Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Wednesday, March 31, 2021, Trenton Charlson

Wednesday puzzles are often an odd bunch. It can't be as tricksy as a Thursday, and it has to be tougher than the newbie grids on Monday and Tuesday. So I'm always grateful for a puzzle that surprises me. 

Mr. Charlson has created an atypical puzzle for his usual fare, which tends to teem with scrabbly letters like X, Z, and Q. The theme revealer is BUILDINGBLOCKS, which are represented somewhat literally in six places in the puzzle. Each is a type of building that is exactly six letters long, and which read clockwise in the shaded in squares.

Any example that goes C-V-C-V-C-V (where C is consonant and V is vowel) is reasonably straightforward, as the second row will go well with the first row. For example, "palace" or "pagoda" create easier two-letter combinations as seen in the NW and N sections. Meanwhile, "school" works well at the top of the puzzle, where those first three consonants can start words.

Tougher to make "chalet" work, because of the -HE ending, but our bold constructor has nicely put LOATHE there, finishing off the ORDEAL that must have been the creation of this grid.

Can I say ILOVEDIT? Well, I'm impressed by it. There's some necessary glue, and I won't overlook UDO, GWB, and EMME that had to help hold everything together.


But we get some nice fill with things like SLAMDUNK, GRIMACE, and BIBLICAL. And there's the very funny clue at 13D: Going places? (COMMODES). Hah!

Nothing held me up much, but I will note that I entered iNdianan at 42D: Abraham Lincoln, for one (UNIONIST). This was only partly correct. He was born in Kentucky, mainly raised in Indiana, before settling in his adulthood in Illinois.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Tuesday, March 30, 2021, Alex Rosen and Brad Wilber

Today's theme is very well put together. Four singers known to the world by one name only (thus MONONYM), hidden inside of phrases. In each case, the name crosses over the words of the phrase. I chuckled aloud at the final one, where Eminem is hidden inside MINEMINEMINE. That's a great find.

The four singers in question are Bono, previously Paul David Hewson; Pink, also known as Alecia Beth Moore; Enya, whose full name is Enya Patricia Brennan, and Eminem, who took his name from his initials (Marshall Bruce Mathers III). Is it a requirement to have three listed names like this? I was surprised to come across it via Wikipedia.

Other singers known by a single name? Why, I'm glad you asked. I came up with Sting and Cher, each of whom would be very difficult to fit into this theme pattern. Others that come to mind are Madonna and Prince. I would in general be loath to accept individuals who simply are known by their first name, like Elvis or Beyoncé. Yes, they are super celebrities, but it's a little like saying that RAFA is a mononym.

Anyway, I enjoyed working through the theme answers to discover the hidden gems. Once again, I'll note that it would have been better without the circled letters, but that's a losing battle.


I like how 4D (SITBACK (and relax)) is symmetric to BADMOVE! Doesn't it make you feel like there's a story going on here? Somehow, the last several words in the SE imply a danger NEARS, as we VEER, or somebody ERRS.

Too much?

Perhaps. So let's end with my favorite Tuscan city, SIENA. I highly recommend visiting.

- Colum

Monday, March 29, 2021

Monday, March 29, 2021, Lynn Lempel

Ah, the vagaries of the English language and its spelling oddities. Some of you may have heard of George Bernard Shaw's alternative spelling for the word "fish," namely "ghoti." "Gh" as in "enough," "o" as in "women," and "ti" as in "tradition." 

It's also a deep mine to delve in for our beloved crossword constructors. Today, Ms. Lempel, who is a past master at creating beautiful smooth early week puzzles, has used TOBEORNOTTOBE as a way to nod at the difficulties of recalling whether a B is doubled in a word or not. Her examples of either direction are the last word of the first two theme answers and the first word of the last two - a nice bit of symmetry there.

At first, to be honest, though, I wondered whether it should have been "three B" for BRERRABBIT and PEBBLEBEACH. But I'm not one to pick nits here. The trick still works. And of course, I'm all in favor of the TREBLECLEF. What various mnemonics did people have for that E-G-B-D-F sequence? I recall "Every good boy deserves fudge." The ALTO and the ENTRACTE right next door fit into the musical allusions.

In other areas, I don't really take a THINMINT, myself. I'm much more partial to Samoas. It's that time of year, so we've already demolished the one box we allowed ourselves. Honestly, our next door neighbor Girl Scout is now 15 or 16, so I'm not sure how much longer it's going to go on for anyway. There's simply no way in the world to obtain Girl Scout cookies without a neighbor, right?

Fun words today include APLOMB, BELGIANS, and SCAMPI. And in the good clue section, there's 6D: Try, try again? (REHEAR), referring to court rooms. But cleverly it crosses RUGBY, where one is always trying for a try.

Here's hoping your APR is not too full of CPAS.

- Colum

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sunday, March 28, 2021, Olivia Mitra Framke


On this rainy Sunday, I once again take the reins of blogging after two fine weeks from my esteemed co-bloggers. Since I was last here, the household has gained another pup. Craziness abounds, and the smell of wet fur permeates the rooms at this moment. Although offset by the lovely smell of chicken stock, in preparation for matzoh ball soup tonight. Happy Passover!

Meanwhile, in the puzzle, we get five examples of phrases whose first word is a synonym for being in a good mood. Each word is directly above the name of a moon in our solar system, equalling the word in its length. Thus, they are "over the moon" in two senses.

The challenge in this construction is not so much in finding synonyms and moons whose numbers of letters are the same, although BLISSFULIGNORANCE over GANYMEDE was likely the toughest there. No, I imagine it's the constraints of the two words being adjacent, and which leads to most of the less than lovely fill. See where "merry" is atop NAIAD, leading to MNO, or "happy" atop TITAN leads to SYN.

Still, it's a great set of five long answers, with the highlight being the grid-spanning HAPPYDAYSAREHEREAGAIN. I also very much enjoyed the Mary Poppins reference CHEERYDISPOSITION from the too cute for words song "The Perfect Nanny." Perhaps GEMINI and UFOS were bonus theme answers.

Other highlights include the clue for 82A: Time before computers, facetiously (STONEAGE) - dang, I remember getting our first home computer, an Atari 800. My older brothers enjoyed programming in Basic. Me, I just liked the games. Also, 99A: Solo flier? (CHEWBACCA) is very nicely done.

20A: Take part in a D&D campaign, e.g. (ROLEPLAY) certainly could have been a bluer clue, but I appreciate the nod to a renewed national interest in Dungeons and Dragons, an old favorite from around the time we got that personal computer. Recently I've gotten back into it, and it's a ton of fun. 

Finally, we should all give a nod to Thomas F. Wilson, the actor who played BIFF in Back to the Future. No great high school movie can succeed without a great bad guy, and he did it beautifully. "So why don't you make like a tree, and get out of here?"

- Colum

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021, Michael Hawkins

Tough finish to the week for this solver. I got in under an hour - but just barely (56:15). There was so much I didn't know! That problem combined with what seemed like a small amount of overlap between sections really kept me FARFROMIT for quite some time. I was in trouble right out of the gate with1A: "Singer with a supporting role in 2019's 'Hustlers.'" I'm not familiar with the movie or LIZZO, although I did take the opportunity to listen to what appears to be one of her well known songs, "Cuz I love you" - not bad! Of course, song reviews isn't why you called me here. Back to the puzzle! After LIZZO, my difficulties continued with TRIMSPA, ISHTARGATE, HYDE, CORA, PICAROS (a BIGASK for this solver), MAYA, and finally, DEUS, although that last one I was eventually able to guess, despite my lack of familiarity with Arizona's state motto. 


Fortunately, there were some answers I did know straight off: ERIK (I surprised myself with that one), PESTO (fun clue!), SPARE, PESO, SPAMS, YETI, USAIN, MIDAS, STPAT, and PREGO. With at least some solid answers in place I was able to slowly chip away at the empty squares. The toughest spot for me, and where I finally finished, was the southeast. In addition to all the answers I just didn't know, I made things worse by being convinced that PIrAteS for "Rouges" and GdP for "Economic fig." (instead of GNP) were correct, and THUS leaving them in for too long. :(

Elsewhere, there were AWS of both kinds to be found, including among the  amusing QMC's "One who's got the bug?" (SPY) ; "Not your average joe?" (LATTE) ; and "A little bit of everything?" (ATOM), plus the clever non-QMC clue, "Out of the picture, say" (CAMERASHY) - ha!

I confess to a few AWS of the disappointment kind where I felt there was some C/AP dissonance, particularly in "Unable to stay away, say" (BACKFORMORE), "Assail" (SETAT), and "Crux of the matter" (PITH). I'm not saying there's anything wrong with these pairs or that they aren't appropriate for a Saturday puzzle - the constructor would be well within his rights to say, THATSONYOU, Frannie, and he'd be right - just that they didn't sing to me the way some clues and answer pairs do. "Wishes undone" for RUES and "Reckon" for SURMISE are more what IHOP for in a puzzle.

~Frances (without ANI). 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021, Daniel Larsen

Quite a few twists in today's puzzle, from the shape of the grid to the many clues that could be considered from a number of angles. Some of the cleverly ambiguous clues had me saying, WHATSTHEBIGIDEA? when my first guesses turned out wrong. I discussed a few of the clues of this type with Horace and it was interesting to see which ones we caught on to right away and which had us headed down the wrong PATH. Here's my list:

"One with a nest egg" (HEN) - twigged
"Result of a good pitch" (SALE) - twigged (good one!)
"Not fast" (EAT) - did not twig (my favorite)
"Give a hand" (DEALIN) - did not twig
"Filled in some gaps" (CAULKED) - twigged
"Bugs" (NAGS) - did not twig

Sometimes you have to LEGO of your first TRIS or end up with a SADFACE


The puzzle featured significantly fewer QMC's. I found "Pop around a lot?" (STAYATHOMEDAD) mildly amusing, whereas I liked "Mower handle?" (DEERE) quite a bit. The C/AP "Voluptuary" and HEDONIST is very good. Did TENUTO put anyone else in mind of Menudo, or is that just me?


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Thursday, March 25, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners

Opposites not only attract, they PILEIN on each other in today's theme answers. In each of the six theme answers the circled letters form an antonym of the complete answer word. So, WONDERFUL contains WOEFUL, ANIMOSITY contains AMITY, the FEASTING amusingly encompasses FASTING, and COURTEOUS, CURT. In some cases, like the latter, my eye fooled me into seeing circles where there weren't any, and I found myself wondering what was so opposite about COURT and COURTEOUS? But a timely tip from Horace cooled my impulse to go GONUCLEAR in the review. :) I doubt it was intended as such, but the lovely C/AP "Best" (DEFEAT) might be considered bonus theme material, in a way. 

I enjoyed the interesting factoid about the color RED being on the flag of every permanent U.N. Security Council member. That clue, along with a couple of others, brought the topic of travel to mind. It was, perhaps, not a great leap, because I've been thinking about travel a lot, especially now that the weather around here has begun to improve. Plus, I've been reading "The Olive Farm" by Carol Drinkwater, of "All Creatures Great and Small" (original version) fame. In the book, she and her French boyfriend buy an overgrown olive farm in the south of France near Cannes to refurbish and eventually inhabit - living her dream, and mine - I mean the part about the French boyfriend. ;)

By Deer hunter Rick Jacobs of Elk County, Pennsylvania took this image at the Allegheny National Forest in Northwest Pennsylvania while attempting to photograph deer for the upcoming fall hunting season. Fair use,

I think the fact that you couldn't figure out the theme clues without the Downs slowed me down a bit - at least until I understood what was going on. The clue at 12D, "Distance between 'some' and 'where' in 'Somewhere over the rainbow'" completely confused me until the answer (OCTAVE) became clear through the crosses. If they had been any trickier, I might have hit a false note there. In order to make full use of this blog's specially glossary, I might also mention that TATAMI, especially with today's clue ("Mat used for judo") is totally KOFKAesque for this solver. I narrowly avoided a FWOE at the cross of ""China/North Korea border river" and "Division of the Justice Dept." Fortunately, my decision to try the vowels "in order" for that blank square paid off - YALU!


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Wednesday, March 24, 2021, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau

A fashion-forward theme which poses the question, WHOWOREITBETTER? In each theme clue, two candidates suit up in the clothing category that exemplifies their signature style. For example, Donald Duck and Popeye compete in the SAILORSUIT division, and Michael Darling and Baby Smurf go toe-to-toe in the FOOTIEPAJAMAS group. For my money, the awards go to: Donald Duck, the Minions, Michael Darling, and McGruff the Crime Dog - although his decision to arrest Scooby Doo for possession of a few pot-laced biscuits does give one PAWS

The constructors managed to slip in some bonus theme material including AISLES and INGEAR, LEVI *and* LEES (under pressure from the DENIMOVERALLS lobby, no doubt), not to mention UPS to deliver it all to your door. 


The clue "Runway model?" might seem to be part of the package, but its answer (AIRLINER) isn't such a good fit. In other departments I enjoyed "Like tightrope walkers and household budgets, ideally" (BALANCED) and "What doesn't go a long. way? (LAT) - tricky little abbreviation there!

An enjoyable puzzle. I'll RSVP in the affirmative for any future fashion e-VENTS.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021, Dan Schoenholz

The EXTRACHARGE theme adds 'ION' to common phrases which are clued in an amusing manner. My favorite, IRSAUDITION, is a "Job interview for a wannabe tax collector." Although, based on reports from people who've had 'em, I'm positive it would not be a favorite without the ION ending.

For "Starts hearts" at 13A, I tried 'leadS', which is kinda funny because it's an anagram of the correct DEALS. EASEL at 3D for "Studio supporter" is good. I also enjoy an IDIOM and a Yogi BERRA quote, making the north west a top corner for this solver. Elsewhere in the puzzle, I enjoyed the clue "Male delivery" for BOY in the northeast as well as "She might give you her coat" (EWE) in the south east.  


The southwest was more ALIEN to me. I thought "Spout (off)" was an odd clue for POP. I also thought 64A: "___ dye (chemical coloring)" at 64A was a bit far out for a Tuesday, especially as it was crossed by two of the trickier clues in the puzzle: the excellent "Go out briefly?" (DOZE) and the old timey "It can carry a tune" (IPOD). If you hadn't run across any AZO dye recently, you could end up in a real PERIL. I don't mean to sound negative, it's just that reviewers do have to keep an eye on this type of thing. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021, Daniel Grinberg

Today's revealer is the title of Stephen King's novel, FIRESTARTER - and the first part of each theme answer could be used to do just that: MATCHBOXCAR, FLINTMICHIGAN, TINDERPROFILE. While I never read King's book, I did see the movie that was based on it. According to IMDB, its tagline was "If you get on her bad side...YOU'RE TOAST - ha. I also noticed that the movie was followed by a made-for-TV sequel called "Firestarter 2: Rekindled." Those writers were on a hot streak. 

As I solved I noticed first an X - then another X, then a V, a Y, a K, a W, and finally a Q and I thought we might have a pangram puzzle on our hands, but no, every letter UPTO but not including Z.  However, the clue at 61D specifically mentioned the letter Z ("Point for a 'Z' in Scrabble") so maybe that kinda sorta counts?

Ursaab, the prototype for the Saab 92 – Saab's first automobile

I've been known to enjoy a language class and have studied more than a few SYNTAXES in my time. I liked the C/AP's "Submitted a resume" (APPLIED) and BITOFF for "Removed with the teeth" - you don't come across that definition every day. WARBLE and FREAKED are nice fill and "Band aid" for AMP was amusing. 

I  noticed a few sets like the door parts JAMBS and KNOB, also LPS at the top right and CDS at the bottom right, not to mention, AMI, HENRI, and EAU. Maybe the constructor likes playing with matches. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021, Julian Kwan


Once again, the title of the Sunday puzzle is very clever. "Mores," pronounced just like the eels (morays), plays double-duty. First, it explains the "ay" sound that is added to the end of every theme answer that changes it from a familiar phrase into something that fits with the clue, and second, it describes the cluing of the theme answers as being related to habits, manners, and/or customs. As in...

"Let everyone else get some steak before taking seconds!" - YOUVEHADYOURFILET

Why no one hangs out in actors' dressing rooms these days? - BACKSTAGEPASSE

CRAYONS (Sticks in a box?)

The manners/customes/habits angle doesn't really hold up throughout, I realize - like it's hard to make it fit with UNSOLICITEDBIDET (Bathroom fixture that one never asked for) and COLDHARDCACHET (What the prestigious ice scluptor had?), but if you contort your brain just enough, you can justify most anything, right?

And can we discuss 1A? It's got that same "ay" sound at the end. Is it inelegant? Or is it chutzpah? It's Mr. Kwan's debut in the NYTX. Is he announcing his first ESSAY? Like I said, if you twist your thoughts enough, anything is possible...

But let's let that go, shall we? ICANSEE you'd rather talk ABA other things. We've got the interesting duo of PIPPA and PIPPIN, a bunch of comparatives IFFIER, NIFTIER, PERKIEST, and LATISH, and a number of beasts: a RHESUS monkey, OCTOPI, SWINE, and a MADCOW. It's interesting that DEUS springs off of the D in GODSQUAD, and that OSIRIS and FAMINE (Something Pharaoh's dream foretold in Genesis) are almost related and almost touching. I liked the clue for APPLES (Bob hopes?) (but did anyone ever really enjoy bobbing for apples?), and "Firth person?" (SCOT) and "First mate?" (EVE) were fun, too. 

I'd say this CUTIT for a debut puzzle.

- Horace

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Saturday, March 20, 2021, Emily Carroll

Happy Spring! Soon there will be more than snowdrops and a few crocus popping up around the yard, and days - already seeming longer thanks to Daylight Saving Time - will be warmer, too. Here's hoping things continue to improve for us all this year.

Chrome BROWSER icon

Today's puzzle is a promising sign. With triple 11s and 9s in the four corners, and a weird Easter egg kind of shape in the middle, this had a lot going for it before I even filled in any letters! And then it got even better.

The Ali reference (TRASHTALKER (Muhammad Ali was one, famously)) at 1A is an excellent start. Then off of that you get some pretty nice Downs - TEASE (Flirt), RACER (One who's in the heat?) (perhaps playing off the flirt/TEASE clue - nice), STOKE (Incite), ABSCONDED (Made a quick getaway), and the fun Jewish Deli pair of KNISH and RYE. Not bad for what could be seen as filler words. Then, once you have all that in place, you find ACHORUSLINE (Show that opens with "I Hope I Get It") and the 15-Across clue "Animal that produces eggs once a year." I thought ... Well, I don't most animals do that? Is it a turtle? the weirdo platypus? ... but no, it's the EASTERBUNNY. Ha! Very, very nice.

One more thing before we leave the NW - I can't be the only person who dropped ERNESTO (Che Guevara's real first name) in thanks to the Monty Python sketch "World Forum." I think I was also able to drop in Lenin's real last name once in a previous puzzle for the same reason.

Anywho... there's so much good material in here! ITALIANFLAG (It flies around Florence), PETSTORES (Places to buy food you wouldn't want to eat yourself), SOMMELIER (One helping you find a cab?)... EARGASM (Sensation from a song that you're really, really into, slangily)! Ms. Carroll really SMASHED it with this one. The only thing that stood out at all as gluey was ATTA (Flour in Indian cuisine), but I'm actually happy to not see it clued with "____ girl" or "____ boy," and I learned something about what goes into one of my favorite bread products - naan! 

This was a GRAND (K) finale to the week of puzzles for me. I was happy to see Ms. Carroll's byline, and once again, she delivered. Thanks!

- Horace

Friday, March 19, 2021

Friday, March 19, 2021, Kameron Austin Collins

Let's start with some things I liked. BOUNTEOUS (Liberal) is a word that gives and gives, and CHINTZY (Gaudy and cheap) is certainly not just a throwaway entry. I don't love the modern term MEGALOPOLIS (Heavily populated urban complex), but it's funny to think that the original city of MEGALOPOLIS that was founded in Greece in the 4th century B.C.E. now has less than 6,000 inhabitants - far less than it did back then! 


COCHLEAS (Parts of ears from the Latin for "snail") brought me back to high school bio, and SODAASH reminded me of the old "chemistry sets" I used to play with in the cellar when I was little. It's a wonder I'm still alive.

There's a bit of a French vibe today with CLOISTER (Shut up) (not actually French, I know, but it comes through Old French), MISENSCENE (Staging and design, to a dramaturge) (actually French), STLOUIS (named for the only French king to have been canonized - in a good way), LEEK (What the French call "poor man's asparagus") (never heard that), "Victor in France, once" (HUGO), Switzerland's LAC Léman (that's Lake Geneva to you and me), NINON (Sheer fabric) (never heard of it, but it comes from French, apparently), and ADIEU ("Fare thee well!"). 

So that's all good. What I did not like was WINSOMER. You find me an example of that word in print before it appeared in this puzzle, or proof of anyone saying that word, ever, in history, and I'll be SETATEASE. Until then, I hate it. I know it's technically possible to form the word - one of my brothers likes to argue that "funner" is a perfectly acceptable word, but I argue otherwise. I liked a lot of this puzzle, but that SADDENED me.

But let's end on a happier note. Favorite clue: "Something you can count on?" (BASETEN). Ha!

- Horace

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Thursday, March 18, 2021, Tom McCoy

MUCHADO ABOUT NOTHING is the theme today. The circled words - synonyms of MUCHADO - circle empty squares. It turns out that the puzzle will be accepted if you write the entire word "nothing" in the squares, because that's what I did after I didn't get the congratulations screen. As it turned out, I had left IWiN and CEREBRi in place. The first seemed fine, but CEREBRO is actually correct for "Brain-enhancing device used by Professor X." 

I like the unusualness of this theme. The holes in the grid, while slightly troubling, are neatly surrounded by circled squares, so it's ok.

As we have learned, any time circled squares connect to form a word, those squares are "triple-checked," as us crossword wonks say. Meaning they are used in three separate words. It's hard enough getting all the letters to work when it's just Across and Down that you have to worry about. Adding in a third level of complexity often forces a constructor to dig deeper into the ol' wordbag. Today, though, I thought Mr. McCoy did a very nice job of finding acceptable fill. ORGO (Notoriously difficult chem class) was something I had never heard (and I actually found organic chemistry to make more sense than inorganic!), but maybe it's been said before by someone. Elsewhere, there's that partial OFA (____ sort), and the crossword stalwart URI Geller, but that's not much. 

Two things about me: I don't always cope well with hot peppers, but somehow I have come to love a squirt of SRIRACHA sauce on a simple pile of broccoli and rice. And in college, I had a radio program named the DEADAIR Show. It was the first show in the morning, and I was supposed to turn on the transmitter when I got in. Well... one day I forgot, and I didn't notice until I got a phone call about an hour into the show. Heh.

How cool is it that "Eleven plus two and twelve plus one" are ANAGRAM[  ]S? But on the other side of that symmetrical pairing - "What the Avengers do" is A[  ]SSEMBLE? Really? That's not the first thing I would have thought of. But then, I'm not an Avengers expert.

I think this was a fine Thursday puzzle. Something a little different, and a change is better than a rest, right? 

- Horace

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Wednesday, March 17, 2021, Peter A. Collins

As our friend Mr. Kingdon asked in the comments yesterday, "Why should Thursdays have all the fun?" Why indeed? We've had two fun puzzles in a row now, and if The Turn holds up its end of the bargain, we're in for quite a week!

Dalí and MANRAY - contemporaneously

Today's silliness takes real last names and forces us to pronounce them as if they are all participles ending in -in'. As in, "If you think economists don't lose their cool, you haven't seen JANETYELLEN. Guffaw. Being, I guess, an atypical New Englander, I pronounce TEDDANSON, DOLLYPARTON, and even MICHAELBOLTON in such a way that by the time I was halfway through the puzzle I thought the trick was to leave the "ON" part off entirely. It was only when I got to the Secretary of the Treasury that I realized my mistake. 

Mr. Collins, veteran and AGILE puzzle constructor that he is, has given us a nice clean grid with only dabs of TORI, APO, and NANO - NAN. HIPSTERS (Many regulars at artisan coffee shops) and ITSADEAL (Cry while shaking hands) are good long Downs. I like SWARM, LENTIL, DEADON, TRACT, ALEPH, ELSOL, and our old friend EEYORE. And it seems oddly appropriate for DEREG (Removal of restrictions, informally) to cross right through JANETYELLEN. And next door to that, "One hanging around a party with swingers?" is a fun clue for PINATA


- Horace

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Tuesday, March 16, 2021, Lindsey Hobbs

Tricky start for a Tuesday, no? Maybe it's just me, but I don't have GREBES (Diving birds) front of mind, as they annoyingly say at work. Maybe they're hidden behind all the terns and ern(e)s. 



The revealer today, ICEDTEA, explains the amusing theme: Take a familiar phrase that starts with T, get rid of (ice) the T, and clue wackily. We love wacky, and this one made me smile. EARJERKER (Corn farmer at harvest time?) was silly, and AXDODGERS (Lumberjacks in unsafe working conditions?) was amusingly absurd. URNOFEVENTS (Caterer's coffee dispenser?) was funny - to me anyway - mostly thanks to its oddity. And "Jane Goodall, at times?" for APERECORDER? It's funny because it's true!

The long Downs, despite the presence of ODIUMS and BOREDOM, were anything but annoying and boring. PRONOUNCE and ETHERNET may not be especially BRISK, or a GODSEND to the solver, but it's not ASIF they're BAD or anything. AUTONYM (Name of self-identification, as "Deutsche" for "Germans") is pushing it, but hey, that's an Across, and we're not talking about those right now! :)

For me, any Tuesday puzzle that makes me smile is all right. It's just the second puzzle from Ms. Hobbs, who burst onto the scene last year with a tricky Thursday grid. I shall eagerly await her next byline.

- Horace

Monday, March 15, 2021

Monday, March 15, 2021, Philip K. Chow

This struck me as a slightly unusual theme. One that basically just describes an actual object. Nothing to do with wordplay or taking only part of the theme answers ... it's just exactly what it says on the label. Not that I mind, mind you. I love a pinwheel theme, and I love flags, so if this theme were run up the flagpole, as it were, I'd salute.

Now then, since it is a puzzle about the bandera de México, let's talk a minute about it. The current flag (above) was adopted in 1968 - the year that the Olympic Games were in Mexico City. Before that year, some Mexican flags did not contain the central coat of arms so well described in this debut by Mr. Chow, and there was concern that without it, the flag would be nearly indistinguishable from Italy's.

In 1984, it was decided that the flag would have a definite "front" and "back." In official terms, it went from "front-facing" to "side-facing." That is, when looking at it from one side, the eagle faces left, from the other, it faces right. In 1995 another ruling was made that caused the eagle to do a little hop in the time it takes you to turn the flag over. On the front, he stands on his left leg and holds the snake with his right, but on the back he stands on his right and holds with his left. This, to at least one crossword reviewer, is an inelegant detail. Wouldn't it be cooler to have a more hyper-realistic image?

To wrap it up - the green (which is darker than the Italian green) is for "hope," the white for "union," and the red (also darker than the Italian, but less so) for the "blood of heroes." (How vivid.) The coat of arms depicts an Aztec prophesy that signaled the founding of their city Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City).

So I'm afraid that's all the time we've got today. I hope you enjoyed this little sidebar into vexillology as much as I did. Colum's got his daughters, I've got the internet. :)

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sunday, March 14, 2021, Jacob Stulberg


Well, this is lovely. MAD Magazine played an important role in the development of my sense of humor, such as it is. (Frannie might suggest that it played a part in my appreciation of humor.) I had older brothers, and there were SCADS of MAD magazines SECRETED away up in the attic, where their rooms were. After they went to college (when I was still pre-teen), I would sneak up there and rifle through them. There were a few National Lampoons in the stack, and they held some appeal to a young boy, but MAD was funnier. Even my father enjoyed MAD. I remember he was AMUSED by "The Lighter Side of ..." by Al BERG, even back then, and it made me very happy when he starting subscribing to MAD in his late seventies or early eighties. Partly it made me happy because he would give them to me once he had read through them, but also, you know, it's kind of cool to think that A. I could tell my friends that my dad subscribes to MAD, and 4. That it was still being published!

If one person more than any other comes to mind when one thinks of MAD, it is Al Jaffee. He turned 100 yesterday, and it's nice to know that he shares a birthday with none other than ... this blog! That's right, HAFDTNYTCPFCA turned 9 yesterday! Where does the time go? Anyway, if we keep this up for half as long as Jaffee did at MAD (he was a contributor to the magazine for 65 years!), it will be far too long.

So the title, again, is perfect. I don't know how the research was done to find the predicted items, but I tip my hat to Mr. Stulberg. I also appreciated the bonus items - the aforementioned BERG, the "Spy vs. Spy" clue (ENEMY), the "Finding it funny" and "Droll" (WRY) clues, INANE, "Such FUN!," and maybe even "Cartoon speech bubble, often" (OVAL). 

Loved it.

- Horace

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Saturday, March 13, 2021, John Guzzetta

It's been a lovely week for reviewing, perhaps in part because I got assistance with the first two days. Today, I solved with Phoebe, whom you all met in writing on Tuesday. You know your daughter has chops when she answers 13A: Ancient allegory paralleled in the plot of "The Matrix" (PLATOSCAVE) off of PL_T_____. Not only has she an understanding of the allegory, but she's seen the movie, and she also figured it out with almost no crossings in the grid.

There's a lot of excellent long answers, including 5D: Statement of inevitability (NOTIFBUTWHEN), a great phrase. There's something about multi-word phrases as answers in a crossword that is very satisfactory to me. Thus, IMEANCOMEON is also very pleasing. INEEDAHAND is slightly less aesthetic, but only because it feels less colloquial.

20D: Hardly a test of one's memory (OPENBOOKEXAM) is certainly true, but in my experience, those tests were usually much more challenging, because the professor could force us to delve deeper when pure memory wasn't the most important thing. BENTOBOXES and ANGORACATS are two very nice answers.

But perhaps my favorite clue of the year comes at 24D: Dingy kitchen items? (OVENTIMERS). I'm still chuckling as I look at that. 

There was an undertone of sadness in this puzzle, what with 14D: Like many minor-key compositions (SOMBER), 25D: Is lachymose (WEEPS), and 32D: Place of drudgery (SALTMINE). Not to mention SOBSTORIES. Even 28D: Brings down (DIMS) has a sense of being slightly depressing. And, wow, also HALS's painting of a "Young Man With a Skull!"

But let's not end on a down note! There's a nice reference to Amanda Gorman, POET extraordinaire, and ice cream. So there's something to DEVOUR.

Tomorrow, Horace takes over again. Let's see if he can find someone to take over reviewing duties...

- Colum

Friday, March 12, 2021

Friday, March 12, 2021, Peter Wentz

There was much to enjoy in today's puzzle, but I feel like starting on a sour note (and thus hopefully ending on a sweet one). I don't much like A____ answers, adjectives whose A has been appended ad hoc to allow access alphabetically. And in this puzzle, we have four. I'll allow AGHAST and AFRESH, and even ABLAZE is commonly used. AGLEAM, however... well. That's not in common usage.

That being said, who can complain when QUINCYJONES adorns the center of your puzzle? Well known celebrity, full name, and such lovely scrabbly letters. Also, having HOCHIMINH's full name (with the great trivia in the clue) and breakfast sausages in the form of JIMMYDEAN, well, nobody doesn't love breakfast sausages, do they?

No need to answer if you don't.

Meanwhile, I came across some really excellent clues today. Here's a great one at 4A: It might be laid down if broken (THELAW). 11D: One getting the lead out, say (OREMINER) was a tough one to figure out. Two good QMCs come at 6D: Sound from a chicken, say? (EEK) and 51A: Get smart? (DOLLUP). Another great one came at 18D: Court entertainers (PEPSQUAD). We wanted "jEsters," until we realized the court could be a basketball court.

My favorite clue, however, came at 59A: Far from a popular spot (ZIT). Such a good non-QMC! Without the question mark, I really had no clue where we were going, especially with that Z at the start. Kudos to Hope for getting this one.

"Life as a REPOMAN is always intense."

I appreciate 48A: One with a solo in Brahms's Symphony No. 1 (OBOE), both for the reference to my favorite composer of all time, and for the odd specificity of the clue. Oboes have solos in so many symphonies, that to choose this one in particular is not very revelatory. Truthfully, it's always going to be an oboe (and the only other likely four-letter orchestral instrument is a tuba, which rarely has a solo - but not never!).

Finally, YKNOW looks great in the grid. I thought it might have something to do with Y2K for a brief moment.

- Colum

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Thursday, March 11, 2021, Leslie Rogers

I bet you don't know what's coming up this Saturday night. Nobody could see it coming, not in a thousand years. 

What, you know? Did the puzzle give it away? 

I'll tell you something, I'm no fan of Daylight Savings. Both the Fall and Spring hurt in a different way. In the Fall, you get an extra hour of sleep, but boy, does the darkness fall fast in the evenings. At least the Spring one gets you more sunlight (assuming you get sunlight where you live in March, which is no guarantee round here, let me tell you), but goldarn it, if you don't lose an hour of sleep.

But I'll tell you what I am a fan of, and that's a Thursday crossword puzzle. Today takes SPRINGFORWARD literally, by replacing times in three phrases or titles with one hour later. Thus "Darkness at Noon" becomes DARKNESSATONEPM. A "five o'clock shadow" is a SIXOCLOCKSHADOW. And finally, "Burn the midnight oil" becomes BURNTHEONEAMOIL

Very cute, and well done, if you ask me, and all three have become 15-letter grid-spanners. Which means that none of those three phrases have ever appeared in a NYT crossword before.

Meanwhile, there's some fun and clever cluing going on, including two hidden capitals at 5D: Crow native to the Midwest (SHERYL) and 65A: Buzz in a rocket (ALDRIN). The first got me, the second did not.

If you're looking for a really good QMC example, look no further than 20A: Signs of something moving? (TEARS). That's excellent. And for a pretty darned good non-QMC, there's 46D: It gets you close to home (TRIPLE). That's baseball home. Finally, we get the two clues "Sound from a fan," which yields both WHIR and OLE.

I had fun with this one, so maybe that will help me get through this weekend.

- Colum

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Nancy Stark and Will Nediger

Hey, I'm back! What, you were expecting more family members to fill in for my reviewing duties? Sorry, Hope's busy, and Oliver the Havanese, as smart as he is, doesn't have the wherewithal to solve the NYT puzzle, let alone come up with a clever review.

I guess you all got spoiled this week, which is exactly the theme of today's puzzle. Our intrepid constructors have found three common phrases whose second half contains the word spoil/spoils. Then, leaving off the second half allows for the silly and brilliant revealer at 54A: Warning you might give before revealing the endings of 20-, 29- and 45-Across? (SPOILERALERT). 

It took the revealer to get me to understand what was going on, which is a sign of a good revealer, in my opinion. And the three phrases are top notch as well. Although I certainly never hewed to the concept of the third, SPARETHEROD, spoil the child. 

Adding to my troubles were my difficulties in the NW. I had the ever present ETTU quickly, but then fell for the trap set at 2D: Eight-time Oscar nominee for best actor (OTOOLE). Yes, I didn't read carefully, and quickly put in sTreep. Although I wouldn't put it past her to get nominated for best actor as well. Why not? My other temporary mistake was in putting BOzO for BOBO. But who likes clowns anyway?


I love that the two long down answers are related, with IRISHPUBS and SPORTSBAR. I have haunted a few of both in my day. Did Horace and Frannie and I ever tell you about our idea of creating a literary group associated with one such pub? The Plough and Stars on Massachusetts Avenue. Those carefree pre-child days... 

Finally, I'd like to nod at MESHUGA. It takes a good deal of chutzpah to insert such a bit of shpilkes into the puzzle. But who am I to kvell? 

- Colum

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Tuesday, March 9, 2021, Simon Marotte

Two daughters in a row? Unheard of! Today’s blog post is brought to you by me, Phoebe. Unlike Cece I have no idea if my name has ever been mentioned on here before, but I do know for a fact that I beat my sister’s time, so that’s what’s important.

Today’s theme is something near and dear to my heart: backwards car brands. As someone who memorized every breed of car in the Consumer Reports at the age of 10, this theme was highly exciting to me, although truth be told I didn’t actually notice or use the theme until almost all of them were filled in. Once I noticed the backwards “SUBARU” inside LAURABUSH (28A), it was smooth going to fill in the L in “TESLA” and finish the very clever 17A: FALSETEETH (“They often come out at night?”), which was also my favorite clue today. I'm always happy to see a “HONDA” represented, even though my own Honda definitely HADNOHOPE (47A) after I totaled it a month ago. “KIA” was also quite helpful since I didn’t know KUBLAIKHAN (62A) was spelled with an I. Yikes! Plus we all want to lease an all-new Kia Sorrento…even though it’s such a new brand…

"Oh, Hello!" 

Some of the other difficult clues for me were FLEABAGS (20A), a term I didn’t know and now only associate with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I also struggled briefly with TENTACLE (57A), since I was very stuck on “Skier’s conveyance” (57D) being “LIFT” instead of TBAR, a term I don’t know since I find skiing to be EVIL. I was particularly proud of myself for getting ELIDED with very few crosses, and my favorite reference was definitely to THEBOXER by Simon and Garfunkel, which I only knew as “the Jewish-sounding song” from the ages of 5 until 15. I have to say that I’m TIRED of the poker clue ANTED, a phrase I learned from crosswords and still have never bothered to google, though I would not go so far to say I SNEERED at it. 

Overall, I found this puzzle very enjoyable and I finished in 6:27. NEATO!

- Phoebe

Monday, March 8, 2021

Monday, March 8, 2021, Eric Bornstein

Hello world! It is I, Cece. You may recognize my name from the occasional “Cece helped with _____” credit in my dad’s blog posts. Those are few and far between, and usually requested for by yours truly.

Anyway, this is a big deal! Today, a mere mortal takes on the NYT Crossword. It feels great to be out of the part of the week where I have to google every third clue. I’m back on my feet and running!

Let me walk you through the wave of emotion I was faced with upon opening up the puzzle. First, I saw weird blue lines. Then I saw circles. Weird blue lines and circles can only mean trouble. My gut instinct was right, because I soon discovered that theme of the puzzle was ECONOMICS, AKA my mortal enemy. But I can set my personal biases aside, because otherwise it was a fun solve. 

It took me way too long to figure out what was going on in the circle-squares once I finished, but when I did, it was a total OMG moment. SUPPLY/DEMAND going in the right directions! Clever, clever. 

Weirdly enough, my current art history class on the Italian Renaissance helped me answer a few clues here, like ESAU (thanks Ghiberti!) and MARBLE. I smiled at SMAUG, my favorite literary dragon. The only reason I knew TISKET was from reading The Things They Carried in high school English class, but hey, whatever gets you there, right? 

Jacob and ESAU, Ghiberti

My instinct every time (twice) I see a “One-named Irish singer” clue (
ENYA), is always to enter HOZIER, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t spell HOZIER with only 4 letters. HOZR? Maybe one of these days it’ll work.

After a rapid fire stream of genius that had me AMPed up, I found myself FWOE. My process was as follows: 
- Noticed that MALI probably didn’t make sense for “Much-visited Indonesian isle,” seeing as Mali is in West Africa (geography isn’t my strong suit)
- Tried every letter of the alphabet in the intersection of “Big name in transmission repair” and “Classic Pontiac sports cars” (AAMC_ and GT_S). It’s always the car clues! This did not work.
- Realized I’d spelled ADIN “ADDI.” Yes, I play tennis. Yes, I thought the “I” might be a Roman numeral one. No, I was not correct. Yes, I am embarrassed.
- Returned to AAMCO and tried every letter of the alphabet once again.

It worked! And thank goodness, because I really didn’t want to have to admit to googling something on a Monday in my first guest blogging appearance. First impressions matter!

And in the end I finished sub-10 minutes. DANG!


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sunday, March 7, 2021, Celeste Watts and Jeff Chen


Hi everyone! Glad to be back for another week of blogging, after two excellent weeks from my esteemed co-bloggers, Horace and Frannie. I've also joined into the Boswords Spring Themeless league, and after two puzzles, I'm glad to have chosen to be in the "Choppy" group. Seems like the right degree of difficulty for the first time around.

Today's Sunday puzzle is a debut for Ms. Watts, in collaboration with longtime constructor and fellow blogger Mr. Chen (his site is linked on the sidebar at XWord Info), and it's a doozy. The theme is a thing of enjoyment and genius, in my opinion. We've often seen themes which use words that are homonyms for the plurals of individual letters. But today, we are given as clues, words with letters missing. The answer is then a phrase where the homonym for those missing letters are put with a synonym for removal and a synonym for the original clue word. Boy, that's a mouthful to explain! Let's do it with examples.

23A: ILLUS_RA_ORS is STRIPTEASEARTISTS, because they've stripped the Ts from the synonym for artists, illustrators.

EASEOFFTHEGASPEDAL explains ACC_L_RATOR, because the Es are gone.

I love how as we move through the puzzle, the complexity increases. After the third theme answer, the remaining four have two different letters removed. The toughest was 113A: _OTIC_ (WITHOUTANYWARNING), simply because figuring out the original clue word, "notice", was a challenge.


The grid is set up so that no down answer goes through more than two theme answers, which makes for a sort of flat looking puzzle, where all of the longest answers are in the acrosses, with the exception of two in the NE and SW corners respectively. There are also a ton of 3-letter down answers, which means a lot of ATT UTA RVS ENE STN, etc. 

But we also get the entirety of BEAARTHUR's name, as well as DEARSANTA, and SNEAKPEAK. Some fun clues include 60A: Post production? (CEREALS) and 37A: Some bad sentences (RUNONS). Also tricky was 48A: A as in Arles (UNE). Slightly blue was 14D: A chest often has a large one (HASP). Although if you have a large one, you typically have another large one as well.

Too soon?

Well, too bad. You've got me all week. Or maybe not! Tune in tomorrow to see.

- Colum 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Saturday, March 6, 2021, Sid Sivakumar

A challenging Saturday for this solver. Several clues led me down the garden path - as intended and expected, of course. Unfortch, most of the clues that stumped me were grouped in the middle block on the left edge. I know the word GLOMS, but didn't know that it is slang for "Steals" (25A). The curry dish kosha mangho is completely unfamiliar to me, so I didn't know GOAT was the/a main ingredient (25D). Additionally, I was duped for a long time by the clues "Curling target" (26D) - I was fixated on the sport rather than the hair growth (LASH) - and "Sticks in water" (28A) - I could think only of 'reeds' which doesn't even fit! Also, the fact that, due to the abbreviation in the clue "A.F.C. South squad" (38A), I tried to force some kind of shortening of Indianapolis into the three squares before COLTS didn't help matters. Eventually, I got the clever EMOJIS for "Faces of the internet" in the section below, which made it possible for me to figure out IMSUCHAJERK ("'So sorry, that was totally the wrong thing to say'" (23D)). Once that was in place, light dawned over marble head, so to speak, and I could finally see the correct answers. 


There was a SET of fun and trixy clues elsewhere in the grid that *didn't* stump me. I was entertained by "Keep off the court?" (DISBAR), "Busses near Paddington Station?" (SNOGS), and "Event whose organizers are concerned with brand recognition" (RODEO) - ha! My favorite was  "Leak proof?" (DRIP). I also enjoyed "Grate stuff" (ASH) and the interestingly clued "Bedizen" (ADORN).

I spotted a mini sci-fi theme including ALIENRACE and HUMANS, plus DATA and BRENT Spiner, and perhaps NERDS. As I reviewed the puzzle, I noticed what I thought seemed like an interesting pair of opposites but that might raise a BROW: TAGTEAMED in the northwest and OPERASOLO in the southeast. Finding ODD patterns is one of my HIDDENTALENTS. 😏


Friday, March 5, 2021

Friday, March 5, 2021, Sridhar Bhagavathula

No FWOEs today, thankfully - just a smooth solve with no ADES needed - the ANTIPODE of the past two days, if you will - and that, despite some unusual fill. You don't see FLAGELLA every day. I say that, but oddly, that was a word Horace and I missed in the Spelling Bee earlier this week. However, before *that* it had probably been years since the cilia things popped up. Also in this category are, I think, COLOSSUS and FAKEBOOK. The towering PERSEPHONE looks good in the southwest. Her partner in the northeast (ECONOMISTS), however, is less interesting, but I always enjoy a Shavian remark.

Another NOD to the unusual was the prevalence of K's and V's in the grid. We get the kicky OFFKEY and TAKERS, not to mention AKIRAKUROSAWA, and the vigorous trilogy VIDAL, VIPER, and VICES.


I also enjoyed the pair of "Pilots" clues whose answers cross each other in the southwest: STEERS and EPISODES, the former a straight up synonym and the latter exemplary.

"Plant that may yield oil" (REFINERY), "Work on a course" (EAT), and "Fathers warn against it (SIN) were C/APs that revealed some SLYNESS, but the QMC's today were more entertaining: "Trace element?" (STENCIL), "Spot on advice?" (PSA), and my favorite, "Make chips become bread?" (CASHIN). Ha!


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Thursday, March 4, 2021, Blake Slonecker

Was it just yesterday that I said I don't FWOE so much these days? I ask, dear readers, because I FWOED again today. I had the entire grid complete - rebii and all - except the first square of the second word of the revealer, which, unfortunately for me, crossed a Down I didn't know ("Georgia senator Ossoff"). I mentioned my predicament to Horace this morning. He said I should be able to figure out the name of the "classic sports video game" if I put my mind to it. So, I ran the alphabet, thinking the answer would jump out at me. Well, it might have, except that I kinda sorta skipped over I J and K, like you do, because they aren't worth the effort, until they are. So, I ended up in the incorrect 'rAM'/'rON'. The right answer is NBA JAM and JON Ossoff. I must admit, NBA JAM *is* a particularly apt hint to the rebus in today's puzzle for which one must jam the three letters N B A into one square - so apt, in fact, that I have to credit Horace's contention that I could have figured it out. Come to think of it, one might argue it's even more apt - or apt on another level - this being March, and all. Isn't there something called March Madness that relates to basketball? I kid, I kid, I know that's really Spring Training. Of the theme answers my favorite was SUSA[NBA]NTHONY, although CANADIA[NBA]CON isn't the wurst. 

The puzzle sported some additional athletics-related theme material including "Like games decided by buzzer beaters" (CLOSE), Org. for drivers (PGA) ; LAILA Ali, and "All-time single-season hits leader in M.L.B. history (262)" (ICHIRO). 

I also spotted a small sub-theme of various monies: Swiss bread" (FRANC), "Divisions of a krone" (ORE), "Not worth a ____" (SOU), and "Bread" (DINERO) - maybe because sports ball is so remunerative? 


Nice hidden capital with "All alternative (TIDE), along with some clever QMCs: "Still making cartoons?" (CEL), "Lower?" (COW), and "Bumper-to-bumper activity?" (PI[NBA]LL), and "Space oddity" (UFO). I enjoyed CUKE and POTSHOT as fill. Also, I can't wait to use my "Stamp collector?" (PASSPORT) again!


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Wednesday, March 3, 2021, Ann Shan

13:33, FWOE

I'm kicking it old school today by posting my time and FWOE'nouncement. Since I've stopped trying to race through puzzles when I do the review, I've FWOED a lot less often. I wonder if there's a lesson to be learned there? I'll have to think about that. Another reason I included my time was because I like the look of it, even though I don't like the size of it. Some of the ACREAGE was due to hunting the FWOE, which I spent a lot of time on, without success. In the end, I had to refer to the solution. Turns out "Lecture series focused on 'ideas worth spreading" is TEDX. I had TEDs, an answer that made me say to myself when I entered it, "we're calling those 'Teds' now, are we?" Well, I guess we aren't. I'm not really sure where the X comes in. Is it shorthand for the word Talks? If it is, that's kind of cool. If it's something else, I'm sure one of our dear readers will enlighten me. As you will have realized by now, I also didn't know the corresponding Down "British pharma giant, informally" (GLAXO). I don't even know what it's called formally. I STEERSCLEAR of big pharma whenever possible. 

And speaking of STEERSCLEAR, that's one of three theme answers related to "2021 in the Chinese zodiac" or YEAROFTHEOX. The other two are BULLMARKET ("Good time on Wall Street") and CATTLECALL ("Open audition, informally"), the latter as description is, as Auntie Mame would say, vivid. :) I am learning Chinese and I actually know the character for this year's zodiac animal group (牛) that refers more generally to cows, bulls, or neutered types from the bovine family. 欢呼!

Ox Cart
Chinese oxcart, 5th–6th centuries

I liked "Gossip fodder" (TEA), "Styled after" (ALA) and thought MAST for "Naval post" was ACUTE one. Both BASTE and its clue "Wallop" are fun. I also liked DESERT for "Hot spot.  FIRESIDECHAT is nice fill, as are ELOQUENT and ENIGMAS. I feel like I should have known REDSTONE ("Energy source in Minecraft") because my niece was such a big fan, but I needed a lot of crosses for that one. 

Remember MALLS?


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Tuesday, March 2, 2021, Ross Trudeau

The theme today takes five, two-word phrases, the last word of which means "choice," and clues for a non-standard interpretation of the first word. As in "Lager or I.P.A.?" for DRAFTCHOICE. Instead of young athletes being chosen, it's beer. SPLITDECISION isn't a draw, it's the difficult choice of "Hot fudge or caramel sauce?" on your banana split. I thought they were all good, and I doubt this was intentional, but I found that a word found in the row directly below each one could be incorporated into the theme too. For STOCKOPTION (Chicken broth or beef bouillon?) the answer could be ANY. I know, usually you'd want "either" if it were just two choices, but really - it's not even a thing, and wait 'til you hear the other ones! Like, say the server thought you made the wrong decision about the split topping, you'd say SOSUEME. And as for the beer choice, it's one you can't really BLOW. OK, I'll drop that idea. 

Or maybe it's in the line above that the answers can be found. For SHOTSELECTION (Jägermeister or Fireball?), the answer might be ILLPASS

No, really, I'll stop now. 

I TEHEEd at OFFPUT (Disconcerted). It's a funny word, and it reminded me of the crazy word order in Dutch, which I am trying to learn. The Dutch, like the Germans, I believe, have a tendency their verbs at the ends of sentences to put. MOOED (Participated in a stock exchange?) was also LOONY. And speaking of LOONY, do you think they considered cluing that with "____-Toons (onetime cartoon company)" to go along with "____-Barbera (onetime cartoon company)" (HANNA)? 

And what about reading the NE corner as a short story? A man walks up to the bar and calls to the bartender STOLI! He gets the bottle, lets out a YAHOO, and proceeds to DROWN his sorrows. The end.

I've read worse stories.

OK, that's probably enough out of me. Frannie had a very full day today so she handed in one of her chits, but she'll be back tomorrow to DECOCT further SETS of clues and answers. I'm just acting like the EMCEE and killing time ERE the talent is ready.

- Horace

Monday, March 1, 2021

Monday, March 1, 2021, Michael Lieberman

I'm in a good MOOD because I broke the six-minute barrier with today's puzzle. I think I might even have been able to go a little faster if I had been solving on a real key board instead of an iPad screen. 

It was easy to get right INUIT with "Unruly throng" (MOB) and "Sound heard in a long hallway, maybe" (ECHO). Even this sports-challenged solver was able to drop ASTROS in from the clue "Houston team." Other clues I enjoyed were "Happen next (ENSUE), the amusing "Rock band that electrifies audiences?" (ACDC) and "Words spoken after a big raise?" (IFOLD), and my favorite "Pants holder-upper" (BELT) - ha!

Such a speedy solve speaks, I think, to good, clear clues, but does not leave much to talk about in the way of sticking points. On the other hand, there is plenty to say about the theme - a NICEIDEA that features jumbo structures from three WORLDSFAIRS. I know a lot about the EIFFELTOWER, because it's a favorite and in a great location :), but less about the SPACENEEDLE, which I have been to, but not up in (heights aren't my bag), and even less about the no-longer-extant Chicago FERRISWHEEL. Who knew Ferris Wheel was an eponym? I learned that fascinating fact along with a number of other interesting scraps from its Wikipedia article. The accompanying photos of the giant wheel dwarfing its surroundings are pretty cool. A related structure that I've also visited is the replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, created for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, apparently, which is also a b'UTE


I am glad today's puzzle was on the easy side because tonight the Boswords Spring Themeless League tournament starts tonight, and if past experience is anything to go by, I'll need my little grey cells firing on all cylinders to solve the puzzle in a respectable amount of time. Let's hope I'm not reduced to BRUTEFORCE.