Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019, Randolph Ross


I caught on to the theme with 59A: "Green peas" (PEACEANDPEPPERS) or more expositorily, words that can follow the word 'green' to make a common phrase that starts with the letter p. "Blue jays" across the top (16A) took me forever. What in the heck is blue jasmine? Is that a thing? Anyhoo, that aside, my favorite was "Honey bees" (BADGERSANDBEARS). Since all the theme answers followed the same pattern, I was able to fill in the initial letters and the internal AND in each theme clue before I even knew the answers themselves. That came in handy in the north west. I didn't know OBADIAH was the shortest OT book, RESANDS for "Smooths over" didn't click for quite some time, and I was stuck on the idea of a locality for 5D. "Albert Einstein, notably" (EMIGRE). DEMERIT!

I've always liked the expressions "To boot" (ALSO) and BARNONE ("Without exception"). I liked the clue "Thunder, but not Lightning" (NBATEAM) - get me, enjoying a sports clue! I also liked "Bygone compacts" (GEOS) and "Unlikely source of a silk purse" (SOWSEAR). I thought EMIGRE and EMERGE made an interesting pair at 5D and 10D. And how about the pair UMPTEEN ("Lots of") and TEEM ("Abound")? Maybe there's something about the syllable "tee" that means many.


I thought the clue "Crowd on the move" (HORDE) was interesting; I wasn't aware that a horde was necessarily a crowd in motion. I never like ASAP as a synonym for "Now!" because 'as soon as possible' is not necessarily this minute.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday, February 27, 2019, Will Nediger


It took me a while to catch on to the"pre" theme in today's puzzle, but once I did, I enjoyed it. In four rows, there were two Across answers that were related. The second answer in the row had a regular clue whereas the prior clue specified that it was "Pre-##-Across". I finally figured it out with 50A: "How emotionally developed people handle things" (MATURELY), which made the clue for 47A: "Pre-maturely" or EARLY. Pre-DICTION/AUGURY was a good pair. I also liked Pre-AMBLE/FORWARD.

There was some nice ambiguous cluing today as in "Thatcher's creation" (ROOF) - my first thought was Margaret Thatcher! - and "Pod creature" (ORCA).

I enjoyed the throw back at 39A: "'70s rock?" (PET). Remember those? They were pre-dated only slightly by the introduction of the Buick REGAL. Did anyone else notice a distinct ECHO in the puzzle with HAHA, GOGO, and OKOK?


I thought the pluralizing of BACHS was pushing it a little, but I did just read that Johann Sebastian Bach had 20 children, so maybe the plural was APTS after all. :)


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday, February 26, 2019, Alex Vratsanos


I solved this puzzle on our flight home earlier today. Conditions were unfavorable for speed. I'm not the largest person on earth, but each of my joints was having a HOTWAR with some part of the economy seat I was crammed into - from the headrest to the armrest to the footrest to really no rest at all. So, I really felt the theme today: each set of shaded letters contained a JOINT of the human body bent at a 90 degree angle. And I heard from each one of 'em during the 8-hour flight from the NECK right down to the ANKLE. Mr. Vratsanos may have had economy airline seats in mind when he stuffed an impressive 8 joints into the the 15 x 15 grid. Let's hope no airline executives are NYTX solvers! It is possibly for the best that none of the joints really had a twist of any kind. Having WRI[ST] come off of WRIT isn't too exciting, for example, but I did chuckle a little at DANK[LE]. :) I used the theme to my advantage in the middle east. I couldn't figure out ARISTO for "Blue-blooded Brit" or TILTAT for "Clash with" until I realized I could put SHOULDER in shaded squares.

The ambient noise of the midday flight didn't do me much good, either. I hope the white noise the solvers have in their headphones during the ACPT championship is better than the soundtrack of an 8-hour midday plane trip in economy class.

But, enough about meat. How about the rest of the puzzle?
I liked AMARETTO, KLEPTO, ABOLISH, and SISAL. And who doesn't like to RUNATAB? Possibly someone who SKIMPS. I also thought the clue "Religious setback" for APSE was amusing. DOST anyone else think ENSHEATHE was a bit too too?


I thought ASAHI "Brewery in the Nikkei 225" and EMIL Jannings - first winner of the Best Actor Oscar (1928) - were educational, if not particularly sp'ACL.

That's about all I'm able to articulate after such a long day. Until tomorrow!


Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019, Peter Gordon

9:10, FWOT

I tried to finish this puzzle ASP (so fast, I didn't have time to type the other A) so I could head out for a bike ride along the Amsterdam-Rhine canal, but I ran into a couple of problem areas. One was a typo in the first theme answer GOoNGSWIMMINGLY [someone who is very good at playing the tam-tam?] The other was at the theme revealer TRIATHLON ("Race suggested by 19-, 39-, and 59- Across?). Am I the only one who thought the word was TRIATHaLON? Maybe the triathletes are trying to complete the SWIMMING, CYCLING, RUNNING contest so quickly, they also didn't have time for one more A. So, that held me up for a bit because I didn't know ILIE Nastase (of tennis), either. Derp. Anyhoo, a fine trio of activities, all of which I enjoy, with cycling being the favorite - not the competitive type of cycling, the stopping-to-smell-the-flowers kind of cycling.

Here's a LISZT of clue/answer pairs I liked:
"Help wanted sign?" (SOS)
"To a sickening degree" (ADNAUSEAM (correct USAGE: the Latin preposition 'ad' takes the accusative)
"As if" (MYEYE)
"Ticket leftover" (STUB)

I also enjoyed the Truman quote, "The ability to step on a man's toes without messing up the shine on his shoes" (TACT). I've got to work on that.

"On the ___ vive" seemed a little obscure for a Monday (QUI). That expression went out of vogue along with halberds and shabracks, didn't it? :)


The clue "Like a thermometer that's put in the mouth" (ORAL) was not to my taste. I also felt that the quantity of short fill made the solve feel like something of a POMMELing, but I imagine that was necessary for Mr. Gordon to get his events to ALIGN.

I'm off to enjoy our last day in the (RE)CYCLINGCENTER of the world.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019, Erik Agard


Until I got the the revealer, I had no idea what was going on with the theme today. I had filled in SMALLTOWNSALON (21A: *Likely inexpensive place to get one's hair done) pretty quickly, and I think I had also gotten REINDEERRIDE (40A: *Tourist activity in northern Scandinavia), but the others were only partially filled in when I finally got to WHATARETHEODDS (121A: "How lucky was that?" ... or a hint to the answers to the starred clues). Then I noticed that the "odd" (first, third, etc.) letters in the first word of each theme answer spelled the second word. A cute idea. And with that understanding, I was able to quickly fill in the ones I hadn't yet gotten, and the puzzle was soon finished.


I liked the spirit of some clues today, including 18A: "Word that follows 'standard' and means something nonstandard" (DEVIATION), 50A: "It's groovy" (SCREW), 126D "Springs for a vacation?" (SPA), and 83A: "To be abroad?" (ETRE). Which reminds me - it took me far too long to get 32D: "1400" (TWOPM). The 24-hour clock is easy enough to get used to, but I'm still not comfortable with centimeters, or "dainty inches" as a Dutch friend referred to them yesterday. Hah!

ONIONS (77A: Florentine : spinach :: lyonnaise : ____) took me quite a while, because although I pretty much knew what it was, I was unwilling to make onion plural when it didn't have to be. I mean, it works, sure, because you'd never say "spinaches," but then again, I think "onion" would also work fine. Also somewhat non-standard was the "no-H" OOLALA, and I didn't love DRAGGY, but overall, it was a fine Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Saturday, February 23, 2019, Sam Ezersky

0:21:49 (F.W.O.E.)

One of my first entries today, even though I couldn't actually believe it would be true, was bWAHAHAHA (2D: Villain's cackle). I was a little off (MWAHAHAHA), but still, it was a fun beginning. 8-Across, "String of churches?" (ROSARY) didn't fool even this non-Catholic for a second, and emboldened by what I thought was going to be a cakewalk, I foolishly entered "bAnAnA" off the A from 2D for 38A: "Fruit with a yellow rind" (CASABA). Yeah... that would have been too easy and I knew it, but still I dared.


How many of you, like me, paused at 5D: "Man's name that spells a fictional people backward" to consider "Iole," and then "Kowe?" It took quite a while, really, for IVAN to become clear. And it's funny, because Frannie and I just saw a painting of Prince in a shop window last night that made him appear kind of like a Navi. (The blue people from "Avatar.")

My error, if you are interested, came at 47A: "Conjunction in a rebus puzzle" (OAR). I found the clue very odd, but did not think about it long enough to see that they were playing on the crossword standard "oer" by adding an extra trick. Very nice, but I wish I had known for sure that the capital NNE of Marrakesh was RABAT and not ReBAT. Oh well.

The eleven-letter Acrosses were uninteresting, but I did enjoy ANACONDAS and RAINDELAY well enough. "Mob rule?" (RIOTACT) was fun, as was INEEDANAP (34D: Words yawned in the afternoon). And maybe it's time for me to get an AARPCARD, because I actually smiled at the old stalwarts HIES, VENI, and ALEPHS (61A: Hebrew leaders).

Not the most exciting Saturday, but acceptable. It's Market Day today in Utrecht, so we're heading out to see what we can find for dinner.

Tot Ziens!

- Horace

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019, Daniel Nierenberg


This one seemed to go by pretty quickly, despite my having never heard of several answers. I've never been much of a rum drinker, so BAHAMAMAMA was entirely unknown to me. It sounds more like something that would be applied to a person. I have also never heard of the ALOHATOWER (15A: Hawaii landmark featuring four seven-ton clocks) (its Wikipedia entry tells kind of a sad story), or REDDRAGON (42A: 1981 novel that introduced the character Hannibal Lecter). And EOSIN is something that I might have heard once long ago, but it's not something I know.


ATHWART (6D: From side to side) is a word you don't hear every day, so that's nice, and SOLARFLARE (27D: Phenomenon that emits X-rays) is a nice long Down. I had "chapters" in for a while before EPISODES (23D: Installments), and "snap" before CASE (11A: Cold ____), but things righted themselves eventually.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this, but Frannie and I are on vacation this week, and I, at least, am breaking all kinds of DIETARYLAWs. They have this thing they call "Kibbeling" here in the Netherlands, which is little chunks of fried fish that you can buy at the open market. It comes in a little tray with tartar sauce. And if you want, you can buy a paper cone of french fries at one of the many artisinal french fry storefronts in this town to go with it. I have even come around to having the fries with "frietsaus," which is kind of like a lightly-spiced mayonnaise. Yes, that's right, I've gone native. Oh, and to wash it all down, they've got plenty of good local beer - like Hertog Jan and Texels. Talk about INNERPEACE... OHYES!

- Horace

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday, February 21, 2019, Sam Trabucco


I'm taking the DNF today because I knew neither HUGOWEAVING (33A: Player of V in "V for Vendetta) nor PENSIEVE (14D: Magical basin used to view one's memories in the Harry Potter books). If I had penser'd a little longer, maybe I could have come up with the Down entry, but I had also erroneously entered JUDyDENCH, so it just wasn't going to happen for me today. Ah well...


Kind of a "meh" theme today, at least for me. I have seen all four movies that the CHARACTERACTORs appeared in, but the only one that I actually remember being referred to by the letter is JUDIDENCH. The character of "M" has been very well established by the Bond franchise. I don't think we've ever heard what it stands for, or even if it stands for anything but itself. PATRICKSTEWART's character, on the other hand, is named Charles Xavier, or "Professor X." I don't remember him being referred to as just "X," the way "M" is. And the other two movies are too far back in my memory for me to have clear thoughts on the character names.

So maybe it's a weak theme, and maybe it's just a case of sour grapes. I don't know.

It was interesting to learn about Unalaska, Alaska, the second-largest city (population c. 4,400) in the "unorganized borough" of the "Aleutians West Census Area." It seems the "un" in the beginning is not the prefix I originally thought it was, but a variant of "Ounalashka," which means "Near the peninsula." Who knew?

Also, it's a little weird to have the fully-named character NORMARAE in the puzzle as non-theme material, isn't it? ...

Paired entries TECHBRO and DUDETTE, and RAPIDO and ITALIANO were interesting. I didn't really love the way GETSWITH (3D: Becomes involved in) was clued, and I would never use the word DRIB to mean a "tiny amount."

HATETO harsh on a puzzle this way, but I just wasn't feeling it today. Hope you found it more enjoyable.

- Horace

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019, Byron Walden


Six college names start six 12-, 13-, and 14-letter entries today - Brown, Duke, Rice, Drake, Smith, and Penn. They are not hidden at all, they are just the first of paired entries, which makes for the somewhat odd appearance of six occurrences of the word "and" in the grid. Plus one more if you take the center of CANDO (21D: Positive kind of attitude). It's a slightly unconventional grid, with little staircase areas in the NW and SE, and kind of an overall diagonal feel. Does that make any sense?


It seems that the theme density - and perhaps in particular the sandwiching of the pairs of theme answers - put a little pressure on the grid, which was alleviated by the inclusion of such oddities as IVS, RES, ENDO, BSTAR, HADJ, LADES, and INDS. And then there's EDOM (51A: Ancient kingdom in modern-day Jordan). Established in the 13th century B.C.E.

And speaking of old things, I thought it was a little weird that 41-Down, LATIN, referenced PER ANNUM rather than CAVEAT (45A: Word of caution) that intersected it. Perhaps they didn't want to give too much away. Or maybe it's bad form to cross-reference intersecting clues... yes, that's probably it.

SCOLD and BURGLE (12D: Enter to steal from) are fun words to see, if you don't dwell too much on their meanings. CLUTCH (21A: Come through in the ____) is a good one, too. And although I have never heard of DRAKEANDJOSH, I certainly do remember Mark GOODSON and Bill Todman. Hah! Those were the days...

So I know you're all wondering where we are this week so I'll just briefly mention that we're in Utrecht! This morning we're taking a three-hour course in Dutch pronunciation, focussing especially (I hope) on the diphthongs, a few of which are not used at all in English. Too bad this blog isn't a podcast - I could try to do a few for you... no, on second thought, you're probably better off just reading this.

- Horace

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday, February 19, 2019, David Alfred Bywaters


A hilarious theme today taking the classic line TOBE ORNOT TOBE in a new, wacky way. An extra B is added to two answers above the fold, as it were, and removed from two below, generating ridiculous results. An extra B added to the original phrase "cold sober," for example, and clued (in a timely way) as "One who's taking a polar vortex pretty hard?" giving COLDSOBBER. Hah! And on the other side, "Chinese cabbage" is re-imagined as the CHINESECABAGE ("Chinese Cab Age"), and the already somewhat amusing expression "We was robbed," is ludicrously re-cast as a "Defense against a charge of public nudity?" - WEWASROBED!


So thumbs way up on the theme. Add to that already high GRADE extra credit for the lovely long Downs BROWBEATING (10D: Blustery bullying) and IMPECUNIOUS (24D: Lacking money) (I pretty much love anything that comes straight through from the Latin) (see also: AMAT), and you've got me solidly on your side.

No YAWNS here. On to WEDS.

And oh yeah, one more thing - as Colum mentioned in the comments yesterday, we're in Europe! :) Today we're heading down to the Hague to visit the offices of Europeana. If you've never heard of it, it's a treasure trove of over 58 million digital images from libraries, museums, and archives all over Europe. There's something similar in the States called the Digital Public Library of America. Both are fantastic resources. Check them out!

- Horace

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019, Andrea Carla Michaels and Leslie Rogers


A tidy theme today of two-word phrases, the first word of which can be paired with "cap" to make a new phrase, and the second of which can be likewise paired with "gown." I particularly enjoyed the first one, NIGHTNIGHT, because, well, it's clever and funny. WHITEWEDDING is fine and MUSHROOMBALL is a little weird. Are those a thing now? Instead of meatballs? I've never seen them - or heard of them - but then, I never really liked meatballs on my spaghetti even back when I did eat meatballs, so I've never really gone looking for a substitute.


Oh, maybe I'm just being OBNOXIOUS. I will say that I didn't get much sleep on the plane last night. And even if I had slept the entire time that the lights were out, that would still only have been, what, three hours? But the trick to beating jet lag (from the US to Europe anyway - according to me) is to stay up the entire day once you land. Until your normal bedtime, if possible, but at least until 9:00 or so. You'll probably wake up pretty early, but as long as it's light out, you should be good.

And yes, I know it's easier said than done. Right now, for instance, it's 1:45pm where I am, and I'm sitting in the sun with an espresso, writing on my laptop and even with the coffee I'm struggling to not just "rest my eyes" for a minute. Or two or three.

But enough about me. What about the rest of the puzzle!? PASEO (32A: Bullfighters' entrance march) is a little obscure for a Monday, and if new solvers aren't familiar with the old baseball name ALOU, or haven't paid any attention to the Harry Potter films, they might run into a little difficulty over on the West side, there.

I did very much enjoy the clue for TOE (57A: Stocking stuffer), I also liked the topicalness of "7D: $15/hour, maybe" (WAGE) and the green, "keeping it real"-ness of 52D: Low-tech hair dryer (TOWEL). But is it just me, or would you, too, argue that neither a slipper nor a sandal is a SHOE? Footwear, sure, but shoe, no.

- Horace

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday, February 17, 2019, David Kwong


The game Trivial Pursuit had its heyday thirty-five years ago, in 1984. I played many a game around that time, and even went on to play a few of the different versions. The 80s edition was terrible, as I remember - most of the answers were "Ronald Reagan." And the Sports Edition was far too difficult for me, for although I had followed local sports pretty closely up until that point, I had not made a study of past years or other teams. Nonetheless, we played the Genus and GenusII editions often enough that Frannie's parents got us a set of those gold-plated, metal playing pieces.

Sweet, eh?

Anywhoo, I enjoyed figuring out the theme today, which references the original six categories (blue and green were always my favorites!), and when the puzzle is finished in the online version, the rebus squares turn into colored wedges that all point in, as if they were sitting in one of the deluxe holders. Or, I suppose, one of the regular plastic holders.

The long answers today are mostly related to the nuts and bolts of the theme, but the trivia continues in STAYINALIVE (118A: Song heard at the start of "Saturday Night Fever"), the classic ENOLA (50A: First name on a famous plane), and ASTORIA (49A: Oregon city that was the first permanent U.S. settlement west of the Rockies). Lewis and Clark spent the 1805-1806 winter there, at Fort Clatsop. Later (at just about the same time that DEWITT Clinton ran for president, narrowly losing to James Madison), John Jacob Astor used the location as a base for his fur company, and the city was eventually named for him

And I'll mention just one more bit of trivia in today's grid - ULYANOV (27A: Vladmir Lenin's real last name) - which I entered off the clue, thanks to my repeated listening to Monty Python records as a child. Mr. ULYANOV was one of the contestants, along with Karl Marx, Che Guevara, and Mao Zedong, on a game show called "World Forum," and he cannot answer the question he is posed about the name of the British entry in the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest. Mao challenges, and correctly gives the name of the song that finished second that year as "Sing Little Birdie." What was the Eurovision winner in 1959, you ask? "Een Beetje," by Teddy Scholten of the Netherlands.

And what a nice segue, as it were, or, as they say in Dutch, "segue," because tonight Frannie and I fly to the land of windmills and grachten. But don't worry, we can still get the Times over there, so the reviews should continue without interruption. Tot ziens!

- Horace

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Saturday, February 16, 2019, Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb


So let me start this review by admitting that for a hot second I considered triSEXUAL to be a thing. I wasn't entirely sure in my mind what exactly the third axis could be, but I passed it off by saying, "well, there's LGBTQ, so... yeah." Fortunately in the next second I put ERS in, and recognized that SC__RR was unlikely to represent a word in the English language, so took the "tri" out. PANSEXUAL is much better, at least as an answer in a crossword puzzle.

As it turns out, I completed the puzzle this morning on the way to Boston, said trip having the lovely side effect of allowing a meeting of the minds behind this blog. Horace and Frannie gave me some examples of situations in the puzzle where they had confidently put something else in, which I will allow them to enter into the comments, should they be so inclined. But at least it made me feel better about my misstep.

Meanwhile, there was much to be rejoiced about in this grid. I am particularly taken by the crossings of DOMINATRIX and POLEAXE by PIXIECUT and FLEXTIME. Way to use those Xs.

Also amusing is the juxtaposition (another X word) of CARPACCIO and ONIONRING. I have to give props to Hope for getting the former off of the CAR____.

I was completely taken in by 35A: Third character to appear in "Macbeth" (CEE). How many times will this kind of clue fool me?! This is a particularly brilliant form of this sort of clue, especially lacking the question mark. On the other hand, the QMC at 54D: Cover letters for certain applications? (SPF) is also brilliant. Lovely work.

All in all, I think the Friday and Saturday made up for the mild disappointment of Thursday. And I don't think that's ALOTTOASK of the turn.

- Colum

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019, Wyna Liu

17:47 (FWOE)

Oof! In the classic area of being careful of what you wish for, I am rewarded for yesterday's review by being presented with one of the toughest grids I've come across in a while. 70 words, a ton of open white space, and three hypersegmented areas, connected only by CRAZYRICHASIANS, an excellent seed entry.

My error came at the crossing of GWENIFILL and ZIA. I knew the former, but forgot how to spell it. I tried an E, but no such luck.

The only success I had in the NW initially was COO and LEVAR - ah, Geordi Laforge. How we miss ye. I just saw an episode of Community where he had a guest appearance, putting Donald Glover's character into a state of catatonia. It was highly amusing.

Fortunately I made better headway with the NE, where 12D: Unit measure for chili (ALARM) (nice) and RETIE opened things up. I am confused by 18A: Keynote, maybe (ORATE). Are we using this word as a verb? Apparently we are. Meanwhile, WOOHOO and the excellent 24D: Chinese martial arts (WUSHU), which my older daughter is very interested in, given how many of her college friends practice it, finally gave me the 15-letter crossing, which allowed me to break the NW and SE.

Nice answers here include WINATLIFE, MOSTEST, and OOPSSORRY (love the three double letters in that phrase). There aren't many brilliant clues today, but the puzzle played very hard. A good Friday challenge, and a debut entry from a new constructor.


- Colum

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019, John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen


Huh. I'm not exactly SENT by this theme. I get the idea: the revealer, OUTOFORDERSIGNS indicates that the other answers are road signs anagrammed into the clues. Because of the convention in the NYT (and maybe other crosswords, I don't know) that anagrammed clues are put in all caps, there wasn't much of an aha moment for me, although I do like the way the revealer finds a different way of interpreting its phrase.

In any case, just in case you were wondering, "NOTED TENOR" was not Pavarotti (which would have been very impressive just under IPAGLIACCI) and "DOOR DECALS" were not Wacky Packs.

Meanwhile, before this review becomes more INCOHERENT, I've never heard of CANOE cologne ("Can You Canoe?"), so there's something learned.

Anyway, I won't attack any more OYSTERS with a TROWEL looking for pearls. I look forward to Thursdays, and today's wasn't my cup of tea. Let's look ahead to the rest of the turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Ross Trudeau


Well, the next PLANETARY ALIGNMENT (of all eight planets) won't occur until 2492, so I suppose it would be cruel to hold this puzzle for publishing until then. As nearly as I can tell, Venus, the Earth, Mars, and Saturn will not be in alignment this year either. So, not a topical puzzle then.

But I won't hold that against it. I like the idea of the planets in hidden form lining up down the center of the puzzle. They are hidden well, with NOOVENUSE and TAKESATURN being the best examples.

Some would complain that the theme answers in each corner are matched in length by non-theme answers, but that doesn't bother me. Especially when ROOTYTOOTY is in the grid. That's a win for everyone right there. AARONBURR and INANUPROAR are positives, while SEAROUTES is fine, but no sizzler.

Meanwhile, NICOLAS Maduro should not be celebrated except in the hopes of his eventual ouster. And I am not fond of my ITBANDS because they are tighter than a tick, as the saying goes.

Favorite clue of the day is 45D: One who won't serve the average joe (BARISTA).

It's Wednesday. Oddness is the normal.

- Colum

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019, Tom Pepper


Seven themers in a 15x15 puzzle? My goodness, what will they come up with next?

I very much enjoyed this theme. Take a standard word that can be split into a two-letter state abbreviation followed by another word, and clue it as if that was the way it was always meant to be. I was momentarily confused by the first such example at 17A: Psychedelic stuff from the Evergreen State? (WASHROOMS) just because the first four letters also start the full state's name. But that's some funny stuff right there. "WA shrooms!"

My other favorites were 51A: Highway divider in the Centennial State? (COMEDIAN) and 64A: Pasta from the Golden State? (CANOODLES). I would have rated NEWAGER higher because of the way the reinterpretation of the phrase "new ager" forces a reparsing, except I don't really like the base phrase to begin with.
I did some of this before solving today's puzzle
I am impressed by the pair of 10-letter answers in the NE and SW corners. ECHOLOCATE and SEEIFICARE are both excellent. Add to those VENDETTA, TIMIDLY, and SCHMEAR, and you've got a nice ZIPPY puzzle.

But seriously, folks, can we simply get rid of ACER? Or at least as defined by tennis? It's simply not a word that anybody ever uses. There still is the Taiwanese tech giant Acer, even though in general I'm against brand names polluting our good fun. I can see how useful it is in constructing, but gah.

- Colum

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019, Howard Barkin

3:38 (FWOE)

I used to love strawberry ice cream. It was a way to be different from my brothers. My oldest brother liked chocolate best, my middle brother liked vanilla best, so I had to go with strawberry. Nowadays there are so many more choices. I'm particularly partial to mint cookies and cream currently.

So in fact, that only has to do with today's theme in that if you put my two brothers and me together, you'd get NEAPOLITAN ice cream, I guess. Although I don't think we'd fit all that well into a bowl together.

It's a solid set of theme answers today. I never saw VANILLASKY. I don't much care for Tom Cruise, but he's been in some great movies over the years. That one wasn't one of them, from what I hear. CHOCOLATETHUNDER, on the other hand, is one of the greatest nicknames of all times (nearly as good as "The Round Mound of Rebound"). And the two actresses recognized here for their natural hair color (STRAWBERRYBLONDE) are excellent. So that's a number of thumbs up.

The puzzle is extra large to accommodate the last two theme answers, coming in at 16 x 15. My error came because I tried to make that last answer a noun phrase in the plural, rather than a compound adjective. And RENEs Fleming does not exist.
The remarkable RENEE Fleming
Otherwise the puzzle is solid for a Monday offering. The only answer I really have a problem with is ENDER (31D: Rear-____ (auto accident)). But I really like MONIKER and 50D: [I don't know the words to this part!] (LALALA) is excellent cluing.

TADA! I'm out.

- Colum

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday, February 10, 2019, Lee Taylor


Rubber baby buggy bumper.

The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick.

Pad kid poured curd pulled cod. Huh? Apparently that's the world's hardest tongue twister ever. But I was always fond of UNIQUENEWYORK - that one usually gets me by the second repetition. For your information, the specific bridge in question is the George Washington Bridge, with eight lanes on the top section and six on the bottom, for a total of fourteen.

It's a fun theme, with several twisters I'd never encountered before. I don't find SHOESECTION to be too challenging, but REALRAREWHALE's a lulu. Add in the instruction "revealer" of FIVETIMESFAST, and it's a good set of theme answers. The concept of the tongue twister also appeals to me: I love thinking about situations where the brain is fooled or confused by unusual situations. Of course, there's nothing particularly special about English for these things:

Cinq chiens chassent six chats. (Five dogs chase six cats)

Tre tigri contro tre tigri. (Three tigers against three tigers)

Bierbrauer Bauer braut braunes Bier. (Beer brewing farmers brew brown beer - it works in English maybe as well!)

Or maybe you think all German is a tongue twister...

Meanwhile, I OWNSUP that I did not think this puzzle the finest Sunday offering. There's too much of things like plural TAROS, EVENER, partial ANACT, partial BES, very weird and also plural ACERS. And a distinct lack of challenging or funny clues takes the DULCE out of the solve. But that's the Sunday puzzle for you, two times out of five, he said, pulling a statistic completely out of no data.

Here's one in Japanese: shinshun shanson sho. (Christmas song show)

- Colum

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Saturday, February 9, 2019, Ryan McCarty


Fun solve! Challenging, but not cripplingly so, and with a good FLOE, like everyone likes! Some clues that entertained me include:

Get in the last word? (EDIT)
Novel opinion? (BOOKREVIEW)
Taking a stab at? (BAYONETING)
Sound barrier? (REEF)
and my favorite, Stole from a drag show? (BOA) - LOL.

There were also two clever clues that had me wondering, then cheering:
Small square (NINE)
Field of flowers (BOTANY) - ha!
A comparison of the these two groups might re-open/continue the robust discussion of QMC versus Non-QMC that is the touchstone of this blog. STARES.

I've never heard of a TEAEGG (Chinese snack with marblelike patterns on the outside), but, as I don't take an egg of any description, I'm not too surprised about that. I was surprised by - in a good way- the answer to "Some couples" (MEN). I was also surprised, or perhaps more accurately, duped by Mr. McCarty's clue at 57A: "Best Play and Best Moment". I smugly entered obieAWARDS only to be forced to remove first the b, then the e, then the i, and finally the o and replace them with S then Y then P then E (ESPYAWARDS). Another sport, or at least game reference that escaped me was the answer FIVE for "Orange ball." Horace tells me the five ball in pool is orange. Side topic: is pool a sport?

Other clue/answer pairs that I straight liked:
Hammered (LIT)
Polemic (DIATRIBE)

Also pleasing, for some reason, that DESERT (Much of Chile) and DESSERTCASE (It takes the cake) cross each other.

[Anagram of DADA] TASSEL of other fun fill (TWOTONECAR, CYPRESS, MOTTLE, BUSHLEAGUE) to the above and you get one FLY Saturday puzzle.


Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday, February 8, 2019, John Guzzetta

18:54 FWOE

To my list of categories to brush up on, let's add drummers and United Nations personnel. In an effort to post a fast Friday solve time, I rashly and groundlessly entered AdNAN at 16A. I went blithely along filling in other across and down answers, never looking back, and I ended up with BOdHAM at 1D (Drummer John of Led Zeppelin) (not his real name). I only noticed the error when, after completing the puzzle, no "Congratulations" message appeared. I quickly (note to Horace) realized BOdHAM should have been BONHAM, and ANNAN for "1997-2000 U.N. Chief" seemed legit. :) IAMB, as always when I FWOE, SAWII to have made such a MESA it.

While for some of our esteemed readers, the above described PITFALL may call into question my credentials as a reviewer, I will press on and aver that I thought this was a fairly ESE Friday. There, I said it.

There was LODES of fill with a contemporary flavor including FLATBROKE, CLAIMTOFAME, FORTHEWIN, NOTCOOL, and my favorite on the day, the new-to-me, FUNEMPLOYED. Ha! Also excellent, if less modern was IMPRIMATUR. And, somewhere in the middle was the apparently old timeyish (if the Interwebz are to be believed), but new-to-me, Bushwa (ROT). I asked myself WADIS this word? So I read its origin story. Who knew?


I also enjoyed the following clues/answer pairs:
Calculating competitors (MATHLETES)
Piques (WHETS)
Natural coats (RIMES)

In conclusion, I'll CES that there was a fairly LAO ratio of crosswordese to good SECTS-y fill and I enjoyed the puzzle.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019, Morton J. Mendelson


I really go for today's theme! For today's theme answers one had to mentally add the letters GO beyond the top, bottom, or side of the grid - or GOOVERTHEEDGE. Such a lovely and literal revealer. I thought I caught on from the get go; the answers where the missing [GO]s were on the right edge (TAKESTWOTOTANG[GO] and CARMENSANDIE[GO]) went right in, but my failure to read the revealer carefully meant that at first I didn't realize there were no-gos all around. I didn't know 55D: CHICA[GO] was one of the theme answers because for all I knew "Chica" *was* the second-longest-running Broadway musical ever (after "The Phantom of the Opera") - I'm not strong on Broadway musicals. Also, when the across answers in the north east left me with SLINGS at 13D, I just assumed I didn't understand the clue ("Babies in a pond" or [GO]SLINGS)). But, when I finally got [GO]LDTEETH at 5D it started to DAWN on me that things were going off all over the place, and that LF_A_E could be [GO]LFGAME (What's honed on the range?) The rest, as they say, was AGESA[GO].

Elsewhere in the puzzle there were twisty clues à gogo:
"Things kids sometimes like to draw" (LOTS)
"Put pressure on" (TAX)
"Downed a sub?" (ATE) - mmm, sub...
"Diamond datum" (ATBAT) - carAT anyone?
"Powerful checker" (KING) - ha!


I got off on the wrong foot with JEan instead of JEEP. Aren't there Wrangler jeans? But I was able to correct course relatively quickly when I got EDITMENU at 3D (Where Copy and Paste appear). Another computer-related entry, (Windows) NTS really kicked it old school - practically back to the age of PCLABs. Also out there were ORDO and ERL, but overall, this puzzle left me with a od feeling.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday, February 6, 2019, Queena Mewers and Alex Eaton-Salners


HOLA amigos! Hoy tenemos una tema bilingual - a theme right in my wheelhouse! The app I use to solve the puzzle flashed a special note explaining that some across and down clues had the same clue. The trick was to enter the answer in ENGLISH in the across spot and the answer in ESPANOL in the corresponding down spot. So, for example, in the northwest, we begin with SUN (1A) and SOL (1D) both sharing the clue, "It emerges at dawn." In the southeast, we end with NIGHT at 54A and NOCHE at 54D (Prime-time time). My favorite pair was FIRE/FUEGO because fuego is such a great word.

Otras bonitas palabras son KNOCKOUT, RANKLE, and HALLOO. There were also some clever clues like "It might be left holding the bag" (TEAPOT) and "Help for a star witness?" TELESCOPE. And we always enjoy a mention of Gilbert, especially in preference to Sullivan :) (LIBRETTO).


I was less enamored of NIBBLERS, RATATAT, and the ever-tricky ODETS just for personal reasons, but the UPI SHOT was bueno. Overall, a fairly straightforward Wednesday without many tricks, although it did have one GOTYE. :)

Hasta mañana!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019, Erik Agard


Say the last words of the three theme answers (ARE AINGE MINT) out loud and it SOUNDSLIKEAPLAN (arrangement). I agree! My favorite was the first READYWHENYOUARE because it spanned the grid, although I was happy to be able to drag DANNYAINGE out of retirement - from my long-term memory - and offer him a BREATHMINT. :)

As something of a woman myself, I was AWAKE to the fact that we find quite a few SHEs in today's puzzle including JONI Ernst, Lucy LIU, Sonia Sotomayor (LATINA), WNBA, SIMONE Biles, and, of course, the ever-fabulous CHER.

I thought the clue-to-answer aptness in the puzzle was on the high side here as well. I particularly liked "Suppress" for SITON and "Fly majestically" for SOAR.

Other fun fill included HAMMY, LUBE (Hygens, are you out there?), APOP, HOIST, and SHANDY. The long downs UPAGAINSTIT and INSTINCTUAL were also nice.

While Mr. Agard's grid layout did NET a number of weaker 3-squares like SPF, BLU, SMU, MBA, et alii, I thought UNI was yukked up a bit thanks to its clue "Prefix with brow," which makes it sound like a span. HAR.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019, Ali Gascoigne


Finally, I'm in the know about some INSIDEINFO! The four theme answers all have the word INFO "inside." And, what's more, INFO crosses a word boundary in all four entries, which, as all us crossword puzzle solvers know, is the way it should be.

My favorite of the theme answers is TINFOILHAT. It PUT me in mind of a great Simpson's episode. I thought it worth noting that it appears just above the baseball-themed answer ATBAT (Up, in baseball). Could there be some kind of connection? There's another baseball reference in the puzzle at 27D: "Not foul, as a baseball hit" (FAIR), and we have "Keeps under surveillance (SPIESON) at 45A. Coincidence? I don't think so.

The puzzle's self-referential clue 30A: Like a Monday crossword, typically (EASY) held true for me for the most part. It's not my fastest Monday ever, but it went right along. I did get hung up briefly at 5D. One who's always looking for a lift? where I had a little trouble parsing SKI__M. I wasn't thinking ski lift - not with today's weather! - but that was the way to go (SKIBUM). I also thought the wording of the clue at 26D: Last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty had a air of difficulty, but this being a Monday and the answer being four squares, crossword darling NERO went right in. The clue "Bug seen mostly in winter" also had me thinking for a minute (FLU). Ha!


I enjoyed SPUD, and what's more, reading, across the bottom, we get TASTY SPUD, and then MISO which is crossed with BLINI. What's not to like? Other good fill includes KNAVE, WATERY, OASIS, PRIM, and last but not least, INLATE. The name AURIC Goldfinger (Bond villain) is clever, but that's down to Ian Fleming, I suppose.

If I missed anything, or if anyone has anything to add to this review, WRITEME!


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sunday, February 3, 2019, Natan Last


Remember all that stuff I was saying just one week ago about how I didn't often like a Sunday puzzle? Well forget it! This one was thoroughly enjoyable. Well, there were two small areas that I thought were problematic - the cross of ORYX (52D: Margaret Atwood's "____ and Crake") and CALYX (62A: Sepals of a flower), and the cross of 106D: Literary fairy queen (MAB) and 112A: Actress Jean who played Joan of Arc in "Saint Joan" (SEBERG). Luckily for me, I knew MAB, but unluckily, I misspelled CALiX, and so had to hunt around for a while at the end.

"Put me down!"
That quibble aside, I loved the tricky theme, which took a while to understand. For me, the revelation came with AHCOMPLEX (65A: Belief in one's role as a savior) coupled with Lionel MESSI (86D: FIFA star ejected from 65-Across). The soccer player's name has been "ejected" from the 65-Across answer, which should have been "Messiah complex." There are three other ejected sports figures - Jerry RICE, Babe RUTH, and Shaquille ONEAL, who, when added back to their respective paired answers reveal "price of admission," "the truth will set you free," and "one-alarm chili." And speaking of that, I think Frannie's planning on making some chili for dinner tonight - that is, if we're at all hungry for dinner after snacking on chips and onion dip all through the Superbowl.

I like how the "reasons for ejection" correspond to the four different sports played by the ejected stars. RUTH was a pitcher for a time when he was on the Red Sox, and it would not surprise me if I heard that he threw a BEANBALL or two. (Although I would be surprised if, at that time, it was even a reason for ejection.) Likewise I can imagine Shaq throwing a FLAGRANTFOUL from time to time, and maybe even MESSI giving an ILLEGALSLIDETACKLE, but Jerry RICE giving a HELMETHIT? He probably got plenty, but he just seems like too nice a guy to have ever given one, doesn't he?

OK, so that's a lot about the theme. I said yesterday that I was going to be more aware of writing too much... and here I am doing just that. But I liked this one a lot! CAFFEINEFIX was excellent. FIJIISLANDS is great, too, what with its "IJII" string... and UNFRIEND is timely for me, as I just completely deleted my ten-year-old Facebook account last week!

I'll stop now. Maybe Frannie will chime in with something, but if not, rest assured that she will take over again tomorrow. Me, I'll see you in a few weeks. Until then, happy puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, February 2, 2019

February 2, 2019, David Steinberg


Well, it's nice to know Steinberg can still uncork a corker! I can just imagine him reading a review about how Fridays and Saturdays have been too easy lately, and then saying OHITSON!


It was tough going today, and there were many that I just kind of backed into. Like OERSTED (33A: Magnetic intensity unit named after a Danish physicist) (If ever there were a "Saturday" entry, this is it) and even MOSCATO (26D: Italian white wine), as Frannie and I tend to stick to the reds from that fair country. And speaking of Italy, ACMILAN (1A: Football franchise since 1899) (That's European "football," better known in the U.S. as soccer) was another one that took many crosses.

I liked the struggle, though, and I liked several of the entries. So many sevens! Do I count 32 of them? It really makes for an attractive grid pattern. Anyway, some of my favorites were CHIMERA (2D: Mythical hybrid), SEASALT (54A: Natural seasoning), BIZARRE (20A: Outré), ERUDITE (61A: Professorial, e.g.), and many others. In fact, there's very little in here to grouse about.

I have got to finish this review in far less time than it took me to solve the puzzle, so it'll be short. But just last night I was thinking that maybe I often write too much, seeing as how attention spans are (they say) shorter nowadays. Anyway, gotta run. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, February 1, 2019

Friday, February 1, 2019, Ori Brian


My favorite clue in this tricky Friday puzzle was 24A: March 15, e.g. I put in "ides" even while I knew it seemed too easy for a Friday. But what else could it be? And it's in so often... and even on a Friday, they need to give us some footholds... right? Even when OVERALL (7D: As a whole) looked very probable, I still hesitated until I got just a little more proof. Heh. DATE. So obvious, and yet so well hidden.

Beach BODs

On the other hand, SHORTSTRAW (5A: Drawing that nobody wants), CATCHOW (33A: Purina product), SWISSMISS (41A: Hot cocoa mix brand), and even BLACKMIRROR (25D: Netflix show inspired by "The Twilight Zone") went in off the clues. I couldn't think of ATKINS (13D: Doctor with a well-known diet) right off the bat, but it came with a few crosses.

UPTHEWAZOO (50A: In excess, in slang) got a chuckle. That whole SW stack was good, and the R in POLICERAID was my last entry. As I put it in I thought, what the heck is "sorare?" I was pronouncing it as if it were an Italian word - soRAre - but no, it's "So rare." Huh. I don't think I've ever heard that song before. Also, big shout out to CECE, who sometimes helps Colum with his solves.

The only two things I didn't really like in this puzzle were ICEBOXCAKE (18A: Dessert that's chilled overnight) and DUAD (24D: Twosome), both unfamiliar terms. I had never heard of the Durante song before either, but that was fine, because, ok, it's old and I just never ran across it. And I suppose that maybe ICEBOXCAKE is a regional thing, or maybe it's an old thing, but I actually do a fair amount of baking, and I look at a lot of cookbooks, and it just seems like I should maybe have run into it before. DUAD, on the other hand, gets 700,000 hits on Google, while "dyad" gets 18.5 million. Sure, ok, it's valid, and it's Friday, but you're still not going to get me to say it's a good entry.

That said, I also realize that in every puzzle you are going to find little bits of glue, and that's fine. Especially when, as in this case, the snappy entries far outweigh the questionable. KAMIKAZE, HAILMARY, ESPRESSOBAR, SEXT, TROPE, ARTISTE, HOUSERULE (26A: Game-changing invention?) (Hah!)... that's plenty of good.

- Horace