Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Tuesday, February 28, 2023, Gia Bosko

Although I had a relatively quick solve today (EMIR 7:57), I'm SLOE to post the review again. Going to work today was a PREREQ for getting paid. Slogging back and forth INTHERAIN didn't help matters. But, on to the matter at hand. During the solve, I didn't LOITER over any particular clue or area, but I did, unFORKSunately, end up with an overlooked FWOE. I entered SNOoTY instead of SNOTTY for "Overbearing and unpleasant, say") and I didn't notice what became of the answer to "Collect it all!" in the process (SEo instead of SET). This is a problem that occasionally BESETS me if I forget to leave an open square to allow for review before the app makes its pronouncement. 

The GREENEGGSANDHAM-based theme answers are fun, however, SAMIAM not. None of the proffered settings or accoutrements would get me to eat the title product. For one thing, despite its much touted NUTRIENT content, I don't take an egg, and a green egg is right out. While I do like a ham - both the acting and viand types - I don't eat it very often these days having shifted to a largely meatless diet. INATREE, ONABOAT, or WITHAGOAT, it's still no. I looked the book up on the Wikipedia, and apparently, "the vocabulary of the text consists of just 50 words and was the result of a bet between Seuss and Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss's publisher, that Seuss (after completing The Cat in the Hat using 236 words) could not complete an entire book without exceeding that limit. ... "Anywhere" is the only word used that has more than one syllable." My TOPHAT goes off to Dr. Seuss. 

18D: ELLE

Elsewhere in the grid I enjoyed the the C/APs "Dis-band?" (GOSOLO). "Swallows, e.g." for BIRDS and "Grub" for EATS were nicely slightly tricksy. I also liked the clue "Name that's practically synonymous with synonyms" (ROGET). Fill-wise there were some real winners including KEMPT, GAM, SWIG, BILGE and SIMP. Also, have others noticed that SHROOM(s) are popping up all over these days?

TATA for now, dear Readers.

~Frannie.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Monday, February 27, 2023, David Rockow

I hope our dear Readers can BEARWITHME and my frequent late reviews this week. To slightly misquote my doppelganger Jessica Rabbit, "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn away." Enough about ME, back to a topic with more bearing on the puzzle: BEARS. Each theme answer has two groups of shaded letters. In one group, we find a type of bear hibernating while in the other group, the letters ME. Get it? :) I was familiar with all the bear types except the MOMENTINTHESUN bear. According to the Wikipedia, it is "named so for its characteristic orange to cream coloured, crescent-like chest patch." The chest seems to draw a lot of attention no matter who you are. :) As interested as I was to learn about this new-to-me type of bear, this theme really reminded me of the character Tilly in the show Miranda. She was famous for breaking off mid-conversation with others to look at her phone while she just keep saying, "bear with." 

15A: POLAROIDCAMERA

Back to ME again. I encountered no trouble spots to speak of, although I don't know what PKS stands for ("Tie-breaking soccer shots: Abbr.") -  probably because I'm TOO ARTSY - but fortunately, the Across answers LOANCAP and MENINBLACK didn't leave much room for doubt. There were many fun ROIs today including PBS, SIENA, BMOVIEs, SILENT phones, LEMONLIME flavoring, and the book EMMA, all leading to a pretty fast finish, if not quite enough GAS to break the five minute barrier (5:23). 

~Frannie.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Sunday, February 26, 2023, Will Nediger

DOUBLE-DOUBLES

Wow. Another really tortured pun theme today. Let's get right to the ACTION

HAMM

"Slow driving holiday parade in December?" is CHRISTMASCARROLL. That's "Christmas car roll." Yup. And "Update Wikipedia after the 2012 election?" Is ADDMITTSDEFEAT (Add Mitt's defeat). My favorite might be the next one "Subject of study for an insect biologist?" - BEEATTITUTES. Bee attitudes. It's just so absurd. Although "Words accompanying an offering to the ruler of the donkeys?" (FORTHEEASSKING) is equally, if not more absurd. I'm actually chuckling more now than I did during the solve, but then, I am a big nerd, and I am partial to crosswords to begin with. 

Another thing I am partial to is ERITURIA (Ancient Italian region), which covered much of present-day Tuscany. Ahh... Tuscany. Where, in Volterra, they have ALOTOF ALABASTER. Would that I were EXILED there. I'd be a happy FELLA. No AGITA would I then feel. No one would hear me utter a POORME.

Where was I? SLAPDASH (Done hurriedly and carelessly) is a word well known to my readers, I suspect. Heh. And it is a TRUISM that I learned the word DESERET from crosswords. Where else would I have come across it? 

Kind of a lot of people I am not familiar with today - Leah REMINI, Sopran MARNI Nixon, Investigative journalist RONAN Farrow. (Or is that Farrow RONAN?), Director Ming-liang TSAI, Screenwriter/actress Michaela COEL. But they were all fairly crossed.

How'd you like the puns?

- Horace

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Saturday, February 25, 2023, Trent H. Evans

Another toughie, but I was able to GETERDONE eventually. SOIGATHER, I hear you saying. Heh.

As Colum might point out, this puzzle played a little like five smaller puzzles. I finished the top left first, thanks in large part to the gimme crosswordese AGLET (Shoelace tip). That gave me FRATBro, which was eventually corrected to FRATBOY thanks to YES (Progressive rock band inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017). After that I don't really remember what happened. I think I just hunted and pecked as best I could. 

Amanda PEET

Some favorite C/APs include: "Pro with digital photography?" (HANDMODEL), "Modify" (TAILOR) (simple, but it took me a while) (see also: "Release" (ISSUE)), "Stand a little LESS between me and the sun" (Diogenes was such a wonderful crank), and "Bit of attire that shares its name with a part of a musical instrument" (GSTRING). Ahem.

And when I see "Farm denizen" I'm always thinking "ewe" or "sow" or "cow," not ANT.  

Overall I would say this was a pretty satisfying solve. Tricky, but with just enough fun stuff to keep it interesting.

- Horace


Friday, February 24, 2023

February 24, 2023, Margaret Seikel and Sophia Maymudes

This was a struggle for me, and it feels weird to say it, but it was because of the tricky wording in the clues. Now I know what you're thinking - "That's the whole point. That's what crossword clues are supposed to be. That's what they are every day." And sure, yeah. But today the clues didn't exactly lead to an elated smile, but to a sort of "huh, interesting." Like with "One who collects just for kicks?" cluing SNEAKERHEAD. I thought, huh, maybe that's a term now. And with "Shell filling station?" I eventually got TACOBAR, and ok, maybe with that one I had a little chuckle. CONTENTCREATOR was just clued with "One who makes videos, e.g.," and "Green cappuccino alternative is MATCHALATTE. And speaking of, I just bought my first one of those a week or so ago for my sister. I still have yet to try one. But anyway, those clues are so straightforward! I guess maybe people don't know about MATCHALATTEs yet? Like I didn't really know about NOMAKEUPMAKEUP (Discreet look?). Maybe that's all it is.

MOPED

I don't know... it's probably my bad attitude. I've got a little bit of a head cold, and, well, it's been a rough week. 

"One unlikely to make a pass" (BALLHOG) did get a chuckle. And "Contraction, for one" (THROE) was tricksy. For once I caught on to the clue "One end of Suez?" and checking each option allowed me to get MEZCAL (Spirit of Oaxaca). I didn't know "Country singer Jason" (ALDEAN), but I have heard of ROBYN (One-named singer with the 1997 hit "Show Me Love") but through a different song ("Call your girlfriend"). LICIT (Aboveboard) brings me back to my Latin class days, and SHROOMS (Sources of psilocybin, informally) brings me back to my ... days in Health class learning about all the drugs that we should never do. 

I hope you enjoyed this one. It did seem very Friday-like, I'll give it that. 

See you tomorrow!

- Horace

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Thursday, February 23, 2023, Joe Deeney

As you may know, I have been taking poetry classes lately. In them, we are asked to write in different styles and different forms. One such, is the ode, which typically starts with "To [something]." To a Skylark, To Autumn, etc. Those, of course, were not ANON

RICCI

Well, today's trick is that some clues are given in the form of odic poetry, and it's up to us to figure out what is being praised. "For me, the Super Bowl's a bore / But watching these is fun galore ..." is, of course, from an ode TOADS. And "Whene'er I need to get a bump / I find it right there at the pump ..." is TOGAS. It is also amusing that these ode titles are actually re-parsed normal words. The most surprising of these is TORONTOBLUEJAYS, which is clued with "I don't have the words / That rightly commend / Cerulean birds / And Harry's best friend ..." I like that poetic license is rightly used here to switch the order of the dedicatees. Very nice.

As always, I appreciated finding theme answers in both Across and Down slots, and somehow they are all placed symmetrically in the grid. These constructors are good. And if we have to endure a little OPPO, GIA, and BLEU, well then, so be it. I will not NAG. But then, about that BLEU clue... I don't think I've ever seen the Seine look anything but gray/brown. (Thanks to Frannie for dredging that up.)

I like many of the eights - BOOTCAMP, ITPEOPLE, MINTOREO, SLEEPSIN. All nice. Especially that SLEEPSIN. Sigh. And the clue for STILLER ("Seinfeld" actor Jerry) was beautiful. 

Everyone loves a ROTARY, no one loves anything too ONIONY, and TARTAN can be good. Especially the blue and green ones. :)

OK. Gotta go check on my supply of BEERS and RYES now. Catch you tomorrow!

- Horace

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Wednesday, February 22, 2023, Adam Wagner

Hello, Dear Reader. I want to start today's post with a nod to my brother Rich, who is at least partly responsible for my love of puzzles. He himself subscribed to the The Four-Star Puzzler (those were much too hard for me!), and I think he might have been the one who gave me my first subscription to Games magazine way back when. Passing a Sunday puzzle around on a clipboard with him and others on the porch on a lazy summer morning was one of life's great pleasures. It's not that we needed to pass it around to finish it, but it was just fun to share the experience. And if one clue or answer was especially appropriate for one of us, someone would leave it blank on purpose and then pass it saying something like "I don't suppose you have any idea what 44-Across could be..." It could even have happened last summer, but in October he was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive disease, and yesterday he died. I tell you this not for your sympathy, but just to say it out loud. I can hardly believe that it has happened. Thanks for listening.

"It HASNT sunk in yet" (Rich is on the left, I'm on the right, twenty years ago)

So what about this NEATO theme of ONOMATOPOEIAs? I like it. Six examples run across the top and bottom rows, and the word itself (if you don't pronounce the eponym part of it - which no one ever does) is sounded out by the "ana" "mata" "pia" endings of the theme entries. And how about those great trivia clues for FRENCHGUIANA (Region in South America that's technically part of Europe) (don't confuse it with Guyana), ETHIOPIA (African country with its own 13-month calendar) (Who knew?!)? And PADTHAI (Southeast Asian noodle dish invented in a nationalist recipe contest) (mmmm.... PADTHAI....) and KIA (Car company whose name roughly translates to "rising out of Asia"). That's just what we like to see. And let's not forget about the delicious preserved fruits from KALAMATA

PERISCOPES (They help you see at sea) is lovely, coming up from the bottom of the grid, as it does, (or is it going down?), and I love that WELP ("So much for that!") gets into a grid for just the second time today. I say that a lot.

I could have done without having to think about that lunatic ELON, and IATE is an odd partial, but there's not much else to DETER us from a fun solve. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you are enjoying everything you do.

- Horace

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Tuesday, February 21, 2023, Daniel Raymon

Pretty neat to find three HIDDEN AGENDAS in these theme answers:

HAAGENDAZS
VOLKSWAGENDASHER
MAGENDAVID

I haven't thought about the VW Dasher for a long time. I read that from the start the same exact car was sold as the Passat in Europe, but it had to go through the name "Quantum" in the 80s before it finally became a Passat over here, too.

MIAHAMM

And as for MAGENDAVID, I first heard of this long ago in a song on Dr. Demento - "The Ballad of Irving." It's a really terrible song, but in it, Irving is described as having a "mogan david" on his vest. Until this day, I don't think I ever knew what that was. (And p.s. I just read that the "mogan" spelling is Yiddish.) There are many things like that that I heard on Monty Python, or in some song, that only later rezzed into focus for me. Like hearing, when I was about seven, in the "Australian table wines" sketch - "real emetic fans will also go for a 'Hobart Muddy'..." It would be years before I learned what the word "emetic" meant, and then the skit got even funnier. 

There were a lot of things in The Pirates of PENZANCE that I wouldn't have known, but my father explained them all to us before we went to see the shows. Even that famous line from the Major-General's song, "You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee," which is just a fancy way of saying that he rode on one of those "beings animalculous." Heh.

Anywaaayyyyyy... let's get back to the puzzle. I like the word ARRANT (Unmitigated). The "Headliner" (LEAD) and "High-maintenance headliner" (DIVA) pairing was fun. Everyone enjoys a double ENTENDRE (DEEPSIGH), "Amass a mass" is a lovely clue for HOARD, and, well, there's a lot of good stuff here. The week is starting out well.

- Horace

Monday, February 20, 2023

Monday, February 20, 2023, Emily Carroll

Well, this is a funny coincidence. Just yesterday, I changed a fuse in this very house! I'm at my Dad's, for reasons I won't go into, and my sister and I each had just started our coffee makers (hers is a drip, mine a Nespresso), and at the same time she poured some cold coffee into a mug and popped it in the microwave so she didn't have to wait the interminable minutes until her drip coffee was ready. All three were on the same circuit, and as soon as she hit the Start button, everything went off, the lights went out and, obviously, all was chaos. The first thing we did was plug each coffee maker into a different circuit, then I went down cellar to look for a new 15-Amp fuse.

On of the old-fashioned FUSEBOXES

But Ms. Carroll wasn't really talking about fuses at all. She was talking about fusing different kinds of boxes together. SOAPOPERA (Daytime television drama) puts a soap box and an opera box together. TINDERMATCH (Romantic prospect after swiping right) combines a tinderbox with a matchbox. Let's hope the second is a toy car, otherwise we've got a dangerously flammable situation! 

In the fill, who doesn't enjoy seeing a BLUEJAY, an AZALEA in bloom, the feeling of RAPTURE, or a HOTTODDY? I just had a day-old doughnut with my coffee and it was unsatisfying. I would have preferred a SCONE, I think, and I'm not even that crazy about scones. 

Remember back when you had to change money all over Europe? When Frannie and I had a Eurail pass back in the day, we tried to make those American Express Travellers Checks last as long as we could, which meant only cashing the very bare minimum in each country. Our greatest triumph was leaving Spain with just three PESETA.

Finally, I was reminded of a lesson I should have learned long ago - don't just guess at the spelling of a name you don't know. I had ERI_ for "Actor La Salle" and I just put in a "c" without really thinking. It took me almost two minutes after filling in the grid to realize that it should have been a Q to make SQUEEZETOY. Sigh. Hopefully, I will remember this at the A.C.P.T.!

- Horace

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Sunday, February 19, 2023, Rebecca Goldstein

SIMILE IRRESISTIBLE

I have to admit, I didn't fully understand the theme until long after the solve, but that could be partly due to the fact that I think this was one of my faster Sunday solves. (Just over fifteen minutes to fill in all those little white squares.) At first I thought it was turning certain phrases around and making them into similes, as in "crystal clear" becoming CLEARASCRYSTAL. But that clue, "Bus?" Aha! It makes clear into a verb, and makes crystal into barware. Presumably. So, ok. That works. But "Photosynthesize?" for GREENASGRASS is a little weaker. I guess you could think of "green grass" as a thing, like in "Green grass and high times forever," but it's not a very common expression, and "green" as a verb is a bit forced, too. So it's not perfect, and the "reversing known phrases" probably isn't even part of it, but it's not terrible, and the puzzle had a lot of other good fill.

OLMEC head

ANECDATA (Evidence derived from personal experience and observation rather than systematic research and analysis) was a fun one. I've never heard that before, but I like it. LABOROFLOVE (Passion project, perhaps) is lovely, OHSTOP ("You're embarassing me!") and IMAMESS (Cry from someone who's disheveled) were fun in the top middle there. 

I was not familiar with a B-52 shot, but I now have learned that it is equal parts Grand Marnier, Irish cream, and coffee liqueur. Probably fine, but I'm not much of a shot-drinker. I rode SEPTA back when I lived in Philly (when HIGHTOPS were the only things I put on my feet), but I have not pierced my septum. Nor have I ever tried Imagine WHIRLED Peace ice cream.

One clue that seemed a little weird to me was "Exquisitely made basket" (DUNK). I looked up "exquisite" and found "extremely beautiful and, typically, delicate." Not exactly how I think of a DUNK.

I'm happy to be back on the reviews this week, and I look forward to tomorrow! :)

- Horace

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Saturday, February 18, 2023, Kameron Austin Collins

As always, when I see Mr. Collins's byline, I know I'm going to get a tough and enjoyable puzzle with an interesting up to date vocabulary. And today does not disappoint!

Thanks be to my Neurology training, because my first foothold came in the middle of the East section. APHASIA and AUEL, along with my Sopranos knowledge for DREA helped get me going. But it wasn't enough to move me up into the NE corner. Instead, LIFT and IRENE allowed me to complete the SE corner instead.

BEESKNEES is always a fun answer. I think we saw it in this exact same location not so long ago. ONTHEALERT and NOENTRANCE are fine. But DAPHNE is a lovely name, even if the character wasn't all that interesting on Scooby-Doo, to my memory. I always wanted to see Shaggy and Scooby do their thing instead,

At this point I got STREETPROPHETS, which finally helped me with the NE corner. Part of my problem was 10D: It's played with a few strings (BLUEGRASS). I had ____ASS, and assumed the word would end with "bass." As always, when something just doesn't seem like it's working, take out the questionable letters. 11D: Art of cutting cards? (BARBEDWIT) is an impressive bit of cluing legerdemain. And how about 29D: Mares, e.g. (SEAS). Didn't expect the Latin there.

Shirley EATON

Next I restarted in the SW corner with SESTET. In the ROI section, who knew that GALVESTON was the capital of the Republic of Texas? Now it's a suburb of Houston. I'm not sure I entirely get the clue for DEATHTRAP. Why is it an "attraction?"

Finally, RIGHTONRIGHTON gave me access to the NW corner, the toughest part for me. I should have known AMBIEN off the bat, but couldn't draw the name out of my memory. 8D: "Saint," elsewhere (SAO) was fairly straightforward, in retrospect. Also making this rough was ENNA in Sicily, not EtNA. 

1A: Directive for the board (DONTERASE) is a really tough get! Not just the misdirection of a corporate board, but also the negative at the start. 13A: Popular pubs for college grads (ALUMNIMAGS) is also hard. I managed to move away from drinking establishments eventually.

Fun stuff. HAVEAGOODONE! Horace takes back over tomorrow. 13:20 for me.

- Colum

Friday, February 17, 2023

Friday, February 17, 2023, Jem Burch

Clearly the revealer for today's grid comes at 44A: Go out for a bit? (NAP). Because there are 7 Zs scattered throughout, of course!

What a lovely chunky solve today. So much scrabbly goodness! I actually got going in a meaningful way in the SW corner, of all places. I saw 7D: Salt (TAR), and saw that it was cross-referenced with 36D: Outerwear for an old 7-Down (PEACOAT), which gave me both of them. Then I thank reading old Pogo comics for knowing that Callaloo is a kind of STEW. Well, sort of. In the comics, they were continually making "perloo." It struck a chord, I guess.

The entire middle section fell quite quickly with those first letters in place. What a great set of three offset stacked 11-letter answers! 36A: What some pies may be baked on (PIZZASTONES) and 35A: Confounding contraptions (PUZZLEBOXES) account for 4 of the 7 Zs, while the excellent ROI 31A: Chopin piece inspired by a dog chasing its tail (MINUTEWALTZ) supplies a 5th. By the way, the "minute" of the title is not a reference to how long it should take to perform the piece, but rather the French meaning, or small. This in comparison to his Grand Waltzes. Typically, the piece takes 90-150 seconds to complete.

BEBE Rexha

Overall, this puzzle SIZZLED! I love 47A: Sucker for a fictional story line (DUPE) right above 54A: Real-life sucker (VAMPIREBAT). Nice cluing!

35D: As small as two cups? (PINTSIZE) is just plain silly. I love it! AFFLUENZA is a great term. 

Overall, it was a pretty RELAXED solve, even though I FWOE'd. I put in AGRoBIZ, and had to search for the incorrect letter. 22A: Roll it (DIE) could be "dough" but not "DoE."

Fun Friday! 6:24.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Thursday, February 16, 2023, Kevin Patterson

I opened up the puzzle and immediately noticed the asymmetric nature of the grid, and all of those Ls. Boy, said I, I bet those will enter into the tricksiness of the Thursday puzzle!

Somehow, as I progressed in the solve, that thought fell by the wayside. And it's odd to have the revealer in the NW of the grid! It comes at 1D: Accept defeat, in modern parlance ... or a hint to entering five answers in this puzzle (TAKETHEL), which should be parsed as "take the L."

Thus, at 31D: Joint stockholders?, you answer by using the black L as a literal L, take the turn and complete the answer with 65A, to get POTDEA[L]ERS. The other four are GRAMMARPO[L]ICE, FOODCO[L]ORING, NAI[L]EDIT, and NUC[L]EAR.

Very nicely, the parts of the answers that come after the turn are answers in their own right, and are clued separately. I approve of avoiding the disappointing clue "-" that sometimes pop up. 

So, a fun and definitely tricksy theme. For those who are curious, I definitely thought the answers would take a turn, but not through the black squares. Then, when I came to 46D and had NUC in place from crossings, I thought, "is 'LEAR' meant to be hidden within the black squares?" And then I finally got it.

Cousin GREG

I love the clue for 4D, by the way. As we all know, it's "lying down on the job," not "laying down on the job." At least we all know now.

How fun is it to have BOWWOWWOW in the grid? So many Ws. And I had a "kitwo" moment at 38A: Flat, for short (TWOD). That's 2-D. Not Twod. Which isn't a word. LOWPH, on the other hand, is that type of personality that sticks out from the crowd. No. No it isn't. It's "low pH." 

Did you know that "angora" is actually from the city ANKARA? I did not. That's a ROI. I put in the former, and struggled because of it. 12:52 - a satisfyingly difficult puzzle.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Wednesday, February 15, 2023, Sean Ziebarth

Our meta-theme week comes to a screeching halt today. But in the place of different shaped meals, we instead get a piece of history that's important to recognize. I won't attempt to summarize the DOUBLEV campaign that acknowledged the role that Black Americans played in the World War II effort, both at home and abroad, without experiencing the same rights and liberties as their fellow White Americans. Here's a link.

The puzzle celebrates this piece of American history through acknowledging four great Black Americans whose names happen to include a W, and then making that letter VV instead. Thus IDABVVELLS, the investigative journalist who reported on lynchings. JAMESBALDVVIN, GEORGEVVATSON, and VVEBDUBOIS all follow. It's very nicely done.

SMERSH

At a price, however. There are a ton of crosswordese answers in this grid. WIIS at 1D starts us off, but there's BTS, TBAR, MDS, UNLV, VMI, URL, GNC, GPA, MAHI, etc. Not the cleanest of grids, probably because of all of the Vs. 

Still, we also get the fun FLAPJACKS, appropriate HEROISM, and amusing WARBLY. It's a perfectly good puzzle over all. But also, congratulations to Mr. Ziebarth for his debut! 4:45.

- Colum

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Tuesday, February 14, 2023, Ella Dershowitz

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! We all have somebody to love, and somebody who loves us, even if it can be hard to recognize that at times. Know that I love all of my readers!

Well, you can't tell me that Mr. Shortz didn't plan this early week so that today's puzzle followed yesterday's. Moving from circles to squares, all edible! And an appropriate revealer at 62A (SQUAREMEAL).

Mind you, if these four examples (STARBURSTS, KRAFTSINGLES, SALTINECRACKERS, and KLONDIKEBARS) constituted the entirety of your meal, I'd be worried for your health...

Things moved along a lot more smoothly than yesterday's Monday fiasco. I was only slowed by 9D: Umami broth, in Japanese cuisine (DASHI), which I got entirely from crosses, and SPONGY, which I wanted to be SPriNGY, but there weren't enough squares. 27D: Corn dough used for tortillas (MASA) also was difficult. I guess I have to study up on foreign cuisine terms.

THECURE (even though it's not Friday)

I liked that MALEMODELS and KETTLEBELL were symmetrically placed. I imagine the two go together a fair amount! I myself have never tried that fitness technique. But Hope gave me a set of free weights for Christmas, so I have been using those at home.

56A: One who's barely existing? (NUDIST) gets the nod for best clue of the day. 

Fun puzzle, and an exciting start to the week. What's tomorrow going to be? Triangles?

- Colum

Monday, February 13, 2023

Monday, February 13, 2023, Eric Rollfing

I don't know if it's a Super Bowl hangover, or whether, as Churchy said in Pogo all those many years ago, "Don't you hate it when Friday the 13th comes on a Monday?" In either case, I was slow to complete today's puzzle.

The Super Bowl, on the other hand, was a really fun game, spoiled by a dud of an ending. I was hoping the Eagles would win, but the Chiefs put together a pretty impressive game overall. And Patrick Mahomes might as well be Superman. Although Hurts had a better game.

But enough of the sportsball talk, how about the puzzle?

Start with a WELLROUNDEDDIET, and then come up with four food items that come in circular forms, and you get the theme. FROOTLOOPS is the winner here, because the name demonstrates the circles with all of those Os. SPAGHETTIOS tries, but that A and that E... Wannabes. 

CHEESEWHEEL is a great thing that I will never buy in its entirety. But they sure are handsome in my local cheese shop! Plenty of cheese there, by the way, unlike a certain Monty Python sketch. And I've never had DIPPINDOTS in my life, and don't plan to.

I'll tell you what is not well-rounded. A TWINKIE. That's what.

ELTON John in a Super Bowl ad

Things definitely started slow in the NW. CNBC as a 1A is rough for a Monday puzzle, and it was made worse by two things: first, my mind jumped to "pap" instead of CUD for 1D ("Twice-chewed food"). This is incorrect. Second, I somehow mixed up in my mind which were across and which were down answers. Like I said. Friday the 13th.

Tomorrow will be a better day. It's the 14th, you see.

- Colum

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Sunday, February 12, 2023, Christina Iverson and Samuel A. Donaldson

CHEAP THRILLS

Hello, fellow crossword puzzle lovers! I'm back, raring to go for another week of NYT puzzle reviews. Since last I published a blog, my younger daughter has left for a semester in Italy. I sometimes wonder why I didn't elect to take a semester abroad during college. The weird answer is I didn't want to miss being in any Gilbert and Sullivan productions. I can't recall now exactly which ones I did during my Junior year, but I'm pretty sure one of them was The Mikado. So, worth it?

But all that's beside the point. Today's puzzle is all about literal representations of four phrases that are slang for "economizing." And they're all beautifully done, in my opinion. We have:

1. CUTTINGCORNERS: not only are three squares in the NW and SE corner absent from the grid (instead of having black squares), the circled letters just inside the missing squares spell SAW and AXE. Lovely!

2. PINCHINGPENNIES: rebus alert! BI[CENT]ENNIAL[CENT]ER at 12D has the slang for penny stuck into a single square.

3. STRETCHINGABUCK: 58D: Not in a relationship (SSIINNGGLLEE) takes the synonym for a one dollar bill and elongates it.

4. MAKINGENDSMEET. The best of all of them, obvs. In the middle of the grid, the gray shaded squares that meet at the central black square are four synonyms for the rear end (CAN, BUM, ASS, BUTT). Hah!

INCAN pyramid at Chichen Itza

Meanwhile the remainder of the grid is excellent as well. How about 78D: The main antagonist? (PIRATESHIP) - as in "On the main," or asea. 48A: Senior partners? (PROMDATES) had me guessing for a while. Even 51A: Bussing on a bus, for short (PDA) and 127A: Smokey spot, for short (PSA) elevate 3-letter abbreviation crosswordese.

I appreciated RATE and MASS near to each other, as both relate to Newton's second law (F=ma). 103A: Like some modern maps (GENOMIC) is nice. Finally, nice call out to Gustav HOLST, English composer of the latter part of the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries, best known for The Planets suite. It's amazing how little of the rest of his oeuvre I am familiar with: two band suites and the St. Paul suite. Maybe it's time to do a little listening!

- Colum 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Saturday, February 11, 2023, Sam Ezersky

No FWOEs today, but no record speeds, either. My time was 34:27, which is a so-so Saturday time for me. I had a lot of trouble with the northwest section, partly because I entered 'unFLAG' instead of EUFLAG at 23A, which effectively blocked EMCEE and SEOUL. The clue for the latter answer also prevented me from getting it, but that's another story. :) The tricky second "'Ah' follower" and the not-in-my-databank HODGES didn't help my situation. Upon review, some of the challenges were satisfyingly difficult and some were less so. 

54D: TOPPS

C/APs I thought were clever and/or cleverly ambiguous include:
"Get in trouble, perhaps" for TELLON 
"Go back" (EBB)
"Train workers?" (MENTOR)
"Snickers alternative" (MRGOODBAR
"Pluto, famously" (PETDOG)
"Destinations for some retiring soldiers" (COTS)

On the other hand, APIPHOBIA is such an unlikely trait for a beekeeper that it's kind of moot, if you see what I mean. I also thought "What a motorist often screws up?" for GASCAP was a little off - especially the 'up' part, but I suppose they couldn't clue it with just "What a motorist often screws?" MIRY for "Like swampland" seemed like a stretch - not that it doesn't mean that, but according to Google's Ngram Viewer, 'miry' hit its heyday in 1856. I don't want to take my grousing too FARRO, but I wasn't super fond of SOFTARMOR or SIMP either. 

None of the three grid spanners did much for me (sports, dubious government agencies, and Marvel characters) but all of the above considered, IPRESUME I'm not the demographic for this particular puzzle.

~Frannie.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Friday, February 10, 2023, Kavin Pawittranon and Nijah Morris

And Friday's puzzle is full of FWOE. :( I had to take a KNEE at the 49A/33D cross. I hope I'll LEVER forget how to spell TERIYAKI again. You'd think I'd have gotten the Y from the cross, but INRE that mistake, I kept thinking it should be ILu - the infiltration of text speak has caused my brain to get LAX. Derp.

I really didn't have a CRAPLOAD of trouble - just that one spot. In fact, as FOYER the start of the puzzle went, everything seemed to CLICK. The ideas I HADON "Like some cutting edges" and "What no monarch wants to be" were less immediately clear, but I was able to ORDERUP some Down answers which cleared up the WORDSALAD. Our dear Readers may be surprised to learn that I was able to enter TREY and LAKER off the clue. I'm not sure how or why I know that the Lakers sports outfits are purple and yellow, but I do. OTOH, the fact that I knew Der SPIEGEL off the clue is a reflection of my long years studying German. :) I also got a CHEAPTHRILL when CANARY flew into my mind after I thought for a bit about about the Latin word for dog. 

1D: FERRIS

The C/AP "Places where majors are of minor concern?" (PARTYSCHOOLS) was amusing. Some great long fill in here including the above mentioned CHEAPTHRILL, FREUDIANSLIP, and SLAMDANCERS

If you've STAID with me this far, thank you. To sum up, I completed all but that one blank space in about 15 minutes. Staring at the blank space took another four or so. I know IDITAROD thing entering a random letter in the grid, but the fact that I learned something from it FEELSOKAY.

~Frannie.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Thursday, February 9, 2023, Alex Rosen

Well, today's puzzle definitely counts as a trick puzzle. To reveal the revealer, you must first solve the puzzle (or at least part of it). It appears in two parts, one in the top left the other in the bottom right: REVERSEEACH TWOWORDCLUE. While I didn't, strictly speaking, need the revealer to solve the puzzle, I did need it to understand some of the answers. TRIPOD for "Mount Olympus" didn't really makes sense until I read it as Olympus [camera] mount. Although, I suppose, you could read it in the original direction with a hard pause: Mount, Olympus, like a data entry field. Maybe that's just me. :)

One tricksy element of the puzzle is that it applies only to certain clues, making it more difficult to guess. Using my "crossword brain" (with which I can justify almost any C/AP!) I could make sense of many of these clues without the reversal, but they do make a lot MORE sense when the clue words are read right to left. :) 

Here are some of my favorites:
"Firm fruit" (DOLE)
"Cuts short" (BOBS)
"Water buffalo" (ERIE) - should 'buffalo' be capitalized here, or am I missing something?
"Job bank" (HEIST
"Does not" (BUCKS) - I especially enjoyed the re-parsing required by this one!!
"Giant storybook" (OGRE)
"Part IV" (TUBE) - another one that was tough to get even my crossword brain around until I both reversed the clue AND changed IV (the Roman numeral 4) to IV (short for intravenous)!
"Pan Asian" (WOK) - Ha!

37D: ALP

As if all of the clever contortions above weren't enough, the constructor gets some other good material in here. C/APs I especially liked are "No soft serve" (ACE), "Wasn't, then was" (BECAME), "Went to third, say" (SHIFTED), and "Pelts" for FURS. There was some great fill, too, including CABARETS, EXCUSE, CASPAR, VISOR, RAPIER, and SPINDLE

That's it for me today. See you on the flip side.

~Frannie.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Wednesday, February 8, 2023, Chase Dittrich

Today's puzzle generated multiple flash backs to another time, dear Readers. I invite you to LEANIN to the METAverse idea and take a LOKI at the various links to You Tube videos in the review. It'll knock your ORCS off. 

For a start, the theme clues do double duty; they are two, two, two answers in one, with both answers corresponding equally well to the clue with or without the answer's shaded letter. For example, both GOATMILK and OATMILK (with and without the initial G) can be described as an "Alternative to 2% ..." My favorite is "It may be half of a blackjack ... with or without the shaded letter" ([F]ACECARD), but "They might eliminate teams ... with or without the shaded letter" for [P]LAYOFFS is also good. 

And speaking of playoffs, how about the clue "N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer Bill." Despite my general lack of sports knowledge, this one was a gimme for a big fan of the movie Airplane! Thanks to this quote: Tell your old man to drag WALTON and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes. Comic genius.

As if that weren't enough, in one of those strange twists of fate or fortune, I can still remember the song that went with the UNDEROOS advertisement. 

30D: Hello JELLO!

Back on this astral plane, my favorite C/APs were two Question Mark Clues (QMCs) "Water repellent?" for MOAT and "Make a mistake while sitting down?" BUTTDIAL (heh). I also thought that "Quaff" and IMBIBE make a jaunty C/AP. Have I already mentioned that I love SETTO for "Scuffle"? Fill-wise, OODLES is a nice word, and it's excellent to have JAWDROPPING as a Down answer. 

And, INRE "On a streak?" (NUDE), there's an interesting article in last week's "New Yorker"  about Robert Opel, the man who 'streaked' the 1974 Oscars

~Frannie.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, Ellen Leuschner

Today's theme clues list a set of things that literalize a common expression. So to make a DAISYCHAIN, the clue is a set of people named Daisy ("Buchanan-Duck-Duke"). We have a PILE up of trucks ("Silverado-Ram-Tundra") that form a PICKUPLINE (my favorite), and a trio of axes, if I may, ("Fender-Gibson-Yamaha"), that make up a GUITARSTRING - too bad there weren't six of those! We also have SUBWAYSERIES ("Paris M├ętro-BART-London Underground"), but I missed the boat on that one. I don't know what a subway series is. 

Daisy Buchanan

I was briefly puzzled by the five-letter answer for "Snack-motivated Great Dane of toons" because I couldn't cram Scooby-Doo in there, but thanks to some meddling Down answers, the mystery was eventually cleared up, and all we needed was SCOOB

Horace and I recently started watching a performance of Sondheim's "Into the Woods" so MAGICBEAN ("One of several traded for Jack's family cow, in a fairy tale") was fresh in my mind. I enjoyed the clue "One getting shorter throughout the morning" for SHADOW. I thought "Third degree?" for PHD was amusing. I accepted REBUFF as some fine, rarely-seen fill.

I'll LEAF you with a final thought: as I reviewed the completed grid, it crossed my mind that with ARIA, SONG, and SACRE, you could almost have an AIRSUPPLY. :)

~Frannie.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Monday, February 6, 2023, Taylor Johnson

OHHI everyone, Frannie here. OMAN does it feel like a long time since I last wrote a review. I am a little late with it this morning - it's not that I want to OVOID it, it's just that some times the daily GRINDR gets in the way. You know how it is.

As I assume I'll never see an EARTHRISE IRL - I fear my chances of going into outer space at this point in my life are vanishingly small -  I'll enjoy it via this puzzle, where we see the word EARTH appear in shaded squares HIRE and HIRE in the puzzle from left to right.

11D: EARTHRISE


I very much enjoyed the C/APs "Not yet found, as a criminal" (ATLARGE), "Maximum allowed" (LIMIT), and "Courage, metaphorically" (GUTS). Fill-wise, I liked SQUIRM, STASHED, and PEPITA. I also like REMIT, which probably surprises no one who knows me. 

I liked the auditory pairing of PURR and PER. Neatly, the Down answer off of PURR is PERM. Also, HEARTHEALTHY is followed by KALE in the Down clues. Coincidence or consequence. :)

Not my fastest Monday ever (6:19), even though I hit only one tiny trouble spot. Even as I typed in 'hon' for "Sweetie" at 41A one half of my brain thought, "could be BAE," the other half eventually said, "IHEARTHAT."

~Frannie.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Sunday, February 5, 2023, Jeremy Newton

HOLLYWOOD REMAKES

Wow. Just wow. 

Can that be my entire review of this puzzle? No? OK, I'll show my work...

"You there, hoarding the Quattro razor! Scram! [2002]" clues SCHICKHOGGO, which sounds like "Chicago," a movie that came out in 2002.

And here's another one: "Why the Devil was forced to pay 'The Greatest' [1969]" clues HELLOWEDALI. Or, "Hell owed Ali," which sounds like, well, you get it.

My favorite is AHMIDDAYYES (Cry after remembering to meet at noon [1984]) (Amadeus).

I mean. You kind of have to just sit back and appreciate the effort with these. And the revealer is spot on - OSCARWINNER SOUNDMIXING. That's really quite good.

GWEN Stefani

In other news, I enjoyed the triple-S of CHESSSET, and under that DARKHUMOR (It may produce both a cringe and a laugh) was good. "Therein lies the rubbed" was a fun clue for SPA. I loved both sides of "Skedaddle, with 'it'" (HIGHTAIL), but I'm not familiar with the term NODSOUT (Dozes after a dose, say), and WALLHUNG (On display, as a painting) was surprising. And "Travel through time?," although a clever clue for AGE, is still too soon. :) And speaking of clever - "End of a flight, in two senses" (LANDING) was quite good.

There's a lot of theme, and so we end up with a little HONG (Part of H.K.), CDT, and XOO (Losing line in tic-tac-toe), but, well, that theme. It's worth the price of admission. I mean how can you read THUMBMADETRICKS (Some optical illusions created with one's fingers [1999]) and not say "Wow"?

- Horace


Saturday, February 4, 2023, Kate Hawkins

This one was a struggle! Just about perfect for a Saturday. 

Lots of good stuff. Where to start? How about with the paired clues, like the sort-of-symmetrical "Booty" clues for HAUL and SEAT? Or "Dazzling" (GORGEOUS) and its neighbor "Dazzle" (ENCHANT). Or "Be that as it may ..." cluing the connected HOWEVER and EVENSO. Am I missing any?

AUNT May

The command to GOOUTSIDE would probably get a GOSHNO today here in Massachusetts. It was 11 below zero when I woke up!

Loved MOONSHOT (Ambitious goal or innovation), BENEVOLENT (Given to giving), and TRUELOVE (Unconditional condition?) (lovely clue). And the long conversational answers were all good, too: IGNORETHAT ("Actually, never mind"), CUTTOTHECHASE (Make a long story short), and LETSSEESOMEID (Line at the door of a bar), PICKMEUP (Mood booster), and HITSANERVE (Gets too personal with zingers, say). And then there's STEERCLEAR (Keep away), BEACHREAD (Summer novel, typically), and ARTHOUSE (Fine film forum). It's all so good. Everywhere you look!

Not much to do as a reviewer in situations like this except just say that Ms. Hawkins is a DEFT constructor. She will not be BOOED by me. :)

- Horace

Friday, February 3, 2023

Friday, February 3, 2023, Barbara Lin

This was a satisfying solve. I broke in quickly with ALEC (Guinness with an Oscar), QUAD (Thigh muscle, informally), and BELLCURVE (Result of a normal distribution), then pretty much the whole right side fell down from that. The exotic ELKHOUNDS beside the beautiful CLEMATIS, running through the more commonplace BUTTSOUT (Minds one's own business), MUNIS, and WEEDS. And while I, myself, have enjoyed riding centuries, the clue "Long ones can be measured in centuries" does not sound quite right. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when bikers talk about a century they are talking about a specific ride of 100-miles. I suppose it is possible that, if, say, you were in the Tour de France on a particularly long day, you could say "That was like doing two centuries!" but again... not at all common. Not least because for most riders, that would be the equivalent of 8-10 hours in the saddle.

Not ARYA, but still Maisie Williams, as Susanna in Upstart Crow

My driver's license includes the words ORGANDONOR, because I believe that life-saving pieces should not be as hard to get as UNOBTANIUM (dumb word, but whatever). 

I was fooled by both hidden capitals in the SW - "Crush cans, maybe" (GRAPESODAS) and "Perseverance, e.g." (MARSROVER). And yes, I was also fooled again by "Edges of a diamond?" (DEES). Gah! When will I learn!?

"Nurses" was good for SIPSON, NOTEWORTHY was "Striking," and I was expecting a plural when I read "Some striped strips," but no, it's everybody's favorite - BACON! Hey, have I mentioned that I was in two separate BACON-eating contests? Well, I was. And the great thing about that was that everybody was a winner going in - it was free, and we got to eat all the bacon we possibly could! Good times... And speaking of BACON, I grew up in Worcester, the birthplace of DINERS! I'd try the Miss Worcester someday IFIWEREYOU - it's my favorite. :)

Overall, a lovely grid. I have no complaints AVEC ceci.

- Horace


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Thursday, February 2, 2023, Elise Corbin

Earlier this week I learned a little about heterogeneous catalysis at a bar, and now here I am reading about gravitational lensing, modified Newtonian dynamics, and entropic gravity because I did a Thursday crossword puzzle ... What is to become of me?

DISSENT collar

But seriously, it's all too rare that science works its way into a crossword, and today's [DARKMATTER] PHYSICS theme seems tailor-made for such a crossover. The missing letters do not account for 85% of the puzzle (thank goodness), as it is supposed dark matter does in the universe, but certain answers cannot be explained by currently accepted theories of spelling, and therefore imply the presence of missing elements. WORDED differently, the ten letters that spell DARK MATTER are missing, in order, from the beginning of ten Across answers. Some are left of the left edge, some are hidden in black squares. None have anything to do with Down answers. Also, elegantly, the grid appears to be complete without them, just as the universe appears to mostly make sense, but the clues - like the behavior of some galaxies - cause us to look more deeply for answers. Tidy.

OK, maybe I'll drop the whole "working from the Dark Matter Wikipedia page" thing now and just talk about the rest of the puzzle...

There's a lot to like here. DECKCHAIR (Seat on a ship) puts me in mind of summer, which is nice, as we in Massachusetts have some low temperatures INSTORE over the next day or so, and that will put some people into HYSTERICS. Me, I'm not too bothered by cold weather INGENERAL, but prolonged cold will EATAWAY at anyone's warmth, right?

AROUSER (One giving a wake-up call) is rough, and SARD (Orangish-brown gem) is decidedly "late-week," but the crosses were fair.

This was a fun one. Big thumbs up.

- Horace


p.s. Congratulations on the NYTX debut, Elise Corbin. What a way to break in! And for all of you who want more science-y crosswords, Elise has a blog for you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Wednesday, February 1, 2023, Dan Caprera

Is it a coincidence that this theme runs at the same time that a "green-hued comet from the outer solar system" will ARC through our sky for the first time in 50,000 years? Not to me it isn't. I can see right through this whole charade. But I'll play along and just review it as if nothing is happening. Because really, what choice do I have?

AAR! I'm a pirate with a BEARD

So... today we witness three SPACECRAFT picking up three-letter earthly objects using TRACTORBEAMS, with each abductee crying out in their own way as they are dragged up. It's a fun theme, and it looks great. Why the aliens want a car, I don't know. As if they needed combustion engine technology. Hah.

And because I like the theme so much, today I smile UNABASHEDLY at entries like SMILERS (Some cheerful folks) and KLEPTOCRATIC (Like a government led by thieving politicians), which are, um, pushing it. 

We just rode the ACELA last month, and although it was very nice, and I highly recommend it as a way to avoid being IRKED by traffic, I wish there were a true BARCAR. Wouldn't that be fun? 

There's a bit of alphabet soup (FSU, CCL, ETO, SRS, CGI, TBS), but, well, I don't much care today. It all went along pretty smoothly, and it was a goofy, fun theme. Thumbs up. Now go get your life in order, because the aliens will be here soon.

Peace out.

- Horace