Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tuesday, August 31, 2021, Eric Bornstein

So here's an interesting thing - the "Constitutional measure passed in '72 but never ratified" (ERA), actually received its 38th state ratification last year (Thanks, Virginia!). That's three quarters of the states, and the threshold for ratification. I think I somehow missed that news. I'm not sure what could have distracted me... Anyway, there's a nice write-up of the challenges remaining for ERA on the Brennan Center website. If you're interested.

Un OEUF à la coque

To sum it up for you, ERA's fate may be left to the WINGNUTS in Congress. IBET it'll require a PLETHORA of persuasive arguments from some TOUGHCOOKIES with valuable BARGAININGCHIPS to convince those who see females as nothing but EYECANDY to grant them fair and equal treatment under the law. If and when that happens, the setting off of FIRECRACKERS will certainly be appropriate.

And speaking of women and men, one means of giving birth (which only women can do) has been famously named after a tyrannical man - the CSECTION. This was extra tricky today, because of its vague clue ("Delivery option") and it's surprising beginning - "CS." I actually took out the S of SASSY (Like the comment "Oh no, you didn't!," say) for a bit because I was pretty sure of "chips." Another area like that was in the SW, where I ended up with "__LCI_" and got worried. Happily, I eventually had enough INFO to see my previous apprehension as DROLL.

Speaking of DROLL, I enjoyed the jokey food theme, and the fill had enough BRISK entries to keep it interesting. 

- Horace

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Monday, August 30, 2021, Brooke Husic

I enjoy a simple vowel progression theme. It's familiar. It's comforting, even. 

Too bad the first one couldn't have been clued with something about the Cowardly Lion. But then, I suppose that film probably came out something like 75 years before Ms. Husic was born, and the book even before that. :)

And speaking of clues, it would have to be a pretty amazing soup for me to want to lick the spoon after finishing it. That's a tough entry to clue, though...

And speaking of tough entries, there were a few of them: RESEEK, SCORER, AMORS, and ORIN. Not great.
"Wild" actress Laura DERN

On the other hand, I very much enjoyed INTRICACY (Complexity), FOOTMODEL (One who might have a contract with a sandal manufacturer), and TOLLROAD (Opposite of a freeway). And it's as though the grid itself is welcoming our resident Canadian, Philbo, back from vacation with LOON (Bird on the Canadian dollar) and AHL (Calder Cup rink org). And yes, I realize it stands for "American Hockey League," but it's still hockey!
No record time for me today, as this played a little tough for a Monday. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

As George Orwell said, "The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection." 
It was a fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, August 29, 2021, Dory Mintz

UH? OH ...

First off, thanks to Frannie and Colum for two fine weeks of reviews. I don't know how long this crazy blog experiment will continue, but I really appreciate the fact that we're splitting the work. Without the regular breaks, I think we might all turn into the kind of cranky blogger that inspired the creation of this blog in the first place.

OK, enough on that. Today we have one of those themes that changes regular expressions by adding ə sound. It sounds weird when you write it down, but examples always help:

"Fantasy sports" is changed to FANTASYSUPPORTS, and is clued as "Beams of one's dreams?" Absurd. Wacky. Just what you've come here for. The others are:

GOFORBAROQUE (Visit a museum to see a Rembrandt exhibit?)

FALCONCARESSED (Bird of prey that's gently petted?) (wow)

THEROUXINTHETOWEL (Actor Justin sitting poolside?) (who?)

DERIDEAPRICOTS (Make fun of small orange fruits?) (mmm... dried apricots...)

GRAVYTERRAIN (Mashed potatoes, on a Thanksgiving plate?) (an amusing stretch)

THUNDERCOLLAPSE (Fourth-quarter meltdown at an N.B.A. game in Oklahoma City?)

This kind of "pronunciation" theme is tricky, because not everyone pronounces things in the same way. Me, for instance, I like to put a long E into the first syllable of "deride," and I think the E in "terrain" is different from the U in "supports," but, well, if I can't make allowances for these minor differences, I'm never going to enjoy anything, am I? (If you're interested in pursuing this topic further, just talk to anyone who knows me.) :)

Theme aside, this one played a little tough for me. It seems, now, like I've heard of the RAMAPO (River across the New York/New Jersey border), but I needed every cross for it today, and PETE Alonso didn't help me one bit. Except for the fact that few other letters would work to make a name once I had _ETE. PERSONNEL (Staff) is a word I missed in "Spelling Bee" a while back, and SLEPTLATE (Didn't hear the alarm, say) is something I haven't done in years. I can't even remember the last time I set an alarm, and I'm not just talking about the pandemic either. It's been years and years.

I enjoyed "Angry reaction" for RISE, "Nonstop flight?" was a strong QMC for ESCALATOR, likewise "Speaking part?" for LARYNX. And remind me to never order soup in PALAU (Where fruit bat soup is eaten as a delicacy).

- Horace

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Saturday, August 28, 2021, Julian Lim


Another Saturday, another fun themeless, definitely tougher than yesterday, solved en famille in Albany. 

Oddly, we got started at 8D: Area with lots of schools (REEF), and then 20A: South Beach and others (FADDIETS), and then moved into the NE corner. I like Georg SOLTI very much. I used to have a number of his recordings, back when LPs were the source of music appreciation. Now it's all streaming, I don't have the same ability to pick and choose performers, which is a source of sadness and frustration.

42A: Round trip for one? (SOLOHOMER) took a long time to become clear. In fact, we had all the letters but the Os in place before I caught on. In a different direction (literally), THRASHER was opaque to me, because I thought they were referring to thrash metal music, rather than an actual bird. Visual reference is provided below.

That word "visual" reminds me of Monty Python (vis-a-vis Arthur Frampton. Look it up), which was an odd way to get at DARKHUMOR. I never really thought of it as all that dark. I mean, yes, the Black Knight loses all of his limbs, and death is treated as a silly little joke, but it's more surreal to me than dark. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs.

Meanwhile, 64A: Kind of zone (EROGENOUS) was completely unexpected. All the more so when it's your daughter who announces it before anyone else. Too soon? Obviously.


Anyhoo, 1A: Divine instrument? (TAROTCARD) is the kind of QMC that proves that they still have a place in our puzzles. I could do without YESES or ACTIV, but otherwise, found this to be an enjoyable puzzle.

Back to Horace tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday, August 27, 2021, Robyn Weintraub

And suddenly the week looks that much brighter. All it takes is Ms. Weintraub's byline and I'm smiling again.

This puzzle went by super quick, in part because I solved it with the entire fam, everybody contributing as we went along. I knew things would be good in a Weintraubian way with 1A: What takes a licking and keeps on sticking? (STAMP). We were off to the races!

If you were new to our beloved constructor, you'd quickly see her penchant for including fun phrases of an exclamatory nature, such as ANSWERME, BEFOREIFORGET, and best of all, OHISTHATSO

You'd also find a trove of fun answers like 11D: Don't be misled by this (REDHERRING) - thanks, Phoebe for the quick get; or 28D: Tourists' reading (GUIDEBOOKS) - this was one of Hope's. 

How many of us happily put in ROSEgardEn at 27D: View from the Oval Office... only to have to backtrack and replace it with the perfectly correct ROSEBUSHES instead? 


The puzzle suited my family well. For Phoebe, there were the CLEARSKIES for stargazing and BOSONS for the Physics geek. Up Cece's alley was Peter Paul RUBENS and TOAD from Mario. I enjoyed COSI (as in Mozart), and 6A: Bars that close (CODA). And Hope has been known to take a LEEK in her soup. Wait, that didn't come out right.

I'd just also like to point out the lovely pair of clues and answers at 33D: Make a turnover, say (BAKES), and 34D: Turnovers, e.g. (STAT). Perfect when they're right next to each other.

The only things to take away from the delight were SACS and crosswordese OENO

- Colum

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021, Ashish Vengsarkar

Well, I'll be the first to say it's been an odd week here at the NYT crossword puzzle. Today's puzzle fits in with the peculiar stylings we've seen so far. It was challenging, which I enjoy, and I definitely had to work hard in several areas to figure out even the non-thematic stuff, which itself was an interesting and Thursday style challenge.

The revealer is at 40A: One way to run ... or a hint to four geographical intersections found in this grid (CROSSCOUNTRY). Fittingly, we find four answers which cross each other only by adding a letter to each answer, which then result in crossing countries. Thus, 4D (MAL) and 21A (SURNAME) meet only by adding an I to create the two countries Mali and Suriname. 

The challenge was to find the four spots where you had to add a letter to make the crossing countries, and to recognize what letter would work to create the countries. I love adding an R to NOWAY and WANDA to make Norway and Rwanda.

To add an extra level, if you look at the four letters added, you get I-R-A-N, yet another country. That's some great second level puzzlemaking.

Some tough entries in the fill made solving tough. For example, IBMPCS is a mighty peculiar collection of consonants. 57A: English channel, familiarly (THEBEEB) is a classic bit of misdirection. 69A: Small storage unit (ONEMEG) is a real hard get. I stared at 64A: Wiggle room (MARGIN) for a long time before filling in the last letter (the R). 

I am proud to say that Cece taught me the answer to 25A: Need for making pochoir prints (STENCIL) this year, from her art classes in college.

I wanted THRObS at 47A: Pangs (THROES), but recognized that bLEMENT just couldn't be correct. Thank goodness for the lessons I (barely) learned earlier this week with my many errors.

Fun puzzle. CANYOUDIGIT?

- Colum

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Wednesday, August 25, 2021, Adam Vincent

No errors today! I'm getting my mojo back, baby.

And just in time, for the best puzzle of the week so far. I love this theme: standard phrases where the second word can be reinterpreted as an attempt to sell something, then clued wackily. My favorite was definitely 27A: "This device makes prepping cherries a breeze" (PITTERPATTER). Hah! That's truly silly. I hope it was the seed for the grid (see what I did there?).

FEVERPITCH is much better served here than in the stupid rom-com movie set in and around Fenway Park. ASSEMBLYLINE's clue wasn't a home-run, but I liked MASSAPPEAL.

Some good answers in the fill as well, including DYSTOPIA. I haven't watched The Handmaid's Tale personally. I found the book fascinating, especially once somebody told me that it was set in Harvard Square/Yard. BLUESTATE, IDEALIZE, and DNASAMPLE (although who wants to think about spit in a tube?) were also good entries.

IVAN The Terrible

32D: There are two in "101 Dalmatians" (ONES) failed to trip me up, thankfully. The answer couldn't be "dogs." The title's a dead giveaway for that one.

57A: It shows a lot of plays, but no musicals (ESPN) is a clever non-QMC. I'm a big fan of those types of clues. But how about 56D: For whom the bell tolls (THEE)? It's so brazen! I personally like this new style of clue as well.

My last square (and there was a moment of concern here) was at the crossing of MAYA and YEA. I almost had to run through the alphabet to get the letter, but then thought, "what if it's a vowel, not a consonant?" And then I got what "Passing remark?" was getting at, and the rest was history.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Tuesday, August 24, 2021, Jessie Bullock and Ross Trudeau



Two days in a row?

How can that be, you ask?

Well, he answered glumly, I started by popping sALtS in at 1A: Bath powders (TALCS), and didn't look back. Did I see sAP and wonder what kind of dance genre that was? Yes. Yes, I did. Did I look at good ol' tOKIE Roberts and think, that doesn't seem quite right? Why yes, yes I did. But it wasn't enough.

Anyway, enough about my sad failings as a crossword puzzle solver. Let's turn our attention to the theme, which is revealed across the middle of the grid with ICANSHOW/YOU/THEWORLD, the opening line to the hit duet/ballad from Disney's Aladdin, "A Whole New World." And an instant gimme to this movie goer.

So we get four 11-letter answers that answer that phrase in clever ways. I like POCKETATLAS and GOOGLEEARTH best, but the other two are excellent as well. Very nicely done theme, and with 61 squares of theme material, extremely dense. The grid is nicely set up that there's little overlap, with the exception of the stacked theme answers in the middle of the puzzle.


Which does force us to have TWOTO as an actual puzzle answer. You know. Like "three past." Or "twenty-one minutes of." But I see how it was necessary, and I accept it in order to make the theme work.

I'm also impressed that our constructors managed to squeeze in SCAREDYCAT and POPEMOBILE. That's some fine grid work. In the interests of fairness, I will note the large number of three-letter abbreviations, like LLC IRA GPA TSA DEA ATM ESL ERA. That's a lot (sorry Bruce for yesterday's review! I must have been cranky).

But overall I enjoyed it.

- Colum

Monday, August 23, 2021

Monday, August 23, 2021, Bruce Haight


On a Monday?


I did.

Why, you ask?

Because I put in WOWie and didn't cross check.

I like WOWZA better, and the crosses were straightforward, so that's 100% on me. On the other hand, I did find this puzzle played harder than expected for a Monday. Not entirely sure why, although there are a number of three letter abbreviations, such as ORG, DJS, MGS, FBI, FCC, PST, GIS, STS. SOS! Add on top things like APBIO, ICANT (didn't love the clue here - maybe "Words from one who's at a loss" would be better), and LSDTAB (a very good answer, but more challenging than most Monday answers), and I can see why I took longer than typical.

I'd like to give the theme TWOTHUMBSUP, but I'm not sure I can. Five catchphrases, but NOSOUPFORYOU is just a memorable line from the show, not a catchphrase. A very memorable line, mind you! I love it, and the memories it recalls. But it doesn't fit in with the other four.

New York State's MOTTO

I don't mean to be SEVERE. I know that I couldn't put together such a puzzle. And I don't want to be accused of sour grapes either. All us solvers are allowed performances that might charitably be termed BOMBS.

So without getting too META, IMOUT.

- Colum

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sunday, August 22, 2021, Stephen McCarthy


Here we sit on a Sunday afternoon, awaiting the arrival of the remnants of Tropical Storm Henri, which will be passing to our East this afternoon through tomorrow morning. Mostly rain for us, inland. I hope our readers are staying safe if you're more directly in the line of approach.

I get to take over after a couple of weeks of fun and insightful reviews from my esteemed cobloggers. Today's puzzle's theme is a hodgepodge (I just wanted to use that word) of ten phrases, each between nine to eleven letters long, clued using anagrams of said letters. Thus, 23A: 2004 film about a group of MALIGNERS (MEANGIRLS). 

I'm not over the moon about this sort of theme. But I did enjoy 68A: Healthy eaters may give this A WIDE BERTH (WHITEBREAD), and 115A: The Trojans lacked the FORESIGHT to turn this down (GIFTHORSE). I wasn't as convinced that CALLIGRAPHY is meaningfully differentiated from other forms of writing because its performed "graphically." But it's a nice entry, as is MAGLEVTRAIN.

There were some fine clues in the fill. My favorite was 22A: Member of a noble family (XENON). I did not see that coming at all! I really wanted barON. I chuckled at 75A: Grp. that hasn't yet found what it's looking for (SETI). And I liked 16D: What makes Shrek shriek? (ANI). It's much better than referencing Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. Which I think we'd all like to forget ever existed.

I also enjoyed the pair of cross-referenced clues that were adjacent to each other, namely ONION and SAUTE, and THREE and EASEL. So much nicer than having to hunt across the entire grid.

Some fine answers included MIZZENS (love it), BANHMI (tasty), and ZOOMBOMB. I really wanted SILENTh for SILENTR. But both work cromulently. 

79A seemed harsh, and I'm not planning on chewing on PAP any time soon. But otherwise, it was a good enough Sunday.

- Colum

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Saturday, August 21, 2021, Joseph Greenbaum

I finished in a relatively fast time for a Saturday puzzle for this solver (21:05). If I had to guess the reason, I'd say that the clues were easier than usual. :) Some were definitely in my wheelhouse - the two French clues ("Couleur du brocoli" (VERT) and "Opposite of la" (ICI)), par example. However, the grid was also FULLOFSURPRISES in the form of many things of which I am not familiar including BURPEES, OREILLY (not so giant that I've heard of them!), AEROGEL, and AUTOPIA

I thought ELEVATORPITCH was a high point and I'm a big fan of RENEWABLEENERGY. I'd also like to send a shout out to dear reader englishteacher59, a devoted practitioner of the LOSTART of letter writing. :)

I enjoyed the contrast between the formal sounding clue "Defer for now" and the answer PUNT. I liked ONES for "Low notes" and GAGREEL for "A comedy of errors." My favorite C/AP - for obvious reasons, perhaps - was "Apt bingo call to lose on, by the sound of it?" BTEN - apt indeed!

I don't think of an EWER as fancy, but maybe it has come down the world. I think lanyard attachments are more commonly ID cards rather than IDTAGS, but maybe that's a reflection of my own personal experience. I thought ELEV for "K2 fig." was a low point, along with "Drip locale: Abbr." (HOSP), and "Special times" (ERAS).
To sum up, some strong clues and fun fill - more ERRATIC than EPOCHAL.


Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday, August 20, 2021, Randolph Ross

Some parts of the puzzle I SPED right through, while other parts THROMBI for a loop. I got off to a great start in the northwest corner with "Sticky sandwich, for short" (PBJ), "Words before 'New York' and 'Paris,' in song titles (ILOVE), and "Salad veggie" (CUKE). I even got "A's, but not B's or C's" right off the clue (TEAM) - score one for this sports-challenged solver! All of those letters, however, didn't reveal to me the answer for 1A. My mind kept considering the 'PICS' at the end as short for pictures and I couldn't enlarge my mind to other possibilities. More on that and other HOTTOPICS below. 
The northeast fell even faster, if you can believe that. I entered AREWEALONE for "Question of humanity that has never been answered" and HEARS for "Gets word" right off both clues. I thought the latter was an especially apt C/AP. Add STAPLES for "Big box store that sells boxes" to get STAPH and fill in ARENA, and before you know it a solver PENETRATES a quadrant. 

In the southeast, I was helped by having recently completed some older crossword puzzles in a book my aunt had. I didn't know Martin RITT, but as he just appeared in one of those puzzles, I was able to enter his name, which helped with the unusual - to me - NUTLETS - crazy word, but kinda cute. In the southwest, 'PICS' appeared again in the as part of WAREPICS ("'Saving Private Ryan' or 'Apocalypse Now'"), which my brain insisted on parsing as WARE PICS. Derp. 


And speaking of apt, "Sickens with sweetness" for CLOYS I thought was apt. Apt! More so than even READE as a surname for a librarian, because I happen to know that not all librarians take a book. "Kowtowed (to)" and (TOADIEDUP) are fun words on both the C & A sides, although I can't say I've ever heard the preposition "up" used with toadied. 

My favorite clue today was "Superhero misidentification" (ITSAPLANE). Hi - lar - i - ous. I'm on the fence about SOOTS as a verb for "covers with chimney grime. It seems like a bit of a stretch, but it also seems somehow to suit. Fill-wise, I liked VETOPOWER, SIDEBARCLOSEINON, and RIFER - you don't see that word every day.

I'm sure, Dear Readers, that you are all agog to find out what happened in the northwest. The short of it is that despite all the Down answers I had, I couldn't complete the top left section. Here's why: I guessed 'grEeNBLUE' for "Water color" at 15A and since the 'green' part fit with two Down clues that I was pretty confident of, and, it seemed to match the clue, it took me quite a while to decide to take it out. Once I did, and with HOTTOPICS ("Everyone's talking about them") finally filled in, I was able to see the trixy answer HOST for "Hope at the Oscars, e.g." and the rest, as they say, is history. 


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Thursday, August 19, 2021, Oliver Roeder

Today's constructor was feeling his OATs! Mr. Roeder served up six square meals by storing the letters OAT all in one CEREALBOX, or puzzle square. The hidden capital in the clue "Life preserver? ... or a hint to six squares in this puzzle" makes it work on two levels - ha! Wild oats are SOWN throughout the grid: in HOUSEB[OAT]S, M[OAT]S, BL[OAT]WARE (apt!), and in the lovely word L[OAT]HSOME. FITT[OAT]ATEE was especially nice for its word boundary-crossing nature. 

Solve-wise, I ran into a little trouble in the northeast at 24A. I didn't know the "1970 John Wayne film" (RIOLOBO) and thus was left with _EB for "It has a cedar tree on its flag." I was thinking U.S. states not countries (I blame you, Nebraska!) When I mentioned to Horace that I was stuck on this one square and he said, "I would have thought you could think of a country often associated with cedars." Once I heard the word 'country', I realized I had been barking up the wrong tree, so to speak.

Unfortunately, dear Readers, after entering an "L" in the remaining blank square, all was not glitter, rainbows, and unicorns. I had a FWOE. It took me a minute to hunt it down, but I found it hiding in the very southeast-most corner of the grid. I had been stumped by the clue, "They're used in a crunch" (63D). Without any supporting letters in that quadrant, I entered AAA - thinking of crunch as a fender bender. The rest of the Across at 69A: "Some creatures in the ocean's 'midnight zone'" filled itself in from the Downs, so I didn't notice that EELa had slipped in where EELS belongs. Derp. Still, it is a fun clue. It's not the constructor's fault if ABS are buried too deep to surface for this solver. :)


I also liked these two clues for some of crosswords' old chestnuts: "Stand-in for the unnamed" (ETAL) and "Org. known for counting backward" (NASA). Fill-wise, the grid features a number of my favorite words like THRESH, GALORE, and RHYTHM. I also really like the expressions DRUM up and BUM out - hit after hit! 

And speaking of tricky capitals, how about the clues: "Waits on an album release?" (TOM), "Rival of Hoover" (ORECK), and "Mobile home?" (CRIB) - yeah baby! To sum up, I liked just about everything - a capital puzzle all around!


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Wednesday, August 18, 2021, Alina Abidi

Although I do know the name, the revealer clue ("Cartoonist suggested by this puzzle's theme) and the theme answers (PINTHETAIL, ONTHEDONKEY, WHITEELEPHANT, PARTYANIMAL) left me with a BLANKCANVAS. Fortunately, I was able to EWES the Down answers to complete the entry with THOMASNAST. I learned a bit about Nast by reading about him in the Wikipedia article, and I think that this image by Nast may offer a bit of WHATFOR. :)


I learned other things from several informative clues elsewhere in the puzzle including "Instrument played by indie rock's Sufjan Stevens" (OBOE), "Bird that had no natural predators until humans arrived" (DODO), and that papaya seeds "can act as a substitute for black peppercorns". Who knew? And speaking of PAPAYAS, as I wrote up the review, I noticed that the puzzle provides plenty to EAT: PARM, OREO, FATS, PLUM, EDYS, and EDAM, although I might not necessarily choose to eat them in that order. 

I liked "Yarn" for TALE. POP is a good word, as is "Hornswoggle". I also noticed, that TEE precedes PGA in the grid. Apt!


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tuesday, August 17, 2021, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Today's theme features a variety of dips: four down answers are things normally dipped into the Across answers they cross. To take a seasonally appropriate example, TOE takes the plunge into SWIMMINGPOOL. The one I relished the most was BREAD dunked into CHEESEFONDUE. Mmmm, cheese fondue...

Other fun clues to sink one's teeth into included the riddle-like clue "Blades that don't cut ... but that are themselves cut" (GRASS) and "Drains" for SAPS. "Flat fee?" (RENT) is cute, while  "Score keeper" for MUSICSTAND is mildly amusing. I also liked the clue "Hi, in HI" (ALOHA). When reviewing the completed puzzle I enjoyed ELATE followed by DUPE. MAW is a vividly evocative word. SYNOD is fun, although probably not lit'rally.


I experienced a dip of a different sort with "Levelheaded" for SANE. Not that they aren't marginally synonomic, but I don't particularly equate the two. I thought BOO for "'That's not fair'" was a bit odd, but thought later that maybe it works in the context of a sporting event - although 'boo' seems rather on the tame side if the games I've attended recently are any indication.


Monday, August 16, 2021

Monday, August 16, 2021, Freddie Cheng

Too bad today's puzzle falls to me to review - music isn't really my aria - I am easily the least musical of the HAFDTNYTCPFCA triumvirate. I did study flute for years when a youth but have retained very little of what I "learned." It's a NATURALLAW that an unused skill gets rusty, non? It is this rust on which I blame my initial error at 63A - that, and the fact that I paid no attention to the beginning of the clue ("Speaking of which ... or where the starts of 16-, 30- and 45-Across can be found?"). I first tried ONTHepiano, which didn't hit all the required notes. Once I got 41D: "Lacking, with 'of'" (BEREFT), I realized I had made a major mistake. The correct answer, ONTHATNOTE, sounds better all around. There was, perhaps, a small partita of bonus theme material in ETUDE.


I found two clues particularly humoresque. "Like I, for one? (ROMAN) and the one for the third theme answer, "One who says that you're not on the ball?" (FLATEARTHER) - ha!

The enjoyed the small ensemble of French answers, CHEZ and ETREEQUIP for "Gear up" got a rondo of applause. The references to old favorites BAZOOKA, MAGOO, and Star Trek struck a nice chord.  

From da capo to coda, a fine Monday opus, even though it took only a few minuets to solve.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sunday, August 15, 2021, Aimee Lucido and Ella Dershowitz


Sort of a strange theme today - the word two, hidden within a Down answer, crosses a particular Across entry and doubles the first number word of that answer. It's nice that the original numbers in the Acrosses are one, two, three, four in order, but it's a little weird that the two can intersect it at any of its letters, and at either the first or second letter of the Across answer. And solving online, the squares containing the twos were shaded.

ORCHID corsage

Also, and maybe this is just me being too sensitive, but all of the DOUBLECROSS theme answers are not positive things - "two-faced," "four-letter words," "six feet under," and behind the "eightball." :(

On the positive side, some of the fill was a lot of fun. "Be up for some biking?" (POPAWHEELIE) is great, "Something that bugs criminals?" (WIRETAPPING) is cute, and "Like morning people vis-à-vis night owls, around dawn" (PERKIER) made me smile. "Wednesday, but not Friday" (ADDAMS) had me stumped for a long while, and I loved the casual answers DONTASK (Response to "How bad was it?") and JUSTWOW ("I. Can't. Even.") And how 'bout "Big believer in the freedom of assembly?" (IKEA). Very nice. And I did not expect the straightforwardness of "Seller's need" (CUSTOMER). Hah! Or "Boos and cheers" (NOISES), for that matter.

Interesting trivia in "Practice whose name means, literally, 'union'" (YOGA) and "Nonwriting credentials for Conan Doyle and Chekhov, informally" (MDS). And speaking of trivia, the Wikipedia entry on Pierre Brassau is interesting (and short) reading. 

Lastly, I love the old word LIEF. It shows up a lot in Millay's sonnets. "Liefer would I you loved me for my worth, / Though you should love me but a little while, / Than for a philtre any doll can brew, – / Though thus I bound you as I long to do." for example. That's from one in Fatal Interview. I recommend it. 

So, if we don't dwell too much on the theme, I think we can give this a hearty thumbs up. :)

- Horace

Saturday, August 14, 2021, Nam Jin Yoon

A classic Saturday. Slow to start, but with steady work, eventually, things become clear.

I entered "coke" for "Cuba libre ingredient" (LIME), but the first thing I knew for sure was RINGO (Lead singer of "Yellow Submarine"), so I worked off of that to get my first foothold. Another singer, CYNDI (Pop star Lauper) led to a politician (CORY), and things started to come together. 


I love the QMC "Game of checkers?" for CHESS. It's essentially the same trick as in "Quarterback spikes?" for CLEATS, but I don't find that one quite as good. In Non-QMCs, I guessed right away something was up with "Background for someone who's good with numbers," but it took several crosses to see MUSICALTHEATER. That's a nice one. I also smiled when "Marvel producer" turned out to be MIRACLEWORKER. But I also enjoy answers that turn out to be straightforward when the clue could be taken in different ways, like "Binary" for BASETWO and "Carriers are mobile ones" for AIRBASES. My mind ran to gender issues and viral loads, but no.

It's fun having both PANG (Gut reaction, say) and TANG (Sharp quality) in the grid, and I liked the straight-up Latin MATER for "Venus, to Cupid." 

Overall, a solid, challenging Saturday. Just like we like.

- Horace

Friday, August 13, 2021

Friday, August 13, 2021, John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins

Lots of fun entries in this, the first of the weekend's themelesses. OHBOOHOO (Mocking repsonse to whining) and WAITWHAT ("Did you really just say that?") in the NW felt contemporary and fun. Add to that the cute clue for SITIN (One way to take a stand, ironically), and you're off to a strong start.

Van Gogh's Sower SOWS

The NE was less exciting, what with the plural HASHES, the first half of the oh-so-fascinating SEA MAP, and the epitome of blandness, PEORIA. But it does also include the hot field of HAPTICS (Study of touch, as with smartphone screens) and the wonderful ADELE. And down from both of the top corners flow the two lovely grid-spanning entries ROTISSERIEOVENS (Revolutionary inventions in the cooking world?) and SHOESTRINGCATCH (Close-to-the-ground sports feat), both sporting clever, fun clues.

The middle gets a little middle-y with SETTLEON, ACTSAS, and ROAN, but things finish strong with two excellent clues in the SE - "Ticket line?" (ADMITONE) and "Person who is willfully alone?" (SOLEHEIR). Hah! Very nice.

I'm split on this one, just as it seems to be split itself. You've got several really good entries, and then you've got almost as many of these really, really crosswordsy type entries. HIES, HIC, IRE, OBOE, NEER, ROUE, USO, CAGER, PAO, ABIT ...  It seems ODD to me, but on the strength of the good stuff, I still give it a thumbs up. 

- Horace

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Thursday, August 12, 2021, Jake Halperin

Today, Mr. Halperin CALLSITLIKEITIS, correcting four popular misnomers. They proceed, I'm guessing, in order of "most well known to least well known." Everybody knows that there is not really a bone in your elbow called the Funny Bone, and most people understand that the streaking objects in the night sky aren't really Shooting Stars, but Koalas do look an awful lot like bears. The most surprising correction is that of the famous ECUADORHAT. Apparently, these hats were always, and still are, only made in Ecuador. But since Panama was a much bigger trading area, the makers from Ecuador moved north to sell more hats. Who knew!? Aside from Wikipedia, that is. :)


The trickiest spot today, for me, was the North, where "Sally ____ (English teacake)" crossed the tricky "It's found near a trap." You'd think with all the "Great British Baking Show" I've watched, I'd have remembered hearing about a Sally LUNN teacake! Luckily, I guessed an L, and only when I got the congratulations screen did I realize that "trap" was referencing a muscle.

The long Downs were strong today. HIGHHEELS (Grate pains?) got a nice hard clue, and TANGENTIAL (Beside the point) is a great word. I've heard RENEGADE (Obama's Secret Service code name) before, but couldn't bring it back without a cross or two. And when I had only the second A for "First name in Surrealism," I wondered if the cluers would dare to have it be "Magritte." It would have worked, because his name would probably top many lists, and using the last name would be somewhat surreal. No?

Overall, a fine Thursday. Not spectacular, but they can't all be SHOOTINGMETEORS.

- Horace

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, Joe DiPietro

Well, ok, I liked this one. I noticed the odd grid right away, but I don't think I realized that it was a face until I was finished, and then everything made perfect sense.


With a big theme like this - and by big I guess I mean that the entire grid is given over to the black square artwork - I don't expect a lot of showy fill, but it's really not bad at all. MAMABEAR (One whose porridge was too cold for Goldilocks) brought a smile, POTATOSKIN ("Stuffed" food item at a pub) and CRIMENOVEL (1981's "Gorky Park" or 2012's "Gone Girl") were both solid, and DATALOSS (Result of a damaged hard drive), while sad, is a reminder that we should all be backing up our data! With a RAID, for example, a damaged drive might only mean that it's time to buy a new drive.

The SE got a little OUTRE, with LBO, ORIEL, and KRONE, but while they are all a bit specialized, there's nothing that IRKED me, and it did end with the second half of the amusing ASSEEN ONTV.

Thumbs up!

- Horace

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tuesday, August 10, 2021, Anne Grae Martin

I've never heard the term HENBERRIES (Eggs, in diner slang) before, and honestly, I'm a little sorry to have heard it now. But it was necessary, I guess, to have four items that could follow LITTLERED. The full set is Mao's "Little Red Book," the storied Little Red Hen, the iconic Little Red Schoolhouse, and the classic Little Red Wagon. Too bad "Corvette" couldn't have been worked in somehow. Maybe with that Mark Hamill classic, "Corvette Summer." :)

ISUZU river

Anyway, the fill didn't thrill today. HAGAR ("Horrible" comics Viking) was interesting to see, though, because last week, one of my brothers brought to the family vacation house over 100 "Hägar the Horrible" strips for review. We were supposed to write our initials on the back if we found it funny. I think I initialled less than 25%. 

Radio RAHEEM and NEO are getting kind of old now, and Marco RUBIO and GASX just bring to mind politics, which is rarely a good thing.... TUDES, SPEX, PLINK ... not a ton that elicited WOWS

It's a debut, and I congratulate Ms. Martin on the creation and acceptance, but maybe I'm just too drained from working through the work INBOX yesterday to fully appreciate it. Hopefully, I'll be back on my GAME tomorrow.

- Horace

Monday, August 9, 2021

Monday, August 9, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners

A fun idea today that I've not seen before, and very well executed. In the top half, we have OVERCOMES and HIGHSEAS, in the lower half UNDERGOES and LOWLANDS, and in the middle LEFTOFF and RIGHTON. And it's especially nice that the first three are clued normally ("Gets past, as an obstacle," and "Where pirates roam") and only after the halfway point do we start seeing "Opposite of ..." clues. And the opposites are literal, not figurative. Fun.

Aside from the theme, we have lots of quality material in the Downs: REVEILLES (Wake-up calls played on bugles) was a nice Monday spelling challenge, and speaking of spelling challenges, I still have the urge to use double letters in words like COMBATANT (Warrior) (should that be "warior?"). SHELFLIFE (Twinkies have a long one) provided a laugh, and paired nicely - in a "they're both a food" way - with SOURCREAM (Enchilada topping, maybe). 

I ended up FWOEing because I guessed RAm as a zodiac creature. I'm a ram in the U.S. zodiac, but the "Pig follower in the Chinese zodiac" is actually a RAT. Ah well.

Nice to see TOM and SUE in the grid (Hi Sue!). And their father has played many an ETUDE (Practice piano piece).

Overall, a fine start to the week. :)

- Horace

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Sunday, August 8, 2021, Christina Iverson and Jeff Chen


Greetings! I write to you from the ends of the land and the internet. Frannie and I have been on vacation this past week in a beach house with no phone, no TV, and no internet. I saw early in the week that Colum was also on vacation, and I thank him for his dedication to the blog.


Today we have a puzzle within a puzzle. I'm pretty sure I've heard Mr. Chen mention that he likes horizontal symmetry, and today he and Ms. Iverson use it to include a 3x7 block of unchecked squares at the bottom of the grid. The shaded areas in the rest of the crossword must be transposed into the bold-bordered sections in this lower block to form PICTURE PERFECT MOMENTS, a punny way of describing "what jigsaw puzzles provide." We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA certainly enjoy a jigsaw, and I found this theme charming.

In addition to the jigsaw puzzle element, common phrases are given clever cluing to turn them into instructions. It's a bit loose, because PICKUPTHEPIECES really ought to be "turn all the pieces face up," and GOOVERTHEEDGE might be better as "start by putting all the edge pieces together," but then, those really aren't common phrases at all, and the literalness loses the clever re-imagining. So let's just agree that it's good the way it is. And honestly, I laughed out loud at FREEDOMOFASSEMBLY

I noticed AERIES, ODIST, OMS, ALOE, and SNO, but none of it made me say OOF. Instead, I focussed on the sweet - DOLCE (Like cioccolato or torta), the tasty - POPPERS (Apps made with jalapeños and cheese), and the erudite - MINERVA (Roman goddess of wisdom). 

Hope you found lots to like, too.

- Horace

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Saturday, August 7, 2021, Adam Aaronson

Eight and a half hours of car drive later...

Sometimes you have to fight through a puzzle, right? The height of enjoyment comes from the hard work and the aha moments. 

Okay, I've run out of _GHT words not used in the puzzle. It's sort of a slightly themed themeless (gotcha!). I count 13 entries which use that combination of letters, with 2 others which use only _GH. My favorite entry was 32A: Grand total? (EIGHTYEIGHT), referring to the total number of keys on a grand piano. Another one of those clues whose referent is the answer comes at 24D: Would you look at that! (SIGHT).

There were a number of tough clues today, including 1A: Brings home (BATSIN) - I didn't think of baseball at all for this one. 3D: Gets to the point? (TAPERS) is nicely precise. 

20A: Who had a major part in the Torah? (MOSES) is very clever - the moment when he breaks the ten commandments comes in Exodus 32:19, a chapter in one of the books included in the Torah. On the other hand, it would also be true without the question mark, which is odd. The cleverness only comes into play because it's brought to our attention. Hmmm. I have to think about this.

SYDNEY's bridge

34D: Bed cover (MULCH) escaped us for a long time. I really wanted dUvet, but dONETS just wasn't going to work. The other really clever clue came at 38D: Passage that connects stories (SKYWAY) - not narrative stories, but stories of buildings.

52A does not bear thinking too closely about.

ANYHOO, it's time to pass off the baton to Horace for another week of reviews. Hope you had fun this week - I know I did! 9:37.

- Colum

Friday, August 6, 2021

Friday, August 6, 2021, Seth A. Abel

Our last full day of vacation before making the long trek up the Eastern Seaboard back to Albany has been another lovely day, so I suppose that means that one shouldn’t put too much stock in the predictive value of Monday crossword puzzles.

Today’s themeless is anchored by a grid of six 15-letter answers, so you know what that means: time to rank them in order of my least to most favorite. Since I’m writing the blog, I get to decide that order. Your opinions still matter; however, they will be relegated to the comments section.

6. HERESWHATIFOUND: Siri’s announcement invariably leads to disappointment, in my opinion. Google is much stronger.

5. ANIMALHUSBANDRY: a dry term is enlivened, in my memory, by Tom Lehrer, who in one of his long intros to a song of his, spoke of an old friend who “used to practice animal husbandry, until they caught him at it one day.”

4. ONEWAYORANOTHER: A fine song from my childhood. Hard to believe it’s 43 years old.

3. ASTHICKASABRICK: Another fine song from my childhood, by Jethro Tull. Hard to believe it’s 49 years old.

2. IMEANITTHISTIME: Made even better by the fine clue - “Threat that’s hard to take seriously.”

1. LAHDIFRICKINDAH: Clearly the best of the lot, but not by a ton. It’s a good selection of answers.

The rest of the puzzle is strong as well. I’m fond of MANGANESE, which can cause nasty brain degenerative syndromes. Perhaps “fond” is a poor choice of word. It resonates with me professionally. Also, the stirrup, or stapes BONES are found in the inner ear.

- Colum

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Thursday, August 5, 2021, Adam Wagner

Making up for yesterday’s rainy day, we had a lovely sunshine filled day for the beach today. Waves were high, water warm enough for good jumping. 

The puzzle today gives us two creatures out of legend, half human, half other creature. Then, the theme answers take each half to fit into a standard phrase. Thus, the MERMAID is split into [WOMAN]OFTHEWORLD and DRINKLIKEA[FISH], while the CENTAUR breaks apart into [MAN]HOLECOVERS and BEATSADEAD[HORSE]. I was slowed up by guessing Chimera for the second monster, but that’s a creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail, so I have no idea how that would have split up.

I liked the third answer the best of the choices, both because of the clue (“…circles around the block?”) and because the “man” is somewhat disguised in the answer.

In other areas, I liked the clue at 11D: A host of answers? (TREBEK), in honor of the late great Jeopardy! host. 55A: Where you might search for a lead? (IMDB) is also great, both for the cleverness of the clue and the website, which is a host of answers for me, typically.

Life is certainly bucolic for me here in Delaware, but no EWES are going “BAA” nearby. That’s a different kind of vacation.

Finally, I liked having MAMABEAR and the OLDDOG cheek by jowl. That would certainly undo any bucolicness that might be going on. Bucolicity? Oh, well. Close enough.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Wednesday, August 4, 2021, Brandon Koppy

The predicted weather from Monday’s puzzle hit us today, so it was a shopping day and a resting day and an Olympics watching day (I recommend highly that you watch the Artistic Swimming winning athletes from Russia - we used to call it synchronized swimming). 

Today’s puzzle would have fit in except for nobody’s going to the movies nowadays. Or maybe people are but I’m not. The revealer is FILMSPLICING, and the theme answers are standard phrases that are also two movie titles sequentially. MONSTERMASH is very good, as is RUSHHOURTRAFFIC, but my favorite has to be CONTACTUS.

I love the type of clue we see at 42A: It was cool in the ‘90s (PHAT). The referent from that initial preposition is the answer word: that is to say, we used to say “phat” for “cool.” Or once again, I should refine my use of the word “we.” I don’t think I’ve ever said “phat.” 

The clue at 18D is painful to two fan bases, but was a lovely thing to see in New England in 2019.

I suppose I don’t have much more to say about this puzzle, but I enjoyed it in solving. Perhaps this one could have been Tuesday’s puzzle, as I solved it more quickly than yesterday’s.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Tuesday, August 3, 2021, Trip Payne

In case anyone was wondering, our vacation spot is Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. President Biden and his wife spend their summers here as well, but fortunately not while we’re here, because I’ve heard it makes life very difficult with all of the secret service…

Meanwhile, it’s a very odd Tuesday puzzle, with 39A: What you might do after some financial training … or in this puzzle? (CORNERTHEMARKET) acting as our revealer. I’ve often complained about circles or shaded squares in the grid, because it makes obvious what might otherwise be fun to figure out. But in today’s puzzle, I don’t think I could possibly have figured this one out. In each corner, the letters that make up “the market” are jumbled in a 3x3 square.

It’s impressive that the letters are never the same in any direction from one corner to another. That’s some combination mathematics at work. Actually, I have no idea if that’s a correct application of the science. I suspect it could be done with an algorithm of some sort. Of course, what you get are things like SHAK (an abbreviation I think we can agree is not likely to catch on), ETH, awkward partial ARED, and Bible celebrity HAMAN (the source of hamantaschen cookies, a Purim favorite).

We could all do without PAYPAL or SPRINT raiding our wallets, and I’m no huge fan of Game of Thrones, so WESTEROS doesn’t make me light up with joy. But I do like SERAPHIM, a great word, and ROSIN and DMINOR are pleasant reminders of music.

An odd bird, today, perhaps more suited to Wednesday.

- Colum

Monday, August 2, 2021

Monday, August 2, 2021, Kyra Wilson

It does not feel entirely propitious when the Monday crossword puzzle during your beach vacation week predicts bad weather, but oh, well, here we are! Couldn’t we have had “sunnyside up,” or “breezy conversation,” or some such?

Instead, we get the very amusing revealer at 52A, namely WEATHERFRONT, which secondarily refers to the starts of the other three theme answers. CLOUDSTORAGE was a good start, and LIGHTNINGBUG and THUNDERBIRDS followed well. It’s a straightforward concept, carried out nicely.

I moved a little more slowly than typical on a Monday, slowed down by unexpected delights like KVETCH and STANS. Thank goodness for my daughters, or that last would have thrown me for an absolute loop. 

Speaking of completely missing the point of a clue, I read 26D: Manage one’s account via the internet (EBANK) as referring to an email account, and had no clue why the answer was correct until just now. 

DMING has taken on a completely different meaning for me. I have started to lead a group of friends in a personally created campaign in Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition. This gives me the title of Dungeon Master, or DM. I like this meaning much better than the other, as I use neither Twitter nor Instagram. Or at least not much, in the case of the latter.

It’s a fine Monday, which played slightly hard.

- Colum

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sunday, August 1, 2021, Matthew Stock


Sometimes when you go on vacation, you remember towards the end of the Sunday of your first weekend at the beach, that you are responsible for that week’s blog reviews of the New York Times Crossword puzzle. 

I suppose only very few of our loyal readers will have experienced this particular feeling, but here we are! It’s been a lovely first day, and now I get to tell you all of my feelings about today’s Sunday Times puzzle. We often express a small amount of disapproval here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA when a grid relies on a brand name to fill in a tough area. Very small, mind you, but there’s that slight feeling of disappointment at the intrusion of the commercial.

Today, we turn that on its head and laugh at the brand names, which have been repurposed as silly clues for the theme answers. For example, 21A: Five guys? (OFFENSIVELINE). My favorite clue today has to be 65A: General Mills? (MILITARYACADEMIES) - yes, it is true, they do turn out the generals, don’t they? Nobody else is doing it.

I very much enjoyed the clueing today, which I thought played at a tougher level than many we’ve come across recently. 23A: It may have desks and drawers (ARTROOMS) is cute. If someone can fill me in on why EWELL is a good name for a Christmas caroler, I would be grateful. There’s something clever there, but I’m missing it (my go to choice would have been Noel).

11D: Help when writing a letter (STENCIL) was not “spell check” or “thesaurus.” 50D: Magic can be seen here (ORLANDO) is not on the stage or at a kid’s birthday party. I also really liked 56D: They can help you see or taste (GLASSES).

I’ll overlook NEWAGEY and APRONED. This was a fun Sunday, and I hope a start to a great week of beach weather and good puzzles!

- Colum