Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tuesday, November 30, 2021, Billy Ouska

Sneaking this blog post in just under the wire...

This is an incredible theme. I just love it! Advertising for tournaments of specific games with re-imagined standard phrases. Thus, the Scrabble tournament gets a sign that says SITFORASPELL. What else are you doing when you're playing Scrabble? 

And how perfect is the Taboo tournament advertisement - DONTSAYAWORD! Indeed, you are not allowed to say specific words in a game of Taboo. So clever.

The LSAT and the MCAT tests both get into this grid, which along with OSHA are probably the only bits here I didn't love.

TITANIUM gets a nice clue to the ancient Greek myth of the precursors to ATHENA and the other Olympian gods, the Titans. Also, an NFL team in Nashville, but the element was named long before they came into existence. Another good clue is at 45D: Where you might bump into a metal fan (MOSHPIT) - metal, as in the genre of popular music.

8D: Wilde or Wilder (AUTHOR) is very nice as well. I like clues which play around with names this way. 


Finally, the pair of clues at 3D: The beginning of the Hebrew world? (ALEPH) and 27D: The end of the Greek world? (OMEGA) are a fun pair. I'm not sure why it's the world in these clues, but it works well enough.

Fun Tuesday.

- Colum

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday, November 29, 2021, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Shot out of a cannon from the get-go, on a Monday evening. So it seemed to make sense that the theme was about a RUNNINGSTART, three examples of phrases where the first word can be reinterpreted as a synonym for speeding along.

I like that each one fits the pattern "X of Y." Would it have been possible to throw in some wacky cluing so that hilarity might ensue? STREAKOFLUCK: a brief moment of good fortune at the casino? But no. I don't see that working right. See? I just solve puzzles. I don't make 'em.

The only answer I take issue with today is ONUSES. How many "burdens of proof" do you need to carry at any given time? Probably one. And the other issue is that the plural in Latin would be "onera." (Those third declension neuter nouns... flashbacks to fourth grade Latin class in Cambridge, England...)

I am amused by the idea of "Shaving Fun" KEN dolls. Did they grow hair for the aspiring beard sculptor wanna be hipsters of the future?

Apparently, the answer is yes. Count on your reliable blogger to do the research for you.

The award for best clue though, goes to 12D: Prez dispenser? (ATM). Hah!

Done in 2:56.

- Colum

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday, November 28, 2021, Jeff Kremer


Hey everybody! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. I certainly did, enjoying having both girls home after a quick trip down to NYC for the big feast. Unfortunately, I did have to drive my older daughter home to the city and then drive back today, and traffic was on the heavy side. A small price to pay to have everybody together, though.

Today's puzzle takes classic phrases associated with attracting the buyer to a sale, and applies them in silly ways to specific items you might (or in some cases, absolutely never would) find at a garage sale. It seems apt for this particular time of year. Everybody get your Cyber Monday deals tomorrow! Let's celebrate being American!

My favorite theme answers were 91A: Textbook, a few pages torn out, $2! (LIMITEDEDITION) and 43A: Baseball mitt, has a small hole, just $1! (DROPEVERYTHING). I feel like 68A: Guitar, never used, $15! (NOSTRINGSATTACHED) is missing a little from the clue to make it perfect. After all, most unused guitars will in fact come with strings. Similarly, I'm not clear on why 114A: Two fish tanks, accessories included, $5! (ROCKBOTTOMPRICES) is clued as being a pair. Perhaps the addition of the word "each" to the clue would have worked better.

But look at me, acting as if I could create a New York Times crossword puzzle. I mean, maybe I could. I've never really tried. Regardless, I'm just noting little inconsistencies because I get to, as the reviewer in charge today.

The fabulous Madeline KAHN

Some fun non-QMCs today, such as:

41A: What may cover some ground (AREARUG)

2D: It gets the lead out (ERASER)

70D: When you're about as smart as a fifth grader (AGETEN) - I love the literal nature of this one.

107D: Tours can be found on it (LOIRE) - as in the city in France, that is.

108D: Website with star ratings (IMDB)

Not too many LOWPOINTS, so I'll call this a fine Sunday.

- Colum

P.S. Congratulations to Mr. Kremer for his NYT debut!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Saturday, November 27, 2021, Trenton Charlson

A pinwheel of fun material today from the OLDTIMEY YELLOWPAGES (1886) to the more modern XERISCAPING (coined in 1981, according to the Wikipedia) with a lot of good stuff in between. I was surprised to find I had finished the puzzle in just under 22 minutes because the solve didn't seem particularly OOZIER than usual. I had the most trouble with what turned out to be my favorite clue: "Spot early on?" PUP - ha! It didn't help that the final Down cross was itself a little trixsy: "Rather inclined" (STEEP) - clever!

My other misstep was to misread "Collage application." I couldn't figure out how PASTE applied to a 'College' application. Derp. On the upside, thanks to all the Pearl S. Buck books I've read, I know about SUNTZU and SAMPANs. Interesting to see COINSLOT today ("It welcomes change"). Horace and I went to the bank yesterday and on the door was posted a sign claiming there is a nationwide coin shortage. What's up with that? Are they being used for crafts? Is everyone hoarding them for end days?


In other mysteries, I liked how the two grid-spanning entries - UNDERCOVERAGENT and THECOASTISCLEAR - kinda go together in an sneaky way. I also enjoyed "Act the cynic, maybe" (SCOFF), "Felt off" (AILED), "Realizes" (NETS), and "Vice principle" (SIN) - apt!

I would be remiss in my REVUE duties if I failed to mention the plentiful bits and bobs strewn about such as OSU, ESE, PREZ, ETTE, IPA, and CPA, but the BAILOUT here was the clever clueing, especially for latter three ("Kitchen extension", "Draft letters", "Book reviewer?"). You can't ASP for more than that. 


Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday, November 26, 2021, Kate Hawkins

Interesting solve for me today. Several answers were in my mental memory banks, but it felt like they were waaaay in the back, if you see what I mean. I could almost feel them working their way out of the deepest filing cabinet drawers of my mind. Specifically, "Onetime chain that offered Free Battery Club memberships" (RADIOSHACK), "Best-selling heavy metal band named for a torture device" (IRONMAIDEN) - in my case, it was the torture device element of the clue that clicked, "Duo in an ellipse" (FOCI), "___ Yaga (folklore villain)" (BABA), and, very luckily for me, the name "Aimee SEMPLE McPherson because otherwise, I would still be working on the mid-southeast corner of the puzzle. I didn't immediately know the missing part of her name, it came out one letter at a time, almost like my mind was using a Ouija board. I had some of the other Across answers in the upper block including AREA and ALA (natch), but I couldn't catch on to any of the clever clues in that corner "The art of politics?" (PROPAGANDA), "Entitled sort" (LEGALOWNER), or "Desire of a quick study?" (EASYA) until I had the start letters from SEMPLE. 

Other clever clues included:
"Experts in English?" (POOLSHARKS) - nice.
"#1 dad?" (ADAM) - ha!
"Register" (TILL) - anyone else enter TeLL first?
"Stay good" (KEEP)
"Bit of a character" (TRAIT)

Fill-wise, there were these gems: BESOT, LAVISH, ABIDES, and NUMB - I've always liked that word, for some reason.

In the lower southeast block, possibly due to a personal distaste for the entire crustacean family, PRAWN for  "Cocktail tidbit" was a real stretch. And, unfortunately, as far as I could tell,  STRIKEPAY and ANNE Archer weren't in my data banks at all, but the real cause may be the ERRORPRONE nature of my personal wet ware.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021, Chase Dittrich

It's TRUE that I quickly understood the need for a T/F alternative in five squares throughout the puzzle - each of the letters making the answer match one of the two clue possibilities - but it's FALSE that I got the congratulatory message when I completed the puzzle. :( Maybe because I solved the puzzle late at night in an effort to get the review up early before the busy holiday morning (unsuccessfully, as you may have already noticed), but I went the low-barrier route and entered only TF in the special squares. In my app, apparently, one had to enter either T/F or just T or just F to make the solve a success. I was disappointed because I had finished the puzzle pretty quickly, but that's what I get for cutting corners.  

My fail tale aside, I enjoyed the alternative answers, especially "PC key/ Sitcom ET" (ALT/F), "Wood nymph / Independent person" (T/FREESPIRIT), and "Goodyear blowout / 'Everything must go' event" (T/FIRESALE).

Other C/APs that entertained were:
"Cold-blooded killer" (ASP) - clever.
"Praise loudly" (HAIL)
"Openings for 'To Tell the Truth'" (TEES)
"Pen" (CAGE)

I liked the "Darn" clue for DRAT and then the "Darn, e.g." clue for SEW. I also liked the pairing - of sorts - "Traffic lights you can't go through" (REDS) and "Green-lights" (OKAYS). 

And who doesn't love a reference to LESLIE Nielsen of "The Naked Gun" and, of course, "Airplane" - funniest movie ever. 

By the way, I looked up SAL soda from yesterday's puzzle. According to The Free Dictionary, it's a sodium salt of carbonic acid used in making soap powders and glass and paper. Arm & Hammer sells it in a box that looks a lot like rather too much like their Baking Soda for my taste. If the situation ever comes up, let's hope everyone chooses the correct alternative.

I wish all of you, dear Readers, a restful holiday where your most challenging choice is between LOAF and more ETON


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Wednesday, November 24, 2021, Brandon Koppy

Well, dear Readers, quite a different solving experience for me today. It took me a full 26:51 to complete the grid - and this a Wednesday! I didn't have any trouble with the theme - or in fact much of the puzzle, but some of the OBTUSE answers - the "seldom correct" kind! - in the northcentral section brought me to this NEWLOW (probably not actually a personal slow on a Wednesday, but work with me here.) I had a number of pretty solid answers in that section, too: ONO, SOCOOL (which I had, but didn't want), and EWE, for example. But "Omaha stake?", "Little pest", Opposite of radial", and "1990s Indian prime minister" made my progress STAHL. Horace tells me "Omaha" is a type of poker, thus BET. I can see how a TWERP could be considered a little pest, but sadly I spent too much time in the 'insect' area of my vocabulary Venn diagrams rather than the 'annoyance' zone. Derp. And well, my knowledge of Indian Prime Ministers of the 1990s did not extend to Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha RAO. :(


Anyhoo, elsewhere in the puzzle, I was feeling my OATES. I thought the theme was fun. Although I personally don't take a PICODEGALLO because of its OMNIPOTENCE in making me feel ill, it's an entertaining idea for the circled letters to represent the "chopped" ONION, PEPPER, and TOMATO within the three theme answers in the top HALF of the puzzle, and then have a 'squeezing' of[LIME] in FISHFORCOMP[LIME]NTS for the finishing touch. I enjoyed the added CRAZINESS of most of the circles representing single letters but the circle for LIME calling for a rebus.

I thought the clue "Including an unlisted number?" (ETAL) was particularly clever. I was entertained by answers for "Comic cry of dismay" ACK and DOHZEALS and RUMS stuck me as slightly odd plurals, but who's counting? Oh, and BTW, does anybody know what SAL soda is? 


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021, Eric Bornstein

Today's three theme answers are all people who have last names that represent types of investment - BARRYBONDS, JOHNNYCASH, ADAMSILVER - making the revealer, PERSONALFINANCE, apply literally. With two of the three being sports personages, its a little bit too bad it couldn't be a clean sweep to add a money ball dimension. The choice of "Money, Money, Money" for the ABBA clue at 1A is a touch of gold, though. 


I enjoyed the clue "They have ears, it's said" (WALLS) because it calls to mind the short-lived but entertaining (as I remember it) show "When Things Were Rotten" from the seventies. One of the characters warns others to be careful when talking about a plot, because walls have ears, and the shot pulls back to a wall covered with ears. Heh. COWS for "intimidates" is a nice C/AP if a not-nice action. TACIT for "Understood" was also good. 

In a KTWO moment, when reviewing the puzzle, I got to 37A and thought, I've never heard of the rapper ICET (as if pronounced i-set). Ha! I also hesitated at 51A: "Nicholas I or II" - not because I didn't know the answer, but because of the two possible spellings. Of late, it's been all TSAR all the time, so I thought I'd go with it instead of getting confirmation. Of course, this time it was CZAR. Derp.  I will attribute my slightly higher time today of 6:29 to these blips. Sadly, no immediate numerical associations came to mind TODAY


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Monday, November 22, 2021, Stella Zawistowski

Greetings fellow puzzle solvers! Frannie here to take you and the review through the big holiday week. The delights of Thanksgiving are my GENRE of enjoyment, holiday-wise - family and feasting really hit the SLOT. As a vegetarian, I plan to avoid any and all MYSTERYMEAT on Thursday, but I think it's only fair to warn you that there may be some pie-related slowdowns later in the week. 

And speaking of slowdowns, I hit a couple today, first of all by starting with FANTASYfootBALL where BASE was wanted - sports is never my best category. I also entered 'tourbus' in place of BUSTOUR - a much better match for the clue ("Sightseeing on wheels"). I ended up with a time of 6:09, notable only to me because it is the same as the address of my first dorm in college. [Gee, she really OPENSUP when she writes on a Sunday evening, doesn't she?] 

26A: UPC

Any ROMANCELANGUAGE is much more my cup of tea, so I enjoyed the ad hoc Latin bits like ETAL and ALUM, but the presence of both OPUS (singular) and OPERA (plural) was the NICEST. Also, BTW, Horace, it looks like the plural of 'uxor' is uxores - hope that doesn't come in *too* handy. :) I very much enjoyed the C/AP "Enter en masse, as a car" (PILEINTO). BUTTONUP, LOPE, and COIFFEUR are also nice.

The answer to "Question to a suspected culprit" amused me, as I imagined police agents on the British crime dramas we watch asking each suspect, "WASITYOU?" What confessions would then ENSUE? Stay tuned...


Sunday, November 21, 2021, Adam Wagner


I don't know how, but I never even noticed the circles in this puzzle until after I had finished, so I kept wondering why they gave two dates for the theme clues. Duh. The answer, as you all know, is that within the longer film title is the title of another movie starring the same person mentioned in the clue. PICTUREINPICTURE, as the revealer reveals. Selma Hayek, for example, was in both FROMDUSKTILLDAWN and "Frida," in 1996 and 2002 respectively. And Brad Pitt was in OCEANSELEVEN and "Seven." You get it.

I liked seeing FABIANO Caruana in the grid. In 2018 he nearly became the first World Chess Champion from the U.S. since Bobby Fischer, but after drawing 6-6 in the regular games, he lost in the speed chess tie-break to the reigning champ, Magnus Carlsen. The Voltaire quote: "Clever TYRANTS are never punished," was interesting, and I enjoyed the unusual clue "[swoon]" for ITSLOVE. And how 'bout the amusingly straightforward "What 2 is vis-à-vis 1" for MORE?

PEGLEGS ("Walking sticks?") was a little surprising, but "Get on the stick?" (POGO) made me smile. I don't often think of POGO as a verb. And speaking of motion, I also liked "Pickup line?" for NEEDALIFT. "Absolutely devoured" (INHALED) was fun, and HATFUL "Amount of tips earned by a street performer, maybe" got a guffaw.

I didn't love ARCED (Took a bow?), and APRILS (Shower times) got an UGH. I might rather have seen it clued with reference to Sara Teasdale:

How many million ____ came
Before I ever knew
How white a cherry bough could be,
A bed of squills, how blue!
And many a dancing April
When life is done with me,
Will lift the blue flame of the flower
And the white flame of the tree.

Oh burn me with your beauty, then,
Oh hurt me, tree and flower,
Lest in the end death try to take
Even this glistening hour.

O shaken flowers, O shimmering trees,
O sunlit white and blue,
Wound me, that I, through endless sleep,
May bear the scar of you.

But then, maybe that would have been too long.

- Horace

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Saturday, November 20, 2021, Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen

Lots of fun clues today! My favorite was the QMC - "The highest form of flattery?" for PLATEAU. Hah! Would "mesa" have also worked? Or "tableland?" And running a close second was "Refined oil product?" (ART). Hah! Also strong were the non-QMCs "Legends, often" for INSETS, and "Opened up during an examination" for SAIDAH. Very nice. "Secretive things?" (GLANDS) was clever, but it's a little gross. And honorable mention goes to "It covers a lot of ground" (DIRT). 

MALTS - are one of my favorite things

On the other side, I am less enamored of clues like "Century of note" for SENATORS. Nobody calls the senators a century. I know there are 100 of them, but still... And I get the idea in "Pack man" for ALPHAMALE, but that one doesn't thrill me either. And while I'm at it, "Scoop often used in Indian cuisine" doesn't seem quite perfect for NAAN. I see what they mean, that the bread is often used to scoop things up, but it's not actually a scoop. Am I being too picky?

And how about "Word before now" for ERE? I kept thinking that clue should have been better. Like, "Word before, before now," or just "Before, before now." Because it's kind of an old-timey word, no? And who actually says "ERE now?" And speaking of ERE, did you know that "erst" is the superlative of "ere?" And I would have thought that "first" derived from that, but no, "first" is the superlative of "fore." At least that's what the interwebs tell me.

Anywho.. are grain SILOS really prone to explosion? Because of fermentation or something? Or is that a joke about missile silos? 

I love seeing KAMALAHARRIS and YOUVEGOTTHIS in the middle there. And of the long Downs, FLEWAKITE, NIGHTOWLS, and CRESCENTS were my favorites.

I zipped through this one in just under 8 minutes (7:59), which, given the byline, surprised me. It was a fun romp.

- Horace

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday, November 19, 2021, John Hawksley

When solving a puzzle with triple-stacks at the top and bottom, it helps a lot when the first two Across answers are gimmes. Among my earliest memories is that of my father reading "Treasure Island" to me and my sister. The tapping of Blind Pew's cane, and Long John Silver's line SHIVERMETIMBERS are as indelible as the "black spot." And HOTELCALIFORNIA, well, anyone "of a certain age" will know that lyric, I imagine.


After that, the somewhat ad hoc ETHNICRELATIONS (Ways in which different cultures interact) is symmetrical with HATERSGONNAHATE ("Don't sweat the naysayers"). That's an interesting juxtaposition. 

I liked the straightforwardness of "It travels at Mach 1" for SOUNDWAVE, and FUNSIZE (Smaller than usual, endearingly) brought a smile. Seems like a lot of old presidential trivia today - ELEANOR (Longest-serving U.S. first lady, informally), JQA (Presidential monogram of the early 1800s), and WHIG (Daniel Webster or Henry Clay). And it almost seems like the Non-QMC "Water colors" (AQUAS) is a DADJOKE

As usual with a stack puzzle, there is some straining in the support structure: ENORM, HOTTO, IFA, RATON... but nothing too too terrible.

I got lucky knowing a few things and it really made this one go by quickly. 7:42 on a Friday still seems very fast to me. 

- Horace

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Thursday, November 18, 2021, Ori Brian

Today's theme incorporates old-school rebus-style clues for five answers. I didn't understand it at first, because "Di" appears within "Godiva," and I was looking for something that just wasn't there. By the time I got to the middle, with the "Art → Calculus ← Spanish" clue for MIDDLECLASS, I figured it out, and then THIRDPARTY and LASTLAUGH were drop-ins.

TED Lasso

I guess I'm not terribly wowed by this theme. It wasn't immediately obvious to me, but still, once it was figured out, it felt a little flat. Maybe that's just me.

My favorite entries are CHEETO (Cause of some orange fingers) (Been there!), SNAKEOIL (Fraudulent medical treatment) (loose definition of "treatment," but I love the term), and THEMAN (Oppressive authority, informally). SEMINUDE (Shirtless, say) reminds me of a friend who used to add "in the nude" after things that other people said. As in [Person One] "I had a great time at the amusement park yesterday" [Friend] "... in the nude." It's fun. Try it at work!

I'm sick of seeing ITD ("____ be a shame ..."), but I don't want to complain too loudly about it until I've made a puzzle or two myself. See also: ILIA.

Some nice QMCs in "Bird's-eye view?" (BILL), "Tap alternative?" (PSST), and "Take the wrong way? (FILCH) (steal also fits there...). On the Non-QMC side we've got the timely "Vaccination site" (ARM) and "Pair at sea" (OARS), and my favorite clue is kind of a mix of both - "Silence of the lambs? Just the opposite!" (BAA). Haa!

A fine Thursday. Not great, not bad. Fine.

- Horace

p.s. Jeff Chen over at xwordinfo.com pointed out a feature that I totally missed, which is that the theme answers form a kind of sequence, "first, second, middle, third, and last." I guess that adds to the overall effect, but having middle in the middle, while cool in a way, makes it so that "third" should really have been "fourth." Know what I mean? It's another layer of theme, but for me, it doesn't really work.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wednesday, November 17, 2021, Anne Grae Martin

What makes this puzzle for me is the near symmetry of cat and boat in the NW and SE corners. The middle poses sort of work toward a closed form, too. They don't make it, but that's ok, it's close enough. I don't usually love circles in my puzzles, but somehow, this one is fine with me.


I've only done yoga a few times in my life. Frannie did it a lot for a time, and she talked about how exhausting it was. I was young and stupid (see yesterday's post), and I scoffed at the idea that it could be hard at all. So then I went with her and I learned what Bikram yoga is. That's the kind where the room is about 105 degrees, and for an hour you bend and hold your body in unusual ways, using muscles that you don't realize you have. And yes, it was exhausting. But also incredible. I should probably still be doing it. But instead I blog. Hmph.

So blog then! 

It's another unusual theme in that only one "actual" entry mentions it (well two, if you, like me, count the symmetrical AWARENESS) (and probably TONED could work...), and the rest is carried by the circles. So many triple-checked squares puts a strain on the grid, I've learned, and - ABSIT omen! - we end up with some obscure Latin, a line of hugs (OOO), colloquialisms (YEAHYOU, ARSE, WOWIE, and CMERE), and a lot of names (AUDEN, ADUBA, BLAIR, REN, ALANA, HERMAN, ARI, KONDO, DRBLACK, ALICE, GODOT, RODAN). I mention it, because I am a "slave of duty" (I just saw The Pirates of Penzance last weekend), but I don't mind it. And speaking of G&S, I even enjoyed seeing OBDURATE (Headstrong) because it reminds me, of course, of the song Tit Willow from The Mikado. "If you remain callous and obdurate I / Shall perish as he did and you will know why / Though I probably shall not exclaim as I die / 'Oh, willow, tit willow, tit willow." Genius. Problematic today, yes, but still containing some wonderful things.

Anywho... I enjoyed this one. Now it's time for me to sign up for some yoga classes. 

- Horace

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Drew Schmenner

Interesting form today, wherein the revealer, or the first part of it anyway, is the first part of the theme that one hits. If, that is, one is solving from the top left corner.


THATSALL SHEWROTE is that revealer, with its tortured clue "With 63-Across, "The end" ... or what can be said about the novels in the clues for 25-, 38- and 52-Across." SYLVIAPLATH did publish only one novel, it's true, but that was certainly not all she wrote. The same appears to be true for EMILYBRONTE. Still, it's an interesting idea for a theme.

This Tuesday grid moves more quickly than some do into the mid-week material: TITANIA (Fairy queen in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"); ASHRAMS (Hindu retreats); KERATIN (Protein in horns and hair); GANTRY (Overhead support for interstate signs); and SAL (Narrator of "On the Road") are all somewhat specialized. See also: BEATNIK (Many a character in Kerouac's "On the Road"). Unfortunately for the theme, that was Kerouac's second book. Plus he was a man.

Thinking of PAELLA (Dish associated with the Valencia region of Spain) always makes me laugh a little. When I was younger, Frannie and I were travelling in France, and one night at a restaurant when the waiter rattled off the specials, I had to ask her to repeat one word about four times because I thought I was just not hearing the French correctly. Finally, Frannie just turned to me and said "PAELLA!" But the problem was not a FAILURE in my French, it was in my culinary experience. The child of a German and a Finn, I was familiar with pulla and spätzle, but Spanish dishes were not a thing in our house. Just one more way that travel broadens the mind. :)

Finally, why would one say that a MOLAR is a "Difficult tooth for a dentist to fill"? No one wants to hear that. How many cavities are not in MOLARs? What we'd rather hear is "Routine target for a dentist," or something along those lines. 

Another day, another debut. It seems the pandemic has been a good time for taking up crossword construction. And with new constructors come new ideas, and there's nothing wrong with that.

- Horace

Monday, November 15, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021, Ian Rathkey

A nice, simple Monday theme. Four phrases that start with "[verb] me" and end with a name. I like it. The phrases are:


It's an odd coincidence about that last one, because we're planning a trip to N.Y.C. with some friends, and they're going to go see "Little Shop of Horrors." We looked into getting tickets ourselves, but decided we'd rather ease back into "going out" by walking through museums rather than sitting in a crowded theater. Still, I hope our friends enjoy it.

Salvador Dalí with his OCELOT

Some funny entries in the fill today that look bad at first glance, but are explained by the clue, like UMNO ("Er, I think I'll pass), PREK (School for 3- and 4-year-olds, informally), and ENDUSE (Ultimate purpose). ENDUSE seems like it ought to be a real word, doesn't it? It could be a cross between exude and ooze... UMNO.

The CHEETAH has long been a favorite animal, and I also get my preferred spelling of ICEDTEA today (as opposed to the incorrect "ice tea").

Overall I quite liked this one. I don't know about sticking a LINEAR equation in on Monday :), but aside from that, there's really not much to MOAN about. It's a solid debut (Congrats!), and a solid start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday, November 14, 2021, Aimee Lucido and Ella Dershowitz


As the revealer explains, today's theme lays synonyms for "mind" over different states of matter. Thus, "brain" over "solid," "smarts" over "liquid," "wit" over "gas," and "noodle" over "plasma." Not a bad set. And the words themselves are hidden in longer phrases. I suppose the best one is POOLNOODLE since the meaning of noodle in this one is not at all related to the brain. Every other answer pretty much uses the key word in an unhidden way. Not that that bothers me terribly.

Mail, e.g. ARMOR from Higgins Armory

There are a ton of mid-length answers in this one that I like - OLEANDER (Poisonous shrub) always makes me hear Steely Dan's "My Old School" in my head ("Oleanders growing outside her door / Soon they're gonna be in bloom up in Annandale."), and likewise, since I've got music on the brain quite often, INFECTS (Passes along to, in a way) brings to mind The The's "Infected." IGNORATI (The uninformed masses, colloquially) is a fun one, and TUKTUK (Thai taxi with a repetitive name) makes me think of my brother, who loves to ride in those when he visits Thailand.

I didn't watch "Wolf Hall," but I probably should, because I hear CROMWELL mentioned a lot when I watch shows on BritBox, and I know almost nothing about that whole time in England. Frannie and I were just saying that we might try to make this coming winter into an extended "reading period," so maybe I'll break out some history books. 

I didn't love what I consider alternate spelling in HOWDEDO ("Afternoon, pardner!"), and little things like ERY, EAN, and AQI are never really great to run into, but overall, I thought this was a fine Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Saturday, November 13, 2021, Adam Aaronson

Whew... today's themeless Saturday played much easier for me than yesterday's. I know that sometimes puzzles go more quickly when the constructor's mindset and yours seem to be in sync. But also this kind of grid I find more straightforward as well. The long answers intersect at multiple places separated by a number of shorter answers, which usually give good footholds.

As is often the case for me when solving a themeless, I find my first foothold at the bottom of the long down answers coming out of the NW corner. So ODDS and SPY were my first solid entries, and then I was able to fill in the corner above. Lovely misdirection clue with 4D: Reading, for instance (RAILROAD). So many possibilities! I've never heard of PIRATEBAY. Do you pronounce it the way it looks, or "pie-rat-E-Bay?"

STRANGERTHINGS was a gimme that opened things up well. Also, 28A: Groups with lots of issues to talk through (DEBATETEAMS) gave me a nice foothold, anchored at the end by the extreme gimme TIMOTHEE.

The NE corner had an international flavor, what with GDAY, GRAZIE, IRENE Curie, DEVON, REYKJAVIK (great answer, fun clue), and URAL. That's six different countries referenced in three different continents!

Some other items I liked: 

31A: Not-so-big shot (BBS). I was thinking about things like COO, MBA, lay-up? Did not see this one coming at all.

41A: Epitome (HEIGHT). I just love this. 

50A: Site of a famous tilt in European history (PISA). Hah!

Fun puzzle today. I had a great week! Turning it back over to Horace tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, November 12, 2021

Friday, November 12, 2021, Patrick John Duggan

Wowza, two days in a row with tougher than usual puzzles! I enjoy a challenge, and this one was hard fought most of the way, but particularly in the SE corner. Solved today together with Hope.

So much to like here, starting with GAYMECCA at 1A (San Francisco or Fire Island). We tried GAYhaven first, as well as PRovE for 19A: Not take for granted (PRIZE). After correcting those mistakes, we were unable to escape the NW corner, and had to start again in the middle W. 

Hope got ONANDON just off the final N, and that set us up well. We laughed out loud at 28D: Copper containers? (PATROLCARS). MAALOX would probably help if you tried to eat CAMEL

We moved through the connection at the south, and got the wonderful BRUSQUE, but even after Hope got EQUALPAY, the rest of that corner balked. It didn't help that we wanted 61A: Prepare on short notice (RUSTLEUP) to start with RUSh____.

But no matter. Instead we worked our way up the eastern half. 41A: Spare clothes? (BIKINIS) is guffaw worthy. And who can't laugh at one of these?

Meanwhile, the ICEMACHINE and the BEERKOOZIE seem to go well together. Not for putting ice in your beer, naturally. Around your beer cans. That works better.

In the end, we had to face up to our blank SE corner. What finally broke it was getting PAUL, which then briefly led to the incorrect SEAgulLs, and then finally SEAEAGLE. I love 51A: Neat and clean (KEMPT). Who doesn't like being kempt?

Hmmmm. Will Saturday live up to the rest of the turn? Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel, to find out!

- Colum

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Thursday, November 11, 2021, Mark Maclachlan

A very tricksy Thursday for us today, and it took a very long time to figure out, in my case. I felt certain that 10D: Many a TikToker would be a TEE[N], but then fell into a strange mind confusion for 34D: Smooth, lustrous material ([S]ATI[N]). Perhaps it would have TEE again in the white squares, in which case maybe "sateen?" Trying to fit letters into each of the black squares, and repeating the letters in the white squares in any given row or column? 

But then I was also certain [E]MIT would be correct, but couldn't get others in that row to have MIT as well. 

Even when I was working on the revealer at 65A: Provider of directions ... or a hint to the four "+" shapes in this puzzle's grid (COMPASS), I was missing two of the letters and couldn't get it to gel. Finally, the other shoe dropped, and suddenly it all became clear.

It's a lovely theme, with the hidden direction letters in the appropriate spots in each + sign, as well as the bonus unchecked letters in the middle. It's particularly nice with the four words which connect the + signs, like 32D: Business that makes cuts in order to turn a profit? ([S]ALO[N]). 

Cartwheel hat

The rest of the puzzle plays like a chunky corner themeless with some funny neighboring answers, like the AQUARIA next to the PUPTENT, or IMEANNO above GUESSSO. Or even more unlikely, the TITANIC on top of an ICERINK...

But my favorite clue and answer pair is the innocuous seeming 30D: It's on the plus side (ASSET). It's a clever non-QMC, but it's made even better by the fact that the answer is on the side of two + signs...

Tough puzzle. I FWOE'd by putting in TiSHA rather than TASHA. And why? Because ___AAN seemed unlikely. It wasn't until I finished that corner with CASHCAB and looked back at 31A that BATAAN became clear.

- Colum

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Wednesday, November 10, 2021, Max Chen Lauring and Benjamin Chen Lauring

Apologies for yesterday's abbreviated post, but needs must, as they say.

I want to start with the elephant in the room here. What, I hear you ask, is a ZADDY? I too, cherished readers, wondered at this word. An "attractive, fashionable man, in modern parlance," per the clue. And yet this is not exactly the right sense of the word. As you may have intuited, there is a "Daddy" slant to the word. It apparently implies an older male, sexually attractive. Kind of shocking for a NYT puzzle!

Meanwhile, the theme of the puzzle arises from different interpretations of 56A: Small amount (ONEPERCENT). It's a nice range, from LOWFATMILK to THEULTRARICH. The middle answer is a fine 15-letter answer, UNFAVORABLEODDS. Our constructors have found a good set, which feels pretty tight.

The construction of the grid gives us two answers as long as two of the theme answers, at 14A and 60A (SHOPKEEPER and DISPENSARY, which feel tangentially related). I know there are some who turn their noses up at non-theme answers clashing for attention with the actual theme answers, but I say, the more the better!


Because there are 5 theme answers, the grid is also constructed so there are no long down answers. Nonetheless, there are some tasty answers like FRAPPE (a term that we who grew up in New England understand to mean what most other Americans would call a milkshake - that is, it has ice cream in it). I also smiled at 42D: Ones who treat people poorly? (QUACKS). 

I wonder when we'll be able to retire answers like RAZR. On the other hand, who am I to complain? I loved ENRY 'Iggins, as well as Come on, EILEEN. And those are more dated by far.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Tuesday, November 9, 2021, Jennifer Lee and Victor Galson

Hey all, just a quick blog review today, as I am running late for chorus rehearsal. 

Our theme is an old favorite of all the reviewers (and many others, I hope), Mr. OGDEN Nash. The theme answers are the second parts of four of his very brief little poemlets. I've always particularly enjoyed the one at 47A (THEOTHERMILK). What they couldn't do in this puzzle is rely on the solver to get some of his ridiculous rhymes that fudge words to make them fit, as in: 

And all the vice presidents nod their heads in rhythm / And the only question asked is do the borrowers want the money sent or do they want to take it withm.

So this puzzle was in the win column from the get go, in my opinion. I also liked NOWSEEHERE and MOCKTAIL (although I have never personally taken a Shirley Temple). 

And now I want some FLAKY biscuits.

- Colum

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Monday, November 7, 2021, Carl Larson

Had a few moments, so I decided to do tomorrow's puzzle tonight, and throw the review on a day early. Why not?

Mr. Larson has decided to honor four women who have been nicknamed "The QUEEN of..." various musical genres. I love the consistency of the concept, from DONNASUMMER, Queen of Disco, to ARETHAFRANKLIN, Queen of Soul, to ELLAFITZGERALD, Queen of Jazz, and finally LORETTALYNN, Queen of Country. It's beautiful to see all four names in their entirety, and remarkable that they fit symmetrically in the grid. Of course Ella is my favorite, followed by Aretha, then Loretta, then Donna.

Who would be the Queen of OPERA? Maria Callas? I'm partial to Renée Fleming myself, and also like Cecilia Bartoli. Thoughts?

My favorite clue was 11D: Good name for a postseason football game sponsored by General Mills? (CEREALBOWL). Hah! Fun stuff for a Monday.

The mascot for the hypothetical game

Other answers I liked included FRITZ and STYX. Fun Scrabble letters there. And while I'm no huge fan of either AMMO or CAMO, I liked that they were next to each other in the grid.

Fun start to the week. 2:59.

- Colum

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Sunday, November 6, 2021, Sid Sivakumar


Hey everyone! I'm back, after a couple of weeks off, and so eager to get going that I'm blogging on Saturday night. Actually, I'm trying to stay up a little later, and take the dogs out at an hour they're not used to, in the hopes that I can actually enjoy the extra hour associated with Daylight Savings tonight...

Opening the grid up revealed vast tracts of white squares, with only 124 entries. I broke in with 22A, one of my favorite Disney movies (THELITTLEMERMAID). The amazing songs by Menken and Ashman made it feel like a Broadway musical. I had already come across their work in Little Shop of Horrors, and they went on to write Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin before Ashman's untimely death from AIDS.

There are some fun very long answers here, like 92A: Special delivery? (KEYNOTEADDRESS), MEDICINECHEST and CANDYCOUNTERS. 38D: Acquired family member (MOTHERINLAW) feels like it's got some unpleasant vibes, but it doesn't have to be that way, right?

Some of the clues that made me smile:

72A: Employees who work a lot (VALETS). Very nice.

4D: Drones, e.g. (MALES) - boy, I had no idea where this one was going.

52A: Spoils (HAUL). Not a plural answer!

17D: They get left in the dust (PRINTS).

DAEDALUS, HOLODECKS, so much to like. Fun stuff. Maybe some day I'll get to San MARINO. Looks lovely.

- Colum

Saturday, November 6, 2021, Brooke Husic and Will Nediger

I had the most trouble with the northeast. I knew the Morrison book, but I couldn't quite recall the title until I got the first letter from SALEM ("Boston exurb").  I also had a false start in that section with "Bio subject." I went with a 'science education' interpretation of the clue and tried 'anat' at first. I should have made note of the lack of a period after "bio" which works perfectly with the correct answer LIFE. My first interpretations of the clues "Grande and others" and "It's sold by the yard" also went astray. For the former, I thought of the singer Ariana Grande, for some reason, even though I don't really know her from Adam, and 'sod' for the latter. But, STARBUCKSORDERS and ALE were correct. Other places I guessed correctly right off the bat, though, were STOREBRAND ("Lower-cost option at a supermarket, usually"), STEVE ("Martin or Harvey"), MERCEDESBENZ (believe it or not) for "Maker of the world's first diesel-powered passenger car" , PERKS ("Brightens, with 'up'"), and of course, "Whom to call 'maman'" (MERE). Taking the right tack, and just straight up knowing a few answers resulted in a pretty fast Saturday time, for this solver (20:27). 


I thought the band of long answers across the middle of the grid was solid, as were the pairs of ten-letter answers in the northwest and southeast, with my favorite being PROPELLERBEANIE. The puzzle did play a little "section-y" which made the northeast and southwest corners into almost separate mini-puzzles.

The clue "Reciprocal of a siemens" put up some resistance. I didn't even know what topic category the word might belong in. Luckily the downs made the answer ampere (OHM). PONE was another one outside my everyday vocabulary, but I have heard of it. SWIG is a great word. I enjoyed the QMC "Walk on water?" (PIER) - ha!

Other clues of interest were "Thread count?" for TEXTS - not immediately obvious to this solver, and the clue that says Facebook allows for more than 53 GENDERS

And, as this week of reviews comes to a close, I enCRUST you into the capable hands of my friend, speedy solver, and co-blogger, Colum. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for kindly swapping weeks with me a few times recently due to an all-consuming work project - IOWEYOUONE


Friday, November 5, 2021

Friday, November 5, 2021, Joseph Greenbaum

A fun Friday that played on the fast side (17:06) for this solver - the opposite of a SLOG. Just about everything in the northeast went right in starting with "Other half" (SPOUSE) and on through "To ___ mildly" (PUTIT), and "Cry from a balcony" (OROMEO). I've never had CHURROS, but I think the NYTX is trying  subliminally implant the idea that I should by putting the answer in the puzzle the last two days in a row.

Slightly more tricky for this solver were things like "T-Bird alternative" (VETTE), "Deli lunch options" (TURKEYWRAPS) - those are a thing? - and "Cabbage alternative?" (IOU). 

There seemed to be something of a car-related theme with the above mentioned and RAGTOPS, not to mention TESLA and, of course, SMOG. Maybe AUTOBOT, too, if they are transformers that turn into cars. 

I thought "Airs during the holidays" for NOELS and "Follower of Jesus Christ" (SUPERSTAR) were both clever clues, but thanks to some good advice (DONTOVERTHINKIT) they didn't give me any trouble. I also liked MAKELOVENOTWAR, "Zwölf minus elf" (EINS), and the reference to Paris, (ICI) even though it is sports related. Perhaps because I am something of an ODDDUCK, OAKNUT was a favorite today.  


"Sound investment in the 1980s?" (CASSETTEPLAYER) was a blast from the past. Remember mixed tapes? Magnetic tape is NOTA great technology, but it sure seemed like it at the time. :)


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Thursday, November 4, 2021, David Steinberg

I'm not sure I get today's theme. The revealer is "Hairy problem? ... or a hint to his puzzle's theme" (SPLITENDS). I entered pairs of letters - rebus style - at the beginning and end of several answers, as needed to make both Across and Down answers work. Does that count as the split ends? The fact that [H]OLDINGO[N] has the same middle letters as [G]OLDINGO[T] is cool, I guess, but is that all that's going on here? I don't know. I could look for other reviews on the World Wide Web to check, but that's not my way. I'm sure, dear Readers, you will let me know if I'm missing something here. :)

I liked "Seriously overcharged" (GOUGED) and "Ermine, in the summer" (STOAT). I thought "Kind" was a nicely ambiguous clue that turned out to be NICE instead of the usual 'ilk' or 'type'. I also enjoyed the three question mark clues "Nearly pointless" for DULL, "Tank top?" for GA[SC]AP for "Tank top?", and "Outdated charging device?" for LANCE - ha! "What separates money from everything" (ISNT) was another kind of fun question mark clue. 

I also enjoyed clues 44 and 46A "Again ..." and "Again!" (IREPEAT and ENCORE). "Mayhem" and HAVOC are both good words. 


I'm lucky KEGS filled itself in by way of the Downs; I don't know if I would ever have realized Natural Light was a beer. OTOH, I am a big fan and user of Fleur de SEL. Mmmmmm, sel. 

For my money, 'gasconade' and 'fanfaronade' make BRAG sound a lot better. Just sayin'.


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Wednesday, November 3, 2021, Dan Harris

A theme featuring "life" partners in the form of two-word phrases each word in the two word phrase can go AFTERLIFE to make another known phrase. The first one I got was INSURANCEFORM, but my favorite life pairing was LIFE FORM.

Overall, a pretty smooth solve, although "Fraternal letters" at 38A had me trying a few Greek letters until the Downs revealed the answer to be BPO_. I thought I might FWOE thanks to 28D, where the end of the Latin phrase "Agere sequitur ___" was wanted, but I was pretty sure the final word of the phrase had to be ESSE and so I went with BPOE and got the congratulatory message. Horace tells me it stands for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. 

Another interesting bit was the term "jackpotting" being attacks on ATMS
I enjoyed the clueing overall: 
"Names as a source" (CITES)
"Arrived dressed up like" (CAMEAS)
"Bounce back" (RALLY)
"Make changes to the board" (ERASE)

I don't know the app, but I like the word BEJEWELED. I also liked ENTITY and PIED


Fun to see "Ire" on the clue side for once, with the long ILLTEMPERED as the answer. ENLARGEMENT is another nice big answer. My favorite non-theme related clue was "Fitness center?" (CORE) - ha!

I haven't heard the term MAINMAN in a LIFE TIME.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Tuesday, November 2, 2021, Vaibhav Srikaran and Matthew Stock

Because I did the puzzle and wrote the review Sunday night, I didn't know about Monday's NYTX outage until Horace mentioned it over coffee. I did a little searching on the Webz to see if I could find out what had happened - and at that early AM hour, I couldn't - but one thing that I did find that amused me was that no matter what I searched, the second or third result was about UMIAK - the answer to the "Inuit boat" clue. It made me wonder if others thought that one was a bit offsides for a Monday as well.

Anyhoo, back to today's puzzle and its lovely DOUBLERAINBOW theme, as represented by the ROYGBIV letters in circled sets of double letters that form an arc across the top two thirds of the grid - with EGG on top. :)


I got a little hung up in the north east. I didn't read the clue for 12 D carefully and I rashly entered MEDIAmAVen for "Like a public relations pro." The worst of it was that it worked in many Acrosses, and one of the three places it didn't work was an answer I didn't know ("Confection popular in South Asia and the Mideast" (HALVA)) so I kept struggling to make it work and wasted time. I know, BOOHOO. :) 

I liked "Move like a buoy" (BOB), "Lead-in to vision or zone" (EURO) - I'm a big fan of both - and "What's black and white and a threat all over?" (ORCA) - ha! 

It was interesting to have BABYYODA make an appearance. I learned only last weekend that the character is not actually Yoda as a baby, but a baby of Yoda's species named Grogu. While looking up Baby Yoda in the Wikipedia, I find that there's another of this species in the series, apparently named Yaddle. Who knew? And, although largely unrelated, I couldn't keep myself from reading a lot of the Wikipedia article about Anne Boleyn. Sometimes I just CAROB from one topic to another.

And was there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you ask? I think so: an enjoyable mini-theme (as I'm styling it) of BEERS, IPAS and ONTAP. Cheers!