Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019, Joe Deeney


The trend continues. My Saturday time is the fastest of the turn this week. Strange but true! Today's time might have been even faster, but I got hung up on two squares that I eventually made (correct!) guesses for. As a casual viewer of the Marvel Comics, the actual name of Thor's hammer never struck home, so I was left to wonder if the first letter for the answer to 45D: "Went over," was d, l, or, R as in READ. My other problem was the cross between 42A: "'Abyssinia'" and 26D: "Compensate for something?" I had _ATA and REMI_. I wanted the correct REMIT, but at first I couldn't figure out why TATA was right. But then I did. :)

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My first pass through the puzzle evoked only STROP, LAERTES, BENE, BETTY, and TRACY. Thanks to the concentration of known items in the northeast, I focused on that section first. A few educated guesses later, plus a small assist from recently selling a Bruce Springsteen concert t-shirt on eBay, helped me make short work of that section. DABAT sure is odd-looking

The sections of the grid are compartmentalized today so it's almost like four separate little puzzles. That meant that completing the northeast didn't give me much of a leg up on other nearby sections, so I headed to the southwest. Adding DAWN and ICING to the already-in-place BETTY provided the ENERGY I needed to put the hammer most of the way down on that section. ADAMSRIB for "Biblical starting material" is humorous.

From there, it was on to the southeast. I was able to put in BANTAMS off the B in BENE, and after I filled in EWERS for "Some still-life fixtures" I was able to get the amusing ESTATELAW for "Subject of passing interest?"

Next stop: the northwest passage. I tried "wonka" for "Eponymous candy man," which fortunately was 100% incorrect, so it came out quickly. Once I paired REESE with TRACY, I could see the clever ESCAPEKEY ("It gets pushed in a corner"), and the enjoyably weird-looking ZEROESOUTARTCLASS for "Where one might be graded on a curve?"  is also nice.

Then, as discussed above, I had to address those two blanks in the center before I could finally CEYLON to the "Congratulations!" message.

Well, we've come to the end of another fine week of puzzles. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. As I pass the review baton to our esteemed co-blogger Colum Amory, I have only one thing to say, TATA, TTYL, and Our feet are stained!


Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday, November 29, 2019, Sam Buchbinder

22:24, FWOE

Today's time, even with a FWOE, is one second faster than yesterday's. I'm blaming a heavy dose of tryptophan.

MEIR OCCURred down in the southeastern-most point. Despite the frequency with which it appears in a puzzle, I can never remember the "Mount in Greek mythology." I vaguely recollected that it takes the form of [vowel] SS [vowel], but I made the mistake of entering guesses for the vowels and blithely moved on. One guess turned out to be incorrect, sadly. It's OSSA not aSSA. Derp. Had I recognized the birth name of BONO, this would never have happened.

After that sad bit, INEEDALIFT. LETS move on to a selection of fun clues and answers:
"Something to hold while waiting" (TRAY)
"Raked in the chips" (WONBIG)
"Overjoy" (SEND)
"Food product that's good even if it's cracked" (WHEAT)
and my favorite, "Twice-committed crime?" (BIGAMY) - ha!

We are treated to a self-referential clue at 49A:"It's found at the start of this clue" (CAPITALI). For some reason, this one seemed fairly obvious to me. On the other hand, I was totally duped by "Organization that Jordan was once part of" (BULLS) - ha! My focus on the country rather than the basketball player, plus a few other answers in that section, SLOEd me down.


LOVEPOTION is nice fill, but I didn't find the clue so enchanting ("Fantasy concoction"). And although I didn't really like the answer IMTHEWORST ("Ugh, totally my fault!") and "Grow nearer to bedtime" (LATEN) doesn't pass my SMELLTEST, the GEMS keep me looking forward to MORETOCOME.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019, Timothy Polin


OJAI everyone. Let's talk turkey about today's puzzle because that's what I'm full of. Well, that and pie. Lots of pie. Mmmm, pie...

The puzzle's theme features JOHNNYCASH (17A "The Man in Black") and its trick is conveyed by the title of his hit song, RINGOFFIRE (17-Across hit ... or a hint to four connected answers in this puzzle). Four entries form a square in the center of the puzzle, each of which needs the word "fire" to complete it so that it matches its clue. Thus, "Candies that make your mouth burn" are [Fire]BALLS, "Big name in tires is [Fire]STONE, "Performance with twirling torches" is [Fire]DANCE, and my favorite, "Agitator seeking radical change" is [Fire]BRAND. JOAQUIN PHOENIX, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Johnny Cash, also plays a part in the theme. 

The one connection I can tenuously establish between today's puzzle and today's holiday (Thanksgiving) is that one uses a RINGOFFIRE to cook many of the day's signature dishes. I myself used one to boil potatoes earlier in the day. Mmmm, potatoes...

Perhaps because I have food on the brain, and elsewhere, I noticed a number of victuals in the grid including STEW, SOY, ZITI, ICEWINE, OFFAL, CRAB, and ONAROLL. Mmmm, rolls...
Here's hoping a controlled ring of fire helped EWES and yours enjoy good food and good company at LACASA today. Also, on this holiday, I think it only right that we offer a SHO of appreciation to all the puzzle constructors and editors out there who always give USS somethin' ALIKE. Thanks!


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, Matthew Sewell and Jeff Chen


A remarkably multi-faceted theme today! Circles, shaded squares, grid shape, and thematic content all contribute to the puzzle's a veritable smorgasbord of theme material. We have four herbs, DILL, CHIVES, MINT, and SAGE appearing in shaded squares, each "growing" up from a POT formed by black squares filled with the circled letters S E E D. And if that's not enough, the whole is, topped, front and center, by the SUN. Beautiful. Maybe there's even a little bonus theme material with an UPSY-daisy sprouting off to the side?


Other excellent entries spice up the rest of the grid. "Apple cores, for short" (CPUS) is a very good clue. I enjoyed seeing LOTTE Lenya of old "Mack the Knife" fame, although she was probably known for something else before that song was written. All the long down answers are very good, with PECCADILLOES probably being my favorite, although I do enjoy an ALPINELODGE when I can get one. Also, how weird looking an entry is EMUEGG?

I am anticipating an entirely different kind of GROWTHPOTENTIAL for myself tomorrow as I over indulge in all sorts of deliciousness. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019, Olivia Mitra Framke


My time today was faster than yesterday's by almost a full minute, lending further support to the idea that yesterday was a more difficult than usual Monday.

Today's theme is a regular house of cards. We get three grid-spanning entries that contain the names of tarot cards within common phrases or titles, including THETOWEROFBABEL, THEDEVILYOUKNOW, and THESUNALSORISES. Taking advantage of the cards on the table, the revealer, also a fifteen, is "One examining the starts of 17-, 27- and 28-Across," or TAROTCARDREADER. It's nice that the last theme answer features the Sun, which, according to the Wikipedia, represents good things and positive outcomes to current struggles. What could be more apt for puzzle solvers? Apt!

Elsewhere in the puzzle, Ms. Framke played her cards right by doling out a number of fine clue/answer pairs, including a couple of jokers.
"Mad Libs prompt" (NOUN)
"Walk lurchingly" (REEL)
"Frosted flakes?" (SNOW)
"Leaves home?" (TREE) - ha!

Fun fill like DATA, APOP, SPONGY, and HUNCH only sweetened the deal.


The clue at 43A: "Wasn't naturally" (ACTED) struck me as a bit of a wild card, but I was still able to divine the answer.

A fun puzzle overall. I predict a ROSY future in puzzle construction for Ms. Framke!


Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019, Daniel Mauer


I couldn't figure out today's theme based only on the first theme answer, SNACKATTACK, but I got the knack by the time I completed the third one, CRACKISWACK. BACKONTRACK, and the cool-looking YACKETYYACK complete the pack.

I solved the puzzle in the usual top-left-to-bottom-right order, and found I enjoyed it more as I went along. In looking over the puzzle for this review, I noticed that most of my favorite fill and clue/answer pairs were in the Downs - to wit: SARTRE, DRIP (Insipid one), BATIK, SABOTAGE, CHARMS, ROVERS, and CHAT. Coincidence? I don't think so.


I can't pinpoint the particulars, but this played a little slower for me than many a recent Monday. NADIR didn't leap to mind for "Very bottom" at 1A. It didn't help that I dunno who IDINA Menzel is. Nor did I know that PINETAR was a "Batter's grip-enhancing goo." Perhaps those lacks contributed to my slower PACE.

Not to give Mr. Mauer too much flack, but there was quite a stack of not-so-NEATO abbreviations through which to hack - ATA, AKA, MRI, NOS, and NES, and MRI - plus more tucked inside longer fill like ETCETC and SAIDOK. Also, if there are any AYE votes for 50A: "Muscles used in pull-ups, informally" (BIS) I'd be surprised. You can count me as ONENO on that front.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday, November 24, 2019, Frank Longo


If it looks like a themeless and solves like a themeless, then guess what, Dear Reader, it is a themeless! And not only that, it's a bit of a stunt puzzle too, because (and yes, I learned this from it has the fewest answers of any NYT Sunday puzzle to date - just 122. Which explains the title.

We've been seeing Mr. Longo's name in Games magazine for decades, so when I met him in person at my first A.C.P.T., I expected a grizzled old figure, but he looks at least ten years younger than me. Same with Mr. Fagliano. For some reason, when I first saw his name I began picturing him as sort of a Vincent Price-like character. Turns out he looks like a kid just out of college. Either creating puzzles keeps you looking very young, or I'm just not very good at picturing people. Maybe a little of both.

I often think that puzzle themes are overrated. Sure, a theme can be very clever, but for me it's separate from the fundamental joy of crosswords, which is the simple structure of clues and answers slowly helped along by the intersecting words. And when I say "theme," I don't mean "trick." Rebus squares, shape-shifting words crawling up or down, assumed letters that "appear" outside of the grid... these kinds of tricks are great. It's the word ladders, the "every last word can have this word added to it" or "is a part of this set," or "find the hidden word in this other word." That type of thing. I mean, it's fine, and usually it's fun enough, but I guess what I'm saying is that I don't need it to enjoy a crossword puzzle. Perhaps I'm just a simple guy.

So how was this themeless? Pretty good. I like the chunky corners with their 11- and 9-stacks, and the long, staggered entries in the middle were good too. There are lots of colorful answers like TIEDYEING, PRISONESCAPE, JEALOUSY, SLAKES, TOOKTOTHESLOPES (and the related SLALOM (Event that usually has gate crashers?) (great clue)), and I even liked METAANALYSES. But as with any "lowest word count" stunt puzzle, you're going to encounter things like COCCUS, TRIODE, ROADSTEAD, CLARO, and SAAR.

I credit Bruce Haight with making me see the light on stunt puzzles. Early in my reviewing career (if I can dare to call it a career), I savaged one of his stunt puzzles. When I met him at the following A.C.P.T., we talked about it and he defended the stunt puzzle as pushing the boundaries. Such experimentation is necessary to keep the field from stagnating. And really, when NASA pushes the boundaries, sometimes people end up getting killed. When crossword constructors push the boundaries, solvers end up learning new words, or gaining a new understanding of some kind.

I'll leave it there.

Congratulations, Mr. Longo, on this achievement. I hope we can look forward to at least a few more Sunday themelesses, whether they push boundaries or not, in the coming years.

- Horace

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday, November 23, 2019, Trenton Charlson


Wow. This was a good old fashioned Saturday struggle for me! I chipped away slowly with little things like EDDA, ERR, ACE, POI, POE, LEA, NIPAT ... and then after guessing CASTLES (Moves two pieces at once, in a way) and putting in "like" at the end of 5D: Oafish (APELIKE), I was able to get PARKINGGARAGES (Places where drivers get tickets), and then, finally, I got a little traction.


False starts for me included pAdthaI for SASHIMI (Dish often served with soy sauce), erasmuS for AQUINAS ("Summa Theologica" philosopher), LABratS for LABMICE (Experiment subjects), SliPSIN for SEEPSIN (Enters gradually), Somme for SEXES ("The Battle of the ____") (D. W. Griffith film)), INSertS for INSOLES (Arch supports), and the one that took me the longest to remove - ironMAN instead of AQUAMAN (Founding member of the Justice League). I was probably confusing my super hero universes with that one, but when I'm trying to solve a puzzle, I can't always be counted on to think entirely rationally. Take the AQUINAS/Erasmus thing - AQUINAS is much more likely, of course, but Erasmus was the first philosopher that came into my head, and it fit, so in it went. Anywho... all that made for a slower solve. 

But none of that diminished my enjoyment of the puzzle. It's just the kind of Saturday I like! HILARITYENSUES (What happens after a zany plot twist) was a great anchor in the lower half, and I liked the "Term of endearment" combo (PRECIOUS/BABE). The connection from corner to corner was a little tight, which made it seem almost like four separate little puzzles, but I don't mind that as much as some reviewers do. (Hi Colum!)

My final of the four little puzzles was that NE corner, where OUTKAST (Rap group with six Grammys) was on the outskirts of my ken, and SILENTW (Who's first?) elicited the required groan only after everything but the last letter had been entered.

Again, this may sound like a negative review in some ways, but challenge is what I want on Saturday. This had only a few little bits of glue, and nothing that was at all objectionable (if, that is, you don't find the word SACS too off-putting).

- Horace

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Friday, November 22, 2019, Emily Carroll


I was happy to see Ms. Carroll's byline today, and I was happy when I finished her puzzle! From start to finish there was plenty to enjoy. I'll start with one that many might consider obscure, and which, with all those lovely "word-ending" letters, might have been an almost accidental entry - RENNES (City in NW France)! Frannie and I have both spent a lot of time in Brittany's capital city, and it was a real treat to find it in the grid today.

I'm guessing that more universally enjoyed entries might include DEMOLITIONDERBY (Smashing good time) (Nice clue), ROMULAN (Part of a militaristic "Star Trek" race) (Everybody likes Star Trek, right?), OPENBAR (Where to find free spirits) (Everybody definitely likes an OPENBAR!), and the new-to-me-but-still-hilarious SITUATIONSHIP (Romantic gray area). I was working from left to right, and I could fill in the first part with confidence, but I didn't know what the end would be, so for a while I had SITUATIONiffy. Heh.

STYMIES (Foils) and BARRICADE (Block off) are good words, USBPORT (Mouse hole?) and MASTS (Supports for a naval expedition) got cute clues, and STATION (Social position) reminds me that we just saw a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore last weekend. ("Yes, yes, the lass is much above his station!")... FASHIONISTA is fun, and I like how ONETOGO is - in a sort of visual way - the second-to-last Across answer in the grid. It's not according to the numbers, of course, but just look at it!

Anyway, I very much enjoyed this one. I hope you did too.

- Horace

Thursday, November 21, 2019, Aimee Lucido


A double trick today! A rebus that works as letters in the Across answers, and as a literal [GAP] in the Verticals. The first one I figured out was TO[GAP]ARTY (Classic fraternity bash). I had the TO beginning, so I knew what the answer would be, but at first I guessed that the rebus might be "par." That was, of course, a BAD[ ]IDEA.

Once I had righted the ship, THEBI[GAP]PLE (New York City) fell right in, but it took me forever to properly pronounce "Car tower" in order to understand REPO[ ]MAN. In the lower half, I actually found the vertical ICE[ ]AGE (Long cold spell) before I figured out YO[GAP]ANTS (Activewear akin to leggings). And speaking of activewear, I thought the GYM[ ]SHOE / SNEAKER combo was interesting.

MISAIM (Not shoot straight) is rough, and the plural ESCS (Keys often hit in panic: Abbr.) sitting right above MEANLY (How Twitter trolls often comment) is not the most attractive section ever, but I think the vertical payoff is worth it. ATTRACT, TACTILE, RHYMES (Moan and groan, e.g.) (!), CLARITY, and SYNAPSE (It may get fired because of a thought) (cute), are all quite good.

And on the other side, the clever cluing continues with "Pit boss?" (MAESTRO) (orchestra pit) and "Occasion to speak up?" (PRAYER).

Overall, I quite enjoyed it.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019, Erik Agard


Today's theme celebrates the much-debated crossword-grid-circles by forcing their inclusion, for without them, the revealer, TALKINCIRCLES would make no sense. The circles, as you have seen, create out of longer entries six words that are talk-related: chat, blather, speak, orate, prate, and spiel. That last one is commonly seen in the wild as a noun, but rumor (and dictionaries) have it that it can also be used as a verb, so all's well on the consistency front. And speaking of consistency, is it coincidence that each of the hidden words comes from the beginning and end of its container word, with nothing else from the middle? Probably not, but still I find it strange. And kind of cool.

Without the circles, and with only the first half of the revealer (Argue repetitively ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme), one might well have solved this thinking it was just another themeless. Would that same one have noticed the copied letters "rate" at the ends of 46- and 51-Across, and then further noticed the O and P at the beginning? I'm guessing probably not.

Taken as a themeless, it's full of interesting answers. BLACKPANTHER reminds me of a poem:

The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn't been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.

My father is a big fan of Nash, and that last line was famous in our house when I was young. Let's do one more for SPINYEEL, shall we?

I don't mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.

OK, that's a lot of poetry. I'll just mention a few more things:

ORCHESTRATE is fun, EMPANADA is delicious, and PLASTICCRATE is odd, but not as odd as COMOESTA (Spanish greeting). I know it's two words, but if you don't know that, it looks very strange.

I've never heard the abbreviation OPDOC (Nonfiction film with a point of view, in brief) before, but that doesn't mean it's not mainstream.

Thumbs up from this corner.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tuesday, November 19, 2019, Ross Trudeau


The theme today is TOPHAT wearers. We've got four of them in the grid, and a grid-art TOPHAT made from black squares under SUNTANOIL. And me, I see the black squares below the TOPHAT as little arms that are either holding it up, or about to grab it and bring it back down onto a head that lies below the grid. Or maybe the arms are pulling the hat lower onto a SADFACE... can't you just picture it? So can I, but I was not able to find a photo online. Kind of amazing, really... so I'll use this instead:

One of the WEAVERS

I was a little surprised by ABELINCOLN, instead of Abraham, but I guess WILLYWONKA uses a nickname, too. I'm not sure about SCROOGEMCDUCK and FROSTY... those could be their full first names.

BRAVURA (Great technical skill) and ADULATE (Put on a pedestal) were nice, and getting the full RANAMOK, instead of one half cluing the other, felt like kind of a bonus. I've never heard the term BLEEDER (Grounder that squeezes between two infielders, in baseball slang), however, and I can't say I like it. In fact, that whole North section is rather unpleasant, with AIRTUBE and SWEARAT standing out so prominently.

I don't know... maybe it's the horizontal symmetry that I don't like today. I'm visually drawn to the entries FRANCA, NATANT, SMELT, and WASON (Had a base, as a runner in baseball) (odd), none of which is especially exciting. We also get a lot of initials and abbreviations (RLS, EAP, SOPH, IVS, AAA, ONEA, DTS, RNA, AOL, CDS, OMN, AGT, OTS, DAS), and, well... I didn't much love it.


- Horace

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019, Alan Arbesfeld


Cute theme today of four diminutive animal names used in common expressions. Me, I grew up saying "kitty-corner" instead of CATTYCORNER, but I'll let it stand. (I prefer saving "catty" for "cattywampus," even though I never actually use the term.) The other three: DOGGYBAGS; BULLYPULPIT; and PIGGYBANK, are unassailable (or should I say un-ASPERSE-able?) in their acceptability. So thumbs up there.


In the verticals, I enjoyed MYITSLATE (Comment made when itching to leave a dull party) (or, "personal to-do list of computer-related chores") and OLDSOUL (King Cole was a "merry" one) up in the NE corner, but ERNO and GIAN beside those two left a bit of an ACHE.

DYNASTY (Ming or Qing, in Chinese history) and MENTORING (Helping a protégé) fit in more comfortably in the SW, and were crossed by the colorful quartet of CHARADE, AEGIS, GAUNT, and ELEGY. That's a nice corner. I don't even mind AGUE... but I suppose it's all what you're used to, eh? (I'm sure Colum wasted no time dropping in GIAN up top...)

And speaking being used to things - I'm not terribly familiar with YORBA Linda (despite the connection to #37) nor LUANDA, Angola, though I'm not proud of it in either case.

In all, I think the only answer that's truly just "filler material" is INE (Suffix with nectar or serpent). But in a grid with such a pleasant, simple theme, and so many interesting other bits, one little INE won't get a single ERG out of me. :)

- Horace

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday, November 17, 2019, Randoph Ross


Welcome, Dear Reader, to another Sunday puzzle review. Today your reviewer will be Horace, who is taking over from Colum and Frannie. For the last couple (few?) years, we've been rotating out week by week, usually on Sunday. It's been working well for us, and we hope you've been enjoying the different perspectives: Colum's erudition, Frannie's humor, and my everyday ignorance, brought to light today by the admission that I had to Google "Scarborough morning news show" in order to understand "62A: Hosting a morning news show: C+" (SCARBOROUGHFAIR).

Sir Henry ROYCE

As many of my relations know, I don't watch the news. Why anyone would, I cannot say. There are ways to find out about important things without having to see each traffic accident, burst pipe, or random murder. Apparently, there is a person named Scarborough, who has a news show.

But enough about me. Let's talk about you. How did you like this theme of taking everyday two-word combinations and using the second word as if it were an assessment of the first word? As in PARKINGFINE, clued as "Valet skills: B+," or BATTINGAVERAGE (Baseball skill: C). Those two, and a few others, I liked. A parking fine and a batting average are both real things, and "parking" and "batting" are real activities that can be assessed. Others, like TASTEGREAT (Fashion sense: A) and MOTHERSUPERIOR (Parenting: A+) kind of work, but kind of don't. "Taste great" isn't really a stand-alone, common phrase, and while "Mother Superior," is definitely a known title, "mother" only means "parenting" in kind of a strained way. And BUCKPASSING (Stuffing tip jars: D) has even more problems.

The non-theme had some good fill, including the answer that took me the longest time to understand: DENTIST (Number of people in an office?). Even with the question mark, it took me literally forever (not literally, not forever, but a good long while) to finally read "Number of people" as "one who numbs people." Hah! Thank the stars for novocaine, am I right?

Other fun entries included COBBLE (Patch (together)), FISH (Porgy and bass) (excellent clue), SPIRITS (Alcohol), ALTAR (Union station?), NEST (Sticks together?) (Ha!), and ROOK (Fleece).

Some esoterica in MAGUS, AGITA, MASSE, OCTILE, and INCUBI, and some uncommon names: TRUDI, EGGAR, and ARIE, but nothing that couldn't be gotten through crosses.

Hopefully you had LOTSA fun with this one.

- Horace

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday, November 16, 2019, Daniel Larsen


To all of you readers out there (maybe a hundred at most?), I send my gratitude for your interest in our small daily effort. There are many things wrong with our society in general and with the internet in particular, but it certainly affords us the chance to speak with a small select niche of likeminded people. I hope our silliness brings entertainment to some of you.

Speaking of which, apparently I'm full of gratitude today, because I also want to send my thanks to the cadre of constructors who put out my daily source of entertainment. I find a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the different ways these people can surprise me, make me chuckle, twist my brain to figure out the subtle clues, or repurpose bits of language to fit into these 15 x 15 grids.

So, enough. Let's talk about today's puzzle. It's a great skeleton for the grid, with two pairs of stacking 15-letter answers crossed by a 13-letter answer down the middle. And all five of those answers hit the mark. Let's rank them!

5 - 17A: What a performer does periodically during a musical (BREAKSOUTINSONG). I love this answer, and I love musicals. So why is it in fifth place? Maybe just because it's a verb phrase. I don't know. Don't investigate these rankings too closely.
4 - 60A: How Old Faithful erupts (ONAREGULARBASIS). Great clue for this phrase, which is strong and interesting.
3 - 64A: Refuge, of sorts (HOMELESSSHELTER). I am saddened by the concept (and by the way, if you haven't read Eviction by Matthew Desmond, you should get it right away. Amazing book, important issue). But I love the three Ss in a row. So there.
2 - 16D: 2016 election meddlers (RUSSIANTROLLS). Timely, and not going away, clearly.
1 - 15A: Somehow (ONEWAYORANOTHER). Really, it's only in first place because of the Blondie song.

Other high notes include 59D: Provider of a lifeline (PALM) - took me a long time to figure out why this was correct; 65A: Opposite of crowed (ATEDIRT); and 8A: One who's got something brewing (BARISTA).

Another fun week of puzzles done and blogged!

- Colum

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019, Debbie Ellerin


I really enjoyed this puzzle, even if it went by too fast. Sometimes the tricksiness of Friday and Saturday clues works in one's favor, if one is alert to the likelihood. I had no difficulty with 1D: Island to which one is able to return? (ELBA), and with LALALAND in place, the NW fell very quickly.

23A: Singer of "I'm Your Man" and "Hallelujah" (LEONARDCOHEN) would have been more difficult to get if the second song had been more obscure. Say "Chelsea Hotel," or "Famous Blue Raincoat." Great songs.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that our thousands of readers are turning their noses up at LATEN. In combination with OBEAH and LISLE, the NE corner was not the finest example of gridwork. But I did like ICANTEVEN and 38A: Things that may be settled (OLDSCORES).

It was definitely clever to have old crossword standbys NEE and AKA symmetrically placed and clued with the same phrase ("Indication of another name").

Old friend OBOE gets a nice clue with 52D: Wind in a pit. It's never going to be a flute or a clarinet, folks. Always oboes. I do love an oboe, don't get me wrong. Lovely sound when it's played well. Pungent, even. But it's even more loved by crossword creators, because of all of those vowels.

Anyway, it's a fine Friday. Thanks to Ms. Ellerin.

- Colum

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thursday, November 14, 2019, Alex Eaton-Salners


Je suppose that we likely have very few readers in France. Eh bien, phooey upon them, say I.

Dans any case (okay, I'll stop now), today's puzzle takes the phrase FRENCHOPEN and applies it to four other phrases by replacing the first word with its French equivalent. Thus, "friend request" becomes AMIREQUEST. OUIINDEED. I was impressed for some strange reason by the fact that all four translated words turned out to be three letters long in their new language.

It's a fun concept, and well crafted. Apologies to those who don't speak français. At least all four of these words are common visitors to our crossword shores.

I can tell that Mr. Eaton-Salners had fun with some atypical answers. Note PTSD crossing BBQS. Similarly UNPC and APSCORE. I imagine that the vowel rich French words like "oui" and "eau" necessitated some of this, but I liked it nonetheless.

13D: Introduction to geometry? (SOFTG) proves once again that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. In this case, the horse is me, and the water is the type of meta-clue where the answer is a phoneme. I also almost fell for the situation at 18D: LAX listing (ETA). I typically leave the last letter blank until I figure out the crossing. Today I saw ___E_ at 23A and without looking at the clue closely, plunked in a D. Turns out 23A: Musician's better half? (SIDEA) is referring to the "hit" of a band's single.

I did fall for a similar issue at 35D: Latin 101 word. Will it be "amas" or AMAT? Leave that last letter blank! Only 49A: Reviews, collectively: Abbr. (CRIT) seemed to ask for a plural. Oh, well. That's probably the worst answer in the puzzle.

Favorite clue and answer today come at 38D: Frost bit? (POESY). Great hidden capital, wonderful word.

- Colum

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday, November 13, 2019, Ed Sessa


I'm going to go ahead and answer the question that is on the minds of all several trillion of our readers today. What, in fact, is the actual plural of "hippopotamus?" As you can imagine, this opens up a lovely rabbit hole that our friend NOAM Chomsky would (I assume) enjoy exploring. The word as we know it comes from Latin: thus the standard plural should be "hippopotami." However, the word actually is derived from Greek (hippos potamios - river horse). That plural would be "hippoi potamios". On the other hand, in English, we are much more comfortable with the ending -es, thus HIP[POP]OTAMUSES. Or, as anybody would prefer, "hippos."

All that is to say, we have found ourselves enjoying an unexpected Wednesday rebus puzzle. The revealer comes at 56A: Carnival projectiles that might be directed at parts of this puzzle? (BALLOONDARTS). There are five circles scattered in the grid, each with the rebus POP inside. I suppose I can put up with the circles in this instance as representations of the balloons, but I do so much enjoy finding rebus squares rather than being told where they are.

Still, all is worth it to have 38A: "Obviously! (Duh!)" (ISTHE[POP]ECATHOLIC) - that's a wonderful entry, and one we typically would not see in a weekday puzzle, because its 17 letters long. Also, IGGY[POP] is great, as is the word A[POP]LEXY, although the medical reality of it is not so hot.
Another belated nod to Veterans' Day?

Also, I've always been fond of a TOOTSIE[POP]. They have them at my barber's for the kiddos, but I eye them surreptitiously, wondering if anybody would shoot me steely glare for taking one for myself.

There's a bit of TORA SKAT SST stuff, but I'll always support a grid that has GLOMS in it.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Gabrielle Friedman and Jakob Weisblat


With regards to our widespread readership (might I even hazard "global?"), I was amused by Horace's comment yesterday that he mostly thinks of myself and our other stalwart commenter, Huygens. I, too, think predominantly of Horace and Frances when I write. I also think of the crossword constructors, fondly for their efforts to keep me entertained, and with awe when a puzzle is particularly well crafted.

Today's puzzle is a double debut for Ms. Friedman and Mr. Weisblat, and so I send a happy AHOY to them. It's always nice to have new names and faces at the top of my iPad. Their offering takes the well known 'N'Sync hit BYEBYEBYE (honestly, I barely know it at all, but I'm sure I'd recognize it if it came on my radio, just before I switch to another station...), and uses it as a revealer for three other phrases which start with the sound "bye" but spelled differently.

All three theme answers are solid, particularly BICURIOUS. In addition, our intrepid constructors work in some nice long answers, particularly PHILOMENA, an outstanding and very moving movie starring the ubiquitous Dame Judi Dench. I also liked 10D: Things to keep on hand to prevent burns? (OVENMITTS).

Does RABBI count as bonus theme material?

I am less enthused by NOTAR and the very odd NOTPASS. Seems a stretch, as does LOOTBAG. Is this a meaningful phrase? Moneybags, certainly. Meanwhile, there's a bit too much DII ELIS SSNS and the atypical singular TONG for my taste. But overall, it's a solid effort, and I'd hate to discourage anyone from continuing to work at this form of entertainment that I do every day.

- Colum

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday, November 11, 2019, Evan Kalish


Happy Veterans' Day to all of our thousands, nay, millions of readers. I'm just going to keep running with my little fantasy, and nothing any of you can say will stop me. I'm also studiously avoiding looking at the number of hits our posts get.

Today's theme (maybe or maybe not appropriate to the day) is THINKTANK, as in, "Imagine the word 'tank' after the ends of each of the long theme answers." If you do so, you get new standard phrases. I like the theme because I did not see it coming at all until I finished the revealer. In addition, the initial word in each "tank" phrase must be reinterpreted to understand the new phrase. Thus, POOLSHARK refers to a hustler, but "shark tank" to the sea creature.

On the plus side, SEATURTLES.

Everybody loves SEATURTLES.

See how amazing SEATURTLES are?

On the negative side, ALGALBLOOM. YUCCA.

I'll note 59D: Take a ____ (protest, in a way) (KNEE). That's timely and well worth highlighting. I also sort of liked how ENOKI and ASAHI mirror each other. Best clue of the day is 41D: One with a first-person narrative? (ADAM). Good stuff.

- Colum

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday, November 10, 2019, Peter Gordon


Hello everyone! A great two weeks of reviews by Frannie and Horace have to come to an end at some point, so you're stuck with my reviews for this week. But that's okay - I always have a ton of interesting material to share with everyone. I have a little daydream that people all across the US of A (and, indeed, the world) are breathlessly awaiting the publication of our little blog. So please, don't tell me the truth of the matter...

Anyway, today we get six theme answers which have been massaged so that you get six pairs of doubled letters consecutively. I would argue that the title of the puzzle should really be "six doubles," but that doesn't mean anything.

The best examples of this concept will either have unexpected doubled letters, or will make you chuckle at the absurdity of the image conjured. Thus, 23A: Low singers, short on money, draw idly (BASSIINNEEDDOODLE) wins on the first count, while 75A: Designer Mizrahi shouts like a cowboy in a nonchalant way (ISAACCOOLLYYEEHAWS) definitely scores points for the absurdity of it all. Of course, the word "bookkeeping" finds its way into the puzzle, as well it should.

Some fine cluing is to be found in the puzzle as well. I particularly enjoyed:

33D: It's more attractive the closer you are to it (MAGNET).
87D: Crib users (CHEATERS) - hah! That's very nice.

There are only three QMCs, and none of them are that interesting.

Other entries I liked were OYVEY, ROREM, and SURCEASE, which I would typically think of as a noun, meaning "end" or "cessation," but here is used as a verb. And with that, I surcease my review.

- Colum

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Saturday, November 9, 2019, Neil Padrick Wilson


My time today is only slightly slower than yesterday's, and it's half of Thursday's - a topsy turvy week for this solver. This puzzle was anything but a SNOOZEFEST with zippy fill like NOPROBLEMO, IHADABLAST, IMOUTRAGED, and STANDINGO.

I didn't immediately guess any of the three long Across answers in the north east, but things picked up for me when I got to the south east. SUPERFREAK was a easy get. I did a little better on my first pass through the Downs. I particularly enjoyed the reference to Hercule Poirot at 2D, along with his stereotypical exclamation, SACREBLEU. I have been known to exclaim the same myself de temps en temps. Another made-to-order answer for me was ASPERUSUAL (In the customary way). And I often refer to my office clothes as a "Monkey suit" even though I rarely wear TUXES to work.

ZORROMASK came as a bit of a surprise (Part of a Halloween costume accompanying a sword). I was able to enter MASK right away, but Zorro was not the first sword holder who leapt to mind.


At first, I thought "It's a cinch!" for SASH was INAPT.  I'm more familiar with the sash as a fabric that drapes shoulder to waist, but I looked it up and apparently, there are sashes that cinch around the waist. WRUNG again! I suppose that's why this is a Saturday clue. And speaking of Saturday clues, it took me forever to parse the one at 7D: "Decide one will" (OPTTO). I kept reading it as if a person had multiple inheritance documents to make up their minds about, and they finally resolved one of them. Duh-erp.

It's the start of a long holiday weekend. While it's been a fun week of puzzles - including the jigsaw variety, which I completed earlier today - now I think I'll go have a dish of ENGLISHTEA. AILS CUB BUYS EON.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday, November 8, 2019, Peter Wentz


@englishteacher59: Easy-medium Friday for me. :)

Horace's brother asserted that yesterday's puzzle, with its vintage sports references and nitrogen compounds was right in his wheelhouse. Today's was, happily, more in mine. It had a lot of the lovely clue/answer exactitude that I enjoy.  I offer one example, "Precisely found" (PINPOINTED), as particularly apt. Apt! I also very much enjoyed "Painfully slow" (GLACIAL).

In looking over the puzzle for the review, I was again confronted with the QMC and NQMC conundrum which we often find at the turn. There were great examples of both:

Matter of great interest for the United States (DEBT)
Have something (AIL)
Provided an address (ORATED)

Going places? (JOHNS) - ha!
Rear-ended? (MOONED) - hilarious.

Other fun fill included YOLO and SLACKEDOFF. WETNAP and FATHEAD are always funny.

I know we see GROK in the grid with some frequency (roughly twice a year, according to XWord Info), but I especially liked its clue today (Comprehend). Grok is a word that was coined by Robert Heinlein in the sixties. Allow me to GEEKOUT a moment and share that I am currently re-reading the Ringworld series by Larry Niven. IMHO, he has come up with some very good neologisms himself, even if they haven't made it to the NYTX yet.

And speaking of new words, I've got to try to memorize STAN (Extreme devotee, in modern lingo). It didn't slow me up too much, but even though I knew I had seen it in a previous puzzle, I couldn't bring it to mind. I did figure it out after I got all the downs. :|

By dunsta,2k10 - Own work, Public Domain,
In something akin to TSKTSKS, but obviously as a JOKE, I have been pointing out duplication between puzzles this week. I note a fraternal twin to yesterday's excellent "Character in 'Friends'" (SILENTI) in today's "Miscellaneous part?" (SILENTC). I love this type of clue, and am often fooled by it, but apparently not two days in a row. And here I thought XWord Info would prevent this kind of thing. SALLIEMAE.


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thursday, November 7, 2019, Joe DiPietro

46:27, FWOE

Too much stuff I didn't know took some of the shine off this puzzle for me. My first run through netted me precious little. After completely striking out on the acrosses, my first solid gets were XTC, LAURA, FLOSSIE and SNOPES.

With those in place, I made another run around the bases and managed to complete the bottom half of the grid in relatively short order. But, I had serious delay of game in the north east, only to get bogged down for even longer in the north west. I'm not familiar with the RCADOME (Former Indiana arena that hosted four Final Fours) or FANDUEL (Big fantasy sports betting site). And, while ODDS seems perfectly obvious for (9 to 5, e.g.) now, it didn't seem obvious then. I even consider OrDS for a time (short for ordinals?).

I did finally complete the north west, but failed to get the congratulations I thought I so richly deserved. Turns out I had FWOED back in the north east. I had AZOmE for 11D: Nitrogen compound (AZOLE) because, well, azole? And I blanked on 22A: Senate majority leader between Dole and Daschle (LOTT). mOTT seemed like a perfectly cromulent name for a Senate majority leader to me.

Once I corrected my error, and completed the puzzle, there was still the matter of the circled letters to attend to. I had figured out that the circled letters in the center formed a diamond shape and spelled "baseball," but didn't see how "faux" in the NW, "hope" in the NE, "Neil" in the SW, and "legs" in the SE related to baseball. Despite the presence of what might seem like bonus material (GOTAHIT, WEEB Ewbank, BALKS), those of you following along at home know that they have nothing to do with the baseball part, but with the diamond. At least I think that's the case. Three of the four words formed by the circled letters, when paired with the word "diamond," results in something I've heard of (Faux Diamond, Hope Diamond, Neil Diamond), but I'm not sure what a "legs" diamond is. Anyone?
All that aside, the fill included a number of highlights including MRFIXIT, FROZONE, MANXCAT, DENEB and GFORCE, SLEW, and

There were also these gems:
Gets a six-pack, say (TONESUP)
Swimmer with big calves (ORCA)
Character in "Friends" (SILENTI)
And, my favorite, Half-assed sort? (MULE) - Score!


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday, November 6, 2019, Ross Trudeau


I like today's theme because it works beautifully on two levels. TRIPLEX (Three-screen cinema) and "a hint to 17-, 26-, 46-, and 61- Across", Triple X, with the theme answers supplying the triple X's, as in "Raciest classification" (XXXRATING). And how about the name BUBBASPARXXX? Frances just seems so lackluster in comparison.

The down clues that cross the triple X's hold up pretty well - especially THEXPRIZE, HOAX,  and ELIXIR -  until you get to the southeast. XCI and XED ARENT extraordinary, but, to be fair, there isn't much room under the XXXLSHIRT to get a lot done. 

I think I ZEE a little eXtra bonus theme material in the grid including CRUDE, HOT, EDGIER, XOX, PET, and TITANS. Too much?

CHUM is a great word. And I learned a new expression: ICEIT apparently means "Seal the deal" - who knew? And, just FYI, I prefer NTH to ETC, as an "Unspecified series ender." There, I said it.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tuesday, November 5, 2019, John Guzzetta


I solved today's puzzle in good time, and without any ade. :) The theme answers produced four fruits within common words or phrases. Who knew you could find a tomato in a robot (AU[TOMATO]N)? And it's amusing that a lemon is WEDGEd in ANK[LEMON]ITOR. Ha. It all became clear when you got arind to the revealer at 64A: JUICYPART (Movie role with range, or what 17-, 24-, 39, 51-Across each have).

Despite the high fruit content, nothing really threw me for a loop.There was quite a bit of fill that made me say pip, pip puree including TANDEMBIKE, PEKOE, PATINA, ISOPOD, YAW, and, my favorite, OHJOY .

ABBA and KTEL make a nice pair. BUTT speaking of pairs, there were three words in today's puzzle that were also in yesterday's: NAAN, OSLO, and ROYAL. Four if you count ETAS and ETA as a pair. That really pithed me off. Not really, of course - I zest! I zest!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Monday, November 4, 2019, Trent H. Evans


Each of today's theme answers features a different metal in a music-related phrase, title, or group name - in other words, METALMUSIC. The sentimental favorite has to be SILVERBELLS (Classic Christmas song with the lyric "City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, / Dressed in holiday style"), but PLATINUMRECORDS is also precious. In a more affordable vein, we have TINPANALLEY (Old New York song publishing locale) and NICKELBACK (Rock band with the 2001 #1 hit "How You Remind Me) - something an unhappy movie goer might request in the aughts of the previous century.

Overall, the puzzle offers an ARRAY of solid fare with nothing that took too much of ATOLL. Often on Mondays, IFILL in the grid too quickly to appreciate the clues as I go, but upon review, one high point was TOTEMPOLES. I also like GOYA (Spanish artist Francisco ____), Edgar ALLAN Poe, and NAAN. Mmmmm, naan. I plan to like OSLO when I visit it.

ACHE is a cool word and AFOOT is fun. For dislikes, can I just say BEARD?


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday, November 3, 2019, Kristian House


Another big Sunday puzzle to get through. Complete with names like Tom WOPAT, TOD Browning, ZAK Starkey, ISAAK Brodsky, KIRI Te Kanawa, NEKO Case, Andrew YANG, HOWIE Long, AIMEE Mann, Leon URIS, OMARR Sydney, and YGOR. That last one did me in, as I dropped in iGOR, and never thought twice about it until, when checking the puzzle over, ran into IRONiMAN. I haven't read any O. Henry, and so was not aware that IRONYMAN might be appropriate for him, but irony is actually a word. Ah well.

Julia Child's first EMMY award, on display at the Schlesinger Library

I liked many entries today, including PRETTYUP (Beautify), EPICFAIL (Flop that's one for the ages), and SATYRIC (Lecherous). The pair of CROMAGNON (Early human) and ADAM (Early human) was cute, and I like how it could irritate both believers and non-believers, because if you accept that ADAM was an early human, you might not want to also accept that humans evolved at all, and if you accept evolution, you reject the notion of creation and Eden and all that. Heh. The things you think of while solving... and speaking of religion, when "Ararat" didn't fit at 30-Down "Biblical peak," I needed every cross to fill in the correct answer, HOREB.

The theme got a few chuckles, but not enough - for me - to overcome what I thought was a lot of difficult compromises. GAI (Chicken, in a Chinese dish), OSCAN (Bygone sister language of Latin), REOIL (Take care of, as a persistent squeak), TEM (President pro ____), GAMERA (Giant flying turtle monster of film), and the RESTE.

On the whole, it's been a good week of puzzles, though. Tomorrow, Frannie takes over again, and I'll see you in a few weeks.

- Horace

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Saturday, November 2, 2019, Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco

0:22:51 (F.W.O.E.)

Let's get right to it, shall we? SEMORDNILAP actually means "Reversible word." It is a neologism for a word that makes a different word when spelled backwards. In contrast to palindromes, which are the same word when spelled backwards. But one's plural, the other isn't. Weird.

My error did not come there, however, it came at "Like the daughter in 2018's "A Quiet Place." I never saw that movie, but I thought the title could indicate a sad drama and guessed DEAd. ELECTRICdAN didn't really make any sense at 10-Down, "Cooler filled with juice?," and I knew that, but it took me almost eight minutes to figure out what it really was (ELECTRICFAN). By the way, I saw a movie called "The Bélier Family" recently, where the daughter in the family was the only one not deaf. I can recommend it.


What about TRE? It's clued with "Pope Francis III?" Why? What am I missing here? It seems it should have an apostrophe if they are trying to say that he would use the Italian word for three when reading that roman numeral. Anybody able to explain this to me?

One last little gripe before I get to the good stuff - to me, and, I think, to many others, RICES does not really mean "Puts through a sieve" unless you take a very broad view of sieves. Sieves produce a mush. Ricing produces something that looks more or less like rice, and is often done with a grater, but special ricing tools also exist. This has come up before in the NYTX, and my rants, apparently, have been unheeded. I should give it up, you say? IWILLNOT!  :)

My difficulties soured this puzzle a bit for me, which is a shame, because there were many moments during my solve when I was happier. When I got "Weakness of note?" (TINEAR), for example, or BEET (Cardiologist's favorite vegetable?). INLEAGUE (Conspiring (with)) is a fun expression, and "Round up?" is an amusingly descriptive clue for DOMED.

Overall, NOTTOOBAD, but not my favorite.

- Horace

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday, November 1, 2019, Robyn Weintraub


When I saw Ms. Weintraub's name today I got my hopes up for an entertaining puzzle, and I was not disappointed. This puzzle is loaded with good entries - There are fourteen (!) of nine letters or more, and all of them were solid. Let's list them all, shall we?


ARTHISTORY (Major for a future museum curator) - straightforward
RICECOOKER (Steam-powered device?) - amusing
LICKETYSPLIT (Pronto) - excellent entry and clue
PRESCHOOL (Nursery) - fine
DECODERRING (Useful cryptography tool to have on hand?) - cute
ADOLESCENT (Not mature) - nice entry
LIBRARIANS (One's turning up the volume?) - SEXY!
TIMEISMONEY (Adage suggesting the value of working expeditiously) - somewhat tortured clue, and not in the hilarious way, as was true for SHE
SLAPSTICK (Monty Python genre) - Say no more!
DIRECTORSCUT (DVD special feature) - fine
SHOWERCAP (Headwear almost never worn outdoors) - unexpected
STRIPMALL (Shopping destination that sounds risqué) - amusing
MINORCHORD (This might sound sad) - great clue
ACTYOURAGE ("Don't be such a baby!") - really nice, exact clue.

That's a lot of very good material. And even the small stuff is elevated by cluing today, as in:

SYR (Setting for 44+ miles of the Euphrates: Abbr.) - Everyone loves geography!
OMAN (Arab nation once colonized by the Portuguese) - Everyone loves history!
NINE (Value not appearing on any Scrabble tile) - Everyone loves trivia!
SHE (Marine mollusk exoskeleton vendor, in a tongue twister?) - Everyone loves absurdly odd clues about tongue twisters!
LAO (Language in which "thank you" is "khob chai") - Everyone loves learning a new language!
ERGO (Post hoc, ____ propter hoc (common fallacy)) - Everyone loves Latin! ... or is that also a common fallacy?
HOW (The way) - Everyone loves being tricked into dropping in "Tao!" ...

There's just so much good! I was enjoying the solve so much that I even smiled at ASLOPE (On the up and up?), which, in a different puzzle, with a different clue, might have generated a different reaction. But not today.  Khob chai, Ms. Weintraub, for getting my Friday off to a great start. :)

- Horace