Thursday, March 31, 2022

Thursday, March 31, 2022, Oliver Roeder

A real 'edgy' theme today featuring literal MARGINALIA. Six left side clues and six right side clues extend outside the grid by one letter, either at the start or end of the answer. The sets of "outside" letters are EGALE, and, read top to bottom, spell 'margin' on both sides. The icing on the cake is the lovely parallel Down answers of ANNOTATION and MARGINALIA, one in the east and west. That's a real ACEHORSE move. 

I caught on to the trick thanks to the pair of clues at 1A and 1D. The clue "Beat in chess" could have been 'mate' but when I saw that 1D: was "Now: Sp." I knew A had to be the first letter (AHORA) and "Leader of the house band on 'The Muppet Show'" was, of course, DRTEETH, so the jig was up pretty quickly. On the other hand, I didn't notice that the outside letters spelled 'margin' nor that the left and right letters were parallel until after I finished the puzzle.


I ran into a little trouble in the southeast. For some reason, I first had gOYOU where TOYOU belonged ("Two-word tribute") which made it difficult for me to see MELTAWAY for "Dissolve." Also, at first, I didn't remember who cometh at at 50Across (the [I]CEMAN), or "Award-winning Ward" (SELA). Our dear readers will not be surprised to hear, on the other hand, that I had no trouble with [N]ERDY ("Geekish"). Also, the very clever "Tried something?" for CASE had me stymied for a bit. I had the emphasis in the wrong place on that clue. Same with "Put on sale, say" for REPRICE in the southeast. Fill-wise, I liked TOUTS, AFOOT, and [G]OBLETS

My missteps aside, I found a lot to like in this puzzle. Many clues were cleverly worded to take full advantage of multiple possible meanings and semantic categories. Here are some of my favorite from today:
"Boot" (OUST)
"Skim" ( NOFAT)
"Get in trouble, in a way" (RATON)
"Fixes" (MENDS)

I remembered the bit about BRAHE from the updated "Cosmos" series ("Astronomer who lost part of his nose in a sword duel"). Amusing to have the clue for the answer below BRAHE be "Takes a bit off" - apt! And who knew ATARI meant the same as 'check' in Go? I didn't. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Wednesday, March 30, 2022, Jack Murtagh

Today's theme entries are personal names respelled so they can be interpreted as  verb phrases, for example, "Cradlin' a Salinger protagonist?" is HOLDINCAULFIELD and "Bein' in debt to a 'Wedding Crashers' co-star?" is OWINWILSON. It's a fine theme idea, but the variation in the way names were modified to become verbs - three of the five simply substituted an I for an E while the other two required some additional letter swapping - threw this solver for a bit of a loop and caused a real slow down in the middle left area. If I had automatically known Kevin Bacon was in "Footloose" I probably wouldn't have had so much trouble with it, but that lacuna combined with the K from TRANK (where one would expect the C in Bacon) briefly befuddled me. It didn't help that  KAT Dennings and birthplace of Zeno (ELEA) were unknowns. 

6A: Steno

Two death and burial clues threw something of a pall over the puzzle for this solver. Clunky fill like GOTAC ("Did so-so at school") and NTILE ("One-point Scrabble draw"), NOTI  ("Moi? Never!), and SYSOP ("Internet admin") didn't exactly RADII puzzle bliss. And call me NITPICKY, but the number of abbreviations  (GAH, ELO, NHL, YSL, AFL, DNA, GMT, IEDS, RMS), not to mention three texting shortcuts all in the same section (FWIW, BTW, IMO), made a real alphabet soup of this one.

A few clever clues resulted in some AHA moments that brightened the landscape including "Blond at the bar, say" (ALE), "Bee teem?" (SWARM) - ha! - and "Crow, but not magpie" (VERB). Fill-wise, I liked SHINNY - you don't see that every day. 

So, some things to grumble about, but nothing a little Dustin 'Offman of acronyms wouldn't have remedied.


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Jamey Smith

I never metonymy I didn't like - at least in today's puzzle. I think that's more or less what's going on with today's theme - although if there's a specific name for location-based metonymy, I don't know it. For each theme clue, the answer is the place that represents the indicated industry. So we have NASHVILLE for the country music industry and DETROIT for the automotive industry. The only one I'd never heard of was KSTREET for the lobbying industry. I'm sorry there is such a thing as a lobbying industry, which makes me less sorry that I didn't know that answer. On the upside, it's pretty nice that the constructor was able to get 6 such entries into the grid without sacrificing the rest of the puzzle to the theme industry. :)


A smooth solve overall, with some fun clues like "'Think OMG! OMG!'" for PANIC and the fun "Major or Minor in astronomy?" for (URSA). Fill-wise, there's a lot of good unusual material like COIF, ROSIN, CLOAK, CHISEL, and ANDROID, with only occasional spots of ESC, NSC, and TVMA. TIPSY and CANOODLE are especially nice. 

I did hit one snag when I entered 'vide' for "Sous-___" instead of CHEF, but I corrected it when I got to "National symbol" which I thought had to be (and was) FLAG

That's my POST for today. ¡Hasta mañana!


Monday, March 28, 2022

Monday, March 28, 2022, Leslie Rogers

A fun theme that calls upon the solver to interpret and incorporate the special punctuation of the clued word as part of the clue, resulting in an answer that is a synonym that combines the two, so "Q.U.E.U.E.S" is DOTTEDLINES and "E+X+T+R+A+S" is ADDEDBONUSES. My favorite was "W/H/E/E/L/S" for SLASHEDTIRES. Ha! I dashed this one off in pretty quickly, but I blame some PESKY butterfingered typing in the southeast ARIA for blowing my chance to break the five minute mark on this one (5:09). Next time.

I thought the puzzle was off to a good start with "Officially accepted works" for CANON, which seemed like a nice level of challenge. Clues like "Prove helpful" (AVAIL), "Once named" for NEE, "Costume for St. Nick" (SANTASUIT), "Spy's gathering" (INTEL) maintained the level, with only periodic clues like "Direction of the morning light" - which is a little like saying, "please type the word EAST."

I might have hit a full stop in the middle section, but thankfully, I was able to rely on the Down answers rather than my geographical knowledge for "Himalayan country that's home to the world's highest unclimbed mountain." I didn't know BHUTAN, and I also didn't know there were still unclimbed mountains in the world. Interesting!


Other answers to exclaim over include BLEAT, BENTOBOX, ALLABOARD, (for its exciting reminder of travel), and CUSSWORD, which seems pleasantly old timey. Conversely, in up to the minute topics, has Will Smith now dropped to the DLIST?


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Sunday, March 26, 2022, August Lee-Kovach


Not I.

I'm curious to know how many of you knew the name KHUFU (This puzzle's subject). Me, I didn't. I know him only as CHEOPS.

I now see that in the web version, at least, each block of KHUFU is numbered, and you are supposed to transpose the letters from the puzzle into the crypt. Great. If you're trying to teach us this obscure name, why not just fill it in for us, or include it in the puzzle in a normal way so we can get it with crosses.

Did not like.

- Horace

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Saturday, March 26, 2022, Ashton Anderson and James Mulhern

Hoo-boy. This was a beauty. So tough! And good practice, I suppose, for next weekend. 

I spent a long time with only a few guesses in the grid, and it was a RELIEF to get any kind of a foothold at all. For me, it came at 42A: Polaroid's SX-70 camera, for one: Abbr. (SLR). That is not, by any stretch, the most salient feature of the SX-70, but still, it let me posit an adverbial Y under the L, which gave me MOTLEY (Ragtag), and while the rest of that corner wasn't exactly ASNAP, it did get me started. 

This is the kind of puzzle where I can hardly remember how I managed to get through it. It's all speculation and guessing until something clicks. I thought of IBMS for "Watson and others," and guessed at NONPAREIL (Ne plus ultra) (nice French/French C/AP), and eventually BRANDISH (Wave one's arms?) (lovely), and SEEDOUBLE (Lose focus, in a way) broke the logjam in the NW.

I was happy to see my people represented in FINN (Member of the world's happiest people, per repeated World Happiness Reports), and I liked the trivia in ALLIGATOR (Animal that can grow up to 3,000 teeth in its lifetime). "What 'chicken' and 'egg' are examples of" is an excellent clue for SALADS, and BIOFUEL (Algae, at times) is a nice modern idea. But let's SAYNOMORE about CUDDLEPUDDLE, shall we? Who knew that was an expression?

Tough. I finally got the "Congratulations!" screen at the 35-minute mark, and I was ready to shout out CANIGETANAMEN

Loved the clues, loved the entries (most of them), and I loved the challenge. 

- Horace

Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday, March 25, 2022, Evans Clinchy

omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori

"LOVECONQUERSALL, so let us yield to love." Nice entry, but odd in juxtaposition, as it is, with LEADADOUBLELIFE

On the bottom, HATERSGONNAHATE matches much better with OVEROPINIONATED. Not that these grid-spanning entries have to match up, because as Mr. Clinchy says, this puzzle is not THEMED (Like many crossword puzzles (though not this one)). 


Still, one tends to group things when one can. Like the Latin reference above and the word NISI (Unless, to a lawyer). I think of NISI more as "except," as in De mortuis nihil nisi bonum dicendum est, but then, the words except and unless are close, and I am not a laywer.

And speaking of close - I suppose the word "autocamp," whatever that is, is supposed to lead us to choose MOTEL instead of hotel for "Alternative to an autocamp," because we get no help from the Down - "Speakers' hesitations," which could be either UhS or UMS

Funny clue for ISLE (Man is one), because, well, "No man" is also one. Heh. And I loved the literalness of "Really dig" (EXCAVATE). See also: "Group of signs" (ZODIAC). Also, the sun is huge. (The sun's is approximately 865,370 miles (DIAMETER)) (It's over 100 times larger than Earth (7,917.5 miles). Imagine if taking a plane to Paris took 600 hours instead of six. The flight would take almost a month!)

Anybody ever heard of the band LEN? Not me. 

I liked this one. The cluing was fun - "They might help with the dishes" (RECIPES) and "Something that's thrown out while using it" (ANCHOR), for instance - and it sent me on a few research errands, and that's always fun. I hope you enjoyed it too.

- Horace

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Thursday, March 24, 2022, Jess Shulman

Always nice to get a rebus on a Thursday, and today's has a second trick, which is to use the rebus to complete the Across answer that ends directly below it. Each is triple-checked. For example - 

"Sustainable water receptacles" are RAIN[BAR]RELS, and that same "bar" rebus begins the answer to "One with the grounds to serve you?" ([BAR]ISTA). Then, you eventually come to the clue "Place to order sake and sashimi" and you find that SUSHI fits, but you think, "OHMY, that's odd. I would have said "SUSHI bar." And if you're like me and Mr. Kingdon, you forget about it and move on, until you get to the next set of rebus answers. When you encounter "Strip of computer shortcuts" and have TASK, with another of those "bar" rebuses sitting right over the K, and then you're SUR that something else ISUP. I started to worry that maybe I had the rebus wrong, or it had to be positioned differently... Finally, the revealer RAISETHE[BAR] explained the trick, and everything was hunky dory.

BOSOM Buddies

In the fill, I was a little surprised by HAMSTEAK. That's not a term I've used or heard. I'd equate it with "chicken steak," I guess, in that I don't think it's a thing, but who knows? I've heard of tuna steaks, so maybe any slab of meat can be a steak. Or non-meat. Mushroom steaks? But also in the food category, I like any reference to EGGNOG. Mmmmm....

I liked the old-fashioned STEAMOPEN. Such a well-known idea, but how often has that actually been done? And is MOES a part of the theme? :)

One of my brothers just visited Graceland earlier this week, so ARON (Elvis Presley's middle name) was fun to see. 

Solid Thursday, a lovely debut puzzle (Congrats!), and a fine start to the Turn.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Barbara Lin

I have some bad habits when it comes to puzzle solving. One is that I almost never take note of a puzzle title. I look at the title of the Sunday NYTX, but it's often so clever that it is not immediately helpful. Other puzzles often have more straightforward titles that could help a lot with the solve if you think to take note of them. I mention this now, because the ACPT is coming up, and all its puzzles are titled. In my first year at the tournament, I didn't notice any of them and paid for it, but I'm hoping that by saying this now, I remind myself, and all of you, to look at them this year.

The second thing I do is I generally skip over theme clues when they are the least bit opaque, which is what happened today. I see all caps and I just tab to the next clue. Sometimes I fill in a theme answer from crosses and then try to figure out why it works. But this time, I just plowed forward without ever looking back. In the back of my mind I thought the capitals could have something to do with the BEATLES, since they had such a place of honor in the center. Luckily, I didn't spend too many brain cells on that idea.


So anyhooo, now that the review is half over, let's talk about the puzzle and its fun FLIP-FLOP theme. The FLIPs are QUICKSALE and COINTOSS, the FLOPs are EPICFAIL and PLUNKDOWN, and the FLIP-FLOPs are CASUALSANDAL and POLICYCHANGE. It's a strong set.

In the fill, I enjoyed ACUTE (Less than right), RENTS (Doesn't buy, say), BOOSTER (Third shot, for many), UNTIE (Make a knot not?), TACTFUL (Like whatever comes after "How should I put this?") (I had "badnews"), and HUFFILY (With a chip on one's shoulder). That last word is especially nice. It's how one might say "RULE schmool!"

I had rEChAll for PECLASS (Place to play dodgeball, informally), which didn't help things. And are there really 2,300 languages in ASIA? Incredible. Is it any wonder we humans find it so difficult to get along?

It was a tricky one for me, but a satisfying solve. 

And lastly, I just want to say, Thank you, AZTEC culture! (Culture that introduced popcorn to the world). Better late than never, right?

- Horace

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Tuesday, March 22, 2022, Adam Wagner

Who doesn't love a MAGNET? I don't think it makes us all SHEEPLE if we GUFFAW the first time we see its magic pull. Some of my favorite games as a child involved magnets. We had one called "Wooly Willy" that was a face under plastic, and you could manipulate IRONFILINGs with a little wand to change the hair, add a beard, or whatever. And there was another called "Tickle Bee" where you dragged a metal bee through a maze, again with a magnetic wand. And there was a large board suspended on legs with a city plan on it, and by moving magnets underneath, you could move cars or people around on the streets or sidewalks. Then, of course, there was this thing -

Whee-lo (not in puzzle)

Man, I spent hours flipping that thing up and down. I can still hear the sound it made. Good times.

And that, kids, is what life was like before the internet.

So, as you see, I found this an attractive theme. Although you'd need a pretty strong magnet to pick up a WAFFLEIRON or an IRONMAIDEN... And it's funny to have it show up the day after I read a lot about iron mining in the U.S.

In the fill, I like FATBOYSLIM (Oxyoronic stage name for the D.J. Norman Cook), PERFUME (Fragrance), and the trivia in ELMIRA (New York city where Mark Twain is buried). HERHONOR is timely, what with the confirmation hearings underway today. I hope Ms. Jackson is confirmed, but even if she is, I fear she will be among the DISSENTERS for the next few years, at least. Sigh. 

HIDALGO (Gentleman: Sp.) seems like something I should have known, but didn't until today, and ULTIMA (Final syllable of a word, in linguistics), despite my love of languages, words, and linguistics, took several crosses.

Still, it was a fun Tuesday. Unusual theme, but unusual is usually welcome.

- Horace

Monday, March 21, 2022

Monday, March 21, 2022, John Ewbank and Jeff Chen

Although the theme is interesting today, the overall puzzle left me a little cold. EXPANDEDROLE (Greater responsibility, often as a part of a promotion) might have started me off on the wrong foot, since where I work, an expanded role often comes without any benefit whatsoever. Except, of course, the satisfaction that you're doing more for the organization. 


Anyway, I started another paragraph complaining about the next two theme entries, saying how I didn't like seeing them in print in the puzzle, and how I liked it even less in the review, and then I remembered that I didn't have to put them into the review if I didn't want to, so I deleted the whole thing. 

On the positive side, I am constantly striving for INBOXZERO (Rigorous email management strategy). I think the closest I ever get is about inbox seven or eight. There are always a few messages that I keep in there as reminders of one thing or another. I suppose it's always nice to have something on the ol' to-do list, right? [See paragraph one.]

IRONMINE (Excavation site for a steelmaker) sent me down a Wikipedia trail where I learned a little about the history of iron ore mining in the U.S., so that was fun, and ERGO and ETTU reminded me that I need to get going on my Latin homework for this week's class. Last week was Spring Break, but this week it's Back to work! 

And speaking of work (work, work, work!), I've got to go get started on those CHISELEDABS

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Sunday, March 20, 2022, Brad Wiegmann


First off, thanks to Frannie and Colum for two weeks of fun reviews. It's great to be able to take these two-week breaks from the blog and know that these two great friends will deliver, even when - as was the case last week - one is on a long-awaited vacation. So thanks, both of you!


It's been a while since the three of us have been in the same place together, but we are looking forward to seeing each other soon in Stamford. If you see us standing together, probably laughing, feel free to interrupt and tell us a bad joke.

And speaking of jokes - I like this kind of punny, "question & answer" theme. It's almost like the beloved "Tom Swifty" (said Tom half-heartedly), but in this case, instead of speaking adverbially, a potential partner has punnily-appropriate drawbacks.

"So then I dated a fun couch potato, but he ..." (DIDN'TWORKOUT).
HEH. That was the best one of the rejections by far, but the last one - "Finally, I started seeing a charming magician, and he ..." (DIDTHETRICK) was also quite good.

In addition to the punny theme are several high-quality clues:

Possessive types? (DEMONS)
What makes the short list? (ETAL) - Nice!
Conflict taking a couple of seconds? (DUEL) - Beautiful
Take place? (SET) - (a "take" of a movie or show)
Non-starters? (BULLPEN)
and on the non-QMC side:
Something a winner may run into (TAPE)
Noisy beachgoer (GULL)
Fun-size (MINI)

Overall, a solid Sunday. 

- Horace

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Saturday, March 19, 2022, Ryan McCarty

I took one look at today's perfectly symmetric pinwheel grid with the 10 interlocking 9-letter answers across the middle and gulped. And I was right to! This one was a challenge from start to finish.

I incorrectly put in iBn at 1A: It means "father of" in Arabic (ABU), but it gave me BIOLAB at 2D, and TASER. I should have made more progress here (especially with MEW, WET, and EMIR in place), but those incorrect letters held me up.

Another incorrect guess at 10D: Count ____ (CHOCULA) made the NE corner tougher than it had to be. Can you guess what I put in? It's tough when your wrong choice has four correct letters, so once again, I moved on.

The first corner I really got going in was the SE. TBS was the gimme, and I put in ___TAB off that. SEENOTE always makes me think of "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls, which is funny, because GRIPPE also plays a big role in that song. 26D: It gets bald over time (TIRETREAD) could only be one thing on a Saturday, which helped me see what the heck was going on at 48A: Schoolmaster for the classroom, e.g. (ANAGRAM). That's outstanding cluing!

I took out my third major misguess at this point. 16D: Silent film star known as the "Man of a Thousand Faces" (LONCHANEY) was definitely never going to be "valentino," which helped me get PONTIAC (not POtomAC). Finally the middle started opening up and I was able to work back out into the various corners and finish it up in the SW.


Other clues to admire: 

20D: Something often seen with trunks (BARECHEST). Not elephants, sadly.

25A: Headwear for the big game? (SAFARIHAT). I knew it was going in this direction, but still needed several crosses to get there.

37A: Came out of the blue? (CHEEREDUP).

And it took for-freaking-ever to get 49A: Italy's longest river (THEPO). That damned definite article. Did not expect that.

It's been a fun week! I look forward to seeing people in a couple of weeks at the ACPT.

- Colum

P.S. One of my reviews this week has a picture that doesn't belong with the others. Which one?!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Friday, March 18, 2022, Claire Rimkus and Brooke Husic

You know when you are so certain about an answer that you leave it in place far beyond any reasonable time, only to finally admit that it must be wrong and take it out, and then the whole corner falls into place in seconds?

Not that I'm talking from personal experience or anything.

So, 2D: Key for a trumpet. How many of us put in bfLat? Only me? Dang... The answer, of course, was VALVE. That was the last answer I entered into the puzzle. After it being the first, as well...

The rest of the puzzle wasn't so crazy hard for me. I broke in with EYES, ONLY, and SLO, and then 37A: Not exactly a priority (ONTHEBACKBURNER) fell into place. I had some difficulty in the center of the puzzle because I wanted 26D: "Tell me about it!" (ICANRELATE) to start with something like "I'm all..." It took too long (once again) to give up on the M.

I liked 29D: Exchange words (WANNATRADE) - the first word here is adjectival, rather than a verb. The things you can do in English!

Other clues I enjoyed:

18A: Like the more interesting twin, some would say (EVIL). Did not see that coming.

58A: Sum preceder (ERGO).

60A: Shortening in a recipe (TSP) - hah!

I'll also take a moment to lend my support to two music related clues and answers here: the musical "Come From Away" is a great show (in one ACT), with an uplifting message about the kindness of humanity, a necessary message in these latter days. And I really enjoy the music of Dua LIPA.

- Colum

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022, Daniel Bodily and Jeff Chen

Back from our vacation, in cloudy and overcast Albany. It was sunny and 60 in Lake Placid this morning... We did not get to hike High Falls Gorge as it is closed on Wednesday and Thursday, but we took the gondola to the top of Little Whiteface, and had an astounding vista in all directions, seeing many of the 46 high peaks around us. Lovely.

A fun theme today: our constructors take phrases which have the letters making up synonyms for refuse, detritus, unwanted stuff, and the remaining letters make up a separate word, which is then clued directly. Thus, 23A: *Trick (WILDROSES) has the word "dross," which when removed, leaves "wile," which answers the clue. The revealer comes at 37A (TAKEOUTTHETRASH). Very nice. I suppose you might quibble over whether "scraps" is really "trash." Certainly, they can be.

The most well known CORGI owner

I made a number of incorrect guesses or misspellings along the way, which slowed me down. For example, I tried uRu at 65A: Neighbor of Bolivia: Abbr. (ARG). Wrong and geographically incorrect. Fortunately, having two words end in -U seemed unlikely. I misspelled TILDE with an A, but SPEX fixed that.

I also had inT at 8D: QB stat: Abbr. (ATT). SQUiBS seemed possible, but there was no making AUNnIE work in my little brain.

I was going to ask if anyone here had used SANTASLAP, which I had parsed as "Santa Slap," an website I presumed I had not yet heard of. But in fact, it should be parsed as "Santa's lap." Kudos to the clue here! 

Otherwise, not a ton of super clever cluing, but overall a fun puzzle. A good start to the turn!

- Colum

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Wednesday, March 16, 2022, Joseph Gangi

Well, this is an absolutely charming puzzle today. The central black squares are in the shape of a duck, and I count no fewer than eleven answers which have something to do with ducks. The most of them are direct synonyms for the word, such as 1A: Duck (AVOID). The others in this light are SHIRK, TAKECOVER, DODGE, STOOPDOWN, and BATHTOY.

We also get references to well known ducks of popular culture in DONALD and the DUO of Bugs and Daffy Duck. There's an EGG that a duck lays, and David MAMET's "The Duck Variations." Altogether, it's a veritable ZOO of ducks.

A different DUO

With all of those entries to account for, it's no surprise that we end up with fill like REUEL, TANA, and EULER. I recall studying a lot of Euler's work in Geometry and subsequently in a class I took called Metamathematics, which eventually led to demonstrating Gödel's "incompleteness theorem." Ah, the heady days of youth. 

Still, there are nice answers like MONARCH, RATSNEST and TOETOTOE. It's a silly concept overall, well carried out, perfect for a Wednesday, that olio of oddities day.

I'm up in the Adirondacks, enjoying a mini-vacation on Lake Placid. Today, we're going to High Falls Gorge and up Whiteface Mountain. There was snow yesterday, but it's warming up today, perfect for a little hike. Hope you all get some rest and relaxation soon as well!

- Colum

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Michael Lieberman

I do love a good "Aha!" moment. The collection of theme answers was not adding up to much today without the revealer. So what was the common element? ITSTHEPITS!

Funnily enough, the GREENOLIVE you'll get in your martini is pitless, with a bit of pimento shoved in there. ("And in here, there's a little guy! It's a complete catastrophe!") The other three have pits where people do their work, on the CASINOFLOOR, in a NASCARTRACK, and in a CONCERTHALL. So, nicely done.

Meanwhile, in the fill, there are two lovely long down answers that really catch the eye once you've finished the grid. 40D: Foor-footed resident of the White House from 2009-2017 (BOOBAMA) almost looks inappropriate if you don't parse it correctly. And 11D: Words of concern (AREYOUOK) has that great looking OUO in the middle.

JAY-Z and Beyonce

The SE corner has a great set of answers in 47D: "Snug as a bug in a rug," e.g. (SIMILE - I put Saying in first), the classic ORATES, and the excellent MENSCH, which we should all aspire to. Amusingly, when we used to say the first clue to Phoebe as a little toddler when we get her into bed, she would be alarmed, crying "Snug as a bug in a different rug!" She didn't want any bugs in her rug, see.

I enjoyed this Tuesday offering.

- Colum

Monday, March 14, 2022

Monday, March 14, 2022, Stephen Hiltner

I'm glad this puzzle came on a Monday, because half of the theme answers were completely unknown to me. I never watched any of Family Matters, Full House, or Home Improvement. Thankfully, the crosses were straightforward. The idea of FREDROGERS having a neighborhood of these particular characters is mildly amusing, and I appreciate any homage paid to this particular hero of my own childhood.

CYNICS might point to the middle west and say that this debut constructor is hoping for a RAVE rather than for me to say I HATED it. And I will not opt for the latter. It's a fine puzzle, well constructed, with a theme that has no resonance for me. 


My favorite answer came at 40D: Some rodeo riders (COWGIRLS) - it's a nice gender checking twist. 

Otherwise I don't have much to add. I'm on vacation this week, and so I'm hoping to get my reviews out nice and early. 

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

- Colum

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Sunday, March 13, 2022, Christina Iverson and Katie Hale


Don't you hate it when Friday the 13th comes on a Sunday? Especially when it's combined with the stupidity that is Daylight Savings Time. And you're on call and have to be in the hospital early, only it's an hour earlier. 

Okay, so I suppose that doesn't happen to many of us, but I blame this concatenation of circumstances for the dull gaze I turned on today's Sunday puzzle. Bleary-eyed and flat-brained, I saw nothing in the NW corner that made sense, so I left it behind to break in with MRT. Ah, Mr. T. Thank you for letting me get into the grid.

The theme became clear shortly thereafter. Phrases and idioms in common parlance which use body parts, interpreted literally within the puzzle. Thus, "pay through the nose" is displayed with PAY at 30A crossing through THENOSE at 12D. 

And now I started to understand the NW, where 2D: Fully ready to listen ([EAR][EAR][EAR][EAR]) is in fact the phrase "all ears!" I love it. The other answers made me smile as well:

OONNEESSLLEEGGSS ("stretch one's legs")

[MI][ND][ED] ("small minded")

PAT above THEBACK ("pat on the back")

YLLEB ("Belly up")

CHETONGUEEK ("tongue in cheek")

SIDE next to SIDE ("side by side") - a lovely way to break the rule of not repeating the same answer in the grid.

Can't help but think that SEEWHATIDIDTHERE is the constructors' own 69A/74A.


Some clue/answer pairs I enjoyed:

59A: Fly around Africa (TSETSE).

79A: What babies do faster than college students (GROW) - hah!

1D: Blues group, for short? (NHL) - nice hidden capital.

82D: It's just not true! (MYTH).

I think ESOTERY and HEDGER are problematic, but ah, well. They can't all be winners.

Fun Sunday!

- Colum

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Saturday, March 12, 2022, Natan Last

Well, dear Readers, a hard fought victory today. I supposed, posited, and guessed my way through most of the grid. There was so much I didn't know! But, after a full 43:44 minutes of perseverance, I eventually triumphed.

Gimmies in the gird were few and far between for this solver. I did immediately guess BRIBED for "Paid off" but the next definite for me didn't turn up until I got to "Basic technique in skateboarding" (OLLIE) in the southeast. As for Downs, thanks to my recent study of Chinese, I got "Tea, in Mandarin" at 9D (CHA), but I didn't hit another definite until 31D: "Exams for British 18-year-olds" (ALEVELS). There were others along the way that I knew, or knew I would know once my brain woke up and/or I got some letters like "'Don't Look Up" star, in tabloids" (JLAW) and "New Jersey's 'unofficial rock theme of our State's youth'" (BORNTORUN). I knew the latter would be a Springsteen song but couldn't immediately come up with one that had the right number of letters. On the other hand, I never did figure out why  "Something picked up by a silent butler" is ASH. Anyone?

The hardest section for me was the top-middle-eastish area where "2000 Sisqó hit with a rhyming title" (THONGSONG) and "1924 tale of derring-do" (BEAUGESTE) crossed "On equal footing, in Latin" (PARIPASSU),"'We / Jazz ___ ' (line in Gwendolyn Brooks's 'We Real Cool')" (JUNE), and "Danced to the music of Carlos Acuña, say" where my first guess of 'mAmbOED' was a misstep. The tricky QMC "Juice boxes" for CHARGERS didn't help matters either, but I did enjoy that one once I got it.


The two clues "It might work on a block" and "They might work on a block" formed a nice pair of similar clues with very different answers (DRANO, PATROLS). I also especially enjoyed "Floor" for STUN. It took me a very long time to pull the answer TWEEZE for "Be plucky?" out of my brain. "Where to pick sides?" (MENU) was clever. 

In addition to all the fine C/APs mentioned above, there was a lot of good Saturday-level fill including CAESURA, FLUNKIES, and POUTINES.

Despite - or perhaps because of - all the trouble I had figuring everything out, I enjoyed the puzzle and felt great satisfaction when I completed it successfully. As this is my last review for a while, my THONGSONG if you will, I'll say hasta luego, amigos


Friday, March 11, 2022

Friday, March 11, 2022, Robyn Weintraub

Greetings and salutations, dear Readers, and happy Friday! I ticked along relatively quickly today (20:55), not once having to stop FOREST

First, I RONA share with you a few of my favorite C/APs - all non-QMC's that take advantage of semantic overlap for their trixiness:
"Like a screwdriver" (ORANGE)
"Points on a math test" (LOCI)
"Largest digit in a set" (BIGTOE)
"Joins a union" (WEDS)
"It rarely includes chains" (FINEDINING) - clever!


As a reviewer, I feel I COT to admit where I went wrong. For "Dolly-esque, say" I tried 'buxom' but, when that didn't work out, I WOES to the challenge and figured out that the correct answer was OVINE. AYE had a similar experience at 50D with one of the QMC clues, "Unfair?" where I first tried 'ugly' before running a FOUL. Another QMC of note was "World-weary sort?" for ATLAS - ha! Fill-wise I enjoyed DEFINITEMAYBE, GREENLIT, and TIDEPOOL.

AHAB a few small bones to pick including GENT for "He's no scoundrel", ALARM for "Freak out" and EVER for "Permanently." Again, not wrong by any stretch, but something seems off in the clue/answer balance - but that's just my TAKEI on it. 


Thursday, March 10, 2022

Thursday, March 10, 2022, John Westwig

Fun theme today in which the swap of the noun and verb from each end of a phrase allows one to SWITCHJOBS. For example, the answer to "Museum curator is wanted to ... / Experience needed: freestyle dancing" is MOVEABUST which is what a museum curator might do, but if switch the positions of move and bust you bust a move, as in freestyle dancing. All the theme answers work pretty well, although nursing is right out for me; I prefer not to have to CHECKACUT. I enjoyed that the theme answers appeared in both Across and Down positions. 

Other fun items: 
"Hearing disorder remedy?" (OYEZ)
"It begins again" (SCHWA)
"Showed some character" (ACTED)
"Just what the doctor ordered" (DOSES)
"Plant on a farm ... or animal on a farm" (SOW) - ha!
PHYSIQUE is a great word.

Continuing my own game coincidence theme, didn't we learn just the other day that LIBIDO is Latin for "lust" on Jeopardy!? NOICE double punctuation on that last sentence, non? :)

I thought HORRIFIES for "Alarms" was a mismatch in intensity or degree or something, as with TAD for "Scintilla," but in a LOWKEY sort of way.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Wednesday, March 9, 2022, Peter Gordon

Well, dear Readers, today's theme answers had me perplexed for a few minutes. However, my reaction to STUDENTIDCARD ("Kid at a college bar who seems, to me as a bouncer, too young to allow in") went from, "Hunh?" to "Ha!" when I inserted an apostrophe, resulting in 'Student I'd card.' LOL. WEREWOLVES (We're wolves) and EGGSHELLPAINT (Egg she'll paint) are also very funny. The C/APs entertained and it's nice that the unapostrophed answers are all also common phrases. Well played.

I got another chuckle out of 15A: "Good name for an ophthalmologist" (IRIS). As I typed that clue, it crossed my mind that a good hobby for an ophthalmologist might be spelling bees. And speaking of Spelling Bee, I was interested to see PULI in today's puzzle ("Dog breed whose coat resembles dreadlocks"). Just the other night, it was the last word Horace and I entered in the Bee. I didn't know Puli was a dog breed - or even a word - but I knew we needed one more four-letter word to reach Queen Bee status so I typed random letter combinations into the app until I chanced upon it.  OLES!

My one trouble spot was at the cross at 52A/D: "Risk territory bordering Siberia" and "Sure-footed pack animals." I played Risk as a youth, but not enough to remember all the territories, apparently. Also, I know zero about baccarat, so I didn't have the K for KING, which didn't help YAKS spring to mind. A run of the Roman alphabet finally cleared that up for me. I also had a short slow down at 56A: "Sponsored boys at baptisms"  (GODSONS) because I was reading 'sponsored' as a verb rather than an adjective. Good one. 

Elsewhere in the puzzle, I enjoyed running the Greek alphabet for "Letter that's only 25% of the way through the Greek alphabet, surprisingly" to get to ZETA. I also liked the C/APs "Hats, so to speak" (ROLES), "Impart, as values" (INSTILL), and "Remain fresh" (KEEP). My favorite was "Number that's often in Italian" (ARIA) - ha! I also liked EXTRUDE and SMUDGE as fill.

I thought WETS for "Licks, maybe" was funny, but also a little bit icky. Similarly, "'Tell me if you recognize me from just my voice and the feel of my hands over your eyes'" for GUESSWHO seemed a bit creepy when described like that, if you ASKS me. 


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Tuesday, March 8, 2022, Mary Lou Guizzo

As something of a woman myself, dear Readers, I enjoyed today's theme answers celebrating women Nobel Prize winners, on this International Women's Day. Lamentably, I was only able to enter one of the named women from the clue: MARIECURIE. Bonus women include ADELE, ENID, MAMAS, and IDA B. Wells, plus Bacall and Amanda Gorman on the clue side. Other lady-like words include PRIM, SRA, and MAUVE. :) 
63D: IDA

Fill-wise, I enjoyed PARCEL and CAMEO. Clue-wise I liked "Apple pick?" (IMAC), "Fathom or foot" (UNIT), "Successful singer or producer of popular music" (HITMAKER), "A hot one makes a good impression" (IRON), and "Computer command" (ENTER). I was surprised by AIRARM as the answer to "Military aviation wing." I was able to CRUISE through this one to a fast-for-me solve time of 5:38.


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Monday, March 7, 2022, Sam Acker

The puzzle's starred theme answers are all dishes best served cold, like revenge, according to today's proverb about delayed retribution. For this solver, tastiest place is a toss up between ICECREAM and PASTASALAD, followed by GAZPACHO. I've never had JELLIEDEEL, but I'm still putting it at the bottom of the list. Well, I might prefer it to revenge, come to think of it. Revenge is, not at all to my taste and is, in fact, one of my least favorite things. IMO, it's an idea/act that should be roundly repudiated rather than treated as absolutely necessary in so many of today's movies and TV shows. But, that's not why I called you all here. Let's get back to the MEET of the matter. 


I wasn't GAGA about the clumps of ABCS holding the grid together (NHL, DES, SRI, RBI, NOV, STD), but I was AMUSED by the word GASP because it brought to mind a favorite Burnistoun skit. Also, SPREE is fun and I learned the word/phrase UPFAKE for a pretend shot in basketball lingo - GAM on! I also liked "Conclude use of a computer, e.g." (LOGOFF). 


Sunday, March 6, 2022, Matthew Stock and Will Nediger


The name of this puzzle, and the dimple-cheeked smiley face in the middle of the grid filled me with high hopes as I dropped in "Bon APPETIT!" to get started. As I progressed, however, I noticed the unchecked letters, realized they would spell "pachinko," and suddenly the puzzle got a lot less interesting. The constructors are assuming that Americans know what pachinko is, and they know how to play and win, and THATSABIGIF!


Once I started down the negative path, it was easy enough to find more targets. Like what the heck is ATP (Organic energy compound, for short)? And who says TOEBEAN (Pink pad on a paw, in slang) and why? "In slang." OK. ISITON (Question regarding a mic) is poor. And me, I learned to use exclamation points, not "marks." And isn't a toad is more often associated with a WART (Bump on a frog)? And what the heck is MACS (Bubs)!

But there were some bright spots - GLOWUP (Age beautifully, informally) is cute. ORWELL is always a positive. "It's blown in the winds" was a fun clue for OBOE. "Event for moving vehicles" was tricky for CARSALE. I had "car race" in there for a bit. It took me a minute to see how RODS worked with "The cast lots." Heh. And looking up the ATACAMA desert after I finished led me to this sculpture that I didn't know existed. And it's always nice to learn about stuff like that.

Frannie takes over tomorrow. See you in a few weeks.

- Horace

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Saturday, March 5, 2022, Nam Jin Yoon

An unusual diagonal symmetry today that makes the black squares look a little like a rocket ship exiting to the upper left. No? Just me?

Got off to a good start by getting MOSS (Much of Iceland's greenery) and PROVEIT ("I don't believe you") off the clues, and ended up finishing in well under half of yesterday's time. Crisis averted! :)

I laughed when I got to LEAS (Green lands), because just yesterday Amy Reynaldo, in her blog post (Diary of a Crossword Fiend), said "Stop trying to make 'lea' happen." Heh. FORGETABOUTIT. And I enjoyed being reminded of the "Fictional [and usually non-functional] device in which to convey secret information" (CONEOFSILENCE). Did that exist before Get Smart?

Best clue - "Halter?" (SENTRY) That's excellent. "Contracting sheet" for ICECAP would be good too, if it weren't so sad.

I wanted STingY so much that I actually considered alternates for TYRANNY (Rule to take exception to), but once I had ADMIT (Allow), I had to ADMIT STURDY was correct for "Unlikely to tip."

Fun clues, interesting grid - I give it a NOD.

- Horace

Friday, March 4, 2022

Friday, March 4, 2022, David Distenfeld

Whew! That NE corner nearly did me in! I didn't watch "The Wire," so CEDRIC Daniels needed a lot of crosses, RITA Wilson isn't really known to me, STARR Carter was a total unknown... URL (Surfer's destination, in brief) could have been "web," SEAT (Behind) could have been "late," and I couldn't decide if that was more or less likely given TARDY (Behind) just below... and while I understand that "What might get stuck in a window" can work (instead of stuck on...), it made DECAL much harder to get. But I suppose that's the point... Anyway, that corner took about half of my total time today, and if Saturday is harder than Friday this week, I'm in trouble!


The rest went relatively smoothly, and there were very few WARTS to be found. I thought ASKMELATER ("I'm too busy right now") was a good multi-word answer - see also GREASEFIRE next door, LEGALISSUE opposite, and LOSEFAITH and SADSONGS (Low numbers?) (nice!) in the SW. I suppose ONETERM and TREELINED are hyphenated, and OVERSELLS is probably one word, but in a crossword, we don't have to make these distinctions!

Speaking of - isn't it funny how MRSMAISEL and MRSANDMAN start with the same three letters? Maybe we should just move to a universal title. Nevermind mister, missus, his, her, their, ... what if we came up with one title and one pronoun set for everyone, and either just used that or the name itself. It would either be Horace, Horace's or Xe, Xen, or Xis (pronounced "ze, zen, or zizz"). No more stressing about what to use, no more having to post pronouns with your Zoom profile name. Is this true equality? or the rant of an old, white, cisgendered man?

SLANDER, SIMMERING, and SMELT are a satisfyingly alliterative set. I've been buying DATES (see "old man" above) lately and really, they're quite good. REEDITS (Tweaks further) is one of the weaker entries, I guess, but I kind of like how it looks.

In all, a solid, challenging Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Thursday, March 3, 2022, August Lee-Kovach

It's Thursday, and we all know that means to be on our toes! Today we encounter four odd entries - HIGLIDAYS, FRENCRNS, BEACUSES, and ELEVENTUR. (Ahh yes, ELEVENTUR... that one really ought to be a word.) Luckily, we also have a revealer in the center of the grid telling us to JUSTADDWATER, and when we add H2O (that's, two Hs and one O) the starred answers make more sense. FRENCRNS become FrencHHOrns, and BEACUSES become beacHHOuses. Much better. 


I've seen rebus puzzles where you have to put [HHO] into one square, but I'm not sure I've seen this type of trick, where letters are simply omitted with no place to put them. I suppose Jeff Chen on will know whether or not this has ever been done before, but for me, it's new and I like it.

Some nice mid-length fill in the non-theme material. I tried "I'm with" for "Start of some souvenir shirt slogans" (IHEART) and "runways" for TARMACS (Airport aprons), and I really wanted "coffee" to fit where RHINO ended up (It has Javan and Sumatran varieties). Heh.

"Some street fights?" (DRAGRACES) and "See red?" (TURNALOSS) were tricky for me, but my favorite QMC today is "Punchy ending?" (ADE). Hah! 

I don't typically equate RESISTS and "Counters," so that took a while, but many clues seemed pretty straightforward. Sometimes I think that the trickier the trick, the easier the surrounding clues. And I suppose that's fair. I came in at ten minutes, but I'm expecting the two speedsters I know to be well below that. Whatever your time, I hope you enjoyed it.

- Horace

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Wednesday, March 2, 2022, Dylan Schiff

Today three capitals, states, and countries are squeezed out of two sitting side-by-side. CAIROMEXICOCITY, for example, looks like "Cairo" then "Mexico City," but if you look closely, you find "Rome" tucked in there. Likewise OHIOWASHINGTON yields Iowa, and PANAMALITHUANIA hides Mali. Nice little trick for a Wednesday.


I chuckled at RENTACOP (Hired security guard), and the cleverest clue was "Line to the house" (ASIDE). That's a line to the audience, not Congress. Tricky!

I sometimes find that multi-word answers are a little harder to come up with - and there were plenty of those today - ASSTATED (Per the preceding discussion), OKAYTHEN ("Well, alrighty!"), MINTOREO (Cookie with a green creme center), NODUH ("Obvs!"), ATEIT (Wiped out), MAKEDO (Manage), and EATUP (Believe unquestioningly), to name just seven. For "French term of endearment" I started with the feminine version, but corrected to MONCHERI soon enough. And the three-word answer HAVEATIT ("Dig right in!") went in immediately. I love that one.

Overall I'd say it was fine. Nothing too terribly terrific, but nothing too terrible either.

- Horace

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Tuesday, March 1, 2022, Lisa Senzel and Jeff Chen

Rabbit! Rabbit! Readers! And happy MARDIGRAS to one and all!


Now, let's get down to brass tacks - what on earth do the shaded squares suggest? Is it a BIGEASY chair? A crown? A king with a crown and three arms? Oh, no, wait, I get it. We're not supposed to make something out of all the theme answers, but just the blocks of Es and Zs in the SW and SE. Maybe in the print version those are each just one big square. That's much better. Still, I'm going to always see a three-armed king wearing clogs.

We were in N'awlins many years ago for a conference, and the parade season was just starting (it goes on for a while leading up to today). (Have I told you this story before?...) We asked at the tourist office if there would be any parades we could see while we were there, and they said, a little reluctantly, that there was one, but they added that it wasn't really appropriate for children. What parade, we thought, wasn't appropriate for children? Well, it turns out that the Krewe de Vieux parade is. Still, we didn't have any kids with us, and we enjoyed the parade quite a bit.

So anyway, this puzzle is ETOUFFEE with theme material. Laying BOURBONSTREET directly on top of MARDIGRAS is a neat trick, and I love that "[Wrong answer!]" (BZZT) at the end. Fun! Sure, you've got that UTERI, and the stalwart ALOU family, but I still give it a solid YES.

- Horace