Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday, June 30, 2019, Emily Carroll


This is really quite a cool theme. Ms. Carrol has found words that can be aurally palindromized (that's a thing, right?) into two or three words, and then clued them to sort of make sense. "Low end?," for example, clues KNEEHIGHHEINIE. OK, it's not at all normal, but you can sort of make it work. "Exercise program done in formal attire?" (BOWTIETAEBO) is better, but still quite absurd. "Spotted animal with a lot of sore spots?" (TOUCHYCHEETAH) might be the best, because it works in an additional pun. Plus, cheetahs.

I recommend Googling "sea slug." The variety in these creatures is truly incredible.
So anyway, I like the theme. I've been re-reading the theme answers aloud over and over again. They're fun to say, they sound weird, and they become even more meaningless the more you say them.

The rest of the puzzle had some fun entries, like ANTLER (One of two for a buck?), BADAREA (Part of town that may be dangerous) (BADAREA always reminds me of "Repo Man"), CAB (Semi-essential part?) (think "truck"), and PIEPAN (A cobbler might use one). It took me ages to realize that they were talking about the pie-like "cobbler." Nice! BEGUILE (Charm) is a charming word, INHERITS (Is a willing participant?) was fun, and "Troy Story" was a cute clue for ILIAD.

SACCADE (Rapid movement of the eye from one point to another) is a bit out-there, and there's plenty of glue, if you look, but overall, I enjoyed this one.

- Horace

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019, Kameron Austin Collins


"Pride goeth ..." eh? Yesterday, I bragged about maybe becoming an "old pro," and today Mr. Collins throws a curve that makes me look AMATEURISH. It's a beautiful puzzle, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the solve immensely, even though I ended up with four errors. !

I was humming along (I "finished" in just over eleven minutes), when I saw AMORAL... beginning "32D: Principle associated with Machiavellianism" and I quickly put in AMORALIsm instead of AMORALITY. And then I got the rest of the nearby Down answers and never even looked at the clues for ATTA (Lead-in to boy or girl) (I'm so tired of this one) or DYAN (Actress Cannon). And my others error came just where, I'm pretty sure, you would guess they would, in the word OUROBOROS (Ancient symbol depicting a serpent eating its own tail). The sad thing is, I have heard this word. The image showed up in artifacts found at an Etruscan dig that I worked on for a couple summers as a photographer, but all I could remember was the name of another figure found on some of the pottery there - "Potnia Theron," - and that didn't fit. To make matters worse, I guessed hOP for "Go (along)" (BOP) and I could not remember "Racer Luyendyk"'s name. So... DNF.


So that's my sad tale. Let's end with the happier tale of the rest of this puzzle! SUGARMAMA (Woman who spends money on a younger lover, in modern lingo) was a lovely start. I've been lucky enough to have one of those (Hi Frannie!) for the past many years. :) The long corner entries are mostly all zippy. I especially liked TENSPEEDS (so old school), KALESALAD, and SKIMOBILE (I like seeing this full entry instead of the oft seen "Skidoo"). EXTRAFRIES (Fast-food order not for the diet-conscious) is a bit ad hoc, as Colum might say, (as is NEXTDOORTO, for that matter) but I do like lots of fries...

MUCOUSMEMBRANE (Liner of the nose, e.g.) is gross, but an interesting answer, and HEBREWCALENDAR (What ends with Adar) reminds me that I will have to learn that calendar someday if I ever want to really become an old pro.

So, not perfect (I'm looking at you, ANISES), but nice and hard in parts, like a Saturday ought to be, and full of lively fill. I couldn't solve it perfectly, but I'm okay with that. What fun would life be if we were all out of challenges?

- Horace

Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday, June 28, 2019, Bruce Haight and David Steinberg


When I saw the byline today I knew I was in for a treat. Two veteran (and yes, I think we need to call Mr. Steinberg a veteran even though he only just recently graduated from college) constructors working together on this asymmetric, yet attractive grid. The two grid-spanners, along with the three bat-like shapes in the center, create a mini Friday theme. Some in the crosswordosphere bristle at any phrase that includes the pronoun "one," but I don't mind. I think BATSINTHEBELFRY is a zippier entry than SPREADONESWINGS, and sure, maybe "spread your wings" is more common, but I think one has to make a few allowances when one is confined to a 15x15 grid. :)


Well, Dear Reader, I don't mean to brag, or jinx myself, but I've been having a good "1A Week." Again today, I dropped in (as I'm guessing many did) LEFTJAB (The "one" in "the old one-two," maybe), then LISSOME (Like a ballet dancer) and ESPANOL (Language akin to portugu├ęs), and soon after that, FURRIER (Hide seeker) (Fun clue) also fell into place. The rest of the puzzle flowed smoothly from corner to corner, and I ended up back in the middle, where I guessed the D of ELROND (Lord of Rivendell in "The Lord of the Rings") and DRDREW (Physician on TV's "Celebrity Rehab"). I've never heard of DRDREW or that show, but the name alone kind of makes me sad, and I wish I had never learned of it.

Fun clues today included "Meet at the river, pehaps" (REGATTA), "Way off, say" (RAMP), "Doctor" (TREAT), and "Skinny" (DIRT). Lovely entries like the aforementioned LISSOME, ESSENCE (Soul), ANODYNE (Blandly agreeable), and SNOCONE (Summer cooler) helped to make it an enjoyable solve, and more crosswordsy answers like OPIE (Relative of Aunt Bee), LEO (Any of 13 popes), and AMA (Q&A on Reddit) made me feel like an old pro. Which, I guess, I might be becoming.

Overall, a fun, breezy solve.

- Horace

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Thursday, June 27, 2019, Hoang-Kim Vu


Everybody loves a rebus! Today I caught on quickly with MIC[CHECK] (Preconcert job), which led to [CHECK]SANDBALANCES (What the Constitution provides among the branches of government), and I was off and running! The revealer, CHECKALL/THEBOXES is a little odd, as you really only "check" four boxes... they do split the clue up to make that clear, but one does like the revealer to work as perfectly as possible. Still, I enjoyed trying to find the non-symmetrical rebus squares. The last one I got was BLANK[CHECK] (Free rein) and [CHECK]MATE ("Game over"). I had that BLA___ and I kept thinking of "carte blanche," which didn't help.


Like yesterday, I enjoyed the overall "feel" of this one. Entries like FULLOFIT (Spouting nonsense), SCAPE (Word that can follow sea and man to make new words) (Why did we need "to make new words" in this clue. Isn't this a fairly standard clue form?), YAS ("____ queen!"(slangy affirmative)), and ROGET (You might take his word for it) (Excellent clue) all made me smile. "Tipping point?" (COAT[CHECK]) was a solid QMC.

I have never heard of COCA as a "Traditional treatment for altitude sickness" before. It turns out that it goes back to native peoples in the Andes mountains who chewed COCA leaves, and the effect, of increasing stamina and energy at elevation, has been borne out in at least one study. Once again, I love it when I learn something from a puzzle! :)

I didn't love SCAN (Result of digitization), but probably only because I am a photographer and am somewhat pedantic about word choices in that field. I prefer to use SCAN as a verb (and even then, only when using certain equipment), and to talk about either "digital images" or "files" after the fact. But I completely understand that the rest of the English-speaking population would probably side with the editor, and see no problem whatsoever with using SCAN as a noun.

Lastly, ETUI (Decorative sewing case). One of our commenters recently referred to this word as an "old friend," (Hi MLou!), and I've got to agree. I see some crosswordese as a rite of passage, and as long as it's not showing up every single day, I see nothing wrong with including it every once in a while. I think it will probably outlast HODA as an acceptable answer, and I much prefer it to things like ASU (The Red Wolves of the Sun Belt Conf.) or other school initials, which are almost always a bit of a guess for me.

Overall, a strong Thumbs Up for this debut puzzle. Congratulations, Mr. Vu!

- Horace

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


Today was one of those rare occasions where I actually understood an early-week theme as I was solving and used it to help me finish. I figured it out at the first opportunity, with 17A: Hebrews (BEERMAKER), then I think I just ended up filling in TRUEBELIEVERS (Weaver) with a lot of crosses and then by filling in what I thought made sense. But it was in the bottom half that I was able to split "Sheriffs" into "she riffs," and enter JAZZGUITARIST. Likewise with APPRAISER (Irate). It was only later that I went back and understood 24A to be read as "we aver." That's the weakest one, by far, but overall I enjoyed the theme.


Another way that I was unusually "aware" of the puzzle today was that I could almost feel the clues getting slightly trickier. It's Wednesday, after all, and I noticed things like "Short cut" (BOB), "Key with a chain, maybe" (ISLE), and "Printed slips" (TYPOS). All non-question-mark clues, and all "Whimsically witty" (DROLL). I thought the overall "feel" of the puzzle was one of good-natured cleverness - "Produce producers" (FARMS), "Help around the house" (MAID), and "Something a college junior has that a freshman usually doesn't" (MAJOR), for example, all have an element of fun.

I also enjoyed the many "spoken" answers: ENGARDE ("Get ready!"), STOPIT ("Cut that out!"), THENERVE ("What chutzpah!"), and, less excitedly, BEENTHERE (Empathetic comment). Ironically, I read that last one as "emphatic comment" the first time I came across it. Heh.

Lastly, it was kind of refreshing to see more "female-oriented" entries like CAMISOLE, LABORBOB, and PIECE (One-____ (modest bathing attire)) to balance out the usual references to sports and cars that are more commonly (but not exclusively, of course) thought of as male-oriented.

Overall, I found this a very enjoyable mid-week solve. Plus, it's always nice to see my sister SUE in the grid. (Hi SUE!) :)

- Horace

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tuesday, June 25, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


Fun theme idea, to spell out "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" using dots, or points, if we want to get even closer to a literal connection to POINTILLISM, the style that GEORGESSEURAT is most remembered for.

It's almost mandatory that I include this, isn't it? Also, what's with that monkey?
It's almost like a stunt puzzle. If the letters in the title were symmetrically placed, that would be a true stunt.. but then, it would probably be a much worse puzzle, too. As it is, we already have kind of a lot of iffy material: EVEL (Daredevil Knievel) (is he still relevant?), NASL (Org. for the New York Cosmos) (North American Soccer League) (is that still relevant?), ANI (What's far from fair?) (Cute, but tortured clue), FOO, LAT, INE, NUI, STE, NOOR, INS, ODS, and CAF, to name but twelve. 

On the other hand, I did enjoy the two preposition-ending-with phrases SNORTAT (Dismiss with derision) and PROUDOF (Self-satisfied about), and the clue for PJS (Cover of night?) was excellent. PITH (Essential part) is great. I learned something with BINDI (Dot on a Hindu woman's forehead), and I always enjoy a smattering of foreign language answers - DEJA, NYET, CHERIE, EINE, BRAVO, and FORTE. And did anyone else start typing in "Rastro" for 27D: Elroy's dog on "The Jetsons?" (ASTRO). I actually did that. Heh.

So there was good and bad. As I said at the top, the theme was fun, and it was well done. There were necessary concessions, apparently, and sometimes that's fine, especially when you can find a whole paragraph of good material too. 

- Horace

Monday, June 24, 2019

Monday, June 24, 2019, Ross Trudeau


I've had half of these maladies. Well, maybe I've even had a touch of the ol' FASHIONCRAZE, too. I mean, who doesn't enjoy getting nice clothes? I've been known to splurge on a shirt from time to time... Come to think of it, Frannie and I are making plans to visit Milan later this year - the fashion capital of Italy, if not all of Europe. I think I'd better stop in and get a booster shot before we leave!

And I had a pretty bad case of BEATLEMANIA when I was younger. I was born the same year that they gave their last live concert in the U.S. (not counting that rooftop thing), but they were still a pretty big deal all through my formative years.

And yeah... I had SPRINGFEVER up until about three days ago. :) But I've never cared the least bit about college sports. Not even when I was in college and actually playing for a college team! Ok, lacrosse and ultimate frisbee didn't really get the attention that football does, but still!

So a fun theme. And in the bonus Down slots we find more good things to SAVOR. POTTYMOUTHED (Spewing naughty language, as a child) might elicit a WHATNERVE ("Well, I never!") from those within earshot. IMPASSION is usually found in the past tense (see also: MIFF), but I'll let that pass, because I like that Mr. Trudeau is drawing attention to NOISELAWS (Peace-and-quiet ordinances). One of my pet peeves recently has been those back-up beepers on trucks. They are way too loud. Way. There are new broadband, or "white noise" beepers that are somewhat better. Pedestrians and bikers can more easily discern source direction with these, and they can be better heard through the hearing protection that some construction workers use. I hope that reforms come swiftly!

If we look closely, we may find a slight duplication in ITISSO and ARESO, or we could bristle at the inclusion of MINK (Stole fur) (indeed, stole from the poor animal!), and RIA, ONEA, and TARA are kind of crosswordsy, but I'm still giving it a slight thumbs up. The theme is good, and there's enough bonus fill.

- Horace

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday, June 23, 2019, David Liben-Nowell and Victor Barocas


I love the theme today! I guess I’ve always been the kind of person who enjoys challenging standards and pushing at boundaries and restrictions. So when I come across a puzzle that so obviously breaks the established norms by having nine words appear twice in the grid, I am delighted. The justification here (and there always should be some justification - I don't suggest anarchy!) is that when you encounter each word a second time, the word “second” is implied. As in 55A: What you will always be (but he or she isn’t)? (PERSON). That’s “second person,” grammatically. Excellent.

They’re all perfectly “in the language,” and somehow each of them surprised me a little bit. It’s lucky Frannie was sitting beside me on the couch, and we were solving together, so she could explain it over and over again. :)
Aside from the excellent theme, there were some additional bonus elements. I very much enjoyed the clues for HOTTUB “Somewhere to chill, paradoxically” (Clever!), BERRA (“If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him” speaker) (He never disappoints), and the first NATURE (“All ____ is but art, unknown to thee”: Alexander Pope).
“Indication of good taste?” (YUM), “Couple of high points?” (UMLAUT), and “Shell station?” (SEASHORE) were three cute QMCs. And if I weren’t on the SEASHORE myself right now, where the Internet connection is not at all reliable, I would try to find out why a BANANA is slightly radioactive! Is it bad that I eat one every day?!?
And maybe it’s all that radioactive fruit I’ve been eating, but I am not sure I understand TDS (Bear necessities, for short?). I guess they must mean the Chicago Bears, a football team, but somehow putting it into the singular just seems a little too far to go.
But that aside, I still call for a LAUREL for Misters Liben-Nowell and Barocas. They’re both real SMARTIES in my book.

- Horace

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Saturday, June 22, 2019, Joe Deeney


Over time, you learn a lot about a subject simply by paying close attention to it. In our case, I feel like we've been educated on the limitations of a 15 x 15 grid when creating a crossword. We all delight in sparkling answers, but what are the tradeoffs? It seems that you have two: either you can be stuck with a ton of lousy short fill, or you super-segment the grid so that you can isolate those fun stacks of answers.

Today, Mr. Deeney has created four outstanding stacks in each corner, with some great answers. 16A: Addendum to a common pentad (SOMETIMESY) is great, as is SKIPINTRO, TIPONEILL (wish we had him arounds still), and STATSGEEK. Really, I enjoyed just about every long answer here, and it's a blast to recognize a longer entry off of just one or two letters (I got POLOMALLET off of ___M____T).

I counted 24 3- or 4-letter answers created by all of those stacks, with an additional 8 created by the middle connecting section. So how did Mr. Deeney do?

With one partial (SHES) and two crosswordese (ACME and STET) alone, I'd say pretty good! MORT Zuckerman is the owner and publisher of the US News & World Report, so I guess he's crossword-worthy. Also, clever cluing can make otherwise uninteresting answers more fun. C.f. 17A: Sierra Nevadas, e.g. (ALES), and 32A: What 100-proof alcohol has (KICK).

Certainly the grid is extremely segmented. I found this to be less annoying than on other days because I had so much fun getting those stacks that the flow didn't bother me as much. But it certainly is true that each corner is almost its own mini-puzzle.

So my review ends up being somewhere between SOSO and a RAVE, but closer to the latter than the former.

- Colum

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday, June 21, 2019, Robyn Weintraub


Ah, the turn (so nice to start using words that begin with vowels again!). Is there anything so pleasing to the crossword veteran as a well-constructed themeless? And Ms. Weintraub satisfies yet again. I've come to look forward to seeing her byline.

Things started out well in the NW with 14A: Big shot? (GROUPPHOTO). The QMC alerted me to the likelihood that this would entail photography. But two nice non-QMC clues in this area added to the enjoyment. First at 6D: A crowd, so to speak (THREE) - nicely done. And then I also liked the clue at 25D: Believe it! (CREDO).

This grid is well put together - note the wide open feeling sweeping down from the NW into the W and then across to the rest of the puzzle. It's helped by the pair of adjacent 10-letter and 11-letter answers that go down the west and east sides. And they're both excellent: AVANTGARDE next to TIEDTHEKNOT, and URBANLEGEND next to VOICEOVERS.

51A: Something relatively complicated? (FAMILYTREE) is lovely work. I was briefly confused here by having Burg at 47D: Cookout item, for short (BRAT).

32D: Game with lots of instructions (SIMONSAYS) is a real winner though, and I will add it to the favorite clue post.

Really nothing here to make me shade my UVEA and LENS from. I enjoyed the whole puzzle, and at the end, I got to stick a toothpick in my favorite sandwich, a BLT.

Thanks, Ms. Weintraub!

- Colum

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thursday, June 20, 2019, Trenton Carlson


So today genius constructor Trenton Carlson has put together this crossword puzzle, where the responses to the clues start with consonants. You might think this some minute matter, but the feat requires complete concentration. Take, for your model, the first clue's reply: SMTWTFS. Note how, because the letters start the first through seventh down words, Mr. Carlson must needs deploy words that reject vowels totally. The same holds true with the words that hold positions beside the grid's rim.

Thus, NBCTV, SFPD, TBSPS, SSNS. More strikingly, note NFLTEAM, likewise TEXASBBQ. These words require those shortened consonant strings for those sections next to black squares within the puzzle's confines. Color me bemused!

To be fair, were this the whole gadget the puzzle was conceived by, no more, we might not be so pleased. But there's more, like the Ginsu knife commercials from past years liked to say. NUTELLA, beloved chez nous. STPAULIGIRL, not so beloved, but chunky nonetheless.

LITMUSTESTS, which we wish had been better heeded when selecting the latest justice to the Supreme Court... But no politics here, hear? PROTOZOAN. Verily, the horn flows beyond the limits, plentiful to please the mind.

Yet, when deciding whether this puzzle passes from fine to magnificent, perhaps the trick proves no wonder, for this review follows the same rules!

- Colum

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wednesday, June 19, 2019, Sam Trabucco


My goodness, there's a fair amount of theme stuff going on in this puzzle today. So much that in order to make it work, the grid is pretty segmented. I'm impressed by those large chunks of white in the NE and SW corners.

Meanwhile, in celebration of gay marriage, perhaps? We get MARRIEDMEN as represented by standard phrases that can be reparsed as two men's names side by side. I wasn't clear until I finished the puzzle what the numbers after the clues meant - they are the lengths of the two names so you can more easily figure it out. Thus, 38A: *Bounce (4 & 4) (RICOCHET) is referring to Rico and Chet.

My favorite is definitely 25A: *Opening a beer bottle with a ring, e.g. (4 & 4) (BARTRICK), simply because of the way the names go across syllables. The others aren't as interesting, especially the one that uses Anders.

There's some tough sledding to get through here. It's never fun to start with RSS above ICU. SOCOOL and EMORAP are phrases that feel like they have to be in a crossword puzzle to be used. And ADAH crossing ODAY is a rough thing.

But I did like COLORTV next to HOTWIRES and near THANKGOD.

So quite a few compromises, and the theme wasn't the best ever, so I'll call it a wash over all.

- Colum

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tuesday, June 18, 2019, Jeff Stillman


I had a feeling I was going to enjoy today's Tuesday offering when I put in LABS and IDVE, and then wondered how on earth that BV____ was going to play out. And then I saw 3D: Niacin and riboflavin (BVITAMINS). That's some good stuff right there.

The theme had me chuckling. Take a standard phrase, add MC prior to the second word such that it makes a last name, and reclue the ensuing result with wackiness abounding. Two great examples started us off. 17A: Autobiography of a "Star Trek" doctor? (BEINGMCCOY) nods to the best doctor of all the Star Trek versions. I always thought Dr. Crusher was the weakest link of TNG.

And then, the really excellent 23A: Kill off a major "Back to the Future" character? (SACRIFICEMCFLY). First off, who doesn't love the original movie? And McFly - what a crazy name. "No, Biff. You leave her alone!" Many points awarded here.

If the other two weren't quite as top drawer, I still liked the fact that "Runaway Bride" reappeared (sort of) so soon after last week's puzzle.

Other nice entries included CLIPCLOP, hardly expected at all when I first glanced at the clue, and 34D: Wildly improbably goal (PIPEDREAM).

I remain STOIC about such answers as AREEL, which I would like to see expunged from the wordlists available, but which I understand helps a constructor in a tight corner. ZEES and BEEB are likewise minor crutches. So I'll say "YUCCA" and then move on.

- Colum

Monday, June 17, 2019

Monday, June 17, 2019, Erik Agard and Yacob Yonas


It's a simple theme today: phrases of the form "X in the Y" where X and Y rhyme with each other. To me (IMO), three of the four theme answers work perfectly. I love MADEINTHESHADE, especially right after FUNINTHESUN. Perfect pair. EYEINTHESKY is classic.

But BACKINTHEBLACK? Yeah, I knew it was what they were looking for, but if you Google it, the only thing that comes up is that AC/DC song. And that's "Back in Black." Hmmm. If you then Google it with quotation marks around the entire phrase, you get some corporations that deal with bankruptcy and asset management.

The only other example of an answer that fit the format that I could come up with is "pie in the sky," which is a variation of one already there. Can anyone come up with other examples?

In any case, I'm not really complaining, because the puzzle over all is a delight. Look at all those great down answers: MCESCHER (the whole name!), BANSHEE, BENGALI, and NOTACLUE.

26A: High point of winter? (ICICLE) - perfect example of a QMC.

SPLAT - so evocative.

And even the low point of MOS and WKS gets a little boost from having the other in the puzzle as well.

I think this is a perfect example of a Monday puzzle.

By the way, I just glanced down at the puzzle and misparsed EPICS as e-pics (probably because I had just seen ESIGN). Is this a theme in the making? "Epics" - online photos. "Elate" - online tardiness. "Equip" - online bon mot. "Event" - online release of pentup emotion...

Hmmm. Probably not enough there.

- Colum

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sunday, June 16, 2019, Joel Fagliano


Hello to everyone, readers old and new! Our humble project was started over six years ago by Horace and Frances. It's been fun to look back through the old posts from the early days. In fact, if you look at June 16, 2013, you find that it was a Sunday puzzle as well, also celebrating Father's Day. Horace was none too impressed, it turns out.

Well, I'm more impressed with today's, a massive themeless puzzle for a Sunday, with only 124 words. As it turns out, according to XWord Info, this one ties for the fewest answers ever in a Sunday puzzle. And it starts out with a little gift to us Dads (FATHERSDAY). It was definitely a challenge for me, playing well above my standard Sunday average in time.

So many long entries: I liked 48D: Ticker symbol? (HEARTEMOJI) - a good QMC, as well as 22A: It might require a quick check (SPEEDCHESS), an pretty good non-QMC. My favorite stack came in the SE with OEDIPUSREX over FIREENGINE and FLYSWATTER.

Another great non-QMC clue comes at 109A: It's seen near Pennsylvania Avenue (SHORTLINE). No, not in Washington, DC, but on the Monopoly board. I had a suspicion on reading the clue the first time, but it took a number of crosses before I recalled the least memorable of the railroads.

I won't be too much of a CHURL today in pointing out less than desirable entries. But OLDISH crossing ASSHAT and ADIT was definitely a tough section to swallow. But now that I've managed to VENT, I'm OVERIT.

Finally, do you think YESTERDAY deserves the title of Greatest Pop Song of all time? How do you even define "Pop?" I love the song, don't get me wrong, but I'd be pretty darned hesitant to label it pop. Although, apparently the Oxford Dictionary of Music specifically names the Beatles as one of the earliest examples of true pop music. Still, that one song is much more folk-like to me.

- Colum

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Saturday, June 15, 2019, Ryan McCarty

22:54, FWOE

ALAS, even though I told myself to go back and review my answer to "'ROCKYIV' rival who makes a reappearance in 'Creed II'", I failed to do it. I knew my answer (ItANDRAGO) wasn't right, but at the same time, I thought my down answers were solid. For "What a band plays at a concert" I entered LatEST, which seemed perfectly reasonable, as did MaMI for a lead role in "Rent," a show I've never seen. However, looking carefully after the occurrence of a "complete-without-bleat," I saw that I had in fact entered LatESET, which WTF? LIVESET is much more apt. This, on top of yesterday's mis-read, makes me think I might need to get my CEREBRO checked.

Here are today's clues that I raise an OAST to:
Crack (ADEPT)
In a pickle or in a jam (IDIOM)
Question following a holdup (AMILATE)
It's one thing after another (PARADE)
Squeezes into (SHOEHORNS) - an implement I make daily use of

I also liked CHITS, TIPTOE, and SCROOGE as fill. Of the two 12-square answers in the puzzle, I prefer RUNONESMOUTH, although, not as an activity. :) I've never heard of a FLOURBOMB, but I like the principle of it, for a protest, I mean. I wonder if anyone would respond to a flower bomb? CLARETRED seems redundant to me.


I don't usually comment on - or even notice, if I'm honest - the shape of the grid but it seemed unusual today. Also, did anyone else think the downs were more interesting than the acrosses - generally speaking, of course?


Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday, June 14, 2019, Caitlin Reid


The bottom half of the puzzle went very smoothly, but the north east took me forever. And not for NOREASON. The clue "'Cue the violins!' elicitor" did not bring forth the correct response from my brain. I also kept reading the clue "One on foot, informally" as "On one foot, informally" and got no where with that. I also didn't know that pill bugs and wood lice fall into the category of ISOPOD.

I liked the answer SHAMMARRIAGES as fill, but I'm not completely clear why the clue "Actors' unions?" has a question mark. I also enjoyed EGOBOOST and SUNBATHE. I thought it odd to have an answer like BADPR show up in two puzzles in a row.


I'm not a big fan of the word PREGGO, and I wouldn't sign up for the word ENROLLEE. I'm also not keen on INSET as a answer to "Implant," or BOREUP" for "Buoyed." And to "Prefix with -logy" (TRI) I say WATT? However, I'd rather GOOUT on a high note with some highlights:

Made a web site? (SPUN) is cute.
Pro QB Manning, by birth (ELISHA) - who knew?
Get down (MASTER) - solid ambiguity.
Definite no, informally (HARDPASS)
Toga go-with (SANDAL) - another shoo in!
And my favorite today "The key to making a quick exit?" (ESC) - ha!


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Thursday, June 13, 2019, Michael Blake and Jeff Chen


I ended with a typfwoe today. I fully intended to enter OOHANDAAH (React to pyrotechnics, say), but I inadvertently entered two H's at the end instead of two A's. When I didn't get the crescendo of congratulations to which I have latterly become accustomed, it took me quite a while to ID the problem. I blame my lack of familiarity with Tokyo's big carrier ANA.

In today's puzzle, each starred clue requires the presence of a literal UPPERHAND for the answer to make sense. So the answer to "Sets the odds for" appears as ICAPS, but when you give it the advantage of a HAND from the CHANDELIER above, you get [HAND]ICAPS. My favorite was HANDYNASTY because it's amusing when mis-parsed. I didn't actually bother to figure out the theme until I got stuck in the south east. Having absolutely no idea what letters might appear after Chuck Schumer or Kirsten Gillibrand's names, I was forced to reckon with the theme to get 64A: "Submitted." Even when I figured it out and entered [HAND]EDIN, it took me forever to parse DNYDOH!


I liked both "Gives the boot" and its answer CANS. I also liked "Partner of older" (WISER) and "Singers do it" (SEW). "Big shots at a hospital, informally? (HYPOS) entertained. My favorite on the day was "Snake that's good with numbers? (ADDER) - ha! 

I enjoyed "Concern for shipping and software companies" (PIRACY) and "Concern for a plumber or government official (LEAK). And, although the same but different, I enjoyed "Ending with kick or smart" (ASS).

NIHILIST and EYESHADE are fine fill.

Something bothered me about the clue "Close to a 10, say" for SEXY, and if asked, I might say OENO to "Art house theater" (CINE), but overall, I've got to hand it to Mssrs. Blake and Chen.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday, June 12, 2019, Nancy Stark and Will Nediger


A LACKOFCHARACTER appears in today's three theme answers (THELADYVANISHES, RUNAWAYBRIDE, INVISIBLEMAN). I enjoyed the theme and thought the missing person in each was clearly apparent. I thought another possible theme answer might be "Gone Girl."

A number of excellent entries materialized elsewhere in the grid:
Getting close (WARM)
Scandalous suffix (GATE) - ha!
Silent type (CLAM)
Like some oils and remarks (CRUDE)
Clog or pump (SHOE)
Make a lasting impression (ETCH)

Other fill I found fun included PLUM, JIVE, ANEMONE, PRURIENT, and NAYSAY. I also thought both "Top of an outfit, for short?" (CEO) and "Bussing on a bus, e.g., for short" (PDA) are entertaining clues that spice up otherwise humdrum fill. And was "Vera" anyone else's first thought for "Fictional Charles" (NORA)? Or does that faux pas mean I've seen Auntie Mame once too often. :)

Scanning tunneling microscope image showing the individual atoms making up this gold (100) surface. The surface atoms deviate from the bulk crystal structure and arrange in columns several atoms wide with pits between them.

NAIVER belongs to the category of words I would rather not see in a puzzle, but try as they might constructors can't always make fill like this disappear.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tuesday, June 11, 2019, David J. Kahn


I had an 'aha' moment when I realized that if I had finished eight seconds later, my solve time could have been a palindrome. Wow.

I was able to complete most of the puzzle in fairly short order, but the south east was my own personal circle of hell, to grossly overstate the matter. I don't think I've ever seen THELIONKING, although I have picked up some parts of it over time, including HAKUNAMATATA, CIRCLEOFLIFE, and, thanks to the NYTX, NALA. :) But, the parts I didn't know, including director JULIETAYMOR, setting PRIDEROCK, and villain, SCAR all seemed to be lumped together, a problem further compounded by my slip into the too-specific at 44D where I entered blAdE for "Need for doing toe loops," which was, unfortunately supported by an initial misspelling of MATAdA. It wasn't until I saw SACl at 47A (QB tackle) that I realized my mistake and got it squared away. Supporting the central theme, we also get a literal circle of L I F E in the center of the puzzle.

Elsewhere, I liked:
Snoozefest (BORE)
First mate? (ADAM)
Fully (INTOTO)
Dug in, in a way (ATE)
Getting long in the tooth (AGING)
Pack animals (BURROS)
List quickly, with "off" (REEL)
It's worthless (TRASH)
Dreaded one? (RASTA) - ha!


Other entries that I was less RAHRAH about the inclusion of EYER "One who's looking", ONS "Slip-___ (shoes)", OTIC "Suffix with hypn-" and ESSES "Valuable Scrabble tiles." But, NOWORRIES, we know that a puzzle constructor mufasa tough choice now and again.


Monday, June 10, 2019

Monday, June 10, 2019, Brad Wilbur


She's baaack!

For today's official theme, we have a set of phrases or places that end with an item often found in a PURSE, including FLORIDAKEYS and, my favorite, DRAMATICLICENSE. But, on the other hand, it seems Mr. Wilbur knew this would be my first review in a while as he ALIT on a number of my areas of interest, creating a second theme ONLY for me. It was something of an ALOHA moment to find within the grid SEWS (which I do), OTTER (a Bewhiskered river swimmer I find appealing), Tupperware, mentioned in the clue for LIDS (I have a collection of minis), EEYORE (an old favorite), PIAF (as in the great French singer, Edith - who seems to be making a comeback of sorts with a second puzzle appearance in a week), OREO (one of my favorite store-bought cookies), EARTH (big fan), WHAMO (Company that makes everyone's favorite projectile, Frisbees), and ECLAT (which I make where ever I go :).

I also liked CHEERY, OAFS, WOOS, SNORT, EGGON (even though I generally don't take an egg), FRO, and ANON. SLUE (Swivel around) was the last answer I completed. I guess I've run across it before, but I'm not too familiar with it.

There's a bit of crosswordese in the grid (URL, EPA, APR, DOCS, ITS, RDA), but most of it is inoffensive, with one exception. I've never been a fan of clues like "WSW's opposite" (26D). I know Monday puzzles are supposed to be easyish, but unless someone is having a really OFFDAY, the answer is such a gimme, the puzzle might as well be published with ENE already filled in.

That being said, I'd rather end on a CHEERY note and say that in SUM, it was a veritable grab bag of Frannie-friendly fill.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sunday June 9, 2019, Seth A. Abel


How is it that we end up letting these misquotes get into our systems? They're so deep that when I started thinking about this review, I was sure I could start by saying that FLYMYPRETTIESFLY was very close, in that only the last "fly" had been added, but even that is wrong. All she says is "Now fly! Fly!" And as for the Dragnet quote, some think that the actual line - "All we want are the facts, ma'am." was changed by the popularity of two parodies by Stan Freberg called "St. George and the Dragonet" and "Little Blue Riding Hood," but even those didn't use the exact line in this puzzle! Well, who knows how it happened, but happen it did, and now we find four such quotes along with their non-utterers in a Sunday puzzle.


Things started out well today with MACHISMO (Exaggerated virility) over ABLATION (Surgical removal procedure). Neither is particularly attractive in reality, but both are somewhat unusual words at least. OSMOSIS (Effortless assimilation) and TORNADO (What might raise the roof?) (funny. ish.) are better. But also up in the North we get ITY, ABLUR (see also: AHUM down below), MRE, SOIN, GEDS, SOYS, IUD, FRA, and PEES. Not ideal.

NIH (Medical research org.) reminds me that I saw a wonderful high school performance of Spamalot a couple weeks ago, and AVOCADO reminds me that I got one of those yesterday and should probably have it today at lunch. :)

"Rest of the afternoon" is a fun clue for SIESTA, and "Small boat, maybe" is tricky for BATHTOY. I liked the "obviousness" of "How paint is usually sold" (INACAN) (Not so much artists' oil paints though), and "Exercise done while sitting" is clever for ETUDE.

So there were things to enjoy here, but the compromises were many. When's the last time you heard someone call a joke a GASSER, or put you on hold by saying STAYON? For me, it was never ago. I guess I like that the theme is pointing out the error of our collective memories... and I learned that KARATE will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year... so that's nice. Oh, you know how I am with Sunday puzzles. Let's just say it was fine. :)

- Horace

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Saturday, June 8, 2019, Andrew J. Ries


Some of this seemed downright "mid-week" to me. 1-Down, for example, "'The Handmaid's Tale' novelist" (ATWOOD) - hasn't that been in the air recently? A movie or something?...  but maybe I just found it easy because I had daringly dropped in ASCII (Tech's character set) to start things off. But even "Oxymoronic break" (WORKINGVACATION) seemed kind of straightforward. And INRI (Letters on a crucifix) is pretty well-known, right?


I'm not saying the construction is SHODDY, but I worried for a bit that it would be NOCONTEST at all. :)

The stepped elevens in the center were solid. I think we've seen MANSPLAINED (Was patronizing, in a way) before, but it's good for me to be reminded of it from time to time, as Frannie likes to accuse me of it. And the clue for DANCELESSON (Step-by-step instructions?) was fantastic. My favorite clue of the day, though, and one that will go into our collection of favorite clues, is "Rabbit's favorite chain restaurant?" (IHOP). Hahahahahahhaaa! Nice one. Also strong was "Public firing?" (PYRE). All question-mark clues, but all very good.

"Stick in the dugout" had me thinking of baseball, of course, especially with that A of ALES (Porters may be found near them) already in place, but no... they meant a boat.

I got held up for several minutes right at the bottom, when I could not figure out the end of DEVELOPMENTHE_L (Long gestation for a film, informally). It seems obvious now, but I also wasn't sure about "____ moment" (AHA), so HALT (Quash) took me a long time to see. In the end, though, it all came together. Phew!

So it started out quick for me, but ground down nicely and had some excellent clues. In the end, a satisfying Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, June 7, 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019, Michael Hawkins


One could almost imagine a Friday theme with VOICEACTOR (One who's seen but not heard? Just the opposite!) as the revealer, and the "spoken" answers AREYOUGOOD, DOMEASOLID, and DONTIKNOWIT as some of the theme material. Alas, I don't think that was intended. Or maybe it was, but it still wasn't enough to distract me from what I saw as AGONIES. OK, that's harsh, but I must admit, I didn't love this one.


Why? I'll tell you:

TOLTEC (Early Nahautl speaker) - I admit I'm not specialist in Mesoamerican chronology, but these guys seem like pretty minor players.

FATHA (Nickname in early jazz piano) - Never heard of Earl "FATHA" Hines before. He seems to be famous in the jazz world, but that's a tough cross with TOLTEC!

REID (John ____, secret identity of the Lone Ranger) - I had no idea about this one either. Like the previous answer, some deep trivia. Good to learn, I guess. I hope I remember it.

ECUMENISM (United Christendom movement) - I have never heard this form of the word, only "ecumenical."

PARDNER (Western sidekick) - I feel that "sidekick" is slightly inaccurate here. Isn't it more of just a casual form of address?

ONEIL (Baseball's Buck) - Who? Oh, right, he played for the Kansas City Monarchs. Last appearance: 1955.

So many people... NORA, CORY, ROSS, ELSA, JEB, and more I've mentioned and will mention...

DINEANDDASH (Stiff a restaurant) - I almost feel that this idea, like the names of mass murderers, should not be publicized.

NAPERY (Table linens) - OK.

I did like some things, though. I liked seeing REMAIN (One side in the Brexit vote). And speaking of that, it's the last day as P.M. for THERESA (May in England) today, and given her recent popularity, she may want to spend some time outside of the country - while she can still travel freely about the Continent. Hah! "One going over the line" was good for EDITOR, likewise "Something that might build character over time?" for STORYARC.

So not all bad, but certainly not one of my favorites.

- Horace

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Thursday, June 6, 2019, Fred Piscop


What was it? Seventy-five years ago today, that the D-Day landings took place? Today's puzzle commemorates the code names that the Allied Forces decided to USE for the five landing spots. Running west to east (in real life, and kind of in the grid, too) they were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.


Back when I was an exchange student in France, I remember being surprised and slightly disturbed by the sight of concrete war bunkers appearing every once in a while in the landscape as I was driven around Brittany. The war, even forty-something years later, was still with them. The family I stayed with noted that my last name (not actually Fawley) was German, and told me that many in the country still might have a negative reaction to it. (I never encountered any such thing, and have always found the French to be a welcoming and friendly people.) One sunny weekend day, my French mother and her father drove me up to one of the Normandy beaches - I no longer remember which one - and to me, back then, it looked pretty much like any other beautiful beach. Which is hopefully how it will look for EVERMORE.

It is remarkable, I think, that this tribute puzzle, with its five forced entries (six if you count DDAY), should be so remarkably clean. I suppose I rolled my eyes at SHEDDER (Labrador retriever or Alaskan malamute, notably) and REPAPER (Cover over, as a wall), but those aren't terrible-terrible. And there's a tiny bit of DOER, OVO, YEE, NOS, and PICAS, but again, the crosswordese is SCANT. And good ol' OLE got a fun clue.

Speaking of fun clues, how about "Helpful thing to have on hand?" (MITT)? Guffaw. and "Ones playing the numbers?" (DEEJAYS)? Tricky!

In the end, what can you say, really? It is a puzzle memorializing a major event in the history of the western world, and there's plenty of room for that sort of thing in the country's most popular and prominent crossword puzzle.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019, Rich Proulx


A wonderful Wednesday theme today of SEVENWONDERS. I had actually completed much of the puzzle before getting to the revealer, and then I saw STEVIE (He said "Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision"), but had to hunt a bit for the other six. To make things easier for you, I'll list them all here:

[Wonder] WOMAN (Big superhero film of 2017)
ONEHIT [Wonder] (Bad artist to re-sign to a record deal)
[Wonder] BREAD (Longtime product with a "Classic White" variety)
[Wonder] BRA (Popular lingerie item owned by HanesBrands)
[Wonder] DRUG (Miraculously effective medicine)
[Wonder] LAND (Domain of the Queen of Hearts)

Phew! Those last two really confused me as I was solving, because they kind of work even without the wonderful specificity. I also started to wonder whether "Wonder" CAVERN (Setting for a Pirates of the Caribbean ride) was a thing, but no, I don't believe it is. It helps, of course, that the theme answers (not including the revealer) are all symmetrical, and now that I have seen it all clearly, it's really quite nice.

I also enjoyed:

ORACLE (Ancient source of prophecy)
NODOFF (Doze) - nice concise clue
DADAART (Arp and Duchamp output) - It looks odd in the grid, and makes me wonder whether there might eventually be a thing called "Dad Art," to go along with "Dad Jokes."
OPENSEA (Expanse far from ports) - so evocative a term, isn't it?
FRUGAL (Thrifty) - good word, good idea.
and finally,
ACRE (Subdivision of a subdivision) - Best clue for that that I have seen in a while!

For all that good, we have only to endure DEFACER, ASYLA (wow), and a smattering of abbreviations (QVC, UAE, KOR, APR, etc). Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

June 4, 2019, Jake Halperin


This one's got some PROs and CONs. Er... some CONs and PROs:

CONSUMERPROFILE (Need for targeted advertising)
CONTENTPROVIDER (Netflix or YouTube)
CONCLUSIVEPROOF (It settles a case)

and this theme is announced by 68-Across, "Disadvantages found in this puzzle's three longest Across answers ..." (CONS) and 69-Across "... and advantages found in them" (PROS).


The clue "Pizza size" for LARGE struck me as amusingly arbitrary. It also reminds me of an incident that Frannie and I had at a restaurant in San Gimignano a few years ago. We were considering ordering a pizza, but we wanted to know the size to see if we would want to split it or get one each. The waiter seemed shocked by the question and responded, almost scoldingly, "It's a pizza!" I guess in Italy they're all one size and everyone knows what size that is. As it turned out, it was pretty much individual-size.

MCING (Host's task, informally) looks odd (would I prefer "emceeing?" I don't know), and MOANER is a bit of a groaner. SKUNK (Ain't I a stinker?) gets an interesting clue (reminds me of Bugs Bunny more than an actual SKUNK), and "First thing in the morning?" for ALARM was unexpected. Hah!

Some of the answers seemed a bit dated - KYLE ("South Park" boy), OLGA (Gymnast Korbut), and our old friend NEHRU. And are VCHIPs still a thing?

The long Downs are good, especially MINDBENDER (Tough puzzle), and I guess it's fine. Interesting theme. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Monday, June 3, 2019

Monday, June 3, 2019, Lynn Lempel


All the world seems to love a dog. Me, I'm more of a W. C. Fields-type, but at least I love a theme that runs in both the Across and Down answers, so let's just agree to agree that we can probably all find something to enjoy about this fine Monday puzzle. :)


The revealer, GOODDOG, is what one could say after a dog performed any of the six standard dog commands found at the end of the theme answers: Stay, Heel, Down, Shake, Come, and Sit. And the "container" phrases that hold those commands are all perfectly normal, with the one possible exception of TARHEEL (Chapel Hill athlete), but even that is a pretty well-known college team name.

I had a brief setback when I dropped in "Silo" for SHED (Outbuilding for storage), and I thought "Virtuous conduct, in Confucianism" was an odd clue for TAO. I'm not an expert, by any means, but I think of it more as an ideal. And now that I've said that, I guess I can see how if you act according to an ideal, it might be appropriate to call your conduct by the name of the ideal. I've just never heard it used that way before.

ONE (Word before "blastoff") reminds me of one of Colum's daughters, who, on New Year's Eve a couple years ago, was disturbed by the thought that the last word that everyone says every year is ONE. So she thought long and hard about what word she would like to say as her last word, and also as her first of the new year (Having also been concerned about "happy"). One of her new choices was the word "bean," pronounced in a rather absurd, drawn-out way. Thinking of that now, and laughing, I am no longer sure if she actually said it, or if that was just a running joke. Either way, it's still hilarious to me. What a kook! :)

One last thing, I like the pair of "firsts" NEHRU (India's first P.M.) and CLOVIS (First king of the Franks (A.D. 481)). It may say something about me that I was able to drop in the latter, but needed crosses for the former. Heh.

Solid start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Sunday, June 2, 2019, Erik Agard


In keeping with the national trend of legalization and acceptance of the Devil's lettuce, we have a cannabis-based theme today. In each two-word answer, one word can relate to the activity of smoking the wacky tabacky, the sweet sinsemilla, the homegrown happy cigarette..., and the other can relate to moviedom. Most of the time the chronic comes first, but in the last one DIRECTHITS, the magic smoke blows over to the second spot. Bonus fill: DOPE.

I mostly enjoyed the cluing in this one. Things like ALOHA (HI goodbye) for example, and "Splits lickety-split" for FLEES. SCOLDS (Gives what for) was also fun, and "Style to pick?" was a great clue for AFRO, too. Mr. Agard, by the way, sports one of the finest AFROs I've ever seen. How long do you have to spend making that look so perfect after sleeping on it?

I didn't previously know the term DISS track, and I'm not sure I've ever used MONDO to mean "Very," and I've never heard the term TREEGUARD (Fencing along a sidewalk) either, so there's some stuff I learned.

Oh, that's what they mean! I was thinking of a much more rural street. I guess I needed to CODESWITCH!

I tried "Outofprint" for OFFTHEGRID (Unfindable, so to speak). Heh... books. 

I don't love DUPLE (Having two beats per measure, in music), but maybe that's a common term among musicians. I don't remember it from my orchestra days, though. And RAINN (Big nonprofit that operates the Department of Defense Safe Helpline) seemed pretty "out there." But overall, the cluing in this one kept my interest throughout. How 'bout "The cutting of one's jib?" (SAILMAKING)? That's some quality work.

- Horace

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Saturday, June 1, 2019, Ari Richter


I have a philosophical question.

I take pride in my fast solving skills. A lot of that is simply practice, however. We've been doing this crossword daily for the last six or seven years, and the more you see, the more you get a sense for without thinking too deeply. For example, 2D: Some first-years after undergrad (ONELS) - I entered this with no crosses today.

As further evidence of this, when I look back at, say early 2015, I find my Saturday times run from 20 minutes up to 36 minutes (for this puzzle: That grid is a tough one, to be certain, but I feel certain I would beat it in under 15 now.

Which leads me to my question: are we "ordinary people who enjoy doing crosswords" anymore? I think I would have astonished myself to think I could complete a Saturday NYT crossword in under seven minutes some years ago. The other possibility is that the puzzle has gotten easier; I definitely think they've gotten smoother.

So, to get back on track, today's puzzle is yet again a lovely smooth themeless. I don't love ASHPIT or SIMONES (a plural of a name is always a disappointment in my book). But otherwise I don't have any real complaints.

Meanwhile, BLANKETHOG is an immediate winner, especially right above SLEEPAPNEA. 40A: They're spotted at fire stations (DALMATIANS) is brilliant, a non-QMC that has just the right twist of deception. Another excellent non-QMC clue came at 11A: Takes heat from (UNARMS).

Of course, I loved the SW section, starting at 26A: Winner of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in N.F.L. history (16 total points) (PATRIOT). That just happened this year, for those who are not as into sports as I am. Then, there was the wonderful way 26D: Turnovers, e.g. (PASTRIES) played on the solver who had gotten 26A easily. Not the type of turnover you see in football, but the kind you get in the kitchen. And then to top of the Beantown feel, 39A: Boston skyscraper, with "the" (PRU).

Nice Saturday.

- Colum

P.S. - It's a debut puzzle! Congratulations, Mr. Richter!