Friday, December 31, 2021

Friday, December 31, 2021, Meghan Morris

Well, Dear Reader, if you're interested, today's puzzle did not, in fact, take me more time than yesterday's. But I feel that says more about today's than yesterday's, and maybe more about the way I approached it than any inherent qualities in either puzzle. I felt like I was focused and driven today, which I blame on having gotten my booster shot yesterday. My muscles ache, I can't take a deep breath without coughing, and, well... it probably wasn't the smartest idea to get it before an event (New Year's Eve) that often involves a lot of eating and drinking and reveling. But then, if it allows me to finish a Friday puzzle in 8:50, I might just bring a supply of vaccine boosters to Stamford with me. :)

But enough about me (Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that!), let's talk about the puzzle. And let's start with the contradictory pair of grid-spanners running through the middle: RATTLESNAKEBITE and LETSTHINGSSLIDE. I like both, but if you do get the first, don't be someone who does the second. And remind me never to go hiking in the desert. I want to avoid THEPALEHORSE

In other topics, didn't you love "Component of three of the five French 'mother sauces'" (ROUX)? I thought lait at first, and then oeuf, but no. A roux is used in Béchamel, Espagnole, and Velouté. The other two are Hollandaise and Tomate. Selon Escoffier, bien entendu.

Nice to see my generation represented in XERS (Group portrayed in "Slacker" and "Reality Bites," familiarly), "Sudden inspirations" was a great clue for GASPS, and as for TUNAMELTS (Classic diner orders), well, they've been mentioned and now I want one!

I liked all the mentions of IPA, MEAD, and BEER, but I think with the way I'm feeling, I might just stay SOBER tonight. Frannie and I, for many years, got together with Colum and his family to celebrate the New Year, but for the second year in a row, we'll be on our own. As for the rest of you, I hope you have a lovely celebration wherever you are.

Every day for nearly two years, the numbers of infected and dead displayed on the New York Times website have reminded us of how terrible the pandemic has been and continues to be for so many people. And for those not directly affected by illness or death, there has been the disruption of work, routine, and normal socializing. I know I'm not saying anything revolutionary here, but still I can't help hoping aloud that we can regain some sense of normalcy in 2022. But whatever the state of the world, I hope things ALIGN for you in the best possible way, and that life gets a little EASIER for all of us.

Happy New Year.

- Horace

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Thursday, December 30, 2021, John Ewbank

A rather normal Thursday today. The official line is that Thursday simply needs to be more challenging than Wednesday and less challenging than Friday, and, for me, the first half of that objective has been met. This took me almost three minutes longer than yesterday's puzzle. But we often get a little something extra on Thursdays, so when we don't, it's a little bit of a let-down. But then, I suppose this is an appropriate way to celebrate a year that we also hoped would be a little better than it was. 


So what's all the non-fuss about? Different ways that XXX can be interpreted - as "adult" material, as the Roman number thirty, as kisses (at the bottom of a letter, say), or as a symbol for moonshine. Not a bad set, really. I don't know why I'm complaining. :)

The rest of the grid is sprinkled with contemporary entries like HATERADE (Virulent negativity, in modern parlance), STAYWOKE (Social justice catchphrase), and COEXIST (Popular bumper sticker of the 2000s). And it oozes attitude with IBET, OHWOW, OHYEAH, BEATSME, and NOPE. Those are balanced out with the more staid THERAVEN (Classic poem set in "bleak December"), TATAMI (Japanese mat), and TROUPE (Traveling performers). 

Some good clueing in "Fire starters, for short" (PYROS), "Animal, vegetable or mineral" (NOUN), and "Gentleman from Genoa" (SIGNOR). 

In the end, it's a fine Thursday. We'll see tomorrow if it meets the second half of that time requirement.

- Horace

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wednesday, December 29, 2021, Simon Marotte and Victor Fleming

"Get used to it, Honey. From now on we'll be spelling everything with letters!" 

So says Max Power, and so say Messrs. Marotte and Fleming. Each theme entry is made up of words that are not only spelled with letters, but also sound like letters. EMMYEMCEE, when ORAL, sounds like M-E-M-C. EMPTYTEPEE is MTTP, and so on. The only thing keeping this theme from being a SLAMDUNK is that thing that happens in crosswords sometimes where other long entries seem like they ought to be thematic, but aren't. I looked at YOGAMATS for a few BEATS and tried to figure out what letters could be substituted for its TEXT, but came up short. And then later said ETTU SLAMDUNK!? But ITSOK, I still thought the theme was NEAT.

If you haven't seen it, do!

And it wasn't just the theme that I enjoyed today. There were very few TSKS when reviewing the fill. CHIAPETS (1980s fad items advertised as "the gift that grows") always bring a smile, ARMRESTS (Where elbows may collide) gets a good clue, and GLOOP is kind of amusing sitting right there in the middle.

I usually think of players, not fans, saying HIMOM, and I don't often think of Garfield as a TOMCAT, but I won't argue much with either entry. Always nice to see my hometown SOX get a shout-out in a NYC paper, and RAKE (Leave no leaves, say) with its fine clue, reminds me that I never did rid the backyard of leaves this year. At least the squirrels are happy, they seem to be continually finding maple seeds to eat. 

Overall, a fine Wednesday. Hope you enjoyed it too!

- Horace

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Tuesday, December 28, 2021, Kathy Wienberg

Cute theme today of HOMEMADEMEALS. That is, food names using a word for "house" - LOGCABINSYRUP, COTTAGECHEESE, and RANCHDRESSING. I wouldn't recommend serving any of them as an ENTREE, but, well, I see what they mean, and "homemade foods" isn't really as common phrase.

The "slightly off" revealer seems appropriate today, as there were a few other C/APs that struck me as stretched. "Come to an end" for PERISH, "Frolic" for LARK, and "Jettison" for REMOVE. I just thought those were a little too ARTY, as it were. And yes, I realize that one of the aims of crossword cluing is to use tricky clues, and I see how the clues can be interpreted that way, but, well, some trickiness is better than others.

And speaking of trickiness, one particularly thorny cross for me was the R in HABANERA and ORU. I didn't know the dance, and while I have heard of Oral Roberts University, I did not know what city it was in. And it's kind of funny that those two clues were not at all tricky - if you knew the answers. Kind of like "Capital of Latvia" (RIGA) and Kentucky's Fort KNOX.

And ok, here's one more thing - I thought TAILSPIN (Bad situation for an airplane) was very close to not passing the "Sunday morning test." That is, words that would upset your pleasant morning. 

So I guess that while I was amused by the theme, I didn't end up loving this one. Hope you had a better time with it.

- Horace

Monday, December 27, 2021

Monday, December 27, 2021, Adam Aaronson

Hmm... I wonder how Adam Aaronson happened to come up with this theme? ... It's six double-A theme answers plus a revealer. I don't know AARONPAUL from Aaron Burr, but the other five are all familiar enough. And I like the reference to the Sea Dogs in the clue for DOUBLEATEAM. I also like how ALEKEG and ANGELS, two single-A entries, are in symmetrical, theme-adjacent spots in the middle of the grid.


In non-theme entries, NODSTO (Acknowledges with a head tilt) is one of those kind that you look at when reviewing the puzzle and think "What the hell is a NODSTO?" It might also be one that some people refer to as "green paint." That is, two words that don't necessarily have a strong reason to be together in a puzzle. RANDOS, if you will. By contrast, ILLSAY ("Ain't that the truth!") is a fairly common PHRASE, and CAPITALONE (Banking giant that makes the Venture card) is, as they say, a banking giant. RESEND and EXGOVERNOR are, I guess, somewhere in the middle.

On AAVERAGE, I enjoyed this one, largely because I like the personalized nature of it. And do you think ASIDE is somehow thematic?

- Horace

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday, December 26, 2021, Christina Iverson


Happy Boxing Day, Dear Reader! What's that? You're not British? Well, then, happy day after Christmas. I hope you were able to WORKOUTTHEBUGS in today's clues in order to finish with a clean solve. 

In the beginning, for me, the problem was not so much the theme as it was the Spanish! "Number of sides on a sign reading 'ALTO'" (OCHO), took me quite some time to understand. And shortly after, we hit POR (____ favor) and HUEVO (Product from un ave). Add in the uncommon DURA mater, the gross IDEATE (Form thoughts), and the tricky "Java activity" (CODING), and there's some real opportunity for ERROR as we start out. Once things did fill in, I quite enjoyed the clue for USOTOUR (Entertainment with a private audience?). 

But back to the theme - I tend to enjoy puzzles with tricks in the clues, and as the revealer reveals, today we had to "work out the bugs." So for "One wearing chapstick, perhaps," the task was to remove the "tick" to leave "One wearing chaps, perhaps." Who might that be? A HORSEBACKRIDER, of course. :) 

I liked the two central questions that left only single letters in the clues - "Blouse and broach, perhaps" (PUBLICHOUSE) and "It has many beet and beef options" (TRUEFALSETEST). The latter is a bit forced, and the T and F are essentially the same as "true" and "false," but still, I enjoyed the extreme reduction. Just like I enjoyed the complete elimination of one word in "Pop fly" (SOFTDRINK), and the jump from one pole to the other in "Antarctic coordinate" (NORTHPOLE). 

So the theme was fun and it existed in both dimensions (Across and Down), which I like.

In other areas, I chuckled at BOOZE (Sauce), "Record speeds, for short" (RPMS), and "One hanging around Queen Elizabeth?" (PEARL). I didn't know BOCCE was a Special Olympics event, nor that Hermann HESSE wrote "The Glass Bead Game." To give you an idea of how the talk was at our Christmas dinner table, EAZYE came up in conversation, HESSE did not.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend, regardless of the holidays you celebrate, and I hope you enjoyed the puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Saturday, December 25, 2021, Johan Vass

Merry Christmas! I made it through the entire week getting the review done super early, and look what Christmas did to me. I blame having family stay with us.

On the other hand, it was family what helped me solve the puzzle. So I guess I can blame them for getting two squares wrong. We had PHOneAPPS at 1A: Things you might snap on, nowadays (PHOTOAPPS). We weren't incorrect, as such. And eWW seemed reasonable for 5D: Pained expression (OWW), as did nESS for TESS Holliday. I have not heard of this individual, so photo is included below.

Meanwhile, what is up with the grid shape? Doesn't it look like an old princess dial phone? Or alternatively, the Liberty Bell? There were no indications that this was an important piece of the construction, but I liked the way it looked.

It also made for some lovely long answers in the across areas. 12A: Welcome sign of spring (SHORTSWEATHER) made me confused as I parsed it as "short sweather." Did they mean a sweater with short sleeves? But it became more clear, thankfully.

I also liked GODFORBID above OOHIMSCARED. By the way, who knew there were RHINOs in Java? I didn't. Clearly. But now I do. I imagine I will forget again before the next time it shows up in the puzzle.

And the final three puzzle spanning answers at the bottom were reasonable. MEGACORPORATION is very good, and ELENADELLEDONNE merits notice, for certain. SLEEVELESSDRESS is mostly notable for having a lot of Ss and Es, so it fits well at the bottom of the puzzle.

My favorite answers were 18A: Fly far, far away? (TSETSE) and 15A: Writer whose initials, when doubled, become another answer in this puzzle (TSELIOT). 

Fun week! I hope you had a good one, and enjoy the holidays.

- Colum

Friday, December 24, 2021

Friday, December 24, 2021, Evan Kalish

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! We were lucky enough this morning to wake up to a nice blanket of snow on the ground. It's not every year in Albany that we can have a white Christmas.

A very lovely and smooth themeless for this Friday by Mr. Kalish. I had the NW corner filled in pretty quickly, even though I guessed fellBACK initially. But I switched once I saw 1D: Sequencing locale (DNALAB). There's a pretty crossing of ANKHS and WRIGHT with all those consonants in a row. Unfortunately, I put in AFRIKAaner instead of AFRIKANERS, which meant I didn't have a good exit strategy from the corner. The former relates to the language, not the demonym.

Mr. Goosen playing a game I don't much care about

I next worked the NE and SW corners. I liked IMOVERIT very much, and 15A: Something that gets passed around a lot (MEME) is not in fact referring to our current public health situation.

I knew what 32D: Question that cannot be answered if its answer is "no" (YOUAWAKE) was supposed to be (how many questions are there that work like that? I guess "Are you here?" is another one). I really really wanted the answer to be "U up?" But, alas, not enough letters.

Once I had both corners in place, I finally saw YEAHABOUTTHAT, a great answer right in the middle of the puzzle. I worked through the middle, getting LOWBALLERS and 14D: Fast fashion (TRACKSUITS), which corrected my mistake in the NW, and allowed me to see KEEPACLOSEEYEON.

I finished in the SE corner. I was mildly alarmed by 53A: Gained some courage (GREWASPINE). Was the NYT going to go full modern and allow "grew a pair" to grace its puzzle? I breathed a sigh of relief to see it had not stooped to such a level.

It took me a while to get that 51A: Ear hair? (TASSEL) was referring to ears of corn. And we ended on a seasonal note with 58A: Yule log? (NICELIST). 

- Colum

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Thursday, December 23, 2021, Stephen McCarthy

Just two days to Christmas... Hope you've got everything you need already! Tomorrow's going to be a rough shopping day.

I admire today's theme quite a bit. It's an odd one, but very consistent. Take a phrase where the last word is five letters with only two vowels, namely A and O. Then switch the placement of those vowels to make a new word, which then inspires a silly clue. Thus, "A Christmas Carol" becomes ACHRISTMASCORAL, clued with "Reef deposit hung on the holiday tree?"

It's nice that two of the phrases have the vowels in the order A - O, while the other two are O - A. My favorite by far was 59A: Buys tickets for a couple of friends for a Polynesian getaway? (TAKESTWOTOTONGA). That's a lovely bit of work there. The other two examples aren't nearly as clever, with VITALARGON and CAFFEMACHO. I don't know how many other possible well-known phrases would work as theme answers here, but I can't imagine it's all that many.


The fill has some nice answers, like HERDSCATS and STATEHOOD. It was eye-catching to see ZEROG right next to AGAME

I didn't find too much that was tricky or very clever in the clues. I have come to expect a little more toughness on a Thursday. What did you all think?

- Colum

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Wednesday, December 22, 2021, Noki Trias and Lawrence Barrett

Good morning, and wake up to a double debut for today's constructors! And what a strong debut it is as well. 

Our intrepid constructors have hidden four different MARTIANMISSIONS in 15-letter standard phrases, such as CHRISTMASSPIRIT (how apt!) and YANKEEINGENUITY. Color me impressed, just to find such good phrases. MORBIDCURIOSITY! Excellent. 

On top of that, they managed to squeeze in the bonus theme answer ARES, as well as an obvious shoutout to this blog with HORACE. Nicely done, folks! We could use the publicity.

Favorite clue-answer today comes at 10D: Lose the suit? (SKINNYDIP). I had almost the entire answer in place before I got it. Also a nice reference to Bugs Bunny with LISZT


There's a fair amount of less attractive fill that was necessitated by the five 15-letter answers, such as TOA, AMS, and the very odd UMBYE. ACTIII.

But that's fine with me. It made the solve just a bit longer (also the fact that the lower third of the puzzle was isolated from the top two thirds). Overall, I'll accept that sort of trade-off. Nice work!

- Colum

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021, Guilherme Gilioli

Yesterday, regular commenter Philbo remarked that the need for speed-solving may remove some of the appreciation of the puzzle during the play. I absolutely agree with him! And yet, it is next to impossible to slow oneself down.

Well, today I had to because I FWOE'd. It turns out it was SPLINE, not SPLINt. I mean, I probably knew that, but just put the T in and forgot to check the cross. On glancing through the puzzle, I am very impressed by hiding SPOON five times throughout. There are no theme answers outside of the revealer, SPOONBENDING (I guess that's a sixth "hidden" example), which gives Mr. Gilioli more freedom to deal with those triple-checked letters.

Some nice finds, too, to make it work! I love SHRAPNEL (as a word, not as a real life event), and STOPSDEAD is evocative.

I've never seen ORRISROOT in the puzzle before, nor was I aware of it specifically as a thing. Better was 4D: M.L.B.'s first Rookie of the Year (1947) (ROBINSON). I should have been able to intuit that from the year, but only on reviewing the puzzle did I understand the reference.

Very nicely done.

- Colum

Monday, December 20, 2021

Monday, December 20, 2021, Anne Rowley

I'm trying to get an early start to my reviews this week, to allow for extra time in the evenings to prepare for the Holidays. Let's see how well I keep up with it!

Today's Monday puzzle has a clever theme, using a meta-revealer: of course all of the theme answers have a COMMONTHREAD tying them together. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a theme, right? But also, they are phrases that can be interpreted to relate to sewing. Of course, HEMANDHAW and DARNITALL are better examples than STITCHINTIME, which is in fact referring directly to sewing.

As is fitting for a Monday, the cluing and answers are mostly straightforward, but there were a few that required slightly more thinking. I love the answer HALCYON, such a pretty word. And I'm not expecting a WOMBAT to grace a typical early week puzzle, so that was fun. By the way, if you don't already know them, the Wombats are a really great band.

It seemed fitting that THROBBING should cross 59D: You might do it after stubbing a toe (HOP). Me, I definitely hop, but I also tend to curse loudly. The damn things are so sensitive down there!

I'm not entirely convinced by 39D: Sound from a pug (SNORT). Not the first thing that leaps to mind. But really, this is a smooth and enjoyable Monday.

- Colum

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday, December 19, 2021, Laura Taylor Kinnel


Hello everyone! Back for the last week before Christmas. I had my Chorus's Christmas concert this afternoon, and then returned to solve this appropriate (or, dare we say, apt) puzzle this evening.

The revealer today comes at 116A: This puzzle's images, in two different ways (COOKIECUTTERS). Throughout the grid, we find specific types of cookies whose names come in two parts, split apart by graphic representations of cookie cutters (or their Christmas cookie counterparts). Only in the down answers do these cutters become actual words. Thus the BELL becomes part of RU[BELL]A, or even better, STAR becomes part of RE[STAR]EA.

They're not all so cleverly hidden (c.f. [HEART]FELT), but it's fun anyway, and I like all the different kinds of cookies, including SNICKER[ ]DOODLE and SHORT[ ]BREAD. It's a lovely start to this seasonable week.

Any puzzle which has THEBEESKNEES in it, will immediately be in my good graces. We should all try to incorporate 1920s slang into our conversation on a daily basis, if you ask me. 


I also enjoyed 3D: Becoming faint (TRAILINGAWAY). Not what I was thinking about in my physician's mind. Some other clues that amused or stumped me:

2D: Course preparers (CHEFS)

9D: Project (JUT)

25A: Things bachelors might have (DEGREES)

Others I could have done without include 60A: Loud but friendly growl (RAWR), especially just above 67A: Big name in cast-iron cookware (STAUB). Having ENG and ANAT in the same area made that the most awkward part of the grid.

Let's enjoy the holidays, folks! But most importantly, stay healthy, stay masked, and get tested.

- Colum

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Saturday, December 18, 2021, David Distenfeld

I fought with this puzzle hammer and tongs! Total solve time was 1:13:27 - yes, you read that right: one hour, thirteen minutes, and 27 seconds. On the upside, I did finish it and without errors. So, YAY, me, I guess. Today's experience is another entry in the mystery of what makes a puzzle easy or hard. When complete, it's not as if I didn't know most of the people, places, things, and phrases that filled the grid, but rather that the clues didn't match up with the answers in my head. It seems that the David Distenfeld's and my respective wheelhouses DIVERGE almost completely.

Very little of the puzzle went smoothly or easily for me, so as a way of listing problem areas, I could just copy and paste the entire set of clues - all right, maybe I'm over dramatizing - slightly. :) But, I've never seen "Dear Evan Hansen," I've never heard of Nicole ARI Parker, or Snowbird. I'm not sure why NOWMORETHANEVER is a (the?) lead-in to a grave pronouncement, I do not remember Princess ATTA from "A Bug's Life," I didn't know that TRAINSETS came in eight-track versions, that Champagne PAPI is one of Drake's nicknames, that STERE is a unit of firewood, or what the main ingredient is (TUNA) in tekkadon, a dish I've never heard of.

This is not to say that any of the above is unfair Saturday (or any day) puzzle material ; it's just to provide a glimpse into the befuddlement of this particular solver on this particular day. It's possible OKBOOMER ("Modern-day put-down popularized by a 2019 TikTok video") is apt in this case, but I don't take a TikTok video, so I don't know, which is maybe why it is apt. Apt! 


I did like RANTS for "Goes off". (See above :). Also, "The point of writing?" (PERIOD), "Stress specialist" (POET), "Not so common extension" (DOTNET), "Firsts in flight" (TESTPILOTS), "Nowhere near engaged" (BORED), and 
"Complete a sentence" (DOTIME) - the latter being one of the few answers that did not leave me ATALOSS. I think that one, BOGGS ("Wade in the Baseball Hall of Fame), and FLETCH ("Furnish with feathers, as an arrow") were the only three answers that I completed on my first run through and can count as an INSTANTWIN. Oh, and with a little time under the thinking cap, I figured out MERE for "English adjective that becomes a French noun when an accent is added." C'est tout.

In sum, not a RAVE review, because reasons, but certainly not NOSTARS - there was plenty of good stuff to make ANISE puzzle for most, I'm sure. And with that, dear Readers, I RETIRE and leave you in the more capable hands of our friend, co-blogger, and speedy puzzle solver, Colum Amory. 


Friday, December 17, 2021

Friday, December 17, 2021, Evans Clinchy

Finally, after an exhausting and debilitating two-day streak of puzzle problems, a successful solve! THATHITSTHESPOT. There was nothing that gave me ASSYRIAs problems (14:39),  although for "Quarters feed into them" I did first  try 'Slots,' but quickly corrected it to the more clever SEMIS once I got ECHO and MEAL. The  last section I completed was the southwest corner, even though I dropped in ALFLAC off the clue ("It has a duck float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade"). I don't know that I've heard the term FREEGAN before but I like it ("Portmanteau for a dumpster-diving anti-consumerist eater") - ha! 

In the clambiguity category (how's that for a portmanteau?), "Tears" for HOTSTREAKS, "Minute" for ITTYBITTY, and "Second" for ECHO were all good. I also liked "Inclined" for PRONE.

Other C/APs that entertained:
"Offline activity?" (IMPROV
"Place to buy overpriced drinks" (MINIBAR) - truth.
"One might be offensive" (LINEMAN)
"Fast finish?" (MEAL)

Each light speck is a galaxy, some of which are as old as 13.2 billion years. The observable universe is estimated to contain 200 billion to two trillion galaxies.

I find it interesting that despite a number of people and things I'm not familiar with (MORRIS county NJ and Tony EVERS, to name two) and some unusual fill (SOLUTE, BESTRODE, SAPID) in the grid, my solve time was below my AVERAGES for a Friday. It's a mystery!


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Thursday, December 16, 2021, Trenton Charlson

And ... Thursday's child is full of erase - ending with a DNF. :( For the life of me, I could not figure out 18A: "Shakespeare, notably". I had ___NETEER but absolutely no help from the first three Downs. I don't know the poet Leigh Hunt or her/his poetry - to my own detriment, I'm sure - and I have only a vague understanding of "Dancing with the Stars," that does not extend to the the names of judges, including LEN Goodman. I was also completely unaware that snafu had the form SNAFUED available for use. And, sadly, Shakespeare's sonnets just weren't notable enough for this solver. It got so bad that even though I was pretty sure OWNSUP was correct for "Comes clean" at 9D (it was), I was desperate enough to consider iambETEER as a possible answer. How's that for poetic license? 

Despite my travails, I enjoyed the puzzle and especially the theme. Who doesn't like Boggle? When I entered the SON for SONNETEER - after looking up the answer - a little animation popped up in the center of the grid in the app. The 16 middle squares became sort of 3D and the various theme answers were traced, one by one, in blue. Bedazzling! The theme answers were all, in light of my DNF, apt. Apt! Take your choice, that answer served to BOGGLE, BEMUSE, BEWILDER, and BEFUDDLE me. BTW, befuddle is a funny word. So is HODADS.


Other enjoyable material included "Offensive line" (BARB), "Mind" (OBEY), and "Took a second? (REMARRIED) - ha! And, of course, dear readers, I liked the triumvirate of French clues at the top of the puzzle: "Three-vowel French word that sounds like a fourth vowel" (EAU), its voisin, "French connections" (ETS), and dans l'est, "Pensée" (IDEE). 

And, while we're on the subject, pas de beretings from this reviewer for the oddments of squidgy material in the puzzle (ENL, BBS, OBE) since the theme was so dexterous. 


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Wednesday, December 15, 2021, Jessie Bullock and Ross Trudeau

Well, Dear Readers, this Wednesday's child is full of FWOE. I blithely entered  'fOCI' for "Centers of activity" instead of LOCI. That left me with the SUfFA instead of the correct SULFA for 50D: "Bacteria-inhibiting drug" - which proved fatal to a clean solve. :(

While that was my only actual error, there wasn't much about my experience today to CROW about. Even with such gimmies as ALLS "'fair in love and war'", "Cry between 'ready' and 'go'" (SET), NULL "and void", and "Gertrude who wrote 'Rose is a rose is a rose ..." (STEIN), the whole solve felt slower than it seemed like it should have. 

All that being said, I did enjoy puzzle, including the entertaining theme that offered a set of answers (BADINVESTMENTS, ONEWAYTRIPS, SERVICESACES) that would allow one to say, with APT, SORRYNORETURNS


There were many clever clues in the puzzle - one of which duped me: "Shortest month of the year" (MAY). It took me a few to get past the more obvious but incorrect 'feb'. I also liked the delightful ambiguity of "Is down with" for HAS, "Large number" for HOST, and "Draft choices" for ALES.

On the flip side, there were a number of good QMCs that did not trick me - this time - including "Accumulating bank deposits?" SILTS and "Head of a brewery?" FOAM. I especially liked ATTIC for "Website?" Also, TIS "but a scratch" - LOL.

I have yet to encounter anything that literally fits the description, IDIOTPROOF. The search continues. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Tuesday, December 14, 2021, Tao Platt

Hi Folks! Horace here, filling in for Frannie for one day. 

For the second day in a row, we have a really solid theme. We've got the names of all four countries that use the NORDICCROSS on their flags - that's three countries in SCANDINAVIA - SWEDEN, NORWAY, and DENMARK - and the Nordic country FINLAND. (In this house, although no known family still DWELLS in either place, Frannie has roots to the first country listed, and I to the last.) And in addition to all the names, we've got two examples of the NORDICCROSS in black-square grid art. The answers aren't perfectly symmetrical, but it's close enough for me. And I can't help but think PINE TREE is related to the theme, because there sure are a lot of them up there. But IGLOO, on the other hand, while given a clue (Home with a northern exposure) that makes it seem to fit in, is not at all associated with that region. But still, I say the theme is SODOPE. Well, I would if I ever actually said that.

Mr. OWL (Who knew?)

The fill contains some interesting entries today, the most interesting of which, for me, is GRIGRI (Climber's belaying device). I actually did a tiny amount of climbing in my younger days, and I remember learning about things like pitons and carabiners, and even about belaying itself, but I don't ever remember learning the word GRIGRI. But my ignorance doesn't make it unfair to use. 

I'm guessing DOXED (Outed maliciously online) (I've also seen "doxxed") might be new to some people too. It's a variant of "docs" or documents - the things that would be revealed about someone. It's not a nice thing to do.

Let's see, aside from that, there's some French entries (AMIE, FRERE, CURIE), some sci-fi (ORC, OGRE), and the odd duplication in LOWNESS and GOLOW. But none of it will DETER appreciation of the puzzle as a whole. I say HURRAH!

- Horace

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Monday, December 13, 2021, Tomas Spiers

As chance would have it, Friday night I watched a Netflix show called, in English, "The Bonfire of Destiny" (Le Bazar de la Charité, en français), which, as you might be able to guess from the English title, features a fire. The first episode dwelt heavily on the fire scenes, and as people's gowns caught fire, the old safety mantra STOPDROPANDROLL leapt to my mind. Imagine my surprise when it showed up again today as the puzzle revealer. Quelle coincidence! But, to go back to the topic at hand: I particularly liked fact that an extra step was necessary to get from the actual theme answers to the elements of the revealer: from RAILROADSTATION to STOP, MARKETCRASH to DROP, AND CINNAMONBUN to ROLL. Très drôle, n'est pas?

One PAWS served to MAWR my performance. I entered 'Rushing' in place of the correct RAPIDLY ("With haste"), which I blame for my slightly-over-six minute time, but a contributing factor could also have been that I was distracted by watching Sunday Night Football in the background.


I'm sure it'SNOW surprise to our dear readers that I enjoyed the international elements throughout the puzzle including ROAM, DIALECT, AMOUR, EUROS, NILE, and SYRIA. I also liked "Terse request to a bartender" (ANOTHERONE) and "In the public consciousness" (KNOWN).

I don't want to CRAB, but EARS one I didn't like so much: "Prevent through intimidation" (DETER). Overall, though, a fun SOLVE.


Sunday, December 12, 2021, Daniel Okulitch and Doug Peterson


Kind of a funny theme today using job titles that can be interpreted in a new way to suggest a different profession. As in, LOCKSMITH (Side hustle for a hairstylist?). Heh. Not bad. NAILTECHNICIAN (Side hustle for a carpenter?) might be the best one, but BAGGAGEHANDLER (Side hustle for a therapist?) is right up there. Solid Sunday theme, in my opinion. Not great, but good.

 The non-theme starts out well, with a Niels Bohr clue for ATOM (Research subject for which Bohr won a Physics Nobel) and ACLU ("Because freedom can't protect itself" org.) at 1D. POGOSTICKS (Bouncy toys) and TOODLEOO (Cheery "Ciao!") were fun, GHETTO (Its etymology may derive from the diminutive of "Borough" in Italian) and "National gemstone of Mexico" (FIREOPAL) were interesting, and I chuckled at "Sub groups?" (NAVIES). There was a bit of ARCANA in AXILS (Leaf-to-branch angles) and OVIEDO (Spanish city north of León), but not too much. 

SLOUGH on top of SLUED was interesting, and the best housepet option is well-represented with MOUSER (Rodent-catching feline) and TOMCAT (Avid bird-watcher, say). It took me far too long to realize what was going on with "Part of a gig" (BYTE), and in that same region of the puzzle, I FWOE'd at the end because I mixed up another 70's song ("Sailin'" which is actually spelled "Sailing") for the Commodores SAILON. I should have noticed that iVIEDO looked odd, but, well, sometimes that happens.

Tomorrow Frannie takes over. I've had a fun week, and I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season. By the time I see you again, it will be 2022. Let's hope that next year is a good one for all of us.

- Horace

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Saturday, December 11, 2021, Hal Moore

Wouldn't it be nice if there were something called a "back neat?" That way, the three Qs in the top left could be mirrored with three Ns in the bottom right. Unfortunately, though, the place "Where some unsolicited advice comes from" is the BACKSEAT. And what would the Qs and Ns represent, anyway? Oh, nevermind...


I enjoyed this somewhat breezy Saturday puzzle. One of the only trouble-spots for me centered around a word we see four or five times a week - OREO (Name for a Dalmatian, perhaps). I had "spot" in there and I was loath to give it up. But, of course, the straightforward "'It's nothing,' in Spanish" (DENADA) forced the change. I also had sawIN for a while instead of LEDIN (Ushered), but I was ABLE to overcome these little PERTURBations and finish in less than a third of yesterday's time. 

Interesting clue for EUROZONE (Tender union?). I'm not sure if the intent was to use "tender" to mean currency, or if it is really a commentary on the fragility of the pact after Brexit. And "Card games are played in it" is taking the nickname thing a bit too far. I'm guessing "Card" refers to the Cardinals, but I've never heard that abbreviation before. "Cards," sure,... but maybe I'm missing something here, too.

It was strange to see duplication of the word "rumor" in "Rumors are carried by HATERS, spread by fools and accepted by idiots" and RUMORMILL. And it's funny how "Ran" could clue BLED or "led."

Not much more to say about it. How'd you like it?

- Horace


Friday, December 10, 2021

Friday, December 10, 2021, Joe DiPietro

I should have known better than to brag about my time yesterday... Today's speedy solve time, by contrast, was 35:13. And I thought for a while that I might never finish!

Goes green, say?

It was the NE that sat unfilled for so long. I should have known EOLITHIC (Period at the beginning of the Stone Age) (eos (dawn) + lithic (stone-related)), especially after my geologic scolding yesterday, but - sorry Dad - I couldn't come up with it until I had a few crosses. And the 2019 rap song, Mandrake the Magician's sidekick (who?), and the Modern protest movement were not giving me any of those crosses! Sheesh! I think I finally realized that "Back on board" wanted AFT, and then from the recesses of my mind I guessed at ANTIFA, then got ALONE (Set apart), which gave REACTS (Jerks, say), which finally gave EOLITHIC, which gave the excellent MAGI (They're known for their holiday gifts), and the rest, as they say...

But we love a challenge. The whole thing, really, played like a tough Saturday for me. CHIRASHI (Japanese dish of raw fish and vegetables over rice) is not known to me (although I'd love to try it!), RAPINOE (Golden Ball winner in 2019's Women's World Cup) is a name I've heard, but it wasn't on the tip of my tongue. CHIOMEGA (Largest college sorority by enrollment (380,000+ members) was a guess based on the Greek alphabet. I actually had phi at the start for a bit. 

But there were plenty of good, clever answers, too. "Beat reporting?" for HEARTRATE was great, INDIAPERS (Untrained, perhaps) was lovely, "Twist in a story" was a tricky clue for OLIVER, "Rush while racing?" for RUNNERSHIGH was clever, and both clever and amusing (a winning combo) was "Garments that sound like you'd exercise in them" for PUSHUPBRAS.

In all, an excellent challenge for a Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Thursday, December 9, 2021, Alexander Liebeskind

A cute theme of film adaptations today - adding "ing" to movie titles, and then, as is the custom, cluing wackily. Let's list them all.

LALALANDING (Film adaptation with ... a choir arriving at the airport? (2016))
GREENBOOKING (... a room in an environmentally friendly hotel? (2018))
JURASSICPARKING (... a triceratops trying to find a spot for its car? (1993))
KNIVESOUTING (... a quick trip to purchase cutlery? (2019))
KILLBILLING (... a movement to make invoices illegal? (2003))

As a kid who loved dinosaurs, I feel obliged to point out that triceratops lived in the late Cretaceous period, not the Jurassic. And you may think, oh, what's the difference?, but the span of time between the end of the Jurassic period and the last living triceratops is greater than the amount of time between the last living triceratops and you. It's practically an EON! Sooo... and besides, the triceratops didn't have to look for a spot, he parked wherever he damn well pleased! YADIG?

BEE hummingbird from CUBA
Anywho ... it's kind of cool that all of those ending words can be verbed. Can we think of any others? "Unpleasant occurrence in the flower garden?" (The Stinging), "One of the supports I built myself?" (My Left Footing), "Power outage during a ceremony at the castle?" (The Dark Knighting), "Street discipline in Singapore?" (Citizen Kaning) OK, the spelling's off on that one ...

I liked "You might need this to go on" for CUE, and "One on the case?" was a cute clue for STAIR. But "You might have a stake in this" for TENT is trying a little too hard. And I hate "the OLDS" for "parents." Who ever says that?

- Horace

p.s. Whizzed through this in 6:51.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Wednesday, December 8, 2021, Philip Koski

Boy, I didn't see this theme coming! By the time I got to the appropriately backwardsly-wrapped revealer, ITSA WRAP, I had forgotten about the circles, and I was all "TSARNICHOLASI" is a wrap somehow? ... But no. As you have also figured out by now, the letters ITSA are found, in order, beginning somewhere near the end of the theme answers, and ending at the beginning. Sounds so simple, right?

Well, why not a theme like this, I suppose. Mr. Shortz has been overseeing the NYTX since 1993, and I'm sure he's constantly on the lookout for new and unusual themes. And who am I to criticize it? :)


The first two Across clues are especially covid-relevant to me. The first, SWAB (Sample collector) is covid-relevant to many people, of course, but TWANG (Banjo sound) is relevant to me and Frannie, because pretty much every Monday night for several years right up until March, 2020, Frannie and I would go to a local bar to hear bluegrass music. But since the pandemic started, I don't think I've heard a live TWANG even once! 

Moving on, as we all must, I hadn't heard that a WOMBAT had cube-shaped droppings. Strange. And I also hadn't heard that the Economist viewed DATA as "The world's most valuable resource." I think that could be debated, but I'm not going to take the time to engage in ABATTLEOFWITS with its EDITors here. All I'll say is that, were I starving, I might prefer a sandwich to a spreadsheet. REBUTTAL?

- Horace

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Tuesday, December 7, 2021, Margaret Seikel

I can't say I've ever received a holiday card showing people wearing MATCHINGPJS. Is that a thing? Is it that me and my circle of friends just aren't hip enough? Perhaps so. But hey... I just got an idea for this year's card...

Singer/actress Jennifer LOPEZ

I had a fun time today re-mixing the theme answers. I'd go to a pickle joint, I've had pizza juice running through my fingers, many a PRIVATEJET is probably a political jet, and a private junkie, well, that's just sad. Sorry.

Let's just keep the P-J combinations that Ms. Seikel chose: PICKLEJUICE, PIZZAJOINT, POLITICALJUNKIE, and PRIVATEJET. It's a good set. And that clue for the last one - "Aircraft that's 1% full?" is brilliant. At least to us 99%ers. 

It's an odd shout-out to "Boston's Mass. AVE," but I like it. And "Pleasant French city?" is a cute clue for NICE. And if you're interested in seeing Keat's "To Autumn," (also called "Seasons of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness") in Keat's own hand, it's online here.

- Horace

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Monday, December 6, 2021, Emily Rourke

Remember mail? When's the last time you received a hand-written letter? Nevermind "writing in script," the LOSTART is letter-writing. Even by the time the revealer, YOUVEGOTMAIL, came out some 23 years ago, email had started to overtake posted letters. But oh, I remember well the thrill of seeing familiar handwriting on an envelope... sigh. Read it once quickly right away, then read it again later, more slowly... those were the days.

I like the nostalgic theme. We get plenty of bills and packages, and yes, we really do still get the occasional letter. And soon will be a little flurry of holiday greeting cards. So that's something to look forward to.

The blue ones always made me gag.

There are a few OKSURE type entries - I'm looking at you SORORAL - and I suppose Sam Ezersky is happy to see NATANT in the grid, since it helps to validate his Spelling Bee word list. (When will he accept "luff?") The entry LIGHTER (Something waved at concerts prior to the age of cellphones) adds to the nostalgic feel of the whole thing.

The most interesting clue for me today was "Pearls and peridots" for GEMS. When I think of GEMS I mostly think of minerals, but pearls are one of the few organic gems. Others are jet (from wood), coral, and amber (see: SAP). Reading about pearls led me to the story, from Pliny the Elder, that Cleopatra once bet Marc Antony that she could serve the most expensive dinner of all time. He took the bet, she removed the pearl from one of her earrings, crushed it to a powder, poured it into her wine and drank it. Pliny estimated the value of the two pearl earrings at 60 million sestertii, or roughly 28 million in today's dollars. She offered the other to Marc Antony to drink, and he conceded the bet. I'm not sure what she won, but still, kind of a fun story.

- Horace

Sunday, December 5, 2021, Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen


DAREI come right out and say that this theme does nothing for me? " ... FLOOR FLOOR FLOOR ..." is the clue for NEVERENDINGSTORY? Does that work? I mean, I get it - a floor is a story, and "never-ending story" is a thing ... but oughtn't it be "never ending stories" here, because " ... AMBITION AMBITION AMBITION ..." is answered with RECURRINGDREAMS. ... 


Oh, ok, at least it's a novel idea, right? And ADINFINITUM ( ... COMMERCIAL COMMERCIAL COMMERCIAL ...) and BEARSREPEATING ( ... GRIZZLY GRIZZLY GRIZZLY ...) made me chuckle. But still, it's not my favorite.

But doesn't the grid look like it contains a little alien? Football-shaped head, big eyes, little legs...

[Note: Jeff Chen claims that the grid is supposed to contain an infinity symbol, which goes along with the theme.]

I like that David HUME is included. I should read more of his work. I loved "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion." And I think he'd be happy to be crossed with PSEUDOSCIENCE (Astrology or palmistry).

Lots of unusual names - HUME, KERR, GUIDO, SANSA, NAS, RAFE, ERTE, AYRES, MARENGO - and plenty of CCS, EGOT, UTE, NON, GMC, CBS, ESE, ISE ...

Sorry Messrs. Dittrich and Chen, but I just wasn't feeling the LUV for this one. 

- Horace

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Saturday, December 4, 2021, Nam Jin Yoon

I'm sure a lot of you are thinking exactly what I'm thinking right now. Why, exactly, is a FAN a "deadly household appliance, according to Korean urban legend?" Apparently, even into the 21st century, it was commonly thought that running a fan in a room without open windows was to invite imminent mortality. Thanks to Mr. Yoon for teaching us about this!

In fact, the F of that answer was my final square entered today. It took forever to see CHEFSKISS, which, once I had it filled in, immediately brought forth the expected imagery. I love the CYBERCAFE right next door to the HOOKAHBAR. The neighborhood is coming together!

35A: Taps (FAUCETS) was next to impossible to get without multiple crossings. Very nice simple clue with so many possible meanings! For some reason, I am suddenly thinking that creating a crossword puzzle in German might be challenging to clue ambiguously...

Hey! I only just now noticed the very unusual symmetry of this puzzle, along the NW to SE diagonal. It's a very pretty grid, actually.

55A: "I got you" (SAYNOMORE) has a very specific vibe for me.

I tried to put FREELabor in at 13D: Like many jobs in the gig economy (FREELANCE). Don't tell me I'm wrong!

How nice is the symmetrically placed BAA and MOO? I see that they're far away from the neighborhood. Seems apt.

Favorite QMC today is 41D: Masked warning? (ENGARDE). Ah, the memories of fencing during high school. That was a ton of fun.

It's a lovely Saturday puzzle that played easier than yesterday's. NOTETOSELF: remember to remind folks that Horace is taking over tomorrow...

- Colum

Friday, December 3, 2021

Friday, December 3, 2021, Claire Rimkus

Wow, this was a tough Friday! Hope and I worked hard at it for over 15 minutes before finally finishing the center section, which had us scratching our heads for some time. As always, some false assumptions had us behind the proverbial 8-ball.

We got to break in with the classic U.S. State riddle at 2D (OHIO), and the classic crosswordese RHEA. I love 1D: Challenge while sitting (BRAT). Not sitting down, but babysitting. Perhaps a few of those BABYGATES would have come in handy.

Of course, both Hope and I dearly wanted "Top drawer" at 19A, in memory of one Gloria Upson. TOPNOTCH is fine. 

I sensed a theme of multiword phrases here, from HASNOIDEA to UPTONOGOOD to ASIFICARE. I particularly liked that last one. I had never heard the phrase TUXEDOCAT before, but it's quite evocative.

Some of our early miscalculations included 6D: 72 answers and 34 black squares, for this puzzle (SPECS) - we had StatS initially. 46A: Everything one could possibly offer, with "the" (WORLD) - we had WORks. That one came close to really working! 35A: Empanadas and patatas bravas (TAPAS) - we had TAcoS. Clearly wrong, and it led to GOBox as well. Fixing that last error finally got us to 37A: Nice position to be in? (STEADYGIG). We really wanted STEADYjob...

Favorite clue of the day was 24D: Giant in chip manufacturing (LAYS). Hah! Did not see that one coming at all. We also appreciated 42D: Its participants are in for a wild ride (RODEO). Look at those lovely non-QMCs! Please keep them coming.

- Colum

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Thursday, December 2, 2021, Rebecca Goldstein

Let me just say that Ms. Goldstein has my deep appreciation for 29A: Mendelssohn work in E flat major, and others (OCTETS). This particular work has long been one of my all time favorite pieces of classical music. Which, by the way, he wrote when he was just 16 years old. But, as Tom Lehrer once said, "When Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for five years!"

Meanwhile, the fun theme is revealed at 58A: One of a pair at the dinner table ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme (SALTSHAKER). There are three rebus squares where NaCl has been mixed up in a novel way, and fit into a pair of long answers. I'm impressed that five of the six answers split the four-letter string across two words, as in AMERI[CANL]IT and VATI[CANL]IBRARY (shout out to Frannie and Horace for the latter).

By the way, apparently they weren't looking for "suprachiasmatic nucleus" at 17A: Circadian rhythm regulator (INTER[NALC]LOCK). Sometimes being a Neurologist is not very helpful.

There are other anagrammatic formulations of the letter string (21 to be exact), so I imagine there are other sets that might work, but I'm not going to work my way through them. I'm sure Ms. Goldstein chose the best options.


Some nice clues include:

46D: Too, for one (ADVERB) - I love the wit of the clue.

49D: Leaf producer (NISSAN) - Nice hidden capital.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, finishing in 6:22. Nice start to the turn! And it's another debut. So many recently! I love it.

- Colum

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Wednesday, December 1, 2021, Christopher Youngs

Who doesn't like a pun? Nobody, that's who. Nobody at all. Ever.

Well, at least I know that the readers of this blog must enjoy them, as the responses to Frannie's posts indicates a degree of appreciation, and she is a master beyond compare.

Today, we get four puns on the sound /ɛr/, which are then clued wackily. My favorite is the first one, 17A: Play a wrong note during a violin sonate? (ERRONTHEGSTRING), referring to the famous movement from Bach's third orchestral suite, often called Air on the G String. I imagine this clue could have gone in a completely different direction, but that would have been highly unusual for the New York Times.

CLEANHEIRACT is cute, and EYRETOTHETHRONE is a funny headline for the situation described. I'm less sold on TOAIRISHUMAN, but three out of four is pretty darn good. I thought for a few moments after finishing that the puns were simply rotated around, as "heir" is the proper word for the original phrase at 59A, while "air" likewise fits in 17A. But then I realized that no phrase is likely to have "eyre" as its original spelling, so there went that idea.

It's nice that 1D: Heads of staff? (CLEFS) crosses the musical theme answer.


I don't think I've ever come across the word MUSKETRY in the puzzle before. And I'll admit to never thinking about how the Three Musketeers don't really use muskets. They're much more inclined to use swords. It makes for higher levels of entertainment, I'd wager. Although Indiana Jones used a gun at a sword fight to massive guffaws.

Anybody have an idea why 31D: Roll of stamps gets the answer COIL? I'm confused by that one.

Amusing Wednesday, which is a step in the right direction, in my opinion. And congratulations to Mr. Youngs for his NYT debut!

- Colum

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tuesday, November 30, 2021, Billy Ouska

Sneaking this blog post in just under the wire...

This is an incredible theme. I just love it! Advertising for tournaments of specific games with re-imagined standard phrases. Thus, the Scrabble tournament gets a sign that says SITFORASPELL. What else are you doing when you're playing Scrabble? 

And how perfect is the Taboo tournament advertisement - DONTSAYAWORD! Indeed, you are not allowed to say specific words in a game of Taboo. So clever.

The LSAT and the MCAT tests both get into this grid, which along with OSHA are probably the only bits here I didn't love.

TITANIUM gets a nice clue to the ancient Greek myth of the precursors to ATHENA and the other Olympian gods, the Titans. Also, an NFL team in Nashville, but the element was named long before they came into existence. Another good clue is at 45D: Where you might bump into a metal fan (MOSHPIT) - metal, as in the genre of popular music.

8D: Wilde or Wilder (AUTHOR) is very nice as well. I like clues which play around with names this way. 


Finally, the pair of clues at 3D: The beginning of the Hebrew world? (ALEPH) and 27D: The end of the Greek world? (OMEGA) are a fun pair. I'm not sure why it's the world in these clues, but it works well enough.

Fun Tuesday.

- Colum

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday, November 29, 2021, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Shot out of a cannon from the get-go, on a Monday evening. So it seemed to make sense that the theme was about a RUNNINGSTART, three examples of phrases where the first word can be reinterpreted as a synonym for speeding along.

I like that each one fits the pattern "X of Y." Would it have been possible to throw in some wacky cluing so that hilarity might ensue? STREAKOFLUCK: a brief moment of good fortune at the casino? But no. I don't see that working right. See? I just solve puzzles. I don't make 'em.

The only answer I take issue with today is ONUSES. How many "burdens of proof" do you need to carry at any given time? Probably one. And the other issue is that the plural in Latin would be "onera." (Those third declension neuter nouns... flashbacks to fourth grade Latin class in Cambridge, England...)

I am amused by the idea of "Shaving Fun" KEN dolls. Did they grow hair for the aspiring beard sculptor wanna be hipsters of the future?

Apparently, the answer is yes. Count on your reliable blogger to do the research for you.

The award for best clue though, goes to 12D: Prez dispenser? (ATM). Hah!

Done in 2:56.

- Colum

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday, November 28, 2021, Jeff Kremer


Hey everybody! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. I certainly did, enjoying having both girls home after a quick trip down to NYC for the big feast. Unfortunately, I did have to drive my older daughter home to the city and then drive back today, and traffic was on the heavy side. A small price to pay to have everybody together, though.

Today's puzzle takes classic phrases associated with attracting the buyer to a sale, and applies them in silly ways to specific items you might (or in some cases, absolutely never would) find at a garage sale. It seems apt for this particular time of year. Everybody get your Cyber Monday deals tomorrow! Let's celebrate being American!

My favorite theme answers were 91A: Textbook, a few pages torn out, $2! (LIMITEDEDITION) and 43A: Baseball mitt, has a small hole, just $1! (DROPEVERYTHING). I feel like 68A: Guitar, never used, $15! (NOSTRINGSATTACHED) is missing a little from the clue to make it perfect. After all, most unused guitars will in fact come with strings. Similarly, I'm not clear on why 114A: Two fish tanks, accessories included, $5! (ROCKBOTTOMPRICES) is clued as being a pair. Perhaps the addition of the word "each" to the clue would have worked better.

But look at me, acting as if I could create a New York Times crossword puzzle. I mean, maybe I could. I've never really tried. Regardless, I'm just noting little inconsistencies because I get to, as the reviewer in charge today.

The fabulous Madeline KAHN

Some fun non-QMCs today, such as:

41A: What may cover some ground (AREARUG)

2D: It gets the lead out (ERASER)

70D: When you're about as smart as a fifth grader (AGETEN) - I love the literal nature of this one.

107D: Tours can be found on it (LOIRE) - as in the city in France, that is.

108D: Website with star ratings (IMDB)

Not too many LOWPOINTS, so I'll call this a fine Sunday.

- Colum

P.S. Congratulations to Mr. Kremer for his NYT debut!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Saturday, November 27, 2021, Trenton Charlson

A pinwheel of fun material today from the OLDTIMEY YELLOWPAGES (1886) to the more modern XERISCAPING (coined in 1981, according to the Wikipedia) with a lot of good stuff in between. I was surprised to find I had finished the puzzle in just under 22 minutes because the solve didn't seem particularly OOZIER than usual. I had the most trouble with what turned out to be my favorite clue: "Spot early on?" PUP - ha! It didn't help that the final Down cross was itself a little trixsy: "Rather inclined" (STEEP) - clever!

My other misstep was to misread "Collage application." I couldn't figure out how PASTE applied to a 'College' application. Derp. On the upside, thanks to all the Pearl S. Buck books I've read, I know about SUNTZU and SAMPANs. Interesting to see COINSLOT today ("It welcomes change"). Horace and I went to the bank yesterday and on the door was posted a sign claiming there is a nationwide coin shortage. What's up with that? Are they being used for crafts? Is everyone hoarding them for end days?


In other mysteries, I liked how the two grid-spanning entries - UNDERCOVERAGENT and THECOASTISCLEAR - kinda go together in an sneaky way. I also enjoyed "Act the cynic, maybe" (SCOFF), "Felt off" (AILED), "Realizes" (NETS), and "Vice principle" (SIN) - apt!

I would be remiss in my REVUE duties if I failed to mention the plentiful bits and bobs strewn about such as OSU, ESE, PREZ, ETTE, IPA, and CPA, but the BAILOUT here was the clever clueing, especially for latter three ("Kitchen extension", "Draft letters", "Book reviewer?"). You can't ASP for more than that. 


Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday, November 26, 2021, Kate Hawkins

Interesting solve for me today. Several answers were in my mental memory banks, but it felt like they were waaaay in the back, if you see what I mean. I could almost feel them working their way out of the deepest filing cabinet drawers of my mind. Specifically, "Onetime chain that offered Free Battery Club memberships" (RADIOSHACK), "Best-selling heavy metal band named for a torture device" (IRONMAIDEN) - in my case, it was the torture device element of the clue that clicked, "Duo in an ellipse" (FOCI), "___ Yaga (folklore villain)" (BABA), and, very luckily for me, the name "Aimee SEMPLE McPherson because otherwise, I would still be working on the mid-southeast corner of the puzzle. I didn't immediately know the missing part of her name, it came out one letter at a time, almost like my mind was using a Ouija board. I had some of the other Across answers in the upper block including AREA and ALA (natch), but I couldn't catch on to any of the clever clues in that corner "The art of politics?" (PROPAGANDA), "Entitled sort" (LEGALOWNER), or "Desire of a quick study?" (EASYA) until I had the start letters from SEMPLE. 

Other clever clues included:
"Experts in English?" (POOLSHARKS) - nice.
"#1 dad?" (ADAM) - ha!
"Register" (TILL) - anyone else enter TeLL first?
"Stay good" (KEEP)
"Bit of a character" (TRAIT)

Fill-wise, there were these gems: BESOT, LAVISH, ABIDES, and NUMB - I've always liked that word, for some reason.

In the lower southeast block, possibly due to a personal distaste for the entire crustacean family, PRAWN for  "Cocktail tidbit" was a real stretch. And, unfortunately, as far as I could tell,  STRIKEPAY and ANNE Archer weren't in my data banks at all, but the real cause may be the ERRORPRONE nature of my personal wet ware.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021, Chase Dittrich

It's TRUE that I quickly understood the need for a T/F alternative in five squares throughout the puzzle - each of the letters making the answer match one of the two clue possibilities - but it's FALSE that I got the congratulatory message when I completed the puzzle. :( Maybe because I solved the puzzle late at night in an effort to get the review up early before the busy holiday morning (unsuccessfully, as you may have already noticed), but I went the low-barrier route and entered only TF in the special squares. In my app, apparently, one had to enter either T/F or just T or just F to make the solve a success. I was disappointed because I had finished the puzzle pretty quickly, but that's what I get for cutting corners.  

My fail tale aside, I enjoyed the alternative answers, especially "PC key/ Sitcom ET" (ALT/F), "Wood nymph / Independent person" (T/FREESPIRIT), and "Goodyear blowout / 'Everything must go' event" (T/FIRESALE).

Other C/APs that entertained were:
"Cold-blooded killer" (ASP) - clever.
"Praise loudly" (HAIL)
"Openings for 'To Tell the Truth'" (TEES)
"Pen" (CAGE)

I liked the "Darn" clue for DRAT and then the "Darn, e.g." clue for SEW. I also liked the pairing - of sorts - "Traffic lights you can't go through" (REDS) and "Green-lights" (OKAYS). 

And who doesn't love a reference to LESLIE Nielsen of "The Naked Gun" and, of course, "Airplane" - funniest movie ever. 

By the way, I looked up SAL soda from yesterday's puzzle. According to The Free Dictionary, it's a sodium salt of carbonic acid used in making soap powders and glass and paper. Arm & Hammer sells it in a box that looks a lot like rather too much like their Baking Soda for my taste. If the situation ever comes up, let's hope everyone chooses the correct alternative.

I wish all of you, dear Readers, a restful holiday where your most challenging choice is between LOAF and more ETON


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Wednesday, November 24, 2021, Brandon Koppy

Well, dear Readers, quite a different solving experience for me today. It took me a full 26:51 to complete the grid - and this a Wednesday! I didn't have any trouble with the theme - or in fact much of the puzzle, but some of the OBTUSE answers - the "seldom correct" kind! - in the northcentral section brought me to this NEWLOW (probably not actually a personal slow on a Wednesday, but work with me here.) I had a number of pretty solid answers in that section, too: ONO, SOCOOL (which I had, but didn't want), and EWE, for example. But "Omaha stake?", "Little pest", Opposite of radial", and "1990s Indian prime minister" made my progress STAHL. Horace tells me "Omaha" is a type of poker, thus BET. I can see how a TWERP could be considered a little pest, but sadly I spent too much time in the 'insect' area of my vocabulary Venn diagrams rather than the 'annoyance' zone. Derp. And well, my knowledge of Indian Prime Ministers of the 1990s did not extend to Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha RAO. :(


Anyhoo, elsewhere in the puzzle, I was feeling my OATES. I thought the theme was fun. Although I personally don't take a PICODEGALLO because of its OMNIPOTENCE in making me feel ill, it's an entertaining idea for the circled letters to represent the "chopped" ONION, PEPPER, and TOMATO within the three theme answers in the top HALF of the puzzle, and then have a 'squeezing' of[LIME] in FISHFORCOMP[LIME]NTS for the finishing touch. I enjoyed the added CRAZINESS of most of the circles representing single letters but the circle for LIME calling for a rebus.

I thought the clue "Including an unlisted number?" (ETAL) was particularly clever. I was entertained by answers for "Comic cry of dismay" ACK and DOHZEALS and RUMS stuck me as slightly odd plurals, but who's counting? Oh, and BTW, does anybody know what SAL soda is? 


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021, Eric Bornstein

Today's three theme answers are all people who have last names that represent types of investment - BARRYBONDS, JOHNNYCASH, ADAMSILVER - making the revealer, PERSONALFINANCE, apply literally. With two of the three being sports personages, its a little bit too bad it couldn't be a clean sweep to add a money ball dimension. The choice of "Money, Money, Money" for the ABBA clue at 1A is a touch of gold, though. 


I enjoyed the clue "They have ears, it's said" (WALLS) because it calls to mind the short-lived but entertaining (as I remember it) show "When Things Were Rotten" from the seventies. One of the characters warns others to be careful when talking about a plot, because walls have ears, and the shot pulls back to a wall covered with ears. Heh. COWS for "intimidates" is a nice C/AP if a not-nice action. TACIT for "Understood" was also good. 

In a KTWO moment, when reviewing the puzzle, I got to 37A and thought, I've never heard of the rapper ICET (as if pronounced i-set). Ha! I also hesitated at 51A: "Nicholas I or II" - not because I didn't know the answer, but because of the two possible spellings. Of late, it's been all TSAR all the time, so I thought I'd go with it instead of getting confirmation. Of course, this time it was CZAR. Derp.  I will attribute my slightly higher time today of 6:29 to these blips. Sadly, no immediate numerical associations came to mind TODAY


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Monday, November 22, 2021, Stella Zawistowski

Greetings fellow puzzle solvers! Frannie here to take you and the review through the big holiday week. The delights of Thanksgiving are my GENRE of enjoyment, holiday-wise - family and feasting really hit the SLOT. As a vegetarian, I plan to avoid any and all MYSTERYMEAT on Thursday, but I think it's only fair to warn you that there may be some pie-related slowdowns later in the week. 

And speaking of slowdowns, I hit a couple today, first of all by starting with FANTASYfootBALL where BASE was wanted - sports is never my best category. I also entered 'tourbus' in place of BUSTOUR - a much better match for the clue ("Sightseeing on wheels"). I ended up with a time of 6:09, notable only to me because it is the same as the address of my first dorm in college. [Gee, she really OPENSUP when she writes on a Sunday evening, doesn't she?] 

26A: UPC

Any ROMANCELANGUAGE is much more my cup of tea, so I enjoyed the ad hoc Latin bits like ETAL and ALUM, but the presence of both OPUS (singular) and OPERA (plural) was the NICEST. Also, BTW, Horace, it looks like the plural of 'uxor' is uxores - hope that doesn't come in *too* handy. :) I very much enjoyed the C/AP "Enter en masse, as a car" (PILEINTO). BUTTONUP, LOPE, and COIFFEUR are also nice.

The answer to "Question to a suspected culprit" amused me, as I imagined police agents on the British crime dramas we watch asking each suspect, "WASITYOU?" What confessions would then ENSUE? Stay tuned...