Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Wednesday, November 30, 2022, Addison Snell

A workaday Wednesday theme of four things represented by the letter K:

STRIKEOUT (K, in baseball)
THOUSAND (K, in a salary listing)
BLACKINK (K, on a printer cartridge)
POTASSIUM (K, on the periodic table)
Feeble grind on a RAIL

So let's just quickly talk about these in order, since they're all pretty interesting. 

The K for strikeout comes from the very earliest days of baseball, when a guy named Henry Chadwick set out to document the game in print back in the 1850s! He had already used "S" for "Sacrifice," so he used the last letter of the word struck ("struck" was commonly used back then to indicate that a player had been put down on three strikes) instead. And I'm not sure if it was him or if it was decided later that a backwards K would indicate that the batter did not swing on the third strike.

The K for THOUSAND comes straight from Greek, where "kilo" means thousand. Do not confuse with Latin's Roman numeral M, which also means thousand (from "milia"), and which led to mille in French and Italian, mil in Spanish, and even "mile" in English. (from mille passus, "a thousand steps." Their steps were obviously longer than ours, if we imagine that a step could be about a yard, since we have 1760 in a mile.)

Sometimes people claim that the K in CYMK came about in a way similar to the K in baseball - that "B" was already taken by blue, but most printers will argue that the K stands instead for "key color." The key color being that holding the finest detail in a multi-plate printing, and that used to register all other plates. So the K could, theoretically, be any color at all, but for all practical, modern purposes, it means black.

Finally, Latin (well, neo-Latin) gets its comeuppance, as the K used for POTASSIUM comes from "kalium." 

So there you have it. A relatively modest amount of theme today allows for lots of zazzle. To wit, SWIZZLE (Kind of stick) and BUZZSAW (Noisy circular cutters). DIRTCHEAP (Costing almost nothing) (crossing THOUSAND!) is fun, and any reference to Hamlet is A-OK in my book. (ELSINORE (Castle in "Hamlet"))

A very satisfactory Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tuesday, November 29, 2022, David Rockow

Dare I say it? ... This puzzle was for the BIRDS! (sorry)

All flighty punning aside, I'm down with it. A FLOCK of BIRDS hangs off the central FEATHER: FALCON, WREN, RHEA, KESTREL, HAWK, NENE, and CONDOR. I'm not sure I've seen a nested theme like this before, but it flies for me.

And it's not just the clustered center. The theme is in the NW and SE wingtips, and in the clues for PEACECORPS (International service organization with a dove in its logo) and URBANAREAS (Traditional habitats for pigeons), and in SEED (Finch feed filler), BROTH (Chicken stock, e.g.), and "Turkey" (IDIOT). That's a lotta theme!

The grid-spanning entries are both strong - COOLASACUCUMBER (Unruffled) (more theme??) and HORSEWITHNONAME (Desert wanderer's mount in a 1972 hit by America). Well, I say strong... is that song still well-known? It came out back when we were all singing LOLA and "Flicking our BIC."

And speaking of - how 'bout ol' KNOSSOS? (City in ancient Crete with a renowned labyrinth.) There's a blast from the Bronze Age.

Once again, the highlighting function seems a bit off today, as when 1D is selected, both 51D and 4A (MADRE) light up. And when 4A is selected, 1D, 44A, and 45D all light up. Odd.

Favorite clues include "Forest ranger?" (ELK), and "Promising words" (IDO). Always nice when the threes are colorful.

A good Tuesday, I RECKON.

- Horace

Monday, November 28, 2022

Monday, November 28, 2022, Chloe Revery

So it turns out AMFAR (Org. for H.I.V. prevention and study) has been around since 1985, but I've never heard of it. And off of that comes the odd ATCAMP (Spending time away from parents for the summer, say) and the partial MAHI (When doubled, a brightly colored fish). A bit of a THUD for me. See also SIGEP (Skull-and-crossbones fraternity, for short). 

Lorena OCHOA

On the brighter side, we've got MOONROVER (Wheeled vehicle designed to function in low gravity), DECADE (Twenties or fifties, but not fives) with its nice clue, and the all-too-uncommon TRUCE (Agreement to end a feud). 

Lots of French entries today. The pair of "French farewell" answers - ADIEU and AUREVOIR, and then PARFUM and INGENUES

And then there's the clever theme of HOPPINGMAD, where circled letters span a black square to form the words "livid," "fuming," "angry," and "irate." It's a strong theme, and I guess we need to allow for certain exigencies in the grid. 

- Horace

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday, November 27, 2022, Adam Wagner


Hello again, Dear Reader, it's me, Horace. Guess where I'm just back from? :) That's right, Paris. But you can stop envying me, because I'm back in BOS, and I also came back with the big C. No, not chlamydia ... come on, I'm a decent sort of guy! I mean Covid, of course. Luckily, for me, I've gotten all the shots and it's more of an annoyance than the life-threatening, indeed life-taking, disease that it otherwise could be. The biggest downer is that I was not able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, but, well, that's the way the feather falls.


Now, let's talk about this interesting Sunday puzzle. The title and the circles give it away, but even with the overt angle angle, it played kind of like a themeless, especially because the four thematic answers read as regular entries with or without the circled offshoots. Of course, the clues only work one way, but sometimes words get filled in before you really read the clues, and if that happened today, you might not second guess OPENHEART, when really, the clue "Public court proceeding" was intended for OPENHEAR[ING]. The other three are:

"What you're on when you're making progress" RIGHTTR[ACK] (RIGHTTRIANGLE)
"Major concern for a meteorologist" SUPERST[ORM] (SUPERSTAR)
"Certain juicing need" LEMONSQU[EEZER] (LEMONSQUARE)

 It's a solid set, and a nice little theme. Not mind-blowing, but fine.

If I were still in France, I'd call out CESTSIBON (Compliment to a French chef) as being oddly clued. Why not go with the song popularized by Eartha Kitt, Dean Martin and others? Too old fashioned? And for the record, I think I'd sooner say "Délicieux!" And I might sooner say "spotless" than STAINLESS (Free of flaws, as a reputation). 

But I was fooled into thinking through the cast when faced with "Hamlet's cousin" (TOWN), and I chuckled inside (where it counts) at "Duel personalities?" (FOES).  

BONGHIT and DANK memes are further evidence of the NYTX's sensibilities shift. Is it a good thing? Or will they find they have YUCKED the yum of some regular solvers? 

- Horace

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday, November 26, 2022, Kanyin Ajayi

Debut alert, on a Saturday! Welcome, Ms. Ajayi, to the NYT. And it's a fun semi-themed Saturday as well.

The two grid-spanning entries are well-known novels written in response to classics. The first, WIDESARGASSOSEA, imagines Mr. Rochester's "mad" wife as a Jamaican woman of mixed descent. Having read a New Yorker article about Jean Rhys, I know that she herself found herself caught between two words, having been raised on Dominica in the Caribbean, and then went to boarding school in England. Not a comfortable experience, to say the least.

The other novel is Chinua Achebe's acclaimed THINGSFALLAPART, which I didn't was a response to Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness, probably because I've never read it. But it does not appear to be specifically drawn from the same characters like the other novel in this puzzle.

I'm not sure if 28A: Inconsistent (HITORMISS) and 42A: Unfailingly loyal (RIDEORDIE) are meant to be part of the theme, or are just symmetrically placed phrases using the word "or." Regardless, it's a nice symmetry.

Interestingly, the two answers I have the most problem with are also symmetrically placed, and I only have problems with them because they are words that are not used in any common way. The first is 4D: Classical orator (RHETOR), which was certainly gettable from context and knowledge of the term "rhetorical." The second is 45D: Key piece of an overlock sewing machine (LOOPER).

The clue for 32A: "Ti ____" (bit of Romance language romance language) (AMO) is hilariously overexplained. I also enjoyed 36A: Open many tabs, maybe (BARTEND) - works in two ways!

With UNDERWORLD, ILLUMINATI, and TWOSOMES, it's a fun grid. 

Finished in a very rapid 5:24.

Tomorrow, Horace takes back over again, I believe. Welcome back to the States!

- Colum

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday, November 25, 2022, Simon Marotte

Happy day after Thanksgiving. I hope you are enjoying leftovers and a day of relaxation. We got to drive back to Albany from NYC, with attendant traffic. Not the most relaxing, but we're home now! The dogs handled the trip just fine (with some medication to assist).

What a fun puzzle today! So many tricky clues. But with my weekend solving hat on, I was able to see through many of them.

We start with 1A: Book of legends (ATLAS). Tough one! Not Guinness, or the Edda, or some other sort of thing. I have never taken PIZZAROLLS, so that one took longer, as did 14A: Funny bones? (LOADEDDICE), but what a wonderful QMC. 

We should all be aware of what's going on in IRAN right now. One of my graduated residents is Persian, and his Insta feed is just crammed with reels and pictures from his family's home region. Hard to know if the country's win in the play-in round of the World Cup is good or bad for the situation, but I hope it raises awareness.

Definitely looks more like a squirrel

I love the two long down answers IDONTWANNA and IGOTNOTHIN. Such great colloquialisms.

26D: London has a "Royal" one (OPERAHOUSE) is pretty open to a number of possibilities. The Ballet, The Academy, the Albert Hall, all are prefixed with "Royal." 27D: Performer whose face is rarely seen (BODYDOUBLE) is a great non-QMC. 28A: Port authorities? (WINESNOBS) - well, I guess I'm hardly an authority on port, but I do like it, and I'm definitely no snob. And finally, 30D: Late assignment (NIGHTSHIFT) is another great non-QMC. 

With MARISA Tomei, IANFLEMING, and SUSIEQ, it's a fun grid. 

Looking forward to tomorrow's end to The Turn!

- Colum

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thursday, November 24, 2022, Pao Roy

Happy Thanksgiving! I personally am thankful for family, friends, health, and the New York Times crossword puzzle. I've been blogging on this site for [looks back in blog] nearly seven years. It's been a fun ride, solving the puzzle daily and intermittently reviewing the outcome.

Today's is a first in my memory. The long across answers each have a rebus for the word "dot." Thus, 20A: Iconic Voyager 1 photograph taken 3.7 billion miles from Earth (PALEBLUE[DOT]). This was immediately clear to me, with the first four letters already figured out from crosses. But I wasn't sure what was going on with the rebus, which equally clearly did not fit with 7D: Olivia Rodrigo or Billie Eilish (POPIDOL). 

Even figuring out 10A: And so on ([DOT][DOT][DOT]) didn't really help, although I found it interesting that our constructor had found three words beginning with I in that corner that allowed 15A: The third (III) to work out.

It wasn't until I got to 56A right at the end of the solve that all became clear (DOTTHEIS). It's really impressive! Every single I in the puzzle has a dot rebus above it, and there are no other Is in the puzzle at all. Finally I can see why the rebuses don't contribute to the down answers: you have to imagine that they are the dots on the I in the word. Beautifully done.

The original by WEIRDAL

! The New York Times crossword puzzle allowed 13A: Aroused, informally (HORNY)! What is the world coming to? The Old Gray Lady is starting to have a modern sensibility. Funny then, that 5D: &#$!@, e.g. (SYMBOLS) is not "swears," or "cusswords," or some similar thing.

64A: Not get reception? (ELOPE) is laugh out loud funny. What an excellent way to exit the solve.

- Colum

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wednesday, November 23, 2022, Erica Hsiung Wojcik and Matthew Stock

You know what you get on Wednesdays? Odd ducks (and one day before Turkey day at that). Today is certainly no exception.

First off, the grid is 14 x 16, which is unusual. I tried to count the number of such puzzles on, but my eyes started to cross scanning through their list of non-square grids. I kind of feel like the pattern of black squares looks like a Transformers face. Back me up here.

Second, it's an odd theme, but beautifully done. It starts with the intertwining red and yellow circles of the MASTERCARDLOGO, then adds a circle of another color with each progressive answer as we move down the grid. Thus, the next has the red, yellow, and green circles of a TRAFFICLIGHT, the third adds the blue circle in a TWISTERMAT (from the game), and the last adds the black circle (ring) of the OLYMPICRINGS.

The five olympic rings were meant to represent the inhabited continents at the time the flag was created (1913), with South and North America lumped together. Interestingly, it is not clear if the originator, Pierre de Coubertin, meant each ring to represent a specific continent or not. He only commented that the colors, along with the white of the flag, would encompass the colors of all the countries' flags. Later, somebody suggested the most stereotypical connections between colors and continents, but this has been rejected.

But enough of my history lesson. 


I would rather that 41D: "Patton" or "Platoon" (WARDRAMA) be answered as "war movie." After all, is there a war movie that is not a drama? I Googled "war comedy" to see what I came up with. Tropic Thunder? Possibly. Inglorious Basterds? Funny, but more of a fantasy revenge movie than a war movie. I suppose that M*A*S*H sorta kinda fits. Other thoughts?

DEATHGRIP is a good answer, as are VASSAR and PASSPORT. And I chuckled at 32A: Say what you want? (ORDER). WHYYES. Yes, indeed.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Tuesday, November 22, 2022, Wendy L. Brandes

Today's puzzle is very impressive from a construction point of view, but I liked the fill as well, so it's a win-win!

There are five theme answers and a grid-spanning revealer at 7D, crossing every single one of those theme answers. 7D: Part of a blackjack dealer's ritual ... or what this answer is doing vis-à-vis the answers to the starred clues (CUTTINGTHECARDS). And indeed, 7D crosses over words that can be combined with "card" to make a common phrase. Thus, "picture card," "gift card," "note card," "dance card," and "credit card." That must have taken some doing to make it work.

I think "cutting the deck" is a little more common parlance than the answer in the grid. And to be fair, no blackjack dealer in any normal casino will ever have a deck, but rather a shoe with multiple decks in it to stop people from card counting. Also, I think most people would say "open book tests" rather than OPENNOTETESTS, but the idea's the same.

Love MOONDANCE, and the clue's great, so that's excellent, as is The LASTPICTURESHOW, with a young Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges!

With this much theme material, the fill is bound to suffer some, but the clever partitioning allows for chunky NW and SE corners, with the nice OHITSYOU and DEADLINE. 40D: Popular New Year's resolution (GETFIT) had me scratching my head for a sec when I thought it might be an A instead of the I.

55A: Like some long trains (BRIDAL) is a great piece of misdirection. And the two languages FARSI and HINDI sharing their I was lovely (not to mention the unexpected XIANG on a Tuesday).

I can put up with RSS SHO ETES for all of that.

- Colum

Monday, November 21, 2022

Monday, November 21, 2022, Brandon Koppy

Yesterday was day one of the 2022 FIFA WORLDCUP, and so today we get a puzzle to celebrate this quadrennial event. There are many reasons to be unhappy about this specific year's event, relating primarily to Qatar's human rights record, particularly with the horrifying details of the workers who built the venues for the games, with many deaths ensuing. Not to mention that FIFA was happy to accept the money from the country in order to approve them getting the tournament.

But this is a blog about a fun activity we all enjoy doing, so let's just pretend they're talking about 2018's World Cup! Oh, wait. That was in Russia. 2014? A little better, in Brazil. Oh, well...

Anyway, we get the revealer at 64A, but more fun, we get the VUVUZELA at 17A, the chant OLEOLEOLEOLEOLE, and everybody's favorite GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL at 48A. Even those 12 Os are not enough to account for the 22 seconds of shouting recorded by one announcer.

The rest of the puzzle is smoothly filled for the most part. I liked that both 39D and 66A are clued with "Requiring rare knowledge" (ESOTERIC and ARCANE). 

THEDEETS, EYECONTACT, and THISWONTDO are fun long answers. 

Best clue was 21A: Having a thermal exhaust port lead straight to the reactor of your Death Star, e.g. (FLAW). Understatement of the year.

- Colum

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday, November 20, 2022, Joe Deeney


Hello, faithful readers! Colum here, taking over after two weeks of fun reviews by Horace. Guess where I'm definitely not blogging from. That's right, Paris. I'm not in Paris. Just good old Albany. No fancy, baguette eating, opera watching, Seine strolling blogging here.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

But hey, we don't need to be spreading the HATES around. In fact, this puzzle is all about really enjoying things. Our theme is taking standard phrases and reinterpreting the first word or two as a synonym for finding pleasure in something. The clue then takes that something and (mostly) creates a new semi-scientific name for it. Thus, 21A: Geometrophiles... (LOVETRIANGLES). Because they enjoy geometric shapes. Get it?

My favorite by far was the grid spanning 63A: Dextropodophiles... (GETOFFONTHERIGHTFOOT). Hah! That's ludicrous... ly good. I also chuckled at 79A: Autotumulophiles... (DIGTHEIROWNGRAVE). It's a lot of fun seeing words like "fancy" or "like" reinterpreted in this way.

Lake Victoria

I found the fill to be equally satisfying today. 2D: High wind (OBOE) got me today, but then I had to smile when I reached 86A: High winds (GALES). 

Some fun long answers, like WANNABES, STINKEYE, STRAGGLE, and WHATNOTS. TSETSEFLIES are only welcome in a puzzle, but in their full form look good. I have never had an ITALIANHERO in my life. It's a sub, and that's all there is to it.

30D: Private affairs? (ARMYLIFE) feels slightly off, but maybe that's because the poor fellow got a DEARJOHN letter (79D: Announcement of a split decision?).

Fun Sunday, and a good start to Thanksgiving week.

- Colum

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Saturday, November 19, 2022, Benji Goldsmith

It's either "Ah me," or "Oh my." No mixing and matching.

Other than that, the hardest square for me was the D of DENS (Studies) and DINESH (Kumail Nanjiani's role on "Silicon Valley"). I guessed kENS for Studies, but that wasn't exactly right and I knew it. Kind of like the editor must have felt about OHME. Too soon?


CREATESAMONSTER (Isn't able to control the outcome of one's actions) is a good one, and "Question asked without reservation" is a cute clue for ISTHISSEATTAKEN. But "Moves from 9 to 5, say" (DIALSITBACK) is trying a little too hard.

Did you all think of Frannie and me when you got to "The Bastille and the Tower of London, historically" (PRISONS). Have I mentioned that we're in Paris, and staying near the former site of the Bastille? :) BTW, Carmen was very good. Turns out there's some real catchy tunes in there. 

We know it's a Saturday puzzle because we have CETE (Pride : lions :: ____ : badgers) in the grid. Other unfortunate fill includes INI, INA, and IMO. But SOCKEYE (Salmon variety) was good, and it took a while for "Erroneous answer to 'What are the odds?'" (EVENS) to sink in, but now I think it's hilarious. As if someone asked you to recite the odd numbers and you said the even ones. Weird, but funny.

Well, it's been fun blogging from Paris, but Colum takes over tomorrow, and we're going to spend our last few days here with one less responsibility. A bientôt!

- Horace

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday, November 18, 2022, Robyn Weintraub

We're in Paris, we're waking up with coffee in our AirBnB, it's a sunny, blue-sky day, and we've got tickets to the opera for tonight (Carmen) - what else could we possibly ask for? Well, a Robyn Weintraub puzzle to go with the coffee, that's what! Et voilà. THANKSALOT! :) 

Although there were a couple gimmes (MONSTERMASH and CAREPACKAGE, for example), I did FALTER in a few areas, and I was downright tricked by a few. The hidden capital in "Superior dwellings, say" (LAKEHOUSES) had me fooled, and the plain old normal capital in "Bill collectors?" (MONEYCLIPS) had me over-thinking things. And then there was "Toy from a place that no longer exists" (POMERANIAN). Nice. I looked it up, of course, and Pomerania was an area spanning parts of Germany and Poland, right at the edge of the Baltic Sea.

Duchy of Pomerania

We don't usually include pictures of things we talk about, but I thought this was interesting enough to break with tradition. In fact, here's another one that shows it more clearly in the current political context.

So anyway, another one where the clue didn't really help me until I had almost all the crosses was "Get out while you're still up?" (SKYDIVE). Heh. And how 'bout that "One of 26 in Texas's Katy Freeway (LANE). I guessed "mile" and Frannie guessed "exit," which I think is better, but LANE!? I looked it up, and sure enough, it's the widest highway in America. The photos are terrifying. And no, I'm not posting one. 

TRASHPANDA (Raccoon, humorously) will always bring a smile, and I also enjoyed "Roger's relative?" for COPYTHAT

In the "the clue is straightforward if you know the answer" category we have "It follows precedent" (CASELAW) and "Lender requiring collateral up front" (PAWNSHOP). Both very good.

Overall, a lovely way to start the day. Our plan for the rest of it is to stick around and explore the neighborhood where our AirBnB is. Maybe take a little stroll on the Coulée verte RENÉ-Dumont - Paris's raised walkway on an old railroad line that inspired the High Line in New York ... Maybe hang out a bit in our local Bistro du Coin... or maybe just buy eclair after eclair before struggling to fit into our fancy clothes for the night out. So, as you can see, we're quite busy. Until tomorrow, then.

- Horace

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Thursday, November 17, 2022, Hoang-Kim Vu and Jessica Zetzman

At first I thought the backwardly-paired revealer was inelegant, but now I like the way it delays the giveaway for one clue more. LEAVEME OUTOFIT is what you need to do to understand the many theme answers. I had realized it with EMENDS (*They may be split or bitter), but until I got to the revealer I wasn't sure if it would always be "me" that was left out, or if there would be a "me/you" situation, for example. But no, it was always me.


Interesting to learn that VESUVIUS inspired "Funiculi, Funiculà." It means "funicular up, funicular down," and was written in 1880 to commemorate the completion of the first (guess what?) funicular on (guess where?) Mount Vesuvius. Also, I read in Wikipedia that it was frequently played by the Grateful Dead during sound checks. Who knew?

It's nice that all the theme answers are valid entries with the "me" included. NAMES (*#5 on Billboard's Best Rappers of All Time list) was one of the trickier ones for me. Even though I was expecting a name, I guess I always expect a "lil" or an "x" when I think of Nas.

And speaking of "Aquatic protection," I was recently made aware that Paris was once surrounded by a MOAT. The Bastille, which stood nearby our AirBnB, was once the eastern gateway to the city, and the Canal Saint-Martin is the remnant(s) of that old moat. Cool.

DOUSED (Put out) and EMINENCE (Notability) are nice, and I feel like I should have remembered hearing that OHARE was once called Orchard Field. Ah well.

Overall, a fun Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Wednesday, November 16, 2022, John Hawksley

What amazing part of the theme will I miss today? ...

If you have a minute, go back and check out Colum's comment on yesterday's post. He points out a lovely feature of the puzzle that I - in my jet-laggy haste - did not appreciate. 

OK, onward. First off - news flash! - book clubs can be useful. Back in the early Nineties I was in a book club that read "A Thousand ACRES," and now, some 30 years later, I am able to use that information in a puzzle. Funny how the world goes 'round, isn't it?"

So anyway, today Mr. Hawksley MANDUCATES us all in the meanings of some obscure words. He gives the second definition (according to the Collins English Dictionary) of TYPOMANIA (Obsession with being published ... NOT a flurry of transcription errors). The first being the more straightforward "an obsession with typography"). ARCTOPHILE (Lover of teddy bears ... NOT a devotee of polar regions) seems to have come into the language only in the 1970s, and you'd be excused for thinking it meant a devotee of polar regions, because the word "arctic" is from the same Greek root.

PANTOPHOBIA (Fear of everything ... NOT a fear of trousers), of course, was popularized by Lucille Van Pelt, in her publicized psychoanalysis of her younger brother Linus. 

MANDUCATES (Chews ... NOT elaborates condescendingly to a female) appears to have come through Latin via Greek, whereas "masticates" only shows Latin origins. Although surely it came from somewhere before that...

Finally, METROLOGY (Science of measurement ... NOT the study of urban areas) makes use of the same Greek root that "meter" does. Makes sense once you know it.

We love words here, and this is right up our alley.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tuesday, November 15, 2022, Sandy Ganzell

Today we have an expansion of that classic crossword entry, EIEIO, by the addition of farm animals and the title character, OLDMACDONALD


Frannie notes that the grid is DENSE with doubles: NOELNOEL, NAENAE, USAUSA, and the possibly thematic BABA and MUUMUU. And there are several two-word answers, too: SHOWME ("Please demonstrate"), GIFTIDEA, NOLOSE (Win-win) (another double!), GETHELP, and ISNOT (Ain't, in other words).

GCLEF (Treble symbol) is noteworthy for its odd beginning. LIANA (Feminine name that's also a tropical jungle vine) is a little un-Tuesday-y, and IERE (French suffix with jardin) is weak even in French. 

Apologies for being a little short on DEETS in review today, but I don't know if I've made this clear or not, we're in Paris, and we've got to go EAT!

- Horace

Monday, November 14, 2022

Monday, November 14, 2022, Taylor Johnson

A PIZZAPARTY can be a pretty great event. I prefer the kind where the pizzas are home-made, and everyone can pick from various topping options, but three things are pretty much constants in every recipe - crust, sauce, and cheese. And it doesn't light up with the other themers, but there's no way BASIL wasn't put in the middle intentionally.


So anyway, it's me, Horace, again this week, taking the week for Frannie, who is relaxing in Paris. :) So you'll have to wait another week for her WITSy comments while you're stuck reading my WEAKSAUCE. And speaking of her, I'm sure she enjoyed seeing ANTIMATTER (Warp drive power source on "Star Trek") in the grid, nerd that she is. :)

Funny that TIMEBOMBS and EXPLODES are both in the grid. And "Revolutionary maneuver in sports or break dancing?" is a clever twist for SPINMOVE. (See also: ROTATE (Turn clockwise or counterclockwise.) And "You'd better believe it!" is funny for DOGMA

It's amusing (to me) that they specify "hot" in "Largest hot desert in the world" for SAHARA, because we recently attended a trivia night where the question came up - "What's the largest desert in the world?" Many people guessed SAHARA, but the correct answer is Antarctica, which is bigger than the three largest "hot" deserts combined.

I'll sign off before I get a lot of TLDR comments. A demain!

- Horace

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunday, November 13, 2022, Samuel A. Donaldson


First off, that top row is lovely. 1A: Sell, as bicycles? (PEDDLE) got me started with a chuckle. Then SCOOPS (Coups in journalism) is a fine C/AP. But "What might prompt a run for congress?" as a clue for LIBIDO - in just this moment in time, when so much attention is focussed on the current election - was hilarious. Genius, really. 

My beloved NIKON FM-2

The theme of FRANKENFOOD, or BUMPERCROPS, refers to the shaded squares that highlight portions of intersecting Across and Down answers. When you start at the left or top and then turn down or right as you read, you get two different foods: "olive" and "rice" in the NW, "oat" and "squash" in the top center, and "mango" and "banana" in the NE, for example. I immediately think about the intersecting foods being prepared together, I think all of them would be at least palatable. Corn and tomato together is a natural in salsa, and I can imagine chive and lime adding zip to something. Beet and melon is the strangest, but I might just try it with a honeydew...

Elsewhere this grid is full of interesting fill: LACERATE, ALMAMATER, EXOTICA, TORNADO, VAGARY, SMACKDAB; and fun clues "They start in the corners" (ROOKS), "Claptrap" (DRIVEL), "Cry of perfection from a carpenter?" (INAILEDIT), "Return payments?" (RANSOMS), and "Used an unspoken language" (SIGNED).

Very nice. 

- Horace

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Saturday, November 12, 2022, Billy Bratton

It's another of those weeks when it seems Friday and Saturday have been swapped. Yesterday's puzzle took me over 25 minutes, but this was over in a BANANASPLIT second. Or, 7:13, if you're looking for specifics.


My favorite C/AP by far today was "It resurfaces after 20 minutes" (ZAMBONI). That is some kwality kluing. (See also: "Krazy KAT.") Also in the running was "Southwestern city that produces most of the U.S.'s Snickers bars" (WACOTEXAS). Who knew? I mean, nobody thinks about where Snickers bars are made, do they? They just exist under the counter at CVS. I guess I assumed they were mined.

"Peter or Paul, but not Mary" (TSAR) was cute. As was "Small matter" (ATOM). And one that I didn't even see until I started to review the puzzle for the review was "Apt shoe for a plumber?" (CLOG). Heh. Nice. 

There were a couple names I didn't know, but it made little difference, as the crosses were usually obvious ("One growing up in a cave?" (STALAGMITE), or "Fuzzy fruit that's technically a berry" (KIWI), for example). And there were a few that seemed dated - Big PAPI, MEG Ryan, and, of course, ASTA. But that ZAMBONI clue saves it.

Does anyone know why HAT lights up when you're on 40-Down "Exceed" (GOPAST)? 

- Horace

p.s. Is it weird that I've never heard of DIPPINDOTS


Friday, November 11, 2022

Friday, November 11, 2022, Brooke Husic and Erik Agard

Definitely a Friday. I spent a lot of time in the SE working out WHOO (Owl's sound) (not hoOt) and NOTHANKYOU (Pass words?) (very nice). The "Sportscaster Adams who hosted "Good Morning Football" (KAY) and "M.L.B. All-Star Anderson" (TIM) were never going to help me. And neither was SMOKEYEYE (Blended style of facial makeup), for that matter. Luckily, the two cooking clues - "Chef's creation" (MENU) and the excellent "Wraps that might have sauce on them" (APRONS) did eventually help out.

ALFRED (left)

Speaking of excellent clues - there were a lot of them today. The best might be WISHLIST, sitting right in the middle, "Noun phrase that's present perfect indicative?" Wow. Nice. "Wild ride?" (PARTYBUS), and "Launch party?" (NASA) were fun, too. And I liked the paired clues "Are awesome"x2 (RULE & ROCK) and "Stomach"x2 (GUT & ENDURE). It's always nicer when the are next to each other in the clue list, as in the first pair, or crossing in the grid, as in the second. 

"Atonement for a mistake" (AMENDS) is especially appropriate today, because when I woke up in the middle of the night last night, it occurred to me that the apartment we were in did not match the photos shown on AirBnB. It had been a long time ago that we reserved the place, so I went back to check my memory, but sure enough, it was different. I wrote to the person who rented it to us in the morning, and it turned out that he had put us in the wrong unit! So we had to pack everything up and move across the alleyway. It did all have a happy ending, however, as this place does look like the photos, and we actually like it better! Weird, though. It's the first time we've encountered such a QUEER glitch.

Overall, I quite liked this Friday offering. Now it's time to find a patisserie. :) 

A bientôt!

- Horace

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Thursday, November 10, 2022, Dan Caprera

Well, Dear Reader, I said yesterday that we'd be in France very soon, and here we are, installé in our AirBnB over by the Bastille. It's great blogging from Europe, because it's already 10:15am over here, but back where you are it's only 4:15. So chances are very good that if you're not our regular reader Huygens, this review will be published before you wake up. I really should find a way to always blog from Europe... but for now, it will only be for a couple weeks.

Lucy Lawless, not her STUNTWOMAN

So anyway, here we are with a very unusual Thursday puzzle with axes marked off in letters and numbers. Then there are circles in four theme entries, and those circles contain coordinates that, when plotted and put in order from top to bottom, spell out the word PLOT. Huh. Did anybody else think that this was an awful long way to go for one four-letter word? 

I liked RHOMBI (Diamonds, geometrically), CONCOCT (Cook up), DEMEANOR (Outward behavior), and INCANT (Recite ritually) - ten-cent words, all. And who doesn't love a MIMOSA (Brunch beverage)? "Big feller?" was cute for AXE, and HEWS (Swings a 54-Across at, say) was a fun tie-in. 

I'm not familiar with TOETAPS, but I probably should be, especially given the current state of my "core." And what's more, as soon as I hit "Publish" I'll be going out to find a MADELEINE!

This was a weird one, that's for sure. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Wednesday, November 9, 2022, David Tuffs

Strange theme today, no? Movie titles that use the same letters as other movie or TV show titles. Why? Well, why not, I guess.


It's kind of cool that GRAN (___ Turismo (racing video game series)) and GOFAST come off the same first letter. And "Cyb-org.?" is a cute clue for the non-cute NSA. And speaking of three-letter answers, I enjoyed the old-school "Record fig." for RPM.

It's always nice to find music in the puzzle, and today we have Bach's "The Well-Tempered CLAVIER," the great ARETHA Franklin, "Love Song" by SARA Bareilles, and Britney's "OOPS I did it again!" Oh, and the OER from "Jingle Bells." And echoes of Bob Dylan in "They're blowing in the wind" (VANES). And then there's the "Low voice" (BASS), the guitar FRET, and, of course, SINGININTHERAIN. Very musical indeed. VAMP 'til ready.

Finally, the inclusion of TETE (Place for un chapeau) and ETE (When Cannes hosts its festival du film) allows me to mention that Frannie and I will be in Paris very soon! I'm very much looking forward to being there again. :)

- Horace

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Tuesday, November 8, 2022, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Clever idea today with EYEOPENERS (Enlightening experiences ... or what [four other answers and this one too] have, phonetically speaking). It's sort of like a word ladder, but with sound. 


Really nice set, IMHO. 

NONA Hendryx

Not much aside from the theme material of any great length, although ACADEMIA and IDLENESS make a nice pair. 

I liked YEESH ("Come on, seriously?!"), and ORNERY (Bad-tempered and combative) warms my cold heart. 

We've got some tasty food entries PLATED up in AREPA, DOLMA, and ROE (Eggs on a sushi roll). 

A fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, November 7, 2022

Monday, November 7, 2022, Jill Singer

Always nice to start with a SUPERB (Outstanding) 1-Across. And off of it we have the very tasty SOBA (Japanese buckwheat noodle) and PITABREAD (What baba ghanouj is often served with). And I've been in Vermont this past weekend, so BERNIE (Senator Sanders) seemed appropriate. :)

The theme is interestingly spaced. The revealer is a grid-spanner right in the middle (WHATSBUGGINGYOU) - two self-contained entries are layered above and below (BEEINMYBONNET) and (ANTSINMYPANTS), and BUTTERFLIES INMYSTOMACH form the hamburger bun surround. But who wants to bite into it with all those bugs?! 

Sorry. Sometimes these metaphors get a little out of control.

Anywho - "Extinct megafauna species whose name derives from the Greek for 'breast tooth'" (odd) (MASTODON) was interesting, "How one sends an embarrassing email to the entire office?" (BYMISTAKE) was amusing, and "Like thick-crust, rectangular pizza" (SICILIAN) was new to me. I guess we don't have much of that here in the New England-al area.

I loved the clue for PARADED (Marched in an attention-seeking way), and "____ have promises to keep, and miles to go ...": Robert Frost" was a good way to salvage BUTI.

Overall, a fine Monday.

- Horace

Sunday, November 6, 2022

November 6, 2022, Michael Lieberman


Hello! HOWENSUITEITIS to be back writing the reviews again after two lovely weeks by Frannie and Colum. And we've got yet another amusing Sunday puzzle. If this keeps up, I wil have to adjust my standard line that Sunday's are often not that good. 

Today we've got the classic "title tells you what's going to happen" situation - so that the clue "Why the party's about to get less hip?" results in SQUAREENROUTE, because it has been length-ened by adding an "en" to "square root." That was a good one. ENGARDEIANSOFTHEGALAXY ("Prepare for a sword fight, McKellen, Fleming and all other namesakes out there!?") was another pretty good one, but the best one is clearly "Challenge for a court jester?" (THEROYALENNUI). Nice.


 Some nice C/APs include: "Thing to bash at a bash" (PINATA), "Service that's not good?" (LET) (harkens back to the great clue from yesterday "A bad one is your fault" (SERVE)), "Where someone might fiddle with your dance moves?" (HOEDOWN), "The old you?" (THOU), "It's full of hot air" (KILN), and the outstanding "It moves one step at a time" (SHOE).

I enjoyed it. How 'bout you?

- Horace

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Saturday, November 5, 2022, John Westwig

It is always a pleasure here at HAFDTNYTCPFCFA when we can honestly say that the Turn has been both not NOTGOOD as well as not CRAPPY. Is my blog not not well written? At least I can say ITRY.

Getting CHAITEA and WIT right off the bat was not as helpful as I thought it would be. Instead I moved into the middle of the puzzle with SELFIE and MAILBox. Wrong, but enough right to open up the SW corner. Great clue for that last one ("This clue's answer might contain more than seven letters" - hah!). 

I had no idea what "Ochlocracy" would mean, but fortunately getting the first three letters from crosses made MOBRULE pretty clear. I should have known that FETAS are brined. They are pretty darned salty, after all. Speaking of which, I just now got why "Unsalted, perhaps" is ICY. Talking about roads...

It took me a long time to get 14D: Game where It always counts (HIDEANDGOSEEK). Partly because I had that X still in there, but also because I was stuck thinking about Tag. I'm not even sure if you count in Tag. And why did we used to count by 5 to 100? 


I liked 45A: Met for a few hours in the evening? (OPERA). That's a nice hidden capital. I can't say why the fact that 9D referred to 45A led me to immediately see the trick in the latter's clue. But I jumped very quickly to entering ARIA. The NE corner was pretty straightforward, with MAGNETO and UNOCARD. I did not know that a pineapple farm is known as a PINERY, but that's one of the reasons we keep coming back to the crossword: it teaches us as well as entertains us!

Speaking of entertaining, I like 20A: Raise people's spirits? (HOLDASEANCE). That's chuckle worthy. And any time we acknowledge J.S. BACH's brilliance and foundational nature for Western Art music, we're in a good place. You'll forgive me if I doubt that RAPGOD is quite on the same level.

I enjoyed this week very much, and I hope you did as well. Tomorrow, I turn it back over to Horace. Have a great rest of the weekend!

- Colum

Friday, November 4, 2022

Friday, November 4, 2022, Juliet Corless

Debut alert! Welcome, Ms. Corless, to the NYT Crossword puzzle. And what a debut, with two triple stacks of 15-letter answers. I appreciate the decision to have them going down rather than across, from an aesthetic perspective. 

As always, when there are so many 15-letter answers, it is incumbent on the reviewer to rank them with all the implied authority and prerogative associated with being in charge of the blog. Which is to say very little at all. Here goes:

1. JACKOFALLTRADES. Pretty good clue ("Certain multitasker?) and lovely starting off the puzzle with a J. It's a strong and colorful entry.

2. FREAKINGAWESOME. Two great answers in a row! And the clue ("Amazeballs") hands down wins. 

3. TEMPORARYTATTOO. Extra points for avoiding any and all Ss in the final answer in the stack. I also like the clue ("Erasable ink?").

4. KEYNOTESPEECHES. Nice K to start us off. I wanted KEYNOTESPEakerS, but this works as well.

5a. PAROLEVIOLATION. Decent clue, fine answer.

5b. DRAMATICLICENSE. Same as above. I rank these last two equivalent. But really, there's not a bad one in the lot, so that's strong work!

Of course, with this much goodness in the 15-letter answers, there's a fair amount of glue. I recall when I first started doing these, how much difficulty they presented me. Now, all those little bits help out. I'm looking at you, CEY, EME, SES, DPT, LGS, CIR, DER, XES, DAR, etc.

I want to acknowledge some other fun things here. 51D: Resting spot for some buns (NAPE). Great non-QMC! I definitely was not thinking about hairdos in answering this. I needed all the crosses. 5D: Good faith agreements? (AMENS). Yes! So good. And 63A: One backward musician? (ENO). That's a puns and acrostics type clue, but it worked for me.

I am fine with all of the less amazeballs answers for those fun stacks. How about you?

- Colum

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Thursday, November 3, 2022, Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen

This is a ludicrous and fun theme today. It's a bit tricksy, but maybe not up to the standard Thursday par. Regardless, I'm chuckling even as I look over it again.

The idea here is that the clue is a word with four blank spaces. The blank spaces make their own word. Reinterpreting the container word allows for a standard idiom of the form ____ in the ____. Thus, the word "kick" is hidden inside "knickers," which is a synonym for pants. Thus, KICKINTHEPANTS. Hah!

The other three are ACEINTHEHOLE ("ace" in "crawl space"), PAININTHEASS ("pain" in "peabrain"), and HOLDINCONTEMPT ("hold" in "cold shoulder"). Fun stuff! And I enjoyed figuring it out on the fly as I solved.

ERICA from Stranger Things

I had trouble breaking into the NW corner, so my first true foothold was in the middle north, with EATIN (thank you for the pun clue) and UTAH, followed by SNAPCHAT. I personally don't take a Snapchat, but I do have BeReal, at the request of my daughter. Amusingly, now I am following and being followed by a bunch of her college friends, who don't appear to have the typical concern that their daily behavior might be something to hide from their friend's parents. It's a new world and a new generation, folks.

What do people think of the clue at 37D: Marks in the sand? (TANLINES)? It's adjacent to being accurate, is my opinion. Amusing but not quite correct. Your opinion in the comments below.

ZENKOANS is a beautiful answer, with that lovely Z-K pairing.

Nice start to the Turn!

- Colum

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Wednesday, November 2, 2022, Ethan Zou and Tomas Spiers

Rebus alert on a Wednesday! And 12 of them, too, with three each in the four theme answers. Very nice! I hope Thursday can step it up tomorrow.

The revealer is in the middle of the puzzle at 39A: One serving punch? ... or, parsed differently, a hint to 12 squares in this puzzle (BOXER). First of all, congratulations for using a QMC for the revealer, and an amusing one as well. Secondly, I love parsing things differently. We all could stand to parse a little differently from time to time in non-crossword puzzle life. Here, you have to place a space between the X and the E to make "box ER," meaning the rebus will be the two letters ER.

The theme answers are F[ER]R[ER]OROCH[ER], ROG[ER]FED[ER][ER], W[ER]EOV[ER]H[ER]E, and BORD[ER]T[ER]RI[ER]. I'm impressed with coming up with two 13-letter and two 12-letter answers that can then be boiled down to 10- and 9-letter entries.

Now, I knew something was up when I hit 4D: Assert. That is always either "avow" or AV[ER], and neither of those fit into three letters. I figured out the necessary rebus when I got to 9D: Oracle (SE[ER]), and then everything fell into place.

My daughter's fave EMOBAND, MCR

In the fill, I love OHHELLYEAH. Great piece of colloquialism, and I imagine the person saying it suffering 28D: Temporary embarrassment in a public competition, figuratively (BLOODYNOSE) just moments later.

Other fun C/APs include:

58D: Two-thirds of 100 (Z[ER]OS) - not 66.66666666666...

22D: Cutesy sound that may accompany a poke (BOOP). Reminds me of "Festible poking." Ask Horace for clarification.

7D: Unleaded, so to speak (DECAF).

Fun stuff!

- Colum

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Tuesday, November 1, 2022, Bruce Haight

Happy All Saints Day! I'm happy to say that once again I get to review a puzzle by Dr. Haight, always a pleasure.

Our theme today is revealed at 59A: Grammatical connector like "is" or "seem" ... or a connector found literally in 16-, 24-, 35- and 49-Across (LINKINGVERB). I'd never heard this term before, but it is straightforward in its definition: a verb that connects the subject directly to an adjective. Thus, "the sweater is red" uses "is" in this way. "The wood feels unsanded" uses "feels" in this way.

Dr. Haight has hidden the word VERB in four phrases in such a way that it connects the two words in the phrase. All four are in common parlance and very recognizable. And even though the letter string is always split the same way (VER-B), the initial word is different in each phrase. NEVERBETTER is the best of the bunch, but I like COVERBAND and OVERBUDGET as well. RIVERBASIN is the most plain of the four, but I'm not complaining. I'm happy to say that I didn't see the revealer coming, so that was a nice "aha" moment.


I feel like the northern half of the puzzle is woman friendly, with MADAM, ADELE, ALTO, and ADELINE. My "sweet" woman of song is typically Caroline, but not in a barbershop quartet setting. I suppose Juliet's sleeping potion trick gone sour in ACTIV is a little less female supportive.

Things go a bit sour and masculine as you get into the southern segment. Gordon GEKKO and DRNO are neither of them exemplars of feminist allies. And then there's that OGLED. Even the simple HUG gets a little suspect in this company.

Just kidding! Reading too much into the fill, once again. Fortunately, there's the lovely sound of LUTES to tide us over to tomorrow's puzzle.

- Colum