Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sunday, April 30, 2023, Lewis Rothlein and Jeff Chen


Is it Thursday or Sunday? The trick today is a lovely vertical theme where names in the gray (when solving online anyway, maybe there are circles in the paper?) need to be dropped all the way down below the Down clues just under them to make sense. So, in 90D, "Title woman who has children at her feet, in a 1968 hit," there are only enough spaces to enter LADYMA, but if we drop the "DONNA" from 28D's CHARDONNAY, we get the full "Lady Madonna." Furthermore, the clue for 28D is "Cautious (of)" which is not answered by CHARDONNAY, but by what is left when DONNA is removed from it - "CHARY." 


I think it is quite lovely that each clue containing a name is a comprehensible answer with AND without the name. It's quite an elegant trick, and I am willing to forgive such things as REDCOD (Colorful seafood) (How is it that I have never heard of this?), HEROIZE (Put on a pedestal), and FLORAE (Botanists' specimens).

In addition to the lovely theme, this puzzle sports all manner of fun clues. "Homophone of vowels not found in this answer" EWES. It's tortured, and would maybe have been better if the U were not found in the clue, but I still liked it. And how about "Burst of sonic ecstasy" (EARGASM). I would like this more if it were not true that my own ear has been ringing since last night. Sigh...

I really liked "Angels can be found in it" (SNOW), and speaking of winter, "One whose boss laughs a lot (ELF) got a Ho Ho Ho from me. :) "Can you dig it? Yes, you can!" was cute for DIRT, and "Ones getting hit on at parties" (PINATAS) - ha! Nice.

Solid Sunday. That's how you DOIT

- Horace


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Saturday, April 29, 2023, David Steinberg

Greetings, Dear Reader. Horace here, taking over a day early, as Colum said I would, so he can enjoy his vacation in Éire. Or is that Erin? Or maybe I should just go with Dublin... Sláinte, Colum! Enjoy yourself over there and say hi to the fam. :)

p.s. It's her last name.

Now, after that happy paragraph, let's talk about the puzzle. Last night my brother called to say that yesterday's NYTX was extremely tough for him, and we agreed that every once in a while it's good to be humbled by a puzzle. Me, I knew some of the things he didn't and I breezed through it, but when I saw Mr. Steinberg's byline, I worried that today would prove yet again that Pride goeth before destruction.

But while I wasn't ALLSMILES, and I wasn't shouting out WHATATREAT, or HOWNICE, I didn't BAWL either. I dropped in ABBA, but didn't know whether it would be "cLAP" or "sLAP" at 13A "Respond quickly, as to criticism, with 'back'" (It's CLAP), and ACRE (One of three in many baseball fields) wasn't something I immediately thought of. It's nice, though, to have that as a reference point. Up until now my understanding of an acre has been based on my grandparents house lot, which was perfectly rectangular and almost exactly half an acre. And frankly, it'll still be easier to picture that, than the amorphous and inconsistent shape of "many baseball fields." But still...

Can you believe that BADROMANCE is almost fifteen years old? Yeesh. Where does the time go?

Some clues seemed a little too oblique. Or just not as perfect as I would like. "Social climber?" for example, for APE. Sure, APEs are social animals, but is that enough to clue this on? For me, I ended up getting the answer from crosses and then looked back at the clue and thought, "Huh. Ok." Similarly, after realizing that CHAMPAGNESHOWER (Big postgame celebration) was correct, I thought "Is that something anyone would say?" I mean, sure, we've all seen players spraying champagne around, but has anyone ever said "Oh boy, here comes the CHAMPAGNESHOWER?" I would guess not. And the less said about WOWIEZOWIE, the better.

"It requires you to pick up the pieces fast" for SPEEDCHESS. Well... ok. Sure. I wanted "jacks," but couldn't stretch it to ten spaces. SPEEDCHESS requires you to think fast, and if you can, you end up moving the pieces quickly. Ugh. I don't know. Maybe my dislike for PICKLEBALL put me in a bad mood....

I hope you all enjoyed it. Me, I'll see you tomorrow.

- Horace

Friday, April 28, 2023

Friday, April 28, 2023, Malaika Handa and Erik Agard

Sometimes Fridays are tougher than Saturdays in the crossword world. Of course, I can't be certain of this fact with today's puzzle vis-à-vis tomorrow's, but it played hard for me. Some of that is clearly due to the expert construction of Ms. Handy and Mr. Agard, and some of it is on me as solver for my missteps.

I broke in somewhat with 9D: Literary stand-in for Christ (ASLAN - it's always the Narnian lion for the crossword friendly letters), PAD and GULP, which confirmed LIMONCELLO. I was even able to put in UNIX, EXALT, and ATOLL. Despite that, I confused myself by thinking that 15A: What plastic wrap is designed for (ONETIMEUSE) was going to end in ____rEUSE. Makes sense, doesn't it? Sort of? For the reuse of food?

Anyway, I had little bits here and there. ALTO and TENOR went right in. 35A: Panels at anime conventions (MANGA) took a while, but was helped by AGNES Varda and 36D: Provider of a broad world view (ATLAS) - cute!

My hard-won geographic knowledge didn't help much with the geography clues here. 45A: World capital whose last two letters are its first two letters upside down (MOSCOW) is sort of cheating, if you ask me. An O is always itself upside down. It's like one in multiplication or zero in addition - it's an identity. 62A: World capital on the Aker River (OSLONORWAY) was an unexpected inclusion of the country.

Fortunately, ESTONIA went in off of crosses, because I don't know the language at all.


For long answers, WHITEYONTHEMOON is an amazing ROI (Reference of Interest). The poem is powerful, and a puncturing statement to American exceptionalism. Worth the quick read.

ICHOOSEYOU felt a little ad hoc, but I love the term THIRSTTRAP, and APOTHEOSIS is an excellent entry. 26D: One eating a lot of wings (INSECTIVORE) is a brilliant misdirect, and also a little bit queasiness inducing. 

Clues I enjoyed include 11A: Hollow, perhaps (LAIR) - the noun, rather than the adjective. 43A: This old thing? (RELIC) - nicely done! 65A: Scar line? (ROAR) - referring to the character from The Lion King with a nice hidden capital.

Tomorrow, Horace takes over a day early, as I will be in Ireland and the United Kingdom for two weeks. See you on the other side!

- Colum

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Thursday, April 27, 2023, Michael Schlossberg

There is little I look forward to in a week more than opening the Thursday NYT puzzle and seeing what craziness awaits me. Perhaps this says something more about my and my life than it says about the puzzle, but we'll let it pass, as Jack Point says in The Yeomen of the Guard.

Mr. Schlossberg gives us a delightful concoction of literal representations of sayings which take advantage of the border function of your spreadsheet app. I used to love this function! Click on the border you want and you can make it go away, or make it bolder. Again, does this say something about me? Let it pass, I say!

Our examples include DOCTORS[WITHOUTBORDERS], [NOEND]INSIGHT, [UNDIVIDED]ATTENTION, [BASELESS]ACCUSATIONS, and [TOPLESS]DANCERS. Fun stuff, with the appropriately missing dividing lines for each one. As a bonus, we get the grid-spanning 37A: Alleviates pain a little ... or what this puzzle does to certain squares for literal effect (TAKESTHEEDGEOFF). That's a really well-done theme, in my mind, particularly as just about every combination of altered borders is used.


ANA De Armas

If I were to make any constructive criticism (see what I did there?) it would be that the puzzle plays like multiple mini-crosswords because of the segmentation of the grid. Look for example at that section in the middle bottom. So little connection means that you're not flowing through the solve. I think our constructor did a good job minimizing junk, but we definitely see a fair amount of ANO BYU TCM stuff.

But no EGRET needed. It's a fun puzzle, and worth the 5:54 solving time spent.

- Colum

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Wednesday, April 26, 2023, Aaron M. Rosenberg

It's been a while since I've seen a tribute puzzle, one where all the theme answers relate to a particular subject. The nice twist (see what I did there?) in today's grid is that the theme answers recreate the classic movie poster for VERTIGO, with a spiral created by the gray squares for the theme answers.

It's been a while since I've watched any HITCHCOCK movies. I remember enjoying them a ton, years ago. I wonder if they'd still hold up, but my guess is probably. The DOLLYZOOM is so common now that we take it pretty much for granted, but I bet it was a real shock to movie goers when the film first came out.

The grid for today's puzzle is uniquely symmetric across the NW to SE diagonal, with some long answers which are not themed - in particular the two 15-letter answers. Which is why, I suppose, in addition to outlining the spiral, that the theme answers are gray squared. Still, MONKEYINGAROUND is excellent, and IDEMANDARECOUNT is both strong and disturbingly on the nose in today's politics.


I also enjoyed APOPLEXY and FIGMENT. And who doesn't enjoy a clue like 26A: Stingy sort? (WASP). Reminds me of one of Horace's all-time classic jokes: What's brown and sticky? Answer: a stick. [Rimshot].

The other fun clue was 44A: Unsettling cry to hear during a haircut (UHOH). Hah!

Otherwise the cluing and fill was pretty straightforward for a Wednesday. Fun odd day out puzzle. Looking forward to The Turn!

- Colum

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Tuesday, April 25, 2023, Grant Boroughs

How do they come up with these themes? Just when you think you've seen it all, in comes something like this. Mr. Boroughs takes plural words that end in -IES and finds ways to reparse them into two words, with silly clues to explain the new way of thinking of them.

The best is 17A: "It's worth only 20 cents," "It has Abe Lincoln on it" and others? (QUARTERLIES). So good. So ludicrous. I also liked 40A: Terse summary of Alec d'Urberville's fate? (spoiler alert!) (CADDIES). I'm trying to think of other novels where the jilting man is offed, and not coming up with any examples. Thoughts from my literate readers?

The other theme answers are also good, although they don't hit it out of the park like those first two. I am impressed that each case uses a different final word, such as "pies" and "ties." I don't think there are too many other words that would lend themselves to a similar process, so nicely done, sir.

Parker POSEY

Other fine answers in the puzzle include PARSECS, which it turns out is a very complex calculation related to the parallax movement of stars, but which calculates to 3.26 light-years, or 30.856 x 10e15 meters. I also enjoyed CAMPINESS with its reference to the excellent John Waters, as well as MOUSETRAP, a game of great enjoyment from my youth.

Fun Tuesday, at 3:40. 

- Colum

Monday, April 24, 2023

Monday, April 24, 2023, Emily Carroll

I am always in favor of an Emily Carroll puzzle. I have come to expect a smooth and enjoyable solve, and today's offering does not disappoint. Although I could do without one of the theme answers...

The revealer comes at 61A: Slangy question of greeting ... or a hint to 18-, 23-, 40-, and 53-Across (WHATSPOPPIN). Not a greeting question I have ever had occasion to use, but definitely common enough. And while we're happy to consider popping CORNKERNELS, a CHAMPAGNEBOTTLE, or a WHEELIE, the other does not bear mentioning.

It's a lot of theme material squeezed in, including a 15-letter grid-spanner in the middle. Ms. Carroll utilizes her black squares well so that only ten down answers have to cross over two theme answers. Those include the very nice long answers THREEPIO and PARMESAN (mmmmm... Italy).


Women and gay activism are well represented in the grid, from Margaret CHO to 34D: Comic book superheroine whose name is an anagram of SHARE (SHERA). I suppose the clue was necessary for those less familiar with this character. But if you're interested in a fine animated series, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is quite good. We also see powerhouse Nancy PELOSI.

I'd like to give a shout-out to SALOME. I'm not as familiar with the Oscar Wilde play, but it was the basis for Richard Strauss's astonishing opera of the same name, containing one of the most delirious 10-minute segments of music, the dance of the seven veils. I read a marvelous book about 20th century music by Alex Ross ("The Rest Is Noise") which dates the start of modern musical art to the opening music of this opera.

- Colum

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday, April 23, 2023, Katie Hale and Scott Hogan


Hello everybody! How wonderful it was to have a week of reviews by our good friend, Philbo. I suppose it shouldn't be that surprising that one might come across a simpatico individual when attending a relatively niche gathering like the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. And yet, I think it's rare to so easily meld with somebody as we did in our virtual "table" three Februarys ago when we met him. A pleasure to know you, Philbo, and glad that you've joined in our crazy endeavor, which we will never feel able to discontinue as long as Mr. Shortz says we should keep going.

This is a crazy weekend, where I am singing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in two performances with my chorus joining the Albany Symphony Orchestra, all the while looking ahead to leaving next Friday evening on a two week trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom. Fortunately, there's always the NYT crossword puzzle to provide some extra distraction.

Today's puzzle takes standard phrases presented in the present tense, and ASKS what would happen if we put an apostrophe before the S of the verb. The reinterpretation of the verb into a noun phrase results in some silly stuff. I love just about all of them. 

PLAYSATRICK reinterpreted as an audience member twigging to the fact that Hamlet is trying to goad his uncle into a guilty confession: hah! 

STANDSINTHEWAY is hi-larious. As if the piece of furniture is actively moving to block passage,

BATSFIVEHUNDRED. I can't even put words to how stupidly funny this is.

PLANTSEVIDENCE. I mean come on now. It's getting ludicrous. I love it.

And the appropriate PUZZLESOVER. Well placed, honored constructors!

Deborah KERR

Some great clues in the fill as well. As you may know, these reviewers are fond of really well put together non-question mark clues (non-QMCs, as per our lingo). Examples today include:

23A: Instrument anyone can play (AIRGUITAR)

53A: Passage straight from the heart (AORTA)

15D: Something you shouldn't pass on (BLINDCURVE)

38D: It might be a stretch (LIMO)

57D: Gentle roasts (DECAFS) - I really struggled with this one for a while!

And a good QMC also sings: 69A: Where to see party people out on the floor? (CSPAN). Nicely done.

Great start to the week.

- Colum

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Saturday, April 22 2023, Byron Walden

On this chilly rainy Saturday, I had an almighty struggle with today's crossword.  Not sure if it's just me not firing on all cylinders, or if the puzzle was just super hard (please weigh in, people!)...if the latter, than big kudos to Mr. Walden for bending my mind for 14 and a half minutes!  I hunted and pecked all over the grid looking for a way in, with numerous tentative answers that later had to be backed out; e.g.

  • TAP instead of TSK ("Click that is often doubled" - great misdirection on this one)
  • ACE instead of WIZ ("Crackerjack")
  • OKIES instead of IOWAS ("People for whom a state is named" - I'll play the Canuck card on this one)
  • MUMPS instead of MANGE ("Canine affliction" - ok, this was dumb of me)
Finally a few easy ins - BEER for "Word with belly or barrel",  JINX ("Spoil, superstitiously") and CITY ("It has its limits") and it started to flow, albeit slowly.  I find in most puzzles, one hits a critical mass after which the whole thing (mostly) falls into place, but not this one.  The NE corner, with its EAUI sequence in 18A, didn't make any sense until it finally did.  I couldn't make any sense of the bottom centre either, until QUEERLIT became apparent for "Genre for 'Fun Home' and 'Stone Butch Blues'".  

I learned a thing or two along the way; e.g. a dead letter is a NIXIE, there's a such a thing as a WARBLOG, Ika is SQUID, the heart has a TOROIDAL magnetic field (though what else could it be, really).. SITS for "Tends to a minor issue?" was clever, as was KERNEL for "Ear lobe?" <-- my favourite I think.  I will forgive the misspelling of SALTPETRE 😉..

So this brings my weekly blogging stint to an end.  It has been fun!  I hope I've held up my end adequately, and I look forward to taking the reins again in three weeks.  Meanwhile, happy weekend everybody!


Thursday, April 20, 2023

Friday, April 21 2023, Erica Hsiung Wojcik and Matthew Stock

 A fairly smooth solve today - my first blogged themeless!  I was basically able to work top to bottom, with a couple of temporary impediments (DOESADEAL instead of CUTSADEAL, and SCULPTURE instead of SCRIPTURE, the latter being clued as "What's the Word?" - and I thought to myself, OK, never heard of that sculpture before..)

A little slowdown in the NE corner, as I did not know the TRANSLATOR Jorge Luis Borges; thankfully, the crossers came to the rescue.  And a couple of American geographical references (OHIO and IDAHO) which wound up being no big impediment to this Canuck solver

Favourite clues along the way:

  • NYSE just because I was on the old trading floor not three weeks ago;
  • IBN al-Haytham because I love most anything physics-related;
  • OCTOPI which are "armed to the gills" and, IMO, too sentient to belong on anybody's plate

Who among us owned one of these at one point in their lives?  I did not, though I feel like I totally could have when I was in high school

Executive summary:  nice puzzle, somewhat easy for a Friday (easier than Thursday's, I thought).  6:50 when the dust settled.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Thursday, April 20 2023, Simeon Seigel

 Before we dive in, more about me.  When you're solving online, you know when you complete the grid and you get that "Grr" message?  I have my own way of subclassifying that - I've either made a typo, which I don't personally count as a FWOE (or FWTE, etc.), or I've really made an error, which in my view does count.  Which brings me to this diabolical gem of a puzzle, with four mystifying clues, a suspicious abundance of Z's, and no hint as to what's going on until you reach the revealer near the end - in order for the theme answers to make sense, they have to be rotated clockwise, with each letter taking on a new identity!  Hence all the Z's, which become N's upon rotation.  And H becomes I, U becomes C, W becomes E (a tiny bit of a stretch, that one) and O becomes ... well, you get the picture.  Read in situ, the answers make no sense, and before I reached the revealer, my faith in the crossing answers was stretched paper-thin, even though they were for the most part straightforward (in retrospect anyway).  I spent the last few minutes with my head tilted counterclockwise to visualize what the answers were supposed to be.  For example, we all know the Mazda catchphrase ZOOMZOOM, which I had written in as such, but in its rotated form (unrotated form really), it's EOONEOON!  That's the one I had left in its rotated state and caused the page to complain.

Goodness, what a soliloquy!  This is what keeps me so enthusiastic about crossword puzzles - this kind of inventiveness.  Well done Mr. Seigel!!

Theme aside, I found most of the content fairly tame and easy.  Loved "Shifty type" for UPPERCASE, which was actually a helper in the reveal.  COZEN brought back memories of last year's ACPT, as one of the two words I choked on and cost me about 40 places in the standings.  (Get over it already, Philbo!!!)  Always neat to see the same clue in two different places ("Last in a series", meaning both NTH and ZEE, the latter being a common misspelling of ZED, ha ha).  And Mongolian death worm - who knew??

I'll spare you all a run of the puns this time round.  A fine puzzle today, with such a satisfying "aha"!

Until next time, adios amigos!


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Wednesday, April 19 2023, Joe Deeney

 Full disclosure: I attempted this puzzle while also watching a playoff hockey game - my home town Leafs being embarrassed by the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning - and as one of the dozen or so Torontonian Leaf haters, I will bask in schadenfreude tomorrow.  Ah, pro sports.  Anyway - maybe it was the multitasking that slowed me down, or maybe it was the tough, gristly, challenging nature of this Wednesday puzzle, but I found this a tough go.  A pleasantly tough go!  

Why tough?  Because I am not the most literary person and so I was not helped by the theme, which manifested as an octet of doubly-clued entries in the four corners of the grid. I suspect Frannie or Horace, or likely Colum, would have twigged right away that the clues comprised both literal definitions and also poem titles - with the answers being not just regular words but the poets in question.  Neat!  POETSCORNER, see?  POETSCORNER*S*, really, but that's splitting hairs.  

Clever clues - PIT for "Place to retire in a hurry?" was excellent - my favourite - and took me several post-solve minutes to understand.  I gotta say though, I found the grid a bit too heavily laden with obscurities for my liking.  Or was it just me?  Never heard of NASIM Pedrad, for example.  Or Ingvar KAMPRAD.  or HELGA Estby.  As I say though, this may be more a reflection on me....

So I sign off with the feeling of OWEN you more - more of WHATTHE readers want.  PEPPA you with bad puns, USA?  Well, HARDY har har.  I shall bid you a SWIFT fairwell - until the morrow...


Monday, April 17, 2023

Tuesday, April 18 2023, Kiran Pandey

Separation is the theme today in an engaging, fun debut by Mr. Pandey, the key answers being two monster-type showdowns and the dissolution of a relationship, the latter movie (Kramer vs. Kramer) I vaguely recall as being very sad.   I mentioned in yesterday's post that I tend to leave theme answers to the end, but today's theme jumped out at me and definitely helped move things along.  I liked how the last theme answer was a departure from the tone set by the first two!

My favourite movie as a teenager!

Aside from the theme, I found the clues mostly straightforward.  Interesting idea to clue TRAP as a "hip-hop subgenre", which I had not known, and which made the NE corner more challenging.  I liked PUTT ("Green movement"), which was clever.  Don't you usually reflexively look for where ECO fits into an answer, when you see the word "Green" in a clue?  Other than that, there wasn't a lot of a punnish or misdirecting nature.

I will be trying to get these posts out in the evenings, to avoid the CHAOS of my working day; I work at AFFIRM which PUTTs my NOSE to the grindstone.  Not in a VIAL way, mind you.  As you can see, AZURE am trying to channel Frannie, here.  Is that such a GRIME?  

OK, OK, I'll BREAKITUP.  A demain, mes amis!


Monday, April 17 2023, Katherine Baicker and Scott Earl

Hello out there in Crossword-Land!  Philbo here, taking a crack at this blogging scene.  By way of a quick introduction - I am a middle-aged Canadian (Torontonian, more precisely) who's been solving crosswords since I was a teenager.  I like mental challenges and clever things like wordplay, so I have a soft spot for themed puzzles.  I am a fairly speedy solver, not so speedy as to not be humbled by the ACPT.  I am actually better at cryptics than traditional xwords, though it's really a bit of apples and oranges.  I met Frannie + Horace + Colum quite by chance - by randomly choosing a virtual table at the online ACPT two years ago, and there they were!  Very welcoming they were to my serendipitious drop-in, and they are now my crosswording besties.

But enough Philbo back-story.  The Monday crossword!  A gentle introduction for me, with a neat theme that revealed itself upon post-completion inspection (how I roll is, I tend to ignore the theme clues till the very end) - things without words - a clever bit of irony as a crossword theme!  

SILENTTREATMENT (Cold shoulder) - a common weapon in the childhood Sibling Wars, as I vaguely recall

EMOJIKEYBOARD (Texter's options...) - I still use about 0.01% of the emoji universe (a generational thing I suppose)

ELEVATORMUSIC (Easy-listening background tunes) - this was my fave as I don't think I'd fully twigged that that sort of music is always without vocals!

Aside from that, I liked SPEEDDATES and also SAP - I was at a sugarbush this very weekend and so it was quite apropos :)  I didn't love EELY, or GOOS, which I'd put in as COOS, the subsequent typo-hunt for which turned my 2:30 into a 3:00 flat.

Bear with me folks.  I will get better at this.  I may even figure out how to put images into this thing!  :)


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Sunday, April 16, 2023, Mike Hobin


Horace and I haven't done a Sunday puzzle together in, well, a month of Sundays, but due to special circumstances (see below), we decided to write the review ASONE. I was pleasantly a-mused by today's theme. The puzzle title and revealer, "Bring your 'A' Game," tells you what you need to know to reinterpret common phrases by either merging the indefinite article 'A' with the first word of the phrase or by separating it from the first word. In the former case, we have HALFAWAKE ("Just the refreshments, not the viewing?"), or 'half a wake,' and, one of my favorites, BRUSHEDASIDE ("Painted 25% of the house?") - ha! In the latter case, we have AWARDOFTHESTATE ("Lottery prize?"), or 'award of the state' and the excellent "Successfully used Rogaine?" (SLOWLYGREWAPART). Hairlarious! And how about, "Make one's long story overly short" - ABRIDGETOOFAR. Grade A material, in my book. 

ADA Limón

In OBEDIENCE to custom, I will now list my favorite non-theme C/APs, in the QMC and non-QMC categories:
"Track star?" for SINGER is cute. 
"Lightheaded sorts?" (BLONDS)
"Fairy tale ending?" (AFTER)

"Deception, metaphorically" (SMOKE)
"Dancer's boss" (SANTA)
"Tee off" (MIFF)
"Freshness" (SASS)
"Time to go" (TURN)
"An arm and a leg" (LIMBS)

Fill-wise, I liked SALTINES the best because, well, they are delicious. CHURN, PEFORATE, ANTIHERO, and TUGOFWAR also have their ALLOR.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for ... the big announcement is that ASOF tomorrow we welcome a new guest blogger, Philbo! He's EMANUEL know as a regular commentor and speed solver on this blog. We made his acquaintance during the online-only A.C.P.T. in 2021, and then met him in real life in Stamford when the tournaments went live again. Despite generally being ONTOP of his game, some LAPSE on his part lead him to agree to a try a week of reviews and he's too honorable to WELCH out, so stay tuned for tomorrow when Philbo gives HAFDTNYTXPFCA, admittedly ACUTETRIANGLE, a chance to square off. 

~Frannie & Horace.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Saturday, April 15, 2023, Kameron Austin Collins

Well, I have to AMEND my words, written only yesterday, about my few areas of expertise not showing up in puzzles. Today, we have "Nickname for France's Louis VI, with 'the'" - which, to be completely accurate is a bit outside my wheelhouse as his run was in the 12th century, but I recently read a couple of books about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and he and his apparently apt epithet (FAT) were mentioned therein. So, thanks to all that reading, I got to drop in one three-letter answer in a Saturday puzzle. Woot! :) 

In a related turn of events, I thought for sure I would be able to get "Field of computing" at 1A once I got a few Downs, but first of all, I didn't get any Down answers for quite some time (see below), and 12iii., as intended, I was lead astray by the clever clue. ADDRESSBAR is a different kind of field of computing than I had in mind. Ha! 

Also, I did know "Grp. influenced by the 1963 book 'The Feminine Mystique'" (NOW) thanks to my job, which helped me change my first guess of SNapPEAS to the correct SNOWPEAS ("Produce in pods). Finally, my career has some meaning. 

Also, how about the classic EEL obfuscated by the probably-obscure-to-most clue "Food traditionally eaten on Japan's Doyo no Ushi no Hi ('Midsummer Day of the Ox')"? That fact somehow slipped by me these past 50 years or so. 

57D: GAM

Overall, for this solver, today's puzzle was a very good Saturday-level challenge. Some of my favorite C/APs were "Sketchy boardwalk offering?" (CARICATURE), "Note taker?" (THIEF) - nicely ambiguous clue - also, wasn't this a recent Wordle word?, and "Phone number?" (RINGTONE). MOTTO for State line?" was clever, but somehow I caught on to that one RILL quick. And, in the non-QMC category, how about "Sings about" (RATSON)? I think we can all agree that Mr. Collins is among today's crossword ARTISTES.  

I did have some trouble in the northwest. I stared at that blank stack of three ten-letter answers for a good five minutes until some correct guesses and a RESET or two helped me STITCH together the correct answers. After I finally broke through in the northwest, I thought things were GOINGRATES, but I did end up with a FWOE due to the group of unknown-to-me names in the mid-east (RHAMES, NORRIS, and RHONDA).  

Tangentially, I feel like there's a short story buried within the three answers DOYOUMIND, ICANTEVEN, and MEANINGWHAT? Discuss. :)


Friday, April 14, 2023

Friday, April 14, 2023, Billy Bratton and Clay Haddock

This puzzle solved pretty smoothly, for me, although there were a few squares I needed to MOPUP after the first A & D pass, primarily in the northwest. I had painted myself into a corner by guessing 'emptySPACE' for "Blank part of a page" (instead of WHITESPACE) and 'aHME' (instead of OHME) at 13D. I got no help up top from Tom's (of Tom and Jerry) feline friend TOPSY. To top it off, there are so many ways "Fool" this puzzle solver that I had to wait to figure out other answers before I could get to TWIT. Also, birds are not my strong suit ("Fork-tailed bird (TERN)). I would not blame you, dear Readers, if you ever wondered, well, what *is* Frannie's strong suit. I do have a few, I think, but topics like the French Monarchy since 1515, Jane Austen, the Black Death, cathedral novels, and Excel formulas don't seem to show up in puzzles very often. :) 


Anyhoo, SOYA want to hear what I thought about other parts of the puzzle? Well, I SHTETL you. I thought there were some very good C/APs today, especially including 
"Walk on water?"(PIER)
"Pricey" (STEEP)
"Ottomans, e.g." (TURKS)
"Bro hugger, perhaps" (SIS)
"Took for a ride" (CONNED)
"Medium talent" (ESP) - which is very nice, but also, tangentially, has anyone else noticed that many younger persons, say the generation after the AVOCADOTOAST eaters, haven't heard of the medium talent, ESP? That doesn't seem normal to me.
"Texted eyes, maybe" (COLON) - couldn't see this one for a while. 
"Gave the finger?" (POKED) - LOL.

I also enjoyed the nice pair, so to speak, STANDPAT and HIT. I had fun figuring out "Name spelled by the first letters of consecutive calendar months" (JASON). I started with the 8th month, but then I thought, "Aug? oh, not." I was happy to drop in MINTOREO off the clue for "Snack item with green filling" - classic! I also enjoyed that Pearl Jam named an album "TEN" that has 11 tracks on it

I have come to enjoy the term 'word salad' and I think the term 'letter salad might aptly be applied to the answer to "Cop show co-starring LL Cool J, informally": NCISLA. Fun fact, it has the Dutch word for salad (sla) right in it. Hah! I only ADDS this one minor criticism to the review for those who LOVETOHATE. ICANTSTOP! Oh, wait, yes I can.


Thursday, April 13, 2023

Thursday, April 13, 2023, Robin Yu

Today's theme answers are so literal it almost hurts - almost. :) The revealer is TOOLITTLETOOLATE and each theme answer is either a common phrase or a triple-platinum 1991 Hammer album that would normally start with the word "too" but that word has been moved to the end of the phrase and squeezed into one square, rebus-style. The result is "too" (little), showing up too late in the phrase. I love [TOO]LEGITTOQUIT. If only I felt that way about my blog posting! :) One drawback to the theme is that the final [TOO]s don't add anything new to the theme answers, if you see what I mean. OTOH, we do get the fun-if-oddly-spelled AR[TOO]DE[TOO] where the Down answer crosses two TOOs. 


I found this puzzle an uneven mix of super easy clues and not-so-easy clues: some took ONESEC ("Central" (MID), "Prohibition" (BAN), "Water gate" (SLUICE), "Adobe file suffix" (PDF), "Stereotypical product for a kid's first entrepreneurial endeavor" (LEMONADE)), while others were more of ATRIAL including "Eritrea's capital" (ASMARA) - which I know was probably not difficult for most of you, dear Readers! -  "Mob member" RIOTER - I was thinking of the Mafia - "Take over?" (RETAPE) - reely?- "Some compound gases"  (MONOXIDES) - singular! -  "Romantic music genre originating in the Dominican Republic" (BACHATA) - a real song and dance! - "Jus ___ (birthright citizenship) (SOLI) - am I the only one who didn't know this?  - and I don't want to dis COMFITS ("Candied fruits or nuts"), but the 19th century called and wants their snacks back. 

Also in the mix were some clues I ESP liked like "Big feller?" for AXE, KEEP for "Fortified tower", and "They check out people who check in, in brief" (TSA). And who doesn't like the word QUALMS? All in all, I didn't make too many EROS and finished in 19:25. 


P.s. I probably OORT to have fit in a tutu and at least one "too too" in here somewhere, oortn't I had?

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Wednesday, April 12, 2023, Olivia Mitra Framke and Brooke Husic

BONS GREETS, dear Readers! We have four recreational sentences for your enjoyment today - and I do mean recreational. Each theme answer is made up of three variations - or recreations - of the same five-letter word that make up as a sentence to match the clue. My favorite is AIDESIDEASASIDE ("'Ignoring what my assistant said ...'?") - ha! As discussed here previously, one drawback to anagram answers is that they almost necessarily make solving easier because once you get some letters, you get others for free. Palindrome clues are similar, as at 56D: "Palindromic flour" (ATTA) today. I had the TA from OUTRO and BRASS, which gave me the initial AT, which was fortunate as I wasn't too clear on what was wanted for the clue "Rebounds, e.g., informally" - so many caveats! :) The answer was STAT, which seems obvious, now that I know what it is. Classic.
In other parallelisms, we have matching "'Furthermore ...'" clues for the first (1A) and last Across clues (71A), the former answer being PLUS and the latter being ALSO (I had them reversed on my first pass through the Across clues. Derp.). Another nice pair of clues shows up nearby: at 3D, we have "Ctrl+Z, on a PC" (UNDO) and at 62D: "Ctrl+Y, on a PC" (REDO). Both such handy shortcuts. IAMB a fan, but not a "Superfan" (NUT) - although some may beg to differ. 


The GRID contained an ARRAY of fun C/APs, including:
"Non-starters?" (BTEAM)
"Body part that becomes an animal when its vowels are swapped" (LOIN)
"Place to go in England" (LOO)
"Fancy-sounding apple cultivar" (GALA)

Fill-wise, I liked ITSATRAP, ONANDOFF, and TOFU.


Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Tuesday, April 11, 2023, Taylor Johnson and Jeff Chen

Today's puzzle takes us on a transcontinental journey. Each of the three theme answers starts with the USPS abbreviation for a state on the west coast and ends with an abbreviation for a state on the east coast. The 14-letter answers GOCOASTTOCOAST vis-à-vis the grid, as well, which is a nice touch, as is the fact that the western starting points appear in north to south order. Also, all the theme entries are common phrases, with WANTAPIECEOFME (Washington to Maine) being the most entertaining. I do take an ORGANICPRODUCT, but have yet to make the trip from Oregon to Connecticut. I'll consider that route if ever I'm on the LAM (don't tell anyone). Of particular interest to this solver was the brief description of the game CANDYCRUSHSAGA (California to Georgia) in the clue. Who knew it was a color-matching puzzle game? Not I.

And speaking of things I'm out of the LOOP on, I can't make sense of 3D. Maybe I'm parsing it incorrectly (see KTWO moment in previous reviews), but what is that? IMEAN I am totally familiar with misunderstanding song lyrics ALA "Scuse me while I kiss this guy" but where does MONDEGREEN come from?


There were, in fact, a number of other persons in the puzzle that I'm not familiar with (ARI Aster, Janelle MONAE, STAN - kidding!), but thanks to the gettable crosses, I kept up a pretty continuous roll (7:39). Two short slow downs occurred when I first entered 'movie' for FLICK ("Something caught in a theater") and when I couldn't immediately guess the answer to the fun clue "Good number to shoot for" (PAR). Another fun C/AP was "The rain in Spain?" (AGUA). I also enjoyed the "Brooms : Roombas :: MOPS : Scoobas" analogy. Fill-wise, I liked RAGTAG and JOLT. KNOB is a funny word. ATTILA is seeing a surge in popularity of late. 

In a crossword puzzle/Spelling Bee crossover event, MEETUP was one of the few words Horace and I missed in yesterday's edition. We ended up with what you might call Countess Bee. We will try again for the more stately Queen Bee today.


Monday, April 10, 2023

Monday, April 10, 2023, Gia Bosko

A sorry start to my review week, dear Readers, posting this late, but ITISWHATITIS. SUFFIXED to say that the RATSNEST I call my working life took over once again, getting in my way. But, as I am what you might call a PAYEE of the company, I suppose FAIRISFAIR. In any case, WHATSDONEISDONE. I'll try to do better tomorrow. Although, I have to admit that this late in the day, my DOMES DRYINGUP and fresh ideas are thin on the ground, still ADEALISADEAL, so I should START. ARYA ready for some TREY mediocre verbage? And you thought ChatGPT was bad!


I liked the zesty C/APs "Gumption" (NERVE) and "Erupt" (BLOW), to either of which Auntie Mame might SAY, "How vivid." I also enjoyed the pair of old timey entries DEEMSFIT and BEITSO. I love both a MASTERKEY and BASSALE. Do I want to marry them? Maybe. I AMOK with it. LOVEISLOVE

While ASADA found the puzzle easy to solve, I didn't break any speed records with today's solve (5:53). How about UTES?


Sunday, April 9, 2023

Sunday, April 9, 2023, John Ewbank


I don't know if any of you watch the show "Endeavor," but on that show, there's a Detective Thursday, and he is wont to use only the first half of a familiar saying. I know what you're saying, lots of people do that. And so they do. 

Marianne MOORE

Today's theme is YOUKNOWTHEREST. We are given the start of six common expressions:


For five of them, I knew the rest immediately, but it's been a long time since I have heard anyone say "Speak of the devil and he doth appear," or any of its variants. But that's one of the great things about crosswords. They keep teaching me things. Speaking of - Who knew that a SHIRE was a "British draft horse?" Not me.

Although she prefers "Frannie," we here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA still enjoyed 1D: Nickname that drops -ces (FRAN). And I, personally, enjoyed 75A: Male turkey (TOM). Heh. 

My favorite clue today might be the fine non-QMC "Where there's smoke" (FLUE). And for QMCs I liked "What makes creamer creamier?" (ANI) (Classic!). And "A little light combat?" was cute for LASERTAG. There's another of the classic misleading clues - "Either of two lead characters in "Kiss me, Kate" (KAY). Heh. And speaking of the classics, we always enjoy a little lesson in classical Greek genealogy - "Mother of Apollo and Artemis" (LETO).

I've had kind of an off-week, but it's over now, and Frannie takes the reins tomorrow. Enjoy.

- Horace

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Saturday, April 8, 2023, Sid Sivakumar

Yowza! Every once in a while, it's nice to get a little reminder of just how hard a puzzle can be. So thanks for that, Mr. Sivakumar, may I have another?

DONTRUSHME could have been my mantra today, but it's clue "Relax, I'm almost finished" did not apply at all. I felt like a COALMINER (One picking out something for a cart, maybe), trying to chip away at the, in this case, white walls. 


"They have bags under their eyes, for short" (TSA) was a beautiful clue. And I wonder when they stopped putting lithium in SEVENUP, because I used to drink a lot of that as a child. Maybe that's why I was always willing to MARCHINSTEP. (No, that only lasted until 1948, and I'm not that old.)

"Campus protection" (TENURE), "Lifts," for PILFERS, "Men on a mission" APOSTLES, "General senses" (TENORS) .... so many tricky, good clues. And Camila Cabello gets in again, this time with SENORITA.

I had many errors to correct as I went along. Barbecues fits in where BEERBONGS (Some tailgate party accessories) belongs, SOLARyear could exist in the same space as SOLARTIME, and "erases" fits for "Wipes out" (EATSIT). 

I thought "Amounts at a deli" (TARES) was tough. I usually think of that as a verb, but I guess what I'm doing when I "tare" the scale is figuring out the "tare," which is the weight of the container. 

So in short, a perfect Saturday. Brutally hard.

- Horace

Friday, April 7, 2023

Friday, April 7, 2023, Lindsey Hobbs

OK, first of all, I want to apologize to Sam Buttrey for totally missing one aspect of his theme, which was that the four swapped pairs were well-known famous pairs. Bill & Ted, Laurel & Hardy, etc. How I missed this is beyond me. I'm still not sure why having them trade clues the way they did makes a lot of sense, but it was a big part of the theme. Further, I'd like to thank Huygens for pointing out that the word "eastern" in the clue "Bird spotted in eastern Samoa" was, indeed, intentional. Sheesh. Somebody take my blogger card. Please!

So let's see what I can miss about today's, shall we? 

I like this sort of flower set-up to the grid. And it was full of fun, familiar phrases: CATNAP, EASYPEASY, TOPBANANA, SWEETTALK, MINDBENDER, DODGEDABULLET, and MOLTENLAVA. Those are some fun entries. 

"Collector's targets" was a tricky clue for DEBTS, I thought, but when "sets" was too long, I figured something was afoot. And I enjoyed "Food chain" for KROGER as well. "Dough in Mexico" fooled me momentarily, but Camilla Cabello's HAVANA straightened that out right quick. 

To be honest, I'm a bit TORPID today. I've got some kind of flu-type thing, and I just want to drink TONNES of tea and be the opposite of a DOER (No couch potato) until I feel better. 

- Horace

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Thursday, April 6, 2023, Sam Buttrey

So here's what I thought to myself when I got to the revealer, TRADINGPLACES (Classic 1983 comedy ... or a hint to what the answers to four pairs of starred clues are doing) - "1983 seems like a long time ago!" I just heard that the incoming class for colleges this year was mostly born in 2005. Yeesh. 


Anyway, the second thing I thought of when I saw the revealer is that the clues for one asterisked clue would swap with that of another asterisked clue. Which ones with which? That's for us to figure out. I was kind of hoping there would be some logic to it, but if there is, I didn't find it. Regardless, here are the pairs:

*Acronym of talks - BILL swaps with *Unwelcome bit of mail - TED
*Kind of wreath - HARDY swaps with *Able to endure difficult conditions - LAUREL
*Bank employee - PENN swaps with *Philadelphia university, familiarly - TELLER
*China problem - DALE swaps with *Hill's partner - CHIP

Is it just me, or does this seem like a totally random theme? I mean, couldn't they have just switched one more set? Or all of them? Where's the rhyme or reason?

Some cute C/APs include BATONS (Sticks around a race?), ROADRAGE (What you might think "The Fast and the Furious" is about?), and "Bird spotted in eastern Samoa?" (MOA). I love the addition of "eastern" in that clue, because it is only there to throw you off the scent. And for the record, it seems that the extinct MOA was native to New Zealand, but it also appears at the end of the word "Samoa.""Green movement" (PUTT) is also cute. And I enjoy grammar clues like "Something he or she can use that you can't?" (ISNT). Heh.

So some fun bits, but for the second day in a row, the theme didn't really do it for me. Luckily, we have (if the normal pattern continues) two themeless puzzles coming up!

- Horace

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Wednesday, April 5, 2023, Brandon Koppy

What is a blog but TMI? OVERSHARING from your pixellated SOAPBOX on your chosen topic? 

This phenomenon is celebrated today by thrice doubling the letters TMI. Well, I guess it's not exactly doubling. It only works in both directions if we imagine that the doubled letters are really just single letters that are stretched to fill the spaces. Why are they stretched? To mirror the "stretched" conversation? The inappropriateness? It didn't really make sense to me, but perhaps I'm missing something. 

Who knew kneeboards were used to AVIATE? Not this guy. I looked it up, and it seems to me that it's just a clipboard that you strap to your thigh. I wish I still had in person meetings, because I would totally get one of those and use it all the time in them. And if I had to stand up to present something at a whiteboard, I'd have to bend over awkwardly all the time to see my notes. TMI?

Let's see... what else? I liked being reminded of Clueless (based on EMMA), and I didn't know EZRA Koenig was the frontman of Vampire Weekend. Every time I hear the name EZRA, I think back to Norm Macdonald's joke when he was the SNL news anchor. He was announcing the top ten or something, and said "In first place - Better than Ezra. In second - Ezra." Such a simple, stupid joke, but I'm still chuckling about it decades later. Sigh. I'm just a simple man. TMI?

Do PETMICE really relax in tiny hammocks? The answer, according to a quick Google images search, is... maybe? Can mice ever be said to relax? They always look so keyed up. At least to me they do. Always twitching and scurrying nervously. If they can relax in a little hammock, then more power to 'em. DONTMINDME, I'm just blogging about mice finally getting to relax. 

I think I might need a negroni. Or at least one third of it (GIN).

- Horace

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Tuesday, April 4, 2023, Andrea Carla Michaels and Christina Iverson

Four old movies as theme answers made for what is, I think, my fastest solve ever. And I know I went on and on at the tournament about how our blog doesn't emphasize solve time anymore, but cut me some slack. I finished this one in 3:05 and I'm happy about it. RARE indeed! OK, that's all on that.


The theme here is DELIVERANCE, or, things that are delivered. Namely pizza, news, and babies. It's a nice tidy theme, made tidier by the detail of these delivered things being plot points in the movies. Sometimes people like to try to diminish a theme by coming up with other things that can be delivered and then saying "oh, it's too bad I could think of other things." Me, I don't care. I take it as it comes to me. Things like "You've Got Mail," "The Gettysburg Address," "The Package," or "Pink Slip" ... somebody make a whole separate puzzle with those. I'll be happy to see how it goes.

OK. Full disclosure. I'm not feeling well today. I've been mingling with hundreds of people over the past few days and I think one of them might have been sick. But hey, that's ok, too. That's how it goes. Sometimes you catch something. And sometimes you'll have to read blog posts by cranky, sick bloggers. Or, really, you don't have to. No one is making DEMANDS about that. Isn't life great?

I liked EVILTWIN and SCORPION, and was it a SLY move to put SEXY and ORAL side-by-side at the end? No. It is probably OUTOFORDER for me to even suggest such a thing!


- Horace

Monday, April 3, 2023

Monday, April 3, 2023, David Distenfeld

I find some of the old themes comforting, don't you? I mean - a nice vowel progression on a Monday... it's a solid way to start the week. 


Today we've got:

HONEYSACS (Bee storage centers) (yum, but gross)
CASUALSEX (Option in a "no strings attached" relationship)
(Football interception leading to a touchdown, colloquially)
TUBESOCKS (Stockings for athletes) (stockings)
THATSUCKS ("Oof, sorry to hear it")


And in addition we get some nice long Downs: EYELIDS, EDIBLES, SPINJOB, YOGIBERRA, and DRSEUSS. Fun stuff. And me, I liked the one-vowel row of INPJS (Dressed for bed, informally) and TLDR ("Here's a quick summary," in internet-speak). I always think of TLDR as "Too long, didn't read," but that clue makes it seem more like "Too long, don't read." Either way, this talking about it is already TLDR.

And USUAL ("I'll have the ____" (unoriginal diner order)) reminds me that the one place we could possibly have used that line has now closed its doors for good. We went to the final goodbye party last night. Sigh. All I can say about it is THATSUCKS.

Welp. Time to get up and go to work I guess. I will look on the bright side and say that this puzzle is a nice way to start the week.

- Horace


p.s. If you haven't already, you might enjoy going over to xwordinfo and reading Mr. Distenfeld's own comments on this puzzle.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Sunday, April 2, 2023, Jeremy Newton and Tracy Gray


Hello, Puzzlers! Horace here, just back from the A.C.P.T., where I had a very good weekend. I finished six puzzles perfectly, with time to spare, and I caught on to the trick in Puzzle Five, but, alas, did not finish the grid in the 30 minutes that were given. But oh well. It was a fun time, as always. Saw old friends, and made a few new ones. We had to cut out immediately after this morning's puzzle, but I heard from one of those old friends that Dan Feyer nipped Paolo Pasco in the final by about two seconds. Seems like those two are at the bleeding edge of solving right now. They tied after seven puzzles, and finished the final in almost the same time. Incredible.

But you're not here to hear about that. Or maybe you are... but I feel an obligation to talk about the Sunday puzzle too. So let's do that for a minute.

It's an odd hybrid of a rebus. It works in the Down clues by being just two consecutive letters, but in the Acrosses it is sort of a "this and that" kind of thing. The "this" part works with the clue, and the "that" shows what the original phrase was. Let's look to an example:

"Spaceship battle? / An iconic van Gogh" - THESTARRY[F/N]IGHT
Planning one's 24-hour itinerary? / An iconic Michelangelo, with "The" - CREATIONOFADA[Y/M]

Heh. Pretty good. THERE[O/D]BALLOON is a little weak maybe, but THE[G/B]IRTHOFVENUS got a chuckle.

What to say about the rest of the fill? OHIDUNNO. MORASS is a nice word, ETTU, stale though it may be, always gets a chuckle out of this Latin enthusiast. Never heard of ROTEL tomatoes. And let's end on the word RIPSNORTER. Hah!

- Horace


Saturday, April 1, 2023

Saturday, April 1, 2023, Wyna Liu and Joel Fagliano

I'm concerned for our friends at the ACPT. The first day of the tournament is APRILFOOL! ('s Day). It doesn't bode well for the tricksiness of the puzzles today, especially the dreaded Puzzle 5.

We have a semi-themed themeless today, in honor of the day. The theme is that the accepted norm that the clue not contain any of the words of the answer is thrown out the window, as in 34A: Cry heard on April Fool's Day. The other examples are:

18A: Scientific name for the American bison (BISONBISON).

53A: Hit Will Smith song from 1997's "Men in Black" (MENINBLACK).

58A: ____ names (NAME).

3D: Pikachu's cry in Pokémon (PIKACHU).

20D: City down Lake Erie from Buffalo, N.Y. (ERIEPA).

28D: Fourth president after Adams (ADAMS) - this was where I figured out was going on. I had Tyler at first, which actually is true (the fourth president after Quincy Adams), but JAMAISVU made me reassess (this is a well-known seizure phenomenon, so a gimme for this Neurologist). 

40D: Capital of São Tomé and Príncipe (SAOTOME).

44D: Annual book prize (BOOKER).

What a silly concept! And despite all of these semi-gimmes, I still found the puzzle tough going over all. Clues like 2D: Word that means the same thing even with several letters added? (MAILBOX) - such a thing of beauty, I shook my head when I finally got it. Or 42D: It charges for cleaning (ROOMBA). Or 41D: Champs can precede this (ELYSEES). So many excellent clues.

39D: Going well? (REGULAR) - are we really referring to number 2 here? I think so.

Pretty amazing puzzle. 12:49.

Good luck, everyone!

- Colum