Saturday, December 31, 2022

Saturday, December 31, 2022, Billy Bratton

I thought I was going go out in a blaze of glory by solving today's puzzle in record time, but I was stymied by some trixy clues in the northwest and southeast, resulting in last-puzzle-of-the-year time of 20:32, which would have been a kickass time if only I had solved it nine seconds faster!

Although I dropped the answer to 1A right in, answers to other clues in that section were "Few and far between" (SPARSE) at first. The opposite was true for the northeast where I guessed FANBASES, enabling me to complete that section, including the unknown-to-me TOADETTE, to a great xSTENT all in one go. I moved on to the gimme-for-my-age-group, ZIGGYSTARDUST, and continued my rampage through the southwest, only to be pulled up short in the southeast. In the southwest, a false start of BEarS instead of BERGS caused by the clever non-QMC clue "Sights in the Arctic" (SEAMY list of QMCVSnon-QMC clues below), never GUMMEDUP the works. 

OTH, despite a high confidence level in both ESPERANTO ("Language with its own 'green star' flag") and TERAFLOP ("Large unit of computing speed"), the KRAFT of the clue "Producer of many singles" clogged my answer artery. I was further put off piste by having initially guessed twoTON as a "Kind of pickup" instead of the correct ONETON. Also, I couldn't quite remember how to spell DENTYNE

The constructor managed to FITIN a ton of great clues, of both the QMC and non-QMC variety. I am giving the advantage to the Non-QMC clues today. Judge for yourself: 

"Turning point in construction?" (SCREW) - I turned this one over in my head forever before figuring it out.
"Lab order?" (HEEL) - Cute, but this one didn't give me much paws.
"Didn't wait for a restaurant job?" (BUSED) - I got this one in short order.
"At a high interest rate?" (KEENLY) - Excellent return on investment, once I figured it out.
"Fret about a fricassee?" (STEW) - I might have gotten this one sooner if I had known what a fricassee was. :|

"In on" (WISETO)
"One end of it might be felt" (INKPEN)
"Windup" (END)
"Sap" (DRAIN)
"Understand without listening" (READLIPS)
"Sort of spectacles not much seen nowadays" (PINCENEZ)
"Long division" (EON) - nice.
"Floors in a ring" (KOS) - excellent!

I also enjoyed the clue "Grubby little paws" and the answer SWISHED. In sum, hats off to this FINE finish, and a big thank you to all who make the NYTX a fun feature of every day.

See you next year, dear Readers! I wish you all a very happy New Year.


Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday, December 30, 2022, Brendan Emmett Quigley

A surprising sub-20 for me on today's BEQ (if I may) offering. I finished in the northwest corner with a G and a prayer - so to speak. I didn't know "What the 'angler' on a deep-sea anglerfish can do," and I was confounded for a time by the clever clue "Sleeper's support," even while looking at SOFALE_. I am not familiar with the particular CHAGALL painting, "The Spoonful of Milk," and I was also unsure of the NEWTOME ANNATTO ("Peppery orange-red condiment"). I finally entered a G as THECLOSER which gave me SOFALEG and GLOW, but, because I was so unsure of my guesses, I deleted the S in the final square in the grid so I could review without setting off the auto check. THINGS looked good enough so I re-entered the S to complete success and a final time of 17:16.

It wasn't just the northwest, but the entire top section of the puzzle was the most challenging for me. I had to reach into the depths of the brain barn to dig up MANOWAR. And I didn't "get" the sports reference of "What a single is worth" (ONEBASE) until reviewing the completed puzzle. Other trouble spots included "Place to get a platza treatment" (SAUNA), "M.L.B. great with a famous 'unbreakable' streak, familiarly" (JOED), and the not-super-tricky-clue-but-odd-looking answer AORB


On the other hand, ATON of the rest of the puzzle went right in - unusual for this solver with a BEQ puzzle. I was somehow on the right wavelength to drop in LOOKTHEOTHERWAY for "Condone an action tacitly", as well as THATSFORSURE, and the slightly-tortured-but-entertaining-and-seasonal "One who is mean as the Dickens?" (SCROOGE) - ho ho!

Nothing DRESSES up a Friday puzzle more than clever QMCs, of which there were a SCAD. In addition to the SOFALEG mentioned above, I enjoyed 
"Quick refesher" (CATNAP)
"Toy inspector?" (DOGSHOWJUDGE) - ha!
"Secretly pass gas?" (SIPHON) - a win-win! Hilarious clue and great word as answer. 
"Power couple" (AAS) - nice clue for crossword stickum.
There were also a couple gems in the non-QMC category including "They're chosen for their high-grade potential" (EASYAS) and the most excellent "Tool that you turn on" (LATHE). 

Fun fill included the aforementioned SIPHON, the double J'd JUMBOJETS, KHARTOUM, FANG, BAGEL, and SHED

And it wouldn't be a Friday without a few novel oddities like TYES "Nautical ropes" and ARE "Metric unit equal to 100 square meters," would it?


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Thursday, December 29, 2022, Rachel Fabi and Claire Rimkus

A nice trixy theme for today's puzzle. Understanding the trick came to me in two parts. I first noted the intrusion of LATE into some entries, and secondarily, I noticed the lack of LATE in other entries both of which, taken together, were caused by a LATESHIFT - moving LATE from one answer in a row to the other - with both modified answers still being common words. For example, "Makes the rounds" should be CIRCU[LATE]S, but we enter only CIRCUS at 24A, while the answer to the next clue in the row ("Large, flightless bird") is EMULATES. The LATE from CIRCUlateS shifts to the end of EMU. OVATION! The one that I had the most trouble with was the "Chilly" (COLLATED) /  "Fresh start, metaphorically" (CLEANSlate) pair. What seems obvious now - that the D of COLD comes after the interloping LATE seemed less obvious when looking at it in grid form. In that same vein - ORE is it? - I got TOAD from the crosses, but it took me a minute to correctly parse the clue so the answer made sense ("What might have bumps on a log?") - ha.

While there were a bunch of clues that were right in my wheelhouse such as "Hayek who portrayed Frida Kahlo" (SALMA), "George who wrote 'Romola'" (ELIOT), and "Hybrid beverage in a Bloody Caesar cocktail" (CLAMATO), I was lead down the garden path, as intended, by a number of clever clues today including "Easter starter?" (NOR), "Cry at la Copa Mondial" (GOL) - I started with the tried and true 'ole' - "Draped garment" (SARI) - I went with 'toga' at first - and "Big Sur runner beginning in 2020" (IMAC) - I was thinking sports, rather than computers.


Also of note today - the sets of paired clues - two chicken kings in the top middle (PERDUE and ALA), "For one" (EACH) followed by "For us" (OUR), "Camper's protection" (DEET) and Camper's detritus" (ASH), and the two "X" clues (CHI and TEN) to name a few. 

And that's not all. There were great C/APs throughout the grid. "Top, for instance, but not bottom" (TOY) is clever and "One in a 100" (SENATOR) is tough until you remember the answer. :) "Good name for a firefighter?" (BLAISE) is fun, as is "Something dingy" for BELL. And the C/AP "Lazily lie" for LOLL is lovely. Fill-wise, I enjoyed RETORTS, HOTHEAD, SCYTHE, and DABBLED.

Well, I better get this review published, I don't want to POSTULATE. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Wednesday, December 28, 2022, Josh Goodman

Today's theme answers are the names of the only three women ever to be inducted into the ROCKANDROLL HALLOFFAME twice, each as part of a duo or band and then as a solo artist. Hats off to the ALLSTAR trio TINATURNER, STEVIENICKS, and CAROLEKING.

And speaking of trios, I had at least three minutes worth of trouble in the north east. I was pretty sure about NAB ("Catch, as a criminal), but unclear about what was wanted for "Park in Manhattan, e.g.: Abbr."), and completely stumped by the unknown-to-me chocolate treat named for a Vancouver Island city, the NANAIMO bar. I read a little about it just now. Sounds like something I might like know that I know about it. I imagine this one didn't slow esteemed reader and speed solver Philbo down one bit. :)

Funny how it's always a combo of unknowns that causes trouble. For example, I've never heard of BENNETT, "Brit who wrote 'The Vanishing  Half'" at 47A, nor did I immediately remember Susan G. KOMEN's last name at 55D, but neither slowed me down thanks to the gettable surrounding material. 


I enjoyed STACKS ("Shelving area in a library"), "Architectural style started, strangely, in England" (ITALIANATE) and "Skeleton that's no longer in the closet" (SCANDAL). I've always liked the word EDICT. LEONINE is another nice one.

I was less happy with the TENOR of a few of the C/APs, which struck an off note to me, including "Way off base" for ERRANT, "Strict" for STERN, and "Gives permission" for ENABLES - all valid in a way, of course, but none destined for the crossword puzzle hall of fame, IMO.


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Tuesday, December 27, 2022, Lynn Lempel

I didn't need today's revealer to solve the puzzle, but I did enjoy the theme once I reviewed the completed grid. In the shaded squares are words that form common expressions when paired with the word "double." And each such word crosses another in the grid, making it a literal DOUBLECROSS. The most common pair (to this solver, in any case) was double DATE and double PARK, but double CHIN and double DIP came in as a close second - although really, double DIP shouldn't be a thing people! I also noted an almost double cross of another kind of SYD and KYD in the middle east corner. 

A couple of clues that almost double crossed me were "Classic car inits." where I tried gtO instead of REO. And I started with LIVEin for "Have as one's residence" which  messed up my entry of MAGENTA - without my leave or notice. Fortunately, I was able to straighten that out when I got to 44A: "Fail to keep a promise" and found REeEGE staring me in the face. You couldn't really say I finished this puzzle on the double: total solve time: 7:33.


A nice QMC, which, I thought this morning could be considered a clue with a double take, was "Sheepish utterance?" for BAA. I also enjoyed the clue "Texter's chortle" for LOL. I thought that including "of old" in the clue "Charitable offerings of old" for ALMS was particularly apt. Apt! I was also very happy to see PLY in the grid ("Thickness of yarn"). Such lovely specificity. "Org. that oversees court battles" (NBA) was fun. Fill-wise, I enjoyed DERANGE, AFLOAT, OAF, SPARKLE, MAGENTA, and BOT

The grid is filled with literary  references of interest - or ROIs - including AENEAS, BEANSTALK, AUDEN, and BILLY Budd, along with other topics. I went down a rabbit hole looking into Mama CASS Elliot. And, speaking of rabbit holes, the puzzle also includes a new-to-me clue for the classic OREO. According to the fabulous XWord Info, OREO has appeared 354 times in puzzles in the Shortz era. One day soon I will scrape the results of the Oreo search and attempt to determine the number of unique clues for this old chestnut. For today's puzzle, maybe a theme-related cluepportunity could have been something like 'also comes in a double-stuf variety." :)

It's getting late. I better post this on the double!


Monday, December 26, 2022

Monday, December 26, 2022, Kurt Weller

Today's theme answers are common expressions that can all be read as parts of CLOCKWORK: MAKEAFACE, SWITCHGEARS, CHANGEHANDS. Although the puzzle contains only these three elements, there is probably more to it than that. :)

While I felt like I was making good time through the puzzle, I didn't even get close to the 5 minute mark today, clocking in at 6:12. A couple of items that chewed clock were "House of mirrors at a carnival, for one" - the answer was MAZE, but I started with 'ride' - "Like old-fashioned railroad crossing signs" (XSHAPED) - I wasn't expecting that initial X - and "Venom neutralizer, e.g." (ANTITOXIN) - I had to wait for the X in OXEN to point me in the right direction - but the one that almost cleaned my clock was remembering how to spell MNEMONIC. Heh. 


Two nice groupings were the COE College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa answer just above "Campus quarters" (DORM), and TRIPE at one o'clock and GRIPE at seven in the grid. I also enjoyed "Put a patch on, say" (MEND) and "97.5% of a penny" (ZINC). Fill-wise I liked BOOM, PITH, and SCRUM
Two C/APs that didn't tick any boxes for me today were Super-ULTRA, and AWOLS as a plural. 

OK, time's up. Gotta punch in. :)


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Sunday, December 25, 2022, John Martz


A fun literary theme today, with book title clues leading to punny answers. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," e.g.?" is a FLUIDVOLUME, for example, and "The Help," e.g.?" is a WORKINGTITLE. Heh.


Some very clever clues today - like "One might have three parts, with or without its last letter" (SUITE). Very nice. And for "I, to Claudius," I dropped in "ego," thinking I was all that, but no, it's not our "I" translated, it's his "I" used as a number: ONE. And speaking of false starts, I tried "Shh" for "[I know it's wrong]" thinking, you know, "We shouldn't be doing this, but let's just both be quiet about it...", but no, it was the much more literal SIC. Oops.

But my favorite clue today, by far, is "Cut with a letter opener?" Even as I saw the letters come in, it took me a while to understand that it was TBONESTEAK. A cut of meat that starts with a letter. Wow. Beautiful.

In other news, I put a Phil OCHS quote under my photo in my high school yearbook, little radical that I was. Poor Phil OCHS... through connections at work I later met his niece, which made me very happy. I'm sure I over-gushed about how much I liked her uncle, but she was very nice about it.

Finally, I did not know that there was a Looney Tunes animator called BUGS Hardaway. And I further did not know that it was he who first drew BUGS Bunny, and according to Wikipedia (which Frannie and I each donate to every year, and which I recommend you consider in your charitable donations), when Hardaway was given a model sheet for a new animated short, someone simply wrote "Bugs' bunny" on it, and, well, the rest is history. Fascinating.

I hope you enjoyed this one, and I hope you all are enjoying your Sunday, whether you've spent it opening presents or not. We appreciate each and every one of you who comes to check in on our little blog, and we wish you all the best, today and every day.

- Horace

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Saturday, December 24, 2022, Trenton Charlson

Happy Saturday! 

Yesterday I was wondering if today's puzzle would be a real stumper, and when I saw Mr. Charlson's name, I knew it certainly could be, but it turns out that when the grid-spanners come to you, they fill in a lot of letters, and things went along pretty smoothly, all things considered.

George SEGAL (left)

There are eight (!) fifteens, so let's rank them.

ALABAMASLAMMERS (Southern Comfort cocktails) - as much as I loathe SoCo, I can't not like this name.

BEETHOVENSTHIRD (Symphony originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte) - I think this is pretty well-known, but I actually entered BEETHOVENeroIca at first, and was mad about it, thinking "who would ever say that?" I really should have learned by now that when I think something is really off, it's probably my own dumb brain.

EUCALYPTUSTREES (Bush growths) - Fun realization, when it came clear.

After that, the rest are all pretty much the same. DOORTODOORSALES (Revenue source for a Girl Scout troop) was a little surprising. Does this still happen? And I wanted an "and" in SOCLOSEYETSOFAR, but it's ok as it is.

ODEON, STENOS, and PTL were OYS, but SATAN, FLYROD (Casting choice), and ATEALIVE (Creamed) were NEATO. "Seat in Parliament" (ARSE) always gets a chuckle. LATE (One way to run) was surprising in that it was not "amok," and NMI (Letters used in the absence of a letter) sent me to the reference desk. I can report back that I believe it means "No Middle Initial," and probably not "Notice of Mental Illness" in this case.

Lastly, I've flown into Paris a dozen times or more, always on Air France, and I've never landed at ORLY. I don't doubt that it's a hub, but it must not be their international hub.

It took me longer than yesterday's, but only about a minute more.

- Horace

Friday, December 23, 2022

Friday, December 23, 2022, Brandon Koppy

Interesting that the two long Down answers today are eye-related: STARINGCONTEST (Game that often ends in tears) and RETINALSCANNER (High-tech security device). See also: 52D "Good name for a florist or optometrist" (IRIS). And another fun related pair is "Quinceañera feature" (TILDE) and "Quinceañera, e.g." (FIESTA). 


I liked BOTTOMDOLLAR (End of one's money), but I thought that TISSUESAMPLE (Culture subject) and CANNIBAL (One of a dangerous group in "Robinson Crusoe") tread a little close to the "breakfast table" line. Or whatever that decency litmus test is called.

On the brighter side, my poetry friends will enjoy the Plath quote at 50D: "I, to you, am lost in the gorgeous errors of FLESH." It's from her journals, not from one of her poems, but still... Plath.

ASTERISKS (Things not good to have next to one's records) is fun, COLDSPELL (Follower of an arctic blast) is appropriate for today's weather situation, and RYES (Old-fashioned options) is appropriate any old time. Who would use anything else? :)

This went right along for me - less than ten minutes. Often when Friday is easier than I think it should be, Saturday makes up for it. Here's hoping!

- Horace

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Thursday, December 22, 2022, David Steinberg

There has been a little talk of quitting the blog recently, but there has never been any talk of quitting crosswords, and it's puzzles like this one that will keep me forever coming back to these black and white squares. 


Mr. Steinberg - part wunderkind, part elder statesman in puzzledom - has put together a little gem for us today. Four CARs enter the grid from each of the four sides, and they are given the choice of a ROUNDABOUTROUTE. In other words, they hit a rotary with three exits. Or maybe you will think of it as a "traffic circle" if you're not from New England. In France, our GPS, Dominique, called them rond points. Anywho... we are given clues for each exit, and we encounter them, as one does in rotaries, in a counter-clockwise order. Maybe I should just give an example to make this easier.

A CAR enters the grid at 5-Down, and the clue there is "First exit: Floor covers • Second exit: Addition signs? • Third exit: Checking the IDs of." So, as the CAR hits the rotary, the first exit goes out directly to the left edge, following 19A "Pedometer unit" (STEP), which, when read backward, as if exiting the rotary, is "pets" and when put onto the end of CAR is "carpets," which are "floor covers." The second exit goes straight down using 23D "We come in peace" speakers, in brief" (ETS) giving "carets" (Addition signs?) (nice), and finally, the third exit is 20A "[Correct!] (DING) "carding" (Checking the IDs of). See? Nothing simpler.

An aside - I cannot hear the word DING without thinking of a time, long ago, when I was in a restaurant with friends, and when one in our party mentioned that they were considering the "chicken almond ding," another said, rather bombastically, "I don't want anything with 'ding' in it!" Maybe you had to be there. I've since been told that "ding" in Chinese cooking means something like "diced" and I know it's idiotic to laugh at language, but we were very young at the time, and sometimes things are funny when you're young and stupid. (Hey, this gives me an idea... maybe if I can get us "cancelled," I won't have to be responsible for the blog stopping...) (but wait... I guess I still would be...)

All right, so where was I? The other three cars enter the grid at 26A, 66D, and 54A, and each has three exit possibilities. It's a tiny bit unfortunate that 26A and 66D read as RAC, which is not a real word, but I think the cluing saves the day here, because we are not being asked for a real word going in the normal direction. Neither are we just given a dash. We are given the exits, and the CAR is assumed, and it needs to be entering the rotary from the proper direction. Gah! I'm talking way too much about this. I think you all get the idea by now.

Interesting clue for ANGELINA (Name derived from the Greek for "messenger"). The Greek word is "angelos," and "angela" is the feminine, and ANGELINA is the diminutive. Angels are "messengers" of God. Words are cool.

My favorite quadrant, if it can even be called that today, is the SE, with the lovely trio of AMBROSIA (Those who consume it become immortal, according to myth), DERELICT (Broken-down), and GODLESS (Unholy). So good.

OK, this is getting long. I really enjoyed this one. Not a rebus, as we often (petulantly) say, but a great start to the Turn nonetheless. Keep 'em coming!

- Horace

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022, Nancy Stark and Will Nediger

Well Hello there. I learned a few things with yesterday's blog post. First, I can be kind of a mean drunk. Sorry about that. (And apologies for the cheap shots, Rex.) Second, I shouldn't probably hint at things when there's a chance that the country's (world's?) leading enigmatologist might read it and then immediately call me on it. :)


So anywayyyyyy....  WHATSTHEBIGDEAL? Maybe we three and Rex should have a MEGAMERGER. YOLO! Heh. Sorry. There I go again.

I like this triply-imagined "big deal" theme. FIFTYPERCENTOFF is a pretty big deal, a MEGAMERGER is so by definition, and a ROYALFLUSH, well, that's the biggest non-wildcard deal there is. :)

Luckily, we've been watching a lot of BritBox, and we hear more about BAFTAs than we do about OBIES these days. So that BODEd well for getting 1-Down. Or is it "bade well?" No, that's the perfect of "bid," right? ... Luckily, there were no questions about awkward past tenses.

And speaking of not knowing things, were you as surprised as I was by 23-Across, "Country with the second-most Portuguese speakers" (ANGOLA)? I bet you know that Brazil is number one, but guess where Portugal is - fourth!

Another thing I don't think about much is RHENIUM. It was, apparently, the last stable, non-radioactive element to be discovered (in 1925), and it was named after the Rhine river (Rhenus in Latin), whence the earliest samples came. We've said it before and we'll say it again (for a while anyway. ;)), learning things from crosswords is one of the things we like so much about them.

Finally, I enjoyed the crossing of FWORDS and SALTY. Heh. 

Fun Wednesday puzzle. It is Wednesday, right? Right. ... maybe that's another reason for us to keep doing this - so I can keep track of what day it is. 

- Horace

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Tuesday, December 20, 2022, Peter Koetters

Good evening. Horace here, with a gin-soaked review of today's puzzle. 

Before I started doing crosswords, I would have called today's theme a rebus. But now let's just call it visual wordplay? Does that work? 

CRACKFALLSCRACK (Gets overlooked, literally) demonstrates the theme well. The word "falls" is nestled between two instances of the word "crack," and if you were to describe that situation, you might say "falls between the cracks" which is equivalent to "gets overlooked." Similarly literalized are, "slips between the sheets" (rawr!), "hits right between the eyes," and "reading between the lines."

This is a kind of wordplay/puzzle/game that I enjoy. So thumbs up on the theme. 

You know, since I'm a little drunk, I'm just going to tell you that I started this blog as a foil... an alternative ... a response to the Rex Parker blog. I thought his was too negative all the time, and I thought there might be room for a kinder, gentler blog. I'm not trying to normalize George H.W. Bush with those words. Despite the fact that once W. came in, his father seemed like a better guy. And then when that moron got elected, everybody got nostalgic for both of the Bushes. No. I don't want to say that any of that was good. Or that Rex was good. Is good. But he's been doing it a long time, and he's made a living on his negativity. Just like that moron.


Anyway, I thought of Rex today so I looked at his blog. And what do you know, he was disappointed with the puzzle. I can't remember how to spell "Nicene creed" or "go karts," or Brendan Fraser's name, or the former king of Norway, even though I've been doing crosswords my whole life... and I don't like it when there are two words that kind of mean the same thing. I hate language and its beautiful variations... waah waah waah. (And I know he'd complain about my spelling of "waah." Why not "waahh?" or the simpler "wah?")

I know we haven't reached many people, and I know it doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but no matter the viewership, I believe that we have offered an alternative for a while. ... who knows how long that 'while' will last...

So anyway...  I'm not CROSS. I'm just OVOID after TWELVE drinks that ERODE my senses. My PLUM thoughts have PERISHED - OHMYGOD! - my PRIMARY functions are no longer working!

- Horace

Monday, December 19, 2022

Monday, December 19, 2022, Jennifer Nutt

Some people love themes in crosswords. Me, I could usually take them or leave them. There, I said it. 

DECO meta-mural

Today the theme is fine. You've got GIFT (Something that can be wrapped using the starts of...") and then you look at the associated answers and you see:


Fine. The first words are all associated with wrapping presents, and sure, it's gift-giving time, so that's appropriate, but TAPEDELAY is a little dated, I've never heard anyone pluralize the first word when talking about a scissor kick, and BOWSTRING is a rare word. I mean, there's nothing actually wrong with any of them ... oh, maybe I'm just being a crank.

On the brighter side, each of the longer Down answers is great. SKYROCKET (Soar) is uncommonly good, EXECRABLE (Unspeakably awful) is beautifully bad. Here's a little story, when we were in Paris recently, I bought a really expensive bottle of Calvados at a little boutique near the Marché Maubert on Boulevard Saint-Germain. I asked the guy working there if it was worth it to get the 25-year instead of the 12-year, and he said that before he started working there, he wouldn't have known, but ever since he started trying all these expensive bottles, he had become execrable. So now that's me, I guess. Enjoy!

ICEFLOE and SLACKER are also lovely fill, and DENSER makes me think of The Raven ("Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer..."). 

The clue for IMAC (Something in an office that's not PC?) is cute, and "Sink attachment" for PIPE is very odd. Especially on a Monday.

Would I get tired of crosswords if they didn't have themes? I doubt it. Would everyone else? How should I know? I'm not the boss of them. 

See what I mean? Execrable.

- Horace

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Sunday, December 18, 2022, Ryan McCarty


Christmas came early for me today - I got a themeless Sunday! And a fun one to boot! You might even say "I'm in heaven!" (AHBLISS) (THISISTHELIFE).

First of all, I like the spiral shape of the grid, the wide-open center, and the chunky corners. Then we get great C/APs at every turn. From the classic "What used to be yours?" (THINE) to the thoroughly modern MEMESTOCK (Sort of investment purchase with a spike in popularity through social media). "Joke that goes over the line?" (CRANKCALL). Let's enjoy that one while there are still a few houses with a landline (ours included!). 

Elizabeth OLSEN

Our Canadian friend Philbo will surely have enjoyed running into POUTINE at 96-Across (Québécois dish of French fries, cheese curds and gravy), while the rest of us below the 45th parallel will have to settle for a BLOOMINGONION (Fried appetizer that resembles a blossom). And speaking of Philbo, perhaps he can tell me whether CESTBIEN ("That's fine," in French) is something he hears much. I mean, sure, I guess it means what they say it means, but I don't remember hearing it much while we were in France. It's not wrong, but... 

ENFUEGO (Really hot, slangily) was great, and "Covered, in a way" (PAIDFOR) was one that I didn't see coming. "One might offer concessions" (FOODSTAND) was one of those lovely, obvious ones. But it was only obvious once I had enough crosses! See also: "Their business is picking up" (TAXIS). Just lovely.

Nice misdirection with the capital in "Apple product" (CIDER), and it was fun to learn the term PANTSROLE (Term for a male opera character played by a woman). Heh. 

Overall, a really great themeless Sunday. Keep 'em coming!

- Horace

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Saturday, December 17, 2022, Christina Iverson and Tom Pepper

And the streak of fun and tough themeless puzzles extends! (At least to two puzzles. I've already forgotten about last week.)

Apologies for the late (ish) post: dress rehearsal today for tomorrow's Christmas concert, at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. There are still about 25 tickets left, so get them while you can!

You know it's going to be tough going when you get all the way down the west side to 35A: It goes without saying (AXIOM) before you feel confident enough to put something in. Here, because 29D: Big actors (HAMS) gave me the M, and I felt like 36D was going to start with ON____. Just to make it clear, this was my last answer I filled in. I knew how it started but couldn't see ONEARTH for the life of me.

Even though I had ____HOAXES and YOUREONFIRE, I couldn't get the NW corner because I had put in walkS for 5D: Eschews a cab, say (WALKS). But I love 4D: Something you reach out and take (SELFIE). That's so good! And 17A: It just makes scents! (AIRFRESHENER) is hi-larious.

The middle down going staircase of long answers actually posed little issue for me. The Steven Wright quote was not immediately known to me, but I got it anyway. I love 16D: Cold shower? (THERMOMETER), and WEENIEROAST is just funny to look at.

Appropriate for the season

43A: No-frills retirement options? (COTS) - yes! 

14A: Place with multiple ports (WINEBAR) - not a wi-fi cafe. Or a recharging station.

7A: Certain parental figure? (DADBOD) - seen many times, but still guffaw worthy.

I loved this puzzle. There's so much more here to admire. Great work! Finished in 9:03, faster than yesterday.

- Colum

Friday, December 16, 2022

Friday, December 16, 2022, Kameron Austin Collins

Be careful what you wish for! After yesterday's puzzle, today's was a shock of cold water in the face. Definitely tougher than usual Friday themeless fare, which I've come to expect from Mr. Collins.

So many good answers in the fill, which is absolutely enabled through the use of CHOKEPOINTS. Each corner is essentially isolated from the middle, making five mini-puzzles. You all know that I like a grid with more flow, but I did absolutely enjoy the words here, so it's a trade-off.

I broke in with DUNKTANK crossing 32A: Some menthols (KOOLS). I have no idea why that piece of information lives on in my brain. I wasn't entirely sure what 30D: Red, fruity alcoholic drink, informally (VODKACRAN) was going to be in the end, but because of the Roadrunner cartoon, I knew ANVIL, and therefore which alcohol was going to be used. I love that 36A: Toasted (DRUNK) crosses it!

I actually completed the SE corner first, with the nice crossing of DIANA and DATE helping out a lot. SORANDOM and NETZERO are great answers. Has anyone drunk an OLY? I had never heard of this beer (Olympia). The SW corner fell next, working backwards when I figured out the start of 40A. Definitely the least exciting of the corners.


I moved up through the NE portion of the middle, with the excellent 31A: Inspiration for some fashion lines? (ZEBRA), and with the useful USEFUL to finally break open the NW corner. BADJUJU above AQUINAS! Very nice. 16A: Channel through a barrel (GUNBORE) took a long time to see.

Finally, the NE corner fell. I had TRANCES and BOLTCUTTERS, and took some educated guesses (APACHE, SISTER), and had to remove the initially incorrect harES for ASSES, a much more likely answer at the ending edge of a grid.

Impressive puzzle, taking me 10:39.

- Colum

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Thursday, December 15, 2022, Bruce Haight

I'm always pleased to see Dr. Haight's byline on a crossword puzzle. I know that I'll see a solidly constructed grid with a fun, often punny theme. So please understand that when I say I'm disappointed in today's offering, it has nothing to do with the quality of the puzzle. I think it's a solid Wednesday puzzle. I'm confused as to why it's running on a Thursday, the day I look forward to tricksy theme material. I have to assume that Mr. Shortz and company are running short (see what I did there?) on appropriate puzzles for the day.

With that out of the way, let's celebrate the excellence of the VICHYSSOISE soup. The origin of the name is debated, but presumed to be after the town that unfortunately is also the namesake of the Fascist occupation government of France during World War II. Nonetheless, the ingredients are simple, and in the grid are clued with the recipe instructions for each one. Take "Two pounds, peeled and chopped" NEWPOTATOES, cook in "Five cups, after lengthy simmering" CHICKENSTOCK, add "One cup, after cooling" HEAVYCREAM, with "Four cups, cleaned and sliced" SAUTEEDLEEKS. Yum, yum, and yum.

BESS Houdini

The corners of the grid are nicely chunky, with the SE being the most scrabbly. Here QVC, BBQRIBS and EXCEEDS make the tile value of this real estate soar.

Dr. Haight's sense of humor comes out with the successive clues at 28A: Lose (GETBEAT) and 30A: Don't lose (WIN). I also enjoyed the prankish GOTCHA and 44A: Missionary work? (BIBLE). 

Otherwise it's a strong and fun but reasonably straightforward puzzle.

- Colum

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Wednesday, December 14, 2022, Matthew Stock

Guess they can't all be debuts... Nothing against Mr. Stock, but I was enjoying the opportunity to welcome new constructors.

Fortunately, Mr. Stock has come up with a fun way to crosswordify another classic phrase: this time it's dem LUCKYBREAKS, which have been reinterpreted as things we as humans (I think mostly in the Western Hemisphere) have deemed to be lucky, broken up across multiple clues. The first and the fourth are across three words, while the second and third only across two. 

It's done extremely well, I think. I love NUMB / ERSE / VEN[OM], and had to chuckle at [AB]HOR / SESH / OE[UF]. The craziness of those middle answers being broken into two syllables in both cases is impressive. I also love the clue at 57A: French breakfast item that sounds like a response to a gut punch. Hah!

[RET]RAIN / BOW[LCUT] is good because the hidden segments are surprising in their words. The same is true for the first part of [GRI]SHAM / ROCK[IER], but less so for the second. I'm not sure how it could have been done better though, so over all I have to give the theme a big thumbs up.

I look forward to some baked BRIE at New Year's

The fill is pretty well done as well. Of course there's a fair amount of necessary glue to make the whole thing work, but nothing way out there. I enjoyed PANACEAS and CRONUTS, as well as the reference to "Duck AMUCK," one of the all time great meta cartoons.

For clues, 42D: Left base? (THIRD) is a nice piece of misdirection - we're talking baseball, in case it wasn't clear. 19A: Name in price lists? (ELI) moves towards the cryptic crossword style clue. 

Fun Wednesday, taking me a little bit longer than typical 5:23.

- Colum

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Tuesday, December 13, 2022, Julietta Gervase

Two debuts in two days! Welcome, Ms. Gervase! It's great to see new faces (or just names in the app) in the constructors' community.

Today, we take four flower names and reinterpret them literally with wacky clues. Thus, BABYSBREATH is clued as "What might smell of Gerber products?" My favorite is 33A: The third "little pig," with his house of bricks? (WOLFSBANE). That's great. I also enjoyed LADYSLIPPER - do I sense a sort of fairy tale minitheme? 40A: Award for a champion angler? (GOLDENROD) is also very good. I'm sure there are many other similar opportunities for amusement - perhaps this could have made a larger puzzle, except that the answers aren't really long enough for a typical Sunday size grid.

The NW and SE corners are almost completely segmented from the rest of the grid, but the crosses were all fair and straightforward, so they didn't add too much time. Ms. Gervase was able to add in EVILGENIUS and HOUSEPARTY as fun long down answers. I also liked ANTEATER with its 2-foot long tongue (!). 


Is a small ear of corn really known as a NUBBIN? Apparently so, I have discovered after googling it. The word dates at least from the 1690s in the Americas, referring to corn. How surprising!

The only entry I did not like was 21D: "Fer ____" (SHER). I found the solve a little slow-going, in large part because of guessing "crumb" for SCRAP and "bliniS" for CREPES. The latter is completely accurate, and is in fact a Russian version of the better-known French delicacy.


- Colum

Monday, December 12, 2022

Monday, December 12, 2022, Anthony J. Caruso and Zhouqin Burnikel

Ms. Burnikel teams up today with Mr. Caruso for his first published NYT crossword. Congratulations on joining the ranks of the rich and famous! Well, maybe just famous. In certain circles.


Our theme today is revealed at 39A: Dog command ... or a hint to the starts of the answers to the four starred clues (GOFETCH). I like that the four theme answers hide the things a dog might fetch in ways that do not directly relate to a thing a dog might actually be able to carry in its mouth. Thus BALLOFFIRE and PAPERTRAIL. STICKTOIT is particularly figurative in this situation!

Bonus theme material can be found at 23D: Snoopy and Gromit, for two (BEAGLES) - two cartoon dogs who never in their lives would be caught dead fetching something. Also, perhaps 66A: R&B great Redding (OTIS) could have been clued to refer to the movie Milo & Otis...

It being a Monday, the clues do not skew tricksy. I still liked 41A: Org. for Penguins and Ducks (NHL), as well as 57A: Fliers that may consume thousands of insects in an hour (BATS).

Fun entries include KISMET and EMOPOP (I happen to really like Panic! at the Disco). It's a strong and smooth Monday that went by in 2:45.

- Colum

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Sunday, December 11, 2022, Laura Taylor Kinnel


Well, what do you know. Another year has slipped by. This is my final week of review posts in the calendar year of 2022. I will put off any valedictory remarks to my colleagues, but I will just say that it's been an honor and a pleasure to write these silly reviews for our faithful six readers. (I actually don't know how many readers we have! I just like to think I have a tiny little crew reading my blogs...)

Today's Sunday puzzle has a rebus theme! We do enjoy those here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA. I especially enjoy a rebus where the spaces are unpredictable and/or the rebus themselves change from answer to answer. And we get both in this one!

Isn't it funny how we have different levels of disgust at the insect world? An ant or a bee (even with my unreasoning phobia) don't arouse the same amount to repulsion as, say, a roach or a tick. Still, the seven insects infesting this puzzle are reason enough to suggest a squashing reaction.

I got the rebus with the first answer. We all know that 23A: Hypotenuse-finding formula (PYTHAGORE[ANT]HEOREM) could have only one answer. But how to squeeze all those letters in? Fortunately, 9D: Simple shelter (LE[ANT]O) provided the answer. Imagine my delight when I got to 43A: One drinking soft drinks at a party, perhaps (DESI[GNAT]EDDRIVER) and realized the changing rebus.

My favorites are the ones where the rebus crosses words, like in the first one and in 67A: Symbol of Irish heritage (CEL[TICK]NOT). Next, I like answers where the insect name is pronounced differently than the syllable it finds itself in, as in 89A: "The Pink Panther" character (INSPECTORC[LOUSE]AU). I suppose INLIKE[FLY]NN and LUDWIGVAN[BEE]THOVEN fit in that category, but three-letter rebuses are less impressive.

61A: Cause of class struggle? (ESSAY) wins for best C/AP today. I also liked 80A: Bum (PATOOTIE), and 17D: Disorder from which Dostoyevsky and many characters in his novels suffered (EPILEPSY). That's the neurologist in me speaking up. How about 89D: Post-merger acquisitions? (INLAWS). Hah! That made 75D: Post-merger overhauls, informally (REORGS) better in retrospect.

- Colum

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Saturday, December 10, 2022, Sid Sivakumar

Apparently, I was on the constructor's wavelength today. I completed the puzzle in 15:44, shorter than both my Thursday and Friday times. Some clues seemed easy for a Saturday, most notably  "'____ dead, Jim" (HES), "Necklace closure" (CLASP), "Preakness or Belmont" (STAKES), "Geographical heptad" (SEAS), and "____-faire" (SAVOIR). OTH, there was plenty of stuff I didn't know like "Flour ground in a chakki" (ATTA), Leo Baekeland, the father of PLASTICS, mathematician Terence TAO, and Stephen REA of the Field Day Theatre Company, to name a few. 

That's not to say that there weren't some Saturday-level twists in here. Two that caused me the most trouble were "Pull-off" at 2D and "Evidence of one's hang-ups?" at 49A. In the former case, I was stuck on thinking of the clue as a verb while also mis-parsing the letters I did have as RE-STAR__. Fortunately, after a rest and a look at a different area, the correct answer RESTAREA came into view. In the latter case, I thought I was being clever by thinking of hang-ups as something on a hanger or clothesline - so I was looking for something like 'creases.' Nope. The answer to that call lay in old telephone behavior (DIALTONES). 


Other C/APs of note include "Where making a hasty exit is encouraged" (ESCAPEROOM), "Pays someone back" (GETSEVEN), "Spreads out in a bed?" (SOWS), "G, in C" (SOL), "Passage in a cemetery" (EPITAPH), and "Mug shot subject?" (LATTEART). 

Fill-wise, I enjoyed SEATBELT, SHRED, and the fun HEAVEHOS.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.


Friday, December 9, 2022

Friday, December 9, 2022, Brooke Husic and Hoang-Kim Vu

Work has been in OVERDRIVE, unfortch, so once again, IFILL the review on the late side. On the upside, I solved the puzzle pretty quickly: 17:40 - only a little longer than yesterday's solve. That is not to say I didn't have any trouble spots, because I did. I went wrong right out of the gate with PRAYERrug ("Something faithfully rolled out"), which was meant to be PRAYERMAT. I was not helped by not knowing singer Swift's nickname TAYTAY or which "Benefit" I should AVAIL myself of at 8D. As it happens, the RUG was meant to be placed elsewhere, to wit, 2D. Another clue that stretched my understanding was "Natural rubber" for which I entered 'latex' but for which LOOFA was apparently wanted, but, dear Readers, what's that about? OMG, dear Readers, as I typed the previous sentence, I suddenly realized what it was about - natural thing that rubs, not a natural version of the material that we call rubber. That really *was* a stretch, and a good one, too.


Despite some very good QMCs including "Huge pop star?" (SUPERNOVA) - which, incidentally, I dropped right in - and one I did not figure out until after the answer filled itself in from the Downs, "What's past due?" (TRE) - heh - I have to give the edge today to the non-QMCs. The LOOFA C/AP mentioned above, added to "Keeping quiet at the right time, say" (TACT), "It's right on the map" (REDSTATE), and my favorite "Store for a short time" (POPUPSHOP) seals it. Also good were "Take in" (ADMIT), "Monopolizing, in a way" (BUYINGUP), and "Settles for the night" (ROOSTS). 

MOSSY, AMBIT, and INASTUPOR are nice fill.

I also enjoyed the international flavor provided by clues and answers like ALP, ELENA, GUAVA, and VERDON

One more thing, dear Readers, is this puzzle symmetrical on the diagonal from southwest to northeast??


Thursday, December 8, 2022

Thursday, December 8, 2022, Grant Thackray

Ahoy, mateys! For today's unusual theme, we take to the high seas with the depiction of a PIRATE in the grid. This scallywag has an eye patch - or should I say "i" patch? - in the form of a black square where the I in LONGJOHNS_LVER should be. The group of MAR_NERS coming across the bow also have an "i" patch. Maybe because it does double duty, it could be considered and aye-aye patch? The pirate's "hook hand" is formed by circled letters that make a J shape and that spell FLUSH, as in poker hand, I think?  And last but not least, for "'Come on, move it!'" the answer is SHAKEAPEG to give the pirate a PEG leg. 

The solve took me exactly 17 minutes. I almost had to walk the plank at the cross between "____ Kett" (old comic strip that taught teens manners) and "Country that lacks an official language, informally." Even though I had ET_A and maybe *because* I had confusing-looking _HEUS I was stymied. Once I realized that T marked the spot, however, both answers made so much sense and - and suddenly seemed so obvious - that I felt like a bit of an ASS. I hit one other trouble spot where I tried TAn for "Beauty that's only skin deep" but the answer was TAT

Electron microscope image of RIME ice on both ends of a "capped column" snowflake.

URBANE is solid gold fill. Other prizes included the C/APs "Beginning or end for Alexa?" (SCHWA), "You might see snow when it's disrupted" (TVSIGNAL), and "Bail, so to speak" (LEAVE). I also enjoyed SAID followed by PAID because of the divergent pronunciations for words that look so similar. 

So, while the theme was nautical what we're used to, there was plenty of treasure, not many spoils, and a good amount of theme material without going overboard. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Wednesday, December 7, 2022, Karen Steinberg

Today's theme features words in other languages that are also words in English, but with different meanings - false friends, as I've heard them called. I knew GYMNASIUM and CONCURRENCE in both languages, and I was able to get MULTIPLEX and SEMESTER from the clues to the English word, but I needed the Downs to get OLDTIMER ("Vintage car, in German ... or veteran, in English"). And, while we're on the subject of words in other languages, CARACAS has an exotic ring to it -  SAYSME - and who doesn't like a SAMOSA? Mmmm, samosa... 

There were a number of fun C/APs, NAMELY "Stories that can get pretty hot" (ATTICS), "Place for some bills" (WALLET), and the nicely vivid "Overheat, as a circuit" (FRY).


I didn't know it immediately, but recognized and could relate to 3D once I did get the answer: "Flying a commercial airline, often" (ORDEAL). We've all been there. 

Interesting information about the famous Nike SWOOSH. Fill-wise, I liked SCOFFS, SKOSH, PREEN, and SERGE.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Tuesday, December 6, 2022, Ross Trudeau and Wyna Liu

Today's seven theme answers are the names of famous women whose first names are all of the three-letter VCV pattern, where V=vowel and C=consonant. Reading from top to bottom of the grid, the names form a word ladder, starting with INA and ending with EVE, although wouldn't it be fun if everything started with EVE? :) By substituting one letter in the first name you get the next. For example, to go from ADALOVELACE to ANADEARMAS, just replace the D with an N. That's all there is to it. :) 

My lack of current culture knowledge definitely served to LESSEN my pace on this puzzle. I have heard of all the "theme" women, but several of their names didn't leap to mind, especially the three in the lower half of the grid, so I had to rely on the Down answers to finish the puzzle, some of which gave me trouble. It took me a while to come up with STEAMUP for "Make R-rated, say" and AMNIOS for "OB/GYN tests, informally." I also entered 'swimlanes' off the clue "Pool divisions" but the correct answer turned out to be LANELINES. Derp. In the ACR category,  I was tricked by "Some computing platforms," putting in DEllS at first, until AKA ("Alias inits.") set me straight (DESKS). Total solve time: 15:20.


Some C/APs I enjoyed today include "Bulb unit" (LUMEN),"Wrangler alternative" (LEE), "Yield" (CONCEDE) and "Clear plates, say" (BUS). Fill-wise, I liked BERATE, LUNGE, BEATDOWNS (and its clue, "Shellackings:), AMALGAM, and ROUE

Less popular with this solver were ULTA, EELIEST, and EASTERS - the latter is odd as a plural, IMO. Of course, I AVA admit that IDAB INA fix if I EVA ADA create ANA thing like this myself. 'EVE forbid!


Monday, December 5, 2022

Monday, December 5, 2022, Tracy Gray

[Tap, tap] "Hello? Is this thing on?" Greetings fellow puzzle lovers! Frannie here, after a very long absence that, if I must OWNUP, mostly involved a trip to Paris, seeing OPERA and spending EUROS. After all this time, you'd think I could get the review posted early, but, it wasn't entirely my SANANDREASFAULT - I was needed at work today - until now. I hope after all this time, today's puzzle theme revealer (MYBAD) won't also be the review rating, but we'll see. The theme focus is on errors, with each theme answer having as its second element a synonym for mistake. I gave HONEYBOOBOO's reality show the OLEMISS when it aired in the early 2010's, but went down a rabbit hole just now reading all about it on the Wikipedia. Interesting. 

Despite the theme, I didn't make many errors myself, as I made my way through the puzzle. Just one DEPOSITSLIP in the initial typing of OBEYS as OBEsy, which I caught in time, fortunately. I didn't break the 5 minute barrier, but came close, finishing in 5:33, which seems pretty good TOMEI


There was some fun fill in the grid including SASS (it's almost all esses!), LAIRD (I wish they would accept that one in Spelling Bee), NAAN (mmmm, naan), and my favorite, CABOOSE. I also enjoyed the pair apparents: ARROWKEY and AEROSOLS

I'm going to try for AMMO reasonable post time tomorrow. Until YEN, dear Readers, BEA REO.


Sunday, December 4, 2022

Sunday, December 4, 2022, Gustie Owens


Talk, talk - it's all talk. Too much talk. Small talk. Talk that trash. 

Any King Crimson fans out there? No? ... moving on.

Today's theme puts punny clues onto expressions used to describe gossiping. The local favorite, of course, is "The Boston Harbor worker ..." SPILLSTHETEA. Heh. The grossest one is "The athlete in the locker room ..." AIRSTHEDIRTYLAUNDRY. Somebody needs a HOSEDOWN. See also: "Sweat spots" (PORES) (Nice clue!).

Mary Magdalene by ELGRECO

I had never before heard of a PROUST Questionnaire, but I looked it up, of course, and it was apparently a parlor game in the Victorian era. Proust famously answered it at two separate times in his life, and his name has now been attached to it. My favorite of his answers is to the question "Your favorite color and flower" - in 1886 he wrote "I like them all, and for the flower I do not know," and in 1890 he wrote "The beauty is not in the colors, but in their harmony."

I had also never heard of an IDLI (Savory rice cake of southern India), but I'll be looking for them on the menu the next time we get Indian food.

As for good C/APs, how 'bout "Defense of a history paper?" (FORTRESS). And I really liked the simplicity of "Print maker" for PAW and "It's designed to catch bugs" for WEB. And I love the quote "ART is never finished, only abandoned." by Leonardo. Good threes are always a good thing.

Fun theme. And speaking of fun, Frannie finally comes back tomorrow! I, for one, am looking forward to that. :)

- Horace

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Saturday, December 3, 2022, Kate Hawkins

OK, so I get that NOTAKEBACKS ("Too late to change your mind now!") is correct, but doesn't "no takesies backsies" sound more natural to you? :)


Four tens and four elevens in the grid today. The best C/AP of the bunch is probably "Guilt trip?" (APOLOGYTOUR). Hah. And PIPECLEANER (One getting bent out of shape at preschool?) wasn't bad either. I think I had the Ps before I had much else, so I was trying to make "paper"-something work for a bit.

"Compact" was tricky for TREATY, and it took me a while to get DAM (Block), too. And since there was some confusion about blinds in poker earlier in the week, I'll say that the ANTE system is one way to seed the pot before the deal, but the other is the blind system, wherein the eldest hand and the player to her left, which is to say the first two players to get cards, are the only two to put money into the pot. The first is usually the "big blind" and it's usually a larger amount than a normal ante. The second is the "little blind," and that player usually puts in half of the big blind amount. These two players are essentially "betting blind" before seeing their cards, and it puts a little more pressure on them to stay in the hand. And since the deal goes around, everyone eventually puts in the same amount. I've never actually played in a game using this method, but I think it would be interesting to try. 

The acronym ASMR was new to me, although I was aware of the topic, and the fact that there are many online resources catering to those wanting to stimulate such a sensation. It stands for "Autonomous sensory meridian response." 

Ah, the many forms of JOLLITY that we humans delight in. Me, I think I can get a brain-tingly feeling from a particularly good crossword puzzle. :)

- Horace

Friday, December 2, 2022

Friday, December 2, 2022, Scott Earl

Was MONSTERMASH (1962 #1 hit that the BBC once deemed "too morbid" to play) in the puzzle around Halloween? I think it may have been, but I don't really recall. Anyway, I liked it as a starting answer today. Under that, I really wanted "the royal we," but EDITORIALWE (First person plural?) will have to do. It's certainly not an offense worthy of a LIFETIMEBAN (Highest bar?) (nice).


In the SE, we've got MINDREADERS (They know what you're thinking), PHOTOCREDIT (What a camera emoji in an Instagram caption often signifies) (how quaint, they're crediting photographers), and the answer that gave me a FWOE, RECENCYBIAS (Inclination to prioritize new events over historical ones). I kept thinking of the "banks" in "Banks who coined the term 'smizing'" as actual money lenders, and so I didn't see that it needed to be TYRA, and honestly, I can't remember what was going on with RECENCYBIAS, but it wasn't a term I knew. Sigh. I think my problem might be that I have a "long-ago bias." 

Nice repeated "Swell!" clue for NIFTY and NEATO, and I enjoyed "Something that's dropped after it's finished" for ALBUM. I'm always happy to see ODIUM (Sense of loathing) in the grid, and MELBA (Toast opening?) reminds me that my brother recently went on and on about how much he likes rusk. Not exactly the same, but in the same family.

Finally, I liked the pair of viewing-related C/APs "Comment made with eyes closed, perhaps" (ICANTWATCH) and "Don't tell me what happens yet!" (NOSPOILERS). 

Good Friday. 

- Horace

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Thursday, December 1, 2022, Daniel Mauer

Rabbit, rabbit!

Boy, I had some trouble in the South today! NEODADA (One of many genres for Yoko Ono) was tough for me, especially because I had entered - and was pretty confident about - hAUNT for "Unnerve" (DAUNT). I still like mine, but I guess I agree that DAUNT also works. But anyway, I also didn't know that Joe-PYE weed was a thing. It is, and it can grow up to something like seven or eight feet tall. Weird.

Garr as INGA

So the theme, which I did not understand until I finished, is actually pretty fun. ANTICI (First half of this puzzle's theme ...) was very confusing, even as I uncovered ALMOSTTHERE and WAITFORIT. NOTQUITEYET was the last piece to fall for me, and only then did I put the ANTICI together with the PATION at the end. Hah! It was making me wait!

I enjoyed ATBIRTH beside NURTURE, reigniting the ol' nature vs. NURTURE discussion. Misparsing GOONTOUR is fun, and I'm sure our pal Huygens will enjoy mention of ANTARES.

I didn't know they'd go high-end with "About half of a sidecar" and entered "brandy" at first instead of COGNAC. (Full disclosure, I've also made them with Armagnac. Delicious.) Once again, the "direct imperative" style clue got me again with "Step on it!" (INSOLE). And I enjoyed "Sound a little rusty, maybe" for SQUEAK. Hah!

The top went a lot faster than the bottom for me, but it did not IRRITATE me. Indeed, even without a rebus, I thought this was a fun start to the Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Wednesday, November 30, 2022, Addison Snell

A workaday Wednesday theme of four things represented by the letter K:

STRIKEOUT (K, in baseball)
THOUSAND (K, in a salary listing)
BLACKINK (K, on a printer cartridge)
POTASSIUM (K, on the periodic table)
Feeble grind on a RAIL

So let's just quickly talk about these in order, since they're all pretty interesting. 

The K for strikeout comes from the very earliest days of baseball, when a guy named Henry Chadwick set out to document the game in print back in the 1850s! He had already used "S" for "Sacrifice," so he used the last letter of the word struck ("struck" was commonly used back then to indicate that a player had been put down on three strikes) instead. And I'm not sure if it was him or if it was decided later that a backwards K would indicate that the batter did not swing on the third strike.

The K for THOUSAND comes straight from Greek, where "kilo" means thousand. Do not confuse with Latin's Roman numeral M, which also means thousand (from "milia"), and which led to mille in French and Italian, mil in Spanish, and even "mile" in English. (from mille passus, "a thousand steps." Their steps were obviously longer than ours, if we imagine that a step could be about a yard, since we have 1760 in a mile.)

Sometimes people claim that the K in CYMK came about in a way similar to the K in baseball - that "B" was already taken by blue, but most printers will argue that the K stands instead for "key color." The key color being that holding the finest detail in a multi-plate printing, and that used to register all other plates. So the K could, theoretically, be any color at all, but for all practical, modern purposes, it means black.

Finally, Latin (well, neo-Latin) gets its comeuppance, as the K used for POTASSIUM comes from "kalium." 

So there you have it. A relatively modest amount of theme today allows for lots of zazzle. To wit, SWIZZLE (Kind of stick) and BUZZSAW (Noisy circular cutters). DIRTCHEAP (Costing almost nothing) (crossing THOUSAND!) is fun, and any reference to Hamlet is A-OK in my book. (ELSINORE (Castle in "Hamlet"))

A very satisfactory Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tuesday, November 29, 2022, David Rockow

Dare I say it? ... This puzzle was for the BIRDS! (sorry)

All flighty punning aside, I'm down with it. A FLOCK of BIRDS hangs off the central FEATHER: FALCON, WREN, RHEA, KESTREL, HAWK, NENE, and CONDOR. I'm not sure I've seen a nested theme like this before, but it flies for me.

And it's not just the clustered center. The theme is in the NW and SE wingtips, and in the clues for PEACECORPS (International service organization with a dove in its logo) and URBANAREAS (Traditional habitats for pigeons), and in SEED (Finch feed filler), BROTH (Chicken stock, e.g.), and "Turkey" (IDIOT). That's a lotta theme!

The grid-spanning entries are both strong - COOLASACUCUMBER (Unruffled) (more theme??) and HORSEWITHNONAME (Desert wanderer's mount in a 1972 hit by America). Well, I say strong... is that song still well-known? It came out back when we were all singing LOLA and "Flicking our BIC."

And speaking of - how 'bout ol' KNOSSOS? (City in ancient Crete with a renowned labyrinth.) There's a blast from the Bronze Age.

Once again, the highlighting function seems a bit off today, as when 1D is selected, both 51D and 4A (MADRE) light up. And when 4A is selected, 1D, 44A, and 45D all light up. Odd.

Favorite clues include "Forest ranger?" (ELK), and "Promising words" (IDO). Always nice when the threes are colorful.

A good Tuesday, I RECKON.

- Horace

Monday, November 28, 2022

Monday, November 28, 2022, Chloe Revery

So it turns out AMFAR (Org. for H.I.V. prevention and study) has been around since 1985, but I've never heard of it. And off of that comes the odd ATCAMP (Spending time away from parents for the summer, say) and the partial MAHI (When doubled, a brightly colored fish). A bit of a THUD for me. See also SIGEP (Skull-and-crossbones fraternity, for short). 

Lorena OCHOA

On the brighter side, we've got MOONROVER (Wheeled vehicle designed to function in low gravity), DECADE (Twenties or fifties, but not fives) with its nice clue, and the all-too-uncommon TRUCE (Agreement to end a feud). 

Lots of French entries today. The pair of "French farewell" answers - ADIEU and AUREVOIR, and then PARFUM and INGENUES

And then there's the clever theme of HOPPINGMAD, where circled letters span a black square to form the words "livid," "fuming," "angry," and "irate." It's a strong theme, and I guess we need to allow for certain exigencies in the grid. 

- Horace

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday, November 27, 2022, Adam Wagner


Hello again, Dear Reader, it's me, Horace. Guess where I'm just back from? :) That's right, Paris. But you can stop envying me, because I'm back in BOS, and I also came back with the big C. No, not chlamydia ... come on, I'm a decent sort of guy! I mean Covid, of course. Luckily, for me, I've gotten all the shots and it's more of an annoyance than the life-threatening, indeed life-taking, disease that it otherwise could be. The biggest downer is that I was not able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, but, well, that's the way the feather falls.


Now, let's talk about this interesting Sunday puzzle. The title and the circles give it away, but even with the overt angle angle, it played kind of like a themeless, especially because the four thematic answers read as regular entries with or without the circled offshoots. Of course, the clues only work one way, but sometimes words get filled in before you really read the clues, and if that happened today, you might not second guess OPENHEART, when really, the clue "Public court proceeding" was intended for OPENHEAR[ING]. The other three are:

"What you're on when you're making progress" RIGHTTR[ACK] (RIGHTTRIANGLE)
"Major concern for a meteorologist" SUPERST[ORM] (SUPERSTAR)
"Certain juicing need" LEMONSQU[EEZER] (LEMONSQUARE)

 It's a solid set, and a nice little theme. Not mind-blowing, but fine.

If I were still in France, I'd call out CESTSIBON (Compliment to a French chef) as being oddly clued. Why not go with the song popularized by Eartha Kitt, Dean Martin and others? Too old fashioned? And for the record, I think I'd sooner say "Délicieux!" And I might sooner say "spotless" than STAINLESS (Free of flaws, as a reputation). 

But I was fooled into thinking through the cast when faced with "Hamlet's cousin" (TOWN), and I chuckled inside (where it counts) at "Duel personalities?" (FOES).  

BONGHIT and DANK memes are further evidence of the NYTX's sensibilities shift. Is it a good thing? Or will they find they have YUCKED the yum of some regular solvers? 

- Horace

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday, November 26, 2022, Kanyin Ajayi

Debut alert, on a Saturday! Welcome, Ms. Ajayi, to the NYT. And it's a fun semi-themed Saturday as well.

The two grid-spanning entries are well-known novels written in response to classics. The first, WIDESARGASSOSEA, imagines Mr. Rochester's "mad" wife as a Jamaican woman of mixed descent. Having read a New Yorker article about Jean Rhys, I know that she herself found herself caught between two words, having been raised on Dominica in the Caribbean, and then went to boarding school in England. Not a comfortable experience, to say the least.

The other novel is Chinua Achebe's acclaimed THINGSFALLAPART, which I didn't was a response to Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness, probably because I've never read it. But it does not appear to be specifically drawn from the same characters like the other novel in this puzzle.

I'm not sure if 28A: Inconsistent (HITORMISS) and 42A: Unfailingly loyal (RIDEORDIE) are meant to be part of the theme, or are just symmetrically placed phrases using the word "or." Regardless, it's a nice symmetry.

Interestingly, the two answers I have the most problem with are also symmetrically placed, and I only have problems with them because they are words that are not used in any common way. The first is 4D: Classical orator (RHETOR), which was certainly gettable from context and knowledge of the term "rhetorical." The second is 45D: Key piece of an overlock sewing machine (LOOPER).

The clue for 32A: "Ti ____" (bit of Romance language romance language) (AMO) is hilariously overexplained. I also enjoyed 36A: Open many tabs, maybe (BARTEND) - works in two ways!

With UNDERWORLD, ILLUMINATI, and TWOSOMES, it's a fun grid. 

Finished in a very rapid 5:24.

Tomorrow, Horace takes back over again, I believe. Welcome back to the States!

- Colum

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday, November 25, 2022, Simon Marotte

Happy day after Thanksgiving. I hope you are enjoying leftovers and a day of relaxation. We got to drive back to Albany from NYC, with attendant traffic. Not the most relaxing, but we're home now! The dogs handled the trip just fine (with some medication to assist).

What a fun puzzle today! So many tricky clues. But with my weekend solving hat on, I was able to see through many of them.

We start with 1A: Book of legends (ATLAS). Tough one! Not Guinness, or the Edda, or some other sort of thing. I have never taken PIZZAROLLS, so that one took longer, as did 14A: Funny bones? (LOADEDDICE), but what a wonderful QMC. 

We should all be aware of what's going on in IRAN right now. One of my graduated residents is Persian, and his Insta feed is just crammed with reels and pictures from his family's home region. Hard to know if the country's win in the play-in round of the World Cup is good or bad for the situation, but I hope it raises awareness.

Definitely looks more like a squirrel

I love the two long down answers IDONTWANNA and IGOTNOTHIN. Such great colloquialisms.

26D: London has a "Royal" one (OPERAHOUSE) is pretty open to a number of possibilities. The Ballet, The Academy, the Albert Hall, all are prefixed with "Royal." 27D: Performer whose face is rarely seen (BODYDOUBLE) is a great non-QMC. 28A: Port authorities? (WINESNOBS) - well, I guess I'm hardly an authority on port, but I do like it, and I'm definitely no snob. And finally, 30D: Late assignment (NIGHTSHIFT) is another great non-QMC. 

With MARISA Tomei, IANFLEMING, and SUSIEQ, it's a fun grid. 

Looking forward to tomorrow's end to The Turn!

- Colum