Sunday, October 31, 2021
Well, color me surprised - there's no Halloween theme today! Only the conspicuous lack of the "trick or treat" choice. Hmmm...
What we do have, is a strange bird of a puzzle featuring five rebus squares, the contents of which are essentially repeated on the same line. "Noted Apple release of 1968, to fans" was obviously THEW[HIT]EALBUM, and all that remained was to find the cross that could also use a rebus, which in this case was "Negligent" (RE[MISS]). So that gave a rebus square with "HIT/MISS" in it. All fine so far. The title is "Choice Words," so I get it. Then, the very next clue after the Apple release is "Haphazard," which turns out to be HITORMISS. Why? Why put it in twice? It just seemed odd to me.
And I get the desire to cross PAT (Action done while saying "Good dog") with PETFOOD (Fare that's eaten hands-free), but it seems a little disingenuine, because most pets don't have "hands."
On the bright side, I chuckled at "Head for the hills?" (OUTHOUSE) and at "Fluent speaker of Elvish, say" for NERD. Hah! And there's the nice doubling of "Mischief-makers" for RASCALS and IMPS, but off of IMPS was the hardest answer for me - "See captain?" (POPE). It took me quite a long time to figure out that they were referring to the Holy See, and MOOT Court (?) didn't help at all.
Frannie takes over tomorrow. I'll see you in a few weeks. Happy Puzzling!
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Not as beautiful a grid as yesterday, but the solve took me about three times longer! A nice, challenging Saturday grid.
I have a harder time today forcing a Halloweeny theme, but I suppose EDGARAWARD (Mystery prize) could work... and AMBULATION (Walking) could be what the trick-or-treaters are doing... and maybe the older ones tell their parents DONTWAITUP ("I might be out late. See you in the morning"... and for my brother, who met his wife on Halloween, all subsequent Halloweens might be DATENIGHTS. OK, so it's not a BEEFY case, but that's what I've got.
IVORYTOWER (Acadamia, it's said) is a nice entry, though divisive, HULLABALOO (Commotion) is fun, and SOLECISM (Grammatical mistake) was interesting. Did you know that the word comes from a Greek province (Soloi), where they didn't speak "the Queen's Greek," as it were. To speak like the people of Soloi was to speak incorrectly.
And speaking of language that is not quite perfect, I thought "Snickers piece?" for TEEHEE was a little off. Isn't TEEHEE the entirety of what is sometimes called a "snicker?" And "One whose work is always cropping up?" (FARMER) doesn't really make sense. "It's hair-raising" for GEL, on the other hand, is very good. And "Low-lying areas?" too, is clever. The playful change from "lying low" to "low-lying" worked better than from "growing crops" to "cropping up." Two more nice ones were "You can't leave home with it" (BASEBALLBAT) and "One who likes to dish?" (CATERER). I guess we have to assume that they like doing it, right?
Not perfect, but a decent challenge.
p.s. I almost forgot to give a big shout-out to our friend CECE. We hope one day she'll come back for another guest review. :)
Friday, October 29, 2021
If you know me, you know I like a good-looking grid. And yes, I sure smiled when I opened this one up. Maybe there's one too many blocks on each end of that diagonal, but really, it's lovely.
Of course, with a grid like this, getting started is sometimes tricky, because you've got long answers going Across and Down. I thought I'd recognize "Rhyming ice cream treat," but I couldn't think of it immediately, so I went with the Downs, and my first thought on "Response between a smile and a belly laugh" (CHUCKLE) was right on. I saw "Woodstock headliner," and immediately thought of HENDRIX, but I didn't allow myself to put it in, because after all, this is Friday!
By the time I had CLE (The Browns, on scoreboards), OTRO (Oaxacan "other"), APIECE, and CARGAME (I Spy or Backseat Bingo), CHOCOTACO became clear, and soon that whole section was done. HELLTOPAY (What there will be if you cross the wrong person) and UNDERWIRE (Boob tube?) were fun, unexpected answers, but they weren't as surprising as BADASS (Fierce) over in the NE corner!
Now that I'm looking it over again, I see SCARYSTORY, DOUBLEDARE, CHOCOTACO, and MADHATTER in what could be construed as "theme" positions, and while I know it's not a theme, I think it could be forced into a Halloween idea. The top, while not practical to give out and carry around all night, at least brings candy treats to mind. SCARYSTORY is obvious, DOUBLEDARE makes me think of "Trick or Treat," and MADHATTER would be a good costume. Anybody with me?
BRAVURA, TITHED, and CAROUSE are all lovely. I didn't know VENA (Certain blood vessel, to a physician), ENOCH (Eldest son of Cain), or SANSA (____ Stark, role for which Sophie Turner was Emmy-nominated), but they all worked themselves out. I don't love the look of that GOA, and there's a little French glue (EAU, SOMME), but there was plenty of good stuff to balance it out.
p.s. Overall, it went pretty fast for me (7:53) which means I can expect sub-fives from Colum and Philbo. :)
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Another Halloween-related theme today, in which normal-ish phrases are clued Zombie style. The first one I got was IFALLTOPIECES (Country music standard at zombie karaoke night?). The Willie Nelson song made famous by Patsy Cline fell into place with just the first half of the clue, but the next one - ITSANOBRAINER (Reason the zombies are, of course, skipping the empty house?) took a little more of the ol' braaaaaiiins to figure out. Hah! WEARESODEAD (Zombies' cry in the face of defeat?) was a perfect ending. Apt!
The hardest one for me was the first one, and not because BERIGHTBACK (Future zombie's last words?) was so tricky, but because so much around it was. At least for me. I had BOzO for the "Classic clown name," and the "Sweets" clue had me thinking about Halloween candy, not my Honey BABE. I saw "Discover alternative, for short" and immediately thought "NatGeo" not AMEX. Hey - it was the second or third thing I looked at, and there could have been a rebus... I don't have much interaction with TMZ, so coming up with BADPR (Possible result of a TMZ story) was difficult. Luckily, Frannie and I sometimes just scream "Map!" thanks to DORA (Toon with a talking map), so that, at least, gave me something to work with... In the end, it all worked out, but I was certainly no ACE on that EXAM.
So, it was an amusing theme, and there was lots to like elsewhere, too. AMALFI (Picturesque town on the Gulf of Salerno) is still on our list of places to visit. (We've been a few times to Italy, but we've never been south of Rome, nevermind Naples.) Frannie famously pulled two or three ALLNIGHTERs in a row while writing a research paper, and then started to go a little cuckoo before conking out mid-day. But at least she could yell IDIDIT. :)
A fun start to the turn - the end of the week puzzles. Will we see Halloween mini-themes in the next two puzzles? Or will we have to wait for Sunday for the big finale? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
SNL, that stalwart crossword entry, gets more expansive coverage today with five quotes from the show:
And all are anchored with the central LIVEFROMNEWYORK. It's a solid theme, and all quotes were instantly recognizable to this solver and erstwhile late-night TV watcher.
One major change that the pandemic has brought to this household is an earlier bedtime. Before it, Frannie and I would be out two or three nights per week, always getting home after midnight on at least one of them. Today, we're often brushing our teeth at 10pm. Sure, it's nice to get a little more sleep, but last weekend, for example, we missed seeing Jason Sudekis and Brandi Carlile on SNL because we just can't stay up to watch it anymore. Sigh.
I did not love IMPULSION (Strong urge), wanting either "impulse" or "compulsion" instead, and WRAPSKIRT (Sarong, for one) seemed a little off somehow. Do people say "wrap skirt?" We've got INA and ANO and IIS and OLA, not to mention IOS and FEU and EST and IWO, which might be ONE too many SOSO three-letter entry.
I chuckled thinking about the old sketches, and I smiled when I got BAAED (Made ewe cry?) at the end, but I think maybe this one will be most well-liked by devotees of the show, rather than by pure crossword fans.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Bravo all around on this one. First and foremost to Mr. Schlossberg, for such an entertaining theme, and also to Mr. Shortz, for choosing to run it in the last week of October. I didn't know what was going on until I hit that revealer, and what a fun pay off!
I like the look of the open corners in the NW and SE, and right off the bat we get some nice entries like DEMURE (Modest and shy), MEADOW (Place for daisies), my preferred spelling of AMOEBA, and one of the many variant spellings of LAOTSE. AMANAS isn't too terribly exciting, but I enjoyed the clue for BOBA (Word before tea or Fett). Heh. All in all, not a bad starting quadrant.
Moving right, BEEBALM (Flowering plant also known as horsemint) made me smile, because it reminded me of my sister who put "catmint" in her garden. She was surprised that a neighbor's cat made regular trips to her garden to sniff, rub, and even lie right in the plant. It was only later that she realized that catmint is also known as catnip!
BEGONIA is colorful, ROUSE is unusual, and EGOSURFS is fun, but there are also some loose spots. ENGR is awkward, I've never really thought that OHO was a real expression, and are ECHECKS real things? Isn't that kind of payment just called a wire transfer?
But I won't complain too loudly, because honestly, I enjoyed the theme enough to allow for almost anything. I hope you also enjoyed it.
Monday, October 25, 2021
Today's set of EASYPEASY theme answers are two-word entries where the first starts with P and the second with Z. Easy P-Z. Hah!
I know nothing about either PAULAZAHN or "The World of SUZIE Wong," and since I filled it in by guessing the Down answer, I had an S in that cross until recognizing the pattern. Luckily, I had friends who travelled in Poland, so I had heard of the POLISHZLOTY, but I imagine the cross with STLO could be a guess for some folks, and Dad might have trouble with POPO (Law officers, in slang).
I liked a lot of the non-theme entries today. TRUANT (School skipper), HELM (Captain's post), TOPAZ (November birthstone), and SCYTHE (Grim Reaper's implement) are all interesting words. And we've got good trivia in the clues for ELPASO - "Only major Texas city on Mountain Time" and ACACIA (Thorny tree). It's nice to learn a little something about that Spelling Bee darling. And I very much enjoyed the clue "Spice whose name consists of two consecutive pronouns" (THYME).
I thought it played a little on the tricky side for a Monday, but as we always say, there's nothing wrong with that. If the crossword didn't put up any resistance, how fun would it be? Thumbs up.
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Sorry, Colum, I thought I'd get things back to normal this week by taking the slot after you, but does that mean you've had an extra week? I can no longer remember...
What? A blog post isn't the appropriate place for personal communication between two people? All you sports nuts will RAISEHELL if I don't start commenting about the puzzle? Well ok then.
The theme today takes sports-related words and re-clues them to make them into non-sports-related words. The classic SEVENTENSPLIT in bowling, for example, is turned into a "Plan to leave at a very specific evening time?" (I'm hoping that was an afternoon barbecue, because if it's a soiree, they're not really giving it much of a chance.) In another, baseball's DESIGNATEDHITTER is moved to the realm of card games with "Blackjack dealer?" And things get all meta when track and field's STARTINGBLOCK is clued with "First square of a crossword?"
It's a fun idea, and most of them at least made me smile. FLOOREXERCISE (Kegels, e.g.?) moving from the gymnastics mat to the pelvic floor, was the most surprising, and UNPLAYABLELIE (Conspiracy theory so wild that it can't be aired?) made me wish that it actually happened more often...
In other areas, I was fooled by "Word that can precede or follow pack," dropping in "rat" instead of ICE, and it took me a very long time to get "Things you can crack without damaging them" (DOORS) (When is a door not a door? When it's ajar!) And today I learned that I have not been pronouncing VIOL correctly. Anybody else say "vee-ole." Or is it "vie-ole?" No? Ok, well, I guess I maybe I should switch to avoid being RAZZed by all those symphony-goers.
Lastly, I only just now got the clue for DEE (It's just passing). It's just above an F - and, theoretically, an E, were teachers to choose to give that grade. (Hey, there's room for it, Colum, it's just that no one has had the SPORTS NUTS to start handing them out.)
There I go using this platform to communicate directly with Colum again. But really, in doing so, aren't I also bringing you, Dear Reader, into the conversation? Aren't I letting you into my story a bit? Isn't that what writing a blog is all about? Oh, what do I know? I'm just a rube who goes around saying vee-ole! Ay CARAMBA!
Saturday, October 23, 2021
Oof, I hit the jackpot. Following yesterday's smooth and fun Friday themeless, I open today's to find it's by Mr. Ezersky, fiendish and challenging constructor. And look at that grid, with huge chunky corners. I went a long way through clues, to 24D, actually, before I got an answer I was solid enough on to put in.
That initial ENERGY got me a little way into it, before I sputtered out again. 38A: Pippi Longstocking feature (PIGTAIL) could only really be one thing, and 32D: Rabbit ears (TVANTENNA) was a welcome sight as well. But I foundered on other answers, including an incorrect guess at 47D: Go from E to F (FUELUP), where I tried FaiLat. Nice try, but I don't think teachers actually give out E grades, do they?
So after putting in a few other entries like PETUNIA and DERE (not so much a fan of that), I found myself once more in the NW corner. This time I took a chance on UCLA, and then tried ____LOG for 17A: Duraflame product (FIRELOG), which allowed me to put in IHOPE, and then ZYGOTE.
Now I could see 1A: Questions of surprise? (POPQUIZ) That's fun stuff, and led to the corner being finished. Out of there, I finally got 20A: Literally, "one who is sent off" (APOSTLE), which nestled nicely against ETHICS (at least I hope so).
EMIRATI, OILGLUT, and TANK made a nice little set of answers in the NE. Also having MASALAS near SRI seemed to make sense. A little less encouraging was TAXING, PRICES, CARTAGE, and PETFEES down the SE corner.
A good challenging Saturday is always welcome. It's very satisfying when the last square is filled in. So all I can say to Mr. Ezersky is NICEONE!
This week, Frannie will be taking the reviews back. Perhaps we've created a new and improved cycle of reviewers? If I get to follow Horace from now on, it relieves me of the pressure of living up to Frannie's shining workplay!
Friday, October 22, 2021
"Oh frabjous day, Callooh callay!" He chortled in his joy.
Is how I feel when I see Ms. Weintraub's byline on a weekend themeless. What a lovely way to start the days off, coming home, opening the iPad and enjoying a good puzzle. My only complaint is that it went by so quickly!
I broke in with the ELLA/ELLEN duo, combined with the LEIS/LEAS pair, making this part fall very quickly. With ____LISH in place, 16A: Digital color presentation? (NAILPOLISH) was quickly clear, and the rest of the NW corner fell into place.
The two long downs out of this section also came easily. 5D: Local alternative (EXPRESSTRAIN) has just enough ambiguity to make it a little tougher, while 17D: How you might count to five (ONONEHAND) was pretty straightforward.
The middle trio of 13-letter answers in a staircase are very nice. I love 29A: Courtroom conclusion (CASEDISMISSED), bringing to mind many movies where a wrongly accused person triumphantly gets off, such as Legally Blonde, My Cousin Vinnie, and Liar, Liar. I had more difficulty with 32A: Comment after an amazing statement (LETTHATSINKIN). Here I had __TTHAT___ and thought it should start with "But that's..."
|"TAOS Pueblo" by Helmut Naumer, Sr.|
33A: What might be found between X and Z? (GENERATIONGAP) is a lovely bit of QMC work, in my opinion. I thought it would just be Gen Y in some form, but this makes much more sense!
I find in grids like these that if you can get the central section, the rest becomes a lot easier, because you have a solid set of three letters for any crossing answer. EATINGFORTWO, for example, could only start with the first word, once the ___ING is in place.
I enjoyed 44A: Kitty food? (POKERCHIP), and had a "kitwo" moment for 48A: "Walk" (GOONSTRIKE). Could it be "goon stride?" That's not a thing, is it? (Hint: no, it's not). Hah! Finished in 5:49.
Thursday, October 21, 2021
When I was but a lad, a friend of mine introduced me to GAMES magazine. And a lifelong love of puzzles was... well, if not born in that moment, at least validated. In those issues, once in a while, you might find some Wacky Wordies: little puzzles where the way words were placed in relation to each other suggested a phrase. Things like the word "thumb" spelled going from the bottom of the square to the top, twice over, to depict "thumbs up."
Mr. Lieberman has scratched that itch again today, with four examples of phrases which have the word "under" in them, pictorially represented by having the first part of the phrase beneath the second part of the phrase in four long down answers. Thus, 3D: Clueless about current trends (AROCKLIVING) is actually "living" [under] "a rock." Fun!
Although I'm sad to say I didn't figure it out until I had two of them completed. What is this phrase OATHTESTIFY? Is this something you can do, I wondered... Duh.
Some other good answers today include BOOTYCALL, PRIMEVIDEO (Amazon's streams, indeed), and 18A: Tombstone site, once (OKCORRAL).
William SHAWN (father of Wallace, actor of The Princess Bride fame), the editor of the New Yorker, was featured in a review of the new Wes Anderson movie, The French Dispatch. It's a depiction of a magazine much like the New Yorker, in the mid-20th century. I happen to enjoy Wes Anderson movies a ton, so I'm looking forward to it.
Fun puzzle today, and a good start to the turn.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Wednesdays gotta Wednesday, you know what I mean? The puzzles are not early week and thus straightforward, nor are they late week, and thus tricksy or just straight up tough. Mr. Tuffs's second puzzle in the NYT follows this trend, and does it in a fun way, I think.
The theme finds five different words that begin with "or," and where the rest of the word can be reparsed into a new word, and then clues them with cute either-or questions. Thus, ORLANDO, the city, is reparsed into 17A: "Who's your favorite roguish 'Star Wars' character? Han..." or Lando?
ORDEALS and ORCHARD work very nicely. ORANGERED is an acceptable color term, even if I don't come across it often, and I like how it's reparsed from "orange-red" to "or-angered." ORALIST is not exactly Google-worthy as a term. Apparently, it's one who supports the act of lip-reading for hearing challenged rather than sign language. A bit niche, but once again I like how it's reparsed to "or A-list."
The grid does not make for very smooth solving, a pet peeve of mine which I've learned shouldn't get in the way of a fun solve. I understand that breaking up the grid like this makes it open for more fun entries, so that's a trade-off I am willing to accept. Still, the SW and NE corners are nearly entirely separate puzzles, with only two single letter entries each.
On the other hand, we get the very excellent ADDISABABA in complete form, along with PATAGONIA, a place I'd certainly like to visit at some point in my lifetime.
In addition, I liked MARRIED crossing SAIDIDO, both clued with "Got hitched." I was not fooled in the least by 1A: Museum wings? (EMS), for once.
Finally, I will raise a glass for the reference to N.K. Jemisin's "Broken Earth" trilogy. They are outstanding works of speculative fiction with strong characters and the heartbreaking choices they have to make. However, I don't agree that they fall into the genre of FANTASY. There are plenty of unsubtle hints that it's futuristic human life, and that all of the events can be explained through technology rather than magic. To boot, the first novel won the Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel.
All of which is to say, go out and read them.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Well, since you asked, last night's Indigo Girls concert was a blast, and not just one from the past, either. They played a nice mix of songs from early days and their most recent album. I was a little disappointed that no songs from Become You made the cut. I love that album!
But instead of talking about a modern folk duo, let's talk about a classic trio of literary women, namely THEBRONTES. I was glad for that revealer at 28D, because it drastically reduced my solve time in the SW corner. I had already filled in the other three theme entries, namely CHARLOTTESWEB (with a wonderful quotation from the book. "People are not as smart as bugs." Yes, indeed), EMILYSLIST, and AUNTIEANNES. The theme is nicely disguised, as the mirror symmetry made the location of the theme answers less clear.
Once again we get this ACUTEACCENT! I like the clue ("A bit of décor"), but I'm still not used to this term in English. The other long answers are good as well. I like SENIORITIS the best, having seen it in action in my two kids in the not too distant past.
Not much else to report here. I finished the puzzle more quickly than yesterday. Here's hoping that the NYY's foes continue to do well in the postseason.
Monday, October 18, 2021
Hey all - just a quick and dirty writeup today, because we're going out tonight to see classic folk duo and lesbian icons Indigo Girls at The Egg tonight. We've been huge fans for decades: the last time we saw them was in 1996 at the Newport Folk Festival. I recall with deep fondness listening to their first two albums during my college years in the 1980s.
So it's apt (apt!) that the theme of today's puzzle is ARTFORMS, or different ways you can mix up the three letters A-R-T within longer phrases. I appreciate that each long answer has at least two versions of the letter string, and TARGETHEARTRATE has three of them. I also think it's funny looking at PEARTART as PE-art-art.
This is one of those puzzles where the shaded squares makes it clearer what's going on, rather than giving it all away. That being said, if I ever had a hesitation when filling in a shaded square, I could rely on the fact that it had to be one of those three letters. That helped with RATTRAPS. I considered briefly the possibility of RATsnest, which also didn't work because it wasn't a plural.
There are only two non-theme answers of 8-letters long, and one of them is the revealer, so there isn't a ton of zingy type of answers. EUREKA is always nice, and BAABAA is fun.
I had a hard time seeing 62A: Handmade sign held up by a kid in the bleachers (HIMOM). I wanted HoMer, which didn't really make too much sense. Then I thought about HItme, which was sort of masochistic, but could happen. Finally the answer came into view, which slowed me down to 3:48.
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Hey everyone! I'm back again, once again filling in for Frannie this week. As Horace said, Sunday is its own thing within the crosswording week. It's a mega-size grid, allowing for longer theme answers and a more involved theme overall.
Today's is sort of an odd duck. There are five clues in addition to our standard acrosses and downs, which are described as being "diagonal" in the additional information section of the iPad app. And they are diagonal, of a sort, allowing for the long center section which runs along with a longer across answer. And it's this shared set of letters that leads to the title of the puzzle, a "common core." Which, by the way, is a really terrible way to try and organize education, but there it is.
I'm impressed by the way the shared letters get reparsed from one answer to another. ROGETSTHESAURUS, which is two words, also makes up part of HITSTHESAUCE, three words. Similarly, PATRONOFTHEARTS turns into SOFTHEARTED. It's very nice work. Of course, my favorite has to be BOACONSTRICTORS and BACONSTRIPS. Mmmm. I had some this morning and was instantly uplifted. I mean bacon, of course. Not very large snakes.
There are some fun clues today, like 67D: Step two? (FEET). Hah! Even better is 108D: Summer worker, in brief? (CPA). See, they do sums, get it?
I liked that HYENAS and SCAR both made an appearance with references to The Lion King.
On the other hand, isn't it telling that the GSPOT is named after a man?
Finally, let's give a nod to the TOCCATA. One of my favorites is by... (wait for it)... Maurice Ravel!
I wonder if any of our readers have given him a listen since my earlier set of references?
Saturday, October 16, 2021
The week ends (Yes, Sunday doesn't count. For me, the puzzle week starts on Monday and ends on Saturday. Sunday is it's own thing.) with a themeless by Caitlin Reid and Erik Agard. I don't know much about Ms. Reid, but I've seen Mr. Agard blow through the A.C.P.T. final puzzle in five minutes while standing on a stage, in front of a huge crowd, with the static of foreign language mumblings being piped into his headphones, so when I see his name in the byline, I get a little nervous. Who knows what he might unleash?
But today things went relatively smoothly. I started out strong with SKA (It's said to have been born on Orange Street, in Kingston, Jamaica) (What else could it have been?), and then the little NW was done in a matter of seconds. Knowing PALMEDOR off the clue opened the door to the middle, and suddenly I was down to the conversational HEYNOW ("That's uncalled for!"), NICEONE ("Zing!"), and NOSPOILERS ("Wait, wait, don't tell me!").
In some ways, this puzzle is a lot like yesterday's. I know that seems absurd, because they're both puzzles, and themeless, but there's a certain something. It's sort of a mirror image grid (if you allow yourself some freedom), and it has those conversational answers, and, well, there's a certain feel. GOROGUE (Fail to follow along), NONAPOLOGY ("Sorry if you were offended," e.g.), and AREWEGOOD ("No hard feelings?").
Anyway, it was smooth sailing from top to bottom on the left, to the bottom right, and then I got to the top right, where I ran aground. I had guessed NeonS, and I had COrgi in for a while for "Regional dog variety" (CONEY) (Tough!), and I think I had tOrt for "Court infraction" (FOUL), so it took some doing to set the ship right again. In the end, it was a water-related clue that helped, when I finally remembered that Bondi Beach was in Australia (near SYDNEY), and then things finally came together.
I don't want to appear RAHRAH, so I'll add that I could have done without UNIPOD (Photographer's staff) (Maybe things are different now, but for the twenty or so years I worked in professional photography, I only heard "monopod."), but really, that's all I have to complain about. Overall, there's much more to celebrate than I can fit in a review of reasonable length (Too late!). Gold STAR!
Friday, October 15, 2021
I enjoyed the many contemporary, conversational entries today. The central stutter-step trio of EXQUEEZEME (Cutesy "I beg your pardon?"), BIGSURPRISE ("What a shocker"), and GODIHOPENOT ("Heaven forbid!") provides a lovely core, up top we have MINAJ, AGGRO, and SHUTYOURPIEHOLE ("Put a sock in it!"), and as we HEADINTO the corners we find HOTSTART (Cause of an early lead, maybe), MINDGAME (Psychological trick). GOTOPOT (Fall apart), and WORKINGIT (Strutting one's stuff). That's a lot of good material!
The rest of the mid-length stuff, while maybe not super-current, is still very good - FORESIGHT (Important leadership skill) is an unusual entry, GROWINGUP ("Losing some illusions ... perhaps to acquire others," ...) is elevated by the Virginia Woolf clue, PAGEONE (It's just the beginning of the story) was fun, and BONAFIDE always makes me think fondly of Holly Hunter in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Looking around the grid, there's really nothing but good here. I mean, you need little entries like ANI and GOO, but they're not partials, and they're not not words, so they're fine. Right? This is very clean.
On a side note, I thought I was up on my typefaces, but I didn't know how the term "neo-grotesque" (ARIAL) was applied to fonts. From Wikipedia, I learn that "According to Monotype, the term "grotesque" [is used] due to their simple geometric appearance. The term arose because of adverse comparisons that were drawn with the more ornate Modern Serif and Roman typefaces that were the norm at the time." Hmm. I guess that helps.
Lastly, I wish I had a pound of PESTO right now. I'd put it in a cup and drink it.
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Why is it that swearing can be so funny? Yesterday I mentioned a t-shirt that only hinted at a swear, and it got a laugh. Perhaps that's the trick - to work the edges of profanity, as with the theme answers today. They could be read as completely normal phrases, but when clued to force the first word into a mild oath, they become amusing. Well, at least to me.
When I figured out the first one, BLOODYNOSE ("My allergies are really acting up!"), I thought they might all be Britishisms, but I was quickly disabused of that notion by FREAKINGOUT ("That third strike cost us the game!").
This isn't a debut, but it's been seven years since Mr. Fuchs' last published puzzle, and my review of that one included a diatribe about salad dressing. Sorry, Matt. This time, I'll focus more on the fill, which I very much enjoyed.
For starters, I thought the four outside Downs were all good - LABMICE (Maze runners) (LABrats also fits...), TOASTER (Glass elevator?) (Nice QMC!), CARWASH (Business that offers body waxing) (Nice Non-QMC!), and STIRFRY. Everybody likes STIRFRY! :)
Aside from the humorous theme, we've also got "Q: How much does it cost to park at stadiums? A: ____" (ALOT). Hah! It would have been great if, instead of "Hoard," "What did it cost Henry IV to become king of France?" was used to clue AMASS. (He famously converted to Catholicism to win the acceptance of the Catholic-controlled city of Paris when he ascended to the throne, saying "Paris vaut une messe" or, "Paris is worth a mass.")
Other nice clues included "It may be on the house" (LIEN), "Stand by the pool, maybe" (TIKIBAR), and "Run for fun, perhaps" (TYPO). I had "Trot" in for that last one for quite some time!
A fun Thursday, and a great start to The Turn!
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Today's theme, revealed by the multi-part answer SEE EYE TOEYE, is four full names that begin and end with the letter I.
INDIRA GHANDI (First and only female prime minister of India)
ISAMU NOGUCHI ("Red Cube" sculptor with an eponymous museum in New York)
ICHIRO SUZUKI (First M.L.B. player to enter the Meikyukai (a Japanese baseball hall of fame)
ISAAC MIZRAHI (Fashion designer and judge on "Project Runway All Stars")
Today I learned that TONNEAU, can mean many different things in English - the seating area of a car, the bed of a truck, or, as clued, the "Cover for the bed of a pickup truck." In French, it means barrel.
I like STEALTH (Sneakiness) and CLINCHES (Sure things), and the lovely word SCHIST (Crystalline rock) will always remind me of the retirement party for my father. He taught geology and geography for many years, and one of his former students (I think) got my dad - whom I have never heard utter a swear, except when quoting the Captain of the Pinafore - a TSHIRT that read "Geologists have their SCHIST together."
I enjoyed the clue "One who loves to shred some gnar pow" for SKIBUM. Our car, incidentally, is named "Fluffy Pow-Pow." And speaking of names - while it may be true that many people don't use LASTNAMES with pets, it's much funnier if they do. I think, specifically, of a certain dog named Oliver Wigglesworth, Esq.
It's a theme, and there are some good non-theme entries. No HARM done. And now we look forward to The Turn!
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
OK, things are back to normal today. I'm home from the woods, and we've got a classic "Tuesdays Gonna Tues" theme, complete with a funny, made-up revealer - ALLITERNATION. It's cute, but these days my mind runs quickly to the "Can we still call it that?" question, which I will leave out of this review.
Each of the four themers has two words starting with the same letter (the "alliter" part) with a country as the first word ("nation"). All are very much in the language, at least for those of a certain age. So thumbs up on the theme.
In the fill, when I read the clue for 35-Down ("Most common answer in New York Times crosswords (more than 6% of all puzzles)), I already had E as the first letter, so I gleefully filled in Eel - my favorite fill word. Sadly, I had to change it to ERA. Harrumph! ERA can be clued as a stretch of time, or an acronym. It may be the most common letter-string answer, but what's the most common word, I wonder?
Interesting trivia about BANFF (Canada's oldest national park), and "Professional you might need to see?" was a cute clue for OPTICIAN). And is the LEADPIPE no longer a weapon in Clue? It's been a long time since I've played that... and I suppose if I were to play it again, I'd use the game we already have, so this crossword puzzle might be my only way of learning of this change. I guess I'll have to wait for a different puzzle to use "Weapon that replaced the lead pipe" as a clue to learn what the new weapon is.
OK, that's probably enough out of me.
Monday, October 11, 2021
A solid Monday theme today with four "it" expressions. On other days, I imagine they might not like to have the word "it" repeated eight times, but on a Monday, it seems OKAY somehow, doesn't it?
So we have
TAKEITORLEAVEIT ("This is my final offer")
LOVEITORHATEIT (Like something that is polarizing)
MOVEITORLOSEIT ("Get out of the way!")
MAKEITORBREAKIT (Having no middle ground between success and failure)
I've definitely heard the first and third in the wild, and the second one is definitely out there, but the last one is, I think, more often heard as simply "make or break."
There have been times in my life when I've used HAIRTIEs for ponytails, and I remember way back when when my mother let me buy a pair of NIKE sneakers, but I've never gotten a DVD from REDBOX. Remember VIDEO stores? Hah!
Two nice C words at the top: CONCH (Large seashell) and CLOUT (Social influence), and two non-Monday-ish B words at the bottom - BAAL (Biblical false god) and BAHT (Thai currency), and I am lucky to have guessed correctly on BOWSER (D.C. mayor Muriel). Now if it had been clued with reference to Sha Na Na, I would have been all set. :)
Overall, I don't love it, but I certainly don't hate it either. Let's say it's a fine Monday.
Sunday, October 10, 2021
CLUE: THE MOVIE
This isn’t going to be too long, I’m afraid, because I’m in the mountains of Vermont, and getting online to post is going to be something of a chore/miracle. I apologize in advance for the brevity, but maybe, after doing a long Sunday puzzle, you just want a little review to read. Right?
Anywho, the theme, as it says on the tin, takes a movie title and uses it as a clue for something other than the movie itself. Like Field of Dreams for PSYCHOANALYSIS and Star Trek for THEREDCARPET. As in, movie stars take a trip down the red carpet at the Oscars. Not bad. I think my favorite is Top Gun for TSHIRTCANNON. Hah! Although a T-shirt cannon always reminds me of poor Maude Flanders, who was killed by one in the Simpsons.
I enjoyed the uncommon fill like CUSHY (Lucrative and undemanding), SWANK (Luxurious), and PARLAYED (Increased into something much more valuable). I didn’t know Natasha’s last name was FATALE, but it makes sense, and “Reason the physicist stayed in bed?” was a funny way to clue INERTIA.
The theme got a little strange toward the end, with Space Jam for FLYMETOTHEMOON and A Man for All Seasons for BINGEWATCHER. I don’t fully understand either of those, but maybe that’s just me.
I don’t mean to be a MEANIE, but that’s about all I’ve got time for today. I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you again tomorrow!
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Friday, October 8, 2021
Thursday, October 7, 2021
Hello Dear Readers, it's Horace, filling in for one day. Our internet was out for most of the morning, and Frannie has too much else going on today, so here I am.
And what a beauty of a Thursday we've got, too! We had a surprise Wednesday rebus yesterday, so I was wondering what Will had up his sleeve for this one. Turns out it's 21 unchecked squares! Unheard of! Fortunately, the crosses were fair enough, and I got many of them along the way, but at the very bottom we find that they are not really unchecked. The revealer, SKIPPING STONES made it clear that they would all be different stones, and then I could finally fill in B L A R N E Y. After that, things like MARE (Moonscape feature) (Tough!), and INNOUT (West Coast burger chain with a "not-so-secret menu") (Also tough, for this East Coaster!) finally came into view.
In addition to the novel theme, I got a good vibe from the fun clueing. "Rule that should be broken?" is a cute QMC for the un-cute TYRANNY, and "Bug collection?" (INTEL) is sneakier than the sneakiest spy! And for once, "What jelly rolls are filled with?" (ELLS) didn't fool me! At least not for that long. :)
"One way to prevent stock losses?" (LASSO) was fun - so fun, in fact, that I couldn't even get angry that it didn't reference my favorite new TV show instead. And for Non-QMCs, we have the unassuming "On the surface it might not look like much" (BERG), and the shakin' "Harmless rattler" (MARACA).
Sure, we've got the jarring EXARCH (Provincial governor in the Byzantine Empire) (if you say so), the old-school TOPE (Imbibe), and a few names I didn't know, but I'll take those all day long if you're going to give me such a strange new theme and such fun clues. Great start to The Turn!
Frannie's back tomorrow. I'll see you again on Sunday.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Monday, October 4, 2021
Sunday, October 3, 2021
"Something stretched out in yoga class" (MAT)
"Violated a code of silence" (SANG)
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Well, well, well. Another week of blogging come and gone. I'd like to thank my good friends Horace and Frannie for taking a chance on an unknown crossword enthusiast, and my wife for her unstinting support during these tough weeks when I'm glued to the puzzle for nearly a sixth of an hour, before writing pointless but hopefully humorous prose about the solve.
But seriously, I'm happy to report another fun Saturday themeless by Ms. Brandes. This is her second published puzzle in the NYT, the last also being a themeless on a Friday. There are only four notably long entries today (being greater than ten letters), which means very chunky corners in order to rectify the word count. I don't love it when corners are partitioned off, as in the NW and SE. There are only single letter entrances at two locations. But today, they played well anyway.
I'd never heard of DORISMILLER - having read xwordinfo.com just now, I find that he was a Black man whose heroism in Pearl Harbor saved many lives. Glad to hear that he is finally being recognized.
The other three long answers are very nice. I have never and never will relate to 33A: Ate the last cookie, say (COULDNTRESIST). My willpower is legendary. The clue for 47A: Like mysterious matters, often ... or hotels (CHECKEDINTO) is fun, and 15D: Canned lines? EXITINTERVIEW is a very nice QMC.
Other clues I enjoyed included:
30A: Accords, e.g. (SEDANS) - nice hidden capital.
56A: Place to get a cab (WINERACK).
50D: Something you might watch with your parents (TONE). Many years ago we watched "The Kids Are All Right" with our two daughters. Full frontal nudity. Problems. I think nobody was scarred permanently.
39D: Posers are forever saying it (CHEESE).
And what do people think about 39A: What's the big deal? (CARDS). I get that we're talking about cards being dealt, but how does the word "big" fit in?
I believe Frannie is taking over tomorrow. I had fun!
Friday, October 1, 2021
And it's on! The Turn is going great. Today's puzzle is created by the pair who run xwordinfo.com, a great website, the link to which is in the sidebar to the right. And there's even a minitheme!
17A: Fictional home with a secret basement (WAYNEMANOR) and 57A: Locale below 17-Across, as suggested by three images in this puzzle's grid (THEBATCAVE) made me see how there are three bats in the middle of the puzzle! Very nice. Also, this was only made possible by having diagonal symmetry. By the way, 21A: Super group (AVENGERS) is not part of the theme for obvious reasons.
This grid put up very little fight for me. In fact, I finished it faster than yesterday's, which is definitely unusual (at 5:33). Sometimes, you're just on the same wavelength as the constructors. Or on the same RADARSCREEN? No, I don't think that's a correct use of the metaphor.
There were a lot of fun clues, including 31D: An eagle is the most common one in the U.S. (TEAMMASCOT). A great little piece of trivia, which goes along with 28D: Like the loser's locker room after a stunning upset (DEADSILENT).
I also liked 37A: Activity with a rake (CRAPSGAME). I thought about leaf removal, then I thought about a Don Juan type "rake." Which, I suppose, could still apply to activities in a casino.
We've been very interested in GOYA around these parts ever since Cece took a Freshman seminar course on his life and times and works. And I know that Horace takes a strong delight in EDNA St. Vincent Millay.
Finally, I really liked 29D: Driver around a lot? (ADAM). Because it's so true. For a few years now, it's seemed like he's the only young adult male leading actor in Hollywood.