Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thursday, November 30 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic and Jeff Chen

I have nothing but admiration for anybody who can set a NYT crossword.  I wish I could do it myself, and some day I may take a crack at it, but meanwhile, I appreciate the effort and inventiveness that goes into a puzzle.  Especially the themed ones.  I am a sucker for themed puzzles.  Having said that - I found this one particularly outstanding.  I worked my way down a medium-strength grid, encountering + skipping a few answers that didn't seem to make sense, until reaching the science-fiction-y revealer : TIMETRAVEL.  Aha!  But even with that in hand, it took a bit more time to parse everything.  What the setters have done, three separate times, is to put two answers side by side, one containing a time-related word, and TRAVEL the time word over to the other answer, leaving two different answers that are *still valid words/phrases*.  To wit:
So much going on!  In case it isn't clear, the third one (my favourite as I dabbled in the latter answer back in the day) is clued "Armada ship" and "Unscripted comedy", which, absent the above wizardry, would be GALLEON and IMPROV.  See?  The travelling time-words are even taken from the "correct" side of the words!  Bravo, I say.

What else, what else ... A nice collection of amusing clues, starting with "Evidence that one is going into labor?" which, after a bit of pregnancy-related thought, turns out to be UNIONCARD.  (Funny that a few clues later, we get "Sudden contraction" (SPASM)!)  I liked "Zippers on a snowy day" (SLEDS) too.  Brought back memories of metal zippers, jammed and stubbornly refusing to open or close, that when they got cold enough, they'd sometimes freeze painfully onto one's lips.  Neat that a LAKEBED can turn into a salt flat; one thinks of a lake as a body of fresh water...  And ENZYMES ("Chemical kick starters") - a straightforward clue to be sure, but puts me in mind of the manifold miracle of what goes on inside a living thing.  Finally, "Takes in the paper?" is OPEDS, not READS.  Oh and p.s. I bet I'm not the only one who put in ARIA for "Opera piece" (it's ACTI)!

Top marks for this Thursday puzzle.  OK Friday, your work is cut out for you!


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Wednesday, November 29 2923, Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Vacillation is the name of the game today!  Four theme answers describe ambivalence in different forms, with varying levels of appropriateness; each is clued similarly as a choice being made between options A and B (and, in one case, C):

  • ONTHEFENCE - yes, quite.
  • WISHYWASHY - I see this as more of a character trait than a decision-making obstacle.
  • OFTWOMINDS - good, nice and literal
  • UPINTHEAIR - my least favourite - would normally refer to the decision, not the decision-maker.
These are all symptoms of DECISIONFATIGUE, the big revealer (sort of) bisecting the grid.  I can relate to this; I get that feeling toward the end of about half of my working days.

These indecisive clues are embedded in a fairly inoffensive substrate.  "Talking point?" gave me early pause until the crossers revealed DAIS.  (Good one!)  I liked the physics-y "Super conductors?", as you don't see MAESTRI every day.  Had to trust the crossers on GELT ("Traditional Hanukkah gift"), as that was brand new to me.  CONEY Island is a peninsula, not an island - who knew? Till today, not I.

I'm cutting this short tonight as it's been a long day and I'm running on FUMES.   Sayonara, all!




Monday, November 27, 2023

Tuesday, November 28 2023, Gia Bosko

Today we've got a chromatic rhyming theme in a left-to-right symmetrical grid, with five colour-related rhyming phrases sprinkled throughout the puzzle, one split into two side-by-side answers (MELLOW / YELLOW, Donovan's hit song from 1966).   I believe the entire point of this construction was the final theme clue, whose answer is ORANGEDOORHINGE - the closest humankind has ever come to a rhyme for the word 'Orange'.  Ha!  I bet Ms. Bosko thought long and hard about getting 'PURPLE' in there too, somehow.  

So I RELISHed this puzzle, because of the refreshing symmetry and also because it put up more resistance than usual for a Tuesday.  I was misled time and again - entering PETDOOR instead of AIRHOLE for 'Opening in a pet carrier' (#facePalm) and ODDBAL (yes, ODDBAL) not ODDONE for 'Quirky person'.  Bogged me down from the get-go, it did.  Fortunately, a few gimmies came to the rescue.  'I, on the periodic table' (IODINE) could have been clued as simply 'I', and maybe it would have, later in the week.  I don't know Uno, but crying the name could only mean ONECARD.  I still have a box of MEMOREX tapes somewhere with a bunch of '80s music on them.  Nothing to play them on any more, sad to say.  I was aware that Captain Kirk never actually said 'Beam me up, SCOTTY!'  Didn't love LATISH ("Not quite on time") - just doesn't look right to me.  I did like the clue for COLONS (appropriately, ': : : : : :') in a weird way.  

What a disjointed, rambling review!  Back at it tomorrow.....


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Monday, November 27 2023, Ricky J. Sirois

 Today's theme, hidden in a clever pun, is all about food.  Not just any food, but four dishes with something in common: each with two-word names, both words starting with the letter 'B'.  A pretty innocent theme, really, though my mouth waters whenever I read BEEFBOURGUIGNON.  Something succulent about the way the B's and the G's roll off the tongue ... but I digress.  The revealer ties it together:  "'Admittedly...', or when said aloud, a punny description of the theme answers" : TOBEFAIR.  Get it?  TWO-B FARE?  I feel like I'm being one of those annoying people who ruin jokes by explaining their punchlines.  Anyway.  The best part of the theme today was this revealer.

Elsewhere - I liked the subtly punny "Pub brawl" (BARFIGHT), and OLGA Korbut brought back memories of watching the 1976 Olympics on our brand new tiny little black-and-white TV, where she was upstaged by the transcendent Nadia Comaneci.  I liked the inventive cluing of CRATER ("Any facial feature of the man in the moon, in reality").

TSETSES ("Fearsome African flies") raised my eyebrows. I don't think this word really has a plural form, though I expect Google would prove me wrong, if I just went one tab over and looked .. 

Not much else of note.  Gentle, sub-three-minute Monday fare.

Onwards and Tuesday-wards!


Sunday, November 26 2023, Adam Wagner and Michael Lieberman

 Greetings all, from crisp cool Toronto-land!  After solving today's puzzle, I am struck with an urge to go stretch my legs (not that my legs need stretching, as those who know me will attest).  The trick today is, seven Down answers have been lengthened by an INCH - literally, by the insertion of 'INCH', transforming common phrases into punnily-clued silliness - and even more literally for me, on my computer screen, those extra 4 squares are almost exactly an INCH long.  I like this multi-level cleverness, though some of the results are quite seriously contorted.  I won't list them all out today, but here's an example:

LATESTCRAZES - perfectly fine, common phrase - becomes LATINCHESTCRAZES, clued "Reasons that South American furniture stores have super-long lines?"

I mean, really.  We're venturing far out into dad-joke land here.  Not that I mind.  I dwell in the domain of Dad Jokes, the more contrived the better.  It might be a bit much for some, though.  (Comments?)  A neat and appropriate twist, having the theme answers all being Down.

As far as the solve went - as usual, I left the theme till the very end, spidering down from NW to SE and working out from there.  I wasn't sure the very first clue "Sweeties" was going to be BAES, so left it at first, but sure enough...  Didn't love SNEERY for "Visibly scornful" - a bit of a hack, there.  Moving diagonally down, I was fully misled by "Release, as a trailer", thinking it had to do with the movies, so the eventual unveiling of UNHITCH was a pleasant "aha".  I needed all the crossers for UTAHUTES ("Brigham Young football rival") - nice construction there, and in the neighbourhood of the most difficult section for me.  I don't visit Natick very often, but the crossing of "Classic name in wafers" and "The ____ Honors (annual picture book awards)" was just about the end of me, even with NE_CO and _ARLE in place.  Fortunately, I twigged to "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and filled in NECCO and CARLE. NECCO must be an American thing, or I don't get out shopping enough (or I'm in the wrong aisles).  This is the sort of thing that just kills at the ACPT.  

Other stuff - SANDALTANS ("Reasons to wear socks post-vacation") was a new one .  Oooo...kay.  ICOSAGON ("20-sided shape") was neat.  Nice to see that word get some air time, instead of its sexier, higher-dimension sibling ICOSAHEDRON...  "One who doesn't have a prayer?" (ATHEIST) - super subtle editorializing maybe?  I'd never heard of YEET ("Hurl with gusto, in Gen Z slang") - guess I'm one or two Gens too old.  And my favourite of the day, just next to that one - "One might improve a pupil's performance" (MONOCLE).  Are monocles a thing any more?  At all?  

Found this a bit tougher than the usual Sunday fare.  Sometimes there's a slight wavelength difference, I find.  All in all, though, fun and no serious gripes.

See you tomorrow!


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday, November 25, 2023, Jeff Stillman

Today's puzzle had a little more meat on its bones, if you will. The solve took me twice as long as yesterday's, partly because I ran into several problem areas. The worst included "Illinois city near St. Louis" (ALTON) and "Actor Rutger ____ of 'Blade Runner'" (HAUER), both crossing "1972 hit whose singer claims to 'know a place'" (ILLTAKEYOUTHERE) - threatening a one-way ticket to Natick. Another problem area involved the crossing of "Network descended from the first national 'superstation'" and the oddish "Rougher-than-usual instance, as of a head cold or thunderstorm," which turned out to be TBS and BADONE. Why 'bad one' is particular to head colds and thunderstorms I will, perhaps, never know. Anyhoo, the gray cells KEPTUP their charge this morning, eventually rerouting the Natick-pportunities to their correct destinations, and I was ABEL to FILLIN all squares after 31 minutes, 27 seconds. 

I first thought of 'Popeye' for "Olive lover?" but then I counted the squares. A false start of 'godS' for "Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune" instead of ORBS in that same area made it difficult to see BLUTO until I re-TOONed my thinking. Nice for Olive to have two WOOERS.

Some of the fill was a little choppy like EEEE, ENNE, MIS, RES, RECTI, and the oddly pluralized DNAS, but the exciting long answers and some fun shorter fill like HISSY, MAPLE, and SPOOF made up for it. The long answers I especially liked were  SCRAMBLETHEJETS and THEPLOTTHICKENS. ROIs for this solver included the French answers ETE and LAI - I was looking at Les Lais de Marie de France on Wednesday! - and everyone's favorite, the SMILEY. :)

The pattern of the grid was interesting. While it might not win an IMAGEAWARD, it made me think of a chocolate chip pancake, and what's not to LIKE about that?


Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday, November 24, 2023, Rafael Musa

After expending enormous effort yesterday on eating as much as I could, it's no surprise that I felt a bit sluggish this morning. Fortunately, that feeling didn't translate to my puzzle performance. I completed the grid in a relatively sprightly (for me) 14:13. 

The one section that gave me trouble was the northeast. "Something a birthday determines" is a very broad category! I don't pay much attention to my own or the STARSIGN of others, so that possibility didn't exactly leap to mind. "Back in" for RETRO was tricky for me, as was the clever QMC "Bad lighting?" for ARSON. Also, for some reason, my mind went in the direction of science lab instead of medical facility for "Workers who must maintain a sterile environment, in brief" (ORNURSES), but other answers eventually NUDGED me in the right direction and I made a full recovery.

But elsewhere, some of the fill seemed surprisingly easy/straightforward for a Friday puzzle, like "Bygone ___" (ERA), "Bury" (INTER), and "Colorado ski mecca" (VAIL), plus several others in the southeast corner: "Hydrogen sulfide has a distinctive one" (ODOR), "Something 'Jeopardy!' gives you" (ANSWER), and "Mr. ___ (1983 Styx hit)" (ROBOTO) - although, that may have something to do with my age. :)


I dropped in EYESHADOW "What might cover a lid," which seems like it should be tricky, but when you think about it, what else could it be? Of course, I liked NERDFESTS, and perhaps, ergo, TAXON. :) I also enjoyed "Come to a point?" for NARROW and my favorite of the day: "Present-day vehicle?" (SLEIGH) - ha! EGGHEAD, PROVISO, SCHISMS, SUEDE, and EXUDED are fun words.  

I'm thankful for the NYTX in general, and a fun, easy-to-digest puzzle after yesterday's gastronomic and social exertions. 


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thursday, November 23, 2023, Vasu Seralathan

It's a busy day, but I'm squeezing in a little time to talk turkey about today's puzzle. I'd like to be able to say I gobbled up this puzzle, but, in fact, I was a bit slow to catch on to the trick of it, despite the fact that I love the kind of visual word puzzle represented by the four theme answers. The first one I got was GUTBUTSING depicted by the clue "BEL LY" - ha! I thought they all deserved a seat at the table, with EYEOPENING (OPTO-) and "MAR" (ARMTWISTING) being my other two favorites. 

Although not specifically Thanksgiving-themed, we get a nod to today's festivities with 1D: "Site of what many regard as the first Thanksgiving" (PLYMOUTH). Perhaps, in some cases, other apt entries might be CHAR ("Grill past perfection"), LADLE, and, hopefully, OOHED ("Audibly enthused").

Talking turkey

In addition to the fun main course, there was lots of added gravy. I enjoyed the simple SMASH for "'Hulk' action, the C/AP "Emphatic type" (BOLD), "One taking the lion's share" (HOG) - heh - and a personal ROI, "What the Dutch call 'klompen'" (CLOGS). "Pan, e.g." was, or could be, nicely misleading, especially today, but I had enough letters in place to see GOD. Also, how about the constructor yamming it up with the pair "Knock-off weapon" (LANCE) and "Hunting tips?" (SPEARS)? :)

Well, dear Readers, speaking of spears - the pickle variety! - I have to get on to other DOINGS. I'll be back tomorrow if I am not too stuffed to type. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Wednesday, November 22, 2023, Will Pfadenhauer

If there really were a sport called ODDBALL, I might finally become a sports fan. It could be fun to see players RUNWILD, CATCHOFFBALANCE, or THROWOUTOFWHACK. Would play involve an eccentric orb bit? And would it be played on an uncommon? Maybe the idea will take off. Who knew quidditch would became a thing?

Overall, this puzzle was a little sporty and shoot-y spice for my personal tastes. (AMMO, THEBREWERS, Mel OTT, BBGUNS). To be fair, though, there's a COMBO of other varied topics including GWEN Stefani, MALBEC, SALSA, DIODE, and IDES, to name a few, plus some fun, unconventional vocabulary in both clues and answers. I particularly enjoyed besmirch, Xenomorph, hogwash, and everybody's favorite, THRIFT. Am I right?

C/AP-wise, I enjoyed "Progressive rock?" (MOLTENLAVA), "Busyness representative?" (BEE), "Like Christmas lights after December 25, often" (ONSALE), and "Sanctuary against extinction" (ARK).


Not that it super matters, but I thought the clue paring of Santa and the Tooth Fairy as entities most active ATNIGHT was a little incongruous because 'at night' seems to indicate a more general situation, which applies to the Tooth Fairy, who could be active any night of the year, but applies less well to Santa, who is famously active only one night a year. Talk about NIT picking!


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Tuesday, November 21, 2023, Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels

Today's theme was a real gas, with the ends of FOUR answers being types of beans (FREIDAPINTO (actress), UBERBLACK (who knew such a thing existed?), the amusing AIRONTHEGSTRING ("Bach piece whose title sounds a bit risque" - ha!), and ROYALNAVY - a bean fit for a king!). The revealer was the amusing BEANCOUNTER ("Corporate number cruncher who might be interested in the ends of 17-, 26-, 37-, and 47-Across?). 

Although already full of beans, even more fiber was supplied by two servings of broccoli: FLORET and RABE. Be-leg-u-me, it takes real guts to process that much roughage. Thankfully, to make it all come out right, there's a lot of muscle provided with the aforementioned ROYALNAVY, plus SEABEES, USARMY, and Air Force ONE

A mung my other favorites today were "Stately potato?" (IDAHO), "Do some grapplin'" (RASSLE), "They'll show you the world" (GLOBES), and "Chess announcement." (CHECK). Filling-wise, I enjoyed RELIC, CASK, REPUTE, and YAWED.


How about the surprising return of Fannie MAE? I also wondered about the clue for 1A: "Highly rated March telecast, with 'the.'" I thought everyone found the OSCARS telecast too long and boring - maybe that's just me. I suppose, "highly rated" might not refer to STAR power, but to number of viewers. If that's the case, then soy be it.


Monday, November 20, 2023

Monday, November 20, 2023, Sam Ezersky

It's funny to me that today's theme re-parses the name of the 5th U.S. state because I often find myself pronouncing it as if it were said, 'Connect i[h]cut'. Why? No clue. But, this puzzle supplies several answers in which the letters I C U T connect with others to form common nouns or phrases, including PICKUPTHEPHONE and PLASTICUTENSIL. Quite the art of the state.

Idaho why, but today's puzzle solve time was way above average for a Monday for this solver. I wasn't particularly going for speed, but a misstep at 1A - usa instead of the correct AVA, and a precipitous ending of 'plURALISM' at 40A (MULTICULTURALISM) - didn't do me any favors. 

Alaska, my assessment of today's C/AP (clue/answer pair) aptness level was on the low side. "Room under a roof" (ATTIC) kind of bothered me. Is an attic really a room? And "Gobble down" which seems so vividly active and almost greedy turned out to be plain old EAT. I thought CINCH for "Sure thing" was also a bit troubling. SILKHATS for "Some high-end headwear" seemed somewhat rando. But, maybe it's a mini-theme, along with LUXURY and PATE ("Hors d'oeuvres spread). 

Nevada one to end on a low note, I thought "Brings on staff" for HIRE was good. I was also happy to see TES for "French for 'your'" instead of the usual (and rather less usual) a toi. I enjoyed "Bob, buzz, or beehive (HAIRCUT). GALORE, SLEEPONIT, and PLAYNICE are fine fill. 


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday, November 19, 2023, Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi



Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and today's title is a straightforward phrase for punny clues. 

Stockpile bread? - BANKROLLS
Research hors d'oeuvres online? - GOOGLEAPPS
Selects green bean casserole, candied yams and mashed potatoes? - CHOOSESSIDES
Debate roasting versus deep-frying? - TALKTURKEY
Steers the dessert cart? - SHEPHERDSPIE
Make cranberry sauce from scratch? - KICKTHECAN
Reserve the chardonnay for later? - TABLEWINE
Work on one's whisking technique? - GRAVYTRAIN
Pro tip about seasoning stuffiing? - SAGEADVICE

Pretty good set. I think some of those would merit RIMSHOTS ("Ba-dum-tss" sounds). And I always like when the theme is found in both the Across and Down answers. And in asymmetrical, fringe theme we have "Macy's Thanksgiving DAY Parade," "Slices and dices" (CHOPS), "Unspecific amount in a recipe" (DASH), and, for the organized among us, TODOLISTS (Aids in planning).


A few highlights - Shiny silver sticker? (EPEE), Things behind the Times? (NEWSRACKS), and Toddler's time out? (PLAYDATE). And in non-QMCs, It grows on trees (BARK), Locale for many cabs (NAPA), and Developing (NASCENT). That last one is just a good word, that's all. Sometimes that's all it takes. 

I enjoyed it. Frannie takes over tomorrow. Enjoy!

- Horace


Saturday, November 18, 2023

Saturday, November 18, 2023, Hoang-Kim Vu

An attractive, open grid today. We've got chunky corners and a stepped stack in the middle. Right off the bat I dropped in OCEAN (Charybdis' milieu) and OOPS ("My bad!"), but I also put in pEels for "Kitchen shavings" (ZESTS), so that slowed things down a bit. Eventually, I corrected it to find the "Modern meeting organizer" (ZOOMHOST), ESCAROLE (Radicchio relative), and TEAL (Shade named for a bird). Nice clue for SHEETPAN (Kitchen item for preparing cookies or pizza). I guess there's no reason pizzas have to be round. 


Looking back, I don't know why it took me so long to think of BIGMAC (Burger burgled by the Hamburglar). On the other hand, what the hell is a FOAMPARTY (Festivity with mountains of bubbles)? Verifying with Wikipedia... yup, apparently, the idea can be traced back to a 1932 short film featuring Louis Armstrong. Earlier this year, apparently, was the "First Annual National Foam Party Day," on June 15. You should mark your calendars now for next year!

OK, what else... Until I sit down and power stream "Game of Thrones" I will need every cross for names like SANSA (Elder Stark daughter...). Actually, the same goes for the Bible. When the answer for "Genesis woman" was more than three letters, I needed crosses. (LEAH) Heh.

Best C/AP today? "Sessions of congress?" (TRYSTS). Heh. And does that go with "Did you enjoy yourself?" (HOWWASIT). Ahem.

Actually, I did enjoy it. I wasn't really familiar with a couple of the abbreviations (HRT (Treatment for someone in transition, in brief) (hormone replacement therapy) and DLC (Gamer's post-purchase add-ons, for short) (downloadable content)), but I love thinking about the DRYSALT process (Curing technique), and the central slant stack was solid. A bit of a challenge, but Thursday's this week took me twice as long! Still... it's all good.

- Horace

Friday, November 17, 2023

Friday, November 17, 2023, Hemant Mehta

It's themeless time! Like we like. You know it's going to be a good puzzle when you start with Greek myths (HERA) (Presider over weddings). Right nearby is a REDSOLOCUP (Common receptacle in beer pong) and "The 'glitter of the snack world,' per Ellen DeGeneres" (CHEETODUST) - sounds like a party! And who doesn't enjoy getting TIPSY, or a good ol' TORRID love affair?  


LOTTOBALLS (Focus of a get-rich-quick scheme?) is clever, and the two "Knockoff" clues (PHONY and CLONE) were fun. Of the two long Downs I like "One-sided curiosities" (MOBIUSSTRIPS), but DONTREMINDME ("Ugh, yeah, I'm well aware") isn't bad. 

The QMCs were plentiful today - "Make the grade?" (ASCEND), "Requirement for getting into school?" (STUDENTID), "Canvas finish?" (TKO). And "Pot growers?" (BETS) is perfect for me today, because tonight is Poker Night! :)

Let's see ... what else? I wasn't familiar with the expression BLAMESTORM (Heated discussion of who's responsible for a failure). Blame game, sure. But BLAMESTORM? Not so much. Nor did I know that ASCOT was a racecourse. It's British, of course.

Really, though, there's very little to complain about in this one. A solid Friday.

- Horace

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Thursday, November 16, 2023, Paolo Pasco

It was on October 25, 1975 that Evel Knievel jumped 14 Greyhound buses. I watched it on TV with my brothers. He was huge back then. I didn't remember this, but Wikipedia tells me that his next big event, a year later, was in my home town of Worcester, MA. And his final jump, in Chicago in 1977, would have been over - you guessed it - 13 sharks, but he crashed during practice and broke several bones. Later in that same year Fonzie jumped over a shark on Happy Days. 


Today, an animated motorcyclist follows the "punny advice" in 3D (GETOVERIT), and jumps three rebused buses, following the circled letters of the DAREDEVIL's name. Cute. And the theme is rounded out with LIVINGONTHEEDGE (Acting dangerously, like this puzzle's subject) at the apex of the jump.

I felt like I was clearing my own high hurdle today, as the puzzle played tough. For "Going rate?" I confidently entered fAre, and when Aft worked for the crossing "Back" I thought everything was going along great. It wasn't until the very end that I tore those out and corrected them to GAIT and AGO. And I tried Capetown before PRETORIA (One of three South African capitals). It's lucky Bloemfontein didn't fit!

Other tricksy spots included "Motion propellers" (AYES), "That's the key!" (ISLE), and "Is a no-body?" (DISAGREES). Hmmmm

Nice that COLUM gets in there at 41D. :)

May you all clear your own hurdles today.

Peace out.

- Horace

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Wednesday, November 15, 2023, Gary Larson

I love a good old silly theme. Make me laugh, and I will be on your side. 

In today's theme answers, the letter Z is added to common words, names, or phrases, and the result is clued wackily. So "antigen" becomes ANTIGENZ, and then is clued with "Not a fan of postmillenials." Similarly, SANTAFEZ is clued with "Cap worn at a Shriners Christmas party?" You get the idea. 

Others include:

STAYINGPUTZ - Obnoxious houseguest?
BOWSPRITZ - Bit of water splashed on a ship's front?
MOCKINGJAYZ - Making fun of Beyoncé's beau?

Using all those Zs could cause problems, and we do end up with ZICAM (Brand of cold and allergy relief products), which I have never heard of, and SEZ ("____ who?") which is weak, but the other Zs are used well, and Mr. Larson even throws in one more at the end with "Appropriate letter to end this puzzle on" (ZEE). 

Right, so what about ZEE rest? Everything flowed well, and there were a few highlights. Namely, the old-fashioned but still amusing "Song one might flip for" (SIDEB). But the old-fashioned STEELIE (Marble made of metal) was a bit of a surprise. Am I right in thinking that no one has said STEELIE out loud in a normal conversation to refer to a marble since maybe the '40s? But I digress...

You know, I'm not 100% sure I understand "Half an orange?" Is it RED because that's half of RED and yellow, that make orange? Let me know if you have another idea.

OK, what else? Up top we have the fun clue "Handle that goes up and down?" (OTIS) :) and I enjoyed "Flies, maybe" for ZIPPERS. SOG, though, (Soak), is odd. Is that a verb? To SOG? Merriam Webster calls it "Chiefly dialectical," and they put that dialect abroad, in England. Perhaps that's why I'm not familiar with it. 

Anywhoo, as I said up top, make me laugh, and you're all right in my book. Fun Wednesday.

- Horace

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Tuesday, November 14, 2023, Matthew Linzer

Just last night we were discussing the subjunctive mood with some friends at a bar, and one of the examples we discussed was the optative subjunctive, used when expressing a wish. And what do you know - Existential Week continues at the NYTX with an examination of wishes. 


Five situations that prompt one to MAKEAWISH make up the theme answers today. 


Me, I've never heard of making a wish at ELEVENELEVEN. Is that a thing? The interwebs sure thinks so. I guess for me the only one that I really adhere to is the eyelash, because it's often someone else who notices it, and they take it off my cheek and hold it out to me saying MAKEAWISH! Other than that, I guess I usually think of something before blowing out birthday candles (not pictured), but the other ones are just normal phenomena.

I had a brief MIStake at 7D: Blunder (MISSTEP), and 25D: "I like that a LOT!" (OOOH) was a surprise. As was "Rows #13-#16 in a theater" (MNOP). Yow. Sometimes you can see where the puzzle is straining. See also the THO/EIN/TEEHEE/HIYALL section. It's always a trade-off, and today there's a lot of theme, which locks in more of the grid. But it's sometimes fun to see how constructors wriggle out of these binds, and also fun to see just what can be gotten away with. I wouldn't wish it any other way.

- Horace

Monday, November 13, 2023

Monday, November 13, 2023, Benjamin Fink

What is truth? Beauty? As Keats would have it? Is it relative or absolute? Is it - can it be agreed upon? Is it under attack? 


Today's puzzle is all about credibility. What, indeed, can we believe? A CAMPAIGNPROMISE? A CUSTOMERREVIEW? HAIRPIECES? A HOMEWORKEXCUSE?

So here's a question for you - The two plus signs in the center are connected with the theme, true or false? Me, I say false, but can you believe the REMARKS of a reviewer? CMON!

This puzzle makes me think of Keats. He died in ROME, he wrote poems with RHYME, Ode to a Nightingale begins with "My heart ACHES," and Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art ends with "And so live ever – or else SWOON to death." Plus the whole "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" from Ode on a Grecian Urn that I alluded to above...

Anywhooo... What about the REST? I had no serious complaints. I don't love YADA (When tripled, "you get the idea") all by itself there, and ESSO (Canadian gas brand) is verrrry tired. But overall, I liked it. No CAP!

- Horace

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Sunday, November 12, 2023, Garrett Chalfin


Money has the power to divide people, and today it has the power to divide answers. Five Downs are given double clues, and when they hit a unit of currency, they split apart to form two separate answers. And it's not just the unit of currency that you have to read - you have to finish going down as far as possible after the currency. So 3-Down, "Treats favorably / Has a very good effect" is DOESWELLBY if you read straight down, and DOES[WON]DERS when you follow the money. The best one might be 52D: Masters / Elaborated (EXPERTS / EX[POUND]ED). 


There's not really any reason that the split should happen at a unit of currency, and there's nothing that really connects any of the answers besides the common beginnings, but whatever. It's fine. It's a Sunday. The NYT loves themes, and there seems to be a premium on "new ideas," so we end up with things like this. 

With a vertical theme, one might hope for some good bonus material in the long Across answers, but today we get such entries as AREACODEMAPS, AMEXCARDS, LEERERS, ASSORTS, and DADGUMIT (Euphemistic cry of frustration). Yeesh.

On the up side, I don't remember hearing that a DOGIE was a "Motherless calf." I always assumed it was just a nickname for any bovine. So that's nice to know. And "What a Tyrannosaurus rex grapples with?" (SMALLARMS) got a chuckle.

Colum said yesterday that we start the week on Sunday here, but I sometimes like to pretend that Sunday is its own thing, apart from the week. Additionally, I like to follow the ISO-8601 protocol wherein the week starts on Monday. So let's just call this one a Sunday and move on.

- Horace

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Saturday, November 11, 2023, Blake Slonecker

And so we reach the end of the week. If, as we do, you start on a Sunday. And it's a nicely challenging grid for our toughest puzzle of the week. It took me nearly twice as long as yesterday's, and you can see why on opening the puzzle. The grid is made up of very large blocks of white squares, with a sort of four-leaf clover shape to it. And there's very little to sweep you from one section to another, even once you've completed a corner.

I thought the NW corner was going to be straightforward. I entered STARING first, supported by HAGRID, TINED, and ANIL. BARKLEY was a gimme, but then the rest didn't go anywhere. Although I got some answers in the NE (CHARS, PIGLET), this section was a no-go at first also.

I really got going with the SE corner, where GENEWILDER was almost too easy, along with REDNOSE. I put "idolize" in at 46A: Put on a pedestal (ADMIRED). Later I was amused to see that IDOLIZE was actually in the grid, one over from the previous answer. I like that the clue is ambiguous as to tense of its verb! In any case, 40D: Pot (GRASS) put me right, and I filled in the rest of the corner.


The SW corner fell next. 38D: Eye piece (RETINA) was a clever clue, as I was looking for some sort of aid to seeing, rather than a biological part of the organ. Another nice pairing of clues came at 50A, with "The Love SONGS of W.E.B. Du Bois" and 51A: Like the "s" in debris (but not Du Bois) (ASONANT). From this, and a Google search, I discovered that he pronounced his name as if it rhymed with "voice."

From here, I backtracked up the eastern side of the puzzle to complete the NE. It's a nice crossing of CONARTISTS and DRUGTRIALS (no hidden bias here), and 24A: Tip at a hair salon? (SPLITEND) is a fun QMC. Finally, with the ___YRS at 7D, I was able to complete the NW corner at the end. 4D: Safety, often (TACKLER) clicked, and I should have known OCTAVIA off of the clue.

Well, it's been a good week. I turn it over to Horace for tomorrow. Enjoy the late fall weather!

- Colum

Friday, November 10, 2023

Friday, November 10, 2023, Kate Hawkins

Ms Hawkins gives us a lovely smooth themeless today, the style of which reminds me of Ms Weintraub. Fun long answers, colloquial phrasings, and clever clues. It's got it all! Too bad I FWTEs...

So about those errors. I do know that PERNICIOUS is not spelled with a T, but that's what I put in. The crossing clue, 15D: Chesterfield, e.g. (COAT) should have made be re-evaluated. But I was going fast, and never looked back. The same thing happened with 9D: Degs. with lab courses, often (BSS). I went with an M for the Master of Science degree, and never looked back at MYOB.

It's that sort of thing that gets you in trouble at the ACPT...

Meanwhile, look at all of those fun answers: HITTHEBOOKS, BELIKETHAT, MORETOCOME, REALMATURE, and YOUSHOULDNTHAVE are such great phrases. Also, MINSTREL and 10D: Famed archers (AMAZONS). While Greek authors may have mythologized a specific group of female warriors, archeology has found burial sites with fully armored women in the Scythian and Hittite regions.

Some fun clues today include:

28A: Cash in the music business (ROSANNE) - nice hidden capital... in two senses! Get it? Cash? Oh well.

34A: One who's been tapped on the shoulder (SIR) - as in getting dubbed as a knight.

47A: It's true! (FACT) - I really enjoy these FICs (see our glossary in the sidebar).

22D: Rooster, but not a rooster (HEN) - really makes you wonder how the male chicken got its name...

33D: Manhattan options (RYES) - perhaps I am thinking too much about apartment hunting for my upcoming move, but it took me a few moments to get what the clue was hinting at.

- Colum

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Thursday, November 9, 2023, Simeon Siegel

Welcome to The Turn! After the early week more straightforward puzzles, the Thursday grid introduces a new level of tricksiness that makes it one of my favorite days of the week. Today's is no exception.

Opening the puzzle to see nested pairs of parentheses in four of the long across answers made me raise an eyebrow. I had really no idea what to do with these answers for quite some time, and spent some time simply entering answers as they came to me. Then I came to the revealer at 64A: Thoroughly ... or how to read the four Across answers with parentheses in this puzzle (INSIDEOUT). 

The first theme answer I deciphered was at 25A: Result of dropping a tray of coffee drinks? (SPLATTERED), which we can read as "latte platter splattered!" That's fun. The remaining also do not disappoint. CRAFTSMEN is clued as "Workers at the rear of some flat boats?" or "aft rafts craftsmen." "The other PSYCHOTHERAPIST" is the answer for "'Not that shrink!'?" and "ore cores SCORESHEET" is the answer for "Tally of samples at a geology competition?"

Very nicely done, and unexpected. 

Some great clues as well in this tricksy puzzle. My first came at 4A: One with many priors, maybe (ABBOT). I was not fooled! It helped that I had ASTI in place already. I also laughed at 16A: Spoiler alert! It's bacteria! (ECOLI). These clues are so clever and innovative.

How about 20A: Activity that involves shape shifting (TETRIS) - or literally shifting shapes around on the screen! 62A: Love of Charles Foster Kane in "Citizen Kane" (OPERA) - not a romantic interest! Finally, I also liked 42D: Indication to stop playing, perhaps (RESTSIGN). I'm imagining the musician who is taking that "perhaps" to heart. "It's just a suggestion!"

Fun puzzle.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Wednesday, November 8, 2023, Daniel Hrynick

Plus size grid on this Wednesday, at 15x16 squares, which accommodates the 14-letter answer in the middle row. The theme is song titles which have to do with destroying things, supplemented by the extra related answers SMASHHIT and DEMOTAPE. Of the three songs, there is really only one way to correctly rank them, which is as follows:

1. SLEDGEHAMMER. Peter Gabriel is one of my all-time favorite artists, and while this is not my favorite of his songs (see "Here Comes the Flood" and "Solsbury Hill"), it's a real bop, as the kids say.

2. BREAKONTHROUGH. Also not my favorite by The Doors (See "Light My Fire" for the excellent organ intro).

3. WRECKINGBALL. I've never been a huge Miley Cyrus fan, and this song is noted as the moment when she tried to shed her image as a pre-teen and teen star by making a provocative video. Still the song is a solid pop ballad, and she has a pretty amazing voice.

I FWOE'd this puzzle. I saw 61D: Durham Sch. (UNH) and immediately thought of North Carolina, so entered a final C. That school is actually in Chapel Hill. Duke is in Durham, NC. The University of New Hampshire is in Durham, NH. I suppose cOTSETS should have alerted me to my mistake, but no. I'd never heard of HOTSETS, but it makes more sense with the clue.

Many things to love in the fill here. First off, cluing SCRIBE with Bartleby the Scrivener is great. "I would prefer not to," is that character's repeated statement. 

I also love SMIDGE as a word. And 13D: How much it's gonna cost (THEDAMAGE) is lovely. Note the "gonna" as a way of cluing the slang response.

- Colum

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Tuesday, November 7, 2023, Kevin Curry and Daniel Bodily

Today's puzzle was slightly easier for me than yesterday's, by 4 seconds. And that's with seeing what the theme was during the solve.

There's some grid art, right in the middle of the lower half of the puzzle, where a T made of black squares stares out at us. It sits right above the revealer at 53D, which is to be interpreted as [T]TOPS, which finally inspired me to look up exactly what this common crossword answer is talking about. Turns out some cars had removable panels over the driver and passenger sides, leaving a metal rod over the middle of the passenger cabin. This, along with the top of the windshield, created a T, thus the name.

In the puzzle, however, it refers to how each of the five theme answers, which are in the columns rather than the rows, start with T, thus literally are T-tops. 

I am more than happy with four of the five theme answers. TBONESTEAK, TSTRAPSANDAL, TBARLIFT, and TSHIRTCANNON are all well situated in the vernacular. However... a TBALLGLOVE is simply a baseball glove. They are smaller because individuals who play T-ball are typically tiny humans. 

In any case, I love the oddities created by all of those T-consonant starts to answers. Particularly TSTR at 21D. Fun!

I enjoyed both GRAMPA and NANA (and so near to each other). Also, "Little" STEVIE Wonder was his early recording name, when he started at the age of 11. Did you know that his given name was Stevland Hardaway Judkins? He then changed it to Stevland Hardaway Morris, before being given his stage name by Berry Gordy.

- Colum

Monday, November 6, 2023

Monday, November 6, 2023, Desirée Penner and Jeff Sinnock

Back on target! Let's stay that way for the rest of the week.

Today's theme is highly inventive. The revealer comes at 56A: Where your eyes might stay during a suspenseful scene ... or the only place you'll find the "eyes" in this puzzle (GLUEDTOTHETV). 

And in fact, there are only three pairs of Is in the puzzle, each in a long across answer around the letters TV. How many answers can you find with the string ITVI? Not a lot. Nicely, each set crosses the two words in the theme answer phrases.

TRANSITVISAS and CROSSFITVIDEO are far more standard phrases that HOBBITVILLAGE. I suppose that Hobbiton is exactly that, but never referred to in that sense in the canon of Lord of the Rings. Mostly we just hear about the Shire, and a little of each settlement's names.

Anyway, it's very inventive, and I love that the remainder of the puzzle avoids the Is. 

This puzzle took me slightly longer than typical for a Monday. I'm not sure why. I think I was thinking about the theme rather than solving the grid. Or is that the way you're supposed to enjoy these? I sometimes worry that I am too caught up in trying for the best possible time that I'm not actually having fun. Or it's its own kind of fun. Who am I to judge?

I love the word BLITHELY.

- Colum

Sunday, November 5, 2023, Rich Katz


Oops! My bad. I was supposed to start blogging yesterday. I even thought about it on Saturday, but then Sunday rolled around. I blame Daylight Savings Time.

So just a quick filler review here. I thought this theme was delightful. Each themed answer has a two word clue, each of which is a homonym. Somehow, Mr. Katz has hit upon an amazing set of homonymic clues which are phrases in their own right. For example, 21A: But wait! is reinterpreted as "Butt weight," which then refers to the phrase JUNKINTHETRUNK.

There are 8 theme answers. My favorites are 112A: We won! (KINDERGARTENER), or "wee one;" 30D: Flew by (ROBITUSSIN), or "flu buy;" and 91A: Bare feet (SUPERBOWLWIN), or "Bear feat." They have accomplished it of course, Da Bears.

Fun times. Sorry about the miss. Monday's review is coming right up.

- Colum 

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Saturday, November 4 2023, David P. Williams

Hello all!  Rounding out "my" blogging week is an excellent puzzle with a vaguely spiral layout and intersecting stacks of three long answers, Across and Down, right in the middle - always an impressive feat of construction!  I actually did the solve last night but was too tired to do the writeup then and there, which is unfortunate as I've forgotten what my progression was.  I think it was scattershot instead of top-to-bottom, as Saturday puzzles generally have to be.  None of the big central clues jumped out immediately - I had to work inward from the corners to get a toehold in the middle.  The first to fall was the Olympic sport introduced in 1988 - TABLETENNIS - which I definitely consider a real sport, having seen it played by people who really know what they're doing.  If you don't fall into that category, you are required to call it PINGPONG...  After that, "Yo-yos, in a way" revealed itself (WALKSTHEDOG), which was a nice "aha moment" as I was sure it was going to be something less literal, like VACILLATES.  "We should get going" took me longer, as I was stuck on something resembling ITSGETTINGLATE.  Right ballpark : ITSTHATTIME.  By then, there was enough material that the rest of the centre fell into place.

I liked the appearance of TAGINE (Northwest African stew"), as it's a dish I make regularly for my family.  There's a certain type of pot to make it in, but quite unnecessary.  Very clever was "Acute ... or the opposite of acute" (GRAVE) - my favourite clue, I think.  "War historian's tally" (DEATHS) was kind of morbid, especially in today's fraught geopolitical climate.. The SE corner caused me the most trouble, with the misleading "Take some hits" (SMOKEPOT) and also, "Part of a mic check", which I couldn't decide was TAP or the equally valid TWO (as in, "Testing, one, two...")   Speaking of NITs, which I'm about to, "Appropriate word found scrambled in 'pedantic'" was a real reach IMO.  But nearby, I liked TATS ("They get under one's skin, informally").  I guess they do get under one's skin - under the epidermal layer, at least.  "Spring winds?" (COILS) was a top-notch, concise QMC.  "Lemon or orange" (TREE) - nice misdirection, there.  Oh - and I just now "got" the line after "On a cold winter's night that was so deep"!!  NOELS - brilliant!  Except I grew up knowing it as NOWELL..

And with that, I pass the torch to Colum. Hope you've had a good week, and "see" you in a few!


Thursday, November 2, 2023

Friday, November 3 2023, Robyn Weintraub

It's always a delight to encounter one of Ms. Weintraub's creations!  Unlike my esteemed co-bloggers, I haven't done a good job (yet) of recognizing the regular NYT crossword setters and their respective styles.  But THIS setter I know, and she really stands out for me because she seems to be right on my wavelength; and this puzzle was no exception.  Armed with this vim and confidence, I immediately threw in ELLEN as the "show that featured the first prime-time lesbian kiss (1991)."  Kinda reasonable?  But no, it's LALAW and if I looked up the running periods of these shows, I'd probably find that ELLEN wasn't even close to that year.  Anyway.  Didn't take long to clear that up, and move on to the humourous "Early home decor" (CAVEART), the silly "Producers of green eggs (but not ham)" (EMUS) and "Who talks on the phone a lot", into which MYSISTERASATEENAGER wouldn't fit, so SIRI it was.  Other great clues - ADAM is indeed the "subject of a first-person narrative" ... "Pool maker" is a really oblique way of defining TIDE ... "Bill for expensive clothing" (BLASS) was clever too.  I could go on and on!

A few areas almost tripped me up.  I'd never heard of Sephora rival ULTA before, nor NOE Valley in San Francisco, nor Sacher TORTE, made of chocolate and apricot (sounds delicious!)  Fortunately, the crossers were unambiguous - and really, TORTE is a confection-y word.  Aside from this, it was karmic flow the whole time.  5:52 for a Friday is a good time for me.  

A note on the Tower of London and its MOAT.  I visited the Tower of London a few years ago and among all the amazing things there - the dungeons, the crown jewels, Sir Isaac Newton's residence, and on and on - the most captivating for me were the resident ravens, which I could sit and watch for hours on end.  Highly recommend if you've never been!

Hope you liked this puzzle.  Thanks Robyn!  (I met you at last year's ACPT and so of course now we're on a first name basis, ha ha)


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Thursday, November 2 2023, Chase Dittrich and Christina Iverson

From the outset, today's crossword seems to be a fill-in-the-blanks exercise.  Five Across clues appear to have missing letters, starting with 17A : "Beg your pardo_".  Clearly there's a missing 'N', but it was  unclear at first what to do about it in the 10-letter answer.  My standard MO is to ignore the theme for as long as possible, and accordingly, I skipped this one and the four others until towards the end, when the Down crossers reached a critical mass and revealed what was going on:  the answers literally describe the missing letters in the clues!  Just like yesterday, I feel that this is easier to show than to describe.  To wit:

  • "Beg your pardo_" : NONAPOLOGY.  NO-N APOLOGY.  Get it??
  • "Badly dilapida_ed" : NOTTOOSHABBY.  NO-T TOO SHABBY
  • "__cretary" : NOSEJOB.  NO-SE JOB
  • "Pe___sephone" : NORSEGODDESS.  NO-RSE GODDESS
  • "Championship ___t" : NOBELPRIZE.  NO-BEL PRIZE
Don't you just love it when I pedantically spell things out like this?  Ok ok .. see if you can describe it better 😁  Anyway, this was a clever idea!  

All this niftiness was embedded in a not-too-difficult substrate, with the exception of the NW corner where "___ Inu (Japanese dog)" and "El __ Alto (ancient California redwood)" were both unknown to me; fortunately I guessed right on the intersecting 'A' with SHIBA/PALO and avoided the dreaded "Whoops" message.  

Other tricky clues .. "Quarter follower" always trips me up, even though I've seen SEMI before... "Meta field" (TECH) was not straightforward...  No jury in the land would find me guilty of negligence, for entering RAMONE instead of OSMOND for "Member of a 1970s singing family"!!  I liked that AHAB was identified by a quote from Moby-Dick..  

I don't have much more on this one.  On to tougher sledding tomorrow!