Saturday, October 23, 2021

Saturday, October 23, 2021, Sam Ezersky

Oof, I hit the jackpot. Following yesterday's smooth and fun Friday themeless, I open today's to find it's by Mr. Ezersky, fiendish and challenging constructor. And look at that grid, with huge chunky corners. I went a long way through clues, to 24D, actually, before I got an answer I was solid enough on to put in.

That initial ENERGY got me a little way into it, before I sputtered out again. 38A: Pippi Longstocking feature (PIGTAIL) could only really be one thing, and 32D: Rabbit ears (TVANTENNA) was a welcome sight as well. But I foundered on other answers, including an incorrect guess at 47D: Go from E to F (FUELUP), where I tried FaiLat. Nice try, but I don't think teachers actually give out E grades, do they?

So after putting in a few other entries like PETUNIA and DERE (not so much a fan of that), I found myself once more in the NW corner. This time I took a chance on UCLA, and then tried ____LOG for 17A: Duraflame product (FIRELOG), which allowed me to put in IHOPE, and then ZYGOTE.

Now I could see 1A: Questions of surprise? (POPQUIZ) That's fun stuff, and led to the corner being finished. Out of there, I finally got 20A: Literally, "one who is sent off" (APOSTLE), which nestled nicely against ETHICS (at least I hope so).

PIECAKEN, anyone?

OILGLUT, and TANK made a nice little set of answers in the NE. Also having MASALAS near SRI seemed to make sense. A little less encouraging was TAXING, PRICES, CARTAGE, and PETFEES down the SE corner.

A good challenging Saturday is always welcome. It's very satisfying when the last square is filled in. So all I can say to Mr. Ezersky is NICEONE!

This week, Frannie will be taking the reviews back. Perhaps we've created a new and improved cycle of reviewers? If I get to follow Horace from now on, it relieves me of the pressure of living up to Frannie's shining workplay!

- Colum

Friday, October 22, 2021

Friday, October 22, 2021, Robyn Weintraub

"Oh frabjous day, Callooh callay!" He chortled in his joy.

Is how I feel when I see Ms. Weintraub's byline on a weekend themeless. What a lovely way to start the days off, coming home, opening the iPad and enjoying a good puzzle. My only complaint is that it went by so quickly!

I broke in with the ELLA/ELLEN duo, combined with the LEIS/LEAS pair, making this part fall very quickly. With ____LISH in place, 16A: Digital color presentation? (NAILPOLISH) was quickly clear, and the rest of the NW corner fell into place. 

The two long downs out of this section also came easily. 5D: Local alternative (EXPRESSTRAIN) has just enough ambiguity to make it a little tougher, while 17D: How you might count to five (ONONEHAND) was pretty straightforward. 

The middle trio of 13-letter answers in a staircase are very nice. I love 29A: Courtroom conclusion (CASEDISMISSED), bringing to mind many movies where a wrongly accused person triumphantly gets off, such as Legally Blonde, My Cousin Vinnie, and Liar, Liar. I had more difficulty with 32A: Comment after an amazing statement (LETTHATSINKIN). Here I had __TTHAT___ and thought it should start with "But that's..."

"TAOS Pueblo" by Helmut Naumer, Sr.

33A: What might be found between X and Z? (GENERATIONGAP) is a lovely bit of QMC work, in my opinion. I thought it would just be Gen Y in some form, but this makes much more sense!

I find in grids like these that if you can get the central section, the rest becomes a lot easier, because you have a solid set of three letters for any crossing answer. EATINGFORTWO, for example, could only start with the first word, once the ___ING is in place. 

I enjoyed 44A: Kitty food? (POKERCHIP), and had a "kitwo" moment for 48A: "Walk" (GOONSTRIKE). Could it be "goon stride?" That's not a thing, is it? (Hint: no, it's not). Hah! Finished in 5:49.

- Colum

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Thursday, October 21, 2021, Michael Lieberman

When I was but a lad, a friend of mine introduced me to GAMES magazine. And a lifelong love of puzzles was... well, if not born in that moment, at least validated. In those issues, once in a while, you might find some Wacky Wordies: little puzzles where the way words were placed in relation to each other suggested a phrase. Things like the word "thumb" spelled going from the bottom of the square to the top, twice over, to depict "thumbs up."

Mr. Lieberman has scratched that itch again today, with four examples of phrases which have the word "under" in them, pictorially represented by having the first part of the phrase beneath the second part of the phrase in four long down answers. Thus, 3D: Clueless about current trends (AROCKLIVING) is actually "living" [under] "a rock." Fun! 

Although I'm sad to say I didn't figure it out until I had two of them completed. What is this phrase OATHTESTIFY? Is this something you can do, I wondered... Duh.

Some other good answers today include BOOTYCALL, PRIMEVIDEO (Amazon's streams, indeed), and 18A: Tombstone site, once (OKCORRAL).

William SHAWN (father of Wallace, actor of The Princess Bride fame), the editor of the New Yorker, was featured in a review of the new Wes Anderson movie, The French Dispatch. It's a depiction of a magazine much like the New Yorker, in the mid-20th century. I happen to enjoy Wes Anderson movies a ton, so I'm looking forward to it.

Fun puzzle today, and a good start to the turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, David W. Tuffs

Wednesdays gotta Wednesday, you know what I mean? The puzzles are not early week and thus straightforward, nor are they late week, and thus tricksy or just straight up tough. Mr. Tuffs's second puzzle in the NYT follows this trend, and does it in a fun way, I think.

The theme finds five different words that begin with "or," and where the rest of the word can be reparsed into a new word, and then clues them with cute either-or questions. Thus, ORLANDO, the city, is reparsed into 17A: "Who's your favorite roguish 'Star Wars' character? Han..." or Lando?

ORDEALS and ORCHARD work very nicely. ORANGERED is an acceptable color term, even if I don't come across it often, and I like how it's reparsed from "orange-red" to "or-angered." ORALIST is not exactly Google-worthy as a term. Apparently, it's one who supports the act of lip-reading for hearing challenged rather than sign language. A bit niche, but once again I like how it's reparsed to "or A-list."

The grid does not make for very smooth solving, a pet peeve of mine which I've learned shouldn't get in the way of a fun solve. I understand that breaking up the grid like this makes it open for more fun entries, so that's a trade-off I am willing to accept. Still, the SW and NE corners are nearly entirely separate puzzles, with only two single letter entries each.


On the other hand, we get the very excellent ADDISABABA in complete form, along with PATAGONIA, a place I'd certainly like to visit at some point in my lifetime. 

In addition, I liked MARRIED crossing SAIDIDO, both clued with "Got hitched." I was not fooled in the least by 1A: Museum wings? (EMS), for once. 

Finally, I will raise a glass for the reference to N.K. Jemisin's "Broken Earth" trilogy. They are outstanding works of speculative fiction with strong characters and the heartbreaking choices they have to make. However, I don't agree that they fall into the genre of FANTASY. There are plenty of unsubtle hints that it's futuristic human life, and that all of the events can be explained through technology rather than magic. To boot, the first novel won the Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel.

All of which is to say, go out and read them.

- Colum 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Tuesday, October 19, 2021, Ross Trudeau

Well, since you asked, last night's Indigo Girls concert was a blast, and not just one from the past, either. They played a nice mix of songs from early days and their most recent album. I was a little disappointed that no songs from Become You made the cut. I love that album!

But instead of talking about a modern folk duo, let's talk about a classic trio of literary women, namely THEBRONTES. I was glad for that revealer at 28D, because it drastically reduced my solve time in the SW corner. I had already filled in the other three theme entries, namely CHARLOTTESWEB (with a wonderful quotation from the book. "People are not as smart as bugs." Yes, indeed), EMILYSLIST, and AUNTIEANNES. The theme is nicely disguised, as the mirror symmetry made the location of the theme answers less clear.

Once again we get this ACUTEACCENT! I like the clue ("A bit of décor"), but I'm still not used to this term in English. The other long answers are good as well. I like SENIORITIS the best, having seen it in action in my two kids in the not too distant past.

Not much else to report here. I finished the puzzle more quickly than yesterday. Here's hoping that the NYY's foes continue to do well in the postseason.

- Colum

Monday, October 18, 2021

Monday, October 18, 2021, Freddie Cheng

Hey all - just a quick and dirty writeup today, because we're going out tonight to see classic folk duo and lesbian icons Indigo Girls at The Egg tonight. We've been huge fans for decades: the last time we saw them was in 1996 at the Newport Folk Festival. I recall with deep fondness listening to their first two albums during my college years in the 1980s.

So it's apt (apt!) that the theme of today's puzzle is ARTFORMS, or different ways you can mix up the three letters A-R-T within longer phrases. I appreciate that each long answer has at least two versions of the letter string, and TARGETHEARTRATE has three of them. I also think it's funny looking at PEARTART as PE-art-art. 

This is one of those puzzles where the shaded squares makes it clearer what's going on, rather than giving it all away. That being said, if I ever had a hesitation when filling in a shaded square, I could rely on the fact that it had to be one of those three letters. That helped with RATTRAPS. I considered briefly the possibility of RATsnest, which also didn't work because it wasn't a plural.

There are only two non-theme answers of 8-letters long, and one of them is the revealer, so there isn't a ton of zingy type of answers. EUREKA is always nice, and BAABAA is fun. 

I had a hard time seeing 62A: Handmade sign held up by a kid in the bleachers (HIMOM). I wanted HoMer, which didn't really make too much sense. Then I thought about HItme, which was sort of masochistic, but could happen. Finally the answer came into view, which slowed me down to 3:48.

- Colum

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday, October 17, 2021, Jeff Chen


Hey everyone! I'm back again, once again filling in for Frannie this week. As Horace said, Sunday is its own thing within the crosswording week. It's a mega-size grid, allowing for longer theme answers and a more involved theme overall.

Today's is sort of an odd duck. There are five clues in addition to our standard acrosses and downs, which are described as being "diagonal" in the additional information section of the iPad app. And they are diagonal, of a sort, allowing for the long center section which runs along with a longer across answer. And it's this shared set of letters that leads to the title of the puzzle, a "common core." Which, by the way, is a really terrible way to try and organize education, but there it is.

I'm impressed by the way the shared letters get reparsed from one answer to another. ROGETSTHESAURUS, which is two words, also makes up part of HITSTHESAUCE, three words. Similarly, PATRONOFTHEARTS turns into SOFTHEARTED. It's very nice work. Of course, my favorite has to be BOACONSTRICTORS and BACONSTRIPS. Mmmm. I had some this morning and was instantly uplifted. I mean bacon, of course. Not very large snakes.

There are some fun clues today, like 67D: Step two? (FEET). Hah! Even better is 108D: Summer worker, in brief? (CPA). See, they do sums, get it?

I liked that HYENAS and SCAR both made an appearance with references to The Lion King. 

On the other hand, isn't it telling that the GSPOT is named after a man?

Finally, let's give a nod to the TOCCATA. One of my favorites is by... (wait for it)... Maurice Ravel!

I wonder if any of our readers have given him a listen since my earlier set of references?

- Colum

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saturday, October 16, 2021, Caitlin Reid and Erik Agard

The week ends (Yes, Sunday doesn't count. For me, the puzzle week starts on Monday and ends on Saturday. Sunday is it's own thing.) with a themeless by Caitlin Reid and Erik Agard. I don't know much about Ms. Reid, but I've seen Mr. Agard blow through the A.C.P.T. final puzzle in five minutes while standing on a stage, in front of a huge crowd, with the static of foreign language mumblings being piped into his headphones, so when I see his name in the byline, I get a little nervous. Who knows what he might unleash? 

HINGE (Certain swinger)

But today things went relatively smoothly. I started out strong with SKA (It's said to have been born on Orange Street, in Kingston, Jamaica) (What else could it have been?), and then the little NW was done in a matter of seconds. Knowing PALMEDOR off the clue opened the door to the middle, and suddenly I was down to the conversational HEYNOW ("That's uncalled for!"), NICEONE ("Zing!"), and NOSPOILERS ("Wait, wait, don't tell me!"). 

In some ways, this puzzle is a lot like yesterday's. I know that seems absurd, because they're both puzzles, and themeless, but there's a certain something. It's sort of a mirror image grid (if you allow yourself some freedom), and it has those conversational answers, and, well, there's a certain feel. GOROGUE (Fail to follow along), NONAPOLOGY ("Sorry if you were offended," e.g.), and AREWEGOOD ("No hard feelings?"). 

Anyway, it was smooth sailing from top to bottom on the left, to the bottom right, and then I got to the top right, where I ran aground. I had guessed NeonS, and I had COrgi in for a while for "Regional dog variety" (CONEY) (Tough!), and I think I had tOrt for "Court infraction" (FOUL), so it took some doing to set the ship right again. In the end, it was a water-related clue that helped, when I finally remembered that Bondi Beach was in Australia (near SYDNEY), and then things finally came together. 

I don't want to appear RAHRAH, so I'll add that I could have done without UNIPOD (Photographer's staff) (Maybe things are different now, but for the twenty or so years I worked in professional photography, I only heard "monopod."), but really, that's all I have to complain about. Overall, there's much more to celebrate than I can fit in a review of reasonable length (Too late!). Gold STAR!

- Horace

Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday, October 15, 2021, Ashton Anderson

I enjoyed the many contemporary, conversational entries today. The central stutter-step trio of EXQUEEZEME (Cutesy "I beg your pardon?"), BIGSURPRISE ("What a shocker"), and GODIHOPENOT ("Heaven forbid!") provides a lovely core, up top we have MINAJ, AGGRO, and SHUTYOURPIEHOLE ("Put a sock in it!"), and as we HEADINTO the corners we find HOTSTART (Cause of an early lead, maybe), MINDGAME (Psychological trick). GOTOPOT (Fall apart), and WORKINGIT (Strutting one's stuff). That's a lot of good material! 

jianbing CREPEs

The rest of the mid-length stuff, while maybe not super-current, is still very good - FORESIGHT (Important leadership skill) is an unusual entry, GROWINGUP ("Losing some illusions ... perhaps to acquire others," ...) is elevated by the Virginia Woolf clue, PAGEONE (It's just the beginning of the story) was fun, and BONAFIDE always makes me think fondly of Holly Hunter in O Brother, Where Art Thou? 

Looking around the grid, there's really nothing but good here. I mean, you need little entries like ANI and GOO, but they're not partials, and they're not not words, so they're fine. Right? This is very clean.

On a side note, I thought I was up on my typefaces, but I didn't know how the term "neo-grotesque" (ARIAL) was applied to fonts. From Wikipedia, I learn that "According to Monotype, the term "grotesque" [is used] due to their simple geometric appearance. The term arose because of adverse comparisons that were drawn with the more ornate Modern Serif and Roman typefaces that were the norm at the time." Hmm. I guess that helps.

Lastly, I wish I had a pound of PESTO right now. I'd put it in a cup and drink it.

Loved it.

- Horace

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thursday, October 14, 2021, Matt Fuchs

Why is it that swearing can be so funny? Yesterday I mentioned a t-shirt that only hinted at a swear, and it got a laugh. Perhaps that's the trick - to work the edges of profanity, as with the theme answers today. They could be read as completely normal phrases, but when clued to force the first word into a mild oath, they become amusing. Well, at least to me. 

TREVI fountain

When I figured out the first one, BLOODYNOSE ("My allergies are really acting up!"), I thought they might all be Britishisms, but I was quickly disabused of that notion by FREAKINGOUT ("That third strike cost us the game!"). 

This isn't a debut, but it's been seven years since Mr. Fuchs' last published puzzle, and my review of that one included a diatribe about salad dressing. Sorry, Matt. This time, I'll focus more on the fill, which I very much enjoyed. 

For starters, I thought the four outside Downs were all good - LABMICE (Maze runners) (LABrats also fits...), TOASTER (Glass elevator?) (Nice QMC!), CARWASH (Business that offers body waxing) (Nice Non-QMC!), and STIRFRY. Everybody likes STIRFRY! :) 

Aside from the humorous theme, we've also got "Q: How much does it cost to park at stadiums? A: ____" (ALOT). Hah! It would have been great if, instead of "Hoard," "What did it cost Henry IV to become king of France?" was used to clue AMASS. (He famously converted to Catholicism to win the acceptance of the Catholic-controlled city of Paris when he ascended to the throne, saying "Paris vaut une messe" or, "Paris is worth a mass.")

Other nice clues included "It may be on the house" (LIEN), "Stand by the pool, maybe" (TIKIBAR), and "Run for fun, perhaps" (TYPO). I had "Trot" in for that last one for quite some time!

A fun Thursday, and a great start to The Turn!

- Horace

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Brianne McManis

Today's theme, revealed by the multi-part answer SEE EYE TOEYE, is four full names that begin and end with the letter I. 

INDIRA GHANDI (First and only female prime minister of India)

ISAMU NOGUCHI ("Red Cube" sculptor with an eponymous museum in New York)

ICHIRO SUZUKI (First M.L.B. player to enter the Meikyukai (a Japanese baseball hall of fame)

ISAAC MIZRAHI (Fashion designer and judge on "Project Runway All Stars")


Today I learned that TONNEAU, can mean many different things in English - the seating area of a car, the bed of a truck, or, as clued, the "Cover for the bed of a pickup truck." In French, it means barrel.

I like STEALTH (Sneakiness) and CLINCHES (Sure things), and the lovely word SCHIST (Crystalline rock) will always remind me of the retirement party for my father. He taught geology and geography for many years, and one of his former students (I think) got my dad - whom I have never heard utter a swear, except when quoting the Captain of the Pinafore - a TSHIRT that read "Geologists have their SCHIST together."

I enjoyed the clue "One who loves to shred some gnar pow" for SKIBUM. Our car, incidentally, is named "Fluffy Pow-Pow." And speaking of names - while it may be true that many people don't use LASTNAMES with pets, it's much funnier if they do. I think, specifically, of a certain dog named Oliver Wigglesworth, Esq.

It's a theme, and there are some good non-theme entries. No HARM done. And now we look forward to The Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Conor Sefkow

OK, things are back to normal today. I'm home from the woods, and we've got a classic "Tuesdays Gonna Tues" theme, complete with a funny, made-up revealer - ALLITERNATION. It's cute, but these days my mind runs quickly to the "Can we still call it that?" question, which I will leave out of this review.

TAHOE TOPO (see what I did there?)

Each of the four themers has two words starting with the same letter (the "alliter" part) with a country as the first word ("nation"). All are very much in the language, at least for those of a certain age. So thumbs up on the theme.

In the fill, when I read the clue for 35-Down ("Most common answer in New York Times crosswords (more than 6% of all puzzles)), I already had E as the first letter, so I gleefully filled in Eel - my favorite fill word. Sadly, I had to change it to ERA. Harrumph! ERA can be clued as a stretch of time, or an acronym. It may be the most common letter-string answer, but what's the most common word, I wonder?

Interesting trivia about BANFF (Canada's oldest national park), and "Professional you might need to see?" was a cute clue for OPTICIAN). And is the LEADPIPE no longer a weapon in Clue? It's been a long time since I've played that... and I suppose if I were to play it again, I'd use the game we already have, so this crossword puzzle might be my only way of learning of this change. I guess I'll have to wait for a different puzzle to use "Weapon that replaced the lead pipe" as a clue to learn what the new weapon is. 

OK, that's probably enough out of me. 

- Horace

Monday, October 11, 2021

Monday, October 11, 2021, Ben Pall

A solid Monday theme today with four "it" expressions. On other days, I imagine they might not like to have the word "it" repeated eight times, but on a Monday, it seems OKAY somehow, doesn't it? 


So we have 

TAKEITORLEAVEIT ("This is my final offer")

LOVEITORHATEIT (Like something that is polarizing)

MOVEITORLOSEIT ("Get out of the way!")

MAKEITORBREAKIT (Having no middle ground between success and failure)

I've definitely heard the first and third in the wild, and the second one is definitely out there, but the last one is, I think, more often heard as simply "make or break."

There have been times in my life when I've used HAIRTIEs for ponytails, and I remember way back when when my mother let me buy a pair of NIKE sneakers, but I've never gotten a DVD from REDBOX. Remember VIDEO stores? Hah! 

Two nice C words at the top: CONCH (Large seashell) and CLOUT (Social influence), and two non-Monday-ish B words at the bottom - BAAL (Biblical false god) and BAHT (Thai currency), and I am lucky to have guessed correctly on BOWSER (D.C. mayor Muriel). Now if it had been clued with reference to Sha Na Na, I would have been all set. :)

Overall, I don't love it, but I certainly don't hate it either. Let's say it's a fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sunday, October 10, 2021, Brandon Koppy


This isn’t going to be too long, I’m afraid, because I’m in the mountains of Vermont, and getting online to post is going to be something of a chore/miracle. I apologize in advance for the brevity, but maybe, after doing a long Sunday puzzle, you just want a little review to read. Right?


Anywho, the theme, as it says on the tin, takes a movie title and uses it as a clue for something other than the movie itself. Like Field of Dreams for PSYCHOANALYSIS and Star Trek for THEREDCARPET. As in, movie stars take a trip down the red carpet at the Oscars. Not bad. I think my favorite is Top Gun for TSHIRTCANNON. Hah! Although a T-shirt cannon always reminds me of poor Maude Flanders, who was killed by one in the Simpsons.


I enjoyed the uncommon fill like CUSHY (Lucrative and undemanding), SWANK (Luxurious), and PARLAYED (Increased into something much more valuable). I didn’t know Natasha’s last name was FATALE, but it makes sense, and “Reason the physicist stayed in bed?” was a funny way to clue INERTIA.


The theme got a little strange toward the end, with Space Jam for FLYMETOTHEMOON and A Man for All Seasons for BINGEWATCHER. I don’t fully understand either of those, but maybe that’s just me.


I don’t mean to be a MEANIE, but that’s about all I’ve got time for today. I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you again tomorrow!


- Horace

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Saturday, October 9, 2021, August Lee-Kovach

I thought today's puzzle played pretty easy for a Saturday. I TORE through the assemblage of fill-in-the-blank clues ("Smart ___" (ALEC), "___ -o'-shanter" (TAM), "____ film" (FEATURE)) and early-week C/APs like "Units of land, with or without the first letter" (PLOTS) and "Boo-boo" (OWIE), until I reached the southwest section where my RATE began to WANE. In that corner were gathered a clutch of unfamiliar answers like NODRAMA and HELLENE, and the always-to-be-avoided OVOIDAL (OOF). Sadly, Dear Readers, my recent re-read of the HP books did not come to my aid for 55A: "The Grim, in the Harry Potter books" (OMEN). Despite the MUSS, I eventually completed the area without ADES and EMERIL'ed victorious. 

The mid-section of the puzzle with the staggered set of nine-letter answers includes some solid fill especially ALLABOARD and FAIRSHAKE. I thought both parts of the C/AP "Hullabaloo" and DIN were nice. I also enjoyed:
"Pop group?" (FAM)
"Soft or hard finish" (WARE)
"Left on board, say" (PORT)
"It's all over the papers" (INK)

Far be it for me to complain about a puzzle that I was able to complete quickly and with ACURASy, but I confess I do like a SPRACH more challenge on a Saturday.


Friday, October 8, 2021

Friday, October 8, 2021, Yacob Yonas

Good morning! I'm getting an earlier start on the review today thanks to sheer will power - and setting up a script to run in the background. :) When this work project is finally finished, I will celebrate with a dirty MARTINI! I'm pretty sure Horace will want to join me. 

Our vigilant readers will have noted the pleasing parallels in a number of the clues in today's puzzle, starting right off the bat with 1A: "Epiphanies" (AHAMOMENTS) whose "Bud" is clued identically, at 57A, but whose answer is EYEOPENERS. And speaking of "Bud" both of the above clues are crossed by another set of parallel clues at 2D and 49D (HOMIE and MATE, respectively). In another nice clue parallel, there are two 'art' clues in the top left quadrant. I am sufficiently up on my art history to have guessed TOMATOSOUP for "Classic Warhol subject", but I first picked 'irisES' over LILIES for O'Keeffe's classic subject, causing a slight slowdown. 

The puzzle provided AMPLE enjoyment throughout. There were deceptively simple but ambiguous clues aplenty - like I like. In each case below, the answer seemed obvious once I got it, but my first choice [in brackets] was off the mark.
"Get into" [take an interest] (ACCESS)
"Object" [voice disapproval - as in "One who objects to screw caps, say"] (THING)
"Packs" [gets ready for a trip] (MOBS)
"All there" [complete] (SANE)
"Jersey greeting" [S'up] (MOO) - LOL

I had another near-Natick experience at the cross between 37A ("Model/TV personality Chrissy who wrote the cookbook series 'Cravings'") and 30D ("Eponym for an Italian ice chain"). Luckily, I guessed T for TEIGEN and RITA, which was correct, staving off the dreaded FWOE. 


What's a Friday puzzle without some clever QMC clues?  Here are my favorites:
"Obtain a sum via special relativity?" (INHERIT)
"Cry heard at a shoe auction?" (SOLED)
"Shortening used in many recipes" (TSPS) - genius!

I also very much enjoyed the clue "A bit too articulate, perhaps" for GLIB, and TANKARD and STIPEND as fill. Taken all together, these nice touches are SINES of a fine puzzle in my book. 


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Thursday, October 7, 2021, Timothy Polin

Hello Dear Readers, it's Horace, filling in for one day. Our internet was out for most of the morning, and Frannie has too much else going on today, so here I am.


And what a beauty of a Thursday we've got, too! We had a surprise Wednesday rebus yesterday, so I was wondering what Will had up his sleeve for this one. Turns out it's 21 unchecked squares! Unheard of! Fortunately, the crosses were fair enough, and I got many of them along the way, but at the very bottom we find that they are not really unchecked. The revealer, SKIPPING STONES made it clear that they would all be different stones, and then I could finally fill in B L A R N E Y. After that, things like MARE (Moonscape feature) (Tough!), and INNOUT (West Coast burger chain with a "not-so-secret menu") (Also tough, for this East Coaster!) finally came into view.

In addition to the novel theme, I got a good vibe from the fun clueing. "Rule that should be broken?" is a cute QMC for the un-cute TYRANNY, and "Bug collection?" (INTEL) is sneakier than the sneakiest spy! And for once, "What jelly rolls are filled with?" (ELLS) didn't fool me! At least not for that long. :)

"One way to prevent stock losses?" (LASSO) was fun - so fun, in fact, that I couldn't even get angry that it didn't reference my favorite new TV show instead. And for Non-QMCs, we have the unassuming "On the surface it might not look like much" (BERG), and the shakin' "Harmless rattler" (MARACA). 

Sure, we've got the jarring EXARCH (Provincial governor in the Byzantine Empire) (if you say so), the old-school TOPE (Imbibe), and a few names I didn't know, but I'll take those all day long if you're going to give me such a strange new theme and such fun clues. Great start to The Turn!

Frannie's back tomorrow. I'll see you again on Sunday. 

- Horace

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, Jules Markey

No worms today for this reviewer - apologies for the late review, Dear Readers! Unfortunately, I was [COO]ped up at in the office all day and at class in the evening.

A fun rebus with four grid squares serving as PIGEONHOLES into which the letters [COO] are stuffed. I figured out the rebus when I got to 23D: "Rockefeller or Getty" (OILTY[COO]N). My favorite was S[COO]CHED, although MEWANT[COO]KIE is also pleasing. For some reason, I'm all about possible bonus theme material this week. What do you say to EGGON for today'? 

I felt like a bit of a bird brain when I wanted COMANECI for "Gymnast on Time's August 2, 1976, cover with the headline 'She's perfect'), but couldn't see how CAN could work for "Pokey" - thinking of it meaning slow. Suddenly, the key turned in the lock, and I remembered the other meaning of Pokey. Cuckoo!


This puzzle dove right into the good stuff. My favorite clue 1A: "Animal that's also a plant?" (MOLE) - ha! I also enjoyed "Current event?" (ELNINO) and "Award for a great play" (ESPY). Not to crow or anything, but I was happy to guess IDES off the clue, "Follower of the calends and the nones." Fill-wise, ASKANCE, DANGLE, DOCILE, and ANORAK and were the starlings of the day.

There were quite a few "birds of a feather" stuck together - if you will - in the form of numerous crosswords standbys like NOH, OTT, ESSE, IRK, and EKE, but no real caws for alarm. Overall, thought, I think it showed a lot of talon. :)


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, Hoang-Kim Vu and Jessica Zetzman

Today's theme hits a bit of a down beat: the revealer is HEARTBROKEN and that is what has literally happened to the word 'heart' in three of the theme answers. The clue for the revealer indicates a progression to the heart break that I'm not sure I see. The 'heart' is whole at first, but then breaks into HEA RT (INTHEAIRTONIGHT) and from there to HE ART (SWITCHESPARTIES), but the fourth one is back to HEA RT with HEADFORTHEHILLS. Still, there's UPSET no matter how the heart breaks. I thought the cute "Show of love, for short?" (PDA) and maybe the HATES/LIKES pair in the southeast could be considered bonus theme material. 

I found the puzzle to be on the easy side today - even for a Tuesday - with answers I know by heart like "Wed. follower" (THU), "Sign of sainthood" (HALO), and "Debtor's note" (IOU) - I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some SPRINTER-level times from some of our faster solvers. Despite speedy progress, however, I almost lost heart when I came to the 46A/46D cross where I had the same problem Jim mentioned in his comment on yesterday's puzzle today: the dreaded Natick. I had no idea what the "Stage name of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys" was or the name of "One of the Spice Girls" even though they (along with a number of other today's C/APs) are in my life-era wheelhouse. I ended up running the alphabet, and thanks to a very faint glimmer of something when I got to "m" (MELB/MCA) I avoided a FWOE/DNF, which is always my heart's desire.

21A: (Emerald) ISLE

I liked GOBAG and CHEFSHAT. "Drill conductor, informally" for SARGE was good. Interesting to learn that IOWA is the "state generating the highest percentage of its electricity by wind" and that "Fashion dictates that its width be the same as that of one's lapels" (TIE). Fun facts like these, along with clever clues and congenial words keep me young at heart. 


Monday, October 4, 2021

Monday, October 4, 2021, Christina Iverson and Andrea Carla Michaels

Today's theme answers trace the end of the birth process, starting with LABORDAYWEEKEND, through PUSHINGTHEENVELOPE and DELIVERYSERVICE until HERECOMESMYBABY. The app's congratulatory message both complemented and complimented the effort - as did the bonus theme material PACED, EARLY, and maybe ETAS. :) And to take the baby theme one step further, did you know that newborn babies are most comfortable at womb temperature? 


I thought the clues for today's short answers were particularly good from "Serve up a whopper" (LIE), through "Me to Miss Piggy" (MOI) and "Scrooge's 'Phooey!'" (BAH) and including the very entertaining "Setting for a couples cruise?" (ARK)  - ha!

I noted with GLEE a number of fun pairings in the puzzle like BAA and OINK, PANICS and EMOTE, and ONO and ENO. Another C/AP I enjoyed was "Frankly admit something" (OWNIT). And, as an aside, I love the word SIDLE. With that, I've got to DASH.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Sunday, October 3, 2021, Snoozefest by Trenton Charlson

Today's "Snoozefest" was anything but for this solver. The veritable TIZZY of ZEES kept me AGAZE. Several times, the sheer number of zees made me LOL. After I grokked the situation, I used it to my advantage. If I happened to get stuck for a minute, I would ZEROIN on words that had Z's in them like FAZES for "Rattles" and RAZES for "Levels." 

My system was generally a success, but it failed me in the northeasterly area of the grid. The level of RAZZLEDAZZLE in that corner befuddled me and I ended up with a DNF. The combination of "Spanish composer Isaac" (ALBENIZ), "Kilt-wearing Greek infantryman" (EVZONE), and a misunderstanding of the span of the palindrome in the clue "Northern California town once home to the palindromic ___ Bakery" knocked me on my azz. I was sure MANIA ("Frenzy") and GULLIVER ("Literary traveler to Lilliput and Brobdingnag") were correct, but they resulted in "arera" for the palindromic bakery answer - or so I thought - but I couldn't make that answer work with anything else over there. As I'm sure you know by now, dear readers, the palindrome extended to include the word "bakery" making the correct answer YREKA- d'ough!


Two others I failed to breeze through were "Like May through August, unlike the other months of the year" (RLESS) - did not see that coming - and "Stocking stuffer"  for which I guessed TOe instead of TOY

The puzzle was bedazzled with clever and amusing zingers including:
"Far-right state" (MAINE
"Something stretched out in yoga class" (MAT)
"Violated a code of silence" (SANG)
"Diamond who went platinum" (NEIL) - ha!
"Key for getting out, not in" (ESC)
"They're taken out in alleys" (PINS)
"Center of L.A., once" (SHAQ)

RESINY ("Like varnished wood") is a bit bizarre, as is the pluralization of EZRAS, but otherwise not much ARROZ to trouble me.

And finally, I'd like thank Colum for filling in for me last week with a HEPTAcular set of puzzle reviews. I'm sure he would have been able to shed some light on the unusual grid pattern. All I can say is that it ADZ a kind of interesting FUZZYWUZZY effect to the whole, non?


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Saturday, October 2, 2021, Wendy L. Brandes

Well, well, well. Another week of blogging come and gone. I'd like to thank my good friends Horace and Frannie for taking a chance on an unknown crossword enthusiast, and my wife for her unstinting support during these tough weeks when I'm glued to the puzzle for nearly a sixth of an hour, before writing pointless but hopefully humorous prose about the solve.

But seriously, I'm happy to report another fun Saturday themeless by Ms. Brandes. This is her second published puzzle in the NYT, the last also being a themeless on a Friday. There are only four notably long entries today (being greater than ten letters), which means very chunky corners in order to rectify the word count. I don't love it when corners are partitioned off, as in the NW and SE. There are only single letter entrances at two locations. But today, they played well anyway.

I'd never heard of DORISMILLER - having read just now, I find that he was a Black man whose heroism in Pearl Harbor saved many lives. Glad to hear that he is finally being recognized. 

The other three long answers are very nice. I have never and never will relate to 33A: Ate the last cookie, say (COULDNTRESIST). My willpower is legendary. The clue for 47A: Like mysterious matters, often ... or hotels (CHECKEDINTO) is fun, and 15D: Canned lines? EXITINTERVIEW is a very nice QMC.

Other clues I enjoyed included:

30A: Accords, e.g. (SEDANS) - nice hidden capital.

56A: Place to get a cab (WINERACK).

50D: Something you might watch with your parents (TONE). Many years ago we watched "The Kids Are All Right" with our two daughters. Full frontal nudity. Problems. I think nobody was scarred permanently.

39D: Posers are forever saying it (CHEESE). 

And what do people think about 39A: What's the big deal? (CARDS). I get that we're talking about cards being dealt, but how does the word "big" fit in?

I believe Frannie is taking over tomorrow. I had fun!

- Colum

Friday, October 1, 2021

Friday, October 1, 2021, Jim Horne and Jeff Chen

And it's on! The Turn is going great. Today's puzzle is created by the pair who run, a great website, the link to which is in the sidebar to the right. And there's even a minitheme!

17A: Fictional home with a secret basement (WAYNEMANOR) and 57A: Locale below 17-Across, as suggested by three images in this puzzle's grid (THEBATCAVE) made me see how there are three bats in the middle of the puzzle! Very nice. Also, this was only made possible by having diagonal symmetry. By the way, 21A: Super group (AVENGERS) is not part of the theme for obvious reasons.

This grid put up very little fight for me. In fact, I finished it faster than yesterday's, which is definitely unusual (at 5:33). Sometimes, you're just on the same wavelength as the constructors. Or on the same RADARSCREEN? No, I don't think that's a correct use of the metaphor. 

There were a lot of fun clues, including 31D: An eagle is the most common one in the U.S. (TEAMMASCOT). A great little piece of trivia, which goes along with 28D: Like the loser's locker room after a stunning upset (DEADSILENT). 


I also liked 37A: Activity with a rake (CRAPSGAME). I thought about leaf removal, then I thought about a Don Juan type "rake." Which, I suppose, could still apply to activities in a casino.

We've been very interested in GOYA around these parts ever since Cece took a Freshman seminar course on his life and times and works. And I know that Horace takes a strong delight in EDNA St. Vincent Millay. 

Finally, I really liked 29D: Driver around a lot? (ADAM). Because it's so true. For a few years now, it's seemed like he's the only young adult male leading actor in Hollywood.

- Colum

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thursday, September 30, 2021, Rich Proulx

Every week I blog about the NYT crossword, I look forward to Thursday, as part of the Turn, as we like to call it here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA. It's a chance to see how tricksy our constructor friends can get (although they don't go as crazy as Puzzle #5 at the ACPT, typically). So, while I think this theme is pretty snazzy, I was somewhat disappointed today. But only a little.

The concept here is standard two word phrases where each word can be parsed as the sound something makes, then is clued by those two sound making somethings. I probably could have done without the = part of each clue. It took away from the trickiness.

So as an example, you get a cell phone, which often rings, and bubble wrap, which definitely pops, together making RINGPOP. Or, even better, a lightsaber and impatient fingers creating HUMDRUM. The revealer is apt (apt!), at 57A, SOUNDMIXING


For fun clues, we get a few like 60A: It's often included in a good deal (ACE) and 62: Watch it! (VIDEO). In the down clues, there are a couple of QMCs like 2D: A key to what's underneath? (DOWNARROW). This is very nice, but I so wanted DOWsingrod (one letter too many). Also 32D: United way? (PLANERIDE).

I appreciate three word phrases in eight letters, which comes up twice, symmetrically, with COZYUPTO and IMALLOUT

I almost had another Natick moment (a square where the letter is a guess in both directions) at the crossing of ABE and BAIDU, but B was the most likely answer.

A quick solve for a Thursday at 5:43. Looking forward to the themelesses tomorrow and Saturday!

- Colum

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners

Fresh off of yesterday's poor showing, I'm happy to say I redeemed myself somewhat. I can't give you an exact time of solving because I had to leap up to save a bike shoe from a dog's less than tender oral embrace...

How many words are there in the English language which become their opposite if you add a single letter? Probably more than six, I'd guess, but the nice twist here is the added layer: when you read the extra letters in order from top to bottom, you get the revealer word SECRET. Nice touch!

I've seen most of these before, especially [T]HERE, [C]OVERT, and F[E]ASTS. I liked the switch from "reign" to RE[S]IGN and "evolutionary" to [R]EVOLUTIONARY

The fill is nice as well. from EMERALD to MENSWEAR and ROCKHARD, we've got some nice long answers. I would have expected the past participle of "yodel" to have only one L rather then two as in YODELLED. I see from the all-knowing Google that the single-L is the US version, while to double-L is the UK version.

This guy CENSES

I was fooled by the hidden capital in 26D: King of pop (CAROLE). Neither Elvis nor Presley would fit! On the other hand, I was not fooled by the same trick in 65A: Man in the Irish Sea, e.g. (ISLE).

We used to frequent an Ethiopian restaurant in Central Square in Cambridge called ASMARA. I wonder if it's still there. Perhaps Horace or Frannie can weigh in on this question.

I had never heard of a REALALE. After reading up on it, I'd be down for trying some.

Perhaps I could do with less NUDGER or LEVELER, but overall, a fun puzzle for a Wednesday.

- Colum

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, Meghan Morris


I'm just going to give myself a DNF today. Three errors is one too many for me to skate by on a "finished with..." Honestly, I can give myself a little leeway where a couple of the errors are concerned.

Let's start with the bad ones: 29D: Fires up? (SETSABLAZE). I had SETSAfLAmE. Fort fRAGG sounded off, to be certain, but it wasn't completely unlikely to be true. At the same time, I know of Fort BRAGG. I also know it's named after a Civil War Confederate general (one of ten forts in the country, apparently). So I should have figured that out. VIm instead of VIZ? Yeah, there's no explaining that one away.

My other error came at the cross of DON / LEMON. After seeing it, I now recognize it well. However, I tried DaN / LEMaN. You know. Dan the Man. That guy. 


The theme is fun, demonstrating all three kinds of ANGLEs, each one connecting up to the correct name in the theme answers. Thus BEINGOBTUSE then has "angle" falling away from it at an obtuse angle (although I'm not sure why it's backward). DOTHERIGHTTHING has "angle" perpendicular, and ACUTEACCENT... yeah, you get the idea.

I would have called it an "accent aigu," especially since almost all examples in English arise from French loan words. But I guess in English we call it an acute accent. But I liked the clue.


There are a few nice long entries here, especially WEBDUBOIS. LIFEGIVING is pretty good, as is DEEPROOTS.

There are a few too many RAZRS NTWT LTRS LIX and AKAS noted, presumably due to the difficulties of having triple-checked letters (the two "angles" on the diagonal). At the same time, it's a debut puzzle (or should that be début?), so all congratulations and welcomes are to be sent Ms. Morris's way.

- Colum

Monday, September 27, 2021

Monday, September 27, 2021, Zachary David Levy

Let's start with a superfun clue/answer pair, right at 2D: Each ... as in the price of balloons? (APOP). This really tickled me and put me in a good mood from the get-go. It makes me wonder - is it the price of enjoying a balloon that you will know one day it will pop? Or even sadder, just deflate until it's a shriveled faded mockery of itself. I like to think that this is not a metaphor for human life.

Oof. That got dark fast. Trying to avoid SELFPITY here.

The revealer today is INTHEBANK, which also refers to the last words in each of the theme answers: vault, teller, savings, and deposit. It's a nice revealer - I didn't see it coming, perhaps because I was rushing through as I often do on a Monday to see if I can beat the 3 minute mark (I did not). I am a big fan of PENNANDTELLER, not so much of DAYLIGHTSAVINGS (why do we need it any more?). I'm amazed, as always, by the feats of the human body, so the fact that individuals can propel themselves over 20 feet in the air to cross a bar with the use of a bendy pole is astonishing.

Juana INES de la Cruz

In other news, the odd down answers in the fill are the ones that have to cross multiple theme answers. I have nothing against NFLTEAMS (in fact, I still enjoy watching them despite knowing the damage they can do to the NEURAL networks of those who play the game). SPITED (ugh), CTSCAN, AGGIES. They have varying levels of okay-feelingness, if you will forgive the term I just made up.

I'd like to call SHAME on those who continue to use terms like "ogle" and LEER in the puzzle. Even if you clue it with things like "It's a bad look." Maybe we can just remove them entirely?

But on the whole, it's a fun puzzle. 

- Colum

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday, September 26, 2021, Priyanka Sethy and Matthew Stock


Hello everyone! Surprise, surprise (if you've been following our typical rotation of reviewers closely, that is). Instead of Frannie, it's Colum. I'll try not to TACKS your patience by trying (and failing) to come up with the brilliant puns she scatters through her reviews. 

What a super fun theme today! There is no doubt that we need the grayed out squares and circles, or otherwise we'd never find the hidden educational subjects, each of which has been interrupted by a single letter. Thus, ARCTANGENT has "Art" with a C in the middle. All of these could be high school classes, although I don't think we would have ever called it "Lit" instead of English. It's impressive to find these letter strings in so many (eight) answers. Who would have thought to find "Chem" split by L in RACHELMADDOW?

But there's another level. If you read the interrupting letters in order from top to bottom, you find the phrase "cut class." Hah! On so many levels, this works just right, and just adds to the insanity of putting this theme together. 

The fill is relatively straightforward. I found more names that I didn't know than I'm used to, such as Michael URIE, Katie NOLAN, and Celia CRUZ. On the other hand, I knew DIEGO Rivera and ENID Blyton immediately, so that seems pretty balanced. I recall with delight the Famous Five series of the latter.

Favorite clue-answer pair (C/AP) was 82A: "What in the...!" (SONOFA). I also liked 6D: Fence line? (ENGARDE). I used to fence in high school. It was a lot of fun pretending to be The Man in Black. Okay, actually that came out my senior year of high school, so probably this is an incorrect memory.

And lastly, 15D: Not sharp, perhaps (INTUNE) is an incorrect assessment of my piano.

- Colum

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Saturday, September 25, 2021, Adam Simon Levine

Today's task, for me, was slowly working out the central cross - CHICXULUBCRATER (Site of the impact of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago). Those first nine letters weren't going to be filled in without crosses! Luckily, old-timey things like NONEWTAXES (Campaign catchphrase of 1988) and IRONSIDE (1960s-'70s detective series set in San Francisco) helped to get things going. 

And, hey, remember yesterday, when I noticed that Le Monde was just one letter off from "lemonade?" Well, today the right edge has LEANDER (Tragic lover of myth) and LEADER (Word finishing ring or band). There's a theme in there somewhere! 

ROBIN (not Cokie) Roberts

Did you also notice that endangErED has the same number of letters as THREATENED (Like the red panda, blue whale and black rhino)? Well, it does. And, for the record, the red panda and blue whale are both endangered, and the black rhino is critically endangered. Sometimes THREATENED indicates a lesser level of concern, but sometimes it is used as a blanket term to cover both endangered and critically endangered, so I guess I have to let this one go.

I really enjoyed the NE corner, with MARIGOLD, GREATSOUL ("Mahatma," in translation), and MNEMOSYNE (Greek goddess of memory) being crossed by DUNGAREE (It may be in your jeans) (we used to call all jeans DUNGAREEs), and the aforementioned LEANDER. Lots of good material up there, and well worth the price of ARN, GTOS, and OSS

We have a good BUSKER friend, RUCKUS (Rowdydow) is a fun C/AP, and I enjoyed learning that MOHAVE is the "County that's split in two by the Grand Canyon." And although I hadn't heard the term CHIASM (Rhetorical inversion device seen in "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends") it makes sense, 'cause that "chi" part means x in Greek, right? Plus, I like that expression.

And last but not least, I enjoyed seeing NOLI me tangere (don't touch me), because I just started up another Latin course, and a review of the verb nolle just came up in the last class! 

It was a satisfying solve. Congratulations, Mr. Levine, on a Saturday debut!

Colum takes over tomorrow, filling in for Frannie, but I think she'll be back the week after that, and I'll see you again in a few. Until then, Happy Puzzling!

- Horace


Friday, September 24, 2021

Friday, September 24, 2021, Stella Zawistowski

Such a lovely, chunky grid today. Classic late-week look. Nine by three blocks (nearly nine by four) NW and SE, and five by fives in the other corners, and then those 4x4s on the sides and the steps in the middle. Lovely.

Unlike some reviewers, I never know how many words are in a grid. I think there's some easy way to figure it out, but I have never made the effort. This one seems like it's low, but not super low. How's that for perceptive, cutting edge reviewing? Take that Brian Rosenthal! Where's my Pulitzer!?

Sorry. It's early.

So anyway, I liked the look, and Ms. Zawistowski's byline struck a bit of fear into me, but this one flowed so smoothly that I ended up finishing it in just 7:17, which, for me, is a quick Friday.

Remember when we used to rate 1-Across? That was fun. Today, it gets an A. "What's not to like?" is an excellent clue for an excellent answer - BETENOIRE. Hah! I didn't know what BOXBRAIDS were before, but it's always nice to learn something from a puzzle. And speaking of - I also loved the "Bearer of the earth in Iroquois creation stories" clue for TURTLE. GETSOME (Find satisfaction, slangily) was fun, ARMOREDCARS (Valuable carriers) and IMAGINETHAT ("Well, there's a surprise!") were nice long-ish answers, and LEMONDE (Daily in Paris) (quotidienne didn't fit) makes me wonder if I could build a crossword theme out of words where an A has been removed (lemonade -- le monde). I'll have to work on that...

Lots to like today. Happy Friday!

- Horace

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Thursday, September 23, 2021, Simeon Seigel

Today's grid reminds us that certain information should be kept secret by blacking out an SSN, a PIN, and a DOB. The three redacted pieces of personal information are nicely symmetrical, and appear in the middle of three grid-spanning entries. 

Flipping the BIRD

It's a fancy theme, but it seems to have made the grid a bit RIGID, and we end up with oddities like ANTNESTS, AEROBATS, and ATREUS (Father-in-law of Helen of Troy). POTLEAVES (Symbols often accompanying the phrase "Legalize it"), ESTERS, ALLELE, BANC (Like Supreme Court hearings, with "en") ... it's not that ITSNOTOK, but it feels like kind of a lot of OUTRE entries. And not only did I know know what was beside the WYNN casino, until this morning I didn't know it existed.

Not to pile it on, but I never really like seeing those em-dash clues. The first one gave away that 20-Across was somehow connected to 19-Across, and I don't know how else it might be clued to avoid that, but it always diminishes the effect a bit. At least for me.

Again, I appreciate the beauty of the hidden abbreviations, but the rest of it left me a little flat. Sometimes that'll happen, but tomorrow is, after all, another day. I hope you enjoyed it.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Wednesday, September 22, 2021, Grant Boroughs

Another day, another debut, and I, for one, welcome the onslaught of new names and new ideas. Congratulations, Mr. Boroughs, on getting published!

Today's theme adds IC to several phrases, pluralizes them, and then - as is the custom - clues wackily. So we get things like CARPENTERANTICS (Wacky shenanigans of a woodworker?), POPTOPICS (Things that Dad likes to discuss?), and DOTCOMICS (Much of Roy Lichtenstein's work?). Those all made me chuckle. FRYINGPANICS (Frights upon waking up from sunbathing naps?) was a bit of a stretch, but by the time I got down there, I was already in a good mood so I smiled anyway. :)


In non-theme, I do appreciate the symmetry of the AMERICAN and EUROPEAN entries and clues, I just wish they were on the correct sides! And while I also enjoyed the nod to Paris in "____ de la Cité, one end of Paris's Pont Neuf" (ILE), I am disturbed by that "one end" part. The ILE de la Cité is really in the middle of Pont Neuf. The ends are the Right and Left Banks of the Seine. 

How's that for a STERN talking-to?

I loved the clue for INKPAD (You might put your stamp on it), "Low digit?" (TOE) was fun, and "Respond to a stimulus" (REACT) was just so... exact? ALSO, I liked seeing APPLETON Wisconsin get in there too. A good friend of ours went to Lawrence U. 

There seemed to be a good bit of alphabet soup - MIII, ACDC, TSKS, YOO, IDK, PFFT, NCIS, ROTC - but I didn't really mind any of it. ALLOF ("____ the other reindeer") was probably the thing that made me roll my eyes the most. Overall, though, I enjoyed the theme, and liked plenty in the fill. So far, so good.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tuesday, September 21, 2021, Daniel Okulitch

Everybody loves a good lawyer joke, right? And who doesn't enjoy a pun? Today's theme appeals to both with four law-related terms clued in punny ways. To wit - MOTIONDENIED is "A little tied up at the moment?" And "Attire for a gym period?" is a CLASSACTIONSUIT. Heh. "Advocate for U2's frontman" (PROBONOATTORNEY) seems a little de facto, and "Swing of a bowler's arm?" for MOVETOSTRIKE is positively de novo - perhaps something only an amicus curiae could love. Or an amicus bowlingae


There's a little bonus material in the clue "Lawyer, for a defendant, typically" (NEED), and "Onetime Supreme Court justice Charles EVANS Hughs." 

Aside from the theme, the puzzle had other worthwhile assets. "Heavy weight for a musician to bear?" (TUBA) is fun, NEWSOM (Successor to Brown as California governor) was a nice reminder of the recent hubbub out West, and REBUKE (Sharp talking-to) is an uncommon entry. ARCH (Primary) got a tricky clue, and CRAY (Unhinged, in slang) adds a touch of freshness to balance out the old-timey WERTHERS.

Only one minor indictment for SSI (Some fed. assistance), but an exemption can be made, as it hardly cast a PALL.

Another day, another debut. Congratulations, Mr. Okulitch, on your first NYTX.

My verdict? - Amusing.

- Horace

Monday, September 20, 2021

Monday, September 20, 2021, Pao Roy

Today, for perhaps the first time, I thought it might be nice if the puzzle were circular instead of square, to go with the theme of the layers of the Earth. Then again, maybe the cross-section works better, since it's also about the journey of MAGMA going from - below the core? - out to the surface, where it becomes ROCKS


That ROCKS (What lava becomes after an eruption) answer doesn't sit well with me. For one thing, lava is often still called lava once it's above ground. And while yes, it does eventually break up into individual ROCKS, it would be more natural to say that it becomes simply volcanic rock. Sure, it's a quibble, but that's what they pay me the big bucks for over here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA.

And hey - maybe if the eruption were really huge, it would become ASTEROIDS! :)

Nice little French pair of SEINE and CINQ over on the left-hand side today. I like the trivia in "River beneath 37 Parisian bridges." Maybe now I'll remember that number - it's the same one Bill Lee wore back when he was my favorite Red Sox pitcher. 

Anywho, in addition to the modern GLUTENFREECRUST, the uncommon ASSUMETHEMANTLE, and the unfortunate ROTTENTOTHECORE, we've got the aforementioned MAGMA and ROCKS, and ASHES (Volcanic emissions) right in the middle. And maybe some bonus material in the clue for WATER (One piece of evidence of a planet's habitability). I needed a CLUE or two for the SONG singers SISQO and J. COLE, but the crosses worked out. 

Congratulations to Pao Roy for the NYTX debut. A solid - or is that liquid or ashy? - start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sunday, September 19, 2021, Peter Gordon


A lovely Sunday trick from veteran Mr. Gordon. As the puzzle tells us, a FRESHPAIROFEYES (or, "Is") is (are?) added to normal words or expressions to make new word pairings, and then - guess what? - they're clued wackily! Perhaps an example or two would help.

To the normal word "thoroughfares," the letter I is added twice, around the last R, changing the word to THOROUGHFAIRIES and this is clued with "Meticulous magical beings?" Heh. 

And one more - "polka dots" is changed and given the clue "Inept dancers at Oktoberfest?" The answer? POLKAIDIOTS. It's mildly amusing. A few of the others are less funny - PANAMAHAITI, for example, but I appreciate the cleverness of making this trick work so many times. 

In other areas, I actually tried "younger" at 1A "Like the Rock vis-à-vis any of the Stones," which is true, I believe. And I suppose other words could have been used there, too, but no other would have matched up with all the crosses as well as BEEFIER

I'm not sure I like how "small-dog crazy" the puzzle has gotten. It's always Pom this, Peke that, and now we have "Small doodles, perhaps," for LAPDOGS. I guess "doodles" now refers to "Labradoodle," the unholy pairing of the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle. Actually, "unholy" may be a bit harsh, as at least two of my friends (including one, Mr. Colum Amory) have owned labradoodles, and in my experience, they are pretty good dogs. If you like that sort of thing. (See also: "Buddy of Buddy, maybe" (FIDO), "Shape of a canine ID tag, often" (BONE), and "Hungarian herding breed" (PULI))

Lastly, speaking of animals, I have always thought that there was a thing called a "door mouse," but now I learn that it's "dormouse," ("Bushy-tailed rodents" (DORMICE)). They are rodents that can hibernate for up to half a year, and the name comes from the french dormeuse for "tending to be dormant," or "sleeping." They were considered a delicacy in ancient Rome, either as a savory appetizer or - dipped in honey and poppy seeds - as a dessert.

That's probably a good way to end this. Enjoy!

- Horace


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Saturday, September 18, 2021, Ryan McCarty

I've had a fun week solving and blogging, and we wrap it up with a good old-fashioned challenging Saturday. I don't love all of the entries (c.f. BRONZERPALETTE), but I enjoyed fighting my way through some of the tougher answers.

Things started out pretty straightforwardly, however. The little NW corner fell very quickly. I couldn't quite get any of the down answers out of it, so shifted over to the larger NE section. AJAR and JETE and AGAR were all easy enough, and then with Riz AHMED at the far end of the corner, I slowly filled in answers. Funny to see NUMETAL crossing MEGACHURCH. After a bit, I had all the northern half filled in. 

The clue at 3D: Tragic downfall? (TEARDROP) is a nice use of a QMC. The other clue I really liked in this section was 11D: Not quite right (ACUTE). That there is the definition of a beautiful non-QMC. 

A little odd to have GAYPORN right in the middle of the puzzle. It's a little out of line with the NYT's usual fare. 


I found it quite a challenge making my way from the completed upper half into the lower half. I had TROLL____, GOT____, and FRAT____, all without knowing for certain what was expected below those starts. In addition, APNEAL is simply just not something anyone says. Ever. It doesn't even Google. I wanted APNEic, but couldn't make it work. I was actually at an IMPASSE.

After a few inspired guesses, I got the WENT____, confused myself by entering OKay at 47D: "All right, we get it!" (OKOK), and then finally recognized that 54A: Cause of lightheadedness? had to be HALO (very clever, that!). 

I liked 38D: Traveler around the world (ORBITER), and MEATBAGS reminded me of Star Trek: TNG, where humans were referred to as "Ugly bags of mostly water!"

In any case, it was a good hard fight. Tomorrow it's back to Horace. See everyone soon!

- Colum

Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday, September 17, 2021, Matthew Stock

Happy weekend to all our many readers! Hope you've got some fun stuff planned.

I liked the grid in today's puzzle. It's an odd sort of symmetry, along the NW to SE diagonal, creating some nice crossings of long answers. I don't know that I've seen its type before. By looking it up on, I see it's the ninth such puzzle since Mr. Shortz took over editing, and many were before I started solving the daily routinely.

I had a bit of a misstep early on by wanting to put iriquoix in at 1A (MOHICANS), but realized quickly that it couldn't be right. Hope figured out the actual answer shortly thereafter. Other good answers in this section include LEGOMOVIE, MELTINGPOT, and LAIDSIEGE. I also very much enjoyed the clue at 32A: Ground shaking stuff? (PEPPER) - that's really clever!

Not a huge fan of pluralizing TREACLES. It doesn't seem like a mass of goop can come in groups of more than one, rather than in larger volumes. But LIONSMANE and GLITTERBOMB are fun answers, and 40D: Ones who are sent packing? (HITMEN) is brilliant as well. 

In case you were wondering, a semordnilap (palindromes backwards) is a word whose reverse is also a word, but not the same word as in a palindrome. 

I recall the CHICAGOBEARS doing "The Super Bowl Shuffle," the year they unceremoniously drubbed the Patriots, who had no right to be in the big game, having won their way there from the Wild Card position. Mind you, things have turned around a fair bit in the time since then...

I did have one error today: I put in TzAR instead of TSAR, and thought for a few seconds too long that LUzITANIA was a reasonable spelling of the ship whose sinking brought the United States into WWI. Well, after about two more years.

A good themeless, keeping up the high level of puzzles this week. Looking forward to tomorrow!

- Colum

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021, Kevin Patterson

Remember talking about those aha moments? I surely had one today. I had much of the top half filled in and even most of the two revealer answers before the shoe dropped, metaphorically speaking, that is. Filling in 16D: Gift of persuasiveness (TONGUE) and 10A: Second-best era (AGE), I was completely at sea. Once again metaphorically, you understand.

And then I finally filled in SILVER / LINING, and my eyes filled with the shining light of comprehension. Every border answer is best understood with "silver" supplied before hand. Thus, "silver-tongue" and "silver age." I love seeing The [SILVER]SURFER as well as the [SILVER]SCREEN. Very nicely done. It's such a nice change of pace when we get an around the outside theme like this one.

We've been thinking some about the LONDONAREA, because we've been watching the second season of Ted Lasso. It's a fun series, although I'm not as convinced by this go around as we were by the first season. When you take a character that's mostly created for the surface fun and supply back story and psychologic difficulties, it's going to feel like a bit of a stretch.

I was slowed down today by thoughtlessly putting Yeti in at 53A: Hairy Tibetan beasts (YAKS). I mean, I was right, in a sense. Only, what is the plural for our favorite cryptid? I see that it's "Yetis." So that should have alerted me.

Some nice answers in DEVOIDOF and EARWORMS. Strangely, for a Thursday, not much in the way of clever cluing. But overall a fun solve, and a good start to The Turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Sophie Buchmueller and Ross Trudeau

Happy debut puzzle to Ms. Buchmueller! Congratulations and felicitations.

And it's a killer theme, as well. The revealer comes at 57A: Basketball feint ... or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 46-Across? (HEADFAKE). I like it because it works on a couple of different levels. First off, each answer is something non-original that might be added to a place in the head. A DENTALCROWN is a "fake" tooth, while a POWDEREDWIG is "fake" hair.

But also, the head fake can also refer to the clues, which are all excellent misdirections. If there were no question marks, you'd have to work pretty hard to figure out where they were going. You might have guessed by now that I'd rather there were fewer question marks in the puzzle. But you have to love a clue like 36A: Batter's additions? (FALSELASHES). Someone who's batting his or her eyes, that is. Or "Old rug in a courtroom?" That's fun stuff.

Other fun clues in the fill included 15A: Garten of eatin' (INA). A lovely way to make a less than exciting 3-letter answer interesting. Or 42A: Save it for a rainy day (TARP) - here, the "it" refers to the answer itself. And 64A: They can be even, paradoxically (ODDS). Very nicely done.


Along with nice entries like ASIFICARE and ICEBOXES, this was a very enjoyable solve that took maybe a little longer than I'd typically see on a Wednesday. My biggest error came at 33D where I put in Ltd off the first letter, rather than LLC. But nothing too bad.

Great job!

- Colum

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021, Christopher Adams

Hey everyone! Quick blog post today as I get ready for rehearsal. My chorus has gotten back together this fall for a new season. Weird to be singing in masks, but it's lovely to be making music once again.

The theme did not become clear for me until I finally got to the revealer at 57A: 2013 Best Musical Tony winner ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme (KINKYBOOTS). Mind you, I recognized that the same 5 letters were being used in different combinations in the shaded squares, but they were mixed up enough to keep the trick hidden long enough. I do enjoy a nice aha moment, and this puzzle supplied it for me.

That's a lot of Bs and Os in the grid! I recognize that the constructor could not have possibly used every combination of the 5 letters. We don't see OOBST or BOTSO, for example. Still, it's a nice set up, and everybody loves to see BOSTONPOPS in the grid.

Other highlights for me include KOKO, from an old favorite. Although honestly, I'm not convinced The Mikado is easily produced nowadays. The casual racism (even if disguised as commentary on Victorian England) is all too present. And the idea of White actors and actresses donning makeup to look Asian is very problematic.

I liked 30A: Top Olympian (ZEUS). I was trying to imagine who in the history of the Olympics could be categorized as the best of all time, and then realized it was more literal. In a sense.

Sorry for the short post! See you all tomorrow.

- Colum

Monday, September 13, 2021

Monday, September 13, 2021, A. Tariq

All settled back in here in Albany after the weekend's mild fiasco (c.f. yesterday's post), it's lovely to sit down to a straightforward and fun Monday puzzle.

This is a great theme! I love the concept: taking a standard phrase where the second word can be redefined to mean "a group of," and then cluing the newly parsed phrase to fit the new meaning. All of them work so well, especially because each time the word is truly redefined. As in HOUSEPARTY - the term here originally is used to mean festivities. My favorite is 47A: Group of profoundly insightful people? (DEEPSET). Lovely!

It's odd to have two 7-letter theme answers, but it means there's a lot more room to play around in the fill. HODGEPODGE is a great long down answer, and VEGETABLES is a nice one. 

As is fitting for a Monday, there aren't a ton of clever clues, but I really like the trivia at 33A. ALASKA! Who knew your flag was the product of a teenaged mind? And referring to the 'N Sync song is a great way to make BYE more interesting as an answer. Honestly, I would have guessed far more than 52 for how many times they sung the word. Maybe it counts as more times when all five were singing it together in harmony?

John Ben "Benny" Benson

I was slightly slowed here and there by little missteps, such as AsHA for a hot second, ABaft for longer than that. But nothing too terrible, and I enjoyed the solve.

- Colum

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sunday, September 12, 2021, Alex Rosen


Apologies for the late post this evening. Not the most portentous way to start a week of blogging, but our return from New York City to Albany was delayed by discovering that our car was not where it had been parked at the start of the weekend. Turns out the NYPD had moved it to make way for a memorial for 9/11 first responders. Not towed, and there had been no signs to let us know not to park in the perfectly legal space. All's well that ends well, though. Thankfully the car was completely fine, just in a different place.

Today's puzzle was a fun example of a higher than usual quality Sunday grid. There are a number of circles throughout the puzzle which spell out the parts of an emoticon SMILEYFACE (;-)). Or at least a winking one. Thus, "semi/colon," "HYPHEN," and "parenthesis." I love the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the theme answer at 25A: Phenomenon such as the tendency to see human forms in inanimate objects (PAREIDOLIA), a word I'd never come across before, but which is entirely applicable to today's puzzle.

Some great clues today:

12D: It's often left on the table (FORK) - as in the location in the place setting, not remaining after clearing up.

41D: Duck and goose, at times (VERBS) - did not see that coming!

44A: They await your return, in brief (IRS). Sad, but true.

21A: What can make men swear from menswear? (SPACEBAR) - hah!

94D: It may run from an emotional situation (MASCARA). Very nice.

Add to that the fun answers like TIDINGS, LOWLIFES, AHAMOMENT, and CONGALINE, and you get a fun solve.

What's with the rash of CRETANs recently?

- Colum