Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020, Caitlin Reid


Welcome to The Turn! I've been looking forward to this part of the week ever since reviewing Sunday's puzzle (titled "Turn, Turn, Turn"). And today's puzzle certainly did not disappoint.

I am excited to say that the very first square I entered was the rebus at 1A/1D. I looked at 1A: Pirates, say ([BOOT]LEGS) and thought, hmmm. That looks like it should be something along the lines of "steals," but that doesn't fit. Then I looked at 1D: Rigorous training courses, and immediately thought [BOOT]CAMPS, but that didn't fit either. And the other shoe dropped, as it were.

Aha! I thought to myself. I've figured out the rebus so quickly. I'll finish this puzzle in no time at all. The revealer in the center came in time, at 35A: Goal-scoring opportunities in soccer ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme (CORNERKICKS), which reinforced that I was going great guns. Then I hit the SW corner. "Boot" no longer worked.

Okay, okay, so you've all got it by now. Each corner square is a rebus filled with a kind of footwear, also known to the young 'uns as "kicks." I liked the SE the best, with LEMON[WEDGE] (mmmmm... lemons...) and 62A: Bunker need (SAND[WEDGE]), which is a nice misdirecting clue.

Meanwhile, look at all of the lovely fill we get today. 35D: University of Oregon logo (CAPITALO) made me stare for a while before I parsed it correctly. I love 30D: Affectionate nose-rubbing (ESKIMOKISS), and 27D: In which nothing is everything (NIHILISM) is just a perfect pairing of clue and answer.

You know you're going to love a puzzle when AAMILNE finds his way in, in his entirety. ANIMAL and MINERAL were a nice pair as well.

Anyway, overall a lovely offering from Ms. Reid. Nicely done.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020, Joe DiPietro


Nine theme answers in a 15 x 15 grid? Is it possible? Certainly, if you get a great deal on those answers. And today's puzzle offers us HALFOFF (24D: Discounted 50% ... or a hint to the answers to the starred clues)!

Mr. DiPietro has come up with eight examples of phrases or idioms where the same four-letter word is repeated twice, and then fills the answer with only one of the words. Thus, 16A: *In rapid succesion, in slang (BANG[BANG]). CRAY[CRAY] is the most modern example, and maybe the least recognizable to folks. The answers are all pleasingly arranged around the outside of the grid, and all of them are strong examples.

I've been wracking my brain to come up with other examples of this sort of thing, but haven't been able to come up with any. So don't go about saying POOH[POOH] to this idea.
Wherein BALIN resides
ITSSAD, but I don't love the fill on this puzzle. I'll start with 33A: Thick, liquidy servings (GLOOPS). I really don't know what to do with this. It's not something you'd be likely to call anything in real life, and furthermore, I can't imagine you'd ever say it in the plural.

And then you have 55A: In the very recent past (ADAYAGO). Really? Not, say, "an hour ago?" Or "last week?" These sorts of answers are so vague as to be meaningless in response to the clue.

Maybe I'm just JADED. I didn't even fall for 36A: What's found once in a generation? (SOFTG). I did like SPINCYCLE, which is something I do every time I get on my Peloton.

- Colum

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tuesday, April 28, 2020, Joel Fagliano


Apparently, this puzzle was a real twial for me. We can start with the fact that I entered OLDBAGOFTrIX, clearly missing the twick of the puzzle entirely. And ignoring the fact that it would be a weird bag of Hallowe'en candy that held just loose sugary breakfast cereal.

I couldn't see SLANG, even with SONIA in place. My mind wasn't even convinced that her name wasn't SOfIA for a while. I wanted imho instead of FWIW (29D: Texting equivalent of "This is just my opinion, but ..."), this time ignoring the fact that the word "opinion" is already in the clue, so it wouldn't be in the answer (even abbreviated). I put rATTY in for a while instead of the definite "huh?" of TATTY (41D: Ragged). I wanted "olio" for 9A: Hodgepodge (HASH), and I'm glad I was wrong.

Too twue. Whew!

But all that's okay. Once in a while, it's good and humbling to have a puzzle that WHUPS your behind (relatively speaking).

The theme is fun: take phrases whose last word begins with TR- and treat it as if you were a three-year-old who can't pronounce the letter R. In three of the four examples, the respelling with a W results in a completely different looking word. Thus "trees" becomes FAMILYTWEEZE. Cute. The final answer at 46A: CliffsNotes version of "Huckleberry Finn"? (HIGHSPEEDTWAIN) is so lovely that it doesn't matter that the word didn't change appearance.

MAJORDOMO and FACESWAP are nice answers in the fill, as is the complete SAMSPADE. Tough to have old clunkers like OLLA and STYE in the puzzle. And it probably would have been more elegant to avoid TWIT in the fill. But overall, the theme made the puzzle a definite tweet.

- Colum

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday, April 27, 2020, Ed Sessa


Hello, faithful readers! I'm feeling a rush of gratitude today for being able to share this little corner of the internet with each of you. Something to take one's mind off of the burdens of the day, whether they're big, like, say, a pandemic, or small, like stubbing your toe. I wonder what you might call an instant of awakening like that?

Well, anyway, since nobody has come up with an appropriate phrase to describe that lightbulb going off, let's talk about the theme. So the revealer is AHAMOMENT, which is literally taken here to represent phrases where the first word starts with A and the second with HA. We get four strong examples today, with ANGELHAIR, ACEHARDWARE, ACCIDENTSHAPPEN, and the immortal ARSENIOHALL. I loved him in Coming to America, with Eddie Murphy.

Nothing much more to say about the theme. It's simple and well done, although you might ask why those four particular answers. It's nice to have the revealer at the end, because it does, in fact, provide its own example of itself. I had no idea why those answers were related. I thought there might be some sort of vowel progression, but didn't waste time thinking too deeply on it.

Perhaps AAH is almost a theme answer?
Filled with EPICHEROES
I enjoyed AERIALIST and ANCHORAGE. Otherwise, not much to report. Happy Monday, everyone!

- Colum

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday, April 26, 2020, Royce Ferguson


Well, folks, here we are again. The weeks go around, and we turn over from one reviewer to another; thus I find myself at the helm of this blog once more. Has anything changed? Do we all feel like we're just on the hamster wheel in this crazy period of world history? Is this too much for a Sunday morning?

Fortunately, as an antidote to too much depressive thinking, the puzzle offers us an invigorating CAR ride. Amusingly, the car itself is hidden in tunnels, all of which take a turn. To be honest, if you imagine the word "car" going across the three black squares of each tunnel, you'd have to imagine a vehicle with a hinge in the middle of it. But this is a silly nit to pick.

Instead, let's focus on the nice work done in finding eight words or phrases which can be split into three words. For example (and near and dear to all of my Fenway friends), 1A: 1969 hit for Neil Diamond (SWEET[CAR]OLINE). The third part of the answer is clued with 23D: QB-protecting group for short (OLINE). I also liked REIN[CAR]NATION and FLYING[CAR]PETS.

It's a little unfortunate that two of the theme answers use "care" in the same sense. But I'll overlook that. It's a fun theme, and I enjoyed figuring out the answers. The bonus of TUNNEL VISION was lovely as well.
In English translation, it's A Void, and it's ELESS

I did not love some of the fill answers. DEIS and RADIOSHACKS are forced plurals that would never occur in real life. RET and PSY are uncommon abbreviations. GAYETY is an archaicism that no editor would STET. And why is ELROY in every other puzzle (it feels like)?

But on the positive side, you have such craziness as BILOXIMS (I've been there but never gambled there) and XLSHIRT. There's the insane crossing of EXPO, XMAN, EXMARINER, and XMASES, all also crossing Santa, who pre-xmas, MAKESALIST.

17A: Risk maker (HASBRO) didn't fool me for a second. The only difficulty was remembering which company makes the board game. A very nice hidden capital.

We'll keep on churning forward.

- Colum

P.S. Congratulations on your debut, Mr. Ferguson!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Saturday, April 25, 2020, Andrew J. Reis


DACAPO, it seemed like this puzzle would be easier for me than others this week and that proved to be the case, although I did have a brush with FWOEness. I was stuck on one square at the cross between "Chi-Town exchange" and "Cooler." I put the puzzle down for a few to go for a walk, and when I looked at it again, the prison-based meaning of "Cooler" popped in to my brain, and I was able to finish with a flourish of the PEN. :) I still don't know what MERC is, but it seemed plausible *and* it was correct, so I WON that one. :)

My favorite answer today was for "Relief pitcher of old." At first, I was silently cursing my lack of sports knowledge, but the answer was ROLAIDS. Ha-larity and excellence all rolled into one. And no need for a question mark because the clue was perfectly apt. Apt! "Text massage" was also fun, especially as a clue for the old chestnut EDIT. Similarly, "Attorney's favorite dessert?" for TORTE was in very good taste. And "Flight simulator" (STAIRMASTER) is some high level cluing - not to mention the nice hidden capital in "Met demand, maybe" (ARIA). Bravo!


While I'm at it, ISLE also mention the ADEPT use of ambiguity in the following clues:
"Creep" - is it a noun or a verb? - verb! - (TIPTOE)
"Split up" (APART) - see above, same question, different answer!
"Silver for one" (NATE) - although this one didn't fool me, it could have.
"Fly catcher" (MITT)
"What one might be represented by" (INDEXFINGER) - ha!
"Hot" (STOLEN)
"Swindle" (ROOK)
And, "Help to hold up, say" (ABET) - criminally good!

It's Saturday, so all bets are off, but I did think "City whose name means 'eagle' in Russian" (OREL) was a WHIT on the esoteric side, but it was gettable, as my completed puzzle can ATTEST. I feel a bit of an ASS for even mentioning it because I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle so much, but as a reviewer, could ILIE?


Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020, John Guzzetta

28:11, FWOE

Readers, I was RASH, because in a rush, and I FWOEd again. This has not been my week! I couldn't understand what the clue "Round measures" was getting at, so I threw in an F - don't ask me what a 'fIRTH' of a pound is, because it isn't. I did come up with the correct, sort of, 'jIBE' for "Mock," but as you see, I was fixated on the alternate spelling, GIBE. Derp.

I liked IDAHOS for "Certain spuds," and BEDAMN for "Swear at" - is that even a real word? - but not so much "Clearheaded" for ALLTHERE. "They have little respect for brand names" (CATTLERUSTLERS) was very nice. OPENSATAB for "Prepares for the bar?" was amusing. I also enjoyed SKIRT for "Go around." The southeast was the most BUSY with fun fill. I enjoyed MINOTAUR, ARCHAISM, and TOMBOYS. I also enjoyed TOTHELAST and TIETACK.
By Rick Goldwaser from Flagstaff, AZ, USA - GnarlyUploaded by Hike395, CC BY 2.0,
Please hold your HISSES, but I really have to EXPEDITE today's review. STELAE later!


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020, Yacob Yonas and Erik Agard

25:33, FWOE

Perhaps I am fulfilling my own prophecy, but today's time + FWOE do seem to support my theory that this week's puzzles are a little harder than some - at least for this solver. The answers today ranged from easy peasy LEMONY squeezy (e.g., "'___ whiz!" GEE) to what the? (e.g., "Gesture from a coach not to swing at the next pitch" TAKESIGN). In RE my FWOE, looking back over it, I don't feel too bad about it. I had GoTITNOW,which I feel is as valid an answer for "Question after an explanation" as GETITNOW.  If I had any notion of "St. ___ (district in London), I might have been able to GETIT then, but only after looking at the solution could ISEE.

Today's revealer explains that in each theme answer there is a "RE" relocation. When writing it out, it seems like you almost have to double the RE to make the exact nature of the transformation clear: it's a RE relocation that occurs. An example might throw a little more light on the subject. For the clue "Financially behind" one might guess INTHERED, but the letters RE are relocated and the correct answer is INTHREED. I had a tough time parsing that one, especially when I hadn't yet figured out the theme. In relocating the REs, the constructors have made valid new words or phrases, but to what end, I'm not sure. Possibly, just because they could.


I tried 'Blue' before BEAN (Navy) 'street' before DOMAIN (address), and I wanted 'bat' before CUE; I've never really thought of pool as a sport before. It seems like more of a game to me, but my notions may be skewed. I had the most trouble (FWOE aside) in the southwest where "Playing field?" left me at a loss (ACTING) and "Scrambling words" would have been perfectly apt had the clue been 'scrambling for words' (IMLATE).

Dear one? ABBY is very good. I also liked "Was able to acquire, informally" (SCORED). "Barely best" for EDGEOUT was interesting and ABORTED for "Scrubbed" was nice and tricky. "What it takes years and years to grow" (OLD) and "Final figure" for NET were also very good. But my favorite answer today was AMULET for "Spell check?" Charming! :)


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, Jules Markey


This puzzle features some literal PRIMEREALESTATE: THREEMILEISLAND, SEVENHILLSOFROME, and the THIRTEENCOLONIES. It's nice because it works on two levels. :)

My time was a little slow again today. I have gotten past being duped by "sign of summer," (generally leo), but I was tripped up this time by "Sign of autumn" (LIBRA) - same clue, different season. DUMB. I was also stumped for too long by "12/31". I was thinking more along the lines of 'nyeve.' DAFT. The real answer, RATIO, is much better and works as bonus theme material. My final sticking point was the northwest - too many options for some and too few known answers for others. I don't know many Doors songs and I've never seen "Apocalypse Now." I didn't think of either ATEIT for "Fell on one's face big-time" or BITEME, for  "Buzz off!" which seems a bit on the harsh side of possible synonyms, IMO.
Photo by Tom Lingner
But, let's leave all that in the PABST and get RITES to the good stuff. How about "Give out one's address?" (ORATE) and "Establishment with steep prices?" (TEASHOP). Excellent! Also clever, but less hilarious to me was "Revivalists, for short?" (EMTS). While the QMCs were funny, I also very much enjoyed two of the non-question mark clues, "Looked too soon, say" (PEEKED) and "It's a knockout" (ETHER). In the fun fill department I nominate

I don't really like the word "Dearie" or its two answers in this puzzle (BABE and PET), but that's only 2 out of 75 answers that I wasn't UPON. You do the math.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Andrew Kingsley


Are the puzzles running on the tougher side so far this week, or is it me? I started by going straight across - probably the mark of a true duffer, but it's what I usually do - and I ended up with very little to show for my efforts. I couldn't guess TAPES for "Some preserved conversations" or PPP for "Very softly in music." Is that for piano, piano, piano? The first answer I did get was ATEST, then nothing again until SERAPHIM and ONO. The row after that netted nothing, so I TAPSON the iPad screen and suddenly ATHENA answer or two, and off I went.

Today's theme is a real peach. The revealer points out that the five starred down clues, each a nice answer in its own right, has a FRUITTOPPING. I enjoyed the notion that FIGHTERJETS have a FIG on top. Somehow PLUM as part of PLUMAGE seems right. I was prepared to dispute PEARLYWHITES because I didn't see the PEAR within the PEARL at first, but then I did. :)

CURLICUES, WHIM, and LOWTIDE are lovely fill, and I think KNOB is a berry funny word.

And how about these apples?
"Minor throat problem" (FROG) -
"Makeshift pencil holder" (EAR) - anyone else try cup first?
"Someone hell-bent on writing?" (DANTE) - ha!
"Things retirees wear?" (PJS) - LOL.

I can't believe I'm so late with the review, but you know what they say, "time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana," and I've got to split.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020, Lynn Lempel


Today's theme answers are made up of two words, each of which, when paired with the word BOY from the revealer (BOYOHBOY), make another word. For example, from BALLGAME (Something to "take me out to," in an old song) you get BALL BOY and GAME BOY. My favorite was HIGH BOY. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, the "BOY" part of the name for a tall piece of furniture is a corruption of the French word for wood. I guess we have to admit that sometimes bois will be boys.

I did get a little hung up in the middle east. I had erroneously entered ILIa Nastase (of 1970s tennis) so when I got to 42A I had _OWBaLL, which tempted me to drop in the letter L. The corresponding down,"1950s Coummunist-bashing grp. in Congress," was no help. Fortunately, however, I stopped to consider why lOWBALL would be a "Means of locating one from the herd," and nothing came to mind, so I LOOPed back to consider the theme and was able to get more COWBELL into the puzzle - like everyone likes!


I thought LATEEN "Triangular sail" was a little esoteric for a Monday puzzle, but I was happy to see it as a reminder to write in to the creators of our other daily word game, "Spelling Bee" to try to get the word "luff" accepted.

There was also fun fill like JOSTLE, JUMBOTRON, TOOLUP, and YOYOS. And I enjoyed the references to some favorites like CARL Sagan, ALEC Guinness, and ACADIA National Park.

There was a lot to like about the puzzle. It had that nice clue precision I enjoy and for most of the grid, I read the clue and was able to type the answer right in. I particularly enjoyed STUFFS for "Fills tightly" and ROUT for "Crushing defeat."  You could say that this one is a poster boy for a good Monday puzzle. :)


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday, April 19, 2020, Jeff Chen and Jack Mowat


The Masters was postponed this year, but it was originally scheduled for last weekend, which makes me wonder about the timing of this puzzle. Was it held back a week because last week it would have been too disappointing for many fans to have been reminded about the cancellation? No... that can't be, because then why would they run it just a week later? Well, none of that really matters, I guess. So nevermind.

Please don't call her SCARJO, she doesn't like it.

Today Messieurs Mowat and Chen tee up a bagful of golf puns. They were all pretty good, each getting a little chuckle or at least a smile when I finally got it, but what I appreciated more were the many tricky (to me, anyway) clues scattered about the grid.

Right off the bat we had two in a row - "Place to visit in a suit" which said nothing to me until crosses eventually revealed the answer to be APIARY, and "Sign of winter's end" (PISCES) - the likes of which we have seen before, but which fooled me for too long as I struggled in vain to make "robins" work.

And what about "Like kids, but not mom or dad?" for PLURAL, or "Something consumed with a cracker?" for WALNUT. Question mark or no, those two are still ELEGANT. And speaking of QMCs, Even STU was elevated by "VW predecessors?"

Sure, there were a few oddities, like BOBSTAY (Rope holding down a bowsprit), ARFED (Yapped like a dog), and LYSE (Disintegrate, in a way, as cells in the body), but they were well overshadowed by the fun theme and the abundance of fun clues and solid entries. And I didn't even mention BATSIGNAL (S O S in Gotham City), TOUPEE (Spot coverage?), STRUM (Pull some strings?), or "Spoilers, of a sort" (NANAS). Ok, well, now I did.

It took me quite a bit longer than some recent Sunday puzzles, but it's ok. I've got time.

- Horace

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday, April 18, 2020, Ryan McCarty


A solid finish to the Turn today with this chunky grid from Mr. McCarty. First off, I like the pinwheel pattern. And even with all those crosses to manage, the only entry that got a groan was RADIUMS (Isotopes of element #88). I'm sorry to lead with it, but at least it's now out of the way, and we can dig into all the good stuff.

The most satisfying entry for me, personally, today was ALYDAR (Runner-up to Affirmed in every 1978 Triple Crown race), which I entered (although, admittedly, misspelled at first as ALoDAR) off the A in CHANEL (Who said "Fashion changes, but style endures). It's not something that I knew was in my head, but when I saw the first letter and the length, it just came out. And it can really only have been from seeing this SI cover

on the ceiling of my brother's room while I was growing up. He lined the slanted ceilings with SI covers, and I think I know a lot more about 60s and 70s sports because of it.

So that's a little something about me (and Bobby), but let's get back to the grid, shall we? Other things, for me (always back to me, I see...), came a little more slowly. Like GASCAPS for "Tank tops?" - for which I confidently entered "turretS," or LOTTERYPICK (Reward for a bad N.B.A. team), where highEstPICK also fits. Maybe I don't understand the system (it wasn't spelled out on SI covers in my youth, apparently), but I thought lots of teams got LOTTERYPICKs, and the worst ones got the first ones. Anybody?

And how about the lovely heteronym clue for TBAR (Tower on a mountain)? I kept thinking, "'Radio antenna' doesn't fit... and aren't those tall things just called towers?" But no, they were talking about the freezing cold metal poles and crossbars that HAULUP skiers. And I've mostly seen them on the bunny slopes, where nobody is really used to them, so sometimes there's a lot of DRAMA as novices try to half-sit, half-stand in a moving line of people wearing six-foot slabs of wood on their shoes. Fun times.

What was your favorite entry?

- Horace

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday, April 17, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


I like how my reviewing week has been lining up with Ms. Weintraub's puzzles lately. I got one in early March, and here's another one today! And as usual, it was a smooth solve RIFE with fun entries.

Be thankful this blog doesn't have Smell-O-Vision!

First off, who knew that SILAGE was fermented?! It's grass that is tightly packed and stored without drying it out first (unlike hay), which sounds a lot like making sauerkraut to me. It almost makes me want to try some! ANYTAKERS? Learning stuff like this is just one of the many pleasures of crossword puzzling.

I've neither read nor seen "A Winter's Tale," but still I have heard of the famous stage direction "EXIT, pursued by a bear," which got the puzzle started off with a chuckle. (Maybe I should make time during this strange time to read it.) The "Weekend shopping venue" (GARAGESALE), made me think of my Aunt Nancy, who normally spends every weekend of the spring hitting as many such sales as she can up and down the lower coast of Maine - at least she usually does, but this spring is a little different. ... sigh. And speaking of Maine, TOPSCORE made me think of going to arcades in Maine with my brother way back when. When he got the TOPSCORE on Missile Command, he would enter his girlfriend's initials instead of his own, which I thought was a pretty nice tribute.

Speaking of games, I'm not sure why it's terribly surprising that no team from ASIA has ever won the FIFA World Cup. It's not really even surprising to me that the U.S.A. has never won a world cup. It's just not done. The World Cup means South America and Europe. Period.

Loved the Non-QMCs for ELECTORATE (Seasonal pickers), ROADATLAS (It's bound to show you the way), and EXILE (One who needs to go). And while the "in a way" and "say" are kind of like question marks, I still enjoyed the clues for PLOW (Get off the street, in a way) and TOUCHTYPES (Enters without looking, say).

The Turn is off to a fine start, I'd say. Hope you enjoyed it too.

- Horace

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020, Alan Arbesfeld


A modest Thursday trick today, but a pleasing one. The perfect revealer DROPMEALINE ("Don't be a stranger" ... or what you have to do three times in this puzzle) explains the broken entries KISS[ME]KATE, THANK[ME]LATER, and HAND[ME]DOWN, where the word "me" is dropped to the line below the other two words. Very nice.

Vivien LEIGH as Scarlet O'Hara

I caught on quickly, and the puzzle went along so smoothly that I barely noticed that in the Across entries containing the "me," the "me" had to be ignored. I knew SHA Na Na, but that was right when I figured out the trick, so I just kind of ignored the SHAME entry. Then in the third themer I think I actually thought NOTIME could be used for a "Denial of responsibility" and didn't even notice the "Not I" answer, so when I was left staring at TH_ME with the clue "Repeated word in the Ten Commandments" I briefly wondered if "time" had been spelled with an H and a Y in the Bible... and it was finally the "Elizabethan dramatist Thomas" KYD that made me put in that Y.

I don't know a MOSELLE (French white wine) from my elbow, and I didn't know "Mother of Helios" (THEA) or "'Kung Fu' actor Philip" AHN, but everything else went in pretty quickly. Dropped in ESKER (Ridge formed by glacial streams) off the clue (Thanks, Dad!), and wasn't fooled a bit by either "Ties to the Japanese?" (OBIS) or "Paperwork?" (ORIGAMI). In fact, those are two QMCs where the QM gave it away. I did at first enter CAPisce for "Get it?," instead of the more colloquial CAPEESH. Was the question mark in that clue trying to alert me to the informal entry? Hmm... I wonder.

All in all, a fun Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020, Jeff Chen and John-Clark Levin

0:08:26 (F.W.O.E.)

What a lovely, tidy theme today: Four words that take on a new meaning when the first letter is moved to the end (HEADTOTOE) - while all other letters remain in the same place - and, they're all anagrams. I'm not sure whether or not computer programs were used to find these, but even if they were, it's pretty cool. The best of the four pairs, in my opinion, is EMANATE/MANATEE, but HOLDSOUT/OLDSOUTH is also good, and the words could conceivably be used side by side in a sentence - "Against reformation efforts, the OLDSOUTH HOLDSOUT." Too soon?

A carbon fiber ENDPIN by Alberti Design

It's the second vertical theme in a row (which I think is just as valid as a horizontal theme), and it also features non-standard horizontal symmetry.

The fill contains a few unusual names: ROSTAND (Edmond ____, "Cyrano de Bergerac" playwright), EFREM Zimbalist, and Nora EPHRON, and even though I've heard of that last one, I somehow conflated her last name with the violinist's - and possible with the idea of anagrams and things that were similar - and entered EPHRam. I changed the A to an O when I got LOGO, but never did check on yet another name, the "Princess of Avalor, on a Disney show" (ELENA), and so ended up with a FWOE.

The puzzle has a bit of violence, with AVENGE, KNIFING, and FISTS, but it's also got some downright AFFABLE entries like the lovely SINUOUS (Curvy), the always amusing WHATTHE (Cry of disbelief), and those lovable weirdos, the AMISH. And who doesn't love an OTTER? (But do they become slightly less lovable when we are reminded that they are a "Member of the weasel family"?)

For me, the theme is cool enough to carry the day. RAH! I SAYTO you.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020, Joe Hansen


I've got to give these puzzle-makers a hand for coming up with so many novel themes. Today, Mr. Hansen debuts in the NYTX by raising a finger at traditional construction norms - the puzzle is not at all symmetrical, and the theme is one I've never seen before.


If we look only at the shaded areas, it looks a little like a fist with one finger much higher than the others, but if we take the entire entries that those representative, shaded words are in (as I'm sure we are meant to), it looks more like an open hand.

On my own hand, the ring finger is longer than the pointer. I have never really considered this before, at least not since I was little, when it was not possible to Google something immediately. Now, however, I can quickly find a site that says having a longer ring finger could mean that I'm "less anxious, better at visualizing 3D objects rotating, and have more athletic abilities." Another says that "the shorter your index finger, the sharper your tongue," but it also said that men with shorter index fingers tended to be nicer toward women. There's even a site that says the finger ratio could relate to the length of other anatomy. Interesting. Who was even AWARE this was a thing? MINDBENDING!

After all that research, looking at the rest of the entries seems like a bit of a comedown. Was there anything in particular that WOWED you? Me, I've never seen OZARK, but I like the word, and I generally enjoy Jason Bateman. And I wonder if anyone was tempted to enter "apple" when reading the clue "Company where the computer mouse was developed" (XEROX). Marketing is everything.

Lastly, I wonder how many of our readers use the term COMICS, and how many call them "funnies," which is what we used to say when I was young. Maybe it has something to do with the size of my pinky relative to my thumb... anybody else say "funnies?" Can I see a show of hands?

- Horace

Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020, Evan Kalish


It's a rainy, windy day today in the Northeast, and that kind of weather can make me MOAN and cry "Enough already!" (STOP), but this fun puzzle makes me feel a little better about it. The somewhat unorthodox theme starts with mere DROPS that slowly trickle until they turn into a stream, a river, a flood, and eventually overflow into SEAS and an OCEAN. I don't think I've ever seen a theme that incorporates both individual entries (DROPS, SEAS, OCEAN), and pieces of compound entries (TRICKLEDOWN, STREAMLINE, RIVERDANCE, FLOODLIGHTS). It's also not entirely symmetrical, unless ARIA has some hidden watery meaning... and then we've got a couple bonus items in BATH and ICE. It's a full and unusual theme. I like it!

ZOOEY Deschanel

And even though the grid is awash in theme, Mr. Kalish still found a way to float several TALLONES that rise above the waterline of basic, mundane fill. I'm sure he was quite satisfied with HEDONISTIC (Committed to the pursuit of pleasure), for example. SIXTEEN (Four by four?) gets a fun clue (See also: "____ in!" ("Get ready for a wild ride!") (STRAP)), and TERRACOTTA (Warm-colored pottery material) is attractive. HAIRLOSS (Reason for Rogaine) is a bit of a downer, and so is RADIUM (Element discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie) if you think too much about it. So let's think instead of things like Mardi GRAS and HULA dancing.

And everyone loves a DILL pickle. ... but why is DILL relish so hard to find? In my market, there's jar after jar of sweet relish, and just one or two of DILL way off to the side. Hmph!

I hope you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did. Now it's time to hunker down and ride out the storm. I hear tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and near sixty degrees. :)

- Horace

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020, Joel Fagliano


Baristas... are they still working? Can you still get coffee to go? I kind of think you can, because the neighbor across the street drives out every morning and comes back with something in a cup... Me, I'm my own barista, and I was quite thankful when I learned that my preferred coffee roaster was not only still open, but could deliver beans direct to my door!


Today's theme is seven perfectly normal phrases that have all been re-imagined as having some relation to coffee. It's incredible to me that not only were these seven phrases found, but they can also be placed symmetrically into a crossword grid. The little "story" that ties them all together is cute too.

In the non-theme material I like STEALTHY (Like ninjas), PHONETAG (Series of missed calls) (Do people still make calls?), CHARADE (Absurd pretense), and LAUREL (Source of bay leaves). I chuckled at both the Non-QMC "Dinghy thingy" (OAR) and the QMC "Spell the wrong way?" (HEX). Also, speaking of QMCs, there were only two in the whole puzzle today, the other being: "Book that's out of this world?" - a not hilarious, but an interesting clue for ATLAS.

Other Good Non-QMCs:

15D: When you might run away from home (ATBAT)
88D: They usually make the cut (SCISSORS)

I'm not terribly familiar with the phrase "Weak TEA" for an unconvincing argument, but I might try to incorporate it into a conversation or two to test it out.

- Horace

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Saturday, April 11, 2020, Erik Agard and Wyna Liu


Well, we've made it through another week of quarantine. Shout out to all the essential workers out there on the front lines. [Words of agreement: AMENTOTHAT, DARNTOOTIN].

A really tough Saturday today to wrap up the week, which is certainly to be expected from Mr. Agard and Ms. Liu. As an example of how challenging their cluing was, let's look at 10A: Pedal-operated instrument (HIHAT). I automatically put orgAn in, but took it out quickly. I thought about a harm and a loom, neither of which fit. So that one went empty for quite a while. I hardly gave a thought to the drumset's cymbals on a stand.

Here's another stumper: 10D: I, for one (HALOGEN). Very nice - the periodic table symbol for Iodine, which is the halogen class of elements. This was made more difficult, potentially, by 48D: I, for Plato (IOTA).

34D: Move like a bear (SELL) is sadly apt for our current times, referring to a Bear market rather than the animal. Note how that answer's first cross, STAGS, in fact does refer to animals rather than money (34A: A couple of bucks).
9D: Ribs course? (OSTEOLOGY) is a reach. Most of us would call a course on the human skeleton an anatomy class, or, as it was in my medical school, the Musculoskeletal theme. So while I didn't love that QMC, I did very much appreciate 55A: Tucked in at night? (ATEDINNER). That's the perfect form for a QMC, IMO: a clever reimagining of the words.

The best non-QMC came at 31D: Holder of miniature blocks (STREETMAP). I was thinking something along the lines of a Lego box, initially. Then when I had ___MAP in place, I thought of some sort of bitmap (where the miniature blocks would be pixels, but that's a real stretch). No, we should be thinking of city blocks, shrunk down to fit to scale on the map. Very nice.

So, another week gone, one where we've all been forced to take WHOLERESTs. All we can say to the virus is HAVEAHEART. Stay safe and healthy, folks.

- Colum

Friday, April 10, 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020, Byron Walden

4:04 (sort of)

When I entered 2D: Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex," for one (ORATORIO) without a cross, my first thought was, we've seen this exact clue recently, haven't we?

Well, yes, some of us certainly have, as it turns out. If you look back in our blog to Saturday, March 21, you'll see a special report I wrote "from" the virtual crossword tournament this puzzle was the capstone for. It was a ton of fun, and now I get to share with you the very cool puzzle that Mr. Walden wrote to finish things off. There were tough clues and easier clues. The tough clues were super tough, to the degree that the winner took nearly five minutes to finish the thing. I laugh, because I gave up and went to the easier ones.

I'm pretty sure that this version is the one with the easier clues. As I recall, the tough clue for 20D: Pac-Man and the ghosts, in Pac-Man cereal (MARSHMALLOWS) was something to do with an ancient Greek cough remedy. Mind you, I think they were talking about the plant or the root or something, not the puffy things we like to use on our s'mores. Interestingly, HEPPLEWHITES got the same clue in both versions.
Jessica Jones, SNOOPER
30A: Deterrent to squatting (WIFIPASSWORD) strikes me as odd. Is there a special kind of squatting where you piggyback on somebody else's wifi? So it turns out yes: that Googles well. It did seem to me as I solved it last month, that if one is desperate enough to illegally occupy somebody's unused domicile, it would hardly matter if the wifi is available or not.

18A: Shot in the back (EPIDURAL) is a fine non-QMC. 36D: Self-serving comment? (ONEFORME) is an excellent QMC. These illustrate the classic conflict we here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA like to dissect.

I cast aspersions on LEAFER and BETON. Otherwise it's a very clean grid. Just a pity that I'd done it before, so my Friday was not as inspiring as it could have been.

- Colum

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Thursday, April 9, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


On day 295 of quarantine...

Okay, I know that's an exaggeration, but it surely feels like it.

As it wears longer and longer, little things can take on huge significance. Like if for example a carton of blueberries and a carton of raspberries falls out of the refrigerator and spills all over the ground? That's a fruit salad gone to waste, and who's even going to get to the supermarket to replace them? Who, I ask you? WHO?!

Once again, the crossword puzzle has the opportunity to TEACH us some peace and relaxation, and maybe inject some OPTIMISM back into our daily lives. Today's grid tricks us using MORSECODE, by substituting the letters T and E in the clues with - and . respectively. The resulting clue now looks like something else reasonably found in clues. For example, 25A: Big nos. (SCHNOZZOLA) is not asking about abbreviated trillions, but instead "Big nose."

That was the first theme answer I filled in, but I didn't exactly get what was going on. I worked my way down the east side of the puzzle until the revealer became clear, and then I looked back and got it. I really love 49A: Mil. post, say (ROADMARKER). You might think that was an abbreviation for "military," but no: it's "mile." Nicely done.
Good clues today include:

1D: Made some calls (UMPIRED) - an excellent non-QMC.
13D: Log splitter (AXHEAD) - I'd wondered if that was going to refer to a person who snores, perhaps influenced by SLEEPLAB.
30D: Talking point (PODIUM) - this reminds me of a clue that Frannie called out last week.

LIFEHACK is a great answer, as is MRTOAD. A very pleasant Thursday, and a nice start to The Turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wednesday, April 8, 2020, Sam Buchbinder


Hello everyone! Passover begins tonight, and we'll be having a Seder with just the nuclear family. Just a reminder that all plagues pass eventually, and we'll be getting back to some sort of normal before too long.

The theme today follows beautifully from yesterday's gutterball. I, along with most New Englanders, grew up with candlepin bowling, rather than ten-pin. You could put so much more force behind your throws with the smaller balls. It was rather a surprise to try out the bigger ones later on in life, but there is a kind of anticipatory glee watching the slower roll as it approaches the heavier pins. Many times, that glee turned to despair when I was bowling however.

Also, it hurts the thumb and the wrist.

In any case, we've seen many a bowling theme before. Today's was saved by the impressive BOWLINGALLEY right down the center of the grid, crossing all four theme answers, which are each fine answers in their own right.
OBERON and Puck
In other news, I was impressed by the chutzpah (it's Passover, folks!) in putting PULLAUEY in the puzzle. I am not at all convinced that "uey" or "uie" should even be allowed, but I can see how they can save a section for a constructor.

I would like to nod in favor, however, of the clue for SAC (43D: Kind of fly), rather than the less pleasant anatomical definition. Similarly for LUBES. Too soon?

I admit to staring at 9D: Eschewers of military service (AMISH) for a few hot seconds. I was convinced it had to end in -S, which didn't work with 20A: Blind followers (SHEEP). Those are two very nice irregular plural nouns to confound the puzzle-solver's pattern recognition cerebral software. Similarly, but not for long, 21D: Nook, e.g. (EREADER), due to the hidden capital.

No BOOBIRDS here. It's a solid puzzle.

- Colum

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Trent H. Evans


It's a topsy-turvy world out there, folks. Cats and dogs, socially distancing themselves from each other. Or maybe it's just a Monday and Tuesday pair of puzzles switched.

I made one of my fastest times ever today, which may say more about where my head was at today compared to yesterday? After all, today we have potentially challenging proper nouns in OMANI, ODWALLA, and SKYMALL, the latter of which I had to get multiple crosses before being able to fill in.

Regardless, it's a fun theme, with three sayings of the form [body part] [somewhere]. I very much enjoyed that there was a downward progression was you moved through the puzzle, starting with HEADINTHECLOUDS, moving down to FEETONTHEGROUND, and finishing with the excellent MINDINTHEGUTTER. What a great find that all three are 15 letters long. I'm surprised this hasn't been done before!

There really wasn't a lot of clever cluing, as befits a Tuesday. Keeping up with yesterday's reference to Star Trek, we get NERDFEST today. Equally nerdy is anyone who immediately knew the answer to 39D: DeLorean license plate in "Back to the Future" (OUTATIME). I count myself as one, although I didn't know the exact spelling.

My mother swears by LARD for her pie crusts, and they are really delicious, it's true. But I make do with good old butter. Just have to keep it cold.

I have to admit that I was confused how EYES could be an anagram for "They see." I missed the "The" at the beginning of the clue.

- Colum

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday, April 6, 2020, Andrea Carla Michaels and Brian Thomas


The devil, as they say, is in the details. One detail I missed as I was solving the puzzle was the fact that 17A: Another name for [See shaded squares] (MRSCRATCH) was not referring to that well-known female role from an Eighteenth-century novel, Mrs. Cratch. I figuratively scratched my head for a few seconds when I filled it in. But then I moved on.

Before anybody complains that such a character never existed, I made her up.

It's a fun theme, though. SPEAKOFTHEDEVIL runs across the middle, and in each corner is found another name for the fallen angel. My favorite will always be LUCIFER. He's an important character in Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, The Sandman, and it was this version of him that was portrayed in the television series of the same name. One nice touch, as you will see below, is that his speech bubbles had a lovely ancient font.
I would say on the whole that this puzzle was more difficult than your typical Monday offering. I hold up as examples of this somewhat more challenging proper names such as DOONE, RHONE, TIMOR, KOBE, and KOLN. I also imagine that AEONFLUX, which was an objectively awful movie, would be a hard to get answer for many.

On the plus side, everybody likes a HOLODECK.

- Colum

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sunday, April 5, 2020, Jim Peredo


Hello all! Good to talk with you virtually, as there is virtually no other way for me to talk with you. I hope you haven't gone stir crazy, wherever you are. It's definitely a strange world out there right now. I am still working out of the house as essential personnel (nice they finally recognized it), but my wife and two daughters are trying to find things to do. Let's just say there's been a lot of baking involved.

Fortunately, one constant in this mixed-up time is the NYT xword! Today's brings a welcome modicum of humor to this early Spring Sunday. Mr. Peredo has found seven examples of standard phrases or quotations, and has clued them cleverly with two word phrases of the form XY, but reparsed as "statement Y about situation X."

Turns out it's sometimes not so easy to explain a theme. That was a lot of words where an example might do better.

Thus, TURNABOUTISFAIRPLAY is clued as "Just saying?" That in turn is now seen as "a saying about being just." I particularly liked GOAHEADWITHOUTME being a "Sentence telling you to run on," and THEAYESHAVEIT being a "comment about passing."

Some very nice things in the fill: I was amused by 5D: "4-Down-choo!" (SNEEZE), when 4D was AAH. That's a great way to make up for the less exciting word. GUSTAV Mahler is always welcome in my grid.
Wouldn't you be worried about hurting the ORCHID in this corsage?
Two entries today I often make mistakes on: 32D: Young weaned pig (SHOAT) - I want StOAT, but fortunately I already had TOES in place, and TT___ seemed highly unlikely for a long answer (if it were short, TTOP would be in play). The other is 84D: Mortimer ____, dummy of old radio and TV (SNERD). I really want SNEaD, the other old-timey personality from the world of golf. Again, I was saved by 101A: Trade jabs, which could only be SPAR.

My favorite pair of answers came right next to each other. 52D: Lower extremity affliction (SCIATICA) is great both for the association with Neurology, and for just the fun-ness of the word. Better is 53D: Secret target (BODYODOR). That's Secret, the deodorant brand, with a lovely hidden capital in the clue.

I will pick a nit with SCRUBBEDUP. When you clean your hands for surgery, you scrub in. I see that the other term Googles well, but I've never heard it used.

Stay healthy and safe out there!

- Colum

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday, April 4, 2020, Yacob Yonas


Today's puzzle also played on the easy side for this solver. I immediately got GRIND ("Tedious work") - don't ask! - and I recognized ALPHANERD straight away. The French word for "Before" (AVANT) posed no problems, and neither did EMOTE, LASE, or ULTRA. The clever clue for PODIA (Talking points?) did hold me up briefly because at 11D: ("My suspicion is..."), I had only the vowels at first (I_A_E_A_), making it difficult for me to see the answer (IDARESAY). "Queen or king maker" in that corner was also good. I knew a mattress brand was wanted, but I had taken a cautious approach on the first pass and entered only the S because I didn't know if the answer would be Sealy or SERTA.

In the southwest, thanks to CROPTOP I was able to drop in CSIMIAMI, which had the added benefit of getting me to flip my initial answers to the two "Numbskull" clues. I had entered IDIOT first and then MORON.

The one real slow down for me came in the south east. My thoughts were centered on a more delicious answer for "Chocolate ___" than LAB. :( Additionally, even though I didn't know "Nymph who divulged Jupiter's affair with Juturna, in Ovid" I went ahead and guessed LetA, which, dear readers, you all know was doubly wrong. Fortunately, LASHAT disabused me of that incorrect notion, but it still left me with one blank square because I didn't know A_IOSO ("Melodic passage"). I ran the alphabet and finally decided R made the most sense in both directions.

Elsewhere in the puzzle, I enjoyed the matching pair of Pluto clues (Pluto, e.g.), the answers to which were DWARF and ROMANGOD. I find it amusing that those two words are both correct answers to the same clue. I thought "Pen pal?" for  CELLMATE was excellent. "Where you might incur charges overseas" (ONSAFARI) made me think of that old joke, "How do you stop a rhinoceros from charging?" Take away its credit card! Ha! "PIN point" at 51A wasn't difficult but it is a fun clue for our old friend ATM. I also enjoyed GAPINGMAW as fill - so evocative! And who knew RAMADA meant "Covered porch"? That explains a lot.


I found "Barb from the mouth" on the odd side as a clue for BLOWDART. Also odd was the "comments" part of "Some online comments, for short" (IMS), which I think of more as a medium for conversation than for comments, but that may be due to my limited experience of the social media world. 

Well, dear readers, I hope you all manage to CARRYON in good health and humor, and that you are finding many and various ways to SETATEASE the concerns of the day.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020, Joe Deeney

18:10, FWOE

Sure, going absolutely nowhere for three weeks, working from home every day, and zigzagging across the street every time you see someone walking towards you on the sidewalk takes a bit of getting used to, but you know things are really weird when the Friday NYTX puzzle has a theme, albeit a modest one [GAPE]. The revealer, U2's first Billboard #1 hit WITHORWITHOUTYOU, provides a hint to four other answers in the grid. Two of the answers are family names in Shakespeare, both of which contain the letter U (MONTAGUE and CAPULET). The other two theme answers are the same family names without the U (MONTAGE and CAPLET). Funny that Mr. Deeney noticed the sit'ation and was able to tie it together with the U2 song.

Overall, I thought the puzzle played a bit easy for a Friday. I expect at least some of our esteemed readers to raise an eyebrow as they read that statement in light of the glaring FWOE above. Readers, I erred. I entered ERin at 6D (Language in which 'Hello, how are you?' is 'Halo, ciamar a tha thu?'). The first two letters, being correct, caused no trouble. As soon as I got the theme, the fourth letter was corrected, but I never revisited the clue/answer as a whole. When I got to 18A: "Some phone notifications during March Madness," I saw UPiETALERTS. Even as both a non-phone user and a non-March Madness person, I knew that couldn't be right, but I thought UPnETALERTS seemed plausible and ERnE, at a glance, seemed like a perfectly cromulent answer - and it is - just not for that particular clue. The correct answer, UPSETALERTS, once I saw it, was particularly apt. Apt!

Also in re: Friday puzzles, I thought that one pair of clues nicely illustrated our ongoing QMC/non-QMC conundrum (see glossary):

QMC: "Help to get back on one's feet?" REANIMATE
Non-QMC: "Apple varieties" (IMACS)

In other news, Jai ALAI is back! When was the last time that was in the puzzle? (Answer: over a year ago). The form of the clue (Jai ___) made it a gimme, as was also the case with __ Jima (IWO). Clues like those two, plus the fact that once you got one theme answer, the other three were pretty obvious, contributed to making the puzzle seem on the easy side.

"Leaves on the line" LETSDRY

I was entertained by the two "pound" clues: "One might be measured by the pound" (MUTT) and "Place for a #" (TWEET). I thought "In one year and out the other" (FADS) was a fun clue. I also enjoyed "True that" (ITIS) and In need of toning down (ABITMUCH). GINGERED (up) is ALLNEW to me, and an interesting expression to boot. GELID is nice. I've always liked the word COY. And who doesn't like a PIECEOFCAKE?

I haven't heard or thought of Xavier CUGAT in years. According to the Wikipedia, he was married to Charo for 12 years. She was his fifth wife, apparently. MYSHARONA!

In this time of physical distancing, I thought I'd mention that we welcome your comments on the daily puzzle here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA (see glossary). Input from the outside is the only way we'll know we haven't SEEST to exist.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thursday, April 2, 2020, Evan Mahnken


Everybody's favorite Thursday puzzle type - the rebus! And a multi-rebus at that. I knew there was something afoot at 17A: "Social media fad that went viral in 2014" because I couldn't get ICE[BUCK]ETCHALLENGE to fit. A little further along, however, I got [BILL]MAHER (TV host once with an "Explaining Jokes to Idiots" segment) and things started to make cents. Once I figured out that even though 'fur'OR might be a reasonable guess for "Ado" at 38A, 'fur'CHOWDER was a non-starter, I was able to throw in [CLAM] and get the rest of my ducats in a row. I had the most trouble with the northeast. I didn't know ANN Wilson, lead singer of Heart, and at first I couldn't make heads or tails of 10D: Part of a diner showcase, until PIE finally hit me in the face.

At first, after completing the grid, I was a little puzzled by the revealer FIVEDOLLARWORDS because the rebii seemed to be $1 words rather than $5 words, but when I mentioned it to Horace he explained that I had mis-parsed the answer. What seemed a little like a minor incongruity turned out to be perfect when understood as 'five (the quantity) dollar words' ([NOTE], [BUCK], [BILL], [SINGLE], [CLAM]).  Ha! Now that's using your cabbage!


If I have one bone to pick, it's the cross between 21A: Jack of Rio Lobo" and 9D. "Tryst locale". I almost FWOED because I didn't know Mr. ELAM and I had entered [NOTE]LLhOTEL instead of the correct and excellent [NOTE]LLMOTEL]. D'oh!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020, John Ficarra and Patrick Merrell


Three clues in today's puzzle appear to call for some very specific geographic knowledge including an historic town in Hungary noted for its baroque architecture, the left tributary of the Vitim River in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, and the village between Kruszyna and Jacków in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. In place of the geographic names, the answers are, from top to bottom, AREYOUKIDDINGME, WHOTHEHELLKNOWS, and IHAVENTGOTACLUE - answers I've thought in my head a hundred times, but they've never been correct before now. Ha!

I didn't clap on to the alternative answers right off the BAT. When I read the first clue, I found myself hoping that the down answers would reveal the name of a place that I didn't know I knew, if you see what I mean. When I got to the second clue, though, I thought, uh oh, I'm never going to get this one. When I got to the third clue, I thought I had figured out the trick - the answers were going to be a place or river name but they were going to sound like a recognizable phrase. Wrong. After filling in a bunch of the downs in the bottom third of the grid, the correct answer became clear, and then the other two answers came in pretty quickly.

I was curious about what the correct geographic answers to the clues might be, so I did a little research. The location referred to in the first clue appears to be a city called Pàpa. The left tributary of the Vitim River (if I understand what left means in this context?) appears to be Mama, and the village in Poland (pop. 305) seems to be called Baby.  April Fool's joke, or Easter egg? You be the judge. However it was intended, I loved it. Highly entertaining!


The theme is not all there is to like in this puzzle. The term WIDOW for "Short line at the top of a column, in typesetting" was interesting and NEWTO me. I liked HOPON for "Board a moving vehicle. "Doozy" and LULU are both fun. And who doesn't enjoy a reference to "Scotty's domain on the U.S.S. Enterprise" (ENGINEROOM)?

Other clue answer pairs that get a BIGA from me are:
"One thing ... or a twosome" (ITEM)
"Like Gruyère or Grandpa" (AGED)
"Idiots" (YOYOS)
"What the Lord sometimes does, in a classical expression" (TAKETH)
"Where fruit picking originated" (EDEN) - some creative cluing for an old chestnut. Speaking of old chestnuts, EELS shows up today, too ("Serpentine swimmers"). I wonder what the total number of clue variants for these two crossword darlings is.

On the BLIP side, I'll admit I have a thing against AGIN and the plural IRES gives me fits, but these complaints are trifles because this puzzle is a real LOL. Can I get some AMENS?