## Saturday, December 31, 2016

### Saturday, December 31, 2016, Jeff Chen

25:46

Whew, let's sign out 2016 with a truly tough puzzle! Mr. Chen shows off his tough cluing and unusual long answers. It's also a challenge that the NW and SE corners are nearly completely cut off from the middle diagonal.

1A: Join, as two pieces of metal by application of heat and pressure (SPOTWELD) gets a B- from me. It's an unwieldy clue, with a reasonably good answer. It's certainly not neutral. I like 15A: People on the wrong end of a landslide (ALSORANS) much better. My first confident answer came at 5D: Enamel finish? (WARE).

I love MISCREANT as an answer. 27A: Cosplay and fanfic are parts of it (NERDCULTURE) helped a bit, because I figured out the "nerd" portion early. But even then much of the middle was open, even once I recalled the PERSIANS were on the losing end of the battle of Marathon.

In fact, I filled in the entire SE corner before the middle. I liked this corner the best. 31D: Pistol (GOGETTER) was maybe my favorite of the whole puzzle. It was nice that it crossed HOTRODS.

Meanwhile, I've never heard of UNOBTAINIUM before, but I love it! A substance that is "hypothetical, scientifically impossible, extremely rare, costly, or fictional", according to Wikipedia.

How about 39A: Strips to pieces? (BACONBITS) - hah!

I finished in the NE with ASCIIART. Oof. HARSH!

Anyway, a very good puzzle, which gives me a better feeling than I'd had earlier in this week. Here's looking forward to 2017. Horace will be taking over tomorrow. Which reminds me, Horace, Frances and I are ringing in the New Year in Delmar tonight. Hope everyone has a fun and safe night!

- Colum

### Friday, December 30, 2016, Patrick Berry

DNF

I think three errors are too many to excuse. Nothing wrong with the puzzle, I just was in a major rush to finish it because we were off to a wedding last night! Also the reason why the review is late. Please excuse me!

There's a lot to like about this grid, including 1A: It's soft and sweet (CREAMSODA), which gets a B+. I really have no excuse for putting in HOLDUPrOB. It simply makes no sense at all. But there you go. ABERNATHY is Ralph David Abernathy, Sr, a leader of the civil rights movement. Thus the hidden capital in "King's collaborator".

My other errors came at 34D: Post-W.W. II rival of Stalin. I had __TO and put in naTO. This was techincally not incorrect, and as Richard KILEY was unknown to me, KaLEY seemed reasonable. I can't say that I came up with a rationalization for nIGHT as the answer for 34A: Too small, possibly (TIGHT).

Anyways, other excellent entries include the late Alan RICKMAN, NESTCEPAS, and ASTRODOME, with the remarkable bit of trivia that Mickey Mantle hit the first home run there. It opened in 1965. Mantle retired in 1969, so plenty of overlap there. I actually saw a game at the Astrodome in the late 1970s, and even wore one of those old Astros t-shirts for a while after.

YOGIBERRA's complete name added to the New York feel to the puzzle.

Pretty good and smooth puzzle, as is to be expected. ROMEO was my first confident answer, as my daughter just finished reading that tragedy for English class.

- Colum

## Thursday, December 29, 2016

### Thursday, December 29, 2016, Kevan Choset

7:22 (FWOE)

Huh.

Does it feel like Mr. Shortz is just running out the year at this point? Dusting off the remainders at the bottom of the bin? Fishing out the dregs at the bottom of your 20-year old port? Because, see, the port is really good usually, and, like, the dregs, not so much, get it?

Yeah.

Anyway, 1A: Many a SpaceX worker: Abbr. (ENGR) was where I made my error: I had ENGs. But who cares? Because that's a failing 1A. I give it an F. And if that's not enough, 14A is the second half of TERI / POLO, when the first half comes at 16A. And even worse, 17A is another abbreviation, ECOL. We haven't even gotten out of the NW corner.

So okay. Maybe the fill is not so great (I'm looking at you, UEY, LALALA, and RIAS. Oh, yeah. And KNIFERS. WTF?!). Maybe the theme will make it worthwhile. And actually, it's sort of clever. Charles Windsor, son of Elizabeth II, has a multitude of titles. We get four of them here, among which in order are the letters of his name. It would have been better, although likely impossible, to list the titles in the order in which he uses them, as follows:

His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Earl of Chester, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Grand Master and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty.

That's courtesy of Wikipedia, of course. I've underlined the titles used in the puzzle. It must have taken some doing to come up with symmetrically equal titles for the purposes of the grid. Still, was it worth it? Was it really Thursday worthy?

I'm going to say no. And look forward to tomorrow and Saturday in the hopes that the port starts coming through again.

- Colum

## Wednesday, December 28, 2016

### Wednesday, December 28, 2016, Brendan Emmett Quigley

6:33

Does it feel like 2016 was a tough year? I know it certainly was for some. And tonight, one day after Carrie Fisher died, her mother Debbie Reynolds passed away as well. It will be nice to turn the calendar over in a few days.

In the meantime, as trivial as it may seem, it's nice to have something like the New York Times crossword to turn to, to take our minds off of our troubles for a short period. And what better way to do it than to remember THECARPENTERS?

This is a cute theme, with four relatively well known individuals whose names remind us of carpentry. In two cases, it's the last name (Wood and Hammer), and in two cases it's the first name (Studs and Brad). It would have been nice to find names in both genders, and I know some might have not heard of Stevens, especially outside of New England. And also Mike Hammer isn't a real person and the other three are. But these are small nits to pick.

The rest of the puzzle is well made. 1A: Some pears (BOSCS) gets a B-, losing points for being a plural, but gaining points for being tasty. My first confident answer was LITUP.

I enjoyed HOWRU and YACHTSMAN. I wish WHAMMO had been clued using the frisbee brand. I expect ET59 enjoyed 49D, despite their poor performance this season.

33A: "Your point being...?" (SOO) ... is ... well, I'm not sure. What do people think? I get it, but is it real? I suppose Philippa Soo (original portrayer of Eliza Hamilton in the musical) is not well enough known to merit a clue that way.

Looking forward to the turn!

- Colum

## Tuesday, December 27, 2016

### Tuesday, December 27, 2016, Herre Schouwerwou

4:12 (FWOE - typo)

This is an old standby for themes: two word phrases, each of whose words when combined with a third common word, make new phrases. For it to work, the theme answers must each be recognizable, the new phrases must all be common parlance, and the revealer should be a clever way of explicating the trick.

The last is certainly true here: DOUBLETAKE is nicely doubly used here. The second condition is also well met: "take heart", "take shape", "take cover", "take charge", "take down", "take home", "take back", "take away", "take after", and "take effect" are all well known phrases. The first reminds me of Pirates of Penzance. Actually, at this point, the word "take" has lost all recognition to me.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the first condition is met. HEARTSHAPE is ad hoc. DOWNHOME and BACKAWAY are acceptable if banal. But AFTEREFFECT feels not a true thing. Googling it brings up an Adobe program primarily. Anyway, others may disagree. It's pretty close to working, in any case.

I'll also pick a little nit with HALFGONE. Or perhaps more with the clue, with a reference to dementia. Perhaps this is not particularly sensitive. It certainly could have been clued with, say, a partially eaten pie, instead.

Otherwise, I give enthusiastic thumbs up to OGDENNASH and SUPERMOM. I've never heard the term SUNDOG before, and I like the learning experience.

1A: Tease good-naturedly (JOSH) gets a B-, a slight bump in grade being achieved due to the difficulty of figuring out which 4-letter J-word is being referred to. In fact, my first confident answer was JIHAD. My error came at the cross of EPEES and TOSS, where I'd typoed a Z instead of the S, but my eyes had already moved on. This is really a mistake borne of iPad. It would never have happened either with a pencil or an analog keyboard. But them's the breaks.

- Colum

## Monday, December 26, 2016

### Monday, December 26, 2016, Jules P. Markey

3:45 (FWOE)

A surprise addition to the holiday theme puzzle series! There are six "days" represented in the puzzle with their names put into boxes, thus leading to the revealer, BOXINGDAY. Excellent. The actual choices of days are interesting: we get one actual holiday with Patriots Day, which should appeal to our New England readers. Then there's Election Day, about which the less said the better.

The other four examples are a motley crew indeed. One event that happens once every four years (Leap Day), one event that happens once every week (Hump Day), one event that happens weekly in the right season (game day), and one event that may never happen at all in portions of the country, or possibly in the whole country some day if climate change continues (snow day). I enjoyed the variety, although I could see how some might nitpick.

The boxes make for triple-checked letters, and I would say that Mr. Markey has done a pretty remarkable job of keeping things as smooth as possible around those areas. Yes, there's ANATOLE and NIEBUHR, both of which are not Monday level answers, and SILOING is not really a word, is it? But otherwise, I like ARMLESS and EARFLAP, and any mention of XENA is a win in my book.

My error came at the cross of ESTA and SEABEES. I tried an E there, which even in retrospect seems to make sense. After all, the name comes from Construction Battalion (thus C.B.) and could be transliterated with a double-E. Anyway.

1A: Go out, as the tide (EBB) gets a D+ for crosswordese and blandness.

On the whole, a good Monday.

- Colum

## Sunday, December 25, 2016

### Sunday, December 25, 2016, Kevin G. Der

MARRIED COUPLES

Hmmmm.

So.

This theme is what exactly? We start with one phrase or word whose ending two letters are the beginning two letters of the second phrase of word, and then the resulting pair are clued with a recognizable phrase. That's a lot of word to explain what's going on here, and I have to say it wasn't exactly a lot of fun or humor in the solve. I can see that the clues are clever although not particularly funny. But I just didn't get much of an "aha" feeling.

So let's look at the fill instead.

Um.

VANERN? Never heard of it. Googling it, I see it is a thing. But... And then we have AROAR and AREAR. Those are the worst offenders.

On the plus side? 45A: Makes minor observances? (BABYSITS). Very nice. 15D: Salty or spicy (OFFCOLOR) - not what I expected.

1A: Leave a permanent mark on (ETCH) gets a C+.

But can I say, with Christmas actually landing on a Sunday, how is it we've failed to have a theme relating to the holiday in question? We do get 69A: Two turtledoves, e.g. (PAIR) and 4D: Common Christmas entree (HAM - we did in fact have one, and it was superb, if I do say so myself) as well as Clement Clarke MOORE, but that's it. I consider that an opportunity missed.

Merry Christmas to everyone, or happy Hanukkah, if you celebrate that, as both are currently ongoing.

- Colum

## Saturday, December 24, 2016

### Saturday, December 24, 2016, David Steinberg

7:20

Sometimes you're just on the same wavelength with a puzzle constructor. Or maybe sometimes a Saturday puzzle is not Saturday difficulty. Certainly yesterday's puzzle played a lot harder.

I got 1A: Something fracked in fracking (SHALE - D+, because I hate fracking) immediately and was off to the races. Nothing really confused me in this corner, including LTD and EYES. I like SHAWTY, something I have heard from time to time in pop songs.

I moved into the NE corner from here. 6A: Worms and such (MALWARE - nice clue with no question mark needed) continued the trend of things you don't want to encounter across the top of the puzzle. YKNOW is surprising, and I liked it a lot. I can't say the same about SEXYBACK, but I was able to come up with the name of the song.

The SE corner was pretty impressively scrabbled up, with JURYBOX, BBQSAUCE and QVC.

And the SW corner had the very nice 58A: Kind of car commonly seen in cities (ELEVATOR). I was thinking "smart car" but that would have broken the rules of crosswords.

Anyway, it's a very smooth puzzle, and it's late and I still have to wrap stocking presents.

Good night, and Merry Christmas 50 minutes early.

- Colum

## Friday, December 23, 2016

### Friday, December 23, 2016, Robyn Weintraub

16:47

Ms. Weintraub NIGH well hit this one out of the park. I didn't like one or two answers, but in general, this is very strong stuff here.

1D: Immune system component (TCELL) was my entry, only I chose the wrong kind of cell, with repercussions that lasted for nearly the complete puzzle. Once I had bCELL in place, and with the NIGH impossible RAMIE at 2D, the NW corner was a challenge.

But how about that 1A: One may hold a ship in place (TRACTORBEAM)? It's my first (and probably only) A+ of the month. What a great answer and clue! I was NIGH convinced the clue was referring to an earthbound vessel, and with b_AC____, I tried to start off with "beach..." Clearly that didn't fly. The remainder of long across answers are good as well, especially EMPIRESTATE, which is where yours truly lives.

8D: Robin's refuge (BATCAVE) is a lovely hidden capital that didn't fool me for an instant. We've talked before in this space of how one's crossword-solving thinking has to shift to trickier things come the turn, and in this situation, it served me well. 20A: Toy car driver? (CBATTERY) was NIGH impossible, though. I had to figure it out from the back end later in my solve.

13D: Copernicus, for one (STARGAZER) was somehow less specific than I wanted. I rejected things having to do with Poland and "astronomer" didn't fit. I'm not a fan of BETSY DeVos.

IMPRESSME is nice. 46A: Breathers? (NOSTRILS) made me laugh when I finally figured it out. The SW corner was definitely the hardest area of the puzzle for me. I stared at a bunch of empty squares for some time - I NIGH gave up! Not really.

And now I've used NIGH in NIGH every paragraph of this puzzle. I liked that word best of all. Does SECRETSANTA make this puzzle four in the Holiday series? I guess so.

- Colum

## Thursday, December 22, 2016

### Thursday, December 22, 2016, Marc MacLachlan

14:36 (FWOE)

It took a long time of floundering around before I finally figured out the theme. I tried "brit" at 1A: Hitchcock, for one, crossing "berg" at 1D: Arctic shipping hazard, but had to take them out. I might have figured out the whole thing if I'd gone with my instincts of putting RUHR and ERAT in.

In any case, it wasn't until much later when I saw 25A: Like some sex with PREM_R__ filled in from crosses and realized at the same time that GENER was possible at 15A if you just let the AL slip off the side.

And there it is. The fricking puzzle has [AL]UMINUM / SIDING. That's some pretty funny stuff, and well done, considering that every across answer that hits the west or east side of the puzzle is missing an AL, which is the chemical symbol for aluminum, after all. The most brilliant is [AL]BERTEINSTEINMED[AL]. Way to make a 19-letter answer fit in a 15 x 15 grid!

I'd never heard of [AL]ATEEN before. It's a support group for adolescents from families with alcoholics in them, so that's worthy as far as I'm concerned.

The reconfigured 1A, answer [AL]FRED gets an A-, even though technically it's part of the theme. The rest of the puzzle has not much of interest in it. My error came because I refused to believe that 41D: Punk would be LOUSY. Is "punk" here to be used as an adjective? Is that allowed? I wanted LOUSe and tried to convince myself that [AL]IMONe was some kind of pluralization.

Also, I don't love 59A: Pilgrims John and Priscilla ([AL]DENS). It's a little ad hoc for the theme's sake.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the puzzle. I do enjoy a puzzle that literally thinks outside the box.

- Colum

P.S. This is the second debut puzzle in a row! Once again, my congratulations and welcome to Mr. MacLachlan.

## Wednesday, December 21, 2016

### Wednesday, December 21, 2016, Seth Geltman and Jeff Chen

8:22

I wondered why my time was so high for a Wednesday, but then I looked at the grid again and saw how segmented it is. Each corner is its own little mini-puzzle, connected primarily by theme answers. I found myself having to start anew over and over again until I finally got the theme.

So, THINKBIG - that is, put "big" before each of the theme clues to get the real clue. So 17A: HOUSE becomes "big house", or THECLINK. And so on. All four are very standard "big" phrases. Nothing too surprising. GRANDPOOBAH is the best answer of course, even though it's not spelled the way Mr. W.S. Gilbert spelled it.

Yeah. It's fine.

Craziest answer prize goes to WWERAW. That just looks insane in the grid. My eyes kept seeing it as I looked over the finished grid and I wanted it to spell something else. The show started in 1993 and is still going on, so I guess it's a strong enough thing to stand on its own in the puzzle.

8D: Heavyweight bout venue (SUMORING) got a big smile for the clue. That's a nice bit of misdirection. 11D: Christian supergroup? (TRINITY) is cute.

Nothing wrong with Smetana's The MOLDAU, part of Ma Vlast. It's probably the only movement that ever gets played on the radio, but it surely is a lovely piece of music.

1A: Creatures under Wayne Manor (BATS) is a good way of rescuing a blah bit of opening answering. I'll give the pairing a B-. Anyway, the puzzle is an above average Wednesday offering. I wonder whether Mr. Geltman is making his NYT debut here? Yes, indeed he is! Congratulations, and welcome, sir.

- Colum

## Tuesday, December 20, 2016

### Tuesday, December 20, 2016, Timothy Polin

3:56

Ah, a puzzle after our own hearts. Unfortunately, I threw it back too quickly. And that's because I like my drinks neat, not on ice.

But this is fun stuff. Three examples of liquors, encased in answers that on some level do not directly reference the actual beverage, and all three sitting on top of answers that contain "ICE". Thus, they are all served ONTHEROCKS. Clever.

On the other hand, the only theme answer that truly doesn't have a connection with the alcohol is SCOTCHTAPE: here the word was originally used in the derisive form of "stingy". Thus non-alcoholic. On the other hand, the drink bourbon's name comes from the HOUSEOFBOURBON (possibly via Bourbon County in Kentucky or Bourbon St. in New Orleans). And TEQUILASUNRISE is the name of a tequila cocktail, so no love there.

Otherwise, the puzzle has the remarkable pair of -IOUS answers in the NE and SW. Both AMPHIBIOUS and OBSEQUIOUS are wonderful answers, and just on their own make the puzzle a notch more fun. I didn't see SUICIDE Squad, nor have I ever eaten SEACARP. Just wanted to make that clear.

1A: MacBook ___ (PRO) went in without a thought, even though "air" would fit in there also. I give it a B-. CANTORS and HILLEL give the puzzle a Jewish feel. Is this a nod towards other holiday traditions besides Christmas? I doubt it.

Not a fan of SNERT, but otherwise I have no issues with the rest of the fill.

- Colum

## Monday, December 19, 2016

### Monday, December 19, 2016, Jason Mueller

4:00 (FWOE)

Puzzle number three in the Christmas season series is filled with five examples of actors who have played Santa in movies. What, no space for Billy Bob Thornton? Yeah, his name is 16 letters long, but still...

Who knew FREDASTAIRE took on the role? He's extremely thin for the part. TOMHANKS did not have to gain weight or put on a suit, because his Santa Claus was animated. My error came at the crossing of EDMUNDGWENN and WTO. I tried an L there (made more sense with G_ENN). Oh, well.

I thought the rest of the puzzle played extremely smoothly, and at a good level for a Monday. I'm particularly impressed by the pairs of 9-letter down answers side by side in the NE and SW. All four are good answers, especially TRICKSTER and SHOWMANCE. I also liked FRESHAIR and OHSNAP.

1A: Monastery leader (ABBOT) gets a C+. Fairly average stuff. It was also the first answer I put in. There are no clever clues. But I like MAE West's quote: "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted." That's funny stuff.

There's an odd MMI (literally), and who didn't say "Ugh" at UGA?

Pretty good Monday.

- Colum

## Sunday, December 18, 2016

### Sunday, December 18, 2016, Derrick Niederman

MIRROR REFLECTION

What a great idea for a theme! It takes the very nature of the conventional mirror symmetry of the crossword grid and applies it with brutal logic. Here, every across clue is repeated in its symmetrically placed across clue. Thus, every clue has to have two answers of equal length that appropriately respond to the clue.

This does lead to some particularly tortured cluing: for example, "anagram of the letters O-N-D" (answers DON and NOD: at least we weren't subjected to "DNO" or some such). Another example is more amusingly "This does not fly" (Answers TWA and EMU).

Sometimes the clues were uninformative and of interest nonetheless. See "First name of an Oscar-nominated actress of 1957". Now, I don't know about you, but I don't have all the nominated actresses of a certain year in my mind. Nonetheless, LANA Turner (for Peyton Place as best actress) and ELSA Lanchester (for Witness for the Prosecution as best supporting actress) are nice pieces of trivia. Note that the actual Oscars in this case were given out in 1958.

Sometimes the clues required a twist in meaning to figure them out. I very much enjoyed "Where to find grooms" (answers STABLE and ALTARS). But even better was "Tinker, for one, in olden days" (answers SHORTSTOP, referring to the famous Chicago Cubs player immortalized in Tinker to Evers to Chance, and ITINERANT). That's fine cluing. Note that there is not a single question mark in the across clues.

I somehow managed to work my way through essentially all of the first set of across clues without coming across the theme. 1A: One of the blanks in the cereal slogan "____ are for ____" (TRIX) should have given it away. By the way, I'll give that answer a B+ for nostalgia as well as for reminding me of one of my favorite shaggy dog pun jokes. If you have about 10 minutes to spare some day, I'll tell it to you.

I finally understood when I broke into the southern middle section and saw the mirrored Egyptian queen clue. I'd thought about how cool it was that NEFERTITI and CLEOPATRA would fit into the same number of squares when I entered the former at 21A. It hadn't been a struggle to choose because I already had SNL in place.

Anyway, the down clues and answers hardly matter in this sort of tour de force. There are too many RE- answers, and DAZER just isn't a thing. Also, DETAG? Not a thing. I still liked ANTIVIRUS and SPOILT. The puzzle played at just the right level of difficulty. Nicely done overall.

- Colum

## Saturday, December 17, 2016

### Saturday, December 17, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel

9:15

Well, my early disappointment this week has been made up for by a very nice turn. This is a smooth themeless, with only a couple of spots I wasn't enthralled by. Even though it flew by, it was a nice respite from my somewhat tense drive the length of the Mass Pike in a moderate snowstorm.

My opening gambit in this grid came at 4D: Hardly a racing boat (TUB) - very nice. TELL followed (kind of a gimme answer), which gave me the beginning of 15A: Reading material for French fashionistas (VOGUEPARIS), and we were off to the races. I particularly liked 1A: Automated message poster (TWITTERBOT). Methinks our dewy eyed future POTUS may take advantage of some of these. Or not. Despite that less than happy reminder, I'll give the answer a B+ for its freshness.

I had OILSpIll for a little at 9D, but switched when I figured out that 28A: Control, metaphorically was REINS. That's a really nice clue and answer, I think. Nonetheless, I petered out over there for a bit, and attacked the SW corner instead.

Nothing too challenging here. I had SALAMIS off of the S, and figured out that 32D: Touch alternative (NANO) was referring to iPods. I like that the answer was right below 6D: Touching things in competition (EPEES). ORDERNOW has a nice immediacy about it, literally.

The saddest moment in the grid came at SAMP. This is not a thing I've ever heard of. Apparently it's South African. I doubted this entry all the way until I finished the puzzle. 56D: Anonymous news source (THEY) is a brilliant clue: how overly formal! ALLTHERAGE is very good.

I call a semi-Natick at the cross of RSSFEED and RAMIN. I thought of "Jam in, and had I not had a niggling thought that the R was right for the down clue, I would have finished with an error.

Otherwise I enjoyed this puzzle.

- Colum

## Friday, December 16, 2016

### Friday, December 16, 2016, Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany

15:58

I think I'm going to have to give up my unreasoned antipathy to quad stacks if these kinds of puzzles keep on cropping up. This is at least the second such puzzle in a row I'm going to give a positive review to. I must retire my curmudgeon personality. That's sort of sad.

I thought things would go swimmingly when 1A: ____ Nast, publisher of Vogue (CONDE) was such a gimme. That's a C+ clue and answer. We look for something a little more challenging to start off Friday.

If I'm going to complain about anything with this puzzle, it's that the top, middle, and bottom play as somewhat separated mini-puzzles. While there are a number of outstanding long down answers connecting the sections, they are surrounded by a plethora of less pleasing 3-letter answers. Which was your least favorite line? Mine was ONS PTL ETH. By the way, that middle one refers to Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakers' television show.

But on the positive side, we get such excellent answers as COPACETIC, LAVIEBOHEME, and my actual favorite, HADAHANDIN. What a wonderful four-word answer. I'm not a fan of ELVINBISHOP, because who?

I will now proceed to grade the grid-spanners. In the quad stack, three of the four are top notch. How did it take me so many crosses to recall HOTELCALIFORNIA? Once I saw it, I wanted to slap myself. I would definitely have finished more quickly had I remembered it more quickly. ARRIVESONTHEDOT and LAIDITONTHELINE are great. TRAININGSEMINAR is definitely more neutral, but fine.

17A: Company concerned with net profits? (SERVICEPROVIDER) is saved by the cute clue. Otherwise it is standard, hardly sparkling. But HADTHELASTLAUGH is brilliant.

And I like how the top and bottom 15-letter answers are sandwiched with 8- and 9-letter answers. 19A: Big name in pop (COCACOLA) wins for the best clue. Boy, I was struggling with possible pop stars for a long time. 57A: Pasta strip (EGGNOODLE) also was not what I was looking for. I really wanted "papardelle" or "tagliatelli". The __GN___ just made things more difficult because I was stuck on the "lasagna" possibility.

A pleasant continuation of the turn. Let's keep it going, NYT!!!

- Colum

## Thursday, December 15, 2016

### Thursday, December 15, 2016, Jacob Stulberg

13:49 (FWOE)

Nothing like a good rebus puzzle to get the turn started. And how much fun was the final answer? I'm just going to put it in here for the fun of typing it out: [FA][LA][LA][LA][LA][LA][LA][LA][LA]! I guess this is the second salvo in the seasonal puzzle fare this year, and I like it better than The Little Drummer Boy exemplar from last week. Funny that this one is song-based as well.

Anyway, the other theme answers are two word phrases which contain the diptychs "fa" and "la" in that order within the first and second words. I'm always pleased when the rebuses are in unpredictable squares. I thought the "fa" would have to be at the start given the first two theme answers, but the second two upset that pattern. I like GRAND[FA]THERC[LA]USE the best because of the length and the fact that I feel like Jolly Old Nick is peeking out at us from the midst of the answer. The other theme answers are hardly sparkling, but are definitely reasonable.

I twigged to the rebus pretty quickly. ELLEN was my entry into the puzzle, with 4D: Mideastern heat? (UZI - not a difficult clue there) following. Soon I had _LLING___ at 16A with DE___ at 1D. The down answer required a consonant to come next, and the across answer needed a vowel before the LL. Thus, rebus.

Have I mentioned that I saw Hamilton recently? (Angelica.. ELIZA... and Peggy...)

1A: Kickoff (DEBUT) is fairly average, so I'll give it a C.

My error came at the crossof GUM and MET. I went all political on 34A: It's not allowed in many classrooms by putting in GUn. And... yeah. So that happened.

In other areas: I liked 60A: Title character who never appears (GODOT) and 9D: Fragrant Italian brandy (GRAPPA). I should have remembered TUFTS more quickly than I did.

- Colum

## Wednesday, December 14, 2016

### Wednesday, December 14, 2016, Alan Deloriea

5:24

Some months, as I write these scintillating blog entries, I look back on the months I didn't blog and wonder how come it seemed like those puzzles were so much better than the ones I'm analyzing and critiquing? I've been less than impressed with every single puzzle from last Thursday to today's.

I mean, it's fine. It's passable. The theme is a cute idea: five examples of "Something to follow." Only the very first answer is suspect: DOTTEDLINE. What are we following here? If it's on a form, that's where we sign, not something we follow. Or is it on a roadway? If so, it's a duplication of the best answer of the bunch, YELLOWBRICKROAD. Any thoughts on what was meant by this answer?

And yeah, the second answer just makes the inadequacy of the first answer so much more meaningful. Here is a good example of something to follow (GOODEXAMPLE), only, it's following a bad example, see? The other two are quite good, namely TWITTERFEED and OPENINGACT. Clear instances of things one follows.

Two fine long down answers, especially 11D: Their characters jump off the page (POPUPBOOKS). Great clue, fun answer. 30D: One who wants a ring for bling? (GOLDDIGGER) is not quite as good. I'm sure the blogosphere will be exploding with complaints that this is sexist. That doesn't bother me so much: it's an accepted term with a predominantly gendered definition.

On the other hand, the grid once again teems with names and proper nouns. 1A: Company whose business is picking up (UBER) gets a B, balancing out the brand name with the clever clue. In other spots, we get OLMEC, BENNET (sadly not clued using Pride and Prejudice, which I would have preferred, even though Senator Bennet is contemporary), EDDARD (well known to me), NICOLE, LARA, ASSAM, JUDEA.

Also, WIRER. Just should not exist. And is it okay to cross EMO with EMOJI? They have the exact same root underlying their origin, namely the word "emotion".

The worst offender though, has to be ONEB. Oof.

Here's hoping the turn brings a turn in quality as well.

- Colum

## Tuesday, December 13, 2016

### Tuesday, December 13, 2016, David Alfred Bywaters

4:21

As Churchy Lafemme used to say in Pogo, "Don't you just hate it when Friday the 13th comes on a Tuesday?"

Actually, that has nothing to do with today's puzzle. It's just always worthwhile to think about Pogo, especially during times of political upheaval.

Today's puzzle, on the other hand, is a set of silly puns surrounding legal terms. My favorite clue is 17A: Legal actions provoked by oversimple jigsaw puzzles? (THREEPIECESUITS). That's quite some verbal prestidigitation to get to the joke there. My favorite answer is BOXERBRIEFS. My least favorite is DENTALRETAINERS, which is simply not what you call them. I should know: I've paid for a number of them for my children's mouths.

I question the NE corner of this puzzle entirely. In order to get EQUINE, I suppose we've ended up accepting ETSY, which leads to the unacceptable WINEY. What is that? It's not a word. Nobody has ever used that word intentionally. If you said it, I'd think you were saying "whiny", which is what this paragraph is beginning to sound like.

I'm also not a fan of HAM coming after ONRYE, no matter how tasty the combination may be (with a good strong mustard and some swiss cheese, of course).

I liked VARMINTS and WHEEDLED, however. Those are fun entries. I suppose Icarus Fob might enjoy 20A. Strange moment happened in the SW corner where I put "fawn" in for Bambi and crossed it with "away" at 64A: Departed (LEFT). EROS soon put me right, as is so often the case.

1A: "What a relief!" (PHEW) gets a B-, and was my first entry, although I glanced at 1D to be sure it was spelled with a P and not a W.

Mixed review for me.

- Colum

## Monday, December 12, 2016

### Monday, December 12, 2016, Mark McClain

4:33

I love this theme! A simple term, LANGUAGEBARRIER is put into literal sense in six examples of language names that are split in half by a black square. It is not perhaps surprising that in the process, the split words involve proper names in four of the six, a foreign word and an archaicism in the other two. That caused the difficulty of the puzzle to skew up slightly for a Monday, but I didn't mind in the least.

The language choices are split between European (GER/MAN, POL/ISH, and LA/TIN) and southeast Asian (HIN/DI, UR/DU, and TH/AI). I suppose Japanese would have been challenging. Not to mention !Kung. But another nice piece of the theme is that the languages are placed perfectly symmetrically, including how they are split. Nice work.

1A: Lower part of the leg (SHIN) is a partial theme answer, so I'm not going to give it an official grade. That being said, I tried "calf" and then put "cults" in at 1D: Religious offshoots (SECTS). I suppose that might reflect my own particular approach to religion. But when I saw 2D (HIREE), I knew I'd gotten it all wrong.

Some good long down answers scattered here: MERCUTIO has been the hot topic in Delmar recently, seeing as how Cece has been studying Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade English. GIFTSHOP is good as well.

A fair amount of ETNA, ENYA, EIRE, RIAA, EPEE, and so on. But I'll accept it for the theme. ISHALL accept it, I mean.

- Colum

## Sunday, December 11, 2016

### Sunday, December 11, 2016, Tom McCoy

RETRONYMS

This puzzle was too easy by half. The theme, while fun to think about, wasn't much of a challenge to figure out as I went through. And the fill wasnt terribly challenging either. I once had a theory that the Sunday puzzles went through a rotation of difficulty over the course of a month. I didn't have the wherewithal to follow that theory through, but if I was right, this puzzle was on a Monday level for me.

In terms of the theme, I liked REALNUMBER the best. This seems the most correct of all of the answers. My daughter is learning about imaginary numbers right now, and it's a fascinating topic. I also liked SNAILMAIL and SILENTFILM. PAPERCOPY was my least favorite. Perhaps it's the clue. It's not exactly correct that electronic documents made the use of "paper" before the word "copy" necessary. I'm not sure what would be better, though.

1A: "The cauldron of Democracy" (AMERICA) gets a D for all the ways in which that cauldron is currently failing. Boy, I wanted something to do with classical Greece for this answer.

Overall, I felt the fill was smoothly done. I liked the four long down answers that anchored each corner, with COWTIPPING being the best by far. I'm also a fan of UNHANDS and THATHURTS. Best clue goes to 51A: Cackle from a greedy person (ALLMINE).

I don't entirely believe in TOPRANK as a thing people say. Other unhappy fill includes ETDS (plural? really?) and CTS, which is an abbreviation that no one has ever used.

I continue to be amused by ISIT? ITIS.

- Colum

## Saturday, December 10, 2016

### Saturday, December 10, 2016, Byron Walden

14:31

So... THAT happened.

And yes, people say that nowadays. Mostly people under 30. It's a cute bit of up-to-dateness that also happened to be my first entry in the grid. There is a lot to like about this puzzle, and then there are some things I'd rather not have seen (KNEADERS, I'm looking at you!).

In each corner, there's some great entries. In the NW, I enjoyed 3D: Holiday ball (ORNAMENT), and 15A: Play with an imaginary friend (HARVEY) is a lovely example of turning what seems like a verb into a noun. ERNANI is a clunker, even though I was able to pull it out of whatever store of opera titles I have somewhere in my brain. It is by Verdi, who Italians consider to be their greatest composer of all time (I prefer Vivaldi and even Puccini, myself).

The NE corner has the wonderful 16A: Leader in a suit? (EXHIBITA). I really love that. 7D: Sign of the cross? (PEDXING) is also fine. ETTORE and ABE are necessary but blah glue. SNOCKERED is fun, although I wanted "snookered", which felt more correct, but on researching I see has a completely different meaning. I've been to KAUAI, and I saw the mountain both from a catamaran and from a helicopter. Nice honeymoon memories.

We've really been enjoying LOUISCK's Louie. We're on season 3, and it's just killing it. But otherwise the SE corner is the weakest. LANKAN, LAA, even IGIVE, not so great. I liked SLEEPERHOLD (much better than it's symmetric counterpart, STANDNEXTTO).

The SW corner has IMTOOSEXY, which is a stupid song, in my book, but the clue is outstanding. Ah, VH1. I wanted strandED for MAROONED.

1A: "Summer's joys are ____ by use": Keats (SPOILT) gets an A- because, well, Keats, that's why.

All in all, I felt the turn was not up to snuff this week. Let's hope next week is more inspiring.

- Colum

## Friday, December 9, 2016

### Friday, December 9, 2016, David Phillips

13:13 (FWOE)

Boy, did today's puzzle seem like I was just going to speed right through it. I confidently put in SCAMPS at 1A: Little rascals (gets a B+, and would have been better but for that -S at the end). Then I just as confidently put in MelISSA at 4D for Ms. Mayer (MARISSA). All seemed well when I was able to put in MELISSAMCCARTHY. Only (and it took quite some time to see), there was the unallowable crossing of the same name twice. Since that corner was cut off from the rest of the puzzle, I had no help from outside.

Some great clues today. That NW corner alone has 1D: Shake on the dance floor (SHIMMY) - nice use of a noun instead of the verb form; 2D: One serving a function (CATERER) - excellent clue, no question mark needed; and 16A: Say, say, say? (ITERATE) - here the clue is literally repeating itself, not attempting to state "Say 'say', say".

My error was a typo: I put in MAGNOLoAS and didn't realize it until I finished the puzzle. Really, though, I should have. I stared at that DENTAL Po_K for a long time, trying to figure out what the heck they were getting at. Later when I filled in the excellent 30D: Suckers (VACUUMS), I didn't look back to see what I'd filled in.

CHICAGOSUNTIMES is fine, although I'm missing "the" in the clue. Or should that be there? Maybe it's okay without it, but I'd be inclined to call it the New York Times, not "New York Times". That feels weird to say.

ALOHAOE was a tough get. All those vowels. And right next to LIAISON! So many vowels. All the vowels.

The only answer I don't really like in the whole puzzle is ALPES. French names of mountain ranges... I mean, it's okay because at least the mountains in question are partially in France. I was going to put another example of a non-French mountain range in a French version as a less acceptable answer, but none of them work! Les Rocheuses? Yeah, that's okay, because they're in Canada too. Les Andes? Oh, yeah, that's the same in English... Hmmm. Anyway, I don't love it.

The topical answer for the win today is at 52A: "The great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition," per Adam Smith (SCIENCE). We need a lot more science, then, in today's world.

- Colum

## Thursday, December 8, 2016

### Thursday, December 8, 2016, Damon Gulczynski

7:53

I had a strange experience starting this puzzle. Has this ever happened to you? I started out unclear on what 1A was going to be, and then mistook the clue for 5A: "Downton Abbey" maid to be the clue for 1D. Confidently, I put in Anna. Wrong on more than one count. The wrong name in the wrong slot.

Well, it didn't take long to figure it out. I suspect this kind of mistake doesn't happen too much when you're solving with pencil in the actual paper.

My first actual confident (and correct) answer came at 3D: Band that used a pay-what-you-want model to sell their 2007 album (RADIOHEAD). The album is the stunning In Rainbows, and would have been well worth the usual cost, but we got it for free.

The theme? It's cute: taking a phrase which typically starts with a two initial abbreviation and treating that abbreviation like it's a two letter word. Reclue in wacky fashion and yuks abound. My favorite by far is 17A: Singers who go from "sol" straight to "ti"? (LADODGERS). Hah! I was also amused by PAANNOUNCEMENTS, but less so by the other three, which fell a little flat in my book.

The grid doesn't have the greatest flow, which led to the NE and SW corners turning into 5 x 5 minipuzzles. Since both are anchored by theme answers, they were a little tough to break into. I finished the puzzle in the NE, where I had IDCARDS and ADAGES but nothing else. I got the -ER of AIRIER first, and then guessed SEERS. I tried passE for 19A: So yesterday, say (STALE, could have been "trite" as well, I suppose), and then figured it out with MISTS.

Love MOTLEY. No CrÃ¼e needed, thank you very much. 50A: Pitcher of milk? (ELSIE) got a laugh. And 53A: Jesus, for one (ALOU) was a nice way to clue an ancient bit of crosswordese.

1A: Bend out of shape (WARP) was fine. C+

- Colum

## Wednesday, December 7, 2016

### Wednesday, December 7, 2016, David Steinberg

7:15 (FWOE)

What a peculiar theme! It must be Wednesday. I really wanted to like this puzzle, but I'm not sure in the end that I do.

Five two word phrases, each of whose words are also the PASTTENSE version of a verb. Some of these work very well, following my usual rules of engagement for this sort of thing; namely, that the phrase has to be in common parlance, and each individual word is not being used in the phrase in the past tense form of the verb in question.

Thus, FIXEDCOST doesn't work so well for me. I don't like the phrase very much, and the word "fixed" is the past tense of the verb "fix" being used in adjectival form. So, not so great. In contrast, I like LEFTHANDED better, even if the "handed" is not ideal according to my rules. Better still is SHOTPUT.

I can't complain much about 1A: One of two in "Hamilton" (ACT), seeing as how much I've been crowing about seeing the darned thing. But it's a meh first answer, and gets a C+. It was also my first confident answer. My error came in the next answer down. 13A: Question asked with an open mouth (WHA). Precisely. Wha...? I mean, really. TAXCO was no help. I guessed WHo. I guessed wrong, but who can blame me?

Here's what I did like: RECKLESS, HARDATIT, and JABBA. But some of the other long downs including DEADDROPS and STOPSPLAY are just not that exciting.

And who wants to think of a horse when presented with RUMP? So many opportunities missed here. I call foul. And can we retire AOL? Does it even actually exist anymore?

I think overall, I felt ENNUI while solving this puzzle.

Here's hoping the turn is more exciting.

- Colum

## Tuesday, December 6, 2016

### Tuesday, December 6, 2016, Ed Sessa

4:45

Here it is, finally, the first salvo in the annual seasonal NYT crossword rush. And that's several weeks later than the rest of the country, so that's something at least. I figured it out by the third set of shaded squares, but I had no idea what the lyric following the syllables PA RUM PUM PUM PUM were, so it took some crosses to get going on MEANDMYDRUM. Of course, the only recording worthwhile thinking of for this otherwise fairly forgettable song is the one with Bing Crosby and the late David Bowie, looking incredibly young here.

It is enjoyable to say RUMPLE PUMICE PUMPER PUMMEL though.

There are four 7-letter down answers, and the rest are no longer than 6-letters. I like 42D: What's your beef? (REDMEAT) and 43D: Assemble in a makeshift way (JURYRIG), especially the latter. Otherwise, we get a reference to The Karate Kid, two pharmaceutical names in PROZAC and PFIZER, and not a lot else.

1A: Parts of a crab that grab (CLAWS) gets a B-, and that mostly for the silly clue. It was also what I entered first.

Yeah... the rest of the puzzle is not that interesting, really. I give it a wishy-washy thumbs up.

- Colum

## Monday, December 5, 2016

### Monday, December 5, 2016, Ned White

3:46 (FWOE)

You'd think I'd know by now that it's ALEX Trebek, not ALEc or ALEk or something like that. And yet, I always trip up on his name. It must be the human need to rhyme. Steven Sondheim (favorite Broadway composer by far) writes about rhyming and how it makes it easier for the brain to grasp what's being said. So you see? It's only natural. I can't help it.

I feel like today's puzzle, a perfectly serviceable example of a Monday grid, is made by those two 11-letter down answers. PERIPHERALS is a neat term (and the plural is okay here in my book, because you never really talk about a singular computer peripheral). TORCHBEARER is also quite good, especially when referencing the late (and great) Muhammad Ali.

The theme is consistent: I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it involves a body part in each answer. I'm not convinced that NECKSNAPPER and CHESTBEATER are things that anyone really says in day-to-day conversation, but the other three are common parlance. It's fine, as my daughter would say. But one nice touch is that each body part is placed in the puzzle relative to its location on the body (hair at the top, ankle at the bottom).

The remainder of the FILL (we all like metafill, don't we?) has some less fortunate stuff in it. I don't really like PETERI (or any other name-number way of getting around a terminal -I, such as ACTIII from the other day), and UPTILTS feels ADHOC.  I was surprised to see a reference to a movie that has not yet opened, Miss SLOANE, but I've been bludgeoned with NPR style advertisements for it on my way to work, so it wasn't a tough answer for me.

1A: Sounds like a dog (BARKS) was my first confident answer, and gets a C-, really on the basis of the clue. Really? This is how you clue "barks"? Sounds like a dog? It just seems off.

- Colum

## Sunday, December 4, 2016

### Sunday, December 4, 2016, Bruce Haight

ACTION STARS

I like this theme: a movie star's last name is turned into the past tense of an action verb by adding ED, and then recluing, each clue having to do with movies in some way. I think I like ORLANDOBLOOMED the best. But none of them are truly brilliant or extremely witty. Just all equally fine.

The puzzle played easy for me overall, finishing in about 67% of my usual Sunday time. My first confident answer was LYLE at 3D. There are some good bits in here: ZIPCAR and UNCOLA are fun commercial examples. AWRATS is evocative.

I liked ASALLGETOUT, a phrase I must remember to use more frequently. The middle diagonal sections are full of chunky answers. I particularly like DUELED because it reminds me of Hamilton (which I saw last week), and 69D: Gable part (BUTLER) for its neat hidden capital.

Not such a fan of AGLARE, LEED, or ECARD.

But overall its a pretty smooth grid with enough interesting stuff to make a Sunday solve enjoyable.

1A: Kind of marker (FELTTIP) is fine but nothing special. I give it a C.

P.S. I was in Foxborough today for the greatest QB of all time's league leading 201st win. Great experience, even if the game itself wasn't the most exciting.

- Colum

## Saturday, December 3, 2016

### Saturday, December 3, 2016, Jason Flinn

11:12 (FWOE (typo))

How strange to open up a dual quad stack puzzle and not see Martin Ashwood-Smith's name at the top! We're so used to seeing his fine creations, but here is Mr. Flinn showing off his abilities instead. And I'm really pretty impressed with this puzzle.

So, the usual caveats apply. Obviously, the point of the quad stacks are the interest of the 15-letter answers. The tradeoff is typically the short crossing answers, which often end up tortured in order to accommodate the stack. Let's take a look and see how Mr. Flinn has done here.

First, the stacks. There are eight answers, and I would say he's hit on five out of eight, which is pretty great. The top stack is the stronger of the two. MASTERCRAFTSMAN is fine (I guess I have to grade it, so I'll say it gets a B). Better yet is 16A: "Them!" or "The Fly" (CREATUREFEATURE). That reminds me of days of yore and watching Channel 38 in Boston, which used to have a Sunday Creature Double Feature. I also like VESTEDINTERESTS, while INTERNETADDRESS is pretty blah (although the clue has a nice ambiguity around the word "server").

The lower stack has 48A: Juneteenth (EMANCIPATIONDAY), which is excellent. I didn't know it recognized the official ending of slavery in Texas, of all places. RAISEDONESVOICE is fine, but has that annoying "one's" in the middle of it, so I dock points there. 52A: Crashed and burned (ENDEDINDISASTER) is great, while SYSTEMSANALYSTS is essentially a place holder of an answer: look at all of those happy ending letters (5 S's!).

I'm more impressed by all the crossing answers, however. Each stack has seven answers at 6 letters or longer, and the only one of those I have any complaint about is ANISSA, although I imagine some of the readers of this blog would recognize her name better than I. Sadly she died at age 18 from a drug overdose before she got better known. Good stuff here includes NOTASMANY, SLEEPAIDS, and 14D: Oil production site (ARTSTUDIO) - hah!

Wait, also 5D: What you've been waiting for, you might think (ETERNITY)! I love it.

Even the shorter answers aren't bad. I don't love AFTA (classic brand name crosswordese) or ERES (random conjugation of an irregular Spanish verb). I would have preferred PONS to be clued by the part of the brainstem, but you can't win them all.

Honestly, the parts I didn't like in the puzzle came in the middle (ORM? crossing ORY?!). But I enjoyed solving it quite a bit.

- Colum

## Friday, December 2, 2016

### Friday, December 2, 2016, Andrew Kingsley

11:37

It was really nice of the calendar to start December on a Thursday so I would spin into action at the start of the turn this week. I always look forward to the Friday and Saturday puzzles. Themeless grids often seem the most fun, with the best entries and the cleverest clues.

Today's is no exception. There are a ton of fun answers here, with a lot of colloquial touch. I love 59A: "Fingers crossed!" (HERESHOPING) and 37D: Claims, with "on" (HASDIBS). There's also the excellent PRIZEINSIDE and 10D: Something an athlete puts on (GAMEFACE), no question mark needed.

I broke into the grid, strangely, at 24D: Scottish "John" (IAN) as my first confident answer. I would have gotten that without any assistance, but I also had the ____TIES from the decade answer just before it, and then CIAOS (a strange plural) confirmed the lot. I worked down into the SW corner - I always like APRIORI, and HELIOS is a nice bit from Greek myth.

28D: Front ends? (CEASEFIRES) is a great answer and a really tough clue! I needed a lot of crosses to get that one. 40A: First name in foundations (ESTEE) on the other hand fooled me not at all. There's a bunch of not so great crossing answers in the SE. ACTIII always feels like a desperate move, and HIHO and ANON are pretty neutral. CHATTEL is a great word with not so great connotations in the worlds of race and gender relations.

The C of 36A: Sat in a dugout? (CANOED) was my last square entered. That's a good clue for not such a great answer. I do like OSCARNOD, and 16A: Suffix with lip- (ASE) was unexpected, which is good for such a blah answer.

I'm not so hot on the long answers in the NW corner. EDITORSNOTE isn't all that interesting. 17A: It comes with a dish (SATELLITETV) is better. 1D: Not as much (LESSSO) has that fun run of three S's in a row. But we pay with the peculiar partial ATEN, and classic crosswordese ORLE.

1A: Ceremonial basin (LAVABO) gets a B+ for Latin.

I had fun solving the puzzle, but as I look over it again, I see all the glue needed. Overall, I give it a thumbs up.

- Colum

## Thursday, December 1, 2016

### Thursday, December 1, 2016, Timothy Polin

7:47

Happy December, everyone! I hope Thanksgiving treated you well. It certainly did for me and my family, as we got to see Hamilton, which was just as awesome as we hoped it would be. If you haven't listened to it (available through streaming), it's well worth the two hours.

But now, we're back to the NYT crossword. I very much enjoyed Horace's reviews this past month. It's a nice thing to trade months like this, as it gives a chance to rejuvenate your reviewing mojo, even while being inspired by good reviews.

And today's puzzle doesn't disappoint. It's really a pretty clever bit of theming, appropriate for the Thursday slot. There are three 17-letter answers, neatly squeezed into a 15 x 15 grid, through the use of a BEANDIP: in each case the extra letters take a southern detour around a black square, and the letters that dip are a kind of bean, namely a "baked" bean, a "green" bean, and a "magic" bean. I love the last one!

The three long answers are all completely standard phrases. Who doesn't love a LOADEDB[AKE]DPOTATO? All of those artery-clogging ingredients... mmmm... Bacon...

What?

Oh, sorry, got lost there for a second. ANNEOFG[REE]NGABLES is a well known children's book, musical, movie, television series. And so on. And for those solvers who don't have children, THEM[AGI]CSCHOOLBUS is a more modern version of the same: both a series of kids' books and an animated television series. We always loved these books because they made science fun, but also because the "new" girl in all of the books was named Phoebe. She's the girl in the red dress, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, there's some pretty good fill, and some not so great fill. I actually broke in with LBAR of all things, one of my least favorite type of crossword answers (along with t-nut, i-bar, etc.). OHOS is also not so pretty, along with ATRAS (brand name, plural) and CRAT and ZINE (partial suffixes, blah).

On the plus side, I love PELAGIC. What a great word. Also BASSLINE, which are featured heavily in Hamilton. Did I mention we just saw it? Oh, yeah, I did. 24D: Yosemite runner (IMAC) should never have been so hard to get for me. I also liked SADLOT and WETKISS.

1A: Supershort skirts (MICROS) gets a B, and only because I enjoy the image it conjurs up.

- Colum

## Wednesday, November 30, 2016

### Wednesday, November 30, 2016, Molly Young

0:09:00

I am big fan of this puzzle. I enjoyed it while solving, and I enjoyed it anew while looking it over just now. I really like the "i-___" theme, many of the answers are interesting words, and the clueing was clever and amusing. Let's dig right in, shall we?

First of all, the IBALL-related theme. We've got no revealer, per se, but the six theme answers (running both horizontally and vertically, which I also like) are all marked with the "from Apple?" tag, so a revealer isn't really necessary. They're all amusing, and some are even a bit daring - ILIFT (14A: New push-up bra from Apple?) and ILASH (66A: New whip from Apple?). Those answers, and others like TWEE (67A: So, so cute), 29A: "Get. Out. Of. Here!" (OMG), TEED (34D: Plenty angry, with "off"), and even TED (55A: Kind of talk) give the puzzle a youthful feel. (ARIL, IBID, and ORE notwithstanding, but at least those have straightforward, almost understandingly apologetic clues.)

Lots of great words in the fill - THREATEN (6D: Jeopardize), FORETOLD (42A: Predicted), LEGION (56A: Numerous), DISPOSE (41D: Scrap, with "of"), RAPPORT (39D: Friendly relationship), and others. Many of the clues made me smile, like 68A: Massage joints (SPAS), 69A: Money makers (MINTS), and the symmetrical MOM and DAD clues - "Having a baby makes one." That's a nice touch. Ms. Young states in her brief commentary on xwordinfo that she constructs by hand, and the care that she puts into her work is plainly evident, as this puzzle SHINES.

1A: Rings up? (HALOS) I will give an A-. My first solid answer was IBID (10A: Footnote abbr.) which, in hindsight, probably could have been something else just as easily.

I could go on, but I'll just call attention to two more things. First, the amusing recurrence of OFTEN after Colum's comment on yesterday's puzzle. And BOTA (30A: Leather bag for wine), which was new to me, but which makes the "Bota Box" brand of wine make much more sense. It's always so nice when one's leisure activities end up bringing new information or understanding. It reminds me of all that I learned from Monty Python when I was younger. Some of which I only understood years later.

My month's up, and Colum takes over tomorrow. May December be filled with many more puzzles like this one. Happy Solving!

- Horace

## Tuesday, November 29, 2016

### Tuesday, November 29, 2016, Jacob Stulberg

0:07:39 (F.W.O.E.)

A tribute to one of my favorite books, THEJOYOFCOOKING, which is 85 years old this month! My well-worn copy comes off its shelf at least weekly to sit on the counter and help out with one thing or another. Most recently, it was rolled biscuits, to go with turkey soup. Mmm.... biscuits... I've never made TURKISH DELIGHT or CORNRELISH, but I do use a zester from time to time.

So good theme, but was there any other ENERGETIC (11D: Peppy) fill? Some. PENITENCE (8D: Display of remorse) is fancy, and I enjoyed seeing the word LIABLE (49D: Apt (to)). The "(to)" in its clue seemed appropriate, but do we really need the "on" in 6D: Commit arson on (TORCH)? Maybe. It is a Tuesday, after all. And speaking of a Tuesday, I was tripped up today by the Jewish cross of HAMAN (35A: Purim villain) and MOSAICLAW (36D: Contents of the Torah). Goyem that I am, I was not at all familiar with HAMAN, and guessed, somewhat amusingly, hopefully, "jOSAICLAW," I guess thinking it was something like "Josannah-ic." Sheesh. What a maroon.

Anywho... 1A: Croquet needs (PEGS) was tricky. I'll give it a B. My first confident entry was ATOP (5A: On), which, were I to grade it, would get a C-. But I don't.

Overall, I guess I wish for more to honor the book. The recipes are related by their mood - zest, delight, relish, and "joy," come to think of it. Well, ok, that's cute, but I don't like the split answer. And for this we have kind of a lot of crosswordsy-type stuff: ECRU, ASP, CLIO, ADO, ORCA, ENO, NAS, ARF, YALIE & ELIHU, NTH, AHA, etc. I like REDEYE (30A: It might end with an early touchdown) (great!), but there was a little too little of that today.

- Horace

## Sunday, November 27, 2016

### Monday, November 28, 2016, Kristian House

0:04:46

Hah! This theme made me laugh out loud. A duck, a duck, and a goose are hidden in three long theme answers. TRIBU[TEAL]BUMS, APARTH[EIDER]A, and SWOR[NENE]MIES. Very nice.

The long down fill is full of good answers, too. GUSSIEDUP (11D: Dressed to the nines), NOGOODNIK (34D: Baddie), SLICKERS (41D: Rain jackets), PETUNIA (Flower that's also a girl's name) (could have been so many things…), all of these are strong. And yes, ENACTOR (44D: Legislator) is not good, but I'll take it, because we've also got SCRIMP (23A: Be extremely frugal), ROGUE (43A: Go ____ (no longer follow orders)), and PAGAN (9A: Wiccan or Druid). It's a high-quality grid, I'm telling you. And this is a Monday! I even like the bold ABORC (2D: Multiple-choice options)! And all we PAY is a little ESO HERE, a little ALA there… that kind of thing leaves no SCAR.

1A: Taxis (CABS) gets a C+. The plus is for not cluing it as wine. It was my first confident answer.

Thumbs up, AMIGO, thumbs up.

- Horace

### Sunday, November 27, 2016, Matt Ginsberg

MIXOLOGY

I was hoping that the theme would revolve around different mixed drinks, but no – the mix here is two answers, each independently clued, woven into a third answer, also clued. Sometimes, when I was a little stuck, I tried to just solve the combined clue, and then verified with the parts. Nothing particularly funny or entertaining about the theme, just three words. Still, not bad. And since it's Mr. Ginsberg (creator of the crossword-solving computer program "Mr. Fill"), I wondered if the puzzle were just created as a way to test, and possibly improve, Dr. Fill.

I very much enjoyed some of the clues today. 128A: Makes it? (TAGS) brought a big smile. Likewise, TREAT (106D: October option) seemed very youthful. And the third clue/answer in 119A, "network with 303 stations" (P[A]RI[S]ME[T]R[O]) had me stumped for a long time. That whole SW corner was tough, filled as it was with obscure lizards, foreign languages, and proper nouns (AGAMA, EDDAS, TARDE, ADEUXOMAR, MTADAMS, and OSA). Oh, and 107D: Counterpart of "stand" (HITME). Whew! That took me forever!

Really did not like SNAILED (64A: Moved at a crawl), and there was kind of a lot of SCLERA, ELKO, SERE, APIA, OTERINEHI-type stuff. But then there was also flashy fill like EMBLAZON (46A: Adorn brilliantly) and SEXTANTS (95A: Mariners' aids). And I kind of like ATEATON (77A: Overindulged) (perfect for Thanksgiving) and GETAB (57D: Do pretty well gradewise).

1A: They often have small tables (CAFES) was my first answer, and I'll give a C+. And that's maybe what the puzzle should get, too. Or maybe a B-.

- Horace

p.s. You can read Mr. Gaffney's commentary at xwordinfo.com. In it, he tells that Dr. Fill "found the puzzle very easy," because all of the combined words are, in fact, words, and Dr. Fill knows words. He did make one mistake, though, which is odd, but you'll have to click through to read about that.

## Saturday, November 26, 2016

### Saturday, November 26, 2016, Paolo Pasco

untimed

Tough Saturday. Frannie and I passed this one back and forth, which is rare these days. I did most of the top, she most of the bottom, and we both stared long and hard at the last two squares - the cross of NATAL (27A: Brazilian state capital) and LAMPED (28D: Clobbered, in British slang). LAMPED? Really? I call foul. And the other cross, which Frannie eventually got, was AKA (46A: Going by) and CAKEPOP (37D: Snackable treat on a stick). AKA is good, but if CAKEPOP is a thing, it's a thing I don't know.

Things I liked - TINFOILHAT (56A: Stereotypical wear for a crackpot theorist), CARAMELS (10D: Sticky treats), TERENCE (38D: Ancient playwright who specialized in New Comedy), NIGERIA (35D: Country of 180+ million people that has never participated in the Winter Olympics) (interesting), ATEASE (44D: Chilling), and TIGRIS (25D: River flowing from the Garden of Eden, in the Bible).

Things I didn't like RURALIST (34D: Definitely not a city slicker), MOMMAS (30D: May honorees, colloquially), MAGE (15A: Dungeons & Dragons class), the repetition of "up" in PRIEDUP and RARESUP, the backward cross-reference in 1D and 4D, and the two entries mentioned at the start.

1A: Facebook acquired it in 2014 for \$19.3 billion (WHATSAPP) gets a C. It should have been my first answer, but I couldn't come up with the name immediately, so THEMARTIAN ended up being my first confident answer.

I guess I'm a little down on this one overall. I didn't particularly like the long diagonal of black squares that cut the grid in half, there were those dislikes, and I don't know... it just didn't do it for me. Not all bad, of course, but not my perfect Saturday puzzle.

- Horace

## Friday, November 25, 2016

### Friday, November 25, 2016, Patrick Berry

0:21:33

Patrick Berry is back today with a typically high-quality puzzle. It took me quite a while to get going in this one - I think my first truly confident answer might have been HAMLET (40D: Play containing the line "Good night, sweet prince"), which gave me HORATIO (37D: Speaker of the line in 40-Down), and I worked my way back up to the top from there. I finished the puzzle where it began, in the NE, where ALCOHOLRUB (13A: Sore muscle treatment) (not a thing I know about) and TRAWL (19A: Drag out of a bed?) (nice!) were very slow to come. In fact, the very last thing I figured out was the excellent 1D: Immersive experience (BAPTISM).

Lots and lots of good seven through ten letter fill. PARTIALITY (17A: Special fondness), SCRAPES (3D: Difficult situations), BRITANNICA (35A: Pax ____ (century preceding W.W. I)), HEAVENSENT (40A: Arriving at just the right moment), and SPACESUITS (56A: Landing gear?) were all quite good. And I like the idea of ALEXANDERS (24D: Creamy cocktails), but I've never actually made myself one. It just always seems like such a waste to use only an egg white. What do you do with the yolk? Make custard?

BYPRODUCTS (15D: Unlooked-for results) was another nice long answer. TAX RETURN (34A: Prepared statement) had a fun clue. There was a lot to like.

1A: Strongly disparage (BASH) I will give a B-. Why? BECAUSE

Very little to complain about. Thumbs up.

- Horace

## Thursday, November 24, 2016

### Thursday, November 24, 2016, Brian J. MacDonald

0:12:39

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Reader! If you are like me, this puzzle will have taken you less time than a Thursday grid usually does, leaving you plenty of time to both cook, and eat, a lot of turkey! But first, since you blew through this so quickly, let's take a minute or two to review it. That way, you'll be prepared when the table talk turns, as it inevitably will, to the New York Times crossword puzzle.

The theme revolves around pronouncing both letters of STATE POSTALCODES before a regular word to make a common expression. That sounds more cumbersome than it really is, so let's show an example. My favorite is 44A: *Air passenger request, maybe (ILLINOISSEAT). That's I-L-seat, or "aisle seat." Get it?

So there's the main course. What about the sides? Well, there are lots of good ones on this table. First of all, who knew Gregory Peck was in the OMEN? And I thought 33D: Victim of murder one (ABEL) was cute. RATFINKS (4D: Stoolies) and ALLSMILES (11D: Happy as a clam) are both strong, and I enjoyed the SASSY-ness of SMELLTEST (34D: Basic scrutiny), GOTOTOWN (40D: Really have at it), and ONPAPER (42D: In theory). Not to mention NOT (65A: "As if!") and BEEF (20A: Gripe).

1A: Male hedgehogs (BOARS) is somewhat interesting. I'll give it a B. My first confident answer was ROSSI (22A: Martini's partner). Overall, I enjoyed this Thursday puzzle. Now go enjoy some turkey, goose, tofurkey, duck, stuffing, or whatever you like most to eat!

- Horace

## Wednesday, November 23, 2016

### Wednesday, November 23, 2016, David Steinberg

0:09:15

Kind of a funny theme today of adding "ster" to one word in a common two-word expression, as in DRAGSTERQUEEN (44A: Female street-racing champion?), and FLASHMOBSTER (52A: Ostentatious member of the Mafia?). That last one would be better as "Flashy mobster," but there's no such phrase as "Flashy mob." And that's the drawback here - the answers ought to be funny, but the wacky cluing just doesn't quite work.

Aside from the theme, though, we have two nice long verticals - PARATROOPER (11D: High military figure?) (again, the clue just seems a little off) and RECORDLABEL (24D: RCA, for one). FOSCLE (6D: Ship part spelled with two apostrophes) is short for "forecastle," and Wikipedia actually has it abbreviated with three apostrophes, thus: fo'c's'le. SQUEEZE (43D: Tight hug) is good, as are CHASESCENE (17A: Standard feature of an action film) and OPENSEASON (58A: Prime hunting time) (isn't it not prime, but legal hunting time?), but having such long Across answers adjacent to theme answers seems a little odd.

1A: Fast-food chain known for its root beer (AANDW) gets a C. It was also my first confident answer.

I guess I didn't love this one. There's a lot of ELOI, ABEL, NYE, OPEC, IBET, TAUAAH kind of stuff, as well as proper nouns like ESTES, ROCHE, STYNE, and EISNER. And can we count DOPEY (35D: One of a Disney septet) in there too? I really disliked 41A: ____ cent (PER), but I smiled at 53D: "Choosy ____ choose Jif" (ad slogan) (MOMS).

Not all bad, but not all good.

- Horace

## Tuesday, November 22, 2016

### Tuesday, November 22, 2016, Andrew Zhou

0:05:41

What a tasty Tuesday puzzle! Today we're served up ham, lard, pork, and bacon, all from a single, wonderful, magical animal.

Wouldn't it have been kind of cool to feature all different food themes on Thanksgiving week? Well... I think it's a good idea. But maybe there just aren't that many food-themed puzzles... hmmm.

Anywho, 1A: Musical talent, informally (CHOPS) could be considered part of the theme, too, although it was not grayed out in the online version. Likewise 65A: Opposite of 57-Across (NONKOSHER), to Muslims (HALAL) seems, also, to belong to the theme. But not officially, it would appear.

The theme-encapsulating answers are pretty strong, I think. A[HAM]OMENT (18A: When you get it) (I had one on this clue!), POPU[LARD]EMAND (23A: Something might be brought back by this), and S[PORK] (37A: Versatile eating implement) are all solid. N[BACON]FERENCE (47A: Eastern or Western, for hoopsters) is a lot less exciting, but how else are you going to hide the bacon, as it were?

Speaking of less-than-exciting, I didn't love POPPA (59A: Momma's partner), the singular BORA or the plural NOELS, and there's a staleness to AMOSNANDY, HARPO, and CAPRA, but aside from that (and "that" isn't really all that bad), there's quite a bit of strong non-theme material. MAJESTIC, FIELDMICE, MARKSMEN, (they love to pluralize!), PINOCHLE, TRADEWAR,  MINNESOTA... all good. PINNUMBER (4D: What's punched into an A.T.M., redundantly) was amusingly clued.

1A: gets a B, and my first entry was SOTS (6A: Drunkards). Heh. Er, I mean, Hic!

Entertaining Tuesday with a fun theme. Thumbs up.

- Horace

## Sunday, November 20, 2016

### Monday, November 21, 2016, John Lieb

0:04:00

Five answers including even numbers running from zero to eight, and a revealer, AGAINSTALLODDS (60A: How an extreme underdog wins ... or this puzzle?), making, happily, six theme answers. Kind of cute, I guess. I like ZEROVISIBILITY (16A: Driving condition in a blizzard) the best of the bunch, and it seems to be involved in an unofficial "winter" sub-theme. We've got SNOWTIRE (4D: Michelin winter product), SKI (9D: Compete in the Nordic combined, say), and POINSETTIAS (10D: Traditional Christmas plants) all running through it. And today when we woke up and looked out the windows we saw, for the first time this year, a dusting of snow! Coincidence? You tell me.

Decent fill overall, with only a few bits of glue like ENV, ORL, and the slightly-esoteric-for-a-Monday OSSA (59D: Greece's Mount ____). I actually like NOGO (26D: Canceled, as a launch), PSYOP (12D: "Hearts and minds" military maneuver, briefly), and MWAH (24D: Air kiss sound), though I can imagine others thinking of them as glue, too. TURNSIGNALS (27D: Blinkers) was fancy (if, like the other long down, plural), but FLATSODA (42D: Pop with no fizz) seemed a little, well, like flat soda.

1A: Taste or touch (SENSE) was my first confident answer, and I'll give it a B-. It's fine. It could work as a verb or a noun, so that's something. This played about like a Monday does, but with more interesting fill. It AMUSED me.

- Horace

p.s. The uncommon 14x16 grid today also avoids odd numbers. Nice touch.

### Sunday, November 20, 2016, Ed Sessa

CROSS REFERENCES

Kind of a fun theme of people who have famously crossed things. I kept waiting for "Caesar" and "Rubicon," but it never came. Instead we have MAGELLAN crossing the PACIFIC, WASHINGTON crossing the DELAWARE, and LINDBERGH crossing the ATLANTIC, among others. I like to think, also, of a CLERIC crossing a SLIPNSLIDE, Ben VEREEN crossing his EYEs. OK, those are just ridiculous and I didn't really think of them until just now. Sorry. I guess I enjoyed it, but I tend to want a little more fun in my Sunday themes.

1A: Like good whiskey (SMOOTH) I give an A-. I put it right in, but I was not 100% sure of it. I think my first definite answer was PEPA (26A: Rap's Salt-N-____), a name I will always associate with Patrick Stewart, because I can still hear him announcing them as the musical guest on SNL. Just imagine it. It's awesome.

The fill included some things that I did not love, like XOUTS (63A: Deletions), LDRS (38D: C.E.O. and pres.), and IDED (75A: Picked as the one, say). I complained yesterday or the day before about assumed apostrophes, and now they've combined an abbreviation with an assumed apostrophe. Yuck.

I did like BEAUXGESTES, CHURN (13D: Milk shaker), PLACARD (27D: Protester's sign), and others. Let's call it a wash.

- Horace

## Saturday, November 19, 2016

### Saturday, November 19, 2016, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

0:42:19

Wow. This was great. A struggle the entire way, but so satisfying to finish! My final letter was the B of BOSN (52D: J. M. Barrie's Mr. Smee, e.g.) (which makes me think, Isn't it interesting that the NYT puts a space between the initials of a name, but not between the initials of the abbreviated "exempli gratia?"... but never mind that now).
Just like a good Saturday puzzle should, this grid gave up very little in the first ten minutes. I think I guessed at SRTA (20A: Miss, abroad: Abbr.) first, but I wasn't sure of it, because it almost seemed too easy. Then SLAW (30A: Dish made with mayo) went in, and then, finally, two confident answers: FRAT (34A: It seeks pledges annually) and MAHAL (42A: Hindi for "palace"). But nothing was really connected, and it would be a long time before things slowly, but surely, came together, sort of from the NE back west, and then down.

I like the framework of six (!) interlocking fifteens. I liked the meta-ness of THENEWYORKTIMES (11D: It sold for a penny at its 1851 launch), and gave an audible sigh when I finally understood NBAALLSTARGAMES (62A: Where East meets West?). Yikes!

Lots to love in this grid, and very little, if any, glue. I suppose my first answer (SRTA) could be considered glue, and IPO, PSST, and IBN (51A: Arabic patronymic part). Yes, definitely that last... but on the other hand, I like all the foreign content (NOBLESSE, DICTA, SANS, ESSEERGO, MAHAL, FRAU, etc.), so why should I complain about that one? 1A: RANARISK (1A: Skated on thin ice) gets an A-. All it's missing is humor. ANOMALIES (14A: Blips) is good. TRANSLATE (33D: Decode) is good. And appropriate. TINGE, SNARE, GUFF... Loved it.

- Horace

## Friday, November 18, 2016

### Friday, November 18, 2016, Peter Wentz

0:20:12 (F.W.O.E.)

My years-long drift away from politics and modern popular culture, while blissful in many ways, is my undoing in the world of competitive crossword solving. Not that daily solving is or should be competitive, mind you, but I think ahead to the A.C.P.T. and the trouble you get into by having a single error! Well, today it was JCOLE (42D: Rapper with #1 albums in 2011, 2013 and 2014) crossing JONI (42A: Senator Ernst) - neither of which have I ever heard of.

But as I said, daily crossword solving is not competitive. It is, by contrast, one of the simple, relaxing pleasures that I enjoy while not thinking about politics or modern popular culture. And this chunky grid from Mr. Wentz afforded me twenty minutes of happy diversion.

1A: Go over again, as one's writing? (BACKSPACE) is okay. I'll give it a B+. My first entry, though, was not until 24A: Trending (HOT). From that one, three-letter entry, I was able to posit KMARTS (13D: Some big boxes), which led to other educated guesses, OMSK (10A: Site of Dostoyevsky's exile) and OBAMA (17A: Noted 1983 graduate of Columbia), and I was off and running.

I thought the central slanting stack was quite strong, and laughed out loud at GINGERBREAD (30A: Material for a seasonal house) when it finally became clear to me. The spelling of CONDOLEEZZARICE (8D: One of Augusta National's first two female members) (Darla Moore is the other) was surprising, but the crosses worked it all out. I don't particularly like KOD (36A: Put down on canvas?), because it assumes an apostrophe. That's unusual, right? I'm not just making that up? I mean, assumed periods (NCIS) and assumed spaces (BYANOSE) are one thing, but apostrophes seem different to me somehow. But that's a small thing. Overall, this was a quality Friday.

- Horace