Smith



I thought I was off to a great start getting RAJ (1A: Rule ending in 1947) off the clue, and JETLI (3D: 54Down's co-star in "The Forbidden Kingdom") off the J, but after that, it slowed way down. I plowed my way through the very nice (except, maybe, for EDATE) top middle section, and then ground to a halt. A slip on the phone from my brother gave away IMAGE (50D: Something to upload or uphold), and a little further discussion with Frannie about that corner got me off and running again.

I feel a little weird about SONNETEERS (21D: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Edna St. Vincent Millay, notably), even though Millay is one of my favorite poets. Her sonnet cycle "Fatal Interview" is a particular favorite. I guess it's fine as a word, but you don't hear it a lot. I wish, in fact, that it were more widely used with its second definition, which is "an inferior poet." It seems like such a good put-down. "Oh, that new poet laureate? In my book, he's a sonneteer..."

I was all set to rail against TETRIS (25D: Fitting entertainment at an arcade?) as not having been an arcade game, but it googles up just fine. I would argue that most players did not play it at an arcade, though, but I guess that hardly matters. Also, while we're talking about things from a long time ago, when's the last time we saw POG (43A: 1990s collectible) in the grid? And how'd that work out as a "collectible" anyway? Well, I'll tell you. As I type this, a lot of 75 "Hawaiian pogs" has 8 bids and is going for $11.50. Another "complete set of The Wizard of Oz pogs" (50) has seven bids and is currently at $10.00. Who knew these were still traded? Not me.

Lots of nice misdirection today: 61A: General store? (CANTEEN), 15A: Port alternative (MADEIRA), 5D: One getting the show on the road? (CARANTENNA), 40A: Chicken preference? (BEATINGARETREAT), and a great clue for ETAS (34D: Headwinds often push them back, briefly).

The central quadstack is solid, and there are many lovely tens running into and out of it. Not sure I agree 100% with NABS for 30D: Cops, and OLEAN (31D: Allegheny River city) seems pretty obscure. I guess I can't argue with SERI, since it's part of a world capital. But really, that's three semi-questionable things, and a whole slew of ITALIANICE, ENCOURAGED, HANDBEATEN, and TRESPASSER. Very nice.

Overall, I found this to be a fun challenge. Just the kind of thing I'm looking for on a Saturday.

- Horace

p.s. I was looking for you at the ACPT, Mr. Ashwood-Smith, but I actually ran into a man who said he collaborated with you, and he told me you lived out on the other coast. You're in good absent company, though, as I heard that Patrick Berry never shows up, either. Oh well...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015, David Phillips


Boy, I'm bringing Flexeril and Valium to the ACPT next year, because this felt almost like a Tuesday to me. (I don't use those every day, but I had one of each this morning for a medical thing.) Got BOOGIE (1A: Get down) off the excellent clue and ran from there. I've never seen either of the movies referenced in the clue for 36A: Ricky Martin hit sung by Puss in Boots and Donkey at the end of "Shrek 2," but you see Ricky Martin's name and you think - LIVINLAVIDALOCA, right? Similarly, ROLLOVERIRA (17D: Investment option after leaving a job) seemed like a dead giveaway. Even WIREFENCE (30D: Backstop material), which I loved, was put in off the initial W from AWOKE (29A: Came to).

I don't remember where I finished, it was all over so fast, but there were difficulties in the NE. PERMALLOY (10D: Magnetizable nickel-iron combo) was unknown, and CONTESSAS (12D: Old Italian nobles) wasn't exactly a gimme, but I'm happy to have pulled EDIEFALCO (11D: "Nurse Jackie" actress) out of my "crossword only" files, and the crosses were all gettable. Frannie and I were both happy to see EMMET (21A: ____ Brickowski ("The Lego Movie" protagonist)) in there. Good ol' Emmet!

Neither of us much liked SNIPS for 43D: Impertinent sorts. I don't know, is that commonly used? And I don't know what ILO (35D: U.N. agency created by the Treaty of Versailles) is, but, well, I didn't even see that it was in the grid until reviewing things just now.

Overall, I liked it. Interesting grid, not too closed off, and right in my wheelhouse, apparently. Too bad I'm all out of drugs for tomorrow. :)

- Horace

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015, Jacob Stulberg


I had to IM with Frannie today, after staring at the NW corner for about twenty minutes, to ask her for a clue or two. I had the bottom and the right edges, but even with at least one cross in every clue I still couldn't come up with anything! I think she gave me CHIC (1A: In) (ok. I guess that works) and ETAL (17A: Citation abbr.) (don't know quite why I couldn't get this), and then, finally, with three crosses in each of the three downs I didn't have, I was able to get that corner done.

But never mind about all that. I loved this puzzle! And so did Frannie. We both had the same reaction when we got to "5D: How most babies come out," which is to say we both put in HEAD[FIRST] right away and said "Rebus!" And a lovely one it is. The old Abbot and Costello routine about baseball seems appropriate for the week baseball begins,

but I'm not sure the revealer adds much to it, as BASES (63A: Contents of three squares in this puzzle, per an old comedy routine) doesn't really describe what is in the rebus boxes for me. I have WHO, WHAT, and IDONTKNOW, and they're not bases. Frannie left FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD in hers (which also worked), and they are bases, of course, but they would be even without the old routine. But all that sounds too much like I'm complaining. I'm not. I really did enjoy this one a lot.

Two fifteens, two tens, and six nines make this a lively grid. And some of the shorter stuff is quite zippy as well. Frannie loved the clue 37A: Make keen (WHET), which she thought was perfect, and I thought the misdirection in 30A: Notable tower, for short (AAA) was very tricky. And speaking of pronouncing things wrong - I actually asked Frannie "What's OMNI-science?" Heh. It's OMNI-science. Guess I don't have that. HAH! And 54A: You might hold it by a trash can (NOSE) was yet another good one. 45D: General transportation? (STEED). Also nice. Lastly, Frannie liked the "seventies TV Ad" cross of NAIR and GINSU.

A fun, challenging (for me anyway) Thursday. And like the man who SATIDLE said, IREST.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015, Zhouqin Burnikel


Another likable theme. I didn't understand what it was until after I finished, though, because the clue for 66A was obviously TL:DR material when you're trying to race through a Wednesday grid. All that racing got me nothing, however, because *when I put in the N at the cross of ASTIN (56D: Sean of the "Lord of the Rings" movies) and ONE (72A: "Good ____"), I got the "keep trying" message. Grrr... A quick look around turned up the completely wrong "apr" for SEP (25A: Mo. with Patriot Day). Only an idiot like W. would create a day named "Patriot Day" when we already had a "Patriots' Day." But only a bigger fool turns in his completed grid without checking the crosses!

But I was going to say, when Truth broke in with her matter-of-fact about the holidays, I enjoyed the sort of double-edged "trap" theme. Not only is TRAP hidden in three long Across answers, it intersects with a type of trap in the Vertical. So we get "Bear Trap," "Tourist Trap," and "Rat Trap." Not bad. The only slight downside is that ATRAPLUS (17A: Gillette razor brand) had to be one of the theme answers. Well, at least it's the whole name, and not just "Atra."

And speaking of Star Wars, some of the fill was kicking it old-school. I think 57A: Miler Sebastian (COE) was just hitting his stride, as it were, when Star Wars came out [indeed, he had not yet set the 3:47:33 mark that stood for all the years I was running a much slower mile in my high school track meets], LAMOTTA fought his last fight in the fifties, and even "Raging Bull" came out in 1980, Mel OTT retired (and died) long ago, and ICARUS, well... oh, wait, I liked that one! I also didn't mind OLDLATIN (12D: Cato the Elder's language) even though I'm not sure that's really a thing. I mean, sure, Latin changed some over the years, but do people call it "Old" and "New?" I should know the answer to that, but I don't seem to. And speaking of good old Latin, reading the Aeneid (even excerpts!) comes in handy again today with DIDO (61D: First queen of Carthage). That was Book Four, right?

I liked the hidden capital in 49A: Carrier units, briefly (ACS), but I don't remember the one under that - TCI (55A: Cable co. acquired by AT&T in 1999) at all. Also, it's funny to see MWAH (10D: Sound of an air kiss) (right beside PENELOPE Cruz!) again so soon, isn't it?

Let's see, it's time to make a call .... Thumbs Up! Overall, I liked more than I disliked. Early-week complete. Onward to The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, April 7, 2015, David J. Lieb


I have a soft spot for these "sound progression" puzzles, or whatever they ought to be called. In this one, the letters "OUGH" are shown to have five different pronunciations: "off," "oh," "uff," and "ow," and "oo." Nicely done, and the four theme answers are all legit. Ain't nobody doesn't love a DOUGHNUTHOLE (28A: Petite sweet treat), am I right? And we all enjoy a puzzle we can PLOUGHTHROUGH (53A: Complete without a break, as a labour). (Did they throw the U into "labour" there just because this puzzle is so much about the "ou" sound?)

So I liked the theme. And you know what else? I liked the rest of it too! BEDEVILED (18A: Gave fits) is great, SNICKERAT (57A: Find childishly amusing, say), PIECRUST (9D: Edible shell), ONEUPPING (33D: Besting), and EMERSON (42D: Leader of the transcendentalism movement) are all solid. The 57D: That woman (SHE), 42A: Those women of Paris (ELLES) pairing was fun, and the two "nutmeg" clues to start the downs were another nice pair. [note: I tried to embed John Legend's "Nutmeg" song here, but it does not seem to exist on YouTube. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I recommend you google "nutmeg legend colbert" and watch the first hit.]

Good theme and good fill (and I've only mentioned some of it), and for that, I put up with PODIA, VIETMSS, LCDS, and a few other commonly seen crossword darlings. I can't decide what I think of the two Spanish answers, ANONUEVO (37D: Spanish New Year) and NORTE (65A: 90° from oeste), but really, I don't even know why I'm questioning them at all. I love it when they use French answers. I can't be prejudiced just because I don't know Spanish as well! So forget that, they're both fine.

Very nice Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015, Finn Vigeland

Horace and Frannie discuss the NYTXP for realz this time:

HF: So, do you want to write up today’s puzzle?

FP: Well, if it would help you out....

HF: It was pretty nice, I thought.

FP: I liked it, although, as I said, Rex was all fussy pants about it. [can we keep this in, or not?]

HF: The “broken” days were evenly spaced throughout.

FP: I was under 10 minutes until I had to try to find my error.

HF: He’s always fussy. I agree that it was harder than a usual Monday.

FP: Whaaa??

HF: I took 7:29. MOMBASA? Not Monday.

FP: That seemed okay to me because the downs were gettable.

HF: Well, yes.

FP: Maybe I don't have enough Monday puzzle experience. I got stuck on the Tyler Perry clue. L Maybe it's a Monday-level topic, but I do not know much about Mr. Perry.

HF: Yeah, I didn’t know that one at all. MADEA. What the??

FP: I had MAlEA in there, which looked equally fine to me. I put in DIETcOlA instead of DIETSODA for 63A and was so sure it was correct, I didn't think to confirm it with the downs.

HF: MWAH was a little surprising.

FP: We've seen that before.


FP: EDDA is old hat, so to speak. :)

HF: I mean, sure, we’ve heard of it, but it’s not Monday, to me, anyway.

FP: Oh.

HF: Still, there was a lot of good stuff in here.

FP: Maybe you should write up the puzzle then.

HF: I could.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015, Tom McCoy


A fun theme today. I love it when the revealer, or a clue, for that matter, is just so blatant. I think the first one I got was NEMONAUTILUS (10D: Example from sci-fi literature), but that's only because I tried "blacK" for SAJAK (1A: White's partner), and didn't realize that that was a bit too blatant until maybe JIGS (3D: Lively dances) and ATE (4D: Polished off) (they just love this kind of clue!) went in, and then those other two captains and ships came very quickly: AHABPEQUOD (2D: Example from classic American literature) and KIRKENTERPRISE (5D: Example from television).

My favorites might have been CRUNCHGUPPY (63D: Example from advertising) and LINCOLNUSA (75D: Metaphorical example from poetry). Those are very nice.

My favorite non-theme clue was 42A: 7/11 product? (QUOTIENT). Beautiful.

Least favorite clue: 102A: Helpful household pets (RATTERS). Yuck, just yuck. Where these are helpful, a household should not exist.

Overall, the fill felt like a mixed bag. Some lovely, some strained. I know that this is very often the case, but as I was solving, I felt this tipped a bit toward the "strained" side. ONAGER, CENTIMO, BIOTA, and lots of abbreviations. It played hard for me, maybe that's all it was. I mean, the theme was good, and it seemed to be adequately dense... let's call it a wash.

- Horace

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015, Ned White


I slid through this one a pretty good pace, working methodically from the NW across and down, but got hung up in a big way in the SW. I guessed AVIEW (47D: "____ From the Bridge"), and from that got OVERT (52A: Patent), and I had the excellent PLAYFOOTSIE (22D: Work together closely but covertly), but nothing else would come. Finally, I Skyped Frannie, who is in Europe for the Spring, and asked her if she could be of any help. She hadn't done any of it yet, but started in the SW and got it all done very quickly! She says her entrée was MERCI (61A: Spassibo : Russian :: ____ : French), and she fed me that, and confirmed AVIEW, and that was all I needed. But jeez, NORMA (46D: Ibsen play parodying an opera) and RITAS (58A: Awards for romances) are both total unknowns, and NARCOS (46A: Ring fingerers?) is a bit of a stretch, isn't it? Has anyone said "Narco" since the Seventies?

Turns out the RITA award is named for the first president of the Romance Writers of America, Rita Clay Estrada. And "Norma, or A Politician's Love" is an Ibsen parody of Bellini's "Norma," which I have never heard of. So that was tough. RETRO (48D: In again) was nice, and CRACK (49D: First-rate) was a Saturday clue for sure! I tried "primo," and "prime" in there at various times, to no avail. Obviously.

On the bright side, I loved KOPUNCH (41D: Flooring delivery), INTHENUDE (59A: One way to sleep), and SCHEDULEA (62A: Top form) and KISSMYGRITS (10D: Old sitcom retort) were fun. ALOP (27D: Catawampus), on the other hand, was weak. But on balance, I found this to be a good puzzle, and a good challenge.

- Horace

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015, Patrick Berry


OMG. I didn't even notice that this was a Patrick Berry. It makes my blistering Friday time a little less amazing, since I tend to think I've got Mr. Berry's number. Well, not so much that I have his number, but that, as Colum and I were just saying yesterday, his grids are full of such good fill, such normal words, that they seem easier, because you don't have to think to yourself, "What's that stupid little word for this or that that you only see in crosswords?" Anyway, I thought I was peaking a week late for the tournament! And speaking of the tournament, Mr. Berry is one person I really was hoping to see there, but another constructor told me that he never shows up. Is that true? Are you out there? Why won't you come to Stamford to meet your adoring public? Why?

So anyway, now that I know who made it, I guess it's no surprise, as I said, that there is absolutely nothing terrible in here. So clean and smooth. Not quite as open as he sometimes is, maybe, but still plenty of space as you move around the grid, and a nice, thick middle section.

I started over in the NE, where I tried "patsy" for 8A: Sucker (CHUMP), and then erased it when I put in the almost-equally erroneous "ManowAr" for 11D: Saucer-shaped jellyfish. (MEDUSAS). I guess the man-o-war isn't really saucer-shaped. Come to think of it, it might be the only one that isn't saucer-shaped!

With those mistakes to start, it's a wonder I got anywhere at all up there, but PREPPY (12D: Wearing a polo shirt and boat shoes) was a gimme for someone who went to high school and college in the '80s, and SWELLUP (20A: Become big after a hit) came pretty quickly too. HILL (9D: Reason to downshift) is easy for one who still drives a stick, but UKULELE (10D: It's played close to the chest) took at least five crosses. Nice one, that.

Other clues I liked were 51A: One who just can't lose (POORSPORT), 46D: Site of Santa sightings (MALL) (tried "pole" here), 45A: Gentleman's agreement (YESMAAM) (nice!), 54A: "It has quick ears to an accusation," per Henry Fielding (GUILT), and 27A: Place to take an umbrella (BEACH). Simple, but effective. 

Not much more to add. Always a treat, Patrick Berry. Why don't you come out next year? I'll buy you a drink. I promise.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015, Joe Krozel and Timothy Polin


A most unusual grid today. The 48 black squares are in the shape of four letters that can spell out four different words, and those words are used to clue four different answers.

HUTS - 1A: [One arrangement of the grid] CABANAS 
SHUT - 21A: [Another arrangement of the letters in the grid] SEAL 
TUSH - 8D: [""] REAR (!)
THUS - 26D: [""] ERGO 

Not bad. I think the only two I thought about as I put them in were CABANAS and ERGO. That last one was right where I ended up the solve today. I think the W of MEOW (25D: ____ Mix) was the last letter in. Because, no, even though I watched my share of "Dukes of Hazard," I did not know 38A: Tom who played TV's Luke Duke (WOPAT). The only actor's name I know from that show is Catherine Bach.

Shameless, I know, but it leads right into another puzzle answer - OGLED (35A: Made one's desire clear, say). Fun clue for that one. And another nice clue for standard fare was "55A: When the French toast?" (ETE). Heh. Summer... tanning... 

The odd grid forces some less-than-desirable plurals, and some icky short stuff like EDIN (48A: ____ chief (mag. V.I.P.)), IME (22A: The Beatles' "____ Mine"), and UNCA (18A: Donald Duck, to his nephews), but pretty much everything else is acceptable. Even MENON is made ok by its clue (25A: Favorable situation for sluggers), and it crosses NATIONALPASTIME (10D: Baseball tag), so that's nice. When's opening day again?

I liked the huge swaths of open space, and there's some really nice fill in here. SPINALTAP, of course, is great, and ATOMICREACTORS, ALLTHOSEAGAINST, SEASONEDTOTASTE, and STUPIDPETTRICKS are all lovely. And with all that the nice eights become almost pedestrian, but still, RELAXING (30D: Easeful), BLEEPOUT (16A: Censor), ALTITUDE (28D: Your highness?) (hah!), and others are all quite good.

Overall, a fun start to the turn.

- Horace