Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015, Michael Dewey

0:07:32 (FWTE)

Put in Peta today for PICO (66A: Micro : millionth :: ____ : trillionth) and had a grand old time figuring out what went wrong when the "Congratulations!" didn't appear. Well, that's the way it goes, I guess. Sometimes you have to DIVEINHEADFIRST (17A: Attack an endeavor vigorously) in these situations. And sometimes there's water in the pool, and sometimes there isn't. Just ask Teddy.

Those willing to TAKETHEPLUNGE (37A: Get hitched) today will find some ARF-worthy fill, sure, like IVS, REY, AHIT, ANAP, and OLEOS, but if they just HANGINTHERE (26D: "Don't give up now!"), they'll also find such lovely words as MODISH (1D: In fashion), MEDIEVAL (8D: Pertaining to the time of castles and knights), AVENGE (46D: Exact retribution for), and the SEVENDWARFS (3D: Title characters in Disney's first full-length feature). Interesting trivia in that last one, both in the "first full-length feature" part, and in the plural itself. "Dwarfs" is, apparently, the standard plural, according to the Internets, and "dwarves" was invented by none other than J. R. R. Tolkien. Who knew?

Overall, I guess it's fine. Maybe a few too many gratuitous plurals and partials to be a great Monday, but it was at least serviceable.

Tomorrow Colum takes over again, so if you've grown weary of my reviews, you're in for a treat!

- Horace

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015, Lee Taylor


I enjoyed the theme today, which pits familiar expressions against each other. As in, 24A: "He who hesitates is lost, but ..." (LOOKBEFOREYOULEAP), and the better 38D: "Knowledge is power, but ..." (IGNORANCEISBLISS). Some across, some down... good theme.

I didn't love the start (which was nearly the end of our solve today), as GOO seems a somewhat arbitrary answer for "1A: Fake blood, e.g." I guess maybe I'm not familiar enough with fake blood, but I'd sooner clue "GOO" with "Slime," or "Viscous mass," or even "Gunk." If you're going to clue it with "Fake blood," you might as well clue it with "Honey, e.g." or "Toothpaste." And then there's CELLOS clued with "4D: Solo features of six Bach suites." Does that wording seem strange to anyone else? Anyway, I didn't like it. In other areas, I didn't like the cross of AARE and ARO (48D: Michael Sheen's character in "Twilight.") I only knew it because AARE is crosswordese. And I'm pretty sure I've never heard the term DIPSO before.

And there are other little things, like there almost always are, but I don't want to end on a negative note, because overall, for a Sunday, I thought this was decent enough. As I said, I enjoyed the theme, and I also enjoyed such entries as LUFF (84A: Steer closer to the wind), STILETTO (106A: Part of a dominatrix's outfit), FACADE (66D: Pretense), and HOMEFRONT (45D: Sphere of civilian activity during war). And I loved the clue for WEB (32D: It's a trap). So simple and direct. And TBONES (95D: Broadsides, informally) was funny and unexpected.

Still, there's NOVAE, AURORAE, ALEE, APORT, AMAH, ARA, DAR ... I have low expectations for Sunday, and I guess this met them. I didn't SAVOR it, but I didn't hate it.

- Horace

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015, Evan Birnholz


Frannie and I passed this one back and forth on the porch, so we don't have a "time," but we were able to work pretty much "cleanly" from NW to SE, only getting caught up in the middle bottom area. Neither of us "knew" the term SCAREQUOTES (50A: Marks of derision), but we were both "happy" to learn it.

Still, we guessed correctly (what else could it have been?) so we avoided the Saturday FWOE. Phew!

Not as "open" a grid as one sometimes sees on a Saturday, with lots of medium-length fill. I didn't particularly love the NW, with its EARFLAP (3D: Feature of a bomber hat) and XBOXONE (2D: Microsoft release of 2013), but I wouldn't go so far as to say it ANNOYED (1D: Got to) me. OXFORDCOMMA (20A: Much-debated grammar subject) (I'm for them) was nice coming out of that stack, and through that runs the always welcome BRUCELEE (6D: He died while filming "Game of Death"). 

In the SW we have the equally always welcome SEXAPPEAL (42A: It) (Nice clue!), and to have it share a letter with STEAMY (42D: Blue, say) is just icing on the cake. WEIRDAL (36D: Big producer of novelty records, informally) and AXLROSE (37D: "Sweet Child O' Mine" rocker) make stranger "bedfellows" in that quadrant. 

TERMLIMIT (8D: Restriction for some offices), EXOTICA (39D: Things rarely seen), FOLKHERO (26D: Romanticized figure), and HATCHECK (38A: Where a bowler might go on a date) were all quite nice. TINCT (30D: Color) is a bit of a stretch, and CAMERON (40D: Brown's follower) and KNESSET (41D: Mideast diet) were tricky! 

Overall, a decent Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015, Samuel A. Donaldson


A classic Friday. I got off to a fast start in the NW with the excellent LAWYERUP (1A: Prepare for a court battle), the old-school ONEONONE (15A: Common court battle), and the modern GOPUBLIC (17A: Tell the world). It's just too bad that ESTREET (19A: Locale of the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington) wasn't clued with a Bruce Springsteen clue, but I suppose that would have been more of a Monday/Tuesday kind of thing.

It got harder for me after that. STEPPED (11D: Like ziggurats and some mesas) went right in, but MASSEXODUS (12D: Lots of outgoing people) (nicely clued), took quite a bit longer.

I liked the pair of "imposed" clues, preferring FOISTED over SADDLED, but both are good words. The SE is totally solid today. Love WAITWHAT (56A: "Hold on ... did I hear that correctly?"), and ENDNOTES and FIRECODE are also good, and it took me a long time to figure out that both 47A: Single or double (GETAHIT) were being used as verbs. The SW is less good, with AGORAE and ISAO, and I don't particularly love EARLYSTAGE (25D: Embryonic), but FREAKOUTON (26D: Subject to a hissy fit) (another sneaky verb) was amusing. And speaking of the SW, I had "STUDIoS" in for 45A: Writing rooms (STUDIES), and didn't know NED (43A: Leo's advisee on "The West Wing"), so I just could not come up with JETER (43D: Captain Clutch of baseball). Honestly, I was all set to take a DNF, but Frannie took a look at it and finished it up in about two minutes. I also had trouble with GINA (47D: Actress Carano of "Fast & Furious 6," 2013), VERDI (44D: One who made many Shakespeare characters sing?) (I kept wanting a Muse!), and the aforementioned GETAHIT, but Frannie fixed all that up, too.

Anyway, overall I enjoyed the challenge, and I decree this to be a good Friday!

- Horace

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015, Joon Pahk


Stupid college! We read "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison in 20th C. American Lit., and so I put "ellison" in at 17A: "The Invisible Man" author (HGWELLS) without a second thought. Then I went on to finish the rest of the puzzle in about ten minutes, only to end up back in the NW, with nothing but "ellison" in it. The downs wouldn't come, and nothing made any sense. Finally, I said to Frannie "Aren't there two 'Invisible Man' books?" To which she replied, "You mean, besides the H. G. Wells one?" Stupid Frannie...

The G gave me REGENTS (2D: New York State's ____ Examinations), which wouldn't come to me with that L in there. What is that exam, anyway? And why is it in my head? (It's a high school exam.) Anyway, I finished it up after I finally figured out ELLS (6D: Duckbill's tail?) (tried "iLLS" at first, which would also have worked, I think), and REST (7D: Note's counterpart), which I only got just now as I wrote it down. They're talking about music!

I love ARBITER (1A: Ruling party?), now that I got it, but SEAMILE (15A: Mariner's measure) seems almost as arbitrary as INKLESS (13D: Empty, as a fountain pen). It's a nautical mile, and I pity the fool who says it ain't!

Kind of a fascinating theme today, with the "two consecutive letters in reverse order," and I like that it comes with a challenge. Isn't that how you interpret the disclaimer "for which we can't think of a single other common example?" C'mon... I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one thinking about the puzzle for the rest of the day. It's a clever ploy by Mr. Joon "I finished seventh overall at the ACPT" Pahk.

Finally, as I look this one over, I find a lot of unusual stuff to like. DECATUR, HATPINS, ALDENTE, ANNEXED... and to fit in all seven of the theme examples that they (Is Mr. Shortz included in that "we," do you think?) could think of, well, it's an impressive feat. No rebus, sure, but it's still pretty cool.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015, Ian Livengood


I liked the top of this puzzle, but when I got down to LOAMSOIL (49A: Planter's bagful), I cringed a little. And then I was stopped nearly dead in my tracks by HANSARP (51A: Sculptor who pioneered Dadaism). I know of Jean Arp, sure, but who's this Hans? Well, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I either never heard, or didn't remember, that it's the same person. He was German and French, and when he referred to himself in German, he used the name "Hans," and when in French, "Jean." That, in itself, just seems so, so, Dada, and I am quite happy to have learned it from this puzzle. Also on the bottom was the unfamiliar-to-me OSBORNE (58A: Playwright John who wrote "Look Back in Anger"), but you can't argue about stuff you don't know. Especially not authors of pretty famous books (See also: AMOSOZ), and internationally known artists. So that leaves me only LOAMSOIL, which, I argue, is either "loam" or "soil," not both. It's also probably more commonly delivered in trucks than bags. I've seen soil in bags referred to more often as "topsoil," and even though it's basically the same thing, it's a detail that seems significant.

But why am I grousing so much? The rest of this is pretty damn good. SOLARPANELS (12D: Modern energy sources), HOMECOMINGS (24D: When some kings and queens are crowned), YESWECAN (7D: Campaign line of 2008) (If Frank Sinatra says it's okay), and GAMESHOW (35D: Password" or "Pyramid") are all very good. I would have preferred a garlic clue for SCAPES (43D: Outdoor painting scenes), but BANKALARM (20D: Sound during a heist) brought a smile.

The HUMPDAY theme was an odd one, with four CAMELs strewn throughout the grid. They didn't seem to cause much straining in the fill. Maybe EBONS. And although BAHAI, OUSE, and OMAN are all legitimate, they are also a little crosswordese-y. And speaking of crosswordese, it's an interesting clue for OSLO (6D: World capital half of which consists of forest) today.

Overall, thumbs up. A good Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015, John E. Bennett


More circles, and guess what? I liked it! But let's not get too carried away, I thought the "balls" were all normal enough, but in almost every case, they forced less-than-desirable fill. Witness CHROMO, AFTA, RASE, and ENROOT. Not to mention the "second tier" weak fill like AMTS, RESEAT, ASOF, OHFOO, and ABED. Wait, maybe I put OHFOO in the wrong category.

So why do I like it, you ask? Well... I'm asking myself that very question right now, actually. Is it a FOOLSERRAND (20A: There's no reason to go on one) to try to turn this into a positive review after that opening? Will I be OBSESSIVEly EDITING (54A: Academy Award category) all night, trying to work in some entertaining results of PARONOMASIA (56A: Art of punning) (Who knew?) to entertain all o'y'all? Should I just give up and run a Sally FORTH (20D: "... and so ___") comic instead? ... wow... where did that come from? Sorry.

OK, so it wasn't perfect, but it's Tuesday. Don't we cut a lot of slack on Tuesdays? Or is that not quite SPOTON? Am I just overlooking all the DINGS (55D: Game show sound effects) (ok, I like this clue), or did I really DIG (43A: Archaeological site) it? Well... EELWORM, NEWSPAPER, GATOR, PESOS!

- Horace.

p.s. Do we also cut slack for reviewers on Tuesdays?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015, Lynn Lempel


When I finally figured out this theme it made me laugh out loud. It's just so silly! ITSUPTOYOU, or, "its up to u," appears in every theme answer. The answers they appear in are perfectly cromulent, so as far as theme goes, this is a definite thumbs up.

But as we all know, that's only half the battle. What about the rest of the fill? Well, today it's pretty damn good. For one thing, it starts with AMES (1A: Home to Iowa State), which is near and dear to my heart. It's also got such interesting things as SKINDIVING (18A: Activity with a mask and flippers), ROMANESQUE (57A: Architectural style of medieval Europe), ADAGIOS (53A: Slow compositions), CHIDE (9A: Reprimand), and SCOTCH (50A: Chivas Regal product). What more does one need on a Monday? Not much, really, but I also like the vernacular of THEDOLE (56A: Government assistance), the surprise of JUICE (27A: Apple product) (Nice hidden non-capital!), and who doesn't enjoy the phrase "45A: Whole ____ and caboodle" (KIT), or the word "46A: Rapscallion" (IMP)? Nobody doesn't, that's who.

OK, one more that I liked - 35D: Nickname that's an alphabet trio (STU). Clever! I'm going to say this was a downright ELEGANT Monday offering. Here's hoping the rest of the week is just as good!

- Horace

Sunday, August 23, 2015, Joel Fagliano


Before we get to the review today, we'd just like to express our condolences to the family and friends of Merl Reagle. I had the pleasure of seeing his stand-up comedy act at the ACPT this year, and, of course, of solving one of his puzzles during the tournament. His unexpected death is a great blow not only to those who knew him, but to crossword fans and wordsmiths everywhere. Will Shortz's piece on the man is here.

Today's puzzle by Mr. Fagliano, appropriately but coincidentally, I'm pretty sure, features the wordplay of anagrams as a theme. Popular bands and artists are anagrammed into musically-themed, punny fill. For example, 23A: Alternative band that sounds like every other alternative band? (INDIECLONE) is an anagram of CELINEDION. AEROSMITH is transformed, amusingly, into HIMAESTRO (66A: Greeting to a conductor?). And it's nice that CAROLEKING would actually fall under the category of GENIALROCK (87A: Friendly music genre?). Not bad.

My favorite non-theme clue/answer today is 19A: Spot check? (LEASH). Excellent. 27A: Check time (PAYDAY), 15A: Nothing, slangily (JACK), and 62A: Good deal (LOT) (both missing the preceding "a") were also good. And I liked "Et tu?" being used as a clue instead of fill for a change!

There's the usual amount of "glue" - ESA, BAA, EWE, OSTE, ORO, etc. - but I think it's kept under control. It's not exactly sparkly, but it's decent enough.

- Horace

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015, Barry C. Silk


We spent an awful lot of time today up in the NW corner. RAYE (2D: Comedian once called the Female Bob Hope) next to IVES (3D: "A Little Bitty Tear" singer, 1962), next to SYS (Awacs component: Abbr.), next to HJHEINZ (5D: "It's red magic time!" sloganeer, once), next to JOANNE (6D: Part of J. K. Rowling's "J. K.") was a pretty tough block. Even after I knew it was Heinz, I wasn't sure about the HJ part, and what's the story with Awacs not being in all caps? Was that a mistake? It Googles up with all caps. Luckily, Frannie knew JOANNE, and she had also heard of Martha RAYE, but only after we got the whole thing. And AES (19A: J.F.K.'s U.N. ambassador) is pretty tough, too!

Anyway, that probably took us half the time today. The rest of it went along fairly smoothly. 12D: Not pass the bar? (RUNAGROUND) is pretty nice, as is 37A: One fixing flats? (TUNER). Not even on Saturday will they lose the questions marks, though. Oh well. Pretty tough clue for KERN today, using the second definition - 31D: Typeface projection. And speaking of tough, I left "twisT" in for quite a long time for "27D: Oliver of stage and screen" (PLATT). Who's ever heard of Oliver Platt? Oh wait, I just looked him up. I know that guy! I guess I just never knew his name. Oops! Sorry, Mr. Platt.

52A: One playing to the balcony? (SERENADER) (again with the question mark!) was cute, as was 39D: Inn in an inlet, say (BOATEL). Frannie and I once stayed in a BOATEL, or, really, a "bostel," because it was actually a youth hostel that was housed on a boat in Stockholm. I wonder if that's still in operation?

Anyway, some clues were pretty obscure - JUNIPEROIL (26D: Aromatherapy option), LUISE (23D: Rainer of "The Great Ziegfeld"), and that whole NW - but overall, the fill was high quality. Thumbs up.

- Horace

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015, David Steinberg


I enjoyed this offering from the reigning ACPT "C division" champion. It's a somewhat uncommon grid, with tight passageways from one section to another, but the whole thing flowed pretty well, thanks, in part, to APPLECIDER (5D: Drink sometimes served hot) and BRONXCHEER (29D: Show of disrespect) both being common, gettable-with-a-few-crosses answers.

I enjoy the slanted fivestack of nines in the center. Mmmm.... CLAMBROTH (25A: New England stock)... and 32A: Supreme leader? is a great clue for DIANAROSS. It would be even better if they had been called "The Supreme" instead of "The Supremes," but I think the effect is pretty much the same.

Of the couple of paired clues today, I prefer the "15A: Sea menace" set (PIRATE/ORCA). I also prefer an H on my MOOLA (13D: Kale), and beside that, even with an H, ORBACH (12D: Jerry of "Dirty Dancing") is a pretty obscure name.

But even though it sounds like I'm doing a lot of grousing, I enjoyed this puzzle as I solved it. Maybe because it went by so fast I barely had time to notice the soft spots. As I look back through the clues now, though, I find I have to complain about question marks. Others have been vocal about them before, and I go back and forth on the topic, but today, I side with those who favor fewer. Take "20A: Backing for some U.S. currency?" (LINCOLNMEMORIAL). It's almost a dead giveaway that it will be something depicted on the back of a bill, isn't it? And that takes away a little of the joy of discovery when you finally do get it. A question mark on a clue is like somebody telling you a joke, but preceding it with a long litany of "Boy, you're going to love this one." "I laughed and laughed for days after I heard this." "You'll bust a gut..." ... "14A: Call girl employer?" (AVON), "1A: Place to lead a private life?" (BASE), and even "33A: Underground, perhaps" (HIDINGOUT), where the "perhaps" is basically a question mark, these are funny and unexpected. Or they would be if you hadn't already been set up to start thinking about a perverse answer.

Boy, I really am doing a lot of complaining today. Let's end on a few more nice bits, and then I'll stop NATTERing. 33D: Ear coverings (HUSKS) was good, QUERIED (34D: Asked) is always fun, "52A: States in Monopoly, e.g." (AVENUE) was tough, and would probably have been tougher if I hadn't just gone through the mental exercise of trying to come up with all the property names on a standard Monopoly board when I was out at Huygens' house recently.

Overall, I guess I like it less after having reviewed it, but I still think I come out on the positive side today.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015, Jules P. Markey


Is it wrong of me to want a rebus every Thursday? Probably, but that's the way it is. And with that in mind, I am prepared to say that this is just what a Thursday puzzle ought to be.

I knew something was fishy almost immediately, as most solvers probably were, when I hit 4D: Wee 'uns in Scotland (B[AIR]NS). At first I tried "B[ai]rn," thinking both that maybe "bairn" could be used as a plural and that the theme might revolve around "artificial intelligence." When I got to PR[AIR]IEDOG (17A: Great Plains tunneler), I figured out that it must revolve around "air" instead, and that even if "bairn" were able to function as a plural, that it didn't need to here. Phew!

I like it that the revealer - COMPRESSED[AIR] - uses the rebus. Sometimes I've seen it where the revealer explains, but doesn't use. This does both, and I love it! CL[AIR]VOYANT (50A: Visionary) is lovely, AST[AIR]ES (73A: Sibling duo in "Lady, Be Good!," 1924) made me laugh because of Tuesday's puzzle/review, and P[AIR]OFSOCKS (27A: They rarely cover more than two feet in one day) was excellently clued. So thumbs way up on the theme.

But what about the fill? Well, let's look at the start - 1A: Bagatelle (BAUBLE) is strong, and 1D: I.Q. test pioneer (BINET) is tough, but the crosses were all fair. Two abbreviations on the rest of the top row are iffy, and UPHOLDER (14A: Sustainer) is just barely ok, but elsewhere things pick up again. TRUDGE (70A: Walk laboriously) is a good word, ENTRUSTS (69A: Charges, as with a responsibility) is solid, KNELT (30D: Prepared to engage?) made Frannie chortle, and I thought "60A: Bouquet" was a good clue for SCENT. Sure, we get the usual helping of ESO, EMTS, EDDA, and ORS, but the good far outweighs the bad here, in my opinion. Heck, I'm not even going to complain about EVENER.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015, Timothy Polin

0:12:18 (FWME)

Another sloppy puzzle for me. I hemmed and hawed over OVIPARA (10D: Egg-laying animals), but eventually put it in because STRAP (21A: Flogging implement) seemed to be right. I would have preferred "wet noodle" there, but one can't have everything. Anyway, when I didn't get the "Congratulations!" screen and the music I ran the alphabet on that P, to no avail. I then spent a few more minutes going through every answer. I quickly found that I had left in "wHir" where CHOP (14A: Use a Veg-o-Matic) belonged. Totally wrong, "whir," but sometimes when solving electronically you enter something in a panic and then it comes back to haunt you. It is an argument for solving on paper, perhaps, or for just taking your damn time and solving a puzzle the way you're supposed to. Either way, that was one (or three) of my errors. The other was that I spelled KRAKEN (25A: Sea monster of Norse myth) with a C, which made ROARK (9D: "The Fountainhead" hero Howard) wrong, too, but since both still sounded right, I didn't notice it for quite some time.

Anywho, you don't want to hear me prattle on about my mistakes, do you? No! You want insightful criticism! You want witty banter and obscure references! You want erudite appraisal! You want assigned value! You want a simple "Thumbs up" or "Thumbs down!" You want product! You want it all! ... what do I know what you want? What does anyone want? All I know is that you probably will come away disappointed if you actually "want" anything. From this blog or from life. There. You're welcome.


The theme today is quite pretty, actually, especially if you picture each of the falls. (I've started you off above.) It's a little weird to have two fifteens that are unrelated to the theme, but CALIFORNIAGIRLS (17A: Per the Beach Boys, they're the cutest in the world) are always welcome. FOURSTARADMIRAL (59A: Chester Nimitz or William Halsey) was a little surprising, since "four star general" also fits, but I got there eventually. A few unfortunate and/or tough R-answers appeared - RIATA, REZA, RAJIV - but overall, the grid is relatively clean.

Some fun cluing for VAIN (16A: Fond of self-reflection), VICTIM (49A: Mr. Boddy, in the game Clue), and THEIRS (39D: His and hers), and it took me quite a while to understand that "sewer" was supposed to be pronounced "sow-er" in 39A: Sewer's protection (THIMBLE). I kept wondering how "manhole cover" was going to fit in there. Derp.

Some tough names, some crosswordese, but overall, a decent Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Bill Thompson

0:15:33 (FWOE)

Man, this took me forever for a Tuesday. Lots of stuff that I just was not expecting. And the trouble began right at 1A: Complain loudly (YAWP). It's not a word I think of very often. And it didn't help that YOGA (1D: Exercise discipline) took almost just as long. JOSE (27A: Tenor Carreras) was an unknown (I actually considered "Josh" at one point), and ZONKS (40A: Crashes, with "out") was not on the tip of my tongue.

Lots of tough names today, too. I've heard of JAYZ (27D: Rapper born Shawn Corey Carter), of course, but I didn't know his given name, nor had I ever heard the name ADELEASTAIRE (48A: *Half of a brother/sister dance duo). SEALE (13D: Bobby who co-founded the Black Panther Party) is not entirely unfamiliar, but I needed every cross to be sure of it. Two eponyms in the grid, with WANG (3D: First computer company to run an ad during the Super Bowl) (fascinating!), and APGAR (20A: Kind of test for newborns). That second one is rather interesting, because it is associated with not one, but TWO "backonyms," both centered around that test: "Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration" and "American Pediatric Gross Assessment Record." Another mnemonic for the test is "How Ready Is This Child?" (Heart rate, Respiratory effort, Irritability, Tone, Color." You'd think with all that work making sure people remembered it, that it would have been easier for me to get! Well, hopefully with all this writing about it, it will be easier for me the next time I see it. Which, if the recent past is any indicator, will be tomorrow. Heh. Add to all of that four characters from fiction, two I knew and two I didn't, and a "49D: Miami golf resort" (DORAL), and you've got the makings of a pretty tough Tuesday.

I didn't mind the challenge, though, and I enjoyed, as I often do, the long downs. SKILLSET (38D: Everything one can do) (nicely clued!) and SUGARPEA (10D: Legume with an edible pod). PAT (44A: Word that, spelled backward, can be a clue for itself) was cutely clued.

My error was at CTA (Inits. for Windy City commuters) and PACMAN (46D: Game with a "perfect score" of 3,333,360) (who knew?). I recognized my error when I saw PArMAN, but I guessed at the Windy City transport initials. I've spent not a little time in Chicago. It was many years ago, though, and all that stuck from the subway was "el," I guess.

I guess I'll say I liked it. The theme answers were not perfect, but I appreciate the early-week challenge of the overall.

- Horace

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015, Andrea Carla Michaels


An amusing theme today - three fifteen-letter answers, the beginnings of which spell out "HAR, HAR, HAR," or, LAUGHINGOUTLOUD (65A: Bit of textspeak, unsharpened ... or a hint to the starts of ...). It's not every Monday that we see four answers that span the whole grid, so that's nice. On the down side, two of the three theme answers are quite old fashioned. "The Hardy Boys" and "Harper Valley PTA?" You've practically got to be a HARVARDGRADUATE to get those ancient references!

As for the rest of it, there's plenty of dusty supporting material. ALF (25A: Furry TV extraterrestrial) (off the air before XCI), ALI (35A: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" boxer) (last fight, 1981), OZAWA (16A: Seiji ____, former Boston Symphony director) (retired 2002). OK, so maybe they're all classics. So is Deborah KERR and KUBLA Khan, but it doesn't make them any less "fresh." Add to those staid answers Latin like ETTU and QUA, and standbys like ETNA, SERE, ALEE, SWEE, ELAN, EZRA, AFRO, and URSA, and you've got an uphill battle on your hands.

Everything just seemed a little flat. Maybe it's me. I've had a pretty rotten day.

- Horace

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015, Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel


The theme today is the past tense. It was overly ambitious, it seems, to try to turn such an inactive topic into an engaging hook. The porch crew (Frannie, ET59, and me) found this one a little too easy and a little too flat. The last square for all of us was the guess of "S" at the cross of ENSOR (49D: Newsman David) (Why not use the Belgian artist?) and GSA (62A: Fed. property agency) ("General Services Association"). ALAS.

On the bright side, we all enjoyed the opening stack in the NW - AFFIANCED (1A: Engaged), RAINDANCE (18A: Pueblo Indian rite), and MINKSTOLE (22A: *Pricey wrap) which is filled with interesting stuff. I enjoyed the nearby ATHEISTIC (29A: Rejecting higher authority?), and who doesn't love an ECLAIR (8D: Patisserie buy)?

We were all slightly surprised by GALILEO (109A: "Two New Sciences" author), as the title led us to expect a more modern author.

Is it weird that BREAKGROUND (122A: *Start of a construction project) is made up of a present tense verb and a past tense verb? And I suppose "Power," "Dog," and even "Kid" could be taken last present tense verbs, too. But that's getting a little too picky, maybe. But then, there's names like DORS, and KNUT, and ESAI, and fill like HBAR, ENNA, and ASES. Overall, meh.

- Horace

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015, Jeff Chen


Frannie and I passed this one back and forth on the computer, while ET59 sat near us doing it on paper. I could go turn on my computer to see the time, but I'm just not going to. I think it was around 45 minutes. Anyway, the overall consensus on the porch is positive. ET59 very much enjoyed the "faux MLB" clues - 49A: Cubs' supporters, maybe (SHEBEARS) and 16A: Jays' fan, maybe (BIRDER). Very nice misdirection there. Frannie liked 21A: Setting of many a revival (EMERGENCYROOM), and 40D: Slips of paper? (ERRATA). Me, I liked THOUGHTPOLICE (Iconoclast stiflers), and ORDEROUT (10D: Call for Chinese, say). And we all enjoyed SMARTASS (53A: Snarky sort) and HANSOLO (Film figure who said "I take orders from just one person: me"), but is that too much of a duplication? :)

PEACOCK (29A: Recipient of Argus's 100 eyes, in myth) was great. I just heard this story within the past year or two, but did I remember it? No. Not until I had all but just a couple crosses. Another one that took far too long was PENCAPS (20D: Things removed before signing).

ET59 looked up SHORTTON (U.S. freight measure) and found that it was the same as a normal ton (2,000 pounds), and that the "long ton" is a British measure equal 2,240 pounds. This difference was the major cause of the War of 1812, we believe.

Some "glue," to borrow one of Mr. Chen's own coinages - OVOIDS, PSAS, & ASTI, but those aren't really all that bad. And we split on SUVA. Well, actually, we don't really split - none of us knew it, not even my geologist father, but we all enjoyed learning this capital of the Fiji Islands.

Overall, a very good Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015, Natan Last and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


There were definitely some highlights today, like the cleverly clued JABS (52D: Ring exchange) and ETTU (35D: Response to an attack by a group of senators), and the amusing TAKEABATH (34D: Lose one's shirt), TRAP (10A: Pie hole), SWAMI (15A: Know-it-all?), JUMBOTRON (52A: What might make you a big fan?), and AFFLUENZA (1A: Woe that's the result of extreme materialism).

The solve went along pretty smoothly today. I'm particularly proud of knowing FERMI, GIGI, and GANESH without crosses, but needing every one for ANWAR and TEK. That's just who I am, I guess. Take it or leave it.

I liked the interestingness factor of LYDIA (4D: Girl's name derived from the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom). It seems we just saw GILPIN (28A: Peri of "Frasier") (clued in the opposite way last time, I think), but I still couldn't come up with it. And OMAGAZINE (19A: Hearst publication since 2000) has been in at least a few times this year, so that wasn't as hard as it might otherwise have been.

In fact, the whole thing seemed a little on the easy side. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The NYET/NEIN (European refusal) was fun. I also enjoyed the "It's true!" pair (AMEN/BELIEVEME), but for some reason I didn't go for the "What ____?"/"What ____!" (ELSE/ADRAG) quite as much. But hey, maybe that's just me, and hey, they tried to bring it together with 29D: "That ____ true" (ISSO), but maybe it's just trying a little too hard.

I don't know if you'll end up saying I WENTEASYON this one or not, but I am forgiving the WEAK DRIBS like ODEA, NOHO, and NOLO, and giving it a thumbs up overall.

- Horace

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015, Jim Hilger

0:33:29 (F.W.O.E.)

My error today came at the cross of SHAVETAILS (11D: Rookie officers, in slang), which I don't remember hearing before, but which makes some sense if you think of haircuts, I guess, and HAG (16A: Beldam), which was clued by a word I did not know. Amusingly, the etymology is from the French bel in the relationship sense, and dam meaning "mother." So it basically means "mother-in-law." Heh. So wrong. I enjoyed learning that, but I'm not sure I like the duplication with OLDBAT (29A: Biddy).

The theme was pretty good. I filled in the squares with a [BREAK] rebus, but I don't know if it was necessary. I did so when the clock didn't stop after I filled in everything but the four squares, then I found I had that error, but I never went back and erased the rebi, so who knows. I got three of the breaks, and I knew where the other one went, but it was Frannie who finally figured out SER_VICE (23D: Turning point in a tennis match, maybe). I kept wanting "break point" or "game break..." SPR_INGVACATION (36A: A couple weeks off partying in Florida, say) seems a little off to me. It's either "Spring break," or "Spring vacation." It's never "Spring break vacation." Lastly, I was thinking of HEA_RT (46D: Lover's hurt) as "broken heart." I guess it makes more sense to keep them all the same and have it be "heartbreak," but I prefer my own interpretation, which I think works just as well if you're solving on paper and just leave the square blank.

Little things bugged me today. JAWED (6A: Gossiped) doesn't seem quite right for the clue. I think of "jawing" as just general talking, not necessarily gossiping, which is specific talking. And who's ever heard of 8D: The World of Suzie _____ (1957 novel) (WONG)?

On the other hand, I liked a lot, too. DCAREA was unexpected, though it shouldn't have been. As was LAPD (27D: Pacific force, for short). Good one! BROOD (61A: Nestful) is fun, PLIERS (26A: Electrician's tool) was clever, because for a while I was trying to jam in something like "circuit breaker." SEAL (23A: Approval indication) was a great answer for that clue. In fact, let's just stop there, because even though I had some complaints, I still give this one my seal of approval.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Tom McCoy


Interesting theme today. All the theme answers use only letters that appear the same when viewed in a mirror, or, put another way, they exhibit SELFREFLECTION (11D: Activity on Lent or Yom Kippur ... or a quality of every letter in the answer to each starred clue) (What a pity that the word itself does not exhibit it). And it's only fitting that they should appear vertically, so that their shared quality should be better appreciated. As answers, they're all decent - good even. I like the irreverence of TOMAYTOTOMAHTO (3D: *"Same difference"), and the colloquialism of THATAWAY (38D: *Where "they went," in old westerns). So thumbs up for the theme.

There's a lot of theme material today, and many of the crosses hit two or three of the theme answers, so I guess it should come as no surprise that we see a word neither Frannie nor I have ever encountered before - PANGOLIN (20A: Scaly anteater).

Let's talk for a minute about the PANGOLIN, shall we? First of all, just look at it! It's positively prehistoric! But it's a mammal. The only scaled mammal. Second, it's about the size of a house cat, and its tongue can be longer than its body - about 15 inches! Freaky. It is also, according to one source, the most hunted and trafficked animal on Earth. The scales, meat, and blood are apparently prized in Asia. Some say they have healing/medicinal properties. As a result, it is listed on many endangered lists, except that no one really knows for sure how many are left in the wild. So thanks, Mr. McCoy, for bringing this little guy to our collective attention!

After that, I don't have much to say. Glancing at the grid just now I see such GLORIOUS answers as MIASMA (22A: Unpleasant atmosphere), MAHIMAHI (56A: Fish also known as a dorado) (also did not know that!), TOEHOLDS (41A: Points of entry), and STACHE (50A: Something just under one's nose, slangily). Tons of threes, but I don't care. I even enjoy the crossing of OMAHA and TOPEKA.

I declare this an excellent Wednesday.

- Horace

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Jay Kaskel and Daniel Kantor


Hmm… I see another theme developing this week - NABOB is in again for the second day in a row, and it's almost as though the clue were pulled from yesterday's review! "35D: "Nattering" sort in a Spiro Agnew speech." Hah!

The big surprise today - STROHS is a classic beer! Ha ha! Oh, wait, I meant to say that the surprise was that it was once brewed in Detroit. I guess I thought of that as a Wisconsin product, but perhaps that's because I was in Wisconsin when I used to drink it… I see now that the same brewery at one time or another also put out "Old Milwaukee" and "Lone Star." Strange.

I recently disliked a "circled letter" puzzle, but this one, I think, is better executed. The letters P, O, R, and K are spread out across each theme answer. Sure, one of the answers uses the much-maligned "one's" construction, but the other three are fine, and the revealer is positively mouth-watering. Mmmm…. PULLEDPORK….

Tell me, how many of you tried to enter "Santa" at 1D: Reindeer herder (LAPP)? And when I first looked at ATONCE (12D: In a New York minute) I had a "kitwo" moment and thought to myself "Is a tonce something like a trice? Heh. What a maroon. 

A decent enough Tuesday. Some stuff that's a little OLDHAT, but hey, they got UBER in there, and the theme is fine. Onward!

- Horace

Monday, August 10, 2015, C. W. Stewart


Mmmmm…. cheese…..

Who doesn't like cheese? A block, a wedge, a slab… it's all good. A tasty theme today with an interesting dispersion - some vertical, some horizontal, and concentrated in the NW and SE. The phrases that contain the cheese shapes are all normal enough, and the revealer is last, and really brings the whole thing together nicely. I had no idea what was going on until I got down there.

It put up more resistance than Monday's sometimes do. I got APSES (1D: Cathedral areas) quickly enough, but it came instantly because I thought of "Apex" at first for 1A: Pinnacle, and I actually put that in, which made CEASE (2D: Stop) very difficult. I guessed MENTALlapse for MENTALBLOCK (3D: *Inability to recall something), and so on. But I'm not complaining. I enjoy an early week puzzle with some tooth.

There's really not much to leave a bad taste in this one. I knew BEEB (31D: British network, with "the") from being burned by it very early on in my blogging days. And NABOB (25D: Big shot) I know from hearing my dad joke about Agnew's crack about the "nattering nabobs of negativism." HOCKS (49D: Takes to a pawn shop) is a good one, and of the pair of "Many, many years" clues, I prefer EPOCH. Basically, the puzzle just PURRS along.

I'm not quite sure I'd agree that WRYER is "48D: More twisted, as humor," or if I'd say that a TREK was necessarily "arduous," but still I enjoyed this one. To me, it was a perfectly good Monday.

- Horace

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sunday, August 9, 2015, Melanie Miller


A fun Sunday theme today of clues that pretend to start a job listing, and are finished by ordinary sayings that are reinterpreted in a punny way. My favorite might be 80A: Need cruise ship band to ... ROCKTHEBOAT, but 89A: Need orchestra conductor to ... FACETHEMUSIC isn't bad either. And, well, 114A: Need blackjack dealer to ... HITTHEDECK is funny, too. Wait, wait... I forgot about my real favorite - 37D: Need stunt pilot to ... FLIPTHEBIRD. HAH! Hi-larious. And speaking of that one, it's nice that a couple of the themers go vertically. And did you notice the Easter egg (CANDYEGG?) bonus theme at 106D: Fill a position (HIRE)? Heh.

In the fill, LIP (55A: Bit of sauce) and DEMO (122A: Musical pitch?) are both nice. STYE is clued well with "3D: Bad eye sight." 86A: Something rolling in the dough? (YEAST) is sort of okay. The pair of 9D: Mark off? (DEMERIT) and 87D: Marks taken off (ERASURES) is good, and WILES (12D: Foxiness) is an excellent word.

We are not BESET by much junk today. There's the dreaded ELHI, the odd ALGA (16D: Bit of marine life), and the suffix ETTEBLATS (39D: Calf cries) is missing an E, and DODO isn't quite what I think of when I hear "109D: Dullard," but I'm not going to get all HETUP about it. Overall, this is pretty clean. Especially for a Sunday. I say thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, August 8, 2015, Alan Arbesfeld

0:56:29 (F.W.O.E.)

Today was kind of a slog. A few fun or interesting answers, like LIBRARY (37D: Place where many spines are visible) (went in immediately), BIO (43A: Cutting class, for short?) (didn't), and PARIS (12D: "Do not deny to him that you love me" speaker, in literature), but the greater part seemed to be groaners like ORLE (50A: Heraldic border), UNARY (49D: Involving a single element, as a math operation) (whatever you say), and RESAT (47D: Convened anew). I also have a problem with AREOLAE (14D: Eye parts bordering on pupils). The clue hits one definition of the word, so I know it's legit, but it does not Google well at all. Additionally, there is sort of a semantic doubling with CORONAS (40D: Heavenly rings).

On the brighter side, the stacks were fine. BREAKOUTINARASH (60A: Get bad marks?) was probably my favorite. RAISETHETITANIC (55A: 1976 novel featuring adventurer Dirk Pitt) seems a little obscure, but perhaps you knew it right away.

Our difficulty came today at the cross of ETAMINE (33A: Light cotton fabric) (never heard of it) and AMICE (29D: Garment worn partly under an alb) (ditto). Seems unfair, but hey, it's Saturday, so I'm not complaining too much.

Overall it just rubbed me the wrong way. A disgraced college football coach, a potentially lethal, addictive stimulant, abbreviations galore… Didn't love it.

- Horace

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015, Peter Wentz


Even with Frannie chatting with me as if I were doing nothing at all over here in my rocking chair, I still zipped through this thing in under twenty, which, for me, is pretty good for a Friday.

I got started quickly with TRACTS (1A: Stretches of land), which seemed a bit, well... plain. I mean, TRACTS is a nice word, but maybe it's a word that can only be clued in an obvious way. Come to think of it, maybe all somewhat fancy words turn out to be gimmes if you know them. Well... wait... I mean, of course they're gimmes if you know them, but maybe it'd be hard to clue TRACT in a way that wasn't a gimme. "Expanses?" "Realms?" are those too obscure? ("Realms" might not be quite right....) But then, STOLID (61A: Wooden) didn't come as quickly, and that's kind of an exotic word, clued in a way that is clear and direct.

But forget all that - I really enjoyed this puzzle. For starters, the grid itself is lovely with its pleasing diagonals and its thick corners. It's only got four three-letter answers, and the worst of those is ESP (9D: "The Dead Zone" ability, for short), and that's perfectly fine. I enjoyed TAZ (22A: Animated devil) which I got instantly, and the cluing on the other two was excellent - 60D: Place to go in London (LOO) and 54A: Bound, slightly (HOP). That's fun cluing.

Just look around at this thing, there's LOTSA interesting, long stuff everywhere. IRONCLAD (59A: Airtight), FAKEDOUT (62A: Had going the wrong way, say), and FLEWSOLO (64A: Acted alone)? - That's a great stack! And how is it held together? With STIFF, CORAL, AWOKE, RENEW, LCDS (ok, one abbreviation, but it, too, is clued well, with "56D: Monitor things, briefly"), the aforementioned LOO, RONPAUL, and TRIEDTO. So-lid. And in the NW and SE, the solid stacks are held together with even longer solid stacks.

LCDS, TORIC, RLESS, and IBID are AOKS with me when it gives us a puzzle as lovely as this. Fine work, Mr. Wentz.

- Horace

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015, Gary Cee

0:17:46 (F.W.O.E.)

OMG! Mr. Shortz has GOT to be reading this blog. How else could it happen that ASOF (6D: Starting) could appear again today? For the third day in a row!?! I just... can't... even...

Kind of a light Thursday theme today. Three-word phrases built with two words and their proximity. As in: BAPTISM [by] FIRE (3D: With 14-Down, literally, grueling initiation), ASIF [by] MAGIC (beyond rational explanation), TRIAL [by] JURY (a Sixth Amendment right), and LEAD [by] THENOSE (control completely). Nice enough. Clean. Unstrained. As I said, it seems a little thin, but maybe it's super tough to stack theme words like that side [by] side. I guess there must be some difficulty, because we end up with TRIUNES (30A: Three-in-one gods), DSCS (65A: U.S. Army decorations, in brief), SPIELED (24A: Delivered a pitch) (another verbized noun...), SHESA and OLAFII.

But it's not all bad. The seven-stacks in the NE and SW are solid. CREDENZA (4D: Sideboard) is nice, as are DOOZIE (235D: Humdinger) and EIFFEL (46D: Towering Frenchman?). Cute.

My problem today came at the intersection of EFT (47A: Direct-deposit payment, for short) and TAEL (48D: Far East unit of weight). Neither of those two things am I familiar with, so that T was ungettable. Sometimes it goes that way, I guess.

Overall, it didn't quite do it for me. The theme is only mildly entertaining, and there's a little too much ITAR, ASIF, HAI, INRE, NALA, MES, and EOS (that's a VW?). And, again, AMAZINGLY, ASOF.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015, Patrick Berry


Well, well, well... I was a little jealous last month when I saw at least two Patrick Berry puzzles go by without getting to review them, but here's another one! Yay!

First of all, I love the theme. Each Tom Swifty-ish clue ending with a punny prison answer made me smile. I think my favorite might be 42A: "I merely went to my yoga class, and now I'm ____!" (DOINGASTRETCH). And I also enjoyed the bonus fill - SHIV (54A: Pen knife?), which took me quite a while to get!

And before I go any farther, how funny is it that ASOF (48D: Since) is in the puzzle again today?! Hah! Well, I'm giving it one more pass, but I swear, if it's in again tomorrow, that's it!

Some nice downs today, with EVIDENT (4D: Unmistakable), DISAVOW (10D: Claim no knowledge of), AMATEURISH (11D: Ineptly done), and INITIALIZE (25D: Format, as a disk). And even with five theme answers, there's still room for a couple nice non-theme Acrosses: BORDEAUX (20A: Where the biennial Vinexpo is held) (I want to go to there!), and UTTERING (50A: Giving voice to). There's a little crosswordsy crossing in the NW with OLEO and OLAV (14A: Name shared by five Norwegian kings), but at least the latter is clued with a little trivia.

All in all, a high quality Wednesday!

- Horace

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015, Joel Fagliano


Yesterday I almost made some mention on "cocktail" appearing on a Monday, but now I see it was just a lead-in to today's theme, everybody's favorite store, the LIQUORSTORE! We've got FIFTHAVENUE (21A: Fashionable shopping area in New York City), SIXPACKABS (26A: Goal of one doing crunches) (your faithful reviewer is working on these, but the LIQUORSTORE keeps conspiring against him!), and CASECLOSED (45A: "End of discussion"). Not bad, and it's a relatively low-impact theme, just 42 squares, so the fill should be decent, right? Yes!

The remainder runs the gamut from the sublime - EROICA (32A: Symphony that premiered 4/7/1805) to the ridiculous - LISTICLE (35D: "21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity," e.g.). Since I'm not too familiar with that neologism, I looked it up and found that most definitions started with the exact citation in the clue. I also found a piece in the NYT from earlier this year called "In Defense of the Listicle," that claimed it could trace its roots back to the Ten Commandments, Luther's 95 Theses, and the Bill of Rights. Heh.

I've got nothing to say against this puzzle. Even ANTIQUER and ENCIRCLE get a pass when you fill a puzzle with fun, interesting clues and hip, new things like SPACEX and COMICCON (5D: Yearly gathering for superhero fans). (Speaking of that, we've been watching "Agents of Shield" recently, and I can recommend it.) ASOF (6D: Beginning on) is a little odd, but I think it's the first time I've ever seen it, and it fits the clue well, so I'm ok with it today. If I see it again on Thursday, and then again on Sunday, well, things will be different.

Lastly, I'll just call out a few of the nicer clues: LASSOS (1D: Gets in the loop?); ERIC (58A: ____ Blair, George Orwell's real name) (anything Orwell is fine with us); AMOEBA (10D: Blob that divides); and SEWN (53D: Hanging on by a thread?) - that's one instance where I think the question mark actually makes it funnier. And what about 54D: "Jeopardy!" contestants, e.g.? That's a great clue for TRIO!

Can you tell I liked it?

- Horace

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015, David Steinberg

0:05:50 (F.W.M.E.)

Well, I got the theme with HERCULEPOIROT (23A: Fictional character who "died" in 1975), not because I knew when he died, but because I had a few crosses and I saw that the name fit. I put in LITTLEGRaYCELLS (39A: What 23-Across thinks with (as illustrated in this grid)) without any crosses, but, as you see, I had it spelled wrong. I also guessed "AdAms" where OBAMA (28A: President born Aug. 4, 1961) belonged, because I was going much too fast, saw the "4" in the date and assumed that it was asking about presidents who died on the fourth of July. Oh well. Incidentally, Calvin Coolidge was the only president to be born on July 4. You can thank me for that little tidbit later.

I'm not sure I love EGGSHAPEDHEAD (50A: Notable 23-Across feature), but maybe I'd like it more had I actually read the books, instead of just watched the PBS Mystery versions. Does she mention that characteristic? Probably. And looking at the photo, he does kind of have an egg-shaped head... but don't we all?

AGAPE crossing AGAZE right up in the NW is a little troubling (can we make it a trifecta with ALOOP?), and the NE is not much better with MACAW over ENOCH. Really, aside from the dense theme and the two longish downs COCKTAILS (11D: Drinks before dinner, maybe) and STILETTOS (33D: Pointy heels), there's not a whole lot going on here. And although I love the word APERCU (4D: Cursory glance), I really dislike the clue. It's not just a cursory glance, it's something perceived in that first look. It's an insight drawn, not the action of looking. Isn't it? Finally, THRACE (49D: Ancient land on the Aegean) is fun. Overall, though, meh.

- Horace

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015, Matt Ginsberg


I don't usually talk about time on Sundays, but I will just say that I was very close to finishing this in half my average time for a Sunday. Whether that says more about my average or my performance today, I'll leave up to you, Dear Reader, but to me, it felt like it went by quickly. But what about the puzzle?

Nobody loves a circle, and this is not going to help the circle cause. The theme answers have various circles in them, and the circled letters spell out words that are already in the answer. Take SPLITSECOND (25A: Instant), for example. The first S is circled, and then all the letters in the word "second" except the first S, and together they spell out - surprise! - "second!" YAY! Let's look at another one - in TORNTOSHREDS (37A: In bits), the first two letters of "torn" are circled, and then all of the letters of "shreds," spelling out, "to shreds!" Wow.

So let's not talk about the theme anymore. And if you completely ignore it, as I did during my entire solve, you'll be much happier about the whole thing. The theme answers SPLITSECOND and TORNTOSHREDS on their own are quite good. DRIFTAPART, MINCEMEAT, INTERMINGLED, and the rest of the theme answers are all quite good. … wait, wait… I must be missing something, right? Because in UNBROKEN (112A: Whole) the circled letters spell out "Un." Obviously, I'm totally at sea here, so if someone can fill me in on what the theme really is, I'd appreciate it.

Given my inadequacy, I'm going to treat it as the lovely themeless that it is. PUBLICENEMY (3D: Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and DJ Lord, collectively) (oops, I mean 3D: "No. 1" person") is good, OBEISANCES (4D: Acts of deference) is lovely, TWOROOMFLAT (66D: Smallish London lodgings) is fine, and MELIKE (92D: Informal approval) is shockingly amusing. IMIGHT XOUT DIGHT, ORLE, and STAGY if I had my druthers, but I wouldn't want to appear to be too TESTY. Let's look on the bright side - FLIMSY, SCRAMBLEDEGGS, VINYL, and SPOTON are OKAYBYME.

I guess I can call it a wash.

- Horace

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015, Kameron Austin Collins


First of all, thank you, Colum, for a fantastic month of reviews. There were some great puzzles last month, including yesterday's, but things are looking good for August too, if this fine offering from Mr. K. A. Collins is any indicator. It starts out well enough with GEMSTONE (1A: Rock), a nice modern definition of the clue. HBOMBS (9A: Big releases of the '50s) is ok, and I only learned the term LADMAG (18A: Maxim, e.g.) from puzzles, but things really pick up once we get into the middle section. BABYCAKES (27A: Sweetie) contrasting with FRIENDZONE (32A: Relationship with unrequited love, in modern slang) is lovely. TONGUETIED (36A: Stammering) is great.

MATCHPOINT (3D: Situation in which one person might have the advantage) is fun. The two Yiddish words SCHLEPS and SHTETL add some interest. Who doesn't love a little foreign language in the grid? PASMOI!

In the SE, we have the amusing 40D: "____ says..." (SURVEY), and QUITS (42D: What you might call it). SABLE (40A: Shade of black) is an elegant word, and PASYSTEM (56A: Principal means of address?) puts this reviewer in mind of Principal Skinner, and that's never a bad thing.

FREEUNION (32D: Cohabitation without marriage) feels a little arbitrary. Is that a thing people say? Didn't we used to just say "Living in sin?" Heh. Sin.... And I don't particularly love some of the threes in this one. GPO (1D: Mail ctr.)? I guess it's short for "General Post Office," but it's not a thing I know. NGO (49D: CARE, e.g., for short) is non-governmental organization, right? Why don't we just call those things "organizations?" GTS (37D: Some high-speed cars)... meh.

But really, these are things that I will tolerate happily for the rest of the grid. Overall, I really liked this one. Here's hoping it's an auspicious omen for the rest of the month!

- Horace