Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin


Nice to get a little rebus-action on a Sunday. The trick today is to KEEP[IT]TOGETHER (118A: Stay cool ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) in such answers as CRED[IT]ORDEB[IT] (31A: Question asked at the cash register), [IT]SYB[IT]SYSPIDER (58D: Climber in a children's rhyme), and PATERN[IT]YSU[IT] (107A: Way to get to know a father in law?). That last one has the best clue of the day, and possibly the whole month. Excellent.

The cluing was generally quite good today, I thought. I enjoyed the trio of Q clues - 71A: Q neighbors (RST), 74A: Q neighbor (TAB), and 78A: Q preceder, in song (SUSIE), and there were plenty of other clever ones, like 17D: Something with two sides? (ENTREE), 115A: Lead-up to mating (ENDGAME), and 102D: The first to go on a strike, usually (ONEPIN). That's quality material.

The title today, however, seems a little off. I suppose it should really have been "Make it a double," but that would have given too much away. But now "Make that a double" doesn't really feel quite right. It's a small complaint, though. And if I were to lodge a few more small complaints, they might refer to the difficult medical clues for FASCIA (54D: Tissue surrounding a muscle) (but the crosses were fair) and THYMUSES (69A: Chest organs). I actually had an error in that second one, because I had forgotten that PURL (65D: It's a stitch) was spelled with a U. Frannie will not be happy with me about that!

1A: What an urgent message may be in (ALLCAPS) gets a B. Not bad. Overall, I enjoyed this puzzle.

Tomorrow, finally, after two months without him, you get Colum back for a full month of reviews! Happy puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016, Lily Silverstein


I was on Ms. Silverstein's side right off the bat today, when I guessed MOCKERY (1A: Ridiculous imitation) (B+) and was off and running. I was momentarily sidetracked by guessing "clefs" instead of NOTES for "8D: F and G, but not H" (isn't there something about "H" actually being used in some notation? A fact that allowed Bach to write music that spelled out his name? Colum?). INAFEY (18A: "Mean Girls" screenwriter) cleared up that little glitch, though, and I was back on track.

The long downs of RIGHTANGLE (6D: Part of a square), PAPERTHIN (20D: Like motel walls, it often seems), and AEROSOLCAN (29D: Sprayer) were nice, but came very easily. Perhaps they were clued too well? Is that a thing? DEFEATIST (12D: "Glass half empty" sort) and CHALKUPTO (32D: Attribute as the cause of) were also good. As was the slanted stack of Horizontals in the center. I hesitated on the Kafka for a long time because I misremembered it as "The..." instead of AHUNGERARTIST. No big deal, though.

Overall I very much enjoyed this puzzle, but it was over a little too quickly. Still, that's not a fair complaint, so let's just say Thumbs Up!

I'm cutting this short, because we have a very busy day. Perhaps more insight will be found in today's comment section!

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations, Ms. Silverstein, on your debut puzzle! I look forward to seeing many more from you.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016, John Guzzetta


I like MOXIE (16A: Grit) (the entry, not the drink), and BAUBLES (21A: Many an étagère display) (and the fact that "étagère" has both aigu and grave accents), and how many of us plunked in "Elsa" where ANNA (33A: "Frozen" princess) ended up? Hah! CHURCHY (23D: Intolerantly pious) was amusing, ANGLOPHONE (27D: Like the Bahamas, Barbados and Belize) was nice (I had ANGLOPHilE at first, but just because they're ANGLOPHONE countries, doesn't make the people Anglophiles!), and MARSHES (19D: Rail hubs?) gets the prize for trickiest clue today. (Rails are marsh birds.)

So those are some of the STRENGTHS (42A: Longest word in English containing only one vowel) (interesting). Some of the things that rubbed me the wrong way, unfortunately, were some of the marquee elements: TEACHABLEMOMENT (17A: Teen's fender bender, maybe) sounds awful to me. The "tough guy" pairing of CHESTHAIR (25A: Symbol of virility) and "38A: One of the eight points of contact in Muay Thai" (KNEE) (it's full-contact fighting), underscores, for me, anyway, the microagression (to use another term like TEACHABLEMOMENT) inherent in BIOLOGICALCLOCK (54A: Concern in family planning). And my least favorite of all is DECLAW (45D: Make furniture-safe, in a way). Can we just not act as though it's just "something to do" to cats? A way to fix them, to make them more "convenient" creatures to own? How about this idea? If you're so worried about your sofa getting a pull, don't get a cat! Put a big plastic cover on it and never go in the room where it is. That way, it'll be pristine when the movers have to take it out and put it somewhere else after you die.

It gets a little gluey toward the bottom with TORIC (40D: Doughnutlike) and QAID (52D: Muslim judge of North Africa), and up top, we've got the unfortunate pile of SCAT and POOH...

1A: Gets steamy, with "up" (FOGS) gets a B-. The minus is for the "with ____" convention.

Let's end on another good point. I liked learning that IGLOO is "56A: Inuit for "house."

Not terrible, but obviously not my favorite.

- Horace

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016, Adam G. Perl

0:17:31 (F.W.O.E.)

I'm going to call this one, "Revenge of the KIOWA (29A: Plains tribe)." I had put in "Otoes," thinking myself clever, but one by one the letters got changed, until I was left with the space for that W. And the Down, 31D: Dips in a bucket, say (WETS) was just not coming to me. I honestly think I suffered the "Running the alphabet fatigue" that EnglishTeacher59 recently described. I got to around T and thought, "There are no useful letters left!" Ha!
But enough about me. This puzzle was all about LOSTART (39A: Letter writing, they say ... or a hint to eight answers in this puzzle). That answer was easy enough to get off the clue, and once gotten, the theme was obvious. All that remained was to find the places where "ART" would be dropped from answers. And it didn't take long, because right at 44A: Black-and-white Best Picture winner (THE[ART]IST) I got my first hit.

Like on Sunday, once the trick is done - the "ART" removed - the resulting letters still make a word, but somehow I don't mind it so much today. Is it because I am more comfortable with subtraction than addition? Is it because I don't like the thought of alien invaders? Perhaps we'll never know, but I thought I'd mention my gut reaction. Isn't that just what I'm supposed to as a reviewer? (Right about now, faithful readers of this blog might be thinking to themselves, "It must be nearing the end of the month. This is the time when these 'Horace and Frances and Colum' writers tend to wax philosophical. But all we have to do is wait it out another few days and then a new blogger will start, and the reviews will be all business all the time again..." Well, we'll see, Dear Reader, we'll see...

1A: Auto booster (CHIEF), I give an A. I only realized now that it is part of the theme (C[ART]HIEF), which I should have realized earlier, because all theme answers are symmetrical! The more I look at this puzzle, the more beautiful I think it is. And I'm now in a predicament, because I've wasted so much time rambling that I feel I must cut the review off soon, lest I lose all readers. Nobody wants to read more than four paragraphs these days, am I right?

I'll finish with compliments for the non-theme down material - POLARIS (10D: Guiding light), FEELFREE (25D: "Help yourself"), EDWARDI (45D: King nicknamed Longshanks) (awesome nickname), PATROL (21D: Keep the beat?), TRAMP (50D: Vagabond), and TAKETHAT (23D: "So there!"). And I was strangely happy to see OHHI (30D: "Didn't think you'd be here") again so soon. Isn't it odd how some answer-oddities seem to come in bunches? Wait, wait... no more philosophizing!

Loved it. Great start to The Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Natan Last, Finn Vigeland and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


These J.A.S.A. crosswords are often interesting, I find, and this follows the pattern. The RINGCYCLE (59A: Wagner work ... or a possible title for this puzzle) was pretty well done, I thought. The only one that didn't seem quite right was the VENNDIAGRAM (22A: Place to find two Os), because I think of those as "circles," not "rings." The rest, though, are definitely rings, as evidenced by 30D: A O doesn't have one (END). If they had wanted the letter O, the clue would have read "An O ..." The theme's coda, if you will, of 64A: It's said at the exchange of Os (IDO) was a cute way of jazzing up a stock bit of crosswordese.

The two long non-theme answers are quite good too - PATCHOULI (13A: Scent in incense and insect repellents), reminds me of my old college roommate, Gregor. Who knew the stuff was used in repellents?! Also, GETOVERIT (62A: "Oh, stop moping!") is a nice bit of colloquialism.

1A: Attracted (DREW) gets a solid B. Nothing wrong with it, just not terribly exciting either. BOOYAH (8D: "How do you like dem apples?!") gets kind of an odd clue, but after thinking about it, I can't really complain, because I coudn't think of a better way to clue it. Maybe "Oh yeah!," but that's too similar. I enjoyed the word itself, though, as well as entries like OBSESS (14D: Lose sleep (over)) and GENIAL (23D: Nice) (Nice follow-up to "22D: You, in Nice" (VOUS)).

Some unusual proper names (MOIRA, LEONI), products (YUBAN, UGLI), and stock crossword fodder (ERIE, TAU, ACRE) providing the glue today, but there's nothing too egregious. Overall, I'll give it a thumbs up!

- Horace

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016, Bruce Haight


Wow! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I count 100 squares of theme material in this puzzle. When you get to 68-Across in the online version, the whole grid turns yellow! Amazing. (Mr. Haight himself calls it "111 letters of interlocking theme material" in his hilarious commentary over on xwordinfo, but I only get to 100.) And I suppose maybe the Americanized version of ESTEE is "ess-tee," (instead of the French "ess-tay) so I'll not complain about that too loudly.

Instead, let's look at all that theme! SITTIGHT (*"Don't go anywhere!"), SORE THUMBS (34A: *Things that stick out conspicuously), SWEETTOOTH (44A: *Craving for desserts), and STARTREK (41D: *Film words before "Nemesis" "Into Darkness" and "Beyond") are my favorites. SNEAKTHIEF (4D: *Shoplifter, e.g.) and SEATRIP (27A: *Carnival cruise, e.g.) sound a little arbitrary, but hey, throw those out and you still have ten theme answers!

With all that, there's barely room for anything else, but he still manages to get in a few good non-theme entries. GUSTO (53D: Zeal) and VIXEN (61A: Prancer's partner on Santa's team) are snazzy, and I enjoy the oddness of OHHI (10D: "Fancy meeting you here!"). Sure, there's a bit of MEH fill like AGS (31A: Dept. of Justice heads), REWED (13D: Take some new vows), ADA, and EXTS (36D: Tel. no. add-ons), but it's not an XTRA amount. 1A: Ones whose business is picking up? (CABS) gets a B+ from me.

Overall, a fun Tuesday.

- Horace

p.s. Hi Bruce!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016, Kevin Christian


I learned a new phrase today - CAMELCASE (28A: Style of "iPhone" or "eBay," typographically). A word written in CAMELCASE can start with either a capital or a lower-case letter, but every new word starts with a capital letter and no space. So "MySpace" would also be an example of it. Interesting. How have I not heard of that before?

Anyhoo, CAMELCASE is just one of four theme answers, the first word of which can be put after JOE to make two advertising names, Joe Boxer and Joe Camel, and two common(ish) epithets, Joe Cool and Joe Blow.

As I was filling in answers today it felt like there were too many stale entires like APER, ETUI, ALAR, URAL, INCA, ERAS, OPART, ABUT, OREO, TARA, LARAADDERCANER, ENDER...

1A: "That's hilarious!" (HAHA) is a C. I did enjoy DUENORTH (38D: 0 degrees, on a compass), and I chuckled being reminded of GASOHOL (44D: Low-ethanol fuel blend). Does anybody still say that? They're now called "E-something" right? "E-10?" "E-25?" I think we saw that more when we were buying gas in Europe.

I'm happy about learning a new term, but overall I didn't love it.

- Horace

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016, David Steinberg


Today we have a tribute to the classic arcade game SPACEINVADERS, complete with the mothership, descending aliens, "SAFE" bunkers, the cannon, and a laser beam. Pretty nicely done theme, overall. I don't particularly love circled letters, and the sight of unchecked squares is a little off-putting, but it's Sunday, and anything goes. There's left-right symmetry, and the words resulting from the SPACEINVADERS (the "ET"s that appear in the middle of several clued words) are, themselves, still intelligible, but un-clued. I looked hard at TAK[ET]EN before realizing that it could be read as "take ten." I'm more familiar with "take five," but I can imagine someone saying "take ten."

So the theme is pretty well done, but we suffer for it, I think, with a lot of short stuff in the middle, and some long(ish) answers that feel a little dull. INSOLES (92D: Parts of sneakers), ALGREN (71D: Nelson ____, "The Man With the Golden Arm" novelist) (ok, if you say so), and OSAKAN (97D: Certain Honshu resident), for example. The puzzle also seems heavy on the libations, with MOET, BACARDI, MAITAI, ELDERBERRY, OUZO, and MERLOTS. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but still, it's odd.

1A: Note in the B major scale, I give a D+. (That first letter could have been one of five choices, and as I mentioned already, single-checked letters are not my favorite things.) Better, I thought, were such entries as COOKIE (24A: Word after smart or sugar), YOYOS (70A: They can sleep if you play with them) (odd clue, but I like the idea), and ANNABELLE (121A: Inspiration for "Lolita") (I have never heard this before, and will have to research it, but not right now...).

I didn't love it, but I seem to dislike more Sunday puzzles than I like, so your mileage may vary.

- Horace

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016, Debbie Ellerin

28:35 (F.W.O.E.)

I loved this puzzle. The movement from quarter to quarter was a TAD constrained, but CMON, that’s a small thing compared to the answers and clues, right? And the answers and clues were very strong. Two of my favorites, ironically, meet at the site of my one error – 42A: Malfunctioning (BUM) and 44D: Rank and file (MASSES). Is it just me, or did it seem like this was clued by a completely different entity than normal? Meaning, I guess, that maybe Mr. Shortz left more of the clues alone this time. I tried, “BUg,” thinking that maybe “malfunctioning” was being used as a noun. As in, “There was a malfunctioning in the computer software.” But no, it’s an adjective, as in, “I’ve got a malfunctioning leg.” And “rank and file” is another great way of clueing MASSES.

Elsewhere we have the lively LIVEALIE (34D: Be what one isn’t), the hip FLAMEWAR (11D: What a troll may perpetuate), and the amusing TIGHTWAD (7D: Scrooge), KOWTOWS (27A: Is a kiss-up), and SOBERUP (23D: Recover after being wrecked). RUFFIAN (40A: Tough) is a great both in answer and clue. SUNIN (28D: Longtime hair lightener brand) takes me back.

It’s Saturday, and there are, as one might expect, plenty of entries I flat-out didn’t know: KETT (50D: Last name in the funnies for nearly 50 years), FAGIN (41D: Charley Bates’s mentor, in literature) (I don’t read), ANZIO (38A: W.W. II landing site in Italy), and LIANE (18A: Actress Balaban of “Supernatural”) to name four. It’s a little funny to see LAMAS and RAMA in the same grid, and there’s a little gluey stuff like GOI (51A: “Let me ____ pray thee”: Exodus 4:18), IVS (39A: Hookups on “House”), and DST (55D: Ariz. Doesn’t observe it), but even those are given above-average clues. I do not recognize Ms. Ellerin’s name, but I will be watching for it to appear again. This was a high-quality Saturday!

- Horace

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016, Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany


Just yesterday in the comments section of this blog was a brief discussion of how running into crosswordese in a grid can sometimes bring on warm feelings of nostalgia. For me, seeing Mr. Ashwood-Smith's name on a quadstack puzzle has a similar effect. Awww... a quadstack...

So let's start right in the middle, shall we? I, for one, enjoyed the stack. HURRICANESEASON (39A: Depression era) is both well-clued and accurate! This year's runs from June first to November thirtieth, in case you were wondering. And we didn't get a "one" in any of the answers, but it appears in the clue for AFRICANELEPHANT (40A: One with a smaller Indian relative). And the one that I solved first might be my favorite - 41A: Hurtful pair in a playground rhyme (STICKSANDSTONES).

The crosses, often compromised by the exigencies of the quadstack, include three further fifteens (!), and a few very nice sevens and eights - SEASICK (21D: Green around the gills, maybe), SEINFELD (19D: Who called a date "a job interview that lasts all night") (after a couple minor characters appeared recently, the man himself shows up), and REPTILE (37D: Chameleon, e.g.) (classic misdirection). It's nice that they worked in GREATBARRIERREEF (3D: Only living thing that can be seen from outer space) (cool), as it's probably not long for this world. And interesting about 11D: What "Banzai!" literally means (TENTHOUSANDYEARS). Figuratively, I have learned, as a shortened form of "Tennōheika Banzai!," it means, "Long live the emperor!" or simply "Hurrah!"

So that's the bones of the thing, and it's a pretty strong skeleton, I think. In the SW and NE we get two more long answers in LEEKRASNER (58A: Abstract Expressionist who married Jackson Pollock) and INKSTAND (18A: Blotchy, in a way) (not to be confused with PIED (17A: Blotchy, in a way)).

I wish that 1A: Sharp projections (JAGS) had been clued "Benders," but one can't have everything, can one? Still, I'll give it a B+.

Sure, there are some loose spots - AHASH, ECASH, AAS, ERY... but overall, I consider this a good Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016, Jason Flinn


It's Thursday, and we got a rebus! The old-fashioned kind of rebus! The kind where the trick is visual, as in WALKING under ALADDER! or a BLACKCAT crossing ONESPATH. Both of these, and one other action, are BADLUCK! (Except, if you actually agree with the cat one, you should really read this.) I applaud this old-school rebus theme!

I also applaud some of the fill. UNIBROW (18A: Prominent feature of Bert on "Sesame Street") is given a great clue, and maybe an even better one is 42D: Prevents from stealing, say (TAGSOUT). Hah! The Three Stooges (SILLINESS) is always a welcome addition, and although it seems rather plain, I really enjoyed REALISTIC for "36A: True to life."

The NE and SW corners cut what could have been seven stacks into a bunch of threes, which does, I guess, allow for some nice down material, like FIREFLY (11D: Night light?), RECITAL (40D: Music event), and, well, ALIGN (10D: Harmonize). The others are less exciting. And speaking of less exciting, I noticed a lot of ETA, TATI, SSRS, NSEC, EST, IDEM, GMT, RGS, and the classic ENA. I didn't include TSAR in that list, because it has a better-than-average clue today - "37D: Target of a 1917 uprising."

So there's a lot of junk, but I'm blaming it on the constraints of what I consider to be a very strong theme. And in my opinion, anyway, a good theme counts for a lot. I'm giving this one a thumbs up!

- Horace

p.s. I can't decide whether to be relieved or disappointed that they didn't try to tie together STALKS and CORNMAZE.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016, Gordon Johnson


STARCROSSEDLOVE (34A: Relationship doomed from the start ... or something found in this puzzle four times?) is the theme today, but two of these couples are still together, aren't they? BENING and BEATTY, and PITT and JOLIE? And the other two, well, it was a long time ago, and I don't really know, but star-crossed just seems a little too dramatic. Still, I enjoyed this theme. It's not perfectly symmetrical, but I kind of like that about it. Not even perfect couples are 100% perfect.

1A: Markka spender, once (FINN) gets an A. Why? Because I'm a FINN, that's why. Plus, it's good. The four long downs in the NW and SE are all strong. IRRITANT (2D: Smoke in one's eyes, say) is well-clued, especially since, in a love-themed puzzle, one's thoughts might be drawn to the old song "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and to think about that title with the IRRITANT meaning is amusing. And in the other corner, OPENFIRE beside VENGEFUL seems another good pairing, but the clue for GRASSFED (55A: Like beef cattle, dietarily) is somewhat disingenuous, given the current feed-lot situation in the U.S.

There were a few odd partials, like ABITE (60A: Grab ____ (eat on the run)) and ARUN (62A: Give ____ for one's money), and I think "add-ons" is more natural sounding than ADDINS (33D: Functionality-enhancing computer products), but maybe that just shows my ignorance of such products. And finally on the negative side, ENSOUL (27A: Fill with a spirit) is questionable.

On the whole, I enjoyed the puzzle. Onward to The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016, James Mulhern


I solved this last night just before falling asleep, and this morning I opened it up and thought, "What's that square outline in the middle of the grid?" Then when I clicked on the revealer, and all the theme clues lit up, well, ... IMLOVINIT. Three balls outside the zone, and two strikes right down the pipe. I love how the balls are all on the outer edge, too. They wouldn't have to be, of course, but somehow it just makes it that much cleaner. And lastly, about the theme, I briefly bristled at the square-ness of the strike zone (instead of being a tall rectangle), but then I realized that the strike zone changes depending on the size of the batter, and if a 15x15 puzzle grid were up there at the plate, it might well have a square strike zone. HAH!

Honestly, today I like the theme so much that I don't really even care how good the fill is, but let's look around a little anyway. 1A: German export (AUDI) is meh. C-. Maybe even D, just because it's always AUDI drivers who zoom up behind you and flash their lights asking you to get out of their way. 1D: Pop group that broke through at the 1974 Eurovision contest (ABBA), on the other hand, were I to rate it, would get an A. Eurovision gets mentioned in the NYTX!

BODACIOUS (38D: Attractive, informally) is a great word, but I don't really think of it as meaning attractive. Maybe more like "awesome." ANIMUS (57A: Enmity), too, I think of in the more general Latin way of "mind," or "soul." But still, they're good words. I love a SKOR bar, and I love AMES. :)

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016, Jacob Stulberg


Waking up to yet another story of the murder of police officers, I can't help but react negatively to 1A: Police vehicle (COPCAR). I'm not going to give it a rating, so weary am I of such news. Similarly, EUROPEDAY (9D: Annual celebration when a 12-star flag may be flown) is tainted by the recent Brexit, and by Boris Johnson being chosen as Foreign Secretary... but this puzzle was undoubtedly submitted before any of that happened, and anyway, the problems of the world are not Mr. Stulberg's responsibility any more than they are mine or yours. Which is to say that they really are yours and mine. And everyone's. What are we to do? Yesterday our car was parked three spots away from one with a Trump bumper sticker. It would be COMIC if it weren't so worrisome, so sad, and so real.

But before this review turns into an OPEDCOLUMN (29D: Place for airing an opinion ... or what five of this puzzle's Down answers contain?), I'll get back to the review. The four (well, five really, if you count the revealer) theme answers all run down, and all contain the letter string "oped." SLOPEDOWN (33D: Decline, as a ramp) seems a little arbitrary, and PIANOPEDAL (3D: One of three at the base of a Steinway) is only slightly better, but the other two are fine. As themes go, it's not one of the more exciting ones.

The fill contains some nice bits, like HAYRIDES (17A: Harvest festival events), COURAGE (15A: Bravery), KNAVE (54A: Scoundrel), and PUMMEL (45A: Pound repeatedly). On the "not-so-APPROVED" list are EYEDUP (43A: Assessed visually) (I would almost always say "sized up" instead), the unusual plural ODEA (41A: Ancient Greek theaters), and ALEVE. We frown on product names in puzzles. OREO has been beaten into us by now, and it, at least, has an additional use as a word in modern culture.

Overall, I'll call it a wash. It's probably more my mood than the puzzle, though. I hope you enjoyed it.

- Horace

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016, Jerry Miccolis


Two movies mashed together and clued to make some sense, as in 22A: Double feature about the Arctic Ocean? (FROZENWATERWORLD), or 96A: … about an insomniac? (ROCKYSLEEPER). Not terribly hilarious, or novel, but sometimes that’s the way it is. “38A: … about the search for extraterrestrial life” (ALIENCONTACT) is a little weird, because “Contact” already is about that subject, but I guess just one movie title wouldn’t fit the theme.

1A: Really tiny (ATOMIC), I’ll give a B. I actually like the 115A answer to the same clue slightly better (ITSY). I kind of wish “15A: Over yonder” had been “thar” instead of AFAR, but I loved “36A: Actor who was lionized in the 1930s?” for LAHR. We both got it immediately, but we still loved it. I also enjoyed the irreverent SHAFT (46A: Unfair treatment, with “the”). Heh. Combine that with AROUSE and MISTRESS and you’ve got quite the racy puzzle!

Others in the plus column are 60D: Sides of a quadrangle, maybe (DORMS) and 113A: They lose their heads over time (BEERS). Tricky! And I chuckled at “10A: What may follow a breakdown” (TOW), and SCALP (33D: Where your roots are) was pretty clever, too. Speaking of SCALP, I was scratching mine about AMFAR (1D: H.I.V. research org.) and GNMA (32D: Fed. lending agency). I don’t believe I’m familiar with either acronym. And what are we to make of UTAHN (52D: Pioneer Day celebrant) showing up just a day or two after “Utahan” was in the grid? I didn’t much like the longer version, and I like this new one even less.

So in all, I guess I give this puzzle a tepid thumbs up. It had enough fun stuff to balance out the lukewarm theme and the ORLE, TYES, ASYE, MEIS, and EEE-type stuff.
Looking forward to starting it all up again tomorrow!

- Horace

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Today's solve started out just like a Saturday ought to start - with almost nothing going in on the first pass through the Across clues. I put in ODIE (15A: Slavering toon) and GROG (17A: Salty drink?) (the question mark gave it away), but it wasn't until 51A: Drug smuggler (MULE) that I knew I had my first correct entry. Then 53A: Yank with 25 grand slams (AROD) should, perhaps, have been obvious, but I no longer follow baseball as I once did, and I briefly considered "Ruth." Luckily, I was so sure about MULE that it allowed me to enter AROD on the evidence that "mr," "uu," "lt," and "eh" looked terrible going down. For those as out of it as me when it comes to baseball records, AROD is the all-time leader in grand slams, having passed Lou Gehrig's mark of 23 a few years ago. Manny Ramirez is third with 21, and Ruth is way back at 16, tied with Hank Aaron and Dave Kingman.

But enough about baseball. AINTNOBODY care 'bout that.

There were several answers that made me smile today, but perhaps none so much as the central pair of PAROLEVIOLATION (7D: Crossing state lines, perhaps) and FOLIAGE (31A: Leaves out in the open?). Those are both terrific. With the second, I'm not sure if the question mark helped much, but I'd still rather not see them at all on Saturdays. Haven't we all been trained well enough to expect deviant wordplay at the end of the week? Wouldn't it just be cooler not to have any question marks? That said, 28A: Cast mate? (TVWIFE) was still pretty great, and METEOR (36A: Shower component), without one, took several crosses. 47A: Pool cover (BATHINGCAP) certainly seems like it could have had one, as does 33D: Job for which you give someone a hand (MANICURE) (excellent). Maybe they at least set an upper limit on the number of clues that can have one...

Frannie and I did this together, handing it back and forth, and one time when she had it she said "I'm putting this in because I want it to be right, not because it is." When I got it back, I found 13D: "Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil," e.g. (RENOIR) answered with "selfie." If I ever construct a puzzle, I will have to remember that idea.

Overall, I was very satisfied with this puzzle. Sure, there were a few boring answers, like TEAMLEADER, MARIAELENA (18A: She was "the answer to a prayer" in a 1941 #1 Jimmy Dorsey hit) (you don't say), and WARATHOME (29D: 2005-07 sitcom about the Gold family, with "The"), but overall, the fill and the clueing were both top-notch. 1A: School for Rory Gilmore of "Gilmore Girls" (YALE), must, unfortunately, in deference to Colum's alma mater and Frannie's and my employer, be given a low grade. Let's say, B-. That's probably still too high, but one must try to be charitable, mustn't one?

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016, Matt Ginsberg


I was put off by 1A today "Insincerely polite" (GREASY) (C+). (I tried "smarmy," which would have been slightly better, I think.) After that it was an uphill climb, and I'm not sure I ever got to the summit.

The mini-theme today of the different pronunciations possible for the word UNIONIZED is somewhat enjoyable. Coincidentally, a friend just told me this, in joke form, about a month ago. I also enjoyed such entries as CENSORED (11D: Like many bad words), 40D: Word repeatedly spelled out by Franklin (RESPECT) - it's amazing to me how much time I spent trying to think of aphorisms by that other Franklin - 55A: Recycling bin fill (EMPTIES) (Frannie and I both tried "plastic"), and GLACIAL (1D: Beyond slow). My favorite clue/entry was 10D: Paris fights in it (ILIAD). Nice. I also enjoyed the similarly clued FALLEN (8D: Like some angels and arches) and LACEDUP (38D: Like skates and corsets). Actually, the more I look around, the more stuff I like. Maybe I got a little higher than I thought I did...

On the blander side we have ALLINDIA (18A: Subcontinent-wide), 23A: Red stuff to cut through (TAPE) (is it just me, or does this clue seem awfully Monday-ish?), and LEASERS (21A: Many new car drivers).

Wait, I forgot to mention 31A: Gray head (LEE). No question mark! And 41A: Clubs to beat people with? (ACES). Question mark, but still cute.

So this, now, is one of those situations where I've talked myself into giving a thumbs up. Sorry, Mr. Ginsberg, about the less-than-stellar intro. It's not a "both thumbs way up" type situation, but it wasn't as bad as all that. (p.s. How did Dr. Fill do on this one?) [ed. note: There's a video of Dr. Fill completing the puzzle over on XWordInfo. And one final note, I'm glad to hear you're back working on Dr. Fill again. I, for one, will cheer if he finishes puzzle five with no errors next year!]

- Horace

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016, David J. Kahn


Boy oh boy it took me until the very end to figure out that it was the PHONETIC alphabet they were talking about. TANGO (7D: *Dance craze of the 1910s) should have tipped me off, I suppose, but I kept looking for more than just a circled letter with the asterisk clues. A rebus, a missing part, something, anything slightly tricky... but no. Just circled letters and asterisked clues, the answers to which were part of the phonetic alphabet. Hmph.

The theme may have been a little lackluster, but Frannie and I enjoyed many of the clues. 47A: Run out of clothes? (STREAK) is nice, and 50A: Spring breaks? (OASES) was very tricky! I mistakenly guessed "I am a rock" for 66A: 1969 Simon & Garfunkel hit in which "lie-la-lie" is repeatedly sung" (THEBOXER), and then when I realized that must be wrong, I spent about thirty seconds singing the song until I finally got to "... In the clearing stands a boxer..." And speaking of mistakes, I tried "beastly" for BESTIAL (44D: Inhuman), but I like the real answer better.

CORTEX, OVERTIP, CLICHE, CHINUP - all good. In the not so good camp I put TILTSAT (29D: Battles against) (and just yesterday I was praising "atilt..." - I told you, that's how it goes!), UTAHAN (I don't care if that's what they call themselves, I don't like it), and my least favorite - CDEF (13D: Scale opening). I had tried "dore" which I would have liked slightly better, but the sheer arbitrariness of CDEF is off-putting. Can I now expect to find "gabc" with a similar clue?

1A: Put next to (APPOSE) I give a B. No one ever says APPOSE, but I can't fault it for that.
Overall, I guess I'll call it a wash.

- Horace

p.s. I suppose Huygens will suggest that ATEAT (56A: Bothered no end) could have had a more suggestive clue...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016, Tom McCoy


A fun theme today of taking a common phrase that ends with a three-letter word, breaking that last word into letters, and then re-cluing to add wackiness. And as you know well, Dear Reader, we here at Horace and Frannie and Colum love wackiness. My favorite is "52A: Example of bad parenting?" (MAMMAMIA), but PICKMEUPS (66A: Cry from an eager applicant for a delivery job?) isn't bad either.

So the theme is a plus, what about the fill? Well, also a plus. We've got some very nice long down material in ASYMMETRY (34D: Difference between two sides) and GRAVEPERIL (8D: Serious danger). MODERNDAY (11D: Characteristic of the present) and SWEETIEPIE (30D: Honeybunch) are also good, but seem slightly odd because they, too, have three-letter last words that are not made into theme material. Not a deal-breaker, because they are Down answers, after all, but still just a little odd. And speaking of Down answers, do you think that the clue for ASICS (53D: Shoe brand that sounds like a letter and a number) was influenced by the theme, too? Thinking about breaking words up into parts? I think it's possible.

Overall I very much enjoyed this Wednesday puzzle. Entries like UMAMI (12D: Savory sensation), ROMCOM (4D: "Sleepless in Seattle," for one), and LITHE (63A: Limber), put me in a good mood. I even chuckled at ATILT (54D: With lance in hand), which, if the theme had been less funny and the rest of the fill less good, might have annoyed me instead. Not today. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016, Samuel A. Donaldson


If you drink too much LABATT Blue (B), you might SLIPANDFALL and end up with BROKENBONES (55A: Injuries illustrated four times in this puzzle). You'll have to get a CEMENT cast, and you might not be DANSKing again very soon, but at least you'll have some time for a RESTFUL recovery, maybe with your broken leg up on a HASAC (31A: Is ready for the summer weather, for short) (the "green" in me revolts and asks, 'What about "has windows and fans?"). All your days will be like SATURDAYS as you leave TRUELIFE behind.

OKOK, I'll stop.

It's an odd theme, and thinking about breaking one's sacrum is not at all pleasant. Not that any broken bone leaves one in a state of BLISS, but I'd certainly rather break my ulna or even tibia. The femur, I'd have to think about...

I had "BLAthER" for BLABBER (40D: Spew nonsense), which made INDEBT (50A: Owing (to)) difficult to figure out. I loved seeing AMY in the grid. She's adorable!

There's a handful of MRE, NOMDE, ACAD, and EIS-type stuff, and OONA seems like she gets in at least four or five times per week, doesn't she? But overall, it was a passable Tuesday.

- Horace

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016, Freddie Cheng


Starting the week off with a classic "phrases where the words in each phrase start with the same letters" theme. (I think that's probably what Will Shortz calls it.) This time the letters are W-O-W, as is revealed by the revealer, 36D: Pizazz ... or what 18-, 23-, 46- and 56-Across each has? (WOW FACTOR).
First of all, I prefer the double, double Z "pizzazz," but then, I also prefer the Oxford Comma, but I will get no satisfaction on either front from the NYT, it seems.

Second of all, ALGAL (3D: Like some pond growths) is very bad. ASWOON (5D: In a faint) and SNARF (6D: Wolf (down)) (I have always said "scarf") are not much better. Add to those ERAS, NOONS, ASON, ELS, TRE, AYES, ARETE, SNEE, and OPED and... OOF!

On the brighter side, and yes, there was one, we have such colorful answers as BLASTZONE (4D: Detonation area), FLINCH (19D: Recoil slightly, as from an oncoming punch), MATCHWOOD (34A: Material in a fire starter set) (brings me back to Boy Scout camp), and HOOCH (10D: Illegal liquor, informally). 1A: Jab with a knife (STAB) gets a C+. It's not terribly bad, but it's not a great way to start the week, thinking about stabbing. That answer and BULLET make a nice ONETWO.

Finally, the theme answers, WAROFWORDSWALTZOFFWITH, WALKSONWATER, and WAYOUTWEST are decent enough. Onward!

- Horace

Sunday, July 10, 2016, Patrick Berry


I'm not usually a fan of "quote puzzles," where a single quote runs across several lines, but this is a kinder, gentler kind of quote puzzle - and a very odd one - where a short quote is run in double letters throughout the grid. There are no other sets of double letters, across or down, so the shading isn't completely necessary, but it sure made things easier toward the end, when I was able to put in the double Hs and the double Ys, which allowed me to get ASHHEAPS (78A: Some dumps) and BYYOURLEAVE (107A: Request for permission).
To make a puzzle such as this is completely unfathomable to me. How, and why, Mr. Berry conceived of doing such a thing is beyond me. And how, having come up with the idea, he was actually be able to make it work while still keeping the fill reasonably clean, is, well, impressive. That Berra's own name is used as theme material is gilding on the icing.

And on top of the theme, which, by the way, is the YOGIBERRA quote "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore" (but if you double it, it is worth a dime?), the puzzle is filled with enjoyable non-theme items. TOWIT: 7D: Head guy in "Hamlet"? (YORICK) hilarious, 21A: Like pets but not strays (NAMED) (I tried "owned" here, but that was too obvious), 39A: U people? (PROFS), 62A: Tank tops? (GASCAPS) (I tried "turrets," but Frannie corrected it), 66A: Corresponding expense? (POSTAGE) (outdated, perhaps, but still lovely), 68A: Person with an account (NARRATOR), and many others.

Sure, I can maybe find a few oddities, like ASTON (59D: ____ Villa (English football club)) or LAYNE (92D: Football Hall-of-Famer Bobby), and could maybe complain about a few bits of crosswordese like ELS, NEHI, or SHO, but I'm not going to. This was a very good Sunday puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016, Josh Knapp


Really lovely puzzle today from Mr. Knapp. The triple stacks in the NW and SE are very strong and the vertical double-nines in the other corners are equally entertaining. CHILLAXED ( 32D: Hung around casually?) (ok, there, especially on a Saturday, we do not need the question mark) beside TESLACOIL (33D: It may cause sparks to fly) is excellent. DOYOUMIND (12D: "Excuse me?") with OHSUSANNA (13D: Classic folk number) - solid.

And in the middle we have such quality entries as FATSUITS (26A: Outfits for big parts?) (Hah!), 34A: Certain upper-growth limit (TREELINE), and BLACKEYE (43A: Boxing ring?) (Question mark also questionable there...). And running through all that are the colorful entries ZANZIBAR (23D: Island known for its spices) and NOSEGAYS (21D: Bouquets, quaintly). Even gluey fill like TERSER is elevated by a Hemingway clue.

1A: One might have black-and-white standards (PIRATESHIP) gets a solid A. Great clue, great fill.

The last thing I put in was the N of GREENALGAE (60A: Film about rock groups?) and that finished off the puzzle with yet another smile.

Outstanding Saturday. Loved it.

- Horace

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016, Barry C. Silk


My first pass through the clues yielded very little today, and every time I got an answer it surprised me a little that I had actually figured it out, but eventually clues that at first seemed completely opaque suddenly made perfect sense. In short, it was just like a puzzle ought to be.

I was at a party last night where people, when I asked if they did the NYT crossword, said that it was too hard. I've known these people for a long time and I know that they're not idiots. I think that if they just gave it a little time, that they could get through most crosswords. But no, they quickly recoil from the idea. What makes someone enjoy puzzles and another not? It's a puzzle! And one that's too hard for me to solve. :)

Anywho... let's get down to business. Lots of good fill today with a minimum amount of glue. Just as we have come to expect from Mr. Silk. I enjoyed the paired Civil War battle sites MANASSAS and ANTIETAM, and the opening and closing pair of BLACKFRIDAY and CYBERMONDAY was also nice. Another pair was the two eponyms TASMAN and REESE both of which were unknown to me, but inferable with a few crosses. The World of Warcraft pair (HAG and IMP) were also unknown to me, but again, they seemed plausible enough.

I loved the clues for SUBLET (31A: Release?), WINESTEWARD (59A: Port authority?), ATBAT (25D: Single chance?), and ANDREADORIA (62A: Name that went down in history?), question marks and all. One clue that didn't have a question mark, and consequently took me quite a long time to figure out, was 27D: Spots for air traffic controllers (RADARBLIPS). Hah!

Some bits of glue like WAC (59D: New Mexico State's athletic grp.), RENA (45A: 1995 Emmy winner Sofer), MSG (22A: Liberty's home, for short). Who or what are the Liberty? And what's DOS (63A: Buns, for example)? I don't get that one. [addendum: I finally figured out that DOS is short for "hairdos."]

Overall, though, a very good Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016, Joel Elkins and Andrea Carla Michaels

0:18:24 (F.W.O.E.)

Today, a puzzle commemorating everybody's favorite agency, the TSA. The cross of THA[TSA]MORE and SE[TSA]IL gave it away fast, but LIGH[TSA]BERS and MOR[TSA]HL would have done just as well. The bottom pair came much more slowly, and I was mired in the SW for quite a while at the end. The ARAWAK (38D: Onetime Caribbean native) / KETONE (60A: Camphor or fructose) cross did me in. I think I guessed an S there right off the bat, and then flailed around until I chanced upon the somewhat familiar sounding KETONE. I don't want to cop an ATTITUDE, but TOTALER (39D: Summer) isn't all that great a word, although it is elevated by the amusing, non-question-marked clue. (Less successful are DIRER and EVADER.)

As is perhaps well-known, this reviewer loves a rebus puzzle, and having non-symmetrically placed rebus squares makes the challenge slightly greater, but overall this puzzle didn't put up much resistance. Slightly unusual entries like KAHUNA (2D: Bigwig) and FOMENT (15A: Whip up) took a cross or two, and unknown (to some) names like EWEN (65A: Actor Bremmer of "Trainspotting" and "Black Hawk Down") and ELENA (56A: ____ Gilbert, protagonist of "The Vampire Diaries") took almost all of them.

There are a handful of lovely entries - GENERALS (11D: Warheads?), CONTRITE (34D: Saying "Sorry," say), and KNELT (23A: Prepared for dubbing), for example, but then we have things like SUDSES (43D: Lathers up), GES (22D: Some TVs) (I didn't know they made them!), TESSAS (16D: Characters in "Romola" and "The Gondoliers"), and the very outdated ELYSE (51D: "Family Ties" mom). Yesterday, for some, the theme compensated for lousy fill. Today, the negative thoughts brought to mind by the TSA diminish its own value as a rebus, and cannot save this review. I certainly didn't hate the puzzle, but I didn't love it either.

- Horace

p.s. 1A: "____ Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World" (2012 book) (IKES) - C+.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016, David Woolf


I'm afraid that a lot of my time doing this puzzle was spent trying to make "ThreewaY" work for "26A: Relationship with two other lovers, both of whom consent" (TRIAMORY). I was all excited, and then I was all like, "Huh?" I mean, sure, I understand TRIAMORY, but who has ever said that before? or heard it? or wants to hear it after being amazed that "threeway" got into a puzzle? Oh well. Silly me. Now I just feel like a TNUT!

Anyway... a lot of my time after doing the puzzle was spent trying to figure out what Mr. Woolf meant by "... and a hint to every four-letter answer in this puzzle." I examined a few to see if there were alternate answer possibilities, then I looked around to see if the four-letter combinations appeared in a different way elsewhere in the grid, then I went over to XWORD Info to see what was up! Turns out, I wish I had given it a little more time... each four-letter answer is made up of two state abbreviations! Wow! Suddenly, the puzzle goes from HMM to near SAINTDOM. Well, let's not go crazy - we've still got AAU (43A: Nonpro sports org.) ("Amateur Athletic Union" - really?!?), TEHEE (69A: [Titter]) (two strikes there, one for the missing E and one for the clue), TWI (59D: ____-night doubleheader), ALLA (54D: ____ breve), and a few other oddities.

But for that junk we get the great theme, plus tremendous bonus fill like INGLORIOUS (3D: Causing shame) and SHILLELAGH (32D: Cudgel made from a knotty stick). And HOLLOW, TOLDALIE (42D: Prevaricated), and SNEAKERS (4D: Court tie-ups?) ain't bad either. 1A: Light beam splitter (PRISM) gets a B. Who doesn't like a PRISM?

It's an ambitious theme (that needed an ambitious 16x15 grid!), with some very good fill and some pretty bad glue, but on balance, I give this a thumbs up.

- Horace

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016, Jules Markey


Boy, this sure made me chuckle when I figured it out. "Ex Marx despot." Ha! This is my favorite theme in quite some time. And I love all the theme answers, too. EXPOSTFACTO (17A: Retroactively, at law) is some nice Latin, MARXANDLENIN (29A: Red giants) has a fantastic clue, and DESPOTICALLY (44A: How Ivan the Terrible ruled) took me forever, but I very much enjoyed it once I got it. And to top it off, we've got bonus theme material with two "pirate" clues in the Downs (BUCCANEER & OLDSEADOG) and a final parting shot with ARRR (67A: Pirate's interjection). Very nice.

And with all that one might expect to encounter a few oddities, but the damage isn't too bad, really. I've never heard of the PETREL (43A: Long-winged seabird) (almost a 7-foot wingspan!), but maybe birders (especially those in the southern hemisphere) have. I didn't love UNS (61D: Little ____), ATS (39A: @@@), or DELA (57A: Hip-hop trio ____ Soul), but on the other hand, I did enjoy the odd past tenses MEANT and SPELT, REFLEX (6D: Involuntary action) and GROVEL (10D: Abase oneself) are good words, and MAKEPAR (29D: Finish a hole between a birdie and a bogey) makes me want to go out and play a round of disc golf! Additionally, 38A: "The ____ on you!" (classic gag line) (YOLKS) made me smile.

1A: Jazz legend ____ James (ETTA) gets a C. And I think the team for Hilary's presidential BID should maybe consider using "One no-trump" as a slogan. Heh.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016, Jill Denny and Jeff Chen


It took me a minute, but I now see what they mean by "Holiday suggested by the starts of ..." (FOURTHOFJULY). Each initial letter is 1/4th of the word "July." Derp. Perhaps that was obvious to you, and if so, that's fine.

Pretty clean Monday. 1A: Sam who directed "Spider-Man" (RAIMI) gets a C+. It's not that it's bad or anything - a C is average, remember - it's just that I don't love proper names in a puzzle, and I don't really know him by name, soooo....

GOETHE, on the other hand (23A: German author who wrote "Faust") might have gotten a B-. ZINGER alert! (NYUK ...)

You know, speaking of proper names, I actually watched ISIAH Thomas play, I'm pretty sure, but I never really realized that his first name was spelled like that.

Let's see... what else? Are we to just ignore the first initial(s) of TSELIOT? I guess so, since they are not found in the word "July."

I be likin' the word LIKEN (12D: Make an analogy with, with "to"), but I don't like the phrase "make an analogy with."... No such dilemma about LEMMA, though, am I right?...

OHGOD, this review is going off the rails. I blame DIONYSUS. A POX upon him! :)

- Horace

Sunday, July 3, 2016, Samuel A. Donaldson


Some funny theme material today - STRAWMANSION (49A: First home of the three rich little pigs?) ("Straw man" + "shun" sound) is quite good, and I also like BASETENSION (105A: What an overbearing sergeant causes?) (Are there some sergeants that aren't overbearing?), but DIRTPORTION (32A: Very, very top of the earth's crust?) requires a change in the pronunciation of "poor." At least it does for me, anyway. The theme answers run both Across and Down, which is always good, but for some of them, we have to put up with things like AISLED (97A: Like supermarkets, theaters and planes), and little known characters like ENDY (6D: Onetime Expos/Mets outfielder Chávez), ALBEN (74A: ____ Barkley, Truman's vice president), and ROSSANO (93D: "South Pacific" star ____ Brazzi). Still, overall I'd say the theme is a good one.

1A: Carol opening (ADESTE) is about a C+, I'd say. Not bad, and it gets bonus points for being Latin, but it's kind of crosswordesy.

The fill is pretty clean overall, with some choice entries. ABSCISSA (7D: X-coordinate) is a ten-cent word, DUMPIER (16D: More run-down) brought a smile, and I liked TIMESINK (89D: Internet surfing, often) and NOTUPTOIT (12D: Too tired for the task, say). And how about BEAV and PORNO being side by side?

Overall, I'm giving it a thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saturday, July 2, 2016, Erin Rhode


Many times this puzzle brought a smile to my face as I filled it in, and that's a good sign. I particularly loved ICANTEVEN (13D: "This is too much"), ANDIMOUT (15A: "That's it ... too rich for me") (too bad that couldn't have been the last Across entry), EMOTICON (64A: Small show of one's feelings), and ROTGUT (29D: Poor spirits?) (Hah!). We've seen FOODCOMA (1A: Postprandial woe) somewhat frequently, it seems, but I can't really fault Ms. Rhode for that, so I'm still giving it an A-.

That's a heck of a clue for EROICA (16A: Classical record on Norman Bates's turntable in "Psycho") isn't it? Sheesh! Of course, with a couple letters it became inferable, but still...  DREDGED (28A: Brought (up), as from the distant past) is a good word, as is KIBOSH (59A: Put an end to), although one doesn't hear the latter being used as a verb very often. One generally "puts the KIBOSH" on something, one doesn't go around "KIBOSHing" things, does one?

OTTER (49A: Oyster cracker?) was fun, and "18A: Ross and Spencer" (DIANAS) took me a long while. There were a couple of clunkers - NUMBEST (44A: Most insensitive), REPAYABLE (34D: Like debts), and PASSATEST (14D: Prove one's worth) (the indefinite article definitely struck a nerve), but none of those are really actionable offenses. They're just slightly off. I'd take more points off for ENA (43A: Disney aunt), but really, there's not much wrong with this grid. I enjoyed it.

- Horace

Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016, James Mulhern


First of all, I'd like to thank Frannie for a very entertaining month of reviews. Hopefully, she can be convinced into becoming a regular part of the rotation! You'll get no such cleverness from me, so brace yourselves.

Today's puzzle denied me three times: with answers that I just didn't know (a good example of this is "57A: 2006 musical featuring a vampire." I had _ESTA_ and I still needed crosses! Same with _ULUSEA!); with oblique clueing (62A: They're drawn by the bizarre (STARES)); and with unusual answers (AIRWOMAN, ERDOCTOR).

I should have known I was in trouble when the first two answers I entered were EPA (19A: Org. that covers Springfield in a dome in "The Simpsons Movie") and LOIS (Lane in a strip). I threw in GIBLET (31A: Gravy goody) (eeuw), CHORAL (40A: Like motets), and ORIENTAL (59A: Light blue partner of Connecticut and Vermont) too, but after that it was slow going. One great help was that I "accidentally" glanced down at my computer keyboard as I was working and saw that the SQUAREBRACKET key is the "35A: Backslash neighbor." I briefly considered spelling "curly" with an E, but really, that character requires a shift, so I guess SQUAREBRACKET is more accurate.

I very much enjoyed the fill today, for the most part. TATTLE (1A: Talk) is solid B+ material in my book. And better still are TAILGATE (38D: Get too close, in a way), ONEMAN (15A: Not divisible, as a job), FLASHERS (7A: Driver's hazards) (I don't care what they mean, I'm understanding this to mean people flashing drivers from the side of the road. Or maybe from an overpass. Or heck, even from a passing car...), and DESTROY (20A: Torpedo).

Overall, I'm giving this one a thumbs up. The month is off to a good start!

- Horace