Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday, January 31, 2020, John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins

39:39, Big Fat FWOE

The above might be a BFFWOE, but it's definitely not a BFF FWOE. :( I was vexed, although not entirely surprised, when I didn't get the congratulatory message from the app after completing the puzzle. Even after I had finally spelled the excellent SRIRACHA correctly - revealing the amusing RENEW (Keep the books? - ha!) - I couldn't figure out 22A: "Know-it-alls" or 23D: "Last name on a shoe box" and sadly, no ECLAIR enlightened me. I grasped at straws for four-letter shoe makers, in no way helped by the shadowy George COE (original cast member of "S.N.L.") or "City south of Luxor (ASWAN), so I ended up trying "beAN" on for size. That gave me SWAbIS, which I thought was funny and vaguely possible, but it had the unfortunate effect, which I failed to notice, of making Mr. Coe a bit too e-zie. Although I  have heard of MCAN shoes, that sure is kicking it old school. I tried to ARGO that "Know-it-alls" is too negative to be a match for SWAMIS, but Horace suggested the clue might have been meant as 'all knowing.' Derp.

Anyhoo, let's kick up our heels and enjoy the many clever clue/answer pairs in today's puzzle. Some of my favorites were
"Where all the pieces fall into place" (TETRIS)
"Taken with" (KEENON)
"One with lots to sell" (AUCTIONEER) - Trixy! I kept trying for something in the realm of real estate.
Potter's house (GRYFFINDOR) - I needed the Alohomora spell to open my mind up for this one.
"Suggested, with 'of'" (SMACKED)
"Forks over" (SHELLSOUT) - a clue/answer pair with a nice parallelism.
"'What's the skinny?'" (ANYNEWS) - mostly for 'the skinny' part in the clue. That's a great expression.
And talk about kicking it old school with MCAN, how about STOLE for "Bit of attire for a fancy night out"? That one could have been clued, 'Succumbed to the temptation offered by a WILDPITCH.' :)

PENDULUM, ELDORADO, and ROSEBUD are also nice.


There were some clues that I thought couldn't be said to be LPN this grid reach the ACME of puzzledom, including "'Am ___ brother's keeper?'" (IMY),
"___ board" (EMERY), and "Roller-skating in the house, say" (NONO), but they were SPARS.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thursday, January 30, 2020, Emily Carrroll

17:03 (or so)

It's Thursday and we have a rebus - and a variable rebus at that. In today's puzzle, variable rebii illustrate the way one might PLAYHIDEANDSEEK by starting with [IT]COUPLE in the top left corner and moving from [COLD]SHOWER to BE[COOL] to [WARM]UP and RED[HOT] (to name only the acrosses) until LEANON[ME] is caught in the bottom right. The progress from cold to hot was well done and built drama and excitement. I found it quite entertaining.

Elsewhere in the puzzle answers ranged from JAW dropping ease to EDILE dysfunction, but in most cases, the mix of clues made it all OKIE. The only place I really got slowed down was in the midwest where a perfect storm of clues requiring knowledge of world geography (BENIN (country bordering Togo)), the order of books in the Bible (NEH (Book after Ezra)), and rappers ([COOL]IO) made it difficult for this solver to find the answers she was looking for.

Other clues that deserve to be called out are "Dollar alternative" (AVIS) - anyone else start with 'euro' there? - "One may be bronze or golden" (AGE), and my favorite of the day "A long way to go?" (LIMO). Ha!



There's probably more to say, but I'm NAGANO lie, sometimes the review just flows, other times [IT]SAJOB.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Wednesday, January 29, 2020, Jeremy Newton


I was something of a slow POKER today. The theme was fun, but challenging for me. In each of the five theme answers, an actor from a movie or TV show was "wanted" in some way. For example, the clue for 23A was "Want an actor from 'Wonder Woman'? and the answer was PINEFORCHRIS. Part of the problem was that I didn't immediately notice that the theme clues contained gender distinction (actress/actor) so I first thought of Gal Gadot and couldn't see how to make it work. It all came together, though, with JONESFORJANUARY. HOPEFORBOB was a nice throwback.

I thought the fill had some nice DEPTS to it, showcasing a fine set of question mark clues (QMCs) including "Single's bars?" (ARIA), "Vow to get even?" (IOU), "By the dawn's early light?" (EAST), and "Game of checkers?" (POKER). We here at HAFDTNYTXPFCA often contrast QMCs with non-QMCs, such as "Something most people don't go into more than once a year" (LABOR) in this puzzle. It is something I try to understand, but I am still NAAN the wiser.

Other good fill included TOQUE, FLOE, FIDO, and GUMMIER.

It gave me a small personal thrill to see GRAB clued as "Take rudely". I don't know how anyone else PHILS about it, but the recent rise in wait staff asking to grab things either for me or from me has vexed me greatly. I felt a small sense of vindication that an authority of the stature of the NYTX agrees with me that grabbing is rude. Soapbox speech is now over.


I cannot tell ELI, there were a couple of answers I thought were a little weak, in particular RID for "Stripped (of)," Cobbler's supply (SOLES), and "Word before nose or hair" (BYA).


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tuesday, January 28, 2020, Trenton Charlson


If you'll note my time, you'll C that it's a red letter day for this solver! I finally broke the six minute barrier AND it's my turn do write the review. I CANTOR believer it.

Today's theme gives the FINALFOUR a whole new meaning - one I can get behind. Each of the theme answers each ends with one of the last four letters of the alphabet, in order from top to bottom, starting with COMPOUNDW. The theme suits me to a T for several reasons. One, see above. Another is that it includes CONTROLZ - Best. Key. Combination. Ever. I didn't remember seeing it in a puzzle before and it turns out I haven't. According to XWord Info both COMPOUNDW and CONTROLZ are unique to this puzzle. G whiz!

Apropos of GENERATIONY, which I'm not, I remember a time when MODEMs were a more frequent topic. Anyone else?

There's a TROVE of other good stuff, too, from AHH to ZAIRE. And "You'll trip if you drop it" (LSD) is A material. HOODOO, TOPOLOGY, LADE, TROVE, GRANDEUR, and of course, SHAMU.


The only clue-answer pair that troubled me was "SRO" for a sold-out performance. If it's sold out, how can there be any SR? Anyhoo, that's a minor complaint. Today, I'm just happy I have nothing to EGRET.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020, Timothy Polin

8:52, FWOE

We have a group of four mustachioed villains lurking in today's grid including DRFUMANCHU, YOSEMITESAM (not too villainous), SNIDELYWHIPLASH (great name!), and CAPTAINHOOK. I did a quick image search on all four and Yosemite Sam's got them all beat in the lip sweater department.

I FWOEd in a ridiculous way. I left "Tennis star ___ Osaka" (NAOMI) blank, hoping to fill it in with the downs. One of those downs was ""Cornfield cry," which I decided was CoW, as if someone were pointing out one in the field. See how that TIESIN? Yeah, me neither. I am full of EGRETS.

I thought the clue "Mother in a stable family" (MARE) was amusing. It's nice to see EEL again. It feels like it's been a while. SPACECADET is a fun throwback. And who doesn't enjoy a MADLIB? _____ (Proper noun). And, while we're in the before time, how about the delicious fill ROCKYROAD? According to one origin story for the ice cream flavor in the Wikipedia, William Dryer and Joseph Edy gave the flavor its current name "to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression." Mmmmm, rocky road.


I don't like the spelling TEHEE for something pronounced teehee because if both vowels are pronounced the same, shouldn't they be spelled the same way? I think they  ________ (mild expletive) should. :)


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday, January 26, 2020, Erik Agard


This Sunday puzzle has a lot of theme - ten (!) theme answers plus a message that clues a little game wherein you change each theme entry to find a secret phrase. Most of the theme entries are perfectly normal things, like SKINNYJEANS and TIMEFLIES, but others, like LIZCAMBAGE (*Holder of the single-game W.N.B.A. scoring record (53 points)) and EYEPOPPER (*Something visually arresting) may not be all that common to many solvers. Still, it's quite a feat to find ten phrases that contain ten words that can be transformed into ten foods, and then to have the changed letters spell out, in the proper order, "break bread." Amazing really.

Body of water greatly shrunk by 1960s [and beyond] Soviet irrigation
And to do all that while still getting in such lovely answers as PIANOSONATAS, CATNAPS, GRAMMARPOLICE, and RINGTHEALARM, well, that's pretty amazing.

This review will be SUCCINCT, as I don't have too much more to say. I find this to be an impressive display of crosswording SAVOIR-faire. SMAZE'ing!

Frannie takes over on MONDAY.

- Horace

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020, Stella Zawistowski


Whew! That was a struggle!

But as we frequently say, we enjoy being JARRED by end-of-The-Turn puzzles. Take "Where did you go?," for instance, whose nine-letter answer (ALMAMATER) took at least six crosses, possibly seven. LABORIOUS! But in the best possible way. :)


I did not recognize Ms. Zawistowski's name, so I checked xwordinfo. This is not another debut, but it is her first grid since "retiring" from constructing crosswords in 2010. She said she came back because she had come to feel that Saturday puzzles were getting too easy. Well, Ms. Zawistowski, mission accomplished, I say.

I plodded through this one, breaking in with the very little stuff like UNE (Ravel's "Pavane Pour ____ Infante Défunte") (It could be little else), ENT (Otolaryngologist, familiarly), NEE (At birth), and LUX (First word in Yale's motto) (It's last word is Harvard's motto in its entirety). And from LUX I got LOOSEST, AUS, SOSAD, and PIXAR, and AIRBALL, and then, slowly, worked outward from there.

The eleven- and nine-stacks in the corners were really nice. I have never heard DURANCEVILE (Fancy term for a long prison sentence) before, but when I was left with guessing the first letter, it kind of made sense.

The NW was where I finished. I did not know FIGUREEIGHT (What mathematicians call a lemniscate) (I wish I had!), and I did not remember Ruth NEGGA from when we saw her on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and I made not one, but two wrong guesses (TierS and then TReES) before finally seeing TRUES.

I love a challenging puzzle, and this one certainly fit the bill. But will it play in PEORIA?

- Horace

Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday, January 24, 2020, Scott Earl


Another debut puzzle! As usual, I am PLEASED to see a new name, but how was it? Well, I think it was mostly good, but not perfect. Why? Let's investigate.


It gets off to a strong start with BLAMEGAME (Finger-pointing activity, colloquially), and includes fun fill like UNICYCLE (Travel along a tightrope, maybe), COCKEREL (Young rooster), and BLANKETHOG (Bad bedmate). I am in favor of the NODOGS policy, and HAVARTI (Gouda alternative) is always welcome, although I'm not sure why it's clued as a Gouda alternative. One is Dutch, the other Danish. I suppose they're both cheeses, but would cheddar be clued as a gouda alternative? I was actually hoping that the hidden capital would come into play, and the answer would be Utrecht, giving an alternative travel destination. Perhaps I'll STOWS that away for my own debut puzzle. :)

Another clue I didn't love was "Armed conflict, euphemistically" for NASTINESS. Do people actually use that for war? "Oh, YAH, in the sixties and seventies there was that NASTINESS over near HANOI. You know, all that stuff about more than a million people being killed?" You might say I'm being MOODY, but I think it's a little flip. And while I'm ROILED, I'll add that I also thought "Things that get hot-wired?" for OVENRACKS was trying a bit too hard.

I did like the clue for AUGUSTA (State capital with fewer than 20,000 residents). It's always nice to include a little trivia. And I was amused by the straightforwardness of "This is a test" for TRIALRUN.

And lastly, we reviewers love entries that give us a snappy way to end our reviews. To wit, ICANTGOON!


- Horace

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Thursday, January 23, 2020, Barbara Lin


An amusing and complex theme today of common phrases or things getting a tacked on "eye" sound and clued to fit the newly constructed phrase. The "goodness" ranking is as follows:

4. GIMMEASINAI (Mideast diplomat's request, when itching to be challenged?)
Where does the challenge come in? Maybe I'm misinterpreting the original phrase as "Gimme a sign," which, when I do think of it or hear it, which isn't much, I think means something like "give me a little hope." Anybody care to challenge that?

3. THEGOODWIFI (Premier internet connection?)
I think this refers to a TV show called "The Good Wife." If not, I'm stumped by this one, too.

2. ROCKSTHEBOWTIE (Proudly dresses like Bill Nye or Pee-wee Herman?)
"Rocks the boat" is much more common to me than either of the previous two, and the two celebrities are also amusing.

1. FREEVERSAILLES (Liberate Louis XIV's palace?)
Clearly number one, because of the Louix XIV reference AND because it is the most absurdly elaborate addition of the "eye" sound.

There you have it.

I assume that 1A OCULAR (Concerning vision) and EYEEXAM (It may involve dilation) are bonus fill, and I applaud them both. If only TREXES were a word meaning "addition of a sound at the end of a phrase." Pity, that, but there is one more element down at 59A AYE (Vote heard on teh floor ... and at the end of 20-, 31-, 35- and 50-Across?)

My lacunae are brought out well by this grid. First we have the aforementioned thematic elements, and then there's SONORA (Estado south of Arizona) (I've really got to brush up on my Mexican geography), and who knew people were glamping in YURTs? Not me.

Interesting about LAILA Ali. I didn't know that either!

Best clue today "Something with an "x" factor?" ALGEBRA. Get me, liking a math clue! :)

OK, gotta run. See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Wednesday, January 22, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


It's an interesting theme today, with the names of SEVENSEAS, each containing the letter C. Kind of cool, I guess. It might have been more cool if those other two Cs in the puzzle could have been avoided, but then I suppose the smoothness would have suffered. And as it is, I think the balance was pretty good.


Things got off to a good start with SNOB (Kind of wine drinker who might remark "I'm getting hints of unripened banana"), and then the nice pairing of "Tears" (RIPS) and "Tore" (RACED). It's always fun to see that kind of wordplay in the clues. ALBINO for "Moby Dick, for one" was surprising. And we don't hear the word IRENIC (Promoting peace) enough lately, sigh.

I got hung up for quite a while in the East, where CARANTENNAS (Moving targets for waves) took me far too long to catch up with! And even though I didn't enter it, I couldn't get bIb out of my mind for "It's often left on the table" (TIP), which didn't help things. I did, on the other hand, enter mUff (Ear covering) (HUSK) off the U in UPENN, and that didn't help either! And my Spanish knowledge starts somewhere around SENOR (Monsieur, across the Pyrenees), but stops just before REINAS (Spanish queens), apparently. I recognize it, but could not produce it without help. And my favorite part of that whole area was "Spare part, perhaps" (TENPIN), which should come easily for our friend Huygens, who has been doing a lot of bowling lately.

It's a decent Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tuesday, January 21, 2020, Carl Larson


I did not recognize Mr. Larson's name, so I took a quick look over at to see if it was a debut puzzle, and guess what? It is. Turns out Mr. Larson is living the dream - retired at 56 and making up crossword puzzles about beer. OLEOLE, I say! Congratulations, Sir!

blue STEEL

Today, in each corner we find, stashed away, a SIXPACKOFBEER - Stella, Amstel, Corona, and Miller. One cannot argue with their popularity, even if one might not, given almost any other choices, order one for himself. Still, I like the theme.

And it's not just the presence of beer that I like today. Look anywhere in this one and you'll find something good - SELFCARE and ICETONGS in the SW, FIERCE FAMILY QUARRELS in the SE, the fun QMCs in the NE: "Tiny sound?" (INLET); and "Hit from the '60s?" (LSD). There's a geologic reference "Layer below the earth's crust" (MANTLE) and a silly James Bond reference ("Live and Let Die villain" (MRBIG)), and even a Hamilton reference (BURR) for the kids. And who doesn't like the word "Rummage" (ROOT), or FOOFARAW?

In fact, this thing is practically FREEOF black MARKs. Maybe a TEENY bit of BRS and SFO, but overall, it's ACES.

- Horace

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Monday, January 20, 2020, Evan Kalish


Today Mr. Kalish starts with a doodle, works it up into a sketch, then a drawing, and finally he ends up with a puzzle that's pretty as a picture. Each of the four theme answers is perfectly cromulent, and they don't overload the grid so much as to compromise the other entries.


In fact, there's plenty to ENDORSE outside the theme - GINKGO (Chinese tree with fan-shaped leaves) is beautiful, GAGREELS (Collections of funny outtakes) is amusing, NACHOS are delicious, MELODY (Tune) is pleasing, and PARTYGOER (One attending a shindig) is fun. Any reference to Orwell (NEWSPEAK) is doubleplusgood, and that's not just duckspeak!

It's hard to find much to dislike in this one, so I'll pick on the clue for CARAT (A diamond that has one is moderately expensive). A diamond doesn't have one carat, it is one carat. Wouldn't the clue "A diamond that is one is moderately expensive" have been just fine? I mean, wouldn't you be wondering, "what else is a diamond but a diamond?" Oh, I don't know... sometimes I think I might be a bit too rigid about language. And for what?

Really, I like this puzzle a lot, and I think it's a fine start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, January 19, 2020, Victor Barocas


Happy Sunday, Dear Reader! It's Horace, taking over from Colum last week and Frannie the week before that. I have been in something of a crossword funk lately, so I was happy to be reading their fine reviews instead of writing my own, but now I think I'm coming out of it - and just in time! I had a fast, clean puzzle yesterday, and although today was not what I would consider a fast solve (≈ 32 min), it was at least clean for me - and it was fun!


I tend to like a puzzle that plays with the geometry of the grid, if that's even how you describe this. It's given away somewhat by the circles, but as you have seen, the word "gene" appears, circled, diagonally, four times, and each time it spreads out one horizontal and one vertical answer. My favorites are the longer sets - PLANTA[GENE]TS (I think Frannie is related to the Plantagenets in some distant, "wrong-side-of-the-sheets" way. You can ask her about it at the A.C.P.T. if you see her there.) and EU[GENE]IONESCO in the NE, and FRONTPA[GENE]NEWS and RE[GENE]RATION in the SW. The other two sets are not bad, but who's ever heard of a HED[GENE]TTLE, really, or cares to remember the DOD[GENE]ON?

It's a complex theme, and I think the overall grid suffers for it. The structure is somewhat closed, with shorter fill, and some of that is not terribly satisfying. Take, for example, CAF (Latte choice, informally), SPAD (W.W. I French biplane), ITOR, LARC, ONER (which I have only ever seen in puzzles - never in print, and never aloud), EDOM (Ancient Dead Sea land) (which I have also never heard of, but this time it's on me), and ENCYCSTS - yuck!

I look ASKANCE at those, but there were plenty I liked, too:

Two solid QMCs -
ATM - (Tender spot?)
KNEE - (Provider of child support?)
And two solid non-QMCs -
JETS - (Shark fighters)
AUTOSAVE - (Insurance for the crash-prone) Only just now did I realize they were talking about computers!
And the always popular -
CASHMONEY - (Greenbacks) Who doesn't like that?

I also enjoyed the strange clue "Good for leaving handprints in" (WET), because the cement part is just understood. And lastly, I chuckled when I put in the answer for "Nyah, nyah!, e.g." I'll have to remember to ask Colum if he felt that the editors were trying to TAUNT him for his initial answer to "Winner winner chicken dinner!" yesterday. :)

- Horace

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Saturday, January 18, 2020, Ryan McCarty


Now that’s what I call a challenging Saturday themeless! That huge chunk of white space in the NW corner, the clever clues, the ways I got tricked... Just the way I like them, and a great capper to The Turn this week.

I worked my way through nearly the entire puzzle with little to show for it, except several mistakes. I put ICEcAstleS and IDOS in, but found myself stymied for the moment in the NW. Then I moved on to the NE where my first big mistake came. At 10D: “Winner winner chicken dinner!” I put taUnt, then compounded that mistake by putting in rUby, and compounded THAT mistake by entering thrEedmovie at 9D: Leisure activity for which you need glasses (WINETASTING). That is an outstanding non-QMC, by the way.

Sometimes, though, getting something wrong can make you get something right, and here I entered POPAWHEELIE from the one correct letter in that long incorrect answer, and that opened up the entire NW for me. I love 14D: Baste (SEW). What a great example of how the English language has so much ambiguity in its definitions. SLIPSHOD is beautiful, and how about the delicately understated 13A: Some naturally heated pools (LAVALAKES). Well... yes, you’re right, but not the kind of pool anyone would want to take a dip in!

IVEMOVEDON - so good. And I love 26A: Green people (NOVICES). Meanwhile, SIDEWALKART moved me into the SW, but nothing else came for a while. So I fixed up the NE corner by finally removing my incorrect answer when NADIR and KNEES made it clear it wouldn’t work.

So much goodness I don’t have space for it all. I’ll close by noting the two answers clued by “shade:” TINT and TAD. And the third “Shaded area” - UMBRA. Taking full advantage of English.

Have a lovely weekend, and Horace will be taking over again tomorrow. I’ll have to remember to ask him what he thought of today...

- Colum

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday, January 17, 2020, Ryan Patrick Smith

5:40 (FWOE and one typo)

I had a lot of fun solving this puzzle; so much fun that I was very disappointed to get the “Fiddlesticks” box popping up when I put the last letter in. My error came at 2D: Area between mountains (VALE). I put in dALE, and AdCLUB seemed weird but possible. I’ve not heard of AVCLUB as a website.

My typo came at UBOAT. Somehow I put a U in instead of the A, probably because my fingers wanted to type “about.” So maybe that’s just another error. Especially since now that I have a wireless keyboard instead of a touchpad keyboard, I thought I’d be done with typos.

So them’s the sour grapes. The rest is gravy.

Let’s start with OLIVIAWILDE, director of the really outstanding movie “Booksmart.” I can’t recommend the movie more highly. It was incredibly enjoyable and funny and intelligent. So props to Ms. Wilde, who also gets the honor of having her entire name in the NYT crossword. I’d guess the success of her movie probably means a lot more to her.

Meanwhile, look at how much other loveliness is in that NW corner. You get the classic REBECCA, Greek legend ARIADNE, and the silly slogan LIVEMAS. The NE corner adds two more well known and smart women in ISSARAE and THERESAMAY.

46A: German marks (UMLAUTS) gets high marks for humor. That trio of TRUDEAU, TITULAR, and VESPERS is brilliant.

My only thumbs down come with SEES and ACER, the first for being clued after candy I’ve never heard of, and the second for being something nobody says when referring to a tennis player. “Boy,” said the sportscaster never, “Rafael Nadal is sure a fine acer.”

57A: Made a fast stop? (ATE). Hah!

- Colum

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thursday, January 16, 2020, Erik Agard and Jeff Chen


To give you an idea of the kind of day I had, I spent over two hours at the Albany DMV, waiting to get my “enhanced” driver’s license. There were maybe five people working the counters, and probably a hundred people waiting. Everybody got a ticket at the door with a letter-number combination. But not all in the same groups. For some reason, there were people with T200, some with Q400, and my group, with U800. Some had C10, and others were just 4010 and following. It was completely unknowable how soon you would be called. Why? Nobody knows.

Likely protests would have gone unrewarded, or worse, unnoticed. Even if I wanted to TAKEAKNEE, the floor was not inviting for the risk of making my pants dirty. Fortunately, I got to return home and do the puzzle, where the theme answers literally take the sound “nee” to make a new word or phrase.

Thus, 21A: Word following sing or play, which should elicit “along,” instead gets NIALONG, the well known actress from Fresh Prince and Boyz n the Hood. I’m glad I looked her up, because I got her confused with Nia Vardalos. The best of the answers was 27A: Language that’s the source of “gesundheit” (JOURNEYMAN). The original term, German, gets a complete makeover with the addition of the “nee” sound. HONEYBEE is pretty good too. And, let’s be honest, BROWNIE’s good too, because chocolate.

Silly me! I was wondering why GENEALOGY would be the answer for 34D: Study of rocks. But it’s another theme answer, hidden in the down direction (geology). Very nice!

I also liked INUKTITUT, because that’s some great crazy looking letters, and EXAMTABLE is nice as well. And this puzzle wins for best clue for old crossword standbys with 62A: It has cork and a bell (OBOE). I’ve got nothing to remember to ask Horace and Frannie about today.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 2020, Mary Lou Guizzo


On Weird and Wacky Wednesday, you never know what you’re going to get, much like with a box of chocolates. Today, it’s idioms that have arisen out of boxing, and impressively, all five answers are 15-letters long. So, in a longstanding tradition here at HAFDTNYTCFCA (if you wonder what that means, you can look in Horace’s glossary post), I’m going to rank all five answers in the horribly subjective and biased way that is my opinion.

5. 56A: Hold back (PULLONESPUNCHES) - I’m not a fan of the usage of “one’s” in these 15-letter answers. I understand that “your” would make for more difficult fill, but still.
4. 22A: One engaged in friendly contention (SPARRINGPARTNER) - The clue is on the awkward side.
3. 17A: Engaged in foul play (HITBELOWTHEBELT) - just because it makes me wince.
2. 49A: Cry “Uncle!” (THROWINTHETOWEL) - very good, but just below
1. 36A: “Oh, now they’re really going to fight!” (THEGLOVESAREOFF). 

And if you have a different opinion, well, bring it on! I’ll meet you in the ring! The metaphorical ring, of course. I’m not actually going to engage in fisticuffs. I probably don’t even know who you are, mostly. Although I’d certainly like to get to know you, my faceless readers. Perhaps over a drink at the ACPT?

But I digress.
The Milkmaid HANGS in the Rijksmuseum. I’ll have to remember to ask Horace and Frannie if they’ve seen it in person 
The rest of the puzzle is marred somewhat by a reliance on proper names. I count nine of them, including brands and place names. HAAS and ANKE are the toughest of the gets. Guess I need to know my tennis and golf better. I did like the opera subset with ERITU (often clued without the full aria title - I just found out it’s from the opera Un Ballo in Maschera by Verdi) and ENTR

TWOHIT feels a little ad hoc. I don’t imagine that we’re likely to slide into the territory of “three hit” or “four hit,” but it’s not an accomplishment that has merited its own phrase before this. Otherwise the puzzle was perfectly cromulent.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020, Jim Peredo


It’s irate animal day! Furious fauna! ... Peeved pets?

Bet (semi) seriously, folks, Mr. Peredo has offered us a puzzle whose theme consists of a set of creatures with mean attitudes. I think we’d all agree that ANGRYBIRDS, RAGINGBULL, and even GRUMPYCAT are well accepted and widely known examples of this particular set.

But I’d argue, as much as I truly love Eric Carle’s work, The GROUCHY LADYBUG is a much more obscure piece of work than, say, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Or even The Quiet Cricket. That last one was my daughter’s favorite. She used to be able to say the whole book by heart, even before she was able to read. The fact that the name of this particular piece of “kid lit” had to be split into two parts in the puzzle made it less impactful.

But only a nitpicking simian would note such small details. In other news, TRASHY RUNNY SNOT. That’s an odd collection of words to be found right next to each other. I am impressed by the chunky corners of this Tuesday grid, with such lovely answers as CABARET, SIBERIA, CARAMEL, and TOUCANS.
Dutch ALES. I’ll have to remember to ask Horace and Frannie about them
I had no idea the word PEON came from Spanish. So there’s a nice piece of trivia. On a completely unconnected note, MASHABLE made me think (incorrectly) of T.H. White’s “Mistress Masham’s Repose.” Perhaps I’ll go read that.

- Colum

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday, January 13, 2020, Alan Arbesfeld


One place I really hate sitting is in the MIDDLESEAT. My long legs don’t tolerate the cramped position, and you don’t get the benefit of a window to look out of. Not too mention having to get up and sit back down constantly.

I wonder if Horace and Frannie have flown on KLM, that well known DUTCHAIRLINE? I’ll have to ask them the next time I see them.

Oh, the theme?

Right! So, Mr. Arbesfeld has found five phrases where a type of seat is hidden in the middle. Notably (like yesterday), each seat spans across the breaks between the words. Does that make them a pair of aisle seats? Hmmmm. This will take some more thought.

Also notably, there are no circles or darkened squares to give away the locations of these hidden seats. You’ll find them as follows:

AL[OTTOMAN]AGE (excellent, that one)

With that many theme answers (including the revealer), it’s no surprise that the fill suffers. See YAWL, OCTANT, CYST, WAH, OLEO. That last one is so old, it deserves an EGAD. Does anybody take an oleo these days? I mean, really, butter is just better.

So, a fun theme, which for me outweighs the less enjoyable fill.

- Colum

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sunday, January 12, 2020, Evan Mahnken and David Steinberg


I’m back on board for my first week of blogging of the new year, 2020, Lord help us. In this peculiar weather (I took a run yesterday in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt), I no longer know what to expect.  And to top it off, I’ve got huge shoes to fill after another fun week of Frannie’s crazy reviews.

Today’s Sunday grand extravaganza takes the names of states and finds them in anagrammed form within longer phrases. All of the theme answers are done exceptionally well: note how the hidden anagrams cross multiple words in every case. Also, each of the complete phrases is a lovely answer in its own right.

For the record, here are the hidden states:

AFRICANLION (California)
SQUIRRELEDAWAY (Delaware) - my favorite of the bunch.
PERSUASIVEWRITING (West Virginia) - impressive!
SWORDANDSHIELD (Rhode Island) - this one took me the longest to figure out.

Elsewhere, I found myself most befuddled by 22D: Sticky roll (SARAN). I wanted “pecan” there at first, but “Freedom of the seap” clearly had to be incorrect. Other than that area, there was really hardly any resistance at all, and I found this Sunday puzzle to be on the easy side overall.

My most amusing difficulty today was misreading the clue at 41D: Noted export from Holland (TULIPBULB). I read it as “expert.” So I had TULIP___ in place, and I was thinking, “tulips pro?” Well, I’m sure there are such highly respected floral adepts in the Netherlands. I must remember to ask Horace and Frannie the next time I see them.

- Colum

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday, January 11, 2020, Andrew J. Ries


EGAD, this was a tough nut for this solver to crack. That's to be expected on a Saturday, I suppose, but man, parts of it gave me AMAJOR pain in the brain. On my first pass, the only answers I got immediately and with a fair degree of confidence were "Tool used on a padlock" (BOLTCUTTER), "Acrobat's platform" (ADOBE), "Bee activity" (SEWING), and "Pen pal's request" (WRITEME). Thanks to the two successes in the southwest, that corner fell first.

Elsewhere, in several cases, I had the right idea for the answer, but the wrong word. I started with 'caN' instead of TIN at 5A, 'Yog' instead of YRS at 46A, 'eta' instead of ARR at 8D - and, as an aside, 'eta' instead of nothing, which is what I had until I finally figured out where the emphasis was meant to go in the clue, and that goes ditto for the nearby "Grand standing" (PRESTIGE) - 'GOahead' instead of GOFORIT at 40D, and 'intestine' instead of PVCPIPING for "Makeup of some waste lines." Yes, I went there.

Other clues that were real attention GETTERs:
"Experience" (UNDERGO)
The emperor's old clothes? (TOGAS)
"Came down hard (on)" (POURED)
"V formation" (NECKLINE)


There were several things I didn't know such as BEERLEAGUE, TARPONS, and "Conference foes of the Buffaloes." For that one, I tried epee, item, and olio, but it was no UTES.

At 15A, "Number six in a group of five" was a valiant effort to boost ESP, but I didn't love it. OMEGAS (Series finales) wasn't high on my list either. "Lux. locale" (EUR) wasn't a favorite, either. In fact, that whole row is a little weak. The southern row of threes, on the other hand, was better, especially FIB for "'This tastes delicious!,' maybe." LOL.

It's been a fine week of puzzles, if on the tough side for this MIR mortal. I've VALUED our time together, but now it's time to EAVE things in better hands. GOFORIT Colum. YOLO!


Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday, January 10, 2020, Brendan Emmett Quigley


I didn't solve this one very quickly, but no matter, I was very happy not to have to TAKETHEL. And speaking of Take the L, that southeast corner is where it almost happened. I was kerflummoxed by SEEPIER - I had lEakIER for too long, thanks in part to the initial L being supported by my incorrect guess of UCla on the down (Golden State school inits). I should have gotten UCSB sooner - having recently donated to the school, I've been getting a lot of mail from them of late - but still I didn't think of it. AFROFUTURISM didn't leap to mind. And BLESSME if it didn't take me forever to come up with that equivalent for "Goodness gracious!" I tried mercyME and woEiSME and I don't know what all. The other answer in that area that threw me for a loop was STRIPS for "Funnies." Of course, I totally get it once I got it, but I don't know that I've ever heard them called that. Anyhoo, that corner was a real humdinger, but in the end, I was EPT. Ept!

In contrast, the southwest to northeast diagonal went pretty smoothly. I wasn't fooled for a minute by "A home in the major leagues?" (OAKLAND). I also enjoyed "One who goes through the motions?" (LAWYER). I liked SOPSUP and then SEETHE for "Boil." APPLESHORTCAKE was a bit of a surprise. I've never had that kind of shortcake. Funny that APPLET shares a P with it.


"P's and q's typer" (PINKIE) and CENSE for "Perfume" were tough for me, but good. However, I was, and still am, confused by SIL for "Meaning of an embossed 'S,' maybe." What's that about? On the other hand, I loved the next clue "Smack on the street, e.g., for short" (PDA) - ha!

"High winds" for OBOES was excellent. I also liked BITMOJI, OMNIBUS, SPYRING, SIPHONOFF, and LETHARGY.

All in all, a fun PLAYAREA for this solver.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Thursday, January 9, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


This puzzle suited me to a T. Well, most of it, anyway. I glommed on to the trick pretty quickly at the top of the northeast. I wanted "Leave this to me" (8D) to be ONIT, but that wouldn't fit. When the next clue (9D) was "Religious group," which had to be SECT, I realized we solvers were supposed to use the four T's formed by the black squares in the grid as part of each answer that abutted them, [T]OSTAR[T], at the end, or both. Getting a free letter - and in some cases two - for 36 answers made ALO[T] of it seem easy.

But, I got mighT stuck in the northwest. There was so much I didn't know in that corner, starting with the word BROODER as a heated house for chicks, I've never heard of BHAJIS (Spicy Indian fritters), despite a love of Indian food. (I looked them up just now, and according to the Wikipedia, outside of certain Indian states, they are known as pakora, which, I *have* heard of. Mmmm, pakora.) The Downs were no help. It took me forever to settle on SETTEES for "Couches" - good one, though. Both PRELUDE and CORONET eluded me. Eventually, the hint in 22A: "Spanish boy's name related to the sixth month of the year" was sufficient to give me JUNO[T], and then flash of insight gave me IDES[T] for "Clarifying phrase." [T]RUEDA[T].

Anyhoo, I've gone on about that [T]OULON. Let's get to the fun part. In addition to the sort of metasolve, I enjoyed many clues and answers including:
"They leave in the spring" ([T]REES) - ha!
"Cry at night" (HOO[T])
"Mince words" (EDI[T])
"Get with the program" (INSTALL)
"Sailor vis-a-vis a sail (HOISTER)
And "Make like" for ENDEAR is also nice.

Other fun features included two answers that looked the same in the grid, one [T]ROU[T] and the other [T]ROU. Those two were followed by the antonymic  pair [T]IMID (Not so brave and determined) and STOU[T] (Brave and determined). It was an added bonus that the clue to the left of the center plus sign was "Plus" (AND).


PRERIGS, SOCORRO, and RUPIAHS - not to mention BHAJIS - were a little far out for me, but I enjoyed the puzzle so much I'm inclined to be LENIENT. :)


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Wednesday, January 8, 2020, Amanda Yesnowitz and Joon Pahk


Today's theme answers are, according to the revealer, ABPOSITIVE, which in this case means that they are two-word answers where the first word starts with an A and the second with a B. Our first sign of the theme came at 17A. Little did I realize when I entered ALARMBELLS (Early warnings of danger) that I would nearly flounder on the shoals of the Isle of FWOE a few minutes later.

But all that was in the future. I got off to a good start with this puzzle, and, unlike Chili's appetizer with a rhyming name (AWESOMEBLOSSOM) I continued right along, dropping in ISH, MRTOAD, and FETA as fast as I could type. I wasn't sure of the spelling of MORRIE, but I knew who we were looking for. I didn't hit my first real snag until I arrived at COLOMBO. As our esteemed readers know, this reviewer's knowledge of world capitals is slim - A negative for puzzle solvers, that's for sure. However, I managed to move on and things went swimmingly until I arrived in the southeast. That's when things started to get a little fishy. I couldn't get the two side-by-side question mark clues (39- and 46-Down) right off the bat. Not knowing "Workplace of Jack Bauer on '24,' for short" didn't help. My guesses of FBI and CIA did not crack the case. And, even though I knew AGNUS (Sacred lamb, from the Latin,) the 'GS' start to 46 down (Outerwear?) was making me second guess myself. Things were getting tench and I'd just about haddock when suddenly a ray of inspiration struck, and I finally figured out GSUIT and CASTLEING. Wahoo!

Speaking of weird looking fill, how about these two cod looking answers?
"Spill the tea!" (DOTELL)
"Soft drink brand" (AANDW)


It was a fun puzzle, and I don't want to B negative, but let's just say these three answers weren't my type:
Yardstick part (EDGE)
Encapsulation (ESSENCE)
Flashy one, for short? (PHOTOG)


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Tuesday, January 7, 2020, Ross Trudeau

10:02, FWOE

Fun theme today giving us three expressions that represent different kinds of OUTSIDESHOTS: basketball's THREEPOINTER, a hopeful's GHOSTOFACHANCE, and the photographer's LANDSCAPEPHOTO. Now that's thinking outside the box inside the Box.

The solve went right along at first - I seemed to be on Mr. Trudeau's wavelength - but I was rushing a bit, trying for a fast time, and I misread the clue at 23A as 'One of 10 felled in a stroke.' I thought the clue must refer to some myth or similar story so when I entered PEEkSAT for "Gets a furtive glimpse of" (14D), the resulting cross of kIN seemed perfectly cromulent. However, when I finished the puzzle, I did not receive the customary congratulatory message. A quick check of the completed grid didn't reveal any non-words, so I had to go back and re-read each clue. It was at that point that it struck me that 'stroke' was really 'strike' and that PIN was the correct answer, making the perfectly acceptable (but usually unacceptable) PEEPSAT for 14D.

There was a lot to like in the puzzle. I enjoyed both BEDHOG (One monopolizing a mattress) and OVERSHARING, especially the clue, "Describing one's bathroom routine in detail, say." Ha.

"Island ring" for LEI, "Like cocoons and cotton candy" SPUN, and "Beyond well done" BURNT were all good. And SCHISMS is a great looking word.

Also, in reviewing the puzzle, I thought it was kind of funny that 54A is "What a lenient boss might cut you" (SLACK) was followed by "Gave the heave-ho" or AXED. Together they almost make a little story.

Did anyone else enter lpS first for "Audiophile's rack contents"? I did, thinking of the surge in the popularity of vinyl records, but CDS was the correct response.


Despite the high number of 3-letter words, not too many ughs except maybe ALG and ERS. And "Relative via remarriage" (STEPNIECE) seemed like a it of a stretch, but who am I to criticize? I think URAL agree that seeing FWOE after a solve time makes bad OPTICS for a reviewer.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Monday, January 6, 2020, Tess Davison and Kathy Lowden


My solve time is exactly 6 minutes on January 6. While that's kind of neat, one of these days I would like to get a sub-six time when it's my turn to write the review.

One bright facet of today's puzzle is its theme: birthstones, clued by the month they are associated with. There are five theme answers in all: the birthstones for April, May, June, July, and February. In the Times Crossword app, when the answer GEM at 11A is highlighted, the theme answers appear in bands o'er the grid. There was an additional theme-related answer UNCUT (Rough, as an 11-Across). Of the available gems, I like AMETHYSTS best both word-wise because it looks the most odd, but also looks-wise, although my favorite precious gem stone of all is sapphire. Interesting that crossword darling "opal," October's birthstone, didn't make the cut. :)

Other treasures in the puzzle included VACATE, GENT, ELASTIC, TUNIC, and GLUT.


There were only a couple of features that I didn't take a shine to in today's puzzle. I never enjoy the inclusion of 3-letter partials, in this case ASA (___ rule, typically). The only other clouding for me was AILERON (Airplane wing feature) and SAG-AFTRA (Hollywood union) which, on their own, seemed like a bit of a stretch for a Monday, although the crosses were rock-solid. All in all, a fine way for me to ring in a new year of reviews.


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Sunday January 5, 2020, Will Nediger


Today being stressed is fun! Seven theme answers play with stress by cluing common expressions to force a change in pronunciation. Take PROJECTGUTENBERG, for example. It is the oldest digital collection of freely available digitized books. But when given the clue "'We can't hear you in the back, Johannes!'?" it is necessary to move the stress on "project" from the first to the second syllable to make the answer correct for the clue.


My favorite of the theme answers is PERFECTSCORES (What composers do when they add the finishing touches?). CONTRACTTERMS (Shorten words like "forecastle" and "boatswain"?) and DISCOUNTSTORES (Ignore what you have in reserve while taking inventory?) are both a little forced, and I must be missing something with CONVERSEALLSTARS (Encouragement at an N.B.A. mixer?), because I don't know the "encouragement" meaning of "conVERSE."

In non-theme material, I loved the NE corner. The stacked Downs - NOHELP, APOSTATE, SEASONAL, and ACRONYMS (Nascar and FIFA, e.g.) are all strong, and the top four crosses were all clued well, I thought. There's the clever "Mission-driven org." for NASA, the interesting trivia in "Intl. group founded in 1960 with five members" (OPEC), the tricky "Winter leaf covering" (HOAR) (I first tried "rime," but is that only when it's on the ground? I should probably look that up, but I'm in a car at the moment, so I'll do it later), and finally, "Place to fill up in Canada" which, I thought, was at least trying to put an interesting spin on the old crosswordese, ESSO. And under those is the first of a fun pairing: "Brown in a Food Network kitchen" (ALTON). It's mate, "Brown in the kitchen" (SEAR), appears a little further down on that side.

DOJO (Martial arts center) and DUMA (Russian assembly) made another pair - of foreign four-letter words starting with D. :) And "Samoa salesperson" (GIRLSCOUT) had me worrying for a bit - "What do I know about commerce in Samoa?" thought I...

It was fine. I like playing with language, but I wish I understood the last one better. Or at all, really.

- Horace

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Saturday, January 4, 2020, Adam Aaronson


Wow! What a way to end the week. I very much enjoyed this debut (!) puzzle from young Mr. Aaronson. So many good entries, and so much tricky cluing! I'm not quite sure where to start... so I guess I might as well start at the beginning.


SWEARWORD (You may see stars because of one) was amusing when it finally hit me. Did you notice that "telescOpe" fits in that space? I actually thought of "haymaker" first, but it was too short. And it was only after my customary morning expresso SHOT kicked in that I was able to finally correct it all. It was also partly due to the gimme of HAMBURGLAR (Antagonist of Ronald McDonald). Hah! I think I confuse OCTOBERSKY with "Vanilla Sky," but I've never seen either, and only one is an anagram of "Rocket Boys," so that eventually worked itself out too.

Coming off of all that, ABOSYSTEM (It describes your type) (blood type) was a challenge! As was the other total unknown (to me) RLSTINE (Author of "One Day at HorrorLand"). And YESSIREEBOB ("Indubitably") was fun, but its symmetrical counterpart WORLDWARIII (Potential cause of the apocalypse) was a little too "real" today.

I had "Strait" clogging things up for a while in the SW, where the excellent SLUICE (Waterway) belonged, and after the SWEARWORD up top, I was in the wrong mindset when I came to "Blue Words" (IMSAD). The three Ss are fun in MISSSAIGON, and they kind of mirror the cluster of Ss in YESSIREEBOB and OGRESS.

I found the whole thing a BEGUILING challenge. For me, the CLAPOMETER is in the red zone, and I'll be watching for Mr. Aaronson's byline in the future!

- Horace

Friday, January 3, 2020

Friday, January 3, 2020, Will Treece

0:15:19 (FWTE)

It's been kind of a sloppy solving week for me. Lots of errors. Today, when I read the clue "Riboflavin, alternatively," and saw that I had BT__ already filled in, I finished it as BTen, and never looked back. Is there even a vitamin B-ten? The correct answer, as you probably already know, is BTWO.


But enough about that. This puzzle features ten (!) eleven-letter answers, all of them interesting. I especially like pairing the two Down answers as commentary: PLASTICCUPS BRUTALITIES against the environment. (And I would have preferred "Recyclable party supply" as a clue!) WETHEPEOPLE should TAKEREVENGE by not buying or using any more plastic than is absolutely necessary. UNFRIEND me if you must, but I still say HELLNO. I'll have no GRANDKID ( that I know of ;) ) to suffer through whatever future awaits, but as an UNCLE, I still have all the FEELS, as I think the young people might say. ("Sorry," to any young people who might be reading this.)

It was a fun challenge, this puzzle. Things came slowly, and I often had to work methodically through crosses. Luckily, some big things went in rather easily, like RITZCRACKER (Saltine alternative) and THEFORCE (Something a Jedi uses), which seemed almost too easy, didn't it?

But other things, including the two trivia questions "Article of furniture first used for medical purposes" (WATERBED) and "Program that started as SoundJam" (ITUNES) took quite a few crosses.

On the whole, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Only IOR stood out, and at least they gave that a humorous clue (Poster finish?). Heh.

Here's hoping I can finish the week tomorrow with a clean solve!

- Horace

p.s. One of my New Year's Resolutions (which I don't make) was to try to be ego-less. As I re-read this review, I see I have some work to do!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Glossary specific to this blog

While the three of us were together over the New Year's holiday, Colum had the idea to create a glossary that might be of use to those new to this blog. And since we are people of action, we present it to you now. It will be subject to revision, but at least this is a start. If, in the course of your reading, you come across acronyms or words that you do not know, please feel free to comment to let us know, and we will update the glossary accordingly.

For more basic terms like "Fill," "Theme," "Constructor," etc., please consult "How to Solve the New York Times Crossword Puzzle" on the New York Times site.


C/AP = Clue/Answer Pair     

We're a little Acronym-happy here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA. This one's just shorthand for taking a clue and answer together.

DNF = Did Not Finish

This is used to admit defeat - that there was at least one square that could not be filled in correctly before giving up. Sometimes we use this tag even if, after discovering the correct answer, we realize it is something we should probably have gotten, or that makes sense now that we think of it in a different way. Other times, even if we really didn't know an answer but it's just one square (or two), we'll use FWOE or FWTE. It's a judgement call, and we don't judge - use whatever you feel is appropriate.

FIC = False Imperative Clue

This is our acronym for clues like "Wait here!" for "RESTAURANT," or "Listen here!" for "EAR."

FWOE = Finished With One Error
This tag has a few different levels of severity, and can be used differently by different people. It signals an error that results in not getting the "Congratulations" message immediately upon filling in all the letters. Sometimes the "Error" is just a typo or an honest mistake that probably would have been caught before handing in the puzzle if solving on paper, and sometimes it's a real mistake.

FWTE = Finished with Two Errors
As above, only for two incorrect squares. Any more than this, and it usually changes to a DNF.
HAFDTNYTCPFCA = Horace and Frances Discuss the New York Times Crossword Puzzle Featuring Colum Amory
The official acronym for the official name of this blog. It rolls off the tongue.

KITWO MOMENT = Confusion caused by the mis-parsing of an answer.
Once, when all three of us were solving a puzzle together, and the answer to "Peak on the Pakistani-Chinese border" turned out to be KTWO. For some reason, even though each of us knew of the mountain's existence, we did not, perhaps, know exactly where it was, so it didn't come immediately to mind, and for a minute or so we all were saying "Kitwo?! What the hell is kitwo?!?"

KOFCA = Known Only From Crossword Answers

Often seen as KOFCA-esque. These are words we think are chiefly known from their use in crosswords. It all depends, of course, but many solvers might know words like "etui," "ogee," and baseball's ALOU family from crosswords. KOFCA-esque words differ from "crosswordese," in that "crosswordese" is used (by us anyway) for well-known words that appear frequently, like "Oreo," and "Erie."        

NYTX = New York Times Crossword

Pinwheel Theme = A theme with material in both the Across and Down answers.

QMC / Non QMC = Question Mark Clue / Non Question Mark Clue
Sometimes particularly clever or tricky clues end with a question mark, sometimes they don't. Sometimes we feel it's necessary, sometimes we think it gives too much away.
Revealer = The Clue/Entry pair that explains the theme

The Turn = The Thursday, Friday, and Saturday puzzles taken together as a group
The week of puzzles can be divided into three groups: The "early week" puzzles, all relatively easy, each with a theme; the Sunday puzzle, unique due to its larger size; and "The Turn," or the three "end-of-week" puzzles. Thursday often has a special trick, and Friday and Saturday usually contain the cleverest clues and the most interesting entries. This last group is our favorite, so we gave it a name. 

ToC = Tricky or Clever

Used as shorthand for the category we like to call "Tricky or Clever" clues.

Thursday, January 2, 2020, Ed Sessa

0:09:52 (F.W.O.E.)

If I were to voice a NIT about the revealer today, it would be that THEDARKSIDE doesn't really work for me as an explanation of why four of the black squares are standing in for the word "dark." One "side" of each of the answers is dark? Hmm... And the slight imperfection of "theme entry symmetry" is also troubling ... but maybe they expected my displeasure and the word NIT is really intended to be part of the theme... :)


A couple other things left me feeling a little in the dark, too, like "Guy in a suit" for JOHNDOE. Does that seem like enough to imply anonymity? Maybe. I guess... and is an ELF "famously nonunionized?" Is there some long-standing joke about that that I've missed? Again, maybe.

Happily, I KNEW STEPH Curry and India.ARIE from prior puzzles, but my error came at LAMARR (Hedy of old Hollywood), which I KNEW by sound but not by sight. I boldly (and rashly) dropped in LAMAaR, and never went back to look at 26A: Surprise winner (DARK]HORSE). Maybe if that "Finished" button that I wish existed were available, and I had been able to take one quick look at the grid before the final judgement was handed down ... but no. Sigh.

I haven't thought of the word JAKE meaning "A-O.K." for quite some time. Is that usage still copacetic? And how do we feel about UAR, EEO, and RESORB? Oh, I don't know... maybe it's just a little post-New Year's let down for me. I do have to go back to work today for the first time in what seems like a long while. And we did get a fun puzzle yesterday, which was a nice surprise, so maybe I should just put this aside and move on.

I'll see you tomorrow, when hopefully my dark cloud will have lifted.

- Horace

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Wednesday, January 1, 2019, Jeff Chen and Christina Iverson

0:11:59 (F.W.O.E.)

Remember the Y2K scare? Hahahahaha... those were the days. It seemed like such a big deal, and then it was nothing at all. Well, maybe there were a few little glitches here and there, but elevators didn't plummet in their shafts and planes didn't fall out of the sky mid-flight, as some predicted. And not only that - it seemed like such a monumental milestone, the year 2000. Now it's 20 years ago. Time....  who came up with that crazy idea?

But let's not waste any more of it and get on to the review, shall we? It's a special day here at H&FDTNYTCPFCA, because we're all together out at Colum's house after another fun New Year's Eve party. Lots of eating, drinking, and game-playing. Talk about FINDINGDORK, I think we all did pretty well for ourselves. :)


So anyway, today's theme takes Y2K literally, swapping the two letters in four theme answers:

MAKOCLINIC (Employer of nurse sharks?)
KELPREVIEWS ("It's green and slimy" and "It tastes like the ocean"?)
FINDINGDORK (Nerd's goal on a dating app?)
ENDOFSTORK (Pointy bill or tail feathers?)

It's an amusing set. My favorite is KELPREVIEWS, and ending with ENDOFSTORK is an elegant touch. Not unexpected, though, from a constructing pair that includes such a pro as Mr. Chen.

And now Colum has jumped in to put in his two cents... I'm impressed by the level of skill in the construction of this Wednesday puzzle, a day that often has the oddball grids. Look at those lovely down answers, such as 9D: Fictional sport whose rules are invented during play (CALVINBALL), and 2D: State of mind (HEADSPACE).

But I will disagree with the clue at 6D: Times New Roman alternative (ARIAL). I will never take an Arial.

And one more paragraph. Y? Because Frannie wants to add her 2. K? That's WEAK, you say? Perhaps, but since we, of the mostly FAKENAMES, are the puzzle review OVERLORDS, you must ACCEDE. However, in the spirit of the New Year, I resolve to try to DUEL better this year by TYING to work in some AONE material.

Happy New Year!

- H&F&C