Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday, June 30, 2018, Andy Kravis

44:30 FWOE

I flailed at the cross between 3D. Really Trounce and 32A. Director of 2018's "A Wrinkle in Time." I didn't know Ms. Duvernay's first name (AVADUVERNAY), and, even though I had all but one letter filled in at 3D (EATALI_E), I could not properly parse it. I kept asking myself, eat a what? Running the alphabet didn't help, although it is just barely possible that I didn't give the end of the last five letters their full due. I blame the heat.

Despite my momentary lack of ACUITY, I thought it was a solid Saturday solve. I got some entries right away, including the northwest corner, which, on second thought, was perhaps not to my advantage, but made me feel like I was getting somewhere. But then things like "German wine made from late-harvest grapes (SPATLESE), which I've never heard of, and "Churro ingredient? (ROLLEDR) one of those spelling-referential clues which always trick me, provided some good challenges.

The south west contained some of my least favorite across answers; I dislike the word LOGY - it just sounds gross to me - and I couldn't get EXCITED about ORSNBA, or SSW. On the other hand, I love ADORBS and JIGSAW puzzles. INALL, I thought


I've never heard the term BROTOX, but I thought it was funny. I am often amused by names for "male" versions of things thought to be typically associated with females, like murse and manziere. I thought the clue "Bar food?" for GRANOLA was clever.  I also liked DWELLCONSTANTINE, and BYJOVE. INALL, I thought ARCHRIVAL for "Primary competitor" was APTEST.


Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday, June 29, 2018, David Steinberg


I finished all but the southwest in under 20 minutes, but was foiled by my lack of knowledge of the guinea pig's family tree (CAPYBERA), Hannibal's foe in the Second Punic War (SCIPIO), the Christian name of CRISTIANORONALDO, some over thinking about the structure of the national legislature of Israel (it is Friday after all) (ISRAELIS), and no memory of Paul RYAN as Romney's 2012 running mate, even after I cried uncle and Horace gave me his name. AARGH. Plus, I was pressed for time. We had another engagement this evening and got home at 10PM EDT with the review as yet unwritten. TRES MAL.

The two 3-stacks of sixteens make a powerful statement in the grid. I thought the bottom three lacked afflatus - Sr. Ronaldo excepted, of course. My favorite of the six was IMAGINARYFRIENDS. My least favorite, BADABINGBADABOOM. For some reason, I've never liked that saying, but I did think it was funny that it was clued simply as "Violà".

Other fun fill includes NAENAE, SLURPEES, AMULET, and DISTRO. I thought Memorable line? was a clever clue for SCAR. I also liked seeing GRETNA Green in the puzzle. It brings to mind "Pride and Prejudice," which is never a bad thing. I didn't remember seeing it in a puzzle before so I looked it up on the RICH XWord Info site that we all LEANON in cases like this and found that it was last seen in 2008. It seems to have been more popular in the pre-Shortz era.


With any luck, I hope I'll be more ONTARGET tomorrow.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thursday, June 28, 2018, Jeff Chen

Untimed, due to a multi-device solve (see below)

Sorry so late with the review today. Horace and I had to attend the farewell party for the outgoing president of Harvard University tonight and we are just back home. I started the puzzle this morning, but didn't finish it right away and couldn't get back to it during the day. Horace brought his phone to tonight's event so I was able to work on the puzzle while we waited for the show to start.

And what a show it was. John Lithgow emceed, Lawrence O'Donnell announced President Faust's popularity ratings - the highest since Charles William Eliot back in aught nine, Conan O'Brien and Martin Sheen sent video messages of congratulations, and Wynton Marsalis blew the lid off the joint to top things off. The programme was followed by an all-out reception with free flowing libations, a swinging dance floor, and a take-home souvenir glass with the #28 on it. You've got some big shoes to fill #29.

Anyhoo, it's the puzzle that should TAKEC[ENTER]STAGE, not my personal TAUs and FROS. I thought today's theme was both clever and well executed. One has to input [ENTER] between other letters to complete the theme answers, at which point, the rest of the answer drops to the next line, as if the ENTER key had been pressed. My favorite was, of course, 32A: In sci-fi, it had the registry number NCC-1701 (USS[ENTER]PRISE). CHICK[ENTER]IYAKI added the bonus feature of splitting ENTER across two words.

The grid contained a lot of other ATTRACTANT fill including CEASE, FREESPIRITS, SITSPAT, SERAPE, TYPHOON, THANES, and SCYTHE, clued amusingly with "Wheat whacker." Ha! "Shortening in the kitchen?" (TSP) was clever, and I thought the clue "Bread common to many countries" (EURO) ERAT de bon TON aussi. Too much?


There were a DUSTERS in the grid like ETYM, CSIS, CPA, STR, and CEES, but otherwise, nothing to really RUE. 


Gratuitous Airplane! clip.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday, June 27, 2018, Ned White


If 57A and the Wikipedia are to be believed, sometime between 2004 and 2005 entrepreneur and then company president, Sean Parker advised Mark Zuckerberg to change the name of his nascent social media platform from The Facebook, to just Facebook, saying succinctly, we imagine, DROPTHETHE. Some may well wonder what impact that original The might have had on the success of Facebook had it been retained. I'll EAVE that to the experts.

Today's four theme answers also took Mr. Parker's advice, dropping the "the" from common phrases, leaving in their absence phrases that are made sense of (so to speak) thanks to carefully constructed clues. So, CUTTOCHASE becomes an "Early 'Saturday Night Live' camera command." My favorite is WHATSMATTER (Basic query to a physicist?). I bet that never gets ODE.

In other AREAs, I liked:
Lays flat (KOS) - nice ambiguous cluing.
Founded: Abbr. (ESTAB) - sounds more like a menacing tweet to me.
Yarn unit (SKEIN) - I misread this clue at first as "Yam unit" and wanted tuber - ha!
Its alphabet goes from Alfa to Zulu (NATO) - I like any alphabet, really.
Squalid (RATTY) - As Auntie Mame might say, "how vivid."
Calmer, in brief (TRANQ) - I prefer tranquilizer truncated with a Q.

I tried to find another reference to Airplane! in the puzzle today, to keep the theme alive, but it wasn't easy. The closest I could get was 37D. "Bloated, say" (GASSY) - more for the clue than the answer.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Zhouqin Burnikel


Today's theme provided another reminder of Airplane! the movie - as if I needed another reminder; I probably quote from that movie at least once a day.  The revealer ALTOGETHER figures in a bit when Striker says, "it's an entirely different kind of flying altogether," and then the doctor and flight attendant, to whom he is speaking, say in unison, "it's an entirely different kind of flying." That never gets old. :)

But, I digress. In each of the five theme answers the letters AL appear twice in a row. HALALFOOD and IAMMALALA are two examples. I was more surprised by the number of U's in KUALALUMPUR than in double ALs, if I'm honest. Happily, the crosses corrected my misspellings before I FWOED.  My favorite of the theme entries, for both clue and answer was Spaced out (INLALALAND). In league with La La Land we also have Otherworldly glow (AURA) 😇, Rainbows (ARC) 🌈, and a UNICORN 🦄.

Other fill I liked included OMNIBUS, SIDLES, DAFT, and BINS.


The clue at 64A. Part of the body that's spanked (REAR) raised an eyebrow, but maybe that's just my native prudishness. It seemed a bit harsh, so to speak, when there are plenty of other ways (64 in the Shortz era alone, according to XWord Info) to clue it, only two of which reference spanking. I guess AMA person who would rather AIR on the side of things that AMUSE.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018, Kathy Wienberg


As hinted by the revealer, a solver could ADDTOCART the beginnings of today's four theme answers (TEAGARDEN, SHOPPINGLIST, GOLFTOURNAMENTS, and APPLESTRUDEL), which could, perhaps, more succinctly summarized as types of carts. :)

The non-theme fill runs the gamut from FIFI (Classic name for a poodle) to STAN Lee of Marvel Comics. The two long downs, CARPIPANTS and SOLARPANEL both nicely evoke warmer weather. As does OUZO, at least for me, because I first tasted it during a trip to Greece in my youth - my drinking-age-appropriate youth, naturally. I was amused by 7D. Acquire a winter coat? (ICEUP) and I enjoyed 67A. "Hold the ___" (deli order) (MAYO) because it reminded me of an excellent bit from the movie Airplane!, which, incidentally, as you probably all remember, included a nod to the movie "JAWS" (yesterday's puzzle theme) in the opening credits. But, my favorite clue/answer pair today was 54D. "Speed reader" (RADAR). Ha!


I liked the apt clue and answer pairs throughout this puzzle. My only PEEVE was MIFFS for "Rubs the wrong way," which ruffled my feathers a little.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday, June 24, 2018, Timothy Polin

Creature Feature

I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew; I’m on tap to review today’s puzzle and I’ve never even seen the movie JAWS (1975 summer blockbuster). Luckily, as it turned out, there wasn’t much theme-related fill beyond AMITYISLAND that required the expert knowledge of an OLDHAND. The popup info screen even gave away the puzzle's added component – an image that would be revealed when a line was drawn connecting five appropriate squares. The squares that filled the bill each contained the apt rebus FIN, including the extra apt DORSAL[FIN]. 49D. “Pixielike” EL[FIN] first clued me into the rebus. I was glad it did, as the blade of the “fin” had been giving me some trouble until then.

The puzzle contains a lot of excellent theme fill, but the form of the grid itself was also used to excellent theme advantage. The line of black squares in the middle represent the surface of the ocean under which lurks, dead center, the GREAT WHITE SHARK, in very good company with SEAMONSTER and WATERHAZARD on the left and on the DEEPTHREAT and REELBIGFISH on the right. Quite sharp! Above water line we find SPEILBERG on the left and MANEATING on the right. I found the symmetry and balance of the theme answers very pleasing.

Maybe the theme could be expanded to include SALTBATH (Bit of hydrotherapy) and CASPER, the great white friendly ghost as well. :)
In addition to the extensive theme-related fill, there were other clues to sink one’s teeth into. I liked both INERTGAS and GEARBOX in the northeast. GLIB, MALIGN, and FRAZZLES are nice words.

I also liked the clue “Mother or sister” for NUN, DEAFEAR (Metaphor for deliberate ignorance], and CAB for Hack.

Some clues did put me off my chum. I thought DREADS clued as a plural noun instead of a verb was weird. I have a lot of dreads? I also don’t think of HUFFINESS as an especially “Peevish quality,” but  maybe I just have to go back to school.

I gnashed my teeth when I realized the answer to 114D “Oscar ____ (Hollywood honor, informally) was going to be NOM. That abbreviation gets my Speedo in a bunch.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday, June 23, 2018, Byron Walden


Pride goeth before a fall, or so they say. Or if you're Shakespeare, you say "Pride went before, ambition follows him." Which, come to think of it, has nothing to do with my point.

My point? Oh, right. After slamming Friday to the ground, I found myself much less in tune with Mr. Walden's Saturday offering. I had to work a good deal harder today. Which is good. I like a challenge!

I broke in with a couple of gimmes in the NW corner, EDU and SOUS. But no luck from there. Even putting ARETE, that classic bit of crosswordese and then guessing 8D: Ones hoping for prior approval? (ABBOTS) wasn't enough to get things going.

It took 16D: Childlike personality? (CELEBRITYCHEF), a simply excellent bit of cluing, to open up the southern half of the puzzle. The 15-letter answers in this puzzle are also very good. I particularly like RADICALFEMINIST, although I don't think you have to be all that radical to be a "fierce opponent of patriarchy".

Other excellent clues today include:

42A: They're answered once and for all (FAQS) - brilliant! Everybody gets the single answers in one of these.
25A: One "whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be," per Ambrose Bierce (CYNIC). Pithy.
23A: Be down with (HAVE). I think this is referring to being ill?
26D: Express carefully (COUCH).

Very nice Saturday.

- Colum

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018, Andrew Kingsley


Sometimes you're just on a constructor's wavelength. Nothing seemed to cause much difficulty for me today. Or perhaps it was just an easier than usual Friday themeless. That being said, there's a ton of fun stuff today.

I knew things would go well when I dropped in both 1A: Something to keep a watch on (WRIST) and 1D: Fan sound (WHIR) without a thought. Those are both nice misdirects, but it is the middle of the turn, and we're on the lookout. 14A: Like much of Shakespeare's and Sappho's love poetry (HOMOEROTIC) is very nice, and fitting given my blogging proclivities this week. But it would have been trickier if they'd left Sappho out of the clue.

TELEPROMPTER and POSTRACIAL were also both easy to get, once the first four letters were filled in from the rest of the NW. I dropped the entire central section very quickly, and exited with DRAFTKINGS.

I particularly like 25D: Some late-night viewing (STARGAZING). No television needed. And 21D: They can swing left or right (PURPLESTATES) is also very nicely done. I finished in the NE, where 16A: Show of hands? (TIME) stumped me for a while. I'm still not sure about 30A: Hunk (GOB). Anybody have a reason why these two words equal each other?

Anyway, I enjoyed solving this one. Looking forward to tomorrow!

- Colum

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018, Milo Beckman and David Steinberg


O brave new world, that has such puzzles in't!

First, we get the shape, which comes in at 17 x 13. At 221 total squares, it's 4 squares fewer than our standard 15 x 15, but allows for a different kind of setup.

The theme is brilliant today. Every evenly numbered row contains answers that can only be considered complete by adding a color to the front of the word. Each row's answers require the same colors, so that you have [RED]EYES, [RED]CARPET, and [RED]BARON in row two. The six colors represented are the primary and secondary colors, and they are ordered as they appear in the rainbow from top to bottom. Sadly, indigo is left out, but we'll all agree that we have a hard time distinguishing that color from its neighbors blue and violet (here purple).

It is impressive fitting 16 theme answers, and all so close together. All told, 90 squares are theme answers, which, with the 12 black squares necessary in those rows, make up 46% of the available real estate in the grid. That has to be a record in the NYT, I would think. All of the answers are recognizable as well, which is nice. I particularly like [BLUE]MEANIES and [ORANGE]BITTERS.
Not the correct HYDE park
In exchange, of course, there is a ton of not so great glue in the fill. I will point at 8D-10D, next to 24D as examples: MPG EEO NTSB ICC. That are a ton of abbr. ltrs. GRU GRO SAK. Oof.

Still, overall, I think the puzzle OWNSIT, and I enjoyed solving. Here's to more atypicality at the Grey Lady!

- Colum

*** Having read commentary elsewhere, I see the colors are meant to represent the rainbow flag, not the rainbow. Thus Purple instead of Indigo and Violet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018, Jeffrey Wechsler


Sometimes, no matter how positive you want to be, you are faced with a bit of ALGA at 1 Across.

Fortunately, there is much left in the puzzle after you put 1A in. Today, Mr. Wechsler has provided us with five examples of phrases with a word in them with the "OU" diphthong. Dropping the O has created a new set of silly phrases. My favorite is 37A: TV bleep? (CURSECORRECTION). How à propos. How, shall we say, apt? I was also amused by CURTREPORTERS.

PALACECUP is not as clever, nor is PROPERNUN (how many nuns are there who are improper, outside of Maria from The Sound of Music? And maybe Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act? Both of whom are hardly actual nuns?). Still, the concept is very nice, and I liked the collection overall, especially without an otherwise unneeded revealer.

We just saw a CAPER movie this past weekend, and it was delightful froth, featuring several actresses I enjoy watching. I wanted "heist" there, which held me up momentarily. Probably my favorite clue and answer today came at 29A: Spring sound (BOING). Yes, precisely. The other excellent one came at 66A: What teens do that most twentysomethings don't (GROW).

So, looking back over this slim volume of my critique, I wonder if I'd stopped after the first line, would anything have been missed? Only you can tell, oh my handful of faithful readers, my unHORDElike following.

- Colum

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018, Peter Gordon


I figured out, after it was all over, that on the first day of the 2018 ACPT, I sat across the aisle from Mr. Gordon for the morning's solving. I would have tipped my hat to him, had I known who he was, and had I been wearing a hat. Which I almost never do, honestly. So there's that.

The revealer today, innovatively split and placed in the extreme east and west zones, is TRIGGER / WARNING. I won't go on an extended rant about this newfangled business. I recognize that there are people who have gone through traumatic experiences for whom discussion of related topics will cause distress, a la PTSD. But when, as in the experience of one of my daughters, a college satire magazine feels it must publish trigger warnings without any sense of irony involved, the practice has conceivably gotten out of hand.

Um, so that was a little extended. My apologies.

But in the lovely little make-believe land of the crossword, here, the warning is just that the theme answers have actual firearms repurposed for their phrases. Which is amusing, because discussion of such items could in fact cause some people to feel triggered, given the current state of affairs in the ole U S of A.

RIDESSHOTGUN is not a great example of repurposing. I feel certain that the phrase originated because the non-driver of, say, a Western Union mail carriage, would in fact hold the firearm for the purpose of defense. And in fact, I am correct. The other two theme answers, however, holster their weapons more secretively. BAZOOKABUBBLEGUM in particular was lovely to see all the way down the center.

I liked much of the rest of the puzzle. Your ORDERER, HRS, DDR aside, there's the lovely ALLSPICE above ZOOTOPIA (a blast of a movie), symmetric to FIREPLUG and ROUSSEAU. And who doesn't like a good WANGLE now and again? Unfortunately, there were really no clues to EMUS us, though.

And scene.

- Colum

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday, June 18, 2018, Ross Trudeau


Our thanks to my esteemed colleague, Mr. Horace Fawley, Esq., for another week of entertaining and edifying reviews. And, as he so eloquently put it, our thanks to our dozens (tens? handful?) of loyal and persevering readers, without whom... without whom, we would have no readers, I suppose.

Every now and then, dear readers, I find myself waxing philosophical about this PASTIME of ours. Within the walls of this blessed plot, this grid, this realm, this... well, this puzzle, most commonly numbering only fifteen squares a side, roam the unfettered imaginations of our noble constructors. Drawing from fabled realms as far removed as ancient CANAAN and sunny WAIKIKI, crossing a MACADAMIA from far Oceania with the mundane ACORNS, reminding us of great personages such as ISAAC Asimov while also teasing us with TANIA Raymonde, each doth bestride the puzzle like a colossus!

I guess my point is that this is all in good fun. And even when a grid TEEMS with items such as EKING or AMAT (which this one really doesn't), it's usually worth it for a moment of relaxation away from the terrifying headlines and other flotsam and jetsam of the real world.

So, yeah. Fun theme, and I needed the revealer to see the connections. I'd quibble slightly with the inclusion of PHONEJACK, as that is so clearly related to calling someone up, but there's probably little way to include "phone" at the start of a word that doesn't. And UNICOLOR seems ad hoc to me. Is it? It certainly googles, but I don't think it's common usage.

But these are quibbles. Let us gather our rosebuds while we may (to quote a different other chap, but from the same time period).

- Colum

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sunday, June 17, 2018, Erik Agard, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


Boy, this was a fun one! And one where the revealer truly did reveal the trick to me. Before getting to it, I had entered the names as rebuses, and even though I saw that they were kind of copied in the Down answers and I sensed that something wasn’t quite right, I wasn’t sure what to do until it was spelled out to me with LASTONESTANDING. Excellent.

There was a bit of an older vibe with the theme answers, and it carried over into the fill in 6D: Arts-and-crafts kit trendy in the 1970s-‘80s (SHRINKYDINKS). We never got any, but I sure remember the ads for them that would run during the Saturday morning cartoons!
Happily, this crossword provided several audible AHAS for this solver. Well, chortles anyway. How about 89D: One who cries “Uncle!”? (AUNT), or 63D: Nursing facility? (MAMMARYGLAND)? Shocking! And what about 27A: ____-backwards (ASS)?!
The long Down material contains TONS of great material. SMALLWORLD (37D: “Huh, you know him, too?!”), TAKETOTHEHILLS (50D: Flee), TIDINGS (42D: News), BROCADE (14D: Upholsterer’s fabric), the full ANNODOMINI, and even POPULAROPINION (13D: In view?).
There were lots of names I didn’t know, and most were crossed fairly, but where two crossed each other, I ended up with a mistake. I know the song “Little Latin LUPE Lu” through Jonathan Richman, who mentions the title in another song, but I had never seen it written down, and I didn’t know the “Ernest who wrote ‘Ready Player One,’” so my guess of LUPI went uncorrected until after the buzzer had sounded. DRAT! Still, I really enjoyed this one. That makes two Sundays in a row I’ve liked. It might be a record!
I understand Frannie has brokered another week-swap, so Colum will be taking the reins for the next seven days. And 'though we don't say it enough, we always mean it - Thanks for reading, and Happy puzzling!
- Horace

Saturday, June 16, 2018, Sam Trabucco

0:15:36 (F.W.T.E.)

I recognize that they're probably including a few puzzles with soccer references because the World Cup is going on, I just wish I had paid more attention to 10D: Argentine soccer star, informally (LEOMESSI) before I finished filling in the grid. See, I had guessed THEzOnE for 21A: Former reality TV show first hosted by Anderson Cooper (THEMOLE), and then never went back to verify the soccer star or 12D: Be hot, which, as it turns out, was not BOIn. Sigh... but the rest of this went pretty quickly for a Saturday, I thought.


The verticals in the NW were great - ABCISLANDS (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), ZEROTOHERO, EGOBOOSTER - even if they did have to be anchored by a car name at 1A. And as much as I enjoy the convenience of Netflix, I still don't love seeing a big advertisement right through the middle. IOBJECT!

I was temporarily fooled by 10A: Letters before Q (LGBT), where I cringed and entered "mnop" at first (I should have known better!), and at 40A: 9-Down (SUSHI) selection (AHI), I tried "eel," but that didn't last long.

Funny to see ONFLEEK (48A: Flawlessly styled, in modern slang) on top of VIAVENETO (53A: Major thoroughfare in Rome).

Fun clues today included:

56A: Real lifesavers (ANTIDOTES) - excellent
26A: Hero of New Orleans (POBOY) - Got me!
44A: Embiggen (ENLARGE) - It's perfectly cromulent.
57A: Tub-thump (ORATE) - "Tub-thump." Hah!

Oh what the heck, here's a nice LEOMESSI goal in GIF format. Enjoy!

- Horace

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018, Sam Ezersky


A fun Friday from Mr. Ezersky today. The staggered answers in the middle were particularly nice, I thought, with MADMAGAZINE (30A: Pac-Man was its "Man of the Year" in 1982) (this was my second guess, with no crosses, after "Time Magazine" was too long), DOOMSDAYCLOCK (32A: It counts down to disaster) (first answer, no crosses. It's been in the news a little too much recently.), and DOTHEHUSTLE (35A: Perform a disco dance) (needed a few for this one). I also enjoyed the full AGAKHAN (6A: Muslim V.I.P.), DOLLOPS (32D: Large spoonfuls) (good word), and COERCE (39D: Pressure). And who doesn't love any reference to music (GCLEFS) or beautiful river names (WABASH) (the main tributary to the OHIO)? From the all-knowing Wikipedia I learn that the WABASH was derived from "the Miami-Illinois word for the river, waapaahsiiki, meaning "it shines white," "pure white," or "water over white stones," a reference to the clarity of the river where it ran across the famous Indiana limestone. The same limestone used in the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, Yankee Stadium, and 35 of the 50 state capitol buildings. Balancing out the positive Native American reference is FTROOP.

I was unhappy to learn the word SWOLE (18D: Very muscular, in slang), I know nothing at all about OTCSTOCK, and there were a few other answers to which I gave a little eye roll as I filled them in - IONGUN, ICEMAN, ACETALAPIA, and ARR, in particular. But HEMMED (23D: Spoke with hesitation) was unusual in a good way, PHOENICIA was fun, and I guess overall I'll give this one a thumbs up.

- Horace

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018, Joe Krozel


An eleven-word word ladder today, with first, middle, and last anchor points giving ROLL CALL VOTE. Word ladders are kind of cool, but they make for kind of an anti-climactic puzzle. Nobody likes seeing "Fifth word ..." as a clue, and to have it happen over and over again is, well, not the greatest. Still, the ladder of ROLL, POLL, PALL, PALM, CALM, CALL, MALL, MALE, MATE, MOTE, VOTE is a pretty nice stunt. It's all symmetrical too, which I guess it would have to be... so let's just appreciate that for a minute.


OK, now what about the fill? For once I was not fooled by 21A: Start to instigate? (LETTERI). Full disclosure, I had the L from REEL, which helped. Nor was I stumped for very long by 31D: Source of multicolored Maos (WARHOL), but I needed a lot of crosses for ACACIA (30D: Gum arabic source). Who knew?

Frannie enjoyed finding some ROYALBLOOD in her family tree a while back (though, I think it was on the wrong side of the sheets, as it were), and LOVERSLEAP is a nice evocative term. I didn't love seeing CHOKECOLLAR right there in the middle, and SEMIARID is, well, a little SEMIARID.

The "name down the center" (well, near-center, as this is a 16 column puzzle) continues today with the first name of artist WILLEM de Kooning. I'm a fan of art in general, and de Kooning is a fine practitioner of same, so thumbs up there. How long can they keep it up, one wonders?

In the SW, the entries IVANI and DANDD look odd one on top of the other, and I applaud the audacity. Overall, a word ladder on a Thursday is always going to be a bit of a let-down, but I can still find things to enjoy.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018, Michael Hawkins

0:11:02 (F.W.O.E.)

Mr. Hawkins sews up a tidy theme today with expressions making reference to the textile arts. Or at least they could be interpreted as doing so. I question only MOVETHENEEDLE (39A: Have measurable impact), because I think it might refer to audio recording. But that's beside the point, because it still works. I notice only now, sadly, that all expressions are clued in the present tense. As I was solving, I saw that 27A could be filled in as LOStTHETHREAD (if you didn't read the clue, that is), and it took me forever to find that mistake, as I did not know Ma RAINEY. Sigh. Not all that great for me to start the week with two mistakes in two puzzles!

Still, I had fun today. Right off the bat we have the amusing ACHOO (1A: Cause for a blessing) - with no question mark! And speaking of that, here's something that might make you change your mind about me as a person. When I started a new job a while ago, I told the people that I would be working beside that I neither said "bless you" to anyone after a sneeze, nor did I expect it to be said to me if I sneezed. It just seems so absurd. One person has complied (although I'm not entirely sure if it's compliance or complete disinterest), but the other hasn't, and of course I still say thank you when it is said...

Where was I? I seem to have lost the thread. :)

22D: Net asset? (GOALIE) was amusing, and 38A: Gives hands down? (DEALS) was a nice surprise. And what about 4D: Reactions to buffets? (OWS)? You don't encounter "buffet" as a noun meaning "a blow with the hand or fist" very often, but it's the first entry in the first definition of the word. Or at least it is in my desk-side dictionary.

I was a little disappointed to see the Trojan Horse thrown in with Pandora's Box as simply one of the old MYTHS, because I like to think that really happened. Do they know that it didn't? Well... it certainly seems more possible than Pandora's Box anyway.. we may need a MEDIATOR on this one.

Lastly, I like the little trend of having a proper name right in the middle vertical spot. Yesterday it was Obama, and today we get HAYDN. Both are good.

DEVEIN is gross, and TILERS, PATHS, LEDTVS, EVES, ADOS, and even OWS seem like kind of a lot of gratuitous plurals, but overall, I liked this one just fine.

- Horace

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday, June 11, 2018, Gary Cee

0:05:53 (FWOE)

I don’t know about your lot, but Frannie and me, we’re out most Mondays. We usually stick with something basic, though, like bourbon or beer. These here fancy drinks are for later on in the week.
The SIDECAR, famously (in my circle anyway) mentioned in the movie Auntie Mame (“… bring me a very light breakfast: black coffee and a sidecar.”), and the more standard breakfast cocktail, the MIMOSA, followed by two classic gin concoctions, the GIMLET and the MARTINI (Mmmmm…. ) All four drinks are given a non-alcoholic clue, and all are positioned over the letters “ME,” making true the revealer, THEDRINKSAREONME. Not a bad way to start the week.
In the non-thematic answers, I enjoyed TIDEOVER (3D: Sustain temporarily), OUTSET (11D: Beginning), and WREAKS (12D: Unleases, as havoc) (“as havoc…” is anything else ever “wreaked?”). I also love SALMON, smoked or otherwise, and it’s too bad that SILL wasn’t clued as pickled herring, then we could have had a real Nordic thing going on. Mmmmm… SILL…
Additionally, we have the almost contradictory LOOKALIVE and EPITAPH. Mr. Cee is surely no AMATEUR.
Yesterday I “learned” two words, today there’s another one I’m not familiar with – FLACKS (41A: Press agents, informally). Who knew? Aside from the fine folks at UPI, that is… which is where I had my error today. I guess I confused my news giants and thought of AP, even though I’ve never heard of a mud and thatch HaT. Sigh. 
Overall, a fine puzzle to have at the OUTSET of the week.

- Horace

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sunday, June 10, 2018, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin


Boy, what a great way to start my week of reviews! I’m up here in Maine, working on the family cottage, and I thought I’d better get the puzzle done early, because I often think Sunday puzzles are a slog and I didn’t want to end up doing it tomorrow when I’m completely exhausted. (Instead, I’m doing it a night early, when I’m completely exhausted.)
So anyway, around the time I figured out 115A: Where Scarlett got a letter? (TARA), I LOLed and thought things were looking up. 12D: Canine coat? (ENAMEL) took me quite a while, but what a surprising and excellent payoff! Other clues that amused me were as follows and I quote:
39: Rise above the din, say (YELL)
57A: Simple life? (AMOEBA)
68D: No-nonsense quartet? (ENS) – Again! They got me with this nonsense! :)
102D: Sends a breakup text, say (tsk!) (ENDSIT) – Nice misdirection with that tsk!
20A: Nap for a loafer? (SUEDE) – Excellent.
29A: Night vision? (DREAM)
48A: Not taking a bow? (ASTERN). OMG this is good.
112D: House work? (LAWS) – OK, lots of question marks, but hey, it’s Sunday, and they’re still good!
And that’s not all of the good clues. This whole thing was chock full of them. 122A: Washington, but not Jefferson (STATE), 121A: Last thing said before eating? (AMEN), 124A: Matter of interest? (RATE)… I’ve heard that the editor and his friend change a lot of clues, but some of the credit must go to Ms. Margolin. And I haven’t even touched on the theme, which is also highly amusing.
I honestly cannot pick a favorite among them.  CRAMPINGMYSTILE (36A: Pressing and shoving me as I enter the subway?) is, of course, right up there, and BUSSEDYOURBUTT (82A: Took public transportation while one’s wheels were at the shop?) has to be considered, but I just love the comic despair in ROUTEOFALLEVIL (55A: Highway obstructed by accidents, detours and construction?). And what about INEEDTOLOSEWAIT (98A: “This tollbooth line will make me late!”?)? I’m going to start using that line when I’m on the road. Ha! Lastly, on the theme, I always enjoy when the theme runs both horizontally and vertically, so that’s another plus.
Also, I learned two words today:
OMERTA  - a code of silence used by the mafia.
SEINER – one who fishes with a “seine”  which, in this case, is a net.
I feel I must have seen both of those before, but if so, they haven't stuck. Maybe writing them down like this will help...
Thanks Colum, for another fabulous week of reviews. I’m sorry for butting in early today, but, well, I really liked this one. And boy, I hope you did too!

- Horace

Saturday, June 9, 2018, Roland Huget

15:52 (FWOE)

Just 64 words in this massively white grid, and the way the few black squares are positioned makes for three mini-puzzles connected by two 15-letter answers. As is my custom, when there are so many grid-spanners, I feel the urge to rank them. So here goes!

1. BIOLUMINESCENCE - I like that it's a single word rather than a phrase, and it's an excellent one at that.
2. TESTEDTHEWATERS - I will point out here that not one 15-letter answer uses "one's".
6. SEPARATEINCOMES (I like it for the clue)
7. AMERICANCUISINE - Is that a thing? I mean, there's Southern and Southwestern and Midwest cuisine, but American seems too big.
8. INTERESTRATECUT - is the least interesting.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but in my opinion there's really 3 good ones, 3 middling ones, and 2 fine ones.

In exchange for all of those long answers, we have to put up with CITS (?!), NUS, and 52D: Doc's recommendation (MED), recommended no doctor ever. "Yes, you have a bad infection. I recommend you take a med." Hmmmm.
Look out for the vug under the rug
I also look ASKANCE at the crossing of RIORITA and PLATIES, as well as the crossing of AWACS and TASSETS. The former I guessed correctly (I vaguely remember coming across that movie title in previous puzzles) and the latter I guessed incorrectly, trying a K. The acronym stands for Airborne Warning and Control System, and it looks like it's been around since the 1940s at least. Meanwhile, I wanted "cuirass" and "greaves" before the actual piece of armor.

Words I did enjoy inclued PARIAHS and SKALD. 47D: Exercise in economy of language (TWEET) gets the clue of the day prize.

Overall, it was a good challenge.

- Colum

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday, June 8, 2018, Caleb Madison


I had a lot of fun with this puzzle, with one small area of difficulty. The corners are filled with contemporary zing, and there are some fun extras scattered throughout. Just the kind of pithy Friday I like!

I broke in with ACESIT and ESTS, neither very promising. But then BEATSBYDRE fell into place, along with THEMETGALA, very timely given that Ocean's 8 is opening today, centering around a heist at that very event. For 15A: Brought about (OCCASIONED), I had __CA_IONED, and struggled not to put vaCAtIONED in. It just wanted to be there. Or maybe that's what I'd like to be doing...

Having dropped my YOGAPANTS, um, I mean, dropped it in to the grid, I found myself working the middle of the puzzle. We've seen SALAMI clued as "One hanging around in a deli?" before, or something very similar, so I was not fooled at all.

31A: Taking on a new identity, in a way (TRANSGENDER) had me scratching my head for a bit. I think the point is that no new identity is taken on. Rather the gender is reassigned to match what's already in place internally, if that makes sense? But we were right back on track with 37A: One of 32 for Beethoven (PIANOSONATA), which was a gimme for me, as I am actually working my way through them currently. I just finished playing 22 last night.

I had no difficulties at all with the SE. GINORMOUS and the straightforward OSSICLE led me down, and with those two in place, I hit the excellent 55A: Leave one's drawers in the drawer, say (GOCOMMANDO). Best of the day, in my opinion. The other two long answers down there aren't as interesting, though.

I love all the Zs in the NE. I don't love POLLER or WAHS, and ITISSO feels awkwardly formal.

My biggest difficulty came in the SW corner. I had entered YENTa. I don't know how many times I've made this error. A yenta is a gossip. YENTE is the name of the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof. Yentl is the name of Barbra Streisand's character who disguises herself as a boy in order to continue to study the Torah.

Anyway, that made RINGER hard to see, which made BENIGN a malign entry.

And with that, I call NIBS on some rye for tonight.

- Colum

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thursday, June 7, 2018, Bruce Haight

13:11 (finished with three errors... oof)

This is a very amusing theme. I love the revealer (BUBBLESUP), and then the way it's imagined in the theme answers, where the letters O are removed from their normal position and sit at the top of the answer. Each theme answer is a "carbonated beverage", and each has exactly 2 Os in them, so props for consistency and careful selection.

I'm not convinced by OOLEMNSDA (lemon soda). I've seen limonada / limonata, a lovely carbonated lemon soda to be found in Europe. I've certainly seen lemon flavored seltzer. But I'm not sure I've experienced it as written. Maybe I shouldn't be so nitpicky - after all, OOCHAMPAGNECLER (champagne cooler) is not a brand name either. Only...

Huh. That doesn't google either. I mean, I believe it's a thing, only the only thing that comes up is the bucket you keep your ice in to cool your champagne.

Okay, anyways. We can all agree on OOCKEZER and OOJLTCLA. Note though, to add to the difficulty here, there are no Os anywhere else in the puzzle!

So my errors. Well, you see, I was convinced that 9A: Ancient Mexican (OLMEC) was OLtEC. That caused problems. And when I entered CrUnCH for 22A: Like a winning play in the final seconds of overtime (CLUTCH), I was in trouble. I figured it all out, but after the closing bell. I was not clutch, as it turns out. Sad tweet.

How about the FILL? (That's the first time I've ever been able to do that!)

I liked MALLRATS and SLYWINKS. CATTREAT I looked askance at, but it's been a long time since I've had a cat, and it turns out to be a real thing. EEEWIDTH on the other hand... Hmmm. You AMUSE me with your daring, Dr. Haight.

ANDSO to bed. Only it's just now 5:40, so that's hours off.

- Colum

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, Richard F. Mausser


Your average quip puzzle takes longer than a straightforward themer, I've found. This is a fun quotation, and I suppose whenever you find a one-liner that neatly fits into symmetric pieces (5-14-13-14-5 in this case), a constructor is semi-obligated to undertake said puzzle.

Ken Dodd, stand-up comic, the "last great music-hall entertainer," was born in 1927 and died this year in March, performing nearly up until he passed away. Does that make him a contemporary or a relic? Either way, the quip is strong enough to stand on its own.

I made two misguesses that slowed me down. The first was 55A: Potential Emmy nominee (TVSTAR). I tried TVShow. I like my answer better, especially nowadays when stars of television shows are so rarely TV only. The other came at 53D: John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter served in it (USNAVY). I had US___Y and put in USarmY. Wrong, and I knew it was wrong, but sometimes you can't help yourself.

The construction of the grid leaves us with few outstanding long answers. I very much enjoyed WHOVILLE as well as SUBURBIA. 39D: Kind of off-season baseball "league" (HOTSTOVE) leaves something to be desired as a partial.

Some cute clues:

37A: It's not free of charge (ION).
31D: Bank charge (FEE) - because of the comparison to the above.
8D: What's within your range? (OVEN). Although not in my case. My stovetop and my oven are separate.

And just to finish out, I thought it was a pod of whales, not a GAM. But when I Google it, I see both are acceptable.

- Colum

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Peter Gordon


I don't want to come off as hamhanded, but this was a well-done theme. It was only after I finished the puzzle and tried to come up with other examples of the pattern [food-body part-ed] that I realized that 23D: Drunk (PIEEYED) was a theme answer as well. Very nicely done.

I'm also pleased at the lack of a revealer. A theme like this one stands on its own.

Can anybody come up with other examples of the pattern?

Meanwhile, what's not to like about SIBELIUS right off the bat? I also liked LORELEI and GONERIL as examples of unusual names.

There was minitheme around birthing, 14A: Person handing out chocolate cigars, maybe (PROUDPAPA) and 41D: Person whose inner child has been released? (MOTHER) - hah! Offsetting that (and likely offsetting to some people's sensitivities), we get LEERING and LECHEROUS.

The winner of the day for most out there clue comes at 46A: Expert in calculus: Abbr. (DDS). See, calculus is another term for dental plaque. That was a tough one.

In the end, though, the one thing that I know I like to be is BLTS-mouthed.

- Colum

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018, Zhouqin Burnikel


Today, I am reminded of Bunthorne:

A sentimental passion
Of a vegetable fashion
Must excite your languid spleen...

Not only do we get the thematic DOUBLETREE in each long answer, Ms. Burnikel seeds the grid with multiple other flora: there are ARBORS, GLADS, an IRIS, perhaps on a SILL. A BEE buzzes around (and manages to AVOID the DEET), and I prefer my ODOR to be of the verdant rather than dumpster variety.

Clearly BALDERDASH is the winner of the theme answers. It's a great word, and all but two letters are used in the two trees (alder and ash). STEALTHFIGHTER uses only six of its letters for its two trees (tea and fig), so the least satisfying.
Coming soon to a theater near you?
I have to acknowledge some lovely crossings as well. We get ADULT crossing LEWD, and KENNEL crossing DROOLS. Nicely done! I will also give PROPs for the two colloquial sayings that are the long down answers.

Well done, as usual, Ms. Burnikel.


- Colum

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sunday, June 3, 2018, David J. Kahn


Wow, it feels like forever since I last did one of these. After another great week of reviews by Frannie, it looks like I've got to step up my game.

I enjoyed the theme today. Mr. Kahn has found five examples of major league baseball teams whose names and whose home cities each have only one I in them. Then he crosses them at that I, and the revealer is the excellent THERESNOIINTEAM. I give him points for keeping to one sport. I take points away for the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and San Francisco Giants all fit the same pattern. 

I also feel like I should take further points away for the fact that the STLOUIS / CARDINALS really should have another I in the first word, only we apparently only abbreviate that first word and never spell it out.

I'm sure that the devils of symmetry prevented Mr. Kahn from putting a sixth example in the SE corner. To make up for it, he put in HOMESTANDS, from which I take a small amount of SOLACE. MAJORS rounds out the theme.

There is a lot of very nice fill. I'm particularly fond of 16D: Only African-American to win an Oscar, Tony and Emmy for acting (VIOLADAVIS) because it acknowledges a fine actor, and made me do a little self-checking when the only people I thought of were male. There have been 22 white actors to accomplish the feat. The first? That was Helen Hayes.

Anyhoo, I think that's all for now. ERRATA quit, as Frannie might say (IOTA was actually in the grid also!)

- Colum

Frannie here, on the late side. We were out all day celebrating Horace Senior's birthday and are just getting back to business. Thank you, Colum, for seizing the day and getting the review out. It's great that you covered all the bases on the theme today because my plan was to give it OVERAGE to you anyway since my KEN of baseball is so minor.

I did want to INSERTS some of the clues and answers I enjoyed, including
1A: Overawe (COW) - apt!
58A: Dress down (CHIDE) - well done.
97A: Liability of note? (TINEAR) - a bit of a stretch, but I liked it
11D: Heavy winds (TUBAS) - ha!

I didn't know Pie-eyed meant OILED (30A). I am looking forward to their future USAGES.

Is there really a Muppet named SAL Minella (102A)? That's a HOOT.

I didn't understand the clue at 5A: Mover, but not a shaker (one hopes). The answer was VAN. I get the mover part, shaker? AESOP with that? I also wondered about the clue at 105A: having an O. for Ohio, but the answer having PA for Pennsylvania (ERIEPA). Weirt.

That's mASWAN song for you. LATER!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Saturday, June 2, 2018, Trenton Charlson


I really enjoyed this puzzle. It wasn't easy for me, as you can see from my time, but solving the tough ones engendered a lot of "oooh, that's what they meant"s and felt like a triumph.

GODZILLA at 1A (Fictional character with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) was a great start, followed, down below, by another fictional fabulosity QUEEQUEG (Friend of Ishmael). That section ended high on the hog with "What might come after a cow or a sheep? (EIEIO).

The entire bottom half of the puzzle went pretty smoothly. I even got ORDINAL for "Part of many a street name" even though you don't see that very often around these parts. The south east featured the excellent fill (and delicious) TZATZIKI  (Sauce made with yogurt and cucumbers) and 46A: Weather phenomenon portrayed by Chris Farley on "S.N.L." (ELNINO) made me laugh just reading the clue.

The south west had some great stuff, too:
51A: Good to go? (TRAVELSIZE) - apt!
34A: One involved in mass production? (ALTARBOY) - ha!
33D: eBay feature (CAPITALB) - duped again, as is often the case with these kinds of clues, but this time, only until I looked at 61A: Storage units (BYTES)
39D: Cold evidence (SNEEZES) - no question!


So, as you see, it was all rainbows and unicorns until I got to the north east. That section had some real LULUS. Things went wrong from the top, as they often do. I patted myself on the back for remembering "essie," clued in Wednesday's puzzle as "Big name in nail polish," and confidently dropped it in for today's 9A (Nail care brand). UHOH. 100% wrong. I didn't know MOHAVE from the clue, I was working the "crazy" angle for 17A: Disturbed, maybe (no surprise there, I suppose), and "Strobe stuff" had me staring at the grid like a deer in the head lights. Not to mention ODOR for "Repute," CRATE for "Junk heap," and TRANKS for "Zookeepers' rounds, informally" - all tricky turns of phrases and OED definitions that kept me DAIKON. In sum, a puzzle full of PITH and vigor, like EVERYONE likes. :)


Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday, June 1, 2018, Andrew J. Ries


Not a great start to June for this solver, but after looking up the answers that stumped me, I don't feel too bad. When I saw that the "Satirical 1968 hit for the Turtles" was ELENORE and that historian Ferguson's other name was NIALL, it was clear to me that abandoning ship was the right choice, especially with NOM a few rows down. NOM for "Academy recognition" is not just informal, it's terrible. It is my fervent hope that no one has ever, or will ever say anything like, "Congratulations on your nom as Head Master." BOO. To make matters worse, at the bottom of that section I was duped, as intended, I'm sure, by the way the clue was worded, and I didn't realize the Booker in question was a person (my bad). So, yeah, no hoisting a TROPHY in celebration for this solver. 

The northeast also harbored a number of obscure-to-this-sovler personnages. Herb ADDERLEY was totally outside my wheelhouse - I haven't gotten as far as cornerbacks in my sports trivia book yet. So was General ORD, who had a former fort named for him apparently, and "Oklahoma!" aunt ELLER, which is a difficult name to guess, IMHO. I was a little luckier in that section, or the downs OFFERED more help. 

The big 15-letter TEACHABLEMOMENT runs down the middle of the puzzle, a phrase I hear way too often for my taste, but which did mean that I was able to put it in after just a few crosses.  CEREALBOXES (Life preservers? - ha!), YOUCALLEDIT, and SPIDEYSENSE made for a meaty midsection, which is a great feature of puzzles, but less good for its middle-aged solvers. :) 

I liked GOTIME, ABRUPT, and ROTTEN. "Be intriguing?" for CONNIVE and SCRUBS for 45A: Health care coverage providers? were both clever clues. Nice to see all of COUSINITT, for ONCE, too. 


On the other hand, I thought MART for Emporium was a bit of a stretch. Also, #MeToo ERA? Too soon. And by that I mean, I feel I have to explain, it hasn't been around long enough to be considered an era, not that it's too soon for the #MeToo movement, which it isn't.