Friday, June 30, 2023

Friday, June 30, 2023, Carly Schuna

Carly Schuna clearly understood the assignment. Facts. This puzzle definitely hits different. I'm totally vibing on it! I went looking and could hardly find anything basic. No cap!

OK, that's probably enough of that. I DOUBT you were fooled into thinking I was a hip Gen Zer, but seriously, so much dank material. The three long Acrosses are all so strong: HELLTOTHENO ("As frickin' if!"); THISISSUCHAMOOD ("I can relate," in Gen Z slang); and IMEANREALLY ("Surely you know this is ludicrous").

And really, everywhere you look you can find something to love. CHICKLIT ("Waiting to Exhale" or "Bridget Jones's Diary," dismissively), BITEME (Sassy retort), BROUHAHA (It's a big thing), BRAWN (Strength), SMORE (The first recipe for one was published in "Tramping and Trailing With the Girl Scouts" (1927)), PASTABAR (Dining option where bow ties might be expected). It's all so good!

I kind of wanted "pep pills" for "Crash protection?" but AUTOSAVE is also good. And how long did I try to make MAuvE work for "Lipstick choice"? Too long! And hands up if you tried doCTOR before RECTOR (Service provider?). 

As this is only Carly's second offering in the NYT, I can't really say whether or not there was much of a glow up period, but one thing I can say is "Slay!" This puzzle slaps!

- Horace

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Thursday, June 29, 2023, Simeon Seigel

When I got to the revealer today - "Sharing in a symbol of commitment ... or what four rows in this puzzle are doing to form new phrases," I was all TL:DR and I moved on without spending any time at all trying to figure out what that meant. Eventually, after plowing my way through the NE and finishing the entire thing, I went back and said to myself, "Horset rainers?" What's that? "Trave lagency?" Huh?

America is stupid

The extra trick, which took me an extra beat today, was that we had to look beyond the black squares and the spacing to come up with "horse trainers" and "travel agency." Ahhh. Much better.

So, a few more missteps from me were wanting to put in "sloth" for "America's first vice, so to speak" (ADAMS), and "statie" for "Vehicle with a spotlight and municipal plates, most likely" (COPCAR). Heh. 

On the other hand, I knew that "Cat, vis-à-vis milk" would be LAPPER, but I kinda wished it wouldn't be.

HORNET and "Vespa" are both great words. And it's fun that HORNET sits just below STABS. And I enjoyed "Reacted purposefully when handed 'the ball'" (RANWITHIT). 

Some rather boring stuff - ELIA Kazan, HARPO Productions, OCHER, TOON, CABO, USSR, TOON, STELLA... not my favorite Thursday.

- Horace

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wednesday, June 28, 2023, Matt Fuchs and Victor Sloan

A bit of a trick today, with certain Down answers said to be "in" a certain Across answer. To wit:

PARTRIDGE [in a] PEARTREE (... first (and last) gift of a seasonal song)
FROG [in ones] THROAT (... cause of some hoarseness)
SNAKE [in the] GRASS (... hidden traitor)
ANTS [in your] PANTS (... source of restless anticipation)
BEE [in ones] BONNET (... persistent little obsession)
CANARY [in a] COALMINE (... harbinger of danger)

It's a nice set, and a bit of a Thursday-ish twist to a Wednesday puzzle.


In other news - I did not know that RAYON is a "Fabric derived from wood pulp." And I tried AspicS before AIOLIS (Cold sauces) forced its garlicky way in. And yes, before you write in, I understand that aspic is not a sauce. It was just the first cold thing I thought of. I also tried "Bob" for "Apt name for an angler" (ROD). You know... you bob the fly on the water ... ? No?

Clever clues included "Providers of in-flight entertainment?" (AIRSHOWS), "Little attire" (MINISKIRT), "Flat sign, maybe" (TOLET) (lovely), "Parlor decoration, for short" (TAT), and "Match point?" (WICK). And I loved "Noted seashell seller?" (SHE). Ha!

A friend of mine used to give out the occasional STYLETIP "Advice on [her] fashion blog," but I don't know whether or not she ever modeled an OBI

TRANE (Saxophonist who pioneered modal jazz, to fans) (John Coltrane) did not come easily to this fan, nor did the fancy French words CERISE (Fruity red) or SUISSE (From Lausanne, par exemple). 

Funniest looking answer? GOOUT. "Hey, BRO, what's wrong with your toe?" "GOOUT, LOL!"

- Horace    

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Tuesday, June 27, 2023, Anthony Gisonda

I spent a while this morning catching up on the BABADOOK (Horror film monster who has become an L.G.B.T.Q. icon, with "the"), and now I have to REFOCUS and churn out a review. 

This theme was unexpected. Four kinds of MUSTACHE, all spelled out and depicted in the grid using scads of triple-checked letters. A Dalì, a Fumanchu, a handlebar, and a pencil. Pretty impressive feat, really, to cram them all in here. 

What kind is this?

I assume the triple-checking forced a somewhat disjointed grid, but there's nothing too objectionable. OPI (Nail polish brand), the plural USOS (Shows for soldiers, informally), OLORD (Prayer starter), the very strange ANDTHEN (Segue in a story)... ok, if you look you can find things. But you can also find nice words like DOCILE (Tame), ALLURE (Enticing quality), BLAZE (Reason to call the fire department), and everybody's favorite genre GLAMROCK.

I find it interesting that the longest Down answers are both two-word qualifiers: ONOCCASION (Every so often) and ASPROMISED ("Just like I said I would ..."). Weird.

My sister does a good MISSCLEO impression. If you're lucky, maybe she'll do it for you sometime.

Interesting, unusual theme, some fun answers - good Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, June 26, 2023

Monday, June 26, 2023, Taylor Johnson and Christina Iverson

PICKYPICKYPICKY! Like a TEAMCAPTAIN, we all need to make choices, but it's hard to choose between BANJOPLAYER and VEGETABLEFARMER as my favorite "picky" entry today. Both are necessary ingredients in a healthy life, if you ask me. Heh. But who did?

ROSIE the Riveter

But let me ask you something. Did it take you as long as it did me to figure out which bear's porridge was too cold? (MAMA). I guess it goes "Hot, cold, just right." Hopefully I can get that more solidly into my NOGgin. (TETE, for you francophiles.)

Interesting to find TROPE on a Monday, and LOME (Togo's capital) was a toughie. And does anyone still wear a PAGER? (I'll ask Colum, he's still "On-call" from time to time.) 

I kind of like how the end of MAKENICE lines up with NICHE. And next to those two, TOKEN always makes me think back to spending all my paper route money at the Silver Ball arcade in downtown Worcester. Ahh... the good old days. Back then I was drinking TANG, and we had a persian, not an ANGORACAT, but I will MAKENICE and not complain too much about that.

OK, when I start trying to cram in entries like that, I think it's time to wrap things up. I'll see you tomorrow.

- Horace

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Sunday, June 25, 2023, John Westwig


Howdy Puzzlers! Horace here. It's been a while, and maybe I'm just rusty, but this Sunday puzzle took me about twice as long as Sundays usually do!

The theme is cute. Sometimes it works well:

"Event at a hot new club?" - INOUTING
"Compliment for a lexicographer?" - NICEMEANING (Har!)

And sometimes they were a little forced:

"A kiss, a hug, a wave, the works?" - WHOLEPARTING
"Whoa there, Warren G.!"? - EASYHARDING

Still, you've got to applaud the effort. 


And maybe the editors thought that the whole "opposites" thing would be too easy, because the clues for the rest of the puzzle seemed to be really souped up. Like "Old timer" (SANDGLASS) (nice!), "Famous drawing of a ship?" (SIRENSONG) (wow), "Secret service member?" (ELOPER), and "That one will never have again" (OFALIFETIME). Tricky! And then there were some that were just plain unexpected, like DECAPOD (Crab or lobster) ("seafood" also fit), MINGERA (Like much prized blue and white porcelain), RIGHTSMART (Considerably large, in Appalachian dialect), and FBISPY (Certain government agent, informally). And what about "Stop hiding behind?" for MOON. Hah!

I had a hard time, but I had fun. I guess that's what a Sunday puzzle ought to be - something to take up a lot of time on Sunday so you can't do all your chores... 

How'd you like it?

- Horace

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Saturday, June 24, 2023, Spencer Leach and Quiara Vasquez

Apologies for the late review! I slept in a little this morning after a difficult night on call, and then Cece and I took a day trip to Beacon, NY to visit Bannerman Castle (not a castle, but an armory and storage building), now in ruins after it exploded from stored gunpowder, and then decades later burned down due to the floors being coated with bitumen. Some strange choices there...

In any case, a fun and challenging Saturday. I did extremely well in the northern half, but had much more difficulty in the lower half.

I broke in with WOZ (not Steve Jobs), and the then quite apparent 3D: Gentle rock arrangements? (ZENGARDENS). This puzzle definitely loves its Scrabbly letters today. JUDAS was not expected at 30A, but JETE helped me find it. 

I actually got the triple stack in the NE corner through attacking it from the ends. BEAR and URGE helped a lot. 18A: Ones waving at people who might be on their way out? (PRIDEFLAGS) is a clue that is beautifully twisted to get at its meaning. BBQPORKBUN is always a winner.

9D: It can't be helped (REFLEX) led to issues. Because I thought it was REFLuX (which also can't be helped, but not what the clue was getting at. Fixing that letter was the last thing I did in solving.

Two great 15-letter answers anchor the grid, with QUITDAYDREAMING and the excellent 33A: "Elvis has left the building" (EVERYBODYGOHOME).

The lower triple stack is also strong, and was helped by getting 50D: English channel (BBC). 55A: It has a hook and, sometimes, two claws (COATHANGER) was such a challenge to see! I was sure it would be a living creature...

42D: Sports stud (CLEAT) was unexpected. It took a while to see CORK and SAKE, and then the fix at 23A: Something that needs a spell checker? (BEE) and it was complete in 10:31.

Horace takes over tomorrow. I had a great week, and hope you did too.

- Colum

Friday, June 23, 2023

Friday, June 23, 2023, Kunal Nabar

Another day, another debut. Welcome, Mr. Nabar! This is an impressive first effort, for sure.

The first thing I noticed was that the grid had unusual symmetry, diagonal in this case, as opposed to standard crossword symmetry. The next thing I noticed was that I had difficulty getting started!

I put in dNA first, but made a mental reminder that it could be RNA (which it turned out to be). Probably better to leave that first square blank. My brain has a hard time imagining what words could be available when an ambiguous letter is already in place. IOTAS went in as well, confirmed by Paul ANKA. But that was it in that region. 

I made another choice in the NW corner that limited me when I put in DEmS. Even though HONED worked, I was stuck here.

I finally got going on the left side of the grid. TOI, STEPS, SEGO, OSLO, and EPCOT all opened things up rapidly, leading to the two long answers going down. 12D: Genre fro Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami (MAGICALREALISM) would have been a relative gimme for this fan, but 14D: Ingratiating sort (PEOPLEPLEASER) needed some of those crosses. With those two answer in place, the SW corner was pretty quick work. It helps that I enjoyed the Ethiopian restaurant ASMARA in Central Square for so many years.

Frankincense and myrrh RESINS. Not as shiny as gold

Now, with the starts in place, I figured out the long answers across the top of the puzzle. 12A: Playbills? (MONOPOLYMONEY) wins for best C/AP of the day. 14A: Refresher course? (PALATECLEANSER) is also excellent. I corrected my mistakes and was half done.

My third ambiguous letter answer of the day was also entered incorrectly. 28D: Many a Zoroastrian (IRANI) had a Q for a while. It could certainly have worked, with SQ____, but SNEERED was the correct answer.

I enjoyed the two punny "Apt cry of encouragement" clues, with ROCKON and KEEPITUP. Particularly the latter. LOL! 

My last error was putting in NEWSdesk for NEWSROOM, but that cleared up quickly as well, for a reasonable 6:39 time at the end.

- Colum

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Thursday, June 22, 2023, Michael Baker and Jeff Chen

If it's Thursday, it must be a rebus! Well, not "must," but if you don't know why your answer won't fit into the number of squares given, it's a near-certainty. I saw 16A: First of the Jewish High Holy Days, and knew the answer would be RO[SHH]ASHANAH, but without more information, I couldn't see where the rebus would be. Lord knows, 2D: Headwear with breathable fabric (ME[SHH]AT) was never going to jump out at me. 

Fortunately, all the other crossings are much stronger. CORNI[SHH]EN crossing CRA[SHH]ELMET is a good one. I always knew the fowl as a "game hen," but I see the answer as posted Googles well. FRE[SHH]ERBS and HU[SHH]USH is very good, and BRITI[SHH]UMOR and SMA[SHH]IT work well, especially when you get the bonus 51A: ____ the Enchanter (TIM).

The revealer for all of these rebuses comes at 38A: New parent's whispered admonishment ... or a hint to four squares in this puzzle (THEBABYISASLEEP). I've been there. 

I'm glad ABRAM wasn't clued with President Garfield for once

This must have been a tough grid to construct (Mr. Chen often arrives on the scene to help out a grid that has a great premise but needs help). There are a ton of answers which trigger my "raise an eyebrow" alert. 19A: Approved by one's insurance company, say (INAREA) is arcane business lingo - and on a separate unrelated note, was the last answer I filled in because I couldn't see what it was going to be. I did like the crossing clue though, 3D: Catch some waves? (HEAR).

Other stuff: BANC (esoteric). CIAOS (not a term that should be pluralized), ACME (not used outside of Roadrunner cartoons), AURAE (Latin plurals now?), and 29D: Some grid lines: Abbr. (STS) - I guess they mean streets here, and the grid is like a city grid. But still. It's a bit much for the level of crosswords that are being produced nowadays.

On the other hand, there's the excellent meta clue at 22A: Co. that, in 1925, said of crosswords "The craze evidently is dying out fast" (NYT). Hah! Guess they were off by at least a century.

Congratulations to Mr. Baker for his debut in the above named newspaper's crossword. I still enjoyed the puzzle, even if I had a number of complaints!

- Colum

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Wednesday, June 21, 2023, Jimmy Peniston

What an unusual theme today! I was confused when I finished the puzzle and went back to look at the revealer at 58A: Hierarchichal system ... or what is formed when the answers to the starred clues are placed end to end (FOODCHAIN). I had noted the fruits in 17A and 49A and assumed there would be some food related shenanigans, but then the starred clues also included the answers ACHOO and AUTOMATON. What was going on?

Turns out if you do exactly what the revealer instructs, you get:


What the...

That is awesome. I bow to the mind that put this together.


After something like that, the rest is just gravy. THEEU, WALLST, and DADAART are fun things to find in the fill with their unusual congregation of letters. I have many fond memories of BODEGAS from my time living in the City. 

It's a bit odd to have both SEAGOD and SEAMONKEY in the puzzle, but I don't particularly have a problem with the repetition. 

21A: Honey and Sugar, for two (PETNAMES) didn't fool me, due to the capitalizations. Otherwise there weren't any cleverly misleading clues, which ran pretty straightforwardly for a Wednesday. Let's hope The Turn gives us a whole bunch of cleverness.
- Colum

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Tuesday, June 20, 2023, Aimee Lucido

For some reason, I am particularly pleased with puzzles that have their themed answers in the downs, and there's a good reason for it. As you know, all puzzles with standard symmetry can be rotated so the across and down answers are traded, so the only reason we have the theme answers traditionally in that acrosses is... well, tradition.

Today, the revealer is at 10D: Absolutely lose it ... or a hint to 6-, 18-, 21- and 24-Down (BLOWYOURTOP). And, indeed, the first word in each of the referenced answers is something you can blow. I personally am inclined towards 6D (WHISTLESTOPTOUR), something I do a fair amount of while walking from place to place. I almost never do 24D: (RASPBERRYPI), and very rarely 18D (BUBBLEWRAP), because I'm not a big fan of bubblegum (although chewing gum is fine). Of course, there's a fair amount of 21D (KISSMEKATE).

That's a lot of theme material, including a grid-spanning 15-letter answer! I am impressed that Ms. Lucido manages to make the grid as smooth as she does. There's the lovely TATERTOT and CLOTHESPIN for longer crossing answers. Somehow I was unaware that PANDORA was also the first woman in Greek myth. How unsurprising and unoriginal of the Greeks to place the blame for all the woes of the world on a woman.

The only answer I really have an issue with is HEYS. Can you imagine the conversation that would contain this word in real life? "I don't know how many 'heys' I have to shout to get your attention!" Hmmm.

But, PSHAW. That's hardly nothing. Any puzzle that has the C/AP of 20A: Person who can't be the victim of a pickpocket (NUDIST) is a winner in my books.

- Colum

Monday, June 19, 2023

Monday, June 19, 2023, David Liben-Nowell

Happy Monday morning to all. Hope you don't have major hangovers from your Father's Day celebrations. LOL! JK. Dads don't drink. 

Back in the real world, we have a highly unusual grid for this Monday morning. It runs 12 squares across and 19 squares down, for a total of 228 squares, 3 more than the standard 225 in a 15 x 15 grid. It's all in the service of creating a visual PB&J sandwich, which allows the constructor to break standard crossword rules by having the same across answer twice (SLICEOFBREAD). I suppose he could have used "anotherslice" but I like the symmetry instead.

Personally, I take a cherry jam for my "Fruity sandwich ingredient." Bonne Maman makes a fine exemplar. But that wouldn't have fit in the crossword sandwich as well.

I also do not take my rye OVERICE. I don't like the steadily increasing dilution of the intense rye flavor. 

FIJI - another place I'd like to visit

There are a number of fun entries in the fill. BEEHIVE, AERIALIST, and STRIKEOUT, to name a TRILOGY. Those of us familiar with "Auntie Mame" would have chosen TOPshelf rather than TOPNOTCH, but that's a small complaint.

I'm not fond of answers like HEYS and HES, AUKward plurals that simply don't exist in real life. But I understand the rigors of constructing sometimes require these sorts of compromises.

Fun Monday!

- Colum

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Sunday, June 18, 2023, Joe DiPietro


Happy Father's Day! Just like opinions, everybody's got a father. Is that the saying? I think it's a little off. Regardless, don't forget to reach out to your father if you can, or remember your father otherwise.

And speaking of opinions, today's theme is all about reinterpreting phrases where the second word is a synonym for opinion, and cluing them with a quotation that is an opinion about the first word. Got it?


Well, let's do an example. Take 118A: "Use it for Thanksgiving stuffing and saltimbocca" (SAGEADVICE). Here, the speaker is giving advice about the use of the herb sage. Hah! The other ones I liked were 116A: "Whaddya mean it's the pits? It's the best part of an apple!" (COREBELIEF) and 23A: "It's obvious the actors aren't doing these stunts" (DOUBLETAKE). I think the reason I like these ones better than the longer ones is that the brevity of the phrase requires more mental flexibility somehow.

Canterbury Cathedral, where ANSELM was Archbishop (Photo courtesy recent trip)

I have to bring attention to a remarkable spot in the grid, in the middle East portion. Here we see 43D: Glinda's reassurance to Dorothy on whether her dog can also return to Kansas (TOTOTOO) crosses 76A: Like some confrontations (TOETOTOE). That combination of answers really tickled my funny-bone. 

Other fun clues and answers included:

40A: "Y," as in Yucatán (AND). Not talking about the first letter of the name, but the word in Spanish. Very nicely done!

74A: They're never free of charge (IONS). Not lawyers, or ATMs, or some such.

STMARTIN is a place I'd like to go to. Sorry, I just got pulled into a rabbit hole of information about the island. It looks amazing, half-French colony, half-Dutch colony. Some day...

Anyway, this was a fun puzzle to start the week with. See you tomorrow!

- Colum 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Saturday, June 17 2023, Ryan McCarty

A delightfully chewy Saturday puzzle today, with an abundance of cleverly clued entries and a consistent level of difficulty throughout.  Luckily, an easy entry presented itself in the NE with MERCI (hey, I'm a Quebecker) and SNAPE (as any Harry Potter fan would know, and also the somewhat punnish ROBERTA Flack and ACURA (there's one in our driveway). Moving to the chunky middle, the real gem of the whole puzzle was the C/AP "One who grows up, then eventually croaks" (TADPOLE) - brilliant!!  Of course, at this point, suffused with confidence, I dropped in CUTNPASTE as a two-in-one computer command (hey, it could be, right?), which caused chagrin shortly thereafter (COPYPASTE!!).

I had the right idea on "What might turn pie into pieces?" straight away, but it took the crossers to properly reveal AUTOCOMPLETE.   At this point I had the last 5 letters of "Don't make me laugh!" and there was a "Did he really...?" moment as I guessed OHPUHLEASE, as in, "Did he really put the U in there?" Below this - ABIENTOT - another gimme for anyone who knows any French.  With this in hand, the whole NE - SW swath was pretty much done.

Another humourous C/AP in the SE - "Heavy metal band?" (MANACLE).  I entered GASHEAT instead of OILHEAT as a "housewarming option", which caused confusion and delays, but BULLSESSIONS came to the rescue.  

Toughest for me was the NW corner.  Undoubtedly as intended by Mr. McCarty, I put UKE in instead of LEI as a "strung accompaniment for a hula" (nice!!)  Not helping was USEME, which I'd originally entered as TRYME.   After I figured those out, everything else fell into place.  ESTERC, unknown to me, needed all the crossers.  

Tremendous puzzle overall!  Great way to spend 11:08 on a Saturday morning.  If I had any nits at all, it would be the ultra-obscure UBE ("purple yam") and the acronymic OOO, but needs must and the rest of the puzzle was well worth it.  

Well, that's the week for me! I now throw to Colum's more-than-capable hands.  Have an excellent weekend everybody!


Friday, June 16, 2023

Friday, June 16 2023, Natan Last and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Today's spiral offering features an always-impressive stack of 3 long entries in the middle of the grid.  Fortunately for this solver, there was a gimme right off the bat - Nick SABAN, the winningest college football coach, unlocked the NE corner, even the unknown-to-me poet ADRIENNE Rich revealed by the crossers.  This led to a first peek at the "stack" - generally the most impenetrable part of the puzzle - but not this time, with two of the three also quick write-ins:

31A : DOOMSCROLLING - overdosing on negative news online - this household spent uncountable hours doing just that, all throughout the pandemic.

35A : CANCELCULTURE - modern form of ostracization - all over the news these days, so difficult to miss this one.

36A : WHITERUSSIAN - not a write-in until a few of the crossers were in place.

With these in place, the rest of the puzzle fell into place pretty easily.  My favourite C/AP was 53A "They go straight to your head" = EGOBOOSTS.  Not a whole lot of other super-witty clues, I didn't think.  A few were new to me - I had never heard of PLOTZES ("Faints from emotion") - I even tried to enter SWOONS before I realized the letter count was wrong; SCHMEAR was new to me as a "Bagel shop request" (does it refer to a quantity of cream cheese?)  and HEL ("Norse goddess of death") seems tailor-made for escaping from crossword jail.  STONEWALL National Monument I assumed to have something to do with Stonewall Jackson, but no - it's a cornerstone of the LGBT rights movement in the US (as Google tells me).

6:09 all in all, including innumerable typos as I went.  This wasn't my favourite Friday puzzle of all time.  Oh well, they can't all be, I suppose.

Until tomorrow, my friends!


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Thursday, June 15 2023, David Harris

Hello out there in Crossword-land!  Today's puzzle was sprinkled with starred clues - both Across and Down - and, as is my wont, I dealt with them as I worked my way through the grid by simply ignoring them and letting the crossers do their magic.  This didn't get me anywhere at first.  For example - 15A "Inappropriately jocular" seemed to be FACET, which didn't seem to work.  And that made the crossing clue, 6D "Fiery feelings", come out to PASS, also not making sense.  A couple more of these and it became apparent what was going on - the starred clues were all missing suffixes (IOUS and IONS in the above two answers).  And sure enough - the revealer across the middle tied it all together - BACKTOSQUAREONE it says, and yes, back at square 1, the across answer is IOUS and the down is IONS, the very suffixes required by the starred Across and Down clues respectively!  The idea, of course, being to head back to these starting clues for the endings to the theme answers.  Clever!  A fair number of them too - 6 in each direction.  

Partly because of this obfuscation and partly just because, I didn't find myself racing through this puzzle at quite my accustomed pace.  Lots of dumb mistakes, like entering PISAN instead of PABLO for  26D "Picasso, for one" (huh??)  Oh and IPODS not IPADS for 5A "Ones touched to be of service?", which was one of my favourite clues today..  along with 36A "Skinny?" (DERMAL).  I do like a good QMC!  Even better was 29A "Multiple-episode pilot?" (HAN) which I only "got" just now while looking over the grid.

I'm always impressed by these imaginative themes.  I worry that there are a finite number in the universe and some day we'll run out.  Not today though!

Gotta go tend to my toothache.  (Ah - THAT's my excuse!) I fear a root-canal is looming on the horizon.

Ciao for now!


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Wednesday, June 14 2023, Jennifer Hoelzer

To resurrect a tired old trope... today's puzzle was conventional....NOT!  Per my usual modus operandi, I worked my way through the grid without much regard to what the theme was going to turn out to be.  4:25 later, I started reviewing the answers, and I confess it took me a while to figure out what was going on, as I was looking in the wrong place.  Keying mostly on YESANDNO ("Not exactly..."), I scanned the longer answers for variants on YES and NO, for homophones, for translations, anything ... but finally it jumped out at me - not in the grid but in the CLUES!  Every single Across clue starts with "Not"!  What a clever device, and it must have taken Ms. Hoelzer forever to put it together.  

The solve itself was pretty straightforward with not too much in the way of trickery.  I entered PORN instead of SMUT for "'Not safe for work' stuff", which was a quickly remedied setback.   In the QMC department, "Possessive type?" (DEMON) was very good.  I didn't love "Not up for a proposal?" (KNEELED).  Maybe I'm just a KNELT kind of guy! 

All in all I'd say a bit on the easy side for a Wednesday.  But full marks for the super-imaginative cluing!  

That's all I got.  "See" ya tomorrow!


Tuesday, June 13 2023, Juliana Tringali Golden and Wendy L. Brandes

Hello hello!  Today's offering is tailored for those of us who live and die by our mental checklists - as enumerated here, it's the list of what you need when you're leaving the house, hidden in the four theme answers:

  • TAXIDRIVER - One hailed on city streets
  • VOLCANICASH - Output from an eruption
  • WHISKEYSOUR - Cocktail garnished with orange slice + cherry
  • KEEPHONEST (my favourite) - Hold to a moral code
All revealed by the central Across clue "Got everything before we leave?" (READYTOGO).  See how neatly the hidden words span across the words in the answers - even the minimally-sized "ID".  I will note, though, that CASH is on its way to being an anachronistic prerequisite for an outing..  maybe VISA or CARD instead - e.g. "NASCARDRIVER" - Athlete going around in circles - something like that 🙂

Along the way, lots of fun clues with the odd bit of trickiness.  The only real mess was in the SE corner, repairing the damage done by entering MUSTNT instead of MAYNOT for "Is forbidden to".  Fortunately, I knew that an aardvark is also an ANTBEAR, which helped straighten things out.  And speaking of OOPSYs, I misspelled the adjacent MUCHOS as MUCHAS, but then BASSO came to the rescue as the "Lowest opera voice."  I had never heard of ELSTON Howard as a Yankee great, but the crossers came to the rescue there.  My favourite QMC was the very first clue - "Airdrops?" - which I didn't get until the end (MIST) - a pleasant "aha"!  

4:26 today.  Could have been faster but I was doing it amid the distracting background noise of my office.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Monday, June 12 2023, Alice Liang

HIHO and Happy Monday y'all from over here on Sunday evening!  A quick tasty confection from Ms. Liang today, with a little bit of an oral fixation - the theme is all about the mouth and its constituents:

  • "Explodes in anger" : HITSTHEROOF

  • "Wireless speaker tech" : BLUETOOTH

  • "Native language" : MOTHER TONGUE

  • "Chew on this!" : BUBBLEGUM
By the time I reached the revealer in 60A (WORDOFMOUTH), it was already apparent.  This hit a nerve with me as I've had a toothache for weeks, as a result of a botched filling in a molar.  So annoying!

Along the way, I really can't report much OFNOTE.  All fair clues and answers, and I am partial to POTROAST so that was a welcome addition :)  Took me 2:37 in all...  So on that brief note, I bid you ADIOS.  Until tomorrow!


Sunday, June 11 2023, Sam Ezersky

Hello hello greetings and salutations etc.! Philbo here, feeling good after a multi-day bike ride this weekend to raise funds for cancer research.... 220 km (sorry, not thinking  : 137 miles) in two days, up hill and down dale in southern Ontario.  So it was in a state of happy, heavy fatigue that I tackled this Sunday's puzzle, just a few minutes ago.  A little disappointed off the bat to see it was themeless, as I do like themed puzzles, but it *is* Sam Ezersky and he does set a mean puzzle ("mean" could signify a couple of things here...)

Digging in, I could have made my life easier by entering TOBACCO as a major NC crop in the very first clue, as was my immediate inclination, but I thought that was too obvious and so left it for later.  I set a couple of  traps for myself by entering JOENAMATH and not BARTSTARR as the first Super Bowl MVP (20A), and LOCUSTS instead of CICADAS as things of which there can be "plagues" (28A).  These caused minor grief later.  

Things got on a better track with 32A CALLLOG, which I thought neat with its three consecutive 'L's.  From there it all flowed quite nicely.  I liked ALGALBLOOM (69A: "Harmful aquatic overgrowth") for its tricky fifth letter, COGNOSCENTE (27D: "Expert, from the Italian") for its tricky last letter, and of course OARSWOMEN (2D: "Some boat crew members") which of course usually appears with two fewer letters, and this answer led to TOBACCO and BARTSTARR as well. 

I wound up getting tripped up by ILEAC (53A: "Related to part of the small intestine") which I misspelled as ILIAC and it took me a while to root out that error.  And that led to my new favourite answer : CORNELL as "Ivy seen among cliffs", which I assume is a reference to the topography in the town of Ithaca.  Confirmation anyone?  (Don't want to lazily just check the Google)

Overall impression - a fun challenging Sunday puzzle, even if it was themeless, and I can't help but observe that there sure were a lot of unusual words and phrases - I suspect that was the whole point!  13:00 solve time today.  And now it's bedtime!  Oh no it's not.  The Monday puzzle is out and I may as well review that one too..


Saturday, June 10, 2023

Saturday, June 10, 2023, John Hawksley

Hello everyone! Colum here, standing in for Frannie. My thoughts are with you guys. 

I remember when I first started solving the NYT puzzle on a regular basis again, about 10 years ago. This particular grid style, along with many others that have vast swaths of chunky fill, intimidated me. How to get started? And all of those 11-letter answers... it seemed like an impossibility. 

Turns out that doing some challenging thing over and over again leads to improvement in performance. So for any new solvers who are advancing to the more challenging crosswords of the week, take courage. You too can become much more skilled at this particular type of niche talent!

Today started more easily than expected. 1A: Curved bedframe style (SLEIGH) was a gimme for me. A brief snag in this corner was getting gAIA and MAIA confused, but that was fixed quickly. I liked the terse clue 13A: Roast roost (HOTSEAT). ACHILLES was the first of several "eponymous" clues today. Similarly, 27A: From overseas? (DES) heralds other clever foreign language clues in the grid.

I got HALOGENBULB from the letters in this corner, but nothing else in the center, so I shifted to the NE. Once again, nothing particularly difficult about this area. ARAM Khachaturian is another gimme for this solver. 26A: Not from Scotland (NAE) and 30D: Summers in Monaco (ETES) are the other two language clues. I like that both of these avoided the question marks.


I think I got HESTARTEDIT from here, but no other long answers. I put in HIREe at this point for 28D: Headhunter's correspondent (HIRER), which stopped me from completing POWERLIFTER (I had the second part of the answer in place). On to the SW!

Here, SAWYER and RYE confirmed each other, and once I had MOMCAVE and CAWCAWED in place, the center came into view. CINCINNATUS and TELESCOPIUM are the other eponymous answers. I loved the pair of answers for the clues "Find time for" and "Finds a time for, in a way:" the straightforward GETTO, and the extremely clever CARBONDATES

21D: That's an order! (STANDATEASE) is one of these clever clues where the pronoun in the clue is directly referring to the answer. My last clue of note is 39A: Van trailer? (BUREN). Hah!

Nice quick Saturday puzzle (6:42).

Tomorrow, Philbo takes over! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

- Colum

Friday, June 9, 2023

Friday, June 9, 2023, Robyn Weintraub

Once again, Robyn Weintraub delivers the goods - a fun and fast Friday - 13:40 for this solver.

Horace and I discussed the puzzle a bit this morning, particularly commenting on Robyn's special gift for entertaining clues that are tricky, but rarely blockingly tricky, if you see what I mean. Although, from our discussion I learned that Horace was not duped, as I was, by the clue "A train might get pulled along it" at 1A. Whereas I was misled into thinking about tracks and rails, apparently, Horace was able to drop in the correct AISLE. Derp. 

I was in the wrong pew in that case, but elsewhere I had more success and caught on quickly to some of the excellent QMCs and non-QMCs, including the pair of "Hill worker" clues (ANT and AIDE), "Diamond measurement" (AREA), and the clever "Glum drops" for TEARS, and also the fun QMCs "Game you can't stand to win?" (MUSICALCHAIRS), "Result of a split decision?" (SECT), and "Pro fighter?" (ANTI). Ha!


Fill-wise, I enjoyed SOUPTONUTS, POLKA, COAST, and FOGS. My only complaint is a personal dislike of DRYERSHEETS, which I feel are creating smell pollution on a massive and poisonous scale in today's world. If you think that's OVERSTATED, you should ask me about the topic IRL. :)  

AHI to Colum, who has kindly agreed to fill in for me tomorrow as Horace COUPE with family matters. Until next time, dear Readers.


Thursday, June 8, 2023

Thursday, June 8, 2023, Philip Koski

Today's puzzle involved another special message-to-solvers under the blinking "i"con. The note provided instructions for post-processing the grid data after completion to reveal the task assigned to staff at the "English site of W.W. II code-breaking," explaining that one had to swap circled letters with other letters. The next step was to determine what letter to swap in for the circled letter. That was revealed by properly parsing each group of shaded letters. For example, the shaded letters ITOO in 15A is to be read as I to O (or, change the letter I to the letter O). In this case, the swap resulted in a change from DECIDE ("End analysis paralysis") to DECodE, part of the secret answer. After swapping all the circled letters according to the instructions in each shaded letter groups, the coded message, and the answer to what they were up to at BLETCHLEYPARK, turned out to be (spoiler alert!) SeCREtLY DECoDE GerMAN MeSSAGES. It's a nice conceit to create a coded message in a puzzle about coded messages and the decoding was fun bonus activity after completing the solve. 

I was amused by "Like some jobs and jokes" (DIRTY) and "Org. that lets you carry on" for TSA was also entertaining. "It's due in Court" (PROCESS) held me up for a minute or two. As did "What's in the middle of Nashville?" because I was focused on the middle three letters, rather than the middle letter spelled out (VEE). I was totally duped by "Woodstock artist," wracking my brain for any performers I remembered as having played at Woodstock until. after quite a few crosses came in, I saw that the answer was SCHULZ. Ha! 

I thought the pair of clue "Prince, e.g." for SON was an interesting contrast to "One who's bound to succeed" for HEIR. Also, SPLEEN for "Bad temper" is very nice. 

The misdirection afforded by using Amazon in the clue "Amazon deposits" redeems, to some extent, the awkward SILTS. SISALS seemed like another odd plural, and OKS for "Licenses, say" seemed a bit of a stretch. That being said, I still think the message is clear: this was a fun puzzle. 


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wednesday, June 7, 2023, Jennifer Lee and Victor Galson

Today's puzzle features the story of a ship threatened by high seas, told through a set of reportage-style theme answers reminiscent of Tom Swifties - minus Tom. The four theme answers form a sort of short story beginning with the BREAKINGSTORY of a ship at sea threatened by crashing (or breaking) waves. Get it? :) The story continues aptly with LEAKEDFOOTAGE, and, wouldn't you know it, the show can be seen STREAMINGLIVE. All's well that ends well: certain CURRENTEVENTS, or changes in ocean conditions, allow the ship to return safely to port. That's what I call a bon voyage. :)

In addition to adventure on the high seas, the puzzle included a hull of a lot of entertaining clues including "One thing ... or two people" (ITEM), "Succeeds, as a joke" (LANDS), "Choice word" (OPT), "Supporter of the arts?" for EASEL, which was cute, and my favorite, "First-year college assignment" for (DORM). I also enjoyed the pair of "type" clues: "It can be small, smooth or sweet" (TALK) and "Kind of soda, steak or sandwich" (CLUB). 


In general, the solve was smooth sailing, although I hit the rocks in a couple of places. "Followers of mis" for (FAS) had me stumped for a bit. It also took me some time to see PLASMATV because for some reason, I read "Electronics purchase" in the clue as meaning some kind of tech corporation merger instead of simply an electronic device. Derp. I was in the dark for a while, too, with "Shade of black" choosing to enter the unenlightened 'noir' instead of the correct ONYX. Really, though, the above were just small blips on the radar. and nautical seriously problematic. 

I shoal enjoyed this one. How aboat you?


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Tuesday, June 6, 2023, Daniel Jaret

Upon opening the puzzle app this morning, I was greeted by a blinking circle around the 'i' icon, under which I found a note reading, "Today's puzzle has an extraordinary quality. Can you discover what it is?" As I solved the puzzle, I ungenerously thought to my self that yes, I was able to discern the extraordinary quality and that was lack thereof - if you see what I mean. Many answers elicited a sigh or an eyeroll such as "Leaves in, editorially" (STETS), "Post-mortem meetings, in business-speak" (RETROS), "Postlarval" (PUPAL), "Lead-in to gift or miracle" (ITSA), and "Try to tear" (RIPAT), but when I finished the puzzle (after a near-Natick, discussed in riveting detail below) and  realized what the intended extraordinary quality was, I reversed my decision. The answers throughout the grid are, in some way which probably has a specific name that I don't know, mirrored reflections of each other. In brief, for example, the answer to 1A in the top northwest corner is DAP and the last Across answer in the southeast, is its reverse: PAD. "British bye-byes" or TATAS appear in the top middle while in the bottom middle we find SATAT ("Occupied, as a table"), and so on. All in all, a pretty neat accomplishment, even if I felt some of the content suffered. 

My one solve problem occurred in the midwest. I wasn't sure what the "Funky bass technique" might be, I never saw your "Kill Bill" movies, and I wasn't exactly sure where the clue "'Two thumbs down' and 'I hated it!'" was going. Of course, had I realized the extraordinary quality of the grid sooner, I wouldn't have had this problem, as I had already successfully completed the middle east section of the puzzle. I'm sure all of our dear perspicacious Readers were way ahead of me on this one and twigged to the puzzle symmetry much more quickly than I, hopefully resulting in some record personal bests.


I didn't really like the clue/answer symmetry of SNOOPS for "Does some detective work." Is detective work snooping or investigating? Maybe some of each. It's not like it's a non-match, but a side match that didn't suit this solver. 

OTH, "Bright" was a nicely ambiguous clue for SMART, and I liked DEEPS for "Abysses." I also appreciated that the answer to the clue "'Now!'" was STAT instead of ASAP. Also, even as a partial ORAMA still says fun to me. Other ROIs for this solver were DATA, TRAMS, and SLED

To sum up, my PANS turned to a appreciative SNAP  once I realized the scope of the STUNT


Monday, June 5, 2023

Monday, June 5, 2023, Eric Rollfing

Today's puzzle put up little resistance. Although I didn't break the five minute barrier (5:20), except for three of the four theme answers, it was a read-the-clue-enter-the-answer experience for this solver. Which of the theme answers did I know right off the clue, you ask? The delicious GRAPEFRUITSPOON ("Eating utensil with a serrated edge"), but that one examplar was not enough for me to guess the theme. For that I needed the revealer, which spells out the situation pretty literally: KEEPITBETWEENUS, indicating that the letters IT appear between the letters US, as in JESUITSCHOOL and QUITSTALLING. With themes like this one, I am an ADMIRER of fact that people notice these kinds of patterns or features in multiple nouns or phrases and are then able to work them into a puzzle grid. Neat.


As expected in a Monday puzzle, we encounter some standard crossword fare, but AMID ONTO, TOON, ALAS, ALES, TORO, and PTAS, we also have some fun C/APs including "Hilo 'hello'" for ALOHA, "Flippant freshness" for SASS, and my favorite of the day, "Elton's john?" for LOO, which made me LOL. 

Fill-wise, I thought CENSURE and its near anagram (minus the N) SECURE were nice. There was also some fun with your rarer letters Q and J in AQUA and FAJITA.

That's it for today, but I'll be with you DURANT the week. Until tomorrow, dear Readers.


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sunday, June 4, 2023, Rafael Musa


Today's puzzle is flying the PRIDE FLAG colors, and using them in punny ways. Each answer in a band of color is paired with its horizontal partner, where the color is part of the answer. As in:

17A (red-shaded squares): Intermittently (ONANDOFF) - 18A: They're right on an election map ... or a description of 17-Across? (REDSTATES)

37A (orange-shaded squares): Olympics no-nos (STEROIDS) - 33A: Screwdriver component ... or a description of 37-Across? (ORANGEJUICE)

James ENSOR self portrait

So a nice, colorful theme. I like seeing the colors in the grid. I wonder how it looked in print. 

In other news, the puzzle is only 20x21, and maybe that was part of the reason my solve was so fast today. 

I enjoyed the exuberant WOOT ("Yay!," in internet-speak), the uncommon SUCCOR (Relief), and the interesting-but-oh-so-guessable "Language from which Alaska gets its name" (ALEUT). "Unfaithful sort?" (ATHEIST) was very nice, and the pair of "I" clues was fun: "I, in the Greek alphabet" (IOTA) and "I, in the NATO alphabet" (INDIA). 

It's my dad's 91st birthday today, and I have to go frost a cake and then drive out for the party, so that's all from me for today. Frannie takes the wheel tomorrow. Enjoy the ride.

- Horace

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Saturday, June 3, 2023, John Westwig

Sort of a meta puzzle with that PUZZLINGPROBLEM (Stumper) running down the middle. And this was, indeed, the hardest of the week for me, clocking in at 19 seconds tougher than Thursday's. (Although I did have a typo that took a little hunting, so really they might have been about the same.)

4th c. Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, in METZ

But Thursday's grid had no answer longer than eight letters, whereas today's has 14 answers of nine letters or more, including that triple-stack in the middle. And speaking of that, whaTeverYOUWANT fit right in where ANYTHINGYOUWANT ("Don't hold back, it's my treat!") was supposed to be. That held me up for a little while in the West. 

LINGAM (Phallic object worshiped as a symbol of Shiva) was completely new to me, and JUSTINIANII (Byzantine emperor known as "Rhinometos" ("the slit-nosed")) was also unknown. And as usual, popular culture clues are getting less and less easy for me: DAX Shepard? SADIE Sink? Nope and nope. But a game show host who's been doing the same job since I was in high school? OMGYES, I dropped in SAJAK immediately. Sigh.

Hey, and speaking of age, ask the younger people you know whether or not they know what ESP (Medium capacity?) is. We have found that the cut-off is in the low thirties. Below that, they don't know what it stands for. Not sure what that says about society, but it's probably something. Maybe one of those young people will write a dissertation on it.

Thought HWORD ("Hell," euphemistically) was a little far-fetched. Maybe it's another age thing? Like, little kids maybe? Do adults actually say "the HWORD?" The F-word, sure, but Hell? Oh, I don't know. 

"Certain cell provider" (CAPTOR) was disturbing. But I smiled at the effort for CIDER (Apple press release?), and "Apt name for a worrier" was cute for STU.

How'd you like it?

- Horace

p.s. I missed the real theme of "Something/Anything/Nothing" in the triple stack. I think I have been distracted lately. Sorry. You deserve better from a so-called crossword puzzle blogger.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Friday, June 2, 2023, John Ewbank

When you hear DERIVE (Reach through reasoning) doesn't it make you think of the song "Young at Heart?" "And if you should survive to a hundred and five / Think of all you'll DERIVE out of being alive / And here is the best part, you'll have a head start / If you are among the very young at heart." No? Well, it does me.

DONKEY, ASS, Who ever came up with this?

What else? I haven't seen "Source Code," but TIMETRAVEL wasn't the first thing that came into my head when trying to remember "Donnie Darko." And I don't think I've seen either "Dune" or "Flash Gordon," so SPACEOPERA didn't come quickly either.

On the other hand, I knew "One working with a set of keys" would be instrument-related, but I needed crosses before PIANOTUNER rang out. And similarly "General motor?" with its question mark was calling for something tricksy, so ARMOREDCAR could not withstand the crosses for long. Heh. Hey, I'm trying here...

The SW was positively Classical what with ACHILLES (Styx figure) UPTOp, and the CUPBEARERS (Attendants at a saturnalia) marching down the middle. And hey, there's Latin in there too (Post hoc, ERGO propter hoc)! And it's only a causal fallacy sometimes, right?

I like the grid shape. Everything is so open, and there's just that one pin down the middle. And speaking of, don't you wish EVERESTBASECAMP (It's an uphill climb from here) ran up from the bottom? No? Well... 

I enjoyed this one. Nothing really earth-shattering, but solid all the way through. 

- Horace

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Thursday, June 1, 2023, David and Karen and Paul Steinberg

One for the math nerds among us. Three times fractions equaling "half" are used in the Down answers, while the spelled out numbers work for the Acrosses. And if that sounds a little complicated, it is. Let's see if I can show what I mean...

60A: "Made amends" is answered with AT[ONE]D, and 63A: "Reliable, to a lender" is CREDI[TWO]RTHY. And the "one" and the "two" line up one over the other, making 1/2, which is used in the answer TOP[ONE][TWO] (Inning part when the visiting team bats). "Top half." GOTTHAT? The other fractions are 4/8 and 2/4, if you're interested, but I'm not going to write out all that. 

It was slow to come to me, perhaps because deCAF worked so well for "Coffee with less kick" (4/8CAF), but I think it was finally NOT2/4BAD (Pretty darn good) combined with I[TWO]NTHURT (Doctor's reassurance before a shot) and PETIT[FOUR]S (Small, fancy confections) that broke it open for me. 

I thought "Calling for tails, maybe" (FORMAL) was a great clue, and the connected "Food that's folded" (TACOS) and "Food that's rolled" (SUSHI) was a nice touch. "Settings for naval gazing?" (SEAS) was cute, and it's always nice to be reminded of "Christopher Robin's 'silly old' chum" (POOH). Heh. 

A nice start to the Turn. 

- Horace