Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday, March 31, 2019, Andrew J. Ries


Today's theme is SACRIFICE. Is it the sacrifice of money that you need to make to buy a ticket to a professional baseball game? (The average price for Field Box seats at Fenway is now over $150.00 per ticket.) Is it the sacrifice in time, energy, and emotional well-being that so many diehard fans make? Or is it the sacrifice in health and longevity that professional athletes sometimes make by choosing to use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs? I cannot say.


OKSURE, lots of people seem to like baseball. And I, myself, still enjoy a day at the park INPERSON with a friend, but you've gotta admit that the whole thing has gotten a little out of control, don't you?

But back to the puzzle, where we try to evaluate the sacrifices made to accommodate a complex theme. Today I feel there are several entries that ARENOT particularly ATHROB. There's ALLELE, ALIENEE, WAF, PERI, ELHI, and NOB, and the unusual TOILETBAG (I usually think of it as a "toiletry kit"), SCRUBSUITS (usually just "scrubs"), and WHEELNUT (usually lug nut), the old-timey MAUDE and ADLAI... and what the hell is an ONLAY (109A: Bit of dental work)? And why is the UVULA "something seen with a tiny flashlight? It's visible in any light. Because doctors sometimes shine a light onto it? OK, maybe... but is that light so tiny?

I did enjoy the clues for FLYROD (103A: Casting choice) and CHASER (11D: Drink after drink?). And I appreciate the effort of trying to make some clues more "baseball-y," like 36D: Hit sign (SRO), 56D: Related to pitches (TONAL), and 16A: Dugout propeller (OAR).

As you can see, I didn't particularly love this one. Hopefully, you liked it just fine.

- Horace

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday, March 30, 2019, Greg Johnson


Another fun themeless puzzle. I'm a little ambivalent about whether I like themeless puzzles better than their themed cousins or not. On the one hand, when done well, they can be packed with fun answers and tough clues. On the other hand, I love the aha moments of figuring out tricky themes.

Well, we'll leave that argument for another day.

Today, lets acknowledge Mr. Johnson's fine efforts. I broke into the grid in the NE corner with OAR and ELLE as well as TOE. I then took a stab at ISITSAFE, which led to the excellent 16A: Something holding up the works? (EASEL) Hah!

VESPERS is a lovely answer, reminding me of The Name of The Rose (by crossword favorite Umberto Eco). The clue at 28D: Totally screw up? (MISADD) is really something: I had to twist my mind around to get what they were looking for. I am more used to seeing Pangaea than PANGEA, but either is acceptable.
Happy Baseball Season
ITJUSTAINTRIGHT is a very good grid-spanner, and with that, I had completed half the puzzle. Getting back out of the SW corner took some doing however. 33A: They're chewable but not meant to be eaten (DOGTOYS) was a challenge, as was MRTOAD's Wild Ride (I've never been inside Disneyland - I once stayed at a Disney Hotel in Orlando for a medical conference, but did not check out the rides).

I love love love 23A: Peabrain? (MENDEL). That's a brilliant clue.

Finally, I confused myself by putting in genetICMATERIAL. In fact, nobody has found DNA or RNA on Mars, simply hydrocarbons (i.e., ORGANICMATERIAL). But I had to take everything out of that corner before I could convince myself that the error was in that answer, rather than in REHEARSAL or CEOS.

- Colum

Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday, March 29, 2019, Martin Ashwood-Smith


It feels like it's been quite some time since I last saw Mr. Ashwood-Smith's byline in the NYT. I am used to seeing double quad stacked 15-letter grids, which used to make me throw my hands in the air and give up.

Nowadays the staggered 13-letter answer stacks are all the rage, and it's easy to see why. Look how excellent that middle section is, with DIXIELANDJAZZ right above its near neighbor MOBILEALABAMA (with a great piece of trivia about its early days as the capital of French Louisiana), and below that DOUBLEDEALERS.

The staggering allows for very strong crossing answers as well, including my favorite answer of the puzzle today at 27D: Bungling (MALADROIT) - a great word, and a misleading clue, in that you might be tempted to try out a word ending in -ING, but get nowhere. I also liked JAREDLETO and BARRYGIBB's full names.

This is a particularly scrabble-y grid, with 3 Xs, 3 Js, and 2 Zs. I was amused by 15A: Laser alternative (DOTMATRIX) - not so much anymore, am I right?

I could complain about XII and DERE, two less than wonderful answers, but I'll leave you with 5D: Schooner filler (ALE).

Now that's a nice image.

- Colum

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Thursday, March 28, 2019, Damon Gulczynski


Oh, this is excellent stuff. It brings me back to my youth and puzzling through GAMES magazine. There are four examples of words which can be reinterpreted as two word clues by inserting one space in the middle. For example 17A: Tome gets reparsed as "to me," thus resulting in FROMWHEREISTAND.

Very nice.

My favorite is definitely 30A: Often (DECIMAL), or "of ten." That's a lovely discovery. The others are 37A: Notable (POWERLESS) ("not able") and 49A: Goon (PERSIST) ("go on"). And there's a great 15-letter spanning revealer in GIVEMESOMESPACE.

The puzzle has some happy chunky corners. I like the SW best with SPONGED (echoes of Auntie Mame), HEROINE, and ARRIVAL, which was a truly outstanding movie.

I also enjoyed LIZLEMON and BEEFCAKE. Two things which did not go together really at all during the run of 30 Rock.

There are really no clues that stand out, I think because those four clues were tricky enough that there had to be reasonable ways in to get what was going on. 36A: It's generally not played so much (BSIDE) is good, and took me some time to figure out because I had PCpS at 25D for a while. I also liked 58A: They can carry a tune (IPODS), even if hardly anyone uses those any more.

I am seriously unconvinced by 66D: Hems and haws (ERS), but otherwise I had little to complain about. Fun Thursday puzzle.

- Colum

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2019, Michael Hawkins


Wednesday (WEDIDIT!) is always a resting place of the odd themes, the out there ideas, the concepts that don't work for tricky Thursdays (THURMAN!) or the advanced beginner Tuesdays (TUESBELLE! - okay, okay, I'm done. Still just loving yesterday's theme...).

So today, we have the unusual revealer at 49A: Misconceptions about money ... or a loose hint to 20-, 24- and 44-Across? (FINANCIALMYTHS). I'd never come across this concept before, but it Googles well. The puzzle then takes this idea and comes up with three phrases with mythical or legendary entities worked in. The best of these is UNICORNSTARTUP - an entrepreneurial endeavor that is markedly successful, so-called because of the rarity.

But I'd argue that the whole puzzle falls apart with 44A: One profiting through litigation, not innovation (PATENTTROLL). Because if the Troll is so obvious to be patently visible, how can you call it a myth?

Oh... not that patent. I get it now. IKID!

Other than that, the puzzle suffers from a lack of exciting fill. SEARCHER is kind of meh, while ATTYGEN should probably not even ever show up in a puzzle, in my opinion. Of course, your opinion may differ, but it's my blog, and my HOTTAKES, so there.

Meanwhile, 57A: Discuss one's toilet habits, for example (OVERSHARE) made me uncomfortable.

Anyhoo, I made myself laugh by taking forever to get 10A: Alternative to Venmo (CASH). I was so convinced there was some other app out there to transfer money from person to person that I didn't even consider this other thing Mr. Hawkins was referring to. Paper? That people accept as a way to transfer wealth? How unusual.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tuesday, March 26, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


Now, that's a theme, if you ask me. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, even once I'd completed the entire puzzle. The revealer comes at 62A: Start of the baseball season ... or what the start of each starred clue is? (OPENINGDAY). There are seven such starred clues, which should have been the dead giveaway. Finally, I figured out that the first three letters of each answer are the standard abbreviations of the days of the week, in order from Sun. through Sat.

Wow. That takes some doing. That's 60 squares dedicated to the theme, which is pretty amazing. And Ms. Burnikel, as per usual, has a clean fill despite that. Throw in your ADBLITZES and CARALARMS, and you've got a lovely puzzle.

I also note that RBI, TIED, and UPONE could be extra theme material.
Wrong sport
The clues lean towards the easy side. I liked 30A: Moon ____ (apt anagram of ASTRONOMER) (STARER). Apt. Apt! Also, 67A: Fraction of a bushel (PECK) brings me back around to Guys and Dolls. Finally, 64D: Chatty travel companion (GPS) had me laugh out loud. Nice way to make a standard piece of crosswordese (in the modern world) stand out.

- Colum

Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019, Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels


I'm not going to draw too much attention to it, but we had a comment on Horace's Report from the ACPT post from a celebrity, so go take a look if you want to see. No need for name dropping here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA. In fact, I just dropped three entire names from that acronym, so...

I grew up around LPS. My first that I purchased was a full recording of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker - it was a double record with a psychedelic pink cover. I had quite a collection by the time CDs started taking over, including all of the D'Oyly Carte Gilbert and Sullivan recordings (the ones with John Reed playing all the patter song roles), as well as multiple Tom Lehrer records and a few Monty Pythons. This is how you know Horace, Frances, and I were made to be bosom buddies.

Today's puzzle interprets "long play" records as literal acronyms for seven examples of two word phrases. It's impressive to fit seven theme answers (and a 3-letter revealer) into a 15 x 15 grid. I once saw Tito Puente perform in Cambridge, MA, so I liked LATINPERCUSSION the best. Otherwise, I was sadly a little unimpressed by the collection. And why these, and not others?

On the other hand, ELPASO must be a hidden theme answer, no? YES?

I am in favor of IGOR and Young Frankenstein. I have never been in favor of ERIK Satie, who I think is fairly uninteresting. So maybe my response to the puzzle over all is that it was MAA. I mean MEH.

- Colum

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday, March 24, 2019, Trenton Charlson


A hearty welcome to our readers from the one reviewer on this blog who did not attend this year's ACPT in Stamford, CT. Thanks to our hearty reviewers for their excellent reportage. There's always next year!

I decided this year to compete online. What this means, it turns out, is that the puzzles become available after all the competitors at the live event have completed it. This makes a ton of sense: you could imagine unscrupulous crossword enthusiasts getting illicit sneak peaks at the grids they're about to complete under the pressure of the big red digital clocks. We don't need any Rosie Ruiz moments at the ACPT, do we?

I enjoyed the puzzles for the competition very much, and I feel I would have done well, but an error I made on puzzle one I can't put down to keyboard mistakes or lack of comfort with the online crossword application, so I would not have been competing for the crown, certainly.

But on to today's NYT puzzle. Here we have well known phrases where one of the words is a homophone for a letter of the English alphabet. This letter is then replaced with its corresponding word from the NATO / PHONETICALPHABET, and the phrase is reclued with wacky results.

All six examples work well, especially 33A: * Annoying member of a New York baseball team? (YANKEEBOTHER). I mean, it really applies to all of them, doesn't it? I also like "beesting" being reinterpreted as BRAVOSTING, and BOSTONTANGOPARTY is quite amusing.

Overall, I found this puzzle NOTBAD and not TOOEASY either. I liked 88D: One fighting an uphill battle? (SISYPHUS), because who doesn't enjoy a Greek myth now and again? The symmetric answer in the grid is PROSPERO, from one of my top three Shakespeare plays, The Tempest. Another great clue comes at 19A: One who didn't even show? (ALSORAN). Excellent stuff.

Anyway, we were one letter short of Horace at 12D: Greek goddesses of the seasons (HORAE), and it's his birthday coming up. So all is right with the world, at least in the NYT Crossword world.

- Colum

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A.C.P.T. Special Report, 2019

Hello from Stamford, Connecticut, where we got us a real barn-burner! Last year's champion must have made a mistake in the first puzzle, because he dropped like a stone on the leaderboard. But he's been powering his way back up - un-bettered in the next five puzzles - and now stands in fourth, just 45 points off the podium. It will take something special for him to get into the finals tomorrow, but I wouldn't count him out just yet. On top, and uncatchable without an error, is seven-time champ Dan Feyer.

How am I doing, you might ask? Well, Dear Reader, I really thought this was my year. I completed the infamous "Puzzle Five" with a couple minutes to spare. But did I take those two minutes to look it over and make sure everything was perfect? Even knowing (somewhere deep down) that doing so would only cost me a possible 50 points, while just one error would set me back 175? No. No I didn't. And I had one error! Gaaahh! And it was on maybe the first word I entered in the puzzle - correctly! - that I later took out, and then modified with a cross without ever going back to it.... ugh. Well, at least I "finished" puzzle five, and the error is my only error so far across six puzzles, and that's much better than I've done any previous year, so really, I'm happy. Really. I promise. I am. ... I'll get 'em next year! :)

Tonight we will hear from Matt Ginsberg about his crossword solving computer program, "Dr. Fill," who is standing in 13th place after six puzzles. I think it's especially hard for poor old Dr. Fill, because he's getting attacked from both sides - the other competitors, and the constructors, who must have him in the back of their minds as they create their trickiest puzzles. I think he's made at least a couple mistakes thus far, so in a way, I'm beating him. But in another way, he's 1,730 points ahead of me in the tournament (which is more than I've scored on any single puzzle so far), so it all depends upon your perspective, right? :)

In all, another fun year here at the A.C.P.T. There are more competitors than ever this year, and there has been some talk about maybe having to move the whole thing to another venue - possibly all the way down to N.Y.C! Nothing is final yet, however, and the town of Stamford is making a big pitch to keep it here. A proclamation from the mayor was read this morning naming tomorrow "Crossword Puzzle Day" in Stamford, or something like that.

Whatever you decide, Mr. Shortz, we want to thank you again for putting this on. It's been another great weekend at the A.C.P.T.!

Now, on to puzzle 7!

- Horace
(contestant 405)

p.s. Dr. Fill made about 10 mistakes this year! The lesson there is - if I can get my solve times down under a minute, I can make many more mistakes and still finish in the top twenty! :)

Saturday, March 23, 2019, David Steinberg

0:18:30 (F.W.O.E.)

When I first opened this grid, I saw it as a close-up of a cartoon gorilla face. The top two segments being the eyes, and the horizontal line the mouth. No? You didn't see it that way?...

Anyway, it kind of cuts the grid into three separate puzzles. The largest one and the top right went pretty quickly for me, but that upper left gave me a beating. I ended up guessing incorrectly at the cross of 17A and 4D, but later, I learned a little about VANUATU, a Pacific land west of Fiji, so that's nice. It's a republic made up of about 80 islands, with a population that is just over twice that of Stamford, CT. Another thing, though, that I'm not really sure whether or not I learned, is that three capital Ts can be used as a clue for the word TRUES. Is this because sometimes T is used in opposition to F to indicate a True/False question? And will we now see such clues as "Y Y Y" for "yesses" and "N N N" for "nos?" Is that what's going on here, or is there another explanation?

I think I might just be a little grumpy because I made a mistake in one of the "fun & games" puzzles last night. I'm here at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and on the first night they have a few puzzles that people can do in a group setting as warm-ups and ice-breakers. Making a mistake in one shouldn't matter, and I keep telling people (and myself!) that I'm trying to get all of the mistakes out of my system before turning over the first real puzzle at 11:00 today, but am I? Or am I completely losing it? Last night I had a rather extended dream in which the engine was removed from our car while it was parked somewhere. Is the car engine a metaphor for my brain? Has it been removed from my head somehow? ... quite possibly.

I very much enjoyed the clues for ALIENS (Ones supposedly eligible for, but never yet seen in, the Miss Universe pageant), LAWYERS (Some deal with trust issues), and LEMONADESTAND (Ten-year-old business, say). Those are really quite good. Less perfect, I thought, were JAW (Speaking part) (I get it, the jaw is the part that moves, but other areas are really the ones that do the speaking. Think of ventriloquism!) and CLAMUP (Hush one's mouth).

But onward and upward! It's time to start getting ready to leave the hotel room and go down to face the big digital clock. Good luck to everybody who's here competing. I hope all of us have gotten all of our mistakes out of our systems. :)

- Horace

Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday, March 22, 2019, Bredan Emmett Quigley


Well, the puzzle and I were ATODDS today. I had severe problems in the south west, partly because I am not familiar with CARDIB or BALINESE cats and I couldn’t think of CARLOPONTI’s first name, and partly because I confidently entered PARdon for “Can opener?” instead of PAROLE which blocked the correct answers of the few I might have gotten in that corner. It seemed the MOAI tried, the LESS I succeeded. OHME. Being pressed for time didn’t help. I had to finish the puzzle and write the review before we arrived in Stamford, so I decided to give up and get the answers from Horace so I could get going on the review. Not a great start to the ACPT weekend for this solver. I like to think that in a different MULTIVERSE, I solved this one in record time. J

Some fun clues that I did get were:
“Sound from a pen” (OINK)
“Place for a medallion” (TAXI)
“Ex amount” (ALIMONY) – ha!
“Footloose” (UNSHOD)

I also liked the triple I in WIIITIS, and I think the word BRAINED is amusing. And ONESOCK? We’ve all been there.

Considering the number of entries I had no knowledge of (President THIEU, Brian SIPE, Auctor ESSE, Santa INES, and SKALDS), I was glad I was able to complete as much of this puzzle as I did. So, kind a frustrating Friday, but I’m not one who STAYSMAD. On to the tournament!


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Thursday, March 21, 2019, Christopher Adams

15:51 (time for me is the same backwards as forwards)

This puzzle's theme answers are movies that have been categorized as SLASHERFILMS because they have titles that feature the slash punctuation mark (or similar - turns out the slash comes in *quite* a variety of styles). Today's showings included VICTOR/VICTORIA, FROST/NIXON, and FACE/OFF. I entered VICTORVICTORIA right off the clue, but came up short, so I took it out. But, after I filled in a few downs, I saw that it *was* correct, and I could, once again, claim victory. Ha.

In a stroke of brilliance Mr. Adams, made good use of the slashes in the film titles in the crossing non-theme answers HE/SHE, AC/DC, AM/FM. It all had me wondering if MADDASH at 1A (Happening after doors open on Black Friday) was an oblique reference to the theme.

In other successes, I spelled SAOIRSE correctly right out of the gate. I hadn't realized I knew how to spell Ms. Ronan's name. I learned a couple of other things from today's puzzle as well. I was not familiar with the word LOESS ("Good earth") - I hope that one comes in handy this weekend at the ACPT! I had also never heard the expression "Spill the TEA" to mean "dish out gossip." And, I thought it was interesting that the answer to "Like butterscotch" was color-based (ORANGE). I didn't see that coming. Also in that corner, I thought I was feeling bLUe for 65A "Down in the dumps") until I finally came up with GLUM. :)

We always like the word HIE. I also liked REDFLAG. I thought DOTTIER ("More eccentric") was a bit unusual - in a good way. The clue/answer pair "Like some cuisines" (ETHNIC) brought to mind a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that I read recently: "There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."

Interesting bit in the clue about the HRE, but as fill, it's kind of bland. As an ASIDES, entering OED at 51A: "Its second ed. contains about 59 million words" made me wonder if the clue referred to the number of defined words, or word words, including the ones in the definitions.

There seemed to be a quantity of fractional words like MAV, DEC, ARR, ETAL, REFIS, and ALUM, but, overall, a solidus Thursday!


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019, Erik Agard, Amanda Chung, and Karl Ni


In today's theme answers, the letters INK at the end of three phrases letterally fall off one by one. They all show up at the start in the nice full-grid-spanning ICANTSLEEPAWINK before the K tumbles off into the KITCHENSIN (Leaving dirty dishes on the counter, say), then NK goes underground giving us HOTPI (Sexy detective), and then the removal of INK MAKESYOUTH (Works like an anti-aging serum). The revealer, DISAPPEARINGINK, is another nice full-grid-spanning answer. Fun.

I thought it was good, in a way, that another brand of root beer, Mug, could also fit at 21A (Root beer brand) where IBC was wanted. I say 'in a way' because some solvers might have entered Mug first before realizing their mistake. Some solvers might also have had a similar experience with "honk" and BEEP (Rush-hour sound) at 44D. :|

I enjoyed the clue at 49D: Bends at a barre (PLIES). And, I thought 11-12D: "With 12-Down, actress Joan whose last name consists of two different conveyances" (VAN ARK) was rail good.

I thought all of today's QMCs were entertaining. These are three of my favorites:
31D: Grounds for discussion? (FORUM) - location, location, location!
56D: Letters at a filling station? (DDS) - a gas!
31A: Part of a Swiss roll? (FRANC) - dough!

There's not much to like about OVATE, TSOS, or PDT but sometimes, the show must go on.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019, Daniel Larsen


Well, here's a clever theme I never thought of. :) Theme answers contain runs of 2-4 letters of the alphabet from EASYASABC to XYZAFFAIR, by way of such cool strings as MOSDEF and FILMNOIR FTW. The letter sequences are indicated in the clues by the letters' numbers in the alphabet,  e.g., 55A: "Silly marketing ploy designed to get attention [18, 19, 20]" (PRSTUNT). Neat! Somewhat oddly, PRSTUNT while clued with a three-letter run, actually includes a four-letter run ending with U, but apparently Mr. Larsen preferred to group letter 21 in UVWAVE (Tiny bit of sunlight, for short [21, 22, 23]), resulting in a bit of overlap, but nothing to STRESS about.

There were a couple of other clues that looked a bit like alphabet soup including PTSD, ROFL, VHS, ASDOI, and IDO but did not appear to be part of the theme. :)

I had to GOETHE distance to remember ARRID (Ban competitor). I also enjoyed both clue and answer "Toupees, in slang" (RUGS). Other fill that WFM includes PIXIE, LUAU, SAYSWHO, RUPEES, and WILT.


I didn't know ODA (Room in a harem), but OCTAHEDRA helped me complete that answer. OTOH, ALTI nearly derailed my solve today. I entered ALTo at first, because ALTI? Fortunately, I realized FoLMNOIR wasn't a thing before it was too late, but I've really got to pay more attention to the clues in the clues to try to head off these PEBKACs.

And, IMO, the clue for KRAFT should probably have read, "Big name in cheese product." :) In support of this opinion, I notice one of the top results when I google Kraft cheese, one of the FAQs was "Is Kraft cheese real cheese?" EOD.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel

8:54 FWOE

I wasn't sure of the answer to 20A (Belt out a tune) when I began the puzzle so I left it blank, but as I filled in the downs in the north west, I "remembered" the clue, so I filled in SaNG. Later, after completing the grid, when not congratulated in the manner to which I have become accustomed, I looked at all the answers to see if I could find a typo or similar. Just looking at the fill, SaNG looked good and APLaT seemed like a perfectly acceptable "High-level H.S. English subject" so I looked elsewhere - to no avail. I realized I had to get down into the DEETS, so I re-read all the clues. Two and a half minutes later, I noticed my error in tense. SaNG became SING and APLaT to APLIT. DOH!

For today's theme, we have English-language homonyms of other languages' words for YES at the ends of common phrases: PLAINTOSEE [sí, Spanish], LAHDIDAH [да, Russian], AIMSHIGH [はい, Japanese], and THEROYALWE [oui, French]. My least favorite was LAHDIDAH because of its spelling, which seems odd to me. My favorite was the THEROYALWE because my Mom frequently used that expression.

In other multi-cultural fill, we have TEHRAN, PEKE, KTOWN (mmmm, kimchi...), CARPEDIEM, ERIE, TEAMO, THAI, SANMARINO, and TAMALE.

Other fill of which I was FOND: SPRIGS, OUST, SAPS, NEIGHS, and SLEUTHS. The two HUETAN and BEIGE also provided a shade of entertainment.

No. 1, The Larch
I find the term GOBAGS slightly disturbing. Maybe it's just the "bags" part. Or, maybe it's just me.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday, March 17, 2019, Jeff Chen and Sophia Maymudes


I know, I know... Frannie is slated to take over today, but I can't help myself. I just had to say how much I enjoyed this puzzle!

I had caught on to the theme somewhere up top, maybe with GONEGIRL (31A: Biography of Amelia Earhart?) (Too soon.), so when I got to "92A: Biography of the Venus de Milo?," the answer was immediately obvious, and I laughed out loud while filling in AFAREWELLTOARMS. Has this joke been made before? Maybe. Probably. But I did not care.
My hero while I was running track in high school. His 3:47:33 mile was just 22.5 seconds faster (per quarter) than my fastest mile.
So the theme was a big hit with me. AGAMEOFTHRONES (4D: Biography of Thomas Crapper?), OFMICE/ANDMEN ("biography of Walt Disney"), and MARLEYANDME (23A: Biography of Ebenezer Scrooge?) were all quite good.

And it wasn't just the theme - there were many non-theme answers I liked too, starting with LISA (1A: Most popular baby girl's name of the 1960s, per the Social Security Administration). Sounds right to me, because I was born in the 60s, and I've only had a few real "girlfriends" in my life, but two of them were named LISA. And what about ICECORES being in the puzzle a day after all of our talk of ice caps and ice sheets? Funny.

I loved the references to Elvis Costello (PUMPITUP), FAIRUSE (90D: Why parodies can't be sued for copyright infringement), and WINDFARMS.

And finally, I just want to say I thought the cluing was excellent overall. "36A: Beep-booping droid, for short" was great for ARTOO, "52D: Doesn't go overboard?" (BODYSURFS) took this bodysurfer far too long, possibly because it crossed another very clever clue - "57A: Go through a window?" (SCROLL). A browser window! Definitely not a GIMME! See also "76A: Credit score, for short? (GPA). Hah!

In short, I thought this one really STOODOUT. Maybe Frannie will jump in to say something more on today's, or maybe she'll just start up tomorrow. We shall see.

- Horace

Friday, March 15, 2019

Saturday, March 16, 2019, Andrew J. Ries

0:10:39 (F.W.O.E.)

Well, I'm conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I tore through it, but on the other, I had to spend a minute or so looking for an error at the end. As it turns out, I never even read the clue for 53D: "Assistant to millions" (SIRI). Once I found it, I could tell right away that iIRI wasn't right, but when I'm solving on paper a week from today, will I take the time to check everything before raising my hand?! And to make matters worse, I knew I was making a guess when I entered CiA as the "Grp. with the motto 'Deo vindice.'" I should have known better. The CIA didn't go with Latin at all. Theirs is "The Work of a Nation. The Center of Intelligence." Wow. "The Center of Intelligence" came up with that for a logo? End of Empire, people. That's what we are hurtling toward.

Anyway, the motto of my story is - check the crosses! Especially when you're making a guess!


Loved seeing ICEAGES at 1A today, and I hope my Dad actually took a look at it, because as a Quaternary geologist, he, too, might have gotten off to a quick start. (I actually guessed ICEcapS at first, which, I argue, could also have been the answer - if not for the crosses! :) )

I can only blame my complete lack of news intake over the past many years for being so confused about "16A: Boxer who retired in 2017." For a while, before I got ICBM, I thought "I know nothing about boxing... I might have to take a DNF!" Then even when I did think of the missiles, I still thought that BARBARA might just be a Hispanic last name that I was not familiar with. Turns out, both boxing and politics are things beyond my KEN. They were talking about Barbara Boxer, longtime California politician, whose slogan, incidentally, when running for the US House was "Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn." Now that's a motto!

Another big surprise for me today was learning that AMENCORNER is actually a church thing. I thought it was only at the Masters!

Not much that really stood out to me in this oversized grid (second one this week!), but I'm guessing that PSYCHEDELICMUSIC was the seed entry, as it is the reason for the extra squares. Overall, I will hopefully take away a valuable lesson from this puzzle, and that's good enough for me.

- Horace

Friday, March 15, 2019, Jamey Smith


Beware the Ides!

Just kidding, I'm a HAPPYCAMPER today. That beginning, NW corner had three excellent answers to start things off. Great clue on NAPOLEONIII (17A: Youngest French president before Macron). Sure, he was the first elected president of France, but then when he couldn't be re-elected because of constitutional restrictions, he seized power and made himself Emperor. Sounds bad, sure, but he was the one who, along with Haussmann, modernized Paris, and made it the city it is today. Kind of like a French F.D.R., maybe? Or was that "two term" thing put in after F.D.R.?...

Low bridge, everybody down. Low bridge, for we're coming to a town.

SCHAEFER (22A: "Finest beer I ever tasted!" in old ads) certainly had some good ad people back in the day. I believe they also used the jingle "The one beer to have when you're having more than one." Heh. Those were the days... Like when you were pounding down a CALORIEBOMB and you just didn't care. These days, I think I'd rather try a PINKMARTINI. Gin and grapefruit is right up my alley.

In the lower right, I was stuck thinking of the tunnels through the Alps with "55A: The world's largest one straddles the border of France and Switzerland" (ATOMSMASHER), but maybe thinking of France also helped me with AIDEMEMOIRE (63A: Mnemonic device). Is that really an acceptable and common(ish, even) phrase in English? And speaking of languages, I like PIGLATIN as much as anyone, but I'll ebay amned-day if I can figure out what that "EBay ashtray" is supposed to mean. "Be trash?" Huh?

There's lots of fun entries in here, spoiled only by the double Yale representation in YALIE and ELI (sorry, gotta stand up for our resident Crimson, Colum here!) (Kidding! Those are fine.) (I guess.), and a few bits of OME, POV, ELD, and ERE. I could have added UIE, but I'm frequently bangin' a uie, and I love the term.

Overall, I'm giving it a thumbs up. Strong debut, selon moi.

- Horace

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thursday, March 14, 2019, Will Nediger and Nancy Stark


Today's central square is a HAT. Looking at it now, it's a rather tidy theme, where all four answers either beginning or ending at that square use it as if it were the letters HAT, and all of them span the length out to the edge of the grid. The revealer, found in the final Across answer, is BLACKHAT. Fine, I guess, but kind of lackluster. The expression CHEWONT[HAT] is good, but YOUDIDW[HAT] is less exciting. And, perhaps somewhat ironically, I like the term [HAT]CHETJOB, but dislike [HAT]EMONGER.


Outside of the theme, though, there's other good material to enjoy. I never thought enough about "Psycho" to understand that Norman Bates and his mother represented ALTEREGOs. Is that right? Or was Norman just crazy? Wasn't his mother dead? What kind of ego is that? Maybe it's been too long since I've seen it for me to know what I'm talking about...

In other old references, we've got the interesting "11D: Animal that shares its name with a king of Thrace in the "Iliad" (RHESUS), and OLDLATIN (64A: Language of the pre-Roman Empire). As if Latin weren't old enough... heh. Oh, and then there's DESOTO (50A: Onetime division of the Chrysler Corporation), officially dropped in 1960, and the "Nattering nabobs" speech delivered by AGNEW in 1969. I have no problem with any of these answers, mind you, I just like grouping them together.

I'm not sure I agree that LACY is a direct equivalent of "Frilly," but there's not a whole lot else to complain about. I suppose I could call out AGUE, which is seeing something of a resurgence lately (... it is still cold and flu season...) or PEEKIN (63A: Have a quick look-see, say) which seems rather contrived, but really, it's pretty clean. I don't even mind SAYAH (45A: Request during a physical checkup). I just wish there had been something more to the theme... but at least we got a little trick, so that's nice.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Jeffrey Wechsler

0:10:24 (F.W.O.E.)

Talk about an OBLIQUEREFERENCE! That "Place to go swim, informally" clue was a bit too indirect for me! THEY. And I used to actually go to the Y to swim when I was younger! Sheesh! Nice one.

Mmmmmm........ BRIE.....

Other than that, though, this super-sized, 16x15 puzzle is right up our alley here at H&FDTNYTCPFCA, as we are big fans of reference books. A good old paper dictionary sits on my desk both at work and at home, and an Atlas has always been one of my favorite picture books to peruse at leisure. Almanacs are good for finding fun facts, and here's a secret - I have sometimes used a thesaurus while writing reviews! Why, just today I looked up synonyms for "oblique" and decided on "indirect."

The triple-checked squares often lead to some unusual fill, but aside from a little foreign material (ETATS, KRONER, ETUDES, TOILE, ROUE), and few oddities like MAE, SUEY, and ESTD, there wasn't too much that was SSS-worthy. Anyone else think that 1D should have referenced 2D in its clue? Hah! RIATA is kind of DATED, but I think most solvers have run into it enough by now to fill it in fairly easily. And that was a nice pairing at 19 and 20-Across, with "Ithaca, to Odysseus" (HOME) and "Odysseus, to Ithaca" (RULER).

I enjoyed the longer Down entries like GRAYSCALE (43D: It varies from black to white) (Perfect for this old-school photographer!), BARTENDED (42D: Made the rounds, say?) and WHATABORE (34D [Yawn!]) (Shades of yesterday's puzzle...). And I learned something new today with MACH (38D: Eponymous physicist Ernst). I definitely remember something better if it's been involved in a mistake I made, so hopefully, I'll know that one from now on!

A fun theme. I enjoyed it!

- Horace

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Jules Markey


A vertical theme today, with four multi-word phrases, each led by a word that can precede the word "button." If I had to choose a favorite, it would be the central grid-spanner, BELLYUPTOTHEBAR (6D: *Go order a drink). If I had a nickel for every time I found myself in that situation, I'd have quite a few nickels. Come to think of it, that central entry can be tied to the other three - as a possible reaction to either a SNOOZEFEST or a PANICATTACK, and as a possible precursor to ending up slurring the phrase LIKEYOUKNOW! Ahh, good ol' alcohol, "the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."


I thought it interesting that two somewhat obscure names were symmetrical today - HELGA (14A: Frequent Andrew Wyeth model) and OCCAM (64A: Creator of a logical "razor"). The other, even more obscure name was lodged over in the SE corner - ELEA (58D: Philosopher Zeno of ____). I think that cross with PEWEE (65A: Bird in the flycatcher family) might be a bit of a guess for some solvers.

Kind of noisy up top, what with TOOTED, BEEP, ZAP, and EEKS... and believe it or not, I loved the clue for ZERO, which I will not reproduce here. I didn't know it, but enjoyed figuring it out with no math whatsoever! :)

I dropped in aVa instead of EVE (15A: Palindromic woman's name), sass instead of EDGE (58A: Lip) (Good clue!), and gasp instead of SLAP (54D: Nonverbal response to an insult), all of which (and probably other things) led to a slightly slower-than-normal Tuesday time for me. I hope your solve went more smoothly.

- Horace

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday, March 11, 2019, Trent H. Evans


Lately, Frannie and I have been amusing ourselves by using the expression, "There it is, gone," or some variant thereof, and I think it's well established that those who do crossword puzzles also appreciate peculiarities in language, as is demonstrated in this lovely start to the new week of puzzles. It's a study in contradictions - LIVINGDEAD, RECORDEDLIVE, FOUNDMISSING, and with no revealer, the theme is left as an OPENSECRET. Beautiful.


Aside from the theme, we get fun clues and entries like TOASTED (Like bread and newlyweds, maybe), TAPIOCA (Pudding ingredient from the cassava root) (mmm.... TAPIOCA...), NODICE ("Not gonna happen!"), and MONEYPIT (Interminably expensive project). There was very little that I MOANED about. Sure, there's some stuff you see frequenly - IRIS, EDIE, ACRES, IDES - but only IDS, and maybe OLIN (Lena of Hollywood) broke my SERENE Monday mood. Plus, we had the amusing pairing of ROOF (Where Santa lands) and NOONE (Who lives at the North Pole, in reality). Heh.

Overall, I think it's a great way to RING in the new week!

- Horace

p.s. I had planned to write this review last night, but we ended up watching "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," the only George Lazenby Bond movie. It was great - one of the better Bond films, I think. Diana Rigg, a theme song by Louis Armstrong (the last recording he made!), and Telly Savalas. What more can one ask for? It's a pity that Lazenby didn't do more of them.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday, March 10, 2019, Adam Fromm


Sundays and math... two of my favorite things? Well, not really, but some of these theme answers elicited a smile, like POWEROFATTORNEY (I'm not going to take the time to figure out how to correctly format exponents in Blogger), and SAMEDIFFERENCE (x - y = x - y). LOSANGELESTIMES just seemed kind of strange, and I might not understand fractions enough to get CASHDIVIDEND. In short, this was maybe not the puzzle for me.

CATBREED (Russian Blue)

On the upside, GLITTERATI is always fun, and I thought GAVEITAGO (38D: Attempted something) and ENDEAVORED (76D: Made an attempt) were good entries with oddly similar, but not identical, clues. The NW corner is somewhat exotic with COEXIST over PHARAOH - contrast with SEERS over ERRS down in the SW.

I'm never entirely comfortable with AHSO being in a grid. Maybe it's hypersensitivity, maybe not. URANIC, RAMMER, SHOOP, SHMOO, VARIG, SCALER... kind of a lot of stuff that wasn't all that great. Still, I'm looking forward to another week of weekday puzzles, starting tomorrow! Or, really, starting at six pm tonight! I'll see you later today for another, hopefully more positive review. :)

- Horace

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Saturday, March 9, 2019, Sam Trabucco

12:36 (FWOE)

What started out as a B week for yrs truly as a solver has not shown any promise of turning around. My error? Well, it came at the cross of 39A: Partygoers may get a kick out of it (THECONGA) and 40D: Words of enlightenment (AHISEE). I tried an O, which actually works well in the down answer, but in the across answer is referring to an entirely different other thing. By the way, my first attempt at answering 39A was THEpuNch.

In the meantime, IDECLARE, what a remarkable puzzle this one is. Definitely my favorite of the week. The oddities abound - 31A: Oxymoronic skiing condition (DRYSNOW) in the same grid with 46A: Freeze that extends out from a coastline (FASTICE). Some people (people other than myself) might feel compelled to take a VIENNACOFFEE to fight off all those winter conditions.

Then there are all those Ss in the middle of the puzzle. BASSSOLO, GLISSANDO, and LOESSER (all of which contribute to this week's non-canonical music theme). I do really really love Guys and Dolls. The music is delightful, the plot is silly, and the humor outrageous. Just watch Adelaide's Lament...

Right. Anyway, I love INBOXZERO, just for the craziness of the Scrabble tiles. Similarly, MGMIDGET is a great collection of letters. DRAWMEN I'd never heard of. If you Google it in the singular, it comes up first, but with only a single hit.

At 17A: Modest article of swimwear with a portmanteau name (BURKINI), I had tanKINI first, assisted in my mistake by REran instead of REDUX, but I got OVERIT.

- Colum

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Friday, March 8, 2019, David Steinberg

9:40 (FWOE)

Okay, so I don't like raw fish. Does that mean I should be penalized for thinking SUSHIRICk could be a thing? After all, you might buy a CASk at a package store (31D: Liquor store purchase (CASE)). I mean, if the package store was from the 17th century, at least.

Wow, it's been a tough week for this solver. But this is a pretty good themeless for a Friday. I'll note URI and REI and LAN, but otherwise it's quite clean. It's got some tough clues, such as 14A: Over (ANEW) and 36A: Snap (PIC). These fall into the category of hard because they're so nonspecific and open to multiple interpretations.

Also nice is 48D: What might follow a crack (HAHA) and 53A: Something to do at home? (BAT). One thing I was not fooled by (for once, finally) was 23A: Miscellaneous part? (SILENTC). I've learned some lessons, apparently.

Then there is the symmetrically placed pair IJUSTMIGHT and ILUCKEDOUT.  As in "I just might see CONAIR," and then "I lucked out, because Con Air was sold out, so instead I saw Men in Black."

The middle staircase is not as zing filled as you might like, but it's an impressive stack of five 9-letter answers. 33A: Red or white container (WINEFLASK) is good, as is 34A: What a whole lot of kisses might result in (SUGARRUSH). Raise your hand if you thought of mononucleosis first. No? Only me?

Anyway, what with the wine, the case, and the CORKAGE fee, I'm feeling a little tipsy. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Thursday, March 7, 2019, Brian Thomas

9:13 (FWTE)

The revealer explains everything today. STICKEMUP - and in the other theme answers, any time the elision "'em" shows up, it literally sticks up out of the line. In practical terms, this simply means that there needs to be an M above the E each time. The best part is where MESMER works twice over in this regard.

The phrases are all strong, with the best clearly being ROCKE[M]SOCKE[M]ROBOT, even though it should be pluralized to be the actual name of the game. Still, it's one way to get a 17-letter phrase into a 15 x 15 grid.

Some people would turn their noses up at the pair of non-theme answers at 14A and 63A, both of which are as long as theme answers. To which I say, OWLET it slide. And after all, the theme answer at 17A is actually ten letters long.
I want to go to there
XBOXGAMES and WHATATOOL are both strong entries today. My mistakes arose out of the second of those answers. I put in WHATAfOOL. This seemed reasonable, but left me with 26A: Exclamation usually made in a high voice (TADA). I had fA_A, and convinced myself that maybe you'd exclaim "Fa la!" in a high voice. If you exclaimed it. Ever. Instead of singing it. Anyway, my second crossing at 27D: ___ Terr. (geographical designation until 1889) (DAK) ended up being lAK. You know. Lakota Territory.

Anyway, the mind can convince you of most anything if you give it half a chance.

My music week is running into bleak territory today. CHINMUSIC? Not exactly real music. My Gilbert & Sullivan friends might perhaps suggest Princess IDA(ho)? Even the FLUTE is clued with reference to a glass. Sad days, my friends.

- Colum

Wednesday, March 6, 2019, Mary Lou Guizzard and Erik Agard


March is my favorite month, for obvious reasons, reasons I have reason to believe Horace shares. So today's puzzle was right in my comfort zone.

As the saying goes, "March comes in like a LION and goes out like a LAMB." In my experience in the Northeast over the past forty plus years, it mostly stays like a lion the whole time. Seems like one of the earliest times this phrase appears in writing is in 1732, in England, where the weather is on the whole less severe than in New England.

In any case, by the strict definitions of the seasons, March is the end of winter and the start of spring, so the long answers in today's puzzle express this. It might have been slightly more à propos to have the March entry in the middle, but this works. In addition, we get a word ladder down the middle, running LION - LIMN - LIMB - LAMB. Very nicely done.

All of that theme material in the middle of the puzzle means the fill has more than a few compromises. I'm looking at you, OMOO, archetype of crosswordese. Not to mention XIII (saved to some extent by it's amusing clue), ATL, ALAI, IMF. And of course, worst of all, OXX, where the clue shows how last resort this is ("Losing line in tic-tac-toe").

The W and E sides fare much better, with four excellent long downs abutting each other. My favorites are CORDONBLEU adjacent to GIANTPANDA. Who I think would be very happy to sample some of the former.

On the whole, I'm willing to accept the lesser stuff for the sake of the theme, which is prettily done.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tuesday, March 5, 2019, Joe Deeney


This might be my favorite Tuesday theme ever. EVER. Am I being over-dramatic? You might say "IBELIEVESO," but let's examine the evidence, shall we?

First off, there's the simplicity of the theme clues, namely: "It has spots." And things start out straightforwardly, with PARKINGLOT and LEOPARDPRINT. COMMERCIALBREAK is a nice 15-letter example of something with spots in a different sense.

Then things start to get a little different. The clue changes: 48A: It has Spots (DOGGYDAYCARE), referring to the classic dog name. Although I know no dog and have never known a dog with that name, it is well recognized as a doggy name.

Finally, the ludicrous 57A: It has spots (TEASERVICE). For a while I stared at this, wondering what we were getting at. And then it hit me. A spot of tea. How British. And how amusing. We are definitely amused. I love it.

For the final piece of evidence that this is the best Tuesday ever, I put forward the fact that I can't think of any other Tuesday theme at all off the top of my head. So this one wins.

Meanwhile, the rest of the puzzle is fine. For music week, I'll note Sam's PIANO from Casablanca and the REED on a clarinet. Also there's LETITBE, one of my least favorite Beatles albums.

- Colum

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monday, March 4, 2019, Ellis Hay


I'll give myself a B for today's time, which is fitting, given today's theme.

How many different ways can you spell the sound of the second letter of the alphabet? I was off to a good start with 20A: Bach masterpiece, informally (BMINORMASS). I suppose I will just have to give in to Fate and declare this week a musical week. I had the great fortune to participate in a concert of this piece when I was still living in NYC. What a rush to sing this incredible work of art.

Still, things weren't a SHOO-in for me as the puzzle went on. I misunderstood the clue at 2D to imply that 2D and 54D would be a single phrase, rather than 54D (YALE) being another institution Clinton as an ALUM of. I had a hard time understanding either 9D: Buy the farm, so to speak (PASSAWAY), which I took too literally, and 38A: Ban alcoholic beverages (GODRY), which I wanted to be a single word.

And I also put cOrn in at 50A: Bread in Southern cuisine (PONE).

All of which made for an UGLI solve on this Monday.

On the plus side, I liked ISTHATOK and GINSBURG, of course. MATHLETE is good as well. 44D: Baseball's Gehrig (LOU) brought to mind an activity that Horace's brother is undertaking on FaceBook to have people name their favorite member of each team's roster through history. Mr. Gehrig would probably make my top list for the hated Yankees, but would not be number one.

I've decided that 65A: Baffled exclamations (GEES), which on first glance is probably the worst answer in the grid, must originally have been part of a revealer. For example, "British disco trio, with the starts of 20-, 32-, 40-, and 52-across."

What do you think?

- Colum

P.S. After finishing the review, I read elsewhere that all the clues start with the letter B. I did not notice this on my own, which I guess means that it was done well.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sunday, March 3, 2019, Tony Orbach and Andrea Carla Michaels


Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me!

And on my birthday, a Sunday that is above average, I'd say. Eight examples of phrases where a letter D has been replaced by the letter J. Clue the resulting phrase and sit back and watch the hilarity ENSUING. Note that, as an extra bit of difficulty, none of the phrases have a second D in them as that would create confusion unnecessarily. Also, there are no Js outside the theme answers.

All eight original D-phrases are widely accepted. Two, "Dock of the Bay," and "Rolling in the Deep," are best known as song titles, the former being my preferred of the two, because Otis Reading. Of the reworked phrases, my favorite has to be 88A: Write an order to replenish inventory of Levi's? (MAKETHEJEANSLIST). That's nicely absurd. None of the others really made me smile or giggle, but they were well constructed.

Meanwhile, however, the opening corner felt like it was constructed just for me. I love PECANS, Isaac Asimov (IROBOT), and the opera SALOME, by Richard Strauss. The specific section referenced, the Dance of the Seven Veils is one of my favorite ten minutes of music - perfectly capturing Salome's willingness to go to any lengths to satisfy her desire for John the Baptist. Here's a link for those interested:

Another nice aspect of the puzzle is how the constructors managed the eight Js. There are three names (DONJUAN, JOAO, and JANE), three standard crossword style J words (MOJO, SHOJI, and JOSS), JETLAG (which Horace and Frannie have hopefully recovered from by this point), and finally EMAJ, which certainly is accepted nowadays. I like musical offerings. Chopin's etude in E major is lovely.

Well, I've gotten my music on (I've got a concert this afternoon, so it's on my mind, clearly). Enough BANTER.

- Colum