Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017, Neil Padrick Wilson

0:08:33 (F.W.O.E.)

Sad to end the month with a careless error, but I'll take it, as I always try to, as a lesson to be more careful. In my defense, INCOG (36D: Disguised, briefly) is not exactly a great answer, and my attempt (INCOs) makes some sense, what with "cosplay" being such a big thing nowadays. Of course, TEXTMESSAsE (55A: *Its arrival might be signaled by a ding) makes no sense at all. Check. Your. Crosses.

Now, on to the theme. I like the idea of all those things being found INABOTTLE, and QUALITYTIME (23A: *What a family spends together at the dinner table) (at least found in a bottle in song) and TEXTMESSAGE are both good. But FORKEDLIGHTNING (38A: Branches in a storm?) is not a thing that anyone ever says. Sure, lightning can be forked, but FORKEDLIGHTNING isn't a thing like QUALITYTIME is a thing. Or even like SWEETTEA (58A: So-called "house wine of the South") (Favorite clue of the month) is a thing. CARGOSHIP (18A: *Vessel with a large hold) is also a thing, but kind of a boring one.

So that's kind of a wash. The fill has a few annoying bits, like SOUPNAZI (22A: "Seinfeld" stock character?) (cute with the "stock," but still... when's that show going to fade gracefully away?), and ABU (2D: Aladdin's monkey), ISSEL (4D: Basketball Hall-of-Famer Dan) and FRYE (43A: 6'11" Channing of the N.B.A.) are not exactly Tuesday-friendly names.

I did like them bringing the LOLZ (32A: Hilarity, in Internet-speak), and GALLANTRY (3D: Courage in Battle) and CHENILLE (5D: Plush fabric) are fancy... are they worth ABU and ISSEL? It's a hard call. 1A: Pulling a rabbit out of a hat, e.g. (MAGIC) gets a B. I tried "trick," which fouled me up for a while, and I think Frannie tried something different but similar. Overall, let's call the whole thing ABASH. I mean a wash...

Colum takes over again tomorrow (I hope. :) ), and I'll see you in March. (Rumors have been circulating that Frannie might actually take March, and if those prove true, I'll see you in April. If I don't see you in person at the ACPT first, that is. (!))

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations to Mr. Wilson on his debut puzzle!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017, Zhouqin Burnikel


Interesting theme today of MALELEADS. That is, names for male animals - stag, cock, bull, and buck. The names are all situated in solid fill - STAGNATED (18A: Got stuck in a rut), COCKTAILHOUR (20A: Time before dinner for socializing) (Excellent), BULLETPROOFVEST (37A: Protection for a police officer), and BUCKEYESTATE (53A: Ohio's nickname).

In non-fill, we have the amusing EPICFAILURE (3D: Huge blunder) (usually shortened to just "epic fail"), VIPENTRANCE (25D: Special access for celebs), REFRAINS (41A: Repeated parts of songs), ABHOR, BLOAT, EXTOL, DEUCE, and UTTER (51D: Say). Pretty good stuff.

On the other hand, LIETESTS (33A: Polygraphs) felt a little ad hoc, BOHO (37D: ____-chic (fashion style) felt a tad non-Mondayish, HAR (42A: Sarcastic laugh sound) APAL, and TRE are straight-up glue, and SYSOP and LASIK are a little specialized, but that's not much. Overall, I'm a FAN.

1A: Views as (DEEMS), gets a C+, for being mildly unusual.

- Horace

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017, Jim Hyres and David Steinberg


Todays theme is a game of Blackjack, or TWENTYONE, between PLAYER and DEALER. The former gets two, three, six, and jack, totalling 21, the latter goes BUST, with ace, five, king, and eight (24). The cards are laid out on opposite sides of the table, as it were, and they're as symmetrical as words of different length can be. Horizontal symmetry allows for this, and the theme answers containing the circled "cards" are hit or miss. THREEBEARS (47A: Fairy tale family) is fine, GIVEMEFIVE (52A: Celebratory request) is ok, if a bit formalized (I would have expected "gimme five"), and, well, how are you going to argue with the full name JACKLONDONELITEEIGHT (110A: March Madness stage) is a little obscure, at least for this non-college-sports-watching crossword solver, and SERVICEACE (28A: It's unreturnable) seems a little overdone. It's like saying "frozen ice." It's just an ace, and it's just ice.

The puzzle was a little on the easy side, and as I was going through it I gave a few more eye-rolls than I did guffaws. I will not grade 1A, since it's part of the theme, but I will say that starting the puzzle with a cross-referenced clue is not my idea of a good idea. See also, 76A: "See 125-Across." Yuck.

I did chuckle slightly at 17D: Delivery instructions? (LAMAZE), and VAMOOSE (21A: "Get lost!") was nice. And 97A: Silly Putty holder (EGG) brought a smile both because, well, who doesn't love Silly Putty?, and because we just saw "Something Rotten" last night, the plot of which turns on a theatrical production that features dancing eggs. Hah! I highly recommend seeing it if it comes through your town.

So in all, I guess I didn't love it. There's the old names (DYAN, FOYT), the DREI/GRAU cross, the product placements (ANNTAYLOR, FENDI)... and not enough zip. Or even LILT.


- Horace

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017, Damon Gulcynski


The Turn went backwards for me this week. Thursday took me half an hour, yesterday was 26 minutes, and today was just under half that! Everything just seemed to come together quickly, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it.

My first answer might have been UNIX (21A: System developed by Bell Labs), then PERONI (23A: Italian brewery since 1846), and from those came YOGURT, ROANOKE, and ERMINES. then JANEEYRE (6A: Classic novel written under the nom de plume Currer Bell), and that corner was done.

On the other side, I think I started with KIR (25A: Wine aperitif) which brought back fond memories of my college life in Rennes, France. From that K, BADJOKE (1D: Something a bomber delivers), and from the J, the excellent JAZZHANDS (19A: Gesture of razzle-dazzlement). (Were the Zs in the clue a sub-conscious giveaway?).

Getting into the middle was easy with the Monday-ish clue "6D: "Steel-driving man" of African-American lore" (JOHNHENRY). Was JOHNHENRY an African-American? Funny, I've known that song for as long as I can remember, but never once do I remember remarking upon his skin color. Anyway, a crossing clue that took me way longer than maybe it should have was 30A: " (INCHES).

How about SPIDEREGG (52A: Web deposit?)? Gross! I was not familiar with TRIOLET as an "Eight-line verse form." I read a lot of poetry, but maybe not enough about poetry. FAUVES (44D: Matisse, Derain and fellow artists, with "les"), on the other hand, went right in, but perhaps that's only because I know French and I have always loved the Fauvists. And speaking of art, 1A: "The Haywain Triptych" painter (BOSCH) gets a B. B for BOSCH.

It went FLYING by, but I still think Mr. Gulcynski did a BANGUPJOB.

- Horace

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017, John Guzzetta


An attractive grid today with twelve entries of ten or eleven letters. Not bad. My favorite might be AMELIORATE (26D: Take the edge off), but OPENBORDERS (1A: Feature of the European Union) (A-) and INTERRACIAL (49A: Like marriage supported by Loving v. Virginia) are both strong, too. ANYTHINGBUT MADEABOOBOO, actually. Yikes. TITLEFIGHT (27D: Someone gets belted at the end of it) is clever, and might be moreso if it weren't for the fact that someone is getting belted from start to finish! Heh. Oh, and that whole NE corner is very good, too. With AMBULATORY (12D: Not bedridden), BOILEDOVER (13D: Blew a gasket), and ECOSYSTEMS (14D: Caves and coral reefs, for example). So the "long-word" theme gets a thumbs up. :)

The twelve six-letter-and-up crosses are all pretty strong, too. ARIOSE (43A: Melodious) does not appear in my deskside Webster's (they favor "arioso"), and LIEGEMAN (38A: Vassal) is a tad obscure, but it's Friday, and we allow some of that sort of thing. SATYRS (40A: Part-human gods) is good, BAHAMAS (5D: Where many Loyalists resettled after the American Revolution) gets an interesting clue, and PIMIENTO (33D: Red stuffing?) puts one in mind of a martini, which is never a bad thing on a Friday afternoon.

It's only when we get into the smaller stuff that we find any real glue. HOAG (44A: Romance novelist Tami) was unknown to me, and RETIE and PINAS are a little weak. RES, ETH, CHA, VIOL, OMAN... these are all pretty standard bits of glue. HAMA (46D: Mie ____, actress who played the Bond girl Kissy Suzuki) is a stretch. Is any "Bond girl," as they put it, acceptable? I would argue not.

On balance, though, this was a fine Friday puzzle. There's enough good long stuff to justify the glue.

- Horace

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017, Hal Moore


Whew! This was a fun one. And tricky! There were a few real moments of despair when that SW corner would just not come together for me. I got ALITTLEBIRDIE (36A: Secret's source ... that can be found four times in this puzzle) before getting any of the rebuses, and even knowing that there had to be one more in that corner, it still took some kind of trance-like state to finally see LO[WREN]T (54D: Shabby). You might have noticed that "Lincoln" fit into "62A: Best Picture subject nine inches shorter than the actor who portrayed him," but there were two possible problems with that - Was Daniel Day Lewis even taller than Lincoln? (no, he was two inches shorter), and Did it win an Oscar? (No, though it was nominated). "Capote" didn't fit, and even though O'Toole was just in a puzzle a few days ago, it would have been a long time before I came up with TELA[WREN]CE! So in short, I loved the theme. The rebuses were all nested, as it were, in very good fill, and the "little birdie" descriptor was apt, given the small letters needed to spell out the bird names.

My first rebus answer came at the cross of IN[CROW]D (55D: Cool people) and [CROW]NROYAL (63A: Whisky first produced for King George VI's 1939 visit to Canada). That's a nice bit of trivia! In that same quadrant, I enjoyed the colloquial nature of NOTHERE (60A: "Let's go someplace private"). The mini ice cream theme, with SHOP, CONE, and CUP was cute, and in the opposite corner, the two "Lively" clues (UPTEMPO and SPRY) were also good. I tried "that is" for 1A: To wit (SUCHAS), and even though I like my answer slightly better, I'll still give it a B.

There's lots to like in here and very little to grouse (see what I did there? It's another bird.) about. Overall, a great start to the Turn! (For our new readers, that's what we like to call the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday puzzles, as a group.)

- Horace

p.s. OMG! I see that this is a debut puzzle! And I'll add that it's got to be the best debut that I've ever seen. Can't wait for the next one, Mr. Moore. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Tracy Gray


The only one of these mild oaths, or "@#$!," that I knew off the bat was SHAZBOT (... from Mork), but at least one other (HORSEHOCKEY) (... from Colonel Sherman Potter) sounded familiar. It makes me wonder whether Deputy Dawg was, in fact, the first to say DAGNABIT, and the final two were new to me. So the theme fell a little flat for me, but it certainly seems like one that others may enjoy more.

The puzzle starts off with a cheese often found in crosswords, EDAM, but I give it a grade of B today, due to the interesting clue: 1A: Sweet-curd cheese. I had never heard this term, which is used for cheeses that are made using only rennet, and no "starter bacteria." Being less acidic, the sweetness of the milk is allowed to come through more fully than in other types of cheese. Examples of "sweet-curd" cheeses also include Asiago, Muenster, and Gouda.

"Difficult past tense alert" on 19A: Hid from the cops, say (LAYLOW). It would have been easier, I think, if clued in the present, but it works either way, which is cool. I was also amused ('though not tricked) by 63A: Abode that's abuzz (APIARY), 66A: Snowsuit attachment (MITTEN), and GASBAGS (45D: Long-winded sorts). Furthermore, I love any mention of the SYCAMORE (39D: Tree that sheds its bark).

On the down side, we have AZO, HSN, ICEE, ALGA (3D: Bit of birdbath gunk) (Eeeuw!), JEB, and RHOMBI. Cool word but awkward plural. On second thought, scratch that, it's not in the "down side" column.

Overall, I guess I found it kinda Wednesdayish. How's that for a kwality review?

- Horace

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017, John R. O'Brien


This might be my least favorite type of theme - the hidden, or discovered, word found and circled in order in theme answers. It just seems so random. Messy, even. The letters aren't evenly spaced, nor the words of equal length... and maybe it's actually quite hard to do, I don't know, but not everything that is hard to do will be appreciated by everyone.

On the other hand, I really like all the theme answers, and I like gems, so on that level, it's a hit! Although it is now impossible to find a TOLLPLAZA (17A: Place to pay the going rate?) in Massachusetts, it's still well-known in other parts of the country, and the other themers - JEOPARDIZE (25A: Put at risk), PAPERAIRPLANE (35A: Something that might be thrown behind a teacher's back), and PRESUMABLY (49A: In all probability) - are even better!

1A: Harley-Davidson bike, in slang (HOG) gets a C, but much of the rest of the fill is above average. You've got the nice side-by-side AMYGDALA (10D: Part of the brain believed to control emotion) and POSEIDON (11D: Neptune's Greek counterpart) in the NE, and below that there's the lovely trio of WARGOD (46D: Mars, for example), ACCEDE (47D: Give in (to)), and YEOMEN (48D: Guards at Buckingham Palace). The inflected plurals more tolerable somehow, aren't they?

I'm a little sick of seeing ERESTU and ELIA Kazan, but I understand how this game is played, and sometimes I wonder why I even bother to call them out...

Lastly, it occurs to me that all three downs in the NW could be describing Peter OTOOLE. He was GOLDEN-haired, and kind of a HOTDOG actor. Heh. Doesn't take much to amuse me.

- Horace

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017, Bruce Haight


It took me another minute or two after finishing this puzzle to realize what was meant by "60A: What the starts of 17-, 26-, 35- and 50-Across are" (FAIRYTALE), which is, I think, appropriate, since the crux of the fairy tale in question is the discovery of the name "Rumpelstiltskin!" Hah! It's a funny little story about a funny little man, and I think it's a funny little theme. Thumbs up.

Now, was the rest of the fill spun into gold by Mr. Haight? Well, it's Monday, so that's a tall order, but he does still manage to get some zippy entries. KLUTZY (38D: All thumbs) is nice and Scrabble-y, and DADBODS (13D: Some pudgy, middle-aged physiques, informally) is nicely current, if a tad off-putting, visually. And speaking of disturbingly evocative, STRINGUP (35D: Hang, Wild West-style) got a smile, too.
1A: "Winnie-the-____" (POOH) might be the easiest clue I've ever seen. I'll give it a C, though, because everyone loves Pooh, am I right? (It's just one off-putting thing after another!)

Points are deducted for ALITO, LASED, SAULT, and ONMIKE, which just doesn't seem quite right. Wouldn't "on air" be more likely? But AWGEE, it's a Monday, and I'm going to give it a thumbs up anyway.

- Horace

p.s. The appearance of MISCAST (39D: Wrong for the role) today is unfortunate for me, because I'm going to my first-ever acting class in one hour!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017, Dan Schoenholz


A really fun theme today, where a two-word, alliterative phrase is tacked onto the end of a normal phrase, and clued amusingly. For example, OFTHEEISINGSONG (66A: "America"?), and LETHERRIPRAP (81A: Grant a girl permission to dis Drake?). That second one made me LOL. I also like FINGERTIPTOP (55A: Nail?) and TRIPLEFLIPFLOP (117A: Diving disaster?). Hah! Again I say, fun theme.

The fill is a little mix-y, as very few people say. I had never heard of ONEACAT (19A: Baseball-like game), and HERNAN (25A: Conquistador Cortés), if I ever knew it, I had forgotten. CETERA (22A: Et ____) always feels a little weak, as does LOA, and there is, as there often is, a smattering of foreign-language glue - SUI, SOU, LAO, IPSO, FRAU, and SEMAINE (91A: Week, on Martinique).

But there's also lots to like, like PALLID (30D: Opposite of ruddy), MANIAC (78D: Nut), NECKED (80D: Made out) (!), CRYPTS (100D: Some vaults), and WINGSPAN (54D: Jet measure). I also enjoy the word LENGTHWISE (16D: From one side to the other), and I don't know about you, but sometimes the different ways they try to clue ERIEPA (77D: It lies between Cleveland, O. and Buffalo, N.Y.) amuse me. But come on, why not use the normal postal code abbreviations for the States, if you're going to use PA? Has anyone ever abbreviated "Ohio" with just "O?"  

1A: Inconceivably vast (COSMIC) gets a solid B. I suppose Huygens would want it higher, and if it were "cosmos," it probably would be.

Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday, January 21, 2017, James Mulhern


Loved it. Loved the grid, loved the start (KICKBALL (1A: Popular playground pastime) (A)), loved the fill, and loved the END (57D: Appropriate answer for this clue). There, I'm done. Now we can head down to Boston Common for the Womens' March!

OK, OK, I'll write AWEEBIT more. And really, it deserves more. How about CATLIKEREFLEXES (3D: They result in very fast response times)? When's the last time you saw that in the NYTX? The answer is never. It's the first time it's been used. METEORIC, PREVAIL, BEETRED, SWISS and BRIE, OEUVRE, LYCEUMKUMBAYA... it's all good.

Jeff Chen, and even Mr. Mulhern himself complained a bit about the blocky black masses in the NW and SE, but honestly, I don't mind them. If that's what it takes to make a puzzle this entertaining, then that's what it takes.

It's said that the editors initially did not want to include KINDEYES (61A: Warm, inviting facial feature) either, but I have absolutely no problem with that.

I suppose, since I'm still writing, that I might as well call out the tricky parts, like EDESSA (20A: City in Central Macedonia) (it's very confusing to have a Republic of Macedonia on its own, and a section of Greece called Central Macedonia lying just to the south, isn't it?), AVA (55D: Seat of Missouri's Douglas County), ANI (23A: Violinist Kavafian) (although I'm guessing these last two were gimmes for some), and the ever-popular-in-crosswords SEGO (46A: Bulbous perennial), but they were crossed fairly, and come on, it's Saturday! No whining!

OK, I'm going to go put on my LAPELPIN and my pink hat and head downtown.


- Horace

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017, Angela Olson Halstead


This was a really nice puzzle. 1A: "The Great" or "the Terrible" (EPITHET) (A) was a strong start, and in that same seven-stack INANITY (17A: Senselessness) is also quite good. Crossing those two, TOYSOLDIERS (7D: Little green men) had me fooled for far too long, and I was also surprised by the use of "Decoy" as a verb to clue ENTICE.

There were lots of interesting entries: NETTLES (64A: Bugs), PIEDATERRE (27A: Apartment that's a second home) (not exactly how I'd describe it), MRRIGHT (55A: Husband material), HOTELROOM (20D: Something to enter with a card), and PURSER (47D: Chief flight attendant). Wasn't Gopher the PURSER on the Love Boat?...

My only criticism might be that some answers seemed a little too obvious for a Friday. The central 15, for example, THEDEVILYOUKNOW was nearly given away by "38A: Better adversary to deal with, in a saying" wasn't it? And for those near Boston, NORTHSHORE (13D: Cape Ann's area) went in immediately. Same with MARIANO (15A: Yankees closer Rivera) for anyone living in New York (or passingly familiar with the game of baseball).

Not all of it was that easy, though, so I don't know what I'm complaining about. AMEN CORNER (12D: Spot for spirited worshippers) still doesn't make sense to me. I can only think of the Masters golf tournament when I hear that.

Loved the tri-lingualism of GATO (56D: Chat, across the Pyrénées), and CAPOTE (45D: Hoffman who won Best Actor for playing him) was tricky, because my mind went first to Dustin, not Philip Seymour.

OK, I'll stop now, because this is getting long, but as I said, I enjoyed this one.

- Horace

p.s. It was for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King, 1994.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017, Jacob Stulberg


Today's theme might have been funny, given that the inauguration is tomorrow, if it weren't for the fact that a CHECKEREDPAST (36A: Liability for a political candidate ... as depicted four times in this puzzle?) is not, in fact, a liability at all. It is, rather, a boon, in the incoming administration.

Other entries that put one in mind of the incoming junta are SMUTTY, HORRIFIC, PLAYATNOT, and possibly TOUPEES.

STEEPLECHASES (14D: They present hurdles) was unexpected, TOPOTHEMORNIN (15D: Cork opener?) was hilarious, and I think that the clue for PAS (35D: They bring speakers into the classroom, briefly) was brilliant. Even with the "briefly."

I don't have much energy today, because earlier my wife closed on the sale of her childhood home. We have been working long hours for the past several weeks to clean it out, and tonight she and I went out for drinks. Not to celebrate, exactly, because the occasion is more sad than celebratory, but to mark an ending.

So anyway, I don't feel much like saying that TEATREE (which grows, apparently, in Queensland, Australia) seems an odd entry, or that I'm tired of words like ARTIEST (16A: Most pretentious), or even that GUSSET (63A: Cloth insert) was a welcome surprise. I just. can't. even. As the kids are saying.

1A: Blows (SHOCKS) gets a B, because it reminds one of the "thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to," and that's just the kind of mood I'm in. And speaking of that, conscience, unfortunately for you, does not make coward enough of me not to publish such a self-indulgent "review."

See you tomorrow. Horace out.

- H

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, Matthew Sewell

0:07:06 (F.W.O.E.)

The sport of basketball is featured today, and the actions of one of its "dynamic" plays are represented with "block," "rebound," "pass," "dribble," and "shoot." That's how a FASTBREAK usually goes, and I find the sequence to be adequately evocative, so thumbs up there.

There sure is a lot of theme material (62 squares!), and several down entries pass through three (!) theme answers. Three of those four are fine, good even, in the cases of ANECDOTAL (10D: Not based on fact or research) and SIDEORDER (31D: Fries or slaw, usually), but SURETE (21D: ____ du Québec), on the other hand, is very obscure. Its cross SECADA (21A: Jon with the 1992 hit "Just another day") is even more difficult (to me anyway), and I argue that neither is crossword-worthy. OK, maybe on a Saturday, but not Wednesday. I stared at that square for quite a while, and even when running the alphabet it took me more than a moment to prounounce "sûreté" properly. Very, very tough.

Is it all worth it? Maybe. The theme answers are ok. Many platform sandals have a wedge heel, but some have a BLOCKHEEL, and SHOOTEMUPS put me in mind more of Halo and Grand Theft Auto than the much more innocent Space Invaders and Asteroids, but, well... Oh, ok, I'll say it. The cluing was not entirely to my liking! Whew.

There are, however, good non-theme entries, like PALOOKAS, CABARETS, HADAGO (11D: Tried one's luck), ITSON (14A: "Game time!"), and UTURN (54A: One-eighty). For once it's not "uey."

UPC (1A: Scanned bars, for short) gets a C-. I don't know why it's not a D, but it's not. Overall, the puzzle's not bad, but that one square kind of soured me on it.

- Horace

p.s. And speaking of that, is "soured me on it" or "soured it for me" better? The latter seems to make more sense, but the former came to my mind first. Grammar nerds, ITSON!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017, Timothy Polin


CARRIE FISHER tribute puzzle today from Mr. Polin. It's a little odd (ok, kind of a lot odd) to have her quote broken up such that the second part comes after the final part, and the WANKENOBI line is especially unfortunate on its own, but I'm going to give it all a pass ("This is not the criticism you're looking for..." I hear Mr. Polin telling me...), because, come on, it's CARRIE FISHER!

Lots of theme material, and a couple tie-in clues: 5D: "____ a trap!" (ITS) and 10D: Makeup of the planet Hoth (ICE). Of course, with all the theme come entries like MOTHY (64A: Like old, neglected sweaters, maybe), ALPE (24D: Mont Blanc, e.g., to locals), and ALLEE (67A: Tree-lined walkway, in France), but what are you going to do?

I like FETTLE (50D: In fine ____ (healthy)) and CRUX (16A: Essential point) and ADLIB (8D: Deal with a broken teleprompter, say). Not sure what to think of SODOI (44A: "Same here!"), TILNOW (47D: So far, informally), ONARUN (29A: Hitting blackjack after blackjack, say), and WINSAT (45A: Is victorious in). I guess I like the first two better than the last two. My favorite clue/answer is 56D: Real head-turners? (OWLS), plural and all. 1A: When Polonius says "Brevity is the soul of wit" (ACTII) gets a D+. The plus is for Hamlet.

Overall, it's a (hastily constructed - it's only three weeks since she died) tribute puzzle for a beloved screen icon. Perfect Tuesday fare.

- Horace

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017, John Wrenholt


One, two, three, SIXWAYSTOSUNDAY! A fun theme, and a nice reminder of Frannie's mom, who used to use that expression. The three themers adding up to the revealer are solid, although some may argue that THREEWAYTIE is a tad ad hoc.

There are many quality bits of fill in this one: TOPSECRET (14A: Highly classified) is fun, and PINGPONG (45A: Table tennis) ought to please Mr. Fob as much as it must please Mr. Shortz himself, as I know both of those men enjoy the game. There's the nutty cross of PEANUTS and PECAN, with BEECH in symmetry at the bottom, and at the bottom, a TREESTUMP. I like GETBUSY (46D: "Hop to it!") and EATUP (26D: Readily accept) for their colloquialness.

Starting with SHO (1A: "Penny Dreadful" channel, for short) (D) is unfortunate, and there's EDUC, ASST, OED, SEL, and a few other bits of the usual glue, but overall, I thought this a good Monday, and especially good for a debut! I'll look forward to seeing Mr. Wrenholt's byline on a Tuesday next, as he works his way through the week.

- Horace

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017, Joel Fagliano


If there's one thing we like here at Horace and Frannie and Colum, it's wacky cluing, and when you throw grammar into the mix, it's better still. FUTUREPERFECT (24A: Utopia?) is brilliant, SENTENCESTRUCTURE (103A: Jailhouse?) is also strong, and INDEFINITEARTICLE (31A: Piece still under consideration for a magazine?) is pretty good. Some of the others seem a little forced, but only OBJECTIVECASE (113A: The Prada that one really wants?) is objectionable.

In addition to the fun theme, I enjoyed many of the non-theme clues today, starting with SCISSOR (1A: Kind of kick) (B+), which was both unexpected and evocative. In fact, that whole top row is strong. SEASALT (8A: Product of evaporation) is one of my favorite things, and I love the misdirection (for regular crossword solvers) of 15A: Apple product (CIDER). It's not a hidden capital, it's a false capital! What!?

29A: Packers' grp.? (NRA) is funny-ish, SLOG (48A: Interminable task) is nice and modern, and I like the symmetrical PROPPLANES (97A: Fleet for many a commuter airline) and YELLOWFLAG (42A: Signal meaning "no disease on this ship") (interesting trivia alert). And right near that first one is the amusing "102A: Specimen, for example: Abbr." (SYN). Tricky!

It's a big puzzle with a lot of good stuff. This is my favorite Sunday in a while.

- Horace

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017, Andrew Kingsley


A very fast Turn for me this week, with all three puzzles coming in under fifteen minutes. I've been very busy with other thoughts, and perhaps having so many active thoughts clears the mind, in a way, or at least opens a little wider the channels of thought. I'm not sure I'm explaining this well, but I'm thinking of how Glenn Gould said that he had a breakthrough while practicing piano in a room where someone was running a vacuum cleaner. I think he frequently practiced with a vacuum cleaner running beside him after that. Of course, he was a world-famous genius, and maybe these were just slightly easier puzzles than normal. Either way, I think Glenn Gould and I are pretty much identical.

Did I mention that I've been working a lot and I'm tired? ...

So anyway, this was another solid puzzle. Attractive grid - maybe a tad tight getting into the NE and SW, but the long pins, GRASSSTAINS (10D: They often turn knees green) and HAREBRAINED (22D: Cockamamie) are good, and the corners are wide open.

1A: Back in (RETROCHIC) gets an A-. It's a fun start, and it was one of the last things I put in. I had RE_R... for a while, and I got caught up thinking of "rear-something," as if you were backing up a car. Also, that CRAPS/SPRAT (19A: Anchovy or sand eel) cross was my final square, and for it I had to run the alphabet in my head. I love anchovies, but I had never heard the term SPRAT before. I like learning it, though, just as I liked learning of the pulse food group from crossword puzzles a couple years ago.

Love SPATE (55A: Run), and THEPOPE (40D: Obviously Catholic person, in a snarky rhetorical question) makes another appearance today (after being invoked by "Popemobile" yesterday), but really, what else could that have been?

Overall, maybe a little too easy for a Saturday, but no big complaints.

- Horace

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017, Andrew J. Ries


I love the trivia in "19D: The first one was a modified Ford D-Series truck" (POPEMOBILE). Hah! And PARODYACCOUNT (39A: @fakechucknorris.com) is hilarious. ("I make onions cry.") But BUYERSREMORSE (35A: New homeowner's feeling, maybe) seems wrong. When we bought our house we were very happy! Isn't everyone? Buyer's remorse comes with impulse buys, doesn't it? Anyway, that's just one little thing. Most of this is great!

RYEWHISKY (36D: George Dickel product) was tricky, because George Dickel is probably the only whiskey maker outside of Scotland who spells it without an "e," and 38D: Some French votes (OUIS) could just as well have been "nons." And I don't know about you, but I was having a hard time coming up with a U.S. president who wrote plays, but I never thought to think of other countries'  presidents (HAVEL).

41A: Updated art? (ARE) made me LOL, even though I've seen that type of thing before. Overall, I really enjoyed this. I'm afraid I'm too tired today to give it the review it deserves, but I hope you liked it too.

- Horace

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017, Joe Krozel


Wellity, wellity, wellity.... I'm pretty sure I've never seen a grid like this. BUS/TED APART, as it were. BRO/KEN INTWO. And the third (what I'll call) theme entry BAN/ANA SPLIT made me LOL.
It was a strange solving experience. Our colleague Mr. Amory is wont to complain about tight passageways between sections of a puzzle, but today we have a complete divide, only bridged by the continuity of the theme answers, which themselves have their first word broken. As you might have noticed, it went rather quickly for me today, despite the oddness, but it sure was fun while it lasted.

I liked the fill a lot. TAXICAB (17A: Its distance is measured within a meter) is remarkably clever, I like the word IKEBANA (18A: Japanese flower-arranging art), and wish I could have remembered it without crosses, 38A: Throw on the floor (AREARUG) is another strong clue, and I enjoyed THENORM (40A: How things typically are) too. I don't know about you, but I was surprised by NEIGHED for "55A: Called from a stall, say," and was thinking more along the lines of "Any paper over there?"

I could go on and on. 21D: Subject of an old wives' tale? (HUSBAND) got an LOL, and the bonus 15 TRANSISTORRADIO (11D: It could carry a tune in the 1950s) got a smile, too. I love the word AWEIGH (39D: Out of bed, in a way?), but I'm not entirely sure I understand the clue, and MASERS (42D: Atomic clock components) I am entirely sure I don't understand.

Overall, I liked this a lot. I even smiled at TPING (32D: Pulling a prank outside a house), and the somewhat pedestrian BUS (1A: Route follower) gets a B, even though it is part of the theme. That's just the kind of good mood I'm in.

- Horace

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, Peter A. Collins


I wondered if today were some kind of anniversary, but no, WATSON and CRICK's article was published in April. Also, while looking for that date, I learned that they did not discover DNA, but rather discovered its DOUBLE HELIX structure. Nice, by the way, that those first four bold words are found symmetrically in the puzzle. The swirl of "DNA" down the center is also lovely.

The structure of the puzzle, however, strains a bit. ACNED (29D: Spotted at the prom, perhaps?), despite its cute clue, is pretty ugly, and ERO, ENDOBANOS (36A: Spanish baths), ACOP, and MDLI are all less than great.

On the other hand, ARACHNID (20A: Scorpion, for one) is strong, BRINDISI (36D: Port city at one terminus of the Appian Way) is great trivia, and STUBBY is fun, as are the clues for WED (41D: Enter an altared state?) and ROIS (16A: 18 Louises). That last one was news to me. I thought they would have stopped with the "Louis" name after #16 got his head cut off.

Some entries, like REALGNP, AGREESTO, TENACE, and DECEASE seem a little bland, but one can't really complain too much about that, can one? At least I'm not going to, because I'm hoping that Mr. Collins will buy me a couple PILSNERS in Stamford if he comes east again for the ACPT this year. Is that wrong?

- Horace

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017, David Poole


Everybody loves a word ladder, right? That the beginning and end are opposites (BLACK (unrated)/WHITE) makes this one especially nice, and Mr. Poole manages to work in a double-revealer of sorts by giving both names of a common game. Very nice.

All the five-letter words (nine of them!) constrain the board a bit, but I think he's done a good job of keeping things reasonably decent. Outliers include LEMAT (2D: Actor Paul of "American Graffiti"), ICAHN (28D: Corporate raider Carl), TEY (46D: Josephine who wrote "The Daughter of Time"), AMERCES (25A: Slaps with a court fine), and DANELAW (42D: Rules in force in England before the Norman conquest). Not exactly what I think of as early week fare.

Still, there are some quality non-theme answers. SLAPDASH (41A: Haphazard) is great, KISSERS (10D: Mouths, slangily) is good (I tried to fit in "pie holes," but alas...), and STRETCH (19D: Something to do immediately after waking up) is fun. And I like how OTHELLO was turned into a mini-Shakespeare theme with GENTLEMEN (58A: Twosome in a Shakespeare title) and ELSINORE (27A: Where "Hamlet" opens).

OK, as I look around, I keep seeing things like EPH, MII, GENL, LOCOS, SEV (very weak), EEO, TEL, and REBAG. So there were a lot of compromises. Still, somehow, I like the theme, and it's not all bad. I know, I know, sounds like faint praise, and it's as though the central entry (STALE) is calling out for reviewers to pick it out and run with it, but for some reason I still liked it.

- Horace

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017, Neville Fogarty


I'm all too familiar with bed frames recently, as Frannie and I have been trying to empty out her family's seven-bedroom home. And somehow there were even more beds than bedrooms!

Today's puzzle runs through the standard bedframe sizes, Twin, Full, Queen, and King, using four well-known answers. The first, TWINPEAKS (17A: 1990s TV series about a murder in a town in Washington) is the weakest, because A, the show is 25 years old, and B, that show was set in Washington? Which one was it that was set in Alaska?

The theme is fine. Mr. Fogarty went a little heavy on the French today, with CREPE, EPEE, NEEADIEU, ETRE, and the third-person singular subjunctive form AIT. I'd almost rather it be (see what I did there? I used third-person singular subjunctive...) clued as a small island. At least that would appear in an English dictionary. Anyway, seems a little rough for a Monday. Especially with the somewhat tricky cluing of GOATHERD (9D: Job that might involve watching the kids?). Nice answer, though, GOATHERD.

Other bright spots include QUACK (49D: Phony doc) (Colum, does the profession use this word? Or is it taboo?), SKELETON (28A: Exhibit in an anatomy class), and the possibly controversial BOYTOY (42A: Young male viewed as a sex object). 1A: AIRS (Puts on TV or radio) gets a D+. The puzzle overall, though, is more of a wash. Good theme, some good fill, kind of a lot of NOAA, ALA, ICES ... and I've never really believed that NERTS (12D: "Rats!") is a real expression.

- Horace

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday, January 8, 2017, Peter Broda and Erik Agard


Yesterday I started my review by saying that a pleasing grid shape can influence how I feel about a puzzle. Another thing that can sway me is a good title, and when I read today's, I couldn't wait to dig in and find out what it meant. It turned out that the trick was to simply follow the instructions and "downsize" by using only the first initial of the first name and concatenating with the last name to make a new word. Thus: "The downsizing of names."

The answer that gave it to me was the amusingly-clued PROSEPOETRY (31A: "Charlie Hustle is my name / I am banned from the Hall of Fame," e.g.?). Once you know what's going on, some of them give the first letter away, like 20A: Things smoked by singer Courtney? (CLOVECIGARETTES), but I didn't really mind that. The theme entries are all pretty good. I didn't know what CHANDLERBING was, but I looked it up and it seems to have been a character on the show "Friends." MALIEMPIRE seemed a bit odd, but it's hard to criticize anything having to do with Muhammed Ali, so I'll let it slide.

The non-theme fill was quite good, I thought. The top half of URLHIJACKING (58D: Underhanded use of someone else's domain name) looks amazing in the grid, and its symmetrical pairing HARRYHOUDINI is also strong. Other highlights include MINOTAUR (83D: Figure at the center of a maze), PERJURE (67D: Forswear), DANK (54A: Cold and wet), LEOTARD (92D: Trampolinist's wear), and KIDNEYS (30D: Nephrologists study them). Who knew?

Sure, we've got the usual bits of glue, like CTA, ERM, GENL, SEGO, SSNS, and EXS (but it is "Ex's" in the song title), but I don't mind. This was a quality Sunday puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017, Roland Huget


I'll tell you one thing, I'm a sucker for a pretty grid. When I opened this up this morning I was predisposed toward it before filling in a single answer. And when they did start getting filled in (I think STALE (19A: Overused) was my first entry) I still liked it!

But let's get the iffy stuff out of the way first. I wanted "flap" instead of SLAT (26A: Plane wing part), and SOFABED's clue, "All-weather convertible?," seems a little too cute, doesn't it? EMME (53D: Model who wrote the 1996 book "True Beauty") is unknown to me (not really a problem), and then there's ARIL, ANILINE, and URU, which are what Jeff Chen likes to call "glue." And that's about it for iffy.

As for the good stuff, there's almost too much to mention. First, as I said, the grid shape. Lovely. Then there's SPACETIME, AREWEGOOD, MASSEUR (1D: One pressing the flesh), INTHEBAG (8D: Assured), LOVESET (24D: Court blowout), WHATIFS (37D: Thoughts of wishful thinkers), ANGELIC (12D: Not merely good), ACQUIRE (15A: Pick up), PEERAGE (13D: Aristocracy), DEFINED (45A: In the dictionary, say) (maybe my favorite clue), and CAPRICES (33A: Vagaries). And that's just all I'm going to write down. You may have other favorites. 1A: Barbecue chef's coat (MEATRUB) I'll give a B-. I don't love it, but at least they tried to make it tricky.

Solid end to a Turn that picked up steam as it went along.

- Horace

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017, Jacob Stulberg


Nice, tough Friday puzzle! That NW corner took me at least half the time today, and I had to put it down and come back to it several times before finally taking out "Jean Arp" and putting in the alternate HANSARP. Very tricky! Then, somehow, OVERTHEMOON (1A: Thrilled) (B) came clear. Did you notice that "tickled pink" fits into those squares exactly? I sure did. It was my first entry and I was loath to take it out.

Also in that corner, the "ones" part of TIPSONESHAT is routinely maligned by crossword reviewers, and RESOD (4D: Maintain, in a way, as a lawn) is not only a weak word, but I feel the clue is almost misleading, as it's more of a renewal than a maintenance chore, isn't it? VAINER and OCTANT are also less-than-ideal. In fact, the whole corner is a bit MESSY, so I don't feel so bad about spending so much time up there.

The SE, on the other hand, is quite nice. We've got AGEOFREASON (55A: Period following the Renaissance), the bowling combo of SPARE and BOWLASTRIKE, and the Huygens-ready LEWD (51D: Blue). I also enjoyed THESIS (43D: Argument) and FLAGON (41D: Mead holder).

Elsewhere, there's the nice "Healthy/Unhealthy" pairing of FIT and ILL, the lovely word AEOLIAN (29A: Windblown) (but I'm guessing that E will be a tough get for many), and I'm always happy to see my NERD friend AMES in the grid.

Overall, kind of a mixed bag, but I like the challenge, and I like more than I dislike. You?

- Horace

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017, Ed Sessa


Kind of a quick Thursday to start The Turn. The revealer gives us two choices, and I'll take the latter "blackjack" to describe the theme, which is that the word "jack" is assumed to be represented in asterisked clues by a black square. As in YOUDONTKNOW[JACK], [JACK]PINE, and [JACK]OFALLTRADES. It's too bad that "jack vey" and "tar jack" aren't things, because then every time a black square were used to mean "jack" it would be consistent with all Across answers. But one can't have everything, can one.

There's a lot of theme material, and I think the fill suffers somewhat. 1A: Half of a Wall Street firm since 1882 (SACHS) gets an F, largely because they probably shouldn't be a firm anymore, and might not be were it not for the kindness of the U.S. Government. TILER is weak, MMI, INICE, INKER, ACUT, REWOVEN, ENDON, UIE, BYS... I don't mean to TAR it as a whole, but it does seem like there's a lot of meh-terial™ today.

My favorite entry is probably EMPTYSUIT (11D: Ineffectual exec). Most interesting factoid goes to 36D: Company for which about one in eight U.S. workers has worked (MCDONALDS). Most obscure proper name, 50D: William ____, physician who championed bedside training (OSLER). Wikipedia elaborates on the name, giving the impressive-sounding "Sir William Osler, 1st Baronet." He was one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and created the first residency program. I'm guessing our (no longer a) resident MD, Colum, will have needed few, if any crosses.

- Horace

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017, Samuel A. Donaldson


We here at Horace and Frances and Colum enjoy a good pun as much as, no ... ok, probably more, than most people, but I have to say that as I get on in years, I like thinking about the dentist less and less. Well, I suppose I can't pin it all on the poor dentist, but to blame it more correctly on my aging teeth just leads to further examination of my aging self, and that's no way to start a Wednesday morning!

photo: Bob O'Connor        http://boboconnor.net

So anyway, there are four puns today. I'm not really familiar with a BRIDGELOAN, but the other three are fine. I enjoyed BRUSHPILES (45A: The dentist sorted all the bristled instruments into ... ) even with its tortured clue, and the final one YOUKNOWTHEDRILL (58A: When it was time for the filling, the dentist asked for, well, ... ) was the best. Ha! Puns.

I give 1A: Bee ball? (SWARM) an A. Interesting word, humorously clued. Just what I'm always asking for. I get it at the cost of AGRI and RESLIDE (4D: Decline again), but, well, sometimes you have to give a little to get a little, right?

Not a whole heluva lot of sizzling fill, but SPHERE, AGILITY, CRACKUP, and GOKAPUT are fun, and I love the clue for NBA (39A: Org. that prohibits traveling)! It's a foul, get it?! HAahahaha... Furthermore, AIRCREW, RUNWAY, and CHEZ are particularly appropriate today, since Frannie and I just booked a flight last night!

Sure, there's plenty of AARP, OYEZ, ERST, and ABS, but there's also light-hearted cluing (1D: Loose change "collector" (SOFA), 36A: Heads for the bar? (FOAMS), and 19D: Good name for a plaintiff? (SUE) for example), so I rate this a perfectly fine Wednesday.

Or maybe I'm just in a good mood about that trip...

- Horace

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017, Michael Shteyman


Given the revealer of ATANDT (44D: Communications giant ... or a possible title of this puzzle), you'd maybe expect three-word theme answers beginning with those letters, or answers having only one A and two Ts, in that order, but instead we have two answers with two As and three Ts, and one with exactly one A and two Ts. The answers themselves are fine, good even, in the case of ATOMICTHEORY (54A: Basis of particle physics), but overall, it's not a strong theme. Or am I missing something?
1A: Misgiving (QUALM), on the other hand, gets a strong B+. If it were at all humorous it would be in the As. And maybe it ought to be an A- anyway... I'll leave that up to you.

The fill has a number of better-than-average bits - VECTOR, NAPALM (35A: Incendiary weapon), HOAX, TRENCHES (38D: Soldiers' digs?) (Ha!), and KOALA are nice. Less nice are ELHI, APTNO, UAE, and IMET. I actually don't mind the common "name + roman numeral" convention, especially when, as here, the clue makes it worthwhile: LEOVII (34D: Pope said to have died from a heart attack while in bed with his mistress). Is that considered "pre-marital," "extra-marital," or something else? ... Why does anyone pay any attention to the Pope at all?

Didn't love HOODOO (46D: Bringer of bad luck), and would have preferred "voodoo," of course. LORAIN (42A: Ohio city on Lake Erie) and SPITZ (10D: Pointy-eared dog) were completely new to me, but crossed fairly.

Overall, not perfect, but not terrible.

- Horace

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017, Chuck Deodene


The party never stops at the NYTX! Today's grid has a rather elegant circle theme falling in comforting symmetry from left to right through the grid: "fest," "gala," "bash," and "fête." We'll let it slide that the first and last are the exact same word in different languages, because the repetition seems so appropriate for a "new year's" celebration. The revealer, PARTYDOWN, is nicely set off in the center, and the theme-encapsulating answers are all quite strong. So thumbs up there.

I wonder if 4D: Three on a grandfather clock (III) could be thought to be theme-related? Not theme, of course, but it does show a strong verticality. And it would have been very easy to change GENE (59A: It's made up of DNA) to "René," which would have allowed for "RRR" ("Elementary school basics?") in a spot symmetrical to III. I think that could have been a nice touch, but perhaps others would have found it too confusing/distracting.

The rest plays something like a themeless, with a few flashy bits like STIFLE (44A: Hold back, as a yawn), EPITAPH (60A: Message that might end "R.I.P."), and the plural CICADAS (65A: 17-year insects). There's also the possibly inflammatory AHSO (58D: "I understand," facetiously), a smattering of OPIE, OBOE, SRA, ASA and the like, and 1A: Leatherworker's tool (AWL) is not particularly gripping (D+. I like the word, and the tool, but still...), but overall, I thought this was a very good Monday.

I did not recognize Mr. Deodene's name, and I learned from xwordinfo.com that he has not had a puzzle in the Times for five years, but that this is his 39th to date. So while he certainly is not new, he is new to me. Here's hoping it won't be another five years before we see his byline again.

- Horace

p.s. I wrote this in a comment a couple days ago, but then I thought that it might be seen by more people if I included it in the body of a review instead, so I repost it here:

A sincere thank you to Mr. Shortz and all the puzzle constructors. And another thank you to you, Mr. Amory, for sharing with me the pleasure and the burden of pounding out a puzzle review every single day of the year. I don't know how long it will continue, but I'm still having fun and I hope you are too. And finally, thank you, our readers. We wish you continued fun, challenging, and satisfying puzzle-solving in 2017, on computer or on paper, and in real life!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2016, Matthew Sewell


Happy New Year, Dear Reader! Welcome to 2017, which starts, in the crossword world at least, with a laugh.

Six, two-word theme answers, each having an aisle, or aisles, and in the "aisle" between the two words, we have a "HA" rebus that works with the cross. It's all symmetrical, it runs horizontally and vertically, and, well, it's pretty well done. I'm with Colum today, and he initially liked it better than I did, but he's argued his case successfully, and I give it a thumbs up.

Continuing with our practice of rating the first clue and answer of every puzzle, I give MOOCHED (1A: Sponged) a solid B+. It stays in the Bs because I don't particularly like the word or the action, but still, it's interesting and unusual. There are other very nice bits of fill today like AVALANCHE (16D: Winter fall?), YODELED (52D: Made peak calls?), and TOUSLE (112A: Muss up). But as usual, there are also concessions to be borne as well, like CANTI (63D: "Pretty please?"), CUGAT (63A: "That Latin Beat!" bandleader) (Who? Oh, right, it was that 1957 release...), NTH, ETES, TSU, AORTAE, and a few other things.

But on balance, there's more good than bad, and we could all use a little chuckle, right?

- Horace