Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday, July 31, 2020, Claire Rimkus and Erik Agard

0:12:44 (F.W.O.E.)

I spelled ELASTIGIRL (Superhero in "The Incredibles") wrong, and since I didn't know the difference between MICROBLADING and MaCROBLADING, I didn't find the error until I was forced to. Honestly, I didn't even know there was a call for an "Eyebrow-filling technique," but if there is, I'm glad someone else is taking care of it.


I enjoyed the conversational cluing of DONTCARE ("Whatever") and AMENTOTHAT ("Preach!"). "Stage for a big star?" was a clever one for REDGIANT, HISANDHIS (Like some monogrammed towels) was nicely au courant, and "Some like it hot" was an amusingly misleading clue for CIDER. The raciness continued with "Lead-in to amorous" (POLY), and what about "Groin pulls?" for LUSTS? That's outstanding.

My favorite of the side-by-side tens was PLANETARIA (Meteor showers?) and GASTRONOMY (Food-filled field). Tricky, both.

I didn't quite get "In one ear?" for HEARD, "Crush something?" seemed trying a bit too hard for ORANGESODA, and "Like 50 U.S. senators" (HALF) was a groaner. Any counter arguments? On the other hand, the MALTA clue (Country whose name is believed to come from ancient Greek for "honey-sweet") was solid trivia.

Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020, Joel Fagliano


A puzzle from the heart of puzzledom. Mr. Fagliano works directly with Mr. Shortz, so when I see his byline, I expect something special. Is it fair for me to do so? Perhaps not. Is it true nonetheless? Yes. So when I end up realizing that every single Across clue will serve two Across answers, in a TWO TOONE ratio, as it were, my puffed up hopes are, for some reason, a little deflated.

I could be missing another layer of meaning, but I find nothing particularly exciting or rewarding about the stunt, and after reading the first two Across clues, I chose to work the Down answers instead, where I quickly ran into the old-fashioned ENL (Photo lab request: Abbr.), OPIE (Boy on "The Andy Griffith Show"), and ENE (Chemical suffix that's also a direction). On the other hand, BENS ($100 bills, in slang) might be a little too modern for me.

Also, when I reached the revealer, I thought back to 1A, and wondered if every pair of answers consisted of one word, then two, as in WIFE TOBE. But no, that didn't hold up either.

Of the two answers longer than five letters, FOLKMUSIC (Genre for Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez) is the better. TOILETBAG (Holder of a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, etc.) is not a thing. "Toiletry bag," maybe, "toiletry kit," yes. TOILETBAG is just gross.

Maybe my expectation that it would SHINE was too high, but while I did not find it TOBE SCRAP, neither did I SWOON

- Horace

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday, July 29, 2020, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


Cute theme today that takes the idea of a STRONGPASSWORD and transforms it into an ordinary phrase in standard text. So TWOPERCENTMILK is to be imagined as 2%Milk, say, and ONEMICHELINSTAR as 1Michelin*. And speaking of 1Michelin*, we had a lovely dinner at LaButte a few years ago, and I can recommend it if you happen to find yourself out in the wilds of Brittany.


In non-thematic material we have the exciting DAREDEVIL (Adventure seeker) and the interesting SCHLEPPED (Lugged). I learned the latter word while I was working as an assistant for a photographer who worked with film and a 4x5 camera. I think that's all the explaining I need to do on that.

I slowed myself down by dropping in "legoS" instead of ATOMS (Small building blocks) and "dealS" instead of PACTS (Things finished with handshakes), but I already had a cross or two for EPEE (Something waved in the Olympics," so although I was tempted to enter "flag," I held off.

Is it duplication to have both "iphone" and IBANKER in the same puzzle? And really? IBANKER? Is that a thing? And is CONG a common abbreviation for "congress?" I'm sure I don't know.

But those quibbles aside, I appreciate the oddness of this theme. What more can one ask for on a Wednesday?

- Horace

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tuesday, July 28, 2020, Ross Trudeau


An interesting theme today, because there's not really a trick to it, it just is. It's a perfectly symmetrical web of nine intersecting FICTIONs, each clued in a normal way. Well ... with the possible exception of INVENTION (Bubble gum in 1906, e.g.) - that's a bit of an odd way of getting at that answer. What's more, my quick research into the invention of bubble gum does not really confirm the date given in the clue. Most of what I see says bubble gum was invented in 1928. There's a story of Frank Fleer trying to make bubble gum in 1906, but his formula proved too sticky. Was that enough? Did H. G. Wells invent time travel in 1895 by thinking it up? Or would he have had to try to make one, and then even if it didn't work, he'd still get the credit.


Speaking of gum, one of my favorites (aside from Bazooka and Adams Sour Gum, of course), was the Spruce Gum sold by L. L. Bean in the 1970s. It was little blobs of sap from a spruce tree, coated with cornstarch. Each blob was hard as rock at first, but once you shattered it and then chewed it back into a coherent mass, it kept its flavor pretty much forever. Ahh... good times.

So anyway, I liked all the lie-words, and WHOPPER is fun to have running right down the middle.

With all this theme, you'd expect to find a CARLOT of odd fill, yet while there is a bit of GARS, IBARS, and OMS-KAT-INS, there's still a lot of enjoyable longer fill. DIMESTORE (Woolworth's, once) and CYBERFRIEND (Chat room pal) are nicely contrasted in time, TRELLIS (Framework for vines) and SEACOASTS (Shorelines) evoke lovely imagery, and even ENCINOMAN got a chuckle. And in the shorter stuff, I chuckled at PFFT ([Fizzle]) and DMV (Org. staffed by sloths in "Zootopia," and everybody enjoys RYES.

In the end, it struck me as something new. I don't know how they keep coming up with these things, but as long as they do, I'll keep trying to solve them. Thanks!

- Horace

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020, Alan Arbesfeld


Starting the week off on a high note. Six entries, each with a different spelling of the same sound:


Somehow I think that I pronounce "haiku" a little differently - with a longer "ai" sound... or maybe that's true for all of them except HIKINGGEAR, where the sound is slightly shorter... I don't know, it gets a little confusing when you keep saying them over and over. It's like repeating the word "spoon" until it loses all meaning. Ever done that?


Anyway, I enjoy this type of exploration. We've seen similar examples before, but that doesn't bother me, and I like the theme.

And there's some AGREEABLE fill, too. The "Gotta go!" pair - CIAO and SEEYA, the two classics HENRI Matisse and King PRIAM in the North, and the unspoken pairing of "Well, Golly!" (OHGEE) and Gomer PYLE. TEENAGE (Like many members of Gen Z, now) was interesting, and everyone likes the word LANKY, right?

A fine start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020, Trenton Charlson


Again, the title is perfect. At first, I didn't get it, because SQUARECHIN (Facial feature of a Lego man?) is an actual thing. I mean, it's also amusing to say that a Lego man has a square chin, because he is made out of blocks! (We'll ignore the fact that their heads are actually rounded.) Anyway, then came HOSTINTHEDARK (Emcee during a power outage?), and I was suddenly in the dark myself. "Why is that especially funny?" I wondered.

Then it hit me - the title isn't talking about something ready-made, it's explaining that one word in each theme answer - each, a common expression - was forced into alphabetical order, and then, as is the custom, the resulting expression was clued wackily. Very nice.

So just to belabor this, BEGINWATCHING (What you might do after the movie previews are finally over?) comes from "binge watching," and BELOWMACARONI (Where spaghetti and orzo rank in terms of their suitability for making necklaces?) (this is my favorite of the wacky clues) is a transformation of "elbow macaroni." Colum, earlier this past week, alluded to the unusual mind of a crossword constructor, and this puzzle is further evidence. Mr. Collins is a seasoned veteran, but young Mr. Charlson is carrying on the tradition nobly.

Also, if you haven't looked over at yet, Will Shortz notes that "Trenton's Twitter page declares that he's the founder of Z.J.X.Q. - Americans Against Accurate Acronyms." To which the reviewer Jim Horne responded "Let's all hope he doesn't run afoul of the A.A.A.A.A.A.A. - the American Association Against Acronym and Abbreviation Abuse." If that doesn't win you over, then I have no idea what you're doing here.

So ok, amusing, unusual theme, well done. What else? Well, lots, really. I laughed out loud at NIX (Word often spoken in pig Latin). So true! And we've got a couple paired clues with different answers: "Give in" for ACQUIESCE and ACCEDE - both strong entries, and "Take in" and "Took in" for SEE and ATE. And then there's little things like "Where a herd might be heard" for LEA, the interesting cluing of old crossword favorites like ETNA (Site of the Bocca Nuova crater) and ESAU (Hariy hunter of Genesis), the interesting trivia in "Fish whose name means "very strong" in Hawaiian," and the clever "Making a clerical error?" for SINNING. Overall, I liked this one a lot.

- Horace

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday, July 25, 2020, Royce Ferguson


It's been a long time since we had a good old triple stack puzzle like this one. It used to be that quad stacks were the ultimate in constructing, and then apparently Mr. Shortz put the kibosh on them for a while. When I first started doing the daily puzzles regularly some... [checks on the site for past posts], some seven years ago (?!) I would regularly DNF those puzzles. I found it frustrating to work through all of the tiny crossing answers, many of which seemed obscure, and sometimes downright unfair, just to get to the 15-letter answers.

Well, those times are long past. Just doing puzzle after puzzle makes the shorter answers more obvious. My usual strategy is to glance at the long across answers to see if any of them are apparent off of the clue (none today), and then just work my way through those short crossing answers until something becomes apparent.

Today, I got ILEA, SHE, EEL, RIPA, and TESS off of the clues, although not all on the first pass. In fact I made my first real purchase on the grid in the center W section. Much of this section was pretty straightforward, except for TIEWRAP (I had nothing for a long time, then TInWRAP before taking the N out) and the funny 29D: For whose sake? (PETES).
Ruby DEE
I then worked on the center E section, which led to 12D: Things for which you must memorize information (CLOSEDBOOKTESTS), and then the top started to fall. I love 5D: It's a big whoop (OLE). Hah!

Nice piece of trivia about VICTORIASSECRET, and SEALEDENVELOPES makes me both happy to think about the Oscars, and sad because how could there even be Academy Awards this coming year?

Other fine clues include 41D: Some small Asian exports (BONSAIS) - I was expecting a car reference, and 51D: Three-time World Cup champion (PELE) - I was expecting a country. I even tried Peru, even as I was convinced this could not be correct. After Googling, I see I was right - Peru has won none.

WINPLACEANDSHOW is how I feel about the turn this week. The Thursday was the winner, the Friday placed, and the Saturday came in a very respectable third.

- Colum

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday, July 24, 2020, Grant Thackray


When I opened the puzzle today, I was amazed by the grid shape; amazed, but also worried. It is very striking, with the two big sideways Ts and the large swaths of white squares. But then the way it's set up sets up the solve as multiple mini-puzzles, with the middle square sectioned off so that only one square connects it with the NW and SE.

Speaking of which, did you notice that the middle square is a perfect 5 x 5 minipuzzle? If you lopped off the beginnings of 15D and 23A, and the ends of 42A and 29D, you'd still have perfectly good 5-letter words in all directions. Pretty cool.

And in fact, I did not find myself having to start all over again: the puzzle flowed nicely. I don't think I've ever seen a grid where almost every longer entry is a fun answer. Starting with 14A: Character of Apple products (LOWERCASEI). I had the ending of that answer first, and was very confused. But that's a lovely reinterpretation of the word "character" to refer to the letter.

BOSSBATTLE is colorful, as is GOINGVIRAL. I also liked the SE triple stack, with HALFNELSON, TRUETOLIFE, and MICROFILMS. Remember those?

12D: Trying to untie? (INOVERTIME) is a perfect example of a good QMC. And it's fun to see STEAMBOATWILLIE in the puzzle.

Sure, all those fun long answers necessitate a pretty large amount of less exciting shorter fare. I will point out ISAT, ATRI, INI, OFME, and MRE.

But on the whole, it's a fine middle of the turn puzzle. Tomorrow completes it!

- Colum

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thursday, July 23, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


Amazing concept today! I really had no idea what was going on. So many answers were seemingly impossible to get. I tried the concept of a rebus, but couldn't figure out where they might go. It wasn't until the very bottom of the SE corner that I realized a sense of the theme.

So the instructions come at 20A, 40A, and 61A, and read REMOVETHE / LETTERW / FROMCLUES. In fact, I ended up having all of the revealer except the letter required to be removed for a while, and then finally got the mini-revealer at 30D: Present ... or a concise explanation of this puzzle's theme (NOW). Very clever!

Finally I understood why 68A: Hawn of the silver screen (SOLO) was not "Goldie." Why 31A: Some loud chewers (OLES) was not "cows."

So many great finds here! "Certain lawyers" becomes "Certain layers" (HENS). "AWOL part" becomes "AOL part" (AMERICA) - I was going with "without." How about "Pewter accompanier in the Bible"? I had no clue what was wanted there, and only just figured it out now. "Peter!" (THOMAS). And newts catching TUNA?! That's "nets."

Even beyond that, there are great clues, like 59A: Labor day event (BIRTH) - perfect non-QMC. 44D: Ending that's in the middle? (CENTRIC) - that's crazy.

Also good are the answers MINUTEMEN, EYESONME, and ELABORATE.

An impressive puzzle, which is what we expect from Ms. Weintraub. A surprise to have it be a themed puzzle rather than a themeless!

Great start to the turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Peter A. Collins


So, here's how you know you're not a crossword constructor. You don't walk around, thinking about how cool it would be to come up with phrases which contain both the periodic table abbreviation and the standard name for a given element.

But fortunately, Mr. Collins has done it for you! All you have to do is fill in the grid, and enjoy the odd circumstances of these four phrases.

The best by far, in my opinion, is 43A: "Are you as jazzed as I am?" (ISNTITEXCITING). The phrase is fun, and the abbreviation for tin is SN, which is a weird combination of letters. I also liked PAULGOLDSCHMIDT, which I was able to fill in pretty quickly, and which made clear what the theme was going to be. SAFEENVIRONMENT is an odd phrase, but I see it is well represented on the Google, so all is well.

I love the trivia for 30D: Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan each pitched 12 of these (ONEHITTERS). Of course, Ryan is famous for his seven no-hitters, while Feller only managed three. A paltry three. Who is he to think he's one of the greatest pitchers of all time? The mini-theme is completed with TRIPLEA.

Mr. Collins often reaches for fun fill, so I will call out LAUGHLINES, BUMLEG, POPO, and the self-referential NYTIMES, right in the middle of the grid. In exchange, you do get items like RHOS, which should just not happen at all, OLIO, a highly unused crosswordese, and trivia bit OSSA.

Well, overall, I think it worked out well.

- Colum

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tuesday, July 21, 2020, Zhouqin Burnikel


It's a lovely Tuesday when Ms. Burnikel is the NYT crossword constructor. I find her grids so smooth and fun, and with such a great theme as well.

Today, she treats the numbers 2 0 2 0 in five different ways, with different punctuation or spacing to make the differences clear. How often do you get a TIESCORE that is 20-20? Not too often in baseball, hockey, or soccer, that's for sure. Rarely in football, but probably fairly routinely in basketball.

I kept on looking for VISUALACUITY, but it didn't show up until 4/5 of the grid was filled. It's interesting that none of the other four examples are in fact a RATIO. The 20/20 of the eyetest is simply that twenty feet away looks like twenty feet away. Ted Williams of the Red Sox famously was said to have 20/10 vision: for him, twenty feet looked like only ten feet, which apparently gave him an advantage on judging the spin of the ball as it left the pitcher's hand.
The last was the most unexpected: 65A: 2020, e.g. (LEAPYEAR). There were so many choices for how to describe this year. Catastrophe? Apocalyptic? Maybe even hopeful by the end of it, dare we say?

As is typical for Ms. Burnikel, there are two very nice long down answers in ALLFIREDUP and WHATASHAME. I liked OHHI and MYMY so close to each other. DAWDLE is a wonderful word.

26D: Worst possible mark on a test (ZERO) is a cute clue.

So once again, IMGLAD I got to review this puzzle.

- Colum

Monday, July 20, 2020

Monday, July 20, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners


Mr. Eaton-Salners has us covered right to left and front to back! All four theme phrases are RIGHTONTHEMONEY, as far as I'm concerned. They all begin with the direction, followed by a preposition and a noun phrase beginning with "the." That's consistency. And it ends with the beautiful BACKTOTHEFUTURE, one of the most perfect movies of all time. I suppose on rewatching in the days of #BLM and #MeToo, there are probably some cringe-inducing moments, but the spirit is in the right place, and it's filled with such memorable moments.

Also, how can anyone complain when your Monday puzzle starts off your whole week with 1A: Ogden who wrote "Farewell, you old rhinoceros, / I'll stare at something less prepoceros" (NASH)? If that doesn't induce some HAHAS, you're an old stick in the mud.
I lost some time misconceiving the clue for 5A as the clue for 14A, so ASIA went where AMIE was supposed to go. But it was quickly resolved (and re-solved) by entering other crosses. Another major difficulty came with LEHI, an answer I'm sure the constructor would have preferred to avoid on an early-week puzzle, but it has to cross two theme answers. What else can solve L_H_?

And my final difficulty today came by misreading the clue at 26A: Girl's name that sounds like two letters of the alphabet (EVIE) to include the word "first" before "two letters." "Abie?" I thought to myself. And even entered. It's not a girl's name that I've ever come across, but I convinced myself for a while.

All of that to explain why I wasn't under 4 minutes today.

Fun answers included IWASHAD and DISHY.

And with that, I'll SIGNOFF.

- Colum

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sunday, July 19, 2020, Wyna Liu


Hey folks! Its Colum here, back from a lovely weekend at friends' lake house in the Catskills. The lake is actually called Wanaksink, and the first K is silent. I have not been able to find a reliable etymology for this name, and suspect it is a silly joke.

Speaking of silliness, how about today's puzzle? I love this theme so much. Ms. Liu has found nine phrases where one of the syllables can be rewritten as two of the same letter, and then pronounced as a plural of that letter. So, 114A: *Occasion for hiding in the dark, leads to SURPRIIPARTY. My favorite is DIZZCONTROL.

I give Ms. Liu lots of credit for ensuring that each answer contains a voiced S or Z sound. Thus, "Edelweiss" could not have been written EDELWII, because the last sound is an unvoiced S. I am also impressed by nine (9) theme answers. That's density of theme material. Note how she assures that no down answer goes through more than two theme answers.

So well done on the theme. How about the fill? Things did not start out well with ETS, but THECOPA and PANICBAR definitely made things look up.

33D: What sheep participate in (GROUPTHINK) - excellent. I also appreciated LIKELIKE and UPACREEK.

I did not like OCTANES, because you don't pluralize that word, and DLISTER is an answer that should move to the F list. But who wants to be PETTY (my last answer in the grid)? I was amuud by this puzzle.

- Colum

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Saturday, July 18, 2020, John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins


I went EXNIHILO to ecstatic during today's solve while getting DERAILED only once. I couldn't immediately get into the GROOVE in the northeast. I guessed 'wAgnER' at 9A thinking, 'how many six-letter German composers can there be?' (The answer: at least two). Those incorrect letters at the left slowed me down a bit, especially since I had no idea what "Big name in casinos" would be (MGM) and I started with 'glovEs' instead of MITTEN ("Good thing to have on hand during winter?) at 18A. The clue "Soliloquy relative" didn't compute until after I got the answer (ARIA).

I love that the Simpson's is such a MAINSTAY of the NYTX. We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA have often tried to select our favorite Simpson's side character, but we are spoiled for choice. DISCOSTU is, of course, great, but what about Bumblebee man ("¡Ay, ay, ay, no me gusta!")? And Kent Brockman ("I for one welcome our new insect overlords...)? The BOTTOMLINE is that they're all excellent in their own way.

And speaking of excellent, how about these apples?
"What's found on a couple of plates in Italy?" (MTETNA)
"Something to pay a steep price for?" (TEA)
"A, as in April? (SCHEDULE) - ha! - so clever.

I also enjoyed the clue/answer pairs "Cheeky" / PERT and "Smacker" / CLAM. And SHODDY and HAMHANDED are both fine fill.

The puzzle contained two oft-referred to items in my real life. When at the beach, the family loves to comment on any SEACHANGE that occurs. And a friend of mine makes regular reference to "The Gift of the Magi" story, swapping in items on hand for the FOB and the combs. For example, "I sold my notebook to buy you a dialysis machine. I sold my kidney to buy you a pen." Maybe YOUHADTOBETHERE.


I suppose ODELET is well within bounds for a Saturday, but it is a little odd, non? There was also a smattering of stubs and acronyms, but AMINO harm in mentioning them. I would say, INSUM, this was a fun one.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday, July 17, 2020, Rich Proulx


Well, I couldn't identify a theme today beyond the pictorial aspect of the grid. I see a kind of smiley face, maybe of a bear? Or perhaps it is some other kind of CHARACTERSKETCH? :) It's cute on its own, and it makes possible another fun feature of the puzzle four grid-spanning answers, two across and two down. I thought the clue for the southernmost across was the best tanks to its ambiguity: "Slips, e.g." (INTIMATEAPPAREL). I should perhaps be more impressed with "Hose and belt sellers" which stumped me for longer, but I wasn't quite as entertained by the answer (AUTOPARTSSTORE) when I figured it out.

Besides getting tangled up in the belts and hoses, the only place things got a little screwy was at "'Nuts!'" (45D) where I changed my answer from Drat, to DArN, to DAMN as I figured out the acrosses. I thought it was funny that there were so many possible options.

There was entertainment elsewhere with misdirection aplenty. Here are some of my favorites:
"It forms at the mouth" (DELTA)
"Majors in acting" (LEE) - nice hidden capital.
"One who might grade on the curve?" (ARTTEACHER)
"Rows" (SCRAPS)
"Strain" (TAX)

I thought "Nails for kites" was a good effort at misdirection (TALONS), but I couldn't think how nails would work for the non-bird kind of kite, so I wasn't misled. For once, I was helped rather than harmed by my ignorance! 

I was amused to see GERITOL in the puzzle. I haven't thought of that brand in years. As I remember, it was advertised for the senior set. When I was a kid, my sisters and I used to get for my Dad as a joke gift every once in a while. I'm sure he found it hilarious.


Nothing approaching a NEARDISASTERS here, but I did thing both "Western New York natives" (ERIES) and "Faint prints, in detective work" (LATENTS) were forced plurals. I didn't really like ENSURES for "Sews up," either. My least favorite - on two levels - was GAROTTE for "Choke." It's an awful idea in and of itself, but I thought the clue was less than apt. Be that as it may, I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it. :)


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Thursday, July 16, 2020, Evan Kalish


An artfully executed theme today, hiding the letters a-r-t in black squares and turning them into DARKART, as it were. I wasn't completely sure what was going on until I hit the revealer at the very bottom, so that worked perfectly. Only then was I able to remember the name [ART]HURDENT (Protagonist in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), and [ART]ICLEII (Part of the Constitution establishing the executive branch) finally made sense. The last to fall was the very fine [ART]IFICIALHE[ART] (Lifesaving prosthetic). That's a really elegant touch, running straight down the middle like that, and crossing it right in the center with TRICK. Apt!

Of course, it's one of those TRICKs that leaves letter strings like ICLEII and FLOWCH in the grid, but sometimes you've just got to accept such things, and not be a BOOER about it. OTOH, I can complain a little bit about BOOER, right?
Things I won't complain about are ALDENTE (Firm, in a way), EROTICA, TABOO, STORYARC, BAMBI ("____ Meets Godzilla" (classic film short)) (I just watched it on YouTube - it's worth a look), and FODDER (Hay, say) (cute). "Subpar performance?" was a fun QMC for BIRDIE, and an interesting non-QMC for HUMS (Doesn't remember the words, say). And the clue for CIA (Its HQ contains a sculpture with a still-unsolved coded message) sounds like a rallying cry for the entire population of puzzlers who daily solve the NYTX! So let's get to it! Google, here I come.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie turned in another of her coupons today, and I can't say I blame her. It's her first day back at the office since mid-March! Hopefully, she'll be back again tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Wednesday, July 15, 2020, Lee Higbie and Jeff Chen


An exciting visual theme today. When completed, there are plumes of ASH (in circled letters) raining down all around the top of the MOUNT and LA/VA oozing around the bottom half of the pictured volcano. Cool.

The puzzle had a pretty good flow to it and some great fill, including SITSPATPHALANX, LEST, INDEEDY, and SPATULA.

As a bonus, the puzzle included a few clues that are a real blast:
"A bug might produce one" (ERROR)
"Surfer's destination?" (URL)
"Accessory that's good for changing times" (DIAPERBAG)
And "Grants may come out of it" (ATM) - ha!

Has anyone else noticed that LIEV Schreiber is hotter than molten rock right now? He's the darling of Puzzleland.


A couple of today's clues deepened the mystery of the QMC (Question Mark Clue) for this solver. Why do the clues "Mobile home?" (CAMPERVAN) and "Where hogs go wild? (STY) have question marks? It defies LOGIC.

There seemed to be a plume of partials and abbreviations (ETD, CDS, THX, VOL), perhaps a result of the subduction necessary to create the visual effect, but my only real complaint is the clue "Now!" for ASAP - it makes me blow my top. :)


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tuesday, July 14, 2020, Stella Zawistowski


It's Horace. I'm doing the review for Frannie even though she didn't ask me too, because she's had a hell of a day and she's in another Zoom meeting at 5:30, and I think it will (I hope it will) make her happy to find that the review is finished and posted when she gets out of that.


So anyway, Ms. Zawistowski's mission is to make the puzzle harder, and by Jove I say she's done it again. This was not your usual "write the answer in as soon as you read the clue" type of Tuesday by any stretch. At least not for me. If Colum were doing the review, it might be a different story. He's the SHERLOCK in the group. I'm the ARTSY one.

But first, the theme. It is Broadway-based (sigh ... remember shows?), and is in my favorite form - pinwheel! Bonus points for ANNIEHALL (Performance venue for a 1977 Broadway musical?) because it is also a movie. RENTFREEZE (Super-cold spell on the set of a 1996 Broadway musical?) is nice, because it's great, if you're a renter, when you get one, and WICKEDGOOD (Positive, albeit terse, review of a 2003 Broadway musical?) is good because of the wicked pissah Boston connection. Is Ms. Zawistowski from Boston? I have no idea. And finally, HAIRSHIRT (Souvenir from a 1968 Broadway musical?) is great because - wouldn't it have been hilarious if someone actually had this idea back then and mass-produced hairshirts and loads of people bought them after going to the show? That would have been amazing. Tell you what, let's make it happen. Somebody stage a revival (once we can do that sort of thing again, of course) and then somebody else (not me - I'm just the idea man) get the shirts made. It'll be epic.

So, ok, in the INTEREST of keeping our small but dedicated cadre of readers actually reading, I'll TRIANGLE-ulate back toward a somewhat coherent discussion of the fill. I applaud NOOIL (Dieter's food request, maybe) for the way it looks in the grid, and PLONK (Old piano's sound) for its audacity, and for it's proximity to GRAND (Concert piano). SCRAPE (What a bandage may cover) will remind Huygens, and others, of the Piranha Brothers sketch ("So they took me for a scrape round to Dinsdale's place). Others, like YOUANDI (We two) and SKIPPING (Saying "No thanks" to, say) took me several crosses. (See: "make the puzzle harder" above.)

Overall, I enjoyed the unexpected Tuesday challenge.

- Horace

p.s. It's possible that Frannie has already started what would surely have been a more refined review, and if so, perhaps this will be only temporary. So be it.

Frannie here! Not that you need to hear from me after the excellent and very helpful review submitted by my esteemed co-blogger, Horace. But, I thought I would chime in with my time for today (12:37) and my "FWOE is me" story. I misread the clue at 41D as 'Collection of letters: Abbr.' which made GPa seem not only correct but clever, and as I didn't know the answer to "Workplace discrimination law enforcer, for short" (EEOC) I didn't notice my mistake until the puzzle was complete and the app suggested I keep trying. So much for me being on a tear today! The actual clue "Collection of letters: Abbr." had the intended and entertaining answer GPO. Ha! Maybe tomorrow I can go WHOLEHOG and solve the puzzle both quickly and correctly! That would be WICKEDGOOD. ~FP.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday, July 13, 2020, Erik Agard

I've handled a MAHJONGTILE or two in my time. I played the game quite often for a short time one summer back in the day with my friend Julie but I haven't played again since, sadly. I really enjoyed the smooth tiles and their interesting designs. I looked up the ones in the puzzle and noticed that, according to the Wikipedia, two of the tiles belong to the Honors category (NORTHWIND and REDDRAGON) and one falls into the Bonus category of Flowers (PLUMBLOSSOM). I'm drawn back in and think I'll give the game another go.

And speaking of back in the day, I loved seeing HIDEY-hole in the puzzle, not to mention GEE whiz. PANTRY has a nice old timey ring to it as well. And OUTTASIGHT, according to Wiktionary, is a dated and colloquial expression for for 'superb, excellent.' If you are interested in things from AGES AGO, there's also AMULET, ETTU, and Lindsay LOHAN.

Another interesting feature of this puzzle is its double nature. In it we find two one-named singers (CHER and ENYA), two hairstyle options (TWISTS and WEAVE), and two neighboring "Close"s (or is that too close?) NIGH and NEAR, not to mention "Take this!" (HERE) and "Take that!" (BOOYAH).

"Clustering Chinese Plum Blossoms" by Ming painter Chen Lu
My favorite clue was one of a kind "Bird whose head doesn't make a sound?" WREN - ha! I also enjoyed RHOMBUS and SPREE.

This puzzle seemed a little harder than usual for a Monday and took me longer than my self-imposed time limit of six minutes. I like to picture my esteemed co-bloggers patting me on the back consolingly and saying GOODFORYOU. :) Maybe tomorrow, I'll be ONATEAR.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday, July 12, 2020, Samuel A. Donaldson


Hmm... it seems to be me doing the review again today. Yesterday, when I signed off, I had forgotten that Frannie only does six reviews per week. So today I perform the DUALROLE of ending my week of reviews and starting hers.

MIAMI vis-à-vis Hollywood, FL

The theme made me chuckle today. Ordinary chores are reimagined and clued accordingly. PAYTHEBILLS (Chore for an N.F.L. owner?), for example, changes things like utilities and taxes to the Buffalo Bills. And SWEEPTHEFLOOR (Chore for a security guard?) instead changes the verb from using a broom to the metaphorical sweep of a night guard. It took me a minute to realize that PICKUPTHETOYS (Chore for a dog-walker?) was playing on toy dogs and not dog toys, and I thought GOTOTHEBANK (Chore for a rower?) was the least funny.

Things I did not know about before today - UDO (Japanese vegetable) - this is sometimes called "mountain asparagus," and I will be on the lookout for an opportunity to try some from now on, WIIU (Nintendo gaming console with a pileup of vowels), TATES (Crispy cookie brand), HIPS (Coxae, familiarly), SILVA (Most common surname in Brazil), RON (Wisconsin senator Johnson), ETON (____ mess (traditional English dessert)), SIA ("Chandelier" singer, 2014), ILENE (Woods who voiced Cinderella). That seems like a lot on a Sunday. Of course, that's just me, and I can't really complain about what I'm POORAT knowing. Perhaps you had more Horse SENSE.

I liked the non-QMC "Current location" for SEA, I chuckled at "Person to look out for" (NUMEROUNO), and "Hoppy medium?" was cute for ALE. There were a few groan-worthy entries, but it's a big puzzle, and it did get a few chuckles, so that was nice.

I'm signing off again, and this time for real. Hope you're all happy and healthy.

- Horace

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Saturday, July 11, 2020, Kameron Austin Collins


There was so much I didn't know in this puzzle. MEATSPACE (Physical realm, in cyberpunk), for instance. It's amusing and I'm glad to learn it, but it took almost every cross. IONA (Macbeth's burial isle), SOULTRAINLINE (Longtime dance feature on TV beginning in 1971), ROCS (Elephant abductors of legend), EPUB (Digital book file extension), ELMO (Friend of Mr. Noodle on children's TV), EMIR (The conqueror Tamerlane, for one), DRAGOON (Strong-arm) (as a noun, I guess, not a verb), TECATE (Mexican beer brand) ... these are all things that, without crosses, might never have come into my head. Even PARADISEFOUND (Heaven, sweet heaven) was a mystery because of that clue. Is that from something? Is that a normal way to clue PARADISEFOUND? 

And it doesn't help that STOic is so close to STONY (Lacking any emotion).
I'm not complaining, really, and it's not like I don't expect and even want this on a Saturday, it's just that I want to celebrate the struggle. Because it was a struggle. And yet, when it's all filled in, everything - or most of it, anyway - looks so easy. "Car on a track" is obviously a RACER. "Lapped, perhaps" could be said of someone who OUTSWAM another in the pool. And "Zip" isn't being used as a clue for "nada" or "zilch" or "goose egg," it's ENERGY.

Things I did know include AMTRAK (Metroliner operator, once) (Hi Dad!), MOTET (Sacred choral composition), CRUELLA ("101 Dalmatians" villain), and FROOT. Funny to see that twice in three days.

I don't know, it all seems so obvious when you write it out. Perhaps it's time for me to hand this reviewing business over for a couple weeks. Stay healthy, wear a mask when you're out, and I'll see you again at the end of the month.

- Horace

Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020, John Lieb

0:34:16 (F.W.O.E.)

OK, Mr. Lieb, you won this round. After three semi-long plodding sessions, I finally had a letter in every square, only to find that I had spelled CHECHNYA and TERRiCREWS incorrectly. I should have known better, but, well ... this time I didn't.

The top, right, and bottom went along normally for a Friday - challenging, but gettable. MILHOUSE, LITEBRITE (Classic toy with colored pegs), and MOVEMBER (Annual event to grow awareness of men's health issues) (see photo) went in without crosses, but ANITA (Rita Moreno's "West Side Story" role), BASILICAS (Places of worship), and THEDOLE (Government assistance) took far longer to come into focus.

The author at a MOVEMBER event in 2012. Frannie was nominated for "Miss Movember" at the party, but we left before the winners were announced. I have always assumed that she won.
The West was where I spent most of my time today. Ambiguity reigned. For the clue "Same here" I tried "so do I" and "me too," for "Medium for modern marketing campaigns" I had "insta" for a while, and for "Places to wear goggles" I tried "eyeS" and even "tuBS" before finally managing to get LABS. Sheesh!

It was a struggle, but in a good way. Pinned together at the top and bottom with little things like NOS, MCI, ERS, and AGA (and I was never going to get ACC without every cross!), but in the end it was all worth it. Incongruities abounded - HIROHITO crossing URKEL, LEIA crossing ELCID, NASCARDAD beside GRAYBEARD ... fun!

I believe last week's Friday was harder for me than Saturday. I look forward to seeing whether or not that is true again.

- Horace

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Thursday, July 9, 2020, Joe Kidd


A rebus on Thursday ... so comforting. Today, circles give the trick away a bit, and I'm guessing that's because each rebus is different. Or maybe it's because each one is a different word for what surrounds it. And all eight rebus answers are good - or should I say, there isn't one that DOESNT[RING]TRUE.


As I look at the grid now, it seems very segmented, with single entry points to the NW and SE, and the middle tightened up by those two diagonals of black squares, but I did not feel restricted by any of that while solving. Maybe having two of the trick squares right at those tight juncture points helped somehow? Oh, I don't know... what am I, a professional critic? I just solves it and I writes about the experience.

And overall, I'd give it a smiley EMOJI today. Little RAW bits like EES, MOS, and the odd-looking HOMIE (Bud) (Is that how that's spelled?), were more than balanced out by amusing clues like "One who has it coming?" (HEIR), "Travel tirelessly?" (SLED) (At first I thought "Sure, while you're going down the hill," but then I realized that they mean "on runners, not tires." Very nice!), "Be routed" (LOSEBIG) (Boy was I ever way off track here!), "Straight up" (NEAT), and "Sound followed by a whistle, in cartoons" (SNORING). That last one took me forever, but maybe because I think of the whistling as a part of the whole that is SNORING. Or maybe I was just still partly asleep myself. :)

In addition to all that, we've got SCRUM, GNOME, BOSSED, MINSK, the lovely quote clue for DESTINY ("____ is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice": William Jennings Bryan), and our old pal Phil OCHS.

Lots to like today. Can IGET an amen?

- Horace

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Chase Dittrich


It's another debut puzzle today, so congratulations, Mr. Dittrich! 

Today four theme answers are given playful, typeface-driven clues:

STRESSEATING - Having a meal!
SPACECADETS - M i l i t a r y t r a i n e e s
STRIKEAPOSE - Downward dog
BOLDPROPOSAL - "Will you marry me?"

We enjoy this type of word/text play. It reminds us of good ol' Games magazine. And I thought finding four common phrases that could each be reinterpreted as "verb a thing" and then clued appropriately with text tricks was pretty clever. It's too bad CASTDOUBT couldn't have been clued with a little fishing rod, somehow, and DRYGOODS with a clothesline. ... hmm, maybe there's another theme in there somewhere, but then I'd have to figure out a way to get pictures into the clues...


When I hit the first theme answer, I thought it might be a quarantine-based theme. This was reinforced by the clues "Piece of cake!" and "Have a taste!" I don't know about you, but I've put on a few pounds since March. It's not so much stress-eating, though, as it is just spending pretty much all of my time at home, where the food is.

I liked "Bombards" for PELTS, and I like any clue that helps me with world geography - "Land between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf" (IRAN). I also learned two new names in OPAL Tometi and Mario Vargas LLOSA.

I appreciate the audacity of putting in AEIOU (Language quintet) as an answer, but I didn't love NOLE (Florida State athlete, for short) so much. And Frannie and I were just joking that after an ESTAB you might need to send out an ESOS! Heh.

For me, the fun theme carries the day. See you again tomorrow for the start of The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Tuesday, July 7, 2020, Kevin Patterson


Today, the first thing that came into my head when Frannie explained the theme to me was fellow blogger Amy Reynaldo's phrase, "Tuesdays Gonna Tuez." How else do you explain a theme that takes four six-letter words for types of paper, then splits them exactly in half and "wraps" them around the back of the grid? It's a strange idea, but I've gotta say, it's also quite beautiful, and it works. The revealer, WRAPPINGPAPER, is perfect right there in the middle, and the symmetrical circles are pleasingly placed. Also, without the circles, I'm not sure I ever would have figured it out. It might just be my favorite circles puzzle ever.

Cricket BAT

And, it's a debut! Congratulations, Mr. Patterson. I am already waiting anxiously to see what you come up with next.

Of the first six Across answers, only PEAR (Tree for a partridge, in a Christmas song) was somewhat interesting, although even that seemed odd in July. But the Downs came through, with the amusingly clued AMULET (It works like a charm!), Wise as ANOWL, and the quaint SODAPOP.

It gets very college-y in the middle with BAILED (Left unexpectedly, in slang) and BEERME (Slangy frat house request). I liked the Boston-centric clue for ONE (Number of lanterns "if by land"), and it could easily have been amplified with a reference to Rosie Ruiz in the clue for REENTERS (Joins again, as a race). Too soon? And I had never really considered that NATO was founded to resist Communism, but I guess it makes sense.

There are little bits of alphabet soup, as Frannie once called it, (IED, ENE, REI, EMT, ETS, UIE), and I'll always think of the drink as "iced tea," not ICETEA, but I'll not get INAMOOD about it. Overall, if Tuesdays are gonna tuez like this, I say yes PLEASE.

- Horace

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday, July 6, 2020, Lynn Lempel


A lovely Monday puzzle today. The theme of ordinary plural words taken apart and clued to change the meaning into "first name/verb." BOBSLEDS becomes "Bob sleds" (Singer Dylan has fun in the snow?). I'm not sure how many younger solvers will be familiar with Van Cliburn these days, or even Ginger Rogers, but maybe I'd be surprised. It's hard to know what others will know, isn't it? For the past two weeks, my family has played "Jeopardy!" during our weekly Zoom. Each of us put together a category with five questions and we go through them one person at a time. I tried to make questions that were not too hard, as I'm sure my brother the chemist did, but often it happened that things you think are common knowledge are not so. Can you name two of the halide elements, for example? And do you know what changes a bechamel sauce into a mornay?

I, for one, enjoyed the theme. BILLFOLDS (Businessman Gates gets out of the poker game?) might have been my favorite, partly because I was amused by the categorization of him as a "businessman." I mean, he kind of is one, I guess, but I've never thought of him that way.

Lots of fun non-theme entries in the Downs, too. The NW corner is full of them - NOSEJOB, ABALONE, DALLYING and LAYSIN are all strong. And I loved the cluing of SALTY (Like the ocean and most potato chips) and ONIONS (They bring tears to chefs' eyes). And how about "Unstraighten, as a wire" for BEND. Odd.

PUP (Young seal) was interesting to see, because I have just started learning Finnish with Duolingo, and one of the first vocabulary words is "pupu," which means "bunny." I doubt there's any connection in origin, but I still enjoyed the odd coincidence.

It's difficult to find anything to complain about today, so I won't. It's a great start to the week. Let's enjoy it.

- Horace

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sunday, July 5, 2020, Laura Taylor Kinnel


Here it is, July already. Half a year gone. Let's not review it. Let's just move on.


After two weeks of excellent reviews by my esteemed co-bloggers, it's my turn to take you through from Sunday to The Turn, and we start off with a good one - a rare Sunday rebus puzzle!

Solving online, I saw five gray boxes in the grid, and even with that signal that something was up, it still took me a while to figure out exactly what I was supposed to enter into them. The box at 56-Down, for example, was particularly confusing to me. [TICK]LETHEIVORIES (Play piano, informally) seemed pretty obvious, but I really wanted TOOLkit for 55-Across, "Set of skills, metaphorically," and so I was thinking of an elaborate system where you'd spell out "tick" for the Downs, but use it the way it sounded in reverse for the Acrosses. That, of course, was far too convoluted.

What really needs to happen is that you have to start with it as a "box" as you read the Across clues (which come first in the clue list), then when you've done that, you "tick" the box as you use it in the Downs. It's not a "TOOL kit," I wanted, but a TOOL[BOX]. Me, I ended up putting the rebus word "TICK" in every box, but I wonder if "BOX" would also be accepted. Probably not, given the revealer, TICKALLTHEBOXES.

So we've got a fun theme. We've also got some fun clues. Take "Elizabeth Warren vis-à-vis former chief justice Earl Warren, e.g." for NORELATION. That made me chuckle. Also "Small suit" (SPEEDO), "Stocking stuffer" (SANTA), "Donkey Kong, e.g." (APE, not APp), and "They're worn on heads with tails" (TOPHATS) - all good Non-QMCs. And for QMCs we've got "About which you might always say "Bee prepared"? (HONEY) (mmmm....), "Note-taking spot? (ATM), and "Last dance?" (SENIORPROM).

Overall, I really enjoyed the spirit of this one. Hope you did too.

- Horace

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Saturday, July 4, 2020, Peter Wentz


Hello everyone, and happy Independence Day. Let us use this day as a prompt to remember how little liberty is afforded most of the people of this country, and in particular how much pain has been inflicted on people of color in the name of that liberty for white people. Let us reflect on our own privilege, and resolve to act in ways that increases independence for those wronged by this country and its institutions.

We can start by urging BOYCOTTS on a certain ODIOUS SEMIHARD NONAME.

Do I hear any YESES?

Right, I apologize for my rant. I get a tiny little soapbox here and I try not to use it too often for this sort of thing.

In any case, today's themeless was an excellent challenge. I really got going in the SE section, where RAGA, URIEL, and WUSHU gave me a good start. That last I'd never heard of prior to my older daughter's college experience. She had a number of friends who practiced that martial art in a club, and put on performances utilizing long spears. It turns out that the word itself means "martial art."

In that corner, I liked THEBBC (always fun to see all those consonants) and 33D: Factor in determining if the show must go on (TVRATINGS), which is a nice non-QMC.
Old Town Road by Lil Nas X is sorta one of them RAPS
Because of RATTERRIER I was able to get SKYES, which opened up the NE. PFCHANGS is another fun set of consonants, and led to the silly FIVEWAY, which finally gave me 31A: Business checks? (BOYCOTTS). I had the hardest time with 20D: Water formation on wax paper (BLOB). I tried the far more straightforward "drop" then "bead" first.

I found the NW the hardest section today. I had LAURA and ENSIGN off the clues, but I had barely heard of DECKLE (tough 1A!), and CLICKHOLE was a no go for me. 19A: Unwavering (ROCKRIBBED) was also a full plate of "huh?" as far as I was concerned. I love ENDOFDAYS though.

I laughed at 57A: Call overseas? (AHOYMATE). That's good stuff. A mildly tough crossing of ATWATER and RODLAVER, but overall a fine puzzle.

- Colum

Friday, July 3, 2020

Friday, July 3, 2020, Hal Moore


Let's just say that this week has been more stressful than most, so I'm happy to have the crossword puzzle to turn to in order to escape the difficulties of life for a few moments.

Or more than a few moments, in the case of today's puzzle. Some various guesses I made put up roadblocks to my completion. For example, at 35A: It doesn't follow (NONSEQUITUR) I put in NONSEnsical. Which is correct but not as correct as the actual answer. I also had ABASe instead of ABASH, which made HAWAII much harder to see. Finally, I had ANdnOw for 27D: "Moving right along ..." (ANYHOO).

That middle set of three answers is excellent. The lynchpin is ANTHONYBOURDAIN, an amazing man whose life came to a tragic and premature end in 2018. However, he absolutely lived by his quotation. I also enjoyed 39A: Swear words? (SCOUTSHONOR).

Crossing these answers is 21D: Coach for the bench players? (PIANOTEACHER). Hah! Very clever. PHOTOCURRENT is not as great an answer.
Different OMAR
I imagine seeing QUOTIENTS made Huygens say IMINHEAVEN.

My favorite clue is 56A: Present time, for short (BDAY). This is a great example of a non-QMC. And no question mark is needed, in my opinion, although I can see some thinking it would be necessary because of the punny nature of the reinterpretation of the first word.

With GETBACK and the very nice pair of "One might be drawn" clues (Answers: STRAW and BATH), this was a fun Friday themeless that played harder for me than usual.

- Colum

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thursday, July 2, 2020, Yacob Yonas and Chad Horner


To say I didn't understand what was going on here is an understatement. I completely and correctly filled in the entire grid, and then stared at the theme answers for a few minutes before understanding.

See, I thought the revealer SKIPSCHOOL meant you had to add the word "school" to the theme answers to make them comprehensible. Instead, you look at the answers and take out a school name to get the resulting answer to fit the clue. Thus, 17A: *Express one's view (COMMITMENT) has MIT in the middle. Take it out, and you get "comment."

Similarly with: STAYALERT - Yale = "start," SUNCHIPS - UNC = "ships," and GASPRICES - Rice = "gasps."

Wow. Those are some nice finds. All four are good phrases, with good solid schools. So I like the theme.

But in these days of unclear college plans, it strikes a sad chord in me. Much like so many things. Cece will have a college to go to in August, but it will be diminished and without the usual social interactions. But it's okay. We all know who to blame.

Meanwhile, there's not much in the way of clever clues or really exciting fill outside of the theme. I chuckled lightly at 69A: Pack of smarties? (MENSA) and at 37D: A lecture on it might be full of tangents (TRIG).

I think what we all need right now is a COSMO(politan).

- Colum

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau


Middle of the week, middle of the year. Guess it doesn't get much more "hump day" than that, huh?

Never have I wanted the NYT crossword more for its ability to lighten the day and improve the mood. So in honor of that, let's just get some of the negative out of the way first, shall we?

To hit STYE and CYST within the first 30 seconds of solving was somewhat alarming. Add to that CLAP and RASH, and you've got a veritable grab bag of bodily afflictions. I know, I know, the latter two aren't clued that way. Just be glad I didn't include JUNK. Or ACME. Heh heh...

Also, the crossing of NOURI and MARTA is a rough go. I guessed correctly, but I can see that many would not have done so.

All right, with that over and done with, let's acknowledge the good. The theme is very clever and quite unusual. The revealer is at 54A: Network of personal relationships ... or a punny hint to 3-, 7- and 11-Down (SOCIALCAPITAL). The twist here is to treat that as working with money through social media networks.

The answers referenced are three phrases begin with verbs that work within social media and end with synonyms for cash. Thus FOLLOWSTHEMONEY is clued as "Joins a Federal Reserve Facebook group?" I like that all three examples are in the 3rd person present tense. It makes it consistent.

There's not a ton of fascinating fill otherwise. I am surprised to note that of the last eleven Across answers, eight are proper nouns/names. I liked 20A: Things that magnets and barbershops both have (POLES). Also 46A: Connections on Air France? (ETS). Cute!

- Colum