Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018, Brian Thomas



I do like a set of answers with odd collections of letters. Today's features three Os in a row, and the revealer, appropriately enough, comes at 65A: Another name for O3 (as appropriate to 17-, 25-, 44- and 58-Across?) (OZONE). My favorite today is ITSAZOOOUTTHERE for the zany ____ZOOOUTTH___ in the middle. My least favorite is BOOOFFSTAGE because who wants to think about "boof" again this year? Maybe next year would be soon enough.

Oh, no, wait. That's tomorrow. Definitely still too soon.

There are some oddities for this Monday level puzzle. Some might be annoyed by starting with 1A: Exchange after a lecture, informally (QANDA). This more experienced solver did not have much difficulty with it, but it's a tough go for novices. Similarly with STELMO.

There aren't a ton of interesting clues or answers either. But I enjoyed GEEWHIZ. Also, DROUGHT is one of those one-syllable words that extend to seven letters somehow.

Here's another odd thing with English. __YPT can be completed either by EGYPT or "crypt". How very different those two words are.

In any case, I hope everybody is celebrating tonight in celebration of the outgoing year and in hopes for what the New Year may bring. For anybody reading my little outpouring, here's to you and yours. May 2019 be exciting, interesting, and fulfilling.

- Colum

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday, December 30, 2018, Luke Vaughn


Hey, folks! It's coming up on the end of another year here at HaFDtNYTCPFCA, as we like to off-handedly refer to this little endeavor. I like to imagine that we have a little office with venetian blinds and a ceiling fan, and we're sitting in old-timey desk chairs with our collars open and our ties pulled down, fanning ourselves with a Peter Gordon Fireball Crossword book, while we banter about which clues we liked best.

Well, perhaps not, but we do still love to talk about the puzzle, and I guess it's impressive as we near the end of the sixth year of this blog, that we're still going. I hope our readers enjoy our idiosyncratic takes on the puzzle.

Meanwhile, today, we have a theme where the definite article is dropped from a common phrase, which is then clued in a wacky way. As always, the best examples of these are where the words have to change their meaning in a significant way to fit in the new sense. Today's winner (and by a long shot, in my opinion) comes at 36A: Reason for an R rating? (BEHINDSCENES). I love how the first word has transitioned from a preposition to a noun, and it's a ludicrous thought, to have whole scenes in a movie just about the human posterior.

In fact, there was a distinct OUTOFBLUE feeling to the puzzle, what with UNLACE, BRAS, possibly HOTTUB in some circles, and of course, BREST. Too soon?

Other good theme answers included WELLOFFMARK (nice repurposing of "mark" to the name), and SKIRTISSUE.

I will cavil at the following: EAGERER (simply does not exist in usage - I'd say "more eager"), IEST, and the spelling out of BTWO.

There's not a ton of long snazzy extras, but I enjoyed all the Bs in the NW, as well as JAFAR and JUGHEAD just below. Overall, it was a challenging and pretty enjoyable Sunday, which is really what I look for on a lazy day.

- Colum

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday, December 29, 2018, Robyn Weintraub


Today's puzzle was on the easy side for a Saturday - certainly easier for me than yesterday's. Maybe that's the new trend. I am offline at the moment or I would look back at recent Friday and Saturday times to see if it's a trend.

It didn't seem like it was going to be easy at first, since I got almost nothing on my first pass through the across clues, but the downs provided more purchase. My first significant toehold was RUBYSLIPPERS.

TIMEMACHINE was another gettable down. Horace and I were just discussing at dinner last night whether travel would be possible thanks to quantum entanglement. I like to think it will be possible.

Both Horace and I thought "Cry over spilled milk, perhaps" (MOM) was odd, but luckily, the cross with "'Triptych Bleu I, II, III,' e.g." (MIRO) helped clear that up.

As the OLD year PETERSOUT, I reflect on the year of puzzles past. I remember the challenges (one unsolvable by me - 12/1/2018), the tricks, the twists, the LOLs. Maybe puzzles aren't going to save the world, but they add spice to life. LOCHS of good wishes to all for 2019. Happy New Year!


Friday, December 28, 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018, David Steinberg


As the first in a triple stack of fifteens, LEADEROFTHEPACK is a nice start, and apt. Apt! The next two in the top triple became clear as I chipped away at the downs. I had heard of an ALFAROMEOSPIDER but I was not familiar with Notorious B.I.G.'s oeuvre GOINGBACKTOCALI.

The bottom triple stack was more of a challenge. Thanks to a few key downs, including the familiar old chestnut Bert CONVY, I was able to guess the middle fifteen, ALLOVERCREATION. But, while I have heard of MATRYOSHKADOLLS, if someone had asked me if I could spell the name of them off the top of my head, I would have said NOMAAM. ALAINRENELESAGE rang a vague bell, once I completed the answer thanks to copious guessing on the downs, but the name didn't leap to mind. I read a bit about the man on the Wikipedia. He seems like an interesting guy. Maybe  I'll read "Gil Blas."

Flanking the fifteens were a COPA other good entries. To wit:
New toy? (PUP) - cute
Pair of nines? (ENS) - fooled again!
Tar (OLDSALT) - both such flavorful nouns
Prepare for a bomb, say (GODEEP) - nicely ambiguity
Brother-to-be (PLEDGE) - I was sidetracked by the religious kind of brother
Place to count sheep (LEA) - It took me too long to put this one to bed

Interesting to learn that AIRMAIL commenced in 1911. So near, and yet so far.

If I have to PICA nit, I'd say that MISDO for "Screw up" isn't great, but overall this is a solid Saturday.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

40:16 DNF

I didn't know the Carolina tribe that allied with the colonists in the American Revolution (CATAWBA), and I could not get the missing letter at the cross with 26A "'You sti-i-i-ink'" (BOO), even after several tries. I still didn't understand why the answer to 26A was boo, but Horace explained that the clue referred not to stink as in PU, which was all I could think of, but a "you're no good at what you're doing" kind of stink. Derp.

I had another big slow down in the mid east. I fell right into the trap laid for me by the constructors by putting in sAW for "Something with teeth" instead of the correct JAW. That made it difficult for me to get JETSTREAM, which, in turn made it difficult for me to complete the side section. Well, that and the fact that I couldn't get OMEGA (Rolex rival) or PALO (Texas' ___ Duro Canyon) without most of the crosses. I thought it was very clever and well-placed misdirection to have "Rival of Cassio" (IAGO) in the same section with Rolex and Omega.

Today's grid shape is part of the theme. The black squares near the center form the shape of a air craft that appears to be emitting a diagonal run of rebus squares to form a literal [CON]TRAIL. Higher up in the grid, we have SKYWRITER as bonus material.

A few of the highlights for me were "Monomaniac of fiction" (AHAB),
"Hall of fame" (MONTY) - ha! - and "Bunch of lovers?" (ROSES) is particularly nice.

Although some of the rest of the puzzle left me flat (GEAROIL, MOLERAT, YESITIS, BASSI, ARA, NOWI, SONE, TOALL), I do appreciate the craft. :)


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday, December 26, 2018, Howard Barkin


While I wouldn't call this puzzle a CINCH, exactly, I did seem to be on the same wave length as Mr. Barkin this morning. There were only three "knowables" that I didn't know (NAOMI, REESE, and JESSE). I even knew KFC (One of the Yum! brands) thanks to our friend's annual Kentucky Derby party. Although, I just read the Derby's sponsor is, as of 2018, Woodford Reserve. Now that's what I call apt. :) CHIA (___ Pet) and GINSU (Kind of knife in old infomercials) were squarely in my wheelhouse. If you're like me and you have a soft spot for the infomercials of old, check out this great song by Steve Goodman called "Vegematic".

I quite enjoyed the theme today, although I didn't fully appreciate its scope until after the solve. Each clue suggests a more appropriate star for a movie based on his or her last name for which the theme answer is a synonym. For example, "Movie that really should have featured Anne Archer?" is ROBINHOOD. My favorite is "Movie that really should have featured Vin Diesel?" (BEETLEJUICE). Ha! I thought SPIDERMAN for Weaver (as in Sigourney), while not a wreck(nid), was an itsy bitsy stretch. Too much?

One clue/answer pair I particularly liked was "Little untruth"(FIB). It's the kind of clue/answer pair I enjoy because the clue is written so that the answer must be what it is, if you see what I mean. In this case, one could guess another three-letter word that means untruth (lie), but the clue is written in such a way that you know the answer is FIB; even if you don't know it right away, you know it when you get it. I also enjoyed the couple of self-referential crossword puzzle clues "Ref. that added 'cruciverbalist' (a person who does crosswords) in 2006" (OED) and "Pencil after lots of crosswords" (NUB).

Other PROS:
"Unpleasant strain?" (ECOLI)
"American, Asia, and Europe (but not Africa)" (BANDS)
"Miner matters" (ORES)
"Bit of graphic language?" (EMOJI) - LOL.


I've got to ASIAGO and get to some ADULTING. Later.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 25, 2018, Bruce Haight


If you like Christmas and all its trimmings, yule really like today's theme. :) The revealer is a seasonal song (OTANNENBAUM) that hints at traditional decking for the holiday pine. The last words in four other answers give us a JUDYGARLAND, a SUGARCANE, an LOSANGELESANGEL, all topped with a MOVIESTAR. Lovely.

There's an avalanche of other theme-related fill:
"Jesus to Mary" (SON)
"Wonderment" (AWE)
"'Once in ___ David's City' (carol)" (ROYAL)
"Seasonal song" (NOEL)
"December 25, informally" (XMAS)
And, as a bonus, a trinity of crossword darlings: EDNA, ERMA, ERTE. :)

Mr. Haight doesn't disappoint this Christmas; he delivers once again with his signature clever cluing. In a crossover from the holiday theme category, we have the entertaining "Deteriorated ... or started out like Santa on December 24?" (WENTSOUTH) - Ha! We also get a nice twist with "A step above the minors" (ADULTHOOD), the interesting "Lab culture site" (AGARPLATE), and my favorite: "Range for yodelers" (ALPS). YAY! :)

I liked "Cakes and ____" (ALE) as it brings to mind one of my favorite authors, W. Somerset Maugham. I also liked "Expert" (MAVEN) and "Debauched sorts" (ROUES).


Funny to see OHYOU again so soon (think yesterday) and speaking of repeats, what about ATTA (Lead-in to girl or boy)? That one sure is having a hey day. Today marks its third appearance this month. The gift that keeps on giving. :)

Happy holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018, Brendan Emmett Quigley


A Monday that was more of a challenge than usual, which I think, is Mr. Quigley's special gift. On this day when Santa hitches up his sleigh to travel the world, today's theme entries have the word RIDE bridging each two-word answer, or as the revealer would have it, HITCHINGARIDE. Apt! The theme is beautifully packaged with the hitch going from a 3/1 hookup in HYBRIDENGINES to a 2/2 combo in KALAHARIDESERT and then to a 1/3 connector in GENDERIDENTITY. Ride on, Mr. Quigley!

I had one hot spot, when ERST I laid eyes upon it, where the Kalahari desert crosses Mahershala ALI. What should have been an EASYA gave me a little pause as I am not familiar with Ms/r. Ali.

Other treats included:
"Shovel's creation" (HOLE) - unexpected and funny.
"Words to a josher" (OHYOU) - cute.
"One twixt 12 and 20 (TEEN) - literally.
"Taboo alternative to beef" (HORSEMEAT) - interesting.
"Asthmatic noises" (WHEEZES) - for this under-the-weather solver, too soon.


Although there was only a WEE bit of holiday theme today, 'twas nice to see a nod to Clement C. MOORE on this night before Christmas. And now, having submitted our DESIRES to Santa, we STIBY and wonder what his ETA is. For once, we can relax because batteries *are* included, well, one anyway (AAA).

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and to all a good NITE.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018, David Alfred Bywaters


How can you tell the difference between a chemist and a plumber? Ask them to pronounce the word UNIONIZED.

It's a classic joke, and today we're to play the chemist. The first three theme answers have been ION-ized, as it were, and the last three have been un, or de-ion-ized. 32A: Pontiff's gold treasure (PAPALBULLION) is my favorite of the top three. The only drawback is that it's probably a real thing. Don't you just imagine that there's a huge cache of gold somewhere in the Vatican? How can there not be.


Of the lower three, my favorite is RHETORICALQUESTS (119A: Speakers' searches for just the right words?). Again, it's funny because it's true. :)

The worst of all six, for me, is WITHONEACCORDION (24A: How polka bands get their start?). The ionized answer is great, but I've never heard the phrase "with one accord" before.

PASCALSWAGER (4D: Philosophical argument for belief in God) was interesting. I was not familiar with it. Pascal argued that a rational person should believe in the Christian God because if it turns out that there is one, the wagerer gains Heaven and all that, but if there is not, he loses very little. This, to me, is weak. I do not believe in any god, but I also believe that if it were to turn out that there were a god, and this god actually took the time to somehow judge each of the billions of humans when they die and then relegated them to one or another afterlife based on the way they lived their life, that I would get the good afterlife. (Why would any rational god demand upon belief in itself?) And if not, then I'll get to see what "eternal damnation" is like. "Heaven for atmosphere, Hell for company," right? And really, how bad could it be? If you knew you were never going to actually die, couldn't you eventually get used to anything? Anyway, this is too much, probably, on this topic. Especially in this venue. :)

Speaking of all that, OBITPAGE (26D: Dead reckoning?) was funny. And I liked the hidden (at least to me) obviousness of 25D: Evidence left by a moth (HOLE). I kept trying to think of what they might leave behind... a cocoon? Some kind of web?

I chuckled at the theme. The fill was fine. Nice to see ATTU again. It's been a while.

- Horace

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018, Joon Pahk

0:21:22 (F.W.O.E.)

I'm torn about this puzzle. I loved the start, with the cleverly-clued MARTINI (13A: Bond order), the contemporary ADULTING (16A: Taking care of responsibilities like an actual grown-up), and the very strong, crossing, stair-stepped triple-elevens.

Try slipping that into your pocket!
The cluing all around was clever and fun. Witness: 35A: Slip covers? (CORRECTIONS), 31A: Drinking glasses? (BEERGOGGLES), 3D: Not the classy sort? (TRUANT), 23A: Traveler's boarding areas? (INNS). Sure, those all have question marks, but how about 36A: Swift quality (IRONY), 55A: You can't beat them (NEMESES), 47A: Gets one under (BIRDIES), or 30D: It's what everyone's doing (AGING)? Beautiful.

Then there's quality fill like TACONIC (20A: New York's ____ State Parkway), YOSEMITE (52A: Half Dome's home), SPLASHY (26D: Ostentatious) and TRASHY (56A: Lowbrow). We should come up with a word for those kind of entries in a puzzle. "Fill" seems too limited to describe such good, fun stuff. Anybody got any ideas?

So there's lots to like - why am I torn? Well, maybe it's just because I don't know every word there is to know. I got stuck in the southwest-al area, where I was not familiar with a handful of entries. ZOROASTRIAN (not exactly SW) is only on the fringes of my sphere of knowledge, and I misspelled it ZaROASTRIAN, leading to my third consecutive FWOE! I should maybe have known better because of SUBORNS (24D: Induces to commit a crime), but I guess I'm just too much of a goody-two shoes to be familiar with that one. :)

So that's two things, and then there's INCEPT (36D: Receive as a member) crossing ESPIAL (50A: Act of noticing). Yecch. ESPIAL is, I guess, inferable, but INCEPT is pretty far out there. ...

Still, I've said before in this blog that anything is fair game on Saturday, and I stand by that. So with that attitude, I will be happy for all the good I got today, and although I had some personal difficulties, it doesn't mean the whole thing was bad. Does it?

- Horace

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018, Peter A. Collins

0:19:31 (F.W.O.E.)

A really lovely themeless today from veteran constructor Mr. Collins. I love the 11-stacks in the NW and SE, and the nines running down the NE and SW are strong too.


I was misdirected terribly in the NE, entering "spa" immediately at "12A: Whirlpool site" (TUB) (Hah!). And then when I checked the Down clues, I took out "spa" to enter "Nolan Ryan" at "12D: Hall-of-Fame pitcher who once struck out 10 consecutive batters" (TOMSEAVER). Turns out Ryan has twice struck out 8 in a row, but Seaver is, evidently, the only one to have K'd ten. Impressive, but damn their matching name lengths!

Amusing clues today included 7D: They operate around the clock (HANDS), 10D: Keystone enforcer (KOP) (Raise your hand if you dropped in "EPA"), 14D: Hides in a cabin, perhaps (BEARSKINS), and 13D: Labor party member's holding? (UNIONCARD). And I also enjoyed the misdirection of 49D: Bridge position (HELM) (not east or west).

In addition to the humor, there are interesting entries like SUCCOR, LAITY, and one of Frannie's favorite artists, James ENSOR. And all we have to put up with is a little RESHIPS, IMAS, TAS, ENT, and HULLO (49A: Greeting in Britain). That last one stumped me. I had all but the U, and did not know Harold UREY's name, so I guessed A. Then E, thinking it might be a fake misdirect, then just ran through all the other vowels. Honestly, I'm not sure I buy HULLO as valid, but a person's name is necessarily valid, I guess. I mean, shouldn't we all know the names of everyone involved in the Manhattan Project? :| To be somewhat more diplomatic, he did win a Nobel Prize for discovering an element, so I guess that's something.

My petulant protest aside, I found this an enjoyable and challenging Friday.

- Horace

p.s. It's in the comments, but I feel I have to add here that on the edges of this puzzle Colum found Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh my! 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

0:09:26 (F.W.O.E.)

WOO-HOO! It's Thursday, a day on which we have come to expect the unexpected. Even so, when I got to 30-Across and found a two-letter word, I was momentarily shocked, and may even have said to myself, "NO, NO!" But as soon as I had, I suddenly realized exactly what was going on, and quickly filled in "SKINOFFMYnose." That expression, for whatever reason, is more familiar to me than what they wanted - SKINOFFMYBACK (24A: Result of some sunburn I had?).


The John Donne pun at 44-Across - MANISANISLAND (44A: Declaration concerning British geography?) was my favorite, and honestly, quite a LAUGHINGMATTER!

It wasn't my FINESTHOUR, though. I didn't ACEIT by finishing SANS errors. At "16A: Approach in handling something" I entered TACt, which I still think could work just fine, but StATE, while it is a word, is not the word clued by "13D: Variety of ray" (SKATE). TACK. Hmph.

Tough clue for RENO today (14A: ____ Sweeney, leading character in "Anything Goes"), and SAC is always kind of a gross entry, made moreso when clued with "Egg ____." But TYPO got a great clue - "An aye for an eye, say?" - and "Home to Castro" fooled me! I had the C to start it and just dropped in CubA. It took me quite a while before I corrected it to CASA. The Ray/Wray (KROC/FAY) clues were cute, and that jokey clue about finding Jesus on a ROOD was pretty daring!

Overall, the theme amused me, and there were several clue/answers (especially in the Downs) that I found interesting or funny. Let's call it a good start to the Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018, Seth A. Abel


A very clever theme today using an apt ANAGRAM to clue four answers. For example, "A trails nut" aptly describes a NATURALIST, "Bag manager" is a funny, but strangely appropriate thing to call a GARBAGEMAN, and "Hint: hotel" is cute for THEHILTON. The only one that didn't totally work for me was SYCOPHANT, because while "Acts phony" sort of describes what a SYCOPHANT does, it doesn't exactly describe one. You know what I mean? It would have been better if "acts phony" were an anagram of "is a sycophant," but, of course, that's being very picky, because to have found three that are so good and this one that works if you would only just let it, is pretty amazing.


So the theme is cool, but what I really enjoyed about this puzzle was the cluing! If I get a single clue like "34D: They measure miles in meters" (CABS) in a puzzle, it can make up for a lot of OENO and TERR-type stuff, but today we also got "53D: One leaving in the spring?" (TREE), "55D: Average guy?" (NORM), "1D: Ones always tossing things back?" (SOTS), "18A: Ahab's inspiration?" (SEAAIR), and "25A: Beehive contents" (HAIR), each of which got a chuckle as it eventually came clear. That's a lot of good material. Then there's other interesting entries like SPREADEM, GOGOBAR, ANKLETS, TAN (19A: Give a whuppin'), and ANTSY.

In my opinion, that is plenty to earn this a hearty thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018, Ross Trudeau


How do people come up with these themes?! Today's FASHIONPOLICE wardrobe - featuring a DUSTJACKET (17A: Proper attire for taking fingerprints?), a TRAILBLAZER (24A: ... for picking up a series of clues), the hilarious HOLDINGTANK (50A: ... for detaining a perp?), and a FOLLOWSUIT (59A: ... for shadowing a suspect?) - is so absurd! But it hangs well and the fit is pretty snug. :) I've got to hand it to these constructors... always tugging at phrases, turning them over and inside out, and tailoring them for other uses.


In the non-theme Across answers there are only two above five letters, the opaque-to-me AARONS (29A: Hicks and Judge of Major League Baseball), and TRAUMA, which, ironically, I enjoyed.

The Down answers, on the other hand, included a slew of sevens, eights, and nines. My favorites were the non-airport-coded LAGUARDIA and DSTUDENTS (31D: Ones far from the honor roll). Hah! I did a double take when I saw it starting out with DSTU, but I wasn't worried for long.

I'm not sure how I had never heard of the RARITAN river before, but I'm glad to learn of it now. As for EMERSION (39D: Reappearance above water, as for a submarine), well, I think I can go on pretending I had never heard of that without getting into too much trouble.

Overall, I was amused by the theme, and there's plenty of bonus fill. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday, December 17, 2018, Andrea Carla Michaels and Brian Thomas


Another week begins. Today's themed puzzle features the last names of four "Jacks," both fictional and real, "hidden" in names of other things.


I like the theme. All of the entries: SPARROWHAWK, LONDONBRIDGE, RUBYSLIPPERS, and BLACKFRIDAY are well-known and straightforward, and the revealer, HIJACKS, is simple and appropriate.

The long "bonus" fill, as it is sometimes called, was entertaining. LATINLOVER (3D: Don Juan sort) and EXTRAEXTRA (30D: Start of a newsboy's cry) are evocative and not frequently seen in puzzles. The puzzle also feels somewhat "Scrabble-y" with all the Js, Vs, Xs, and other high-value letters. Definitely more than usual for a Monday.

I thought the whole thing played slightly harder than a Monday usually does, too, perhaps because of uncommon answers like CABAL (1D: Group of schemers), SCOTCH (33A: Put the kibosh on), HIJAB (35D: Muslim woman's head cover), and SURREY (46A: Carriage named for an English county). And PERUSAL and MUSTERS could probably also be added to that list.

There's ABIT of EER, RARER, FRO, and EKES, but overall, the interesting entries and the solid theme are big SCORES that put this in the "yes" column.

- Horace

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018, Sam Ezersky


An amusing theme today. An assortment of "top gear" - headware - drop from five across answers and must be picked back up to make sense. As in WHA/TAM/I (65A: Riddle-ending query) and SNA/KEPI/T (83A: Dangerous environment). Kepi, tam, toque, beret, and fez are well-known to most experienced crossword solvers, but I think that giving a little clue with the shaded squares and the revealer ATTHEDROPOFAHAT was probably a good idea.

As usual in such a big puzzle, one can find both good and bad. On the bright side, I very much enjoyed 91D: Like TV but not radio? (INCAPS), and I liked EIGHTHNOTE (15D: It's played for half a beat in 4/4 time). Colum talked about unusual consonant combinations yesterday, and GHTHN definitely qualifies for that category. It's always nice to be reminded of SPARTA (23A: Ancient capital of Laconia), and 37A: Scare quote? (BOO) was amusing.

On the other side, I call out the odd VEALER (3D: Calf raised for its meat), ROOMER (70A: Certain tenant), IRENIC (17D: Peaceful), and NATANT (114A: Swimming). SWEETIE (59D: Babe) is kind of gross, ODOROUS, STOMA, ABAFT, LOCI, and ENCE are all super-crosswordy.

And does ADDTOQUEUE really mean "Play next?" I don't think I have that on Pandora, and what if you'd already done it a number of times? Wouldn't it then mean "play after all the others that I've put on the queue?" And yes, I realize I may be out of my depth here.

Well, Dear Reader, I've got a cold again, and I'm a little DIM, so I'm going to end this rather abruptly and look forward to tomorrow. Hope you are all healthy and enjoying the winter holiday season.

- Horace

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Saturday, December 15, 2018, Erik Asgard


There is a lot to like about today's puzzle: some fun entries, quad stacks of 10-letter answers, and clever cluing, all of which I've come to expect from Mr. Agard. So why didn't I enjoy the solve more? I think it's because part of the difficulty arose from the segmentation of the grid: having to start anew in various sections (see: the NW and SE corners, as well as the center E and W, to a lesser degree) makes the flow of solving slower.

But on the good stuff: I just used CHUTZPAH in a recent review, and here it is, and with the perfect clue (5D: Arguing with God, for example). The CHUPACABRA is a South and Central Americas version of a vampire, and came up recently in a game of Monikers, so it was familiar to me. But look at that crossing: Yiddish and Spanish, "old" world and "new" world. Great juxtaposition!

I enjoyed the clue at 16A: What might precede a parachute jump (HESITATION). Very funny! 26D: United, e.g. (SOCCERTEAM) was quite challenging in its ambiguity.

PIEDPIPER and ELGRECO were two nice answers crossing those quad stacks. I've also noted a tendency in the young constructors to utilize answers with unexpected congregations of consonants. Today, there is MRMOM, SITNSPIN (that TNSP!), and CDDRIVE.

The clue that got me today was 25D: One method of locating schools (SONAR). That was tricky, and I appreciate the distinct not-being-there of the question mark.

Outside of BIOL and PBRS (Pabst Blue Ribbons, apparently), there's little to complain about in the fill. Overall, I'll give it a thumbs up, but definitely not as good as yesterday's.

- Colum

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018, Andrew J. Ries


All I can say to today's puzzle is YESYES! And in a positive way, rather than the way it was clued.

I knew I was going to have a good time when I entered 14D: 1992 comedy based on a long-running "S.N.L." sketch (WAYNESWORLD). Perhaps others can think of examples of such movies arising out of SNL that reached the same level of hilarity, but I can not. And it follows nicely on this week's Queen-themed puzzle. NEDFLANDERS was a gimme, and after entering SOFARSOGOOD, I felt it was describing the solve well.

ABNEGATE (an excellent word) got me into the middle W, which led to 37A: Gathering where burping is encouraged (TUPPERWAREPARTY). For the win! That is excellent.

Even better though, is the superb cluing at 10D: Things used on bridges to ease congestion (NASALSTRIPS). Hah! I was taken in completely. Even having the ____STRIPS, I was wondering about those moveable central concrete barriers that can be zipped over a lane as needed during rush hour. I was so taken in, that even with NA_ALSTRIPS, I needed the cross from MASSES to figure it out!

Little details elevate an excellent crossword puzzle. I'll leave you with the final two across clues in the SE corner. At 62A: Napoleon, for one (DESSERT), you have an example of a capital hiding the fact that the clue is not, in fact, referring to a specific entity, such as the historical figure. At 64A: Outback offerings (STEAKS), you have the classic hidden capital, where the clue is now in fact referring to the restaurant rather than the geographic locale. Brilliant!

There are other examples, as well, but I'm just glowing from this puzzle. Nice Friday.

- Colum

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thursday, December 13, 2018, John Westwig


I knew something was going down when I realized the puzzle has four unchecked squares (that is, squares that only participate in an answer in one direction, not both directions, as is standard requirements for an American style crossword puzzle). But things got complicated for me when I entered MAndeLa at 34A: Who said "If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary" (MALCOLM[X]). That was a tough wrong guess because three of the letters were correct (and the unchecked one couldn't be, well... checked).

Anyway, I figured out my mistake, and enjoyed the theme. Four answers, all using the central X shape, but in four different ways. We get the aforementioned speaker, but also the NEWYORK[TIMES], [KISS]GOODBYE, and [CROSS]SECTION. That's some good work, finding four answers, all of whom have seven letters outside the X, two with the X at the start, two with the X at the end.

Elsewhere, there are lovely chunky corners, with space for some great answers, including IMBATMAN, NERDCRED (which is what you get for knowing the first one), and ANECDOTE.

Good clues include 12D: What might have a large collection of prints (CRIMELAB) and its partner in crime, 18A: Get cell service? (DOTIME). And how fun is that section in the center East, where FJORD crosses JJWATT?

I also liked the paired clues, such as 9D: Lead-in to T, A or X (MODEL), and 55A: Lead-in to X, Y or Z (GEN); also RESTED and TANNED, which is exactly what I am not, currently.

- Colum

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 1018, David J. Kahn


As a big fan of QUEEN, I am happy to see so much related material squoze into this grid. I remember my oldest brother listening to them in the 1970s, and how much fun I thought their music was at the time. It hasn't faded or become dated (at least the big hits - to be honest, I don't know a lot of the songs outside of the Best of albums). So maybe I should recalibrate my self assessment as a big fan?

So there's a biopic movie now about FREDDIE MERCURY, né Farrokh Bulsara, born in Tanzania. I have not heard anything good about it, but I know that they make a lot of the LIVEAID BENEFIT CONCERT. If anyone has seen it and has good things to say about it, let me know!

I am impressed by the placement of BO/HEMI/AN and RH/APSO/DY symmetrically in the top and bottom rows. The downside of all of this are the many (many!) compromises that have to be made in the fill, including FORA (technically right but never used), BORER, 56D: Professor Higgins, to Eliza (ENRY (!)). That last one at least gets some credit for the chutzpah involved. ETYMA may be music to some solvers' ears, but not mine, and YSER is such a hoary bit of crosswordese.

I feel that the puzzle could probably have been created without resorting to NAZI, even in the "softened" version the clue offers up. But seeing it next to OWIE is really peculiar!

I don't have much else great to say about the puzzle, except that I liked 34D: Lyft alternative (TAXI). How old school.

Here's looking forward to the turn!

- Colum

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


We here in Delmar, NY, have been known to take a COMPOSTBIN, so I was pleased to see today's revealer connect several apparently disparate theme answers and "recycle" them, as it were. I'd thought there was some controversy over eggshells, but Google says go for it. My amusing mistake (quickly corrected) was to enter PITBull at 44A: Casino V.I.P. (PITBOSS), thinking of the rapper.

My favorite answer of the day was new to me, at 31D: Units of power saved, in modern lingo (NEGAWATTS). That's a fine idea, and we should all do our little bit to try and preserve the environment. But the biggest contribution (the mega-negawatts, if you will), must come from our governments.

Boy, I've been preachy lately, haven't I? SARI about that!

Meanwhile, BIRDONAWIRE is a lovely long answer. I feel like I must have seen the movie with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson, but I can't recall it. On the other hand, there is the excellent song by Richard and Linda Thompson, "Walking on a Wire," which I love. I bet the movie would PAIL in comparison.

There are a lot of names scattered in the grid, but what's not to like about JONI, ALDOUS, AUDRA, Jan STEEN, George CARLIN, and Hank AZARIA? The latter has even said he'd stop playing Apu (a regular in the Crossword in his own right) in the classic stereotypical way. Others who have watched the entire run of The Simpsons may have more to say about this than I.

Anyway, ADIEU until tomorrow.

- Colum

Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018, Alex Eylar


Aha! THEPLOTTHICKENS, my dear Watson!

Literally, in the case of this puzzle, where some industrious gardener (not likely myself, given the state of the plants in my office) sees their plot go from dirt to grass to bush to jungle. I like this theme because I had no idea until I was done with the puzzle what the connection from the revealer to the theme answers was. Also the four theme answers are solid phrases in their own right, with none sticking out above the others (although I do like BUSHLEAGUE).

It's ironic (and not in the Alanis Morrisette sense) that the segment of the puzzle with the least aesthetic fill should be the area right around GLUEY. I'm fine with JIF, although it is a brand name entry, but it's a nice and Scrabbly one. But UANDI and IED and FYI make for a bunch of disconnected letters. The symmetric area in the north is definitely better, even with the ancient Maleska era RIATA.

Otherwise, there's the very nice WENTROGUE and the odd CARPOOLER. The chunky NE and SW corners have some nice BOFFO answers, including ATMFEE. Which I don't like in real life, of course. And which are completely unjustified in any real sense, except insomuch as any institution should feel free to bilk people of monies.

And now I fall off my high horse with a loud PHD. I think that's about enough, BUSTER.

- Colum

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018, Ross Trudeau


Riffing off of FANTASTICBEASTS / AND / WHERETOFINDTHEM (nice job finding how to make that fit into a symmetric grid, Mr. Trudeau!), we get three examples of "cryptids," also known as "animals whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated," and where they are rumored to be living.

In order to make these fit in the symmetry, some have "the" in the name, while others don't. I mean, if you have THEKRAKEN, shouldn't it be the Loch Ness Monster instead of LOCHNESSMONSTER? And conversely, it's just HIMALAYAS, but THESCOTTISHHIGHLANDS. But this is nitpicking. I enjoyed the fun of the creatures on the top half of the grid (where the first half of the revealer is) and the locations in the bottom half. That's cleverly done.

There are plenty of nice long answers in this puzzle. I particularly liked PENICILLIN and AMAZONECHO (not that I like the product, but it's a good phrase), as well as CHAMELEONS.

And how about 15A: Starbuck's order giver (AHAB) - that apostrophe is important! MOOG is a fun throwback. I was amused by 20A: Best seller subtitled "The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English" (WOEISI).

On the down side, I'm never going to like OZS or ONES (clued as a plural of the button on the telephone...).

In any case, the puzzle went by super fast for me, at around 2/3 the typical time for a Sunday. I enjoyed it enough while finishing it, although it didn't have too many aha moments for me.

- Colum

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday, December 8, 2018, Trenton Charlson and David Steinberg


Not a bad time for me for a Saturday. THANKSOBAMA. :) And I mean that. That is the one answer I knew for sure in the south west, which helped me break into that section.

The south east was the most challenging for me. I was able to get DETOX..., ART..., and STEEL... immediately, but none of the answers' endings sprang to mind. DAB, THEEU, and OUTRE eluded me for quite some time, so I had no help over there. Obviously, I eventually got DETOXDIET, ARTDEALER (well clued by "Forger's mark"), and STEELBLUE. That last reminding one pleasantly of Zoolander.

There's a lot of good long fill in here, especially the stack of three nines in the north west: COMICSANS, OPENLYGAY (with the excellent clue "Out and about?"), and PEACESIGN (☮) - who knew that dated from only 1958?


The clue "Like 'Wonder Woman'" threw me for a loop with its not-hidden-but-ignored-by-me quotation marks. I kept trying variations like 'amazonian' and 'Amazon Queen.' The other great thing about this one is the triple consonant at the start of the answer (PGTHIRTEEN), which, at least for this solver, meant that if you're unsure of the answer, you keep second guessing yourself because what starts with PGT?

And speaking of hidden clue elements, "Female deer" (HINDS) is nice because of its hidden plural - you don't see that every day.

"Plot device?" (HOE) is amusing. "Metaphorical prescription" for CHILLPILL is fun. I overthought "Film villain with one eye" (HAL). I also liked LULL, HUSHPUPPY, and SURPRISEME.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018, Sam Trabucco


As you can see from my time, I HAJ a little trouble with this one, particularly in the north east. And by little I mean AMOR than ILIKE. IKEpt waffling back and forth between "rnS" and DRS (E.R. figures) at the top of that corner. I wasn't helped in my deBATE by "'Transformers' antagonist" because I didn't know the answer, although now that I do (DECEPTICON), color me intrigued. Couple that with the rather odd REGALEMENT for "Wining and dining." Then, add the fact that I decided the answer to "Higher education?" at 14D had to start with SKy. I couldn't get anything to work with that "y," YETI persisted. DOPE.

Of course, in these difficult cases, the crosses ARE Supposed to lend a HAN. But, except for SHEEPLE (awesome!), the crosses were either also unknowns, or tricky for me. The hidden capital in "Total taken in?" (CEREAL) took me in but good. And sure, "Major suit" (CEO) SIMS EASEL now, but I was PEE DEE stuck there for a while. Both those clues are quite clever. "Real close?" (ISM) and "Ball club?" (DISCO) are also very nice.

The rest of the puzzle went pretty smoothly. Highlights include "Event for an enumerator" (CENSUS), "Partner for life" (LIMB), and Military assistants (AIDESDECAMP). I dropped in "layawayplan" at 57A, which, while miraculously having the right number of letters, kind of ignored the fact that the clue specifically mentioned help for ordering not just help affording furnishings (IKEACATALOG).


For all my GRUNTS and groans, though, I eventually bounced back like an EL[AS]HCAKE. OVAL all, it was a fun solve.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018, Sophia Maymudes


Thanks to the clue at 44A "Diagonally ... or a hint to four of this puzzle's squares" (KITTYCORNER) we find a CAT, curled up rebus-style, in each corner of today's puzzle. I enjoy a rebus, but it would have been cool if the word 'cat' could have run diagonally from each corner, so that the entries would have been kitty corner in two ways. My favorite of the eight cat answers is [CAT]CHY. I like how the 'cat' in that word kind of springs out at you. SNO[CAT] and COPY[CAT] are less interesting. And I understand that LITTERBOXES are places some house pets "go" in real life, but I am curious to learn how it is also where some house pets "go" in this puzzle. Anyone care to let the cat out of the bag?

I felt like the cat that swallowed the canary when I entered RBI off the clue "Effect of a sac fly." It was the 'sac' that gave it away. I liked the clue "Create, as a chair" (ENDOW). The "Host" (ARMY) clue-answer pair is nice as is "Fortify" (STEEL). I also liked the clue "Sauce with a vowel-heavy name" (AIOLI). DAINTY is a nice entry and is sometimes used to refur to cats.


I won't pussyfoot around the fact that I didn't like ILLY for "Poorly." In fact, I don't like illy as a word at all. I also disliked DYE for "Ingredient in many a breakfast cereal." Maybe it is true, strictly speaking, that dye is an ingredient, but it seems a bit WIDE of the mark. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and to clue the word 'dye.' In fact, in yesterday's puzzle, I actually considered 'dye' as the answer to 13D. "Means of putting down roots?" A stretch? Maybe - but one that will have you grinning like the Cheshire Cat. :)


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday, December 5, 2018, Alan Arbesfeld


An amusing "mash country names together and re-parse them wackily" theme today. And it's nice, thematically, that the top and bottom answers have three countries, the inner ones have two, and the center is the revealer. Odd, I find, that the October 24 date is used, instead of some other way of describing it, but, well, maybe they didn't want to give it away too quickly. Be that as it may, I enjoyed the challenge of carving out the words correctly. They're just so tortured! Take, PERUSERBIASPAIN (57A: Suffering caused by reader prejudice), for example. There's just no way "peruser bias pain" is ever going to be uttered in real life. Nor, for that matter, "Ira, no manic eland" (17A: "You can't bring in a crazed antelope, Mr. Glass!"). But still, I appreciate the absurdity. I would have preferred "Cubs" to "Cub." Maybe Cuba wants to change its name...

It seemed a tad inelegant to include UGANDA (3D: Landlocked African country), and are ISUZUs still sold in the U.S.? It seems like years since I've seen one.

I enjoyed SCABBARD (6D: One close by a swordsman's side), OCCULT, SCAPULA, STARVE (45D: Eschew rather than chew?), and BILLET (21A: House, as soldiers). I've seen that a lot in the WWI letters that I've been transcribing for Europeana. It's fun! You should try it.

The bottom line is, I like the U.N. I think it's a good idea, and I hope that someday all countries will be a part of it. There's not much hope for us humans if we can't find a way to get along, especially as more and more of us crowd this small blue dot. On the other hand, though, we're doing a bang-up job trashing the place, so maybe, if we're lucky, we'll all die off before we're forced to cooperate.

Sorry. Too dark. Hopefully, Frannie will be back with a more cheery review tomorrow. :)

- Horace

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday, December 4, 2018, Peter Gordon

0:04:33 (F.W.T.E.)

Such a stalwart, standby, crossword subject - a single letter serves to start several subsequent words, satisfyingly sewing together sundry answers. Solid stuff.

57-Across (Sinatra was an ass.)

Boy, this flew by. Until, that is, I got the dissolving "halfway done" starburst (does anybody else solve online and get those little things?). I looked up and the clock was only at 1:30, and I thought "Oh my gosh! I might break three!" Then, of course, things slowed right down. And in the end, I had guessed wrong on CZAR and had to spend some time finding my error(s!). Sigh.

So what do we say? Is it strange that some entries that aren't thematic start with S? Like SARTRE and SHINE, SEX, and SNAKE? Or is the object simply to savor the sibilants? That must certainly be so. Study the signals, such as: 19A: Sitarist Shankar (RAVI), 39A: Steakhouse specification (RARE), and 47D: Second-stringer (SCRUB). And a special shout-out to a non-S clue: 57D: Where the buoys are (SEA). Cute.

It's not every clue that has an S, but if you squint you can sort of suppose an S is created by the sinuous black squares in the middle... skeptical? So maybe it wasn't a sizzling, slam-bang solve, but certainly not one to skip.

- Horace

p.s. Silly me, a secondary aspect of the theme slipped past me. It's not simply an S-S theme, but a vowel progression also! If only I had seen that and changed the end of the first paragraph to "satisfyingly sewing six (so many!) sundry theme answers synergistically!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday, December 3, 2018, Lynn Lempel


Today's puzzle does the /du:/, if I may misuse a soft drink slogan. Its five theme answers end with that sound spelled a variety of ways, although I beg to differ with the inclusion of PASDEDEUX in the group. The final syllable there is pronounced /dʊ/, at least where I come from. My favorite is NOCANDO. My second least favorite is SCOOBYDOO, having never been much of a fan. It is nice, though, that 15A "Great Dane, e.g." (DOG) appears directly over Scooby's DOO. There's also a MOO COO cross in the mid west. Woo hoo!

Other fill that did do it for me included BALKS, VAT, ASCOT, POP, and FINITE. I loved both the clue "Dingbat" and its answer NINNY.


As a reviewer it is my duty to also mention clues that didn't do it for me. They included the rather lecid "Escalator feature"(STEP), the indigestable "Vegetarian's no-no" (MEAT), the somewhat sticky "Harmful cigarette stuff" (TAR), and of course SHUNT, which is always a don't.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Sunday, December 2, 2018, Paul Coulter


It's a Sunday rebus! An old school rebus, that is, where numbers and letters are used to represent other things. As in 23A: 13579 AZ (ODDSANDENDS). The numbers are odd, and the letters are the ends of the alphabet. And 56A: AT hot dog hot dog RA (FRANKSINATRA), which should be parsed as "franks" (hot dogs) in between "AT" and "RA." That one's a little more crazy, but that's just how these things usually are. They used to run regularly in the old Games Magazine. Ahh... Games Magazine... good times. My favorite is BREAKINGASWEAT (94A: Per spire). Classic!


I enjoyed the theme, and I also enjoyed a lot in the fill. Especially BEANERIES (25A: Hash houses). I had never heard either term for a cheap restaurant before, but I will endeavor to start using them both on a daily basis. I know, for example, that Huygens et uxor recently dined at Eleven Madison Park, which I will disparage as a beanery when next I see them both. I can hardly wait! And just below that we have the evocative SALTMARSH (29A: Brackish coastal habitat), which makes me long for April, when we can open up the beach house again. ... stupid winter...

Let me know what you think of CRENEL (49A: Opening in a battlement) and NANKEEN (79D: Durable yellow cotton cloth) if you have a moment. These are two words that not many people would know off the top of their heads. I sure didn't. They are clued with straight definitions (what else could you do, I suppose), and although I could eventually guess CRENEL based on the adjective crenellated, I didn't have much to work with on NANKEEN. I have since learned that it was originally made in Nanjing, which makes sense now, but while solving, it was all just letters. Kind of tough that it crosses RENE Caovilla, an Italian shoe designer that I have never heard of. To choose that particular RENE, instead of RENE Russo, for example, was an odd choice. Why cross two very obscure answers? Anyway, the two words I've never heard before don't bother me. The choice for the name kind of does. I guess I like learning new words more than I like learning about people - although I do find that his shoes are one of the oldest fashion shoe lines in existence, and they're still quite popular with big celebrities. OK. Maybe it's not so obscure a name to everyone...

Anywho, I enjoyed this one. Wait, one last comment about the fill - Since when is there TANTRIC yoga? I've obviously been doing it all wrong.

- Horace

Saturday, December 1, 2018, Ryan McCarty


Just my kind of Saturday puzzle - tough! A perfect ending to the Turn (Thursday through Saturday here at H&FdtNYTcpfCA).


On my first pass through, I put in several wrong answers, including "man" (ELY (6D: England's Isle of ____), "lego" (UNIT (8D: Building block), "mazda" (ALAMO (17A: "Drive happy" sloganeer), "adrep" (CELEB (20A: One may make Us money), and probably a few others. As a result, my first real progress came in the lower half, and from there I slowly clawed my way back up.

So many answers involved a little struggle. For "26D: Golfer's approach, often," I had chipSHOT before IRONSHOT, and for "64A: Doesn't do anything rash," I began with STAYSSAfE instead of STAYSSANE. But overcoming that sort of difficulty is just what makes a good Saturday puzzle so satisfying. By the time I got back up the NW corner and finally got OCEANLINER (15A: Carnival transport) (Great hidden capital!) I let out an audible sigh of relief!

The slightly super-sized 16x15 grid allowed for lots of long horizontals. PARTNERDANCING (38A: Activity involving a leader and a follower) seems a little awkward, but FITNESSCENTERS (39A: Elliptical settings) is unawkward and very well clued. BROGRAMMER (58A: Fratty Silicon Valley techie, stereotypically) is new to me, but is amusing to learn. The intersecting "head shot" clues - 36A: Head shot (BOTOXINJECTION) and 29D: People with great head shots? (SOCCERSTARS) - make this feel a little like it was made by a "bro-structor" (doesn't work as well) but the answers are both solid. AIRPORTBAR (62A: Fitting place to order craft beer?) was a bit of a stretch though. Are they thinking that "craft" in the clue can be seen as a play on "aircraft?" Hmmm...

Overall I found this to be a challenging, but rewarding solving experience. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018, Robyn Weintraub


Ms. Weintraub is quickly becoming one of my favorite constructors. This puzzle was a delight! Right from the first clue (a gimme, for old people like me) 1A: "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" singer, 1972 (CROCE), I had a good feeling about it. In fact, the first three answers went in like it was a Monday, but after that I needed several crosses before the excellent HOLDMYBEER (13A: Modern phrase said before doing something foolish) became clear.

Good clues were everywhere today.

15A: Coping mechanisms? - SAWS
20A: One might tell you to do the math - TUTOR - Hah!
22A: Warm and toasty, e.g.: Abbr. - SYNS
54A: Employer of some shepherds - CANINEUNIT
12D: Message that might be sent in a storm? - TWEET
47D: Plastered - GONE 

I also appreciated the updated clues for STYE (16D: Possible reason to forgo mascara), CHE (24D: Jost's "Weekend Update" co-anchor), and even EGOS (31D: Bigwigs may have big ones).

And then there was all the sparkly fill:

EMPTYNESTERS - 5D: They may have rooms to spare
NANNYSTATE - 11D: Overprotective government, so to speak
ACOLYTE - 23A: Follower
ABBEYROAD - 30D: "Something" can be heard on it
COINOPERATED - 21D: Like many laundromat appliances

I'll take a little OLIN, ELIE, and TCU for all that puzzling goodness.

Loved it.

- Horace

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018, Herre Schouwerwou

0:18:45 (F.W.O.E.)

Boy, this grid looks weird, doesn't it? I love seeing that circle in the middle, but I can't help wishing there were some way to enter something into it! Not that it would have made sense here, but still...

Arrowed answers today need to be answered "in a roundabout way." I think the arrows gave away a bit too much, maybe, but it still took me a little while to figure out that I had to take the first exit in the rotary rather than driving all the way through and continuing straight ahead.

This is TOLE. Who knew?

I think all five theme answers are strong. SPROUTWINGS (33A: Become angelic, figuratively) was my favorite.

And there's lots of interesting fill material, too. BRACERO (54A: Seasonal migrant worker from Mexico) is nice and topical, what with all the immigration noise lately, and THRASH, STROBE, BOTCHOOLITES (Lucky I was just at a gem & mineral show a week or two ago!), and ROOFTOP are all quite good. I am not too familiar with the term LACKWIT (23D: Blockhead), but I like both it and its clue, so that's all good.

I was tripped up by 16A: President in the 2009 film "Invictus." (MANDELA). I entered "Freeman," but they wanted the president portrayed, not the portrayer of the president. My error came just before that, at 15A: Patsy (SCHNOOK). I entered SCHmOOK, thinking, apparently, that it might be an alternate spelling of "schmuck." 9D: Old channel that showed "Hee Haw" didn't help, because Hee Haw originally aired on CBS, and then it was in syndication, and Wikipedia lists it being on TNN from 1996-1997. Anyway, I should have known that TmN wasn't any network at all, I guess. Gotta be more careful!

There's a little glue (SIMI and KEA are my least favorite, but why? I usually like geographical answers...), but not too much, and not nearly enough to diminish the fun of a good ol' crazy Thursday puzzle. Great start to The Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018, David J. Kahn


I love France, but I did not love this puzzle. Its theme of FRENCHREVOLUTION - the "Historical event suggested by each of the six groups of circled letters," was just ok. The circles are symmetrical, which is nice, and I'm sure that to have 28 triple-checked squares and a 16-letter revealer must have really handcuffed the constructor (I sure hope it did!), but I'm not sure that the final result was worth it.

The living room in the house I grew up in had French doors, but I had to look them up just now to realize that. And French cuffs are probably equally unfamiliar to most people. The best of the circles is obviously French pastry.

We have tried to reduce our criticism of weak fill here at the blog, but today I can't help myself. I'll keep it to a simple list:

MIFF - Not normally seen in the present tense.
APSES, ESTERS - plurals of crosswordeses
BADACTOR, KICKUPAROW, INAPT, FEDIN - uncommon, odd expressions
OLAF - minor character who appeared on and off between 1989 and 1999.
OCTA, AREEL, OLE, RUBIK, MIR, ESTEE, EEO, HOC, OSA, ERTE, FARO, OOP, AGORA - Tired, old, crosswordese.
ISERE, OSSO, TULLE, BENNY, ALMA, ICC, DRT - Specialized or obscure knowledge most commonly found in crosswords.
RON Darling - last played in 1995, but he was a Met, and he is still in broadcasting, so I guess it's fair for New York sports fans.

Some of that would be fine. Not all of that.

But I'll end with some entries that I liked:

HAWKED - 35A: Peddled - Nice words, both.
USERID - 40A: Surfing moniker - An unexpected and fresh answer!
ART - 9D: "What you can get away with, according to Andy Warhol - So true.
DEANS - 13D: Emory board feature? - Emory University, I presume. Kind of a cute, if nearly impossible clue.
WHIRL - 30D: Attempt, informally

Here's to looking forward to BETTERDAYS.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018, Erik Agard


I liked this puzzle because, for me anyway, it put up more of a fight than I am used to on Tuesdays, and its theme was one that I thought was fresh and well-done.


Let's take the theme first. The revealer, GOTTARUN (59A: Parting words from 18-, 23-, 36- and 54-Across?) cutely anthropomorphizes the other theme answers, all of which can be said to "run." And those other four are all perfect. Sure, maybe someone would argue that not every FRIEDEGG runs, but I would counter-argue that those people are frying their eggs incorrectly. And I might further argue that not every candidate should actually run for office... but that would just make everyone sad, and that's not what we're about here. :)

Now let's talk about my shortcomings. Have you got the time? Why can I never remember the spelling of UHURA's name? Luckily, crosses eventually corrected my initial attempt. And I really wanted to be able to come up with BORNEO (7D: Largest Asian island) without crosses, and spent not a little time blankly staring at the empty squares, but in the end a couple crosses were necessary. WOMANISM (3D: Social theory popularized by Alice Walker), on the other hand, I had no hope of getting without crosses. I should have, sure, and Frannie, maybe, dropped it in, but not me. And one last thing - my ego swelled a bit after entering adenOID at "25D: Neck gland," only to have to slowly extract it as letter after letter turned out to be wrong. And ok, sure, maybe the adenoids are slightly higher than the neck... but jeez!

Other things I enjoyed: SUNGOD, DUKEITOUT, NONAMESRETINUES, and HOTHOTHOT. And how 'bout how they just dropped "soca" in the clue like we all know everything there is to know about Lord Shorty and his "soul of calypso" genre? SLY.

Overall, I thought this puzzle was LIT.

- Horace

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018, Evan Kalish


It could be argued that anyone who solves crossword puzzles, and certainly anyone who reads this blog, is a nerd. And given that, everyone I am reaching now will have enjoyed discovering a hidden nerd in the five theme answers today. My favorites are DINNERDATE (32A: Partner at a table for two) and BANNERDAYS (42A: Times when everything goes perfectly), because those are perfectly normal and they both conjure up pleasant thoughts. DESIGNERDRUG and WEINERDOG conjure up unpleasant things, and SCREENERDVDS seems like it shouldn't really be a thing anymore, what with the streaming and all.


In the central West of the puzzle are two conversational answers that you don't see very often - HIDEME (28D: Plea from a fugitive) and ANDITSGOOD (29D: Announcer's cry after a successful field goal attaempt). (That second one is something the Vikings are wishing they heard a couple more times last night!) The rest of the fill holds little that is scintillating, but I did enjoy seeing HOARDS (10D: Stockpiles), and SEVERE (22D: Extreme). ARGUER, RVERS, GMOS, and TOV were less enjoyable.

Overall, it was a fine Monday. And on a personal note, I'm happy I was able to start the week cleanly.

- Horace

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday, November 25, 2018, Joon Pahk


I am thankful, at the end of this Thanksgiving weekend, for having been reminded all week by Colum that there are plenty of things to be thankful for. Even while SEALEVEL rises and rhetoric sinks, we can find things to keep our spirits on an even keel. One of which, cited on Wednesday, the very raison d'être of this blog, is the NYT crossword, which today made me smile yet again.

Today's puzzle is just what a big Sunday grid ought to be. It's got a word-game like title that perfectly describes its theme, and that theme is executed beautifully with examples found in both Across and Down answers. By the addition of a final, silent E, common phrases are made to answer contrived clues, and I'm pretty sure that every single one of them made me smile. Well, all except maybe BYEALLRIGHTS (38A: What you're effectively saying when you sign a waiver?), because while this is a nice warning to those who do not read what they are signing, not all contracts need be agreed to as is. Negotiate, people! And walk away when the terms are not just. Mini-TIRADE over.

The rest of them, beginning right away with ASTARISBORNE (23A: Photo caption for the winning team's M.V.P. being carried off the field?) and ending with CASTELOTS (81D: Places for specific social classes to park?) were absurdly amusing. My favorite might actually be the straightforward and short SEMIPROSE (67A: Piece of writing that's half in verse?). It's funny because it's true!

In addition to the amusing and satisfying theme, the fill had lots to like as well. ATHEEL (65D: Following close behind), SCRAPE (42D: Minor altercation), APOLOGIA (22A: Formal defense), and UMPTEEN (70D: Scads of) were all unusual and fun. And the clues for MISSPELL (25A: Get an F in physics?) and EAST (83D: Heading in the right direction?) were excellent, despite the "north on top" bias displayed in that last one.

This is what I consider a BESTCASE Sunday crossword. It provides a LETHEAN ESCAPE from the daily BANE of CBSNEWS. The Romans were right: We need such bread and circuses, and for them, I am thankful.

- Horace

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday, November 24, 2018, David Steinberg


Thanksgiving week is done, and the mad dash of commercialism leading up to Christmas is upon us. So as my last thanks of the week, let me express gratitude for the quiet moments in life. Companionable time spent reading with a friend, walking a dog in the woods, a warm drink in hand after a cold day outside. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the yammer of constant updates and news alerts and tweets. And thanks to all of our readers for allowing me to wax poetical this week.

Today's puzzle went by remarkably quick, helped by knowing immediately 1A from my days of watching Dora the Explorer with my kids. The entire N third of the puzzle was done in under a minute. I was most amazed by finding that NIETZSCHE's name is nine letters long. Only the Germans and other Northern European speakers can make a two-syllable word have that many letters.

I was mightily impressed by the quality of all six 15-letter answers. SWIPERNOSWIPING, YERTLETHETURTLE, and THECLAWSCOMEOUT all are colorful and fun answers. The other three are not on the same level, but are elevated by their clues. I particularly enjoyed 17A: It's not backed up (IDLESPECULATION).
Two answers for the price of one pic
The quality of the crossing answers is also high for these kinds of triple-stack puzzles. I really fell for 5D: Trio of mummies (EMS) yet again! 58D: Member of a crossword aviary? (EMU) is an odd sort of way to acknowledge the crosswordese of this venerable feathered friend. I'm not sure the "?" is merited, though. It seemed like such a straightforward answer!

Otherwise, outside of the bland INITIATOR and NCOS, I had little to complain about. Nice work, Mr. Steinberg! One of my favorites of your efforts.

- Colum

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday, November 23, 2018, Temple Brown


On the day after Thanksgiving, I still give thanks, this time to good friends. We had a lovely time last night with five resident doctors, who were appropriately appreciative of the cooking (and boy, did it taste good!), followed by good games. But also to all my friends in other parts of the country and world and the internet. Thank you for being good people.

A nice themeless with a pinwheel-esque grid. Each corner consisted of triple stacks of 10-letter answers. Of course, since they are constructed equally, I am immediately drawn to rank them.

1. The SE corner: ANIMANIACS, of course, but I really liked the clue at 55A: Number 2, for one (LEADPENCIL). So many possible ways that could go. SALARYHIKE is a lovely optimistic answer. I also approved of 40D: Something "grand" that's not really so grand (LARCENY). All the crosses were reasonable.

2. The NW corner. SQUILLIONS is excellent, and BBCAMERICA was a gimme for me. ABOMINATES didn't resonate as well. What do people think of 4D: Lead-in to right or wrong (AMI)? I get it but didn't personally love it.

3. The NE corner. The three long answers are all actually very good, but SOLING and NRA make the area not so great. JOVE is fun.

4. The SW corner. I sort of like the clue at 27D: Not live in the present? (TIMETRAVEL), but it feels a bit tortured. Meanwhile, MERL should be retired, and PTBOAT is historically meaningful (although it's only ever clued as JFK's WWII post) but dated.

Anyway, I had a fun time solving, and that's what matters.

- Colum

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018, Randolph Ross


Hey, it's Thanksgiving! Let's give thanks!

Today, I'm thankful to live in a society with a political system that resists, both intrinsically and through the political activity of its citizens. It's a system that, despite its multiple shortcomings, actually protects its populace from its own worst tendencies by pulling back towards the center any time the pendulum swings too far in one direction. That means I rarely get the opportunity to see my own political opinions in the captain's seat, but it also means that we're protected from the would-be autocrats. Power to the people!

But back to our prime directive here at Horace and Frannie (Featuring Colum Amory!). The puzzle today has four examples of well known phrases of the form "adjective ending in -less describing a noun," and then interprets them literally. Thus, HEADLESSCHICKEN is clued with the word "coward" less the C. All four are excellent, but I think I like 25A: QUARR (BOTTOMLESSPIT) the best.

I thought the puzzle was just going to speed by when 1A: Green rock (EMERALD) turned out to be just what I thought it was. But the segmentation of the NW, along with the not immediately clear theme and the clever 7D: Took the heat off of? (DISARMED), slowed things down.

In fact, the first theme answer I figured out was TOPLESSSWIMSUIT, and I worked my way back up from there, ending in the NE corner, where ELKO and PSI were tough gets.

The puzzle definitely skews old, what with RICHIE and MELMAC (?!), YACHTER and LORELEI. In fact, what with ENDSIT and PASSAWAY, I felt a little like I was at an old folks' home.

Too soon?

Favorite clue of the day: 35A: Superior floor, e.g. (LAKEBED). That's a fine hidden capital clue right there.

- Colum

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Brandon Koppy


Hey, it's a debut puzzle! Congratulations, Mr. Koppy, and welcome to the exclusive club of NYT xword constructors. Which leads me to my thanks for today: I am very grateful for this silly little thing we do each day, solving the crossword puzzle. It's a simple thing, with endless twists and enjoyable innovations. I hope that our endeavors on Horace and Frances (Featuring Colum Amory!) bring a modicum of that same pleasure to our reading audience (all eight of you!).

Today's puzzle features FLIPFLOPS (63A: Questionable political moves suggested by the answers to the nine starred clues). The themed answers are two word phrases with the words reversed, and each resulting new phrase is itself a well accepted phrase. I especially like 30A: *Neanderthal (MANCAVE) and 25D: *Spring festival (OVERPASS). I am not convinced at all by 40D: *Residence in a row (HOMETOWN). I think of that particular residence as a "townhouse."

Impressive to cram ten (10!) theme answer into a 15 x 15 grid. Even more impressive are the four extra 8-letter words, of which APPLEPAY and FORTNITE are nicely contemporary.

In exchange, you get things like OTT over MOTT, ESQS crossing QEII, and obscure Jewish month KISLEV (well, Hanukkah starts in Kislev, but truly, the use of Jewish months has gone out of style in the NYT, which I, in my lapsed Jewish state of ignorance of said names, fully support).

Overall, it's a pretty good puzzle, befitting a Wednesday in difficulty and unusual theme style. I will leave you with the amusing "kitwo" moment of trying to parse 51D: Special interest group? (THEFED) as a verb in past tense. What, I asked myself, does it mean to thefe?

- Colum

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


We're getting closer... You know it's almost Thanksgiving when the puzzle has a turkey theme.

In today's installment of Colum expressing sentimental thoughts of gratitude, I'd like to give thanks for the luck I had to be born in a part of the world free from armed conflict, famine, or endemic disease. I know I take this for granted just about all of the time, but there's no way I could live the life I live (let alone write crossword puzzle blog entries) in one of those parts of the world. So there's that.

Meanwhile, back in turkey-time, the puzzle today gives four examples of sites that could be defined as "Turkey's place." I love WESTERNASIA here. How well put. And BOWLINGALLEY is excellent as well - here, a turkey means three strikes in a row. I have no use for this definition in real life, having never reached this particular accomplishment, but it was fun to come across it in the puzzle.

Meanwhile, it being a Burnikel grid, you know there's going to be some extra nice stuff. 10D: Very confusing (CLEARASMUD) is excellently pithy. 28D: Garnish for a vodka tonic (LEMONWEDGE) is also good, only not quite as good, because I don't take a vodka tonic personally. VAMOOSE is very good.

I also very much like 41D: Place to get a tattoo or some ice cream (PARLOR), just for the image of a person going to one place to get both of those items.

OUTA and EUR are not such great entries. And it was somewhat depressing to see both GUN and WMD in the region of WESTERNASIA. All too true, and hearkens back to my gratitude. How apt.

- Colum

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018, Jim Hilger

4:14 (FWOE)

Happy Thanksgiving week! Today, I am expressing gratitude for music. It's so important to me to be able to participate in music making on a regular basis. This year, I've been a part of Albany Pro Musica, a choir in my area of the highest quality. Last week we sang Britten's War Requiem, with the Albany Symphony, and it was a joy to help create something of so much emotion and wrenching beauty.

On the other hand, I blame the exertions for my current nasty pharyngitis, so no good deed and all that.

Today's error (a bad start to a week to FWOE twice in a row) came because I chose EwAN, the Scots version, rather than EVAN, the Welsh version of John. And of course, it being a Monday, I forgot to look at the crosses.

The theme is an odd one: there are only three answers, each a movie title in the form of "The A of B." The clues then call each movie an adjective which can be defined by the movie title. That's complicated to describe, and I'm not entirely convinced I've gotten it quite right. In any case, I guess that's why THECOLOROFMONEY is a "green" movie, or THESOUNDOFMUSIC a "noted" one.

That being said, all three movies are pretty good ones. I'd say that The Sound of Music is my favorite of the three, especially given the nostalgia factor. The Shape of Water was very good, but is a bit recent for me to be able to sense its overall value. I was certainly not in favor of it winning Best Picture. The Color of Money was a ton of fun, but clearly pulls up the rear of this trio.

With only three theme answers, the rest of the puzzle is free to have very good fill. I enjoyed BABYBUGGY, GRILLE, and BOTOX. MAKEME is also very nice.

- Colum

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018, Byron Waldon and Joel Fagliano


Hey everybody! Thanksgiving week is upon us, so in the spirit of the season, I will be expressing gratitude daily, strewing appreciativeness left and right, finding more and yet more ways to redundantly recognize aspects of my life to which I am obligated for the contentment I am lucky enough to experience.

Today I give thanks for my family, their health, humor, and support. Here's to you guys, who make every day fun and interesting and funny and loving. Looking forward to having everybody back in the homestead this week!

But on to today's puzzle. The theme is one of taking well-known portmanteaux, those smushed together words, and misinterpreting the two words that created them with wacky results. Thus, "brunch," originally created from breakfast and lunch, is instead clued as 52A: Late-morning mean for a TV family? (BRADYBUNCHBRUNCH). It's a cute idea, but it never reaches the level of guffaw out loud funny. Also, sour grapes alert, I made an error at 31A: Unseasonal wear on a winter vacation? (SKIRESORTSKORT). I had a T at the E, parsing it as "skirt sort skort." Hmmm. It didn't make any sense then, and it would have broken the rules of the theme by including an original portmanteau-d word in the answer.

Anyway, I have to express considerable respect at the construction of the grid. Note how the answers at 52A, 64A, and 71A are each only separated by one row. Note also how there are seven down answers that cross all three of those theme answers. All of those answers are solid. I especially like 32D: Split personality? (EXPARTNER) and 57D: Hightail it, saltily (HAULASS).

Other highlights in the fill include 16D: Formula for slope in math (RISEOVERRUN) and 15D: Can-can dancing? (TWERKING). That last one? Too funny. 67A: Like the number i, mathematically (NONREAL) adds to the math minitheme.

On a final note, I was saddened when I had to change my answer at 112A: See to it (MAKESURE). I originally had MAKEitso. Why, oh universe, why??!

- Colum