Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thursday, September 30, 2021, Rich Proulx

Every week I blog about the NYT crossword, I look forward to Thursday, as part of the Turn, as we like to call it here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA. It's a chance to see how tricksy our constructor friends can get (although they don't go as crazy as Puzzle #5 at the ACPT, typically). So, while I think this theme is pretty snazzy, I was somewhat disappointed today. But only a little.

The concept here is standard two word phrases where each word can be parsed as the sound something makes, then is clued by those two sound making somethings. I probably could have done without the = part of each clue. It took away from the trickiness.

So as an example, you get a cell phone, which often rings, and bubble wrap, which definitely pops, together making RINGPOP. Or, even better, a lightsaber and impatient fingers creating HUMDRUM. The revealer is apt (apt!), at 57A, SOUNDMIXING


For fun clues, we get a few like 60A: It's often included in a good deal (ACE) and 62: Watch it! (VIDEO). In the down clues, there are a couple of QMCs like 2D: A key to what's underneath? (DOWNARROW). This is very nice, but I so wanted DOWsingrod (one letter too many). Also 32D: United way? (PLANERIDE).

I appreciate three word phrases in eight letters, which comes up twice, symmetrically, with COZYUPTO and IMALLOUT

I almost had another Natick moment (a square where the letter is a guess in both directions) at the crossing of ABE and BAIDU, but B was the most likely answer.

A quick solve for a Thursday at 5:43. Looking forward to the themelesses tomorrow and Saturday!

- Colum

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners

Fresh off of yesterday's poor showing, I'm happy to say I redeemed myself somewhat. I can't give you an exact time of solving because I had to leap up to save a bike shoe from a dog's less than tender oral embrace...

How many words are there in the English language which become their opposite if you add a single letter? Probably more than six, I'd guess, but the nice twist here is the added layer: when you read the extra letters in order from top to bottom, you get the revealer word SECRET. Nice touch!

I've seen most of these before, especially [T]HERE, [C]OVERT, and F[E]ASTS. I liked the switch from "reign" to RE[S]IGN and "evolutionary" to [R]EVOLUTIONARY

The fill is nice as well. from EMERALD to MENSWEAR and ROCKHARD, we've got some nice long answers. I would have expected the past participle of "yodel" to have only one L rather then two as in YODELLED. I see from the all-knowing Google that the single-L is the US version, while to double-L is the UK version.

This guy CENSES

I was fooled by the hidden capital in 26D: King of pop (CAROLE). Neither Elvis nor Presley would fit! On the other hand, I was not fooled by the same trick in 65A: Man in the Irish Sea, e.g. (ISLE).

We used to frequent an Ethiopian restaurant in Central Square in Cambridge called ASMARA. I wonder if it's still there. Perhaps Horace or Frannie can weigh in on this question.

I had never heard of a REALALE. After reading up on it, I'd be down for trying some.

Perhaps I could do with less NUDGER or LEVELER, but overall, a fun puzzle for a Wednesday.

- Colum

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tuesday, September 28, 2021, Meghan Morris


I'm just going to give myself a DNF today. Three errors is one too many for me to skate by on a "finished with..." Honestly, I can give myself a little leeway where a couple of the errors are concerned.

Let's start with the bad ones: 29D: Fires up? (SETSABLAZE). I had SETSAfLAmE. Fort fRAGG sounded off, to be certain, but it wasn't completely unlikely to be true. At the same time, I know of Fort BRAGG. I also know it's named after a Civil War Confederate general (one of ten forts in the country, apparently). So I should have figured that out. VIm instead of VIZ? Yeah, there's no explaining that one away.

My other error came at the cross of DON / LEMON. After seeing it, I now recognize it well. However, I tried DaN / LEMaN. You know. Dan the Man. That guy. 


The theme is fun, demonstrating all three kinds of ANGLEs, each one connecting up to the correct name in the theme answers. Thus BEINGOBTUSE then has "angle" falling away from it at an obtuse angle (although I'm not sure why it's backward). DOTHERIGHTTHING has "angle" perpendicular, and ACUTEACCENT... yeah, you get the idea.

I would have called it an "accent aigu," especially since almost all examples in English arise from French loan words. But I guess in English we call it an acute accent. But I liked the clue.


There are a few nice long entries here, especially WEBDUBOIS. LIFEGIVING is pretty good, as is DEEPROOTS.

There are a few too many RAZRS NTWT LTRS LIX and AKAS noted, presumably due to the difficulties of having triple-checked letters (the two "angles" on the diagonal). At the same time, it's a debut puzzle (or should that be début?), so all congratulations and welcomes are to be sent Ms. Morris's way.

- Colum

Monday, September 27, 2021

Monday, September 27, 2021, Zachary David Levy

Let's start with a superfun clue/answer pair, right at 2D: Each ... as in the price of balloons? (APOP). This really tickled me and put me in a good mood from the get-go. It makes me wonder - is it the price of enjoying a balloon that you will know one day it will pop? Or even sadder, just deflate until it's a shriveled faded mockery of itself. I like to think that this is not a metaphor for human life.

Oof. That got dark fast. Trying to avoid SELFPITY here.

The revealer today is INTHEBANK, which also refers to the last words in each of the theme answers: vault, teller, savings, and deposit. It's a nice revealer - I didn't see it coming, perhaps because I was rushing through as I often do on a Monday to see if I can beat the 3 minute mark (I did not). I am a big fan of PENNANDTELLER, not so much of DAYLIGHTSAVINGS (why do we need it any more?). I'm amazed, as always, by the feats of the human body, so the fact that individuals can propel themselves over 20 feet in the air to cross a bar with the use of a bendy pole is astonishing.

Juana INES de la Cruz

In other news, the odd down answers in the fill are the ones that have to cross multiple theme answers. I have nothing against NFLTEAMS (in fact, I still enjoy watching them despite knowing the damage they can do to the NEURAL networks of those who play the game). SPITED (ugh), CTSCAN, AGGIES. They have varying levels of okay-feelingness, if you will forgive the term I just made up.

I'd like to call SHAME on those who continue to use terms like "ogle" and LEER in the puzzle. Even if you clue it with things like "It's a bad look." Maybe we can just remove them entirely?

But on the whole, it's a fun puzzle. 

- Colum

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday, September 26, 2021, Priyanka Sethy and Matthew Stock


Hello everyone! Surprise, surprise (if you've been following our typical rotation of reviewers closely, that is). Instead of Frannie, it's Colum. I'll try not to TACKS your patience by trying (and failing) to come up with the brilliant puns she scatters through her reviews. 

What a super fun theme today! There is no doubt that we need the grayed out squares and circles, or otherwise we'd never find the hidden educational subjects, each of which has been interrupted by a single letter. Thus, ARCTANGENT has "Art" with a C in the middle. All of these could be high school classes, although I don't think we would have ever called it "Lit" instead of English. It's impressive to find these letter strings in so many (eight) answers. Who would have thought to find "Chem" split by L in RACHELMADDOW?

But there's another level. If you read the interrupting letters in order from top to bottom, you find the phrase "cut class." Hah! On so many levels, this works just right, and just adds to the insanity of putting this theme together. 

The fill is relatively straightforward. I found more names that I didn't know than I'm used to, such as Michael URIE, Katie NOLAN, and Celia CRUZ. On the other hand, I knew DIEGO Rivera and ENID Blyton immediately, so that seems pretty balanced. I recall with delight the Famous Five series of the latter.

Favorite clue-answer pair (C/AP) was 82A: "What in the...!" (SONOFA). I also liked 6D: Fence line? (ENGARDE). I used to fence in high school. It was a lot of fun pretending to be The Man in Black. Okay, actually that came out my senior year of high school, so probably this is an incorrect memory.

And lastly, 15D: Not sharp, perhaps (INTUNE) is an incorrect assessment of my piano.

- Colum

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Saturday, September 25, 2021, Adam Simon Levine

Today's task, for me, was slowly working out the central cross - CHICXULUBCRATER (Site of the impact of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago). Those first nine letters weren't going to be filled in without crosses! Luckily, old-timey things like NONEWTAXES (Campaign catchphrase of 1988) and IRONSIDE (1960s-'70s detective series set in San Francisco) helped to get things going. 

And, hey, remember yesterday, when I noticed that Le Monde was just one letter off from "lemonade?" Well, today the right edge has LEANDER (Tragic lover of myth) and LEADER (Word finishing ring or band). There's a theme in there somewhere! 

ROBIN (not Cokie) Roberts

Did you also notice that endangErED has the same number of letters as THREATENED (Like the red panda, blue whale and black rhino)? Well, it does. And, for the record, the red panda and blue whale are both endangered, and the black rhino is critically endangered. Sometimes THREATENED indicates a lesser level of concern, but sometimes it is used as a blanket term to cover both endangered and critically endangered, so I guess I have to let this one go.

I really enjoyed the NE corner, with MARIGOLD, GREATSOUL ("Mahatma," in translation), and MNEMOSYNE (Greek goddess of memory) being crossed by DUNGAREE (It may be in your jeans) (we used to call all jeans DUNGAREEs), and the aforementioned LEANDER. Lots of good material up there, and well worth the price of ARN, GTOS, and OSS

We have a good BUSKER friend, RUCKUS (Rowdydow) is a fun C/AP, and I enjoyed learning that MOHAVE is the "County that's split in two by the Grand Canyon." And although I hadn't heard the term CHIASM (Rhetorical inversion device seen in "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends") it makes sense, 'cause that "chi" part means x in Greek, right? Plus, I like that expression.

And last but not least, I enjoyed seeing NOLI me tangere (don't touch me), because I just started up another Latin course, and a review of the verb nolle just came up in the last class! 

It was a satisfying solve. Congratulations, Mr. Levine, on a Saturday debut!

Colum takes over tomorrow, filling in for Frannie, but I think she'll be back the week after that, and I'll see you again in a few. Until then, Happy Puzzling!

- Horace


Friday, September 24, 2021

Friday, September 24, 2021, Stella Zawistowski

Such a lovely, chunky grid today. Classic late-week look. Nine by three blocks (nearly nine by four) NW and SE, and five by fives in the other corners, and then those 4x4s on the sides and the steps in the middle. Lovely.

Unlike some reviewers, I never know how many words are in a grid. I think there's some easy way to figure it out, but I have never made the effort. This one seems like it's low, but not super low. How's that for perceptive, cutting edge reviewing? Take that Brian Rosenthal! Where's my Pulitzer!?

Sorry. It's early.

So anyway, I liked the look, and Ms. Zawistowski's byline struck a bit of fear into me, but this one flowed so smoothly that I ended up finishing it in just 7:17, which, for me, is a quick Friday.

Remember when we used to rate 1-Across? That was fun. Today, it gets an A. "What's not to like?" is an excellent clue for an excellent answer - BETENOIRE. Hah! I didn't know what BOXBRAIDS were before, but it's always nice to learn something from a puzzle. And speaking of - I also loved the "Bearer of the earth in Iroquois creation stories" clue for TURTLE. GETSOME (Find satisfaction, slangily) was fun, ARMOREDCARS (Valuable carriers) and IMAGINETHAT ("Well, there's a surprise!") were nice long-ish answers, and LEMONDE (Daily in Paris) (quotidienne didn't fit) makes me wonder if I could build a crossword theme out of words where an A has been removed (lemonade -- le monde). I'll have to work on that...

Lots to like today. Happy Friday!

- Horace

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Thursday, September 23, 2021, Simeon Seigel

Today's grid reminds us that certain information should be kept secret by blacking out an SSN, a PIN, and a DOB. The three redacted pieces of personal information are nicely symmetrical, and appear in the middle of three grid-spanning entries. 

Flipping the BIRD

It's a fancy theme, but it seems to have made the grid a bit RIGID, and we end up with oddities like ANTNESTS, AEROBATS, and ATREUS (Father-in-law of Helen of Troy). POTLEAVES (Symbols often accompanying the phrase "Legalize it"), ESTERS, ALLELE, BANC (Like Supreme Court hearings, with "en") ... it's not that ITSNOTOK, but it feels like kind of a lot of OUTRE entries. And not only did I know know what was beside the WYNN casino, until this morning I didn't know it existed.

Not to pile it on, but I never really like seeing those em-dash clues. The first one gave away that 20-Across was somehow connected to 19-Across, and I don't know how else it might be clued to avoid that, but it always diminishes the effect a bit. At least for me.

Again, I appreciate the beauty of the hidden abbreviations, but the rest of it left me a little flat. Sometimes that'll happen, but tomorrow is, after all, another day. I hope you enjoyed it.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Wednesday, September 22, 2021, Grant Boroughs

Another day, another debut, and I, for one, welcome the onslaught of new names and new ideas. Congratulations, Mr. Boroughs, on getting published!

Today's theme adds IC to several phrases, pluralizes them, and then - as is the custom - clues wackily. So we get things like CARPENTERANTICS (Wacky shenanigans of a woodworker?), POPTOPICS (Things that Dad likes to discuss?), and DOTCOMICS (Much of Roy Lichtenstein's work?). Those all made me chuckle. FRYINGPANICS (Frights upon waking up from sunbathing naps?) was a bit of a stretch, but by the time I got down there, I was already in a good mood so I smiled anyway. :)


In non-theme, I do appreciate the symmetry of the AMERICAN and EUROPEAN entries and clues, I just wish they were on the correct sides! And while I also enjoyed the nod to Paris in "____ de la Cité, one end of Paris's Pont Neuf" (ILE), I am disturbed by that "one end" part. The ILE de la Cité is really in the middle of Pont Neuf. The ends are the Right and Left Banks of the Seine. 

How's that for a STERN talking-to?

I loved the clue for INKPAD (You might put your stamp on it), "Low digit?" (TOE) was fun, and "Respond to a stimulus" (REACT) was just so... exact? ALSO, I liked seeing APPLETON Wisconsin get in there too. A good friend of ours went to Lawrence U. 

There seemed to be a good bit of alphabet soup - MIII, ACDC, TSKS, YOO, IDK, PFFT, NCIS, ROTC - but I didn't really mind any of it. ALLOF ("____ the other reindeer") was probably the thing that made me roll my eyes the most. Overall, though, I enjoyed the theme, and liked plenty in the fill. So far, so good.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tuesday, September 21, 2021, Daniel Okulitch

Everybody loves a good lawyer joke, right? And who doesn't enjoy a pun? Today's theme appeals to both with four law-related terms clued in punny ways. To wit - MOTIONDENIED is "A little tied up at the moment?" And "Attire for a gym period?" is a CLASSACTIONSUIT. Heh. "Advocate for U2's frontman" (PROBONOATTORNEY) seems a little de facto, and "Swing of a bowler's arm?" for MOVETOSTRIKE is positively de novo - perhaps something only an amicus curiae could love. Or an amicus bowlingae


There's a little bonus material in the clue "Lawyer, for a defendant, typically" (NEED), and "Onetime Supreme Court justice Charles EVANS Hughs." 

Aside from the theme, the puzzle had other worthwhile assets. "Heavy weight for a musician to bear?" (TUBA) is fun, NEWSOM (Successor to Brown as California governor) was a nice reminder of the recent hubbub out West, and REBUKE (Sharp talking-to) is an uncommon entry. ARCH (Primary) got a tricky clue, and CRAY (Unhinged, in slang) adds a touch of freshness to balance out the old-timey WERTHERS.

Only one minor indictment for SSI (Some fed. assistance), but an exemption can be made, as it hardly cast a PALL.

Another day, another debut. Congratulations, Mr. Okulitch, on your first NYTX.

My verdict? - Amusing.

- Horace

Monday, September 20, 2021

Monday, September 20, 2021, Pao Roy

Today, for perhaps the first time, I thought it might be nice if the puzzle were circular instead of square, to go with the theme of the layers of the Earth. Then again, maybe the cross-section works better, since it's also about the journey of MAGMA going from - below the core? - out to the surface, where it becomes ROCKS


That ROCKS (What lava becomes after an eruption) answer doesn't sit well with me. For one thing, lava is often still called lava once it's above ground. And while yes, it does eventually break up into individual ROCKS, it would be more natural to say that it becomes simply volcanic rock. Sure, it's a quibble, but that's what they pay me the big bucks for over here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA.

And hey - maybe if the eruption were really huge, it would become ASTEROIDS! :)

Nice little French pair of SEINE and CINQ over on the left-hand side today. I like the trivia in "River beneath 37 Parisian bridges." Maybe now I'll remember that number - it's the same one Bill Lee wore back when he was my favorite Red Sox pitcher. 

Anywho, in addition to the modern GLUTENFREECRUST, the uncommon ASSUMETHEMANTLE, and the unfortunate ROTTENTOTHECORE, we've got the aforementioned MAGMA and ROCKS, and ASHES (Volcanic emissions) right in the middle. And maybe some bonus material in the clue for WATER (One piece of evidence of a planet's habitability). I needed a CLUE or two for the SONG singers SISQO and J. COLE, but the crosses worked out. 

Congratulations to Pao Roy for the NYTX debut. A solid - or is that liquid or ashy? - start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sunday, September 19, 2021, Peter Gordon


A lovely Sunday trick from veteran Mr. Gordon. As the puzzle tells us, a FRESHPAIROFEYES (or, "Is") is (are?) added to normal words or expressions to make new word pairings, and then - guess what? - they're clued wackily! Perhaps an example or two would help.

To the normal word "thoroughfares," the letter I is added twice, around the last R, changing the word to THOROUGHFAIRIES and this is clued with "Meticulous magical beings?" Heh. 

And one more - "polka dots" is changed and given the clue "Inept dancers at Oktoberfest?" The answer? POLKAIDIOTS. It's mildly amusing. A few of the others are less funny - PANAMAHAITI, for example, but I appreciate the cleverness of making this trick work so many times. 

In other areas, I actually tried "younger" at 1A "Like the Rock vis-à-vis any of the Stones," which is true, I believe. And I suppose other words could have been used there, too, but no other would have matched up with all the crosses as well as BEEFIER

I'm not sure I like how "small-dog crazy" the puzzle has gotten. It's always Pom this, Peke that, and now we have "Small doodles, perhaps," for LAPDOGS. I guess "doodles" now refers to "Labradoodle," the unholy pairing of the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle. Actually, "unholy" may be a bit harsh, as at least two of my friends (including one, Mr. Colum Amory) have owned labradoodles, and in my experience, they are pretty good dogs. If you like that sort of thing. (See also: "Buddy of Buddy, maybe" (FIDO), "Shape of a canine ID tag, often" (BONE), and "Hungarian herding breed" (PULI))

Lastly, speaking of animals, I have always thought that there was a thing called a "door mouse," but now I learn that it's "dormouse," ("Bushy-tailed rodents" (DORMICE)). They are rodents that can hibernate for up to half a year, and the name comes from the french dormeuse for "tending to be dormant," or "sleeping." They were considered a delicacy in ancient Rome, either as a savory appetizer or - dipped in honey and poppy seeds - as a dessert.

That's probably a good way to end this. Enjoy!

- Horace


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Saturday, September 18, 2021, Ryan McCarty

I've had a fun week solving and blogging, and we wrap it up with a good old-fashioned challenging Saturday. I don't love all of the entries (c.f. BRONZERPALETTE), but I enjoyed fighting my way through some of the tougher answers.

Things started out pretty straightforwardly, however. The little NW corner fell very quickly. I couldn't quite get any of the down answers out of it, so shifted over to the larger NE section. AJAR and JETE and AGAR were all easy enough, and then with Riz AHMED at the far end of the corner, I slowly filled in answers. Funny to see NUMETAL crossing MEGACHURCH. After a bit, I had all the northern half filled in. 

The clue at 3D: Tragic downfall? (TEARDROP) is a nice use of a QMC. The other clue I really liked in this section was 11D: Not quite right (ACUTE). That there is the definition of a beautiful non-QMC. 

A little odd to have GAYPORN right in the middle of the puzzle. It's a little out of line with the NYT's usual fare. 


I found it quite a challenge making my way from the completed upper half into the lower half. I had TROLL____, GOT____, and FRAT____, all without knowing for certain what was expected below those starts. In addition, APNEAL is simply just not something anyone says. Ever. It doesn't even Google. I wanted APNEic, but couldn't make it work. I was actually at an IMPASSE.

After a few inspired guesses, I got the WENT____, confused myself by entering OKay at 47D: "All right, we get it!" (OKOK), and then finally recognized that 54A: Cause of lightheadedness? had to be HALO (very clever, that!). 

I liked 38D: Traveler around the world (ORBITER), and MEATBAGS reminded me of Star Trek: TNG, where humans were referred to as "Ugly bags of mostly water!"

In any case, it was a good hard fight. Tomorrow it's back to Horace. See everyone soon!

- Colum

Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday, September 17, 2021, Matthew Stock

Happy weekend to all our many readers! Hope you've got some fun stuff planned.

I liked the grid in today's puzzle. It's an odd sort of symmetry, along the NW to SE diagonal, creating some nice crossings of long answers. I don't know that I've seen its type before. By looking it up on, I see it's the ninth such puzzle since Mr. Shortz took over editing, and many were before I started solving the daily routinely.

I had a bit of a misstep early on by wanting to put iriquoix in at 1A (MOHICANS), but realized quickly that it couldn't be right. Hope figured out the actual answer shortly thereafter. Other good answers in this section include LEGOMOVIE, MELTINGPOT, and LAIDSIEGE. I also very much enjoyed the clue at 32A: Ground shaking stuff? (PEPPER) - that's really clever!

Not a huge fan of pluralizing TREACLES. It doesn't seem like a mass of goop can come in groups of more than one, rather than in larger volumes. But LIONSMANE and GLITTERBOMB are fun answers, and 40D: Ones who are sent packing? (HITMEN) is brilliant as well. 

In case you were wondering, a semordnilap (palindromes backwards) is a word whose reverse is also a word, but not the same word as in a palindrome. 

I recall the CHICAGOBEARS doing "The Super Bowl Shuffle," the year they unceremoniously drubbed the Patriots, who had no right to be in the big game, having won their way there from the Wild Card position. Mind you, things have turned around a fair bit in the time since then...

I did have one error today: I put in TzAR instead of TSAR, and thought for a few seconds too long that LUzITANIA was a reasonable spelling of the ship whose sinking brought the United States into WWI. Well, after about two more years.

A good themeless, keeping up the high level of puzzles this week. Looking forward to tomorrow!

- Colum

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021, Kevin Patterson

Remember talking about those aha moments? I surely had one today. I had much of the top half filled in and even most of the two revealer answers before the shoe dropped, metaphorically speaking, that is. Filling in 16D: Gift of persuasiveness (TONGUE) and 10A: Second-best era (AGE), I was completely at sea. Once again metaphorically, you understand.

And then I finally filled in SILVER / LINING, and my eyes filled with the shining light of comprehension. Every border answer is best understood with "silver" supplied before hand. Thus, "silver-tongue" and "silver age." I love seeing The [SILVER]SURFER as well as the [SILVER]SCREEN. Very nicely done. It's such a nice change of pace when we get an around the outside theme like this one.

We've been thinking some about the LONDONAREA, because we've been watching the second season of Ted Lasso. It's a fun series, although I'm not as convinced by this go around as we were by the first season. When you take a character that's mostly created for the surface fun and supply back story and psychologic difficulties, it's going to feel like a bit of a stretch.

I was slowed down today by thoughtlessly putting Yeti in at 53A: Hairy Tibetan beasts (YAKS). I mean, I was right, in a sense. Only, what is the plural for our favorite cryptid? I see that it's "Yetis." So that should have alerted me.

Some nice answers in DEVOIDOF and EARWORMS. Strangely, for a Thursday, not much in the way of clever cluing. But overall a fun solve, and a good start to The Turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Sophie Buchmueller and Ross Trudeau

Happy debut puzzle to Ms. Buchmueller! Congratulations and felicitations.

And it's a killer theme, as well. The revealer comes at 57A: Basketball feint ... or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 46-Across? (HEADFAKE). I like it because it works on a couple of different levels. First off, each answer is something non-original that might be added to a place in the head. A DENTALCROWN is a "fake" tooth, while a POWDEREDWIG is "fake" hair.

But also, the head fake can also refer to the clues, which are all excellent misdirections. If there were no question marks, you'd have to work pretty hard to figure out where they were going. You might have guessed by now that I'd rather there were fewer question marks in the puzzle. But you have to love a clue like 36A: Batter's additions? (FALSELASHES). Someone who's batting his or her eyes, that is. Or "Old rug in a courtroom?" That's fun stuff.

Other fun clues in the fill included 15A: Garten of eatin' (INA). A lovely way to make a less than exciting 3-letter answer interesting. Or 42A: Save it for a rainy day (TARP) - here, the "it" refers to the answer itself. And 64A: They can be even, paradoxically (ODDS). Very nicely done.


Along with nice entries like ASIFICARE and ICEBOXES, this was a very enjoyable solve that took maybe a little longer than I'd typically see on a Wednesday. My biggest error came at 33D where I put in Ltd off the first letter, rather than LLC. But nothing too bad.

Great job!

- Colum

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021, Christopher Adams

Hey everyone! Quick blog post today as I get ready for rehearsal. My chorus has gotten back together this fall for a new season. Weird to be singing in masks, but it's lovely to be making music once again.

The theme did not become clear for me until I finally got to the revealer at 57A: 2013 Best Musical Tony winner ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme (KINKYBOOTS). Mind you, I recognized that the same 5 letters were being used in different combinations in the shaded squares, but they were mixed up enough to keep the trick hidden long enough. I do enjoy a nice aha moment, and this puzzle supplied it for me.

That's a lot of Bs and Os in the grid! I recognize that the constructor could not have possibly used every combination of the 5 letters. We don't see OOBST or BOTSO, for example. Still, it's a nice set up, and everybody loves to see BOSTONPOPS in the grid.

Other highlights for me include KOKO, from an old favorite. Although honestly, I'm not convinced The Mikado is easily produced nowadays. The casual racism (even if disguised as commentary on Victorian England) is all too present. And the idea of White actors and actresses donning makeup to look Asian is very problematic.

I liked 30A: Top Olympian (ZEUS). I was trying to imagine who in the history of the Olympics could be categorized as the best of all time, and then realized it was more literal. In a sense.

Sorry for the short post! See you all tomorrow.

- Colum

Monday, September 13, 2021

Monday, September 13, 2021, A. Tariq

All settled back in here in Albany after the weekend's mild fiasco (c.f. yesterday's post), it's lovely to sit down to a straightforward and fun Monday puzzle.

This is a great theme! I love the concept: taking a standard phrase where the second word can be redefined to mean "a group of," and then cluing the newly parsed phrase to fit the new meaning. All of them work so well, especially because each time the word is truly redefined. As in HOUSEPARTY - the term here originally is used to mean festivities. My favorite is 47A: Group of profoundly insightful people? (DEEPSET). Lovely!

It's odd to have two 7-letter theme answers, but it means there's a lot more room to play around in the fill. HODGEPODGE is a great long down answer, and VEGETABLES is a nice one. 

As is fitting for a Monday, there aren't a ton of clever clues, but I really like the trivia at 33A. ALASKA! Who knew your flag was the product of a teenaged mind? And referring to the 'N Sync song is a great way to make BYE more interesting as an answer. Honestly, I would have guessed far more than 52 for how many times they sung the word. Maybe it counts as more times when all five were singing it together in harmony?

John Ben "Benny" Benson

I was slightly slowed here and there by little missteps, such as AsHA for a hot second, ABaft for longer than that. But nothing too terrible, and I enjoyed the solve.

- Colum

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sunday, September 12, 2021, Alex Rosen


Apologies for the late post this evening. Not the most portentous way to start a week of blogging, but our return from New York City to Albany was delayed by discovering that our car was not where it had been parked at the start of the weekend. Turns out the NYPD had moved it to make way for a memorial for 9/11 first responders. Not towed, and there had been no signs to let us know not to park in the perfectly legal space. All's well that ends well, though. Thankfully the car was completely fine, just in a different place.

Today's puzzle was a fun example of a higher than usual quality Sunday grid. There are a number of circles throughout the puzzle which spell out the parts of an emoticon SMILEYFACE (;-)). Or at least a winking one. Thus, "semi/colon," "HYPHEN," and "parenthesis." I love the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the theme answer at 25A: Phenomenon such as the tendency to see human forms in inanimate objects (PAREIDOLIA), a word I'd never come across before, but which is entirely applicable to today's puzzle.

Some great clues today:

12D: It's often left on the table (FORK) - as in the location in the place setting, not remaining after clearing up.

41D: Duck and goose, at times (VERBS) - did not see that coming!

44A: They await your return, in brief (IRS). Sad, but true.

21A: What can make men swear from menswear? (SPACEBAR) - hah!

94D: It may run from an emotional situation (MASCARA). Very nice.

Add to that the fun answers like TIDINGS, LOWLIFES, AHAMOMENT, and CONGALINE, and you get a fun solve.

What's with the rash of CRETANs recently?

- Colum

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Saturday, September 11, 2021, Sid Sivakumar

Horace and I were both hung up in the north west corner of today's puzzle, so we decided to COEDIT, say. :) I had a few tentative entries up there, including three possible options for 12D: "Take a ____" - all of which ended with 'K' in support of a hoped-for KEVLAR answer at 18A ("Kind of vest") - but none of which was the correct answer RISK. (For those of you following along at home, my other ideas were 'walk', 'look', and 'peek'.)  I also had the right idea but the wrong start to 4D: "Join the table". I had 'takeASEAT' - which, incidentally, I much prefer to GRABASEAT. If you'll allow me to hop on my soapbox for a moment about one of my many STANCES, I will lament the proliferation of the word 'grab' in today's world. Everything is being grabbed, from seats to menus, to drinks and I don't know what all. I'd think the world would be a better place with a little less grabbing all over the place. But, I digress. As it turned out, Horace and I both FWOED on 21D, but in different places: Horace had iLIXIRS and I had ELIXeRS. Confound those unknown puzzle persons! 

A number of excellent clues provided a little bit of HOGHEAVEN for this solver. I liked "Cause for alarm?" (BURGLAR), SEDATE for "Composed," UNSAVED for "Liable to be lost, in a way" and my favorite: "Split payment" ALIMONY - ha! ECHELON and TAXDODGES were both fine fill, and who doesn't love a DATASET?

Horace wants me to mention the beautiful pinwheel grid formation. And, he's chosen today's bonus material


There were a couple of fun companion clue sets which caused some confusion. Of the two 'chip' clues, I got first to "Puts down a few chips, maybe." I tried 'eaTS,' but when I got SNACKER for "One who puts down a few chips?" my stomach sank, because it seemed unlikely that both chip clues would refer to the food meaning. Odds on, BETS is a better answer. The other set of matching clues featured Oktoberfest buy(s) . Horace had STEINS in both places - no surprises there! - but in this case for more practical reasons. It had to be the right answer in one place or the other. I tried to make some form of 'beer' go in, but LAGER was the right choice. 

In sum, there was a lot of ELIE good stuff GOINGON in this puzzle. How do these constructors do it? ITSMAGIC. :)

~Frannie (and Horace).

Friday, September 10, 2021

Friday, September 10, 2021, Adrian Kabigting

I completed this puzzle with high notes of GLEE. I found it quite entertaining overall - even when I took a wrong turn. It turns out 'taxidriver' has the same number of letters as DATABREACH ("Hack job") - ha! :) "Rain or Shine" also had me stumped for a time, but when I saw the answer was VERB I realized I had been duped again! On the other hand. I wasn't even remotely stumped by the amusing clue "Travel authority?" (NBAREFEREE). 

There was also a CROP of somewhat old-timey vocabulary to enjoy. I loved "News alert of old" (EXTRAEXTRA), as well as RUBE, BARGED, QUIBBLE, and HEEL


Clues that were tricky for this solver included "Choose from the restaurant menu" (HAVE), "Literally, 'disciple'" (SIKH) - I had SItH for a time 😕 - and "A-a-a-and ___!" - I could not parse that one for the life of me. I struggled most in the northeast (as our perceptive readers may already have guessed).  Before today, I was aware of only one geographical "boot" - the wrong one, it turns out - but now I know there's a pair! 

Interesting also to see a GONAD in the puzzle, along with the two 'undergarment' answers: HANES and DEBRIEF. I also liked WINTERTIME for "What comes after the fall" - ha!  - and, of course, SCREWIT

In short, a bit of a struggle, but a fun one with real a-PEEL for this solver. 


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Thursday, September 9, 2021, Billy Bratton

Today's theme is clever - almost too clever for this solver! The revealer at 54A tells us to CONVERTTOMETRIC to make sense of the theme answers. So, we change the 'mile' in Miles Davis to KILOMETERS (at an approximate 3:5 ratio) and it ADDS up to KILOMETERSDAVIS. The expression 'pound foolish' becomes GRAMFOOLISH, and the trickiest one for this solver - so tricky in fact that I needed to have the conversion corrected by a dear Reader :) - the 'degree' in degree mills became RADIANMILLS. I haven't thought of radians in years.

Even when I figured out that last one, I remained stuck in the northeast corner. Early on I entered SYSadS for "Reddit moderators, e.g., in brief" and never really thought about it again - ADa Annie seemed OK for a person from "Oklahoma." My house of cards fell apart, however, at 23A: "Word with shot or happy" which I could not make work with a final D. Feeling the pressure to complete the puzzle and get to the review, I ended up putting in an L where "Veep" co-star Clea" (DUVALL) crossed 23A - because it seemed like the most likely letter. Anyhoo, to make a long story short, the L was correct, but the D was not. FWOE is me!

Another tough one in that section was the spelled-out BANDBS for "Stay-at-homes?" "Glowing lines" for ODE is very clever. Similarly, the plural in the clue "Ulterior motives" might trick one into thinking one needed an answer with an S on the end, but no, AGENDA was the order of the day. The clue "Apple store employee?" (GROCER) was also nice and tricky.


In an odd turn of events, I wasn't fooled by two of the sports clues: "Magic org." (NBA) and "Diamond data" (OUTS), although for the latter, I did start with RBIS. Interesting fact about SNAIL teeth being the strongest substance in the natural world. Who knew?

I didn't really like ALEKEGS - a term I've never heard before - but perhaps I don't go to enough "hoppy birthday parties." I did enjoy its "companion" clue "It may be iced for a happy birthday party" (CAKE). That's an ALIMENT I can get behind.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Wednesday, September 8, 2021, Lee Taylor

I lost no time in solving today's puzzle, which has as its theme apt exhortations to various groups to "hurry up." For example, "'Hurry up!' to a dancer?" was SHAKEALEG. Another good one - if a bit of a stretch type-of-person-wise - was "'Hurry up!' to a nitrous oxide user?" HITTHEGAS - apt! My favorite, though, was "'Hurry up! to a zombie?" (LOOKALIVE) - ha!

I very much enjoyed the 'international' flavor of the first row of the puzzle with Chinese provincial capital (LHASA), "Japanese national sport" (SUMO), and "Red felt hat with a tassel" (FEZ). If you looked sharp, you'd also find another world capital farther along in the grid: ("Rwanda's capital" (KIGALI)). I've got to GETCRACKING on memorizing that list!


I've never heard of OPAL glass (translucent ornamental material) or "Play HOB with" as an expression for "make trouble for." When I saw the clue "Semi" at 31A, I thought I was very clever entering "ish" but in this case, the much more literal RIG was wanted. WATT? :)

I liked "Important messenger" as a clue for RNA. "Person giving someone a ring" (BESTMAN) at 39A was a good CAP because it can be read several ways - my first thought was the OLE phone call meaning. "Bad beginning?" (MAL) was a nice QMC, as was the amusing "Figure head?" for CPA

I'm short on time today, so I have to finish post haste. Until tomorrow, dear Readers!


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Tuesday, September 7, 2021, Zhouqin Burnikel

I finished today's puzzle just shy of yesterday's time - both more than three times the zippy solve posted by Philbo yesterday I might add - but vaguely interesting in that they were so close. I definitely had the "read the clue, enter the answer" experience today more so than yesterday, although there were a few answers I didn't know right off including "Spread on a bahn mi" (MAYO), "Mascara shelfmates" (EYELINERS), "Founder of Zoom" (ERICYUAN), and I did start with the wrong four-letter-last-named Jessica - alba instead of BIEL. Dough! Our dear Readers will not be surprised to learn that I also did not drop in GHANA for "Country separating Togo from Ivory Coast." Sigh. Someday, I'll master countries and capitals.

And speaking of world capitals, today's theme cached a variety of CURRENCIES in the second half of theme answers throughout the grid: PRESSPOUND, ISITREAL, HARDWON, AYNRAND, and ERICYUAN. I am familiar with most of them - sadly, more thanks to crossword puzzles than travel - but I don't remember seeing 'won' before. Here's a little gravy for you: the Wikipedia says that the word 'won' is  a cognate of yuan and derives from a word meaning "round."

Other CAPs that were up to scratch include "Butter serving" (PAT), "Bend out of shape" (WARP), and "Ripen, say ... or show embarrassment" (TURNRED). 

The constructor padded the grid's pockets with fun juxtapositions: VOLT precedes CURRENCIES, though not part of the theme,  ATLAS appears right below AYNRAND, and maybe CRUISER right next to CONS. :)

OSHA seems to be the money answer right now. It has appeared in three of the last four puzzles. It might be time to start thinking about making some change. 


Monday, September 6, 2021

Monday, September 6, 2021, Joshua Rosenblatt

Today's theme wasn't tailor-made for this solver. I mean, I get (or I think I do) that the first parts of the theme answers might be found INVOGUE, the fashion magazine, but I'm not fashionable enough to recognize Chloe or Celine as things (?) separate from their complete selves as spelled out in the puzzle (CHLOEZHAO, CELINEDION). I've never 'chaneled' my inner super model, I guess.

On the other hand, there was a lot of fill that was my style. I liked SPUR, BAGGY, LEGIT, BAFFLE, and PEP - and who doesn't love MOCHA? - two great tastes that taste great together - to coin a phrase. :)

There were a couple of CAPs I thought were dressed for success: AGREE for "Match in opinion" and "Increase unnecessarily, as an expense report" (PAD). I also enjoyed the A-level Britishisms ARSE and AGGRO.

I didn't know MMA ("Combat sport on pay-per-view, in brief"), but had no trouble with it thanks to the Downs. The puzzle was bedecked and bedazzled with acronyms and abbreviations (YMHA, AOC, SCI, AMS), which I found a bit unseamly (heh), but sometimes you have to cut corners to make things fit.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sunday, September 5, 2021, Grant Thackray


Today, five entries need to rise up from a final "ash" in order to correctly answer their clues. JOHNNYCASH, for example, turns upward at the A to become instead JOHNNYC/ARSON, which correctly answers the clue "30-year host of late-night TV." It's a clever trick. The others are:

UNLEASH becomes UNLEADED (Like gasoline nowadays)
REHASH becomes REHABCENTER (Addiction treatment locale)
HOGWASH turns into HOGWARTSHOUSE (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw)
TALKSTRASH becomes TALKSTRAIGHT (Be completely candid) 

And did anyone else notice that RISElike / aphoenix fits in perfectly where RISEFROM / THEASHES belongs? I thought that was interesting.

And really, a clever puzzle. We do still have the age-old problem of five clues with "-," and there are five Down answers that don't make sense, but sometimes that's ok. And it's especially ok when you've got clues like "Pot grower's remark?" (IRAISE), "Lead-off selections?" (ERASERS), and "Present-day saint?" (NICHOLAS). Ha! Those are all excellent.

I don't have a ton of time today, as we are entertaining guests, but I don't want to sell this one short, either. It was a little trickier than Sundays sometimes are, for me anyway. Or maybe I've just been in a slow spell this week... but that doesn't really matter. The puzzle was fun, and the little YEESH-worthy things like SGS, REECHO, and RES weren't too high a price to pay.

Two more things - ARSENE Lupin - the first season was enjoyable. And who knew the crossword star OREO was "thought to be stamped with symbols of the Knights Templar?" 

OK, that's all. I hope you enjoyed it too. Frannie takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you in a few weeks. Happy Puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Saturday, September 4, 2021, Byron Walden

Dear Reader, remember yesterday, when I said that the puzzle's constructors' names struck fear in my heart? Well, at that time, I had forgotten about the name Byron Walden, or, as he probably wouldn't mind being called, "Mr. Saturday." He's done 102 puzzles for the New York Times, and 65 of them have been Saturdays. Zero Mondays. You've gotta respect that. And today's was especially Saturday-y.

RAWEGG on top of tartare

This one had a few different levels for me. There were the little things that gave me toeholds here and there, like ERS (Sounds of hesitation) (Sure, it could have been "ums," but I got lucky), CENTERS (Hockey players who face off in a face-off), and FINALS (Term terminus). Then there were the things I had to pull out from the depths, like PARSIMONY (Mental or fiscal tightness), GAMINS (Waifs), and BALLISTA (Ancient siege weapon for launching stones). (And hey, guess what? "Catapult" fits perfectly in that spot. Grrr.) And then there were the answers that just needed every single cross, like HIALEAH (Florida city with a large Cuban American population (70+%)), ABADAN (Iranian port near the Iraq border), and KRYPTO (Superman's dog). 

But along the way, there were plenty of smiles. "Falling hard?" (HAILING), "Someone who has it all" (MONOPOLIST), and "Access to a country club, in brief?" (UNMEMBERSHIP). Very, very nice. And "Got in a lather, say" (SHAMPOOED). Lovely. And the clue "As you like it" for DESIRABLE is just so perfect. Just as I like it. :)

Strong entries were everywhere - DELVE, IDONTASK, HACIENDA, SHOAL, SNORT, ONALARK, LOGIC, FORTY, GADS, ASYLA, LISTLESS, COPTO, MERCH, ... and what was there to complain about? A tiny ALO here ... maybe an ALG there. Not even worth mentioning.

It took me nearly half an hour, which, these days, is rare, but it was a very satisfying, very enjoyable half an hour. Thanks, Mr. Walden.

- Horace

Friday, September 3, 2021

Friday, September 3, 2021, Brendan Emmett Quigley and Paolo Pasco


Was it actually that tricky? Or did I psych myself out when I saw the Diabolical Duo of B.E.Q. and Paolo Pasco? Either way, for me, it was another HELLCAT of a puzzle. 

1955 DESOTO Firedome

It started like a Saturday, with one or two guesses and some good ol' self recrimination. I've actually watched "I Think You Should Leave," but I couldn't remember the first name TIM. And I guessed PROAM for "Charity bowling event, e.g." even though A. When's the last time you ever even heard of such an event? and B. Name a Pro Bowler. Is Earl Anthony still alive? The answer is no, he died twenty years ago, but he's still the only one I can name. All the bowling I've ever done or seen since then has been "Am-Am," so that clue seemed a little RANDO.

And speaking of RANDO, is this a MEDIABLOG? I mean, the crossword is from a media outlet... and BEERCOOLER? It's just a cooler, that has beer. Hopefully. 

I do like the stacked up ONWHATPLANET and YOULIEDTOME, even though I've never heard of "Return of the Mack," and CLOSEUPMAGIC (Show of hands?) brings me back to the good old days of standing around a busker in Harvard Square, watching intently and still being amazed when he turned up your card. Sleight of hand has always thrilled and delighted me.

When's the last time Vladimir Lenin (APRILTHESES) and ALCOWLINGS showed up together? The latter, one of the many SIDESHOWS of history.

Nice that HOLST crosses ONWHATPLANET, and I chuckled at the clue for EGGO (Brand whose last letter is in the shape of its product). I was also amused by OPERE citato, because believe it or not, the "ablative of place" just came up in my Latin class last night. I know, not that surprising. When doesn't it come up? 

This was one of those grids where I just had to keep working and working, and finishing felt like an accomplishment. INALL, there were more "Congressman Kinzinger" (ADAM) type clues and not enough "Line from a bit?" (REIN) types. Still, I'm glad I finished!

- Horace

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Thursday, September 2, 2021, David W. Tuffs

Another day, another debut. Congratulations, Mr. Tuffs, on breaking in on a Thursday!

The trick today, as we learn from the revealer, is to read certain entries ENDLESSLY, that is, without their first and last letters. This is made more obvious for us by circling the letters we are meant to avoid. 


It's helpful that the four theme answers are truncated real words, and that the original words are sometimes more common than the "found" word - especially in the middle, where [S]TABLEMAT[E] meant nothing to me without the ends. Placemat, sure. Table cloth, sure. Table top, even, but table mat? Nope. Nothing. [P]ROSECUT[E] is also in this category.

I had quite a bit of trouble in the middle and lower half. ITGUY (He can help you after a crash) took me forever, but it seems so obvious now! And why was MIN (Low point: Abbr.) so hard for me? I was thinking in all the wrong ways on "Prints, perhaps" (EVIDENCE), and crossing that, I only know TPAIN from the SNL "I'm on a Boat." Knowing he was also in Flo Rida's "Low" would have prevented me from trying "Hector" out as the Trojan War hero. That didn't help things. And speaking of people I don't know, count this STASSEN among them. If I weren't so sure of SRO, I would have dropped Pat Paulsen into that spot. ("We've upped our standards, now up yours!")

In the end, although my solve seemed to go on almost ENDLESSLY, there was quite a bit to like in here. I was happy to be able to pull DONKING's name out from the depths of my memories. MEDICINE (Something that nearly one million Americans practice regularly) was interesting - (We've always known you were one in a million, Colum! :) ),  "Like someone receiving baseless accusations, maybe?" (AWOL) was great, ROYALWE ("I") made me smile, as did YEOMEN - for its G&S association, and JEANLUC, because, well, it's JEANLUC!

Played very tough for me, but I very much enjoyed it.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, Sean Yamada-Hunter

Well, this was an odd one. Fellow blogger Amy Reynaldo over at Diary of a Crossword Fiend invented the expression "Tuesdays gonna tuez," to express how strange Tuesday puzzles often are, but for me, at least lately, I think "Wednesdays gonna wooz." 

I mean, just look at it! As the man says, THATSABIGIF! When I opened the puzzle and saw it my first thoughts went to Rudyard Kipling, and I wondered if we'd have a poetry-themed puzzle. Wouldn't that have been DANDY. But no, DONTYOURFRET, IDSAY we're not likely to see that anytime soon. 

Anyway, as far as I can tell, it's nearly a themeless. There are five grid-spanners in the Downs, and I tried to imagine them as "Big Ifs" - as in, "You think I'm going to eat those HABANEROPEPPERS? That's a big if!" Yeah, see, it doesn't really work. Making the theme bigger appears to be BEYOND[this]ONESGRASP, especially when we get over to ENRIQUEIGLESIAS ... ANDYETTHEREWEARE.

Clearly, though, the biggest if of all is the SUNRISEMOVEMENT. Good luck to 'em. Saving the EARTH from its "smartest" inhabitants? THATSABIGIF. Sure, recycle all the PAPER you want, there's still going to be a lot of ASH.

Sorry, that got dark. I seem to have a tendency to drift that way. 

Does anyone remember AIRTRAN? I don't. Jet Blue fit in there, but I already had way too much to try that. And speaking of - this went pretty fast for me. Not Colum and Philbo fast, but 8:16 felt pretty quick for such a strange grid. No real SOS spots, aside from that airline, that is...

In the end, a change is as good as a rest, right? I, for one, am a fan of the new Wednesdays gonna wooz movement. :)

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations, Mr. Yamada-Hunter, on your NYTX debut!