Saturday, June 1, 2024

Saturday, June 1, 2024, Thank You

The first Saturday puzzle I reviewed in this blog, on March 16, 2013, took Frannie and me, working together, an hour and thirty-three minutes to finish. In April of that year we spent nearly four hours on a David Steinberg puzzle before taking a D.N.F. Today's Saturday puzzle, which I solved alone with coffee, was done in thirteen minutes. 

Over these ten-plus years, Frannie and I have both become faster solvers. Whether Colum, who started blogging with us in 2015, or Philbo, who started last year, have gotten any faster, it's hard to say, because each was lightning fast to begin with. 

Solve times are a touchy subject. One reason I started this blog was to give a different perspective, to give average solvers a place to go where they wouldn't hear the jaded grumblings of someone who can finish near the top of most crossword tournaments. (Yes, I realize that Amy Reynaldo also finishes near the top of most tournaments. I love her blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend. We link to it on the sidebar.) I haven't written this before, but I started this as an alternative to Rex Parker. His was one of the first blogs I ran across, and I found it to be petty and sour. I won't say I've never sounded that way myself - I have more than once told the story of when I met Bruce Haight for the first time, after having savaged a stunt puzzle of his, and how he changed my mind about constructing and made me regret my angry post (Sorry - and thanks - again, Bruce) - but I think that for the most part, we have tried to present a balanced viewpoint.

But back to solve times. During one of the breaks at the 2016 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I started talking with another contestant in the hallway. We chatted for a bit, and I asked him how he was doing so far. He said the same thing I probably said to him, something like "Oh, I think I'm doing ok. I just hope I haven't made any stupid mistakes." I took note of his name, and when I had a chance to look at the leader board, I tried to find him. Turns out I didn't have to look very hard, because his name was Howard Barkin and he was sitting in third place. I found him again on Saturday night (he would win the tournament on Sunday) and I asked him more about solving so quickly. He seemed almost apologetic about the speed, saying that he wished he could go back to the way it used to be, to when he just solved for the joy of solving and didn't worry about moving on to the next clue so quickly. 

Some of my favorite memories in life involve a crossword puzzle clipped to a clipboard, being passed around on the porch on a lazy vacation morning. I can just hear my brother handing it to me saying "see if you can get 47-Across, I've filled in a few letters for you." or my dad asking "How do you know that?" to one of us. I will continue to marvel at the novel themes, and I will always smile at a clever clue, but for the next few months, I won't be writing about them. We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA have decided to take the summer off. Tomorrow I will turn off the timer feature on the NYTX app, and I will try to just solve for the sheer enjoyment of solving a puzzle. In September, we will see if we miss the blogging, and if we do, maybe we'll start up again, but I cannot make any promises at this time. 

Thank you, Frannie, Colum, and Philbo, for agreeing to write reviews with me. Thank you to all our readers. To those of you who took the time to comment (Kelly, Jim, Huygens, and others), we give you an extra thank you. But even if you have only lurked, we appreciate that you have taken the time to visit us, and we wish you all happy solving.

- Horace

p.s. If you would like to contact me about the blog, or anything at all, please feel free to email at Thanks again for reading. I wish you all a sunny, peaceful, happy summer.

- Tom

Friday, May 31, 2024

Friday, May 31, 2024, Aidan Deshong

I liked the look of this grid when I first opened it up - its chunky corners and that odd rectangular middle section looked new to me. And the fact that grids, just by themselves, can still look new and interesting after over a decade of doing and writing about puzzles, well, that's a good thing.

Meyerson Symphony Center by I. M. PEI

Sometimes, when a grid looks daunting, and yeah, I thought this one looked a little bit that way, I feel like the clues can get a little easier to help you get started. Today's CAPTCHA (One might read "Select all images with bicycles") seemed a little too much so.

"Ones dealing with joint inflammation?" (STONERS) was cute. And "Like many opera lovers" (SERENADED) was very nice. At first I was thinking about lovers of the opera, but it's the lovers in the opera. Heh.

"Dessert that rarely lives up to its name" (TART) was sadly true. But a good rhubarb TART ... that might make Aidan Deshong happy.

Trickiest trio today - "Rings" (PEALS), "Beat" (TIRED), and "Sick" (DOPE). But nothing was too, too tough, as I was done in just over ten minutes.

- Horace

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Thursday, May 30, 2024, Royce Ferguson

The outer edges of this slightly taller than normal 15x16 puzzle are stretched even more by the inclusion of four rebus squares. THEWALLSHAVEEARS as the revealer tells us, and it's true - "Routine damage" is W[EAR]ANDT[EAR], "Cry from a town crier" is, of course, H[EAR]YEH[EAR]YE, "Open and honest conversation" is a H[EAR]TTOH[EAR]RT, and - the trickiest of the four, I think, was remembering the "Investment bank that folded in 2008" (B[EAR]ST[EAR]NS). Of course, by that time you're looking for two ears in the middle, so it wasn't really all that hard. In fact, I'd say this puzzle played on the easy side. I was just over nine minutes, but I never really felt held up anywhere.


Well, I said I didn't get hung up, but I initially entered nevER for [EAR]LIER (Not now or later), and I tried to cram "iridesce" in where OPALESCE (Shimmer with an array of colors) belonged. 

Nice nod to our Canadian friends (Hi Philbo!) with "Bird on the Canadian dollar coin" (LOON). And perhaps with the "French homophone of 'haut'" (EAU). 

It's nice how JANEROE and ATECROW rhyme side by side there... and what the heck is a PREGAP?

- Horace

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2024, Jeanne Breen and Jeff Chen

Erstwhile blogger Jeff Chen teams up with Jeanne Breen on this RECIPEFOR DISASTER themed puzzle. Three mixed drinks named for destructive natural phenomena - or are they just referring to the effects of the mixed drinks themselves? - make up the theme material:

MUDSLIDE - Vodka + coffee liqueur + Irish cream + heavy cream
HURRICANE - Light rum + dark rum + orange juice + passion fruit syrup
FLAMING VOLCANO - Rum + brandy + pineapple juice + orange juice + orgeat syrup + fire

Orgeat syrup, by the way, is made from almonds and sugar, with a little rosewater or orange flower water. Originally, it included barley too, and it is from this now absent ingredient that it gets its name, as orge means "barley" in French.


SMOLDER (Do a slow burn), MEASLY (Skimpy), SLEUTH (Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot), and COPSE (Small group of trees) are all nice entries. "Hard knocks?" was cute for RAPS, and I thought "I can't think with all this racket!" was an interesting way to clue QUIET

Overall, an enjoyable solve.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tuesday, May 28, 2024, Chris Leatherberry

WATER SIGNS are the theme today. So I think of Pisces, Scorpio, and Cancer, and because I have to do the review, I spend a while trying to figure out how the signs in the grid - 


could somehow represent those three zodiac signs. But no, they are just signs that refer to water. And ok, the first and the last are fine, but "WARNINGHIGHTIDE?" Is that even a sign? Wouldn't it have to be more specific? I mean, there's a high tide every twelve hours or so. Do we need to be warned about it? But then, what other "water signs" are there? "No Swimming" "Non-Potable" "No Diving" "Flash Flood Warning" "Red Tide" ... 

And was SEWER (Waste conduit) bonus fill?

OK, so what else... how about W. E. B. Du Bois. Did you wonder why this great man is buried in ACCRA? It is partly because he was invited to go to Ghana to work on an encyclopedia of the African diaspora, and while there - aged 93 - the U.S. refused to renew his passport, so he became a citizen of Ghana, where he died two years later. 

And after reading about Du Bois, I spent quite a bit of time reading about Leopold and LOEB. I had heard their names mentioned together, but I didn't know why they were famous. I'll keep this digression short - it was murder. 

OK. The clouds are breaking and the sun's coming out and this is my last day at the beach for a while, so I'm going to leave the Wikipediaing to you, and I'll see you tomorrow.

- Horace

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Monday, May 27, 2024, Christopher Youngs

Cute theme today where the last parts of the theme answers are used to PUTONASHOW. Script, set, cast, and props. Tidy. Theme bonus material includes: CAMEO (Small role in a film), EGOT (Entertainment awards quartet, for short), CUE (Theater signal),  and possibly SCALPER (One reselling tickets).

TUNA in a salade niçoise

I thought the BEARD clue was interesting - "Symbol of marriage for Amish men." I went to the Wikipedia to look into that claim, but once I started reading the entry, I forgot all about the beards. Did you know that the Amish started in Switzerland as a splinter sect from Mennonites in about 1700? And guess what? The leader was a guy named Jakob Ammann - hence, Amish. There are almost 400,000 Amish living in the U.S. today, and yes, the strictest ones still don't wear buttons (too flashy). Who knew?

OK, I found the beard part after all. Wikipedia says: "Amish men grow beards to symbolize manhood and marital status, as well as to promote humility." They are not, however, allowed to grow a mustache, because "mustaches are seen by the Amish as being affiliated with the military, which they are strongly opposed to due to their pacifist beliefs." And since rings are not allowed (draw attention to the body and can promote pride in the individual), Amish women indicate married status by wearing a white bonnet. The sexy black bonnet is worn by all the single ladies.

So that's some of the stuff I learned about the Amish. Tune in tomorrow for another long tangent!

- Horace

Sunday, May 26, 2024, John Kugelman


I didn't know that Lady Gaga took her name from the Queen song RADIOGAGA. Interesting. And it makes me wonder how that even started... "Oooh, I like this song. Maybe I'll change my name ..." And speaking of entertainers, who knew Charlie Chaplin once did CLOGDANCING?


Anywayyyy... the amusing theme today takes normal, innocuous phrases or things and reworks them into defining insulting quote clues. Therefore, "My dog could translate an ancient Mesopotamian tablet faster than you" is called an ARCHAEOLOGICALDIG. And "Tu as le Q.I. d'une huître" is a FRENCHROAST. Très drôle, n'est-ce pas?

In the fill, BIONICARM (High-tech prosthetic) and "Sound of rejection on a 1970s variety show" (GONG) were each a nice BLASTFROMTHEPAST. I don't like thinking about PIETINS being disposable. Shouldn't the clue at least say "recyclable?" Hmph.

Favorite horizontal line - PORTEND SIRE SCOURGE.

OK. It's another lovely day on this holiday weekend. Nobody wants to read a review that goes on too long. Let's all get out there and enjoy it!

- Horace

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Saturday, May 25, 2024, David P. Williams

It's Horace today, filling in for Colum, who is at his daughter's graduation. This particular daughter, Cece, has been a guest blogger here herself a few times, and the blog wishes her all the best at her graduation and beyond.

Inside the MER de Glace

Now, to the matter at hand - could it be that Mr. Fagliano heard a few too many times at the tournament that the weekend puzzles had gotten harder? Because this Saturday didn't put up much of a fight. That's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable. The double-W start with WAMPUM and WIFFLE ball is strong, and brings me back to may days spent in the backyard swinging wildly at wildly curving pitches. And I don't know if my grandfather dug up any wampum, but he sure found a lot of arrowheads digging in the garden at his house by the river.

I don't like the clue for REROLL (Result of getting doubles in Monopoly). It's not a re-roll, it's a free second roll. Not to be an ASSHAT, but a REROLL would indicate that the first roll wouldn't count, but that's not the case. 

Anyhoo ... I did enjoy FOIST (Palm off  (on)), GAUCHE (Lacking social sensitivity), HACKS (Time-saving tricks), CRUST (Piece of the pie), and PATSY (Sap). "Lover of literature" (ROMEO) was cute, as was "Time to take stock" (IPO). 

How did you like it?

- Horace

Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday, May 24, 2024, Carolyn Davies Lynch

You're offering me a Friday themeless pinwheel grid? PLEASEDO! This is why we love THETURN!

I love these grid structures. The flow is so beautiful from area to area, and the large sections of white squares make for nice chunky intersections. The first area I made any headway on was the SW corner, starting from ARTOO, leading to MOTTO. 50A: Consequences of some serious foul play (REDCARDS) was an excellent non-QMC. My first instinct was to think of basketball (and technical fouls), probably due to the NBA playoffs going on right now.

Another really great clue is 44D: Mac maker (KRAFT). Hah! Similarly, 47A: They bring a lot to the table (WAITERS). Loaded with excellent non-QMCs.

I worked my way along the southern edge and completed the SE corner second. With two corners in place, the center started to come together. TWICEASNICE was the first long answer to fall, followed by GETTHESCOOP and then STARTERKITS. Both SOLARNEBULAS and CHACHASLIDE came at a much later point, because of my unfamiliarity with either term.

ANITA Garibaldi

The NE corner came next. SWIFTIES is so au courant, n'est ce pas? 7D: Part of a clutch (CHICK) is another great clue. 

Finally, the NW corner fell. STIMMING is a nice modern word. And 15A: One in the rite place at the rite time? (PRIEST) is a fine QMC.

Excellent puzzle. Looking forward to Saturday.

- Colum

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024, Adam Wagner

For those of you not in the know (I count myself among them), an image of BOXBRAIDS is below. But the trick of the puzzle is not in making literal box braids, but rather in braiding boxes in the puzzle so that two down answers side by side exchange their letters, making two new words. Thus 2D: Academic achievements ([DEGREES]) and 3D: Doesn't allow ([FORBIDS]) exchange alternating letters to become DOGBEDS and FERRIES

It's a fun idea, carried out extremely well. The shaded squares make the theme clearer. Would I have been able to figure it out without them? I think so, although not as quickly. I know opinions vary on the necessity of hints like this, but the puzzle took me a little longer than average for a Thursday, so I'm in favor today, at least.

I'm not certain about the answer BANKSAFE. I've never heard those two words together like that. Most of the time, I'd say the target of a heist is the bank vault, but it wasn't hard to figure out. I did enjoy 19D: Light entertainment? (LASERSHOW) and 27D: Iconic declaration from Bruce Wayne (IMBATMAN).

The quote from TAFT was quite amusing. It took me way too long to get 18A: What a king might sit on? (SLATS) - that's a king-sized mattress. I also liked 24D: Two in a row? (FOES). Very nice.

- Colum

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wednesday, May 22, 2024, Martin Schneider

I like today's grid for the four chunky corners, although the NW and SE are pretty isolated from the rest of the grid. Fortunately, the theme, while fun, is pretty straightforward, once you get the concept.

The revealer comes at 34A: What 18-, 23-, 49- and 56-Across could be called (DOUBLEMISNOMERS). This explains why the theme answers' clues are unfinished. 18A: Carbonated fountain drinks that contain neither ... (EGGCREAMS) - there is no egg and no cream in the drink. Nobody seems to know exactly why it's called that, but it's possible that it was a cheaper version of a drink that did have both.

I'm a big fan of the ENGLISHHORN, a lovely instrument, used to great effect throughout the orchestra repertory. Apparently this name comes from the fact that the bulb at the end of the instrument made it look like horns played by angels in religious images from earlier centuries. Thus, in German, it was called "engellisches Horn," or "Angel's horn." But that word also means "English." I used to think it was called this because it has a bend in it, or "Cor anglé" in French, which could be misinterpreted as "Cor Anglais," or English horn, but no.

Anyway, enough etymology for one blog post. Favorite clue of the day is 8D: They don't appreciate well (INGRATES). We need more silliness like this in our lives. For an unusual QMC, see 62A: Lengthy construction project, per a saying? (ROME) - as in "wasn't built in a day."

- Colum

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Zachary David Levy

Let's start out today by giving a shout out to 19A: Post-panel sesh (QANDA), an answer that looks like it should be the name of an Australian airline company. Did you know that that name is an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services? But here, I am pleased by the opportunity to deviate from the QU___ standard.

Our theme today is BABYPROOF, or here interpreted as proof of there being a baby. Each of the four theme answers (which are not related to infants), start with a word that describes something typically seen in a household with a small human. Thus CRIBNOTES, BOTTLEGOURD, CARRIAGEHOUSE, and MOBILEPHONE. Doesn't that last one feel archaic nowadays? I think most of the time we call them either "cells" or just "phones," showing how far we've moved from landlines.


As I was solving this puzzle, and seeing all of the high-value Scrabble tiles represented, I was certain the grid would be a pangram. But it is missing K. Seems a shame not to have found a way to shoehorn a 5-point tile in. Still, we get lovely words like GENZER (really two words with a suffix added on), VERSACE, and my favorite, ENZYME

The puzzle played slightly tough for a Tuesday, what with ODOULS, NOBS, and NBAJAM. SERGEI was a gimme for this classical music nut, but likely is more of a challenge for the usual Tuesday crowd.

I liked that RIND and STEM, clued the same way, were in symmetric locations. And how about the ludicrous clue at 23A: It might be poked (FUN). Hah!

And who knew that Alec Baldwin's middle name is RAE? That's odd.

- Colum

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024, Jack Scherban

First off, happy birthday to Frannie! Hope you have a lovely day.

It's a Monday, so we're looking for a straightforward and smooth puzzle with a fun theme, and that's what we get. Three well known fictional figures with military titles but no actual military experience lead to the humorous revealer at 49A: Unfazed response to a threat from 20-, 31- or 38-Across? (YOUANDWHATARMY). It's impressive to me that Mr. Scherban came up with three different military titles in SERGEANTPEPPER, CAPTAINOBVIOUS, and COLONELSANDERS that are all fourteen letters long.

It's also impressive to have four down answers that cross three theme answers, and have them be as strong as RAKESITIN, GRAPESODA, ISLANDHOP, and VIDEOTAPE. Nice work!

I had one error today, putting in CHOi for Bok CHOY. The latter is the accepted spelling, so that's a bad on me. 

In other notable features, it's cute having WASNT next to AINT. There ain't many cute clues, it being a Monday, but I smiled at 61A: Swiss borders? (ESSES).

- Colum

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunday, May 19, 2024, Christina Iverson and Katie Hale


Hello everybody! Happy Sunday. Glad to be back after a fine week of reviews by Philbo. The weather is lovely, the porch is open, and this coming weekend, Cece graduates from college. Quite a time!

Today, though, the puzzle makes fun of our Spring allergies. What standard phrases might sound like with a stuffed nose, and then wackily clued, so hilarity arises, as we like to say. Essentially, take the N and replace with D. Clearly, 110A: Tour guide's remark at the challah factory? (THATSADOUGHBRAIDER) had to be the inspiration for the whole puzzle. It's brilliant, and I love it.

I also enjoyed DOASISAYDOTASIDO, since the original phrase might indeed be uttered by a teacher. ITSAHARDDOCKLIFE is fun because of the way "knock" loses its KN in the transition. 

But I think it's high time that this blog addressed an essential question in crosswording, which is this: how good are OREOS, actually? Are they, as Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith of the Great British Bake-Off claim, the second best snack in America? I would disagree, but I ask for your opinions below.

And another essential question in crosswording is the question of question marks. Does the clue 65A: How one might punnily define "Saran" or "sari"? (ITSAWRAP) deserve a QMC? I posit that it does not. The clue already has the fact that it's a pun directly in the wording. Save the QMC for situations where the trickiness needs to be announced to get there. Or does it even? After all, 122A: Supporter of the arts? (PEDESTAL) doesn't need it either, IMO.

Things I enjoyed: 

ANGELOU and LEAVEN, both relating to rising. 

The SW corner with so many repeated letters (WWW, AHH, ZOO, WHOOP). 

91D: They might cover your back (TATTOOS).

Enjoy your Sunday!

- Colum

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Saturday, May 18 2024, Adrian Johnson

Okay - right off the bat, let me tell you how much I enjoy crosswords with full-width triple-stacks, and admire the setters who create them.  Chapeau for that, Mr. Johnson!  It's a cool grid today, roughly S-shaped, with the aforementioned triple-stacks at top and bottom and most of the black squares in two contiguous triangles to the left and right.  It looked at first like a worthy challenge for a Saturday.  But alas, it was not.  I don't generally put my solve times in these reviews (my crossword-solving mum chided me for it one time), but I gotta say, 4:56 for a Saturday puzzle is a little anomalous - my fastest time ever, by quite a margin.

Maybe it was because the six long answers were fairly easy.  I thought CALLONTHECARPET ("Reprimand") was CALLTOTHECARPET, but that was only a tiny hiccup.  There were a few unknowns in the grid; e.g. URIE ("Singer Brendon who fronted Panic! at the Disco") and 2004-05 NBA Rookie of the Year EMEKA Okafor, but they emerged easily from the crossers.  

Having said that, it's the QMCs that keep me coming back, as it were, and there were a couple of real crackers today:

  • "Make toast?" = RUIN
  • "Nun's habit?" = CELIBACY
  • "Cross state lines?" = TIRADE <-- this has to be one of my all time favourites!!
I didn't know there was a name for a "crowd energizer at a hip-hop concert" (HYPEMAN).  As an aside, the atmosphere inside the local hockey arena when the Maple Leafs are playing is so lifeless and library-like at times, that they've taken to utilizing cheerleaders, or, I guess, HYPEMEN and HYPEWOMEN, to try to extract some life out of the "fans".  Heresy!!

As a lifelong tennis fan, I knew Andre Agassi was an IRANIANAMERICAN.  I really disliked him as a player; but I have great respect for him now, having read his autobiography.

So.  Too easy for a Saturday, I thought.  But maybe it was just me, in the zone or something.  I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear readers, before I sign off and pass the baton to my esteemed colleague Colum.  Have a nice weekend everybody - a long one if you're a Canuck!


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Friday, May 17 2024, Hemant Mehta

Here we are in the middle of "the Turn", with a somewhat surprisingly easy Friday themeless.  Ordinarily when reviewing a puzzle, I spend some time on my miscues (the more humourous ones, at least), but I can't do that today because I have none to report - I just went top to bottom, left to right and 5 minutes later it was done.  The only clue giving any pause was "Arm raisers, informally" near the top, which was revealed as DELTS by the crossers.

I did like "Long rows?" (FEUDS) and "Get a rise out of?" (BAKE).  Nice to learn a new word - "Catadromous" - describing the fresh/salt water proclivities of the EEL.  I don't know how, but I'm going to work that into one of my meetings tomorrow.

Is it just me, by the way, when encountering a singer-related clue with a five-letter answer, to just automatically write in ADELE?  I know none of her songs by name, but she sure does show up a lot in crossword-land..

Sorry - I don't have a lot to say about this crossword.  Instead, let me give you my take on the Monte Hall problem.  The scenario is, you're presented with three DOORs, with a prize behind one of them.  You pick one door, and then Monte Hall opens one of the two *other* doors, with no prize behind it.  What gives you the best chance of winning the prize - staying with the door you chose, or switching to the other, unopened door?  I remember debates raging about this back in my Uni days.  Should you switch?  Should you "stay"?  Are the odds the same either way?

Here's one way to look at it.  Right off the bat, the door you choose has a 1/3 chance of the prize being behind it.  When Monte Hall opens the other door, that of course doesn't change those original odds - they're still 1/3.  So 1 time out of 3 you have the right door.  The other 2 times out of 3, the prize is going to be behind the other unopened door.  Thus, you should switch doors; you're twice as likely to win the prize if you do.

And there you have it - longest digression ever.  Hoping for a more challenging puzzle tomorrow.  Cheerio!


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Thursday, May 16 2024, Sara Muchnick

Hello hello!  Well, dear readers, there are themes and then there are themes.  By which I mean, sometimes you can figure out a crossword's theme as you go along, and sometimes you can't - you need the revealer and sometimes some thinking time on top of that.  Puzzle 5 in this year's ACPT was an example of the former - the trick there was, you had to remove the 'C's from every clue in the puzzle, to which I twigged after about 11 minutes of confusion.  Today's puzzle is one of the latter, for me at least.  I reached the point of a completed grid and it took a bit more study of the revealer ALLFORONE to make sense of the five theme answers:

  • "Gone" = SOMENERVE
  • "Stone tool" = TOILETBRUSH
  • "Scoop received in a call" = ICECREAM
  • "Shall" = SPARKLED
  • "It gets the ball rolling" = ROTARYJOINT
Huh?  Makes no sense, right?  But if you apply the "All for one, one for all" instruction, it becomes clear!  I like how terse and un-contrived the theme clues are, and also the bidirectionality of the transformation.

Thanks largely to the tricky theme, this was a somewhat slow solve for me.  I liked JIFFY for "Flash", and that helped fix my plausible but erroneous SEAS for "Where to find a very wet sponge" (it's REEF).  Also the nearly symmetrically placed "Stag" clues in the NE and SW, with non-synonymous answers (HART and SOLO, respectively).  The QMC "Repetitive clicking sound?" (SHORTI) was quite a stretch, and a real groaner when I finally parsed it properly.  On the other hand, "Head of lettuce" (CFO) was excellent!  I also liked ACHES for "Pounds, perhaps" as it's so correct and yet so non-obvious.  

I put it to you that what you're doing in spin class only resembles cycling.  

I have ITUNES installed on my computer.  This is fresh in my mind, despite not having used it in about a decade, because I click through its "update me" popups about once a week.  I really should just remove it.

Hope you enjoyed this challenge as much as I did!  Ciao for now..


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Wednesday, May 15 2024, MaryEllen Uthlaut

Today's puzzle showcases the oft-neglected letter 'B' (overshadowed as it tends to be by its neighbour, the 'A').  The solve itself is on the mild side for a Wednesday, but the true value lies in the construction:  every single clue begins with the letter 'B', and furthermore, there are a disproportionate 19 'B's in the grid, mostly concentrated in four of the five long Across answers.  The fifth is the revealer - HAPPYBDAY - indeed!!  I am wondering if maybe our constructor is sending someone (or herself) a message.. my own B-day was last week (60 - eek!!) .

When clue construction is constrained like this, I would expect them to be somewhat forced at times, but not today - they flowed so naturally that it took me quite a while to even twig to those leading 'B's!  So hats off to Ms. Uthlaut today.  Even "Beldames" for CRONES works, as it's just such a good word.

The narrative of the grid .. as I noted above, I didn't find it super challenging today, though I made my own trouble by entering AIM instead of SKI as a "Biathlete's need" (hey, it could have been) .. How is BRA a "Bali product"?  Don't make me Google it, people.. ONELB as a "Box of spaghetti's weight" was LOL-worthy QMCs to report today.  "Beyond the pale?" (ASHIEST) was a bit lame, IMO. 

That's all I got.  The joy today was primarily recognition of constructive cleverness!


Monday, May 13, 2024

Tuesday, May 14 2024, Alex Eaton-Salners

"If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound?"  Of course it does, unless you want to engage in a sophomoric debate on what the meaning of "sound" is.  But I digress.  Today's theme is a sylvan one, with four Down answers beginning with the various constituents of a tree:

  • ROOTSFOR - "Supports from the stands"
  • LEAVESALONE - "Lets be"
  • TRUNKSHOW - "Traveling fashion sale featuring the work of a specific designer" (this one was new to me)
  • BARKCOLLARS - "Neckwear for noisy dogs"
Revealing the theme is "Common spots for eagles' nests" = TREETOPS.  Being in the Down direction, the theme answers are indeed "topped" with tree-ish things.  I like how each is clued with a different, tree-unrelated meaning. I also like the pluralization of ROOTS and LEAVES, which is natural in an arboreal context.

There were no real problem areas today, aside from the slight hiccup of MANY instead of MOST for "More than some".  As a Led Zeppelin fan, I enjoyed "Whole LOTTA Love", while acknowledging that part of that song, and several others, were uncredited lifts (at least originally) from the Willie Dixon canon.  BSCHOOL ("Wharton or Sloan, informally") and BEHAPPY ("Cheer up!") were amusingly stacked on top of each other.  Mixed opinion on the QMCs today.  "No-win situation?" (TIEGAME) was worthy; "Okay boomer?" (TNT) was meh.  "What's needed to make bale?" (HAY) was both groan- and smile-worthy, so well done on that one!

Incidentally, a pair of bald eagles nested here in Toronto this spring, for the first time in memory, and they now have eaglets!  As a bit of a birder, I would love to bear witness, but the city is being mum about where exactly the nest is to avoid undue harassment, and I respect that.  

Away wi' me.  "Talk" to you tomorrow!


Sunday, May 12, 2024

Monday, May 13 2024, Jeremy Newton

Sometimes things are weird.  On the show my wife and I were watching on the tube tonight, a couple was playing MINIGOLF - and lo, here it is as the theme of Monday's puzzle!  Yes, it's MINIGOLF, with a "tee" on one side of the grid, a "hole" on the other, and a diagonal path from tee to hole, bouncing off grid edges and black squares to get there ("specular reflection", as we geeks would put it), with the entire path consisting of the letter 'O'.  Cool!!

The middle row, containing the "tee" and "hole", also serves as the revealer : HOLE INONE SHOT.  This alone, for me on a Monday, is worth the price of admission - such fun construction!  We also learn, further down, that MINIGOLF's origins are in SCOTLAND, in 1867, for ladies only.  Trust those Scotsmen to one-up us Canadians on the year of our confederation!  

MUTTONCHOP makes an appearance today, as a cut of meat and a facial hairstyle.  I always associate MUTTONCHOPs with old Scotsmen.  There I go, follicularly profiling...

Not much else of note to report today, not that this puzzle needed anything further - no clever QMCs or anything like that.  Very enjoyable puzzle - LOADSOFFUN, I dare say - especially at the end when the bouncing path of the "golf ball" was revealed.


Sunday, May 12 2024, Avery Gee Katz

Back in the blogging saddle again, after three weeks of excellent blogging by Colum, Horace and the inimitable Frances.. I found this Sunday puzzle a real beast, with its seeming paucity of black squares, tricky cluing and relatively impenetrable theme.  It would have helped if I'd read the theme hint up front - "Pixar Box Set" - but no, that's not how I roll.  It did eventually become evident what was going on - single squares scattered around the grid, containing rebus-style words; not just words but titles of Pixar movies.  Or so I trust to be true; it also didn't help that I didn't recognize a few of them.  

Quite a feat of construction!  It's extra material in the grid, allowing for longer clue answers in *both* directions.  The initial confusion was immense.  In the NW corner, I had HU as the start of "Certain streaming library", which of course had to be HULU-something, but it wouldn't fit, and it took some time to recognize the hidden word LUCA in HULUCATALOG, which crossed with the Baja California resort CABOSANLUCAS.  Neat!  ("Luca" is a Pixar movie, though?  Never heard of it.)  

And so it went.  I count seven of these rebuses.  The fact that they vary in length (from "UP" to "WALLE" and "BRAVE") just adds spice to it.  

Notable clues in the connective tissue:  "Where to find signs with circles, squares and diamonds" is a clever way to clue SKIAREACOBOL is indeed "used in government and banking", even though it's ancient and nobody actually programs in that language any more.  I noted a doubly-used device in "RARIN' to go" and "SINGIN' in the rain"... For "Primate that exists only on the world's fifth-largest island", I automatically entered ORANG - but no, it's LEMUR.  Speaks to my weak geographical skills..

FERRULE is a great word - the "Metal ring that holds a pencil's eraser".  It's also what holds on the tip of a snooker cue.

I didn't realize there were actual named characters in the WHERESWALDO books.  "Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard and Woof"?  O-kaay.  Anyway, when I was scanning the grid to count the rebuses, I thought it was an appropriate clue to have included. 

I'll leave you with that.  Too many nice clues to enumerate here.  Do you agree?  Also quite a bit chewier than the average Sunday puzzle, I thought.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend - and happy Mother's Day to all you mamas out there!


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Saturday, May 11, 2024, Billy Bratton

To solve today's pinwheel-shaped puzzle it was essentially necessary to solve each quadrant INTERN, as answers connecting the sections were few and far between. Despite the fact that the puzzle included many things I've never heard of, or am not familiar with (GOATYOGA, MRS Meyer's brand cleaning products, ALDO Leopold, Burgess SHALE, SAMANTAHWHO, and CASHGRAB - although color me very interested in that last one :), I was able to complete the grid in under 30 minutes. 

Of the five mini-puzzles, I had the most difficulty with the one in the southeast. I so much wanted the one-letter-too-short 'creep' for "Slimeball," but could not come up with the CREEPO variant, until I eventually got the O from the amusing answer to "Line around the Equator?" ITSHOT - ha. Another answer in that section that is not really in my vocabulary is SAMESIES ("'OMG, me too!'") - I think I might be TOOOLD for that one. I thought both "Mythical rock singer" for SIREN and the cross "'Rocks'" for FISTS were excellent - once I figured them out. :) 

Photograph: Paul Nicholls

Other clever and trixy clues included 
"Cheerios alternatives" (TATAS)
"Get into" (DON)
"Squeals" (TATTLES)
"Comment with a point, say" (THATONE)
"Pop back and forth?" (DAD) - ha!

Fill-wise, I enjoyed the informal GOTTHESHAFT, SLOOP, PARIAH, and the more-my-time-period MIXTAPE

All in all, a moderately challenging (as the New Yorker might say) Saturday puzzle with lots of new-to-me fill and some fun C/APs sprinkled throughout - in other words the TOTALASSETS of a good puzzle. And with that, dear Readers, I entrust you to the capable hands and superior puzzle solving brain of our esteemed co-blogger, Philbo.


Friday, May 10, 2024

Friday, May 10, 2024, Jesse Cohn

A speedy Friday for this solver (13:21), without being exactly sure why or HOW. There were plenty of top-notch QMCs like "Level bests?" (HIGHSCORES), "One who can't handle their moonshine well?" (WEREWOLF), "Attention seeker?" (AHEM), "Negative impression?" (DENT), and "Lose the threads?" (STRIP) - ha! - not to mention some nicely ambiguous C/APs including "Punt, e.g." for BOAT, "Say, say" for CLAIM, and for "Noses" the rather odd SMELLERS.

But in the mix we also had "Stock holders?" for BARNS, "Chapel part" (APSE), "Scotch flavorer" (PEAT), and "Tiny bit" (IOTA), all of which are kinda Mondayish.


I did have a little difficulty connecting the clue "Coffee shop amenity" to its answer because Wifi was too short and 'creamers' didn't work. I was surprised when it turned out to be our old friend the INTERNET. How quickly we forget. 

There were a few short fillers like DES, FAS, and PIS, but otherwise, I thought the grid was clean with plenty of enjoyable fill including the fun expressions WHATTHEYHEY, ALLTHERAGE, and IVEBEENHAD. I also enjoyed STREETSMARTS and the trio ROMA, REBA, SELMA across the bottom of the top section. 

Speaking of PIS, I just finished reading one of the post-Robert B. Parker Spenser novels written by Ace Atkins. I found it surprisingly close in writing style, but not quite dead on, so to speak. There wasn't much interaction with Susan, though, and no Hawk at all, which, perhaps, made things easier. Any of our dear Readers a Spenser fan?


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Thursday, May 9, 2024, Joe DiPietro

Fun puzzle today, with a tricky theme - at least for this solver. Ab initio, I thought the trick was to replace a W with two VVs "old Rome style" - as I thought - but that was an erratum. The trick was much cleverer than a simple letter substitution. Each of the theme answers contained a spelled-out number. It was the solver's job to replace the word for the number with the equivalent Roman numeral, for example, the letters ONE were replaced with the Roman numeral I. The corresponding Down answers used each Roman numeral as a letter. The theme answers ended up looking a little ad hoc (WALKEDIGGSHELLS (I for [one]), DONIIRRYABOUTIT (II for [two]), THESKINOIVTEETH (IV for [four], and my favorite, WVIIIHEEVIDENCE (VIII for [eight])), but that added to the charm of the trick, IMHO.


The theme wasn't the only clever part of the puzzle. Inter alia, I enjoyed "What a piece of work!" (ERG), "Always ready to order?" (BOSSY), and "Body part where a sock might go?" (CHIN) - ha! I also liked the crossing of the clues "Dunking obstacle" (RIM) and "Dunkable treats" (OREOS). 

I had a little trouble with a couple of the C/APs. I couldn't figure out what kind of bugs were involved in "Stage often filled with bugs" until I got the answer (BETA). And I had to go a ways before I realized why CAR was the answer to "Where F comes before E?" But per ardua ad astra, right?

Pax vobiscum, dear Readers!


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

OHFUDGE is today's theme revealer ("What you might cry upon recognizing this puzzle's ingredient list?") and an apt start to this late review - I forgot that I had to write it until now. Derp. One of the reasons I forgot involved some of the ingredients of fudge that are found at the start of the five theme answers, although in my case the butter in BUTTERFINGERS, the sugar in SUGARSNAPPEAS, and the vanilla in VANILLAICE were used to make cookies. Mmmm, cookies. We're having a cooler, rainy day around here and baking cookies was a way to brighten things up a bit. Puzzle-wise, I'm not really sure why the squares that contained the ingredient words were shaded. I think we've had plenty of themes with significant starting or ending words that weren't highlighted. Maybe they are supposed to represent fudge squares, if that's a thing? I'm not much of an expert on fudge myself. Too sweet for this sour puss. :) 

I have never heard of ARCTICS before ("Waterproof overshoes). Is that a brand name, maybe, or a regional option? In the long lost days of my youth, people around here called them 'rubbers.' That fit, but I realized I was on the wrong track when I got to 3D: "Cartoon frames" which I knew had to be CELS. To be honest, I was doubtful about 'rubbers' to begin with as the 'shoe protectant' meaning of that word has  given way to another kind of protectant. I blame the above train of thought for my concern upon reading 36A: "Cry from under a sheet, perhaps." I left that one empty until the Down answers spelled it out for me (BOO). 

22D: OAT

Fun C/APs today included OOF for "Gut-punch response," "That's a terrible hiding spot" for ISEEYOU, and "Oak-to-be" for ACORN. The QMC "Superconductor?" for MAESTRO was amusing. And on the subject of QMCs, I was not fooled by "Capital of Georgia?" (GEE), but it is only Wednesday. 

Fill-wise, I enjoyed the interesting SOPOR ("Abnormally deep sleep"), NEMESES (I have a few!), and INERT. At 18A: I considered 'russian' for "Catherine the Great, for one" only to realize the answer was the more fabulous TSARINA. OTH, I've never been a big fan of the word PREGGO or 'preggers' for that matter. But the idea of having a grid filled with only words a person liked is pie in the sky. 


Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Tuesday, May 7, 2024, Justin Werfel

Each of today's theme answers RINGSABELL in one way or another. WILLYLOMAN, as a door-to-door salesman, SANTACLAUS, in his role as Salvation Army front man, QUASIMODO, denizen and operative of Notre Dame de Paris, and IVANPAVLOV, if I recall correctly, famous for trigging salivation in dogs by trained association with bells. We also get a bonus theme answer in Charles Wilson PEALE, George Washington portraitist. 

There were no alarm bells for this solver. Entries from ACHES (1A: Really feels yesterday's workout, say") to AGERS (66A: "Golden ____ (retirees)) went right in, although the northwest section took a little longer than the rest as the echoes of ATWATER had almost completely died away in my brain. LUSAKA ("Capital of Zambia") could have been a trouble spot, but wasn't - I have the Across answers to THANK for that. Several C/APs that sounded good to me were "Field in Silicon Valley" (TECH), "Greets with acclaim" (HERALDS), and "Very basic stuff?" (LYE). Fun fill that appealed included QUANDARY, CHAR, CHIDES, and FLANNEL. It was great to see so many women in the grid: EDNA, CHER, EARTHA, OLGA, and even ELLA. :)


In reviewing the completed puzzle, I noticed that HAPPY appears just above IMSAD. Also, THANK and HATED appear in parallelish positions at the top and bottom of the grid most likely by chance, but it's always interesting to me to realize how often the mind works to establish patterns and meaning whether it exists or not. Feel free to chime in with thoughts of your own. :)


Monday, May 6, 2024

Monday, May 6, 2024, Malaika Handa

Greetings, dear Readers! Frannie here with some exciting personal (crossword puzzle-related) news. For the second week in a row, I solved the Monday puzzle in under five minutes. Watch out Paolo - 2025 could be my year! Kidding about that last bit, of course. I recently sat down with a clean copy of this year's ACPT puzzle 5. Even having solved some of it at the tournament *and* knowing the trick, it took me 20 minutes to complete, and I still might have ended up with one FWOE. So, yeah. 

Anyhoo, that's not why you called me here. We are here to discuss today's puzzle with the fun theme IMONAROLL. Parsed literally (like everyone likes), the letters I & M appear above (or on) answers that are different kinds of rolls: SNAKEEYES, CLASSROSTER, and my favorite, CINNAMONBUN. Delish.


Based on my time, it seems the puzzle was pretty easy, even for a Monday. The cluing was clean and often straight forward, for example, "Uses a '+' sign" for ADDS, "Group of three" for TRIO,  "Biblical figure with an ark" (NOAH), plus the pair of keyboard clues. Due to my limited world geography knowledge, TIMOR-Leste, country in Southeast Asia" was probably the most difficult for me. 

I enjoyed the C/APs "Knotted accessories" (TIES), "Pie nut" (PECAN), and "Fuzzy fruit" (KIWI). Both long Down entries SANTASUIT and SIGNATURE were good. I like the words TACIT, SWOON, and LOOT. A couple of ROIs for this solver were "Nine, in Spanish" (NUEVE) and that very useful kind of LIST, a table of CONTENTS. While I'm sure our esteemed co-blogger Philbo TORE through this puzzle, I hope he also found some ROIs to enjoy today ASA a fun start to the day. Happy birthday, Philbo!


Sunday, May 5, 2024

Sunday, May 5, 2024, Daniel Bodily


It's Sunday. Another big grid with a big theme. This time, it's so big it spread into outer space. ... OK, that was a lame attempt to break into this review in a cutesy way.

FLUFFY kitten

Hey, look over there! What are those black squares doing? Is that a spaceship in the middle of the left/right symmetry? Could be. Or it could be a little pigeon-toed guy in a space helmet holding two guns and wearing a codpiece. Well... Look at it! Am I crazy?

Today we have common expressions clued to sound as if they were written by an astronaut on a space flight. As in, "Thrilled to report that we've made it into lunar orbit!" (OVERTHEMOON), and "Ouch! Drifted too far and bonked my head on that darn window ... but wow, would you look at the view!" (SEEINGSTARS). And in addition to these expression clues, we have a reference to the ELTONJOHN song ROCKETMAN (Who's on a mission in today's puzzle?). 

Into the clever clue department I put "General acknowledgments?" (SALUTES), "Olympic tracks?" (ANTHEMS), and "Burning bridges, e.g." (ARSON). It was interesting to learn that "Ventriloquist Shirley Dinsdale was the first person to win" an EMMY, and "Lea low?" (MOO) was fun. 

- Horace

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Saturday, May 4, 2024, Jacob McDermott

I liked this one better once I was finished and started to review all the answers. For some reason, while I was solving it, it seemed kind of flat, but looking around now I see a lot of snark, which I like. And it starts right away with 1A "Don't flatter yourself!" (ASIF). Later, there's "Please, we don't need the details" (SPAREUS), "Words of corporate pandering" (WECARE), "That's just great," sarcastically" (GOTTALOVEIT), and after all that, you might be fooled into thinking that a "Possible cause of an icy glare" is something personal, but no, it's SLEET. That's a lovely non-QMC. 

TARAREID as Bunny Lebowski

There were a couple of times that plausible but incorrect answers fit into the available space, as in weight instead of INCOME for "Figure that's not usually discussed" and grinder instead of ROASTER for "Coffee appliance." Other areas of attempted misdirection were "Grammy alternative" (NANA), "Altos might follow this" (LOS), "Make the cut?" (EDIT), and "Singles material, say" (CLAY). Think tennis for that one, but get away from sports for "Ball handler?" (PODIATRIST). Eww.

ALAS, I didn't love ABLER (Better fit), and FAY (Elfin folk) seemed off. Isn't "folk" a plural noun? Ah, maybe I should just embrace the WABISABI of it all. And besides, we do have that lovely middle crossing of WEARESODEAD ("Our parents will kill us!") and "Something to kick" (ASS). Heh.

- Horace

Friday, May 3, 2024

Friday, May 3, 2024, Eli Cotham

An interesting grid today, with the central crosshairs and double fifteens just above and below. There's nice flow through the middle, and relatively chunky corners. 


First lets just admire the grid-spanners. Not a "ones" anywhere to be seen.

DEADTREEEDITION (Alternative to the online newspaper, colloquially)
ANHEIRANDASPARE (Phrase that inspired the title of Prince Harry's memoir) (Poor, poor boy)
GASSTATIONSUSHI (Shell fish?) (Great clue)
THISISANOUTRAGE (Huffy exclamation) (The least interesting of the bunch, but still quite good)

NOWLETSSEE, what are some good clues... PETPSYCHIC (Medium for animals) was unexpected. "Game with a hands-down winner?" (TWISTER) was cute. Remember TWISTER? And speaking of remember, remember ADIA (Sarah McLachlan's highest-charting U.S. single). That song was everywhere for a while. And that clue - does she have higher-charting non-U.S. singles? (The answer, of course, is yes. "Building a Mystery" was number one in her native Canada.) Me, I was always a sucker for "Angel." And wow, that's a lot of talk about a four-letter answer.

COSLEPT? (Shared a bed with one's baby). I have questions. One - is that even a word? And two, do they mean "baby" as in "baby" or "baby" as in "baby?" 

I thought "Service agreement" was good for AMEN. Hah! Lots of références françaises with ILES (Seine sights), AVEC (Con : Spanish :: ____ : French), and "Saisons chaudes" (ETES). A french-adjacent answer in VALISES (Some carry-ons), and just a little Latin (MEA (Start of an apology)) for good measure.

Solid Friday. 

- Horace

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Thursday, May 2, 2024, Brandon Koppy

I can't help feeling like this puzzle is almost there. It's cool that the Ts are not needed to solve the puzzle, but the fact that they were already in the grid felt strange. And TEALEAVES also seems a little odd, because they were never really used in the first place. Would it have been more interesting if the words using the Ts were clued, and the squares weren't shaded, and then they fell out? Hmmm... am I missing something? It just seems like there is a way that this could be better, but I can't quite put my finger on it.


"What has a big part in 'The Ten Commandments'?" was a cute clue for REDSEA. As was "Mobile home" for SHELL. Heh. Nice pair of "Father of ..." clues for ABU (... in Arabic) and BEN (... in Hebrew). And I was not familiar with the term RCCAR (Wirelessly operated toy vehicle, informally) (I'm guessing it's "radio-controlled car"), and I couldn't remember whether the comedian was Marc MAhON or MARON. I tried the H first, then put in all the Ts, then switched to R and got the "congrats" notification. I doubt that it was necessary to actually type in all the Ts.

Anyway... What did you think of this one?

- Horace

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Wednesday, May 1, 2024, Juliana Tringali Golden

Who doesn't enjoy flowers? Today we have eight of them around the four "walls" of the puzzle. Hence - WALLFLOWERS. And they are all given as indirect a clue as possible. My favorite is "Rainbow's end," which made me try to fit "pot of gold" into the six squares, but which turned out to be the last letter of Roy G. Biv's name, VIOLET. Another that misled me was "Subject of an annual festival in the Netherlands. I thought first of Koningsdag, which was just celebrated a few days ago, but that honors the king not the tulp, or TULIP. And speaking of the king, I did not know that the king of flowers, the PEONY, was one of Indiana's state symbols. (Interestingly, its state tree is the TULIP tree.)


Colorful clues included "Inventor who might be described as dotty or dashing?" (MORSE), "On the books?" (LITERARY), "Green party?" (NAIF), and the classic "Hollow center?" (ELS). All my favorites are QMCs today (Question Mark Clues). I suppose that makes sense on a Wednesday. The non-QMCs are often a little trickier to figure out.

LASTLY, can we count this one as having grid art today? If you squint, it looks like a four-petaled flower. I say yes, yes we can. It's lovely. Nice work, Ms. Golden.

- Horace

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024, Michèle Govier

Another interesting theme today. WIGGLEROOM (Space to maneuver, or a hint to five sets of circled letters in this puzzle) points us to the five rooms spelled out in descending wiggles of circled letters. It's quite pleasing the way all of them slip through cracks in the black squares. 


With the theme being carried in circles, there are several triple-checked letters to deal with. This leads to a little more CAPN, ESAU, GMA, HGT, PSAT, ATO, YTD, TRE type fill than is maybe ideal, but the way those rooms fall through the grid is worth it. Especially as nothing is too egregious.

And with all that constraint, you'd think it might be a NOFRILLS kind of puzzle, but BREADFRUIT (Crop named for its doughy texture when cooked) is unusual and interesting, GIBRALTAR (British territory visible from Africa) is ever evocative, and a little OREGANO is always welcome. (See also: GIN.)

As I keep looking, I see things like ANISES, RETITLES, and INREM, so let's call it here, shall we? 

- Horace

Monday, April 29, 2024

Monday, April 29, 2024, Tom Locke

Hah! I kinda love this theme. HUEANDCRY (Public uproar ...) is the revealer, and each theme answer is a color and a homonym for a synonym of cry. exempli gratia: BLUEWHALE (Marine creature that can weigh over 400,000 pounds). Hah! The other two are BLACKBALL (Bar from joining a private club, e.g.) and WHITEWINE (Chardonnay or pinot grigio, e.g.). Very nice.

Frank LLOYD Wright

So... is today's clue for AREOLA another sign of the times? The clues for AREOLA used to be "Colored ring," "Dark circle," or "Iris part." Today it's "Ring surrounding a nipple." I mean... they're not wrong, ... 

As I've said before, I, for one, welcome our new crossword overlords. The harder Saturdays, the blunt Mondays... I love it all.

There are a few weak/tired four-letter answers today (WARE, STET, ABRA), but the threes are all solid. I particularly enjoyed the clue for BED (Unorthodox spot from which to take a meeting while working from home). Heh. You wouldn't have seen that in the Maleska era. 

- Horace


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Sunday, April 28, 2024, Mike Ellison


Today, the grid is alive with the sound of music. Eight theme answers, all tied to music, and each taking a short dip at the end to leave vertical, as if on a scale, the notes of the musical scale, rising from bottom to top. It's a tiny bit of a shame that they could not rise from left to right, as one reads music, but one can't have everything, can one.


In addition to the shaded notes, extra theme material plays out in the longer answers - ADORINGFANS (Groupies, e.g.), "Like musical mixes that overly emphasize bass notes" (BOTTOMHEAVY), "Autumn colors ... or an alternative title for this puzzle?" (FALLTONES), and SCALEDOWN (Cut back ... or an alternative title for this puzzle?). Then there's "What Beethoven's next symphony would have been" (TENTH) (I can't tell if that's funny or just sad), MARACA (Percussive shaker), HALO (Grammy-winning Beyoncé hit of 2009), DOT (Staccato marking), NEAL (____ Smith, drummer for Alice Cooper), EMO, POP, SIRENS (Classical singers?), Adam ANT, references to Mr. Roboto, SEAN Lennon, Vanilla Ice, and Steely Dan, "Musical's beginning" (ACTI), "Like bossa nova or salsa" (LATIN), "Marsalis family patriarch" (ELLIS), ADELE, "Guitar cords?" (STRAPS), "Beatles hairdos" (MOPS), CRESCENDO, NINA Simone, Gladys Knight and THEPIPS, Gregorian CHANT, ITINA (1986 autobiography of the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll"), Victor BORGE, OLDIE (Throwback hit), MILES Davis, and maybe even BLARE (Trumpet). That's a heck of a lot of music-related fill! So much so, that there's really little else to talk about!

Except HINKY (Suspicious, informally). I liked HINKY.

- Horace

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Saturday, April 27, 2024, Rich Norris

What a great Turn this has been. Today's puzzle was a real challenge, appropriate for a Saturday. I definitely feel like the puzzles have gotten harder under Mr. Fagliano's editorship. I am hoping for Mr. Shortz's recovery as soon as possible of course, but bring on the challenge, say I!

That being said, I was really unsure about the answer at 11D. It's an entirely acceptable Spanish word, and that's the way it's clued, but there are a whole host of connotations which feel like maybe it shouldn't be used. What do people think?

And, now how about SQUIRCLE? I had never heard of this term before. I had a good sense where it was going when I entered SQUEE, but made a mistake and tried SQaRCLE. And yes, I know I should have stuck with SIRI. SaRa seemed highly strange. But maybe there's another one out there? Regardless, I had no idea what 41D: Ice crystal formation (CIRRUS) was going for until I corrected my earlier mistake. Ah yes, clouds.

EXTRAEXTRA is great, with those two Xs. TEXACOSTAR is also good. I really wanted TI (Texas Instruments), but that has just too many letters. I also loved NOTCRICKET.

56A: Musical group (CHORUSLINE) is really an excellent clue. The first word refers to the genre of stage performance, on Broadway. I love it!

Finally look at how excellent WALTHERPPK looks in the puzzle. I don't support the gun itself, of course, but how much fun to have all those consonants in a row.

Well, tomorrow Horace takes over. I had a fun week.

- Colum

Friday, April 26, 2024

Friday, April 26, 2024, Matthew Stock and Christina Iverson

If you're looking for fun fill and great clues, this puzzle is FULLOFIT! Oh, wait. I don't think that's what they meant by that answer.

A super smooth and pretty quick solve for a Friday themeless. But I enjoyed it all the way. Let's start with those long across answers:

11A: Alternatives to booths, perhaps (MAILINBALLOTS) - I was really uncertain where this was going, and it was the last answer I got in the puzzle. It's very of the moment, naturally.

14A: Device for an on-line conversation? (TINCANTELEPHONE) - yes! So good. I love the sneaky use of the word "device" here. Sounds so electronic.

48A: Bare-bones outfit (SKELETONCOSTUME) - one of the best clues of the year to date, in my opinion. I love the non-QMC, and it's so perfect.

51A: Many superheroes have them (ORIGINSTORIES) - they sure do.

Other fun entries include 5D: Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," for one (ANTIHERO) - loved those books - and FONDUES

31A: They hang around in kitchens (APRONS) is another good clue. 

I'm not sure I entirely get 47A: They're OK (DOS) - is this the opposite of a NONO? Like, it's OK to do that? Is there something I'm missing here?

Great Turn so far.

- Colum

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Thursday, April 25, 2024, Hanh Huynh

Hooray! We're back on The Turn! I am fond of a straightforward themed puzzle, where it's well put together, and the theme is fun. But give me the tricksy puzzle with clever clues, and you've got a happy Colum.

Today, I had no idea what was going on. I figured out with SIMONC-O-WELL and then SC-O-WL that I needed to skip over the circled squares, but why? And also, was I to leave those circles blank? We've had puzzles in the past where there were empty squares.

I actually worked my way naturally down the east side of the grid until I got to the SE corner, where I found the revealer, slightly delayed in figuring out the answer because I had ECHOEd at first in at 42D: Like like this this clue clue clue... (ECHOEY). And then I got 61A: "Wow" ... or a phonetic hint to this puzzle's theme (HOLYCOW). 

I immediately saw the pattern, and then put C-O-W in 46A: City in the Pacific Northwest with a Russian-sounding name (MOSC-O-WIDAHO). Then I looked at the crosses that contained circles, and saw 44D: Not retail - and it hit me. W[HOLE]SALE. Aha!

My favorite of the crosses is 3D: Ire (C[HOLE]R) because of how beautifully the "hole" is hidden in that word. The remaining answers are either simply "hole" or "whole," which demonstrates how hard it is to hide a 4-letter rebus in a larger word. But just a very fun theme. And I'm fine with the circles in this one.

Checkered TAXI

I like clues that play on the ambiguity inherent in a language. Thus, 1A: Snap (PIC) and 18A: Good and hot (ENRAGED). 

How about 44A: Wicked stuff? (WAX) - that's stuff on a wick. Wow. 

I don't fall for clues like 6D: Leads of "La La Land"? (ELS) much any more. But this one's good.

Fun stuff!

- Colum

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Wednesday, April 24, 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic

First off, what to heck is ABYSM?

According to Professor Google, it's a "literary or poetic term for abyss." I cry foul. I mean, MAXIMUs seemed odd at 46D (and it violates the theme, covered more in the next paragraph), but ABYSs also seemed more correct.

In any case, the theme of the puzzle is revealed at 62A: Feature of this puzzle's grid and the answers to the six starred clues (LATERALSYMMETRY). Which is to say, if you fold the grid in half down the line starting at 7D and ending at 64D, all the black squares would overlap. Also, all of the letters in the starred clues are symmetrical that way, which is why the theme answers are in the downs.

It's notable that the only vowel (including Y!) without that symmetry is E, fortunate for the constructor. Otherwise, he has H, M, T, W, and X to work with. Thus we get MAMMAMIA (all Ms), or MAXIMUM (Ms and an X). I like HOITYTOITY a lot, and MAUIHAWAII is a great find as well.

Michael Keaton looks so young

With all of this theme material, Mr. Martinovic is forced into some compromises (hello, "abysm"). WOAH is a stretch, and I don't love EWW or ELIE either. Note also ERM and UMS. When you have to clue two answers with "sound of hesitation," you know you've pushed the theme to the limit.

Once again, not much in the way of clever cluing. I'm looking forward to The Turn. But despite these little concerns, I find this puzzle interesting.

- Colum

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tuesday, April 23, 2024, Judy Bowers

Well, it turns out it's really hard to come up with sentences where every word is only TWO letters long. I thought for maybe 30 seconds about writing the first paragraph that way, and got no further than "Hi, my..." But, Ms. Bowers has given us 5 sentences of this sort (one of which is split into two parts).

Of course, the best by far is 16A: "Yuck! I've dated him before. Swipe left!" (OHNOEWHEISMYEX). The "Ew!" in there is so evocative. OKIFWEGOINONIT is impressive as well. The other three are SOISIT / UPTOME, DOASWEDO, and HIMAIMUP. It's fun to look at them in the grid because my brain wants to parse the collection of letters into longer words, like "Oh, noe! Whe is myex?" Or "Hi maim up!"

She don't got SIGHT

Anyway, that's a fair amount of theme material to pack in two-letter segments across the grid (58 squares). As is typical for an early week puzzle, the fill is smooth if not as sparkly. I liked SAYSPRESTO., but otherwise there's not a SLEW of interesting answers to catalog.

14A: Standing at 6-5, say? (UPONE) plays nicely on the customs for how we might typographically represent someone's height as opposed to a sports score. There's a nice rose connection between the clues for APHID and POEM

And that's all I got. It was a fun solve for a Tuesday.

- Colum

Monday, April 22, 2024

Monday, April 22, 2024, David J. Kahn

On a Monday morning, it's nice when the puzzle gives a little bit of an uplift. I'm uncertain whether today's puzzle does that or not...

The theme starts with 1A: Nonrenewable energy source ... and the start of an eight-step word ladder (COAL). There's a nice visual of the eight 4-letter words moving down diagonally from COOL to WOOL to WOOD to FOOD to FOND to FIND to 64A: Renewable energy source ... and the end of the word ladder (WIND).

Along the way, we get the dour GLOBALWARMING and FOSSILFUEL and the hopeful GREENPOWER. But there's also 49A: Goes extinct (DIESOUT) and 37D: Botches badly (LOUSESUP). I can't help but feel that these are related somehow.

ADAM Lambert

The rest of the puzzle moves along smoothly enough. I took longer than necessary to answer 5D: Element whose name anagrams to GROAN (ARGON). I can't help but play the word game. If the clue had been just "Element," I would have gotten it so much faster. How about you?

I also would like to think that 19D is a shout out to our own Philbo.

- Colum

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sunday, April 21, 2024, Michael Schlossberg


[Warning - spoiler alert below]

Hey, good folks, puzzle enthusiasts, and loyal readers (and likely all three at once)! Glad to be back with you for another week of New York Times crossword puzzling and reviewing. Thanks to Philbo for another fine week of blog posts.

Today, as we prepare for a late lunch book club (we're making two fritattas, one with fried potatos and onions and one with asparagus and goat cheese) (oh, and we read The Vulnerables, by Sigrid Nuñez), I got to spend some time with the Sunday puzzle. When the grid opened, I knew immediately I would need to look at the info box to get some clue to the seven odd circular locks symmetrically placed across the puzzle. 

The blinking I button told me that, when the puzzle was completed, the letters in the locks could be rotated in only one way to create a new set of four crossword acceptable answers. When all seven locks were in the correct position, the "safe" would open to reveal a seven-letter answer appropriate to the theme. A meta-puzzle! And, otherwise, an essentially themeless Sunday.

I filled in the whole puzzle and figured out the answer, but did not get the pop-up congratulations message. So I tried to rotate the locks to see if that would correctly fill in the grid. No luck. Turns out I had incorrectly put an M in the crossing of 6A: Items on the backs of some Jeeps (GASCANS) and 11D: Former name of the electron (NEGATRON). I don't really know why I thought a "gas cam" would be a thing, but "megatron" didn't sound so wrong.

Anyway, the meta-answer (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!) is [JACKPOT], definitely appropriate. My favorite transformation was AORTA to [S]ORTA


How odd that CCLEF and CCLAMP both appear in the grid. When you add in GSUIT, that's a surprising number of letter-word answers. I liked the clue at 678A: Partner ship? (ARK). And POPQUIZ is a great answer. I've never heard of SOLARPUNK, but love the phrase. And that's it for ANSWERS today ("Key components" - excellent).

- Colum