Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016, Andrew Kingsley


Frannie and I are trying to get on the road somewhat quickly today, so I really bore down hard on this puzzle, and luckily, things went my way!

I first got traction in the south with the side-by-side gimmes THERAVEN (58A: 72 of its 108 lines end in "-ore" sounds) and EASYREAD (60A: Book that doesn't require much time or thought). From there, FINLAND (40D: First country in the world with universal suffrage (1906)) took me way too long (I'm half Finn!), but I was still proud when the answer finally came clear. Go Finns!

Overall, this is lovely and clean, with some fun answers. ICYSTARES, HAMSTERWHEEL, PASSIONFRUIT, SLAMPOETRY, JIGSAWS, and JETBLACK are all fine answers. And is this the first time LMAO (36D: "OMG, I'm cracking up!") has been used? I like it!

There's really very little too criticize. There's ETERNE beside SERA, and old Mortimer SNERD, but really, ce n'est pas trop, and there's more than enough good, interesting fill to overpower it. TERCET (56A: Sonnet-ending unit) is tricky both because it's not a common word and it's not commonly used in Shakespearean sonnets. He usually went with couplets, didn't he? But that ASIDE, I let it go because it's "end-of-the-week" fill.

OK, we're hitting the road! Rouen to Rennes today. Here's wishing you all clear roads and easy travel.

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Graveyard hour (FIVEAM) - Could this just have been any hour that falls into a traditional "graveyard shift?" or is there a special hour called "The Graveyard Hour?" If so, I would have expected it to be earlier. In any event, it's not terrible. I'll give it a B-.

p.p.s. One more thing, isn't there a duplication of the 's in the clue and answer of 20A: "What's hangin'?" (SUP)? Odd.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016, Kurt Krauss


I caught on to the theme, whatever it is, within the first couple minutes, and all but the NW and SE were done in about half of my final time. 13A: Goldfinger's first name (CIRUA) ("Auric") was particularly tricky, and I wasn't really expecting the backward thing up there, because, well... let's see,  ... ok... I figured it out!

There was a compass point in the middle of the grid while I was solving, but I didn't really take the time to figure out what it all meant, I just discovered that things were going in different directions sometimes, and I went with the flow. Eventually, it all worked out. Now that I have a few minutes to figure it all out, I see that the puzzle is divided into four halves, if you will. Everything East of center goes forward, everything West of center goes backward, North goes up, South goes down. Additionally, we have WESTEND (34A: London theater district), EASTMAN (38A: Inventor of roll film) (a gimme for this photographer), SOUTHEY (43D: Contemporary of Wordsworth and Coleridge) (not a gimme, even for this poetry fan), and NORTHER (6D: Arctic gale). That last is the weakest of the bunch. Also, I guess I'm writing things in the way that they can be read. I'm assuming you already solved the puzzle. You know how they appeared in the grid.

So, overall, I love this puzzle. I love this kind of a "free-for-all" theme, where the constructor is allowed to bend the rules of puzzledom. It's something like what you see in "Puzzle Five" at the A.C.P.T. every year, and it's something that hardcore puzzlers (or at least this hardcore puzzler) very much enjoys from time to time. And for this amount of work, I am willing to accept NORTHER, ASOLOPE (50D: Slanting), STEGOSAUR (without the "US" that I'm so accustomed to), and pretty much everything else that's questionable.

My favorite entry might be CIMONOGRE (22A: Like some office furniture) ("ergonomic"), because it looks so cool. Like a French word. ("Il est un brute! Un vrai cimonogre!...") And speaking of French, Frannie and I just walked past the "Temple of St. Eloi" in Rouen tonight. (It's today's photo.) I suppose it's a little outré, comme idée, but maybe that could become an alternative cluing for ELOI (31A: Morlock victims, in science fiction). ... yeah... probably not. And also speaking of French, NANAS is slang for "hot babes" in French, but I like today's clue even better - "Spoilers?" As in, those who spoil (their grandchildren).

OK, that's probably enough French for now. There's always demain. But before I sign off - 1A: 50s president (GRANT) gets a B. I appreciate the attempt at misdirection, because we all think of Truman and Eisenhower. Once I realized they wouldn't fit, I went to the 1800s and thought of "Tyler," because who knows, really. And he was close ('40s). But Grant wasn't president until after the war. He didn't start until '69, so the clue would be almost two decades off! ... But! He is on the fifty dollar bill, so I guess it's legit. Damn! That's a tough one!

Still, as I said, I love this type of thing. I'm giving it a big thumbs up.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Jeff Stillman


One wonders, when seeing today's byline, whether or not it is, itself, a pen-name, to go along with the five male pen-names that make up this puzzle's theme. ELLISBELL (17A: Pen name of the female author of "Wuthering Heights") was used by Emily Brontë, ISAKDINESEN ("Out of Africa") by Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, ROBERTGALBRAITH ("The Cuckoo's Calling") by J. K. Rowling, GEORGEELIOT ("Silas Marner") by Mary Ann Evans, and ANDYSTACK (True Detective stories) by Ann Rae Rule.

I did not know all of these, so I looked them up in Wikipedia, and it was interesting to see how the names are treated. In the write-up about "Out of Africa," for instance, there is no mention whatsoever of the name Isak Dinesen. In the write up on "Silas Marner," there is no mention of the name Mary Ann Evans, and for "The Cuckoo's Calling," the explanation is in the very first sentence. There's a thesis topic in there somewhere, kids, and you have my permission to go ahead and use it.

I applaud the theme, which I'm guessing probably started when Jeff Stillman (notice I opted not to use a personal pronoun here) discovered that ROBERTGALBRAITH was fifteen letters. What a happy coincidence that four other names could be placed symmetrically!

Now, let's get to the rest of it. Do you feel, as I do, that Mr. Shortz is trying to legitimize ALLOK (7D: "No problem here") by running it two days in a row? I'll give him that one, but CIRRI (65A: Wispy clouds) is a stretch. I actually do use the word cirrus, but I think of it as a collective noun. No one I know - not even those who will happily call MLI an ANNUM - would refer to those wispy clouds in the Latin plural.

Aside from that, though, and MINIM (19A: Tiniest bit), and maybe BARONY (41D: Noble's domain), and a few other standbys, the fill is decent. 1A: Grand Canyon, notably (CHASM), I will give a B+. And I will choose to believe that 1-Down was originally clued with "Noted crossword constructor and blogger Jeff ____." :)

I liked the feel of DIBS and CAVED, they contrast nicely with CARP and HIES. Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, Finn Vigeland


The first theme answer I got was 19A: Scandal involving Tesla C.E.O. Musk? (ELONGATE), and I thought to myself, "That's not a word!" I could only pronounce it as "Elon-(the name)-gate." APPLEGATE (28A: Scandal affecting iPhone owners?) didn't help, because what is APPLEGATE? Finally, DELEGATE (18A: Scandal surrounding copy editors' proofreading marks?) (wow... what a clue!) brought it all home for me. The bottom three themers - FLOODGATE (47A: Scandal in the aftermath of a tsunami?), TAILGATE (57A: Scandal that implicates a detective?), and NAVIGATE (61A: Scandal depicted in "Avatar"?) - are all normal enough, but the clueing for these is just so tortured... it really seems like this theme was forced.

In the fill we find a few nice entries like NUDGE (34D: Wink accompanier), CHAGRIN (46D: "Much to my ____ ..."), and FRENEMY (4D: Ally who's not completely an ally), but more often we see TIRED DREGS like EPEE, TUTU, TATAIRT, EEGS, and ELAL, or odd fill like ADAS (58D: Ones helping a public prosecutor, for short), ALLOK (21A: Completely fine), or GAPEAT (17A: Watch in astonishment). 1A: Medieval drudges (SERFS) I will give a C-.

The clue for URL (8D: Address you can't enter into a GPS) was the best I've seen for that answer, and I also enjoyed "20D: Decidedly not-lax grp. at LAX" for TSA, and "Actor Bean, whose first name looks like it rhymes with his last, but doesn't" (SEAN) would have been better, perhaps, if I knew who Sean Bean was.

I guess this one just wasn't for me.

- Horace

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016, Betty Keller


Another odd theme today, where the letter M ends the first word of a two-word phrase, and the letter R starts the second. The first three theme answers are all fine - BOTTOMROW (18A: 64-, 65- and 66-Across, in this puzzle) (Odd clue. And if you're not going to use the Oxford Comma, why put one after "66-Across?" That isn't really necessary, is it?), STEAMROLLER (20A: Heavy vehicle that smooths a road surface), and PALMREADING (55A: Means of fortunetelling). The last one - AMFMRADIO (58A: Audio feature that comes standard on cars) is a little less strong, because "AMFM" is an abbreviation, or at least it started out that way. I doubt many people could tell you off the top of their heads that it stands for "Amplitude Modulation/Frequency Modulation." I couldn't have, anyway. Good ol' Google.

And one last thing about the theme, when I got to the centrally-located revealer, I spent a lot of time wondering how I was going to spread "Jim" out across all those spaces. Silly me, though, because one doesn't mess around with Jim, and that clearly was not included.

So anyway, one thing I noticed as I solved this puzzle was a lot of things like MMLI (29A: The year 2051), OBI, ELS, OEO (24A: Antipoverty agcy.) (?), EDY, OZS, AMO, MRE, SRIS, and LMN (54A: K-O connector). That seemed like kind of a lot of short glue. And it starts off with a weird-ish partial ABANG (1A: Go out with ____). I probably would have liked this a little better if it were the final Across clue instead of the first, but as it is the first, I think I will give it a D.

On the bright side - and we always do prefer to "accentuate the positive" - I liked seeing fun words like GIZMO (5D: Thingamabob), FLUMMOX (39D: Discombobulate), and KABOOM (6D: Explosion sound). And the two-word, descending three-stack of TOREOPEN (11D: Ripped the wrapping off), INORBIT (12D: Circling the earth, say), and NOWAIT (13D: "Oh, hang on a minute!") was strong.

There's almost enough to "eliminate the negative," but not quite. Today, I'm afraid we're going to have to mess with MRINBETWEEN.

- Horace

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016, Kathy Wienberg


An entertaining puzzle for a lazy Sunday morning in the beginning days of a vacation. What could be better? Frannie and I passed this back and forth while drinking coffee and enjoyed uncovering the theme answers one by one. It's hard to pick a favorite, but PANTYHANDLER (44A: Victoria's Secret job description) might be the FLASHIEST. The Down themers are also both solid - PETTYROCKS (44D: Sign seen at a Heartbreakers concert?) and JETTYLINER (40D: Protective covering for a pier?).

It seems like there's a ton of theme, and as a result (I'm guessing) we see some of the deeper crosswordese cuts - ARIL (20D: Botanical cover), ALAR (38D: Banned fruit spray), DYAD (36D: Couple), and the almost comical OEDS (35A: Brit. reference sets) and RSTU (108D: Queue after Q). You know, when we started writing this blog, we were genuinely amused by the number of times "eel" (and its variants) showed up in the grids. Now it's almost like a game or an inside joke when we see things like OMAR, ERE, and AOK (5A: Copacetic). We've spoken with a few constructors, and they all seem to be resigned to the idea that it's just sometimes necessary to include a few of these words. Peter Collins, for one, is willing to joke about it. He once wrote in his own commentary of one of his puzzles on "I like that I was able to fit the names of my three children - Elie, Esme, and Esai - in the grid." Heh.

So anyway, aside from the above, the fill was actually pretty decent. Ever since I went through a pretty elevated phase of constructing paper airplanes that would perform tricks I've liked the word AILERON (5D: Airplane maneuverer), and the clue for CHOWMEIN (77A: Literally, "fried noodles") is one of those interesting factoid types that we enjoy.

And overall, we enjoyed this puzzle. I'm even going to give 1A: Contents of some tubs (LARD) a B, mostly because one of my brothers (a future tub?) has taken a shine to LARD and all other things fat-filled and once considered deadly. Good luck, Rich! You've always been ahead of the curve. First, back when you were a vegan, and now, when you're on the all meat, all fat, all the time diet.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Saturday, April 23, 2016

0:35:58 (F.W.O.E.)

Timing is everything in daily crosswords. Entries like RAGEQUIT and BROMANCE amused and delighted me the first time I encountered them in a grid, but this time - perhaps only the third or so time that I've seen both - they're just sort of... well... they're ok. They suffer now, I think, more than is fair, really, because they're words that should be great, but the air has been taken out of them a bit.

Anyhoo... my error came at GST (9D: Astronomers' std.), which I had entered as GmT. My incorrect answer gave "mORELY" for 16A: Very much (SORELY), but after "skyey," I thought, "Well, who knows how far they will go.. maybe this is right?" It's one time I was actually happy to be wrong.

I did like DECOR (20A: Look inside), DATASET (25A: Table material), RANRAMPANT (30D: Went unchecked), AYE (60D: Word that sounds like a letter of the alphabet that's not in it), and THROB (49D: Pound).

I thought the clue on ASBESTOS (66A: Frowned-upon construction material) was a little too cute, because it's not so much "frowned-upon" as illegal. And there's kind of a lot of old-school crosswordese like NAFTA, OREM, IDES, and ESME. Not to mention MAS, PAS, and BAS... oh, I don't know. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. I'll still give 1A a B+, because I love that term, and I guess I'll give it a tepid thumbs up. Hey, I'm on vacation.

Also, here's a funny story - I tried "young," then "blond" before getting UNWED (6D: Like all contestants on "The Bachelor." If I had been my dad, I might have even tried "girls."

OK, that's all until tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

- Horace

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016, Robyn Weintraub


I feel like such a SMARTYPANTS (1A: Too-clever-by-half type) (A) because I absolutely shredded this one.

Despite the apparent over-easiness, if you will, (how to serve GREENEGGS?), I quite enjoyed this solve. The triple 11-stacks are all solid. More than solid, really. MADEYOULOOK (15A: Taunt to a head-turner) and LIVEALITTLE (52A: "Have some fun!") are my favorites. And RADIATORS (31D: Cold remedies?) is my favorite of the long Downs.

There's some glue (EES, NOLO, ANAS), and ENOS (22A: Project Mercury primate) is kicking it crosswordese-oldschool style, but that kind of thing is kept to a minimum, and there's really quite a bit of uncommon fill to make up for it. CATHOLIC (48A: Broad in tastes) (lower case) is nice, SINCERE (38D: Not faking it) is good, TRENCH (32D: Depression shared by soldiers) is funny, in a not-funny-at-all-really way... overall, I liked it, but I just thought it was a bit too easy for a Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016, Alex Bajcz


Horace here, coming to you live and direct from Utrecht, The Netherlands!

The theme today is "'ST' changes to 'D'," resulting in new phrases clued to make sense. "19A: Romantic night in Kentucky?" is answered with BLUEGRASSDATE, and "41A: Counterfeit Dodge?" is FALSEDART. There are four across and two down, which I like.

What I don't like is MASSAGER (17A: One rubbing you the right way?). "Masseuse" fits in the same spot and is quite a bit more common a term. And can we talk for a minute about SKYEY (25D: Brilliantly blue)? I find that a bit startling. The rest of the iffy stuff (ISH, ELHI, ETTE, UTE, SYSTS...) I am a bit more used to.

I like much of the other (not obviously bad, if you know what I mean) non-theme fill, and I enjoyed many of the clues. 24D: Lengthening shadow? (BEARD), 51A: "I thought you had my back!" (ETTU), and 34D: Taken for a fool (PLAYED), for example.

There were several names I was not familiar with - TBOONE (60A: Pickens ...), HERSHEL (7D: ____ Greene...), ARI (36A: Gold ...), OPRAH (9D: TV personality...) (KIDDING!). And I guess I was only luke-warm on the theme. Maybe it's just that I've been up for something like 36 hours in a row, but I'm giving this a so-so and then we're going out for some traditional Dutch fries and a beer.

Over and out.

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Collateral, of a sort (LIEN) - B. Solid.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016, Tom McCoy

0:09:20 (F.W.O.E.)

This may well be the oddest theme I have seen so far in a NYT crossword. FOURTEEN POINTS (39A: Proposal of Woodrow Wilson ... or what the scoring values of 18-, 27-, 55- and 66-Across total) refers to Wilson's blueprint for an amicable and fair ending to World War I. I didn't know that off the top of my head, I looked it up, as I'm guessing many other will. I applaud the casual reference to major historical documents, and the encouragement to review world history, but I also feel that the whole endeavor is slightly cheapened by its connection with sports. And the contrast between the inclusive, "one-world" feeling of the FOURTEENPOINTS and the (almost) uniquely (North) American sports is also slightly odd. But, well, we must have our themes, so let's add them up: Four points for a GRANDSLAM, three points for a HATTRICK, one point for a FOULSHOT, and six points for a TOUCHDOWN. Yup, that's fourteen.

I like the unexpected pair of WEREWOLF (2D: Lycanthrope) and ORATORIO (3D: Handel's "Messiah," for one), and the symmetrical TEAHOUSE (40D: Place to chat over a hot drink) and GOODTOGO (9D: All set) is also strong. OILCUP (17A: Receptacle in a machine), on the other hand, gets a rating of "Whaaa?" What the hell is that? I've never heard the term before in all my life. SEENAT (44A: Spotted attending) is weird, but ok, but NONSELF (58A: Material that is foreign to the body) is a definite OOF. There are a few other POOR answers, but I think on balance it stays AFLOAT.

1A: Uncommon bills (TWOS) is ok, but slightly confuses the number-based theme, since it's not actually involved. I'll give it a C-. And one last thing - my error came in one of the many French entries (!! - I'll be in Paris in 24 hours!), TOI. I had put in "TOn" for 32A: French pronoun, because they usually use possessive pronouns, not reflexive ones. And at the end, I saw that TnEIN was not working for "28D: Many a Happy Meal toy," but it took me a while to correctly parse TIEIN.

So there you have it. An odd Wednesday for sure.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016, David J. Kahn


Another central revealer today with an astonishing eleven theme answers. Or, really, entries, as twice it happens that there are two theme entries hidden in a single word. And while they are in symmetrical pieces of fill, they are also almost symmetrical in and of themselves, which I think is very impressive. It's just a shame that there's no such thing as a "lae" head, because that would have been beautiful.

So anyway, what are we talking about here? The theme is HEADSUP (36A: Warning appropriate for this puzzle?), and the "heads" that read from bottom to top in the shaded areas (on the Web, anyway) are egg, bow, over, air, acid, war, drum, pin, bone, red, and pot. The only one that isn't immediately obvious to me is "bow head." I looked it up, and one of the first hits was from Urban Dictionary, which gives "woman who wears a bow in her hair, who often has an annoyingly perky personality and may be overly interested in things like her sorority." Good enough for me. I'd start using it, but I stopped hanging around with bowheads long ago... (There is, also, the bowhead whale, but let's not complicate things.)

The theme answers are held in mostly excellent fill like DEDICATES (5D: Names in someone's honor), REVOLT (4D: Not take it anymore), MURDERONE (34D: Certain homicide, in police lingo), and TWOBAGGER (32D: Double, in baseball lingo). 

And for all that, we pay very little, really. Sure, there's a couple partials - TOBAT, ISHOT - and some gratuitous pluralizing - IRAS, MAES (poor), and ELIS (but the clue for this mentions Jodie Foster, so I'll let it pass) - and the very poor RIS (14D: Sue Grafton's "____ for Riccochet"), but you know what? There are also interesting clues like - "29D: Land animal whose closest living relatives include whales" (HIPPO) and "31D: North America's largest alpine lake" (TAHOE) - so I'm giving this a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Practice boxing (SPAR) - B. Solid.

p.p.s. If all goes well, Frannie and I will be picking up a vehicle from HERTZ at Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday morning, which is enough to make me want to give a YELL (20A: Cheerleader's cheer.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016, Janice Luttrell


A tidy Monday puzzle with a tasty BREAD theme. We have BANKROLL, SEABISCUIT, STUDMUFFIN, and MEATLOAF. It puts me in the mood to make biscuits tonight! As always, I enjoy that the theme uses both Across and Down clues, and the simple revealer sits right in the center. So it's a strong theme.

The entry today is 1A: Smooth-talking (GLIB), which I like. I'll give it a B. The rest of the fill is peppered with interesting entries like GOODEGG (29A: Mensch), SPASM (40D: Jerk), EXALT, FACADE, AXIOMWEASEL (44A: Untrustworthy sort), and CAPSLOCK (50A: KEY USED FOR THIS CLUE) (cute).

Demerits for CFOS (50D: Corp. money managers), OER, and ONAN (17A: Send ____ errand). I've never heard PASTE used for "22A: Artificial jewelry," but the Webster's on my desk has it as the seventh definition ("a, a hard, brilliant glass containing oxide of lead, used in making artificial gems; strass b, such a gem or gems."). I guess I'm just happy they didn't go with "strass."

A fine debut for Ms. Luttrell.

- Horace

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016, Howard Barkin, Expanded Worldview

Frannie here, which is why the review is so late today. IMAMESS

I thought today's puzzle was spot on, if you will. It was a  substantial theme surrounded by clean, interesting, fun and funny fill, clued at a fitting degree of difficulty.

What the theme lacked in usual Sunday word play (which sometimes borders on *pun*ishment J), it  made up for in robust answers that included types of places, beautifully arranged in increasing order of magnitude ('HOUSE, 'STREET, 'BLOCK, 'CITY, 'STATE, and 'NATION), expanding our worldview, one grid row at a time.

Horace and I solved this puzzle together, sipping rye whiskey and passing the laptop back and forth, in a location that might be described as Ocean, Maine, Coast, Dune, Avenue, Cottage. And, while a tumbler of strong spirits would have been an excellent start to a Sunday, it was actually Saturday night. So, in order to write the review this morning (it's morning somewhere!), I ran through the clues to refresh my memory. There were a lot of good ones that I enjoyed again for the first time. In the time-honored tradition of puzzle reviews, I'll BELTOUT a few of my favorites.

27A. Makeup for a "Wizard of Oz" character? (TIN). Silverfacepaint just didn't fit. J
81D. Order in the court. (RISE). Accurate!
57A. Lock combination? (HAIRDO). This one has style!
68D. What covers parts of 80-Down? (SARI). Ha!
13D. Lose control at the buffet (OVEREAT). Indeed.

There were a few answers that I might TAPEUP, but it probably boils down to personal preference.
28A. Cooperate (with) (LIAISE). Although the word does have a nice multi-vowel sequence, it has too many unsavory business associations to be used in polite company.
72A. Feeling (SENSATE). Any person of sensate would repudiate this word.
70D. L.A. locale (CALI). If people do call it that, they shouldn't.

In the time-honored tradition of grading the kickoff clue, (Kind of chip), I give it a B+. Nacho hardest, but with several possibilities in an completely empty grid, nacho easiest, either. See what I did there? (40A. OHO).

ENUF of that. All in all, a very nice Sunday solve.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016, Andrew Zhou


1A: Edible Asian sprout (BAMBOOSHOOT) (B) gets us off to a good start today. My rating of it might have been higher, but the clue just seems a little too odd. "Sprout?" IMEANREALLY? But I don't want to sound negative right up front here, I enjoyed this one.

Interesting about MSG being "12A: Something found naturally in tomatoes and potatoes." I did not know that. And how about the fact that "snow" fits in where RIME (19A: Winter coat) belongs? I was so proud of myself for seeing past the trickery in the clue when I dropped "snow" in there. Ha!

I'm guessing that OLIN (10D: Massachusetts' ____ College) will draw some fire, and I will not defend it. I live about five miles from it and I did not think of it until I had OL_N. Also, saying "Massachusetts' college" is like saying "Paris street, Rue ____." It's maybe a little too vague.

It's a little odd that PERIWIG (42A: Top of the British judicial system?) (excellent) meets up with EARWIG (24D: Pincered creature) (eeeuw!), but those endings come from totally different sources. In fact, I just learned that the earwig has a set of rear wings (wig) that were thought to resemble human ears. Also, Wikipedia assures us that earwigs do not purposefully crawl into ears. Thank you, but it's still TMI.

So anyway, there's a lot to like in here, and I doubt I'll remember to mention all of it. I enjoyed AMA (2D: Quack stopper, for short) when I finally understood it. Colum, did you get that one right away? And I didn't know that Patrick Stewart's "A Christmas Carol" was a ONEMANSHOW. That would have been something to see. And how is it possible that I've never heard the name Sir JONY Ive before? He seems to have basically been Apple for the last twenty years or so.

And while we're down in the SE, I'll just end by saying that I love that 11-stack down there. HOMOERECTUS (57A: Distant ancestor) (tough clue), INTAKEVALVE (62A: Car engine component) (again, quite vague... you really need to have a cross or two) and MYSTERYMEAT (64A: Much-joked-about cafeteria offering) (very nice) is a pretty great stack.

There are some bits of glue, the worst of which might be the OLAN/OLIN/TYRO block, but there's more than enough to make up for it, in my opinion. A good end to the week.

- Horace

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016, David Steinberg


Where to begin? How about at 1A: Artificial eyelashes, informally (FALSIES) (C). To me, FALSIES means an entirely different set of artificial items, and I am unaware of the term being popularly used SOEVER [SIC] other than that. HAHAHHAHAHHAAAA "So ever...." Terrible. And here's another terrible thing, BASSSAX (26D: Big wind). I offer this from Wikipedia: "The bass saxophone is not commonly used in any music." What's next? Tubax?

On the other hand, I enjoyed the clues for ELEVEN (31A: It may represent November), ALIASES (40D: Things you can assume), and DERRIERE (36D: Behind). BARTABS (8A: Things with round numbers?) is cute if you don't think about it too much. ABSOLUT (12D: Screwdriver selection) is better, but I prefer Finlandia.

So overall I found it ERRATIC. I appreciate that Mr. Steinberg is getting in some more youthful fill like CHILLAX, DUBSTEP, BELIEBER, and ECOCIDE. And I guess that since it's Friday I can't argue too much with some of the more specific fact-answers like ENID (35A: Seat of Oklahoma's Garfield County) (You don't say.), RUSS (10D: Bygone sportscaster Hodges), and REYES (25A: Point ____, Calif.). It wasn't for me, but I'm betting others ended up liking it. Here's hoping so.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016, Jason Flinn


Another toughie! As is often the case, I made a few errors that I clung to for far too long. One was "ApOLlo" for AEOLUS (25A: He gave Odysseus a bag of winds). It should have been obvious, because Aeolus is the god of the winds. Duh! They often use his name to mean wind in Latin texts I've read. But anyway, that didn't come to me in time, and when I saw A_OL__ I filled in the first god that came to mind. It was finally the old crosswordese standbys UAE and SNL that fixed it up.

And while that clue wasn't meant to be overly tricky, others definitely were. 42A: Top choice in December? (DREIDEL) That's some fancy clue work! 7D: Radio listener grp. (SETI) - very nice. 47A: Take the wrong way? (BOOST) - also good, but I've seen variants on that one before. 50D: Moves behind? (TWERKS) - Wow! Today I'm kind of glad my dad doesn't do the NYTX. On the other hand, he would have really enjoyed 29D: He actually said "I really didn't say everything I said" (BERRA). Hah!

So then we come to the theme, which I broke with DONNYBROOK (51A: Free-for-all). I like that one, and I really like LAMESTREAM (28A: Like traditional media, to some). CHICKENRUN (21A: Fowl territory?) is less good. Because "chicken run" isn't all that common a phrase, and "run" isn't used all that often to mean "small stream." In fact, that is definition number 120 (counting all the verb forms, which come first) in my old Random House College dictionary. I'm not saying that we don't all understand it, I'm just saying it's not as good as the other two.

On the whole, though, I have a positive feeling about this puzzle. I enjoyed fighting with it, and I feel satisfied to have finished it. And for me, that makes a good puzzle.

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Tablecloth material (LACE). B-. It would have been better with a more Huygens-y clue, but it's still not bad.

p.p.s. Love the debut of MRYUK. For a picture, see the "Solution and notes" section of (link on sidebar)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016, Tony Orbach


A much slower solve than usual for a Wednesday. Possibly because I started this last night when quite TIPSY, and possibly because of a number of unexpected items in the fill. I don't particularly love OHOH (8D: "Call on me! I know this!"), ENVIRO (4D: Green person, for short) (never heard this, and I'm a green person), LACEINTO (9D: Give an earful) (not familiar with this term, either), or NEOS (36A: Modernists, informally) (yuck). And then there's more than a smattering of INRE, ETSEQ, AERIE, CGI, SDI, AMPM, NALA, GAEA, TAI, APR, NAEVIN, AND REN. All of which, NATCH, put me in something of an UGLY frame of mind.

But then there are such lovely entries as SCHERZO (23A: Lively movement), SNUCKUPON (11D: Caught unawares), ONEOFF (25D: Something not repeated), and ERUCT (51D: Burp). And I know some in my family will very much enjoy seeing GETFUZZY (39D: Comic strip featuring Satchel Pooch and Bucky Katt) in the grid.

As for the theme - changing the ends of familiar phrases so that they end up ending with "ET," and cluing them wackily - I usually like wackiness, but something just seems a little off with these. For starters, I don't like that the pronunciation of the end of "Vanity Fair" changes when made into "ferret." In all of the others, the pronunciation stays the same. But even with those I had problems. Is MOUNTAINDUET a genre? I know it's a play on "Mountain Dew," and I know "Dueling Banjos" is a duet…  but is "mountain" a genre? I just don't get it.

I guess this one wasn't for me. Onward to The Turn!

- Horace

p.s. 1A: "Oh, yeah …, " in a text (BTW) - F.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016, Alan Derkazarian


Hmmm... I'm kind of hungry all of a sudden. Maybe it's all the HAMONRYE in this grid!

I like the theme, and I like the execution. It's not quite symmetrical, but it's very close, and I love that it occurs twice in the revealer itself. Well, three if you count 57A. Heh.

It seems like this sort of a theme would really force a lot of fill, and I guess we see that with FRYER, WRYEST, DRYER, and one that I learned the hard way at the A.C.P.T. this year, CRYER (19A: Jon of "Two and a Half Men"). Ugh. I'm not sure why I chose the "rye" words to point out instead of the "ham" words, but, well, I guess the presence of the Y just makes them more noticeable.

Things get a little rough in the middle with IOC, MAI, IDID, and FUL, but those unfortunate entries are more than balanced out today by lively fill like SHREWD (10D: Sharp), SYNDROMEHAYRIDE, ROOTLE (46A: Look for truffles as a pig might) (I like this one, really I do), and  REINDEER (24A: Dancer and Prancer). I also like the unexpected accuracy of THREEAM (2D: Time to which you "spring forward" in daylight savings). I nearly lost an hour just coming up with that answer! HAH!

Anywho... I like the three-stacks NW and SE, I like the theme, I like it. It's a pity ATHOL (1A: Playwright Fugard) wasn't clued with a reference to the Massachusetts town, though. I've never heard of this Fugard fellow. Turns out he's just seven days younger than my dad, and I see now that I probably should heard of him, so I'll give 1A a B.

Decent Tuesday.

- Horace

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016, Ron Toth and Zhouqin Burnikel

0:06:45 (F.W.T.E.)

A couple of bad guesses held me up in this one. First, off, I tried "ChinO / PANTS" (1A: *With 9-Across, loose-fitting bottoms), which made ABLE (2D: Having what it takes) and GOPOOF (4D: Magically vanish) difficult to see. It was RHOMB (3D: Diamond shape), believe it or not, that finally fixed that mess up, and ABHOR (14A: Hate) was the last thing I entered. Unfortunately, I had tried "TAlk" for (29D: Drive (down)) (TAMP), and never went back to verify it. When I told Frannie about this, she thought that "looed" might not be entirely out of the realm of possibility in the crossword world: "42A: Visited the restroom in Britain"...

Who says "bottoms" to mean pants? Bottoms!? BTW, Frannie tried "sweat / pants," but she fixed it up on hers and finished with no errors. Hmph.

All that nonsense aside, I actually love this strange theme of pockets, and including BOWLINGLANE (24A: *Where you can hear a pin drop) (excellent) is pretty daring, as that sweet-spot between the one and the three (if you're a righty) that you always try to hit is not, I'm guessing, terribly well-known as "the pocket" by non-bowlers.

The other themers are pretty obvious. I also like the horizontal symmetry, and some of the other marquee down answers - WORLDCUP, ENCHILADAS, SOURGRAPES, and even APESUITS (26D: Hairy Halloween rentals). I don't know, I just get the feeling that this puzzle is all about saying "I do what I want!" The craziness of APESUITS, the two central downs being longer than all but one theme answer, having NUDIE and BRA, and GOPOOF... do you see what I mean at all?

Sure, there's some glue, like ESTE, STOA, RAGU... but today I don't care, and you know what? I do what I want too, and I give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016, Randolph Ross


The theme today was a nice one: types of boats and the bodies of water where they are often found. RAFT on the COLORADORIVERGONDOLA on the GRANDCANAL, and UBOAT under the ATLANTICOCEAN. At first I wondered why it was not perfectly symmetrical, but now I see that most of them (with the lone exception of the UBOAT) are on the bodies of water, just as they should be. That's a nice touch.

The fill, however, suffers greatly for this cute theme, and is loaded with very unusual entries. JUDAEA (20A: Jerusalem's province, to the Romans), LEVERET (49A: Young hare), BALALAIKA (36A: Russian relative of a guitar), and ATMAN (51D: Hindu soul), to name just four. Then you've got things like UNDAM (34D: Let flow again), ODETS (48D: "Waiting for Lefty" playwright) (from 1935), SERIO (25A: Prefix with comic) (umm... ok), PARD (92A: Cowpoke's friend), BAI, SRS, LDL, UNE, OBE... It seems a bit too much for me.

On the up side, there are some nice entries, too. ESCALATOR (53D: One-way flight?) is good, STEELMILL (56A: Heavy metal venue?) is cute, I love a reference to the sonnets, as in ETERNAL (3D: "But thy ____ summer shall not fade": Shak.), and it's always nice to see full names, like JANETRENO (20D: Cabinet member who served all eight years under Bill Clinton).

1A: "Things aren't so bad!" (CHEERUP) gets a B. I like it. I like ALAMO and PASTRY (13A: Napoleon, for one), too, but on the whole, the puzzle is just too full of weirdness to get a thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, April 9, 2016, David Phillips


Boy, this was a struggle, but I feel pretty good about it. Lots of deceptive clueing, and some very nice fill. Of course, there's some so-so fill, too, but on balance, I'd say this extra-wide grid was a CUTABOVE.

THEBIGBANGTHEORY (36A: Sitcom on which Steven Hawking and Buzz Aldrin have appeared)  (When "The Simpsons" didn't fit, what else could it be?) was mercifully easy, and gave a decent start to the entire middle section. I was amused, as I always am, by 33A: Stock report? (MOO), and that "MA" was enough to get the excellent BROMANCE (21D: It may grow between buds). CHANNELS (7A: Remote possibilities) was good, SHELLGAME (31D: It's a hard act to follow) is good fill with an outstanding clue, and REDCROSS (60A: It may be out for blood) was also very strong.

PIETISM (46A: Old Lutheran movement) was tough, but inferable, as was THESIREN (38D: Alter ego of "Batman" villainess Lorelei Circe). Well... with enough crosses anyway. There were lots of names that were on the periphery of my memory, including MOFFAT (1A: Steven who co-created TV's "Sherlock") (I'll give this a B rating. I like the show.). OSBORN (30A: "The Paper Chase" novelist) and TOBIAS (28D: ____ Ragg, Sweeney Todd's assistant), on the other hand, were beyond that periphery.

A couple answers I only really understand now, as I review the puzzle. AIR CARRIER (5D: Sky line) for one - they're talking about airlines - and NELSON (61A: Hold with both arms, say) which is, I guess, using part of "half-Nelson" or "full-Nelson" as a verb. Hmmm.... can we say NOHARMDONE there? I'm not entirely sure.

Certainly there are some concessions for all the good material (SCARERS, NYAH, NYE, ETAL), but overall, a satisfying Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016, Patrick Berry


Did I mention that we saw Patrick Berry at the ACPT this year?! It was very exciting, but I never worked up the nerve to go say hi. I don't know what's wrong with me. Patrick, if you're reading this, "Hi! We love your puzzles!" I know, I know, you hear that all the time, but, well, it doesn't make it any less true. (And we're saying this even after trying to finish your "Puzzle #5" in the allotted 30 minutes.)

OK, now that that's over with... "I can finally relax!" AAH. ... but seriously folks, just look at this thing. Chunky corners and a wide-open middle. It took me longer than usual, but that could be that I started it last night when I might not have been at full capacity.

I got off to a bad start by guessing "No Exit" as Satre's first novel (NAUSEA) (Happy guy, Jean Paul...), but it was soon corrected by MEH (20A: Scoring low on the excite-o-meter), INNS (24A: Country ____ & Suites), and then BONAMI (1D: "Hasn't scratched yet!" product). It's funny what gets lodged in the ol' bean, isn't it?

I noticed a slight "golf" theme in TAPIN (21A: Rarely missed stroke), PARS (48A: Scorecard figures), and ONEIRON (54A: Club that "even God can't hit," according to Lee Trevino) (a TAPIN itself, but still fun to see), which seems appropriate since the Masters golf tournament is going on this weekend. That has to be intentional, right?

I'll take minor points off for LAPCAT (7A: Pet that needs a sitter?). The clue is beautiful, but it really ought to be "lap dog." Nobody says LAPCAT, do they? And the only other small beef I had is with DOUGHNUT (3D: Ring for dessert). How often are they eaten as a dessert? Probably almost never.

But more often than not in this one I loved the clues. 49A: Unpaid interest? (HOBBY) was great, 57A: Dirty (XRATED) was nice, and I chuckled at 23D: Gave a leg up to? (KNEED). 1A: Blue period? (BADDAY) gets a solid B+. It's not quite perfect, but it's very good.

Lastly, and I know this is long, I loved entries like SPANISHMAIN (18D: Setting of many pirate stories), KETCH (23A: Fore-and-aft-rigged vessel), and ARCANA (55A: It's not common knowledge) (did you notice that "trivia" also fit there?). This grid oozes quality. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016, John Lieb


I got OVEREASY (15A: Diner breakfast specification) (my favorite!) as my first answer, which I liked, but then off of that were AVER (2D: Not equivocate about) and ARA (4D: The Altar constellation), and I thought, really? "The Altar constellation?" I learned the Altar constellation from doing crosswords, but even if I hadn't "alter" is "ARA" in Latin. It just seemed a little too straight forward.

My attitude changed, however, when I hit HET (5D: Boiling, with "up"). Some might be annoyed by this old slang, but my sister says this all the time, and I love the expression. Then with all that in place I saw SARAH___ at "1A: Onetime debater with Joe Biden," (I'm not rating it) and it was just a matter of waiting to see what the rebus would be. And then the waiting was over when I saw 6D: Spacious and splendid ([PAL]ATIAL). Heh. SAYHELLOTOMY / LITTLEFRIEND went in without hesitation when I reached it, and then it all started to unravel quickly. It was an elegant touch to get DE[PAL]MA (54D: "Scarface" director) in with a rebus square.

I love several answers in this one. OHSNAP (9A: Response to a verbal slam) and FACE[PAL]M (51D: Gesture indicating "How stupid of me!") are great. 17A: Tests of crews' control? (REGATTAS) and 38D: Brady bunch, in headlines (PATS) took me way longer than they should have. 39D: Bond yield? (INTEL) and 24D: They may be conceived around Halloween (LEOS) were tricky, too! And maybe my favorite was the clue on the classic EIEIO (31A: Refrain from farming?). Excellent.

This would be a definite contender for "puzzle of the week," if only we handed out such an award.

I ended up in a panic needing LEHI / UTAH (59D: With 61-Down, city named for a Book of Mormon prophet), but eventually I realized that "BEERhall" was wrong, and I remembered SAMSMITH's name from the Oscars, and then things finally came together.

Very satisfying Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 6, 2016, Timothy Polin

0:12:08 (FWOE)

Just like at the tournament, I was tripped up by not knowing a proper name. This time it was PAULA (15A: Creamer of the L.P.G.A.). I had entered SiNKIN for 9D: Hit home (clues that play with tenses can be very tricky!), and it didn't really set off any alarms when I saw PAULi go in. I suppose, if I had thought for a minute, PAULA would have made more sense in the LPGA, but, well... I didn't.

Aside from that, I rather enjoyed this one. I think it won me over with ILOVEPARIS (11D: Song lyric before "in the winter when it drizzles" and "in the summer when it sizzles.") Both are definitely true for us, and we'll be flying into the City of Light in just a couple weeks! We won't be seeing anything more than the airport on this trip, but still, it's nice.

SOPRANO (4D: One who may finish on a high note) was excellently clued. I liked OPENLINE (5D: Metaphor for easy access), SEETOIT (24D: Carry out a duty with diligence) (looks weird), and PARTYHAT (49A: Conical topper). I tried "dunceHAT" there at first. Must be thinking too much about my performance at the recent A.C.P.T. Hah!

I like today's theme, too. Variants of the sentence "What is it?" answered in different ways. Very nice. 1A: "Sonar"-equipped fliers (BATS) gets a C. It's fine. Not great, not bad. C is okay. There's some less-than-okay fill, like PENTADS (37A: Quintets), TNUT (58D: Letter-shaped fastener), and MPAA (55D: Grp. assigning film ratings), but really, there's not too much of that sort of thing. I'd say on the whole this was a decent Wednesday. Thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016, Dan Schoenholz


Today we celebrate eight comedians whose last names appear together two at a time as a PAIROFJOKERS. Martin Short, Jonathan Winters, Betty White, Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, Lucille Ball, Chris Rock, and John Candy. Funny (heh) that this should come up this week, because Frannie and I will be seeing Martin Short this coming weekend. If only his partner at that show, Steve Martin, could have been worked in somehow... And hey, does it strike you as odd that in each pair there is one living and one dead comedian? Hmmm... it does me. Especially since the pairs are also somewhat normal phrases. ROCKCANDY and CRYSTALBALL are perfectly normal, but WHITEHOPE doesn't do much for me. Does anyone actually use that term? And doesn't it seem slightly racist? SHORTWINTERS, too, seems a little arbitrary, but at least not aggressively so. So mezzo e mezzo on the ol' theme-o.

There's some nice longer Down answers, including the full MAUNALOA (8D: It last erupted in 1984) complete with a more interesting clue than usual. DESERTPLANT (10D: Cactus, for one) is a little odd, but DISCREDITED (23D: Damaged the reputation of) is solid.

I didn't particularly like running into all that three-letter crosswordese in the middle - RIA, IDI, DYE, RAJ, LICBOK, RIN... and I'm a little tired of seeing ONPOT (34A: Baked or stoned) in these puzzles, but I guess that's what we get for the dense theme and somewhat chunky SW and NE corners.

I liked 1A today, PAID (1A: Like the best kind of vacation). I'll give it a B+. The word is quite plain, but it's clued very nicely.

And a few more things, ONEAL (46A: Onetime center of Los Angeles) totally tricked me. I gave up on the clue immediately, thinking "What do I know about that city? Nothing!," totally forgetting about Shaquille. And DOGSIT (4D: Doesn't give one's full effort), with the "sh" of SHORT... so close by... it looks a little startling if you just quickly glance up into that quadrant, and kinda throws off the FENGSHUI of the puzzle. :)

I didn't love it, but I do enjoy comedians, and there were some nice entries.

- Horace

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016, David Kwong


Before I get to the puzzle, let me just say - Congratulations to Howard Barkin! He pulled off the upset of the year, taking down Dan Feyer in an exciting final round at the 2016 A.C.P.T.

On Friday evening Howard had come over to Frannie and me in the bar, holding up one of the "Horace and Frances and Colum" cards I had been surreptitiously leaving around the hotel, and he asked "Is this you?" Now, it's not especially easy to find us, since we use veronyms at the tournament, but find us he did. We had a very nice chat about this and that, and then went our separate ways. He had told us that he was in division A, but I had no idea how high up in division A! Anyway, great job, Howard! Frannie, acting as your agent, will be readying the sedan chair for your grand entrance to the tournament next year as defending champion. :)

So all in all, another satisfying weekend at the A.C.P.T. We both had a great time, but now it's time to get back to the normal daily grind until next March!

Today's puzzle has five countries spelled backwards, hidden inside an actor's name and four two-word phrases. The country name always spans both parts of the theme answer, and the revealer, BACKCOUNTRY (61A: Rural area ... or what can be found in each set of circled letters?) was perfect. So thumbs up on the theme.

The fill includes a few partials (ONA, OWAR, ORBE), three TV channels (CSPAN, NPR, CNN), and some less-than-desirable elements (GASTRO, ISE, NSEC), but I'll stop short of saying GAH (24D: Exasperated cry). I don't want anyone to say that I RANTED, so I'll BEFAIR, and appreciate the good theme and decent fill like DAYLIT (5D: Naturally illuminated), TASSEL (28A: Mortarboard attachment), and well... maybe that's it.

I enjoyed it, and it was a relief to breeze through in under 5:00. Where was that sort of solving time this weekend?!?

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Republican grp. (GOP) - D, because, well, GOP. Sorry, I just can't even.

Sunday, April 3, 2016, Natan Last


For at least the last two years at the A.C.P.T., the puzzles have been solved by a computer, and "Dr. Fill's" results are discussed by his creator, Matt Ginsberg, as part of the Saturday evening program. Dr. Fill was in first place for a while (it solved the first two puzzles in under ten seconds each), but after puzzle five, it fell forty or fifty points, because puzzle five contained what was called a "geometry theme." Believe it or not, Dr. Fill has been programmed to look for certain geometry themes, but Patrick Berry took it a little farther than Dr. Fill was prepared for, apparently.

I'm not sure if this theme is in that same category, but it's at least similar in that I think it would be very difficult for Dr. Fill to finish, as answers are broken up and reconnected by the wormhole of a rebus square. Of course, the crosses all work, so maybe Dr. Fill would've been fine anyway... what do I know?

Anyway, we found the rebus squares in such a way that it looked for a while that they'd simply jump down the puzzle (and then we guessed the bottom one would jump back to the top), but once we realized that "river" could fit in two different places, we finally understood that the theme answer endings were swapped in pairs. WHER[EAR]IGHTTOKNOW and IHAV[EAR]EMYKEYS for example, and so on. Pretty cool, really. I give the theme a solid thumbs up.

A few more things about this before I fall asleep - I love seeing INBOXZERO (83D: Goal of having no unread emails) because I learned that term for the first time just last week, and I loved it. Also, it's one of the pairs of nines that are found in each corner. Other excellent nine-letter entries are TIRESWING, HANGTIGHT, and ALONETIME, which is what I want but never get after puzzle five. :)

And speaking of puzzles, we've got another one in less than an hour, and I'm still finishing my coffee, so I'm signing off short here. Maybe we'll have time to write another wrap up on the drive back north.

Happy puzzling to all!

- Horace

p.s. 1A: ____ -Town (sobriquet in many a Kanye West song) (CHI). Meh. Not terribly exciting, and I'm a little down on Kanye for his being so high on himself. Still, the clue is better than something like "White Sox on the scoreboard," so I'll give it a C+.

p.p.s. We were seated in the Grand Ballroom this morning, waiting for Will Shortz to come to the podium, and the contestant next to us had brought this puzzle with him to solve as preparation. He finished it about ten minutes before the start of Puzzle 7, and we started talking about it together - saying how much we enjoyed it - and just then Natan Last walked in front of us, heard us talking about the puzzle, and stopped to chat. That's just how it is here. Our constructing heroes are all around us, and they're all really nice people!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Special Report from Stamford - 39th A.C.P.T.

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. Horace and I are here at the ACPT hanging with our peeps, the Word Nerds. We often feel like we don't fit in with the rest of the world - often having to make an effort to seem like a normal - but here, we might just be in our element. We have met some amazing puzzlers and some very entertaining puzzle constructors. However, despite a quantity of excellent advice, and my best efforts at puzzing, I still made rookie mistakes and my score is currently in the bottom 100 of this year's participants. I don't mind. Well, not really. :) I'll get them next year.

~ Frannie

And for my part, I'm another year older but not, apparently, another year wiser. Not wiser enough, anyway.

I, too, made rookie mistakes, despite being a sophomore. But I was cheered up a bit by doing much better on Puzzle #5 this year. I didn't finish it, but I did "get" the trick, and I feel that given another ten minutes or so, I would have finished it. Alas, they didn't give those minutes.

But you know what? I'm still having a great time. Did I mention that Frannie is here with me this year? (Oh right, she wrote that first part...) She and I are installed in the hotel bar enjoying adult beverages, and we're just about to head in for the evening program, none of which will involve us doing a crossword puzzle. For once.

- Horace

Saturday, April 2, 2016, Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber


Wow, things could not be going better for us, puzzle-wise, this weekend. Last night, Frannie and I were hanging out with other puzzle nerds, chatting with constructors, and I even handed some promotional material for this blog to Will Shortz himself, after telling him the story of how Frannie and I, when we met, were both getting Games Magazine, and neither of us wanted to give up "first choice" on the puzzles, so we continued getting two subscriptions for at least a decade. Possibly two. (And in a related story, we each have our own subscription to the NYTX, and each of us did it separately this morning. We were both under 14 minutes, one beating the other by a mere twenty seconds! I won't tell you which one of us that was... Ha!)

Anyway, for my part, I dropped down GAPTOOTHED (1A: Like Michael Strahan of "Live! With Kelly and Michael") (I'll rate that as an A-. The minus, of course, is because of the NY Giants association. :)), and then GEWGAW (1D: Showy trinket) and then it was all over but the cryin', as my brothers so often used to say to me. Ha! But one worry, of course, is that things are going too well. Am I getting overly self-confident?

Let's not think about that. Let's get back to a few of the good things about this puzzle, and then get downstairs and take a seat at the long tables.

POOHPOOH (12D: Discount) is great, and was the favorite of me and Frannie both. CAROLINE (13D: The "you" in the Neil Diamond lyric "Reachin' out, touchin' me, touchin' you") was, of course, a gimme for these regular Fenway-goers. REDLETTER (33D: Kind of day) makes one think immediately of George Bailey, doesn't it? And maybe that's a good place to stay for me. To channel the humbleness, the honesty, and the kindness of that great character as we go down to the tournament.

Wish us luck! We'll try to get back with another report later today.

- Horace

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016, Peter Gordon


It's been a pleasure being a part of your day, lo, these last three years, and it pains me to say that it must now come to an end. Not because we have lost interest - indeed, I think we have just begun to hit our stride with this month-to-month handoff of responsibility - but because DUETOBUDGETCUTS THENEWYORKTIMES CROSSWORDPUZZLE WILLENDTOMORROW. Yup. That's what it says. Read it and weep. But, well, we've got this one last one, so let's review it, shall we?

It's a very tidy theme Mr. Gordon has come up with - fitting natural language into four grid-spanning fifteens. For that smooth and high-quality theme we suffer a few slings and arrows - OCEANARIA (62A: Large marine fish tanks) and ANOSMIA (52A: Inability to sense smells) may be valid words (both return fewer than 500,000 results in Google, while "Miley Cyrus," by contrast, spits out more than 85 million), but they feel just ever-so-slightly forced today, don't they? IONA (37A: The Gaels of collegiate sports) is unknown to this solver, but although ROUE (2D: Marquis de Sade, e.g.) and RRS (50A: Pennsylvania and others, Abbr.) are also quite crosswordsy, I don't mind them so much today. Maybe it's the cluing, maybe I was just put in such a good mood by the theme, or maybe it's that I'm looking forward to getting down to Stamford tonight for the ACPT!

Or maybe, just maybe, it's because of all the other quality fill. I enjoyed CLOISONNE (15A: Decorative enamelware), CADRE (49D: Military group), and BROCADE (5D: Fancy fabric) not least for their "Frenchiness." WEBINAR (42D: Online course) is nice and modern, and RIOTACT (56A: Vigorous reprimand) reminds me of my sister, and that's always a good thing. :) (Hi Sue!)

And speaking of sisters, 1A: Sister brand of Scope (ORALB) gets a rating of C-. We generally turn our heads from commercialism here at Horace and Frances and Colum, so if you want a good grade on 1A, you'll try to amuse us rather than sell to us.

But let's end on a better note, shall we? That Milton BERLE sure was a funny guy, and he's quoted well in 32D: Comedian who married Joyce Mathews in 1941, divorced her in 1947 and married her again in 1949 "because she reminded me of my first wife." HA!

Thumbs up from this April Fool!

- Horace