Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday, April 30, 2021, Kate Hawkins

Fox, Fox! 

You know how some people like to say "Rabbit, rabbit!" on the first day of the month? Well, I just noticed that it was the last day of the month, so I tried to think of a reciprocal chant. And what might chase a rabbit?

ESSIE as Phryne

So, you might have noticed that I sometimes use the review to say things about myself. Today I could have been thinking about the phrase "Rabbit, rabbit!" because I finished this puzzle in 10:13. Frannie and I have this thing about time where we translate the time into a date, and if it is significant in any way, we say it out loud. So when I saw my solve time, I might have said "Ten thirteen" out loud, which would make Frannie think of the date "October 13th," which is my sister's birthday, and my sister is a person who says "Rabbit, rabbit!" on the first day of the month.

And here's another little story about me. And this one actually relates to the first word in the puzzle, VASE (Mason jar, in a pinch). Frannie was spring cleaning yesterday, and she found an old salad dressing cruet with two caps next to it. You know, those Seven Seas ones? We use an empty Bon Maman jam jar nowadays to make salad dressing, but still, I knew that we used to have a second cruet, and my first instinct was to look for it on a shelf where we keep flower vases. It wasn't there, but a little while later I remembered that the cruet had been put into use as a flower vase to hold some confetti candy from Sulmona, Italy that was made into the shape of flowers, and it was upstairs in Frannie's room. Anyway, it's funny how the brain works sometimes.

I liked this puzzle a lot. The triple- and double-tens were all solid, there was humor - "Appropriate name for that woman's husband?" (HERMAN), interesting trivia - AUSTRALIAN (... "No wukkas") (What is with those AUSTRALIANs?), clever non-QMCs - "Top-flight destination" (ATTIC), good cultural references (NEMO, DIANAROSS, PIKACHU, ANDY, etc.), and just enough esoterica, like SCRIES (Uses a crystal ball). It was TRES clean, with very few NONOS.

A lovely Friday puzzle. Happy Weekend!

- Horace

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021, Adam Wagner

What a great week of crosswords. For the second day in a row I get to talk about poetry in my review! :) And it's not just a haiku, it's also a rebus, and as a BONUS, it's funny. Who could ask for more?


Mr. Wagner's poem starts out quite well with:



So far so good. Five syllables, then seven ... then he starts the last line but runs out of syllables and room: ONESYLLABLETOO[LONG]. Heh. And running vertically through the last word we have the related "Extend the duration of" (PRO[LONG]ED). Hah! Very nice.

PIEHOLE (Big stupid mouth), SAYST (Speak, as thou might), and HAIRBALL (Kitty litter?) all HUMORME, APPARENT (Seeming) and OBSCENE (Like an over-the-top display of wealth) are interesting, THROBS (Beats) and ROILED (Shook up) seemed to go together, as did WHISKS (Removes quickly, with "away") and TEAROFF (Remove quickly, as a Band-Aid). And how 'bout the paired "Yesssss!" (SWEET) and "Nooooo!" (DAMN). That was a nice touch.

The NW was where I finished today, and it took quite a bit of wrangling for me to finally figure it out! I had entered SPurTS instead of SPOUTS (What Yellowstone's Old Faithful does about 17 times a day), and then tried to make snOrT work instead of FLOUT (Scoff at), but the crosses, of course, did not work well. 

I very much enjoyed this one. It played tougher than normal for me, but that's just one more reason I enjoyed it. Great start to The Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wednesday, April 28, 2021, Hal Moore

You may not believe this, but my father recited the poem CASEYATTHEBAT (Poem subtitled "A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888") at our family Zoom two weeks ago. We have been having these Zooms weekly for over a year now. Usually we just JABBER, but sometimes one of us gives a short presentation, or we play a game of Jeopardy together (each creating clues for one category), or we have a show and tell, but usually those events are announced. This time, after about twenty minutes, Dad just said "I'm going to read a poem this week." We were all familiar with the poem, because one of my brothers had recited it in high school many (many) years ago, but this recent reading certainly seemed somewhat out of the blue. Maybe it was just after opening day or something (yes, that must have been it, (No SOPHIST, I!)), but still.

SURFER salute, the shaka sign

So anyway, seeing it again today seemed quite strange. But really, it's only the first four letters we're concerned with here. They begin together, then shift one at a time to the right-hand side of the thematic entries. An interesting idea, and well done, as all five entries (with the possible exception of the poem) should appear quite common to most solvers.

I was surprised by both the clue and the entry on ASS-backwards. I thought the expression was "back-asswards," which is funnier, but maybe that construction was only possible once ASS-backwards had been established. I don't know. This is one case where I'm not going to dig into the etymology. I've typed it enough already!

Somebody loves "Pagliacci," huh? I got TONIO ("Pagliacci" baritone) entirely from crosses, but I was so sure of ARIA (without ever having heard of "Vesti la giubba") that I overruled "room" and corrected it to AREA (Floor plan info). 

Anybody else notice that "robin" fits in where ARIES (Sign of spring) belongs? I did.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Tuesday, April 27, 2021, Jeff McDermott

"Yo, V.I.P., let's kick it!" 

Who doesn't love remembering ICEICEBABY? It was the first #1 hip hop song on the Billboard Hot 100, and it is sometimes listed among the top ten "One-Hit Wonder" songs of all time. But really, there have been a lot of those, and it kind of depends on your age. Since Mr. Van Winkle (aka Vanilla) was born within a year of me, his song is embedded somewhere deep in my coding. 

Can I use this for AWE? As in, I was in AWE of all the orange?
Happy Koningsdag!

What I did not know before today was A. His real name, and B. That ICEICEBABY was actually released as the B-Side to his cover of "Play That Funky Music," and a single disc jockey is credited with the decision to play side B, leading to its eventual popularity. How likely is that in today's music world?

Then there's the whole copyright infringement issue stemming from his sampling the bass line from "Under Pressure." He eventually settled with Queen and David Bowie, but shortly after that, lawyers for 2 Live Crew successfully argued that their parody of Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" was protected by law. The case, which reached the Supreme Court, helped establish the importance of transformative fair use in copyright cases. 

Fascinating, I know, but ice ice is only the beginning of what goes into the delicious mint JULEP. We've also got the BOURBONSTREET, the MINTCONDITION, and the SUGARDADDY. In past years, I would have been drinking one at a Derby party this coming Saturday, but alas, for the second year in a row, that's not going to happen. Just one more sad consequence of a global pandemic.

Those who attended the A.C.P.T. this year will remember CHI (Second letter before omega) from Patrick Berry's Puzzle Seven, where it was clued with the slightly more tricky "Antepenultimate letter." Here, antepenult is glossed for us, and we're even warmed up with "Letter before omega" (PSI). 

NABOB (Bigwig) is always fun, and ripe for a resurgence, and it's funny to think of HUCK Finn beside JUNO. What would they say to each other? And finally, RAINYDAY seems especially inappropriate in a puzzle centered on the JULEP. Instead, may the sun shine bright on your old home, wherever it is. And have fun watching the race on Saturday. CLIP CLOP!

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations, Mr. McDermott, on your debut. And happy birthday! You share it with the king of the Netherlands. :)


Monday, April 26, 2021

Monday, April 26, 2021, Eric and Lori Bornstein

Left-right symmetry gives a strange Stonehenge-style theme shape today. Maybe it's just different around here, but I don't think I've ever seen any of these three stores in a FOODCOURT. It's mostly generic sounding places I've never heard of like "Ruby Thai Kitchen," "Wayback Burgers," and "Gourmet India," ...  The establishments here were not chosen for realism, of course, but because they work in the figurative FOODCOURT of the clues. In a WHITECASTLE live a BURGERKING and a DAIRYQUEEN. Very nice, really. Simple. Concise. One could dream about a Jack-In-The-Box jester, or something, but really, this works just fine.

Apple TREE

1A: Document for foreign travel (VISA) is timely, as the E.U. announced yesterday that it would let vaccinated travelers visit again this summer. So no more will we MOPE about our unfulfilled URGE for Parisian ROLEPLAYS where we say "OUI, OUI" to another croissant, patisserie, or café. Heck, I'd even visit LIEGE. Oh wait, that's a little bonus fill, pronounced differently. Nevermind. No need to go to Belgium after all...

ANYHOO, let's talk for a minute about the nines and tens that surround the vertical theme answers. This kind of "same length" entry often causes a little confusion, which is maybe why they made the theme light up today while solving. At least it did for me as I solved on the NYTX website. That said, I liked all of the theme-length non-theme answers. JANEAUSTEN ("Pride and Prejudice" novelist) is lovely in her entirety, and ROLEPLAYS (Isn't oneself?) and ARTSTUDIO (Place to make a scene?) both get fun clues. In the East, did you happen to notice that "oval office" fits perfectly where ROSEGARDEN (Locale of many White House photo ops) belongs? I did.

Overall, this was a fine Monday puzzle. There's a little LAUDE, MSRP, BAA, ANGE, and ATA to overlook, but none of it elicited a YIPE

- Horace

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday, April 25, 2021, Jeremy Newton


Good morning, Puzzlers. Many of you might be here reading this while you wait for the action to start back up at the A.C.P.T. Colum, Frannie, and I are all "attending" this year, and so far it's been a pretty fun substitute. The breakout rooms did not work well at all for us last night (we got booted from Stella Zawitowski's room several times and eventually gave up), but we had fun in the global chat. I very much hope (and fully expect) that next year we will be back in Stamford. 

PHIL Hartman

But right now, let's focus on the Sunday NYTX. It's theme was given away by the note explaining that shaded squares were merged vertically in the print version. What this meant is that on a computer you had to write letters in twice, and once the puzzle was complete, the software would stretch them out into long, tall letters for you.

And why were they stretched? Because they are all abbreviations for muscles, and who couldn't use more muscle-stretching? No one, that's who. So let's call it a fine theme.

I thought the long ABSOFREAKINGLUTELY ("Oh, hell yes!") was fun and surprising, and I had never heard the term THIRSTTRAP (Racy selfie posted for likes on social media, in modern lingo), so that was good to learn. 

I enjoyed the QMCs "Were running mates?" (ELOPED), "Nice round number?" (PAR), and "Pen pa? (BOAR), and other fine C/AP included "It's 50/50" (ONE) (excellent) and "Do a waving motion by the ocean, say" (HULA). 

There were good Classical references - TROY (Ancient home to Priam's Treasure) and ARGO (Vessel protected by Hera), interesting trivia - COEDS (New students at Princeton or Yale in 1969) and POBOY (Sandwich supposedly named after low-income New Orleans workers), and classic tricks that still get me - "One of three characters in 'M*A*S*H'" (ASTERISK). When will I learn?!

Overall, I give it a hearty thumbs up. Now, back to the waiting. I'll see you all at 11:00am! :)

- Horace

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Review of Puzzle Five from the A.C.P.T. - by Horace

Hello Puzzling Friends! .... Puzzler Friends? Puzzle Partners? Puzzple? Pzuzzpzpzzz...

It's Horace here with a review of everyone's favorite punishment, Puzzle Five! But first, a pop quiz - How are Dr. Fill and I alike? Well, I'll tell you. We both failed to complete Puzzle Five error-free. I'd argue as well that neither of us fully understood the theme while we solved. And how are we different? Well, I at least understood part of the theme. When MANNEQUIN (Crazed) was forced into my grid through crosses, I recognized that "manneq" sounded like "manic," and there was a point during my solve, after I had gotten CENTAUR (Aroma) and ZEBU (Zorro's symbol), that I considered taking the time to figure out what the "in" "or" and "bu" parts were doing ... but then I thought "If I can just get a few more crosses on the right-hand side of the puzzle, maybe I won't need to figure it out."...

Another way that Dr. Fill and I are different is that it ended up making one error, apparently, and it finished the rest (correctly) quickly enough to score 2055 points on the puzzle. I ended up with 60 errors, finished two seconds over the time limit, and scored 620 points. So .... 

And yet another way we're different is that today is my 28th wedding anniversary, and right now I'm sitting in a rocking chair on my front porch, my wife is next to me, and we're enjoying a lovely Barolo while listening to Patrizio Buanne sing "Luna Mezzo Mare" through the magic of the Internets. What's ol' Dr. Fill doing now, huh? Sitting alone in its metal box!

But that sounds bitter, doesn't it? And really, I'm not. In fact, I'm one who actually roots for Dr. Fill. Am I really rooting for Matt Ginsberg? I don't know, but I've loved computer programs ever since I took a BASIC course at the college where my father taught while I was still in Junior High. We wrote programs that used punch cards. True fact. Things have come a long way since then, and if Mr. Ginsberg can someday make it so that Dr. Fill can finish any puzzle in less than a minute, well then don't we all win?

Honestly, I'm a little surprised Dr. Fill made a mistake on this one, because there were no non-words in the grid. But then, there were several misleading clues ...

So to sum up. Difficult. Several people, Colum and Frannie included, ended up finishing and/or understanding more of the theme than I did. So why am I the one writing the review? (and on my anniversary?!?) well, ... I don't really know. I guess that's just the kind of dedicated blogger I am ... But at least now it's over. See you tomorrow! We've been sitting at Table 2 if you want to stop by. 

- Horace

Interim Report from the ACPT, April 23, 2021

Hey all! Just finished puzzle four at the ACPT, created by the amazing Robyn Weintraub. It was a more straightforward offering from her, with a theme, as compared to her usual brilliant themelesses. My performance on it made up at least slightly for the disaster that was puzzle three, where I made three "unforced" errors. Ah, well. Easy come, easy go.

We've been having a lovely time talking with folks in one of the virtual rooms. Here's a shout out to Lizzie S. from Chicago and Phil Matthews from Toronto, Joan Van Zyl from Capetown, South Africa, as well as Robert Faucher and my daughter Cece, who braved the deeps to join in the tournament.

The whole system has worked well for me to this point, without glitches. Apparently some folks had difficulty accessing the first puzzle in time, but the folks in charge gave a make up opportunity. The standings reflect the usual suspects, with Eric Agard and David Plotkin in first place, with Paolo Pasco, Dan Feyer, Tyler Hinman, Will Nediger, and Jeff Davidson tied for third place.

We definitely all miss the in person camaraderie that takes place in Stamford. It's fun seeing familiar faces, meeting new people, and enjoying a drink in the bar after a day of strenuous puzzle solving. So tonight, we'll raise a virtual toast and recognize friends old and new.

Hope you're having a great day, and if you're participating in the ACPT, that you haven't made the foolish errors I did.

- Colum 

Saturday, April 24, 2021, Kristian House and Mike Dockins

Here's hoping that my performance on this Saturday themeless is indicative of my chances in the Tournament that officially starts in about 90 minutes.

This puzzle flew by for me. It helped that MASERATI was in yesterday's puzzle, because it jumped to mind when I saw 3D. Because IRK worked for 21A: Bug and E seemed like a good letter at the end of a compass direction, I dropped it in. Then PITIES suggested itself and SPA confirmed, and we were off.

I just now understood why 22D: Stocking stuffer was KRISKRINGLE. I convinced myself that it was a special kind of candy or something. Nope. Just Santa Claus. Stuffing the stocking. I did not, however, fall for 39A: Sticky food? (KABOB). That is, food on a stick. It's like that old favorite, "What's brown and sticky? A stick."

Very nice is 50D: Hardly a man without morals (AESOP). This is the sort of non-QMC that tickles me. On the other side, 63A: Made a bee line for? (SPELLED) is great silliness. 

The puzzle wended counter-clockwise for me, with very little standing in the way when I had the ends of most words coming back up. 9D: Some boos (LADYFRIENDS) is cute, and also reminds me of the show Fleabag, as Boo was the name of her friend. I did not know that HARRYSTYLES got his start on The X Factor, prior to joining One Direction, and then going off on his own. He was also very good in the movie Dunkirk.

A pair of clever sports clues showed up in the NW, with 5D: Jazz hangout? (UTAH) and 13A: Rockies you won't find in Colorado? (AWAYTEAM). 

It's a very smooth and nicely constructed puzzle, and so ends my week of blogging. Good luck to those participating in the ACPT! Here's hoping puzzle 5 doesn't knock you for a spin.

- Colum

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday, April 23, 2021, Robyn Weintraub

Happy World Book Day!

Okay, I'm stretching this thing out maybe a bit too far. I had to do some deep digging to come up with that one. Instead, let's celebrate a fine themeless from the respected master, Ms. Weintraub. I solved today with Hope in our new fashion, with her typing in, and me selecting where to go to next.

We had a hard time breaking in, even with getting 1A: Give some badly needed help? (ABETS). In part, it's because I spelled AERIE eyRIE. We actually got a meaningful foothold in the NE corner. I do like a LIMEWEDGE, although I've never had a Moscow Mule. And I should have known ALBERT was George VI's real name. But I was stuck on "Dickie," which is what they all called the abdicated Edward VIII on The Crown.

16D: Query that might follow some grumbling (WHATSFORDINNER) is my idea of a lovely C/AP. No question mark needed here. Crossing it is 27A: Ones best in show? (FRONTROWSEATS), which I don't like nearly as much. First off, I don't agree that it's best to sit in the front row. The angle alone can cause severe neck discomfort. Second, apparently you can get spit upon, especially if you're watching Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol.

A better QMC comes at 60A: Decline in military activity? (NOSIR). I also really liked 26D: She sounds just like you! (EWE). That's silliness at its finest.

Some call me... TIM?

Some nice trivia in the OTTER holding its breath for eight minutes. 

Well, enough of my musings. It's (virtual) ACPT weekend. There'll be a lot of crosswording being done in the next two days. Our usual report from Stamford will have to be adjusted.

- Colum

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thursday, April 22, 2021, Jem Burch

Happy Earth Day!

Huzzah for our planet. Let's do more to make sure we can pass it on to the next generation and the generations beyond that one. But before you do, take the time to read my blog review of today's non-Earth Day related puzzle! And congratulations to Mr. Burch for his debut today. And it's a beaut!

I figured out the rebus pretty early on, not in the northwest corner, but in the central north section. 7D: Who has finished a 100-meter dash in under nine seconds (N[OO]NE) had two possible answers: Usain Bolt and nobody else. I put in NoNE, thinking that seemed weird. And then 15A: Ruckuses (H[OO]HAS) looked very odd as HoHAS. And so it clicked. 

Shortly thereafter, I realized that 17A had to be SEANCONNERY, and I knew what was going on. There were going to be seven squares with OO in them, for "double-O 7," James Bond's assigned number from MI-6. This helped immensely, because I was able to put DANIELCRAIG and PIERCEBROSNAN in without much thought.

Turns out there are, as predicted, seven rebus squares, but when I finished the puzzle, an animation kicked in to helpfully demonstrate that the squares were set out in the shape of a seven. Very nice!

For the record, I would rate the actors who played James Bond in the following way:

  1. Sean Connery. Iconic. Brutal. Problematic nowadays, in the way he treats women, but it was of its time.
  2. Daniel Craig. Brutal, brooding. A little humorless at times, but super stylish.
  3. Roger Moore. Swerving into the campy here, but a great run. 
  4. George Lazenby. One movie? He's pretty good in it though.
  5. David Niven. Also one movie, and it's a spoof, but he more than anyone, actually embodied what the role was meant to be, I think.
  6. Timothy Dalton. Meh.
  7. Pierce Brosnan. Double meh.

Meanwhile, in the puzzle, I thought 38D: Flustered (INATIZZY) was the best answer of the day. And how about the fact that SHEBA in the bible is referring to Yemen? I had no idea. I always pictured it being in Northern Africa, like Algeria or some such.

Some fun clues: 5D: It quits when it gets depressed (ESC). Very cute. In a similar key (see what I did there?), 58D: Key to advancing one's writing? (TAB). 

And for the win, 64A: Unexpected declaration at the altar (IDONT). Mic drop.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Brandon Koppy

Happy Star Wars Day!

Oh, wait, that's not until May 4th ("May the fourth be with you..."). Two weeks early, we get this Wednesday offering, paying tribute to the classic pair of droids, and dropping some numerals into the grid. I feel sure we've seen both R2D2 and C3PO in puzzles before this, but maybe not in the same one?

In any case, their names are used as short hand for a pair of longer answers where the letters follow the patterns suggested by the names. Thus, RYANREYNOLDS and DONDELILLO have the requisite pair of Rs and Ds. Meanwhile, COCOCHANEL and PATTONOSWALT make up the 3Cs and PO. 

It's a cute idea well carried out by Mr. Koppy, still allowing room for ANNAWINTOUR and MATINGDANCE, two very nice long down answers. I also liked 58A: "Nice wheels!" (SWEETRIDE) and TALLYHO.

ANI DiFranco continues to get recognized in the NYT crossword puzzle. And why not? With over 20 records, and a new one just out, she remains a force in the alt rock/indy world. Her memoir came out in 2019, and I remember hearing her interviewed on NPR. She lives up to the name of her label, Righteous Babe.

And also, there aren't many good ways to clue ANI.

That's using YER NOODLE!

There was a minitheme with HECATE and WICCA, in a sense. Maybe GOAT fits in as well? Has anyone seen The Witch? I understand a black goat played a large part in that movie.

Finally, not a lot of surprising clues. The only one I found that pushed the envelope a little was 26D: Spoon, say (NESTLE). 

- Colum

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Adam Wagner

Happy Marijuana Day! I see from the Interwebz that April 20th became known for smoking weed because 4:20 in the afternoon is a fine time for toking up, apparently. I wouldn't know, and apparently neither does the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Still, today's puzzle is apt, as we like to say, for a couple of reasons. First, as an echo of yesterday's puzzle, with BOBBARKER, but even more so for the Amory-Perlman household, where we have a couple of barkers living with us. I did not figure out the theme before entering DOG at 63D. I like to think of our pooches as ELITEYELPERs, to be honest.

Is ODORS bonus theme material?

Too soon?

For our old-timey week hidden theme, we get PAAR (not to be confused with its next door neighbor, PAR). And AARP, I guess, but that's about it. I just realized that the last is an anagram of the first.

Meanwhile, I liked 16A: Actress Kathryn of "WandaVision" (HAHN). She's a very funny person, and her role in the Marvel Disney show was the best part of it, in my opinion. Also on the plus side of things was OYVEY. It's always worthwhile to drop an oy vey into your convo.

In other news, I entered OTRoS, and crossed it with lol at 35A: "Funny!" (HAH). It wasn't hard to correct ("I leard" is hardly common parlance), but I wondered if it was a deliberate trap. Or just one I created for myself.

- Colum

Monday, April 19, 2021

Monday, April 19, 2021, Andrea Carla Michaels

What a lovely weekend we had. The weather was fine, but better than that, we had two evenings of dinners with friends where everyone was fully vaccinated, so no need for masks or social distancing. It almost felt normal! 

And speaking of normal, how about an old-school Monday puzzle? Certainly the theme got us off to the right start, with three examples of that old standby, the CLASSICGAMESHOW. I think of THEPRICEISRIGHT as a relic of my 70s childhood, but in fact it ran from 1956-1965 originally. Bob Barker was the host from when I watched, but more recently it's been Drew Carey. The other two shows, TOTELLTHETRUTH and YOUBETYOURLIFE I'm less familiar with. Although I do remember that Groucho Marx hosted the latter.

I had a good sense what was going on after answering 20A, and in fact entered all three of the others off of little information, which made for a very quick solve, although I did not beat my fastest time by 16 seconds.

From being ONTOE, she LEAPT

Meanwhile, the rest of the puzzle has an old-timey feel to it as well, and I don't just mean 14A: Old-fashioned fight club? (MACE). Coming across such hoary crosswordese as EFT and ATEST, HOPI and EBAN, JAI and CTS, and even good old friend ASTA is kind of a shocker on a Monday. But at the same time, they feel very comfortable to this longtime solver. Probably I'll have to come down on the side of there being too much overall.

I liked the pair of 48A and 49A, the two lands on either side of the Yellow Sea (JAPAN and CHINA). It's too bad they couldn't have been to the east and west appropriately within the puzzle as well. 

Finally, a nod to PALAU, one of the fourteen countries of the continent Oceania. I've had to learn these well in order to complete the Sporcle quiz, Countries of the World.

- Colum

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sunday, April 18, 2021, Johan Vass


Hey, everybody! Or should that be "hay," everybody? 

I'm back for another week of hopefully scintillating commentary on the NYT crossword puzzle. Props as always to my co-bloggers for their fine work. 

Warm weather has come back to the northeast, which comes as a welcome change, especially for those of us who have two puppies in the house. Better to play outside than inside, let me tell you. And one of the classic rites of Spring is the annual dismay when looking at the lawn, which turns to mild hope as the grass turns green once again, only to revert to dismay when one realizes just how much moss is making up the green.

But enough about my lawn. Let's talk about the crossword!

Today, the theme is revealed at 103A: Item hidden somewhere in this puzzle (where is it?) (NEEDLEINAHAYSTACK). Well, despite the multiple attempts to convince us that it will be hard to find, the shaded squares and the unshaded across answer in the middle of it make it quite easy to discover. An argument against the shaded squares, again, although to be fair, I might not have figured it out without them.

I love that the word "needle" is hidden in NEEDLESSTOSAY, where the hard L has to turn into a softer L to make the hidden word. I am also impressed by the actual HAYstack, where so many down answers relied on combinations of H, A, and Y. YAHEARME? Also fun to have MISSIONIMPOSSIBLE, ITSALOSTCAUSE, and the clever GRASPING/ATSTRAWS along the sides.

JAKE and Elwood

I can see that the theme necessitated the extremely odd grid shape. Look at those cups of black squares in the north and south! Despite that, the solve flowed pretty well. And I had a lot of fun with the tricky clues, which started at 1A: Not express, in a way (LOCAL), referring to trains. 6A: Second person in the Bible (THOU - not Eve) followed. 

There are a ton more, like 16D: Subway fare (FOOTLONGS - nice hidden capital), 35A: Foreign correspondent, maybe (PENPAL). I enjoyed the consonantless OUI and the vowelless MMHMM. And how about ADAMWEST crossing POW

I give it a thumbs up overall.

- Colum

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Saturday, April 17, 2021, Leslie Rogers

Another close shave with FWOEhood today. At 27A I started with BeAR ("Male hedgehog") because I didn't know any better, but fortunately, I consulted the relevant Down ("Lead-in to 'land' in a hit 2020 film") and NOMAD made more sense than NeMAD in that situation. I missed the hit film itself, maybe because I spent too much time at home last year. :) And speaking of hedgehogs, why can't they just share the hedge? I love that joke. And, speaking of FWOEs, there was a time burned into my psyche of FWOEing over HODA Kotb's name because I'd never seen it before and I couldn't wrap my mind around its particular arrangement of letters. Today, I dropped it in like an ACE

A number of C/APs in the puzzle seemed timely. In particular, I thought 38A: "Zoom participants?" had an added level of trickiness due to the times we're in right now. I don't know about others, but my first thought was definitely in the 'online video conference' frame of reference, but the answer was the more entertaining DRAGRACERS. Also, perhaps due to the time of year, FORM 1040 came quickly to mind as did TAXBRACKETS. As it happens, FROZENSOLID was a timely description of me all day yesterday. A surprise snow storm whirled up and draped the yard in white and me in sweaters. 


I enjoyed the new-to-me Socrates quote describing FAME as "The perfume of heroic deeds." SCENTsational. I hadn't heard of the TOWEROFHANOI but the bit I read about it on the Wikipedia was interesting. Unfortunately, the article has an animation of the correct moves right at the top of the page, so I saw the solution before I even had a chance to think about it. It was OVA before it began. 

I thought "A word with thou" (ART) and "Head across the pond" (LOO) were fun - toilet jokes never get old. I always enjoy a mention of NOAM Chomsky. FLINCHES, LEEWAY, and FOODCOMA are fun fill.

There were a few C/APs though, that I didn't strike me as INSOLE mates, if you see what I mean - cases where the clue bore less affinity to the answer than suited this solver. Examples include "Designs" (CRAFTS), "Prompt" (ONTIME), "Clear sky" (ETHER), and "Wrongdoing" (HARM), and one more that not only didn't work for me, but vexed me slightly: "Risky thing to do close to flight time" (PACK). First of all, who would even do that? And second of all, why is it risky, exactly? Because you might forget your toothbrush? I suppose one might miss one's flight which could be a somewhat serious consequence, but, leaving packing to the last minute seems more like a bad idea than a risk. Once again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with these match ups, just that they didn't sing to this solver. NOMAD.  


Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday, April 16, 2021, Tom Pepper

For some reason, the set of topics in today's puzzle reminded me of the old Trivial Pursuit (TM) categories. Remember those? As in former times when playing the game, I did pretty well in Science & Nature and Literature. And, true to form I had no trouble with PSEC and LACTIC, or "Backdrop of many John Le Carré novels" (COLDWAR). Things were always a little more hit or miss for me in Entertainment and History. Entertainment was more on the hit side today. I knew both Johnny OLSON and KATHIELEE. History-wise, however, I did not know that TAFT was the last U.S. president to have facial hair or where he was born, but now I do! As our faithful readers know, Sports has never been my strong suit, but I do have a certain level of expertise when it comes to Leisure. :) For example, I got HOPSCOTCH right off the bat ("Game on an erasable court), but needed every cross for TERPS ("They joined the Big Ten in '14). My worst category - or pie hole, if you will - was and ever will be, I fear, Geography, with the result that I needed all the crosses "Seaport whose name derives from the Arabic for 'obstacle'" (AQABA) and "Former name of Kazakhstan's capital" (ASTANA). I'm INAWE of people who can name the countries, capitals, and contours of the world. 


Of course, unlike TP (TM), the very nature of the crossword puzzle structure helps you figure out answers even if you don't actually know them. I must have said, "Yellow-striped ball"? in my head two or three times, mentally reviewing all the sports balls I could think of, but coming up empty. However, once I got the two N's one from SNIPEHUNT and the other from PRONG, I realized we were looking for a different kind of sports ball - if pool is even considered a sport. Maybe it's a leisure activity? There were quite a few beautifully ambiguous clues today for which the crossing answers certainly helped, including "File types" (RASPS),  "Tabasco, for one" (STATE), "Fleet" (RAPID), "Sweeping, say" (CHORE), and "Fast time" (RAMADAN).

One element TP (TM) lacked completely - at least in my memory - was a sense of humor. I don't remember questions that made you laugh. That's not the case with this puzzle, which had a number of entertaining C/AP's including "Something one can't stand to do" (SIT) and "Good name for a landscaper?" (MOE). I also enjoyed the clue "Start working, perhaps" (PUNCHIN). 

So, while I wouldn't say today's puzzle was easy as pie, thanks to my being WIZEN the ways of puzzle solving, I was able to ACTS relatively fast. 


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Thursday, April 15, 2021, Brendan Emmett Quigley and Ben Zimmer

When I saw Mr. Quigley's name on this puzzle, I confess to feeling a little worry creep over me. And, 15 minutes later, as I stared at the remaining two blanks in the top right, I got a FWOE-y feeling in the pit of my stomach. But, suddenly, somehow, I figured out the excellent clue "King-like, in a way." I was thinking along the lines of "majestic" but it turned out to be MACABRE - ha! All was right again with the world. With the B of MACABRE was in place, I realized I did know "Streisand role in 'Funny Girl'", (BRICE), but I knew it just a little too late. :)

Today, we have an interesting phonetic theme - the key sound in each answer is also a letter of the alphabet. This twist makes me prefer the answers without an actual c in them like PRESEASON and NOSEEUMS (an entertaining answer on its own), but the best one has to be TAXICAB - even though it has the letter C in it, the phonetic C sound comes from the XI. Lovely. 


Other clues of note: "Turn into a cliché" (OVERUSE) and "It's a start" (INTRO) - apt! I also love the word POSIT. SIROCCO is nice, too. UNAGI is KOFCAesque for this solver. I had to look up GORDO, which is a funny word because it seems to sound like what it means.  

I'm don't love a "quote" clue, like "Yep, took care of it!" at 1A (SUREDID) mainly because they are rarely entertaining, but also because I hardly ever think the two phrases are equivalent. That being said, I thought that far from rating a MIDDLEC, the rest of the C/AP's today were well above average. 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Nathan Hasegawa

Although far from an insomniac myself, I am up early today. Had I had looked at the puzzle before getting out of bed, I might have tried taking its theme, COUNT SHEEP, to heart for a little extra shuteye. I didn't think about the theme as I solved the puzzle - I sheepishly admit that I didn't even notice the abundance of W's - but when I finished the puzzle, I went back to hunt down the 12 sheep referred to in the revealer clue and they jumped right out at me. I found six EWEs penned up in answers like SEWER, the evocative BONEWEARY, and the unsettling RENEWER - an answer I shied away from at until I understood it was necessary for the theme. As a librarian, I enjoyed the reference to the DEWEY Decimal System, but I occasionally lament its status in the world: if you tell someone you're a librarian, chances are you're going to hear about it - hazard of the profession, I guess. :) In addition to the EWEs, there are four RAMS - two side by side in TRAMPOLINE and RAMPART - two LAMBs, and a Dolores - though that of course was never published


The clue "Trims" for ADORNS had that cl'ambiguity I enjoy, as did "Send" for ELATE, although that one I actually guessed immediately because it is relatively common in puzzles. The clue "One followed by nothing?" for TEN has a nice twist. The silliness of "Hues that rhyme with 'hues'" (ECRUS) made me laugh. I was also amused by "Byes" - I guess that's one way to get TATAS into a puzzle in today's world. :) Fill-wise, I enjoyed ONAWHIM, AWRY, and FLAMBOYANT.

Besides RENEWER mentioned above, the only other answer that made me say eeuw was HALT where I expected the more familiar "Hark" as a precedent to "Who goes there?" Fortunately, the across clue "Director Kazan" (ELIA) got me over that hurdle. Other than that, the solve was shear entertainment. 


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tuesday, April 13, 2021, Michael Lieberman

I had trouble getting my schist together today, so I'm posting this review later than I wanted to, leaving me feeling a certain degree of kinship with today's theme. How, you ask, is this review like today's puzzle theme? It's off to a ROCKYSTART, that's how. Give the same treatment to the four theme answers and you'll find some common phrases crop up, from a flavor of ice cream (ROCKY) ROADRUNNER to an icon of film (ROCKY) BALBOAPARK - not to mention the inclusion of an interesting bit of history in the clue for (ROCKY) MOUNTAINDEW. Who knew beverage brands had mascots? 


I had very little trouble with the solve today, which I chalk up to experience. My time was faster today than yesterday's, although, "Eating surface on an airplane" turned out to be surprisingly tuff one for this solver - I guess it's been too long since I've been on a plane. I thought PAPERJAM and WAKANDAN were fun fill. The clue "Communication during peak times?" (YODEL) was a real gneiss one. 

Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be less sedimentary and start with a clean slate. 


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021, Aimee Lucido and Ella Dershowitz

The circled letters in today's theme answers contain baseball team names within longer theme answers, representing, in a manner of speaking, the sports metaphor INSIDEBASEBALL. Because the first complete theme answer refers to circular objects (BREAKF[ASTRO]LLS) and the second one to a typically circular item STR[ANGEL]OOP, I thought maybe there was a circle within a circle of meaning, but my theory struck out with the THEWES[TWIN]G.

Although there was not much ELSA related to baseball in the puzzle, the Rangers of other topic areas was wide, from social media (HASHTAG) to social ILLS, from the ISLE of Skye to the South China SEA, from Spanish (OCHO) to Yiddish (DREIDEL), and ARTS from screen (FILM) and page (AHAB),and personalities from MAO to ROWE. You could say we got the Royals treatment. 


I didn't hit many Rockies spots although I did have to wait for some downs before entering AWGEE ("Shucks!") and ADIA ("1998 Sarah McLachlan hit"). I enjoyed the QMC's including "Figure in home economics?" (RENT), "Good thing to have on hand at a wedding?" (RING), and "Purr-son who loves her pets" (CATLADY). Of course, the latter brought to mind Dr. Eleanor Abernathy, especially with LISA Simpson showing up nearby. AGUE, LYNX, and CABAL were fun Phillies. 

If you've Reds this far, you know you're in for another week of Rays reviews. :)


Sunday, April 11, 2021, Dick Shlakman and Will Nediger


The mashup theme today combines words inspired by two companies into recognizable entries. The first word is a specific product name, the second is a word that is simply associated with the brand. The "result of a merger between Quaker Oats and Greyhound," for example, is LIFECOACHES. Life cereal being, apparently, a Quaker Oats product, and coaches being another word for buses. DRIVENUTS (Google and Planters) uses a Google brand name and a thing sold by Planters. SINGLESBARS (Kraft and Hershey's) gets even looser, with "bars" representing chocolate. It's fine. I mean, I wasn't bothered by it while solving, but as I review it, it seems a little thin. 


Outside the theme, this had quite a few nice answers. TURMOIL (Mayhem), MIGRANT (Bird like the Canada goose or arctic tern), SCEPTERS, ... HOTELIER (Member of the inn crowd?) was fun, and I loved the SW corner with BARESALL, ANIMATION, GETINHERE, and SWELTERED.

There were some names I didn't know: JABOUKIE Young-White, CELESTE Ng, GUIDO Cavalcanti, NED Washington, BLAIR Waldorf, James ABRAM Garfield, and AQUILA (Eagle constellation), for example. And speaking of names, I was amused by the clue "Man's name that spells a fruit backward" (EMIL). And in a similar vein - how 'bout "Word that, when spelled backward, becomes its own synonym" (PAT). Heh.

You've got to go pretty deep into the definition of BENT to get to something like "Natural talent," but if it can be defended at all, it's fair game, right?

I'm not going to PAN it, but it didn't exactly thrill me. Let's end with a fun C/AP - "Where heroes are made" (DELI). That's a good one. :)

- Horace

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Saturday, April 10, 2021, Evans Clinchy

I like the look of the grid today. It's nice and open, with stacked spanners on the top and bottom, and a pleasing diagonality. 

The top went fairly quickly, largely thanks to ESQ (Abbr. on a law firm's letterhead). Before that, I had put in buckLE for "Prepare to ride, with 'up'" (SADDLE), and maxim for "'Opposites attract,' for one" (ADAGE), but the Q gave me (something)ACQUAINTANCE, and soon the earlier mistakes were corrected. 

"Cellular data plan?" was a cute clue for DNA, it was interesting to learn that "Vegetable whose name is Japanese for 'big root'" referred to DAIKON (Apt!), and LICORICE (What fennel tastes like) was a surprisingly long Saturday gimme.

In the center things got more tricky for me. ETUDES (Chopin composed three collections of them) was easy for one who grew up hearing his father play many of them on the upright in the living room, but (and perhaps this is related, in a way, to having listened to Chopin ETUDES being played at home as a child) I never saw "Dumb and Dumber," so ASPEN took a lot of crosses. Also, the Oslo Accords were a long time ago, so RABIN took both crosses and memory digging.

So anyway, I finally got down to the bottom - oh wait, before I leave the middle, I just want to say that "It worked with a prompt" was a brilliant clue for MSDOS. Took me forever to get it, but I loved it when I did. Nice one.

I ended up in the SE, where the CLOGS clue had me going straight to Google to see the actual definition of the footwear. The second definition in Merriam-Webster is "a shoe, sandal, or overshoe having a thick typically wooden sole." So, ok, it's technically correct, but before today I would not have included sandals into my image library for "clog" (and neither does Google). But, as we all know, it's Saturday, and I guess if I didn't learn something on Saturday it would be a little disappointing, right?

In the end, this was a solid puzzle. The 15s were all fine, and there wasn't anything really, to complain about. DECOCT (Boil down) isn't heard much, and "Metà di sei" for TRE is straight-up Italian, but again, it's Saturday, and that's the kind of thing we are all looking for, expect, and, quite frankly, would be a little disappointed without.

- Horace

Friday, April 9, 2021

Friday, April 9, 2021, Jamey Smith

I thought PFFT ([scoff]) was a funny start today. I didn't get it without crosses, but when it did come in, I chuckled at the self-deprecating beginning, because the puzzle was definitely not a dud. It was filled with snappy, in-the-language phrases, like the good, grid-spanning TAKETHEHIGHROAD (Be above pettiness) and POLARBEARPLUNGE (Quick swim in freezing cold water). My oldest brother has done such things (the second, I mean. We all try to do the first.), and a co-worker took a wintertime dip in the Atlantic dressed in a narwhal suit earlier this year, but me, I like to wait until the summer to go into the ocean water.


WHATABOUTBOB (Hit 1991 film starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss) was a blast from the past, but PHONETAG (What happens when two people miss each other a lot), SPECIALSAUCE, and ONTHEREBOUND, are still current, right? FAKEMEATS are positively so (their time has come), and LOLCATS are timeless. :)

I had forgotten about the WALTONS (The world's wealthiest family) (I guess those re-runs bring in a lot! HEH), and STANDBYS (Last bunch to board, typically) took me way too long! I don't really think of "Ballyhoo" as a verb (HYPEUP), but, well, it worked out.

Favorite clue? Probably "Performer with a single fan?" for GEISHA. Favorite entry? NUTSO.

- Horace

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Thursday, April 8, 2021, Jake Halperin

Hoo-buoy! Everybody loves a pun, right? Wharf's that you say? Fishing for laughs with a pun will land you in hot water? Don't be Scylla, a good pun will always tickle the ol' Charybdis. 


So anyway, today we find four nautical puns cleat-hitched to four different water stations - pier, dock, moor (ok, more of a verb than a noun. Well, it is also a noun, but that's not relevant here), and quay. And each is used as a homophone (sort of) in another common word or phrase.

APIERONTHESCENE (Weary boater's welcome sight?) (appear on the scene)

WHATSUPDOCK (Cry on arriving for a boating trip?) (What's up, Doc?)

FOREVERMOOR (Completely retire from boating?) (forevermore)

QUAYDEMOGRAPHIC (Boaters, collectively?) (key demographic)

The last one didn't work well for me, because I pronounce quay "kay," as if it were the French word quai. I save the key pronunciation for the small island, or the small thing that fits in a lock.

My favorite of the themers is FOREVERMOOR. The clue is the funniest - and - it reminds me of The Raven. In all, I wouldn't say I ADORED it, but the theme did make me chuckle, so that's good.

In other news, it's nice to see TOM right in the center of the grid. :)  And there's a little bonus material in ASEA (Deployed, as a sailor), TUGS (Barge haulers), CAPN (Boss of a bo's'n), and AQUA (Watery shade). There were some nice pairings, like "A pup is a young one" (OTTER/DOG), and CHILDACTOR and ATTEN (When Tatum O'Neal won her Oscar). But some of the clues just seemed a little off - like "Exact" for WREAK, "Look upon with disgust" for ABHOR, and "Beginning of the Constitution: Abbr." (ARTI). I kept trying to think of a four-letter abbreviation for "preamble." 

From the crow's nest it's easy to see the dunnage, but I'll stick my land lubber gooseneck out and say that while I maybe didn't quite luff it, I thought it was a solid launch into The Turn. Here's hoping for smooth sailing from here on.

- Horace

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Adrian Johnson

Back when I was frequenting video arcades, Donkey Kong was not one of my "go to" games. I liked Asteroids, Berserk, and the occasional Qbert or Space Invaders thrown in for good measure. Sometimes I'd play a game just because it was open. Jeez, that seems like a lifetime ago. Anyway, even with actual arcade experience, this theme did nothing for me. Was Bowser the ape that threw the barrels? That's the only one of the four that I have any vague notion of. You might expect me to say TEACHME, but I just don't care enough these days about video games. Sorry.


So let's look elsewhere. I enjoyed the POET/POE pairing, and it was nice to see LOUREED spelled out in full. JINGOISM, while not really a great activity, is an interesting word to find in the grid. 

I'm not familiar with the SEAGRAPE (Native Caribbean plant whose fruit grows in clusters), and although I've heard of the ROOIBOS (South African plant whose leaves are used for a popular herbal tea), I cannot picture it growing. 

"Looks down" seemed a bit oblique for MOPES, but I guess it kind of works. On the other hand, "What makes God good" (ANO) was a fun one. 

TETRIS (Game where everything falls into place) could, I guess, be bonus fill. I played that game a lot when it first came out. But that was at home, not in an arcade. 

Overall, I don't have a lot to say about this one, and if I learned anything from Kurt Vonnegut, it was to not write if you had nothing to say. But I will, before I go, congratulate Mr. Johnson on his NYTX debut. I'm sure this puzzle will delight a lot of people, many younger and hipper than me, and there's nothing wrong with that.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Tuesday, April 6, 2021, Amanda Chung and Karl Ni

This theme made me smile. Old-fashioned phrases HEAVENSTOBETSY, GEEZLOUISE and GOODGOLLY MISSMOLLY are clued with the more modern "Omigosh, girl!," "Dang, girl!," and "Wow, girl!" Pretty fun, if you ask me, but I'm not the only one - even the puzzle is smiling through its black squares. 

Short for "Fragmentation hand grenade." Who knew?

The old/new vibe was evident in the fill, too, with MAHLER and IGOR Stravinsky going head to head with Demi LOVATO and TAYLOR Swift, but for the most part, the modern lingo won out. Witness DEETS (Specifics, in slang), TOTES ("Uh, yeah!"), BFFS (Inseparable buds), and POSSE (Crew) (is this still considered modern?). Well... FSTOP is decidedly passé now... but BARCAR (Place for meals on wheels) is timeless, right? What I wouldn't give to be nursing a drink on the Thalys running between Paris Nord and Utrecht Centraal... sigh. Stupid covid.

The puzzle has left-right symmetry and is extra tall - 14x16, and it has that smiley face. How can you not like it?! Of the longer (7- and 10-letter) Down answers, NETCORD (Place for a sensor in tennis) is the weakest. BLESSES (Says a prayer over) is slightly better, REDSPOT (Jupiter has a "great" one) and ROBOTIC (Herky-jerky, as movements) are both good, ESTATESALE (Event for antique lovers) is fine, and SCAPEGOATS (They're not really to blame) gets the best clue of the bunch. Which isn't really saying much, but then, it's only Tuesday. And speaking of clues, and Tuesday, how'd you like "One who takes a bow before success rather than after?" (EROS). That's "bow" as in "bow and arrow," not "take a bow." And what about "It's just an act" for LAW. That's a good one. And it kind of goes with "Defense org.?" (ABA).

The one clue I didn't particularly love was "Gently sting, as with cold" for NIPAT. It just didn't seem right to me, and the "as with cold" only made it more confusing. I suppose it could be supported by "Jack Frost nipping at your nose," but I still don't think it works as it is. What'd you think?

Overall, though, I enjoyed this one, and it's always nice to start the day with a smile.

- Horace

Monday, April 5, 2021

Monday, April 5, 2021, Zhouqin Burnikel

I really like the way this theme looks when it is highlighted in color on my screen. The eight, nine, and ten letter entries appear all over the place, in both directions, some intersecting, some not. And the revealer, TAKETHAT, served double-duty, for me anyway, as I could almost hear Ms. Burnikel's satisfaction in having served up a harder-than-normal Monday NYTX. 


It started out easy enough - almost too easy - with DOG (Animal that barks) and OAK (Bourbon barrel material), but off the A in OAK was "Cockpit reading," and Altitude fit in there beautifully. That was the start of my problems. I also guessed wrong on "Construction area, e.g." where I tried zonE instead of SITE, I entered ACidIC instead of ACETIC for "Like vinegar." IPASS makes more sense for "No bid from me," but still I first tried Ifold. AWMAN!

Eventually, though, I was able to PUSH through, and by the time I got to 70-Across, "Ingredient in a Denver omelet" I had enough crosses to avoid guessing egg instead of HAM. Phew!

I didn't know ULTA (____ Beauty (Sephora competitor), but that's not too surprising, given that I'm a middle-aged man. But that SW corner, with its PSST, ULTA, OHARE, TATER, and ZER was the roughest part by far. The rest was relatively clean, and included such nice entries as MALARKEY, LOITER, CRAVE, DERIDED, and HEIST

I love the theme and especially the theme placement, and I also enjoyed the slightly more-challenging-than-normal-at-least-for-me Monday. How'd you find it?

- Horace

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Sunday, April 4, 2021, Angela Olson Halsted and Doug Peterson


Greetings, Dear Reader. Horace here, taking the reins after two lovely weeks of reviews by Frannie and Colum. We're still mostly homebound, but today the sun is shining in Boston, and the forsythia are just starting to come out. We have loads of crocus bulbs in the front yard, but this year they have been reltentlessly chewed down to ground level before they can manage to bloom. Stupid rabbits. Crocus are for humans! If it weren't Easter I'd ... 

Technically, I guess this is Athena with her owl, but she's essentially the same entity as MINERVA

So anyway, another thing that happened recently is that they started playing baseball again. I know this because yesterday my father told me that the Red Sox lost their season opener. Me, I've kind of given up on caring about or following most major, professional sports. But others, I understand, have not. Sooo...

Today we have a lovely baseball-themed puzzle, wherein the letters of "innings" (EXTRAINNINGS) are inserted, one at a time, in order, into familiar phrases, and then clued with a wacky-ish baseball-themed clue. It's a lovely idea and is executed as well as the best double steal. Let's look at a few examples:

"Perfect Curveball?" - IDEALBREAKER 

"Overenthusiastic description of a routine base hit?" - SOFAIRSOGOOD

"Imperceptible fastball movement?" - INVISIBLESINK

I just love that "So fair! So good!" answer. So silly!

Looking around the rest of the grid I see SEADOG (Old salt) which usually might be thought of as crosswordese, but here could be seen as bonus fill, referring, as it does, to the Red Sox Double A team in Portland, ME. I said I have given up on major professional sports, but I wouldn't mind getting back to Hadlock Field to see a game. Everything is better in a minor league park. Lower prices, smaller crowds, fewer ugly, rabid fans...

Interesting trivia about EGGPLANTS (In the Renaissance, they were known as "mala insana" ("mad apples") and the SWIFT (Bird that can spend up to 10 months in the air without landing) (WHY!?), and it was a fun clue for FOLKMUSIC (What's heard at many a coffeehouse). It seems so obvious, but I kept trying to think of the exact word for that noise that comes from the steaming/frothing of milk... 

Overall, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. A good start for another week of blogging. See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Saturday, April 3, 2021, Peter A. Collins

Such fun to have a tough Saturday puzzle. Today's played twice as hard as yesterday's puzzle, which may reflect more on Friday's than on today's. But at the beginning, I thought it might be a breeze.

Sometimes things just drop into your brain when you see a clue. When I looked at 1A: Kind of poet, and saw a four-letter answer, I immediately thought of BEAT. Don't know why. It seemed to make sense. Then BRACHS was enough to convince me I had it correct. Other answers here slipped into place quickly, and the corner was done before I could blink twice. Or so.

I love the clue at 20A: Part of a driver's manual (CLUTCH). Oh, that's brilliant. Even as I filled the letters in, it didn't click until all the letters were in place. When I did fill it in, I was worried because of the ___HC at 5D, but HIGHC put paid to that.

I guessed NNE for 28A (the N seemed to make sense with the starting K from HAMHOCK), and with YON in place, KNOTTY was a good answer for 25D: Tough. The other two down answer there followed, and then the triple stack in the middle of the puzzle opened up.

32A: "Squee!" (IMSOEXCITED) is good, better for the clue than the answer. I almost wish things were the other way around. I'd like to see "squee" as an answer. FLIRTATIOUS and ALLTATTEDUP are also fun answers. I had ALLTATTooed first, but EXTENT suggested otherwise.

Taylor Swift's PLAIT

Finally I got THETHRILLISGONE. Possibly other solvers figured that out earlier. How many of you knew ALMAATA? My mother said it was a gimme for her. Turns out this was the Russian version of the Kazakh name Almaty, which is what it goes by now. Still, as I filled in the corner, I turned a wary eye on that double A.

My only other major sticking area came in the NE. In part this was because I couldn't see the initial verb in KICKSITUPANOTCH. I tried "takes" and "bumps." I liked THICKSET for "squat" and 9D: Turn (SPOIL). 

Well, it's been a fun week. I continue to enjoy solving the puzzle, and sharing my thoughts with you. Enjoy Horace's week upcoming, starting tomorrow!

- Colum

Friday, April 2, 2021

Friday, April 2, 2021, Kyra Wilson and Sophia Maymudes

Hello, Ms. Wilson, and welcome to the NYT crossword puzzle! It's always nice to have a debut, especially from female constructors, of whom there are not enough.

And it's a beaut of a puzzle as well, very smooth with some fun fill. The central scattered black squares split the puzzle into sections which presumably made the process of filling easier at the price of some flow, but not enough to make things overly challenging. In fact, the puzzle went pretty quickly over all.

Solving with Hope was helpful - she got ANIMALFARM off the ____RM, as well as 8D: Where Catalan is the official language (ANDORRA). I was stuck on Andalusia, which is high-level Castilian Spanish. She also knew NEAL Cassady. Who, I asked? 

Nice to see BONGJOONHO make his debut in the NYT. Certainly deserved. I enjoyed Parasite very much, although perhaps not quite as much as I thought I would. I've been told that watching it a second time is well worth while, but who has the time, with all the other things one has to watch?

I chuckled at LEDERHOSEN, as it brings to mind the classic movie Trading Places, wherein Jamie Lee Curtis, in New Year's Eve costumery, states she's from Sweden, but is wearing the said Germanic garb.

I was not fooled at all by 37A: He or I, but not you? (ELEMENT). It's a lovely example of a hidden capital, especially because the obvious capital with I is how we write the personal pronoun as well.

Also, DEBUNKED is great. I get this myth about how much brain we "use" parroted back to me all the time in my profession. Of course, we use all of our brain, and we use it continuously. It's just that there are areas that when injured do not clearly express symptoms or deficits.

In any case, AJOBWELLDONE indeed.

- Colum

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Thursday, April 1, 2021, Sam Ezersky

Today's blog is coming to you live from the frozen tundra of the Swedish wilds, where a moose once bit my sister. Mind you, moose bites can be quite nasty...

Nah, just kidding. It is April 1, and it's not every year that April Fool's falls on a Thursday, so I was expecting some high level tricksy stuff. Which we got, but not to the level of a Puzzle #5 at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which is always the hardest of the weekend.

Our theme today takes those innocent 3-letter answers that pepper our grids, and turns them into parts of clues for the longer theme answers, which themselves disguise the action by using classic crossword clue bits. Thus, 19A: 6-Across, with "out" - takes DEV (Actor Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire") and puts it before "out" to make "devout," the clue for VERYRELIGIOUS.

I am so in love with this theme. 33A: Inits. before 9-Across - Put "inits" before ELF to get "in itself" - ESSENTIALLY. 40A: 37-Across, in slang - take MMI and put it in the middle of "slang" to get "slamming" - BADMOUTHING. And finally, 50A: 64-65-Across and others - STE and PBR before "others" gives you "stepbrothers" - BLENDEDFAMILY.

Wow. Or even MYGOD (1A: "Unbelievable!").


Meanwhile, there's still room for GOOVERSEAS, something we'd all like to be able to do in the near future (buy your airplane tickets now?) and DAVIDLYNCH.

And the clues in the fill are great too. We get the pair of 18A: [sooo funny!] (LMAO) and 26A: "Sooo funny..." (HARHAR) - note the use of punctuation to make the earnest sense of the first and the sarcastic sense of the second. Also 10D: Occasion for a roast (LUAU) and 50D: Occasions for roasts, for short (BBQS). 

There are a couple of fun QMCs with 5D: Quite a job, you have to admit? (DOORMAN) and 48D: Strong luster? (SATYR). 

Nicely done.

- Colum