Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Erik Agard

9:04 FWOE

Today's theme packs a one-two punch thanks to a GROUP of SHOTS with the word shot left off and the word cat written in in crayon. Wait, that's something completely different. The four starred answers are common two word phrases, each word of which makes another common phrase when combined with the word SHOT. For example, we have 17A: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band with the hits "The Flame" and "I want you to want me" (CHEAPTRICK), which gives us CHEAP SHOT and TRICK SHOT, thematically. My favorite is often a DOUBLE SHOT - of rye whiskey. :)

I made my false step at UTEP (Lone Star State Sch.), for which I confidently and erroneously entered UTEx. The other answers in the area seemed to fill themselves in and I never checked the crossing down. A HEADSLAP ensued when I saw what had happened. Some hotshot. :(

I thought this was a very smooth solving puzzle overall with excellent clue-answer harmony throughout. Some of my favorites were
City choker (SMOG)
"The very IDEA!"
"'Believe it', as a retort" (WAY)
and my favorite, "Had a little lamb, say?" (ATE). Ha!



The only parting shot I'll take is that RAYON doesn't feel like silk - not by a LONG SHOT.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019, Andrew Kingsley


I like the theme revealer today, GETCRACKING, but while great as an answer for the clue "Hop to it," I found it less than exactly apt for "what to do to the various eggs in this puzzle's shaded squares." Maybe I'm being too literal, but there are no eggs in the shaded squares, only three birds and one prehistoric reptile. I suppose we could assume "eggs" understood, but I don't take an egg, if I can avoid it. I do like the popped up letter that creates the crack in each theme answer. If you get rid of the "S" from DINO[S]AUR, the popped up letters spell ROC - not even scrambled - and then you could add a mythological egg to your basket. I also wondered if ROE could be considered bonus theme material.

In the lower half of the grid, I enjoyed the sweet run of COCOA, TOBERLONE, LATTE,and KIMCHI, mmmm, Kimchi... Too bad TOASTING wasn't clued with marshmallows for the pig out pentfecta! As it happens, not one of these fine treats calls for an egg.


Boy, oh boy there are a lot of men in this puzzle. There are at least 18 males, both IRL and fictional: OLAF, Red ADAIR, ICHIRO Suzuki, MRT, Peter RODINO, ANDY, LEIF Ericson, Jon SECADA, LAD, DOC, Clark KENT, NATE Silver, FOUR Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Alexander PAYNE, ISAAC, Citizen KANE, Ang LEE, and, as a bonus, GILLETTE ("'The best a man can get' solganeer"). Maybe they are cheaper by the dozen.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019, Brendan Emmett Quigley

Maybe I’m missing something big in the theme, but for me, it is barely a thing worth mentioning. I will, though, in an effort to both explain it and show, perhaps, my lack of understanding of it. Take, for example, KOHINOORDIAMOND, clued as “KIND words?” First of all, the very existence of this named diamond is only on the edges of my knowledge (and caring). That it can, or should, presumably, be broken down into four parts, “Koh I Noor Diamond,” is a new realization, and maybe then a language barrier enters the picture, but why those four parts have any relation to the word “KIND,” or, indeed, should fall under the title “Words of Introduction” is not clear to me. Sure, I see that the first letter of each part spells KIND, but why? Is it just a way to give us four letters of the answer? … The other theme answers are similarly random.

So let us look for meaning, or at least fun and excitement, in the other areas of the puzzle.
I did enjoy learning the trivia that ANKARA is said to have been founded by King Midas, and also in that NW corner, the clues “Earns a bronze?” (SUNS) and “Opinion piece?” (ITHINK) were fun.
In the NE corner, ABCB (Rhyme scheme of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was a bit outré, but CRACKER (What Polly wants) was entertaining. And who knew an EEL could swim backward!? More good trivia! And speaking of trivia, how ‘bout that REUEL (Moses’s father-in-law)? How many of you dropped that right in without crosses? Not this guy!
In other areas, the clever clue “Ones who can’t change large bills?” for TOUCANS made me almost feel sorry for them. Do you think they’d ever want to? I mean, those things must be heavy!
I guess in the end, I would have been happier if this had been run as a themeless, and all the theme answers been given normal clues.
- Horace

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday, April 27, 2019, Joe Deeney


Another fun Saturday with some challenging, convoluted clues. I particularly enjoyed "Scamper" (DART), "Pain in the ass?" (BRAND) (poor donkey), "Subjective evaluation" (ESSAYEXAM), and "Not permanent" (ACTING). And in the lower right corner, the desire to mislead is almost palpable in both "Start running off?" (GOTOPRESS) and "Fail to come to?" (OVERSLEEP).

We get two fully-named Britons today, with JOHNCLEESE and NEILGAIMAN, and two references to an older Briton in "If thou DOST marry, I'll give thee this plague for they dowry": Hamlet," and ALLISTRUE (Original title of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" (the latter not used until the First Folio in 1623)). Both are boring titles, but at least "Henry VIII" insists less upon itself.


Interesting that both TNT and DYNAMITES are included today. DITKA is always fun to think about, and he and KNELT (Protested, in a way) remind us that the start of football season is still several months away.

Remember the ATKINSDIET craze? Heh. Almost as irrational, in its way, as the TULIPMANIA. Silly humans.

A couple of specialty terms today in ROLF (Massage deeply) and TAMPS (Presses down), and speaking of that last one, it's time for me to go make myself another espresso. Ahh, Saturday mornings, when I have the LUXURYOFTIME.

- Horace

Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019, Kyle Dolan

0:18:56 (F.W.O.E.)

I was worried when I knew I would need a lot of crosses for 1A, and even then, I would be guessing at what might possibly be a song title, but slowly it did come, thanks to a gimme at 1D (SPOT (Help out, in a gym) and crosswordsy standards AKIN (Related) and TARED (Like goods weighed on scales). For the record, I think of the scale as being TARED before the goods are put on it, but perhaps there are variant meanings.  

FLASHCARD (Classic bit of study material) brought back good memories, and ITBURNS (Shout of pain) brought a laugh as I remembered a Simpsons episode where Moe Szyslak yells that as he splashes some holy water up onto his face. Heh.


The inclusion of an answers like HARDASS (Tough, demanding type), HANGRY (Cranky due to lack of food), and SODOM (Scene of biblical destruction) let you know we've reached the weekend. As do clever clues like "Where you might be given the third degree" (GRADSCHOOL) (see also: "Rap mogul of the highest degree?" (DRE) (That's "Dr. DRE" to you)), "Place for an anchor" (DESK) (a news anchor), and "Peak service?" (ACE). And I only just now realized that "It may precede 'copy'" (OVER) must be referring to walkie-talkie talk.

I lost my way today in the NE, where, when faced with _AIA I guessed gAIA as the "Mother of Hermes" (MAIA). At the time, I didn't have the cross (EMBED (One reporting a fight)), and it was only after the bell rang that I went back and noticed the error. Every once in a while, I try to memorize those Greek and Roman genealogies, but there are just so many characters, and it's quite convoluted!

Anyway... I liked much of this one. JOHNDONNE is a favorite, and I wish I knew more about the PEACETOWER in Ottawa. It was interesting to learn a bit of trivia about ICEICEBABY, and words like SIPHON, GAWK, and PYRE are all good. I didn't love the long Downs in the NE (SAUSAGEDOG and PICKSADOOR), and it seems OCEANSPRAY could have been clued a bit more poetically somehow... but overall I enjoyed the challenge.

And finally, just for the record, MAIA is the oldest of the Pleiades, so named because they are the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. According to Homer (according to Wikipedia) "Zeus in the dead of night secretly begot Hermes upon Maia. ... After giving birth to the baby, Maia wrapped him in blankets and went to sleep. The rapidly maturing infant Hermes crawled away to Thessaly, where by nightfall of his first day he stole some of his half-brother Apollo's cattle and invented the lyre from a tortoise shell."

Hmm.. kind of makes me think I should get up off this couch and get my own day started!

- Horace

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019, Jon Olsen


Boy, this one almost got me! Everything but that middle section went right along - even kind of easy-seeming for a Thursday - but then I don't know how long I fretted over that PIA_ATS and PLY_ section. I knew KAPPA (24A: ____ Alpha Theta, first Greek-letter sorority in the U.S.) and SILVER (30A: Argentina was named after it) had to be right, and what else could "34A: Assents at sea" be except AYES?


I don't know why it took me so long, since the answer was practically spelled out for me with the rest of the themed clues: HAPPYFACE, COLONHYPHEN, PARENTHESIS, and EMOTICONS. At last, I entered the "Elements of a [HAPPYFACE]" into 39A, and finally made sense of "39D: Blot on a landscape" [EYES]ORE, "25D: Perches for some musicians" PIA[NOSE]ATS, and "26D: ____ Rock" PLY[MOUTH]. Whew! LOCO!

Once I had entered the entire words into the squares and finished the puzzle, they turned into the traditional COLONHYPHEN and PARENTHESIS, but I'm not sure whether I could have just entered those elements instead of the words ... probably I could have. If you did, let me know.

I enjoyed seeing the mnemonic "Every good boy does fine," and quickly entered "gclEf," before correcting it to NOTES. And speaking of things musical, I did not realize - or at least did not remember - that the "End of every verse of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'" is BRAVE. Interesting.

A few other tricky clues: 19D: It's more than a fling (HEAVE). Nice. 31D: Center of the Krupp family dynasty (ESSEN). Who? 44D: Raised block of the earth's crust, to a geologist (HORST). OK, if you say so. (Dad, did you drop that one right in?), and 63D: Alternative to Gain (ERA). I take it GAIN is some kind of detergent?

I liked the challenge today. The theme was fun, the rest of it was fine.

- Horace

p.s. It's a debut! Congratulations, Mr. Olsen!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday, April 24, 2019, Evan Mahnken


When Shakespeare was my age, he'd been dead for a year, as the old joke goes.


The anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, and death, is traditionally celebrated yesterday, April 23rd, but all that is known for certain about his very early life is that he was baptized on April 26, 1564. That he was not born on the 26th is almost certain, and the convenience and tidiness of placing his birth and death on the same date is powerfully attractive. That such a named man existed is unquestioned, and leaving aside the authorship question (so as not to DEFAME anyone), the plays that were collected into that "First Folio" in 1623 have been read, translated, performed, and adapted continually since then. Why, just a few weeks ago, Frannie and I saw a very good, modern-dress version of Romeo and Juliet at the Huntington Theater in Boston. And at tonight, if we were so inclined, we could celebrate our anniversary by seeing a performance of Twelfth Night at the Lyric Stage. You can hardly walk through the theater district in any city without passing one putting on a SHAKESPEAREPLAY!

Today we have four film adaptations, FORBIDDENPLANET (The Tempest), SHESTHEMAN (Twelfth Night), WESTSIDESTORY (Romeo and Juliet), and KISSMEKATE (The Taming of the Shrew). The only one I had never heard of is SHESTHEMAN. And it's also from the only original that I have never seen. Maybe we should change our plans! :)

It's a coherent theme, well done. That Mr. Mahnken was able to find this symmetrical arrangement is, to me anyway, quite impressive. I don't know how these constructors do it!

In the fill I enjoyed the inclusion two additional literary figures, AESOP (52A: Fabulous writer?), and, to a lesser extent, TALESE (59A: Gay of the New Journalism movement). And the crossword darling EMOTES takes on slightly more relevance today. Heck, I suppose even PEN (11D: Write down) could be seen as bonus material.

I liked the all-French-all-the-time OUI (28A: "Bien sûr!"), the pair of "ring figure" clues (CARATS & ALI), the ridiculous "34D: Herd noise" (MOO), and my favorite clue today - 43D: Business whose income is computed quarterly? (ARCADE). That's been in a lot lately, it seems, but they're keeping it fresh!

Sure, there's some MSS, NES, and KOP -type stuff, but overall I enjoyed this one.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


Sandwiched between "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's," at #2 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Albums" list is PETSOUNDS, and today we have actual PETSOUNDS sandwiched inside longer answers like HO[MEOW]NER and T[HISS]IDEUP. I suppose some people might think, "Sure, I have heard of a pet cat, a pet dog, and even a pet snake, but what about that 'oink' in TATTO[OINK]?" Well, I would have been one of those people, if not for the fact that my cousin's wife is somewhat famous in our family for having kept a pet pig as a child.

The animal noises each span two words, they're a consistent four letters each, and they're all standard English spellings. So as far as I'm concerned, the theme works perfectly.


In addition to that goodness, there are several excellent words in the non-theme fill today too, including THWART, WINNOW, CHOLERA (well, nice sounding word - less nice if you have it), ETHANOL, CORONET, and KINGTUT (43D: Jokey 1978 Steve Martin song), not to mention TWINE and GUST. And I actually admire the SASSINESS of getting OOO (32D: Tic-tac-toe win) in there.

There are a few ODD entries, like the French plural TES, and the possessive partial LARAS, and I'm not really sure I understand why the "out of state" part was important to include on USETAX, but that's probably more on me than the puzzle.

Two last things: 1. After having watched all six episodes of "Planet Earth II," I have come to understand that many birds, not just SWANS mate for life, which is interesting and cool, and 2. "THAR she blows!" will forever remind me of the old restaurant Yoken's, and the many stops my family made there on our way to or from a cottage in Maine. Good memories...

So the UPSHOT is, I liked this one quite a bit.

- Horace

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019, Bruce Haight


A cute little tennis theme today, and if you're a bit flexible with your imagination, you can see the long central entry, CONTEMPTOFCOURT (37A: Dislike for tennis?) as a net, and then the two theme entries above and below, touching opposite sides, are kind of like a volley going back and forth. And the CALLS (51D: "Let" and "Fault," from a chair umpire) come in right at the center edge, where the umpire sits! I like it a lot, and the silly cluing is just icing on the cake.


The two long Down answers are both solid. INSERTCOIN (10D: Arcade game instruction before playing) brings me back to my youth. Ahh... remember arcades? Do they even still exist?

BIGAMY (6D: Problem with more than one marriage?) and PISA (39D: Italian city you might be "leaning" toward visiting) were amusing, and a brother of mine is in Seoul at this very moment, so KOREA (12D: Locale for Pyongyang and Seoul) was fun to see.

Nothing much that I got HUNG up on, and nothing to WHINE about. Overall, a solid start to the week!

- Horace

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday, April 2019, Grant Thackray


Here's a fun fact - if you total up Colum's solve times for Monday through Friday of this week, and add about two minutes, you get the time it took me to solve today's puzzle. :)


"The Inside Story" today is movie titles. Each theme answer is a PICTUREINPICTURE, turned into a new phrase, and clued accordingly. I am so in awe of the idea itself that I am loath to complain about the less good ones like BO[THERING]RAT (52A: Traitor who gets on one's nerves? [2006, 2002]). It's just so absurd. And what about PET[IT]ERPAN (77D: Smaller piece of cookware? [1953, 2017])? I don't know if I've ever heard anyone say "petiter."

My favorite might be THELITTLEM[ET]ERMAID (24A: Who has trouble reaching a windshield to place a ticket? [1989, 1982]). That one works well.

It's Easter today, and I'm sitting here in the house I grew up in, with my Dad and my sister and one brother, Huygens, and Frannie. We had a nice dinner, and now we're sitting around in the living room talking. It's a little difficult to concentrate on writing a review.

So I'll just mention a couple that I did like. MARCO (38A: Shout at a pool) brought back good memories of playing in the pool at our cousin's house, ROME (66A: Long building project, in a cliché) took a minute to get, and SLOP (117A: School cafeteria food, pejoratively) was amusing.

Things I had never heard of: STRINE (120A: Broad Australian accent, informally), and MIRIAM (115A: Sister of Moses).

OK, that's all I can manage. It's chaos here. I hope you're all having a lovely day.

- Horace

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday, April 20, 2019, Kevin Adamick


Solved with my mother, in NYC, and a good thing too, or it would have taken even longer! I am very much in favor of tougher Saturday puzzles. Recently, they've seemed a bit straightforward. This sort of grid lends itself to a harder grind, with those very large sections of white space in each corner, and only a tiny little middle segment to give some entree into each section.

We got going in the NE - the NW was too challenging to get a foothold, especially when you drop Marlon Brando incorrectly into 2D (I also considered Orson Welles before finally hitting on the correct one, Peter OTOOLE, a crossword boon of a name if ever there was one, both a celebrity and chock filled with vowels).

I note that three of the four corners have one answer that's hard to IDEALIZE. In the NE, it's REALER. It's acceptable, of course, but don't we typically just say "more real?" In the SE it's ROADER. This one's a real stretch, as is 3D: Hardly the silent type (YELLER). Couldn't we just have had a clever clue about the dog?

My mother knew Anna KARINA, which certainly helped open up the SW corner.

The NW was the last to go, and once again, my mother came up with ROLLOVER. I love all those Vs in that corner, and my favorite clue is at 21A: One after another? (ELEVEN). The other clue I enjoyed was 25D: Canine's woe? (DECAY).

Even though there were no really exciting sparkling entries, this is a solid and smooth 60-word puzzle, and a fun solve overall.

- Colum

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019, Caleb Madison


Let's start with the clue that gave me the most trouble, at 28D: Round parts? (BEERS). It only just came to me, as I am writing this blog post and drinking a Brooklyn Brown Ale, just what the clue is getting at.

I'll tell you one thing I am SUREOF: it helps in the solving of a puzzle when 1A falls right into place. I feel like we only just had MWAHAHA as an answer, so I barely hesitated at all in entering it. Perhaps I might have hesitated a little had I been solving on paper with a pen, but it was confirmed very quickly by several crosses. I sort of like that we also have MALALA in this grid. Just imagine if Ms. Yousafzai were hatching a nefarious plan. Would she laugh just like that?

Other clues that were right in my wheelhouse included 26A: What "epistaxis" is a fancy medical term for (NOSEBLEED). Also 31A: Epcot's Spaceship Earth, architecturally (GEODESICDOME).

At one point in the solve, I was considering whether a person domesticating a Canadian duck would use a whip, before realizing that MoTE was incorrect. Once I replaced it with MITE, LIONTAMER came into focus. Much more appropriate.

I enjoyed 20A: Game where you don't want to reach the top (TETRIS) as well as 7D: Like some suits and states (ALTERED).

Perhaps the SE corner isn't as strong as the rest of the puzzle, but that's just a BLIP on my radar. Good stuff.

- Colum

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


It's been a long time since we've had a good "letters spell out a picture" type of puzzle. I am always incredibly impressed by the care and thought that go into the construction of a grid like today's. Coming up with an image that can be represented by connecting the dots in a 15 by 15 puzzle, and then those letters are fixed in place.

Today we get a spring-like image of a CATERPILLAR turning into a BUTTERFLY in a CHRYSALIS. It's all very lovely. On the other hand, it doesn't make for a great solve. Knowing that the letters are going to draw an image doesn't really enhance the process of filling in the puzzle. So the theme loses impact during the solving process, making only for a nice sort of nod at the end.

That being said, there are some nice clues, including the sort of thing I always fall for at 52D: Pay for play (RHYME). Arg! Once again, I had no idea until four of the five letters were filled in. Nearby is a similar sort of thing at 58D: Married couple? (ARS). Is that how we spell the letter? I guess so.

The pair of French bakery offerings (GATEAU and ECLAIR) were sweet. As it turns out, I awoke this morning from the middle of a dream where I was picking out really nice cookies from a bakery, so I was definitely in the mood for some fancy confections.

Some of the readers here will laugh at me for incorrectly putting in COStas at 28A: Sportscaster in the documentary "Telling It Like It Is" (COSELL). But in my defense, Bob Costas is a sportscaster, and was in several documentaries. In any case, it corrected pretty quickly.

In the area of entries to OVOIDAL at all costs? Very little. It's a smooth puzzle.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019, Alison Ohringer and Erik Agard


Gosh, seems like I might be the only one around here who doesn't take a tapioca. But that's okay, because today, we get to FIXBREAKFAST, the best and most important meal of the day!

I am still chuckling at this theme. The revealer, coming at 38A, rephrased like a plaintive question, is just too absurd. Meanwhile, around the grid are scattered unappealing ruined breakfast foods. Although I will admit that I don't take an apple with my breakfast, but each of the other things are not unknown on my morning table.

The remainder of the puzzle I also enjoyed. I mean, sure, there's your ETTA and ETTU in the same grid, and that's not ideal. But who doesn't enjoy the blandly nonspecific clue at 42A: Chest coverer (BRA)? Or 37D: Sound of failure (PFFT)?

I also very much liked 55D: It gets bigger in the dark (PUPIL). So many potential ways to go wrong with that one. OOPSY!

So many good clues. How about 36D: Roll with a hole (BAGEL). Just that little extra touch of whimsy can make a puzzle so much better.

Anyway, I just liked the puzzle, so if you have a problem with AEON or ANIMES, I just call that crying over SPOILEDMILK.

- Colum

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Gary Cee


Do you think that Mr. Cee, given his name, would naturally be drawn to a theme where a letter sound is played upon? Well, perhaps. In any case, today trots out five phrases where the last sound is a version of the letter K. Or just is the letter K in one case.

I figured out what was going on when I had TOOTHDECAY and COMMUNIQUE in place. I was then a little disappointed in SOBRIQUET. Yes, it's spelled differently from the other French export, but really it's the same game.

MURRAYTHEK was a very odd answer. I had never heard of this gentleman before, born Murray Kaufman. Apparently he was an early adopter when it came to The Beatles, and they liked him so much George Harrison called him the "fifth Beatle." Nice to get some trivia, certainly, but the chutzpah of that unadorned K is shocking.

Well, maybe not shocking. That's a strong term. But in crossword blogging! I stand by it.

So readers of this blog may know that I'm not a fan of puzzles where sections are nearly completely cut off. And we get two here in the NW and SE corners. Fortunately they're large sections, so there were many ways to get toeholds inside of them. But I much prefer more flow.

On the positive side, 2D is right up my alley, synaptic gaps and all. I can do without TAPIOCA, although I know some around here have been known to take one. 44D: Non-prophet foundation? (ATHEISM), on the other hand, fits me to a T.

I didn't love the fill (SAK, SEN, OYS, ERN) but the theme was interesting, 'K?

- Colum

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday, April 15, 2019, Patrick Blindauer and Samuel A. Donaldson

3:18 (but really DNF)

You know what everybody needs more of on April 15? The IRS, am I right?

And furthermore, does that segment of the executive branch of the United States government undergo "reform," or is it the tax code itself that gets reformed?

Either way, on this tax day, as many of us see DOLLARSIGNS going down the drain, we are treated to all possible variations of the three letter string containing I, R, and S, each time hidden inside a longer phrase. Nicely, all of the variations span across words in their respective phrases, with 36A: "If memory serves..." (ASIRECALL) getting the bonus points for spanning all three words. This phrase made me think of the original Iron Chef program from Japan, where the "Chairman" would always open the show saying "If memory serves me correctly..."

How did I DNF a Monday? I rushed through, thinking I was very close to the under 3 minute range. And I messed up by putting Opal in at 43A: Black gemstone (ONYX). In my defense, an opal can in fact be black. But onyx is the obvious correct answer. I did not take any time to look at crossings, and thus I get the Monday DNF. Shame on me.

Things I liked today:

30A: Reference point during a piano lesson (MIDDLEC).
50D: Rob who directed "The Princess Bride" (REINER) - only one of the best movies of all time... but if they'd referenced "When Harry Met Sally" or "Spinal Tap" I would have been equally delighted. Some folks here might be interested to find out that it's not possible to put an umlaut over the letter N. I'm disappointed.

And of course, RYE. Which I think I'll have some of right now, and not the bread variety. And raise a glass to Notre Dame.

- Colum

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019, Will Nediger


Today's puzzle is an impressive piece of construction on many levels. On the most basic level, the grid is set up in left-right symmetry. On the next level, Mr. Nediger has found five pairs of words  or phrases where the substitution of L for R (or vice versa) creates a new crossword acceptable word or phrase. And finally, you'll note that the entire remaining grid is free of Ls or Rs except for those ten instances.

My favorite pair of answers is 1D: What some carefree beachgoers do (GOTOPLESS) and 18D: Start printing (GOTOPRESS). I will just mention for the record that I must not be carefree - I wear a rash guard whenever I'm out in the sun to protect my fellow beachgoers from my blindingly white skin. My initial thought about the theme was that the circled squares would be Schrödinger squares, where either L or R could equally go. But as I was getting started on my solve and put 1D in, I thought to myself, "go topress" isn't a phrase. Just goes to show how much I know.

All that being said, I didn't find the solve all that much fun. The "aha" moment was not particularly exciting, and there aren't many sparkling long entries. That can't be too surprising. When you eliminate two of the eleven top most common letters in the English language, your flexibility has got to be limited. After all, in this paragraph, twenty-two of the sixty-nine words contain those letters in them.

So how about some fun clues?

53A: They're full of holes (SIEVES)
56A: Popular girl's name any way (ANNA)
84A: Artless nickname? (STU)
97A: Some breads ... or a homophone for what bread loaves do (RYES)

- Colum

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday, April 13, 2019, Debbie Ellerin


How about that for a beautiful time?! Numerically and visually, of course, not so much solvally. Lovely as it is, though, it's a bit of an artificial result. I got stuck in the north east at the cross between 11D: "Suitor" (BEAU) and 22A: "Actress Aduba of 'Orange is the New Black'" (UZO). I spent at least 3 minutes running the alphabet for that one square, telling myself it had to be a vowel, but yet somehow still skipping over "u" each time. I don't know why, but I frequently have trouble with words multi-vowel runs in puzzles. Anyhoo, Horace and I ended up discussing the situation, as that section was giving him a LADLE trouble, too, and he revealed the missing letter to me. So, in short, it should say DNF up there at the top, but the time was so perfectly lovely on its own, if something of a sham, I decided to not to mess it up with a fess up up there.

The Good:
Country singer with a cityish name (URBAN)
Doesn't look too well? (OGLES)
U people? (PROFS)
Hula hoop? (LEI)
[I'm still here, you know] (AHEM)

The Bad:
BUSHWA, ENNUI, GREENGOBLIN, EVILQUEEN, NERO, and, presumably, because he opposed Rocky, IVAN (Drago).


And the UGLI. Ha!


Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday, April 12, 2019, Howard Barkin


BASING my rating on my solve time, I'd say this one was pretty easy. Although, traditionally, Friday puzzles are themeless, I thought I detected one or two rogue THAMES in the grid including word shortenings like MORPH, PHENOM, and TOTES ; food bits such as CHIPOTLE (smoked jalapeno! who knew?), EXTRACRISPY (I preferred original recipe, back in the day), MCCAFE (Starbucks competitor?) - (ETUDE Brute?), STREETFOOD, and, for our local readers, SHAYS ; and, last but not least expressions-whose-principle-vowel-is-the-letter-O: YOOHOO, OOH, and, my favorite, SONOFA. :)

Clues which, if they had hands, I would have high FIFED:
Barely communicate? (SEXT)
Title character not requiring an actor (GODOT)
19th-century author whose works are still read word for word (ROGET)


Although, as I said, the puzzle was on the easy side, things did get a little MESSI for me in the middle when I tried COrny instead of CONIC (Like Bugles snacks). It didn't help that I am not familiar with MIASARA - I'm not even sure how to parse that to make a name -  But, that was really my only trouble spot. While we often expect more of a challenge on a Friday, if I may MAXIMize for a moment, don't look a gift solve in the mouth.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019, Brendan Emmett Quigley


Not so cool-looking a time today as yesterday, but not bad time-wise for this solver on a tricky Thursday.

A co-worker who is new to solving the NYTX told me he was completely stumped by today's theme and gave up. I tried to explain the theme to him, as I will now try to explain it here, but I feel there has to be a better, more succinct explanation than this. The theme answers are three common phrases and one name of a famous personage with an extra syllable at the beginning, all entertainingly clued for the bonus version. So we have "Ornately decorated money?" BAROQUEBREAD (broke bread), "March meant to end a drought?" PARADEFORRAIN (prayed for rain (I think)), "Bumper version of a cart?" COLLIDEBARROW (Clyde Barrow), and my favorite, "What the trees by Walden Pond provided?" THOREAUSHADE (throw shade) - ha! I think Henry David would have enjoyed that.

And, while we're all going all literary 'n' sh*t, I'll add that I learned two new words from the puzzle today. One was in the clues: "Perfervid" apparently means ARDENT, although I see Blogger's spell checker isn't familiar with it either. :) I also didn't know DIDO (Mischievous trick). I looked it up in a couple of online dictionaries. According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, it is of unknown origin. Maybe I'll look it up in a paper dictionary later. It has to come from somewhere!

Clues that pleased or entertained:
Guy in a restaurant (FIERI) - amusing hidden capital.
What might have a crush on you? (BOA) - let's hope not!
Tucson school, informally (UOFA) -  I really wanted it to be sOFA.
Commotion (HOOHA) - quite the word-about-town this week!

I also liked both SHH ("I'm trying to work here") and YAWN ([Been there, done that].


While I found "Dissolve" / MELTAWAY, "Bend over backward" / ARCH, and "Let go" / FREED to be lovely clue-answer pairs, I thought BOSSY for "Demanding" was much less pleasingly matchy matchy, but that may be a difference between MeENUS.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday, April 10, 2019, Alan Arbesfeld


How great a time is that? Visually speaking, of course. Puzzle-solving-time-wise it's mediocre at best, but I always enjoy seeing 12:34 on clocks. It's so orderly! And speaking of numbers, today's theme involves a little bit of math. The revealer, DOUBLEHEADER, points solvers to a phonetic hint to the first words of the four theme answers, all of which sound like numbers, and each of which is doubled, in order from top to bottom, for a homophone of the start of the next theme answer. (Sounds almost like a word problem, doesn't it?) For example, the second and third theme answers are TOODARNHOT and FORACHANGE. Two doubled is four. With that in mind, maybe TWICE (62A) is bonus theme material?!?

Other fill that DOSED the trick:
A ewe for you, say (REBUS) - ha!
Bo's'n's quarters (FOCSLE) - most apostrophes in one word ever.
External appearance GUISE - if you look sagacious, do you have a wise guise?
TACT - always good
EGESTS - rarely good

Also, lots of oil in this one: AMOCO, WESSON, and FUEL. Feels a bit like an OVERCOAT, don't you think? :)
The detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe created from nine years of WMAP data
I would have preferred "banks" for SORES (Tender spots), if that could have been managed. And I thought calling for the name of Saturn's SUV VUE (final model year 2010) and the Mideast's Gulf of AQABA were on the tougher side, but the downs were reasonable, assuming you are up on your Brewski synonyms and world capitals.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


In a word, fun! Today's puzzle came with a notice that each Across answer consisted of a word spelled forward and another spelled backward. It was up to the solver to determine which clue went with which answer word. For once in my puzzle solving career, I decided to practice a little strategery, which in this case seemed to point to starting with the Downs. After a first pass, I had a fairly good number of Downs throughout the grid, which then helped considerably in making the necessary choice for each Across. The extra puzzle element reminded me of the Split Decision puzzle I tried at the ACPT. I'm going to guess that Howard Barkin crushed this puzzle. :) 

I LAUD the DUAL nature of each answer! In short, I liked the whole puzzle. It seems like it must have been a challenge to come up with all of these reversible word pairs and then fit them in the grid, and clue them all. I rummage in the proverbial drawer of praise and reward Mr. Eaton-Salners.

Other good pairs include
OPRAH/HARPO (Entertainer Marx / Entertainer Winfrey)
DELIVER/REVILED (Criticized / Save (from))
STUN/NUTS (Daft / Daze)
REED/DEER (Elk, for one / Plant in a bog) - for a cross-over event from yesterday's puzzle
ETS/STE (Holy mlle. / Romulans, e.g., in brief)
and how about RETAR/RATER "Fix, as a driveway" / "Yelp reviewer, e.g." EPT! 
I ran into a little trouble in the center. At 24D I had entered REask, that old crossword darling, for "Pose again, as a question." That, combined with lack of DATA about "Old-time slugger Al" (28D ROSEN), and no hope of getting Ram's sch. / Trojan's sch. without those downs caused me ATAD of trouble with 34A. "Bits of film tape / Film holder". But once I corrected REask to REPUT, SPOOL/LOOPS rolled right into place. 

To RECAP, a REGAL TOILE very little SLOP and just one PART TRAP (for me). 


Monday, April 8, 2019

Monday, April 8, 2019, Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen


In something of an intersection with today's puzzle, I saw a deer at the side of the road on our way to a dinner party Saturday night. Unlike in today's puzzle, however, there were no DEERCROSSING signs in the area. I'm not sure if the animal I saw was DOE, STAG, HART, FAWN, or HIND, but I daresay that's due to a deficit in my data banks. It would behoove me to brush up on the Cervidae family.

Horace's review yesterday pointed out that the black squares in the center of the grid spelled out the theme letters SOS, so I looked at the black squares in today's puzzle. There is a big cross in the bottom center, but is unclear (to me) whether it is meant as a reference to the puzzle's theme. Maybe the upper black squares represent antlers, or birds, or trees in the forest. Maybe I should reduce my DOSAGES. :)

Like a deer on the run, today's puzzle covered a lot of VARYING ground from ACRE to OMEGA by way of HOOHA (!?!), plus GUAC, GRIFT, GOTHS, and GAYBAR.

I enjoyed "Hit with a deft comeback" (ZING), "Stuns, as with a phaser" (ZAPS), and "Assailed" (HADAT) - all kind of an INTENSE come to think of it.


ATFIRST, I was MOROSE about AVERTS for "Wards off, as danger" and
ALE for "Bitter beer" because they didn't seem to ring true but I looked up the definition of both wards off and ale and the antlers I found convinced me that I OTTER change my tune.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019, Peter A. Collins


Although I did not notice it before or during my solve, I saw immediately after I finished that the grid today gives away, with black squares, the answer to 109-Across (Critical message that's a hint to the six longest entries in this puzzle) - SOS. The three letters start each word in the six longest entries, giving results such as STARTOUTSLOWLY, SAMEOLDSTORY, and SNAKEOILSALESMAN. It's funny to see that last one so soon after having "snake oil" in Thursday's puzzle. Still, it's a fun entry, and probably worth the double-billing. Also, how crazy is it to think that SULTANSOFSWING came out in 1978? That was so huge when I was in high school. Of course, SAILONSAILOR is even older, from 1973, but nobody remembers that one. :)


The solve went right along for me today (At 13:33, it might be my fastest Sunday ever!), which felt nice after yesterdays debacle. And I chuckled at several points along the way, which is always a good sign. Right off the bat we have PASSRUSH (1A: It might end up in a sack) (It's a football reference, Dad), and off of that I also enjoyed "2D: They have lots for sale" (AUCTIONS). I was misdirected by "18D: Rear" (PARENT), and chuckled at "97D: House of cards?" (CASINO).

As Frannie pointed out to me just now, it's a little odd that AVENUE (124A: Course of action) crosses AVE (117D" "____, Imperator!"). Of course, the latter is pronounced "ah-weh," (which is still not the same as AWE), so really, it's totally different. And speaking of Frannie, she also liked "99D: 'Wheel of Fortune' sextet" (RSTLNE). (If you don't know, those are the letters that are automatically given to the contestant at the start of the final round.)

Grid art seems so appropriate for a Sunday puzzle, doesn't it? With that, the fun entries, and the decent and not too overdone theme, I give this one a thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Saturday, April 6, 2019, Ned White


I took a rather big first bite out of this hamburger-shaped puzzle, grinding through the top half in relatively short order. Things got a little more gristle-y around CHASSE (32A: Gliding ballet move) (which was complicated by having entered "pUr" for HUM (33D: Well-tuned engine output)), and NADA (42A: Squat), but even those went down eventually.


On the very bottom I got TREASUREMAP (63A: Prop in "Raiders of the Lost Ark") and most of SNUFFLEUPAGUS (62A: Woolly "Sesame Street" character whose first name is Aloysius). I am pretty sure I was watching the episode on which he was introduced, and I put in what I thought might be right immediately, but it wasn't perfect, which led to some difficulty with TAMILS (44D: Many Sri Lankans) and even PEU (60D: Little: Fr.). I had scAM for FLAM (56D: Deception, informally), and flailed with duPE for POPE (55D: Innocent, perhaps), which made SPF (54A: Blockage letters) impossible. And the "famous" FRAFILIPPOLIPPI was no help whatsoever. In short, it was a HOTMESS.

That said, I applaud the puzzle. As I've said many times on this blog, I'm ok with it when a puzzle beats me. I can't know everything, and it's nice to be reminded of that from time to time. The artist was a curveball, but I should have been able to get POPE, FLAM, and SPF. They were trickily clued, and I just wasn't on that wavelength this morning.

I loved the misdirection of "27A: Big dos" (FETES). Did anyone else notice that the oft-seen-in-crosswords "afroS" fit in there? And "29A: Calls to reserve?" (LETS) (tennis reference) was very clever. NUNHOOD (1D: What one may be in the habit for?) was amusing, and it was nice to be reminded that the two-dollar bill is still valid U.S. currency with "3D: Jeffersons." The only thing that I really didn't think was real was TWINPAC (21D: Pair of things sold together, in commercialese). Maybe I just don't pay attention to commercialese spellings, though. That could be.

Overall, while I probably would not say that I was NUTSABOUT this one, I certainly didn't dislike it. It was challenging, and it had lots of fun, interesting material. Thumbs up. I just wish I had solved it.

- Horace

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday, April 5, 2019, Ryan McCarty


A pinwheel grid today, with thick corners and a thicker middle. So like us...

I got into this one slowly, first putting in "thusly" for 7A: In this manner. That was soon corrected to LIKESO by the downs, especially KAPOW (9D: Comic book sound effect). My years of watching the Adam West "Batman" have stood me in good stead. :)


From that comic violence and the mayhem of RANAMOK, we transition through some sporting over-exuberance (RAGINCAJUNS) before we get to the ugly realm of GATS and KNEECAPPING (18D: Punishment used by some hit men). YIPE. CANTI just not think about that? Haven't I read about some kind of GAGLAW at the NYTX that keeps out of the puzzle the kinds of things you wouldn't want to think about at breakfast? Oh, maybe I'm just being a BADSPORT and I should just GRIN, hit the KEGS, and stop being the one who likes to HISS.

On the upside, HIPSTERCRED (29A: Bona fides from fellow cool people) seems timely. (Are hipsters still in vogue?) I liked dropping in CATTOY (57A: Ball of yarn, maybe), and on the other side, OREOOS (56A: Chocolaty Post cereal) is one of those "looks crazy in the grid" entries, which are always nice.

This did present a challenge, especially in that NW corner, but when I finished I was more relieved than satisfied. Maybe it was all the OPAH, SNERD, ALINER, IRRUPT, SERTA, ALTRIA (?), and AFLAC -type entries. And some of the longer entries (TRIALJUDGES, BETARELEASE, didn't have the desired zippiness.

Oh well. You can't win 'em all, eh?


- Horace

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019, Lewis Rothlein


It's Thursday, and we've got a rebus, and all is right with the world.

The theme answers are four common phrases where the first word is repeated at the end, and here, the first word is rebusized, and then left off at the end. We are left to wonder why that should be the case until we get to the revealer, which tells us to go BACKTOSQUAREONE. Pretty nice little trick, and the rebuses are nicely incorporated into the down answers, too, as in BA[YOU] (1D: Feature of Cajun Country) and BAIL[BOND] (8D: One way to get out of jail).


The puzzle is pretty clean, with some obscure-ish names (GIA Scala, Bob KANE, ANNA Wintour, Mark OMEARA & TWYLA Tharp) (loads of names, actually - LOTT, NAST, ALVA, BEN, DALY...) and a few slightly forced answers like RETIES, BAA, and YUKS. But balancing out those necessities are zippy entries like ANACONDA, ENIGMA, STARLESS, AGHAST, MOSAIC, CONEHEAD, and the excellent SNAKEOIL (38D: Quack remedy).

Noteworthy clues today included "40A: Like a sleeper cell?" (ONSILENT), "37D: Sleeper that never dreams" (SOFA), and the very clever "4D: House rules may not apply here" (SENATE) and "59D: What makes a tumbler spin" (KEY). Beautiful.

I did not particularly enjoy seeing Marine Le PEN get recognition in the puzzle, but I do always enjoy seeing the lengths gone to in coming up with new ways to clue ERIE (63A: It's a two-hour drive north of Pittsburgh). Heh.

Saddest clue: "32A: What one gets after many years of work" (OLD). NYTX, Keepin' it real. ... ouch.

I enjoyed this one. A solid start to the Turn.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Ross Trudeau


Google's Gmail service turned 15 a couple of days ago, and today we celebrate good ol' Google itself, with a bevy of SEARCHRESULTS crammed into an oversized 16x15 grid. 

I tried putting the clues directly into Google, and the first one "19A: *Louis Pasteur, 1885" (I left out the asterisk and the comma) returned as its first hit a nice little article from Wired magazine about how, on July 6, 1885, Pasteur, who was not a licensed physician, tested his newly created vaccine on a 9-year-old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog. The story ends happily, of course, but if it had not, he would probably have been prosecuted.


I was expecting something about the South Pole when I saw Roald Amundsen's name, but if you also include the date, his successful navigation of the NORTHWESTPASSAGE is the second hit.

Of course, what's interesting about this theme is that the people in question were not just searching on Google, but whether Herschel can be said to have been "searching" for URANUS is questionable. That one seems the most like a flat out discovery, to me. I would have said the same about TUTANKHAMENSTOMB (variant spelling), but that was only because I knew very little about the history behind the find. Thanks to various SEARCHRESULTS, I now know better. I'll leave it to you to do your own searching to verify this.

So a fun, engaging theme. In addition to that, we have kind of a lot of good non-theme material too. STRUT, AGATHA, GOLEMS, TENNESSEE (68A: Home of the Titans) (Anybody else spend time thinking about the children of Gaia and URANUS instead of the NFL team?), and that GOESALLIN (13A: Bets everything one's got) looks crazy if you don't parse it right. Fun to see CHARO (real name: María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza - (SEARCHRESULTS!)) again. It's been a while. Both in crosswords and in real life.

Overall, I'd call this one a SUCCESS!

- Horace

Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Natasha Lyonne and Deb Amlen

0:08:22 (paper)

I suppose it reveals a little about me to say that the one name I was familiar with in today's byline was Deb Amlen. And it might reveal even more about me to say that that name alone generated more-than-usual interest in the puzzle. If you don't know, she's another NYTX blogger. And not just any NYTX blogger, but the "official" one who blogs about the crossword for the New York Times itself! (See: "Wordplay" in the links below right.) So clearly, she would not want to put her name on a crossword unless she was pretty proud of it. The other name, as it turns out, is on a TV show called Orange is the New Black.


So how was it? Well... it starts out with the rather difficult - "1A: Who says 'Speak, hands, for me!' in 'Julius Caesar'" (CASCA). It seems hard for a Tuesday, but you can't really argue with any clue concerning the Bard or the man who was murdered on the IDES (nice tie-in). Nice to see AMY right there at the top of the puzzle, and then we come to BLIP (9A: It might be on one's radar), which I thought was well-clued. Other clues I enjoyed were "5D: Cost of withdrawing, say" (ATMFEE), "35A: Howe he could invent!" (ELIAS) (guffaw), and "33A: It might have golden locks" (DOOR) (funny, but really? Even at Versailles I doubt the doors have golden locks, but I suppose anything is possible). And for the "amusing initial ideas" category today I PROFFER my first thought - "tiger" for "63A: Animal to get down from." (EIDER). Heh. Why would you ever be on a tiger? I don't know, but I would still advise that if you ever do find yourself on one, you get down immediately and move away as quickly as possible. Have you watched "Planet Earth II" yet on Netflix? If so, you will maybe have seen the video of a jaguar catching, and then matter-of-factly killing, a caiman alligator. You do not want to irritate a big cat.

The long Across answers are all quite good, my favorite was ALLFLASHNOCASH (19A: Dressed like "a hundred-dollar millionaire"). I had never heard the clue or the answer before. Hah! And if you take the first word of each long Across answer, they spell out the name "All That Jazz," a movie about BOB FOSSE. I saw that movie many, many years ago, but the only part of it that I really remember is the operation scene, where I'm pretty sure they show his ribs being spread apart to allow access below. Cool. ish. But gross. NOTFORME.

Overall, I liked it fine. The theme answers were lively, and the theme itself was solid.

- Horace

Monday, April 1, 2019

Monday, April 1, 2019, Joel Fagliano

0:05:05 (F.W.O.E.)

I laughed out loud at the audacity of this puzzle when I caught on to the theme of repeated letters, as in 20A: Tea set? (TTTTTTTTTTTTTTT) and 50A: Beeline? (BBBBBBBBBBBBBBB). Hah! Not exactly a trick (for April Fools' Day), but kind of an oddity nonetheless, and a fun way to start the month. (Is ENMASSE (45A: All together, as a crowd) a revealer?)


Was it just yesterday that we had "eargasm" in the grid? I had originally wanted for that spot the EARWORM (25A: Tune you just can't get out of your head) that we see today. Only today I somehow got an extra M in the word, which took me quite a while to find. I guess I should go back to solving on paper, where I don't think that would have happened! :)

It's too bad that Mr. Fagliano couldn't have gotten R G B as the repeating letters, to go along with 37D: Supreme Court justice nicknamed "The Notorious R.B.G." (GINSBURG). That would have been nice.

I liked THETHINGIS (11D: "Here's what you have to realize ..."), the full RAGINGBULL, CASTLING (9D: Chess move involving the king and rook), and, of course, TOMTOM. :)

There might be a little bit of BLAH material necessary to make it work, but there's not ALOT, and I love the overall effect so much that I AINT gonna complain.

- Horace