Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018, Peter Wentz


My first entry today was HARDC (17A: Can opener?)! For once, I was not fooled by that type of question! My second was RADIUM (23A: Subject of Marie Curie's isolation), which seemed a bit of a gimme. And after that, things just seemed to fall into place. Even three, long, unknown people were eventually filled in by crosses - HARTCRANE (2D: "White Buildings" was his first collection of poetry) (I feel I should probably know him), KTOSLIN (5D: Country singer who uses her first two initials), and TANEHISICOATES (51A: MacArthur Fellowship-winning author of "Between the World and Me"). I'm not even 100% sure where to break the letters in that last one.


Fun clues all around today - OYEZ (3D: Court order?), 4D: Support staff (CANE), 28D: Watch words? (SWISSMADE), 49D: Plot element? (ACRE) (You're not fooling anyone!), and 48A: Source of many box office bombs? (WARMOVIE), for example. It's only now that I realize the last one is referring to the kind of bombs that are dropped out of airplanes. I thought at first that Mr. Wentz was insinuating that many war movies were flops!

Of the four long Across answers, my favorite is INTERNETRADIO (53A: Pandora's domain), both for its misdirection, and because I have been enjoying my Christmas gift Pandora subscription quite a bit this year. It's a big transition year for me - I'm both listening to more streaming music, and I'm giving away my extensive LP collection. Twenty-eight-year-old me would be shocked!

Not much junk to ROAR about. Nice trivia in LISA (27D: Toon named after one of Matt Groening's sisters). Decent Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thursday, August 30, 2018, Grant Thackray


Mmmmmm... A lovely Thursday bit of cleverness. This is exactly the sort of thing we love here at Horace and Frances (featuring me).

At first I tried a rebus, using [ead], because I found both MANSPRE[AD] and UNDE[AD]. But then I had difficulty when I got to the NE corner and couldn't figure out how to fit a rebus at the crossing of SAL[AD] and LEERAT. Then it hit me: the [AD] was hidden inside the black squares.

And thus the revealer, ADBLOCK. Very nice. I'm particularly impressed by the dual bit of trickery at [AD]OPTARO[AD]. Well done, Mr. Thackray!

The theme is chock full of up-to-date contemporary chunkiness. C.f. MANSPRE[AD], [AD]ULTING, and [AD]ORKABLE. This clearly shows the concept of a constructor ATONESPEAK.

With a puzzle this nice, I think LESSISMORE. My only quibble is that IDA is not a standard abbreviation for Idaho, but other than that, ADIEU.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday, August 29, 2018, Alex Bajcz


What an oddball theme, so I suppose it's no surprise it shows up on a Wednesday. I finished the puzzle and looked over all the theme answers with no clue as to what was going on. So I showed it to Hope, who immediately said that the verb portion of the answer was an anagram of the city name.


True enough, but why? Reading the clues, I see 18A: Work as a metropolitan health official? (DIAGNOSESANDIEGO). It seems that rather than using the word "metropolitan" as an adjective describing the health official, it is in fact the object of the health official's work. The idea of a "reclaimant" going about her job as she SALVAGESLASVEGAS is pretty amusing. Perhaps it's something to do with the Southern nature of the four cities involved (presuming Athens is the one in Georgia). All that heat curdles the mind, you know.

Outside of a NEBR (and that's pretty ugly, mind you), and the peculiarly pluralized ONSETS, the rest of the puzzle is pretty DAMN smooth. Some nice long down answers, with ARCHENEMY and USEDCARLOT (the minitheme of junkers is amusing - c.f. CRATE and BUCKET - okay, that last one is not actually in the minitheme). I'm also a fan of LASAGNA.

62A: Things get crazy when all of them are off (BETS) has to win the award for circling around the answer. I love it! Similarly, 39A: It gets depressed on the road (BRAKE) is very nice. I wanted the more generic "pedal" first.

I think I've finally come down on the side of thumbs up for this one.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018, Brian Thomas


Color me impressed by today's puzzle. There are a remarkable six full theme entries, including the revealer, BACKCHANNEL. Perhaps "back channels" is more recognizable, but I think this version is definitely acceptable. And what a clever thing to find five different television or cable channel abbreviations hidden in the long answers today! Of course I like WAXONWAXOFF best, but its hidden channel the least.

You have to admire all of that theme material, and also being able to work in REDASABEET and BOBBYRIGGS. The latter amused me because not only did he lose the "Battle of the Sexes," but he's crossing over 35A: Portia de Rossi, to Ellen Degeneres (WIFE) and a sports BRA, showing how clearly his particular brand of chauvinism has lost out over the years.

In any case, I won't FRET over less than thrilling answers like ASEC, MGMT, or the peculiar plural ANNS. When the theme material comes as thick as it does in this puzzle, you have to accept some glue.

My favorite clue came at 5D: B+, e.g. (ION). I could certainly niggle a little with it, in that Boron's ion would be B+3. But the clue is certainly clever.

I found this puzzle more difficult than a typical Tuesday. Part of it was a peculiar tendency to make typos. I couldn't remember if POTSIE had an S or a Z. I tried ZIPperlok (?!) at first. In any case, all's well that ends well.


- Colum

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday, August 27, 2018, Susan Gelfand


Today we celebrate celebrities whose first and last names are both first names, and Ms. Gelfand has found four examples where those names are also the first names of other celebrities in the same fields (acting, comedy, singing, and basketball). The comedy set is strong (who doesn't like Carell and Short?), but I'd argue that all three, including the justifiably famous STEVEMARTIN are better known for their acting work than their comedy at this point. Steve Carell, in particular, has been taking on a number of serious roles, I notice.

And so many men! Ms. Swift is doing her representing all by her lonesome. Add to that Mario PUZO, Mr. HYDE, BLOKE and ANTLERS, and there's quite a testosterone laden feeling to the puzzle. Still, Elaine BENES is present, and the nicely inverted clue at 7D: Object of an ogler (HUNK) removes us from the omnipresent male gaze.

I don't have a lot to HAGGLE over here. There aren't any true dazzlers in the fill, but also very little glue. It's a clean puzzle. Having just seen BlacKkKlansman last night, I found ARYAN tough to swallow, even in its original meaning as stated in the clue.

It's fine, as the kids say.

- Colum

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday, August 26, 2018, Olivia Mitra Framke


Good morning! Colum here. Determined not to be taken by surprise for a second time, I am getting on the ball quickly today (see what I did there?). As it turns out, Cece is at tennis practice this morning, so I was able to get an early start.

Today's puzzle is honoring the start of THEUSOPEN today. There are a ton of tennis references, some specific, like QUEENSNEWYORK and ARTHURASHE, and others less so, such as GAMESETMATCH. Also hidden around are smaller theme entries, like MAJOR, ACE, BASE (line). And there's some grid artwork in the shape of a tennis racket right smack dab in the middle of the grid. Finally, the tennis racket is hitting a BALL in the circled squares. Okay, maybe it's kind of a four-cornered ball, but there's only so much you can do in a two-dimensional grid.

I found the puzzle overall on the easy side, despite the three completely isolated sections. I did make one error however, so my time would not get me that far in a tournament. My answer for 17D: Returned to earth? (ROTTED) was ROoTED, which seems mildly fair to me. But Peter Mark ROGEo just will not do. I did not recognize the thesaurian by his first names, SADLY.

Other entries of INTERESTS included SHOEHORN and EXEMPLAR, both lovely words. I also enjoyed DUNGAREES, Rod CAREW, and CALLMELATER.

I am not much of a fan of NONMEAT. Not in my personal life, mind you... I have often been known to take a veggie or pasta. But the term seems ad hoc. Otherwise I have no real complaints. There are a RAFT of abbreviations or acronyms, but I can see how the grid art made those necessary, so I'm hardly OUTRAGED.

See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Saturday, August 25, 2018, Sam Ezersky


Frannie has to work today - like an animal! - so I'm giving her a break and filling in. She doesn't know this yet, but I don't think she'll mind too much. If she does, she can always delete this review and post her own.

I thought this was a very good Saturday puzzle. Nicely challenging, where for the first fifteen minutes or so I doubted almost everything I put in. Well, everything except little glue like EAU (7D: Theme of Cirque du Soleil's "O," appropriately) (We just saw "Luzia" by them recently and loved it!), ELIA (36A: Lamb, by another name) (it just had to be), and IMS (49A: Some chats, briefly). And maybe a few others. Things like NEODADAIST (3D: Yoko Ono, artistically, in the 1960s), YOUANDI (42D: We) (Tough one!), and INFIELD (10D: First, second and third place) (also tough), took much, much longer.

I enjoyed the challenge, though, as I always do on a Saturday, and this is chock-full of good, unusual fill. I liked LOINCLOTH (11D: Primitive attire), YAKETYYAK (33D: Talk, talk, talk) ("Don't talk back!"), PLAYSGOD (32A: Acts all-powerful), GOONSQUAD (17A: Tough crowd?), and even WALLMAP (28A: Common classroom adornment), although I tried to make roLLMAP work for quite a while. I used to love those roll-down maps! And that SE stack is really fine - RADIOWAVE on top of ICALLEDIT and OHHELLYES. OHELLYES.

Of course, there were a few Saturday-ish answers too, like NEDLOW (9D: Renowned pirate captain during the Golden Age of Piracy) (There was such an age?), TONNE (4D: Equivalent of a megagram) (yeah, ok, whatever), and FDRJR (51A: First chairman of the E.E.O.C., familiarly) (who knew?), but those kinds of things just come with the territory. Luckily, I was able to work around them with the crosses. It isn't always that way.

There's so much good stuff as I look around, I could go on calling it out forever, but I'll leave some for you to discover. So get your TUSH in gear and go solve this thing!

- Horace

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018, Roland Huget


A satisfying Friday puzzle. I got a few entries straight away during coffee time in the morning, including TSARISTS, OLMSTED, SEEKER, and AEREO, which made the mid section fall pretty quickly. By the time I had to leave for work, I had hardly made a dent in the six 15s. I looked at the puzzle again at lunch and cracked the lower three 15's. CARLOSTHEJACKAL is a good name for a villain, but my favorite of those was TEETERONTHEEDGE (Flirt with disaster).

The top three took me longer - until after dinner - thanks to some confidently-entered-but-wrong answers like "tray" at 1D instead of RACK (One of four in a Scrabble set) and ImeANTO instead of IPLANTO at 5D ("That's my intention") - so close... I did drop RUR right in, but I kept taking it out because I wasn't getting anywhere with the acrosses. I didn't know the word RETE, I don't know Chris REA, and I don't really think of "Plant" ASEED as a particular phrase. Also, who knew accordions have a REED? Not this solver. Eventually, after many ERASES, I saw ACEUPONESSLEEVE, which broke the top open and I EKED out a "Congratulations!" My favorite of the upper three is REFRIGERATORCAR (Coolest thing about a train?).

Other stuff I liked:
"Most of an S O S" (DITS)
"That BITES!" - now there's a phrase I can get behind.
"Swimming center?" (EMS) - this time, I wasn't  fooled for a minute.
"Log unit" (ENTRY) -  See: "I think I just logged onto my Internet"
"Cast with difficulty" (HEAVE)
"Hitchcock double feature?" (CHIN) - good one.
"You'd expect to see it before long." (LAT) - very nice.
"Act unprofessionally?" EMOTE - Ha!

I am not one of the AGREERS with 38A "Like most theater popcorn containers" (OVERSIZED). In fact, they are never big enough. We have to go back for refills three or four times during a movie. Also, the KALES plural is weak.

Even with all the stuff I didn't know, I was still able to complete the puzzle, which, in my book, makes Mr. Huget an ALLAMERICANHERO.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thursday, August 23, 2018, Kyle Dolan


The rebus-with-a-twist theme is clever and the revealer ("Common farming technique ... or a hint to solving this puzzle" CROPROTATION) is apt!  I finally figured it out with DUCHESSOF[CORN]WALL/HOT[CORN]ER - thanks to my vague interest in the British royal family. The clue at 7D: "Third base, in baseball lingo" was no help.

It took me forever to even understand the clue for P[RICE]RANGE (General amount of money that something sells for), even though it made perfect sense once I figured it out. There was so much I didn't know in that section of the puzzle that's a wonder I ever got it. I owe that one to the clue "Stunning creatures of the Amazon." The answer just had to be ELECT[RICE]ELS.

I did guess that rye would be the third crop, but like a tray-bingo in Scrabble, I couldn't find the right place to play it. It didn't help that I had AROn where AROD belonged. In hindsight, the use of the word "Yank" in the clue was trying to steer me in the right direction, but I'm not sure I ever would have come up with him. As esteemed readers of this blog know, sports ball is often my Achilles heel. So, after a long scratcher in the rye, I finally gave up on the middle east and asked Horace for a tip - in part so I could get this review written!

There were a number of  other clues and answers that I would ROOTON (although, not that one). I thought "Alternative to plugs" (TOUPEE) was kinda funny, but the word plugs - not super beautiful on the best of days - garners an additional connotation of ick in this context. "Good name for a tort lawyer" (SUE) made me smile. I also enjoyed LETLOOSE for "Delivered a rant" and "Friend to none" (PARIAH) is good, too.

That I thought this puzzle was a little on the difficult side, even for a Thursday, will surprise no one. But, I will say, that part of what made this a NOGO was the trouble I had with the non-theme clues that surrounded the rebī. They just weren't in my wheelhouse.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wednesday, August 22, 2018, John Lampkin


I enjoyed today's "knock off" puzzle - where the bottom lobe of the B's in the theme answers were knocked off to make P's. It was probably conceived of as more of a substitution of P for B, but the two letters do have a lot of overlap, shape-wise. My favorite theme answer is READYTORUMPLE ("You think the blanket needs messing up?"), but a close second is RULEOFTHUMP (Guidelines for testing watermelon ripeness?) Ha! If I'm honest, I enjoyed the answers themselves more than the clues. I'm not familiar with the expressions Inner Beace or Blay it Safe, so I found those two a little odd. Kidding!

Of course I loved 32D: "What ___?!" (THE). I also really enjoyed NOSECOUNT for "Population determination". I also liked "Something a risk-taking investor might lose" (SHIRT), and 55D: One in a black suite (SPADE) is also good.

We have encounter some fine hidden and false capitals. At 6D, we have "Imperial product" (OLEO) and at 29D "Apple application that's now banned"(ALAR).

I did TRI "drone" where ROBOT was wanted (Many an Amazon "worker") and Awl where ADZ belonged (Tool with a tapering blade) but much of the rest was ASNAP, and by that I mean fairly straight forward, not boring


There were a few answers that I might ALTER including UZI, ESE, STK, and SERA, but overall I thought Mr. Lampkin created a rather peguiling buzzle.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday, August 21, 2018, John Lieb and Andrea Yañes


Maybe I'm just a BIGAPE, but I thought today's theme lacked afflatus. Circled  letters - not a favorite of mine - appear in sets of one to five within larger words across the grid. The circled letters "evolve" from the D within TENACIOUSD to the full word DARWIN (Evolution theorist ... or what the circled letters are evolving toward). The evolution is not completely linear; read left to right and top to bottom, it starts with D then goes to DA then DAN, then DARN to DARIN to DARWIN - just like in real human evolution.

I wondered if 14A: Skills (CRANIA), the above referenced BIGAPE (Galoot), and ATECROW, count as evolutionary-related material.

I liked GAPYEAR (Hiatus between high school and college). I kinda wish I had taken one myself, when I was a youth, but I don't think it was so much a thing way back when the earth was still warm. :)

I'm a big fan of The Three Musketeers. I just finished reading Le Vicomte de Bragelonne - all 2400 pages. ATHOS is pretty suave, but I think Porthos is my favorite. 

"Self-important minor official" TINGOD is also nice.

I'll make no bones about a couple of the answers that I thought were a bit off the mark.
17A: "M*A*S*H" transport, informally (COPTER) - shouldn't the answer have been Chopper?
31A: Hoppy brew (ALE)  - shouldn't the answer have been IPA?
33A. Vest openings (ARMHOLES) - what about neck and trunk holes (so to speak)?

Additionally, the grid seemed strewn with unpleasant remains and fossils like CNN, APPT, OME, TAUR, BCC, NCAA, WMD, NMI (?!?), SYL, and ONA.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018, Peter Gordon


Today's theme reminded me of Monty Python's excellent Travel Agent sketch: "if you're not at your table spot on seven you miss the bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine." Here, of course, instead of soups, we have four international meat entrees: CHICKENKIEV, VIENNASAUSAGES, BEEFWELLINGTON, and LONDONBROIL. Not being a meat eater, I can't really say which is my favorite, but I am pretty sure that sausages are my least favorite. 

There were some nice sides to go with the main course:
"Catch cold?" (NAB)
"Jam ingredient?" (AUTO)
"Sound elicited by a punch in the gut" (OOF)
"Bold type" (DARER) - nice twist. I was thinking of fonts.
"Concert bonuses" (ENCORES)
"Cockamamie" (INANE)
UNSUNGHERO, HOOT, and YOYO added some fine flavor.


On the distasteful side, I'd like to suggest that we all agree not to use the word polyp, Freshwater, or otherwise ever again (HYDRA). Coincidentally, a group of us were making a list on the porch this weekend of topics or phrases no one wanted to hear spoken. We called it "Let's Change the Subject" in honor of Sunday's puzzle theme. I am going to add polyp to the list.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday, August 19, 2018, Jacob Stulberg


Frannie and I did this one side-by-side, like the old days, while shouting out clues to everyone else in the room, a tactic that gave mixed results. One of the youngsters was happy to confirm ELSA (24D: "Let It Go" singer, in film), but when we asked for the "Ill-fated NASA mission of 1967), and told people it was APOLLO_, with just the one space for a Roman numeral, they delighted in shouting out numbers that could not fit in one space, and then a couple Gemini missions... Fun!

The theme of PASSIVERESISTANCE (111A: Protest tactic ...) takes aim at one of the classic whipping boys of the grammar DWEEB set, and Mr. Stulberg has found an amusing pentad of phrases to change into the active voice. My favorite is THATDOESNOTAMUSEUS (36A: Remark commonly attributed to Queen Victoria) ("We are not amused"), which also reminds me of my late mother-in-law, and is especially appropriate on a weekend spent with three of her daughters and some of the extended family. But I digress.


There wasn't a whole lot of bonus long material today, but there were some quality sixes and sevens. CAJOLES (16D: Wheedles), GETSICK (47D: Catch something), and STEPMOM (11D: Carol Brady, to three of her kids), are all strong. I wish I had remembered ISTRIA (95D: Peninsula shared by Croatia and Slovenia). I tried to teach it to myself way back when, but I still needed many crosses today. GENOESE (85D: Like Columbus) is ok, but NONUPLE (86D: Word hitting two Triple Word Scores in Scrabble) got a few PROFANE comments. Likewise PITSAW (62A: Tool that it takes two to operate), but maybe that's just because none of us is familiar with the tool.

Personally, I enjoyed TINT (39D: Colorist's concern) because I recently put a streak of blue in my hair. And ALOHAS (40D: Hilo his) had a fun clue, as did SLICED (73D: Like some bologna and golf shots). And MOSEYS (94D: Goes at a leisurely pace) is solid.

Overall, the theme carries the day. Decent Sunday.

- Horace

I'll add one more porch-favorite to the list: Article of apparel never worn by Winnie-the-Pooh: PANTS. Ha!


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday, August 18, 2018, Mark Diehl

0:12:06 (sort of, probably should actually be a little longer)

I started this one late last night, and got a pretty solid start in the North, but then fell asleep. Then this morning I started it again on a different device, and because we have very spotty internet, I began with a fully re-set timer. So the time is not correct, but still, I don't feel that this was terribly difficult.


The whole thing feels pretty chunky, with 8/9-stacks in the upper left and lower right, and 9-stacks in the other two. I like the SKIPJACKS/STETSONHAT/LAYSSIEGETO stack quite a bit, but DENTALEXAM/DATAMINERS/STAMPPADS is a little less exciting, the double P notwithstanding. And I just don't know what to make of ACTOFLOVE (30D: Selfless gesture) beside RATPOISON (31D: One use for arsenic). They're just so opposite!

I enjoyed the clues for STOOPS (9D: Gets down, in a way), SLAP (14D: Give an unexpected hand), and ADDER (25D: Summer). Tricky! "Private leaders" for CORPORALS was amusing, as was "Picked rock against paper, say" for LOST. Not especially tricky, that one, but I still appreciated it.

A solid puzzle, and a fine end to the week. I'll hand this thing off to Frannie tomorrow, and I'll see you in another few weeks.

- Horace

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday, August 17, 2018, Jeff Chen


A fun Friday offering from Mr. Chen today, with just the right amount of SECRETSAUCE. I can almost hear him letting out that AAH after dropping in that lovely bit of fill. And to pile SPARETIRE and AUNATUREL (14A: Bare) (excellent) on top of it, well, that's a nice corner.


The NE holds up well too, with IGUANODON, TARANTINO, and SNLHOSTS (13D: Some sketch show V.I.P.s). It's nice to have a little something after SNL for once. I TSKED at TSKED, but only a little bit.

"Drives" was a lovely bit of misdirection for TEESHOTS. Well, at least it misdirected me! And I had jeSTER at "44A: Court figure whose job is to detect [POISON]" (TASTER). Didn't they sometimes fill that role? ...

I loved ZISFORZEBRA (51A: Primer finish), and spent a long time trying to fit something having to do with "matte" or "dull" in there... sheesh! I was not familiar with DINA (61A: Merrill in movies), which made PRMAN (48D: Spinner) very difficult to see. Also tricky were the clues for ADORN (57A: Trim) and SOBS (52D: Doesn't just tear up), which I think of as classic tricky crossword clues. The first I was thinking of as an adjective, and the second I was pronouncing wrong. Hah!

SAGITTA (33A: Constellation between Cygnus and Aquila) is pretty darn obscure, and I didn't love CANTI (54A: "Pretty, pretty please?"), but that's not much to complain about. MARMALADE is strong, KIBITZED is fun... I'd say Mr. Chen ROCKEDIT.

- Horace

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday, August 16, 2018, Alan Arbesfeld


Today's puzzle is dedicated to one ROBERT DENIRO, who turns 75 tomorrow. I quickly realized that many answers were movies, and I also realized that they were DENIRO movies, but the first thing I tried to put in at the bottom was "Martin Scorsese." Idiot. "Martin" fit, and I actually left that in for a hot minute thinking that maybe they'd somehow squeeze his last name into the other space...

Anywho... it wasn't Scorsese.

I've grown up with DENIRO movies, and I am one of the many of my generation who think of him as one of the greats. So am I going to raise a fuss about a few things that CLOG the grid? Like ABIE (48A: Title lover in a 1922 Broadway hit) (from that classic "Abie's Irish Rose"), SADR (51D: Baghdad's ____ City), ARNE (35D: Obama education secretary Duncan), BIER, ISIN, ATIT, OISE, PROSY, ENTR, APER, BRRR, EDD, ALMAY, and AMMETER (37A: Current measurer)? (YOW!) No! I'm going to be happy for the good trivia in the clues for OBERLIN (17A: First coeducational college in the U.S.) (since 1837), and DOUGLAS (62A: Justice with the longest Supreme Court tenure) (36 years!), and about having dropped in ORLANDO (16A: "As You Like It" hero) as my first answer thanks to having seen my brother play the part in a college production many years ago. Ahh... memories.

It's a tribute puzzle, and sometimes one just has to sit back and enjoy the theme density that comes with STARDOM.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Kathy Weinberg


It occurred to me, once I figured out what was really going on with the theme answers today, that we've seen something very like this before. I'm not going to be able to find it immediately, I don't think, but the "clue in the answer" thing seems awfully familiar. I mention it, though, not to criticize, but to say that I don't mind at all when themes like this are repeated. I didn't recognize it for what it was/is until after I had finished the puzzle, and looking at it now, I see it's really well done. Each "answer clue," as I'll call it, includes "anagram of clue word" & "present verb or adjective meaning rearrange," the placement of the verb alternates from first to last, and the last one also serves as a revealer. Quite a tidy little theme!

In addition to being slow to grok the theme today, some of the clues really gave me a hard time! Like 1A: Midday - I wanted "noon," or maybe even "12noon," and TWELVE required at least four crosses. Maybe five! WEAL, too, required a lot (2D: Prosperity), and I couldn't come up with VECTOR (5D: Airplane course) for quite some time. I wanted "earn" for NET (11A: Bring home), and I was confused by 35D: Institute signed into existence by Thos. Jefferson (USMA) being four letters, because I wanted "uva." Oh well, it all worked out eventually. :)

Great fill is everywhere, and a lot of it side-by-side. Like SMIDGE/MINION/EXCEPT in the SW, and IMPUTE/REAMED/DOGGYBAG in the SE. Very nice.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Erik Agard and Andy Kravis


We love wacky, and today's theme takes normal phrases like BLASTINGCAP, and gives them wacky clothing-related clues, like "Article of headwear for an explosives engineer?" Heh. My favorite is BORSCHTBELT (60A: Waist accessory for a Russian cook?), and my least favorite is THREEWAYTIE (35A: Article of neckwear for the Stooges?). It's sad, because I grew up loving the Three Stooges, but it's just not a thing I can imagine, a THREEWAYTIE. And besides, it's not a very common thing - how often does a three-way tie actually happen?


Anywho... I appreciated the backward-crosswordese clue for NYMPH (31D: Naiad or dryad). I didn't have to remember which is forest and which is mountain! And the long vertical pins of INCINERATE and CRAZYHORSE were very nice. Aside from that, I guess I like any mention of EDITH Piaf, and ABIDE, CLASH, and NOTCH are good five-letter entries. But there was a little too much LYFT, MBAS, CDS, IRAS, and ANTES for the puzzle to really SOAR. Still, I can't dislike anything that starts with a PBJ (Hands up if you had "blt"), and really, I enjoyed the theme enough. Decent Tuesday.

- Horace

p.s. I was just looking up recipes for borsch last week, and found that it does not need the final T. My go-to cooking resource "Joy of Cooking" does not use it, so now I won't either.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018, Lynn Lempel


Today's theme gives us an alternative - we can look on the bright side, or we can wallow in negativity. In other words, we can take either side of the GOODNEWSBADNEWS themers.

The themers start slow with GODOWNINHISTORY (17A: Leave a lasting legacy ... or do worse at school), which works well for the positive interpretation, but is kind of tortured as a description of a lowered grade at school. They only go up from there, however, and my favorite is probably the last - DRAWABLANK (54A: Be lucky in Scrabble ... or come up short memorywise). Both happened to me this past week. Hah!


In the fill we've got the somewhat un-Mondayish PRIVATEER (36D: Nongovernmentally owned ship decked out for war) - some folks might be left ATSEA on that one - I know I needed at least a few crosses!

I like the phrase PIPEDUP (44D: Chimed in on the conversation), and the clue for PRO (34D: One giving you the aye?) got a chuckle once I finally figured it out. Sheesh! WAG (64D: Jokester) is an underused descriptor, but I've never really believed in the expression OHO (2D: "Well, whaddya know!"). Does anyone ever actually say that?

Overall, it was a fine Monday. A clever little theme, and not too much to complain about.

- Horace

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018, Ross Trudeau


First of all, I love this kind of title. One that tells you just what's going to happen in the puzzle, but you usually don't understand it at first. This time, "If I Were You ..." should be read as "If 'I' were 'U,'" because all the theme answers make that switch. As in, 62A: Like a trip overland from Venezuela to Bolivia? (JUNGLEALLTHEWAY). Hah! I like that one a lot. PASSWORDHUNT, I like less, but maybe that's a thing, I don't know.
A butter with no rival.
I caught on to the theme right away with BUTTERRIVALS (23A: Land O'Lakes and Breakstone's?), and after that, the whole puzzle went right along.

I liked much in the fill, including the rather imposing DIMINUTIVE (69D: Tiny) in the lower left, and on the other side, BAITSHOP and ROUNDHOUSE side-by-side were good. It's somewhat amusing that ALITALIA crosses AGLIOEOLIO, and I enjoyed the two "Box of 12" clues (6D, JURY and 77D, DOZEN), but I'm not sure why the latter required the "say" in the clue. 

One thing about crossword puzzle reviews, they can never be RETREADS, can they? I mean, the subject matter is new every day, so our reviews have to be new, too. We try to avoid becoming overly AGITATED, or sounding like a PEDANT. Occasionally, our EYER SEES something to ASSAIL, but AFTERWARDS we work the other SIDE, but we don't GUSH unless a puzzle can really EARNIT

OK, enough of that. I liked this theme just fine. It was a nice diversion, and now I have to pack up and leave this UTOPIA, this other EDEN to go back to the big building with a lot of BOOKS that I work in. 

- Horace

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018, Ryan McCarty


Today's surprise is that Phoebe and I did the puzzle together. This rarely happens, but is always a welcome occurrence, especially when it's as tough a puzzle as today's was.

The NW corner went super fast though, even with my initial mistake of BABYbjornS at 1A: Alternatives to strollers (BABYSLINGS). ADIEUADIEU went in ("to yuh and yuh and yuh...") without any difficulty. But we couldn't get out from there, because nobody has ever heard of GEODESISTS. Even after we finished the puzzle, we stared at that answer. "Geo... desists?"

After that there was a long period with a few answers scattered here and there. What finally broke it all open was taking out a section of guesses in the SE, including a clearly incorrect -S at the end of 48D: "Go back" button abbr. on some remotes (PREV). How did I think that would end in an -S? Well, in my defense, there's an -S at the end of the clue. So... yeah.

Anyway, Phoebe looked at 53A: Spitball, e.g. and saw PROJECTILE (very nice) and then we got USNAVYSEAL, and finally, OXYGENBARS. And that opened up the middle.

I love 30A: Blarney stone? (FAUXDIAMOND), and groan at 34A: Simple business, frankly speaking? (HOTDOGSTAND). Oof, that's a tortured clue, but a fun one.

The clue that tried the hardest was 33D: What Hawaii has that Alaska lacks? (DOTTEDIS). Let me suggest that a better clue would have been "What Hawaii has that Idaho lacks?"

And... scene.

- Colum

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018, Damon Gulczynski


Surprise! It's Horace! Colum is on the road all day. I know, because they just stopped in to visit Frannie and me at the beach house, and then they were heading to dinner, and then they had another several hours to go before they reached their destination. So I thought I'd step in. I suppose it would have been nicer if I had thought of doing so at 7:30, when I first did the puzzle, but, well, I didn't.

Anywho, I liked this one quite a bit. SPLITSVILLE (17A: Where a rocky relationship may end) and AREYOUBLIND (57A: Angry shout to an umpire) are good anchors in the NW and SE, but I like to think PUTPENTOPAPER (34A: Begin writing) was the seed entry here. How could it not have been, I suppose? STEAMBOAT (10D: Setting for the first Mickey Mouse cartoon) and SPACERACE (32D: It was launched with Sputnik) were a little easy for a Friday, but perhaps that's just for "solvers of a certain age," like me.


With VLO in place, I dropped reVLOn right in, but no, it was something much more entertaining - PAVLOV. I salivate for good clueing like that... too much? And I loved seeing RETRONYM (38D: "Rotary phone," for one), LUMMOX (44D: Stumblebum), SCORPIO (22D: One who arrives around Halloween), and other excellent fill. And is the NUTPINE where pine nuts come from?

Really, everywhere you look there's quality material here: GASBAGS, GUFF, PIGLET, SKUNK, EMPORIUM, VAGABONDS ... so good.

OK, Colum, if you have anything more to say, speak up now, or forever stay in the comments!


- Horace

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018, Patrick Merrell


Oh, I loved this theme. I laughed at each answer. What great finds, phrases that start with the word "no," which are then reinterpreted as negative answers to questions expecting the answer "yes." Thus, the ludicrously convoluted question "Should you call that stopover between Liverpool and Belfast a peninsula?" merits the equally ludicrous answer NOMANISANISLAND, reparsed as "No (you idiot), Man is an island." Hah!

With only three long theme answers, the fill has plenty of room to shine. GARBANZO is always welcome, especially as one of our nicknames for the younger daughter is "Ceci," pronounced in the Italian way. 39D: Holder of dozens upon dozens (EGGCRATE) is a lovely example of the clever clue without a question-mark.

And how about 10A: Extra inches (FLAB)? Wow, that's out of left field. I also appreciated the very nice clue for 22A: What Alabama cheerleaders often request? (ANA), which made a less than exciting bit of crosswordese much more welcome than had it been clued as "Santa ___" or some such.

There are some bits I could niggle at, but who wants to do that? On such a lovely Thursday? It's not a perfect grid, but it's fun. And it has the word CUSP in it. And even if ICET and ICEMAN kind of duplicate each other, I liked the trivia of learning the man's given name.

So, in the end, I give it a happy thumbs up, and look forward to the rest of the turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wednesday, August 8, 2018, Andrew Kingsley


It's Wednesday, so it must be a WEIRDO puzzle, right? I was surprised at how easy this one was. I had gotten 1A (the first word of today's theme phrase) from crosses, and then figured out CALCULUS, one of the greatest examples of human beings coming up with amazing discoveries at the same time in different parts of the world. For the record, Leibniz published first, but Newton gets all the credit because he claimed to have developed it some years earlier, although he didn't publish until much later.

All this leads to the phrase GREAT / MINDS / THINK / ALIKE, and the puzzle has five examples of great inventions (or in the case of the ATOMBOMB, world-changing inventions in any case) where two people independently having the "aha!" moment. Although in reading multiple articles about these specific inventions (which makes for fascinating reading), it becomes clear that in reality it wasn't so much great minds thinking alike, as it was great minds working together or against each other.

Of course, I always respond with "Fools seldom differ."

Anyway, with 67 squares of theme material, the puzzle is remarkably segmented in order for the answers to have little overlap in terms of crossing down answers. Thus, there are no down answers longer than six letters. There's little room for pizzazz, but I liked 14A: Heat setting (MIAMI), referring to the NBA team, and RIALTO is something I'd like to visit at some point in my life.

I left the last square of 11D: Some college building dedicatees (ALUMNI) open until I had the crossing, just in case. As my daughter goes to Wellesley, most of the dedications are to alumnae. Although, now that I write that, I see it had to be an I, as it was plural.


- Colum

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018, Alex Eaton-Salners

4:45 (FWOE)

Welcome to day 2 of my week of surprise blogging! During which I will attempt to be surprised and surprising all at the same time. ARYA surprised yet?

No? RHO well.

Today's puzzle takes the four main BEERINGREDIENTS and hides them inside four other two-word phrases. Nicely, all of the hidden words are split across the two words. The most surprising of these was IOWATERRITORY, a term I'd no memory of encountering before, but all four stand up to inspection.

I'll just go on a little tangent here. More of a rant really. I don't really like IPAs. And nowadays, it seems that 90% of beers on draft are IPAs. Or double IPAs. Or super IPAs. See, I'd rather have less of the hops, and more of the malt. Although not so much that it becomes a stout.

Speaking of which, on a recent trip to Ommegang in Cooperstown, I tried a Gnomegang beer. I highly recommend it, although they are very difficult to find outside of the actual brewery, it seems.

Oh yeah, the crossword puzzle. My error was stupid: I had dORIA in at 14A: Middle-earth area under the Misty Mountains. Clearly I was thinking of the Andrea Doria, the ghost ship. MORIA is where The Fellowship encountered the balrog, and Gandalf "died". Anyway, dELT was clearly incorrect, I should have figured that out before finishing the puzzle. Ah, well.

Other things I liked included 53A: How a dying machine goes (KAPUT) and BLOVIATES.

- Colum

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday, August 6, 2018, Andrea Carla Michaels and Mark Diehl


Well, I opened up Horace and Frances today to see the review of the puzzle, and found none posted yet. It was at this point that a little light bulb popped in the nearly empty refrigerator of my mind. "Perhaps..." it said to me, "perhaps it's your week to review?"

Gah. Happy I figured it out before tomorrow!

In any case, a lovely start to the week, with the classic idealistic statement "make love, not war" across the front of the four theme answers, and the numerically replaced revealer at 54D: Decade that spawned the slogan [above] (60S). All four theme answers are strong, especially MAKEITSNAPPY. (It occurs to me that I don't think I've ever actually said "Stat!" as a physician in an emergency. Neither have I said the previous phrase.)

51A: L.B.J. campaign to help the poor (WARONPOVERTY) is an extra bit of theme material, since it originated in said decade. I think we'd all agree we've failed on that particular front.

Things I liked today:

  • OPRAH directly above OPERA. Also that the latter references "The Magic Flute," not my favorite exemplar (or even my favorite Mozart opera - "Don Giovanni" wins that one), but still chock full of lovely goodies.
  • CLEAVES. Such an excellent word. In one sense it means to split, as in the clue, but in the biblical sense, it means to stick together. How is this possible, O English language?!
Things I didn't like today:
  • Strange pluralizations, such as PLANBS. I think you can only have one plan B, no?
  • Also APERS. Yuck.
  • 4D: "Almost finished!" (ONETOGO) - I mean, I get it, but it just didn't feel quite right.
But overall an enjoyable start to the week. Which I am blogging about.

- Colum

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday, August 5, 2018, Alison Ohringer and Erik Agard



The circled letters in the puzzle, when read left-to-right and top-to-bottom spell PHANTOMS, which coordinates well with the title "Ghosted," but there is also the matter of the clue at 69A to address. It reads, "Like this puzzle's circled letters vis-à-vis their Across answers" (LOSTINTHESHUFFLE), which makes it seem like something else is going on that I didn't figure out. I'm counting on our esteemed co-blogger, Colum Amory, to explain this aspect of the puzzle. :)

I FWOED at 18D: "What it takes two to do." I entered DUEl even though HEARTRAlE didn't mean anything to me, but as the across was a question-mark clue, I thought maybe I just didn't get it. I did consider the correct answer, DUET /HEARTRATE, but the way the clue was worded, I rejected it. I thought two couldn't really "do" a duet, although I was fine, for some reason, with that same pair "doing" a duel. I may also have been influenced by the next door neighbor EPEE (One-on-one Olympics event).

I enjoyed the puzzle overall. Some clues I liked in particular:
Good name for a botanist? FLORA - I thought of Ferne initially, but this answer is also quite good.
Competitor of Rugby (ETON) - nice twist on an old chestnut.
Hell, informally (SAMHILL) - this is an old favorite from "It's a Wonderful Life" - "What the Sam Hill you yelling for, George?"
In spades (BUTGOOD) - excellent.
Two of diamonds? (SYLLABLES) - my old friend, the self-referential clue!
Friend of Descartes ... or, in English, question pondered by Descartes? (AMI) - Interesting clue.
Makes out? (TAGS) - tricksy.
Dummkopf (ASS) - both are good words.
Pricey-sounding apparel brand? (LACOSTE) - Ha!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018, Sam Trabucco


Sitting on the porch at the beach cottage, after having IDLED at the north west corner for too long, I gave up and had Horace tell me the answer to 1D: "Makeshift technique for female modesty" (HANDBRA). I hadn't heard of that cover up option before. Or RYEBEERS, or the AARE river, or that a feature of a moat is a DAM. So, there you go.

I didn't figure out the trick of the puzzle until after it was complete, in spite of my natural penchant for the literal. If I had associated the "literally" in 50A with the "8-Down" part instead of with the "one just taking up space" part, the light might have gone on a little sooner, and I would have entered EIGHT down at the end of the letters DEADW across. Combined, the two parts together formed DEADWE/IGHT. Another one of the trick answers, 18A (With 10-Down, literally, now and then), had the letters TEN down at the end of EVERYSOOFT/EN. I think I was additionally thrown off the track of the trick because my app highlighted the related clue (at 8D, for example), but the actual answer in that space had nothing to do with it.

I liked AHEM, FROTHS, FRIENDZONE, MODELUN, and I have a fondness for a ROLODEX - who doesn't like an ordered set of data?

Although I don't normally like to cave on a puzzle, today it was good for my bien ETRE. :)


Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday, August 3, 2018, David Steinberg


A relatlively fast Friday for this solver. There wasn't a lot of flow, but I was luckily able to break into each section with at least something. The toughest for me was the mid west. I have heard of WEEZER, but for some reason the band didn't jump to mind. On the other hand, I've never heard of EDSHEERAN, but thanks to the downs, he didn't give me any trouble.

I liked MAKESNOISE (complains vocally) in the north east. STRIPMALLS was fine, as fill, and I see how it goes with the clue, but are "Commercial lines?" a thing? Maybe that's another area for me to study up on. My favorite in the south west was BREAKADATE (Cancel on someone). NEATH that I had CORKingFEE at first. Had I been familiar with Sir KAY of the Round Table I might have gotten to CORKAGEFEE sooner. It also took me too long to get STARTREKVI (1991 scifi sequel). Was that one of the good ones? Despite the fact that I consider myself a fan of the Original Series, I can only reliably associate plot with sequence number for I, III, and IV.

Some clue/answers of note:
Monet that isn't worth much money, say (REPLICA) - I liked this clue, but did think it would have been stronger with out the "money" part, even though it has the Monet/money sound thing going for it.
Sauce with the same consonants as what it's used on (PESTO) - Neat.
French vanilla ice cream ingredient (LAIT) - nice misdirection.
Stir crazy? for PRISONRIOT - Ha!
Four-finger gestures (AIRQUOTES) - I don't take an air quote myself, but I enjoyed this one anyway. As and aside, I am in the ANTI camp where DOGEARS (Turns a corner) are concerned.
POOCH is a funny word. 

I thought there was ATAD too much crosswordese for a Friday, even if it was introduced with more clever or twistier clues (ANTE, IMAC, RUE, ETS, IRA, PPS, ALOE, etc.). I guess that ENDSIT.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thursday, August 2, 2018, Xan Vongsathorn


A stunt puzzle! What TH?? Each square with a circle in it could be filled with an H[eads] or a T[ails] based on COIN FLIPS without, so the revealer claims, affecting any of the clue/answer pairs. For example, the clue for 31A/D is "Breaking records, maybe" and the answer could be either HIP/HOP or TIP/TOP. I especially liked TINT/HINT for "Slight coloring" (6D). That one was paired with the more sedate STOCK or SHOCK value. The pair at 1A/1D deserves mention for the entertaining clue: "Something at the end of the hook?" FISH/FIST. HAHA! BASHES/BASTES at 56A  is nice for its non-rhymingness. And HEATRAY/TEATRAY is notable for its change in word boundary. I liked the theme ALOT.

I don't think the rest of the fill was afflicted by the ILLS sometimes associated with a stunt puzzle. I liked KITED, ASTUTE, LAGGARD, SHEAF, STABILE, SLATE, KEVLAR, and SLIVERS.

The answer NYE for "Dec. 31" took me a minute because I went the easy route with crossword darling evE at first. 5D: "Place for a mogul" (SKISLOPE) is fun. And I thought 67A: "Falling down in a pillow fight" (EIDER) was ducky. :)

Overall, an excellent Htursday puzzle!


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018, Sande Milton and Jeff Chen


The ayes have it! Wait, scratch that, reverse it. The i's haven't ... any place in this puzzle. Not a I. The puzzle is homophonically EYELESS - both clues and answers. Randy Quaid lost an eye and became RANDYQUAD (Campus area for amorous students?). Ha! An eyepopping Greek ruin becomes a GREEKRUN (Marathons, way back when?). and a SOCALBUTTERFLY gets an eyeful in Orange County and L.A. and becomes a social butterfly.

In addition to putting the eyes out of the puzzle so dramatically, there were other GOOD bits. ODDDUCK with the three D's in a row looks great. I also liked SOAK, RECUSAL, REDHOT, EQUUS, and ELOQUENT.

I am FOND of an EXCEL spreadsheet, although a little put out at it being tied with the epithet "common." :) I really don't know how anyone COPES without them. How else do they know what they URN?

And, color me surprised to learn that EMUS lay green eggs - and they are really green! I looked up some images on the World Wide Web - that's just how I am - driven to learn all I can on my own. I guess you could say I am self TAUT. I hope these groan-worthy remarks aren't taking ATOLL.


There were a lot of three letter answers in the grid, but most held their own - UGA excepted. Also, while I don't think this merits being scald out on the carpet, I thought PYRE didn't furnace an exact description of Joan of Arc's demise. Too soon?