Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday, February 28, 2021, Brad Wiegmann


Hah! An entertaining Sunday theme today. My favorite is probably "When the nudist club was founded?" MANYMOONSAGO, but "Where the nudist club orchestra plays its concerts?" BOTTOMLESSPIT also made me chuckle. And it's nice that it finishes up with FULLYRECOVERED (How people returned from a week at the nudist club?). A cute theme, well-crafted. 

I also thought the opening tribute to the late Jeopardy host was nice - TREBEK (Man who had all the answers?). At the last A.C.P.T. I went to I was in the crowd when Will Shortz taped a well-wishing greeting to him. Have you all been watching the guest hosts? I thought Jennings was very good - he comes across as a genuinely kind, very smart guy. This new host - the executive producer, I think - isn't bad either, but he's not in Jennings' league. 

Yes, they are distantly related to ostrich and emu.

KNOSSOS (Site of the Minotaur's Labyrinth) was tough. I knew it was in Crete, but I did not have specifics beyond that. Until now. :) Also in the "place names I didn't know" category was MORIA (Balrog's home in "The Lord of the Rings"). 

Care to take a guess at what the world's three highest capital cities in the ANDES are? The only one I know for sure is Quito, Equador. Is La Paz, Bolivia another one? Yes! It's the highest, actually. OK, so I knew two. The third is Bogotá, Columbia. I probably wouldn't have come up with that one. After that, you have to cross the Atlantic for number four - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

When I see answers like INABIT (Soon), it makes me wonder if constructors collect words and/or phrases that can easily be adjusted if necessary. This entry could be expanded to "inhabit," for example. And IMALONE could be changed to "abalone." LADLES could be "ladies." You get the idea. Any constructors want to weigh in on whether or not that's part of the secret formula?

So another week ends today - or begins, if you look at it that way - and Frannie takes over tomorrow to start the month of March. Last March brought lockdowns. Here's hoping that, along with flowers and warmer weather, this March brings the beginning of the end of this long, strange season suffering.

Happy puzzling, and I'll see you in a few.

- Horace

p.s. "Humbugs?" BEES. Excellent. 

p.p.s. Debut alert! And a nice one, too! Congrats.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday, February 27, 2021, Yacob Yonas

I love seeing this kind of open grid on a Saturday. Wide-open corners, chunky feel ... it would have looked slightly more daunting, I think, if the central diagonal were shorter, but even so, it looks very nice. That said, it was one of those very rare Saturday's when things just fell into place very quickly. 


I immediately thought of "b-ball is life" for 1A, so it wasn't hard, after LAS ("____ Mañanitas" (Mexican birthday song)), LOVETT (Four-time Grammy winner Lyle) and FACEPALM ([I'm such an idiot!]) fell in, to change it slightly to BALLISLIFE. OK, maybe FACEPALM went in once I had the F ... sometimes it's hard to remember.

One piece of that quadrant that took longer was the chuckle-worthy C/AP "Set for the afternoon?" and TEASERVICE. Nice. And although I didn't know "Renato's wife in Verdi's 'Un Ballo in Maschera,'" I always enjoy seeing the name AMELIA. BITEME, on the other hand, was a bit of a shock for this old prude.

MOONBEAM (Night light) was cute, ASCIIART (... \_(^.^)_/) was interesting, but there were many that just seemed kind of straightforward. SOLARCAR (Vehicle equipped with photovoltaic cells) and FINEDINING (Opposite of cheap eats), for example. Then there were a few that we've seen quite recently, like DATAMINE (Dig for insights, digitally) and MEETCUTE (Trope seen in rom-coms). And very few, like MASER (Atomic clock timekeeper) and ISIDORA (George Sand title heroine), that were truly Saturday-level.

I whipped through this in 0:08:24, which for me, on a Saturday, feels quite fast. I liked it fine - especially the fun bits, like EASYA (School softball?) - but it's always a little disappointing to be done with it so fast on the weekend.

What'd you think of it?

- Horace

Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday, February 26, 2021, Chuck Deodene

A lovely triple-stack and two 15-pins anchor this lovely Friday themeless. What a lovely early start to the weekend! Let's dig in, starting with the biggies -

SPACETELESCOPES (Things used by star witnesses?) is a beautiful C/AP, and one that can lead to SCENICPANORAMAS even more vast than those available at the Grand Canyon!

PUTAFACETOANAME (Meet somebody you've heard lots about) is a common expression, but for me it doesn't mean a whole lot. I can't always bring to mind the faces of people even after I've met them. I think I read that Oliver Sacks had a similar condition - perhaps even a worse case of it. Is this ODD confession a CRYFORATTENTION from one with a little too much Amour de SOI? Could be. And speaking of self-expression, ARTISTICLICENSE (Creator's leeway) is one permit you don't want to let lapse!

Sven and Ole go fishing. It’s such a great day, they rent a boat so they can fish from the middle of the lake. They row out, drop their lines, and before you know it, they're catching fish, one after another after another. They can’t believe what a great fishing spot they found.

Sven says, “This is the best fishing spot in the county. It’s just too bad we didn’t bring some paint.”

Ole asks, “Paint? Why should you want paint, to go fishing?”

“Well Ole, don’t you see, so we can paint an “X” in the bottom of the boat, so we can find this spot next time.”

Ole laughs at him. “Sven, don’t be such a dummy! Next time, what if they give us a different boat?”

I thought TACTIC (Bit of strategy) was a fine start today, and off of that I loved the unexpected straightforwardness of CARGO (Boatload), which crossed the cleverly-clued COMBS (Makers of parts). I tried "Zoomer" before SKYPER (One having a certain video chat), and SCENICoverlookS before SCENICPANORAMAS, but other than that, things went slowly but surely along.

TAW (Large marble) is a classic example of a KOFCA-esque word. (New definition in our glossary!) TAT, on the other hand, I would call classic crosswordese. 

IMBECILE (Dolt) always reminds me (happily) of The Three Stooges, and SHETLAND (Northernmost part of the U.K.) reminds me (somewhat bluntly) of the fine British TV mystery called SHETLAND.

Overall, as I said up top, a lovely Friday themeless. It put me in a good mood, which is a nice way to go into the (almost) weekend. I hope you enjoyed it too.

- Horace

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Thursday, February 25, 2021, Dylan Schiff

Ginvermurbartar ... bartar murginver ... barver targinmur ... When this was over, did you, like me, try to make sense of the doubled letters? Well, if you did, and you got something that made sense, let me know.


Chances are that the doubling trick is all there is. Which is not a complaint. I like the trick. I think, though, that it's normal for us crazy crosswording types to keep looking for one more layer. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't. 

So anyway, this week's Thursday trick is revealed by DOUBLEDOWN (Blackjack bet ... or a hint to applying the five shaded regions in this puzzle). The "hint to applying" seems slightly odd wording to me, but the RUB (Central difficulty) (Nice that this is in the exact center of the grid) is that the letters in the shaded squares must be doubled for the answer to make sense. For 6D: Stethescope detection, that means doubling the last three letters to get HEARTMUR[MUR]. And for 41D: Former first and second lady it means doubling the first three for BAR[BAR]ABUSH

I didn't realize that STEAKTAR[TAR]E was often topped with a raw egg yolk. Was it conceived as a prank? Or some kind of a hazing ritual? Who in their right mind would willingly eat such a thing?

Speaking of dumb ideas, learning that TONTO is Spanish for "stupid" kind of takes some of the air out of the whole Lone Ranger and Tonto pairing, doesn't it? 

ALLIE (Holden's late brother in "The Catcher in the Rye") was a very tough get, and ELI (Director Roth of cinema's Splat Pack) was absolutely no help to me. ONERS (Single-take shots, in film lingo) is not great, and I've never heard anyone say JUKE (Vintage diner fixture, in brief) instead of the full jukebox. (Why would you? Jukebox is so fun to say!) But it is a rare puzzle that does not fray a bit at the seams, and although I sometimes say OGEES, I enjoyed the trick, and I enjoyed the puzzle.

- Horace

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Andrew J. Ries

It took me quite a long while (ok, maybe a minute or two) to understand what was going on with today's theme. The circled letters at first didn't make any sense. Well, "evil," of course, did, but I read "oz" as an abbreviation for ounce, "dre" seemed like an odd collection of letters, and even "who," pronounced as if simply plucked from "whole" meant nothing to me. I spent time trying to make these fragments sound like a PARADOX when compared to the more normal "evil," "ruth," and "no." Finally, it got through my FATS head that the "aural hint" was that PARADOX sounds like "pair of docs," and then it all made sense. Sheesh!

IOWA state seal
I might have tried to re-work that wording.

So anyway, now that I've dragged you through that sad story ... the Dr. theme isn't bad. Three are fictional (Dr. Evil, Dr. Who, Dr. No), two are real doctors (Dr. Ruth (Ed.D., Columbia), and Dr. Oz (MD, U. Penn)), and one is the gangsta rap superhero Dr. Dre. All are plenty famous for a puzzle. 

What's more, I really like the "containers" they are found in. I don't think I've ever heard  DEVILSDOZEN ("Satanic" nickname for the number 13) used before, but I find it amusing. I also did not know that the DREADNOUGHT was the predominant style of "W.W. I-era battleship," although I had heard the word. And that's THEWHOLETRUTH.

Left-right symmetry today. Always a little odd. The best of the long downs is HOMEDESIGN (Subject for House Beautiful magazine). TWEETSTORM as been ruined by our moronic previous president, VAPEPEN is something that should never have been invented, and REVENUE (Cash in?) despite its lovely clue, is too corporate. 

WRAITH, GENXER, ELAPSE, and EXTORT, on the other hand, are all fine. 

- Horace

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, Kate Hawkins

Potty humor takes over the puzzle today, with four different words for terlit. It's another "last word means something" theme, as our commenter Jim Kingdon put it yesterday. At the end of the theme answers we find "throne," "head," "John," and "loo." Well, and "mouth," but lets be very clear that that is the revealer. Gross.

In addition to an amusing (if you find toilets amusing) theme, we have several BONUSES in the Down answers. AGITATE, PARADISE, SCEPTER, OCTOPUS, KARAOKE, CLATTER, FAJITA, and Steven COLBERT. Not a bad group! And really, EASTER, NARRATES, and WOUND aren't bad either. Lovely variety of mid-length answers. And the Acrosses are loaded with good stuff, too - ARTISAN, TRAIT, FIANCEE (when will Americans change this spelling to "fiansay?" Or maybe even "fiansayido?" :) ), CAFTAN, TANDEM, and more!


Is IRONTHRONE something to do with Game of Thrones? I suppose I ought to watch that - purely for crosswordical reasons ...

The theme was amusing, the fill was great, and the grid only stretched a bit - SER, SFO, ONUP (sure, it's a partial, but who doesn't smile thinking of that song?), and OKC (? Since when is there a team in Oklahoma City?!). 

Favorite clue: Honeybunch? (BEES

Least favorite: Space shuttle supply (AIR). It makes it a little too scary, doesn't it?

Thumbs up from me.

- Horace

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Monday, February 22, 2021, Barbara Lin

OK, let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat - I don't like EAUS. It's not a word. If you're naming two French bottled waters and you are looking for a plural of the French word for water, what you should find is "eaux." That's the plural of eau. I suppose we're Americans and we can do what we want with words we find here, but je n'aime pas ça et je vais le combattre jusqu'au bout!


So now that I've got that out of the way, let's grab the chalk and get cracking. We've got POOL-related words scattered all over the place: TOWELRACK, GIMMEABREAK, ONCUE, ONTHEBALL, and OUTOFPOCKET. Really, you'd want them in the pocket, but I know, I know... 

I love the term PEPPERED (Bombarded, as with questions), and I often like my food PEPPERED, so that's win-win. And how funny is it that I just read about the spelling of KYIV earlier today? The Ukranians want that to be the official spelling because it is Ukranian, and Kiev is Russian. Why did I read this? Well, it's because some friends got us a subscription to a food service called "Universal Yums" for Christmas. I put the link in for your convenience, but I hesitate to actually recommend it, and not just because of the name. We got three boxes, with food from Italy, the Netherlands, and most recently, Ukraine. It's somewhat interesting, but the food samples seem a little like something you might get on a plane, and the little booklet with interesting facts about each country often has typos in it - and if you know anything about me, you know I'm a pedant about spelling. :) But honestly, expanding horizons is always a good idea, and I can't knock it entirely. If you're interested, try it yourself and let me know how you like it. 

Anyway, it's a fine Monday. I like pool, and even the tortured fill like OHIOU made me smile. 

Wouldn't it be funny if MANX were the plural of man? :P

 - Horace

Sunday, February 21, 2021, Matthew Stock


Hello again, it's Horace back for another week of reviews. First off, I'd like to thank Colum and Frannie for two fine weeks of work, and I'd also like to thank you, Dear Reader, for checking in with us every once in a while. We appreciate it.

Remember crowds? ... sigh ...

Today's big puzzle takes song titles and clues them with "____ bars? [singer/band name]" As in FLYMETOTHEMOON (Space bars? [Frank Sinatra]), MONEYMONEYMONEY (Cash bars? [Abba]), and SINGININTHERAIN (Wet bars? [Gene Kelly]). Not bad. I admit to not knowing POURSOMESUGARONME or DANCINGONMYOWN, but I was still able to get them with clue and cross.

The theme didn't wow me, so I looked for fun elsewhere and found some satisfaction in entries like UNCTION (Anointment) (you don't see that every day), AIRBALL (Disappointing court result) (nice), IOWA (Geographical name that comes from the Sioux for "sleepy ones") (Great trivia!), and I love the straightforwardness of "Sink holes" for DRAINS. Excellent.

In the "oddities" column, isn't TEA (Offering in china ... or from China) and OOLONG (Traditional Chinese drink) kind of an odd duplication? And I don't like thinking that people give up their IDEALS as they grow older. Why would you do that? 

Didn't we come up with a name for the type of clue like "Weight right here!" (SCALE)? We did! Or, rather, one of our commenters, Kelly Clark did. She offered "Imperative" or "Directive" clue. I'm going to go with Directive Clue, or DC. Thanks, Kelly! ... but now that I've made that decision, I wonder if we should maybe go with something more acronym-friendly. I didn't choose "Imperative clue" because it's really more of a false imperative ... so maybe FIC? Hmm... any thoughts?

Overall I enjoyed the trivia (Papal name last taken in 1939 (PIUS)), (Smallest state in India (GOA)), and others, the silliness (Brainy? (CRANIAL), and the theme was fine. Thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Saturday, February 20, 2021, Ali Gascoigne

Things looked a little uncertain after a first pass today. I had POL, ELIOTS, LORI, and not much more. Fortunately, the SW corner gave me some meaningful entry into the puzzle. For whatever reason, it's often the last part of the puzzle I get to on a first pass.

ONME was the first answer I got there, followed quickly by ESIGNS, and then INAYEAR. At that point, YSL and ASSUME were put in, and then for 32D I had ____SSS_. There's only one phrase that fits that pattern, and so IGUESSSO fell. I'd like to say things went smoothly from there, but not so fast.

37A: Things you can barely see at art galleries? (NUDES) gets a chuckle and a nod for most tortured punning clue. If you haven't watched Queens Gambit with ANYA Taylor-Joy, then you're way behind the zeitgeist. It was a ton of fun and she's great in it. 

As I look at 32A: "You have my vote!" (ITSAYESFROMME) I can't help but reparse that as "It's a yes, Fromme," referring to the Manson family individual who attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford. I mean, what an odd target. Ford? Apparently, she was going to plead for help for the California redwoods, so that's something. Also, she lives in upstate New York now.

URSULA von der Leyen

But enough of this silly digression. Let's acknowledge the fun clue at 38A: Time for an exhibition (PRESEASON). I was definitely not thinking sports on reading that clue. I also liked 13A: Things often hit during rush hour (CARHORNS). The best clue for misdirection today was 7A: Wage conflict, say (PAYGAP). Ha! I love the way the first word changes from a verb to a noun once you understand what it's getting at.

I'd never heard the term FREEGANS before, but I get the point. Maybe Fromme would have been one, had she not been in jail when they became a thing in the 1990s. Other tough gets today include SKEELO, which took a lot of work to figure out, and 8D: Singer whose name becomes a city if you add an "R" in the middle (AKON). The clue actually helped me out there.

I will turn my nose up at SEAMER. Is this even a real term? I can find a definition on Google, but nothing else. Otherwise, it was a fun and tough Saturday. Good week for the blog. Here's hoping Horace gets as good a week, starting tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, February 19, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021, Amanda Rafkin

A Friday themeless puzzle, solved together with Hope, is a lovely way to end a workweek. It was a fun and smooth solve, with a number of excellent answers along the way.

It starts with 1A: Leading lady? (ALPHAFEMALE). We're all plenty used to seeing the masculine version of the same, so nice to acknowledge that leadership can arise from the other gender. Having it right above BAHAMAMAMAS and ICANTRESIST paints a picture of group of women CEOs on a corporate retreat at a resort...

Speaking of which, now that I look through the grid, I see MANIPEDI, DEMIGODESS, and Elaine BENES (played by Julia Louis Dreyfus). Not to mention Louise LASSER, Dorothy LAMOUR, Erykah BADU, HEIDI Gardner, and Ayn RAND. That's an impressive amount of female referents, MAAM

Probably my favorite answer of the day comes at 28D: 13, for many (AWKWARDAGE). My own 13-year old self does not bear thinking about. Hopefully I've matured somewhat over the intervening years.


One answer that took all the crosses and then elicited an aha! was 37A: Complete set in musical comedy? (VOWELS). That includes A, E, I, O, U and even Y. Another one that took the crosses before I understood what was going on was 40D: Houston or Washington vis-à-vis Manhattan (STREET). 

Acknowledgements to Hope, who got TUSKS and MADEBANK with almost no crossings.

This was a fun Friday, and so a good turn so far. Let's hope tomorrow's lives up to these standards!

- Colum

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thursday, February 18, 2021, Zachary Spitz

It's not every day that your younger daughter turns 19. In fact, it's only one day. And that day is today. So happy birthday, Cece! Keep on working on that Thursday puzzle. It's very often my favorite of the week!

Today we get a Schrödinger puzzle - that is, a puzzle where various squares can be one of two different letters, and both crossing words will work with each. Today's revealer came at 38A: Many P.S.A.s ... or the four circled squares in this grid? (TVSPOTS). The four squares in question can have either a T or a V in them to successfully complete the puzzle.

I went with T, if only to avoid 56A reading ANTIVAX. Not that ANTITAX is that much better, honestly. A couple of the answers are worth noting because of the ways they interpreted the clues. For example, I really like 3D: Some accommodations (HOTELS/HOVELS). That's quite a swing in meaning! Also, 42D: Certain outer coating (TARNISH/VARNISH). One is pleasing, the other less so. I really love the clue for 17A: Designs (INTENTIONS/INVENTIONS). Here the meaning of the clue changes entirely based on which letter is used in the square!

My favorite though is 41A: Famous peanut grower (CARTER/CARVER). What a nice connection between Jimmy Carter and George Washington Carver. Well worth the price of admission.


If you're going to put UIE into the grid, at least have a good clue to support it. In this case, "Short turnaround?" made me smile, so that worked. I also liked 6D: Mountain coverings? (SKISUITS). 60A: One drawing lots? (CARTOONIST) didn't work as well for me. It is true that a person in that profession will be doing a lot of drawing, but the same is true of an architect, an artist, etc.

Meanwhile, I am proud that I got GHANA / ACCRA without much difficulty. Sporcle to the rescue once again. There were times in the past that clues like this would make me GNASH my teeth. 

Sadly, I can't make a connection to yesterday's theme, so there goes my chain. But the blue material continues with 50D: Had a stimulating conversation? (SEXTED). Nice.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, David Harris and Evan Kalish

I know it's most likely just coincidence, but I sometimes feel that there is a meta-theme running through a week's puzzles. I recognize this is probably due to the fact that I am scrutinizing each daily offering for things to talk about in the blog, when I'm on a week of reviewing. But come on. 

49D: The missing letters in _UDW_IS__ (BEER). Just like yesterday, there's a connection to the puzzle from the day before. I'm sure Mr. Shortz and Mr. Fagliano will deny it, but I bet they're sniggering into their sleeves.

Is that something people do? Hmmm.

In any case, today's theme is pretty straightforward. There's a visual representation of that old game of keepaway, MONKEY [INTHE] MIDDLE, where the second and third words are split in an arc from one word to the other. Who are they playing keepaway with? Chairman MAO? or MEL of the Spice Girls? Either one brings an amusing picture to mind, so IMCOOL with that.

No, the real monkey in the middle is the APE hidden in five answers throughout the puzzle. I can't claim credit for figuring this out: I had to go to because I felt there had to more going on than what I had recognized. Nicely, with the exception of the monkey in DIAPERS, each simian crosses over the two words in the phrases. Thus, RHEAPERLMAN (no relation, as far as I know, to my wife) and AMANDAPEET. Some might say the BANANAPEEL is a meta-theme answer, relating to the pleasure gorillas supposedly get from eating the fruit in question.

Not an OBOE

With all that theme material, it's nice to see things like EPHEMERA and HYENAS. I will be forever amused by 64A: General whose good name has been battered? (TSO). 

Nice debut for Mr. Harris. Keep up the good work!

- Colum

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Tuesday, February 16, 2021, Johanna Fenimore

Just the other day, I was texting with my younger daughter, Cece, about the Saturday puzzle, and laughing about having SLUshEE where SLURPEE went. Is that even a thing? I asked.

Well, guess who has the last laugh now!

Um, actually, I don't know how to answer that exactly. Is it Ms. Fenimore, because she showed me that SLUSHIE is in fact a real thing? And what is the difference, anyway? Google to the rescue: Turns out that "Slurpee" is a brand name from 7-Eleven, while a slushie is the generic term.

Now that we've got that out of the way, today's theme is all about the suds. The revealer comes at 62A: "I'll have a cold one, please" ... or a hint to 17-, 26-, 43 and 57-Across (BEERME). I don't entirely get why the "me" is in the revealer. In essence, there are four names (or nicknames) of beers hidden in the other four theme answers. 

Funny that Buddy was in yesterday's first theme answer, and today's first theme answer is NIPINTHEBUD. STELLAMCCARTNEY and ONCEINABLUEMOON are very nice 15-letter answers. I won't say much more about the theme, except to note that I'm also not convinced that any of the four examples are actually beer. Just as Monty Python said: American beers are like making love in a canoe - they're f***ing close to water.


In other areas, I liked AWCMON for the way it looks in the grid, and XBOXONE for the chutzpah of squeezing in two Xs. I probably wouldn't have traded THEPX to get it, though. NOONER continues our recent string of blue material.

And one of these days, Hope and I will take a trip to visit all of our previous residences. We'll call it our USTOUR.

- Colum

Monday, February 15, 2021

Monday, February 15, 2021, Meconya Alford

One day after Valentine's Day, we get Presidents' Day, and a puzzle to celebrate it. One of the many reasons to dislike our recently deposed president is his lack of a dog. It somehow manages to encapsulate his insularity, lack of empathy, and self-centeredness. No offense to any non-dog owning readers (or bloggers) on this particular blog...

So today, we get a puzzle acknowledging the last four WHITEHOUSEDOGS, their names hidden at the start of the theme phrases. I had no idea where this theme was going until I got the revealer. It's always a pleasure when the revealer actually reveals something! Truthfully, the only dog whose name I recognized was Obama's (40A - BOTREE). And Biden has more than one dog: the second is named Champ. Still, it's a fun way of marking the day.

I almost missed the bonus theme material at 66D: Prez with the pooch Heidi (IKE). That's nicely placed not to interfere with the revealer. 68A: Smitten (INLOVE) refers to yesterday's theme.


This grid is one of the smoother Monday offerings I can recall. YUBA is a tough get, but all you needed was the Y, given from the clue that it rhymes with "Cuba" and "tuba". CAGERS is clued with an acknowledgement that it's outdated. And COSY with the British spelling is fine but not great.

RHUBARBPIE and INABADSPOT are nice extras. There aren't any clever clues really. 

- Colum

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sunday, February 14, 2021, Lisa Bunker


Since last we spoke, faithful readers, I've started solving the later puzzles of the week en famille, as the French foppishly put it. The older daughter was already into solving crossword puzzles, but now the younger has gotten hooked enough that we just purchased her a year's subscription to the NYT crossword as a birthday present. Maybe the next time the ACPT is held in person, we'll all be there!

In any case, happy Valentine's day for those of you who celebrate it. Today's puzzle is a clever take on the theme. On the iPad app, eight squares were outlined in red (in the print version, I think the entire square was red). These squares were rebuses, of the form RED_, where the last letter was different in each place. Thus, 1A: Percussion instrument in a marching band (SNA[REDR]UM).

I was confused at first. There was clearly a rebus effect in place, but the simple answer I wanted, putting "red" into the square didn't work. Eventually, Hope and I figured it out. What's particularly clever, besides the fact that each rebus is unique, is that the extra letters of the rebuses spell out "ruby lips," the "sealed with a kiss" image. Very nice.

My favorite rebus answer is 105D: Ones with plenty of reservations (MAIT[REDS]). That's a great clue, and I love the split of the rebus across the two words. I guess I would have preferred not to have the red squares, forcing us to figure out where the rebuses landed in the grid. Once we got the first two, I knew mostly what was in all the other red squares, which took some of the fun out of it.

CECIL and friends

On the other hand, the rest of the puzzle was NOSLOUCH in its own right. First off, it is a pangram (with 3 Qs in the NE corner). There was some blue material (of a sort), with the two -sexual clues (PAN and AMBI), as well as ARSES and, well, maybe BUSHTIT, if you squint a little. There were the geographic trivia questions, with PAPEETE, SANAA, and CAIRO

And a few tricksy clues as well. My favorite of the day is 66A: Place with robes and sweaters (SAUNA). I love the lack of a question mark here, although I would think by the standard approach the NYT usually takes, that this clue deserves one. I also very much liked 92D: What ponies express? (NEIGHS). 

Nice start to the week.

- Colum

PS - Now that I think about it, I get that the "rebus" can be filled in with only the last letter, with the "red" understood by the shading of the square. That's much better!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Saturday, February 13, 2021, Will Nediger

 ANGSTY is an apt start to today's puzzle for this solver. After my first pass through the Across and Down answers in the top half of the puzzle, I ended up with a SUMS total of three semi-confident entries: INTO, OLIVE, and NELLIE - that's it. To make matters worse, I took a few wrong turns. For "Shady spots" at 1D, I tried very hard to get 'groves' to work, going so far as to consider 'gnarly' for "Like the emo genre." Also tricky were RESTAURANT for "Wait here!" and BLUESMUSIC for "Holiday production?" - the latter because I didn't notice the hidden capital. Derp. At that point, I thought I was in for a long haul. Fortunately, however, I fared somewhat better in the lower half of the puzzle, ending with at time of 22:54 - not bad on a Saturday for this solver. 


The southeast corner fell the fastest. I guessed CPR off the clue "Breathing exercises, in brief?" and then was able to CASHIN on that answer to get the corresponding Downs, although I did first try PrimpS for PREENS ("Gets ready for a date, maybe"). I TROOPED on from there, through the rest of the puzzle in an ever-expanding circle around the fun centerpiece BIZARROWORLD. The trip included such highlights as "'Thanks, Captain Obvious!'" (GEEYATHINK), "Main course?" (SEAROUTE), and "It's not a good look" (SNEER), plus fun fill like PENUMBRA, RUMINATE, the delicious HAMUP, and my favorite, NERDPROM. How do I get invited to that?!?

Well, dear Readers, as the puzzle week draws to a close, my time HASOVER. I leave you in the capable hands of my esteemed co-blogger Colum Amory. To him I say, GONUTS.


Friday, February 12, 2021

Friday, February 12, 2021, Grant Thackray

The toughest corner for this solver in today's puzzle was the northeast. Thanks to the capitalization of Bucks in the clue "Star Bucks, say" at 1A: I had a feeling we were looking for something sporty, but with the M in fourth position from MANSPLAIN ("Unnecessarily spell out, in a way,"), I kept thinking the answer would be something starting with 'team.' Not so. Instead, we got the tricksy NBAMVPS -well tricksy for me anyway. In direct contrast to thinking I had a clue about the clue at 1A, I had no idea about what to make of the clue at 17A: "A famous one is often connected with a school." If I hadn't eventually guessed NIP for "Chilly quality," at 1D, I don't know how, or when I would have guessed PAINTER - I might still be ATSEA!


Aside from the slow down in that corner, most of the rest of the puzzle seemed to be in my wheelhouse. I zipped along smiling, chuckling, and even LOLing, as I encountered all the entertaining clues and answers. Of the many good ones, here are my top favorites:

"It's always up to something" (STAIRCASE)
"It may be added to the mix" (CHEX)
"Bath occupant, say" (BRIT)
"Melon seeds?" (IDEAS)
"It's usually around 9/10 of a pound (THEEURO)
"Arms repositories? (SLEEVES)

I enjoyed "Trap" for PIEHOLE, and I love the expression DOTHEMATH. I also thought the stack of X's 39D: "Adult and then some" (XXXRATED) looked cool.

Well, dear Readers, it's Friday evening, and if the orb at the end of my WATCHCHAIN is anything to go by, IMLATE. Until tomorrow, then. If we get another puzzle as good as this one tomorrow, it'll have been a PEACHYKEEN week.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners

As I typed the final F in [ELFELF] at 25Across a moment ago, I found myself saying out loud, "now isn't that interesting." Only when I had completed the entire puzzle did I figure out the trick. It's a lucky thing for this solver that a good number of the Downs were gettable, so there was little question in my mind that I had at least most of the theme answers completed correctly, which was comforting because OMAN OMAN, they sure looked funny. While the clues were pretty straightforward, in order to correctly parse the answers the solver must render the doubled words in the shaded squares into their respective plural forms. So, to get a recognizable answer to "Program followed in Alcoholics Anonymous" one has to read TW[ELFELF]TEPS as TW[ELVES]TEPS. The other necessary changes are DIEDIE to DICE for COME[DICE]FFECT, MANMAN to MEN for NA[MEN]AMES (which, by the way, had the great clue "Sing under pressure"), and finally, the amusing FOOTFOOT to FEET for COF[FEET]ABLE. I think I can safely BETCHA that I wouldn't have come up with this crafty idea in a million years. 


With some trick puzzles, the rest of the grid suffers, but I don't find that to be the case here. There was a lot to enjoy from "Oak in a nutshell" (ACORN) and "Got into the swing" (SAT) - really good one! - and "Change in the Middle East, say" (DINAR), to the excellent "What a swish misses" (RIM) and my favorite, "Razor handle?" (OCCAM) - ha! I also noticed that if you read 34A and 35A together you get SLOE MOE. :)

In sum, this review found nary a thing to POOH POOH. High [FIEFFIEF] all around!


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Wednesday, February 10, 2021, Kate Hawkins

Today's theme revealer is "Kind of beer ... or a multi-word hint to 18-, 22-, 37-, 51-, and 57-Across" (STOUT). To get the hint you have to split STOUT into ST and OUT and interpret it literally, meaning that you have to take "ST" out of five common two-word phrases to get the correct answer. The clue for each is, of course, designed to elicit the amusingly modified answer. The longest theme answer straddles the center of the grid and is very good: "The main characters of 'Brokeback Mountain,' e.g.?" RANGEBEDFELLOWS (initial ST removed). I like to think this is the one that gave the constructor the idea for the theme. Another, ALEMATE, goes nicely with STOUT, but the funniest is EELTRAP ("Way to catch a conger?") Ha! 

16: IRIS

I got COOPT up for a time in the northeast because I tried 'fraud' instead of ARSON. Two types of crime investigated by an insurance company with the same number of letters is enough to HANOI anyone, don't you think? CORES it is.

"Line crosser, of a sort" (SCAB) and "Bus. driver?" (CEO) were both clever, but my favorite C/AP on the day has to be "Tend to the sauce, say" (STIR). I relished MASSESOBSESS, and BESOT, and, for other reasons, PROVOLONE

I also enjoyed a sort of busman's holiday inputting such answers as DATA, ENTER, ESC, TENS, and especially NERD. :)


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Tuesday, February 9, 2021, Colin Ernst

I'm getting a late start today. Fortunately, Horace reminded me in the nick of time to write about the puzzle. I said, "that was a clothes one." Need I say more? I suppose the answer is yes, so here goes. Today's grid is stocked with three grid-spanning expressions that reveal articles of clothing within, but that admonish you not to be without. We have KEEPYOURSHIRTON, HANGONTOYOURHAT (my favorite), and TIGHTENYOURBELT. For a hot minute, I thought I had discerned an additional layer to the theme in which a relevant body part ALIGNS in the grid with the clothing part of the theme answer. For example, SLEEVE shows up just below SHIRT, and NOGGIN sits just above HAT - although it would probably have been underneath, if the placement had been intentional. My theory was completely cut off at the KNEE, however, when I got to BELT. While there is a BUREAU near the BELT, it's a bit of a stretch to consider that part of this ensemble, so apparelently I did not discover a hidden level of meaning. 

And speaking of hidden levels of meaning, how do you, dear Readers, feel about KOANS? Here's one I keep pinned up over my desk:

When Ungan was sweeping the ground, Dôgo said, “You are working hard, aren’t you.” Ungan said, “You should know there is one who does not work hard.” Dôgo said, “Is that so? You mean there is a second moon?” Ungan raised his bamboo broom and said, “What number moon is this?” Dôgo was silent.

I'll need a bigger thinking cap to figure that one out!

Flora by Ferdinand Keller, 1883

Although "Grant for a filmmaker?" (HUGH) didn't fool me, it did entertain, as did "Drinking game?" (GIN) and "Supply for an indebted tattoo artist?" (REDINK). FRIVOLOUS and MONOLITHS add a bit of bling. I have a soft spot for KEN, HEW, TUB, and, of course, FRANK. <3

I thought the puzzle was pretty smooth overall - nothing you could really call a ruff spot. At 8:05, my solve was 20 seconds faster than yesterday's. It may not be the fastest Tuesday ever, but I did my vest.   


Monday, February 8, 2021

Monday, February 8, 2021, Portia Lundie

NICEJOB on the theme today. Portia Lundie really stepped up to the plait in what Horace tells me is a debut puzzle. Three excellent Down answers incorporate hair styles, and the revealer is the grid-spanning LETYOURHAIRDOWN. Now how apt is that? :) My favorite is DISCOM[BOB]ULATED, but PERM[AFRO]ST is a close second. That one could possibly be considered a twofer since it also includes PERM. "Lara Croft, in film" (TOM[BRAID]ER) is another good bun. The only thing moussing is a reference to Rapunzel. 

And while we're on the subject of Downs, the other two longish Down answers, PRIESTESS and ROCAFELLA, were also top knotch. 

Elsehair, I particularly enjoyed "Scenter of the face" (NOSE) and "Acquired lots of, as money" (RAKEDIN). I appreciated the references to MCCOY, DRRUTH, and YODA. 


There was a little fluff tangled up in the net. I found "The five weekdays, for short" (MTWTF) a bit quotidian, and AFTS ("Times before eves, in ads") and OPPS (Antonyms: Abbr.") maybe got too much of a trim, but, overall, I was impressed with the puzzle. While I hope weave not seen the last of this constructor, I myself have to be off - all good things - even wave reviews - must comb to an end. 


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Sunday, February 7, 2021, Katie Hale and Christina Iverson


This puzzle made me laugh. All of the theme answers got at least a smile, and some got an actual LOL. Even reading them again now I chuckle. "Accept payment from Batman? TAKEAWAYNECHECK. Hah! "Cause for celebration at a pachyderm sanctuary?" ANELEPHANTINTHEWOMB. Now that's funny. And what about "Finish scooping out a big stir-fry?" HITWOKBOTTOM. It's a great way to start a lazy Sunday, isn't it?

"Ad Parnassum" by Paul KLEE

It's a debut for Ms. Hale, and only the seventh NYTX byline for Ms. Iverson, but I'm already hoping to seem more from them in the future.

Several women in the grid today - OPRAH, BODEREK, ANNE Brontë, EVA Perón, Lucretia MOTT, and VANNAWHITE (Celebrity who holds the Guinness world record for "Most Frequent Clapper.") That's an amusing Guinness record, but it also makes me kind of sad, because it really seems like Guinness is just making stuff up now.

In other areas, THEFWORD (Live broadcast no-no) took me forever to parse. I'm pretty sure I had THEF_ORD for quite a while, and then when the W went in, it still took me a while to get it. Derp. And "Slice of toast?" (HERESTO) was tricky too! And while we're at it, I'll also call out "They're found around Scots" (KILTS). Heh. 

So as you can see, I liked it. Lovely way to finish off my week. Frannie takes the reins tomorrow, then Colum, and I'll see you in a few weeks. 

- Horace

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Saturday, February 6, 2021, Kameron Austin Collins

A themeless Saturday by Mr. Collins closes out "African-American Constructors Week" at the NYTX this year. With any luck, such a week will not be necessary in the future thanks to a greater diversity in the pool of constructors, but for now, it is good to raise awareness. And speaking of raising awareness, it almost seemed like Mr. Collins was hinting at another week focussed on another underrepresented constructor group - women. The top of the grid has the side-by-side STEPHANIE and HELGA right above HERSTORIES (Chronicles from a feminist perspective) and ERA (Long-proposed constitutional inits.). That last is a nice pairing with yesterday's H.R. 40, neither of which seems likely to be fully acted upon. Sigh.

Nez Pierce (or Nimiipuu) of IDAHO

I thought a few of the clues went a bit too far today, but maybe I'm just INNEEDOF a little education. Take "A real cinematic tour de force?" (STARWARS) for example. What's the joke here? Is it a pun on "tour de force" and "the Force" used in the movies? If so, it didn't really work for me. And "Nice pair of boxers?" (PECS) - I get it, the pectoral muscles on boxers are well-developed, but no one would ever say a boxer had "a nice pair," would they? It also brings up an uncomfortable association, squeezed in between the princess and the failed amendment. But I'll leave that.

On the other hand, I did let out a laugh when I finally got HOTWIRING (Getting started the wrong way?), and I thought "Big scoop" was cute for SHOVEL. Also cute was "More venerated ... or ventilated? (HOLIER). And my favorite might have been "Government program?" for THEWESTWING. Very nice. 

So a bit of a mixed bag, but still a nice tough Saturday. 

- Horace

Friday, February 5, 2021

Friday, February 5, 2021, Erik Agard

First off, I'd like to publicly congratulate Mr. Agard on his come-from-behind victory in the recent Boswords Winter Wondersolve crossword event. Frannie and I entered the fray in the Teams division, but we kept an eye on the top of the singles leaderboard, where Paolo Pasco, the reigning champion of the Boswords Fall Themeless League, was holding forth through the first two rounds. Then in round three, Mr. Agard absolutely shredded a vicious grid from B.E.Q. in 0:03:43, moving himself up into second place. On the final puzzle by Joon Pahk, Mr. Agard wasn't the fastest solver, but he beat Mr. Pasco by almost a full minute, and that was enough to edge him into the top spot overall. Multi-A.C.P.T. champ Dan Feyer rounded out the top three. Congtatulations, all. 

Now, on to this lovely Friday puzzle with its central entry REPARATIONS. It's technically a themeless, but in this week featuring African-American constructors, that's definitely thematic. H.R. 40 is summarized on Congress's own site with: "Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society." 

Seems like the best time to introduce this bill would have been in the fall of 1865, or maybe even January 1, 1863, but as we all know, the Emancipation Proclamation didn't instantly cure race relations in the U.S. Better late than never, I guess, although given the action on H.R. 40, it seems like it might actually be never.

Still, I remain hopeful that things will move in the right direction. They've got to, right? I thought they'd get better after Rodney King. After Michael Brown. After George Floyd. After so many others. If I had been there, I might have thought it would get better after Rosa Parks. After Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm getting older now, it would be nice to see some definite progress on race relations before I die. Maybe they're starting to get better now. I hope so.

But enough on that. Well, really, it isn't, but hopefully you know what I mean. 

This puzzle was full of excellent entries and clever cluing: SWEARJAR (A fine way to discourage foul language?), NEWDAD (Pop up a lot, perhaps?) (Nice!), FLOWSTATE (What you're in when you're in the zone) ("good place" also fits here, unfortunately), SECRETKNOCK (Underground rap?), TAGTEAM (Pair of rings?) (that's wrestling rings). So much good, and almost nothing bad. 

Loved it. Congratulations on the win, Mr. Agard, and on this puzzle.

- Horace

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Thursday, February 4, 2021, Derek Allen

Another theme-appropriate puzzle this week, with [BLACK]OR[WHITE] in the central position. I wasn't familiar with the 1991 Michael Jackson hit, but I was plenty familiar with the other two songs. And I enjoyed the clue for BRAND (Stock symbol?), even though I can't imagine that it doesn't hurt the poor animals.


For the other two rebuses, [YELLOW]SUBMARINE saved me in the SW, because I have never heard of BODAK[YELLOW], but in the NE corner, I didn't know any of the versions of [GREEN]LIGHT, and I probably should have guessed that "green" would come after "John Deere," but I overthought the country music aspect of it and guessed "blue." So I FWOE'd. And now I'm "John Deere Blue." 

I enjoyed LORELEI (Singing siren), EYEWINKS (Secret-indicating gestures), MAJESTIC (Regal), and the joined together "Join together" answers WELD and WED. It's little details like that that SWEETEN the deal. 

INSITU (Where originally found) reminded me of my days working in museums, AMY reminded me of a good friend, and NEWIDEAS reminded me of learning Latin, where the Romans thought res novae meant "revolution," and that was usually a bad thing.

I like a rebus, and I like this puzzle. It had some things I didn't know, but that's ok. ITISNOT possible to know everything all at once, and if a crossword puzzle can expand my mind even ONEIOTA, well, that's ok with me.

- Horace

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Wednesday, February 3, 2021, Yacob Yonas

Today, in the center of the puzzle, in the center of a week of puzzles by Black constructors, we have a man who made the fight for civil rights the center of his work, JOHNLEWIS. The puzzle highlights his method of NONVIOLENCE as he engaged in GOODTROUBLE, a good example of which is the FREEDOMRIDERS, who demonstrated for integration in the early 60s. It also highlights GEORGIASFIFTH congressional district, for which he served in the U.S. House for more than 30 years. 


It's a nice tribute, and for all the stacked theme material, I thought the fill was pretty decent, only straining noticeably at OOLA ("Return of the Jedi" dancer) and the Japanese duo, BIWA (Japan's largest lake, located NE of Kyoto) (the directional hint didn't help, but thanks anyway) and NARUTO (Popular Japanese manga series). Those are pretty ATONAL, as it were, but the crosses were fair, and there's a lot of other really good fill that balances it out for me. 

I like the conversational entries BANGOUT (Do quickly, as an assignment) (or a puzzle review), WEVEMET ("No need to introduce us"), and SAYSBOO (Utters a sound, informally). And in the "just plain old good words" division we place INERTIA (Slugishness), SIPHONS (Sucks up, in a way), and ANEMONE (Flower that shares its name with a sea creature). 

Thumbs up for JOHNLEWIS, for this puzzle, and for racial and sexual equality.

- Horace

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Tuesday, February 2, 2021, Adesina O. Koiki

Happy Groundhog Day. I can never remember if it is good or bad to have a cloudy day, but it's not important that anyone remember, because it just doesn't matter. How did this whole ridiculous thing start, anyway? Well, I'll tell you - it was my Kraut ancestors who, when they came to America (as the Pennsylvania Dutch) changed the badger of Candlemas Day into the groundhog of Groundhog Day. 

Asparagus SPEAR

And another thing - the whole "six more weeks of winter" or "spring is right around the corner" thing is preposterous. Think about it - six weeks from today is mid-march, or, right around the vernal equinox. When have you ever known spring to start much before that? If you live in Massachusetts, the answer is never. 

On the bright side, we did get a pretty good movie out of it - one that actually inspired me to take up piano late in life. I spent about five years seriously working on piano playing and got to a pretty decent level before turning away to other pursuits. Which makes me wonder how long this blog has left... My modus operandi throughout my life has tended toward "fad-ism" as I'll call it ... but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's instead live in the present, and discuss today's crossword. 

HATTON (____ Garden, London district known for diamond trading) was a tough start. I guessed "Covent," because it fit, and then tried to make it work with Sea "cow" (HAG) (enemy of Popeye), but both quickly unravelled. 

I was amused by the side-by-side AIRLINES and TRAINSET in that same quadrant, but on the other side, I was very unhappy to learn of BACNE (Skin problem portmanteau). Can we all agree to make that a one-time entry? OKTHEN.

Other not-really-Tuesday-ready material included STANNIC (Containing Tin), KSTATE (The Wildcats of the N.C.A.A., informally), ESTES (____ Park, Colo.) (although, to be fair, this is pretty standard crosswordese), Riddle-me-REE, and the names Jeanette LEE and ANDREA Mitchell. 

The theme, however, was solid. Or soft. Or somewhere in the middle ... depending on whether we're talking about hard court, grass court, or clay court tennis. 

A little sports-heavy, and a little obscure in places, but as they say, "Tuesdays gonna Tuez."

- Horace

Monday, February 1, 2021

Monday, February 1, 2021, Soleil Saint-Cyr

Rabbit Rabbit, Readers! It's February already. Where does the time go?

Today's puzzle is all about the HIVE MIND. Workers, drones, and a queen are found in the grid-spanning answers. And I thought it was great to see ESSENTIALWORKER in the puzzle. My own sister is one such worker. She came down with a bad case of COVID last April, I think it was, but she went right back to work when she could, and now, even though she has received both her shots, she still works all day in uncomfortable, full COVID armor. Here's to you, Sue!

And there's another woman I'd like to mention. The constructor of this puzzle, Soleil Saint-Cyr, has today become the youngest female constructor to be published in the New York Times. She's just 17. She is also kicking off "Black Constructors Week" at the NYTX. Making history in Black History Month.

And a good Monday puzzle it is! I like BEARHUG (Tight embrace) (remember those?) and MARIANAS (____ Trench (deepest point on earth)) (one of my cousins used to terrify me by talking about how deep it was just before we went to sleep), and I'm sure most Democrats will have enjoyed seeing the names Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff (GEORGIANS) in the grid. I was surprised by OCULI (Circular windows), but luckily, I was able to come up with CUZ (Since, informally) to avoid disaster.

Congratulations on the debut, Ms. Saint-Cyr. I look forward to seeing more from you.

- Horace

p.s. Before I go I just want to put in a plug for the good folks at, who put on a one-day tournament called the "Winter Wondersolve" yesterday. Frannie and I competed in the Pairs division and had a lovely time doing it. We were this close to a perfect tournament, but while panicked and trying to power our way through the final puzzle by Joon Pahk, I made an orthographic error by spelling "lycopene" with an I instead of a Y. Sigh. We still ended up 16th out of 200+ in our division, so we did great, and we still have our "perfect tournament" to look forward to. And fortunately, the Boswords folks have announced another multi-week affair (Mondays, I think) in March and April, so we'll have another chance to try for perfection. If you enjoy crosswording (and if you don't, what are you doing at the bottom of this review?!?), I recommend you consider signing up for it.