Sunday, December 31, 2023

Sunday, December 31, 2023, Matt Linzer and Rafael Musa

Happy NEWYEARSEVE to all of our devoted readers! Hope you've got fun plans for the evening. For myself, Horace and Frannie are coming to Albany to usher in the New Year. Looking forward to baked brie in brioche. Mmmmmm...

Thanks to Philbo for a great week of reviews! Keeping up the theme of New Year's celebration (see yesterday's confetti filled puzzle), today we are focusing on the classic BALLDROP that takes place in TIMESSQUARE (and other places around the world, I imagine). Here, we get branching answers clued with "Before midnight" and "After midnight," each connected by the letter string BALL in a down clue. I appreciate that the constructors eschewed cluing all five of those repeated "ball"s with a deflating "-" clue, and instead came up with five different clues.

So, a lot of explaining. Here're some examples:

23A: Before midnight: Sloth, e.g. (HERBIVORE) + 36A: After midnight: Ointments infused with cottonwood or calundula, e.g. ([HER][BAL]LOTIONS), with 24D: Event for Cinderella (BALL).

68A: Before midnight: Some household expenses (WATERBILLS) + 85A: After midnight: Synchronized swimming ([WATER][BAL]LET), with 69D: Wad (up) (BALL).

I prefer the pairs where the "ball" is not actually a ball, as in the above examples, to [FOOT][BAL]LGAME. So that's four out of five. I also liked how 28A: Sloth, e.g. (SIN) echoed the first theme clue. It also made me very confused about the theme for a while!

A favorite around our house

Other fun clues include: 120A: Star sign? (AUTOGRAPH) and 58A: Hookup that might get kinky? (HOSE). 9D: Device placed under a tongue (SHOETREE) was tricky. 

This was a fun and moderately challenging puzzle. Hope you enjoyed it also!

- Colum

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Saturday, 30 December 2023, Simeon Seigel

Hello!  Philbo here, back with a vengeance today after a lukewarm performance yesterday - a friendly offering for a Saturday that took me just over 6 minutes to solve.  

A peripheral New Year's theme, perhaps added as an afterthought - eight circled letters around the edges of the grid read CONFETTI, and when you complete the puzzle, the black squares transform into festively colourful shapes.  So that was a nice surprise and a fun way to wrap up my week of blogging.  On second thought (and look), maybe it wasn't such an afterthought after all:  the black squares are all separate from one another - no two are adjacent - an impressive feat of setting and also distributes the confetti nice and evenly.  

Anchoring the puzzle are 6 grid-spanning clues - 3 across and 3 down - all of which took fairly few crossers to figure out; of course, that was a tremendous help to the solve.  I suspect that was the price paid for the unique layout - a bit of an easier shade to the clues.  Hidden within was one of my all-time favourites : "Strips in a club", which, belying its racy overtones, is BACON.  (Yes!!)  And crossing that one is "Craft at camp" (CANOE).  For me, these were the highlights in what was otherwise a fairly straightforward solve. 

A few other seasonal hints - "Hour at which to sing Auld Lang Syne" (XII, which works); and I learned that "Just Another New Year's Eve" contains the lyric "Tonight's another chance to start AGAIN", which smacks of rarely-kept New Year's resolutions.  Didn't know that Tolkein contributed "Waggle" and "Wild" to the OED - can that be right?  (Calls for some additional research.)

For those regular readers among you - the Eastern Townships has transformed itself overnight into a winter wonderland, with a dusting of snow covering the landscape.  Very pretty and finally Christmassy!  

I now pass you on to the esteemed Colum, who will usher in 2024.  I wish you all well in the new year!


Friday, December 29, 2023

Friday, December 29 2023, Robyn Weintraub

Greetings and Happy Friday from les Cantons de l'Est in Quebec, where today's crossword was solved under the watchful eye of my mother, to whom I owe whatever solving proficiency I possess... Always a treat to see Robyn Weintraub's name up at the top, and today was no exception - a chewy Friday puzzle that yielded reluctantly to steady pressure. The start was a rough one today:  I chose LEONE over MADRE for "Sierra follower" - and it was neither (TANGO, as should have been evident if I'd paid proper attention to the clue!).  I had to abandon the entire NW section and move on.  Things were looking up with "Trashy television character?", which could only be OSCARTHEGROUCH, and I felt like I was back on Ms. Weintraub's wavelength.  But no!  "Acts exceedingly friendly" - I entered OOHSANDAHS without a second thought (it's OOZESCHARM for lord's sake) and poof went the SE corner and any vestigial chance of getting this thing done in a decent time.  (Oh and I'm also on my dad's laptop with its weird keyboard, and I blame that too 🙂 )

After finally straightening these things out, I was better able to appreciate the cleverer clues.  A little gem was GPA for "Calculation that might include calculus.." the 'G' of which led to SNOWBALLFIGHTS for "Cold war aggressions?", which brought a smile.  (Side note: no such thing here today - it's grey grey grey and a little green outside the window here...)  And "It's not long." (LAT) is admirable for its brevity and subtle use of punctuation..

As a final blow to my ego today, I left "Term largely replaced by 'Zoom'" as VIDEOTHAT, with the crosser "Red, white & ___ (2005 metal album)" as TRUE, which led to the dreaded FWOE.  They're VIDEOCHAT of course, and the eponymous-ish CRUE.  My heavy-metal-loving brother would hang his head in shame.

Great crossword, Ms. Weintraub!  I did not do it justice today, but I look forward to our next encounter.  Meanwhile, see y'all tomorrow...


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Thursday, December 28 2023, Kiran Pandey

Greetings my fellow Crossword Mavens!  Keeping it short and sweet today, as it's Wed pm as I type this and I'll be on the road all day tomorrow, driving to visit my beloved Parental Units in the next province over.  This was a fun one today, with five common words/phrases clued as laudatory Gen-Z film commentary.  (Is Gen-Z right?  I've lost track of my 'Gen's...) They were quite funny for the most part - so I'll list 'em here:

  • "That 1978 musical?  Amazing movie!" : GREASEFIRE
  • "That 2009 Pixar film?  Incredibly well made!" : UPTIGHT
  • "That 2013 Disney movie?  Pretty decent!" : FROZENSOLID
  • "That 2009 science fiction flick?  Freaking epic!" : MOONLIT (a tiny bit of a stretch, this one)
  • "That 2011 neo-noir? Insanely good!" : DRIVECRAZY
I'll leave the required re-punctuation in your capable hands.  Pretty sure I've never used any of these adjectives in this way, superannuated fellow that I am.  I did note that my favourite Thai soup - TOMYUM - makes an appearance and could also have been clued as "That English actor Hardy?  Oh, I could just eat him up!".  ha ha ... maybe I should leave the cluing to the pros....

I didn't try too hard to solve these on first encounter, letting the crossers do their work instead.  Had a brief hiccup in the SW corner, entering BOXSET instead of DVDSET for "Complete collection, say", which led to BMINOR as the Baroque "key of glory" (wrong - it's DMAJOR; of course it's a major key).  But no lasting damage done there.  Interesting that Steve Jobs once worked at ATARI, maker of my family's very first video game.  I thought I was tripped up by VIRTU ("Collection of traits necessary for the 'achievement of great things', per Machiavelli) but no, that's the right answer - had to Google it and won't transcribe the details here, but it's basically Italian for "virtue".  And when o when will it finally stick in my head that there's such a cereal as OREOOS??

Liked the factoid about SHIVA and the river Ganga. Liked the reminder that the Beatles' JUDE was a boy.  Didn't like ALOES

Gotta run.  Friday's submission will come to you from Quebec's beautiful Eastern Townships.  Until then, mes amis!


Wednesday, December 27 2023, Kareem Ayas

The prevailing wisdom is that the demise of the dinosaurs on Earth was brought about by a massive asteroid strike, which disrupted the global climate enough to make the planet inhospitable to the giant creatures - and paved the way for the rise of furry little mammals.  (Meanwhile, the various insects just continued on unperturbed..)  That's the theme of today's puzzle - scattered through the grid are dinosaurs, all split across adjacent clues and missing their tails.  To wit - LEBRON ("'King James'") is next to TOE ("Word before nail or after steel"), and there, hidden within, is BRONTO, split in two and missing its SAURUS tail. There are three other similarly hidden/truncated dinosaurs to be found.  Now, to be terribly pedantic, if the suggestion is that the ASTEROID (one of the revealers at 4D) broke the dinosaurs in half and vaporized their tails, I don't think it worked quite that way..  :)  The missing tails are amusingly revealed toward the bottom of the puzzle, as "Writer's reference...or what the shaded letters are missing?", which of course is THESAURUS.  Nice one!

As an extra cataclysmic reference, "Something possibly triggered during a mass extension event" is SEISM, which an asteroid strike would undoubtedly have caused, resulting in huge tidal waves o'er the land.  Also - in a nod to the creatures whose names don't lend themselves to the theme - "Features of many ceratopsians" is HORNS of course.

Outside of this apocalyptic theme, lots of nice cluing is to be found.  It *is* still the Yuletide season, so ADESTE Fidelis fit right in.  I remember doing the encryption thing as a kid, where you wrap a strip of paper around a pencil and write your message on it, but I never knew it was called SCYTALE.  Never heard of the PRITZKER architecture award - you don't see that in a crossword every day.  But of course the real treat for me was seeing my own name - PHIL - the father on Modern Family!  I shall cherish this moment.  (IKID of course)

I shall leave you with that.  I hope wherever you are is more Christmassy than the view outside our window here in Toronto right now, which is: pelting, angry rain...  >sigh<


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Tuesday, December 26 2023, Neil Shook

It's a Boxing Day theme today, with six different four-letter toys rolled up into 2x2 squares, scattered around the grid and revealed by "Places for playthings" (TOYBOXES).  I found this neat in a few different ways; first, there are so many of them (six is a lot, in a 15x15 grid); second, they're all rolled the same way, clockwise from the upper left (although there's some ambiguity there, if you care to look for it); and third, one of them (YOYO) is attached to the revealer answer, which is an added bonus.  

A nice Tuesday puzzle forms the substrate.  I found the layout today made the connections between grid sections somewhat tenuous, which led to slower-than-usual progress.  LEGOSET made me smile - I got one for Xmas (the Mars Rover) - a nice Zen-ish activity in the lazy days before the New Year.  Raised my eyebrows at OPTIMUMS ("OPTIMA", surely?  Well, ok...)  MTDOOM formed a LOTR connection to yesterday's puzzle, which featured Samwise Gamgee.  A near-Natick for me at the intersection of NORMA ("Fashion designer Kamali") and PADMA ("Author Lakshmi.."), but the crossing letter could only really have been an 'A'.  And the prize today for oblique cluing was for TEN ("What's rolled to get from Free Parking to Go to Jail") - love it!

Not much else to report.  Fun puzzle and nice debut by Mr. Shook!  CYA tomorrow..


Monday, December 25, 2023

Monday, December 25 2023, Amie Walker

Merry Christmas/Seasons Greetings all!  Whatever you celebrate this time of year, I hope there is warmth and joy in your hearts.  I am typing this on an Xmas gift from my son - a brand new Bluetooth mechanical keyboard - a major step up from my klunky dirty old one.  I thought the NYT crossword, and this review, would be the ideal way to put it through its paces!   Today's effort bore fruit - the theme being three pop songs with fruit in their titles.  I love the way these were clued - by artist and excerpts from the songs themselves - so the answers weren't apparent (not to me anyway - my wife would probably have identified all three immediately) and required help from the crossers. The revealer was clever too - 'THATSMYJAM' with its doubly apt musical and fruity connotation!  Very nicely done.

Outside the theme, it was nice breezy Monday fare.  I am unsure about WADE ("Walk in water up to one's ankles, say") - I think of wading as being in deeper water.  And NEWB ("Novice, informally") gets me every time - I entered NOOB (which I think is actually spelled with zeros, not 'O's) and had to backtrack.  I had never heard of the  vitamin BIOTIN, so there's my Christmas learnin' right there.  (Looked it up.  It's one of the 'B' vitamins of course.  Neat!)  And a special inventiveness shoutout for the cluing of ONE ("Number of times Rose tells Jack she loves him, in 'Titanic'")!!

That's all the REVIEW you get today; you'll have to take this ASIS. I'm going to DASH, or TEAR, off now to be with my family.  PEACE!


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Sunday, December 24 2023, Drew Schmenner

When I joined this little blogging cabal in the spring, it did not occur to me that I'd be sitting here on Christmas Eve with a Sunday crossword in front of me, deciding what to write about it!  And here we are.  Presents are wrapped, tree trimmed, food and drink procured, fireplace set, holiday music cued up, family together - all systems go basically.   And added to this festive context is a perfectly appropriately themed puzzle - with five ELFs hidden in their own little squares around the grid, as indicated by the theme answer SANTASLITTLEHELPERS.  A simple but clever little device, which revealed itself to me early on via "Sympathize with", which had to be FEELFOR, with only five squares to fit it into.  From that point, it was a matter of staying aware of the possibility, and the remaining Elves were easy to find.

None of the hidden Elves appeared to be on a shelf of any sort.  I marvel at the ingenuity of whoever came up with the "Elf on the Shelf" idea.  Taking childhood behavioral blackmail to stratospheric new levels!!

Aside from the theme, I liked the seasonal soupcon sprinkling the grid.  My favourite, which I didn't "get" right away, was SILENTN ("End of Autumn"), which surely must be a deliberate reference to the Christmas carol!  Right below that, I had to mentally recite "Jingle Bells" to get its fourth word (SNOW).  And OPENTOE is indeed a non-optimal Xmas stocking design!

I was pleased at the appearance of Avenger Diana RIGG, as my dad may or may not have had a crush on her, back in the day.  And of course SPINALTAP, an enduring favourite of mine, though it's debatable whether the front man was David St. Hubbins (certainly the brains of the operation, such as they were) or the perpetually fogged-in Nigel Tufnel.  "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever" - I never tire of that line.  Or of the whole movie, really.

I found the grid in general tough going today, with little miscues hampering me in many places, such as INBORN instead of INBRED for "Hereditary", which messed me up for a while up at the top. And I'd never heard of MINGNA Wen ("The Mandalorian"), and "End of turn?" (STILE) was slightly too clever for me today.   In the spirt of giving, I'll forgive awkward filler like ANTES and RARES and RUER today.

Great puzzle overall!!  I'll say it again tomorrow, doubtless, but : Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you dear readers!


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Saturday, December 23, 2023, Will Nediger

When I opened the puzzle on the app this morning, I was a bit unsettled by the form of the grid. That many white squares all in a row, has, in the past, spelled trouble for this solver. Imagine my surprise then, when I read the first clue, "Modern-day scrapbooks, of a sort," and I dropped in PINTERESTalbums, and it fit! Huzzah! If you are reading this sentence, you already know that my excitement was ill-founded, but happily, only partially so. Looking at the Down clues, it became clear pretty quickly that the 'albums' part of my answer was incorrect.  Fortunately, the answers OPEN, RIDDANCE, and SNEAKERS at 11, 13, and 15D got me quickly back on BOARDS.

I *should* have dropped in the second grid-spanning across ("Common cybersecurity measure"), but I overthought it and spent time wracking my brain for various security type acronyms that would fit the space. The correct answer, was the more generic EMAILENCRYPTION

All six of the grid-spanning entries were excellent, with MARINEBIOLOGIST having, perhaps, the most entertaining clue ("Academic who works with many different schools, maybe"). The third spanner in the north, THREADTHENEEDLE, was also good. When it happens, there is something very satisfying about getting a long answer, isn't there? The same holds true for getting answers to tricky clues. It took me what seemed like forever to re-parse the clue at 28A "Does" as a plural noun for the animal instead of as a verb, even when I already had H_NDS. Derp. In a word, LESSTHANSTELLAR solve technique, but a delightful aha moment when I figured it out. 


There was good stuff to be found among the shorter answers as well. I particularly liked HACK for "Handy trick," "Goes for" for COSTS, and "Hearing monitor, for short" for ENT was clever. "Piña colada topper was a great clue for TILDE.

As my review week draws to a close, I have this final bit of crossword advice to offer: keep an open mind. :) Best wishes to all our dear Readers for a congenial holiday season and a puzzling New Year.


Friday, December 22, 2023

Friday, December 22, 2023, Brooke Husic and Brendan Emmett Quigley

Well, dear Readers, this was a fabulously fun Friday. I had the classic experience of running once through the clues and getting very little - some of it wrong after being led down the garden path by tricky clues. But, after spending time studying the clues and remembering the basic tenets of crossword puzzles, I eventually enjoyed the rapture of success.

I thought I'd had a divine inspiration for 1A when I entered 'bible' for "Numbers can be read in this." I even had a corresponding answer for 1D: "Bigeye, for one" where, with apologies to fish savants, I confidently entered 'bass." However, after UNO, DOSTRES Down went less well: I couldn't find any reasonable answers with the genesis letters I had. In the end, I cast out my original answer and decided on an Exodus from that section for a time. 

Another obstacle to my personal enlightenment centered on 19A: "Emphatic suffix" - that is until I ate from the tree of knowledge in the form of the answer to its companion clue, "19-Across, to a Brit," which was ARSE. When I realized that meant the answer to 19A was ASS, I LOL'd. 


Elsewhere, I made my way a little more easily, but not without some personal trials brought about by clever cluing designed to misdirect. Some of the best were "Bed cover" (SOIL), "Big break" (SCHISM), "Telenovela profession" (TEAMO) - so good!, "Knock hard" (PAN) - also great!, and "One working on a keynote" (PIANOTUNER) - ha. There were also a number of fine QMC's, including "Make it up?" for RISE - did not see that comin!, "Little bit of make-up?" (ATOM) - ha - and, maybe the best of the day: "Letters that might make a long story short?" for TMI. Simply divine. :)

The constructors offered up some fine fill as well. I enjoyed NEWSWORTHY, LIONSHARE, THANKMELATER, and a personal ROI, ALIENSHIP ("Rama is one, in Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi novel, 'Rendezvous With Rama"). 

In sum, a muy BONITA puzzle that seemed to threaten the martyrdom of a DNF, but that with perseverance and right thinking led to an under 30-minute Friday time for this solver. Heaven. 


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Thursday, December 21, 2023, David Steinberg

The constructor has cooked up a clever idea for today's theme answers. In three columns, words for fire are split and the two parts surround two other Down answers. The cluing for three answers corresponds to to the words surrounded by fire only. The fire fragments appear in highlighted squares and are referred to only by the revealer ("... fail spectacularly ... or what the answers to the starred clues do" or GODOWNIN FLAMES). For example, in one case, the BLA of 'blaze' starts at the top and the ZE appears in the last two squares of the same column. It's cool that the addition of the fire embers combined with the interior words make words themselves, but I could discern no particular reason for those specific interior words to go down in flames. As I'm looking at the puzzle now, it crosses my mind that the grid design is supposed to look like a fire. Is that correct? Also, would INFERTILE CHINO be a good band name? Asking for a friend.

Clever clueing caused this solver to choke on a few answers, including 1A: "Queue before Q" which I thought would be MNOP, but which turned out to be LGBT. "Brown in strips" was another good one. I was thinking along the lines of frying  bacon before I got a few crosses and I realized it was CHARLIE. "Squirt" for TOT and "Delivery site" for PORCH were nicely ambiguous clues. My favorite today, though, was "This might get the word out" (ERASER) - ha! It was great to see the word LAMBASTE ("Criticize harshly") in the grid, but "Socket inserts" (GLASSEYES) hurt my eyes.


I discussed the puzzle with Horace briefly. I mentioned that even with all I had heard about Taylor Swift's recent globe-spanning concerts, I had no idea what the name of her tour was. When I filled it in from the crosses, I parsed the answer, ERAS, as the Latin for "you were," which I thought seemed poetical and reflective. Horace set me straight. Another bit of crossword puzzle solving advice for our dear Readers: it pays to keep up with pop culture. 


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Wednesday, December 20, 2023, Brad Wiegmann

In preparation for writing this review, I read the Wikipedia articles about ANN LANDERS and DEAR ABBY, pseudonyms of two WOMENOFLETTERS - a nice reference to their careers writing what you might call STEERINGCOLUMNS - who were also identical twins. I suppose in light of the guidance they offered, and the fact that they were twins, you could call them POINTERSISTERS. I learned that the twins' birth names were Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman. Esther, who wrote as Ann Landers, began her column first. Pauline, writing as Abigail Van Buren, or Dear Abby, started her competing column later, sparking an estrangement between the two. I wonder what advice others might have given them about patching things up. :) As I reviewed the puzzle, I thought PAIRS, DNA, NOTED, and  DRMOM might be considered bonus theme material. 

Esther Pauline | Pauline Esther

In the course of my solve, I hit two trouble spots. First piece of advice when solving crossword puzzles: read the clue carefully. I first entered WOMaNOFLETTERS at 20A because I missed the plural in the clue. Fortunately, EULER ("Swiss mathematician who introduced functional notation") has been in the puzzle often enough that I realized that 'aULER' was a mistake. The second piece of advice: brush up on sports and botanical topics. When faced with the cross of "N.B.A.'s Westbrook, to fans" and "Stiff bristle, botanically," I was ATSEA. After running the alphabet, I finally settled on RUSS/ARISTA as the most likely pair, and that was correct, but the time loss was a BLOW.

Elsewhere, I thought "Showstoppers?" for ADS was nice, as was "Best effort" for AGAME. I enjoyed the Socrates quote, "He is richest who is content with the LEAST" - I'll try to keep that in mind this holiday season! OTH, while I didn't get hung up on TUSKER ("Elephant or warthog, e.g."), I didn't love it, either. I did like that the fill featured a number of words with non-English origins like TOILE, MOI, EMOJI, CANTATA, BOERS, AMONRA, NINJA, and IMARET that spiced things up a bit. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Tuesday, December 19, 2023, Seth Weitberg

Fun theme answers that show what might result IFIWEREYOU in a set of two-word noun phrases. More specifically, the final I of the second word in the answer has been changed to a U, and clued accordingly, with humorous results. My favorite was "'This cardboard belt is a waist of paper,' for example" (CLOTHESPUN) - ha! The revealer reminded me of my favorite joke pickup line: "I'd like to rearrange the alphabet so you and I could be together." Heh. The other theme answers were also good, with "Desire in the dessert aisle?" for GROCERYLUST as my second favorite.

In other parts of the grid, I found the C/APtness quotient to be slightly lower today than yesterday. I see the connections/rationales between the clues and the answers, but for me, they don't have the beautiful necessary parallelism that sings to me: 
"Raised" (BRED)
"Shabby, maybe" (OLD)
"Lasted longer than" (OUTSTAYED)
"Nipping pests" (GNATS)


Having said that, there were a number of C/APs that had a nice trick that I was happy to truck with:
"Capacity" (ROLE)
"Year abroad" (ANO)
"Nettles" (RILES)

Except for the couple of hiccups with the above-mentioned C/APs, my solve was smooth sailing and I was able to take a lick or two and turn it to luck to complete the grid in a zippy (for me) 6:53. 


Monday, December 18, 2023

Monday, December 18, 2023, Joe Marquez

Today's theme answers are two-word noun phrases, the first word of which starts with Q and the second with R. My favorite is QUACKREMEDY because, well, the word "quack" is funny. The others, QUALIFYINGROUND, QUEENREGENT, and QUARTERLYREPORT all qualify respectably, though. Unfortunately, a too well-remembered recent NYTX answer of PINTS for "Ice cream units" (Thursday, 12/14, 4D) however, caused me some trouble in the southeast, resulting in an initial entry of pTS at 47A for "Ice cream amts." I didn't check the Down until later, when I finally realized that 'pRCODE' for the revealer didn't scan correctly. 

The grid layout led to a quire of short fill, but it didn't feel as choppy as it could have, perhaps due to the general C/APtness throughout. Still, I EST 23 three-letter answers today, which is a real quantity. 


Other quick reactions: I enjoyed "Unexpected plot development" (TWIST), "What to do if the shoe fits" (WEARIT), and "Ill-advised maneuver" (WRONGMOVE). Also, fill-wise, I quite relished BUDGE, MOB, CHUM, and BANDO


Sunday, December 17, 2023

Sunday, December 17, 2023, Jeremy Newton

Wow. This is a pretty cool theme. At first, I thought they were giving too much away by putting in all those bridges. And I saw the note, but I averted my eyes, as is my wont. Eventually, though, I saw what was happening. Each bridge serves as a rebus square in the direction of the bridge, but in the other direction, it hides a letter that would complete a body of water that the bridge crosses over. And that letter has to be hidden, because otherwise the real answer wouldn't work. It's really a thing of beauty. We don't usually do this, but I'm going to include the finished grid so you can see it even if you didn't do the puzzle.

It's really a beautiful piece of work. 

And so, with all that theme and trickiness, you'd expect quite a lot of junk, but really there's not much. Sure, "Worn TOA frazzle" is odd, and the spelling of UIE (Illegal car maneuver, often) could be debated, but these are small things, and there are plenty of good clues and entries. "Alternative to a cab" (PINOT) (no question mark - nice), "Don Juan" (LADIESMAN), "Siren, for one" (SEDUCER), "Failed web venture, in slang (DOTBOMB) (Hah! That's new to me.), "Biggest club in Vegas?" (ACE). Hah! All very nice.

As many of you know, I don't always like Sunday puzzles, but this is a tour de force. Frannie takes the wheel tomorrow, but before I go I'd like to wish you all a restful holiday season and a happy new year.

- Horace

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Saturday, December 16, 2023, Garrett Chalfin

This was one of those Satudays that took less time than Friday did, even though it's a slightly larger 15x16 grid. 

SALADBAR (Place with dressing options) and SCOW (Trash hauler) seemed pretty straightforward, and the NW was done in no time. Now, I usually leave the "restricted flow" commentary to my esteemed co-blogger Colum, but today I felt the squeeze. Luckily, THRUPLES (Portmanteau for poly relationships) got me out - although at first I mistakenly entered "thrupple," but that was corrected soon enough.


Speaking of THRUPLES, this puzzle had a lot of R-Rated material. GROUPDATES, PASTIES, CAPTOR (Hades vis-à-vis Persephone), ASS ... and I was surprised it took me so long to get PORNO (Film unlikely to have a costume designer). Hah!

And countering that vibe were COMITY (Courteous behavior, formally), PERMITME ("If I could have the honor ..."), LUTHERAN (One subject to a religious ban from the 1521 Edict of Worms), and TITHES (Church gifts). 

The clue for DARIN (Singer Bobby with a brave-sounding last name) didn't work for me. I knew what they were going for, but it's one of those regional pronunciation things. I'm a person who pronounces "marry," "merry," and "Mary" all differently. So Bobby DARIN would be closest to "marry," while "daring," would be closest to "Mary." But that's just me. YMMV.

On the other hand, "Crushes that have lost their sparkle?" (FLATSODAS) worked no matter how you pronounce it. Also good - "They're impulsive" (AXONS). Very nice.

Things got a little sad in the SE, with WARTORN (Opposite of peaceful), DISMAL (Bleak), and FATWA (Ruling in Islamic law), but I guess it is Saturday, when the "breakfast test" is weakened slightly. 

- Horace

Friday, December 15, 2023

Friday, December 15, 2023, Alex Tomlinson

This begins with a word from pretty much my favorite poem from Fatal Interview, that begins:

Love is not all; it is not meat nor drink 
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating SPAR to me that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

So right off the bat I'm on board. And off of that word we have a solid pair of tens - PASTRYCHEF (One whose work might be a piece of cake?) and ALOHASHIRT (Bit of attire seldom worn with a jacket). Add a little Carl Sagan (PALE blue dot) and we're off to a very good start.

Maradona in BOCA Juniors uniform

Over in the NE we have the stepped stack of HANGTIME (Desire for a ski jumper) (maybe a tad easy?), CANYOUNOT ("Knock it off!," in question form) (nice), and SALTEDNUTS (Classic airplane snack) (aahh, the good old days). 

It's no wonder that I was not familiar with the word "Nephalist" (TEETOTALER). It derives from the Greek for "sober." That prefix is a little too close to "necro-" for my liking, though, so I think I will continue to steer clear of both of them. 

The SW was where I took the most time today. Not being an AVIDREADER myself, the clue "Bookie?" gave me nothing. Heh. "Bad press, say" was a tricky clue for MEDIABIAS, and while an ASSEMBLY is indeed an "Occasion to recite the Pledge of Allegiance," it was not really on the tip of my tongue. Ah well, it all came together in the end. How'd you like it?

- Horace

p.s. It's sonnet XXX, and it ends:

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Thursday, December 14, 2023, Esha Datta

It was only a matter of time before YOUREONMUTE got into a puzzle. If you have worked in an office over the past three years, chances are very good that you've both said it and had it said to you. I know I have. Hah! So today, all those "words of saying" (which, in Latin, would introduce indirect speech using a dependent noun clause with an accusative/infinitive construction) (my last class is tonight, and I have been preparing for the final) (ok, I haven't been preparing that much... but I should be, so I'm using this blog post for a little review...) are ignored completely. Unheard, as it were. Let's say them together:

Chili ingredients - BEANSTALK
Three wise men - MAGICHAT (timely!)
Note after la - TIREMARK (Fun, because it sort of gets a two-letter answer into the grid)
Predatory freshwater fish - PIKESPEAK

It's really quite elegant how each theme answer is a two-word phrase on its own, but then it's also a different, less common two-word phrase when parsed as it needs to be for the theme, and the break between words is always different. Really cool theme, nicely done.

Ratha Yatra CHARIOT

So what else? Isn't GOOP Gwyneth Paltrow's company? The answer is yes, and if someone should want to get me the rainbow chard ornament, I wouldn't refuse it. 

And how about 14A: "Prefix with science"? (OMNI) I thought I "knew everything" about the different sciences, but I didn't! Hah! Good one. As for "GPS's guesses" (ETAS), I am starting to think we should stop calling them "guesses." We drove down to see friends a couple days ago, and we left at five pm, drove through rush hour traffic for over an hour (picture something like the photo above, only that road is 128, and every person is a car), and the initial "guess" from the GPS was one minute off. One minute! How does it do it?! 

GOBLIN is good, GRAPHITE, ENCHANT, CHIANTI, ALBEIT... all strong. YEARBOOK (Collection of senior moments?) reminds me, sadly, that I have my 40th reunion coming up. Ugh. It's been an EON (Long, long time). But, well, I'm not sending out an SOS quite yet. I've still got puzzles to solve.

- Horace

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Wednesday, December 13, 2023, Alex Eaton-Salners

Everybody loves the WATERCYCLE. This is a lovely theme:

OCEANSPRAY (Co-op responsible for more than two-thirds of cranberry production in North America)
VAPORWARE (Tech product that's promised but never delivered)
CLOUDNINE (Hog heaven)
RAINMAKER (Business-generating partner at a law firm)
RIVERCARD (It might make or break a hand in Texas hold'em)

That pretty much covers it. And I enjoyed the cluing. I hadn't known that definition of RAINMAKER, and VAPORWARE is a good one too. And we get the cranberry sales data... It's all good.

In other news, I'm not much for religion, but who doesn't enjoy the look of the word PSALTER? (See also: COWLS.) CMERE (Slangy summons) is one of those that makes me smile. I mean, everybody knows it, but how many would include it in a crossword grid? But what about DEADRUN (Sprint at top speed). Is that a thing? I haven't heard it before. Dead heat? Sure. Dead lift? Yes. But DEADRUN? You tell me. And listen puzzle editors, "Foamy iced drink" sounds awful. A FRAPPE is a wonderful, ice cream drink. And if you put a scoop or two of malt into it, it becomes one of my favorite treats ever. "Foamy iced drink..." of all the ... hmph!

When I was in college someone accused me of cutting a RIP (Feature of some jeans) into my dungarees. Why would I ever do that? I needed those. 

Lastly, the NYTX loves its LSD. Today they clue ANTIWAR with "Drop Acid, Not Bombs." Hah! Well, I suppose "Make Love, Not War" would have duplicated the "war" part... but still. It's always "microtab" this and "hallucinate" that. They're the ones who should be worried about a RAID. Hah!

- Horace

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Tuesday, December 12, 2023, Peter Gordon

What an odd theme. Odd, but kinda hilarious. FINISHINGSCHOOL, the revealer, explains what happened to every other theme answer, which is that the letters "SCH" have been added to familiar phrases, with amusing results. 

Crotchety geezer with a heart of gold? - GRUMPYOLDMENSCH
"Home Sweet Home" needlepoint pillow, e.g.? - SEWINGKITSCH
Coup d'état that's been judicially suspended? - STAYEDPUTSCH


My favorite is probably the last one, actually, because it's just so tortured. 


So - good theme. Not too much, not too little. And the fill is strong too. GRUNTWORK (Labor that requires brawn, not brains) is a great phrase. LIPLINER (Cosmetic pencil) and SKULLCAP (Yarmulke, e.g.) are also good. I have a question about ALES (Drinks labeled "XXX" in comics) though. Usually I see XXX on a jug, and I'm pretty sure that's not ale. It seems like it's more used to label moonshine, but maybe I'm wrong about this. Anybody else got any opinion on it?

Here's a little thing about me - I often use a word from the puzzle as a seed word for Wordle. Today I used IDIOT, and I got it in three. Speaking of Wordle, I kinda hate it, but I do it every single day. I guess that's another thing about me. I much prefer Connections. That's a quality game.

Anywhooo, good Tuesday. Onward!

- Horace

Monday, December 11, 2023

Monday, December 11, 2023, Luke K. Schreiber

ITSMEAGAIN! Today it's all about me, me, me. Wait, no. Just me, me. Each theme answer begins with the letters "me" and then the combo appears again later on. As in MEATTHERMOMETER and METRONOME. METACOMET (Wampanoag chief of the 1600s also known as King Philip) was the most surprising entry. Maybe not exactly Monday fare.

It's a little unfortunate that MESAS (Small plateaus) appears in the puzzle, as it starts with "me" too. MESSI (Soccer's Lionel ____) is here, too, but at least that's a Down answer. And while we're mentioning less-than-perfect things, I will just say that STAIRSTEP (Unit in a flight between stories) is poor both in clue and answer. It's the kind of thing that makes me think constructing must be pretty hard.

On the brighter side, I liked learning that OPAL is a "Gem whose name comes from 'upala,' the Sanskrit word for 'precious stone'," and I chuckled at "This is a test!" (EXAM). Not much more to say about this one. 

- Horace

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Sunday, December 10, 2023, Zachary David and Jeff Chen


Greetings, Dear Reader, Horace here. I've come to discuss the puns. 

There are eight long theme answers today, running from the mildly amusing "The club's bouncer earned a living ..." ALONGPARTYLINES, through the slightly contorted "The sound engineer was obsessed with the ..." SPEAKERSOFTHEHOUSE, to the clever "The carpenter measured twice for the ideal ..." CABINETPOSITION, until finally, we get the excellent "The paid escort was fined for ..." ANACTOFCONGRESS. Hah! If only politics were so exciting.


I had never heard of a MUDCAT (Whiskered bottom-dweller) before, but I looked them up just now, and the largest ever caught was nearly six feet long and almost 140 pounds. Yikes. 

Corporate merger fans will have appreciated the clues "Insurance giant acquired by CVS in 2018" (AETNA) and "Company acquired by Morgan Stanley in 2020" (ETRADE). And those drawn to odd constructions and answers featuring two words just jammed together will have enjoyed DROPNAMES ("Just happen to" mention some famous people"), PIANOSEAT (Where one might store sheet music) (I think they mean piano bench), OBOESOLO (Musical feature in "Swan Lake" and "Peter and the Wolf"), and BIODATA (Place of birth, education, work history, etc.). 

On the brighter side, I enjoyed "An eye for an aye, say?" (TYPO) (even though that would be a very odd typo), "Salts" (MARINERS) (tricky), and "Seaside retreat?" (EBB). 

That one last theme answer was quite good, but overall, I found it to be a bit of a slog, albeit a rather speedy one. (15:33)

- Horace

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Saturday, December 9, 2023, Doug Peterson and Christina Iverson

I realized this morning that this will be my final puzzle review of 2023. Time has a way of going by, and there seems to be little that we can do about it. Being mindful of each moment helps though. 

I opened today's puzzle with 2D: "The Nutcracker" role. But would it be the German or the English spelling? I tried the former but replaced it quickly enough with the more standard CLARA. 1A reminds me of the old Beatles song, sung by Ringo, "Act Naturally." 15A was a gimme, and the northeast corner was done. CANCONFIRM is a great answer.

I couldn't easily exit the corner, however. Part of the problem was putting in RECroom rather than RECHALL at 21D. So I got started again in the SW, where 48D: Fictional Dr. Jones, familiarly (INDY) could only be one thing. 30D: Did some shallow breathing? (SNORKELED) is a great clue, and I love the word KOWTOWING. I don't know about BATPOLE. This is really only a thing in the campy 1960s television show. 

I'd never heard of NOTTODAYSATAN, so I had to leave the last word blank, and work my way back to it from the SE. Entry here was not hard with TOBEY and SERAPH. WHYNOTBOTH is a lovely colloquialism. I've always thought that the phrase "Have your cake and eat it too" is misparsed. It should really be "Eat your cake, and keep it afterwards." But that doesn't have the same ring.

Speaking of parsing, there's a nice pair of answers to "Break down, in a way" with ROT and PARSE

At this point, I corrected my mistake at 21D, and finished up in the NE, which was by far the most challenging area for me. DUCKEGG makes sense now, but I had no idea what they meant by "Shell-inspired." I was stuck on abalone or some other such thing. 11A: This and that (STEW) is a wide open clue. And the definite article at the beginning of THEAPEMAN threw me as well. "Chimpman?" "Gorillaman?" Eventually EMBIGGENS saved me, and the puzzle was done.

Horace takes over tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed this week of puzzling as much as I did! Happy holidays to everybody.

- Colum

Friday, December 8, 2023

Friday, December 8, 2023, Robert Logan

Whew! Zipped right through this one. Not my fastest Friday time ever, but when I'm below 5 minutes, I know that the constructor and I were on the same wavelength.

1D: [So what?] (SHRUG) was my entry, with BONUS leading right into BRICKYARD. That made the entire west side fall quickly. It's a great set of long answers, with NOAPOLOGIES and WANNAMAKEABET. I still use the movie poster from COMA in a lecture I give on the examination of the unresponsive patient. You can usually track what medical science has made possible by looking at thrillers. In the 1970s, advances led to people in comatose states being kept alive much longer. Could it be that the medical establishment is doing it to make money? Read the book and find out!

50A: What old memories often cause (SENIORMOMENTS) is not talking about the nostalgia from recalling older times, but rather the difficulties from an aged rememberer. Hah! 39D: Barely run (STREAK) is another great clue. See how both of these have no need of a question mark.


I filled in the middle next. It's a really solid 5 x 5 chunk, with excellent answers. The two words that have to end in vowels are MARIA and HINDI, both very solid and gettable words. And the excellent QMC at 20D: Ones helping players get a round? (CADDIES) is fun. 

I finished up counterclockwise up the east side and back to the north. I often find this to be the case, that I end where I started in these more challenging puzzles. 11D: Drawers on chests, maybe (TATTOOARTISTS) is clever, and PARTYTRICKS is another good answer. Because GOYA was such a gimme, I didn't have too much trouble with this side either.

8D: Defenses are prepared for them (THESES) was an answer I only got by getting the crosses. I did not see that coming. Fun and quick Friday themeless.

- Colum

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Thursday, December 7, 2023, Rebecca Goldstein

Is it possible that Ms. Goldstein's name inspired today's theme? I guess the answer to that question has to be yes. It is possible, but maybe not likely.

In fact, ALCHEMY and its aim to turn lead into gold has inspired four rebus squares, where in the across direction the answer uses the letters PB (for lead) and the down answers uses the letters AU (for gold). I figured out what was going on at the crossing of 49D and 56A (TE[AU]RN and PO[PB]OTTLES). There was only one choice for the across answer (I had most of the rest of it with crosses), and only one possibility for the down answer, so I was set. Mind you, most of the time caterers use urns for coffee, not tea.

It is very nice that all of the PB rebuses are across words, and all but one of the AU rebuses. CAFE[AU]LAIT is the one exception. My favorite pair is PUSHU[PB]RA and MAKE[AU]TURN. Is it just coincidence that NECKED is just above the intimate garment? I'd like to think that it isn't. The rebus squares are symmetrically placed, but they still came as surprises to me as I solved.

It's the rare puzzle that gives you two muppets in one grid, and today is one of those days, with OSCAR and Dr. BUNSEN Honeydew. 

After all of that, there are remarkably few surprising or clever clues for a Thursday. I suspect this has to do with the challenge level of the rebus theme. Make everything else easier than usual so the crosses make the rebus answers clearer.

Fun puzzle, looking forward to the rest of the Turn!

- Colum

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Wednesday, December 6, 2023, Peter A. Collins and Bruce Haight

Now no longer in NYC, I feel free from elevator worry. Unfortunately, we've tested positive for COVID! Ah well. The modern world giveth and it taketh away.

Meanwhile, we have a fun puzzle from Mr. Collins and Dr. Haight. The theme is clearly stated with the double H in black squares in the middle of the grid. There are six two-word phrases in the puzzle where both words start with H. It's interesting that the theme answers are either 9-letters or 7-letters long, while there are multiple answers that are 9-letters long or longer that are not theme answers. YMMV on this, but it doesn't bother me at all.

But also, did you notice that all of the clues start with H? I didn't until I'd almost finished this review!

I had never heard of HICKHOP before, although I know it is becoming more and more popular. Doing a Wikipedia deep dive, I see that broadly interpreted, there were rap style elements in country music going back to the 1960s, although I would hesitate to lump it all in together. More recently, country trap is an up and coming version as popularized by Lil Nas X.

HIGHHORSE reminds me of Hozier ("Take Me to Church") and HAMHOCK reminds me that we need to order our ham for Christmas.

Is Bart STARR bowling with a football here?!

It's a fun grid shape because of those Hs. Even though it's segmented, the large proportion of 3-letter words meant nothing was too hard to break into. I had to absolutely guess about BEETAYLOR. I was missing the first two letters, and I did not know EVO. It's not an acronym, but rather short for the Evolution Gaming Tournament. Fortunately, "Bee" made the most sense, and I got the happy complete message. 

As usual, Mr. Collins and Dr. Haight have come up with a fun and unusual puzzle type. Nice work!

- Colum

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Tuesday, December 5, 2023, Nate Cardin

It's a new day in NYC, and in the couple of hours I've been up, I have yet to get stuck in an elevator. That might be because I haven't used one yet. We'll see.

It's been a while since I've seen one of these types of themes. I'd heard that Will Shortz had put the kibosh on the X goes well in front of both A and B, when A + B make a separate theme answer. The mathematical way of putting this is a little dry, so here's how today's theme works.

The revealer is 54A: Irritable ... or how you might describe all the words in the answers to the starred clues? (OUTOFSORTS). Questionable that they highlighted the squares for "out of," but it shows how each of the words can go along with that phrase to make a new one. Thus, PRINTORDER leads to "out of print," and "out of order." I am amused at the reparsed revealer. The idea of calling these words "sorts" makes me chuckle for some reason.

All four theme answers are well recognizable phrases, so the theme works very nicely. It's also impressive to squeeze so many of them into a 15 x 15 grid. The black squares are set up so that only two answers have to go through three theme answers, and they are strong entries, with ROCKJOCK and the well-clued FREEGIFT, drawing attention to the redundancy built into the phrase.

I'm betting that constructors are so happy that the Oreo brand was extended to cereals. OREOOS... all those vowels in one entry.

I'm not sure about SNORTY, but otherwise I have no complaints today. Also no tricksy or clever clues, typical for a Tuesday. Nice work!

- Colum

Monday, December 4, 2023

Monday, December 4, 2023, Sean Ziebarth

Apologies for the lateness of today's blog post. We're in NYC looking at apartments, and let me tell you a STORY. On our way back down from looking at one candidate apartment, the elevator got stuck. I have personally lived in NYC for 6 years some time ago, and my family have all lived in NYC for years. Never has any of us gotten stuck in an elevator. It took 40 minutes to set us free, during which time we sang Kumbaya and shared embarrassing personal stories. Two of the three things in the last sentence were lies. Can you guess which ones?

But on to today's puzzle...

What a fun theme from Mr. Ziebarth! DJS do indeed, in the course of their professional work, SETANEWRECORD, TURNTHETABLES, MOVETHENEEDLE, and they DONTMISSABEAT. I like that all four of these use these terms in a non-phonographic way.

In other news, the clue for 16A: Like 2, 4, 6, 8 ... (EVEN) reminds me of today's joke of the day, which goes something like this:

I hired an odd job person to help me out around the house. I gave her a list of ten tasks. She only completed jobs 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9.


Otherwise, not too much to comment on. Wish me luck tomorrow! I will be trying to get through a day without getting stuck in an elevator.

- Colum

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Sunday, December 3, 2023, Tracy Bennett


Hey folks! Great to be back. A fun week of reviews from Philbo in the rearview mirror, it's time to recognize that 2023 is almost over. Can you believe how quickly it went by? It's been a year of lasts for me as I am leaving my longtime employment with Albany Medical Center for a new chapter in New Jersey. 

Meanwhile, given yesterday's poor performance on the Saturday themeless, I was pleased to have a jumbo-sized themeless for Sunday. I could tell when it opened on my iPad that it was going to have no theme, with all of those wide open white chunks of real estate. I am impressed that there are only a few answers I have any issue with. Here they are: EONIAN, RATINE, MULCTS. And even then, that last one is a great looking word.

Meanwhile, so much fun with WHATELSEISNEW starting us off. Other great answers include WACKADOODLE, REMINDMEAGAIN, HELLSCAPE, and TAKEAPOWDER

ORAN, Algeria

14A: That makes two of us! (CLONING) is a fun clue. It doesn't exactly fit into the FIC (false imperative clue) category, but the exclamation point is a new sort of question mark. It tells us that something is up, and I like it.

32A is a major spoiler alert. If you want to keep The Stepford Wives surprising, skip this answer.

I am also a fan of all of the 8-letter answers which are phrases of two 4-letter words. Such as ALOOGOBI (an eternal favorite), CARLORFF (I really don't know any of his music outside of Carmina Burana), and NINEHOLE.

62A: Month that goes by fast? (RAMADAN) is a really good clue. Certainly not February. With all apologies to my daughter, whose birthday is in that month, it is one of the longest months of the year, belying its 28 day rule.

Finally, we all should be using the term CALUMNY more frequently. What a wonderful term.

- Colum

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Saturday, December 2 2023, Royce Ferguson

Not the greatest finale to my blogging week, my fellow crossworders.  I was very careless and slapdash today and FWTE - a rarity for me.  I blame this on my recent brush with Ontario's health care system, which brings me to DONOHARM, which, we're told, is not actually part of the Hippocratic oath; I hope it is implied, then, at least.  Certainly my recent interactions were nothing but positive, notwithstanding a fair amount of wait time.   But on to the topic du jour!  A lovely, very chunky grid with very few black squares - really great construction with stacks of long answers in all four corners and one across the middle for good measure.  

The problems started from the get-go.  Surely the tiny fairyfly must be a GNAT?  No - it's a WASP.  With that cleared up, it took me a while to correctly interpret "Annual New Year's Day event" as ROSEPARADE - I was stuck on RESOLUTION.  And I was so close with "Statement of admiration after someone's impressive feat" - WHATABEAUT, which wound up being one of my two errors, instead of WHATABEAST.  So poor.  Especially the crosser "Stuff in microdots", which is obviously LSD.  LUD doesn't make sense at all!  Sigh.  

Much of the grid content resonated with me.  GINMARTINI ("Two-ingredient cocktail with an olive or twist") is my go-to tipple, as I believe Horace has witnessed.  Right beside it - "Breakout site" (ESCAPEROOM) is clever, and also a fun way to spend an hour with friends or co-workers.  Down and to the right, I liked HEYNOW ("Whoa, calm down!") as that was Jeffrey Tambor's character's catchphrase on the fantastic Larry Sanders Show.

It was nice to see NENES clued as something other than "Hawaiian geese"...Are 'AAAS' really "thin cell types"?  Narrow, sure, but thin?  I dunno...SMAZE is one of the crappier portmanteau words, IMO...True that HERBS is pronounced differently in the UK than in the US.  Here in Canada, we fall on the US side of that one, though when it's a man's name, the 'H' is pronounced (as I bit it also is south of the border)...And down at the bottom, "Daughter of Catherine of Aragon" is MARYI, not MARYS (and "galangal" is THAI ginger, not THAS) - my other sloppy error today.  

Great Saturday puzzle.  I did not do it justice.  Hope this review isn't too much of a SNOOZEFEST.  OK Colum, over to you!  


Friday, December 1, 2023

Friday, December 1 2023, Jem Burch

Hello and happy Friday everyone!  Just finished today's delightfully gristly crossword, with a chunky well-connected grid featuring corners loaded with long answers and a nice triple-stack in the centre.  Not having a theme to dissect, I'll do my usual scattershot analysis.  Got off to the absolute rockiest start, confidently entering TOME at the very beginning for "Hardly a quick read" (nope: it's SAGA).  This temporarily sabotaged the NW corner, of course, including one of my favourites today -"One hoping to catch a break" (SURFER).  

In that same corner, I give a considered thumbs-up to ROCKCLIMB as a verb for 'scrambling or bouldering'.   Moving to the very middle, my physics-brain is amused by the use of QUANTUMLEAP as a "massive step forward, so to speak", as of course the quantum world is the domain of the very very tiny.  Right below that, "They're inclined to help beginners" (BUNNYSLOPES) was cute.  SLOTCANYONS ("Narrow landforms in Zion National Park") was new to me.  Very evocative phrase!

Random notes ... I'd never heard of COE College in Iowa.  The COE I know is Sebastian, a British middle-distance runner and record holder in the late '70s and '80s....NOMA restaurant in Copenhagen is on my bucket list but it may forever remain there as I hear they're closing their doors next year...Cluing SASHAOBAMA as the "youngest White House resident since JFK Jr." was very inventive...

Overall, this puzzle was very Friday-appropriate.  Definitely not ALLTOOEASY, requiring some SMARTS to complete.  THANKSAHEAP, Mr. Burch - and I mean that sincerely!!


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thursday, November 30 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic and Jeff Chen

I have nothing but admiration for anybody who can set a NYT crossword.  I wish I could do it myself, and some day I may take a crack at it, but meanwhile, I appreciate the effort and inventiveness that goes into a puzzle.  Especially the themed ones.  I am a sucker for themed puzzles.  Having said that - I found this one particularly outstanding.  I worked my way down a medium-strength grid, encountering + skipping a few answers that didn't seem to make sense, until reaching the science-fiction-y revealer : TIMETRAVEL.  Aha!  But even with that in hand, it took a bit more time to parse everything.  What the setters have done, three separate times, is to put two answers side by side, one containing a time-related word, and TRAVEL the time word over to the other answer, leaving two different answers that are *still valid words/phrases*.  To wit:
So much going on!  In case it isn't clear, the third one (my favourite as I dabbled in the latter answer back in the day) is clued "Armada ship" and "Unscripted comedy", which, absent the above wizardry, would be GALLEON and IMPROV.  See?  The travelling time-words are even taken from the "correct" side of the words!  Bravo, I say.

What else, what else ... A nice collection of amusing clues, starting with "Evidence that one is going into labor?" which, after a bit of pregnancy-related thought, turns out to be UNIONCARD.  (Funny that a few clues later, we get "Sudden contraction" (SPASM)!)  I liked "Zippers on a snowy day" (SLEDS) too.  Brought back memories of metal zippers, jammed and stubbornly refusing to open or close, that when they got cold enough, they'd sometimes freeze painfully onto one's lips.  Neat that a LAKEBED can turn into a salt flat; one thinks of a lake as a body of fresh water...  And ENZYMES ("Chemical kick starters") - a straightforward clue to be sure, but puts me in mind of the manifold miracle of what goes on inside a living thing.  Finally, "Takes in the paper?" is OPEDS, not READS.  Oh and p.s. I bet I'm not the only one who put in ARIA for "Opera piece" (it's ACTI)!

Top marks for this Thursday puzzle.  OK Friday, your work is cut out for you!


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Wednesday, November 29 2923, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Vacillation is the name of the game today!  Four theme answers describe ambivalence in different forms, with varying levels of appropriateness; each is clued similarly as a choice being made between options A and B (and, in one case, C):

  • ONTHEFENCE - yes, quite.
  • WISHYWASHY - I see this as more of a character trait than a decision-making obstacle.
  • OFTWOMINDS - good, nice and literal
  • UPINTHEAIR - my least favourite - would normally refer to the decision, not the decision-maker.
These are all symptoms of DECISIONFATIGUE, the big revealer (sort of) bisecting the grid.  I can relate to this; I get that feeling toward the end of about half of my working days.

These indecisive clues are embedded in a fairly inoffensive substrate.  "Talking point?" gave me early pause until the crossers revealed DAIS.  (Good one!)  I liked the physics-y "Super conductors?", as you don't see MAESTRI every day.  Had to trust the crossers on GELT ("Traditional Hanukkah gift"), as that was brand new to me.  CONEY Island is a peninsula, not an island - who knew? Till today, not I.

I'm cutting this short tonight as it's been a long day and I'm running on FUMES.   Sayonara, all!




Monday, November 27, 2023

Tuesday, November 28 2023, Gia Bosko

Today we've got a chromatic rhyming theme in a left-to-right symmetrical grid, with five colour-related rhyming phrases sprinkled throughout the puzzle, one split into two side-by-side answers (MELLOW / YELLOW, Donovan's hit song from 1966).   I believe the entire point of this construction was the final theme clue, whose answer is ORANGEDOORHINGE - the closest humankind has ever come to a rhyme for the word 'Orange'.  Ha!  I bet Ms. Bosko thought long and hard about getting 'PURPLE' in there too, somehow.  

So I RELISHed this puzzle, because of the refreshing symmetry and also because it put up more resistance than usual for a Tuesday.  I was misled time and again - entering PETDOOR instead of AIRHOLE for 'Opening in a pet carrier' (#facePalm) and ODDBAL (yes, ODDBAL) not ODDONE for 'Quirky person'.  Bogged me down from the get-go, it did.  Fortunately, a few gimmies came to the rescue.  'I, on the periodic table' (IODINE) could have been clued as simply 'I', and maybe it would have, later in the week.  I don't know Uno, but crying the name could only mean ONECARD.  I still have a box of MEMOREX tapes somewhere with a bunch of '80s music on them.  Nothing to play them on any more, sad to say.  I was aware that Captain Kirk never actually said 'Beam me up, SCOTTY!'  Didn't love LATISH ("Not quite on time") - just doesn't look right to me.  I did like the clue for COLONS (appropriately, ': : : : : :') in a weird way.  

What a disjointed, rambling review!  Back at it tomorrow.....


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Monday, November 27 2023, Ricky J. Sirois

 Today's theme, hidden in a clever pun, is all about food.  Not just any food, but four dishes with something in common: each with two-word names, both words starting with the letter 'B'.  A pretty innocent theme, really, though my mouth waters whenever I read BEEFBOURGUIGNON.  Something succulent about the way the B's and the G's roll off the tongue ... but I digress.  The revealer ties it together:  "'Admittedly...', or when said aloud, a punny description of the theme answers" : TOBEFAIR.  Get it?  TWO-B FARE?  I feel like I'm being one of those annoying people who ruin jokes by explaining their punchlines.  Anyway.  The best part of the theme today was this revealer.

Elsewhere - I liked the subtly punny "Pub brawl" (BARFIGHT), and OLGA Korbut brought back memories of watching the 1976 Olympics on our brand new tiny little black-and-white TV, where she was upstaged by the transcendent Nadia Comaneci.  I liked the inventive cluing of CRATER ("Any facial feature of the man in the moon, in reality").

TSETSES ("Fearsome African flies") raised my eyebrows. I don't think this word really has a plural form, though I expect Google would prove me wrong, if I just went one tab over and looked .. 

Not much else of note.  Gentle, sub-three-minute Monday fare.

Onwards and Tuesday-wards!


Sunday, November 26 2023, Adam Wagner and Michael Lieberman

 Greetings all, from crisp cool Toronto-land!  After solving today's puzzle, I am struck with an urge to go stretch my legs (not that my legs need stretching, as those who know me will attest).  The trick today is, seven Down answers have been lengthened by an INCH - literally, by the insertion of 'INCH', transforming common phrases into punnily-clued silliness - and even more literally for me, on my computer screen, those extra 4 squares are almost exactly an INCH long.  I like this multi-level cleverness, though some of the results are quite seriously contorted.  I won't list them all out today, but here's an example:

LATESTCRAZES - perfectly fine, common phrase - becomes LATINCHESTCRAZES, clued "Reasons that South American furniture stores have super-long lines?"

I mean, really.  We're venturing far out into dad-joke land here.  Not that I mind.  I dwell in the domain of Dad Jokes, the more contrived the better.  It might be a bit much for some, though.  (Comments?)  A neat and appropriate twist, having the theme answers all being Down.

As far as the solve went - as usual, I left the theme till the very end, spidering down from NW to SE and working out from there.  I wasn't sure the very first clue "Sweeties" was going to be BAES, so left it at first, but sure enough...  Didn't love SNEERY for "Visibly scornful" - a bit of a hack, there.  Moving diagonally down, I was fully misled by "Release, as a trailer", thinking it had to do with the movies, so the eventual unveiling of UNHITCH was a pleasant "aha".  I needed all the crossers for UTAHUTES ("Brigham Young football rival") - nice construction there, and in the neighbourhood of the most difficult section for me.  I don't visit Natick very often, but the crossing of "Classic name in wafers" and "The ____ Honors (annual picture book awards)" was just about the end of me, even with NE_CO and _ARLE in place.  Fortunately, I twigged to "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and filled in NECCO and CARLE. NECCO must be an American thing, or I don't get out shopping enough (or I'm in the wrong aisles).  This is the sort of thing that just kills at the ACPT.  

Other stuff - SANDALTANS ("Reasons to wear socks post-vacation") was a new one .  Oooo...kay.  ICOSAGON ("20-sided shape") was neat.  Nice to see that word get some air time, instead of its sexier, higher-dimension sibling ICOSAHEDRON...  "One who doesn't have a prayer?" (ATHEIST) - super subtle editorializing maybe?  I'd never heard of YEET ("Hurl with gusto, in Gen Z slang") - guess I'm one or two Gens too old.  And my favourite of the day, just next to that one - "One might improve a pupil's performance" (MONOCLE).  Are monocles a thing any more?  At all?  

Found this a bit tougher than the usual Sunday fare.  Sometimes there's a slight wavelength difference, I find.  All in all, though, fun and no serious gripes.

See you tomorrow!


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday, November 25, 2023, Jeff Stillman

Today's puzzle had a little more meat on its bones, if you will. The solve took me twice as long as yesterday's, partly because I ran into several problem areas. The worst included "Illinois city near St. Louis" (ALTON) and "Actor Rutger ____ of 'Blade Runner'" (HAUER), both crossing "1972 hit whose singer claims to 'know a place'" (ILLTAKEYOUTHERE) - threatening a one-way ticket to Natick. Another problem area involved the crossing of "Network descended from the first national 'superstation'" and the oddish "Rougher-than-usual instance, as of a head cold or thunderstorm," which turned out to be TBS and BADONE. Why 'bad one' is particular to head colds and thunderstorms I will, perhaps, never know. Anyhoo, the gray cells KEPTUP their charge this morning, eventually rerouting the Natick-pportunities to their correct destinations, and I was ABEL to FILLIN all squares after 31 minutes, 27 seconds. 

I first thought of 'Popeye' for "Olive lover?" but then I counted the squares. A false start of 'godS' for "Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune" instead of ORBS in that same area made it difficult to see BLUTO until I re-TOONed my thinking. Nice for Olive to have two WOOERS.

Some of the fill was a little choppy like EEEE, ENNE, MIS, RES, RECTI, and the oddly pluralized DNAS, but the exciting long answers and some fun shorter fill like HISSY, MAPLE, and SPOOF made up for it. The long answers I especially liked were  SCRAMBLETHEJETS and THEPLOTTHICKENS. ROIs for this solver included the French answers ETE and LAI - I was looking at Les Lais de Marie de France on Wednesday! - and everyone's favorite, the SMILEY. :)

The pattern of the grid was interesting. While it might not win an IMAGEAWARD, it made me think of a chocolate chip pancake, and what's not to LIKE about that?


Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday, November 24, 2023, Rafael Musa

After expending enormous effort yesterday on eating as much as I could, it's no surprise that I felt a bit sluggish this morning. Fortunately, that feeling didn't translate to my puzzle performance. I completed the grid in a relatively sprightly (for me) 14:13. 

The one section that gave me trouble was the northeast. "Something a birthday determines" is a very broad category! I don't pay much attention to my own or the STARSIGN of others, so that possibility didn't exactly leap to mind. "Back in" for RETRO was tricky for me, as was the clever QMC "Bad lighting?" for ARSON. Also, for some reason, my mind went in the direction of science lab instead of medical facility for "Workers who must maintain a sterile environment, in brief" (ORNURSES), but other answers eventually NUDGED me in the right direction and I made a full recovery.

But elsewhere, some of the fill seemed surprisingly easy/straightforward for a Friday puzzle, like "Bygone ___" (ERA), "Bury" (INTER), and "Colorado ski mecca" (VAIL), plus several others in the southeast corner: "Hydrogen sulfide has a distinctive one" (ODOR), "Something 'Jeopardy!' gives you" (ANSWER), and "Mr. ___ (1983 Styx hit)" (ROBOTO) - although, that may have something to do with my age. :)


I dropped in EYESHADOW "What might cover a lid," which seems like it should be tricky, but when you think about it, what else could it be? Of course, I liked NERDFESTS, and perhaps, ergo, TAXON. :) I also enjoyed "Come to a point?" for NARROW and my favorite of the day: "Present-day vehicle?" (SLEIGH) - ha! EGGHEAD, PROVISO, SCHISMS, SUEDE, and EXUDED are fun words.  

I'm thankful for the NYTX in general, and a fun, easy-to-digest puzzle after yesterday's gastronomic and social exertions.