Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday, December 31, 2017, John Lampkin


Of the "ring out" entries, I am partial to the absurdity of LASTTANGINPARIS (22A: Result of a French powdered drink shortage?), and SUMWRESTLER (15D: One having trouble with basic arithmetic?) isn't bad either. My "photog" self bristled at CAMGEAR. Never once have I heard anyone say that, and I've been in and around photography and photographers since the 80s.


Of the "ring ins," the only one I really liked was INEEDAHUGO (76A: Struggling sci-fi writer's plea for recognition?), but MADCAPO (65D: Godfather after being double-crossed?) got a bit of a chuckle.

It's kind of an odd theme. We need to think of the top of the puzzle as old, and the bottom as new. I guess it kind of works.

In other areas, I liked FLEDGE (59D: Grow feathers), NOSEBLEED (3D: Result of a haymaker, maybe), CONNECT (6D: Couple), PLAGUE (32D: Harass incessantly), and several others. I was held up for quite a while by trying to force "reGAn" into 74D: "King Lear" role (EDGAR). Who the hell is EDGAR? IGUESS I'll need to read that someday if I can't just continue getting by on what I've learned of it from hearing other people talk about it. Sheesh!

It's hardly fair rating 1-Across on a Sunday, but here goes: OWN (Have) - C+. My favorite might have been 33A: Legends in the automotive world (ACURAS) because it took me so long to figure out. My least favorite is probably SOLER (66A: Cobbler, at times). Yuck.

But overall, I liked this one fairly well. Not great, but not terrible. Kind of like the year gone. Sure, the country is F'd, but personally, there were definitely highlights. Frannie and I spent a wonderful week in Paris in February, we had some good production from our vegetable garden, my job is going along pretty well, and perhaps most importantly (as regards this blog) I did much better this year at the ACPT! Here's hoping you can also find good things to remember in a year with so many national lowlights, and I wish for better things for all of us in 2018.

Thanks for reading.

- Horace

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017, Damn Gulczyinski

0:28:04* (F.W.O.E.)

Tough puzzle today. After about fifteen minutes of staring at the NW with nothing but a tentative SCUD (23A: Gulf War weapon), I asked Frannie for verification of that one word, and then got AIDING (19A: Benefiting) and KOP (27A: Keystone figure) from her as well, and that was enough to give me the rest. DASHIKIS (1A: Colorful pullovers) (A-, minus for the plural) is a great entry. I had heard the word before, but I couldn't have told you accurately what one was. And boy, that's a tough and beautiful clue for MNEMONIC (17A: Loss prevention association?). I'll have to remember that one! :)


I don't feel too bad about asking for help, though, because ALNICO (2D: Magnet alloy) is crazy hard, HAMID (4D: ____ Karzai, ex-president of Afghanistan) is crazy hard for someone who never watches the news or reads a paper, and 7D: ____ Kamoze, "Here Comes the Hotstepper" singer (INI) was not helpful. And it was especially unfortunate that I had never before heard the nickname KINGJAMES (6D: "The Chosen One" of the N.B.A.). In short, that was a tough quadrant.

Elsewhere, we have the ridiculous CZOLGOSZ (34D: McKinley's assassin), the alternate spelling FOGY (28D: Old-fashioned sort), and the "sounds familiar but hard to come up with on its own" HOWDAH (42D: Elephant rider's seat).

It may sound like I'm complaining, but I am not. I loved this puzzle. Very hard with lots of trivia and words I don't know. Luckily, for me, Frannie just recently read The Old Man and the Sea, and we talked a lot about it, so SANTIAGO went in without crosses. If only I had had more like that...

OK, one more to go in 2017! See you tomorrow.

- Horace

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017, David Steinberg


OK, let's start with something good. I really liked 1D: Children's character associated with a crook (BOPEEP). I was misled into thinking of Oliver Twist, and if I hadn't already guessed OXYCONTIN (15A: Percocet relative) and backed it up with TYRONE (3D: Power of old films), I might have entered it. I also liked 1A: Checks for bugs (BETATESTS) (B+) pretty well. CSINY (10D: TV spinoff beginning in 2004) made no sense at all to me for several seconds as I tried to parse it out, and SEMI (20A: Vehicle with a cab) also took me a good long while to get - even with S_MI!


I did not particularly enjoy the lecherous PARTYGIRL (17A: She's always down for a good time), and DEADSEXY (14D: Smokin' hot) I associate only with Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers movies, which is pretty much the opposite of smokin' hot.

"48D: Containing a spoiler, say" (SPORTY) is a clue that is trying too hard to be clever. Sure, a car with a spoiler may be called SPORTY, but I don't think anyone would ever say that a car "contained" a spoiler. It's not natural speech, and it doesn't make for a satisfying solve. Also somewhat unsatisfying were DEARYME (41D: "Heavens to Betsy!"), SNL (9D: Hot show with a cold open, for short) ("Hot show?"), and EXACTO (2D: "Precisely!," informally). And when you put both mom and dad into the clue "Stay-at-home mom and dad," it doesn't really translate well to ROLES. Maybe "Stay-at-home mom and Stay-at-home dad," but that would have been too cumbersome. When they're grouped together, they are no longer roles, they're a weird situation where neither parent works.

I had never heard of either actress (ENGEL (6D: TV actress Georgia) or SLEZAK (46D: Erika with six Daytime Emmys), but the crosses were gettable. My least favorite section was the one that took me the longest to finish - the SE. JOYBUZZER might have been a joke shop purchase in the 1920s, LAMBROAST (62A: Passover meal in exodus) was a generic guess, and OKEYDOKEY (64A: "Sounds good") was just one colloquialism too many for me.

Here's to tomorrow.

- Horace

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017, Gary Larson


The first thing I did after finishing this was to go to xwordinfo to check on whether or not this was the Gary Larson. It's not. But it is a debut! Wouldn't it be great to debut on a Thursday? I sure think so.


The trick today is to UPTHEANTE. When I was solving, I never really fully assessed the situation. First I tried a rebus, but that didn't last long, and after a while I guess I imagined that you had to "blow up" the "ante," because they were just missing in my answers. I didn't notice until I was reviewing the puzzle that the word ANTE runs up from the A in each theme answer. Very nicely done.

I liked ACADEMICS (18A: Professors and such) and TURNABOUT (60A: Fair play, to some), and I really liked INDISARRAY (29D: Unorganized) and DRINKATHON (10D: Affair for bingers). Hah! And speaking of amusing, I appreciated the clue for ANI (42A: Something a Mississippi cheerleader repeatedly calls for).

1A: 1970s New York City mayor (BEAME). D. Never heard of him.
Fave: PETNAMES (15D: Honey and Sugar)
Least: Take your pick from the next sentence.

Some odd plurals (ELMOS, ANDS), and more than a few tough names (RAU, ELIE, ESAU, and BEAME), but overall, I come down in favor of this one. Congrats on the debut, Mr. Larson!

- Horace

p.s. Can you believe that the other Gary Larson retired on January 1, 1995!?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017, David Kwong


Funny revealer today - "What some performers saw in Las Vegas?" (LADIES INHALF) leading to Ladies Gaga, Godiva, Jane Grey, and Chatterley. Each is "sawed" in half and appears at the beginning and end of four symmetrical puzzle rows. I like that the broken pieces appear in two different entries, and I also like that the "Lady" part is always used when speaking of these four. It's a little unfortunate, I guess, that "Grey" couldn't be found in anything but another name, but still, I think the theme was solid.

p.s. I didn't notice this until I read Mr. Kwong's comments on xwordinfo, but the names go in a progression of 4, 6, 8, and 10 letters, and are sawn perfectly in half. Now I like the theme even more!


SENDCASH (37D: Message from a short person?) was kind of funny (I immediately thought of "down here"), as was AIRWAVE (7D: Broadcasting unit?), but AGESAGO and INERTIAL were just ok. And it seemed like I ran into a lot of groaners in the bottom half - EDGERS, ATTA, CTRL, GASTRO, YESYESNONET... And up top we have the 45-year-old movie HUD, and the fifty-year-old "hit" DEDE Dinah. Yeah, ok.

So if we take it in halves, the theme half was good, and the fill half was just SHYOF that mark.

One last thing - 56D: Ben Solo's father (HAN) makes me want to tell you that Frannie and I saw "The Last Jedi" last night. I won't give anything about the movie away, but about myself, I will say that I think I am done with those movies now. It just seems like they're making the same film over and over again. I liked it the first time, when I saw Star Wars AGESAGO, but how many times can I watch x-wing fighters and TIE fighters shooting at each other? How many more miles does the Millenium Falcon have left? And sure, the light saber is the coolest sci-fi weapon ever conceived, but I don't care to see any more duels. Honestly, I think it started when Obi-Wan was struck down. After that, the franchise became more powerful than anyone could possibly have imagined.

Looking forward to The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017, Peter Gordon


I'm guessing this AJJACOBS is a friend of Mr. Gordon's, because as far as I'm concerned, s/he might as well be a 5-letter WORDSTARTINGWITH LOSANDENDINGWITHER.

Weird. Is that a famous quote? Or just a somewhat amusing, crossword-ish put-down? And speaking of put-downs, I was more amused by what I'm assuming is a hidden themer - ABSENTEE (70A: No-show) symmetrically opposite 1A.

So I didn't love the theme. Partly because I don't know this person, and partly because, like with any quote theme, there are a lot (45) of boxes that must be filled in by crosses alone. In this case, I nearly stumbled on 40D: Things used on a bridle path (REINS) when, reading too quickly, I entered "veils" until the ..AvT.. string made me look more carefully at the spelling of "bridle." Another temporary error came at 28D: Vaping devices (ECIGS), for which I entered "pipes," not expecting the un-announced abbreviation.

I wouldn't go so far as to call the fill BANAL today, but some of it was on the LAMER side. MENACER (60A: Threatening person) and EARED (54D: Dog-____ (like some well-read books)) were kind of meh, and SCOUTCAR (62A: Military vehicle used for reconnaissance) and CAPITALW (12D: Chemical symbol for tungsten), interesting as it is (it is from its alternate name, wolfram), still seems a little forced. I mean, is the "capital" really necessary? Especially with a W, which is capital only in the context of other letters, am I right? You draw a little w, and then draw even smaller other letters, and you've got a capital W. see what I mean?

OK, I admit, that was silly.

It wasn't all bad, of course. ABSCESS (9A: Sore spot), while gross, is a good word, and RESONATE, SANTIAGO, and especially DATABASE are all good. And I liked the clue for SECRET (14D: Like some handshakes and formulas). But over all, the theme left me flat.

- Horace

p.s. I looked up A. J. Jacobs, of course, and found that he was a "stunt journalist." This knowledge did little to improve the puzzle for me.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017, Lynn Lempel


Merry Christmas! How 'bout for a present I clock you one?

Kind of a funny theme today of different words for violent impacts. "Clock" and "belt" are, to me, verbs indicating a direct hit by a fist. "Paste" is slightly more vague, and I guess it's close to "bean." I'd be likely to put those both in the passive voice. "He got beaned," "I got pasted." And finally, "pelt" I think of as implying collective hits, as in: "They pelted us with rocks and garbage." Overall, though,  whatever your shading of understanding, you can't really argue with them all falling in nicely under HITPARADE. The entries they end are also perfectly fine. LUCYVANPELT (24D: *Dispenser of psychiatric advice to Charlie Brown) probably ought to be the most obscure, but Peanuts seems to have incredible staying power, and I doubt very many will be stuck too long there.


The fill is full of crosswordsy gifts. FIASCO (43A: Utter failure), MOXIE (56A: Spunk), FAUXPAS (43D: Social gaffe), and SUMMIT (46D: Peak) were all fun to unwrap. LAYETTE (9D: Purchase for a newborn) and RUSSE (20A: Charlotte ____ (rich dessert)) are both somewhat fancy, and is KAYO (35A: Clobber in the ring) a bit of bonus theme material?

1A: Adhering to old-fashioned modesty (PRIM) - A. Uncommon word, in amusing contrast to the theme.
Favorite: BLURB (29D: Book jacket write-up). Fun word. I looked it up just now, and find that it was coined in 1910 by Galett Burgess with his book "Are You a Bromide?" which, based solely on the title, I think I will try to find.
Least: FAT Hey, it's Christmas, why you gotta hate? I'll go back to counting CALORIEs tomorrow!

I can't decide whether I love or hate VETOER (40A: President saying "No!"). The clue is hilarious, so I guess I come down in favor. As I do for this puzzle in general. It played slightly harder for me than Mondays sometimes do, which is another good thing. Overall, thumbs up!

- Horace

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017, Jeff Chen and Mary Lou Guizzo


Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the grid
A creature was appearing, that was not a mouse
The circles were laid in the puzzle with care
And even a fun little red rebus square!

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Kind of cool way to get the drawing in there by using the alphabet in circled squares. The drawing is really quite good, and it seems to me that it would be very tricky to make this work properly. I mean, you've got some leeway, I guess, but not very much. Maybe the head could have looked a little different, but the legs, body, and tail are all just about perfectly rendered. Very cute. And they did it all while still fitting in over fifty squares of symmetrical thematic material, plus some bonus theme answers scattered here and there (SAINT (84A: Nicholas, e.g.), ELVES (15D: Notably non unionized workers), JINGLES (66A: Sleigh bell sounds), WISE (79D: Three ____ men), SANTA (94D: Deliverer of Christmas packages) (Amazon didn't fit!), and NORTHPOLE (82D: Starting point for an annual flight) to name just six!).

With that kind of constraint, I would expect quite a bit of OMY, ANKE, NOMDE, and ARR, but really, it didn't seem so bad. I noticed more the fun clues like 86A: Give a ring? (PROPOSE), the hilarious "48D: Like van Gogh, later in life (ONEEARED), and "95D: Capital whose name ends in its state's postal code" (ALBANY). That last one took me entirely too long. I had the A and all I could think of were Augusta and Atlanta! I was also thrown off by thinking of a dovecote at "28A: Called from the cote" (BLEATED), but apparently, a cote can also be used for mammals.

I enjoyed the quality fill like PLUME (3D: Large column of smoke), EMBLAZONS (18D: Decorates brilliantly), and MILLINER (47D: Hatmaker). Sure, we get STRIPY (13D: Having streaks) and LEFTKEY (9D: It moves a cursor back), but I don't mind today. I enjoyed this puzzle quite a bit. I hope you did too.

Now I'll spring to my Subaru sleigh, to my friends give a whistle,
And away to the Whole Foods for tenderloin with no gristle!
But before I sign off, I'll give a non-PC fright,
by wishing Merry Christmas to all, and may you have a good night.

- Horace

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017,

0:25:45 (F.W.O.E.)

My string of FWOEs continues. Today my error was in the word NOXZEMA (3D: Product once known as "The Miracle Cream of Baltimore"). I knew it had some kind of spelling oddity, but I chose to add a C instead of a Z. When I finally changed it, the answer AZT (19A: Drug sought by Roy Cohn in "Angels in America") made perfect sense, but somehow I had finished solving without noticing that error. And speaking of that quadrant, I didn't love IHEARIT for "Shh, something's coming!" It just doesn't seem like anything anyone would say. They'd more likely say "What's that noise?" or "Who's there!" IHEARIT. Hmpf.

I just don't seem to have the holiday spirit this year. My grumpish reviews have been criticized by most of the commenters, but why stop now, right? All you old people out there, did you ever call the above a RINGTAB? No? Me either. I called it a "pull tab" if I called it anything, and that's how this jpeg I pulled off Google Images was titled. I'm giving it a D.

But really, I kind of liked this puzzle as a whole. It was a perfect Saturday, which is to say I entered almost nothing confidently on my first pass through all the clues, and then things started trickling in, and I pieced it together. Luckily, CHANCETHERAPPER (34A: Hip-hop performer who was 2016's Best New Artist Grammy winner) was somewhere rattling around in my head, even though I don't know anything he or she has ever done. Another feature of a perfect Saturday puzzle is that it contains at least one word I don't know. Today, we got two - SATRAPS (8A: Provincial despots) was one, and when I finished and didn't get the "Congratulations!" screen, I spent quite a bit of time wondering if "10D: Hightail it" could be anything but TEAR, or if there were another Russian name like PAVLOVA (13D: Meringue-based dessert named for a ballerina). AINU (47D: Japanese native) was the other.

Another thing I liked about this puzzle: 29D: Discuss thickness with a doctor? (LISP). Ha! Also, "Import" was a great clue for ACCOUNT. And it was a nice surprise to see TOM in the grid. We don't get that entry very much. :)

Overall, thumbs up. Despite a few quibbles, and a little glue, I enjoyed it. Hope you did too!

- Horace

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017, Sam Trabucco

0:17:02 (F.W.O.E.)

Abba EBAN is just the kind of proper name that requires me to rely entirely on crosses, and in this case, one of them let me down. I interpreted "11D: Cried dramatically" (BOOHOOED) as "yelled" or "called" dramatically, and entered yOOHOOED rather early on. And EyAN seeming almost as plausible to me as EBAN, I left it in. Oh well. He seems to have been quite the orator, and I will try to add him to my knowledge of mid-twentieth century figures in international politics.


So that's one disappointment. Another was 1A: Piece of equipment at a rock concert (GUITARAMP) (B-), for which I quickly and happily entered "amplifier." I was glad to think that the oft-abbreviated crossword favorite was getting a chance to show itself in all its glory, but no, it was once again abbreviated. Oh, ok, I suppose "amp" is an accepted word without a period, but come on, it's still an abbreviation. See also: TECHSCHOOLS (27A: Engineer training centers).

Let's move on to things I liked. TALLAHASSEE (33A: Major U.S. city with three pairs of double letters in its name) (and a great album by the Mountain Goats!) was lovely, and I was also very happy to see GALLIVANTED (34A: Went from place to place)! Such a good word. YPRES (41A: W.W. I battle site) was timely for me, as I have recently been doing some transcription of WWI documents over at Europeana's Transcribathon. Very interesting to read first-hand accounts from that time.

PRICE (42D: What's always found in quotes?) got a nice clue, but 48D: Letters on old film boxes (AGFA) seemed cheap. Would that clue be allowed if the answer were "Fuji" or "Kodak?"  I know they were probably hoping we'd try "Asas," but I don't like it. I also wonder what the sisterhood would think of GIRLCODE. Doesn't sound like a term nuns would use. I assume it's not referring to nuns, but still... And "55A: Spongy toy going up in popularity?" (NERFROCKET) didn't really make any sense to me either. Yes, I know what NERFROCKETs are - I even had one! - but what's funny or fitting about the "popularity" part?

Adding to my displeasure were such things as HAVEA (30D: Words with cow or ball) and TARED (33D: Like many a purchase weighed at a deli).  Do the ASSETS outweigh ACOUPLE of less-than-idea entries? Sometimes, but there were a few more than a couple today.

- Horace

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017, Alex Eaton-Salners


Another horizontal symmetry puzzle! Well, WHATEVS. They do what they do.

This theme of naming a picture made by black squares left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Sure, it kind of looks like all those things, but, well... ok... I said yesterday that variety in theme ideas is always welcome, so I'll just stick with that.


What is less welcome, are answers like ITE, ALPE, SERAINURN (38A: Prepare for entombment, say) ("say" is particularly amusing here, as almost no one ever would say that), and GENII (41A: Ones involved in wishful thinking?). Cute clue on that last one, but still... no.

PRAIRIE is a nice word, but it's not the first thing I think of when I remember my visit to Badlands National Park. On the other hand, I wasn't fooled for a second by "21A: Form of 'sum'" (ERAT). Well, ok, I was fooled for several seconds, because it could also have been ERAs or even Esse, but I thought of Latin right away. Oh, what's that? You all did? ok ok...

"Knight 'hood?" was cute for CASTLE, and FIFI was a surprise answer to "33D: Diminutive of Josephine." I mean it makes perfect sense, but I didn't know it off the top of my head.

Too many oddities for me today to fully enjoy it. Onward to the rest of The Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017, Talitha Randall


Kind of a strange Wednesday theme, but what's new, right? Three giant plus signs made from black squares make simple equations with the words to the immediate left and right, and the answer to each (all) is given in the last Across clue, 60A: NINE. Add in six (!) short, tied-in, Down answers, and you've got a pretty dense theme. I confess I like the look of the grid a lot, with its counter-clockwise swirl and those giant crosses, and although it's strange, I can't fault the theme, because a theme is a theme, and variety is always welcome.


It's interesting to me that MOTIFS and "motives" are both valid words, coming from the same root, that evolved to have different meanings.

At the bottom we get the trio of EDENIC, LIAISE, and SONANT, but these don't bother me. Sure, they're a little unusual, but they're all perfectly cromulent words. More genant to me are TERSER (1D: More concise) ("conciser?"), and INDIGENE (8D: Person native to an area), because they feel like more of a stretch. Also, INDIGENE comes from in + gignere (to be born) and "indigent" comes from in + egere (to need). Not that anyone asked me, but I'm finding lots of cool word-y stuff to look into today!

Funny that "Twister" fits in where TORNADO (35D: What transported Dorothy to Oz) touched down, and I liked the pair of paired women clues for REDHEADS (55A: Annie and the Little Mermaid, notably) and SWEDE (43D: Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman). And speaking of women, it's a lovely clue for SMILE (20A: "We shall never know all the good that a simple ____ can do": Mother Teresa).

Get me, I'm givin' out wings. The more I look at this, the more I like it. Lots of good words FORSAKEN, HEIFER, SCRAPE, CHIDES - a lovely grid and an unusual theme. Thumbs up for this debut puzzle. I look forward to more from Ms. Randall!

- Horace

p.s. 1A: Russian ruler (TSAR) - D- Kept out of F range because even overused, it's still a cool word.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017, Andrew Kingsley


The NYTX is getting into the holiday spirit today with candy-cane shaped circles containing the names of various candies. In order of how much I like each one, the candies are BITOHONEY, POPROCKS, AIRHEADS, and STARBURST. Yecchh... Starburst. So waxy. So undelicious.


In addition to the canes, we have the revealer CANDYCANE right in the center. And speaking of that, it seems like there have been more puzzles with horizontal symmetry lately. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Not much of considerable length today, which is probably a result of so many triple-checked squares. I'm sure it was tough to keep the fill clean, and even with the short word length and the tight squeezes between sections, we still end up with things like BACKIN (23A: Retro), SAVVIER (32A: Sharper), IRONLAW (10D: Absolutist's rule) (?), ANSA (33D: Archaeological handle) (?), OCA, ISM, BAA, HPS, ETIC, and LEU. SOB. And that's not including the proper names - STEEN, COBAIN, BOURNE, ERNIE ELS, and LORELAI (60A: "Gilmore Girls" protagonist). UGGS!

I did, however, enjoy 40D: Fate who cuts the thread of life (ATROPOS), which reminds me of my brother Rich, who was wont to quote his old high school Latin teacher saying "Clotho spins the thread, Lachesis determines its length, and ATROPOS cuts it." Or something like that. Rich? You out there?...

Also enjoyable were CROCHET (36D: Stitch with a hook), PEDICAB (3D: Human-powered taxi), TANGLED (42D: 2010 Disney film that set a record for the most expensive animated movie ever made), CODDLE (24A: Baby), and RESIDUE (9D: What's left). I would have liked the clue for RENTAL (41A: I'm not buying it!) without the exclamation point. Somehow that ruined it for me.

Overall, I thought it had a few too many compromises, but I do like the candy cane theme. Happy Holidays!

- Horace

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017, Bruce Haight


Inside four mild-mannered (well, maybe MADEMONEY doesn't fall into that category) entries today are found INNERDEMONS! My favorite is CODEMONKEY (52A: Computer programmer, disparagingly), but it's pretty cool that one is also found in CLAUDEMONET. It's a common occurrence for artists, although I don't remember hearing about Monet being particularly crazy...

Some nice bonus downs in the "chunky-for-a-Monday" corners, including ALLMALE (2D: Like Chippendales revues), ANOINTS (11D: Ceremonially names), LOVETAP (12D: Light, friendly punch), MADDASH (42D: Frantic rush), and INAWORD (45D: "Briefly ..."). Sure, we also get SOAPING (3D: Marking, as windows on Halloween) (?), but it's heavily outweighed by the rest.


I enjoyed the rebuke in 38D: Source of arrogance (EGO), the slapstick comedy of 53D: Attacked from below the hip (KNEED), and the strangeness of 39D: Jaw-dropping opening? (YAWN).

I'm a little down on DYAD (51D: Twosome), especially on a Monday, because it's nothing that anyone ever says. It might be nice if it were used - "Boy, that Horace and Frannie sure make a nice DYAD, don't they?" - but it isn't. And HAJI (33A: Muslim pilgrim) is always a little confusing, as I've seen it also spelled "hajji" and "hadji," and Wikipedia adds the variants "alhaji," "al hage," "al hag," and "el-hajj." And if it's a woman pilgrim, it's "hajjah." I think "hadjii" is even acceptable in Scrabble. Maybe that's plural.

Anywho, that's quite enough on that. There were enough GAINS today to avoid me getting too DOWNON the puzzle. Maybe not enough to get a WOW, but certainly enough to keep me from being CRUEL. (I sometimes wonder whether constructors, if they happen to read these reviews, are amused by these appropriations of HANDY grid content, or if they roll their eyes and YAWN.)

Overall, I enjoyed it. MERCI, Mr. Haight!

- Horace

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017, Andrew J. Ries


Kind of a funny "sound added to a regular phrase to make a new last word and then clued wackily" theme today, and if you know us at all, you know we like wacky. My favorite, surprisingly maybe, is NEWYORKMEZZO (43A: Certain Lincoln Center soprano?). The sound going from "Mets" to MEZZO is perfect and unexpected. I also quite enjoyed IRESTMYQUESO (85A: Comment from a cook who cools the cheese sauce before serving?). It's just so hilariously absurd. The two A sound answers don't work all that well for me, but maybe just because of my regional accent. VANITYFARAOH (40A: Egyptian leader obsessed with his appearance?) and LOVEISINTHEARROW (104A: Cupid's catchphrase?) are both nicely clued, but the A changes to a flatter version of the original. I say "fair" and "air" like I say Jane Eyre. If that helps. It's almost a diphthong. And the other two have more of a flat, "Say 'ah'" kind of sound.

But maybe that's too picky for a Sunday. I thought I would complain about KOSHERPICCOLO (89A: Woodwind that's O.K. to play?) but while it may have the weakest clue, the sounds aren't off. I sat here saying "pickle" and "piccolo" over and over to myself, and I think it works quite well.

I liked the clue for BEEF (Bit of food ... or feud?), and I chuckled at 93A: Something that's free of charge (NEUTRON). Hah! I also enjoyed the colloquial FINITO (96A: Done, slangily) (see also: SHAKE (37D: Lose)).

I did't feel that DEFY and "Brave" were equivalent as verbs, but there it is in my Random House, of course. The seventh definition of "brave," and the second as a transitive verb, begins with "To defy."

And while I'm looking things up, I'll save you the trouble and mention that ALF Landon lost in a landslide to FDR in 1936.

Overall, the theme got some laughs from me, and that's all I'm really looking for on a Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday, December 16, 2017, Sam Ezersky

0:15:23 (F.W.O.E.)

A mostly smooth Saturday with one stumbling block for me. Knowing that O-negative was somewhat rare, I guessed oTYPE for 45A: Uncommon blood classification (BTYPE), and since I couldn't recall Marcus WELBY, M.D. - a show that went off the air in 1976 (ok, there were a few TV movies in the 80s, and yes I should have known!) - I was destined for FWOEdom. Maybe it's just sour grapes, but I'll argue that the clue "Uncommon blood classification" is almost worthless. O-negative is more rare than B-positive, and AB-negative is more rare than B-negative. They're all "uncommon," so think of a better way to clue it.


There were some bright spots today in SHIRK (23D: Duck), ORIENT (17A: Position), ZEROG (9D: Astronaut's experience), and ANAGRAMS (32D: Goes from Tokyo to Kyoto, say) (nice), many entries were just kind of sitting there. UVLAMP, ITTEAM, MAGNAVOX, and even RAWFOOTAGE (19A: Feed for news headquarters). MUSTARDGAS (21A: W.W. I horror) is technically "colorful," but still, it's a war horror, and so does not provide a happy thrill.

1A: OCTUPLET (Extra-special delivery?) - B+
Fave: MATHLETE (37D: Certain high school whiz kid) - Shout out to the nerds.
Least: RETIED (33D: Fixed, as a bow) - It's not that bad, and it can lead you astray by thinking of a violin bow, but I don't know, I just didn't like it.

I liked ONETOWATCH (25D: Up-and-comer) and ALITALIA (10D: One way to Rome) (even though it's a brand name), and speaking of planes, I also liked TARMAC (44D: Locale for touchdowns), but overall it was fine, but not something to write home about.

- Horace

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017, Jacob Stulberg


Thanks again to Frannie for bailing me out yesterday! It was a long day of meetings at work, then parties in the evening, then baking cookies for more parties today. It's a tough stretch at work. Just one more week of parties, though, then a week off. Ahhh...

So anyway, today Mr. Stulberg serves up a larger-than-life 16x15 simply chock-full of challenge and reward. I can't help myself but get right to my favorite entry - one of my favorites of the year! - 55A: It has a little bow at one end (MODELSHIP). So great. And speaking of good clues, I feel like I've seen something very similar to 11D: F note? (SEEME) before, but I confidently entered "b flat" and was loath to take it out. Wouldn't that have been something?


The two long Downs - GLACIALDRIFT (7D: Rock moved by ice) and MIRRORSHADES (21D: Reflective pair) were similar in that I immediately tried to enter much longer answers into each of them. "GLACIAL erratic" for the first, and "MIRRORed sunglasses" in the second. Frannie told me she tried to enter "GLACIAL till." We were both thinking more specifically about the rock, instead of more generally about the phenomenon. But it's a perfect kind of clue that can be interpreted in different ways. See also: "41D: Like a good plot" (ARABLE), 40D: Sticky food? (KEBABS) (I put in Kitkat off the initial K), "1A: Not true" (ATANANGLE) (A-), and "17A: One giving you a hand? (DEALER). Others like "31D: One's turn at the Olympics?" (AXEL) and "36D: What may be salted away for a special occasion?" (CUREDHAM) are also good, but they're trying a little too hard, maybe.

I liked the stepped 13-, 14-, and 13-letter answers running through the middle, especially that central SEXANDVIOLENCE (35A: Family-unfriendly fare). Unexpected, but I guess anything goes on the weekend.

The little corners of ATL, TAE, ILE, and PMS are not great, but there's so much that is good in here, I'm willing to accept a little MAL.

So far, so good on The Turn this week. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's!

- Horace

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017, Timothy Polin


Frannie here, filling in for Horace who is busy filling cookie tins for tomorrow's holiday party at the office.

Mr. Polin has hit upon a clever theme. To make peace, we must BURYTHE HATCHET by leaving the letters AX off the ends of four down answers as if they were buried below the bottom of the grid. My favorite was NONEOFYOURBEESW[AX] because that is a great expression, but STELLARPARALL[AX] is also excellent. I suppose PERSONALINCOMET[AX] is no less good as a puzzle entry, but it's difficult to SITBACKANDREL[AX] with it because it has the word tax in it.

The disappearing AX's didn't cause me much trouble, but some Very basic things (LYES) did, unfortunately, where they crossed with 44D (Chuck who was part of the Watergate Seven). It was a dumb mistake because I knew the clue meant basic like lye, but I convinced myself that dYES were basic, too, and that COdSON was a perfectly cromulent surname for Chuck. My knowledge of the Watergate Seven and, for that matter, Laptev Sea feeders is for SHIH.

I like TANK meaning to fail, or Fall apart, so I'm giving 1A a A-. The minus represents a quibble with the "in competition" part of the clue, which seemed unnecessary - people can tank on tests, can't they? - but also fine.

Also in today's quibble corner, or perhaps, more precisely, confusion corner, was the clue "Hand on a hacienda" at 17A (MANO). Why is the hand on the hacienda? It seemed to me like an awkward way to ask for the word for hand in Spanish, but maybe I'm missing something.

But, enough with the quibbling. Overall, I enjoyed the puzzle. There were a number of clue/answer pairs with the parallelism that I enjoy. For example, Tricky situation/SPOT (54D) and Goof/FLUB (37D). OHSO nice. I also enjoyed
LIONEL (Model company?) - Ha!
ARMORY (Store with magazines) - apt!
BURL - great word!
MOCK and IRON - both nice part-of-speech twists relative to their clues.
ELF - Tiny fey sort struck me as a cute clue. (I just mis-typed elf as EFL which made me imagine an Elf Football League. Talk about Fantasy Football!
OBOISTS is a crazy looking word, isn't it?


I wouldn't call it ATON, but there is a bunch of three-letter crosswordese. I was happy to see EEL again - it's been too long! - but CPAS, CTA, AOL, SNO, and ETTA were not STELLAR. However, I'm not going to fight about it. :)


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, Benjamin Kramer


I learned the name of a new cheese today: SIRENE. From the Wikipedia I find that it is especially well-known in the Balkans, and in the Bulgarian language, SIRENE is used as a general term for any type of cheese. Perhaps uncoincidentally, in Israel and Lebanon SIRENE is called "Bulgarian cheese." Wikipedia also backs up that it is essentially identical to Feta, but Feta is a "Protected Designation of Origin" name that can only be used if the cheese comes from Greece.


So that was interesting. The cross with FERRITE (16A: Iron compound found in steel) was an educated guess, and one that most people will probably be able to make, but still, that's a tough cross. And in a somewhat amazing coincidence, the symmetrical crossing square is also difficult: TOEPOKE (60A: Unconventional soccer kick) and MINOSO (47D: Minnie who played in Major League Baseball in five different decades). The Cuban Comet's last game was 37 years ago, and I've never heard TOEPOKE before, despite having both played and followed soccer at various points in my life. I guess not seriously enough, though.

1A: Certain chemical weapon (GASBOMB) - D-. Probably should be F.
Best: the word "trenchant" which I keep wishing were the beginning of 18A.
Worst: AMA (37A: Reddit Q&A session, briefly) - What is this?

There was some good material in here - LENIENT, EFFUSED, AVIATOR, and VAGRANTS (32D: Drifters) are all fancy, but I didn't particularly love the overall vibe. That GASBOMB beginning was off-putting, and then there's MOTH-eaten and DIE and GOKAPUT and REFI, LIA, URAL, and OTIC. Hey, Frannie noticed that "ambush" has exactly the same number of letters as WAYLAY (63A: Attack from a hiding place), and as she entered it she thought "What a perfect clue for that word." Indeed, "ambush" is used as a definition for WAYLAY in my dictionary.

Looking it over, I see lots of good, but for some reason, it just didn't enchant, rivet, and delight me. Perhaps it was that entrance that didn't entrance me...

- Horace

p.s. I see that this is a debut, which makes me a little sorry I didn't like it more. I will say that I much preferred Mr. Kramer's original revealer, "Hidden entrance," that he mentioned on xwordinfo. As I said, I see a lot of good, and I look forward to seeing his next effort!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017, David J. Kahn


As Peter Schjeldahl put it recently in The New Yorker, the sale of SALVATORMUNDI for $450,300,000.00 "suggests that money has become worthless." It's an interesting notion, and makes for a new understanding of priceless art.


Also interesting is the speed with which Mr. Kahn was able to generate this puzzle. It is certainly convenient that LEONARDODAVINCI's name has exactly 15-letters, but with the 13-letter artwork name providing such a beautiful crossing, he seems to have been forced into a mix of vertical and horizontal thematic material, which, as some of you might remember, is something I quite like. OLDMASTER is good, but its symmetric partner RESTORING (10D: Eliminating the effects of wear and tear on, as was done to 38-Across) I like less. I've spent a lot of time with conservators, and I've seen enough "restoring" to question the whole endeavor. Some in the art world fantasize about a day when all the art in every museum could be magically shown as it would appear without any restoration. Most pieces from the Renaissance and before, including this one, would have huge sections of missing paint. And when you think about all that re-painting, you wonder who the artist really is.

OK, art rant over. Where was I?

1A: Either of the World Series winners of 2004 and '05 (SOX) - C.
Best: the "First name in s/Solo flying" pair - AMELIA/HAN. That very much amused me.
Worst: I guess I'll go with YEE (29D: "____-haw!"), although it's not awful.

I enjoyed some of the clues today: "Pot thickener" (ANTE), "First name?" (ADAM), and "Lie on one's back and not move, maybe" (PLAYDEAD), for example, but there was kind of a lot "meh" material, too. It's basically a stunt puzzle, and a pretty decent one. I guess that's enough today.

- Horace

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017, Brian Thomas


Which is less common these days, a rotary phone or a payphone? Me, I've used a rotary phone within the last few months, when I set one up in my home office. The last time I used a payphone was probably at least ten years ago. Possibly twenty.

Still, the six theme answers (including the revealer) are all pretty common phrases. I am not - happily - very familiar with PAYFREEZE (54A: Action taken by a company in distress), but it corresponds with the least well-known phone type, and maybe that was intentional, so I'll let it pass.

1A: Georgetown athlete (HOYA) - D
Worst: ENDO (11D: Prefix with -plasm)

The Downs were a little more interesting than the Acrosses today, with such lovely entries as BOOLEAN (10D: Kind of logic in which all values are either true or false), GARISH (41D: Obtrusively bright and showy), and DIFFUSE (44D: Not concentrated, as light), but they also contained a couple toughies. WICCA (6D: Pagan religious practice) and ODA (35D: ____ Mae (Whoopi's role in "Ghost")) are both on the border of Monday-ness, and ANASAZI (4D: Prehistoric Southwest culture) is most decidedly outside that range. I pity those who know even less about college sports than I do, for whom the beginning A might be just a guess.

And while I'm not LAUDING, I'll add that 53A: Place where a mother might sing "Rock-a-Bye Baby" (CRIB) was, if we want to get all fussy, a bit AMISS. The singing would be taking place beside the crib, not in it.

So overall I didn't LOVES it, but as noted, there were a few bright spots. Onward!

- Horace

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017, Erik Agard and Laura Braunstein


Classic Sunday puzzle, with a perfect title and a cute revealer - BITPARTS (112A: What eight actors took on for this puzzle?). Everybody loves a rebus, especially one that changes every time it occurs. The hardest one was the only one that's not visible when looking at someone, occurring in O[LIVER]PLATT (102A: "Frost/Nixon" actor, 2008) and [LIVER]ADAR (103D: Real-time tool for meteorologists). I finished with a single R in that cross, having entered "rADAR" for the weather tool. I'm not convinced there is a difference between live radar and radar as clued, but there definitely is a difference between OrPLATT and OLIVERPLATT. So I'll take the FWOE, but I'll complain a bit of inconsistency.


That quibble aside, I enjoyed the overall experience.

1A: Take ____ on the wild side (AWALK) - D. Good song, bad partial.
Best: 5D: What might show participants going neck and neck? (KISSCAM) Gross!
Worst: TAIME (62D: "Je ____" (French words of affection). As much as j'aime le français, je n'aime pas this partial.

I was amused by 11D: Word implied on Opposite Day (NOT), and enjoyed the familiar nature of things like 6D: Cop (STEAL) and 9D: This way (LIKESO). I was a little surprised by the casual inclusion of BONG (52D: Pot holder), but I guess that's the way the world is going. Not that there's anything wrong with that - I was just a little surprised, that's all. I was also surprised to see POCKY (73D: Chocolate-coated snack stick) make it in, but less so.

So, what do we think of OPERA HAT? When's the last time you put yours on? Or ever heard this before? Never? That's what I thought.

As usual in a big Sunday grid, we get some lovely answers like ANTIGONE, MINARET, and POSTDOCS, and a healthy smattering of IST, IND, TIVO, ELO, ILE, etc. I didn't know some of the actors at all, but I enjoyed the rebus aspect, and overall, I give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017, Stu Ockman


Boy, this went well for me. I was solving it last night as Frannie was flipping through TV channels, and somehow that white noise (like Glenn Gould's vacuum cleaner) helped me to focus on the puzzle. Either that, or it was kind of on the easy side. Either way, it's got to be one of my fastest Saturday times. I would have been under ten if not for SONOGRAM (2D: Baby shower). That's a tricky clue, and even though I had _ONOGRA_ for quite some time, I could not understand it correctly. I should have known ESAS (1A: Spanish pronoun) (D), but I saw "Spanish" and my brain recoiled. And at the bottom, 29A: "Four characters in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" looked like this E_S for a long time, and I kept wondering if I had forgotten about aliens being in that play... Damn the NYTX and their self-referential spelling clues! They get me every single time!


Aside from the mundane-at-best intro and outro (ESAS & PARA), this had lots of fun entries. I wouldn't say it was FREAKINGAWESOME (7D: Fantabulous), but parts of it certainly were. How about 22A: Catch phrase? (IGOTIT) and 25A: Spends time on-line? (DRIES)? Those were two favorites. And I enjoyed the W. C. Field's quote, "A rich man is nothing but a poor man with MONEY." Ha! I liked seeing the full PIEDATERRE (26D: Home away from home), and the full ERICIDLE (1D: Who wrote and sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life") (a gimme if ever there were one), and I had all but forgotten about Tony ARMAS.

DROWNEDOUT (46A: Talked over, say) was a nice twist, and 43A: Passing concern (ESTATETAX) was well-clued, too. But I don't know if I quite agree (or see) that ONAPLATE is equal to the clue "Without putting in any effort." When you give something to someone ONAPLATE aren't you making it so that the recipient doesn't have to put in any effort? And isn't the clue kind of putting it the other way around? ... and what is this SONE volume measure? Oh! They mean volume not volume! Sound, not space. Ahhh... ok. now I get it.

I liked this one. The cluing was often clever and amusing, and it seemed to be right in my wheelhouse. I even remembered the old ANACIN commercials! Hope you also enjoyed it.

- Horace

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017, Paolo Pasco


This was a fun Friday puzzle. Some of it came quite easily to me - IMEANTOSAY (54A: "That is ..."), BATCAVE (32A: Subterranean hideout in comics), and BOLTS (43D: Parts of a Frankenstein costume), for example, and some came quite slowly - BARRELRACE (50A: Rodeo event), TOTALINCOME (4D: Line on a 1040), and SUBTWEET (34D: Social media post that refers to another user without directly mentioning that person). I was not familiar with that phrase (or action), but that's one reason I like these Gen. Z constructors - they teach us Gen. Xers things like this. Now all I have to do is log into the Twitters and get practicing on my subtweets... are they good or bad? Frowned upon or craved? I need more information!

Not 11-D

How about that great misdirection with the three-letter names?! Raise your mitt if you dropped in ORR at "37A: Sportsman whose #4 was retired" and then when you finished the NE and saw ORR at "11D: Alexander ____, pioneer and early head of New York's subway system," said to yourself, "Too many ORRs." Alexander Orr is pretty obscure, but I applaud the find. Of the 364 uses of ORR in a NYTX, this is the first time it has appeared with that clue. (Thanks!)

And another thing, I think I must have seen QUAALUDE spelled out before, but I don't think I'll ever get used to those two As. Luckily, DIAZ (31D: Cameron of Hollywood) and CATALAN (29D: Language banned under Franco's dictatorship) (grrrrr...) were knowable.

Lots of good stuff. I liked the clue for ACREAGE (7D: Figure that can describe a lot), and I especially liked THEELEMENTS clued with the single word "Weather."

1A: "Get outta here!" (SCAT) - B
Best: FACT (17A: Truth we hold to be self-evident?) I'm glad somebody's still willing to say it. But - oh! - there's a question mark! What the...?
Worst: STRATI (19A: Some low clouds) I put it right in, but I wish I hadn't had to. But overall, there's not much glue here, and what there is, I'll accept for the rest.

I only know MAME through the Rosalind Russell movie, which does not (I'm fairly certain) include that number. And is there duplication in ESCAPEROOM and PUZZLEBOX? Heh.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017, Dan Schoenholz


So were you able to answer the question posed in today's puzzle note? What "very unusual property" do the starred answers share? Spoiler alert! It's that the last word in the phrase is a homonym of the first letter of the first word. And as for the "familiar two-word exclamation, of five and three letters" that shares that property, I have come up with "Golly Gee." (They said "familiar," not "popular.") I will keep thinking, though, as I write the rest of this review, to see if I can come up with another one. So thumbs up on the theme.

I generally (not OVERALL) leave segmentation of the grid discussion to my co-reviewer Colum, but today I feel I must mention it, as the entire NW and SE corners are accessed through a single square. I didn't notice it while I was doing the puzzle, so it couldn't have been that much of a problem, but I'm guessing it added to the OVERALL (not generally) difficulty at least a little.

Also adding to the difficulty were entries like the heretofore unheard of by me IVO (15A: Literature Nobelist Andric), the unexpected MOONBASE (10D: Hypothetical settlement), and KSTATE (31A: The Wildcats of the Big 12 Conference, informally). Oh, if only I had taken even a passing interest in college sports at some point in my life... but I didn't and I won't, so if you want to beat me with this type of abbreviation and team name stuff, go ahead.

But that sounds negative. Really, this puzzle had a ton of good material. The central CRAZYIDEA (21D: Surprisingly, it might work) crossing themer BUSYBEE (35A: *Sort with a full schedule) is quite good. And LOSSLEADERS (11D: Big bargains, maybe), TRIPLEAXELS, GONDOLA (41D: Ski slope sight), and BAKESALE (35D: Common fund-raiser) are all strong. I don't consider a LATEFEE a Visa problem so much as the result of a problem, but I'll let that pass.

So... not a rebus, but a little extra wordplay and a quiz, so definitely Thursdayish. Overall, I liked it.

Now let's see... anybody come up with any more phrases? Of any length? What about Chicago's "Loop El" train? Or the story of the "Princess and the Pea?" Or Holland's Zuider Zee?

- Horace

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, Clive Probert

0:09:04 (F.W.T.E.)

Man, I really flailed at the end of this, ending up with TEaTsME instead of TEETIME (24A: Meeting info for golfers) which makes so much more sense. I was only looking at the Downs, and sMS seemed good for "25D: Modern communications of a sort, in brief" (IMS), and MNEMa seemed possible. I keep telling myself I've got to study the Greeks more, but without that knowledge stuck in my mind ready to be drawn upon, MNEME (3D: Muse of memory) was inaccessible. I could guess the first four letters, but then what? I was thinking of "mnemonic," of course, but tried to make it feminine with an A, but that's Roman, not Greek. Think of Sappho, or Erato! Anyway, that's far too much on this topic. Let me just end by saying I hope you did better with this.


So what have we got here? Lots of Ms. I first noticed the diagonal strings of them running here and there, and slowly realized that every single answer has at least one M. And every clue begins with M! So many Ms!

You'd think that a stunt like this would cause some trouble, and indeed, the West, particularly, is bad. For the two long Downs - ALMAMATER (32D: Michigan State, for a Spartans alumnus) (odd clue) and METRONOME (33D: Musician's tempo keeper) (excellent), we suffer. Sure, SAMOS (31A: Member of the ancient Ionian League) is a real, albeit obscure, place, but ELEM (36A: Molybdenum, for one: Abbr.), AMT (39A: Milliliter, e.g.: Abbr.), and MAR (42A: Mo. with St. Patrick's Day) are a lot to bear.

It certainly wasn't all bad, though. MEDIANS (37D: Mean relatives?), ANGSTROM (4D: Minute length), and MOMENTUM (38D: Motion creates it) are all great, and give the puzzle a science-y feel. SIMIAN (44D: Monkey, for one), MANES (37A: Mares' hair), and MOHAIR (45A: Material from Angora goats) add in the animal kingdom. And DIADEM (22A: Monarch's headband), MOSES (41A: Mount Sinai climber), and SIMBA (59A: Matthew Broderick voice role) give it a kingly air.

At first I thought the revealer might be 26-Across, "Made music on a comb" (HUMMED), but it is probably 28D: "Melts in your mouth" candy (MANDM). Because everywhere you look there's an M and then another M. It's certainly not UNUM, because there's way more than just one. Guffaw.

1A: EMMA (Miss Wodehouse, in literature) - B. (For Frannie)
Best: I guess I've got to go with MEDIANS
Worst: 27A: Hotel units (RMS)

Certainly there were some rough patches (TAMA, RCMP, EDOM...), but overall, I have to say this was not that bad. I have come around in my support for stunt puzzles, thanks, in part, perhaps, to talking with one of the stunt puzzle kings, Bruce Haight. In the end, it's a diversion, right? Why not push the boundaries a bit and have some fun with it?

- Horace

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017, Zhouqin Burnikel and Harry Smith


Once again, my lack of contemporary popular culture knowledge is a bit of a problem. I didn't recognize the name Harry Smith as someone famous, so the whole "newsroom" theme didn't really come through. For those like me, the theme is seen in 17A: Anchor man? (POPEYETHESAILOR), 25A: Sound technician? (MARINEBIOLOGIST), 48A: Beat reporter? (ALLENGINSBERG), and 65A: Executive producer? (WHARTON). "Anchor man" and "Beat reporter" work well, and I guess you need those other two, but they are definitely more generic roles. I actually like the punniness of the answers much more than I do the theme itself.


There's also lots in the fill that I like today. The two long Downs - ROADCLOSED and IMNOTREADY are both good, and there's bonus material in ASSAILSTEROIDSCARABANOINT, and the full ALGORE. I even like GOTYA (50D: Successful prankster's cry).

1A: Kindergarten learning (ABCS) - D. Kindergarteners aren't truly graded, but 1A is.
Best: SADDAY (39A: What dropping off a last child at college is, to many parents). I have never dropped off any kids at college, but I was the last one that my parents dropped off, so this made me think of them fondly. I wonder what they said to one another on the long drive home from Wisconsin?
Worst: CIGNA (Giant in health plans)

HATTIPS (56A: Quaint gestures of gratitude) was amusing, don't you think?

- Horace

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017, Alan Arbesfeld


Ayyy... it's Monday! Today we get a strange rhyming theme of phrases including the sounds "ay" and "it." SAYITAINTSO, PAYITFORWARD, MAYITBE, LAYITONTHICK, and PLAYITBYEAR. It's a little odd, in my book, and I've never heard of the song by everyone's favorite new-age crossword darling, Enya, so I wouldn't say it really wowed me.

Let's start up in the NW, where we see four names, one abbreviated bacterium, an inflected verb dependent on a helper, and a plural bread (C-). SAYITAINTSO! At the very bottom, we find INDEPTH (24A: Comprehensive, as a report) (or a review of a crossword quadrant), which I like well enough.

In other areas things get better. ASPARAGUS (33D: Spears at the dinner table) is delicious, and it's nine-letter partner STAYALERT (34D: "Keep your eyes open!") is fine. Opposite those, ENUMERATE (12D: Make a list of) (my favorite entry today) and TUNASALAD (11D: Popular sandwich order) really spice up that NE.

I like the shout-out to the Clean Air Act at 23- and 25-Down, and there are a few other bright spots - CEASE, TEMPTS, FIEND, and RAVEN (Poe poem that starts "Once upon a midnight dreary," with "The"), though the clue for that last one is a bit tortured.

Overall, I didn't love it, but I learned a lot about an OSAGE orange (above) and so that's nice. It's named for the Native American tribe who used the plant's wood for bows. I also learned that it's got the highest BTU rating of any North American wood, and that it's harder than white oak. Oh, and one last thing - it's only a very distant relative to a normal orange. Fascinating!

- Horace

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday, December 3, 2017, David Steinberg


This is an interesting Sunday theme. I love that the shells are represented by the names of nuts, and that they shift from the beginning to the end of the game. I also like that the [PEA] that is shown up front has disappeared at the end, because that's just how this game goes. Never put money down when you see folks playing it in Trocadero, by the Eiffel Tower, for example. You might as well set your bills on fire, which is maybe what is hinted at by that Schrödinger-square F that could be another PEA "if this shell game weren't a scam." But, of course, it is, so leave that F in there!


Some nice bonus fill today and some tricky, fun clues. I enjoyed learning the word ALCOPOP (2D: Smirnoff Ice, e.g.), but TONIC in my gin is about as close as I come to such a drink. Right beside that, UNCOUTH (3D: Lacking polish), I thought, gave this grid some polish. And I've learned a lot about YEMEN through doing the NYTX. The capital, Sana'a, is frequently seen, it's port of Aden (which is currently the temporary capital) tripped me up the other day, and now I learn that North and South Yemen were united in 1990.

ELOPE (19D: Give a ring while on the road) was very good, and I liked the pair of three-letter Simspons salesmen - APU and MOE. MOO got a tricky clue ("Low"), and LINCOLNLOGS (115A: Material for small buildings?) got a big smile. And for a moment or two, when I had SHORT_ for 41D: Egghead?, I thought Mr. Steinberg was daring to put his editor into the grid! Now that would have been hilarious. But no, I was fooled for the umpteenth time by a self-referential clue. Hah!

1A: Browns (SAUTES) - B. Fine.
Worst: PCGAME - Can't Minecraft and StarCraft both be played on handheld devices? And has anyone said "PC game" ever, in any situation?

We have some crosswordsy plurals in ALOES, COKES, HIS, and TYS, and I suppose LPN is some kind of nurse, but it's not something I would have gotten without all the crosses. SEAWAR, COACT (really?), and PINTMEASURE are a bit ad hoc, but overall, for me (as they say on the Great British Baking Show), there was far more good than ill, and so I'll give him some LEEWAY. My only real problem is with SPARES, which I have always seen marked by filling in one corner of the scoring box, not with a slash, but still... thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017, Mark Diehl


Well, well, well... this makes up for yesterday! I seem to have more trouble with Mr. Diehl's work than I do some other constructors, but trouble is just what I'm looking for on a Saturday and he sure delivered today.
Patron Saint of Headaches
I think my first correct entry was DORRIT (7D: Dickens title character), but before that I had entered "coroners" for 1D: Ones involved in forensics (DEBATERS) (There's some debate about whether "forensics" is really equivalent to "debating"), "visiting" for 2D: Stopping in (ONAVISIT), "servein" for 3D: Not let (UNRENTED), and "Ebook" for 6D: Something read with a scroll? (EMAIL). I know that those don't all work well together, but sometimes on a late-week puzzle I'll just put in my guesses and try to sift through them later. Sometimes it works, sometimes, like today, it doesn't.

So I ended up leaving the top in a state of terrible disarray and moving down to the bottom, which filled in fairly easily. Luckily, I am enough of an OLDTIMER to have needed just a few crosses for SALBANDO, and I am plenty old enough to have dropped in YOUNGER for "41D: How hair dye might make you look." And the less said about DIPSOMANIAC, the better. :)

BURR (52A: First vice president not to become president) took longer than it probably should have. My first thought was "Gore," but my Saturday impulsiveness does have some limits. The ELLENDEGENERES quote "I like my men like I like my coffee. I don't drink coffee" got a chuckle, as did OLMEC (50A: Ancient carvers of giant stone heads) - because it reminds us of a Simpsons episode wherein Mr. Burns gives the Simpsons such a head as a present, and it takes up most of their basement. Also, Frannie pointed out that SENIOREDITORS looks like it might pair nicely with ENNIOMORRICONE (14A: "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" composer), if you read it as if it were Spanish. Heh.

1A: Challenge with gusto (DOUBLEDOGDARE) - A. Solid. Brought a smile.
Best: BENE (25D: Forum fine?). Ahh... Latin jokes. I was just paging through a Mediaeval Latin book at bedtime last night. No joke!
Worst: ONAVISIT (2D: Stopping in). Harsh, maybe, but I just don't buy this as a normal thing people say.

Overall, though, pretty impressive wide-open puzzle, and a fun Saturday challenge.

- Horace

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017, Lily Silverstein


Hi! It's Horace, back to reviewing after what seems like months! :) Thanks to my good friends Colum and Frannie for their excellent and entertaining reviews, and thanks, too, to our legion of readers and commenters. Without you, we would be shaking our tiny fists at the void. Not that there'd be anything wrong with that, since I seem to be doing it every time I catch a bit of national news... but let's not go there. Let's stick to looking down at the puzzle, shall we?

While it's fun to have a Friday puzzle come in under ten minutes, one also feels a bit cheated. At least this one does. I started with the Acrosses, as I often do (despite the opinion, and possibly evidence, that starting with the Downs leads to faster times), and entered the first three without hesitation. Not being a big radio listener, I never actually bought a stand-alone receiver, but I guess I was enough of a stereo nerd that AMP (D+) was the first thing that came to mind (see also: MONO). I guessed right on CAMETO (4A: Snapped out of it), though in discussing it with Frannie, I learned that "wokEup" also fit. And 10A: "____ brillig ..." (TWAS) was the first of several clues that I consider to be, at absolute hardest, Wednesday-level. Others in this category include 24D: ____ Calrissian of "Star Wars" (LANDO), 31D: Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of ____ Gray" (DORIAN), and, for this Boston-based boy at least, 9D: Slugger David who was a hero of the 2013 World Series (ORTIZ).

On the other side we have CENAC (4D: Comic Wyatt), and, for many, I'm guessing, William HANNA of Hanna-Barbera fame. That final A might have been a pure guess for some solvers.

The NW was where I ended up today, and aside from that A, I like it a lot. ALTOCLEF (23A: Viola staff starter) [insert your favorite viola joke here] took me longer than it should have, but hey - I played instruments that either only used the treble clef (sax), or used treble and F clef together (piano), or no clefs at all (casual guitar), so I never had to deal with that freak, the C clef.

Now where was I? I'm already writing too much. I should save some words for the rest of the month! But before I go I'll just call out a few more things: the mini-Italian theme of ITALO, FERRARI, and PERONI (Frannie called this out); the cute "apple" pair of EVE and TELL, and my old favorite ITERATE, which people never use, but could when saying "reiterate." It's like flammable and inflammable. Ahhh, English...

I didn't like ZILLIONAIRES because it's not a real thing. I think the question mark could have gone on that clue instead of the GENDERROLES clue.

Pretty clean, but too easy for a Friday.

- Horace

p.s. My favorite entry today was PEACEMAKER, my least IRE. The "Embitterment" clue didn't seem just right.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017, Trenton Charlson


I had absolutely no idea what was going on for almost the entire puzzle. I had figured out that the circles were to be filled with Xs, which sped things along, but I couldn't get why they were that way, even when I knew the terms that were supposed to go there. And then I finally filled in 60A: It's four units long in a popular board game ... (BATTLESHIP).

And then it became clear. The destroyer is 2 units long, thus CONANTHEXX is actually Conan The Destroyer (the real name of the movie). The cruiser is 3 units long, thus PTXXX. I really never liked that car. Looked fake 50s. And so on.

The theme is excellent, strong work for a fun Thursday, even though there aren't any rebuses. All those Xs made for faster work as well. There are 12 answers with Xs in them (one has 2). Some were bound to be less strong. For example, JOHNX and RXS. On the positive side, though, you get one of the top clue-answer pairs of the year, in my opinion, at 9D: Congress (SEX). Mm hm. That's right. You heard me.

Also very nicely done is the inclusion of JUKEBOXHERO (another X word), and its symmetric opposite LOOSECANNON.

Other nice entries included 44A: Opened one's mouth but didn't speak? (YAWNED); 30A: It's measured in cups (BRA), and 12D: "Oh, cry me a river!" (BOOHOO).

I messed up at 1A, and it was falsely confirmed with an error at 1D as well. I put in "adder" at 1A: Venomous African snake (MAMBA), and thought "air" was a good answer for 1D: Word after hot or open (MIC). Fortunately 2D: Blood letters had to be ABO, and corrections were made. So I give 1A a B+ for being tricksy.

Lastly, I'd like to say that Cece and I watched Speed with KEANU Reeves and Sandra Bullock this past weekend. On rewatching, it was incredibly flimsy in plot, but a ton of fun, and the two of them were so young! Keanu had started down the road to wooden acting, but still had a bit of his Bill goofy walking.

- Colum

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017, Erik Agard


Hmmm. I like celebrating MOTOWN. A ton of great music was produced in Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s. I also like the four theme answers, even if I've never heard of a CONTOURKIT before this puzzle (although I see it's actually something quite common, by Google).


Isn't it a problem that the groups were called "The Supremes," "The Contours," etc., and that we only get a singular version with each theme answer? Or are we to imagine it's a singular representative of each group heading up each one? I'm a little underwhelmed by that.

That being said, the grid is reasonably clean. There's something of a Japanese mini-theme going on with RAMEN, UDON, TAIKO, ANIME, and AKIRA. There's also a mean streak, what with MAIMS, TRAUMA, and SADISM.

But the real reason I liked this puzzle came with 1A: What you see when you look up? (ACROSS). That gets a flat out A. I was not expecting it, and it's precisely correct. Excellent start to the grid.

Not much else to comment on from my perspective, except that 7D: "The following is completely true:" (FACT) reminds me of Dwight Schrute.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017, Andrew J. Ries


Hee hee! UTURN, that much maligned crossword answer (at least it's better than "uey" or "uie") gets its turn in the spotlight (see what I did there?), being reinterpreted as names of universities ("U's") making a 180 degree change of direction. It does mean that we get the less than desirable circles to show us just where the cleverness is happening, but I'd have had a hard time finding them otherwise.

The four centers of higher learning are placed symmetrically, and represent Clemson, Cal Tech, Princeton, and Notre Dame. Nicely spread out geographically, although only one from west of the Mississippi. These kinds of answers cause letters to be "triple-checked" because they have to play a role in three different answers at a time. I'm sure Mr. Ries would have preferred not to have both CHEERON and STARTON in the grid, but I suspect it was necessary because of the constraints of those letters.

That being said, I was impressed by the presence of EVIDENCEBAG, TRADEROUTES, PARISMETRO, and ADULTERANT, all fine answers. And my favorite answer in the grid is 10D: Kind of motel (NOTELL). Never heard of it before, but it makes all kinds of sense.

We also get everybody's favorite dog, GROMIT (much better than that brainless Odie), and GOTYE, who wrote the song that we must have listened to 6 million times in 2012.

I don't love ACER, a longtime piece of crosswordese, or TAPA, which seems awfully lonely. Nobody has just one when they go to a tapas bar, right? Also ISS seems ish to me. But I did chuckle at 2D: Lovers running to each other may be shown in it (SLOMO).

1A: Molded jelly (ASPIC) - C-. Yuck.

- Colum

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017, Kevin Christian


In celebration of the MULLET, we get no fewer than six movies (well, nine, if you include the sequels to RAMBO... oh, and there were four LETHALWEAPON movies as well, so that makes, um, twelve?!) squeezed into the grid. Of these movies, clearly DIRTYDANCING is the best, followed by PULPFICTION. CONAIR gets last place, even though it was entertaining. But still, Nic Cage...

All of those theme answers makes for some unfortunate fill. There are a full twenty-three 3-letter answers, out of 78 total. And OHBOY, those include both TOR and CLE, as well as UTA and CPU. But even so, those aren't terrible. I'm more disturbed by EREI and INST (the dreaded abbreviation from an abbreviation).

On the other hand, it is impressive to have both STREETCRED and JUSTINCASE, alongside SCORPION and DOGFIGHT.

The print version had thumbnails of each actor sporting his iconic hairdo, which could not be reproduced in the app. But, just in case you wanted more, I'm pretty sure the DUO of Hall & Oates were known to have similar hairstyles...

- Colum