Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sunday, August 1, 2021, Matthew Stock

OFF BRAND

Sometimes when you go on vacation, you remember towards the end of the Sunday of your first weekend at the beach, that you are responsible for that week’s blog reviews of the New York Times Crossword puzzle. 

I suppose only very few of our loyal readers will have experienced this particular feeling, but here we are! It’s been a lovely first day, and now I get to tell you all of my feelings about today’s Sunday Times puzzle. We often express a small amount of disapproval here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA when a grid relies on a brand name to fill in a tough area. Very small, mind you, but there’s that slight feeling of disappointment at the intrusion of the commercial.

Today, we turn that on its head and laugh at the brand names, which have been repurposed as silly clues for the theme answers. For example, 21A: Five guys? (OFFENSIVELINE). My favorite clue today has to be 65A: General Mills? (MILITARYACADEMIES) - yes, it is true, they do turn out the generals, don’t they? Nobody else is doing it.

I very much enjoyed the clueing today, which I thought played at a tougher level than many we’ve come across recently. 23A: It may have desks and drawers (ARTROOMS) is cute. If someone can fill me in on why EWELL is a good name for a Christmas caroler, I would be grateful. There’s something clever there, but I’m missing it (my go to choice would have been Noel).

11D: Help when writing a letter (STENCIL) was not “spell check” or “thesaurus.” 50D: Magic can be seen here (ORLANDO) is not on the stage or at a kid’s birthday party. I also really liked 56D: They can help you see or taste (GLASSES).

I’ll overlook NEWAGEY and APRONED. This was a fun Sunday, and I hope a start to a great week of beach weather and good puzzles!

- Colum

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Saturday, July 31, 2021, Brian Thomas and Brooke Husic

Hit after hit! Today's puzzle was another good one. And, based on my times, this one a little easier than yesterday's, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that more of the answers fell within my sphere of knowledge - DJING for starters. Kidding! As our dear readers know, I'm more closely connected with PSY ops. :)

But seriously, folks, a fun solve starting right out of the gate with "Ring up?" (HALO) - ha! I love the word SKINNY for "Inside dope". And how about HARDASS in the puzzle? I thought ONUS for "Charge" was particularly nice. Also GESUNDHEIT for "It's a blessing." You can't TOPTHAT

It was still a challenge for this solver, though. I was at something of a loss in the northwest, not knowing U.S. soccer legend TIM Howard or the co-founder of Artists against Fracking. But, as I considered the latter, I thought: artist, three-letters, crossword puzzle. That combination led me to guess ONO which thankfully brought the rest of the answers in that corner INRANGE. Similarly, in the southwest, I hazarded a guess at CLAMUP for "Stop responding" and then the rest of the answers fell RAPIDLY into place. At the bottom row, in the middle, I was almost at a LOESS, but once I changed my first guess, 'inANYcAsE', to the correct ATANYRATE ("'Regardless...'") the CHAOS ended.

48D: RITZ


I enjoyed references to my general locale with PRU ("Moniker for a noted Boston skyscraper, with 'the'" and the Museum of BADART. It's been a great week, but tomorrow brings a few NEWERAS: new, more erudite perspectives on puzzles, and of course, new blazing solve times. Over to you Colum. 

~Frannie.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday, July 30, 2021, Eric Bornstein

FURS of all, let me say how much I enjoyed today's puzzle. It is full of challenging clues that reward the solver with a chuckle or an aha moment without being cripplingly difficult - like everyone likes!

Despite never seeing the movie "Free Solo" I was able to get ELCAPITAN thanks to several Downs that I got right away including "First name that, reversed, is part of a church" (EVAN), "Iron, e.g." (CLUB), and "Kind of cast" (ALLSTAR). Same with VILLANOVA, which I've heard of, but the name of which didn't leap to mind.

Also fun was "Half of an exchange" (TIT) - for which one had to get the down (INDIGO) to know the answer wasn't 'tat'. And speaking of entries that begin with the letter I, how about the double I intro to IIMAGINESO? Surprising!

GRASSHOPPER

There were other surprises hidden in the simple-seeming but tricky clues like "Not last" (COMEANDGO) and "Hair piece" (STRAND). Also  clever were "Crow, say" for (GLOAT) and "Ruin" for (WRECK). With so many clever clues, it SNO wonder I went astray a couple of times. I tried 'hoagy' for "Grinder" where MOLAR was wanted. And the answer to "Check" (TAB) didn't come to me immediately. On the other hand, I entered ALA off the clue "Like." Sometimes, ITHACAN and sometimes ITHACANT. 

But what, you ASPS, were the clues ALEC the best today? Well, I'll tell you. "Result of multiple paper cuts?" FINALDRAFT is very good, but best in show is "Speak in a husky voice?" (BARK) - ha!

With that, ALEVE you to attend to other pursuits.

~Frannie. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Thursday, July 29, 2021, Trenton Charlson

Greetings, Dear Reader! Frannie is taking the day off today, and I'm filling in for her. I'll try to incorporate some of the OLE humor content that Frannie is known for, but I can't promise too much KNEE slapping.

Ai WEIWEI (and one of his many cats)

Today's unusually thin grid (14x15) features horizontal symmetry. Also unusual, I think, is that there are only three theme answers and a revealer, and everything is grouped oddly - two together, one far below... It just seems weird to me. 

Today I didn't have any idea what was going on until I hit the revealer, and then I worked upwards, "fill"ing in "I[fill], for one" NEWSCASTER (the late, great, Gwen Ifill), "[Fill]more and more" PRESIDENTS (later, but not greater), and finally "Land[fill]" DISPOSALAREA

I've often thought that all trash bins should be labelled "landfill" instead of "trash." In 1983, the artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles covered a New York City trash truck with mirrors to remind people that the trash being hauled away was their own. "I want people to know they are part of what goes into this truck," she said of her work "The Social Mirror." Anything that can be done to make people think more about what they throw away, and how much they throw away, and what happens to all that they throw away, the better.

Well, that wasn't very "Frannie-like," now was it?

I was utterly fooled by the clue "Some bouncers use them," and even tried to cram in "nightsticks" before I finally saw POGOSTICKS. Hah! And "Red Rose" was a tricky one for PETE. ANTE, on the other hand, I would say is more often heard with the shorter "penult" if it is heard at all. 

In all, a decent enough puzzle. A little Thursday trick to get the Turn rolling. Tomorrow, Frannie should be back. 

And since I didn't have much humor to offer, I'll leave you with a quick joke - A man tells his doctor, "Help me, I'm addicted to Twitter!" His doctor replies, "Sorry, I don't follow you." 


- Horace

 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wednesday, July 28, 2021, Alex Rosen and Brad Wilbur

There's P A I N T everywhere in this puzzle that features JACKSON POLLOCK and his signature DRIBBLE approach to paint application. The circled letters P A I N T appear forward, backward, up, and down within longer theme answers including PADDINGTON and PETUNIAPIG. Quite artful. :)

The solve went right along with relative easel despite some clever clues designed to mislead. I liked "Buds that are very close" (BFFS) and "Letters at a bar" (IPA) as well as "Leaning to the right: Abbr." (ITAL) and its near neighbor "One leaning to the right" (TORY). I particularly liked "Make wise through experience" (SEASON), and Long ride? (LIMO) was cute. Although there never came a point where I thought to myself, "oh gouache, I don't know," I did take advantage of the theme for a little assist with TENNISCAMP ("Where you might find love away from home") - har har. 

52A: URN

I enjoyed the new-to-me clue for our old friend OREO. I wonder how many different clues that word has had. I bet XWordInfo knows! PIP is a good word. And SWABBIE. On the other hand, JELL with a J looks unfinished to me, like it's missing an O. :)

Overall, I think if we canvassed the group, I think we'd find agree that this is a creative theme that portrays the artist with style. 

~Frannie.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Tuesday, July 27, 2021, Jennifer Lee and Victor Galson

Today's theme made me chuckle when I looked at it after completing the puzzle. The revealer is FACIALRECOGNITION, or "Technology used by smartphones nowadays ... or a hint to the ends of 16-, 24-, 44-, and 57-Across." Those ends are IZE, EERS, NOES, and LYPSE -  making a real funny face. Taken at face value, the long answers that included the facial feature endings were all solid. I especially liked APOCALYPSE - good times. :) I think I spotted some ancillary theme material with IPHOTO and FILETYPES ("PDF, JPEG and others").

While the grid included a host of familiar faces such as ALOE, OBOE, LEI, ANTS, and so on, there were some other entries that stuck out in the crowd like DAWG, BELIE (also in yesterday's Spelling Bee!), DELVE, CORNET, and delicious GROG.

44A: VOLCANOES

Some clues caught my eye as well including "Lowdown" for INFO and SHY for "Not having quite enough money." I also liked "Embellish, as a résumé" (PAD). I entered the 'ivOrY' for "Wood for piano keys, once" instead of the correct EBONY - and, although incorrect, you can't argue that together they make beautiful music. :)

All in all, I thought the puzzle cut a fine figure.

~Frannie.


Monday, July 26, 2021

Monday, July 26, 2021, Tommy Pauly

Today's three theme answers are actions taken by a trio of performers trying to promote a JAZZ SHOW. The first member said he'd TOOTHISOWNHORN. I entered this one in pretty quickly having decided to switch to a "Downs First Approach" - or DFA, as it's called in the business - after reading the first clue. Despite the early get, and maybe because of the nearby CHEWY, when I looked at the answer again after completing the puzzle, I read it as "tooth is own horn," which might be a better sell for a circus side show, non? :) The second member of the trio said he'd PULLSOMESTRINGS and the third said she'd DRUMUPBUSINESS. NICEJOB in finding these three expressions that can do double time suggesting both playing instruments and promotional activities.

6D: ALASKA

 Other answers that I thought had a real swing to them were "Make one giggle, say" (AMUSE), "Attired like Batman or Superman" (CAPED), and "Risky things for a car to run on" (FUMES) - as Horace can attest, I get nervous running on anything less than a full tick on the gas gauge! Fill-wise, I liked SEALEGS, DRAB, SLEW, LIEGE, and JAUNTS. ABYSS is a cool-looking word. OHIOU just looks odd. 

I don't take to an AROMA emitted by a bouquet. And, I'd like to respectfully request that we retire the word HAG.

For any Dear Readers who are following along at home, I have a Harry Potter update. I recently embarked on the seventh and final volume of the series. It's been interesting to re-read these books after so many years. I had forgotten a lot of the lesser plot elements. As Philbo put it so succinctly a couple of weeks ago, the books get more interesting and darker as they go along. 

~Frannie.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sunday, July 25, 2021, Chandi Deitmer

STAR SEARCH

This is a beautiful theme. Who doesn't like the big and little dippers? They are depicted fairly accurately here, the little is pouring into the big, as I like to think of it, and the end of the little dipper's handle is situated within its own name - POLAR*S. The stars are made by writing an X and an I in the same space, which gives an asterisk-like thing, which looks like a star. Really lovely. 

DRAKE and HEN

And on top of all that, we get a few bits of trivia about how other cultures have seen these same stars - as a DRINKINGGOURD, the WAGONOFHEAVEN, and as SEVENOXEN. And for all that, the grid only strains at a few places - ENATIC (Sharing maternal lines), and ATLAI (Central Asia's ____ Mountains), for example.

I thought "They have springs in the middle" was tricky for OASES, and "Wouldn't stand for it?" was a cute QMC for SAT. "This is a test" (EXAM) was fun, but what the heck is "Clear, as crystal" (BUS)? What am I missing here?

There's bonus clueing in "In which 'Stella' means 'star'" (LATIN) and "Star performances, maybe" (SOLOS). And I like the literary bent seen in LIBRARY, PABLO Neruda, OPRAH (Noted book club leader), the BRONTE sisters and their pseudonyms, and NOBEL (1938 prize for Pearl S. Buck). Throw in a little Vulcan clue (STOIC (Like Vulcans, typically)), and you've got our attention, Ms. Deitmer! Congratulations on a lovely debut. We'll keep an eye out for you the next time we're over in Davis Square! :)

- Horace

p.s. The Boswords tournament is today, Sunday! I think you still have time to register if you haven't already, and I believe Ms. Deitmer has a puzzle in it!

https://www.boswords.org

Saturday, July 24, 2021, Adam Aaronson and Ricky Cruz

Once again, today, I had to go backwards a little in order to finish. Things went along slowly but surely in all areas except the NW, where I had entered telEPHONE quite confidently for "One might be off the hook." I had INESSENCE (At bottom) and PDAS (Palm products, for short), although I worried that the latter might be too easy for a Saturday and took it out several times. My real problem was that I am not familiar with WHITECLAW (Popular brand of alcoholic seltzer) and I didn't know the term WHIPS (Fancy cars, in modern slang), so I was in a real fix. Finally, I took out the "tele" part of 14-Across and guessed WHITECLAW, and then it all came together.

One of the Myers-Briggs TYPES
It me.

Interesting to learn the first name of Soichiro HONDA. We drove HONDAs for many years, until the Civic became more of a muscle car than an economy car and we had to look to other brands. Sad.

I don't think SANER is quite right for "More with it," but elsewhere, I enjoyed the three French answers, ENTRE, TRES, and the amusingly clued ETAT (French word whose plural is its English translation backward). COINKYDINK (Happenstance, cutely) made me laugh out loud, because Frannie and her sister love to use that word. 

Loved the clues for NOTETAKER (Record producer?) and TATTOOINK (Stuff that's hard to get off your chest?). I am slightly troubled by the clue for ANCHOVY, though. I don't like imagining that there are Caesar salads without anchovies. What's the point?

"Hallus, less formally" (BIGTOE) doesn't fool me anymore. And speaking of that, have you all watched "The Twelfth Man?" I'd explain why those things are related, but it would be TMI.

For me, there was a little too much THEESPYS, MARIOKART, WHITECLAW, and NBAPLAYER for it to move into the upper echelon of puzzle solves, but still it was a solid, challenging Saturday, and that'll do.

- Horace


Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021, Michael Hawkins

The Turn picked right up today with a meaty, tricky offering from Mr. Hawkins. I wouldn't say I CRUSHEDIT, but I did finish it with no errors, which didn't seem all that likely for a while. :)

GOKART

I thought I was starting out strong by guessing "bCcD" for "Looped in, in a way" (CCED), but soon a couple crosses reminded me that I had read about COSTARICA having done away with its military, so that was fixed up in fairly short order. It's a solid 8-stack in the NW, and the crosses - especially TARMAC (Landing place) - are all decent enough. 

In the NE I was all ready to complain about the "fill in the blanks" clue, but when I finally got it and realized what was being done, I thought it was a pretty clever way to clue that old standby, SNL. I might have preferred a different clue for HOTTICKET (Elusive thing for a popular show) but I still love the entry, and "Pool service?" was a tricky QMC for RIDESHARE. So far, so good.

In the SW I dropped in STARFLEET (Enterprise group), and hesitatingly put in MPH (Dashboard abbr.) worrying that it might be too easy for a Friday. HOBART (Tasmania's capital) took every cross, and PLATOON (Company division) also took a very long time. "Maze runner" for MINOTAUR was great, and DABBLEDIN (Experimented with) is a fun phrase. 

My solve ground to a halt in the SE, where DROPCAP (Oversize letter at the beginning of a chapter), UNO (Diciembre: doce :: enero : ____), and MYLAR (Shiny balloon material) went right in, but not much else. I'm not familiar with water parks, so LAZYRIVER was not going to come without a lot of crosses, and I was totally fooled by the clue on SPEEDTEST (One way to gauge how well connected you are). 

Overall, it was just the kind of Friday I like. One that puts up resistance, but when you finally break through - like seeing KNEELS at last for "Initiates a proposal, maybe" - it makes perfect sense. All the eights and nines are lively, and, well, I liked it. How 'bout you?

- Horace

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thursday, July 22, 2021, John Guzzetta

Well, Dear Reader, while yesterday I defended a stunt, today I will do the opposite. Such is the prerogative of the critic, I suppose. It's almost obligatory that we "Not stay neutral" (TAKESIDES) (would have preferred "takeaside").

OTTO

The theme just didn't work for me. There was another puzzle recently where doubled letters like we see today were given a reason to be joined together. But this time, JOINEDATTHEHIP refers only to the Across answers, and we're left with nine misspelled Downs. Oh, I suppose I could stretch my mind and embrace the stretched words, but I get little satisfaction from the effort.

It would be easier to ACCEPPTS, perhaps, if I weren't also forced to accept INANEST, COXAE, PIKA, and SILEX. And when I'm already in a bad mood, I'm more prone to argue that a PITACHIP (Little dipper?) isn't really any smaller than most other chips ... and then the fun of the QMC is lost.

One clue I did enjoy was "Closest living relatives of whales" (HIPPOPOTAMUSES). We saw a Nova one time that explained how whales (and other marine mammals) came out of the water, lived on land, and then after some evolution, went back into the water to live there again. It showed how whales swim with an up and down motion that mirrors the body motion of a running animal, rather than the side to side swimming of fish who never walked on land. So cool.

Anyway, I probably should have taken in a big breath of AIIR and then EXHHALED before starting this review, then maybe it wouldn't have been so TEPPID. Here's hoping thou HAST found the puzzle more pleasing.

- Horace

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Wednesday, July 21, 2021, Alex Vratsanos

An homage to the letter Z today. We've got four grid-spanners with two Zs in each, and there are two un-checked Zs in the corners of a large "grid art" Z in the middle. And outside of those ten, no more anywhere else. Not that there are normally a lot of Zs in a puzzle, but I do appreciate the tightness of the theme. It's also nice that the double-Zs in the 15s are in opposite ends of the entries, and that taken as a group, all of the Zs in the puzzle form another very large Z. It's really quite a nice feat of construction.

BIRCHBARK

As with any stunt puzzle, there will be concessions made in service to the stunt. Today there was a certain UGH factor to ORANGELOS, TERAOHM, RETEE, and MNEMONIZE. And even ONVIDEO seems, today, as old as OZZIEANDHARRIET

But if Bruce Haight has taught me anything, it's that there are times when stunts are worth pulling, and costs are worth paying. The theme today is lovely to see, and the ticket price is MNEMONIZE and TERAOHM. Pay up.

If it were just that, it would just be a stunt puzzle, but today there is a lot more enjoyment to be found in the non-theme material. Many clues showed a playful mind, like "Overhead cost of manufacturing?" (SMOG), "Give a pointer?" (POKE), "It costs about twice as much if it's round" (TRIP), and "Nest protest" (PEEP). 

SEABREEZE and SWATHE are both lovely answers, and ORCA (Animal whose name consists of the postal codes of two states it passes in its migration) loudly screams "this is what the mind of a crossword constructor looks like!" And speaking of different minds, the quote "The only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist" (DALI) makes me happy that Dalí existed. And that he dared to be himself and do his own thing. Likewise, I'm glad Mr. Vratsanos dared to attempt this grid. Now you do it too. Dare to go out and be yourself and do what it is you are here to do. Life is short. Pull your stunts while you can before it's time for the eternal rest of Zs.

- Horace

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Sam Buchbinder

OK, let's just start at 1A, shall we? I'm not a fan of a THONG, on a sandal or otherwise. It just looks uncomfortable. There, I said it.

Aside from that, though, I liked the puzzle fine. :)

TOMEI

The theme is WOMENSGYMNASTICS, an entry that acrobatically stretches the puzzle out an extra row top to bottom to fit its sixteen letters. And running through it are the four events involved: SEALEDBEAM, GLASSFLOOR, INTHEVAULT, and KITKATBARS. Very nicely done, I think. I'd give the theme a 10. Or have they changed the scoring system? Or is that only for skating?

There was a brief discussion about "judged events" vs. sports in the comments a few days ago, but for now, I think I'll just let that go. And what's more, I'll most-likely end up watching the judged events, and I'll get irrationally upset by what I think are scoring inconsistencies, even though I have absolutely no training in gymnastics, or gymnastics scoring, and I only watch gymnastics once every four years, at best. Ahh, us hairless APES, eh? Always grousing about something.

Loved the clue for ILIAD (It's a long story), and "Cheery sort?" was cute for FAN. And apt! And wouldn't it have been funny if 27-Down (SLOP) were clued as "Entry like 46-Down" (UPKEY)? I kid, I kid, it's fine. I guess maybe there's an UPKEY on an extended keyboard, but on my laptop all I have is the up arrow. 

Sure, there were a few places where it strained, but you can't do all four of these events without a few aches and pains, right? I always enjoy seeing TOM in the grid, and GREEKGOD (Uranus, but not Neptune) was a good one. 

It'll be interesting to see what happens with the Olympics this year. We'll find out soon enough, the opening ceremonies are this Friday!

- Horace

p.s. It took me a few minutes, but I eventually did walk out onto the GLASSFLOOR in the CN Tower! It's quite a feeling, especially for one who doesn't particularly like heights! :)

Monday, July 19, 2021

Monday, July 19, 2021, Stephanie Lesser

We start the week with a debut. Congratulations, Ms. Lesser, on your first NYT crossword!

So let's talk about it. It's a quote puzzle, and it's always a little annoying to see a clue like "Summery quip, part 1" because you know that you will have nothing but the Downs to help you on the longest Across answers. It came as a relief, however, that today it was possible to guess the end after getting the first two parts. And what's more, it was funny. TAKINGADOG NAMEDSHARK TOTHEBEACH ISABADIDEA. Heh. 

MAKO

The way people are bringing their dogs everywhere with them these days, it's almost possible to imagine someone bringing a dog named "Fire" into a crowded theater. Me, I'd like to imagine a world where people don't bring their dogs into grocery stores with them, or to public beaches. But coming out as anti-dog in today's world is like coming out as ... well, what's the worst thing you can think of? Anti-baby? Just call me W.C. Fields. I DARESAY, "any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad," right?

There wasn't much long bonus fill, but there were five seven-letter Downs, the best of which was CHEETAH (Large cat you shouldn't trust on a test?). SMITTEN (In love) being a close second.

I loved the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-DAH" when I was little, but you don't hear much about "Song of the South" these days. 

The final word is - I chuckled when I figured out the quote, and what more can you ask than a quick smile on a Monday morning. I hope it worked for you, too.

- Horace

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Sunday, July 18, 2021, Jesse Goldberg

DIG IN

Well, this was delightful. I am a huge fan of JULIACHILD, and to see her name paired symmetrically with BONAPPETIT is lovely. When I was in my late twenties I used to watch her shows on PBS every Sunday morning. And when I couldn't watch them, I'd tape them on the VCR. In fact, after a while, I had the thing set up to record her show every week. The trouble with that, though, is that we also watched other things on VHS tapes (remember VCRs? :) ), and often we'd leave a tape in the machine. So inevitably, we ended up with many tapes that started with one thing, but were interrupted by a JULIACHILD show halfway through. Heh. That went over big with everyone.

My favorite of these quotes is "A party without cake is REALLYJUSTAMEETING." Brilliant. The "With enough butter, ANYTHINGISGOOD" is well-known. And true! :)

I thought I noticed a lot of food-related cluing in the fill, too. Like "'His wife could EATNO lean,'" "Chicken or veal dish, in brief" (PARM), "Something that's bad if it floats..." (EGG), "Drink garnished with nutmeg" (NOG).

I chuckled at "Toon first introduced in the 1945 short 'Odor-able Kitty'" (LEPEW). And one of its crosses GRAPH got a really nice QMC in "Boardroom plot?" Speaking of clues - is "Word mistakenly heard at a Springsteen concert," BOO, supposed to be referencing "Bruce?" If so, nice try, but no.

One last thing about clues - sometimes I find the Greek myths amusing, and other times I shake my head at the way they reveal our spiteful, vengeful human nature. I had a little of each reaction when I saw "She turned Arachne into a spider after losing a weaving contest" (ATHENA). Why even have the contest? I mean, if you have the ability to turn another person into a spider, don't you also possess the ability to rig the contest so you win? Sheesh!

- Horace


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Saturday, July 17, 2021, Ryan McCarthy

Remember what I said yesterday about the pinwheel shape? Hoo boy. I was in for it today. Sometimes you and the constructor think alike, and other time, GOSHNO

I did fine with the NW corner, where SCOTUS popped to mind immediately, and was confirmed by good ole John TYLER, the first president to take over when the elected person died in office... one month after giving his two-hour long inaugural address in the pouring rain. I'm certainly not convinced by SPATUBS - and Google supports me - you can have a spa or a hot tub.

The next section I was able to complete was the SE corner, GNC led to CRYPTS and GOAWAY, and then REDDIWIP fell into place. Mmmmmm... spray whipped cream...

Do Victorians say GDAY? I'm joking, of course. There are no Victorians alive today. But did they? Feels more Australian to me. Once again, Google supports me. It seems to date from the 1880s, but is primarily Australian. What, you say, there were no Victorians in Australia? Well, yes, but not in the sense we would typically think of the word's definition.

Sterling Cooper DRAPER Price

I only had scattered entries in the NE and SW corners. Putting in Adept for AGILE slowed me down, as did trying RockIEs at 14A: It reaches Washington heights (RAINIER). I should have known better. The Rockies go into Washington state, but nobody would describe them as "It." It's a clever clue though.

Finally, I had to conquer the middle section. I don't really love any of the long answers here. EMOJIKEYBOARD is a nice looking answer, but awkward. WAGELABORERS is kind of boring. RAGGEDYANDY is fine in its full form. 16D: They go around in circles (LOOPDELOOPS) is the best clue here.

Perhaps I'm just reacting to the large number of "huh?" answers. AGADIR... CRAIGS Wife (I mean, yes, it won the Pulitzer... in 1925)... others I have mentioned. I did like 29D: Lent feature (EAR) - as in "Lend me your ear."

Sometimes you enjoy a puzzle, other times you have sour grapes. 18:07.

- Colum

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday, July 16, 2021, Sophia Maymudes and Kyra Wilson

Sometimes you open a grid and it looks more challenging than most. For me, that most often happens with this sort of pinwheel appearance. Those chunky corners with all that white space is a THREAT right off the bat (Thanks, Dr. Haight!).

Fortunately, ARENDT and UMA gave some quick purchase in the NW. With ESPY in place and the RE____ at 2D, FRAMEUPS came into view, which made the rest of the corner straightforward. The pairing of AEROSMITH over CLEOPATRA is excellent. And the clue for 26A is a wonderful piece of trivia.


I thought everything would be a cakewalk with all three answers exiting the corner falling into place. But 27A: Sweat ____ (BULLETS) was a stumper for a while. I just couldn't see it. And I also couldn't bring ATROPOS to mind (along with her two sisters, Clotho and Lachesis). So I jumped into the NE corner, HOLIEST giving me something to work with.

I was never a huge fan of Kevin Smith's work. MALLRATS might have been a better one of his oeuvre. And this might be controversial, but I'm not convinced that ICEDANCE is a sport. Fun to watch and very difficult to do well, I'm sure, but doesn't there have to be a reproducible system of scoring for it to be a sport?

Now I was able to find my way to the SW corner. ZOOMBOMB is a great entry, and 53A: Last of the Greeks (OMEGA) didn't fool me for a second.

Finally, the SE corner came into view. PIANOLA and HANDYMAN were enough to open it up. Just like in the NW corner, MOMFRIEND and PLAINJANE are a beautiful pair of answers. And the less we think about the vermilingual tongue of the ANTEATER, the better.

This was a fun puzzle, although I could have used a little more cleverness in the cluing, just for the added spice. But a fine example of a Friday themeless. 6:49.

- Colum

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Thursday, July 15, 2021, Max Carpenter

[YU]M[YU]M! A rebus puzzle for our Thursday delectation! And our nervy constructor has the chutzpah to have two of them NESTLE in 1A, which definitely slowed down the beginning of the puzzle, along with the difficult pair of 13A and 15A: Brown powder clues, both starting with C (COCOA and CAROB respectively). I even briefly flirted with CuRry for the second entry.

But things started opening up when we filled in the NE corner, a strange place to get going. TID[YU]P could only be a rebus - it was only a question of which square would hold the extra letter. So when the cute LHASAAPSO curled up in 26A, it became clear, especially once we got TIMESPICA[YU]NE.

The other rebus squares were pleasingly asymmetrically placed, so we couldn't predict where they would be. I just realized that the grid is, once again, 16 x 15 in size, which is how [YU]KONGOLDPOTATOES, a 17-letter answer, fit in the puzzle. Going along with the delicious theme, TOM[YU]MSOUP rounds out the rebus squares.

The revealer is delightful as well, at 57A: What a solver might growl after catching on to this puzzle's theme? (WHYYOULITTLE). Hah!

HARPS

6D: Phoenix and Washington, e.g. (MALELEADS) might be one of my favorite tricksy clues so far this year. I was certainly not thinking of Joaquin and Denzel when I read the clue, or even until I had multiple crosses in place. 

Its symmetric partner at 33D: Where a zipper gets caught? (SPEEDTRAP) is a very nice example of a QMC.

Did you see that the NYT is no longer calling its opinion pieces OPEDs anymore? They're simply called "Opinion" and "Guest Essay," if the contributor is not on staff.

I definitely enjoyed this start to the Turn. Looking forward to our themelesses upcoming! 7:45.

- Colum

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wednesday, July 14, 2021, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau

Happy Bastille day! Mmmm. Paris. Can I be there now?

Although I'm not there, the puzzle had a few things making me think of France (CARTE and the English translation of "Fin" - THE / END), and that "towering figure," EIFFEL. But that was just a small part of the puzzle today. 

Instead, we get (finally!) a clever play on all of the E- words we see in the puzzle. In this case, 38A: Kindle, e.g. ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme? (EREADER) riffs on the idea of adding an E to a word in a standard phrase to change it to an author's name, and then wackily cluing the resulting phrase with a reference to one of that author's works. Thus, 62A: Positive review of a Nancy Drew mystery? (PEACHYKEENE) refers to author Carolyn Keene. I suppose, unlike the other three, that there are few Nancy Drew mystery titles so well known to readers of the NYT that they would immediately recognize it.

Ah well. I liked Bonfire of the Vanities when I read it in the 1980s. I love The Importance of Being Earnest, and Oscar Wilde in general. I did not particularly enjoy A Confederacy of Dunces, but perhaps I should revisit it? Or perhaps not. There are already so many good books to read in this world.

Does having ETAIL in the same puzzle muddy the theme? It would be a lot harder to come up with various kinds of tails and then adding E to them to make new words. Mullete? Prehensilee?

This is why I don't construct crossword puzzles.

In other areas, we're fans of SEAOTTERS (or otters in general) in this household. On the other hand, I wouldn't classify myself as an EXTROVERT, particularly. I have never owned a PETPIG, but George Clooney does.


Two fun clues on the smaller side: 6D: Bikini, e.g. (ATOLL) is a lovely misdirect with a hidden capital. Also 34A: Genesis creator (SEGA). Not God. Not this time.

- Colum


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Tuesday, July 13, 2021, Bruce Haight

Hey all - hope everyone enjoyed the interlude provided by Cece yesterday. I think it adds a lovely piquant flavor to the daily grind.

Speaking of which, I feel like it's been some time since Dr. Haight produced a puzzle for our enjoyment. I was very glad to meet him at the ACPT some years back. He has a great sense of humor, and comes up with fun themes for the puzzle.

Today's fits in an oversized 16 x 15 grid, allowing two 16-letter grid spanners. All four long answers are common sayings in the English language which have arisen from baseball. Ah, baseball. For some, it conjures up that all-American feeling, the green grass, the warm air, the smell of roasted peanuts and the crack of the bat. For others, I imagine it's just more sportsball. 

Put me in the former school. I appreciated all the extra material Dr. Haight squeezed in, from 27A: "Kill the ump!," e.g. (CRY) to 6D: Kind of pitcher (RELIEF), to 29D: Like a team on a day off (IDLE), to 39D: An umpire's outstretched arms signified this (SAFE) to 48D: Certain worker in a stadium (USHER). Very cute that 65A: Pitchers (EWERS) breaks this trend at the end of the puzzle.

Therese Malfatti, not ELISE

Meanwhile, GRAMOPHONE is a lovely callback to the days when baseball was fresh and new, while an INSECTBITE would be an unwelcome souvenir of an afternoon in the bleachers. 

On the other side, I'm not a huge fan of OWOW. I tried Ouch and OWie first, before submitting to the actual answer. EWW is one of those answers where the middle letter could conceivably go either way.  But these are small concerns. 

I'd be NUTSO to call foul on this puzzle.

- Colum

Monday, July 12, 2021

Monday, July 12, 2021, Kevin Christian

Hi all! It’s Cece, back for a third guest review.


I have to admit that I’ve really fallen off the crossword train since coming home from college. I haven’t even touched the NYT Games bookmark on my computer for a few weeks, so this guest appearance comes after a very RUSTY solve.


I filled in the grid without looking at the theme, so once I got AFRICA (Where this puzzle’s circled letters can be found) with the crosses, I took a look at the circled letters and thought, “True enough.” It’s a suitably simple theme for a Monday. I like how all of the circled words were formed with the end and beginning of two or three words, instead of being part of a single word. Does that make sense? If not, contact my editor (Colum) with complaints.


Which two of these guys were in the puzzle?

“Ill humor” (BILE) caught me off guard - I wasn’t expecting a pun there so it made me smile when I realized. I filled in TWERKED immediately afterwards, which was also very amusing. I appreciated the double whammy. The answer to 40A “Number that never goes down” (AGE) also caught me off guard; it’s not every Monday that the NYT Crossword makes you confront your own mortality. ...Any birthdays out there today?


Like I said, it was a choppy solve, and I found myself bouncing around the grid and getting stuck at clues that usually wouldn’t trip me up (JOIN, DUPE, and PENS, to name a few). But all in all, for my first puzzle back from a break, this one wasn’t half bad.


Thanks for having me back!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Sunday, July 11, 2021, Ashish Vengsarkar

NO RUSE

Hello everyone! Welcome back to me. It's just me and Cece and the dogs this weekend, as Hope is down in DC. Hope you're all having a fine weekend! Me, I could use more sleep.

On this Sunday, we get a theme where the R is taken out of words where it's the second phoneme, and is followed by an "oo" phoneme, creating new words and thus silly phrases, which when clued in the usual wacky fashion, leads to hilarity. I'm not convinced by the title, as it seems like we should be subtracting both the R and the OO phonemes, instead of just the R.

However, the results are pretty darned good, if you ask me. The headliner is the long down answer at 10D: Dramatic accusation at a dentist's office? (YOUCANTHANDLETHETOOTH). Beautiful! And great to imagine Jack Nicholson's character from A Few Good Men shouting it at a bewildered oral surgeon. 

I also very much enjoyed TAMINGOFTHESHOO, BURDENOFPOOF, and PENELOPECOOS. These made me smile, while the remaining ones were not quite as strong.

In the fill, there's a goodly amount of misdirection clues, such as 92A: Certain bridge positions (NORTHS), referring to the card game (the best card game of all time, by the way), and 19D: Call at home (SAFE), referring to baseball. 

I love SAMOSAS. Here's a link to a good recipe.

OPAH

I had difficulty with 43D: Opposite of "takes off" (DONS). I had put in DieS, which in retrospect seems iffy, but at the time seemed like a reasonable antonym for the verb. The two crosses didn't help. DRACO and IMRAN were both not immediately obvious to me. That being said, IMRAe seems unlikely for a Pakistani name.

In the QMC world, I thought 27D: Île be there? (MER) was cute, and 15D: Bands you might listen to in the car? (AMFMRADIO) was tough.

Finally, I thought it was very clever to put in JIMMORRISON and MRMOJORISIN in symmetric spots. I had no idea the latter was an anagram of the former.

- Colum

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Saturday, July 10, 2021, Trenton Charlson

Tough but fun puzzle today for this solver. I completed the grid in exactly 34 minutes, but was informed by the app at that time that I had a FWOE. Two minutes and nine seconds later, I found the problem. I had made a CARELESSMISTAKE. I entered LaU instead of LSU ("Sch. whose yearbook is the 'Gumbo'"). I couldn't check the answer with the Across answer because I'm not familiar with the "Mischievous character in West African folklore, ANANSITHESPIDER. Horace said he knew LSU from sports. Sigh.

But, there's more to celebrate than regret. For one thing, I completed the puzzle - an outcome which seemed doubtful at best after a first pass. As soon as I saw the three grid-spanners at the top of the puzzle, I switched to the Down clues, of which I got maybe a handful right off. 

Many times I was misled. Early on, I had the UNION of COMMUNIONWAFERS, but thanks to the trixy clue "Hosts", I took a wrong road with the idea of reUNION, etc. In other spots I correctly assessed the trick of the clue, but I managed to find another answer that fit both the clue and the number of squares, but was still wrong. At 1D, for "Computer store" I thought, aha! CDROM. But that did not compute. The answer was CACHE. "Snarl" for ENMESH and "Two in a row, say?" for TIFF were also nice and tricky."Total package?" (CEREAL) with its hidden capital was also very clever.

20A: FLO

I thought all the long answers were good. Of the southern set, I liked FEASTONESEYESON the best. Clues I especially liked were "Part of mayo that's most popular?" CINCO - ha! - "Block letters?" (SPF) and "Starts of hedges" (ERS) were also good. My favorite clue was "Will can change it" (TENSE) - who doesn't love a crafty grammar clue? 

Overall, a very enjoyable puzzle with lots of great clues that leave just enough room for misinterpretation to allow the hapless solver to come up with their own PRIVATEENTRANCE. :) 

~Frannie.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Friday, July 9, 2021, Robyn Weintraub

An enjoyable Friday solve, on the easier side for this solver (11:57), possibly due to the number of answers I was able to enter directly off the clue including OPTED, PARSE, REIN, POISE, DIVING, HYPE, OARED, and MYRRH - the latter being the only one of the three gifts that would fit. :)

On the other hand, I did not immediately come up with PODCASTS ("'This American Life' and others"). I entered 'nprshows' instead. I don't actually know if my guess was even accurate, but it did fit. Further along, led astray by my shaky knowledge of geography, I left "Capital of the Phillippines" blank. The answer, however, was (PESO). Fooled again! Another successful misdirection of Ms. Weintraub's was "Light brown seals" (35A), the answer for which was CORKS. I hadn't heard of that type of seal, so I thought I'd look 'em up and find an image of the critters to use for the blog post. A quick search of the term revealed my mistake. LOL. 

The puzzle featured a number of very nice QMC's today, including "Goes to hell?" (DESCENDS), "Big wheel at a party?" (BRIE), and "Irrational thing to celebrate?" (PIDAY). To balance things out there was also this non-QMC of note was "It helps make waiting easier" (TRAY) - ha!

6D: PADDLEBOATS
As an additional bonus, we learn another interesting eponym: "Move named for the 19th-century skater Paulsen" (AXEL). I read a little about Mr. Paulsen on Wikipedia; he seemed to be the hottest thing on ice in his day. Had he lived a little later, he might have had his own haul of fame (GOLDMEDALS).

~Frannie. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Thursday, July 8, 2021, John Lampkin

Today's puzzle sports a two-way rebus: the Across and Down clues switch between AM and FM as on a RADIO. I first got on the right wavelength at - you guessed it - 56A: MAMM[AM]IA! ("2001 Broadway hit with an exclamation mark in its name"). The corresponding Down is HAL[FM]AST. It's funny how puzzle answers sometimes seem to come in groups. Another such is AIRE, which was in yesterday's puzzle. And I know this isn't exactly parallel, but we had HAMOPERATOR in Saturday's puzzle. And didn't we very recently have a discussion of ORB in these very pages

Today the clue "Very beginning?" didn't fool me, as those types of clues usually do (VEE).  On the other hand, the hidden capital in "Progressive people?" did fool me for quite some time (AGENTS). I enjoyed the points of interest about EAGLE eyes and the fact that LEOTARD is an eponym. Who knew? 

23A: (St.) ANNS

Although I don't really like the word BOOBOO, I thought its clue "Slip" and the later clue "Slipped" (ERRED) were a nice pair. The answers ENFOLD in the northwest and ENLACE in the southeast make a nice pairing as well - not to mention that ADDS crosses ADS at the S. Fill-wise, I enjoyed BEACON, BOON, OLDSALT, and especially WAG.

There were two clues that needed a little extra mental bandwidth from this solver. For the life of me, I couldn't make sense of "Basket made from behind the arc" (67A). Fortunately, the Downs made it possible for me to get TREY. Only when the answer was complete did I realize it referred to basketball. Derp. I also had a bit of trouble with OUTACT thanks to the tricky use of "best" in the clue ("Best in a film audition, say"). It's the amplitude and frequency of such clever clues that makes solving crossword puzzles so much fun.  :)

~Frannie.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Wednesday, July 7, 2021, Peter A. Collins

A fabulous puzzle today - lit'rally! The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare is cleverly represented in the grid. While both the TORTOISE and the HARE - who appear in circled letters that run diagonally down the grid - begin at the starting line (the topmost row of the puzzle), only the Tortoise, going SLOWANDSTEADY, makes it to the finish line and WINS THE RACE. Along the way, the Hare TAKESANAP and LOSESABET. Were he the type, the Tortoise might exclaim, TADA! to celebrate his success. 

There were some crafty clues in the rest of the puzzle, especially for your more common crossword fill: "One who whistles while working" is an entertaining clue for REF. I thought "Boston Bruins icon" was a clever clue for ORR because I was first misled into trying to think of their logo. Other similar clues were "Farm connector" (YOKE) and "Fiji alternative" (DASANI). I thought "Don't knock until you've tried it" (DOORBELL) was funny.

35A: ECTO

Fill-wise DIONYSIA is a nice ten-dollar word - you don't see that every day. OHDRYUP is a great expression. I also enjoy APOP. And who doesn't love an ALP - on view in Tour de France coverage in recent days.  

None of our dear readers will be surprised to hear that I'm not super familiar with Baghdad's SADR city, but thanks to a recent viewing of "Thunder Force", I was reminded of URKEL, which came in handy because I had first entered dEAr for "Sweetheart" at 13A. While not an Oscar contender, the movie had a certain APPEAL. :)

~Frannie.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Tuesday, July 6, 2021, Katie Hale

If our dear readers ever wondered whether I like ABBA, the answer is IDOIDOIDOIDOIDO, so today's theme of alternatively clued song titles from the band gets a thumbs up from me. Just this past Sunday, my sister-in-law and I were reminiscing about seeing the stage version of "Mamma Mia" in 2001. We didn't think we'd end up dancing in the aisles at the show, but we did.  The "jukebox musical" - as I see it's called in the Wikipedia - includes all three songs that appear in the puzzle - plus a whole lot more. I have seen the movie version, but didn't enjoy it as much. When the stage version took off, I think someone just thought to themselves MONEYMONEYMONEY
 
Perhaps helped along by the three grid-spanning theme answers which all consisted of repeated words, the solve went quickly without a single SOS moment. Despite being geographically challenged, I even entered IRAN off the clue ("Land with coasts on both the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf"). I wasn't certain of the answer but it seemed to whisper, "take a chance on me," so I did. Winner takes it all!
11D: PANTOMIMES

As we all know, though, in puzzle construction, the name of the game is good clueing and quality fill, and I think we get that here. BUMPED for "Knocked off the schedule" is apt. Apt! "Website where you go to see the stars?" (YELP) is amusing. I liked the gently ambiguous clue "Caves" (GIVESIN), and also "Poker giveaway" (TELL). 

Fill-wise, I liked VOID and TIPSY - BONY less so, for some reason. AXIOM is strong.  STATUE is an funny word, if you sit still and think about it for too long.  

And how about SNAPE showing up in the puzzle today?!?! Harry Potter re-read FTW! And speaking of HP, with Philbo's encouragement, I have decided to press on and finish the entire series. Let's hope the 734 page "Goblet of Fire" won't be my Waterloo. 

~Frannie.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Monday, July 5, 2021, Peter Gordon

As I started to solve the Monday puzzle here on the evening of Sunday, July 4th, a barrage of fireworks exploded in the neighborhood, which completely blew my chances for a personal best. But seriously folks, I did have a RAREBIT of trouble with a Monday puzzle. I misspelled IDI (Amin) with an "E" even though I know better. Sometimes when there are two to options to choose between, and I know I've made the wrong choice before, I remember the wrong choice better than the right one, especially when I'm trying to be quick.

After correcting my error and completing the grid, I took a look at the shaded and circled squares. The shaded squares contain a multi-letter spell-out of the single circled letter that follows. EYEINTHESKY, for example. WHYYOULITTLE naturally brought The Simpsons immediately to mind. :)

I enjoyed a number of the clues as I went along, including "Undergraduate's declaration" (MAJOR), "Attire for the Mario Bros. or the Minions (OVERALLS), "Butter unit" (PAT), and "What can barely give a hoot?" (OWLET). Speaking of which, earlier this week I dug up my Harry Potter books to lend to Huygens, but for some reason started re-reading them myself. I finished the third book, HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban, tonight. I think I'll stop there, but who knows? The series seems to have cast some kind of spell on me. 

11D: BEAARTHUR

I liked the 2 sets of 3 9's in the northeast and southwest corners. Has anyone ever used their HOTELSAFE? Maybe only in a Nero WOLFE novel. And speaking of hotels, I appreciated all the non-English answers: olio di OLIVA, EAU, ARC de Triomphe, TIA, and of course ELLIBERTADOR, once I got his eye in the right place. 

~Frannie. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021, Howard Barkin

I'VE GOT A FEELING

In 2015, I attended my first A.C.P.T. by myself. I didn't know anyone at all, but being something of an extrovert, I went into the grand ballroom on Friday evening for the "ice-breaker" games and plunked myself down at a table. I ended up solving the puzzles that night with none other than Doug Hoylman - a six-time A.C.P.T. champion, the chief counsel for the I.R.S. - a nice guy and a formidable crossworder, and a guy whose daughter was attending Beloit College - my alma mater. I knew right away I was in the right place.

Ashleigh BARTY

On Saturday, I talked to people in the hallways between puzzles, and I usually asked them how they were doing, etc. I ended up talking for a while with a guy who told me he thought he was doing pretty well ... that he maybe could have done better, but he felt pretty good about how things were going. It's a comment you hear from many people. When I checked the standings for his name, I saw he was third. It was Howard Barkin. 

So anyway, today we have a puzzle by Mr. Barkin, and you might think I'm just being kind to someone I met at the tournament (Hi Howard!), but I tell you I genuinely LOL'd at the clever re-defining of the theme answers. "Bacteriologist's emotion upon a new discovery?" for CULTURESHOCK, "Jester's emotion after the king's laughter?" (COMICRELIEF), and "Wild horse's emotion?" (UNBRIDLEDJOY) - those are all great. And what about "Evil genie's emotion?" for BOTTLEDUPANGER? Genius! And hilarious.

In contrast to some other bloggers (Hi Jeff!), I always enjoy a theme that appears in both Across and Down answers. I feel it opens the puzzle up somehow. Some say it makes it more challenging to have clean fill, but I didn't find much to complain about. In fact, nestled right beside the vertical theme entries we find BUGSBUNNY (Famous toon with a Brooklyn accent), CONARTIST (One might take you in), and WETBAR (Home mixologist's spot) - all strong.

Other bits I liked were DEEPCUT (Lesser-known song), ACINCH (Easy as pie) (Was not expecting two words here!), EULOGY (The Gettysburg Address, e.g.), LABELLED (Hurrah for the two-l spelling!), and ZENO (One of his paradoxes claims that two objects can never really touch). 

Overall, it was a fun Sunday puzzle. Frannie takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you in a few weeks.

- Horace

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Saturday, July 3, 2021, Kameron Austin Collins

When I see the name Kameron Austin Collins attached to a Saturday NYTX, I get a little worried because I know he will MAKEME struggle. Today, however, I thought maybe I could HOPEFOR an easier time, when I guessed SOREspot right off the bat for "What may need to be kneaded," and then dropped in OMITS (Drops) and ELlie (____ Gilbert, "The Vampire Diaries" protagonist) (I never read these, it's really ELENA), and then strawHUT (Cabana) (BEACHHUT). 

So, obviously, off to a great start. 

FIR

Outside of the NW I had better luck, dropping in HAMOPERATOR (Radio amateur), and then TOHELEN off the O, and SPITITOUT ("Just say what you're going to say!") from the T. NOUS (More than just moi) was easy for this French major, and CREATUREFEATURE brought back memories of Channel 38 on weekend afternoons. It was "Creature Double Feature," and I never watched any of them, but the commercials were always on while I was watching something else, like "The Three Stooges" or "The Munsters."

ALLEYCAT (Street prowler) and MASSGENERAL were welcome gimmes, but OREN Ishii and ROYCOHN took quite a few crosses. 

This is one of those puzzles that, when you look back over it, you think everything looks so obvious. TRIALRUNS is so clearly the answer to "Tests," for example, but when I first read "Tests," I read it as a verb. Ay, there's the rub, eh?

Well, not all of it is obvious, I guess. I've never heard of FISACOURT (Govt. body that approves warrant requests for spies), and I have no idea what it means to REVET an embankment. And how many times did I try SOpS and SOtS at 1-Down (SOGS (Soaks))? Many, many times. I spent nearly ten full minutes putting things in and taking them out again in the NW corner, until finally I figured out CTRL KEY (part of some shortcuts) and everything came together. 

We love a Saturday challenge, and Mr. Collins is among the best at delivering just that. This was a satisfying struggle full of trivia (CAMBODIA (Country that celebrates the new year ("Choul Chnam Thmey") in April) and MARINER (Member of the only M.L.B. team never to have played in a World Series)) and clever clues ("Trace evidence?" (STENCIL) and "Shaded from the sun" (TAN)). 

Satisfying, challenging, and fun. The best kind of puzzle.

- Horace

Friday, July 2, 2021

Friday, July 2, 2021, Brooke Husic and Adam Nicolle

I need some help today - why is ORB clued as "Scepter topper?" I thought it was "scepter and orb" - two separate things. Does the orb fit onto the scepter? Is something other than the British monarchy being discussed here? Is it a gaming thing? 

FIBONACCI spiral

OK, let's talk about something else. Howzabout I rank the six (!) grid-spanners:

1. GOOGLETRANSLATE (Cut-and-paste tool for language learners). Odd clue. I'd guess that less than half of its users are true language learners. But maybe I'm wrong. Even with its shortcomings, though, I have to give this first place. It's not perfect, but it can help a lot, and the real-time, live-camera translation (i.e. point your camera at a menu in a foreign language and see English words) is pretty amazing.

2. NOISECANCELLING (Like some headphones). Love the old-school double-l spelling (when will "spelling" be spelled "speling?") and I absolutely love the product. Plane rides to countries where I need to use the live-camera GOOGLETRANSLATE are made much more pleasant by use of these. Plus, I've used them more than ever during the past year for work Zoom meetings. I'm kind of hoping that when we go back to real conference rooms, I can still wear them, but then it will be to cancel out all the talking, not hear it better. :)

The rest are all fine. ALONGTIMECOMING and REALLYSOMETHING are comfortingly idiomatic. And at a local restaurant we frequently order an appetizer "the way they used to do it," which is, I guess, something like a SECRETMENUITEM. And ACTIVELIFESTYLE, sure. That's fine. Stop nagging me!

I FWOEd today on the cross of "One-named rapper with the 2019 video "Can't Explain It" and "Daughter of Styx." I guessed NIlE for the latter, thinking of rivers, but when I didn't get the "Congratulations" screen I knew the square, and had to literally run the alphabet to finish. Oh well.

Someday I want to go to the ISLEOFSKYE. It just sounds so lovely, doesn't it?

- Horace


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Thursday, July 1, 2021, Joe Deeney

I figured out this theme more quickly than any other this week - with the first theme answer - and my time was faster than yesterday and just a minute slower than Tuesday! It probably helped that in the online version the ends of the four theme answers had oversized boxes. Oversized, making the contained word big, and then "big" itself had to be understood in order for the answer to work.

So - "I can't believe I said that" is answered with MEANDMYMOUTH, and "Hold it, buster!" with WHATSTHEIDEA. Not bad, really. 

STREGIS
I'm not familiar with the "Luxury hotel chain," but I sure hope to see this place still in business the next time we get to Paris!

I thought for a moment that ILLALLOWIT (Overruling of an objection) was somehow working as a revealer, but no, it's just a good entry. Same with SOLARPANEL (Something that turns light green?) (Nice clue).

GRANT (50s president) had me fooled twice, because I thought of the 1850s quickly, but then realized he didn't come in until after the Civil War, so I took it out again. But they weren't talking about years, they were talking currency! 

Favorite clue - "They may come to light" for MOTHS. So true.

I like the theme, and I like the long Downs (STAYONTASK, HOWONEARTH). I had a little trouble in the South with HORA (Rhyme for "menora" in "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah"), where I tried auRA and toRA (misspelled, I know) before getting it right. HELLO and ORALB didn't help much! If not for that little speed bump I would have been closer to a Monday time. As it was, I finished in 8:37, which felt a little fast for a Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Christopher Adams and Adam Aaronson

It's hard to believe that it took almost 40 years for this to become a crossword puzzle theme. JENNY's phone number has been well-known and often sung by everyone who went to school in the Eighties. The only thing that would have made this more perfect is if the "nine" had been drawn out to "ni-ee-ine," but I'm not sure that would have gotten past the editors.


There are many theme answers (8), but they're all relatively short, which might have made it easier to avoid crosswordese. Sure, we haven't seen our old friend ENIAC in a while, and some might have said HUNH? to HUNH, but there's really not much trouble at all. And we get things like IMPASSE (Stalemate), the full TEALEONI, and a nice vocab. lesson in ENERVATE (Deprive of strength - not, as is commonly believed, to give strength).

You know, when I read "*One of two for the 1990s Chicago Bulls" I didn't really understand why that was used to clue THREEPEAT. I thought, are they saying that the threepeat win was just one of the two wins they had after they won the first championship? But no, I looked it up and guess what? The Bulls won three times in a row twice in the 1990s! And they probably would have won four in a row, and possibly eight, if Michael Jordan hadn't retired after the first one. 

What? Haven't I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of sportsball? It took 39 years for this theme to happen, and it took 23 years for me to understand how truly great the 1990s Bulls were. 

Here's a fun fact, the Bulls (yes, with Michael Jordan!) came to my college to do some pre-season training one year. I was in the gym with them, but I didn't actually get into any scrimmages. Heh. Honestly, I hardly knew who they were. This was pre-1990. True story.

Minitheme with ISHMAEL and SEVENSEAS?

Fun Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Tuesday, June 29, 2021, Alan Arbesfeld

A Tuesday with a trick! Phrases in the form of "[Blank] in the [blank]" are re-arranged into "the [Blank] [blank]." So, "Toy with a spring, literally," is rendered as THEJACKBOX, and "Undecided, literally" is THEUPAIR. Not a bad little diversion, and there are six of them to boot! 

DYE (Batik, e.g.)

I know some of our Excel-loving solvers will enjoy DATASET (Spreadsheet figures), and everyone loves a BEANBAG (Shape-shifting seat). Do they still sell those? Or were they just a '70s thing?

It seemed like there were a lot of names in the puzzle today - ANN, PACINO, TERI, STACY, ARES, LEARY, MINETA, EARL (sort of), JACOB, TIMON, HARRIS, ESTES, and the uncommon LEY (Willy ___, pioneering writer on rocketry) and TOD (Director Browning of 1931's "Dracula"). Did I get them all?

I like how TRAY (It goes up during takeoff) and SHAY (Two-wheeled carriage) are symmetrical in the center, and right with them are HEY and LEY. MILIEU (Setting) and ELIXIR (Sorcerer's concoction) are nice words, and ASTHMA (It can take your breath away) got a good clue. On the whole, though, the theme is front and center. And sometimes that's fine.

- Horace

Monday, June 28, 2021

Monday, June 28, 2021, Pamela F. Davis

What a fun start to the week! Four HOMECHEF meals critiqued by a child. The meals get fancier and fancier as they go on, from the lowly BEETREPORT to the chocolate MOUSSECALL. I'm not sure what a "French roll" is, and it took me a while to remember that there's a thing called a "moose call" (there is such a thing, right Philbo?), but still, I laughed out loud at this theme. And I love the bonus themer SUPS (Has an evening meal) at the end. 

OWLS

It played longer (4:58) than a Monday sometimes does for me, partly because of the "quote" clues for the theme answers, and partly thanks to me guessing "megafail" instead of MEGAFLOP (Epic failure) (I know, I know, the clue has "fail" right in it, but I was not paying close attention!), and "loll" instead of LAZE. It also got a little tricky in the South, with SERGE (Twilled fabric for suits), SPUMES (Sea foams), and SPOOR (Scent of an animal). Not exactly true KOFCA-esque words, maybe, but still, a few that require a deeper search in the ol' memory banks. But as we always say, we appreciate and welcome the challenge any day of the week.

My favorite clue today is "It's a crime to lie under it" (OATH). 

Fun Monday! 

- Horace


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday, June 27, 2021, Ross Trudeau and Lindsey Hobbs

GRAVITY'S RAINBOW

I've never read the Pynchon book, but today (finally!) it doesn't matter. In this puzzle, gravity works on a rainbow in the grid, pulling the colors downward, out of their Across answers. They appear in proper Roy G. Biv order from left to right, and if you solve online, the gravity-affected words are appropriately colored once the puzzle is finished! Fun!

I'm guessing this ran in June to help celebrate Pride Month, but - fun fact, the current LGBT flag has six stripes (omitting INDIGO), and the original had eight stripes (including pink and teal). But any way you stripe it, it was a colorful and enjoyable Sunday solve.

It started off strong with a fun clue for bad things - SCAMS (Rackets), and off of that the old-timey SHASTA Cola. SHASTA was founded all the way back in 1889, but do you know what soda is older? If you said Coke (1886), you'd've been right, but it wouldn't have been the one I was thinking of - Polar (1882!). It's a shameless plug for a product from my home town. :)

Anywho, how about the hilarious clue "A one and a two" for THREE. Hah! 

I like how ESOTERICA is followed by a good example of same: AZURE (Color whose name is derived from "lapis lazuli"). But being something of a skeptic, I would like to be able to see the work on this one. I'm not a professional etymologist, but I find that "lapis lazuli" was itself named for a place where the stone was collected. Both words went through Latin, as many words do, where the "lapis" part meant "stone" and the "lazuli (gen. of lazulum)" part meant "from that town," but it seems to have also more generally meant "blue," so probably it could be more simply said that AZURE comes just from the place name, and not the stone name (possibly from mistaken removal of the first letter because it was thought to be a French article). And to continue beating this poor blue horse, is it at all CONTROVERSIAL that we have this stray color word in a puzzle focussed, as it is, on specific colors? 

And while we're on the topic of etymology, I was also driven to do a little research by "Part of a religious title that means 'ocean'" (DALAI)." This does seem to be straightforwardly from Tibetan, and "DALAI lama" means "ocean monk," but why are they talking about the ocean way up there in Tibet? One source says it's because he's an "ocean of compassion." I like it.

And speaking of ESOTERICA, how 'bout BUGGYWHIP?

I noticed oddities along the way, like AWARDEE, SERENEST, EELIER, but overall, the minor ROUGH patches are smoothed by the overall colorful nature of the whole. Happy Pride Month to all.

- Horace

 

p.s. On the subject of Ravel, I must defer to my music major colleague. If he says he's worth listening to, I will blindly (deafly?) argue the same. As I said in the comments earlier in the week, all I know of the man is "Bolero," but I very much like the sound of "piano toccata," and someday, when I have a sound system hooked up again (long story), I'll give him another chance.



Saturday, June 26, 2021

Saturday, June 26, 2021, John Lieb and Brad Wilber

It's been a really great week for the NYT crossword puzzle, in my opinion. I've had a blast solving and blogging on them. Today's is no exception.

There are five grid-spanning 15-letter answers, and each of them works beautifully. We start with the ludicrous ICOULDEATAHORSE. I seem to recall on a trip to some town in England, my older brother announcing that he was so hungry he could eat an Anglican cathedral. 

The next one, THEMUDVILLENINE is so evocative. I still remember the last lines of the poem: 

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.


I always loved this poem as a kid, especially with the shocker that he doesn't come through for the home team. As a Red Sox fan, this seemed all too familiar, and also support for the inevitable heartbreak that came at the end of every season up until 2004.


34A: Like popping bubble wrap, for many (ODDLYSATISFYING) is exactly that: an incredibly satisfying answer. I don't think I've ever seen it in the puzzle before. [Checks xwordinfo.com] - Nope, it's never been in the NYT crossword before, and I'm happy to see it here.


The last two are not quite at the same level, but still quite good. CARETOELABORATE is very much part of the vernacular, and DRIVEWAYMOMENTS applies more to me when I'm listening to, say, a piece by Ravel (Maurice, French-Basque composer, 1875-1937), such as his remarkable Le Tombeau de Couperin, a suite of pieces dedicated to friends who died in World War I. Just listen to the toccata (only in the piano version) - so brilliant.


SLEEVE

Some good clues today include 9D: It has its limits (CALCULUS); 4D: Entirety, redundantly (SUMTOTAL); 50A: Occupied leader? (PRE).


Fun week. Tomorrow, Horace takes back over. I expect the discourse about Ravel to continue until Huygens gives in. 11:49.


- Colum