Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015, Peter Wentz


I'm sure glad they got their "Halloweeny" puzzles out of the way earlier in the week, because that left today for this lovely themeless. Thick, open corners, a wide-channelled middle section, plenty of interesting fill, and very little junk. Let's get right to some of the good stuff.

Got started in a big way with FLAPJACKS (6A: Diner stack) which seemed almost a gimme on a Saturday morning. From that, FESSEDUP (6D: Came clean), LAWOMAN (7D: Classic 1971 album that closes with "Riders on the Storm"), PYREX (9D: Test tube material), JAM (10D: Get stuck), ASITWERE (11D: In a manner of speaking), and CANONS (12D: Some printers) were also immediately entered, and I thought for a minute or so that I would be approaching Amy Reynaldo-type solving times. Unfortunately for me, I thought that KidsrS (13D: Former chain store for kids) (KBTOYS) was also a gimme, and that held me up until the very end. What's odd about that is that I actually used to shop at KB Toy & Hobby when I was very young, and I've never been inside a KidsRUs. ...

Loved OBEISANCE (54: Deferential respect). This word immediately brings to mind "The Raven," and is therefore quite appropriate for Halloween, no?

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, 
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; 
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; 
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door— 
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door— 
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Below that, LOSTATSEA (56A: Like the explorer Henry Hudson) is a great clue/answer pair, and RAGEQUIT (32D: Suddenly and angrily stop playing a game, in modern lingo) always gets a chuckle. In that same quadrant, I was very happy that I could conjure up HARIBO (41D: Candy company that makes gummy bears) (I could see it in my mind's eye with its colored letters on the packaging... is that bad?) which led me to immediately take out "pimpS" at 40A: Gangsta rap characters (THUGS). I'm glad my guess was wrong. And speaking of being glad, I hope Frannie is happy to hear that it took me quite a while to move from games to relationships when considering 38D: Possible consequence of cheating (DIVORCE). :)

So this is getting long, but I liked this puzzle, and hey, it's my last review for a while! Colum takes over tomorrow. And speaking of Colum, I've kind of abandoned his "1A Assessments," but today's BERET (1A: Soft top) is one of the best of the month, so I'll give it an A. Pourquoi pas?

Finally, I took 31 Across to be a hidden political message. Bravo, Mr. Wentz, bravo.

- Horace

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015, Patrick Berry


Solved this one while watching the Patriots beat up on the Dolphins. Got nothing going through the Acrosses until guessing at MOLTO. Checked the Downs crossing it and got ALLTHETIME (11D: Constantly) and TETEATETES (12D: Private exchanges), and with that the NE fell quickly. I wanted (and still want) "foolsgold" for 10D: Deluded prospector's find (IRONPYRITE) but, well, it didn't fit and it wasn't right. I've always heard it called just "pyrite," but the given answer Googles up pretty well as an alternate. I don't like it, but I guess I have to accept it. Anyway, the solve went clockwise after that, ending up in the difficult NW. ITSMAGIC (1A: Theme song of "The Doris Day Show") was an educated guess once the "GIC" at the end became clear, and BPICTURES (17A: Minor additions to the bill?) came only when I got every single cross. I got the "Congratulations!," and then thought hard to figure out why it made sense. OK, movies, but I still don't love it.

My favorite clue today might be the seemingly inconsequential 4D: Knight club (MACE). So elegant. But there's a lot to like in other areas too, ASPERUSUAL in a Patrick Berry puzzle. 2D: Stick with it (TAPE) is good, as are 40A: Driving storms? (ROADRAGE), RHETORICAL (27D: Like some unanswered questions), STUPEFIED (57A: Rendered speechless), and the excellent SPITTAKE (59A: Result of upsetting a cup holder?).

Just two threes today, and the rest of the grid is mostly wide open. Nothing terribly objectionable - except maybe the aforementioned IRONPYRITE, and I think the clue for BURG (43A: Dot on the map) is a little cheap, but still, thumbs up.

- Horace

Thursday, October 29, 2015, Sam Trabucco


Very odd theme today. LION(S)HARE (66A: Almost all ... and a hint to the five circled letters) indicates that the letters of the word "lions" will appear in the five circles, and they will be "shared" by the first and last words in the Across answers. That they are not also "shared" in the Down answers is a bit of a downer, but I guess those answers don't actually have two words, so there's nothing to share. OK. I guess I can accept the "Across only" aspect.

It's interesting to me that I actually tried entering SK(I)NSTRUCTOR (24A: One whose work is going downhill?) and CHICKE(N)OODLE (53A: Campbell's variety) with the double letters before figuring out the theme. I think I finally figured it out with the revealer, and then the others filled in pretty fast. And if I have one main complaint about this puzzle, it's that it played a bit too easy. For me, sub-15 on a Thursday seems a little quick.

Not everything was easy, though. It was a pretty tough clue for EBERT (8D: Friedrich ____, first president of the German Republic) for a change. And RAND (42D: South African money) took every cross. See also: ARIA (37D: Las Vegas casino opened in 2009) and ANSE (72A: Addie's husband in "As I Lay Dying") respectively. But IDIOTPROOF (11D: Easy-to-use) was a gimme, and SEEIFICARE (29D: "Do what you want") only took a cross or two.

Overall, though, as I look back at this, I like it. The fill is decent, and I enjoyed several of the clue/answer pairs, like 45D: Matter of interpretation (INKBLOT), 54D: "____ me" (HUMOR), and DRSEUSS (9D: Source of the line "There is no one alive who is you-er than you!") took way longer than it should have, because I was scared of the odd letter combinations for a while.

In honor of the German Republic's first leader, I'll give it a thumbs up. Not way up, but up.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015, Jay Kaskel and Daniel Kantor

0:20:50 (FWOE)

It took me forever to find my error today, but I won't keep you in suspense. It was NETS (51A: Catches). I had "gETS," and because I had an immediate "I can't be sure of that" reaction to 42D: Hebrew name for God (ADONAI), ADOgAI looked as good as anything else. I guess. Or I just never went back until I had to. Of course, in hindsight ADONAI looks much better.

My own problems aside, I thought the theme today was pretty good. FOODCOURT (34A: Legal setting for 17-, 25-, 45-, and 53-Across?) took me a while to get, but once I did, it helped me to get almost all of the theme entries, which were not coming to me at all without the revealer. CANNEDCORN (17A: 34-Across case involving ... wrongful termination?) is probably my favorite, because of the word "canned." The others are only mildly amusing, but overall, I like the set.

I thought this was, like yesterday, slightly harder than usual for the day. DART (9A: What tiny fish and eyes do), ACES (13A: Hunky-dory), and ENNUI (15A: What might lead you to say "Whatever") were tough to know right off the bat, and that made getting started a bit of a chore. And the Downs weren't a whole lot better. I couldn't remember JACKASS (1D: Onetime MTV reality stunt show) for the life of me, even though I knew exactly what they wanted. UNC and SNO were poor, but DAM (9D: Stop for water) was excellently clued.

The seven-stacks in the NW and SE are both pretty good, isolated though those corners are. MANIACS and DETESTS are both strong. And the pairs of sevens in the other two corners give this whole grid a somewhat chunky feel.

Not the greatest Wednesday, but certainly not the worst.

- Horace

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015, Kurt Mueller


Another Halloween-y theme today, all about vampires and their banes. They don't like DIRECTSUNLIGHT, GARLICNECKLACEs, or a STAKE through the HEART. I'm less familiar with their aversion to SILVERBULLETs and THEHOLYBIBLE, but really, except maybe for the sunlight, these could be pretty much anyone's banes. Well, ok, some people probably like the bible...

And sort of like yesterday, with "CISCO" being in a grid that centered around San Francisco, today we get the clue "58D: Vampire ____" (BAT) in a clue about vampires. Odd.

Anyway, it's fine for a Tuesday, and it's timely, what with this being late October and all.

I liked the clue for NOTYET (6D: "Waiting ... still waiting ..."), and "5D: Leaning to the right?" (ITALIC) had me stumped for a while. And speaking of being stumped, I wanted "DOOhickey" for DOODAD (28D: Thingamajig), and so I needed almost all the crosses before I figured that one out. EARLYON (44D: Close to the start), too, took a while to come to me. And I was surprised when CRUX (10A: Central point) turned out to be right, but really, it's just what the clue says!

Really, I guess what I'm trying to say with that last paragraph is that it played a little harder than Tuesdays often do for me, but as we've often said here at Horace and Frances and Colum, we welcome early-week challenges. So while this doesn't really have any marquee answers (and it does contain the disgusting EGGSAC), I'm still going to give it a thumbs up. Not way up, 'cause y'know, it's got some tired stuff like UAR, ALII, LDL, INIOLES, etc., but it's also got the crazy-looking KGBSPY, and the theme is decent.

- Horace

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015, Bruce Haight


I don't think I've ever heard SANFRANCISCO called the "Paris of the West," but I certainly have heard it called the CITYBYTHEBAY. It's a fun Monday theme today, with the two just mentioned, as well as ALCATRAZ, CABLECAR, and spanning the whole puzzle is the GOLDENGATEBRIDGE. Sooo... fine theme.

And there's more to like. POLAR BEARS (30D: White hunters on a white landscape) (odd clue), and SUPERMODEL (12D: One charging high runway fees?) (nice clue) are good long downs. "22A: The yoke's on them" is cute for OXEN.

It's a little weird seeing STARIN (23D: Lead the cast of) and STALIN (70A: Lenin's successor) both in there, there's the usual smattering of ISEE, OBIES, UMA, etc... and I prefer my OOLALA with an "H," but overall, this was a decent Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, October 25, 2015, Bill Zais


OYS! A scary puzzle for Halloween. TID, SWE, TOA, OHO, CMD, REN, HIN, THD, RMSLIQ, LEVTVPG ... it RANKLEs. Even the stuff that I might ordinarily like, like 100D: Like some Roman aphorisms (SENECAN) (Like how I got three likes in a row there?) is ruined by the adjectivizing.

The theme is a sort of "before & after" combining (supposed) Halloween costumes with people's names. As in EYEOFNEWTGINGRICH (58A: Halloween costume for ... a onetime House speaker?). I'm not sure which end of that one is more scary... and how many kids are going out as an "eye of newt" this year? TOMBSTONEPHILLIPS (39A: Halloween costume for ... a former "Dateline" host?) is another popular costume, right? A tombstone? Blah.

I just didn't like much of this. COZENER (12D: Con man), SCAPES (45D: Vistas), TRALA (120A: Insouciant syllables), SEEPY (33D: Like ooze), GUCK (87D: Slimy stuff)...

A DUD, in my opinion.

- Horace

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015, Andrew Zhou


A decent Saturday. I thought of NIQAB (1A: Cover for a Muslim woman's face) right away, but for some reason didn't pull the trigger, but did go ahead and enter INURE (14A: Toughen) without any support. I got a little nervous when I got down to 44A: Toughens (STEELS), but everything worked out fine with that, luckily.

I really dislike BLEARS (21A: Dims), and I'm a little tired of AIRACES (35A: Some Medal of Honor recipients). LACAN (31D: Jacques ____, French psychoanalyst who studied hysteria) and DORA (15A: Pseudonym of Freud's famed hysteria patient) made an odd, but appropriately Saturday-level pairing. And speaking of sets, I preferred the duo of CHESS (27D: "As elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency," per Raymond Chandler)(nice) and ROOK (52A: Starter on square a1, h1, a8 or h8).

There's some good stuff, too. It's the best clue for ENYA (54A: Singer who has recorded in Tolkien's Elvish language) that I've ever seen, and I liked the good clues on the "family-ish" set of BEDTIMESTORY (21D: A tot often goes out in the middle of it) and NIECES (1D: Two of Ferdinand VII's wives, to Ferdinand VII), and AGEONE (35D: When preliminary steps are taken?).

Other bright spots include AGHAST (39D: Shocked), VIRILITY (33D: Manliness), EVOKE (17A: Stir up), and EOCENE (26A: Epoch when horses first appeared). Maybe that's when eohippus existed? A "new dawn" of a "new horse?" Probably.

Anyhoo, as I said, a decent Saturday. Some things, like, ADULTSITES seemed a tad arbitrary, but  there were plenty of good things, too.

- Horace

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015, Evan Birnholz


I thought I was off to a good start when I put COWTIPPING (1A: Rural activity in an urban legend) in immediately (Just one of the many benefits of going to college in Wisconsin.), but then I tried "byob" for 11A: Acronym in casual dining (IHOP) (I wasn't thinking that casual!) ... it wasn't right, of course, but it does demonstrate nicely what this puzzle was like for me. I felt good, so I was putting in answers very quickly, sometimes with no backup at all, and sometimes they panned out, as with OPART (30A: Looking at it for a long time might make your head hurt) and PLAYBOYMAGAZINE (50A: Source of a controversial 1976 Jimmy Carter interview), and sometimes they didn't, as with "color" for 23A: "The breath of art," per Frank Lloyd Wright (SPACE) (a much better answer), and "hash" for 46A: ____ marks (SKID) (eww!).

Anyway, I loved it. There's just so much great, interesting, unusual fill in here. To start with, 1A gets an A. TRANSOMS (34D: Architectural crosspieces) is nice, BARQS (29D: Dad's rival) is delicious, JUICY (31D: Like some details) is fun, and FBOMB (37D: Impolite thing to drop) is fan-effing-tastic! The grid looks great with its expansive NW and SE corners and the wide swath running up through the middle, and there's very little to complain about.

Loved the cluing, loved the fill, loved the grid - loved it.

- Horace

Thursday, October 22, 2015, Tracy Gray


The revealer is POTHOLES (60A: Road hazards … four of which are illustrated literally in this puzzle), and it took me a little while to realize - after I had solved the puzzle - that the As have fallen down below the hole. I thought that they had just been swallowed up into the hole, but then why wouldn't they still work for the Downs? But no, they fell. It's still odd, though, that they are just parts of other words down there, and why is it always the letter A? I'm not sure how this could have been better, because you can't really have four unchecked As… and I guess the Down answers couldn't be a part of the theme, because what would the A have fallen into? Still, I think the whole thing is weird. There. I said it. Also, I think APOTHEC[A]RYSSHOP (36A: Place for pre-20th century medicines) is poor.

I thought something was definitely odd at 14A: Recognition from the Academy (OSC[A]RNOD, but I didn't get the trick until 46A: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" writer (DALEC[A]RNEGIE. - Wait a minute, I see now what's going on! The middle is falling out of the word "CAR" in each theme answer. I knew there had to be something more. How embarrassing. Well, that makes it a little better, but I'm still not totally convinced it was worth it.

The NE was where I ended today. I didn't know TOTIE (12D: Funny Fields) (never heard of her) or SNELL (13D: Part of a fishing line to which the hook is attached) (might have once heard this, but didn't remember it), and UNADON (16A: Japanese dish whose name means, literally, "eel bowl") took a long while to come to me, even though I immediately thought of "unagi." Oh well. Eventually I got there. I think it was IDIOM (11D: "Dark horse" or "bring to light") that finally did it for me.

So now that I get the theme, it's ok. 1A: [I crack myself up] (LOL) isn't terrible. How 'bout a B- for that. But overall, I guess I just didn't love it.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen


Everybody loves a good quote, and Publilius Syrus was full of them. This one: LET A FOOL / HOLD HIS TONGUE / AND HE WILL PASS / FOR A SAGE is a classic. I'm sure that the version I'm more familiar with, "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt," is derived from the Latin original. And added to this fine quote is an eight-step word ladder changing "fool" to "sage." Very nice. I give the theme a hearty thumbs up!

So with all that going on, how does the rest hold up? It's a slow start at 1A: Flexible, electrically speaking (ACDC) (C+), and GPS (5A: "Calculating" device) is no better, but things pick up over in the NE, where KODIAK (16A: Alaskan grizzly) and MONOLITH (9D: Easter Island statue, e.g.) are highlights.

I've never heard the given definition of TOUT (31D: Offerer of hot tips) before, and RIAA (51D: Antipiracy org.) seems like a tough acronym for a Wednesday, but SEXSELLS (40D: Advertising truism) came immediately, and I enjoyed the clue for DUELS (39A: Drawing contests?).

Down in the SE we come to YEOW crossing EWW next to GOO, and although the doubled "OW" looks interesting, but it also highlights what I think was the weaker part of this grid - too much weird stuff like ITD, OOP, OHOH, TIA, and KOA, not enough MAUS, CHAOS, and PAELLA. Still, the quote and the word ladder is a lot of theme, and it was good theme, so let's say this still comes out just slightly ahead.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015, Sam Buchbinder


Roulette is the game today. Themed answers feature the words "black," "red," "even," and "odd," and the word "roulette" runs around the center square. Nice enough. The theme answers even give the impression of a clockwise spin, which is, I'm guessing, the direction of spin on a roulette table. So the theme is fine. Not too intrusive, and well executed.

1A: Genesis brother (ABEL) is uninspired (C-), but the rest of the top of the grid is pretty good. BLACKGOLD (17A: *Oil, informally) brings to mind the Beverly Hillbillies, which is always a good thing, and the chunky NE corner contains the equally nostalgic MIXTAPE (11D: Personal music compilation). The equally chunky SW is maybe the shakiest spot, with ANIN atop SANA and TINIEST (41D: Like the pinky compared to the other fingers) running through them. Doesn't "tiniest" imply that all the fingers are tiny to begin with? And maybe they are, compared to a Giant Sequoia, but compared to one another, they're all pretty much the same. "Smallest," sure, but "TINIEST?" Hmph.

I like STRETCH (23D: Warm up before exercising) and OPULENT (25D: Lavish), but TIO, TOA, ETTE, ECON, and TIPI (30A: Home on the range: Var.) is a pretty high price to pay. I guess the compromise really starts with the roulette wheel in the center, but geez, THATS a lot of LEAD dragging this grid down.

It's kind of a split decision. The chunky corners are nice, but the middle is tortured. I don't know, let's just call it a wash. A slightly dirty wash.

- Horace

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015, Bruce Venzke and Victor Fleming


Decent Monday theme: Types of TIES, put into compound words and/or phrases. It was one of those perfect cases where I filled in the puzzle without any real awareness of the theme, and then way down at the very last Across clue I found the revealer. My favorite themers were ROPEADOPE (11D: *Signature Muhammad Ali ploy) of course, and CHAINMAIL (31D: *Protective medieval gear) because, well, CHAINMAIL!

Not too much junk today. I don't particularly love LAPUP (50D: Enjoy immensely), or SOAMI (55D: "Same goes for me"). I mean, I get it, they need to make things work, and these, really, aren't as bad as some multi-short-word fill, like ONEMEG (9D: Smallish computer storage unit, for short), but they sure are a far cry from lovely fill like EXHORTS (38A: Urges on), ASCRIBE (44D: Attribute), or even TATTLE (47D: Rat (on)). But then, I like ARTFILM (7D: Movie that's not likely to be shown in a multiplex), ELCID (1D: Legendary Spanish hero), and even KNEEPAD (40A: Rollerblader's protection) so really, the constructors can never win. I hope they know that, and that they take all this "criticism" stuff in stride. This is a fine Monday. Thanks guys!

- Horace

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015, Dan Schoenholz


This is a fun theme today. Adding a final "E" to the last word of common phrases makes it into a name, and then the clue is appropriately silly. As in "96A: Comic's copy of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'?" (JOKERSWILDE) and "4D: Single copy of 'The Bonfire of the Vanities'?" (LONEWOLFE). And it's not just authors' names, the best one might be "52A: Reason for Brosnan fans to watch 1980s TV?" (BUNSOFSTEELE). Pretty good.

There's some unusual fill, though. We didn't know TROPHIC (51D: Nutrition-related), MEDE (26A: Ancient Persian), or KRAIT (98D: Poisonous snake). That snake, I learn from Wikipedia, is native to Southern India and is one of the "big four" group of snakes responsible for the most human snakebites in South Asia. The other three are the Indian cobra, the Russell's viper, and the Saw-scaled viper. Lucky, there is a widely available "venom neutralizer," so don't cancel that trip just yet.

This had a slightly irreverent vibe. I like NUTCASES (85A: Fruitcakes), REAM (29A: Curse (out), and especially 20A: Words of defiance (SHOVEIT). And OGLES (97D: Eyes) crossing STEAMY (120A: Erotic) is also nice. I also love the cluing on SILENTI (24A: Business feature?), SWISS (31D: Like Vatican guards), SEW (49D: Singers do this), and HATE (84D: Hardly fancy). The pair of "fidgety" answers are also good (ONEDGE & RESTIVE). Great word, RESTIVE. It's one of those that looks like it should mean the opposite of what it does.

Overall, we liked it a lot. 

- Horace

p.s. 1A gets an F because, you know... SCALIA.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015, Timothy Polin


Well, I was totally wrong about the bylines for Friday and Saturday, but I am not unhappy, because a name’s been added to those I will recognize as a “favored creator.” Mr. Polin has given us a tidy little treat today, and he only needed a 14x14 grid to do it! Well, he “used” the “blanks” around the edges, by cluing them in such a way that they could be answered with “blanks,” and it didn’t matter that there were more spaces than necessary for the word, because it’s the thing itself that answers the clue. I’ve never heard of Billy Blanks, but I’m guessing that’s who it is. (I suppose it could be Billy Blank, but if it were, that would be slightly less elegant.)

On my first pass through I got very little, but I did end up entering the word “blanks” at “1D: Valuable things to have in Scrabble,” and at “44D: Unstamped metal discs used for making coins.” I thought that was strange, and started thinking about whether or not it could be possible that every answer would appear twice. I got nowhere with that idea, and set the puzzle down for a few minutes while I chatted with Huygens about various topics.

When I opened it up again, I focused on 25A and 39A: “region beyond the Kármán line … or a literal hint to what this puzzle has.” I had the U from “____SUIT,” which I had entered because I wanted APESUIT, but it would not fit, and the R from ROSIE “26: W.W. II poster girl,” one of the few gimmes that allowed a toehold, and from other nagging things, like wanting ALOHA for “42A: Greeting that means ‘love’ or ‘peace’” (cue a Huygens comment about their trip to Hawai’i), and knowing that LILLE was probably right for “8D: French metropolis near the Belgian border…” Did I mention that Frannie and I spent a very happy three or four days in an AirBnB in Lille a year or two ago? The French people we know, when we told them of our trip, said “Why?,” but Lille turned out to be quite a fun town. Anyway, little things like that finally allowed me to figure out the theme before I really had much of anything else. I worried for a bit that the “outer spaces” would extend beyond the grid and be difficult to solve online, but soon enough realized that it was a puzzle that would be reduced within the grid instead.

Phew! Seems like this is getting long, but I also want to add that I love the addition of so much “theme” material today. In addition to the OUTER/SPACE revealer, and all the “blanks,” we have the beautiful crossing thirteens of LUNARECLIPSE, ALIENINVASION, CONSTELLATION, and USSENTERPRISE. All of them, lovely, lovely answers. And “bonus” material like SOL, SETI, and maybe even the two “weird” answers EERIE and OUTRE. And maybe FLIER? And SEGA (46D: Creator of Saturn)?

Love the clue for ALI (51D: Winning party in Clay v. United States). Love the word FAIN (37D: Willingly, once), because it reminds me of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Love the whole thing. Sure, you might grumble at MONAD (43D: Unicellular organism), or think that LAPUTA (16A: Floating island visited in “Gulliver’s Travels”) is a bit of ARCANA (15A: Abstruse knowledge), but these are ITSY complaints and are of no USE, to which I cry AWAY!
This was a great end to this unusual week. Thank you, Mr. Polin.

- Horace

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015, Joe Kroezel


Apparently, no one has ever made a crossword puzzle that looks something like an old quilt before. :) Today Mr. Krozel rings the grid with unchecked letters, most of them high-value Scrabble letters, in an almost obviously pangrammatic puzzle.

I guessed at ALSO (2D: Adding to that), REDIAL (4D: Phone button) (Is that still on mobile phones?), and HIGH (6D: What you might microwave something on), and with just those three crosses, I'm almost embarrassed to admit how easily I came up with OOPSIDIDITAGAIN (15A: 2000 Britney Spears hit). MILEY (26A: 2000s teen idol, to fans), too, came a little bit to quickly.

A few that did not come at all quickly were VISCID (11D: Sticky) (Yuck. On many levels.), MENOTTI (36A: Italian-American composer who won a Pulitzer Prize for "The Saint of Bleeker Street"), and NIPA (45A: Long-leaved palm). Let's see, there's the "betel," "date," "palmetto," and now "NIPA." You know, I just went looking for other possible palm names and found this list! I suggest you all commit it to memory.

I had mistakenly entered "mmr" for 24A: Vaccine letters (DPT), and I had no idea what "25D: First name on PBS" (TAVIS) was going to be, but when I showed it to Frannie, she said them both instantly.

Loved the clue for RIVER (32A: Ohio or Illinois, but not Indiana), and I guess I appreciate the backward-nature of the clue for FAILINGSTUDENTS (7D: One measure of a school's success), but most of the long stuff was a bit mundane, and some of the other stuff was a bit off-putting (SHU, EDU, CEOS, MAS, and lots of names - DANL, GABE, LENOS, PHIL, and others already mentioned.

Unchecked letters aren't really my thing. Nor are pangrams. So I guess this wasn't my favorite.

- Horace

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015, Kevin G. Der


Well, well, well... another rebus puzzle. This time a spiral of, what is it, 79!? rebus squares swirling from the NW all the way to the [WH][IR][LP]O[OL] in the center, passing along the way other swirled items like a SNAILSH[EL]L, a [YU]LELOG, the MIL[KY]W[AY], and the G[UG]GENHEIM. Kind of cool idea, and the execution is lovely, but the entry of all those rebus squares, at least on a laptop using the Web interface, I found to be something of a slog. So much pressing of the Escape key...

There are a lot of multi-word answers, too, like [CO][LL][AR][ST][AY] (38D: Dress shirt insert), G[AS]F[IR]E (26D: Certain stovetop hazard), and [YU][CC][AP][LA][NT] (24D: Desert bloomer). which also got a little tiring. As did things like [ST]A[TA]L (13D: Relating to national governments), FIT[TO], AMBI, and AMS.

But it wasn't all bad. I liked P[LI]N[TH] (6D: Bust supporter), SK[O]SH (21D: Smidgen), and F[LA]M[BE] (39A: Like cherries jubilee), and others.

I love a rebus, as you all know, but maybe this was just too much of a good thing.

Moving on, I'm giving even odds on Patrick Blindauer's name coming up on one of the next two days. Others with slightly longer odds are Chen, Silk, Steinberg, and maybe even B.E.Q. And, of course, we are sharply reminded at this time of the untimely passing of Merl Reagle.

Anyway, I'm still enjoying the week, and I look forward to two more puzzles of it. Now I'm going to go over to to find out if this is the most rebus squares ever in a NYT puzzle.

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015, Joel Fagliano


Today a virtual game of HANGMAN from Mr. Fagliano. Not bad. Five questions, all differently phrased, leading to the final, unchecked answer at the bottom spelling out the game. After staring at the grid for a while, I guess you can see two legs standing on top of a platform as well as the suggestion of a head, arms, and torso. So overall, high marks for the theme.

1A: Home for José (CASA), gets maybe a B-, maybe a C+, but the overall fill, I think, is pretty good. I liked realizing that "Orlando" has the same number of letters as ANAHEIM (4D: Disneyland's locale). I wonder if that ever occurred to Walt?

Not too much long stuff outside of the theme today. We have the joke of an Oscar winner CHICAGO, WELFARISM (8D: Policy of widespread government social programs), which I don't love as an answer, and HEALTHFUL (6D: Salubrious), which is fine. Did anyone else put "sex" in at 30A: It can be casual: Abbr. (FRI) before seeing the "Abbr." part of the clue? No? Just me? Well... ok. Moving on... SCHUSS (38D: Go downhill fast) was a fun one, eh? And I like the nod to IMDB (55A: Website for film buffs). And "63A: Pet that's often aloof" (CAT) is a funny clue.

Probably the weakest so far this week, but still, not bad.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015, Patrick Berry


It was pretty much a given that Patrick Berry's name would come up this week, and when it does, it's always good news. Today he gives us a rare Tuesday treat - a double rebus, of sorts. Six symmetrical answers can be read twice, as in "Crayola crayons" (17A: Art supplies since 1903) and "washing machine" (66A: Laundromat fixture). Pretty impressive. And, of course, the doubled letters work on the way down, too. It's beautiful.

What else to say about this one? It takes some searching to find objectionable fill. I suppose one could  complain about ADE (65D: Fruit drink suffix), or be offended by Don [IM]US (64D: "_____" in the Morning (radio show)), but that's not much. Even HIC (67D: Fruit drink brand) is clued in a non-Latin way, and it ties in with ADE, making a nice little pair of three-letter answers at the end.

And Mr. Berry even gets in a nice start at 1A: Earthquake-related (SEISMIC). I'd give that one a solid A-. I take a tiny bit off for the slightly odd clue. And we've got to leave room for something truly great.

Excellent Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015, Patrick Merrell


Today we get a message from Will Shortz saying "We asked some favorite Times crossword contributors, 'What would you like to do in a daily Times crossword that has never been done before?' This week's puzzles, Monday through Saturday, are the result." And lo and behold, we see pictures in the grid! The first image shows APOCKETFULLOFRYE (37A: Picture A … or, after switching the circled letters and reading the result phonetically, Picture B) (We'll get to all that in a minute), from the NURSERYRHYME "Sing a Song of Sixpence." Straightforward enough, and a happy thought indeed. I'd travel more often that way myself if it weren't illegal in Massachusetts to carry open containers of alcohol in public… but nevermind all that, onward we go to the next image, of a rocket with "Joe's Bakery" on it, perhaps heading to a SPACESTATION. And so what do we get when we switch the circled letters and read it phonetically? "A rocket full of pie." Very nice. And who wouldn't love to be hit by such a rocket?

So there's the "never done before" part. Not bad. As we've said many times, everyone loves a rebus. Even the old-school, original kind. What about the other part, the mundane crossing of words? Well, as you can maybe tell from my time, I didn't have much trouble getting through this one. Perhaps the hardest clue to get was 44A: Of equal size (ASBIG), but, obviously, it came easily enough with a couple crosses. Oh, and you may or may not believe this, but I didn't know 43A: Benghazi's land (LIBYA) immediately either. I don't watch much news.

EUREKA (22D: Exultant cry of discovery) is lovely, and I liked the pair of capitals - WARSAW and BOGOTA, and ALPS (37D: Tour de France mountains) reminds me of our vacation last year. Do we have a clip? Ahh yes… there it is. It's Frannie and our friends enjoying a glass of wine out on the front patio…

Good start to this wildcard week. Already looking forward to the next "never been done" puzzle.

- Horace

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015, David J. Kahn


Today a tribute to "Saturday Night Live,"which, incidentally, we watched last night! I like that the theme answers are symmetrical, that there are Down answers included, and that the circled names are all drawn from the more well-known cast members, and not the also-rans, and that they span from first season to last season. I also like that STEVEMARTIN and ALECBALDWIN were worked in as full names. It's really quite elegant. So I guess I can say that I like the theme pretty well. Plus, I've been watching and enjoying the show almost from the very beginning, so that doesn't hurt.

The words and phrases that the cast members are "hidden" in are, for the most part, okay. Everybody loves CARROTCAKE (71A: Dessert often topped with cream cheese (1990-1993)), for example, and the EASTERPARADE (81A: Berlin standard (1990-1996)) is not only a New York tradition, but its clue referencing the composer/lyricist is pretty tricky! WINING (108D: Dining partner? (2005-2012)) is less good, but not terrible. 

This played easier than Sundays have for me recently. I'm pretty sure we could have knocked it off in about fifteen minutes if we hadn't been sipping coffee and passing it back and forth. As it was, it took just about twice that, but on a Sunday, who ever pays attention to such things? The 1A today PASS (Get by) is given a passing grade of C+. It's fine. 

Frannie plopped in LEMMA (57D: Subsidiary proposition) without dilemma, and I thought my brother the chemist would be proud that I put in METHANE (110A: CH4) on my first pass through the Across clues. Speaking of people being happy about stuff, Huygens will probably be happy that I also put in CORNELL (47A: Northeastern university where Carl Sagan taught) without crosses, as I'm sure he will, too. 

There's a little gluey material, like MYA (who?), MMMREPARK, and DARC, but we also get GIOTTO (39D: Designer of the Florence Cathedral bell tower), LIEF (22A: Gladly, old-style) (Frannie and I are learning Dutch, and they still use this word), and speaking of the Netherlands, we also enjoyed seeing HAGUE (20A: Headquarters of Royal Dutch Shell, with "The"). 

Overall, I'd say this was a better-than-average Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015, Roland Huget


A nice, tough, Saturday. I got almost nothing on my first pass, then finally got some traction in the SE corner, where ODYSSEY (43D: It tells of a trip to Ithaca) was a gimme. All those nice word-ending letters! Same thing with SWEENEY (63A: Actress who starred in the "It's Pat" sketches on "S.N.L.") - nearly a gimme, and full of final letters. Love the clue for NOW (59D: Oxymoronic lead-in to "then"), and the double Ws in NEWWAVE (42D: Aggressively modern) look great (see also the double Gs in MAHJONGG). PHEWS (55A: Close-call cries) is less good, but PKWY (N.Y.C.'s F.D.R. Drive, e.g.) is acceptable, mostly because I am amused by the preponderance of abbreviations throughout. Thinking perhaps of "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," I tried "pro" at 47A: Non sibi ____ patriae" (Navy motto) (SED). It's something that those in the military probably (hopefully) believe, and "pro" could almost still work, but the "but" is better (not to mention correct). "Not for self, but for country."

After that, I got a few random things and handed it over to Frannie. She got just enough to prove that some of what I had entered was wrong, and after that we worked together to finally put this thing to bed.

There was much to enjoy, I think, but Frannie felt less love for the grid. Maybe that's just because I ended up getting all the fun ones. :) I enjoyed the Native American pair of SENECAS and ONEIDAS, despite the pluralization of both, and I love the clue for OPENSEA (2D: Deep). So poetic. And speaking of poetic language, it took forever to come up with STRATEGY (7D: Chess necessity), because I was thinking too literally, which is just what Mr. Huget wanted me to do! Surprisingly (if you know the two of us at all), it was Frannie who finally got that answer!

There is, as usual, "glue" like TER and AES and EEE and SYN, but then there's NIPSEY (46D: Russell of comedy) and RINGDINGS and GECKOES, so it's all good. Oh, one last thing, which I might have forgotten yesterday - 1A: Tributes (HOMAGES) - Solid B material. Maybe even B+.

Satisfying Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015, David Steinberg


Well, we did finish, but not without errors. We tried EtH for EDH (24A: Old English letter) and dAR for SAR (35A: Patriotic org. founded in 1889). Stupid mistake on our part, as the D.A.R. was founded in 1890. Duh!

Crossing those mistakes were NOBID (14D: Like some shady contracts, from an auditor's standpoint) - a tortured reference to the sphere of professional bridge playing, I'm guessing - and OSAMA (29D: Former cave dweller, informally) - which I find to be distastefully clued. And speaking of clues that left a bad taste - 43A: Spray source (UZI) was another one. Spray? Really? Gross.

I guess the clueing throughout put us off of this one. 60A: Risk territory west of Siberia (URAL) seems unnecessarily obscure. For 44D: Sharp knocks (ZINGS), "dings," "pings," or even "bings," could have worked and might even have been better. And if you're going to put both IDYLL and ODE in a puzzle, why cross reference only one of them to POEM?

I suppose I should just LETGO and enjoy the several nice long Down answers. TRATTORIA (31D: Mediterranean bistro) will no doubt remind Colum of his recent stay in Italy, and ARGYLES (4D: Holders of diamonds?), despite its questionable clue, is a nice word. BITCOIN (40D: Modern transaction unit) is good and current, though I wonder just how many transactions are transacted using them.

On the bright clue side, I liked 33D: Starbuck's order giver (AHAB). Overall, though, neither of us particularly enjoyed this one.

- Horace

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015, Stu Ockman


Is it just me, or do OTROS also find "superlatives" like "17A: Longest common word in the English language ... that has its letters in reverse alphabetical order," (SPOONFEED) a little less than scintillating? And with "62A: ... that is spelled entirely from the last dozen letters of the alphabet (TORTUROUS)" the category itself is a bit tortured. But, boy, now I can't wait to find out what the longest common word in the English language is that only uses the last 13 letters! ...

What about 1A: Up (AHEAD). What do we think of that? Well... it had me stumped for a good long while, so that puts it one up (see what I did there?) on the competition, but it's still missing a certain ECLAT. B-.

RABBITFOOD (31D: Carrots and lettuce, humorously) got a bit of a chuckle, and PERMEATE (40D: Spread through), GLASNOST (9D: 1980s social policy) (did everyone think first of "Reaganomics?"), and TINSEL (20A: Fir coat?) were all satisfying. But there's a bit too much USLTA, MLLE, AHOST, ASST, USMA, ZBAR, EXO, and DYERS. It had some nice spots, but overall I want more from a Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015, Julian Lim

0:12:22 (FWOE)

Frannie and I each did this puzzle on our own, but we ended up with the same mistake at the end. We both entered DArN for 23D: "Aw, hell!" (DAMN), which we chalk up to our New England prudishness. ABrS didn't particularly bother me, but it should have. Obviously.

That little coincidence aside, we both quite enjoyed this puzzle. The five theme entries are all perfectly normal phrases, and they are also punny answers to clues like "17A: Amused the singer of 'Raise Your Glass'?" (TICKLEDPINK), "25A: Enchantment of the singer of 'Raspberry Beret'?" (PRINCECHARMING), and "35A: Favoring the singer of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'?" (PROBONO). That's good stuff, and it's especially welcome on a Wednesday!

So what do we pay for such a fun theme? Not much. The rest of the grid is filled with such amusing entries as TATERTOTS, DYNAMICDUO (11D: Nickname for a high-achieving couple), RABBITHOLE, and DRIVETHRU. Add to that ten-cent words like HOAX, POSIT, and ADVENT, and you've got a winning combination. Sure, we get ULAN, OOP, and LRON, but I do not care! I loved it! Frannie, what did you think?

Horace, I enjoyed this puzzle. I thought Mr. Lim really brought it with the theme today. I don't know Seal from Adam, but 57A. Coached the singer of "Kiss From a Rose"? (TRAINEDSEAL) made me LOL. Sure, PKGS could have been rerouted, RECT reshaped, and ABMS diffused, but the lion's Cher of the puzzle was quite nice.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015, Zhouqin Burnikel


Ahh... circles. Not my favorite theme type. They tend to strike me as being a little thin, and this is no exception. Four feelings: "hope," "rage," "love," and "loss" are circled in down answers. Symmetrical theme answers, but not symmetrical circles... not such a big deal, but not beautiful.

Neither of us knew CARLOSSLIM (30D: Mexican once ranked as the world's richest man), and DANECOOK (19A: Comedian with the double-platinum album "Retaliation") only rang a faint bell, but GINSU (65A: Kind of knife once touted in infomercials), on the other hand, was immediate. From the clue, I guess they don't still have those commercials. Are they still sold? Did the "lifetime guarantee" finally put them out of business?...

FRENCHOPEN (3D: Tennis tournament played on red clay) is nice, and Frannie liked the pair of "bunny" clues - 43A: Mogul with a Bunny (HEF) and 51A: Celebration with a bunny (EASTER). DEFT (39D: Nimble-fingered) and BUXOM (41D: Like women in Rubens paintings) are good words, and Massachusetts is nicely represented with CAPECOD (38A: Massachusetts vacation destination), even though we always head north to "old Massachusetts." Isn't that what Maine likes to be called?

There are some unfortunate plurals (CSIS, EVES, OLES, OAFS, AMPS), but, well... it's fine for a Tuesday.

Oh, I almost forgot - 1A: "For more ____ ..." (INFO): D.

Overall, though, maybe more of a C.

- Horace

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015, Mike Buckley


Who doesn't like money? And finding out that there were once THREECENTPIECES in the US? Priceless.

Who knew? But seriously, PENNYDREADFUL (Showtime series named after an old fiction genre) and QUARTERHORSES (52A: Mounts for cowboys) are pretty tough for a Monday, but they get a little easier if you figure out what's going on. NICKELANDDIMING (38A: Charging for every little extra), on the other hand, is pretty much Monday material. Not a bad theme.

1A? CREST (Top of a wave). Pretty nice word. Not offensive, not particularly inspired. B-.

In other areas, we have pretty nice open areas in the NW and SE, and the middle sides. EVILGENIUS (11D: Lex Luthor, for example) and TECHNIQUES (30D: Ways to do things) are both lovely, long downs. DOCILE (21D: Tame, as a pet), AMENRA (37A: Supreme Egyptian god) (we just recently watched the first two "Night at the Museum" movies, so this was fresh in our minds), and REMORA (36D: Fish that can attach itself to a boat) are all pretty nice. But then there's PSAS over PSI, ADEN, UIE, UVEA, KOD, RONI, and partials like MATA and COCA. I guess I'd still come out on the positive side, but it's not exactly OOLALA material.

- Horace

Sunday, October 4, 2015, Jeremy Newton


I found this one hard to get into, so I left it for Frannie and went out to do the grocery shopping. When I got back, she had all but the NE pretty much put away, and there she might have been having trouble because one of the few things I had entered before I left was wrong - "saladA" for NESTEA (31A: Lipton rival). Kind of a crazy one to put in before I had anything to back it up. I tried to see what the theme was, but couldn't figure it out until after I had finished the whole thing and spent a minute or two looking at the eight theme answers.

The revealers are ISNOT and ISTOO, and they affect alternate theme answers. ISNOT, for example, indicates that the "is" sound is missing from FICKLETHERAPIST (21A: *Shrink who's always changing his diagnosis?), which is unfortunate for its possible mistaken reading of "the rapist." With the "is" added, it becomes "physical therapist." Not bad. ISTOO works on the next one, and when we remove the "is" from DANCINGCUISINE (26A: ** What ballet patrons dine on?) (ridiculous), we get "dancing queen." OK. The theme answers as they appear in the puzzle are absurd, as is sometimes the case, with the most natural one being AUTUMNSPECTRUM (113A: *Fall colors?) ("autism spectrum.")

In non-theme material we find some good things. I like the oddness of ABORC (74A: Multiple-choice options), but Frannie thought it could have been "abcord," because most multiple choices, she feels, give four options. Over in that same zone we have the amusingly clued CODED (66A: In need of a cracker, perhaps) and PARDONS (92A: Removes from a can?), and elsewhere I liked HAGGLE (117A: Talk down?) (but the question mark is unnecessary), JUJITSU (13D: It has a variety of locks and pins), and the nicely colloquial pair of LETERRIP (38D: "Fire away!") and OHHELLNO ("Over my dead body!") And I suppose you could add to that set KERPLUNKS (48D: Sounds of fall?), which is also nice.

And what about 1A? Well, I'm sure Huygens would have been happier with a different clue, but the classic "Bye at Wimbledon" didn't fool Frannie, who remembered it from a very recent puzzle. I like it, but I don't love it. B-.

There's the usual smattering of LAMER fill (RETAP, REOPENSOLI, MSU, YSER) and lesser-known names, and on the whole, Frannie didn't think the theme enhanced the solve all that much while it was going on, so we end up giving this one a solid "Meh."

- Horace

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015, Barry Silk

0:30:15 (FWOE)

Frannie and I did this one together, and at the end she saved me from leaving RTa in where RTE (44A: Metro line: Abbr.) belonged, mostly because ENTRY (46D: Password provision) is a word we know, and "antry" isn't. But I don't particularly like that cross, or either of those clues. I suppose a metro line is a "route," and a password grants entry, but I was thinking more along the lines of "Regional Transit Authority" and, well, I don't know what for the other one. Still, we ended up with the dreaded "Finished With One Error" today because we entered OYEz for 57A: Cry for silence and attention (OYES). Oyez Googles up much better, at least the way I did it just now. Incidentally, it comes to us from Latin "audire" (to hear) through French, and it's that second person plural ending that gives the "ez" ending. I guess maybe some people have anglicized it, but not everyone.

But that one sore spot aside, this was a pretty nice Saturday. We both knew approximately what we were looking for with "1A: 1960-62 home of Lee Harvey Oswald" (MINSK), but couldn't come up with it without a couple crosses. The name itself is fun to say, and it's an interesting factoid to bring up, but I have to take points off for the whole killing the president thing, so let's give it a B+.

Elsewhere we have such nice fill as CULMINATE (31D: Wind up), COFFEERUSH (6D: Morning buzz, maybe), TIGERSEYE (12D: Semiprecious pendant option), SCENARIO (30A: Hypothetical situation), and HOEDOWN (49A: Baleful affair?). Cute clue on that last one. I tried "Boston" at 9D: 1912 and 2013 World Series setting (FENWAY), and I won't soon forgive Mr. Silk for choosing for choosing 2013 instead of 2014. Hmph!

Neither of us were familiar with the term TRIJET (39D: 727, e.g.), or remembered 50D: "I Married ____" (1987 ABC sitcom) (DORA), but those were small things. ROBIN (44D: Sidekick of 1960s TV), LECAR (21D: Old alternative to a Rabbit), EIEIO (35D: Letters associated with animal sounds), and CHRISTO (36D: Big name in environmental art) (my mind went first to "Goldsworthy," but that was too long) were all quite fun. Overall, a satisfying Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015, Patrick Berry


What a treat. Yesterday, a rebus, today, Patrick Berry. As usual, though, with Mr. Berry, Frannie and I were all over him. This one was started at the doctor's office as we waited for x-rays of Frannie's hand, which, fortunately, were negative. She already has her right arm in a sling. If it turned out that her left hand also had to be bandaged up, well... that would not have been good. But enough about us, let's talk more about this fast, fun, Friday.

Continuing Colum's theme, we find GARB at 1A (Threads). Not bad. Could have been "duds," as Frannie called out immediately. Or "togs," I suppose. But GARB is good. Not great, but above average. Let's say a solid B.

Off of that, though, we really get started in earnest: GASMETER (1D: It's read for a bill), ALTEREGO (2D: You again?), ROADRAGE (3D: Fits on a hard drive?), and BUGLERS (4D: Base players) are all very good. ROADRAGE is excellent. In other areas FUNGICIDES (9D: Some crop-dusting chemicals) was gross, but solid, and LENTILSOUP (28D: Food that Esau sold his birthright for) is a good answer excellently clued. We also loved LETATCESTMOI (L'état, c'est moi!) (The State, it's me!) (36A: The Sun King's infamous declaration), which we got without crosses. Also without crosses came WENCES (43A: Señor seen on "The Ed Sullivan Show"). S'aright? S'aright.

Sure, EVERTED (25D: Turned inside out) is a little weird, and APSES is "apse," and plural, but so what, because CLARINETS (38A: Black winds) (tricky!), and STAGNATION (17A: Result of standing too long, maybe), MEDIABIAS (24A: Colorer of papers?), TSUNAMI (37D: Coastal hazard), and others, are all so good.

In real life, this month started out very poorly, but on paper, specifically, the New York Times, and even more specifically, on the little rectangular area that is the crossword puzzle, it's starting out very well.

- Horace

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Hi everybody! Please forgive the lateness of my review - Frannie had a rather nasty bike accident yesterday and we spent much of the day in the hospital. She's got a broken arm and five or six stitches in her chin, but fundamentally she's all right, and she'll heal up nicely. For now, though, she'll have to let me do the puzzle filling-in for a little while. To tell the truth, though, I forgot about the puzzle entirely until this morning as I woke up and realized that it was October.

So let's get right to this, shall we? Wait, no, not yet. First I want to thank Colum for his excellent month of reviews, and for introducing the new 1A grading theme. Very nice work. I'm pretty sure I won't continue (or is it "steal?") that idea for this whole month, but I will give today's [WARM]BODY (1A: Any old person, so to speak) a grade of A, because it both contains a rebus, which you know I love, and it misled me for much of the solve. I was able to fill in everything in the NW but that first square until very late in the game. I kept reading "old" as "aged" and I couldn't figure out what would fit with both "body" and "1D: Get ready to play." Was there some homonym for "ante" that meant old? "Suit?" "Dress?" ... anyway, I think I finally figured out the rebus on the very last square, after GO[dry] didn't work with HEAD[dry] and I finally realized it was HEAD[COLD] (70A: Cause of a stuffed-up nose) and GO[COLD] (64D: Peter out, as a trail). That immediately gave me [CORD]IAL (59D: After-dinner drink), and with that, the word chain, or whatever those things are called, and then, finally, [WARM]BODY for 1A. Phew! So anyway, yes, I'm giving it an A. If I'm giving grades at all, that is.

The rest of the grid had some stock fare (ESSEN, EMIR, ARNAZ, TNT, TRI), but there were also some excellent bits of fill. NASCENT (29A: Budding), INFERNO (10D: Conflagration), ANTFARM (39D: Provider of underground entertainment?), PARIAH (50D: Outcast), BESTIARIES (28D: Books that may depict dragons, unicorns and griffins) (leaving out the Oxford comma there kills me, but I'm faithfully recording the clue as written), and SCREENSHOT (8D: What a tech specialist might ask you to send) are all excellent. AZOTH (37D: Mercury, in alchemy) is, well, completely unknown to me, but the crosses were all fair. TRASK (7D: "East of Eden" family name) is another toughie, but again, I got it without knowing it, so I guess it was fair. At least from where I sit.

Overall, an entertaining Thursday. Three thumbs up from me and Frannie! (See... she's got one in a cast... too soon? Yeah... probably. Don't tell her I made that joke. :) )

- Horace