Monday, January 31, 2022

Monday, January 31, 2022, Eric Bornstein

Monday has reared its ugly head, and I find myself late home from work after a busy day in the hospital. Fortunately, a fun and slightly tougher than usual puzzle awaited me.

The theme is revealed at 56- and 58A (PARTING / WORDS). We get three examples of phrases where you can find letters across the gap between the two words which are ways of saying "good-bye!" RADIO / STATION hides "adios," DATA / TABLE hides "ta-ta," and SLATE / ROOF hides "later!" I like the concept a lot, but I think the first one is the strongest. The other two are fine but lack a certain vim and vigor.

Also, once the theme is figured out with the revealer, did we really need the circles? The age old question lives on.

The rest of the puzzle has some lovely answers. The two long down answers are both quite evocative, with TRIPLEPLAY and GUANTANAMO. I also liked MEDALLED, although in this household, we much prefer to use the term "podiumed." 


10D: Fake name given by Odysseus to the Cyclops (NOBODY) was always one of my favorite parts of the story, although the follow-up where he blinds the poor fellow (and really it was all his fault to begin with, and many of his crewmates ended up dead because of it) seems overly vicious. Also, it leads to Poseidon making him stay away from home for twenty years or whatever.

I would also like to point out that if I tried to do a HEADSTAND, it would end up with me being PASSEDOUT, so the words are well placed symmetry-wise.

Answers like CRAMER, NBCTV, and deciding between MEDICAre and MEDICAID slowed me down somewhat. But an enjoyable Monday over all.

- Colum

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sunday, January 30, 2022, Ross Trudeau


Hey folks! Glad to be back, although once again I've got very big shoes to fill. Frannie's really stepped up her game.

And speaking of steps, I read the wrong thing into the title and therefore struggled for quite a while with the theme. I was convinced the answers would take move up or down a row, or multiple rows, so I kept on looking for places where that might happen. It didn't help that I could tell that some of the answers had too many letters to fit into their row. It also took a while for me to find the "-" clues in some of the down answers which would have helped a bit, at least.

After trying ORCHEStraS at 46A: Sources of music in musicals (ORCHES[TRAP]ITS), and then working backwards from the end, I finally figured out the rebus. Interestingly enough, I went to two different musicals this week, one on Broadway (Hadestown) and one traveling Broadway tour in Schenectady (Come From Away), and neither of them used pits. In both cases, the orchestra/band was on stage. I liked both, but the second more than the first. After getting the rebus, I still missed the extra step, thinking that perhaps 14D: Circus apparatus would be "FLYING[TRAP]." Later on, I came back and filled in the left over EZE.

It's a lovely theme: in each case after the rebus "trap," there's a black square, then the remainder of the answer, creating five TRAPDOORS in the puzzle. Only CON[TRAP] TIONS (fitting given the theme of the puzzle) has the "trap" occurring within a single syllable. EX[TRAP] OINTS is apt (apt!) for this time of year. Crazy that Tom Brady retired this week. Thought he'd play into his 50s, the way he's been going.

Sargent MURAL in the BPL

Clues I enjoyed:

3D: Gets out of a grave situation? (RESURRECTS).

57D: Slice, for one (ORANGESODA).

91D: One being coddled, maybe (EGG) - hah!

Things I didn't love: SPICER (I mean, better this sort of clue than the former press secretary, but still).

Fun start to the week. See you tomorrow!

- Colum

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Saturday, January 29, 2022, Andrew Ries and Caitlin Reid

ALOHA, dear Readers. I hope you enjoyed the AVAST amount of delightful misdirection in today's clues as much as I did. Thanks to the trixy clues, I must have started in the wrong semantic category for the correct answers about 85% of the time. Some examples:
"Ticks off" - angers instead of tallies (COUNTS). 
"Get on" - embark rather than grow older (AGE).
"Bolted" - took off rather than fastened on (RAN). 
"Shucks" - expression of modesty rather than unwrap (HULLS)
"Underground line" - subway instead of stone way (SEAM). 
"Court feat of 2003 and 2015" - in this case, I bounced around from the Supreme Court to the basketball court until I finally netted SERENASLAM 


In addition to the ambiguous clues, there were some excellent non-QMC clues including "It's subject to inflation in the auto industry" (AIRBAG), "Area of recession" (HAIRLINE), "Name-dropping word" (NEE), and "New York city" (ROME). The R of the latter was my last entry, thanks, in part, to my lack of Karate Kid knowledge. I was able to get it when I finally paid attention to the clue's capitalization and realized the clue meant a city in New York, not a name for New York City. Derp. My favorite clue of the day, though, was a QMC: "Catchy communication, for short?" (APB) - ha! 

Add to all of the great stuff above plenty of  unusual (to me) fill like "Ciudad official" (ALCALDE), "Bygone Japanese coin" (RIN),"Certain landing pad" (HELISTOP), and "___ artist (film professional)" (FOLEY) - and you've got yourself a fine Saturday puzzle. 


Friday, January 28, 2022

Friday, January 28, 2022, Jem Burch

My solv'sperience was pretty routine for a Friday: I didn't get much at first, but then, little by little, I got more. :) My one trouble spot was in northeast corner - again. I had a doubtful QIN ("Chinese dynasty in which the terra-cotta army was built") and was unsure about ANO because of the "Brazil" specification. Since, for crossword purposes, the Spanish and Portuguese words for 'year' are the same, the specification of Brazil made me question my answer. So, with the two top spots in doubt, and being unclear both about what feature of Al Jazeera was wanted and how to interpret the clue "Chopped liver, so to speak," things bogged down a bit. Also, I'm not quite sure why, but I didn't really like FEARED for "Like bogeymen." I considered it, but resisted putting it in until I had to. In that same vein, I found DOOMS for "Sentences", not INAPT exactly, but also not the greatest match. Same with SIMMEREDDOWN for "Regained one's composure." 

Two other small problems occurred when I tried HITon instead of HITUP for "Solicit, in slang" and when I entered 'sum' for "Cartesian conclusion" instead of IAM in the southwest. 

On the upside, I surprised myself by remembering JAKES ("'North and South' writer John). Also, I pulled CONDI out of nowhere - so to speak. I enjoyed 
"Source of a big scoop" (LADLE), "Like many a lemon, eventually" (SOLDFORPARTS), and the old fun favorite, "Were present?" (ARE). Another good one was "Kid's cut, perhaps" (OWIE). It seems obvious now, but my first ideas related to haircuts and percentages (?!?). My favorite QMC of the day was "Structure with many layers?" (COOP) - ha! 

I thought we might have a pangram on our hands, but after a closer look, I didn't find an X - someone can check me on that. :) Still, entries such as QATARI, PAJAMAPARTY, and ZEROGRAVITY really JAZZUP the grid  - Z's ABOUND

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Thursday, January 27, 2022, Lewis Rothlein and Jeff Chen

The tenor of this solve was quite different from yesterday's: unlike my esteemed co-bloggers Horace and Colum, I have no musical knowledge to sustenuto myself in these situations. I did recognize that the symbols in today's grid related to music, but I didn't know exactly what they meant. I thought I had it figured out with NOWH:EREW:E [NOWWHEREWEREWE] but on further examination I found I didn't have the right key and had to moderato my approach. Imagine the trill when I finally did figure it out with RO:MATO:ES (or ROMATOMATOES)! To be more expressivo, the trick is to REPEAT the letters within the marks to produce the whole ensemble. 

As it happens, the motif wasn't the most difficult partita for me. I hit some serious ritardando in the northeast corner thanks to the quartet of tricky clues "Round houses?" (PUBS), "It can be a show-stopper" (REMOTE), "It's measured in feet, not inches" (POEM - another of my weak spots!) , and the surprising UNDOSEND for "Action after a change of mind." I was a little confused by TAR for "Gob" but I looked it up and lo and behold, both can mean "one who operates or navigates a sea going vessel" - major surprise! I also had a little trouble with the answer to "Certain amenities for first-class passengers." Who knew they had arm *and* LEGRESTS? Humoresque, non? :)  

Other high notes included the clue "Preceder of ski or midi" for APRES, "Some long-term plans, in brief" (IRAS), and "Something well-placed?" for OILRIG.

In sum, nowhere near prestissimo today, but con brio.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Wednesday, January 26, 2022, Michael Schlossberg

If my solve time is anything to go by, I would say that Michael Schlossberg and I see eye to eye. I finished today's puzzle quick as a wink - for me - 6:28. 

As I solved, I payed scant attention to the circled letters, and only realized at the end that they represented a traditional eye chart. I say traditional because when I had my eye exam last October, my eye doctor told me they are mixing it up these days so people don't try to memorize the chart (that's a NONO). I did remember that there's a big E at the top of the chart, but if it hadn't been for the 'message' part of the theme CONGRATULATIONS ONPASSINGYOUR EYETEST, I'm not sure I would have seen the light.


There were a few clues that I thought hit the bull's eye including "Site of a legend" (MAP) and "Coaster" for SLED. The clue "Place to nosh on a knish" (DELI) had a nice ring to it. I thought "End of a college valedictorian's address?" (EDU) was funny, and PATS for "Caresses" amused me, but the apple of my eye was OUI for "Paris accord?" LOL.

CUSP is nice. UPONE out of context is surprising. And how about this double vision? "Member of the Rat Pack?" (DINO) and "Member of the ratite pack?" (EMU) - ha!

And speaking of eyes, what about a puzzle theme "I only have i's for u? Maybe it would have to be, "I only have i's for u's." Could that work? Anyone? 


And p.s. how about this apt reference in the puzzle? Apt!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Ray Brunsberg and Ellen Brunsberg

Greetings dear Readers! After a weekend on the Go, including an OPERA (Tosca, not Fidelio), cold EARS, video clips of TAP and POLKAS at the NYPL, and pop-up ROSES at the train station, we are slowly settling back into regular Life.

As I started the puzzle this morning, my Concentration may not have been at its strongest. I wasn't immediately able to Kerplunk SMIRK in at 1A ("Smug expression"), so I decided upon an alternate Stratego: I switched to the downs where I was quickly able to Connect Four, which, in turn, helped me discover the first of today's theme answers WAROPERATION ("General's responsibility?). Fun!

I hit a bit of Trouble in the next AREA where I gave it my 'all' for "Tide competitor," but that turned out to be an ERA. I felt like a real Mastermind when I was able to drop in ORGAN off the clue "Tongue, but not cheek" and EMS for "Millennium, at the beginning and end?" 


Elsewhere in the puzzle, I found a veritable Candy Land of nice clues like "Wears" for SPORTS and "Medium" for PSYCHIC. I also enjoyed the clue "Passionate learners, to some" for NERDS, as I am Uno of them. 

I thought the clue "Lure (in) for ROPE was a bit of a Twister, and I did have to Scrabble around a bit in the southeast for the answer to "One of the Affleck brothers" because I could only remember Ben. Sorry, CASEY!

Sure, some may say that stuffing one's head full of factoids for eventual use in puzzle solving is a Trivial Pursuit, but I enjoy it. 


Monday, January 24, 2022

Monday, January 24, 2022, John Guzzetta

Today's review is going to a bit like QUICKBREAD - it won't have time to rise before baking. Horace and I are in NYC even as I type, but we must head off to parts east very soon.
When we got back to the hotel room after last night's activities, we put the football game on. It had an exciting finish, but I think the NFL should re-think its tie break rules. It's too bad, IMHO, that so much depends on a coin flip. But, that's not why I called you here. While we did not see the game BEGIN, I believe the STARTINGQBs were the same as the ending QBs in the game, which is different from the puzzle theme. :) The four theme answers are two word phrases that start with the letters Q and B. My favorite is QUILTINGBEE, but in another puzzle coincidence, we had a QUEENBED in our hotel room along with an industrial tub - kidding! No sign of a QUADBIKE all weekend.

I liked "Drains of strength" for SAPS. I also liked SEQUIN and HUGGABLE. I like the word MINGLE, even though I'm not a big fan of the activity itself. Overall, good CA/Ps were QUITE bountiful, making the whole thing a fun PURSUIT


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sunday, January 23, 2022, Nancy Stark and Will Nediger


It really seems like this almost had to be a theme, didn't it? Taking a standard "blank of blank" phrase, turning it around, and cluing it wackily. Just the stuff of crossword themes, right? Well, today it is, and there's lots of it! My favorite, and one that works the best, answers "What brass band music has?" (PLENTYOFHORN). Hah! COMMANDOFCHAIN (What a dog walker and a strong-willed pooch might vie for?) and ABSENCEOFLEAVES (Tree feature in winter?) alos work pretty well, but I thought BROTHERSOFBAND (The Bee Gees' Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb?) and MANOFRIGHTS (Boxer lacking a left hook?) sounded a bit forced. So, a little hit or miss. 


I enjoyed "Web site?" (ATTIC) at 1-Across. Always nice to start with a laugh. I had never heard of TUBI (Streaming service acquired by Fox in 2020), and was not aware of the neologism ENBIES (Nonbinary people, informally). It's the spoken initials, I now understand. 

Nice trivia in BALDEAGLE (Benjamin Franklin famously considered it "a rank coward" with "bad moral character"). And I guess it's trivia about CORNPOPS too (Cereal once advertised by Woody Woodpecker), but does it make any difference that back then they were probably called "Sugar Pops?" If the name changes, and the recipe changes, and the mascot changes, is it still the same cereal? 

"Destination for a return flight" (NEST) was cute, and LAGER (Lumberjack's favorite kind of beer?) (think: "logger") was funny, but I've never heard or seen "Galosh" (OVERSHOE) in the singular. See also: SCAD. And on the other side of the coin, we have EUCALYPTI

Overall, it's a Sunday. Some good, some bad. Frannie takes the reins tomorrow, and I'll see you again in a few weeks. Until then - happy puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Saturday, January 22, 2022, Daniel Okulitch

Whew! Another "end-of-week" puzzle that lives up to its placement! But what an EGOBOOST when it finally came together! 

Zener cards

Some quality entries today. MENTALGYMNASTICS (Cognitive contortions) is a lovely, extra-long grid-spanner. And SLUSHIE crossing ICECREAM (Kind of sandwich) is a tasty combination. Except nobody wants to actually eat those two at the same time. Me, I'll take the sandwich any day.

And speaking of eating, I wonder how many folks actually choose to be FREEGAN (Person who lives on discarded food). Probably not all that many.

Not having watched "Game of Thrones," HODOR needed all the crosses. As did SOO (Actress Phillipa of Broadway's "Hamilton") for that matter. So it's a good thing that LEGOHOUSE (Danish tourist attraction with multiple play areas) was basically inferrable once I had everything but those two crosses. 

I had "bene fatto" in for "Well done, in Italy" (MOLTOBENE) for a while, and I guessed "earned" for "Brought (in)," but eventually I got the KINKs worked out.

HIREDGOON (Gorilla with a job to do) made me laugh, and "Words read with feeling" (BRAILLE) is brilliant. Just brilliant.

Overall, a satisfying Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, January 21, 2022

Friday, January 21, 2022, Kyle Dolan

A tough Friday for this solver! Nearly twenty minutes, when all was said and done. It was made more stressful by the fact that we're leaving to catch a train in a little while, and I was worried for a bit that I wouldn't finish in time to write a review!


But here we are. I liked pretty much all the long entries. RAISEHAVOC (Be a big-time troublemaker) (raise a fuss also fits...) over EATENALIVE (Swarmed by mosquitos, say) is a nice pair. SCRAPMETAL, THATSAMORE, MAGICCHARMS, BLACKHOLE (One with lots of pull?) (Nice clue), BEARCLAW... that's a lot of nice matieral. And the short stuff wasn't bad either - GALES (Outbursts of laughter), SHROVE (Heard the confession of and absolved, old-style) (So that's what "Shrove Tuesday" is all about!), TURNT (Extremely excited, in modern lingo), RANGY (Having long, thin limbs), and HAUTE (It's high in France) (Hah!) are all nice, unusual answers. It got a little iffy in the center with SEEDY, RACY, SLAG, and BLEAK - YIPES!, but it was all taken with a GRIN. And speaking of humor, how many of you dropped in "Erte" for "Legendary print maker" (YETI)? That was a nice tricky one! And how about "Duck, duck, goose, e.g." for BIRDS. Hah!

No CONS to BELLYACHE about. What's a reviewer to do? :)

- Horace

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Thursday, January 20, 2022, Howard Barkin

Until I hit the second theme answer, I thought today's puzzle might be that rarest of rarities, a themeless Thursday. (Has there ever been one?) But no. 

So the first themer, "TV talent show?" seems innocent enough. THEVOICE is a TV talent show, but why the question mark, we wonder... Then we hit the second one, "FM band on the radio?" Slowly the crosses reveal FLEETWOODMAC, and we see that Mr. Barkin - all-around nice guy that he is - is giving us a clue within a clue - the initials of the answer! But even with that knowledge, I still needed plenty of crosses for "Academy Awards, M.C.?" (MICHAELCAINE). I thought it was interesting that M.C. and U.S. still require periods, but TV and FM do not. I guess I agree with that. TV isn't really the initials for television, and FM does stand for frequency modulation, but no one ever says the whole thing. 


Anywho, it's a nice little theme. Not as tricky as one sometimes hopes for on a Thursday, but still fun.

The fill starts out strong with a solid 1-Across - "It counts on your movements" (FITBIT), and also in that quadrant is the fun clue "Side Hyde tried to hide" (JEKYLL). Heh. Crossing those two was the answer that ended up including my final square today. "Where Silicon Valley is" seems so easy in retrospect, but even when I had BAYA_EA, I had a very hard time parsing it correctly. I briefly wondered if there was an inland sea that I was not aware of (that famous "Baya Sea"), and "Ocho ____, Jamaica" was not helping. Finally, I realized that it was the BAYAREA. Whew! What's even more shocking, to me, is that my brother and both of his sons recently moved to the Bay Area, so it's been on my mind a lot! What happens in the mind when one does a crossword, I'll never quite understand, I don't think.

It's interesting to learn that the Raven's mascot is named POE, but I think they missed an opportunity by making it a bird costume. Can you imagine how great it would be to have an Edgar Allan Poe costumed mascot instead? Kind of like the Patriots' mascot ("Pat Patriot," created by a cartoonist from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette!), but dressed in black and stumbling around with a flask in his hand? Or he could have over-sized plush "papers" with poems written on them that he could hand out to fans. "Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, when each separate wheezing Steeler, fell exhausted on the field..."

Right, where was I? I loved the clue "Programming language named for a beverage named for an island" (JAVA), but why is VISA a "Collectible stamp?"

Not a rebus, but still fun.

- Horace

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Wednesday, January 19, 2022, Ori Brian

For once, I completely missed the note explaining the trick in this puzzle! I guessed "edit" for 1-Across (DRAG & DROP), skipped 5-Across, and then entered ROCK for 10-Across "Genre with a Hall of Fame in Ohio" and thought "That's a little strange, that they should just shorten it like that...". Then, as I often do when I have something at 1-Across and I am not immediately sure of the Across clue directly beneath it, I switch to Down clues. And as soon as I saw the "[See notepad]" with 1-Across highlighted, I understood what was going on and went back to enter ROLL at 10-Down, and STARS & STRIPES at 5 Across and Down. 

I like to think if this had run tomorrow, they'd just have had "-" in the Down clues and no note, and I'm glad that's essentially the way I experienced it, but I guess up until Wednesday the puzzles are meant to draw in newer solvers, and the puzzles after that are meant to challenge more experienced ones. And that's fine.


The trick popped up everywhere that an Across and Down started on the same square, which was nice. And it might have contributed to a slightly odd looking array of black squares - to maybe avoid too many such situations. They're all solid two-word expressions, though, so I have no complaints on the theme.

In the fill, I thought TOMATORED and TVGUEST were a little arbitrary. And maybe ACESOUT is also in that category. I don't watch much tennis, so maybe that's a common expression, I don't know.

POTATO (First vegetable grown in space) provides a nice bit of trivia, and FORCE (Mass x acceleration, in physics) ties in nicely with the science-y books I've been reading lately - "How the Universe Got Its Spots" by Janna Levin, and "Chaos" by James Gleick. 

Also, vanilla MALTS are one of my favorite things ever. 

A little trick on a Wednesday is always welcome. So far, so good this week. Onward to the Turn!

- Horace

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tuesday, January 18, 2022, Kate Schutzengel

Another clever, unusual theme today. The revealer THEDOCTORISOUT explains the four odd answers:

TWOINKMINIMUMS (Possible requirements for joining a tattoo club?)
ILLPRACTICE (A healthy person regularly calling in sick, e.g.?)
UMMACHINE (What a nervous public speaker sounds like?)
BEATTOTHEAW (Preceded in commenting on an adorable kitten photo, say?)

As you will have noticed, they are all missing the letters "DR," but they still make sense - sort of - thanks to their wacky clues. The first three are common enough (although I'm pretty sure my father will not be aware of "two drink minimums" - and, well, maybe he doesn't think much about "drum machines" either ...) but "beat to the draw" is not something one hears much. "Beaten to the punch," sure, but this? Still, I was amused by it. Especially UMMACHINE. Hah!


The theme answers stand out today because there are no other answers longer than seven letters. I chuckled at the juxtaposition of SOEXTRA (Really overdoing it, in slang) and IWASHAD ("They conned me!"). One so modern, the other so old. 

TEAMUSA (Olympic group with a red, white and blue insignia) always tricks me. I think of "America," then I see it doesn't work with crosses, and I start thinking of Russia, France, the Netherlands, etc. But then it's us after all! And I can't believe how long it took me to get STACKS (Library area). I work in a library, but all I could think of was "reading room," "circulation desk," and "book return." Sigh.

But really, I enjoyed this one. It's a fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, January 17, 2022

Monday, January 17, 2022, Evan Mahnken

We start the week with a fun "hidden word" theme. Three different oceans are found split across two rows and read from top to bottom, giving us ADROPINTHEOCEAN. Cute. I do sometimes wonder if I would ever notice this sort of thing without the shading. I would imagine that when these puzzles are submitted, that the constructors don't shade or circle the squares for the review team. (Do they? Anybody up there want to comment on that?) But I get it. And I appreciate it, because really, I don't know if I would figure it out on my own. 

And it certainly seems appropriate on a Monday. What does seem a tad un-Mondayish, however, are entries like WICCAN (One who worships the Triple Goddess and Horned God), RETICENT (Not inclined to reveal one's feelings), SARIN (Deadly nerve gas), and especially WYVERN (Dragonlike creature of fantasy). Every single letter of that last one was obtained through crosses for this solver!

DIANA Rigg as Emma Peel

I enjoyed seeing JOANOFARC (Teenage military leader canonized in 1920), and when I got to "Tell someone who gives a hoot" my first reaction was "Got a dime?" I used to love that expression. But would anyone under the age of 30, or maybe even 40, know the follow-up line "Call someone who cares." Hahaha!

I liked the two "Bogus" clues (PHONY and SHAM), but was surprised that REAL wasn't clued with "Not bogus" instead of "Genuine." Also, were you as far off as I was when you first saw "In the 70s or 80s, say" (WARM). I think thinking of GIJOE and ads for OLDSPICE had me guessing "eras" or something similar. Nice misdirect!

Overall, a fine start to the week.

- Horace

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday, January 16, 2022, Derrick Niederman


Playing with the titles of the hits, they mean. The theme answers, all top twenty hits (how is it possible that RUMOURHASIT only hit #16?), are clued with wordplay. "THE LADY VANI _ _ _ _ (#2, 1964)" for SHESNOTTHERE is a fairly straightforward one, but I spent quite a bit of time wondering about how ENT / CEMENT could clue COMEONEILEEN. The answer, that I found on, is that it is not "Ent over Cement," as I read it, but the entire word "enticement" (a come on) with the letter I italicized ("'I' lean"). Often, the final theme answer is the best, but for me, this one didn't work well at all. I blame the kerning.

Another one that took me a long time to CATCHON to was 93-Across, where letters spelling "Garland" have been removed from the sentence "change appearance to conceal and mislead," or, "disguise." Judy Garland isn't exactly current, and JUDYINDISGUISE isn't exactly a well-known (or good) song. CRIPES!

"Slugger from Louisville"

There's a lot more in here that was not to my liking, but I'm going to try to focus on things I did like, such as:

OTELLO (Opera with the aria "Ave Maria"). Good to know, I'll try to file that away. Also, since we're on the topic of opera, I'll be seeing Tosca soon, and when I mentioned that fact on the family zoom, one of my brothers kept asking me if Nessun Dorma was in it. But no, Dave, I looked that up today, and it's in Turandot.

The ALCAPONE quote "They can't collect legal taxes from illegal money" was somewhat amusing. And "SAAB story" was funny.

Oh, I can't help myself - GEARCASE? I've never heard it called that. It's a chain guard. Or is this for a motorcycle?... LIMEKILN? Ok. Whatever. DRLAO? RESECT, PONS, ILIA - I'm sure Colum will drop them in, and that's great, but me they did not ELATE

I didn't love it.

- Horace

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Saturday, January 15, 2022, Sam Ezersky

Good morning to all! It's been a bit of an odd week, crosswordwise. I haven't felt like the puzzles have been well-matched to the days, as we usually see. But today, Mr. Ezersky presents a nice and challenging Saturday.

Well, mostly I felt it was on the easy side, until I spent about three minutes in the NE.

I broke in with the very easy 2D: Youngest-ever QB to be named Super Bowl M.V.P. (2020) (MAHOMES), leading to SET, EMUS, and AGEOUTOF. I like 1A: Squarely (SMACKDAB), which is so crunchy with its letters and very colloquial. EAGLEOWL is fine, but IHEARYOU a little bland.

Once again, even if Cece was still asleep and unable to help me, her age (and obsession with Ariana Grande) helped me with 7D: What God is, per an Ariana Grande hit (AWOMAN). ZOOMBOMBING is all too familiar nowadays. My favorite story is from a friend of mine who was teaching a class, when in the background of one of her female students, a fully nude young man arose from the bed and walked out of the picture. Later on, it became apparent that it could not have been her boyfriend when the student alluded to dating a Black man...

I put in PANELTRUCKS, and then took the "truck" out because I put REice in at 31A: Make slicker, maybe (REOIL, one of my few dislikes today). I had to abandon that area due to that issue and made my way through the SW.

I put in POTTER____, and then even got the last three letters through crosses, but didn't know for certain what the M would be, so left it blank. This corner was fine (I'm not sure what "Blue-nosed sorts?" is even referring to - when I google it, it comes up with a breed of pitbull, so maybe?). Also 41A: What rotates throughout the office? (SWIVELCHAIR). That's an odd QMC - is there anything that rotates in an office? What is it getting at?

I loved the SE corner. I laughed at the chutzpah required for 61A: Date format on digital forms (MMDDYYYY). I think that choice allowed for some much more interesting answers, such as MAKESHAY, SPARKY, and 44D: Country song (ANTHEM).

Finally I moved up to my trouble spot. I guessed at MOOCOW. Anybody tell me why 9D: Eye-opening declaration? is AMEN? I had _ONG____ at 10D, and when I saw SONGWRITER, everything fell into place quickly. 24A: Watch here! (WRIST) is brilliant.

Over to Horace tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, January 14, 2022

Friday, January 14, 2022, Matthew Stock and Sid Sivakumar

Well, we could talk all day about the Friday themeless puzzle, and I feel certain I'll get there shortly, but first I have to brag that Hope, Cece, and I got the Queen Bee today on the Spelling Bee. Most of the time we get to Genius and give up, but we just went strong and flew past Genius, and then we looked up and saw we only needed 12 more points. 

Right, so anyway...

Today's puzzle is a smooth and strong themeless, that even played a little hard for a Friday. We broke in with BOATER and OPRAH, and chuckled over OTTO Bonn. We puzzled over 14A: Where to try out some gunpowder? (TEATASTING) until Hope told us that gunpowder is a kind of tea. There are some lovely long answers out of this area, including THELORAX and TENNISACES.

30A: Modern source of juice (WIRELESSCHARGER) is an excellent clue and grid-spanning answer. I do enjoy solving with multiple people, because you can get answers like SAMELOVE from your 19 year old daughter. I wouldn't have known that, although the crosses were all fair.

51A: Sith superpower (EVILEMPIRE) threw me for a loop for a second. I assumed they were talking about the powers an individual Darth Vader (say) would have, not the entire population of them.

We finished with correcting aLOE to SLOE, in a reasonable 6:51.

Some other fun C/APs:

31D: It's a challenge (IDAREYOU). I like these clues where the "it" is the answer.

27A: What purple prose and technical jargon have in common (VERBIAGE) - great word.

40D: Bath water unit (LITRE) - REDALERT! It's a hidden capital! Jane Austen would approve.

52D: Miroir image? (MOI) - indeed.

- Colum

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday, January 13, 2022, Karen Lurie


In this review, I will reveal information about the puzzle for today! Read on at your risk!

[space to stop you from reading if you don't want]

Okay, just kidding. Most of our readers are coming here after solving, I assume. Instead, we get semi-spoilers about three films that are at least 17 years old. Amusingly, the titles are turned around to make the spoilers. Thus, "Finding Nemo" becomes THEYFOUNDNEMO. "Kill Bill" becomes SHEKILLEDBILL. And "Free Willy" becomes HEFREEDWILLY. I enjoy that we get a different pronoun for each spoiler.

I put it to you that it's not tricksy enough for Thursday. ("Mr. Aldridge, I put it to you that you are dead... No further questions, your Honor.") I do like something a bit more surprising. Or difficult to figure out. I think this is more a Wednesday level puzzle. Which makes three in a row, in my opinion. What do you think?

Chimichurri sauce

Meanwhile, I liked Wonder Woman POWERPOSING opposite from GWENSTEFANI.

Some C/APs to my taste:

5D: Chicks, say (BROOD). Lovely word, and a non-S ending plural.

11D: They're constantly lapped (SHORES).

46D: One of a character class in Dungeons & Dragons (CLERIC) - surprising shout-out to a game I am very much enjoying playing once more.

55D: Man, for one (ISLE) - hidden capital alert!

I'll take a pass on BODYOIL, and see you all tomorrow.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022, Adam Aaronson

It's Meta-Wednesday! The day when the puzzle refers to itself in odd ways. In today's example, the standard crossword puzzle cluing tradition of giving the number of letters in each word of a phrase is turned on its head. Instead, the numbers are RHYMING clues to the phrase. Thus, KEVINKLINE is clued with [7,9] appended. WARHERO gets [4,0]. Etc. It's a very clever and unusual touch, carried out across five theme answers.

But did you also notice that each digit from zero to nine is used only once? That's amazing that Mr. Aaronson was able to come up with answers that fit this requirement. 

For funsies, though, we also get some nice long down answers like GASTROPUB (mmmmm... beer and burgers...) and INTHEZONE. The opposite of yummy comes in the symmetric space at 12D (MCDOUBLES). I mean, really? I'm not convinced by ROADFLARE. Isn't that just... a flare?


Some C/APs I liked:

20A: Say "I dunno," say (ELIDE) - it's a nice palindromic clue and a surprising answer.

61A: Sandwich eaten next to a fire (SMORE) - more yummies.

38D: Stand no more, say (SIT) - indeed.

48D: Oversaw? (BINGE) - hah! I did not see that coming until I had all the crosses but the first letter.

Fun midday puzzle. Gives me hope that the week will only get better as we go into the Turn. 

- Colum

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Tuesday, January 11, 2022, Ross Trudeau

So... a bit of an odd duck, in my opinion. It feels like a Wednesday puzzle on a Tuesday. The revealer comes at 26D: Grand Ole Opry performer ... or a hint to 17-/18-Across and 23- and 36-Down (COUNTRYSTAR). The answers referred to are three celebrities whose first names are also names of countries. They are definitely unusual nations as well: AMERICA/FERRERA, JORDANPEELE, and INDIAARIE (too bad we can't see the period she usually has in her name).

On the positive side, it was a surprise when the revealer came. Also, I like that the full names of all three celebrities are used. On the negative side, there are only three of them, and the way it's set up, the grid is highly segmented, which I don't love. Look at that long upside down T at the top! 

Back on the positive side, however, you have the remarkable feat of pairing 11-letter non-theme answers with each of the theme answers in the SW and SE, as well as the two 9-letter answers on either side of the middle theme answer. BRONZEMEDAL, FUDGSICLE (yum), and AREYOUALONE, all excellent answers.

Remember ISIS?

I don't know... I feel like even then, there are a lot of compromises taken, such as the sections of multiple 3-letter answers (PGA REM ONE just to start us out). And odd answers like ANNUS, a word that rarely finds its way into regular English usage, or ADELA, and the peculiar TUESDAYS (although I liked the clue).

On the whole, an interesting concept, but a little thin in theme, and I didn't like what had to be done to make it work.

On to Wednesday! Or is it Tuesday?

- Colum

Monday, January 10, 2022

Monday, January 10, 2022, Lynn Lempel

Mondays are well known for being a tough thing to do right in the crossword world, but Ms. Lempel is a past master, as this grid demonstrates.

The theme is a non-revealed set of rhymes ending in [long-o]-L, but spelled differently each way in the wonder that is our shared English language. There are six (6!) of them, set up beautifully in the grid so that no down answer has to cross more than two of them. Funny to think of BILLYJOEL rhyming with LOSTSOUL and CEREALBOWL. I'm less convinced by CLEANCOAL: after a little research, it appears that such plants emit less carbon dioxide than older coal plants, but still far more than renewable energy.


I was slowed down at the outset by 3D: Perennial embarrassments for teens (PARENTS). I had the initial P and confidently dropped in PimpleS. Wrong. The actual answer is much better. Funnily enough, I ran into a problem in the symmetric spot at 41D: Grand speechmaking (ORATORY). Here I tried ORATion. Ah, well.

Not a ton else to talk about here. Mostly it's very clean, and the clues are straightforward.

The END.

- Colum

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Sunday, January 9, 2022, Ian Polin


So, it's 2022. The most twos in a year for another 200 years. Pointless, but curious.

Today we get a riff on the apocryphal story of NEWTON coming up with the eureka (IGETITNOW) for the LAWOFGRAVITY when an apple falls on his head. According to, however, he was inspired when, as a child, he saw an apple fall from a tree. Just not on his head.

The grid has five apple varieties "hidden" in longer phrases. I imagine it would be next to impossible to truly hide these names in phrases. Of course, I like 69A: Birthplace of five U.S. presidents, with "the" (EMPIRESTATE) the best, seeing as that's my current home state. And we're known for our apples. I'd always assumed that the Rome apple came from local region township, Rome, NY, but instead it comes from Rome, OH.

In addition to all of the apples, Mr. Polin has included four phrases relating to gravity, all in the down answers to either side of the central apple-tree like structure. Thus we get WEIGHTYMATTER and FORCEOFNATURE, along with the more direct COMEONDOWN and FREEFALLIN.

Finally, do we think that 9D: Hardly a lover of hot wings? (ICARUS) is a sly nod to the theme?

CERN large Hadron collider

There's always a price to pay for a high density of theme material, and it comes in the shape of things like ETH, SEAEEL, TERRIF, and NAJAF. Nonetheless, there was a lot of fun to be had in the solve.

Some C/APs I liked included:

41A: Spade with a short handle? (SAM)

75A: Just roll with it! (DIE)

106A: Small section of a pit (OBOES)

Well, that's all from me today. Thanks for Horace and Frannie for the last two weeks of reviews. Hopefully we can finally get together at some point this year... maybe even at the ACPT?

- Colum

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Saturday, January 8, 2022, Freddie Cheng

Today's puzzle resulted in one of those solves where I go through the grid top to bottom and am able to enter about three answers with some confidence. Then begins the retrace and re-think step with a gradual build up of entries until, finally, I'm stuck in one corner. Maybe that's just me. :) Today's problem corner was the northeast. I seem to have missed the entrance of ELKMEAT into the group of available lean proteins. Turns out my diet is as out of date as the rest of me! Other problem C/APs in that area that contributed to the slow down were "Stretches" for LENGTHS and director SACHA Gervasi, of whom I've never heard. The answer to the clever clue "Basic analysis?" eluded me for a time, but when I figured that one out (PHTEST), some of the other answers became more obvious and I was able to complete the puzzle. Total time: 38:54.


I thought the triple stacks of grid-spanning entries were all pretty solid, although for some reason, I was looking for something a little more colorful for "Exhausted beyond belief" than TOOTIREDTOTHINK. While I twigged immediately to what I think was intended misdirection with the clue "Teddies and such," it took a few crosses for me to get the full answer (INTIMATEAPPAREL). Other clues of note in the misdirection category were "Do some modeling" (SETAGOODEXAMPLE) and "Canine protection org.?" (ADA) - ha! I also forgot Shuffles were IPODS so I spent rather too long trying out things like 'steps' and 'plays'. Derp.

There were some interesting and unusual answers in the mid-section, such as DECILES, SAPOR, and FATTAIL, that thanks to the increase of shorter answers in that area, didn't cause me too much trouble. Other unusual fill - at least for this solver - included ANOSMIA and MUSETTE. I liked "One way to manage expectations" (AIMLOW), and, of course, "Spreadsheet specification" (ROW) and the LARCH. SCREEDS and GRIMACE are nice - in a word-way, not so much in IRL. 

And so, dear Readers, another puzzle week comes to a close. I leave you in the more-than-capable hands of CLUBPRO, Colum Amory. 


Friday, January 7, 2022

Friday, January 7, 2022, Robyn Weintraub

Friday fun from Robyn Weintraub with a nice variety of clue styles, topics and quality. The only trouble I had was in the mid-west. I blame my lack of awareness of NONAPOLOGY and the two excellent and tricky clues "Numbers not meant to be shared" (SOLOS) and "Secretly unionize?" (ELOPE). For the former, after I finished the puzzle, I was discussing the puzzle briefly with Horace and said to him, "I still don't really get SOLOS, but as I read the clue aloud - much like yesterday's theme reveal - I suddenly understood the answer. Funny how the key to a tricky clue is often about where the emphasis is placed on a word in the clue, something that would be clear in speech is not so obvious - at least to this solver - in written text. Maybe my lack of emphasisthy is one of the many reasons I'm not a super fast solver. :)


The kind of clue I think I'm better at grasping quickly - most of the time - are ones that rely on a word's multiple meanings. Two good example in this puzzle are "Lashes makeup" (HAIRS), and "Looks like a jerk" (OGLES). 

In addition to the two very fine C/APs mentioned above, I enjoyed 
"ID seen at the post office" (IDAHO)
"Story that goes over your head?" (ATTIC)
"One constantly craving kisses?" (CHOCOHOLIC)
"Broadway show where everyone knows the ending?" (LIMITEDRUN)
"Simple matter of probability" (COINFLIP)
"Air France confirmation" (OUI) - ha!

There were also a couple of nice hidden capital clues:
"Othello, for one" (GAME) - not fooled by
"Driver in 'House of Gucci'" (ADAM) - fooled by at first

In short, though not a WARPDRIVE time for this solver (16:33) - not bad for Frannie for a Friday - and enjoyable throughout. 


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Thursday, January 6, 2022, Andrew Linzer

Well, dear Readers, as you may be able to tell from the lateness of the review, I had a little trouble with this one. I did solve the puzzle, with all rebii in place, but I still don't understand the tripled Across answers. I'm sure one among this esteemed group will enlighten me. Although, looking at it again, I guess the three [ANT] answers could represent an ant colony. But what are three [CROW]s? Oh, yes, they are a murder, aren't they? And that makes the three [LION] answers a pride. Ha! Color me surprised and charmed, now that I get it. :) Perhaps, if I had paid more attention to the theme revealer clue and answer (GROUPTHINK) it might not have taken me so long, but the struggle was real, my friends. :)


I thought the clue "Beseech" was a bit strong for its answer ASK, as is HATETO for "Would really rather not," and "Sleazeball" for CAD. I'm also not 100% convinced that "Lay off" is a good clue for IDLE, but maybe I'm not thinking about it right. See above. :) 

On the other hand, "Water tower?" for TUGBOAT is very clever. And "Boosts, redundantly" (HIKESUP) is fun. The best clue today, though, might be "Time period, or an anagram of one?" (EON). Excellent! Fill-wise, I liked PAVIL[LION], KAYAK, SMITE, BEATNIK, and IMBUED, even if SMITE is getting a little old hat. :)

Funny that over just the SPAN of a few minutes, writing about the puzzle seemed to activate a key AXON and whole theme came together. Cue the [CROW]DNOISE ... and SCENE.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Wednesday, January 5, 2022, Damon Gulczynski

When the OPTIMIST versus PESSIMIST question comes up, I like to say that I am neither; I consider myself a realist. But, as that category isn't part of today's theme SET, I'll save that AXE to grind at a later date and get down to brass tacks. In addition to the pair above, we have four pairs of theme answers that are opposite ends of a certain spectrum and that cross each other in the grid: HALFFULL/HALLFEMPTY, FEAST/FAMINE (my favorite), PEACE/WAR, and SHINE/RAIN. It's nice touch that the answers in the pessimist group are all Down answers while the optimist answers go Across. For a theme like this, who could ask for MOIRE

I liked "Directive before 'You're on 'Candid Camera''" (SMILE) - another blast from the past, non? I thought the clue "Moving well for one's age" (SPRY) was spot on. I also liked the clue "Word sung twice after 'Que'" for SERA much better than some of the SCI-style clues we get for that one. OOMPH is a great word, as is its fun cross, HOOPLA


I had a quaver over the ESTOS/ITTY cross in the southeast because I was thinking the answers *could* be ESsOS and ITsY, but I subsequently looked up "these" in Spanish, which, it turns out, is either estos or estas; it's our old friends esos/esas that means 'those." So, that's that. :)

Overall, a faster solve for me today than yesterday (9:41 today), with only the hesitation mentioned above and a little HASH of guessing in the northeast causing a MICRO slow down. I didn't know what the HECHT "Oct. contest for a pennant" was (ALCS) or "Grace's last name on 'Will & Grace'" (ADLER), but I kept a positive outlook through it all and, what do you know? It worked out.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Tuesday, January 4, 2022, David Bukszpan

In today's puzzle we get an OCELOT of puzzle-related material: ACROSSWORD quote, a NAMEDROP of the first puzzle editor of the NYT (MARGARETFARRAR), plus the word GRID

As if that weren't enough, we have some very nice C/APs like "Hinders, as one's style" for CRAMPS and "Schemes" for PLOTS, as well as several that amuse and entertain, including, "Make a long story short?" (RECAP), "School where students learn to spell?" (HOGWARTS),  "Strike from the Bible?" (SMITE) - ha!, not to mention my favorite clue today: "Like Usain Bolt's last name" (APT) - apt!

As our esteemed reader Philbo pointed out yesterday, you can't ESC the typos WHILESOLVING, I briefly had SODA POo in the southeast corner. Luckily, the word POO caught my eye before I completed the grid. I thought it was funny, but didn't remember the clue for it, so I checked it and saved myself from a FWOE - this time. 

Venn diagram showing the uppercase glyphs shared by the Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets

The only other trouble spot I had was at 57D: "With 58-Down, words before cheese," crossed by the trixy clue "Lasers read them from the inside out" (CDS). Turned out to be the ever-delicious MAC AND cheese. Mmmm, Mac and Cheese...
Today's puzzle also revealed a new item: "booty" SHORTS. Who knew?  

Remember REO Speedwagon? Their "Hi Infidelity" album was one of only five I owned before college. Commence judging! :) 


Sunday, January 2, 2022

Monday, January 3, 2022, Beth Rubin and Trent H. Evans

Happy New Year, dear Readers! Even 48 hours after New Year's Eve, I am still stuffed full of chips, onion dip, baked brie, and nutmeats leaving me with a GUTFEELING, but a different one, I think, than the one indicated by the puzzle theme. In the midsection of four theme answers, circled letters highlight four of the available 25 human emotions including DREAD in MINDREADER and RAGE (my favorite) in SLEEPERAGENT

35A: TEA

Maybe I'm still recovering from solving Megan Amram and Paolo Pasco's " Impossible Crossword" in the New Yorker with Horace, but some answers were almost too easy - making me doubt the obvious choice. I hesitated briefly before entering SKY for "Locale for clouds." Same with "Ending with Insta-" (GRAM). 

Even though I solved the puzzle with relative EASE, that's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable. I liked "Greek letter that one might expect to come last" (ZETA), "Curbside coin collector" (METER), and "Hose holder, or kind of snake" (GARTER). I thought "You'll trip on it if you drop it" (ACID) was a clever clue.

Wishing you all a year in which LOVE spreads ALLOVERTHEPLACE and that BADSEEDS, if any, are few and far between.


Sunday, January 2, 2022, Paolo Pasco


Well, I don't know if any of you get The New Yorker, but they had a "Cartoons & Puzzles" issue a couple weeks ago, and Mr. Pasco was a co-contributor for what they called "The Impossible Crossword." Frannie and I worked together on it, and nearly finished using the "Hard" clues. Finally, the cross of "Object carried by an egbere, a Yoruba forest spirit" and "Donkey: Basque" pushed us to peek at the "Easy" clues, which, for the same two were "Welcome ____ (object in front of a door)" (MAT) and "In re" (ASTO).


So anyway, all that in order to say that I flinched a bit when I saw his byline again so soon. But in the end, I finished sub 15:00, which is certainly one of my fastest times ever for a Sunday.

I was fully expecting a theme involving actual color mixing - like "blue sky" crossing "red rooster" and you have to put "purple" instead of both colors ... something like that - but instead, it was a simple anagram situation. "CORAL + GOLD = pet store purchase," for example, yielded DOGCOLLAR, and "LIME + MAGENTA = visualization" gave MENTALIMAGE. It's a nice trick, finding so many entries that could be broken down into two colors. I suppose there must have been a computer program* that helped with this, but if not, it's an even more impressive feat.

In the fill, it was surprising to find the long answer PRIDEPARADE (Christopher Street Day celebration) in the grid two days in a row. And its symmetrical partner ASTRONOMERS (Ones doing stellar work) had a fun clue. REMITTANCE (Payment sent) was a little less exciting, but still, it's not a word you run into every day in a crossword.

"Dis-tressed" (BALD) was funny, "Homophone of the sum of this clue numbers digits" (ATE) got an A for effort, and "'Jung at heart' persona?" (ANIMA) got a groan.

Overall, a fine Sunday. 

- Horace

* There was a computer program involved, but Mr. Pasco wrote it himself!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Saturday, January 1, 2022, Peter Wentz

Happy New Year! I wish you all great things 2022! There's no CLEARSKY out my window right now, but I'm not talking about the weather. "A forecast without clouds" is a state of mind, COPY? I don't want to hear any IHATEITHERE or NOMOREFORME. If you start feeling that way, PAUSE, have a cup of TEA, review your PLANBS, then get back up and march in your own personal PRIDEPARADE, leaving all the SEARATS in your WAKE.

So how about that ZXCVBNM line? (Line just before a comma). Hah! That was a gutsy entry, and it made me smile. And "Like diamonds" is RED? That confused me, but I think the reference is to playing cards. And in other tricky clues, I could think of nothing but the country when reading "Jordan is found on one, notably," but it's Michael Jordan. It's his silhouette that's found on a LOGO. Tricky!

The central entries are all good. I think of SWITCHBACKS as "twists and turns," not as being "full of twists and turns," but DEATHVALLEY (Where scenes on Tatooine were filmed for "Star Wars") was interesting trivia. And fortunately, a new bakery in Harvard Square (Tatte) sells MONKEYBREAD, so I recently learned that it's a thing. 

Plowing through this good, tough, Saturday was a nice way to start the new year. 

- Horace