Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016, Peter A. Collins


Happy Hallowe'en! I guess we had our seasonal puzzles last week.

Instead today, we get five examples of song titles whose first two words are repeated. I would like to take this moment to personally rank these five songs by my own level of appreciation of them. Here goes:

1. WILDWILDLIFE. Talking Heads is always a good choice for the top of a list.
2. MERCYMERCYME. Marvin Gaye's music was cool.
3. BYEBYEBLACKBIRD. I have never actually heard this song. I will now take a moment to listen to it on iTunes.
4. I leave this space blank.
5. (tied) REDREDWINE and ICEICEBABY. I can't stand either of these songs.

I like the theme just fine, and I can't think of any other examples of the top of my head (although I'm sure there are plenty). It's impressive to find symmetrically matching answers in terms of length.

The rest of the puzzle is pretty good. There are several slots for long answers going down, and I feel that the chosen words are reasonably interesting. EXCISING and MENSCLUBS are two examples that would be better without the odd end(ing)(s). FRENETIC is fun. There is an odd odious AWN and ODEONS here and there. Twice an answer split across two entries has the second word coming first by clue number (AGE / MODERN and BABA / ALI), which feels off.

But it didn't feel BLAH. So that's good.

1A: Twin city of Raleigh (DURHAM) gets a B+, and was the first answer I put in.

Hey, it's the end of October! Which means tomorrow either Frances or Horace are taking over. I might not be back on blogging duty till January, 2017, so see you next year!

- Colum

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016, Caleb Madison


It's a one-note theme (aren't they all?), but this seems even more one-note than most. I was confused at first, because I thought 23A: "Fine, see if I care!" (BETHATWAY) was part of the theme. When I saw the revealer clue, I looked at the beginning of that answer and wondered if there would be hidden women's names. And then I realized it wasn't a starred clue, so...

Anyway, I hadn't figured out the revealer, but had many of the starred answers filled in, so I figured it was going to be about big cats in some way. So the revealer made me chuckle, but then it wasn't so interesting any more.

So. MACOPERATINGSYSTEMS. All used to be named after large felines. Now they're all named after things at Yosemite National Park. In each theme answer, the cat name does not refer to the actual animal, but is used in another context. They were fine, just kind of blah. The CHEETAHGIRLS was the only one I'd not heard of, but it looks like I had no reason to, and no further interest at this point to learn more.

There's a cute addition to the theme at 15D: Tech help station (GENIUSBAR), which you'd find in an Apple store. Otherwise a few good answers included ENSCONCES, MOTHRA, and EMMASTONE. I did not like LBARS, YRS (and what a silly clue too), ALER, and SANELY. This last is an adverb that no one has ever used.

I am mixed on TEAMJACOB and DENIERS. I don't want to celebrate Twilight, but the answer is fun. The latter has clear negative connotations, both literally and in reference to people whose heads are in the sand with respect to global warming.

What do people think of the clue for 97D: One plus one? (ELEVEN)? It's not correct in any mathematical system, and just as a literal description of 11, it comes up short, in my opinion.

1A: One talking on the phone, nowadays? (SIRI) is okay. I give it a B. I was thinking of "old-timer", "retro", "hopelessly passé". Both of my children nearly have a panic attack at the thought of having to talk with anyone on the phone, even friends they've known for years. My first answer was the unfortunate 1D: Kemo ____ (SABE).

- Colum

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016, Patrick Berry


A very smooth and very flowing themeless, as is to be expected from Mr. Berry. But am I allowed to say I found it a bit boring? Let me see... yes, I think I am allowed to say that. With sincere apologies to the puzzle's creator, whose grids I usually find to be delightful. Just not as much today.

I broke in easily with 1D: Ticket waster (NOSHOW), weirdly supported by my unexpected confidence in WES and OLDS. In no time, I had the entire corner filled in, with the starts of all three long answers in place. So, 1A: Pickup trucks from a foreign-owned company made and sold only in North America (NISSANTITANS).


A sort of interesting piece of trivia, but then we get a full brand name, and worse, it's pluralized. I just didn't feel it was worth the opening gambit of the puzzle. Not, as Mr. Chen would say, an asset. I give it a D+.

ONCEUPONATIME is much better. Here is a standard piece of story-telling, in its complete form. I like that. SHOCKRESISTANT is also fine. In terms of the crosses here, I liked that SECTS and CULTS (later on) both are in the grid. TAINTS is a nice word. SMASHINTO is also fine.

I worked down both diagonals at the same time. I definitely found the lower one to be easier. This time, Jack LALANNE came easily to me. The bias of recent crossword exposure. I'm not sure I entirely understand 36A: Metallic stickers (BARBS) - is there something clever here, or is it just like what you'd find on barbed wire? Funny that it crosses CARBS.

The lower trio of long answers is also not outstanding. 50A: Something played at 1980s parties (CASSETTETAPE) is okay. I was hoping for a mix tape, or a dance tape, or something along those lines. I never much called it a cassette tape in real life. VERMONTAVENUE is fun. Boy, I had a hard time figuring it out: I recalled Oriental and Connecticut, but not Vermont, for the life of me.

And then there's ROSANNECONNER. I never knew her character's last name. And I was really going crazy trying to figure it out. I had put in CaVE at 45D: Smuggler's hideaway (COVE), which I think is both natural and reasonable. And I was certainly not sure of the first N in GOANNA. So I had CAN_ER. Roseanne Cancer? Seemed unlikely.

Anyway, once I had those in place, I was able to finish the western side fairly easily. TRIPLESEC is a nice entry, and I do like ELOISE. On the other hand, ALYDAR next to MOLOTOV is a little rough.

- Colum

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen


This went fast! I was astonished to see my time. Did it play easy for others?

I entered the puzzle quickly with SHANIA, a gimme. Some nice answers in the NW, including WHOAWHOA and HARDSELL. 1A: Like the national currency known as the tala (SAMOAN) gets a B for the trivia. Apparently the name is a transliteration of "dollar". It's a bit of a strange piece of cluing, that "known as".

The minitheme, appropriate for the time of year (like yesterday's puzzle), is very cute: ALLHALLOWSEVE crossing LORDVOLDEMORT.

Otherwise, I also liked LIFEHACK, LASERBEAM, and IWONTDOIT. I was astonished to find that the first TEDTALK was given in 1984. Boy, that seems like a long time ago. I guess it wasn't shown on any kind of internet. Turns out it was a conference, and the second didn't happen until 1990.

I guess EREADERS are here to stay. I accept that word much more than any other E- type phrase. ARMPIT and VERBOTEN, on the other hand, I could do without.

I just went through all the clues: there's really not a truly tricky one among them, and I suppose that's what led to the quick time of the solve.

So overall it was fun, but not challenging enough for a Friday, in my opinion.

- Colum

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016, Milo Beckman


Wow! Wow, wow, wow.

I got part of the theme early on, in a sense. I came to 22A: Like many celebrity memoirs, and immediately thought of [GHOST]WRITTEN, but didn't see how it was going to fit into the space. Was there going to be a rebus? But even that wouldn't fit.

Later on, when I filled in 35A: Full of ghosts ... like four answers in this puzzle? (HAUNTED), I realized that, in fact, I had been correct about my earlier answer, and found the other three fairly quickly ([GHOST]TOWNS, [GHOST]BUSTERS, and [GHOST]STORY). Still I didn't see the true beauty of the theme.

Because in fact, the ghostly nature of each answer is that you need to ignore their letters to answer the down answers that cross them. It is truly a "ghost" WRITTEN: it's not there.

Or is it? Because in addition to the above, each crossing answer becomes a new genuine word with the addition of the ghostly letter. "Courier" becomes COURTIER. "Holland" becomes HOLYLAND (my personal favorite). "Alums" becomes ALBUMS. Holy cow, that's some serious work going on there.

Sure, there are a few swings and misses: MINTER I did not want to put in. I was going to complain about ISWEAR but I just now realized that I was parsing it as "is wear" rather than "I swear"... very nice. I did not love "Reginal" as a root word, but transitioning it to REGIONAL is lovely.

There are a ton of 3-letter words in the middle of the puzzle, but I didn't mind. LEANONME and TELETHON were two nice additions. Also, the center N and center S each have a triple stack of 7-letter answers that are impressive considering how much they interact with the theme answers.

Whew. I'm exhausted just thinking about the work that went into this. Beautiful work.

Oh, yeah. 1A: Blu-ray ancestor (VCR) - I guess. I wanted DVD, which is more correctly an ancestor of Blu-ray. I give it a C-. My first confident answer (and there were many flails before this one) was FINI at 26A.

- Colum

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Scott Yut


It's a debut puzzle today, so welcome to the fold, Mr. Yut! And I love your theme: it's a knee-slapper! Kept me on my toes, so to speak!

Yeah, so, the revealer is SHOWSOMELEG, and I needed i. And it is the purest example of why we don't need circles or shaded squares with a well constructed revealer. Hidden in each of the other three long across answers is a body part related to the leg. In each case, it crosses the two words, just the way we like it.

In terms of the answers themselves, I like TROPICALFRUIT ("calf") and RIDGEMONTHIGH ("thigh") just fine. However, BANKLENDING ("ankle") feels like an ad hoc phrase. Certainly, we'd all accept a "bank loan" as a thing (and many of us, I assume, have accepted a bank loan in his or her life), but this other thing sounds more corporate. In any case, it's not terrible, and I can't think of another example that would work ("Crank lemon"? "Thank Lenny"? "Spank lead"?).

Outside of the theme, I liked STREETCRED, and I liked UMATHURMAN getting her complete name in a grid, rather than just her first name as a piece of crosswordese glue. I also enjoyed AMERICAS symmetrically placed opposite from SUMATRAN, appropriately given their relative places on the world map.

I had very little to complain about. Yes, the NW and the SE corner are replete with crosswordese, and to that point, 1A: Places for hosp. scrubs (ORS) gets a D. It was also my first answer. But I liked the grid overall, and the theme was fun. It was perhaps too easy for a Wednesday.

Oh, it's been some time since HOMEEC was "for-girls-only", hasn't it? I took it in the 70s. Just sayin'.

Thumbs up.

- Colum

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016, John E. Bennett

5:40 (FWOE)

Now, nobody likes a good alcohol-related theme more than I do... well, except perhaps Horace.


Nobody likes a good alcohol-related theme more than Horace or I do. And this one is fun: a circle of different names of alcoholic drinks, shaded in just so you can see that it indeed is a circle. All six exemplars are well chosen. And I like that GIN and STOUT, the two that aren't diagonally displaced, are clued without reference to the drinks.

And yet. And yet. THEROUNDSONME... it almost hits the nail on the head. Only, how does the "on me" fit in? Maybe I'm just being nitpicky. It just bothers me a little.

There is a ton of theme here, and all of those diagonal answers require triple-checked letters, which makes for some challenging fill. Thus, MASTIC. That was my error: I hadn't heard of that before, and I chose an L to start it with, crossing it with 9A: Leaky parts of an old tent, often: SEAlS, right? Well, SEAMS works better, I can see now.

That being said, I like MARIPOSA, HOTMEALS, and JAUNT is very nice also. EAGEREST is fine, although I'd probably say "most eager" in actual conversation.

1A: Common name for a cowboy (DUSTY) is cute, and I'll give it a B. My first answer was 1D: Opposite of births (DEATHS).

Horace and Frances will know that MACHU makes me think of another spirit: Pisco. A pisco sour is a very fine mixed drink.

- Colum

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016, John Guzzetta


This is a really beautifully done Monday level puzzle. I am particularly impressed because of the closeness of the three middle theme answers, that there isn't more junk in the fill.

The theme is straightforward: take the endings of several well-known phrases, and connect them in some way. In this case, they are the segments of a news show. I like that in each case, the word in question is not being used in the sense that it is on the news. Or at least, not anymore. NEWPORTNEWS is speculated to be called that because of happy information that arrived in the form of new supplies to a starving colony. I liked SPOILSPORTS the best, in that these unfortunate individuals make playing sports much less fun.

The revealer, MORNINGSHOW, seems just a tad off. I think of that type of television program as being a talkshow, with lighthearted banter and interviews. But I understood it well enough.

There are some nice long crossing answers, especially ALGORITHM and TOPSECRET. 5D: One often seen standing just outside a building's entrance (SMOKER) was unexpected. I also liked the answer JETLAG, if not the actual sensation. Although it usually accompanies a vacation, say to Paris, or even Italy, say.

1A: Molars usually have four of these (CUSPS) gets a B. It was not my first answer, which elevates it for a Monday, in my mind. My actual first answer came at 2D: In ____ (unborn) (UTERO).

So we had a few items like AFTA, RIAL, HESS, JIF. On the other hand, DARCY. Oh, and I would have preferred MEL clued by this person (she's in the yellow):

- Colum

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016, Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen


I just want to point out that my niggle with yesterday's test tube answer is borne out by today's last across answer at 123A: ____ dish (PETRI). Boom. Mic drop.

Oh, wait. Right, I have to write a review.

The theme here is very well worked out. There's no real trick to it: the clues explain the way each answer is going to work. But there's a nice consistency to the overall thing: three "over" and three "under" answers. Each time, the answer is actually appropriately under or over the word that acts as the key to the answer. Very nice.

I love NOSPRINGCHICKEN for "over" the HILL. It's definitely the strongest of the answers. Coming in second is INSEVENTHHEAVEN for "over" the MOON. The others just don't have the same sparkle, but they're fine.

There aren't a lot of marquee answers in the fill. I love DADBLASTED at 2D: Gosh-darn. OPERACOATS doesn't feel as good. I wanted it to be a gown, not a coat. It does appear to be a real thing, just not one I knew.

Similarly, in the SE corner, I liked MALEVOLENT a lot, but 75D: Target customer of Yelp (STOREOWNER) feels not so great. I get it that Yelp wants business owners to put their operations on the app for people to review, but it's so nonspecific.

In other news, my first confident answer came at 1D: Signature Obama legislation, for short (ACA). That's a 3-letter abbreviation that's going to stay with us for a while. 1A: Take on (ADOPT) is straightforward, and gets a C. Highlights of the fill include CAPITALW, SEDARIS, and OCANADA. I'm not sure having the last one made EDEL and DANL okay.

I finished this puzzle in average Sunday time, and I enjoyed the theme, so I'll say overall thumbs up.

- Colum

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016, James Mulhern


Here's a lovely themeless puzzle for a Saturday. There are two 15-letter tentpoles that are very strong, and a nice smattering of interesting fill and challenging clues. The downside is very small, just a few 3-letter entries that I raise an eyebrow at (NOS, EDS) but can't really complain about too much.

I'm proud to say that my first entry came at 4D: Daughter and half sister of Oedipus (ISMENE). Knowledge gained in high school! I stage managed our school's production of Antigone, by Jean Anouilh, and something stuck. It didn't help me that much, though. I had to come back to the NW later.

I gained another entry with BALSA, which gave me ENIGMA (nice clue with "Tough nut to crack"). Filling in that area allowed me down into the SW corner. I like 51A: Rollback events (EBBTIDES) - that was definitely unexpected. 54A: Squeaker (CLOSEONE) is also a nice clue. I like that ODOR crosses SEWERRAT - those two clearly go together.

With Hope's help, I figured out GRAVITYSRAINBOW, which opened up the NW. 1A: Rugby rival of Harvard (MCGILL) is a seriously roundabout way of getting to that college's name. I give it a B+, mostly for the nice collection of consonants in the corner there. 1D: Unhand or disarm? (MAIM) is somewhat unpleasant.

I moved to the NE next, coming off of BOOZE and BSIDE to get 7D: One who goes on to try to conquer the Universe? (MISSUSA). That's a few too many words for the joke, I think. Maybe "A queen who can no longer be Trumped?" Too soon?

MICKEYDS is apparently appearing in the NYT crossword for the first time today, so kudos there. I tried to fit McDonalds in, but there weren't enough spaces. I also tried to put Lebron where DURANT fit: the right number of spaces, the wrong number of scoring crowns (he's only won once, in 2007-8).

Love love love YOUREDARNTOOTIN, especially the dropped G at the end. That's a wonderful 15-letter answer. I also enjoyed 27D: Front-and-center section (VIOLAS) for many reasons, but the foremost being that I was thinking in terms of the audience, rather than those on stage. 35D: Aid in studying a culture (TESTTUBE) is clever, but I think it's off somewhat. You see cultures in Petri dishes, not in testtubes.

55A: Lift one's spirits? (IMBIBE) is awesome.

- Colum

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016, Martin Ashwood-Smith


Either Mr. Ashwood-Smith is getting better at creating these puzzles, or I'm getting better at solving them. Or both. Could be both.

Well, it's the (once) dreaded quad stack puzzle. Quad plus two triples, making ten 15-letter answers. Since the meat of these types of puzzles are those long answers, it's worth looking at them a little more closely.

I'd say there are two fairly blah answers: those would be PURSUETHEMATTER and INTERESTRATECAP. The latter is saved somewhat by the clue: "It's of no concern to a usurer". And why is it of no concern? By definition, a usurer lends money at unreasonably high interest rates. So I liked that. Just the term itself feels like something a certified public accountant would say.

I'm sorry. I don't know how that got in there. The people responsible for the insertion of pictures have been sacked.

Anyway, the strong answers include IAPPRECIATETHAT, TOTALITARIANISM, ICOULDEATAHORSE, and TESTEDTHEWATERS. The others were in between. I'd say that's a good percentage for this kind of puzzle.

But, as always, the tradeoff is in the crosses, which have to suffer to get all that fun stuff into place. Impressive then, that the top section only has RET and partial ITS to complain about in my book. I liked the Baryshnikov reference for MISHA. 3D: It comes with strings attached (APRON) is a nice clue. No complaint about Bob KANE or the excellent STAX record label.

The bottom section is also very good, with only DET and partials AWIRE and ILET to detract. I like the tin anniversary trivia for TENTH, and the ALICE quote is marvelous and immediately recognizable.

The middle section, though. Oof. TETE, AAHS, RTES, ISSET, and MERS. SEIDEL is pretty obscure as well, but that and OCULI I can accept. I was impressed by NAUSEAM. And I do have to take a moment to appreciate 13D: Labor day highlight (CHILDBIRTH) - very nice! The lack of a capital in "day" should have given it away.

Overall I actually enjoyed it, so here's to you Mr. Ashwood-Smith.

- Colum

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016, Alan Arbesfeld


Talk about wacky! This was so over the top silly, I loved it. First off, having four 15-letter original palindromes (well, after googling all four, I see that the last two are at least searchable) is crazy. And I am still giggling over numbers 3 and 4. TOOBADIHIDABOOT! NOWAYAPAPAYAWON!!!!!

Okay, so your mileage may vary on this sort of thing. I personally enjoy the silliness. I also kind of enjoyed being able to work the back of the long answers after figuring out the crosses of the front parts.

There are some good stuff in the fill, and some... well, questionable parts. I'll start with the latter. Jesse UNRUH? The loser of the 1970 gubernatorial race in California? Apparently, he was known as Big Daddy Unruh, which wins for the best nickname. Not only did he lose that race, he also lost several other races, before becoming the State Treasurer of California for over a decade. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's a stretch for common knowledge.

1A: Music direction meaning "with the bow" (ARCO) is good (A-). I always enjoy musical answers. It was also the first answer I put in confidently.

12D: Second cousin? (MOMENT) is a very nice clue. It took me quite some time to recognize what they were getting at there. 13D: Time out? (SIESTA) was not quite as good. But I liked 39D: Where some long runs take place (BROADWAY) the best. Hurray for the no question mark clue!

Anyway, this was fun, and I give it a thumbs up.

- Colum

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016, Tom Pepper


This is a very cute theme, which I chuckled over as I solved the puzzle. The clues are each a type of job, "by trade", each translating to a PRO___ word. I liked PROCURER best: I'd like to think that's my job description. And believe me, there are plenty of amateur curers out there on the interwebz. I liked PROPOSER the least, simply because the term (one who proposes) feels much less acceptable a term than the other three.

The revealer... works and doesn't work. If you think of it as a pure description of the form of each theme answer, namely pro-vocation, that's fine. But you can't have a pro at being a vocation in the way you can have a pro at filing, if you see what I mean. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the answer.

I was concerned in the NW corner that the puzzle would play hard. I got 1A: Twosome on TMZ, e.g. (ITEM) immediately, and give it a C+. But I didn't see a lot out of there at first. In addition, there were two of those crosswordy clues with the parentheses (Attribute (to), etc.) - there were two others in the rest of the grid as well, which struck me as more than average. And EVONNE Goolagong is still not something I can quickly recall (despite commenting on her in an earlier blog post, and putting up a picture!).

Anyway. I did make it out eventually, and the rest of the puzzle didn't play too hard. I like 45D: Word that brings a smile (CHEESE). I don't like 51D: Liberal, disparagingly (LEFTY). Is that actually disparaging? Just seems like a description. I also like HROSS, not because I had much interest in the man himself, but because it looks like Old English in the puzzle (Hrothgar and so on).

Also good: 35D: Person who had a major part in the Bible? (MOSES). Hah!

So I guess it was up and down, but I enjoyed solving it.

- Colum

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016, Mary Lou Guizzo


I did not see that one coming, so score one more for the revealer style puzzle. The theme is so impressive, it helps me almost overlook all the crosswordese in the fill.

Look at all that theme! Two 14-letter and one 15-letter answer, along with the initial 10-letter, and the bonus MIDDLENAME of everybody's favorite transcendentalist, Ralph WALDO Emerson. Did you know he looked like this?

I have to say, I always pictured him with a large beard, a la Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Or was it just that both of them are always referred to with their full name?

Anyway, the four theme answers are mostly strong. I could nitpick about the BARCELONAMETRO, which is a thing, but feels ad hoc in the puzzle. Otherwise, it's great to see the letter string NAME split across the two words of the phrases in each answer, twice split down the middle, once after the first letter and once before the last. Very neat.

So kudos for that. On the other hand, AQABA crossing QOM is some high level Middle Eastern naming that seems out of place in a Tuesday. That whole section, with plural name AVAS and random rhyme scheme ABAA is a good example of the level of crosswordese we have to put up with for the sake of the theme density.

DESC? I call foul on that one. Similarly on partial ABRA and IMA, OVO and OEN prefixes. My least favorite though comes at 53A: Clarinet need (ONEREED). Really? Is this to distinguish it from a double reed, a thing which nobody has ever felt the need to do? It's just a reed. You could call it a single reed. But not a one reed. Whatever that is.

On the other hand, ZIPDRIVE was fun, and an ANEMONE was an unexpected tentacled marine animal. Clever clues included 47D: What I may stand for? (IODINE) and even better 54A: Guess things (JEANS) with its hidden capital and lack of question mark.

1A: Plumbing problem (CLOG) gets a D- because I never like to hear from my daughters that their shower needs to be snaked again.

- Colum

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016, Damon Gulczynski


As Monty Python once said: "It's not easy to pad these shows out to thirty minutes, you know." The same could be said of making a good Monday puzzle. But Mr. Gulczynski has done so today.

First of all, the theme. Even as I filled in the various answers, I had no idea what they had to do with each other. Then: the revealer. NONSTARTER. That's a nice twist. DEADBATTERY wins for most unexpected interpretation, but the other three are very nice as well. LASTLAP is the most ludicrous - by definition it is very far removed from the starting lap!

But there's a lot to like in the fill as well. 1A: Ten to one, for one (RATIO) is a nice math term, with a mildly challenging clue. I thought "odds" at first, although I think that would be written as "ten-to-one", right? In any case, I give it a B. My first confident answer was RPM.

OKCORRAL is a fun way to exit that claustrophobic NW corner. As I completed that area, I couldn't help but feel a slightly LIBERAL leaning subtext. Who's being CRUEL recently? And who is it many of us are hoping LOSES by getting fewer votes? Well, okay, perhaps it's more of a subtext in my own mind that's coloring how I interpret the answers...

ARTDECO and PAGEBOY felt fresh, TENAM and OXEYE less so. But any puzzle that ends with RYE is a winner for me. You know it's my drink of choice, and what I will be partaking of Wednesday at 9 PM, for certain.


- Colum

P.S. Hah! In reading Mr. Gulczynski's blog, it turns out my political interpretation was completely on target!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016, Tom McCoy


I like the title of this puzzle: it explains the trick of the theme succinctly. So, we take a standard phrase, and in one of the words, move an E so that a new word is made, and then clue the resulting phrase wackily. As always, my rules of whether a theme like this works stand. Is the original phrase immediately recognizable? Is the transformation unexpected? And is the clue sufficiently silly?

My favorite of the answers is GREATSALTLEAK. The original phrase, Great Salt Lake is strong, the switch is nice, and the clue, "Result of a Morton's factory explosion?" is just right. Nicely done. TRICKSOFTHETREAD comes in second.

Unfortunately, the others don't match up. I like MINUETHAND for the musical aspect, and ATEALOFTWOCITIES was definitely unexpected. Others are simply boring (MALESONWHEELS), really boring (BALANCEDEDIT), or not enough of a shift, as in MATEMARKET, where the original phrase refers to much the same thing.

Anyway, the fill is pretty good, starting with 1A: Full of sound and fury (ALLTALK), which is interesting, unusual, and well clued. I give it an A-. I also like ADROIT, INCODE (very unusual clue, which translates to "Like this clue" using a simple number substitution cipher). Also, KELVIN is a nice science reference - did you know that John Cage's 4' 33", a piece for solo piano in which the soloist plays nothing for that length of time, is a reference to absolute zero, which is 273 degrees celsius below zero, or zero K?

52D: Kind of challenge (ICEBUCKET) refers to ALS, so that's up my alley, to some degree. And I also liked the clue for 37D: You might wish upon it (SANTASLAP, which should not be parsed as "Santa slap", where you would not get your wish at all, at all).

As I recall, my first confident answer came at 8D: URL start (HTTP). I filled backwards from there. Anyway, I liked the puzzle a fair amount, just not so much because of the theme.

- Colum

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016, Mark Diehl


Looking over the finished grid, there are a ton of nice words and phrases. But boy, did this play hard, really hard, and I think it's in the cluing. And that's to be expected on a Saturday, for sure, so I won't want to seem like I'm complaining too much. Even so, I think I didn't enjoy this themeless as much as I'd like to.

I broke in at 2D: Something sweet potatoes provide (VITAMINA), but despite getting a few other words in that corner, 1A: Something that might be built around a police station (TVDRAMA) stymied me because I was convinced the first letter would have to be a vowel. As it is, I really like the clue for this one, and give it a B+. Meanwhile 15A: Came aboard, in a way and 17A: Not free were both generic enough that I couldn't see them.

I had to drop into the SW, which came easily enough: AMO and MORE were gimmes, and I love the Vladimir Horowitz quotation for PRACTICE. So even though I didn't remember LALANNE, it came from crosses, and I thought I was all set to jump into the middle section.

Only not. I couldn't see CAMBODIANS for the life of me (I was stuck on CustODIANS... just wrong). And MODELROCKET was just not where I was going. I was thinking "bottle rocket", but that didn't fit.

Anyway, I figured out the SE next. MRPINK was my entry there (great movie!), and Hope supplied MONO (very nice clue there). 53A: Keep close relations? (INBREED) - Ew! And clever. And I really liked 35D: "Brady Bunch" bunch (STEPKIDS). This was my favorite corner by far.

The rest fell when I finally saw what 31A: Swallowing worry in an old wives' tale (WATERMELONSEEDS) was getting at. Boy, that is a tangled clue. Seems like a TABLOID is not the only potential libel defendant recently. I hate ADSPEAK and RONDELLE, but I really liked 23A: Follower of a team (SLED). That's seriously tricky and took a long time for me to see.

CHANGEENDS is fine, just not what I've heard before - change-overs, change sides, switch sides, switch courts. These are all more familiar to me.

Anyway, it's a well-constructed grid. I just didn't love solving it as much as I thought I would.

- Colum

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016, Natan Last


There is a lot to like in this themeless, especially in the longer answers, which sparkle just the way you want them to, mostly. But we also have to put up with un PEU de crosswordese to make it there. Also, one of the first things I notices when I opened the puzzle was all of those black squares: 38 out of 225, or nearly 17% of the grid is black.

I didn't get very much traction in the NW. I guessed that 22A: Kind of wave might be SINE, but I had no confidence, especially since I tried "carbs" at 19A: Excluded category in the Paleo diet (DAIRY). So I moved into the center, where my first confident answer was GRATIA, followed by Spike Lee's alma mater, NYU (where else would a New York filmmaker get his or her M.F.A.?).

I am very proud of myself that my next answer was 15D: Terse and unadorned, as writing (HEMINGWAYESQUE). I don't think I've ever seen that entry before (Kafkaesque we've seen multiple times), and I liked it a lot. It also opened up the rest of the puzzle.

The SE fell quickly after that. The Q was a giveaway for INQUIREOF (although I had eNQ... at first), and 55A is well known (POUNDCAKE). I love 40D: Something not many people laugh at (INJOKE) - great clue, no question mark needed, but the misdirection is classic. I also thought 50A: Either half of a 1973 "duel" (BANJO) was excellent. My mind jumped to The Battle of the Sexes, which also took place in 1973, but there was no way to come up with an answer that referred to both Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. On the same wavelength, 36D: Things that might be batted at a ball (LASHES) gets a thumbs up.

BARGAININGCHIP came next (with ____CHIP, it was clear). Also a very nice 14-letter answer. And now I could fill in the middle trio of 11-letter answers. TRANSGENDER over AINTIAWOMAN is beautiful juxtaposition. DOMAINNAMES is much less interesting.

Just want to mention COLDOPEN (been some really good ones recently. Alec Baldwin was made to mock the GOP presidential nominee, and Kate McKinnon is always hilarious). Unfortunately, EREADER is also in the puzzle, and the clue is just a no-go for me.

1A: Connections (INS) gets a D-. Three letters, and a pluralized one at that.

- Colum

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016, Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel


As Churchy La Femme used to say in Pogo: "Don't you hate it when Friday the 13th comes on a Thursday?"

In fact, this felt like a Friday themeless. I almost forgot that it was Thursday when I saw the shape of the grid, but all those circled letters gave it away. I actually think that here is an example of a theme where the circled letters are necessary. Otherwise it really would have been a themeless.

I've seen this sort of thing before, I think (although I can't recall when). I think this is well done, though. All the theme answers are symmetrically placed, even if the circles aren't. I actually figured it out with 39A: Draft choice (PALE[ALE]), which was amusing because we'd just had it in its natural form in yesterday's puzzle. After that, it was mostly a matter of figuring out the theme answers, and that was fun. My favorite is INSTANT[TAN], although I do love a WHOOPIE[PIE].

The NE and SW corners were once again isolated. I was able to make my into the SW using "Love Story"'s SEGAL, set in Harvard, and filmed there as well. Really a terrible movie, all told. My entry into the NE was off, though, when I guessed the wrong deadly sin at 9D (sloTH fit so well!). I do think those corners are very well done though. I particularly liked NOBODY (Emily Dickinson clue) two columns over from ANGELOU.

There's a fair amount of glue needed to make the diagonal sections work, but that was okay. TTOP, YDS, ELEM, SPFS. Otherwise it was doable.

1A: Much police paperwork (REPORTS) is a very bland way to start the puzzle, and I give it a C for average. My first confident entry came at 3D: Basic linguistic unit (PHONEME), which I imagine made Frannie smile.

Nice Thursday. Let's hope the turn matches in quality!

- Colum

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016, Jeff Chen


This is a cool idea: five phrases containing a word which when used in a different context, is a synonym for "enjoy". Each of the words is used in a different sense in its phrase. Just so we can figure out the theme, the squares are grayed in where the words are. Was that necessary? I suppose, without a revealer, there would be no way to be certain solvers figured it out. But now we'll never know...

I like FANCYPANTS the best of the lot, just because it's so disdainful. As in, "Ooh, that Queen Elizabeth II. She's so fancy-pants," said no one ever. My second favorite is CORNRELISH, because yum. The other three answers are not really standout.

The grid has a left-right mirror symmetry, which is cool looking (and works well with down theme answers - was there a specific reason these answers are down?). The grid lacks any kind of flow, though, especially in the SW and SE corners, which are pretty well cut off and act as minipuzzles.

That being said, there are a ton of nice answers here. 1A: Ladies' night attendee (GALPAL) was unexpected, for me (not sure why), and I'll give it a B+. I like that it sits right above PALEALE, while DEARTH is a wonderful word. My first entry confidently put in was ALBA (and why not?)

21D: Go completely dotty? (STIPPLE) is very nice. I am reminded of Georges Seurat. 58A: Surgical asst. (ORNURSE) amuses me. Did they really need to put the abbreviation in the clue? I can't imagine anybody's thinking to enter "operating room nurse" into the grid, and nobody calls them that anyway.

There's more glue than I like to see, but it arises from the placement of the theme answers two rows apart in the E and W. Thus, INF, partial IGO (but what a great song!), PDT, YER.

Overall, I liked it. A lot of women in the grid! I count four named, and two referred to (1A and GRAN), compared with two named men (one of whom is fictional).

- Colum

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tuesday, October 12, 2016, Samuel A. Donaldson and Doug Peterson


Let me be the first to say that today I'm glad there's no revealer. Is one needed? Ever? I suppose it can add something. A splash of humor. But the ludicrous nature of today's answers goes beyond any revealer.

I didn't love ARTIFICIALCHART, neither the clue nor the answer. It's okay. But things definitely got rolling with 26A: Sliced serving with ritzy crackers? (CHEESESOFINE). I mean, that's just silly. And I love how "He's" turns into "cheese". That's fun. IMOUTOFCHEER is fine, as is CHAINSUNDERWEAR, which I liked because I didn't get the Hanes for several beats after filling it in.

But the concept is great, and I enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, we no longer have to wonder "Is Barack Obama MUSLIN?" Instead, we can decide if Donald is an ERROR ("Oh, SNAP!").

I like FLEE crossing FLEA, as well as IKEA crossing IPHONES. I am not a fan of ISUZU crossing SHAMWOW. Don't know why the first pair of brand names works for me, but not the second.

29D: It gives a little hoot (OWLET) wins for best clue.

1A: Hawaiian greeting (ALOHA) gets a C-. It's not a D, because I felt like I was being welcomed into the grid. It was also my first confident answer.

- Colum

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016, Patrick Merrell


Monster-animal. Four examples, all solid. I like VAMPIREBAT the best. I'm not convinced I'd put a dragon or a devil in with other monsters, but I'll let that pass. Is it okay to have STALLION in there, as it is an animal, and not part of the theme? Sure, especially because it crosses RUTABAGA. Love that root veggie.

So, we have a classical music public radio station in the Albany area, and I know I shouldn't complain, because so many cities don't have one. But still. There is a strange reliance on guitar pieces (seems like there's one every hour or two), which means there's a ton of Spanish and South American music. And any piece longer than ten minutes is a rare occurrence. In fact, they announce that next hour, we'll get to hear (for example) "Mendelssohn's octet for strings, complete". Yuck.

But the thing that gets me the most, and it relates to that need to fit in stuff that's short, is that the Italian BAROQUE is insanely overrepresented. I love Vivaldi, but Antonio Veracini? Hm. Anyway, all this to say that I'm surprisingly ambivalent about this particular entry.

And I wanted to complain about WMHT. Doesn't mean I don't support it.

Anyway, I got enough sleep last night, so I didn't have another OFFNIGHT in solving this puzzle. It just flew by. I ended with ALOTOF which I couldn't parse at all (didn't help that I'd mistyped ONLOAN as ONLaAN). But I figured it out before I put the final L of ARIEL in (great movie, that one).

1A: Numbered things in a hotel hallway (DOORS) gets a B-. The answer itself isn't amazing, but the clue was decent. And I put in rOOmS first, so score an extra point for slight misleading. I guess that makes DIVA my first confident answer.

- Colum

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016, Michael Ashley


I had three errors in this puzzle, so I call it a DNF.

The weekend of blogging on not enough sleep moseys along. And to boot, I just finished watching the "debate". That was painful. I think it was probably painful whichever side you're on, no matter who you're voting for. These are the depths to which American national politics have stooped? Blah.

No matter, because we have a wacky Sunday NYT crossword puzzle to go over! The theme is one of movie titles where one letter has been doubled, and the new resultant phrase clued in a silly way. Surprisingly, there are only 5 theme answers, so all of them should be really great, right?

Here are the criteria for good theme answers in this situation:

1. The original movie should be well known and recognizable.
2. The new phrase should be unexpected.
3. The clue should be amusing.

Under those rules, the best answer, in my opinion, is ASHOOTINTHEDARK. The original movie, A Shot In The Dark, was the second Pink Panther movie, and the best to my taste. It ramped up the silliness and slapstick without devolving into incomprehensible little skits, as the later movies did. I also like the clue quite a bit.

THELATTESHOW and ASTARRISBORN are close. I've never heard of The Late Show, but the added T was unexpected, and I liked the clue. A Star Is Born is well known, but the added letter created the same sound as the original.

I vote against AMERICANSNIPPER, both for the original movie, which I avoided for a number of reasons, which I won't get into here, and the final clue, which is uninteresting. Likewise HOOTPURSUIT is lost because of the clue. It would have been sillier if it had been about an owl somehow.

Right, anyway, the paucity of theme answers allows for a tone of more interesting fill, such as CRISISMODE, ABHORRENT, SOBSISTER, and JOLTINJOE.

1A: Loud sound in a storm (CLAP): no. I don't like the clue at all. I give it a D-. It was the first answer I put in confidently, however reluctantly.

I had fun working through the grid, but finished in well under my average time, even with the errors.

- Colum

P.S. Clearly I am tired, as I forgot the two down theme answers. SALEMSLOOT has the weirdest clue, while HOMMEALONE is pretty funny.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016, Julian Lim


Writing a blog on not enough sleep and a full day in the hospital (working, not ill)... well, let's see. There's not too much to dislike about this grid, but somehow it wasn't sparkling for me either. The good stuff? I really like IMWAYAHEADOFYOU, a great five work phrase. LIMOUSINEDRIVER is okay, but the clue is pretty good.

I kind of knew 27D: Game's turning point (ROTISSERIE) was referring to a spit, but I couldn't figure out the word, despite having _____SERIE. Lack of sleep, as I said. Also, I kept on seeing World Series there and wondering why the S was missing. Yeah. Maybe a bit delirious.

MOVIEFONE will always remind me of one of my favorite bits from Seinfeld, where Kramer makes his own Movie-Fone number, but can't interpret the tones as letters. We've seen EGOSURF recently, although the clue ("Try to find oneself?") is cute.

Is THANKGOD okay now? I bet there was a time when including "God" in the puzzle was frowned upon. 61A: Fisher for compliments on one's dress? (EILEEN) didn't fool me for a second, but I'm not sure the clue actually works.

1A: Eighty-sixes (SCRAPS) gets a C. It's a bland word, with a somewhat fun clue. Some not so great answers: SOR (with the decidedly uninformative clue "Young women's grp."), OCELO, NEET (two brand names), and ROSEN. ONENO could have been good (I do like bridge), but I wanted it to be ONENt, the way it's typically abbreviated in bridge diagrams.

I'm a little up in the air on my whole theme of the first word entered confidently. In the early part of the week, it's commonly 1A, which is uninteresting. In the later part of the week, things happen like this: at 1D: Infatuated, old-style, I put rapT. Wrong, but the T was right, and off of that I put in 19A: Let fate decide, say (TOINCOSS). This I was unconvinced about. Seemed reasonably, but I wasn't confident about it, until I came across 6D: Take to living together, with "up", which could only be SHACK.

So, readers, which answer was the first confident one? Probably the last one, I guess. So cool story, bro, right? Am I right?

No, I'm just tired. Good night.

- Colum

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016, Robyn Weintraub


I'm going to come down on the positive side for this puzzle, but what's giving me pause is the intense compartmentalization of the grid. It's essentially four mini-puzzles connected in the middle by a stack of three answers. It's not really enough in the way of entry from one area to another, and it played that way.

On the other hand, and it's a big other hand, all that separation allowed for some really sparkly fill. I broke in with 1D: Harry Potter's father (JAMES) with an assist from Cece, and then plopped JEDIMASTER in (A for that one). But even better, we get the trifecta: Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Princess Bride, with MIRACLEMAX. Which is, by the way, one of my all time favorite comedy scenes ("Mutton, lettuce, and tomato, when the mutton is nice and lean, and the tomatoes are ripe, they're so perky...") with Carol Kane ("I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!").

I had to work my way backwards out of the middle to connect to the NW, starting with OLA and AXIS. The X made TOYBOXES clear, but even better is 37A: Expert savers (GOALIES). Love the lack of question mark! I was thinking "squirrels" or something. And JURASSIC is also lovely across the middle like that.

I found the SW fairly straightforward once I had BARK in place (31D: Lab report? - Ha!). Hard to believe anybody thought it was a good idea to make an EWOK only spinoff of Star Wars. 36D: Malady with many "remedies": HANGOVER is nicely clued. We get two crosswordese answers to pin this stack in place (UTA and EERO).

I misinterpreted 25D: Interest for a cryptozoologist (NESSIE) for a while as foSSIl, which held me from going into the NE. So I worked my way back into it from the SE corner. I love DOMEAFAVOR (four word phrase, very nice), and SHALLOWEND is fine.

Finally, ended in the NE where my last answer was 13D: Wrapper that's hard to remove? (ANACONDA). Love it.

So an overall fun solve, despite the lack of flow.

- Colum

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016, Timothy Polin


Wow! I think this is a really impressive theme for a Thursday. It feels like the kind of thing you'd see in a Sunday theme, but it's in a 15x15 grid with a surprise revealer.

And it's done really well. I love the idea: take the syllable sī (that's a long I for those of you playing at home), insert it in the middle of a two word phrase, and clue the resulting wackiness. First, the fact that each time the added syllable is in the middle of the two words justifies the MIDSIZE revealer (which can be reparsed as "mid-sī's"). Second, the original phrases are solid, and the silly twists humorous (I like SEMPERSCIFI the best, but PETPSYCHO is pretty good too). But best of all (and third), the syllable is spelled in a novel way in each answer!

Nice work, Mr. Polin.

The fill is pretty darned good as well. 1A: Bedridden (LAIDUP) gets a B+. It's a nice term, and the adjective nature of it is hidden well. The first entry I put in was 2D: Like Wabash College (ALLMALE), but it was a total stab, as was AMOS. In fact, the first entry I was confident about came all the way over at 12D, with DONJOHN, played so badly it was memorable, by Keanu Reeves. What a strange choice.

Of course, DENZEL was in that (as well as in Philadelphia, the movie, with Tom Hanks). He was much better. Other answers I liked: IDOLATRY and PANOPLY. Lovely stuff there. Also MANOHMAN. I enjoyed 33D: Letter embellishment (SERIF) crossing 49A: Letter sign-off (FONDLY).

Definitely a thumbs up on this one.

- Colum

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Michael Dewey


Is there anything more refreshing than a nice cold root beer? AANDW (also known as A&W) is a reasonable example of a root beer, certainly. The revealer describes the theme answers, two word phrases with the initials AW. I'm most impressed by the two 15-letter answers intersecting in the middle. I'm familiar with ABIGAILWILLIAMS, having read a wonderful history of the Salem witch trials recently (The Witches, by Stacy Schiff). I have no complaints with any of the other answers, though, so that's pretty good.

It's a large amount of theme material (69 squares), so you might expect there to be tradeoffs in the fill. But I really liked the NE and SW corners. ONEALARM feels a bit made up (we'll all agree there is such a thing as a three-alarm chili, but I don't think it generalizes in the other direction), but it is amusing that it crosses AFIRE.

STLEOI is a classic crossword escape clause. What a collection of otherwise unparsable letters. OKNOW fares slightly better. And I can't exactly excuse NAY and NAW being in the same puzzle, both clued as a negative. Oh, yeah! And IMAGER. I hate that kind of answer.

All right, so there was a fair amount of POOR fill. AFTA, DASANI, TAHOE, CAMRY. That's a lot of branding.

Maybe the best moment was thinking of a RASTA and a WICCA standing next to each other.

No grade for 1A (theme material); and my first confident answer was WAN.

- Colum

P.S. I saw that statue on my recent visit to the Louvre.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016, Sam Buchbinder


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this puzzle has my favorite answer of the year, and according to Jeff Chen's website, it's the first time it's appeared in the NYT crossword during the Shortz era. Do you know what it is?


I can't find a reliable etymology online, although the OED is quoted as saying it's primarily an Americanism from the early part of the 20th century. Regardless, I'm charmed.

The rest of the puzzle is fine, but hardly matches up to the very high bar set by this particular entry. The theme is good, actually: items you might find in LUNCHBOXES, each set into a phrase where the term is not used in the food sense. Clearly KNUCKLESANDWICH is the winner among this lot. I almost wish the revealer had been "boxed lunch", in that these items are exactly what you usually find in one of those mass produced meals.

1A: President who ended "don't ask, don't tell" (OBAMA) gets an A-. We'll miss him terribly once he's left office, I think, regardless of who wins the election. He was also the answer I entered first.

Answers I've learned from doing so many of these puzzles: MOHS, CATT. Answers that were odd next to each other: USA, NAM. Answers I wish weren't in the puzzle at all: TWERK.

And finally, a shout out to KACEY Musgraves. I'm not a fan of country, but I really enjoyed her first album (the one that won the Grammy).

- Colum

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016, Jacob Stulberg


Here's a theme which has been really carefully and thoughtfully worked out. Not only are the letters of "London Bridge" literally FALLINGDOWN, they are placed perfectly across the four long down answers (rows 1-3, 5-7, 9-11, 13-15). I always enjoy a puzzle with the long themed answers going down like this, because it's both a change of pace, and because it creates different grid patterns.

Of the long answers, LONGSTEMMED and SOCIALLUBRICANT both work well. WENTOVERTHEEDGE is fine. STANDONONESHEAD is that dreaded thing, a "one's" phrase. It's an accepted phrase though, so I'm okay with it. So overall, thumbs up for the theme.

I have some problems with the fill. The worst comes in the section moving from the NE to the E, where INTR crosses RVPARK crosses XKES. That was a tough section, especially for a Monday. I got them all from crosses or careful guesses, but I could see some solvers hitting a major roadblock.

I also really don't like REDHEN. I like the folk tale, where the little eponymous character does all of the work necessary to make bread. But making it a partial is not great. SUZI crossing ZWEIG has all the makings of a Natick. I just looked up "Stumblin' In", and I'm glad to have never heard it before now.

On the plus side, NYGIANTS is nice and chunky, with a good clue, and who doesn't like a SHOWCASE showdown on The Price Is Right?

1A: Makes eyes at (OGLES) gets a D+, both for the crosswordese and for the tone deaf clue. Really? Ogling is creepier by far than flirtatious glances, in my book. It was, even so, the first answer I put in.

Overall, I appreciated this puzzle.

- Colum

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


We here at HAFFCA appreciate a rebus puzzle. I figured out it was a rebus when I entered HUEYLEWISANDTHE[NEWS] at 1D. But I didn't quite catch the concept entirely for a little while. At first I thought each rebus would be something that could be combined with "paper" to make another term. Turns out each rebus is the name of a newspaper, jammed into its own little square. Not only that, but each rebus is at the end of its answer, which is elegant.

With such long rebuses (I thought it might be "rebi" but it turns out the term is actually already the ablative plural of "res", translated as "by means of things or objects"), the crossing answers can't exactly hide the words neatly. Ms. Burnikel manages to do it twice though, with DE[PRESS] and RE[NEWS].

I did have one error, which came at FIRSTPASTTHE[POST] and GOAL[POST]. I put "line" in the rebus. There is such a thing as a goal line, of course, but in no way would you clue it as "upright" (great clue, by the way!).

Of course in a puzzle of this size, there's some good and some bad. 1A: Waste maker? (HASTE) didn't fool me for a second, and was my first confident answer as well. I give it a B+ for the clue. I enjoyed SANTAHAT crossing SAINTNICK (nice avoidance of duplication there). We've seen that type of clue at 72D (Dancer's boss) before, but still it's a nice hidden capital. PATOOTIE next to SWANSONG is very nice. I also liked ASIF - shades of Wayne's World.

The middle section has a load of 3-letter answers and more than its share of crosswordese (AIT, RIEL, AES, WTO, CTN), but I didn't mind it too much. Is DORAL well known enough that I should be okay with it? [Pauses to Google] ... Gah! It's Trump's resort. Thumbs way down. Wait, no politics here. But did you see that SNL sketch last night? I thought the debate was funnier.

Here's something I didn't know: SKEG. Although it's clued with reference to a surfboard, it's found on many other water vehicles as well. So, learn something new every day. Hang ten, dudes.

- Colum