Saturday, September 30, 2023

Sunday, October 1 2023, Jeffrey Lease

Hello everyone and happy October!!  I send these wishes prematurely as it is still Saturday evening and I have to keep this short as I have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to participate in a charity bike ride - the cause is World Bicycle Relief, which supplies bicycles to rural communities all over the world, where walking long distances is a necessary part of life. 

I found this to be a clever puzzle, and I expect it was a lot of fun to construct.  The theme is movies, and, as hinted at by the title ("Film Adaptations"), each of the several films appearing in the grid - both across and down, always a bonus - have been punnily, or -perhaps better - literally modified, each in an entertainingly different way..

  • ONE FLEW (literally OVER) THE CUCKOO'S NEST - two separate answers, one over the other
  • THE EMPIRE (literally STRIKES BACK) - ends with STRIKES spelled backward
  • (Down) A RIVER RUNS (literally THROUGH IT) - the 'RIVER' in the answer splitting the IT in the backwards STRIKES from the above
  • THE LAND (literally BEFORE) TIME - no need for the redundant word 'BEFORE', now, is there?
  • LOST (literally IN) TRANSLATION - yep, a word within a word
  • BURN (literally AFTER) READING - so BURN is at the end, as "instructed"
  • (literally DOUBLE) JEOPARDY - at this point this is obvious, right? 🙂
  • (Down) (literally LITTLE SHOP) OF HORRORS - with the SHOP entered tinily in rebus format
  • CROUCHING TIGER (literally HIDDEN) DRAGON - sure enough, no DRAGON to be seen (but - see below!)

I could make no sense of the very final Across clue - "Deliberately procrastinate" - from the crossers, it had to be ESFEET - until I read the CROUCHING TIGER clue, which refers its unseen portion to this clue - yielding DRAGONESFEET, which then makes sense.  Brilliant!

Alongside this wonderful construction, other nice nuggets were to be found:  Neat to learn that a praying mantis has only one EAR, on its stomach.  Praying mantises are scary.  I liked the Garfield/Sylvester clues side by side.  Always a bonus to add cleverness to three-letter answers.  ACLOSESHAVE, with its double meaning, was a nice one.

Couple of little clangers - sure, BCD is an "early alphabet trio" but c'mon.  "Buoyancy control device" or something?  SOHOS was palindromically weird.

OK gotta go and get my pre-ride beauty sleep.  Until tomorrow!


Saturday, September 30, 2023, Ahmed Bayoumi

Today's five grid-spanning answers took me some time to get - especially the middle one, MARINEBIOLOGIST. I was on the right track from the get-go, but I stayed with my first guess of some kind of 'scientist' for rather too long - resulting in a rather slow Saturday time (43:23). The rest of the grid didn't help. After a first pass, the few answers I knew for sure didn't amount to much (ROLLE, LEST, EAR, INSET, LENDS, MSG, RENEE). In classic Saturday fashion, I was sure I was doomed to a DNF, but thanks to some clear outs and some lucky guesses, I eventually figured it all out. 

Interesting for this solver to see NEPOBABY in the puzzle, and thanks to the clue, I now know what it means - and can see that it makes a certain amount of sense as a term. I first became aware of the word in a relatively recent Connections puzzle. I mis-categorized it partly because I had no idea what it was. I kept meaning to look it up, but now I don't have to. Thanks NYTX!

I had a lot of trouble understanding the clue "Post-op persona, perhaps." The answer turned out to be NEWME. Does the clue relate to cosmetic surgery? Other trouble spots included "Rock band with the 2023 album 'This Stupid World'". I don't know much about YOLATENGO, and didn't know about the new album, but fortunately, I have heard of the group, so when I had enough of the Downs filled in, I finally got it. 

At first, for "Wordle and others" at 43A, I entered 'apps' but when I got the answers to the two-parter "Many people making downloads" (APP USERS), I was pretty sure 'apps' couldn't be correct. Interesting that the constructor thinks Wordle is one of many FADS. :) 

I thought the weakest corner for C/APs was the northwest. AFLOW is a bit too too, and DIVE for "Great fall" is either not so good, or I don't totally get it - always a possibility. :) On the upside, a personal favorite was "Key to understanding ancient history?" (THEROSETTASTONE), but the best of the day was "Detective story?" for ALIBI. Ha! "Be ripe" for SMELL was amusing.

Well, dear Readers, another week has come to a close and I pass the torch to the much more capable crossword hands of our esteemed co-blogger, Philbo. Until next time.


Friday, September 29, 2023

Friday, September 29, 2023, Malaika Handa

After yesterday's SORELOSER post, I am back on a higher note after a SOLID Friday solve. There was much to enjoy and some to puzzle over for this solver. The top left corner had me stumped for a while due to some erroneous answers (like 'myword' and 'areso' at 5 and 6 Down) that made the end of the fun clue, "Illegal product that's still made?" look like it was going to be something with 'rum' in it. I thought the name of the eight-legged horse sounded vaguely Scandinavian, but yet I didn't come up with ODIN right away. And the NBA team originally based in New Jersey was not a slam dunk for this solver. I also had the 'voice' wrong for 16A: I read it as someone telling someone else something was a bad idea, so that was all wrong. I finally figured out that TEA went with both bubble and high, and I had already guessed DOSE ("One pill, perhaps") although I had taken it out a hundred times. With those two to build on, the rest filled in according to PLAN, resulting in a middling Friday time (for this solver) of 24:29. 


C/AP highlights today include:
"Spreads concern?" - I first thought the answer might be OilS - different kind of spread! - but it was ODDS
"Brand of ranch dressing?" (STETSON) - ha!
"Author who wrote 'Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance'" was a gimme for this AUSTEN fan.
"Blunt salespeople" (POTDEALERS) - genius! 
I also enjoyed the very straightforward "Does a better job than at making points" (OUTSCORES) and "Flattering lines" for ODE was nice. 

There was some great long fill here, too, including SUNDAYSCARIES, CODESWITCH (wheelhouse!), and RENTSTRIKE. SCENTEDCANDLE is a nice long entry, too, but if there's one thing I don't take, it's a scented candle. Maybe that's a theme for my debut puzzle: Across answers will be things I like; things I don't like will get a thumbs Down. Stay tuned...


Thursday, September 28, 2023

Thursday, September 28, 2023, Ricky Cruz

Well, dear Readers, you win some, you lose some. If yesterday's puzzle was perfectly tuned to my interests, today's was as incomprehensible as static. To begin with, on my puzzle app, the theme clues appeared as empty black rectangles, with no associated imagery or text. It is Thursday, so I thought there would eventually be a revealer to provide a hint, or that I would be able to fit 'black box' into the answers somehow, but, as solvers of today's puzzle know, that was not the case. I discussed the puzzle with Horace, who had solved the puzzle on a computer, and he told me that for him, the theme clues were musical staffs plus text. The text provided a clue to the first part of the theme answer, for example, "Energy drinks," (or similar, I still can't see the actual clues), to which one was then supposed to add "in X" where X is a key(?) possibly indicated by the image that accompanied the clue, in this case, resulting in MONSTERSINC. Another answer was PALESTINE, the clue for which was something like least tanned. Horace said he found the theme answers amusing. My reaction is MEH, partly out of frustration for not having access to the complete set of clues, and partly because I don't really understand the musical aspect of the theme clues or why it might be either relevant or amusing to choose IN E, instead of IN D, except as it makes another valid word. 


Much of the rest of the fill was also outside my wheelhouse, including "Video game hero who battles the evil Dr. Wily" (MEGAMAN), "Martial arts rank" (DAN), "Wii Sports sport" (TENNIS), and "'Twilight' vampire" (EDWARD). There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it added to the difficulty level for this solver. I'm not sure I totally get STEERED as the answer for "Made a semi circle, say?" either. I also felt that the intensity level in the clue at 43A: "Nag (at)" struck an off note with that of the answer, GNAW. Plus, it took me forever to parse DOTORG for "Ending with Wikipedia." Maybe today just wasn't my day. 

On the upside, I did solve the entire puzzle without any of the theme answer clues, so that's something, although, I ended up with a FWOE. I spelled POLLOCKS ("Some splattery paintings at MoMA") with an A in place of the second O. The painter's name crossed with another unfamiliar-to-me concept/term, "Portmanteau for a certain self-taken video on a smartphone," so the entry SLaFIE seemed AOK to me, but I must admit that SLOFIE is much better sounding.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record. I guess that's enough COMPLAIN IN G for today. 


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Wednesday, September 27, 2023, Scott Koenig

Well, dear Readers, there are wheelhouses, and then there are wheelhouses. Today's grid contents couldn't be more relevant to my interests. Imagine my surprise when the entry COLORLESS was followed, in short order, by GREEN (clued with a nice cross ref to Wordle!), and then by IDEAS and SLEEP. At that point, I scanned ahead to find the final word in this famously correctly formed yet NONSENSICAL sentence: FURIOUSLY. It showed up at 61A the clue of which held the revealer that brought all the theme elements together, including the author of the sentence, NOAMCHOMSKY

Other ROIs for this solver included favorite poet OGDEN Nash, the BBC, computer keys (ESC), and when I got to the two clues that reference the Simpsons, I says to myself, I says, "this puzzle is BOLEYN strikes!"

This is relevant to my interests

Other clues that were up my alley included ICED for "Did in", "Butte, but bigger" (MESA), "Object of wishful thinking?" (GENIE - also a possible tangential theme answer, if a bit of a stretch?), and "One guilty of disorderly conduct?" SLOB - ha! This puzzler couldn't agree more that doomscrolling is a TIMESUCK. OTOH, I do enjoy FINSTA as a word and concept. MULL, PROD, and DIMPLES are fun fill.

With all of the above going for it, I couldn't KELP but like this puzzle. 


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Tuesday, September 26, 2023, Shannon Rapp and Rebecca Goldstein

A network of fun FOODWEB theme answers today that satisfyingly combine food and Internet terms with delicious results like SPAGHETTICODE and HAMBURGERMENU. As a satisfying accompaniment we get a smorgasbord of ancillary theme material including CHOP, Penne ALLA vodka, FAT, CURES, MOLE, TEAS, THAWS, FLAX, and JAM. There were two excellent C/APs that also fit this category, IMHO: "Got better with time" (AGED) and "Places to see the romaines of the day?" (SALADBARS) - ha! 

At 55D ("Word with sugar or sport"), I very much enjoyed how the seemingly disparate clue words, sugar and sport, are nevertheless brought together under one semantic covering, if you will, by the answer COAT. NEATO!

46A: Mercator projection, e.g. (MAP)

Non-food C/APs that contributed to the pleasant ambiance of this fine dining experience were "Band leader's direction" (HITIT) and "You want to make something of it?" (ORE). Fill-wise, I liked both HADAHUNCH and OHSPAREME

Excusez-MOI, but on a Wordle side note (possible spoiler alert): I used SOLAR as my start word today with excellent results. :)

All this talk about food has made me suddenly come over all peckish. I think I'll go get myself a JAVAUPDATE...


Monday, September 25, 2023

Monday, September 25, 2023, Lynn Lempel

Tap tap tap ... is this thing on? Frannie here, after what seems like an age to talk a little bit about today's NYT crossword puzzle. It won't be a DOTE or a RANT, the former of which I leave to Colum and the latter to Horace. :) Nor, I'm afraid, will it be an OPUS, numbered or otherwise, just some random thoughts, as is my WONT.

Theme-wise, this puzzle has all the elements of a good story: the second word of each theme answer spells out the necessary elements thereof: ARABICCHARACTER, SCATTERPLOT, EARTHTONE, and GOALSETTING. Added to these  fundamentals, the grid contains numerous classic fairy tale features like a MINARET, an EGG, an OGRE, an ORC, a MOAT, and AGOG, whatever that is. :)


There's plenty of other good story material here, too:

And they lived happily EVER after ...


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Sunday, September 24, 2023, Joel Fagliano and Christina Iverson


I'm back for one more day. Frannie starts tomorrow, and she doesn't do Sundays, so I'm filling in.

Today we have some re-spelled brand names clued punnily. My favorite might be TALKOBELLE (We've rebranded! Now we produce a "Beauty and the Beast"-themed podcast!) because it's just so ludicrous. AMERICANHEIRLINES (... Now we do genealogy for the U.S.'s rich and famous!), BESTBYE (... We now help write breakup letters!), and HOLEFOODS (... Now we sell doughnuts and bagels!) are also quite good. So silly. Just like a Sunday should be, I guess. And I like how the first and last Across answers are tied into the whole marketing thing - "Reaction to the 1950s culture of commercial consumerism" (POPART) and TESTER (Certain employee of a game company or perfumery). 

Interesting to learn that Louis Braille was only a TEEN (fifteen, in fact) when he invented his method for tactile reading. He was not born blind, but was blinded at a young age from an accident and ensuing infection. (Sorry. Let's move on.)

"Drops like flies?" was a surprising clue for UNZIPS. And "Took the bench" (SAT) also got a smile. And I didn't know Queen Victoria "selected" OTTAWA ONTARIO to be the capital. Apparently, it was quite a contentious thing, selecting the capital. First it was Montreal, then they tried a two-city thing, then it was Quebec City, then they finally threw up their hands and let her decide. Philbo? Any comments on this?

And speaking of geographic trivia, I had no idea that it was ABEL Tasman, or that he was Dutch, although that shouldn't surprise anyone. They were all over the place.

FLU (Apt rhyme of "Achoo!") was cute, as was "Yule ball?" (ORNAMENT). I had GunS in place for far too long instead of GELS (Some T.S.A. no-nos), and it made it take way too long for me to remember the CONEHEADS ("S.N.L." characters who coined the term "parental units"). 

Overall, it was a fun one. I hope you enjoyed it. Now. Frannie really does take over tomorrow, not Colum, as I erroneously stated yesterday. Enjoy!

- Horace

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Saturday, September 23, 2023, Robert Charlton

A beautiful, open grid today. I don't always love triple-stacks, but today they are part of such a pleasing pattern that one barely notices them. Well ... I guess one always notices. But let's move on.

As usual, when facing grid-spanners, I take a quick look at the clues, then work the Downs. ETAS (GPS guesses), BAN (Deodorant brand), and OPTSOUT (Declines to participate) gave me a decent chunk, but it took TRIS (Races that require a swimsuit and bike, for short) and KEYLESS (Like some ignition systems) before INDIANTERRITORY (Designation on old U.S. maps) came in. And after that the top fell quickly. I hadn't ever heard the term APELET (Small simian ... that's one letter away from a small computer program), and RERATES (Upgrades or downgrades) is junk, but the rest is pretty solid. I especially liked "Weather" for RIDEOUT.

CARACAS (Simón Bolívar's birthplace) is good trivia. ROBERTI (Father of William the Conqueror) is also trivia, but it feels like it'll be less useful to me somehow. And BIGBEND national park reminds me that there are many, many places in this country that I have not visited. Someday, maybe.

"Beat the buzzer?" is cute for SWAT, but "Sole mate?" for SOCK? That's a stretch. And ONETON (What a pickup might pick up?) feels a little uninspired, but it does bring to mind this idiotic sketch from SNL of yore:

OK, when I resort to a second image, it's time to go

Happy puzzling, All!

- Horace

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday, September 22, 2023, Rafael Musa and Michael Lieberman

I should probably throw in the towel. I FWOEd on YOUHADONEJOB ("All I asked for was that simple thing!"), and it seems oh so appropriate because yesterday I missed a really important and beautiful element of the puzzle - that all the "migrating" parts of the words that dropped down in the grid were birds! How could I miss that? Instead I tried to add an element that totally wasn't there - that of the bent words looking like geese? They didn't even! Why am I even doing this? I am a PSEUDO-blogger. I know this stuff isn't LIFEORDEATH, but I really ought to be thrashed about the head with a POOLNOODLE. OK. ENDOFRANT

In happier news, I enjoyed seeing CARROTCAKE in the grid, but now I can't wait for my birthday to come around again, because that's what I always ask for. And I'm currently in a Latin class, so I was racking my brain for a story about a race or beauty contest where Apollo figured prominently, but they were talking about rockets! Hah.

OXYMORONIC (Like tough love?) is always fun (military intelligence, civil war, unbiased opinion), and FRANCE (Country described in "One can't impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 265 different kinds of cheese") was a gimme. As was JAMESJOYCE (Irish novelist celebrated on Bloomsday (June 16)). 

I am one of those "Givers of priceless gifts" (ORGANDONORS), or, that is to say, I one day will be. Hopefully not too soon, POR favor. And my friend ORS had a company called ORYX once. He's one or two companies beyond that now.

I don't know. This one seemed a mix of easy and hard for me. How's that for hard-hitting, insightful blogging? 

- Horace

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Thursday, September 21, 2023, Dan Caprera

Fun start to the Turn today, with six answers going south. To me, the resulting crooked answers can also look like geese on the wing, only here they'd be flying out the northeast corner, which isn't perfect, but still, I like it. Another thing I especially liked is that all the second halves were clued on their own. Some of the beginnings were left as non-words, but there was no reason to use dash clues, because they actually did work, you just had to figure out how. Nice.

The trickiest of the six theme answers for me was "Center cut?," which turned out to be MOHAWK. Hah! 

NEC headquarters

And in crossover news, the Watergate hearings, which soon followed the "Infamous presidential denial" IAMNOTACROOK, preempted the airing of the first season of "The $10,000 Pyramid," hosted by DICKCLARK. Is Dick Clark still a household name? Does his New Year's Eve legacy continue? And was anyone else briefly confused by thinking of Michael Strahan, who hosts the $100,000 Pyramid? I was.

"Competitive poker?" was a fun clue for good ol' EPEE, and "Natural find with a cavity" was an interesting one for GEODE. "Capital of Washington?" was a stretch for ONES, and the singular GALOSH (Rubber overshoe) was odd. When I was little, we just called them "rubbers." "It's raining, put your rubbers on!" And here's a question - do SEAMEN wear rubbers? ... sorry.

Anywaayyyy... nice tricky Thursday. Just like we like.

- Horace

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Wednesday, September 20, 2023, Gina Turner

Who doesn't love a good POWERBALLAD? Well, me, apparently. When I ran through a list of the top fifty, I only knew a handful. I guess they just weren't my thing. Luckily for me, I didn't have to know any for this puzzle. I only had to know words that can precede "power" to make familiar phrases like "Black Power" "superpower," and "higher power." I wasn't familiar with "love power," but I looked it up, and the first thing that came up were two songs. Is that power enough for theme material? I guess it's like Virgil said: omnia vincit amor. And it's a nice touch that all the theme answers that can be broken apart are songs.

Is it just me, or did you all chuckle at "Who blows thar?" (SHE). Those in the Northeast might remember a restaurant called Yoken's in Portsmouth, NH, the sign for which was a neon whale with "Thar she blows!" written on it. When I was little you could order a "whale burger" that was, I believe, made with real whale meat. Sigh.

Marisa TOMEI makes another appearance today, and we get some fun trivia in "Onetime capital of Poland" (KRAKOW), "Ingredient in Roman concrete" (ASH), "Creatures that are often catadromous..." (EELS), and "Like AB negative, among all blood types (RAREST). We also get a couple of deep-cut crosswordese answers in ASCI (Saclike structures produced by fungi) and OVIS (Sheep genus). And I've never heard of GIA Carangi (considered by many to have been the first supermodel) or RENEE Elise Goldsberry (who won a Tony for Hamilton), but I really ought to know both of those names.

I'm an ADMIRER of this one.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Tuesday, September 19, 2023, Gia Bosko

It's funny, isn't it, that in order to cram in a famously long word, the width of the puzzle had to be shortened by a square. ANTIDISESTABLI SHMENTARIANISM (Opposition to the removal of ... state support from the church) is something I have heard many times (from people just wanting to show that they had memorized a long word) but never really thought much about. In fact, this is the first time that I have ever really considered the specific meaning of the word. So thanks for that, Gia.

EDIE Falco

SESQUIPEDALIAN (Having many syllables ...) is one I have never heard before. I remember when I was little we celebrated the sesquicentennial of something or other ... I can't quite remember what ... but that was 150 years, and "one and a half feet" doesn't really work for "many syllables." Maybe speakers used to be very lazy, and if they had to say anything over a single syllable they would get exhausted, so "one and a half" was enough to mean "many."

OK, let's move on. OBSTREPEROUSLY (In a noisy and unruly manner) is one that I actually did know. Maybe from SAT prep - the same reason I still know words like "dearth," "plethora," and "INURES."

I've never read IVANHOE, or MARY Shelley's famous work, but I have HADABITE of POTATO

Wow. Did I just make that stretch? It's almost like cluing IRAN with "Country whose name looks like something a marathoner might say." Perhaps it's time to go.

- Horace

Monday, September 18, 2023

Monday, September 18, 2023, Keven Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels

COLORCOMMENTARY at 62-Across explains the colorful language in TALKABLUESTREAKTELLAWHITELIE, and RAISEAREDFLAG. And speaking of flags, I learned today that the Netherlands is thought to be the first country to use a red, white, and blue flag, and that their flag inspired those of France and Russia. Now loads of countries use those colors on their flag. LECH Walesa's Poland uses only two of them, but that's not important now.

So let's see, what else... I just saw Marissa TOMEI and EMMA Stone in Crazy Stupid Love on the way back from PORTugal. It was an entertaining film to watch on a plane, filled with stories of EROS (God of romantic love). I know I don't usually include a picture of anything or anyone that I mention in the review, but I will make an exception today. 

This one went by quickly. I could tell I was moving right along, but then I had to hesitate for a moment at "Event suffix similar to '-Con'," and when I finally put in FEST and looked up at the time, it said 3:09. Sigh. Someday I might break three...

Still, the time isn't important, it's how you enjoy the puzzle. And today, it's a nice tidy theme, not ALOTOF junk fill, and a few nice bonuses like BUSYWORK and DARKMEAT. I'd be LYING if I said I preferred Monday to Friday, say, but this was a good Monday. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

- Horace

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Sunday, September 17, 2023, Jill Rafaloff and Michelle Sontarp

Sometimes puzzle references seem aimed to a particular demographic, and today's song titles all seemed aimed at me. The most recent one is, I think, DONTBRINGMEDOWN (Entreaty to Hades (Electric Light Orchestra)) (1979), and even though that was the one I was least familiar with, it was still easy enough with a few crosses. 

That said, I did enjoy the fun "Classical" clues. The best two are "Warning to Icarus" (HERECOMESTHESUN) and "Criticism of Narcissus" (YOURESOVAIN). Hah!


Not a lot of great bonus fill - REITERATE and ARMBONES aren't exactly scintillating. But I did learn that AVON is "London-based," and I ended up reading a lot about the "vocal fry range" after looking into the notation of vocal ranges, as in "Vocal range from about F3 to F5" (ALTO). And are the suspected portmanteau elements of PARSNIP "parsley" and "turnip?" And is that not the oddest clue today? I think maybe it is. The best one? I offer "Smoke detector?" (NOSE). Counter-offers?

- Horace

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Saturday, September 16, 2023, Jonathan Kaufman

Another themeless, another doubly symmetric grid, another poser of a puzzle! Fun to finish out the week on a high note.

It's funny how a solve goes. You can break in, get a lovely long answer in pat, and then feel completely stymied nonetheless. For me, I got the cross of STAGS and EGALITE (nice crossing there with the "sans" in the down clue), figured out BALDCAP and then saw 14D: What cucumber slices and seaweed can be part of? and plunked in SPATREATMENTS. Okay, I thought - this one's going to go fast! 

After running down the crosses of my long answer and only putting in 39A: Good thing to stretch out before doing yoga (MAT) (hah!), it was time to move on.

Next I got 10D: "That sound isn't just in your head!" (IHEARIT - what a strange C/AP), then IRAS and IRIDIUM (there aren't that many elements that are 7 letters long and start with I - I certainly didn't get it from the ROI clue). This led me into the SE corner, with the excellent clue 37D: They might make it difficult to compare notes (TINEARS), and now I was able to get all of the long answers in the middle.


I love GOINGTOETOTOE and 34A: Nihilistic query (WHATSTHEPOINT) is so great. I feel reminded of Lucy Van Pelt pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. HERDMENTALITY is also excellent, as are LOANSHARK and DIDASOLID. Such high quality center fill here.

The other three corners fell in the order of NW, NE, and SW to finish off. SOLANGE is Beyonce's sister. 1D: Site of a sea change? (CABANA) is cute.

The last answer I got was 35D: Credit lines? (HATTIPS). I spent many minutes after filling in the P staring at the clue to figure out why it applied. See, you tip your hat as a way of giving credit to someone. Boy, that is a stretch. 

It's been a fun week! Hope you enjoyed the puzzles as well. Horace takes over tomorrow.

- Colum

Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday, September 15, 2023, David A. Rubin and Lee Demertzis

Happy birthday to my mother! 85 years old and going strong. We'll be celebrating together in a couple of weeks.

As a little birthday gift, today's puzzle is a highly unusual grid shape. I don't recall ever seeing this setup before. There are six 15-letter answers spanning the grid, and there's a double symmetry in place. I think that the constructors have done an amazing job setting things up so that the quality of the fill is not compromised.

But let's start with those grid-spanners, with a classic ranking. As always, this is entirely subjective, but because I'm the one writing the review, it has all the imprimatur of official canon.

6. 18A: Pair for each state (SENATORIALSEATS) - I actually have nothing to complain about here, except I suppose for the fact that in common parlance we'd just say "Senate seats." Nice clue.

5. 39A: Backstabber (SNAKEINTHEGRASS) - this is really a lovely answer. Which just speaks to how good the rest are.

4. 20A: Creature prized for its long legs (ALASKANKINGCRAB) - assuming you enjoy crustaceans on your plate. I love the pair of Ks in this answer.

3. 52A: Draft announcement? (ICECOLDBEERHERE) - boy, I hear that in a Southie accent, yelled from the aisles of Fenway Park. Also great clue.

2. 16A: eBay feature (LOWERCASELETTER) - I did not see that coming! I love this clue.

1. 42A: Magic 8-Ball response (SIGNSPOINTOYES). Magic 8-Ball responses will always come out on top.


In the fill, there's fun stuff like HELLSNO, 14D: Some complainers in modern lingo (KARENS), and 37D: They're smart these days (PHONES). Also note there are no 3-letter answers in the grid at all.

Pretty amazing!

- Colum

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Thursday, September 14, 2023, Vasu Seralathan

Good morning, and welcome to The Turn, the set of three challenging puzzles we get from Thursday through Saturday. It's a bright and sunny day here in upstate New York, a perfect opportunity to get into... math?

Sure, why not. The theme today is SOLVEFORX. The clue alerts us to the fact that 5 squares in the puzzle are tricksy. It turns out that the letter X is used five times to mean different things in one direction (and to be an X in the other direction). We've seen puzzles play on this concept before, so let's remind ourselves what the letter can stand for:

1. A kiss (14A: Affectionate gesture that might get some blowback? (AIRX)) - fun clue, too!

2. The mathematical operation of multiplication, or "times" (13D: 60 minutes, for example (XPAN)).

3. A strike, as in bowling (35A: Tenants' collective protest (RENTX)).

4. A cross (55D: Sport with a stick (LAXE)).

5. The number ten (53D: Rabbit ears, e.g. (ANXNA)).

In addition (see what I did there?) we get 10D: Problem that may have several factors (EQUATION), and 38D: Unknown quantity in a 10-Down (VARIABLE), as well as 17A: Where students may be plotting (MATHCLASS) to round out our early morning math quiz.

An example of SARIS

Did anybody else blithely put in BASSoon at 8D: Low-pitched woodwind (BASSSAX)? That took me a minute or two to unravel, but the rest of the puzzle went pretty quickly.

Some fun clues with 9A: Noted figure in genetic research (HELIX) - not a person but a shape. 20A: Customer service state? (ONHOLD) hits awfully close to home. I liked ISRAEL crossing the DEADSEA (seemed apt), and so close to a RABBI! Happy Rosh Hashanah, everybody, a day or two early.

- Colum

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Wednesday, September 13, 2023, Guilherme Gilioli

Not to overshadow a fun Wednesday puzzle, but the big news out of Albany, NY is that I won't be in Albany for much longer! After many years, I have taken a new job in Hackensack, NJ. I will be starting there in January, so big changes coming down the line.

As for the puzzle, I was surprised at how challenging I found this grid, mirroring the theme answers too literally. I was well over my average Wednesday time. How about you?

It's a great theme, though, where the answers inadvertently answer the questions posed in the clues. Thus, 19A: Paradoxical answer to "What is 'Golf' in the NATO alphabet?" (GEEIDONTKNOW) - see, the answer is the letter G. Similarly, the meaning of the Russian word "Nyet" is "no," the source of oil (in many cases) is a "well" and the island between Ireland and Great Britain is the Isle of Man.

It's a classic Wednesday style theme, neither in the relatively simple camp of Monday and Tuesday, nor in the super tricksy camp of Thursday. And I think Mr. Gilioli carried it out beautifully.

Some areas of difficulty for me today included wanting Redye for 24D: Change from green to red, maybe (RIPEN); wanting mAsK for 7D: Scuba need (TANK); wanting longA for 30D: Start or end for Alexa? (SCHWA); and putting in ateUP for EATUP. It was just one of those days. Perhaps a lack of sleep is contributing to this solver's muddled brain.

One thing I would love to do in my life is to play Franz LIZST's "La Campanella." It is fiercely difficult and extremely beautiful when played well. It also featured in "Station Eleven," which we recently watched with Cece on HBO. 

- Colum

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Tuesday, September 12, 2023, Ella Dershowitz

Hee hee... I do like a silly pun. Much like the other bloggers in this column, I think you'd all agree. 

I didn't pay any attention to the circled letters as I was solving. It was going by too quickly. I hit the revealer at 37A: Aquatic denizen ... or a phonetic hint to this puzzle's circled words (SEACREATURE), and didn't bother to look at the answers. I figured they'd be animals that live in the ocean, and thought no more of it.

When I finished the grid, and looked back, I saw the four organisms in question: a SPONGE (reminds me of Auntie Mame), an URCHIN, a TURTLE, and... a MONKEY?! Because, you see (see what I did there?), the creatures are formed by their circles into a letter C, thus becoming C-creatures. Hah!

I almost don't care about the rest of the grid after that. I laughed out loud!

There's a PULSAR somewhere in there

Okay, so. Yeah, the rest of the puzzle. Of course, there's going to be some difficulties due to those triple-checked letters in the circles. But honestly, Ms. Dershowitz avoids a lot of the challenges with some well placed black squares in the NE and SW. ORTS and UTILE are classic old time crosswordese. AER was fine, and NARUTO is a classic manga. So really no complaints to speak of.

And we also get a nice nod to the amazing Patty LUPONE, some fun math EMPTYSET bits, as well as the classic ANKARA and Anne BOLEYN (referenced by the musical Six, which we saw in London. It was not at all what I expected, and highly enjoyable. And highly LOUD).

Which character in Hamlet is not a DANE? Fortinbras. There's your ROI for the day. (Also some minor characters from Norway and England, but they don't even have names.)

You're welcome.

- Colum

Monday, September 11, 2023

Monday, September 11, 2023, Hoang-Kim Vu

Good morning everybody, on a Monday that is the anniversary of a dark day in American history. I can't believe it's been 22 years since that morning. Maya Angelou's poem that is the theme of today's puzzle reminds us of how terribly short this nation has fallen in upholding the ideals that inspired its founding. But we can continue to aspire and strive.

STILLIRISE is beautifully illustrated in several ways. The most salient is the diagonal southwest to northeast line of circled Is, but the other way is as kind of anthropomorphized self-descriptor for 17A (BREADDOUGH), 28D (BALLOONIST), and 57A (UPANDCOMER), three objects that definitely rise. 

Also, did you notice that the grid is devoid of the letter I outside of the circled ones (and the two in the revealer answer)? That makes for an extremely tight theme. Color me impressed!

LOU Rawls

The grid starts with the classic Dad humor NACHO cheese. There's a tiny mini-theme of camera related stuff with SLR and LENSCAP. Mr. ALBERT Einstein, lately portrayed in Oppenheimer to good effect, makes a nice appearance.

18D: Word before tape or after tear (DUCT) is a great example of this kind of clue. I usually find myself stymied by them, because my brain wants so much to make the two words in the clue work together, when it is the exact opposite you need to do. Also, I wanted the noun "tear" to be the verb "tear," which made it impossible to figure out.

Fun Monday grid.

- Colum

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Sunday, September 10, 2023, Adam Wagner


Gosh, it feels like a long time since I sat down to write a review. Thanks Philbo, for a fun week of blogging! Here in the muggy muggy New York upstate, it's nice to settle down with a good puzzle for a bit.

Today, Mr. Wagner plays a fun game with detours in the grid, which are represented with striped orange squares for the spaces you can go around. The clues contain both the original entry and the detoured entry, where you would go around the striped squares. Very nicely, every detoured segment (in gray squares) is a synonym for something you could steer a car down.

Thus, 22A: Dickens clerk DETOUR: Theatrical success (BOBCRATCHIT / B[ROADWAY]HIT) has the term "roadway" highlighted below the detour squares. I love USBORDERS / USB[DRIVE]S as a beautiful reparsing of those first letters, abbreviated in each answer. FILMSPEED / FIL[LANE]ED is lovely because of how "lane" is broken up across three answers. 

ELASTICBAND / E[STREET]BAND is not quite as good just because "street" is not hidden at all in the second answer. Still, the reparsing of the word "band" is clever.


Any puzzle which crosses HODGEPODGE with BADASSERY is going to get a thumbs up from this reviewer. My esteemed co-reviewer Horace probably enjoyed the pairing of APERTURE and FILMSPEED

4D: Hunt-and-peck types? (BIRDSOFPREY) was a fun clue, and it was also a fun movie, it turns out. 97A: Cells are covered in it, in brief (BIO) took me forever to figure out that they were talking about the subject in school.

I'm a big fan of the song "Come on, EILEEN," but I will not suggest that JOSEF Strauss should be considered in the same breath as his brother Johann (or even in the same neighborhood as their unrelated co-composer, Richard). 

- Colum

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Saturday, September 9 2023, Robert S. Gard

This was a fun and fairly straightforward puzzle today, made trickier by some errors right off the bat.  As I progressed and encountered one uncommon letter after another, my hopes of a Pangram grew - and it almost got there, missing just a 'J' in the grid.  I feel for the setter - he probably tried quite hard to find a place to fit that letter in.  A slight whiff of a LGBTQ theme as well, with QUEERTHEORY, GAYEST and (dare I say) FAIRY making appearances.  

What tripped me up (somewhat) was trying to be too cute on the very first clue, "Many opera villains, traditionally".  BASSI wouldn't fit so I entered BASSOS instead instead of the more straightforward BASSES.  Quickly followed that up with HOVERCRAFTS for "Some futuristic personal transports".  D'oh!  HOVERBOARDS it was.  With that damage repaired, progress became smoother.  I liked "Clipper's bounty" (COUPONS) as I was misled by thoughts of marine piracy.  

OVA ("Monthly releases?") was clever, and "Folds" was a good misleading clue for CAVES.  I found GOODFELLA acceptable for "Family man?", although I had to think about it a bit.  KELVINS was a welcome bit of physics as a unit of temperature.  The core part of my Master's research, back in the day, was to cool a certain crystal down to a few Kelvins, apply a gigantic magnetic field to it, and then bounce neutrons off it to see what would happen.  ("Spin waves", is what.)  All very elaborate, looking back.  

On the educational front, I did not know the aforementioned QUEERTHEORY was an actual branch of study.  BEREA as "the first coed/racially integrated college in the South" was new to me.  I had never heard of "Whim-whams" (NERVES).  Not having ever watched Greys Anatomy, LEXIE was an unknown.  So I come out of the other side of this puzzle a better man!  :)

Thanks for the week!  Tomorrow the esteemed Colum takes the reins...


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Friday, September 8 2023, Rachel Fabi and Ken Stern

Well, here we are at the start of the "turn", where the crosswords become themeless and consequently, somewhat harder to blog (and to solve).  My approach becomes, instead of riffing away on the theme, more of a narrative on how the solve went, snags and pleasant discoveries along the way.

To wit: I got a great start to today's puzzle with TORTELLINI, the pasta whose shapes are reminiscent of little cakes.  (My wife's half Italian, so this was a gimme.  It's her birthday today!  Happy birthday, dear wife of mine!)  The NE corner yielded quite readily after that, even though I had BTEAM not CTEAM for "J.V. benchwarmers" and, with the 'L' in place, wrongly guessed ELIOT as the playwright of "Three Tall Women".  (It's ALBEE, as I quickly discovered.  When it comes to my knowledge base, the play is not the thing 🙁 )  EARLYBIRDS (recipients of dinner "specials") set the whole thing straight...

And so it went.  I liked THELITERALWORST ("Awful, awful, awful").  BOO for "Scare quote?" was kinda weird.  The FIC "Skip it!" (ROPE) got a smile.  But the best was at the very end - "X, as in Ximenes?" (BESO) - brilliant!  Took me a while to clue in, and I had RAWSTORY instead of RAWSCORE in the crossing clue "Figure that's not weighted" - duh! - which led to a whole two minutes poring over the SE corner and a very unremarkable 8:31 solve time.

Also liked the misleading "You might take one to a new friend" (SHINE), and I didn't immediately see "One-a-day, for Dunaway" as the SPOONERISM it was.  Never heard of an "al pastor" TACO or JET magazine, or the hormonal IUD MIRENA for that matter.  Live and learn!

Overall a fun challenging solve.  See y'all tomorrow!  Ordinarily I blog these crosswords when they come out, the previous night, but Saturday's will be posted later because Friday evening I will be celebrating a certain somebody's birthday!  

Ciao for now!


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Thursday, September 7 2023, Ryan Patrick Smith

Methinks the setter doth protest too much!  Today's puzzle has a suspiciously synthetic theme - a lot of ominous references to the world of robotics and artificial intelligence, apparently clued by an AI which has reached a sufficient level of self-awareness to throw in a whole bunch of clumsy misdirection to convince you, the solver, that it is actually a human doing the setting.  Just the kind of tactics you'd expect from a robot, or android, to throw us off the scent.  The scent of overheating silicon, that is!  

Really, this was a whole lot of silly fun.  The theme clues are all quite lengthy, each containing "I'm a real human, honest!"-type disclaimers, so I won't transcribe them here.  In addition, though, there are other little "slips" sprinkled throughout the grid, as though our mechanical setter just can't help revealing its coe identity.  Hilarious!  The whole thing starts out with IROBOT, which the setter assures us he isn't - and culminates in TURINGTEST, the famous thought experiment conceived by computer pioneer Alan Turing, as an indicator of the "intelligence" of a machine.  Of course, the setter assures us that he'd pass the test, and why wouldn't he - he IS a human after all :)  I rather think that today's AI such as ChatGPT would pass the Turing Test with flying colours, certainly by the standards originally conceived.

Much to appreciate in the rest of the grid, as well.  I think my favourite QMC was the brilliant "What often has a heart beat?" (SPADE).  And in yet another possibly unintentional reveal, "Two, for the binary number system" (BASE) refers to the ones and zeros that comprise the very lowest level of a computer's operating system - its brain, if you will.  A real human would know that a prankster says "GOTCHA", not GOTYA, but of course it wouldn't have fit into the grid in its "correct" form.

Full disclosure - FWOE today, thanks to OHOK instead of AHOK for "I get it now", which survived a careful review of the puzzle post-solve.  NERTS to me!

I'm not doing this puzzle the justice it deserves.  Good work Mr. Smith!


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Wednesday, September 6 2023, Blake Slonecker

To this puzzle I say, "Right on!!"  In a very clever homophonic juxtaposition, Mr. Slonecker has taken four common phrases, each containing one of the four homonyms of the word RIGHT, mixed the RIGHTs around among the phrases to create new made-up ones, and then invented clues to fit the mutations.  And so we get...
  • GHOSTRIGHT not GHOSTWRITE - "Cut off communications, but do it nicely?"
  • CIVILWRIGHTS not CIVIL RIGHTS - "Cordial shipbuilders?"
  • WRITESOFPASSAGE not RITES OF PASSAGE - "Pens a seafaring tale?"
  • RITEBROTHERS not WRIGHT BROTHERS - "Sacramental friars?"
All of this SOUNDSGOOD, per the revealer in 57A.  I find it whimsical and humourous and fully approve!  

Outside these permutational shenanigans, I found this grid a bit of a challenge.  Not sure why, as everything seems fair and KOSHER... I appreciated SHOULDI ("Fence sitter's question") as an inventive way to get a word into the grid ending with the letter 'I'.  Of course ESSO was a gimme for this Canuck.  I had forgotten that SITONIT has its origins with the Fonz.  I think I'll try saying it around the office tomorrow.   My older colleagues will get it; the young 'uns will be mystified.  I may try WKRP out on them, as well.

This and that : Can someone tell me why Con Ed is UTIL? ... I find AROAR a bit of a space-filling groaner ... "Lightens up" is IRRADIATES?  Ummm... okaaay.... I was all ready to cavil at a SKOR bar being a shelfmate of a Health bar, but caught myself just in time - it says Heath not Health - a bar I've never heard of, apparently quite similar to the aforementioned Skor.  So ok fine, then 🙂

Loved this puzzle overall.  Hope you did too!


Monday, September 4, 2023

Tuesday, September 5 2023, Alan Siegel

An interesting and informative Tuesday offering today - with SYMBIOSIS the theme!  Three intersecting pairs of answers are living things which mutually benefit from each other's existence:

  • CLOWNFISH lure prey to ANEMONEs, which in turn provide stinging protection.

  • TICKBIRDs repay RHINOs for their skin-borne insect meals by keeping an eye out for poachers.  (This one is interesting in that it is such a recent arrangement, evolutionarily speaking..)

  • FRUITBATs feast on the fruit of the FIGTREE, and in doing so, spread their seeds.

CHOCOLATE and PEANUT BUTTER also come to mind, but there was no more room in the grid, plus it's a little off-theme (but, mmmmmm 🙂)

I like this kind of edifying theme.  (Certainly didn't know about tick birds!)  Neat to have them fit together like that.  

Other fun stuff on the way:  "Optical device with segmented mirrors" is an interesting, modern way to describe a TELESCOPE.  Certainly it applies to the James Webb Telescope, which continues to astound, sitting out there in its Lagrange point.  "Arm wrestler's bone of contention" (ULNA) was cute.  I liked the MORAY reference.  The last few times I've vacationed down south, I've been lucky enough to find + photograph moray eels, with their spotted skin and menacing underbites.  Two "Absolutely"s in a row was a nice touch!  Finally, when was the last time any of you put your thumb into a disctionary's NOTCH?  It's been a long time for me.  

Speaking of time, this took me a zippy 3:01 to complete.  (The crossword, not the review)

Until the morrow my friends!


Monday, September 4 2023, Tom Pepper and Zhouqin Burnikel

Hello and happy Labour Day everyone!  I'm back after a lengthy hiatus from the crosswording world.  Apt to climb back into the saddle with today's alpinist crossword, in which the theme answers end in mountain climbing obstacles, in plausibly ascending order.  I guess our climber is ascending the east face of the mountain!  

I blame rustiness for my very first entry in 1D - "ITSONME" instead of ITWASME as a sheepish mea culpa, which bogged down the entire NW corner, and led to a hunt-and-peck kind of solve for me, instead of my more usual flow down the grid.  Really not much that stood out, upon review.  Looking for extra-clever or misleading clues, and not finding much of anything.  I think for 5D, I might have clued LOO as "Elton's john?" instead of "John for Elton John"...  As a Canuck, I had never heard of OAS ("Western treaty group") but that was no impediment thanks to the straightforward crossers.

Maybe it's just me (of course it's just me!!) but I didn't love this puzzle.  I get my kicks from a bit of cleverness and I thought it was in short supply today.


Sunday, September 3, 2023, Dylan Schiff


This Sunday's theme uses old-school rebuses to play with four computer terms, then uses four more answers to explain what's going on. As in 22A: "Derby, for one" (HAT[EMAIL]). The answer to 22A is HAT, and 65A: "What a paper clip may indicate online ... as represented in 22-Across" explains the rest. And then, as a bonus, HATEMAIL is also a thing on its own.  

35A: "Chicago neighborhood with a namesake zoo" ([LIN]COLNPAR[K]) is combined with 100A "It may lead to a 404 error page ... as represented in 35-Across." Or, a "broken link." It's a fun little theme.


In non-theme material, BRANDISHES (Waves aggressively) and CANDOR (Honesty) are good words. ILLUSAGE (Bad treatment) is nice and stuffy. "Diamond theft" was a tricky clue for STOLENBASE, "Paris is found in it" was a good one for ILIAD, and I'm not sure I've ever seen "Zhuzh (up)" (SPRUCE) spelled out before. Zhuzh... yeah, I guess that's good.

In QMCs, "Tours with?" (AVEC) is a classic, and I thought "Match making?" (FIRE) was clever. "Something that's hand-cut?" (DECK) was trying a little too hard, but "Unionized" (WED) was solid. And "Amazon wrappers?" (BOAS) might have gotten a chuckle.

I think Philbo will be back for the Monday review. I'm not 100% sure though, so you might be seeing me again. And while I'm here, I'll just say that São Miguel is a beautiful island. We've been having a lovely time here, but it's off to the mainland tomorrow. Lisbon and Porto. 

Hope you're enjoying the last of the summer.

- Horace

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Saturday, September 2, 2023, Rebecca Goldstein

Although definitely not a "No-brainer?" this puzzle solved smoothly, but with a satisfyingly level of challenge. I didn't always get the answers right away but filled in the grid little by little, with the northwest being the toughest and final section for this solver. I was stymied until I finally woke up and got ZOMBIE at 1A, which broke the things open for a final solve time of 22:15. Once I got it, I liked "One means of gaining access" (BADGE). MOODSWINGS is good fill. 

"Lost at strip poker" (GOTNAKED) was funny. I also enjoyed "Gives a leg up" for BOOSTS, "Mantel piece" for URN and"One crossing the line" (SCAB). "Gets dirty" for SOILS was good, too, in a way.


The pair of "triangular" clues - SEDGE and EPEE was neat. OTOH, One answer that was too much for this solver was TRIPLETAKE. That must be some shock to be one more than the usual double take. Another oddball for this solver was "They may be held during the national anthem." Without any crosses to conunterindicate, I first tried noteS, but the answer turned out to be BRIMS - not that hats don't have brims, but that's not the first thing I think of saying I'm holding when I remove a hat. I also didn't know that a "Nickname that can be a diminutive of a family member" is TITO.

Any chance that FLUTE ("Alternative to a tulip glass") is a tie-in with Connections? Not a spoiler - I'm referring to yesterday's edition.

On a personal note, I'm feeling temporarily SETFORLIFE while on vacation here. One might even say I'm in GOBLINMODE, gorging on pineapple and CHEEZITS, but you won't catch this word nerd ordering GARLICFRIES.


Friday, September 1, 2023

Friday, September 1, 2023, Robert Logan

Bom dia, dear Readers! I didn't have much trouble with the puzzle today except as far as the app itself is concerned. Day one of our vacation and I am forced to update the NYTX app from the crossword puzzle-only app to the NYT Games app. I won't bore you with the details, but the upshot was trouble in both getting to the puzzle grid itself and with the "Keep trying" and "Congratulations!" portion of the program. Sigh. 

Anyhoo, I completed the grid in about 17 minutes, but apparently had a FWOE. I say apparently because took me a while to figure out why the timer kept running, but no message appeared. Once I figured out that the still-running timer meant that I must have a FWOE, it took me another little while to find my FWOE. Turns out, I had guessed 'lES' Montgomery at 56A (instead of WES) and never checked the Down, "Index since 1896, with 'the'". Derp. Final time was 19:22, but even with a couple of minutes devoted to problem solving, that's a relatively fast Friday for this solver. 


One C/AP slow down occurred at 25A: "Disaster" where I entered duMPsterfire, thanks mostly to already having entered DYNAMO and SOLARPANELS giving me the MP. Interesting that COMPLETEMESS has the same number of letters. 

The clue at 45D featured some nice misdirection, at least for me. Even though I am currently on the continent, my mind was stateside when I read "City east of Montpellier" and it was only after I got a few crosses that I realized the answer was ARLES. Another such was "Tears up," which ended up being RENDS, but could as easily have been something like 'cries'. Neat.

I enjoyed the answer GEEKEDOUT, although I don't usually do my out own geeking over video games. Also interesting to me that HATHA means "force." References of interest-wise, I liked Alice PAUL

Well, people are waiting for me to GETSTARTED vacationing for real.