Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Wednesday, August 31, 2022, Joe Deeney

Turns out there are a lot of two-letter combinations in common parlance, where the second letter is a V, but I like the six that Mr. Deeney included in this puzzle. The revealer is simple brilliance, at 35A: Dubious food-eating guideline ... or a hint this puzzle's starred clues (FIVESECONDRULE). First, let's just acknowledge the selection of that excellent first word in the clue. Too funny! I also like the descriptor of "guideline," as if the FDA had put out a government-supported statement.

But the reinterpretation to mean that the rule guiding all the theme answers is that V comes in the second square is lovely. The only other answer that Mr. Deeney could have used is "UV rays." All other examples I can think of are three letter abbreviations, such as BVD, QVC, MVP. The theme answers are clued in a straightforward way, befitting a Wednesday. I like the trivia surrounding TVDINNER.

Some enjoyable fill include the wistful ICANDREAM. I've never listened to the entirety of Tristan and ISOLDE, but the Liebestod is an astounding piece of music. 

I find it interesting how the theme answers drive unconventional choices in the fill. Because RVPARK starts with three consonants, you end up with DMVS (four consonants, no vowels) and ASP (two consonants, one vowel) in the region. Similarly with JVSQUAD, starting with four consonants: here we find JCREW and IQTEST

Finally, a few fun clues to note:

10D: Bye at the French Open? (ADIEU)

19A: Only about one-sixth of these in humans is visible (EYES) - odd piece of trivia, but cool.

41A - (MINUS) - so much better than those puzzles where a continuation of an answer into another answer gets the same clue.

1D: You might be on it during a meeting (MUTE). As much as possible.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Tuesday, August 30, 2022, Emily Carroll

For this non-skier, any slope that goes down at a 45 degree angle is well beyond a BUNNY / SLOPE. But that takes nothing away from this lovely theme.

There are four slanted leporine animals hidden in the grid. This is an example of a time where circled letters are definitely preferable. I'm not terribly excited about having to perform a word search at the end of completing a crossword puzzle. The hidden hares represent a nice spread across areas:

DUST[BUNNY] - metaphorical.

BUGS[BUNNY] - cartoon.

ENERGIZER[BUNNY] - advertising.

EASTER[BUNNY] - mythical (or so we suppose). 

It's at this time that I feel the need to report on a note that my daughter wrote when she was nine or so, penned to the Tooth Fairy. She had lost a tooth, but accidentally swallowed it. Unhappy that she was unable to provide proof to the fairy, she wrote to explain that she would like to receive the money anyway. She then wrote: "I do not feel right about this. Thank you for your previous service."

But back to the puzzle. Any time a grid has these diagonal answers, letters become "triple-checked." This means that they are responsible for making sense in three separate words, the across, the down, and the diagonal. The strain this puts on a grid explains things like AHS crossing RUHR; STEROL, ALAI, and AGAME; GELID crossing ODIE.

But if these things make Ms. Carroll EDGE towards saying "sorry!" I say, DONTBE! I'm impressed overall by the way the challenge is overcome. ISRAELIS, TRESSES, ATODDS and the very unusual appearing DAREI are fun entries. Certainly the puzzle played harder than usual for a Tuesday, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

- Colum

Monday, August 29, 2022

Monday, August 29, 2022, Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen

If you ask this neurologist, the heart is an overrated organ. All it does is pump. Over and over. For as long as you live. In an average lifetime, it beats over 2.5 billion times.

Okay, that's pretty cool, actually. Even if it doesn't do all the amazing things the human brain can do, I guess it's important. What it doesn't do is love. That's the brain.

Still, Janis Joplin wrote a pretty damn amazing song with PIECEOF / MYHEART, which in this puzzle is interpreted literally at the end of each of the other theme answers. Thus, ECHOCHAMBER and SAFETYVALVE refer to the two atria and ventricles and the doors between them. TRAFFICARTERY and INTHESAMEVEIN are referring to the vessels which enter and leave the heart. I'm not actually convinced that anyone would refer to them as pieces of the heart medically, but most illustrations include the aorta and superior and inverior vena cava.

Still, it's a lot of theme material, and fine answers as well. In addition, we get the immortal ABBEYROAD and LETSITFLY for colorful fill. I also enjoyed the symmetric geographic answers AFRICA and GENEVA, as well as the historic LASCALA, site of Verdi and Puccini's greatest triumphs.

No complaints here, and it moved quickly enough for a sub-3 minute solve.

- Colum

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sunday, August 28, 2022, Ori Brian


Hello! Welcome to another week of clever puns and wordplay... no, wait. That's Frannie. How about folksy humor and musings about the nature of blogging? Um, that's more Horace's line.

I guess, instead, you get me and my urbane wit and deadly suavity.

But enough pumping up my own ego. Let's talk about the puzzle! I will confess that I completed the puzzle (and very quickly too) without understanding the theme, even once I'd entered the revealer at 108A: Mixes animal species ... as eight answers in this puzzle do? (CROSSBREEDS). The clue is a better clue than the answer is. At first I looked for answers crossing the theme answers which would be breeds of the animals listed in the clues. No love there, obvs!

Instead, the trick is that the answer is an anagram of the three animals in the parentheses in the clues. Thus, 22A: Get a party started? [bee, hare, tick] (BREAKTHEICE) is an anagram of those three animals.

I don't want to be a WETBLANKET (bat, elk, newt), but I find this sort of thing uninteresting. There's no connection between the animals and the answers (it would be astonishing if Mr. Brian could have pulled that off), and even if I had gotten the trick, it would not have helped me with the solve. All we're left with, in the end, is a certain degree of respect at coming up with the anagrams. But no real aha feeling for this solver.

But if you treat the puzzle as an oversized themeless, it was pretty nicely constructed. Sure, you get your standard ACER HODA RHEA OSSA stuff that a large grid often demands, especially when a theme requires certain letters to be in certain places. But we also get DEALMEIN, IVENOIDEA, THATSALIE, and ESCAPADE.

And some fun clues! 15D: Fashionable spots (POLKADOTS) is good fun. 101A: Devilish look? (GOATEE), and 112A: Wave to one's math professor? (SINE) brought a smile to my lips.

In the end, call me Myrtle the MOANER, but the theme left me cold. 

- Colum

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Saturday, August 27, 2022, Andrew Linzer

A fun Saturday in the mid-to-easy range for this solver. I completed the grid in 18:41 today - anything under 20 minutes on Friday or Saturday is good for me. I went right along and hit only one sticking point - or rather, to be more specific, sticking area - the top right. RELEASEDATE was nowhere on my radar when I read the clue "Bit of album info." For some reason, I was intent on getting the word 'bio' in there. A similar thing happened to me with "Where to see the big picture?" I had the idea that something movie-related was wanted, but my first ideas ran to 'cinema', 'megaplex' and the like. Eventually, I got some Down answers which revealed the longer Across answers, including IMAXTHEATER. The Downs were slow to come in because I had guessed 'ready' for "Prepare (oneself)" which seemed apt but was incorrect and which also meant every last letter for five Down answers in a row was wrong. ALAS, if I had thought of TEXT as a way to "reach quickly", or if I had known North Carolina's ASHE county, I could have saved myself much time and trouble. 

I had FU__ for "Mess (with)" and I briefly consider a well known four-letter word, but then I thought, no way, and fortunately remembered FUTZ.

I did not know "Rhadamanthine". Also, cool that 'tires' and TRIES are anagrams and both are possible synonyms for "Taxes". Another fun fact for Frannie: a group of HARES is a husk. Who knew? Probably many of our dear Readers. :)

But, enough about what wasn't ACURA in my puzzle. There were several trixy clues that I did twig to immediately including "Rock variety" (EMO) and "Breaks the bank?" (ERODES). I'm not sure I would have gotten the latter so quickly if it hadn't been for LEVEE ("Bank regulator") in yesterday's puzzle. I did immediately drop in HUGUENOTS. I'll spare you my discourse on Henri IV, the Edict of Nantes  and its subsequent revocation by Louis XIV - this time. :) 

Other C/APs of note:
"Future residents" (MEDSTUDENTS)
"Super-useful item?" (MASTERKEY)
"Seated position?" (DESKJOB) - ha!
"Where jobs may be on the line (FACTORIES)

I enjoyed the nicely ambiguous clues "Confirmation, e.g." for RITE and "Something that gives takes" for (OPED). Also, WADDLED is a great word.

Well, dear crossword cronies, WATERRIDE it's been this week, non? I leave you ONEMORETIME in the capable hands of my esteemed co-blogger, Colum Amory - whose posts offer a TONIC to my RATTLES.


Friday, August 26, 2022

Friday, August 26, 2022, Robert Logan

When I got to the last Across clue in the grid ("A 50/50 chance ... or a description of the lengths of this puzzle's Across and Down answers, respectively), I thought it might indicate that there was a trick to the puzzle - unusual for a Friday, but not unheard of. And there was a trick of sorts, but it was pulled off by the constructor rather than the solver: all the Across answers are an even number of squares and all the Down answers are an odd number of squares. Not being a puzzle constructor myself (yet!), I don't have a good understanding of how difficult this type of thing is to do, but, going by the fact that I've never seen this kind of thing done before, I'm guessing it's either very difficult, very creative (maybe no one ever thought of it before?), or both. It seems pretty neat to me. 

Additionally, there wasn't much funky fill fall out from the fancy formation, and there was a bunch of clever and fun C/APs, including "Journalist's secret" (SOURCE), "Explosive feedback?" (RECOIL), "Bottle of rum go-with" (YOHOHO) - lol - and "Board, so to speak" (MEALS). I also enjoyed "Showbiz sappiness" (SCHMALTZ), "'Can we talk?,' tersely" (AWORD), "Get drunk, formally" (BESOT), and "Ring bearer of note" (FRODO).


For "Davy Jones was one" I first tried 'sailor,' but the correct answer was MONKEE. Heh. "Bank regulator" at 2D had me kerflummoxed, but fortunately I couldn't think of any suitable five-letter financial institution employee and LEVEE eventually appeared and saved the day - for once. Too soon? To end on a positive note: YESINDEEDY, ITSADEAL, YOUBETCHA, AGREE, OKEYDOKEY.


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Thursday, August 25, 2022, Olivia Mitra Framke and Andrea Carla Michaels

Today's theme is cleverly turns states of the union into a union of states. Each theme entry consists of three overlapping state names, creating TRISTATEAREAS. It's cool that the constructors figured out this could be done. The clues for these answers consist of a list of various state things. I think the first group is birds, the second is flowers, and the third is maybe nicknames? As you see, dear Readers, my knowledge of state trivia leaves ROOMBAS for improvement. 

The northwest region contained most of the C/APs I liked the best. I enjoyed "Rider of the lost ark?" (NOAH) - ha! - "Place to pick some vegetables?" (SALADBAR), and "Tear a lot" (WEEP), not to mention SIZE up, which is a nice expression. I'd like to give a shout out to the southeast, though, too, for "Oscar and Edgar" (AWARDS).  


Despite the theme's focus on USAUSA, there was some fun international fill as well. I am learning Greek right now so I especially enjoyed the pair of Greek letters, ZETA and ALPHA, and the two Greek myth elements, LOOM ("Device for Arachne, in Greek myth") and EREBUS. We also got two German entries (NIE, EIN) and a "Ne plus ultra" in the clues. Ole!

ICAL ("Suffix with period") was, perhaps, borderline, but otherwise I thought the fill was capital. 


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Wednesday, August 24, 2022, Colin Ernst

Today's theme answers put the REAL in REALESTATEAGENT euphemisms. Each clue describes a feature of a property in a positive light, then the corresponding theme answer gives you the low down. So, when a space has "endless possibilities" you're actually getting a MAJORFIXERUPPER. Classic. Some of these turns of phrase seem like a JOKE, but I can only ASSAM the approach SELLS and/or secures a TENET, or why bother ATALL

I had a few creative takes of my own during today's solve, including 'smock' for "Painter's coat" which turned out to be a bad GESSO. In other wrong turns, I dropped in CLIO for "Advertiser of the year award, e.g." and then doubted it right back out only to have it fill back in with the Downs. I also started with ANY for "No one in particular" but then decided that was wrong and I put 'one' in its place. Derp. And speaking of doubtful entries, dear Readers, what, pray tell, is CIV engr.?


The TRUEVALUE of the puzzle was in the fun clues. I very much enjoyed "Tiny 'tiny'?" for LIL. Also good were:
"Site for sponges" (REEF)
"Place for cultural studies?" (PETRIDISH)
"Usual beginning?" (LONGU)
"Form of attachment" (JPEG) - ha!

Not to cause a hooha, but the one NADIR for this solver was AFTS for "P.M. times." Does anyone actually say or use that abbreviation? Maybe if the clue had been rephrased as "Ship positions" we could SHAKEONIT


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Tuesday, August 23, 2022, Trey Mendez

Recline your seats and let your tray tables down while enjoying a pleasant FLYINGTIME. My trip took just over 8 minutes from LANDINGGEAR up to touch down. Others may have experienced a different ETA. In case you haven't guessed, today's theme answers are all related to air travel. As a bonus, each answer starts and ends with the postal abbreviations of the departure and arrival locations mentioned in the clue. For example, 18A: "What follows a plane going from Richmond to Chicago?" The answer is VAPORTRAIL with the postal codes VA for Virginia and IL for Illinois circled at each end. 


IMHO, the mid-west section of the puzzle is first class because it contains both my favorite clues: "What makes clay clammy?" (EMS) - ha! - and "Share one's seat?" MOON - lol! In other C/AP news, I liked "Be real" for EXIST and the specificity of TAP for "Choose, as a running mate." 

Fill-wise, I liked BANAL and MINOANS, plus, you don't see NEOLOGIC, GLUGGED, or INGMAR everyday. Less interesting were your standard crosswordese INANE, EARNS, and OLIO. OTH, how about HOOHA making an appearance two days in a row? It's getting to be a regular flight pattern. 


Monday, August 22, 2022

Monday, August 22, 2022, Doug Burnikel and Zhouqin Burnikel

Today's theme takes us on quite a ride as we hop from one means of public transportation to another as we progress through the grid. We travel by means of SUBWAYSANDWICHES, METROAREA, TUBESOCKS (remember those?), and UNDERGROUNDFILMS. A trolley good job, I say.

There were a number of fun stops along the way including "Received quick cash for, in a way" (PAWNED), which I liked because it put me in mind of "Perry Mason," an old TV show in which people are pawning stuff left and right. I also enjoyed "Story that's not to be believed" (MYTH), but my favorite today was "Habitat for humanity?" (EARTH) - ha!

HOOHA for "Commotion" is fun. GLEE and the rarely seen WHUP are also fine fill. AUGER is nice, too. I liked the TRIO minus one of space pioneers, YURI and OCHOA, as well. 

I missed the boat on my first tries for a couple of clues: 33A: "Cube or sphere" where my error took Shape before becoming SOLID. I started to SCrub at 45A ("Clean vigorously") but when the Downs weren't working I had to SCOUR my brain for an alternative.


I thought the clue "Smear on, as makeup" was a little off the mark. I don't go for makeup myself, but smearing it on seems counter productive. Maybe I'd understand it better if I applied myself. Additionally, we have a case of one of my common puzzle ROOS. I know it's Monday, but clues like "Opposite of NNW" still seem to take the idea of EASY a bit too far. 

In long-awaited Wordle crossover news (no real spoiler alert), since July I have been choosing a five letter word from the crossword puzzle as my starter word. I won't say which word I chose today, but I will say that it worked out pretty well for me. The word I chose came back with two greens and a yellow. With that info, I was able to guess the Wordle word in two. Maybe this can be like a reverse puzzle where you GOTTA now do Wordle and then back trace the answer to figure out which word from today's puzzle I started with. Soon, it will be sweeping the nation. :)


Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sunday, August 21, 2022, Brooke Husic and Will Nediger


Is it me, or is this grid incredibly wide-open? I nearly yelled an OATH (Legal profession?) (excellent clue) when I opened it up today. It looks like a super-sized Saturday puzzle. It is themeless, as far as I can tell, and I'm guessing that the title refers to the staggered answer stacks in the center (!) and the four corners. 

Krazy KAT

OK, I just checked and this is a record for fewest answers in a Sunday puzzle! There are 120 answers in this one, and the usual Sunday has 140 or so. So congratulations, you two!

It certainly played more like a Saturday than a Sunday for me. Things like OTIOSE (Useless) (I think of it more as KILLINGTIME, but I think that might be more what it was in Latin), CONCRETEISLAND (J.G. Ballard dystopia about a man stranded between motorways) (Yikes!), and COIMBRA (Portuguese city with a historic university founded in 1290) slowed things down. Oh, and PASSACAGLIA (Italian dance from the Spanish for "walk in the street"). And I had not heard the term NEOPRONOUNS (They don't express gender), but I'm glad to learn it now.

Some really nice clues included "Like Plan B, for short" (OTC) (I didn't notice the capitals, and had "alt" in there for far too long), "It may give a bowler a hook" (HATTREE), "After-school activities one wouldn't list on a college app" (DETENTIONS), "Guide outside a bus station, often" (CITYMAP), and "Where many people walk out?" (GAYPRIDEPARADE). 

This week really couldn't have been better. I love the rare Sunday themeless, the Turn was great, and really, the whole week was good. Tomorrow Frannie takes the reins again, and I'll see you in a few.


- Horace

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Saturday, August 20, 2022, Hemant Mehta

Pretty much a perfect Saturday - I got very, very little on my first pass through the clues, then I started clawing my way in, eventually got my FOOTING, smiled a lot along the way at how I had been tricked, then ended with a FWOE and had to run the alphabet on MORDRED (King Arthur's slayer). I had put in hAT for "Locale for a pin" (MAT) (muscle not millinery) and I did not know enough about old English folklore to see my error. So it goes.


So anyway, it's a solid stepped, "social interaction" triple-stack in the middle. DONTLIETOME (Demand for honesty) seemed straightforward, IUNDERSTAND ("No need to elaborate") was strong, and FORCEDSMILE (Expression in an uncomfortable situation) - with its surrounding entries being actual voiced expressions - was especially tricksy!

As I review the clues now, I realize that "It has a significant part in the Bible" (REDSEA) is much funnier than I realized when I filled it in. (One of the perks of writing reviews.) One that I did appreciate when I got it was "Plight of the 1%" (LOWBATTERY). That is a lovely C/AP.

I like the words AVERSE (Disinclined) and UPSHOT (Ultimate result), and BOWOUT (Leave gracefully) and GODYES ("Oh, hallelujah!") are colorful couplets.

My French knowledge worked against me today with "It's not what it looks like" (FOOLSGOLD), where I kept trying to shoehorn in trompe l'oeil. And over in the NW, I could only think of the French meanings for "Louche" - "cross-eyed" or "squinting." As it turns out, it is the "squinting" part that gave rise to the "underhanded" or "disreputable" meaning, because, IPRESUME, people who squint are up to no good. 

Overall, a lovely Turn this week. We got a rebus on Thursday, a gem on Friday, and a GENUINE stumper on Saturday. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Friday, August 19, 2022

Friday, August 19, 2022, Patrick John Duggan

Well, this was hilarious. SMOOTHMOVEEXLAX (Putdown to a klutz, in dated slang) is such a throwback! Frannie and her sisters still like to trot the phrase out from time to time, and it still brings a smile.


So that's pretty much it. I loved it once I got that entry. But there was so much more! JEOPARDY (What makes you question everything you know?) was a really lovely C/AP, and IWOJIMA (Literally, "sulfur island") was some choice trivia to sock away for the next time you play JEOPARDY. 

Everywhere you look there's quality material. BARMENU (The drinks are on me!), "Runs up and down?" (SCALES), INGENUE (Green sort), "It's not your fault" (LETSERVE), POTUSER (Member of high society?) followed by "He wrote 'All good things are wild and free'" (THOREAU)... it's all so good! GERUNDS (Kicking and screaming, often), HOTONE (Scorcher), "One in a state of disbelief" (ATHIEST), "Something to shoot for" (PAR)... I ASPIRE to this kind of puzzle creation. Well, if I actually put any effort into puzzle creation I'd ASPIRE to it (Yes, yes, Kelly, I'll TRY someday, I promise!), but for now, I am looking for the TIPJARS (They're open to change), because this was just great. It might be a little RASH of me to say, but there is nothing about this puzzle that I don't like.

Just lovely.

- Horace

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Thursday, August 18, 2022, Adam Wagner

Nothing to this one, eh? 

It's Thursday, and we get a rebus! At home I've got over 7,000 messages in my inbox, but INBOXZERO is something I aspire to at work, where I like to keep it under 20. Every so often I get it down to five or so, and maybe once it's been empty, but that doesn't last. 

Today, we turn the phrase around and put "zero" "inbox." Three rebuses that mean "zero," and one that used to mean "anything," or even "all," but now is used to mean zero (as when calling the years from 2000 to 2009 "the aughts") are put into a single square. 

CAT (Litter maker)

RE[NONE]VADA (Home of more than 16,000 slot machines) gave it away for me. (Are there even more in Las Vegas?) The cross HEAVE[NONE]ARTH (Paradise) always makes me think of the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Massachusetts, where one building bears an inscription reading "si caelum in terra sit, haec id est" (if there be a heaven on earth, this is it).

I laughed at N[AUGHT]IER, but is L[AUGHT]EST (Proverbial assessment for whether or not an idea can be taken seriously) really a thing? A proverbial thing? And is it weird to have ABCTV and TVTRAY (Accessory for dinner and a show?) (nice clue) in the same puzzle? And what's the deal with "Common creature in rebus puzzles" for BEE. Is this a strange cryptic clue that wants us to take the letter b in "rebus" as the animal? Or am I beeing obtuse? What am I missing?

I liked "Bounce of the walls" (ECHO), "It's on the hook" (BAIT), "Attempts to be a team player?" (TRIESOUT), "Take the wrong way?" (ROB), "Game face?" (AVATAR), and "What a cellist may take onstage, in two senses" (BOW). That's a lot of good clues, right? 

- Horace

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022, Michael Paleos

Mr. Paleos, you had me at FROOTLOOPS. I know the spelling, and I entered it confidently. I mean, no one would ever mistake them for "fruit" loops, right? Then, of course, BOSTONREDSOX didn't throw up any flags for this long-time fan. AMERICANPHAROAH didn't feel right, but then, those horse names frequently don't. And pharaoh is a weird spelling anyway. (Maybe the horse person was thinking of the word WHOA?)

It's the LOLcat MOTTO

So you'd think by now, I would have gotten the idea, but to this point (and for the remainder of my solve) I had ignored the bracketed tag on all the theme questions because it just didn't seem like I needed it. To my FWOEing peril!

I entered MORTALcOMBAT and was happy to have remembered the name. Then DEFLEPPARD ... well, that's just the way that's spelled. So I filled in the grid, but then had to spend a couple minutes looking for what had gone wrong. Finally, I noticed that ALEc Wek didn't look right, and only then did the lovely theme finally come clear to me. 

Of Mr. Paleos's five puzzles to date, this is my favorite. And how do I know he has five? Well, a couple years before the pandemic, Frannie and I were standing next to him at the ACPT awards ceremony, and we struck up a conversation. At that time, he was still looking for his first puzzle acceptance, and he claimed that when it happened, he would give us an exclusive interview. Of course, I understand that xwordinfo is the site that gets all the interviews, so I don't hold a grudge or anything, but I do think of it every time I see his byline, and I guess his puzzles stand out a little more to me because of that memory. At first I just thought "Oh, it's that guy we talked with," but now it's going to be "Oh nice, this one should be good!" :)

Sure, the fill might have a little too much ETAL, ERMA, ODIC, and IDLEST, but it's also got MANGO, SPANX, OPTICIAN (A sight for sore eyes?), and a nice clue for HATE ("It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet," per Maya Angelou). 

For me, the theme is all today, and I love it.

- Horace

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Tuesday, August 16, 2022, Sue Fracker

This was a fun one. Five rooms are elbowed into the grid by way of circled letters: boiler, guest, dressing, panic, and romper. Hah! Should that last one be capitalized? Because all I know it from is the old TV show. Remember that? "I see Jimmy, and Kelly, and Philbo ..." No? Anyway, seeing that one after all the normal rooms really put a smile on my face.


Another thing that put a smile on my face was the clue for CAFETERIA (Food fight locale). Heh. And I also snickered when I put in BLOG (Collection of online musings). 

I did GOOF (Slip up) after being LEDON by the clue for INERT (Like neon and argon) - I put in "noble" at first, but the crosses fixed that up without TOO much trouble. I liked JADED (Over it all), because recently I've taken to saying "You name it, I'm over it." But you know what, one thing I'm still not over is connected to the answer STN (Depot: Abbr.). When I think of the abbreviation for "station," I think of it as "sta," not STN, and I made that mistake on my very first puzzle at my very first ACPT. Now I still put in ST_ and wait, LEST I, like the Mighty CASEY, strike out again. (Incidentally, Ernest Thayer wrote CASEY at the Bat in 1888, in my home town of Worcester, Mass. And (much later) one of my brothers recited it at the front of a grade school English class.)

But all that moaning aside, I really enjoyed this Tuesday ROMP. It was full of interesting fill (STIRCRAZY, TASTETEST, SUPERGLUE, CRAWLS, JIGSAW), and had an unusual, fun theme. And it's a debut! (Congrats!) What more do you want?

- Horace

Monday, August 15, 2022

Monday, August 15, 2022, Simon Marotte

Today's review will try to strike a balance between positive and negative. Hopefully it will strike a chord with those in a position to strike a deal with us, so that we can then become famous and make it a habit to strike a pose whenever the paparazzi arrive. Everything is possible with this theme! :)


It amused me that, although "Oreo" was not in the grid, it did appear in the clue for CALORIE (One of about 53 in a typical Oreo cookie). But somehow the inclusion of both EENIE and EERIE, and REWRITE (Overhaul, as an article) and EDIT (Work on, as an essay) seemed inelegant. BAA and BEE, on the other hand, I'm fine with. Funny what rankles and what doesn't.

We never had a SLIPNSLIDE growing up, and I never really saw the appeal. MICROSLEEP, on the other hand, I've never heard of, but I think I do see the appeal there. :)

Does this whole review read like an EGOTRIP? Is that all blogging is? I like to think that when I'm not writing blog posts anymore, I'll put my hand to the plow - er, the pencil - and try to produce a crossword puzzle myself. You'd think I should be able to create a pretty good one, having seen and written about so many, but I guess we'll have to wait and see. 

- Horace

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sunday, August 14, 2022, Jeff Chen and Jim Horne


Today's theme is an odd one, centered on a pun of sorts. The revealer - CAPITALGAINS - references the letters inserted into various national capitals (found as shaded letters within phrases), and these letters spell out "Kaching!" Why are the letters added into capitals? For the pun. Why do the letters spell "kaching?" Because it's what you say when you're "In the Money." It's a fun enough theme, and I learned the capitals of Rwanda and Qatar.

And is CHAIROFTHEFED somehow important? I mean, it does contain "Cairo," but it's also money-related. And AFTERTAX? ... probably not. 

Some clever clues today - like "One who walks to work?" (DOGHANDLER), "Special collection of musical hits?" (DRUMSOLO), and the beautiful "Were, for one?" (WAS). Hah! "It's good for three points" (TRIDENT) might be trying a little too hard, but "Noted underground adventurer" was a fun one for ALICE, and "Sad ass" (EEYORE) made me laugh out loud. Poor EEYORE. And while we're on that row, is a FRIEDEGG really a burger topping option?!? What is wrong with people?

I have never heard of Daily KOS or a hotel chain called TRU, so those were tough. It also took me forever to understand that "Disneyland ride" wasn't actually talking about a ticketed ride. And what kind of a country has a LEEK as its national emblem? Poor Wales...

Today's constructors are responsible for the xwordinfo blog, which is a marvel of crossword data-wrangling, so I guess we have to allow the many programming-related clues like "Modifier in digital logic" (NOT), "Certain coding snippet" (DOLOOP), AND "Gate in digital logic." 

Finally, where did CATTALO come from? I've heard of a beefalo, and, really, I guess that's just as weird, because both appear to be "buffalo" combined with words that aren't specific animals - "cattle," and "beef." Weird. But maybe, just maybe, it's actually a cross between a buffalo and a cat. Imagine that? The meat would be so tender because it would just lie in the sun and sleep all day. 

OK, it's probably time to wrap this up now. Thanks to Colum and Frannie for two fun weeks of reviews. I'm glad to be back, and I'll see you again tomorrow.

- Horace

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Saturday, August 13, 2022, John Westwig

I know I said I wasn't going to mess up this week with missing a blog post, and I am not going to! But I am going to be brief because I need to leave shortly to get to Saratoga Springs to perform in a concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, singing Beethoven's ninth symphony. So I have a little bit of an excuse.

I completed today's puzzle with my mother watching. She often waits when she comes to visit, but not this time. So I got a HINT here and there. Definitely harder than yesterday, nearly twice as much!

Some nice answers include HMMISEE, IMAFRAIDSO, and MEATHEADS.


Favorite clues include:

38A: Bottom of a pit? (TUBA) - how appropriate.

62A: Person's name that's amusingly appropriate, like Usain Bolt or William Wordsworth (APTONYM). Apt. Apt!

I enjoyed the puzzle, and turn things over to Horace for this coming week!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Friday, August 12, 2022, Trent H. Evans

Well, this is a topsy-turvy week. A Wednesday that had a theme that was more clever than a Thursday. And today, a Friday that played easier than a Tuesday! What is the world coming to?

I think this is a lovely themeless puzzle. The grid is pleasingly circular, and the triple stacks of long answers at the north and south are really top drawer.

My entry into the puzzle came at 6D (CARFAX), having recently purchased a certified pre-owned vehicle. I worked east from there, with the excellent BATPHONE providing enough traction to find the appropriately crossing LUNGE and YOGA. I almost got tripped up by putting in BUd instead of BUB, but I actually saw the crossing answer at 17D: Camping danger (BEAR). It seemed unlikely that a spouse (dEAR) would be the most likely correct answer.

LIVETWEET brought me back across the middle to the delightful 26A: Gets the heck out of odgeday (AMSCRAYS), and then up to complete the northern half. 10A: Poor excuse for a student (THEDOGATEIT) is great, also because you could have misunderstood the clue as talking about a poor example of a student rather than the excuse. Also, in the realm of possibly too much information, 12A: Making one's bed, taking a shower and solving a crossword, say (MORNINGRITUAL) described this Friday's activities a little too well.

VIN blanc

I moved down the west side of the middle with 27D: Digger's harvest (CLAMS) and the eternal Wynton MARSALIS to tackle the bottom portion. 

51A: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" song (THEDOCTORISIN) brought back a ton of memories. I used to love this soundtrack, and would play it over and over when young. I haven't listened in a long time. Perhaps a trip over to YouTube is in order! YOUNAILEDIT and SPINCLASS are excellent long answers here as well.

I finished over in the southeast corner (arc? there's no real corner here) with KNEX and 48A: "Less is more," for one (PARADOX). A most intriguing one, at that.

Smooth and quick. I finished in 4:52. How'd you do?

- Colum

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Thursday, August 11, 2022, David Tuffs

What an odd and unexpected theme for Thursday! It's not as tricksy as I typically like, but it certainly is clever. Mr. Tuffs has found five phrases in English where the second word is the first word TRANSLATED into another language. Thus, in WITHOUTSIN, the second word is also the Spanish word for "without." 

It's slightly unfortunate that there are two Spanish examples (BREADPAN being the second) instead of using four different languages, but hey, I'm not the one attempting to create a puzzle worthy of being published in the NYT, so who am I to nitpick? ("Well, actually...")

GUESTHOST is an amazing example. The Slavic languages are so often spelled with incredible combinations of consonants that it's a wonder that anything would work out this way. FIREBRAND is somewhat less surprising, as Dutch and English are so closely related. As I am sure Horace and Frances could tell you in much more detail, seeing as how they've mastered the language for their multiple trips to the Low Countries. THEDIE is amusing in its brevity.

MELON without its rind

The rest of the puzzle is smoothly constructed. I am impressed that Mr. Tuffs was able to fit CTHULHU into a grid. And apologies for those unfamiliar with Mr. Lovecraft's oeuvre. His New England roots are deep, and it should also be acknowledged that he had seriously troubling views on race, especially viewed through today's lens.

25A: Competitor with variable skills? (MATHLETE) is very nicely done. I also chuckled at 28D: Preceder of cuatro or chic? (TRES) - the reparsing in different languages fits well with the theme of the puzzle as a whole.

Odd that there are two QMCs which turn on using "number" to mean a musical piece. After getting SOLI, I balked at putting SONGS in for a moment due to the repetition of the concept.

Overall I enjoyed the puzzle, but I do like a Thursday to be more tricksy.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Wednesday, August 10, 2022, Karen Lurie

Can I just say how much I love today's theme? How Ms. Lurie reparses one phrase as a possible "answer" to three completely different "questions" and still makes it all fit within standard crossword symmetry is beautiful.

The revealer is WELLACTUALLY, clued as the opening to a what I imagine is some idiotic bit of mansplaining. But then, we have to reimagine the adverb "well" as the adjective "well," used differently in three different contexts. Do you want your steak MEDIUMRARE? "Well, actually." As it turns out, as I was solving, I actually did put in "rare," take it out and put in "well," and then take that out and replace it again with "well." Hah!

Do you want MINERALWATER at your table? "Well, actually."

Are you FEELINGILL? "Well, actually." That's so absurd, I actually laughed out loud. 


And as if that isn't enough, the fill was a ton of fun as well. 6D: High-minded guides? (SHERPAS) is a good example of the MELLOW vibe here. 41D: Played with, as a mustache (TWIRLED). I love it!

50D: Sense of orientation? (GAYDAR). So good!

I also love MEASLY, REGALIA, and LYNX. That SW corner is particularly crunchy, but all three down clues were eminently gettable, so no worries about not knowing DMX.

Fun Wednesday. It played easier than yesterday's. I wonder why Mr. Shortz ran the two grids in this order rather than reversed.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Tuesday, August 9, 2022, Bruce Haight

We get a real stunner of a puzzle on this Tuesday! The grid art alone knocked me out cold. 

Okay, enough of that. Our good Dr. Haight has given us a much tougher than typical Tuesday puzzle. I wonder if this one was originally slated for a Wednesday. The theme is beautifully placed in the grid. I imagine that 20D (VALLEYOFELAH) and 22D (BOOKOFSAMUEL) represent the two sides of the battlefield, with DAVID at the bottom, holding the slingshot represented by the large Y, with the stone flying towards GOLIATH at the top.

Speaking of which, how about that clue? 17A: One known for living large and getting stoned? Hah! Worth the price of admission all on its own.

The shape of the grid necessitates the four corners being pretty isolated. Each one is a mini-mini-puzzle, but all within reasonable grasp, IMO. The most challenging entry is in the NE with 21A: Tony ____, tennis champ of the 1950s (TRABERT). Never heard of him, and the name's unusual. But I was able to get all of it from crosses, so no complaints there. And he did win 10 grand slam titles (five in singles including Wimbledon once, and five in doubles), so he's crossword worthy.

Sacher TORTE

If I hadn't already figured out the theme, 44A: Issue for a punter or field goal kicker (LOWSNAP) could have been a little confusing, as it's sitting right beneath a possible representation of the uprights! 

Otherwise, I'm impressed by the extra fun stuff, like EGOMASSAGES, SHANTYTOWNS, and Bob CRATCHIT. The challenge today came from some of the other fill, like ONELS, GOTYA (instead of "gotcha"), and YKNOW. But overall I really appreciated this one.

- Colum

Monday, August 8, 2022

Monday, August 8, 2022, Kathy Lowden

It's good to reach the end of a Monday puzzle and get an aha moment from the revealer. To be fair, I wasn't sure until I reached the end as to which of the longer entries were the theme answers. Also, to be fair, the theme answers are the longest ones in the puzzle, but 35A, 37A, 41A, and 42A were all kind of long also!

The revealer comes at 50D: Reconcile after a quarrel ... or a hint to the starts of 17-, 25-, 52- and 61-Across (MAKEUP). Here used in its other meaning, as the stuff we humans use to adorn our faces. Thus, the BLUSHWINES, SHADOWBOX, POWDERKEG, and LINERNOTES each start with a kind of cosmetic. What is nicely done is how each word is used in a very different sense from the make-up sense in their phrases. The same would be pretty difficult to do with something like lipstick, say.

GREY Poupon

There's a slightly religious air to the fill, with VESPER, PRIEST, and DEACON all floating around.

I enjoyed AMNESIAC and EGRESS. Overall, it's an extremely smooth grid, so kudos to the constructor. The only answer that's not great is the partial IFI, but the song title it's drawn from is so catchy I won't be able to think of anything else musical all day.

My favorite clue today comes at 30A: Disobey James Bond when making a martini (STIR). So roundabout! 

- Colum

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Sunday, August 7, 2022, Tina Labadie


Hey, folks! I'm back from my week of vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, ready to take over this week's blog posts from my co-bloggers. I'm going to try to make this a week without any confusion over who's posting...

Today we get a debut puzzle from Ms. Labadie! It's a fun one, with six answers whose oddities from a spelling perspective are highlighted with secondary clues in the grid, each of which is a standard phrase made up of a numeral and a letter or letter combination. Confused? Let's do some examples.

25A: Not true? (ATANANGLE), with a cute QMC, is also hinted at by 68A: Top credit rating ... or a hint to 25A (TRIPLEA). Because each of the three words in 25A starts with an A.

TWOAM also notes that SAMADAMS has the letter combination AM twice. FIVEO refers to the 5 instances of the letter O in VOODOODOLL. Likewise, FOURH and HUSHHUSH.

I'm a little troubled by 71A: 23rd in a series ... or a hint to 27-Across (DOUBLEU) - which I get, is the phonetic spelling of the letter W. But 27A (UNIQUEUSER) has that extra U in it. I also get this: the "double" refers to the initial letters of each word (rather than using the number "two"). But I would have liked it better without the extra U. Nitpicky, I know.

But the tricksy one comes at the end: 54A: Weightlessness ... or a hint to 118-Across (ZEROG). Thus the usual call "Going... going... gone!" is reduced to OINOINONE. Hah!

I'll call out some excellent entries such as ENZYME and JOLENE. I also liked 12D: Where you might turn on the jets (JACUZZI) for the nice answer and the fun non-QMC.

Also, NINASIMONE is an excellent full name, with a bit of TRIVIA I was unaware of in the clue. 

Great debut!

- Colum

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Saturday, August 6, 2022, Byron Walden

Greetings, Dear Reader, it's Horace, giving Frannie one true vacation day by taking care of the blog post for today. I'm hoping it prompts her to JUMPFORJOY, as I did when I finished this thing! :)

So you're calling that a BEANIE?

Here's the SITCH, I had a hard time in the SE, but it wasn't a BORE. I FANCY the pairing of VASECTOMY (Form of birth control) and SHEBOP (1984 #3 hit with the lyric "Ain't no law against it yet"). I'm BETTING most folks went through the woman's options first for the former, and the way the Supreme Court is going, it won't be long before the latter really is against the law. Because, you know, ... UPISDOWN.

DOTARD (Old fogy) has taken on even more comic value after one of the world's leader's accurately used the term when talking about our former president. ("Our former president... sigh. How did that even happen? ... Oh right... UPISDOWN.)

PINBALLERS, LEFTENDS, and DESKPERSON (Someone who can't stand working?) are a little weak, but the last is at least elevated by a fun clue. And I don't really buy HAWS (Stumbles for a speaker), but elsewhere, we find C/APs worth talking about, like "Partnership agreement?" (YESDEAR), "Make sound" (REPAIR), and "It's bound to run in the third quarter" (FALLISSUE). Wow, that last one took me for-ever.

Our vacation is coming to an end. Colum takes over tomorrow, and I'll see you again a week after that.

Happy puzzling all!

- Horace

Friday, August 5, 2022

Friday, August 5, 2022, Erik Agard and Brooke Husic

I found today's puzzle to be challenging without being impossible, - perfect for a Friday, although I must admit, things did not look good for me after the first pass, which left me with ALTOS few squares filled in. My one gimme was "Vicar in 'Emma'" (ELTON) and, although I think I have learned from the NYTX that HARES are leporids, was glad to be able to confirm it with CHAPS ("Some cowboy wear"). 

As our dear Readers will know, I did not complete the grid without some REDTAPE. For "Comp. ___ (univ. major)" I put 'lit' instead of SCI, which threw a wrench in the middle. Elsewhere, instead of ACES, I guessed Aone ("Top-notch"). Also, I thought I was being clever thinking of 'noun' for "A bird, food or person" at 42A, but the correct answer, KIWI, was much better. 

I had the most trouble with the southwest. I couldn't remember the name of the "Realm in 'Frozen'", I didn't twig to the kind of wheel that was wanted at 55A, and I was toying with  'extraSECURITY for "More cover than usual ..." Luckily, Horace was sitting nearby, working on that same section, and happened to remark, "I'm taking 'acre' out, it's not difficult enough for a Friday," which, as I also had 'acre' for "Farm unit" BALEd me out. With 'acre' out of the way, I could finally see my way clear to ARENDELLE, HEAVYSECURITY, and the very clever RACEAHEAD for ""Make a lead balloon?" :)


Anyhoo, my missteps aside, this puzzle had SLOTS of well-worded and trixy clues. Here are some of the highlights:
"Get down" (SADDEN)
"What's the matter?" (ATOM)
"Item often wrapped after it's purchased" (SHAWL)
"Church address, for short" (REV) - this one took me forever to get.
"Style points?" (STILETTOS)
"Eats outside, perhaps" (STREETFOOD) - so good!
"Pounds on keyboards?" (HASHTAG) - ha!

I also enjoyed the bonus puzzle within a puzzle: "Name that anagrams to something you might smoke" (CRAIG).

While I've never heard of BALAYAGE ("Hair highlighting technique") or ETTA Baker, I look forward to dropping them in next time they make an appearance. 


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Thursday, August 4, 2022, Ella Dershowitz

Today's grid featured three POPUPSHOPs - the "shops" being created by the letters S H O P  in a square formed by two letters in the entry, and two that "pop up" into the entry above. Easier to understand with a visual, maybe? 

Although the puzzle didn't seem particularly difficult, there were a number of clues where the ambiguity slowed this solver down. Looking at "Order in New Orleans," for example, I was thinking of krewes or 'laissez les bon temps roulez,' rather than (POBOY), which is much more entertaining. Another amusing food related clue was "Cubans are full of it" (HAM) - ha. Other clues that stonewalled me temporarily included "Deal" (ACCORD), "Feel for" (PITY), and "Blow out" for (SPEW). It took me way too long to consider STORK for "Baby carrier." I also made a little bit of trouble for myself in the center bottom section by starting with 'uso' for "Tour group, for short" (PGA) and 'diy' for "Kind of project" (PET). Derp. 

I enjoyed the QMC's "Dish seen around the world?" (UFO) and "Has reservations about?" (BOOKS). Fill-wise, EUPHORIA and PSEUDO are great words with your less common EU letter combination. RIFE is a another good one. OTH, I'm not all in on CURER for "Shaman, at times" nor HYPOS for "What if propositions, informally."

LIESL is two for the week. Going on three? HERES[HO]PING.


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Wednesday, August 3, 2022, Daniel Bodily

Today's theme turned out to be a stumper for this solver. I completed the grid save for the square at the bottom of 40D and the start of 64A. I couldn't make the leap from the instruction in the revealer "answered by filling in the correct circle" to the answer, even though the two clues, "Hue such as pale mint or lilac" and "Leafy shelter from the sun" were intended to point me in the right direction. Unfortunately for me, in both cases, it seemed to me that the answers I had come up with (PASTEL_ and _TREE) were sufficient unto themselves as answers to the clues. But, as I see now, the circled letters at the bottom of the grid, A B C [D] E were meant to represent answer options for the test question posed by combining three theme entries INASCRABBLEGAME WHATTILEISWORTH TWOPOINTS? The idea was, apparently to [SHADE] in the letter D, to select it as the correct answer/letter that fit the description in the test question. I like to think I could have figured it out if I had been able to spend more time on it, but when one is on vacation with the extended family, time to oneself is hard to come by.

51D: SUR

I suppose the bulky theme entries that formed the question brought about certain grid constraints, one of which seems to have been ABIT of an increase in three-letter entries like ONT, THA, and HUP. There were some, though, that were enlivened by entertaining clues like "Pool accessory" (CUE), "Certain workshop worker" (ELF), and "Make a knight, e.g." (DUB). 

Other fun or tricky clues I enjoyed included "Character in 'Face/Off" (SLASH), "Live it up" (REVEL), and "Place for rounds of draft picks" (BREWPUB). The example REVIEW in 15D ("'This vacuum sucks! 5 stars'") was amusing. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Tuesday, August 2, 2022, Jay Kaskel and Daniel Kantor

Today's theme revealer, REPEATAFTERME provides an instruction, of sorts, if you haven't yet completed the theme answers, or a description, if you have. Each theme answer contains the letters ME, directly after which there's a letter that repeats, as in STEAMEDDUMPLING, and CONSUMERREPORTS. Happily, no theme entries were harmed in the construction process - all four theme entries are known things or expressions. 

Since it's all about ME today, here are some of the C/APs I enjoyed:
"Little dipper?" (TOE
"Propper noun?" (EASEL) - heh.
"It's more than a ding" (DENT)
"Touch down, say" (ARRIVE)
 and my favorite "Org. that takes many forms" (IRS) - ha!

18D: LEM

Fill-wise, I liked DWARF, VENUE, and RUMPUS. Less appealing for this solver were UVEASSAC ("Anatomical pouch"), OGLED, LYE, TASE, and JAB - which, if not EVIL, are unpleasant to say the YEAST.

On a MUSK happier note and in other ME news, on vacation by the shore, I am enjoying an AIRY breeze, and once done here, I look forward to dip in the ocean, and some time to read a book about VENICE I picked up in a free Little Library - a regular EDEN.


Monday, August 1, 2022

Monday, August 1, 2022, Garrett Chalfin

To Tell the Truth, today's puzzle didn't give me much trouble. I made short work of Monday-level C/APs like "Three on a grandfather clock" (III), "Vowel quintet" (AEIOU), and "'Va-va-____!" (VOOM), and it didn't take much Concentration to come up crossword darlings EEL, LIL, ELSA, and friends. There were a few clues that, depending on one's milieu, might require one to Scrabble a bit more like "Duke of _____, title for Prince Harry" (SUSSEX), "'The Walking Dead' cable channel" (AMC), "Classic German camera" (LEICA), and "Cuisine with pad see ew" (THAI), but no real stumpers. While not exactly $64,000 questions, there were a couple of more challenging clues like the ambiguous "Shoot!" (DARN), and "What baseball players, striking employees and pet dogs each do" (WALK). Even so, I wasn't able to Beat the Clock. Due to an unlucky spin of the Wheel of Fortune,  I had to solve the puzzle in my browser today instead of the app, as I usually do; the differences in grid navigation were enough to put my solve time over the 6 minute mark. 

In case you haven't guessed it by now, the puzzle theme features a classic game show. The endings of three grid-spanning theme answers form a sort of Match Game with the THEPRICEISRIGHT ("Classic game show ... or a hint to 17-, 26-, and 47- Across") - the connection being synonyms of price, FEE (WHOLEBEANCOFFEE), RATE (CARETOELABORATE), and FARE (GUERILLAWARFARE). 


There were no clues that made me say, "this Joker's Wild," but it's a solid Monday puzzle with minimum Jeopardy! that might encourage new solvers to Press their Luck with the New York Times Crossword.