Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017, David Steinberg


A tribute to the Emerald City today, SEATTLE, with references to PIKEPLACEMARKET, the MARINERs, PUGETSOUND, and one of its more recent claims to fame, the ubiquitous COFFEESHOP. The PIER (12D: Waterfront 68-Across location), I'm not so familiar with, and when we were last there, it was cloudy, but it did not actually RAIN (2D: Common 68-Across forecast). The puzzle has left-right symmetry, and all the SEATTLE references are also symmetrically placed. What's more, we have a simplified, but nicely done, follow-the-dots version of the SPACE NEEDLE, spelled out in the circled squares. I'd say that's a solid theme.

There were some non-theme plusses - SPATULA (60A: Pancake-flipping implement) isn't seen too often in crosswords, and RATRACE (43D: Hurry of modern life) is good. I also liked the formality of PERMITME (10D: Chivalrous offer). Connected with Harvard, though, as we at this blog are, I must take exception to "14A: Harvard's archrival," because as we all know, Harvard has no rivals, only jealous admirers. But as we're on the subject, the puzzle does have kind of a Yale-vibe, what with answers like HUH, WASTE, and OAF. :)

1A: "Star ____ Beyond" (2016 film) (TREK) - B-.
Favorite: EULER (49A: Mathematician whose name sounds like a fuel ship). Nice educational clue.
Least: INBED (15A: Taking a nap, say). I would argue that most naps, intentional or not, are not taken in a bed.

There's the usual sprinkling of RIATA, ANA, and ANTI, but overall, I think this was a fine Monday.

Colum takes over again tomorrow, and I'll see you again in a month or two. Happy Puzzling!

- Horace

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017, David J. Kahn and Isaac Mizrahi


I was happy to get get one more of these celebrity puzzles before my month was up, and what a fun one it was! Isaac Mizrahi is a fashion designer, and he and Mr. Kahn have worked several common phrases into the puzzle and re-clued them so that they become design-related. The first one I came to was "3D: Preferred means of arriving at a fashion show?" and even though the word "fashion" was in the clue, I still put in "fashionably late," which fit (!) but which was also wrong. I thought my guess was good (the doubling of fashion aside), but the real answer, TAXITOTHERUNWAY, is much better.

They're all quite good, but I especially like CUTANDDRIED (77A: Like a model's hairstyle), because it's so apt, and WORKTHENIGHTSHIFT (24A: Flaunt a loose dress at a soiree?) and TAKEUPACOLLECTION (109A: Shorten some couture dresses?), because they're so amusing.

If you know me, you know that I don't often like a Sunday puzzle. They're often just "too too" if you know what I mean. But when the theme makes me laugh, as it did today, I am willing to grant quite a bit of leeway to the rest of the fill. Things like OID (114D: Suffix with fact), INE (115A: Bach's Partita No. 6 ____ Minor) ("Aaah... Bach..."), FRA, and EOE might rankle on another day, but today, I HONESTLY don't mind.

1A: Little bit (JOT) - B.
Favorite: 40A: Support under a tank? (BRA) - I liked how many of the non-theme clues seemed to be tailored (*wink) to the overall idea.
Least: 104A: More limited (LESS) With so many clever clues, this stands out as a clunker. But then again, maybe I'm missing something...

All in all, I very much enjoyed this one. I hope you did too!

- Horace

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017, Erik Agard


Since I live in a forced hot air house, I dropped in DUCTS (1A: Heating system network) without a second thought. I then thought I might have a chance at beating yesterday's time when I confidently plunked down CobwEbS for 3D: Haunted house sights (CASKETS). Obviously, things slowed down a bit after that.

There were a few fun answers, like LOZENGES (10D: Hackers' helpers) and DISCOBALL (30D: One lighting up the dance floor), but all too often it was questionable stuff like TWEEST (4D: Most affectedly dainty, to a Brit) and DEADEST (40D: Least happening), or stuff I didn't understand like SENS (5D: Political century: Abbr.) and AVES (20A: Class of fliers?). Also, while I'm glad that the puzzles are getting more contemporary, I lament that it proves me to be no longer so. I have never heard of ASAPROCKY, and the expressions CANILIVE and NOBIG are not in my vocabulary.

I don't mind things I am not familiar with (to which category may be added HOURANGLE and DAYSAILS), but I didn't feel that there was enough to really enjoy today either. Entries like ENCIRCLES, ICEIN, STIRSINOWIE and EENY are not exactly exciting. Even VENALLY (12D: Through bribery) is tarnished by the adverbialization. Is that a word? Does its existence here tarnish this review? Possibly...

1A: DUCTS - C+.
Favorite: 26A: Setting after resetting (OOO). I like the boldness of this one.
Least: I guess TWEEST. Just ick.

So, as you can see, I didn't love it, but I think I may sound a little more harsh than I actually mean to be. I didn't hate it either. Can we settle on lukewarm?

- Horace

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017, Robyn Weintraub


Ms. Weintraub and I seemed to be on exactly the same wavelength today. After a stutter-start guess of "BESTactress" (1A: Award for "Hairspray" but not "Hair" (BESTMUSICAL)), that was fixed when I got MOET (5D: Big name in Champagne), I was off to the races.

I very much like both triple-stacks today. I haven't thought of the phrase ETPHONEHOME in a long time, but boy that was huge in the '80s. I loved it when I saw the movie on opening night in Worcester, but Frannie and I watched it again maybe six or seven years ago, and boy is it sickening to watch as an adult. But enough on that!

THREEINAROW (17A: XXX, for example) is a fun meta answer at the end of a three-stack. And on the bottom I love all three answers MICROMANAGE (52A: Oversee to a fault), PLAINSPOKEN (56A: Bluntly honest), and especially HORNETSNEST (58A: Dangerous situation). Even the two-stacks (is that a thing?) are solid. I smiled at DOIHAVETO (12D: Question from the unwilling), and at the cute clue for RUNAFEVER (30D: Have a hot body). I briefly tried inTRUdIng for OBTRUSIVE (31D: Meddling), but HUBCAPS (35A: Lug nut hiders) fixed that up.

There's a ton of good fill today, and very little glue. I guess OVI (51A: Lead-in to duct), NEV (55A: Home of Paradise: Abbr.), ILE (18A: Land in la mer), and ILO (53D: U.N. worker protection grp.) are the worst of it, but really, it's a pretty clean grid.

Favorite: 50A: Intimate (GETAT). Totally misread this one.
Least: STENT (47D: Vessel opener). Gross.

Speaking of 50A, I also liked the misdirection in "17A: XXX, for example," and "30D: Have a hot body," both of which resulted in unsexy answers.

Thumbs up on this one, but it went a little fast for me. It's not often that I have descending solve times from Wednesday to Friday. Let's see if I can get into the sevens tomorrow! :)

- Horace

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017, Jeffrey Wechsler


Well, we've gone the whole month without a rebus on Thursday. I guess the "X marks the spot" (July 6) puzzle was kind of like a rebus, but if you put in the word "spot" instead of an X, the online version did not record a complete puzzle.

So what do we have today instead? A visual play on the expression HOLDDOWNTHEFORT. The letters "FORT" in three theme answers are dropped vertically into another Down answer. I like that the FORTs are dropped at the end, the beginning, and the middle of the theme answers. That gives it a polished feel. The revealer has to be loosely interpreted for it to make sense, but I'm ok with that, too. I mean.... there have been a lot of puzzles with themes. We've got to allow a little creative interpretation if we want to keep seeing these, right?

Anyway, the three theme answers are all perfectly good, what about the fill? We've got a few outliers, like the medical ECTOPIC (13A: Out of place, in obstetric parlance), the completely-unknown-at-least-to-me J. M. SYNGE, "The Playboy of the Western World" playwright, and a few bits like ESTAS, HOR, and EEN, but there was way more fun and funny fill, starting with:

1A: Game animals, for some (MASCOTS) - A.
Favorite: I enjoyed 1D: Moving aspect of urban life? (METRO)
Least: Maybe REAIMS (63A: Adjusts one's sights), but really, that's not terrible

Lots to enjoy in this. Uncommon words like RIVEN, STAVE, and ACRID, and MOBRULE (24D: Civil unrest approaching anarchy) and PUGET (8D: Sound in Washington). Even the lowly SSN gets a fun clue "Figure kept in the head, usually: Abbr."

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017, Brian Cox


AMC Rambler

Knock knock: WHOSTHERE?
"Esther ...": Esther who?

Ok, that's maybe the weakest one. The other five got at least a quiet smile, if not a true guffaw. My favorite might be the one that was the toughest for me to parse correctly:

Knock knock: WHOSTHERE?
"Luke ...": Luke who?

Heh. It's funny because Luke's hand was cut off in The Empire Strikes Back. ... too soon?

1A: "Common Sense" pamphleteer. B.
Favorite: Maybe WRING (35A: Squeezes moisture from).
Least: 16A. For obvious reasons. Runner up: 51D. (The former gets the nod because he will, unfortunately, probably be "in power" longer.)

This puzzle is heavy on theme, and I think the rest of the fill suffers for it. We've got some odd abbreviations - MLLES, ODSOTC - a near repetition - IMIT, INIT - and the unfamiliar expression "Play HOB with (do mischief to)." My deskside dictionary gives, in the etymology for the second definition of HOB, "an elf or goblin" which I guess would make sense with the expression. So there, I've learned something, and that's always a plus.

Another thing I learned (the hard way) is that INDIA is the "Second-most-populous nation." Did you notice that China also fit there? Hmph.

So in the end, it comes down to whether or not a good theme is enough to support the necessary gluey bits, and I think here it was just barely enough. I did get a kick out of the silly knock-knock jokes, and I've learned a thing or two, so let's give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. It's a debut! And over on, the constructor tells of one knock-knock that Will didn't allow - Hutch. Hutch who? Gesundheit. Hahahhahahaaa.... ok, that would have been the best one. I look forward to more from Mr. Cox, and I wish him luck pushing through more of his original ideas.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017, Alex Vratsanos


Tuesday's puzzle children are full of grace.

Spread out, to varying degrees, as though on the rack, inside longer answers, are found today the names of the four evangelists.

And speaking of entertainers, it's quite a coincidence that "Ed Sullivan," whose variety show ran from 1948-1971, fits into 11-Down, which is clued with "Variety show host of 1951-1971" (REDSKELTON). I thought first of the more famous host, which slowed down that whole NE area. Also slowing it down was the difficult, at least to me, 21A: Didn't buy, say (LEASED). Tricky!

1A: Discharge, as from a volcano (SPEW) - B.
Favorite: 23D: What gives you the right to bare arms? (TANKTOP). So silly.
Least: LACTI (19D: Milk: Prefix). LACTI? What about the more common, "lacto?"

There were some dusty old words today, like ESCARP (would have preferred either more "escarpment" or less "scarp" here), ABAFT, and ENCASES. And there were quite a few names aside from the four circled ones. I didn't find this especially inspirational, but it was a serviceable Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017, Peter Gordon


For a minute or two I thought we had, today, that rarest of crosswords - a Monday themeless. But no, I have discovered that the mirror symmetry (and the evil grinning face of black squares?) accompany a theme of phrases that start and end with the same letters. So we have INITTOWINIT (6D: Competing with the goal of victory) whose clue I misread to mean "in competition with the idea of victory being the goal," EVELKNIEVEL (7D: Daredevil in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame) which begs the question: "Motorcycle Hall of Fame?," OODLESOFNOODLES (28A: Ramen product) which I used to enjoy occasionally, but which now elicits more of a "that's probably really high in sodium" response from me, and finally, ABBYCADABBY (56A: "Sesame Street" Muppet with wings and a magic wand) which I had never heard of before, but which is now Frannie's new nickname.

Weird theme, but I kind of like it for its very weirdness. Another weird thing I didn't like quite so much, however, was SLABBING (45D: Applying thickly, with "on").

1A: Green condiment served with sushi (WASABI) - B+. Mmmm... wasabi....
Favorite: 12D: Opposite of a life coach? (HEARSE) Too soon! :)
Least: ENDASH (7A: Hyphen's longer cousin). I had EmDASH in there for a long time, because I think of the ENDASH and the hyphen as being identical. Anyone have any good authoritative information on the relative length of various punctuation marks?

But really, ENDASH on its own is a fine entry. I would certainly DEEM it superior to OHO, which I have never heard anyone (except, possibly, constructor Bruce Haight) say in real life. (And I half think he might only use it to justify his use of it in grids...)

Anywho, it was a fine Monday. Somewhat more challenging for me than some, and that's always a good thing. Plus, the unusual theme... let's give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017, Caleb Madison


It took me rather far too long to figure out today’s theme of one-named singers. From DION to DRAKE, and from CHER to BRANDY, they run the scale from old to new and from well-known to, well, less well-known. I was surprised, as I reviewed this, by just how many Mr. Madison was able to cram into this grid. I was also somewhat interested to see that HONOLULU, which contains LULU, also contains ONO, and that BECK is drawn from the musical performer Dave BRUBECK. And PRINCE isn’t exactly hidden in LITTLEPRINCE. Kind of makes it a little less perfect, but I guess it’s ok.

There’s very little over seven or eight letters that isn’t also involved in the theme, so there’s not a whole lot to talk about.

1A: Top (ACME) – B-. Mostly in the Bs for its reminding me for the second day in a row of Looney Toons.
Favorite: 113D: It’s inspired. (AIR) That’s an inspired clue!

Least: ALII (6D: Others of ancient Rome?). We have heard some defense of this form in the comments, but I argue that it is never found outside of crosswords. Et alia is the common expression, and there is no justification, in my opinion, for using the masculine variant. Have we ever seen “et aliae?” It’s been used once – Wednesday, March 18, 1981, under Eugene Maleska. (Thanks!) And “alii” has been used 229 times. I call gender-bias!

AGOUTI (69D: Guinea pig relative) is pretty obscure, and LANED, ONYXES, ASAMI, HEISTING, and ARCTAN are all a little crosswordsy. I didn't love it. 

- Horace

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017, Zhouqin Burnikel


A modern day CLASSIC from Ms. Burnikel today. With its central cross of TWITTERALERTS and FRIENDREQUEST, the "new-to-me" BITMOJIS (10D: Cartoon avatars on Snapchat), and the answers LATTEART (13A: Pouring one's heart out at a coffeehouse?) and EPICWINS (29A: Awesome successes), this had a real contemporary LUSTRE.

Keeping it real, on the other hand, were such throwbacks as KOJAK (27A: Lieutenant of 1970s TV), SHA (45A: 1950s song syllable), and ROSEANNE (32D: Show for which Laurie Metcalf won three Emmys), although I hear that last one is coming back. I used to watch - and enjoy - the show when it was first on, and if I can figure out when the reboot is happening, I might just tune in.

I couldn't help myself with the two pictures today. Don't you just always think of Looney Tunes when you hear ALUM mentioned? Who knew it was also sometimes used as an "8D: Application to a cut?"

1A: Time-tested (CLASSIC) - B+. It's perfectly acceptable. (And speaking of CLASSIC, it's always surprising to me that VLASIC only has one S.)
Favorite: SICEM (19A: Biting words?) or LANDHO (2D: Shore line?) Sometimes I'm a sucker for a question mark clue.
Least: CROSSE (7D: Sports stick). I played lacrosse in college, and no one ever referred to the stick as a CROSSE. Ever.

There's a lot of good in here, and it was a decent challenge. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017, Paolo Pasco


Anchored by the musical duo of BIGGIESMALLS and METALHEAD at the bottom, and the amusing "spoken word" pair of NOMEANSNO and INEEDAMOMENT up top, this themeless was fun all the way through.

I was fooled early on by "14A: Waterway whose construction began in Rome." I should definitely have known better on a Friday, but I still couldn't help counting out "aqueduct" to see if it would fit. Not that there was any one that was famously called "aqueduct" or anything, but, well... what can I say. I was further confused for a while by my incorrect "ArM" answer to 3D: Quarterback's asset (AIM), but finally, ERIECANAL became clear. Nice! I also loved JIFF for "5A: Flash," and FLOATS (8D: They might be wished for at fountains), although the latter did not fool me as much as the Rome clue did.

Love the politics in 25D: Nationalism, per Einstein (DISEASE) and the gender issue awareness in MALEGAZE (35D: Topic in feminist film criticism). And damn if I wasn't taken in yet again by 46D: Lawful ends? (ELLS). See, "lawful" starts and ends with an L. Egad. When. Will. I. Ever. Learn?

1A: Many consultants, for short (MBAS). D. But the puzzle as a whole overcame this weak start.
Favorite: 53D: They're game (ELK). I just love this kind of misdirection, and it's even better here because the collective noun has no S ending.
Least: Nothing. There were some answers that I just did not know, like ZAYN, GALOP, and NAENAE, but these are not puzzle problems, they're Horace problems. Sure, I could pick on RAS, or REMS - ok, I don't like that plural - but I'm not going to today, because this was a really good Friday puzzle.

- Horace

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017, Randolph Ross

0:24:57 (F.W.O.E.)

A punny name theme today, with three groan-worthy theme answers:

WATTSTHEPROBLEM (17A: James is keeping me from getting a steam engine patent?)
HOWESBUSINESS (35A: Hockey, to Gordie?)
HULETTHEDOGSOUT (56A: A former leader of China gave his shar-peis some exercise?)

Yeeaahh... now I like a pun as much as the next guy, but these are not exemplars of the form, in my opinion. The last one is the funniest, I guess, but only because that song is so ridiculous.

On the other hand, I liked many of the non-theme clues and answers. The NE corner, for example, had a lot of tricky ones:

16A: Wound up (SPOOLED)
21A: Discrimination (TASTE)
29A: Half-days, for short (AMS)

The first two had me totally fooled for a long time, and I couldn't make heads or tails of the last one until I had _MS, and then it finally came to me. Not a bad clue, I guess, to salvage a thing like AMS.

I'm guessing the potentially tricky little French stack of AMI (48A: Brest friend) (cute clue!) and ECOLE could cause problems for those who are both ignorant of French, and ignorant of middling movie stars.

My problem today came at EDT. I entered EsT somewhat confidently after my first guess of "bal" was thwarted by the first theme answer. Then, I guess, when I saw EXEsOUT, I did not go back to check the tense of the clue (15A: Edited, in a way). Rookie mistake.

This played a little tough, I think, for a Thursday, partly due to esoterica like LOBAR, ISAAC Pitman, NIT (37D: Coll. hoops competition) (?), and OLEOOIL.

1A: Hitchcock film with Laurence Olivier (REBECCA) - B. Nice trivia.
Favorite: Tough today. Maybe 48D: Big heart? (ACE) or 28D: Big butte (MESA). Or both.
Least: CUTTO (6D: Screenplay directive). Do. Not. Like.

Let's call it a wash.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017, Michael S. Maurer and Pawel Fludzinski


It's drinks season at the NYTX! Just this past Sunday we had the "If the Spirit Moves You" puzzle, and today we have the theme of DRINKDRINKDRINK! I don't know "The Student Prince," but it hardly mattered. The toasts are positioned symmetrically throughout the grid - some vertical, some horizontal, in kind of an unusual pattern. It was a surprise, for instance, to see theme answers at 5A and 62A. I like it!
All the toasts were familiar to me except for KANPAI (44D: Japanese toast). That whole corner, in fact, was tricky, with ADONAI (42D: God, in the Torah), the difficult clue for MIDST (41D: Center), and it didn't help that I guessed "wanteD" instead of REWARD for "43D: Common poster headline." Sheesh!

Elsewhere, we have quite a bit of dated material - NEHRU (16D: Kind of jacket), MARIS (48D: Roger who set a home run record in 1961), EMAC (40A: Early 2000s Apple product), ROK (29D: Korean War soldier) (this is new to me), KCAR (38D: 1980s Chrysler offering), and ALICES (26A: "____ Restuarant" (hit 1968 album). APPOINTEES and MARKETED are a little bland, but I liked TIRAMISU and OVERWEIGHT all right. REDSHIRT (35D: Hold aside for a year, as a college athlete) is not a term I know.

1A: Speedway event (RACE) - C-. Boring clue.
Favorite: I guess GODIVA (45A: Bare-naked Lady)
Least: IDI (61A: Uganda's Amin). I'd like to never think of him again.

Like on Sunday, I appreciate the boozy theme, but the overall puzzle wasn't really IDEAL. Not even the mini-Italy theme of AMALFI and San REMO could save it.


- Horace

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017, Michael Hawkins


Just yesterday in Jeff Chen mentioned that he was once cautioned against using "stair steps" of black squares around three letter words, as the puzzle can be made to feel a little tight. Today, however, it's almost nothing but stair steps (!), leading up to (or down to) the theme answers of STAIRCASEWIT (17A: Cleverness thought of too late to use) (I like this phrase, and I feel like I've heard it before, but it's not something I ever think of), ESCALATORCLAUSE (30A: Flexible contract provision) (not familiar to me), and ONTHEUPANDUP (42A: Straight-shooting) (my favorite).

1A: Braided Jewish bread (CHALLAH) - B+. Who doesn't enjoy a challah?
Favorite: 26A: Place to find a pen and teller (BANK) - Nice elevation of an average word.
Least: REUNESASYLA was also in the running.

Mr. Hawkins makes good use of the long downs today, getting in such fine words as HESITANT (7D: Wondering "Should I? Should I not?"), the full ETCETERA with its fun clue "Latin phrase used listlessly?," FROWNED UPON (10D: Discouraged), and the disturbing ROCKOPERA. And in the small stuff, SCRY (27D: Foretell the future by using a crystal ball) isn't something you hear very often. For some reason, I like that better than REUNES and ASYLA, but as I write this I can no longer tell if that is justified. It really is just a shortening of descry, isn't it? Hmmm...

Overall, I like this one, I guess. I'm not sure just how to describe it, so I'll use one of Amy Reynaldo's phrases - "Tuesdays gonna tues." That about sums it up.

- Horace

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017, Tom McCoy


A solid Monday puzzle. Simple theme, well-executed. What sets this apart, however, is that the theme density is quite high, but Mr. McCoy, whose name I have come to associate with solid construction, works around tight constraints to produce a pretty smooth result. A little WORSTS (5D: Opposite of bests) here, a little ENT (62A: Suffix with differ) there, but overall, nothing too CHAFING.

The theme phrases are all common, and the revealer is common, too, but it just seems a tiny bit odd itself. ODDSANDENDS (55A: Miscellany ... or a description of the final words in 15-...) gives you an overall feeling that we're dealing with odd numbers at the ends of phrases, but it doesn't really line up perfectly, if you see what I mean. But I suppose we should all be able to allow for such artful vagueness, shouldn't we?

Aside from the theme, I enjoyed HITORMISS (9D: Sometimes good, sometimes bad), MOXIE (11D: Gumption) (Excellent clue.), CROOK (6D: No-good thief), and even SPEEDO (12A: Swim meet coverage?). Hah!

1A: STRAW (Building material for the first little pig) - B+. Fine word, very good clue.
Favorite: 57D: Like some library books and babies (DUE)
Runner-up: 37A: "Mmm-hmm, mmm-hmm" (ISEE)

There was no least favorite. That's just how it was today. I enjoyed the clueing, I enjoyed the puzzle. Nice start to the week!

- Horace

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017, Pete Muller and Andrea Carla Michaels


We're big fans of the cocktail here at H&F featuring C. In fact, I had a wonderful dirty martini on Friday night, on my way to having one too many to write the review on time. I am not familiar with a "Pink Lady" or "Tia Maria," but the rest of the circled drinks, I know.

So the big central cross of DRINKSALLAROUND and COCKTAILLOUNGES is fine, but those circled drinks, with their triple-checked squares, led to some less-than-ideal situations. The SW corner, in particular, made me want to reach for a bottle! TITRE (93D: Concentration, to a British chemist), is not IDEAL. And, not being on the whole "Game of Thrones" bandwagon, I have no idea who AIDAN Gillen is. Around the other drinks we find NEBS, APIAN, SENG, RANAS, ALARUM, GOWATWT, LEOI, and ERNA. Ah yes, ERNA Berger, the coloratura soprano from the 1940s and 50s. Of course! And before I SEGUE to the better stuff, I'll just call out a few more entries that were not ADVANTAGES - ORLE, BETO, CIV, SRI, IBN, IFAT, NOES.

There were, however, elements of both YINANDYANG, and I did enjoy a lot of the mid-length fill. ROUGHCUT (36D: Partially edited version of a movie), ENTRANCES (38D: Bedazzles) (it's funny, because it also spells "entrances"), DUSTMOPS (55D: Bunny chasers?) (I was glad this had nothing to do with "Playboy"), and NONSTARTER (69D: Awful idea). And in the "interesting trivia" category that I like so much, we have 8D: It's Irish for "We Ourselves" (SINNFEIN). And in the "funny/not funny" category - SEEADOCTOR (99A: What you should do "if symptoms persist.") Hah!

1A: Five Norwegian kings (OLAVS) - D.
Favorite: 37A: Like most things in "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" (WEIRD). I was amused by the clue.
Least: REINK (40A: Make brighter, as a fading tattoo). I was not amused by the clue. Do people actually do that?

So not all bad, certainly, but not terribly smooth either. I particularly disliked the cross of TOSAM and NEDROREM, but I'm guessing others, Colum included, had no trouble with that.

Now it's time for a drink!

- Horace

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017, Zachary Spitz


I'm liking this Zachary Spitz fellow. He and his mom had a co-byline on a fun Tuesday puzzle back in April, and this was another good one. Great start with the thoroughly contemporary AMAZEBALLS (A), and lots of strong material throughout. ATROCIOUS (28D: Deplorable), IMMOLATES (32D: Offers as a sacrifice), CONCOCT (41D: Throw together), and RANSACKS (23D: Scours) - all quite good.

This young, male, constructor gets quite a bit of racy material into the grid today, including the former porn star TRACI Lords, SEXSCANDAL, ARSE (well-clued with "Seat in Parliament?"), and others. The cluing, overall, I thought was quite good, and I like the trivia in "6D: Castro overthrew him" (BATISTA), and "21D: Traditional rite of passage month the Masai" (LIONHUNT), although I think there was a misprint in the clue, as Wikipedia tells me it is the Maasai people in Africa, not the people of Masai, in Indonesia.

There are a few big entries, like DATESUGAR and ROCKMELON that are a little boring, but the scales definitely tip to the good today. I look forward to seeing more from young Mr. Spitz.

- Horace

Friday, July 14, 2017, Patrick Berry


Please forgive the lateness of my review. Yesterday was Bastille Day, and we went out for a nice French dinner with friends. It was all going quite well until I ordered one more bottle of wine...
Vive la France!

Anyway, this puzzle went along swimmingly until all I was left with was the NE corner, which I only just now finished with Frannie's help. Not remembering DOANS (8D: Popular backache remedy) and not knowing SEAOATS (13D: Beach grass that prevents erosion) made things difficult. And I couldn't think of DISCUS (8A: Event featured in every Summer Olympics) until I had "scu" in place. I like that one. And I also liked CASTANETS and UPSTAIRS (12D: Flight destination?) Tricky!

The center section has staggered long answers, which I kind of think of as one of Mr. Berry's trademarks. Today they are all serviceable answers, but not particularly scintillating.

Realizing that TUFFET would be the answer to "45A: Short-legged item of furniture" was amusing. As was the SHAW quote "Hell is full of musical amateurs." SCREENER is weak, but GOODTOGO was good. TOETAGS (35D: IDs tied to one digit) was a little bleak, but HOCK, and SCRAP, and HEREAFTER, and STARSYSTEM were all good.

Overall, it was a pretty smooth affair. Only a few bits of SCREENER and ORES to hold things together.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017, Lewis E. Rothlein


Just 14 seconds off my fastest Thursday ever, and almost a full 13 minutes faster than my average, this puzzle was over before it began. The theme, XMARKSTHESPOT (15D: Treasure hunt phrase ... or a hint to seven Across answers) was a dead giveaway, and the only temporary hold-up was the strangeness of a (very good) non-theme answer at 28A: Rug rat (ANKLEBITER). I know that the theme answers are not symmetrical, and I like that, but somehow, as the other, longest Across answer, I just expected one there.

I enjoyed STIFFARM (17A: Push aside for selfish ends), AMBIENT (42D: Surrounding), and GASLIT (7A: Like London streets during Dickens's time), where I first tried "filthy." Hah!

Entries I did not like included ETALII (52A: List shortener), RANTAT (21A: Harangue), and my least favorite, of the week, and maybe the month, is UNTUNE (45D: Affect, as humidity might a piano). That is not good.

1A: Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes," e.g. (IMP) - C. I tried "boy." Heh.
Favorite: ESPRIT (43A: Sparkle). I just like the spirit of the clue.
Least: See above.

The X/SPOT theme was fine, and well done (I especially liked the double in PRIXFIXE), but it was just too quick for a Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Patrick Merrell and Elayne Boosler

0:15:40 (F.W.O.E.)

Just like she used to do on the show with the Carson who was known for his monologues, Elayne Boosler makes me laugh. I got the first theme answer (UBERDRIVER (18A: Modern-day remake of a Robert De Niro film?)) pretty quickly, and smiled. It's a clever trick. I'd never heard of "The Bank Dick," but HOLIDAYAIRBNB (46A: Modern-day remake of a Bing Crosby film?) is a classic! And finishing it up with GMOPOPCORN also got a little chuckle.

Unsurprisingly, the fill had a decent amount of humorous material, too. 65A: Guy with a lot of bookings? (DANNO) is hilarous - at least to this middle-aged man. Did they keep all the old names on the new show, I wonder? And does McGarrett still say "Book him, Danno?" Anyway... 67A: Make litterproof? (SPAY) was brilliant. And I'm super sad that my error came in RUBIN (15A: Apply, as lotion) (I had "rub on") because FIREPLUG (8D: What may have a dog leg to the left or right?) was also brilliant. I dropped in "golf hole" pretty confidently after putting in "rub on," and even while all the other letters were slowly changed (starting with the first theme answer) I never went back and found that O until after I got the sad message, and then it took me several minutes. O well...

Still, I very much enjoyed this puzzle. The cluing was very good and the theme was fun. And there's some great trivia in 56A: F.D.R., Churchill and Stalin's last meeting place (YALTA), 69A: Animals that provided hair used in Chewbacca's costume (YAKS), and 54A: Word derived from the name of a Belgian town (SPA). And here's another bit of trivia about that - there's a bottled sparkling water named "SPA" that we bought in the Netherlands, and I'm guessing that Belgian town is also its source.

You learn something new every day. (Yesterday, for example, I learned that the "lally column" was named for John Lally, who invented it. And he lived in Waltham, MA!) And when you can start the day with a good laugh, too, well, that's even better. Ms. Boosler, you still SLAY.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017, Zhouqin Burnikel


Interesting theme from Ms. Burnikel today. The POWERCOUPLE in question is AC/DC, the pair being found in each theme answer. It's a little odd that she chose Victoria and David Beckham as the example, as they are both foreign and, I would argue, not all that famous anymore. He's been retired for several years, and "Bend it Like Beckham" was released 15 years ago. What about picking a more current couple, like Beyoncé and Jay Z?

That quibble aside, the entries are all pretty good. As usual, there's one that's a little less scintillating than the others - ACTEDCOOL (47A: Stayed calm). Not terrible, just a little blah.

I like PAPAYA (1D: Fruit in som tam salad) and STANCH (3D: Stem the flow of) in the NW, and I was amused by the trio of multi-word answers in the NE, anchored by the answer INAWORD (12D: Briefly).

Lots of bonus non-theme today, actually. HEROINE (Katniss Everdeen, in "The Hunger Games") is lovely, AVOCADO (27D: California roll ingredient) is always welcome, and OPULENCE (37D: Luxury) was extravagant. :) I also enjoyed ASPECT (44D: Facet), HOARDS (34A: Stockpiles), PEATBOG (mmmm.... scotch), and, of course, AMES.

1A: Make the grade (PASS) - C. It's fine.
Favorite: NIECES (45D: "Uncle!" criers, maybe). Hah! Loved the misdirection there.
Least: PTSD. Nobody wants that.

- Horace

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017, Timothy Polin


I'm a big fan of WORLDPEACE, so this puzzle's theme was relevant to my interests. Also, my sister-in-law and her family are vacationing in Hawaii right now, so ALOHASHIRT (17A: Colorful top often worn with a lei) was apt! The second theme answer, however, was a complete unknown to me. Here's a picture of the SHALOMMEIRTOWER for you -

I tried to find one that made it look attractive, but it's kind of impossible. To be fair, it was the Sixties, and the PanAm tower had just been finished a few years before this, and I guess this kind of looks like a Mideast version of International Style...? No, it's just ugly. There's no two ways about it. But the puzzle is all about peace, so I'll not CARP.

I like the layout of this grid, with seven-stacks in all four corners. They aren't all winners, sadly, but SCREWIT (10D: "Oh darn, I give up!") was shockingly entertaining. CHOICER (46D: Finer in quality), however, I would fain be TASERED. CIRRI (7D: High, wispy clouds), too, is asking a lot on a Monday. (Sorry, Mr. Polin, sometimes bloggers gotta be HATERS.)

Overall, though, this was a fine Monday. We've got nice entries like MINX (25D: Coquette), ORIGAMI, CRONE ("If need be occupy a throne/Where nobody can call you crone."), and KENNEDY. Sigh.

1A: Emancipation Proclamation prez (ABE) - A. How can you give Honest Abe anything less?
Favorite: 64D: Period on Venus that's longer than a year on Venus (!) (DAY). Whaaaa?
Least: I guess I'll have to go with CHOICER.

A perfectly servicable Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, July 9, 2017, Will Nediger


Here's something I don't get to say often enough - I loved this Sunday puzzle. I got FREEZEACROWD (24A: Make lots of people stop in their tracks?) pretty early on, and when I did I smiled and I laughed out loud a little, and I told Frannie that this was going to be a good one. And it was. I mean, come on, who doesn't love a speech impediment? I'm kidding, of course, but come on, FELONIOUSMONKMIFFBUSTERS? This stuff is gold! I'm literally LOLing as I type!

But if I can get serious for a SEC, I was really INAFIX in the NW. I thought I was DONEFOR, but I asked Frannie, and she helped out with TOXICITY (23A: Deadliness). I had nothing up there but SKYE (and btw, is that a redundancy with ORKNEY? No wait, Skye is in the Hebrides.). She also gave me ACTS (1D: Doesn't just sit there) (I was stuck on "goes" or "does"), which finally gave me CHIPMUNK (20A: Theodore, for one). I was never, ever going to come up with that one, I'm afraid. Alvin, maybe. Theodore, no. What's the third one's name? Aren't there three?

1A: Relieves (ASSUAGES) - B+. It's a good word, and it stumped me.
Favorite (non theme) - 42D: About which you might ask "One lump or two?" (CAMEL)
Least: GUIDER (6D: One escorting)
Answers I dropped in without crosses: ECCEHOMOTEENWOLF and LANDOFOZ.

Looking this over again for the review, I like it more and more. Excellent Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saturday, July 8, 2017, David Steinberg


Boy that SW corner was a bear for me today! I so wanted “craft fair” (CRAFTSHOW) (29D: Outlet for artisans), that I took out REMOULADE (30D: Cousin of tartar sauce) over and over again because of the double A it gave at 53A: In prime condition (HALE). I kept thinking “a one” might work… Oh well. And who knew Confucius wrote ODES? Anyway, I spent a good seven or eight minutes down there trying to sort things out. If only I'd been SMARTER.

You know how sometimes puzzles just roll along and you don't get very worked up about the answers? Well, this was not one of those puzzles for me. This was the kind of puzzle where I had strong reactions to a lot of clues, both good and bad. On the plus side, I loved PROCTORED (9D: Supervised), TURPITUDE (43A: Wickedness), and REMOULADE (30D: Cousin of tartar sauce). And while I thought ADAMSAPPLE a very nice entry, I did not enjoy the clue at all (17A: What can't hold still during lectures?). It just seems a little too too, does it not? And entries like DECADESOLD (13A: From quite a while back), RAPBATTLE (10D: Climactic scene in the Eminem film "8 Mile"), and BEERDARTS (12D: Pub game) all rubbed me the wrong way. What the hell are "Beer Darts?" Isn't the game just called "Darts?" 

1A: Contemptible sort (ASS) - D. I enjoy the occasional edgy answer as much as the next guy, but starting the puzzle with a mild oath just seems so crass. Combine that with PERP walk, TRYST, and BCUPS and you've got a real sleazy feel in the starting corner.
Favorite: AMENITY (37A: Free Wi-Fi, e.g.) - because I'm sitting here "borrowing" such an amenity from someone right now!
Least: DDRIVE (42D: Certain PC storage area). Yeesh! 

I also didn't love FORES (40A: Links words), and I've never heard of MELO or OMARR. But as I always say, complaints of not knowing are groundless on a Saturday. 

Overall, I guess I just didn't like this one much. I hope you had a better time with it.

- Horace

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017, Andy Kravis


Mr. Kravis had me on the run at the start, when I looked quickly at "1A: Filing station?," and was fooled into assuming there were two "Ls." I thought about gas pumps, not a NAILSALON. But STRAP (10A: Bookbag part), on the other hand, went right in, and from that I quickly filled in the NE. SPINES (10D: Things seen on a bookshelf) is lovely in its literalness, and I liked RISKPRONE (12D: Like someone who invests in volatile stocks) (had RISKtaker in there for a while), but INSTA (18A: Photo app, slangily) is something I have not, happily, heard anyone say.

I really liked RODEUP (25A: Shifted, in a way, as a skirt). Such a great expression, and one that I have never seen in a puzzle. (Indeed, this is the first time it has appeared in the NYTX!) It also reminds me of something I like less, and something I'm not even sure I should put in print... but what the hell... My wife and her sisters, when they were very young, came up with the expression "Indian underwear," for those pairs that were "Creeping up on them." .... I know, right? Yikes! Sorry.

Anywhooo, I found lots to like in here. The nine-stacks were solid, with such lovely entries as INVIOLATE (15A: Kept sacred), SETPIECES (64A: Furniture and such onstage), and ENFORCING (62A: Putting teeth into). We also have GETSRIDOF (33D: Deep-sixes) and ATAPRICE (39D: Not without consequences), and if all that weren't enough, there's also a shining example of the kind of clue/answer that, when you finally get it, makes all the ASTIs, SRIs, and IDOS worthwhile - 27D: Dimensions without planes (NOFLYZONES). That's just beautiful.

So thumbs up. I could go on and on - I wanted, for instance, to mention that the very word "denim," used in the clue for 1D, includes, in a way, the answer. Denim is French for "from Nîmes" - "de Nîmes." Cool, non? And what about TITTLE? Seems a little risqué lying there right next to BEAVER. Too much? Perhaps.

OK, I'll sign off, but I'll say again that this was a good one.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thursday, July 6, 2017, Erik Agard


Yesterday I couldn't parse the game "Go" out of an answer, and today I don't know what expressions they're referencing with 35- and 37-Across. Jeff Chen on thinks that "killing two birds with one stone" could be the inspiration, but the "stones" (ONYX & OPAL) only "kill" (by crossing) one bird each, the MARTIN and the HAWK. The WREN and the HEN are left free to fly away. Additionally, SONYEXPERIA (5D: Line of Japanese smartphones) and BAMBOOPALM (27D: Tropical houseplant) do nothing for me. I don't own a smartphone and I have a black thumb where houseplants are concerned. Consequently, I had never heard of either answer before. Not that that matters, necessarily. I have heard of Mr. PIBB (but not PIBB Extra), and the band KORN, and probably lots of other solvers didn't know those. Or maybe they did... what do I know?

All that grousing aside, I'm not going to fly off the perch about it. I was limed early on by such fine answers as RUMRAISIN (1D: Popular [!] ice cream flavor) and SPARETIRE (2D: Little extra poundage). And in the opposite corner are caged POLEDANCE (33D: Performance that requires a lot of upper body strength) and SNOWANGEL (34D: Figure whose wings melt in the sun). I like how Mr. Agard works the blue material in the former, and the bird material in the latter.

1A: Say "Yeah, I can make it," say (RSVP) - C+. The plus is for French, and the odd repetition of the word "say" in the clue.
Favorite: 62A: Half of a two-volume directory (ATOM). It's surprising, because ATOM is a perfectly normal word, and sometimes surprising is all it takes. See also: 58A: Nursery item (TREE). I had "crib" in there for quite a while!
Least: 57D: Two-nation peninsula: Abbr. (KOR)

Decorates with some rolls, for short (TPS) was fun, and 30A: It uses clicks in lieu of paddles (EBAY) was tricky. It took me a long time to think of auction paddles! And 18D: It often occurs following a car wash, seemingly (RAIN) made me chuckle. But seriously, why wash your car? About twenty years ago I met a guy who argued against it as a total waste of time, resources, and money, and I had no rebuttal, so from pretty much that moment, we have never washed our car. Sure, I guess if I ran through deep mud I might consider hosing it off, but pay to drive through those brushes? No thank you.

So anyway, this was a disappointing Thursday puzzle for me. The theme made no sense, and it was over very quickly. Onward to the remainder of the Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, July 5, 2017, Jake Halperin


Classic board games found in ordinary-ish phrases is today's theme. LIFEONTHERUN (27A: Travel edition of a classic board game?) isn't something that I hear very often, but the other three are normal enough. My favorite is FLIGHTRISK, because it's the funniest and the best game. And because I have never heard of the board game "Goon." Or maybe it's "Vacation?" I really have no idea.

The grid is pretty open, with decent flow from one area to the next. There are those little islands in the NW and SE, but they didn't cause too much trouble. The fill includes some very nice eight-, nine-, and even eleven-letter entries in the Downs, including LINGERIE (39D: Boudoir wear), FOODGROUP (10D: Cooking class?) (nice clue!), SOUNDEFFECT (6D: Boing, for a spring) (ditto), and TACOSTAND (33D: Place to grab a bite in Mexico).

OEUF (18D: One of a dozen in un frigidaire) (nice non-capital), CINE (54D: French filmdom), FINIPESO, and FRIO (34A: Opposite of caliente) provide an URBANE air, and ORAMA, NOES (30D: Refusals), and ELOI provide bloggers with a little something to grouse about.

1A: Songwriters' org. (ASCAP) - D.
Favorite: 61A: Done, in Verdun (FINI), because it reminds me of a funny limerick.
Least: 44D: Nonproliferation treaty subjects, informally (NTESTS), because it reminds me of North Korea, and a nagging worry that they will eventually nuke us.

All in all, a pretty solid debut puzzle.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie points out that 43A includes the game "Go." What a goon I am for not seeing this...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017, Brendan Emmett Quigley and Mangesh Ghogre


An amusing "fourth of July" theme today, where each letter is phonetically represented at the start of each theme answer: "jay," "you," "elle," and "why." The full theme answers are made up of two names and two phrases - YOUARENOTALONE (25A: "I'm here, too") being the weakest. It's not bad, really, it's just not all that common seeming a phrase. At least not to me.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!

There are a few stars in the field of fill today - mostly in the Downs, where there was more room for slightly longer answers. ONALLFOURS (26D: Crawling, say) (extra theme material?) was good. EMULATE and ENTICE are MODISH (24D: Fashionable), and PLUMTOMATO is fine.

We do find a few oddities, in IDYL (3D: Pastoral verse), TOME (31D: São ____ and Príncipe) clued as a partial, and the ever-popular AROAR. And I found a surprising amount of material that one might not want to promote on such a jingoistic holiday: NIXON - who MUSSed up the presidential office, in part through his dealings with the SHAH, to whom he sold a veritable ARSENAL; HUEY (23D: Chopper in the Vietnam War) references another STAIN on our history. Heck, even NAACP (28D: Org. that gives out Image Awards and Spingarn Medals), with its mission statement that hopes "to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination," puts names to troubles that have plagued this country from its very beginning to today.

Perhaps I should just RELAX, but everywhere I look, I see entries that give me SPASMS. OKAY, ILL PUTON a happy face and act the YOKEL. Bring on the TNT!

- Horace

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Monday, July 3, 2017, Randall J. Hartman

0:05:22 (F.W.O.E.)

Another day, another FWOE. Dammit! I somehow ended up having LANE for both 39A: Superman's love interest Lois ____) and 34A: Superboy's love interest ____ Lang (LANA). I know, it doesn't make any sense, and I don't know how it happened, but there it is.

So for today's theme we have four long answers that end with synonyms - BOMB, FLOP, TURKEY, and BUST. Whether the last answer, HOLLYWOODORBUST should be taken as something of a revealer, since all four words are often used for bad movies, I don't know. I did learn that it was the last movie that DEAN Martin and INANE Lewis did together, and that they could no longer ABIDE one another by then. They were, in fact, so IRATE that they did not speak to one another off set during the entire filming. Lewis has said that it is the only one of his films that he has never seen, because watching it would be too painful. Poor guy.

1A: Tokyo's land (JAPAN) gets a B.
Favorite: The weird duo of BROADWAY and ROAD.
Least: TBS (20A: Atlanta-based cable channel). It's just so meh.

Nice that ARLO and GUTHRIE made it in, and that the latter crossed ROASTTURKEY seemed appropriate. I always enjoy thinking of HELEN of Troy, but not so much a LASERGUIDEDBOMB.

It was a fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, July 2, 2017, Patrick Blindauer


Wow! A very tricky Sunday! And, I might add, much, much more difficult to complete on an iPad, where the central "long and winding road" is totally made up of black squares into which you cannot enter letters. The Beatles connection was a big help, and once I saw what the letters along the road would spell out, it helped me to finally figure out such tricky ones as CLE[V]ELAND (78A: Harrison's successor) and ALE[R]TEST (23D: Most watchful).

On the other hand, entries like 65A: "The Time Machine" race (ELO[I]), and 68A: Delany or Carvey (DAN[A]) were some of the ones that gave away that there was something else going on in the first place.

So again I say Wow. It was a struggle, and the sparse placement of the letters on the road was a bit troubling, but in the end, I am a fan. I mean, come on, it's a Beatles-related theme, and it had some nice bits of trivia! So let's look at non-theme stuff.

1A: Major tenant of Rockefeller Center (NBCTV) - It's fine, but it's an abbreviation. On the other hand, it's kind of an unusual abbreviation, because it's made up of two separate abbreviations mashed together, so let's give it a C+.

I very much liked the long downs in the center, especially BROADSID[E] (37D: Strongly worded attack), EVANESCE (59D: Slowly fade away), DELUXE (68D: Extra-special), and PLATEAU (80D: The highest form of flattery?). I liked the little Penny theme in 15D: Penny, mostly (ZINC) and 94A: 1943 penny material (STEEL). CLAMORED (106A: Raised a ruckus) is nice, but seems like something that no one would say. And RANARACE (28A: Emulated the tortoise and hare) is clued so absurdly that I had to smile when I realized the obvious answer was so obviously correct.

So thumbs up. It's an unusual theme, a tricky puzzle, and I applaud it. Nice work, Mr. Blindauer.

- Horace

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017, David Phillips

25:17 (F.W.O.E.)

Hello, Dear Reader! It is I, Horace. OHDEARME it seems like ages STINTS I wrote a review! Thanks, Frannie and Colum, for two months of excellent and entertaining reviews! ITHINKICAN safely say that you are both my AMIS, and my ROLEMODELS as I try to EARNSANAME for myself on this blog!

But if I could bluntly SEGWAY to the actual review, I want to start with a complaint. And it's really more of a lifestyle scold, so LISTENHERE, I hope that none of our readers actually considers a PLASTICBAG to be a "Checkout counter option." Say it with me - the answer to "Paper or Plastic?" is always, "Neither. I've brought my own!"

In actual puzzle complaints, I call "boring" on COSET (MATH subgroup), and "Ooh, that's Saturday hard!" on RAO (42A: "Kanthapura" novelist Raja ____). Or maybe it's just "non-reader hard," I don't know... TVCAMERAS (30D: Soap-making equipment?) had me fooled for quite a while, and AEROLOGY (34D: Study of the atmosphere) gets a YEAHSURE from me. Yeah, sure, it's probably correct, but it just seems so... I don't know, obvious? What wasn't, sadly, obvious to me, but should have been, was OPERASERIA (51A: Mozart's "Il Re Pastore," e.g.). I saw "Mozart," and what looked like it could be an aria name, and I had the R at the end, so I wrote in "aRIA," and waited for the first part to come in. I should have noticed that MADaRA (41D: City and county of central California) didn't look right, or, come to think of it, that OPERASaRIA didn't either, but, well, I didn't. So FWOE. (BTW, SAES is weak. Aren't they really SASEs most of the time?)

So let's see, I used to do various things every day....

1A: Noodle house noodles (SOBA) gets a B. Mostly because I like SOBA so much.
Favorite: MATINEES (37A: Early showings) (Did you notice that "previews" also fit?)
Least: Probably that SAES.

Overall, there were some peppy entries: TRASHTALKS, SALTLICK, CHINATOWN... but it didn't really wow me.

- Horace