Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019, Brian Thomas


For me, for the second week in a row, the Saturday went faster than the Friday. POSH (1A: Fancy-schmancy) came to mind immediately, and I "verified" it with POSTOP (Recovery period) at 1-Down. Then, BOSC and BIOTA followed the same pattern, but even with LOOM in place, LISP (Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon) (tricky!) took another cross. That soon came, though, in the form of POLKAS (Many Weird Al Yankovic medleys).


I thought the question mark on 7D: Clear the decks? (SWAB) was unnecessary and a little unfortunate, it being Saturday and all. The word "say" in 2D: Stretch between two pitches, say (OCTAVE) functions in much the same way as a question mark, but I still had a harder time coming up with that one.

TONTO (Classic TV character whose name is Spanish for "fool") was an interesting bit of trivia. And RENELACOSTE (French tennis player and fashion icon) looks good across the middle of the grid, but BUDGEANINCH (Give a little bit) doesn't really work for me. It's either "budge" by itself, or "give an inch."

On the other hand, "One of a handful at a bar" (BEERNUT) was a perfect clue. At first I had BEERtap, and I actually thought to myself "Hey! Many bars have more than just a handful of taps!" I don't know why I never take the next step and think, "Well then, that's probably not right." Anyway, "handful" is more literal here, but maybe I didn't think of it because last night the beer nuts were in a bowl with a spoon, so I spooned them out instead of grabbing them... :)

The long Downs are all solid, the best being CAPITALCITY (What a star may represent). And there's plenty of good stuff - TRIFECTA, BITEMARK (Impression that's only skin-deep?), INVASIVE, and PIANO (Softly).

It went a little fast, and some of it was a little meh (RUNTIEST, PIECING, EKES), but nothing truly OOF-worthy. I say Thumbs Up.

- Horace

Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019, Trent H. Evans


This one didn't put up much resistance. OFFICEWIFE and EVILGENIUS in the NW were colorful, and FLINCH (Draw back) and SCAMPER (Scurry) are words you don't see often in crosswords, so those were fun. EVERDEEN ("Hunger Games" protagonist Katniss ____) was a giveaway for me and, I'm sure, anyone who's read the books or seen the films, so that helped over in the NE.

Who knew?!
I enjoyed the question mark clue for AMULET (Bit of protective wear?) because I saw it as questioning the protective quality, not as being about wordplay. Heh.

I thought the clue for MACRON (French leader after Hollande) was oddly amusing. Would "American leader after Obama" ever be used? Probably not, but who knows what's going on over in EUROPE, right?...

In the SE, it looks like "totem poles" would have fit where ARROWHEADS (Old Native American carvings) belongs, but since I already had several downs (including MACRON), I was not fooled. And DOILOOKFAT (Question always best answered "no") got a chuckle at first, but then I wondered if that's part of the problem in America. Do we need to start being more honest about this? Speaking quite personally, someone once let me know that I was starting to fill in my t-shirts a little more than maybe I should be, and it led me to shed about 25 pounds, which was good for so many reasons.

Anywho... AEAEA (Island of myth in Homer's "Odyssey") is crazy, and I didn't know CECE (Gospel singer Winans), but was happy to be reminded of one of Colum's clan. :)

I guess overall I thought it was fine. Not particularly scintillating, but I'm not going to SCATHE it either.

- Horace

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Thursday, August 29, 2019, Jeff Chen


I didn't understand this theme very quickly (a good thing on a Thursday), but once I did, I really liked it. It's tricky how the clue reads "Word that can ...," which makes it seem like a singular answer is called for, but then the "or" in the answer makes the three-word answer possible. And each pair of answer words is, of course, a well known dyad.


And there are plenty of them! GIVEORTAKE, INOROUT, FRIENDORFOE, DOORDIE (Door, die!), and BOOMORBUST. That's alotta thema! As they might say over here in La Bella Italia. Where, by the way, we will not be having any Chicken or veal PARM. And speaking of food, as I type at the kitchen table in our clean and well-appointed AirBnB, the air coming in through the open window/door to the terrace is infused with the smells of a nearby factory. Ordinarily, you might think that would be a bad thing, but this factory is the one that makes Nutella (among other candy treats), and so the whole place smells wonderfully of chocolate! Just one of the many things to recommend the lovely town of Alba. (Maybe we should morph this into a travel blog... or am I doing that already?...)

I hit a little snag when I entered UtrapS instead of UBENDS (Fittings under the sink). The real answer is a bit strange, but I'll allow it, as it allows for MURMUR, CAREFREE (with its lovely clue "Insouciant"), BIPEDS (with its excellent clue "They can stand on their own two feet"), and FINNS, an answer near and dear to this Demi-Finn's heart.

FOGOFWAR is an evocative (if bellicose) answer, and its symmetrical cousin IBEFOREE (First part of an English "rule") is just the kind of thing that makes crossword puzzles worth solving. In fact, the whole grid oozes with ENOCH bonus material to make any blogger's day. SOJOURN, ADZUKI, RINGTONE (A few notes that require answering?) (Nice!), the excellent SERIFS (They often end letters), the pair of hidden capital "Grande" clues (ARIANA & RIO), ... it's dense with theme AND good fill. For that, we accept the ODDER bits like ETAS, RBIS, and SSNS, and we don't GAWP at PISH

A SPERRY nice start to the turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday, August 28, 2019, Daniel Grinberg

0:05:55 (F.W.O.E.)

It could easily be that I've been pretty much awake for 27 or 28 hours straight, with a nice 6 to 9 (I really have no idea right now) stretch where I was in a nice, roomy (not nice, not roomy) plane seat, but the theme looks to me like four movies. Is that it? No - wait! There's a revealer! It's about TENNIS!

Hey, Boo.

I kind of wanted to see YOUGOTSERVED, but never did. I did see LOVEACTUALLY way back when, but neither of the other two: THENET or FAULTINOURSTARS.

I enjoyed a SLEW of the entries here - TRAVEL, of course, but also ACOUSTICS (Science of sound), CASTRATI (Singers of high notes in olden times), SODACAN (Common recyclable), HATEMAIL (Sour notes?), STOOGE (Underling), and ATARI (Breakout company of 1976?) (Nice one!). And there's interesting trivia in RHESUS (Monkey named for a king in Greek myth) and IOWAN (Herbert Hoover, by birth (uniquely among all U.S. presidents to date). PROSY and HAZER are a bit strained, but that's about all there is to quibble about.

My mistake came on perhaps the best clue in the puzzle - "United, for one: Abbr." (SYN). I had S_N, and couldn't come up with it before I tried something wrong. I should have known that alnico was an ALLOY, but I just couldn't look at it so close to ALJOLSON without thinking of it as a person, Al Nico, which didn't help at all.

I liked this one. Now we're going to go out and explore the town of Alba a bit, before looking for someplace to get dinner - maybe we'll have RISOTTOS!

- Horace

p.s. Happy Debut!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019, Daniel Raymon


Anagrams is the name of the game today. A famous woman's first name is made possessive, and after the S the name is anagrammed into a another word and clued to make sense. As in, "Actress McCarthy is wandering" (MELISSASAIMLESS). Interesting. It's a little strange that the "is" in the clue is essentially in the answer in the form of an S. Does that matter?

Anyway, it's cool that Mr. Raymon found four that he could work symmetrically into a grid. When I got to the last one, I had some of it filled in already, but all I could think of was Courtney Love, so I spent some time verifying the letters that didn't fit with that. Which is pretty much all of them... oh well.

Some of the clueing seemed tricky for a Tuesday! "Hirer's communication" made almost no sense to me until I had OFF_R, and even then, it was ENL (Supersize: Abbr.)(Also an oblique clue) that finally gave it to me, and "Head covering similar to a wave cap" was no help at all for DORAG. (Wave cap?) "Still preferable" seems a little odd for EVENBETTER, and it took me quite a while to understand that "One at a new job" was a TRAINEE. Maybe my mind was just firing a little more slowly today.

On the other hand, "Most common commercial name in New York Times crosswords" could only be one thing - OREO (I wonder where "Esso" falls), and I was all over SUR (Direction opposite norte) after having learned it just yesterday. I enjoyed "Things florists cut" for STEMS, and EUROS (What pounds might be converted to) reminds me that I need to finish packing... I'll be spending EUROS tomorrow!

The theme wasn't particularly exciting to me, or particularly amusing, but it was well executed, and didn't stir up too much muck. Let's say it was fine and move on. I've got PLANES to catch!

- Horace

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday, August 26, 2019, Erik Agard


Stuttering into the new week, we get a fun progression of "baa baa," "boo boo," and "bye bye," all starting triple-B phrases. They all seem a tad old-fashioned, and I'm guessing BOOBOOBEAR is the most obscure. But Mr. Agard is a young person, and if he thinks it's ok, then so do I.


This is the second 15x16 grid we've seen in the past week or so, and it uses the less-common horizontal symmetry. The open corners are pleasing, and the flow was good. Of course, it's a Monday, so the flow, even if a bit squeezed, shouldn't be too bad.

I like the simple beauty of "Snaky scarf" for BOA, and it echoes 1D: Fearsome snake (COBRA). There's also a nice "nonsense/nonsensical" pairing with BILGE and INANE, a Latin pair (LAUDE & BONA), and a couple of Spanish entries COMOESTAS ("How goes it?," in Spanish) and SUR (Spanish for "south"). I didn't know that second one, and I find it strange that it means "south" in Spanish and "above" in French.

There's some nice bonus material in SPARROWBLEARYEYEDBILGEDROOL, and LESBIAN. And there's only a little OREOIAGOOLDE-type crosswordese.

Overall, a fun Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday, August 25, 2019, Matt Ginsberg


Frannie and I have noticed that the young people today do not always understand the expression "How's Tricks?" We have each used it, independently, with people we work with who are in their twenties and thirties, and it's not at all universally recognized. But if I were to continue writing about what the young people don't know, this would be a very long post.

KLEIN bottle

I'll just assume, Dear Reader, that you are familiar with the term, and that you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did. Explained by the crossing revealer NOWYOUSEEME NOWYOUDONT, which can be interpreted as "Now you C me...," it explains the addition of the letter C to seven across answers, and it's removal from three Downs. (Don't be worried by the odd number of answers - the revealers keep everything symmetrical.)

For example, the common expression "any old time" gets a C and becomes ANYCOLDTIME and is amusingly clued by "When you can ice skate outside?" Conversely, a "Visit to baby Jesus?" becomes a MAGIMOMENT. It could probably also be considered a "magic moment," but I'll leave that coincidence aside.

I loved this puzzle. It took me a good long while to get into it, and then even longer to really understand what was happening. And I found the cluing to be quite good. None of this is surprising to me, because I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ginsberg. He is whip-smart and he seems to enjoy not only the solving of puzzles, but also the study of them. He has become something of a celebrity at the A.C.P.T. because of his crossword-solving computer program, Dr. Fill. After each puzzle, Will Shortz will stand up to announce how Dr. Fill did, and it usually goes something like this: "Dr. Fill finished in 18 seconds and had zero errors." And the crowd groans and jeers. Until we get to the tricky puzzle ("Puzzle Five") when Dr. Fill is stumped by the same mind-bending tricks that stump all but the best solvers in the room, and when the number of errors is announced the room applauds wildly.

I rooted against DeepBlue and AlphaGo, but I am staunchly pro-Dr. Fill, and I see this puzzle as something Mr. Ginsberg probably created to help Dr. Fill. To improve his understanding of nonsensical answers. CRESTAREA is not a normal combination, but it is made up of two normal words... I wonder if code has been added to consider the addition or removal of a letter from one word that can result in the creation of another word? Maybe that's what this is about...

Anyway, this post is getting so long that I barely want to go back and proof read it - and that's too long a post. Here are just a few bullets of things I enjoyed:

  • The two "big bucks" clues 18- and 49-Across (RODEO / DOE)
  • "Profession since the Bronze Age" (SMELTER) - cool realization
  • LAYON, Maduff - Reminds me of Frannie's dad, who would often say "Play on, Macduff" during a card game when someone got side-tracked with a story.
  • HIGHC ("It's hard to hit) - Right in the middle. This has to be intentional.
  • HEMS ("Brings up, say") - that M was my last letter. So tricky!

OK, that's it. Loved it. Good luck next year, Dr. Fill! :)

- Horace

p.s. SPIRE - Too soon!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday, August 24, 2019, Sam Ezersky


I am a bit punchy from being on call and spending nearly seven hours in the hospital non-stop rounding today, so I'm proud of my time. And I probably could have been even faster if I'd trusted my instincts to put PSALM and PROTIP in at 1D and 1A respectively.

Mostly, though, I am in awe of Mr. Ezersky for 65A: E-sharp? (TECHSAVVY). First off, that clue. How awesome is the misdirection here? The e- prefix, masquerading as a musical notation. And in light of this week's blog, I am now completely certain that Mr. Shortz has rearranged the appearance of these puzzles to answer my first post of the week. But even better than all of that, is the way that it's placed in the bottom row. So much chutzpah to end two consecutive down answers with V!

There's a lot of fun cluing today. I like 47D: Not fair at all (STORMY). It's a prime example of a non-QMC still being ultra tricky. As is 20A: Small construction piece (LEGO). Wow! Very small, when it comes to most construction clues. And to complete the trifecta, you get 22D: Item put in a lock (OAR). Not a key.

I love 35A: Unbelievable discovery in one's field (CROPCIRCLE). Very cute! I twigged to the idea that it might not be the metaphorical field of one's area of work or research, but still needed a bunch of crosses to get to the answer.

I don't love OID, I really don't like ATRACE (which is an odd partial), and I particularly don't like 12D. Which I can't even type in. But that's a topic for an entirely different kind of blog. But there is definitely enough fun here to make up for those items, and a fun way to finish the turn.

- Colum

Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday, August 23, 2019, Evan Mahnken


Let's get the most important issue out of the way right up front. WILHELMSCREAM? Apparently, it's a stock sound effect used in hundreds of films and TV shows, especially for when a character is injured or falls a long distance. So I like to think it's on purpose that it's right below VICTORIAFALLS...

There are a ton of fun entries in the puzzle today, starting with 4D: Crime-fighting vehicle (BATMOBILE). I love how straight-faced the clue is. Even better is 11D: Carol king (WENCESLAS). Hah! VIRTUOSOS is excellent as well.

I have been in many "academic settings" and have yet to see a non-metaphoric IVORYTOWER. Was there ever actually one? Apparently not, only non-literal ones. I'm learning so much today!

I found myself in a bit of trouble when filling in 17A: "Glad I didn't have to deal with that!" I first used the pronoun "him," which seemed the most classic form of the phrase. Then I suddenly found myself thinking, why a male pronoun? Perhaps Mr. Mahnken would choose to buck the trend and insert a female one instead. In addition, ABmSE seemed incorrect. But of course ABrSE seemed just as unlikely. The correct answer suggested itself, and all genders were equally represented in BETTERYOUTHANME.

Outside of the wonderful long answers, there is more than a small amount of compromise in the fill. I don't hate the corner wtih TIANA, ELCID, and SETTE, despite the proper names and foreign languages called upon. And it's improved by the excellent clue for 55A: Rod and reel (UNIT).

On the other hand, BARB? This is an odd choice for 1A. I suppose the little twist of wire must in fact be called a barb, but nobody calls it that. And RETIP is just a no go for me. There are a few other examples, but I enjoyed the long answers enough to make up for them.

- Colum

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thursday, August 22, 2019, Emily Carroll


I have reached the point now that I consider Ms. Carroll to be one of the shining stars of puzzle creation at the NYT. When I saw her name attached to this puzzle, I knew it was going to be a fun solve, and I was right.

I knew something was up from 1A: Extremely slow speed (SNAILS[PACE]). I immediately thought of the answer in question, but wondered how to make it fit. Would there be a rebus? But no, when I looked at 6D: Elbow room (SPACE), I saw the answer turned the corner. Then I hit the middle of the puzzle and got the revealer clue at 40A: Seedy hangout ... or a hint to finishing four Across answers in this puzzle, and had that wonderful "Aha!" moment. DIVEBAR! Or in this case, four instances where an answer turns the corner, and the part that goes down can be put before the word "bar" to make a standard phrase or word.

It was fun to search out the other three. Because of the way the trick works, there were only five other possible places (the two not used come at 7A and 30A, not counting the revealer itself). How cleverly Ms. Carroll has worked this out, so that each part going down can be clued on its own, thus not revealing the locations through a "-" clue. Even better, the portion of the answer going across can also stand on its own. Also, look at the four examples: SPORTS as part of TRANS[PORTS], MINI as part of GEM[INI], and CROW as part of ESC[ROW]. Each one is very nicely hidden in its parent word, never carrying its final meaning in the original word.

Meanwhile (just to gush some more), the rest of the puzzle shines as well. There are two long down answers in ARABIANSEA and ANTITHESIS that are wonderful. I love MUSHROOM in the sense of growing.

And finally, the cluing. You get misdirects, like 2D: It flows past Memphis (NILE) - not Tennessee. You get silly stuff like 29D: One crying "Uncle!," maybe (NIECE). How about the excellent and simple 44A: What junkyards do (REEK)! And even the QMCs are nice, like 7A: Have a sudden inspiration? (GASP).

When I have fun like this, I can overlook stuff like IOS, TUE, even UNTER. Fun puzzle today.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday, August 21, 2019, Samuel A. Donaldson


After my minor rant yesterday about e-clues, I see that Mr. Shortz has taken my complaint to heart by publishing today's puzzle. Which is... well. Confusing?

So we have seven (7!) examples of answers with no vowel other than E, clued with E-blank, where blank describes the category of the answer in general. Thus, we get 18A: E-book? (THESECRET). What is The Secret? It is A Book. I guess it was a fairly popular self-help book. When I look it up on the Googles, it certainly looks familiar.

And this is my complaint. Why is DELETEDSCENE a specific example of "waste?" I get 52A: E-business? (MERCEDESBENZ) - that absolutely qualifies as a business whose vowels are all E. Similarly for 58A: E-mag? (SEVENTEEN). But the others seem ad hoc. Oh, well. It's a fun idea. I had an idea for an e-theme some months ago, but I've forgotten what it was, and really, that's why I'm sitting here blogging about a puzzle rather than being blogged about. Those who can, do, and those who can't... well, you get the idea.

The upshot of all of those answers is that there are 44 Es in the grid, outnumbering any other individual letter by nearly 3 to 1. Perhaps I would have been more excited by this puzzle had there been more interest outside of the theme answers. I liked 39D: Hits back? (REARENDS) as well as 21D: Bounces off the wall, say (ECHOES).

Otherwise there was a lot of BAG LAG SAG EDT AFL OOX ERN ERA EON EVE EOS SCH. Rough going.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tuesday, August 20, 2019, Evan Kalish


Well, I'm not one to take a golf, as a rule, but here we go. Today's theme has phrases whose first word can be reinterpreted as a golf term. More precisely, a GOLFBALL could rest in or on each of them. I like that they progress naturally from the start of a hole through to the finish. I hope it was par four or better!

Actually, now that I think about it, it wasn't the prettiest hole ever, going into the rough first, then into a bunker before landing on the green and into the cup. I like the pair of history theme answers, with ROUGHRIDER and BUNKERHILL, always a favorite for us Bostonians. The clue for 42A: Leafy course (GREENSALAD) had me scratching my head for a while until I realized it was referring to a dinner course.

I'm impressed by the smoothness of the fill, given the six theme answers. Mr. Kalish manages to get some very nice long downs, especially through the middle. ONTHEDL, GRILLE, and GLACIER are very nice. I'm always partial to Ms. NATALIE Portman. I also liked the pair of symmetrically placed abbreviation answers in STPADDY and MTADAMS.

Nothing much ISEE that is not to my taste. I'm not sure I'd use the word WEIRDER rather than "more weird," but I'm sure that's a personal taste thing. And I've given up on the whole E- thing as in EFILE. It's here to stay whether I like it or not.

Nice puzzle!

- Colum

Monday, August 19, 2019

Monday, August 19, 2019, Peter Gordon


Today's puzzle is a twist on an old concept: the revealer is a word which phonetically can be reduced to two letters, which then represent something about all the other theme answers. In this case, it's ARTIE Shaw whose name tells us that all the theme answers use only R and T as their consonants, and no others.

That's an odd thing to do, but I liked the longer entries that displayed this condition, such as TEETERTOTTER, RATTERRIER, and ROTOROOTER. On the other hand, TORATORATORA is a bit less interesting since it repeats the same word three times. Also, the partial TREATER is pretty rough as far as fill goes.

I suppose it would be a hard job to ensure that there are no other instances of R or T throughout the rest of the grid, seeing as those are two of the five most commonly used consonants in the English language. But wouldn't that have been something?

Since there are 84 squares devoted to the theme (and that is a ton!), there's not a lot in the rest of the puzzle to remark on. I'll mention the math nods at 1A and 53A (PLATO and EULER), and that ORNE and TION are rather DRAB, and leave it at that.

- Colum

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday, August 18, 2019, David Steinberg


Hey, everybody! Glad to be back again for another week of blogging. It's been a highly eventful weekend for yours truly, including the great and exciting opportunity to sing Mozart's Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where the orchestra has its summer residence. It was awesome! Such an amazing ensemble.

Today, also exciting, I went with my brother and nephew to the Baseball Hall of Fame. For somebody who's lived less than two hours from Cooperstown for ten years, and who has been a diehard Red Sox fan for all of his life, it's been pretty odd that I haven't made the trek before this, but no point in crying over spilled milk. I caught, just out of the corner of my eye, a replay of Bucky f-ing Dent's homerun, but was assuaged by footage from 2004 and 2018.

But let's get this ball rolling on the blog, shall we? Literally, as it turns out. Mr. Steinberg has provided us four 2x2 squares where the word BALL rolls around as it moves from left to right, along with four long answers where the alternate configurations of the word make sense. In order to make the answers work, you have to roll with the punches through the extra letters. The odd one is clearly THEHOTL[BA]LTIMORE. Even though the clue specifically tells you the E is missing from the word "hotel," I was confused, partly because there is an E right next to the answer in the correct location (but on the other side).

Cleverly, Mr. Steinberg has included two bonus theme answers in the NE and SW in GOESFORASPIN and TURNTURNTURN. He's nicely separated these answers from all the other theme answers, which presumably allowed for better smooth fill.

Some good clues today include 105A: Producer of brown eggs (CADBURY) - brown because they're chocolate of course, and some of my favorite seasonal candy. Another favorite is 87D: Leave off, as the last word of a (OMIT). Hah!

Nothing I was disturbed by today, so that makes for a good start to the week. Let's keep it rolling!

- Colum

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Saturday, August 17, 2019, Michael Hawkins


A solid Saturday struggle today. It started easily enough with WATERBIRTH (Maternity option involving a pool), because really, what else could it have been? Still, it was nice to have it confirmed by HERSTORY (Part of some gender studies), and right away, we have kind of an answer to yesterday's "bro puzzle." Continuing with that theme, we found HONESTWAGE and AMYPOEHLER in the NE.


I don't really understand the clue "Modern young person vis-à-vis video games and smartphones" for SCREENAGER, but I like the word. SCARRY (Like Al Capone's face) and BUNTER (Hardly a swinger), on the other hand, are less praise-worthy.

I was helped today because just a few days ago, my brother procured the fixins for Bloody Marys, one of which was V8, and he read the ingredients off for me - one of which was CELERY! I should have been helped by my own "shadow" when I came across BEARD (It might start as a shadow), but I needed several crosses. I liked NOGO (Something scratched) and EASTER (Day of a hunt), but those, too, took some crosses and a lot of thought.

We've got some deep crosswordese in ARCO (With the bow, in music) and MERL (Blackbird), and a nice pair of familiar-seeming clues for ROBS (Appropriates inappropriately?) and ABET (Help badly).

At the bottom we have more fun words - MUSS, COSSET, NADIR - and a nice long French entry, FOLIEADEUX. Overall, a fun puzzle.

- Horace

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday, August 16, 2019, Ori Brian


Today's puzzle starts out casually, with GRABACAB (Forgo Uber or Lyft) (I tried takeACAB first, then the more formal hireACAB) and LADMAG (Maxim, e.g.), and the DUDES thing continues right through the BEERKEGS at the end. Well, I suppose SANS (Without) and PETERROGER (Best-selling author who used an awful lot of commas) are a little more erudite than AMMO, NCAA, and GTOS. And maybe you'll say that my MALEEGO is too fragile, but as for MANBUN... UMNO. JESUS!


But that maybe makes it sound like I didn't like this one. I did! The PGRATINGS vibe of INSTAGRAMFILTER, REDDIT, LARACROFT, and MOANA is balanced out a bit by things like ART ("Science made clear," per Jean Cocteau), PARAGON (Ideal), DANSE (Activity at un bal masqué), and MEDEA (Mythical enchantress). And fun clues abound: "Craft shop item with a seemingly redundant name" (GLUESTICK), "One out?" (PAROLEE), "Second son" (ABEL), and "Foes of Fido, stereotypically" (MAILMEN), to cite four. "One who might get you into hot water?" (CANNIBAL) was reaching a bit too far for me, but perhaps you chuckled more than groaned.

Overall it was a lively, smooth, Friday solve. Lot's of fun.

- Horace

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019, Andrew Zhou


Today we find four inventors names reversed inside the theme answers: Tesla, Nobel, Edison, and Bell. It seems that engineer can also mean inventor, so I guess the REVERSEENGINEER revealer works well.


I thought that the NE was particularly tough, with OCEANAUT (Sub tenant?) beside MESDAMES (French ladies) - both uncommon, and crossed by the difficultly-clued RICES (Splits into bits) and GLUES (Fixes, in a way). And although I know the word GELEE from French, I do not know it as an "Aspic-like dish." That all took me a while to unravel.

In other areas, "High percentage crime?" was a great clue for USURY, and "Attention-getting phrase" was tricky for NOTABENE. BANGS (Apt hairstyle for a gunslinger?) was hilarious, I thought OUTRIVAL (Eclipse) and BEEFRIB (Barbecue cut) were both a little odd, and I have never heard of Chuck LORRE.

So overall, this was slow-going for me, and although there were bits of it that I liked a lot, the end brought more relief than satisfaction. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to return a call from the IRS about a penalty of some kind...

- Horace

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday, August 14, 2019, David J. Kahn


Fifty years ago tomorrow, the Aquarian Exposition began in THECATSKILLS, where Joan Baez, Santana, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, and many other performed before what some claim was half a million people.

It was a big event, and its fiftieth anniversary is good cause for a tribute puzzle. The theme answers that hold the performers are all solid, and there are some good bits in the fill - the two "Showy neckwear" clues (BOA & LEI) were fun, and how can you argue with LEVAR Burton and Mother TERESA

But as with the famous festival, there are certain unpleasantries that need to be put up with. CHOKEHOLDS and OBITS are a bit of a downer, man, and ODIC, ELHI, TRA, and ARB are, well, probably easier to cope with than running out of food and dealing with inadequate restroom and medical facilities. Those peaceful hippies all survived, and so will we.

I guess that, in a way, the constant stream of puzzles that comes to us through the interweb tubes is a lot like the stream of music that washed over the unwashed masses for four days fifty years ago in Mr. Yasgur's field. Some of it is great, some of it is not your favorite, but you're just happy to be there, and you appreciate every minute of it.

Peace out.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019, Lynn Lempel

A puzzle built on a tragic fate, that of STAR CROSSED lovers Romeo and Juliet. Is it a coincidence that it was released amid the shooting stars of the Perseid meteor shower? We will, perhaps, never know. Such is our fate. But intention aside, we can still delight at the crossing of ROCK and CHILD, LODE and MORNING, FILM and ALL, LONE and GOLD


I find this theme interesting in that, aside from the revealer, half of each pair is contained within a longer answer, and the other half stands alone. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a theme like that before. I kind of like the variation.
Crossword veterans might have appreciated the slightly different clues for OSLO (Norwegian city with the Munch Museum) and ERIE (One of five Greats), but I’m guessing few were tricked for more than a moment or two. The clue for EDIT (Tend to some p’s and q’s, say) was also cute.
I like the pattern of Os in the North - the block of four with two diagonally above. It makes me think that if ever I actually get around to constructing a puzzle with a theme, I might like to try making a visual theme rather than a semantic one. We’ll see, I guess, whether A: That ever happens, and B: It would be accepted.
LEAVEN (Cause to expand, as bread) is an interesting entry, but I find the clue wording a little odd. I can’t think of anything other than bread that could be leavened. “I caused the balloon to leaven by blowing into it” doesn’t really work. Well, I guess other baked goods...
For me, this is all about the theme, but it’s a good one, and on a Tuesday, I think it’s just fine.

- Horace

Monday, August 12, 2019

Monday, August 12, 2019, Jeffrey Wechsler

On Beginning this puzzle, I didn’t know what the theme would entail. Oh, But soon it became clear: Only By filling in the beginning sounds of “oh,” and “bee,” can we end up correctly… oh, nevermind. I’m going to leave that kind of trickery to the constructors.


Mr. Wechsler has found five ways to start theme answers. Each is spelled differently, and each is perfectly “in the language,” as it were. That my oldest brother claims to have never heard of an OBIEAWARD I will credit to his living almost as far away from Broadway as it is possible to do in the Lower 48. Plus, the list of things he has never heard of is a long one. (Hi Dave! :) )
My favorite theme answer is OBEDIENCESCHOOL (Where education is pursued doggedly?) (Is it weird that it is connected to THEPOUND?), and I also enjoy that OHBEQUIET comes at the end, as if the solver has tired of the trick.
ACTUATE (Put into operation) was nice (I saw ACTU and quickly finished it with “pon,” which added a little time), and BYGONE (Past) is a BYGONE word that is nice to be reminded of. OVID was nice, because it reminds me that Frannie and I will be visiting his hometown of Sulmona next month. That should be interesting. And on the BAD side, I could cite COS, AABA, and GITMO. It’s not that GITMO is that bad as fill, but I just don’t like being reminded of the reality of it.

A fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners

This was a strange puzzle for me. For one thing, it took me about twice as long as it has taken me to do recent Sunday puzzles. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course… and it could have had something to do with the fact that I am in a small house with my entire family and more walking around and talking to me. But for another thing, it took me a long while to understand what was going on. The theme is, essentially, playing with words hidden within answers, rebus-style, and then explaining what’s going on in another answer. This leads to what appears to be a lot of duplication within the puzzle, which I find unsettling.
Take SCOFF (Jeer) over POPULARKIDS (In-group at school school) with the words “off” and “lark” circled, which is explained by OFFONALARK. I know the words OFF and LARK are not really duplicated, but they are circled, and so in a way, they are.
That said, the trick is pretty well done. Finding a SPREADEAGLE inside EVANGELIZE, for instance, is pretty cool. And putting a revealer of HEADLESSCHICKEN on THEPLOTTHICKENS is also very clever. And that SWANDIVE adds a whole nother dimension to the theme. So in the end, I walk away a fan. Nice job, Mr. Eaton-Salners.

In other areas, I still think MISCALL is too soon (Nate Silver is dead to me), and I like the inclusion of TAKESAKNEE (Colin deserves another shot). BIGD reminds me of a song (see above) by the group Bishop Allen, and SLEEPERCAR (Berth place) reminds me that this country deserves a better rail system. 
OK, before I get carried away with my rants, I'll let you go and enjoy your Sunday. I hope everyone is have a good day.

- Horace

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday, August 10, 2019, Erik Agard and Anna Gundlach

Well, the last clue made me laugh out loud. "Start of an anti-coal petition" (DEARSANTA). Hah! It’s a great clue to cap off a fun Saturday puzzle.
I broke in with AVA, MEDIC (I briefly had imhIt), and MUTT, which led to STEADICAM and MAIA, and I was off and running. 

I liked learning the term TURNT (Drunk, in modern slang), and might get to put it to use this very week, as today is the start of my family vacation! And speaking of that, “Wine lover’s favorite team” is a very nice clue for REDS. Furthermore, it’s possible we’ll buy a couple PECS of steamers this week, too. I could go on and on linking answers to my vacation… I have a couple of DIY projects lined up, and I am hoping for PAX between family members, otherwise the STRESS will age me terribly! 
Lots of good clues like “What you can take that I can’t?” (ARE), “It can pass when you pass” (OWNERSHIP), and "It reaches to touch one's hand" (ULNA), but I thought the clue for AREACODES (Some demographic data) could have been a tad more interesting. 
Does anyone actually use OPPS as a term for enemies? Is that a thing like TURNT that I just haven't come across yet? Somehow it doesn't seem likely... and what is a TYPEA flu? Since when have they been "typing" them? Colum?
Overall, I found lots to like in this one (SPLAY, AESOP, PARASITIC, ATEIT, INIGO), and very little glue (UAW, ASHED, POGS, EWELL). 
- Horace

Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday, August 9, 2019, John Guzzetta


You know a puzzle is going to be all right when you hit CANOODLE and CAVORT right off the bat. The clue "Frisk" for CAVORT is a bit uncommon, and NONES (The religiously unaffiliated) is not an expression that I'm familiar with, even though it is, apparently, a group I am a member of, but "Handy item in the kitchen?" (OVENMITT) was cute, and it was interesting to learn of the NOME Nugget.

The brothers RAMONE

In the NE, HAVARTI (Cheese sometimes flavored with dill) and BAREARMS (What short sleeves leave) seemed almost too blatant, but BEREA (Greek city visited by Paul before Athens), on the other hand, needed every cross.

"Demesne" (ESTATE), for me, exists only in Keats (Oft of one wide expanse had I been told / That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne / Yet did I never breathe its pure serene / Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold), but that was enough (with a cross or two) to finish up the top in very short order.

The bottom played a little more slowly, and a naive guess of glITTERATI for "Some social media celebrities" (TWITTERATI) made for a little snag in the SW. Eventually, I got TROLLS (Some social media commenters), and everything worked out in the end.

Overall, many fun answers (SNORKEL (Do a school visit, in a way?), HOTMIC (Capturer of an unguarded remark), only a little awkwardnes (EMBAR, OHME), and on balance, a decent Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019, Timothy Polin


A tidy little trick in the clues of this Thursday puzzle, given away by the revealer at 60- and 19-Across. Ordinarily, I don't like what I think of as a "backward" multi-part answer - that is, when the second half of an answer appears before the first half as you go through the clues in order - and normally I just skip past them and move on. But today I actually scrolled down to look at 60-Across, and since I already had entered acT at 9-Down (Not dither), I was able to guess that TWICE would be the second half of the "reconsider" clue. And then, as I continued in that NE corner, my brain must have kept working on the first part, because in about a minute I knew it must be THINK TWICE, and then the trick became clear. "25A: *Tin has been in them since 1929" wasn't a coin, or another alloy, but COMICSTRIPS! (Tin Tin has been in them!). And "17A: *Boo during a baseball game" wasn't something like "heckle," it was a WILDPITCH. (Boo-boo). Also, I think the "backward" revealer was appropriate today, as it could have hidden the revealer longer for those who didn't bother to scroll down, making the puzzle that much trickier.


I have come to expect good puzzles from Mr. Polin, and this lives up to that expectation. The two Law school classes (EVIDENCE & ETHICS) make a nice pair, and they're nicely tied in with LSAT (Its min. score is 120). And there's plenty of fun, tricky cluing, too - "Stickers in a plant store" (CACTI), "Lost one's standing? (SAT) (guffaw), "Hearts that don't beat very much?" (TREYS) (Good QMC!), "Going rate" (PACE) (Excellent NQMC) (Is that our abbreviation?), and "Figures calculated using crude estimates" (OILPRICES). Hah! And conversely, I loved the simplicity of "One way to get help" (ASK).

We find a lot of names in the middle, and there's that odd POLER (Gondolier, maybe), but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Great start to the Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday, August 7, 2019, Jeff Chen

0:12:08 (F.W.O.E.)

Today I figured out the theme today at the first opportunity ("Scarcity" (EARTHDAY)) (dearth), but it didn't help me much, except for a couple times where I entered a Y at the end of a theme answer before I figured out the rest. Luckily, I didn't try that with 23A: *Futuristic film of 1982 (ENTREE) (Tron) (Hmmm...). The Y thing did help with YKNOW ("See what I'm talkin' 'bout?"), though, and I did fill in PIGLATIN without even really fully reading the clue, but overall it played a little tough for me, and finding my error (AaH instead of AHH) took me over a minute. I should probably just leave those "contented exclamation" clues empty in the middle from now on.


I guess the ENTREE answer makes it so that the "ay" ending isn't necessary to the theme, but those other Ys at the ends of words (especially SLEEPY, being almost "in position" for a theme answer as it is) dilute the overall effect a bit for me. Plus, I guess I'm kind of over PIGLATIN. It's interesting that Mr. Chen found some common (and one uncommon) words that could be interpreted as PIGLATIN, but, well, I guess I'm just not in a very good mood today. Sometimes you'll have that.

Other things that rubbed me the wrong way: Two networks (NBC & CBS); the ASHTRAY smack dab in the middle; ODON, TORIC, OTS, DASYAPAT, CHITIN... and the inconsistency of having both IHEARYA and YKNOW in the same grid. And it also kind of annoys me that ANNAL is perfectly acceptable in a crossword, but not accepted as a valid word in another game on the same site "Spelling Bee." Who's with me here?

I'm sorry to be so negative, but I didn't love this one. Again, it could just be my mood. Hope you enjoyed it more.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Tuesday, August 6, 2019, Jon Olsen


If you're like me, you're pretty sure you've never heard, nor heard of, the 1963 Bobby Vinton hit BLUEONBLUE. But if you're like me, you don't really care that the reference is obscure, because you were able to figure it out through crossing answers and inference, and you like the color blue in all its variations, so you came away thinking that the eight shades represented in the theme answers made for a bright and colorful Tuesday morning solve. Right?


The first three theme entries (BABYPOWDER, ARCTICOCEAN, ROYALNAVY) are all perfectly normal. COBALTSTEEL is slightly more of a niche knowledge type of thing, but again, if you're like me, you'll be ok with that.

In the rest of the answers we find such comforting OLDTIME material as TOWNCAR for "Limousine," AVONLEA as the "Home of Anne of Green Gables," DATSUNS (I drove the fastest I've ever driven in a friend's 280Z), and COMPAQS (Pioneering personal computers) (Somebody had to lose that race, eh?). And I kind of enjoyed the "-ed" adjectives SLEEVED (Like LPs and some dresses) (another OLDTIME reference), TIERED (Like wedding cakes, typically), and TWEED. :)

So that's all good then, but on the other hand, IEST (Superlative ending with grass or glass) is probably the worst entry I've seen in several months, and AEC (Early nuclear org.) gets a solid "Huh?" Those are stuck fast in the "glue" category, but what they're holding together is pretty decent overall. Will you, like me, give it a thumbs up?

- Horace

Monday, August 5, 2019

Monday, August 5, 2019, Tracy Gray


It's a dog's world. Today the puzzle is full of them - Boxer, Pointer, Shepherd, and Lab - all found at the end of Down theme answers, exposed by the revealer: DOWNWARDDOG. I enjoy a vertical theme. The staggered lines of color that light up when you reach 28-Down are quite pleasing. If you've never tried solving directly on the NYTX Web page, you really should at least once. I mean, I like solving on paper, don't get me wrong, but there are little perks available online, one of which is the "light up" theme.


It's a very clean grid today, in my opinion, with only UAE and ITO ("How was ____ know?") looking a tad odd. But even then, I'm happy the latter is no longer being clued with an O.J. trial reference. I suppose I could argue that Horace was more than an ODIST. He wrote poetry in other styles too, but really, it was in an ode that he claimed his work would outlast the Pyramids (exegi monumentum aere perennius / reglalique situ pyramidum altius), so perhaps I should just leave that one alone.

There's a somewhat troubling "illness" theme running through the grid - ACHY (Feeling fluish, in a way), POX (Contagious viral infection), ONSET (First appearance, as of symptoms), SPRAIN (Common ankle injury), UNIT (The "U" in I.C.U.) - I hope Ms. Gray is feeling ok!

I like thinking about LATH (Plasterwork backing) (might come from living in a 125-year-old house), and I enjoyed the up-to-date BAE (Slangy "sweetheart") and AGAME (Best effort, informally).

A solid start to the week. The Horace ABIDES.

- Horace

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sunday, August 4, 2019, Will Nediger


ASISEEIT, this is a clever and interesting theme: Find two words that have the same consonants, in the same order, put them together, and provide an appropriate (wacky) clue. For example, MISQUOTESMOSQUITOES (Says "Quack" instead of "Buzz"?). Sure, one's got an extra (silent) vowel, and the clue is completely absurd, but still I find the constant consonants pleasing. FRONTIERFURNITURE (Tables in an Old West saloon, e.g.?) is almost not wacky at all, and OVERSELLSVERSAILLES (Claims that Louis XIV's palace is better than all the other buildings in France combined?) is the most surprising. And finally, I especially love the clue for BRONTOSAURUS/BRAINTEASERS ("What walks on four dino legs in the morning, four dino legs at noon and four dino legs in the evening?" and other riddles?) because it is the most absurd, not least because the necessarily altered text (Brontosaurus didn't ever walk on two or three legs, as far as we know) is no longer much of a riddle at all. It's devolved into pure silliness, which I think we can all applaud. Much like the government. Hah! (sob.)


In addition to the positive theme, we have many strong entries: SOBRIQUET (Nickname), ORDNANCE (Artillery), ARMOIRE (Large wardrobe), GLUTS (Oversupplies), VIDIOT (Portmanteau for a TV addict), and RAKISH (Debonair), to name but six. I was not familiar with Claude FROLLO, and I didn't know Scarface's real (movie) name, so those took a while. "Mobile home not seen much nowadays" (TEPEE), reminds me of the words to "Home on the Range" -

The red man was pressed from this part of the west / 'Tis unlikely he'll ever return / To the banks of Red River, where seldom, if ever / His flickering campfires will burn.
Ahh, "the viewless wings of POESY"...

Overall, IMAFAN.

- Horace

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Saturday, August 3, 2019, Ryan McCarty

A little over 12 minutes

I finished this puzzle on the way down to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, and since I left the iPad in the car, I don't have access to it to find out the exact time of my finish.

I found this puzzle satisfying, and if it suffers somewhat in comparison to yesterday's tour de force, it's still an very fine themeless puzzle. It is a truth universally acknowledged among the creators of this blog that the Thursday-Saturday set of puzzles are the ones with the most enjoyability; sadly, my recent experience with the Thursday puzzles haven't been at the same level, so I rely heavily on these two themelesses.

I broke in to the grid in the NE corner for once, with the gimme Michael SCOTT. Even after finishing the area, I had no idea why DEVILDOG meant "Marine." Turns out it's a standard nickname for the branch of the armed forces.

The best of the puzzle comes across the middle: SAMESEXMARRIAGE of course is a lovely 15-letter answer. But I enjoyed the clue of 21D: Film featuring an assassin from 2029 (THETERMINATOR). It's amusing to realize how far in the future somebody thought that year would be.

Other good answers include 32D: Vessel in a famous 1960s shipwreck (SSMINNOW) - I love the unexpected fictionality of the Gilligan's Island ship. The symmetric answer in the other corner also has an atypical double letter in AAONLINE.

A puzzle that references Pogo (OPOSSUMS) is welcome. One of my all time favorite comics, and the source of the line "We have met the enemy, and he is us!"

Finally, I keep on wanting to misparse NOIRON as "noir on." Which I will now use whenever we decide to watch a hardboiled detective series.

- Colum

Friday, August 2, 2019

Friday, August 2, 2019, Andrew J. Ries


Okay, I would have loved this puzzle for so many reasons, not the least of which are the set of three outstanding long down answers in the middle, with all their Zs and Xs. But really, this puzzle got me with one clue, which is probably my favorite of the year, and will be forthwith added to the list of great clues.

It comes at 36A: Character raised in "Rosemary's Baby." Was it going to be the Antichrist? I had an A to begin the answer. Or maybe it was the actual name of the eponymous baby? Actually, that was Adrian Woodhouse. No, instead the answer is APOSTROPHE - literally, the character in the title that is above the line. That's brilliant.

Other good clues include 13A: Locks that might not be totally secure? (TOUPEES) and 22A: Important thing to know, if you will (ESTATELAW). I had there, but had to take it out after getting TAXEVASION.

How about the pair of clues at 16A: Put on the line, perhaps (AIRDRIED) and at 34A: Put on the line (WAGERED)? Frannie mentioned this past week how crosswords encourage us to see just how malleable the English language is. This is a great example.

STEGOSAURUS (always one of my favorite of the -saurs, after triceratops), THEMUSICMAN, DELUXEPIZZA. So much goodness.

Very little made me OPINE for better days. SYR, ATA, BUR. These are small prices to pay for the wonder of the rest. And even little old GNU gets a great clue, in 49D: Animal that doesn't have a sound coming out of its head?


- Colum

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Thursday, August 1, 2019, Patrick Merrell

14:10 (FWTE)

Well, I certainly could have done better on a couple of fronts here. My errors came at the crossing of BONAMI and BOLT (I put in an M and convinced myself that when you mOLT, you leave quickly. Maybe I was thinking about trees molting? Which is most definitely not a thing at all?) and at the crossing of HARP and SIP, where I put a T. A hart could be on an Irish Euro, I thought, and one way to test temperature would be to sit down in a pool. Okay, these seem pretty foolish in retrospect.

Meanwhile, the theme today is straightforward: let's make a pangram in the theme answers alone, using seven words which split the alphabet up in order. It's a little like playing the license plate game where you make the shortest word possible (or most interesting word possible) using the letters in order as they appear on a license plate. It works well in New York, where every license plate has three letters followed by 4 numbers. Massachusetts plates are less helpful, with their two letters and four numbers.

It ends up feeling more like a themeless than a true themed puzzle, with some interesting words like AFGHANI and PURVIEW and OXYGENIZE. I'm not convinced of the need for HEISMANTROPHIES. After all, the MNOP string is fully realized by letter 11. So why the plural? To make it 15 letters long. I imagine 13 letters long would have been impossible with the constraints created by the other theme answers. But I find it a little less aesthetically pleasing.
In any case, all of this means there's not too much room for interest in the fill. My favorite clue comes right in the middle at 24D: One who knows the drill (DENTIST) - avoiding the infamous QMC. I was also impressed by some of the challenging clues like 47D: Accepted applications (USAGES) and 68A: Passes (DIES).

Also, though, we get things like ILKS and OLDS and answers of that ilk. See? Why would it ever be pluralized?

So, on the whole, and perhaps because of some sour grapes, but more because I expect more from a Thursday theme, I was less impressed by this puzzle.

- Colum