Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018, Robyn Weintraub


Ms. Weintraub is quickly becoming one of my favorite constructors. This puzzle was a delight! Right from the first clue (a gimme, for old people like me) 1A: "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" singer, 1972 (CROCE), I had a good feeling about it. In fact, the first three answers went in like it was a Monday, but after that I needed several crosses before the excellent HOLDMYBEER (13A: Modern phrase said before doing something foolish) became clear.

Good clues were everywhere today.

15A: Coping mechanisms? - SAWS
20A: One might tell you to do the math - TUTOR - Hah!
22A: Warm and toasty, e.g.: Abbr. - SYNS
54A: Employer of some shepherds - CANINEUNIT
12D: Message that might be sent in a storm? - TWEET
47D: Plastered - GONE 

I also appreciated the updated clues for STYE (16D: Possible reason to forgo mascara), CHE (24D: Jost's "Weekend Update" co-anchor), and even EGOS (31D: Bigwigs may have big ones).

And then there was all the sparkly fill:

EMPTYNESTERS - 5D: They may have rooms to spare
NANNYSTATE - 11D: Overprotective government, so to speak
ACOLYTE - 23A: Follower
ABBEYROAD - 30D: "Something" can be heard on it
COINOPERATED - 21D: Like many laundromat appliances

I'll take a little OLIN, ELIE, and TCU for all that puzzling goodness.

Loved it.

- Horace

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018, Herre Schouwerwou

0:18:45 (F.W.O.E.)

Boy, this grid looks weird, doesn't it? I love seeing that circle in the middle, but I can't help wishing there were some way to enter something into it! Not that it would have made sense here, but still...

Arrowed answers today need to be answered "in a roundabout way." I think the arrows gave away a bit too much, maybe, but it still took me a little while to figure out that I had to take the first exit in the rotary rather than driving all the way through and continuing straight ahead.

This is TOLE. Who knew?

I think all five theme answers are strong. SPROUTWINGS (33A: Become angelic, figuratively) was my favorite.

And there's lots of interesting fill material, too. BRACERO (54A: Seasonal migrant worker from Mexico) is nice and topical, what with all the immigration noise lately, and THRASH, STROBE, BOTCHOOLITES (Lucky I was just at a gem & mineral show a week or two ago!), and ROOFTOP are all quite good. I am not too familiar with the term LACKWIT (23D: Blockhead), but I like both it and its clue, so that's all good.

I was tripped up by 16A: President in the 2009 film "Invictus." (MANDELA). I entered "Freeman," but they wanted the president portrayed, not the portrayer of the president. My error came just before that, at 15A: Patsy (SCHNOOK). I entered SCHmOOK, thinking, apparently, that it might be an alternate spelling of "schmuck." 9D: Old channel that showed "Hee Haw" didn't help, because Hee Haw originally aired on CBS, and then it was in syndication, and Wikipedia lists it being on TNN from 1996-1997. Anyway, I should have known that TmN wasn't any network at all, I guess. Gotta be more careful!

There's a little glue (SIMI and KEA are my least favorite, but why? I usually like geographical answers...), but not too much, and not nearly enough to diminish the fun of a good ol' crazy Thursday puzzle. Great start to The Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018, David J. Kahn


I love France, but I did not love this puzzle. Its theme of FRENCHREVOLUTION - the "Historical event suggested by each of the six groups of circled letters," was just ok. The circles are symmetrical, which is nice, and I'm sure that to have 28 triple-checked squares and a 16-letter revealer must have really handcuffed the constructor (I sure hope it did!), but I'm not sure that the final result was worth it.

The living room in the house I grew up in had French doors, but I had to look them up just now to realize that. And French cuffs are probably equally unfamiliar to most people. The best of the circles is obviously French pastry.

We have tried to reduce our criticism of weak fill here at the blog, but today I can't help myself. I'll keep it to a simple list:

MIFF - Not normally seen in the present tense.
APSES, ESTERS - plurals of crosswordeses
BADACTOR, KICKUPAROW, INAPT, FEDIN - uncommon, odd expressions
OLAF - minor character who appeared on and off between 1989 and 1999.
OCTA, AREEL, OLE, RUBIK, MIR, ESTEE, EEO, HOC, OSA, ERTE, FARO, OOP, AGORA - Tired, old, crosswordese.
ISERE, OSSO, TULLE, BENNY, ALMA, ICC, DRT - Specialized or obscure knowledge most commonly found in crosswords.
RON Darling - last played in 1995, but he was a Met, and he is still in broadcasting, so I guess it's fair for New York sports fans.

Some of that would be fine. Not all of that.

But I'll end with some entries that I liked:

HAWKED - 35A: Peddled - Nice words, both.
USERID - 40A: Surfing moniker - An unexpected and fresh answer!
ART - 9D: "What you can get away with, according to Andy Warhol - So true.
DEANS - 13D: Emory board feature? - Emory University, I presume. Kind of a cute, if nearly impossible clue.
WHIRL - 30D: Attempt, informally

Here's to looking forward to BETTERDAYS.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018, Erik Agard


I liked this puzzle because, for me anyway, it put up more of a fight than I am used to on Tuesdays, and its theme was one that I thought was fresh and well-done.


Let's take the theme first. The revealer, GOTTARUN (59A: Parting words from 18-, 23-, 36- and 54-Across?) cutely anthropomorphizes the other theme answers, all of which can be said to "run." And those other four are all perfect. Sure, maybe someone would argue that not every FRIEDEGG runs, but I would counter-argue that those people are frying their eggs incorrectly. And I might further argue that not every candidate should actually run for office... but that would just make everyone sad, and that's not what we're about here. :)

Now let's talk about my shortcomings. Have you got the time? Why can I never remember the spelling of UHURA's name? Luckily, crosses eventually corrected my initial attempt. And I really wanted to be able to come up with BORNEO (7D: Largest Asian island) without crosses, and spent not a little time blankly staring at the empty squares, but in the end a couple crosses were necessary. WOMANISM (3D: Social theory popularized by Alice Walker), on the other hand, I had no hope of getting without crosses. I should have, sure, and Frannie, maybe, dropped it in, but not me. And one last thing - my ego swelled a bit after entering adenOID at "25D: Neck gland," only to have to slowly extract it as letter after letter turned out to be wrong. And ok, sure, maybe the adenoids are slightly higher than the neck... but jeez!

Other things I enjoyed: SUNGOD, DUKEITOUT, NONAMESRETINUES, and HOTHOTHOT. And how 'bout how they just dropped "soca" in the clue like we all know everything there is to know about Lord Shorty and his "soul of calypso" genre? SLY.

Overall, I thought this puzzle was LIT.

- Horace

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018, Evan Kalish


It could be argued that anyone who solves crossword puzzles, and certainly anyone who reads this blog, is a nerd. And given that, everyone I am reaching now will have enjoyed discovering a hidden nerd in the five theme answers today. My favorites are DINNERDATE (32A: Partner at a table for two) and BANNERDAYS (42A: Times when everything goes perfectly), because those are perfectly normal and they both conjure up pleasant thoughts. DESIGNERDRUG and WEINERDOG conjure up unpleasant things, and SCREENERDVDS seems like it shouldn't really be a thing anymore, what with the streaming and all.


In the central West of the puzzle are two conversational answers that you don't see very often - HIDEME (28D: Plea from a fugitive) and ANDITSGOOD (29D: Announcer's cry after a successful field goal attaempt). (That second one is something the Vikings are wishing they heard a couple more times last night!) The rest of the fill holds little that is scintillating, but I did enjoy seeing HOARDS (10D: Stockpiles), and SEVERE (22D: Extreme). ARGUER, RVERS, GMOS, and TOV were less enjoyable.

Overall, it was a fine Monday. And on a personal note, I'm happy I was able to start the week cleanly.

- Horace

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday, November 25, 2018, Joon Pahk


I am thankful, at the end of this Thanksgiving weekend, for having been reminded all week by Colum that there are plenty of things to be thankful for. Even while SEALEVEL rises and rhetoric sinks, we can find things to keep our spirits on an even keel. One of which, cited on Wednesday, the very raison d'être of this blog, is the NYT crossword, which today made me smile yet again.

Today's puzzle is just what a big Sunday grid ought to be. It's got a word-game like title that perfectly describes its theme, and that theme is executed beautifully with examples found in both Across and Down answers. By the addition of a final, silent E, common phrases are made to answer contrived clues, and I'm pretty sure that every single one of them made me smile. Well, all except maybe BYEALLRIGHTS (38A: What you're effectively saying when you sign a waiver?), because while this is a nice warning to those who do not read what they are signing, not all contracts need be agreed to as is. Negotiate, people! And walk away when the terms are not just. Mini-TIRADE over.

The rest of them, beginning right away with ASTARISBORNE (23A: Photo caption for the winning team's M.V.P. being carried off the field?) and ending with CASTELOTS (81D: Places for specific social classes to park?) were absurdly amusing. My favorite might actually be the straightforward and short SEMIPROSE (67A: Piece of writing that's half in verse?). It's funny because it's true!

In addition to the amusing and satisfying theme, the fill had lots to like as well. ATHEEL (65D: Following close behind), SCRAPE (42D: Minor altercation), APOLOGIA (22A: Formal defense), and UMPTEEN (70D: Scads of) were all unusual and fun. And the clues for MISSPELL (25A: Get an F in physics?) and EAST (83D: Heading in the right direction?) were excellent, despite the "north on top" bias displayed in that last one.

This is what I consider a BESTCASE Sunday crossword. It provides a LETHEAN ESCAPE from the daily BANE of CBSNEWS. The Romans were right: We need such bread and circuses, and for them, I am thankful.

- Horace

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday, November 24, 2018, David Steinberg


Thanksgiving week is done, and the mad dash of commercialism leading up to Christmas is upon us. So as my last thanks of the week, let me express gratitude for the quiet moments in life. Companionable time spent reading with a friend, walking a dog in the woods, a warm drink in hand after a cold day outside. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the yammer of constant updates and news alerts and tweets. And thanks to all of our readers for allowing me to wax poetical this week.

Today's puzzle went by remarkably quick, helped by knowing immediately 1A from my days of watching Dora the Explorer with my kids. The entire N third of the puzzle was done in under a minute. I was most amazed by finding that NIETZSCHE's name is nine letters long. Only the Germans and other Northern European speakers can make a two-syllable word have that many letters.

I was mightily impressed by the quality of all six 15-letter answers. SWIPERNOSWIPING, YERTLETHETURTLE, and THECLAWSCOMEOUT all are colorful and fun answers. The other three are not on the same level, but are elevated by their clues. I particularly enjoyed 17A: It's not backed up (IDLESPECULATION).
Two answers for the price of one pic
The quality of the crossing answers is also high for these kinds of triple-stack puzzles. I really fell for 5D: Trio of mummies (EMS) yet again! 58D: Member of a crossword aviary? (EMU) is an odd sort of way to acknowledge the crosswordese of this venerable feathered friend. I'm not sure the "?" is merited, though. It seemed like such a straightforward answer!

Otherwise, outside of the bland INITIATOR and NCOS, I had little to complain about. Nice work, Mr. Steinberg! One of my favorites of your efforts.

- Colum

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday, November 23, 2018, Temple Brown


On the day after Thanksgiving, I still give thanks, this time to good friends. We had a lovely time last night with five resident doctors, who were appropriately appreciative of the cooking (and boy, did it taste good!), followed by good games. But also to all my friends in other parts of the country and world and the internet. Thank you for being good people.

A nice themeless with a pinwheel-esque grid. Each corner consisted of triple stacks of 10-letter answers. Of course, since they are constructed equally, I am immediately drawn to rank them.

1. The SE corner: ANIMANIACS, of course, but I really liked the clue at 55A: Number 2, for one (LEADPENCIL). So many possible ways that could go. SALARYHIKE is a lovely optimistic answer. I also approved of 40D: Something "grand" that's not really so grand (LARCENY). All the crosses were reasonable.

2. The NW corner. SQUILLIONS is excellent, and BBCAMERICA was a gimme for me. ABOMINATES didn't resonate as well. What do people think of 4D: Lead-in to right or wrong (AMI)? I get it but didn't personally love it.

3. The NE corner. The three long answers are all actually very good, but SOLING and NRA make the area not so great. JOVE is fun.

4. The SW corner. I sort of like the clue at 27D: Not live in the present? (TIMETRAVEL), but it feels a bit tortured. Meanwhile, MERL should be retired, and PTBOAT is historically meaningful (although it's only ever clued as JFK's WWII post) but dated.

Anyway, I had a fun time solving, and that's what matters.

- Colum

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018, Randolph Ross


Hey, it's Thanksgiving! Let's give thanks!

Today, I'm thankful to live in a society with a political system that resists, both intrinsically and through the political activity of its citizens. It's a system that, despite its multiple shortcomings, actually protects its populace from its own worst tendencies by pulling back towards the center any time the pendulum swings too far in one direction. That means I rarely get the opportunity to see my own political opinions in the captain's seat, but it also means that we're protected from the would-be autocrats. Power to the people!

But back to our prime directive here at Horace and Frannie (Featuring Colum Amory!). The puzzle today has four examples of well known phrases of the form "adjective ending in -less describing a noun," and then interprets them literally. Thus, HEADLESSCHICKEN is clued with the word "coward" less the C. All four are excellent, but I think I like 25A: QUARR (BOTTOMLESSPIT) the best.

I thought the puzzle was just going to speed by when 1A: Green rock (EMERALD) turned out to be just what I thought it was. But the segmentation of the NW, along with the not immediately clear theme and the clever 7D: Took the heat off of? (DISARMED), slowed things down.

In fact, the first theme answer I figured out was TOPLESSSWIMSUIT, and I worked my way back up from there, ending in the NE corner, where ELKO and PSI were tough gets.

The puzzle definitely skews old, what with RICHIE and MELMAC (?!), YACHTER and LORELEI. In fact, what with ENDSIT and PASSAWAY, I felt a little like I was at an old folks' home.

Too soon?

Favorite clue of the day: 35A: Superior floor, e.g. (LAKEBED). That's a fine hidden capital clue right there.

- Colum

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Brandon Koppy


Hey, it's a debut puzzle! Congratulations, Mr. Koppy, and welcome to the exclusive club of NYT xword constructors. Which leads me to my thanks for today: I am very grateful for this silly little thing we do each day, solving the crossword puzzle. It's a simple thing, with endless twists and enjoyable innovations. I hope that our endeavors on Horace and Frances (Featuring Colum Amory!) bring a modicum of that same pleasure to our reading audience (all eight of you!).

Today's puzzle features FLIPFLOPS (63A: Questionable political moves suggested by the answers to the nine starred clues). The themed answers are two word phrases with the words reversed, and each resulting new phrase is itself a well accepted phrase. I especially like 30A: *Neanderthal (MANCAVE) and 25D: *Spring festival (OVERPASS). I am not convinced at all by 40D: *Residence in a row (HOMETOWN). I think of that particular residence as a "townhouse."

Impressive to cram ten (10!) theme answer into a 15 x 15 grid. Even more impressive are the four extra 8-letter words, of which APPLEPAY and FORTNITE are nicely contemporary.

In exchange, you get things like OTT over MOTT, ESQS crossing QEII, and obscure Jewish month KISLEV (well, Hanukkah starts in Kislev, but truly, the use of Jewish months has gone out of style in the NYT, which I, in my lapsed Jewish state of ignorance of said names, fully support).

Overall, it's a pretty good puzzle, befitting a Wednesday in difficulty and unusual theme style. I will leave you with the amusing "kitwo" moment of trying to parse 51D: Special interest group? (THEFED) as a verb in past tense. What, I asked myself, does it mean to thefe?

- Colum

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2016, Zhouqin Burnikel


We're getting closer... You know it's almost Thanksgiving when the puzzle has a turkey theme.

In today's installment of Colum expressing sentimental thoughts of gratitude, I'd like to give thanks for the luck I had to be born in a part of the world free from armed conflict, famine, or endemic disease. I know I take this for granted just about all of the time, but there's no way I could live the life I live (let alone write crossword puzzle blog entries) in one of those parts of the world. So there's that.

Meanwhile, back in turkey-time, the puzzle today gives four examples of sites that could be defined as "Turkey's place." I love WESTERNASIA here. How well put. And BOWLINGALLEY is excellent as well - here, a turkey means three strikes in a row. I have no use for this definition in real life, having never reached this particular accomplishment, but it was fun to come across it in the puzzle.

Meanwhile, it being a Burnikel grid, you know there's going to be some extra nice stuff. 10D: Very confusing (CLEARASMUD) is excellently pithy. 28D: Garnish for a vodka tonic (LEMONWEDGE) is also good, only not quite as good, because I don't take a vodka tonic personally. VAMOOSE is very good.

I also very much like 41D: Place to get a tattoo or some ice cream (PARLOR), just for the image of a person going to one place to get both of those items.

OUTA and EUR are not such great entries. And it was somewhat depressing to see both GUN and WMD in the region of WESTERNASIA. All too true, and hearkens back to my gratitude. How apt.

- Colum

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018, Jim Hilger

4:14 (FWOE)

Happy Thanksgiving week! Today, I am expressing gratitude for music. It's so important to me to be able to participate in music making on a regular basis. This year, I've been a part of Albany Pro Musica, a choir in my area of the highest quality. Last week we sang Britten's War Requiem, with the Albany Symphony, and it was a joy to help create something of so much emotion and wrenching beauty.

On the other hand, I blame the exertions for my current nasty pharyngitis, so no good deed and all that.

Today's error (a bad start to a week to FWOE twice in a row) came because I chose EwAN, the Scots version, rather than EVAN, the Welsh version of John. And of course, it being a Monday, I forgot to look at the crosses.

The theme is an odd one: there are only three answers, each a movie title in the form of "The A of B." The clues then call each movie an adjective which can be defined by the movie title. That's complicated to describe, and I'm not entirely convinced I've gotten it quite right. In any case, I guess that's why THECOLOROFMONEY is a "green" movie, or THESOUNDOFMUSIC a "noted" one.

That being said, all three movies are pretty good ones. I'd say that The Sound of Music is my favorite of the three, especially given the nostalgia factor. The Shape of Water was very good, but is a bit recent for me to be able to sense its overall value. I was certainly not in favor of it winning Best Picture. The Color of Money was a ton of fun, but clearly pulls up the rear of this trio.

With only three theme answers, the rest of the puzzle is free to have very good fill. I enjoyed BABYBUGGY, GRILLE, and BOTOX. MAKEME is also very nice.

- Colum

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018, Byron Waldon and Joel Fagliano


Hey everybody! Thanksgiving week is upon us, so in the spirit of the season, I will be expressing gratitude daily, strewing appreciativeness left and right, finding more and yet more ways to redundantly recognize aspects of my life to which I am obligated for the contentment I am lucky enough to experience.

Today I give thanks for my family, their health, humor, and support. Here's to you guys, who make every day fun and interesting and funny and loving. Looking forward to having everybody back in the homestead this week!

But on to today's puzzle. The theme is one of taking well-known portmanteaux, those smushed together words, and misinterpreting the two words that created them with wacky results. Thus, "brunch," originally created from breakfast and lunch, is instead clued as 52A: Late-morning mean for a TV family? (BRADYBUNCHBRUNCH). It's a cute idea, but it never reaches the level of guffaw out loud funny. Also, sour grapes alert, I made an error at 31A: Unseasonal wear on a winter vacation? (SKIRESORTSKORT). I had a T at the E, parsing it as "skirt sort skort." Hmmm. It didn't make any sense then, and it would have broken the rules of the theme by including an original portmanteau-d word in the answer.

Anyway, I have to express considerable respect at the construction of the grid. Note how the answers at 52A, 64A, and 71A are each only separated by one row. Note also how there are seven down answers that cross all three of those theme answers. All of those answers are solid. I especially like 32D: Split personality? (EXPARTNER) and 57D: Hightail it, saltily (HAULASS).

Other highlights in the fill include 16D: Formula for slope in math (RISEOVERRUN) and 15D: Can-can dancing? (TWERKING). That last one? Too funny. 67A: Like the number i, mathematically (NONREAL) adds to the math minitheme.

On a final note, I was saddened when I had to change my answer at 112A: See to it (MAKESURE). I originally had MAKEitso. Why, oh universe, why??!

- Colum

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday, November 17, 2018, Doug Peterson and Erik Agard


A big DNF for me today. I got stuck literally forever in the south east and decided to give up. I would like to say that if I didn't have to write the review today and could have taken more time with the puzzle, I could have solved it, but when I saw WORLDSERIESRING for "Band since 1922" I knew that it wasn't true. I would never have guessed that in a million years. Well, maybe I could have guessed it with most of the crosses, but there was too much I didn't know in that quadrant. I did not improve matters by confidently and erroneously confusing Mario Vargas LLOSA with Federico García Lorca. Dumb. That also meant that I was never going to get LLAMA, and so on. I didn't think to spell out I in ACTONE for "Play starter." Derp. THONGS never once crossed my mind for "Summer slip-ons." I call them flip flops. To sum up, that section was the perfect storm of weak topic areas for this solver: sports, musicals, and vocabulary variants. :|

On the upside, I did get TRACEEELLISROSS, even with no prior knowledge of her. The triple E's in her name are sweet. I thought TELEVISIONPILOT was well clued.

I've already ended my feud with France, and I quite enjoyed "Homme land?" (TERRE). In other foreign fill, I also enjoyed the complicated parsing necessary to understand the clue "Die on one side of Italy?" (SEI).  I enjoyed HOWODD and "Some causes of brain freeze" (ICEES), the latter, as a puzzle entry only.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018, Kyle Dolan


A fairly fast Friday. I had a faster time today than yesterday and my Tuesday time was only three minutes faster than today's time. Maybe Friday is the new Wednesday?

The only place I had any real trouble was where CELEB crosses BEBE. I was not aware of Ms. Rexha (my apologies for missing her #2 hit last year), and the clue "Inspiration for some fake social media accounts, informally" didn't (and I may say, still doesn't really) make any sense to me. I was faced with CELE_ and since B was the only letter that made anything close to an actual word, I put it in to great success. I had another slight slowdown when I entered "ref" instead of UMP in the north west. On the other hand, I dropped in TEA straight off the clue, "Break during a cricket match." Does that count as a sports reference? :)

I liked seeing DRACHMA in the puzzle. It reminded me of my trip to Greece when I was in high school. There was a guy at a souvenir stall who kept showing our group various gimcracks and saying, "free for 50 drachma." Oh, the ironing.

I thought the clue "A chorus line?" (TRALALA) was good. I also liked SEEDIER, WASSAIL, and GEORG. SELENIC seems like good Friday-level fill, at least for this solver. I thought it was funny that DONUTHOLE  and SNOCAPS have a layer of SLIMEMOLD between them - an EOCENE, of sorts, if pronounced a certain way. :)

I normally enjoy French fill, but France is in the doghouse with me today. We got a speeding ticket in the mail this afternoon from la gendarmerie. They allege that at one point during our trip back in May I said something like, STEPONIT, and Horace complied. Six months later, they tell us we have two weeks to send them multiple euros via wire transfer. Sacre bleu!

I also have something of an ax to grind against AXE, and other highly scented health &beauty aids and home cleaning products. They give me sinusITIS.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday, November 15, 2018, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen


A rebus puzzle theme today where the letters IOU are squeezed into one square making MICROLOANS. Ha! My favorite is OU[IOU]I because of the crazy way the rebus cuts across the two OUIs. Also, it's paired with another favorite, the humorous DUB[IOU]SHONOR (Making a "Top Party Schools" list, e.g.). LOL. I saw the need for a rebus when I got to the clue "Sundry" at 49D and I already had the V from SVEN (Reindeer in "Frozen") in the top square. Once I had that one, the IOUs seemed to crop up everywhere - a lot like bills. :)

I had the most trouble in the north west. I couldn't figure out "Real lifesaver" (HERO). I kept wanting something like CPR. I also considered "lime" but, of course in that case, Lifesaver(TM) would have had to be capitalized. Our dear readers will not be surprised to learn that I didn't immediately know Matty ALOU, but, believe it or not, that crossword darling that he is, that answer finally helped me break into that corner. The word ELUTE is completely new to me. I looked it up and the clue is apt; it appears to be a somewhat technical word associated with chromatography.

I don't know that I've see the answer TOAT (Precisely) in this form before. Tee is usually spelled out, isn't it? It sure looks funny when considered as a single word, but according to Wiktionary, toat means "the handle of a joiner's plane." Who knew?

I also enjoyed the clue-answer pair "Bounce" (PEP). The answer to "Choice of juice?" had a nice twist (ACDC), and I liked "What you might call a Friend" (THEE). I'm always happy to see a reference to NOAM Chomsky.


We're in debt to Ms. Guizzo and Mr. Chen for another solid puzzle.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Sam Trabucco


Today's theme is a hair raising adventure - lit'rally. The circled letters in the theme answers increase from a single bristle - the B in BFLATMAJOR (Key for five Mozart piano concertos) to a full face of whiskers in the revealer, GROWABEARD. The middle theme answer BEAARTHUR amused me in this context because I've always loved the old line, "almost like a female Bea Arthur." Ha.

I am a big fan of PJS, both as fill and as indoor attire - you know who you are. I also liked FALSEIDOL, "Big do" for FRO, and BEERHAT (Drinker's party headgear). I thought RIBBITS was great. I don't usually look at XWord Info until after I finish writing the review, but I looked just now and it's a first appearance for RIBBITS, along with 12 other firsts. Now that's fresh. :) Other fun fill included THATGUY (Fellow you don't want to be, in a phrase) and OHJOY ("How wonderful!," sarcastically). TYRANT for "Bad, bad boss" struck a chord - you know who you are.


Perhaps IRAIL, RESEAT, UTE, and RTE are more mutton chop than imperial, but they're not bad enough to make your hair curl.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018, John Ciolfi


For me, the theme's sparkle fades in and out, although, dear readers, do let me know if I've missed something; that happens to me occasionally. As spelled out in the revealer, each theme answer is a common thing ANDES, literally, or in other words, with ES added to the end of it. It is also a mountain chain, but that's not important now. For example, "For the win" becomes FORTHEWINES (Why many people visit Napa?) That one didn't do much for me, but I did enjoy HOOVERDAMES. Ha! GUESSNOTES and BABYSITES less so. BEARCUBES seemed like a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand, I enjoyed most of the rest of the puzzle. I liked the four big down answers: BERNOULLI, ANGIOGRAM, WOMENSLIB, and my favorite, ALONETIME (Period enjoyed by an introvert - apt!). There were a few French answers for the francophiles among us (ce qui AIME les EAUX). And fun fill like STOAT, TRUCE, BOOTH, RASH, MUTED, and NIX.

I was not duped today by "Half of due" and I dropped UNO right in at 62D. I felt that my indupability, combined with the fact that I knew almost all the relevant factual answers, might have resulted in a faster solve time for me today - I was YDS AWAY from my best Tuesday time. But, as they say, HAI NSA is 20/20.


When AWLS said and done, there was maybe a TAB too many acronyms around the edges, but I'm sure it helped put the puzzle TOBED


Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday, November 12, 2018, Kathy Bloomer


My compliments to the chef for including a full complement of silverware in the COMETOTHETABLE theme. Each of the theme answers includes a unit of the traditional place setting for a meal. The clue "Expression of disgust in Valley Girl-speak" was a real blast from the past. I thought first of "grody to the max" but that didn't fit, so I rummaged around in the old back file and came up with (GAGMEWITHASPOON). Talk about PASTS. The spoon's companion on the right side of the plate is GOUNDERTHEKNIFE (Have surgery). That's one I'd rather LEGO of. But, on the left side of the plate we have STICKAFORKINIT (Declare something completely finished), which, as an expression, entertains me.

I enjoyed the overall international flavor of the grid's filling. We have PELE, SOU, SST, RAJAS, WOK, NOVA (Scotia), CHAI, LAGO, IGLU, ETATS, OBIS, NYET, and EURO. 🙂 I also noticed a healthy dose of vitamin K.

I think it's interesting that such a pleasant seeming expression like "Give the glad eye" (OGLE) denotes an inappropriate action.


I thought "Like some noses and egg yolks" (RUNNY) was kinda gross, but overall, the cluing was solid and fully satisfying. A real square meal, you might say.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018, Eric Berlin

Happy Veterans Day!

Frannie's father, a Korean War veteran, at the memorial in Washington, D.C.

As this puzzle is a Contest, it seems only fair that we take the day off today and let you solve it completely on your own. We may come back and review it after the November 13th deadline for answer submissions.

Until then, happy solving!

- Horace

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018, Will Nediger

0:23:02 (F.W.O.E.)

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday, we started with the child-friendly "clown cars" and today in the first spot we find STRIPPERS (Pole stars?)! The AGERANGE really shoots up from Friday to Saturday. :)


Thinking about that makes me wonder if the editor is able to somehow see statistics from the app and/or online solvers. It probably doesn't actually record or show ages, but I wonder if there is any kind of report on number of complete puzzles, speed of solve, number of correct solves, etc. You'd think that there could be, with all the big data that swirls around these days. It might help to verify the day-to-day difficulty levels. Of course, he may no longer need any such stats, because he seems to do a pretty good job of it already. My daily averages make a very neat staircase going up from Monday to Sunday. Perhaps he'll comment and let us know. (Hi Mr. Shortz!) :)

Anyhoo... I found today's puzzle satisfyingly challenging. Just enough gimmes to give me footholds, and enough trickery to turn some of those footholds into pitfalls. WATTLE (10D: Dangling part of a turkey) was in the latter category. I dropped in WAddLE immediately, and had a hard time making those Ds work out.

Somewhat incredibly, I read Emiliano Zapata's name just yesterday in an article in The New Yorker about fighting fires on the Great Plains (he was not one of the firefighters - it was his mustache that was referenced), so when I came to "62A: Rebel fighter during the Mexican Revolution," I was thinking of the man himself as the "fighter," not one of his many followers, and it took me a while to figure out how his name could be made to fill three more squares.

I loved TOQUE (55A: Fancy restaurant topping?), HOTDATE (20A: Chemistry test?), ASININE (25D: Harebrained), and SIRPURR (41D: Caroline Panthers mascot with a rhyming name). Who comes up with mascot names? That's a great one. It's much better than our local representative, "Pat Patriot." Egad. It might even be the best in the league, although Pittsburgh's "Steely McBeam" isn't bad. And I have kind of a soft spot for "Roary," the Detroit Lion. So simple.

Anyway, where was I? This is getting kinda long...

My error was at 39A: Gambler's spot. I was fooled, and guessed PIt, but the much better - and correct - choice was PIP. My father-in-law used this term all the time when we played cards, which was frequently, so I feel especially bad about missing it today. And I guess because StEWS looked fine, I never went back to see that it should really have been SPEWS (34D: Shoots out).

Not the best end of the week for me, but the puzzle itself, and the whole "Turn" (Thursday through Saturday puzzles, according to us here at this blog) was quite good. See you in a few weeks. Happy Puzzling!

- Horace

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday, November 9, 2018, Robyn Weintraub


With CLOWNCARS (1A: High-occupancy vehicles?) at 1-Across, you know you're in for some fun. Right below it, with no question mark, is the equally amusing TREEHOUSES (14A: Some high-rise constructions), and the answer below that - RETROGRADE - made me think back fondly to "The Cosmic Muffin." Anybody else remember him dispensing astrological "wisdom" on the radio? Good times.


Yesterday I applauded the inclusion of "dabba," but today's AMSCRAY (41A: "Vamoose!") is way, way better. 55A: Ones who find it difficult to go out? (INSOMNIACS) was clever, TOURISTTRAP (10D: Times Square, you might say), alongside GLASSCEILING (20D: Breaking it might be cause for celebration), run through by CONESTOGA (29A: Pioneer mover) (great clue) and 27A: Touchy sort? (MIDAS)... that's some quality puzzling right there, I tell you what.

And there's almost no glue whatsoever. I didn't know CREEL (46A: Fishing basket), but that's not the puzzle's problem. TIAS (10A: Madres' kin), being a foreign language plural, might bother some, and SEANS (28A: ____ Bar, Ireland's oldest pub, dating to A.D. 900) is an odd, plural-looking possessive, but it is elevated by the deep trivia clue. CURAD is a brand name, which we sometimes detract for, and SIE is German (Horrors!), but really, this is an excellent puzzle. They call it a "themeless," but really, the theme here is quality entries... So many. So good.

- Horace

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thursday, November 8, 2018, Sam Ezersky


GOWESTYOUNGMAN and grow up with the country! In this case, it's four "LAD"s that travel from the eastern end of their answers to the western beginning. There must be some way that "manifest destiny" could be made to work into a joke about this theme, but I can't figure it out right now...


Anyway, it's a pretty solid set of theme answers: "power ballad," "armor clad," "taco salad," and "superbowl ad." It took me quite a while to figure this out. I expected what I thought was the obvious way to interpret the revealer first, that the answers would read entirely in reverse, but that didn't work out. Only slowly did I realize that the end pieces that ended up in front were all "lad"s. The answers look strange in the grid, but if you can get over that, it's a pretty cool idea.

Some tough gets in the fill. OILBASIN (10D: Notable feature of North Dakota and Texas) is not all that common a term, and DECOCT (13D: Boil down) was a surprise, too. I applaud the inclusion of DABBA (8D: "Yabba ____ doo!"), but I don't especially love the partial BOSSA (35D: ____ nova). Funny how some things will bother you and others won't. And I'm sure it's different for everyone.

I had TWISToff and ACTEDBad for a while, and it took me forever to think of ADIG (24D: Take ____ at (insult)). I kept wanting "swipe" or "swing," neither of which, of course, would fit. I still don't think "Take a dig at" is anything anyone would ever say, but whatever, I'm not going to take a dig at ol' Mr. Ezersky over it. :)

- Horace

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday, November 7, 2018, Timothy Polin


What'll they think of next? Today's theme is the leaning tower of PISAITALY.

In addition to the tower itself, standing - er... leaning ... - circled in the middle of the puzzle, we get phrases that start with synonyms for "lean:" tip, angle, tilt, and pitch. Cute. Kind of weird, but NOTBAD.

One can't help but wonder whether BUSTED, at 1A, is an extra thematic jab at the architect(s) and builders of this poor structure who, after leaving the first few floors leaning for decades, thought they'd go ahead and WING it and PILE on another couple floors. To be fair, it wasn't the architecture that failed on this marvel, but the ground beneath it, but hey, it's stood for almost 850 years, which is three times longer than anything (save, maybe, some burial mounds) has stood in this country, so I guess that's something.

As there is sometimes with puzzles that have a lot going on, one gets a feeling that it was as tricky to construct this puzzle as it has been for the Italians to keep that building from toppling over. MIDGUT (48A: Intestines' locale) is a little unusual, and the EDDA and The EOLIAN Harp aren't things you encounter every day. But overall, I'm willing to overlook such things for such an ambitious structure.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Alan Southworth and Yacob Yonas

0:08:50 (F.W.T.E.)

First of all, if you haven't already, go out and vote! Democracy depends upon you.

Second of all, solving a puzzle depends upon knowing a lot of different things. Today, I didn't have the SMARTS to remember that NOSYPARKER was an expression, and I confused the UTES with UTEP. I also considered MAn an acceptable synonym for "Bub," and didn't notice that SNUnK was left as the answer to "Crept (out), informally)" (SNUCK). Soooo... not so good a result. POORME.

One more thing I was not SAGE enough to remember is that FOUNTAINSOFWAYNE was a band that had a marginally popular song about fifteen years ago. When I was trying to find my errors, I briefly considered "fountails of wayne" because it would have "fixed" "snunk" into "slunk." Yikes. The lengths we will sometimes go to to justify wrong entries!

So anyway, this puzzle focuses on super hero alter egos. The ones that worked the best for me were STARKNAKED (Iron Man without any clothes?) (Tony Stark is Iron Man's ALTEREGO), and BANNERYEAR (When the Hulk was born?) (Dr. David Banner is the Hulk). Those two used an adjective that is the same as the last name, which seemed more of a discovery than just finding other uses of the name itself. Well, I suppose Kent is a place... but DUKEOFKENT is a person, and maybe the name Kent comes from that place name originally... I'm not going to bother to look it up. I've got a cold, and I'm in no mood. If you have information on this and care to share it with me in the comments, I'd be happy to read it.

I liked being reminded of a mango LASSI, and AVAST, SNUCK (once I got it!), NOUGAT, and HOISTS are nice words. But is a BLT ever grilled? Isn't the bread just toasted, and then the ingredients put between the slices? Or have I been doing it wrong all this time?

A little gluey in parts (ETS, PAS, ROO, OTRO, TNUT, VEE...), but kind of a lot of theme material, and who doesn't like super heros?

- Horace

p.s. Congrats on the debut, Mr. Yonas!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018, Roland Huget


A theme of three onomatopoeic foods: TOOTSIEPOP, CAPNCRUNCH, and GINGERSNAP, with SOUNDBITES as a revealer. Works pretty well for me.
I thought there was quite a bit of good material to be found today. "Slice from a book?" (PAPERCUT) was a surprise, as it always is. The clue for ACCENTS (38A: Two marks in "résumés") gently introduces Monday solvers to trickery usually found later in the week, and INSITU (54A: As originally placed), ROUE (35A: Dissolute sort), and ETERNE (21A: Endless, in poetry) are drawn from the edges of most vocabularies.

I enjoyed the wistful clue for ROADMAP (52A: Plan going forward, as for peace), especially after running into NAPALM (30D: Incendiary weapon used in the Vietnam War). And a CAROUSEL (39D: Amusement park ride that goes around and around) is a calming thing to think about.

GASBAG (23D: Long-winded sort) and ONTHEDL (4D: Hush-hush, slangily) were fun. That last one could also be "On the QT," right? Well, anyway, I left the last two spaces empty until I verified them with crosses.

Overall it was a perfectly cromulent Monday puzzle.

- Horace

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday, November 4, 2018, Patrick Berry


For a while today, I wondered if the title was a trick and that there would be some kind of "unthemed" theme... but no, it's just a lovely themeless Sunday puzzle by one of the masters. And if you, like me, thought there was a lot of white space today, you're right. This puzzle has 186 white squares, which is the most ever for a Shortz-era Sunday puzzle. The second place puzzle (which was in first place for the last 16 years), had 168. (Thank you!) It's a mic-drop kind of puzzle by Mr. Berry.

Several times during my solve I smiled as ASSET after ASSET was revealed. How about "20D: You should avoid feeding on them" (FASTDAYS)? Or "48D: Selling point?" (MARKET)? Or 61A: Trunk fastener? (CORSET)? That's some nice stuff. And I was tricked for a while by "36D: Shade in the woods" (FORESTGREEN). Tricky!


Who knew the GOAT was the mascot of the U.S. Naval Academy? Not this guy. As I write this, I'm hearing a lot of talk about GOATs in the background, but they're talking about guys who utter a lot of HUTS - Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. For the record, I still think of the word as meaning scapegoat, not "Greatest Of All Time." That still seems weird to me. But is Mr. Berry's inclusion of it here a subtle message? A signature, of sorts?

"Field with a lot of growth?" (BOTANY), "Round units?" (BEERS), "Expired IDs?" (TOETAGS). So, so good. And how bout that wonderfully seasonal start - "Goes to grab a bite, say" (BOBSFORAPPLES). Lovely. "Party of 13?" (BARMITZVAH)... so many good clues.

I admit it, I prefer themeless puzzles. Sure, sometimes a theme can be super clever and fun, and really, there have been a lot of them that I can remember in the years that we've been doing these reviews, but for my money, there's nothing better than a nice, clean, hard themeless crossword. This one's a Sunday, so it's not going to be the hardest ever, but it sure was a fun change of pace.

- Horace

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Saturday, November 3, 2018, Ryan McCarty


Ouch. By my rules, if I finish with more than two errors, that's a DNF. My failure mostly came at 43A: Sporty pontiac of old (TRANSAM). See, I had gRANdAM. Those middle letters being correct threw me, and I could not for the life of me get SITSPAT - I kept on thinking it would be parsed as "something AT". Meanwhile, to compound my problems, I misread 49A: Members of familles (PERES) as "families."

By the way, just to be completely clear, a Grand Am is anything but sporty...

That's my sad tale of woe, although you also have to add in putting DIs in for DIG. Really, how did I argue myself in to thinking that sIMP meant "to hobble?"

Meanwhile, the rest of the puzzle went by very quickly indeed. I had basically finished the whole thing (incorrectly, mind you) in under 8 minutes. MALALA was a gimme at 1A, as was CANTOR at 12D. I'm of two minds about 6D: Ones not calling the shots? (ANTIVAXXERS). The answer looks great in the grid, but the clue feels just a little bit off, and the sentiment needs to go the way of bloodletting in medicine.

26A: Nick name (DORATHEEXPLORER) is very nice (Nick being short for Nickelodeon, the channel the eponymous show airs on). The fully spelled out SAINTPETERSBURG is also excellent. Other answers I appreciated include STYGIAN (how vivid!) and IGNOBLE.

CARPAINT feels made up, but okay. 10D: When to start on a course (TEETIME) seems like it could also be "tea time," right?

So I'm a little disappointed in my performance today, but I'll get over it.

- Colum

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday, November 2, 2018, David Steinberg


Cheers to Cece who got two of the hardest answers at 17A: "You wanna fight?!" (COMEATMEBRO) and 28A: Game in which I is 1 (SCRABBLE).

So there's a lot to like here, and yet the tone of the puzzle leaves me a little flat. The best example of this comes in the SE corner, where BOOZECRUISE combines with THRASHMETAL and SEXTOY to form an unsavory picture. The aggressive "bro" previously mentioned is another example. Perhaps I'm being too sensitive, but I don't think so. In any case, I'm writing the review, so my opinion is the one that gets posted. Your opinions welcome in comments below.

For those of you unfamiliar or prone to forget these sorts of things, THEZAX refers to the story where the North-going Zax meets the South-going Zax, and neither will step aside. Perhaps this sounds like a metaphor for our current political state (although I'd mention in our case that the North-going Zax is also blocking any moves to the east or west...), and yet Dr. Seuss has been dead for 27 years. How did he know?
Not as good as Honey Nut Cheerios though
44A: Composer of symphonic "verse" (TONEPOET) is technically correct, and yet I'd never call a composer that. For one thing, it's reductive. A composer, even one known for his or her tone poems (such as Richard Strauss, for example), has written plenty of other works which are not in that style. For another thing, a tone poem can refer to plenty of non-musical sources, including in the case of "Also Sprach Zarathustra," a work of philosophy.

But on the plus side, we get NOMEANSNO, HEATHBARS, and BRAZILNUT. So I'm going to stop being a WETNOODLE (really I mean a wet blanket, which I wanted the answer to be), because really, who am I kidding? I could never make a puzzle as tightly constructed as this one, and it was still some 10 minutes of solving which I shared with my teenaged daughter, so all is reasonably well in the world.

- Colum

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018, Matt Ginsberg


Schrödinger squares! These are places in puzzles where either of two letters will fit in naturally. What's great about today's theme is that in fact, we use both of the letters in order to make the answers fit the clues. For example, 58A: *Idiom meaning "guaranteed" (ASGO[O/L]D), or to spell it out, "as good as gold."

I am naturally drawn to the theme answers which revolve around a change in consonant, like that last example, which I think is the best in the puzzle. P[I/A]TTER and CH[I/A]TTER are much less interesting. GALILE[O/I], on the other hand is very nice, especially getting the entire name (?) into the puzzle.

The challenge is to find crosses where both letters will work in word, and which can be clued with a single entry. Thus, 48D: Prefix with economics (M[I/A]CRO) is very nice. I also very much liked 13D: Admit (LET[O/I]N). That's really quite clever.

Good stuff in the fill include DOGGEREL and EGGPLANT (although I don't personally take the latter). EVAGREEN is always welcome, but can't we ditch the "Bond girl" tag?

1A: Something you must be willing to leave? (ESTATE) is a piece of brilliance, and I'm adding it to the best clues of 2018.

Some people might feel that TENACE is a flaw. It's an old term, and it does not refer to "ten-ace," which you might have thought if you'd not come across it before. Instead, it's a pair of face cards separated by two, such as an ace-queen combo, which offers excellent opportunities for making two tricks if played correctly (such as forcing your opponent to lead into it). Bridge is the greatest card game ever invented, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, great puzzle.

- Colum