Saturday, October 31, 2020

Saturday, October 31, 2020, Stella Zawistowski


An apt puzzle for Halloween, full of tricks and treats! Unfortunately, for this solver, more of the former than the latter. Due to a complete kerflummoxing in the southeast, I couldn't finish the puzzle today - not and still have time to write the review and celebrate Halloween. After the timer hit one hour, I decided to call it and look at the solution. I do not like to give up on a puzzle, and if it hadn't been for the review, I wouldn't have done it, but I was getting nowhere fast. 

After I saw the answers, I wasn't too surprised that I had been stumped by some of them. Some were beyond my ken, and in some cases, I shot myself in the foot. For example, I misread the clue "Hyper-" as if it were followed by a blank (Hyper-____), not as a synonym for the prefix 'hyper-" (ULTRA). Derp. Also, I needed a complete REDO: I could not get past "copy" for "Edit menu option." I also had "race' instead of SCUD (a much more interesting word!) and 'ace' where PRO ("Crackerjack") belonged. You can see why I was doomed! Coming up with CAERPHILLY with all those errors was, I'm afraid, impossible - although oddly, at one point I did try 'philadelphia.' In the treat category in that corner was DISPOSSESS for "Strip of ownership." I couldn't think of the intended meaning of 'Strip,' but once I saw the answer, I thought it was a very good clue. 


The northeast section also took me a long time. The only clue in that section I had any confidence in was SCARAB. When I finally got RADISHES for "Sources of crunch for a salad", the S and the R of those two answers make it possible for me to think of SCAR (Disney villain based on King Claudius) across the top, which finally, finally gave me CARAPACE. Another treat! 

The easiest section for me was the northwest. I enjoyed "Like hen's teeth" (SCARCE) and ACCENTAIGU ("´, in French," despite the difficult-to-make out accent mark in the clue). I also liked the C/APs, "Hiss at a Congressional hearing." (ALGER) and "It's a thing in Mexico" (COSA). I thought ECHOER was a little weak ("Parrot, in a way") and not an answer I'd repeat. :)

Getting EGOTRIP at 9D (Activity of self-interest) and CASTER in the small connector section between the northwest and north east sections, gave me PA_ for the fun "puzzle" clue at 31A: "Product that becomes an item to which it's applied after shifting the last letter one spot down in the alphabet." Once there was only one letter left to guess, I was able to figure it out (PAM [pan]). Next easiest for me was the southwest, probably thanks to MATTRESS and LAWNSALE both of which I got immediately from the clues.

AEROSOL for "Form of graffiti" seemed like a bit of a dirty trick to this solver. I also thought STUN for "Wow, just wow," was a rotten egg, but it *is* a Saturday puzzle, and one must take ones lumps. Another problem for me was the limited amount of material connecting the sections. It was almost as if there were four separate puzzles. Thought of that way, I got a 75%, or a CEE rather than an F - but still something of an ICEBATH. I'm disappointed, but of course, part of the point of solving the puzzle and writing the review is that it gives us pumpkin fun to talk about. 

Creep it real, dear Readers, and enjoy the Kandy KORN.


Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020, Trenton Charlson


Not that it's all about time, but mine is a little slow because I had to finish the puzzle while attending a virtual retirement party. Trying to do two things at once has never been my strength! 

Thanks to those in favor (the AYES), support from over a doorway (LINTEL), and "unprincipled" behavior (AMORAL), I was able to make short work of the southwest, even though I didn't know NERUDA or ELEANOR from the clues. A little bit of MEAD didn't hurt, either. 

The last corner to fall was the south east. Eventually, I was able to dig SILEX out of dusty brain cupboard, which gave me the lovely looking XEROXES, which, in turn,  made it possible for me to get KEANE ("Margaret ___, artist known for painting subjects with big eyes") and JASONFOX ("10-year-old boy of comics with glasses and blond hair"), neither of whom was familiar to me. 

It took longer for me to get DESADE ("'Philosophy in the Bedroom' writner, 1795") than it should have, not because I'm an DeSade expert, but the combination of the date and the title should have clicked sooner. I was also duped for an unnecessarily long time by "Half of Italy" (MEZZO). Derp. 


In between the first and the last, I enjoyed some unusual fill and some fun clues. I liked NODRAMA (Obama), NAZARENE, NATTERS, BRISK, and AMULET. DEITIES looks okay when written horizontally, but it sure looked weird as a Down entry. I liked the clue, "Fine example?" for LATEFEE

I thought the plural of ROOTBEERS for "Floats are often made with them" was a little odd, and while I did get the answer to "Dip for a French dip" (JUS), and I do know what "jus" is, I don't really get the clue, but on the whole, GOODJOB!


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday, October 29, 2020, Kurt Weller


I had an idea of penning my analysis sans symbols barred by 71A's square fillings - a very challenging mission which I quickly gave up on. According to the revealer, the answer NOTNOW, "if read in four pieces" was an aid in solving several clues. I managed to solve the puzzle even though I only partially understood the directive. It all seems so clear in hindsight, but in the race to solve the puzzle as fast as I could (it is my review week), I glossed over the "four pieces" part and understood it as NOT the letters in the word NOW. That was close enough for me to figure out the clues that weren't making sense to me alongside the entries I already had. I did wonder about 12D, though. The clue is "Wrought". Solving it my way, the clue should have been transformed to "rugh", but I could see from the grid that the answer was supposed to be COARSE, so I ignored the problem, finished the puzzle, and mentioned it to Horace. He spelled out the correct reading of 'No T, No W' for me and the fog lifted. It's a clever twist. 

I enjoyed the fact that the revealer didn't reveal exactly which clues needed to be modified, although, it became pretty clear to me after my first passes: the empty squares in my grid were a pretty good indication of where to look. :) I only just realized as I reviewed the puzzle for this review that one of the C/APs that made no sense to me was one of the trick clues: 2D: "Wariest animal" which is apt once you decode it to 'aries animal' (RAM). Apt!


And speaking of PEGASUS, we have a nice HAUL from ancient times with SPARTA, AVE, ARES, and AMO down there in the underworld - with a shout out up high for the HELOTS

Elsewhere in the puzzle I enjoyed "Place in office" (INSTALL), the beautifully misleading "Like all prime numbers besides one" (ODD), and "Sound off?" (MUTE). Fill-wise, I liked DOWSE and SCATHE, though one doesn't often see it as a present tense verb: I scathe, you scathe, we scathe ....

Well, amici, that's my REPORT. Vale.  


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Wednesday, October 28, 2020, Peter Gordon

 23:11, FWOE

It's not Sunday, but I found today's NYT crossword puzzle to be a little like "Men in their 40's," TRICKY COMPLICATEDAND disappointing. That last bit is an addition of my own, caused by the FWOE. Most of the puzzle went very smoothly, but I got into stuck in a right FOGBOW in the northwest corner. There was so much I didn't know, including the quote itself - which I was not expecting to start with two adjectives in a row, that's for sure! I also didn't know REMORA, KVELLED, or YETIS, although the last is quite amusing. But it was 4D: "N.Y.S.E. listing: Abbr." that hit me where it HURT. I couldn't figure out what the clue was going for. I guessed COmP (instead of CORP) and ended up with IMAmET at 18A. The latter didn't seem totally impossible, although upon reflection, I was probably confusing it with the word for lodgings for Mosque leaders. :)

So, yes, to get back to theme, which isn't so much a theme as the second half of a quote attributed to a character named Carrie Bradshaw in the show "Sex and the City." I mention this in case, you, like me, dear reader, somehow missed that boat. Here's the quote in full: "Men in their 40s are like the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle TRICKY COMPLICATEDAND YOURENEVER REALLYSURE YOUGOTHERIGHTANSWER." I can't say I really 'get' the quote, but maybe the ANSWER part makes more sense in the context of the show.  


I very much enjoyed the rest of the puzzle. Several snappy C/AP's jumped out at me even as I solved including "Smart, in a way" (HURT), "Sicken with sweetness (CLOY), "A barb might cause it to deflate" (EGO), "Senate rebuke" (ETTU), "Careful effort" (PAINS), "Go (for)" (RETAIL), and my favorite, "Lyon king" (ROI) - ha! And who doesn't love the word FLOUT

In short tricky, complicated and fun!


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tuesday, October 27, 2020, Luci Bresette and David Steinberg


Maybe I've spent too much time recently playing Spelling Bee, but today's theme answers reminded me of the game a little bit (emphasis added for emphasis). Each theme clue contains a phrase in all capitals and each corresponding answer uses all and only the letters in that phrase to form answers that are apt vis-a-vis the original phrase. Apt! Is there a word for this particular ILK of letter permutations? I don't know of one, but maybe an example will enrich my anemic prose: 15A: "Apt phrase that uses just the letters of U.S. CAPITOL (POLITICSASUSUAL). Another one, TRAININGSEMINAR drawn from MASTERING was the most apt. I was less sure about the aptness of GETTINGMARRIED for "GRAND TIME" but I suppose everyone's mileage will vary on that front. :)

I think we can all agree, though, that solving the rest of the puzzle was fun. The clues are well-written and entertaining. Here are some of my favorites:

"Hershey's foiled confection" (KISS)

"Help with a holdup" (ABET)

"Sleep disrupter in a fairy tale" (PEA)

"Mascara target" (LASH)


It was nice to see our old friend EEL again, this time decked out in style with the clue "Sinuous fish." And I enjoy the fact that "Candy heart sentiment" (LUV) is common enough to make it a crossword entry. 💖

The puzzle also showcased some classic clue tricks. There were a few nicely ambiguous clues like "Things you might open with a click" (PENS). "Hitch, say" (KNOT), and my favorite, "Feed the kitty" (ANTE). There was also fun with capitals in "Dolphin's home" (MIAMI) and "Lightning Bolt" (USAIN), not to mention a straight up pair of matching clues that get good marks: "Grade upgrade" (PLUS) and "Grade downgrade" (MINUS). 

Fill-wise, I liked TABLELINEN, REALM, and KAPUT. I also like HENCE ("Beginning to a logical conclusion"), but I prefer it as another kind of conclusion in the phrase "get thee" 


Monday, October 26, 2020

Monday, October 26, 2020, Eric Bornstein


Today's theme revealer, "Apt command to an 18-, 28- or 47-Across" (GETCRACKING), applies as aptly to this reviewer as it does to the others in the puzzle: CODEBREAKER, STANDUPCOMIC, and CHIROPRACTOR. I liked the clue for chiropractor (Health professional who has your back?), but my favorite answer is STANDUPCOMIC. I wish wise cracking was the kind of cracking I had to get to, but my job is to crack wise about this puzzle. I'll DRY my best. 

But first, perhaps you are wondering why the theme's exhortation to 'get cracking' is also apt for this reviewer. Well, I'll tell you. Mondays are the one day of the week when I have MUCHACHO to do - one might even say toochacho. In an effort to broaden my horizons during the COVID timez, I signed myself up for an online Chinese class. As chance would have it, the class meets every Monday evening for an hour and a half (without a SPACER!). The fabulous folks behind Boswords 2020 Fall Themeless League also chose Monday night for their festivities. To top it off, Mondays are my one day a week in the office, which requires a focus on on-site activities and materials not to mention DASHES to the office and back. So yeah, Mondays aren't EASY and if I'm EVA going to get this review written, I better apply some ELBA grease!


One might occasionally think of the Monday puzzle as a TRAINER of sorts for the more challenging puzzles later in the week, and as such, I think this one is a MODEL. In addition to the entertaining - and apt! - theme, I SEE solid-but-not-stodgy C/A pairs like "Home made of hides" (TEPEE) and "Headings in a playbill" (ACTS) without a lot that one has to DIGAT. It also contains fun fill like NEXUS, HOODLUM, SKEE, and my favorite, BITTEREND. So, high MARX from this reviewer for a solid Monday puzzle!



Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sunday, October 25, 2020, Peter A. Collins


A Sunday puzzle full of holiday pun! Er, I mean fun. The imagined lines from reviews of a Halloween play were all quite good, I thought. My favorite might have been "... Frankenstein had ____" (AVARIETYOFPARTS). Heh. But "... the skeleton gave a ____" (BAREBONESRENDITION) was also quite nice. 


My favorite part was not the theme, however, it was 21D: "Apt thing to wear during allergy season?" (ASHOE). This clue made me laugh out loud, and it is the first to make me go back into our "Favorite clues" list for quite some time. Really, it MADE my morning. Colum was right yesterday about ABCD (Passing options) being gutsy, but I think this was even better.

But I am not surprised, because Mr. Collins is a veteran constructor. Today he presents a nice mix of straightforward clues ("Number of sides on a hendecagon" (ELEVEN) and "Mortar = sand + water + ____" (CEMENT)) with some fun cleverness ("Final destination, perhaps" (POINTB) and "What you're doing at every moment" (AGING) (Too soon!)). He throws in a double double ("Them's fighting words!" (ENGARDE and ITSWAR) and "Tickled" (PLEASED and GLAD)), and just a few bits of crosswordese for good measure ("As I Lay Dying" father (ANSE) and "Capital of Samoa" (APIA)). 

I've NARY a complaint. It's a fine end to what was, overall, quite a good week. Frannie takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you in a few.

- Horace

p.s. Not that I think anyone actually could this year, but I'll say it anyway. Don't forget to vote!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saturday, October 24, 2020, Byron Walden


This was a struggle, which is always welcome on a Saturday, but it wasn't as satisfying to finish as they sometimes are.

Muralla de AVILA

I started by dropping in RAZORSHARP (Superquick on the uptake), which made me feel superquick on the uptake :), and that led to an ORGY of quick answers in the NW. Then in the NE, CREME ( ____ fraîche) (delicious), ENT (Suffix with insist), and TAKE (Word with hot or spit) were GIMMEs, and they led to URBANAREA (Home to about 4 in 5 Americans, per the census), but not much else.

My favorite clue was "Digital access points" (FINGERTIPS). That's a great non-QMC. At first I didn't love "Intellectual property?" (IVORYTOWER), but looking at it now, several hours after solving, I have softened on it. 

The tens in the SE - SAYITPROUD, INEVIDENCE, and STREETFAIR - are all solid, but I didn't like the SW nearly as much. "Pileup after digging a hole" for DEBT seemed a little arbitrary. I just don't think of the expression "digging a hole" as pertaining to spending. Perhaps some do. And BREECHING (Going from petticoats to pants, once) might have once been a thing, but I don't feel that it was a very well-known thing, and it seems like "dresses" would have been more accurate than "petticoats." Likewise AGETOAGE (Eternally, in religious parlance) seemed a bit "meh."

I don't know ... maybe I just caught a BADBOUNCE. I hope you liked it better than I.

- Horace

Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday, October 23, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


The Turn continues in fine fashion today with a puzzle from one of my favorite constructors, Robyn Weintraub. When I first saw the grid, I thought it bore some resemblance to many grids by another favorite constructor, Patrick Berry. I seem to remember him often using staggered central entries like this. 


So let's start there, in the middle. The entries get better as you move down. "Legal pad alternative" is an almost absurdly straightforward clue for a 1980's era answer, WORDPROCESSOR. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it just feels very strange as a featured entry in an otherwise sparkly grid. Almost as though it's playing the same role as EDER or OTOE. Moving on, we have the more interesting PINSTRIPESUIT (Lightly lined apparel). And then we get to the kicker - "Batting equipment?" (FAKEEYELASHES). That made me laugh out loud.

Other clever clues included "B+ or A-" for BLOODTYPE, "Tree toppers" for ANCESTORS, "What's before after, at the end?" (EVER), and "One who might have a brush with fame?" for ARTIST. Lots of fun on a Friday. 

I also enjoyed "Fairy tale patriarch" (PAPABEAR), "Use of a cushion or a backboard" (BANKSHOT), "Dramatic device" (ASIDE) (I first tried "irony" here, but NIKON quickly changed it.), and STARPOWER (Celebrity's influence). And we got a classic "double clue" in perfect sequence as you went through the Downs (25D and 26D) "Pine product" (TAR/CONE). 

Sure, you get a little skin unpleasantness with PSORIASIS and ACNE, but you also get a nice little RBG tribute, and you will spend the rest of your day chuckling about the FAKEEYELASHES clue and belting out "At the COPA, COPA Cabana...." 

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. See you tomorrow.

- Horace

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday, October 22, 2020, Sid Sivakumar


This was a fun one. I immediately thought of PERUSE for "Look over," SUV for "Many a 4WD ride," and, of course, NED for "Name on both 'The Simpsons' and 'South Park,'" but they just wouldn't fit, and I had the distinct impression that I was missing something.

Eventually, more "too short" guesses and the revealer, RUNSONEMPTY, allowed me to finally bridge the gap. 

Speaking of lacunae, GURUNANAK (Founder of the Sikh religion) is a name I have never before seen or heard. I didn't even realize that it, too, should have its own gap - that the founder was Guru Nanak, who lived in Pakistan between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. From the Wikipedia, the fundamental beliefs of Sikhism" include the "unity of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder's life." Sounds like he would have fit into today's society just fine. Of course, there's also something about "faith and meditation on the name of the one creator," which is where I imagine the conflicts might start. It seems to me that if religions could just let go of the insistence on reverence toward an imaginary being, and focus on just doing all the good things that are supposedly the will of that phantom, we might all be in a better place.

Anywhoo... when I finished this one, I didn't immediately get any notification. I instinctively looked around for a possible incorrect entry, even while wondering why it wouldn't have told me something was wrong if I were really done. Then I looked again at 21-, 36-, and 50-Across, and wondered if I needed to put in a particular word, like "nil," or all zeros, and what I eventually tried was dashes. I filled in about four of them (across two answers) and suddenly I got the "Congratulations" screen. Odd. Did anyone else have any similar trouble at the end?

One last thing - WOULDIEVER DRUNKDIAL Laura DERN or John CUSAK? You bet I would. They're two of my favorite actors! 

And a shout out to "Not-so-great depression" (DENT). That's a great non-QMC. 

Loved it. Great start to The Turn. Hope you enjoyed it too.

- Horace

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, Dory Mintz


A cute theme today where cities replace words in familiar two-word phrases and are clued in a way that forces them to make sense. As in, "Ways to cross a river in Switzerland?" BERNBRIDGES, and "First showing at a film festival in France?" CANNESOPENER. Ha!

Not only does it have an amusing theme, it also includes the amusing ICANTEVEN ("That is too much for me"). Although often said in exasperation, this phrase almost always contains at least a little bit of self-awareness and humor. Also, the words SLEWS, PHOBIA, KUMQUAT, ORIOLE, and ENHANCE all ENHANCE the fill.

On the non-enhancement side, I would include the BABU/BABA pair. The first is, I grant, interesting trivia, and the second, while it may be tasty, has the slight off-taste of crosswordese. IMUS and TWOTERM have an unpleasant "politics" vibe, and the inclusion of four (!) additional cities - GENEVA, AGRA, CAEN, and SOCHI - seems a little unfortunate in a theme focused, as it is, on cities. Add to that a DAB of PHON, REV, GTE, ESE, and LYIN, and you've got a valid BEEF

IMHO, however, the amusing theme wins out today. PRETTY solid debut puzzle, and I'll be looking forward to more from Mr. Mintz.

- Horace

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020, Jeff Chen


Today we have more evidence that the minds of crossword constructors are not like the minds of most people. Mr. Chen has found eight (eight!) entries whose letters are in reverse-alphabetical order. Or, as he puts it, they are BACKORDERED

As I believe I already mentioned, Mr. Chen has crammed eight (eight!) theme answers into the grid plus a revealer. And many, many other entries run right through at least two of these theme entries. A dense theme like this, as Mr. Chen, an excellent puzzle-reviewer himself, well knows, can often leave a grid BEFOULED by less-than-ideal fill. I wasn't exactly APPALLED, but LOOMPA (Start for "land" in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") isn't especially lovely, BYO (Letters on a party invitation) seems like a partial of an abbreviation, and Joe SATRIANI isn't especially well-known to those who don't follow session musicians. I'm sure many people know of him, but I would bet that as many do, more don't. But I suppose that's true of many things ... maybe I should stop trying to point out bad things.

It's interesting to me that five of the eight (eight!) theme entries are made-up words. YUPPIE (new-ish acronym-type-thing), SPLIFF (West Indian, etymology uncertain, maybe made-up?), TROLLED (not exactly made up, but the verbing of troll seems recent), WOOKIEE (Lucas), and ROOMBA (some marketing genius). And the other three are all either two words or hyphenated - does this make them even more impressive? Let's say it does. Overall, IMAFAN of the theme, simply because it's so odd.

But I guess it's mostly theme. Theme and fill. There you go, there's your review. "Well, what witty insights do you have to offer us about this puzzle, Horace?" "Thanks [Interviewer], I'd just like to say that it's got both theme material and fill." "Incredible. How do you do it day after day, week after week?" "Well, [Interviewer], I guess I'd just have to say it's a natural talent. A gift, if you will..."

I'm sorry, where was I? I think I was in the middle of a SIESTA having a pleasant dream.

OK, I'll stop now. GOTTA get to a Zoom meeting. See you tomorrow! :)

- Horace

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Monday, October 19, 2020, Fred Piscop


Well, what do you think? Is EMOTIONS OVERLOAD part of the theme? A revealer of sorts? It certainly goes well with STORMCLOUD (Anger, in the comics) and SWEATDROPS (Nervousness, in the comics), but not so well with WAVYLINES (Odor, in the comics) and LIGHTBULB (Idea, in the comics). I guess probably not then, but I kind of wish it were. Maybe it works if you add in PEEVISH, STOLID, and EGRET! Of course, those don't really work with the whole "in the comics" thing. (I'm digging myself a hole here ... SOS!)

ALDER catkins

In any event, I like the theme, the comical theme, the pinwheel theme. Very visual. (Or is it only expressive?) I also like seeing SOANDSO (No-goodnik) running right down the middle. Both parts of that C/AP are excellent. 

There's lots of fun fill today - MARACA (Percussion instrument made from a gourd), LEGUMES, CACTUS, SNIPE, and CIVIC, to name several. Frannie and I have owned more than one CIVIC (more than two, even), and we wanted to buy another one recently when our old hybrid came to the end of its road, as it were, but Honda made it into a young boy's car instead of a sensible person's car. The styling looks aggressive and they got rid of the hybrid-with-a-clutch model, so we were driven elsewhere. ERR! (More emotion!)

And on another personal note, I once had my BASAL metabolic rate tested. I had to lie down in sort of a plastic bubble for a long while while they captured all my breath, or whatever. But did that help me to enter it right away? No. No it didn't. I needed pretty much every cross for that one. On the bright side, they said mine was slightly higher than normal, so that was nice. Whether or not that's actually a good thing, I have no idea, but I was happy because I thought it meant I could eat more.

And speaking of EMOTIONS (I just won't let it rest, will I), I enjoyed this Monday offering quite a bit. The BAR has been set fairly high. I FORESEE a good week ahead!

- Horace

Sunday, October 18, 2020, Miriam Estrin


Greetings, Dear Reader, it's Horace here, back for another week at the reins after two fine weeks of reviews from Colum and Frannie. Two weeks of fine reviews. Reviews of two fine weeks. Fine weeks by two reviewers. Any way you put it, it sounds good to me.

GERTRUDE Stein, by Picasso
And speaking of sounds, today's theme answers sound right, but ARE actually a tiny bit ARF. "Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's pet story," for example, brings to mind "The Little Prince," but the "pet story" part explains the homonym answer THELITTLEPRINTS. CUTE. And "Marcel Proust's kitchen mystery?" That's INSEARCHOFLOSTTHYME. TEHEE. And the kicker, down at the bottom, was JULIUSSEESHER ("William Shakespeare's historical romance?) OOF

There's a left-right symmetry today, and I'm wondering if anyone else noticed a central French theme? Along with the two authors mentioned above, we have yet a third in "Voltaire's sweet novel?" (CANDIED) (Candide), and then we've got ORLY (Alternative to de Gaulle) (Paris airports), NUIT (Debussy's "____ d'Étoiles"), and NOM (Follower of "Je m'appelle") (literally, "I call myself" [name]"). And F. Scott Fitzgerald was living in Paris when he began The Great Gatsby, so even TENDERISTHEKNIGHT kind of fits into this symmetrical, mini-France theme too ... I doubt all that was intentional. Still, I seem to be fond of thinking up such nonsense, and if I learned anything from Colum's week of posts, I learned to OWNIT, so there it is.

Some fine C/APs today (QMCs, all) - "What can take a punch?" (LADLE), "Goes undercover?" (SLEEPS), "Can't keep one's mouth shut?" (YAWNS), and "Call to reserve?" (LET). There are also a few connected clues: "Neutral paint color" (ECRU and FLAX), the UFO / ETS pair, and the director's cry pair - "It's AWRAP!,"  


- Horace

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Saturday, October 17, 2020, Victor Barocas and Brad Wilber


"Don't go changing, to try to please me," sang good ol' Billy Joel. And in the end, is that not good advice for all of us? Learning to be comfortable with who you are and what you bring to the table is the first step in being happy with yourself. Here endeth the lesson.

For the second day in a row, our themeless has a kind of theme. Upon opening the grid, you can't help but notice the five large collections of black squares in the middle. Turns out one of these can be called a QUINCUNX. Another example is the arrangement of five pips on one side of a six-sided die, or on a playing card.

Or you could just call it a PLUSSIGN.

It's a nice added layer to the puzzle, which otherwise plays like a standard themeless, with large chunky corners, but a surprising number of 3-letter answers - twelve, to be exact. If I were to separate these last into different categories, I'd do as follows:

Crosswordese: EDT, ENE, NIH.

Challenging due to needed trivia or foreign language knowledge: CRI, AES, ANA, ADAFES (alternate spelling).

Standard level stuff: RAT, SAW

Saved by their clever clues: 47A: Overseer of millions at work, perhaps (CFO - that's millions of dollars), and 56D: Something to shoot for (PAR).

ANNA Chlumsky

My favorite C/AP is also one of the tentpole answers, at 12D: Whence a memorable emperor's fall (RETURNOFTHEJEDI). I was thinking Nero, or Caligula. I might have been thrown off by ETTU nearby. But instead we're actually referencing when the emperor got thrown over the edge of the balcony into one of those inexplicable 200-story pits the Death Star routinely has built into it.

Lastly, I'll reference a series of French bandes dessinées (what we'd call graphic novels nowadays) about an evil Grand Vizier to the Great Caliph, who interminably plots to kill him in order to become the Caliph in his place, but always gets hoisted by his own petard. His name was Iznogoud, and amusingly the currency they used in this legendary land was a CLAFOUTI.

Well, that's it for me this week. Tomorrow starts another Horace week.

- Colum

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday, October, 16, 2020, Damon Gulczynski


A change is gonna come! So sang Sam Cooke, and we can only hope that his words will ring true soon. Soon, but not today. For once again, you are stuck with me blogging this review of a Friday themeless by Mr. Gulczynski.


I loved this puzzle. So much excellent fill and some excellent clues. Let's dive in, shall we?

There's a sort of theme feeling with the three long colloquial across answers at 19A, 36A, and 53A. I'm a fan of these sorts of phrases: they have a fresh feeling to them, especially when each can stand on its own without some sort of stem in the clue. You also get IMALLSET as a mini-addition to that collection.

4D: The "king of kings," per a famous sonnet (OZYMANDIAS) will surely get a nod of recognition from Horace. It's a great poem and looks excellent in the grid. Look on my works, indeed.

I feel sure that 31A: Mentally exhilarating experience (HEADTRIP) and 41A: Conclusive proof provider (ACIDTEST) were connected in the constructor's head. At least the second word of the first answer and the first word of the second answer.

SARA Bareilles

Elsewhere, BATFLIPS brings to mind the baseball playoffs which are occurring right now. I saw a couple of pretty blatant examples of this act in the highlights of the Braves-Dodgers game from last night. 

1A: Graduation props? (HONORS) is amusing, and I smiled at the pairing of 47A: Jazz fan, presumably (UTAHN) and 58D: Half of a jazz duo (ZEE). I must be getting better at recognizing this sort of thing because I barely batted an eyelash in entering the latter. Probably because I already had the Z in place. I also liked 25D: What can come before long (ERE) - a nice way to make a bit of classic crosswordese fresh again.

Well, another review has come and gone. I hope you found something edifying in it.

- Colum

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020, Lindsey Hobbs


The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or, as the original would have it, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." Turns out it was Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr who first said that. And honestly, here's an example where the French has the English beat hands down.

Which gets to my point, to wit: I am incapable of taking on somebody else's style in blogging as anything more than a sham, a pretense, an insulting homage. Instead, I peddle my faux learned nature (really the result of inspired Googling) and musings on the day's puzzle.

Oh, right! The puzzle.

Let's PAUSEFORAMOMENT and enjoy the cleverness of this theme. Not only do we get AUSTRALIA and its nickname, DOWNUNDER, but Ms. Hobbs takes the instructions literally, turning four other words strongly associated with Australia so they flip under and below their start.

Now, we've heard some grumbling in these pages for clues like 17A, 36A, 43A, and 62A ("-"), because they give the game away. And perhaps so. Certainly I came to 14A: Web-footed mammals, and thought to myself, "well, self, surely they're looking for PLATY[PUSES]," and I was right. I already had SE___ in place at 17A, and so seeing the clue there, filled in the rest. But really, what other choice was there? It would have been beyond awesome if the second part of the answers were words in their own right when read backwards, but honestly impossible.

And how fun is it to see OODIR and OORA in the grid?

Meanwhile, there's a bunch of bonus material, with KOALA, RUM, MAORI... Okay, they're from New Zealand, but it's practically next door, especially compared to Upstate New York.


Google says they're 2,587 miles apart, which is about the same distance as New York to Las Vegas. I stand corrected.

ATUL Gawande

Other fun stuff today include 41A: Bouncer's equipment (TRAMPOLINE) - how delightfully literal. Things not to enjoy today include STYES.

- Colum

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Rich Proulx


You know things must have changed when you realize your daughter just turned 22. And indeed, it's a long way from Somerville, one block from Redbones, where said daughter first made her home, to where we are now. Although she's come nearly full circle, living back in the Greater Boston area.

But one thing that hasn't changed is the enjoyment I get out of solving a crossword puzzle! Today's cryptic clues are referencing DIGIT one through five on a hand. When you extend the fingers referenced in each clue, you get a hand gesture that symbolizes the answer. Thus, 39A: *2nd and 3rd separated gives you the VICTORY sign, popularized by Winston Churchill during the Blitz.

I personally am fond of the VULCANSALUTE, which Leonard Nimoy created. And apparently based off of a Jewish gesture of blessing. Because the Vulcan race, with its emphasis on stony-faced stoicism is so emblematic of the Jewish people. Fun that 5D: Extra on "Star Trek" (YEOMAN) crosses the hand gesture. I so wanted "redshirt" with echoes of Galaxy Quest...


The puzzle today, despite its five theme answers and additional 5-letter revealer, is remarkably smooth, due in large part to the separation of its various sections. Note that only two answers go through three theme answers: VOCALFRY and POLITELY.

At the end, I found myself wondering whether to put in KYlA or KYRA. HORAE made more sense to me than HOlAE, but I could see this being a Natick square. 

35D: Pen that's full of oink? (STY) gets my nod for cutest clue. I also liked the pairing of STUCK and 62D: This puzzle's solver (YOU). 

- Colum

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tuesday, October 13, 2020, Amanda Rafkin


Tolstoy said "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." Pretty deep stuff there, Lev Nikolayevich. Is there a lesson to be learned in today's circumstances? Probably, but I doubt anybody's listening.

So, instead, let's focus on the puzzle! (I bet that unexpected twist was a shocker for our readers...) The theme today finds three phrases with the letters WIN repeated within them, with the revealer WINWINSITUATION. I love the phrase to explain the theme. Did anybody see it coming before getting to 57A? I noticed the repeated gerunds at the start of each answer, but otherwise no.

KNOWINGWINK is my favorite of the three. Starting and ending with a K, and it reminds me of Monty Python's "Nudge, nudge" sketch: "Photographs, eh? he asked knowingly..." Many people like Bob Dylan, but for my taste I'll always take Peter, Paul & Mary first, because I like hearing the melody. Wrecked!

The puzzle hit a couple of high notes for me, most notably with 37D: Frédéric who composed the "Revolutionary" Étude (CHOPIN). I just noticed the three accents aigus in that clue. Supposedly inspired by the despair he felt on Russia's defeat of Poland and subsequent occupation in 1831, it's the last of his first set of études. Some of my favorite music of all time. Nice grouping with BELA, STYNESONATAS and EFLAT.

Bartok BELA

Also, I enjoyed seeing ROWAN Atkinson. Not, mind you, for his Mr. Bean pabulum, but rather for his brilliant appearance in Four Weddings and a Funeral ("Father, Son, and Holy Goat..."), and even earlier, his part in "Not The Nine O'Clock News," a sketch show dating back to the time I spent in England, where he, Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys Jones, and Mel Smith (he played the Albino in The Princess Bride) made fun of the events of the day.

Nice C/AP at 2D: It's a cinch (BELT), and 31D: End of an era? (ONEBC) and 53D: Something of little matter? (ATOM) are good QMCs.

- Colum

Monday, October 12, 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020, Joe Hansen


Be the change you want to be in the world, they say. So the change I want to be is well rested. Turns out getting only a few hours of sleep three nights in a row makes for a somewhat grumpy reviewer.

So let's focus on the good things, shall we? Today's FLOWER / GARDEN contains four varietals, a [VIO]LET, a [DAH]LIA, an [AZA]LEA, and an [ORC]HID. Nice that the last three letters of each flower get their own clue and stand alone as standard (somewhat crossword-y) answers. Of the four, I do like me an azalea. They sure are pretty.

The theme makes for a sixteen triple checked letters (those are letters that have to serve as part of three different words, rather than the standard two in a regular crossword puzzle), and that can put some strain on a grid. It's well done to have them circle a central black square, thus separating them from each other. So on the whole, great to have answers like BARITONES, BALDEAGLE, and CRITICISM

Well, I suppose things like ACIDY might have to show up once in a while in a grid. But really. That one answer kind of nearly does the whole puzzle in for me. And if you don't get a nasty chill down your spine when you see DMVS, you probably grew up in a time when everything can be done on the internet instead of in person.


43A: One who's well-versed in the arts? (POET) is cute, and just about the only tricky clue. I also smiled nostalgically on seeing "AINTI a stinker?" Oh, that Bugs Bunny. He was really kind of jerk, if you come to think about it.

Here's to a good night's rest, and a fresh start tomorrow.

- Colum

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday, October 11, 2020, Gary Larson


Hey all! I've decided that a change must happen, and I'm not talking politically. Although that too. I'm talking in this blog. And to be perfectly clear, I'm talking with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

You see, every week when I start to write my reviews, I look back on the previous week's reviews by one Frannie, AKA Frances Page. And I despair. How can I ever live up to these pieces of brilliant wit? How does she do it? Where does she see these ludicrous puns? And entire reviews with themes.

The answer, of course, is to stick to what you do best. Don't try to emulate others' styles, unless it's a conscious homage.

So, here we go. I am amused by the title of today's puzzle, as if we were going to Toys 'R' Us. But instead, we are to imagine a rebus square, with the letters PIR enclosed. And you know how much we here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA enjoy a rebus. There are seven such rebus squares, with only two squares placed symmetrically, which increases the pleasure of the treasure hunt aspect.

Of the fourteen words containing the rebus, my favorite by far is MISSISSIP[PIR]IVER, both for getting the state name in the grid, and the fact that the rebus spans the two words in the answer, one of only two examples where that happens (PUM[PIR]ON is the other one). Also I like BABYAS[PIR]IN, the medication I prescribe the most frequently, and EM[PIR]ESTATE, my home state. I think it's pretty AWEINS[PIR]ING to be able to come up with this many strong answers that fit the theme.


If we move past the ENLACE, EMANENT, UPTILT sort of answers, fill that's there to make the puzzle work but which we all agree a puzzle would be stronger without, there's plenty to delight.

How about 1D: Grumpy co-worker (DOC)? I laughed out loud when I got the answer. Not what I was thinking due to a beautiful hidden capital. ANAEROBE and AGNUSDEI are lovely answers. The puzzle also nods to both The Addams Family (TISH) and the MUNSTERS

I note today that ONEG can be clued both as the blood type and the force of gravity we experience on the surface of the Earth. I suppose that with ONEL in the same grid, it made more sense to choose the former clue choice. 55A: Square things (ATONE) can also be clued in two different ways, depending on how you parse the word. I thought that clue was very clever, and it also played on 39A: Power of a square (TWO).

An enjoyable start to the week. I hope you enjoyed my review equally!

- Colum

PS - In, the puzzle's title is "Ï€r2." Did anybody see that in their version? It would have increased the difficulty of figuring out the theme!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saturday, October 10, 2020, Brian Thomas

33:59, FWOE

I broke into the puzzle at the top right, thanks to the gimme (for me) at 11D: "Longtime head of the Boston Symphony Orchestra" SEIJIOZAWA. I didn't know INTERMILAN (Italian soccer club with three Champions League titles), but I had heard the term FOODDESERT (Area with limited access to supermarkets), and, as luck would have it, I recently saw a poster in a bus shelter for RENO 911!, both of which helped make short work of that section.
I had not previously heard of a BOOBIRD (Angry arenagoer, in slang), and am not familiar with the work of Fela Kuti (AFROBEAT), which caused me some trouble as I tried to expand in my success in that section to solve the rest of the puzzle, but eventually I made the puzzle CEDE to my efforts. 
I particularly liked the clue "Remote hiding spot?" I thought immediately of  the too-long 'couch', but it took me some time to convert it to the synonymous-but-shorter SOFA. I also enjoyed "Mass medium" (LATIN) and "Requirement for some drilling: Abbr." (DDS).

I FWOED due to the age-old problem of not checking the Downs after entering a "definite" Across answer. I try to remember, but it seems to be NOUSE! At 1A. I had entered WHAm for "Smack!" which struck me as not only cromulent, but apt. Apt! However, I got all the other answers in that northwest section from the Across clues, and thus failed to notice that the M in WHAm messed with the head of the PELICAN at 4D (It has a big pouch).
Looking at the Down C/APs in the northeast section for the review I found items of interest. The origin of the name of the HOBO spider has a certain appeal, and the previous name of AVON caught my attention. I think they made the right choice with the name change. "California Perfune Company calling" just doesn't have the same ring to it. And who doesn't enjoy the word WHET?
I felt the puzzle as a whole delivered less excitement than it seemed to promise with its abundance of J's and Z's, plus five "expression" clues conjuring dramatic scenes (ITSWAR, IMHIT, ASIF), but to ENDON a HIFI note, there was still an AMT of good BIZ INIT

Friday, October 9, 2020

Friday, October 9, 2020, Sam Buchbinder


I thought I was going to have a freakishly fine Friday time (for me) after I zipped through all but the southwest in about 12 minutes. For a brief moment, I was ONTOPOFTHEWORLD. As the finish drew NEARER, though, things began to look less ROSY. I ended up in a fight to the finish, MANOAMANO, with the squares in the southwest corner, and for a good five minutes it was not clear which of us had GODOT on our side.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a representation of what my southwest corner looked like at its worst:

VOTE      (Up or down) for something)
WHODAT    (Slangy response to a knock at the door)
BIB       (Shirt protector)
USTEN     (Hwy. through St. Paul, Minn.)
PARIS     (Locale of the Ile de la Cite) 
TENDS     (Minds)

Remember good Old VWBUPT? (Prez with the same initials as an N.Y.C. landmark). They don't make 'em like that anymore. The "helpful" NYC hint in the clue didn't do a thing for me. Fortunately, when combined with other correct answers in the right half of the puzzle, I was eventually able to guess AGNES (___ Scott College), which prompted me to change 'paris' to SEINE. Once that S replaced the P I could finally see that we were looking for GWBUSH. Then, I was able to correct oHISEE to AHISEE because GoME isn't a word - that I know of. 


Because the rest of the puzzle went so quickly, I didn't read all the clues and answers until I reviewed it for the review. Looking it over, there was much to enjoy, including a personal favorite, ONIONDIP. :) 

There were two QMC's (Question mark clues) I especially liked: "Student who might take a crash course?" (ECONMAJOR) and Pick-up line? (HELLO). 

But the real beauty was in the NQMC/cleverly ambiguous clues. I've made a list of my favorites:

"Bad marks for a high schooler" (ACNE

"Boomer at a concert" (AMP)

"Mimicking" (ALA)

"Parts of a record" (ARRESTS)

"Puts away" (JAILS

"Hide" (MASK)

Our esteemed readers will probably not be surprised to learn that I also I enjoyed the joke in the clue for 22A: "Yesterday, I ATE a clock. It was very time-consuming." Ha!


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thursday, October 8, 2020, Francesca Goldston and Jeff Chen

 23:32 -  my solving time is a palindrome!

The phrase TIMEISMONEY was the answer to 56A: "Benjamin Franklin adage" as well as a hint to interpreting the answers to four starred clues. The answers needed a little interpretation because while they were clued as common 'time-worn' phrases, the word "time" in each one was swapped out for a word meaning some kind of moolah. The beauty of the swap is that the money words fit perfectly with the unchanged part of the original expression to form new common expressions. Boy, this is one theme that is much easier to live than to explain. Perhaps an example is in order. The clue "When many people solve crosswords" seems to call for the phrase "spare time" but the answer in the grid is SPARECHANGE. Another was "Cheat on, say" which looked like it should be "two time" but the answer was TWOCENTS. A capital showing by Ms. Goldston and Mr. Chen! 

Although I figured out the theme relatively quickly, I got stuck for a while in the northeast. I was stumped right out of the gate by "Relief from the desert?" at 1A. The answer turned out to be the very clever ALOE, but I didn't figure that out until I finally got OBAMAERA for the beautifully tricky clue  "44 years?" at 3D. That section probably would have been a lot easier if I had remembered "'The gallant pig' of children's literature," BABE. So much for my literary acumen!


The northeast also contained my favorite of today's C/APs: "Core components for short" (ABS). I started by entering CPU, but there being no way to make the plural fit, I had to reboot. Maybe it's due to the approach of the holiday season, but did anyone else try "Santa" for "Annual parade V.I.P."? Celebrations for STPAT seem to have occurred an age ago. The clue at 51A."'It' factor?" (HORROR) is another good C/AP. Fill-wise, I liked UNITCOST and KNEEDEEP - so many E's! - SMIRCH, and HOOPLA.

To sum up, a very WORTHY effort. HAHHAH. 


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Wednesday, October 7, 2020, Ross Trudeau

10:34, FWOE

By the time I got to the clue for the revealer at 51A: "Cry while doing a stunt ... or a hint to 2-, 7-, and 12-Down" I had enough of the puzzle completed so that the answer (LOOKMANOHANDS) and the theme came to me all in a flash and I LOL'd. I've got to hand it to Mr. Trudeau for coming up with this idea and carrying it off so successfully. He was able to come up with three theme answers which have no hands, each in a different way: WATERCLOCK, GHOSTSHIP, and my favorite, TOUGHCROWD. Ha! It looks to me as if there's a sort of shrugging smiley face shape in the grid to boot. ENEWS flash: I just looked at XWord Info to see if IRENEADLER (see below) was a unique answer - it's not - but all three of the theme answers are! As is ALLTOOTRUE. Apparently, Mr. Trudeau has this puzzle constructing business well in hand. 

I was surprised and happy to see IRENEADLER in the puzzle (Woman in a Sherlock Holmes story). Surprised because the name seems a little obscure, but happy because literary names are much more in my wheelhouse than sports figures. 

Seeing the letters FWOE up at the top there, you may be wondering how things got out of hand. I'll tell you: poor guesswork. I am not familiar with OSHEA. Jackson, Jr., so for "___ queen! ("Fabulous!") I guessed YeS, thinking OSHEe was possible. When I got the "keep trying" message from the app, I reconsidered, and swapped E for A. It seemed immediately obvious that OSHEA was a better guess than OSHEe. I only wish I had realized it sooner. DRAT!

22A: ASS
Two clues that also amused me were "Leaves for dinner?" (SALAD) and  the very clever "Invasive plant?" (SPY). Fun fill included KEELS, RETORTS, and NINNIES.

While it's true that the smiley face shape necessitated some stacks of short answers like NCO, ACC, and ALT, I'm not complaining. I think the puzzle MERITED a show of hands. 


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Tuesday, October 6, 2020, Alan Massengill and Andrea Carla Michaels


The multitude of F's and S's in this puzzle reminded me of a lovely Strindberg and Helium video. If you can spare the time, I suggest spending 1:31 seconds watching it.

We can thank the amusing theme for the extra F's. The letter F is added to the front of common two-word phrases which are clued accordingly. So a "Scary landlord?" is FRIGHTFULOWNER and Anti-fuel extraction slogan? is FRACKANDRUIN. FRISKYBUISNESS (What Fancy Feast and Meow Mix compete in?) is entertaining, but my favorite is FRANKAMATEUR (One who freely admits not being any good?). Apt!

Perhaps it was the all-S answer (SSS) at 47A (Sound of 1-Across) - which sported a pair of its own in HISS - that got me started noticing the S's in the puzzle, and there are quite a few (HEISTS, SSGTS, ESSO). So, yeah, S and F. :)

Fortunately, there are enough other letters in the grid to support a number of FINE C/APs including "Classify, as blood" (TYPE), "Gung-ho" (AVID), "Imposed, as a tax" (LEVIED), and "Not in operation, as a Broadway theater" (DARK). 


I also liked SCOUR, IODINE, and STOIC. And, way to kick it old school with a reference to the MAYTAG repairman. 

I noted a number of fun pairs in the puzzle: two foot parts (ARCH and SOLE - the latter of which could also pair with COD), GAS and ESSO, HALF and CALF, THELMA and UIES, and of course ANJOU. HAHA


Monday, October 5, 2020

Monday, October 5, 2020, Evan Mahnken


Today's theme was a real gas. Four common phrases that begin with words relating to states of cookedness were served up as theme answers. They began, appropriately, with RAWFOOTAGE. When things started to heat up and we got HALFBAKEDIDEAS (my favorite, and my specialty!), COOKEDTHEBOOKS, and finally BURNTUMBER. Sear-ious fun. 

I found some meaty filling in the puzzle, including FRILL, SCHEME, and TRUSS. And, whenever I encounter the word DEBRIEFS I think of my friend Rob who always adds, "not literally." TMI?!?!

Pack up your troubles... 

Was anyone else a bit surprised when "Worker for a feudal lord" turned out to be LIEGE? Perhaps I was benighted by an over-reliance on B movies set in medieval times in which courtiers address the king as "my liege," but I thought the liege *was* the lord. And it is, but when I looked it up in the dictionary, I was enlightened: the first definition of liege in many sources is vassal, or the subject of a lord. ISAIAH!

About the puzzle overall, I say, well done!


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sunday, October 4, 2020, Sam Ezersky


Today's theme is things that people sometimes, or infrequently, say beginning with "You're," clued in a way that makes them slightly funny. Take, for instance, To a cosmetician: "You're MAKINGMEBLUSH," or To a bad free throw shooter: "You're MISSINGTHEPOINT." My favorite one is the two-parter, To an aspiring entrepreneur: "You're ONLYASGOODASTHE COMPANYYOUKEEP." Apt!

In other areas, I enjoyed REBUFF (Brush off), FORGO (Give up), and the two coffee-related clues "How some like their café" (AULAIT) and "How some like their coffee" (STRONG). 

For me, this played harder than many Sunday puzzles have recently, possibly because there were several names I did not know - DRBOB (Physician who co-founded A.A., familiarly), TAMA Janowitz, JOEL (Book before Amos), SHANYU (Villain in 1998's "Mulan"), MOMOA, OSAKA, ALI Wong, and I've never heard anyone call Atlanta ATOWN. Also, I've never heard anyone call one ball and one strike ONEONE without putting an "and" in the middle. And Taylor Swift's first #1 country hit? That needed crosses.

I liked "It's against the rule" for ANARCHY, and "Clicking sound" for AHA was nice.

Once more (since I was so vague the last time I let go of the reins), Frannie takes over tomorrow. I'll see you in a couple weeks. Don't forget about the Boswords Themeless League if you're interested. It's only $25 for nine Mondays of entertainment, but you need to sign up today, and then do a little registration thing before you can see the puzzles, so don't procrastinate!

- Horace

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Saturday, October 3, 2020, Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson


Another lovely themeless today. Ten ten-letter answers lead the way, stacked in twos and threes, all strong. Let's just list them, shall we? In no particular order:

SILKBOXERS, ONEFINEDAY, PETCARRIER, THECITADEL, VOLLEYBALL (Setter's activity) (not the dog), HUMANERROR (What robots might be used to reduce) (had "human labor" at first), ACTIONVERB (Spring or fall, e.g.) (lovely), ECOLOGICAL, ROSEPARADE, STAGENAMES (Elton John and Lady Gaga, for two). 

That's a lot of good material. 

I also like the sub theme of SCAM ARTISTS, those who HUSTLE. Like that POL REAGAN, whose "Morning in America" was a CROCK. That's right, I'm ONRECORD saying his SOPS to corporate interests should have made us early XERS say UHOH. But we were too busy laughing at LUCY and marveling at Julius ERVING's airtime that we LETT DAH ADSPEAK wash over us as if it were NORMAL for James Watt to be so abusively anti-ECOLOGICAL. I'm sorry, Dear Reader, but remembering the REAGAN era ANGERS me. 

And so now I've used up almost all the good words with my TRES SNOOTY diatribe. Maybe I should mention how weird the spelling of PHARAOH is, or how I thought the "say" at the end of the ANTELOPE (Quick buck, say) clue didn't feel quite right. 

Oh, it's ok, me HEARTIES, I just have one more review to write tomorrow, and then you get to enjoy Frannie's work for the remainder of next week. I'll just put in one more plug for the Boswords Themeless League (deadline to sign up is tomorrow!), and sign off. 


- Horace

Friday, October 2, 2020

Friday, October 2, 2020, Debbie Ellerin


The Turn continues in fine fashion today with this lovely themeless from Ms. Ellerin. But before I go any further, I want to put in a plug for the Boswords Fall Themeless League. Every Monday night at 9:00 there will be a new themeless puzzle - well, three, really, of different difficulties - to solve. I'm hoping Frannie and I might enter in the "Pairs" division, but she might want to compete on her own. We actually haven't discussed it yet. Anyway, I just put it out there. But hurry - the deadline to enter is this Sunday, 10/4! It seems like it might be fun, and we all need a little more of that these days, right?

ROOFTOP garden bar

So speaking of fun, that's what I thought this puzzle was. (Smooth segue, right? right? ...) How can you not love the AXIOMATIC/ZENMASTER stack? Or the side-by-side MAINCOURSE and the excellently-clued BINGONIGHT (Event with a room full of people making a row). We've got QUIDPROQUO (One hand washing the other, so to speak), JAILBREAK (Modify so as to bypass a device's restrictions, in hacker lingo), LIVESTREAM, SCUTTLE (Deliberately sink), COCKPIT (Place for an ace) (no, "sleeve" didn't fit), and although it was incorrectly clued (it should have been something like "Bulleit and Whistlepig") I still liked seeing RYES ("Seeded" or "unseeded" grocery choices) at the bottom. 

OOH that's a lot of good material, pinned at the sides with just a little bit of YOM, ISH, and ARA, but really, those are entries that I'd LETBE. Really, they're all fine. It's all fine. Everything's fine. 

Did you hear that the president has the covid? That's big news.

So anyway, this was lovely. I'm going to go look at the ocean now. Hope to see you all at the Boswords next Monday.

- Horace

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Thursday, October 1, 2020, Adam Fromm


It's been a good week for the NYTX so far, and The Turn is starting out with a bang. Today we've got a tricky "quantum rebus!" (Is that already a term? If not, I just invented it.) Each rebus square is in flux between a number and the letters carried by that number on TOUCHTONEPHONES, and the way it appears depends on which way you look at it. Just like Schrödinger's cat!

ALFRE Woodard

So anyway, the quantum rebī are as follows, Downs first:

"Bisected" IN2 and "Stage a coup" GR[ABC]ONTROL

"Band with the 1970 #1 hit "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" - 3DOGNIGHT and "Let the air out of" [DEF]LATE

"Cassette tape predecessor" 8TRACK and "Coral island nation north of Fiji" [TUV]ALU

"Dr. J's team" 6ERS (I guess going with 76ers, and coming up with an across that used "PQRSMNO" would probably have been more difficult than just "MNO.") and "Genre of 'The Big Sleep' and 'Kiss Me Deadly'" FIL[MNO]IR

"Classic checker-dropping game" CONNECT4 and "First name of a famous Mongol ruler" GEN[GHI]S

All good. Well, the cassette tape appears to have been invented prior to 8TRACK (1962 vs. 1965, according to Wikipedia), but it certainly had a longer tail, so we'll let that slide. 

Now all that remains to do is start a band called "DEF Dog Night."

Other things to enjoy are the amusing "The usual suspect" (BUTLER), the unusual clue for usual fare "Never mind, it's fine" (STET), the geologic "Mineral in some geodes" (AGATE) (I'm guessing this wouldn't be allowed in "Spelling Bee," where they seem to be geology-averse), and the always welcome RYE (Manhattan ingredient). TWEENAGER (Fifth grader, often) was also fun.

Lots of names today, and I'm wondering if ENLAI beside SEALE might cause some problems, especially as they cross [TUV]ALU, but, well, it's Thursday. 

All in all, I'm a fan of the quantum rebus. Now it's on to the themelesses!

- Horace