Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sunday, January 31, 2021, Jim Hilger


Today's clever, if commercial, theme takes familiar phrases and replaces one word with a brand name, then–obviously–clues the resulting phrase wackily. As is so often the case, explanation will be made easier with an example: "Nature abhors a vacuum" is changed to NATUREABHORSAHOOVER, and is clued with "Reason that the prestigious scientific journal refuses articles from President Herbert's relatives?" See? Nothing at all tortured about that clue, right? 

YOKED oxen

More straightforward, I think, is "Volunteered at a nursery?" for WORKEDFORPLANTERS (Worked for peanuts). As I said at the top, though, it's clever enough, and the idea of THROWINGINTHEBOUNTY (Adding a historic ship as a deal sweetener?) was humorously absurd. And really, what more can one ask?

In the fill, I have a couple questions. One - is MONTE always a "rigged card game?" Isn't it possible to play it in an honest way? I mean, it's still hard to follow the hand movements of a skilled practitioner, isn't it? And two - does the answer to "Cloth woven from flax fibre" have to be IRISHLINEN? Is it thought that the spelling of "fibre" makes it so? Couldn't it still just be plain old linen? I'm sure I don't know. 

I liked the highfalutin answers "Ad VALOREM tax" and NUNCIO (Vatican ambassador), the geologic pair of SEISMS (Great shakes) (Nice Non-QMC) and BASALT (Volcanic substance), and the clever QMCs "General practice?" WAR and "Nice nicety" MERCI. That's Nice the town on the Riviera. In France. Clever! And I loved "Two fifths of one quarter" for DIME. Very nice.

And have I ever told you the story of when Frances and I went to a bakery in Denmark and asked them what word they used when talking about the sweet pastries they had for sale? They said "Viennoises." Well, we haven't yet been to Vienna, but we will get there, and when we do, we'll take one more step toward getting to the bottom of this ongoing mystery!

Overall, this puzzle had a good spirit. Fun, clever clues, references from all over, and a kooky theme. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Saturday, January 30, 2021, Nam Jin Yoon

Another week has flown by, and we end with a super smooth Saturday themeless. This grid shape is excellent. It's so rare that we get 13- and 14- letter answers, and to have them stacked in the north and south of the puzzle is cool looking.

I'd like to start by acknowledging Ms. Ronan of "Little Women," "Brooklyn," and "Lady Bird." What an amazing actress: I have yet to see a movie she's in where I haven't been enthralled by her performance. Furthermore, when I saw the clue, I said to myself, said I: "I'm going to mess up the spelling of her name." And like Cassandra, my prediction came true. I put the I before the O. Fortunately, 41A: Buck, boomer, jack, flyer or jill, informally (ROO) saved the day, and I ended up with SAOIRSE.

How about the pair of 10D: Frosty air? (ICINESS) and 11D: De-frosting? (DETENTE)? It's a nice adjacent set of clues. I'm not convinced that either of them actually need question marks. Thoughts?

Actually, the QMCs in this puzzle were not particularly misleading. Or maybe I just had my Saturday solving hat on. Not an actual hat, mind you. It's metaphorical. You know, for those tricky...

Never mind. The point is, these ones didn't really make me work hard. With the exception of 19D: Holding up the line for? (CUING). That's perfect, really. Too bad the rest couldn't live up to that one.


But that's okay. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey through this puzzle, starting at 1A: Hero of Philadelphia (HOAGIE, which dropped right in to start me off). The long answers were all very good, starting with ROCKETSCIENCE. The other three have such a nice conversational feeling to them, and each are four words or longer. My favorite is MOREPOWERTOYOU.

Well, tomorrow starts another week with Horace. I'm looking forward to it!

- Colum

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday, January 29, 2021, Robyn Weintraub

I had a feeling the turn was going to be good this week, and lo and behold! Ms. Weintraub's name pops up on the screen. I'm always excited when I see her byline. She is consistently smooth in her construction, and fun to solve.

Today, I felt there was something of a hidden theme going on. When you're in PARENTHOOD, it's common to have a PICKYEATER in the household. Many Moms and Dads have a SECRETRECIPE to convince them to eat, and then it's a DONEDEAL. Unless it's EXTRASPICY, and then there's ZEROCHANCE!

OVERTHETOP? Maybe. But at least I amused myself.

I like the contrasting "100% not happening!" and "100% happening!" clues. Other great clues include:

18A: Big brass (TROMBONE)

30A: Hot dogs do this (PANT)

11D: Talk up? (PRAY)

46A: "The weapon of the powerless against the powerful," according to Molly Ivins (SATIRE). I was thinking maybe "the vote" but that just goes to show how naive I still am, apparently.

31A: Bar exam? (PUBTRIVIA). Excellent.

MRS Lovett and Sweeney Todd

My favorite comes at 19D: TV roommates for 50+ years (BERTANDERNIE). By the way, it can't go the other way around. Ernie and Bert is not a thing. 

My other favorite is at 14A: Choice for those eager to retire and travel? (SLEEPERCAR). So much is good here, that I can't even get them all in. 

Can tomorrow match up to Thursday and Friday? Tune in to find out!

- Colum

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Thursday, January 28, 2021, Steve Mossberg

Debut alert! Always impressive when a constructor's first puzzle published in the NYT comes on a Thursday, because of the trickiness expected of the theme on that day.

And today's does not disappoint. We get four phrases, to which is added the letters -ILY, transforming the last element into an adverb, which now describes the first part of the phrase. You have to imagine a comma between the two parts in the reworked phrase. Clue wackily, and hilarity ensues, as they say.

All four of the theme answers hit the mark, if you ask me. The one that made me laugh out loud was 39A: Golden blades that may be tenderly chew'd by equine or bovine beings (HAYLOFTILY). Also amusing was THELASTWORDILY, while the other two weren't quite as chuckle-inducing. Although I love the clue for 34A: L iKe aN Ov eN (HOTMESSILY). 

Meanwhile, the fill was also of high quality. I love the clue for 3D: Common congestion points (NOSES). I had NOdES for a while, but the actual answer is more square on the nose, if you will. Also nice was 43D: It may be rolled out for exercise (YOGAMAT). 

RENE Auberjonois from Deep Space 9

The southwest corner has a nice little connection between the two excellent clues 57A: Follower of pigs and cows (EIEIO) - I did not see that coming at all - and 60A: Country sound (TWANG). 

Does anybody else remember NETZERO? Boy, I have a strong feeling that I used it for a while to access the Interwebz. I never much liked AOL. 

Finally, 26A: 90s, say (AAVERAGE) and its symmetrically placed item 45A: One committing insurance fraud, maybe (ARSONIST). Honestly, I liked just about everything about this puzzle. The turn is coming through, baby!

- Colum

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wednesday, January 27, 2021, Mike Knobler

Now I have to live down the embarrassing mistake I made in yesterday's post, thinking from a cursory interwebz search that there were 2 Ks in a Scrabble set. Thanks to faithful reader Mr. Kingdon for providing a link to official rules.

As a balm to soothe my furrowed brow, today's theme falls back on what we used to call Wacky Wordies, for those who recall the old GAMES magazine style puzzles. The three 15-letter answers are all phrases that start with prepositions that imply position underneath something. And then the phrase is placed below a word that is synonymous with the second part of the phrase.

Thus, 39A: Sick ... or where this answer goes? (UNDERTHEWEATHER) is placed under 36A: What to expect between June and September in India (MONSOON). The other two phrases, BENEATHCONTEMPT and BELOWTHESURFACE are equally recognizable phrases. I'm impressed that all three are 15 letters long and fit the requirements of the theme.

A real roadrunner and CACTI

Because of the close relationship of the long answers with the connected short answer, the grid has to put up with a fair amount of CST, NSEC, WDS, and UEY in those sections. But it's made up for with some nice long down answers in JANEFONDA and TUMMYACHE

38A: What's what, in Italy (CHE) gets my nod for best C/AP of the day. Another good one is 32A: Merit badge holder (SASH) - that is, not the boy scout. 52A: Knuckleheaded act? (NOOGIE) elicited a groan, of the good kind.

It's been a sort of odd week so far. But the turn starts tomorrow, so let's look ahead!

- Colum

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Peter Gordon

How often do we talk about answers which are pleasingly Scrabbly in these reviews? Well, I've got the winner for the most Scrabbly answer yet: SCRABBLE

I'll pause for the groans to die out.

But seriously, folks, today, Mr. Gordon has given us four answers which are impossible to play legally due to not having enough of given tiles. Thus our limits are set at words which have 3 Zs (one Z and two blanks), 3 Ks (one K and two blanks) or 6 Ss (4 Ss and two blanks). Now that I look at it, though, there are actually 2 Ks in the set, so why can't we make KNICKKNACK? That has 4 Ks, so the 2 blanks should make it possible (although unlikely). Am I missing something? Help me out, folks!

PIZZAZZY, STRESSLESSNESS, and RAZZMATAZZ are fun words, although I can't really imagine any situation where I'd use either of the first two in real life. All of those rare letters make for odd crossings, such as KEENER, SANZ (does anyone remember Horatio Sanz? On SNL from 1998 to 2006), and GAZERS.


I very much like TANZANIA, home of Dar-es-Salaam. Sporcle is a fun thing I do in my spare time, and the Geography quizzes keep me up to date on the 147 countries of the world. I always forget Sao Tome and Principe.

Otherwise, there's not much in the clues that stand out. 47D: Paper tiger? (HOBBES) is cute. The very chunky corners made my time longer than typical for a Tuesday puzzle, but the whole concept slants hard, so I'll give myself a pass. 

- Colum

Monday, January 25, 2021

Monday, January 25, 2021, Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels

I like to think of this puzzle as a sendoff to a certain individual. YOUREFIRED being applied to him with a modicum of dramatic irony.

The theme is a set of synonyms for letting an employee go, all hidden at the end of more standard phrases. Thus, GARBAGECAN and BATTLEAXE. These are nicely hidden, in my opinion, although the marquee phrase QUARTERBACKSACK may get its word from a similar etymology. Okay, so maybe not! Instead it seems to come from the sense of sacking a city. Nice!

I'm going to apologize for the brevity of this review. It's been a crazy day and night for various reasons. Suffice it to say that I liked much about this puzzle. Very smooth and straightforward, with a couple of fun clues like 69A: Dealer in futures? (SEER) and 70A: It's a plot! (ACRE).

Also, 4D acts as an antidote to this company that's laying off people left and right. NOCUTS!

- Colum

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sunday, January 24, 2021, Lucy Howard and Ross Trudeau


Hey everyone! Hope your New Year is going as well as planned. How long did your resolution last for? I will just say that I can't remember what my resolution was, and leave it at that for you to decide how well it's going.

Here in Albany, the Amory household has taken to solving the puzzle together en famille, at least for Thursday through Sunday. It's been a fun new tradition, and it's supported by my giving up the keyboard to either Cece or Hope. So we just completed this sweet little Sunday pleaser together. Like taking candy from a baby, the answers just flowed forth.

The theme (in case you couldn't guess from my intro) takes well-known names of candy and strings them together to make seven ludicrous phrases. My rules of success with this sort of thing starts with easily recognizable source material (no issues here on any of them, with the possible exception of the old British standby, the Mars Bar, which was officially discontinued in the US of A in 2002). Secondly, the reconfigured phrases have to be constructed effectively, and again there are no issues here. 

Finally, they should make you smile (and hopefully actually laugh out loud). And this unfortunately didn't really happen at all, with two mild exceptions. 31A: A young justice Ginsburg chuckles?(BABYRUTHSNICKERS) was humorous for the image created. Or at least in my mind, a little baby girl with glasses and a black robe with lace was amusing. The other one that made me smile was 47A: Do core exercises all day, every day? (CRUNCHNOWANDLATER), only because I liked the way the second candy name worked in the answer.

I will also nod to 22A: Bookworms call dad? (NERDSRINGPOP) just because I love the way the phrase reparses the candy name "ringpop" into two words, where the first becomes a verb rather than a noun. That's fun wordplay.

By Paul KLEE

There were some nice clues in the mix as well. I liked 91D: Legendary password stealer (ALIBABA). Also, 28D: Ally of the Brat Pack (SHEEDY) could be misread if the hidden capital was not noted. 45D: Idaho, e.g., in dialect (TATER) could mislead one away from the vegetable. RIGBY took quite some time to get, as we were all looking for first names.

On the QMC side, 54A: Business for Sanders supporters? (KFC) is quite clever. 85D: Promises, promises! (IDOS) fits into that unclear category of exclamation clues. I still don't have a good name for it, although we might have settled on something in prior days.

Not a fan of TILER, OBEYERS, INKMARK. These seem somewhat EELY ways to fill in the grid. But maybe I'm just feeling hypoglycemic after all that candy wore off.

Congratulations to Ms. Howard for her debut puzzle!

- Colum

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday, January 23, 2021, Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber

 And I thought yesterday's puzzle was difficult! I doubled yesterday's time today (45:23). I had the most trouble in the northwest. The northeast fell pretty easily because I happen to know a bit about "The Pirates of Penzance," "Good Times" and LADOLCEVITA. At that point, you could say I was on a ROLLE

Marion Hood as 16A: MABEL

Moving on to the southeast, I felt like a DAB hand when I was able to enter ESPERANTO off the clue and drop in KOLA, a nut I am now familiar with thanks to "Spelling Bee." I did struggle a bit with PUTONS ("Gags"), though, even when I had __TONS. It just looked like NONSense to me. 

There were some fun QMCs in the MIDDLES. I enjoyed "Reached the point of no return?" (BROKEEVEN) and "Things that generate a lot of cookie dough?" (BAKESALES). "Offer sheet?" (HITLIST) is also amusing. I enjoyed LURID, BULWARK, and WORDSFAILME as fill - less so GMAC, RETD, and NAW

Had I been wearing any MOODRINGS, they would have glowed black for the 10-15 minutes it took me to solve the northwest. Even though I got SETTHEORY off the clue, the rest of that section was a bear. While the solution did reveal ITSELF INDUETIME, I had to REDRAFT my answer to 17A: ("Is resolute") seeeveral times first. I tried 'holdsfast', 'staysfirm', and I don't know what all else. It wasn't until I focused on 1D: "Sight in a produce aisle" and guessed MIST that I got STANDSPAT and was finally DUN


Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday, January 22, 2021, Daniel Larsen

Horace and I agreed that this puzzle seemed like a bit of a struggle, but both of our solve times, relative to our respective usual Friday times, were pretty good. My time was 22:52. One slow section for me was the south west. I haven't thought of the word PSYCHED ("Eager, informally") for quite some time - somewhat fortunately, as it was never a favorite. Also, for some reason I entered SANDlOt for "Place to build a castle," instead of the correct SANDBOX, which made it difficult to come up with PEPBAND for "Rally feature". Also, difficult to guess was PHOTOOP when I had only ___TOOP at the bottom and a crafty QMC to boot ("When a poser might be presented?"). I think my only other stumbling block was at the cross between 18A and 9D. I had A_ONIST at 18A, but only the AR of ARGOT ("Cant") at 9D. My brain got stuck on 'arsonist' despite the fact that it wouldn't even fit. Derp. 

Elsewhere, though, things rolled along pretty smoothly and entertainingly. I remembered LOLCATS as vaguely humorous, but as I was working on the review, I searched a few and some of them made me literally LOL. I also learned that a LOLcat translation of the Bible had been undertaken. It features the feline trilogy Ceiling Cat, Basement Cat, and Happy Cat. HASHTAG #wattba!

44D: GEYSERS (on Enceladus)

In case you are looking for other Web-based distractions as the we kick off the weekend, you may enjoy this video of Elvis Presley singing ALOHAOE. Or, better (?) yet, how about his "Yoga is as yoga does" from "Easy Come Easy Go"? 

In the category of weekend favorites, I might also suggest "Place for free spirits" (OPENBAR). I suppose, however, that that's right out these days - as is, I imagine, an in-person HOTDATE. Maybe hitting the HOMEGYM is more like it. 

Enjoy the weekend, dear Readers! Don't take any wooden nickels, and don't try to catch a GRENADE.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Thursday, January 21, 2021, Daniel Mauer

Today's revealer, TURNSIGNAL, applies at each of four circle squares, which indicate an intersection of sorts. At each circle square, the Across and Down answers take a right or left - as seen from its starting direction. Two of the theme answers take right turns and two take left turns. It's nicely done that the "unturned" fill still forms valid words or phrases, although they aren't necessarily related words or phrases. I did find it a little odd that there wasn't one, or one more circle square in the southeast corner for additional symmetry, but maybe four theme answer sets are inherently more symmetrical than five, even if each isn't exactly located in its own quadrant. 

Here's one example:
22A: "Cry from a survivor" takes a left at the L to form IMAL[IVE], and with IMALONE as the "straight" fill.
10D: "Satan, with 'the'" also takes a left at the L to form EVIL[ONE], with EVILEYE as the "straight" fill. 

The "straight" answers, in this case, could possibly be construed as related, but I felt that was less the case with the others: 

50A: "Break down chemically" DEGR[ADE]/DEGREES
40D: "Like toreadors, again and again" CHAR[GED]/CHARADE

Elsewhere in the grid, I thought AMOEBOID was a fun one. PURECHANCE is a nice long answer. I can't say ICEE a beautiful parallelism or aptness between the clue "Ill-advised opinions" and its answer, BADTAKES. And the C/AP "'That's true about me, right?'" ARENTI just isn't my SEEN. On the other hand, I was very happy to see a 'real' French possessive SES for once instead of the usual 'atoi.' My favorite clue today was "Like taxis and Julius Caesar, once" (HAILED) - ha!

I was surprised, dear readers, to see in the clue at 29D: "Long fur scarfs" (STOL[ES]).: I thought the plural of scarf was scarves. Have I missed something?

And speaking of missing something, I had no idea MRPEANUT had been killed off. I hope the police are at least pecan into it. Was it some crazy nutter? Whoever did it will do well to confess and get it off their chest. I'm sure there are many who pine for the late top-hatted legume. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wednesday, January 20, 2021, Natan Last, Andy Kravis and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Today we have a unifying theme on a number of levels. Within the theme answers, two state abbreviations combine to make one word in a two-word phrase that represents some kind of connection. For example, "Classic of daytime TV first aired in 1962 [Atlanta, Bangor]" is MATCHGAME. The GA for Georgia and ME for Maine together form the final word of the phrase the puts things together. My favorite was MINDMELDING, due to its Vulcan connection. I'm going to guess that Huygens favorite is WINEPAIRING. :)

Today's theme could be said to have a wider relevance in that the center, grid-spanning answer to "Red, white, and blue land ... or what 15-, 22-, 45- and 57-Across feature?"is THEUNITEDSTATES - something of a theme of President Biden's inauguration speech. Apt! On a side note, while according to Robert Browning, God may be "the perfect" POET, Amanda Gorman, youngest inaugural poet to date, who read her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the ceremony today gives Him a pretty good run for His money. :)


One could argue there was a food-based sub-theme. We have SPAM, EGG, UTZ, ACAI, SODA, ONEPERCENT (milk), POI, WOK, and maybe ODOR. And how about the fun (and frightening) food facts - the former at 24D: "Brand name derived from the phrase 'crystallized cottonseed oil" or CRISCO - who knew? - the latter, at 8D: "Only ingredient in Accent, in brief" is MSG. OMG!

Elsewhere, I enjoyed"Gave an inkling" (HINTED) along with references to TOAD Hall and my second favorite American city, CHI-Town. 

I, for one, look forward to efforts to bring more unity to this country and its people, even though it may involve some JOINTPAIN


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tuesday, January 19, 2021, Olivia Mitra Framke

Would you just look at all that CAKE! So much they had to add an extra column to the puzzle! Lemon cake, yellow, white, and coconut cake, fruitcake, a cupcake, coffee cake, rice cake, hotcake (normally this is seen in the plural, but with all that other cake to eat, I'll give it a pass), and even a crabcake! That's a dense theme, and Ms. Framke still managed to squeeze in a revealer! Nice. 


With all that, you might not expect to see much in the way of lengthy non-theme material, but you'd be wrong! GLOWSTICK, GUESTROOM, ACROBATIC, and IGUANODON are all 10¢ entries. You might even go so far as to call it icing on the cake. Maybe put on by an ICER! Is that bonus material? And was someone also thinking of the much popularized but not really accurate idea that Kennedy, with "ICH bin ein Berliner" accidentally called himself a jelly doughnut? I suppose the very urban legend is enough to turn it into a sort of bonus.

ASFOR compromises, there are definitely a few. POGS (Collectible caps of the 1990s) live on mostly just to be used in crossword puzzles, and to find them above ETUI (Case for small toiletries), well, that's some hardcore crosswordese. Farther down the grid on the East side we find MAI (Month après avril) crossing WIDECUT (Like some roomy jeans), which crosses EEOC. I've never heard of WIDECUT jeans, and EEOC was just a guess. I've seen EEO and EOE, but never EEOC. 

Still, I don't want to make this into a RANT, because overall I thought this was a good puzzle. 

Frannie's back tomorrow, so you won't be BEREFT for much longer. 

- Horace

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Monday, January 18, 2021, Jeff Stillman

Today's theme answers are cities that have world-famous names, but that are located elsewhere. For example, the"City where you won't find the Eiffel Tower" is PARISTEXAS. The puzzle also includes ATHENSGEORGIA ("City where you won't find the Parthenon"), both of which are in John Prine's song "(We're Not) The Jet Set." If you haven't heard it, you should check it out. I've never been to either of the other two theme answer cities, NAPLESFLORIDA and TOLEDOHIO, or, for that matter, their more famous counterparts, although once I heard my sister's mother-in-law talking about "their place in Naples" and I was all excited to try to cadge an invite. Imagine my disappointment when I realized it was the *other* Naples. I have been to Paris, France and Athens, Greece - both are definitely worth the trip. This pandemic has my Seoul ITCHing to Rome, but instead I'm Stockholm. I miss travelling!

I thought I detected bonus travel material with "Russian 'no'" (NYET), "Tehran's land" (IRAN), FERRY, ATSEA, EDAM, and VENTI - just kidding with that last one!

As I made my way through the rest of the puzzle, I enjoyed NERDALERT ("'Here comes Poindexter!'") and its symmetrical opposite INALATHER ("All riled up"). I also liked "Fading stars" (HASBEENS), "Join in couples" (PAIROFF), and "Get ready to hem, say" (PINUP) - accurate! 


I almost got shanghaied by "Rings, as a church bell," where I put 'tolLS' instead of the correct PEALS, and PASCHAL for "Easter-related" might have been a challenge for some, but overall, a fun theme that was right up my ALLEY


Sunday, January 17, 2021, Tracy Gray and Tom Pepper


For this puzzle, the note about a slash running from the top left of the circled squares to the bottom right is necessary for the entries to make sense. Otherwise, one might look at the [NNOO] entry in 13-Down "Classic dorm room meal" (RAME[NNOO]DLES) and try to fit it into CART[nnoo]ETWORK in the same way. But with the slash in place, it's possible to alter which pair of double letters is used first, and this allows for the correct version - CART[OONN]ETWORK. Got it? Good.


The double-double letters appear in several more entries, some better than others. OVERHEA[DDOO]R is the weakest, but it crosses BL[OODD]RIVE, and it's hard to argue with that. I did not know GLORI[AALL]RED before this, but I feel I should have. 

Overall, I guess the theme is ok. It's not my favorite, but maybe only because the online experience was not the same as it would have been in print.

In non-theme, my favorite entry was BAAED (Complained about getting fleeced?). Absurd, but hilarious. And speaking of absurd and hilarious, EUGENIE reminded me of "The Windsors," a parody tv series with some very funny moments.

I was slowed down in the NE by 15D: Deep-toned cousin of an English horn. When I saw that it started with "BASS___" I really tried hard to make "bassoon" work, but no, they wanted BASSOBOE.

SOAP (Dove bar, e.g.) was nicely disguised by the ice-creamy clue, but it reminds me that last year a New Yorker article and a piece on Slate provided evidence that would challenge this clue. Dove itself calls its product a "beauty bar," and not a soap. Out here in the real world, I don't think there are many people who would complain about the clue, but what is a reviewer's job but to point out such little oddities?

Overall it was fine. Frannie takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you again in a few weeks. Happy puzzling.

- Horace

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday, January 16, 2021, Sam Ezersky

The grid today kind of reminded me of a hamburger. Anybody else see that? The top and bottom buns are made up of stacked 12-, 13-, and 14-letter answers, and the middle is a mess of lettuce, pickle, and ... well, ok, it's not a perfect analogy. Anyway, when I see long Across answers like that, I generally try to poke a few virtual toothpicks down into them to soften them up a bit. Today that was easy enough, with CUTEST (Something absolutely adorable, with "the"), LUG (Galoot) (Luckily, I got support for this before reaching 21A's "Galoot" (APE), or else I would have second-guessed LUG), SHROOM (Slangy psychedelic), and HIE (Make tracks, quaintly) all going right in. Thus softened, CALLTHESHOTS (Be in charge ... as a doctor?) became obvious. 

KEEL (and many other parts)

Some good clues today: 

Remains to be seen, say (MUSEUMEXHIBIT) - Remains like a mummy, or pottery.
Layperson? (MASON) - brick-layer. A bit of a stretch, but ok
One might have a photographic memory (SCRAPBOOK) - Nice.
Bass organ (GILL) - Fish, not music.
Bad way to be poisoned (LETHALLY) - Indeed.
Predate? (EVE)

I'm not so sure about "Word before or after strong" (ARM). Sure, in "strong ARM" it's a word, but it's just a part of a name in ARMstrong, isn't it? No one says, "Boy, that guy is really arm strong." "Man's name that's also a suffix" (IAN) seems a little more accurate.

There were some Saturday-level places (BUSHEY, SARANAC, EASTON), and a touch of URSI and MER, but there were plenty of high-value entries and the cluing was strong. Thumbs up. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021, Josh Knapp

The Turn kicks into high gear today with an nearly perfect themeless from Mr. Knapp.


OK, where to start? I'll pick the end, which for me was the T of SHIFTS (Uses a manual, say) and ROTE (Mindless). Both answers were completely opaque to me until there was nothing but that last letter left, and then "bam!" both were perfect. So well concealed, especially after "Kind of manual" (HOWTO) so close by. 

And can we talk about the cluing? It starts immediately at 1-Across - "Ballpark figure" (BATBOY), which is great, and along the same lines as "Shower heads, perhaps" (MAIDSOFHONOR). So good. And how about "Peels off?" for ZESTS? They're peels, that are off! It's one of those "obvious once you understand it" clues, like "There's often a lot of them for sale" (USEDCARS) or "Nested layers?" (HENS). Lovely. And how about the beautiful "One getting fired up for competition?" (STARTERPISTOL). It gets fired up to start a competition! How do they come up with this stuff?

I liked learning LOOKBOOK (Fashion designer's portfolio) and EGODEATH (Complete loss of self-identity), and it was fun to see OUTRE (Really weird), which I just used in the review on Wednesday. 

There's a lot to like about this one. Clever clues were mixed with standard clues, and when that happens, I even start over-thinking the obvious ones like "Symbols of strength" (OAKS). Sure, there were a few names I didn't know, but there was nothing I'd call junk. 

Let's just end with one more great clue: "Number shown in brackets?" (SEED). In case you couldn't tell, I loved it. Hope you did too.

- Horace

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Thursday, January 14, 2021, Aimee Lucido and Ella Dershowitz

Hmmmm.... I'm not sure about this one. The word bottle is "spinning" through the circled squares, starting both at the twelve o'clock and the six o'clock position, and where the letters intersect, one is used in the Across answer, and the other in the Down answer. I can see what's going on, but I didn't get a real good understanding of why. Nor did I get a real "aha" moment when I figured it out. If I figured it out ... maybe there's more to it that I'm missing, and if so, please chime in with a comment. And while you're at it, you could explain to me how "MOWS down" means "overwhelms." Is it like how the guy below "mowed down" the competition? I suppose that could work.


I guess when I see two letters in a square, I expect more of a Schrödinger situation, but still ... I guess it works. I shouldn't wish for more, right?

How demeaning is it to be called a "Common baitfish in North American streams"? I mean, you're already called a CHUB. Sheesh. 

And what about that library clue?! ABOUTNESS - "Relevance of text, in librarian's lingo." I've been working in a library for the last dozen or so years, and while the word doesn't seem completely alien to me, it's not one I ever use. But then, I'm not actually a librarian, and I've got nothing to do with cataloging, which is where I assume it's used. Still - shout out to all the librarians out there! :)

"Tangy" isn't exactly how I'd describe ONIONDIP. You? 

Boy, it's death by a thousand pin pricks today, isn't it? I'd better just leave it. Suffice to say, I'm not INLOVE with this one, but I do appreciate the novelty. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021, Matthew Stock

Is it a movie theme or a basketball theme? I don't know, but for me, the basketball references made it harder! For one thing, who knew New Orleans had a basketball team? I stopped watching basketball in the early 1980s. 

Still, thanks to the forgiving nature of crossword puzzles, I was able to eventually see that THEPELICANBRIEF fit the bill, as it were, for "Game notes for a New Orleans N.B.A. player?" in more ways than one. I think the Kings (THEKINGSSPEECH (Address by a Sacramento N.B.A. player?)) were around back when I was watching, but no one in Boston cared about them. All Boston fans were concerned with were the Lakers and the Sixers. 

The last theme answer, THEGREENHORNET (Charlotte N.B.A. player in charge of recycling?) pleases me both for the recycling reference and for memories of Bruce Lee. Did you know that there was once a Batman/Green Hornet crossover show? Well, there was, and on it, there was a fight scene between Kato and Robin. The script had Kato losing, but Lee refused to film it, arguing (rightly) that there was no way anyone would believe that Robin could beat Kato in a fight. He even pranked a frightened Burt Ward by threatening to fight him for real if they were forced to film it. Hah! In the end, he had to settle for a tie. 

In featured "non-theme" answers, I enjoyed CUTEASABUTTON (Totally adorable) and SAYCHEESE ("Smile!"). As for the symmetrical partners of those two, I prefer the term "downspout" to DRAINPIPE (Gutter attachment) (I also prefer "eavestrough" to gutter), and HITTHEWEIGHTS (Make an effort to get swole) just sounds a little off to me. Not as off as the word "swole," but I'm not going to make a big deal of either.

SCHIST (Coarse-grained rock that splits easily) got a somewhat strained clue, but I like any geologic entries. LIGER always seems cheap to me. At first I thought it was just something that Napoleon Dynamite made up, but I understand it's a real thing, so I guess I shouldn't DISS it. When will we see "tigon" in a grid?

On the whole I liked this one. ERBE (Flavorers in Italian cookery) was a bit outré, even for this language-lover, but it was not something I remember ever seeing before in a puzzle. In fact, this one had an overall "different" feel for me - refreshing and slightly more challenging. Both good. I suppose that's to be expected, since we've only seen Mr. Stock once before this. Hopefully, we'll see more of him in the future.

- Horace

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021, Ross Trudeau

THISTOOSHALLPASS. Yes, Mr. Trudeau, I suppose so. 

A puzzle for our time. So like a KIDNEYSTONE have been the current presidential term, the pandemic, and the primitive, profane, and profligate performance of a poison plague at the Capitol. ITSALOT, but persist we must, remembering that in the long arc of devouring time, one year, even four years, is but a BRIEFMOMENT


Still, when the scale is shortened to three score years and ten, four or five years become more significant. And my own time with you being limited by convention to but a few paragraphs, you'd probably rather I stuck to the script, offering TART commentary on this or that puzzle SPEC, rather than hear me say ITOLDYOU after having HARPEDON things we'd all prefer to forget. "Just DONT!" I hear you sigh. 

So I shall WALK the walk. See me SETTLING into my role as I PECK my OWN TOP entries ERE you go your WAY. STARRY nights, CRINKLES in a linen shirt, CAROLINA in my mind ... these things CALM the mood. Even PARD helps by reminding us of poetry ("Away! away! for I will fly to thee, / Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, / But on the viewless wings of Poesy"). Keats was probably using "pards" as an abbreviation of "leopards," but I'll take what I can get.

Sure, "Fungus-filled, maybe" (MILDEWY) isn't my ideal way of starting a puzzle, but overall, I think there was more PLUS than minus. And it's hard to argue with such an apt puzzle.

ECCE review.

- Horace

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Monday, January 11, 2021, Martha Kimes

This one got you in the mood to eat right away with the MCRIB. I remember having one of those on a cross-country road trip in 1981, when McDonald's was still using those Styrofoam clamshell cases for all their food. The eighties were an interesting time for fast food, but a particularly bad decade for the environment. Remember James Watt? Good times. 


From there, the theme gets a little trickier, in that it turns into a real theme where you have to focus on only the first word of the four longest across entries to find more sandwiches: a WRAP, a delicious CUBAN, a CLUB, and a good old-fashioned SUB. And to wash it all down, have a shot of STOLI. What? 1A and 67A aren't really part of the theme? Now you tell me!

What is part of the theme, apparently, is 58-Down, DELI, which they claim is where you might find the sandwiches in question. I think "might" is the operative word here, because I don't remember ever being in a deli that offered a cuban. And speaking of cubanos, the best one I've had was at a Cuban/French restaurant called Chez Henri. Boy oh boy was that ever good. They went out of business, though, so don't bother trying to find it. 

Anywho, the theme is good, especially if you mold it to your own appetite. Throw in a boiled OEUF, for example, and finish with two frosted raspberry POPTARTS, and you've got yourself a date! (Yes, you can leave out the FLAXSEED, but if you wanted to swap out SCOTch for STOLI, I'm fine with that.)

As for the B answers, I liked GETAB (Do better than average, gradewise) better than BTEN (Vitamin also known as PABA). I also liked TUNDRA, ACUTE (who doesn't love geometry?), DIWALI (I learned of this holiday through crosswords), and the goofy clue for BARNONE (Without exception ... as in dry counties?). Not a bad debut, Ms. Kimes. Congratulations!

- Horace

Sunday, January 10, 2021, Alex Bajcz


Greetings, Dear Reader. Horace here, taking the baton from Colum after two weeks of lovely reviews from him and Frannie. 

As for me, well, I've been better.

AMELIA Earhart

Let's start with some things I liked about this puzzle. The clue "Makes Don nod?" (REVERSES) was interesting, because it was an example of the rare "false capital." There's no real reason to make "don" into a name, except to trick us. 

I enjoyed the trivia in "It's been performed more than 1,000 times at the Met" (AIDA), and in another music-related answer, SANPEDRO (Los Angeles port district) made me smile as it reminded me of the song "Hot Rod Lincoln."

Now let's get to things I didn't like. RIOT and ARMEDGUARD, BADOMEN, ALARMS, RELOAD, RETRIBUTION. These things EVOKE HARD to swallow recent events. Not the constructor's fault, I know.

And I'm sure it's just my mood making me overly critical, but "Least spicy" doesn't necessarily mean BLANDEST. There are lots of flavors and sensations that are far from bland and far from spicy at the same time. But I know, I know, if it can work, it's fair game... 

As for the theme - blocks of four letters that repeat in such common expressions as ALUMINUMINGOT and BAHAMAMAMAMIX, well ... my jaw won't be THUDDING onto the table over that one.

Add to my foul mood a fistful of NEB, OREG, ARI, SSR, ALGA, LINEA, AERI, RUR, and the seemingly arbitrary AMONRA (didn't we just have "Amen Ra" a few days ago?), and I'm sorry to say, I didn't think it was TERRIF.

Here's hoping you enjoyed it more than I did, and that I snap out of this funk by tomorrow. 

- Horace

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday, January 9, 2021, Trenton Charlson

A few weeks back I posed the question of how to solve a crossword puzzle with friends or family in such a way that one's desire for speed doesn't alienate the co-solvers. One answer is to give up control of the keyboard entirely, which is what I did today, with my family. Hope typed, and the girls helped solve, and we had a lovely 20 minutes of crossword time together.

And for a delightful Saturday themeless by Trenton "King of the Scrabble Point Crossword" Charlson. This is not his actual nickname, unless by some miracle hundreds of NYT crossword puzzle fans read this blog post and make it go viral. And by viral, I mean so that nearly a thousand people read it.

In any case, I forewarned the fam that we should expect a ton of high value Scrabble letters, and was I ever right! 4 Zs, 2 Qs, 5 Js, 5 Ys and 2 Ks. No Xs though. Huge disappointment, if you ask me.

JK, as the younger generation likes to say. Answers like JAZZWALTZ, JUNOESQUE, and JACKSQUAT predominate. I love JOESCHMO and ZENMONK as well. Very chunky and interesting answers all around. 

LOQUATS. Never had one myself.

We had an interesting conversation as we solved the puzzle due to the clue at 2D: Wolf-headed god of Egyptian myth (ANUBIS). Cece scoffed and said it should be "Jackal-headed." I was certainly inclined to agree, but Wikipedia reveals that genetic analysis shows that the jackal is in fact in the wolf family. Is this enough to change how we denote the illustrations of Anubis in ancient Egyptian art? I'd say no, in that the artists (and generations on generations of people) have thought of it as a jackal. Thoughts?

Some fun clues included:

45A: Crow's home (TEEPEE) - a very nice hidden capital for the indigenous tribe.

11D: Selling points (MARTS) - not reasons to buy or typical prices for items, but places where selling happens.

29D: Finish line? (TADA) - what you say when you finish!

52D: Head of cabbage? (HARDC) - I wish I wouldn't fall for this so frequently.

Tomorrow, Horace returns. It's been a fun week in Crossword land, if nowhere else.

- Colum

Friday, January 8, 2021

Friday, January 8, 2021, Evan Kalish

It's been quite a week, all things told. And there's an understatement for the century. 'Nuff said.

Meanwhile, the NYT chugs along. I always am happy to get to Friday, for the two themeless puzzles which crown the increasing challenge. Today's does not disappoint at all.

I dropped EAVES in as my first entry. Often I find that the down answers in the NW corner are the easiest to begin with. The other easy(ish) answer is often the shortest across answer at the bottom of that section, in this case 28A: "The Gray Lady": Abbr. Then I saw 19A: Tours can be found on it. In a moment of inspiration, I dropped in seInE. Right, but not quite right enough. The correction, LOIRE, came much later.

Scattered entries followed: ALS, LAHTI, SATEEN, hiLL (incorrect!), and then EGAN and NICOLE.

Finally, I figured out a section, in the SE. I very much like 61A: Token reprimand (WRISTSLAP), but the other two longer answers are a little less interesting. Turns out you can really put E- before just about anything. ESCOOTER indeed. I ask you.

At this point, due to that incorrect H at 25A, I couldn't see 8D, even though I knew it ended in ____(Y)OUAGREE. That Y had to be correct, but it came after a U in 30D: Friend or foe (NOUN), which I guessed after getting 41A: A real head-scratcher? (NOOGIE) - a great combination of clues. So I worked my way up from the SW corner.

THESHIRE and HAPPYNOW are fun answers, particularly the latter. There are multiple answers like this one in this grid, the kind of conversational statement answers that are pleasing to come across, often because they're made up of many small words, as in ASISEEIT.

Finally, I got THISGUYGETSIT (fairly late, so not too apt), and then realized it was WOULDNTYOUAGREE. The final two corners fell shortly thereafter. How about 11D: Digital filing service? (MADIPEDI) - one of the best clues of the short year so far.

- Colum

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Thursday, January 7, 2021, Matthew Stock and Sid Sivakumar

Congratulations to Mr. Stock for his debut puzzle in the NYT! I've been seeing more and more debuts recently, which is great for fresh blood and ideas.

And in today's puzzle, that shows up as 16 Xs in the grid. The revealer comes at 59A: Words of correction ... or a hint to 16-, 20-, 36- and 54-Across (STRIKETHAT). At first I was confused what that might mean, as I had only one theme answer fully in place, and another where I mistakenly only had 3 Xs in a row. Could this be related to bowling, I wondered? After all, X is the symbol for a strike.

But no, it's more straightfoward, in a sense. Each of the phrases has the string of letters T-H-A-T that have been replaced by Xs. Thus, 16A: Cocktail specification (WIXXXXWIST) is actually "with a twist" while DEAXXXXAFUNERAL is "Death at a Funeral." Nicely, in each phrase, the string crosses multiple words, hiding "that" more effectively.


The theme means that there have to be 16 down answers with an X in it (actually 15, because EXOTOXIN crosses two theme answers). Unfortunately that results in things like LEOXI (although it's cute that the clue recognizes this particular pontiff's historical insignificance), XIS, and XER. But PROXYWAR is very good.

How cute is 38D: More than can be imagined (AZILLION)? Fun clue, fun answer. I also like VITRIOL

In the end, with such constraints in place, there's not a ton of room for zingy answers and clever clues. So while I like the concept and approve of so many Xs, I didn't love the puzzle as a whole. YMMV.


- Colum

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Eric Bornstein

It's already proven to be an odd week for a number of reasons. I'll leave the insanity of the nation out of it. I'll happily report having received my second dose of the COVID vaccine today. And then there are the puzzles of the NYT.

Today's vies with yesterday's for Wednesday esprit. The theme is phrases in the form of "X and Y" where both X and Y start with the same letter. They are then placed so that X goes across and Y goes down from the same starting point. Thus, "1A/1D: Rubberneck" is represented as STOP[AND]STARE.

I am quite impressed that Mr. Bornstein was able to come up with seven examples of this that would fit into a 15 x 15 grid. Most of them work perfectly. TRIED[AND]TRUE, PRIM[AND]PROPER, STARS[AND]STRIPES

I am less convinced by 43A/D: Footwear fashion faux pas (SOCKS[AND]SANDALS). All the others are widely used and standard phrases. This last is more something people snigger about (or wear proudly, if you roll that way). 


Given all of this theme material, I'm impressed at what else was able to fit into the grid. 8D: Raised one's spirits? (MADEATOAST) is a great QMC. And KNOCKITOFF, in the symmetric space, is a great exclamation answer. 

Of course there are some tradeoffs. RONI crossing RONA; the ancient bit of crosswordese RIATA. But I like FOMO and TOOFAR.

Finally, I think TIERTWO is an unfortunate example of an ad hoc answer, one that holds no useful meaning outside of the requirements of the crossword puzzle. I can't think of any time I've heard that phrase used in actual life.

In any case, I'm amazed at the theme, and send props to the constructor.


- Colum

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Tuesday, January 5, 2021, Amy Schechter and Christina Iverson

Debut alert! Any time I see a collaboration between two constructors, I go to first to see if one of them is making her first contribution to the NYT. And it is true for Ms. Schechter, so congratulations.

It's almost a Wednesday level puzzle, both in terms of difficulty and in terms of oddity of theme. We get seven theme answers, none longer than 8 letters, each in the form of a standard verb phrase where the verb is also a common person's first name. Thus 16A: Singer Benatar feels blue (PATSDOWN) or 48A: Baseball's Boggs has agreed to join us (WADESIN). It's cute, and fun to have so many examples. Also, I'm impressed by the inclusion of Mr. Boggs, Red Sox third baseman and one of the best hitters I've ever had the pleasure of seeing play in person. Since he made it into the Hall of Fame in 2005, he's fair game in my opinion.


One side effect of so many short theme answers is that the puzzle itself skews towards short answers. With 15 3-letter answers and 24 4-letter answers, we were exposed to a good deal more of the POM AMA BTW IRS UPI style fill than usual. Also CNBC and CBGB, SEGO and IFSO.

The NE and SW corners are nicely chunky, however, with GOESDEEP, ALSORAN, and JETSKIED. That last is a very well done piece of Scrabbly goodness.

Not a ton of clever clues, but I liked 56D: Big do (AFRO), misdirecting from a gala affair. I also liked 27D: Locale of both the highest and lowest points on the earth's surface (ASIA), referring to Mt. Everest and the Dead Sea. 

I will also say, however, that I simply don't know what to do with 4A: Small lumps (NUBS). I just don't know what to do with it. I don't, and that's all I have to say about it.

- Colum

PS: My time was 4:44. I didn't expect to get such a reaction to this, and am happy to share my time, but I agree with Horace that perhaps it shouldn't be the first thing in the review any more, so expect to see it at the end from here on out.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Monday, January 4, 2021, Kathy Wienberg

In keeping with my fellow blogger Horace's thought process from two weeks ago, I am foregoing announcing my time. It's not a race (although it kind of is, in my mind). Or let's say, I'd like it to be a race only with myself, rather than others. Do I take pride in finishing quickly? Yes. Do I wonder if it removes from my enjoyment of the puzzle? Yes. Could I do it more slowly? I suppose so, but I don't know how I'd do that.

So anyway, here's a timeless review. Of a puzzle with a timeless subject, namely WONDERWOMAN. The chosen theme answers are a nicely tight set: her superhero name, her alter ego DIANAPRINCE, two people who have portrayed her in LYNDACARTER and GALGADOT, and DCCOMICS, where she has always appeared. Note the little theme-related asides at 28D: Adams who played Lois Lane in "Man of Steel" (AMY), 32D: Batmobile, e.g. (CAR), and 49A: Lead-in to "man" in superhero-dom (AQUA), all in the DC universe.

I personally have been a Marvel fan more than DC through the years. I find its characters more human and flawed, which in general make for more interesting stories. And the same is true of the movies. But Wonder Woman was fun. I suppose I'll watch WW84 this winter as well. 


The rest of the puzzle is pretty smooth, if not amazing. 3D: Rising concern? (SEALEVEL) is a cute clue about a decidedly uncute situation. And STYES and GOUT are not the most pleasant things to think about.

On the other hand, I liked 20A: Like some reactions and flights during storms (DELAYED). And 9D: Rainbows, for example (ARCS), gives us a reason to look up.

- Colum

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Sunday, January 3, 2021, Paolo Pasco


Happy New Year to all! Since I've last been with you all, real life has intruded in a very serious way. So I'm very glad to get back to the NYT crossword, and its much simpler demands. While it's nice to pretend that the arbitrary return of the calendar from December to January is somehow more noteworthy than any other sunrise, there's no reason to think things are going to magically improve across the world overnight. However, the crossword continues to be published on a daily basis. And that's a cause for rejoicing.

Also a cause for rejoicing: a Sunday puzzle by Mr. Pasco. I've loved just about every one of his constructions over the years since I solved his first NYT puzzle in 2015 (I recall it well because we were visiting Cece at summer camp and I was in a really crappy hotel room). And today's is particularly amazing. If you want to talk about a great Sunday level theme, this is exemplary.

Somehow, Mr. Pasco has found nine examples of phrases (relatively common ones) where you can find a dance form hidden inside, but in such a way that the name of the dance form is interrupted by a single letter. Taken in order from the top to the bottom of the puzzle, these single letters spell out "May I cut in," literally cutting into the dances.

How amazing is this?! I can't imagine the work that had to go into making this idea actually come off. I love the phrases: MOUNTAINGOAT, containing "tango" interrupted by I. SHORTANSWER, containing "hora" interrupted by T. VOLLEYBALLNET, containing "ballet" interrupted by N. The only theme answer that seemed at all tough to come up with was SHIRTWAIST.


Meanwhile, there is a lot of great fill to complement the fine theme. KARATEKID is a nice full name reference. I also liked ODDSARE, SHTETLS, and GEEKDOM.

I can't believe there are two 6-letter answers starting with I that could fit into a first-aid kit (IODINE and IPECAC). 

I liked the clue at 48D: How detectives may act (ONATIP). Also, the QMC at 91D: Covers of vintage music? (SLEEVES). Finally, the non-QMC at 50D: Breaking and entering, say (GERUND). Nicely done!

Great start to the week. Let's keep it up! Maybe it's an omen for the New Year. No pressure.

- Colum

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Saturday, January 2, 2021, Joe Deeney


There's a lot to like in this second puzzle of the new year. I enjoyed the many entertainingly tricky C/APs throughout the grid. Mr. Deeney kicks things off at 2A with "Band for an awards ceremony" which turned out to be SASH rather than say, Styx or Toto :). Directly on its heels, the surprisingly (in retrospect) trixy ROLLERBAG ("It has wheels and flies"). I actually had ROLLERBA_, but couldn't figure out what would fit in that last small space. I had to run the alphabet to determine the final letter as the Down in this case "'Family Feud' airer" (GSN) was no help to this solver. 

Elsewhere in the grid I enjoyed "Aren't wrong?" (AINT) - ha! I was amused by "Become incapable of parting?" (GOBALD), and I thought TRUEST for "Level best?" and PAT for "Back stroke?" were also very nice. 

In the non-QMC category, we have "Promising area" (ALTAR) and the excellent "Shade from the sun" (TAN). One of my favorites may seem rather mundane, but that's partly why I like it so much: "The lion's share" (MOSTOFIT) - apt!


I had the most difficulty with, and in fact ended my solve in the south east corner. If it hadn't been for a chance encounter with the "2020 Christopher Nolan sci-fi thriller" TENET on an end-of-the-year British comedy panel show Horace and I watched on New Year's Eve, I might be stuck there yet. 

The fill is a Scrabble player's paradise with AQUAZUMBA, THIRSTQUENCHER and MOOJUICE, not to mention the grid-spanning EEQUALSMCSQUARED. Cha ching!

For some reason, the pattern of the grid seemed a bit unusual to me, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for knowledgeable commentary on that and similarly relevant aspects of puzzle construction, when my esteemed co-blogger Colum Amory takes over the reviews. Until next time, fare well dear readers.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Friday, January 1, 2021, Milo Beckman

It's the first day of the new year, and I'm still writing 2020 on my reviews. Kidding, of course. :) I welcome the somewhat-arbitrary-but-still-PSYCHOACTIVE change symbolized by the turn of the calendar year, especially this one. Am I right? 
Playing the part of "out with the old" we have NYE ("12/31") in one corner, and for in with the new, we have the numbers 2021 smack dab in the middle of the puzzle. The number grouping itself is not clued, as Horace pointed out. Instead, four answers contribute numerals to form the celebratory block. Although, another feature of the advance of the years reminds me that FOREVER21, I am definitely not. I also appreciated SOLASTYEAR. I hope to apply that term to many aspects of 2020.

Overall, I enjoyed the puzzle and, for a Friday, solved it pretty quickly. My first time through, though, I thought I was going to have trouble, but as it happened, I knew a few answers in key areas including QUEEREYE, DREVIL, AUDEN, TWOSTEP, and then I POLEDANCED my way through the rest of the puzzle to a successful solve.  

Some highlights include UNPERSON and EDITSOUT, a nice, if troubling pair in the northeast. ASTUTE and OBTUSE are also nice. ERRS for "Chokes" took me a minute, but I appreciated the clue once I figured it out. Alternatively, ARESO for "It's true" seemed less apt. 

There were some fun QMC's to REVEL in. "Complete a lap?" (SIT) was funny. "TV sets?" (SEASONS) was another good one, as were "Do one's part?" (ACT) and "Special gift, for short" (ESP). But my favorite C/AP today was the non-QMC "More than most" (ALL) - ha! 

It seems, dear Readers, like a good moment to pause and appreciate the PAGEANT of word play that puzzle constructors create and that provide us with so much entertainment, especially during the rather bleak preceding 366. IFORONE hope 2021 is at least 20PERCENT better than 2020. Happy New Year everyone!