Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019, Ezra Brauner and Jeff Chen


The theme today is double letters that turn into ghosts for Halloween! Double letters appear six times in Across answers (and, taken together, spell the word "clones"), but when solving the Down answers, those letters must be ignored for the entry to work with the clues. The Down answers are, then, DOUBLEBLIND. What makes this theme work for me is the fact that the Down answers would also work just fine with different clues if the double letters had been included. I especially like seeing the gods ARES and MARS appear together over on the right side.

DEVON county

Frannie and I saw a talk on quantum mechanics last week, and just yesterday there was an article in the Harvard Gazette discussing Google's recent quantum computing success, and now the double letters in this puzzle could be seen as quantum particles, which are both there and not there at the same time. Until you look at them, that is. Or, until they are clued. It is then that they become DISCRETE.

In the non-quantum fill we find such solid answers as DERISION (Mockery), UPSIDE (Good potential), CHALICES (Ceremonial goblets), AMALGAMS (Mélanges), and SAUNA (Hot spot). Mmmm.... SAUNA. RIDESAWAY (Goes off into the sunset, say) seems a bit... oh, I don't know, forced? But really, it's a movie thing, so I'll allow it.

I liked the clue for TRANCE (You're out of it if you're in it), "Train to a plane" was cute for TRAM, and "Is for two?" for ARE is classic! And finally, I like how MACARONS and MACAROONS are both small edible treats. I am more interested in the spelling similarity than I am in eating either one, but that's fine, because this is a crossword blog, not a food blog.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019, David Steinberg


I enjoyed this oversized Wednesday offering from Mr. Steinberg, in large part because I was forced to hunt for the camouflaged creatures. They told us the rows, but they did not highlight the animals, which was nice. The ones I found were a chameleon, an octopus, a leaf insect, and a leopard. Not bad at all. As far as I understand the natural world, the leopard and the leaf insect merely use their static coats and/or shape to blend into their natural environment, while the top two can actually adapt their coloring to match many different colors and even, in the octopus, textures. Have you seen the recent videos of octopodes? It's really almost impossible to believe what they are capable of. Also, we learned recently (probably from PBS) that they are one of our most distant relatives. Their kind branched off very early in the whole "living creatures" era. Also, while they have been shown to be highly intelligent, they are not tended to by either parent after they hatch, which seems to indicate 100% nature over nurture. (OK, Frannie, you've won this round!...)


I was greatly helped as I started my solve by having just recently missed finding the word ANAPHORA (Repetition of words at the starts of successive phrases, in rhetoric) while playing the "Spelling Bee" on the NYT puzzles and games page. Frannie and I have been very much enjoying that of late, but we will have a few questions for Mr. Ezersky when we see him in Stamford next March about how he decides which words to accept and which to refuse. Anyway, we always look to see what we've missed (if anything), and when we saw this one (and anaphor), we looked it up. I can never keep all those rhetorical devices straight!

I enjoyed finding BECHAMEL (French white sauce), ANEMONE (Sea ____ (tide pool dweller)), GALILEO (Astronomer who first observed Saturn's rings) (That must have been cool!), ELISION (Feature of "G'day" or "Yes'm"), and SIPHON (Gas thief's device) (Does this still happen?). And I liked seeing the late, great PAULINE Kael in the middle, there.

Really, it's quite a clean(ISH) grid. A few things like CROUP (Infant's ailment) and CREEL (Fishing basket) to ease us into the Turn (the three late-week puzzles), but nothing that I found particularly troubling. Also, I like that it's running so close to Halloween, when lots of people will be using CAMOUFLAGE of a sort.

Lastly, I think Michelle Wie is one of my brother's favorites, and thanks to him, I was able to fill LPGA right in! I'll take crossword help wherever I can get it. :)

- Horace

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuesday, October 29, 2019, Evan Mahnken


Today's theme features six people whose names start with the letter J and end with the letter Z, and is revealed by a man whose (stage) name sounds like those two letters, JAYZ. Pretty straightforward. I was not familiar with the name JCCHASEZ, but the crosses were fair. I like the way three of the names snake through the grid from top to bottom, and I bet JONLOVITZ will be happy to be making his debut as a crossword answer.


Hornets make another appearance today (Homes for hornets(NESTS)), though for some reason it wasn't quite as satisfying as yesterday's "Attacked by hornets." And I was surprised by the final D in DAD-blasted. I always think of it as "dag-blasted," but perhaps I'm confusing it with "dagnabbit." NAUSEATE (Sicken) is a solid entry, KICKS (Shoes, in slang) was fun, and "Things you can count on to help you get to sleep?" was cute for SHEEP. Aside from that, though, I didn't find a whole lot else to go AMANAS over.

- Horace

Monday, October 28, 2019

Monday, October 28, 2019, Zhouqin Burnikel


Cute theme today with a perfect revealer, OUTOFDANGER (Safe ... or how the last words of 16-, 23- and 49-Across are made?), which explains that the last word of the other three theme answers are anagrams of "danger." Perhaps you already saw this, but it took me a minute to realize what was going on, so I thought I might as well put it in.

The day the Olympics died a little.
I like the theme. Not too much, not too little, and the three entries - TAKEAGANDER, ARIANAGRANDE, and COVENTGARDEN - are a good mix of standard, yet unrelated things, brought together by cleverness.

In the long Down slots we get the excellent PAVLOVSDOG (Salivating animal in a classic conditioning study), an ONIONBAGEL (Alternative to a bialy) (I kind of thought they were the same thing... but then, I'm not sure I've ever actually eaten either...), and a ROADRACE (Monaco Grand Prix, e.g.). I guess that is accurate, but I usually equate ROADRACE with a running event, not a Grand Prix event. Hmm... anybody else? I mean, you can't really deny that it's a road race, but does anyone ever call it that? Anyway, TIMELAGS (Problems with glitchy livestreams) is clearly the weakest of the four.

In other areas, I've never really noticed that BARBRA (10-time Grammy winner Streisand) looks like two three-letter words put together. At least it does when it's sitting in a crossword grid. IMO anyway... and I enjoyed the clue "Attacked by hornets" for STUNG. It's so... I don't know... accurate? I also enjoyed seeing cheetahs get in there twice, in the clues for 38- and 57-Down.

Ms. Burnikel is such a pro that I can't help but suspect her of baiting us reviewers with her last clue, but I'll still bite, and finish with "What's NOT to like?"

- Horace

p.s. This is my fastest solve ever, by quite a bit, and is within one minute (!) of Joon Pahk, who (I see on "Diary of a Crossword Fiend") finished today's puzzle in 2:08. Whether you choose to think of this gap as "less than a minute!" or "more than 45% slower," I will leave up to you. I've made my choice. :)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday, October 27, 2019, Michael Paleos


Happy Sunday, Readers! It's me, Horace, back to work after two excellent weeks of reviews from Frannie and Colum. Thanks, you two! :)

Today's theme-dense puzzle seems well-timed, with Halloween right around the corner. Sixteen individual candy names, arranged in neatly ordered CANDYSTRIPEs, run through the grid. I don't eat candy all that much anymore, but when I did, BOTTLECAPS, SPREE, MOUNDS, and CRUNCH were definite first-stringers. And I also enjoyed Hershey's KISSES, but they were never anything I bought myself, for some reason. Maybe because the bags were always more expensive than a single bar. NERDS, WHOPPERS, and MILKYWAY were good second choices, SNICKERS, RUNTS, and SUGARDADDY were ok, and I'm not sure I've ever even had AIRHEADS or a PAYDAY. HOTTAMALES were boring, and PEEPS were never under consideration. So there you have it. I welcome your comments and/or thanks for finally sorting out the proper candy hierarchy.


So the Downs are good. There, we also find ICECREAM (and the associated DREYER and UDDER), the amusing GRAPEAPE (Large, purple Hanna-Barbera character), good words like DELINEATE (Sketch out) and TORRID (Steamy), and lots of French - ONZE, OUI, ETRE, and CINE.

The Acrosses, on the other hand, are where we find the torn candy wrappers. In one particularly messy pile we find MCIII (Year of the final flight of the Concordes), ULNAR (Relating to a certain arm bone), and the crosswordese-y MASSE (Billiards maneuver). Other sticky bits included ANDUP, ENOTE, ISON, OMS, HORSY, and ACI. Not a total DISASTER, but enough to be noticeable.

But let's end with a couple good clues. I thought "Provide an address" was good for ORATE, "What many a navel-gazer gazes at" was amusing for INNIE, and "Something set by the stove" was a nice misdirection for OVENTIMER.

In the end, this was all about theme, and if that's all we consider, it worked well.

- Horace

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019, Sam Trabucco


This grid is symmetric across two axes, so every corner is exactly the same size and configuration. Which means we can rank how successful each corner is! My favorite game.

4: SE corner. BEATEASE and IMPELLED are fine but unexciting. 36D: Big name in mail-order catalogs (SPIEGEL) was tough for me. I'm amazed to find out they've been in business since 1865, with the catalog existing since 1905. I'd never come across it myself before.

3: SW corner. I like all three 8-letter answers, particularly 29D: Biden time? (OBAMAERA) - that's a cute clue. I tried msPACMAN before getting JRPACMAN. 1983 seems like a very long time ago all of a sudden. On the other hand, I'd rather not have to encounter Mr. ASSANGE in my Saturday morning puzzle, and ACHATES is a tough get, although the crosses were all fair.

2: NE corner. A couple of good clues in 11D: Snack that, despite its name, doesn't help with weight loss (THINMINT) and 12D: They require you to read the fine print (EYETESTS). Both good non-QMCs. MORDANT is a great word.

1: NW corner. The winner! You get a nice timely clue and entry at 1A: Symbol of Halloween (BLACKCAT), the fun METOOISM for all those vowels, and SPINNER, reminding all of us of fun times had playing Twister. Certainly more fun than Operation, wouldn't you agree?

Add in the four excellent crossing long answers (my favorite there is 18D: Many of the world's rulers use it (METRICSYSTEM) - a really outstanding non-QMC), and I very much enjoyed this puzzle. Nice end to the turn. I'd be interested to hear who liked this puzzle more and who liked yesterday's puzzle more. My money's on this one.

- Colum

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019, John Guzzetta


This was definitely a challenge for me today. Lots of great answers, challenging clues, just what you're looking for on a Friday themeless.

I got myself into immediate trouble by putting in GasP at 1A: Reaction to being sent to the principal's office, say (GULP). Trouble indeed, because the first and the last letters made perfect sense. So even though STBASIL went in without much trouble, I had a lot of difficulty in that NW corner.

I really broke in with that SW corner, starting from 24D: It doesn't go wall-to-wall (AREARUG) - very nice. 41D: Descriptive of some flakes and hair (FROSTED) is excellent, especially because it has nothing to do with dandruff. I STAlLED for a while by not entering STABLED. Also, AFB (air force base) was a very difficult get. It took a long time of staring at _YES at 65A: Weeks off (BYES) before I could get the clever answer there.

I love LEITMOTIV and EXTRALIFE in the NE corner. I'm not as fond of 35A: Some nerve? (OPTIC). That clue could refer to so many possibilities - sural, sciatic, median, radial, abducens, trochlear... I could go on. Why specifically the second cranial nerve? I am doubtful.

In the end I circled around back to the NW to take out my mistakes and figure out the excellent 3D: Something that might be "dropped" prematurely in a relationship, in slang (LBOMB). The other very nice clue I liked came at 29D: Follower of John (ACTS). For a while I was looking at eCTS and wondering what was going on, before realizing that AREOLA should end in an A.

Good stuff today.

- Colum

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday, October 24, 2019, Matt Ginsberg


I just saw the revealer for this puzzle, and it made me laugh. In case you were wondering, it comes at 72A: [this space left intentionally blank] ([NOTHING]).

So the theme is phrases that start with the word "nothing," but with that word left out. For example, you get 20A: ... A matter worth considering ([NOTHING]TOSNEEZEAT). There are a total of ten theme answers, which is majorly impressive, especially when you notice that 18A, 20A, and 24A actually touch each other at 19D: Address starter (HTTP). Similarly, 52A, 57A, and 63A touch each other at 49D: Level (TRUE). The fact that the glue is kept to a minimum is very nice.

We also get ASBESTOS, ELBOWOUT, HANGSTEN, and DORISDAY, all fine down answers.

I enjoyed the following clues:

2D: "Little ____ in Slumberland" (early comic) (NEMO). There's actually a Genesis song about this from "And Then There Were Three".
29A: Whale's closest living land relative (HIPPO). I did not know that.
34A: They're taken in chess (TURNS). So literal.

... to turn my nose up at, so overall a definite win.

- Colum

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday, October 23, 2019, Jennifer Nutt


Sometimes a puzzle causes one to do research, especially when in the act of writing a blog post about said puzzle. I was musing after completing today's exemplar as to the reason or inspiration for publishing a grid built around the celebrated eruption of MOUNTVESUVIUS in AD 79. Why today, your faithful blogger wondered.

Well, I'm not entirely sure. For hundreds of years, it was presumed that the eruption occurred in late August, on the basis of two letters from Pliny the Younger. And yet recently (one year ago), archaeologists discovered an inscription in charcoal dated to mid-October, which, due to the evanescence of the writing material, has now been presumed to have been written in the year of the explosion. Now, apparently, experts think the eruption occurred on October... 24th.


Guess you can't win them all.

Meanwhile, PLINYTHEELDER, who indeed was reported to have said "Fortes fortuna iuvat," meaning, of course, FORTUNE / FAVORS / THEBOLD, in fact perished in his attempt to get away from Pompeii. So now I really don't know the point of the story. Especially since Pliny was not even close to the first person to say this phrase.

Meanwhile, any puzzle that has both ANIMATRONS and TUNABURGER is a winner in my book. I'm also proud to say that I knew 29D: David Lynch's first feature film (ERASERHEAD) off of the E.

- Colum

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019, Saul Pink

4:31 (FWOE)

Today's puzzle reminds me of the great Monty Python sketch set in a courtroom, where one of the witnesses, a detective, breaks into song about his choice of occupation, had he not gone into police work: "If I were not in the C.I.D., something else I'd like to be. If I were not in the C.I.D., a window cleaner me! With a scrub, scrub, here..."

You get the point.

Mr. Pink selects five well known people and reinterprets their last name as a verb describing work in another profession. I'm impressed that all five have last names consisting of five letters ending in -S, such that you can just say their name, and it works. Thus, ROSAPARKS cars, or SEANCOMBS hair. It's a nice selection of celebrities as well: two women, three African American, and only two old white men. I've always been fond of JEREMYIRONS for his portrayal of Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune.

My error came today when I entered HOORAy instead of HOORAH and didn't check my crossing. It's almost as bad as guessing at "eta" vs "etd" or "alii" vs "alia." Or "esto" vs "esta." There's a lot of this sort of thing one comes across when one does enough crosswords. (My older daughter feels one shouldn't use the impersonal pronoun anymore. One disagrees.)

I very much approve of ABSCOND and FOMENTS. Nice words. I have very little to complain about in this puzzle, with the exception of 10D: Responses to mumbles (EHS). I just don't think you can make that plural. Otherwise, nice work!

- Colum

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019, Joe Deeney


As the World Series approaches (Go Nats!), today's puzzle has a sandlot feel. The revealer tells us what's going on at 36A: Bases loaded ... or a hint to the contents of 17-, 26-, 44- and 56-Across (THREEON). It turns out that the four theme answers have the letters ON repeated three times within them.

I've never heard the phrase KNOWONESONIONS, but I definitely have to use it on a regular basis from now on. I suppose the folks across the pond would be familiar with the LONDONMARATHON - round these parts we're partial to the Boston version (and to a lesser degree, the one that wends through all five boroughs of New York City). But the other two answers are very strong, especially BLONDEONBLONDE (although do you lose points for the word "on" being used? I say nay).

There's a bit of extra sportese sprinkled through the grid, including ESPN, HANGSTEN, ONENIL, and TURKEYTROT, if you will. You definitely would get TANLINES if you're out surfing, also...

I'll note my dislike of abbreviated answers being clued as parts of abbreviations. Today's example comes at 20A: The "E" of E.S.L.: Abbr. (ENG). It's so tortured. But that's the only answer I minded, so that's a good ratio. I also liked the grid layout, which flowed well despite having four very long theme answers and a revealer.

Good Monday.

- Colum

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday, October 20, 2019, Natan Last


I was a sad child: we never owned OPERATION. But my friends did, and I remember the awful feeling you'd get from making the red nose light up and the buzzing noise erupt. Today we get an homage to the old game, with an amusing red circle in the middle of the "face" to symbolize that nose. The rest of the theme are answers that contain body parts hidden (but made clear by the circles), but are clued as if those body parts have been removed.

I love the way the theme has been realized, especially because the body parts are arranged to be close to where they would be on the game board. Which makes the entire grid equivalent to a body. To me it looks maybe a little more like an anthropomorphic robot, but perhaps I'm being a little picky. After all, it has to fit in a 21 x 21 square.

It took me a little while to figure out the trick. I recognized something was up when I saw 26A: Melt down, as fat (R[EAR]ENDER). There could be only one answer to that - after all, last night I made a beef stew from Julia Child (it wasn't boeuf bourguignon - no mushrooms and pearl onions). Okay, so I didn't actually render anything, but I did deglaze the saucepan with wine. The sauce was really delicious.

Um... where was I?

Oh, right. I was also confused by having put "rink" in for 31A: Ice skating spot (POND). But DEADPOOL soon set everything to rights (as he so often does), and the crossings made it clear what was going on. I liked all of the theme answers save one: 10D: Karaoke selection (S[HAND]ONG) - the final answer left me scratching my head. Turns out it's a province of China. Otherwise, my favorite is probably 68D: Outhouses (PRIVI[LEG]ES). Very nice.

The rest of the puzzle is solid. I was impressed by having YTTRIUM show up, and I remember reading TAMORA Pierce's fantasy novels for young adults some years back. Turns out she lives in upstate New York. I also liked the clue for 50A: One frequently saying "Sorry, I missed that" (SIRI). Hah! GOODONE.

- Colum

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Saturday, October 19, 2019, Byron Walden


Quite a bit in this puzzle was a challenge for me. At one point, IDEST I was ATADEADEND, but GENII put it down for a few minutes and then, TATAR! Interesting information about the language and its alphabet, BTW.

In re: 1 Across, I seem to be out of the loop on TACOTRUCKs. Tacos and their sales LOCI have appeared in puzzles fairly often recently, but in my day-to-day life never.

The easiest sections for me were the northeast and most of the south. ZAGAT and XANAX in the north east really set ATONE. REFINANCE, OVERAGAIN, and EARWORM kept the southeast from being a PANE. I especially enjoyed CRANE at 44D: for "Origami creation" in light of Wednesday's quip puzzle.

I ran into trouble at the cross in the mid-west. The clue "Darkest moon of Uranus" would have stumped me forever without the helpful "Latin for 'shadow'" bit. As it was, I could only confidently enter the UMBR part. It was no help that I found the answer to 24A: "Very far from" NONETOO obvious, even with NON_TO_ already on the board.


I never seem to TYRE of the clever clues in the NYTX. Today's favorites included:
"Make a slight correction?" (ATONE) - no need to apologize for this one!
"Elaboration phrase" (IDEST) - Apt, if a bit elaborate.
"Sex drive?" (LOVERSLANE) - LOL-ORAMA.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Friday, October 18, 2019, Jamey Smith


This seemed like a fast solve to me today, but I consulted the stats page of my puzzle app and found that today's time came in just below my average. Reviewing the grid, I was reminded that it was really only the southerly portion of the puzzle that went smoothly. Down answers in MYNA wheel house like PLUTO, STENT, RICO, ALAN, and UPDO gave me CANADADAY, ONTHEDOLE, and TURNSTILEJUMPER  - that's got to be a first (I just checked XWord Info and it is, along with 7 others unique to this puzzle!) - plus, it had a clever clue.

I noticed two clues in that area of the grid had the word maven in them (58A and 30D). How often does that happen?

Anyhoo, it was first the northeast and then the mid-west that went SLOE. I started with 'satin' for "Fabric for a wedding dress." But that didn't fit the pattern once I got the excellent 13D. "Hitching post?" (ALTAR) - ha! So, then I tried tulLE, which led me to enter oIlED for "Plied with alcohol, in a way," all of which netted me some difficulties because while my guesses seemed to fit, they were wrong. Finally, things became clear to me and I changed tulLE to VOILE. Who knew there were so many five-letter wedding dress fabrics in the world? Interesting to learn that a hired MOURNER is called a moirologist. I don't know that word, and, apparently, Google spell check doesn't either.

In the northwest, I was duped for a time by 3D: "Main lower artery, informally" (ITEN). Danged if I didn't waste three minutes trying to think of an everyday word for Left Anterior Descending.


I ended in the mid-west. Those of you following along at home won't be surprised to learn that I didn't know Elaine CHAO or John MUIR. I should have known OUROBOROS because it was in a previous puzzle not that long ago (June 29, 2019, to be exact - thanks again, XWord Info!), and I thought I would remember it. Alas, I WAD wrong. It didn't help that I am more familiar with the Petit rather than the HAUTE Bourgeoisie (gentry). I really thought I was doomed to a Natick at the 24D/37A cross, but I ran the alphabet to SEES any possible last names that would also work as a "Symbol depicting a snake swallowing its tail." Believe it or not, a little over halfway through the alphabet, I finally had an AHI moment. And that's all sh'ERODE.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday, October 17, 2019, Randolph Ross


Today's four theme clues are pairs of words whose last and first letters are the same, and which have something in common. The trick is to identify the common denominator and add a word that connects them in a specific way to get a common expression.  So the answer to 20A: WILDERAYBURN is SPLICEDGENES (Gene Wilder and Gene Rayburn). Ha! An excellent Gene pool, if ever there was one. MILITIARMY (COMBINEDFORCES) is really good. UTAHAWAII is another nice one (UNITEDSTATES), if a bit obvi.


Amongst the theme answers there's a commingling of other fine fill including PLACID, MOSHER, LEADFOOT, ARREARS (heh heh), and ADDUCE - you don't see that one every day. And I love the word BUDGE. Seeing "Grimalkin" (CRONE) in the clues brings me back to a mystery series by Scott Corbett that I loved as a kid. It featured a character named Mrs. Graymalkin. And yes, you guessed it, she was an older woman who was suspiciously witchlike.

"French bean" (TETE) is cute, as is "Play groups" (CASTS). And how 'bout CUBIT (Biblical measure)? Arks are really floating someone's boat these days.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019, Peter A. Collins

23:47 FWOE

It seems to me that it has been a long AISLE since we've had a quip puzzle. I got a kick out of it.

The quip took a while to take shape for me - I had to crane to figure it out - possibly because I worked from the bottom up. I began to see the outlines of it in the south west and center, where, thanks to some straightforward clues, I got what I thought was a good start on Part 4 of the quip, but then I hit a wrinkle. With the letters INTERESTIN staring me in the face, I made a guess that the next letter would be 'g'. Derp. Once I got rid of the 'g' and considered other options, I was finally able to iron it all out. Here's the compleat quip:



I FWOE'd at the 32A/26D cross. I entered Cuz for "Reason why not,"  which I did change to COz when I got CLOT for "Artery problem" - even though COz seemed weird - but, I didn't know "Filmmaker Riefenstahl" and I decided that LEzI was an okay name. But it isn't. Add German film makers to the list of topics I have to bone up on.

Anyhoo, there were plenty of other dimensions to this puzzle. I enjoyed:
"Back-comb" (TEASE)
"Full of promise, as an outlook" (ROSY)
"Instance of psychological trickery" (HEADGAME)
"Accepts, as an argument" (BUYS)


In addition to the straight-up solid clues and answers listed above, there were several clues that took it to the next level:
"Prepare to get a hand" (ANTE)
"What someone might make a stand for?" (TACOS)
"Classic story in which Paris figures prominently" (ILIAD)
And my favorite, "Letters from down on the farm?" (EIEIO) - LOL.

Overall, tuckin' awesome. :)


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019, Julie Bérubé


In each of today's theme answers, highlighted squares contain two of the same creatures, embedded in common phrases. For example, we find two ANTs in M[ANT]OM[ANT]ALK and two CATs in [CAT]CHAS[CAT]CHCAN. Why do we have two of each? Because these five pairs are destined for the ARK (Holder of the contents of the shaded squares). Oddly, plenty of other animals appear in this puzzle, but as singles. We have a COW, a CAMEL, a NEWT, a SHREW, and a KOALA. Admittedly, the SHEEP, BISON, and ROE may be sets of two or more - we'll never know! NITS and YETIS are definite plurals, unfortunately on the one hand, and Really? on the other. A couple of other animals are mentioned in the clues (a kitten and a hedgehog - why can't he just share the hedge?). And, last but not least, I thought it was funny that the word TUB appears in the mirror-image spot from ARK.

In a vaguely coincidental turn of events, the most recent recent New Yorker includes an article about the epic Gilgamesh (wait for it), in which there's a story about a man told by the gods to build a giant vessel in which to save himself and a bunch of animals from a giant flood. My takeaway: arks are really hot right now.

In addition to the above-mentioned menagerie, there are some solid clue/answer pairs like "The limit, when there is no limit" / SKY,  "Caper" / ANTIC,  and "The Spouter in 'Moby Dick,, for one" / INN along with a number of other grid entries worth saving including GUARANTEE, SPACERACE, and DEADTIRED.

I didn't love RAKE for "Collect, with 'in'" but maybe that's a theme entry, too. How else was Noah going to get these animals onto the ark?


Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019, Gary Cee


I didn't really cut the mustard today. I like to finish a Monday in under six minutes whenever possible. Being comfortably ensconsed in the land of the DUNE and the SAIL may have contributed to the fact that I didn't MAKETHECUT (Survive elimination ... or what one may do to the ends of 17-, 31- 38- and 50-Across?).

Which brings me to today's theme four theme answers, each of which is a two-word phrase, the second word of which, when paired with "cut the" makes a common expression: "cut the" (VOCAL)CORD, "cut the" (FLIGHT)DECK, the above-mentioned and my favorite "cut the" (HOT)MUSTARD, and "cut the" (PERSIAN)RUG. I thought the expression was "cut a rug," but it's probably because AMAH KNOT too smart.

In some places the puzzle felt like a gathering of old friends including OREO, EMT, IRE, ERR, and EMIT, but elsewhere the occasional tastier RAREBIT like STATURE, HIRSUTE, and VESTRY popped up to DIVERT the solver. On a side note, why is melted cheese over toast called rarebit? I'd look it up, but I'm low on Internet unitz right now.

Other clue/answer pairs I enjoyed:
"Refuse to obey" (DEFY)
Ho-hum feeling (ENNUI)
"Chic" (TONY)
And how about BLATHER and SHAM to CAPITAL off?

I didn't really like the clue "State of confusion" for MESS and I have a personal dislike of the word AGIN ("Opposed to, in dialect), but neither of those entries caused me to 'AVERAGE.

Too much? Please DONTGO. I'll try to do better tomorrow. It's a PRO MESS.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019, Erik Agard

The theme today is re-imagining lines from movies to fit various professions. “There’s no place like home” (Wizard of Oz) becomes the favorite movie line of a SOFTBALLPLAYER, and “Go ahead, make my day” (Dirty Harry) for a SCHEDULING COORDINATOR. At first, it didn’t wow me, but when I mentioned, “I wish I knew how to quit you” (Brokeback Mountain)  (ITSPECIALIST) to Frannie, she laughed out loud. Still, I thought, “I’ll have what she’s having” (When Harry Met Sally) for EPIDEMIOLOGIST, was a little … CACAO?

And speaking of misparsing answers, a notable aspect of this puzzle is its KTWO quotient. A few years back, the entire editorial team of HFFDTNYTCFCA was together solving a puzzle and after completing it, we struggled to understand KTWO as an answer (“Kitwo? What is kitwo??”), until finally realizing it was K2 spelled out. Today, Horace read IMANAGE (Humble expression of capability) as “I’m an age.” ERMINE was misparsing ISAWIT as the confusing “Is A Wit” for “Witness’s attestation.” OOPS.
These are a few of our favorite things:
“Things you might take a spin in” (TUTUS)
“Stick-y pad?” (NEST)
“Matrix character” (DOT) (Not Neo!)
“Caesar’s ‘I’” (EGO)
“Cyclop’s ‘I’” (IOTA)
In the immortal words of a laundry detergent spokesperson - That’s All folks. Now it’s time to LOWPH around.

- Horace & Frannie

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019, Andrew J. Ries

Another stair-step stack in the middle today, and I like all four of them:
NOPRESSURE (Request softener)
SECRETCODE (A spy might send a message in one) (too easy)
DEGREEMILL (Unaccredited university, say) (Like Dr. Nick’s “Upstairs University” in The Simpsons)
SIERRACLUB (Green giant)
I picked up one of these on our recent trip!

The NW and SE corners, too, are filled with strong staggered Down answers like BONANZA (Treasure trove), NATTER (Flap one’s gums), and the full TORIAMOS (Singer with the 1992 double-platinum album “Little Earthquakes”). And a big shout out to Boston’s EMERSON!
The North was the toughest for me and Frannie today. I tried “egoPROJECT” and she tried “diyPROJECT” for PETPROJECT (Usually nonremunerative undertaking). Frankly, I like hers best of all. (Having done it myself for many years, I first thought of “Self-employment.”) ILENE (“The L Word” creator Chaiken) was an unknown, and WIDTHS (Halves of some measurements) took every cross, and then a few minutes to realize that they meant half of a LxW measurement. Sheesh!
Other missteps for me included erOs for AMOR, ICEaxeS for ICESAWS, eArn for RAZE (Bring down), and COMicS for COMMAS (Characters in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World). Again they get me with a self-referential clue!
Favorite clue: Kitchen drawers? (AROMAS). Speaking of which, Frannie has just made a batch of Tollhouse cookies… gotta go!

- Horace

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday, October 11, 2019, Andy Kravis


Fun Friday! One-Across isn't much (MCS) (Presenters' presenters, informally), but I used to love seeing (and drinking) MRPIBB (Coca-Cola offering from 1974 to 2001) when I found it available at rest areas during my family's long car-trips to the midwest. It tasted exactly like Dr. Pepper, but was so much more exotic. Nowadays, I don't drink sodas much, and I didn't even realize that it was no longer made. The things we learn from crosswords.


There are a couple child-centric answers in the beginning region - COOTIE (Something a kindergartner doesn't want to get) and MOOCOW ("Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo"). What a nut, that Joyce.

I had never heard of the WHISKEYRING (1870s tax evasion scandal). The Whiskey Rebellion, sure, but that was much earlier, apparently. TAINTEDLOVE (1982 Soft Cell hit that spent 43 weeks on the Billboard charts), however, went right in. That was definitely part of the soundtrack of my high school and college years.

But that's not even the best stuff. I liked the QMCs "Movable type?" (NOMAD), "Persian defense org.?" (SPCA), and "Not be oneself, but rather one's elf?" (ROLEPLAY). That last one made me laugh out loud. 51D: "Queen of she-baa?" also got a chuckle.

In non-QMCs, my favorite was "Sugar substitute" (HON), but "Give someone a hand" (CLAP) was also good.

I tried "PRicey" at 54A: "Like apartment buildings with fireplaces and hardwood floors, typically) (PREWAR), and when I had "E_OTI___" at 32D: "Works during a painter's blue period?" I partially filled it in with "EmOTIon___" which slowed me down. EROTICART is much better.

I thought this showed a good spirit overall, and as I said at the top, I had a fun solve. Plus - I learned about otter HOLTs. What more can one ask of a crossword?

- Horace

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019, Tracy Gray

0:12:22 (F.W.O.E.)

It's Thursday today, and I knew something was going down, as it were, as soon as I got to 18A: What margarine has, unlike butter (NOC[HOLE]STEROL), but I didn't yet know what, exactly, would be the trick until I got to the revealer: WATCHYOURSTEP ("Tread carefully!" ... or a hint to four dangers in this puzzle.) As soon as I hit it, the critical Down answers lit up.
India Pale ALE
I think that it might be nice to be able to toggle on or off this type of theme highlighting. On the first three days of the week, it's perfectly harmless, because it simply highlights the answers that you already know are theme entries. Here, it essentially gave away the trick.

So what we have, then, are letters needed to complete the Across answers that have fallen into a HOLE, a DITCH, a GAP, and a PIT. Two of the Down answers span words in the Across, two are contained within a single word. Honestly, I don't mind that at all. The trick works whether it spans words or not.

Loved the start of the puzzle today - 1A: Acrobat displays (PDFS). (Dad, Adobe Acrobat is the program that is used to create PDF files.) That's a lovely clue. Off of that I dropped in ShIP for "Berth place" ("You've a berth on board this very ship!"), but corrected it to SLIP before the buzzer. My error came over in the opposite corner, at the intersection of BOO ("Are you blind, ref?!") (Boo!) and SYOSSET (Long Island community bordering Oyster Bay) (never heard of it). I stared at that blank square for a good two minutes before guessing an A, and it was only after running the vowels that I realized that BOO must be right. That's not really an equivalent clue, in my opinion. Maybe the critique in the clue could be called a "jeer," but I think that a BOO is a BOO. It's not just any criticism. My Webster's backs me up on this, but perhaps an unabridged might have a more general definition of the word. BADRAP? You tell me.

Overall, I enjoy any puzzle with a trick, but I wished it hadn't been revealed, and there were quite a number of concessions (TOOLER, ULTA, ACEH, ENTS, etc.).

- Horace

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wednesday, October 9, 2019, Alan Arbesfeld

0:14:31 (F.W.O.E.)

Whew! This was a tough Wednesday for me. It took me a long time to figure out the theme, even after I filled in ALTEREDSTATES, but once it was all over I was impressed by the six anagramized states:

Washington - SHOTAWNING
Nebraska - RANKBASE
Wisconsin - SONICSWIN
Tennessee - TEENSENSE
Delaware - REALAWED
California - RACIALINFO

It's interesting that anagrams could be found for these that could be put into a symmetrical layout, and I guess if you're willing to accept things like "rank base" and "real awed" - which is to say, if you are just interested in appreciating the effort, then it's all good. In my mind, it's kind of like appreciating palindromes. Most of them are little more than a string of words that sort of make a comprehensible sentence.

So that's the theme. Cool, yes. Truly beautiful? Depends on how you look at it. One way to look at it is for what it does to the rest of the grid, and for me, that's not a good way. I was worried right off the bat when I was able to get "HA__" at 1A, and I knew I had to wait to see how it would end. I was expecting "hadj," but got instead the little-seen variant HAJJ. Then we run into things like BTWO, IDI, and two European rivers, ELBE and MERSEY. I was able to guess the latter by knowing of the "Mersey Beat" music genre, but only after I had finished with the mistaken ELBa. I guess I just knee-jerked to the usual crossword answer when I saw the beginning "ELB_". Ah well...

Other stumbling blocks were AKELA ("The Jungle Book" wolf), LATEEN (Triangular SAIL), DESICA (Vittorio ____, director of "Bicycle Thieves"), and TEXACO (Milton Berle's longtime sponsor) (that was quite a while ago now...). And then there were the side-by-side names EDNA ("Hairspray" mom) and SISI (Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-____), right next to the oddly clued PEN (Hotel room amenity). "Oh boy, I got a room with a pen!"

So all in all, kind of a strange Wednesday for me. Cool that the states can be anagrammed, but not my favorite puzzle ever.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Ross Trudeau


I like this bejewelled grid. When I came to the revealer, CURLINGSTONES (Items guided by brooms in the Winter Olympics ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme), I briefly noticed the circles, but I didn't look closely, and somehow my mind came to the conclusion that the circles would actually represent CURLINGSTONES, and would... maybe... end up scoring somehow? I don't know... as you can see, I didn't fully consider the theme as I was solving. In the end, though, when I reviewed the puzzle, I was impressed by the strength of the theme. I mean, really, there's nothing short of a seven here: Amethyst is a variety of quartz (7); Emerald is a beryl (7.5-8); Sapphire is corundum (9); and everyone knows that diamond is a 10. :)

HENRI Matisse
photo: HENRI Cartier-Bresson
We get more math nerdery today with "The 'x' or 'y' in 2x + 3y = 15" (VARIABLE), but it's nicely balanced by a few answers rooted in the arts - OPERETTA (Many a Gilbert and Sullivan work) (we're looking forward to seeing "Pinafore" this fall at Harvard), POIROT ("Murder on the Orient Express" detective), and CHORAL (Beethoven's "____" Symphony) (who doesn't like that?). And I suppose YOYOMA (Cellist at Obama's first inauguration) (sigh...) ought to be in there, too.

The NW was where I ended up today. The clue for UMPS (Home squatters?) stumped me, and the false capital in "Underdog's feats" had me thinking of the cartoon superhero dog, not the more obvious UPSETS. "Kathy with the #1 country hit "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" (MATTEA) is unknown to me, and STENCILS (Spray-painting tools) was not immediately obvious. I also briefly had "Podium" for "Speaker booster" (PREAMP), which didn't help. Luckily, things came into focus with the crosses, and all's well that ends well.

I liked the clue for GLENNS (Entertainers Miller and Close), and I don't think I ever really considered that Glenn Close's name is one that is more commonly male. I guess I never really think of her as just "Glenn," but always "Glenn Close." Interesting.

One last thing - NOEND is sort of what a Möbius strip has, but isn't it more famously "one side?"

- Horace

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday, October 7, 2019, Keiran King


I'm not much of a "math guy," but I don't have any trouble with simple square roots. And once I realized that they were going in order, I could forget about math again and just sit back and enjoy it.


It's an odd theme, and it looks like a smallish one, in that there are only 38 squares devoted to it - including the revealer. I think we've seen themes using twice that many squares! The entries are, however, rigidly forced into place, and I imagine this made things very complicated. Witness: FTS, AVI (Bird: Prefix), ARR (Opposite of departure: Abbr.), and OWIE (Painful injury, in totspeak). I would OUST those if I could.

Still, it has been executed with a certain amount of FINESSE, as we do get a number of lovely, some might even say ROMANTIC entries. Imagine a VIOLINIST playing SERENE music as you PRANCE about on the FORESTFLOOR... ok, maybe it's more weird than ROMANTIC, but I still like it. And this is my SOLILOQUY after all. :)

It's funny that TETRA runs adjacent to FOUR, and I'm slightly amused by the clue for EXACTO ("Right," slangily). As if anyone has ever said that... hah!

Overall, a fine Monday. Gotta throw a bone to the math nerds every once in a while, I suppose, right?

- Horace

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019, Victor Barocas and Howard Barkin


Today's theme did not sit particularly well with me. (Sorry Howard.) l guess that the "Initial Public Offerings" title might be playing on an old bit of crosswordese, IPO, but then again, I'm not sure why it would be. (Maybe I'm missing something... wouldn't be the first time!)

Anyway, the idea is that both a full name and the initials of a famous person are included. So we get ABT just before ALICEBTOKLAS (nice tie-in with AROSEISAROSE, btw). And ACC before ARTHURCCLARKE. The initials, however, are clued in a way that is not related to the writer's name, as in "N.Y.C.-based dance troupe" for ABT (American Ballet Theater) (looked it up), and "Org. for the Demon Deacons and Blue Devils" for ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) (looked it up).

It's interesting that the constructors found six people whose middle initials are almost always included when their names are invoked, but somehow the fact that it was an initial in both the long and short answers troubled me. Also, once you knew the name, you could just drop the initials into the corresponding spot. This might have led to my sub-twenty time, which, for me, is fast for a Sunday.

Outside of my mild disappointment with the theme, I did find things to smile about. ACCURST (Hex'd) is a fun word, and I liked the simple but precise cluing. And I love the term EATS (Grub). "Playing on both sides" was a tricky way of cluing STEREO, likewise "Left on board" for APORT. Both excellent non-QMCs. In the QMC category, "High percentage of criminals?" for USURY took me every single cross (!), and "Mass-produced response?" (AMEN) was hilarious. Also, "Inspiration for a horror movie?" (GASP) was quite good. And for once - finally! - I wasn't fooled by "Northern borders?" for ENS.

To continue Colum's examination of 1-Down would be a downer today so I won't go into it. And if you look too close, you start to see things like EVENER, UAL, and OBES, but it wasn't all bad.

Hope you're having a lovely Sunday. See you tomorrow.

- Horace

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday, October 5, 2019, Trenton Charlson


I remember early on in my blogging days when we had a run on these sorts of puzzles, where an unusual letter was repeated along a diagonal. I'm pretty sure David Steinberg did a puzzle like this with a whole slew of Zs. Today Mr. Charlson takes on the letter Q... mostly. For a while I was wondering whether qUICE was a word.

The NW was my nemesis once again today, and due to my own guesses tripping me up. I had a pretty good start with MILA / MESONS, and 6D: Like Wile E. Coyote (INEPT) was perfect! Then I put Lulu in at 7D: Incredible person (LIAR), which looked like a possibility because 14A could end with ...up. Instead I was stuck and had to work the rest of the puzzle to get back there at the end.

It didn't help that I had "icon" at 24D (LOGO). But by then I had the first of my Qs in place, and was off and running. What a great set of Q words! I love QUAGMIRES crossing QUIDDITCH, and QBSNEAK is a wonderful non-QU entry. COMEQUICK is a bit of an ad hoc answer, but ANTIQUARK is great.

Two excellent 15-letter answers as well in BYZANTINEEMPIRE and TAKENOPRISONERS.

In the fine cluing section of the review, let's acknowledge 9D: It stands for something (ACRONYM), which falls into the same category as the "Step on it!" clue from the other day. I also liked 40D: Does some course prep? (TEESUP) - it could have been about a college course, something to do with cooking, or golf, as here. But the best of all is 15D: Perfect and then some? (TENSES). That's brilliant.

1D: Clock (SWAT) is prefectly cromulent, and there's not much I'd complain about today, so I end my week of blogging as I started, on a high note. Maybe I should sing an ARIA while I'm at it.

- Colum

Friday, October 4, 2019

Friday, October 4, 2019, Matthew Sewell


A Saturday level puzzle on a Friday. I got myself in trouble in the NW with incorrect guesses, and had to relearn the lesson I always have to relearn: if things aren't working, take out everything and look at it again.

So... 3D: Alternative media magazine, informally (UTNE) was not ziNE, but, boy, those last two letters made it tough to see. Similarly, 6D: Warsaw Pack member west of Poland, for short (GDR) was not SSR. I mean, really, I should have known better - all the SSRs were east or south of Poland, right? But also remembering the acronym for East Germany? That's decades old news.

Similarly, I had "stale" for 33D: Unoriginal, as a comedian (HACKY). But what even is that? "Hacky?!" Okay, the rest of the puzzle is much better than this, but I found myself staring at this when I pulled my original answer out. I'd have preferred a "____ sack" clue.

On the other hand, let's look at some great stuff here. My favorite might be 14D: "That's enough" (WHEN). I'd had WHEw in there for a second, but when I put HELLION in (awesome entry), I stared at the actual answer for a while before getting that it's what you say when you want someone to stop pouring. Perfect!

A similar clues can be found at 59A: Outright (FLAT) - that's a tough get. I also liked 50D: Charge (GOAT) because it took forever to reparse that as "go at" rather than the animal.

The longer answers have some fine items as well. SQUADGOALS is fun, and 22A: Activity for outgoing people? (ESCAPEROOM) is very clever for a QMC. Everybody likes HETERONYMS.

In any case, it was a good challenge, and I like a puzzle that makes me work. SHALOM out.

- Colum

P.S. I almost forgot to mention 1D: Gin fizz ingredient (SODA). It's okay.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thursday, October 3, 2019, Ricky Cruz


Mirror, mirror, on the wall... We get four mirror phrases today, where the mirror is understood because the first word is reflected for the second half of the phrase. Thus 17A: London tabloid that Piers Morgan once headed, which should lead us to "Daily Mirror" instead is entered as DAILYYLIAD.

I found myself a little disappointed at coming across the same trick at 29A. Because once I'd figured out the underlying maneuver, the remainder of the theme answers were straightforward to answer. I also wondered briefly whether the theme would in some way reflect (see what I did there?) the fact that each answer had a pair of Ys in the middle... until I hit 65A: Sci-fi anthology series on Netflix (BLACKKCALB). Ah, well. Once again, I will point out to myself that I'm consuming, not creating.

What we definitely had today was a nice bounceback at 1D: Step on it! (PEDAL). I really love these kinds of clues. 1A: Queen or king, e.g. (PIECE) was also lovely in an ambiguous way. I thought of "royal" first, but since CEL was a gimme at 4D, I reoriented myself quickly.

Other words I enjoyed coming across included RANSACK and BACH. We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA do like a BRIE (especially at New Year's), and also an ARIA, especially when sung by ALTOS.

In other news, is YIPE really an exclamation? I'm pretty sure I would err on the side of "yipes!" But perhaps I'm just an old fuddy-duddy. Perhaps a bit too much DOT DIT LAS for my tastes, but I liked the theme concept.

- Colum

P.S. It's a debut puzzle! Mr. Cruz, nice work.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, Mangesh Ghogre


A surprise rebus on a Wednesday! And with a subcontinental Indian flair, to boot. Our revealer is at 69A: Icon born 10/2/1869 ... with a hint to three squares in this puzzle (GANDHI). That's to be reparsed as "G and HI," which you find in three nicely asymmetric squares. We've seen similar rebuses in the past, but not with the "and" between the first and second letters of three. It's also a really excellent way to do a tribute puzzle without doing bits of trivia chosen because they honor the symmetry necessary in a crossword puzzle.

As you'd want, the rebus squares span the two words in each across theme answer, as in NOTTIN[GHI]LL, which was the first rebus I figured out. I love how the third one, LON[GHI]STORY is clued with a nod to the ancient civilizations that are ancestors to the modern day India.

And you get several other little dabs of theme-related material, such as BRAHMA, MATA, ROTI, SRI, and DELHI. Nicely done.

There aren't a ton of clever clues, which makes sense for a puzzle with an unexpected rebus theme. 7D: Negative space? (PHOTOLAB) is pretty clever. Only who uses a photo lab any more? It goes with MIMEO as nods to ancient times.

1D: No longer ill (CURED) is okay. My hopes for a week of uplifting and brilliant answers in that space are not quite dashed, but perhaps not quite as strong either.

Maybe I'll make some BATCHES of cookies tonight to lift my spirits once again.

- Colum

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tuesday, October 1, 2019, Erik Agard


The week of great crossword constructors continues with Mr. Agard. By the way, I realize that by saying this, if tomorrow I don't mention it, a constructor may feel put down. So let me just say that all the constructors for the NYT crossword are great, and leave it at that.

They say OPPOSITES attract, but in this set of themes, they're separated to outer edges of the theme answers. The shaded squares make it very clear what's going on. I would prefer no shaded or circled squares in my puzzles, especially when there's a revealer. Let the "aha" moment live!

Meanwhile, these are some nice finds, especially OFFSEASON and WETLAUNDRY. UNDERCOVER is good, but there's not much room for the two words in the phrase, so somehow it seems more obvious.

The grid is nicely constructed to allow for some flow between sections, while still segmenting enough to give the corners the space for chunks of white squares. Note that there are only two down answers that cross three theme answers, and they're the very interesting AFROPUFF and SKYHOOKS. With BEYHIVE, ZENDAYA, and Eartha KITT, there's a very nice nod to some great black Americans.

I like the clue at 64D: Partner for life (LIMB). That's excellent work there, in my favorite category of non-QMC. But the QMC at 55A: General whose orders are sometimes carried out? (TSO) is also very funny.

And going along with my week of blogging, note that 1D: Sashimi, e.g. (RAWFISH) is a fine answer. Not that I take a raw fish, mind you, but I know a lot of people seem to enjoy it.

- Colum