Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016, Jeff Chen


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Friday, December 30, 2016, Patrick Berry


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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016, Kevan Choset

7:22 (FWOE)


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


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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016, Brendan Emmett Quigley


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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to the turn!

- Colum

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016, Herre Schouwerwou

4:12 (FWOE - typo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016, Jules P. Markey

3:45 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

On the whole, a good Monday.

- Colum

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016, Kevin G. Der




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

So let's look at the fill instead.


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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016, David Steinberg


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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night, and Merry Christmas 50 minutes early.

- Colum

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016, Robyn Weintraub


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016, Marc MacLachlan

14:36 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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


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

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

Yeah. It's fine.

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016, Timothy Polin


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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016, Jason Mueller

4:00 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty good Monday.

- Colum

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016, Derrick Niederman


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


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

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise I enjoyed this puzzle.

- Colum

Friday, December 16, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016, Jacob Stulberg

13:49 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016, Alan Deloriea


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016, David Alfred Bywaters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed review for me.

- Colum

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016, Mark McClain


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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016, Tom McCoy


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

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

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

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

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

I continue to be amused by ISIT? ITIS.

- Colum

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016, Byron Walden


So... THAT happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016, David Phillips

13:13 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016, Damon Gulczynski


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016, David Steinberg

7:15 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's hoping the turn is more exciting.

- Colum

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016, Ed Sessa


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

It is enjoyable to say RUMPLE PUMICE PUMPER PUMMEL though.

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

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

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

- Colum

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016, Ned White

3:46 (FWOE)

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016, Bruce Haight


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016, Jason Flinn

11:12 (FWOE (typo))

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016, Andrew Kingsley


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016, Timothy Polin


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

- Colum