Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday, May 31, 2020, Jeff Chen and Lewis Rothlein


Frannie and I solved this one together, as we have been doing for the past few weeks. She thought it was cool that the constructors were able to find entries containing these forward and backward strings, and that they could fit them into a puzzle using this "up and down" stack method, but I was left unsatisfied by the nonsense words left in the original crosses, and by the fact that the stacked letters were sometimes words in themselves and sometimes not. I know it's a lot to ask, but when I see some like "plan," "omen," and "bile" (upside-down), I start looking for another level. When I then find things like "secre" and "deta," it's a little disappointing.


Honestly, I feel a little like Mr. Chen himself saying that. In his reviews he frequently wishes for that next level idea, that raison d'être that will tie everything together. I guess I've just got to trust that if he and Mr. Rothlein thought it couldn't be done here, well then it couldn't be and that's that.

So let's look elsewhere, shall we? It's interesting that GELT (Traditional Hanukkah gift for kids) is back in the puzzle so soon, and it was fun to see both AZTEC and INCAS in there. "Bug experts, informally" was a good clue for ITPEOPLE, and I very much enjoyed the non-QMC "This and others" for CLUES. On the QMC side, "Pop a wheelie?" was cute for GETAFLAT, and "Places for hustlers?" (DISCOS) got a chuckle, but I thought "Breathtaking sight in the ocean?" was a bit too far to go for GILL.

So in the end, Frannie's happy, because she's already excited about making up a new definition for MOBRARIES and using it all the time at work, but I thought that the puzzle could have been more ELABORAIL if only it had contained some kind of a justification for the trick. Maybe it was impossible, but that's what I do, I OPINE.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020, Brian Thomas


Well, Dear Reader, today I had another "kitwo moment" [see Glossary]. Right after finishing the puzzle, I Googled "spread-toothin'," thinking, "Well, I get it, I guess, because after having bitten off more than you can chew, your jaws are far apart ... but does anyone actually say that?" Sigh. No, it's "spread too thin."


Aside from that, this one went right along. After dropping in BANC (Fixture in un parc), the NE fell in no time. I never actually saw the 2008 "Get Smart" movie, but ALANARKIN was born to play the role of the Chief. And one-point Scrabble tiles or not, there's only one number that starts with N and has eight letters.

With the "ken" in place at the end, SPRINGCHICKEN (No oldster) fell in, but those other two central entries took many more crosses. We've already discussed the middle one, but "Something a toddler might chug?" for CHOOCHOOTRAIN is also worth mentioning for its high-quality QMC.

I guessed SkaT for the "Two-player card game" (SPIT), which made PEPTO (Stomach soother, for short) and ICEES (Summertime coolers) more difficult than they had to be, but eventually the triple-ten stack in the SE straightened everything out.

The trickiest area for me was the opposite triple-stack in the NW, where the painting misdirect kept me from seeing SHAVINGKIT (One might have oils and a brush), and I kept thinking of things like gloves and hard hats for 1D: Prepares to enter a work zone, perhaps (SLOWS), instead of actions. LETITSLIDE (Look the other way), ONRETAINER (Under contract, as a lawyer), and GLISSANDO (Notable feature of the opening clarinet solo in "Rhapsody in Blue") are all lovely answers. SHAGRUGS, SPONGEMOPS, and ACTIONITEMS are a little less exciting, but still, there's not much that's really troublesome.

- Horace

Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020, Sam Ezersky


Tricky cluing like the side-by-side "Need for teachers across the board" (ERASER) and "Corn or bean plant, perhaps" (CANNERY) (very nice), combined with ten-cent words like RUPIAH (Currency of Indonesia) and THEODICY (Explanation for the existence of evil in God's presence) (I dropped in frEewIll) made for a nice, tough challenge from Mr. Ezersky today.


Anybody else try Tapestry for "Best-selling studio album of all time (33x platinum)" (THRILLER)? I did, because I thought I remembered hearing (probably about the time that THRILLER came out) that it had been on the charts forever. And it has, or was, but really, it's not even close. Also, looking that up after I finished the puzzle led me to the fact that Abba Gold recently broke the record for "continuous weeks on the Top 100" at over 900 weeks. Just FYI.

Loved the clues for SYMMETRY (Something U and I have in common) and TREETOP (Lullaby locale). And I also like all the great words - ENIGMA, WINCH, TROPHY, CLENCH, PLIANT... so much good stuff!  

GELT (Money, in slang) reminds me of an Austrian series that Frannie and I watched on Netflix a while ago, "Altes Geld." It was, perhaps, the most unusual show I've ever seen. I enjoyed it, but I hesitate to actually recommend it.

The only thing I don't particularly like today is ONA (____ kick). It's not an expression I know. But that's a small thing.

ATHEEL (Just behind) was great. MOTH (It comes to light) might have been trickier if we hadn't just seen it clued with "bulb circler" yesterday. "Country album?" for WORLDATLAS was fun, and even with the question mark I still needed several crosses.

Overall, a very satisfying Friday. It may even get me to cut Mr. Ezersky a little slack about his "word list" for Spelling Bee... :)

- Horace

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thursday, May 28, 2020, Tracy Bennett


Have you all been watching more TV than usual during this strange time? If so, this theme should suit you. Two shows are put side-by-side and clued to make sense.

What to do if you want to win bar trivia? - GETSMARTFRIENDS (Works for me!)
Medical professional with a passion for pep rallies? - DOCTORWHOCHEERS
Predictable result of a choir's Barry White singing contest? - THESOPRANOSLOST

OK, that last one is a bit of a stretch, but it's so ridiculous that it still made me smile.


The long Downs are quite nice today, starting with the old-fashioned PASSMUSTER, the well-clued ORTHODOX (Keenly observant), the evocative VISIGOTH, and the stirring FREEATLAST (if only!). Other fun entries were SVELTE (Trim), HALIDE (Compound like NaCL or HCL), and the cute pairing of "Snorty ride" (STEED) and "Sporty ride, informally" (VETTE).

I didn't know SHONDA ("Scandal" creator Rhimes), and its cross with the Latin "Ab ____" (from the beginning) was tricky. Yesterday, we needed the nominative (of annum), but today the preposition "ab" forces the ablative - OVO.

It's not a rebus, but it did take me longer than yesterday's puzzle did, so - so far - it fits the bill for what a Thursday puzzle should be - "Harder than Wednesday and easier than Friday." We'll see if that still holds up tomorrow. :)

- Horace

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Chris A. McGlothlin

0:07:27 (F.W.O.E.)

I had a moment of wondering about the spelling of FORGONE when I got to 40-Across, "Relinquished ... or a hint to ...," but my Random House says "forego" means "to go before" and "forgo" means "to abstain or refrain from; do without; give up, renounce, or resign." They list the same Old English forebear (also: forbear) in both definitions, but I guess the two spellings drifted apart over the years.


But really, only one can work here. The other would ruin the joke of leaving "for" out from the four theme answers, so let's just leave the spelling issue aside and move on, shall we?

While I was solving this, I sensed that something was off, but I was in such a rush that I didn't allow myself time to consider what was going on. Even when I got to the central (second day in a row) revealer, the spelling question entered my head, but I pushed it aside and moved on without thinking of anything else. Also, in keeping with the "haste makes waste" theme, I forgot that "year" in Latin is masculine, and so I ended up entering the accusative rather than the nominative, which left me with the MImSES department. And while that is somewhat amusing, the lesson is, I've got to slow down!

Also, I like the clue "Department store department" for MISSES. It reminds me of the humorous "Department of Redundancy Department."

Now, even when I am at my leisure, I still CANTSAYSURE what my favorite themer is. The clues are all so absurd! Maybe FISHCOMPLIMENTS ("Your fins are nice" and "You're a graceful swimmer"?).

The cross of OLIO and OLEO was amusing in the NW, and in other areas I could feel the week getting harder as I filled in CAHN, COHAN, PAPAW, the gross SWOLE (Bulging with muscles, in modern lingo), and, eventually, LAALAA.

Tomorrow, I will commit myself to slowing down and enjoying it, just like I've been doing with this whole "work from home" thing. I got to a point about a week or so ago where I decided that I love it. I've been doing more house projects, I've been reading a little (rare for me), and I've been fretting about work less. We'll see how long that lasts.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tuesday, May 26, 2020, Neville Fogarty

0:08:02 (F.W.O.E.)

When I see "And others, (Lat.), abbr.", I enter "etali_" and I wait to see whether the last letter will be an A or an I ... and there are other answers that I treat the same way, but today, when faced with "Genetic strand," I just dropped in dNA and never looked back. Sigh.

But you don't care about that. You want to know what a firth is. It's an inlet of the sea; an estuary. Somewhat smaller than a bay, I think. It's chiefly Scottish, and it is linguistically related to the more commonly-known word "fjord." I think I may have learned the word thanks to the popularity of COLINFIRTH, as a matter of fact.

I was born long after any popularity enjoyed by ARTHURLAKE had subsided, but luckily, I was somehow made aware of the word "lake" without having it connected to his name, which allowed me to enter it in off the L of DUAL (Two-way). Also off of DUAL I had entered Army for "The 'A' of I.R.A.: Abbr." (ACCT), and I wonder if, because my brain was already over in Scotland after "firth," it was easier for me to just move slightly to Ireland, rather than all the way back home to where my bank accounts are.

There were many things that didn't come quickly for me today. EDIE McClurg, KRIS Jenner, NOLITA (Manhattan neighborhood west of the Bowery), ONION (Ingredient in a Denver omelet) (yuck), INTHAT (Because), BALOO ("The Jungle Book" bear), and, really, three of the four theme names. And I had "ego" instead of BOY (Altar ____).

Wow this is a rambling "review." I guess what I'm trying to say is that it played hard for me for a Tuesday. I like the theme - who doesn't like thinking about BODIESOFWATER? - and as we always say, an additional challenge is never a bad thing. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Monday, May 25, 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020, Victor Barocas and Andrea Carla Michaels


Today's theme is an elegant re-arranging of the letters in the word "mind." The re-arrangements are fit into longer entries, and they proceed in an orderly fashion from left to right across the grid. It's really quite nice. Of the container entries, my favorites are LEONARDNIMOY, of course, and MIDNIGHTINPARIS.


In order to attain that level of beauty in the theme required, apparently, certain concessions. ILEDE (____ la Cité (bit of land in the Seine)) is odd on many levels. Calling it a "bit of land" seems a tad dismissive for the center of one of the world's great capital cities, and the French partial does not seem very Monday-friendly. MISMARK (Place an "X" in the wrong spot on, say) isn't great, and ITD ("____ be my pleasure") is nobody's pleasure.

On the other hand, IRRELEVANT (Not pertinent) is a nice long Down, BIGMOMMA (Title house owner in a 2000 Martin Lawrence comedy) and NONEVENT (Happening that's no big whoop) brought smiles, and who doesn't love a NOSEGAY (Small bouquet)?

Lastly, I was further amused by two clues toward the end - "About which someone might say 'Get the lead out!'" for ORE, and "What just happened?" for NEWS. Really, the lower half of the grid worked better than the top for me, and it's always nice to finish on a high note.

Strong theme, only a few minor ACHEs... thumbs up.

- Horace

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday, May 24, 2020, Andrew Chaikin


Frannie and I solved this one together, which is always fun. She noticed the celebrity name connections to the suspects' occupations, and together we realized that the diamond must be in the Parlor (it's diamond shape was, we thought, a bit of a giveaway). What we did not notice, however, is that "MCGUFFIN" is spelled out clockwise in the very center of that "room." Whew! That's a lot going on in one Sunday puzzle! But it was fun to have an extra puzzle within the puzzle to solve.

Lamborghini 350 GT

Even with all that theme, Mr. Chaikin (and, quite possibly, the editor and his team) managed to cram in even more entertainment. I thought "What might come with fencing?" (SCAR) was surprising. They're talking about a SCAR you might get from an épée, right? "Getaway for two lovebirds?" was a cute clue for ARK, I loved the terseness of "Too busy" for CANT, and I liked the bonus theme reference in "Diamond family name" (ALOU). Hah! And what about "Word that sounds like a number ... and is a letter backward" for ATE? And "What it all adds up to" for SUM. And "Music for the masses? (HYMN). Nice.

As with almost any puzzle, and certainly one with so much forced thematic material, you're going to get oddballs like OSMOSED (Seeped (through)), SEAROOM (Space to maneuver a ship), AFIRE (Flambé), and NSEW (The compass points) (wow), but such things bother me less and less. Almost more of an issue for me are "unpleasant" entries like NOOSES (Some knotted ropes).

You know, in my head (because I would never put such thoughts into writing!) I often think that the current attention paid to "trigger warnings" is overblown, but here I am with my own triggers. I guess I should get back to basics and start to "know myself" before critiquing beyond that small sphere.

The Delphic maxims are lovely, by the way. "Know thyself," "nothing to excess," and "surety brings ruin."

Good words to live by, but they kind of go against the whole idea of a blog like this.

Still, I can, I think, say that I thought this was a fun and interesting Sunday puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday, May 23, 2020, Wyna Liu and Erik Agard


I really should take the words of advice at 19A: Reprimand to the overly speedy (ITSNOTARACE) more to heart in my solving experience. I get very easily frustrated when an area refuses to fall into place.

In fact, today, I solved the upper and central portion in under a third of my total solving time, and the remaining section in the lower area took the remainder. A few errors made life difficult for me. I entered an A for the last O in DIADELOSMUERTOS. I've never taken Spanish, but my knowledge of other Romance languages should have made it clear that that couldn't be possible. But to be honest, these were the kinds of mistakes I routinely made on French tests, so it was in good keeping with my nature.

Two other incorrect entries made the SW corner nigh impossible. I put RoutE in place at 45D: R, in a postal abbreviation (RHODE), those two correct letters making it difficult to give it up. And I put in aleS for KEGS.

Eventually, I did what you should always do: remove all and look at it afresh. I was sure that MATHLETES was correct (nice QMC there), because IDONTGETIT was definitely right, as was DOH. Odd to have that and DUH in the same puzzle. Then when I managed CHECKPLEASE, it all came together.
There is so much goodness in this grid, it made it lovely to solve even if frustrating. CLOSESHAVES, ABITSTRANGE, and especially the really excellent 33A: Held eye contact for too long, say (MADEITWEIRD).

Also great were some of the small bits. I liked 46A: Red states, once (USSR) crossing 47D: Makes red in the face? (SLAPS). Also, 9D: Bring into existence (ERECT) and 10D: Brought into existence (SIRED). That shows an attention to detail, having these related clues so close to each other.

Finally, I'll note the insane 31D: Shortened again (OER). That is such a great bit of misdirection.

Not a race. Right. ROGERTHAT.

- Colum

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday, May 22, 2020, Hal Moore


Continuing my educational experiences from yesterday, I have been taught two things I didn't know, both hailing from decades past. I knew the tune from The Benny Hill Show (and how dated is that little bit of PATRIARCHY?) but didn't know its name. YAKETYSAX makes perfect sense, and you can see how it might be used over and over for bits of slapstick.

Similarly, I know the theme song from Car Wash, but wouldn't have been able to pick out the name ROSEROYCE from anything other than just about all the crosses. It's a great name for a group: they were named for their lead singer (who was given the name Rose Norwalt), and as a reference to cars because of the movie.

Really, this is a very smooth puzzle, but I was somehow not blown away by it. Damning with faint praise, I know. There are some fine answers, such as KICKBOXING, ORALEXAM, and IDEOLOGUES. There are also some not so great entries, such as AUG (with one of the most boring clues I've seen in a while) and AREGO.

Here are some things I did like:

  • 6D: Small handful (IMP) - that's a great clue.
  • 8D: Losing effort (DIET) - excellent non-QMC.
  • 66A: Vibe (ATMOSPHERE). Nice one-to-one clue-answer pairing.
I didn't like YACHTIE. I thought 9D: Speaking engagement? didn't hit home for its answer. OPA twice in a week. 

Maybe I'm being too nitpicky. Or my bar has been raised higher for a Friday. What do you all think?

- Colum

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thursday, May 21, 2020, Andrew Kingsley


Happy Thursday, everyone, and welcome to the start of the Turn. I finished the puzzle just in time for the start of a very nice Zoom session with my esteemed co-bloggers. Turns out some people didn't agree with my rankings of the Tom Swifties on Tuesday. I want to emphasize that while I may have ranked the "relish" answer at number 5, by no means does that mean I thought it "didn't work" or whatever.

Jeez. Some people are so sensitive.

Anyway, today's tricky Thursday takes standard phrases that start with a color, and then subtracts the color red from that color and replaces the word with the remaining color. Get it? And to make it even better, the revealer at 37D: Organization with three Nobel Peace Prizes ... or what "corrects" the answer to each of the starred clues (REDCROSS) explains why each color intersects with a shaded in down [RED].

I entered browNNOSER at 16A, thinking "Boy, that's kind of surprisingly straightforward for a Thursday." Solvers should know to prick up their ears at a thought like that. Instead, if you take red away from brown, you get green. Apparently. I suppose. Mostly I get kind of a muddy mess if I mix those two colors together. And muddy is a sort of brown.

It's nice the way the "red"s are hidden inside longer down answers. I particularly like FREDDY. I had no idea of this Fender person, but the crosses were good.

The toughest area of this puzzle came in the NE. 10D: Jazz group (THENBA) is excellent - both a hidden capital, a clever non-QMC, and an unexpected concatenation of letters in the answer. 11D: Classic work famously translated by John Dryden (AENEID) is near and dear to my heart, although not the specific translation. I also had THou in place of THEE.

Other nice answers included RONDOS, ORIOLES, and LESOTHO. I'm not convinced by ECOLAW, but it's acceptable. ATTHAT.

Looking forward to the rest of the Turn!

- Colum

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Natan Last, Andy Kravis and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class


It's funny what you take for granted when you don't do a little research. For example, I had always assumed that J.A.S.A. was some sort of adult learning group. Instead, I find it's the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, a non-profit agency in the city of New York, providing social services. So now I have a different image in my mind of what this set of constructors might represent.

Regardless, under the tutelage of Mr. Last and Mr. Kravis, the class never fails to put out an entertaining grid. Today's is extra large, at 16 x 15, in order to support the four 16-letter entries. There is a pleasing consistency across all the theme answers, which take the form of an 8-letter word which can be broken neatly into two 4-letter words. By putting the two back to back and forcing a reparsing, we get some mighty silly phrases.

My favorite is definitely 51A: Headline about a pagan rotisserie shop? (HEATHENSHEATHENS) - first because the reparsing creates such a different sound in the middle of the phrase, from the soft TH to a hard T, pause, hard H. Second, because to describe a rotisserie as a place that heats hens is just silliness. Third, because the breathless nature of the headline is so completely out of sync with the topic. After all, people of other faiths than this newspaper's have been cooking poultry for longer than any faith has existed.

The other three elicited chuckles. While I do love me some brie (and have partaken of an annual baked varietal on New Year's Day provided by Horace for some years now), the difference between BRIEFEST and BRIE/FEST is not enough to make an aha moment.

The grid is very smooth otherwise. The class was wise not to attempt any crossing fill longer than seven letters. 46D: Private employer? (THEARMY) was cute. I also liked the cross-cluing of UNITE and UNTIE. And most of the time, I would prefer not to experience the metaphorical JAYBIRD.

Speaking of which, where did that phrase come from? Look here for the answer.

- Colum

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tuesday, May 19, 2020, Trent H. Evans


Ooh! Tom Swifties! Those clever quotes which end with a descriptive adverb which is related in a punny way to the topic of the quote. Hard to explain, easy to get.

Today we get five examples, and in time-honored fashion, I'm going to rank them in the completely objective manner which is my personal opinion.

5. 17A: "This hot dog is absolute perfection!," said Tom ____ (WITHRELISH). It's cute, but really, isn't the condiment called relish because it adds said relish to the taste, in some people's opinions?
4. 61A: "Many thanks for your help in Paris," said Tom ____ (MERCIFULLY). Just like the first one, since "merciful" comes from the French for thanks. But more humorous.
3. 24A: "You're making a grave mistake," said Tom ____ (CRYPTICALLY). I like this one, actually, better on the second reading.
2. 47A: "I've learned my lesson about feeding the tigers," said Tom ____ (OFFHANDEDLY). Oh, that's good. And so topical, given everybody's obsession with Tiger King recently. Sadly, one of his keepers literally did lose a hand. And was surprisingly laid back about it.
1. 38A: "I can't find a flower for 'She loves me, she loves me not," said Tom (LACKADAISICALLY). Hah! That's brilliant. And it's 15-letter grid spanner. For the win.
ONEAL's finest moment?
There's some great fill here as well. I love 3D: View in order to mock or criticize, perhaps (HATEWATCH), which fits very well with PLOTHOLES in the symmetric space in the SE. As well as with the above topical reference.

I like a reference to Star Trek, but BEAMABOARD feels like a bit of a stretch. Mostly, people and objects were "beamed up," as I recall.

BESOT is wonderful.

- Colum

Monday, May 18, 2020

Monday, May 18, 2020, Christina Iverson


So yesterday my daughter gave me a haircut. She did a lovely job, and now I can hold out until New York opens up the barber shops. Oh, brave new world.

Meanwhile, Ms. Iverson pays homage to a classic board game. In truth, I never really liked MONOPOLY. Given what you need to do to win, it becomes a true drag in the latter parts of a game session. The most fun is in rushing around, buying properties, and then trading.

In any case, she's hidden multiple game pieces in the five theme answers. I didn't exactly get an aha moment because my solving took me right down the central diagonal stripe from NW to SE, so I got the revealer after only two theme answers were completed. Still, the hiding is done well, with IRONMAIDEN the strongest of the bunch in my opinion.

Of the five pieces hidden, three have been retired, namely the thimble, the iron, and the boot/shoe. Only the dog and the hat remain, which is fine, because everybody loves the dog.
The remainder of the puzzle is fine for a Monday. I enjoyed NOCANDO and DADSTOBE the most of the fill. There's a fair amount of reliance on crossword standbys like NENA, SYNC, and GUAC to hold it together, not to mention OER, VWS, and EEO. And nobody likes even one, let alone multiple DMVS.

But those are the tradeoffs for having so much strong theme material. On the whole, I enjoyed the solve, so I'm on the positive side, ATLAST.

- Colum

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday, May 17, 2020, Byron Walden


Hello everyone! Despite everything that's going on in the world, I am maintaining a sense of optimism. In part that's because of the beautiful weather the last couple of days. In part it's because we watched Obama give a stirring virtual commencement speech to the graduating High School class of 2020, which includes my daughter. In it, after a delightful not-so-veiled reference to the idiocies of the current governing administration, he expressed belief that the young people would lead the way to a better world. He urged them to not be afraid, to do what feels right, and to build communities. Rhetoric that would be welcomed (and highly unexpected) if it also came from the White House now.

In any case, the crossword puzzle continues to arrive on a daily basis. Thank God for the ability to work from home! Stay safe and healthy, Mr. Shortz and Mr. Fagliano! We need you more than ever.

Today's PUZZLE, by Mr. Walden, is a jumbo-sized themeless with a lower than typical word count for a Sunday, leading to the titular large chunks of white squares. I don't typically love these puzzles because you don't get the tricky cluing of a Friday or Saturday to spice up the solving experience: that would make the puzzle too difficult for a Sunday. But today's was more than just ATPAR.

15D: Victorian home? (EASTERNAUSTRALIA) is an example of a very nice QMC. An example of where a decent or good clue can save a not-so-great answer comes at 30A: One who might say "Your money's no good here"? (BARTERER).

There were two answers where I literally tried two appropriate answers before landing on the actual correct one. At 6A: Caesar salad ingredient, I put in "crouton" and "romaine" before getting ANCHOVY. Who knew so many seven-letter words fit in one dish? Reminds me of The Phantom Tollbooth, where they had to eat their own words.

The other came at 78A: Comic actor whose wife left him to marry their neighbor, Frank Sinatra. I entered that corner from SUSSEX and BEURRE, so I got that it was a Marx Brother. But I tried Chico and Harpo before realizing it was their much less well known sibling ZEPPOMARX.

That SW corner wins the Scrabble game with 5 Zs and a Q, equalling 60 points right there. It's a smooth puzzle overall, and with only twelve 3-letter answers out of 122 total (and a Sunday averages 139), a very chunky one.

See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Saturday, May 16, 2020, Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen


I'm ending the week on a high note! Today's time is my third fastest this week, and the fastest after the turn. And not even the threat of a FWOE.

I was amused, but not fooled, by "Medium state" (TRANCE). "One watching the kids?" (GOATHERD) is also entertaining. I liked "Where many stop and smell the rosés" (NAPA). And British slang, NOB, for aristocrat is just plain funny. My favorite clue of the day was "Substitute teacher?" (ROGET). Chortle.

I thought the pair of clues: "Doesn't travel, say" (DRIBBLES) and "Doesn't inhale, say (SAVORS) were clever.

The long downs in vertical stacks in the north and south were both good. I especially liked BLINDSPOTS and RUMORHASIT. Of the long horizontals, I liked "Just barely reacts" (BATSANEYE). Overall, a FUN puzzle and a SUPERDUPER finish to the week. :)


Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020, Christopher Adams


My first run through the puzzle resulted in only a few three- and four-letter gimmes here and there, including "Messenger __" (RNA), "Gilbert and Sullivan princess" (IDA), Portuguese king (REI), Superhero role for 50-Across (THOR), and Mixed martial arts org. (UFC). I am, of course, kidding about that last one.

The only place I really had any real trouble was in the northwest, although I must say I was lucky that 'grooves' didn't fit at 7A: (Lines on a record), or I might have had trouble in the northeast, too. The correct answer was the much more interesting and tricky: CRIMES. I also started with 'tat' instead of INK for "Body art, slangily", but that didn't last long. :) Oddly, I thought, I got BURNTORANGE (An official color of the University of Texas) much sooner than "Anna Wintour, e.g." (FASHIONISTA).

But, back to where I had LOTSA trouble. The first two down answers are names I'm not too familiar with (LILKIM and AMANDA), so no help there. Combine those with two rather vague clues "These feelings have got me pretty down" (IMNOTOK) and "What to do just before you're done" (LASTSTEP) - both doing what they were supposed to do by sowing confusion and hesitation - and I was left without MAMIE answers. I had also made the mistake of entering 'nest' where COTE was wanted. I did get ATS right away. Yay?

I'm not too familiar with PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter, but I love the rating category PANTSONFIRE. The clue "Video spots" for PIXELS was good, as was "Clothing line" for INSEAM. I'm guessing Huygens liked "One who's used to adding pressure?" (MATHLETE). And who doesn't love chocolate ECLAIRS?


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Thursday, May 14, 2020, Michael Schlossberg


Today's theme answers all relate to a Bingo of some kind - from Scrabble game to NURSERYRHYME. As a bonus, there's a [FREE] square right in the middle of the grid, and rebus was its name-o.

For the most part, my solving went right along and I hardly had to ALTAR any initial answers. I was happy to remember PIBB Xtra (soda) from a previous puzzle. And MANNA has come up a lot recently in "Spelling Bee." I didn't know ELSTON Howard, but the crosses helped me there. I did get stuck for a short time in the north east. I had PAUL_ for the "Pulitzer-wining playwright Vogel"(12D) but the clue at 26A: had me literally puzzled. My best guess was PAULA, but why NAY for "Assembly line?"? Eventually, it dawned on me, oh, *that* kind of Assembly. Clever! There were a couple of other clever clues I enjoyed including "Leaves before paying the check?" (TEA), and my favorite, "Cellular plan?" (DNA). Ha!

This has not been my fastest week of puzzle solving ever, that's for sure, and I've hit some snags, but if you said I still enjoy doing crossword puzzles, you'd be ABSOLUTELYRIGHT.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wednesday, May 13, 2020, Benjamin Kramer

17:29, FWOE

While today's theme had no revealer, it was easy enough to read between the lines and see the references to ever-larger chunks of writing in the second half of five answers from SAFEPASSAGE to HORSDOEUVRE.

Unlike yesterday, I felt the constructor and I were not in CONCERTS today, resulting in a high time for a Wednesday *and* a FWOE. My error came at the 1A/5D cross. HAP for luck is a thing? That was too quaint for this solver. Of course, I should gotten the 'H' from "Family name on 'Arrested Development,'" but I didn't think about it too carefully and, thanks to my sister-in-law's frequent and humorous repetition, in a heavy local accent, of "Peter Blute," a Member of the Massachusetts U.S. House of Representatives from the nineties, I ended up with THEBOMB. :(

There were a couple of other areas where I wasn't on the same page as the constructor. For "Bygone TV feature" I tried 'dial' before getting KNOB from the downs. WOW as a word before and after "just" seems weird to me. I also feel that there is something not quite right about referring to Yoko ONO as "Lennon's lady." And last, but not least, TOEJAM? I don't consider myself unusually delicate, but I did not like that entry at all. Upon reading the clue, I hoped I was wrong, but when JEAN went in for "Denim," I was forced to ENTER it.


But, to balance the books, there were a number of things I did enjoy in the puzzle including "Class act?" (TEST), "Mad state" (IRE), "Ones feeling the crunch?" (ABS), and especially "Country music?" (ANTHEM) and "Makes, as bread" (EARNS). I also liked BASKS, MOSSY, and WINATLIFE.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020, Tom Pepper and Zhouqin Burnikel


Fun theme today in which words for toys are combined with other words, making the revealer, THISISNOTATOY, apt. To be specific, we have MARBLECAKE, TOPPRIORITY, YOYODIETER, and perhaps least toy-like of all, RATTLESNAKE. Apt!

The puzzle played on the easy side form me - you might say I was NSYNC with co-constructors Pepper and Burnikel. I enjoyed thinking of ROMANS speaking ITALIANO INSTYLE. I also liked FANFEST, TOTALLIE, PHOTON, and EUREKA. I did enter 'clippie' at first for "Microsoft virtual assistant introduced in 2014," even though I knew the year was all wrong - sorry to UNCAP that memory for all who had managed to bury it. :| On a happier note, IRATE 1A: as today's most amusing entry: "Rapids transits?" (RAFTS) - ha! And, as a personal aside, I love CEREALS.

Seedless watermelon

Sure, maybe there were a few spoil sports in the grid like NAE, AOL, and especially ETA and SLR right after each other, but constructing a puzzle isn't child's play.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday, May 11, 2020, Ross Trudeau


Today's grid presented four shaded rows replete with words that refer to the human nether region, or in other words, a BOTTOMROW. I was thinking of trying to insert some theme-related words of my own into the review - as is my wont - but Mr. Trudeau managed to wedge in so many that all that remained was junk in the trunk. Of the ten theme answers in the grid, my favorite is CABOOSE, but I can be also be entertained by many of the others including RUMP, FANNY, and BEHIND. BUTT is good, but it's too bad a full 'buttock' couldn't be squeezed in.

I did get stuck in a couple of places. At 5A: "Not keep a secret," I entered 'tell' instead of BLAB. Also, I looked at 13D: "Shaggy beasts of 53-Across" before having gotten to 53-Across. I had the Y in BOOTY, which made me think I had discovered 'Yeti.' That turned out to be an abominable mistake that cost me some time.

There was a pile of fun fill including ABSCOND, FOB, and ZESTY. One clue that cleft me smiling was "Horse's disapproving vote?" (NEIGH). That cracked me up!


Just to clear the poop deck, I thought UNIDEAL was just that. There were also runs of partials and acronyms throughout the grid like OLA, SEZ, XES, PSS, ALII, and WEA that felt a little uncomfortable, but overall, it was fundamentally a fine puzzle. :)


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Sunday, May 10, 2020, Adam Fromm


Frannie and I did this one sitting side-by-side on the couch today, which was a nice throwback to the old days when we used to work on puzzles together more often. Just one more nice thing about the stay-at-home situation, I guess. Others have included getting our digital photo collection a bit more organized, working on projects around the house, and finding some new dinner and snack recipes. And maybe this isn't true for some people, but I've seen more of my immediate family during the past two months than I have in the past five years. We're a far-flung bunch, and often I see my brothers only once or twice per year. Lately, it's been every weekend for at least an hour.


And speaking the family, I think they would all (except my sister, maybe) enjoy the "country guessing game" that is today's theme. Mr. Fromm has found hidden words when two countries from the same region are put end to end, and he has clued for this found word, while also giving the region. As in, "What subjects and verbs must do [Europe]" (BULGARI(AGREE)CE), or the slightly less interesting "T-shirt size [South America]" (BRAZI(LARGE)NTINA).

I think it would have been slightly more interesting if the central words were somehow all related, or if it seemed like there was more of a reason for doing this other than just that it can be done at all. I mean, it's fine, and everybody likes geography quizzes, but ... well ... maybe I'm just an OLDCOOT.

Our favorite entry was probably "Forest ranger" (DEER), which we only got and understood through its related entry "Male 91-Acrosses" (HARTS). "Ranger" as in, one who wanders. Very nice.

Today's "Black pie crust component" clue for OREO was new to me, so that was interesting, and "Group seen in gathering clouds?" was a clever way of getting at the vowel string AEIOU. Yesterday we had the "oblate" clementine, and today we learn that a PEAR is "obovate." One can only wonder what shape will come next?! If there is one, it will be Frannie who tells you about it, as she starts up her reviewing again tomorrow. See you in a few weeks!

- Horace

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Saturday, May 9, 2020, Erik Agard and Miriam Estrin


A larger-than-normal (15x16) puzzle (the second this week) was required today to fit the IMPOSSIBLEBURGER right there in the middle. It's the first time that entry has been used (thanks,!), which isn't all that surprising, since it only became available in 2016, and really only gained widespread popularity a year or so ago. What is surprising is that it's also the first time RUMI (Persian poet whose epitaph reads "When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men") has appeared. He's been around since 1207!


Also, it seems we've seen Erik Agard's byline an awful lot lately - twice per month so far this year (not counting May), and at least once per month since September, 2017! Not that I'm complaining, mind you. He's also been doing a lot of co-creating, and this time he teams up with Ms. Estrin for her debut, and it was a good one.

I enjoyed GLAMPING (Not exactly roughing it, in modern lingo), BEERAMID (Portmanteau for an arrangement of cans in a dorm room, maybe) (Two more "firsts!"), COALESCE (Come together), and even OBLATE (Shaped like a clementine). I wasn't sure about that one, so I looked it up, and yup, that's the shape!

I thought TREETRUNK (Place to branch out) was good, but I might have preferred my original entry - TREEhouse. It was more metaphorical, maybe, but their answer works pretty well. Some other clues were a tad further off - to me anyway. "Get in contact, so to speak" for HOLLER seemed a little imprecise, but again, maybe it's just that I'm not so up on the modern lingo. And "They can go from floor to ceiling" doesn't seem quite right for LAMPS. A floor lamp can't also be a ceiling lamp, and really, even then, wouldn't you say "ceiling light?"

On the other hand, "It may be imperfect" was perfect for TENSE, and I also very much enjoyed "Secure" for LAND, "Martyr complex?" for SHRINE, and "Gripping experiences that take your breath away" for BEARHUGS. Remember hugs? ...

Solid Turn this week.

- Horace

Friday, May 8, 2020

Friday, May 8, 2020, Daniel Larsen


This was a satisfying, chunky, Friday solve. Gimmes like ATTIRE (Difference between a well-dressed bicyclist and a poorly dressed unicyclist, in a joke) and LANDSPEEDER (Luke Skywalker sold his in Mos Eisley) got me off to a quick start in the NE, but only after several missteps ("pec" instead of ABS (Gymgoer's pride), "arousE" for ENABLE (Turn on, say), "croc" instead of DINO (Bird's long-ago relative, informally), and "playedaPART" not DIDONESPART (Contributed)) had befouled the NW.

aurora borealis in the FARNORTH by Bob O'Connor (the best photographer I know)
I worked my way around the grid clockwise, finally getting REND (Tear), HEMSIN (Surrounds), and then ZAMBONIS (Ice machines) (Nice!), to straighten out that corner. My final square, though, was the F crossing of CAFE (Setting for many Manet paintings of the bourgeoisie) and INFANT (One might keep you up at night). I had to run the alphabet in my mind for that one, and luckily it didn't take too long.

ASIS traditional, I will now mention a few of the puzzles additional ASSETs. I was misled (even without the periods) by "DC figures" until SUPERHEROES was obvious, and not knowing LITTLEITALY (Manhattan neighborhood between the East Village and Chinatown) made me wish that I spent more of my time in N.Y.C.

Likewise, I was thinking "upset" instead of MEET for "Cross," and "depend upon" instead of the more forceful COERCE for "Lean on." And finally, HARLOW reminds me of a favorite anecdote, wherein Jean HARLOW, upon meeting Lady Asquith, mispronounced her first name, Margot, and Asquith quickly replied, "My Dear, the T is silent, as in 'Harlow.'" True or not, it still amuses me.

Lots of misdirection, some interesting factoids (Franchise with the most victories in N.F.L. history (BEARS), for example), and almost no junk at all. So far, it's been an excellent extended Turn. See you tomorrow for the finale!

- Horace

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Thursday, May 7, 2020, Peter A. Collins and Bruce Haight


Everybody enjoys a Spoonerism, right? It's the transposition of two consonant sounds in a sentence (e.g. "The Lord is a shoving leopard," "A blushing crow"). Well, today we have three such examples, each transposing an M and a W. BUTMATETHERESWAR! There's also grid art, showing Ws and Ms swirling in the center, and I like to think that disjointed equals sign is somehow explaining that we have to swap one for the other. It's like that time on "Mork & Mindy" when Mindy was possessed by the devil and Orson yells "Waste her, Mork!" No, wait, I meant to say it's a masterwork!

SCROD (Etymology from Wikipedia)

Wow, that was a long way to go for that. But was it any farther than ""Just a reminder: the golf course is reserved for the guys tomorrow," e.g.?" for MENSDAYWARNING? I'm not so sure it was. Still, the absurdity made me laugh, and who could ask for more on a murse-day thorning?

OK, let's talk instead about some of the non-theme material. Constructors might sometimes get a little BADPR when reviewers get HUNGUP on the OVERUSE of certain entries (ETTU, ETNA, TTOP), but WELLOKAY, when it's all in the service of a hilarious theme, I'll not GETNASTY. Besides, there was more humor to be found in the clues "One who might say 'Thank God it's Friday'?" (CRUSOE) and "Ones playing things low-key?" (BASSES), and I enjoyed "Subdivision subdivision" for LOT.

There were quite a few names, some of them obscure (ELI, HUTTON, CEDRIC, HEEP, ELSIE, ARES, ASTIN, HALS, ONO), and once again, I can't help relating ONHOLD (Temporarily suspended) and DOWNTURN (Market woe) to the troubling times we are all experiencing, but ALLINALL, I enjoyed the theme so much that I still AVE praise POR the fuzzle.

- Horace

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wednesday, May 6, 2020, Ali Gascoigne


So far so good on the "hopes are high for an excellent week" thing. Today we get a bonus Wednesday rebus puzzle! YOUAREHERE gives instructions for filling in eight squares, as in TA[UR]US (Practical, stubborn, ambitious sort, so it's said). And speaking of that, one of our regulars just had a birthday at the start of the month (Happy Belated, Huygens!), and one of our writers has one coming up in a couple weeks... and hey, it's my brother Dave's birthday today! I'm surrounded by stubborn bulls! Lucky for me, I'm an aries and can butt heads with the best of them. :)

I have read other bloggers saying they are tired of rebuses, but I don't think I ever will be. The moment I realize that an answer needs more letters than will fit is always exciting, and it's fun to see what the constructor will do with it, and how it is worked into a theme. Today, for example, Mr. Gascoigne finds three entries that each use two rebus squares, which was interesting, and the revealer was perfect. I think I had already figured out the rebus by the time I got down to the revealer, but I hadn't thought of the "punny hint" for it, so that was amusing.


Some really good QMCs today:

Light element? (NEON)
75% of 1,000? (ZEROES)
Person who makes do? (BARBER)
Places surfers frequent, for short? (URLS)
Is from France? (EST)

And a few good Non-QMCs too:

Org. whose workers look into cases (TSA) (Remember flying places?...)
Go round and round (ORBIT)
Capital of France (E[UR]OS) (Remember France?...)
Very smart (CHIC)
Director of many courses (HEADCHEF)

But I'm not so sure about "Game played with the fingers" for PEEKABOO. Are they talking about that thing you do with a baby where you cover your face and show it again? If so, I would probably say it was played with the hands, not the fingers, but then, I could be way off in my thinking about this. Anybody else?

- Horace

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Tuesday, May 5, 2020, Lee Taylor


Is it just me, or is the intro "Riddle-de-dee" off-putting?

Today we get a pinwheel theme of riddles:

What is it that the more you take, the more you leave behind? (FOOTSTEPS)
What's light as a feather but can't be held for long? (YOURBREATH)
What's clean when black and dirty when white? (CHALKBOARD)
What asks no questions but must be answered? (TELEPHONE)


Not a bad set, really, and paradoxes are always fun. And how many of you were prompted by the second question to find out what the world record is for holding one's breath? Well, I was, and I'll tell you. The average person can hold their breath for maybe a minute, and some people can hold it for almost three minutes, which is usually long enough to cause yourself to pass out. But the world record - go on, just take a guess... The world record is 22 minutes, 22 seconds. Apparently breath can be held much longer if you're submerged in cold water, and - and this seems to be important - if you hyperventilate pure oxygen for 15 or 20 minutes before you start. Still, the "non-oxygen aided" record stands at 11 minutes, 35 seconds. Yikes!

Records like this strike me as not a good idea. You heard it here first - Do not try to break the breath-holding record!

OK, bit of a sidetrack there...

Some very nice, unusual fill today, like the S-started trio of SLOUGHED (Cast (off)), SHUTEYE (Sleep, informally), and SASHAY (Walk with a swing of the hips and shoulders) in the South. KICKBALL (Activity on a school playground) was always fun, and we've seen many a TEDDY looking out from house windows all around town. Hopefully, all the positive stuffed animal energy will help to bring a CURE and/or a vaccine ASAP. And speaking of the pandemic, are HEADSHOPs essential businesses?

- Horace

Monday, May 4, 2020

Monday, May 4, 2020, Emily Carroll


An excellent start to the week today with a clever and amusing puzzle by Emily Carroll. The sounds of chicks, turkeys, ducks, and geese at the start of each theme answer are explained by the central grid-spanner USEFOWLLANGUAGE. Hah! Very nice.


In the premiere Down slots we have the warmly old-SCHOOL sounding CELLOPHANE, and ICESKATERS, which, until yesterday, would have still seemed appropriate in New England, where we just had one of the coldest Aprils in decades! Yesterday got into the seventies, however, and this morning it's already sixty-something, so maybe we really are coming out of it now.

One thing we're still not out of, however, is this whole pandemic thing. Anybody else get a little pang from the clue "Not do takeout at a restaurant" (EATIN)? Yeah... I'll be happy to do that again someday....

ITSOK, though, because we have lots of TOP fill to distract us. Some that I enjoyed were QUASH (Suppress), CONK (Bop on the head), ARGYLE (Popular pattern for socks and sweaters), LANCE (Knight stick?) (Funny how it's right on top of EPEES), TWIRLS (Spins, as a baton), JESTS (Kids around), and CAPERS (Pickled green garnishes). Mmmmm.... CAPERS....

It certainly wasn't INERT, as some early-week puzzles tend to be. And now my hopes are high for an excellent week! I hope you're all still happy and healthy, and still enjoying our daily ritual. Thanks for reading.

- Horace

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Sunday, May 3, 2020, Brendan Emmett Quigley and Ben Zimmer


"It does what it says on the tin," as the old saying goes. Or, to be slightly more clear, the title of the puzzle demonstrates the change from A to OU that will happen in all theme entries, by taking the familiar phrase "Shifting Sands" and changing it to the explanatory "Shifting Sounds." Each new creation is then clued in a wacky way. Some, as usual, work better than others. I was amused by COUNCELEDCHECK (Advised a chess player to attack the king?), for instance, but TROUNCESTATE (Decisively defeat a cabinet department?) seemed a bit of a stretch.

If you've got time, you might enjoy reading this Ian Frazier piece.
I have a question, though, about 29A: "Game of Thrones" patriarch has difficulties?" (NEDFLOUNDERS). Is there really a character on that show named Ned Flanders? Because the only Ned Flanders I know is Homer Simpson's neighbor.

"Places to exchange dollars for quarters" was a cute clue for INNS, as was "Make an engaging offer?" for PROPOSE, and I laughed out loud when I finally got HIMBO (Attractive, but vacuous guy, in slang). And speaking of laughing, I can't hear the name "Mary, Queen of Scots" without thinking of "The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots" by Monty Python. I'm not sure it's historically accurate, but from listening to that ridiculous skit I did learn that she was executed.

I've never heard the term SOCKO for "Smashing," and ABOIL seems not only esoteric, but also more specific than just "Bubbling," but it's best to ENURE oneself to the occasional unpleasant entry, and focus instead on the humorous and interesting bits. Who knew MAGPIES could recognize themselves in mirrors, for example?

- Horace

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Saturday, May 2, 2020, Paolo Pasco


I woke up early today to get to the grocery store before most people. It paid off in that the store was empty and I was able to find a few things before they disappeared. Still no flour though. It seems other households are finding the same simple creature comforts necessary that we do. Yesterday, Cece made pumpkin spice chocolate chip muffins. Delicioso!

The other nice thing about getting up early was seeing Mr. Paolo Pasco's name on today's puzzle. What a great grid shape! It's a big S, with the north and south sections boasting a stack of a 12-, a 13- and a 14-letter answer.

Although I broke a TAD in the NW corner with the gimmes PEET and GRETA, I really found my stride in the middle of the puzzle, working off of HUR. I would argue that Mary Poppins would claim she never TRILLS. In the original movie, she sings with a bird. Maybe that's what they're thinking of. I didn't know ROSA or LEONORA, but was able to infer them from the context.
This opened up the top section: it's a great stack of long answers. I love SAIDNOONEEVER, while LANDSAKESALIVE and FREETHINKING are strong entries. 9D: Part of a forest that can grow as fast as two feet a day (KELP) had me in the wrong biome entirely until I had three of the four letters filled in.

The bottom section moved pretty quickly for me. The lower stack is not as good as the upper one. But 56A: "Don't admit to anything!" (DENYDENYDENY) might be my candidate for my favorite answer of the year so far.

In any case, it's a VIVID puzzle with a lot of great entries, and I enjoyed solving it immensely. Very satisfying turn this week.

- Colum

Friday, May 1, 2020

Friday, May 1, 2020, Trenton Charlson


Today's puzzle was really upbeat, which was a lovely thing to have show up on my iPad on a Friday afternoon. NICELYDONE, Mr. Charlson says. Let's DOAJIG! All of these happy items BODEWELL for a fun weekend in and around the house!

I'm going to hazard a guess here: Mr. Charlson wins a prize for the most Zs in a section of a puzzle ever. There are a full seven in the NE corner. If anyone thinks this section FIZZLESOUT, they are greatly mistaken. My favorite clue and answer in that section has to be 21A: Only three-letter word in Scrabble that requires both blank tiles (ZZZ). That's amazing! I loved that I figured it out with only the clue, and that answer broke open the whole section as you can imagine.

Mr. Charlson clearly loves Scrabble, given the two Vs, two Js, a K and an X elsewhere in the puzzle. Sadly we did not find a Q.

46A: It always goes to hell (RIVERSTYX) is an excellent clue.

60A: Study for the bar? (OENOLOGY) saves an otherwise not great answer. Meanwhile, a GINSLING would be a welcome addition to the weekend celebration.

In any case, Mr. Charlson certainly did not PLAYITSAFE. My only complaint (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) is that the puzzle is very sectioned off. The NW and SE corners are little mini-puzzles. Also, I will say, I do not take a GOLDENDELICIOUS. The name is a clear example of false advertising.

These little things aside, an excellent themeless for Friday.

- Colum