Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018, Peter A. Collins


Yikes! A TRIGonometry-based theme! What else should we expect from a constructor whose day job is being a math teacher, I suppose, but it's bound to HITANERVE with some folks. And I admit, I was more comfortable "being graded on a scale" in MUSICSCHOOL, or learning about BRECHT or ECUADOR, THANI was dealing with functions. I'm sure, though, that some of our regular readers will be delighted, and for that, I am happy.


The "container answers" as we'll call them, are all fine. STAYSINSIDE (17A: Is a recluse) is just two words smashed together, whereas MORSECODE (52A: Where S is ...) (Nice!) is a two-word phrase you hear together all the time. In fact, you can barely hear either of those words without thinking of the other. But STAYSINSIDE is clued fairly, and really, I don't have as much of a problem with "just two words smashed together" as some people do. Speaking of which, I chuckled at the clue for LEFTRIGHT (35A: When repeated, marching orders?) when I finally understood it. Ha!

There's some nice mid-length material in STAMINA, EPDEMIC, ZEALOTS, and RAMRODS, but that middle section was pretty brutal. RETOW (28D: Haul back to the auto pound) next to VIRNA (29D: Actress ____ Lisi of "How to Murder Your Wife") (Who?) crossed by ONAT (41A: Go ____  great length)... none of it made any sense to me for what seemed like a long time.

In stark contrast to yesterday's opener, I loved today's: 1A: Like recollections of people trying to avoid perjury? (HAZY). Hahahahaha! Very nice.

- Horace

p.s. The clue/answer 23A: Marshall's successor on the Supreme Court (THOMAS) is the saddest thing I've read in quite some time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Ross Trudeau

0:06:03 (with major mistake that took quite a while to discover)

So what do we think of starting a puzzle with 1A: On VHS, say (TAPED)? Me, I don't love it. The word has never been clued exactly like that before, but do we want to be so dated? Wouldn't it be dreamier to dream up a new clue that's more modern? Oh well, I can dream, can't I...

Hmmm... that reminds me of something... oh, right, the theme! Four clues using the word "dream:"

19A: "Montage of a Dream Deferred" poet (LANGSTONHUGHES) - Excellent.
29A: "The Interpretation of Dreams" writer (SIGMUNDFREUD) - Hack.
39A: "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening" artist (SALVADORDALI) - Provoking and entertaining, but was he great?
52A: "All I Have to Do Is Dream" singers (EVERLYBROTHERS) - Ahh... nostalgia...

Interesting that the theme exists only in the clues. I wonder how many times that's happened? I don't remember any off the top of my head in the last few years.


I liked the paring of APPLEPIE and PARADIGM, and ARISTOTLE and TAMARIND are always welcome.

My mistake was half-reading the long clue for 43D, "Businesses that tend to be busiest at the starts and ends of months" and entering MOVing without much thought. Then when I finished, it took me over a minute before I noticed RiDALERTS, GnUB, and EgP. Those three boxes would all have been EXES at the tournament, and I would have been very, very disappointed. Let that be a lesson to me! On Thursday I start printing the puzzles out and solving on paper (as Colum has been doing for about a month already!). We'll see if I can avoid any FWOEs (or worse) after that.

I hope your solve went smoothly.

- Horace

Monday, February 26, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018, Mark Diehl and Andrea Carla Michaels


Strange little theme of finding an old SAW - "Still waters run deep" - in the first words of four theme answers. The theme answers themselves are all common enough, although I tend to associate DEEPTHOUGHTS (52A: "What is life?," "Why are we here?," etc.) with comedy rather than philosophy, thanks to one Mr. Jack Handy, whose DEEPTHOUGHTS run more like this:
If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting!
ORLON is a lousy word (coined in 1941 by Dupont) and a lousier fabric. Synthetics release hundreds of thousands of microparticles into the water stream each time they are washed. You may think the shirt is CLEAN, but it makes the EEL and his friends DOUR. Kind of takes the SHEEN off of all those artificial fabrics, eh?


I enjoyed SMOLDERS (4D: Burns slowly) and its neighbor AIRKISS (5D: Simulated smooch), and maybe I'm just giddy, but the clue for GIANT (39A: "Fee-fi-fo-fum" sayer) also made me chuckle. KEENLY (44D: With enthusiasm) is nice, and I prefer seeing AEIOU (33D: "Wheel of Fortune" purchases) to the singular "an o" or "an i" any day.

Overall, I thought this was a perfectly serviceable Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018, Will Nediger


We love recycling around here, so this cross-referenced, letter-borrowing puzzle was right up our alley. The theme answers were perfectly symmetrical, which I find kind of amazing, and the theme answers, while not really scintillating, were solid enough. Our favorite over here was NATHANHALE/ETHANALLAN.

SWATS (5A: Tries to beat the buzzer?) was amusing, and FLUB (43A: Screw up) got a chuckle, as did NAILEDIT (28D: Sarcastic response to a fail). I dropped in "eskerS" at 11D: Glacial ridges (ARETES). D'oh! They meant the kind of ridge that's cut away, not the kind of ridge that's deposited. Sometimes, I guess, it's possible to know too much about quaternary geology. :)

31A: Order to go (MUSH) was tricky, and I could not think of KEYUP (19A: Energize) for the life of me. I kept thinking of "pep up" and even "gin up." Hmph. 

The fill was pretty solid, without too much crosswordese. Well, ok, maybe ODEA and ORES, but they don't GRATE too much. Good cluing (69A: You can lend one without letting go of it (EAR)), interesting fill (FIGMENT), and a Gilbert and Sullivan reference (MIKADO), what's not to like?

My favorite clue/answer - 117A: Sun spot? (SKY). Hahahahahahaa! That's some quality work right there.

- Horace

Well, I'm not so high on this theme. So they're synonyms that use the same letters. Not enough for me, although I see how the amount of crossing answers adds a level of difficulty to the construction. Truth is, the answers themselves just aren't interesting enough.

My grid (in pen) is a mess of mistakes. I tried erE at 32D: Word before "before" (USE), thinking it was a clever way of talking about archaicisms. But no, it was just a random word before "before." I also tried Pac at 44A: Fund-raising org. (PTA). WENTSolo was corrected fairly quickly to WENTSTAG.

I do like the odd letter collections of CDTOWER, SURFNTURF and MODELTS. And EGBERT went in right off the clue, so there's useless knowledge for you.

I think my standards were raised unnecessarily high by the last several days. Ah well. Over to you, Horace!

- Colum

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday, February 24, 2018, John Guzzetta


Yes! I've been loving doing the puzzle this week, from Wednesday through Saturday (and even Monday and Tuesday were not so terrible). Today's is not nearly so stunning as yesterday's, and it was easier to boot.

I finished all but the NW corner in just over 7 minutes, which left nearly 4 minutes for that section alone. Of course, our most devoted readers will know that I don't love the ultrasegmentation of the grid, which leaves the NW and SE corners as their own minipuzzles. Still, they're large enough sections that it felt like there were multiple possible toeholds to get in.

I broke in with EST, CRU, and NEO in the SW corner. Crosswordese to the rescue! I'm not sure I agree with the tone of 31D: Slow and steady types (PLODDERS). Couldn't one rather think of them as careful, or meticulous? Meanwhile, each of the long answers at 32A, 31A, and 28A went in off the first letter alone. SLIPPERYSLOPE is such a wonderful term. And we don't know anything about BINGEWATCHING in this household.

By the way, has anybody seen Scott and Bailey, a British detective series starring two women with another woman as their Detective Chief Superintendent? It's so well done, we've been watching it non-stop round here.

Oh. Yeah, about that binge watching? Um...

The other long answers in the corners are quite good as well. I particularly like CANTILEVERS and RUMORMONGER.

I was not convinced by RESHIPS until I finished the puzzle and looked at it again. The clue, 21D: Forwards, is quite vague. I had __SHIPS, and was convinced it would be a nautical direction. Thus I missed the actual meaning of receiving a package and sending it along to where it was meant to end up. Between that answer and COLLET, I was definitely worried I might have FWOE'd, but all is well that ends well, as they say.

26D: Buster of myths (SNOPES) gets my nod for favorite answer of the day.

- Colum

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018, Trenton Charlson


This has been a great turn so far, especially if you include Wednesday's surprise rebus puzzle. Today's Friday themeless was everything I look for in a strong themeless puzzle. So many strong entries, some fun clues, and a tough corner I had to really work hard to figure out.

The layout of the grid is a classic. The longest words are only seven letters long, but there are 36 of them (!). The onus is on the constructor to make the puzzle zing, and to avoid too much glue to make it hold together.

My first entry was very encouraging. 8A: Co-star of "The Office" who played Ryan Howard (BJNOVAK). Oh, all those crunchy Scrabbley letters. This corner filled in fast. 8D: Ghostwriters lack them (BYLINES) is excellent. ASTARTE, KEEBLER (I do love those E.L.Fudge cookies), LUDDITE. Wonderful stuff.

I swung counterclockwise into the NW. 21D: Top part of a face (XII) is a nice misdirection. 7D: The point of church above all? (STEEPLE) is just silly fun. I was going great guns at this point. NOXZEMA, OXIDATE, DADJOKE. Such great words.

My first difficulties came in the SW corner. I had put RIotACT in at 57A: Mob law? (RICOACT). I'd say I wasn't far off, but the correct letters made me reluctant to take anything out. I left some letters blank once I had put in HEATMAP and saw 58D: Published (OUT) and had tUT in place. I just couldn't come up with any reason why that would be right. In the end, figuring out CAPTCHA, an excellent contemporary reference, cleared up the confusion.

The SE corner was actually my hardest, and it was definitely my fault. With only the ____O at 62A: Creamy Italian dish (RISOTTO), I popped in alfredO. That's not a dish. It's a sauce. I should have known better. I even wanted SADIE at 51D!

I love 41D: Stage holdup? (CUECARD). Dated? Sure, but great stuff. Also, IMPIETY and XSANDOS, which fooled me only for a short period. 41A: Baker's shortcut (CAKEMIX) was also wonderful.

I will not OPINE on any negatives today. Strong work, Mr. Charlson, AMIRITE?

- Colum

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018, Zhouqin Burnikel


Mmmm... this was such a wonderful Thursday puzzle, just the antidote to a crazy crazy day at work. That plus a nice glass of wine, don't you know.

60A: Backtracking ... or what 170, 27- and 46-Across are doing? (REVERSINGCOURSE) explains the clever stuff that's going on in the other three long clues. Three different examples of "courses" are placed in the grid backwards. Thus 17A: Home of the Masters (that is, Augusta National) shows up in the grid as LANOITANATSUGUA. Do you know what's really crazy here? I had the ____ANAT____, and unfortunately, the "...ional" fit in the remaining squares in the standard direction! This set me back for a while.

The other two "courses" are pre-algebra (27A: Something unknowns are introduced in - ARBEGLAERP - I love that clue), and appetizers (46A: Starters - SREZITEPPA). Such a great idea, and so well executed.

But you get lovely additions, as is to be expected with Ms. Burnikel's work. GONDOLA... PICANTE... SHREDS. There's the outstanding 3D: "Easy! Everything will be O.K." (DONTPANIC).

I really loved the clue at 11D: Nonmonetary donation (ORGAN). Also 68A: What bagpipes are often played in (KILTS) - not a musical key. Which by the way is typically in the key of OH MY GOD THAT'S SO FREAKING LOUD.

The pièce de resistance was AUNATUREL crossing LEISURE. And that clue! 39A: It's not working. Hah!

- Colum

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, Ori Brian and Zachary Spitz


Ooh, ooh! It's a Wednesday rebus puzzle! Bonus!

I figured something was going on when I hit 18A: Marx with a curly wig (HAR[PO]). I then noticed 9D: Dr. Seuss book that introduces phonics (HO[PO]N[PO]P). I initially had just "hoppop" there, thinking it might be a literalization of the title ("hop" on top of "pop"), but then figured out how to make the two puzzle answers work together. After figuring out the trick I was able to retcon the NW corner and figure out what was going on there.

I appreciated the six answers that doubled up on the PO rebuses, particularly [PO]R[PO]ISE and [PO]M[PO]US. It's a good revealer as well, in POBOX, although does anybody else think the PO in this answer should also have been a rebus?

I also liked 44A: Underworld boss? (SATAN) and 49A: Underworld boss (CA[PO]). My favorite clue came at 1D: Something to keep in a band? (TEM[PO]).

I am perhaps less convinced by ARSONS. Is this a term that anyone can actually pluralize? "Yesterday, I committed two arsons." In my humble opinion, I think that would be committing arson twice.

But I don't want to [PO]LLUTE my review with too much negativity. I enjoyed this puzzle a good deal, and give it a nice thumbs up.

How weird is it that ERICA Jong shows up twice in a few days?

- Colum

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018, Joel Fagliano


There were some uncomfortable minutes after finishing the puzzle when I stared at the theme answers and tried to figure out "what to heck" was going on (as the young 'uns like to say). And then it hit me. HIGHDEFINITION is clued as "the definition of the word 'high'." OVEREXPLAINED is clued as "an explanation of the word 'over'." And clearly, MEANINGOFLIFE is clued by the Monty Python film.



I guess I felt that LEXICOGRAPHERS was a little bit of a letdown for a revealer answer, even though it's an outstanding word to have in the grid. For one thing, it's 14 letters long, and if I've learned anything from Jeff Chen's commentary, it's that 14-letter answers are tough in a 15 x 15 grid. It's also got that wonderful X (which allows all of us to glory in recalling XENA, as well). Still, it's not as sparkling a revealer as one might hope for.

Some excellent fill though. I particularly liked 10D: Makes the rounds? (BARTENDS). That's high quality. Some people enjoy SNOCAPS at a movie. Me, I go for M&Ms, but chacun à son goût, as they say in certain parts. EDNAFERBER wrote "Cimarron"? Go figure. I knew she wrote "Giant," which was made into a movie with James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson.

It seemed there were enough proper names to fill an ARENA while I was solving. But it takes the guts of Mr. Shortz's right-hand man to use XVI as a partial.

- Colum

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018, Bruce Haight


It's a Presidents' Day party! I guess this used to be the date set aside to celebrate Washington's birthday, but all of those annoying car dealership sales ads would be boring if it was only our first president involved. I am, however, somewhat tickled by the Washington Crossing the Delaware Turnpike advertisement for Geico.

Sorry, got carried away there. I count 15 clues directly related to Presidents or their designated holiday. I could expand that to 19 if you include 35A: Some rulings on PolitiFact (LIES), 51A: President pro ___ (TEM), 22D: What a majority of campaign spending goes toward (ADS), and 67D: Political connections (INS). It's one way to enliven necessary short answers.

Meanwhile, the main theme takes five Presidents' names, and anagrammatizes them with a single added letter to come up with a new word. Huh. It's clever, but honestly, only James Madison would qualify in anybody's book as a President worth celebrating among these five. Garfield was assassinated after only 200 days in office. Fillmore managed to get the Compromise of 1850 passed, and later ran as a member of the racist Know Nothing party. Harding's administration was plagued by more scandals than almost any president, including the Teapot Dome affair. And Coolidge was best known for what he didn't say ("Silent Cal").

The actual theme answers are all solid. It would have been extra cool if the extra letter added to each answer spelled something together, but perhaps that's asking too much, given the conceit.

Anyway, it was a reasonably fun puzzle. I enjoyed SADLOT (reminding me of Ruth's song from Pirates of Penzance, although there it's "... a member of this shy lot."), GHOULS, and especially 48D: What hens do (LAYEGGS). That's fine work right there.

- Colum

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018, Elizabeth A. Long

See 68-Across

I don't want to come off as supercilious, but Mr. Amory is going to show up later and handle any necessary explanations and comments on the theme. His mad crossword CRED makes him the right man for the JOB.

I enjoyed the international flavor of today's grid. I counted seven French responses, three Spanish words (and one phrase, if you count the clue at 1D), two Italian answers, a (PIEROGI), two Native American tribes, and some SCOTS, not to mention some world-wide locations (ONTARIO, MINORCA, ERIN).

Some of your NEATER clues today were:
13D. Go over one's wardrobe (IRON)
93A. What may follow a school period? (EDU)
8D. Coarse, as language (SALTY)
57D. Authority on diamonds (UMP)


In reviewing the puzzle, I noticed that 63D (French vineyard (CRU)) was followed closely by its anagram at 67D (Apt rhyme for "grr" (CUR)). Ha!

There was some straight up nice fill including VEER, GIMLET, QUIRK, FUTILE, PROBITY, and JUT along with some CHAR like RRR, EPI, YRS, and AFLERS, but it must be quite a trick to make every word a winner, especially while working with NONET. :|


It's jokes like that that keep people coming back to our blog in droves! Colum here. My task today is to comment on the theme. So, you take a standard phrase that just happens to have a standard proper name hidden inside of it, which when you remove all but the first letter, makes a new wacky answer. Meanwhile, the name hangs from the bottom of the answer in its own down answer. Note that this has to be set up so that there is always a black square above that point in the across answer. I'm sure that set up some crazy constraints.

I'm amazed that Ms. Long came up with six such examples! I figured out what was going on with 108A: Make a really long-distance call? (PHONEMARS), which when you add ANNE back in, you get "phone manners". Well... that didn't float my boat so much. Other examples were much better. My favorite is probably PRIMCOLORS ("primary colors"), but I was definitely amused by EARLYAMEN ("early American").

But maybe the best part of the puzzle is the fact that 68A: Supercilious sort ... or the title for this puzzle (NAMEDROPPER) explains why the puzzle is named "See 68-Across" - because the name has been dropped! I only just figured that out, and it makes me like the overall effort that much more.

- Colum

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday, February 17, 2018, Peter Wentz


I took advantage of some QUIETTIME this morning to get an early start on the puzzle. I started strong in the northwest, being familiar with Axe BODYSPRAY (sadly), and (more happily) "Misses overseas" (SENORITAS). Both those entries were crossed by fan-favorite YEOMAN (Title figure in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera) and I was ONAJAG.

In the northeast, HADAFEW (Threw some back) and ANTSONALOG (Celery sticks topped with peanut butter and raisins) went right in, tho' CRIPES and STATICLINE took a bit longer to make their PRESENCE known.

I had some trouble with the lower west side, but when I got finally got it done, I thought the downs were strong. I enjoyed ACCOST (Come right up to), the excellently clued SHOPAHOLIC (One who always has time to spend? - ha!), and IAMAMERICA (and so can you!). Another trouble spot for me in that area was SAMADAMS. It's a difficult word to parse, both when complete and incomplete: SA MA DA MS. Weird.
I didn't know LIT was slang for a happening party, but I like it! It reminds me of fan favorite, Auntie Mame.

Other clues with good OPTICS were:
30A. It's generally up and running within a few hours (FOAL)
23D. Quick move? (RELO)
30D. Professional feeders (FARMTEAMS)
46D. Like some very important signs (VITAL)
49D. Carny's target (RUBE). So  many rubes...

I'm not going into a MOUE about it, but why does 4D. Almost nothing on? (GSTRINGS) have a question mark at the end. And, are POLOS really "Tops in athletics"? What type of sports are they worn in? And don't say polo. :)


Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018, David Steinberg


All but the middle block of this puzzle went pretty smoothly for me. En route to the problematic parallelogram I was entertained by the clues "Put away the dishes?" for the old standby EAT, "Like privates, often" (PIXELATED), and "Things waiters wait for" (TIPS).

I'll ADD that there were a number of nicely tricky clues as well, including "One who's 60-something" (DSTUDENT), "Wednesday, e.g." (ADDAMS), and "Part of a pound?" (STRAY). I also enjoyed NEATASAPIN and FLAMBOYANT.

Breaking into the center square took some trial and error. I must have put in and taken out GABLE five times. For some reason, AMBIT, GELDS, and NEMEAN didn't leap to mind. Something about the clue for BEETS threw me off, too. I was thinking of a more general natural food coloring source. It also took me forever to think of music for 41A. "Stop playing" symbols (RESTS) - AFLAC that will surprise no one who knows me. It seemed like something of an ODDITY to have both AMBOY and AMBIT in the same puzzle.


NODEAR seems difficult to clue well, if you're going to use it, and probably not worth the effort. CAVER, COS, and ONENO win no prizes from me. And, thank heavens Mr. EADS invented something, otherwise puzzle constructors would have had to invent him!


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018, Peter Gordon

25:14, FWOE

My week does not appear to be my week, if you see what I mean. I am FWOEing all over the place. Today, my ignorance of world capitals crossed my distaste for horror movies, leaving me with ABIDJoN and MARIONCRoNE. No bueno. While solving, I didn't think about theme, but in discussing it with Horace, he noted that the last names of each of the Oscar-winning or -nominated roles (2 wins/3 noms) were all  birds. Had I realized that sooner, I like to think I wouldn't have FWOEd. NERTS.

I noticed a lot of name dropping in the grid. From ANITA to TOMKITE, I count ten answers that are clued as human names - twelve if you include ENID and LEO. That's 16%. I get 10% for yesterday's puzzle. Is that a statistic they track on XWord Info? :)

There was some clever cluing with 14A. Checkout lines? (UPC), 38A. East ender? (ERN), and 42D. It's sometimes chocolate-coated (LABRADOR). I didn't mind RIDIC, as I find myself saying that quite often these days, especially at work. :) SKEWING and SWANKY and STANK are swell.

I was less ENAMELS of TRIAMINIC, ENHALO, and MORE for "Else". Does that make me a RATER?


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018, Mary Lou Guizzo

25:09, FWOE

A lovely puzzle today. The heart-shaped grid and a nice sprinkling of love- and heart-themed clues (9A Loving, maybe (GERUND), 42 Game of "love" (TENNIS), 14D Attracted (DREW)) are set off by three long theme answers: HEARTSTRINGS, CUPIDSARROWS, and smack dab in the middle, the hero of the day: SAINTVALENTINE.

My FWOE came when I entered DINGy at 58A (Dark, dirty shade) instead of DINGE, a form of the word I'm not sure I've encountered before. Of course, CATTLy (50D. Range rovers) isn't a word, but I didn't notice that problem until after I completed the grid. Derp.

I liked 15D. Bad place for a bowling ball or the mind (GUTTER) and 35D Game's turning point (ROTISSERIE) - ha! We also get another nice PINATA clue (38D. One getting smashed at a party?). Parsing GOONASPREE and SOANDSOS in the grid after the solve is fun.

I haven't heard the term MCJOBS before (Unfulfilling work assignments), but it seems apt. Apt! I have very little knowledge of and, apparently, no memory at all for sport stadiums, especially those named for corporations, so Citi Field team, on scoreboards (NYM) was not a gimme for me, but I eventually came up with it after yCJOBS and gCJOBS weren't getting the job done. And speaking of new-to-me items, I've never heard of POPOV. Huygens?

We have another example the recently discussed clue type at 10D Beat it! (DRUM). Is there a name for this type of clue?


I thought starting off a love-filled puzzle with HAGS was a little unfortunate, and TWPS lacks ARTISTRY, no matter how you slice it, but who's complaining on love's big day? NOTI


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018, Bruce Haight


We celebrate Valentine's Day early with a spray of BOXED ROSES, albeit with a few thorns for this solver. I knew neither the Dakota tribe that attacked "The Revenant" trappers (ARIKARA), nor Actor Calhoun (RORY), and so couldn't correctly complete the south west without reference to an outside information source. MYBAD.

The letters R, O, S, and E appear in square formation in each corner of the grid, with the first one, reading top left to bottom right, spelling, neatly, EROS. More than the boxed roses, I liked the two added theme clues and answers "Try some Valentine's Day candy?" (HAVEAHEART) and "Try some Valentine's Day candy, sneakily?" STEALAKISS. Sweet. :)

I also enjoyed the relatively modern 'Bags for guys' (MURSES) and I LOL'd at 'Poker advice for Sajak?' (SITPAT). Ha!


I have never heard BATCHEDIT for "Lived like a single guy." I kind of like it as an expression, but I'm not sure how to use it. Can one say, "I batch" for "I live like a single guy"? Or is it a set expression with 'it'? "What's your living situation, Father ABBOT?" "Me? I batch it."


Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018, Michael Black


That time is no typo, dear readers. Horace and I spent the weekend at Rudyard Kipling's house in Vermont with friends. One of these friends, I'll call her Elvis, is interested in getting started with crossword puzzles. So, ELVISANDME did the puzzle together, at her pace. Happily, she seemed to enjoy the experience. I tried to get her to write the review, but she said the idea made her feel FAINT.

When we got to 59A, I explained the idea of theme answers in general, but we ended up solving the puzzle without reference to the particular puzzle theme itself (One with credit ... or a literal hint to 17-, 27- and 44-Across, CARDHOLDER). With the grid complete, my friend was able to DISCOVER the theme and the other two credit cards (VISA and AMEX) easily. I appreciate that the three theme answers cross the boundaries of the two words that "hold" them, but I wouldn't call it AONE.

I enjoyed the reminder of OPERAMAN from the 1990s SNL. VORTEX is a nice entry as is SPUD. The only spot of trouble we had was in the south east where Elvis wanted Unc at first, instead of UVA, but a look at the downs cleared that up pretty quickly.

WIE (Michelle of the L.P.G.A.), OJAY (Any singer of the 1973 #1 hit "Love Train"), and INI (Singer Kamoze with the 1994 hit "Here Comes the Hotstpper") made these two solvers say HMM but maybe they were easy GETZ for others. TOGAED is a very odd looking combination of letters. I wonder what the Latin for that is. :)


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018, Matt Ginsberg


This is my favorite Sunday puzzle in a long, long time. Possibly ever. Many of the punny answers made me laugh out loud. MISTLETOE (100A: What brings the rocket to the pad?), for instance, and DULCIMER (95A: Opposite of a strong boil?) are both excellent. LOCKSMITH (27A: Fable about smoked salmon?), ORCHESTRATES (22A: Narrow passages for killer whales?), and PHARMACIST (72D: Help with the harvest?) are also quite good.


Right away I liked this one from the unusual 1A clue "Like most seamen, supposedly" (ABLE). Very nice. I also loved the clue for 65A: Storm harbinger, maybe (CALM). Hah!

And there's lots to like in the fill, too, like LINEARA (99A: As-yet-undeciphered Cretan script), TANKARD (12D: Pub container), DIGITS (95D: All thumbs) (Ha!), FEVERISHLY (68D: At a frantic pace), and the always amusing but never actually welcome NOSEEUM (87D: Small, biting fly).

Sure, there are a few odd things like WIRERS, ROARER, and ARBORED, but so what? This thing was tremendous.

- Horace

I am also WILDE about this puzzle, although it was slow going because we are spending the weekend with friends which made it difficult to stay focused on the grid at hand. IVANS to cite two other theme answers not mentioned by Horace that I really enjoyed: 
Small undergarments? WHEATIES
Carried cash around? BORDEAUX

And in the non-theme category:
Are no longer? WERE - excellent.
Trix alternative (ETTE) - ha!

Quite a COO.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018, Finn Vigeland


An extra-large end to The Turn this week, a 15x16 offering with totally isolated corners and a triple 16-stack (!) in the middle. The 16s are all solid, but as usual with stacks, the proof is in the crosses. Today, the triple is pierced by some pretty good long stuff. ALIENATED (33D: Cut off), THESSALY (17D: Region near Mount Olympus), and LIBATIONS (28D: Celebratory round) are my favorites. And even the three-letter answers aren't bad. It's nice being reminded of LIZ Lemon, and the clues for DTS (36D: Letters that come before AA?) and AYE (37D: House call?) were quite nice.


I started this last night after a NIP or two and eventually CRASHed, but this morning things fell together nicely. I really like that SW corner, with RARAAVIS (50A: One of a kind), ASIFTOSAY (56A: Seemingly expressing), and STATELINE (59A: Fugitive's destination, maybe). And that Emerson quote is nice, too: "Manners require time, as nothing is more vulgar than HASTE."

The NW is very worldly, with NIHAO (5D: Greeting in Guangzhou), ANCHO (4D: Dried chili pepper on Tex-Mex menus), and the two unknown-to-me people GENET (3D: French novelist/dramatist associated with the Theater of the Absurd) and KOENIG (14A: "Serial" podcast host Sarah). And I guess we could throw in ETRE (26A: "Seriez" is a form of it).

Boy, I just now understood the clue for (ONEHALF), the arrow is pointing over toward the clue number. Meh. I suppose it looks better in the print version, because the A isn't included there.

Overall, I liked it a lot.

- Horace

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018, Brendan Emmet Quigley


Boy, I plowed through this thing. My first, incorrect entry "ImeaniT" for 1A: "No, really" (IINSIST) at least gave me ISLE and TROI, and from there I was off and running.


I like this themeless quite a bit. The double-I start is very nice, it's very Scrabble-y, as they say, with those Js and Zs, and has lots of good fill. SASHAY (4D: Walk alluringly) is fun, TROMBONE (37D: Ska band instrument) is something you don't often see in a grid, LAZYBONES (35D: Do-nothing) is great. Earlier this week there was a little conversation on this blog (and others) about whether or not "adorbs" should be acceptable fill. I say yes, and I also say a big yes to LOLZ (32D: Online hilarity).

We've got some fun pairs in ZANY and SANE, and NERUDA and Poe's TOHELEN, and 14D: Go astray (ERR) and 25D: Not stray (BETRUE). We've also got some fun clueing in 47A: Scare quote? (BOO), 16A: High-minded sort? (AVIATOR), 27D: Debugging tool? (ZAPPER), and the sure-to-be-controversial 19A: [Can you believe they wrote this?!] (EMPHASISMINE). Me, I like it.

In fact, I like the whole thing, as I believe I said earlier. Just a little LST here, and a slightly odd SQUATJUMP running down the middle, but that's not much to pay for the rest of this. Very nice.

- Horace

Thursday, February 8, 2018, Erik Agard


This was an odd solve for me, because I didn't really figure out what was going on until I put in my last two letters, the E and N of MEGRYAN (18A: Germany). Only then, did I realize that four of the clues were anagrams, a SHUFFLE of four HOLLYWOOD stars' names. Phew! Luckily, for me, the whole thing played rather easy for a Thursday, because I'm not sure even knowing the theme would have helped with ANSELELGORT (33A: Ernest Gallo), which is a name I'm not familiar with.


One doesn't think much about a SILENTO (17A: Feature in "People"?), so that was interesting, and I've always enjoyed the name ARAPAHO (16A: Cheyenne ally). I loved the clue for AMRADIO (63A: Band not known for music?). That might have to go on the list. And Frannie really loved 21A: Actress Elisabeth who's been on the cover of Rolling Stone, ironically (MOSS). Hah! I wonder if they made any mention of it in the magazine.

It was odd having the two pieces of NOT/STIRRED ("Bond specification") split so far apart, but still, I liked the answer. Me, I stir mine, just like I stir my Manhattans.

I suppose that ARE (7D: Total arithmetically) is referring to a phrase like "Two and two ARE four," but I don't like that explanation. Anybody got another one? Also, I had never heard the term SIDEEYE (64A: Contemptuous countenance), although I can picture it perfectly.

Overall, I enjoyed this pretty well. I love being reminded of Pixy STIX, which I think I might have put down as my favorite candy when my niece gave me a long survey to fill out about my personal preferences. What's your favorite candy?

- Horace

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018, Stu Ockman


Well, Dear Reader, it's Wednesday, and we are given an odd duck of a puzzle. The fill is divided into three completely separate areas - the top and bottom are connected to the middle via circles highlighting four things that can be imagined as THETIESTHATBIND the whole thing together; "Rope," "lace," "cord," and "wire." The top grid-spanner, MAKECONNECTIONS, is telling us what we need to do. Hmm... I'm not completely convinced. Especially as the strange construction seems to have forced a lot of less-than-desirable material in the center. PULLA, WIS, RADII, YOS, and ALTAI. Not great. On the upside, I did like the OWL clue - "32D: Fly by night sort?"


Has anyone else ever heard the expression "A miss is as good as a MILE?" I never have, and I don't like it one bit. The two sides aren't equal! It's been around a good long while, though, it appears, and I like the earlier "An ynche in a misse is as good as an ell." (An ell being an old measurement of about 45 inches.) There, at least, you're comparing two measures, not a verb and a noun. Sheesh!

Furthermore, who the hell is this LENE Russo (16A: Actress Russo)? The first two hits when I Google "Lene Russo actress" (not in quotes) are Lene Lovich and Giuni Russo. Neither of whom seems to go by the alternate name LENE Russo. Just for kicks, I Googled "russo lene actress" and got Rene Russo. So I'm not really sure what's going on there. Hmm... I may be crazy, but it seems that this may indeed have been an error, because now the 10D clue, which I swore was "Plumbers tool" (or something very similar) this morning, is now "Town officials of old" which would maybe work with "prior," but that's still got problems. Well, I don't know what to tell you.

** After reading Diary of a Crossword Fiend, I am reminded that the original clue for LENE was "Voiceless consonant, like 'b' [actually voiced] or 'p.'" This seems to prove that there has been an effort to change this puzzle after distribution. Also, I remember wanting "plosive" to fit in those four squares. I've taken linguistics, and I've never, ever, heard the word LENE before. Not that I'm a good example. I'm just saying.

Anyway, this gets a YECH (and even that's not spelled the way I think it should be!) from me.

- Horace

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Bruce Haight


A DEVIOUS, or "D - V - ous," set of theme answers today, all two words, the first starting with D, the second with V. If I had taken the time to understand this while solving, I might not have had so much trouble figuring out DEMOVERSION (59A: Prototype, maybe). I think I had "Pond" for 57D: Common fishing spot (PIER), and for some reason I had "SAVEsUP" for 40D: Put some money away (SAVEDUP), so sEMOVERSoON did not look very good. And another thing that slowed me down was guessing "DacapO" for 53A: From the beginning: Lat. (DENOVO). I would argue that DENOVO means "anew," whereas "da capo" means "from the top," or "again." It's a small distinction, and one that I probably wouldn't argue too strongly. Ah well... it all got sorted out eventually. And in the end, I enjoyed the theme, especially the amusing revealer.


The conversational SAYWHEN (13D: Pourer's instruction), ILLBITE (11D: "O.K., tell me more"), and especially NOCANDO (3D: "Sorry, Charlie!"), and the slangy RAD, DOPE, GAG, and ADORBS (49D: Cute, in modern slang), give the puzzle a nice contemporary feel. And then we have a few uncommon, interesting words like BLEAR (65A: Dim with tears) and MUM (66A: Closemouthed) to balance it all out.

Overall, I enjoyed it.

- Horace

Monday, February 5, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018, Alan Arbesfeld


OK, let's get this out of the way right away - the Eagles played a great game yesterday. The coaching was gutsy, there were some great catches, and things generally went their way. Congratulations to Philadelphia fans everywhere.


Now, we're on to Cincinnati... er, I mean the puzzle. The answer that sticks out the most to me today is CONTAC (4D: Popular cold and flu medicine), because as I type I am at home, sick with a cold. It came on during the day yesterday, but really took off, as they always seem to do, during the night. Anyway, I wish I had some CONTAC right now!

I like the theme today, because who doesn't like the MOON? And when you finally get to the revealer, the puzzle really lights up! At least when solving online, where thematic answers are highlighted automatically when your cursor (or whatever) is on the revealer answer. It's a little too bad, if we want to get picky, that the phases don't go in perfect order, but I don't think that's a big problem, especially since we don't have a complete sequence. I mean, wouldn't we have to have "gibbous" in there somehow to balance out "crescent?" But I'm already making too much of this... let's move on.

I like SLEUTHS (40A: Detectives) in the middle there, and FACET, STRUT, and MEWL are all good. The two long Down answers, SIDCAESAR and EVICTIONS are both fine. Sure, SIDCAESAR is a little old fashioned, but I think he's still pretty well-known. Interesting that we've got a lot of animals in the grid - LAMB, HART, CLAMELKS, NEMO, and STUART Little. Might have been fun to have one or two that howl at the MOON, but one mustn't ask for too much. A good general rule. Five Superbowls, for instance, are enough. For now.

- Horace

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018, David Levinson Wilk


This sort of theme AMUSES me (mini-theme entry there). I figured it out very early. 23A: "Stop! You're killing me!" (THATSHYSTERICAL) was fairly obvious, and then 24D: Poison ivy, e.g. became an issue when I had YNE. Then I saw that you could imagine the Y as a VI going down. Thus the title of the puzzle, "Cracking Y's". All of the theme answers have to do with comedy (although I'm sure you could cavil at YOMAMAJOKE), so there's a tightness to the theme. In addition, there is no Y in the grid which is not cracked, which I appreciate.

I also appreciate the nod to New England at 1A: 52-story Boston skyscraper, familiarly (THEPRU) and at 80D: Patriots' org. (AFC). I see no similar acknowledgement of Philadelphia, opening up the NYT xword to attacks of favoritism.

I will now turn the blog over to my esteemed colleague, Mr. Horace Fawley.

Greetings from New England! A scant three hours remain before kickoff, so I've got to get this taken care of right quick. No time for grandiloquence! (Local pre-game TV began at 5:30am today. Why??)

I sussed the theme later than my colleague, but the sussing was related to discussions I have had with his wife, who is wont to quote the line, "Fortune and love favor the brave." Good ol' Publius Oydius Naso. A contemporary of Yrgil. ... ok, that's just silly. HAHA (mini-themelert!) EVERYBODYSACOMEDIAN, eh?

And speaking of Latin, did anyone else find the clue "Latin for "womb" (UTERUS) a little weird? I mean, we use the word UTERUS. Womb isn't so much a translation of Latin than it is an alternate English word for the same thing. It's like cluing "cranium" with "Latin for skull." I mean, it's fine, but still odd. At least to me. Especially when they just toss out answers like PERINATAL with no mention of Latin at all!

These theme answers are all fine, but they're not particularly exciting.

Interesting about Novo-Ogaryovo being the official DACHA for the Russian president. I feel that will eventually be useful information when the clue/answer is reversed someday in the future, so I'll try to sock it away somewhere. And I kind of enjoyed the inclusion of VAR as an answer instead of as a signal that you'd have to soon be putting something like "iglu" into the grid. Heh. It's the little things, right? Like the news that Marie Curie's LABNOTES are still radioactive. How cool is that?


I post the photo I do today because I watched it for the first time maybe ten years ago, and it was way better than I expected it would be, but as I post, I notice that they have, indeed, included at least one reference to Philadelphia. Still, I'm hoping it's outweighed by the two Colum mentioned, and other New England-y things like Lobster POTS and, hopefully, VICTOR

- Horace

p.s. I'm not even going to mention ARGOSIES

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Saturday, Febraury 3, 2018, Sam Ezersky and Byron Walden


Everything was going along fine until the end in that SW corner. I came up against TOR_I and KU_U crossing A_R_AM. Both of those crossings were completely opaque to me. And I've never heard the term AIRDAM before. So I stared for a while, before realizing that anything would be a complete guess, and looked them up. I have to add KUDU to my list of crossword gazelles and antelopes.

Wow, though. This is a challenging puzzle! I broke in at 57A: Like many people on January 1 (HUNGOVER). That's how long it took for me to feel comfortable with an answer. I was able to work up the E side of the grid with the excellent TRAVELBLOG and SPICERACK.

I call another foul though with 9A: Having many openings (GAPPY). Huh? Has anyone ever said this? I think not. But I very much liked GOASKANYONE and SOBSISTERS. When you have such nice long answers and such a low word count, I suppose you have to have some compromises.

At this point, I was able to break open the NW corner. 1A: Toilet paper? (HALLPASS) is very nice, and deserves an A- for clue and answer. PIBBXTRA is a beautiful answer. I don't think it's sold in markets around my home, though. That answer crossing LGBTRIGHTS is worth the price of entry by themselves.

The middle section of the W side of the grid I was very proud to figure out. I had put SOFIA in as the only Balkan capital of 5 letters I could recall. Then I guessed the first part of WESTCORK, figured ALICEFAYE had to be correct, and finally NATGEO became clear.

Clearly this puzzle is supported by the beautiful long answers. I feel those two crossings I mentioned at the start made the whole thing suspect in my book, but I'm sure others will disagree.

- Colum

Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday, February 2, 2018, Randolph Ross


If I had been solving this at the ACPT, I would have turned my grid in with a serious lack of confidence. That SW corner, with several names and unclear television show titles. I knew about the thesaurus, but was unsure about his full name (PETERROGET). Doesn't it feel like he should have a French name? Even though he made a thesaurus in English?

A quick Wikipedia search reveals that he was a British physician in the 19th century who seemed to have either OCD or some form of autism, as he started making lists by the time he was 8 years old. Interesting. And his name is pronounced roGETT, not roZHAY.

But the answer that had me most confused was 56A: Long-running pop culture show (ENEWS). Oh, wait. I get it. E! News, as in the news show on the Entertainment Network. I was stuck thinking it was like those annoying e-words, implying electronic. Well, it's certainly a thing, but without that exclamation point, I just don't know.

Outside of that area, there was much to enjoy. 1A: Biased investigation (WITCHHUNT) is a nice entry, even if it smacks too much of our current bloviator-in-chief. But better is its symmetric counterpart, 57A: Pointing of fingers (BLAMEGAME). These two gave the puzzle as a whole a political bent.

My favorite clue is 30D: Brown family member (EARTHTONE). Not at all what I was expecting. I also enjoyed 35A: Well-known speaker (BOSE). That's some nice misdirection.

Well, okay. So there's also 48D: Spoiler of a perfect report card (ONEB). Why not "one C," or God forbid, "one D?" I won't linger on AGASP or abbrev. NCAR. For that matter, TATAS is just begging for a Huygens level clue.

Milo has never been in any of those DOGSPAS.

- Colum

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018, Damon Gulczynski


I am not SCHMO blown away by this theme. It is certainly clever, but I was able to enter ROGEREBERT without fully understanding why by looking at the clue. The revealer, INITIALLY was not an aha moment (or even an Omaha moment) for me, more of an "ohhhhh. Oh, well" moment.

The best part is the way the first word of each clue re-reads on getting the trick. "Regent" turning into "R.E. gent." "Malady" turning into "M.A. lady," and so on. But all four names are old crossword standbys (and very old in some cases).

Anyway, it was a PAIN to get started, even though EMMA was a lovely reference (14A: Literary matchmaker - how nice it's not Yente from Fiddler on the Roof). I also was stuck by DOHA, even though I've seen it plenty of times. I tried to convince myself that it was an alternate spelling of Sanaa (Yemen, not Qatar). I really got going in the SW corner, moving down from OTS and CPAS, and then ECHELONS.

Clues I liked:

8D: Digital communication, for short? (ASL)
49A: Get blubbery (CRY)

I'm not sure what to make of the recent pair of clues like 48D: Beat it! (BONGO). Yesterday it was "Hit it!" (PINATA). What do people think? IMALLEARS!

Overall, I'm left flat. This felt like a Wednesday. Not enough of a fun trick for a Thursday. Let's hope the rest of the turn picks up the pace!

- Colum