Monday, February 28, 2022

Monday, February 28, 2022, Zach Sherwin and Andrea Carla Michaels

The first three letters of today's theme entries are repeated later in the entry. Is that a theme? I guess it is. And I'm guessing that the inclusion of two cartoons, one quite old, and two TV shows from the late Eighties and early Nineties means that this is not a common occurrence. That said, OKEFENOKEE and CHINCHILLA are fun words.

Jeannette RANKIN

The most surprising C/AP for me was "Around 50.25% of the world's adult population" (MEN). I have been operating for quite some time under the belief that there were slightly more women in the world. Is that still true, but most of them are not "adults?" Is it not true? Why put that word "adult" in the clue? According to the United Nations, there are 3,776,294,273 men and 3,710,295,643 women in the world. And according to this article, there are more women than men in the "over sixty" population, because the life expectancy for women is higher. Also, according to that article, the population dynamics are different in different countries. Weird.

Anyhoo, I don't have too much else to talk about in this one. I did enjoy seeing SOLIDS (One side in eight-ball pool) since I played a couple games of that this weekend while on a short vacation. And I also liked seeing TOM in the center of the grid, since that's the name I use when I'm not using a pseudonym. :)

Hope you all enjoyed it. March starts tomorrow, and with it comes the spring. It's something positive to think about when the front page brings nothing but bad news.

- Horace

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Sunday, February 27, 2022, Sheldon Polonsky


It took me a minute or two, after finishing this puzzle, to understand what the theme was. "Cinemagrams" is a neologism (I imagine) that means, roughly, "a clue composed by rearranging the letters of the answer, a movie title, that has some relationship to the movie." The best one might be "Evil Streep had award" from THEDEVILWEARSPRADA. Streep won a Golden Globe for her part in the movie. Second best is "True fellow is a find" from ITSAWONDERFULLIFE. After that, they start sounding a little more strained. "M. Ryan, what's her yell?" (WHENHARRYMETSALLY), "Re: town fire one night" (THETOWERINGINFERNO), and so on. Anagrams, for me, fall into the same category as palindromes - there are a few very clever ones, but the descent is sharp and quick into really bad ones.

"Aid in putting together a fall collection"

Perhaps it was all the long movie titles that forced some unusual entries, or perhaps I was just having an off day, but whatever the reason, this SOLVE took me about twice as long as Sunday puzzles sometimes do. And as I look for culprits, I find a few things like YESTER (Lead-in to day or year) and VALSPEAK (Slangy SoCal dialect), that may have elicited a GRRR or two, but really, it might have just been the answers I wasn't expecting, like BUREAU (There's one for the U.S. Census), SCOURGE (Source of suffering), and HEREBY (Adverb in many legal documents). 

It might also have been the witty clueing, like "All the kings' men?" for CHESSSET (Nice), "It's a lot in London" for CARPARK, or "Tip of the tongue?" for ESE. That one is very tricky. I think it is referring to the ending "tip" of several language words, like "Chinese," "Portuguese," "Vietnamese," and "Japanese." I might argue that it is ice sheets, and not GLACIERS that have "massive calves," but I guess some glaciers might eventually run out of hillside and end up hitting the ocean.

Did you notice that "tipify" fit in where EMBODY (Be a paragon of) belonged? Yeah, me too. And I loved "Harvard dropouts, maybe?" (ARS) - when I finally got it, that is. (Think: "Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd.") And it even had a little something for our Quebecois friends ("ICI on parle français").

Overall, quite a good, challenging puzzle. Oh yeah, and it had a theme. :)

- Horace

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Saturday, February 26, 2022, Ori Brian

It seems to be the thing these days to have stacks in the middle set up like stairs, which allows for more interesting long answers. Today's puzzle doesn't disappoint, with GOSPELTRUTH, SEXPOSITIVE, and the lovely clue at 35A: End of a waiting list? (DESSERTMENU). I was very confused by that last one for a while because I had UVULA in place, and couldn't figure out how the long answer would end in a U.

Another challenging answer came at 29D: Long (SLIMTONONE). Boy, that clue has so many possible interpretations. I guess we're using it here with regards to odds, but it's a stretch. I had _LI_TONON_ for a while, trying to parse it so it could make sense. 

Speaking of crazy tough clues, how about 37A: Use a shuttle, say (TAT). Oof! I would never have thought of lace making when looking at that clue. Fortunately, I got the answer entirely from crossings!

Morocco and its KASBAHs is in here somewhere

So much else here to force the solver to think laterally. 10D: Cry like a kid (BLEAT) - a goat is what's meant here, not a human child. 11D: Person you're in with (CELLMATE) - nearly symmetrically opposed to DIDTIME.

On the other hand, 34D: It makes waves (SEAWATER) is literal to the extreme. They can really get you coming and going!

I'll tip my cap to our constructor (and/or editors) for the clue at 14A: Pianist/composer Schumann (CLARA). Not the more widely known Robert Schumann, her husband, also a pianist and a composer. She was actually more celebrated than her husband for her performing. Her piano concerto no. 2 in F minor is pretty amazing.

I moved pretty quickly through this Saturday, despite the mixups along the way. 7:44. Turning it over tomorrow to Horace, I do not EGRET to say.

- Colum

Friday, February 25, 2022

Friday, February 25, 2022, Damon Gulczynski

What a chunky Scrabbly Friday themeless we have today! So many lovely long answers, I can overlook strange choices like PILAU (that's pilaf for us over here in the Americas, apparently, an alternate spelling that caused me a lot of grief in the SW corner).

I had essentially nothing in the NW corner, and found my true beginning point in the middle North section, with CILIA, LAGS, and ACING. I knew SCATMAN Crothers, but couldn't remember his full name. Most of us will probably recall him from The Shining, but he was also in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and actually got his start as a musician and composer (thus the nickname). 

And then the long answers started coming into view, starting with MICHELANGELO, and then BUTTHATSJUSTME. So good! I backtracked into the NW corner, where QUEBECOIS was probably a gimme for our friend Philbo, from North of the Border. Perhaps JENESAISQUOS was also straightforward for him! I love it as an answer in the puzzle.

The area in question

And then that answer crosses WILLYOUBEQUIET. Such a good use of the Q. WIKIPEDIA and ALONETIME round out our excellent set of long answers.

The SW corner gave me fits. First off, I couldn't see 43A: Took off on (APED). I so wanted flED. Then I wanted SwIveL at 47A: Go around and around (SPIRAL). Fortunately, that correct I in the incorrect answer led me to ILLBE, then ALLIE, and TABLE. My final letter was changing the F to U in HUEYS.

How fun are the crossings of 53D: Punt, e.g. (BOAT) and 60A: Dugout, e.g. (CANOE). Nicely vague clues for types of water vessels. 

It's funny how one area of a puzzle can be a cinch when others are giving you so much trouble. The NE corner was simplicity itself for this solver, boosted by DANTE, medical knowledge EDEMA, Jewish knowledge SEDER, and Civil War buff trivia (MEADE). But then, there will always be stuff one is GOODAT, and other stuff which might KILL you.

- Colum

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Thursday, February 24, 2022, Jake Halperin

I can't believe we're already at the Turn this week. It flew by! Tomorrow is a snow day, I have declared. I am taking a long weekend, and nobody's going to stop me.

But enough about tomorrow, let's look at today. It's a slightly tricksy Thursday puzzle. The theme answers take standard two word phrases where the first word can be used to describe a letter. In these cases, the letter described is both the first letter of the second phrase (which is then doubled) and at the same time described within the clue word.

Boy, that took a lot of words to explain. Could it have been done more succinctly? Undoubtedly. But where would the fun be in that?

Let's take an example: 17A: Wight, e.g.? The answer is LONGIISLAND. The original phrase Long Island, now reinterpreted as an island whose name has a long I. Thus, the Isle of Wight. I'm particularly fond of one of the HARDCCANDIES: the Cadbury Creme Egg. I have one waiting for me right now, a present from my lovely wife, coincidentally given to me today. What are the odds?

See if you can find the Isle in question

It's fun seeing those out of place doubled letters in the theme answers. 

BARBQS on the other hand, feels odd as an answer. It seems to be straddling the fence between "BBQs" and "Barbeques." Thoughts?

Otherwise, I liked BEGATHON and 40D: Gets foggy (STEAMSUP), which could definitely have been clued more bluely, if that's acceptable.

Our family appreciates The Lonely Goatherd, and other songs from The Sound of Music.

5D: Who is this in France (QUI) is such a fun clue. Like 32A: Give it a twirl! (BATON), the answer is referred to in the clue neatly.

Finally, 50D: Celerity (HASTE) will always make me think of the end of the second act of HMS Pinafore. 

"Go, sir, get you hence, to your cabin with celerity..."

Response: "Who's playing Celerity tonight again?"

- Colum

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Wednesday, February 23, 2022, Rose Conlon

Is it Wednesday or is it Whensday? Okay, now I'm just being silly. 

Clearly, today's puzzle was a labor of love. It's not often a crossword puzzle constructor sees the progeny of her mind birthed into the world in the New York Times. It's a girl! [Pregnant pause inserted for appropriate groans]. Congratulations on your first baby... um, debut puzzle, Rose Conlon!

The theme today is SIGNFORDELIVERY, what we usually do when something is delivered to our door. Instead, it's reinterpreted by Ms. Conlon as those indications that it's time to rush to the hospital for your child to be born, namely GUTFEELING, THEKICKER, BUMPYRIDE, and WATERBREAK. I had no idea what was going on until I re-examined the whole puzzle. That's a sign of a good delivery, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, we get such flavorful entries like URBANCAVER, something I've never done. But I've definitely been interested in the defunct passageways of no longer used New York subway tunnels. Also, there's the pairing of MANSPLAINS and ROIDRAGE. I really try not to do the former, and there's no risk of the latter, in my case. Really, ITRY!

An ASIAN map of old

I'm amused by HALF crossing ALL.

How many of us have ever said "Get BENT!"? It seems potentially like it might be 1950's slang. In that case, AKELA should feel right at home, once again!

But these are small concerns. FOMO, IDUNNO, CHEROKEE... the puzzle is a lot of fun, and I hope a sign of more good things to come from this constructor!

- Colum

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Tuesday, February 22, 2022, Jacob McDermott

Is it TUESDAY or Twosday? I suppose that's the question that this puzzle is not really posing at all. On the other hand, rebuses on a Tuesday? What is the world coming to?

I figured out the rebus nearly immediately in the NW corner, when I hit 21A: Well-trodden, as a path (FOO[TWO]RN), already having the FOO___ in place. It made GRAN[TWO]OD make a lot more sense.

Everywhere I turned, it seemed I was running into rebuses. But what makes me most likely to say "I[TWO]RKS" is the little animation that popped up when I finished the puzzle, showing that the five rebus squares were placed in the shape of the number 2. 

And all because it's taking place on 2/22/22. Happy multiples of 2 day!

Also surprising was the answer at 41A: Shortcut to highlighting the addressbar on most internet browsers (FSIX). Most of the time, I'll see that written out as F6, rather than F-six. Apparently, in Chrome, the shortcut is command-L. 

Questionably the North Pole?

I'll note some answers I liked, such as GRENDEL (reminding me of Harvard Square), A[TWO]RLDSEND, and OPERAGOER. That last one is something I would like to do again soon. I have been to see two staged musicals and a film in the last month, so little to complain about here.

Does anyone still SHIRR an egg? I wouldn't know how.

- Colum

Monday, February 21, 2022

Monday, February 21, 2022, Natalie Murphy

Happy Presidents' Day, everyone. It was not a holiday for me today (the hospital continues to have patients no matter what), but the NYT crossword celebrated it anyway, with a puzzle that felt about as old timey as any we've seen recently.

The theme is straightforward: three word phrases whose first letters are the same as the initials of various presidents, who are then bracketed in the clue by their president number (is that sort of like atomic numbers?). I could tell what was going on after entering 17A: On a whim [#35] (JUSTFORKICKS), and the rest sort of fell into place as I went along.

I say "sort of" because just what is a FAMILYDININGROOM? Is it different from a regular dining room? Worse, I originally had a "family dinner room," which made even less sense. 

HAVINGSAIDTHAT, however, the others were much stronger. I like to think that GWB hasn't achieved nearly the recognition as a three-letter president name than the others, for obvious reasons. Although the actual reason is that we prefer to call him Dubya, for what it's worth.

Where OLAV is from

Meanwhile, the fill was crazy old-school. YEGG?! I haven't seen that since the 1930s. Outside of crossword puzzles, that is. LIANA, EBAN, JONG, MAE, TRACY, AKELA, OLAV, DOC, ATESTS, and RCA - all of these are relics of a very long past crossword era. Trying to keep the spirit a little more up to date, MADEA, EARBUD, and ZUMBA do only a small amount.

In the end, I won't say UGH. Any puzzle that includes JODIE Foster is a win in my book.

- Colum

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Sunday, February 20, 2022, Victor Barocas


Hey folks! It's me, Colum, back again. And I've been thinking hard about when the next European vacation might take place. So I was in a good mind place for today's puzzle.

Mr. Barocas takes French words which are homophones for English words and puts them at the starts of well known phrases, and then clues them wackily. Hilarity, as we like to say, ensues. Except for those solvers for whom French is a foreign language. Well, I mean, more foreign than some.

Some I like much better than others. 22A: Positive thinker's motto? (OUISHALLOVERCOME) is lovely, as is 83A: Answer to "What is Roquefort or Brie?"? (CESTCHEESE). Hah! I'm less impressed by DIEUPROCESS and REINECATSANDDOGS just because the pronunciation is off, but what the hey, it's fun stuff.

Reminds me of the ludicrous book "Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames," where children's poems are phonetically recreated using French words, and then translated and treated as serious pieces of poetry. The first one starts:

Un petit d'un petit / S'ètonne aux Halles / Un petit d'un petit / Ah! degrés te fallent...

(Just say it out loud.)


Meanwhile, back in the NYT, I liked some very interesting crossing answers, like 7D: Lose possession? (EXORCISE) and 11D: Word that becomes more dramatic when you add an "R" in front (EVOLUTION). Likewise, who doesn't like CARYATIDS

Other fun clues included 48D: One who can see what you're saying? (LIPREADER), and the OUTRE 69D: Them's the breaks! (NAPS). Yes. Yes, they are.

I raise an eyebrow at ITSOK and OKED in the same grid. Normally I wouldn't raise it, but this one seems pretty obvious, and probably should have been avoided.

By the way, I had DIVeRgED at 59D: Split (DIVORCED). ESTo seemed possible, but when I fixed it, 83A made a lot more sense.

Looking forward to the week!

- Colum

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Saturday, February 19, 2022, Billy Bratton

Attractive pinwheel shape for the grid today, which had the side effect of creating several smaller puzzle areas for this solver. I had the least trouble with the northeast wing and the most trouble with the southwest. There was so much there that I didn't know or that didn't click. The former group included "First foreign-language film to win Best Picture" (PARASITE) and "Actress/screenwriter Taylor" (RENEE), and the latter "One of two for a Valkyrie's horse" (WING), "Endurance test in gym" (MILERUN) and "Cry on Christmas" - somehow I don't really think of HOHOHO as a cry. I did immediately consider GOD for "Mr. High-and-Mighty?" but I thought they wouldn't go there. Shows you what I know.


In the age-old contest between QMC's and non-QMC's, today the win goes to the non-QMC's. Highlights were "Coffee store" (URN), "Dog that smells a lot" (BASSETHOUND), and "They graduate quickly" (DEGREEMILLS). 
My favorite was "Diesel often found in a muscle car" (VIN) - LOL. 

There are two QMC's, though, that deserve honorable mention: "Make a long-distance call?" (YODEL) and "Group of commuters?" (PAROLEBOARD) - ha!

I liked the expression "Botheration" much better than AWRATS. On the other hand both WENTBANANAS and ROBBLIND were both fun. 

In this RELAY we call HAFDTNYTCPFCA, it's time for the exciting Colum Amory leg. Over and out.


Friday, February 18, 2022

Friday, February 18, 2022, Aimee Lucido

A relatively quick solve for me today - if I discount the 4 minutes I spent trying to figure out what letter could possibly complete BLA_O at 3D that would also somehow work with the clue "Soft". :( Our perspicacious readers will note that I had two incorrect letters working against me - DAbS for "Offers a fist, in a way" and ERlE for "Fort ___ (Peace Bridge terminus). While I thought ERlE might be wrong, I thought DAbS was probably correct. Eventually, though, after running the alphabet for the open square several times, I re-read the Peace Bridge clue and realized I did know it; it was our old friend ERIE. BRAINFART!

The only other area I had trouble with was in the south west where I tried BADActorS where BADAPPLES belonged. With the solve going so smoothly, I failed to notice the DtLUS and HOoES weren't what you normally call words. 

It's always interesting to me how what I know and what I don't know impacts the solve. If I had known TONKATSU was "Deep-fried Japanese pork cutlet", or Queen Latifah's real name was OWENS, I could have avoided two time-consuming trouble spots. On the other hand, if I had taken a little more time to think about the clue at 14A... ALAS


As I reviewed the completed grid, I found a lot to like, including some personal favorites:
"They come in waffle and sugar varieties" (CONES) - IMO, the cone is the best part of eating ice cream.
"Faint theatrically" (SWOON) - great word.
"Steamy period pieces" (BODICERIPPERS) - apt! 

While I didn't love HUFFY for "Irritated" or ADORE for "Can't get enough of", I did enjoy "Green features" (HOLES), "Field that involves blood, sweat and tears?" for (FORENSICS), "Was revolting" for (REBELLED), and "It might turn up a plot" (HOE) - ha.


Thursday, February 17, 2022

Thursday, February 17, 2022, Aaron M. Rosenberg

I, Frannie, enjoyed this puzzle. The theme, which takes as a setting a dinner party whose host is a scientist with a new shrink ray that she uses for each course of the meal, was very entertaining. The results of the shrink ray zapping are all common phrases that start with diminutive words and work very well with the shrunken dinner party setup. During the cocktail hour (as I like to imagine it), the shrink ray turns the punch ladle into a LITTLEDIPPER. The potato wedge appetizers became SMALLFRIES. My favorite was, unsurprisingly, the dessert course: "When the dessert was brought out, [ZAP!] the pudding cake turned into a ..." MERETRIFLE. Delish!

I credit my affection for the movie "Auntie Mame" for my initial entry of 'heaD' for "It's a bust" (56D). ("A divine man..but OH, what he did to my bust!......that's the head you know.") The correct answer was RAID. Cleverer individuals may tut tut, but I have to admit that I had a little trouble remembering the name of the "King of the Egyptian gods" AMONRA, although I was eventually able to dig it up. Thanks to my predilection for British shows, I had no trouble with NAN ("Mum's mum") or "Boris Johnson, e.g." - although I confess a few other choice four letter options ran through my mind before I entered TORY. :)

 "Hostile state" for ENMITY was nice, as was "Principal" for ARCH. I also enjoyed the "Monster Mash" and ICLAUDIUS references, both of which HAIL from my youth.

That's it for today's review. I have bigger fish to fry. :)


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Wednesday, February 16, 2022, Rich Proulx

A theme tailor-made to make an impression: the theme answers, WHITECOLLAR, GREENSLEEVES, SILVERLINING, and YELLOWTAILS when put together would certainly result in an eye-catching COATOFMANYCOLORS. I was a little slow picking up the thread of the theme, partly because I didn't remember that the coat story comes from Genesis. In review, I noticed that all but one of the theme clues called for information I didn't have at my fingertips, revealing gaps in my general knowledge - "Upside, when down" for SILVERLINING was the only one I got right off the clue. On the topic of time, the solve as a whole seamed slow for this solver. While I can't point to any specific difficulties, it was a relatively slow solve (10:45) for a Wednesday - maybe due in part to the somewhat larger-than-average grid. 

Bermicourt, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The two sets of longer down answers in the northeast and southwest were all solid. Interesting bit about the original title of LATRAVIATA. Elsewhere, I liked "Key that's never used alone: Abbr." (CTRL), "They're placed in locks" (OARS), "Carrot's counterpart" (STICK), and of course, the MILNE quote, "People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day." :)

Fill-wise, I liked SMASH, SASS, SCREE, and SCRY. And how about the crossover fun of Spelling Bee darlings TORI and TARSI? Fitting.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Claire Rimkus

Thanks for spreading the love yesterday, Horace - much appreciated! 

The theme clues which, after converting the first part of a common phrase from a verb into a noun, describe things rather than actions. So, COURTDISASTER is styled as a "Catastrophe at a tennis match?" instead of as risking a bad result, and POOLRESOURCES are "Supplies at a swim meet?" rather than the act of combining assets.  

The nominalisation of the theme answers not withstanding, I found the puzzle had a sprightly, active feel. I liked "Rise to the challenge" (STEPUP), "How some risks are taken" (ONADARE), "Ransacks like a pirate" (LOOTS), and "Rude looks" for STARES.


Fill-wise, I liked IODINE, LEISURE, and STOOGE - is it a funny word just because it is, or thanks to Moe, Larry, and Curly? Other items that served to ROPEIN this solver were the slightly unusual UNDUE for "Excessive" and "Things don't look good for me!" (IMTOAST) - ha!

As something of a woman myself, I enjoyed the higher-than-usual ratio of women to MEN in the grid: NORA Ephron, TONI Morrison, LeAnn RIMES, HELENA, Montana, Anne MEARA, and AMIGA ("Pal in Pamplona"). 


Monday, February 14, 2022

Monday, February 14, 2022, Alan Siegel

I don't know about you, but my day went a little like this – the ALARMCLOCK went off early, then I used my ROLODEX to find a florist. I consulted my COMPASS to find my way there while tracking my steps on a PEDOMETER, then I used a CAMCORDER to record Frannie’s reaction to seeing the flowers!


OK, none of that actually happened. And really, I’ve never used my SMARTPHONE for any of these things. I haven’t set an alarm in years (I’m old now, I get up early automatically), I have a separate device for step-tracking, I have an actual compass that I used to use when I was scouting properties that I had to photograph (got to know where the light will be when), and as for a rolodex… ok, I guess I have used my phone to look up a number, so they’ve got me there.

But I’m not like most people, I don’t think, and for the majority, this should seem like a perfectly good theme. 😊

Today, I’m more interested in the rest of the fill. PIECHART (Apt infographic for showing a bakery’s sales) gets a nice clue, PIVOT (Turn on an axis) is unusual, STILETTO is a nice word, but a silly way to build a shoe, and I kind of enjoy the repetition of OOH (Reaction to fireworks) in YOOHOO ("Hello-o-o-o!").

COOPERS (Cask makers) was fun, but I’m pretty tired of ARCED (Rainbow-shaped). How many people say that word?

Finally, it’s too bad INKPOT (Receptacle into which a quill is dipped) couldn’t have been worked into the theme somehow. I bet many who might have used an inkpot when writing a letter (a century or two ago) would now instead dictate texts into their phone.

Oh, and by the way, it’s Horace again today, filling in as a Valentine’s Day gift for Frannie. She’ll be here tomorrow. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

-          Horace

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Sunday, February 13, 2022, David Steinberg


I squinted at today's grid trying to make the black squares in the middle into a heart, but all I could see was a spider. Not very romantic. But still, the hidden theme today is "VALENTINE," the word formed by following the directions given in the Notes section.


It's a neat trick, and it reminds me that I've got to go out and buy some roses!


The fill included INLOVE (Smitten), DISARM, and NAKEDLY (!), which seem appropriate, but we also find things like VENDETTA (Literally, "revenge"), UNLIKABLE, ALTERCATION, BADDAY, and DECAY, which aren't all that lovey-dovey.

"Canine coat" (ENAMEL) was tricky, and it was funny to see ZIPDRIVE, because just yesterday (really!) I removed one from an old computer before bringing it to be recycled. You never know when you'll need to access all that stuff you stored on ZIPDRIVEs, right? 

And did you notice that in esse fits in where ASSUCH (In itself) belonged? I sure did. :)

It's been another fun week of puzzles. Frannie takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you in a few. 

Happy Puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Saturday, February 12, 2022, Mary Lou Guizzo

Now why would a sculpture of a three-legged TOAD be considered lucky in feng shui? I thought feng shui was all about balance and harmony? Maybe the fact that this TOAD is usually depicted sitting atop a pile of money with a coin in its mouth draws attention away from the missing hind leg. It is supposed to bring wealth, and there are articles online about how to position it correctly for maximum benefit. I can imagine aspiring authors looking for BOOKDEALS might turn to one hoping to earn more BREAD, but to my skeptical ears, it sounds like a lot of CLAPTRAP.

That little aside aside, this was an AGREEABLE puzzle. Ten nine-letter answers and two twelves across the middle are used to good effect. I was especially happy to see STACEYABRAMS make her full, crossword puzzle debut. Here's hoping she continues to work her miracles in Georgia. 


CAMELSPIN (Figure skating move based on the arabesque in ballet) is running at an appropriate time - right in the middle of the Winter Olympics, and LETITBE, too, is timely, what with "Get Back" having come out recently. And speaking of music, there's another Italian word used in sheet music - this one more common than yesterday's lentando - LEGATO (Italian for "tied together"). 

It's interesting to have SCROOGE (Miser) crossing ASCETIC (Antithesis of a hedonist). Although I sometimes am drawn toward the ASCETIC lifestyle, if I'm honest with myself, I'm the nearly the opposite of both of those entries. Not quite a full-on hedonist spendthrift, but not all that far off either.

One more thing - I loved the straightforwardness of HELLO (Conversation starter). 

It's a solid Saturday. SEEYASOON!

- Horace

Friday, February 11, 2022

Friday, February 11, 2022, Trenton Charlson

Over on, they share some comments from the constructor along with a photo, and in today's portrait, Mr. Charlson looks to have a GLINT in his eye. And why not, because the triple-stack he serves up today is a lot of fun. All six grid-spanners are solid, snappy, and most certainly "in-the-language," as they say. As is often the case, his byline equates to a WIN for us solvers.

Abstraktes Bild (599) by GERHARD Richter.

Today, I quickly read the first three Across clues, but started in earnest with the Downs, dropping in YALE (that Johnny-come-lately), EGOS, and ORCS, but when I then put in "eww," I was faced with YEOE... on the top row (SHUDDER). After that, "ritardando" didn't fit at 5D "Gradually slowing, in music" (LENTANDO), and, well, my solve gradually slowed. Ahem. 

Frannie and I saw TOSCA at the Met a couple weekends ago, so that was a fun find, and LIMABEAN (Food named for a world capital (but pronounced differently)) was an interesting clue. Who knew?! 

Do you wonder, like I do, whether AGS (Justice Dept. bigwigs), which presumably stands for "attorneys general" really ought to be "asg?" No? Ok.

Lots of quality entries - GESTURES (Handmade signs?) (nice CA/P!), WEARTHIN (Become harder to bear), and DELUISE (Reynolds's co-star in 1981's "The Cannonball Run") (awww....), to name just three.

There's only TCI and FEH to look askance at, but at least they're symmetrical, which seems somehow to be appropriate. So in the end, I have no complaints. Fun Friday! 

- Horace

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Thursday, February 10, 2022, August Miller

Last Thursday, we were reminded to cross our Ts, and today we have its companion instruction - DOTTHEIS. Each I in the puzzle serves as an I in the Across answers, and as the rebus DOT in the Downs. Very nice.

It made me happy to break into this one with GLAM (Rock genre for Roxy Music). This led to DOGLEG (Sharp bend), OOLALA ("Fa-a-ancy!"), and eventually, to LAREIEXAS (Southern border city in a Larry McMurtry title). I knew it wasn't right as it was, but I didn't stop to think about what, exactly, was going on until I hit "Trendy brunch order" which just had to be AVOCA[DOT]OAST. And that did it. 

It's a little odd that POLKA[DOT]S (Spotty pattern) uses the rebus as the word "dot" instead of breaking it across other words, but I like POLKA[DOT]S so much that I don't really mind. 

I liked learning that the Boston Mountains are a part of the OZARKS, and the clue "Bird found in the mud?" was a fun way to get EMU. Did you see it hidden in the clue, straddling the words "the" and "mud?" Tricksy cryptic crossover! And speaking of tricky clues, "Game measured by its number of points" (ELK) was another nice one. I thought, Well, lots of games are... but they're talking antlers, not scoresheets.

It was a little surprising to encounter both ASS and SUCKY in the NE, but maybe I'm just a little too old-fashioned on that front. 

Overall, a fine Thursday debut.

- Horace

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Wednesday, February 9, 2022, Grant Thackray

A SEA CUCUMBER isn't really a vegetable, but who knew an ELECTRIC EEL wasn't really an eel? Turns out it's closer to a catfish. (But it is able to deliver a shock.) Two of the AQUATIC creatures in today's theme are double negatives - the JELLY FISH is neither a fish, nor edible jelly, and a MANTIS SHRIMP is, well, you get the picture. But I'm confused about ORCA WHALE. Is that different from the plain old ORCA that's in the dolphin family? Or has the taxonomy changed recently? [Turns out the classification between "whale" and "dolphin" is only "informal." They're both in the infraorder cetacea. (Yeah, ok, and Pluto's not a planet...)]

By the way, MANTIS SHRIMP are some pretty interesting creatures. Their kind has been around since long before the dinosaurs, their eyes have more color receptors than any other animal, they have a lightning fast punch that can break aquarium glass, and some of them live in monogamous relationships for twenty years or more. We humans think we're all that, but we don't have the slightest idea what we're sharing the Earth with. Sure, we've given them all confusing names, but what do we really know about the other animals?

It was a fun theme, and the fill is full of clever clues, too. "It's often made hot and served cold" (ICEDTEA), "Sing in a high range?" (YODEL), "Capital that ends with its state's first two letters" (TOPEKA), and "One who sets the stage" (ROADIE) - all good. And how 'bout "Preschool group?" for ROE? Very nice. 

Lovely Wednesday.

- Horace

p.s. In the comments over the last couple days, there have been messages about and from a filmmaker. I repeat part of her message here, in case you haven't had the time or inclination to read the comments (and usually, I fully support avoiding comments online, but in this blog, so far, it's been safe.) For her contact info, look at yesterday's comments. - H

Hi my name is Veronica I am a film student at Boston University creating a documentary on competitive crosswords puzzles. I created a post in the Crosswords Tournaments Facebook group and I was turned to y'all's blog. I would love to use any of you as interview subjects. I am also hoping to go to the American Crossword Tournament in Stamford and heard you both will be doing the same. Let me know if you want any involvement or have any leads to people who may be interested.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Tuesday, February 8, 2022, Jack Joshi and Jackson Janes and Adam Aaronson

Four units of measure are preceded by four fruits in today's theme. The bracketed word in each theme clue made me slightly uneasy as I was solving, because I didn't stop to figure out what it was there for, but afterward, I realized it's explaining what is measured by each unit of measure. The second entry is bit muddled by TOMATOMETER itself being used to measure reactions to movies. And does it matter that LEMONBARS and FIGNEWTON are both actual foods, while the other two are not?

Duo's OWL over time

I thought "12D: Longest non-Russian river in Europe" was an odd clue for DANUBE. Why not just say "Second-longest river in Europe?" And I do not agree that "Transplants" and GRAFTS are identical. "Hand-holding at equestrian school?" (REIN), on the other hand, is a nice clue.

Frannie felt there was an overall "boy" vibe given off by this puzzle, and I have to agree. Lots of BMWS, GAMESTOP, OOHBABY, and DUH. And she was particularly put off by the inequity of the twice-used "... for a señor or señorita." Why not "señor or señora?" 

- Horace

Monday, February 7, 2022

Monday, February 7, 2022, Rebecca Goldstein

Little did you know you would have CREATEDAMONSTER (or three or four) by doing the puzzle today, but lo, you have! 

I guess they're all monsters, of a sort, although within the category I'd put trolls and ogres together, but dragons and demons are somewhat apart. From the first two and from each other. But that is, perhaps, splitting hairs. OMG! A BOZO reviewer LOST in the weeds!?

So what else... I really wanted "dinette set" instead of DININGSET for "Matching table and chairs in a kitchen," but MADEAFIST (Prepared to play rock paper scissors) went right in. I'll be happy when STANS (Obsessive fans, in slang) fades out of memory. I like Eminem fine, but I dislike that term. 

Does STP make oil? I thought it was some kind of an additive and not an oil, per se. I don't have time to look into it this morning, though, but maybe I'll follow up with you tomorrow. (That's one of those "reviewer tricks" for making sure you keep coming back! :) )

Lastly, I will always associate the word ASIDE with Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I learned the word when my father read through the libretto with my sister and me before each new show that we saw. ("Though to catch my drift he's striving, I'll dissemble - I'll dissemble.")

This played quite a bit harder for me than many Mondays, but there's quite a bit of theme - five long entries with one grid-spanner in the middle. Overall, not a bad start. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's.

- Horace

p.s. The A.C.P.T. is still scheduled to be "in person," and the group rate reservations have opened up at the Marriott. Frannie and I (and Philbo, I understand) will be going. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Sunday, February 6, 2022, Stephen McCarthy


Hello, Dear Reader, it's Horace back with you for another week of reviews after two splendid weeks from Frannie and Colum. As Colum said, last weeks puzzles were really top notch. And the week before that? Well, all I remember from that is Frannie's amazing reviews. 

Today, the good construction continues with a classic Schrödinger puzzle! In the middle of the grid, we are faced with the clue "The better of two major sci-fi film franchises?" and we must make a choice. I think one could argue that - since we first come upon three clues that support the choice of STARWARS, Stephen McCarthy is secretly trying to tell us his preference. Me, I like to believe that he saves the best for last, and really supports STARTREK.

It's cool, though, that the three STARWARS-supporting answers - REBELALLIANCE, DOORDONOTTHEREISNOTRY, and HANSOLO match up so beautifully and symmetrically with THEFEDERATION, SPACETHEFINALFRONTIER, and MRSPOCK. That's really lovely. STARWARS does seem to get one additional clue with "It's a ____!" (TRAP), the famous Admiral Ackbar line. But then, you only get that answer if you go with STARTREK, so maybe it's a consolation prize... 

With such a strong theme, you might feel that the fill hardly matters and ends up suffering, but today that is not so. I was so utterly fooled by the false capital in "4D: Apple device" that I even doubted AVATAR (Many a video game player has one), thinking that it might have to start with H so I could make 4D "phone." But no, the "Apple device" is a simple PARER. And speaking of capitals, does "79D Sound of a Jaguar" really need one to force the answer PURR? Sure, a Jaguar car does PURR, but don't the big cats also do something similar? They must!

I thought briefly of how "Q preceder?" might tie in with STARTREK, but eventually the crosses showed it to be LGBT. "Waste of an election?" (CHADS) took me a long time, as did "Points all around?" (LOCUS). Tricky!

I laughed to learn the golf slang SNOWMAN for an 8. I'm guessing I never heard that because I've never shot an 8 while playing frisbee golf. :)

This was a fun, clever Sunday. Which is your favorite franchise?

- Horace

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Saturday, February 5, 2022, Kameron Austin Collins

You know you're going to get a well crafted smooth puzzle when you see Mr. Collins's byline, with interesting and unexpected answers and clues, and today's puzzle did not disappoint.

I broke in with 3D: Crab ____ (NEBULA), confirmed by SEA and ELLE. After that, the corner went pretty quickly, especially with my favorite Korean dish BIBIMBAP anchoring it. 13A: Throw on the floor (AREARUG) is such a great non-QMC. Everything in this corner is done well, from 6D: Talk over? (DUB) to 19A: Replete (with) (LOUSY).

I exited comfortably with 14D: Marijuana, some say (GATEWAYDRUG), and the whole middle section opened up nicely. It's a benefit of all of those nice crossing 5-letter answers, that as you get going, the rest fall into place. My favorite C/AP came at 17D: The right one can produce a smile (PARENTHESIS). Hah! :).

The SEA by Turner

All of the answers here are very nice, from PETTYTYRANT to 32A: Result of selling out (PACKEDHOUSE) - not lower street cred. I don't love CRUDS as a peculiar plural, but everything else is solid.

I filled in the SW corner next, followed by the NE. I liked the pair of Hollywood clues (PLANET and PRECODE). In the opposite corner, who doesn't like a NERUDA quote? And PUDDYTAT was unexpected and delightful.

Finally, I tackled the SE corner, with the excellent 46A: Sugar substitute? (SNOOKUMS). I had it all filled in except for the crossing of 40D and 40A. That last letter took a long time to figure out for some reason. 40A: Live on water, say (FAST) was clearly a great misdirection for this solver, but FAKED should have come faster. Finished in 9:24, but had everything finished but that last bit in just over 7...

It's been a fun week! Each puzzle its own piece of fine art. Tomorrow Horace takes over.

- Colum

Friday, February 4, 2022

Friday, February 4, 2022, Joseph Greenbaum

It's nice when you get a gimme in the early portion of a themeless. For me, this was the David Bowie song LIFEONMARS. A great song, with a one of a kind first line.

Thank goodness, because AVLAB did not come to me until I was finally filled in all of VERMONSTER.

At the same time, I'm beginning to feel that the Friday clues aren't hard enough. I'll grant you that after doing every puzzle daily for the last 8 years, perhaps it's just that I'm used to things, but getting 2D: Actress Knightley (nobody else but KEIRA in the world that fits that) or even more simple, 9D: Director Welles (ORSON), I feel I'm not being challenged enough.

But I'm not really complaining too much, because this puzzle is really NOTTOOSHABBY. Look at the other lovely long down answer, LOOSEYGOOSEY. And the pair of long answers in each corner are pretty darned good. I love SPACEBALLS and ALGALBLOOM. And BACKRONYM is an outstanding word, one I'd never come across before. It's where a word is used and then turned into an acronym after the fact.

I also love TOOTALL Ed Jones.


Some other clues I liked:

47A: Squares, e.g. (RHOMBI). Very true, but I was not thinking along those lines (see what I did there?).

38D: That's the point! (TIP). It is indeed.

Don't love SORER, or TINT for "Stain," and 62A: Apt (SEEMLY) seems a little inapt (inapt!). 

But I'll just say NOE big deal and move on. Looking forward to tomorrow! 7:03.

- Colum

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Thursday, February 3, 2022, Adam Wagner

Now this is what I call a tricksy Thursday!

The revealer comes at 61A: Proofreader's reminder ... or some advice for finishing here? (CROSSYOURTS). Even once I had the revealer filled in, I was still very unclear on what I was supposed to do. And then I figured out what was going on at 63D: Squalled (SAT). Those two Ls in the clue? They're supposed to be Ts, and then the clue would be "Squatted," a much better synonym for the answer!

And then the other shoe dropped. Every single lower case "l" and every single upper case "I" in the clues should be reinterpreted as Ts. So 2D: One for whom libel is a major issue (DALAILAMA) is actually talking about Tibet! (This took a longer time than it should have because I had Awl at 1A: Aid in woodworking (ADZ)). 

Here are the rest of the adjustable clues:

16A: Where a sleeping bag may be found (TEACUP) - "steeping bag."

18A: Warm coals (DOWNJACKETS) - "Warm coats."

20A: Shakespearean fool (IAMB) - "foot."

33A: Walls in a cinema (NAOMI) - "Watts."

39A: Key lime (MOMENTOFTRUTH) - "Key time."

65A: One who makes bail, perhaps (ANGLER) - "bait."

4D: Hurl, say (SAD) - "Hurt."

27D: IV device found in many homes nowadays (ROKU) - "TV."

38D: Goal keepers' kin (SHEPHERDS) - "Goat keepers!"

And best of all, there is not a single lower case l or upper case I in the remainder of the clues.


I loved this puzzle so much, I am deeply saddened that I FWOE'd by misspelling my favorite animated movie filmmaker HAYAO with an I for the first A. Oh well.

Hope you had as much fun as I did! Favorite puzzle of the year so far.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Wednesday, February 2, 2022, Meredith Colton Hazy

Wordles on a Wednesday!

And so neatly partitioned as well. All of the theme combos whose missing words denote being on top of are above the nearly bisecting lines of black squares, while those whose missing words denote being beneath are under. 

It's very well accomplished, with BENDS[OVER]BACKWARDS and ACUT[ABOVE]THEREST, and then HITS[BELOW]THEBELT and WATER[UNDER]THEBRIDGE. I like how the antonyms are symmetrically placed. That's a lot of attention to detail.


And a lot of letters locked into place. This is how we get UBERED (acceptable) and LONDRES (fine), as well as INHIBITIVE - a nice long entry which lacks any regular day usage. It feels like perhaps "inhibiting" would have worked with some careful smithing in the SW corner. But then, I don't make these, do I? I just criticize.


I liked 29A: One in peak singing condition? (YODELER) - that's cute. Another good QMC comes in the symmetric position at 46A: What might display a little spirit? (MINIBAR) - hah!

A little odd to see GOTHOT and HOTTEA in symmetric spots. I know that constructors like to avoid repeating words that are used in the same way in a puzzle. 

Overall a fun Wednesday that I finished in a visually pleasing 4:44. Congratulations to Ms. Hazy on her debut!

- Colum

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Tuesday, February 1, 2022, Zhouqin Burnikel

Happy Lunar New Year! Ms. Burnikel takes the opportunity to pay homage to five different non-Gregorian calendar New Years around the world. SPRINGFESTIVAL is the English translation of Chūnjié ch. It's a little odd that all the others are in their original languages (transliterated in each case). ROSHHASHANAH was a gimme for this lapsed Jewish atheist, but NOWRUZ (March 21-22, 2022), SOLLAL (also February 1, and sometimes transliterated as seollal), and SONGKRAN (April 13-15, 2022) are all new to me. That, together with the highly segmented grid made the solve time a little long for a Tuesday.

Fortunately, as is typically the case with Ms. Burnikel, the remainder of the fill is smooth and straightforward. The only answer I had a little challenge with was 66A: ELIE Tahari. 

The wrong Raphael

That being said, there's also little that's sparkling. HERBERT and RAFAEL are each their own kind of CHAMPS, I suppose. Not much in terms of clever cluework, either. 

I have just noticed that the grid is 14 x 16. I feel like there is something going on with the placement of the black squares, but looking up on reveals nothing about intended grid art.

Regardless, it's a fine if not terribly exciting puzzle.

- Colum