Thursday, January 31, 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019, Peter A. Collins


A super-sized (16x15) puzzle today from veteran constructor, Peter A. Collins. I love the trick today of dropping in the "Palindromic number" (212) and then using the numerals in one of the thematic answers - H2OSBOILINGPOINT, and two non-themers. The inclusion, in the theme clues of a degree symbol and a slash might not have been strictly necessary, but I guess it helped me to solve the puzzle more quickly. In fact, there was kind of a "math-y" feel to a few other clues as well, like 57D: Teaser that may include pluses and minuses (REBUS) and 59D: Summation symbol, in math (SIGMA), and, I suppose, even 21A: Number between cinque and sette (SEI) and 46A: Like 2001 (ODD) (Tricky!), but that's to be expected from a math teacher.


I very much enjoyed 1A: Intelligible (COHERENT), 23A: Exploit (DEED) (which I read with the wrong emphasis for quite some time), 47A: Relative whose name sounds like a city in France (NIECE) (Hah!), and SEMINUDE (73A: Like many classical statues). And who doesn't love A1SAUCE?

Some of the entries may have been a tad OLDSCHOOL, like APOLOGIA (15A: Formal defense), EISNER (52D: Former Disney exec Michael), ANI (20A: Tropical black bird) (Classic!), and BRANDI (54D: Soccer star Chastain), but nothing too musty.

Overall, I enjoyed this one. A fine start to The Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019, Emily Carroll

0:09:02 (F.W.O.E.)

This was a tough Wednesday solve for Yours Truly. AREPAS (8D: South American corn cakes) are not a thing I'm familiar with, although I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy them, because who doesn't like a corn cake? And LAPLATA crossing ALI (1A: "Aladdin" prince) was my undoing. The former rings a faint bell now that I see it, but I was not expecting the article at the beginning, so I guessed R, and then a few other letters, before getting the L. So is that more than one error? Well... no, because if it were actually judged at a tournament, it's still just the one square that's incorrect.


Anywhoo, LAPLATA and I will now become OLDFOES. Maybe that will help me to remember it. :)

The theme today is an odd one, which I will sum up as "two-word names for things where the first word is a fruit and the second word can be read as a verb that means 'to go away,' with the result being that the fruit disappears leaving you FRUITLESS." Nothing could be simpler! I guess they are suggesting that "peels" should be understood as "peels off?" Maybe?

I was surprised - in a good way - by some non-theme answers, like FRATROW (38D: Home to many Greeks, informally), ACROBAT (1D: One going head over heels?), and ATOM (27A: Something divided in W.W. II). KOOL (45A: Noted 1970s-'80s Gang leader?), too, was one that took all the crosses. That's the band KOOL and the Gang. Wow. Nice one.

Overall, the theme certainly is different, and I should have taken the time to figure out LAPLATA and ALI... is that ALI Baba? I guess maybe I'll have to watch Aladdin again... I would have preferred a little less obscure material - TSTRAP, BANC, OHO (am I the only person who doesn't believe this is a real expression?) - but then there was some nice long fill too - BISTROS, RATRACE, BRITCOM, SPREADOUT - so I'll give it the ol' "it was fine."

How'd you like it?

- Horace

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019, Benjamin Kramer


I like this uncommon yet straightforward theme of service, bump, set, and spike - the elements of a VOLLEYBALL point. I wouldn't have been able to tell you that "bump" was an actual term in the sport, but it is immediately recognizable as something that makes sense. And, like yesterday, the oddest element of the theme is found in the least common "container," COLBERTBUMP. But again, that, too, is understandable.

Who, after seeing this scene, hasn't thought of it again (and again) when viewing our own single moon?
So between the DQED (1A: Barred from competition, briefly) and ETAS (65A: Column on a flight board, for short), we find tasty answers like DEERMEAT, PAELLA, and QUINOA. EXILES and ENSLAVED are unfortunate to think about, but maybe they can ESCAPE via Charles DEGAULLE (11D: Airport named for a president), EZPASS (3D: Toll method on the New Jersey Turnpike) or maybe even by way of things with a ROTOR or KEELS to where they have to use an UMLAUT or drink OUZO or EVIAN, or to where someone puts a LEI around their neck when they land...

This Friday is my "Poker Night," and although we don't play HIGHLOW very much, it has crept into the "Dealer's Choice" format once or twice. Here's hoping I keep my chip pile in the "natural number" (POS) realm.

I enjoyed this one - plenty of good material, and just a smattering of ANET, ANA, and REC.

- Horace

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019, Thomas Van Geel

5:19 (F.W.O.E.)

I loved seeing FREECYCLING (17A: Giving away unwanted items rather than trashing them) in the grid today. Frannie and I are big freecyclers, having both given and gotten items this way, and I'm glad it's getting its NYTX debut. Hopefully, more people will consider it. And speaking of things "green," you wanna know another alternative to a paper clip? One of these STAPLE-less staplers. I use one every day at work. True story.

TETRA - What? That was yesterday's clue?

The theme, I thought, was a little weird. Well, one of the theme answers, anyway. I get "free kick" and "drop kick," but what is a "side kick?" Is it just that thing in karate where you kick out to the side? If so, that seems a little weak. I also think the term SIDEHUSTLE itself is a little bit of an outlier... but then, there are probably plenty who have never heard of FREECYCLING, so I guess I'd better watch my step.

[** Ok, it's me again, writing much later. I now realize that they are maybe not talking about a real kick, but a sidekick like in a movie, or a sit-com. Duh... sorry about the rant. It's a perfectly cromulent entry. I was just trying to make it fit perfectly with the other physical kicks.**]

OLIVETTI (40D: Classic typewriter brand) went right in for this old man, but MANAGERS (41D: Bosses) took quite a few crosses, which is amusing, given that my job description includes the word "manager."

I liked the mention of Holden Caulfield in the clue for NARRATOR (I tried to fit in "main character"), and I enjoy any Latin clue, so INESSE (49D: Existing: Lat.) was fun too. My error came at 8-Down. I don't know the Greek alphabet by heart, but I know it's similar to ours, so when I saw 8D: Second letter after upsilon (CHI), I put in pHI, thinking P was close to U... oh well. NIpHE ought to be a word, oughtn't it?

Congratulations to Mr. Van Geel on his debut today.

- Horace

Sunday, January 27, 2019, Randolph Ross


Today's theme answers pair a profession with a pun-like dis- or de- adjective. DISILLUSIONEDMAGICIAN (111A: Unemployed prestidigitator?), for example. Although I don't really agree that it works 100% because his state of employment does not mean that he is no longer able to perform illusions. It just means he isn't being paid for it right now. I suppose that's not the point, though, and, like Colum, I should try to be more upbeat. And yes, I did chuckle at that one, and at DEFILEDMANICURIST, which is cute. Is there a word for these things? They're not exactly Tom Swifties, but they are in the same family. I thought DISTRESSEDHAIRDRESSER was a little confusing, because there is such a thing as "distressed hair," but then you could also parse it as "dis-tressed," and make it kind of work for hair cutting. I also found DISPATCHEDTAILOR wanting, because how many tailors use patches? It could just be my ignorance of the profession, but if I went to get a suitcoat made, I would not expect (or want) it to come with elbow patches. And yes, I guess they could use patches to mend things, but would anyone who actually uses a tailor ever bring in anything to be patched? Oh, I don't know... perhaps I'm just out of my depth here.


OK, that ended up sounding pretty negative. But sometimes that's the way it is with me - especially on a Sunday. I don't think it's any great secret on this blog that I am frequently less happy with a Sunday puzzle than I am with a weekday grid. Maybe it's a mea CULPa situation, or maybe it's just that there's more room on a Sunday for obscurities like BRIGANTINE, NAHA, THIEU, UTAHANS, and even VERITY. And then there's the unwelcome-to-this-Boston-Red-Sox-fan THEBAMBINO. (OK, that one's actually perfectly fine, I'm just on a roll with the complaining so I thought I'd throw it in.)

I had a great deal of difficulty in the small area including 71A: Wall Street order (PUT), 47D: "Brave New World" drug (SOMA) (Incidentally, this is the name that my favorite local coffee shop gave to one of their espresso bean blends), and 54A: Remote figure: Abbr. (VOL). That last one I very much dislike. "Remote figure?" I don't think so. "Remote key," "remote button," "remote command," maybe. "Remote figure?" No.

OK, that's enough complaining from me. This is no way to start my week of reviews. I hope you enjoyed it.

- Horace

p.s. Now's probably not the time for me to ask "MISSME?" :)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saturday, January 26, 2019, Grant Thackray

8:45 (FWOE)

This is a really great grid layout, with a ton of excellent entries. I broke in with RIBISI, which helped to get OMNI (nice "lead-in" to science), and GASTON, and I was off. The long answers in the top section are all excellent, particularly WORLDBEATERS and GENIEOFTHELAMP. When I had filled in the NE corner, ____MASH was not hard to figure out as an entree to the middle section.

My error came by putting Rca in for RKO. Really, that's just silliness right there. The problem came because when I finished the puzzle, I had corrected the K but not the O. And ITSAMEMARIa somehow seemed okay, because maybe Mario said it to his female friend? No? Nobody's going to buy that?

Meanwhile, 20D: The guy of your dreams? (SANDMAN) and 22D: Workers making preparations to retire? (PITCREW) are both very nice QMCs. The latter reminds me also of that great clue from a couple of days ago.

The lower half is pretty fine work as well. I particularly enjoyed DEMOCRATICALLY, which is the way I'd like our country to operate more of the time, and 48A: Short cut that bypasses a canal? (CESAREANSECTION) is great (although people who undergo said operation might quibble with the idea that the cut made by the scalpel is all that short).

How about that diagonal row of Bs in the SE corner? BERTHA BASAL BENE BID. BEIT BECCA BARTAB (very nice) BESTILL.

I very much enjoyed this puzzle. But I've got to cut these FWOEs out for the ACPT!

- Colum

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


I will start by saying that any grid that has MALAPROP in it is a winner in my book. The term comes from a play by Richard Sheridan, The Rivals, where a character, Mrs. Malaprop, continually misspeaks. For example: "Why, murder's the matter! slaughter's the matter! killing's the matter! - but he can tell you the perpendiculars." There are many more examples, all quite amusing to my taste.

There are some other really nice entries. BADAPPLE is great, as is SWEETPEA. 39A: Upper crust (SOCIETY) is a great clue and answer. Also, 1D: Draft pick (STEIN) is nicely clued.

But I wasn't as impressed by the long answers in the corners. I told myself the other day that I wasn't going to be such a critic in this blog. I've wanted to be as positive as possible, so I will first and foremost go on record by saying this is a well constructed puzzle. I could do without STUPES, which I don't believe is a real word, and the crossing of NEC and COREY was an out and out guess for me, which I lucked out on.

I'll put up with things like that, though, in service of answers full of pizzazz. And today's didn't do it for me. Perhaps others will disagree (and that's what the comments section down below is for! Please, our handfuls of readers, let me know if you think I'm wrong!).

But let's end on an upbeat note. 7D: Arms provider? (ESCORT) is outstanding stuff.

- Colum

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019, Stu Ockman


I knew I was going to be in some trouble today when I went through the NW corner and only had 4D: Equipment in an ice cream shop - to which I entered SCoop. So close!

I got that we were dealing with a rebus when I hit 8D: Instrument that opens Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" - well, I knew that was a bassoon. You can't fool me. But there weren't enough spaces to fit it in. Where then to put the rebus?

Well, I finally got where we were meant to get to with the revealer, all the way in the SE corner. 66A: Adoring looks seen 10 times in this puzzle's grid (G[OO]G[OO]EYES). I appreciate that each theme answer has two pairs of the aforementioned wide open eyes, although with their blank stare, they remind me more of brainwashed mobs than loving fans. Or maybe V[OO]D[OO]DOLL is appropriate. Did you hear that in New Orleans this week, people have been using said dolls to attempt to wreak their revenge on the NFL officials who blew (bleaux, as per N'Awlins speak) it Sunday in the NFC championship game?

Anyway, the rebus helped me shoehorn that poor BASS[OO]N and SC[OO]PS into their respective slots. I also like Sam C[OO]KE's appearance. [OO]NA Chaplin appears far too often for her actual level of celebrity, but once again, that name is just too crossword friendly not to use. The other best known Oona is her grandmother, Oona O'Neill, daughter of Eugene O'Neill and wife to Charlie Chaplin. A little after her time.

I like the bonus long across answers here, ERICIDLE being of course a longtime favorite. Although I'd have to rank him in the bottom one of the Monty Python crowd, when looking at all of them together. Is that fair? Hard to go up against Chapman, Jones (my two favorites), Palin, and Cleese. MOUSSAKA also is a lovely entry, although I personally don't take one myself, what with all that eggplant.

How about 49A: On the blue side, for short (DEM)? Got me, for sure. Great non-QMC. But a truly outstanding QMC (sorry - question mark clue) today comes at 57A: Call to reserve? (LET). Brilliant - what the net judge yells out to make the tennis player serve a second time. Wow, that's good.

 - Colum

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


Well, this is an odd theme. It must be Wednesday. You take an innocuous word that ends in -RESS and replace it with -ER and reclue the new phrase. The action is assumed to be turning what was never a gendered phrase GENDERNEUTRAL (thus, the joke). I am impressed by finding three examples of this. Remember, the initial word can't actually be a gendered version of a noun (thus "conductress" would be out), and it has to transition to an acceptable noun (no transgender pun intended), and thus words like "compress" are out - "comper" is not a common word.

The only example I could come up with was "congress" changing to "conger." And the only phrase I could think of that would use that word was "sexual congress," and the idea of a "sexual conger" is really not on. Clearly this is why I am writing this blog, instead of publishing brilliant puzzles in the NYT.


The best of the theme answers is 28A: Dairy item thrown in a food fight? (FLYINGBUTTER). That's some very good stuff there.

The fill is pretty good today, looking past the odd AONE and SSS. I liked ATECROW, such a vivid phrase. Also everybody likes CRAYONS. MEEMAW reminds me of my wife's aunt, who goes by that very name in her family.

I will quibble with 4D: Agnostic's lack (BELIEF). This is incorrect. An agnostic lacks knowledge, and thus is unable to say whether God exists or not. She neither believes nor disbelieves in a divine source. It would be more correct to say an atheist lacks belief, if by belief you mean belief in God. On the other hand, I would state an atheist has a very strong belief, that is that there is no God. So no win in any direction here.

So to end, let us all say AMEN and open our eyes.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tuesday, January 22, 2019, John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen


What a great concept today! The middle of the puzzle warns us to WATCHYOURSTEP, which is appropriate, because there are four different kinds of snakes in the grass today, nicely winding around the puzzle, as indicated by the circles. And today I have no problem with the circles: they're necessary to find the serpents, as they are nine and ten letters long! Also impressive is how all four of them start or end on the revealer.

I wonder if the puzzle was not meant to be in this month, given 1A: Jan. honoree (MLKJR) - we just had the puzzle yesterday in honor of the Civil Rights Movement. I was confused at first, because the first snake, the KINGCOBRA, starts at the K of Dr. King, Jr.'s name.

With all of those triple-checked letters (38 of them!), Mr. Bennett and Mr. Chen do a good job of avoiding too much less than stellar fill. EIEIO crossing LII, and UFC crossing AFC are examples of the compromises necessary. But look elsewhere: LANDSLIDES, WINGSPREAD, PAWNSHOPS? All excellent. And I love the idea of a TWIBE. I've never come across that term before, and I don't do Twitter, so I'll probably never use it again, but it's a great term.

Favorite clue of the day comes at 33D: Ore, for one? (TYPO). It would be a tough typo to make in real life, as the R is so far away from the N on a keyboard. Maybe more of an autocorrect? Regardless, it's a great repurposing of that eternal bit of crosswordese, "ore."

On that same crosswordese note, wouldn't it be nice if "ogle" and LEERS weren't so crossword friendly? It would be preferable to get away from the male gaze for a while. Now they have to be clued with words like "creepy" to prove that the constructors aren't part of the bro culture.

- Colum

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019, Sean Biggins


Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day! I personally was at work, but since the big snowstorm kept most patients from coming to clinic, it was a little like having a holiday in the hospital.

Today's puzzle celebrates three CIVILRIGHTS heroes, hiding their names in longer phrases. MLK was an obvious choice, as was Rosa Parks, and then we get Sojourner Truth. Which of these is not like the other one? The one who died eighty years before the Civil Rights act of 1964? Well, perhaps, but as Dr. King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

In any case, the real reason Ms. Truth sticks out is because her phrase is a partial (THEWHOLETRUTH), which is less than FITFORAKING. But this is MERE niggling, really. I liked the theme, especially because I didn't have an inkling where it was going until I hit the revealer.

Otherwise, there are some lovely long answers, including HITTHEHAY, SRILANKA, and the complete RODLAVER and SETONHALL. On the other hand, with 25 three-letter answers, you do get HEAPS of ADO, IDO, SCH, etc. Not to mention the less than desirable HEF and UZI.

Anyway, the real take away from this puzzle is BRRR. How did Mr. Biggins know we'd all be ICED in? And another debut. Twice in two days!

- Colum

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2018, Richard Crowe


Hello everybody! I'm back for round two in 2019. Finally.

I was definitely amused by today's theme. We get common questions from common parlance in our mother tongue, reinterpreted as being asked to various professionals, thus twisting the original meaning. Some of these work very well, others not as well, to wit:

WHATSEATINGHIM, as a question posed to a parasitologist becomes a literal interpretation, in an enjoyably gross twist. WHOSCRYINGNOW, asked of a harried maternity room nurse, in my imagination, as he deals with a room of wailing infants. HOWSITHANGING, asks the museum worker as she situates the painting, to a judging curator. These are very good.

On the other hand, ISTHATAFACT doesn't change that much when asked of a copy editor. Both the figurative and the literal interpretation POSITED by the reinterpretation are essentially asking if something is true. WHERESTHEPARTY just doesn't make much sense when asked of a political strategist. Is it asking literally where the (democratic) party is geographically at this moment? Is it asking how the (republican) party is leaning on a particular subject? In either case it doesn't have the same impact as some of the others.

And what exactly is going on with WHOSESIDEAREYOUON? Is the line judge being accused of bias towards one team? Is she being asked literally, if she is on the Chiefs' sideline or the Patriots' sideline? I think the latter, but I'm not sure.
Tellement plein de couleur, le franc Suisse
The rest of the puzzle is agreeably strong, with very little that I can find to complain about. On the QMC front (and I appreciate the abbreviation, which stands for "question mark clue," for those who are just dropping in today), I both love and hate (that's a little nod to Horace (the OG Horace, I mean)) 40D: Where to get the latest poop? (LITTERBOX). Love because it's just how a QMC should be used, and hate, well, because EEW. As a great example of a non-QMC, you get 62A: It may have corn on the side (FARMHOUSE). I find that much more clever than just about any QMC, and would prefer more of them.

- Colum

P.S. Debut alert! Welcome, Mr. Crowe, and a wonderful first (published) effort.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday, January 19, 2019, Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco

HF: 0:14:37
FP: 0:43:41 FWOE

Horace kindly agreed to start the review for me because, as you see from the above, I was having some difficulties with it. He opined: A lovely themeless today, with some beautiful entries. Some of my favorites are:

35A: Mine field? (PERSONALSPACE)
12D: Stretch for relaxation (ALONETIME)
23D: Participate in a speed round? (DOSHOTS)
31D: Stilted performance, perhaps? (CIRCUSACT)
31A: What most online passwords are (CASESENSITIVE)

That's three QMCs and two non-QMCs.


Some of Frannie's favorites were:
Third of a dozen (ZEE). I was duped again! My thoughts ran to things there are 12 of, and I ended up with 'mar' (as in March, third of twelve), without stopping to think the abbreviation aspect of the word I was shoehorning in there. I went wrong with another three-letter answer at 40A: "Start of a cry that ends with 'bah!'". I started the cry too far back with rah. "Rah rah sis boom bah" anyone?In other three-letter entry news, I enjoyed "Coat under feathers" (TAR).

My FWOE came at the cross between "Persian word from which 'chess' comes" (SHAH), which I mis-remembered as SHAk, don't ask me why. An inheritancesque reading of the clue, "Left for" had my mind ONALEASH blocking my ability to see HEADINGTO even after running the alphabet. ODD.

Overall, I LIKED the puzzle, but the pattern of QMCs and non-QMC clues still eludes me.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday, January 18, 2019, Andrew J. Ries


I enjoyed today’s puzzle very much. As I got ready to write the review, I started making note of the clues and answers I liked. I ended up highlighting over half the puzzle, which is great, but which also raised a question about question mark clues, or QMCs, as they are known in the business. Simply put, the question is, what’s the deal with QMCs? When are they used, when are they necessary, and, an oft-discussed topic among our esteemed readership, when are they de trop? I surveyed the haves and have nots in this puzzle to see if I could detect a pattern - are the QMCs funnier, or more of a stretch, or something else? - but I was unable to detect a pattern.

Let’s consider an example, “Overspent?” is a QMC and its answer is BONETIRED, which is a twist on what we might think of as the default definition of ‘spent’ referring to money. On the other hand, the clue “Cuban bread” is not a QMC, but its answer is a twist on the default definition of bread meaning ‘food’, but in this case means money. So, why is one a QMC and the other isn’t? To assist with further analysis and discussion, I’ve copied the QMCs and non-QMCs below, along with some in depth analysis. 

Farm extension? (STEAD) - not much of a stretch
One strengthened by locks? (SAMSON) - clever!
Needle point? (BLOODVESSEL) - less good, IMHO 
Gather dust? (SWEEP) - nice little twist, especially in light of this one’s companion clue “Gathered dust” (SAT)
Theatre crowd? (EXTRAS)
Boomsticks? (TNT) - in this particular case I’m wondering if Mr. Ries included the question mark because he’s unsure if Boomsticks is an ACTUAL word. 

Able to get out of the hole (SOLVENT) - very nice
Digs loads (ADORES) - nice
Loaf (LIEABOUT) - good
Bolted (down) (WOLFED) - might have been even better without the “(down)” especially on a Friday
Work on hooks, say (BOX) - tricky, less common category switch

In other topics, I couldn’t help thinking of Mr. Haight’s puntastic theme on Wednesday when I read “Music to a punster’s ears.” Contrary to today’s answer), however, you would have heard LOLs instead of GROANS out of me. EWEGUISE. Ha!

I also liked the pair of “1040 abbr.” clues. My mind went immediately to tax forms, but my first thought was SSN, which turned out to be the second answer. (IRA was the first) And speaking of abbreviations, I thought the clue “Abbr. for a complier” was a good for the old chestnut ETC. 

If all that isn’t enough, I enjoyed “Fall for an idol” (SWOON), “Likely to move faster” (ONSALE), and my favorite, “Foreign capital whose name sounds like a blood grouping” (TAIPEI) - ha!  

I learned that HERTZ was the first person to broadcast radio waves. Who knew? I’m sure many did, which brings to mind the excellent expression NERDS out. Been there! Do not get me started on the French monarchy and my favorite French king - Henri IV, just in case you’re interested. Are you? Call me. :) 


It seems like I’ve mentioned almost every clue now. There was one I thought was on the meh side (Parenting, e.g., for short (MAG), but it wasn’t really an issue. It only bothered me periodically. Serialously. LOL.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019, Ross Trudeau


I fear my experience solving today's puzzle doesn't reflect well on me. I know it's a Thursday, which I further know usually contains a trick, but the left hand side of the puzzle went so smoothly that I was lulled into a false SESNES of security. Derp. I will lay some of the blame on the fact that I was feeling the pressure of having to write the review today and I kept muttering to myself, ""Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" This interfered with my solving abilities. I mentioned to Horace that I was stuck and he asked, "is it the right side that's giving you trouble?" I said, "yes." I then started to ask, "is there a trick" and as soon as I formed and expressed that thought, I knew there *was* a trick, and I knew exactly what the trick was. To wit: Mr. Trudeau arranged the puzzle so that all the answers to the right of the top-to-bottom answer THELOOKINGGLASS (What Alice goes through to find "Jabberwocky" printed backward) are entered in reverse, so RAP becomes PAR, URSA becomes ASRU, and my favorite, TEETER becomes RETEET. Ha! The weirdest looking one, and the one that caused me much puzzlement before I realized the trick was KUEHT or THEUK. Looking at ECNUOENO also messes with my mind. However, the speed with which I completed the remainder of the puzzle after realizing the trick had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

In other squares, we are treated to two Simpson's characters KRUSTY and NED, as well as a party of feelings VIM, YEN, HATREDS and INLOVE. JESTED and JAMPACKED, HAEYLLEH, BASALTS, ESCORTEE, and RHOMBI are also some fine fill.


In short, in spite of feeling a little Tweedledum for being so slow to catch on to the trick, I was Tweedledeelighted by it when I got my SAEDI straightened out.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday, January 16, 2019, Bruce Haight


Hi, Horace here. Frannie has a very busy day today, and we know Mr. Haight likes to have his reviews completed in a timely fashion, so I'm going to hammer one out now, and maybe Frannie will be able to make it 10% funnier when she gets a free moment.


And speaking of 10% funnier, I'll start with the notes Frannie left me for this review, which began (and ended) with the following:

"Theme - hilarious"

As usual, she is right on the money. I believe her favorite was EWEGUISE (53A: "____ and those crazy sheep costumes!"), and mine has to be BUTTWEIGHT (17A: "____, do these jeans make me look fat?"). Both of those are, to iterate, hilarious. Hilarious and clever. The three also-rans are also good, but not quite so much so:

AISLEBEE (25A: "____! The flight attendant just swatted a bug!")
BUYCHANTS (36A: "____, would you like to purchase some religious music?")
CZECHPLEAS (62A: "____! Petr, I'm begging you again to let me get this!")

After all this punning, I'm left wondering whether EYEROLL and maybe even SCREAMO are bonus theme material. Heh. Kidding! I didn't find any of it even an ITTY bit ICKY.

As for the more quotidian trickery, I was successfully misdirected by both 1A: Lid attachment (LASH) and 10D: Windows strip (TOOLBAR). I enjoyed the vivid BLAST (22D: Quarry noise), the picturesque TRESTLE (40D: Part of a bridge), and the always welcome BELTS (22A: Big swigs). Not the hitting kind, mind you. The holding-up-your-pants kind are fine, too, I suppose. But the drinking kind is best.

Anywho, this proves once again that Mr. Haight would be an amusing person to DOLUNCH with. And if he comes to the ACPT again this spring, we may, in fact, try to make that happen. (Hi Bruce!)

A mood-elevating, mid-week treat.

- Horace

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tuesday, January 15, 2019, Samuel A. Donaldson


Mr. Donaldson gives us four theme answers that are variations of things you'd gladly hear your companion say at a bar - although all but one of them (DRINKSONME) could work in a restaurant setting as well. My favorite is the two-parter YOURMONEYS NOGOODHERE. I'll drink to that!

This topical theme doesn't do much damage to the surrounding grid. I enjoyed CRUSH, WRY, NCC (of course), NOODGES (vocabulary-wise), CLOD, and LOCUTION. And, I'm always happy to see a reference to the NETHerlands - even in abbreviated form.

There was also some solid clue/answer pairs:
Big farm workers (OXEN) - nice twist
Country whose name can also be a full sentence (IRAN) - pleasing
They might make lids difficult to close (STYES) - nice misdirection, but I wasn't fooled.
Tiny opening? (MICRO) - ha!
Change of locks? (NEWDO) - fun.

Some of the plurals like DALIS and KENS, and to a lesser extent HEYS, BORERS, and RAHS, I found a little ODDS, but maybe Mr. Donaldson's policy is 'the MOHS the merrier'. :)


Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday, January 14, 2019, Craig Stowe


Mr. Stowe has looked into some nouns and phrases and found expressions of disgust - he exposes the BLECH in a DOUBLECHIN and reveals the ICK in the MAGICKINGDOM. Who knew? Mr. Stowe also put the UGH in JUGHEAD and the EWW in SAYAFEWWORDS. All of these DISGUSTING demonstrations in the theme answers cross word boundaries, which for some reason seems more fabulous and fun than finding them within the same word. Maybe GOUGES is bonus theme material, because, yuck.

Most of the longer answers in the grid were part of the theme, but the two reciprocal ten-letter downs are solid fill. I particularly liked BLINDDATES, on which I have never gone - yet. :)

While I enjoyed TAPER, ROMP, and TIDY, I thought some of the other shorter fill felt a little STALE (ALOE, ESTA, AUDI, ACNE). On the other hand, I was happy to see EELS again. It's been too long. There were also some partials I wasn't partial to: ORTO, SETA, and ESS, for example. I thought the clue "Tippler's favorite radio station?" (WINO) was funny, but also very sad.


During the solve, before the theme became clear to me, I thought we might be in for something more numerical using 144 or 'dozen'. Oops. On the upside, the idea did lead me to take a quick look at the definition of gross as a unit of measure and I ended up learning some very interesting things about the duodecimal numbering system. One more reason I love doing the NYTX puzzle. Woo hoo!


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday, January 13, 2019, Andy Kravis


This morning when we looked at the thermometer here in our little New England enclave, the temperature read a whopping 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Just the sort of weather for enjoying the various treats from an ice cream parlor! Me, I'll take the malted - either a vanilla malt or the SINGLEMALT it's hiding in. But really, I don't have ice cream more than a couple times a year these days. Sure there were days when I would have enjoyed any of these - float, cone, bar, cup, shake, soda, scoop - but now it seems hard to justify the CALORIC intake.

The containers are all perfectly good answers on their own, and they're clued in a silly way, so... it all works.

Among the non-theme answers we find such gems as EMERALDS (14D: Some sights in Oz), NEBULA (51D: Annual science fiction award), and DEMIJOHNS (31D: Bulbous, narrow-necked bottles). That last we are familiar with through the classic bluegrass number "Hot Cold, Cold Corn."

Well, it's hand-off day here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA, so Frannie will take over from here. I'll just use a few more lines to speak for all three of us and say we appreciated the pairing of 56D: Writing of W. S. Gilbert (LIBRETTO) and 103A: Arthur who composed "The Yeomen of the Guard" (SULLIVAN). We're all big fans, and one of us has even acted in many G&S productions!

- Horace

I'm with Horace on the choice of a favorite parlor order: pour me a SINGLEMALT and I'm happy. A PARADEFLOAT doesn't sound too bad, either, but I'll pass on the SUCTIONCUP, thank you very much. I'll also pass on EYEPIT. BOOS

I like both DWEEB and its clue nerdburger. Somehow, nerdburger feels more fun than insulting. I also love DOTARD and WHOLEHOG.

And, speaking of love, as we start this new year of blogging, let's all make an EXTRA effort to move LOVEINS out of the counterculture and into the mainstream. 

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019, Sam Trabucco


A fun themeless, pinned together by four 12-letter answers: DRAMACOACHES (7D: Ones who help people get their acts together?) (Nice), MIRACLEONICE (18D: Sports Illustrated named it #1 in its "100 Greatest Moments in Sports History) (Sports are not as important as people think they are), PUTONACLINIC, and IMSPEECHLESS. Very nice skeleton, that.

Is it possible that I'm right in counting only eight answers that are neither crossing nor running alongside one of those four? That's pretty cool. And I'm sure it put a lot of pressure on poor Mr. Trabucco as he attempted to find adequate fill. Which is, perhaps, why we find things like SEZ (8D: States, informally), JER (14D: "Seinfeld" nickname), ARIE (20A: Nickname for Adrianus) (Okaaayyyy....), and ORD (45D: Onetime California fort) hiding in dark places. Incidentally, I think I played disc golf either on the former Fort ORD base or near it the last time I was in California, which was not very recently, btw.

Feminist Icon, MSPACMAN
Excellent clue alerts at: 52A: Something that's secretive (GLAND) (ew), 1A: Game players? (PEPBAND), and 3D: Pass on (PERISH). Did not see that one coming!

It's a little weird that we have the symmetrical SKITEAM and NFCTEAM, but I suppose that, too, is due to the structure. And while we're on the topic of symmetrical clues, I'll mention two more that worked well for Frannie and me - ELMIRA (50A: New York city west of Binghamton) - because we have close friends from both Binghamton and ELMIRA (and because of the "It's a Wonderful Life" ELMIRA reference), and BENETS Readers Encyclopedia, which is one of Frannie's favorite books! If you don't have a set (it can be had in two volumes), do yourself a favor and pick one up on eBay or abebooks. It's great to just page through while you're having a cup of coffee or tea. Or heck, even a cocktail.

I enjoyed solving this, even with the complete unknown in the middle, and I appreciate the non-Dr. Zhivago clue for LARA (Hi MLou! :) ). Much of the longer material was strong, and I kind of liked just blasting through it. I hope it went well for you, too.

- Horace

p.s. Remember POGS?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday, January 11, 2019, Jeff Chen and Jim Horne


Boy, when I saw the two constructors, my expectations were set pretty high. They are, if you don't know, the creator and the keeper of that statistical juggernaut And Jeff Chen writes a daily blog post about the NYTX. Mr. Horne still chimes in from time to time, too. So with all that experience, and knowing the crossword blogosphere like they do, you'd have to expect a pretty darn good puzzle. And what do you know, they delivered. :)


It's an impressive grid with hugely chunky corners and good flow. Of the many nines and tens, I think my favorites are CAMERASHY (1A: Afraid of getting shot), APOSTROPHE (55A: Character in "All's Well That Ends Well" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), and ARCHIMEDES (12D: Pioneer in hydrostatics). For that last one, even after I had the first five letters, I still expected it to be someone with the first name "Archie" that I had never heard of. Derp. And the clue for APOSTROPHE is classic crossword misdirection. I don't know either play very well, so I was just kind of hoping I would recognize the character name when it started to show up.

There were a few little crosswordsy bits of fill that allowed me to get a start, like CAPO (1D: Crime boss), ALES (2D: Public house options), and ESC (4D: "Exit full screen" button). Oh, and EMT, INRE, DORA and OLAV down below, but nothing really troubling. And I might be alone in this, but I loved seeing QUA (31A: Acting as) clued as it was, because I come from a family of Scrabble players, and I learned very early on what QUA meant. In my house, anyone playing QUA on the board would almost invariably follow the laying of tiles with the example that was found in our old dictionary - "He spoke QUA judge." Good times.

One last thing - when "purple" started to become clear in 11-Down "#2 on Rolling Stone's '100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time,'" I quickly filled it in as PURPLErAin, even while thinking to myself, "Gee, I knew Prince was considered a good guitarist, but #2? Really?" I think it was only Dirty DOZEN that made me change it to the much more expected PURPLEHAZE.

Overall, a fun Friday. Thanks Jim & Jeff! I'm happy to ROOTON fellow bloggers. :)

- Horace

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019, Derek Bowman and Jeff Slutzky


What a can of corn the revealer was today! TORAH, to be pronounced as "TOR! ... Ah..." or something like that - said that way because the letters TOR have been inserted into four common(ish) phrases. "Can of corn," for example, becomes CANTOROFCORN (55A: Synagogue singer with hokey humor?), which is strangely linked to the revealer. I suppose KEEPITREALTOR (45A: "I don't want this house after all"?) could be linked the religious theme as well, but I think maybe I said enough about my religious beliefs in my last weekly stint of blogging. AMENS! :)


The only theme answer "original phrase" that I was not immediately familiar with was in CAPTORINHAND (21A: Kidnapper who gets arrested?). I see now that "cap in hand" is an alternate version of "hat in hand," as in "He went cap in hand..." asking for money. I think that one's on me. I should probably have been able to figure that out.

As is often the case, there are some interesting long Down answers in the grid. My favorites today are TIMEBOMBS (36D: Ticking dangers), BARONESS (40D: Margaret Thatcher, e.g., in her later years) (not for the Maggie reference, but for the fine word itself), and the unusual AWCOMEON (5D: "You've got to be kidding me!"). ONBUTTONS (12D: Things in the backs of Macs) was very strange, but this Mac user enjoyed it when he figured it out.

Overall I enjoyed this solve. There was plenty of OOMPH in the middle-length fill, too, with LARYNX (47D: Need to speak) (tricky clue!), GNASH, ASKEW (15A: Like a necktie at the end of a long workday, maybe) (Tell me about it!), and SANDRA (10D: Oh, what an actress!) (Guffaw!).

No rebus, but still a fun Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday, January 9, 2019, Trenton Charlson


Striking! Check out that long diagonal of Is running through from SW to NE - it's appropriately 11 Is long! Then look around at the rest of it, and you'll see nothing but Is. It's a stunt puzzle!


If you'd asked me yesterday what I might think of a puzzle using only the vowel I, I'd bet there would have been a lot of CRINGING, because such a limitation can be STIFLING, but Mr. Charlson somehow managed a pretty TIGHTKNIT grid, and even managed to include a some BLING in the MIDST of it all.

Sure, Otto FRISCH and INI Kamoze are a bit obscure, and BLIN is a variant I've never heard before, but there's not much else that feels very off-putting. PRII (49D: Toyota hybrids, jocularly) is amusing, and even IST (47D: Loyal follower?) is elevated by its clever clue. OK, well, INDS (2D: Unaffiliated voters: Abbr.) is rough, but still, it's not much - and I is the only vowel!

Bruce Haight has taught me to appreciate these stunt puzzles, and I think this is a pretty darn good one. I'm SMILING about it, and I didn't even need any WINING and dining.


- Horace

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019, Freddie Cheng


What a clever theme - and for online solvers, when the cursor hits 61-Across, the theme answers light up in yellow and blue, which makes kind of a nice abstract art-like design on the grid. It's a bit of a pity that the answers can't show up with their given colors - gray, black, tan, red, and gold - but still, it's a fun idea.


Not a ton of long "bonus" material today. TESTCASE and TEARTAPE are a little dry, but the symmetrical pairing of SENATOR (4D: Long-term legislator) and ENACTED (46D: Passed, as laws) was pretty nice. I also appreciated the pairing of 45A: Cry made while taking a bow (TADA) and 68A: Mythological figure who takes a bow (EROS). They were trying to trick us!

Other entries of note include 54D: Digs made of twigs (NESTS), 35A: Fathers, as foals (SIRES), and  1A: Baker's dozen? (EGGS). Nice! And for 18D: Loony (KOOK), I was thinking adjective but they wanted noun. Gotta keep that mind flexible!

NENA and TREO feel a little old these days, but possibly only because I don't have much else to complain about in the fill. It's not very exciting, but the theme is good enough to carry the puzzle today.

- Horace

Monday, January 7, 2019

Monday, January 7, 2019, Andrew Kingsley

0:05:53 (F.W.T.E.)

It's a split decision, er... split theme today - vowel runs on each side of the grid, with P_T-led answers running down the left side, and N_T down the right. I've never seen anything like this, so right off the bat I'm impressed by the complex, yet subtle theme. For a while I thought it might just be a rare themeless Monday, because the vowel runs don't exactly stand out, and there's no revealer.


If I were to NITPICK the theme at all, I'd suggest that PETCAT (24A: Garfield, to Jon Arbuckle) rings a tad arbitrary, as a phrase, but one can't seriously argue with it. Same with NOTYET. But the rest are fine, and it does seem like an awful lot of theme.

Even with all that, though, we still get some nice long Down answers. BAYONET (7D: Musket attachment) is thrust right down the middle, and with BETATESTS, BOTTOMUP, and BATHROOM, we've almost got a mini B-letter Down words theme going. I wonder if Mr. Kingsley experimented with "Billy Jack" in the JIMMYDEAN spot... No. Probably not.

CABO at 1-Across should have been easy for at least one of our regular readers, who honeymoooned there some fifteen years ago or so.

My errors came at ELROPO, an answer I should know by now, because it has appeared often enough in these grids. I think I had E_ROP_, and I somewhat absently filled in "EuROPa" without checking either Down answer until it was too late. Sigh.

Interesting start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday, January 6, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


A rather tortured word-play theme today. I kept trying to figure out how the title "Breaking News" would be helpful to me in understanding the eight (!) theme answers. I thought, well, maybe they're all things that are covered on news programs? (I don't watch any news, so it was really just a guess.) The entertainment segment could cover a HOLLYWOODENDING, and maybe the early morning news show is called the EYEOPENER... but no. The title simply refers to the revealer, DEARJOHNLETTERS, which refers, sort of, to the other theme answers, which work together to spell out D-E-A-R-J-O-H-N.


To be clear, the second word of each two-word phrase tells you which letter to take from the first word. In ARCTICFRONT, it is the A. In STOLETHIRD, it is the O. Etc. Fine. I don't love it, but I don't hate it either. It's a thing.

I guess my issue is that it didn't enhance my solving experience while I was doing the puzzle. It extended the time that I spent with the puzzle by forcing me to figure it out after I was done. I suppose in some ways this could be seen as a good thing. For me, today, it wasn't.

But what about the rest of the answers? The fill, as it is sometimes called. Well, for starters, I disliked both 1A and 1D. Not a great start. ELMISTI (19,000+-foot Peruvian volcano) both didn't seem like something I ought to know, and the inclusion of the article is not consistent across the search results I just got when Googling it. And for 1D, I think I'd prefer seeing it clued as an Old English letter.

And PASHA (8A: Husband of Lara in "Doctor Zhivago") is little better. I'm sick of references to this movie and/or book. Both came out before I was born, and I've neither read nor seen it, but I know the theme was "Lara's Theme," and now I know her husband. Yay!

Boy... somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed. Sorry about all that complaining.

I liked SCEPTERS (65D: Symbols of sovereignty), and 60D: Range rovers (BISON) was cute. CONCOCT (74D: Dream up) is strong, and NOBLEMEN (59A: Duke and others) was tricky.

It is at times like these that I often think of the old adage "Criticism is easier than craftsmanship," and so I should probably just end by saying TOOGOOD (18A: "That's way better than I can do.")

- Horace

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Saturday, January 5, 2019, Andrew Zhou


I apologize for the lateness and shortness of this review, but after delivering the older daughter back to college and shopping for a French Horn for the younger daughter, we got back late-ish. Well, not so late, but then instead of doing the crossword puzzle, we watched Paddington 2. And at 11:10 it occurred to me that the puzzle and blog post still needed doing.

In any case, Paddington 2 was a delightful movie.

We've seen a number of these kinds of grids before now, with the offset stacks intersecting in the middle. With the steps of black squares in the middle of each side of the puzzle, you get 11-letter words. GARLICBREAD is clearly the best here, followed by the incredible SIMONEBILES. The others just didn't grab me as much as I've become used to.

There are some good clues though, including 7A: Museum installations (ALARMS). Definitely not what I was expecting. Also 36A: What a jam is packed with (CARS). Too true! Fortunately we did not get stuck in any of those today during our travels. Finally, there's 8D: It's spirit may be broken (LAW). Very nice!

This is a fine puzzle, but I liked yesterday's better.

- Colum

Friday, January 4, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019, Neil Padrick Wilson



No? Just got started?


(Wait for it...)


Hmmm. Let me just say that you should not allow the STENCH of that silly start to take away from a very fine Friday offering from Mr. Wilson (his second in the NYT). Everywhere I look in this grid, there's excellent stuff. Just take that W into SW section. WARMFUZZIES, IMEANREALLY, RAMONE, and TWIHARD! So good.

And the symmetric area has BARSINISTER as well as MAYICUTIN (nice clue: "Line at a dance") and the ludicrous BITEME!

If we have to accept a ONEA or TPK, it seems a very small price to pay.

And the best clue of the year so far: 5D: Busing supervisors (MAITREDS). I had ___TREDS and I couldn't parse that as ... d's to save my life.

Very fine puzzle.

- Colum

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Thursday, January 3, 2019, Timothy Polin

8:53 (FWOE)

Today's grid is split into two half-puzzles by a wall down the middle, which creates the theme answers at 19A/20A, 35A/37A, and 50A/52A. I figured out the theme in the middle, with WOLFOF / [WALL] / STREET. Initially I thought about WOLFOF / wallsT, which is not at all the name of the movie, but then got it right shortly thereafter.

19A: With 20-Across, pattern in back of a window (DESKTOP / [WALL] / PAPER) was challenging. It took me a while to realize that we were talking about computers. STONE / [WALL] / JACKSON was well-known to me from my years of obsessing over the Civil War. I recommend Shelby Foote's three volume history if you want to take a deep dive.

So is it enough? It's a small amount of theme material, unless you count the 15 squares of black down the center as theme. On the other hand, the two halves of puzzle are wide open, with a lot of excellent fill, including SOFTSPOKEN and SPELUNKING. 15A: Author known for the intelligence of his writing? (LECARRE) is an amazing twisty clue, just like the novels referred to.
I had difficulty in the NE due to the tricky plural of 8A: Followers of the Baal Shem Tov (HASIDIM). I had tried HASsids, but that was clearly problematic because I couldn't come up with 14D: "Scrumptious!" (MMM) when starting with an S. Also tricky is 25D: May and others (PMS), referring to the British Prime Minister Theresa May.

My error came at 38D: Lightweight boxer? (PUP). I convinced myself that PUg would work here - that somehow, a pug was just a very small boxer. Ignoring of course that gEN could never work as the answer for 45A: Boardom? (PEN). Ah well.

I think overall I liked it, even if it had fewer Aha! moments than a typical Thursday.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wednesday, January 2, 2019, Jacob Stulberg


Turns out there are a lot more kinds of forks than I had known of.

And that's not even all of them, if you include the "cocktail fork" mentioned in the puzzle. I love the idea: here, a "cocktail fork" is two types of cocktails that start with the same letters, then split apart, one continuing straight, the other at a forty-five degree angle. The challenges of this sort of thing have been covered before: any letter that is included on the fork is "triple-checked," or included in three different answers, which makes the fill much more challenging.

Of the theme answers, MARTINI / MARGARITA and CHERRYPIE / CHEESECAKE are the most dazzling (and the tastiest, in my opinion). The other three examples are only five letters long and differ by only one or two letters. I found SHARK /SHAD the most jarring, but only because they feel so different, they shouldn't fit into the category "fish," even if they o-fish-ally do. See what I did there?

There's a fair amount of less than wonderful fill due to the challenges above, but really, I'm impressed by what Mr. Stulberg was able to weave in. Look at BEEEATERS - an example of the crazy letter combos so popular nowadays among the constructing youth. BRAINLESS is also very good. My favorite may be 42D: No longer interested in (WEARYOF). I love that phrase.

So, yes, there is a bunch of EEE, AAS, COHEIR (really?), and old stalwart ESAI Morales, but I'll take it.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Tuesday, January 1, 2019, Gary Cee


So now it's 2019, is it?

I hope everybody had a fun and safe New Year's Eve. We spent it with our good friends Horace and Frances, as we have done for the past five years (and other previous years when we lived in Boston). I have known these good people for nearly 25 years now. It is a piece of good fortune to meet kindred souls on our travels through this world. Good laughs, stupid jokes, a love of games, and the odd philosophizing. Good times!

In the meantime, today's puzzle, the first of the year, pretends to be merely PASSABLE, in that the first word in each of the theme answer phrases is something that can be "passed." I find this a very tight set of answers, with excellent strong phrases. 37A: Music staff notation (TIMESIGNATURE) is my favorite, both for the connection with music, and also for the surprising "passing the time."

Things I liked:

  • AGHAST crossing TREMBLE
  • 47D: Tolkien creature (HOBBIT) not being "ent" or "orc."
  • PRONTO is a great word.
Things I liked less:
  • Alternate spelled SAREE
  • BEANER. This is not a term that anybody uses, that I've heard. "Beanball" works better.
  • Sam ERVIN and Hammond INNES. Who?
Otherwise I found it just fine. Here's looking forward to many more good puzzles this year.

- Colum