Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday, September 30, 2019, Lynn Lempel


I know I'm on a great week to review when I get Ms. Lempel (and I had Mr. McCoy yesterday!). Her puzzles are always smooth and fun to solve, and today's did not disappoint.

It's such a simple idea, it seems like it must have been done before. Standard phrases interpreted anew because the first part is a synonym for giving a bad review. 57A: Bash an Alex Haley classic? (PUTDOWNROOTS) was my favorite. What a great twist on a common phrase! And how ludicrous, as those of us who watched the TV miniseries in the 1970s will agree. LeVar Burton, am I right? Can I get an Amen? Or at least a Reading Rainbow?

The other theme answers weren't quite as amusing, and two of them relied on brand names for their punch line, but they're all solid nonetheless. And there five total themers in a 15 x 15 puzzle, which is impressive.
That's probably the reason there are no longer crossing answers. But it's still smooth as silk, and has room for fun Monday style clues like 1D: You need to sit down for this (LAP). Perfect! It's the second day in a row that 1D has satisfied. I'm now going to have to watch the remainder of the week to see if other constructors meet the standards set by yesterday and today.

Other things I liked included SASHA Obama. With PAPA and POTUS close by, I think Ms. Lempel is signaling her nostalgia for a better time. Also added to that is GORES and BOBDOLE. We were all so innocent in the 1990s. I also enjoyed AIRKISS, and of course, BLTS.

Enough YAK. I'm done.

- Colum

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019, Tom McCoy


It's not often, I'm sorry to report, that a Sunday puzzle lives up to the reputation that the NYT crossword puzzle works so hard to maintain. And that's a shame, because probably the Sunday puzzle is the one done by the most people, I declare completely unscientifically. But today's definitely breaks that mold for a number of reasons, which I will now go into unbearable detail about. Brace yourselves.

It all starts with the theme, as always. At first I thought today's theme was a fairly standard if well done version of your basic pun scheme. Take a routine phrase in the English language, replace one of the words with a near-homonym, clue the wacky result and hilarity ensues, and so on. And if that were all that was going on, it would be reasonably good still. All the phrases are well-recognized, all the clues are humorous, and so on.

But WEIGHT! There's more. Look at the title: it's not just a pun. It's instructions! Put the emphasis on the second syllable in each case. Thus "ship of the DEsert" becomes SHIPOFTHEDESSERT, where the emphasis is on that last syllable. "The MOral of the story" becomes THEMORALEOFTHESTORY. And my favorite of all, because the clue is just so absurd is at 68A: "Our lab studies regular dance moves rather than high-kicking"? (ITSNOTROCKETTESCIENCE). Incredible. That's great work to come up with seven high quality examples of this specific trick.

Better than all of that, though is the quality of the remainder of the puzzle. I knew we were going to have a fun time today when I figured out 1D: What one does not do when sent to jail (PASSGO). So unexpected, so perfect. Let's look at some excellent clues today.

15D: Package deliverers of the present day? (REINDEER) - "present day" as in Christmas...
17D: 75+ person (SPEEDER)
46D: Imperfect cube (LOADEDDIE). I almost did die when I got that one.
97D: Some brick houses (IGLOOS). Hah!

Also some lovely words like GADGETRY, INREPOSE, and WASABI. The only entry I shied at was UMW, and if that's all, you know Mr. McCoy has done fine work today.

- Colum

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Saturday, September 28, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


Well, this Saturday offering was almost as easy as pie, but it had one or two curves that gave me a little strudel. I couldn't get 1A right off, but the next two Across answers, SEASHANTIES and CHARLOTTESWEB, went right in, and then I was on a roll.

I worked my way from top to bottom. The short answers in the center were generally straightforward, with the sweet spot being the center. I did come up empty at 48A with "Winner of the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry" (WALLACESTEVENS), but I was able to fill that in after I got a few downs.

Then, it was time to circle back to the top. My only real set back was at the very top of the roll. I am not familiar with the "Hit FX police drama of 2002-08." I didn't know 4D: "Japanese instrument with 17 bamboos pipes" (SHO) or 9D: DEWITT Clinton (or is it Clinton DEWITT?), and I wasn't too sure about the football abbreviation at 6D. Plus, I was, at first, duped, as intended, by 5D: "It may be measured in gallons" and I started with vAT. That left me with three empty squares and a mistake up there, making even a guess at the show title difficult. Eventually, I got INT ("Defensive football stat: Abbr."), and I corrected vAT to HAT - ha! - which was the breakthrough I needed for THESHEILD.

In addition to being led down the garden path by 5D, there were a few other forks in the road where the "obvious" answers were wrong.
"Crop grown in paddies" (TARO) -  I went with rice, at first.
"In which you might see an exchange of bishops" (SYNOD). Chess anyone?
"It might be taken to the pound" seemed similar, but none of the obvious answers (cat, dog, stray) had four letters. It turned out to be REPO.

My tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Fernandez (hi!) would have been proud to see me drop in WAS at 34A. He made us memorize the beginning of "A Tale of Two Cities." He told us it would come in handy at cocktail parties when we got older. It hasn't come up over drinks yet, but it served me well in the puzzle today.


Both long answers (SECRETWEAPONS and BEERBARRELS) in the east were solid. I was very happy to see our old friend EEL in the puzzle again. It's been too long. :) ERR was on hand, too, just like old times.

But the icing on the cake were the question mark clues including "Hatcher of plots?" (TERI), "Union busters?" (DIVORCEPAPERS), "Gets to the point?" TAPERS, and my favorite, "Ones in funny shorts" (STOOGES) - LOL.

I found it odd that the acronym NSFW clue didn't call for an acronymic answer (LEWD), and I'm not a fan of the word PURTY. I do love a SWISSROLL as much as the next guy, but I've never seen one in a shop that actually called itself a PATISSERIE. Perhaps I should spend more time in Switzerland.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Friday, September 27, 2019, Jack Mowat


I was PLEASEd to finish below the 30 minute mark on this one - even if I was under by only a GUCCI. Between minutes 20 and 29, I was mangling my STRESSBALL and staring a DNF in the face. At first, I thought the puzzle played fast for a Friday until it all came down to a very confusing - for this solver, anyway - midsection. It would  probably be quicker for me to list the entries that I wasn't stymied by, but that's no way to write a puzzle review.

The trouble began with the two long downs that start in the northwest. Of what did the problem consist? Mostly NONGMOCORN. Actually, that's not strictly true, albeit hilarious. I did have trouble with the NGMO portion of that one, but the real stumper up there was INTERFACES (Meets (with)). I went from INTERsectS to INTERlACES, but couldn't make the rest of the section work - obviously, since they both were wrong. Rack my brain as I might, I couldn't think of an answer for "Tease" (25A) that fit the pattern G_O_ _N. I didn't know Mr. Cube's real name (OSHEA Jackson), or the name of Jupiter's sister, and my book learnin' sadly didn't include the word TOPOS (Traditional literary theme or motif). I was in a pickle, so I put the puzzle down for a while. I decided to look at it once more before I went on a walk and, boom! I suddenly posited GOOFON for "Tease," and the rest, as they say, is history. Phew! While none of the clue/answer pairs were unfair, it was a little unfortunate for this solver that Mr. Mowat ELECTed to put all the ones that were tough for me in the same part of the puzzle. What was he thinking?!?! :)

The east, by contrast, I FELT was easy peasy. Thanks to the new Ken Burns documentary, "Country Music," BRENDALEE was fresh in my mind - so to speak. Has everyone been watching that on PBS? From SURF to SYFY I had no CERES problems.

The south west was the section I enjoyed the most, with the fun "It gets the party started" ICEBREAKER and "Rakes it in" MAKESAMINT. Plus, who doesn't like a CASK of something?

The mid- and southeast had some fine fill as well. I liked "They lead people underground" SUBWAYMAPS. And, URBANDECAY is great fill for a puzzle, if not a city. Despite my lack of literary chops, the word MEWL - always puts me in mind of "All the world's a stage."


One good puzzle deserves another: if one needs RADAR for TORNADOTRACKING what does one need to track a "Sharknado"?


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thursday, September 26, 2019, Doug Peterson


I caught on to today's rebus when I got to the revealer at 61A "It's usually presented in a small box, as seen six times in this puzzle's answer." I had enough crosses to see ENGAGEMENT, and this being a Thursday and all, I correctly surmised that the final square, or small box, would hold the [RING]. My favorite crossed pair was C[RING]EWORTHY / P[RING]LE. I stared at P_LE for "Snack in a stack" for quite some time before realizing it had to be another of the rebus squares. SY[RING]E and ALLU[RING] are also very good. It seems to e that the puzzle square as a box works well for a rebus theme. There's probably already been a [JACK] in the box puzzle. However, maybe not every blank in a box is a good fit for the NTYX.

Seeing SUSSUDIO (1985 Phil Collins hit with an improvised title) in the grid brought me back a few decades. I'm not sure I ever knew how to spell that ; I was somewhat surprised by the double S. I enjoyed the other blast from the musical past in the grid, DRHOOK. The clue doesn't mention my favorite of their songs, "Cover of the Rolling Stone," possibly because, according to the Wikipedia, that song came out when the band was called Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, which is an unsuitable match for the grid, in this case.

I liked STIR for "Kindle" and ONTAP for "Draft classification." At work, people said they enjoyed "Fabled slacker" (HARE). HARASS, THRUM, and NITRO are fine fill. MEATCASE is funny. Nobody likes a CYST.

Crossword darling IDA Lupino

I thought the puzzle didn't get off to the strongest start with ISPS. It reminded me of when we here at "Horace and Frances Discuss the New York Times Crossword Puzzle Featuring Colum Amory" used to assign a grade to the 1A puzzle entry. This one gets a USC. Which brings me to another point. I won't carillon about it, but there were rather a lot of abbreviations in the grid (DES, GER, OPE, SNO, STR, USBUTE). Maybe they all lost their better half.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019, Natan Last, Andy Kravis, and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


I didn't look at the revealer as I solved today's puzzle. It filled itself in without any action on my part. I did have to apply myself to complete the four theme answers themselves, however, and at first glance they left me unmoved. But, in the context of the revealer, BREXIT (Subject of a 2016 U.K. referendum ... or a hint to 16-, 25-, 41-, and 55-Across), they won me over. Each theme answer is a pair of words illustrating a literal BR exit. The first word contains the letters BR and the second is the same word from which the BR has exited - ha! The pair that gets my vote is BREYERSEYERS (Ones considering which brand of ice cream to buy?). CEREBRALCEREAL is also a fine runner up. HOMBRESHOMES was a bit of a stretch - and difficult to say out loud - but it's all for a good cause.

I was intrigued by the new-to-me NORMCORE (Fashion trend that involves comfortable, regular-looking clothing). Finally, I'm on trend! Well, I probably was when it was a trend. I looked it up on the World Wide Web and it appears to have peaked a few years back, so it's probably no longer INSEASON.

Nice that Gypsy Rose Lee was mentioned in the clues. I recently enjoyed one of her mystery novels - more of a period piece than a page-turner, IMHO. Also, how about Duran Duran? Remember them? I did. Which helped me in the south west, a section that included the excellent TAMARIND. One thing, or rather character, I did not remember was Ally MCBEAL. I misread the clue at first and wasted my time trying to think of a real ATT like Clarence Darrow or Thurgood Marshall. Derp.

GUITARSOLO and RAISESHELL are good long downs. I enjoyed both INEVER and ISAY. I like BEST when it means defeat.


Not much to campaign against in this one. HUAC, ACL, and EMT aren't the strongest candidates, but I still think this puzzle's a winner.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tuesday, September 24, 2019, John Guzzetta


Today's theme gives us common phrases that contain Greek letters. The Greek letters within the phrases intersect with each other creating a GREEKCROSS ("Religious symbol representing a plus sign...or a hint to the three groups of shaded squares in this puzzle"). I note that all the Greek letters cross word boundaries in the phrases they occupy, which is always a feather in a constructor's kappa.

While I thought the phrases were solid entries, with my favorite pair being FREEZETAG and RIOTACT, the look of the crosses themselves vexed me omicron. The one that most matched the clue was the 5/5 pair in the southwest OMEGA/THETA. That one delivers. The other two pairs do cross, but they don't really exemplify the plus sign descriptor, which I thought was a little lambda.

I was off my gamma a bit today. I got held up for at least two full minutes in the bottom center. I know because I checked the clock when I had filled in all but one square of the puzzle. I had what appeared to be a Natick at the cross between 57A "Spanish liqueur" and 40D "Leatherneck." With a psi, I mentioned my state of stuck to Horace and he said, "I beta you have the same mistake I had in that section." Based on this hint, I took out all the crosses for 40D and carefully reconsidered each answer. And Eureka! I found the problem at 55A. For "Set in direct opposition to" I had confidently answered PuTAGAINST, but on further consideration, I realized it could also be (and was) PITAGAINST. With that I in place, I finally saw MARINE for "Leatherneck," saving myself from a FWOE. Phew!

I enjoyed the GROANER, "'I started a boat-building business in my attic ... Now sails are going through the roof,' e.g." - ha! I also thought the two "It's fixed when it's flat" clues were fun, calling in one case for TIRE, and in the other for FEE. LEADAPRONS struck me as nu fill I'd never seen before. I also straight up enjoyed SKEINS, PRANKS, and HERETIC.


I think Mr. Guzzetta deltas omega dose of abbreviations and partials in the grid, including SPCA, RSVP, SECY, SEC, PPM, MPH, YEO, and EKG, which brought about a momentary mu.

Also, for me, the trio of Kirk ALYN, Lena OLIN, and ANSE ("Addie's husband in 'As I Lay Dying'") were something of a tau order for a Tuesday, but, as they weren't involved in my upsilon, perhaps it doesn't sigmafy.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019, Andrea Carla Michaels


CIAOS everyone! Frannie, here. I've been away in the land of fashion (or STYLE), but SIAM back and getting into the SLIP of things again.

Today's four theme expressions are all talk - and lots of it. The four theme answers are expressions intended to describe people who bang on and on. All the theme answers had essentially the same clue (One who yaks, yaks, yaks ...). The the ellipses at the ends of each clue helped tie the theme answers together and provided nice illustrative support for the idea of running off at the mouth.  TALKAHOLIC and CHATTERBOX both seem to fill the bill quite well, but I think of a BLABBERMOUTH as someone who reveals information that they shouldn't, rather than as someone who could talk the hind legs off a donkey. I'm not sure if there's an any additional connotational nuance to BLATHERSKITE as I've never encountered the word before. I do rather like it, though. A perennial favorite of mine, gas bag, didn't make the cut, possibly because, for once, it wasn't expansive enough. Also, how does everyone feel about ELK as bonus theme material? :)

There was a good amount of interesting fill. I say OUI to ZEAL, THWART, HYPE, SWAB, CREVICES, TRASHY, and HEH.

RUTH Bader Ginsburg

I'm not het up enough to have words with Ms. Michaels, but I never think of AWOL as a noun (an AWOL), I always think of it as a state of being (she is AWOL), but maybe that's just me. I heard a person use "popcorn" as a verb at a presentation the other day. I believe the intended meaning was that a few people in the audience would raise their hands and contribute to the discussion, so what the heck? It's all talk.

Well, I don't want to PRADO on too much my first day back, so I'll button it for now.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019, Tracy Gray


Seven examples today of expressions containing the word "up," where that word is shown rather than included by having the preceding word go "up" in the grid. Difficult to describe, but once SUSSEDOUT, pretty easy to solve. And the words going up also spell a word going down, so it makes for a tidy theme. The first example is probably my favorite - KEEP[UP]APPEARANCES (Maintain the impression of well-being), but they're all pretty good. STEP[UP]TRANSFORMERS (Voltage-increasing electrical device) and REVERSEPHONELOOK[UP] (Method for identifying mystery callers) are a bit obscure, but I think most people will have heard of them.

I enjoyed CATARACTS (Large waterfalls), and BEERGARDENS (Oktoberfest locales) in the long, bonus Down spots. PRESSPASSES (Door openers for journalists) got a good clue, and it was interesting to learn that Ellen DEGENERES has nearly hit for the cycle on the hosting front. What would the fourth one be... the Tonys?

I think I've most often heard about torn ACLs rather than a TORNMCL, but luckily, "Losing Super Bowl LIII team" (RAMS) was a gimme for this New England football fan. I wasn't quite so sure about the spelling of BRAISE (Prepare, as pot roast), and LISA (Lopes of R&B's TLC) could as easily have been Liza, for all I knew...

REROSE (Got up again) is pretty iffy, and I'm not sure I like seeing international criminals included in the grid (ELCHAPO), but I liked the theme all right.

- Horace

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saturday, September 21, 2019, Joon Pahk and Erik Agard

0:14:38 (F.W.T.E.)

When I saw the bylines, I was excited and, I admit it, a little afraid. Mr. Agard won the A.C.P.T. a couple years ago, and Mr. Pahk has been on the podium more often than not over the past several years. And the result was pretty much just what I expected - a good, tricky puzzle.

Still a little odd to see him without that thing over his eyes.
Lots of playful clues today, like "Place where you pay for what you break" (REPAIRSHOP) and "Reacts to losing one's hearing, perhaps" (APPEALS) - two excellent non-question-mark clues. "Group that's on the take?" is cute, but maybe a little too far to go for CAMERACREW.

And what do we think of "Baby buggy?" (LARVAL)? I would have preferred to see just "larva," as it seems to me like the clue calls for a noun (baby) instead of an adjective, but perhaps I'm just not reading it right. And I also don't really understand "Spot starter?" for TEAKETTLE. Is it because the whistle of the kettle might startle Spot, the dog? Or because if you want a "spot of tea" you need to put the kettle on? ... I'm not quite sure...

I liked the "quote" clues, including "Wow," (IMPRESSIVE), "That was uncalled for" (LOWBLOW), "You got that right!" (SUREDO). And "Poking vigorously" (JABBING), happily reminds me of Colum's younger daughter, who, at the age of about five, went around poking people and called it "Festival poking," or something like that. But when I tried to join in and give her a jab, she quickly announced "Festival poking is over!"

My error came at RIPER (Tenderer, maybe), where I had guessed "RarER" and never looked back. TRINIS (Some Caribbean islanders) didn't mean anything to me, although TRaNIS probably should have thrown up some red flags, and I guess I just didn't look closely at STErINS. ERGS!

Overall, though, this was a fun one.

- Horace

Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday, September 20, 2019, Luke Vaughn


When I first looked at this, I thought the layout ought to be called a "Graveyard Grid," because of the two crosses laying on their backs in the center. Anybody else think that way?

Despite the somber imagery (for me, anyway) this one was filled with vivid entries: Ten-cent words like PICARESQUE (Like a novel with a roguish, adventuring hero) (from Spanish "picaro" meaning "rascal"), EVISCERATE (Remove the contents of), LARGESSE (Generosity), and SALLOW (Not looking well); Fun, modern words like TWITTERATI (Influential social media users) and ATHLEISURE (Fashion portmanteau exemplified by wearing yoga pants all day); and some exotic names ENESCU ("Romanian Rhapsodies" composer) and ZACHARIAH (____ Chandler, four-term U.S. senator who helped found the Republican Party).

I enjoyed the clues for BIAS (It's not fair) and ICYHOT (Balm with an oxymoronic name), but "Plays with matches?" seemed a little too playful for SPEEDDATES. I haven't actually done it myself, but it doesn't seem like playtime activity to me. Likewise, I thought ILIED wasn't exactly equivalent to "That may not have been entirely accurate ...," but I'm not going to be too EMPHATIC in my objection.

SLADE ("Cum on Feel the Noize" band, 1973) was a surprise, as I only knew of the Quiet Riot (another oxymoron!) version until now. And I wish I had thought of the Curies when I saw the very impressive "Journalist whose mother, father, sister and husband all won Nobel Prizes," but I'm not sure I've ever heard of EVECURIE anyway, so it might not have helped. Still, interesting!

This was an open and energetic Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019, David Kwong


Whew! That was a tough one for ME, especially the SE corner. OCCASIONED (Brought about) and FRAUDULENT (Like kited checks) are both excellent entries with good clues, but I had erroneously entered "asap" for "A mile a minute, e.g." (RATE) (this was changed sometime after I got ASAP (Pronto) on the other side), and it took me a long time to read "Completely behind" properly (ALLFOR)... I did not know PANTOMI[ME]QUIZ (1949 (first winner)), and for a while I had "robots" instead of DROIDS (Futuristic assistants) too...  so things took a while to get sorted out. One thing I did have, surprisingly, was ENS (Half of nine?). This time, the clue was so impossible that it forced me to look for a trick solution.


So it's kind of a double trick theme. First, there's the cluing with just dates, like "2008, 2009, 2010, 2011" (MAD[ME]N) (on this one, I first tried "Obama," thinking that it was kind of an odd way to signify his first term), and then there's the "ME" (or Emmy) rebus. Very nice. Of course, it would have been slightly more exciting for me had I ever watched a single episode of any of these shows, but still, I guess I have heard of them. Well, except, as I said, for the first winner. ... Actually, maybe I have heard of that too! Frannie was just telling me that she found a video somewhere showing the cast of "Perry Mason" playing charades... maybe this was a later episode of PANTOMI[ME]QUIZ!?

It was Missouri that broke the rebus for me, with SHOW[ME]STATE, and that allowed me to correct "strIvE" to ASPIRE (Have goals) (so many false starts today!), but it took me a lot longer to understand that it was all about TV shows.

I have a question about 37D: Chain letters? (SANDM). Is this supposed to be about sadomasochism? If so, chains seem rather a long way to go. Perhaps I'm showing my naïveté, but isn't it usually softer restraint material? Rope maybe? Or is there a chain store that I am not aware of called "S and M,"  -  maybe a competitor of "H&M?"

In all, a good, tricky, challenging Thursday. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday, September 18, 2019, John Wrenholt


There was a crooked man, and he made a crooked grid,
He found a crooked theme running DOWNTHEPIPE.

I think of the pipe's natural state as being straight (and the revealer uses this imagery too), but I have done enough puzzles to know that pipes can have ell joints, so this bent pipe idea is fine with me. In fact, in the online version the "pipe" answers are shaded in gray, so the whole path looks a lot like the LEAD "Weapon in Clue."


SPIRITED (Feisty), AIRSHIPS (I tried the sneaky plural AIRcraft first, but that didn't fly), and WATERTOWER (Tall landmark in many a town) were all quite good. And I like the pairing of CLUBSODA (Popular mixer) and CHASERS (They may follow shots) in the South. Is OILPLATFORM and GASSTATION another pairing? It almost seems like the beginning of a theme... "wheat stalk" and "bread" ... "oak tree" and "lumber"... seems like it would be difficult, as none of those things have the same number of letters. But then, I'm not a constructor (Yet!), so I can easily leave it to the pros (For now.).... But wait, it IS more theme. Those other three, symmetrical, long answers all involve quite a bit of piping (WATERTOWER, OILPLATFORM, GASSTATION). I was ready to call it a good theme with just the middle part, but now it's extra good.

I liked HOHUM ("Bor-r-ring") as an opener, SHORES gets a good clue in "Props (up)," the pair of "Tony" clues was fun (OBIE (Tony's counterpart) and AWARD (Tony, e.g.), and even though we didn't see them on our recent visit to Italy, I liked being reminded of the Spanish STEPS. Even if they do remind me of poor old Keats...

Anywho... I'll leave you now till it be morrow. Good Wednesday. And Good Wednesday to you, as well.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tuesday, September 17, 2019, Paul Coulter

0:07:17 (F.W.O.E.)

I chuckled when I found I had said AWMAN to myself after finding that my error had been to enter a P as the first letter of WHEW ("That was a close one!"). True story!


It might not have happened that way, but I had already been put in a good mood by the happy theme of finding appropriate occupations for five common(ish) expressions of joy. A happy astronaut could literally be said to feel/be OVERTHEMOON, a happy model could be SITTINGPRETTY, and a happy mountaineer could, if he were on Mount Everest, be ONTOPOFTHEWORLD. Which reminds me of a discussion we had recently with a banjo player and his daughter, who were asking what the "top of the world" actually was? Is it Everest's peak? Is it the North Pole? How can a sphere have a "top?" ... This was just one of several interesting conversations we've had with these two.

Anyway, the last two are more figurative - a happy medium being INGOODSPIRITS and a happy meteorologist ONCLOUDNINE. Still, the theme holds together quite well, and, like I said, it put me INGOODSPIRITS, and what more can one ask of a puzzle?

Good clues for good entries - "They're game" for PHEASANTS, and "Virtuoso taking a bow before a performance?" for YOYOMA. (That's a strung bow, not a deep bow.) ARRESTING (Very noticeable), should maybe also be in this category. And nice shoehorning in of a Star Wars reference in "'Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope,' e.g." for PLEA. It's a long way to go, but again, it made me smile.

PUCE (Color akin to eggplant) is a color I'll never seem to remember. I always think first of a greenish color. Why?!

Overall a NEATO Tuesday for me.

- Horace

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday, September 16, 2019, Ross Trudeau and Amanda Rafkin


JUSTFORTHERECORD, it's not often that we see a Monday clue starting with the word "Adjudicator," as in "Adjudicator of an attempt at a physical feat, say" (GUINNESSOFFICIAL), but we take it in stride in the service of a good puzzle, just as we do the classic ANIL (Deep blue dye) and ETTU (Question to a betrayer).


I will not be that betrayer today, because I enjoyed this one. The three "record" allusions are perfectly fine, and there are some fun extras too. "Early birds?" could describe Frannie and me this morning, as we slowly adapt to our time-zone conversion, but it could also - more amusingly - describe EGGS. Hah! And the clue for ORCA (Whale found in every one of the world's oceans) is some fun trivia. It would be more amazing if all the oceans weren't really one large body of water, but sure, I know there are different climates and all that. :)

There are nice long bonuses in PRIDEMONTH, UBERMENSCH (although Nietzsche himself is nobody's ideal man anymore, right?), and CARPACCIO (Dish of thinly sliced raw meat). (That last, by the way, was a specialty of the Piedmont region in Italy that neither of us tried.) BRETHREN and INFLIGHT, too, were good. A few old-timey names like HUBERT, RITA, and ALLIE, but nothing too objectionable. Overall, a good start to the week!

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations on your debut, Ms. Rafkin!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday, September 15, 2019, Andrew Kingsley


Please excuse the lateness of this review, Dear Reader, because although I finished the puzzle "this morning" (about 16 hours ago) in Milan's Malpensa airport, I did not have enough time before boarding to write and publish a review. Happily for me, however, even though it is an hour or so into Monday back in Malpensa, Frannie and I are now back in America, where I have ... well, I'm not really sure right now because my computer clock is still on European time ... five hours maybe? Yes, let's say five hours, to complete the daily blogging work. So let's get right to it, shall we?

This is a STEEPROAD sign we saw recently.
The title says it all - we need to keep our minds out of the gutter, but on the lane - the bowling lane. We get six phrases found in the wild that are forced into the alley by their clues. NOTIMETOSPARE, for instance is set up with "Comment when you need a serious comeback at the end of a bowling game?" (Umm... Bowling "game?"). ALLEYCATS roll in as "Hip bowling enthusiasts." My favorite might be FRAMERATE (Pace at which bowlers complete their games?) because it's just so true, but SPLITDECISION (which I just heard said on TV during "Sunday Night Football") is also pretty good, because, again, "Whether to aim at 7 or 10, in bowling?," is a real question!

But that's not all, there's a revealer way down at 109D: Bowlers' targets ... 10 of which can be found appropriately arranged in this puzzle (PINS). That is, the letters "PIN" appear in formation under the bowling ball that is rolling in from the top. What's that? You don't see a bowling ball up in the North, just a weird 3x3 block of black squares? Well, that's where the put a picture of a Big Ball (We prefer candlepin here in Massatucky) bowling ball in the Web version. It's really quite a beautiful thing once you see the PINs standing there, waiting to be knocked down.

So that's the theme. I'll just mention a few other things, since I really need sleep. First, MASERATIS, because in addition to Quattroportes and GranTurismos, we saw a MASERATI hearse in Italy a couple weeks ago! Talk about going out in style! LIMPETS (Marine mollusks that cling to rocks) because they're cool. And finally, SHINER (What a slug might leave behind) because A. It's got a great clue, and B. Thanks to a slight mishap on some marble stairs, I have one of my own!

Good to be back, America! See you tomorrow.

- Horace

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019, Peter A. Collins


Mr. Collins offers a themeless today with a skeleton of five intersecting 15-letter answers. When you set yourself such a challenge, it's important to hit on as many of these opportunities as possible. So, in classic Colum fashion, let's grade these one by one, from least successful to most successful. As always, these grades are completely objective and based on the most unbiased criteria, namely how much I liked them.

In fifth place... 1D: Hypes (SENSATIONALIZES). We're already off to a good start if this is the worst of the five. I give it a B for being a 15-letter single word and having a Z in it.

Next... 6D: "More info will be coming" (DETAILSTOFOLLOW). A good semi-colloquialism, and points for feeling like something people would actually say or write. Still, also a B.

15A: One of 23 for Matt Stairs (an M.L.B. record) (PINCHHITHOMERUN). Very nice. A good piece of trivia, a solid term, and baseball to boot. A B+ here.

10D: Sharing of a moral viewpoint to gain social approval (VIRTUESIGNALING). I like an opportunity to learn a new term, and this one feels particularly apt for our times. The best example of this as an empty action is the offering of "thoughts and prayers" rather than meaningful action in the face of gun violence. This gets an A-.

And the top is (...drum roll...) 53A: They help drivers get rid of their slices (PIZZADELIVERIES). Hah! That's just beautiful. A non-QMC, brilliant misdirection. An absolute A here.

For the rest of the puzzle, it's reasonably smooth. Good clues include 15D: "Ecce homo" speaker (PILATE); 25A: Cambodian bread (RIEL) - I didn't fall for this one; and 41D: Marriageable, quaintly (NUBILE). I'm not sure I entirely approve of 13D: What an anemic person might lack (MINERAL) - are we referring simply to iron-deficiency here? I guess so, but that's a very odd way to say it.

- Colum

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019, Anne and Daniel Larsen


Late in the evening on Friday the 13th, having just watched Silence of the Lambs with my 17-year old daughter... Probably a good time to be writing this review, because nobody's falling asleep any time soon!

This is a nice and chunky Friday themeless. Each corner is a nice exercise in crossing stacks. I like the NW corner the best, and it was there I broke in with DAD crossing TIRADE. 5D could have referred to either parent, so I was glad to have the crossing to confirm. With GAL in place at 27A, I quickly realized that 19A: ____ of Solomon (part of the Apocrypha) would not be "song." With that out of the way, ACTOFGOD and CUREALLS followed. ROIDRAGE and FRAPPUCCINO are excellent additions, along with EREBUS.

I'm not sure what Mr. and Ms. Larsen are getting at with their GOOBERS and their DWEEBS. And are they themselves SWEDES? You might think so with that last name.

YELLOWVESTS is a nice nod to contemporary news. I love the clue at 58A: Major second, e.g. (INTERVAL). That's a musical interval. My first guess (off of the ____AL) was "corporAL" thinking in some weird way of an aide to a military Major.

How's this for overthinking a Friday puzzle? I looked at 30D: European capital ... and thought to myself, I'm not going to fall for that old chestnut. I confidently put "euro" in. But that didn't work. I was forced to reconsider and recognize they were referring to a capital city in BERN.

Other nice bits include 40D: What are still attempts to score? (SETSHOTS) and the sillier 39D: What a fork in the road might lead to? (FLATTIRE). I imagine Frannie might enjoy 37A: Dict., gaz. and others (REFS), although given that it's week two in the NFL, we could have used that definition instead.

Nothing much else to note, although it's an odd way to clue VII with "Edward of the Edwardian age."

Sweet dreams, LARVA!

- Colum

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thursday, September 12, 2019, Grant Thackray


Any opportunity to get a quintet of Qs into a puzzle without resorting to "qat" or some other questionable fill is a win in my books. I love the idea of replacing a hard C/K sound with a Q and finding words and phrases that actually work. 59A: Smudge on a theater sign? (MARQUEEMARK) was the one that made me laugh out loud. I'm also quite fond of 37A: "Oh, I'm supposed to be in the line over there"? (THATSMYQUEUE), but I think it should be phrased as a querulous question.

I got the trick (trique?) quickly when I hit 4D (BARBQS). How about the clue at 15A: What Elvis Aaron Presley's middle name is spelled with on his birth certificate (ONEA)? That's a lot of words to get around using a "high draft status" old-style clue. Meanwhile, we all can agree that the MEALIEST apple is the Red Delicious. Yuck.

After yesterday's rant about "good fats," I'm faced with 7D: Butter, in a dieter's eyes (BADFAT). Humph. Perhaps I'll just have to accept the usage. In the meantime, butter is just too useful to give up. Which reminds me of the only example I could think of for a Q-replacement, which is "parquet" for "Parkay." But that was as far as I got.

My favorite pair of clues came at 32A: Org. that might pocket your checks (IRS) and 33A: Org. that might check your pockets (TSA). You can forgive a lot of stuff when the clues are that much fun. Also very good is 34D: Flutter one's eyelids, say (STIR). Not a flirtatious move, it turns out. Just waking up.

In any case, this was a perfectly good Thursday. Not the greatest I've ever come across, but fun nonetheless. I'm certainly not quitting yet.

- Colum

P.S. I guess that rant about good fats was entirely in my head. I've got to learn to separate my blogs from my internal monologues...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday, September 11, 2019, Ned White


This puzzle played much more difficult than average. I'm not exactly clear why: there are definitely more mildly obscure names than I'd expect, but the crosses are generally fair. As an example, ZAHN crossing NEYO should probably be a no go, in my opinion. GSTAAD is pretty out there, especially as I've also seen it spelled Gstadt, which, it turns out, is a different other city entirely.

Meanwhile, the theme takes a standard phrase of the form "___ in the ___" and reinterprets it with a single phrase which can be an answer to the second blank space, but which contains in order letters which form a word that answers the first space. Thus, 17A: Bird in the hand? is answered by HIREDPERSON (a hired hand), with the circled letters spelling "heron," a bird.

These are interesting finds, perhaps a little tortured in the figuring out what was going on. I like MARSFORINSTANCE containing "arise" meaning "Come up in the world" the best. I dislike 61A: Ace in the hole (PERFORATION) because when did that ever mean a "hole?" It's a series of holes, right?

I find other things I am dissatisfied with... 11D: Screwdrivers, e.g. (HARDDRINKS). Hmmm. It's a mixed drink, made with hard alcohol. Do we really call it a "hard drink?" I appeal to my audience, some of whom may have a tiny bit of experience with liquor. Would you ever call it that?

On the positive side, I'm always in favor of PUTT putt.

And I'm done.

- Colum

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Ethan Cooper


Nobody loves the king of sandwiches more than I do. My family knows I order a BLT more frequently than any other thing on a menu. And I make a darned good one too. The keys to a good BLT? The bacon must be crisp, the tomatoes should be lightly salted, and the toast should have mayonnaise on both slices. Simple, straightforward. But few restaurants do it right, in my opinion.

The somewhat peculiar twist today is to take those letters, rearrange them in all other possible combinations (there are five), and use them as new acronyms for phrases. THINBLUELINE is probably the most recognizable, although it's usually seen with "the" in front. I sort of enjoyed reading down from the middle: LOWERBACKTATTOO? THISLOOKSBAD... I guess I was BORNTOOLATE. LOL!

In any case, there's not a ton of extra room after all of those theme answers to get to sparkling fill. You've got to love KVELL and ALEXIS de Tocqueville. I'm not so keen on SPACEX, or the pair of stereotyped sidekicks from old TV in KATO and TONTO. I do like some MOOSHU pork.

In other news, SUMTO is not really a phrase anybody uses. And ULTA is hitherto unknown to me, but Cece says it's acceptable.

So overall, I'd call it mostly a wash, but the BLT is making my mouth water.

- Colum

Monday, September 9, 2019

Monday, September 9, 2019, Dan Schoenholz


I enjoy an early week puzzle where the theme stands on its own, no revealer needed. Today, we get a set of -IZE words reconfigured as if the last syllable were a separate word, and then the result is clued in a humorous fashion. Thus, "tenderize" becomes 17A: Very soft loaves of bread? (TENDERRYES). The best of the bunch is the last, 57A: "You haven't aged a bit" and "I love that jacket you're wearing"? (SOCIALLIES). Funny because it's true.

It's a nice set of answers because in all cases the letter starting the last syllable is repeated for the new version of the phrase and because there are two examples using -YES and two answers using -IES. I like things to be evenly worked out in my crossword puzzles. Is it too much to ask? Well, no, not too much to ask. But I don't actually think any of these wonderful people are paying that much attention to my little requests.

I'll call out two answers in the fill which I think are really below standard. The first is 10A: Like logs that have been cut (SAWN). That's a lot of work in the clue for an answer that feels a little archaic. I think most people would prefer the form "sawed." It's made up for by the later clue at 33D: Like falling off a log (EASY). It is fun to get a little repetition in clues. The second answer I really didn't like is 52D: One providing great service? (ACER). Just no. The clue is cute, but the answer makes no sense. Nobody every called an outstanding tennis player an "acer." It's minimally better (I guess) than referring to the computer company, but only just.

Fortunately the rest of the puzzle is smooth, even if there aren't any whizbangers. I like crossing TEDTALKS with SKEIN, and BYOB reminds me I want one right now. Certainly much more than a DIETSODA, which I have never been known to take.

- Colum

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday, September 8, 2019, Joe DiPietro


Greetings from sunny and lovely Albany, NY! Let me tell you, there's nothing quite so perfect as a late summer day in upstate New York. Some might tell you that you'd have to travel to some far off place, like, say, Italy in order to get a similar rush, but not me! No sirree. No sour grapes for this homebound NYT crossword puzzle review blogger. I haven't been green around the edges looking at the amazing Instagram posts from Horace and Frannie. Not me.

But on to more important things. Today's puzzle had me chuckling throughout. Mr. DiPietro takes standard phrases where the last syllable is a standard name, and reinterprets the newly parsed phrase as a descriptor of that person. Thus, 23A: [Well, well, well, if it isn't ...] the guy who vows to take his Stetson to the grave, gets BURYTHEHATCHET, where we reinterpret it as Mr. "Bury the hat" Chet. Hah!

The shorter examples of theme answers weren't quite as fun (DRONEDON, for example), but who wouldn't love SHORTSIGHTED reinterpreted as Mr. "Short sigh" Ted, that gentleman who stoically suppresses his exasperation? Or GROUNDNUTMEG, reinterpreted as Ms. "Ground nut" Meg, a football fan disgusted by today's air it out offenses? By the way, welcome to the new NFL season, where the Patriots have somehow ended up with one of the top superstar wide receivers out of thin air.

Most of the puzzle played relatively easily for me, with the exception of the middle, where I had the hardest time. In part this was due to putting in Satire at 69D: Parody (SENDUP), a nice example of using the ambiguity of a word that can be both a noun or a verb to misguide. Also nice is 48D: Court V.I.P. (TENNISPRO) - I was stuck on a court of law here. I finally broke in when I got 61D: Swerves back (ZAGS - although I left the A out for a while), and the rest came into focus.

I'd like to draw particular attention to the four pairs of 10-letter answers in each corner. They're really outstanding. HESDEADJIM is a fun memory. It was said in those exact words four times, and once as "She's dead, Jim." 73D: Shade for a field worker? (FARMERSTAN) - excellent. 74D: "Drawin' a blank here" (IGOTNOTHIN) - also very good, although we are definitely playing fast and loose by allowing the last G to drop, even with the example in the clue. And COMETOPAPA, DRUNKATHON, and THERIDDLER are also top answers.

Finally, I'd like to acknowledge that I was once again taken for a ride by 55D: Diamond brackets? (DEES). When will I ever learn?

- Colum

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Saturday, September 7, 2019, Trenton Charlson


This is a great puzzle. I started it this morning, before leaving (*sniff) the villa in Tuscany, but I could not finish it before we had to go. Then we drove both under and over the Apennines to end up in the birthplace of Ovid, Sulmona. We had quite a time getting here, and I nearly forgot all about the puzzle and the review! Luckily, I remembered somehow, because I would hate to have missed a chance to talk about this one. So enough with the travel blog!

My favorite candy.
I hardly know where to start! How about 14A: One engaged in a hairy escape? (RAPUNZEL). That's going on the list! PRIEDIEU (Fixture in a church sanctuary) and JVSQUADS (H.S. teams mainly with freshmen and sophomore players) are also great, and the Downs are all strong, too. AZIMUTH!

IMPROVCLASS (Where people may make a scene) is excellent, TERENCE (Ancient Roman writer of comedies) is a favorite, PANCREAS (Where the islets of Langerhans are located) was excellently clued. (Colum, did you get that without crosses? Because I sure didn't!) PRICKLYPEAR, SPHINXES, TABLETOP, STEALTH, NOTQUITE... there are practically no STINKERS!

Mr. Charlson has been impressive from the beginning, and this is more of the same. Excellent work.

- Horace

Friday, September 6, 2019

Friday, September 6, 2019, Mark Diehl

0:20:14 (F.W.O.E.)

A fun puzzle with a surprising theme AND a number! What more can one ask for on a Friday morning? And how fun was it finding the full OREOCOOKIE (Snack item from Nabisco) in there?

One of the UMPS working at home.

I had a little trouble up in the North. I kept thinking they wanted "Class of 'one's own'" or something like that for 5A: Person in a "Class of ..." (ALUM), but it's really just "Class of" anything, because that means they graduated. And 5D: Bills no more (ACTS), refers to bills that become ACTS in the government! Sheesh. Anyway, I thought of bills, once paid, becoming receipts, so I entered RCTS, even though A. that isn't really an abbreviation for receipts, and B. rLUM isn't anything. And C. the clue didn't call for an abbreviation! Ah well...

I was a little worried when things started up with ANIL (Blue dye), but things got better.  INCOGNITO (Undercover), HARDNOSED (Unsentimental), DOSIDO (Barn dance call), CORIOLIS (Kind of force generated by the earth's rotation), BROCADE (Kimono fabric), and MARDI (French day named after the Roman god of war) were all good. And C3PO (Sci-fi character who claims fluency in more than six million forms of communication) was fun, and helped a lot with the number. ESSES (Trouble for Sylvester the Cat), while not exactly a desirable entry, was justified and then some by the clue. Hah!

Thumbs up from this quarter.

- Horace

p.s. Did we ever come up with a name for the kind of clue used for WIRETAP (Listen here!)?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Thursday, September 5, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


Well, Dear Reader, I've got a bit of a scowl, and maybe even a twitch. My EMOTION is very low, because my dear old (not old, no longer dear) Pixel 2 phone has turned into a piece of expensive glass tile. It started to heat up, and then it started to restart, and now it's not even able to achieve a hard reset. In short, I am short a phone and a camera for the remainder of my European vacation. But IMOK. One of the things I enjoy about Italy is that it (in Tuscany anyway) seems to get along with very old customs, equipment, and infrastructure. Perhaps it will make for an even more authentic experience if I disconnect and stop looking at every scene through the lens of a camera.


But still, I think it's possible - likely - that my current mood will TINGE this review, even as I adjust my expectations and intentions.

I didn't love it. The little word-building game was ok, but not my favorite, and it seemed like it required a lot of compromise in the fill. LINAGES, OREAD, SDSU, HAILE, IRAS, HESSES ... and I really dislike the word SCHMEAR. But I suppose that's not the puzzle's fault. There are probably a lot of people who like it.

I didn't mind learning about SANDSPUR (Grass with prickly burs), and the word EPAULET is fun.

How's that?

- Horace

p.s. I plan to be in a better mood tomorrow. And if I'm not I'll try to make Frannie do the review.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Wednesday, September 4, 2019, Patrick Blindauer


Today we have that rare bird, the asymmetrical puzzle. And for what? So we can have another ANOMALY, a two-letter answer. And to top it off, the two-letter answer isn't even a word, it's a picture! Unfortunately for me, I didn't really understand that while I was solving. I just entered the Across answers and moved on, so when all I had left was 31-Down ("I bet these flavors taste great together!) and found "_OV," I filled in the O of MOA (Extinct relative of an ostrich) and hoped for the best. And what do you know, it was right!


As it turns out, and as was probably obvious to most other solvers, the OV, OOV, and OOOV answers represent SINGLE, DOUBLE, and TRIPLE SCOOP ice cream cones. And three flavors are stacked up in the middle, VANILLA, CHOCOLATE, and PISTACHIO. Mmm... Coincidentally, my first gelato cone over here in Italy had scoops of Vanilla and Pistachio. Is it another coincidence that OPIATE (Morphenelike drug) is found in a symmetrical theme spot? I think not! Unfortunately, AORTA is also in what could be a theme position, but let's leave that one alone.

I was tricked and amused by EDISON (Tesla competitor), thinking not of the actual inventors, but of possible rival car companies. And the clue for COLUMBO (Detective show whose premiere episode was directed by Steven Spielberg) was shocking! Is that really the Steven Spielberg? I would have thought he was too young. (But no, he was 25.)

Toward the bottom of the grid we run into quite a few three-letter answers, but nothing too terrible. Overall, I applaud the oddness of the puzzle. The theme is dense, and there's plenty of interesting non-theme to go along with it. I think that tonight will probably have to be another gelato night. :)

- Horace

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Tuesday September 3, 2019, Evan Kalish


Kind of an interesting idea today, with flowers blooming at the end of three theme answers. The rose, iris, and aster are well-hidden in three otherwise unrelated entries. PURPLEPROSE (Excessively ornate writing) is something you don't hear every day - and are glad of it! :)

TROMPE l'œil

I ended in the NE, where, BUCKAROO (Cowboy), INDENIAL (Experiencing the first stage of grief, say), and GOTNASTY (Took the gloves off) gave me an inordinate amount of trouble. It could also have been that I was sitting at a table overlooking the Tuscan countryside with good friends talking and laughing around me. And there I was, with my head in the puzzle.

Happily, PECORINO (Cheese whose name comes from the Italian for "sheep") got me back into it, which is, in a word, SUPERB. Other tasty content includes BREWPUB and IPA. Items with FRUCTOSE are now cause for REGRET.

I also liked ADAGE, SNUB, and QUIPS.
Preferred option for proceeding (PLANA)
Cheat royally (HOSE)
Respond to an alarm (AWAKEN)
Little dipper? (TOE) was cute.

Some among our esteemed readers might have enjoyed NUDE and possibly KINK.

You might say there was LASORDA a lotta three-letter entries in the puzzle's arrangement, but most were bouquet, with CDT, NOS, and ORG being the weakest.

Well, I'm sure you feel I've DRONEDON long enough. Plus, I've got a vineyard tour to get to.


- Horace (with some obvious help from Frannie)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Monday, September 2, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


Since this is morphing into a travel blog (Wait, what... it isn't?) I'll take the cue from 1-Across, SPA, to say that we just visited one in Lucca a few days ago, where we did not get a mud bath, but where we did enjoy massages, hot tub, Turkish steam bath, sauna, and a cool, mint-scented mist. Too much? Perhaps... if I were to pick just two, I'd go with the sauna and massage. Aaaahhhh...


But where was I? Oh, right... I love this theme. The pattern of the theme entries - some Across and some Down, like I like - is pleasing, and the idea itself is very well executed. It played a tiny bit more slowly than Mondays usually do, because I don't know how to spell PENTATHLON, nor am I very familiar with GORDONJUMP (*Arthur Carlson portrayer on "WKRP in Cincinnati") or CHICKENRUN (*2000 stop-motion animated comedy hit), but it all came out fine in the end.

Other things that were slightly non-Monday-ish were BENIN (Country between Togo and Nigeria), SHONDA (Producer Rhimes who created "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal"), HUTU (Member of the largest Rwandan ethnic group), ASCOT (Noted British racecourse), and maybe even HIHAT (Component of a drum kit).

Loved the clue for ORIGAMI (A folder is needed for this), and the colloquial NOCANDO ("Sorry, pal"), LIT (Extremely fun, as a party), and UPTOP ("Give me five!") keep it fresh.

A good start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunday, September 1, 2019, Finn Vigeland


A nice, tight theme today. Four "tall orders," all associated with dogs: HEEL, SIT, STAY, COME. Seems easy enough, but I'm sure it was a chore to line up those Across answers to make those words line up.


It played a little more slowly for me than many Sundays, possibly because of things like COMOROS (Archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean), MEDE (Ancient Iranian), GLUTENIN (Protein in Wheaties), JALISCOMEXICO (State bordering the Pacific), and ACTAEON (Mythical hunter turned into a stag). That last one was actually somewhere in the back of my brain, but it took a little help to put the vowels in the proper order. And then there were the strange-looking things like APPOLLS (Sources of weekly N.C.A.A. rankings) and GIING (Cleaning for military inspection) that did not come super quickly.

As is often true, we find some interesting trivia today in CANBERRA (Foreign capital designed by two Americans) and PLINYTHEELDER (Early encyclopedist credited with coining "Home is where the heart is"), and I enjoyed seeing Baudelaire's "LES Fleurs du Mal" in the grid. That book was the subject of my French senior seminar back in college. Good times with absinthe and opium addicts...

Lots of fun clues today, including "Measure of virality" (RETWEETS), "Convent-ional sort" (NUN),"It's rigged" (MAST), and "!" (BANG). I'm sure there's more to talk about, but we've got to get on the road to Arezzo, to the oldest, and largest antiques fair in Italy. Should be fun, but could be problematic for our luggage limitations on the flight back.

Tune in tomorrow to find out whether we bought anything!

- Horace