Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Tuesday, January 31, 2023, Erik Agard

An odd-shaped grid today, no? Chunky corners with narrow inlets into that vertical middle. Weird, but fine. A change is better than a rest, right?

Delicious, delicious, mango LASSI

The theme today was decidedly not in my wheelhouse. When I got to 24D and saw that I had MARI___... and the clue started with "Chanteuse," I immediately dropped in MARIacallas. Derp. I'm not sure she had any chart-toppers...

But it was all sorted out quickly enough. MARIAHCAREY has, apparently, plenty chart-toppers, and of her 19 number one hits, "Someday," "Hero," Honey," and "Fantasy" are four. Sadly, they are almost in chronological order (1991, 1993, 1997, 1995).) But I love the vertical nature of it, and it's kind of incredible that Mr. Agard was able to sandwich those three long verticals together with only THON and ENTO to deal with. 

Outside of that center, we have a lot of quality fill. SORORITY, TRUNCATE, PROVERBS, and ETHIOPIA are all lovely. STROVE (Tried really hard) is fun, OYSTER (Shellfish that may be served cooked or raw) (see also, scallop - but it didn't fit) is tasty, and who doesn't like a clue that includes the word "appurtenance?," as in "Pre-cable TV appurtenance" (AERIAL). Also, we have a bleedin' AERIAL in the attic, and it has served us well, as we are still "pre-cable."

Overall, I SAYYES to this puzzle.

- Horace

Monday, January 30, 2023

Monday, January 30, 2023, David Steinberg

Monday, Monday. Sometimes a Monday will hit you RIGHTBETWEENTHE EYES. As in, "in a sudden and completely apparent way." Huh? 

"Thar SHE blows!"

So, the circled letters spell "nose," and they each appear between two "I"s, and so the revealer makes sense in that way, but what's all this "sudden and completely apparent way" stuff? Is that a way that people use that expression? Is it referring to your nose being right between your eyes? As plain as the nose on your face? That sort of thing? No. Maybe it's a regional thing? Me, I might say "right in front of your face," or something like that. But then, I'm no scholar of idiom.

Well, let's put the theme aside, shall we? I'm a big fan of DEVILEDEGGS, with or without paprika, (No HARDCAP!), and RECANT is a nice word. Any reference to a Deadly SIN (Greed, gluttony or sloth) or ABBA (Not drawing any connections here...) is fun, and I guess it's nice to include a reference to a BERG (Chunk floating in the Arctic Ocean) while we still can. Sigh.

Big revelation for me today - I had no idea that ARTHUR was an aardvark. He doesn't look much like one, frankly, but then, I'm not a cartoonist. 

I enjoyed the clue for DINERS (Certain restaurants ... or their customers), but is "HAT tip" as common a phrase as "HAT trick?" 

Always nice to be reminded of my sister SUE, who is a REAL saint in my EYES

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sunday, January 29, 2023, Rich Katz


Hello Dear Reader, Horace here, back for another week of talking about the little black and white squares. When I saw the title today, I was ONALERT for a Star Trek theme, and, well, the revealer is SPACETRAVEL, but here it's not traveling through space, it's the traveling of space - the space between two words, that is. Hah! Very nice. 


This theme seems tailor-made for a crossword, or an old Latin text, because in both there are no spaces between words. All the letters just run together and we are left to do the parsing as necessary to make sense of things. So when we see DEATHEATER, we can either think of creatures in Harry Potter, or we can make it into the "Staging of a narc sting?" or "DEA theater." Harry Potter enters into it again at 77D "Terrific messenger at Hogwarts?" (SUPERBOWL). And in other areas we can look at PARKAVENUE and think of N.Y.C., or we can think of the Iditarod, a "parka venue" if ever there were one. Heh.

So, good theme, and there's a lot of it, but somehow we still have lots of fun, long entries like TEASEDHAIR (What a beehive is made of) (Nice!), PROMPOSALS (Portmanteau invitations) (Never heard this before, but I chuckled), HORSESENSE (Street smarts), and RIGAMAROLE (Frustrating process). That last reminds me of a colleague who likes to talk about all the "Rigamaroo" at work. Heh.

"Sovereign's singular" (ROYALWE) is lovely. "Metric for a Met, for short" is a wonderful clue for RBI. And "Series of trade discounts?" is a straight-up cryptic clue for AEIOU

Overall, I thought this was an out-of-this-world Sunday with a real GOODEARTH. A very promising debut! 

How'd you like it?

- Horace

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Saturday, January 28, 2023, Kevin Christian

I thought I was going to blaze through this puzzle when I entered 1A: U.S. Holiday beginning in 2021 (JUNETEENTH) right off the clue. And in fact, I had three-quarters finished super fast, but that last corner... ooh boy. Took some time.

It's a lovely chunky grid with large corners, each with triple stacks of 10-letter answers. ARISHAPIRO deserves his status as an outstanding reporter. Why should a MALTESECAT be blue and a Maltese dog be white? Answer me that, pundits!

The SW stack is not as strong, although MOOCHEDOFF is a great answer. ALPHAVILLE I'd barely heard of. A German band from the 1980s, they're still around. Perhaps I should try some of their music. And SLEEPINGIN is something I can't seem to do any more. Ah, the halcyon years of the 1980s, when I was just a lad...

58A: TV bar with frequent health code violations overlooked by the city's mayor (MOESTAVERN) could only have one answer, amirite? ONTHEFENCE and DESERTROSE are very nice answers.


The real trouble came in the NE corner. I had very little going into this section. I guessed that  "Something that isn't assumed" must be REALNAME at 24A, but a silly guess at 16A: Cousin of the Spanish chirimía or Italian piffero (OBOE) put me back. I tried Oreo. Seemed a little odd at the time. In retrospect, "piffero" should have clarified the woodwind aspect here so I could replace one crosswordese with another.

Meanwhile, 21A: They form lines for their work (POETS) was difficult to see, and POSTMALONE was not going to come to my mind any time quickly. Fortunately, I got SETSEYESON which clarified my earlier mistake, and it all fell after that. I love the clue at 12D: Props for some plays (OBIEAWARDS). Hah!

So that's another week of blogging done. You can't say you weren't entertained. Or at least not so I can hear it. Tomorrow Horace takes over.

- Colum

Friday, January 27, 2023

Friday, January 27, 2023, Joe Deeney

I think we need a new term for this kind of puzzle: it's a themeless puzzle, only there's kind of a little theme. I'm leaning towards a semi-themed puzzle, but happy to take suggestions!

In any case, Mr. Deeney offers up two pairs of stacked 16-letter answers where the top is the name of a piece of entertainment art, and the bottom is the name of a person involved in the making of the art. Thus, THESOCIALNETWORK starred (in a supporting role) JUSTINTIMBERLAKE. And JAGGEDLITTLEPILL, that watermark album of the 1990s was recorded by ALANISMORISSETTE. I'm very impressed that Mr. Deeney got the latter in particular to work, because there are no other choices.

To be fair, only Mr. Timberlake supplies the correct number of letters. Jess Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield both come in at 14 letters, while Dakota Johnson has only 13. So, not many choices there.

SYD Barrett

But look at the crosses over these pairs of answers. The lower half is incredibly smooth, and allows for NBAJAM, the excellent HOOLIGAN, as well as the amusing C/AP at 44D: Industry with lots to offer (REALTY). I also love 39D: That's what you think! (OPINION). It's as if the constructor is pointing at the answer and exclaiming about it!

In the upper half, things are not quite as smooth. STJOES is acceptable, although non-fans of NCAA basketball might have trouble. MOILS and ITRY are a little rough. On the other hand, Philbo probably lit up with CNTOWER (nice ROI there! "Tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere"). And TOAMOUSE and ARKANSAS (only active diamond mine in the US?! ROI!) were nice additions.

Anyway, that's my opinion. What do GNU think?

- Colum

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Thursday, January 26, 2023, Dan Ziring and Quiara Vasquez

Partial debut alert! Welcome to Ms. Vasquez. And what a fun puzzle to break in to the NYT with!

I do love a tricksy Thursday, and this one had me guessing far longer than typical. The clue comes at the revealer, 33A: Developing phenomena literally depicted three times in this puzzle (SNOWBALLEFFECTS). And the three answers are clued at 1A, 10A and 54A with "Gradually develop, literally). You are then asked to spell out the answer with rebuses, adding one more letter in each square to create GROW, FORM, and SWELL.

Boy, I had no idea what was going on until finally I realized that the answer I'd wanted for 3D: Punished for the weekend, perhaps, was in fact [GRO]UNDED. Then I saw [GROW]LERS, and the other shoe dropped.

I love the move from [SW]EET to [SWE]ATY to [SWEL]TER. Very descriptive of what it might be like in RO[SWELL] in the Summer. Particularly nice is the connection to the first answer of this series, ETS. Way to connect it all together!


The puzzle is very nicely constructed all around. Some good C/APs are:

5D: One might hit a very low pitch (BASSTUBA) - indeed.

36D: You might make waves when you lie about this (WATERBED). Hah!

39D: Fried food whose name translates to "breaded" (EMPANADA). Nice ROI. 

31A: Leaves in the kitchen? (BASIL).

I also enjoyed TOPSHELF. Anything that comes close to an Auntie Mame reference works in my book.

Fun puzzle! 10:15.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wednesday, January 25, 2023, Nancy Serrano-Wu

When do sports and alcohol mix? When don't they!

Okay, I'm clearly influenced by my Joke-a-Day calendar (gifted to me by Horace and Frannie). 

But today's theme takes sports related phrases where the last word is also an alcohol reference, and clues each with "Sports bar purchases?". This is excellent stuff: I love FANTASYDRAFTS particularly. TRIPLEDOUBLES is also excellent (for our non-sports fan readers, this is when a basketball player gets double digits in three statistics in one game, typically in points, assists, and rebounds). I can imagine PENALTYSHOTS occurring in drinking games. It's rounded out with STARPITCHERS.

In direct opposition to the sports and alcohol, we get LISZT at 1A. I am very amused by this. I can't entirely explain why. Perhaps the ballet reference below (ONTOE) and the super sophisticated European AVION at 17A reinforce that impression?

Is that TENABLE?


CATSMEOW is the bee's knees, if you ask me. Otherwise there's not that much in terms of clever clues, except 1D: Apt shoe for a bread maker? (LOAFER). Apt!

Fun Wednesday. And in the words of the infamous Austin Powers, IMSPENT.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, Aaron M. Rosenberg and Jeff Chen

Extra big Tuesday today, at 15x16 (I think that's correct - across before down). The theme is very cute, with the revealer coming at 39D: Beverage mixed with tapioca pearls ... or a description of this puzzle's circled letters? (BUBBLETEA). I love making the circles part of the theme answer! Each entry has a hidden kind of tea, nicely split across multiple words of the phrase.

I figured out the tea aspect with TOOLONGDIDNTREAD, often abbreviated as TL;DR. Hidding "assam" across three words in PASSAMILESTONE is very nice. And I never realized "herbal" was in WEATHERBALLOON until this puzzle. "chai" in SPEECHAID is the weakest of the answers.

I'm not sure why the constructors decided to have the theme answers going down instead of across as is typical. As our readers are fully aware, I'm sure, any puzzle can be essentially flipped to switch across and down clues. I wonder if it has to do with space in the paper? Probably not. There's nothing about the theme that requires the teas to go down.

The fill in the puzzle is pretty straightforward. OHSURE and CMON add a nice touch of colloquialism to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative (sorry, Pooh-Bah took over the blog for a second there). 

It's odd to imagine MATZO and a STEIN so close to each other. Was that a CHEAPSHOT?

In any case, the puzzle played slightly long for a Tuesday, which I blame on the extra 15 squares. 3:58.

- Colum

Monday, January 23, 2023

Monday, January 23, 2023, Adrian Johnson

It's a cute theme today, in Monday land. When is a wind instrument not a wind instrument? When it's a CHAMPAGNEFLUTE, a SHOEHORN, or a TAPERECORDER. The only other examples I can think of off the top of my head would be an ear trumpet, and maybe a whistle stop?

Regardless, it's excellent advice to a musician holding one of these objects: DONTBLOWIT. Hah! I chuckled out loud, and that's a good sign on a Monday.

Meanwhile, there were a number of fun clues in the mix. How about 4D: High-level cover up? (ECLIPSE). Perfect! I did not see that coming. 13D: Holey shoe (CROC) is amusing. A little math for Huygens with 17A: 5, for the set [2, 4, 6, 8] (MEAN). 

And the best yet - 58D: [Excuse me, this is a library ...!] (SHH). What a great way to liven up a three letter answer.

There are definitely nine of them

In the ROI (References of Interest) category, we get Alessandro VOLTA, CAMEROON (Thanks, Sporcle, for allowing me to get this one off the clue), MONGOOSE, PITUITARY, and OSIRIS. All very gettable, and adding to the general knowledge base is always welcome.

I very much appreciate a Monday puzzle that hits on all the cycles, while still being in the welcome to newcomers range. 2:40.

- Colum

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Sunday, January 22, 2023, Garrett Chalfin



It's my week to blog?

Oh, hi, everyone. It's Colum, just getting the news that I'm supposed to be posting the reviews this week. Sometimes it kind of sneaks up on you!

The first I heard about today's puzzle was a text from my older daughter, saying "TODAY"S CROSSWORD WAS SO DUMB"... Now, I haven't checked in with her to get her hot take, but here's mine. I don't mind it. The title says it all: take a standard two word phrase, add a long E to the end of each word to make a new phrase of two words, clue it wackily, and hilarity ensues.

To be honest, I don't think I chuckled much at all while solving. But I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of figuring out the phrases. I think I liked the first and the last of the theme answers the best. 23A: Kitchen at a barbecue restaurant? (CHILIFACTORY) and 110A: Acolyte with a bad temper? (TESTYGROUPIE). It starts with two good base phrases ("chill factor" and "test group"). Then switching "chill" to "chili" is good fun. And the resultant phrases are definitely silly.


Boy, I had a ton of trouble in the NW corner. It stemmed from multiple difficulties with 30A: It's in your blood (GENE). I thought of "sEra" and "hEmE" first. Taking "blood" too literally. Also, I really wanted Outcast instead of ODDDUCK (with those odd three consecutive Ds). 

I love IFYOUWISH and ITCANTHURT one right on top of the other in the eastern section of the puzzle. INSTINCTS looks great in the grid as well. Three of the four long down answers starting with I? What are the odds? 

I tried to type in CAPisce for CAPEESH. I like the genuine Italian more than the Brooklynese.

And my favorite C/AP in the puzzle is 54D: I'm toast! (BREAD). Yes. Yes, you are.

- Colum

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Saturday, January 21, 2023, David Distenfeld

Today's puzzle put up more of a fight than yesterday's. I got ABIT stuck in the northeast corner and had to close the app for a while - thus the later-than-sometimes posting of the review. When I went back to the puzzle, I chipped away at the surprising ICEPELLET ("Part of a cold shower, maybe") that had helped put the freeze on my progress. Well, to be completely accurate, CHEERIOS didn't immediately float to the top and "Earring Magic ___ ... doll) was beyond my KEN. I stuck with it, though, and can now say ICK BEEN ein Completer! :) My total time was 28:10, but I probably spent at least 10 minutes on that top right corner. 

Elsewhere, the puzzle was alternately challenging and straightforward, but fun throughout. Although there were several amusing Question Mark Clues including "Result of being fired?" (ASH) and "Quick pick me up?" (CAB) today, I'm giving my vote to the non-QMCs. Here are my favorites:
"Gnats and curs, e.g." (BITERS)
"Top story" (ATTIC)
"Electrically flexible" (ACDC)
"Fitted with footwear" (SHOD)
"Disposition" (BENT)
WITHCHEESE was funny for "Quarter Pounder qualifier." 

Interesting to learn that the sale of CDS rose in 2021 and 2022. I prefer a CD over a streaming service. I don't trust those content providers for long-term access. Call me crazy, but a co-worker told me only this week that a movie she had "bought" several years ago from Amazon had been removed from her account. I also enjoyed learning what I assume must be a known phrase "on the struggle bus." Even though it seems to mean that people are NOTDOINGSOHOT, it's a great phrase. 

47A: LOGE (at La Scala in Milan)

Our dear Readers know that sports do not constitute my NATIVESOIL, but today, my limited knowledge was just enough to get the EXTRAPOINT and BESTOFSEVEN - although, to be honest, I did try BESTOFthree first. I did not know the Georgia DAWGS, but luckily, thanks to the crosses, I didn't even have to paws there. 

Overall, as Simon Harwood of the TV series W1A might say, STRONG.


Friday, January 20, 2023

Friday, January 20, 2023, Robert S. Greenfield

Well, I don't know about you, dear Readers, but this Friday puzzle played like a Monday for this solver. I completed the grid in 9:41, although, unfortunately with a FWOE. I knew neither Tom HAGEN, consigliere in "The Godfather," nor Hip-hop duo RAE Sremmurd. That cross was my final square. I thought of O, making HoGAN and RoE.  My brain said, NOTABADIDEA! But I backed the wrong horse, to COINAPHRASE

Because I struck out on the first three Across clues, I initially thought the puzzle would be tough. Looking at the clue for 1A: "It can cover all the bases," I didn't really GETIT. It turned out to be TARP - clever! Same with the amusing if a bit "stretchy" "Rocks out?" (CRAGS) at 5A. And the clue at 10A, "Picks," presented too many possibilities for me to enter anything without some downward corroboration. Things picked up, however, when I switched to the Downs and was able to immediately enter TAHINI, ALANON, PEERS, CHOWMEIN, AGAR, and PARTICLE, all of which helped make short work of the very nice grid-spanning entry HATETOEATANDRUN ("Apologetic comment from a dinner guest") and most of the subsequent entries in the top half of the grid. I did have a slowdown at 22A with "Foul-smelling." I knew the answer was NOISOME but I couldn't quite remember how to spell it. BTW, I looked up NOISOME in the fabulous XWord Info and found that it hasn't appeared in a puzzle since July 9, 2015. Welcome back!


Other fill with ECLAT included RIPOSTES, CAROUSE, and the aptly descriptive COMBOVER. I also liked BOLT and SHRED.

C/AP-wise, I enjoyed "Promising reply" (IDO), "Choice in a slumber party game" (DARE), "Screen" (MASK), and the interesting "Letters that shouldn't be used written big for air rescue (a single V or X is best)" (SOS). I am not sure what to make of the C/AP "Bee lines?"/SEAMS. Anyone?


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Thursday, January 19, 2023, Daniel Bodily

The answer to today's theme-revealer clue "Accumulate charges ... or what you must do to answer four clues in this puzzle" (RUNUPATAB) explains the trick for understanding the theme answers. In four cases, to get the complete answer to the clue, you go from the end of the first part of the answer, follow the letter TAB up the grid and then include the Across answer you get to. Maybe an illustration will help. For the clue at 57A: "All-you-can-eat venues with elbows and bow ties" the answer is PAST[ABARS]:


Two of the first parts of the theme answers are also words in their own right (PAST and WENT[ABROAD], which is extra nice.

Because it's Thursday, thanks to the Down answers, I started filling in what I knew had to be partial answers, like PAST above, even before getting to the revealer. In fact, the northeast went so smoothly, I  didn't even notice the theme entry SANT[ABABY] ("Holiday hit by Eartha Kitt") while solving. I did have to take it into account when I ran into trouble in the northwest corner. I couldn't get the tricky "Close ones" (PALS) at 1A  or the ambiguous (to me) "Starting on" (ASOF) at 2D, and wasn't sure where things were going with "'I'm all ears'" (LAYITONME). I also had no idea what postseason game is played in Phoenix. To further expose my sports shortcomings, I had entered NhlTEAM for "Timberwolves, e.g." at 5D (I have never heard of AON ("Multinational financial services firm"), so yeah, not what you'd call BIGBATS up there for this solver. However, after taking inventory of the grid, I did know I needed one more theme answer, so I took everything I wasn't sure of out of that corner and started again. Finally, I was able to celebrate success with FIEST[ABOWL]. Although it was another slowish solve time for me, it was a cool double number: 24:24.


I liked the C/AP "Pamper" (BABY), "Word after circle or square" (DANCE), and "It may have a down side" (ESCALATOR) was fun. Fill-wise, I liked HENCHMAN, LEMMA, DEARTH, and SHREWD.

In an odd turn of events, both "Despacito," a song by LUIS Fonsi (apparently) and Lil NAS X were mentioned in Jeopardy! last night. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wednesday, January 18, 2023, Lindsay McBride

Despite some real cream puffs ("Plaza resident of fiction" (ELOISE), "Neither's partner" (NOR), "1983 hit song that begins with 'Domo arigato'" (MRROBOTO), "Ones being pointed to at a distance" (THOSE), QB ELI Manning, and friends), I still had LOTSA slowdowns in this grid. At 4A: "Submit, as homework" I first tried turnIN then pAssIN and then finally HANDIN. When I got to "What some flakes are made of" I entered 'snow' instead of BRAN. And I didn't get any of the theme answers until I got the revealer. ERGO, a fast time today? UMNO. I guess I just wasn't ALVIN the best day. My consolation prize was a lovely palindromic time: 12:21.

Once I knew understood the theme, it was easier to come up with the correct PICKUPLINE for each situation described in clue. On can pick up a tab (ITSMYTREAT), a receiver (ANSWERTHEPHONE), one's bed chamber (CLEANYOURROOM), or a passenger (DOYOUNEEDARIDE). My favorite pick up line of a type suggested by the clue for the revealer ("'Come here often?' ... ") is, "I'd like to rearrange the alphabet so U and I can be together." Ha!


The puzzle was not without its own amusements. I enjoyed "'I'm FROND of you' (Valentine's Day message for a plant lover?)" and its neighbor, "Mole that should definitely be removed?" (SPY). I also liked "Letters of amusement" for LOL. "Certain itinerant musician" (PIPER) was fun. 

Fill-wise, I liked BETCHA, NETTLE, and DIVINE. I would have preferred OHO instead of OOH for "Sound of intrigue" at 33A, but maybe that's being too picky.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Tuesday, January 17, 2023, Erika Ettin

Most of the answers to the clues in the puzzle were clear as day to me. I completed the grid in an unhurried 6:56, pausing frequently to correct typos, but only occasionally to ponder a clue. I wasn't immediately able to fill the empty squares at 19A based on the clue "Zero, zippo, zilch" with NOTONEIOTA, but was able to get it after looking at a kappala Downs.

This reviewer ELECTS "Hamilton's notes" (TENS), "Word after rock or rubber" (BAND), "Stick around awhile" (LAST), and "Scroll through a few books?" (TORAH) as today's most enjoyable entries. ANOMALY, VOID, ORACLE, and everyone's favorite DATA are all nice ITEMS


There was one clue/answer pair (or C/AP, as I like to call them to save some typing) that didn't come together for me. It was "Clique" for GANG. Yes, both words refer to groups of people, but the kinds of groups you would refer to with each of those words seem very different to me. Maybe that's just me being too fussy about the SHADINESS of meaning. I felt the C/AP "'You win'" (ILOSE) lacked afflatus as does the frequently-resorted-to C/AP "Mine [or similar], in Marseille" (AMOI). Neither is anything to BRAGG about. On the other hand, I found "Cacophony" for DIN and "Saunter" for AMBLE particularly APT - apt! Also, DRAGS for "Is tiresomely long, as a meeting" really rang true for this solver. :)

And speaking of meetings, Frannie's gotta bounce. Here's wishing our dear Readers a lovely DIA? DAG? DEN? TAG? LETSCALLITADAY.


Monday, January 16, 2023

Monday, January 16, 2023, Michael Paleos

In today's four theme answers, the second word of each supplies a necessary element for sending a communique by post, starting with possibly the most difficult of the elements to marshal - but arguably the most important, letter - followed by stamp, address, and envelope. Envelope appears in the phrase PUSHTHEENVELOPE which I've long thought the U.S. Post Office should use as its advertising slogan. And, as our dear Readers know, I love a PASSPORTSTAMP. Bonus fill cum crossover with modern e-communications "Message that might include an emoji or a GIF" (TEXT) and "Outbox folder" (SENT).

I completed the first six answers immediately off the clues, but when I got to the first theme answer, I wasn't exactly sure what to enter for "The 'e,' but not the 'B,' of eBay" so I decided to switch to the Down clues. It was there that I filled the gap at 3D with GApe instead of GAWK (I discovered my mistake when TIeTOK popped up on my screen). I also found, at 15A, that a HORDE filled that space better than the 'crowd' that I had mistakenly let in. With those corrections in place, I was finally able to GOAHEAD and complete the first theme answer, LOWERCASELETTER. Capital! 

I may be dating myself here - I'm not as JONG as I was once, that's for sure - but ALLOT of clues took me back to days of ORR including 
"Only weapon in Clue that isn't metallic" (ROPE)
"The Legend of Zelda console, for short" (NES)
"One of the Brady Bunch" (GREG) - fun companion clue "One of a braid-y bunch" (PLAIT)
"Winged Godzilla nemesis of Japanese film" (MOTHRA)
"Spicy cinnamon candy" (REDHOT)
"Old Norse character" (RUNE) - kidding! I'm not *that* old. :)

Not to say it's all old school. The afore mentioned TIKTOK, the clue for PIC ("Insta post"), and the recently ubiquitous RNA, all contribute to make the puzzle TRENDY, too.


GAWKJACKUP, SLOUCH, and DELVES are fine fill. In addition to the Brady/braid-y pair mentioned above, I liked the look of the PARES of Os in the parallel Downs ROOST and LOOSER. I also enjoyed ARTE (Spanish paintings and such) and "Bandleader Shaw" (ARTIE). 

Although I have written this review rather quickly, I hope no one will suggest I MAILed ITIN


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sunday, January 15, 2023, Michael Schlossberg


When I saw the title today, I was excited and tried to think of all the funny things the theme might be, like absurd shortening of titles. But then it wasn't that at all. It was the very interesting idea of cluing two books in the same way, and then finding one short book (or play) title within a long title. Kind of mind-blowing, but only after the fact for me. While I was solving it I didn't get it. But that's on me. As always, my mind kind of changes its scope while I solve. For some reason, I can't allow myself to think widely or expansively about anything. I'm just focussed on trying to figure out what letters should go into the little boxes. And yes, I know that thinking about the theme would probably help with that, but somehow I can't get myself to do it. It's weird. And... obviously... I can't explain it well.

"Cat and Bird" by KLEE

So anyway, here are the themers:

AMIDSUMMERNIGHTSDREAM - Play about love and heartbreak in ancient Greece [1605, 431 B.C.[E.]] (Medea)

THEWINDINTHEWILLOWS (Timeless children's classic about country dwellers' friendships [1908, 1881] (Heidi)

CRIMEANDPUNISHMENT (Magnum opus about a young man, family and the concept of free will [1866, 1965] (Dune)

THECATCHERINTHERYE (Coming-of-age novel about a teenage boy and his isolation [1951, 1986] (Hatchet) (?)

FORWHOMTHEBELLTOLLS (Tale about soldiers and treachery in southern Europe [1940, 1603]

Personally, I don't know how people find things like this. After I hit "publish" I'm marching straight over to xwordinfo.com to see if Jim Horne has devised an algorithm for such a search. But in the meantime, let's talk about other entries.

"000-00-0002, for Mr. Burns on 'The Simpsons': Abbr." (SSN) was hilarious. "Damn Roosevelt!" and crossing that, "Addressed" took me for-ever! It only occurred to me after I finished that "Addressed" could mean something other than "spoke to." See also: "Advanced" (LENT). UGH.

EYETESTS (Exams that are essentially impossible to study for) was fun. UPCYCLE (Turn from an old pallet into a bookcase, for example) was nice and trendy. "Just what you'd expect" was fun for NORM. It's funny that I'm picking out mostly Downs, because I thought this was a very horizontal puzzle. Not much of anything long in the Downs, but the clues helped keep it interesting. And speaking of the Downs, I would have preferred "nutso" to NUTSY (Wackadoo), but again, the clue was solid.

Overall, this played a little tough for me, but I liked it.

- Horace

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Saturday, January 14, 2023, David Karp

Kind of a pansy-shape today, no? I like it.

You know what fits in for "Offer that can't be refused, in business"? "leveraged buyout." And once I put that in I looked at 14-Down "Part of a river that ironically doesn't contain the mouth" and with my erroneous L in place, I asked myself, "Do rivers have lips?" Ugh. What is wrong with my mind sometimes? ... but soon enough, ALT, APIA (Capital on the island of Upolu) and MALLS (Places with multiple outlets) got me to take out my long mistake and put in HOSTILETAKEOVER, which gave HEAD for the river part, and I was off and running. 


I enjoyed WALKIETALKIES ("Copy" machines?) and NOTRESPASSING (Sign of enforced boundaries). Heh. "Dated TV star?" is a cute clue for THEBACHELORETTE, but the whole idea of that show is so off-putting to me that I don't even like seeing it in the grid. 

WHATCHAMACALLIT (Word when you can't find the word) I dropped in off the clue, but I hesitated for a while before the crosses proved SKOSH (Tiny bit) for me. Both solid entries. And I like how SKOSH and SKORT (Clothing portmanteau) are so close. 

The onomatopoetic WHAPS (Hit sounds) and BLAT (Unpleasant sound from a tuba) were interesting from a VOCAB perspective, but I am not convinced about GOSLOW ("Easy!"). I mean... sure. But not exactly.

Once again, just the sort of hard-hitting, precise writing you've come to expect from me. Heh.

OK, so what else? Anything I missed? Did you like the MASCARA clue? "What one might use to lash out?" Again - funny-ish, but does it make sense? Does it have to? Does anything?

- Horace

Friday, January 13, 2023

Friday, January 13, 2023, Brad Wiegmann

Happy FRIDAY the Thirteenth! I'll let you in on a little something about me - my mother was born on a Friday the 13th! And I grew up in a house numbered 13. And, what's more, my family has another little cottage, and all the time that I was growing up it was #12, but then maybe twenty years ago now, the gubmint needed to change all the numbers because they were on the wrong side of the street for "advanced 911" or whatever ("advanced" HA!), so they changed everybody's house numbers, and our 12 became another 13! So it's always been a bit of a lucky number for us. And my favorite (Hi Sue!) sister was born on a 13, too! Hers was a Sunday, but still.


So anyway... today we get a rare Friday theme, centered around this lucky day. 13-Down is FRIDAY, we find STEPS on a "crack" in the NW, a broken mirror in the middle, a BLACKCAT crossing a PATH in the SW, and the word "walks" walks under a "ladder" in the SE. Very nice. And I did not notice it at all while I was solving, despite the shading. Sigh. Sometimes I think I'm not a very good solver at all.

I think that especially when I am fooled over and over and over and over again by a CLUE like "Can opener?" (LETTERC). OMG! ICH bin such an OAF! Why can't I ever see these things coming! :) And another thing that slowed me down was confidently entering "ringo" for "Beatle who wrote and sang "Don't Pass Me By" (STARR). And I had "pier" for "Jetty" (QUAY) for waaay too long.

Overall, the cluing was very good today, I thought. "Last sign" (PISCES) - seems so obvious once you know it! "Carnival music" (SAMBA). Oh, carnival, not carnival! Heh."Travel across the pond, perhaps" (SKATE). Yow.

On the other hand, there's only so many ways you can clue RETHATCH (Fix, as the roof of a hut). And TAWS (Fancy marbles) was a lovely throwback to puzzles of yore. And hey, I named one of my poems ATSEA last semester. Not that any of you want to hear about that. 

Me, I liked this one a lot. 

- Horace

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Thursday, January 12, 2023, Grant Thackray

Another normal-ish Thursday theme. It's well-known - or at least well-reported - that Mr. Shortz has said that Thursday puzzles need only be harder than Wednesdays and easier than Fridays. And for me, the system appears to be working, because this played about a minute harder than yesterday.


That said, we here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA, and, I think, others, have come to expect a bit more than just a regular theme on a Thursday. And I guess this qualifies. It's not a rebus, and we don't have to imagine any letters outside the grid, but we do have to do a bit of mental re-arranging to make sense of it all.

STUFFINGSTOCKER (Grocery store worker on the days leading up to Thanksgiving?) is the first example, and I think the easiest to get. It works humorously for the clue, and it is clearly a re-working of "stocking stuffer." SAUCINGFLYERS (Pamphlets on how to use marinara?) is a little more convoluted, but "flying saucers" is still quite obviously the seed. Then we get to BETTINGGETTER (Bookie?) which is positively tortured, and it took me a few beats to understand that it was originally "getting better," itself a somewhat random phrase. And by the time we get to NUMBINGTRACKERS (Devices that help dentists monitor anesthesia?) ("tracking numbers") we have given in to the conceit and we chuckle at the effort. Kind of like that "Bad jokes and puns" calendar that Colum mentioned earlier in the year. We have one too, and the joke for yesterday was "Why do onions lock their doors when they study? To make sure they're onionterrupted." I mean ... how can you even respond to such a thing except with a sincere appreciation of the effort and the guts it took to actually come up with it and then think it was good enough to say out loud, and then to further think it was worthy of inclusion on a thing that you would ask people to spend money on? The nerve... the brio... the bottle, as we've heard people say on the British TV shows. 

So what else? NICETY was a "Fine point," and EFFORTLESS (Easy-peasy), ironically, took a few crosses. I enjoy any reference to AESOP (Author whose titles often feature two animals), and "When both hands are up" was a cute clue for ATNOON

Overall, I enjoyed it. 

- Horace

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Wednesday, January 11, 2023, Victor Barocas

Today's theme of LIES UNDER OATH should probably read: "Lies under mild oath," as there are few today, I imagine, who would even consider these words oaths at all. Me, I have been known to utter an "Egad" in earnest from time to time, but really, these four words each have their own specific, sometimes sarcastic meanings. At least for me. "Gosh," is feigned surprise, "dang" is more sincere, respectful surprise (?), and "drat" is for humorous frustration. 

SWEDE (Greta Garbo, by birth)

But sure, they're oaths. I mean, what else could they do? Use George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television? I don't think so. And below each one, satisfyingly right-justified, is the word "lie." Ergo - LIES UNDER OATH. Very nice.

"Talking item in Dora the Explorer's backpack" (MAP) will always make me laugh, because back when a niece was young enough to watch that show, we would sometimes be in the house while it was on, and we heard Dora yell "MAP!" so many times that we will often still yell it ourselves. Sometimes in appropriate situations, like when we have to consult a map (yes, we do still enjoy an atlas, or even a fold-out map), and sometimes, like Dora did, just for the sheer joy of screaming "MAP" at the top of our lungs. ... Sigh. It's all part of life's rich pageant. :)

Let's see, what else? Doesn't SANPEDRO always remind you of the song "Hot Rod Lincoln?" No? Well, it does me. "Pulled out of San Pedro late one night / The moon and the stars was shinin' bright. / We was drivin' up Grapevine Hill / Passing cars like they was standing still." Go listen to it again. You'll love it.

I haven't heard of NOLITA (Manhattan neighborhood next to SoHo). Without the clue I would have thought it was some anti-Nabokov group. Heh. And I'm not so sure I'd equate "Spleen" and FURY. Spleen is complicated. Baudelaire titled four separate poems with that one word. For him, I believe, it's more of an agitated-yet-resigned self-loathing coupled with world-weary despair. And he should know - most sources credit him with first using "spleen" in a non-medical way. Here's Spleen I for you - in translation.


I have more memories than if I'd lived a thousand years.

A heavy chest of drawers cluttered with balance-sheets, 
Processes, love-letters, verses, ballads, 
And heavy locks of hair enveloped in receipts, 
Hides fewer secrets than my gloomy brain. 
It is a pyramid, a vast burial vault 
Which contains more corpses than potter's field.
— I am a cemetery abhorred by the moon, 
In which long worms crawl like remorse 
And constantly harass my dearest dead. 
I am an old boudoir full of withered roses, 
Where lies a whole litter of old-fashioned dresses, 
Where the plaintive pastels and the pale Bouchers, 
Alone, breathe in the fragrance from an opened phial.

Nothing is so long as those limping days, 
When under the heavy flakes of snowy years 
Ennui, the fruit of dismal apathy, 
Becomes as large as immortality. 
— Henceforth you are no more, O living matter! 
Than a block of granite surrounded by vague terrors, 
Dozing in the depths of a hazy Sahara 
An old sphinx ignored by a heedless world, 
Omitted from the map, whose savage nature 
Sings only in the rays of a setting sun.

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

OK, so on that note, have a great day! 

- Horace

p.s. Shout out to REL - the initials of my father and two brothers! :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Tuesday, January 10, 2023, Emily Rourke

Well, Dear Reader, I don't know if you know this about me, but I like cats. Even fictional ones. So I purred right through this one. :)


The five cats lounging in this grid are:

PINKPANTHER (Puts me in mind of the Nash quote: "When called by a panther, don't anther.")
HELLOKITTY (This is a ripoff of Nintje, just like The Lion King is a ripoff of Kimba...)
COWARDLYLION ("What makes the muskrat guard his musk?")
CHESHIRECAT (Such an odd character!)

Is it a problem that the definite article is missing in three of them? I don't think so. Sure, we usually say "The PINKPANTHER," or "The COWARDLYLION," but come on... it's not even worth mentioning in a blog about the puzzle, I wouldn't imagine...

Of course, Frannie would probably argue that ODOR is bonus theme material. It's something she thinks of when she thinks about cats, I think. That and the shedding. And the allergens. Some might even call a cat a MONSTER, a LEECH, a money PIT. Not I.

I was sad to see TENNIS referred to as a "Pickleball relative." For some reason, pickleball really IRKS me. I've never tried it. I'm sure it's fun. It's just not for me. 

Let's see... ANTEATER (Animal with a long, sticky tongue) was nice. GLASGOW (Scottish city on the River Clyde) is on the proverbial travel list. And if someone offers me DECAF, I reply NODEAL.

- Horace

Monday, January 9, 2023

Monday, January 9, 2023, Andrea Carla Michaels and Kevin Christian

ACDC - who doesn't like a theme built around that? Nobody, that's who. 

But seriously, how do they come up with these ideas? I'm starting to worry that I'll never be able to come up with a theme for a puzzle. I'm thinking I'll have to concentrate on a themeless... but I've also heard that the competition is fiercest for those. 


So anyway, back to the puzzle - five theme answers, and in each, "AC" and "DC" appear. And they're al perfectly cromulent answers.

I suppose ACTEDCOOL is the most random. The most "colorless green ideas sleep furiously." Although it's not actually nonsensical. ... nevermind.

So anyway, we're on the way back from NYC now. It was a great whirlwind visit. "Piano Lesson" on Friday night, Whitney Museum, Little Island, and High Line on Saturday, and then a Sunday matinée of La Traviata. And now, it's a lovely Acela ride all the way back to 128, and a quick drive home from there. If only I had a nice LEMONSODA to drink as I KICKSBACK in my cushy seat...

In the "fun words" bag, I will throw GELID (Frozen), ASKEW (Crooked, as a painting on the wall), STOIC (Showing no emotion) (ok, not exactly fun, but I love both the word and the attendant philosophy) (See also CYNIC), and, oh, why not, POLYP. It's ok if you think of it as a "Coral reef producer." Well... not really ok, PERSE, but better, anyway.

I enjoyed it. How about you?

- Horace

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Sunday, January 8, 2023, Wyna Liu


Everybody loves a meta-puzzle. Today's trick - as is given away in the Note - is to take all the letters that can be derived phonetically from the blanks in the theme clues (it's always so convoluted to try to describe these things...) and then to put them together into two words, which are (drum roll please) "Sounds Good." It goes with the whole "sounding out the vowels" thing. Also, it's Elvis Presley's birthday today, so that's nice.


What's more, I liked the unclued answers quite a bit. PRINCESSDI, AUCOURANT, EUPHORIC, ROSEGARDEN... such good entries.

I enjoyed "Path covered with diamonds" (CARPOOLLANE). Clever. And I both sides of the C/AP were good on THINGY (Doohickey), SCOOTS (Vamooses), and "[Is this thing on?] (TAPTAP). And who knew MRTOAD's ride ends in HELL? Is that true?

I did not know OSCEOLA (Influential leader of the Seminole people) or  SITA (Hindu goddess in the "Ramayana"), but that didn't cause too much trouble. 

WELP, we're down in NYC today. If we knew where the crossword office was, we'd stop in and say hi, but since we don't, we're heading to Lincoln Center instead. Hopefully, La Traviata will play into crossword clues in the near future. :)

- Horace

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Saturday, January 7, 2023, Adam Aaronson

And so the first week of 2023 comes to a close. I haven't had a respiratory virus in several years, folks, and I forgot how awful it can be. Of course I'm lucky to be getting COVID now rather than back in the early days of the pandemic, and the vaccine and boosters made it into a bad head cold rather than a hospitalization. Nonetheless, not a ton of fun. Fortunately, I'm much better now, and looking forward to getting back to normal.

I'd like to address the elephant in the room first: the fact that Cookie Monster has a real name, and that name is SID. Apparently this was "revealed" in 2017, so I don't know how original it is. According to Wikipedia, Cookie Monster originated in commercials in the late 1960s, eventually losing teeth and migrating to cookies as its favorite food. Always one of my favorite Sesame Street characters.

That's a ROI (Reference of Interest) if ever I heard one!


I started my solve with SCREAM crossing DFLATS, and then had answers here and there before really breaking in with TENORSAX and COAX. I love that 30D and 14A are opposites (INTHELOOP and OUTOFTOUCH). 

I worked back up into the NW corner with ATAMINIMUM. GOSHDARNIT is a fine 1A answer.

33A: Eco-centric college class, informally? (ITALIANLIT) is a cute clue. It reminds me of the lengths the Joke-a-Day calendar will go to in order to make a pun ("The chameleon mother, upon seeing her camouflage disappear after giving birth: 'I've become apparent!'"). Similarly, 11D: Bit of casino restaurant fare? (BAKEDCLAM, referring to Clams Casino).

The last part to fall was the SE corner, with the colloquial THESEPARTS and SUNDRESSES. It's a fine Saturday themeless, perhaps not quite as sparkly as yesterday's. 9:39.

- Colum

Friday, January 6, 2023

Friday, January 6, 2023, Erica Hsiung Wojcik

Definitely a challenging Friday themeless today. The NW and SE corners are fairly cut off from the main swath of the puzzle, making them little minipuzzles. The SE was the hardest part for me today.

I broke in in the NE corner with WILCO, a favorite of Hope's. I can't believe that album came out over 20 years ago. I smiled at 10D: Character who's striped and spotted (WALDO), books that were initially published 35 years ago. Ah, well. They can't all be super contemporary. 12D: Hot take? (LOVESCENE) added to a fun corner.

I got a few crosses for the middle section, such as 21D: Labor relief, perhaps (EPIDURAL) and the excellent John TURTURRO (if you haven't seen his wonderful performance in Severance, look for it!). But since I didn't break through with these crosses, I started again in the SW corner, with 35D: Arcade character with a propeller beanie (JRPACMAN), helped out by Yo-Yo Ma's CELLOBOW (what else could it be?)

This New Year's baked BRIE, courtesy of Horace

Finally I got the middle three long answers. I've never heard of JUDITHHEUMANN before, but I see she is well worthy of the marquee entree in the NYT crossword puzzle. 31A: Big ticket item? (COURTSIDESEAT) is a good answer, but I'm not entirely convinced by the clue. Or, to be more precise, the need for the question mark. In any case, TREASURETROVE is also a good answer.

Now it was time to break into the isolated corners. 7D: Ride with a third wheel (TRIKE) was surprisingly literal. I love the term FURBABIES, but let's be clear: my dogs are not my children. I don't even get their names mixed up with my kids' names. Usually.

In the SE, I made life hard for me by putting in "rda" for GMO. As Horace said in yesterday's comments, when things aren't working out, take out whatever you're not completely sure of. OILY helped me to see RIOGRANDE, and that helped finish things out.

As I said, it took me longer than a typical Friday, at 11:34. But a good challenge is always welcome!

- Colum

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Thursday, January 5, 2023, Emily Carroll

I've grown to love Ms. Carroll's puzzles, and today's is no exception. The revealer comes at 54A: Risky baseball strategy that's indicated four times in this puzzle? (SQUEEZEPLAY). I had not figured out the rebus theme before getting to this answer, even though I recognized that something like that was going on when I couldn't fit CURBYOU[RENT]HUSIASM into the 15 boxes supplied.

You could nitpick and say that these are musicals, not plays, but who wants to spend the energy doing something like that? Instead, I love how these one-word titles are squished into their squares. T[HAIR]ESTAURANT crossing COC[HAIR]S is excellent, especially with the clue for the latter ("Runs together, in a way"). 

I actually finished with the unhappy message that I had a square incorrect, which was because I put an S in at 61A: Body image? ([CATS]CAN). sCAN seemed to work, and sUP for a condiment? Well, I convinced myself. I should have stopped before filling in my last square because I only had 3 musicals represented in rebus form... Ah, well.

Who can argue with 1A: Fake news source? (LIAR). I don't see why the question mark is necessary.


Mostly the clues are straightforward today, probably due to the tricksy nature of the unpredictably placed rebuses. I like 38D: It's cut by a dancer (RUG). Also 6D: Tips for shoemakers (AGLETS). My source for this knowledge is the oldtime Sniglets.

ROIs today include Amy Lowell's LILACS (published in 1922), as well as 16A: Smallest South Pacific nation (NAURU). Thank goodness for Sporcle. I never heard of this country before learning all 147 of them to finish geography quizzes.

Finished with one error in 7:16.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Wednesday, January 4, 2023, Laura Breiman and Tom Bachant

Has anyone heard of EERO? I was sure it would be EchO. I guess it's better than cluing that answer to long past architect Saarinen (died in 1951). It didn't hold me up much, fortunately.

My other shortlived error was to confidently put in XIn for XIA at 45A. But I changed my tune when I saw that "Some German cars" was coming out as nUDIS. Almost wish it were true, but AUDIS is the correct answer.

In any event, our theme today is CELESTIALBODIES, here represented literally with appropriately placed circles. Thus [MOON] takes up an orb-shaped space in the NW corner, while [COMET] streaks earthward in the NE. A [STAR] twinkles in the SE, while an [ASTEROID] (belt?) sprinkles the SW corner. In the middle, a circular [GALAXY] is found. A fun theme idea, carried out well.

Adding to the theme material, 34A: One leaving its pad quickly (ROCKET). 

Some SOX

As I've said in the past, these themes which have triple-checked letters, makes the fill challenging. I think they've done a good job here. The NE corner is a good example: 7A: What's found in cafés but not coffee shops (ACCENT) is elevated by its clue, and DROOLER is excellent. 16A: Goofus (BIGDUMMY) is great on both sides of the C/AP. And in exchange, we get standard crosswordese NEMEA and EPEES. Not bad.

Great quote for PUN. Although I'm not sure I agree. I love a good pun, and even enjoy a really bad one. Horace and Frances gave me a 365 day calendar with jokes and puns. So I'm going to be living with them daily for 2023. Good times! 4:26. (Okay time?)

- Colum

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Tuesday, January 3, 2023, Margaret Seikel

Well, I spoke too soon yesterday. The second test and the confirmatory PCR came back positive for COVID. So I'm on an enforced vacation this week. Turns out it's not so much fun lying around when you don't feel so great.

Thankfully, I have the New York Times Crossword puzzle to take my attention off of this stuff, even for a brief period of time. Ms. Seikel offers us a puzzle which takes the principle of disruption and literalizes it. MOVEFASTAND / BREAKTHINGS leads to three phrases which begin with TH and end with ING. I'm not sure if the moving fast part was also meant to be literalized. People did not move very quickly in THEWESTWING ("walk and talks" indeed). On the other hand, I am reminded while thinking about moving quickly, of Joan Cusack in "Broadcast News." One of the most hilarious scenes.

One version of ARAMIS

In the realm of potentially winking bonus theme material, we also find 60A: "If it ____ broke, don't fix it" (AINT). Perhaps Ms. Seikel is offering some much needed advice to the plethora of start-ups in the modern era?

Using Frances's new abbreviation, ROI (References of Interest), we find things like the ROSETTA Stone (when I first glanced at the clue, I almost stuck ROlling in there, but clearly incorrect); MEGCABOT, a name I would never have filled in without multiple crossings, and SHARIA crossing ISLAM. Sally ROONEY writes with style, even if I don't always love her plot material.

In any case, I would never give this puzzle ONESTAR. SEEMSOK to me. 3:56, a little slow for a Tuesday.

- Colum

Monday, January 2, 2023

Monday, January 2, 2023, Seth Bisen-Hersh

Debut alert! Congratulations to Mr. Bisen-Hersh for his first published New York Times Crossword puzzle. 

Sad tweet: yours truly has an unpleasant upper respiratory infection. Does not appear to be COVID, by home testing, but who knows. I don't call that a great start to the year, but it was more than offset by the wonderful time I had with Horace and Frances celebrating New Year's. 

Today's puzzle takes the classic song ITHADTOBEYOU (I am most familiar with the Harry Connick, Jr. version, as that was the defining music from "When Harry Met Sally"), and reinterprets the title as "it had 2 B-U." Thus, we get three theme answers with the letter string BU repeated twice. TRIBUTEALBUM (clued with Queen) is great, and BUNSENBURNER gets bonus points for both words starting with the letters in question. HAMBURGERBUN is also fine.


As is usual for a Monday, there are few scintillating clues, but I very much like the fill, and the puzzle plays smoothly. Notable answers include BABKA (yum), ASS (why not?), and GUITARS

We were just talking about OPERA the other day. I'd like to get some more opera viewing in my life. Maybe at La Scala, if we're lucky!

Overall a lovely Monday offering, which went by in 2:45.

- Colum

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Sunday, January 1, 2023, Adam Wagner, Michael Lieberman and Rafael Musa


Horace: Happy New Year! The HAFDTNYTCPFCA team is all together today, and at least two of us have done the puzzle, so it will be something of a joint review. 

So it's a new year, but the puzzles continue much as they have since time immemorial. Or at least since, what, the early 1990s? 

Anywho, I'll let Colum talk about the theme, and I'll steal a little thunder by talking about some of the better C/APs like "Food that's easy to get hooked on?" (BAIT), "Stage partitions?" (ACTS) (Hah!), and the lovely "It lacks value" (ZERO). And how about "Big shots they are not" (BBS). Nice Non-QMC. 

Colum here: I am happy to say that the tradition of New Year's Eve has been rekindled for the first time since pre-pandemic times. It's been great to have the rest of the team here in Upstate New York. Not only did we solve today's puzzle, we also solved the recent New York Times Puzzle section metapuzzle together! Good times.

Our theme today finds hidden words inside of longer answers, and then reinterprets those answers in the form of "X in Y." Thus, 31A: Seminal 1980 hit by Joy Division (LOVEWILLTEARUSAPART) has "erupt" hidden inside, which is then reinterpreted at 82A: What characters in musicals often do (BREAKOUTINSONG). Hah! I love that the reparsing clues are in order relating to their respective answers. My favorite is finding "doodle" inside DOCTORDOLITTLE, and then reinterpreting that as PICTUREINPICTURE

How many of you thought the fictional doctor's name had two Os in the last name? I was pulled in the wrong direction by Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady. But that spelling was not correct for this fake individual.

Horace did not mention my favorite C/AP of the day: 78D: Barely sits still? (POSESNUDE). Beautiful.

To address the elephant in the room (at least in our minds), we've discussed the fate of this blog, and have decided to keep going at least for now. I can't say that we weren't swayed by Mr. Shortz's recent comment.

Here's to a great New Year! May 2023 be better than 2022. 

H: I left that last one for you, Colum. :) And I'll also say that it was really fun to work on that meta-puzzle together. Colum had done a lot of it, but hadn't yet solved the meta-puzzle, and after he explained it to Frannie and me, it only took a very short time for us to work it out together. Good times, indeed. 

And as for the blog... yes. I have been swayed. Happy New Year. :)

Horace & Colum