Monday, August 31, 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020, Anne Marie Crinnion


Always nice to see a debut puzzle on a Monday. Welcome to the club, Ms. Crinnion! A well constructed Monday puzzle is a challenge, so I hear. The theme has to be reasonably straightforward, and there can't be too much obscure trivia. With all that taken into account, I have to give our newb high marks.

The theme is well represented by the revealer at 64A: What you might do to pass on an Interstate ... or a phonetic hint to the starts of 18-, 28- and 50-Across (CHANGELANES). The concept here is you take a synonym for "lane" and use the homonym as the start of innocent-seeming phrases or names. Thus, "road" becomes RODESHOTGUN, "alley" becomes ALYRAISMAN, and "way" becomes WHEYPOWDER. I suspect it would be hard to find other examples of this trick.

Along with the first theme answer, which is driving related, I think MERGE counts as bonus theme material. I briefly had sUrGE at 68A: Sudden thrust forward (LUNGE), which probably came to mind because of the rest of the automotive answers.

I'd also like to take a moment to recognize Ms. Raiman for her excellent activism with regards to abuse and mistreatment of our young female athletes in this country. That such awful things happen to this extremely vulnerable group or people is yet one more stain on our standing as a supposed leader on human rights around the globe.


But let's get back to something a little lighter. Did you know that INDONESIA consists of over 17,000 islands making up 735,000 square miles? Now, Australia is 2.9 million square miles, and since it is officially part of the continent of Oceania, isn't it the largest "island nation?" I'll take debate on this question in the comments below.

I'll just take a moment to recognize OPULENT and BLOODYMARY as fine answers, and then acknowledge a small bit of hurt on reading 51D: Doctor, ideally (HEALER). There is so much more to being a physician than just "healing" people, folks! 

TIL tomorrow...

- Colum

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020, Olivia Mitra Framke


Hey everybody! I'm back, after a couple of weeks of excellent reviews by Horace and Frannie. It's been pretty wild up here, what with getting Cece off to college for her first year, in the midst of a pandemic. I'd like to put in a good word here for the state of Massachusetts, where testing is plentiful with a quick turnaround. So far, so good!

Meanwhile, today's puzzle highlights a classic bit of philosophy, which I first encountered as a boy reading Ray Bradbury's short story, A Sound of Thunder. In fact, the concept of the BUTTERFLYEFFECT may have gotten its name from that story, I find upon reading the Wikipedia entry. Furthermore, when the concept was presented in a talk on CHAOSTHEORY, the title of the talk was: "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas?"

When I finished the puzzle, the meaning of 62A: A.L. East team ... or, after changing a nearby black square, what a little movement by this puzzle's subject might cause? (TOR), the iPad app filled in an N in the adjacent black square. This, combined with 63A: Kerfuffle (ADO) created a TOR[N]ADO across the middle of the grid. Lovely!

In addition to the explanatory long answers at 3D, 16D, 109A, and 113A (ONESMALLTHING / CANMAKEALLTHE / DIFFERENCE / INTHEWORLD), Ms. Framke has also created some beautiful grid art with the central squares creating a butterfly. That's a lot of very nice work, and made the overall solving experience very fulfilling.

There is very little in the fill to complain about. Sure, there's ORTS, SRTA, ODIE, SERA, your classic bits of necessary glue to make the rest stick together. Oddly, I never thought of the Garfield dog as being on two legs, and it turns out I'm not wrong. He started on four legs, and later switched to two. Boy, the depths of research you dive to in writing blog reviews.

On the positive side, there are great words like BESPOKE, THRIVES, and YORKIES. Some fun C/AP's included 39D: Rabbit in a red dress (JESSICA) - she was not actually a rabbit, but because she was married to Roger, she took his last name. 33A: Remains here? (CRYPT) - I've particularly enjoyed this genre of clue, which has seemed to crop up more and more in the last year. Also, I liked 114D: On an airplane, it's filled with nitrogen rather than air (TIRE). More because the gas from containers avoids moisture, which expands much more.

This blog entry was brought to you by Wikipedia.

- Colum

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday, August 29, 2020, Michael Hawkins


Thanks to some known material like DIDION, CHOPRA, and POLAND, the lower two-thirds of the puzzle went right along. It took me a while to strike upon the answer to "Picketer's holding"  (PLACARD), but once I got that I was able to get SAHL, which allowed me to figure out how Mr. Hawkins was spelling AHCHOO (I normally spell it with only one H). And speaking of spelling, SICCED is just plain weird looking.  

The north and middle east were the most difficult for me, possibly because I couldn't come up with 12D: "Muppets song with nonsense lyrics." This surprised me, as I am a big Muppets fan. I thought maybe the song was from the Elmo era. I looked it up just now, and of course, I do know the song. I know it very well, but I never considered how it might be spelled and I didn't parse it correctly even when I got it all filled in. I felt a bit like a fool. And speaking of... 

There was lots of "fooling" around in the grid today: 
"What fools do, they say" (RUSHIN)
"Fool" (SIMP)
"Fool" (DOLT)
And a possible cousin: "Impossible to screw up" (IDIOTPROOF)


But if you like more CENSE in your clues, there was plenty of good material. To wit:
"Very bright, but not in a good way" (LOUD)
"Generic rivalry" (USVSTHEM)
"Great deal" (HEAP)
And "Accident report?" (OOPS) - HOHO

I know it's in the clues, but I thought I'd mention that I love the word "ziggurat." Fill I found fun includes SIDEHUSTLETIPTOES, PANT and HEFT

I thought INVADE wasn't a great clue for "Blitz" and I think of SATE as more parallel to completely satisfy, but I note it's often clued as overabundance. Can these sorts of incongruities be considered ONUS material? :)


Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday, August 28, 2020, Kate Hawkins


My first entry was 16A:"Join in space." At first I thought, "what do they mean by that?" but as soon as moved to the next clue, my brain realized that the answer must be DOCK and it was. Satisfying! Most of the rest of the solve followed a similar pattern. There would be several answers I didn't know, then others I did know or figured out, and before I knew it, the puzzle was complete. I think I ended in the middle top section where I was introduced to TANEHISI Coates, and where I had to trade in my 'gErbil' for a PETRAT (One using an exercise wheel, maybe). 

20A: LIS

Based on my time, I think it's fair to say that this puzzle played on the easy side for a Friday. I was able to drop in some of the longer answers like PYRAMIDSCHEME, TRUECRIME, and MEETCUTE right off the clues. 

I do want to give a NODTO some of the amusing C/AP's. I particularly liked "Go for the bronze?" (SUN). For a short time I considered 'taN' because "Lymphoid lump," which I now know is a charming alternative to TONSIL, wasn't immediately obvious to me. The clue "Get on board?" was similarly amusing, but somehow less tricky for this solver. "Some like it hopped" was cute (ALE). 

In the category of CoT (Clever or Tricky) clues, I thought "Professional pitcher" (SALESREP), "Turn" (SPOIL), and "Lets have it" (YELLSAT) were especially good.

I thought BEETRED was nice, and I love SKINNY when it refers to information - but, THATSME

I feel like I've started to see a lot of clues that mention something called "Hamilton" in the last couple of weeks. I may have to find out what that's all about. 


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Thursday, August 27, 2020, Nancy Stark and Will Nediger


I first realized we were in for a rebus puzzle at 26D. I was pretty sure that "White-water rental" had to be KA[YAK], but I didn't put it in right away. The clue at 41D provided another strong indication when the answer for "Scavengers on Luke Skywalker's home planet" had space for only three letters ([JAW]AS). So when I got to the revealer toward the bottom of the puzzle, it wasn't too difficult to guess what was going on. The third rebus was less obvious to me, but when I got it, I noticed it was a nice double whammy in that both the clue ("Discussing") and the answer (TALKIN[GAB]OUT) within which the rebus [GAB] sits could be considered bonus material. I was wondering if we can we call today's theme a 'threebus' to reflect the number of rebii in the puzzle.  

Although the solve went right along, for the most part, I did have a little trouble in the north east due to 11D. "Laugh uproariously" (CACHINNATE). I don't think I've ever encountered that word before. According to Google's Ngram Viewer, it hit its peak popularity in English works in 1857, topping out at 0.0000002145%. Also in that area, before I had many squares filled in I fell for the nicely ambiguous "Nest egg source" and tried 'ira'. Other crosses made it clear that was wrong (HEN was correct), but its wrongness was completely confirmed when IRA turned up at 42D, (Plan with a 'Simple' variety). They never put the same answer in a puzzle twice, except when they do


A number of excellent clues in here IMPEL me to list and celebrate them:

  • "Entry-level workers?" (DOORMEN)
  • "Something to squirrel away?" (ACORN)
  • "It doesn't cover much" (THONG)
  • "Joey who's friends with Owl" (ROO)
  • "Not at all fancy" (HATE)
  • "Members of a defunct union" (EXES)
  • "Resounding comeback?" (ECHO)
I could go on and on, but I think the C/AP's speak for themselves. 


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wednesday, August 26, 2020, Carl Larson


I enjoyed today's theme, but I was thrown for a loop by the clue at 55A: "Investment for a restaurateur." At first, I read it as 'restauranteur'. Spelled the way I was reading it, it isn't even a word! Who knew there was no 'n' in there? But, when I got completely stuck there in the bottom middle section, I re-read the clue more carefully, noted the n-lessness, and decided I was stuck because the word must also mean a person who restores things. With that "update" to my thinking I  lost all chance of guessing the correct theme answer: MENUOPTION. I couldn't think of BURNS for "Devilishly clever insults, in slang," and I didn't know NRA or UNC. It also didn't help that I'm not exactly sure how an option is semantically parallel to gold, stocks, or bonds. It turned into a whole new kind of embarrassment of riches for this solver.

Even after I looked at the solution, I got the "keep trying" message from the app. I went over the complete puzzle three times, comparing it carefully word for word, but couldn't find anything wrong. Finally, on the fourth time through, I thought I noticed that the letter 'o' in COCKTAILS was a bit on the thin side - that's how carefully I was looking at it - and it turns out that somehow I typed a zero exactly where the 'o' belonged. So, yeah, did not figure it out thanks to wrong thinking in a big way all around. Do we have an acronym for that yet? DNFIOTTWTIABWAA. It helps to put a name to it. 

By Unknown author -

I don't mean to short change the theme. The other theme answers, all part of a WORKPORTFOLIO (the humorist's COMEDYGOLD, the butcher's BEEFSTOCK, the physicist's IONICBOND) were richly entertaining. 

I also appreciated "Sauce that's heavy on garlic ... and vowels" even though I don't take an AIOLI myself. The clue "50 or more letters?" for AARP was quite clever. I liked ALLWET, ITSALIVE OLIVEOIL and WEAKTEA. I love the word KNELT for some reason. And you don't see its companion of sorts, DIRK, every day. 

I enjoyed the idea behind the clue "What makes car care? but its answer ANE glitter, if you see what I mean. There were a few junk bonds like NRA, UNC, NAS, and AIG holding the puzzle together at the edges, but not enough to lower the rating. 

So, not a success today, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll try to do better tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tuesday, August 25, 2020, Dave Bardolph


I was whipping through this puzzle in what I thought might be record time until I got hung up in the middle east where for the life of me I couldn't parse RA_DB ("Aretha Franklin's genre"). Derp. That wasn't the only problem I had in that quartier. On my first pass through I entered 'itty' for "Wee" where TINY was wanted. And the i from 'itty' made "Spring time" (LENT) more difficult than it needed to be.You could almost call it a comedy of errors. 

And speaking of, today's theme featured quite an entertaining set of quotes from Shakespeare reinterpreted as comments at a cookout - although THEPOUNDOFFLESH purportedly brought by Shylock borders on the slightly icky, if one thinks too much about it. My favorite of the theme answers was "Cry from Hamlet when he spotted his favorite spice mix at the cookout?" (AYTHERESTHERUB). Delicious! I thought III clued as "Three on a sundial" was a missed opportunity for bonus theme material (think Richard or Edward). 

I enjoyed the clue "A bit cracked" for AJAR and "Fish with no pelvic fins" for EEL. "Things that rhythm lacks?" (AEIOU) and "Bit of animation" (CEL) were good. LEES jeans made a nice pair, of sorts, with LEA & Perrins sauce at the two thirds mark. And the mention of Yahtzee (PAIRS) brought back pleasant if noisy memories. 


"One less than penta-" (TETRA) as a clue may be less than ideal and I always think ASHY is a little bogus as a word - but I don't want to make much ado about nothing. The theme was fun, AGED wine and cheese are mentioned, as are three lovely Italian locales, and everyone's favorite librarian, Donna REED, gets a shout out so all's well that ends well.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020, David Alfred Bywaters


I thought today's theme was excellent. The five theme answers were common words that all start with "ex" but they were given new meanings wherein the "ex" refers to a former lover. I was amused by most of the answers, but my favorite might be "Former lovers' stances in photos?" EXPOSES. Ha!

At first, I didn't understand the final theme answer in the southeast corner. I hadn't read the clue carefully and just assumed it followed the same pattern as the others. However, it refers instead to one's "Current lover, who seems suspiciously occupied"? with the answer (EXPENDING). Exemplary! Extra points for its exceptional placement in the grid. 

The exultance of  X's in the across answers had a mixed result on the Down clues. NIXED and XENON are strong, but RXS less so. I guess the exigencies of this kind of theme mean we have to take a little medicine along with the fun. 

I have a couple of other axis to grind. Did I enter REUNE when I read the clue "What alumni do on important anniversaries"? Yes, dear readers, I did. Did I want to, no, no I didn't. And, can ETCH be used to describe writing with a chisel on stone? I GESSO, if the NYTX says so, but it seemed off to me.


Excuse me, I did not intend to get exercised by these minor vexations. I very much enjoyed this puzzle. C/A P's I particularly liked included "Busy, as a restroom" (INUSE), "Soup legumes" (LENTILS), and "Aptitude" (SKILL). Aptitude! BASSDRUM and SARCASTIC are good fill. Also funny to have both "Dragging behind" (INTOW) and "Halved" (INTWO) in the puzzle. 



Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020, Barbara Lin


When I saw the title and the circles, I entered the notes of the scale immediately, then went back and started at 1A. Eventually, I found that the notes were to be taken independently, in a way. Including them makes them fit the QMCs that they all get, but taking them out reveals a more standard phrase. "Scarce resources" isn't exactly a stand-alone phrase the way "Amazing Grace" or "the pied piper" is, but in this pandemic period, perhaps it is particularly appropriate. 

morning GLORY

My favorite theme clue/answer pair today is ... wait, do we need a new acronym for that? Yes. So my favorite C/AP today is "Letting out all the stops to drown out the other instruments?" for ORGANDOMINATION. It's hilarious, and "organ donation" is a good thing. PARASOLMILITARY (Troops who are worried about sun protection?) is good too, thanks to a high silliness quotient.

Other good C/APs are "Bronze that's not winning any awards?" (FAKETAN), "Take into account?" (SAVE), and "What might come down to the wire? (BIRD). QMCs all. 

I do not know the Beatles song YESITIS by name, so that was a tricky clue (B-side to the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride"), and it took me far too long to think of the SEAGRAM building. I kept trying to cram "chrysler" in there. 

Also, I've recently begun learning Finnish. I am half Finn myself, and we are planning to visit the country whenever we can travel again. Anyway, one of the tools in my multi-pronged learning is DuoLingo, which recently released a beta Finnish course, and this long non-sequitur is just a way of saying that I learned from Duo that MUSTI is a traditional name for a dog in Finland. Of course, that would have been a much harder clue than "Is that really necessary?," but maybe it can be stored away for a Saturday, eh team? :)

Not a bad Sunday. Frannie takes over tomorrow. I'll see you in a couple weeks.

- Horace

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday, August 22, 2020, Trenton Charlson


 A smooth Saturday from Mr. Charlson today with a central 13-letter stagger-stack and some fun 9s and 10s. Of the three stair steps, I like PAWNPROMOTION (What it takes to become a queen?) the best. GOESONABENDER seems appropriate for the weekend, but BARNEYSTINSON is a name I've never heard before, having never watched Doogie's other show. Luckily, the crosses were fair.


And speaking of those crosses, I thought it interesting that "facade" fit where VENEER belonged (False front). 

In the mid-length entries, we have the somewhat aggressive INYOURFACE ("Take that, loser!"), and the seedy OPIUMDEN (Hangout for Dorian Gray). But we've also got that Italian hero Giuseppe GARIBALDI and the well-known baking hero, the KEEBLERELF

SASSIER (Flipper) got a cute clue, but I thought "Herb of the parsley family" was a little lackluster for ANISE. Something like "Absinthe flavor" would have tied in nicely with OPIUMDEN. And SCAD (Great deal) is just plain wrong. It's never singular. "I've got a scad of them, help yourself!" said no one ever.

I did like BOOMTOWNS (Gold rush phenomena), and "British flier" (UNIONJACK) had me stumped for a while, but overall, I found it a little LESS exciting than I was hoping for when I saw the byline. I mean, it's fine, it's just not EPIC.

- Horace

Friday, August 21, 2020

Friday, August 21, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


Today we see that rare bird, the themed Friday puzzle. It's an interesting tribute to SAINT BASILSCATHEDRAL in REDSQUARE, complete with a grid-art ONIONDOME in the center. Me, I was not aware of that church by name, and now, seeing the photo, I do not recognize it. It looks rather Disney-ish, doesn't it?

As for the puzzle, I think the theme works well with its left-right symmetry and chunky, Friday-ish corners. The 3x9 stacks in the lower corners are especially good. I also found much to like in the cluing. There's the "Beat" pairing (PULSATE, EXHAUSTED) and it's friend "One not to beat" (DEADHORSE), the yoga duo (ASANA, MAT), the two composers (SOUSA and SATIE), and the Cuomo pairing (GOV & MARIO). 

I thought "Island locale" was a nicely oblique clue for KITCHEN, and "Imported European wheels" was cute for EDAMS. "17 and 18, but not 19 or 20" took me way too long (HOLES) (it's about golf), and I'm still not sure what USMA stands for ("The Point," in brief). Oh wait, it must be short for West Point. ... nevermind.

Lots to like in this grid: PILLAGE, QUEPASA, RAINGODS, BADLANDS (so beautiful...), TAQUERIAS ... it's full of good stuff! And I knew very little about John CABOT before reading about him just now in the Wikipedia - always nice to be led into a little research by a puzzle. 

A big thumbs up from me. Hope you liked it too!

- Horace

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Thursday, August 20, 2020, Grant Thackray

 0:10:30 (F.W.T.E.)

Kind of a cute theme today that I didn't understand at all until I hit the revealer - even though I had completely filled two of the three theme answers! I noticed that "IM" appeared to be missing from my answers, but I thought there'd be some explanation using "instant messaging" or something. When I got the revealer, I saw that the word time was slightly "wrinkled," popping up into the row above in each answer. Very nice.

Another aspect of the theme may be the SENT[IM]ENTALVALUE of some old crossword answers oft seen ERE NOW. It's been a while since ESME (Salinger title girl) or ODIE (Jon Arbuckle's dog) made an appearance, and I'm guessing my father got MORT[IM]ERMOUSE (*Mickey's rival for Minnie's affection) more quickly than I did! MINIME (Dr. Evil's little clone in the "Austin Powers" films) feels positively fresh compared to the two Latin abbreviations and the Shakespearean DIDST

But speaking of the Latin, especially mens REA, it ties in nicely with my favorite clue today: "It can be broken, but not fixed" (LAW). That's a new clue, as far as I can tell, for that simple little word, and it's really quite lovely. 

I think today IVE got to be a little LAX, and overlook many a NIT, like the two "hypen" clues: ESE (-speak) and IES (-y, pluralized) (wow); the never-before-seen-by-me alternative spelling of Shiva (Hindu god of destruction (SIVA)); WAL; and EWERS (another classic!). 

I'll not get SORE. Instead, I'll make myself a COSMO or grab one of the CLARETS from the cellar (alcohol - that PANACEA), take ASEAT, and listen to some ELLA.

By the way, somewhat appropriately, my mistake came from not taking my time - I misspelled CIERA with an S, and guessed tMEN instead of GMEN for "Feds." It wasn't too hard to find what went wrong when 1A appeared as IsINtS, but really, I should have allowed for a little wrinkle in my solving time and reviewed the puzzle before filling it all the way in! I guess this would be a good time to make one more call for a "Finished" button that we could press instead of just being judged immediately upon filling in the last square. I've always thought this would be more like the "raising your hand when you're sure you're done" feeling at the ACPT. So how 'bout it?

- Horace

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wednesday, August, 19, 2020, Brandon Koppy


The last time it was my week to blog, I got a puzzle with a lot of this "With 5-Across"-type cluing, and I did not like it much. That time, a lot of entries were just left with a dash instead of a real clue, but this time each answer has a clue, and the whole thing is held together nicely. It's a LIFE CYCLE that runs around the perimeter - two paths starting in the top left, ending in the bottom right, with a revealer in the very center. Not bad, really. It didn't make me love the cross-referenced clues, but once I was finished with the puzzle, I could appreciate the lovely construction. And the bold repetition of the word LIFE also made me smile. So although I am surprising myself by saying this, I liked it. :)


That said, the fill had to be sacrificed a bit for this stunt. ENOS and ANOS, ORANG, STENO, and ENLISTER... none of that is great. And AFTERBIRTH may indeed be called the "third stage of labor," but it's also something that I am surprised passed the "breakfast table test." 

On the other hand, I liked the freshness of EMAILBLAST (Message with many bcc's), and BOSTONACCENT (What may be tested by parking a car in Harvard Yard?) was fun. My bike is pahked in the yahd right now!

And I loved seeing AMBIENTNOISE (It's created by wind, rain and traffic) in the grid, because it's a topic, and a phenomenon, that I've become more acutely aware of recently. When we were in more of a total shutdown here in the Boston area, I felt the lack of cars and trucks almost all the time. The streets were empty, and the ambient noise changed from engines and the terrible beeping of trucks backing up, to leaves rustling in the trees and birds chirping. Today, the quote on my "page-a-day" calendar is this: "Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation." - Jean Arp. Of course, John Cage's quote "There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot." is also true. There is always AMBIENTNOISE. Sometimes it's pleasant, sometimes it's not. I prefer it to be pleasant.

Wow. I'm not sure that last paragraph went where I wanted it to when I started it, but I hope it at least will make you stop somewhere, sometime, during your travels today and just listen for a minute. Just hear what there is to hear. 

Yesterday, I saw a dead body on the street under a sheet. A man about my age was killed by a truck as he bicycled on pavement I ride every day on my way home from work. I got up this morning and went for a bike ride, and I tried to get over it, but it's not easy. Things like that do, however, make life more evident, more immediate, more raw. And I think that can be a good thing. Be aware of it. We all get just one LIFE. Only a crossword puzzle can have two.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Olivia Mitra Framke


One hundred years ago today, the state of TENNESSEE became the 36th to ratify AMENDMENTXIX, and since 75% was all that was needed for a UNISON ruling in all 48 states, the amendment became an official part of the U. S. CONSTITUTION, making voting rights FORKEEPS. This was more than a mere TOKEN law, but it did take a little longer for the law to help you if you weren't a white LASS, but let's not DRAG it down.


It is a little IRONIC that ALICEPAUL is the only one of the movements' many supporters to be included, for while she did indeed lobby for WOMENSSUFFRAGE, she also believed (correctly) that the 19th amendment would not be enough to ensure women and men were treated equally. The very next year, she drafted what would become the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a bill that was introduced into congress in every session from 1921 to 1972, when it finally passed. Its ratification, however, has not yet come.

It would have been ideal if SON and the reference to MUSTANGS as "muscle cars" could have been left out, but we do get more female representation with Lucy LIU, RAMONA Quimby, a reference to Pearl S. Buck (OLAN), and a quote from Alice Walker (ART). I'm guessing the constructor is a VASSAR ALUM, and if so, that's a fun stack. And the excellent RuPaul quote ("We're all born naked and the rest is DRAG") reminds us that the 19th simply said that the right to vote will not be denied on the basis of sex. It didn't say "women get the vote." It said anyone of any sex can vote.

I'm glad to see this puzzle, and even support the use of ADEE and MNOP to make it work. It's ridiculous that the amendment was necessary in the first place (before 1776, women did have the vote), but since it was necessary, I'm happy it finally got ratified. Now let's get a woman in the white house, let's get ERA ratified, and let's start acting like rational beings for a change.

- Horace

Monday, August 17, 2020

Monday, August 17, 2020, Alan Massengill and Andrea Carla Michaels


Today it's all about the beach, and what a shame that Colum just finished his week of reviews, because he was just on vacation at the beach! But maybe it only would have made him sad that he isn't there anymore ... or maybe he would have thought it wasn't appropriate anyway, since his beach did not have any palms in evidence (that I know of). Well, at least I posted a Colum-like time. I think that might be my fastest solve ever! :)

Supposedly, she's my age.

I enjoyed it while I was doing it, and now that I've reviewed all the entries, I AVOW that I think it was a good puzzle. Here's a little personal reason - sometimes when Frannie or I says something, and the other replies with "Is that so?," we will say IDEST. I suppose we could also say OUIOUI in LIEU, but that never happens. Even though we have both spoken much more French in conversation than Latin. 

Nice nostalgia with Stupid PETTRICKS, and who doesn't love the old VW BEETLE? Lollygags (LOAFS) is a fun clue, and WOOS at 1A makes me wonder when it will be ok to get the Woo Sox in the puzzle. They'll be the new Triple A farm team for the Red Sox and they will play in my home town - when, that is, the stadium is finished, and when they can actually play games again. Sigh.

I liked the theme, and the fill had some fun stuff. There are a fair number of gratuitous esses (STROLLS, AAHS, EYES, STIRS, AURAS, TACTICS, BROOMS, DIETSODAS, ADORES, ENDS, SHES, SOS (kidding!)), but who's counting. I call it a fun start to the week. 

Now I want to go to the beach!

- Horace

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday, August 16, 2020, Francis Heaney


Hello, Dear Reader, how are you today? It's Horace, back to review puzzles for a week after two good weeks of puzzles and reviews by Frannie and Colum. We hope you enjoy this weekly reviewer rotation. The two-week break is a nice way to avoid burnout, and we hope that the variety of personalities and viewpoints keeps it interesting. That's the idea, anyway. 

Speaking of ideas, Mr. Heaney's today is to examine movie titles and find humorous alternates that are still real films. It's easier to explain with examples. "Alternative title for 'Titanic'?" is WATERSHIPDOWN. Hah! And "Frankenstein" becomes DOCTORSTRANGE. Very nice. "Gone Girl" gets THELADYVANISHES, and "Cleopatra" is THEAFRICANQUEEN. They're almost too good! It's a clever idea, and I chuckled when they became obvious, so thumbs up on the theme.

Filling out the rest of the grid are HITSONGS, TURTLES, and ANKLESOCKS, as well as foodstuffs like duck CONFIT, chicken parm with MARINARA, and the difficultly-clued VIAND. And then there's a smattering of the USUAL stuff - ETTU, UPI, OVA, PSST, EWE, and ELI, as well as some slightly more unusual stuff, like DIC, ITD, SANDL, MOR, ICI, OPI, and NUYS

I was not familiar with the company SANRIO, and VARESE (Italian city NW of Milan) is some deep geography trivia, even for this recent visitor to Milan and wannabe SAVANT. I had to DEPENDON the crosses for that one! 

I liked seeing the names AMY and SAL in the grid, and YON always makes me think of "The Little Engine that Could," which is never a bad thing. I thought the cluing was often clever (see: Hear here! (EAR)), and the theme, as we've discussed, was strong. So overall, thumbs up, if you ASKME.

And so, another week begins. ILL see you again tomorrow.


SIGNED, Horace.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday, August 15, 2020, Joe DiPietro

28:04 (FWOE)

Solving a puzzle in a car while music is playing turns out to be more challenging than I'd have expected. Also, I think this is a tough Saturday for sure, made harder by some misguesses on my part early that took a long time to remove.

But let's just take a moment to acknowledge the beauty of that staggered central triple stack. 29A: An order might be one (SECRETSOCIETY) was incredibly hard for me to get past the nice misdirection of the clue. In addition, I had puLLSUPTO at 32D: Arrives at in a vehicle (ROLLSUPTO), and boy, were those first two letters difficult to get myself to let go of.

34A: Bar requirement (LIQUORLICENSE) is excellent, and finally fell into place when I realized (and not for the first time in a puzzle) that LAQUINTA is two words, not one. That and removing the above mentioned U which allowed me to put the Q of EQUATE into place.

Finally, SAMUELBECKETT is excellent, especially in full name, and with the excellent quote as the clue. Such a lovely set of answers and clues. That would be enough, or "Dayenu!" as we say at Seder, to make this puzzle a strong themeless. But wait, there's more!

First, I'll get my mistake out of the way. 11A: "No ___" (MSG) was a nice way for me to think I'd gotten a toehold in the NE. Because I put in Mas, which worked partially. Then I put in sLO for GLO Worms. Never had them myself, but once I corrected that S to a G, it made sense. But why did I leave it in place? Because I imagined that "No MSS" could be something an editor would say to aspiring authors, as in, "don't bother submitting to us at this time." Ah, well.

Meanwhile, 11D: Prepared to move to the sticks? (MADEANEST) almost works. It's cute, but really, once you (as a bird, that is) have made your nest, you're no longer preparing to move. In my opinion. I'd have preferred "Moved to the sticks" as the clue. But that's hardly a SOURNOTE.

In other areas, I liked OPENANEWTAB more than ADCLICKRATE, but enjoyed that these symmetric answers both were internet-related.

15A: One taking a bow (ARCHER) was an excellent non-QMC. I considered actors, fiddlers, and even dressmakers before getting the actual answer. Similarly, 2D: Finer cut, usually (SIDEA) is a wonderful non-QMC for a bit of crosswordese.

Very glad for this Turn: all three puzzles satisfied immensely. Tomorrow, Horace takes over. Good luck matching! Although perhaps you'll do better than 3/7 FWOEs in one week...

- Colum

Friday, August 14, 2020

Friday, August 14, 2020, Nam Jin Yoon


Today's solve was a group effort between myself, Cece, and Hope. Cece in particular got multiple tough answers. Trying to bring up the next generation of puzzle solvers!

We have often talked here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA about the importance of hitting 1-Across out of the ballpark, metaphorically speaking. I mean, if you're a crossword puzzle constructor, that is. But how much more important is it on your debut puzzle? That's your real first 1-Across, of your whole NYT career. And Mr. Yoon, who's debuting today, has a great one.

1A: Noted work in which many different positions are discussed (KAMASUTRA) is excellent. I waffle as to whether the "noted" is really necessary. And in fact without it, there could be a nice misdirection towards "human resources" or something. But considering I went in that direction initially anyway, maybe it's not much of an issue.
The ALE I've been drinking on vacation

I've never come across a FLATWHITE myself, but then I'm not a coffee drinker so my worldview is limited in that direction. I really liked KAFKA and KATE McKinnon, and ASANAS echoed one of my other thoughts for 1A, a yoga class.

Other fun answers included LAWYERUP, SOLDIERS, and LAMPOONS. 12D: Words with friends on one's phone, say (GROUPCHAT) was a cute clue.

Perhaps my more fluent in French than I co-bloggers can correct me, but isn't it "chou-chou" as the term of endearment, not just CHOU?

I'd like to especially thank Cece for getting 24D: "Heyo" (SUP) off of the S. And in less than one split second after the clue came up.

Very nice Friday, complementing yesterday's fun Thursday. Can we complete the trifecta tomorrow? I have confidence.

- Colum

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020, Jon Olsen


As the weather at the beach shades to grey skies and rain, what better way to spend your time than to solve crossword puzzles, and then write a review about it? I guess only I get to do that last part today on this particular blog, but the solving is open to all.

What an amazing theme today. I love the concept, the way it's carried out, and the revealer. The motto of the THREEMUSKETEERS is "All for one and one for all," a phrase which at 21 letters, can't be put into a 15 by 15 grid without splitting it up. Instead, it's understood today, referred to without being explicitly stated.

And so Mr. Olson has found four phrases where the words "all" and "one" are hidden inside, and has replaced the former with the latter and the latter with the former. I was confused for a while. I definitely wanted FANTASY (as I so often do when choosing books to read) at 3D, but wanted FallING___ at the start of 17A. Similarly, I had no idea what was going on with ____ROCKZALL. I was also concerned when coming across ____EEY at the end of 22A.

But all became clear. I love RHALLVONEEY and SLYSTONEALL. So fun to look at. PHALLCONE is silly as well. If there's any drawback, once I understood the theme, I was able to fill in all the remainder of the circles in the theme answers, which likely dropped my time. Were the circles necessary? I'm not convinced. I think we all could have figured out what was going on without them. Please comment below.

In the fill, for some reason, I was very pleased by the crossing of WHIRLS and WRENCH. There are a slew of fun answers today. ONYXES is very good, and its clue was a nice misdirection (65A: They might appear in cameos). 13D: February 4th, for many? (SILENTR) is excellent, and I needed most of the crosses to see what they were getting at. ADRIAN is a nice theme bonus.

Few complaints today. CROWER is not great. And nobody wants to be reminded that birds'-nest soup is created from the saliva of specific avian species.

But otherwise it's a great start to The Turn. Looking forward to the rest!

- Colum

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wednesday, August 12, 2020, Adesina O. Koiki

 4:59 (FWOE)

First off, welcome Mr. Koiki to the ranks of NYT crossword puzzle creators! Always great to see and comment on a debut.

Color me young, but I'd never heard of OHIOPLAYERS before this puzzle, and after looking them up on Wikipedia, I am no more enlightened. Even after listening to two of their greatest hits, Funky Worm and Rollercoaster of Love, I am in the dark. All of which is to say that the revealer was not such an "aha!" moment for me.

But taken the other way, it's a clever way to tie the other four theme answers together in an unexpected way. The Bengals, Browns, Reds, and Indians are the major league representatives from the NHL and MLB in the state of Ohio. It's odd (but understandable) that the NHL team (the Columbus Blue Jackets - try fitting that into the beginning of a theme answer) and the NBA team (the Cleveland Cavaliers) were not included.

I made one error (again - the second time in three days). Today's came at the crossing of DSL and KILDARE. I recognize the latter now that I fixed it, although, like the revealer, it's not something I ever saw. But my issue came from putting "ISP" in at 42D, and correcting the first letter as I entered REDWHITEANDBLUE, but not the last. After all, "Kip Dare" seemed like a possible TV doctor's name.

I felt like the fill was heavy with proper names. INGE, ELGIN, SHAFT, ROGET, URIAH, SPOCK, IVAN, SAL, SUNRA, and KOPPEL, to name a few (all male). I only see KYRA on the other side of the ledger.

Otherwise there's not much to complain about or to uphold as sparking. I like 6D: Genre for David and Amy Sedaris (SATIRE), both for the artform itself and the two practitioners. Perhaps the Electric SLIDE is a bonus revealer-related answer?

- Colum

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tuesday, August 11, 2020, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau


It's been beautiful weather so far on the Delaware shore, and we're enjoying our stay in our beach house very much, even if we have to drive to the beach, unlike certain other bloggers I could name. The jellyfish have waxed and waned with the tides, and we all rush out of the water if we see one.

But all of this is foofaraw compared to the important details of the day: the New York Times crossword puzzle. And today's is the best kind of silliness. Who comes up with the idea of finding four 15-letter answers with exactly five vowels, all in the pattern of EIEIO? Well, apparently Ms. Rafkin and Mr. Trudeau, that's who.

DERRINGERPISTOL is a strong answer, and the best of the four in my opinion. I like PRESIDENTWILSON, although few people would refer to him in that style, a hundred years removed from his terms in office. And also, he was a white supremacist, so that's not great. But a historian REWRITESHISTORY nearly every year, so now we start to examine our predecessors and appropriately acknowledge their moral faults. And then we all go and eat VERMICELLIBOWLS.

Of course WHEREFORES is a winner in my book, because of HMS Pinafore. The song is always a high point of the second act, and allows for a bunch of silliness onstage. I recall one production where on the second encore all three actors came out on tricycles. For a similar reason, 48D: Group of like things (BEVY) is a highlight, due to Pirates of Penzance, the first place I ever heard that word in use. "By all that's marvelous, a bevy of beautiful maidens!"

But enough of Gilbert and Sullivan. For the other 98% of our readers, I will move on to other subjects. I liked the crossing of TWIT and IDIOT, as well as the crossing of RIFT and SIFT. I'm not sure why 56D: Real mouthful? (CUD) merited a question mark, except insofar as I would not want to have that particular mouthful in my mouth. 

Good times.

- Colum

Monday, August 10, 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020, Lynn Lempel

4:25 (FWOE)

Ms. Lempel always makes a smooth Monday puzzle, and today is no exception. The theme takes the idea of KEYS and finds four different ways to interpret them, each time embedding the word in a longer phrase. I had no idea what was going on, and had to search for the revealer after filling in the grid.

I'd never heard of a FLORIDAROOM, which in my parlance would simply be called a sun room. We are in the midst of building a screened porch off the back of our house, so that, it seems, would fit the bill.

Even after getting the revealer, I had a moment of not seeing how it would apply in the case of ATLASROCKET. The key here is that little inset in a map which tells you what the symbols used in the map stand for.

My error today came when I put CuNY in at 52D: Big Apple school inits. (CCNY). City College, not City University, see. Well, it was easily enough fixed when I saw LOuKOFHAIR.

There is plenty of fun in the fill, from GREEKSALAD to CICADAS, TROIKAS to HOUNDS. I personally enjoy a lovely ADAGIO from time to time. The Barber Adagio for Strings is simply haunting. The second movement from Beethoven's Pathetique sonata is lovely.

- Colum

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sunday, August 9, 2020, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin


Hey everybody! It seems like a long time since I last blogged, but that's quarantime for you. This week, I'll be blogging from lovely Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where today the beach was lovely but the people weren't far enough apart and too few masks were being worn. Not to mention the thousands of jellyfish... Fortunately, the house we're renting has a pool, so we've relocated poolside. Tomorrow, once the weekend folks have departed, we shall hope for better luck.

The puzzle's theme seems particularly apt, though. I think we can all agree that the circles were completely necessary, as, without them, I would not have had any idea what to make of the instructions found at 66A: In perfect order ... or, as two words, what's formed by applying the answers for the five italicized clues to the circled letters (SHIPSHAPE). 

As it is, the app on my iPad filled in the shape for me, which was sort of a shame. I would have liked the opportunity to figure it out on my own. Although, come to think of it, I wouldn't have been able to draw on the screen.

See, the italicized clues lead to answers which can describe shapes. For example, 36D: Rick, Ilsa and Victor had one in "Casablanca" (LOVETRIANGLE) can then be interpreted to form a triangle using the letters L-O-V-E, which then turns into the sail of the ship. Similarly, SECURITYLINE, STORYARC, SKISLOPE, and TOWNSQUARE help create the rest of the ship. I love the idea, and the carrying out of the concept.

Unfortunately, the density of circled letters in the lower half of the puzzle definitely lead to some compromises in the fill. C.f. NWT, OMRI. I am impressed by CULPRIT fitting several letters of "security" in a row.

But some fun cluing also saves the day. I laughed at 92A: Event that's a bit off? (SALE). 97A: It gives Ford an "F": Abbr. (NYSE) makes that abbreviation enjoyable. Also, 22A: S as in soup? (NOODLE) was unexpected.

Fun Sunday.

- Colum 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday, August 8, 2020, Brooke Husic and Sid Sivakumar


Well, not my fastest Saturday solve on record, but at least it's not a DNF. I found today's puzzle challenging, but satisfyingly so, despite my performance not being an ACER, say. 

I was almost completely stymied in the southeast. SHOWROOMS and PARTYHOPS seemed right, but my misconceptions about other clues in that section left a lot of EMPTY squares - I was stuck on 'paper' ("Common recyclable"). And I really wanted something more Greek-letter-y than OHMS for 50Across. I also had absolutely no idea what "Super Six, of old autodom" might be (ESSEX), nor who the daughter of Tethys in Greek mythology is (STYX). Not a very ROSY picture! I eventually guessed MUTE for "Zoom call option" and the corner came together after that. 

Other tough ones for this solver were "Seat of Hillsborough County with a population of 400,000+" (TAMPA) and "Actress Price who co-starred on CBS's 'Rules of Engagement'" in the northwest. I didn't know the actress's name and the "Y" spelling of MEGYN added another level of difficulty. Also, the clue "Smart" at 6A had me stumped, even when I had CHI_. The interesting sounding, but unknown to me "Conjoined title character of 1990s-2000s Nickelodeon cartoons" was no help, but when other across answers gave me the dog half, I decided the answer had to be CATDOG, and then, I got smart about CHIC

Another place I got stuck was at "Entered angrily, say" in the southwest. STOrmEDIN fit perfectly *and* it worked with 70% of the downs that crossed it, so I thought it had to be correct. Of course, it wasn't. The similar STOMPEDIN was what the constructors required and what also finally revealed the answer to the very nice clue "Turns down" (DIMS). 

This image was produced by David Castor (user:dcastor).

I liked "Metaphorical source of irritation" (THORN). "Downplay the significance of" is the perfect clue for SOFTPEDAL. And "Place to go that requires cash at the door?" (PAYTOILET) was amusing.  I also love "Word that sounds like 'orange' in a classic knock-knock joke" (ARENT). It's funny because it's not true. :) 

I'm also a FAN of the fun fill HUMDINGER, BEERRUNS, and UFOREPORTS

Maybe IMS, ERE, and GEE are a little weak, but there' no de NINE this is a fine puzzle. 


Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday, August 7, 2020, Tom Pepper


I was knocked out by a BODYSHOT today. I had all but the B, but I couldn't see how to make it into a drink of any kind ("Drink that's hard on the stomach?"), even after running the alphabet. I probably should have just guessed B since it works with BOFF, I guess, if anyone actually says such a thing. I still have no idea what the clue means, but I decided to give up and look up the answer so I could get the review written. 

I've seen OPEDPAGE as a "Place to get a variety of views" (or similar) often enough to drop that right in. In fact it was my only solid entry in the northwest for some time. Eventually, I finally guessed HATER for "Constant critic" and then I saw FANSITES, which led to OPAL, DENY, and FLY

In other areas, I liked MONAMI as a "Friendly term of address in France," but I was less sure about AURA for "Je ne sais quoi." I give it a Gallic shrug. In my world, "Stokes" has only the narrowest overlap with TENDS, but it is a Friday puzzle after all. I'm not familiar with BOCCI with a terminal 'i', but as far as I understand the situation, it's difficult for a snail to eNCH so I figured it out.


ONCLOUDNINE for "Sent" is nice, as is PLUM for "Choice." I thought "Hard to let go of, in a way" was a pleasantly tricky clue for TENURED. SPITITOUT made me think of Auntie Mame. I'm sure her comment would be, "how vivid." :) I haven't seen HARISSA in a puzzle before, but I have, happily, had it on my plate from time to time. I also liked SCOOCHOVER and EASTEREGG. I think my favorite today is POPO.

Well, I'm sorry to have DOGGEDIT today, but I'm glad to get the review up and shared with all of you before getting all ZEN for the weekend. 


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thursday, August 6, 2020, Derek Allen and Jeff Chen


A nice workout for the little gray cells today, n'est-ce pas mes chers amis? Today's puzzle contains four rebus squares in which [BLACK] and [WHITE] combine to create a GRAY AREA. For example, 67A: "Many a country road" is [BLACK]TOP and 52D: "'Grimms' Fairy Tales' heroine" is SNOW[WHITE]. In the app I use to solve the puzzle, entering [GRAY] in the shared square resulted in a successful solve. It was a nice even mix, too, with black and white alternating in the across and downs throughout the grid. 
While I caught on to the rebus squares right away with the EGG[WHITE] / [BLACK]HOLE combination in the northeast, I was duped at first by the very next clue, "One with a title." I tried 'baron' at first, which looked okay with MART above, but it was another kind of title and the answer was OWNER - very nice in deed.  "Run for it!" at 5A: also had me going for a while. I didn't figure out that it was that type of clue, whatever that type of clue is called, until I got the answer (SEAT) from the downs. 

In other gray matter matters, I learned that BLINDPIG is an alternative name for a speakeasy. I also read about the origins of the speakeasy and the term 'blind pig' in the Wikipedia. Stimulating! I also discovered that one can use TREPID without the prefix 'in.' Who knew? And the clue about THERMOS losing its trademark status in 1963 was interesting, too. 

All that erudition and a sense of humor, too? YEAS! "DC reporter" (LOISLANE) is really good. I very much enjoyed "Sole proprietorship?" (SHOESHOP), "What a foul mouth is full of" (SILT), and "Starter course?" (PLANA), but my favorite today was "Air apparent?" (SMOG). Ha!

Also, FILCH deserves honorable mention as fun fill. :) 


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wednesday, August 5, 2020, Michael Paleos


I made relatively short work of today's puzzle, due, perhaps, to its delicious theme. Parts of four answers feature flavorings that combine to make an EVERYTHINGBAGEL. I enjoy the taste of poppy (POPPYFIELD), sesame, (OPENSESAME), and especially salt (VERUCASALT), but I would skip the onion - although I would like to see the ONIONDOMES of Moscow someday. OPENSESAME is nicely clued.  

I relished lox of other clues in the puzzle as well, including "Bit of progress, metaphorically" (DENT), "Man with a spare rib?" (ADAM), "What might be said in a horse voice?" (NEIGH), and my favorite, "High-occupancy vehicle?" CLOWNCAR. Ha! 

Two other clues showcase the ambiguity I enjoy:
"Provide an address" (ORATE)
"Canine's coat" (ENAMEL)

I also liked "Like Area 51" (OFFLIMITS). GANYMEDE, SMASHHIT, and RELIC make fine fill. 


By now, dear readers, you all know that I disagree with ASAP as an equivalent to "By yesterday" or similar, so I won't mention it again. 


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tuesday, August 4, 2020, Jacob Stulberg

17:54, FWOE

I finished all but one square of the grid after coffee this morning, then I put the puzzle down. I knew a Natick when I saw one, and see one I did, almost right smack dab in the middle of the puzzle, where "Reformer Jacob" crossed "Golfer Michelle." It will come as no surprise to our devoted readers that I did not know sportswoman Michelle's last name. I did have some notion that Jacob's last name sounded like 'reese' but my first attempt at capturing the sound with an 'ei' letter combination was a fail. Fortunately, I next thought of the very Dutch 'ii' combo which produced the correct RIIS and WIE. And here I PRIED myself on my language skills. 

Enough about me. Let's get back to the puzzle. Today's revealer reads "Abandon ... or two words often seen next to the starts 17-, 27-, 47-, and 60-Across." What the clue doesn't say is that while the two words are both next to the start of the theme answer, they are not next to each other. Here's the pattern to follow: FOR [entity + possessive 's] SAKE. For example: For PETES[DRAGON] sake. My own preferred entity in this equation is 'pity,' which was not included, but now that I think about it, may be that the entity in the formula above should be amended to 'religious entity.' 

I enjoyed the ambiguous "Was out" for SLEPT and similarly, "What a fountain may provide" (COLA). I was surprised by the surprising HARDG for "Big finish?" because the hard g is so normal in that case it seemed odd to use it as the example in the clue, but maybe that made it more surprising! Other clue/answer pairs I liked include "Bereft, old-style" (LORN), "Noggin" (BEAN), and "Suggests, flavorwise" (TASTESOF). I also liked the fun fill RHINOCEROS and EPEEISTS

On the other hand, I'm not completely sold on the equivalence between "Gusto" and ELAN or "Bumpkin" and YAHOO


I reJOIST to see that women are unusually well represented in this puzzle. We have Dame EDNA, the aforementioned Michelle WIE, THEDA Bara, TERI Polo, and ALEK Wek. Maybe it was mere chance, but it is nice to see. RAS!


Monday, August 3, 2020

Monday, August 3, 2020, Eric Bornstein


Today's puzzle took me longer than usual on a Monday. Maybe I had an off day, or maybe it was due to the range of matter covered by the puzzle. Each of theme answer started one of four phases of matter, for example GASSTATION, or my favorite, LIQUIDASSET. The hint for the theme was JUSTAPHASE. The terminology states of matter (rather than phase) is so embedded in my head that I removed the answer PCP ("Drug also known as angel dust") because with the A of NAAN and the E of TENS in place, PCP messed up what I assumed would be "state" at the end of 57A. I was blinded by science! Obviously, I eventually sorted it all out, but the muddle caused me to look up states of matter on the World Wide Web. Several interesting bits came to light. One was that the helpful, similar questions  Google shows in its results were entertaining. The first question read, "What are the four states of mattter?" The second one read, "What are the five states of matter?" The third one read, "What are the 12 states of matter?" And the fifth one read, "What are the 15 states of matter?" Not exactly relevant to my interest, but I thought it was amusing. Farther along, I saw that the term "phase" is sometimes used as a synonym for state of matter, but a system can contain several immiscible phases of the same state of matter," leaving me with the impression that "states of matter" is more precise. One of these days, I'll have to discuss the matter more thoroughly. 

There were some good clue/answer pairs in here including "Keep everything for oneself" (HOARD), "'Charming' jewelry?" (BRACELET), which is cute, "Takes too much, in brief"(ODS), and my favorite RETORT as the answer to "'So's your mama!' for one." Ha. There was also a nice mathy clue that I didn't see during the solve, but enjoyed upon review: "12, or 1/3, 1/4 and 1/6: Abbr." (LCD). 

Along with the god clues there was fun fill from DAISYCHAIN and DRAMAQUEEN to LANAI and OLMEC and from PINTS to GULLET. Delicious. 


I found BOOER to be a little odd, but it made me think of the Simpson's episode when Mr. Burns is getting booed and Smithers tries to convince him the crowd is shouting, "Booourns," which is good.

I have to say IMDOWN on the clue "Opposite of NNW" and any of its ilk, even on a Monday. I have to suppose there's no other possible way to clue SSE, or constructors would use it, right? I sometimes feel I would prefer a clue that simply said, "Type SSE in the three squares."  

I don't want to end on a low note, though, since I really enjoyed the puzzle. I'm already looking forward to SAMOA puzzles by Mr. Bornstein in the future. 


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Sunday, August 2, 2020, David Levinson Wilk


This was a fun one! Frannie and I solved this side-by-side on the couch, and we chuckled at the themers as they were revealed.


Right off the bat, while all I could think of was that stupid "Elf on a shelf," Frannie immediately said ICEBERG for "What can fall off a shelf" and we were off! Neither of us knew the next one (SHARPTON (Host of MSNBC's "PoliticsNation" beginning in 2011)), though, and before we got PHONESEX (Call of the wild?) (Nice.) I thought we might never get it, since neither of us Francophiles was familiar with that famous "French marshal in the Napoleonic Wars" - Michel NEY*. We did drop ORLY in, and we weren't fooled by "One trading dollars for quarters," but we tried both lEssee and rENter before finally getting TENANT

In the NE, I was disappointed that I could not come up with Camila CABELLO, because I love that song! That's the trouble with not buying music anymore. I hear something on Pandora, and my iPad or phone is out of range, so I just listen, never knowing the artist. Sigh. Sometimes things are weird for a person of a certain age.

Before we get much further, let's rank the theme answers. I would say this is something Colum does more often than any of us, but sometimes its fun, so let's go. From best to worst, they are:

1. FEAROFMISSINGOUT - What was causin' the doctor to check for joint pain? - That's just hilarous, and not only because I am probably at risk for gout. At least now, if I ever do get it, hopefully I'll chuckle a little remembering this clue/answer pair.

2. FALLINGRAIN - Danger when walkin' in a silo? - It's funny because it's true.

3. EVERLASTINGLOVE - Winter item you'll be wearin' for years? - I wish I had such an item, because mine seem to wear out quickly. Well, actually, I wish I had a pair of them.

4. QUALIFYINGROUND - Sayin' "Look, here's the thing about dry land ..." - It's absurd. In a good way.

5. STANDINGROOMONLY - Nobody but the guy gettin' married on his feet? - This might have been ranked higher if I didn't find the syntax slightly off.

6. PARKINGRAMP - Drivin' around the lot with pop-pop? - I never called my grandfather either of those things, and the image just isn't funny to me. Can't win 'em all.

Elsewhere, we liked NERDALERT (Teasing words when someone starts listing the digits of pi, say), MATINEE (Something never seen at night), SIRENS (Rock singers?) (very nice. Frannie got this one.), and JIGGLES (Moves like Jell-O) (Frannie also got this one). We both cringed at IIN ("Sorry, am ____ your way?"), and it was a little odd that IMS and DMS were both in the grid, but we enjoyed the theme, and we're willin' to look the other way on a few OUCHIES in the grid.

- Horace

* The Wikipedia write-up on Ney is fascinating, especially the last part (Spoiler Alert! Or is it?) about his execution.

Saturday, August 1, 2020, Adam Aaronson and Paolo Pasco


Back when this blog began (over seven years ago!, as Colum recently noted), I was not a big fan of a stunt puzzle. Then, about halfway into the run, I had my mind changed by constructor Bruce Haight, who told me, basically, to lighten up. And I did, I think. I tried to understand the challenge that the constructor took on, and to appreciate the result. And it mostly worked. But this week I again found myself focussing on the diminished solving experience.


On Thursday, the tediousness of the cross-referenced answer was repeated Ad NAUSEAM, and today, the very first clue is a spelling test (KRZYZEWSKI ("Coach K" of N.C.A.A. men's basketball fame)). Now, I get that names should be spelled correctly. If you know me, you know that my last name (my real last name, not this false one that I have inexplicably adopted for blogging) is almost always spelled wrong, and it always annoys me. So anyway, I've heard of this Coach K character, I can even picture him, and if I were going to write him a letter I'd be sure to double check the spelling of his last name. But it's not something that I have committed to memory and it's not something that I consider a particularly interesting crossword answer.

So that put me in a SNIP (and, really, it could have been that I was already in one after the very loud "sawing through a metal lamp post with a rusty buzz saw" noise that emanated from the nearby Town Yard at just before 6am this morning, or, possibly, the neighbor who burst out his front door spewing profanities just after that ...) and it was almost as though I went through the rest of the puzzle looking for things to complain about. "Why is it 'apt' that there should have been a RAINDELAY in the Cubs' world series game?" I grumbled. Who cares?! "Oh, sure, 'Stole something?' is cute for FUR, but still, FUR is murder!" "Why do they think that a TOGA is any more difficult to sculpt than hair, facial features, or the underlying musculature of the human form?" "Oh, and now they're going back to Watergate?!..." I was a regular Rex Parker!

By the time I got to the end, and saw they had made a mini-theme of words starting with K that are spelled similarly in an unusual-for-Americans way, it was too late for me to appreciate the stunt.

Sure, NECROMANCY (Dead reckoning?) was good, and "Spit take, perhaps?" is a great clue for DNASAMPLE ... I liked SALT (Put (away)) ... and I didn't realize Joan BAEZ was pregnant at Woodstock ... and I found it interesting that Igiveup has the same number of letters as IRESIGN (Words from a quitter) ... but is resigning really the same as quitting? Oh, probably it is. I should just stop this review right now.

- Horace