Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017, Zachary Spitz


Oh, this is fun. What a great way to wrap up my month of blogging. I had a sense a rebus might be on the books when I had difficulty filling in the NW corner despite recalling ALONSO of all things.

So a rebus is less fun when it's predictable. There are two ways it can be predictable: the same rebus in all places, and rebuses in symmetric squares. This puzzle is predictable in where the rebuses are, namely in the three corners, but each square has a different rebus, which is very nice.

In the end, we have four examples of a CORNER / OFFICE. In the NW, it's a [BOX] office; in the NE, it's a [POST] office; in the SE, it's a [HOME] office; and in the SW it's the [OVAL] office. Very nicely done.

My favorite corner is the SW, because it took me so long to figure out what was going on, particularly because of 36D: Need for drugs (FDAAPPR[OVAL]). Tough tough clue, combined with the strangest combination of letters. Strong work, making 61A: "This puzzle is relatively easy," say (LIE) ironically true. The other two 8-letter down answers in that corner were tough also (RINSEOUT, because "De-suds" sounds like it should be a plural, and YAKITORI, because Japanese).

I was very happy to have Gavin MACLEOD right across the center of the puzzle. I did know him best from "The Love Boat," but plenty would recall him more from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Which one resonates most with you?

Love SAFEHARBOR and POOREXCUSE. 21A: Pilot's surroundings (GASOVEN) gets a nod of approval, especially with the lack of a question mark. I also enjoyed 57A: Odd group of musicians? (NONET), even though the answer lacked any specificity (note "trio," "quintet," or "septet" would all have satisfied as well). However, any group of musicians is likely odd, just from the get go.

Fave: NECK (60D: Make out). I was so ready for a non-blue answer here.
Least fave: NRA (F.D.R.-created program with the slogan "We Do Our Part"). Nice try, referring to the National Recovery Administration.

And I'm out. Enjoy a month or two of other people's reviews. I had a great time this month. I definitely felt like the puzzles were largely on the better than average side, with a few outstanding examples.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017, David Kahn

6:28 (FWOE)

If it's Wednesday, it must be a word ladder. Or is the opposite? If it's a word ladder, it must be a Wednesday? Anyway, in either case, I'll take a good word ladder from time to time (de temps en temps, as Frannie would say). And this one is certainly ambitious. Each entry is 5 letters long, and there are nine total steps. In an additional lovely little twist, the central answer, BLADE, which has gone from BLUNT to SHARP, is tied to two extra 5-letter answers along the E and W sides, KNIFE and RAZOR.

Still... you really want every step in the word ladder to be widely accepted English words. Maybe one proper noun if necessary. Here, we have both BLART, the name of the main character in a movie which has 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, and SLADE, a glam rock band from the United Kingdom (yes, they had 6 certified #1 hits in England, but never reached higher than 60 here in the biased US of A). So that tarnishes the ladder somewhat.

Anyway, all of that theme (-ish) material means that there are really no standout filler entries. The longest six are 7 letters long, and really, STAPLES, UKULELE, TEALEAF, STEWARD, STUDIOS, and OLEMISS are not exactly world beaters.

On the other hand, the puzzle on the whole is pretty smooth. I made a stoopid error by putting in OsAMA instead of OBAMA. I mean, really? Too soon? Check your crosses, people.

I was amused by the brazenness of 6D: Rep. or Dem., e.g. (ABBR). That's putting it right there in your face. Guess that's why there's no "abbr." in the clue! Also, 22A: No longer in bed? (AWEIGH) is a tough misdirection of a clue! Very clever. And lastly, in the clever clue business, there's 55A: Cabbage or kale (DOREMI), which is referring here to money, moolah, dough.

Don't like ICERS, partial ANERA, or ever thinking about STYES.

Otherwise, I guess on the whole I'll give it a thumbs up.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017, Adam G. Perl


Tuesday faster than a Monday. It think that says more about yesterday's puzzle than today's.

I'm a really big fan of this theme. First of all, there are four 15-letter answers, two of them by virtue of the 50% increase in numbers. Second, the three original answers, "twenty questions," "ten-foot pole," and "Eight Days a Week," are all very strong. And finally, the revealer, TOOCLEVERBYHALF, explains the puzzle in a self-conscious teasing way. I love it.

I figured out THIRTYQUESTIONS first, and wondered where the heck that came from. At first, when I had THIRTYQUE____, I was wondering if the question ("Classic game needing no equipment") was referring to 500, but that was clearly the wrong number, and in any case you need a baseball bat, a baseball, and any number of gloves to play it. Once I got FIFTEENFOOTPOLE, it was clear that everything was too much by a factor of 1.5.

28D: Lies (FALSEHOODS) confused me for a bit. I had FALSEHOpeS, which is sort of correct. TOpCLEVER____ put me right. I also had STeady at 44D: Kind of income a lending officer likes to see (STABLE). In this case, I like my answer better. Otherwise I had no true stumbling blocks.

10D: Words of encouragement (CHINUP) was clued oddly. I wonder if initially it was clued with reference to the exercise. I wanted to put CROUP in off of the clue, but hesitated because I wanted "satire" for SNL's COMEDY.

Isn't 29D: Hardly a celebrity (NOBODY) harsh? I mean, I'm hardly what you'd call famous, but I'd like to think I'm a little more than just a nobody. 37A: High winds? (OBOES) is a nice way to clue this standard piece of crosswordese. The only higher winds are flutes and piccolos.

1A: Staple of Chinese cuisine (RICE) gets a C. I had Chinese food tonight, but it was disappointing.
Fave: STOLE (62A: It's a wrap). Fun clue. And better than cluing with the past tense of steal.
Least fave: OTIS (23D: "Miss" with regrets). I now understand the clue, as it refers to a Cole Porter song, "Miss Otis Regrets," and thus is deserving of recognition. But the clue as it's presented is a mystery, IMHO, and well out of a Tuesday level.

Pretty good puzzle!

- Colum

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017, Dan Margolis


All sorts of places I set myself back while solving this puzzle. It started with putting "space" in at 5A: Wide keyboard key (ENTER), then Aton for ALOT. Later I took out "space" because I wanted to put dEf in for RES. Following that I misspelled VITTLES with a Z (?!), and then finally stared at the crossing of CGI and GIGS for 15 seconds trying to place the final letter. Better than finishing with an error, I suppose, right?

Oh, and I put MutE in for 36A: Charades player, essentially (MIME). That's a lot of errors to make up for.

Our theme today is a collection of four equine beasts. An ass is a subspecies of equus, while a mule is the offspring of a donkey and a horse, and is famously sterile. All four phrases are relatively strong, with STUBBORNASAMULE and ONETRICKPONY being the best. ONONESHIGHHORSE suffers from the "one's", but is acceptable. THELAWISAASS is the least familiar and the most enjoyable, for certain, but required a number of crosses to become clear to this solver.

BEANTOWN is of course well known to the bloggers on this site. ISIAH returns once again, although not the Isaiah Thomas who was recently traded from Boston to Cleveland, maybe.

1A: Battery fluid (ACID) gets a B-. It's okay.
Fave: SIESTA (42A: Rest of the afternoon). Great clue.
Least fave: ASSN, I guess (1D: The first "A" of N.A.A.C.P.: Abbr.), just because it's an abbreviation from an acronym.

Pretty smooth overall.

- Colum

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017, Jeff Chen


This theme confused me for a while. I had CINDERELLASTORY in place fairly quickly, then hit 29A: 23-Across, literally? So I looked for 23-Across, which doesn't actually exist, but there is a square with 23 in it in the aforementioned long clue. So I looked at what happened there and found ...LASTORY. Oh, I thought. L.A. Story, that stalwart of crossword puzzles, also the movie with Steve Martin and the talking billboard.

So, when I finally had LASTPLACE entered, I was not at all sure what was going on. My confusion was further reinforced when I had THEGRANITESTATE in place and was asked to define the portion of 60-Down, which came out as ...TESTATE. That's also a word, meaning to have a will prior to one's death. So why did TESTSITE refer to that?

It became clear with the other two examples, as ...DEADIFFERENCE and ...CANALYST are not actually words on their own. Instead, the secondary answers refer to simply the placement of words inside the larger answers. Thus you get DEADSPOT and CANALZONE from the latter two answers.

Once I saw that there was nothing more to the theme than that, I actually appreciated it quite a lot. First of all, each of the "hidden" words cross multiple words in the parent phrase, as in MA[DEAD]IFFERENCE. Second, each word has to occur at a point in the parent phrase where an answer in the other direction starts, in order to have a number in that square.

And finally, all four secondary answers are strong answers in and of themselves. I had thought it would be "dead zone" initially, but had to take that out when the crosses didn't work, and DEADSPOT is definitely better. Oh, and also, note that all four secondary answers are parallel and only two rows or columns removed from their respective primary answers. Nice.

It's not a ton of theme material for a Sunday (although with all of the constraints listed above, any more would likely have been impossible), which leaves a lot of space for interesting fill. I didn't like IVANI or random ETIENNE (Lenoir, although I suppose this gentleman deserves more recognition). And what's with the rash of ANTIS recently?

Things I liked: 65A: Bombs developed in the 1950s (EDSELS) - so much better than N-tests or whatever. 79A: Disaster film? (OILSLICK) is a great clue. And 39A: Spicy stuff? (EROTICA) was bluer than expected. Probably my favorite clue, however, was 93D: Asked for a desk, say (ANAGRAM). Beautiful. Took a long time to figure out.

I liked this puzzle a lot.

- Colum

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017, Peter Wentz


Today, I solved INCAHOOTS with Cece and Hope, with one assist from Phoebe, who knew BOYLESLAW. By the way, that 1A (As thick as thieves) gets an A from me. Strong clue, great answer.

I had anilS before tealS, finally settling on CYANS. Which I've often thought of as green rather than blue. Actually, Wikipedia tells me it's between blue and green. On the other hand, it's the source of Prussian blue, so there's that.

Hope got ORALPHASE (17A: Nursing is a key component of it). I took a moment to understand. I was thinking so definitely about hospital care, but it's referring to breastfeeding. Very nice.

Was MULAN actually a princess? She's listed as one of the Disney "Princesses," but is also clearly not an actual princess in the sense of being the daughter of royalty. My goodness, I'm running into a lot of controversy today!

We're all big fans of YESAND around here. Improvisation is fun, but more to the point, it emphasized positive interaction and support. If you haven't seen it, I recommend The Incredible Jessica James, available on Netflix. It's lovely and funny and sweet. Yes, and it's about improvisation, at least in part.

Cece got OVERTHERE off of the E, so shout out to her. I liked 52A: Explosive theory? (THEBIGBANG).

Three quarters of the puzzle was finished in about 10-11 minutes, leaving the SE corner, which held out for the remaining 6-7 minutes. Even with IMBACK and LEBANON in place, it took quite some time to figure out any of the acrosses. First off, I had Golf in the place of GLEE. GAH is a tough find. POMELO even more so. I'd guessed MAGI for 56A: Birthday visitors?, but had not entered it.

In the end, Hope got ANALGESIC, and we were home free. A group effort, which is always fun.

- Colum

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017, Sam Trabucco


I feel like we're on a roll here at the NYT xword. Another very nice puzzle today, full of fun entries, good clues, and smooth fill.

I was pleased that my first three guesses of GOD, ODE, and OOH turned out to be correct. It made the puzzle start off quickly. I very much enjoyed 15A: Shoe-in? (ODOREATER). GOODSTUFF wasn't quite as, well... good. I'd give it a solid B-. Fortunately, the clue was definitely a good omen for the rest of the puzzle.

I feel like all of the long answers were very strong. The puzzle felt FRESHFACED, and certainly avoided any BANANAPEELS along the way. 29D: Too high to catch? (ULTRASONIC) is an extremely fine clue.

12D: Home to many sisters (SORORITYROW) made me think I was looking for an abbey or a nunnery. Do sorority members actually call themselves "sisters"? I'd think "members" would be more the term, but what do I know? I've never been to a sorority in my life.

I thought having NEVEREVER over IDONTMIND was like asking for volunteers and getting the spectrum of answers. Meanwhile, the CONEHEADS lived in the bottom corner. I immediately knew that one! Can't believe Remulak has a little corner of my brain all to itself.

Two "Test" clues (DRYRUN and ASSAY), as well as the split reference to John Hancock as the individual from Massachusetts history, along with his famed PEN (although I think we all disregard the tool in favor of what it produced in this particular instance), and as the insurance company, whose rival is AETNA. And finally, the two sleeping answers cross at TAKEASNOOZE and DOZE. In our household, however, we take a little snoozle instead.

I don't generally enjoy seeing a referential clue appear before the clue it's referencing. Thus, REELS coming before ROD is not aesthetically pleasing.

But overall, this is a HELLA good puzzle. (And one that seemed very PERKY and pleased with itself, and life overall).

- Colum

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017, Neil Patrick Harris and David Steinberg

6:18 (FWOE)

Oh, wow.

The theme is superb. I love it! LOVE it. ADORBS.

ESCAPEARTIST and DISAPPEARINGACT are just warmups for the real fun that occurs in the bottom portion of the grid. Here, we have HARRYHOUDINI hiding literally from the crosses, which are clued as if the letters of his name weren't part of the answer. I almost left that theme answer blank, thinking that was the trick.

But no! Each crossing answer has become a new word with the addition of the letters in his name. I first truly realized something was up when I wanted to put "Tempe" in at 36D: Home of Arizona State University (TEMPE[R]). Slowly it dawned on me that I could actually put Houdini's name in, and the puzzle would still work. Beautiful stuff!

I love "acing" becoming AC[H]ING, "Oman" becoming O[H]MAN, and RSA becoming [U]RSA. What a fun and clever theme.

By the way, it turns out that Neil Patrick Harris, in addition to being a very funny actor and an outstanding Broadway singer, is an accomplished magician, so that must be the connection here.

To be honest, the rest of the fill is not quite so amazing, although it is smooth enough, and not boring enough to become a YAWNER or MEH (C- for that one). I enjoyed the boldness of HEGOAT (16A: Billy). SEXTAPE is its own kind of bold, of course.

EDWINA is a reference to an old favorite film. PECAN pie is one of my favorites. But of course my favorite answer has to be 8D: 2013 World Series champs (REDSOX). That's too easy.

Least favorite gets to be APOP (4D: Individually).

I did have an error, by putting PINTo in. That's stupid. It's a ship. It has to be female (PINTA).

- Colum

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday, August 23, 2017, Joe Kidd

4:50 (FWOE)

Well, okay. Standard phrases with -ELS added, reclue wackily, and you have a theme. All three examples are quite well done, but with two 14-letter answers and one 15-letter, that's some 43 squares of theme, which seems a little light. I'm not typically big into revealers, but one here might have tied it together somehow.

Meanwhile, who doesn't like 36A: Henhouses of ill repute? (CHICKENBROTHELS). That's some silly stuff. Even better is 49A: The "I" and "o" "I do"? (MARRIAGEVOWELS). Hah! SECURITYCAMELS has a quite humorous visual, but not the same impact of the other two.

On the nice side, with so little theme, there's space for some really fun fill. I knew we were in for some good stuff when I hit 4D: "It'll never happen!" (FATCHANCE). Very nice. YOURMOVE and EASYTHERE were two more examples of fun little spoken phrases.

The other one, 35D: "Let's be serious here ..." was the site of my error. I had come across 41A: Nascar's Yarborough (CALE), when I had _ALE, and put a D in, essentially without thinking. When I finished the entire puzzle in the SE corner with 64A: Wicked Witch's home (WEST) and got the error message, I looked up and saw I had entered OHdOMENOW. As in "Oh, do me now!" That seemed just a tad inappropriate for the NYT. The real answer, OHCOMENOW, is much more in line. If I have to have an error, that's an error I'm happy to see!

The other zingy answer was KACHING, which I was happy to enter off of the K.

What's up with all the repeated answers recently? CLUE, ORION, OCHOA.

My kids would wince at 26D: Like a basted turkey (MOIST). That word is considered squinchy.

1A: Remove, as a hat (DOFF). B+. I love the word, and it was the only possible answer. Went right in.
Fave: ODETOJOY (38D: Schiller work adapted by Beethoven), as in his ninth symphony. You can never hear it too often.
Least fave: UEY (20A: One-eighty). You can never hear it too little.

Disregard any sense of dissatisfaction above. I liked this puzzle.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017, Timothy Polin


Faster than yesterday! Of course, yesterday was a 15 x 16, so that adds a bit of time.

I like the East-West symmetry here, and the seven examples of American cities whose names encompass the postal abbreviations of their states. Naturally, I'm partial to 46D: Original eastern terminus of the Erie Canal (ALBANY), as that's where I'm writing from. Still shout out to finding two 11-letter city names that fit the pattern in BLOOMINGTON and SANTAMONICA. I'm also impressed by the adjoining 10-letter answers of GRANDFORKS and TUSCALOOSA. It was fun to try to come up with the city names based on the trivia in the clues.

Part of the way Mr. Polin was able to achieve this was by completely segmenting each of the corners off from the rest of the grid. Somehow I didn't mind this as much today, because the corners were all well clued and fairly crossed.

In the fill, I liked the pairing of 42A: Destiny (KISMET) and 43A: Spiritual center, in yoga (CHAKRA). The two words come from Arabic and Sanskrit, respectively, representing two ancient and intellectual cultures.

1A: Containers at chocolate factories (VATS) - C. Or any factory producing liquids, perhaps? Why chocolate specifically? Maybe because it's yummy. Perhaps I should upgrade to C+.
Fave: WHIR (40D: Fan sound). I tried jeeR, roaR, and even considered switching to Wave before getting it was an entirely different kind of fan.
Least fave: VCHIP (1D: TV blocking device). Are these things still being used?

- Colum

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017, Tom McCoy


Slow for a Monday! But definitely worth it.

Let's just start off with 18A: Feet in the city? (3 wds.). Answer? URBANLEGENDS, as in "urban leg-ends." Hah! That has me still chuckling. It's so stupid! I love it. The other three aren't quite as funny to me. I do like QUICKTHINKING, just imagining a "slim monarch who gets around fast."

I hardly thought a revealer was necessary, but THEGAP (39A: Something to mind ... in 18-, 24-, 47- and 58-Across) is pretty good. In fact, all of those 6-letter across answers leading from RHESUS up through YOUBET are strong.

But what's really impressive about this Monday offering are the pair of 10-letter answers in the NE and SW corners. The SW pair are stronger, with BASERUNNER and ELIWHITNEY. I love seeing the full name of crossword friendly cotton gin inventor Eli. SECURELINK is not quite as strong, but AMPLITUDES is nice.

With PLANKTON and BELGRADE, this puzzle was full of fun stuff. I'm overlooking PSST, SSS, and SISI (it just will not die!) because I liked it overall.

1A: Won every game (SWEPT) gets a B-. It's pretty good.
Fave: IDIOTS (16A: Dolts). It's just so baldly out there. What all of us have thought at one time or another.
Least fave: LUV (36A: Adore, cutesily). It's just so baldly out there. What all of us would like never to have to read ever again.

- Colum

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin


Well known phrases that begin with a word starting with "re-" are reimagined as an email subject line, where the "re-" becomes "Re:", and the remaining phrase is reclued wackily. Huh. That was hard to explain!

It works for the most part. I don't quite get 69A: Re: ____ (sales agent's subject line ... with an attachment) (ADONLYFILE). Are we to interpret the subject line as reading "ad only," and the "file" signals the attachment? I'm not sure why the "only" is in there, unless we have to then assume there is no text in the body of the email.

My favorite is the last one, ACHESFORTHESTARS, in that the removal of "re-" causes the new word to be pronounced in a radically different way. Just now I realize that I misread the clue as "physicist" rather than "physician." I would have chosen "would-be astronaut" instead, as who is aching in this phrase? The doctor? That makes no sense. The celebrities? Well, then it would be "of" rather than "for".

Well, anyway, this is a lot of detail nitpicking. Overall, it works fine, just not exactly brilliantly. I really didn't laugh out loud at any of them, except a small chuckle for TREATISNOTANOPTION.

The remaining puzzle is reasonable. There are only two longer crossing answers, IWANNASEE which is strong and GMCTRUCKS which was nicely misdirected by the clue (78D: Sierras, e.g.).

The only spot that gave me trouble was in the middle NE. I had put in "blue" for 10A: XXX (CHIS). Then I entered bReed for 10D: Dalmatian, e.g. (CROAT). I fell for both traps!

1A: Matisse, e.g., stylistically (FAUVE) gets an A-. Nice bit of art history there.
Fave: MYRTLE (63D: Moaning Hogwarts ghost). I like a good Harry Potter reference.
Least fave: STPIERRE (26A: The first pope, to French speakers). I'm not sure how far afield we should be letting this sort of thing go. San Pietro? San Pedro? Sankt Pyotr?

- Colum

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017, Mark Diehl


There's a lot to like here, and some that I personally did not love. Of course, by now you all probably know what my first complaint is: the hypersegmentation of the grid. Yes, the NW and SE corners are essentially completely isolated from the NE to SW diagonal section. Furthermore, all of the entries into those corners are via question mark clues or the misdirection clue for the 15-letter down answer, which adds to the difficulty.

Not that that should be a very strong mark against a Saturday, of course. It's supposed to be hard, and it definitely played that way. On my first run through the puzzle, I had multiple little bits of things here and there. I put UDON in confidently, but the rest of the NW corner had only an isolated ____EST, and ____IN. I moved on.

I hamstrung myself (see what I did there?) by entering "ditka" at 39D: Papa Bear of the NFL (HALAS). I mean, yeah, he was the head coach of Da Bears, and he was certainly the leader of them, but he was never nicknamed Papa Bear as far as I know. In fact, he was known as Iron Mike. I further made things difficult for myself down there by entering ditzIEST for 32D: Most airheaded (SPACIEST). You'd think the four correct letters would help, but I had no good entry into the corner.
Other than MIR, the SE corner completely eluded me.

So fortunately, I finally got going with the excellent GROWUP (9A: Response to a sophomoric comment). Suddenly things started falling. ISOLDE should have been a gimme, but my Wagner operatic knowledge is primitive at best. I much prefer the Italian (Puccini) and English (Britten) composers for opera.

I can't remember how many crosses I had when 8D: It covers bridges, typically (DENTALINSURANCE), but I was excited once I had it in place. Surely now things would go more quickly!

Only not. So... LORENA MESNE LATEN. Those are tough answers. One is legitimate sports knowledge: she is absolutely in the Hall of Fame, and was the #1 ranked golfer, having won multiple titles including the British Women's Open. But not known to me. One is an obscure law term, from Old English/Norman French, meaning "middle". Uh huh. And the last is a made-up word. Well, not officially. But you know what I mean. And I just couldn't bring myself to believe that OISERIVER would be correct. Why is it not in French?

I liked 30D: Students arriving late? (TRANSFERS). And 27A: Joint flare-up? (PRISONRIOT) is very nice because it's a real term for arthritis, and the first misdirection I thought of had to do with marijuana rather than jail. 34A: Goes over the line? (TRESPASSES) is not as clever.

In the NW, ORRIS definitely made things tough. EVAS I've seen before. FIVELOVE seems peculiar. I've never heard it used before, but there is support for it on Google.

Meanwhile, IFINDOUBT is excellent. 1A: Like a hermit (ISOLATED) gets a B from me.

Overall it's a strong puzzle. I just didn't love the solving experience.

- Colum

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017, Brendan Emmett Quigley


Oh, this was very smooth. I'm not a huge fan of an obscure Abbott and Costello comedy right near the beginning (RIORITA), but all the crosses were reasonably fair for a Friday.
I was going to complain about DIABOLO being clued this way (60A: Toy consisting of a spool on a string) as well, but then I looked up what to heck the darned thing was, and I see it's certainly a very common object, so I yield.
These were my only complaints in the long fill. The remainder I waive essentially in its entirety, as the strengths of the puzzle are lovely.

I broke in with 25D: Prominent part of Nestea's logo (LEAF), and was able to spread quickly downward, once I got 45A: They're just above a handlebar (NOSTRILS). It was here that I saw that this puzzle and I were going to get along. What a ludicrous piece of absurdity. Hah! I love it. 48A: They write many opinions (LAWCLERKS) is precise and a chunky answer in the grid.

The SW is my least favorite part, what with the disguised partial THEAREA and oddly stuck together YINYANG (I suppose you might come across the "joined forces" separated by a hyphen alone, but I usually think of it with an "and" between them). But I really enjoyed SANDWICHBAG and BABYDOLLS, and the former was worth the crosses.

I have never used MITCHUM deodorant. I usually think of the author when I see that name, but it works. I truly love 10D: Take things the wrong way (THIEVE). That's so great, a misguiding clue that needs no question mark to work well.

Finally, how wonderful to have SADKEANU in the grid.
1A: Island known for its coffee (SUMATRA). I expect there are some on this blog who'd shiver with joy at this clue, but it leaves me cold. B-.

- Colum

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017, Peter A. Collins



Can't say I really enjoyed this puzzle. I knew that the four circled letters by each long theme answer would make a word of their own, but it wasn't until I finally completed the revealer, GANGOFFOUR, that I got that each little word would be its own little foursome. Meanwhile, the actual foursome referred to in the revealer are hardly uplifting subject material, although I'm sure that the crimes laid at their feet could well have been perpetrated by others, and they were falsely blamed for them.

Still, even accepting that, I have a quibble. I think we'd all agree that the MOTOWNSINGERS are called The Four Tops, not just Four Tops. Interesting bit of trivia: Levi Stubbs, the lead singer, was the voice of the evil plant in the movie of Little Shop of Horrors. Also, his birth name was Levi Stubbles.

The other two answers, four-star (GOODRATING) and "four-eyes" (GLASSESWEARER) are perfectly acceptable.

The self-referential nature of the first three theme answers meant I was hunting around for a long time, trying to connect individual answers I was able to get without crosses. I was definitely hobbled by putting in aRALS instead of URALS. That darned sea, so common in the crossword, getting confused with those darned mountains!

Finally, ZELIG (which eluded me for some time) broke everything open. QUIZSHOW is an outstanding answer, with a cutesy clue. CARGONET is not as exciting. I'm glad that 7D: Searching blindly (GROPING) was clued this way, rather than the creepy way it could have been.

Anyway, a ton of proper nouns, and a somewhat groping solve did not add up to as much fun as the theme answers could pay back.

1A: Somewhat (ABIT). D+. It kind of describes the puzzle, doesn't it?
Fave: SLUGGER (32A: Bonds, e.g.). Very nice hidden capital. I had no idea what was going on here, and why it didn't end in an S once I'd figured out GARBO.
Least fave: DYELOT (46D: What knitters need to match, often). Oof.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017, Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb


I totally did not see this revealer coming, which is the sign of an excellent collection of theme answers, right? In this case, each of the four has a different spin on spinning, thus leading to SPINCLASS, which is in fact a fifth example of spinning. My head is spinning. I like that the four examples are so different in contemporaneity as well, from MINNESOTAFATS up to SKRILLEX.

Honestly, the fill is pretty smooth as well. I'm a little tired of seeing AJA in the grid, no matter how classic the record may have been. It did rank 145 on Rolling Stones' 500 greatest albums of all time, and we all know how much weight the authors of this blog place on the rankings in that list.

Oh, yeah, and OREIDA, that collection of crossword friendly vowels. I also don't like non-winning (or winning) tic-tac-toe rows (OXO). Um, and FORA, a partial.

I was amused by 40A: Asset for a press secretary (TACT), which has been absent in recent examples. MAE West's quotations are always good for a chuckle, and support her ongoing inclusion in crossword puzzles.

Otherwise, I like a good WINELIST, but the other long answers are fairly neutral.

Okay, I liked the theme a lot, and in retrospect I think that colored my view of the rest of the puzzle. But that's okay. Sometimes it works like that. On balance I'll give it a thumbs up.

1A: Early Peruvian (INCAN). C. It's very standard crossword fare.
Fave: ELAINE (31A: J. Peterman employee on "Seinfeld"). I recall with delight the scene where Mr. Peterman has absconded to Burma ("You may know it as Myanmar...").
Least fave: OXO.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017, Zhouqin Burnikel


Can I just start this review with my favorite thing about this puzzle? And it's not taking anything away from the rest of it to bring this up first. I love 43A: Play a fife (TOOTLE) when it's so close to 55D: "Toodles!" (TATA). It's almost enough to stop the review right there.

But actually, I enjoyed this puzzle quite a bit while I was doing it, starting right off with the excellent 1A: Line of clothing (INSEAM), which gets an A+ for the clue. It was not my first answer (which was TATAMI, followed by ATARIS), but I very much enjoyed it when I finally figured it out.

The theme is very cute, with a number of "collectors" who are demonstrated to be something else entirely. Thus, a "stamp collector" turns out to be a PASSPORT. My favorite is GUINESSBOOK, as a genuine collector of records. I'm not convinced 45A: Bill collector? (CASHREGISTER) belongs in this list, because nobody has a hobby of collecting bills. But I liked the answer anyway. And then finally, the "shell collector" (PASTABAR) is a little odd, because mostly people are removing shells from the pasta bar, not depositing them there.

I liked all of the long down answers, with STANDINGO and POINTGUARDS (so close to SIXER) being the best.

But how about the constructor apologizing for her PUN at 58D: Cry of shear terror? (BAA). That's amusingly meta.

Yes, we had AHS, ISO, RTE, and a few other typical crossword findings, but on the whole, I'm a fan of this puzzle.

- Colum

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017, Rich Proulx


So I guess MEATLESSMONDAY is a thing. I'd never come across it. Most of our dinners are vegetarian, but I can see that it would be a good thing to encourage the rest of America to consider. At the same time, it makes for a fun theme for a Monday.

Especially given that the three exemplars chosen for the puzzle are all outstanding. Each is a classic recipe and commonly found. I might quibble with MUSHROOMBURGER. Clearly the reference is to a Portobello mushroom burger, but as it stands, you might think of a standard beef burger with mushrooms on top.

Still, SPINACHLASAGNA and BLACKBEANCHILI are great, and all three answers (and the revealer) are 14 letters long, which could be challenging from a grid construction perspective.

There's not too much in the fill that is sparkling. PALOOKA and KLUTZES are amusingly old school, as are TVTRAYS (I think). I don't like the clue for 41D: Like the peninsula seized by Russia in 2014 (CRIMEAN). Because see, it's not "like" the peninsula, it is the peninsula. I would have preferred "____ Peninsula, 2014 news story because of Russian invasion," or some such.

1A: Where holsters go (HIPS) - C-. It's an odd reference, but evocative. They could go at the ankles or the shoulder, but honestly, I don't really want to think about that sort of thing at 1 across.
Fave: HUMOR (42D: "Mankind's greatest blessing," per Mark Twain). I have certainly always thought so. And a great quotation.
Least fave: WISC (25D: The Dairy State: Abbr.) - I don't see why you'd abbreviate Wisconsin as anything other than WI.

- Colum

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017, Eric Berlin


Oh, this was excellent. So much fun figuring out each magic trick. I had one little quibble, but I've decided even that was unfair, so I'm calling it a win all around.

There are five classic magic tricks described. Each one is demonstrated graphically elsewhere in the grid. Thus, we get VANISHINGCOIN, which is shown elsewhere at 78D: Provide part of a coverage policy for ([COIN]SURE). I literally ran multiple types of coins first, thinking of "penny sure," "quarter sure," etc. before hitting on the correct and in retrospect obvious one.

Next is LINKINGRINGS, where at 104D and 119A we get the actual rebuses of SY[RING]E and ST[RING]BEAN. That's very nice work. Unfortunately I had entered just the R rather than the entire rebus, which the app accepted, so it looked more like there were invisible rings. But that's not the constructor's fault.

The third magic trick is SAWINGALADYINHALF, which is demonstrated by ELLA and DYS separated by a black square, thus putting LA and DY on either side of the divide. Very clever, but I don't love DYS.

My favorite by far is the CHANGINGCARD trick, where "Peking" duck is switched to PEACE. Oh, that's brilliant. And you end up with a real word in the space. I don't think you could have a better trick than that.

Finally, there's the LEVITATINGMAN, which is graphically produced by having the first letters of [M]ETRES, [A]ARON, and [N]IELS floating above the grid. Finding these out early really messed up my solving for a while because I was looking for missing letters.

I love that there are five different ways of representing things graphically. Initially I was upset that not every altered entry in the grid was also a true word, but that's asking a bit much with some of these maneuvers.

Let's see: other tough answers in the puzzle included 27A: Nickname for an Oxford university (OLEMISS). I was all the way across the ocean, which I imagine most of the solvers were for a while as well. I also liked 28D: Manipulative type (SVENGALI). I initially had "seam" at 42D: Place from which to withdraw deposits (MINE), then switched to MINt, and missed the flaw at NEA, so that's an error on finishing.

1A: Bit of a Bollywood soundtrack (RAGA) - B-.

There was a lot to like here, but, mirabile DICTU, I've run out of space.

- Colum

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017, Kameron Austin Collins

17:35 (FWOE)

I feel like I really lucked out on this turn. Mr. Collins is a favorite constructor of mine, who has seemed to be absent for quite some time from the NYT. I solved once again in the car with Hope, and she gave me my first entry, Mr. Vic DAMONE. With CATT and ORK in place, followed by the yummy LATKE, we were off and running.

Does anybody here take a BANANAPIE? I'm not sure how much of a thing that really is. Round our place, banana bread (with chocolate chips) is a longtime favorite. Certainly a banana split is well recognized. Bananas Foster, even. Hmmm. I see some recipes, but I'm not convinced.

LEGARMOR (26D: Greaves, e.g.) immediately made me think of Princess Ida: "These things I treat the same / I quite forget their name! / They turn one's legs / To cribbage pegs." And there you have it. How likely was it that two blog posts in one week would find a way to weave cribbage in? All the naysayers out there... no, I might even go so far as to call them haters! They never thought it was possible. Well, I guess the foot's on the other hand now, isn't it?

Yeah, so. Um. Anyway, the two 15-letter answers are beauts. COMMITMENTPHOBE is good, but of course I'm pretty fond of BRAINPLASTICITY.

Other good answers include 16A: Champagne is one (TOPONYM), and 15A: Start of a big fight? (THRILLA). Nice stuff. I also enjoyed 6D: Weight-watchers watch it (BELTLINE).

1A: Cambridge student, informally (CANTAB) - B+. This is really referring to the British Cambridge, not the American one. Still, a nice reminder of the year I spent there some time ago.
Fave: ABHOR (2D: Not fancy at all). I stared at AB_OR, wondering how this would refer to something simple or unadorned. Nope, it's the British "fancy," meaning "have a liking for".
Least fave: Probably TNUTS (16D: Fasteners with flat heads), just because it's crossword glue, pluralized.

My error was yet again a typo, where I had put in BAYBERsY. But there's no excuse here. I had stared at 25A: Short but not necessarily sweet (CURT), where I had _UsT. So really, I should have caught that.

- Colum

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017, Hal Moore


Oh, this was fun. I really liked this themeless. I finished it this morning in the car while Hope was driving, on our way to Maine to pick up our younger daughter from camp. Hope was definitely helpful, so shout out to her.

Truthfully, the long answers win the day in this grid. The trade-off is a fair amount of less than LOVABLE fill, but the only area I really didn't dig was the SW corner.

My first entry was SHE, but that didn't help much. What broke the NW corner was hitting on TIMETRAVEL for 17A: Basis of the Doctor's adventures on "Doctor Who". With that in place, much came into focus. I toyed with "safe" for 19A: Call heard at Arlington (TAPS), thinking of the Texas Rangers stadium, but really it was a lot more straightforward than I expected. GARBLE and CLARET are very nice.

Funny to have both PHILEAS Fogg and Charlie CHAPLIN in the puzzle, crossing each other, as both have been recently featured in the NYT crossword. Thank goodness for the latter, as originally I had PHInEAS (Trollope readers will recognize the source of my error. Frannie?).

SHETLANDPONY and EXTRAVAGANZA are topnotch entries. It's surprising to find out that GRAPENUTS have been around since 1897, but as Hope pointed out, are we okay that the clue asks for the "Breakfast brand," when the brand is really Post here? Thoughts?

The SW has the crosswordese collection of ALTA and LEOI (ugh). While I did like THEXFILES and HALTERTOP as answers, I'm not sure they were worth those two.

Meanwhile, in the SE, TRINILOPEZ was familiar to us, but I needed almost all of the crosses to actually enter it. ANTICIPATE is fine, but I liked GOESEASYON better. 48D: Pharmacy figure (COPAY) is a fine clue, but really not the most pleasant of thoughts.

1A: Rap group whose name comes from a martial arts film (WUTANGCLAN) - B+. I don't know much about rap, but I know this group is supposed to be great. And it's an outstanding name, and a good 1A.
Fave: NODICE (45D: "Ain't gonna happen"). I love the answer, and I love even more that I had ____C_ and got it off of that.
Least fave: LEOI. Has to be.

Fun Friday. Here's looking forward to Saturday!

- Colum

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017, John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen

8:44 (FWOE)

Well, I wasn't sure about this puzzle based on the initial entries. Almost thought it was going to be MEH. But ONEWAYORANOTHER, it started to build on me.

The pictures created by the black squares are a hook in the west, with a FISH caught in it, and a shepherd's crook in the east, pulling in a LAMB. Thus, BYHOOKORBYCROOK. I actually love that. I don't know whether the other "Whatever it takes" 15-letter answer was truly necessary for the theme, but it's a nice bonus.

In the meantime, look at the very interesting long answers that get fit in! 6D: Recluse's problem, maybe (AGORAPHOBIA) is great, and went in without a crossing. Similarly, 25D: Don't open it! (PANDORASBOX) is really outstanding, with a fun clue and an unusual answer.

I like the outcome in the SE corner better than the NW. LASCRUCES is very welcome as a complete answer, rather than a prompt for a partial, such as ___ Cruces. I also liked AMINOGROUP and the crossing with the royal family of the STUARTS.

My error came at the crossing of STP and TONIO. I put in SlP, somehow confusing the motor oil with SLR cameras. Ah, well. Can't blame that one on typos! Speaking of which, I call a small foul on a minor opera role in Pagliacci. And anyway, whenever I think of Pagliacci, I can only think of Donald O'Connor in Singing In The Rain.

Otherwise, I liked the understatement in 56D: Rare occurrences at Super Bowls, briefly (OTS). Yeah, rare. It's happened once, just this year. Pretty amazing game, huh?

CLONK is extremely bold. If you don't like it, there it sits in the grid, with a resounding CLONK! But how about 41A: Congested place, at times (SINUS)? Yes! I love it. Even better is 47A: It might prevent you from drifting off (ANCHOR) - literally. No wordplay here. It's just true.

I'm quite pleased in the end with this puzzle.

1A: Diner staple, for short (BLT). Tough call. It's my favorite sandwich, but it's an abbreviation. On the other hand, it's a widely used abbreviation. B+.
Fave: Probably PANDORASBOX.
Least fave: BMOC (Standout in a quad). Nah. Not so much.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, Adam G. Perl


A puzzle for the underdogs!

Once upon a time, most of the professional sports teams I rooted for were underdogs of a sort. The Red Sox, the Patriots... Okay, not the Celtics in the 1980s, but they were not so great for the 1990s and early 2000s. Nowadays, though, my teams are bullies. Don't get me wrong, it's been a ton of fun watching them win titles over and over again since 2001.

I actually want all of the "cursed" teams to win titles so we can stop talking about that sort of thing.

But back to the puzzle. This is a great theme. Peculiar, but right to the point. Only three answers, but each one paradoxically shows how the unexpected can be overcome.

17A: Where a queen can beat a king (CHESSMATCH). I wanted CHESSboard, which feels more natural to answer the question of "where," but I'll accept the actual answer, even though it feels a bit forced.

39A: Where an ace can beat a pair (DOUBLESTENNIS). Much better. This was amusing, but not so much as...

61A: Where two pair beats three of a kind (SOCKDRAWER). Hah! That's awesome. I laughed out loud when I figured it out, which took a few moments because I initially had Gre for GED. Wrong, as the GRE is a test for graduate school, while the GED is a test to complete high school. Anyway, I really love this theme answer.

Having only three theme answers means there's a lot of room for innovation elsewhere. Two 11-letter answers and one 15-letter answer run down through the puzzle. LAMEBRAINED is outstanding. GOTOTHEDOGS is likewise quite good. I don't love DOTHEBESTYOUCAN, but still, it went through all three of the theme answers.

More impressive are the two 8-letter answers going across in the middle. Being adjacent to that theme answer makes it tougher to fit in. AMESIOWA is nice, better than seeing only one or the other of the 4-letter halves. And TRIBUTES is nice. Glen Campbell just passed away. I've heard some nice tributes to him on NPR already. He stood up for people with Alzheimer's disease, performing well after he'd lost a lot of his memory, with his family helping him out on stage. Lovely.

1A: Feeds the kitty (ANTES). C-. Standard crossword stuff.
Fave: EROS (59A: One taking a bow in Greek art). I've been known to take a bow.
Least fave: PONE (15A: Dixie bread). Everybody knows "pone" is the name of the person who isn't dealing in cribbage. No other definitions are acceptable.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017, Dan Flanagan

4:31 (FWOE)

Dagnabbit, it's the month of gypos. I mean typos. AdMES and ORdA are not words.

Our theme today is a pair of the same numbers separated by a forward-slash, with each example interpreted in a different way. Thus, 4/4 is COMMONTIME, a musical notation often represented with a C in the score (for the above phrase). 11/11 is a date, namely VETERANSDAY.

Then it starts getting iffy. 20/20 is interpreted as GREATVISION. I think the term typically used is "perfect vision," although if that's perfect, what was Ted Williams's 20/10? In reality, what it means is that you can see at 20 feet what you should be able to see at 20 feet. An eye with 20/50 vision sees letters at 20 feet as if they were 50 feet away, thus with less acuity.

Worse, in my mind is the answer for 50/50 (EVENSTEVEN). Huh? That's "even odds," I suppose. Google defines "even steven" as being a fair or equal distribution of resources, so in one sense I suppose 50/50 means that. But to me, "even steven" means that you've come out neither ahead nor behind. Or that in a race, two competitors are neck and neck. I don't see how that means 50/50. I call foul.

Are there other examples of this theme? I'm rather fond of 3/3, as it's my birthday, but a date's already been used.

Outside of the theme, there's the humorous 10D: Something that gives you a sinking feeling (QUICKSAND). The other long downs are also strong, especially PRIMEVAL and the appropriately downward moving NAMEDROP.

Perhaps 40D should have been clued "One of over 200 by Edna St. Vincent Millay." Put that in your pipe and smoke on it, Mr. William so-called Shakespeare!

1A: Row (SPAT). C. It's so perfectly average.
Fave: SADIE (63A: "Sexy" woman in a Beatles song). This song has a similar chord progression to "Karma Police" by Radiohead.
Least fave: ACMES (3D: Zeniths). Not because I typoed it, but because how many highest points can there be? LENTS was a close second.

I think I liked this puzzle okay, despite my disappointment in the theme.

- Colum

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017, Kevin Christian


Those extra four seconds were definitely spent in the NW and SE corners, where a few answers did not come immediately to mind.

It's a simple theme, featuring a FILMDIRECTOR calling "Lights... Camera... Action!" I did amuse myself when entering the revealer answer. I already had _IL____, and had figured out the theme so I put the answer in, but my fingers typed the first two letters to enter in the wrong order, so I ended up with mILfDIRECTOR. It led to some interesting visual images, and the inkling of a theme idea, but I rejected that answer as being too much for The Grey Lady.

The whole puzzle was made ten times better by having FLOTSAM right next to JETSAM. I didn't even care about the glue that had to exist in order for that to happen (I'm looking at you, ONT RTE DOR). It was worth it. And, to be honest, I didn't even look at those bits of glue until just now, because they were entered entirely by the crosses.

Otherwise, I did not like AGERS and RETAG, which made the NW corner less than exciting. In the opposite corner, UTTER did not leap to mind. And I'm going to ask why we need both the word "arty" and the word ARTSY. Do they not mean the same thing?

1A: Inn, informally (BANDB). Another reason I missed a couple of seconds. I'll give it a C- because I'm annoyed at it. My prerogative to be highly subjective in my judgements.
Fave: MOTET (61A: Sacred choral work). I'm particularly fond of Brahms' various motets (there are 7 all told).
Least fave: NOEND (51D: On and on). The clue and answer don't match, in my opinion. They are related, but different part of speech.

I hope this review seems APT. APT!

- Colum

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017, Patrick Berry


Oh, my. What an amazing set of puzzles from Thursday through Sunday this week. I feel spoiled. How can the rest of the month live up to this first week? Will it all be downhill from here? I'll try not to be pessimistic!

Patrick Berry presents us with a set of silly puns based on types of ships. As always, the criteria for whether these types of themes work are as follows:

1. The original phrase is common and well accepted.
2. The pun is unexpected and fits well in the altered phrase.
3. The new phrase is clued in an amusing and clever fashion.

In this puzzle, the seven theme answers are split up as follows:


  • 111A: Cargo vessel full of iPads? (APPLEFREIGHTER). The original phrase, "apple fritter," is fine. The pun misses on pronunciation, and the clue is only okay.
  • 100A: Luxury vessel with a pair of decks, both of which need swabbing? (DIRTYDOUBLECRUISER). This one only fails on the pun, where "cruiser" for "crosser" is just not that great.
Pretty good

  • 66A: Fishing vessel that can pull only half a net behind it? (SEMITRAWLER). Definitely amusing clue, and an unexpected pun. I ding it slightly because it's such a short original phrase, that the switch doesn't quite have the oomph I look for.
  • 24A: Sailing vessels that Cap'n Crunch might commandeer? (GALLEONSOFMILK). This one is right on the border with the previous category, but I loved it when we figured it out.
  • 31A: Heavily armored vessels getting married? (WARSHIPSATTHEALTAR). This is downright silly. I love the pun, I love the clue, and it made me laugh out loud when we got it. This was the first theme answer completed today.
  • 54A: Kids' game in which small vessels attack each other? (ROCKEMSOCKEMROWBOATS). This is my favorite by far. It might be the perfect punny theme answer. It hits on all three criteria.
  • 76A: Recreational vessel that's never left the harbor? (AINTSEENNOTHINGYACHT). Or maybe this one is my favorite. The clue is ludicrous, the answer describes it perfectly, and it's an outstanding pun. You could quibble that the original phrase should be "you ain't seen nothing yet," but who wants to quibble?
Top notch. Horace, Frannie, and I collaboratively solved today, so a lot of the fill went by without my personal participation. I liked 53A: Split, e.g. (SUNDAE) as a very nice vague clue. Otherwise, I noted no answers that I actively disliked, so I call this a winner.

Oh, 1A: "Cease!" on the seas (AVAST). I'll give it a B+ for the sneaky theme material.

As a last note, we solved this with pen and paper. I was the only one who had to correct letters I'd put in, which may speak to a certain gung-ho nature to solving that I've noted before. More amusingly, in composing this blog, I keep on trying to get the clue to an answer by touching the grid with my finger. Nothing seems to happen. The technology must be on the fritz.

- Colum

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday, August 5, 2017, David Phillips


This is exactly the kind of themeless I love. It's super smooth with a number of fun entries and misleading clues. I don't know that there are any answers which are so new or fresh, but the solve was fun and the flow was reasonably nice.

My first entry was AVE, but that led nowhere, so I moved to the SW, where figuring out 45A: Unembellished type (SANSSERIF) opened up the area reasonably quickly. SEEKER (along with "bludger" and "sweeper") have entered into the lingo as reasonable words because of Harry Potter. Much better than your run-of-the-mill -ER word. I also enjoyed 66A: Rumble in the night (SNORE). I chuckled.

I had a little difficulty at 53A: Draft picks? (OXEN), where I put in alEs. The actual answer is so much more satisfying, both because it's less commonly seen in the puzzle, and because it's a plural without -S. It also allowed 43D: Collection of favorites, of a sort (MIXTAPE), which was so satisfying to figure out.

62A: Expert on the drums? (EARDOCTOR) did not fool me for a second. I must have had my Saturday clue reading HATS on. This stack was really excellent, with 65A: Get through lines quickly (SPEEDREAD), and the truly excellent PETSOUNDS. Number one was always going to be Sgt. Pepper's, but I think you could make a strong argument for those two albums to be reversed. Thoughts?
Note the mace
29A: "You don't have to tell me twice!" (YEAHIKNOW) was a stumbling point, as I had put "I heard you," which fit so well. I guess the clue did have to tell me twice.

I came back up to the NE which fell once I had RASH and SAKE in place. The stack here is not quite as lovely as the SW one. 1A: Double-digit figure? (PEACESIGN) gets an A from me, for the excellent clue, the great answer, and the importance of the sentiment. 15A: Spider producer (ALFAROMEO) was probably a gimme for some solvers, but not this one. LEFTALONE is somewhat blah.

Who knew a Loonie had ELEVEN sides? That makes it a hendecagon.

Finally, the NE is the least satisfying corner. I'm not sure I agree with NTHPOWER as a "high degree of proof." Otherwise you've got URE, which is probably my least favorite answer in the puzzle, and the Britishism PANTO.

But overall very nice puzzle.

- Colum

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday, August 4, 2017, Damon Gulczynski


Funny how today's puzzle and yesterday's puzzle have very similar grids, although today's uses traditional diagonal symmetry rather than yesterday's up-down symmetry. I have to write today's blog post quickly because Horace and Frannie are on their way to visit Albany for the evening, and I want it in place before they arrive! Not to mention later on the alcohol might interfere with my ability to be coherent. Arguably, I'm never all that coherent to begin with.

Anyway, a very nice themeless today. The long across answers really made the puzzle accessible, unusually.

News break! I have failed to finish this entry prior to the entry of Horace and Frannie. All is chaos here.

As I was saying, AMERICANPHAROAH broke the upper part, and TSARALEXANDERII broke the lower part. It's my typical approach to avoid the long answers, trying to get crosses before even looking at the clues. But I got very little traction that way. After all, who knows what the heck BIGA is referring to? Apparently, the Aqueduct Racetrack. Still, that, combined with SHIM and SAGE, whose clues were not at all helpful, made me work from the middle out.

Although SAYHEYKID was easy. As was THANKLESS, which is so clearly an exact synonym for "Like ingrates," I actually was second guessing myself.

I love the CHAPLIN quote, which seems very obvious. I did not know PRATT, which I thought could have been more contemporary in its cluing by referencing Chris, but oh well.

Very fun to have XOXO in the bottom section, to allow EXOPLANETS and SEXPISTOLS.

There are some fairly gluish areas (see REOS, ITLL, ISSO in the SE), and I haven't been following tennis for a while, so LINA (That's Li Na) was unheard of. But overall I'm in favor.

1A: Some undergrad degs. (BSS). D. I disagree with this clue and answer morally. It's a plural abbreviation.
Fave: FIN (38A: Bass part). It's a throwaway answer, but I liked the misdirection of the clue.
Least fave: ODON (6D: Go crazy with, in a way). Don't like either the clue or the answer.

- Colum

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017, Timothy Polin

9:00 (FWOE)

I get these typos because my eyes have moved on to other areas of the puzzle. I know it's OMERTA, not OMERTe, but there you go.

This is an amazing theme. I mean, just wow. Three phrases which contain in them a kind of belt, but which also have a terminal string of letters that make up their own word, and they each are 14 letters long. Then, to put the revealer into play, the answers loop around the back of the grid to finish on the other side, while also being split along the belt types? A true BELTLOOP? That's crazy stuff.

STOCKSCOL[L/AP]SE is the least standard of the three, but still it's completely acceptable. Meanwhile WOOLLYM[AM/MO]THS and PIMIEN[TOO/L]IVES are perfect as is. Hats off to Mr. Polin.

You all know what my complaint about this puzzle is: it's the hypersegmented corners. All four are nearly completely cut off from the rest of the puzzle. Still, the fill is so much fun, I don't really care. Look at those stacks: CRUCIBLE over CLEANAIR. YESSIREE. And ITSASECRET and HEDONISTIC? Great stuff.

There's also a ton of misleading cluing going on here. 60D: Works in a salon (ART). 43D: One living in the sticks, e.g. (NESTER - although I don't buy the answer, the clue is fun). How about 27D: One working for the lord (LIEGE) - note that lower case l in "lord". Dead giveaway, isn't it?

I could go on: I love the clue on OBAMA. 10D: Like records that are easily broken? (VINYL). Outstanding stuff.

1A: Tough-to-remove stain (STIGMA) - A+. Great clue, great word.
Fave: SKIM (1D: Less than 1%, say). I had no idea where this was going until I got KABOOM in place.
Least fave: TEDS (Spreads, as straw). Yeah. Huh?

- Colum

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017, Bruce Haight


Boy, when I said yesterday that Wednesdays are a hodgepodge of oddball puzzles, I never thought I'd get one like this!

We have eight examples of auto-antonyms, or contranyms. That is, words which mean both one thing and its opposite. Had Mr. Haight clued these words with just one of their definitions, the puzzle would have been essentially a standard themeless, and that's the way it played. Actually, for me, about a themeless on the level of difficulty of a Friday.

How did these words come to mean their own opposites? SANCTION means confirmation or enactment of a law, which is where it gets its positive meaning (Sanctify comes from the same root). But the sense of a penalty is also an enactment of something, so I suppose that's where that comes from. Ah, English. What a strange language. Are there examples of contranyms in other languages? Dutch, say? (Horace? Frannie?)

Most of my difficulty was in the NW. I had OREO and DUO, but the rest of the answers just wouldn't come. If I had picked up KOI, that most standard of crossword fish answers, the corner would have been much easier. PELEG needed all of the crosses.

I'm not convinced that "Nosebleed seats" are usually the REARMOST. I'd be more inclined just to call them the uppermost seats. At Foxboro stadium, the highest tier has seats that are more forward than the back rows of the section below.

I enjoyed SUREDO near by MAAM. Sounded Western to me. He's a GONER, MAAM. SUREDO. See? You can write your own John Wayne script.

There's very little to really complain about (OEN). Otherwise it's a reasonably fine puzzle, although how the NW and SE corners are completely cut off bugged me.

1A: HOLDUP. It's a theme answer, but one of the ones I liked better, so I give it a solid B.
Fave: WECOOL (17A: "No hard feelings, man, right?"). I liked how the "man" is thrown in there in the clue to make the colloquial nature of the answer clear.
Least fave: HEHS (30A: Sneaky little snickers) - just because of all the possible answers that could fit in there, plus the plural.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017, Jay Kaskel

5:13 (FWOE)

Good Lord, it's August. Where did the time go? Oh, that's right. I've spent it along with much of America worrying about what's going to come out of Washington next. Too soon? I'm afraid it's too late.

Wait a second here, this is the New York Times Crossword puzzle blog, not some doom and gloom political blog. Away with fear, away with anger! Let's rejoice in this wonderful little thing we all share each day!

Colum here, back once again in the dog days of summer. I'm starting up another month of blogging. I've very much enjoyed the last two months, reading Frannie's and then Horace's musings.

And we start off on a Tuesday, that peculiar day of puzzles. It's neither a Monday, with its straightforward thematic approach, nor a Wednesday, with its oddball hodgepodge of puzzles. Who can say what characterizes a Tuesday?

ILLBEDARNED! It's a puzzle with cute puns about phrases of astonishment. My favorite was definitely 59A: "Shocking!," to a Thanksgiving guest? (GOODGRAVY). That's fun stuff. Although now that I look at the clues, what the heck is that comma doing inside that quotation mark? Surely it should be "Shocking!", to a Thanksgiving guest? That's the way I'd have written it. Perhaps somebody could put in their two cents about this?

Each corner of the puzzle has a nice little stack of longer answers, which makes up for the lack otherwise of long down answers. I liked HUNKERED the best, but who can resist ITALIANO?

On the other hand, there's a large amount of XER, ADT, EER, etc. Not to mention ORES. Can't stand those pluralized hunks of rock.

My error was a typo, yet again. I knew it was OBEYED / BEEB, but my finger found N instead, and my eyes were off elsewhere. This wouldn't happen on a standard keyboard, but on the iPad it's all too easy for the fingers to miss. Nonetheless, I got the message of failure, and that counts for a FWOE.

1A: Zin alternative (CAB): C+. It's wine, but it's a sort of abbreviation.
Fave: SAG (46A: What some shoulders and pants do). That's a great clue for an otherwise less than stellar bit of crossword glue.
Least fave: ATIE (54A: End in ____). That's an unappealing partial there.

- Colum