Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017, Ed Sessa


Ha! and double ha! (also known as ha ha).

I was quite surprised by the twist of today's puzzle's theme. It's not what you expect on a Monday, so how nice to be thrown for a loop on the first puzzle of the month.

So, it's Colum back again for a month of reviews. I have quite the act(s) to follow from the last two months. I like it though. It's pushing us to reach higher and higher.

Our French themed puzzle today features the headless former queen, [M]ARIEANTOINETTE. I sussed the theme of the puzzle when I entered LETTHEMEATCAKE, and given the cross reference to 41A, I immediately dropped down to enter her name in, thinking smugly just how quickly this puzzle was going to go when two long answers were so quick to go in.

But it didn't fit.

So I loved the self-referential "revealer" at 47A: Something committed by 41-Across ... or by this puzzle's creator? (CAPITALOFFENSE). So funny! The initial capital of the beheaded monarch's name has been removed...

Anyway, there's a fair amount of French scattered in the grid, including LIS, ESPRIT, COUP, and of course, PEPE Le Pew, the famous French skunk. I thought for a while ISOLDE might be French as well (I've also seen her name as Iseult), but it turns out she's Irish.

There's not a lot of sparkle in the fill. I count 12 names of people (and animals), of which 8 are male, and 4 female. OHAIR wins for the most obscure. She lived from 1919 to 1995, and founded American Atheists, so my hat's off to her.

1A: Bouts, as of crying (JAGS): C-. Bit of a downer to start the puzzle.
Fave: 26D: Prefix relating to sleep (HYPNO) - I'm not usually a fan of prefix clues, but I love the terms hypnogogic (relating to the state immediately after falling asleep) and hypnopompic (relating to the state immediately prior to waking up).
Least fave: PETERI. Never a fan of these roman numerals extending a name to make it work in the puzzle. My guess is that Tsar Peter never used a roman numeral, not least because he was the first tsar of his name.

- Colum

Sunday, April 30, 2017, Alan Arbesfeld


Frannie may quibble over an accident of birth, but I am a New Englander. (At the very least, I claim dual citizenship.) And specifically, I am from Massachusetts. I delight in the regional accent, but bristle when I hear it attempted in movies (it's never right), and often when I see it attempted in wordplay. This is not the Boston accent. It might, actually, be closer to the Down East accent, but I do not claim to be an expert on that. Now Frannie's relatives - they could weigh in here, if any of them had access to the internet, that is... :)

So my personal issues aside, let's talk about the non-theme material. I thought it had quite a bit of glue-y content today. NOU (7D: ____-turn), CCL, MAU (95A: Egyptian ____ (spotted cat breed), INE, INASTAC, STRTRINIK, and longer stuff like ASLOPE (31A: Inclined) (said no one, ever), APISH (28D: Imitative) (ditto), and ETALII (27A: Roster shortener) (wrote almost no one, ever, since Roman times).

1A: Part of a crossword (GRID) - C+. The plus for the meta-ness.
Favorite: Believe it or not, my favorite might be SPA, because of its novel clue: 120D: Spring for a vacation?" But I also enjoyed "59A: Worn things" (GARB)
Least: ITSMYPOTTY (119A: Toddler's cry upon entering the bathroom?). Just no.

On the bright side, we have COALESCE (10D: Come together), EPHEMERA (73A: Short-lived things), AMOROUS (53D: In the mood), and DOUSES (105A: Puts out), but I just don't like the theme. It almost requires that you say the new words in a Boston accent to even make it close - like "LOWCOBDIET, for instance. If you say it using an "aw" sound for the O of "cob," you get who knows what, but if you use "ah," you get closer to the desired effect. But then that doesn't work at all for ACALLTOOMS because nobody would say "a call to 'ah'ms" would they? Oh, I don't know... maybe I'm sitting to close to the fire.

Anyway, I'm sad to go out on a sour note, but, well, that's the way it is. Colum is back tomorrow after what seems like an eternity, and I'll see you again in a month or two. Until then, Happy Puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017, Martin Ashwood-Smith


A pleasing pinwheel of a puzzle today, with just enough DEADGIVEAWAYs to allow me to get started quickly in the North, before slowing down down South. BBC (4A: English channel) led to BTU (4D: About 252 cals.) and BELG (5D: Like M. Poirot), and though none of that is particularly spectacular, it eventually gave way to the smile-inducing THEATEAM (13A: Hannibal's men) and the always welcome MEACULPA (17A: Fault line?). Did you notice that that phrase is both Latin and English? ... whatever that means...

Over on the other side of the top, RATA (9D: Pro ____) gave ARABIA (16A: 1962 Best Picture setting) which gave the lovely ABATTOIR (10D: Slaughterhouse) ("No, no, it's just that we wanted a block of flats, not an abattoir.").

In the middle we have crossing staggered entries making a sort of diamond shape. My favorite is DILLYDALLIES (32A: Dawdles), but the rest are all pretty good. I don't know from GEORGESMILEY (36A: Fictional spy who first appeared in "Call for the Dead"), but I'm sure others will. Not being much of a reader sometimes makes things difficult. My second-to-last square today was the S of STINE (43A: Writer with the given names Robert Lawrence) and SENSE. I ran the alphabet there (yes, Mr. Berman, it does work sometimes!) and stopped whenever I could make a sensible word. "Import" is a very tricky clue for SENSE, but STINE seemed plausible, so I went with it. My last square was another S - of SDS (54D: New Left org.) and YES (58A: Fist pumper's cry). I thought the latter could be "YEa," but I guess SDS rang a bit of a bell, so when I got the "Congratulations!" window, I said "YES!"

Some Saturday-ish entries like OOSPORES, LOESS, EKING, TIRANA, and the classic GEE, but also enough fun stuff - EAUDEVIESETASIDE (34D: Table), SHEESH (2D: "Jeez Louise!") and SCRAWL (7A: It's poorly written), for example, to make for a satisfying Saturday solve.

- Horace

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017, David Steinberg


There's a story about Glenn Gould discovering that he could practice piano most efficiently while there was a vacuum cleaner running in the same room. And just yesterday, frequent-commenter Mr. Berman posted a very good solve time despite repeated interruptions from his boss. Well, today, as I worked on this puzzle, Frannie was switching back and forth between the Nightly Business Report and Charlie Rose, and as it turned out, I plowed through it like a bulldozer through sand. Sure, at the ACPT I was annoyed beyond distraction by the clicking of a camera shutter - maybe what would have been better is if the person sitting next to me had been watching TV. (Don't even think about it, Berman.)

And so what do I remember? A generally positive reaction. I loved WHATADUMP (17A: "This place looks horrible!"), and that phrase is, sadly, kind of appropriate for the ACROPOLIS (14A: Literally, "highest city") (really? it's not just "high city?"). No, that's too strong. Even in RUNES, err... ruins, the ACROPOLIS is still amazing.

There was some hesitation about whether an A or an E were needed in GENTLEMENSCLUB (19A: Site where top hats and canes might be checked at the door), but finally, MIME (7D: Act out) gave the answer. I enjoyed the informality of GODEEP (30A: Throw a long football pass), the formality of WONT (61A: Practice) (which my dad is wont to say). 10D: Bottom of the sea? (HULL) brought a smile, CITYMAP (39D: Concierge's handout), too, made me smile, as I remembered receiving these in so many different cities... ahh, travel... CRANNY, SKORT, STOOP, ... lots of good stuff.

1A: Cuckoo (DAFT)... hmmm, I don't know. How about a B. DAFT is a decent word.
Favorite: TINE (37A: Food sticker). I think I needed three crosses!
Least: XERO (51D: Prefix with -graphic) This is crossword-worthy?

There was some glue - ENTR, ANI, SSN, MSS... - but nothing egregious. Overall, I liked this one quite a bit.

- Horace

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017, Todd Gross


I don't know about you, but I'm perfectly happy keeping my puzzle types separate. I don't particularly need a SUDOKU PUZZLE in the CENTRAL SQUARES of my crossword puzzle. But I will say that it was only because I know how to do SUDOKU puzzles that I was able to get HERAT (25D: Afghanistan's third-largest city). Say "New York's third-largest city" and you've probably stumped me. Move it to Afghanistan, and it might as well be letter salad. (See what I did there? I adapted something I learned about just days ago!)

I enjoyed the "sentence" answers IHATEYOU (65A: Cross words) and MEFIRST (66A: Like a selfish attitude), NAUTICAL (15A: Seafaring) is exciting, FANTASIA is classic, and ANTEATERS (16D: Animals whose tongues flick about 150 times a minute) was interesting, if gross. 

I was not familiar with steak DIANE, and today saw a new (to me anyway) clue for ONO (55A: Hawaiian fish with a palindromic name), so that was something. But the cluing for some things, like DFLAT (38A: Note just above C) and ITERATE (31A: Do over and over) seemed a bit DFLAT. 

1A: Thematic. Not graded.
Favorite: KEY (45A: Manual opener). Clever! I kept wanting something like "step one" or "how to..."
Least: I guess, NUM (15: ____ Lock (neighbor of Page Up), but really, that's got a decent-ish clue, and nothing was really that bad.

I do, however, have a bone to pick, as it were, with the clue for ULNA (13D: Part of the body whose name is both English and Latin). That's a little like cluing "silhouette" with "portrait style whose name is both English and French." Sure, it's in English dictionaries, but it's a loan-word. There are thousands of them. And what's more, there are several body parts that are essentially Latin words. I don't know... it just seemed a little language-nerd-pandering. Is that even a thing?

But really, I think this puzzle was fine. 

- Horace

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017, Trenton Charlson

0:08:15 (F.W.O.E.)

In the late 1980s, Ernest and Julio Gallo put out a series of commercials that seemed to be on TV all the time. My brothers and I frequently mimicked (mocked?) the people in them, and sometimes, even today, when tasting a new wine, we will exclaim "Ahh... Gallo!" even though it is not - was not and never will be - a Gallo wine. It is for this reason that I cannot believe I was stumped by 42A: Grenache, for one (VINROSE). But 35D: Degree of expertise in martial arts (DAN) was no help, so I tried something other than an N at first, before running the alphabet and kicking myself.

Other than that, though, this was a pretty good puzzle with an unusual DOSEQUIS theme. I got REDDFOXX (17A: "Sanford and Son" star of 1970s TV) right away, but didn't know NEXXUS as a "High-end shampoo brand," so it wasn't until EXXONMOBIL that I started to think about the theme.  The revealer finally gave it away, and then TJMAXX and ANTIVAXXER (38A: Shot blocker?) (Tricky!) became clear.

I like the staggered sevens and eights falling through the middle. BAGHDAD (44D: Second-largest Arabic-speaking city after Cairo) gets a good trivia clue, GONDOLAS is lovely, and ARRIVING is fine, and I'm looking forward to sitting in a BOXSEAT at Fenway on Sunday night!

A few bits of RIA, ANNO, ORU, AGGRO and MADERA (Ma-where-a?), but we've also got ELIXIR, APEXAM, NSFW, AVIARY, and POX! It's a debut puzzle, and it's a good one. Congratulations!

- Horace

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017, Gary J. Whitehead

0:08:12 (F.W.O.E.)

Six theme answers today, plus a revealer! Home-body, home guard (?), home game, homeboy, home computer, home port... you get the picture. Some are definitely better than others, but with so much theme material, I suppose that's only natural. My mistake came when I guessed that the smallest NATO member might be Ireland (it's ICELAND), so I ended up with some "home ire." Heh.

Some of the fill, too, was better than other. Take MENT (14A: Suffix with refresh or replace), or HELOT (16A: Spartan serf), for example. That first is pretty weak, and the second is some deep Greek! And for what? MENT crosses REORG and ANDIE, which both cross EGESTS, and while I applaud the courage to reference "Dawson's Creek," I think that all that just to get "homebody" and "home guard" (whatever that is) might not be worth it.

I liked NUZZLES (26D: Shows some affection), but that crosses SEZ, ZZZ, and LII. And elsewhere we find ONER (47A: Long, single take, in filmmaking)? COS (60A: Stock listings: Abbr.). IMAGO (53D: Insect stage)? and ZIA (41D: 1980s Pakistani president)? Sheesh! I usually don't like to be overly negative about a puzzle, but that's a lot of ... let's say, unusual entries.

1A: Country invaded in 2003 (IRAQ) - C+, elevated slightly because it uses the word "invaded," which paints us as the aggressor nation that we often are.
Favorite: PRIORY (29D: Religious abode). Good word.
Least: PAH (65D: Part of a tuba's sound). Oom.

I found this one rough. I've heard that some find this kind of theme to be pretty much played out, so I guess the thinking is that if you have a ton of theme, that will make it more worthwhile. I'm not sure that works out in the end.

- Horace

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017, Gary Cee


There are a lot of flowers that have served as names over the years, but this is the first time I've ever heard PANSY put into that group. It was, apparently, once more common than it is today, but the site "" lists it as "0 per million babies" since 1950, and "" calls it the 15,285th most popular girl's name in 2015, and has "no data" for eight of the last ten years. I'm guessing it's just slightly higher on these lists than "Crocus."

But enough about that, what about the theme?! It, too, includes things I've never heard before. I'm learning! I am amused by NOTHINGBURGER (30A: Big fat zero), and WORDSALAD (17A: Gobbledygook) is wonderfully picturesque. The other two "food" expressions are OLDHAT, ISUPPOSE, so there's no need to repeat them here.

The fill includes a few THRILLS like PEGASUS, SWATH (18D: Path of mowed grass), ARPEGGIO, and HOTMIC (25D: It might capture an embarrassing comment), which makes me think of Will Ferrell. So that's good.

1A: HTML (Web designer's code) - D.
Favorite: 34A: Like Jefferson on a list of presidents (THIRD). I love these absurdly specific, yet out-of-left field clues.
Least: There's really nothing that bothers me too much.

Overall, a fine Monday.

- Horace

p.s. I also discovered in my brief Googling of "Pansy" that there's a character named "Pansy Parkinson" in one of the Harry Potter stories, so I guess I have no complaint. And I suppose that even means that the name might see a resurgence. Maybe. Well, whatever, I love pansies, so I'm all for it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017, Olivia Mitra Framke


Ella Fitzgerald was a huge part of my musical upbringing, thanks to at least one older brother with an ear for vocalists. I was born more than 30 years after her debut performance, but the music she recorded on the Verve label (which was built around her) is as timeless as any I know. Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern... the Great American Songbook. How can you go wrong? And the first album she recorded with LOUISARMSTRONG ("Ella and Louis," 1956) is quite possibly my favorite album. Period.

Ella, Louis, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Buddy Rich... each one at the top of their game.

So you know where I stand on the subject. How did I feel about the puzzle? Well, I thought the theme was well done. I don't usually love a "connect-the-dots" feature, but the crown that appears when you follow the letters spelling out "queen of jazz" is symmetrical and attractive, and perfectly sits atop the central "LADY ELLA." And the four symmetrical long theme answers are all good. So thumbs up there.

The fill hits a few sour notes, as it were. I winced at ACETAL (96D: Perfumer's liquid), ENNUIS is an unfortunate plural, MISSEND (3D: Accidentally hit "reply all" on, say) is awkward, and the ISH/TUN/DESOTO/JAIME line isn't one to write home about, but the clue for ZINC (73D: Portion of a penny) was tricky, and OTOOLE (43D: Good name for an Irish carpenter?) was amusing. ... OK, so there wasn't a SACKFUL of bonus fill, but let's cut to another song, shall we?

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations, Ms. Framke, on your debut!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017, Adam Fromm


I loved this puzzle. I went through the whole thing again just now looking for rough spots, because after I finished I couldn't recall any. I found SAYA (44A: "Don't ____ thing"), and ILEA (5D: Guts, in part), which, after looking it up, seems a little too tricky. Our resident MD may want to weigh in, but when I hear "guts," I think of it as a collective noun specific to just one person. In each person, there is a part of the small intestine called the "Ileum." So to pluralize ileum to ILEA means that "guts" has to work as a plural collective noun, and I'm not sure that's quite normal.

But enough about that - accepting ILEA means that we get the lovely HEBRIDES (1A: Skye, the Small Isles, etc.) (a giveaway on a Saturday!), AQUILINE (15A: Eaglelike), JUKEBOX (17A: Brown-bag lunch item) (Not in my day!), and JACKASSTHEMOVIE (19A: 2002 "documentary" with "Don't try this at home" contents). That's a very nice NW corner! Being old and knowing RICKSPRINGFIELD (4D: Singer with a recurring role on "General Hospital") helped out in that region. Slowing me down, though, was my quick use of an alternate spelling of HAJJI (1D: Faithful pilgrim).

Everywhere you look there are strong mid-length entries and good clues. I'm sorry I started this review off looking for trouble spots, because really, it's pretty great. CUFF (41A: Strike sharply) is uncommonly good. CAREWORN (54A: Bowed with adversity), BADIDEA (35A: "No, you don't want to do that"), BITEME (40A: "Drop dead, loser"), SHODDY (57A: Third-rate), RODEO (25D: What may involve the calf muscles) (Ha!), MAXIM (28D: Saw), PILEUP (53A: Jam producer), TIPSY (43D: A little tight)... all good.

1A: HEBRIDES - A. Put "Decoy Bride" on your Netflix queue and watch it some night when you're in a good mood. It's silly, but adorable.
Favorite: END (33D: Patootie). So silly on a Saturday!
Least: MINICAR (38D: Subcompact). I've said it before and, knowing me, I'll say it again, I just don't buy this as either a generic term or the name of a specific car. Yuck.

OK, so it's not absolutely perfect, and I don't want to give Mr. Fromm a swelled EGO, but I say this one SHINED.

- Horace

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017, Damon Gulczynski


Funny that GOGOBOOTS (58A: Iconic part of Nancy Sinatra's early attire) appears twice in one week. Oh, ok... twice in two weeks. When's the last time you saw them in a puzzle before that? Not that I'm complaining, really, but Nancy Sinatra? THEFONZ? Zhou ENLAI? Even IMBAD is now 30 years old.

But then there's that SE corner. I like OPTIMIST (38D: Bull, essentially), HOTDATES (39D: Highly anticipated social events), and SPYSTORY (40D: Work with intelligence?), even if it does end up requiring ALITO. We also get HELLOKITTY (47A: Toon who wears a red hair bow) (tried Minnie Mouse first - does that say something about my age?).

In other areas, I enjoyed LINTEL (48D: Doorframe part) ("... And hold to the low lintel up/The still-defended challenge cup..."), HURTLE (11D: Rush) (the NE was very difficult for me!), and PLAGUE (46D: Hound). I did not particularly like the repeated "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" clues (GREATSCOTT & OMIGOSH). I don't know quite why exactly... I guess it just seemed sort of unnecessary. Sort of vague. I'm also done with the whole ____ nazi thing. Can't we just get past that kind of SMEARTACTIC?

1A: Areas where clerics are seated (APSES). C-. Meh.
Favorite: 44A: Quiet (down) (PIPE). This was said a lot in my family. :)
Least: UTA (16A: The Jazz, on sports tickers)

Finally, I will say that I was happy to see DAN clued with "35A: Savage of 'Savage Love.'" Frannie and I saw him speak at an A.L.A. conference a while ago, and he seemed like just as good a guy as he does when you read "Savage Love," which I used to see in a local rag called the Weekly Dig. (Side note - B.E.Q. had some crossword puzzles in there from time to time. Also, I had a couple crosswords in there!) I think that he would be amused to find himself so close to PEGGED. Too much?

- Horace

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017, Jeffery Wechsler


I think many of us think of Thursday as kind of a wildcard, and usually expect the puzzle to contain a trick of some kind, but Will Shortz has gone on record as saying that all a Thursday puzzle should be is harder than Wednesday and easier than Friday. And this, for me, was harder than yesterday's, so so far, so good on that score.

The theme is one of those wacky re-reading types, here requiring that you change the accent on an E. Instead of RUNFORTHEROSES, read it as "run for the rosés," and then the clue "48A: Quick trip to pick up white zinfandel and blush?" makes sense. Sort of. I tend to like these silly themes, so this was fine with me.

Less fine with me are obscurities like TOPE, which I only learned through crossword-doing. Hey, you know what? I looked it up just now, and it comes from the french verb toper, which means "to accept the stakes in gambling." And my Webster's thinks that the meaning given here probably comes from the custom of drinking to the conclusion of a wager. Well... that makes it a little more interesting. They also give as second and third definitions, "a Buddhist shrine in the form of a dome with a cupola," and "a small gray, European requiem shark." So be on the lookout for those clues on a Saturday!

I like INVECTIVE (12D: Words meant to hurt), and ABRADE (10D: Wear down), but some of the other long Downs are a little bland - SUMTOTAL, LANDAT, WHITERICE, and TOOKACLASS, for example. Not that there's anything wrong with them, they just aren't very exciting. White rice, at least, was given an amusing clue - "One side of China?"

1A: Departed (AWAY) - C. I tried "deAd" here first.
Favorite: GIRD (55A: Strengthen). Nice word.
Least: There's nothing in here that I really hate.

Do you think TOKE (57A: It's a drag) was a subtle nod to today's date?
And isn't "62A: Function for a buffalo hide" a very odd clue for TEPEE?

- Horace

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Emanuel Ax and Brad Wilber


I don't know who, exactly, I was expecting to do these celebrity puzzles, but it wasn't Emanuel Ax! He just went up a few notches, and he was already up there.

This was a fun one that I thought was a themeless until I hit the revealer, way off in the SW - 52D: Word that can follow the ends of 20- and 54-Across and 4- and 26-Down (NOTE). That gives "mash note," "sour note," "half note," and "high note." We also have the lovely eighth note in the center. Nice touch.

I like all the theme answers, but I was not familiar with the term "mash note." I thought it might be something that whiskey reviewers talk about when explaining the various flavor profiles... but no, it's a raving fan letter, or maybe a love/stalker letter - I'm still not entirely sure. The others are well known to me. I also like the nod to Mr. Ax's instrument in 32A: What the keys are to a pianist? (PLAYAREA). Ha!

There are some pretty questionable entries - EREI, LIENEE, UVRAY, and a few others, but I think that the theme and the fun material far outweigh them today. QUAKERGUN (11D: Log painted deceptively to look like a cannon) is a new one to me, but I love it! VICUNA (42A: Andean animal with expensive wool) is quite exotic, and MANGIA (35A: Trattoria order?) is hilarious. For those who speak Italian, anyway.

1A: BBQ platter side (SLAW) - B-. Interesting word.
Favorite: ANECTDOTAL (34D: Not statistically based, as evidence). I just like this one.
Least: NCAR (55D: Nascar Hall of Fame locale: Abbr.) - Yikes.

Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017, Bruce Haight


Is it just me, or does it seem there's been a spate of Bruce Haight puzzles lately? He had the first one at the A.C.P.T. this year, too! And - full disclosure - when I spoke to him at the tournament, I joked about his "stunt puzzles," and he hinted that he had another one in the pipeline. This, I'm assuming - using only seven letters - is it.
To me, the grid is surprisingly pleasing. So uniform! Frannie and I discussed it briefly on the porch this morning and we both were amused by the number of common crosswordese words included. Ordinarily, we might call out entries like EIRE, TET, SARIS, ESAI, ETAL, and, well, almost everything in here, but when it's all taken together as a package, it becomes rather amusing. Reductio ad absurdum, and all that... Well, at least we were amused by it...

Sure, there are a few entries - I'm looking at you, ASSAI, ELEA, and REES - that are on the outskirts, but I rather enjoyed STALEAIR (4D: Result of poor ventilation), RARITIES (38D: They come along once in a blue moon), and the meta-clued ELLS (45A: The black square chunk in front of 55-, 60- and 63-Across, and others). And I think the four anagrams added a nice touch.

I briefly attempted to write a review using only A, E, I, L, R, S, and T, but didn't get very far before realizing that it would be rather tiresome to read, so I applaud Mr. Haight for the effort. One of these stunt puzzles every once in a while keeps things interesting.

- Horace

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017, Peter Gordon

0:08:19 (F.W.T.E.)

I entered fAdES for "45A: Loses color," and it took me quite some time after finishing to figure out what had gone wrong.

Kind of a silly Monday theme today with "ooh, ooh," sounding words. I don't know LULULEMON, I've never had a PUPUPLATTER, and in 2010 I was mildly amused/mildly annoyed by the whole VUVUZELAS thing. Everybody loves BOOBOOBEAR, though, right? And my first thought for 49A: Amorous look" was "googly eyes" instead of GOOGOOEYES. Sooo... yay?

1A: Dict. entries (WDS) - F.
Favorite: APBIO (9A: H.S. class for a future doctor, maybe) - I don't remember seeing this before in a puzzle.
Least: 55A: Court jesters, e.g. (AMUSERS).

PINOCHLE (35D: Game played with a 48-card deck) next to ROOSTER (39D: One sounding a "cock-a-doodle-doo") (all those oohs!) next to URANIUM (18D: Radioactive element) (more Us!) is nice. In fact, many of the down entries are pretty good. DRUNKS, SALARY, OURLADY, LOLITA, PLANB, LIELOW...

There's some glue - ORO, BABA, OKS, REA, ETDS, but overall, it's not too bad.

Let's give it a generous thumbs up and move on.

- Horace

Sunday, April 16, 2017, Timothy Polin


Today's theme features characters and their horses. I only knew a couple of these for sure - everybody knows the LONERANGER and Silver, and TONTO and Scout and ROYROGERS and Trigger were at least familiar once I got them - but you could have waterboarded me for weeks and I never would have come up with Diablo, Tornado, or Buttermilk. Overall, this seemed more like a history lesson than an engaging theme, but perhaps others were more RAPT by it.

The fill had a few gems, like 62D: Top secret? (WIG), 78D: Repeated part of a five-mile hike? (LONGI) (Again, they got me!), and I like the way of cluing STEM (101A: Check). 41D: Pea nut? (MENDEL) was cute, and they're pounding 102D: Vernacular (PATOIS) this week. My favorite, though, might have been 37D: Is Greek? (IOTAS). Tricky!

But for the most part, the fill didn't wow me, and sometimes it even annoyed me. ALLO (64A: French greeting), for instance, just seems so weak. It's not actually a word in French... but I guess neither is NAH a word in English... and 96A: Brownie, e.g. (GIRLSCOUT) - Sure, I guess that Brownies are run by the same organization as GIRLSCOUTs, but Brownies are Brownies and Girl Scouts are Girl Scouts. I can't think of a hymn that begins OGOD (but then, that doesn't mean much), and I've never seen GRANPA (16D: White-bearded sort) spelled like that... And what about 72A: Third word of many limericks (WAS)? That's a good clue? Who knows. Maybe I'm just SOUR. Perhaps I should end with a limerick that doesn't use WAS as the third word:

On the chest of a barmaid at Yale
Were tattooed the prices of ALE
And on her behind
For the sake of the blind
Was the same information in Braille.

- Horace

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017, Peter Wentz


This had to be one of my fastest Saturdays ever. I dropped in TAHITI (2D: Stop for James Cook when circumnavigating the globe) and ATEMPO (3D: Getting back to speed, musically), and then KIMMEL (20A: Colbert competitor) and STPETER (24A: Metaphorical rock of Matthew 16:18) and it was off to the races. STPETER was kind of a gimme on Easter weekend, wasn't it? Also, it reminds me of the old joke that the Catholic church was built on a pun. Matthew 16:18 reads, in Latin: "Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam," which plays on the fact that "Petrus" (Peter) and "petram" (rock) are the same word in the nominative and the accusative. "You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my church," or, "You are Peter, and on this Peter I will build my church." Happy Easter!

Moving on... KANSAN (26A: Auntie Em, e.g.) really set up TOTO (29A: Band that shares its name with a film canine), didn't it? And of the central three 12-letter answers, only HITTHEBRICKS (33A: Skedaddle) has any zip. I have never heard the phrase SPACETOURISTS (36A: Ones counting down to vacation time?), and I still don't really understand it. And PHONESERVICE (38A: It's included in many bundles) is just boring. Kind of like IONIC (39A: ____ compound). But NORM, ironically, was one I found entertaining because of the clue - "40A: What you can expect."

I also enjoyed CLASSACT (11D: Very fair, admirable sort), THEJONESES (56A: Object of envious comparison), PITFALL (38D: Unforeseen trouble), and JIM (57D: "Star Trek" captain, to friends). AWAG (54A: Like many canine tails, quaintly) and THORO (30D: Sweeping, for short), I would fain SHOOAWAY.

1A: Walks or runs (STAT). B-. Elevated by the verb-seeking clue.
Favorite: 49A: Epithet for Louis VI, with "the" (FAT) - Poor guy.
Least: Maybe NOISEMAKERS (27D: Annual party favors). Too vague.

So overall, I found this a mixed bag. Certainly there were some nice entries, but it was a bit boring in parts, and was clued too easy. Bring on the BRIMSTONE!

- Horace

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017, Andrew Kingsley


I started this one and then fell SOUNDASLEEP, and when I took it up again this morning, it went pretty quickly except for that SE corner. Since when is "1000, familiarly" TENAM? What am I missing? Why is there no comma or no colon? And another thing - SNOWCRAB is a "Deadliest Catch?" ... ok, I read about this, and there is a high death rate among workers in the Alaskan crab industry, but it's not because the SNOWCRAB is dangerous, it's due to dangerous conditions endured while trying to get them. It's weak, but I can't fault Mr. Kingsley for the TV show.

Contrabass style

1A: Yankee fare (POTROAST) - B. Pretty good.
Favorite: 13A: "I meant to tell you ..." (ABOUTTHAT) - Nice and current.
Least: PUTIN (17A: World leader who's a judo master) - Just don't want to think about him.

I don't know about you, but I learned a thing or two about the phrase STRAITLACED (21D: Very conservative) today. Mainly, how to spell it properly (I'm fairly certain that my two fellow bloggers already knew this, being much more literary and erudite than I...), and that it has its origins in the corset industry.

Interesting that SCAT and SKAT are both in there, and that SOUNDASLEEP and CATNAP are side-by-side. The Italian pair of SOAVE and PISAN didn't do much for me, but there was kind of a lot of other stuff that I enjoyed. SPASMS (41D: Jerks), SHOT (7D: Opportunity), PARLANCE (47A: Vernacular) (although I would have preferred "common PARLANCE"), even REHEM (51A: Take up again?) made me smile when I finally got it.

An enjoyable Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017, Michael Shteyman


I think I was primed for this puzzle by my mistake in yesterday's (I entered "eTS" instead of "OTS"), and by the time I got to the revealer TRIPLEOVERTIME, I had already uncovered the "OT" at the end of ITHINKN[OT] (9D: "Doubtful"), so I was ONALERT for some kind of explanation. I like the idea, and like that the middle OT is split between words in all but D[OT]D[OT]D[OT] (4D: Continuation indication). I enjoy the vertical and horizontal aspect of the theme, and I actually like that the revealer doesn't use the trick. Thumbs up!

Funny thing about that logo - I was picturing the caduceus when I dropped in AMA, but they changed recently from two snakes to one, and I don't know about you, but I think that's always the right decision.

1A: Popular tablet (IPAD) - D. 
Favorite: 62A: Request for a high-five (UPTOP). Could you imagine seeing this in a Maleska puzzle?
Least: [OT]TOS (61A: Chemistry Nobelist Hahn and others). Tried to make it interesting with the Nobel Prize, but "and others" is such a let down.

I was fooled by 2D: Alternatives to cabs (PIN[OT]S), and actually took out IPAD for a while to try "uberS" in that spot. Another tricky one was YODEL (7D: Swiss air lines?). That whole North section was tough for me, with its five Os. Luckily, I was pretty certain of SMETANA (14D: So-called "father of Czech music") which helped a lot.

TITER, AGITA, and ZBAR are a bit outré, but for the most part, the fill is good. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Emily Carroll

0:07:46 (F.W.T.E.)

I filled this in extremely quickly - for a Wednesday - but perhaps that was because I just put in whatever I wanted, which, as it turned out, was not always correct. To wit, I wasn't quite on the same wavelength with 49A: Existential statement (IAM) and tried "IsM," which I had convinced myself was possible. And right next door, instead of OTS (50A: Bonus periods, for short), I entered "eTS," thinking who knows what. So those were my problems. Interesting, I know.

So what about the puzzle itself? It's a circle theme, which - to this non-constructor - seems like an easy way to cram a theme onto what is otherwise pretty much a themeless puzzle. Ideally, this would allow exciting, unrestrained, longer fill. For me, HOMEINVADER (28A: Unwanted guest) and MARXBROTHER (44A: Any one of the stars of "Duck Soup") do not exactly fit that bill, as it were. Furthermore, who the hell is Bill Walsh? [OK, yes, he was a coach, but he's not exactly a household name.)

1A: "Don't be such a baby!" (MANUP) - C-. I've always disliked this phrase.
Favorite: SPANK (66A: Beat handily)
Least: ALERO (33D: Old Olds) It's time to retire this. Certain old cars are classics, but this never was.

I smiled at 25D: "Be ____ ..." (request starter) (ADEAR), because I this is much more natural to me than yesterday's "Be an angel," and there were a few other things, like SWAMP (31D: Overwhelm), DENSE (26D: Not too quick on the uptake), and INEPT (16A: All thumbs) that were ok, but for the most part, all I could focus on were the proper names, product names, partials, and glue. I won't bother to list them all here.

Onward to The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017, Zachary Spitz and Diane Roseman


Now this entertained me. It was not until I got down to UNITEDNATIONS that I understood the theme, and then the aha moment was quite amusing. PAKISTANZANIA (Indian Ocean bloc) sounds so good that those countries should really start to talk about a collaboration. And I bet some people would be willing to accept that NICARAGUATEMALA actually was a country. Heh. Which reminds me that while on an archeological dig with a bunch of college students a few years ago, one student (with the full support of several co-conspirators) managed to convince another that she had vacationed recently in "Japanama." Ahh, hazing... good times.

I am also happy to see that this puzzle was constructed by two very nice people that I met at the A.C.P.T. a couple years ago. I got to spend a little time talking with Ms. Roseman during one of the breaks this year, and she told me about how excited she was to have her first puzzle accepted, and that she was extra happy to have been able to construct it with her son. I couldn't remember, at that time, whether or not I had ever told her about this blog, but, remembering a rather unfortunate episode with Bruce Haight from a year earlier, I opted to keep it to myself, just in case I ended up not liking the puzzle. Well, no such problem today.

In addition to the amusing theme, we have LOTSA fun extras like SECLUSION (17A: What Thoreau lived in at Walden Pond) (except for those times when he walked home for Sunday dinner, or went to the store for supplies), HOLIDAY (4D: Office-closing time) (this took almost every cross!), YOLO (63A: Motto for a modern risk-taker, for short), and phrases like IKNOWSIGNHERE, WOEISME, and BEANANGEL (58A: Softening-up words before a request). (I can only see that last one as "bean angel" as I look at it now.)

There's a bit of glue (ALIA, NOELSPHS, AVA, EIRE...) (ok, there's plenty - OLIO, ALOE, ENC, IONIC, MIR, ABNER, EDT, UKES, OED...), a pair of somewhat difficult Japanese names (AKIO & AKIRA), and a bit of duplication with WASP and GENTILE. :) But overall, I liked this one.

1A: Something to make before blowing out the birthday candles (WISH) - B-.
Favorite: SICK (3D: "Awesome!")
Least: DEEN (43A: Paula of "Paula's Home Cooking") Can't we all just try to forget?

- Horace

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017, Lonnie Burton


Happy Monday! It's a beautiful day here in Boston. The sun is shining, the crocus are out in force, and we've got a James Bond tribute puzzle to review. So let's get right to it.

The "Note" that explained that, in the print version, the clue number 7 read "007" pretty much gave away the theme instantly. If it hadn't taken me so long to remember DANIELCRAIG's name, I would have been under four minutes on this. I'm expecting to see a number in the low threes from our colleague Mr. Amory.

But issues of time aside, I'm disturbed by the idea of unCORED processed apples (allowed by "some" in the clue for 15A). When would that be the case? And why? Do I also have to worry about bits of COB getting into my popcorn? Or FIN getting into my sharkfin soup? ... oh wait, nevermind that last one.

1A: Pay hike (RAISE) - C+. Yes, please.
Favorite: 53A: It's kept in a pen (INK) - This surprised me.
Least favorite: 59D: Alliance that keeps a wary eye on Russia (NATO). I didn't like the tone.

There are a few uncommon answers, like ARAMAIC (44D: Jesus' language) (was it his? or was it just those of those who wrote the bible?), CLENCH (49D: Tighten, as a fist), and, well... DEUCE, I guess, but overall, I thought the whole thing was a little thin. Sure, they've picked out the five men who have portrayed him most often in major movies, but it's an incomplete list. And I wished, also, for the full name "James BOND," or maybe even "BOND, James BOND." I suppose that would have been much more difficult to pull off, and we would have ended up with even more TAR like ICAN, RIA, EIN, ITO, DDS and CCS. And more unknown, un-Monday-ish names like STIMSON (26D: Henry L. ____, secretary of war during W.W. II).

But what do I want for nothing? The sun is shining, and they say it will shine again tomorrow. As long as that happens, and another empty NYTX grid appears like magic before me as I have my coffee in the morning, well then, I've got no complaints.

- Horace

p.s. This is a debut puzzle, and now I feel a little bad for giving it a lukewarm review. And because of information I learned over on, I feel even worse about dwelling on the beauty of the out-of-doors. If you're interested in finding out why, I suggest you pop on over there to read the commentary. I will add that this is the first time that I remember seeing a note from Will Shortz himself on that site. Enjoy. And congratulations, Mr. Burton! I look forward to seeing more from you.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017, Byron Walden


All the puzzles at the A.C.P.T. have titles, and those titles always give away a little about the theme. If, that is, you can decipher them properly. The same is true of Sunday NYTX puzzles, and today the title, correctly interpreted, means "some common phrases with O (nothing) and ON added to the end of them." As in, MOVIEBUFFOON (30A: Inspector Clouseau or Borat?) and WAILINGWALLOON (85A: Audibly upset Belgian francophone?). I like that second one, but oh that tortured clue!

One slight problem for me today was that I was expecting that 22A and 107A would also be theme answers, and maybe a couple more of the Down answers, but really, there were already plenty of them. What are there, nine? And MONSTERSBALLOON (28D: Something seen at Frankenstein's birthday party?) runs through six other theme answers! Impressive.

As usual, though, for that kind of bravado we also contend with a few odd plurals (VACUA, LOCI, ACTA), a few old theater types (BAVIER, ADAIR, RENE), and the usual sprinkling of foreign matter (ACHT, AEREO, OCHO, KENDO, ACLEF (!) (8D: Roman ____ (à clef)). We also get such gems as SPLEENY (33A: Peevish), BASEST (34A: Most contemptible) and ULA (74A: Suffix with blast-). And I was all set to complain about BEREA (62A: Kentucky college), but after looking it up, it's such a great school that instead of being mad about it, instead I'm glad to have learned about it.

Still, I liked being reminded of CRONUTS (7D: Hybrid bakery treats), WHIPLASH (84D: Abrupt, disconcerting reaction) is a good word, and everybody loves EGGSALAD (79D: Vegetarian sandwich filling) (pro tip - eggs are not vegetables).

1A: Ecclesiastical leader (ABBOT) - C.
Favorite: 56A: "Indubitably" (YES) - for the absurdity.
Least favorite: 80D: Train syst. (RWY). Yeah, ok.

The theme entries made me chuckle, but overall it seemed a little meh.

- Horace

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017, Jeff Chen


What a weekend! Mssrs. Berry and Chen, back-to-back! I smiled when I saw the grid shape, because just yesterday, Mr. Chen wrote of Patrick Berry's grid:

"A constructor's secret: those "stairstep" chunks of black squares in the north, west, east, and south can make filling a low-word-count grid like this almost an order of magnitude easier. Not only do those blocks chip away at the number of letters you need to put in, but they tend to stagger entries, making for more favorable vowel/consonant patterns.
It's a tricky balance, though — use too many of these stairstep chunks, and your grid looks visually unappealing. (Also, overanalytical/anal constructors notice your overusage and annoyingly point them out.)" - (, April 7, 2017)

Interesting, really, that both puzzles are 62-words, and both use a very similar black square pattern, but I'm going to have to give Mr. Chen the edge here, as his puzzle is far more peppy. The grid is brimming with lively seven- and eight-letter fill. I loved the clueing for BITPART (23D: It's just a line or two), TIMELESS (29D: Suitable for all ages?), CASHBOX (45A: Tender spot?), ONEHORSE (28D: Jerkwater), and WOOLCAP (9D: Head scratcher?) ("wool hat" might have been slightly better, but that's pretty picky). Then there's stuff like NUFFSAID (31D: "I'll shut up now"), 1D: "Hello ... I'm right here" (AHEM), and CANTFAIL (27D: Guaranteed-to-fly), which I also like. I've never heard the term DEADHEAD for an "ineffective pill," and I've also never heard of XKCD (47D: Award-winning webcomic about "romance, sarcasm, math and language"), or ABRA (46D: "East of Eden" girlfriend), so that wasn't so easy.

1A: Subject of plays by Sophocles, Euripides and Cocteau (ANTIGONE) - A. I'm a sucker for the Classics.
Favorite: 3D: Wear (out) TUCKER
Least favorite: DONEE (14A: Philanthropy beneficiary) 

So overall, this was a fun Saturday for me. There's more to mention, but I'll leave it for you to discover. 

- Horace

Friday, April 7, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017, Patrick Berry


It's always nice to see Patrick Berry's name on a puzzle. I feel that he and I are usually on the same wavelength, but today's was a lot harder to get into than his late-week puzzles usually are. I think in my first pass through I put in SIXYEAROLDS (28A: Many first graders), SHAD (38A: Herring relative), AMY (40A: Singer Winehouse), ORIOLE (47A: Bird whose name means "golden"), and ITERATE (48A: Say repeatedly), and tried to work from those. That last, by the way, was one of the first words that I learned through crosswords. I had always heard (and used) "reiterate," but now that I know they mean the same thing, I will only use ITERATE from now on. Who has time for extra letters?

This was made slightly harder by my entry of several incorrect guesses. I tried videoARCADE for PENNYARCADE (14D: Retro amusement center), and was so confused by 17A: Rock music? that I tried stonesSONGS at first (CRADLESONGS).

Lots that I enjoyed in here, too, though. ASIDES (24D: Parts of a rambling oration) and MARMITE (31D: Bread spread whose tagline is "Love it or hate it") were amusingly clued, and who doesn't love EMERALDS (10D: Green valuables)?

1A: Hopes not to be called, say (BLUFFS) - A. This is a solid 1A.
Favorite: 2D: Beat soundly (LARRUP) - Always nice to learn a new word for a whuppin'.
Least: UTES (8D: Runnin' ____ (N.C.A.A. team)) - it's really one of the only pieces of glue.

Many of the longer entries seemed a little bland to me. CRADLESONGS, MEDICALCARE (31A: Treatment), FIRESCREENS (30A: Heat shields, of a sort), HOUSECLEANS (16D: Minds one's place?), even SIXYEAROLDS, are fine, but not much more than that. And besides, aren't most first graders seven? My trick for aging young people is to add six to their grade. Is this not accurate?

But I did like many of the clues, and there's really not much that's actually bad, so I'll give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. Take that number above with a grain of salt, because I started this last night on the iPad, and got maybe 20% of it before falling asleep. Then this morning I opened the laptop to look at it again, but last night's answers hadn't made it up to the Cloud, so I had to start over again. I don't know what that really means, in terms of time - but maybe tack on five or ten minutes more.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017, Damon Gulcynski


Kind of a quiet Thursday theme today, with six answers using XSANDOS symbolically, as revealed in 38-Across. Boy I used to hate hearing THREEX[times]ALADY (3D: 1978 #1 hit for the Commodores) on the radio when I was little. I never really liked the expression X[kiss]MYGRITS (5D: Sitcom catchphrase of the '70s and '80s) either, but I do like the use of an X to signify a kiss (see also BEARO[hugs]S), so I'll give that one a thumbs up. And O[zero]SUMGAME (39D: Situation in which, on the whole, nothing can be gained or lost) just came up in a training session I was in yesterday, so that's kind of interesting. To me. :) And finally, 26D: Went back to where it all began (TURNEDFULLO[circle]) makes us think again of Inigo looking for Vizzini in "The Princess Bride."

1A: Abbr. before a date (ESTD) - D. I think we've estd. that we dislike abbrs. at 1A.
Favorite: 44A: They'll make your hair stand on end (GELS). Ha! (runner up: 28D - ESSES)
Least favorite: 33D: Vessel opener (STENT). Eeewww.

I had never heard the expression "31A: Freeboots" (MARAUDS) before, so that was fun, and everybody loves TUNASALAD, right? I think I must have heard "Fluctuat nec mergitur" before, but I was sad that I could not come up with PARIS until I had at least two crosses. Hmph.

Overall, I enjoyed the cluing in this one, and there were a few VIVID entries without being too LURID. Fun theme, so... thumbs up.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017, Alex Eaton-Salners


I think that the cross that did me in was intentionally left as a potential "impossible cross" by the editor to test us on our political currency. At least I hope it was for that. If it was to test us on a basketball player who retired eight years ago, then I no longer know what is important. Of course, it could be argued by many who know me that I have never known that... Anyway, OK, yes, Mr. Shortz, I did not know the name of the president of Mexico. Happy?

Enrique Peña Nieto
Other than that, there was some nice stuff in here. COPERNICUS (5D: He placed the sun at the center of the universe) and GEOLOGISTS (30D: Rock scientists) (Hi Dad!) went in without crosses, and once I had a few of the clues referencing 43-Down (SPANISH) I was able to fill in both that and 44-Down (ESPANOL). In fact, even with running the alphabet on the N in NSA, and then going to xwordinfo to check the name of the president, my stopped timer still reads under 9 minutes.

1A: Rod at a pig roast (SPIT) - C. Gross.
Favorite: 13D: Tiny bit (SMIDGE)
Least favorite: 46A: Gave the go-ahead (OKED).

One detail that Frannie pointed out to me is that everywhere that the ñ appears, it works for both crosses. Very nice. Overall, though, the impossible cross, and the very little known (or known about) poet ERINNA (definite Saturday material) put a damper on my happiness. Even though here the crosses, such as they were, were fair. Ish. PEPSI is a brand, GASTRAPS (54A: Devices that prevent fumes from escaping) seems forced (how many had "GAShoodS" at first?), and INAT (59A: ____ the finish (having potential to win)) is a partial that just seems made up.

Overall, I appreciate the effort, and I stand humbled by my North American ignorance, but I didn't love it.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017, Timothy Polin

0:07:32 (F.W.O.E.)

I'm not sure sometimes how my brain works. Or if it does. When I got to 64A: Visibly stunned (AGASP), I had crosses, but not the last one. I put in AGASt, and thought to myself as I was doing it, "That's spelled wrong," but I still put it in. And left it in. Why would I do that? How many times do I come across misspelled words in these puzzles? Never, that's how often. Oh well...

So anyway, kind of a strange PINOCCHIO theme today. I think the growing nose is quite well done, and the revealer at the end, with the tied-in LYING crossing it (the crossed words are almost in the shape of a nose?), is well-placed. They get another reference to baseball with NATIONALPASTIME (46A: Baseball, in America), and I thought NOSERVICE and NEUROSCIENTISTS were quite good. NORSELITERATURE, well, I guess it's fine.

1A: Defunct gridiron org. - XFL - C-. Frannie and I actually watched some XFL games, and we still joke about one sideline interviewee who said of the other team: "They're doing stuff out there that's confusing us." And we wonder why the league didn't last...
Favorite clue: 57D: Hacker, but not on a computer (AXE)
Least favorite: ODEA (20A: Old-fashioned theaters)

I like the word MIMETIC (36D: Imitative), despite its similarity to emetic, and although I was not previously familiar with "On the Beach," nor its heroine, MOIRA, I now see that it was written by Nevil Shute, whose name has come up an awful lot lately in my little circle. YMMV, as they say. And speaking of books/movies, we all know that ASYOUWISH doesn't really mean "Sure, go ahead," it means "I love you." Silly clue writers.

EASTERN (18D: Old airline with the slogan "We have to earn our wings every day") and MEARA (32D: Stiller's longtime wife and comedy partner) give this one kind of an older vibe, and one might wish for a little more bonus material, but I guess the theme really didn't allow for much else.

How 'bout we ENDON a shout out to our resident representative of the NEUROSCIENTISTS set, Colum, who certainly knew PIA mater (brain cover) immediately. I know it now, too, but all I had to do for the knowledge was solve a few crosswords!

- Horace

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017, Agnes Davidson and Zhouqin Burnikel


It's Opening Day for Major League Baseball today, and the NYTX is celebrating with BALLPARKFIGURES (39A: Rough estimates ... or what the ends of 17-, 24-, 52- and 65-Across are?). Here in Boston, the early morning temperature is in the mid-thirties and there's still some snow on the ground. Hardly the kind of weather one associates with a day at Fenway. [It warmed up about twenty degrees and ended up being a pretty nice day for a game after all. - Ed.]

This played slightly tougher than Mondays usually do for me, mostly because of the SCRAG (22D: One who's all skin and bones)/RHEAS (32A: Cousins of emus) cross. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone use the term SCRAG before.

I guess the theme density up top must have created some challenges, as we have a not-so-lovely string of PATEK, OTERI, and RERAN up in the North, and I never love seeing brand names like ALEVE, KIA, or AFLAC. But I'm not IRATE or anything, and really, the crosswordese is usually just a BLUR on a Monday. OREO, AFRO, NTH, SKA, NAPA, NERO, LEA, ARIA, ERAS... and then there's INE (10D: Suffix with serpent). SOB.

1A: Inflated senses of self (EGOS): C-  Deduction for plural. Odd clue.
Favorite clue: 13D: Tree huggers? (SLOTHS)
Strangest clue: 26D: Fruits that are a little grittier than apples (PEARS)

- Horace

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017, Jerry Miccolis


Today's theme grew on me as I went along, and once I understood it, they got easier and easier to guess. They're all somewhat interesting, but they maybe seemed a little bland.  WINGEDANDSTINGINGPEST (WASP) might be favorite.

1A: Ascribes, with "up" (CHALKS): B - It's an interesting enough word and an interesting cluing.
Favorite Answer: AMY 
Favorite Clue: 31A: Wet blanket? (DEW)

Lots of stuff I wasn't familiar with in this one. 5D: Capital of Uganda (KAMPALA), 7A: Title film character played by Tyler Perry (MADEA), 95D: Willa Cather's "My ____" (ANTONIA), and others. And then there was the usual boring stuff and partials like ELHI, RAPA, ERST,  MRI, EEN, IOC, etc.

On the other side of the coin, we find such fancy fill as WHIMSY (32D: Flight of fancy), MALIGNS (96D: Bad-mouths), SCHLEPS (12D: Lugs), and MIASMA (51A: Foreboding atmosphere). Oh, and I was caught yet again by a classic trick - 60D: City, but not county, leader? (SOFTC). I had SOF_C and thought for a while that I must have some mistake... HAH!

I'm not a huge fan of Sunday puzzles, as a rule, and this one didn't win me over. It's fine, and the theme is okay. How did you like it?

- Horace

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017, Howard Barkin


Good news! Frannie has decided to do another month of reviews!


SOR[RY] 'bout that. I would, however, like to thank Frannie for the rare (unprecedented?) treat of an entire month of entertaining commentary. As Colum so delicately put it, she has "injected some long-needed energy into the blog." (Nice. What are friends for, I ask you, if not to torpedo your beloved pet projects from within?) But seriously, she really did. And now, Dear Reader, you should brace yourselves for the Perry Como-like, AARP-style energy and excitement of a month of reviews by Yours Truly. Yes, UNSNARLS that lip, stop being so [CO][NT][RA][RY], and SETTLE for Horace!

That's the terrible thing about April Fool's, isn't it? The disappointment. You start reading this review, for example, and you get all excited by news that Frannie will continue, only to have your hopes dashed. Similarly, as we started today's puzzle, we saw "1A: One of the Great Lakes," and thought, how can I be so lucky as to have such an easy 1A on a Saturday?! It's obviously Erie! The EERINESS continued with three more four-letter clues that just begged for easy crosswordese answers - "29A: Popular cookie" (obviously oreo), "45A: In opposition" (anti), and the classic "64A: Scandinavian capital" (Oslo).

Well GUESSAGAIN, HEXAD! Mr. Barkin (who took the top PRIZE at last years A.C.P.T.), has SPRUNG a trap! He's crammed GINORMOUS words into just four spaces by using TWOBYFOURS (55A: Construction staples ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme). It was that clue that finally gave it away. Not because I immediately figured it out, but because it validated the sneaking suspicion that something was up. Soon after that, it was the SA[KI] / [HE][LS][IN][KI] cross that broke things open for me.

We love a rebus here at H&F&C, and this one is delightful. It pokes fun at crosswordese, it's clever, consistent, symmetrical... all good things. For this we suffer the slings and arrows of a few drops of glue like AIRE (16A: Rich finish?) (the clue is good), AHS (43D: Features of Boston accents) (love it), and at the top of the list, BBLS (51D: Oil qtys.). Huh? Well, it is a standard abbreviation for a surprisingly non-standardized unit of measure. So I learned that. Another interesting thing I learned is that the term [AN]ASAZI is a word meaning "ancient enemies" that the Navajo used for the Pueblo. So, kind of a slur, I guess. I counsel you against using it when you travel to the Southwest.

Overall, a big thumbs up. A very enjoyable start to the month.

- Horace