Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday, October 31, 2018, Bruce Haight


I love this puzzle. I'm just going to come right out and say it. Outstanding work. The amusing thing is when you know the shaded squares spell letters out phonetically, and yet when you go to enter the answer at 67A, you try to spell it using just the first letters of the shaded squares. S-A-W-P-T? Doesn't make any sense!

No, of course, it's actually CRYPT. We've seen this sort of thing done before, but in this instance it is elevated (not the most apt descriptor for the theme) by the grid artwork. Not only is the aforementioned tomb separated in the bottom of the puzzle with what looks like one of those stone coffins with an effigy on the top (represented with the answer THEME), but there's a perfect cross in the middle of the puzzle above it. Nicely done!

In addition, we get BURY and ARAMAIC (which brings that cross back to mind). AGASP and CUJO make the chilling nature of the puzzle and day more acute.

It's nice having the additional spice of GOMORRAH and KGBMOLE, along with the lengthy if not brilliant ROTARYCLUBS (you can't have everything). I very much liked the clue at 19A: It's not a good look (OGLE), which redeems the unpleasantness (and crossword ubiquity) of the word with appropriate disdain.

Nicely done, Dr. Haight.

- Colum

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018, Jules Markey


It's not even Hallowe'en and we're starting in on the spooky stuff! I enjoy this time of year, and it's not because of the already opened bags of candy on our counter. Nobody's been eating those. Nope. Not a soul.

Today's puzzle takes as its theme the GRAVEYARDSHIFT, and interprets it literally by shifting the letters RIP along from left to right as the puzzle moves down. Did we need the grayed in squares to point out the theme? I'd love to try one of these puzzles without the unsubtle hinting and see if I have enough nuance to figure it out on my own.

Meanwhile, the theme answers hide the RIP well, in my opinion, except for the amusing GIVEARIP, which wins just on its own. SUNRIPEN is nice because of the image, the Proustian taste sensation it summons forth, and because the RIP is pronounced differently.

I enjoyed STYLIZED (although I'm not sure I accept SEEPY as the price). Also GOFLYAKITE is excellent. We should have more of these phrases in puzzles. There must be a MYRIAD of them to draw from!

My favorite clue today came at 44D: Like ghosts and goblins? (PLURAL). Bonus theme material 'lert! (Along with BOO.)

- Colum

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday, October 29, 2018, Peter Gordon


In our society today, I think we have a tendency to want to see things too much in black and white. There's not enough nuance. That being said, today's puzzle is all about the black and white, at least in the animal kingdom. I'm impressed that there are five examples of said animals available to be used in the puzzle, and that each is in a phrase that is at least semi-unrelated to the actual animal.

My favorite today is ZEBRACROSSINGS, because I am instantly reminded of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - to be precise, the bit where Man proves that God does not exist, and then, "for an encore, goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing." You might take a point from PUFFINBOOKS in that it is a subsidiary of Penguin Books, but, really, I'm not going to use that to detract from the ZANINESS.

There's not a ton of zing in the fill otherwise, nor does Mr. Gordon prove himself INEPT at constructing a Monday puzzle. I was amused by the ABFAB next to DEFIB coupling. There might be a bit of reliance on old school crosswordese here (I'm looking at you, ELOI, AGEE, and OSTER), and I am certainly unconvinced by ACMES. It seems wrong that you can have more than one highest or most successful point.

Anyway, it was fine.

- Colum

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018, Erik Agard


Hey, it's Sunday! And I haven't written a crossword blog post in like forever! So it must be my turn! Yay!

I actually solved today's puzzle fittingly while waiting for my daughter's tennis lesson to be complete. The revealer at 119A is MIXEDDOUBLES, referring to the fact that the answers, which are well known phrases of the form "A and B," are anagrams of the clues (if you drop the "and"). Thus, 23A: Sou'wester is an anagram of SWEETANDSOUR. It's very cleverly done.

You could certainly argue that clue phrases like 62A: "After Earth" (TARANDFEATHER) or 111A: Prostates (STOPANDSTARE) are hardly scintillating (or even in any way appealing) references. For the record, the first was a sci-fi film that nobody saw ever. But that didn't bother me much during the solve. The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is 97A: Trade punches (STANDUPANDCHEER). That's fine stuff.

I felt sure that I was going to be on the right wavelength when I hit 1A: Chunks of land (TRACTS). I was immediately put in mind of a classic Monty Python scene, and that's always for the best. But to be honest, after that, there wasn't much I loved in the fill. EEROSAARINEN's full name was very nice to see, but let's be honest. He's been dead almost 60 years. Then you get things like CUESTAS, DONTPLAY (which feels completely ad hoc), and APOLUNE. Oof.

On the plus side, COGNAC. Also 67D: Good throw? (AFGHAN).

An answer I'm unconvinced by: STARSPOT. I believe it as a general term for what we're used to around these parts of the galaxy, namely sunspots. But still.

Anyway, these are probably the tradeoffs we get for seven theme answers and a revealer. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Saturday, October 27, 2018, Bryon Walden


A topsy turvy week, puzzle-difficulty-wise for this solver. I had much more trouble midweek than with Friday and Saturday. Maybe I have NOTALENT for trick puzzles. :)

Mr. Walden gives us some great fill today from SCHLUBBY and KNAVE to POTASH and ECOCIDAL. I also liked the clue answer pairs "Being"/ENTITY and "Clocked"/BRAINED.

There were also some fun clues:
Ads that get a lot of traffic? (BILLBOARDS) - apt!
Do a double take? (REFILM) - reel nice.
Miss, e.g. (TITLE) - this one's a hit!
Transferrer of stock? (LADLE) - a pun in pour taste? :)
Cabbage for canning? (SEVERANCE) - this one really paid off!
Take in the paper (OPED) - which I first mis-parsed as the poetic 'ope'd' but just now realize is the much more clever answer OP ED. Ha!
Hardwear? (ARMOR) - this one suited me just fine.
Signs of rush hour (HONKS) - a tricky aural answer to the normally visual "signs"


I got slowed down in the north east at the clue "Skunks." At first, believe it or not dear readers, I knew the sports clue in that corner. I remembered TOMWATSON from when we used to watch golf. But, then I got into a MIRE with "Skunks." My first thought was for the cribbage definition, as in when one player wins with a margin of 31 points or more. I already had ATS at the end of it, so I thought, oh, it'll be something beATS. Nope. It was a more straightforward answer: POLECATS - talk about PETODORS!

Nice that both jungle and APEDOM could fit the answer squares for "Tarzan's realm," however, I rejected jungle out of hand as being too easy for a Saturday.

Learning that "Paragon" can mean an unflawed diamond weighing at least 100 carats or a very large spherical pearl (GEM), having SCORED a sports answer, and having solved the two big puzzles of the week, both in under 40 minutes, makes me feel like a real ENIAC. :)


Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday, October 26, 2018, Evan Kalish


A relatively easy Friday, which was a relief for this solver after her epic struggles with the Wednesday and Thursday puzzles. I'm not sure if the clues were easier, or if the topics were just more in my wheelhouse, but I suppose that's always something of a GRAYAREA.

Kind of a chunky puzzle with three tens each across the top and bottom and all those eights and nines down the sides. My favorite ten was IVECHANGED ("That's not me anymore"). I was vexed at first about the answer to "Tahoe, for one" (ALPINELAKE), but, I looked it up and it turns out I was taking the "alp" in alpine too literally. Apparently, it refers to any lake or reservoir at high altitudes. The Wikipedia page includes a list of  famous alpine lakes, none of which are in the actual Alps. How's that for a nice TABLESCRAP of information? As concerns the downs, that SANTAANA on the far right sure looked weird, didn't it? Nice olio of A's and N's.


I had the most trouble with the south west where "Traditional retirement present" (PEN) - I was thinking of something a little more spendy like 'watch' - "Selection ____" (BIAS), "Fluff pieces" (LINT), "Stuffed appetizer" (SAMOSA) - love those, but was thinking 'olive'! - and "Funny Martha" (RAYE) slowed me down. I also had a tough time with 37D. Bills are found in it (AFCEAST), thinking, as intended, of the wrong kind of bills, compounded by the fact that I don't know which teams are in which conferences (damn sports ball :).

In reviewing the puzzle just now I realize I misunderstood the clue "Pitched horizontally" thinking it referred to some kind of angle, but no, a throw. And, although I was able to fill in BPLUS for "88 or 89", I confusedly misparsed it as BP LUS, which I decided was some kind of blood pressure measure. What justifications won't the brain come up with?

One of my least favorite fill answers is SAC. UGH. :)


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thursday, October 25, 2018, Neville Fogarty


Wow. I had a tough time with this puzzle. I didn't get very far on it over coffee this morning, so I sat down with it after dinner and at least 30 minutes LAPSED, during which the occasional BLEEP was heard, before I got the "Congratulations" message.

Even though I completed the puzzle successfully, I didn't understand the theme until I talked it over with Horace. There were four theme answers that each referred to another answer in the puzzle. For example, the clue for 17A was "Footnote info" (PAGE) and then 18A said "See 17-Across. We realized, after some discussion, that one needed to literally add the "See" from the companion clue to the answer for the clued clue, which would then make a word that matched the long answer. See? :) In this case, the combo was see + page, or seepage, which could be defined as LOSTLIQUID, which was the answer for 18A. The other theme answers were


Very tricky! I think I would have been able to solve the puzzle faster if I had figured out the theme, but I was happy I was able to power through the tough but excellent fill in the rest of the puzzle. I had the most trouble in the north west, not knowing actor LIAM Hemsworth, Dutch artist Jan van der MEER, or the African country that's a member of OPEC, although the latter was easy enough to figure out once I got a break. The clue "Looks beneath the surface, in a way" (SNORKELS) had me on the ropes for a long time, but it's the kind of clue I like: so obscure at first, at least to me, then when you get it, so apt. Apt! Another one I had a lot of trouble with was "Something that's tailor-made" (HEM). I thought this one was a bit more of a stretch, but OK, I guess. Also in that section, I kept putting in and taking out PAGE for "Footnote info" because I couldn't square the short form of "info" with the complete word "page", well, that, and I couldn't figure out "Rough spots" (ACNE) or "Firm affirmation" (ICANSO).

There were a lot of excellent clues that contained multiple possible meanings, just like I like, including "Not yellow" (BRAVE), "Trail" (LAG), "Ran out" (LAPSED), and "Boots" (POWERSUP). I was surprised to see "slangily" added after "Dog" in the clue at 49D in light the ambiguous nature of the rest of the clues. I wonder why the clue wasn't simply "Dog."


Other favorite clues:
SAW for "Oft-repeated words" is really top drawer.
"What may blossom from buds?" (BROMANCE) is hilarious. Ha!
"That's an order" (EDICT) is very nice.
"Tears for Fears, e.g." (TYPO) - genius!

In sum, a puzzle with some standout clues, along with, luckily (at least for me) some more prosaic fill like San ____, Calif. (DIEGO) and "Rigged game in 'Casablanca'" (ROULETTE) or I might still be INSEARCHOF an answer, or two right now.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday, October 24, 2018, Michael Paleos


What would a week of reviews by Frannie be without a DNF? Although there is a lot of stuff I didn't know in the puzzle (ORINOCO, Bell Biv DEVOE, TARA Reid, ZAMUNDA, EDA LeShan, etc.) that wasn't where I ran into trouble. I was LEDASTRAY by the trick clues. I never figured out that the circled letters A and D had "popped up" out of the the two black squares below and had to be mentally filled back in to make a complete answer to the two-part clues underneath. That isn't a very good explanation. Maybe an example will help. The clue at 42A is "Like seven teams in the N.H.L." The answer appears to have only three letters, but those three letters are followed by two black squares, above which appear the letters AD, and those two black squares are followed by 43A whose clue is just a dash and whose answer is three squares long. The upshot is that the answer is CAN[AD]IAN, which, I am assuming, is the an accurate response to the clue. Now that I review the completed puzzle, I see that one problem for me in figuring out the trick was that I didn't absolutely know any of the answers to the clues that had the pop up ADs missing from them, so I kept trying to find words that would fit in the allotted spots. If, for example, one of the trick clues had been "Author of 'Heart of Darkness'" (JOSEPHCONR[AD]) I might have realized that something funny was going on. And where I had completed the partial answers by getting the downs, I failed to notice that they weren't very apt vis-à-vis the clues. Anyhoo, enough about my failings, and more about the puzzle. I liked the literalness of the POPUPAD revealer, and they are a real nuisance when browsing the World Wide Web, in this puzzle they provided a clever twist.

Other clever bits included "Secret DC headquarters" (BATCAVE), "Launched a tech start-up?" (POWEREDON), "Fashion mag suggestions, in two senses (DOS), and "Gander" (LOOKSEE). I also liked "More bananas" (LOONIER),
I hope your own solve was NOTSOBAD.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday, October 23, 2018, Kathy Wienberg


Each of today's theme answers ends with the name of an ATHLETICCUP (STANLEY, DAVIS, RYDER, and WORLD). Interestingly, three of the full theme answers are themselves personal names, although not the persons for whom each cup was originally named. The fourth one was one of my starred clue/answer pairs for today: "I can't believe we both know him" (SMALLWORLD). The revealer puts me in mind of a fan sign I saw at a ball game in my youth and still remember because it caused me to engage in the 1970's equivalent of LMAO: Be a Red Sox fan not an Athletics Supporter. Ha! The first half has renewed timeliness on this, the first day of the 2018 World Series. Go Sox.

I enjoyed this ZESTY puzzle, especially:
"Band at a royal wedding" (TIARA)
"Hot couple" (ITEM)
"What might bring you to a screeching halt" (RED)
"Slide presentation" (AMOEBA)
"It's not free of charge" (ION)

DIN, ROIL, DITZ, and PRY are nice fill. And there was a welcome shout out to one of Horace's favorite poets EDNA St. Vincent Millay.

I wasn't aware that "Western ravines" were COULEES, but I suppose it does explain the Grand Coulee Dam. Well, its name, at least, the hydroelectrics not so much. Also, I didn't understand 18D: "Dude (up)" (TOG). Anyone?


While we haven't yet won any blogging cups, we have gotten some nice compliments on this blog. All I can say is, WETRY. :)


Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018, Alex Eaton-Salners


I liked the theme answers today, being a big fan of the PLANETS. The revealer claims that the planets are the etymological origin of the five theme answers (MERCURIAL, VENIAL, MARTIAL, JOVIAL, SATURNINE). I wondered, though, when I finished the puzzle, if saturnine traces its meaning "gloomy" (one definition) to the planet, or to the Roman god Saturn? So, I looked up each of the planetary adjectives in my American Heritage Dictionary and three of the five words did actually refer to the planets themselves and astrology in the definitions, while also referencing the gods. Mercurial and venial did not. The definition of venial didn't even mention Venus, just the Catholic Church and the Latin word venia, forgiveness.  Not that my dictionary is the last word, so to speak, but it does introduce some room for debate, not enough that I am not going to moon over it, however. :)

The astrological aspects of the adjectives not withstanding, the planetary descriptors are orbited by a solid set of math and science subject matter including CUBES, UNIT, TRON, PRISM, USENET, MONOMER, EROSION, and SPACE - bonus theme material!

In addition to the full bodied theme answers, I also liked MUDPIES, HUMORME, ONEROUS, and BOAST.

The clues "Clink on the drink" (BRIG) and "How about we forgo that" (LETSNOT) also entertained.

I decided to use VOLGA for today's illustration and suddenly IMALL down a rabbit hole. The Wikipedia article about the Volga included an image called (in English) "Barge Haulers on the Volga" which I found fascinating, so then I had to look up the artist and all his other works, one of which featured Ivan the Terrible with his son, the Tsarevich dying in his arms, so then I had to see what that was all about. Anyhoo, all very interesting, but entirely off SCRIPT vis-à-vis a review of Mr. Eaton-Salners fine puzzle.


There were a lot of brand names and commercial entities (ETRADE, CITGO, ESSO, RONALD, YELP, ETC) in the puzzle, which, for me, isn't OPTIMA, but nothing TOO UGLI. MERCI.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday, October 21, 2018, Finn Vigeland


The theme answers today should have the word "down" added at the end to make them work perfectly, as in 3D: Headline after a toddler C.E.O. resigns, literally?" (BABYSTEPS (down)). Answers like THERESTHERUB (14D: "For a massage, go that way!," literally?) could work without the "down," but most of the others kind of need it to make sense. Like 77D: One answer to the question "What's your favorite music genre," literally? (JAZZHANDS (down)). It's a little tortured, but it's fine.

Things I did not know before today:

AMARNA = Where cuneiform was discovered.
NOLITA = Manhattan neighborhood next to the Lower East Side
ICET = Potrayer of TV's Det. Fin Tutola
ASHLAR = Squared building stone
THEFBI = 1960s-'70s police drama
NEWT = Seventh-year exam in Harry Potter
EGAN = Jennifer who wrote "Manhattan Beach"
SWEDEN = First country to legalize changing one's gender identity (1972) - Wow!

But even with all that (and a few others), the solve was not unduly long. 

I would like to point out the following clues:

68A: Hole foods? (DONUTS)
41A: Where one might be well-suited (MENSSHOP)
the amusingly odd
1D: Embarrassment for an art curator (FAKE)
the very tricky
102D: Quote from a letter (RENT)
and my favorite
93D: Barbie attender (AUSSIE)

Good stuff.

And how about the risqué BADASS (60D: Total baller). I'm not sure how that one slipped by the censors!

Frannie takes over today. I'm not sure if she's going to write anything about today's puzzle, so I guess I'd better put in an image.

And with that, I'm out. See you in a few weeks.


- Horace

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018, Ben Gross and James Somers


Boy, this felt great. After a FWOE (Finished With One Error) to start the week and a DNF (Did Not Finish) yesterday (... and yes, I realize that to finish with one error is to not truly finish, but here at Horace & Frances Featuring Colum, we cut everybody a little slack), it was very satisfying to LACERATE this one quickly and cleanly. I got started right away by entering CRIP (1A: Gang member associated with the color blue), MANTA (5A: Powerful ray) (I realize now that it could also have been "gamma,"), and "rhoS" for 10A: Sorority letters (PSIS). From the first two correct answers the entire NW fell almost instantly, and then I worked my way down and around, ending in the SW.


It was all squarely in my wheelhouse, and I can't be the only solver who found certain clues a little easy. Maybe the editors lighten up when a puzzle is so segmented. The NW and SE are quite isolated.

Still, easy though I found it, I still smiled at several of the answers. My favorite might have been the charmingly quaint AHOYTHERE (43A: Ship-to-ship communication). Hah! And just below it, 46A: Dead ringers? (FLIPPHONES). I guess it's true, if even yours truly abandoned his FLIPPHONE for a Pixel 2 last year... "25A: Caesarean section?" was cute for ICAME, but I thought "26D: Ended a phone call?" was a bit of a stretch for BUTTDIALED. And if "tails" and TUXEDOS (28A: Relatives of tails) actually are different in some way, I'm not high class enough to know about it.

I liked the directness of LISTENUP (31D: "Hey!"), and the mini astronomy theme (PTOLEMY, POLARIS) was nice. Loved the old-timey BESOT (21D: Stupefy) and BELIE (48A: Contradict) contrasted against the thoroughly modern NETFLIXANDCHILL (7D: Modern invitation to hook up).

In short, this was full of satisfying fill and very little filler. Being the CLASSICS lover that I am, I'll even accept ILLE (18D: Latin pronoun) with a smile. Everybody's familiar with "Winnie Ille Pu" after all, aren't they?

Really, a lovely puzzle. Pity it was over so fast.

- Horace

p.s. It's a debut puzzle for both constructors! Congratulations!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday, October 19, 2018, Trenton Charlson

DNF in 21:46

I really liked this puzzle, but that NW corner broke me. I finally got SIXPACK (1A: Objective worked toward during crunch time?) which is excellent, but I failed to notice when I did that it changed my 4D from cOPs to POPs, and I then guessed kEYs at 19A (Singer with the 2012 hit "Let Me Love You"), which resulted in the dreaded "you filled it in but you're not really done" message. I flailed for a while then looked at xwordinfo and saw my 2 mistakes. I wish I had thought more about POPO (4D: Law enforcers, in slang) (Frannie uses this all the time!), because having _EYO might have prompted me to come up with NEYO, a name I have heard, but know nothing about. And what the hell is a SCANTRON? A Matt Ginsberg device?


I loved the NE, with it's ONVACAY (16A: Catching rays for days, say) - which I thought of immediately, believe it or not, but did not enter until I had a few crosses - and the related BODYSURFS (8D: Rides the waves without a board) (duh). The Twain quote is funny, but I'm not sure I believe it (SANITY and happiness are an impossible combination). I don't want to believe it.

Frannie and I saw a PLAY last night, coincidentally, and although it wasn't the best thing we've ever seen, we were never inclined to shout BOOHISS (8A: "Get off the stage!").

Other entries I liked were BBQJOINT, ROULETTE, XRAYSPEX (3D: Novelty item in vintage comic book ads), the blue combo (OCEAN and COBALT), and the outlet pair (ADAPTOR and DEADEND). I have never heard of the "Participate in quid pro quo" definition of LOGROLL, but I still like the entry.

Really, lots to like here. I just wish I had been more familiar with NEYO.

- Horace

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018, Erik Agard


I'm not sure about this one. I like the idea of LIFTEVERYVOICE, and it started very well with "bass," "tenor," and "alto" (in order from lowest to highest) running up through theme material, but when it came to the last one, which ought to be "soprano," we get instead "treble." I find that this is supported in the dictionary definition of "the highest part in harmony," but still I find it slightly trebling. I'm around music and musicians frequently, and I've never heard anyone speak of a "treble voice." Sure, there's the treble clef, and the term is common enough, but I just don't hear it associated with voices, which is what is being specifically referred to here. Perhaps our resident music major will sing out with a different opinion, but for me, it struck an off note.


Also slightly off-putting was BARONETCY (6D: Noble domain). It's maybe more normally just "baronet," but then, it's not normal at all, so why not go all out. Oh, I don't know... I wanted to like this one, but I just didn't. TMS, too, rubbed me the wrong way. "Symbols in superscript, for short" - it's not so much a symbol as simply the letters "TM."

But there were things I did like, of course. TEN (21A: 20 under 30) was excellent, and I always love the kind of trivia found in 1A: American dance move that, for whatever reason, is illegal in Saudi Arabia (THEDAB) and 5D: Singing superstar born in Tottenham (ADELE). And I enjoyed the fun new clue for ERIE (3D: Home to Bessie, a lake monster in American folklore). Hah! Another nice discovery was SANTERIA (60A: Caribbean religion with roots in Africa). Now that Sublime song makes much more sense! :)

Little errors and doubts slowed me down today, like putting in SToniER instead of STERNER for 40D: More flinty, and forgetting that there's a MENLO Park in California, as well as New Jersey. And those names! I didn't know MERIDA, BECCA, ELVIRARIRI, or RORY. So all that made it a little slower, but things eventually worked themselves out.

I guess it's fine. I mean, TREBLE really does work, and they go in order from low to high, which is great, and I learned a lot, including the fact that LIFTEVERYVOICE is considered to be the "black national anthem." I guess I just didn't love it.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018, Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer


Well, Dear Reader, yesterday we had three different answers that could all have been clued with the same single word ("Life"), and today we have three different clues for three appearances of the same single word! GASP! It's a stack of PANCAKEs, and I, for one, applaud the chutzpah of running this somewhat daring puzzle. It's irreverent and fun. The stack sits on a PLATE, with a PAT of butter on top, and two streams of syrup running down the sides. In my book, its ACES.


Outside of the central theme, there's good long material - the full-on French CESTLAVIE (31D: "Them's the breaks," genteelly) (see also GUERRE (48A: Opposite of paix), AUX, and JUS), JUVENILE (9D: Minor), the always amusing CLAPTRAP (5D: Nonsense), and the always evocative SEVENSEAS. Nice.

SNELL (51D: Fishhook line) is a bit obscure - it's the second definition in my desk-side dictionary, after "quick" which comes straight from the German. It can also mean "severe," "extreme," or "keen." I'll have to file those definitions away for a rainy Saturday.

Not too much to grouse about, save maybe KAA (23D: Snake in "The Jungle Book"), a little ESE and NNE, and our old friends ETO, UTE, and OBI, the last of which is elevated by a cute clue today - "Tie that binds, in Japan?"

Overall, I am surprised and delighted by the craziness of having the same word three times, and what are puzzles for if not to divert us from the same old, same old? ICALL it a little bit of MAGIC that these come to us daily, and I shall not RUE giving this a hearty thumbs up.

- Horace

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tuesday, October 16, 2018, Ed Sessa


Very nice theme today, all put together by a perfect revealer - THATSLIFE. The other three themers, two of which are grid-spanners (!), describe three different things called Life. I love it, and I like the nod back to Sunday's theme with the first one, BOARDGAME. The BREAKFASTCEREAL has always been a favorite of mine - not really top-tier, like Freakies, Fruity Pebbles, or Cap'n Crunchberries, but still, I would definitely reach for it over many other sweetened cereals. Today, it's all Kashi Cinnamon Harvest all the time, though. Mmmm... with the unsweetened coconut milk... mmmmm.


Where was I? ... I loved seeing MELDS (19A: Card groupings in canasta), because I used to love playing that game (back when I was still eating all that sugary cereal), but it is part of a healthy DOSE of old-skewing material: ETTU, ERAT, OMAR, CARA, MRED, ENDORA, and PAAR.

Another oldie but goodie was BATPHONE (36D: Gotham City hotline), and I also enjoyed FRAGRANT, ELECTRIC, CRABCAKE, and ZEALOT. Boy, how 'bout that clue for REO (27D: Competitor of the Essex or the Hupmobile). Seems almost Saturday-level! Lucky for me I never saw it. :)

Remember ZIMA?...

So I enjoyed the theme, and there was a lot of good mid-length material. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Monday, October 15, 2018, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

0:06:19 (F.W.O.E.)

Well, not the most blistering or accurate start to the week, but an interesting start. The five theme answers have a young animal name in the very center: Cub, kit, calf, kid, and colt. It is likely that kit and kid are just two different spellings of the same word, but since we use one for cats and one for goats, I see no problem with having them both. The containers start with the non-Monday like INCUBUS (1A: Night demon), and the slightly specialized dog breed AKITA (8A: Japanese dog), which I mis-remembered as AKIrA. This error should have been remedied by that old crossword darling TET (11D: Vietnamese New Year), but sometimes on a Monday you don't actually read all the clues. Well... I don't. Perhaps you are a more sensible solver. I hope you are. :)


The other three themers are all perfectly fine. Of them all, I like AREYOUKIDDINGME the best. It comes the closest to giving away the hidden word, I guess, since it is not really spread over two words, but still... I like it.

In the fill I enjoyed KIOSK (35A: Stand around the mall?), 54A: King topper (ACE) I really wanted to find a three-letter synonym for "crown," ICEGIANTS (20D: Planets like Neptune and Uranus) (this should please our resident astronomer, Huygens), and HEADY (51D: Intoxicating). Also, I'm pretty sure I read "36D: Fairy tale fiend" as "furry tale fiend," which is funny because it kind of works either way for OGRE. Heh.

I did not particularly enjoy CENSE (19A: Perfume, as in a religious ceremony) or ACU (62D: Prefix with pressure or puncture), and the ascetic and the divinity (FAKIR and DEVA) might be a little non-Mondayish, but those crosses seemed entirely fair.

Overall, it played a tad tricky for a Monday, but I liked the theme.

- Horace

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday, October 14, 2018, Ross Trudeau


Classic board game hunting, that is, not wild game. Although I suppose that some of these could get a little wild when played by the right crowd. :)


So it's familiar phrases wackily clued to make believe that games are being named. My favorite is "54A: We can't play that game unless we borrow someone else's" (IHAVENTACLUE). HAS! So formal.... my least favorite is PLEASEDONTGO, because it doesn't really work. The rest are all pretty good. So fun theme.

The grid seems more open than Sundays sometimes are, but there's that long diagonal running down the middle that broke it into two separate sections, which made my solve more difficult. Speaking of difficult, there were a few squares that I only really understand now. 74D: Scale site DELI - I guessed the D for EDNA Mode, and get that it's "weighing the meat and cheese" DELI scale. I'm not sure what I was thinking up until now... And for 102D: Go on and on (YAP), I had YAk even though kORE means nothing to anyone. PORE, on the other hand, is where beads of sweat are formed. I blame my thick-headedness this morning on my sister's birthday party last night. I don't think I've overdone it quite so much since my own thirtieth birthday party, which was quite some time ago now. I'm definitely getting too old for this sort of thing.

Anywho... enough about that. I really enjoyed some of the clues today "They're shared among friends" for INJOKES, "Suspect statements?" for ALIBIS, and my favorite was "They vary from past to present" for TENSES. Very nice.

In other places things got a bit musty - I'm looking at you BIREMES, TRIBUNES, and TRIODE - and COMAKER, REGLUE, and ENHALO aren't exactly COO-worthy. But let's not focus on those, lets instead enjoy TURTLEDOVE, FATHERTIME, CAJOLERY, and GENDERFLUIDITY. In my book, this was a fun Sunday!

- Horace

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday, October 13, 2018, Kevin G. Der

11:07 (FWTE)

I've never heard of FOREX before. Apparently the portmanteau is from "foreign exchange." The crossing with ISOPOD was rough for me, expecially since I guessed PuMAS. There are your two errors, folks. I was nominally slowed down in that corner by thinking seven people play volleyball instead of your standard SEXTET, as well as by guessing MilANO for MURANO. Ah, well.

Meanwhile, the rest of this puzzle just sizzles. 1A: Rhimes who created "Grey's Anatomy" (SHONDA) was too much of a gimme to start the puzzle off, and made the NW kind of easy. 1D: Gets a twinkle in one's eyes? (STARGAZES) is fun. I'm also a big fan of ZOEKAZAN, who after going on IMDB I see I was confusing with Noël Wells from Master of None. It turns out I just saw Ms. Kazan in a small role on The Deuce. Still, great crossword puzzle entry with those two Zs and a K.

There are a ton of misleading clues today. How about 40D: Diet in the Mideast (KNESSET)? Nicely hidden capital there. Also 55A: Isn't discrete (OVERLAPS). That's great cluing right there, simple and surprising. And then there's 26A: Means of drawing up solutions (PIPETS). Masterful!

Can I also call out the divine (YEATS) next to the less than divine (ANDIE)?

(Answer: yes, I can, since I'm writing the blog...)

It's one of the saddest things I can think of that one of the all time great movies, Four Weddings and a Funeral, is saddled with one of the worst actresses of all time. In baseball, they talk about wins above replacement (WAR) - where you imagine how great a player is by thinking how the team would do if a league average player was substituted in. In this case, an average Hollywood leading lady would have done wonders. Ah, DOLOR.

Anyway, I'll look past REDOSE and the SE disaster. Fun puzzle.

- Colum

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday, October 12, 2018, Erik Agard and Bruce Haight


Grid art today makes for a themed themeless of a sort. There is a very realistic representation of a LIGHTBULB in the middle, with WHATSTHEBIGIDEA riding right across the top of it. I've been trying to decide if THATISTOSAY and NOWLETMESEE are part of the theme as well, but in either case, I love the colloquialisms.

The NW corner was the last to fall for me, although in retrospect it doesn't seem that crazy hard. In particular, I should have been able to get 22A: "Awake in the Dark" author (EBERT). I'm sure I've seen that exact reference more or less in the past. Similarly 20A: Bathroom or beach supply (LOTION) is pretty obvious now.

Meanwhile, 31A: [Don't you think you're milking it a bit too much?] (MOO) got a serious groan from me. Wow, that's a lot of work for the pun. Is the question mark in the clue actually a clue question mark, indicating the pun? Can we call this a hidden question mark clue then? I like that idea.

Meanwhile, 3D: "Hope" and "Friendship," for two (STATEMOTTOS) is great. I'd never ever heard the term ECHOBOOMERS before, but the term's been around since 2004 at least. Apparently Millenials have similar demographic characteristics to the Baby Boomer generation.

I am impressed by the smoothness of the center section, especially crossing IRAQWAR with CONQUEST ("Mission accomplished," Dubya pronounced prematurely).

A fine puzzle. Nice work, gentlemen.

- Colum

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018, Johanna Fenimore and Jeff Chen


I was ultra confused by this puzzle for a long time, it seemed. As I was solving the NW corner, I came across 16A: Picking out of a lineup, e.g. The answer clearly started with BRAI___. What could this be? And then what about 22A: Upper body muscles, for short, which clearly wanted to be "lats." What was with this LABR___ opening?

It wasn't until I filled in the NE corner and confirmed that 24A: Extremely was going to be answered with BRAVERY, and then backfilled the NW and got BRAIDING and LABRATS, that I figured out the answers were all tainted with the additions of "bra." Finally, the revealer: NOBRADAY.

So, basically, in order to answer the actual clues, you had to take "bra" out from the answer in the grid. I guess that makes this Thursday a "no-bra day" in puzzle land. Fortunately, there were no other _BRA_ letter units in the puzzle to ignore.

My favorite theme answer is 35A: Didn't delete (LEFTBRAIN) for "left in." I love how the addition of "bra" totally changes the sense and the sound of the original phrase.

The truth is, the short nature of the theme answers means the rest of the puzzle lacks the typical pizzazz of a well-crafted NYT puzzle. I enjoyed 4D: Collections of patches, say (QUILTS). And while the clue at 33D: Application for the Mr. Universe contest? (OIL) is certainly CLEVER, can we all agree that, well, "ick?"

- Colum

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018, Alex Eaton-Salners


Oh, my. I'm a big fan of today's theme. I had no idea what was going on. At first I thought the theme answers were just examples of phrases with repeated first syllables. But then I hit the revealer at 67A: Series whose first seven members are sung to the starts of 18-, 26-, 41- and 54-Across (ALPHABET).

See, if you use solfeggio to interpret those first syllables, you get C-C-G-G-A-A-G, which is the tune for the Alphabet Song (for A through G). Or, if you're a little more into foreign folk music, it's the French song "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman," which Mozart wrote a lovely little set of variations on.

So I love the concept. LALALAND (great clue) and SOHELPMEGOD are solid answers. I can accept DODOBIRD I suppose, although I think the last word is redundantly extra. SOSOREVIEWS is definitely an ad hoc answer. It fits the purpose of the theme, but it is not a typical phrase. It fails the Google test miserably. Anyway, I'm ready to overlook the awkwardness.

BASSI is a nice addition to the theme. But how about TNOTE? Maybe if you found it in a SARONG you were singing. Too soon?

48A: Podded plants (OKRAS) jazzed up a bit of crosswordese. I also liked the clue at 69A: To eat a late lunch or wait until dinner, say (DILEMMA). And here's to the wonderful JODIE Whittaker, the new Doctor Who. She was outstanding in Broadchurch, and I have no doubt she'll do a great job in her new role.

- Colum

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday, October 9, 2018, Natan Last, Andy Kravis, and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


This was a romp. I stuck to short answers and everything else fell into place quickly. It's a supper smooth puzzle, with a fun theme.

HIDDENFIGURES was a very good film, if a little Hallmark-y for my taste. It's an important piece of history, as long as you don't mind a little fast and loose playing with the actual facts, or the mythical figure of the color-blind white man in charge, who comes across a little too good to be true.

Meanwhile, in crossword puzzle terms, it's referring to the fact that each of the long answers have a solid figure hidden (in plain sight, since the circles make it very obvious) in the letters. Finding "prism" in EPLURIBUSUNUM is very nice, especially with the clever clue (20A: Coined phrase?).

Elsewhere, you get TWO crossing TWA, which is not the Scots version of the number 2, but rather the long-gone airline (1930-2001). I'm rather fond of a HIPPO ballerina. And how about having both DEALIO and CHEERIO in the same puzzle?

I do want to point out that KOSHERSALT is not actually produced in any specific way to be kosher. There are brands that are actually kosher, but your standard kosher salt is just a coarser salt. So the clue fell a little flat for me (28D: Passover brisket seasoning).

I found the chutzpah (to go all Yiddish) of starting with DAMNS to be amusing. But even more were the cojones (NOBUENO?) to put THEEU in the puzzle.

- Colum

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday, October 8, 2018, Jacob Stulberg

4:22 (FWOE)

Once again, I've BEENE ERIN by going too quickly. I had TAK____ at 65A: Letting others occupy the spotlight, and put an E in next. Only at the end when I found I'd made an error, did I see that an I was necessary.

In any case, today's puzzle posits that an AIRPORT would be the site where you might find the ends of the theme answers. I get BATTERYTERMINAL and GOLDENGATE. Both of these things are clearly inside an airport. But then we get CANNERYROW and TAKINGABACKSEAT. I love the answers, but the theme misfires here, if you ask me.

I didn't ask you, I hear you cry!

Only you did, you see, because you're reading my review. Hah! Got you.

So in my opinion, the last two are things you'd find in an airplane, or on your ticket, but neither really are found in an airport. It's a shame, because otherwise this is a fine puzzle.

I may be no fan of LIMPBIZKIT (either the name or the music), but it's a great entry in the puzzle, with that crazy ZK in the middle. I am also no fan of a WINECOOLER. Just drink the wine, fer cryin out loud. But it's nice long answer.

I laughed at 53A: Admission of perjury (ILIED). Yup, that'd do it. Seems à propos nowadays, only I don't see anybody getting tried for it. What, you lied? Well, ILLINI. Doesn't make any sense.

And... scene.

- Colum

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday, October 7, 2018, Tom McCoy


After a prolonged space away from the blog, I have returned to find that my personal lacuna has been ably filled by HORACE (nice call out!) and Frannie (not there was ever any doubt on the subject). I imagine hardly anyone noted the void created by my absence. Hmm. I'd better stop with all of these attempts at synonyms for gaps before I dig a hole too deep to get out of...

So, yes, Mr. McCoy has provided us nine phrases where the second word implies a break or a gap of some sort. This is then self-referenced to the first word, where a single letter has been inserted, causing a separation, akin to a gap. Amusingly, when you take all nine letters and read them consecutively, they spell out SQUAREPEG, which have been thrust into round holes symbolized by the circles.

All nine phrases are solid. I like R(S)AILSPLITTER the best, both for its reference to Abraham Lincoln, and the aptness of the term "splitter" to refer to what the S does. Also, now that I look at it, the reminder of Life of Brian is funny also: "Whatever happened to the Popular Front?" "He's over there." "Splitter!"

In many of the other theme answers, the second term is more of a synonym for an absence, such as "space," "cavity," "opening," etc. I don't think these hit the mark as well. Nitpicking so soon after coming back? Why, yes, that's exactly right.

I was UNREADY for the puzzle to start on such an icky crossing as GERMS and EPIZOA (scientific term for lice, ticks, fleas, and other nasties that live on the skin of their hosts). Otherwise, I found not much to note, except for the clever juxtaposition of 115D: Scot's refusal (NAE) with 116D: Scottie's warning (GRR).

- Colum

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Saturday, October 6, 2018, Lewis Dean Hyatt

OHHI. We are ONTHEGO today, without a proper keyboard, or much Internetz. In short,  I'll be ATIT while Horace DRIVES.
I found an OREOTHIN at the rest stop. 

Also, a KNEECAP. :)

All this typing while in motion is making me dizzy. I hope I don't SPITUP. Don't worry, there won't be a photo for this one. 

Interesting that the  parallel long answers are HEARTSANDMINDS and THATSTHESPIRIT and EVILINTENTIONS and SLICEDANDDICED.

Funny that we just had enrages for "brings to a boil" and today we have ANGERS.

I've never heard of Paul ERDOS. I'll ask Huygens if he has when we arrive.

I liked "Minor concessions" SOPS, then noticed it was very near OPS, which, for some reason, I don't like as much. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018, Robyn Weintraub


ANDWEREOFF was an apt kickoff to a fun puzzle. In view of my time, perhaps a little on the easy side for a Friday, but also, therefore, even more apt. Apt!

I did get stuck for a bit in the north east. For some reason I started with gETARECORD ("More than just won") instead of the correct, and more natural sounding, SETARECORD. I also spelled "'Family Ties' mother"'s name with an "a" at first, leaving me scratching my head over gI_a for "It's where it's at." As you might imagine, 13D: "Roger _____, fifth chief justice of the Supreme Court didn't help me much. Anyhoo, I finally got gET out of 11D and reconsidered the spelling of ELYSE, and, Jack, as they say, was a donut.

Another factor in speed may have been that many of Ms. Weintraub topics were right in my wheelhouse with "Vulcan telepathy technique" (MINDMELD), "Like a code anyone can use" (OPENSOURCE) and "Bring to the boiling point" (ENRAGE). :)

Some real MONEY clues and answers today:
"Props for a Broadway play?" (TONY)
"Time, proverbially" (MONEY)
"King maker" (SERTA) - I think I was helped by Sunday's mattress-filled puzzle on this one.
"One who's got game ... but shouldn't" (POACHER)
And my favorite (clue, not meal): "Military leader known for being chicken?" (GENERALTSO) - ha!


By Gokudabbing - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 
A few NENEs today including AOL, TALI, RTE, and ATTN, but nothing to WIG out about. 

Horace and I are getting our LANTERNS out of STOWAGE today in preparation for a camping trip this weekend during which we will GAD about Vermont. Watch this space for tomorrow's review from the road.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Thursday, October 4, 2018, Joon Pahk

25:09 FWOE

None of our dear readers will be surprised to learn that I've never heard of seven-time All-Star Dave STIEB, who pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays. According to the Wikipedia, he won his seventh and final All-Starryness in 1990. Where Stieb crossed Mr. Netanyahu's nickname (BIBI) I came up dry and guessed STeEB, more because Steeb seemed like a possible last name than BIBe seemed like a good nickname. I was Crushed.

I cannot tell a Pibb: I didn't figure out the theme, either. (Do we need a new acronym for that? FWOFOTT? Yes. Yes we do). But, my lack of a theme-related OHO aside, I think it is a clever one. Part of my problem was that I kept trying to figure it out focusing only on the first theme answer BUBBLEGUM. When I got the revealer "Ingredient in some cocktails" (SODAMIXER), I did anagram GUM, but for some reason, I mist the fact that MUG is a kind of soda. AW :( . Perhaps if I had zeroed in on the MARCECKO  answer (COKE), a light might have gone on. Although, I'm not sure I would have realized that JUDASPRIEST could give us SPRITE, or that we could get TAB from a BASEBALLBAT.

I'm going to give 7 ups to:
34A: "Going rates?" (TOLLS) - clever clue.
65A: "Long nap?" (SHAG) - ha!
4D: "Choice A for Hamlet" (TOBE) - so choice B is not to be? :)
12D: "Phone tapping targets?" (ICONS) - apt!
38D: "Put in a hold" (STOW) - nice ambiguity in the clue.
50D and 51D: SETUP and ERASE - a touching contrast.
58D: "Server load?" (TRAY)



I am not a Fanta the number of abbreviations in the puzzle. There were two right out of the gate: LGBT and ACLU, closely followed by  LBJ, CPA, USPS, AAS, ASAP, and YOLO. And, while not exactly abbreviations, ERAS, SEATAC, NEWAT, TONOW, and SITAT don't really effervesce.

I was not familiar with the archaic (per my dictionary) AMAIN, or the fact that female swans are called PENS. The latter seems like it might come in handy someday if I ever Dew trivia again.

Of course, all constructors know that my Barq's is worse than my bite. Puzzle-wise, I'm really pretty Mello, Yello?


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday, October 3, 2018, Jennifer Nutt


Today's theme answers relate the story of Queen CASSIOPEIA, ruler of ETHIOPIA, who was banished to the sky by POSEIDON for boasting that she was more beautiful than THENEREIDS. Pride goeth, as the British might say. Could SOLACES be a hidden theme answer (Ones who know a lot about the sun?) :)

Five X's appear in the grid placed so that they form the Cassiopeia constellation. Stellar! These NYT puzzle constructors don't myth a TRICK.

Interesting to learn that a YACHT was a pre-1977 presidential perk. Who KNEW?  Maybe it was a more AUSTERE time.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018, Paul Coulter


Today's theme combines two one-word movie titles to match jokey clues. My favorite is Melted? [2018, 2012] FROZENONCE. Typing in those years just now, however, makes me think I've jumped to the wrong conclusion about the theme. The answers can't be movie titles because I'm fairly certain Frozen came out before 2018 [I just checked IMDB. It came out in 2013. -ed.] Maybe the titles are Broadway shows instead of movies. It just goes to show that I'm more OSCAR than Tony.

The solve went right along (I didn't even really take note of the theme until the end), but for some reason, I had trouble with 44A "Dapper fellow" where it crossed with 29D "Star Yankees 3B for 10 seasons." I should have gotten DAN, but I'm not sorry that it took me a while to think of AROD. I also entered DEFang instead of DEFUSE at first (Render harmless), which slowed me down in the south east.

Bright lights, for me, include the sewing duo BASTE and DARNS. I also enjoyed FIG (Worthless amount), RIGOR (Severity), and AFOOT (In progress). LUNGE, MOCHA, STRETCH, and DOOFUS rise above mere square fillers.

"Carte that comes before the course?" (MENU) was an amusing clue for menu. I also liked both "Ne'er-do-well" and its answer BADEGG. My favorite clue today was "Fall setting" (EDEN) - ha!

By Hannes Grobe - w:de:User:Hgrobe [CC BY 2.0 de (], from Wikimedia Commons
I might have left ISMS, ISP, USNA, SIRI, and READE waiting in the wings, but I'm sure that in puzzles as in theatre, the show must go on.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Monday, October 1, 2018, Chuck Deodene


Mr. Deodene has a real ear for "eyes." Four long across answers and the revealer all end with different spellings of the "eye" sound, including DRAMATISPERSONAE and FIGHTINGILLINI to name two. The revealer "doomsayer's assertion or a phonetic hint to 18-, 24-, 51- and 61-Across" hits a bull's eye for accuracy: THEEND ISNIGH. Apt! As I review the theme answers just now, it occurs to me that none of the words containing the "eye" sound in the answers are English. Nigh, on the other hand, has a solid Germanic language origin. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, its comparative and superlative forms spawned the cognates near and next. Cool.

The puzzle also includes, possibly ASASET, HIGH, FISHFRY, and ACAI. Also SUNDAE. Interesting.

I liked two possibly chance juxtapositions including MIAMI MICE and PEARL DAM. I also enjoyed NEARFATAL, WINGINGIT, SNUB, YAW, and LADES. And who doesn't like GORP, SOBA, and SMORES. Mmmm, smores...

If asked, I might say IXNAY to IRT, XER, and LXI, but I could be convinced to turn a blind eye.