Friday, March 31, 2023

Friday, March 31, 2023, Rich Norris

Tough Friday going into the ACPT! If this doesn't act as a good warmup for puzzle solving, I'm not sure what will.

So many missteps along the way contributed to an extended solve. I started with guessing "bteam" for 1D: No first-stringer (SCRUB), and then "ahead" at 19A: Slightly leading (AHEAD). I took both of those out nearly immediately, opting for "usone" for 2D: It ends near Venice (THEPO). Boy, was I way off. I was thinking of US 66. My answer is entirely along the East Coast. Even when I solved the whole puzzle, I looked at the actual answer here and wondered what the P.O. was. Nope: it's the famous Italian river.


I broke in for realsies at 44D: Senator, e.g., in brief (NHLER), along with the gimmes LANA and NEVE. EYECONTACT went in, and I finally felt like I had a foothold. I couldn't believe 61A: Show first performed during 1994's Eurovision Song Contest (RIVERDANCE). Turns out it wasn't Ireland's official entry in the contest, but rather an interval act. In fact, Sweden won that year, but Ireland came in third, so good on you.

Rutland Barrington as the original Pooh Bah

I always mess up LEDS and LcDS. Fortunately, INTOODEEP was clear enough to correct the mistake. I very much liked 28A: Plastic keys? (TOYPIANO) and its subsequent gimme at 31D: Iconic 28-Across player (SCHROEDER). That made the entire SE corner much easier. 40D: Row house? (EMBASSY) would have been a tough get otherwise.

Knowing that Albert Camus was born in ALGERIA helped the NW corner as well. I originally had autoRACER, but was able to overcome that.

So a struggle all the way through, but a good one. 11:52.

- Colum

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Thursday, March 30, 2023, Adam Wagner and Brooke Husic

Counting down the days to the ACPT - wish I could be there! It starts tomorrow night. 

As a amuse-bouche prior to the main event, today's Thursday puzzle has an unusual kind of tricksy theme. Our constructors have uncovered five two word phrases where each half can be a synonym for the same word. The entry is then clued with that synonym twice.

For example, 16A: Tease / Tease (RIBROAST). I love this sort of thing, showing how peculiarly flexible the English language is. The other examples are equally good: CRAPSHOOT ("Drat!"), POTHEAD (Toilet), GOTCAUGHT (Heard - this one might be the best), and DROPKICK (Quit). It's very cleverly done, and I imagine harder than most themes to accomplish with an algorithm.

The CREASE - much better clued with hockey than... anything else

Like yesterday, I noticed cleverness in adjacent cluing. 19A: Word rhymed with "intelligent" in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" (ELEGANT) sits above 21A: Wasteland (DESERT). 

13A: Mar contents (AGUA) comes right before 14A: Mer contents (EAU). Why did it take me so long to get the first one, when the second one went right in? Because of the hidden language switch. "Mar" is a word in English, so I was parsing this as a verb.

The third pair is musical with ERHU and HARP. I'd never come across that first word, but I liked the juxtaposition of the number of strings respectively.

22A: Tricep curls? (ARMHAIR) wins for the most out there C/AP of the year, in my mind. Many people have almost no hair on that part of the arm to begin with, and rarely to the length where it can actually "curl." I get that the word here is being used as a synonym for "hair," but still!

29D: Presale alert? (GOINGONCE) is excellent, on the other hand. Fun stuff there.

PCHELP and TSAPRE added to the strange look of the grid. The former is clearly the sound a nervous person with post nasal drip makes prior to making a public speech. The latter is a rebus for the fourth month of the year inside of half of an African fly. I bet Philbo got that one right off the clue.


- Colum

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Wednesday, March 29, 2023, Ben Zoon

You know it's a Wednesday when the theme is four 11-letter answers that are anagrams of each other. Interesting that it can be done, but not much of an "Aha!" moment. The four phrases are strong enough. REDHOTCOALS is the best of the bunch, TRADESCHOOL the next best, while DOORLATCHES and TACOHOLDERS are okay.

The fill and clues are where this puzzle has fun. Outside of standard glue TILER and OARED, and the odd KWH or INT, the fill is smooth. I liked the wonderful PADSEEEW, which looks amazing in the grid with those three Es and a W. ROGUEONE was my favorite of the Star Wars add-on movies. I have not gotten into the TV series at all, but I hear that Mandalorian is pretty great.

The eponymous MACH

28A: Adornment that may have a certain charm (BRACELET) is very nicely done. I also liked the pair of "ground breaker(s)" clues, resulting in PIONEERS and SPADE

I don't have a ton to say about this puzzle. Perhaps I am too NEEDY today, but it didn't AMUSE as much as I would have liked. It's a darned good thing I'm not going to the ACPT this year, because I finished slow at 6:57.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Tuesday, March 28, 2023, Daniel Kantor and Jay Kaskel

I hope you all enjoyed a good FISTPUMP at the end of your solve! I almost did not, because my initial response to 64A: [Woo-hoo!] was FISTbUMP, which definitely fit as an answer, but ACTUb did not. Fortunately I noticed this prior to entering the last square, so no sad message for me.

Also, thematically it would not have worked, because what we have here are movements symbolic of emotional responses but which are performed entirely solo, whereas my answer would have been ADUEL. If you get what I mean.

51A: [D'oh!] (FACEPALM) is so associated with Homer Simpson at this point in our culture, that the clue could only have been that. 

It's a very neat collection of theme answers, all two words long, each one with a body part first. Beautifully done! Are there any others? Perhaps: [This is taking too long!] ("foot tap").

Didgeridoo (TUBES)

3D: Video game genre for Space Invaders (SHOOTEMUP) is a great answer, but would not have been my first choice. I think of that specific genre with the classic first-person shooter games, like Doom. While Space Invaders is such an old-school arcade game. But when I google the term, this is the exact concept detailed, so... face-pie?

Somehow INTHEBUFF feels like it should be part of the theme. But let's be glad that most of the time we see these movements in people who are clothed. On the other hand, maybe then we'd get to see more of 50D: Figure drawing? (TATTOO). Your mileage may vary. Maybe we can just stick with the LOWCUT necklines instead.

It's a shame that CRIMEA and RUSSIA are in the puzzle together in this way, but I appreciate that we should keep reminding ourselves of the crimes of that nation... just perhaps not as much in the crossword puzzle.


- Colum

Monday, March 27, 2023

Monday, March 27, 2023, Simon Marotte and Trenton Lee Stewart

Let's play 20 Questions, but only about rock bands... Animal, vegetable, or mineral? Our three answers are placed in the correct order from top to bottom: COUNTINGCROWS, SMASHING / PUMPKINS, and (the) ROLLINGSTONES. A little disappointing that the last one dropped the definite article from the start of the band's name, but otherwise a cute little theme.

I'd rank the Stones first from a historical perspective, although I probably like the first Counting Crows album (August and Everything After) as much as anything Jagger and Co. put out. Not a huge fan of Smashing Pumpkins.

I smashed through this puzzle, so it's a shame I won't be at the ACPT this YEAR (2:36). I'm counting on regular reader and commenter Philbo to GOBAG or go home. Um. You know what I mean.


A straightforward Monday, without a lot to comment on in the fill or the clues. Best clue of the day is 62A: One may arrive on a saucer (ALIEN). SPACERACE and SLIDESHOW are good long down answers. 4D: Sandwiches that may save the day? (HEROS) gets a mild chuckle. 

More SONNETs and Winnie the Pooh (HONEY) make everybody's day brighter. I enjoyed this puzzle, and hope our contestants for this upcoming weekend are practicing their solving on paper.

- Colum

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sunday, March 26, 2023, David Karp

I DO, I DO ... DO!

Hey, folks! Colum here for another sparkling week of puzzles and a potentially sparkling week of reviews. I promise nothing. Especially coming after Frannie's typically brilliant week of posts!

While Hope has been in Firenze, Siena, e Roma, yours truly has been on the homefront, caring for dogs and patients in somewhat equal measure. A house is only a home insofar as it contains what you love inside, so I'm looking forward to my partner's return. In the meantime, I have the NYT crossword!

Today's theme is revealed with THIRDEYEBLIND, a band I know for the one song referenced in the clue. Apparently they're still active, but with mostly different band members from the original group. In terms of the crossword, the name is interpreted by theme answers which would typically have three Is in them, but the third is dropped, creating a new phrase which is clued wackily, and hilarity ensues.

So, for example, 23A: Preparing to put earrings in an ogre? (PIERCINGSHREK) derives from "piercing shriek." I think my favorite is 104A: Old-timey wizard who needs to learn some manners? (SPITTINGMAGE), but 87A: Prize in a chowder cook-off? (CERTIFICATEOFCLAM) also got a chuckle.


Do you know what is not made in a press? tAhINI. I should have known that, you'd think. Especially as 86A: What "X" might stand for (TEN) is certainly not TEh. I had Tic in there originally, which caused issues. BTW, I like 86A's paired clue at 59A: What "O" might stand for (HUG). Also not "tic." Or "tac." 


I am concerned that the Old Gray Lady might be coming down with a hint of the laissez-faire attitude of the young 'uns. GSPOT next to EARGASM? It's enough to make you misread 29A: Nickname for Luigi (GIGIO) as GIGolO...

That was a stretch. I'm sorry.

I've learned that a plangonologist collects DOLLS, apparently. And the AGEGAP referenced in 73D does not apply to me and Hope. I note they don't supply a gendered direction in the gap. I wonder if the likelihood of the man being older than the woman has neared even odds.

And with that, I'm out. Happy Sunday!

- Colum

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Saturday, March 25, 2023, Robyn Weintraub

Today's New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle is a real blast from the past - full of nostalgic references to technologies like BIONICS, FLUXCAPACITORS, and "Star Wars" (USETHEFORCE - "Advice from a sci-fi mentor" - ha!). I felt like I was back in the '70s and '80s, watching my favorite shows and playing Space Eggs on my Apple IIe with my leg warmers on. These references are like little nuggets of gold for those of us who grew up during this time.

When you see the name Robyn Weintraub as the constructor, you immediately say to yourself, "are you ready to have some pun?" I sure was. I couldn't help but chuckle at some of the more irreverent C/APs that played almost like EASTEREGGS, hidden clues that are a real treat for any puzzle lover.
"Wilde thing" (WIT)
"Certain hacker" (AXE)
"Red state" (IRE)
"Facility that deals with change" (MINT)

I have to give BONUSPOINTS to "It's at the end of 'Oedipus'" (SIGMA) and "Modern meeting setting" (MUTE) - apt! Two good QMCs were "Ticket prices?" (FINES) and "Departure announcement?" (OBIT)

The midwest section gave me the most trouble. For "Common request at a bar" I started with letsSEESOMEID. I didn't know what a jughandle is as it concerns traffic, nor that home to the world's smallest bird is CUBA. And don't even get me started on that one clue that referenced some niche Shakespearean character (IAGO).

Overall, I found the New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle to be a brain-teasing delight. The clues are witty, the themes are fun, and the references to classic TV shows and video games are as satisfying as a hot fudge sundae. I think this puzzle is a real winner. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it!

~Frannie and guest reviewer ChatGPT (YOUDIDWHAT?)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Friday, March 24, 2023, Blake Slonecker

My first glance at today's grid formation, looking especially DENSE with no fewer than seven grid-spanning entries, made me a little nervous - unnecessarily so, as it turned out. All-in-all, it played relatively easy for a Friday for this solver and I finished it in EMIR 15:21. I had, in fact, completed all but two squares a minute or so earlier. The two blanks were filled with real potential for FWOEs, both being Naticks for this solver. I have not heard of ARLO Parks, British singer/songwriter or "Kurosawa film based on 'King Lear.'" In this case, I RAN the alphabet and luckily settled on R as a likely option. In the southern section, I drew a blank where "___ saltado, a stir-fried dish with sliced beef" crossed "Would ____?" Happily, I chose the acceptable-but-hardly (I think) -quintessentially definitive question, "Would ILIE?" which produced LOMO saltado, an answer I had to take on faith as nothing about the word 'lomo' says stir fry, sliced, or beef to me.


I had an easier time in the east than the west. I entered the ends of most of the long Across answers before the beginnings. For example, I had AVENUE long before I could find AMSTERDAM. Same with ARTIST, DANCERS, and PRESSURE. The one grid-spanner I dropped right in was MOISTTOWELETTES. My favorite, as I'm sure our dear Readers have guessed, was BOOLEANOPERATOR. Unfortch, I didn't read the clue carefully and I thought the 'or' in the clue was an 'and' which lead to an illogical initial guess ending with an OPERATORs error. 

C/APs I enjoyed include "Delicacy" (TACT), "Proceeding without thinking" (ONAUTO), and "Went nowhere, say" (SATHOME). My favorite, though, was "What could represent you in a rebus puzzle?" (EWE) - ha! Fill-wise I liked SELTZER, VENOM, and POPO

NOTHINGPERSONAL, but my final ASSESSMENTS indicate that the long answers at the bottom caused some buildup of SILTS like LBS, OOP, TLC, RPM, EEE, and SRA. Still, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, am I right? 


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Thursday, March 23, 2023, David Kwong

I apologize for the late review today. I had to leave for work at ATEAM, which ISAY problem when it's one's turn to do the review. :(  I didn't even have a chance to do the puzzle itself until just now. EGAD.

Anyhoo, even though, it being Thursday, I was expecting a rebus - all the more so after neither stoned, ironed, or Hermione fit in the top row Down answers - I wasn't expecting *this* rebus. :) To solve the puzzle, one puts the letters ONE all in one square, one after the other, either two times or three times in a row. When there are two ONEs, one replaces them with the word COMPANY - as in "two's company" - to get a common phrase that suits the clue. For example, "Officer in charge of a military unit" is a [ONE][ONE]COMMANDER in the grid, but a Company Commander when it's at home. When one enters [ONE] one two three times in a row, one replaces the three ONES with the word CROWD - as in "three's a crowd" - to get a common phrase like [ONE][ONE][ONE]SOURCING or Crowd Sourcing ("Mass method for seeking input"). Does that add up for everyone?


Not all my problems were caused by the addones in the four theme answers. I had take two in a a couple of places. For one thing, I spelled SHERYL Crow with an initial C - derp - and for another I filled in the blank following "All ___" with mInE instead of RISE

Clues I liked include "Gently suggest, as an idea" (FLOAT), "Sign that you have something (SYMPTOM), and "One serving a queen" (DRONE). The hidden capital in "Rockets frequently travel in this" (THENBA) was tricky for this solver, while other clues were surprisingly straightforward like "Gave birth to" for HAD and "Tesla, for one" being CAR. And "Step on it" was almost too straightforward. It took me a while to come up with PEDAL. Fill-wise, I liked BERATED, HEDGED, and ADHERED

I'll TRIO to do better tomorrow by doubling down on getting up earlier. 


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Each theme clue contains two film titles in that share a common element which is then combined with a synonym for 'movie' to make a common phrase - no mean feat. For example, "'Malcom X' and 'Milk'?" could each be described as a PROFILEPICTURE, and "'Titanic' or 'Jaws'?" could be described as a WATERFEATURE. WALKIETALKIE as a way to describe films in which there is a lot of foot travel is pretty darn funny. FLICKOFASWITCH for both "'Freaky Friday' or 'The Parent Trap'?" is very clever.


Other award-winners today are "Change" for the somewhat surprising answer COINS, "Commit an illegal act" (OFFEND), and "Stay fresh" for KEEP. A special prize goes to the C/AP "Shushes"/QUIETS, neither of which made reference to libraries or librarians. :) The award for Best Visual Effects goes to TARIFF, KEROSENE, ANTIQUES, CORKSCREW, and TAWDRY

I had a rather slow-seeming solve today, possibly because some of my initial entries were flops. For "Olympic symbol" I started with 'torch' and then tried 'rings' before lighting on the correct answer, FLAME. I also premiered 'vulgar' for for "Tacky and loud" before finding success with its sequel, TAWDRY. I experienced another cut in the action in the mid-west section with the sports reference "QB protectors, for short" (OLINE), and an obscure (to me) note about an instrument heard in both Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" and Sonny & Cher's "I got You Babe" (OBOE). Fortunately, the show did go on and I eventually finished in 12:38.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Tuesday, March 21, 2023, Michael Lieberman

Today's theme is all about oddball - one might even say silly - rhyming word pairs, which, as you have probably all guessed by now, dear Readers, entertained me. I was perhaps drawn in by the not-so-crazy combo TABOOBOOBOO at 17A. In today's world, who hasn't made one of those? I'll admit, the buildup to QATARTARTAR didn't shine quite as brightly, but the DACHACHACHA is something I'd like to see. And, while looking into lemuroidea on the Wikipedia, I did not find any references to LEMURMURMUR as a form of communication, but I did learn that "the ring-tailed lemur engages in 'stink fights' by rubbing its tail across scent glands on its wrists, and then flicking its tail at other male opponents." Good times. 

Over all, I found the solve fairly easy, especially once I clocked the rhyming element of the theme answers. My one false start was entering 'ocher' for "Earthy pigment" but Mia HAMM crossed the field and came to my rescue (UMBER). 

More senseless fun with another classic joke among the clues: "What the acorn said when it grew up..." (GEOMETRY) - ha. I was also amused by the C/AP "One of clubs?" (MEMBER). SWERVE, FLORETS, ABUELA, QUOTA, SCOURED, and DAPPER are fun fill. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to solve additional puzzles on paper in preparation for the ACPT. I've encountered a set of clues - in three different puzzles - all related to habitations with a rounded shape. The answers have been igloo, yurt, and now, TEPEE ("Conical dwelling"). I hope this sparkler makes it all happen for those of our dear Readers who will be in Stamford later this month. Stay tuned to this channel for more GRAPE puzzle advice. I'll be here all week.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Monday, March 20, 2023, Adam Vincent

Today's theme entries bring us a combination of a foodstuff plus a word that can mean to leave, replicating the pattern given in the revealer of DINEANDDASH. I was amused and entertained by all the fun entries: BANANASPLIT, TOFUSCRAMBLE, LEMONPEEL, and CINNAMONROLL. In something of a cosmic miracle, fussier eater that I am, these are all foods I like. 

And that's not all I liked. There were good entries APLENTY including  TUB (such a nice, resonant word), GASUP, FLUBBED, and PEONS. The clue "Pushing the envelope, so to speak" reminded me that I once thought that would be a great slogan for the U.S. Post Office - ha! Another option for it is EDGY


Witty REPARTEE included the old fish joke (DAM), "Cut the crop?" for REAP, "'Peeper' that makes no sound" (EYE), and "'Honey' or 'sugar' alternative" (DARLING). I also enjoyed the nice-to-think-about "Hit the ___(go to bed)" (HAY) . With everything else seeming so upbeat and cheery, the only thing I found to HANOI was TRACHEA, which stuck in the throat a bit.

And, since today is the vernal equinox, I think URL agree that it would be hard to find a EMIR appropriate entry than ROBIN, "symbolizing the arrival of spring." FWORD into a new season, dear Readers!


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sunday, March 19, 2023, Robert Ryan


Today the "break" of the title is, as it often is, a re-parsing of one word into two, with punny results. My favorite is the one it took me the longest to understand - DEPARTMENTALLY (Zone out?). "Depart, mentally." Ha. Sheesh. That's what I was doing for much of my solve, as this maybe took me twice as long as usual. The other two in the top three were SUPPOSITION (Seat at the dining table?) and CONTEXTUALLY (Swindle by instant messaging?). 


This one just played hard for me. There were drop-ins, sure, like DARCY ("Pride and Prejudice" surname, CASPIANSEA (World's largest inland body of water), SEPIATONES (Some vintage photo tints), and even ERAS (The ____ Tour (2023 Taylor Swift concert series that broke Ticketmaster), but then there were trickier ones, like OBTRUDES (Becomes unduly prominent), BARPIN (Long, narrow piece of jewelry) (and I even have one of these sitting on my bureau!), and BRUT (More than just a sec?) (Oooh... tricksy! Think champagne.). And somewhat appropriately, some that took me the longest to see required a break or two to make multiple words out of the letter strings - "Extra crisp, informally" (HIDEF), "Predecessor of a USB drive" (PCCARD), and "Forty winks" (AFEWZS) (OMG).

Speaking of OMG, that clue, "Initial shock?" was lovely. As was "Sea change?" for TIDE. And "One in the hand?" for ACE. Elegant, really, this cluing. And I loved the exclamation point in the clue "Word has it!" for ETYMOLOGY. Heh. And the simplicity of "It comes after nine but not ten" (TEEN). Puzzles like this put me in a better mood and make me think that maybe there is some good in the world. So thanks for that.

Frannie takes over tomorrow. If you're down in Stamford in a couple weeks, I'll see you there, otherwise, I'll be back in April. Happy puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Saturday, March 18, 2023, Ada Nicolle

Such a strange central grid-spanner - DOYOUQUARRELSIR (Response to thumb-biting in "Romeo and Juliet." It's odd, yet I do but keep the peace so I put up my sword. ... sorry. Just trying to work in a little of the dialog that follows that line. It's not really working...

So anyway...

That NW corner was a tricky one! BIGIFTRUE ("That would change everything," in internet lingo) and ONSTEROIDS (To an extreme) did not come easily. I didn't get any help from "Rebecca in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame" (LOBO) or "Trickster in Polynesian mythology" (MAUI) (Huh. Who knew?). I did get [something quite] ATROCIOUS (Like the sound of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," per the song of the same name) off the clue, but it didn't help as much as I hoped it would. 

NINA Dobrev

"It's a mouthful, frankly" (HOTDOGBUN) was hilarious. And "Bracken, e.g." (FERN) reminds me yet again of Frost's "Birches" - "They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, / And they seem not to break; ..." It's been a big week for poetry here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA. And why not? I've been immersed in poetry for the past many months. And what I am immersed in, you will be immersed in. That's the way this works.

I like how ROSAPARKS (Activist who said "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right") and IMMOVABLE (Not going anywhere) are symmetrical. And how GETRICHQUICK sort of leads to CHEAPDATE

"Additional solutions?" (SUMS) was cute. And it seems like we've seen SEMORDNILAPS somewhat recently, haven't we? I didn't remember it off the clue (Words that form other words when read backward), but I did remember that it was "palindromes" backwards once I got a few crosses, so that helped.

I enjoyed AMOUR (Theme for a troubadour), "Yes, MAAM!" I did, but I'm guessing the other french word - TOILE (French for "canvas") will seem very Saturday-y to some solvers.

Overall, I enjoyed the challenge. Lotsa names I didn't know, but I learned a few things and had a few laughs, and when that's true, I'll SMILE.

- Horace

Friday, March 17, 2023

Friday, March 17, 2023, Carter Cobb

A nice open, challenging Friday grid today. The kind of puzzle that puts up resistance the whole way, as it falls in place little by little. Things you didn't really know you knew, but which made sense once they came together. Like JUMPSCARES (Staples of horror movies). For a while, I wondered if there was an actor named Staples that I didn't know, but as it turned out, there is a term for those moments in horror movies. And DRAGMOTHER (Queen with a protégé). Did not know the term, but it makes sense. 

ALFRE Woodard

Better, in puzzles like this, are the answers that come into focus and get a chuckle (because as we all learned yesterday - make me laugh and I will like you). For example: BEAUTYREST (Retirement plan whose prospects are looking good?) Beautiful. "Isn't for you?" (ARENT) is a classic. And "Join a boxer rebellion? (GOCOMMANDO). Heh. I admit, I've been a part of that army at times...

"One seeing stars upon waking, perhaps" (EARLYRISER) wasn't exactly funny, but it did get a little grunt of acknowledgement. In a good way. :)

As something of an imaging specialist myself, I enjoyed the double "Alternatives to GIFs" clues (JPGS and BITMAPS), although ... are BITMAPS really considered a viable alternative these days? I feel like they were almost out of date when I first heard of them back in the 90s. Heh.

Didn't love SNIFFED (Examined, as a dog might). Too gross. But PROSAIC and STOKE are good words, and EVENSTEVEN is fun. Also - "It's just past due" (TRE) very good. I feel like I've seen it before, but I was both fooled and delighted again by the Italian. And speaking of fun clues, "Pivotal part of a revolution" (HUB) is a nice quiet one. As is "Well, essentially" (HOLE). Hah!

It's a debut, but Mr. Cobb already seems like he's well on his way to being a PRO.

- Horace

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Thursday, March 16, 2023, Rebecca Goldstein

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

So begins The Big Lebowski, and so is the theme of this puzzle. Four times the letters of "weed" tumble through the middle of four Across answers, sort of rolling counter-clockwise while being read clockwise. And always working without the "roll" in the Downs. Very nice. And I'm clumping TWIRL (Go a few rounds, say?) in as side-theme.


Some nice QMC C/APs - "Beef that's aged?" (FEUD), "Make-up artists?" (LIARS), and "Heading in the right direction?" (EAST). Heh... maps. 

In the good non-QMC category I will put "This might be rigged" (MAST), "Pop singer's nickname that omits 51-Across [ANA]" (ARI), "Shakespearean humor" (BILE) (not funny!), "Wings things" (ADLIBS) (lovely), "Kayak alternative" (EXPEDIA) (Hidden capital alert), and "Hexagon bordering two rectangles" (UTAH). Heh... maps.

MOIST (Like towelettes in a fast-food restaurant) is a word that some people love to hate. Me, I didn't like reading MIDGUT, but I'm not going to SOB about it. And speaking of words, what did we all think of SUHWEET ("Bee-you-tiful!")? I chuckled. And what more can one ask for when doing a crossword? Or anything, really. Make me laugh, and I will like you.

I know when night has gone
That a new world's born at dawn
I'll keep rolling along
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

- Horace

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Wednesday, March 15, 2023, Michael B. Berg

A theme with no revealer today. Let's call it "video games clued somewhat poetically."

Barrel of monkeys (DONKEYKONG)
Shapes up (TETRIS)
Ghost in the machine (PACMAN)
Knock me down with a feather (ANGRYBIRDS)

I approve of this theme. 
So was I once myself a [player of video games]
And so I dream of going back to be.  
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
Sorry. I got away from earth awhile there. For the record, I have played all but SONICTHE HEDGEHOG. I played DONKEYKONG and PACMAN in an actual arcade, The Silver Ball, where I had to "Insert a token, say" to PAY for a game. Those were the days. 
But really, I don't dream of going back to it. I can easily get too into them, and then video games are just a time sink.

That said, my favorite video games (like Lode Runner) involved some kind of puzzle-solving. I guess they're all a little like that, but with TETRIS, say, the solution is obvious and there is really no trick but being fast. Other games, like ANGRYBIRDS, don't need speed so much as figuring out new ways of doing essentially the same thing. TETRIS is a continuous game. ANGRYBIRDS is a level-based game.

In a way, I guess, the NYTX could be seen as a combination. Each puzzle is a single continuous challenge, and each day is a new level.

Doing crosswords, playing video games, swinging birches ... they're all the same. Because sometimes, like Frost, 

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.
I guess that's the key. I need a diversion from time to time, but otium, Horace, tibi molestum est. ("Idleness, Horace, is troublesome to you.") Still,

I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

- Horace

p.s. Congratulations on the debut, Mr. Berg!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Tuesday, March 14, 2023, Peter Gordon

Welp, I guess this story isn't going to wrap up NEATLY, so on we go.

OK, I'm going to be more ACID than NIMBLE today as I MALIGN certain entries. UPROSE, for example. The first thing that came to mind when I saw that was a sentence from the Dutch Duolingo course: "De uitjes kwamen in opstand." (The little onions revolted.) And why Dutch, YOU might ask? Because "opstand" is the closest thing I've ever heard to UPROSE. UPROSE doesn't remind me of anything in English, because no one's ever said it in English. Just like GASSER. Maybe I'm just not that funny, but no one has ever called one of my jokes a GASSER. And I know plenty of old people! Old people who might have once said AWGOON or INAPIGSEYE in the Good OLDDAYS.

IGA Swiatek

I like SCREECH (Sound from an owl). We had little SCREECH owls that would come and sit on the roof and make horrible noises when we were summering in Tuscany. Have I mentioned that before? Well, you're going to be hearing a lot more stories about my life, apparently, because I have to find something to talk about when the theme is all about sportsball.

Favorite clue: Something that has to be broken before it can be used. (EGG). Reminds me of John Donne's "Batter my heart" sonnet that includes, as you know, the lines "That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend / Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new." Would that it were possible, eh?

- Horace

Monday, March 13, 2023

Monday, March 13, 2023, Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen

exegi monumentum aere perennus
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
non omnis moriar multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam; usque ego postera
crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.
dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens,
princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. sume superbiam
quaesitiam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.

So would I have started and finished this review had not the three of us been somehow talked into continuing this blog. Today marks the tenth anniversary of our first post. It seemed to me like it would have been a good place to stop. Ten years is a long time to do something, isn't it? Especially for a Gen-Xer like me. Aren't we supposed to be the slacker generation? What's with all this routine? This reliability? 

The theme today, sadly, is not to my liking. MOCKTAIL is fine, I like the word, and the concept, but I do not like the parallels. To mock seems so much harsher than to kid, or to rib. I get it, they're all bullying sorts of activities, but I don't have to like it. Such is the prerogative of a "reviewer."

I'll just end with a translation of the Horace ode above. It's the last poem in his third book of odes, and I thought it might be a fitting close to the blog. With apologies to Terry Walsh, whose translation I bastardize.

[We] have crafted a monument more lasting than bronze
and loftier than the royal pile of the pyramids,
a thing which neither biting rain nor the obstreperous
North Wind can destroy, nor the countless run of years,
the flight of time.
[We] will not totally perish and much of [us] will survive
Oblivion; [We] will go on living in the praise of those who
Postdate [us], as long as constructors continue to submit
Puzzles to the New York Times
[We] will be read, where rushing Aufidus plunges, where poor
Daunus reigned over his rustics, from this poor place become 
Powerful, as the first to have brought a kinder, funnier voice to
NYTX reviews.
Will Shortz, accept the pride attendant on your merits, and
come, ready to crown [us] with the laurels of Delphi. 

(Italicized portions approximate.)

- Horace, the younger 




Sunday, March 12, 2023

Sunday, March 12, 2023, David Tuffs


Hello, Dear Reader. Horace here, back again for a little of this & that, but first, thanks to Colum and Amy for two fine weeks of reviews!

And now, on to the theme which, as usual, I did not even consider until I had finished the puzzle. It was only then that I saw that the shaded and circled letters went together in a "this & that" kind of way. "Loud & clear," "fine & dandy" (not to be confused with the Maytals' "Sweet & Dandy"), "back & forth," etc. And then I understood what that second half of each theme clue was doing. Luckily, I was able to finish it without that knowledge, but still, I think it might behoove me to pay a little more attention to things like this, especially with Puzzle Five looming...

INDUS river

I love the word ANODYNE (Inoffensive). I didn't recognize the root, though, so I looked it up just now and no wonder - it's from Greek, not Latin. I only have Latin. I guess it's time to get started learning Greek... anyway, apparently, the "an" prefix means "without" (much like the "a" of Latin and English) and "odunē" (or "odynē") means "pain." So, "painless." Cool.

It's interesting to see that BUDDHA's name was Siddhartha Gautama. Any relation to Gudetama? Heh.

"It might end on a high note" is a cute clue for YODEL. And speaking of high, I associate HIGHASAKITE with either being high, or just being over-the-moon happy, not with being drunk, which is what I think "Three sheets to the wind" usually indicates. Putting too fine a point on it? Perhaps. But hey, what am I even doing this for if not to discuss the edges?

Speaking of edges, "Mushy PEAS?" ok. OKRAS? Weak.

I thought the clue "Potential result of a strike" was great, because even when I had "PAY..." I thought it might still be "paydirt" until I was forced into PAYHIKE. Hah!

Overall, I liked this one. I'd say more, but I've got to get ready to go watch the state finals of a high school poetry recitation competition. I know, right? How much more fun could a person have on a Sunday morning? 

I'll see you again tomorrow. Happy puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Saturday, March 11, 2023, Tom Pepper

Another week of blogging comes to a close with a really fine Saturday themeless. I've come to realize that my weeks of reviews have a rhythm to them: the Sunday is a nice involved solve, followed by a romp through the early part of the week, and then the buildup of the Turn. I'm glad we're keeping going.

I love these pinwheel constructions, with the little black square staircases in the middle of each side, creating these stepwise sets of answers. There's a fun moment when all of the long middle answers become clear at the same time. It took me a long time, and I even took out correct answers, before I was able to see my way through.

I almost started with a pair of incorrect answers. Did anybody else want "euchre" at 1A: Trick-taking card game (OHHELL)? The mildly misleading 1D: Four + four (OCTET) could have been "eight" but I was immediately suspicious on a Saturday. Mind you, the reason I changed my answers was because of 4D: Name in "fuel injection" (ELI), which was really straightforward. This corner was great, with Alan TURING and HORCRUX (never mind what you think about Ms. Rowling's controversial views on trans people).

That X made 30A: Ones getting under your skin? (XRAYTECHS) clear (especially with INRE right next to it). But even with that in place, I had to skip to the NE corner next.


and ARAL went in quickly, followed by 8D: One standing on one's own two feet? (BIPED) - cute. There's a nice hidden capital in 23A: Messing around on a TV set? (DEBRA). BRIOCHE and CHAGRIN make this another very nice corner. And now I could see BLOCKCHAINS, and I had CHIN___ at 16D: Green, black, white and yellow are varieties of these (CHINESETEAS), but couldn't get the ending. It didn't help that I wanted SHear for 28D: Cut short (SHORN). "Cut" and "put" are tough in crossword clues because the past tense is the same as the present tense.

So I completed the SE and then the SW corners first. The TOONIE is the two dollar coin in Canada (a gimme for Philbo, I'm sure). I had lOONIE in place for a bit. RETINA gave me FOVEA in the other corner. ALOHAOE is always hard to write in with all of those vowels. 

Finally the middle fell, when I got ENDEARING, recognized what 27D: Evening (TYING) was all about, and then ELIASHOWE

WHATADOWNER! I finished in 11:13. Just kidding, folks! It's been a fun week. Horace is back on tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday, March 10, 2023, Claire Rimkus

Friday means it's almost the weekend, and we get our first themeless. I love these puzzles for the WIT of the clues and the sparkle of the answers. And today's puzzle certainly does not land with a THUD!

The triple stacks in the NW and SE are all strong answers. What a great 1A today! There was a year or so where we gave grades to the 1A answers, and this one would get an A from me. TRAGICFLAW is excellent in and of itself, but the clue elevates it: "Protagonist's pride, often." It took me way too long to see that we weren't looking for a positive quality such as "courage" or "quick thinking." Nice!

HOLYTOLEDO is great, and UPANDLEAVE is a nice phrase. In the other corner, I love MELLOYELLO and SPAWEEKEND, while LEGOPERSON is solid,

The hardest area to fill was right in the middle. I had ADVISORY and CRAP, SCANTY and PREGNANCYPILLOW, but I couldn't see LORD and ORAL. Finally, I got 21D: They're easy to read, typically (BADLIARS), and finished the puzzle in 7:30.

OLGA Kurylenko with some guy

Nice clue for JEEP! There's a ROI (in Frannie's terminology). Other clues I liked:

12D: Things on spines (BOOKTITLES)

36D: Service call? (AMEN)

26D: Like singer Michelle Williams and actress Michelle Williams (NORELATION). We just watched The Fabelmans last night. It was a good watch, if a bit scattershot in places. But the actress in question did a fine job. Nothing on Michelle Yeoh, however. Now that was a great movie!

- Colum

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Thursday, March 9, 2023, Simeon Seigel

I hope everybody's week is going well! We're on the short end into the weekend, and that's a good thing.

Another good thing is the start of the Turn, our term for the Thursday-Friday-Saturday puzzling days. And today's puzzle is a fun start. I love the concept here, revealed by FLIPSIDES. The theme answers all have a solid black bar part of the way through the answer. If you take the second half and put it first, it is the actual answer for the clue as written, but the other way works as its own acceptable phrase as well.

Thus, 17A: *Defeat in a 100-meter dash, say (PRINTOUTS) is reinterpreted as "outsprints." What's so lovely about these answers is that each one ends in an S, which when it moves to the front, reparses the first half of the answer completely. TOOLBARS suddenly becomes "barstool;" ALEHOUSES is remade as "housesale;" WINGBACKS turns into "backswing;" and HOTHEADS is reimagined as "headshot." I had a lot of fun figuring out the switches.

PAUL Hewson (Bono) and his daughter Eve (from Bad Sisters)

Some fun clues outside of the theme:

1A: What slackers do vis-à-vis non-slackers (LESS) - so much clue for so little answer!

15A: Something a loafer lacks (LACE) - coming so soon after the previous clue, I was briefly misdirected to thinking about a slacker.

52D: Rear ends (DUFFS) - I never use that particular synonym. Perhaps it's time to start?

Otherwise, I enjoyed the pairs of long answers in the NE and SW corners, particularly ALOTTOLOSE and SECRETDOOR.

Fun Thursday, 8:11.

- Colum

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Wednesday, March 8, 2023, Miranda Kany

How many of you figured out you were making GUACAMOLE by entering answers into the grid? I didn't get it until I got to 40A: About two cups cubed, after peeling and pitting (AVOCADO). Now, I know I'm a philistine when it comes to this, but I'm not a fan. I probably could get used to it and even enjoy it at this point. But I have the hardest time with the texture of the main ingredient. 

On the other hand, I do enjoy CILANTRO a lot, so "chacun à son goût," as they say.

The circled letters are oddly placed. They are placed in a sort of lopsided circle, and not symmetrically. I think that would have been more aesthetically pleasing if it could have been managed, but I'm not surprised to find it might be a challenge, especially with the nine ingredient answers.

It's a fun and interesting theme, particularly good for a Wednesday puzzle. 

Donnie and Marie OSMOND

The longest non-theme answer is seven letters, so there's not much super exciting in the fill. I laughed at the clue at 67A: Marine fish that's also the name of a hairstyle (MULLET). I mean, calling it a hairstyle is generous. I also thought 70A: Brand for a butterfly expert, perhaps (SPEEDO) is very well done.

The C/AP at 18A: Bawdy (RIBALD) has a lovely 18th century feel to it. We should be using these words far more frequently, if you ask me.

Otherwise it's a smooth solve and a curious one, so thumbs up here! 4:45.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Tuesday, March 7, 2023, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano and Matthew Stock

I love this theme! The grid spanner (16 letters in this 16 x 15 grid) OPPOSITESATTRACT alert the solver to the fact that each theme answer starts with a pair of words that are antonymic to each other. Thus, OFFONALARK, for example, with on and off next to each other. Very nice! I love LEFTRIGHTAWAY particularly.

How many more of these are there? "One too few?" Hah!

Okay, maybe that one doesn't really work. That's why I'm here in the critic's seat, rather than the constructor's.

The width of the grid allows for some nice long down answers, such as SUPERFOODS and TAMEIMPALA. I probably know some songs by the latter, but can't think of any right now. I am not a fan at all of a SOURBEER, but I like its presence in the grid. 

LLAMAS being pack animals

1D got me off to a great chuckling start (Id checkers? EGOS). I also appreciated the two "That one and that one" clues, with THOSE and ESOS as the answers.

A quick review today - things got off to a late start and are busy at work, so I wanted to get the review up. 3:28 for the oversize grid.

- Colum

Monday, March 6, 2023

Monday, March 6, 2023, Lynn Lempel

Happy Monday to all! I hope your weekend was restful. Mine was lovely because I celebrated my birthday with family and friends.

Today's puzzle is composed by the incomparable Lynn Lempel, an expert at making smooth and enjoyable early week grids. The theme is HUMANNATURE, which has been interpreted in the themed answers as [body part][natural phenomenon]. 

I've been to the FINGERLAKES several times now, a perk of living in upstate New York. Not only are the lakes simply lovely to look at, but also due to the glacier movements that created them, there are astonishing gorges and canyons around. We really enjoyed the hike up Watkins Glen, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys natural beauty.

I suppose I could cavil at the fact that none of these body parts are peculiar to homo sapiens. Feet and heads are found liberally throughout the animal kingdom, while palms and fingers are all over the place in the simian families (c.f. APE). But no matter. 


The only answer in the fill that I take issue with is LOUDEN. I don't know that this is ever used in regular conversation. I had to leave that one open even though I suspected it might be the answer, just because I was hoping it wouldn't be. Silly of me, but then, I'm not going to the ACPT this year.

Otherwise, I liked WINESAP, JESUITS, and BUNGLER in the fill. No particularly clever clues today, although I chuckled at 54A: Go down a slippery slope? (SKI).


- Colum

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Sunday, March 5, 2023, John-Clark Levin


Good morning everyone! I've been challenged by my honorable co-blogger to solve quickly and post early. Fortunately, I've got two little canine friends who insist on getting a walk by a certain hour, which gives me time on this Sunday morning to follow through.

As I was solving today's puzzle, I was bewildered by the letters in the shaded spaces. They weren't words in their own right, nor did they seem likely to be anagrammable in any useful way. I resigned myself to working all the way to the bottom, where the revealer would make all of it make sense. 

And indeed it did, in a most unexpected way! 102A: Vegetarian options ... or what the shaded letters in this puzzle are, phonetically (MEATSUBSTITUTES). I didn't expect phonetics, and the first one is particularly surprising. In order, the meats that are substituted are "goat," "duck," "pork," "beef," "bacon," and "lamb." And let me tell you, I am planning on eating some "bakein" later on this morning, only not the fake kind.

SARA Bareilles

Solving this puzzle moved very quickly (unlike yesterday's), but there are some lovely clues and answers here.

8A: They take bows (ARCHERS) and 41A: They can make a huge impact (ASTEROIDS) are examples of the kind of non-QMC I'm particularly fond of. No need to alert the solver that there's something off about the clue - just leave it out there. On the other hand, 67A: One vs 52? (SOLITAIRE) is a very clever clue indeed. 

How about 111A: They may be long and shocking (EELS) - Hah! Great way to spice up a standard crossword answer.

I also liked the pair of adjacent long answers on the west and east side of the grid: OUTOFORDER and SCAREDYCAT, and HOWDAREYOU and ATLONGLAST. Such fun answers.

Fun Sunday. Solved in nearly the exact same amount of time as yesterday's (10:16).

- Colum

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Saturday, March 4, 2023, Ryan McCarty

Today's puzzle required - or at least suggested - that it might be a good idea if Horace and Frannie joined forces. While there were a few I could get right off the clue (OED, PER, RINGCACTI, PAGODA), after 20 minutes or so, my grid remained sparsely populated. Apparently, Horace was ANNA similar situation. Rather than cry UNCLE, we decided to trade a few answers - each had some the other didn't. Turns out, that was just the CRYPTEX we needed. We then went back to our respective grids and each finished as a SOLOARTIST

The principal stumbling blocks I encountered were concentrated in the northwest, starting with the very uninformative and uninspiring "___ place" (ONES) - is that an example of CLASSISM? - and closely followed by NCAAFINAL (apparently not 'finalfour', which fit count-wise, if not clue-wise) and the phrase "ONHIRE" which I've never heard before (I had ONcall in there for a time) - not to mention "Ancestral spirit in Pueblo mythology" (KACHINA). The clues "Neighbor of Senegal" (GUINEABISSAU), "Abrogate" for UNDO, and the clever and (slightly risqué :) "French open activity, for short?" (PDA) in the next section didn't help matters.

While the above played MAJORROLES in generating ERRORMESSAGEs during the solve, there were, of course, some fine C/APs that ISLES single out here:
"A good word for giving?" (UNCLE) - ha!
"Go to the next line, perhaps" (PRESSENTER) - tricky
"Street wear?" (RUT) - heh
And my favorite, "Was, at one time" (USEDTOBE)

I also enjoyed (in a way) the quote from Hume that AVARICE is "the spur of industry." JETSETTERS, PASTRAMI, CRYONIC, and BENTOBOX are fine fill. And nobody doesn't like SARALEE. :)


I didn't really feel the aptness of "Quick-tempered sorts" for SPITFIRES, so I looked it up on the World Wide Web. I was surprised to find the definitions given were almost identical to the puzzle clue, but I did feel somewhat vindicated by the Merriam Webster page which included examples of the word in use automatically pulled (rather than chosen) from other web pages where the connotation was more along the lines of energetic and feisty than quick-tempered. Also, I had no idea this word was especially associated with females. Learn something new every day. Which reminds me, why is "Leading position" VAN at 42A?

Anyhoo, as I think we agree, all's fair in Friday and Saturday puzzles, so I'm not complaining, but this was another toughie in a string of recent Friday & Saturday toughies for this solver. I didn't finish last Saturday's puzzle until Thursday. :( My performance in recent week-end puzzle has exposed so many GAPS in my knowledge. It does not bode well for the upcoming ACPT. 

On the upside for you, dear Readers, I pass the review torch to a better qualified and speedier solver - and possibly earlier-poster - tomorrow. SIA next time.


Friday, March 3, 2023

Friday, March 3, 2023, Eric Warren

Today's puzzle was definitely on the tough side for this solver, dear Readers. There were quite a few clues I didn't have the KETO and thus had to do a lot of guessing to fill them in. In fact, I ended with a FWOE thanks to a Natick at the cross of 40A/D. :( I had all but the K. Unfortch, I never spent enough time with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to know what kind of swords Leonardo used and I guess my non-Ninja Turtle life experience isn't sufficiently broad to have included KATANAS or any of KAMAL Haasan's 200+ films  - something to look forward to. Also, one would have to know more about BMW cars than I do to get MINI off the clue. In other areas, I had similar trouble, but fewer in a bunch. I can't same I'm super familiar with the term OCEANOLOGY, or gambling lingo, or BEARSPRAY (is that a thing?), and while I've heard of Ty COBB, I did not know he was known as "The Georgia Peach." Maybe it is all down to my lack of HIPNESS.


I liked the C/APs "Stories that may or may not be true" (LORE), "Extend, in a way" (RENEW), "Metaphorical throwaway" (BATHWATER), "Divert" for AMUSE is good. And, once I got it, "Professional at pulling strings?" was a real RIBTICKLER. I also liked CYBERSQUAT as fill. And fun to have CLOWNMAKEUP and FIREEATERS together. 

Horace and I have had occasion to discuss ESP with various people recently, and it seems like there's a real age cutoff (30) for people who know what ESP is and those who don't. I was surprised when it became clear that younger people don't know what it is or what the letters stand for. Weird.

Anyhoo, it was a good workout for the old BRAINCELLS, and I can't be too upset about the FWOE since I didn't know either answer. ADIOSAMIGOs!


Thursday, March 2, 2023

Thursday, March 2, 2023, Malaika Handa

We've got ourselves a threebus today - or rather a sixbus, but that doesn't work as well. There are six answers into which STEMCELLS have been incorporated or grid square by which we mean that the letters STEM are stuffed into one square, or cell. The trickiest one for me - and the one where I figured it out - was GHO[STEM]OJI ("Image in some 'Happy Holloween!' texts"), which  crossed with LOSEONE[STEM]PER. The STEM letters crossed word boundaries, like everyone likes in all but one answer. Nice that SOLARSY[STEM]S and ASTER ("Flower whose name comes from the Greek for 'star'") are on the same line. 


A scientific review of the puzzle revealed several fine C/APs including "Group of club owners?" (PGA) - ha! - "Body image?" (TATTOO), "Program extra" (INSERT), "Stick with it" for GLUE, and the clever "Flattering lines" for ODE. Sounds at a poetry slam (SNAPS) made me LOL - I would like to see that happen sometime. I also got a kick out of the answer to "Kind of job that's coveted." I can't remember when I last heard or read someone refer to a PLUM job. Lovely. "Gumption" and its answer PLUCK were also pleasantly RETRO

I was temporarily lead astray by "Add-ons to some bills" because I kept thinking of fees and the like instead of the correct RIDERS. Also, when I read the clue "Who so-called 'Swifties' are fans of" I could not get Tom Swifties, which I am a fan of, out of my head. It took quite a while for TAYLOR to show up. 

I thought "Whiffs" for ERRS was a bit of a miss, and  ENTITLE for "Qualify" didn't quite for this solver, but its rare to find totipotency in a puzzle. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Wednessday, March 1, 2023, Aaron M. Rosenberg

When I got to the first theme clue, "Hark! And hear of the vengeful ruler who took great pleasure in expelling disloyal subjects, for he was the ..." and saw that the answer was PERSONALBANKING, I was LES than amused, but by the time I got to the fourth theme clue, "Give heed! And listen to my tale of the mad tyrant who decreed that all toilets in his realm be installed the wrong way, for he was the ...." BACKWARDLOOKING, I had LEARNT to love them and LOL'd. Maybe it was repetition that made the laugh grow heartier, or maybe the clues just got funnier, but either way, or both, they won me over. The theme answers all having KING at the end helped speed the solve (9:49), but was a tiny bit unfortunate puzzling-wise. 


Two answers that roiled my solve a bit were AVANTPOP and Ted CHIANG, having never heard of either. I did look up avant-pop on the World Wide Web and it turns out I knew a number of the listed artists, but didn't know of the genre. I do take a science fiction book, so maybe I'll look into Mr. Chiang. 

Some princely C/APs elsewhere in the grid were "Came to" (AWOKE), "Letter opening" (MAILSLOT), "Apt recourse for a deal gone sour?" (LEMONLAW), and "Element of the Vegas strip?" (NEON) - ha! 

In LINE for best in fill are FOP, MONONYM, HONKS, and everybody's favorite, SNAFU

And as no king has ever outkinged Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil, it is perhaps apt that several French answers, (VICHY, MON, AMIE, PAPILLON) served to give the puzzle a certain je ne sais quoi