Friday, September 30, 2022

Friday September 30, 2022, David Karp

I'm guessing some of our speedier solvers might have sliced through the puzzle in near-record time today. I don't mean to make it into a SLAMDUNKCONTEST, but I finished in just over seven minutes, which is a pretty a CRISP Friday time for me, and I thought that was NEATO!


But enough about that. This one is stocked with six grid-spanners. My favorite might have been COLLECTORSITEMS (Rare comics and vintage dolls, e.g.), because I find myself getting a bit too interested in certain old things. I've already got way too much stuff, but still I want more. Why? Why are we interested in finding HENSTEETH? Is it because it makes us feel like we are slowing the inevitable oblivion? We all end up with NOBARS eventually. It's BLEAK, so we clutch EVER tighter to bygone AGES, and look to things with the ECLAT of MICA to feather our NESTS in hopes of being PLACATED.

Sorry. I think this poetry class might be affecting me. (Now who's being "Pretentiously creative" (ARTSY)?!) ... Let's go down a different AVENUE, shall we?

What do we think of "Stretches for the rest of us?" (NAPTIMES)? Me, I love this kind of tortured game. "Stretches [of time taken] for [the purpose of] the rest [that is required] of us." Nothing simpler. :)

I also enjoyed the non-QMCs "Play group" for CAST, and "Bill promoting science" (NYE). Very nice. But I'm worried by "Hawaiian crop threatened by the apple snail" (TARO). Will I never be able to taste the crossword delicacy poi?!

And speaking of food, it's interesting that "English chip" could be either CRISP or "French fry," but, of course, only one fit comfortably into the five squares.

OK, I think that's probably enough for now. 

- Horace

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Thursday, September 29, 2022, Jeremy Newton

Wouldn't the "Cartesian sum?" be je suis? It's likely that he really did write it in Latin, but if he didn't, it would have been French, right?, not English. Strange clue.

The theme, on the other hand, I like. ITSALOTTOUNPACK explains it. Part of me wishes that the rebus ran from top left to bottom right, but I'm sure it was already hard enough to make it progress in an orderly way from top to bottom. And it unpacks from right to left both in the grid and in the letters as it moves down. Quite elegant, really.


JOANIE and Chachi

What about the "containers?" Well, I liked ANDTHATSSAYING[ALOT] ("So many layers here" ... or a hint to the circled squares) (interesting that they gave this clue so soon), but CALIFORNI[ALO]TTO (Contest for millions on the West Coast), was a little dull. I guess "lotto" is now understood as another word for "lottery," and it did have a cute clue. So okay. ALOEVER[AL]OTION (Popular skin moisturizer) is maybe the flattest overall. Boring answer, boring clue. And then the revealer is solid. 

Boy, it sounds from my review so far that I didn't really like this one, but I did enjoy it while I was doing it, and I think it's a cool trick. So let's look at the fill.

I enjoyed the unusualness of SNAZZ (Spiff (up)), and the "It's a good look" (SCAN)/"It's a bad look" (SNEER) combo was fun. I had a little slowdown when I guessed PIEcrust for "Quiche base," which led me to enter cApo for "Family man." I guess I was thinking "family" meant "mafia." As we've said many times on this blog, it's odd what the brain will do to make its guesses seem acceptable to itself. 

You know, Frannie had the idea a while back to use a five-letter word from the puzzle as her Wordle starting word every day, so I've been doing that myself lately. But today, there are very few five-letter words in the puzzle that don't also have a double letter, and while I'm not against guessing words with double letters, I don't usually do so in my first guess. There's SENOR, but I wonder about foreign languages and the Wordle database... and then there's TUBED, but I generally steer clear of inflected words unless I'm forced down that path... so today I just thought up a non-puzzle-related word. Fascinating, I know, and just what you came here for...

So anyway, that's my review. How do you pick a starting Wordle word? Are you one of the sheep who always uses "adieu?" or do you mix it up every day like the Franster and me?

- Horace

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Wednesday, September 28, 2022, Jeff Stillman

How do they keep coming up with these things? This theme both made me guffaw and wowed me with its simple elegance. The revealer, INITIALHERE, serves double duty by holding all the missing initials from four famous names. We need each letter of the word "here," in order, to complete:

and the amusing

Really, that's such a nice idea, and somehow it's symmetrical. Hat's off, Mr. Stillman.

OK, review's over. Nothing more to talk about. ...

AGATE marbles

Well, ok, let's say a little about the fill. AHME. Although I did chuckle at the portmanteau BACNE (Breakout caused by a sweaty uniform, perhaps), I'd prefer to never hear it or see it again. There are a couple gratuitous plurals (CAMRYS & ALIASES), some so-so fours (INLA, ALII, YOHO) and a few strange threes (DAW, NRC, AHS), but really, the more I look around, the more I think it's not bad at all.

When I saw the double As in 52A I started to worry, but LAALAA (Yellow Teletubby with a curly antenna) is timely. Didn't I just hear they were going to reboot that show? And COMMONSENSE (Not standing in an open field during a lightning storm, say) and CIVILLAWYER are two solid long answers. And we've got fun cluing, too, like "Place to get a date, maybe" (OASIS) (date, the middle-eastern dried fruit), "No ____" (what Mary Tyler Moore is to Dudley Moore), and the classic "Psalm beginning?" (SILENTP). 

We've been doing this for nearly ten years now, and I'm still impressed and amused. Amazing.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Tuesday, September 27, 2022, Peter Koetters

It's so neat and orderly! That was my first thought when, after finishing, I noticed that the shaded areas contained all the months in sequence. Kind of amazing, I thought, in a weekday puzzle. It is unfortunate that UPA sits at the very center of the grid, and there are a few oddities elsewhere, but really, the junk is limited. 

The calendar is an interesting thing. My favorite effort at dividing the year into days and months is the early Roman calendar of ten months. It started with March and ended with December, so back then, the numeric prefixes for September, October, November, and December made sense. Before Julius Caesar (JULES to his friends) got his hands on it, his month was called "Quintilis." Also at that time, "Sextilis" only had thirty days, but Quintilis became July, and then when Augustus came to power, he wanted a month too, and his couldn't be any shorter than Caesar's, obviously, so Sextilis became August, and it got 31 days too.

But anyway, my favorite thing about the early ten-month calendar was that after December, "winter" was just a long, uncounted string of bleakness. Imagine if January and February were just all one big blur of dark and cold that lasted until the vernal equinox. No wait, that's how it still is! :(

What's that? I'm supposed to be talking about a crossword puzzle? Have you not GLORIED in this NOVEL approach? ...

I liked NEIGHBORS (Fencing partners?), STOOLIE (Informal informant), and NOMADIC (Like a wanderer). The nautical duo of SAILFISH and MARIANAS Trench is nice, and it seemed like I hit a J everywhere I looked. I count only three, but I guess anything more than one (or maybe none) seems like something.

With so much theme to fit into a rigid pattern it almost seems like a stunt puzzle, and thanks to Bruce Haight, I'm perfectly fine with that. :)

- Horace

Monday, September 26, 2022

Monday, September 26, 2022, Margaret Seikel

Fun theme! A CLIMBINGGYM, a COATCLOSET, an ARTGALLERY, and a MANCAVE - four places where hanging occurs. I admit, the MANCAVE made me guffaw, and what more can you ask for on a Monday?

The solve was further heightened today by some non-Mondayish answers like RAGLAN (Kind of sleeve that extends to the collar), BOLSTER (Give support to), GARNER (Gather, as support), and IDYLL (Pastoral poem), but it still had Monday smoothness. And the cluing showed spunk too, with "Like pizzas and piazzas" (ITALIAN), "A big one might be standing in a concert hall" (OVATION), "Too bad, so sad!" (ALAS), and "Claims rated 'four Pinocchios,' say" (LIES). I had never heard of a "Pinocchio rating" before, but I chuckled at it. 

Slight duplications with BURRO and ASS, and MANCAVE and LAIR :) but overall, a lovely way to start the week.

- Horace

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sunday, September 25, 2022, Meghan Morris


Greetings! It's Horace here again, after two fabulous weeks of reviews from Frannie and Colum. Thanks, you two! :)

Official ball of the ABA.

Today's revealer is WORKSWITHOUTANET, and when parsed differently, as the clue asks us to do, it becomes "works without an 'et.'" Now, believe it or not, I figured out that the "Take Two" title meant that two letters had to be taken from each clue for it to make sense, but I didn't realize that the two letters that had to be taken from each clue were always E and T together. But that's exactly what needs to be done.

"Rocket scientist" minus "et" becomes "Rock scientist" or GEOLOGIST. (Hi Dad!)
"Security blankets" becomes "Security blanks" or USERNAMEANDPASSWORD.

It's a fun trick, and I don't know if it was that, or if I'm just a PEABRAIN, but clues like "Stands" (STOMACHS), "Draws" (ALLURES), and "What the Beatles never did" (REUNITE) took me far too long. And I thought "Lines on which music is written" was almost too obvious, but no, they wanted STAVE instead of the more common "staff." And then there were clues like "Rapper with the 2011 hit album 'Ambition'" (WALE) (is that like the movie - Wal-E?) and "One of South Africa's official languages" (TSWANA) that needed every cross.

On the other hand, we just saw TOSCA at the Met in January, so that was a nice gimme, and the amusing "Do some backup dancing?" (TWERK) didn't fool me for a second. 

I like the three little three-word answers YESICAN, ASIAM, and IAMSO

I like a trick like this, and this was a fun Sunday. 

- Horace

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Saturday, September 24, 2022, Martin Ashwood-Smith

As if I could see the future! Yesterday's review was prescient, because Friday was certainly harder than Saturday this week. Looking back on the two grids, I think at least part of it is that elusive quality, flow. Yesterday's grid does not lend itself to cascading answers falling into place as you solve. While today's has the NW and the SE pretty isolated, the swath from NE to SW starts to fall like dominos as you get certain entries in place.

Also, I didn't have missteps or errors along the way. That helps.

Of course, getting 1A: Unwanted items (CASTOFFS) immediately starts you off on the right foot. I confirmed with OPI and FENS before entering, but then the NW corner went pretty quickly. Nice acknowledgement of the early 1970s Oakland Athletics, with World Series wins in 1972-1974 for the THREEPEAT, a term apparently invented and trademarked by the coach of the 1989 Los Angeles Lakers, Pat Riley. The Lakers did not succeed in that goal.

13D: You'd prefer to have service in it (TENNIS) is some fun misdirection. No wi-fi or roaming issues here.


Even though I couldn't get any exit from that corner, 27A: String game (CATSCRADLE) started me off in the middle. I worked up into the NE corner, where Shakespeare's "What's" INA / NAME helped out a bunch. 12D: Final participant (TESTEE) was not what I expected, maybe swayed by the earlier sports clue.

Funnily enough, although I had ____ERAID, I couldn't finish that clue for a while, due to misparsing it as ___er aid. SEROTONIN was a gimme for this doctor, but I had to resort to the SE corner to help me out. 

I love the clue for ARSENIC. Dark humor! 56A: Caves (SPELUNKS) is a great clue also. 54A: Thy're sen n ths cle (DELETIONS) wins the award for most peculiar clue this year.

Finally, with SCOREBOARDS, I broke the rest of the middle. The clue for STATEMOTTO is fascinating. For the record, the French one is from Minnesota, Spanish is Montana, Italian is Maryland, the Greek one is California ("Eureka!"), the Chinook is in Washington, and I couldn't figure out which one was in Hawaiian.

Just kidding! Turning over the reins to Horace for tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, September 23, 2022

Friday, September 23, 2022, Erik Agard

I love it when a Friday is harder than a typical Saturday, and that happened to me today. Your mileage may vary, of course, but sometimes you're just not on the same wavelength as a constructor, or the way the clues are written seem to skip out of your grasp.

For example, I needed just about every single cross to finally get 5D: Not in bounds? (ONESTEPATATIME). Wow! That's a tough one, but makes perfect sense once you've gotten it. The last crossing I had was 31A: Something not to look after? (LEAP) - referencing "look before you leap." Goodness. Tough clues!

40A: It's often drawn with three ellipses (ATOM) was actually pretty straightforward, but I could not see it. It hurt that I had WEWiN instead of WEWON. Also, making that area much more challenging was my choice to put in tonNE instead of STONE, a perfectly acceptable answer, just not the right one.

Megan Thee Stallion AKA Tina Snow

Some awesome entries in this grid. GENDEREUPHORIA is beautifully clued - "being aligned in one's body" referencing gender identity, not musculoskeletal concerns! GATECRASH, MESSAGERECEIVED, SISTERACT, all excellent.

HOTEL eluded me for a long time. And how many of those stupid little bottles have I collected over the years from business trips?

A very smooth Friday. The only negative comment I have is for the use of the answer ICARE. I don't believe it's offered as a reassuring statement of sympathy in real life. But maybe that's just me. SPAREME.

- Colum

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Thursday, September 22, 2022, Helen Chen

Is it just me, or does this grid tell a sad tale of a day at the casino? First the gambler PLACESABET. She checks the AMOUNTWON so far, and shakes her head in despair. She has no FACECARDS in her BLACKJACK game, and even when she hits 21, she only BREAKSEVEN

Well, not so sad, if she quits now...

There are a couple of bonus theme answers at 1A (TOP) and 19A: It goes in the middle of the table (ANTE) - nice clue!

It's a fun theme, with the cards hidden nicely in their respective phrases, all of which are gambling-related. It was a little straightforward for a Thursday, as I could tell what was going on even before I entered the second theme answer, and the clues give away what should be in each shaded area. All of which added up to a quick solve.

Apparently the meme roasts Twitter oversharers...

Some fun clues today:

44D: It's a stretch (EXPANSE)

27D: It whistles in the kitchen (TEAKETTLE)

And a tough all consonant answer in CTRLP. Fortunately for me, I had all of the crosses on that one!

You have to appreciate the four corners of triple 7-letter down stacks. They are VELVETY smooth!

- Colum

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Wednesday, September 21, 2022, Matthew Stock

A rare grid with vertical symmetry, which makes sense when your theme answers are 13, 9, 11, and 7 letters long. You'll never get those into standard symmetry!

The revealer comes at 60A: Accept defeat, informally ... or what the last words of 19-, 24- and 49-Across do vis-à-vis the first (TAKEANL). Each of the other answers are standard phrases which rhyme, all due to the addition of an L as the second letter of the last word. Thus, FIGHTORFLIGHT, PAYTOPLAY, and BACKINBLACK. It's a tight-knit group, for sure, and I like that each of them uses a different connector word. Can anyone come up with other examples? "Fame or flame:" your options on auditioning for a big role?

A fun feature of this kind of construction is the freedom offered in the edges, where the theme answers don't force letters into place. See the four Xs in the SW, SE, and middle E segments. But Mr. Stock does very well with those places where two theme answers are close to each other. Putting SPUTNIK under the revealer is impressive: yes, there needs to be two foreign words and a governmental abbreviation to make it work, but they're all gettable.


, BOOMBOXES, and YOUGUYS are all great answers. I enjoyed the two different kinds of races, HEATS and SPRINTS.

And 15A: Two in a row? (OARS) made me chuckle. Tough get!

Fun Wednesday.

- Colum

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Tuesday, September 20, 2022, Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi

Today, we have a theme where a typical English phrase with one word repeated twice, then has the same word appended a third time, but with a different meaning. Thus 17A: Verbal disapproval of a boy king? (TUTTUTTUT) should be read as "Tut tut, King Tut!" Likewise the Chinese dog's food is a chow-chow's chow (CHOWCHOWCHOW). The consistency is excellent: in each case the original phrase comes first, followed by the additional instance. Mazda's catchphrase is "zoom zoom!" And the dance from the Moulin Rouge is the can-can.

I tried to come up with some of my own examples:

Say farewell to the tournament's number one seed: BYEBYEBYE.

And that's what I came up with. So pretty good set of choices the constructors used in the grid. Can you think of any others?

The best non-theme answer is at 39D: Tina Fey's "30 Rock" role (LIZLEMON). Love the show, love the character. It might be time to start watching the show again...

Nothing else grabbed me to any major degree. The answers are both smooth enough and gettable enough for a Tuesday. I would like some day to visit ARUBA (the B and C are Bonaire and Curaçao). I enjoyed Haley CUOCO in The Flight Attendant, but have not yet watched season two.

62A: Put two and two together, e.g. (IDIOM) is an example of that kind of clue which unexpectedly goes to the general rather than the specific. I think these sorts of clues are very clever. Would they translate as well into other languages?

- Colum

Monday, September 19, 2022

Monday, September 19, 2022, Leslie Young and Andrea Carla Michaels

Welcome to the work week! Hope your Monday is going smoothly. As smoothly as the solve on this early week puzzle!

Our constructors have offered up (or down) a theme where the first three long answers move DOWNTOASCIENCE, namely "physical," "social," and "earth" sciences. I enjoy puzzles which switch the theme answers to the down direction for a good reason. The theme answers are strong as well, with ANNUALPHYSICAL, ICECREAMSOCIAL, and LASTMANONEARTH. I particularly like the clue for the last: 7D: Whom one might not marry no matter what! Hah!

It's a smooth grid, with little in the way of bad answers. Sure, we have the old standbys that help keep a grid together like OPT, ODE, ADO. On the other hand, how about that stack in the middle north of IRAS, CASHBONUS, and DEBT? Seems like the first two should help protect against the last.

Also apt (apt!) is the SW corner, where a CONARTIST practices his EVIL ways using ACES. I guess I'm thinking of three card monte, but there it's usually the queen which is trickily swapped to take people's money.

A very smooth offering, indeed, with a little surprise shoutout to a certain blogger on this site in the NE corner.

- Colum

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Sunday, September 18, 2022, Katie Hale


Funny how our tradition of putting the Sunday puzzle title in all caps seems appropriate for this theme about exasperated parents. The idea here is standard phrases parents use to deal with kids who are being difficult, and reinterpreting them as things that are aptly said by parents with different careers.

Thus, the mechanic might be inclined to say ILLTURNTHISCARAROUND, while the mathematician might lean more towards saying ITOLDYOUAHUNDREDTIMES. I bet some individuals here at HAFSTNYTCPFCFA might find themselves saying the last one, LETSPLAYTHEQUIETGAME.

It's a cute theme, even if it didn't really have me laughing out loud. Also, the puzzle went superfast for me, so I didn't have as much time as I sometimes have to appreciate while I'm solving.

I liked the two long down answers, at 16D: Sellers franchise, with "The" (PINKPANTHER) and 68D: What a bad dancer is said to have (TWOLEFTFEET). I grew up loving the Inspector Clousseau movies, although I suspect they're pretty dated at this point. The latter reminds me of the Eugene Levy character from Best in Show who actually has two left feet.

It's alarming to think of a beast with an 11-meter WINGSPAN (that's 36 feet for the metrically challenged). Fortunately we humans never met one of those guys. The biggest set of wings currently belongs to the Wandering Albatross, with 12 feet. That's DOUBLEUP my height, so intimidating enough.

Nothing much in terms of the cute or clever clues today. So I'll just go out with marveling that Scott TUROW continues to find his way into the puzzle based on a lawyer/crime novel from 1990.

- Colum

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Saturday, September 17, 2022, Grant Thackray

Today's puzzle was more my speed, by which I mean it took me about the amount of time I expect Saturday puzzles to take (39:47), although the solve (and the review) were both a bit delayed by the fact that Horace and I are away for the weekend with friends, making it difficult to give either my full attention. I did ask for help from the friends (not Horace, who had already completed the puzzle) on a couple of the "fact" clues ("Emmy winner Patricia of 'Thirtysomething'", "Disney's '____ Dragon'," and "The most well-known one is named for a Greek hero"), but none of them knew any of the above, so I had to DUETS on my own. 

I was able to solve the top pretty quickly, and things went along pretty successfully in a clockwise manner until I hit the bottom AND the guests started waking up. Coincidence? I prefer to think it was more cause and effect. 

I got right INUIT with the first clue "Sign of spring," although I did have 'taurus' until I checked the Downs. After I realized that "Jacobean ___" at 3D would likely be ERA, I took the bull by the horns and switched to THERAM. But I think what really  made the top section go quickly was "Hourglass contents, poetically" (THESANDSOFTIME). I credit my deep memory of the old soap "The Days of Our Lives" for this answer. 


I'm not sure where to come down on the QMC/non-QMC controversy today. "Question in a lot of cars?" was fun (WHEREDIDIPARK), as was "What can't be done alone, famously" (THETANGO). "Buckwheat and others" was a clever hidden capital that had me thinking of types of flour rather than "Our Gang." I also enjoyed "One for the money" (DOLLARSIGN), "Relationship strains?" (DUETS) - which was a toughie! - "Pot grower" (ANTE), "Went head over heels?" (STOOD) - ha! - and "Go out too late, perhaps" (MISSACUE). After reviewing that list, I guess the numbers give the advantage to the non-QMC category.

The two clues I had the most trouble with were "Things once kept in towers" (CDS) - I went too far back in time to damsels - and "Thereabout" for YONDER, both of which cross the aforementioned TENDON named for a Greek hero that I also had trouble with. I also erred in the southeast by putting in NOtnow for "Opposite of 'Stat'!" (instead of NORUSH), which didn't help matters, but getting GOFER took care of that problem. 

To sum up, I GIFS this puzzle a good review. :) 


Friday, September 16, 2022

Friday September 16, 2022, Juliana Tringali Golden

The clues in today's puzzle ranged from those that took me ONESECOND to others that YOUNEVERKNOW - in this case YOU meaning me. C/APs in the AUNATUREL category for this solver included the fill-in-the-blank "Jai ___" (ALAI), "French egg" (OEUF), and, thanks to my recent Harry Potter re-read, NEVILLE Longbottom, to name just a few. Cases where I drew a blank include "Goal-oriented final match, in brief?" (MLSCUP) and "Anna of 'Mom'" (FARIS). I wouldn't have known ATARI ("Immediate threat to capture, in a game of Go") if it hadn't appeared somewhat recently in another puzzle (March 31, 2022).

Tricky, but where I did HASANIDEA were "Film site" (IMDB), "Classic pop" for CREAMSODA, and "Exemplar of stick-to-itiveness" for SUPERGLUE - the application of the term stick-to-itiveness to a product didn't hold together for me. One that I had trouble with, but that I'm guessing Horace enjoyed was "'Platoon,' but not 'Dunkirk'" (IAMB), as he has LASERED in on all things poetry of late.


I entered ASADa for "Roasted: Sp." because we see it in the feminine form all the time, but that A added to my difficulties in figuring out PROSE for the somewhat trixy "Essay writing, e.g.," where I expected a verb not a noun. 

I was amused by the C/AP "'Hey, hold your horses!'" for EASYTIGER, but my favorite clue today was "Mentions, casually" for SEZ. Heh. I also enjoyed DRINKITIN and ALACK. Interesting to learn that JAPAN makes almost half of the world's zippers. Who knew?

Although I didn't set any RECORDS today, my 16:36 finish is fast for me, perhaps due to the puzzle's higher ratio of gimmies to gotchas than is usual for a Friday.


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Thursday, September 15, 2022, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Today's theme answers require some thinking outside the box. The theme answers extend above or below the grid. When they are at the top, the answer is paired with the word 'raise' (and occasionally, the indefinite article) so the answer makes sense. For example, the clue for 3D is "Make one's opposition known, literally." For the purposes of fitting the answer into the grid, one enters BJECTIONS, but for the purposes of making the answer fit the clue one adds the word 'raise' and the letter  'o' to get 'raise [O]BJECTIONS.' 

At the bottom of the grid, the same trick/step occurs, but now the word 'lower' is used in conjunction with the theme answers and the last letter from each falls below/outside the established grid. For example, at 52D, we have 'lower the' VOLUM[E].

I have to say that along with the theme answers, my expectations of being able to complete this grid raised and lowered as I progressed. Some sections went smoothly, while others, like the top middle ARIA, gave me a lot of trouble, at least until I figured out the trick - that section includes two theme answers. I'd never heard of ENOS Slaughter, so I had a lot of trouble even figuring out what the clue, "Slaughter in Cooperstown" might mean. I kept thinking it must be baseball slang for a rout. It didn't help that I've never heard of TERRI Clark. Here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA, we prefer Kelly Clark. :) 


In addition to contending with the theme, there was some trixy cluing that led this solver astray. At 16A: "Declaration after getting a hand" (IMIN), I got stuck on the 'applause' meaning of hand instead of the card kind. For "Pops, in a way" (UNCORKS), I was thinking of dads rather than bubbly, and I really didn't know what to think when I got to 31A. "Something a game may have, for short." It took me a while to come up with MVP, and if I hadn't known MAEVE Binchy, I might never have closed the circle. Fun fill included both OHSNAP and SOLASTYEAR.

That's the GOODNEWS. The less good news were the slightly lame EMAILER for "Computer correspondent" and "Word repeated in '__ or no __?'" (ICE) - is that a saying? I also thought the partial: "Ending with arbor" (EAL) was a NEGATIVE, but those TRE are a small price to pay for a what I TINK is a clever puzzle.


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Wednesday, September 14, 2022, Michael Dewey

Today we follow the paths of circled letters through the grid to reveal contented content, resulting in what one might call HAPPYTRAILS. Ha! The pleasing passages include ELATED, GLAD, JOYFUL, JOLLY, MERRY, and CHEERY. The latter helped me out of a jam. I thought for sure "Cambodian cash" was RIaL, but with the A in place, I couldn't make heads or tails of HaEDS for "Abides by" at 59A, which, I realize, after the fact seems kinda obvi, but at the time I didn't have ANYIDEAS. Derp. Anyhoo, three of the letters in 59A were circled, so by figuring out the theme, I was delighted to be able to enter the correct HEEDS. A possible bonus theme feature takes happiness to the next level with HILARITY.

20A: DALEEVANS (1947)

As it happens, despite the promise of the theme, this solver suffered a few sad trials. On the low end of the scale, I found the several run-of-the-mill "quote" answers lacked ECLAT including "'Nah, none for me'" (PASS), "Words of resignation" (ILOSE), "Volunteer's offer" (ILLGO), and "'You called me?'" (YES),  in addition to a couple of pedestrian fill-in-the-blank answers that had a STALED air: "___ irregular basis" (ONAN) and "Elvis ___ left the building" (HAS) - although at least the latter mentioned Elvis. :). I also thought "Compulsions" was a little strong in the tooth for the resulting YENS. But, the saddest trial of all occurred in the northeast where I had first entered 'Agog' instead of the correct AMOK ("Wildly") and almost FWOED. I was lucky to notice that I had 'OgIE' at 4D before it was too late.

OTOH, some of the HIGHS for this solver were "Food cupboard" (LARDER), "Lose fizz" (GOFLAT), and, of course, "Suburb of Boston" (LYNN) for its local flavor. I also enjoyed HEAVE, KNOSSOS, and JESTERS, not to mention BUSLOAD and CAPFULS - both fun quantities.


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Tuesday, September 13, 2022, Adam Wagner

Like yesterday, today's theme struck me as somewhat surprising. The revealer, HERESTHEKICKER, introduces four theme answers famous for their footwork. We have a FOOTBALLPLAYER, ROCKETTE, UNBORNBABY, and a KANGAROO to boot. My TOPICS is Rockette because synchronized human movement always amazes me. 

I was looking at 26A: "Unsolemnly swear" and didn't immediately guess the answer, so I flipped to the Down clue and saw "Murmur lovingly" - the contrast between the two connected answers (CUSS and COO) made me LOL. Answers that I eventually REDREW include "Put in the overhead bin, say" where I first tried 'cram' - we've all bin there, am I right? The answer was STOW, I'm told.  I also decided it was safe to use DEFORM 'czar' instead of TSAR because Caesar was mentioned in the clue. OUST. :(

Some clues that gave me a kick:
"Shop for a loxsmith?" (DELI)
"Mined-over matter" (ORE)
"Top of the Highlands?" (TAM)


OBSTRUCTS and UPINARMS are fine fill. Also, I have a real fondness for the word SKIT. I find one doesn't encounter JAPES as often in the wild as one does in puzzles. 

Apparently, I'm not quite a big enough Star Wars nerd to know ATAT, which stands for All Terrain Armored Transport. I also didn't know machines in movies were called AIS. My punt being that I'm always learning new things from doing the crossword puzzle - I consider it TINE well spent.


Monday, September 12, 2022

Monday, September 12, 2022, Michael Lieberman

HELLOS again, dear Readers, Frannie here, ready to discourse uponda puzzle. The answer, SHONDARHIMES, when said aloud, reveals the theme beyonda doubt. Each is a two-word phrase, the first of which rhymes with Shonda. We have FONDATHEATRE, WANDAVISION, and HONDAACCORD (nice double A and double C in that one). I find it interesting that someone would come up with this idea for a theme, and, while the resulting answers left me a little cold, it turns out there's not a tonda words that  that rhyme with Shonda.

I didn't break the 5-minute barrier (5:18) as ABET many did on this puzzle, but truth be told, I didn't really try - one problem being that I spent part of the first couple minutes chatting with Horace as I solved. I'll have to give it a little more ELMO grease next week. I found the cluing so apt today that there wasn't much to ponda, resulting in a "read a clue enter an answer" experience for this solver, and, unfortunately, leaving me without a single misstep to report today. :(

That doesn't mean that there weren't some answers I didn't NOAH, including Gospel singer CECE Winans and "Sugarhill Gang song with the repeated line 'Jump on it!'" (APACHE), but those answers filled themselves in with crosses so I didn't have to search the great blue yonda.


There were also some fun clues such as "Went down, as hearts or ships" (SANK), "Made sounds while sound asleep" (SNORED), and "'Dear old' family member" (DAD), which struck me as amusing. I enjoyed RYES, THREADS for clothes, and of course, everyone's favorite, DATA. :)

The puzzle also featured abonda answer pairings including TRANSITIONS and ASIDE, CINCODEMAYO and BODEGA and SAND and SEASHELL, one a purposeful souvenir of a trip to the beach, and the other accidental. 

Take a minute to responda, dear Readers, and let me know what you think. 


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sunday, September 11, 2022, Derrick Niederman


This is one of those themes that I find interesting, but not fun. Mr. Niederman has collected a series of opposites, like no/yes, poor/rich, them/us, and found words that can house them. I know that computer programs exist to find words that will contain certain strings, and I don't know if he used any such programs, but it kind of feels like he did when I end up having to fill in things like HEARTOFROMAINE (Caesar salad ingredient) (When I Googled "Caesar salad recipe" in Google just now, none of the first five links used the term "heart of romaine"), ALFREDNOYES (English poet who wrote "The Highwayman") (made famous to me by Phil Ochs), and ENDODONTICS (Branch of dentistry that specializes in root canals). It's fun on a "look what happens in our language sometimes" kind of level, but it didn't add anything to my solving experience.

OILY dipstick

On the plus side, "Digs in the ice?" was a cute way to clue IGLOO, "It's over here" (END) was new, and "Norman or English king?" (LEAR) was clever. I thought the puzzle was notable, too, for its inclusion of so many Crossword darlings of yesteryear - Jack PAAR, GEENA Davis, Teri GARR, and good ol' ERMA Bombeck.

Frannie's back tomorrow, so it should be a fun week. Enjoy!

- Horace

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Saturday, September 10, 2022, Kameron Austin Collins

Another unusual grid today. It's a normal 15x15, but those arcing black squares on either side, and the little step-squares at the top and bottom... odd, but a nice change of pace. It makes room for nine 11-letter Down entries! My favorite is probably CURTAINTIME (When one might start to make a scene), but "Yellow slippers?" (BANANAPEELS) is also good. As is MINTCOINSET (Case made for significant change?). Hah! The clues were really good today. How 'bout "Recommended labor practice" for LAMAZECLASS? or "Hostess offering" (SNOBALL). Heh. And "Now or never" (ADVERB). Tricksy!


It was old-school stuff that allowed me to break into this one today. I dropped in SUITOR (One of many for Penelope in the "Odyssey"), which gave me ROLEX and XGAMES (Sports event that notably declines to drug-test its participants) (interesting), and then AEGIS (Shield for Zeus) gave me SPEEDSKATES (Sporting blades), which opened up the East.

But there were also many things that I did not "drop in," including LHOTSE. I feel I should have known the name of the world's fourth-highest peak, but, well, I didn't. Another thing I drew a BLANK on was the IDEALGASLAW (PV = nRT). I guess it's nice to know that there are ideal gasses. :)

Overall, it was a toughie. Just like we like on a Saturday. So satisfying.

- Horace


Friday, September 9, 2022

Friday, September 9, 2022, Brandon Koppy

It makes me happy that I did not recognize Tetris-like shapes in this grid when I first looked at it. All I did was say "What the?!" before clicking into it to start solving. 

I say I was happy because there was a time (when did Tetris come out? The late '80s?) when I played a lot of Tetris. A. Lot. I've got a bit of an addictive streak, and certain video games triggered it, but it's been years. Now, I guess, it's crosswords. And that damned Wordle. Oh how I hate Wordle... but that's a topic for a different blog.


So anyway... is this a "stunt puzzle?" I'd say so. I'm slightly bothered by it not being the same shape as Tetris (it's too wide), and although many of the pieces are represented, there are two versions of the zig-zag and the L piece, but only one of each is shown. Too nit-picky? You tell me.

My mom got into AMWAY for a while in the late '70s, I think. It didn't last too long, but I bet we still have a couple bottles of L.O.C. somewhere. 

This played on the easy side, despite long, interesting entries like PERTURBS (Troubles), EXNIHILO (Out of nothing, in creation myths) (well, they kind of gave that one away), AMNESIA (Ironic-sounding plot device in "Total Recall"), and EPILEPSY (The "sacred disease," to ancient Greeks). I kind of wish the verb had been included in SEESPOT (Iconic phrase in old "Dick and Jane" stories) (run!).

I liked "Upright" for HONEST, and "French, perhaps, in England" was cute for SNOG. I mean, it was fine, put for some reason I didn't love it. You?

- Horace

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Thursday, September 8, 2022, Matthew Stock

I found this a pleasing Thursday rebus. Not just because I love a rebus puzzle, but because the theme of FOURCORNERS was - sort of - reflected in the grid in that the four corners are conspicuously open. Thick triple stacks wrap around them, and the rebi are all located within that open area. Anyway, it pleased me.

TULIPs in Holland, Michigan

Anyway, in case you came here for spoilers (which probably no one ever has), the postal abbreviations for Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico are positioned in the four corners, just as they are in real life. I've never been to that famous spot, but it's on my list. 

I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I signed up for a POESY class this fall. It's both reading and writing poems! By the time my turn to review comes around again, I might be doing the reviews in iambic pentameter! :)

I enjoyed SUPPER (Evening fare), because I think of it as a New England-y word. So are POTROASTS, maybe. TA[CO]BOWLS - not so much. 

SHROUD (Envelop) and PIQUE (Arouse, as intrigue) are nice ten-cent words. And if you're like me, ONRE[CO]RD probably makes you think of the Violent Femmes song "Kiss Off." ("Don't you know that this will go down on your permanent record?") No? 

Anywho... I'm in a bit of a rush this morning so I've gotta run. I had fun with this one.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Wednesday, September 7, 2022, Ekua Ewool

A meta-puzzle about solving the NYTX. Hah! Brilliant. And worth it just for 50-Across alone - "Newbie crossword solver's thought on a Thursday" (WHATINHELL). Love it. Of course, I'm a stuffy old purist and I'd rather leave a puzzle unfinished - or guess wildly - than get a hint or Google anything, but that's just me, and I don't criticize anyone for puzzling however they want. My job is to criticize the constructors! :)

KEKE Palmer in "Nope"

But today my criticism (which, by the way, is always the "analysis and judgment of merits and faults" rather than the "expression of disapproval" kind of criticism) is all positive. It's got humor - "What did the ____ say when it was riding on the back of a turtle? Wheeeee!" (SNAIL) - interesting money facts - "Lempira spender" (HONDURAN) - trivia - "Department store chain that began as a corner grocery" (KOHLS) - misdirection "Holder of tent sales" (REI) - and did I say humor? - "Place people walk into for jokes?" (BAR). Heh. And hey, it's also got GIN! What's not to like? (Is there a mini-theme with those last two and WINES?)

I haven't thought of the slogan DOTHEDEW in ages. And are you like me in waiting to see whether "Part of Caesar's boast" will be in English or Latin? I mean, if it's four letters and Latin, it could be any of the three, but as soon as you get the I, you know it's English and it can only be one thing. So that was nice.

I really enjoyed this one. Congratulations on the debut, Ms. Ewool, I'll be on the lookout for your next one. :)

- Horace

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

September 6, 2022, Trenton Charlson

Is it weird that a theme should be based on lower-case letters when crosswords are generally filled in with upper-case letters? Well, I should maybe say that I've always filled them in with upper-case letters. And when I solve online, upper-case letters are put in for me. I know that some of the top solvers believe using lower-case Es, for instance, makes for faster writing, but I don't think that's the norm. And I doubt very much if the fastest solvers, even were they to use some lower-case letters, would take the time to dot Is and Js... 

This one really did! Via Appia.

But, after such a preamble of questionable worth, I will re-start this review by announcing that I had no problem understanding the theme, and figuring it out mid-way through allowed me to fill in BEIJING and FIJIDOLLAR with fewer crosses than I otherwise might have needed. :) Also, I very much enjoy the central DOTDOTDOT entry. It's repetition, smack dab in the middle, is pleasing to me.

I'm not super KEEN on DISCI, but needs must, I know, and I have come to rather enjoy crosswordese like AERIE and RIA, so perhaps in time I'll discover a fondness for DISCI. 

Nice C/AP pair of "Big gala" (FETE) and "Galas, e.g." (APPLES), and speaking of misdirection, I wanted to entere "sewn on" at 11D (Attached, as a patch) (SEWEDON)), but was thrown off by the alternate past tense. :)

"Not doing things the rite way?" (ELOPING) was cute, and who doesn't enjoy the word GIZMO?

In all, a fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, September 5, 2022

Monday, September 5, 2022, Adam Simpson

Hey, happy LABOR (1A!) Day! And in keeping with our Auntie Mame theme this week, I'll just say that "the problem of LABOR in India is gargantuan."

And now that's we've gotten that obligation out of the way, we can get down to the DOUBLECROSSing of the theme answers. Each half, as you have seen, can follow "cross." Crosswind, Cross-section, crossbar, etc. It's a venerable old theme, and seems just right for a rainy Monday. At least it's raining here by the seashore.

The ASWAN dam, seen from space

LEWD (Apt rhyme for "rude" and "crude") aptly RESIDEd in the same quadrant as BUNS. ODDSARE that fact did not ELUDE Frannie. She might also have associated BUNS with WINDSECTION, but that's not my kind of humor, so I won't go there. 

ACEOFCLUBS (Certain card that can be either high or low in a deck) was a tad random, while SCREE (Patch of loose rock that aptly rhymes with "debris"), on the other hand, was super specific. HUBCAP (Wheel cover that may be chrome-plated) was unusual, DITZ (Scatterbrained sort) was fun, DISSIPATE (Vanish into thin air) was fancy ("disappear" also fits!), and CRETE (Largest Greek island) was true for now, but with global warming, I suppose it's possible that the Isthmus of Corinth might be submerged, and then we'd all be trying to stuff "Peloponnese" into that spot. 

A lovely debut (Congrats!), and a fine Monday. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Sunday, September 4, 2022


Well, well, well, now. Colum just mentioned Auntie Mame yesterday, and today's puzzle references Upson Downs. Coincidence? Hardly! Because it's a honey of a puzzle. Six ways of going up or down - ramp, hill, steps, slide, chute, and good ol' stairs - allow six long answers to circulate, darling, Circulate! 

I used to pour this stuff on pancakes.

It's really quite beautiful. Not only do six words slide up or down and finish in another answer, but those second answers all have their own clues, and work on their own! If you've read this blog for a while, you may have heard me complain about "dash" clues that are often used in situations like this, where one answer extends somehow into another. Well, this time they don't need the dashes! Now that I got what I want in that category, I wonder how it would have been to solve if the second answer didn't light up (when solving online) when you were on the first one, and if the connectors were not highlighted with circles. Then maybe we'd be edging toward "puzzle five" category. But it's Sunday, so it's friendly.

So the theme is lovely, but so is the fill! Sure, we've got a few names that could be considered NASTIES (LARY (N.F.L. Hall-of-Famer Yale ____), CRAMER ("Mad Money" host Jim), and ALFRE (Woodard of "Clemency")), but CREEP past those and GREET "Ball game that all players might lose" (ROULETTE), "They may be hidden behind paintings" (WALLSAFES), and "It's a banger in Germany" (BRATWURST). 

I think it tastes like soap in my food, but I like seeing CILANTRO in the puzzle. ROPEWORK is evocative, PUNKBANDS are colorful, and the triple-e BEEEATER was fun.

It was lovely, I say. 

- Horace

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Saturday, September 3, 2022, David Distenfeld

These pinwheel shaped (not SSHAPED) grids are a lot of fun. I like the flow through them, and the big set of crossing long answers in staggered stacks are a lot of fun to crack.

I did not break in in the NW corner. ADO was not enough to give me real purchase). Instead, I found an opening with OPIE, ESP, and RAPSTAR. 16A: Digital filing service? (MANIPEDI) is such a great clue. 20A: Snaps (PIX) is another example of those ambiguous English words that offers so many directions for an answer. The S-less plural is great as well.

We should all think fondly of Auntie Mame and her "Black coffee and a SIDECAR." ("How can you see with all that light?") 

My first long answer was 14D: Ordinary members (RANKANDFILE). I love when you can get one of those off of a single crossing answer. My mother is particularly good at that sort of thing. The next one I got was 34A: U.S. group with six branches (ARMEDFORCES). Used to be only five. Then somebody made the Space Force. At least the symbol's pretty good.

The other answers were fun as well. I love 32A: Like mussels or some letters (STEAMEDOPEN). Clues that give odd juxtapositions like this are a different slant on the English ambiguity clues. DIRTYMINDED crosses SEXILED, which just seems right.

19D: It can start with a screen test (ZOOMMEETING) and 16D: Couple years? (MARRIEDLIFE) are also good. A very strong center.

Probably my favorite C/AP came at 52A: Possible response to "Where's the beef?" (IATEIT). Yes. Yes, you did.

Tomorrow I hand the reins back over to Horace. I had fun this week! See you all soon.

- Colum

Friday, September 2, 2022

Friday, September 2, 2022, Claire Rimkus

Ms. Rimkus has served up an absolute delight of a Friday themeless! My only complaint is that it was over too fast. I felt very in sync with her thought process, and answers just seemed to spool out one from another.

It didn't start out that way, though. I had 1D: Danish shoe brand (ECCO) no problem, but made trouble for myself by putting in lOst at 3D: Not sure which way to go (TORN). I like my answer, but the actual one is a better fit. I also wanted 7D to start with "blooper," but nothing seemed to work, so I fortunately took it out.

I really got going in the middle of the puzzle. 23D: Bob Odenkirk's role on "Breaking Bad" (SAUL) was a gimme, even though I've never watched that series or its sequel. I love "Do The Right Thing," and have seen it several times, so OSSIE was also a gimme. That led to 38A: When a procrastinator gets to work (ATTHELASTMINUTE), and we were off and running.


I thank my Sporcle addiction for getting GABON (my nephew knows all of the world's capitals by heart. I'm satisfied with just the countries). The first of a lovely crew of colloquialisms came into view here, with NOTBYAMILE. The others include WHENINROME and REALMATURE.

In the clues section, I wanted to highlight 47A: Wound (SNAKED). I love the English language for its AMBIguity. There were so many ways this could have gone, the sort of thing that makes crosswords so enjoyable.

Other good clues include:

14A: They may get all tied up (CLOSEGAMES) - I had no idea until the G came into focus.

1A: Subject of some family planning (ESTATELAW). Not contraception.

16A: 2003 Search-and-rescue target (NEMO) - as in "Finding Nemo"...

I also liked DAWN and ACTI being connected by "duelling" clues. Hah!

Fun Friday.

- Colum

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Thursday, September 1, 2022, John Wrenholt

It's an odd one for a Thursday today. Mr. Wrenholt asks us to DOTHEMATH. But he gives us the answer up front! At 17A: This puzzle's solution (NINETYONE). Then there are four answers with italicized clues that make up a sort of EQUATION.

TWOTIMES / FIFTEEN / TRIPLED / PLUSONE... that's... um, hang on. [Takes out calculator] - uh, 15 x 2 x 3 +1... yup, 91.

The cluing is very clever though. 21A: Cheats on (TWOTIMES) starts us off. And then 23A: What comes after love (FIFTEEN) - not "marriage," which wouldn't fit anyway. Nope, here we're referring to tennis scores. Oof! 40A: Didn't quite make it home, say (TRIPLES) - oh, boy, now we're in baseball. And finally, 54A: Date for a party (PLUSONE). Nicely done.

So that was challenging, but I'd say the cluing in general was on the harder side. Look at 33A: Juicers use them (ROIDS). Good one! 37A: Device that turns plastic into paper? (ATM) - that's fun. 42A: The 2 in 1/2, say (DAY). Not denominator, for those of you mathematically inclined. 

I also liked 1D: Filled with ink ... or oink (PEN). Hah! 

With WINEFRIDGE, NADACOLADA, and MUSTREADS, this puzzle was filled with goodness. 

And of course, old friend ERIC / IDLE. Symmetrically placed, with a reference to The Rutles, no less!

Not your typical Thursday, but an interesting beginning to the Turn.

- Colum