Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday, July 31, 2019, Dan Caprera


Welcome to Wednesday, where the oddball puzzles live! I am pretty amused by today's "X marks the spot" (literally) theme. There are four 15-letter answers that make up pirate treasure instructions. I like that you don't need the pirate-speak clues to follow their directions: you could simply read STARTATTHESKULL EASTTWELVEPACES SOUTHSEVENSTEPS WESTFIVETHENDIG, and you'd end up at the only X in the puzzle, right in the middle of the grid.

Of course, since X does always mark the spot, we hardly needed the instructions, but that's just being mean-spirited.

There were other theme-related answers, such as PET, SEIZE and PRIZE in the SE corner, as well as TRUNCHEON, which feels like it should have been mentioned somewhere in The Pirates of Penzance, but never was ("Here's your crowbar and your centre-bit; your life preserver - you may want to hit; your silent matches, your dark lantern seize, take your file, and your skeletonic keys").

As is typical of quotation puzzles, I moved slightly more slowly than a typical Wednesday. I made a couple of missteps myself, including DISks instead of DISCI and heWN instead of SAWN, but these were corrected well in time.

Otherwise, ECASH and the INTRANET felt like reverse anachronisms in this puzzle. I think I'll ENDIT there.

- Colum

P.S. Two debuts in a row! Welcome, Mr. Caprera!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tuesday, July 30, 2019, Christina Iverson


Debut alert! Welcome, Ms. Iverson, to the elite crew of NYT crossword constructors. We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA (boy, that's a lot of capital letters to type in a row - thank goodness we have some practice doing exactly that in these reviews) always like to see a new face, metaphorically speaking. Really what we see is the evidence of your clever brain at work, and that's worth a heck of a lot more to my thinking.

In any case, today's theme is STARTUP / CAPITAL, represented literally by four phrases where the first one to two syllables are an actual world capital. I had no idea where this was going (or perhaps I was solving too fast), and didn't get the trick until the puzzle was completed, even with the revealer in the middle of the puzzle.

Topically speaking, as he will be debating this very evening, is 47A: Longest-serving Independent member of Congress in U.S. history (BERNIESANDERS). It's amusing that the capital his name is hiding, Bern, belongs to the notoriously independent country of Switzerland. They don't even belong to the European Union. I had always assumed it was to make sure their banking wasn't controlled federal policies, but I see Wikipedia states that it was the Swiss citizens' opposition to the EU that prevented their application from going through.

I have been to Paris (sadly hidden in PARISHPRIESTS, a group that has lost a fair amount of respect over the last twenty to thirty years) and Rome (much better represented by ROMEOROMEO), but never to Latvia and Riga. I have been to Tallinn in Estonia, but good luck hiding that name in a theme answer.

Other than the theme, I note a higher than typical percentage of female names, such as LAURA Linney, IRENEDINAH, and RHODA. LOME is another world capital, so perhaps it would have better to avoid it in the fill. My favorite clue comes at 9D: They're almost always shared by twins, informally (BDAYS). Can you imagine being twins and having your births separated by the arbitrary turning of the clock over at midnight, so your birthdays are on consecutive days?

Actually, I can't even imagine being a twin, so there goes that thought experiment.

- Colum

Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday, July 29, 2019, Bruce Haight


I'd say today's puzzle is pretty much how you want a Monday puzzle to be. It's a fun theme with a surprise revealer, and smooth fill for the most part. I only regret that Dr. Haight's great sense of humor has less leeway on a Monday because the clues have to be relatively straightforward. We do see some of it in clues like 57A: "____ your piehole!" (SHUT).

So the revealer is ONTHEBENCH. I feel doubly bad for our constructor that Mr. Charlson's excellent Friday puzzle of this past week played the same game with the clue "Their players are often benched," leading to the answer "pianos." Today, we instead get 48A: Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea (JAZZPIANIST). That's certainly the jazziest of the theme answers, on several levels!

But there are also several snazzy answers in the fill, including 7D: Boat you might shoot rapids in (KAYAK), and 40D: Leave at the altar (JILT), which always reminds me of Anthony Trollope, and his frequent admonishment of "There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip." Of course, the right people almost always do end up together in his novels. But not always...

WEREINLUCK makes good use of a long down answer with a fun colloquial answer. We really need a better name for these sorts of uttered phrases which are so much more common nowadays in the NYT puzzle. Any takers?

There were a few answers I was NUTSO KEEN on, including OSSA and ICARE ("Words of empathy"? I feel like if I said that to somebody they'd look for the easiest way to exit the room). But on the whole, we'll give this puzzle a nice thumbs up.

- Colum

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Boswords 2019 - Special Report!

Hi Crossword-Lovers, it's Horace here, with a quick PSA about the Boswords tournament in Boston.

Today was the third installment of this tournament, and since it was a nice day, I rode my bike down to Roxbury Latin to join in the fun. (Either I'm the only person who bikes to it, or everyone else knows where they hide the bike racks at that school!)

It was much the same as last year, which is to say that it was another fun tournament in a friendly atmosphere. I saw some familiar faces from the A.C.P.T., caught up with old friends and made some new ones, and, sadly, just like last year, I finished with one error! And this time it wasn't something I didn't know - it was a dumb mistake that would never have happened if I had checked the cross! ... grumblegrumblegrumble...

Others, however, made no mistakes, including this year's winner, Andy Kravis. His speedy dispatch of the final puzzle occasionally provoked spontaneous laughter of disbelief from several of us who watched on the big overhead screen. It was, however, somewhat reassuring to see that even he had some difficulty in what I and my table-mate considered the toughest part of the devilish Finn Vigeland puzzle. In the end, though, it didn't really hold him up all that long, and he finished well in advance of the two other finalists.

I don't have too much to say about the tournament that I didn't already say last year, but I did want to put up a post to let publicize the event. If you've ever considered attending a crossword tournament, and certainly if you live within easy biking distance (or even driving distance, I suppose), I'd highly recommend you check it out.

- Horace

Sunday, July 28, 2019, Christopher Adams


Welcome back to me. Every week I say to myself, how can I possibly write any reviews of interest after Frannie has dazzled us with a week of humor and delight? Perhaps if I drank one of Horace's famed NEGRONIS, I'd be more apt to dazzle. Alas, I prefer CHAMPAGNE. Quite the tipsy corner there in the SW!

I do love a themed puzzle that keeps me guessing until the revealer shows up, and this puzzle did exactly that. The theme answers are nicely spaced along a mirror axis of symmetry down the center of the grid, with the revealer, MIXEDMETAPHORS coming at the very bottom. And in fact, each theme answer contains inside of it an anagram of the word "metaphors." ATMOSPHERE comes the closest to being a perfect anagram, adding only an extra E.

Note that in each case, the anagram is contiguous within the overall theme answer. That's impressive. For example, CHRI[STOPHERMA]RLOWE. Now, was he truly a collaborator with William Shakespeare? There appears to be some meaningful evidence that he wrote parts of Henry VI 1-3. On the other hand, he clearly died in 1593, so his collaboration after that time must have been limited at best, we suppose. The best part of this is that the theory that Marlowe wrote all of Shakespeare's plays is called the Marlovian theory (this is an obscure reference that only Horace and Frannie will get, but you must pardon the occasional inside joke).

In any case, the theme gets a huge thumbs up. What about the fill? Well, there's very little I'd be inclined to flush down the TOLET. Examples here would include REKEY, odd partial ORA (why not clue it with reference to Spanish?), SETA, and the peculiar 50A: "In case you didn't hear me ..." (ISAID).

Otherwise, look at all those bonus long down answers, like BLANKSTARE, PAXROMANA, and PRENUPTIAL in its full form. I also liked the references to LORDE, SONDHEIM, and THEMASK.

Amusement was also to be had, such as at 60A: Pompous pronoun (ROYALWE), 91A: It's all downhill from here (ACME), and 68D: One of two in "The Grapes of Wrath" (IAMB). That was a tough clue!

A nice start to the week. Let's keep puzzling, shall we?

- Colum

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Saturday, July 27, 2019, Byron Walden


Whew! Quite a different solving experience compared to yesterday. After I had gone once through all the acrosses and downs, I had the sum total of twelve letters in the grid: ROO (Hundred Acre Wood youngster), REEDY (High and thin, as a voice), and ERIC (George Orwell's real first name). However, even though faced with almost a totally blank grid, I HADFAITH that I would be able to FILET few more squares if I kept at it.

I had to rely on the old trick of entering probable partials to make anything like a real start. I had no idea what "Manner of speaking in eastern Virginia" might be, but I had tried ASEC next to ERIC, which lead to 'CC' toward the end of the 17A slot, which lead me to hazard ACCENT. The same thing happened in the south with "Linguistic borrowing, as 'earworm' from 'Ohrwurm.'" Once I got a few letters in the south east, the partial TRANSLATION started to seem likely, so I put that in. I have the word "Rideau" in the clue "World capital on the Rideau canal" to thank for my ability to guess OTTAWA because, as you all know, I ken not geography. And so it went. Thanks to the partials, the right half of the grid fell, then I chipped away at the left. Color me surprised when I eventually finished in under an hour and without a FWOE! Although, as I thought more about it, maybe this is the kind of puzzle that makes FWOEs unlikely - besides typeFWOEs, which no one can control. When one is SLOWED by the level of difficulty and faced with so many long answers, maybe FWOEs become less likely.

Anyhoo, LETTUCE begin by pointing out some of the great clues that exploit the multiple meanings of English vocabulary. The abundance of same is what helped make this a tough, but satisfying Saturday solve:
Performance bonus (ENCORE) - excellent! This one took me forever!
Print alternative (CURSIVE)
Place for driving lessons (TEEBOX) - who knew such a thing existed?!?
Charged (RANAT)
Leveled (RAZED)
Checked out (EXAMINED)
Strips (REMOVES)
And how about BOING for "Spring report"? I didn't see that coming! Also, I love the word TRICE. You don't see that every day.


Probably the weakest clue is "Inits. in a bowling alley" (AMF), one of only two three-letter entries in the grid - who's going to argue with ROO? :) The pair Surmount/RESTON at 11D left me wondering if I was mis-parsing clue or answer. Those two don't seem like a match to me. And, although I appreciate the effort in "One who gets lots of tweets?", the answer, AVIARIST, seemed a bit of a lame duck. As I struggled to come up with that one, I thought to myself that a funny alternative might be "One who doesn't get a lot of tweets?" and the answer could be SYLVESTER. Don't laugh, I'm CERES.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday, July 26, 2019, Trenton Charlson


So, under fifteen for a Friday. I'll take it. It FELT like this one was right in my wheelhouse. I seemed to have a guess for every clue and, in an odd turn of events, my guess was often correct. For example, although I didn't know "Bird named for its black-and-white markings" I thought immediately of ZEBRA. I was able to confirm the Z with the down "Full-figured" (ZAFTIG), so in it went. True, I didn't know what kind of Zebra bird was wanted, but as the old saying goes, a word in the band is worth two in the mush, or something like that. The rest of the downs in the north east helped me identify the bird as a FINCH. Also, for reasons we don't need to go into here, I am familiar with the ingredients of a FUZZYNAVEL cocktail, so that answer went right in. And thus I went along at a brisk TROT.

The only real trouble I had was in the south east. I was a FOOL and entered CHALKmark instead of the correct CHALKLINE, even though the word "mark" is right in the clue. Double derp. So I had that wrong, When I looked at the clue "So on and so forth" with an initial letter of A from ROMAN (Kind of type) I applied too much ZEAL, or rather, not enough, and kept thinking along the lines of "Adinfititum," or "Adnauseum." The correct answer, ALLTHATJAZZ, is much better PHIL.

I got "It comes from Mars" (TWIX) right away, but I was temporarily duped by "Rock and roll, e.g." (VERBS). Also, I entered bILKS at first for "Uses shamelessly" but when I checked the resulting across, I realized bUSTNT was a no-no, so I was able to clear that up before I got into any real trouble.

But enough about how I went SARONG, here's what was so right in this puzzle:
Their players are often benched (PIANOS)
Was charming? (CASTASPELL)
Reason for going out a lot? (NARCOLEPSY)
Dough nut? MISER - ha!

Not to mention a HEAP of good fill like AQUAMARINE, CRABAPPLE, and
THANE. Plus, two great words in the clues: Pismire and Foofaraw. I'm a FAN.

There was some fill that was not EQUAL to the rest. The one clue/answer pair I would put EXES on is "Demand" (ENTAIL). SAGO is fine, but not fun. And "___ soda" (SAL), is even less fun, especially if you happen to mistake it for a refreshing beverage. Speaking of which, there's some peach schnapps and orange juice calling my name.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thursday, July 25, 2019, Erik Agard and Andy Kravis


The trick in today's puzzle didn't spring immediately to this solver's mind. It wasn't until I got to 41A: "Classic Dr. Seuss book" that I started to catch on. I wanted that answer to be 'Hop on Pop,' but I only had five squares available. I cast an eye over the corresponding downs and found that ONPOP was where I wanted to be. As luck would have it, the very center down answer in that section also happened to be the revealer: 25D: "Some basketball shots ... and the theme of this puzzle" (JUMPERS). Although I still wasn't sure how HOP was going to fit in, I had a feeling I was on the right track. As it turned out, each theme entry consisted of a grid-spanning tripartite solution. The west- and east-most words formed one answer unit (MOBILE APP, ECHO PARK, SKI PATROL), while providing, via their final and initial circled letters, the lift necessary to jump the center word, which, in turn, when paired with the word formed by the circled letters in each of the surrounding words completed the center entries LE-AP (YEAR), HO-P (ONPOP), and SKI-P (TOWN). Maybe the real trick of today's puzzle is explaining it! Well, let's be honest, the real feat is in constructing a puzzle with a clever twist that OCTOPIs our minds without sacrificing the rest of the grid.

To wit, here are SOMA my favorites:
Sunday delivery (SERMON)
90s kid? ASTUDENT
What may be found behind the appendix (INDEX)
Friends of Nancy (AMIS) - ha!

Straight-up fill-wise, I liked REALM, TORRENT, ARMOIRE, DIORAMA, GERMANE, and SEPIA.

I hope the constructors won't be soar, but as a reviewer, I'm bound to mention the SOSO along with the SMART, and in that category we have the partial "Not on" ___ (ABET) and "... you sure about that?" (ORISIT), but I can't really vault the constructors because overall it's élan in a million.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019, Jake Halperin


For today's theme, three common phrases are re-cast as tasks for particular personages. I AGED a bit before I finally caught on. In the south, I started with TOpAYTHELEAST, thinking that the Benedictines might be frugal souls, but apparently, they are better known for their vows of silence, so their task is TOSAYTHELEAST. That became clear when I finally got SASS at 56D for "Some wisecracks." I thought the northernmost theme task, TONAMEACOUPLE, was the weakest. The more familiar phrase, to me, is "to name a few," but that answer is not only short, but if clued in a similar manner, would probably reflect an un-PC level of parenting.

I had ABITOF trouble in the northwest. ADO at 1A didn't put up much of a fight, but I tossed it out it when I got to 3D "How the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup finals ended." If you've read any of my previous reviews, you know I have no idea what the score of these games were, or even that they ever took place, so I had to make a guess. Unlucky for me "inatie" has the same number of letters as does the correct answer ONENIL. BEN Bradlee was no help to me, nor was "Like Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't She Lovely" (INE). The only answer I that gave me a lift in that corner was "Elevator innovator Elisha (OTIS).

I did enjoy the multiple language answers in the puzzle. It was a regular United Nations gathering starting with "Mario's world" (MONDO), then "What 'bist' means in the 1930's hit 'Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen" (ARE), followed immediately by "The 'e' of i.e." (EST), and then by "High, in Versailles" (HAUT), and finally "Latin 'I'" (EGO). German OPELS also make an appearance today, which may have given Huygens a boost. :)

ASLOPE (Slanted) and UPRAISE (Heighten) don't quite reach LEVELA, IMO, but, OTOH, ALARMS for "Protection rackets," ENS for "Non-majority?" and EMMY for "Award for a soap, maybe" are all really top drawer, TOPUTITMILDLY.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tuesday, July 23, 2019, Kyle Dolan


Today's theme did not immediately come to me ; it took a "we" to discover the both of US. At first, I had tried to figure out what the parts of each theme answer (EXCUSESEXCUSES, MARCUSAURELIUS, WALRUSMUSTACHE) had in common with each other, but no, the revealer was, as it often is, quite literal. When I chatted with a coworker about the puzzle, she called up the completed puzzle on her monitor and it was then that the pairs of US jumped right out at us two. The obvious favorite is WALRUSMUSTACHE because it has the words walrus and mustache in it.

The puzzle included an interesting note about KARAOKE (Literally, "empty orchestra"), and, in a surprising twist, we learn that Twizzler's contains RED DYE. Other other clue/answer pairs we OKED include:
Squarish (BOXY) - pleasing all around.
Branch of the Olympics? (LAUREL) - cute.
It's groundbreaking (HOE) - HEHE.
Alternatives to Ho Hos (YODELS) - mmm, Yodels.

SEDUM lanceolatum

It seems to me that SEEME has been quite popular of late. And STU is back, today referenced as the Disco character on "The Simpsons,"which is great, but I also very much enjoyed "Man's name that's an alphabet run" on Saturday.

I say TUT to the word SKED (Slated events, in brief). Also, TNG and OSO are not SUPE as fill. ASTO other problem areas, I thought the "Hamilton climax" clue should have come with a spoiler alert. Anyone else?


Monday, July 22, 2019

Monday, July 22, 2019, Lynn Lempel


As I began to write the review today, I wished I had a fairy godmother to ENDOW me with REMUS of ideas, or a genie who could ADOS things for me, or at the very least, have Rumpelstiltskin show up and turn this review of straw into gold for me, but alas, IRA OUT a luck.

While I was unable to conjure the straw-to-gold spinning imp myself, if one combines the first part of each of the four theme answers (RUMMAGESALE, PELICANSTATE, STILTON, and SKINNYDIPPER) his name magically appears. Besides contributing part of the answer to the question WHATSMYNAME, each of the theme answers is excellent in its own right. I especially liked the clue for SKINNYDIPPER (One barely in the water?) - ha!

I'm SERTA that any and all denizens of the fairy kingdom would also appreciate other fantastical fill like mushroom CAP, a "slippery" ELM tree, anything PONIED, and the mythical beauty, EUROPA. There be PERILS, too, including a STOVE, a CREEP, a DARE, plus RATS and a PIPE. Oh my.


Well, there it is, today's review. I really OPED it would end better, maybe with something along the lines of "And they all puzzled happily ever after," but I am afraid I am less perfect than LORE.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday, July 21, 2019, Jeff Chen and Jason Mueller


It will come as a surprise to no one that we now have a puzzle commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I haven't watched any of the TV shows that I've seen advertised, but I did recently visit an exhibit on same at the Houghton Library at Harvard. It's a nice show, and free and open to the public, so if you're in the area, you might want to pop in. One thing that I learned from it is that Buzz Aldrin would probably be pretty annoyed to see Neil ARMSTRONG in the center of the grid, as it has been said that Aldrin "resents not being first on the Moon more than he appreciates being second." It's good, though, that EGOS did not provide an obstacle to teamwork on that mission!

This puzzle is really quite impressive. First, there's the face in the middle, complete with Apollo-style helmet surround. That's already a good start. And then we've got the theme answers pretty much all over the place! APOLLOELEVEN, MANONTHEMOON, ONESMALLSTEP, ONEGIANTLEAP, TRANQUILITY, THEEAGLEHASLANDED, ARMSTRONG, and the bonus ITSAGO, SEP (Mo. in 1962 in which J.F.K. gave his "We choose to go to the moon" speech), and maybe even "What goes up must come down" and others (ADAGES). And then there's the rebus (small) [STEP] and the appropriately larger, four-square "leap" in the bottom two corners. Really, it's just so well done! And what do we have to suffer for it? Just tiny things that I'm not even going to bother mentioning.

Outside of the theme, we find even more to like - GIL (Good name for a fishmonger?), TELEPATHS (They don't keep their thoughts to themselves), HAM (Someone who might engage in a hobby with some frequency?) (Hah!), FOODCHAIN (Hawk -> snake -> frog -> insect, e.g.), NOTION (What's gotten into your head), and more that I'll leave to you to discover.

Well done, sirs! I hope both Mr. Chen and Mr. Mueller are sitting back in IDLESSE and saying BEERME to a receptive and willing ear.

- Horace

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Saturday, July 20, 2019, Sam Trabucco


A really nice puzzle today. Looking at it now, the shape looks a bit unorthodox - at least to this untrained eye - but I like the swirling paths from the NE down into the East, the reverse of that in the SW, and the fairly open center. There are those narrow straits in the NW and SE, but overall, it felt open.


I guessed "Save" at 1D: Prime directive? (SHOP) (better), and wasn't fooled by 3D: Guy's gal (AMIE) or 7D: Class in which kids may learn about sin? (TRIG), but I feel my big break came at 8D: Best-selling game with a hexagonal board (SETTLERSOFCATAN), which I was able to drop in thanks to my oldest brother's family, who play this quite frequently.

Off of that, SGTPEPPER ("Bandleader" with a 1967 #1 album), LAM (On the ____), ELROY (Man's name that means "the king"), and even TOPFORTY (Hit list) and NERDFEST (Comic con, e.g.) were made much easier.

Along with all of that, I made several missteps: ahIsEeIT for OHIGETIT, SLEDdIng for SLEDRIDE, MADEASceNe for MADEASTINK, and AintthISTHELIFE for AHTHISISTHELIFE. I think those were the big ones.

There's good material all over the place. BEERME, SEESAW, PARITY, APERITIFS, LUXE, LONEWOLF, HOMECURE, SPAMBOTS, and more. Sure, SLEDRIDE is not natural-sounding, and nobody wants to be reminded of the STARR Report, but overall, this was a high quality puzzle.

One last thing - I kind of wish HATARI had been clued as Iceland's 2019 Eurovision entry, but I suppose that kind of reference will have to wait a few years. The U.S. is supposedly getting its own version of the European blockbuster in 2021. You heard it here first!

- Horace

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday, July 19, 2019, Peter Wentz

0:12:48 (F.W.O.E.)

I marred my pretty-good-so-far week today by committing the cardinal crosswording sin - not checking the crosses. :( I was humming along (even after starting with the "too clever for my own good" "sec" at 1A "Like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, typically" (DRY)), and when I hit 24D: Puts off (DETERS), I had the "DE.." already and I just plunked in DEfERS. Sadly, for me, there's nothing on the back of a baseball card called "staf."


Aside from that, though, this was a fun puzzle. Well, even with that. Many of the longer answers fell pretty quickly for me, but not ABNEGATIVE (Type least likely to turn up in a hospital)! Boy was that a tricky clue. For a while, when I had "...A_IVE" I was thinking it would end in "alive." I'm not sure why, as most people who do turn up in hospitals are, in fact, alive. But anyway, that's sometimes how my panicked mind works when solving, I guess.

I didn't particularly enjoy discovering ATHIRST (Quite eager) in the grid, GUMS is gross, and although I am now getting used to ADSORB (Gather on the surface, chemically), I have not run into it much outside of crosswords. Speaking of that, though, a coworker the other day used the word "agita" in casual conversation, so who knows, maybe ADSORB will come up in conversation soon.

Love the word LACKEY (and "Underling"), and I always love the kind of trivia in "Country that has approximately 0% arable land" (OMAN).

Overall, a fun puzzle.

- Horace

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thursday, July 18, 2019, Matthew Sewell


So what shall we call this theme? Take a phrase (from the sphere of entertainment) that includes a two-letter component, and then re-imagine the two-letter part and clue accordingly. With wacky results.

Maybe it's better if we get right to the examples. The first one that I understood while solving was LIFEOFPI (Backstory for TV's Magnum?). Kind of simple - using the "biography" definition of "life" - but it works. For the first one I had the Z, and entered THEWIZARDOFoz almost instinctively, even though it didn't really fit with "Bouncer who can always spot a fake?" It wasn't until much later, when TRADEFOR (Acquire midseason, as a sports team might) became clear, that I finally changed it to THEWIZARDOFID - which is much better. "The Wizard of I.D." And I think it was even later than that before I understood IMABELIEVER (Advice for how the pope can reach out online?). I think it was the "online" part of the clue that confused me there - do people really consider IMs to be "online?" I realize that they are carried by the same network, but when I hear "online" I think of things that are available on the World Wide Web, which is not how I think of IMs, but that could just be a function of my coming from a generation that knew the world without the Internet. Or it could be simple ignorance. I'll let you decide.

Anyway, I liked the theme. And I liked the puzzle, even though it was one of those Thursday puzzles that falls into the category of "harder than Wednesday and easier than Friday." Well, I can't really say that yet, but that's the way Mr. Shortz has described his criterion for Thursday. It doesn't always have to have a trick. And that's fine by me. Without a standard, nothing would shine. Of course, this reminds me of a line from the Tao te Ching -

  When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly.
  When people see some things as good, other things become bad.

Sometimes competition and comparison can be destructive. The important thing, I guess, is to understand where that's true and where it's not. Otherwise, what have we been doing these past many years? Why are we discussing the puzzles at all? Maybe it isn't to compare them, but to share them with others, to create community and belonging, rather than to tear down or lift up. Of course, maybe we have done a little of each in the past, but, to continue that verse:

  Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything.
  Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go.
  She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect.
  When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Adam Nicolle


Kind of a cool theme today, where appropriate verbs are found within long entries, proving, once again, that "There are more things in heaven and earth, HORATIO / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Who comes up with this stuff? Oh, right, crossword constructors! And for Mr. Nicolle, this is a debut! I look forward to seeing more of his ideas.

It seems like it would be fun to search for more of these - perhaps when I'm not writing a review...

They're all pretty good. "Ran" ERRANDS looks so tidy there in the center, with its verb exactly in the middle, and "Drove" a LANDROVER is a pretty excellent find. Maybe PENNYDREADFULS are a bit obscure, but it might be fun for fans of the Netflix series to know where the term originated.

As is frequently the case, the long downs contain some of the more interesting entries. I particularly enjoyed EYELEVEL (Five to six feet high, roughly) and STUPORS (Dazed states) down in the SE corner. And the clues for BED (Something most people lie about?), EDEN (Apple's first location?), and RULES (Sped-up part of a contest commercial) were amusing. EMERALDS (May birthstones) is sparkly, and RECIPES (File box filler) reminds me that I've got a file box filled with my grandmother's Finnish recipes that I've got to make time to look through! So much to do! So many things to learn!

Still, it's nice to get a new puzzle every day, and taking a little time for that is also important, right? Anyway, I think so. I hope you do too.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Ross Trudeau


I cannot remember ever seeing a NYT puzzle like this before. Six "cheater squares" (as I think the pros are wont to call them) at the top of the grid have been made white*, instead of black, to emphasize the diagonal lines. And at the apex of each diagonal we have two unchecked squares. Strange. And why? Because the theme is AFRAMEBUILDINGS.


And it's not just those black-square diagonals - running underneath them we have diagonal rows of As. The top left run of As extends all the way to the puzzle's edge, but none of the other three do. To me, it kind of seems like the beginning of an idea that still has some rough edges. If there had been no other As in the grid save those diagonals, or if the revealer had been the more common A-frame houses... I don't know.

I don't like it. I don't like the white squares trying to pretend they're not there. I know they're there to avoid even more unchecked squares and two-letter answers, but I still don't like it. I don't like the unchecked squares. I don't like the sloppiness of one line of As being longer than the rest, I don't like starting with ABRA...

I do, on the other hand, like the four long Down answers. ROOFGARDENS (Adjuncts to some penthouses) is lovely, and it's nice to get LIONELMESSI's full name, after seeing just his last so often. REGALED (Entertained with a story, say) is a good one, and FACEPLANT (Embarrasing fall) is fun. I even like ANTECEDE (Predate) and ANNEALER (Glassworker, at times), but I do not like JANDJ, and I don't think ALES would be "marked with 'XXX' in the comics." In my mind, anyway, those jugs contain moonshine, not some craft-brewed ale.

So not all bad, and I understand the desire to keep the themes fresh and to try new things, but this one just didn't work for me.

- Horace

* The black squares were made white when solving the puzzle online through the NYT crossword site. It may not have been like that in other platforms.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday, July 15, 2019, Ed Sessa


It's definitely summertime here in New England. The forecast is sunny and hot for the next several days, so if you haven't been to the barber lately, you might want to run out and get one of the four SHORTCUTS named in today's theme entries. Me, I've been cutting my own hair for some years, and while a buzz cut is definitely the easiest, I usually try to end up with something a tad longer - something like a pixie cut, but for boys, and with less teasing. Is that a thing?


As for the rest of the puzzle, I liked this one a lot. There are ten seven-letter Down answers, and six sixes, and many of those are quite good. ARUGULA (Peppery salad green) is a favorite of mine, and I don't mind the plural on FEZZES (Some Moroccan headwear) because it gives the double Z. The "false capital" in "Apple production site" made ORCHARD slightly trickier, and the echo of that deception might have affected some when they saw "Tablet alternative" (GELCAP) soon after. Even "Chameleons, e.g." (LIZARDS) could be seen in different ways. :)

ROGUE, GLOAT, BILGE, are all great entries, and I chuckled at the somewhat blatant clue for TOAST (Browned bread). Heh. And STBEDE probably trotted out a few OLDSAWS ("Haste makes waste" and similar sayings) now and then, don't you think?

Overall, a ROSY start to the week!

- Horace

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday, July 14, 2019, Caitlin Reid


Bonjour, mes amis! Je vous souhaite un bon quatorze juillet! And to celebrate la Fête Nationale de la belle France, we have a very non-French theme - to wit, it is one that emphasizes the endings of words. (In French, many letters at the ends of words are not pronounced.)

As is often the case on Sunday, the puzzle's title is really quite clever. On the one hand, it alerts you to the fact that the endings might be special, and on the other, it tells you exactly how they will be special with a kind of homophonic revealer: "[With an] R, we finished [the theme answers.]" (It reminds me of an old "Four-Star Puzzler" title: "Element #18." The 18th element is Argon, and in that particular puzzle, all of the Rs had been removed from the answers. The shock of that realization might have been what set me on this long crossword-loving journey...)

Anywho... the original six phrases are all well-known, and the wacky re-cluing got me to smile - especially the final one: "World's shortest-reigning monarch?" (FIVESECONDRULER). Hah!

And there was plenty of non-theme material that entertained as well. "Cover-up for a robbery" (SKIMASK), "Sole supporter?" (SHOERACK), "One who gets take-out orders?" (HITMAN), "Powerpoints?" (OUTLETS), and the excellent "Pops up in a flash?" (PHOTOBOMBS), for example. And how about "How balloons are priced?" (APOP). That's excellent, good-natured cluing! Clues and answers that make you smile when you get them, not agita-inducing, frat-boy-centric, strain-of-marijuana-type answers that make you go "well, ok, that must be right" when you finally fill them in. N'est-ce pas?

But with puzzles, as in life, you've got to endure both good and bad. This was a good start to my week of reviews, and I'm looking forward to the next one!

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

- Horace

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday, July 13, 2019, David Steinberg


MAUIWOWIE, this was a tough Saturday themeless, just what one looks for while sitting on the porch of a lake house in the Catskills. And what was the name of the lake, I hear you ask? Why, yes, it is indeed Lake Wanaksink. Apparently the first K is silent.

Anyway, I enjoyed working through this grid. The struggle was real, certainly. How about 1D: Jet popular in the 1960s and '70s (NAMATH)? That's the kind of clue that makes you work. Meanwhile, 2D was an immediate gimme, also on a plane, in a sense. And that, as much as anything else, led to my drinking problem...

I love IXNAY, just a great word. 54A: 200-milligram units (CARATS) was tough. I would never have defined HITHER as "not so far away." And is the plural of EMOJI also EMOJI? In that case it joins the rare company of "moose."

But more to the point, it's lovely in the Catskills, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I was not able to go kayaking on the waters because I'm on call, and I was worried of going out of cell phone range. But I did get a lovely swim in. I am all in favor of the rules on this lake that don't allow outboard motors or diesel engines. Quiet and clean is good.

Oh, right, I'm supposed to be talking about the puzzle, NESTCEPAS? For some reason it took way too long to get this answer. I loved 34A: Vacation souvenir, perhaps (TANLINE). I don't love ENROBE or 7D: Rough up, in a way (PAWAT), which really feels incorrect both morally and definitionally.

Anyway, overall a good challenge. Let's do more puzzles this week, SHALLWE?

- Colum

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019, Evan Kalish


An excellent themeless today. I had to work hard at just about everything. The only nit I'll pick comes at the crossing of HOLI and EMILE. I CHANCEDIT by guessing the L and was correct, but that's a Natick waiting to happen, IMO.

Two great clues in the NW illustrate the toughness of this puzzle. At 2D: Letter found between two vowels in the alphabet (THETA), I knew something was up, because what English letter could be stretched out to five letters long? The alphabet portion was key in suggesting the Greek version, but I wasn't sure which letter to use, and my knowledge of the alphabet in question has greatly atrophied over the years. For the record, the two vowels are eta and iota.

The other great clue was at 7D: Part of Caesar's boast (ISAW). Well, I know what I saw. It was four letters long, which works for any of words in the original latin phrase. So I knew, deep in my soul, that the first letter had to be a V and the last an I. This made the section much harder than it had to be, clearly!


Apparently there was a lot of confusion going on.

17A: An anchor is at its end (RELAYRACE) is very nicely done. Non-QMC the way it should be done. 49A: This clue's number divided by this clue's answer (SEVEN) was a nice aha moment. Come to think of it, there is not a single regulation question mark clue to be found in this grid. And it's about time that the universe's SCRUB, DWEEB, and LONER population is recognized.

And so on to the poetry:

Behold, the SEA itself,
And on its limitless, heaving breast, the ships;
See, where their white sails, bellying in the wind, speckle the
      green and blue,
See, the steamers coming and going, steaming in or out of port,
See, dusky and undulating, the long pennants of smoke.

- Colum

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thursday, July 11, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


Oh, it took some time for me to figure out what was going on here. I filled in a lot of crossing answers before seeing 26A: slip up (STNEDUTS) and realizing there was no Saint Neduts. Quite the opposite, in some classrooms. What we have here is a reverse clue and reverse answer, nicely disguised. "Slip up" backwards is "pupils," which leads to the answer "students."

If I had gotten all the way to 63A: name tag (RETEPTNIAS - there's that saint I was looking for!), I would have seen right through the trick. That is such a wonderful palindrome worthy word. And in fact, my older daughter, who has gotten suddenly interested in crossword puzzles, was doing an excellent Tuesday from April, 2019 where the across answers all acted this way, equally valid forwards and backwards. Turns out that puzzle's by the same author!

I love the extra layer of hiding the reversibility through reparsing the clues. For example, 17A: Red root was a real challenge to see "to order."

The long down answers are all very nice choices here as well. CHATTERBOX is great, as is WHENINROME. Even though I went into medicine, I'm a huge fan of the HUMANITIES, so that's an excellent answer as well, especially when clued with a little distraction of Trivial Pursuit categories ("History and literature, e.g.").

Some other nice clues include 13A: Make faces, perhaps (DRAW) - not at all what I was expecting. 20A: Note below F, perhaps? (SEEME) - Hah! Great stuff there. Goes with those pesky classrooms and unsaintly students. I also really liked 42A: Live in a studio (ONAIR) - you have to read the first word with a long I to get the meaning right! And lastly, how about 7D: They may be packed for a trip in the mountain (ASSES). Oof, that took some getting. Very nice.

I'm on a poetry kick this week, so...

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan 
A stately pleasure-dome decree: 
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
   Down to a sunless sea. 
So twice five miles of fertile ground 
With walls and towers were girdled round; 
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, 
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; 
And here were forests ancient as the hills, 
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 

- Colum

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wednesday, July 10, 2019, David J. Kahn


A memorial puzzle to IMPEI, who passed away in May of this year at the age of 102, which is remarkable in and of itself. Of course, his claim to fame as a STARCHITECT (never heard that before, but I love it - I guess Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry fit into that category as well) is the main focus here. He has a strong connection to Boston, and despite the difficulties that surround the New John Hancock Tower, its shape and silhouette have defined the skyline in my home town as long as I've been around.

Certainly the ROCKANDROLL / HALLOFFAME and the LOUVREPYRAMID are iconic for Mr. Pei. Now having done some image searching, I see that the BANKOF / CHINATOWER is immediately recognizable as well.

I had a little difficulty in the NW today because I importunately entered DOdo at 4D: Noodlehead (DOLT), which made a lot of the proper nouns in there difficult to see. 1D: Soul mate? (BODY) is quite good. I didn't have the same difficulty in the SE because TOSCA was an immediate entry for me. I happen to have just been playing some of the music from that opera on the piano yesterday.

We all love GROMIT (and if you don't, I don't want to hear it). And George BRETT brings back fond childhood memories of baseball.

As always, there's a few entries of lesser note, such as ISOLE and AFTS. But I think the puzzle holds well together overall. And since I ended on a poetic note yesterday, here's some YEATS:

The unpurged images of day recede;
The Emperor's drunken soldiery are abed;
Night resonance recedes, night-walkers' song
After great cathedral gong;
A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
All that man is,
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins.

- Colum

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Tuesday, July 9, 2019, Bruce Haight


I'm a big fan who adores silly examples of inane redundancy which repeats. Horace and Frannie have collected a number of examples of acronyms which are often used with the last word repeated unnecessarily, such as ATM machine, or PIN number.

All of today's theme answers are examples of this sort of thing. 17A: Experience, redundantly (PASTHISTORY) is a great example. CASHMONEY is another. The others are not exactly the same thing. Certainly both "taxi" and "cab" refer to a vehicle for hire, but TAXICAB is such common usage that it doesn't have the same ring, and RATFINK and BUNNYRABBIT feel similarly to my ear.

Dr. Haight always throws in some fun extras in the cluing. Today, we get 1A: So far (ASYET) and 55D: At this point (BYNOW). I also like 26D and 40D: "You got that right!" (AMEN and YEAH). That last one reminds me of Trading Places.

It's nice to see both TONI Morrison and Gloria STEINEM in the puzzle. On a related and completely unrelated note, I want to be Megan Rapinoe when I grow up.

Some things to be a BOOER about (slightly different than my boorish behavior yesterday) include ENDWISE, SEACOOK, odd little partial ANA, and PSY, the abbreviation nobody uses for psychology. Also, I've never heard of YUBAN coffee, but then I don't take a coffee myself, so perhaps that's just my blind spot.

Finally, I've always loved NOYES' "The Highwayman":

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding
Up to the old inn door.

- Colum

Monday, July 8, 2019

Monday, July 8, 2019, Ned White


I don't want to be a BOOR (but maybe secretly I do, and just never give myself the chance), but this kind of puzzle is just not that exciting to me.

First off, who calls Proctor and Gamble PANDG? If you Google the phrase as entered in the puzzle, you get the full corporate name (and by the way, points off for the corporate angle here), and then you also get P&G, which shows up in the corporate logo (did I mention points off anywhere here, because of the, you know, corporate thing?). So there's that.

Then, it's great that there are eight examples of two word phrases with the initials PG. That's a ton to squeeze into a 15x15 grid. So points back on for that. I don't love PARTYGIRLS ("sorority types?"), but the theme answers are a reasonable set. But still, there must be so many examples of this pattern. Here's a better theme idea: PG-13. All theme answers have to be 13 letters long, and follow this pattern. That would be more interesting. And since I am not constructing puzzles, I don't need to do the legwork that would prove the idea unworkable.

And finally, PROLOGUE is the obvious ninth theme answer. Prolo Gue. You know.
I used to love BENNY HILL as a child, but now it strikes me as mostly unpleasant stuff
Well, since almost all of the longer slots are taken by the theme answers, there's not much else to acknowledge today. Except for 6D: An emoji may suggest it (MOOD). That surely is a mood. Like the mood I am apparently in today. Oh, and GOONY. That is something that nobody has said ever.

- Colum

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sunday, July 7, 2019, Jack Reuter


I can only begin to have a glimmer of an understanding for how difficult this puzzle must have been to create. There's this CHESS BOARD in the middle of the grid, first off. Note how all the crossword black squares fall on black squares of the chess board. Then, there's a chess position created on the board, with crossword letters standing in for chess pieces - R for rook, B for bishop, P for pawn, K for king, and N for knight. The chess position is not only a legal and reasonable endgame, it is actually set up for CHECKMATEINONE, and that by moving KNIGHTTOBEIGHT (knight to B-8). This does in fact create a checkmate, as the black King on D7 in placed in check by the knight, and can't move away due to the rook on G8, the rook on E1, and the bishop on B4 blocking all its moves.

Holy chess pieces, Batman!

I bet Mr. Reuter is glad he came up with a chess position with no queens (Qs) in place...

As impressed as I am, I suspect that solvers with little or no chess experience might not find the puzzle exciting. The grid is essentially nine (9!) minipuzzles, due to the extreme hypersegmentation I'm sure was essential in creating the middle section. We get not just EZINE but ENOTE (and ESTOPS? - Okay, that's not actually an internet age coinage, but rather a medieval legal term). I lost track of the number of compound answers: things like CHOPUP, MAKESIT, LANDEDON. Although OOZESOUT is perfect for molasses.

Answers I ADORE include PROMINENT ("No, I'm not prominent..."), NOSFERATU, and GOSSAMER. I fell into the trap of 66A: Eve's counterpart (MORN) by entering "Adam." And who knew that SPOKANE hosted the 1974 World's Fair? Who knew that the World's Fair is still going on, and that the most recent was in 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan?

Finally, it's crazy seeing AUNTIEEM in the puzzle, just for that IEE letter combo.

So I enjoyed the puzzle, but I can see that it might be a mixed bag for some.

- Colum

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday, July 6, 2019, Erik Agard


I was happy to finish in under an hour because this puzzle was quite a challenge for me. The first run through the puzzle didn't result in many filled squares, and some of my first sorties turned out to be completely wrong (like loge instead of IMAX (Theater option) and wad instead of IDS (Walletful), for example) so when I got to the south east and there were a few I knew, I was psyched. But, my euphoria was short lived. The way this grid is shaped only one answer, FIREAXE, ties that corner to the rest of the puzzle, so it was back to work. The next corner to fall was the south west. Then the north east, then the north west and only then, the middle. Boy that middle was tough for me.  That stack 5 elevenses were a bit of a quagMIRE for this solver. I eventually found PABLOCASALS and DARLENELOVE at the very limit of my knowledge base, while INACLAIRE was nowhere to be found. For "One who might be diagnosed with a polysomnogram," I first tried insomniac but it was, in fact, the opposite NARCOLEPTIC, which, besides being the correct number of letters and accurate, has the advantage of not containing the letters "somn" from the clue. And the notion that "Footwear with a tree logo" called for a plural did not OCCUR to me for a very long time.

Grid-wise, it's interesting that IMDOWN is at 1 Down ("Count me in"), and that CORED (Unseeded?) is at the center of the puzzle.

I liked DONEANDDONE, and PARE and PERE make a nice pair.

PRIESTLY clues from today's puzzle include:
Construction piece that describes what happens when you compliment me? (IBEAM) - cute!
With 4-Down, someone who might repossess your car when you go bankrupt? PAT SAJAK - ha.
Close ... but not THAT close (PLATONIC) - apt!
Companies known for their net profit (DOTCOMS) - nice twist.
And, my #1 answer on the day is "#2 image among smartphone users?" POOPEMOJI. LOLOL.


And, while there may have been a few ANEMIC clues (Conquers (RISESOVER), Olympic runner? (SKI), and the confusing "___ South, div. of of the 55-Acrosses" AFC / TEXAN), I DECLARATORY this a fun Saturday puzzle!


Friday, July 5, 2019

Friday, July 5, 2019, Freddie Cheng


LETTS face it, we puzzle DWEEBs don't care only about speed, but we do TALI our time. For me, this was a pretty fast Friday. As fast as it was, there were a couple of answers where a RETRY was required. I tossed in the completely incorrect 'peel' where I should have thrown in RIND (Addition to the compost pile). I also started with 'couchsurf,' in the southeast (Stay with a friends, say) instead of the correct SLEEPOVER, both of which led to a LOESS of time.

Interesting to learn that the first American film in which a toilet is heard being flushed (1960) was PSYCHO. That was a possible data point I had not previously considered wondering about. I wonder which film world-wide was the first to feature the flush.

My PIXIES for today's favorite clue/answer pairs are:
Sound evidence? (AUDIOTAPE)
Half of an interrogation team (BADCOP)
Fernando or Felipe, once (REY)
All huffy (INALATHER)
Gives away to a better home, in a modern coinage (FREECYCLES)
"Nobody ever told me," e.g. (LAMEEXCUSE)
And ATOP the heap: Rush home? FRAT - ha!

Other fun fill includes TINCT, SCRAPIRON, FATFINGER, and SPASM. Also, 'mop' RATEs a mention for its second appearance in two days. Yesterday, we had the "dust" variety, today, DRYMOP. BRAVO also appeared in both yesterday's and today's puzzles. I wonder what the highest number of duplicated words in consecutive puzzles is. XWordInfo probably knows. I'm still flying virtually 'Net free, so I can't check it myself.


For some reason, I don't mind APERY today as the answer for "Mimic's skill." I am not familiar with "Peer Gynt" and couldn't fill in the blank "___ Death." And, although I was pretty sure about crossword darling ERTE, I was concerned about ASES because parse it as I might, I still can't grok it. And, INRE ungrokables, I'm still not sure why "Struck out" is DELED. Maybe it's a sports thing? That being said, I thought this was a fun puzzle overall. If my immodest hopes at crowing about a sub-15 Friday were dashed by a few AEROS here and there, it's OK. Everybody knows pride is a SYN.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thursday, July 4, 2019, Jim Hilger


We're at the beach this holiday weekend and thus I had a paper copy of the puzzle for today's solve. I had a notion to mentally keep track of the time it took me to complete the puzzle, but with interruptions and commotion caused by the 4th of July parade, the arrival of guests, and lunch, before I knew it, the time had FLOWN. If pressed, I would guess it took me about 30 minutes total.

I liked today's trick. I figured it out at 23A: Recollection of something that just happened, concisely? (SHORTERMEMORY). The concisity consists in omitting the doubled/overlapping letters at the end and start of the words in the theme answers. SHORT[T]ER[M]MEMORY. SHORTERMEMORY is nice because it kind of seems like a thing on its own. OTOH, BESTIMEVER is also amusing as a thing, IMHO. ROTFLMAO.

Solving on paper allowed me to star my favorite clues and answers today. They are:
58A: Fifth Avenue concern (SAKS) - I love this meaning of the word concern. I always like to say I work for a library concern.
I also liked the clue "Squaresville" and its answer UNHIP. Similarly, I liked "No longer either hot or cool?" PASSE. "Watt or knot" (UNIT) and "Somers or Winters" were also enjoyable (ACTRESS). Also, didn't EREBUS figure into a great rebus puzzle sometime back? I don't have enough Internetz up here to do the necessary research, and am vague on the details. The answer might even have been MTE[REBUS], or similar??

I don't take a HOROSCOPE, but I do like a DUSTMOP for cleaning, and I did try a MOGUL once - literally. After the first one, I had to sit on my skis the rest of the way down. OCHO!


I don't particularly love partials like SETA (___ good example) and EYETO (With an ___ the future), but hey, it's a free country. Happy 4th, everyone!


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Wednesday, July 3, 2019, Evan Mahnken


Can we get a hand for today's theme? Well, almost. Each theme answer contains the name of a finger, so we have MIDDLEMAN, ALITTLEBIT, and my favorite PRICEINDEX, for example. And each theme answer runs through at least one other theme answer at the finger part, making the revealer (FINGERSCROSSED) especially apt. Apt! The fourth, LETFREEDOMRING does double duty as a nice nod to tomorrow's holiday. I said double. Heh. On the opposing side, it looks like there was a NOVOTE on the thumb.

I liked some of the longer answers like UVEXPOSURE - heading for some of that myself this weekend! - INACORNER, and most of all, LIQUIDATED. I like the word LID, although less so when associated with fish eye. DUD is a good word, as is RUDE and TOILE. And if you told me you enjoyed a MOE reference, I would reply ASDOI.


I hit a Natick at 47A/D. I'm WEI rusty on my early Chinese dynasties, believe it or not, and I had no idea what Certiorari were - which, as an aside, is a tough word to WRIT. Anyhoo, maybe this is TMI and not quite cricket, puzzle-solve-time-wise, but I ran the alphabet in my head while in the shower and realized that only a W would work for both answers. So, my time isn't entirely accurate because I figured it out while off the clock. But, on the upside, I learned a new word and a wei bit of Chinese history. Oh, yeah, and AROD and J. Lo are dating?!? Who knew? But, if it's in the NYTX, I guess ITSSO.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tuesday, July 2, 2019, Peter Gordon


Initially, I had some trouble with the theme answers - actors with the same initials as characters they play in movies. Although I've seen all but one of the movies mentioned in the clues (never saw "Spotlight"), I don't know any of the movies well enough to know the characters names, without which it was difficult for me to guess the corresponding thespian. But, no matter! Thanks to the supporting cast of non-theme answers, I had the information I needed to complete the grid. Reel interesting that these initial coincidences occur between role and performer and that they all fit into one puzzle, and most of them all in one go.

I'm giving two thumbs up for the following parts:
Sloth, for example (SIN) -
Citrus garnish in a mixed drink" (TWIST)
Strong string (TWINE) - Twine is a great word.
Do the wrong thing (ERR)
Lummox (APE)
Is sociable at a party (MINGLES)
And the Oscar goes to...
It's stuffed with dough (ATM) - ha!

Nice to have the pairs SOSO and TUTU and SHE and HIM right next to each other in the south east.


IWOnder if there was something wrong with the clue at 30D? Or maybe there is something I don't get - it wouldn't be the first time. In my app, the clue reads: What " - with just that one quotation mark after the word What and nothing else. The answer turned out to be LESSTHAN, which was exactly how I felt about the clue. :)

My one rotten tomato award goes to NBAERS. It's LAM.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Monday, July 1, 2019, Damon Gulczynski

5:55, FWOE

I haven't had many sub-6 solves in my time, and I think this might be my first when I am responsible for the review. I should be happy, but I am FWOEbegone. For what it's worth, I think mine was a respectable mistake. As the answer to "'Absolutely, positively not!'" I entered NOSIREEBuB, which I was sure was correct, but it turns out BOB is your uncle rather than BuB. But because I had no doubt about my answer and because I was filling in the squares as fast as I could, I failed to check the across clue, even though I know better. You can lead a horse to water ...

And speaking of drink, each of today's three theme answers contains the name of an adult beverage that appears twice, rendering the revealer MAKEMINEADOUBLE deliciously apt. Apt! My preference is for [ALE]XVANH[ALE]N because I don't take a gin drink (LOGGINGINTO), and rum (HARUMSCARUM) turns my head upside down. I think we can all drink to that.

The clue "'Hurry!,' on an order" as a clue for ASAP was like a tonic after a rash of "now" themed clues for the old chestnut. I also liked SOD, FLING, GUSTO, TREAT, VOUCH, DELUXE, LEST, and SVELTE.

EDAM - delicious cheesy comestible and drink companion

I don't mean to wine, but some answers made the overall puzzle feel a little mixy; AEIOU, USOFA, DONEE, and AGAR left me feeling a worse for wear. And in the way that ordering a double seems sensible at the time, more of a thing isn't always better. The high number of three-letter crosswordese answers (OAR, ORE, ORB, FSU, GEO, GAB) left me feeling like I'd had one too many. But, hair of the dog, as the British might say. It's five o'clock somewhere!