Friday, September 30, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016, David Woolf


Rabbit rabbit, everybody! It's October. And I'm ringing it in a couple of hours early. I feel like September was a pretty good month, crosswordwise, other blogs notwithstanding. And the way the last few days were going, I was hoping for a good start on this Saturday themeless.

Well, I'm not going to say I was blown away by this effort. It felt a bit like a slog. There are some nice bits, and a lot of answers that just feel neutral or worse.

I wandered through a lot of clues before finally hitting on one I was sure about, at 37D (ARIANNA). That didn't net me much, though. I actually jumped over to the eastern half of the puzzle to get any real traction. Iraklion is not the way I think of CRETE's capital - usually I see it spelled Heraklion when it's put into the Latin alphabet. Because of the odd spelling, I briefly considered putting in Kriti, but ERIC (Dickerson or Decker) put me right.

I kind of worked my way crisscross up to the NW, which actually became the first corner to fall. So... those two decks: POOP and ORLOP. Huh. And all of these down answers, like BOLOTIE (okay), IRONORE (oof) and NOSTARS (don't love it).

I'll give it up for BIGSPOON (1A: One of a pair of cuddlers) because that's oh so sweet (B+ for the corn syrup), and 15A: Handel bars (ORATORIO) is a cute clue. I actually wanted ORATORIa, because it looked plural-ish to me. But what is this LOGROLLS? Apparently a political term I've never heard of. And I didn't like ONREPORT at all.

The rest of the puzzle has much the same quality to me. STRESSEATS is good. GOODREASON is okay. TEARGAS (unpleasant clue there) and CAMEL (unpleasant product) not so much. ONETOTEN feels forced. HAHAHA and DADADA in the same corner?

Well, anyway, I guess it just didn't hit my spot the right way. How about that partial TINIES? Love the Edward Gorey original, so here's a picture from it.

- Colum

Friday, September 30, 2016, James Mulhern


Frannie and I solved this one together late last night with cousin Kenny. As luck would have it, Kenny does a lot of golfing, so he overruled my suggestion of "even par" for "1A: Golf handicap of zero" in favor of the correct answer, SCRATCH (A-). Coincidentally, Kenny is also from ALABAMA (14A: Where Forrest Gump played college football), and I remember joking about the 16A: "Funky Cold Medina" rapper (TONELOC) with one of his step-siblings, so that whole NW corner went quickly.

Frannie worked out most of the rest while Kenny and I worked on the bottle of Clyde May's Alabama style whiskey that he brought as a house-warming present, but as I review it now, this puzzle really has a lot of great answers! ANTEATER (12D: Creature that Dalí walked on a leash in public) (which Frannie threw down off the first A!) (and yes, which merits mention in print as well as a photo), GHETTOBLASTER (33A: Source of break-dancing beats), HACKATHON (7D: Collaborative computer coding event), DIVEBAR (23D: Seedy place to drink), INKBLOT (19A: Test pattern)... all good. Less good, in my opinion, is ESOTERY (52A: Arcane matters), which must itself be somewhat esoteric, as it does not appear in my "Webster's New World" dictionary. But the ratio of questionable glue to solid material is highly skewed to the good, so I'm not complaining too loudly.

It's the end of the month again, so I'm hoping that Colum will take over tomorrow. And if Frannie takes November (as she has hinted), I'll see you again in December. Happy puzzling!

- Horace

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016, Jonathan M. Kaye

0:24:09 (F.W.O.E.)

Today's puzzle came with a dire warning to those solving on an iPad: "This puzzle contains an element that cannot be reproduced digitally. However, the puzzle can be solved and understood in digital format. ..." Undaunted, I launched in, quickly finding purchase with the guess SCOPE (9A: Brand of mouthwash) and its confirmation, SHAH ( 9D: Noted exile of 1979).
Things progressed smoothly from there, and I soon realized that we were dealing with some kind of a rebus at 2D: Kind of fertilization (IN[VI]TRO), but I couldn't really understand what was going on with 1D: Pals (BU[DD]IES). I was thinking that maybe all the letters in the word "DIVIDE" would be used in different places? But why not in order? Anyway, I knew something was up, and I pressed on, eventually getting to WEE[VI]LS (51D: Boring things) and FRE[DD]IE (50D: Big Mac?). Again, the letters were those of the word "divide," but it didn't really make sense. Why were they exactly the same as the ones above? Where was the "e" of divide?

So anyway, long story short - or, at least not quite as long as it might have been - I eventually put in the letters of the Across words, which always ended up being "BY." As in, BOOBYTRAPS (46A: Staples of Indiana Jones films) and MADEBYHAND (29A: Artisanal, maybe), but I did not get the "Congratulations!" screen. Sure of my solution, and thinking of the puzzle warning, I thought maybe there was some technicality that was not allowing the app to register the solution as correct, so I went to, where I saw that I had a typo at 34D: Actor Idris (ELBA) and 34A: Lawful ends? (ELS). I had "aLBA," but in my (feeble) defense, I had considered "ELS" for 34A, but did not think the construction of the clue perfectly fit that answer. Wouldn't it have to be "lawfuls' ends?" or something equally tortured, to get the plural ELS? Hmph.

So that's my sob story. The puzzle's true solution, by the way, is to pile up the Ds and the VIs of the Down answers on top of one another so that they look like Bs and Ys. It's pretty clever, and, as yesterday, I wish that I had been solving on paper, but I'm still not sure whether or not I would have come up with that elegant solution, or whether I would have just left in the rebuses or the BYs and called it a day.

Overall, I really like the puzzle. There's tons of non-theme material that I like: STRASSE, SECLUDE, MAESTRO, STONEAGEANCIENT, GIST (56D: Meat) (tough clue!), and even M[DD]EGREE (42D: Operating requirement?). It's a lovely piece of work.

- Horace

p.s. 1A: They're used for storage (BINS) gets a C.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016, Morton J. Mendelson


A rare Wednesday gimmick puzzle. Every time the same number is used for an Across and a Down clue, the clue is the same for both. With that kind of a theme, even though there are many theme answers, the result is that the puzzle has kind of a themeless feel, if you see what I mean. Anyway, I like it. The single clues need to be interpreted in two different ways each time, which is a nice touch. It's a little funny that clue 1. Zip and its answers all start with Z, but only, I think, because Z is so uncommon. I didn't think twice about "10. Bill" being answered with BEAK and BANKNOTE. So thumbs up on the theme.
Interesting trivia in 20. Mozart was the first major composer to write specifically for it (CLARINET), 3. Instrument with 18+ strings (SITAR), and 51. One of the six official languages of the United Nations (ARABIC). The five original languages are Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Arabic was added later, by popular demand.

For glue today, we have a lot of four-letter names - LOTT, KETT, KOOP, IRMA, and RHYS, running the gamut from "becoming obscure" to "very obscure." I'll give ROMO a pass (heh) since he's still on an active roster. As usual, we GRIN and bear it, and the crosses were all fair.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Wednesday has been called the red-headed stepchild of the crossword week, but today's puzzle feels fresh.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016, Robert Cirillo


A word ladder today, running from SICK to WELL in six easy steps, with two bonus answer/clues in the center - ANAPPLEADAY (30A: How to avoid becoming 1-Across, so they say) and CHICKENSOUP (49A: Aid for getting 73-Across, so they say). The word ladder itself is neatly done, and the two eleven-letter answers tie it together. I like it.

There are a few unfortunate occurrences - GUNG (46A: ____-ho), LESE (36A: ____- majesté), and ATWT (43A: No. on a periodic table), for example. I'm pretty tired of that last one, but maybe not as tired of it as I am of AMTOO (41A: "Are not!" retort) or ATEAT (66A: Really bothered). ONS, on the other hand, is saved by its very tricky clue - "Switch ups?" That question mark is definitely justified!

But that last paragraph sounds awfully negative, and I didn't feel that way while solving. In fact, my experience was quite the opposite. I liked the long non-theme Downs CENTRALBANK (The Fed, for example) and DONTGOTHERE ("Can we not talk about that!"), and (ZIPLINES (Wires for thrill-seekers), COALESCE (Come together), and APOGEES (Orbital high points) are all quite zippy. I even like the two "un" answers UNLEASH (22D: Let loose) and UNREAD (47D: Not book-smart).

1A can't really be rated, as it is theme material, so I'll skip that. My first confident entry was THOS (5A: Pres. Jefferson).

Overall, another thumbs up from this quarter. Looks like the month is set to go out with a bang.

- Horace

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016, Timothy Polin


The crossword week has started off strong with this fine Monday grid from Mr. Polin. It played slightly harder than normal for me, which is a plus, and the theme (STUFFIT) is dense, and runs both horizontally and vertically, which, in my opinion at least, is another plus. Down with uniquely horizontal themes! (pun intended)

1A: Diminishes in intensity (ABATES) gets an A. It's an interesting six-letter word, and on a Monday, that's all it takes, apparently, to get an A. Either that, or the picture of PEPPERPOTTS has put me in such a good mood that I'd have given an A to "erne." The first answer I put in confidently was ARAB (7A: Resident of Oman or Yemen).

Even with the dense theme - I count 71 squares, some of it interlocking - the fill does not contain any real clunkers (with the possible exceptions of SNAX and AGITA), and Mr. Polin has managed to get in some rather interesting entries. BUSHWA (10D: Complete rubbish) will be, I'm guessing, the most controversial, but I applaud the gutsy entry. It's another word that I will try to incorporate into my speech more often. Soon everything I say will come from the NYTX. Yes, I might be a DORK...

I enjoyed BADEGGS (47D: Perpetual troublemakers), DOWEL (12D: Carpentry pin), ROGUE (24D: Charming scoundrel), and speaking of French, I also enjoyed PRIX and ETOILE, though non-Francophiles might cry Mon Dieu!

Overall, I very much enjoyed this one. How about you?

- Horace

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016, Jim Holland and Jeff Chen


I smiled a lot while solving this puzzle. The theme of adding "-ing" to one word in each theme answer produced some very amusing wackiness. BUMSTEERING (68A: Hobo at the wheel?) and LUCKYSTREAKING (46A: Gangster Luciano performing a risqué prank) have somewhat obscure original sources, but they still work. My favorite theme answer is probably LIGHTSWITCHING (105A: Mild form of corporal punishment), but SQUAREROOTING (15D: Cheering done in a plaza?) is also quite good.

The fill has a lot of shortish material, but it's mostly solid. I liked seeing, for the first time ever, I think, "dunzo" written out, in the clue for GONER ("23A: One who's dunno").

25A: Dancer's leader (SANTA) was lovely. That and "86A: Drops a line" ANGLES had me fooled for quite some time. HA! And it's hard to justify now, but I kept reading 4D: How many college textbooks are bought (USED) as though it were looking for a quantity, like "a lot," and I think I needed two or three crosses before I could see it correctly.

1A: Lament after being backstabbed (ETTU) gets a B+. It's crosswordese, but it's well-clued. My first confident answer was ASSAY (10A: Test one's metal?). Cute.

So overall, the theme and the enjoyable cluing made for an enjoyable Sunday grid.

- Horace

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016, Mary Lou Guizzo


There were three squares that did me in, two of them contained in the name MALALAYOUSAFZAI (17A: Youngest-ever Nobel Prize recipient). She was a co-recipient of the Peace prize in 2014, and was the subject of a documentary in 2015 called He Named Me Malala. If only I had seen that documentary! As it was, I did not know REA (4D: New Deal power agcy.) (I fouled up that section for a while by brazenly guessing "TVA"), and I had guessed Ppt for 11D: Many an email attachment (PDF). PDF is much more common, of course, and CORDITE (16A: Smokeless explosive) sounds better than CORpITE, but the latter is not unthinkable. So anyway, that's too many errors.

My troubles aside, I did enjoy the challenge, and I really like the look of this grid. Four fifteens running around the outer region, open corners, and a classic X design in the middle. My first confident answer was ZIN (21A: Cab alternative). 1A: Collection of high lights? (STARMAP), gets an A-.

The aforementioned fifteens are all solid - even the name, which is perfectly fair game for a Saturday. Heck, the youngest winner, and just two years ago! I should keep up more with world affairs... but who has the time?!

Favorite material - CODERED (25D: [Emergency!]), 57D: "I already have other plans," often (LIE), 22A: Cold shower (HAIL), DAMSELS (42D: Fairy tale figures), ETERNAL (41D: Like the Olympic flame, PURGED (40A: Got rid of). Least favorite - STEPINS, ETAILER, RETIN (39D: ____-A), OLDAS (26A: ____ dirt). I'll just give the usual ESAS, LTS, RRS, and ONT type stuff a pass. I liked the challenge, but it wasn't my favorite Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016, Andrew Zhou


This was a fun one! I think the first answer I put in confidently was GRAS (21A: Fat: Fr.), but it could have been OZAWA (7D: Conductor who has a hall at Tanglewood named after him), and from there I was off and running.

I love INANIMATEOBJECT (17A: It has no life) because it makes me think of the Simpsons episode where a ticker tape parade is held for an inanimate rod. Hahahahaha! Anyway, WAXPOETIC (20A: Become flowery) is very nice, BOETHIUS (11D: "The Consolation of Philosophy" author) was surprising, but so appropriate beside the ANCIENTS (12D: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes). Those three were more ancient even to BOETHIUS than Chaucer is to us!

44D: Places for pilots (STOVES) was tricky (perhaps because pilots are being phased out), as was 4D: Film setting? (CANISTER). And 38D: Farm butter (RAM), too, was fun, and not given away - as USBPORTS (39D: Openings in the computer field?) was - by a question mark.

SHOCKJOCK (1A: One making waves over the waves) gets a B+. It's a nice Scrabble-y entry, and current, but I just don't like the whole idea of a SHOCKJOCK, so it doesn't get into the As. Some uncommon proper names provide glue (TYNER, ROCHE, HONORE), but overall there's not too much objectionable material. If there were any complaint it would be that it went a bit too quickly for a Friday. But so many good answers (YOUVEBEENSERVED, STREISAND (63A: Broadway star who was on Nixon's list of enemies) (Nixon was quite mad. In both senses.), EMBOSS, SOLEMN...) that it still gets a thumb way up.

- Horace

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016, Jeffrey Wechsler


What a fun Thursday theme we have today. It's not a rebus, but it is multi-lingual! I'm not sure which is my favorite, I like them all so much. Maybe HUITFIELDS (57A: A number of grain-producing sites in Normandy?). But what about DREIMARTINIS (23A: A number of cocktails in Berlin?), which reminds us of the excellent Thurber quote, "One martini is all right, two are too many, and three are not enough."

1A: Writer whose wife said he's a "genius, but what a dirty mind he has" (JOYCE) gets an A. Interesting trivia about an interesting writer. The first answer I put in confidently was ICON (15A: Something to mouse over).

In addition to the fine theme, we have a couple of nice long downs in TECHSECTOR (30D: Part of the Dow) and LIAMNEESON (11D: Voicer of Aslan in "The Chronicles of Narnia") (full names are always appreciated). I can't decide how I feel about DIECI (6D: Italian ten). It's not really bonus theme material, and in a way it kind of dilutes the overall effect. I guess I don't like it. I also didn't love EVENER (29D: Less bumpy), and SINES and EOE are a little gluey, but overall, this is still a thumbs up. Good start to the Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, Matthew Sewell

0:18:28 (F.W.O.E.)

Today's theme didn't have quite the impact on me that it certainly will on other solvers, because I was not familiar with the term SCRAMBLETHEJETS (57A: Spring into action ... or an apt directive for 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across). It comes from the Strategic Air Command, apparently, and means that pilots should get their planes off the ground as soon as possible. In common parlance, it means to get moving quick! It reminds me of another puzzle by Ed Sessa that we reviewed back in 2013 that included the phrase "Ball the Jack," clued as "Go for broke." I had never heard that before either, and it's not the same thing, but I remember thinking that I would like to start using that phrase more. Perhaps now I can use them together.

Anywhoo, the theme is a somewhat common one, where the letters of JETS are re-ordered and included in various phrases. I know that Colum likes it when the scrambled word spans both (or all) words in the phrase, and that is the case here. It's well done, I think, the only "meh" answer being METSJERSEY (23A: New York sports fan's purchase). It could also have been "Jets," I suppose... but then, I guess it really couldn't have been. Never mind.

In the fill, we've got the nice e-words EMULSION (20A: Mayonnaise, for one) and ESPRESSO (55A: Trattoria shot), and I like both of the vertical eight-stacks. The top is nice and old-fashioned, with PERORATE (10D: Give a long, grandiloquent speech) and LARKSPUR (11D: Buttercup family member with irregularly shaped blossoms), and the bottom is more modern, with CALLERID (36D: Phone screening service) and ONDEMAND (37D: Movie screening service), neither of which do Frannie and I have at home.

I had a devil of a time in the South, where LEK (60D: Albanian coin) crossed OKSO (65A: "And I should care because ...?"), and I tried several letters there before almost stumbling onto the K. Oh well. I will blame the sun and the salt air. Speaking of which, I should get back down to the beach!

This was a fine Wednesday, and I'm looking forward to the Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016, Tracy Bennett

0:05:57 (F.W.O.E.)

Frannie and I are on vacation this week at an old family cottage, and I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reading what I believe was my mother’s 1942 edition of “The American Woman’s Cook Book.” While reading the section titled “Useful Facts About Fats,” I was reminded of crosswords by the following text: “Those containing liquid fats derived from meat or cottonseed or corn oils are called oleo-margarines. Those made with oils derived from peanuts, coconuts or other nuts are called nut margarines. They are purchased uncolored but include a packet of coloring which may easily be added to make them suitable for table use.” It was really only the first sentence there that reminded me of crosswords, but the other two I also found interesting, and I thought you might too. So anyway, now this crossword made me think back to the book.

Perhaps because of my recent reading, the theme answers all came very easily to me, and I was racing along, trying to solve for time, which is almost always a bad idea. When I got to 40A: Singer with the site (ONO), I already had the N and O in place, and I saw the word “singer” and dropped in the E without finishing the clue. I even thought to myself, “I should go back and look at that to see what site Brian Eno is being connected with nowadays.” If you’re interested, it’s not

Lots of colorful fill – PLASM (5A: Ending with neo- or proto-), RUCHE (15A: Strip of fabric used for trimming) (I generally think of that word as a verb… maybe I’m spelling it wrong), SVELTE (4D: Willowy), and even PRUSSIA (5D: German kingdom of old). I chuckled at the clues for SHIV (14A: Blade in the pen) and IAMB (21D: da-DAH), and I love a salad NICOISE. I don’t particularly love TKOD (29D: Walloped to win the bout, in brief), and I think “Dare I say” is probably more common than DAREWESAY (11D: Hesitating to mention it, but …”), but these are small things.

1A: ____ of the Apostles (ACTS), gets a C, and again it was the first answer I put in confidently.

Overall, I think this is a very strong Tuesday puzzle.

- Horace

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


This math theme should please our resident math NERD, Huygens. It's Hollywood film titles, each of which contains one of the first four perfect squares. I believe I've only seen THEFOURSEASONS (25A: Alad Alda/Carol Burnett comedy), which I put in immediately. The rest all needed a cross or two. Even SIXTEENCANDLES (55A: 1984 Molly Ringwald coming-of-age comedy). Or maybe I just already had  few crosses when I got to it.

A pretty solid Monday theme, with a fancy fifteen-letter revealer running right through the center.

The long, non-theme Downs were decent. My favorite was ILLATEASE (35D: Uncomfortable). Other highlights were NAIF (52A: Innocent sort), SCRAM (10A: "Beat it!"), CANIT (58D: "Zip your lip!"), and IRULE (56D: "Go me!"). Imagine, me calling out three "quote" clues. How things have changed.

1A: Termini (ENDS) gets a B-. The use of Latin in the clue brings it out of the Cs. It's also the first answer I put in confidently. Decent Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016, Jeremy Newton


Pretty amusing theme, today. Hypens have been added to standard phrases and re-clued wackily. As in, AMERICANGOTHI-C (65A: An airline now serves a Minute Maid beverage?). Ha! Or MOVINGA-SIDE (100A: Record half that stirs emotions?). That’s slightly less good. And PHOENIXA-Z (24A: Actor Joaquin’s complete bio?) hardly works at all, for several reasons. But the others are ok. And in the Downs, the hyphens also work as hyphens, but they don't have the wacky clue element. Still, it's nice to picture a PUSH-UPBRA, and FREEWI-FI is what I'm using now.

We don't get many marquée, non-theme answers today. The long downs are mostly STEELGRAYS, THEFENCES, and TAKESDRUGS. Not terribly exciting. And we get TOPED (90A: Drank to excess), ORCS, ESE, ISMS, OOM, and other similar bits of glue. But Sundays are often all about the theme, and so I won't complain too much.

1A: Pranks with a roll, briefly (TPS), gets a B-. Sure, it’s a three-letter abbreviation, but who doesn’t appreciate a good TPing? And the first entry I put in confidently was POSTED (7A: Updated one's blog), which is now what I have done.

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016, Andrew J. Ries

0:29:04 (F.W.O.E.)

This was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some answers that I really enjoyed, like TOE (48D: One exposed by a flip-flop), USEDCARSALESMAN (8D: One who works a lot?), and SPACECADET (17A: One in la-la land), but then there were some that I thought were just a little off. My mistake came in one of them (maybe I’m just bitter?), IMSOMAD (12D: Cry before rage-quitting). I guessed IMSObAD. I didn’t know AMU (28A: Asia’s ____ Darya River), and “I’m so mad” seemed a little unrealistic, so I went with something more self-effacing and, to me, plausible. Of course, what would really be said before rage-quitting would not be printable in the NYT, so really, it just doesn’t work. Another such answer was ENAMELWARE (56A: Some kitchen utensils). “Utensils” could, I suppose, be pots and pans, but the utensils we commonly think of are either silver, stainless, or plastic, and not enameled. Other answers that were foreign to me were PLUG (6A: Payola payoff) and DUCATS (25D: Tickets, in slang). Of course, the actual foreign answer, AMOUR (14A: Subject for une chanteuse), was pretty easy.

1A: First name in fantasy fiction (BILBO) gets a B+. And the first answer I put in confidently was either CRED (24A: Street ____) or CAESARSALAD (34A: Dish that often includes anchovies) (one of my litmus tests at a new restaurant), depending on how you look at it. I put in CRED first, but I actually took it out for a time because I had also entered mAs for 20A: Christ’s end? (IAN), and the two were incompatible.

Oh, one more thing – is there really a Web site called FARMERSONLY (37A: Website for people interested in “cultivating” a relationship?)? I’d check right now, but I’m writing this offline, and will only have a minute or two on a hotspot to post this, so I’m leaving it up to you to check. Even if it is, though, is it well known enough to be the central entry?

Minor demerits for the “up” duplication in USEUP and TEARUP, but it’s interesting trivia about DORITOS (22A: Snack brand first produced at Disneyland in the 1960s). Who knew? Oh, and I enjoyed 10A: Branch extension (TWIG) and 19A: Clichéd gift for a prisoner (RASP) (I guessed “file”).

Overall, I’ll give it a thumbs up, but not way up.

- Horace

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016, Patrick Berry


So far, so good on the ol' Turn. (That's what we call the trio of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday puzzles here at Horace and Frances and Colum.) Today, Patrick Berry fills a pleasing grid with his usual smoothness. Well, I didn't particularly love ENGRAFTED (31D: Added to a plant) crossing PRATES (43A: Blathers), but aside from that, this thing was pretty damn clean. I love a lot of the fill, too - DESECRATE (33D: Treat with violent disrespect), COINPURSE (29D: Quarters' quarters), ACAPPELLA (14A: With nobody playing, say), ELBOWROOM (6D: It's hard to find in a crowd), OPHELIA (9D: Shakespeare character who coins the term "primrose path")... it's all good.

There were a number of names that I didn't know off the top of my head - HEIGL (18A: Katherine of NBC's "State of Affairs"), EPPIE (20A: Girl adopted by Silas Marner), FOLEY (35A: Sound effects pioneer Jack), WEISS (39A: Ehrich ____ a.k.a. Harry Houdini), ALLEN (25D: Longtime "Voice of the New York Yankees"), and even IVANA (48D: Former Trump Organization member). But I'm not knocking it - the crosses were all fair.

1A: Handle things (COPE) is pretty good. Let's say B. And the first one I put in confidently was... let's say EPEES (4D: Swords, in Sèvres).

I liked it, but I don't have a lot of time for this review, so this will have to do.

- Horace

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016, Ian Livengood


Mr. Livengood has just entered the pantheon. This is the kind of puzzle that makes doing crosswords such a fun pastime. This is a masterpiece.

My first pass through all the Across and Down clues yielded just four entries. Amusingly, the first (and only) one that I put in confidently, APP (46A: Paid purchase, perhaps), withstood the transition to the "alternate" clue, "iPad purchase, perhaps." The other three did not.

After that I got nowhere, so I handed it to Frannie, who entered another keeper, NON (61D: Veto [vote] in the French legislature), but not much else. After fretting for a while about our inability to understand anything, I finally started looking for a trick not in the grid, but in the clues. Could the clue and answer be offset by one space? I wondered what "Trap" [part] could mean in the revealer clues... and then suddenly it hit me - anagrams! As the revealer entries (eventually) tell us, ANAGRAMTHE/FIRSTWORD/INEACHCLUE.

But it's not just anagrams, it's taken to the next level by the elegance of, say, finding another proper name in an anagram for Cruise with "33D: Curie's partner, once" (KIDMAN), or another company name in 22A: Visa [Avis] offering (RENTAL). And on top of that, the underlying themeless puzzle is quite good! It's an open grid with free movement, very little objectionable crosswordese, and a few fun, unusual answers like MOXIE (64A: Never [nerve]), SEXT (56D: Squire [risqué] message), SPARTAN (41D: Freight [fighter] of ancient Greece), OCANADA (3D: Trains [strain] for an N.H.L. game, say), and SEASALT (51A: Clan [NaCl] from the ocean)!

I suppose I could quibble about a slight duplication in the clues of 13D: "Geared!" [Agreed!"] (YESLETS) and 29D: Eager [Agree] (to) (ASSENT), but I don't think I will.

I loved this puzzle. Well done, Mr. Livengood!

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Trio [Tori] who released the 1994 album "Under the Pink" (AMOS) gets an A. I'm in a very good mood.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016, Dan Schoenholz


A slightly cryptic revealer today - 25A: With 36-Across, what this puzzle features, literally (PICTURE / FRAME). And then we have 50A: Organization that honored those referenced in the 25-/36-Across, with "the" (ACADEMY). So the ACADEMY honored things in the PICTURE FRAME. What are those things? The movies that are named around the perimeter of the puzzle. AVATAR, JFK, REDS, AMADEUS, and the six others, have all been nominated for Best Picture by the AMPAS. Not bad. I like the uncommon perimeter theme, and I like that they were all clued (as much as they could be) in a non-movie way. And for the record, I've seen seen five of the movies: AVATAR, REDS, AMADEUS, TESS, and PLATOON. I wonder if there's also an inside theme of a new baby girl ONTHEWAY for the puzzle constructor? If that's true, it's even more impressive that the fill stays decent throughout.

And speaking of the fill, SANAA (33A: Yemeni capital), though unfamiliar, is perfectly fair game as a world capital, even though that status has, apparently, been brought into question. Wikipedia tells me that after a coup d'état a couple of years ago, Aden was declared the temporary capital. Still, SANA'A has been inhabited for over 2,500 years, so it's about time I get to know it better! Here's a photo of the old part of town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beautiful.

There's really little to quibble about here. Maybe the commercial, non-word, partial GRO (49A: Miracle-____ (garden care brand)), or other partials ITA (28A: Give ____ go) or IMET (56A: "How ____ Your Mother"), but those are minor, and they are offset by fancy fill like ELIXIR (11D: Magic potion), VARIETAL (2D: Wine from a single type of grape), CICERO (60A: "O tempora! O mores!" orator) (You said it, Marcus Tullius!), and ORNAMENT (39D: The jaguar on a Jaguar's hood, e.g.).

Very nice Wednesday. Onward to The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016, Stanley Newman

0:16:39 (F.W.O.E.)

I spent almost half of my time today looking for an error, which is all the more pitiful because the error was the second Q in QUINQUAGENARIAN (17A: Person between 50 and 59). I went with a T when I first encountered it, and I'm almost happy that tVC (18D: Channel for TV shoppers (QVC)) didn't set off any alarms in my head. Of course, I did eventually realize that there were two Qs in two other answers, but there was also CUECARDS (38A: Orators' aids) (A true orator would probably eschew such things), and I guess I convinced myself that the theme was just a bunch of Qs all over the place. Ahh well, some days will be like that.

So the theme was three words or combination of words (or names or fake words) that have two Qs in them. Fine. I almost prefer the Down words using the Qs, like ACQUITS (1D: Emulates the O. J. Simpson jury) (too soon), MACAQUE (42D: Cousin of a baboon), and PLAQUE (28D: Award on a wall). I also enjoyed OROTUND (43D: Deep and sonorous, as a voice), TORPEDO (47D: Sink, as one's chances), and TRICKLE (3D: Sparse flow) (I had intended the animated GIF to represent SPURTS, but TRICKLE could also work). As I review this now, I think that the triple seven stacks in each corner are really quite strong. The only weak one of the 12 is AWAITED (12D: Was in store for), and that's not all that weak. Some slightly uncommon proper names help to tie everything together (POITIER, LESTAT, RICARDO, MORTIMER, and YARROW), but overall, I think the fill is quite good.

Once again, 1A: ACTV (End of "Macbeth" or "Othello") (C+) (the plus is for The Bard) was the first answer that I put in confidently. The answer that I put in the least confidently was OTOWN (73A: Central Florida metropolis, informally). Do they really call it that? And is that nationally known? Could I get away with the clue "Southern N.H. city, affectionately" for "ManchVegas?" I just might try it.

- Horace

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016, Victor Fleming and Andrea Carla Michaels


It's the ol' homonym theme today: POLLSPOLES, HEALSHEELS, ADDSADS, etc. Always worth a chuckle. Also chuckle-worthy, to me anyway, was the clue "19A: Bushy part of a squirrel" for TAIL. It's just so... I don't know, silly? Not silly, or chuckle-worthy, to some, I'm guessing, will be "20A: Modest swimming garment" (ONEPIECE). Speedos are one piece, and they're not so modest. So, for that matter, is a monokini. I'd use it as today's photo, but this is a family blog, so you'll have to do your own Googling.
1A: Dislike intensely (ABHOR) gets a B. Everybody likes that word. It's also the first answer I put in confidently. Hardest clue today: "36A: Deserves" (ISDUE). I wanted "earns." Favorite clue: 56D: Clothes unwrinkler (IRON). See: 19A, above.

The SW got a little crosswordsy, with SACS, ERTE, ASIS, CACTI, and APSES, and there are pockets of crosswordese all over - LOOIE, LOCI, ASSN, EEL, RRS, ENO, MAH... Kind of a lot, I guess. Was the theme worth it all? I'll let you decide. I'm going to look forward to tomorrow.

- Horace

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016, Ned White and George Barany


Let's see, covers, PILLOWTALK, blankets, SLEEPOVER, SAWLOGS, MONSTER, DUSTBUNNY, sheets, pad?, and ANDSOTOBED, and we end with DREAMY. Very nice touch, that. And if your female partner is going to bed in a TEDDY (also ending on the last square), so much the better. Too much? Probably. Anyway, I think the theme is cute. I like that the SAWLOGS is on the bed and the MONSTER and the DUSTBUNNY are below it. It's well done.

1A: Figaro, e.g. (BARBER) gets a B. The first clue I put in with confidence was TESS (10A: ____ Trueheart (Dick Tracy's wife). You know, speaking of that, I realized after writing yesterday's review that the first clue that I said I entered confidently on the Saturday puzzle was "WOODS" (Section of a golf bag), but that is crazy, because it's a classic binary-type answer. "Irons" would have fit just as well, and it's just dumb luck that I picked the right one. Today, I chose wrong on 7A: Foal : horse :: calf : ____" (ELK). I tried "cow," and didn't change it until KAYAK (9D: Popular airfare finder) (it's what we use!) became clear. Come to think of it, I suppose 46A: One making a pitch? (TUNER) might have fooled some today in a similar way, since "adman" is such a commonly used bit of fill. And did you notice that "Tate modern" fits in the same space as TATEMUSEUM (91A: London home to many John Constable paintings)? I did.

I enjoyed the clue for ISOLDE (38A: Tryster with Tristan), and the two "Roosevelt of note" clues were fun (ELEANOR & TEDDY). SPELEOLOGY (39A: Study of caves) was inferable from "spelunking," but I'd never known "34D: Sloughs" to mean MORASSES. Similarly, and more annoyingly, I have never heard "the OLDS" for "ma and pa." Who says that?!

But overall, I rather enjoyed this Sunday puzzle. Lots of fun stuff (WISEACRE, YESIDO, PASTICHE, BEERPULL) and not too much glue (ASTO, PREF, ISSO...), so ASAWHOLE, it's good.

- Horace

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016, Peter Wentz


Some very nice entries in today's puzzle. WIGGLEROOM (10D: Leeway) might be my favorite, but PHONETAG (9D: Frustrating exchange), NERDALERT (65A: "Ha ha, what a dork!") (I don't think the "Ha ha" was necessary), and SPAREME (1D: Comment made with an eye roll) are also quite good. Unfortunately, I didn't really like 1A: Got smart (SPIFFEDUP). If they mean "got dressed up in a 'smart' fashion," then I guess it kind of works, since I associate "spiffiness" with appearance, but the trouble is that nobody would ever say that. "Oh, I need ten more minutes before we go out tonight because I want to get smart..." No. D. Now if they had gone back and used "fop" again, I might have liked it better. "1A: Like a fop" would have been more my style, as it were.

Let's not get bogged down, but I do want to mention just a few more that I didn't think worked well before we finish on a high note. TART for "41A: One rarely seen outside its shell?" is trying a little too hard to be cute, "36A: Grab (onto)" doesn't seem just right for GLOM, which I think of more as "stick to" than as "grab onto." It's a fine point, but I make it. And what of TOEJAM? If it really is what the interwebs tell me it is - stuff that collects between the toes, then A. The clue "43A: It's around a foot" does not work (that would be "shoe" or "sock"), and B. Just no. No, no, no. Not on Saturday morning. Not ever.

And one last thing, "27D: Like Y's" (NEXTTOLAST) has a good answer, but it doesn't need that apostrophe.

There's good material to talk about, too, so let's end with that. I liked the slang usage of 50A: Scratch" to mean MOOLA (although I would have put an H on the end), I loved the clue for INERTIA (39D: Trouble getting started), and PALMOLIVE (60A: Brand once pitched with the slogan "You're soaking in it") made me think of Frannie. She and her sister suffer from self-diagnosed "Pop Culture Tourrette's," and each of them has said "You're soaking in it," for almost no reason at all, hundreds of times over the years that I've known them.

The first entry I put in confidently was WOODS (10A: Section of a golf bag). The last, which I put in unhappily, was FMRI (5D: Modern brain-scanning procedure, for short).

On balance, I liked it more than I disliked it, but I had a few serious problems with it.

- Horace

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016, Kristian House

0:40:42 (F.W.O.E.)

I really enjoyed the fight I had with this puzzle, even though I ended up bruised by it, finishing with one error. I had a lot of trouble in the SE, and I think that SEAHAG (48D: Hideous foe of Popeye) (I kept thinking that my dad would have known this one), UNRIGS (49D: Strips, as a ship), and even, to some extent, POPPET (50D: Valve with a disc at the end of a vertically set stem) - a nickname used by Mackenzie Crook's character in "Pirates of the Caribbean" - all being nautical, led me to consider the "remove excess water" meaning of 62A: Bails (JUMPSSHIP). I started by changing the beginning to pUMPS____, I ended up with pUMPSSHIP, which was not entirely nonsensical. At least that's what I told myself... What makes it sting a little more is that I put in JUT (62D: Project) early on, but convinced myself that "pUT" could also work. Ahh well. "Dems the breaks."

1A: Really huge number (GAZILLION) is a solid A. And the first entry I put in confidently was DROP (22A: Lose, as a carrier might with a call). OMINOUSLY (15A: In a foreboding manner), EGOSURFS (12D: Searches for oneself), STINKEYE (14D: Dirty look), BIGWHOOP (36D: "Well, la-di-frickin'-da!") ("frickin!"), TEENANGST (67A: Cause of rebellion, maybe) - all excellent. And that's just the long stuff. TIPPED (21D: Rewarded for waiting) is well-clued, and DOUP (25D: Decorate) just doesn't stop looking weird! ZITCOM (3D: Adolescent program, slangily) is amusing, 10A: Bridge pair, briefly? (SPECS) took me far too long (bridge of your nose), and BAYONET (36A: Gun point?) was clever.

All that fabulous fill comes at the expense of oddities like OUIDA (61A: "A Dog of Flanders" author), PELISSE (40A: Fur-lined coat), ESSA, ERGOT, INO, and SIPON, but those didn't bother me as much as UPTOGRADE (17A: Sufficiently good), for which I would have preferred "up to snuff."

Still, this was a fun Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016, Joanne Sullivan


Tough Thursday, for me anyway. I was totally stuck in the area that included MCRAE (22D: "In Flanders Fields" poet John), ENV (46A: It might have a street name: Abbr.), VELVET (32D: 1990 #1 hit for Alannah Myles), and INTHE[BLACK] (42D: Solvent). If I had realized while solving that the "BLACK" squares were symmetrical it might have helped with "Solvent," for which I had I_THE and could make no word, nevermind one that meant "something that dissolves." And for "It might have a street name" I was thinking along the lines of "lsd" or some other drug. Plus - the clue for VELVET meant that I could never be sure of my answer. VELVET seemed likely, but what an odd way to clue that word!

So anyway, I flailed there for several minutes, but even with that, I enjoyed the puzzle pretty well. What are there, 18 theme answers around five "black" squares? That seems like quite a lot! The fill strains in a few places (EGEST, KERR, RARER, TORA, ARAM), but it's nothing too egregious. I enjoyed NICETY (1D: Fine point), IDEEFIXE (39D: Obsession), and even OHTHAT (55A: Words sometimes followed by "It's nothing"). I don't want to see that every other day, but I'm not opposed to the occasional stretch entry.

It's a little bit too bad that the truly "black" squares couldn't have been somehow differentiated from all the other black squares - by being on their own or something - but one can't have everything.

1A: Given to eavesdropping (NOSY) I'll give another B-. It's also the first answer I put in, and I was reasonably confident about it. I like the self-referentialness of 56A: When leaves 56-Across (FALL), and I enjoyed the "preceder" and "follower" clues (50D: E. preceder (SHEILA) and 47A: J. follower (CREW)).

The last thing I want to say is that I like the word FOP (44A: Many a metrosexual), but I find it a little odd that the answer and the clue seem separated by maybe 100 years in their popularity. I'm guessing FOP was in common parlance (if it ever was) even before the time of the SHOE[BLACK]. Not a real problem, per se, but I mention it all the same.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Kary Haddad


Cute theme today of cluing four "foods" with their cooking instructions, as in "18A: [Place in crisping sleeve; microwave for 2 minutes]" (HOTPOCKET). For that one, I prefer Jim Gaffigan's comic instructions: "Remove from packaging, place directly in toilet." The others, though, I can fully support. Even RAMENNOODLES (24A: [Boil contents for 3 minutes; stir in seasoning packet]). I haven't eaten them since I was in college, but man oh man did I love them back then. Maybe someday, when it's cold and rainy, I'll cook one up for old times' sake.

1A: Hip-hop's Kendrick ____ (LAMAR) gets a B-. I didn't know the name, but at least it's somewhat current (I presume), so that moves it into the Bs. The first thing I put in confidently was probably ACE (15A: It's not returned on the court). I'm still not fully aware of this new statistic while solving, but I'll try to make it part of the routine.

I like the look of HBOGO (16A: Way to stream "Game of Thrones"), and I want to find a way to work BETIDE (8D: "Woe ____ him, and her too": Jane Austen) into my regular speech. Especially at work. In meetings. "Woe betide the one who tries to implement this proposed workflow!"... And speaking of BETIDE, what's up with THRICE (37D: How often Daniel Day-Lewis has won Best Actor)? The oddness of the word, and the oddness of the way it was clued, made me smile. It's these strange little things that can sometimes give one a warm feeling about a puzzle.

And with that, I give this a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. I looked up EDM (58A: Genre for much Top 40 radio, for short) for you. It's Electronic Dance Music. And with that, I no longer understand radio. :)

p.p.s. It's a debut puzzle! Congratulations, Mr. Haddad!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016, Timothy Polin


Six phrases of resignation today, perhaps appropriate because for many, the day after labor day means being resigned to any of several different realities - the reality of having to go back to school, back to work, to accept that summer is essentially over, that winter is just around the corner, that another year of your life has come and gone... welp, QUESERASERA. It's a solid theme, and I like that it ends with IQUIT (65A: Literal phrase of resignation).

The cluing today is varied with some of the jarringly simple early-week ones like "48A: The 'F' of T/F" (FALSE), and others that are very specific and slightly esoteric like 22A: Second-longest river in Iberia (EBRO). The longest river in Iberia, in case you were wondering, is the Tagus, which flows out the west side and into the Atlantic, unlike the EBRO, which flows eastward into the Mediterranean. RHEA (69A: Flightless South American bird) and MAGE (70A: Wizard) are two more that seemed very non-Tuesday-ish, but the crosses were fair.

1A: Punch bowl dipper (LADLE) gets a C+. It is also the first answer I put in confidently.

Some very casual fill in LATISH (49D: Somewhat tardy) and UHHUH (51D: "Sure thing") (this one looks great), but nothing to OBSESS about.

Decent Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, September 5, 2016

Monday, September 5, 2016, Tracy Gray


A tribute to Labor Day in today's puzzle, at least JEANS is what I'll be wearing today on my day off! Mine, however, are not one of the five styles represented here - BAGGY, SKINNY, LOW-RISE, FLARE, or CUT-OFFS. At first I thought the revealer was a bit inelegant in the second-to-last Down slot, but it appears right after, and visually "cuts off" the last type of jeans. So I take it back, it's well-placed. The only complaint I have about the theme is that a few of the theme answers (CUTOFFSAW, LOWRISEBUILDING, and even BAGGYEYES) are not super common things. At least not to me. I mean, ok, I have heard of baggy eyes, and I suppose a low-rise building is a thing, but they're not super common. SKINNYDIP and FLAREGUNS, though, are both perfectly fine.

1A: Apparel (GARB) gets a B. Decently odd word. Not great, but better than average. I don't remember the first thing I put in confidently, but there were several possibilities right in that first NW quadrant - OBOE (14A: Double-reed woodwind) was very likely the one.

Some of the cluing made me smile, like "13D: Descriptive of some bills or hills" for STEEP, 71A: Not give a definitive answer" for HEDGE, and "68A: 'And ... ____!' (director's cry))" for SCENE, and I enjoyed some of the fill, like UPANDATIT (11D: Energetically starting one's day) and OPAQUE (34A: Hard to see through). I think the hardest clue for me might have been 65D: Jockey purchase, informally (TEE). I kept thinking - as I'm sure Ms. Gray wanted me to - about horse-racing, and not about the company called Jockey. Hah!

There was also, in this puzzle, a pretty substantial amount of oddities and banalaties. The _STAR answers never particularly thrill me (sorry Huygens), and ITSUS (57D: Couple's answer to "Who's there?") could maybe get away with being cute once, but we see a little too much "it is I" and "am too" type answers as it is, so I'm worried about introducing even more. And there's plenty of ALI, PER, ABE, QUE, ANTE, ARAL, USSR, and other very typical fill. Again, once is fine, but we see these a lot. But then, it is Monday... let's call it good.

- Horace

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday, September 4, 2016, Tom McCoy


I'm not sure I understand the title today - "One by One." The theme, so far as I can tell, is that many answers include two letters that are pronounced as letters with "and" in the middle. Id EST, [BO]RAILROAD (23A: Neighbor of Illinois), and GETSALITTLE[RR] (46A: Takes it easy). The former was one of the more difficult clues, I thought. Pretty tricky referencing the Monopoly board and not the U.S. Map! And in the Down direction, the rebus just acts as the two letters without the word "and" in between, as in STRE[AM]LINE (75D: Simplify) and A[SP]ERUSUAL (76D: Just like always) (Frannie often uses this turn of phrase).

So that's the trick. I guess. I feel that maybe there's something more that I'm missing about it, but I've spent all day lugging furniture and boxes around, and now I've had a Manhattan, so I'm just too tired to figure it out. (This is a trick I'm using to spur all you lurkers into actually commenting and telling me what I'm missing.)

So what else? What was the "feel" of the solve? For me, it was pretty good. I thought "5A: Indication of freshness" (SLAP) was, itself, fresh, "34A: 24 in a caffeine molecule (ATOMS) was an interesting way to clue a plural bit of crosswordese, and "94A: Material in two states (SLUSH) was tricky! Maybe a few too many gratuitous plurals - KEROSENES, HIVES, GOLIATHS, LIRAS, and LOOSES, to name just some, but there was more than enough decent material to balance it out. There were, for example, many fine long Down answers, such as ALTERNATIVE (20D: Choice), HUMANRIGHTS (62D: United Nations concern) (also a plural, but not gratuitous), LAPELPIN (28D: A U.S. flag is a common one), and YOULOSE (33D: Calvin Coolidge's reputed reply to a woman who bet she could get more than two words out of him). DILATER (85D: Optometrist, at times), though, not so good...

I put in ELAN (1A: Flair) (C+) fairly confidently to start things off, but it might have been AVAST (3D: "Cease!" on the seas) that I was absolutely sure of.

Overall, a decent Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday, September 3, 2016, Damon Gulcynski


What a Turn! What a way to start a month of reviewing! First we get the binary geM/eFfort from Mr. Tausig, then we get a simply fabulous Friday themeless from Mr. Liben-Nowell, and now Mr. Gulcynski trots out this beauty. Let’s dig right in, shall we?

My first confident answer came – happily – at 1A: They get picked up at clubs (TABS). I then entered CHATS (5A: Engages in a bit of back-and-forth), “food” (10A: Bread and drink) (RYES) (it’s funny, because Frannie and I were both drinking rye tonight), and ERLE (14A: First name in court fiction) and I thought this might end up being my fastest Saturday puzzle ever. Sadly, or really happily (because who wants a sub-ten Saturday?) things bogged down toward the bottom, and in the end, I had to enlist Frannie’s help to finish up the deep South. HEDDA (59A: Hopper full of dirt?) rings a very faint bell, ARENT (56A: Lack life) is a Saturday clue if I ever saw one, and VESTA (49D: Second-largest body in the asteroid belt) is something that I wish I had known (and that Huygens probably did know), but didn’t. PAH (54D: “Poppycock!”), too, was pretty tough/arbitrary (I had tried “bah!”). But, as we always say, difficulties are fine – desirable even – on a Saturday.

There was plenty to love in this puzzle – PARTYFOUL (20A: Double-dipping, e.g.) and ONTHEFRITZ (22A: Not working) in the NW are lovely. The long downs of SETTHESCENE (4D: Give background information) and the full ETONCOLLEGE (24D: Historic institution on the Jubilee River) were solid. The second, ETONCOLLEGE, almost seems like an insider extra, because “Eton” has become crosswordese, so to include the entire name is like putting a lovely feather into this already fancy hat.

YEARZERO (11D: Starting time?), BENEVOLENT (47A: Kind), the two “Witness” clues (SEE/ONLOOKER) (verb/noun), EYESORE (18D: Dump, e.g.)… all solid fill. And there’s clever cluing, too, with 1D: Something to get a spot out of? (TEAPOT) (a spot of tea), 48D: Free from faults (EMEND) (“Free” as a verb, not an adjective), 5D: Refuse (CHAFF) (“Refuse” is not a verb)… although I thought 34D: Directive that has some teeth to it? (OPENWIDE) worked less well. “Directive that involves teeth,” maybe. Or “Pearly white directive?”… oh, never mind.

Also in the minus column, I include INCENT (44D: Motivate) (just too obscure), TALLTEES (8D: Oversize hip-hop tops) – maybe it’s a real thing, I don’t know, but I see this as somewhat arbitrary, as if “xxxtees” could also have worked. All you hip-hoppers, talk to me! Is this a real thing or what?
Also ESTO and NEDS are a little glue-y, but there’s not too much of that. Mostly this was a very enjoyable solve. And I don’t think that had anything to do with all the RYES we were drinking.

- Horace

p.s. TABS gets a B+. It should maybe even be an A-, but I just think it's a little too pedestrian a word to be allowed into the A range. As it is, the grade is already mostly about the clue.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Friday, September 2, 2016, David Liben-Nowell


OK, let's start at the beginning - 1A: Ultimate necessity (FRISBEE) gets an A+. It's an excellent clue, an excellent answer, and it was the very last thing I put into the puzzle. Me, who played ultimate somewhat regularly from age 18 through about age 46, and it was the last thing I put into the grid. Sheesh!

So, ok, good start (or, really, finish) but what else? Well, I found things to like everywhere along the way. 11D: One with connections to traveling speakers? (CARRADIO) is brilliantly clued, as is EYES (23D: They can turn red in a flash). A camera flash! 22A: Valuable diamond (ACE), 21A: Something you might take a pass on (BUS), 57A: Order that's rarely followed? (DESSERT), and the amusingly meta 32A: This (THIRTYTWOACROSS) are all great. I'll say it right now, this is my favorite puzzle in months.

FROLIC, MUTANT, BROADWAY (5D: Place for a long run, maybe), ALIENATE (18A: Push away)... it's all so good. I don't recognize this constructor's name, and if this is a debut, it is even more impressive.

The first answer I put in confidently was ADAY (28A: One ____ (multivitamin)). Kind of a lame "first entry" but I got almost nothing else for certain on my first pass through the Acrosses, so the gimme was welcome.

Excellent puzzle.

- Horace

p.s. It's his tenth puzzle, but it's only the second we've seen from him since starting this blog, and the first of his that I reviewed. I look forward to seeing more.

Thursday, September 1, 2016, Ben Tausig


Well, thanks to Colum for a month of excellent reviews! Now you're stuck with me for a while. That's how it is here at Horace and Francis and Colum - we're blogger-fluid. Eww... that sounds gross. And come to think of it, GENDERFLUID also sounds gross if you think about it too much.

Sorry. Not really that great a way to start off my month. So let's move on.

When I was having so much trouble up in the NE (sixteen squares took me at least six minutes), I took a moment to confirm the theme and count up the M/F squares. Unfortunately, I had already gotten them all, but maybe just that short break allowed me to finally get XEROX (27A: Run off, in a way) off the X in EXHAUSTS (23D: Tires), and then GONEXT (13D: Follow) followed, and allowed me to infer TNT (32A: AC/DC single with the lyric "watch me explode"), and slowly the rest worked itself out. 12D: Snake's place, partly (OREGON) is pretty tricky! They're talking about the Snake River. Doesn't that always make you think of Evel Knievel's ridiculous attempt to cross it in some kind of a rocket? What? You're not a middle-aged man who had older brothers who watched "Wide World of Sports" and every other quasi-sports-related thing on TV, which includes demolition derbies, professional wrestling, and Evel Knievel's stunts? I am.

So anyway, about the puzzle... we've seen the swappable-letter squares thing before, but it's a theme that has not been overdone, and one that is always fun. For the record, I entered ROOF/FAKE, FUSTY/FESSUP, FATE/PREFIX, and MIRE/SAME, but all those answers work equally with the Fs as Ms, and vice-versa. Honestly, I didn't even notice the binary option until I had filled them all in, but now I especially like the combo in the SW - 61A: Topic to ask a fortuneteller about (FATE/MATE) and 45D: It's combined at the beginning (PREFIX/PREMIX). Nice. The theme is well done, except for one thing - the F in GENDERFLUID cannot be replaced by an M, which really is a pity.

This kind of a stunt must be somewhat tricky to pull off, because the grid is broken up into segregated sections (ironic, given the theme?), and there's a fair amount of standard fare. UTE, ENO, ALVA, TNT, UGH. I like SPUNK (7D: Mettle), EQUUS (54A: Hyundai model with a lot of horsepower?) (cute), and DYSTOPIA (40D: "The Hunger Games" universe, e.g.).

1A: Part of a house (ROOF/ROOM) gets an A. I know it's a part of the theme, but I enjoyed the theme.  The first clue I put in that I was absolutely sure of was probably USAUSA (6D: Patriotic chant), but I'm not really positive about that. I'll try to pay more attention tomorrow.

Overall, I like the theme and much of the fill, and will tolerate the small concessions that had to be made.

Happy September! (Rabbit, rabbit!)

- Horace