Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


I got a BOOST on the solve today by having read the article about MARTIN LUTHER in this week's New Yorker two minutes before starting the puzzle. Talk about quelle coïncidence! The theme answers went in like a hot knife through butter. If I had to pick a favorite theme answer, I would choose INDULGENCES - not the Catholic Church kind, but the fine-dark-chocolate-and-coffee or onion-dip-and-Sunday-Night-Football kind.

Other supporting religion-related fill included APRIL (Easter's month, usually), HIJAB, AVE, DOGMA, and LIE. ;)

We got a couple of yuks at 4D "French bean? (TETE), 46D "Post production?" (CEREAL), and my favorite, 56D. "Newspaper piece that always starts at the end? (OBIT) - ha! A nice twist on an old chestnut. I also liked MAPLE, RIOTS, RAGER, PUGETSOUND, and WINERIES.

There were a few more things "that are Ceasar's" in the puzzle than IDIG like IAMS, AER Lingus, NESTEA, ATARI, PAM, and TCM, but others may not AGREE.

It's time to put on your Sunday best because solving times at the head of the review are going to take a NOSEDIVE starting tomorrow when our esteemed co-blogger Mr. Amory takes over.

Peace out.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017, Jay Kaskel


A fun holiday-themed puzzle today featuring common phrases re-clued to be appropriate for witches. My favorite was Computer help for a witch? (SPELLCHECK), but Educational institution for witches? (CHARMSCHOOL) had its own appeal.

Mr. Kaskel also managed to scare up some nice theme-related fill including
EERIE, HAGS, EVIL, and maybe even ALARM and PARA had they been clued differently. Hell even made an appearance, although only on the clue side (24D). I've seen the movie "The Ghost and Mrs. MUIR," but I know that title best from the TV series version that my sister and I watched regularly when we were young.

This being a Monday, the puzzle was thin on tricks, but other treats included PERTHEARHEAR, and PARSE. And, you'd think it was Huygen's BIRTHDAY today with so many answers he's bound to enjoy like TOPLESS, KEG, and REDS.

Both DEKE(S) and CSPOT(S) make it in for the second day in a row. On my watch, OWIE is still in the lead with three consecutive appearances.

We take our puzzles the way we might be forced to accept a witch, WARTSANDALL. In this grid the warts are few, but ACERS "Super tennis servers" at 48A gave me a fright.

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday, October 29, 2017, Ross Trudeau

Going Off Script

Generally, it's do a puzzle, review a puzzle, forget a puzzle, but today, thanks to Mr. Trudeau (and Sir Elton John and Tim Rice), I can't get HAKUNAMATATA out of my head. Fortunately, I'll be seeing a production of "The Pirates of Penzance" this afternoon. I'm hopeful that will force a reset.

Today's theme answers come in pairs that feature signature quotes from movies and a companion noun formed with the name of the actor that speaks the quote plus the word LINE. So, the aforementioned Hakuna Matata is a LANELINE because Nathan Lane (among others) says it in "The Lion King." Once you discover the pattern, the theme answers are easy prey. My favorite is SHOWMETHEMONEY and its partner CRUISELINE. This one's a little more interesting because Carnival has a number of possible meanings, especially with the hidden capital. But, I don't have to tell you that.

I love the word VAPID (69A) but I found the clue Uninspired. :) TOKEN and CALICO are both nice. (73A and 86D). Small beam (90A) for GRIN was cute. I am sucker for your language-related clues, so I enjoyed 110A "Language in which the first four cardinal numbers are ane, twa, three, and fower (SCOTS). So like us.

Is it my imagination, or is there a sci-fi/space theme with ORION, PHASERSLTSULU, and REDSTAR?


I typed in LEHI (Where Samson slew the Philistines) shortly after I input its anagram, ELHI, everybody's favorite designation for the K-12 school years. Maybe a constructor could try "Greeting in Franglais" to squeeze in LEHI. In any case, both combinations are in good company here with such old chestnuts as ASTI, ESE, AGT, ADA, ERS, ETNA, YUP, ALE, EPEE, FED, ONEAS, etc. :)

Hakuna matata.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017, Roland Huget


I looked at the statistics in my puzzle app today. I am not a fast puzzle solver, but I do seem to be getting faster, which is encouraging. Although, I'm not exactly sure why I want to spend less time on my one puzzle a day. I also noticed that my times show a definite increase across the days of the week. But, in my case, Thursday is my least improved. I should probably have broached this subject on a Thursday, but I don't have any Thursdays left in my current review slot. Come Wednesday, there will be a new sheriff in town. And he's fast. :) Anyhoo, that's not why I called you all here.

There was some good stuff in this puzzle including GOITALONE, OVENREADY, and EXCELSIOR. That's a great word.

In the funny/clever categoire:
5D. "M," e.g. (NASAL) - the capital had me thinking 007 for a while
33A. PAPERY (thin and dry) - nice for Halloweekend
34A. MOONIE - I thought immediately of the movie "Airplane"
56A. TENTDRESS - It sounds frumpy, but I Googled it and some people seem able to pull it off, so to speak.
40D. Enjoy the music, say (GROOVE) - I dig.
43D. It can get the blood flowing (STENT) - Har.
48D. Awards for Best Play and others (ESPYS). At first I entered TonYS. Ha!
52A. LOSEASTEP for "Get older and slower" was apt, sadly apt.

18A. "'The Sound of Music' name" (along with the corresponding downs, obviously) had me stumped for a while. I tried Greta, Liesl (probably not spelled accurately), and Maria, and then I realized it as was a TRAPP. Ha!

I was able to drop ESTES Kefauver right in to 55A because I had just read his name in a "New Yorker" over coffee. Quelle coincidence!

I have played a lot of cards in my time, but never euchre, so 20A (Jack of the trump suit, in euchre) was a no go without crosses. When I got BOWER from the downs, I was intrigued. From the Wikipedia entry for euchre, I learned that euchre "is the game responsible for introducing the joker into modern packs; this was invented around 1860 to act as a top trump or best bower (from the German word Bauer, 'farmer', denoting also the jack)." Fun fact.

Thanks to the interesting grid pattern today, we had only two three letter words. One abbreviation (CWT) and the first name of an actor I've never heard of - my apologies to UGO Tognazzi. Another feature of the grid pattern meant that there were only four squares shared between the corner blocks, essentially creating four small puzzles. Our esteemed co-blogger, Mr. Amory, is not going to like that. :)

There were some entries that I thought came ABEAM. In the humdrum category I suggest 52A. Some old Ford cars, briefly (MERCS), 7D. Echo (REVOICE), and 26D. Markings on a theater stage (TAPELINES). There were also two entries a little out of reasonable USAGE range, IMHO: ARILS and ANTAE.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017, David Steinberg


A solid puzzle today with plenty of long fill. Three stacks of tens at the top left and bottom right, plus two sixteen running top to bottom in the west and east. A number of the clues were entertaining including 1A Line judge? PALMREADER, 43A Noted evictee (ADAM), and "Something that's had its head turned? (EMOTICON). My favorite answer is EMBITTERED, which reminds me of Strindberg and Helium: F & S. As for the sixteens, GETANAFOREFFORT was better than LINKEDINPROFILE, but I could DIG both. 

I got a good start with PEPYS, whose diary I am reading intermittently. EPICFAIL is always nice to see written down, if not to experience. The shout out to Somerville at 28D (EDT), which I'm going to assume refers to the city in MA, helps me overlook the otherwise uninteresting crosswordese. While it's true that EEL has also slipped in, but I confess I've grown quite fond of eel - in a puzzle setting - and I miss it when it's away for a long time. The clue at 63D, "Letters for the detail averse" (TMI) struck me as particularly APP. APP! And speaking of, it's always nice to have KRUSTY make an appearance.

I had quite a time of it with 24D. I started with rUST, then took it out because I wanted Skin for 23A (Fruit throwaway), then went to dUST to accommodate SeEd after I got LINKEDINPROFILE, then finally got to MUST and STEM. Fun! I notice that this puzzle also has a two-part clue whose parts were next to each other as the app flies: ONE PLAYER. Sweet.

The shape of this grid allowed for some robust long answers, but REAPed AFEW less fabulous short answers like ISP, EDU, SGT, WBA, and JEN. And no one likes a FEE, but I do like a NUT.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017, Jacob Stulberg


When it comes to information about the world's volcanoes and their relative positions on the earth, I'm sorry to say my notebook couldn't be more MTE. On the other hand, I do know a lot about TI[MTE]BOW, so I was still able to solve the puzzle, albeit at a rather sedate pace and with one error. I guessed wrong at the cross between Norfolk Southern and others: Abbr. (44D) and46A "Bandstand Boogie" bandleader Larry (ELGART). I guessed RtS for 44D, but with a little more thinking after the "Almost there" message, I realized RRS was wanted.

The theme charms and amuses me. I love it that the name of MTEREBUS has the word rebus right in it. What could be more apt for a rebus puzzle? Apt!

Of the theme answers, the clue for FORTSU[MTE]R was my favorite (Site of a famous opening shot). And, although not one of my personal strengths, I liked the clue (Not remain aloof) and answer (MIX) at 35D.

The clue that surprised me the most today was "Courageous and energetic sort, they say" (ARIES). I don't know that I've ever seen a clue based on alleged characteristics of an astrological sign before. I would never have gotten it without crosses. I'm guessing Horace enjoyed it. And possibly 39A (TIS) as well.

I didn't enjoy the clue for 1A at all (Doesn't lose) and the answer is no prize either (HAS). It's fine, but it's certainly not fine. I also thought the cluing Smell like for REEKOF at 49D was a little off.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017, Jules P. Markey


It looks like Mr. Markey heeded Wall Street's urging: each type of bank embedded in the theme answers is broken up across at least two of the words in the answer. The admonishment is APT! SOLDATALOSS spans the most words at three and contains my favorite bank of the ones in the puzzle. People who know me know I am generally a big fan of banks. I like storing my coins therein. I am OK with breaking up big bank conglomerates, but I don't like to break an individual bank, except a snow bank. I love kicking snow banks apart in the spring when they start to melt. But I OGRES.

The two long down answers, CRIMEWAVE and FIREDANCE, were both strong. And it was nice to see good ole MERV Griffin make an appearance. He was a fixture of the television of my youth.

By Yodalica (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

There wasn't much I was ASSAD to see in here, although the non-theme fill was somewhat heavy on the crosswordese (OAS, NEA, TSA, EKE, ILIA, EMU, AGA). Maybe the cluing could have been a little bit SLYER. Perhaps that's what tomorrow's puzzle will bring.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, Damon Gulczynski

(I accidentally left the uncompleted puzzle open and unattended for an unknown amount of time)

We have a solid theme today with the end of each of the four theme answers adding a dimension as we go from top to bottom, starting with a zero dimensional POINT to multi-dimensional SPACE. One of my favorites was PICKUPLINE (Cheesy fare served at a bar?) Ha! I also enjoyed THATSNOTTHEPOINT. We've all been there.

I was stuck briefly on 37D (Certain network ID). When it's my month to write the reviews I try to improve my solve times early in the week to impress our esteemed readers, so I was rushing. I had IPAD_RESS, but I kept thinking, there's no such thing as an iPad Dress is there? No, there isn't. Unless an iPad cover made of fabric could be called a dress. Can it? No, it can't.

As I looked over the puzzle again just now I saw a bunch of other fill that could be given ANOTHERDIMENSION. For example, if you were thanking someone who complimented you, but you weren't quite sure of his name, you could say, "Aw, Ed ... or Al, ... OK, Ra." Or, if a friend sent you a picture of his new shirt, you could text back, "that is so u." Or, if your black dress shoes got scuffed you could re noir them.  And, if you went to yesterday's specialty bakery with a friend, when you got to the counter, you could say, "Pi Us." Or, if you have a party and it runs late and guests won't leave, and you're thinking to yourself INEEDSPACE, you yen tas. Am I right? I'm guessing most of you are thinking she needs a sh.

There was a bunch of other fill that didn't point me to another dimension, but that I liked including SPASMS, JETSKIWINDPOWER , and PAPALBULL. Also nice to see Mr. KERN and NED get shout outs.

Lots of short stuff, but not much SPEW. OLE.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017, Timothy Polin


The theme answers were time periods, or ages, when one or another group or item was, apparently, in ascendance, while also being common (or proper) nouns. So, the period dominated by the likes of Dan Rather and Peter Jennings? was ANCHORAGE. The period I would most enjoy, I think, is probably COVERAGE. I like a good cover song. The one I would probably like least is SHRINKAGE. I thought PILLAGE could have been clued more aptly as Period when thousands of people are dying from opioid overdose? Too soon?

The puzzle was off to a good start, in my book, with IMDB, everyone's favorite online database. CAKED, GULPED, RIOT, and CRAMS are also solid. I also love ASIF, but my favorite clue is 11D A, as in Aristotle (ALPHA) - ha! I also enjoyed the example ALIBI provided at 62A "I was with my mistress at the time." And, with apologies to Sports Illustrated, Zowie, it's OWIE (again)!

We've got little flickers of a mini fire theme with CHAR, SOOT, and SPARK here and there. And French one, too, with MOUE, VOILA, and BEHEADED.


LAMS as a verb is kind of lame. Abet others would agree. Ha.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017, Tracy Gray


[Hello, Dear Readers, it's Horace here, filling in for Frannie on a day when she really must prepare for a presentation at work, and can't spare any time to work on one of her carefully crafted reviews. So you get me instead - but she promises to be back tomorrow!]

Today Ms. Gray put herself into nine of the answers by finding landmarks that contain the letters "me" in succession. It's a cute idea, but not one that particularly AMAZEs. The introductory "Facebook Status:" seemed a little unnecessary.... or maybe it could have rotated through different social media types, like "Instagram post:" or "Incoming Snapchat:" or whatever the kids are using these days. Also, there was nothing really tying the answers together except that they are all things or places or companies that most people have heard of.

So the theme was a tad meh. Let's move on to some things that were better. Seeing ADORBS (17D: Very cute, in slang) in the grid made me smile, and 109D: You might take it to go (EXLAX) was hilarious, but my favorite clue was definitely 11D: Dingy part of a kitchen? (OVENTIMER). Hah! I was immediately thinking "How can I make 'behind the stove' fit in there?"

There were some other nice entries, like HELLNO, AMBLE, UPBRAID, and RATTRAP, but as there often is on a Sunday, there was also a fair amount of DAH, ORANT, AREOLA, SAO, IEDS, and SEM. I don't want to dwell on it, but some of it was a little AGEWORN.

- Horace

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017, Samuel A. Donaldson and Brad Wilbur


Thankfully, today's solve made me feel a little better about yesterday's DNF. There was a ton of stuff I didn't know in the puzzle, but still I solved it in a better-than-average time - for me - for a Saturday.

I didn't know DAMASCUS as the Mideast's City of Jasmine, HILARY B. Price, creator of "Rhymes with Orange," Sainted Archbishop ANSELM of Canterbury, Tara REID of the "Sharknado" films, SEGNO (score mark indicating a passage to be repeated), COACHK, IMARETS, ELENAS, SEASNAKE, and I've never heard of a JOBJAR. But, that didn't matter.

DAMASCUS is a solid 1A for a Saturday. Well, for any day really. I'd love to visit there some time. I liked the obscure STANHOPE carriage - a type I've heard of, but wasn't able to get without a few crosses. I started with barouche, which also happened to fit the squares, but probably not the description. I'm a little foggy on the finer points of your various horse-drawn vehicles.

I loved the MRMAGOO reference. "You've done it again." Ha! Part of a Connecticut trio? (CEE, 50A) didn't fool me for long. I was not familiar with HOTPEPPEREMOJIS as Sext symbols, but color me intrigued. I also like understated 41A Earnings in slang for BACON.  52D Small scrap had a nicely ambiguous clue that turned out to be SPAT. And ZIMBABWEAN has some hot ticket letters in it.


So, what's my beef? you ask. The answer TBONE. That's an odd duck of a clue/answer pair, if I ever saw one. Also, I think 32A could have used a better clue than Knotted for INATIE.  6D COSMICJOKE is kind of a cool answer, but I don't know of an example that fits the description. Anyone have one they want to share?


Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017, Peter Wentz


After a boffo start on this Friday's solve, I completely tanked in the south east. The kicker was HODAKOTB, a person I've never heard of and a name I don't think I could have guessed. I had TB at the end of 56A two or three times, but I kept taking it out deeming it an impossible combination. Shows you what I know. The clues for what I now know to be ONEIL, LOU, and LAOTSE didn't help matters in that corner. SAD.

Elsewhere, it was a much more BADABING experience. From ARCANA to GUYFAWKESMASK to GRAYAREA I was able to HAVEAGAS. I liked BODYSURF (5D Catch a wave, in a way), of course, because who doesn't?  And RUBES. WILDE is always a favorite, although "Salome" itself, not so much. I wanted 27A Play with strings to be puppet show, but it wasn't.

There seemed to be a mini theme of computer-related terminology including MACS, MCAFEE, WIKIS, USBPORT, and ICLOUD.



I don't get where Mr. Wentz was going with 38A Dated women? (FAIRSEX). I also thought UNDEREAT as the answer for Be malnourished didn't sit quite right, but ODDSARE others would say DOESSO.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017, Ned White


I'll start with a quibble. If the revealer is going to be HEADOVERHEELS, should there have been multiple Louses (or is that lice?) under each Honcho? I don't really know why I am quibbling, except that quibble is a fun word, because I LOLed when I got the theme. And the theme material entertains. I especially liked NUMEROUNO, TOPBANANA, and SCOUNDREL.

I FWOEd where TOPOm crossed mUSAKA. I didn't know either "Fiddler on ther Roof" star or, to my chagrin, the capital of Zambia. I might have made a better guess than "m," but the "m" got in there somehow and I didn't notice it until I had to track down the error. Derp.

I think the cleverest clue is 66A Split to join (ELOPE) - ha! 16A It grows in the dark (PUPIL) was also good. TUBETOP (strapless summer wear) was a nice blast from the past. Do they still make those? I like the word SPORE, but Horace tells me puffballs are disturbing to encounter in real life. And any mention of APU (Kwik-E-Mart clerk) is always welcome.


In addition to the theme answer itself, there were a couple of NOGOODNIKs in the grid. My least favorite was 65D Shout at a circus (OOH). Also a little weird was 27D Hookup for a tenant: Abbr. (TEL). Does anyone get a telephone hooked up these days? Or is TEL another technology like Nest that I've failed to incorporate into my life? 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017, John Lithgow and Brendan Emmett Quigley


The play's the theme wherein we catch the cunning of the creators (with apologies to the esteemed Bard-upon-Avon). The theme material starts up right out of the gate with DRAMA at 1A. To that is joined a cast of thousands of other theme-related entries including CURTAINCALL, SPITTAKE (my personal favorite), SUMMERSTOCK, STAGELEFT, CASTPARTY (which, perhaps, wins the award for trickiest theme clue (Fly fisherman?)), and KATISHA (whose right elbow has a fascination few can resist) to name just the longer entries. In addition to fill with starring roles, the grid features AHEAP of  associated entries from TV like SHO ("Dexter" channel, in TV listings) and Broadway ("PAL Joey.") The puzzle brings down the curtain with ACTOR at 63A. Bravo!

Awards for best supporting entries go to DESTROY, TASTY, CORNY, PENTUP, and PINENUTS.


Once INA while, critics do have to throw a rotten tomato. Here's mine: 3D Gillette razors (ATRAS) - boo!

There were also a couple of tired old reruns like ETA, TEC, and TMEN,  but the criticisms notwithstanding, I look forward to a sequel.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017, Jeff Chen


Today's theme targeted a bunch of saps. We get PIGEON, CHUMP, SUCKER, and MARK at the start of three common expressions, and one name. Chump and Sucker are great sounding words, even though one wouldn't want to hear them applied personally.

It seemed a little LOCA to have the revealer be the people who target mugs (CONMEN) rather than the mugs themselves. I also thought it was a little odd to have the revealer as a down, while the theme answers were all acrosses. Have we had that before? Also, does UCONN count as theme material?

I raise my isinglass to 1A Flaky mineral (MICA) and give it a solid a B+.  Other nice fill I draw your ATTN to includes SPORE (15A), GENT (16A), VOODOO (10D), EROICA (11D), ANTONYMS (4D), LIPSYNC (5D), USURPS (45D), and UNDEROOS (37D) because wearing Underoos is fun.

My least favorite today is IBANKER (Pro at building financial worth, slangily). Other entries I had a slight AVERsion to include APCALC (9D), OAS (53D), and BNEG (54D).

Don't take any wooden nickels.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017, Jennifer Nutt


There were plenty of good fish in this sea. Today we found ORCA "swimming" in four substantial theme answers. I especially liked LIQUORCABINET, but RADIATORCAP is also tops. With a KILLERWHALE every where you look, Elizabeth II had better forget about NESSie and watch herself around the fountains at WINDSORCASTLE.

And speaking of Elizabeth, it was nice that Elizabeth I, last of the TUDORS, could cross paths with her old haunt again, even it is in only in puzzledom. ASCOT and ERMINE elsewhere in the puzzle added to the royal ambiance. There was also quite a bit of SWEET, OLDE timey fill including FIB, MOXIE, AGUE, and BIER, while SLAW, BONGO, and POPS kept it hip. I enjoyed a number of other answers, too, like CODEWORDS, FILET, and TOKEN.


In the department of clues that could use some AID, I'll ENTER MSDEGREE (Common grad sch. credential). Its partner, GRE, notwithstanding, most of the rest of the three-letter answers were AOK.

But, to go out on a high note, I will now belt out the chorus of BALI Ha'i. Good times.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017, John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins

Wise Move

OHHI. Frannie here, back to reporting on her own puzzle solving experience.

Today's puzzle title was an apt description of the trick of the theme answers. Apt! The "y" at the end of the first word of a common expression moved to the end of the second word to create new expressions like JUICEPARTIES (Social gatherings where fruit drinks are served?) instead of juicy parts and COUNTFAIRIES (Take attendance in a magical forest?) instead of county fairs. GROCERSTORIES (Things swapped at a convention of supermarket owners?) was my favorite. The clue for 23A (Interns at a cemetery?) caused me to notice that interns and inters differ by only one letter. Weird.

I have two top entries today: 55A Sounded sheepish? BLEATED - ha! And, 62A Routine problem, for short - with no question mark! - OCD.

Other good fill included:
41A. Work at, as a trade (PLY)
105A Euphoric *and* GIDDY - both nice words
88D. Spacious and splendid (PALATIAL)

In other puzzle solving news, I finally looked up SDS (New Left org.), which has appeared in a number of puzzles recently, and which I entered each time without any idea what this new group was up to. Well, dear readers, I've been parsing the clues all wrong. Turns out, new modifies Left. Who knew?

94D Ones holding down things? (EIDERS) had me confused for a long time, despite the fact that my favorite bird is the common eider for it's down-producing abilities. Nice twisty clue.

100D Early record label turned out to be EDISON, and, as chance would have it, I visited my second cousin this afternoon and he showed me two cases full of early Edison cylinder recordings. Art really does imitate life.

I was able to drop in NEON at 122A (Fifth-most abundant element in the universe) because I just learned that fact when I was reading about noble gases, featured in the puzzle on October 10, 2017. Thank you Mr. MacLachlan.

SPLURGE and MINTY are both great words. And who doesn't like a CHEEZIT?


There was some fill that didn't RESONATE with me:
1A M.I.T. Sloan grad, often (MBA) - gets my vote for Most Boring Acronym.
29D Over-and-above (ADDED) - brought nothing to the table.
32D Diminutive suffixes ETTES - brought massive sufferage.
40D Some feet (IAMBI) - a fine, question mark-less clue, but iambI? IDARESAY that terminal I is not what solvers wanted to see there.
47A. Have-not (NEEDER) - groan.
112A Homie (MAINMAN) - not a constructor's best friend.
83A Nozzles into blast furnaces (TUYERES) - I think you'd have to be a real SMARTPANTIES to get that one.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017, Sam Ezersky

For today's review, I submit live commentary from our esteemed Colum Amory as he solves the puzzle in person across the table from me. It's as faithful a recording as I could make because I can't type as fast as he can solve.

1D, I entered AXEL. I think I've got 1D wrong already. Unlikely that a TV Series title starts with an X.  It might be LUTZ. I want 1A to end with LAB. 7D - I want it to be stayedin but it won't fit.

Prime minister between Barak and Olmert was SHARON. Impolite sound might be a snort. Base 10 = LOGARITHM. So, not snort. Must be SLURP.

"Real name of Green Hornet. Don't know it. What you're solving informally (24A) XWORD. Person known as the Jezebel of Jazz. Lovely epithet but I don't know who that is. Longest song on Dark Side of the Moon, not Time and not Money. Don't know it. 36D is Next GEN. 39A Tough is THUG. Atmosphere is AURA. It must be ANITA, but ANITA who? Question after an interruption. WHERE/WASI. USANDTHEM is the name of the of the song. So the source of the whirlwind quote is HOSEA. Jesus (interjected by Frannie). 14D Slams. I don't know. I put the S in. Why not?

I'm stuck over there so I'm moving to another area. I think it's a hidden capital. Lab wear must be SMOCK (I love that word - Frannie). Warner BROS - we do not like that. Many a B school applicant. ECONMAJOR. CA's wife helped out with that one. Like snow en Argentina. I want it to be rare, but that's not right. It must be a Spanish word. CLIMBS for Shins. I like that actually (I don't, says Frannie). Klondike product. Something TACO. Oh yes, CHOCOTACO. Idol group: MOB. TYRABANKS must be the one who popularized smizing. What does that even mean? No one knows. Oh, snow en Argentina is BLANCA. IC door . Oooh, magICDOOR. Fires (up). Don't know. I'll put the S in. I think MRS. Woodrow Wilson is EDITH. So, it is PEPS. Maybe. Browsers aids. CACHES. Weird. It does aid you according to Horace. Quickens things up. AMOCO must be Exxon competitor. So it's DODO for Dum dum. I don't like it. Nero, by all accounts. Aggh. I'm stuck again. DNF suggests HF. Like a paperclip. I want to say BENT. Maybe it is. Maybe it's BOZO instead of DODO. ATTICDOOR. OK. Knock over is AMAZE. Oh EGOMANIAC for Nero. See ya is PEACE. I like that a lot. SACHS I've never hear of him. Goldman Sachs? suggests HF. Colum's wife helped with SUMOMATCH. ATEST not again. I hate that. MAGUS. You dropped that right in? Well I had the US. ANITA I still don't know who it is. ODAY. Ate in. ATEATHOME. China arrangement TEASET. I liked that one. They're not generic: NAMEBRANDS. That one is quietly nice. I'm stuck in this top right corner. Over. It's not agape. Oh. AGAIN. And PANS for slams. That makes sense. Symbol of the National Audubon Society is EGRET, right? Abandon plans in modern slang. Bail? I don't know. Wizard of Oz farm hand might be Pete. Might be Gene. Maybe EGRETS wrong. I'm going to take EGRET out. Place where analysis is done. Therapy? Half an 1990 telecom merger. Might by NYNEX. That would be something. Oh, it's UGLYBETTY. It is EGRET. LEFTBRAIN. It is LUTZ of all things. TRAPQUEEN never heard of it. 17:12.

Post solve commentary:
LEFTBRAIN, I'm happy with that, although it's probably not actually true. NAMEBRANDS is very good. TEASET I liked a lot. A Fetty Wap # 2 hit from 2015 is pretty far out there for knowledge expectation. The puzzle is Scrabble-y(tm) - a bunch of x's and z's and a j. BAJAN is my least favorite. ELECT (Give a seat) was excellent. OVER is a tough one. Above and ended both fit, but are not right. HOSEA and REID are both tough. Some liked Pit-y party (BBQ) and some didn't. All agreed on not liking REUNES.

A good solid puzzle.

~Submitted by Frannie.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017, Zhouqin Burnikel


I thought this one played pretty easy for a Friday, as you can tell from my time. Perhaps IMALONE in this, but I doubt it.  When I got to 23A (They're seen going south in the fall) I didn't enter GEESE right away because I thought it was too obvious and I must be missing something, but I wasn't. A number of other clues also seemed like gimmies, such as 65A What a laryngitis sufferer may do (WHISPER), 39D Like milk you shouldn't cry over (SPILT),  6D Big no-no at a T.S.A. checkpoint (KNIFE), and 33D Awesome (GREAT). I thought that adding (in two senses) to Person in a trailer at 28A (ACTOR) added some fun, but it practically gave the answer away.

Another possible reason for the relatively easy solve is that there while there is a lot of not what we normally call crosswordese in the grid, there is a bit of familiar fill like EULER, TENOR, OREIDA, and SINEW.


Enough with the LOWS. My favorite of the six long answers was WENTBERSERK. It was a nice twist to have Egyptian charm turn out to be SCARAB - a thing not normally associated with charm. In this vein, we find the very nice 48A Opposite of downs (SIPS). Other fine clues were Port vessel (CASK), Not standing, in a way (ADHOC), 43A Things worth waiting for (TIPS) - ha! I also liked both Blather and HOTAIR (47D), although I really don't. 


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017, Alex Eaton-Salners

FWOA (finished with one assist)

Today's theme really tested my metal. As it happened, my mined wasn't quite up to the feet. At 9D I had SCOUTs___ for a long spice, but I could not come up with OATH, possibly because I never was a Scout. I might have gotten to OATH if I had been able to get 43A. Wring. Coming up with the homonym ring was no problem, but for some reason I couldn't pick up on ring as in phone. I circled around and around other types of rings with no success. Insufficient cranial DEXTERITY after last night's late night on the town. I finally asked Horace what it was so I could finish the puzzle and get going on the revue. Dough!

The theme is clever, unusual as far as my experience goes, and includes some good material. My favorite is MOBILIZED for Mustard (16A). I also liked Lodes for Loads ALOT, GLIMMER for Re/ray, and Flea/flee/ESCAPE.

Among the downs, there was also some nice fill. I liked BISTRE in particular. You don't see that word every day. And ETTU (Classical rebuke). 15D. One for whom work is play? (ACTOR) and 54D. Priest from on high? (LAMA) were cute.

Today' theme reminded me of a story I read when studying language and linguistics in my salad days. It's called "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" by H. L. Chace. I recommend it.

English Language

It was a tall order to make all the across answers floe, so it's not surprising that some theme material wasn't so grate, or did it? I thought the synonymity of sum answers was a little off including Cents/sense/IDEA, Bate/bait/TRAP, Hoes/hose/TUBE, and Chute/shoot/DART. And, perhaps because I do like RYES, I found the clue Lickers a bit off putting. :)

I was also troubled by DRYROTS at 23D. I'm not sure if that's meant to be a plural noun or a verb. That tree dry rots every year. We must find a way to stop the dry rots.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017, David J. Kahn


The puzzle theme features an acceptable round-up of synonyms for OK (WELL, JAKE, FINE, FAIR) in a circular formation at the center of the grid. At the edges, we find some supporting characters including DOCHOLLIDAY and IKECLANTON who people the GUNFIGHTAT THEOKCORRAL.

I liked the fill words WILLOWY, GONAVY, MONIKER, and MIMOSA. Huygens probably likes MAKEOUT, despite the clue, Detect.

There are a few entries in the SNARLER category today. My least favorite answer was SALUTER (Private, often, 22D). I didn't know ARB (Wall St. trader), and I will try to forget it again as soon as I can. I am giving 1A. MACAO a D.

Are we allowed to say BANANA Republic?


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017, Mark MacLachlan


Today's puzzle was a real gas. Having the five non-radioactive elements in group 18 of the Periodic Table appear in the spot in the grid that corresponds with its atomic number was quite clever. There are two other elements in group 18, radon (86), and, the much more recently added oganesson (118), but Mr. MacLachlan would have needed a Sunday-sized grid to squeeze those two in.

And speaking of oganesson (Og), I hadn't heard of it before today. It was first synthesized in 2002 and formally named less than a year ago, according to the Wikipedia. Apparently, the oganesson atom is very unstable, and since 2005, only five (possibly six) atoms of the isotope 294 Og have been detected. Fascinating! And how about this: oganesson may be significantly reactive, unlike all the other elements of that group. It was formerly thought to be a gas under normal conditions but is now predicted to be a solid due to relativistic effects. Do not get me started on relativistic effects! I started reading about what that even means, but I AGGRESS...

In addition to the element names themselves, we have the word ELEMENT, the category NOBLEGAS, and a number of other science-y entries throughout, including CURE, MAYO, EMULSIONS, and LTYR. And, in a stroke of genius, Mr. MacLachlan turned ATNO, which might be considered crosswordese at best, into a theme element!

Other entries I liked today:
20A. Evacuation notice? (FIREALARM) - notice indeed!
24A. You might lose yours in an argument (TEMPER) - I dropped this one right in.
42A. One might be around a buck or two (DOE) - Ha! And no question mark on the clue, to boot.
46A. Perish alternative (PUBLISH) - how I feel about my blog posts. :|

A small feature of the puzzle that I particularly liked was the propinquity of the connected entries at 22 and 25 down. When I entered JET at 22D (With 25-Down, 727 and 747) the app jumped to the next spot in the puzzle, which was 25 down and I could type PLANES right in. There was no looking around the grid for the related entry like an animal.


There also seemed to be a mini email theme with FWD, CCS, and PPS.

MTN, KHZ, and STA were the only answers to which I might have said NYET, if asked about them in Russian.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017, Joe Deeney


Three theme answers suggest periods that would be difficult to schedule, without the fourth theme answer, CALENDARREFORM. I like EIGHTDAYSAWEEK and AMONTHOFSUNDAYS, but while I see how LASTWEEKTONIGHT fits the theme, I think it's a little OFF compared to the other two.

I've always enjoyed the fact that civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois' initials spell WEB (there's a W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute where I work), so I'm positively inclined toward 1A, but the end result is still ATAD humdrum, so I give it a B.

My favorite clue in today's puzzle is 8A. Rant (TIRADE), which I like much better than 19A. Ranting (RAVING) for some reason.

I was surprised to see 28D. Google __ Viewer (tool for charting word frequency over time) (NGRAM) in the puzzle at all, never mind on a Monday. Not that it was difficult fill, but I didn't know people knew about it, or, rather, that the constructors would expect solvers to know about it. Have any of this blog's esteemed readers heard of it and/or used it?

OWIE (55D. Little injury, in baby talk) makes an appearance for the third day in a row today, which makes me wonder, what is the longest streak for a puzzle answer? I have a lot of questions today.

I think our esteemed co-blogger, Mr. Amory, would have enjoyed 44D. Prefix with science (NEURO), if he hadn't solved the puzzle too quickly to notice it. :)

REVERSI (Othello)

The grid includes a year's supply of abbreviations, with a prominent band across the middle starting at 36A (ETC, ATL, ISO, ROO). Maybe it's celebrate STENOS day??


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017, Erik Agard and Alex Briñas

Power Ballads

Today's theme is kind of cute and pretty well executed. The constructors came up with some apt favorite musical acts for a legion of super heros - apt! :) My favorite theme answer is LILWAYNE (Batman's favorite rapper) because I didn't see it coming but it's perfect. My second favorite is BILLYOCEAN (Aquaman's favorite singer?), maybe because I forgot all about Billy Ocean (sorry!), or maybe because I was a fan of Patrick Duffy's Aquaman in my youth. The theme revealer SUPERGROUP and the puzzle's title, however, don't really pack a punch.

CASS, CROON, and ALOHAOE add some nice additional musical notes to the grid. What are the chances that ALOHAOE shows up in two consecutive puzzles? I don't know, but it happened, and I smoothly lei'd in the now-familiar answer.:)

I entered DiO at 104A in lieu of DEO (volente) and didn't notice how that made a mess of the MiTRO at 100D, causing my FWOE.

My favorite non-theme entry might be Smell ARAT (sense something fishy). See, it's funny that when you sense something fishy, you smell a rat. :) I liked TONY for uptown, and SACREDCOW (Divine bovine?) and COINTOSS (Several quarter turns) were some of the better entries today, but in general, the powerful theme answers are surrounded by some rather weak fill.


Right out of the gate, at 1A, we have TSA (Agcy. for Kennedy and Reagan). The clue gets some props for the presidential misdirection, but not enough to rescue it from Crosswordese's evil lair. It has a lot of company down there: GPS, GDPS, GRR, ETC, CEST, NEOS, YMA and UMA, ALLA, ERAS, TAD, TABS, FOURPM, ATEAM, ELON, COL, OOH, OWIE, ISLE, TWOMAN, REUSE, and EDS, to name just 23.

There were a couple of answers that set my teeth on edge: 29A. With child, informally (PREGGERS) - a word I've always disliked, and 32A. Feminine hygiene product (PAD). Call me a prude, but I think that answer could have been clued more pleasantly. You can also call me old-fashioned as I frequently use an ATLAS as a provider of directions.

To sum up, I would like to marvel at this puzzle, but I'm afraid I have to give it more of a D, or C.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017, Byron Walden


Wednesday's tour de force and now this! A puzzle PACT with spectacular next-level cluing. Horace and I agree that 8D. Candy ass? (PINATA) is a strong contender for clue of the year. It's really top drawer. And it's not alone. Other fabulous clues include:
24A. Unslurred speech? PCLANGUAGE
3D. Fabulous speaker LIAR
9D. Green field? ECOLOGY
25D. They go to all the best spots CLIOAWARDS
29D. Dish transmitters GOSSIPS - the O was my last square and it cost me at least five minutes of time. I had G_SSIPS but my brain insisted on parsing the answer as two words, with the second word being SIPS. No good. Obviously, I also didn't know the song on the soundtracks of "Lilo & Stitch" and "Surf's Up". Derp.

In addition to the nonpareils mentioned above, there are great clues that might otherwise take top billing, but in this level of puzzle they become runners up:
16A. Give takes OPINE
35A. Line of clothing INSEAM
46D. Stock holders PENS

There's also straight up fabulous fill like SMUG, GELID, GOBS, and LONGWINDED (or what this review is becoming).

I am giving 1A. an A because who doesn't love a HELLSCAPE?


The excellence of the puzzle makes it seem ungenerous to mention the modicum of PAP that is present, but it is my understanding that reviews should include the bad, or in this case, the not-so-great, with the good. In this category, we have EXDA (2A. Rudy Guliani or Chris Christie), AHORSE (27D. Mounted), and EPEEIST (20D. One who tries to avoid being touched) although, in this case, it's a good clue for a not-so-great answer.

That's two for the books in one week. Thank you NYT crossword puzzle constructors. :)


Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday, October 6, 2017, Patrick Berry


I am ASHAMED to say it, but I was stymied by what I am calling a matrix of Natix. The number of interconnected names of people, characters, places, and store brands that were unfamiliar to me caused me to FWOE. Well, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that my ignorance caused me to FWOE, but usually, guessable crosses help fill the numerae lacunerae in my knowledge base. Today, no such luck. BARBARAJORDAN was crossed by ACOMA, JULES, and MARIE Callender. ORR and DAWES were also unknown to me, but they weren't part of the FWOE situation.

On a more uplifting note, there were quite a few answers I was both able to figure out and enjoy. My favorite today was 15D. Specatcular rock events? (METEORSHOWERS). I agree. I also smiled at 26D. Green Toyota (PRIUS)

For my money, the south east corner contained the mother lode of quality clue/answer pairs that Mr. Berry seems so adept at. Didn't break down (COPED), Lighter brand (ZIPPO), and Literary lion (ASLAN) - all good. And how about this Delicious item? (REDAPPLE). :)

I also enjoyed Be much tweeted about (TREND) and Smoked, modern-style (VAPED).  On the other hand, 51A. Stretchable cords (TENDONS) - ick.

I was able to drop in TANGO today at 27A. Dance seen in "Evita" thanks to yesterday's puzzle. I'm learning! :)


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017, Alan Arbesfeld


Yesterday's puzzle is a tough act to follow. Maybe Mr. Arbesfeld now regrets that he called Mr. Mahnken and said, I got next. :)

We have an "uplifting" theme today achieved by ratcheting up the affirmation value of the descriptive words from four movie titles. So, "Ordinary People" becomes SPECIALPEOPLE and "My Fair Lady" becomes MYAWESOMELADY, which, incidentally, is the only movie I knew based on the actors named in the clue. 44D. provided some supporting movie-themed material with MGMLION (Iconic movie studio symbol).

It's always a pleasure to see the ENTERPRISE mentioned (11D. Fictional ship on a five-year mission). TRALA, the answer to 26D. (Carefree syllables)  brought Nanki-Poo's song "The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring" from The Mikado pleasantly to mind. I thought the clue Con at 48D. was nice for it's cagey ambiguity (INMATE). And who doesn't like a Whiskey SOUR? Except maybe Huygens. I believe he finds them too mixy.

My favorite clue today might be 30D. Slide presentation? (AMEBA), although the odd spelling variation of the answer was less appealing.


I wasn't too WHIPped up about 1A (Blender button). It doesn't grate on me, but it doesn't really crush that entry position, either. 

IMSAD when I see a lot of product and company names in the puzzle. In today's grid DIRECTV practically insists upon itself with its position smack dab in the middle. And it's not alone in there, where we also have COORS, RAYBAN, and ALPO.

I was not aware that PANCAKE had become a verb meaning to flatten. I now plan to pancake my stomach this weekend.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017, Evan Mahnken


Quite a clever and fun theme today! It took me a minute or two (see above) to catch on, but once I did, I had a great time with it. It's "just what a theme ought to be," said she, "sensible, good-humored, lively" - if I may borrow from Jane Austen for a moment. The theme pattern is strong, but not so strong that once you figure one out, you've figured them all out. The answers are common, natural expressions, and some of them made me LOL. I think 31D is my favorite: Where "menial" is in the dictionary? BENEATHME. Ha! BYITSELF is another good one (Where "isolated" is in the dictionary?). I could go on, but you've all done the puzzle yourselves, or you wouldn't be here.

Other bright spots include 26D. Glam rock? That one was a GEM. :) The clue at 61A (A small amount in science or a large amount in business) decidedly uptarded an old groaner like MIL. I was also très contente that 55D. (Parisian possessive) was MES and not ATOI, for once. Merci Mr. Mahnken!


I am giving 1A. "Exodus" hero (ARI) a C. It's not horrible, but it does nothing to draw one in, nor does it offer a hint at the fun of the rest of the puzzle.

My least favorite clue today is 35D. "After this, it's my turn" (IGOTNEXT). Both clue and answer are contrived and artificial 'sayings'. If I was playing a game with a person who actually said to me, "I got next" I would stare at them - taking another page out of Ms. Austen's book.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017, Chuck Deodene

*completed while also feigning occasional interest in a staff meeting (don't tell my boss).

I won't rate 1A as I found it VOLGA. :)

The CENTER ISLAND theme is nice, although it took me a minute to figure it out after I completed the puzzle. See * above. In the middle of the four theme answers, an island is discovered. We have balTIMORean, bushELBAsket, statIONAgent, and forMALTAlks. My favorite, in a way, is BALTIMOREAN because the clue is funny (17A. One might stare at the Sun - ha!). My least favorite is FORMALTALKS (58A. Discussions that might lead to a treaty) because the clue is so meh, although I have nothing against Malta.

My favorite clue over all is 22D. Bar habitué's order, with "the" (USUAL) because who doesn't like to go to a bar and order the usual? My usual at our local is Old Overholt, which I take neat, like my men.

Other clues I enjoyed include:
9D. Served in blazing liquor (FLAMBE)
31A. Prefix with sex or cycle (UNI)

I thought the clue for 18D. Famed German hypnotist (MESMER) was a bit of an understatement as we have the word mesmerize in English, meaning to hypnotize.

My least favorite entry today was ETEXT for 13D. Writing in digital format. Does that make every email, Word document, tweet, and blog post an etext? At that point, it loses all meaning. For some reason, my app wouldn't show the clue for 10D today, with answer TEN, so it's also a candidate for least favorite.

HELL makes its second appearance in a row with INHELL at 38D. Really suffering, so to speak. Maybe it really is end days and the lovely people at NYTX are trying to warn us.


Monday, October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017, Trenton Charlson


It seems appropriate today to give one of the possible five LETTERGRADES to 1A, as is the custom of my esteemed co-bloggers. I think FISH merits a C. :)

I like the theme, but truth be told, I didn't guess any of the theme answers from the clues. I got them all off the downs - always a risk on a Monday, I suppose. The theme clues, all groups of letters having something in common that is revealed by the answer, bring to mind one of my favorite puzzle types from old Games Magazine like 88 K on a P. Remember those? 39A's theme answer (CHEMICALSYMBOLS) is smack dab in the middle of the puzzle and goes edge to edge, which I think is very nice. Want to hear a joke about potassium? K.

I was spoiled for choice when it came to picking a favorite today. My first love was OHHI at 14A. When unpunctuated, it seems so casual. Horace and I used it all day during our Internet communications. Another strong contender is SHOTTOHELL at 3D (Utterly ruined, informally). And, last in this category, but not least, is the perennial favorite: EEL.

Other clues I liked were
OER - as the opposite of 'neath (27A)
TEEM - so evocative of too many unpleasant somethings (24D)
SASS - (32D)
TILE - for the reference to Scrabble (tm) (31D)
ECO - as a clued combo with freak ( )

There wasn't much of what we traditionally call Huygens material in this grid, but plenty of answers I think Huygens will have enjoyed including FERMI at 21D, (all the) MEATS at 41D, and BALI at 42D.

My least favorite answer in today's puzzle was the clue at 1D Centrally located for FOCAL. It didn't feel APT.

Overall, I thought the puzzle was AOK.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017, Robert Fisher

That's One Way To Put It

Despite an ATTRACTive start at 1 across, solving this puzzle felt like a slog to me. Or should I put it another way and call it an unrewarding struggle? Maybe 83D said it best with with Work, work, work (TOIL). I typed in 148 words, but never really LMAO or AHA'd.

Today's theme answers offer a positive turn of phrase for a variety of misfortunes and bad behavior such as falling down, losing one's job, getting a speeding ticket, lying, tax increases, and death. AWARDFORFASTDRIVING and POSTRETIREMENT were slightly amusing, but the rest did nothing for me. The worst theme answer was CAREERSHIFTOPPORTUNITY. Who says that?

On the up side, I enjoyed the nod to Amsterdam and her CANALS at 48A, along with a bunch of other foreign matter (so to speak) including Andre GIDE, a pair of German words (SEHR and SIE), three from Spanish (ESOS, OLES, CONGA) and two from Italian (ALDENTE and CHEAPOS).

We have a plum from the game of Clue with WEAPON at 22D. I also liked ROAST for Swelter at 116A.

My least favorite answer in today's puzzle was 72A. Cause of insomnia, maybe (DRIP). Well, least favorite except SAC (35D), which goes without saying.

I almost naticked where18D Charlotte ____, Virgin Islands crosses 31A Robert of "The Sopranos". It was my last square, and I correctly entered "L", but it was a guess, or, put another way, a happy accident.