Friday, May 31, 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019, Sam Ezersky


Our themelesses are getting smoother and smoother, it feels like. I'm not surprised that Mr. Ezersky has produced such a lovely puzzle.

I broke in with that old standby, HYDROXYL. Ah, for the easy days of organic chemistry. It's great that it's crossed with 20A: An "A" in physics? (AMPERE). Humor only an UBERGEEK would love!

I disagree that a tuning fork has a YSHAPE. I don't know exactly how to describe what a tuning fork looks like. How about a picture?
This is the kind of tuning fork I use during my neurological examinations (128 Hz). It certainly has a stylized Y appearance, but the arms being parallel ruins it for me. How's that for picking some nits?

It's great that the opposite corner has COACHK in it, another single letter in an odd place. I also keep on misparsing MADEGREE. "I made gree, Ma!" Hmmm.

The NW was the last section to go for me. I had refused to enter THREE at 2D: [This clue] + 1, which would have made things easier for me, I imagine. Instead I finally saw through 1D: Feature of Algeria and Egypt (SOFTG). How many times? HOW MANY TIMES??!

In any case, there are some great entries here with FREEMIUM, BROHUG, SPRINKLE, and GOODDOGGY.

- Colum

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019, Brandon Koppy

7:07 (FWOE)

Wait, what?

Take a standard phrase of two words (or single word of two separable parts), where each individual part can be the beginning of two other standard phrases or words, the endings of which said words when put together, make yet a fourth standard phrase? As an example, 17A: Peter ... / Rabbit ... (JACKSONHOLE) is referring to the intermediate phrases "Peter Jackson" and "rabbit hole."

Who comes up with this stuff?

Oh, right. Crossword constructors.

This played like a puzzle out of GAMES magazine of yore. And while I am very impressed by the construction of today's theme, the solve itself was less satisfying (with respect to the theme, anyways). As I was solving, I found myself not really thinking through the theme answers in the way described above, but rather figuring out the individual words from their crosses. That being said, it's an interesting cognitive leap from, say, "Dog Star" to PADDLEBOARD.

Which was where I made my error. I had forgotten Valerie PLAME, and tried PLuME. PuDDLE seemed not unreasonable. A "dog puddle." You know. Like when a dog does...


In retrospect it actually seems pretty unreasonable. And I had no idea what a "puddle board" might be. So when that got fixed, all's well that ends well.

In other news, I liked 3D: Carry (PACKHEAT), the oddness of 12D: Class with ranges, informally (HOMEEC), and AMIRITE.

I would like to VETO NUS, HAAS, and FFLAT.

- Colum

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday, May 29, 2019, Jules Markey


Sometimes the smallest of errors can really extend your solve times. I confidently put in Eve at 39A: Morn's counterpart (EEN), and so I couldn't see CEELO (God, that song was everywhere for a summer, and now I've basically forgotten it completely) or OMNI. By the way, did you know that Mr. Green was part of Gnarls Barkley? Maybe I'm talking to the wrong audience here...

Anyway, today's theme takes standard phrases where the first word can be redefined as a synonym of talking, and then reclued. I like three out of the four examples here. 19A: Talk trash? (UTTERRUBBISH) is great because not only is it a silly thing to think about, but the clue is itself an idiom misinterpreted. STATEMOTTOES and EXPRESSLINES are both pretty good.

But then we get to that last one. 54A: Narrate audiobooks? (SPEAKVOLUMES). It doesn't work, because in the original phrase, the word "speak" still has the meaning of expressing something. It's not a true redefinition. I'm sure it would be next to impossible to find a better example, especially one that is the same number of letters as 19A, but still.

It's too bad, because there's some good stuff elsewhere in the puzzle. SOFTPEDAL is very nice. I could not parse 5D: Fine meal (FLOUR) until I'd actually gotten all five letters from the crossing words. 61A: First sign of spring (ARIES) was another one I needed all the crosses to understand. Excellent stuff.

Some other entries beg for reworking, on the other hand. I never like the Native American tribal names, but when one crosses the other, like OSAGE and PIMA, that's pushing it. Outdated UAR, ALA, and plural KIAS.

But in the end, PROUST. "If you are calling the author of 'À la recherche du temps perdu' a looney, I will have to ask you step outside!"

- Colum

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019, Aimee Lucido


Well, it's raining again in Albany. This should come as no surprise to denizens of the Northeast. It's been a wet Spring to be sure. But let's find a silver lining to all of those rain clouds: it means we can spend some time indoors with the NYT crossword, right?

This is a winner of a puzzle in my book. First off, the theme is brilliant. How has this never been done before? Four synonyms for the derrière starting off standard phrases, followed by a fifth synonym used perfectly in the revealer at 64A: Disagree ... or a hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 40- and 49-Across (BUTTHEADS). None of the phrases use the synonym in its anatomical sense either. And besides, who is not a fan of the callipygian?


Other happy moments came with discovering a HEATH bar (always the present my maternal grandmother brought out of her purse) right nearby NUTELLA. Mmmmm... chocolate hazelnut...

Um, where was I?

Right. I also like ELTON John, but I'm not sure that his biopic is going to be all that. On the other hand, I didn't think that much of Bohemian Rhapsody, but it was very popular. Of course I loved the music, and the reenactments of famous concert footage was nicely done.

Other than this, we did have to put up with some MTN, EVA (extra-vehicular activity, in case you were wondering, as I was up to the moment I Googled it), and some other assorted 3-letter fill. But still, I enjoyed the theme so much, I'd be an ass not to give it two thumbs up.

- Colum

Monday, May 27, 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019, Bruce Haight


Happy Memorial Day!

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
  There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
  But dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.

On a less world-shaking level, but still important to those of us who partake daily in this specific pastime, today's puzzle presents MULTIPLECHOICE answers, as interpreted by phrases where the two-letter string OR is repeated three times. It's a lovely conceit, and the four phrases chosen are strong. My favorite and most timely is TORONTORAPTORS, who just made it to the NBA finals for the first time ever. It's not so much that I support that team (being a Celtics fan), but that I really don't want the Warriors to win yet again.

As is typical of a puzzle by Mr. Haight, the rest of the grid is very smooth. It being a Monday, there's not much in the way of very clever cluing, although I enjoyed 42A: Cause one's bedmate to use earplugs, say (SNORE).

Other words of interest include PROST, OOMPH, and SPATTER. That last one reminds me of bacon, and so is a BEAUT.

Overall, this is a fine Monday, and that always makes me look forward to the rest of the week, so thanks, Mr. Haight!

- Colum

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday, May 26, 2019, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin


What happens when you take the voiced sound out of phrases and replace it with the unvoiced sound? And then you take the new phrase and clue it wackily? You get the New York Times Sunday Crossword today, that's what you get.

And you also get a new week of reviews from me! I bet you had no idea that's what happens when you do all that.

I am actually really impressed by all of the entries today. The best of the lot is clearly at 70A: Final scene of "Antony and Cleopatra"? (HISSANDHEARSE). You get the double replacement, a solid starting phrase, and the brilliance of the reinterpretation of Cleopatra's death scene. I love it. I also really enjoyed TELLMENOLICE as a feverish prayer on the part of a desperate parent.

So great theme, which is what you most need on a Sunday. Secondly, you need to feel like it's not a slog to get through the fill, and for the most part, this puzzle succeeds there as well. Some less than impressive answers included TEENER and TENTER (weirdly in symmetric places in the grid), and the standard glue in ITSA and VOL. 42A: Mozart's "____ Pastore" (ILRE) screams of desperation. The constructor must have gotten herself into quite a corner to rely on that atypical partial.

On the other hand, I liked 51A: Blue material (DENIM) - the classic misdirection by being a straightforward definition. Some people take a HARDCIDER, but not I. I like harder stuff than that. And a reference to the outstanding Harold ARLEN is always welcome, even if it's dated.

I got off on a misstep by confidently entering orion at 1A: Mythical hunter (DIANA), and had to work my way around that error, but otherwise found the puzzle on the easyish side. Pretty darned good for a Sunday.

- Colum

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Saturday, May 25, 2019, Paolo Pasco


A solid Saturday. DASHIT ("Phooey!") is a phrase that probably deserves a comeback. DRIVEL and its clue, claptrap, are both great words. TIN CAN is always amusing, and DELIS (Establishments whose products might be described by this answer + H) gets a convolutedly clever clue.


DAD (____ joke (total groaner)) just begs for an example, doesn't it? Well then, what do you call a person with no body and no nose? Nobody knows. Badumpbump.

SMITE (Off in biblical lands?) was lovely ("Off" meaning "to kill"), and INEXPERT (Amateurish) was fun. Drop TROU was hilarious.

The staggered central trio was very strong (anybody else watch the BBC show, W1A?). HAWAIIANSHIRT (Top of a Pacific island chain) (Top = shirt) was clever, CATEBLANCHETT (Only person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar-winning actress) won the oscar for playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, and MICHELINGUIDE (Book of stars?) was a bit of a stretch, perhaps, but I'll allow it.

Good entries were everywhere. I just had a little trouble in the SW because I didn't know MIDRASH (Hebrew scripture commentary) or ASHMAN ("The Little Mermaid" lyricist Howard), and I wasn't expecting STOPGO (Congested, in a way). I've never said it (or heard it said) without the "and" in the middle. Also, I'm not sure how I feel about SPRANG (Busted out of jail). I wanted "sprung" there, but I suppose it doesn't much matter. They're both kinda junky.

Overall, a satisfying solve.

- Horace

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday, May 24, 2019, Stanley Newman

0:14:43 (F.W.O.E.)

I've been seeing a lot of Mr. Newman's work lately, as he edits - and sometimes creates - the puzzles that appear in the Harvard Crimson. Those puzzles have a slightly different feel than the NYT puzzles. Sometimes that difference makes for more of a challenge, in part because some things appear that I'd never expect to see in the NYTX. I don't have any examples at hand, and now it's probably too late to collect any, as they stop publishing the Crimson after graduation, which is next week. But suffice it to say that they are more lenient with crosswordese and questionably uncommon constructions.


Boy, that first paragraph makes it sound like I'm getting ready to rip into this one, but really, that's not true at all. Sure, I didn't know one cross (RURITANIA/DORNAN), but I don't feel bad about that one. One is an actor I've never heard of, and the other is an interesting bit of trivia that I am happy to learn. Also, I made what I believe still is a decent guess in RURITArIA and DORrAN. (I had already made an educated guess on the beginning R where it crosses ABRAM). Sometimes you just don't know things, and that's okay.

So why did I start that way? I really don't know.

And speaking of starting off questionably, I entered the puzzle quickly with two confident mistakes - reckleSs for SLAPDASH (Too fast to be careful) and amAss for HOARD (Stockpile). They were corrected just as quickly thanks to PEA (Shade of green) and ODIE (Cartoon character often shown with his tongue out), and then things progressed more smoothly. (Until the SE!)

I had never heard that QUEENVICTORIA was the "So-called 'Grandmother of Europe,'" but I enjoyed learning it. Frannie should be happy to see Louis QUATORZE in the grid. She's a bit obsessed with him (although her favorite French king is his grandfather, Henri Quatre).

I liked all the answers with extra letters - STELMO, HOUSEMD, EREADER, and USSENATE. Sometimes I think those extra bits make the answer harder to see at first. 

DINT is a great word. OPENBAR is a great concept. There's little that I find exceptional - maybe only TEC, which I think is pure crosswordese - and there's a lot of good cluing "Opening of an account," for example (ASIRECALL). Overall, very clean and very fun.

- Horace

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday, May 23, 2019, Alex Vratsanos


I know a little about Woodrow Wilson - that he was the only president to hold a PhD, that he was pro-women's suffrage, and that he tried hard to bring together a League of Nations. I guess the FOURTEEN POINTS thing rings a faint bell, but it's not something that really stuck with me, for whatever reason.


That said, I caught on to the theme fairly quickly, with PRESSURE point and TIPPING point, but I was a little confused for a while about PLOT (*The outcome of a story might hinge on one) because I thought it should be PLOT twist. I guess PLOT point is ok, but it's not as common.

But DEARGOD there's a lot of theme material, isn't there? It seems like almost half the puzzle is thematic! Well, there are fourteen words that precede "point," and then there are the two revealer answers. That's a lot! And yet they still find a way to cram in even more interesting answers. I thought "Get some air" was a good clue for INHALE, and "Subtract a year or two from one's age, say" was cute for FIB. As for "Good 'Wheel of Fortune' buy for CHEESE WHEEL" (ANE), sure, the clue is cute, but why does anyone ever buy a vowel? You're just giving away money! In other IRE-producing clues, I suppose professionals might use a SPADE as an aid to building a sand castle, but for most casual beachgoers, that would be a WEE BIT of overkill. And finally, why are we always picking on NERDS (Unlikely homecoming court members)? UGG!

CLU (Gulager of old TV and film) and OGRADY (Sweet Rosie of old song) were complete unknowns. SWAGS (Certain curtains) is pretty far out of my sphere.

In all, this puzzle theme seems like a good IDEA, but it might be a bit too much of an ETUDE for my tastes.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


I’m sensing a theme this week of very strong themes.
Today we have another novel idea of using the beginning lines of “Blue Suede Shoes” as clues for actual answers. In the song, they’re just – well, I guess I’ve never considered them to refer to anything specific. But now I’ll probably think back to this puzzle every time I hear it from now on. “One for the money” becomes a casual description of a LEATHERWALLET, and BROADWAYTICKETS are a plausible equivalent of “Two for the show.” STOPDROPANDROLL (Three to get ready) is probably the biggest stretch, as that doesn’t happen all that often, but ALLWHEELDRIVE is perfectly acceptable for “Four to go.” (It's close enough to "Go, cat, go"  right?)
No revealer today, but it’s not necessary. What would it even be?

There are no non-theme Across entries longer than five letters, but in the Downs we have some sixes, sevens, and even two OCTANT entries: CANTLOSE and MAKESWAR (Launches an offensive). I like any mention of OPHELIA and Hamlet, and TIDAL and WAVESKI are a good excuse to mention that Frannie and I are at the beach today, having taken a rare day off mid-week. It’s not all fun and games, though – we’re meeting some upholsterers for a pick-up/drop-off and then heading straight back home.
Funny to have RUBE and BOOBS in the same puzzle, and wasn’t RERUNS, in the singular, a side character in some cartoon? Was that Linus’s little brother? Or someone on Fat Albert? All those things seem to be blurring together.
Anyway, I APPLAUD the theme, and look OVER the KETT, ETS, and LAI type material.
One last thing, remaining FIDELIS to our local musicians, I will say that BROADWAYTICKETS may now be purchased for ANAIS Mitchell’s show Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre. That is all.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, Evan Kalish

0:06:01 (F.W.O.E.)

Today's theme CHANGESTHEWORLD. Four "worlds," within our little solar system: Earth, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn can be found anagrammized between the following two-word phrases:

IGNO[RETHA]T - 17A: "Oh, it's nothing to concern yourself with"
LEA[VESUN]SAID - 23A: Omits mention of
AR[MYRECRU]ITS - 47A: Ones with private ambitions? (Nice clue.)
BO[NUSTRA]CK - 57A: Extra song on an album

Four perfectly common phrases, and again, a surprising theme. Who does this? Who sees this kind of pattern? Crossword constructors, that's who.


So the theme is fun, new, and well done. And there's even a little bonus material, maybe, with MOONS (Jupiter's Ganymede and Europa). No? AWMAN!

Nobody's favorite variant TEHEE makes another prominent appearance today, and ABLER is slightly UGG-worthy, but that's just two small things. On the other hand there's MALAISE (Lethargy) (I think of it more as an illness than just plain lethargy, but still I like the word), FANTASY (Genre for the Harry Potter books), and FUTURE (Its time has not yet come), which gets a nice clue.

I had at least three missteps today - WENTsolo for WENTSTAG, Run for RBI, and Atwork for ACTIVE (Not idle). It was the last one that never got fully corrected before the puzzle was filled in. Sure, AtTIVE and tEDE were noticed immediately, and might have been caught before I handed in my paper at a tournament, but in this digital realm, I have to still count it as a "Finished With One Error." :(

My personal misfortune notwithstanding, this was another solid puzzle.

- Horace

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019, Gary Cee


This puzzle really hits the mark! It's got over 60 squares devoted to theme material, and it's spread out over the whole thing. If you're solving on a computer, the themers light up in yellow when you hit 39-Across, and they are everywhere!


With all that theme material locked in place, you'd expect a lot of word putty (sorry Mr. Fromm, I'm stealing that term), and if you want to find some, you can in AUS, TEC, REN, TRI, and APR, but really, none of those bother me. Well, except maybe TEC. I'd bet that that one survives largely thanks to our little community of solvers, but to be sure I'd have to investigate. (*rimshot!)

OTOH, with all the long answers dedicated to theme, there's little room left for standouts. I bet Mr. Cee tried hard to make 26-Down end in "town" to cram in yet another themer, but then must have realized that he had hit the wall, as far as theme goes. Instead we get TARTARE (26D: Served raw, as steak). Does anyone still get steak TARTARE? Me, I've had tuna that way, but never red meat.

Of the seven-letter entries (the longest non-theme) I like IKNEWIT ("No surprise to me!") the best. ACTSUP (Develops a glitch) was good, TOWNIE (42A: Full-time resident of a college community) took me too long, and SAMOA cookies used to be a favorite, although I don't think I've had any since my sister was selling them.

So in the end, it pretty much was all about the theme today, and for my money, it was enough.

By the way, those of you who pay attention to such things might have expected to see Frannie's byline today, and to you, I apologize. It's me again. Frannie's birthday is this week, and on her wish list of presents was a week off from blogging so that she could really RELAX.

I hope that she, and you, all have a great week. Happy Monday!

- Horace

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019, Natan Last


Another puzzle, another new theme. Mr. Last has gone fishing in his own grid, and has found seven fish to hook and pull up to the top of their respective Down answers. In 1-Down, for example, "Gym rat's development," the answer ought to be "workout routine," but the word "trout" that can be found spanning both words has been hooked and pulled up to the top, yielding TROUTWORKOUINE. Odd, but pretty cool. I guess that to create such a thing you'd have to first come up with the phrases, then alter them and put them into the grid, then start to build around them. And the fact that he could find seven such phrases that could be worked into a grid symmetrically is kind of amazing. At least to this MOOK.


CODMOLLYDLE (mollycoddle) is probably my favorite of the theme entries, but CARPMAGICETRIDE is pretty good too, and the clue for PIKESDPUNCH (What might get you a "ladle" drunk?) was fun.

With the theme running vertically, all of the horizontal space calls out USEME for interesting fill, and so there we find the timely STORMSURGE (Danger for coastal residents), the full PAULSIMON and CANNERYROW, and the full-on French phrase AVOTRESANTE (French toast) ("To your health"). I've heard of "cold fusion," but never COLDFISSION. Is that just what we usually think of as plain old fission?

Favorite clues today included:

27A: It "should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," according to a saying (ART)
33A: War loser, usually (TREY) - The card game, not the military game.
2D: High pitch, maybe (BALL) - Baseball, not music.
13D: Works with numbers (OPUSES) - Music, not math.
64A: They're full of hot air (DRIERS)
87D: Delightful event? (OUTAGE) - Guffaw.

Things I did not know:

ARGOSY = Flotilla of merchant ships
DESI = Member of a South Asian diaspora

I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was going on today. I don't know how they keep coming up with these puzzle theme ideas, but as long as they do, I'll be trying to solve them. :)

- Horace

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019, Erik Agard and Andy Kravis


At first this Saturday grid doesn't appear too FLASHY - no super-chunky corners, no grid-spanners - but the more I look at it, the more I like it.


First of all, there are several fantastic clues:

15A: Porter of note (COLE) - Hidden capital.
37A: Hard core (PIT) - Like a peach pit. This was my favorite today.
45A: Arizona rival (NESTEA) - I was thinking college sports, and feared I'd never get it!
60A: Something to build on (LOT) - Cute.
17D: One looking for bugs (BETATESTER) - Was thinking of a spy or an ambassador...
32D: That's the ticket! (CITATION)
36D: Bad choices in it might cost you an arm and a leg (HANGMAN). Hah! Nice one.
42D: Foreign correspondent, maybe (PENPAL). Quaint, but still good.

We also had four "spoken word" clues:

26A: "It's futile" (NOUSE)
36A: "Let me demonstrate" (HERESHOW)
53A: "What a jerk!" (SOMEPEOPLE)
21D: "Go right ahead!" (SEEIFICARE)
and one more if you count the one that referenced actual spoken words -
38A: Sports star who once declared "I am America" (ALI)

Yesterday, in talking about his puzzle on, Adam Fromm used the term "word putty" for what we often call "glue." Those words, abbreviations, partials, and what-have-you that are often used in crossword construction. They are sometimes foreign (EIN, UNO), sometimes abbreviations (MIN, NSA, AFC, ATV), and sometimes just small words (POX, LOT, MAT). It might seem like a lot of putty today when it's all written out like that, but for me it is thrown into shadow by ENTICING entries like CASABLANCA, MOCCASIN, SHORTRIB, and GRATIN. Mmm... GRATIN....

Overall, this was a fun Saturday.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019, Adam Fromm

0:14:24 (F.W.O.E.)

Rough start today with FRIGGA (Goddess played by Rene Russo in "Thor" crossing GOA (Indian state on the Arabian Sea) and GUS (The Theater Cat in Broadway's "Cats") (Thanks for adding "Broadway" there...). I knew GOA, but not the cat, but I should have guessed the double letter in the across instead of going with the more cat-like pUS (eww, sorry... not very cat-like) for the Down. Oh well. The trio of Downs, however, was lovely (FLING, RONCO (!), IGLOO), and I guess that, along with ATTHEALTAR (Bad way to be left) maybe, was enough to force Mr. Fromm's hand.


Aside from my own small problem in the NW, this was a clean puzzle with some lovely fill. I expect some will find UNGULATE (Having hooves) as unknowable as GUS or FRIGGA was for me, but I loved seeing that one. CRUSADES (Single-minded pursuits) and CHUGS (Slowly moves (along)) were also good in the NE.

The triple-stack in the middle was decent, if not scintillating. Today, along with the usual MPG, APA, and EEE-type crosses, we got the fun GRUBBY (Squalid), the nicely-clued RECITE (Rattle off), and the excellently-clued MCC (Three CDs?). What? Shouldn't that have been something like "set?" No, it's Roman numerals. Hah! And another one that I wasn't thinking of properly at first was JINGOISTS. It's not country music superfans, its superfans of a country. Nice.

** Added note: I totally missed the mini-theme in the triple-stack! Three military ranks are stacked at the start of each entry. That adds a nice touch. Thanks! (I guess I should wait until after I've had my coffee to start on the puzzle review!)

Lastly, doesn't it seem a little like someone is trying to educate us about Jimmy Dorsey's old standard SORARE? It's showed up enough times in the past few months that I no longer struggle with it, which is, I guess, a good thing. Now maybe I should take the next step and go and listen to it.

I liked the puzzle overall. So far so good on the turn. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow. Happy Friday!

- Horace

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019, Jeff Chen


Today the "revealer" answer, RAMPUP, explains precisely what needs to be done to understand the four seemingly incomplete answers and the four unclued answers. Take the first set, 26 and 20 Across: South American landmark whose name means "old peak." At 26A there is only room for MACH, which, conveniently, is a word, but it's not the word we expected. Then at 20A, the odd ICCHU is revealed. Slowly (ok, maybe that was just me) we notice that there's a "ramp" of black squares connecting the two answers, and if we imagine that ramp as the word "up", the answer becomes the more appropriate "Machu Picchu." Now, if I were the sort to quibble, I'd ask aloud why there were three squares in the ramp instead of two, but since I am instead the "artist" type, I will allow the word, and my mind, to stretch to fill the existing space. I will also declare this a fun, well-done trick puzzle.


Still, since I am something of a dreamer, let's discuss for a moment the convention of the hyphen clue. It signals immediately that the answer will be a continuation of a previous answer, and I have mixed feelings about its "giveaway" nature. What would it have been like if both fragments were actual words (like MACH, LEASE, and EARS are) and the second, upper word had been clued and answerable separately? The first would still be a word, but just not the word you expected - kind of like that "lop off the ends of the word in the grid to get the real answer" puzzle that we saw a little while ago. I suppose that would be exceedingly hard to do, but still, it would be pretty cool.

But aside from that, is there any other way to treat the hyphen clues? Maybe just not include the clues at all in the list of clues? People would think it was an error, but if it happened four times, one might catch on. Oh, I don't know...

Anyway, the rest of the grid is just the kind of well-made, well-clued affair that you'd expect from a master constructor and fellow blogger. KEYSTROKES (58A: Button-downs?) (a very strong QMC) might be my favorite today, although the far-more-straightforward-but-still-excellent "Inert" (STATIONARY) is also good. Things got a tad strained (CPLS, STRATI) around the revealer, but it's nothing objectionable. Overall, I loved it.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


Wow, what a strange theme. 14-Down, CROSSDRESSING crosses five different types of salad dressing: House, Caesar, Ranch, Russian, and Italian. Impressive and crazy, and very appropriate that it should run today, as we're right in the middle of Eurovision 2019! Frannie and I jumped through several internet hoops to watch the first semi-final last night, and we'll do it all again tomorrow for the second semi, and then Saturday for the Grand Finale! ... but I very much doubt that was on anyone's mind who had anything to do with creating or running this puzzle...

Australia's entry in this year's Eurovision! (HUMORME)

So back to the puzzle. It starts strong with a solid Question-Mark Clue (QMC) "Trial separation?" for RECESS (Good thing we've watched so much Perry Mason!), then slips right into the EROTIC (Blue). OK, TANTRA is a little odd (see also, the plural SUTRAS), but on the other side we have the solid CREATURE (Beast) and RANSOMED (Freed, but not for free) (nice clue).

I just noticed that the long central theme doesn't really cross any words other than the dressings except at the first or last letter, which is a nice detail. They sure like to be strict about themes at the NYTX, and I doubt that was unintentional.

In the South, I liked IODINE (First-aid antiseptic) because it brought me back to my youth, when Mom would dab that orange liquid onto whatever scrape or sliver-produced cut I happened to get. The stinging meant that it was working! Do people still use IODINE for that? Why don't I have any in my own medicine cabinet? ... maybe I'll look for it the next time I'm at CVS.

EVILER (More malevolent) was weak, despite the nicely alliterative clue, and JOVI looks a little forelorn there without at least the Bon. That would have made it more good. Get it? Bon is French for "good." ... oh nevermind!

Having done my share of CROSSDRESSING back at college, I liked the theme just fine, and the fill had enough good answers (CONJOIN, SASHIMI, SKYDOME (that was renamed?!) among the other already named) and fun clues (like "Avoided elimination in musical chairs" (SAT)) to make me look the other way when I had to.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, Damon Gulczynski


OK, so I guess this is a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"-based theme. I am not a fan of Douglas Adams, but I know many others are, and I hope they enjoy it. I do know that one of the "jokes" in the book is that the number 42 is given as the "answer to everything," and this is how JACKIEROBINSON, whose number was 42, and PRESIDENTCLINTON, who was the 42nd president, are worked into the THEME.


In non-theme material, I liked ECOCIDE (Environmental destruction) (although I don't actually like it, of course), SPLAYING (Spreading out), TUSSLE (Skirmish), and the O-rich oddity of TOOOLD (Like a 14-year-old vis-à-vis the Little League World Series). What a clue! And speaking of clues, I chuckled at "One hell of a writer?" for DANTE. Heh.

Onto the less-than-ideal heap I throw CORERS, TEHEE, OBLADI, and even SAUD (Mideast royal name). I'm not sure whether or not the two long Down answers are involved in the theme, but they both do, at least, share a "spoken language"-type clue - "'Peace out'" for SEEYOULATER and "'That's impossible!'" for ITCOULDNTBE. I guess they're ok, but they don't really do much for me. Perhaps the former could/should have been clued with "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

In the end, there's nothing terribly wrong with it, and I'm sure that fans of the Hitchhiker book(s?) will appreciate the tribute.

- Horace

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019, Gary Larson


A sporting theme today, with things that can be found around a baseball diamond - A DH, Home (plate) (or is that a Homer?), a Bat, and a Mitt. And the items are all extended out into men's names, making a nicely consistent theme. Two of the men are contemporary, one, D.H. Lawrence, is well-known, and the other two, though contemporaries of the author, are much less well-known. At least to me. Their names rang a bell, but it was a distant one, and I could not have written the clues, which is to say, I needed several crosses for each. Claude AKINS, Jack PAAR, and TRINI Lopez seem positively modern compared to those guys!

Dick Van DYKE

I enjoyed SHARDS (Bits of broken glass), METAPHOR (Nerves of steel, e.g.), ENAMOR (Captivate), DEVIANCE (Change from the norm), and ISOMER (Chemical cousin). AVIATORS (Pilots) and CAMELOT (King Arthur's home) weren't bad either.

There's a smattering of Spanish (BESO, OLE, & ESTAS), a little more French (AULAIT, ETUDE, MOI (& ESTEE?)), one (in) Latin (UNUM), and a touch of poetry (POE, MORN, and even DHLAWRENCE).

Entries like STEVIA (Sugar substitute) and TITER (Solution strength) got groans, but I think there was enough solid material to AVERT disaster and keep this one from dropping over the EDGE.

- Horace

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday May 12, 2019, Victor Barocas


Good Morning, Readers! It's Horace, taking over again after two excellent weeks of reviews by Frannie and Colum. Thanks once more, and as ever, to my two excellent compatriots!

Today's theme features four famous measurement systems, each running diagonally in circled letters through the thing they measure. Cool! Two are observational scales (Mohs & Beaufort), one is based on seismic wave amplitude (Richter), and one, Celsius, is based on water and temperature - but on May 20 of this year, Celsius will be redefined so that its value will be determined by definition of the Boltzmann constant. (It's too complicated to get into here, so I provided a link for the curious.)

Incidentally, Mr. Celsius originally had 0 as the boiling point and 100 as the freezing point, but these values were reversed in 1743, just a year before he died. I wonder what he thought about that!

So the theme is solid. I'd put it somewhere between quartz and topaz. Everyone enjoys quantification, right? Heck, what is this blog, or any review, but quantification? It's one of life's great pleasures - and problems. As Hamlet says, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

So let's get right to it, shall we?


98D: Unlike most of Perry Mason's clients (GUILTY). Hah!
52A: Follow-up shot (BOOSTER). Vaccinate!
54A: Besmirch (TAR).
80A: Clubs, e.g. ... or entry requirement for some clubs (SUIT).
84A: Not fast (EAT).


65A: Q-V link (RSTU). The Richter scale really shook up this area, apparently, as we also find here ENOL, MCCOYS, TERP, and RETHREW.
95D: Preliminary exam: Abbr. (QUAL)

Finally, although it's tempting to try to craft such a thing, we're not (at least for now) instituting a HAFDTNYTCPFCA scale, we're just going to give you an overall feeling. The theme is interesting and well done, the triple-checked squares cause a little strain here and there, but it's not too bad, and overall, I give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie says "I wanted to put 'delicious' in for 'Like bourbon,' but it doesn't fit."

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019, Robyn Weintraub


I have learned over lo these many years of puzzling that seeing Ms. Weintraub's byline means we're going to get a high quality themeless puzzle, and today's does not disappoint. In fact, this has been one of my favorite weeks of blogging in quite some time.

First off, is it possible that STKITTS and NEVIS were the seed entries for the puzzle? Or was it simply happenchance that they could fit in so neatly near each other as the rest of the puzzle came together? I thank my unhealthy interest in Sporcle quizzes for my knowledge of tiny Caribbean North American island countries.

I love how all the long answers in this grid intersect. SCHNITZEL (such a lovely crunchy word) meeting STRINGTHEORY, crossing CONTOURMAP and INNERPEACE. So excellent.

The NW section also has a primer on the difference between QMC and non QMC clues. At 17A: Car owner's manual? (STICKSHIFT) is a classic QMC. Here the trickiness is the alternate meaning of the word "manual," from a how-to book to an adjective describing the gearshift mechanism. On the other hand, at 20A: One might get stuck in an office (POSTITNOTE) is tricky only in that the word "one" is referring to an object rather than a person.

On the whole, I enjoy the non QMC clues better, because they don't alert you to the presence of trickiness, making the "aha" moment more enjoyable. For example, 8D: Giraffe's sound? (SOFTG) was a gimme because of the question mark. Whereas in the past, I have been repeatedly fooled by this kind of clue. Or maybe I've just gotten wise to their sneaky ways. Those sneaky sneaky crossword constructors!

Finally, my favorite clue and answer came at 48A: Unlucky phrase to end on (HELOVESMENOT). That's fun stuff.

- Colum

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019, Andrew J. Ries


Pretty much an all around outstanding themeless puzzle today, in my humble opinion. I broke in with 3D: One might sense bitterness (TASTEBUD), and knew we were in for a fun time.

It was a playground for our favorite kind of clue, the non-question mark tricky kind. Just a few to note here: 5A: Trip ... or start a trip (SETOFF) - nice because I was definitely not thinking of that first definition of triggering as an alarm. 15A: Toy in a purse, perhaps (POODLE) - really outstanding. My mind was way far away from that as an answer. And how about 12D: Frequent losers at casinos (DEUCES)? Hah! I love it.

I almost forgot one of the best! 26D: They always proceed in a biased way (BISHOPS) - referring to the chess pieces, I assume. I hope. Or maybe it's a veiled commentary? I won't walk down that garden path.

The QMCs were less enjoyable, or maybe my opinion is colored by the unpleasantness at 26A. 46A: Diamond in the rough? (SANDLOT) is pretty good.

The long intersecting answers in the middle are all pretty good. I like SENIORPRANK and DEPECHEMODE, and any reference to LENAHORNE is a winner in my book.

Finally, two other references make this puzzle my favorite of the week so far. The first is to that classic of slapstick humor, Airplane! (TED). And of course, the greatest classical composer of all time gets a nod with 42D: B in music class? (BRAHMS). The other two Bs, Bach and Beethoven, are pretty good too. I guess.

- Colum

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Thursday, May 9, 2019, Lewis Rothlein


I realized something was going on in the NW. Mind you, that's not a huge surprise on a Thursday, the tricksiest of the theme days. But I wasn't sure exactly what until I filled in the NE.

Basically, six times in the puzzle, the answer to the given clue has to be found by lopping off the sides (i.e., the first and the last letters). Nicely, however, the answers with the letters still in place are well accepted words or phrases.

My favorites are the ones where the added letters make you reparse the original word. Thus, 60A: Not this or that takes "other" and turns it into SOTHERE. Similarly, 59A: 30th anniversary gift takes "pearl" and turns it into UPEARLY. Those are some really nice finds. 14A: Two-masted vessel (SKETCHY) is the least interesting to me.

In essence, this is really a themeless puzzle. The structure, especially the large chunky corners of white spaces, looks like a Friday or Saturday puzzle. And that doesn't bother me at all. I think as the years have gone by of solving the NYT puzzle, I've grown to enjoy the last portion of the turn the most.

Some great words here: HARBINGER is lovely, as is MANIACAL. And in terms of clues, 3D: Second person? (ALTEREGO) is excellent, as is 14D: Rod on reels (STEIGER). For just plain silliness, we can all enjoy 7A: Verses versus verses events (SLAMS).

And for yet another day, NEURO makes an appearance. It's as if they knew I was writing the reviews this week!

- Colum

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Stu Ockman


I've always loved PING / PONG, also known as TABLETENNIS, and today we get a puzzle whose theme is grid art about the game. We're looking at the table from the side, with the NET right in the middle, while one competitor hits a BACKSPINSERVE from the left (I assume). Me, I usually go for topspin on my serves, but it's good to change things up once in a while.

I am impressed by how well Mr. Ockman works those triple-checked letters into the grid. Certainly MARMS and EEE are not the greatest, but IMPINGE is excellent. It's also not a very theme dense puzzle (c.f. Monday and Tuesday blogs for the ongoing debate), which leaves the south half of the grid pretty wide open.

Three very nice NQM clues today are 24A: They're nuts for dessert (PECANS), 21D: It might be a blot on your record (INK), and 50A: Unidentified date (PLUSONE). All are actually precise definitions, just twisted by the syntax of the clue. Meanwhile, the only QM clue I really liked today was at 1A: Arm twister? (ULNA). To me, that could have been a NQM candidate as well.

Some might find 34A: Rosalinde's maid in Strauss's "Die Fledermaus" (ADELE) to be esoterica. NOTI! I have a deep fondness for that operetta, and the overture is just a confection of great music.

And finally, a tip of the hat to ELSTON Howard, who broke the race barrier on the New York Yankees. True, it came 8 years after Jackie Robinson first played for the Dodgers. At the same time, the Red Sox didn't break that barrier for another 4 years.

- Colum

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Ross Trudeau


Today's puzzle is the other side of the argument I put forth yesterday. With five long theme answers, the 15 x 15 grid is definitely strained. Note the five answers that have to cross three theme answers. I am impressed by Mr. Trudeau's work here: of those answers, only POPON seems ad hoc. And CRAISINS (despite the brand name) and NOTAGAIN are very nice.

Still, I think the presence of answers like those old chestnuts, ALOU, IROC, and ITT show how hard this kind of puzzle can be to fill well.

Meanwhile, the FINISHINGTOUCH here is well done. At the end of the other theme answers is a synonym for touching, in each case used in a sense that does not mean to touch within the phrase. Thus, BUYAPIGINAPOKE, where the "poke" comes from the French "poche" for bag. See? Learning something new from the NYT crossword is so much more fun than high school history class. For example.

The puzzle won me over with two answers: THISISSPINALTAP, one of my all time favorite movies, especially wonderful when you realize just how much of it was improvised. The other answer comes from my work environment: I was astonished to find BROCASAREA in the puzzle, especially on a Tuesday! This portion of dominant hemisphere frontal lobe cortex is essential for expression of language. For a Neurologist, it's like a little birthday present there in the SW corner.

Meanwhile, the rest of the grid does not cover itself in GLORY. I think I need say nothing more than ZINCS and we'll have done with it.

- Colum

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday, May 6, 2019, Peter Gordon


We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA enjoy when the English language is shown in all of its absurdity. How often in our mother tongue accidents of etymology leave non-native speakers spluttering. "Though, enough, thought?!" Today, we have three EYE / RHYMES that end in -anger. Although, to be fair to English, one of our examples is borrowed from France. In any case, TEXASRANGER, CLOTHESHANGER, and PRETAMANGER are excellent entries, and I enjoyed the theme.

With only three long theme answers, the rest of the puzzle is wide open for some very nice fill. It's the standard question - how much is extra theme worth it? It might be glittering and exciting to put so many theme answers in, but the cost can be painful at times. On the other hand, some will complain at the lack of theme today, but I'll put myself in the column of enjoying all that nice stuff.

1D: Works like "Animal Farm" and "Gulliver's Travels" (SATIRES) got me off on just the right foot. To add EPIDEMIC and ATTAGIRL (the full phrase is nice to see) is lovely. There are a lot of nice crunchy Scrabble tiles with a couple of Xs, a Z, two Ks and so on.

I did wonder part of the way through where Mr. Gordon's mind might be, what with TIT, PATOOT, NETHER, and AFFAIRS? WHEW, say I. Enough with the SAX already.

Anyway, there are definitely some less exciting areas (relying on former Indiana governor Evan BAYH is a stretch), but over all I'd call myself an ADMIRER.

- Colum

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sunday, May 5, 2019, Samuel A. Donaldson and Doug Peterson


Happy Cinco de Mayo! Every Sunday that I start my week of blogging, I look over the previous week's work by Frannie, and despair of achieving that level of wit and clever punning. ORALB shocked the day I match her style!

Anyway, today's constructors come up with ten ways to reinterpret phrases that include the word "paper." All ten are well recognized phrases, which is a great start. All ten reinterpretations come up with phrases which are well recognized, and which all have a different word to mean the paper piece of the phrase, so that's pretty darned good as well. My three favorites today are 36A: Construction paper? (BUILDINGPERMIT), 119A: Crepe paper? (BREAKFASTMENU), and the best of all, 100A: Wall paper? (COLLEGEDIPLOMA). I like that last one the best because it breaks the previous pattern in that the paper is simply on the wall, not about the wall, if you see what I mean.
He played for the Sox for a hot second
Some amusing clues today include 6A: Purchase of proof? (ALCOHOL), which is sort of an inverse theme answer; 14D: Rules of engagement? (PRENUP), and 54A: That stinks! (ODOR). I also enjoyed the symmetric answers CRASHCYMBAL and MADEASPLASH.

There is a fair amount of not great fill though, perhaps due to having ten theme answers. I'll point out LGE, RGS, TURTLER (it exists, and maybe it's more common parlance in other parts of the world), LANS, and DVI.

On the plus side, I liked BEGONE for its oldfashioned appeal, and BELLYRUB, because dogs.

- Colum

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Saturday, May 4, 2019, Mark Diehl


I was not getting much traction as I made my first pass through the acrosses this morning, but when I reached the last one, "Recipient of the wish at 1-, 8-, 53-, and 55-Across" I got my start. And, while the full word "fourth" fit the grid at 8A, it was pretty clear that the complete phrase MAY THE[4]TH BEWITH YOU was wanted. A quick check on 11D: "Toyota models since 1984" confirmed my suspicion that we were looking at a single number square à la the now-famous MAROON5 in Bruce Haight's 2017 ACPT puzzle. Having the four corners definitively filled in kick started the rest of the solve for me.

But, the energy of the fourth waned a bit with the two rather humdrum fifteens, PROCEDUREMANUAL and BALANCEDBUDGET, not to mention  OURTEAM ("Heading over a list of leading figures on a business's website"). Other fill including THEUNIVERSE (Space for everything), Solar or lunar eclipse, e.g. (EVENT), Wet ___ (NAP), Polite kids' plea (COULDWE), and Full monty (WHOLEBIT) tended toward the dry.

But, as a MODERATE, I'd also like to point out some of the WRIEST clues and answers:

Tail end of a dog? APSO - took me more than a few mos to get this one
Jeer leaders? (BOOERS) - the clue alone is great
Fashion lines? (ADLIB) - excellent
Took a spill, say? (MOPPED) - funny
Ones making glowing recommendations? (NEONS) - ha!

In the non QMC category I also enjoyed:
Some headway (DENT)
Finally hit the big time (ARRIVE)
Playfully fantastical (SEUSSIAN)
Makers of fine combs (BEES)

Also, nice to see ABEAM (Laterally, in a way) and then its matey, in a way, STERNS (Rears) right across the middle.


In sum, I would say that I felt like the fourth was strong in this one. And, as it's Saturday, and this is my last review for a while, I look forward to a fifth.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Friday, May 3, 2019, Trenton Charlson


A pleasing shape to the grid today, with some pleasing fill such as SEXPERT, CLAMSUP, KUNGPAO, BRAYS, and SYSOP,  The clue/answer pairs "Dry" (SOBER) and "'Bones'" (DICE) were also nice. I also liked what I'm calling the mini "Clue" theme. At 3D we have "Any character with a token in Clue" (SUSPECT) which ties in nicely with 61D: ___ Peacock (MRS), and from there on to "Peacock feature" (EYESPOT) - not exactly board game related, but still.

I've never heard of IZOMBIE, but was able to figure it out from the clue, which was good, I guess, but also gross. I've never heard of TRIMSPA (Bygone brand of weight-loss pills), either. I looked it up on the Wikipedia. The pills main ingredients were ephedra and caffeine. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2008. I've missed my window.

In other food for the LOSTART of conversation, this puzzle revives the age-old QMC versus NQMC controversy. I made another list of QMC and NQMCs to try to assess the difference.

Opportunities to watch the big game? (SAFARIS)  - good one
Record collection? (DATASET) - I liked this one better than "Record holder" (RADIODJ).
One with no class? (DROPOUT)
Fall guy? (ADAM)
Recess appointment? (PLAYDATE)
Boxer rebellion? (DOGBITE)

Stopped lying (AROSE) - turns out stOod fits, too. Looking at yesterday and today's false starts, I seem to be a letter-O savant. Also, good one!
As low as you can go (NADIR)
Festival display (POMP)
Staying power (LEGS)
Band aid (AMP)

My personal BADAPPLEs:
Useful piece of code (APP) - BAH.
Impales (STICKS) - the answer pales in comparison to the clue, IMO
Biological rings (AREOLAE) - I wish this old chestnut would fall into one of the circles of hell and stay there. Too much?

Also, is it too soon to comment on the new Avengers movie? Has everyone seen it who is going to see it?


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Thursday, May 2, 2019, Julie Bérubé


In today's puzzle we find classic opposites ON and OFF, in rebus form, in five theme answers. Neatly, the two words appear cheek by jowl in each answer, such as S[ON][OFF]RANKENSTEIN, and my favorite, PERS[ON][OFF]AITH - do they believe, or don't they? :) And we have a stealth revealer, of sorts, at 39A: Intermittently ([ON]AND[OFF]). It seems like it would take almost an ENIAC to find so many phrases that have this kind of ON/OFF switch, and then fit them all in the grid. I couldn't do it, CANOE? In related news, coasting to work on my bike this morning, thinking about the review, I noticed that adding the letter 'D' to both 'on' and 'off' creates another nice pair of opposites: Don and Doff, which I thought TWAS PERI NESS.

I didn't really make any LUGE mistakes, but I did make a few false starts by entering pOker where MONTE belonged (Betting game), tOes in place of NOSE (Frostbite site), and pOsh in place of TONY (Uptown, so to speak)? On the upside, I got 30D: German for 72-Across off KU_S_ with only the A of ART showing (Notoriously hard thing to define).

To add to Ms. Bérubé's triumph, the rest of the puzzle didn't really suffer at the hands of the theme. I liked both clue and answer "Lummox" and LOUT. I also enjoyed "It can be bounced off someone" (IDEA), "Tearjerker?" ([ON]ION), and "Flying start?" (AERO). And how about "Springs for vacation?" (SPAS) - APPS!


I OBJ only to [OFF]AL, but merely because the thought of it puts me off my chum. The clue made up for it, though: "Variety meat." Right on.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Joel Fagliano


Today's starred theme answers are anagrams, apparently, of STATECAPITALS. In the short amount of time I have to write this review this evening (we are leaving soon for a showing of the new Avengers movie!) I was able to de-anagramize two of them: MALES (Salem) and ROVED (Dover). I hope those are both state capitals, anyway. I'll confess that they are easier for me to get as anagrams than in their natural states, so to speak. When Horace and I started dating, in 5 BCE, the first gift he gave me was a set of U.S. State flash cards. I'm not sure why I've never been able to memorize them. Maybe I need more VITAMINS.


UPLAST and DUEUP were a nice pair, as were THEEU and ANTIUS - the latter one took me a while to parse - I kept reading it as all one word.


My favorite clue/answer pair was "Substance for a juicer" (STEROID), but I also liked "Killer Bee?" (SAMANTHA), "When doubled, uncritically enthusiastic" (RAH), and "What keeps a part apart" (HAIRGEL) - ha!

Another bonus for me, "'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' author" (VERNE). I'm in the middle of his 'L'Ile Mysterieuse' at the moment. Boise, is it good. :) ALCU tomorrow!