Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Wednesday, September 30, 2020, Erik Agard and Andy Kravis


One could imagine that today's puzzle was hand-picked to follow yesterday's debate. Not being one of the so-called undecided voters, I did not watch it. I did, however, see headlines today that spoke of much FOULLANGUAGE being traded by the two candidates, only one of which, it now appears, is STINKINGRICH. The other, as has been repeatedly and embarrassingly shown, should be categorized among RANKAMATEURS. Will this country reach a RIPEOLDAGE? Or will our ERRING ways HAUNT us as we go from chanting USAUSA to being simply something that once WAS?

one of many possible UPDOS

On a happier note, any mention of SIRDUKE (Stevie Wonder's tribute to Ellington) always makes me smile. He sounds so happy and into the music - especially at the end when he shouts "Go!" to start those runs for the last time. At the end of the first one he gives out a yell, and after the next shouts, I think, "Down with the love!" before giving out a laugh before the last one. As I said, it always makes me smile, and the more I can get of that feeling these days, the better.

And continuing on with things I like, I have always loved the CHEETAH (Something spotted on a safari). And closer to home, is there any more symbolic American creature than the BUFFALO (Sacred creature to many Native Plains people)? (OK, sure, the eagle maybe.)

I do not enjoy GRAPPA, but as it makes me think of Italy, and particularly our friends who live in Bassano del Grappa, I'll allow it. TRAPEZE (High bar?) is fun, SPARSE is interesting, and I loved the "game within a game" clue for STATES (What "radio wave," "foregone" and "main event" all hide). 

Overall, despite it drawing my attention to distasteful political matters, I am a fan of this mid-week puzzle.

- Horace

p.s. If you are a fan of "Spelling Bee," or if you have played it and are not a fan, you are invited to make your opinion known through this link. I submitted my own thoughts yesterday.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tuesday, September 29, 2020, Ricky Cruz


Who doesn't enjoy punctuation? Nobody. And even one were AVERSE to it, that oddball might be happy today to see four such characters broken into two and strewn over two entries. 


The tilde, hyphen, ampersand, and asterisk all appear in circled letters separated by a single black square. Very nice, really. Tidy. And I like that the revealer is a nice long grid-spanner right in the middle. During my solve, I got the revealer thanks to the first part of its clue and existing crosses, and I didn't think any more about the theme until I was done. Looking at it now, I quite like it.

And like yesterday, the fill is interesting and very clean. A couple of Spanish entries in AZUL and AMOR (Subject of una balada), a couple of classical references in HERC (Nickname for a mythical hero) ("Hey Herc!") and SPARTA (Peloponnesian War victor) (nice trivia!), and the whole thing is bracketed by photography (SEPIA) and poetry (YEATS) - seems perfect for me. :)

I enjoyed the spirit of the clues - like "Devices relied upon to a high degree?" (OVENS), "They do dos" (SALONS), and "It might be stolen in full view" (BASE). And "Shortcut for ships" (CANAL) had me stumped for a while. I kept wondering "why would they need shortcuts? They can just turn wherever they want?" Hah!

The longer non-theme material is in the Across answers today, which is a bit unusual. I like COLONIAL and EMULATED, and "Some Catholic gift shop purchases" for ROSARIES just struck me as funny. Gift shops for religions. Why not, I suppose. Where else are people going to get little Buddha statues and Whirling Dervish hats? I guess it's just that "gift shop," to me, usually brings to mind things of a more secular nature.

Lastly, it's two days in a row now for TACIT. Will we see tacet tomorrow? 

- Horace

Monday, September 28, 2020

Monday, September 28, 2020, Lynn Lempel


Hi, Horace here! Today's theme of misreading words by breaking them up into smaller words is not new, but it's still kind of fun. As usual, some are better than others. CASTANET (Do some trawling at sea?), for example, works pretty much perfectly, as do METAPHYSICIAN (Was introduced to the doctor?) and, to a slightly lesser extent, PROPAGATE (Support the pasture entrance?), but CARDAMOM (Check someone's parent to make sure she's of drinking age?) and PANASONIC (Criticize Sega's hedgehog design?) are both a bit of a stretch. Still, I always enjoy this kind of absurdist exercise. 

Pong, by ATARI

Aside from theme entries, there was plenty to like, especially in the longer Downs. ROADRAGE (Driver's furious fit), ATTIRE, ARABIC, ABUNDANT - lots of A words... - and the other TACIT (Not stated directly). It seems we've seen the "tacet" spelling more often lately, but maybe that's just me. They both come from tacēre, and are very similar. It's one of those crossword words that I've started to enter with one letter missing, like ALI_, and L_S. Luckily, today it was pretty obvious which one we needed.

I haven't thought about a CRAWDAD (Small, lobsterlike crustacean) in a long while, so that was nice. And in an opposite vein, EDDIES (swirling currents) were the subject of the short meditation recording I listened to this morning, so that was something I had thought about very recently. Fascinating, I know. (It's only six more days 'til Frannie's back. You can make it!)

How 'bout that fun clue for CAIRO? (Capital near the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that's still largely intact). I know a fun way to end today's review, let's review them all!

Great Pyramid of Giza - 2584 BCE - still there
Hanging Gardens of Babylon - 600 BCE - gone sometime around 1 CE
Temple of Artemis at Ephesius - 550 BCE - destroyed by arson and plundering gone by 262 CE
Statue of Zeus at Olympia - 435 BCE - destroyed by fire 6th c. CE
Mausoleum at Halicarnasus - 351 BCE - destroyed by multiple earthquakes between 12th - 15th c. CE
Colossus of Rhodes - 280 BCE - destroyed by earthquake 226 BCE
Lighthouse of Alexandria - 280 BCE - destroyed by earthquake 1303 CE

- Horace

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday, September 27, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


Frannie here - just to add to the recent reviewer confusion. In an odd turn of events, I am writing the review without having solved the puzzle myself. Whaaa? Well, our carefully planned weekend went off the rails when Horace and his friend got into something of a FUDDLE (State of drunken confusion). So, instead of leaving Maine on Saturday afternoon with plenty of time to close up the house, drive home, unpack, settle in at home, prepare for this morning’s Family Zoom (Jeopardy ™ edition), do the puzzle, and write the review before getting ourselves downtown early this afternoon for a physically distanced, but emotionally charged celebration of our friend’s landmark birthday, I am writing the review in the car as Horace drives us as fast as he legally can south on the Maine Turnpike, but while still able to admire the beautiful fall foliage en route. 


As I looked over the solution to today’s puzzle to prepare to comment, my general impression was  that the clues were engaging and apt. I enjoyed, for example, “Up to one’s ears” (AWASH) and “Gaggle” (BEVY). Here are the ones that I found particularly appetizing:

Part of a return address? (IRS)

Hip-centric dance (HULA)

It keeps a top up (SPIN)

First lady (EVE)

Lose stiffness (GOLIMP) paired with Viagra competitor (CIALIS)

Bit of swearing in church? (IDO)

Completely defeat, as a noob (PWN)

Quarters costing dollars? (HOTELS)

Hook, for one (PIRATE) – nice hidden capital.

Has away with words? (DELETES) – Ha!

Theme-wise, the puzzle lived up to its title. In four answers, food items were “played with,” or depicted cryptically within circled letters. In one case, the entire word [OLIVE] was stuffed, rebus-like, into one square. In another, the well-known and much touted BANKOFGUYANA contains the word ‘banana’ split, with the first three letters of banana at the start of the word and the last three letters at the end. The cryptic food clues all appeared in the top half of the puzzle while their explications appeared as answers in the bottom half (BANANASPLIT ; STUFFEDOLIVE), in, I might add, the same order, top to bottom, as the original cryptic version. We also got CHOPPEDSALAD and MASHEDPOTATO. I, for one, found the theme to my taste. :)

There were three answers I would have had a hard time coughing up without all the crosses including AGOUTI (Central American rodent that resembles a guinea pig), ILOILO (Philippine port with a reduplicative name), and ANNALEE (Silver-screen actress known as ‘The British Bombshell’).

While playing with food is frowned upon in real life, I thought this puzzle version hit the spot.

~Frannie (and Horace).

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020, Kristian House


It's been a fun and short week of reviewing. Specifically, the Turn has been very enjoyable, and today's Saturday themeless lives up to its billing.

Let me tell you a little story about the NW corner, which was the toughest for me for a very specific reason. If I had been a little more flexible, it would have fallen much more quickly. On my first run through, I had no entries at all. I suspected TEM for 4D but didn't put it in. Instead I broke in with KIRI, an easy gimme, and worked through that NE corner quickly.

Eventually, I worked my way back across the middle of the puzzle and approached the NW corner from the bottom up, having gotten EFRON, NFC, and DIN. My first solid answer was 2D: Change of heart on Facebook (UNLIKE).

And then I saw 17A: Luxuriating in the outdoors... and entered aLfresco. Seemed like a pretty good approximation, a great Saturday style answer, and it fit so perfectly.

Too perfectly. Nothing else worked, and so I abandoned the corner to finish the rest of the puzzle. And when I came back, I decided to do that thing you should always do in a puzzle when it's not working: take out the answer you feel most certain about. And then I got CHALET, figured out 1A: Classic makeshift solution (DUCTTAPE - very nice), and realized finally what Mr. House's devilishly clever clue was getting at: GLAMPING. Luxuriating indeed. HAH!

There is much to like in this puzzle. 41A: Unbiased opinion, e.g. (OXYMORON) is lovely cluing. 62A: Click the "X" when vexed, maybe (RAGEQUIT) is fun, as is NERDCRED.

55A: Collection of seeds? (BRACKET) is a fine example of a QMC. 

Did you notice that the puzzle is a pangram, that is to say, that every letter of the alphabet is represented in the grid? I used to think creating a pangram was a holy grail for a constructor, but since writing this blog and reading other blogs, I've come to realize that it's usually not worth the effort. But it worked out well today.

I'm guessing that Horace is taking over again tomorrow, but we'll see. Life is unpredictable.

- Colum

Friday, September 25, 2020

Friday, September 25, 2020, Rachel Fabi


Today's a debut, and what a beautiful job Ms. Fabi has done in this themeless. It is just chock full of fun answers, clever clues, and a lovely flow (no section too cut off to make solving it like working on a separate mini-crossword puzzle). Don't you feel like the bar is getting higher and higher for good construction? Makes me happy that the bar for blogging is set so low.

So, so low.

Let's start with my favorite answer, which comes all the way down at 57A: Concept in artificial intelligence (TURINGTEST). For those of you who have never heard of this, it's a mind experiment put forth by Alan Turing (the main character in the movie The Imitation Game, played by Benedict Cumberbatch), wherein he suggests a person in an isolated room with two terminals, each solely connected to either a human inputting responses, or a computer, which is programmed to carry on a conversation. If the first person is unable to figure out which of his conversationalists is the computer, then it can be said to have attained artificial intelligence. I've always been fascinated by this idea. I refer you to Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach for further enjoyable reading.

But enough about my personal interests, how about the scads of fun long answers today? THEMANDALORIAN makes its debut, and I love INTOTHENIGHT (22D: How a mysterious figure may disappear). The pair of derrières at 42A and 11D (END and POSTERIORS) were delightful.

My favorite clue today by far is 38A: Force feed (RATIONS). Holy cow, I did not see that coming until I entered the final letter. I am very glad it is not RAmdOwn, which was my first guess.

REDBEAN paste, ACTAEON (always like a reference to Greek mythology), 10A: Seoul music (KPOP)... so much goodness.

I don't think the clue at 17A: High anxiety? (ACROPHOBIA) needed the question mark. After all, there was an entire Mel Brooks movie about that very subject, called High Anxiety. There was no pause at all as I entered that answer.

I could note a few answers that are less aesthetically pleasing, but I will obey the first rule of blogging: DONTGETCUTE!

- Colum

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thursday, September 24, 2020, Trenton Charlson


TRUSTME when I say that I am generally delighted to see Mr. Charlson's name at the top of a puzzle. I enjoy his sensibility and the way he carries out themes.

Today, I didn't understand the theme at all even after I completed the puzzle and had time to look back. Until it hit me. That's what I call an "aha" moment. The revealer comes at 63A: Explained in great detail ... or what four of this puzzle's clues are? (SPELLEDOUT). So, I had recognized early that 18-, 22-, 38-, and 57-Across all used words that were homonyms for individual letters. Thus, 18A: Kay, e.g., was clearly referring to the letter K.

But that "e.g." threw me off. What was K supposed to be an example of? And how could that relate to the answer, BEERBARREL?

You see, what you're supposed to do is spell the entire clue out, thus K-E-G, "keg!" Brilliance. The others are L-E-G (DRUMSTICK), P-E-G (CRIBBAGEMARKER - a personal favorite amongst the authors of this blog), and B-E-G (PANHANDLE). So good.

The only downer in the puzzle was Roger B. TANEY, racist and author of the Dred Scott decision. But I was able to look past this BADVIBE for other more ROBUST fare.

If you haven't read the Patrick OBRIAN Aubrey-Maturin books, you are missing out on an outstanding literary achievement. The first book is a little daunting because it explains in some great detail the makeup of a British naval ship during the Napoleonic war era. But the relationship between the two main characters is beautifully drawn.

Other enjoyable entries include GAUSS, SORCEROR, and MISSAL. I enjoyed the clue for 4D: Land of Opportunity? (MARS) - referring to the NASA exploration rover. 

Nice start to the turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday, September 23, 2020, Margit Christenson


In reviewing yesterday's review, I see that I might have been a wee bit depressing. A reviewer should review one's reviews, for quality purposes, I suggest. And so a course correction is in order.

Glee! Joy! Delight!

Too much?

Okay, really, now. I enjoyed this theme and the way it was carried out immensely. The idea of connecting multiple words by their ability to be used in phrases with a single common word is a regular theme concept. But today's is brought together not by hiding the connection, but by celebrating it. The revealer comes at 56A: Series of documents that trace a path, as suggested by this puzzle (PAPERTRAIL).

Thus, the answers in the gray boxes are all words that can follow "paper" in a standard phrase, from [PAPER]TOWEL through to [PAPER]WORK. And cleverly, they are set up to make a trail from the NW corner down to the SE section. It would have been slightly more elegant to continue the trail right into the SE corner by making 62A the last of the "paper" words, but this is a tiny complaint to make.

Because of the construction of the grid and because the theme answers are short, there's plenty of room for fun long fill, like INKSTAINED and VOICEBOX. I miss having cats, so CATSITTING sound lovely. I got to spend some time with two over this past weekend at my sister-in-law's. Well, one. The other stayed as far away from visitors as it could.

Let's raise a glass to Neil deGrasse Tyson and his saying about SCIENCE. Strangely, in this day and age, you can apparently refuse to believe in it, and thus make it untrue just by being loud and repetitive.

Bad reviewer! Bad reviewer! You're supposed to be uplifting today!

There aren't a TON of clever clues today, but I liked 3D: What's aft a ship's aft (WAKE)

Fun Wednesday. Now we have the Turn to look forward to!

- Colum

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tuesday, September 22, 2020, Jeremy Newton


You're getting quite the potpourri of blog reviewers this week, due to a slight misunderstanding between the three of us. How about having the opportunity to directly compare and contrast review styles? I don't know. Perhaps we'd better not. I fear I'd come out at the bottom...

And speaking of the bottom, how terrible has this year of 2020 been? Leaving the politics out of it (although how can you, really?), the horrifying wildfires, the overwhelming hurricanes, the pandemic, all of these alone showing how it really isn't nice to fool Mother Nature. And then, the recent passing of Justice Ginsburg. So if you thought turning to the puzzle was a nice way to escape, today's grid didn't exactly let us do so.

CHADWICKBOSEMAN was an outstanding actor who died too soon of colon cancer. I'd like to say this is a good reminder to get your standard health screening done (and as I have turned 50 this year, mine is due), but truth be told, he likely had the onset of the cancer well before screening would have picked it up at an early enough stage to make a difference. 

But let's turn from that ugly reality to the shining fantasy of THEBLACKPANTHER, set in WAKANDA, where TCHALLA uses a HEARTSHAPEDHERB to gain SUPERHUMANPOWER. It's an impressive feat to pack all of that in to one 15 x 15 grid, especially with the nice interlocking theme answers. And if ever we needed a vision of a world where all are recognized for their humanity, this year is the time.

The rest of the grid hardly appears to suffer, which is testament to Mr. Newton's skills in constructing. I note an ASDOI here, an MSS and an ENE there, but very little otherwise.

Meanwhile, we note the fun OOHOOH and it's symmetric partner YOMAMA. AMENTOTHAT! And who wouldn't chuckle on seeing 54D: Worrying sound when you bend over (RIP)? 

Overall, I liked it, despite the downer at 7D.

And with that, IMOFF.

- Colum

Monday, September 21, 2020

Monday, September 21, 2020, Daniel Larsen and the Wave Learning Festival Crossword Class


No need for a WHITEKNIGHT to solve today's puzzle. The clues were solid and generally straightforward. The duplicative doubling in each of the four theme answers may have helped some solvers once the BRIGHTLIGHT went off and they recognized the pattern.  

I was KEEN on a lot of the long down answers including MARDIGRAS (fun!), the humorous IMNOTHERE as a "Paradoxical response to a door knock," BUBBLETEA, (although I've never tried it), and OPERATORS (Ones "standing by" in an infomercial). The latter makes me think of the late great Steve Goodman's song "Vegematic." 

I also liked "Mess up" (BOTCH), "Noggin" (BEAN), "Tears out of the ground" (UPROOTS), and "It's on the plus side" (ASSET). 


A couple of clues didn't seem QUITERIGHT to this solver. "Shoot out" seemed a bit over the top for EMIT and "Ingratiates" seemed to have a more negative slant than ENDEARS, but I am perhaps putting too fine a point on it. It's certainly not worth a FIGHTNIGHT.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sunday, September 20, 2020, Sam Trabucco


Wow. I loved this one.

I just said last week that the title on Sunday explains the theme, in a certain way. Today, I looked at the title, and I saw lots of four-circle stacks in the grid, and I thought to myself, "Oh great, a simple word ladder in such a big puzzle... well, at least maybe the fill will be interesting." 

Oh me of little faith! Instead of a simple "word ladder" progression from RISE to FALL in five steps, which - I should add - is nicely done, Mr. Trabucco has added a little something extra. Each word in the word ladder acts as a ladder going both up and down! 

I had a feeling something fishy was happening fairly early on, when 18A: "Reason for people to hide" started looking really bad. Likewise with 28A: "Doctor's hand covering." I actually thought for a while that it would end up being some medical thing I've never heard of, but that seemed pretty unlikely for a Sunday puzzle. Finally, by the time I got down to 96A: Center of a cobbler (FRUITFILLING) and 114A: Appeasing (MOLLIFYING), I finally used the ladder and got to the next level. Phew! What a great Sunday trick! Sure, you end up with things like "SURPRABLE" and "STERON" in the grid, but everything makes sense if you follow the rules, so I don't really count those as non-words. Well, they sure look like them, but you know what I mean.

Thanks to the trick, the puzzle played hard, but it wasn't just the theme - GOOGLES (Uses a modern engine) took me forever, and I haven't thought about LESTOIL (Clorox cleaner) for a long while. "Difference between dark and light, in a way" (TANLINE) was another very tricky clue! And what about "*, *** and ****, say" (MIXEDREVIEWS)! It kind of felt like a tournament puzzle, which was nice, since I missed all the tournaments this year. The ACPT was cancelled, of course, but Boswords actually ran as an online event - but I only learned that a couple days after it happened. Sigh. 

But let's focus back on this puzzle. There are ten quadruple-checked squares here, which is outrageous, and for my money, the fill isn't strained all that much. Sure, you get an IUM here, and an EDA there, but honestly, I've seen worse in far less ambitious grids. This, in my opinion, is one of the best puzzles of the year. Bravo, Mr. Trabucco, you have entered my pantheon. Thank you for making such a fun puzzle!

- Horace

Saturday, September 19, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


Those who follow this blog ("we few, we happy few") will already know that today's byline made me smile before I looked at the first clue. It was a welcome sight, especially after the terrible front page news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's untimely death. I think the WISH of many was that she could overcome her health issues, but now we are left to hope that enough in power can say DONTBESOHASTY about confirming another justice before the RES Publica can get its act together. Sigh. What a year we're having.

But NEVERFEAR, Ms. Weintraub's puzzles can go a long way toward cheering us up, and today's challenging, but oh so satisfying Saturday is a fine example.

Georgia ENGEL
The first C/AP that made me laugh audibly was 5D: Staff you wouldn't want to employ? (TENFOOTPOLE). It took a lot of crosses, but that realization was hilarious. And right beside it, ORIONSBELT (Three-star picture?) was another great discovery. Farther down we find "Classic couples' retreat?" (ARK) Hah! "Wax off?" (WANE) is more clever than funny, but clever is also good, and will suffice. 

"Thorny subject" (ROSE) is a good example of a non-QMC. A question mark there would have given it away immediately. "On one's way out, say" (HALFASLEEP) is another good one, although the ", say" is probably equivalent to at least half a question mark, right? 

I had the O starting "Meany of fiction" and fell right into her "Ogre" trap, only later realizing it was a hidden capital for OWEN Meany. But one that didn't fool me was the central "Shot required for international travel" (PASSPORTPHOTO). For a second I wondered about medical things - because medical things are in the air, as it were - but this photographer has been over the Atlantic enough times to know that only head shots, not immunizations, are always required.

There are many more PERKS - the interesting etymology in PEPSI (Product whose name comes from the Greek for "digestion"), the cute "pocket/pouch" couplet - "Pocket that isn't full of rye?" (PITA) and "Contents of a certain pouch" (ROO), ... but to discuss them all I'd be here all day!

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and that your Saturday will be a little brighter for it.

- Horace

p.s. I've really got to read Chekhov's "Three Sisters!"

Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday, September 18, 2020, Anne and Daniel Larsen


I've got to admit, I'm not sure what my GAMEPLAN should be for this review. The solving went along normally, and usually I enjoy a themeless puzzle, but nothing really lit up the experience for me today. 

I'm strongly in favor of NETNEUTRALITY, but it's not the most exciting entry, and that clue - "Subject in the purview of the Federal Communications Commission" didn't really jazz it up much. And I approve of BEYONDMEAT trying to reduce America's obsessive consumption of flesh, but again, "Company that makes vegan alternatives to beef and sausage" is, shall we say, a bit straightforward. 

I don't know, the more I look at it, the less I like it.

I have never heard anyone actually say NOTAHOPE ("You wish!"), or YOUBETICAN (nor, for that matter, "Just watch me do it!"). I don't actually like getting SLAPS on the back or the face, I don't equate "Wails" with SOBS, and PETARD, ARGENT, TOECAP, EMSPACE, BASSI, and even ONESEATERS are all essentially garbage. ORANG (Ape whose name comes from Malay for "man") was helped by the etymological clue, and STALEMATES (No-win situations) was good, but it is the most boring game-ender of all. And what's with citing Ford for VAIL (Vacation locale for President Gerald Ford)? Even CHEGUEVARA (Subject of a classic black, white, and red poster) (Really? I mostly know his face from t-shirts.) is getting a little dated, isn't he? He died over fifty years ago.

I'm OPEN to other views on this one, but IDARESAY I didn't love it. I guess, to end on a higher note, I'll say that I did learn that America has a RICEBELT. So that's something.

- Horace

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2020, Simeon Seigel


This morning at about 4am I wasn't asleep, so I opened my iPad and did a puzzle from the archives (July 5, 1997) that looked like this:

It was something of a surprise then, you will now appreciate, for me to open today's puzzle and find that it looked like this:

In the old Saturday puzzle, the plus signs were just black squares, but today, a Thursday, they play an important role in the solve. When I got to 9D: Financial incentive for an executive to stay at a company (GOLDENH[AND]CUFFS), I thought we might be dealing with a very unwieldy rebus, but when I saw that the Potomac tributary was beginning with "Shen," I was able to understand what was going on, and the revealer AND (+ ... with a hint to four pairs of answers in this puzzle) simply confirmed it. 

It's a nice trick, and it's probably not fair for me to say this, but I'm always a little disappointed by the "--" clues. They both take away a certain number of clue-portunities, and they kind of give away the trick - at least in part. But still, I loved SHEN[AND]OAHRIVER, THEGR[AND]OLEOPRY, and the handcuffs. DAGWOODS[AND]WICH is fine, but it's a little too similar to SUB (Hero) isn't it? OK, now that's really getting too picky.

I love to SOFTBOIL a couple eggs for lunch, YESSIREE, and I was amused by seeing the unusual PHIAL (Small glass container). APOLLOXI (About 600 million viewers watched its pilot in 1969) was a nice C/AP, and SCHISM is a great word. 

HOORAH to Mr. Seigel for this Thursday debut. 

- Horace

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wednesday, September 16, 2020, Paul Coulter

0:09:48 (F.W.O.E.)

I find today's theme a pretty funny indictment of fast food. NOTHINGBURGER with WEAKSAUCE and NOGREATSHAKES to go with it. What does it spell? HAPPYMEAL! Lol. 

It's been quite a while since I've eaten at a fast food joint. Frannie and I sometimes like to amuse ourselves by thinking about all the stores that would not exist if everyone shopped the way we do. I won't go into it in too much detail (which probably surprises you), but there wouldn't be very many stores. 

Anyway, in non-theme, I like that TRAINWRECK and RUBBERNECK are symmetrical, and somewhat related. And what an odd clue for SYLLABLE (One of 14 in "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious")! When I was young, I learned to mimic the way that Mary Poppins said it "backwards," but after a while I realized that it wasn't actually the right pronunciation of what it would sound like if it were spelled backwards. Not surprisingly, others have thought along similar lines, and it has been noted that Poppins does say, "You know, you can say it backwards..." and if the seven prosodic feet (each composed of two SYLLABLEs) are read backward, it comes close to what she said. Except for the "rupus" part at the end, which should just be "super." I was surprised and delighted to learn that the "super" form of the backward pronunciation was used by Ghostface Killah in his song "Buck 50." And once again, doing the crossword leads me into a new discovery. :)

I also noticed a strong Simpsons presence today: APU ("The Simpsons" storekeeper), Julie KAVNER, voicer of Marge Simpson, and the uncredited (as usual) MOE

In CoT clues (Clever or Tricky) today, I include "Do after dark" (SOIREE), "Rock around the Christmas tree? (COAL), and "Print sources, maybe" (PAWS). That last one was the site of my FWOE. I had idiotically (because the word is in the clue) put in "rACE" at 1A and I never went back to check on 1D. And since "rAWS" is kind of a word, it took me a good long while to figure out what was wrong. Sigh.

But I enjoyed the theme today, and I learned a lot about Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and one former member of the Wu Tang clan, and really, what else does one need to start their Wednesday? 

- Horace

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Tuesday, September 15, 2020, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau


Whereas yesterday's theme is one I'd never have thought of, today's theme seems to have been just waiting for a constructor to bend over and pick it up. Four famous cartoon characters, all drawn without pants! A friend of ours likes to joke about attending Zoom meetings "Donald Duck style," but I'm not sure he ever actually has. Also, it's funny to have Alley-OOP in the grid today as kind of an anti-themer, because he wore short pants with no shirt.

I thought the four long Downs were all good today. TVLICENSE (Authority to broadcast) is something you don't think of much, and it's interesting that it means "Authority to broadcast" on this side of the ocean, but in the UK you need to purchase one as a consumer to watch TV. Or, at least that's how I understand the situation. And I always enjoy watching a pool player make a TRICKSHOT

CELLWALLS (They provide structure, biologically) brought me right back to high school Biology class, and YELLINGAT (Berating at high volume), well, I guess that would bring back worse memories if I cared to delve into it, but I don't. 

Instead, let's concentrate on other fun entries like DANK, the LOUVRE, EDNA (St. Vincent Millay), and RUBE. ("So many RUBEs!")

Lastly, I feel I should that if Frannie were blogging today, she'd surely highlight CHINESE (Like gunpowder and the seismometer, by origin), because she just started an online CHINESE course last night! 

That's all for today. See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Monday, September 14, 2020

Monday, September 14, 2020, John Guzzetta


Hello, Dear Readers, it's me Horace again. I'm still on vacation, and I'm hoping that Frannie and Colum won't mind too terribly if I just take another week of reviews. What else have I got to do? 

To tell you the truth, I felt I had to take the reviews after 1A: Insect that builds a paper nest (WASP), because just yesterday I found one of those nests on a rafter tail on our house. I wanted to paint that rafter tail, but I didn't want to kill the wasps because they were native Northern paper wasps, which are not terribly aggressive and WORDIS they are largely a benefit, ecologically. I wanted to be like one who HASITBOTHWAYS, so I just removed their nest without harming them. Sorry guys, I hope you have time to build a nice new nest somewhere else before winter.

Also wanting to be one who HASITBOTHWAYS, Mr. Guzzetta has found four two-word phrases where the first word ends in "IT" and the second word starts with "TI." What won't these constructors think of!? My favorite is SITTIGHT ("Hold your horses!") because both parts of the C/AP are old-time folksy talk, and who doesn't like that? 

Remember Woodsy the OWL? He was one who gave a hoot about ECO issues. 

I enjoyed the central language quiz: Italian for "seven" (SETTE) and French for "here" (ICI). That language degree is finally paying off!

Nice nod to one of my U.S. Senators with "Nevertheless, SHE persisted," and I enjoyed the self-referencial "Do, as a crossword" (SOLVE). And ANYONE, makes me think back to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Anybody else go there too? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? ...

- Horace

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday, September 13, 2020, MaryEllen Uthlaut


As is so often the case, the title today explains the trick, but as is also often the case, it's not easy to see how it does explain it until you've actually figured out the trick.

GARTER snake
The clue "Penny going through the wash once again?" turns out to be RECYCLINGCENT, and "Soup served at the church social?" is AMENBROTH. What's happening? The final "er" is off, just like the title says! Well, almost. But "Final off er" seems fine to me, because Frannie and I mixing our syntaxes for quite some time have been. (I think it comes from trying to learn so many other languages, like Dutch, say, where the word order can be quite different from English.)

So anyway, some of the silly new phrases are pretty funny. ABSOLUTEPOW (Perfectly placed "Batman" punch?) has a nice nostalgic element, and HAPPILYEVERAFT (Always glad to be seated in the back of the boat?) is amusingly absurd. Why isn't CELLPHONENUMB (Having no feeling in one's texting hand?) as funny to me? I'm not sure. Maybe because the leap from hand to cellphone is too great? Or maybe just because it involves a cellphone at all? But most of them at least got a smile, so that's good.

But speaking of smiling, I didn't do any of it when reading 8A: Developer of 1982's E.T., a video game so bad that hundreds of thousands of unsold cartridges were secretly buried in a New Mexico landfill (ATARI). I have many questions about this, but I'm not going to look into any of them, because it's the weekend, and I'm in the middle of a vacation, and I just don't need that kind of aggravation right now. That kind of waste is NOLAUGHINGMATT! :)

And speaking of waste, I liked the two "straw" clues: "Drink rarely drunk with a straw" (ALE) and "Drinks usually drunk with straws" MALTS. Mmmm.... MALTS... I usually get one a year, and this year's is still to come! Maybe it'll be today!

Lastly, I found it interesting and appropriate that CAVITIES and FENESTRA were symmetrical.

It was a fun, quick, solve. I'm maybe still not in a crossword UTOPIA, but we all knew I'd never get there anyway.

- Horace

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday, September 12, 2020, Ryan McCarty

0:18:53 (F.W.O.E.)

I'm going to start with my error today, because it is so embarrassing. I will blame it on the Down "Early movie mogul Marcus" for which I guessed LOEb, and I will blame that guess on the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge. Drama... movies... it made sense to me. Then later, when I had to make my best guess at the Mesoamerican language and the ESP cards, I put in a Z, but did not get the congratulation. Eventually, I saw bOMENS at 49A: ____ March (annual event since 2017) (WOMENS). Sigh. Frannie and I were at the first Womens' March in Boston, and I am fairly sure Colum was at one in New York. Again, sigh.

ZENER cards
Aside from that, though, this was a pretty good Saturday. I started right in with RIPSAW, which I usually think of as a noun, with "rip" being adequate for the action, but the stodgy old WEIR (Small dam) gave me evidence that liberties were being taken. Witness also INCISOR (Bucktooth, e.g.). No one would ever call a central incisor a bucktooth if it were not unusually large and protruding over the bottom lip. But it's Saturday, and anything goes. 

In the upper right, things were more straightforward. I knew MAGGIE shot Mr. Burns, but I tried "raisins" instead of CELERY for the "ants on a log" component, and I thought I was clever guessing Tipjar for "Collection of offers?" (THEMOB). The long Downs there were all good, and allowed quick correction.

And those downs slid right down into the lovely staggered center. ZAPOTECAN and ZENER are tough, but both rang faint bells. "Racket pros" (SCAMARTISTS) and "Flip" (GOBERSERK) were to fine non-QMCs, and only TRANK (Slangy sedative) was a bit of a downer, as it were. If I were to use that slangy term at all, I'd probably spell it with a Q. But then, what do I know of tranqs and/or tranks? 

The toughest entry today is OTTAVA (Score marking to play higher or lower than written). I was in band and orchestra for years and I still didn't remember that term. I guessed "octavo," only later correcting it thanks to GOETHE and ASS (!). 

So in the end, what do I say? I guess it was a good Saturday. I felt good about remembering that OSAGE orange is a thing... the QMC "Producers of sharp increases in height?" (STILETTOS) was amusing, I love looking at ELGRECOS, and BILGERATS was fun. I'll have "Come and Get Your Love" running through my head all day, but I suppose it could have been a worse song.

- Horace

p.s. Well, now that I've looked at the lyrics, I'm not sure anymore:

Come and Get Your Love

Hail (hail)
What's the matter with your head? Yeah
Hail (hail)
What's the matter with your mind
And your sign? And a, oh, oh, oh
Hail (hail)
Nothin' the matter with your head
Baby, find it, come on and find it
Hail, with it, baby
'Cause you're fine
And you're mine, and you look so divine
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Hail (hail)
What's the matter with you? Feel right
Don't you feel right baby?
Hail, oh yeah
Get it from the main vine, all right
I said a find it, find it
Go on and love it if you like it, yeah
Hail (hail)
It's your business if you want some, take some
Get it together baby
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Hail (hail)
What's the matter with you? Feel right
Don't you feel right baby?
Hail, oh yeah
Get it from the main vine, all right
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love

Friday, September 11, 2020

Friday, September 11, 2020, Caitlin Reid and Erik Agard


When's the last time you thought of the expression SUCKEDFACE (Necked, jocularly)? Hah! When I saw it I thought "There's a GUTSY entry!" Certainly more exciting than SQUAREFEET (Apartment units) ... but "Fans of the Bible?" was a fun clue for PALMFRONDS, and two out of three ain't bad. And finishing off the Across answers in that NW section are TAKES (Perspectives) and ATEAM (Starters), both of which are solid. And did you notice that "sprite" fits nicely in where FRESCA (Alternative to 7Up) belonged? I say Sprite is closer, but FRESCA is certainly an alternative, much like a MANGOLASSI would be. Mmm.... MANGOLASSI ...

Cicely TYSON
And since we're now down in the SE, I would like to mention the clue "Get out of here!" for ESCAPEROOM. I think we need to come up with a name for this type of clue, which has become more common lately. "Spoken clue?" "Phrase clue?" "Unexpected referent clue?" (URC for short? ... )

Anybody else try MAIDENhood at 12D: Something that might be sacrificed at the altar? (MAIDENNAME). I guess if that were to have been it, the clue would have needed to be "Something that is always sacrificed ...".

My big FLAW today, if you're interested in a dreaded AUDIT, started with me not being able to give up WHite at 34D: "With 36-Down, what plasma may be removed from" (WHOLE BLOOD). CHiPS didn't seem perfect for "Talent, in slang" (CHOPS), but CASHiNHAND seemed right, and although KitA didn't seem at all good for "____ nut" (KOLA), I figured I don't know every nut there is ... In the end, maybe I hadn't had enough coffee, but I all too quickly said OHFORGETIT and looked up the answer. Sigh. 

That bit of bad luck aside, I thought this puzzle had a lot of POP. FASHIONABLYLATE (Not on time, but that's OK) was fun running through the middle, BLACKMAGIC and SLEEPYHEAD (One who's about ready to go out?) were lovely, and the only real price to pay was TARSAL. And maybe CASHONHAND. Kidding! :) 

NICELY done!

- Horace

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thursday, September 10, 2020, David J. Kahn

0:08:50 (F.W.W.S.H.B.A.E.) (Finished with what should have been an error)

Well, Dear Reader, I looked at Wikipedia for a while after finishing this, examining the dates of creation and first performance, but it seems like our little string of calendar-related puzzles has come to an end. The closest we can get is that BEETHOVEN's opus 86, the "Mass in C Major," was first performed on September 13, 1807. But this is not a Sunday puzzle, the grid does not actually contain any reference to that work, and 93rd anniversaries are not particularly celebration-worthy - three good reasons, I feel, for not waiting a few days to run it. 

Trimming FAT

Anywho, what we do have is Beethoven's three "named" SYMPHONIC works hidden in circles within longer entries, bracketed symmetrically by the beginning notes of his fifth symphony - GGG[EFLAT] and FFFD. I guessed "E" for the end of that first run, and although I do remember thinking that something was odd about 4D, I never went back to investigate it further before filling in every other square, at which point the proper half-step was added. I suppose it was nice of them to give it to me, but I also think that E is not E-Flat, and that the Fifth would not be the Fifth without that extra half step down.

I thought SPANISHTUTORIAL was a bit ad hoc, but needs must, I suppose. PUERTORICAN and SCHOOLRALLY were fine.

In the fill, I appreciated the little thing - "It's next to nada" (UNO), "It's next to nothing" (ONE), and the thematic tie-in "64-Down, to 62-Across" (EIN). BUNKERHILL (Historic Boston locale) was fun for this near-Bostonian, but I never like being reminded of ERASERHEAD. Sheesh!

I do, on the other hand, like being reminded of SASHAYing around to various BISTROS, but I thought there might have been a bit too much SEEDERS, PASSER, UNPILE, SLUE, LAM, XED, and ILIA for this to be the kind of truly outstanding tribute puzzle that the great composer deserves. 

- Horace

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wednesday, September 9, 2020, Jakob Weisblat


Like yesterday's puzzle, this one is tied to today's date - 9/9. Mr. Weisblat has found four uses for the number 99. I knew the last two, but did not know EINSTEINIUM's element number, and I was not aware that there are 99 NAMESOFALLAH. Couldn't that get a little complicated?

Fire Poppies in BLOOM

WAYNEGRETZKY was entered immediately. When The Great One retired in 1999, the waiting period was waived for his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, and his number 99 was retired league-wide. That doesn't happen much.

And finally, Nena's LUFTBALLONS was indelibly etched into my musical memory back in my high school years, and it helped me to change SHove to SHUNT (Push aside). And speaking of errors, how many of you started out with CLIPpers before correcting to CLIPSOFF (Shears)? Or started to type in Glenn before realizing it was too short for "Former Ohio governor John" (KASICH). OK, well maybe that last one was just me. And before you write in, I know Glenn was a senator, but I see the word Ohio in a clue about a person and my mind shouts out "Glenn!" What am I going to do?

I like to think that the symmetrical COUNTMEIN and CRAZYIDEA are thematic material today. :)

Lots of interesting entries (FORTKNOX, KEFIR, Star ANISE, Baby YODA, and EMILIANO Zapata), and not much junk. I didn't know DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), and NEB, LLCS, and AWS aren't great. On the other hand, I love the self-referential boldness of "Fill-in-THE-blank." 

In the end, I like the idea enough to give this one a thumbs up. You?

- Horace

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Tuesday, September 8, 2020, Kevin Christian and Brad Wilber


Sixty years ago today, the movie PSY/CHO was released. Starring ANTHONY PERKINS as NORMANBATES, Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, and directed by ALFREDHITCHCOCK. And I'm guessing the quote "ABOYSBESTRIEND/ISHISMOTHER" could be considered its TAGLINE. Many consider the film to be high ART.

My favorite parts of the theme are the splitting of the title into symmetrical, three-letter answers clued with asian celebrities, and that the lead character's name is given two "heads" to symbolize the split personality. That's a very nice touch. And if you follow the vertical "NOR" to the right and down it kind of spells "Norma," his mother. Not sure if that was intended, but it still works.

I saw the film long ago, and did not immediately love it. I'm not a fan of slasher/horror films, preferring instead a less graphic suspense thriller like "Suspicion."

So there you have it. With such a heavy theme, other entries like MEOW and HEE-Haw seem almost jarring. And then we've got the stumps of other theme entries - RATEDR looks like it qualifies, but its symmetrical opposite is OTOOLE, and he had nothing to do with the film. 

So sure, it's a nice tribute puzzle. I suppose if you liked Psycho, you'll love it.

- Horace

Monday, September 7, 2020

Monday, September 10, 2020, Gareth Bain


Today when I got to the revealer starting with "How tall Barbie is ..." I thought that she must have been designed to represent either the average, or someone's ideal, height for a woman. I noticed that "five ft four" would fit, but I wondered if that was too short (my own ideal being about 5'9"). In the end, I chuckled when the answer turned out to be ABOUTAFOOT. Mr. Bain was referring to the doll itself, of course, and to the various parts of the foot called out at the ends of the four thematic answers: ARCH, TOE, HEEL, and SOLE. It's kind of cool that TARSI is standing up at the top of the grid, as the puzzle's own ankle. Was that intentional? 

The feature-length Downs are all quite geographic, with PARTHENON (Temple on Athens's Acropolis), WESTBANK (Where Jericho and Bethlehem are located), VENICE, LAGALAXY, and SESAMEOIL (Staple of Asian cooking) sending the mind to far-off lands. Even the shorter BEALE Street gets into the act, though Memphis is the closest of the bunch by far.

Lots of names today - IVAN, MEL, AVA,  ANDRE, Ocsar DELA Renta, ONO, BIEL, CONRAD, TORI, TALESE, ... is that all? I suppose LAMA, CREE, and maybe even ERIN could also be included.

VAVA ("____-voom!") is probably the worst offender today, but it's pretty clean overall, the theme is solid (how many other foot parts are there?) and it got a laugh. What else can one ask for on a Monday. Now it's onward to MARDI!

- Horace

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday, September 6, 2020, David Kwong


A cute little Sunday theme today that lives in the clues more than the answers. Every Across clue with a "double" number, like 11, 22, 33, etc. has a clue where the word "double" must be understood. For example, 11-Across "Dutch requirements" should be read as "Double Dutch requirements" for the answer ROPES to make sense. Likewise, "Result, maybe, in brief" for 22-Across, assumes that the answer RBI is the possible result of a double. Baseball is referenced again in "Play combo of old" (TINKERTOEVERSTOCHANCE). 

MAMIE Eisenhower

I like that the theme is so widespread, and I'm not quite sure how Mr. Kwong managed to keep the theme answers symmetrical while still basing them on the clue numbers. IMNO constructor, so I have no idea how hard that was, but I'm guessing it was at least hard. And to top it all off, the clue for 111-Across, since it is a triple number, requires the word "Triple" to be added. That's an elegant touch. 

With all that going on, I'd expect to find a lot of pins holding this tapestry together. I don't especially love RINSO (Laundry soap since 1908), but that's mostly because I've never witnessed it in the wild. PASEOS (Some 1990s Toyotas) isn't great, but there AINT a whole lot else to gripe about. I kind of like all the answers with single letters: ICRIED (Weepy 1954 Patti Page hit), ATRIFLE (Not much at all), PERATIO (Equity valuation stat) (price:earnings), OCOME ("____, all ye faithful), KARENO (Lead singer of rock's Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who uses just the initial letter of her last name), and VSIGN (Churchill's trademark gesture).

Overall, I give this one high PRAISE. TOI?

- Horace

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020, John Guzzetta


So. Another week of reviews comes to a close. We keep on going, in this crazy world, living our lives as best we can. Existentialism feels all too appropriate in this day and age. But we can all try to live our best lives and be in the moment. Which is where the crossword puzzle comes in!

And today's was definitely right in my wheelhouse. I point you to 26D: Gilbert and Sullivan's "glorious thing to be" (PIRATEKING), which I feel certain will be an automatic fill in for several of this post's readers. I also found 47A: Polonium was named for her homeland, Poland, in 1898 (MARIECURIE) to be a quick answer, as was 39D: Source of the brachiocephalic trunk (AORTA). I routinely teach that particular thing to medical students as we look at CT angiograms of patients with stroke.

I think that this sort of themeless, with good flow and long answers, lends itself to a fairly quick solve, if only you get a foothold. The NW today put up the most fight for me, but only because I tried "haiti" (very wrong) first, and then indIa (better) second at 5A: Part of Kamala Harris's ancestry (TAMIL). But when in doubt, I usually go in this sort of corner to the 3-letter answer at the 21A equivalent, in this case THY, which got me TOUCH, ARRAY, and AMBIT in that order, and then BUREAUCRAT. Things moved right along after that.

The center offset triple stack is made up of three great answers. 28A: One going through cyclic ups and downs? (MOUNTAINBIKER) is brilliant, a perfect C/AP. TEASERTRAILER is fine, and 32A: Doctor's approach (BEDSIDEMANNER) is very good as well.

The other C/AP that I really enjoyed was 12D: Message that basically tells you to get a life? (GAMEOVER). Very cute.

Only ULA, IMAN, and possibly INTS took away from the enjoyment of this extremely smooth puzzle. Thumbs up from me. Look forward to a new week of reviews from Horace, starting tomorrow!

- Colum

Friday, September 4, 2020

Friday, September 4, 2020, Brian Thomas


If you read enough crossword blogs or reviews, you come to realize that the constructor's battle is between the fun and sparkly answers and the glue or crosswordese that holds it all together. The solver's enjoyment level typically reaches its highest when these two things reasonably balance. For me, I like it to be a little heavier on the fun and sparkly answer side, and I can put up with more glue to get that result.

All of which is to say that today's puzzle was pretty close to that magic point. It probably falls down a little on the far side of it, especially in the SE corner.

Today's solve started with 14A: Nobel Prize winner whose name should ring a bell? (IVANPAVLOV). I knew his last name but couldn't come up with the first, so although I got VEGA and TVG off of it, I jumped ship to the NE corner, where things took off.

11D: She took a seat to take a stand (ROSAPARKS) was very nicely put, and apt for the times. Apt! I also liked 13D: One of about 500 million needed to fill an Olympic swimming pool (TEASPOON). What a ridiculous piece of trivia! To make these answers fit, we have to accept ASEA, ANO, and OREO. Not too bad. I actually enjoyed BLART. Because just say it out loud. Go on. You know you want to.

Uh huh. You enjoyed that too, didn't you.


In the SW corner, JOEBOXER is very scrabbly, and I like both CENTERICE and 31D: Hoot and holler (RAISECAIN). Nobody likes an ECIG, either in person or in the grid, and XIAN was only fillable because I got all the crosses. ETS as well... you see my point.

Love 56A: High-level criminal? (CATBURGLER) - not so sure about RCA, TRU, ASTO. I also feel that 43D: Expensive beer chaser? (SNOB) feels less true for the beer drinker than the wine or whiskey drinker, but I get the point of the QMC.

All of this is to say that I really enjoyed the solve, with some points of resistance. And sometimes, all one can say is "vive la résistance!" 

- Colum

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Thursday, September 3, 2020, Sid Sivakumar


Ooh, ooh! I do love me a fun Thursday puzzle, and this one is simply brilliant. Our daily readers know how much I abhor a circle in a grid. I don't want to be told so blatantly where the trick is. But today's circles make perfect sense.

The revealer comes at 64A: Recover ... or what 17-, 25-, 38- and 51-Across do? (BOUNCEBACK). It took me quite some time to get the first half of that answer, because I found the center S section to be the toughest of the whole puzzle. But once I did, I suddenly reimagined those circles as balls and watched them speed towards the left side of the puzzle, and then carom backwards towards the right.

And there are your answers! 17A: Fried Hanukkah treat (EKACNAPOTA) is now unfolded to make "potato pancake." Boy, as I filled in the NW corner (very easily with the gimmes ACAI, COCO, and JOKE), that first part of the answer made me second-guess myself. Where were the latkes? Even once I realized that "pancake" was backwards, I couldn't see how to get the potato in place.

I figured it out with ELUSPACE. How cool is that, to find s-p-a-c-e-c-a-p-s in the regular phrase "space capsule?" How about the beauty of NOTGNIHSAWALLAW, a 15-letter answer that NOONE has ever seen before (that's 0% of the population, for those of you counting out there!)? DAERBANA is not quite as amazing, but still, a fun set of answers for a theme that knocks it powerfully out of the park.

NAN Goldin

There's plenty of more fun in the fill. GAYRODEO is a wonderful answer, and one that was definitely inferable from the clue. ALTIMETERS is improved by the nice trivia in the clue.

In the NE, 10D: Made like a shark? (SHOTPOOL) and 11D: One seeking change (PANHANDLER) are a perfect side by side demonstration of the advantages of QMCs and non-QMCs. How about 59A: Bank security option? (LEVEE) - hah! That's great.

Well, I could go on and on, but enough's enough, and that's a WRAP.

- Colum

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Margaret Seikel


A second debut in one week! Welcome, Ms. Seikel, to the venerable ranks of published NYT crossword constructors.

Sometimes in writing these reviews, I find myself wondering how I'm going to be able to explain in writing what the theme is getting at. And I would venture to guess that the vast majority of those times come on a Wednesday, the odd bird of the week's puzzles.

So let's get to it, shall we?

See, what Ms. Seikel has wrought is a set of theme answers whose last word is a synonym for throw, in each case nicely disguised with a different meaning. Then, the revealer refers to the opposite of throwing, namely catching. Which leads to the pretty tortured clue at 60A: Popular expression ... or what the opposite of the answer to each starred clue is? (CATCHPHRASE).

Fortunately, each of the theme answers is strong in its own right! I particularly like ELEVATORPITCH, especially as it is situated in the center down column, giving a sort of visual reference to the direction a person would be traveling as they make said spiel. I initially was down on 16A: *Something reminisced about in the movie "Grease" (SUMMERFLING). I wanted the title of the song in question, "Summer Lovin'," but now I can see that the actual answer is perfectly cromulent.

NEBULA award

Now, I don't want to be a WET blanket... um, I mean DISHRAG, but starting off the grid with three abbreviations in a row at 1D, 2D, and 3D did not inspire a lot of confidence. Also, SOPHS and ZAS are a tough go. 41A: Units of laughter? (HAS) scrapes by on the odd choice of clue.

But let's look at the brighter side, shall we? My favorite C/AP, and maybe one of the best in recent memory, in my opinion, comes at 27A: Space force, informally (ZEROG). That is brilliant. I love a good non-QMC. Also, the family here very much enjoyed OZARK, especially Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde. So much so that our family group chat is currently named after her.

So perhaps it didn't hit on all cycles for me, but it was a fun Wednesday in the end.

- Colum

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tuesday, September 1, 2020, David Steinberg


It feels like it's been some time since Mr. Steinberg's name has appeared in the byline, and after checking, I find I am correct - it's been since January! That's a long time for a constructor as prolific as he. Although perhaps I shouldn't be making assumptions. As prolific as they.

Which brings us to today's puzzle, as it turns out! Mr. Steinberg has provided a quick primer on PERSONAL / PRONOUNS, providing the three most commonly used pairs hidden in other phrases. I particularly liked BUTHEY and THEMET for hiding the plural (or alternate singular) pair. But did you notice the very large slash sign going between each pair? I didn't, until I read another review elsewhere. 

I have also come across further alternatives, including the gender opaque xe/xyr (pronounced "zee/zir"). Others include the number and gender non-specific co/co; a set created in 1975 which uses ey/em. There's a whole rabbithole here (as we at HAFDTNYTCPFCA discover on a regular basis when reviewing).

But for me, the bigger BROUHAHA is the recent resurgence of the humble HOHO. A classic dessert snack just chockfull of all the preservatives a growing body could want, it's been making its presence... or ey's been making eir presence felt on a regular basis in the puzzle. But did you prefer a yodel or a Swiss cake roll in your youth? Enquiring minds want to know.

On another side note, Mr. Steinberg has served us a bevy of beverages, with the two alcoholic MAITAI and MIMOSAS, and the two pick-me-ups CHAILATTE and LEMONTEA. To go along with them (because food should always accompany our alcoholic choices), the HAUTE cuisine includes a SALAD, an APPLE, TRITIP beef, and a TORTE. Accompanied by HAMM.

Too soon?

Finally, I am not entirely convinced by FBPOSTS. Google agrees with me, in that typing in that search term leads to "facebook posts." These reviews are henceforth B posts.

- Colum