Monday, November 30, 2020

Monday, November 30, 2020, Emma Craven-Matthews


A tribute puzzle for America's Hat, the Great White North, CANADA! Did you ever wonder how they came up with the country's name? Well, the story I heard is that somebody put all the letters into a hat, and then one person picked one letter at a time and shouted it out - "C, eh, ... N, eh, ..." 

I yearn, you yearn, we all yearn for a coffee URN!


So anyhoo, now that you've got that little SCENARIO in your head, we can talk about all the references to Cold Mexico that Ms. Craven-Matthews managed to cram into her Monday debut. There's the capital, OTTAWA, the country itself, also playing the part of revealer, and then a lovely pinwheel of four stereotypically Canadian things - HOCKEYNIGHT (think "Football Night in America," but with skates), TIMHORTONS (think Dunkin' with better coffee and greasier doughnuts), MAPLESYRUP (think Vermont, but even farther north), and SAYINGSORRY (there's no American equivalent). 

In addition to all that "official" theme material, Ms. Craven-Matthews managed to spruce up four more otherwise bland entries with references to Canadia: "D.C. player, formerly a Montreal Expo (NAT), "Toronto-to-Montreal dir." (ENE), "N.Y. airport with many flights to Toronto Pearson" (LGA), and "Weather often associated with Vancouver" (RAIN) (Well, it is home to the Great Bear Rainforest!)

Overall, I liked the clueing (any reference to Zeno of ELEA is ok by me), but I don't really think "Some brandy fruits" is perfect for APRICOTS. As I understand things, brandy isn't made from APRICOTS. Shouldn't the clue be something more like "Some brandied fruits?"

But maybe they do things differently up North, and I don't want to ALIENATE any Canuckleheads, obviously, so I guess I'd better wrap this up. On the whole, I thought it was a beauty.

- Horace

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday, November 29, 2020, Eric Berlin


Well, here I am again on this merry-go-round. Do any of you remember the song "Horace, the Horse (On the Merry-Go-Round)"? We had it on 45 and I used to listen to it a lot when I was very young. I guess it might have been one of the (many) influences that led me to realize that situations have more than one interpretation, and perhaps also to realize that my reaction to a situation could be altered by changing the way I look at it and understanding it in a different way. Frannie often says that I can rationalize away any problem. I'm not sure that's entirely true, but it's certainly not false. :)

Anyway, yes, here I am following (or am I leading?) two clever and intelligent bloggers. And since 'tis the season, I will say aloud that I am thankful to have them both as friends, and also thankful that they have helped out with this blogging effort for the past many (going on 8!?) years. 

Today I start my week with a clever mash-up puzzle, wherein six letters from two consecutive words are packed together. "Very short-lived gemstones" are EPHEMERALDS. It's even funnier because (from Wikipedia) "Most emeralds are highly included, so their toughness (resistance to breakage) is classified as generally poor." Well, ok, maybe that only makes it funnier to a geologist's son...

Let's try another gem - "TV quiz program about an epic poem" GILGAMESHSOW ("It's the Gilgamesh Game Show! Test your skill as you rid Inanna's huluppu tree of creatures, and try to hang on to the mikku and the pikku, but watch out for the Bull of Heaven!")

 "Boy, it's going to be a loong week," I hear you groaning.

But seriously, these are quite good. First-rate strategy compressed to FIRSTRATEGY almost sounds like a real word, and the very silly HAMMERINGUE (Pounding on a pie topping), SUPERMANENT (Salon job named after a comic book hero), and OBAMACARENA (Dance celebrating 2010 legislation) are all excellent. And one more thing, I learned that there is a breed of terrier called Airedale. Who knew?

An excellent start to the week. I could go on and on about non-theme material (Dozens of them are sold (EGGS), for example), but it's already getting long, and I've got Sunday chores to attend to. I'll leave the additional praise for you to add in the comments. :)

This review is ATANEND. See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday, November 28, 2020, Nam Jin Yoon


Today's offering is Mr. Yoon's second puzzle in the NYT, and I think it bodes well for his future in this area. His debut was three months ago, with a grid that looked very similar to this one, with the 6 black squares sets of steps on each side to create the cascading long answers. We liked the first effort quite a lot, but I think this one is better!

Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). 1A: Move to a later date, say (TIMETRAVEL) is such a great clue and answer. I dropped in "reschedule" and immediately took it out when I saw 10D had to be LES. It still took me some time to finish the rest of that corner. I also love 5D: Fabled beneficiary of a nap (TORTOISE). I thought briefly of Rip Van Winkle, only nobody would feel he was better off for his prolonged snooze.

In the middle, I liked FAIRSFAIR, a lovely bit of colloquialism. I smiled at 23D: One of a pair of interrogators (BADCOP). The whole SW corner is marvelous, with PLACEBOS, FROGPRINCE, and CARRELS, which made me think of where I first met Frannie, and through her, Horace. What a lovely way life has of creating opportunities for like-minded people to get to know one another.

The last TSAR, also Queen Elizabeth's 4th cousin once removed

Donna TARTT was a gimme for me, although I never read "The Secret History." I did read "The Goldfinch" and did not love it as much as many other people seem to have. Nor have I seen the movie. 13D: They're on the tip of your tongue (TASTEBUDS) was straightforward because I had many of the crosses in place already.

And let's give a nod and a smile to 55A: One who passes the bar? (TEETOTALER). That's fine cluing.

This is a very smooth grid and solve, and I enjoyed it immensely. What more can you ask for on a Saturday morning?

Enjoy the next two weeks of my infinitely superior co-bloggers, and I'll see you in December!

- Colum

Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday, November 27, 2020, Robyn Weintraub


How lucky can one guy get? Already a good week from a crossword perspective, and on top of that I get a creation of Ms. Weintraub’s for a Friday themeless! Also, it’s been a good week from a non-crossword perspective, just to be clear. We had a lovely Thanksgiving day yesterday, replete with way too much food. Sadly, the chocolate hazelnut pie was overdone (I thought I had turned the heat down as per the recipe, but unfortunately, I must not have pressed the final button...), but the rest of the meal was delectable.

Speaking of delectable, this puzzle was a delight. I had all but the final NE corner finished in about 3:30, and thought I was well on the way to a new record for a Friday, but that last section stumped me for a while.

I’d never heard of EEKAMOUSE, but I love the entry, and it led me to Wikipedia, as always. Apparently, it was the name of a horse he routinely bet on, and became his nickname, and then his chosen stage name. Sitting right below the classic British rock group STONEHENGE (which always reminds me of Spinal Tap), and crossed by NENE, there’s a strong musical connection going on here.

How about that clue at 26D: Page seen in a wedding album (RINGBEARER)? That’s some fine clueing. Similarly clever is the nearly symmetric 9D: Spot removers (ADBLOCKERS). Two very fine non-QMCs.

I’ve never had BANANASFOSTER before

I’ve often wondered about CFLAT, which only ever shows up in crossword puzzles in reference to harps. For those less musically inclined, the key is equivalent to B major, only instead of being notated with 5 sharps, it is notated with 7 flats (every single note). Thus it is cumbersome to interpret as you’re reading it.  In any event, key signatures are a boon to the modern constructor.

BILLTHECAT... well. Remember comic strips? Sunday funnies? Don’t see much of them any more, although our local paper still carries them. I enjoyed Bloom County back in the day, carrying shades of Doonesbury and Pogo. I never much liked Bill, though.

Here’s hoping for an equally fun Saturday. HINTHINT!

- Colum

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thursday, November 26, 2020, Neville Fogarty


Happy Thanksgiving to all! And truly I have a lot to be thankful for, enough that it overshadows not being able to be with family today. Being aware of what you are grateful for is a good step towards enlightenment.

And I am grateful for the NYT crossword puzzle (among other things)! The theme is phrases that start with LONG (71A), which are then interpreted as stretched out with each letter taking up two squares. In practice, this means that the letters are repeated in consecutive squares, leading to the very odd looking VVOOWWEELL (18A: Oboe or flute sound - very clever clue, that). Once I finished the puzzle, the program replaced the doubled letters with a stretched out single letter, which looks amazing in the grid.

There are nods to the holiday at 40A: Celebrated Thanksgiving, say (FEASTED) and at 43A: Sight at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (SANTA).

Felipe ALOU

Some fun clues today:

3D: It's commonly used to make a product (TIMESSIGN).

9A: Gym leader? (SOFTG) - took me too long to figure this out, once again.

34A: Something you have up your sleeve (ULNA). Reminds me of the old joke, where does the general keep his armies? Up his sleevies!

64D: Darn, darn, darn! (SEW). So good.

And then there's the trivia of 50A: Early TV network that competed with NBC and CBS (DUMONT). How did I not know about this? DuMont laboratories were responsible for the long life of television sets due to their invention of a longer lifespan for a cathode ray tube. Cavalcade of Stars and The Honeymooners originated on this network. It disappeared in part because it didn't have a radio network on which to build its reputation. All information courtesy of Wikipedia.

Enjoy your celebration and your dinner!

- Colum

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020, John Guzzetta and Jeff Chen


Another entry in the list of themes it is more difficult to explain in words than just to experience during the solve, is as follows:


Two phrases, each of two words, are juxtaposed, in that the second word of the first is a homonym for the first word of the second, and similarly, that the first word of the second is a homonym for the second word of the first.

Many words in the service of blogging.

Thusly, 16A: Prince, e.g. (MALEHEIR) next to 25A: Stamp on an envelope [and 16-Across flipped] (AIRMAIL). I like that each flipped answer is the next to the right and down, making a logical progression, rather than having to search through the grid.

I was uncertain about PLAINTOE, but it Googles well. THYMETEA, as well, comes up readily on my arbiter of widely accepted use.

Alicia KEYS

More impressive is the collection of long down answers: there are eight of length 8 or longer. I am particularly fond of 32D: Signed, sealed or delivered (PASTTENSE). I was not thinking along those lines at all!

39D: Wasn't upright, say (SLOUCHED) is a great clue. 

I very much enjoyed this puzzle. It's odd, but it's pleasing. And it has RYE.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tuesday, November 24, 2020, Caitlin Reid


Can I just say that we need more puzzles like this one? Three absolutely horrifically brilliant maritime puns, each in standard phrases, each now spanning the grid in a 15-letter answer. My favorite by far was 37A: "Wow, that's a giant sea cow!" (OHTHEHUGEMANATEE). Never mind that the clue and answer don't precisely match. I'll take that ludicrous pun any day.

I started the puzzle in the middle south of the grid, only because 1D directed me there. I knew it would be one of the two OBAMA girls (glad to see their entire name make it into the grid, even if in separate parts), but as always, Malia and SASHA both having five letters, it was safer to leave that section blank until I got back to it. Which, as it turns out, was at the very end of the solve.

This is a finely constructed grid, with much to enjoy, even with the middle section of short answers. I loved 10D: It may be a setup (BLINDDATE), especially right next to 10A: Garment with straps (BRA) and 15D: Nude (BARE). That's quite a setup, if you ask me.

I want to go to there

and ITDEPENDS were fun answers to come across. I can't say that I agree that a Deluge and an AVALANCHE are the same thing, except highly metaphorically. One absolutely implies an overwhelming amount of liquid, while the other implies masses of solids. Even if they're both water-based.

Little things made me happy. 24A: Column with an angle (OPED) is a sweet little clue. 30D: Lift provider (UBER) is a sly wink at that company's competitor. And how about 57D: Light wind? (OBOE). Such a great way to make that classic piece of glue shine.

And did I know that a SLOE is also known as a blackthorn?

No. No, I did not.

But now I do, for the short time that it sticks in my brain.

- Colum

Monday, November 23, 2020

Monday, November 23, 2020, Stanley Newman


I completed today's puzzle, and raised an eyebrow in confusion. Actually, I didn't. I've never been able to do that. So I did it metaphorically. What was the theme? I searched the three long answers for something in common, and I did in fact note the repeated ID string, but thought that seemed a bit thin. And I couldn't find a revealer, until I searched the clues.

It's at 62D: Two forms of them are found in 18-, 38-, and 60-Across (IDS). Huh. Why, you might ask? Well, I had to go to to get the answer. It's referring to when you are told that "two forms of ID are required." I'm afraid it's a stretch to get to that from the clue as written, so count me as unconvinced.

Which is unfortunate. Because DIDGERIDOO and MIDOCEANRIDGE and BRIDESMAID are lovely long answers. And there is an impressive amount of longer answers in the fill for a Monday. Of course I was taken by PARIETAL, an old friend. MALLORCA, ITSAGIRL, and MATZOH are also very nice.

Some real chutzpah as well with BAAED!

One of these is ARAMIS

I will tell you something else I'm not convinced by. And that's 67A: Sch. in New Haven, Conn. (YALEU). I've had reason to talk about that particular school for some time, and never have I heard it referred to in that way. Has anyone ever actually even called it Yale University? I mean, yes, it certainly is that. But really, we all just say Yale. 

I'll stop with my SASS now. I'm not the grumpy codger in the group. That particular perch is already taken and inhabited well. So instead, I'll TRADE my complaints for an UMP's cap, and say ITLLDO.

- Colum

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday, November 22, 2020, Alex Eaton-Salners


Hey all! Glad to be back blogging with you. It's been a strange couple of weeks in the country and very very busy in my life, so I'm looking forward to the upcoming Holiday break. I won't be traveling with family as previously planned, so we're celebrating Thanksgiving with just the immediate family in Albany. It will be delightful, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, what a lovely Sunday puzzle to return to. The theme is particularly clever, in my book. Mr. Eaton-Salners has found two phrases which have within them the same number spelled out. He has then replaced those letters with different numbers spelled out, crossing, and which when added together, sum to the original number. Got it? Yes, it's true, explaining these themes is so much more complicated than simply figuring them out during the solve.

As an example, "[ten]ded bar" crosses "s[ten]opool." Ten equals nine plus one. So we get NINEDEDBAR crossing SONEOPOOL. I did figure it out with this first pair, which made the rest of the theme solving a little less exciting. Especially since the next three pairs used the same numbers crossing (one, two, and four).

But then I got to the last pair. And this one was simply perfect. I had gathered that the number being replaced would be seven. And it was four letters crossing three, so I thought for sure it would in fact be four and three, which sum to seven. Only they don't share a letter. And then I saw it: zero crossing seven! Leaving 77D: Journalists might be invited to it (PRESSEVENT). There was no replacing at all. Very witty.

The white rose of YORK

Other than the wonderful theme, there was a ton of excellent clues. Here are some choice selections:

65A: Wanders around the head of a line, briefly? (TSA) - we've had that particular pun before, but I still love it.

21A: Crew's control? (OARS) - cute.

75A: It has issues with celebrities (PEOPLE) - lovely non-QMC.

55D: Set in a man cave (HDTV) - "set" as a noun, not a verb.

101: It takes a bow (ARROW) - it does indeed.

Beyond those, I liked INTHERAW, WAHWAH, and UNITARDS. Fun stuff today. Looking forward to the rest of the week!

- Colum

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Sam Ezersky

1:09:34, FWOE

As you see, dear Readers, I had a lot of trouble with today's puzzle. I was determined to finish it, though, so I kept coming back to it throughout the day. Eventually, I did finish it, but in my haste to be done I overlooked a mistake and ended up with a FWOE. 

I had trouble all over the place - the grid after my first passes could be described as RAGTAG - but I had the most trouble with the north and mid west. Nothing in that area turned out to be ELEMENTARY for this solver. I'm not familiar with 'In WANT of' as an expression - isn't it usually, 'for want of'? - I'm not saying it's not a valid expression, but it definitely doesn't leap to mind the way 'in lieu of' does, for example. And nor does the expression 'win a caucus' so the wording of 3D had me stumped ("Bill and Hillary Clinton have each won one" - IOWACAUCUS). Anyhoo, somehow, when I was out raking, the answer to the clever "Times table?" (NEWSDESK) popped into my head. That entry made it possible for me to complete most of the rest of the section. I wasn't sure how to spell the last name of "Judith who was the second American woman in space" so I left the last square of that answer blank, with dire consequences! 

I had one clue left to wrestle with - the now almost stupidly obvious "How model airplane parts are sold." I had tried 'precut' then 'diecut." When I finally had INA for the start, I decided on, and typed INAseT without checking the Downs - I was so glad to be done! However, that left me with with RESNIs, which was not one of the two letters I had considered, and worse yet, it was not correct. Of course, our careful readers will note that it also left me with GeBBS as "Lead agent on NCIS,", but for all I knew that could have been right; I've never watched NCIS. The correct answer for how model airplane parts are sold, INAKIT, would have put it all together for me. 


I thought a few of the answers like RESPIN, ANDYET, and PREBID lacked ENERGY, but there were some BEAUTS. Fill-wise I liked LAUREATES, BUB, and FREESPIRIT. Two clues I particularly liked were "90s kid?" (ASTUDENT) and "Expert on feet" (POET) - or me after figuring out 5D, which was also a good clue. I came up with 5 possible four-letter answers for "Part of a foot": inch, iamb, arch, ball, and finally, the correct answer HEEL. I also enjoyed figuring out what the list of numbers from 1-14, except 13, was about at 9A (FLOORS). I should have figured it out faster. I spent a semester in Chicago during college and was surprised to find my apartment building "didn't have" a 13th floor. Weird.  

And speaking of weird, WEIRDHUH ("Isn't it strange") might be the poster clue for this puzzle. ALOEVERA as an ingredient in mouthwash is weird. Calling the finale of a radio countdown a TOPHIT is a little weird. Calling the "Longtime locale of Mideast conflict" THESINAI seemed weird, and thinking that anyone but physicists know what to call - in brief - a machine in a particle physics lab (LINAC) is also weird. You get the CYST.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020, Kameron Austin Collins


For me, this played relatively easy for a Friday, apart from a couple of squares. I spent almost six of the above minutes trying ERHARD to figure out the cross between GEODESISTS ("Experts in determining the exact shape and size of the earth") and ADIA ("___ Barnes, W.N.I.T.- winning basketball coach") in the top section.  As far as Ms. Barnes is concerned, I was drawing a complete BANC. Eventually, I decided an "ists" ending for the earth measurers was a likely possibility and went with that. The other square that ABE me trouble was the cross between GNARS ("Goes 'Grrrr'") and KNOTS ("Gut feelings?") in the lower middle.  According to The Googles, 'gnars' hit its peak of popularity in the 1850s. Good times.

19A: ASTOR (Person depicted: Nancy ASTOR – first female Member of Parliament to take her seat (1879-1964))

I liked the ambiguous clue "Not so hot"(MILD). "Got" for FOOLED is another such. "Counter offer, for short?" (BLT) is also nice. I love a reference to Bumblebee Man (AYCARAMBA), although my preferred exclamation of his is, "Ay ay ay, no me gusta."

And speaking of "no me gusta," I think BARRAGE for "Avalanche" is something of a SNO job. And speaking of, 'Avalanche' was a recent pangram in Spelling Bee. How's that for a word nerd crossover event?!?


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020, Derek J. Angell


Well, this puzzle was certainly in my "Wheel" house, although I admit to being a bit concerned when the third Down answer in the northwest gave me MRVG as the start to 18 Across. I took the G out, even though I was pretty sure IDIG was correct ("Understood, man") because while I could imagine MRV being the start of mister somebody or other, I couldn't make any kind of a case for MRVG. That all changed when I got to 13D and saw CANIBUYAVOWEL ("What you might cry when trying to answer the six starred clues"). In a SNAP, the theme made sense and I was able to complete all the vowel-less theme answers related to America's Game(R): WHeeLoFFoRTuNe. Mr. Angell managed to squeeze in MeRVGRiFFiN, VaNNaWHiTe, and PaTSaJaK, not to mention BanNKRuPT and the six "free" letters supplied to all solvers, RSTLN. When Horace and I were in college, he made me a pin that read, "Can I b_y a vowel?" (see below) because I found it maddening when contestants would buy what I considered to be unnecessary vowels. 

I thought the clue "Turn in a popular game show" (SPIN) was a nice touch. Probably unrelated, but similar in a way, we also have HGTV and BFFS. In something of a contrast we have TIEIN and DIEOUT, both of which are stuffed with vowels.


I liked BLISS for "Ignorance, perhaps" at 1A, as well as both the clue "Chump" and the answer SAP. README ("File accompanying many a download") went right in. Nerd much? :)

I was duped briefly by the clever wording of 13A: "They turn on machines" (COGS), first trying to think of some version of an on/off switch. "Round things?" (BEERS) was also clever, but my favorite was "Shot that's within your reach?" (SELFIE). Also, it was interesting to learn that the UAE has no rivers. Who knew? And last, but not least, I appreciated the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, "No LIE can live forever." So be it.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau


Today's revealer is suggested by the puzzle's circled squares, in which we find one P where two would normally be expected - literally, TWOPEASINAPOD (the pod, in this case, being the crossword puzzle square). For example, we have VI[PP]ASSES crossing everyone's favorite, the WHO[PP]ERJR. The revealer's clue "Almost twins ... " puts me in mind of a thing that happened to me and my younger sister when we were teens. We were at a hair salon, and a woman asked us if she and I were twins. We said no, and she said, "are you sure?" We thought it was a RIOT

In other amusing AERIEas, I enjoyed the apt C/AP "Betting game in which you could lose your shirt" (STRI[PP]OKER). Apt! I also enjoyed "What might be taken to go?" (EXLAX). We don't often see NYTX constructors working the poo material, but I thought this was a gas. 

I liked what I construed as two crossed Simpsons references, TORI ("Doughnut shapes, mathematically") mmmmm, donuts... and DOH ("[head slap]"). I also liked ROT, LYCEES, MACHONE, and PONCHO. I enjoy thinking of real life situations in which people might actually say, OHO, and who doesn't like NERDS?

Not being a big sports fan, and knowing very little about the NY sports scene, I thought there was rather a lot of 'nets and jets' (THENETS ; NYJET), but as this is the NYT crossword puzzle, I'm going to have to LEGATO


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Kyle Dolan


I'll make no bones about it: today's theme is an interesting one. The theme answers are like a DIYKIT for spinal column construction, starting with a single vertebra [I] at the end of MOTHERMAYI, then tacking on a [P] in LIFEOFPI, and building on up through HAIR[PIN] and BACK[SPIN], resulting finally (I'll disclose) in a full-grown SPINE, standing at the back of the revealer: GROWASPINE. I thought it was very neat to start in the middle with [I] and then alternate the added letters left and right. HAIRPIN reminds me of the movie Desk Set. I should watch that again. 

There were some crack answers like MOTIF, LAUGHLINE, BALSA, and everyone's favorite, HASASIP. I also enjoyed "Person who really digs working?" (MINER) and "Everybody's opposite" (NOONE). "POD Save America" is an amusing title for a political show. And the combo of COMBOS ("Jazz ensembles") and BRIO ("Liveliness in music") played well together. LATERGRAM was a new word for me, but not a new action ("Photo posted days or weeks after it was taken on social media"). The clue is an apt description of my MO. Apt!


There were a few creaky old bones, too, in particular "Ferry or wherry" (BOAT) and "Turnkey" (JAILER), not to mention "Kate & ____ (1980s sitcom)" (ALLIE). And speaking of the past, I was surprised to see the term ERA applied to "Obama ___ (2009-2017)". Too soon? 

I totally misparsed the answer to "Deep down inside". I kept thinking what do they mean 'at the art' (ATHEART)? Also, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the "doctor-speak" term PEDS for children's medicine. Discuss. 


Monday, November 16, 2020

Monday, November 16, 2020, Jennifer Nutt


It was, perhaps, inevitable that after I dismissed crossword puzzle themes in yesterday's review, there would be a particularly fine example to greet me on Monday morning. Today's puzzle is practically the equivalent of looking at photos shown by a proud parent. Look, there's the baby! There it is rolling. And oh look, it sat up! ...

No, but seriously, it's not a bad theme. And just like with looking at those photos, it seems to go on forever. 

It's a natural progression, as I've been told, and each "container entry" is perfectly normal. 

In non-theme, it's always nice to see the source of the praenomen, as it were, in my nom de blog - the poet who wrote "carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero," HORACE. His OPUS is impressive. 

Elsewhere, DOGSTAR (Sirius ... or Lassie, for example?), DAMASK (Tablecloth fabric), and SACHETS (Scented bags) provide interest. SPRINGTIDE (Shore phenomenon around the time of the new and full moons) might require a few crosses for many. From the N.O.A.A. website: "A spring tide is a common historical term that has nothing to do with the season of spring. Rather, the term is derived from the concept of the tide 'springing forth.' Spring tides occur twice each lunar month all year long without regard to the season." Interesting.

So OK, themes are fine. I didn't realize what was going on while I was solving, but looking at it after the fact, it's a nice set. I still maintain that I do not need a theme to enjoy a puzzle, but I don't mind it, and I know others enjoy it, so I'm not going to continue to bERATe the idea. If you can include such a dense theme as this, while still keeping the puzzle interesting and free from junk (and looking at it now, this one is very clean!), then by all means, theme away.

- Horace

p.s. This is Frannie's week, and she'll be back tomorrow, but she has a final in her Chinese class today, among other things, and chose to turn in another of her "Get Out of Blogging Free" cards, so here I am again.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday, November 15, 2020, Caitlin Reid


YAY! A themeless Sunday! And not only that, but a fun one.

If I haven't already made this clear (I have), I'd like to admit that puzzle themes, for me, are secondary considerations. Even when they work well, they are usually only worth a quick acknowledgment and, if you're lucky, a chuckle. And sure, there are some that are truly clever, and I'm not really talking about a Thursday-style trick - those are different. I'm talking about the typical Monday-Wednesday/Sunday-style theme that seems to be a requirement for publication on those days. Would anyone (aside from Jeff Chen) be disappointed if every puzzle from here on were themeless? Or if, maybe, a weekly themed puzzle were to become as rare as a themeless Sunday? Well, I don't know about everyone else, but for me, I repeat "theme shmeme!"

(Perhaps this is a good time to plug the Boswords Fall Themeless League. It's more than halfway over now, but I think you either can or will be able to buy the puzzles eventually.)

GRETA Gerwig
So what do I like in today's puzzle? Well, my favorite C/AP is probably "Many a dare, in hindsight" (TERRIBLEIDEA). It sounds like a short-story prompt, doesn't it? What has Ms. Reid been through, one wonders? Perhaps there are episodes she wishes could be DELETEDSCENES from her life. Hopefully none so serious to have involved a COURTREPORTER (Hearing aid?). 

"Line delivered in costume" (TRICKORTREAT) was fun, and seems appropriately timed, with ADESTEFIDELES (Seasonal song with lyrics in Latin) following shortly after. And if we're going to focus on the season, it's probably a little cold for SKINNYDIPPING (Barely afloat?), but that clue was excellent. Perhaps if there were a WARMSPELL (Heat of the moment?) ...

PLANETEARTH (You are here), SHOESTORE (Place you may go just for kicks?), MARESNEST (Quagmire), SLUMBERPARTY (Occasion to stay up late), LUAU (Beach ball?) - so many fun entries.

If I get a say, I vote for more of these occasional "surprise" themeless puzzles. More than 1,000 people  signed up for the Boswords themeless league, so I can't be the only one who thinks this way.

I hope you enjoy it, and if not, then hopefully you'll be happier tomorrow, when I'm fairly sure we'll see another word ladder, "these words can all be followed by...," or "these words can all be connected if you think of them in this way..."-type theme. And if that's the case, then THATSOKAY. It's still a crossword puzzle, and we still like solving them. :)

- Horace

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday, November 14, 2020, Emily Carroll and Erik Agard


Two constructors whose work I have enjoyed in the past team up today, and although it did have some nice moments, certain little things served to ALIENATE me a bit. And it's probably just me being too fussy, but "Assembly line feature" just seemed a little off for (ROBOTARM). "Robotic arm" would have suited me better. I think of "High dudgeon" more as a state of being "put out," and WRATH as a more serious anger. And "Fresh bread?" for NEWMONEY? It's cute, ish, but it doesn't really work. Similarly, "See for a bit" can be forced to be similar to PEEKAT if you work at it, but it's not a natural parallel. "Historian's specialty, perhaps" is ERA? Ok. Maybe.

Diana RIGG

On the other hand, I very much enjoyed the quote "All WARS are civil WARS, because all men are brothers," and I did not know that ODIN had two ravens working for him, so that was interesting. Learning that GEISHA means "art-doer" was also good, and who doesn't like the word UMPTEEN

So I'm a little torn. There were some clues that were quite good, like "Something to sneeze at?" for DANDER, and "Bath water?" for AVON (the river), but ONGOD is not used to mean "I swear!" very frequently in my experience. Of course, my experience is not your experience, but then again, I'm the one blogging, not you.

I'm going to come down on the negative side today. It wasn't terrible, by any stretch, but I wanted more from these two constructors. Perhaps that was the problem all along - I expected something. 

But the good thing about the NYTX is that even if one puzzle isn't your favorite, there'll be another one tomorrow. See you then!

- Horace

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday, November 13, 2020, Sawyer Tabony and Ashton Anderson


I like the chunky 7/9-stack corners in the NW and SE, and the 5/7 stacks in the other corners, and the diagonal through the middle is attractive too. In short, I like the look of the grid. So that was a good start right off the bat. Did the content hold up once the grid was filled in? Well, yes. Yes it did. 


I loved that it started with LETSDANCE (Words that might accompany an outstretched hand). It's such a great intro for a Friday puzzle, and it set a nice "conversational" tone for the whole puzzle. IMONAROLL ("Look at me go!"), NOWORRIES ("You're good"), UPTOYOU ("I'm good with whatever"), YOW ("That smarts!"), YEAH ("Think so?"), WHOLEHOG (Full throttle), WHOA (Cousin of "OMG!"), HEREWEARE (Line upon arrival), EASYASPIE (Like a cakewalk), and PRESSSEND (Stop tinkering with an email). That's a lot of conversational entries and "quote clues," but I kind of like them all, and I like them more in this mass grouping. And I'll throw in ITSME (Response to "Who's there?" that may be unhelpful) ASWELL. This response is particularly annoying to me when I answer the phone. (Yes, I still answer the phone, and even though there are only about three people who actually call me, and only one who says ITSME when I answer, it still rubs me the wrong way.)

So that's all good. I also like 1D-Ancient undeciphered writing system. When "Etruscan" didn't fit, I dropped in "LINEAR_" because I couldn't immediately remember which one had been worked out. 

SCRAWLS (Chicken scratchings, say) is nice, AVERSE (Opposed) is a good word, and who doesn't like SEAWEED? For my money, this was a quality Friday offering.

- Horace

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thursday, November 12, 2020, Kristian House


I'm not sure I've ever seen today's particular twist before, but I knew something was up when I hit 17-Across "Shelley ode that begins "Hail to thee, blithe spirit!" (AASKYLARK). Even though I already had LIAM (Youngest of the Hemsworth brothers), I took out the last two letters and left them blank, thinking maybe there was a brother named LIto-something, because I wanted a little "to" rebus there.

One of the ITBANDS
But my confusion was soon cleared up by 28-Across, "Bye for now" (TALKUULATER). I had LUTIST (Many a troubador), and had wanted INUIT (Native of the Land of the Midnight Sun), but had resisted the "two U" situation. Then it hit me. 

FLOATSOUTCC (Gently leaves shore) came a little more quickly, and I should have known to expect the last one to have a little something more - as the best themes seem to kick it up a notch for the final entry - but BBORNOTBB (Famous question first asked around 1600) still took a little more time, and got a little more of a chuckle when it did finally come clear.

The toughest cross, I'm guessing (except for all those in the North Star state), will be 6-D "Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan" (OMAR) and 15-A "Parts of some circles, in France" (AMIS) (circles of "friends"). And I didn't know "Peace Nobelist Yousafzai" (MALALA) either, but the A might be easier to guess there than the M, I don't know.

I'd never thought of a CLOVE as a dried flower bud, but now that I've read it, I will never be able to see it any differently. Makes sense, I guess. And another surprise was thinking of Jessica TANDY as Blanche, as I know her chiefly through "Driving Miss Daisy." There were quite a few names today, many of them either older or a tad on the RANDOS side - KAROL, LYNDON, LIAM, MALALA, OMAR, ABEL, EDDIE, EYDIE, TASHA, DEBS. Perhaps it was clued a little on the easier side because of all that.

Favorite clue: "Skinny?" (DERMAL).

Overall, I like a Thursday with a trick, and this is no exception.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020, Alex Bajcz


Today's DOUBLEDAY theme includes four two-part answers where each part can precede the word "day." As in, WEDDINGPRESENT (*Gift that comes with a hitch?) (wedding day, present day). VETERANSMEMORIAL, in the center, does another kind of double duty in commemorating today's "day." 

Cary ELWES as Westley

It was nice to see XIEXIE (Mandarin "thank you") in the grid, both because one doesn't find Mandarin in a crossword very often, and because Frannie is currently enrolled in a Mandarin class, which allowed me to fill it in much more easily than I might have otherwise. FELONY, MORASS, BESET, and SCOURS are good words, and it was amusing (to me) that I had to change ERRors to ERRATA to avoid same. 

On the down side, I thought HOBS (Goblins, in folklore) was a bit NUTS, and PIEPAN (It's found beneath the crust), while it did have a fun clue, seemed a bit off to me. I call them either pie tins or pie plates. Maybe it's a regional thing. Also, although I have probably never written it before, I would prefer "What's the diff?" to "What's the DIF?" But really, "What's the diff," I guess.

In all, it was fine. "Business day" seems a bit less common than "work day," but I'm not going to GOAPE about it. As I said, it was fine. I've seen POORER.

Enjoy the day off, if you've got it, and to all the veterans out there, thank you for serving. May your numbers grow ever fewer.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, Robert Fisher

0:05:33 (F.W.O.E.)

If you're Bone-dry (SERE), you might want to MEET up with one of the four people represented by the theme answers today, all jokey purveyors of liquid refreshment. It's a good set, and I'm a fan of all the beverages, each in their own appropriate time, of course:





It's a good IDEA, IMO, and there's even a couple bonus beverage-adjacent clues in "The "I" of I.P.A."   (INDIA) and "What shaken soda cans do after being opened" (SPEW).

Lots of nice conversational entries in the Downs today, including WHATOFIT, LETRIP, IBET, NOHASSLE, ATEASE, and INDULGEME. It's almost a mini-theme! And there isn't much DRECK, but I was a little surprised by SYL. I never mind Latin entries, so ERAT (Quod ____ demonstrandum) was fine. Too bad EST wasn't clued as another possible form of the verb essere. :)

Other entries I enjoyed were NAIFS, GOUDA (more for the Netherlands than for the cheese itself, although the aged varieties are quite good), and DOUR. But I think the editing team ought to get a consultant from the cooking world, because I find they often confuse "ricing" with "dicing." When a food is RICED, it is not "chopped finely," but passed through a ricing sieve. That was not my mistake today, but it did come elsewhere in the word that crossed at the top - DRAFTSPERSON. When I first read the clue "Bartender?" I guessed cRAFTSPERSON, thinking of "craft beers." Ah well...

Overall, a fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, November 9, 2020

Monday, November 9, 2020, Kate Hawkins


Sometimes a nice simple theme can be comforting. Then again, maybe everything is more comforting these days, now that we feel slightly more hopeful about the fate of the country. (But we're not political here.)

MOREL mushrooms

Today's vowel progression theme (or "vowel movement," as Jeff Chen so delicately put it on his blog), includes five entries that begin with P_LL, where the blank is filled in with the five vowels in alphabetical order. Nice and tidy. And speaking of "tidy" (anybody else here watch "Gavin and Stacey"?), maybe someone in WALES could come up with a word that begins with "pyll." But then, that probably wouldn't be accepted on a Monday ... 

Anyhoo, although I enjoy a good vowel progression as much as the next nerd, none of these theme entries was very exciting. Many, in fact, are somewhat off-putting. PALLBEARER (Raiser of the dead?) got a great clue, but still ... and who wants to think about a PILLBUG? If you ask me, it's still too soon after 2016, never mind last week, to talk about a POLLTAKER, and if there's one thing I absolutely hate about modern layout practices, it is PULLQUOTES. Why, when reading an article, must I be forced to read certain portions twice? Thankfully, the only magazines I read with any regularity (The New Yorker, Massachusetts Wildlife, and World of Games) do not use PULLQUOTES. 

Why, when reading an article, must I be forced to read certain portions twice?

In the "things I doubt my father will know today," I will include RAPPELS (Comes down a mountain, in a way), LEDE (Start of a newspaper article, in journalese) (is there a good reason that "journalese" prefers an apparently misspelled four-letter version of the four-letter word "lead?" What am I missing?), REY (Singer Lana Del ____), and possibly ELLENPAGE (Best Actress nominee for "Juno"), although I think he might have actually seen that movie, so maybe he will remember her. Oh, and maybe COCKAPOO (Mixed-breed dog that's part spaniel). How 'bout it, Dad - did I guess correctly?

- Horace

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Sunday, November 8, 2020, Evan Kalish and Caitlin Reid


Today's title seems appropriate for this past week. This past quadrennium. It certainly was good to finally get some sense of closure yesterday. The President-elect's speech was positive and hopeful, and it would be great if somehow he and his administration were able to bridge the divide and focus the energies on both sides toward a common cause. I sometimes think of Bob Newhart's joke:

"I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down'."

And it's easy to ridicule those who appear, on the surface, to be out of their minds, but I'm going to try to not think that way anymore. To not paint with a broad brush. It's not easy, but if I can't do it, how can I expect others to? How can I expect our president to?

OK, that's enough on that. IKNOW this (and the NYTX itself) is supposed to be a way to ELUDE the POISON of the daily grind. So LETSNOT dwell on politics. I'll try not to MORALize.

The title today, once again, elucidates the theme. The "ai" sound is changed to an "uh" sound in all theme answers. YOUGOTTHATSTRUT

I especially liked CUSSSENSITIVE (Easily offended by foul language?) because, in a way, I am, sometimes, and also because: details. WHYTHELONGFUSS (Question to a tantrum thrower?) was also good. And timely! (Because: the past quadrennium!) 

Really, they're all quite good, and it ends with the double-barrelled THENUMBOFTHEGUM (Title for an oral surgeon's handbook?). Hah! That's quite good. 

In other entries, I initially dropped POISON in at 6-Down (Like apple seeds, if eaten in huge quantities), but changed it to LETHAL even before I got to 58-Down "Downfall in many an Agatha Christie novel" (POISON). Still, it's interesting that either would have been appropriate for 6-D, but not for 58-D.

I'll close now, without discussing much more of the fill, but overall, I thought this was a fun Sunday. I hope you enjoyed it too.

- Horace

Saturday, November 7, 2020, Kameron Austin Collins and Paolo Pasco


So! My deepest apologies for the tardiness of today's (yesterday's) review. I suppose the theme of the week is better late than never, and that applies to this blog post as well.

Both of the constructors of this puzzle are among my favorites, and you can see why in the NW corner. Look at the trickiness of these clues:

1D: Guard's place (SHIN). Did not see this coming.

3D: Some travelers along the Oregon Trail (OXEN) - reminds me of the old video game.

4D: Sporting blade (OAR) - !!!

With HEXAPOD and SMOOSH, this is a great corner, leading into 15D: Punctuate a killer performance (DROPTHEMIC). Excellent work, that.

Still, while solving the puzzle, I was left a little cold. I'm not sure why, in reviewing the answers nearly a day later. I suppose PILEDITON and NOTANYMORE are not the most astonishing of long answers. But still, we should cerebrate clues like 9D: Final exam? (AUTOPSY) and 38D: What some handles are created for (CBRADIO).


I didn't love 46D: Smoking or drinking, e.g. (AGER). And 30D: Point of view, metaphorically (LENS) seems a bit off - I would say that the lens you look through colors your worldview, rather than being the place you look at the world from. But these are mostly nitpicks.

Probably it's more SOURALE on my part than anything else - it played tough, which frankly you want on a Saturday. So I should just put on my GARANIMALS and take a load off (I don't own any Garanimals, for the record). It's Sunday, and a long week is over. Here's to passing the torch to a more competent individual.

Of course, I'm talking about Horace. See y'all soon!

- Colum

Friday, November 6, 2020

Friday, November 6, 2020, Aimee Lucido


The review's a little late because there was a new addition to the household here in Albany today. A little fluffball joined us:

ANDSO. Another reason to be happy this week, even outside of the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Today's themeless is quite smooth. I really didn't see anything that I would say went SPLAT, with the possible exception of DESC, which is an odd abbreviation. I suppose you might run out of room at the bottom of the page, and simply write in "below here, desc." Hmmmm. I'm not convinced.

I feel certain that the seed entry came at 25D: More familiar term for omphaloskeptics (NAVELGAZERS). Turns out that the Greek word skepsis means perception, or reflection. Which works out well here, but then you wonder how that turned into a term for doubting. I suppose that the person reflecting is allowing themselves to perceive the reasons why something might not be true. How very philosophical.

PHILISTINES, on the other hand, is cognate with Palestine, and simply refers to the inhabitants of that area. However, Wikipedia states that the common usage we currently come across, as in the puzzle, instead derives from an argument between two towns in Germany. I continue to be unconvinced.

Some good clues today, such as 13A: Loaded questions? (BARTRIVIA); 26A: Strip at the beach? (TANLINE), and 65A: Pickup order? (TAXI). Entries I enjoyed included YEOMAN, ARIEL, and EARCANDY.

Anyway, I enjoyed solving it, and now back to the pup.

- Colum

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Thursday, November 5, 2020, Jeremy Newton

9:47 (FWTE)

Another piece of evidence to be placed in the file marked: Crossword Puzzle Constructors - Not Like the Rest of Us! Things were bopping along in today's solve. I had gotten the NW corner without difficulty, including the lovely 20A: What you're doing right now (SOLVING), and with the first 5 letters of 17A in place, I glanced at the clue. "Translation of the Latin phrase "ceteris paribus"." Well, I thunk to myself, I know that. It means "All things being equal." Only that didn't fit.

No problem! It's Thursday. Time for a rebus, and the obvious place was in the last square, so I obligingly popped in ALLTHINGSBEING=.That equal though. How could it fit into the down answer? What's the clue there? 13D: Traveling between the poles? Hmmmm. Could they be referring to an electrical current, such as AC/DC? No, that wouldn't have an equals sign. Time to work on the crossings.

ELI and LOGIN were quick answers, and I tried pHEW at 9D: "Barely made it!" (WHEW). I raised an eyebrow at the P, thinking that might have to change before the end. But now I had OHLOOK, and that made 13D clear. SK=NG! Huh? Why are the two Is sideways? Is that a commentary on skiing in general? Mr. Newton's ability at skiing? Meanwhile, I had no idea what 8D: "____careful, will you?" should be. Seeing the W, I put in an S. "So be careful, will you?" Seemed to make sense. And swELLS! Sure. Why not.

Um, because it doesn't answer the clue, that's why not. But we're getting diverted from the point here. That's just why I ended with two errors...

The rest of the puzzle went along. SEPARATEBUT= crossing good old Kristin W=G. Still don't know why the Is are sideways, but whatever. 

In fact, the revealer at 39A took some time to figure out, because I had put in GANGSTer Paradise, and when I corrected it to GANGSTAS (getting the excellent 33A: What the sun and Sunoco have in common (GAS) in the process), suddenly I saw HASHTAG.

And the other shoe dropped. I was supposed to put a pound sign in at the end of the clues, and the equal sign would cross the two Is: =II --> #! That's some next level stuff right there.

Let me just remark on some excellent C/APs here:

1A: Product that's available on tap? (APP) - not Ale or iPa.

44A: Thank you for waiting (TIP) - brilliant non-QMC. Love it!

11D: White noise? (LONGI) - for goodness's sake. How many times will I fall for this sort of thing?

45D: What takes a toll? (ONEAM) - this is the most ludicrous clue I've come across in quite some time, and I adore it.

Nice work!

- Colum

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Wednesday, November 4, 2020, Jack Murtagh


I wonder what I'm doing up so early, solving the puzzle and writing the blog post. What could have happened over night that made me lose sleep? I can't think.

Well, we continue to bury our heads in the sand by doing the NYT crossword puzzle. At least here we can count on a few moments of peace and enjoyment.

It must be Wednesday, because the theme is so odd! So, you get a couple of examples of some category, and you're supposed to take the first letter of each of them, which together become a homonym for another word, which when taken with the category, creates a common phrase. Wow, that was hard to explain. An example? Sure! Why not.

See, 54A: Noon, eleven... well, those are two different times. And the first letters are N and E, which sound like "any". Thus, ANYTIME. The best is EMPTYNESTER, which is what I am for the time being. Tune in tomorrow to find out how the wife and I have dealt with it.

Meanwhile, the BEAUTY of this puzzle (outside of the peculiar concept of the theme, which on the whole, I liked) comes in the extras Mr. Murtagh has worked in. BASTILLEDAY is a nice reminder of Europe, that place we Americans can't go right now. And everybody loves a LIBRARYCARD. Do you remember when you first received one, and the worlds it opened up for you? Do kids use libraries for their original purpose any more? I hope so.

PARTYHATS and SPITITOUT are also lovely answers. I liked PAPYRI and 49D: Results of some drivers' mistakes (UTURNS) - much better than the meh answer "uie" or "uey." 

Other nice C/AP's include 13A: Jobs creation (IPAD) - although this has lost some of its surprise now from being used before; 16A: Group whose teens go through rumspringa (AMISH); and 29D: Medium strength? (ESP).

Okay then. Go about your day. We'll all feel better in either a few days or four years.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Tuesday, November 3, 2020, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni


The happiest thing about today is that after it's over, I will no longer be receiving unsolicited texts from political campaigns asking for money. And also, the idea that soon I will no longer be obsessing about this day. Although that probably won't go away for a few more days. In any event, regardless of your political leanings, please go out and vote if you haven't already. I hear the lines are really short!

Meanwhile, in our weekly theme of puzzles having nothing to do with the day's events, Ms. Chung and Mr. Ni continue their delightful collaborations with today's offering. The revealer, at 64A, is HANDYDANDY, which is to be reparsed as "H and Y, D and Y." And the other four theme answers, pleasingly crossing over each other, are in fact phrases of two words that follow that theme: thus, HOWDYDOODY, and HUMPTYDUMPTY. Of course, HUNKYDORY is my favorite for the following reason:

The grid is set up so that only two words outside of the central answer have to cross over two theme entries. Those two are SIDLEDUP, which works just fine, and MONOGYNY, a fascinating term I had never come across before. Not too many examples of this particular mating behavior in human cultures. I wonder why. There might be a good deal less ALIMONY!

I liked the clue for 40D: Last name of two U.S. Presidents (HARRISON). Other choices would have included Adams, Johnson, Roosevelt, and Bush. I am amused by the PORKIE. Here's what they look like:

Nothing too crazy in terms of misleading clues. And any puzzle that includes STYLI is a win in my book.

IMOUT. Hope we're all here tomorrow to discuss the puzzle.

- Colum

Monday, November 2, 2020

Monday, November 2, 2020, Luke Vaughn


Happy Monday to everybody. Monday can be a great day, if you let it. It's the start of a new week, when hopes can run high, and faith in the world (unfounded though it may be) is alive and well. Let us remember this moment in days to come, and trust that good spirits and care for our neighbors will remain alive and well.

Meanwhile, we can always turn to the NYT crossword as a way to escape from reality. And why not? It's a simple enough pleasure, especially on a Monday. Today, Mr. Vaughn offers up four phrases, seemingly unrelated, only to find when comparing the four that each ends with a term related to artistic endeavors. I am fond of a GOLDENDOODLE, having had an Australian Labradoodle as a companion for eleven years. I will also highly recommend the movie LEAVENOTRACE from 2018. It was a beautiful and thought provoking film.

I like that there is no revealer here, leaving the solver to come up with the connection on her own. No CODDLED puzzlers here! Not even on a Monday.

There are some nice answers in the fill, including 9D: Made a bust? (SCULPTED) - cute clue; also CYCLONES and REEFER. Sure does seem like there's a lot of marijuana in the puzzle recently. Is it a reflection of the times, or simply that the words fit into English language grids well?

Party on!

I'm ambivalent about the staying power of OGLE. It's an ugly word, and it implies objectifying behavior. The editors and constructors try to find ways of recognizing the nastiness of it, which helps, but does not remove it. Once again, the ease of fitting into a grid will keep it around for some time, I imagine. At least EYED was clued with "Green-____ monster."

ANYhoo, best to end on a light-hearted note. Let's recall LESLIE Nielsen: 

"We need to get these people to a hospital." 

"A hospital? What is it?"

"It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now."

- Colum

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday, November 1, 2020, Julian Lim


Good morning to all, this bright November day. I hope you all enjoyed the extra hour of sleep. I did not, because my body is trained apparently to wake up at the same time, and that time is earlier now because of silly daylight savings. We also only had two doorbell rings last night on Halloween, which is frankly more than I expected. We had planned on using a drainpipe to deliver candy to people but when they were all crowded up by the door, it seemed churlish to ask them to stop back. Oh, well.

Anyway, here I am, back again for another week of blogging and forcing you to read my random thoughts. Actually, I recognize I'm hardly forcing anybody to read anything. You can always choose to click away. But you might miss something of brilliance if you do! Just saying.

Today, Mr. Lim gives us a straightforward theme: taking a standard phrase and replacing the W at the beginning of one word with SW, cluing wackily, and hilarity, as they say, ensues. Well, at least chuckling. I didn't get any laugh out loud moments. But I did like SWEPTFORJOY and SWISHLISTS the best. I also appreciated that in three of the answers, the replacing occurred with the last word rather than the first word, which added some unpredictability.

It would have been better if the rest of the puzzle could have avoided SW words. I count three, SWIPE, SWAT, and the eternal and divine SWANLAKE, which I forgive wholeheartedly, because Tchaikovsky. But I recognize that this sort of purity is hardly necessary in a large puzzle like this, and frankly, who am I to complain? It's not like I'm out there creating puzzles for y'all to delight over.

There was plenty to enjoy outside of the theme. I particularly liked PARTHENON, CARLSAGAN, and ISCARIOT. Just for the way it looks in the puzzle. Not for any religious reason, mind you. And EXQUISITE and IRIDESCE are especially lovely. We need more exquisiteness and iridescence in our lives.

I'll also note some fun clues, such as 92A: Up front? (SHORTU) - almost a cryptic crossword style clue there. I also really really liked 21A: Bottom lines? (XAXES). These two joined with TSTRAPS and AONE to make a small set of answers with standalone letters, always challenging.

On the other hand, answers like ORSER (champion in 1987, twenty-three years ago), UMIAK (boy I wanted kayAK), NORITE, and ROWEL were less enjoyable. But let's not get picky. I bet some people found these straightforward, and had more difficulty with other answers I found easy.

Looking forward to the week! Let's hope we all get exactly what we wish for.

- Colum