Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018, Bruce Haight


Who doesn't love an underwear-themed puzzle? No one, that's who. As a longtime disc golfer and ultimate player, I ought to like DISCJOCKEYS (24A: Underwear for Frisbee enthusiasts?) the best, and it's not bad, but AMATEURBOXERS (34A: Underwear for beginners?) is my favorite. I've never really understood the idea of a "training bra," but if we're going to have the one, I think it would be nice if AMATEURBOXERS actually existed too, to even the playing field a bit.
There are quite a few SOLIDS in the fill, including ORGANISM (3D: Any living thing), AMRADIO (42D: It goes from about 540 to 1700), NOODLE (43D: Casserole bit), and REFEREES (37D: Whistle blowers). There are quite a few colloquialisms - WHOA (23D: "Stop right there!"), TOLDYA (12D: "See, I was right!"), HUMPH (32D: "Well, I never!"), AAH (56D: "How relaxing!"), and EWW (50A: "Gross!"), for example, and just a few entries ITD be better to ignore, like ILIAC, IDI, OTS, and INANER.

Frannie and I are driving around Europe this week, and going through ANTWERP is never all that fun. Still, as I said, we're driving around Europe this week, so I guess I can't really complain too loudly. :)

Overall, this was a fun Monday. I always appreciate a mini drinking theme: SHOTS, TIPSY, ALE, and THIRST ("They talk of my drinking, but never my THIRST...), and speaking of that, it's time to get in the car and head down into the Armagnac region!

See you tomorrow.

- Horace

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018, Peter Wentz


Lately we've been having the person who has been blogging all week start the Sunday review, and then the person who will take over does the second half, but I take over next week, and it's almost midnight where I am, so I'm going to start the review, and Colum can finish it.


I like most of the theme answers today, but I'm not sure I buy P.C. LAB as a thing. Computer Lab, sure, but PC Lab? Hmph. The others are better. I, myself, on many occasions, have shouted out PUBLICSCHOOLILOVEYOU!, and the idea of WATERCLOSETFIELDS is amusing, if odd. Too odd, really.

I had a lot of trouble with the  POWELL/DANO/DWI/LSU section. I don't know the actor, and Colin POWELL took me forever to remember. Similarly, it took me until just now to understand "Checkpoint offense, for short." It's an offense to be driving while intoxicated!

SMEARY didn't really SITWELL, but I'll get over it. There was plenty of good stuff, too. Remember JANEPAULEY? Those were the days... before 911... back when bad politics didn't seem so bad...

Anyway, I'm looking forward to taking over for real tomorrow. See you then!

- Horace

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018, Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb


When I reached the end of answers I either knew outright or had figured out with the help of a few crosses, and then intuited answers from patterns of letters, I was left with no fewer than three areas of blankness. The NE, SW, and SE corners all resisted completion, and there was going to be no help from any other ways into them.

The first of the three to fall was the SE. I've heard of RAMIMALEK, but never seen his show, and his name was not leaping to mind. I already had TRILOBITE in place, along with AMELIA, both of which were gimmes. Finally, I got SEXYBEAST, and the rest followed. Resisting me heavily were DEMOB, a Britishism even I, a duly verified Anglophile, was unaware of, and Tony SARG. Who? Apparently, only the father of modern puppetry in America. Huh. Learn something new, and be happy for it.

I got the SW corner next. I had guessed at OMEGAman for 38D: Lowest one in the pack (OMEGADOG), and now looking back at the clue, I don't know how I missed the obvious reference to canines. I had also guessed NICEwork for 37D: "Good going!" (NICEMOVE). I think the quotation is too general for a specific move, in my mind, but let that go, as Jack Point said. Anyway, when I took out eVade and replaced it with AVOID, that corner was done. By the way, I'd say SEGNO really ought to be a partial with "Da _____".

Finally, the NE corner. I thought this would be simple when I put in PIXYSTIX (love it) and PROXIES. Even with TOKYO and THARP in place, 13D RESISTED my efforts. I never would have guessed Fu-HSI. Finally I got OILER in place, and the rest was ALLTHERE.

I really like a lot of the entries here. NOPUNINTENDED is excellent. I object to the clue for 1A. I refuse to believe that any society will ever be POSTTRUTH, all current evidence to the contrary. We will swing back. We have to.


Peace out,

- Colum

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018, David Steinberg


It's an amusing start to today's puzzle, where 1A: Ready to explode (SEETHING) crosses 1D: Hallucinate (SEETHINGS). Mr. Steinberg, you're playing around with the limits of duplication in a grid!

Beyond that, this is a very well constructed grid. The two 13-letter answers are both great, with my favorite being ICANTAKEAHINT. The two 15-letter down answers are also strong. I prefer 12D: What 90% of American households had in 2010 - but fewer have today (CABLETELEVISION), for the fun clue.

On the whole, there are fewer clever clues than I've come to expect in a Steinberg creation. The two clues for sports organizations get there: 31A: Wild grp. (NHL) didn't fool me for a second. I was actually glad for it, because I'd entered "grandjete" at 2D: Showy ballet leap (ENTRECHAT). The other, 63D: Houston is in it, but Dallas isn't, briefly (AFC), is fine.
DeShaun Watson plays for the Houston Texans
The funny set of black squares in the middle of the puzzle create a lot of 3-letter answers, odd for a themeless puzzle. But the only answer I was hardly ENTRANCEd by was 26A: Smooth talker's quality (PATNESS). Hmm. I have never heard this word before. When I google this, I find that it means "the quality of being pat: aptness, opportuneness, suitability." Those qualities don't seem like ones I associated with a smooth talker.

That being said, I like that "pat" is an anagram of "apt." Apt!

I think I'd like to spend some BEERMONEY now.

- Colum

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018, Alex Eaton-Salners


I shudder to think of the difficulty in constructing what looks on the surface like a pretty straightforward concept. First of all, you want the referenced answers to be close (if not right next to) the answers they refer to. Second, where the referenced answers are have to be fixed in place (at 1A, 24A, 40A, and 50A in this puzzle). Third, there have to be clues for those numbers!

By that last, I mean that not every number has a clue associated with it. For example, 23A does not exist in this puzzle. And for that reason, I imagine this puzzle would be infinitely harder to create if you were putting these answers in down positions. In that situation, each of these answers would need to have either the upper edge of the puzzle or a black square positioned above it.

In the end, the four phrases, 1-OVER, 24-SEVEN, 40-WINKS, and 50-FIFTY are all solid. They're hardly groundbreaking examples of phrases of the form "number-word". In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen all of them in crossword puzzles before. Still, I admire the craftsmanship here.

So is the rest of the puzzle worth it? Well, I'll bet that our five or so regular readers will know that I'm not fond of puzzles that are so segmented. Note the lack of connectivity between the NW and SE corners and the diagonal swath from the SW to the NE. That being said, the corners are chunky and filled with some (but not a lot of) fun stuff.

I very much liked 2D: Yellow Monopoly avenue (VENTNOR) because I got it without any crossings. I also liked 33A: Citizens of the only country that relies significantly on online voting in elections (ESTONIANS) both for the forward seeing nature of their voting systems and because I visited Talinn in 1987 (before the USSR broke up). And OHFUDGE continues our week's acknowledgement of the finer arts of swearing (c.f. Gdansk).

At the same time, there's quite a reliance on proper names, including ANSE (never much cared for Faulkner), ROBERTI, APOLO, ELROY, MENLO, and RYN just in the NW corner alone. And by the way, I think we all know Rembrandt would have spelled it Rijn, right? Having said that, I have just Googled it, and I find that I am correct.

So on the whole, I like the idea, but think the junk too expensive.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018, Adam G. Perl


Ever since I finished this puzzle, I've been trying to figure out the correct approach to blogging about it. I can't quite seem to find the hook I need to get started. Every point of view I consider feels like I've seen it before. Each slant I try...

Yeah, okay, enough's enough. Obviously I need someone who KNOWSEVERYANGLE. If you throw out "straight" for your basic 180° angle, the remaining four are represented in shaded squares in each corner of the grid. So, by the way, as opposed to Monday's circles, here is an example where you absolutely need the shaded squares to find the hidden angles. On the other hand, having figured out what was going on with the revealer, I was able to put the angles in place, making each corner easier.

Well, almost every corner. I forgot what a reflex angle is.

Anyway, with these hidden words comes triple-checked letters: that is to say, each letter in the angle names plays a role in three different answers, rather than two as is usually the case. What this leads to is a spattering of less than ideal fill (I'm looking at you, ALINED!), mostly because crossings no longer can fit in the usual pattern of English usage.

I think Mr. Perl does a reasonable job of avoiding the worst of it. But look in the area around "obtuse" and you'll see what I mean. ROBT, ATT, NSFW, UNS. These were made necessary by the triple checking. It also allows for some fun stuff like NBADRAFT.
Jayson Tatum's been pretty awesome this year!
Finally, it would be GRATUITOUS of me not to give a side-eyed look at LEX. We lived a block or two away from the 4-5-6 for five years, and ATNO time did anyone I knew call it that!

- Colum

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Peter Gordon


There must be other famous men whose last or first names are names of islands... let's see. How about Howie Long? Would Saint Martin be unfair (since it's his whole name)? Or what about Method Man, from the Wu Tang Clan! If you have other good ideas, please comment below.

Mind you, the three that Mr. Gordon came up with are a lot of fun. My favorite is CUBAGOODINGJR, because of the completeness of having his Junior in there.  How about the fact that two of the three are black? And I love the revealer: NOMANISANISLAND. It's so absurd, looking over the puzzle.

The puzzle is in left-right symmetry to accommodate the lengths of the long answers. The other notable thing is the remarkable number of proper nouns (people or places) in the puzzle. I count 22 (including the three theme answers)! Of these, my favorite by far is GDANSK, which I have been known to use in the place of a curse.

There are several excellent answers in the fill. Regardless of what you may think of Cats, GRIZABELLA is a beautiful long entry. And BRAZILIANS could have been clued in quite a different way. Finally, I really liked 5D: They're likely to get into hot water (TEABAGS). It is certainly true that they could go in iced water as well, so the "likely" is well earned.

I'm unsure about 48D: She might check for a fever with her hand (DRMOM). What's the DR doing there? Isn't the answer simply "Mom"? I have never in my life called my mother or my wife "Dr. Mom."

On the whole, I'm in favor of this Tuesday offering.

- Colum

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday, April 23, 2018, Lynn Lempel


What a lovely way to start a week of blogging: a near perfect Monday puzzle. The revealer in the middle is 38A: Lead off ... or a hint to the circled letters (GOFIRST). In fact, in the long across answers, the initial portion of each is a synonym for "go". What's nice is that each synonym is hidden in the initial syllable(s), with the best being "leave" in LEAVENEDBREAD, as the sound of the vowels is changed by the extraction.

I'm not a fan of circled letters, and I really don't think it was necessary to do it in this particular example. And having the revealer in the middle meant that the gig was up relatively early. I'd actually already cottoned on by filling in the first two themers ... and here's why I don't like the circles. Without them, I'd have been unsure what the theme was going to be.

But these are just nits I'm picking. There's plenty to like. Even if I'm not a fan of STROM Thurmond, the placement of his name next to THROB was a fascinating juxtaposition. INSIDIOUS is a great word. I also really liked YOUNG and THING next to each other clued with Michael Jackson's song.

I have little to complain about. I love Laura LINNEY and LISA Kudrow. And my memories of seeing David in the NUDE in Firenze are highly treasured.

Nice start!

- Colum

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018, Ross Trudeau


This theme amused me, and when that happens on a Sunday it's a good thing. The first themer I got was FATHERINONESCAPE (39A: Parent wearing your Superman costume?) which is, admittedly, absurd, but I don't know... sometimes the absurdity tickles me, and other times it doesn't. This time it did. So ridiculous! And when the theme finishes with something as perfect as LEASTBUTNOTLAST (115A: Like the digit "0" in 2018?), well, that's a win.


We have very little time to blog today, so it's lucky Colum is stepping in to finish this thing up and to point out all the interesting things I missed. Us, we're already at the airport and about to board, so our part today (this, btw, is Horace again) will be short and sweet.

As I said, the letter-shifting theme is fun. I would also like to point out that it's very nice that on Earth Day, ALGORE makes it into the grid. And yes, I know that going on a JETEPROPELLEDPLAN is not very green, but if they didn't put all that water between us and Paris we would get there some other way. Maybe even by bike!

OK, well, they're calling us to the gate now, so here's the handoff - Thanks, Colum!

- Horace

I guess some folks are gadding off, if not to gay PAREE, at least to similar environs. Which leaves me to hold down the fort. But don't worry; I'm not SORE.

So I loved this GEM of a puzzle. I laughed at loud at 23A: Makes eye contact before undressing? (STARESANDSTRIPS). That plus the outstanding NW corner with EATENINTO and SCAPEGOAT had me off on the right foot.

There's a ton of excellent fill. The favorite around these parts would be UPSANDDOWNS, because it reminds us of Auntie Mame. ISAPTTO! Apt!

Anyways, looking forward to this week. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday, April 21, 2018, Daniel Nierenberg

28:45, FWOE

I was one square away from a FWOE-free week, but alas, it was not to be. When I finished the puzzle but didn't I didn't get the "Congratulations" message, I said to Horace, INEEDHELP - time is short today!and had him tell me what the predecessor of RC Cola's Royal Crown Company was. I was pretty sure that was the locus of  the problem, but my mind balked at giving up NOtART while simultaneously failing to remember crossword darling NEHI. Derp.

The puzzle started off like a typical Saturday: a first run through the across clues produced very few entries in the grid. The downs were slightly more productive, which, in turn revealed a number of the acrosses. The system works! That is until I hit the south east corner. I did get GAYMARRIAGE and I had a vague notion that one of the "Lethal Weapon" detectives was named RIGGS, but that was it. For a very long time. After a while I realized I had "Pistons great Thomas" back to front - a first name, not a last name was wanted, I dug ISIAH out of the recesses of my mind. The "I" helped me get KILT, which led to TREED, and the rest, as we say is hiSTORY - proving once again that sports ball knowledge is the key to successful crossword puzzle solving. The clue for SEEATTACHED (Common two-word email) troubled me slightly. I don't think I've ever received an email message with just those two words  And I've been receiving email for a very long time.

Fill-wise, I like CORSET (not literally), CLARET, EGEST (how vivid!), LOSER, VALISE, SHADOWBOX, DIORAMA, and THEEYE.

There were also some nice good clue/answer pairs:
Rock sample? (DEMOTAPE)
Bud drinker? (BEE)
Like some blankets and arguments (HEATED)


A few entries FELL into the LOWFIBER category today: easy to digest, perhaps, but not very satisfying: TSPS, LYSIS, NCIS, OSX, or DRT (hunh?), but really, overall, pretty NES.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday, April 20, 2018, Joel Fagliano


Hello, Dear Reader, it's Horace, filling in for Frannie for a day. And what a day to be filling in, as the TWENTYFIVE-THOUSANDTH New York Times Crossword puzzle is celebrated!

Image by © Neal Preston/CORBIS
We've blogged the last 1,865 or so, and before that, we were doing them and discussing them on our own. I've said it before, but now seems like a good time to repeat it - Frannie and I have been doing crosswords together as long as we've known each other, which is *gasp* going on 34 years now. And the same goes for Colum, whom Frannie and I have known for quite a long time now, too! And before we all met, we did them alone and/or with our families. One of life's great pleasures, in my mind, is sitting on a screened porch in the summer, drinking coffee (or another beverage), and passing around a Sunday crossword on a clipboard - discussing various clues as they are filled in. Maybe even leaving one unfilled that you know the next person will enjoy, and saying something like "I left off at 35D, see what you can make of that one..." Our blog, in its better moments, has tried to reproduce that experience. So let's get to it, shall we?

It was, for the most part, a WINSOME grid. Nice flow, chunky corners, and some spirited clueing. To wit: HOTTUB (37A: Warm place to chill), CAST (44A: Put in play?), and PITABREAD (51A: Pocket of the Mideast). Cute. The trickiest for me today was probably 55A: Back now after going out? (RELIT). I guess they mean like a candle, but "back now" is pretty oblique. It also took me rather longer than it should have to get OVERICE (38D: Not neat), and ECOMMERCE (56A: Net sales) was tricky too!

I have never heard the mnemonic for the CONTINENTS before, but honestly, I think it would be harder to remember that than it would be to remember the continents themselves. I mean, there are only seven of them. It's not complicated.

We get a little Latin (SUBVOCE), a colloquialism (YEESH), some delicious OLIVEOIL, and a lot more. To me, this was a fitting tribute - a very clean grid with lots of fun stuff to discuss. Let's hope it's not the ENDOFANERA! Keep 'em coming, Misters Shortz & Fagliano!

- Horace

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday, April 19, 2018, Todd Gross


Count me among those who liked this puzzle. I enjoyed the two-level clue structure where you had to COUNTTHESQUARES in the answer, and then think of a thing with that many of the thing specified in the clue. For example, the answer to 52A. "It has this many legs" [8] is ARACHNID. I would never have gotten the theme answer for 21A. "It borders this many other states" (MISSOURI) without the downs. Well, without the downs, or a map of the U.S. My favorite, as a former swimmer and '70's Olympics follower, is 57A. "He won this many Olympic gold medals" MARKSPITZ [9]. He was like the BEETHOVEN of swimming!

Other answers I number among my favorites include POKE, CUTUP, CROUPIER, HAUGHTY (the word not the attitude), and ULULATES. And who doesn't like a STEIN of PABSTS' ALE? Maybe with a nice bowl of OREOOS.

I didn't figure out the clever clue "It's only half due" (UNO) until I looked at it again just now. Ha!

Two of my number one poets make it into the grid today: I love AEHOUSEMAN and Ogden NASH - panities! Plus, we have the great, if depressing, quote by Golding "Man produces EVIL as a bee produces honey."  Sigh.


I'm not a RIA fan. The same goes for UNIV, NOV, MTS, and LTCOL, but ALIF.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018, Peter A. Collins and Bruce Haight


A 'hex' of a puzzle today. :) The revealer, "Much-covered 1956 Screamin' Jay Hawkins song ... hinting at what happens three times in this puzzle's solution" (IPUTASPELLONYOU) lets us in on the secret: each of the three theme answers contains a HEX. Depending on how you feel about TOOTHEXTRACTION, MATHEXAMs, and CORNCHEX, these may all be the work of evil magicians. :) I was too preoccupied spelling CDE to notice the theme during the solve, although the unusual number of X's did make me wander.

I was charmed by some of the fill, including RATS (excellent as a lamentation, less good instantiated), RETORTS (I am always wishing I had better ones), and TACHYON, which sounds like magic.
Clues and answers I liked:
Ones making a case for drinking? (SODAS) - FANTAstic. :)
One who talks on the phone a lot (SIRI) - well, I don't actually *like* SIRI, but I liked the clue.
Make more alluring (SEXUP) - OHYES.
Flat sign (TOLET) - it works on two levels
Buffoon (ASS) - ha!
Apt name for a worrier (STU) - APT!

We also have a super natural mini theme with MOOMOO, BAA, ASPS, and ANIMALIA, not to mention the aforementioned ASS and RATS.


TOME, the clue "Lump on a trunk" (BURL) was less than enchanting.

Well, that's all for today. I've got a lot voodoo.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018, Wren Schultz


Aha, a stunt puzzle! According to the revealer at 65A, every other letter in this puzzle's grid(!) is a VOWEL. It's such a gathering of a, e, i, o, and u's that you might call it a vowel movement. Too much? The copious number of vowels (by my hasty count, 90 out of a possible 190 squares) would bankrupt your average Wheel of Fortune (TM) player, but still, the special feature escaped my notice until after I completed puzzle. Perhaps not too surprising in a Tuesday situtation.

Maybe I should mind my P's and Q's, but I thought the revealer was a little off the mark in saying every other letter in this puzzle's *grid* rather than every other letter in every *answer* is a vowel. The grid, when looked at in toto, has consecutive words that don't start and end with vowels in alternation, so, across the top we have BONO followed by ODER followed by SODA.

In other areas, I liked POPEMOBILE (Car with a bubble), DECELERATE (Slow down),  and IVOTED (Sticker worn proudly in November).


The several abbreviated answers came up short for me. I found DEREG (Loosening of government controls, for short), ELEC ("Juice": Abbr.), ELEV (Mountain fig.), and MAG (People or US, for short) a little ONED. I also thought JADES as a verb (Makes weary through overexposure) kind of odd.

Still and all, a good effort ASIS.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018, David Woolf


In today's puzzle, we get an i for an i. The first word of each two-word answer ends with an i while the second word begins with an i, resulting in EYECONTACT. To wit, my favorite, SETIINSTITUTE.

This puzzle doesn't only have i's for us. I noticed a nice round number of o's in the grid, too: LOIRE, ELMO, IGLOOS, BLOT, COM, WOMB, MOOS, ASTRO, SON, ONO, SMOOTH, COOER, and ESSO, to name just a few.

Lens not forget the rest of the puzzle. I enjoyed "Became lenient" (WENTSOFT), Stabilizing part of a ship's compass (GIMBAL - you don't see *that* every Monday), the now-rare-but-formerly-everywhere ETUI (Needle case), TITO (Remember Hot Shots!?), and the difficult (for me) to parse NOWISER (Still uniformed). Apt!

One entry does get the stink eye. We generally call the upper half of a bikini a top, not a BRA. That's just the REALTY of it.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday, April 15th, 2018, Alex Bajcz


Today's theme takes ordinary phrases containing a preposition and clues them in a way that forces a new interpretation. My favorite was DEADONARRIVAL (64A: Timely entrance?). That's a good one, but the inclusion of non-theme answers that also contain prepositions, like FLIESTO (96A: Reaches by plane), TOSSESTO (110A: Throws at), and STEPOUTOF (76D: Exit), dilutes what is already a rather weak brew.


I don't like to give overly negative reviews, but 1-Across (PFFT) kind of set the scene for this one. Odd constructions like PINCHRAN, BESOTS, ANTIRIOT, AGER, ICERUN, and ENCIPHER, didn't do the grid any favors, and the very unfortunate GOOK (39D: Proceed well enough) should not be in anyone's word list.

On the bright side, I liked the clue for LOOSETEA (58A: It's not in the bag), and I smiled thinking that one of our readers (Hi Mr. Kingdon!) will now have seen ANKA for the second day in a row, and the third time this week.

So my week is now up, and I can now look forward to reading much more entertaining reviews by my colleague, Ms. Page.

- Horace

Esteemed co-blogger Horace makes some valid points, but this puzzler did LOL on solving "Compositions often chosen for encores?" GOTOPIECES. and "Soundtrack for a brawl?" SETTOMUSIC. Ha!

I also liked SHAKEUP for "Personnel overhaul" (5A), TIP for "Opposite of stiff" (30A), and SALTMINE for "Grueling workplace, so to speak" (73A). Plus, who doesn't like a reference to the Shavian classic, "Man and Superman"?

I did not enjoy NONO (Pitcher's feat, slangily), Nonexpert (LAYMAN),  or NOSTRIL (Small breather?).  EEKS.

Oh, and Huygens, how about NOONERS?


Friday, April 13, 2018

Saturday, April 14, 2018, Sam Ezersky


I shuddered briefly when I saw Mr. Ezersky's name on this grid, because he was the constructor of the final puzzle at the ACPT this year, and that seemed like a hard puzzle. But on the other hand, the winner finished it in less than five minutes, so...
Lots of trickery and misleading in this one. Take, for example, "41D: Opposite of free" (ENSLAVE). I was thinking of free as an adjective and was looking for something like "in irons" - but no - it was a verb all along! Or "37A: Pub fixture," (ALETAP), where I tried to get fancy and dropped in "barfly." Nope. Or "57A: Fashion" (CREATE), where I was trying to think of a six-letter synonym for "style." Well... the noun "style," not the verb "style." Hah!

Other missteps included "whistles" for REDCARDS (62A: Play stoppers), "juIceD" for ROIDED (45D: Used performance-enhancing substances, in slang), and "Sailor" for SEAMAN (1D: Salt).

I'm not sure I'm totally in love with BCHORD (47D: Group of notes reflecting a five-sharp scale) (clue too tortured), or SODACANS (1A: Tabs are kept on them) (clue trying too hard), but there's a ton of stuff that I do love in here. ABDUCT (6D: Shanghai), CUPOFTEA (9D: Personal interest, metaphorically), SLAY (33D: Kill it), BELABOR (40D: Go on and on about), PESTER (18A: Nag), ... and many others.

As for MASHNOTES (11D: Expressions of affection) and DOTCODOTUK (3D: Part of a London web address), well... I've learned a couple things today.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit. I only wish CANO were clued with "Arma virumque ____." :)

- Horace

Friday, April 13, 2018, Joe Krozel


The grid today looks a lot like a fan, with tight transitions from blade to blade that are sure to rankle my co-blogger, Colum, who is not a fan of such limited connections. I didn't have too much trouble going from quadrant to quadrant, as it turned out, but I did end up groaning a bit more than I like to while solving. In the top half, for example, we have UNTAPE (2D: Begin to remove, as a diaper) - first of all, gross. Second of all, I wanted "unpin." When did we start taping diapers? And lastly, gross. And that's just the first one! We also have RESOLE (6D: Do some cobbling work on), UNNAILED (10D: Loose, in a way, as planks or siding), QUINNS (18A: Actors Aidan and Anthony), DURANGOS (14D: Dodge S.U.V.s) and PENTA. I'm ambivalent about CUSSER (1A: One talking a blue streak?) and UNMIXED (13A: Segregated) - the words themselves are not all that great, but the clues elevate them.


On the up side of the up side, I enjoyed SMOKES (3D: Defeats decisively, in slang), EXEMPT (5D: Not obligated), DRUMROLL (8D: Intro to a big announcement) and ACQUIRED TASTES (7D: & 12D: blue cheese and black coffee, typically). And GAZELLES (25A: Agile African animals) is elegant along the bottom, there.

So, kind of a split decision in the North. In the South it's a little better, with DIVEBAR (49A: Seedy establishment), HARANGUE (27D: Scold at length), DENATURE (47A: Render undrinkable, as alcohol), ANGOLA (46A: OPEC nation since 2007) (Who knew?!), BOREAL (34A: Northern), and SPARSE (42A: Not abundant) (had ScARcE for a while...), which are balanced out by ENDERS (41D: 1985 novel "____ Game"), BSTARS (34D: Rigel and Spica), and WEASELED (29D: Acted evasively).

I don't know... I guess I come out liking it more than I dislike it, but in the beginning I was doing a lot of sighing. Onward!

- Horace

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018, Jules Markey


After many weeks of "normal" Thursdays, we finally get a rebus! Four cable stations are crammed into CABLEBOXES positioned at random spots in the grid. Well, one is dead center, and two are nearly symmetrical, and the other is opposite the revealer... does that make any sense? Does it matter?


OK. Symmetry or no symmetry, I'll take it. Even though I have never had a cable box, and I've never watched anything on any of those stations except in the fleeting moments that I flipped past them in some hotel room somewhere... I am still aware of them.

I caught on very early with GLO[BET]HEATER (11D: Setting for Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"). I think it was having the GL... that made it obvious. I did not know that UGLY[BET]TY was based on a Colombian telenovela, or that it was especially popular, but again, I am somehow aware of that show, so in it went. SA[USA]GEPARTY (47A: 2016 comedy that takes place mainly in a supermarket), on the other hand, I have seen, believe it or not. It was available on Netflix and it looked so absurd that we had to see what it was all about. Honestly, it was hilarious in parts, and not a bad movie overall.

I enjoyed INAPIGSEYE (29A: "Fat chance!") and the two "Gone With the Wind" clues that crossed at the H (RHETT & OHARA), and why did I not know that IRENE was the Goddess of peace? I guess because the subject doesn't come up all that often. Ares, he's the guy we're always talking about... sigh.

There's a smattering of ISH, TUV, and SMA, and far too much YALE, but those didn't get in the way today, and I'm still chuckling thinking about those GENI[USA]TWORK signs... plus - it's a rebus! Good start to The Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wednesday, April 11, 2018, Keiran King


What a very odd theme today! Four classic musical works cross-referenced with two or three words that, when spoken together, rhyme with the name of their composers. As in, the BARBEROFSEVILLE by ROWE SCENE KNEE (Rossini), or CANONIND by PACK ELLE BELL (Pachelbel). Two other classics round it out, and I am especially happy to see SHOW PAN in there, because, as I said a few days ago, my father has started doing the puzzles, and I do not think of or hear a Chopin NOCTURNE without thinking of him and his playing of them on the upright in our house while I was growing up. (Hi Dad!)

So... I guess I like the theme. It's musical and it's ridiculous - two good things. But there sure is a lot of it! How did the rest of the puzzle turn out? Well, let's talk right away about PEE, shall we? (Sorry, Dad!) I am usually a fan of these tricky clues (like last week's somewhat controversial "Need for making soap from sap" (ANO)). Today, however, the clue "23A: What makes ale pale?" is clever and funny, but I still have a little anxiety thinking about a PEE in my ale. Too much?

I love the trivia in 55A: One of 14 lands neighboring China (LAOS) and 32A: Grp. that once plotted against Fidel Castro (CIA), and we thought for a moment that a new clue for EEL had been created (59A: Prey for a barracuda), but I checked over on and found that this is the second time this clue has appeared. And speaking of xwordinfo (Hi Jeff!), you might enjoy perusing the list of prior EEL uses in the NYTX.

Overall, I like the whole tone of this. The clues are uniformly good, there's very little junk, and it's even polite! (40D: Word of good manners (THANKS)). It is, in my opinion, a very good debut puzzle!

- Horace

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018, Alan Arbesfeld


I love this kind of theme, it's simple and effective. Noticing the strange parts of our language seems to be something that crossword constructors do well, and today Mr. Arbesfeld shows us six different combinations of letters that we use to make the same sound:

CYBERSPACE - from Greek, and most likely originally pronounced with a hard K sound.
SILENTNIGHT - from Latin, silere.
SAYONARA - from Japanese, literally: "If it is to be that way."
CITATION - from Latin, citare, and again, probably a hard(ish, at least) C originally.
SCIENCEFAIR - from Latin, scire, where it was more like "ski..."
PSYCHEDOUT - from Greek, psykhe, and I'm afraid I can't help you with that one.

How they all came to have the same pronunciation is not known to me. If our resident linguist, Frannie were doing the blog today, you might get a little lesson on the great vowel shift, or something similar, but it's me, so you're out of luck. I will say that I find it just a little odd that there's an SI right above SAYONARA that doesn't sound the same, but maybe that just helps to drive home the theme, right?


I like URBANMYTH (3D: Story debunked on, DOCENT (8D: Museum guide), and COYOTE (31D: Wild animal that yips), and SVELTE (9D: Gracefully thin) and ZILCH (12D: Nothing, informally) are fun words to see in the grid. On the "kickin' it old school" front, we have RIATA (25D: Cowboy's lasso), AERIE (47D: High home for a hawk), and ATRI (42D: Longfellow's bell town) - all words that I learned from doing crosswords. Sometimes they bother me, and sometimes I get kind of a warm feeling of nostalgia when I see old crosswordese. I think it kind of depends on how the rest of the puzzle is going. Today, the rest is right up my alley. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018, Erik Agard

0:05:26 (F.W.O.E.)

First of all, congratulations again to young Mr. Agard on winning the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this year! He finished the final puzzle - what many consider to be one of the hardest puzzles published all year - about 30 seconds faster than I finished his Monday offering today. Ah-mazing. And he finished with no errors, which is more than I can say for myself here. Sheesh! I entered SMS at "35A: Gchat exchange, for short," (IMS) and I didn't notice OHsOAN running down (24D: From Columbus or Cleveland). I think I was so relieved to have finally figured out 40A: Here's the kicker! (FOOT), that I forgot to check anything else. Not a great way to start the week, but hopefully I will have more ACCURACY in the future.


A clever theme today, with film actors whose initials are the same as the chemical symbol for silver. And there's some bonus film-industry-related fill in TAKEACUT (17A: Get 10%-15%, say) (We've been watching "Call My Agent" on Netflix recently, which is titled "Dix pour cent" (10%) in French, and it's all about talent agents. Not bad, really, and a fun way to practice your French.), AGES (36A: All ____ (what a G rating means), ADAPTS (27D: Turns from a book into a movie, say), and maybe even PIX (41A: Photos, informally).

There was some fill I thought was a little obscure for a Monday: ULTA (1D: Big name in beauty supplies) (Never heard of it), and SWAGSURF (39D: Rhythmic group dance of the 2010s) (OK, I'm old. Don't rub it in.), in particular, and I didn't love NOI (especially with the strange I duplication at SILENTI), RECS, or THX. But we're big fans of REUSABLE items, and the six-stacks in the NE and SW were nice. And really, with a constructor who's so good at solving, it might be hard for him to realize what the LIL people know and don't know, so I guess we'll cut the crossword EXPERT a little slack.

- Horace

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday, April 8, 2018, Patrick Berry


I'm happy to say that Cece has been really getting into solving crosswords. So we sat down to work on this one together. I was all excited, because Patrick Berry, am I right?

Only (blasphemy) this wasn't all that great. I mean, it's smooth and all, as befits Mr. Berry's work. But the theme... well. Clever to find seven examples of phrases that you can rotate the first letters and make new words, but only one of them made me and Cece actually giggle. Can you guess which one?

Yes, it was 60A: Description of a yeti? (PALEHAIRYMASS). This hits on all three levels of this sort of theme. First, the original phrase, "Hail Mary pass," is rock solid and common usage. Second, the clue is simple and precise, but unexpected. Third, it's just stupidly funny.

The others miss on one or the other of the requirements. I mean, THESTUCKHOPSBEER? And also, the puzzle title is little more than a straight description of the trick.

Anyway, so I was a little disappointed. But it's only because my hopes were so high. On the other hand, at least TITMICE and THIGHS were right next to each other. Perhaps Horace will be a little less severe.

- Colum

Mmmm.... reuben....  Oh, hi! It's Horace again. Feels like it's been ages since I wrote a review! And I'm not really sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Let's agree that it's both.

I like the ludicrousness of the theme answers, but they sometimes took me a long time to understand. PALEHAIRYMASS, in fact, was one that took me quite a while. I liked THEFANTATRAYSALE (106A: Best place to buy a platter of fruit-flavored sodas?) (OK, that's weak), partly because my Dad just started doing the NYT puzzles this week, and I thought he might like that the un-spoonerized phrase is the Santa Fe Trail. He's really more of an Oregon Trail man, but... well... and he might also enjoy THESTUCKHOPSBEER (again, wow...) because I'm pretty sure he's visited Harry Truman's house.

Anywho.. aside from the theme, we do have some nice long fill, including the tricky PENALCODE (83D: Rules for forming sentences), the amusingly straightforward TRASHPILE (2D: It's a bunch of garbage) (I had TRASHheap for a short time), and ABSTAINED (82D: Stayed sober) is a nice word, even if it isn't always such a fun activity. :) 37A: Chill in the cooler (DOTIME) was tricky, and USURY (16D: There's enormous interest in it) was very good.

Overall, it was ok. How's that for less severe? Perhaps tomorrow I can be more FLORID.

- Horace

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018, Mark Diehl


Fun and zingy. First off, who knew that COFFEEMATE was a Nestlé product? But more, I am amused at the way we PRECESS from a non-dairy creamer to an ONIONBAGEL, and finish it off with a BEERGARITA. I am a fan of most things alcoholic, but I'd almost certainly draw the line at that last option.

The high point of the puzzle came at the crossing of ZENOSPARADOX (such lovely Scrabble scoring there) and IMNOEXPERT. I also love the peculiar look right in that area of DOUP and RUBRAW.

What do people think about such answers as MENUPAGES? Is this a real thing? I mean, yes, you might actually say it in specific circumstances, but on the whole it feels manufactured for the puzzle, IMO. The clue was nicely misleading though: "They're flipped at diners." Similar feelings could be broached about FAIRDICE. It seems like those are just "dice." The ones you need to qualify are the loaded ones.

But really, I'm just picking nits. My favorite moment of confusion in my mind came at 46D: "Hundo". I was convinced this was a nickname of a famous Boston sports player. It wasn't until after I finished the puzzle that I realized I was thinking of "Hondo," which was John Havlicek's nickname. The clue itself was actually pointing to CNOTE. Sometimes we all can suffer from TETANY of the mind.

Strange fact: ONEAL and ONEA are in the same puzzle, and have no relation to each other.

We're all keeping our fingers crossed for an entertaining Sunday puzzle!

- Colum

Friday, April 6, 2018

Friday, April 6, 2018, David Steinberg


We've had a rash of extra-sized puzzles this week. Today's is a 16 x 15, allowing for some fun new long entries in the dual triple stacks. And let's just take a look at those doozies, shall we? In typical fashion, I will rank from favorite to... well, less favorite.

1. THATSWHATSHESAID. I love that it's clued as "Sophomoric". I'm not sure Mr. Steinberg is too much older than a college Sophomore. But mostly because it reminds me of The Office.
2. HELICOPTERPARENT. What a great clue: Someone who cares too much? Very nice.
3. DOYOUWANTTODANCE. Not my favorite Beach Boys song by a long shot, but anything by the Beach Boys is still worth a nod.
4. STANDINGOODSTEAD. I keep on misparsing that answer to "standing oodstead."
5. SONICDEPTHFINDER. I had difficulty here because I put SONar in place and had a hard time realizing it wasn't right.
6. ARUNFORONESMONEY. It's only at the bottom because of "one's," which is so impersonal. "A run for your money" sounds more natural.

Meanwhile, there are several nice extra entires, including EZPASSLANE which I got off of the E, and which really helped open up the bottom half of the puzzle. I also liked MERCILESS and WARBABIES. Oh, and LEVIATHAN is a wonderful answer.

How many of you fell for 27D: Thread holder (SCREW) by putting in Spool? I've even seen this before and I still fell for it. That S made it seem so reasonable as well. It was made harder by the tough clue at 34A: Stops streaming (CLOTS). I so wanted something to do with Netflix.

Any time you stack long answers like this, you have to resort to some junk to make it hold together. The only ones I really didn't like were PSF (surely we use pounds per square inch far more frequently?) and ETDS (I just don't think you can really pluralize that). And in the category of surprisingly good clues for crossword glue, please applaud for 59D: Teens fight, for short (WWI). Man, I didn't see that coming.

- Colum

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thursday, April 5, 2018, David J. Kahn


What a beautiful day for a ball game. Let's play two!

When I was a kid, I used to spin fantasies of the Red Sox winning the World Series (seemed impossible back then). Invariably, it would come down to exactly this situation. BOTTOMOFTHENINTH, BASESLOADED, TWOMENOUT, FULLCOUNT, DOWNBYTHREE. And Jim Rice would stride to the plate. Or sometimes it was Dewey Evans. Anyway... Pow! There it goes!

Let's just forget I had to wait another 20 years or so to see the Sox actually win it all.

Anyway, it's Spring, based on the calendar. It's 36 degrees outside, based on reality. The Sox are in extras right now in Boston against the Rays, so the game is AFOOT. The jokes in today's puzzle are definitely groaners. My favorite has to be 17A: Bass part in Beethoven's "Choral" Symphony? Some extra theme material today include Mr. Nolan RYAN, NYMET, STL, and TEN, the astonishing number of World Series rings owned by Yogi Berra as a player.

Some good clues today. I particularly like 10D: Met demands? (ARIAS). I'm less fond of 5D: Need for making soap from sap? (ANO). To that, I say MEH!

Actually, can you say "meh" with an exclamation point? That seems to be the exact opposite of its meaning.

I am amused that KAFKA crosses FATES, especially when clued with such a fatalistic quotation.

On the whole, although I enjoyed solving this puzzle, it felt more like a Wednesday offering. I'm still waiting for Thursday to regain its tricksiness.

On to the turn!

- Colum

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wednesday, April 4, 2018, Weird Al Yankovic and Eric Berlin


The master of cheesy satires and groaningly bad puns pens a puzzle replete with cheesy puns on movie titles?

I say yes, yes, and yes again.

My favorite is probably THEPELICANBRIE, because that's ludicrous. But all four are strong, if somewhat dated, examples of moviedom, and all four have, well... gouda puns. Cheddar kidding!

I might note that the inclusion of CLEESE brings to mind the best comedy sketch ever devised from an exhaustive listing of cheeses. And his name rhymes with it as well.

Other Weird Al related entries include:

  • LEHRER: the ur-master of satiric songs.
  • CLEF
  • TUNE - three musical terms
  • ASCAP - having to do with songwriting
  • CORN, for obvious reasons
It might even be possible that ALDENTE is a reference.

And then you get 46D: Rug you don't walk on (TOUPEE). Hah! Clearly, Mr. Yankovic and Mr. Berlin crated this puzzle very Caerphilly.

- Colum

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tuesday, April 3, 2018, Damon Gulczynski

5:29 (FWTE)

The curse of crosswordese fell on my head with a vengeance today. Somehow I looked at 21A: Bearded beast, and came up with emU. The funny thing is, I had the N in place from IRENE, and was pretty sure about the U in TITUS, but still I took the N out to put a very non-bearded bird in the place of a classically bearded GNU.


Meanwhile, Mr. Gulczynski, wow! Eight theme answers in a 16 x 16 puzzle, and even more remarkably, those theme answers include two Qs, one X, eight Ys, and four Ks. All of the theme answers are strong enough, with NETFLIXQUEUE winning the blue ribbon. Finally, the last words are all homonyms for letters, which taken in order spell out Q-U-I-C-K-L-Y, thus the revealer, THINKQUICKLY.

There are a ton of proper names, which was likely necessitated by the density of theme. But overall the grid is remarkably smooth. I might put up a FUSSES when encountering EAUX, and I might say OOF to entries like ATS, but honestly, I'm not that concerned. I enjoyed the puzzle, and we got some nice bonus with SCULPTOR, referring to Rodin, who certainly made one of the STEAMIER pieces of art in The Kiss.

Thus having gone hither and YON across the grid, I'm done.


- Colum

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018, Jason Mueller


An excellent intro to the NYT crossword for beginners. I liked not just the five major attractions in PARISFRANCE that made up the theme, but the extra theme related entries such as 24D: Grand ____ (cultural trip around Europe) (TOUR) and 39D: "Vous êtes içi" ("You ___ here") (ARE). The latter was sadly not true in the way I wanted it to be. As Liz Lemon would say, "I want to go to there!"

And now for the ranking of said attractions. Your mileage may vary, of course.

1. THELOUVRE. There can be really no question about this one.
2. NOTREDAME. Such an iconic piece of architecture. I also enjoyed climbing into the bell tower and seeing the gargoyles up close.
3. PONTNEUF. Central, with wonderful views up and down the Seine.
4. EIFFELTOWER. A tourist trap, which is more than can be said for...
5. SORBONNE. Not exactly a tourist attraction at all. Other than the fact that it's on the Rive Gauche?

But really, how much more wonderful could it get to be in Paris at all? The answer, of course, is NONE. None more wonderful.

Anyway, it's a smooth grid, with some nice bonus entries, such as KINGMINOS and SAFETYNET. I'm not convinced by FES (I wanted to spell it with a Z, but I see it spelled both ways on the Google). Otherwise, color me TONES of impressed.

- Colum

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sunday, April 1, 2018, Sam Ezersky

1+1 = 5

Well, the math just didn't add up for this solver. I couldn't figure out the rebus. A big problem for me was that there weren't many of the theme answers that I was sure enough of to force the issue. And, I had errors like DEmI instead of DECI (Prefix with liter) that compounded the problem by obscuring the ones I might have known (L[AND]OCALRISSIAN, for example). For all I knew, oCAL____ was some obscure "Heroic figure in "Star Wars" films that I was unaware of. The final contributing factor is that I ran out of time. We had an early lunch with the family today, and then saw a production of "Yeomen of the Guard" which took up most of the day. And, as I have to hand off to esteemed co-reviewer Colum Amory today, I thought I'd better get a move on, so I got Horace to tell me the trick.

And, it's a nice trick. I wish I had gotten it. Each rebus square has five letters, all of which figure in the across answer and the two of which, the first and last, figure in the down answers. So 23A is KIDINAC[AND]YSTORE and 7D, which crosses at the [AND], is MAC[AND]YS.  Sweet. :)


After looking at, and failing to come up with anything for 20A. 2018 N.C.A.A. football champs (ALABAMA), I now realize my goal of memorizing all sports teams, mascots, and stadia isn't going ambitious enough. It looks like I am going to need to memorize all sports results, too. It's lucky I'm turning this over to Mr. Amory today. I've got a lot of work to do.


I figured this one out at the crossing of PA[PA]CY and [P[AND]A]EXPRESS. I knew I wanted the first one down, but couldn't figure out what "Pa Express" might be. It's the clever addition of the "+" sign to mean "and" that fills in the remainder.

I had a very gloomy period of time staring at the NW, where I had confidently put deKES in; my confidence was falsely upheld by those correct last three letters. Worse yet, I tried irAN for OMAN. Thus, 1A was the most excellent dARFRiM for a while. Not to mention that football powerhouse eLABArA.

Anyway, I love 40A: One doing the lord's work (SERF) - note the lower case "lord". And I'll accept EREADER because of the excellent clue: 119A: Device many use in bed.

I know I've got huge shoes to fill this week. BRAVA, Frannie!

- Colum