Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020, Zachary David Levy


Every day is a good day to celebrate THENOTORIOUSRBG. Although I can't help but feel that the impetus for the creation of this puzzle is the realization that, along with the nickname, ONTHEBASISOFSEX and JUSTICEGINSBURG are all 15 letters long.

Well, just for good measure, we also get FLATBUSH and COLUMBIA, two stopping points along her biography. I did not see the biopic movie referred to in 17A, but I did see the documentary RBG, which was fascinating and well done. The idea of bringing a sexual discrimination case to the Supreme Court where the plaintiff was a man was brilliant. And sad at the same time.

Anyway, enough about discrimination, politics, and... well. Let's just say ICANT. It's time to think about BUNS instead.

I was slightly concerned on opening the puzzle to see the massive NW chunk of white squares. Fortunately 1A: Segment of the Constitution that starts "We the People" (PREAMBLE) was a gimme. I wasn't sure about how to spell PROSIT, so that took a little working around. Similarly, ANISETTE always makes me pause: is it 2 Ns, 2 Ss, or 2 Ts?

62A: King or queen (MATTRESS) is a nice misdirect of a clue. There's not too much to complain about or make too much noise about. It's a fine Tuesday puzzle, if nothing mindblowing. At the same time, it's yet another debut, so welcome to the NYT, Mr. Levy!


- Colum

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020, Peter Gordon


Today was an early solve late on a lazy Sunday. Writing two blog reviews in one day? What is the world coming to? Cats and dogs, living together... mass hysteria!

Well, maybe not anything quite as catastrophic as that, he said doggedly.

Right. Today's theme is kind of fun: two word phrases, where the second word can be found in order within the first word. Thus, 18A: Position sought every six years (SENATESEAT). The colored squares are somewhat necessary. Would I have figured out the theme without them? Possible. But would I have realized that MAINMAN and BESTBET were part of the set of six? I doubt it.

There's some fun fill in the puzzle. I liked ABSOLOM, an unusual find on a Monday. I think of the Faulkner novel, "Absolom, Absolom!" Beyond that, I thought the actual biblical character was in a Handel oratorio, but I find that was Saul and David, but not the son.

EPILEPSY is right up my alley, of course. The clue is technically correct: the disease is defined as the condition of multiple electroconvulsive seizures. As a cause, however, it's a little short of the mark. Idiopathic epilepsy is when we can't find a specific cause, but presumably there's something in the brain that's making the electrical storms happen, we just can't see it with current imaging techniques.

On a completely separate note, Hope and I were discussing Laverne and Shirley ("Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hassenpfeffer Incorporated!"), which comes to mind because of Penny Marshall's shortlived marriage to Rob REINER. We couldn't remember David Lander, who played Squiggy. Oh, Frannie! Where art thou? I feel certain you would have come through.

Finally, I'm not convinced by 63A: Erotic (SEXY). There are plenty of things that are the latter but not the former, at least in any one individual's eyes. For example, I'm completely willing to grant that Idris Elba is sexy, but I do not find him erotic. Especially in Cats.

- Colum

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020, Jon Schneider and Anderson Wang


Hey, everybody! I'm up early today because I dropped my older daughter at the airport. She's headed off to Wyoming to visit her girlfriend. Turns out you can still travel on airplanes. Remember those? NOLIE: I'm just a bit nervous about her traveling, but she's not going to any hotspots, so hopefully it will all be just fine.

Anyway, after two weeks of fine reviews by Horace and Frannie, you get a week of me. I'll try to keep the level of play up to their usual excellence.

Today, we get a mathematical theme, in a sense. I imagine that should make Huygens approve. The revealer comes at 70A: Mathematical concepts suggested eight time in this puzzle (EXPONENTS). Throughout the puzzle, there are eight pairs of answers which are cross referenced. Each pair is set up so the second answer is up one row and to the right of the first answer, and the two are connected by an understood "to the". Thus, 113A: With 107-Across, bad sort of competition (RACE[TOTHE] / BOTTOM). If you need a visual to understand why this is an exponent:
It's a nice idea, and all eight phrases are strong. I like PLAY[TOTHE] / GALLERY and THREW[TOTHE] / WOLVES the best.

I'm impressed by the cleanness of the grid. The longest answers today have nothing to do with the theme, and most of them are fun, like ELMSTREET, TOPTENLISTS, and ETHIOPIAN, a cuisine which everybody should try. I also liked THELBOMB and THEFATES.

There are hardly any misdirecting or funny ha-ha clues. It's a nice Mae West quote: "SEX is an emotion in motion." She was the Oscar Wilde of Brooklyn, NY. Bet you didn't know that's where she hailed from!

It is odd to see ELOI and OLEO, two ancient crosswordese, in an otherwise very clean grid. But these are classic ways to make sections hang together, and in a way they're old friends at this point.

Well, that's all he SCRAWLED for today. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

P.S. A double debut today! Congratulations, Messrs Schneider and Wang!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday, June 27, 2020, Ryan McCarty


I'm really not sure how best to record my time for this puzzle. All of the above are correct, in a way. The app stopped at 54:33 when I correctly completed the puzzle, but I doubt I would have finished it at all if left to my own devices, but I did finish it thanks to a little help from a friend. Here's how it happened:

The top half of the puzzle went right along - ONESIES here, a TWIN there -  making me think I NEEDNT PANIC, but that turned out not to be the case as I ground to a halt after completing the upper two thirds. I put the puzzle down for a while. 

A short time later, Horace announced that he was never going to be able to finish the puzzle. I countered saying, "of course you will, you always do." But after a time, he repeated his pronouncement and I was still completely stumped, so we decided to work on it together. We were both stuck in the same place: the southeast corner. I also had a number of empty squares in the southwest, but more about that later. 

We both had DAY at the top of the section, ASKSIN in the middle, and we were pretty confident of ANNUALFEE (Deterrent to getting a credit card) toward the bottom, but when nothing was working we cancelled the FEE. We felt even more morose when we took out DOURER. But, as it happened, the locus of the problem was at 45A: "What has a large following on a college campus?" We had both tried HONORrOll, but it just wasn't working. Horace thought of HONORClub, which, while incorrect, accidentally and fortuitously supplied the correct C, after which a suggestion of MAGE for "Enchanting sort" worked like a charm. At that point we had MU_ and then the lucky C, leading Horace to suggest MUSCLY for "Jacked. Then the G in MAGE conjured up AGENDER (Nonbinary, in a way), which finally gave us HONORCODE . Phew! 

With that taken care of, I soldiered on alone to the southwest corner, which Horace had already solved on his own. Thankfully, before he wandered off, he corrected my guess for "Bulk purchase at the post office" from 'tapE' to PANE, which I doubt I ever would have come up with on my own. I guess I can see that PANE works in this instance, but to me it seems like a clue written more for misdirection than cleverness. Of course, if a person knew that PEPSI Center is home to the Denver nuggets, PANE might have been less of a pain, but still. And also in that corner, for "Something you wouldn't use your hands to touch" I was trying too hard for an answer with a little flair, like 'heart' maybe. When I realized it was PEDAL, I was disappointed. I also wasn't thrilled with the answer to "Double shifts at work, e.g." I would call working a double shift a slog, I would not call each one a slog and both shifts together SLOGS. I might, however, call my journey through the southeast and west corners of today's puzzle slogs. It sounds like I've eaten some of those proverbial grapes, doesn't it?

Clues I did like in the southwest were "Miss-taken identity?" for JANEDOE and "Pair of overalls?" for (ELS). Another clue I liked was "Bring about, as confusion" (SOW). I also liked "Baldness is the result of losing them" (TREADS). COASTTOCOAST was a nice long clue - too bad it's not quite long enough to span the entire grid. "What to do if you'd like a hand" (ANTE) is also good. 

To sum up, today's puzzle contained both SWEETANDSOUR for this solver. It's always fun doing the puzzle with Horace, and there were some clever clues, but some just weren't to my taste.


Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


Today's puzzle seemed to be in my wheelhouse. While I didn't know every answer ASAP, I was able to right my wrongs pretty quickly - the worst of which came early with "Like some cleaners." For some reason, I started with ALLsURfacE, which, thanks to the many letters that matched the correct answer (ALLPURPOSE), took the longest to correct. Elsewhere I tried vALES, but that was speedily corrected to DALES thanks to the nice DONTLOOKATME ("'Not my problem'").

I did get LOLA ("Lover of Tony in a hit 1978 song") right away - no surprises there! I also smiled at and dropped in ECHO for "Return some calls?" I enjoyed the aptness of the clue for SOAPOPERAS ("They're full of endless drama") - apt!

Really quite a HAUL of good clues throughout the puzzle, including the somewhat convoluted but clever "Kind of artist who's not very good?" (CON) and the pair of literary lights, "Hardy heroine" (TESS) and "Mother of Hamnet Shakespeare" (ANNE). I might also include in this group "Hogwarts house whose emblem is, surprisingly, an eagle" (RAVENCLAW). I hadn't noticed the birdscrepancy before.

Others I vant to VAUNT:
"One taking the high road?" (STONER)
"Lowest notes" (ONES)
"Greek spirits" (OUZOS) - ha!


I enjoy the appellation KITTENHEELS, but I wouldn't want to wear them. I'll also skip the ASPIC, despite its cold plate, thank you very much, but I will take advantage of my current location and go and enjoy a COOLBREEZE. I'll STOPBY again SOON to see what tomorrow WOOL bring.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday, June 25, 2020, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


Today's revealer, GOOUTONALIMB, gives solvers a literal heads up to the fact that the theme answers break out of the grid with a bodily appendage - LEG|ALLYBLONDE, WORKSLIKEACH|ARM, and WHISTLEBLO|WING. I guessed something was up when I tried the full title of the Reece Witherspoon movie at 35A and it didn't fit. Getting the revealer a little later gave me a foot in the door, and with the help of a few downs in the middle, I was eventually able to get the whole LEG in.

In addition to the fun theme, I thought the bones of the puzzle were strong. I enjoyed:
"They take dedication to write" (ODES)
"A chair might hold one" (GAVEL) - a nice twist!
"Really stand out" (POP) - fun
"Informal title of respect" (CAPN)
"Gift that much thought is put into" (ESP)
and especially "Scary story" for ATTIC. Ha!

I also liked HAZIER, GAWKY, and WHOOPED.

Electron micrograph of Martian meteorite ALH84001 showing structures that some scientists think could be fossilized bacteria-like life forms
I didn't go top to toe without hitting a few snags here and there. Was it wrong to consider 'lucy' as a "1950's-'60s sitcom nickname?" Also, I've got to stop putting in SATIsfy where SATIATE is wanted. I think that's happened to me three times in the last couple of weeks. And did anyone else notice that 'clothingBIN' has the same number of letters as DONATIONBIN? I did.

When I eventually got all of *that* sorted, I found myself faced with a tangle of problems in the middeast. The situation had all the earmarks of a FWOE. While I did have some notion of R&B singer Gray's first name, I wasn't sure of the spelling. I had entered NYse for Big Apple inits, and thus talked myself into MACe being acceptable. I wasn't too sure which characteristic of a hedgehog was wanted at 38A, perhaps because I was thinking of the excellent joke, "why can't he just share the hedge?" That lead me down the garden path toward words like 'greedy' and 'selfish', neither of which fit, obviously, but that didn't stop me from trying to find a synonym that would! I also had AsE where ANE was wanted, and I really had no idea what the "Crankcase component" might be. Also, I tried ParadEHORSE for POLICEHORSE. Is a parade horse even a thing? What won't the brain think of? I did have one good idea, though, and that was to take everything out of that section and start over, this time, with complete success - he said OILPAN!

I was very happy to avoid the FWOE today, which was not the case yesterday - the band name/Hungarian hunting dog cross did me in. But to get back to today's puzzle, I think it an excellent body of work!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wednesday, June 24, 2020, Joe Deeney


I know it's only Wednesday, but I am starting to see a thread running through the whole week. "Huge, cloudy symbols of a high" theme, as it were, rooted "in charactery."* Well, ok, perhaps I shouldn't get so grandiose, but today's and Monday's themes do focus on the sounds of individual letters taken together. "SKP" on Monday, and "IC" today. It is hoped we will read the latter aloud as "icy," and I wonder just now if there's an even deeper level today - an IRISHCOFFEE could be served cold, and the IRONCURTAIN did have something of an "icy" coldness to it... is IOWACITY known for being especially chilly in the winter? Hmm ... it kind of falls apart with INFORMEDCONSENT, although that answer does kind of serve as a chilling buzzkill after the IRISHCOFFEE.

But let's spend one more short paragraph thinking about a weekly theme, how does Tuesday fit in? Well, again it focuses on letters themselves, their shape, and not so much the words they're in. Do you see? I guess we'll just have to wait a few more days before a review can "hold like rich garners the full ripened grain" of a final answer.


Back to today - I don't remember hearing the term COLDOPEN before a few years ago, and even now, I only think about it in relation to S.N.L. Certainly other shows start before the credits air, right?

Outside of the theme, that NE corner, with its LAKECOMO, AMALFI, it's Fleur-de-LIS, Bon MOT, and ALAMO rental car reminds me that there was a headline in the Times yesterday saying that the E.U. might ban visitors from the U.S. because of "Coronavirus failures." Sigh.

Lots of multi-word answers today. ZOOMINON, INWANTOF, NOCUTS, EXTRAPAY, NOTAKERS ... I have nothing particular to add about that, but sometimes I enjoy a puzzle filled with such answers.

After that last paragraph, you're probably wondering what happened to Frannie. It is her week, after all, but if you also read my reviews, you might remember that I had given her some "Get Out of Blog Free" cards for her birthday, and last night she turned in her first one. So you're stuck with this SQUARE, whose reviews do not have the same ENAMEL sheen.

Don't worry, there's not much more. I'll just add that VIZSLA is new to me, and I wouldn't have been able to tell you RHMACY's initials. I wonder if he's related to William H. Macy?

- Horace

*With apologies to John Keats.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesday, June 23, 2020, Jeff Chen


I *think* the unifying feature of today's four theme answers is that all their letters have STRAIGHTEDGES at the left. I solved the puzzle in an app where the theme wasn't super obvious visually, but according to a note, in the print version of the puzzle, each square of the theme answers has a short vertical line in the left half of the square. With the added graphic, the effect must have been a true delight. :) I'll bend the usual rules and render my favorite of the theme answers vertically - and in a sans serif font. The effort justifies the result, don't you think?

I didn't become aware of the theme until after I solved the puzzle, but it is a neat trick. I did, however, take note of some fun clues, including
"Rude rejection" (BITEME)
"Duds" (ATTIRE)
"Spike of interest in movies?" (LEE)
"Like some brides or threats" (VEILED)
"Line that an actor waits to hear" (CUE)
And my favorite, "They may hang out at pubs" (BEERGUTS)

I also liked RATCHET, PECK, FOCI, and SOUSE along with his "drinking buddy" BARTAB.

METEOR (center) seen from the International Space Station

Mr. Chen - every inch the consummate constructor - threw this solver a few curves. I tried 'pleat' at first for 'Arrange in folds" (DRAPE) and 'ice' before getting FOG (Hazard for takeoffs and landings). Also, it took me way too long to figure out the clue "Florida gridders, in headlines." Our esteemed readers know that, as a rule, sports are not my strength, so I did take a measure of satisfaction in knowing the answer (BUCS), once I understood the clue.


Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday, June 22, 2020, Sid Sivakumar


Today we find a fugitive "hiding" in four theme answers - an ESCAPEE, or, more precisely, an 'SKP,' its phonetic representation. In all four answers the three-letter group crosses word borders (de rigueur in these cases, n'est-ce pas?) In one answer, the fugitive screened itself in DESKPHONES ("Lines at the office?") and in another the rascal took cover in ASKPRICES ("Lowest acceptable offers, in stock market lingo"). But, I can't let Mr. Sivakumar get away with the clue "Willing to accept danger" for RISKPRONE without comment. I don't quite see how someone can be prone to risk when a risk is thing a person takes. I don't want to make a federal case out of it, but the rest of the cluing is by the book, and this one doesn't sing.

As I said, there's fine cluing throughout the puzzle. I especially liked "Wordlessly expressed approval" (NOD) and "[Um ... I'm standing right here] (AHEM). I also enjoyed "Sphere or cube." At first, I entered 'Shape' but it turned out to be something a little more SOLID. It's always good when clues keep you guessing.

Although I don't take one myself, I thought PIERCEDEAR was a nice long answer interestingly shot through with vowels. I prefer a BUFFERZONE if I can get one. The word NEAT brings Auntie Mame happily to mind. I also liked ANKLET, DADBOD, and OUIJA as fill.


In a fun crossword coincidence, Horace was working on a puzzle from the archives over the weekend (one from March 22, 2001 to be exact). He asked me about the first name of actress Swenson from Benson. I NEWT, of course (INGA), but I also commented that I hadn't thought of that show in years. Imagine my surprise when almost the same clue turned up two days and 19+ years later.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday, June 21, 2020, Byron and Harrison Walden


A cute theme today of "combining" two animals in an everyday phrase. SWIMMINGTRUNKS, for example, could be what you get when you cross FISH and ELEPHANTS. And LIGHTNINGSPEED might be gotten by joining a CHEETAH with FIREFLIES. Cute. I thought EXTRADRUMSTICKS (cross of SQUID and CHICKENS) was hilariously absurd, but my favorite part of the whole theme might have been the clue for RHINOCEROS (What's known for its poker face?). That's hilarious. To me.


Speaking of good clues, "Take in the newspaper" was an excellent Non-QMC for OPED. And on the other side, I thought "Touchingly?" (BYFEEL) and "Flighty?" (AVIAN) were amusing QMCs. And "'Cheese' products?" for SMILES wasn't bad either.

GOBI (Geographical locale whose name means "waterless place") was interesting, and as if EELS weren't already weird enough, now I have to think about them having "two sets of jaws and teeth." What?!?

On the whole, I liked the theme and I thought the cluing was strong. I did think, however, that maybe we should start a new periodic feature called "Most surprising/outrageous fill." Today, I would give that title to ADZING (Shaping wood using a curved blade). That's not a word you hear much. HAWSES (Spots on ships for anchor cables) gets honorable mention.

Frannie returns tomorrow, and I'll see you in a few weeks. Stay safe, stay sane, and happy puzzling.

- Horace

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Saturday, June 20, 2020, Stella Zawitowski


Well, Dear Reader, today's puzzle was harder, for me, than yesterday's. By 23 seconds. I knew you'd be anxious to find out.


If I remember correctly, Ms. Zawitowski said on xwordinfo.com a while ago that she thought weekend puzzles were getting too easy. Hopefully, she'll be happy to read of my struggles over the past two days. I'm pretty sure I spent a full five, possibly ten minutes on 33-, 34-, and 35-Down, and 39-, 47-, and 58-Across. The rest of the grid went along fairly smoothly. I dropped in SKETCHESOFSPAIN off the clue and thought I was INAGROOVE, but then things ground to a halt. In fact, to avoid pulling an ALLNIGHTER, I had to sleep on it and re-attack in the morning. Then it finally HITME, but probably the "hours" place in my time should have an 8 in it.

But that's probably enough about that. Except to say that the cross of KANE (Danity ____, a girl group with a self-titled 2006 #1 album) and KAYE ("American Pie" actor Eddie ____ Thomas) was tough. I had never heard either name before.

OK, now that's really enough.

Looking around at the rest of the grid, I see tons of quality entries: PARANOIA, HAPPYPLACE, EYECANDY, CATALYSTS, SLALOM (Windy event?) (nice), and METEORIC are all lovely. Interesting trivia about AUDI (Company whose logo symbolizes the union of four manufacturers) and AOL (I.S.P. once called Quantum Computer Services), and maybe about DICING. Does anyone actually say that, or is that just garbage fill? Even if it is the latter, it's pretty much the only CON.

A fun, challenging Turn this week. Just like we like.

- Horace

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020, Greg Johnson

0:21:48 (F.W.O.E.) 

My first entry set the stage for my solve today. I saw “Centerpiece of a luau” and confidently entered “pigroast.” That lasted only a few moments, however, because I was even more confident about TETES (Where les berets go) and GOTMILK (Ad campaign featuring "mustaches"), and I failed to notice that just a slight change in my first answer would have made it right. I then just as confidently entered “même” for “The same as in France” (EGAL), and it would be a long time before things got sorted out in the NW. The rest of the grid was still a struggle, but I had fewer missteps. 
But enough about me, how did you like those wide-open corners and all those lovely eight-letter answers? “Screen that keeps out bugs?” (BETATEST) was funny, and the only QMC in the whole puzzle! I wasn’t such a fan of “Coat placed on the ground” for FLOORWAX, though, because is it really the “ground?” It couldn’t have been “… placed on the floor,” but there must have been a better way to use this idea. “Coat placed underfoot” might have gotten people to think there was a word for that cartoony act of chivalry… or “Coat on the deck?” No. …
The stack of ROPESOFF, OVERTURE, and SATIATES was a good find, held together with solid material and just one rusty pin - OUTLIE (Not reside in the center of). Well, I suppose some would quibble with the plural ERINS, but I was so thrown by trying to think of a “TV Burnett” other than Carol that I give that one a pass.
I also enjoyed RABBLE (Unruly crowd), SWADDLES (Wraps), EVENKEEL (Steady temperament), COYOTE (Prairie predator), and RADIAN (Measure equal to about 57˚).
In the end, I found myself staring at the box with the 26 in it – the cross of “Makes deceptively attractive” and “One of many in most families.” For the latter, I had “_ENUS,” and I couldn’t think of anything but “mENUS,” and although that didn’t really make sense, the M made “mILDS” in the other direction, which was a word that I could kind of believe made sense for that clue. As we’ve remarked many times, it’s incredible what your mind will make up/allow for when you’re stuck in a crossword puzzle! Anyway, I finally ran the alphabet and came up with GILDS and GENUS, but not before I had tried entering that M. Sigh.
Still, I enjoyed the struggle today, and I kind of fear the Saturday this week. Will it be even harder?! Tune in tomorrow, same blog time, same blog channel to find out!

- Horace

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Thursday, June 18, 2020, Ricky Cruz


The Turn starts off with a bang this week! Or was that a car backfiring? :)

There's a RE[BUS] traffic jam in the center, and my favorite (yes, I'm just going to go ahead and say it's my favorite) pinwheel-type theme surrounding it. A TRAFFICJAM might occur due to a BOTTLENECK on the INTERSTATE and make you LATETOWORK. And in the center, that jam is made up of a [CAR][VAN][SEMI][TRUCK] and a [BUS]. Very nice.


The central crosses all work quite well too. [CAR]OL (Winter air) was nice and tricky, SER[VAN]T (Minor role in many a Shakespeare play) was unexpected, YO[SEMI]TE took me forever to get, even after I had gotten YO_TE! The last two, S[TRUCK]OUT and RE[BUS] were the first two I got of these, and they really helped blow the puzzle wide open.

The non-theme material was strong today as well - MALARKEY (Hogwash) is great, ALLEGRO (Brisk, musically) is fun, it's always nice to be reminded of things EUROPEAN (Polish, e.g.), and it was surprising to find FREAKS (Goes off the wall) as a verb. BUTTE (Rocky Mountain city once home to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company) is one of your better-named U.S. cities, but where the heck did that clue come from?

A lot of good, and only a little bad (DETS, AMS) - I liked it ALOT.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Daniel Raymon

0:15:04 (F.W.O.E.)

Sometimes one little thing can put me off a puzzle. Can you guess what it was today? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't the obscure (to this American, anyway) DSO (Brit. award) (it's a military thing). It was the unannounced alternate spelling of that crosswordese REATA (Rodeo rope) as it crossed OLEIC acid. I was so sure of RiATA that I was ready to accept that I just didn't know all the kinds of acid that there were. Sigh. 

And once I'm set in that direction, I am more apt to be disturbed by bits like APER, ZONAL, CPO, INDO, DOMO, and the somewhat unpleasant Drug MULE. IFEAR I'm just one of those crossword SNOBS who HASACOW when things don't go his way ... I'll try to re-focus.

One of the TEENIDOLS of the 1960s, Frankie Lymon

On the bright side, I was amused when I finally got MEOW (Copy cats?). That's a quality clue. And I am always cheered up by mention of Expressionist James ENSOR. COPSE is an excellent word, and "Big body in Africa" is ACUTE clue for HIPPO.

The theme is, well, slightly odd. Are they saying that each of these three things - BLANKETOFSNOW, SHEET OFICE, and a BED OFROSES can look dreamy? Is it that "blanket" "sheet" and "bed" go together because they are associated with "dreams?" But then, why "field?" It's a little loose, if you ask me.

Overall, not my favorite puzzle. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tuesday, June 16, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


Wow, this was an odd Tuesday, wasn't it? Four symmetrical blocks of units of measurement - inch, foot, yard, mile - that increase in order from smallest to largest. They are what the crossword folks like to call "triple-checked." That is, each one of the four letters (and it's kind of cool that each one is four letters long, isn't it?) is included in three different words. And when that happens, things like NIIHAU and ABSEIL (Descent by rope, as in mountaineering) often happen too. I'll admit, when I entered each of those two I feared I was making a FALSESTEP, but in the end they were right!


But they're not bad, really, because they're actual things, and that's fine. In addition, we've got the exotic IGUANODON (Bulky herbivorous dinosaur), the always amusing BEDHEAD (State of one's hair after a night's sleep), and the stately CONCHS (Seashells used as trumpets). And I liked all the answers including single letters - GOTANF (Flunked), ONEG (Universal donor's blood type, informally), HIGHCS (Notes reachable by sopranos), and TGEL (Neutrogena dandruff shampoo). OK, that last one isn't so great, because it's a product that I've never heard of, but it fits my theme. Speaking of products, one that I can get behind is RONCO (Company behind the Veg-O-Matic). I've never bought anything from them, but the name always brings a smile.

The next step up, I suppose, is answers featuring two-letter pieces, like HOLDEM, MRHYDE, CDROM, and the slightly duplicative GOFOR and ILLGO, and FEDON and LAYON. (See also BRINGITON, ONION, and the aforementioned IGUANODON.) :)

Things got a little name-heavy in the NE (TOBY, LIN, ANG, URIEL, YSL, TESLA, ORKIN), which can be a little DRAB, but in other places we have the fun word (although not always fun for everyone) EDICT (Decree), the descriptive DEFANG (Render harmless), and the tasty DESSERT (Part of the meal that the British call "afters").

Overall, I think this is a pretty impressive Tuesday. It gets a SMILEY from me.

- Horace

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday, June 15, 2020, Olivia Mitra Framke


This is just the kind of goofy Tom-foolery I like to see in a Moonday. Er, Monday. And happily, the revealer, though it sits in the center, was the last word I completed today, because when I first came to it, I didn't know it off the clue, and I didn't want to stop too long to consider it. When I finally came back to it and put in the second A, I laughed out loud. AUPAIRS indeed! And what more can one ask of a Monday puzzle?
Well, one could, perhaps, ask for a few interesting answers in the non-thematic material, to ENHANCE the solving experience. Like the lovely SNAPDRAGON (Flower named for its resemblance to a winged beast), which, after being shown that its jaws could be opened menacingly with a simple pinch, was one of my first favorite flowers.

It was funny typing that just now - "first favorite flowers." Does everyone pick a favorite flower? I liked honeysuckle back then too, because a friend showed me how it could be disassembled in a certain way to provide a small drop of nectar that could then be tasted. And I liked crocus, too. I'm not exactly sure why. Seems weird to think that it might have been simply because they were attractive.

There's LOTSA good fill, actually, like KRAUT (mmm.... KRAUT), SCRAPMETAL, SHORE, SCOWL, and SPAWN. HOOHA is amusing, and CASHBAR is ok, but I would prefer that it be open.

Overall, a very fine start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday, June 14, 2020, Randolph Ross


Greetings, Dear Reader! It's the changing of the guard day today on HAFDTNYTCFCA, and after two great weeks of reviews from Frannie and Colum, you're stuck with me for the next seven days. Well, probably eight, actually, since I usually take Frannie's Sunday, too. And really, it might be even more, because for her birthday I gave Frannie a week's worth of "Get Out of Blog Free" cards. I don't know when she's going to use them, but I've got to be ready at all times!


But for now, let's get to the puzzle at hand. The "arrangements" of the title refer to the rearrangement of letters in the theme answers - anagrams, if you will. Take the central pair - "Someone who is FORTYFIVE years old now will be OVERFIFTY in six years." That's a pretty cool find, if you ask me. Amusingly, at least to me, I had entered FifTYFIVE and OVERsIxTY before I realized the whole "anagram" thing. Only two letters off in each one, but so far away from actually being right.

Another nice pair was "My weight increases when traveling because IAMNOTACTIVE during VACATIONTIME." Personally, I am probably more active during VACATIONTIME, but my weight still increases, because I eat non-stop. I've got to stop vacationing in France and Italy!

Finally, "We can tell the boss's assistant is a SYCOPHANT because he always ACTSPHONY" is a pretty good find, too. Well, really, they all are. It's a good theme.

The fill strained in places, but there were highlights, too - "Turkey piece?" (ANATOLIA) and "Open-book examinations?" (AUDITS) were good QMCs, LITANIES (Lists of grievances) was good, and "Nick's cousin" (DENT) had a nice false capital.

Bonus COVID-19-related fill:

NOSERAG (gross)

Too soon?

- Horace

p.s. Happy Flag Day!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday, June 13, 2020, Trenton Charlson


It is satisfying when the Saturday puzzle is the hardest of the week. A tough nut to crack, something to sink your teeth into. Okay, I'm done with idiomatic clichés.

But once again, the byline told me I'd be in for a fight that went all fifteen rounds (okay, I lied). Mr. Charlson adores packing in the high-scoring Scrabble letters, and this particular grid shape means that it's tough to get a toehold in any area.

I actually broke in most successfully in the NE, after dropping in 26A: Takes evening courses? (SUPS), and then getting FLOPSY (her sisters Mopsy and Cottontail wouldn't fit). I tried eFfable at 8A, even though that's the exact opposite of "Je ne sais quos." XFACTOR is so much more apt both from a definitional perspective and from the perspective of who the crossword author is. But I had difficulty turning the corner to the south because I put ODDball in for ODDDUCK (love those three Ds in a row).

So then I moved to the SE, where TSK made ___TIME right, which then made ____MEN a good guess. From that I got KRAKENS, but I once again stalled out. See what I mean about this style of grid?

So it was on to the SW, where ACTI and IGOTCHA got me GOTHIC, and finally I got my first long answer in FASTTRACK, which opened things up well. I worked my way around the grid in the same order, more or less, finishing up in the NW. I had made things difficult for myself from the start by guessing omeNS for 7D: Hard-to-miss signs (NEONS).

Another great tricky answer came at 36A: Power ____ (TRIP). I tried gRId first but rejected that because I had ____TTO solidly in place for ADAPTTO, and the D didn't work. So I tried gRIP next, which worked for 27D, and so I somewhat confidently entered XEROPHagE. This is definitely wrong. That would imply a creature that ate dry things. Fortunately, TOMSWIFTY set me right. And isn't it great to see the name rather than an exemplar of said wordplay in the grid?

Just time to acknowledge XIANGQI (worth 76 points) and EXFBI (19 points). Fun puzzle!

- Colum

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday, June 12, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


WHATSSOFUNNY, you ask? Well, a ton of stuff in today's puzzle, crafted by the incomparable Ms. Weintraub. We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA look forward to her byline, and cheer our luck in getting to blog on her puzzles.

In terms of clues, let's start with 5D: It always turns out the same (COPIER). Look at the brilliance here: no need for a question mark, because it's describing exactly what a Xerox machine does: turns out copies. I love it!

Other great clues:

9D: Some monsters call it home (SESAMESTREET). Indeed they do. Indeed they do.

47A: Jet setting (HOTTUB). Hah!

51D: Porter, for one (COLE). I had a strange feeling when I saw the clue that that would be the answer, but forced myself to get three of the four crossings first.

34A: Not go it alone? (RIDESHARE) - I don't like QMCs nearly as much, but that's good.

36A: Scratch (out), as a crossword answer? (EKE). This made me chuckle out loud. What a great way to elevate a classic bit of crosswordese.
Meanwhile, other great fill include Ms. REYNOLDS, who was so excellent in "Singin' in the Rain," CHITCHAT, FREEWIFI, AFTERPARTY, and everybody's favorite CROISSANTS. Especially when you're staying in Le Marais in a AirBnB and walking over to a lovely little patisserie... Mmmmm...

<falls into a rêverie...>

Um, where was I? Oh, right. Let's just say, whenever Ms. Weintraub pens a crossword, IAMSOTHERE.

- Colum

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Thursday, June 11, 2020, Peter A. Collins


Solving on the NYT Crossword app on my iPad, I saw the blinking I in the upper right corner, and clicking on it revealed that 20- and 22-Across should have slashes in each square. Once I saw that, I didn't have too much trouble in getting the FRANK / SINATRA - ELVIS / PRESLEY combination.

It's a nice find that the two have the same number of letters in each of their two names, and since Presley covered MYWAY, that connects the two even further. Apparently his version actually reached a higher place on the Billboard Hot 100 chart than Sinatra's.

Funnily enough, it was written by Paul Anka, a common crossword puzzle filler.

I don't love the POPULAR / MUSIC symmetric filler in the southern part of the puzzle. It's not particularly specific to the performers in question, and so just felt like something had to be there to make the puzzle more thematic.

All of that aside, I enjoyed the crosses in the top half, and how they work with the two names. The app very kindly separated the two names above one another (I had to enter them as rebuses) so that the down answers look normal. I love SAT[AY]SAUCE, both in the puzzle and at my table. 4D: Moon or Mercury (ROC[KS]TAR) is a fine clue. Didn't we have something like that in a puzzle a month or two ago?

Elsewhere, I turn my nose up at REAIMS, even though all of those vowels in a row is fun to look at. Other not so good stuff include 49D: Alphabet trio (STU) and 28D: Bone cavities (ANTRA). Wow. I never heard of that term, and I'm a physician.

73A: Soft component of fleece? (CEE) never even had a chance to trip me up because I got all three down crosses without seeing that clue.

- Colum

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Wednesday, June 10, 2020, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau

5:27 (FWOE)

I won't bemoan my error (I put REtROS rather than REPROS, something I'd never heard of - but I should have known a HARt does not have a soundboard). But this puzzle had my nod of approval right at 2D: Holst who composed "The Planets" (GUSTAV). Love that piece, the only one of his that ever really made it into wide circulation. He also wrote a number of songs and a relatively well known suite for string orchestra that is well known because it's appropriate for young players.

But enough about early 20th century British composers! Let's talk about early 21st century cultural phenomena, such as Marvel Comics! Bam! Pow! Exclamation points!!!

62A: Classic comics rallying cry ... or a hint to 18-, 30- and 49-Across (AVENGERSASSEMBLE) exactly describes what's happening in the circles in the noted answers. Three members of that august group of superheroes are split across the two words of the answers, or three words in the case of Wasp. Nicely done.

The other original avengers are Iron Man, and the Hulk. I doubt either would fit neatly into an acceptable phrase. Captain America didn't appear until the fourth issue, and Black Widow came in issue 29. So it's a nice set of three examples.

I like a lot about the fill today. In particular, DENMARK and RITALIN running down through two themers is nicely done. RAGEQUIT is always enjoyable. 32D: Rise from bed ... or drop to one's stomach (HITTHEDECK) is an amusing clue.

I'll also call out BEATBOXERS for that lovely X, and RABBLE just because I like the word.

Was this a more appropriate Wednesday than yesterday? Opinions welcome.

- Colum

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Tuesday, June 9, 2020, Freddie Cheng


I don't want anyone to take what I'm about to say as a complaint, because it certainly isn't. But today's puzzle felt like a Wednesday puzzle masquerading as a Tuesday offering. After solving the NYT crossword daily for so many years, you get a feeling for each day's character. Leave out the challenge of the grid today (about 20% longer to solve than most Tuesdays), the odd nature of the theme feels like that grab bag of oddities, Wednesday.

Meanwhile, let's just acknowledge how ludicrous the theme is. The revealer comes at 31D: Popular kids' game ... or a hint to 18-, 32-, 37- and 58-Across (GOFISH). What a strange place for the revealer! Maybe it's a kind of grid art, with the 15-letter theme answer acting as the fishing line, and the revealer showing up as the fish dangling from it?

By the way, I knew I used to play Go Fish as a child. It lost its interest pretty quickly though. Crazy Eights was more popular for me. Hated War, and wasn't really a fan of Old Maid either. Thoughts?

But what makes the theme silly is the fact that these four somewhat standard phrases turn into a story about going fishing, Huck Finn style. Although I think you'd probably attach the line and hook to the stick before opening the proverbial can of worms.

Other oddities abound in the grid. The British SCEPTRE; FOTO, a term no one uses outside of brand names; and JOVI BON, the famous upside down New Jersey rock star.

And has anyone ever heard the White House Correspondents' dinner called a NERDPROM? Apparently it has been for over a decade, but this solver had never heard of it.

I'm pretty sure my daughters would agree that a BRO is pretty much a small BURRO (ass).

Still, I enjoyed it over all. I'm done.

- Colum

Monday, June 8, 2020

Monday, June 8, 2020, Kyle Dolan


How uplifting a comment can be: thanks to Mr. Kingdon for yesterday's shout-out. It's wonderful to know that we at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA can provide enough in a day to make people feel they are living the dream!

Meanwhile, today's puzzle is a lovely example of that old theme style, the vowel progression. Here, we take five phrases whose last word varies only by the fact that its vowel is (typically) the long form of each vowel, in order from A to U. Thus we start with CLICKBAIT and end with ANKLEBOOT. It's interesting that Mr. Dolan could have gone with something along the line of "it's a beaut" to get an actual "you" U sound in there. But this is a better answer, I think.

I never read TIGERBEAT magazine, and after googling it, I see why. It's marketed to the teen fangirl population, which I never found myself in for any reason.

I love the clue for 52A: Place for a blast offshore (PARTYBOAT). Perfect non-QMC (question-mark clue - see our glossary for more details). I was sure we were going for an atoll or some such Pacific islet.

There's plenty to enjoy in the fill as well: ISRAELI, KOOLAID, HECTARE, to name a few. The style of clues was fun also, with 25D: "Little piggies" (TOES), 6D: "Get out of jail" story (ALIBI).

Otherwise, I just have to call out LURID for Mame reasons, and APT for Frannie reasons.

- Colum

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sunday, June 7, 2020, Andy Kravis


Hey everyone! Did you all see the article about the individual who came out of a seventy-five day silent retreat to ask "Did I miss anything?" Turns out he had, in case you were likewise removed from any news source other than this blog. I am amused to think of a person whose only connection with the internet and the outside world was the idle musings of myself and my two esteemed co-bloggers.

So let's get to it, shall we?

Today's theme is encapsulated nicely by the puzzle's title: we get a selection of answers where SUR- has been added to the beginning of standard phrases. There's a beautiful level of consistency in these answers. All six graftings result in new words to start their phrases with a change in spelling from the original word, and all six maintain the pronunciation of the original word inside the new one.

Thus, "jury verdict" becomes SURGERYVERDICT. The vowel sounds haven't changed (although the syllabic emphasis is slightly different). Likewise, "furballs" becomes SURFERBALLS.

I think it's a well constructed set of theme answers. I did not find any of the clues or answers to be laugh out loud funny, which is typically my last piece of critique necessary to elevate a theme to its highest level.
MILK or cream?
On the other hand, with only six theme answers, the rest of the grid has a chance to shine, and here is where Mr. Kravis has lifted the bar. There are a ton of fun answers, good clues, and very little in the way of "meh" answers, as Frannie has said.

64D: Entrance (BEWITCH) - I was sure the word was referring to a doorway or the act of going through said doorway. But the emphasis here was on the second syllable, to good effect.

73D: Water heater? (SQUIRTGUN) - perfect.

60A: One who's unfaithful? (ATHEIST). Hah!

WOWIE and the rhyming MAUI made me chuckle. Although I had zOWIE briefly, which would have been more fun.

17D: "Don't worry, that only looked painful!" (IMFINE).

There's a lot more, but these were the highlights. A fun Sunday puzzle, and well worth the time.

- Colum

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Saturday, June 6, 2020, Doug Peterson

Untimed, but at least 30 minutes

I started this puzzle running through the Acrosses and Downs as usual. After some success in the lower two thirds of the grid, progress ground to a lengthy halt in the northeast. I puts the puzzle down and AXES Horace how he's doing with it. Turns out, he was stuck in the same corner. So we decided to work on that section together. I gained the most because Horace already had TOMTHUMB at 17A, which was more than I had up there. With that small start, we were able to complete the grid in no time.

Of course, it would have helped if either of us had known the capital of Chad (NDJAMENA), but we didn't. I like to think the unusual (for English) combination of consonants at the beginning will help me remember it in the future. Time will tell.

The 15 x 15 puzzle contains two grid-spanning answers that cross in the middle:  MYLIPSARESEALED and AMBUSHPREDATORS.

But the real beauty of the puzzle lay elsewhere. The high number of admirably indefinite clues that allow multiple interpretations made the solve challenging and fun. In the northeast, contributing to our confusion, we had "Mark down" (NOTE) - I tried 'salE' - and "Going by" (NAMED) but elsewhere, we had "Charge," "Hands," and "Croak" just to name the most ambiguous. I got mired in "Browns, perhaps" trying 'sepias' at first until getting SAUTES.

A number of other clues in today's puzzle fall into the category of cleverly intentional obfuscation including:
"Bar assembly" (SALAD)
"Ruby and sapphire" (HUES)
"Forest swingers" (AXES)
My personal Rubicon in this category, that I eventually successfully crossed, was "Stand with dogs, say" (SNACKBAR). It took me quite some time to think of the hot variety of dog.


Thanks to Wednesday's puzzle, for "Airy treat" (57A) I really wanted 'cheesepuff,', but I couldn't make it work unless I spelled it chezpuff, the 'e' with an invisible macron, of course. I also particularly liked "Tending to change" (FLUID) and I was amused by Tony Soprano? (MARIACALLAS). Ha!

Horace and I both thought FIEND was a little intense for its clue "Devotee." And, à la yesterday's USH, I thought VIC (Perp's mark, in cop slang) was MEH, but perhaps I UNDERVALUE seemingly randomly truncated words. Be that as it may, this puzzle still gets OVATIONS from me.


Friday, June 5, 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020, John Wrenholt


No GODMODE for me today. The northwest corner had me completely stymied. It didn't help that I had a typo in the excellent BALLOONARTIST (One whose work is always blowing up?) that I just couldn't see even though I checked the answer about 5 times. I had too many O's and not enough L's which gave me ___BOTTOE for "Quaint stationery shop item." Of course, now that I know the answer (INKBOTTLE), I can't believe I couldn't figure it out, but hindsight, as they say.

I like to think I would eventually have solved the puzzle on my own, but circumstances today made me short on time. I finally caved and asked Horace for a couple of the answers in that corner so I could complete the grid and get the review written before midnight.

I also like to think I might have had an easier time in that corner if only I kept company with HISNIBS. :) I haven't spent much time in ski lodges - with or without a SAUNA. Like a rube, I tried 'cocoa.' Also, my experience with personal trainers is nil - not that you need, strictly speaking, to have been exhorted by a personal trainer to come up with AGAIN,but not being familiar with their STYLE, I was thinking more along the lines of 'yougo' and 'cando.'

The clue "They go low when others go high" straight up stumped me. I thought of a number of categories that statement could possibly pertain to, but I never once thought of singers. And speaking of stumpers, how about "Come to"  at 6A? I had C_ST for a very long time, but couldn't make a case for any of the vowels. Even when I eventually figured out "Just between you and me?" (OUR), it still took me a minute to understand why the answer was COST. But then I did. :)

There were a number of other really good clues in the puzzle, including:
"Dating abbr." (BCE)
"Drawing of grass" (TOKE)
"Direction word" (BEAR)
"Short short" (LIL)
"What hits the HI notes?" (UKE)
"50s president" (GRANT) - ha!

In comparison to those great clues, a few others like "More than a pair" (TRIO), "__ minimum" (ATA), "Laugh syllable" (HAR), and "Details" (INFO) seem a tad pedestrian. And USH for "Escort down the aisle, informally" has a TINGE of ASPing at straws. But, I think we can all AGREE that if that's the YEAST of it, we're doing pretty well.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thursday, June 4, 2020, Barbara Lin


We encounter a number of unhappy workers in today's puzzle - four to be exact - each of whom needs a little something to improve his or her situation. Interestingly, the missing element is particular to the person's occupation - one might even say apt. For example, "the unhappy calendar maker ..." NEEDSAWEEKOFF and "the unhappy elevator operator ... " ASKSFORARAISE. Apt! I do hope a little excitement comes the way of the unhappy drill press operator who FINDSWORKBORING, but I can't wish "the unhappy orthopedic surgeon ... " who WANTSMOREBREAKS success because that would mean a lot of people got ERTE.

I  love the word THWARTS. I also enjoyed OVID in the northwest and its near parallel, AVID, in the northeast. BARNS for "They're raised on farms" was a nice twist as was "Isn't square" for OWES. I thought "Casually try" for DABBLEIN was spot on. My favorite clue/answer pair today was "Cottage cheese morsel" (CURD).


BSIDES two false starts - I tried BrAy for BLAT (Beginner's trumpet sound) and 'blasé' for JADED (World-weary) - I didn't hit many snags, and both were quickly corrected by the Downs. I'd say I finished INDECENT time for a Thursday.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Wednesday, June 3, 2020, Johanna Fenimore

(Finished with one small error and one honkin' error)

So, maybe we're talking about a DNF here. I knew when I entered NIcKi/cURTISBLOW that Ms. Haley's name might be spelled with two K's but I went with the C because it looked better with cURTIS. Well, it looked better to me. Mr. Blow might disagree. So, the FWOE wasn't unexpected. But, when I made the change from C to K, and no congratulations flowed in I went back to SCAN the grid. Alas, I didn't find the error on my own; I ended up looking up the solution online. I had PoSe for "Mug" (39A) instead of the funny, old timey, and correct PUSS. Truth be told, I had had a "hmmm" moment when I saw EINe for "Starting point for a German count." It is a German word for one, just a different kind of one. However, I pressed heedlessly on. My PoSe also caused trouble with 40D: "All of America wrapped up in one book." I hadn't helped the situation by entering SwIng for a time before correcting it to SLIDE (Playground fixture). I promised myself I would return to the southeast to sort it all out, but I forgot. And when I checked the puzzle for errors, I obviously didn't do a very good job of it, so yeah, let's go with DNF. The whole thing reminds me vaguely of the old joke, "so aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" Too grim?

And speaking of, we have a fabulous theme today featuring THEBIGBADWOLF. His threats to get at the three little pigs are embedded in longer phrases that end with HUFF (LEAVESINA), PUFF (CHEESE), and BLOW (KURTIS). My favorite is the CHEESEPUFF. Mmmm, airy snack item.


Despite the many problems I brought upon myself, I very much enjoyed the puzzle. There was fun fill like PATSY, TAFFETA, and TALLYHO. And who doesn't enjoy a good GASP? I especially liked the clue/answer pairs "Small matter" (ATOM), "What hot dogs do" (PANT) - spot on! - and, believe it or not, "Mug" (PUSS). And to return briefly to yesterday's subject of good clue-answer precision, how about today's "Makes too busy to do other things" (TIESUP). OPTIMUM!

There was only one clue that I thought missed that mark. For me, VAST and "Limitless" aren't really synonyms, but maybe I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tuesday, June 2, 2020, John Guzzetta


I like the literalness of today's revealer: "Go their separate ways ... or a description of 17-, 24-, 35- or 47-Across?" or PARTCOMPANY. It works on two levels, both for the primary clue and when one notes that the circled letters in each theme answer is the name of a company - making them part company. APT! SA[INTEL]MO, for example, has Intel inside. :) Each company name crosses a word boundary, which is, I believe, de rigeur for this type of theme answer. VOCAL[COACH] just doesn't have the same pizzazz as VOC[ALCOA]CH, NON? Of course, our keen readers will have noted that if the answers are part company they're also part something else, but that's not important now.

The grid was like a hive of B'ESE today, which I only noticed when I started listing some of my favorite answers. There's BEWILDER, BEHEST, BELAYS, BLIPS, and BABYFAT - not to mention two of the theme answers BUC[KROGER]S and BISCAYN[EBAY]. B-dazzling!

The seven-letter Downs in the four corners were generally ARAL treat. ANIMATE, DISAVOW, and SADLYNO were favorites.


I'm sure Mr. Guzzetta had his RAISINS, but I didn't think "Whip" was a good synonomic match for FLAY, or "Pokes through" for PIERCES, but OTO I know?


Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020, Erik Agard


I like the way Mr. Agard laud it all out today by putting forward theme answers that are positive phrases (WERENUMBERONE, SHESALLTHAT, YOURETHETOP, THEYREGRRREAT) - a commodity that's been in short supply in recent days. I'm going to FLOAT the idea that APEX and NTH are bonus theme material. Can I get some AMENS?

I like to try to keep my Monday solves under six minutes (due, in part, to the pressure of blogging alongside solving speedsters Horace and Colum!), but I ended up a bit OVER today for reasons I'll explain below. However, most of the puzzle was smooth as silk. I thought the clue-answer precision - the ne plus ultra of crossword puzzles for this solver - was top drawer. Por ejemplo:
"Place under one's seat, say" (STOW)
"Release, as a new album" (DROP)
"Go in" (ENTER)
"Equestrian's 'Stop!'" (WHOA)

There were just three places where "she reads it, she TYPES it" didn't work today. The first was "Big jerk" - I was thinking verb (e.g., tug) instead of the more entertaining answer from the noun category, ASS. Ha. Also, I didn't quite remember how 'great' was spelled in the Frosted Flakes slogan, so I had to get the four Downs to complete that answer. And last, but not least, I wasn't familiar with either the "1999 rom-com with Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook" (I'm more familiar with the oeuvre of Mr. Prinze, Sr.) or the "Award-winning sports journalist who went from ESPN to The Atlantic" (I'm more familiar with things that aren't sports), so I hesitated briefly - let's say 4-5 seconds, shall we? - before entering the final, congratulations-engendering H.

Other things I liked in this puzzle include RYES  - the cat's meow of the whiskey family, IMHO - ABBA, OSLO, and a reminder of the joke, "when is a door not a door?" "When it's AJAR." LOL. Fun fill included LAVA, WAXES, HELIX, and SHOUTITOUT.

On a side note, money must be growing on trees somewhere. This is the third appearance of GELT in four days!


The fact that a little bit of alphabet soup (SCI, LAT, NCIS, TGI, AAA) spilled into the puzzle, is small potatoes in an otherwise A-1 puzzle.