Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tuesday, April 16 2024, Adam Vincent

Today's theme is a clever one, to which many of us can undoubtedly relate.  There are four long answers near the periphery, each with a notable man's name:

  • Actor who played Oscar Wilde in "Wilde" : STEPHENFRY
  • Mouseketeer peer of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake : RYANGOSLING
  • Inventor who patented the first revolver : SAMUELCOLT
  • English essayist who wrote "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once" : CHARLESLAMB
These all have something in common, aside from being men's names: the surnames are all baby animals, and this is revealed by the central clue "Certain immature adult..." - MANBABY!  In fact, the theme clues provide an additional hint, not shown above, indicating the adult form of the animal in question.  I thought this extra help was unnecessary, although it did highlight the bonus fact that in three of the four answers, the adult name has a distinct male form (sorry, FISH, not today..).

Ask yourself, if you're a male solving this puzzle - am I a MANBABY?  The answer is probably "yes, sometimes" 😄

This was a pretty smooth solve for me, despite not knowing BARBACOA as a Chipotle beef option.  My favourite clue was definitely "Wild couples cruise?" (NOAHSARK - excellent!!). A couple of Across answers that stood out were the consecutive HDTV and SGTS - look Ma, no vowels!  "One under a birdie" didn't fool me for a second - it's EAGLE, not CHICK - thanks to my multi-hour bingeing of the Masters this past weekend.  KISSCAM ("What might catch X's at an O's game?") definitely deserves a shout-out as well.

I didn't love ALE hidden in "Drink aptly found in 'medieval era'".  Un peu de trop, methinks.  Besides, there's only one medieval drink in crossword-land, and that's MEAD of course.  

Gentle fun for a Tuesday!


Monday, April 15, 2024

Monday, April 15 2024, Amanda Winters

My mind isn't generally at its most receptive on Monday mornings - but I learned something new today - ASABOVE SOBELOW - a phrase lifted from the 9th century Emerald Tablet referring to the symmetry of earth and heaven.  As dubious as this philosophy may be, it forms the theme of today's puzzle, in which the words 'AS' and 'SO' appear in six little four-letter blocks throughout the grid, with AS above and SO below (of course).  An interesting concept for a Monday crossword and I imagine easier than usual to clue from a theme perspective.  

No issues with the solve, though it played a tiny bit slowly for me today.  I don't generally look to the theme for assistance and it probably wouldn't have made a difference anyway.  One slight hiccup was entering TACK instead of NAIL for "Poster holder-upper".  Who nails a poster to a wall??  I liked the references to two of my favourite things - OSSO buco (mmmm - a dish with plenty of UMAMI), and origami and its FOLDS, my go-to Zen activity.  STEFFI Graf was great indeed.  So classy.  SQIN ("small area measurement") was a cheeky way to clue a tricky 'Q'!  My family and I did hop on the SQUID Game bandwagon - did you??

ALAS, I got nothing else, so I shall CLEAVE you now..


Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sunday, April 14 2024, John Rippe and Jeff Chen

Greetings Earthlings!  Seems like forever since my last contribution to this blog.  A lot of water under the bridge in the past while, including the ACPT a couple of weeks ago - which was fun, challenging, stressful, and - most of all - emotional, with a recovering Will Shortz taking the podium on all three days.  We are all very much rooting for you, Will!!  

Interesting puzzle today, with an unorthodox left-right symmetry and a square pattern that, if you squint, resembles a jet plane or perhaps a down-arrow, indicative of the direction in which our planet may be headed.  Which brings us to the theme.. though it's not apparent at first, there are seven pairs of Down clues, adjacent vertically, with the top and bottom clues labeled 'BEFORE:' and 'AFTER:' respectively.  The top "before" answers, legitimate in their own right, contain embedded (circled) letters, which spell out the names of animals; and the remaining letters are identical to the bottom "after" answers.  So what's the deal?   As indicated by 104A, 112A and 114A, the animals are all ENDANGERED SPECIES, and the puzzle is telling us what'll remain when they are gone.

I don't feel I've explained this very succinctly.  A couple of examples:  21D "Having physical form" (CORPOREAL) is followed by 75D "Target of a facial cleanser" (PORE) - yes, CORAL is a member of the animal kingdom.  16D "Theme park chain" (SEAWORLD) is followed by 64D "Slangy 'Amen'" (WORD) (but are SEALs really endangered?  Maybe some types of seal are?).  I dunno.  I didn't mind this, though it's a bit weird to have answers essentially repeated in the grid.  And  not that it's inappropriate at all, but what a gloomy theme! 

What else ...  I liked NACL for salt, and the excellent QMC "One on the links?" (ACE), which took me a while to twig to, even though it's Master's weekend.  Another clever one was CHINASHOP ("A bull market it is not!"  A TOENAIL is indeed a "tiny 'canvas' on which to paint" - nice one - and I just noticed "Scoff in Offenbach" (ACH) which is inventive indeed.

Nice cluing overall.  I'm going to go and think happy thoughts for the rest of the day, and I hope you do too!  See you tomorrow...


Saturday, April 13, 2024

A fun Saturday puzzle which, judging by my time (23:39), falls on the easier side of the range. I especially enjoyed "Whimsically move from here to there" (SKIP), "One stymied by security questions, say" (BOT), "Go all over" (GAD), "Checks for clothes" (PLAID), "Fit for a queen?" (DRAG), and "They don't care for icing, for short" (NHL) - a sports-themed clue that I dropped right in. Score!


Lots of spoken phrase clues in the grid - not usually my cup of ICEDTEAS - but for some reason, today I was able to SAYAGAIN the gist of the clues in the correct form (YOUTELLME, IMWELLAWARE, EASYMAN, ISTHATANO, HAPPYNOW, COMEONIN). 

The clue "Capellini lookalike" strung me along because I thought ANGELHAIR pasta was the same as capellini, not just a doppelganger. I wonder what the actual distinction is. Elsewhere, for the most part, I either knew the answers or was able to guess them, with the most difficult section for me being the northwest. I know of, and have played PADDIDDLE (interesting word!), but I didn't think of it until I had the P of PANGS ("Evidence of hunger") in place. I was also hampered by entering 'beret' for "Felt hat" and having it stay in place instead of switching to the correct DERBY. Minor missteps included 'gel' instead of GOO for "Mousse, e.g.", 'taxi' instead of SHOO for the visually entertaining clue "Cry while swishing one's hand around," and jumping the gun by positing 'coal' as the start of the answer for "Fuel conduit" due to the L in the DOLLYPARTON cross  with the GASLINE "I'm not offended by all of the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb ... and I also know that I'm not blonde." :)


Friday, April 12, 2024

Friday, April 12, 2024, Evan Kalish

Just under 30 minutes for a Friday NYTX? THATTRACKS - for me, that is. :) I enjoyed chipping away at this one. The northeast fell first, thanks to a correct guess right off the bat of IMPS for "No angels," after which, most of the Downs seemed straightforward. One I didn't get right away was "Misidentification in the DC Universe," which turned out to be the hilarious-to-me ITSAPLANE.

The next section I completed was the southeast thanks to correct guesses of SWEETONION for "Vidalia, for one" and SUMOS for "Athletes who wear mawashi," and despite an odd (to me) tone mismatch between the clue "It's unclear" and the answer DUNNO, the as-yet unexperienced TEXASTOAST, and the unknown to me NASONEX (Brand name for the steroid mometasone). 
I loved the pair of C/APs "Takes a dim view of" (PANS) and "Take a dim view of?" (HATEWATCH). So clever!

Other excellent C/APs:
"Promise of a future return?" (IOWEYOUONE)
"Partner who's deep undercover?" (BLANKETHOG)
"Considering retirement?" (SLEEPY)
"Hot topic in criminology?" (ARSON)
"Letters in an empty slot" (TBA)
"Field you can feel, maybe" (AURA)

I love the expression RIOT of color. So evocative! Also enjoyed RAINDANCE, TRAVELKIT, and MINTSAUCE.

As luck would have it, I seemed to know most of the answers in the MIDST of the puzzle including CURIE, TAN, TAHOE, and DENIM. I was not so lucky in the northwest - the section that took me the longest, due to an initial entry of Nepal where TIBET belonged and an unsuitable guess of 'tuxes' ("Rentals for some weddings") where TENTS were wanted. So, there's still a long way to go before I become an ELITE solver.


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Thursday, April 11, 2024, Dan Caprera

Today's theme revealer is aptly instructional. It provides a hint to understanding four of the puzzle clue answers. The trick is that the answer to the first clue in each of four rows only makes complete sense if SECRET PASSAGES are included. I say "complete sense" because, as we all know - and heard amusing examples of at the ACPT - solvers can make almost any answer make sense in their minds, if they think it fits. To get the full answer to the theme clues, one must posit two letters, hidden in the black squares, between the Across answers in the row. Which two letters? The first row uses the first two letters of the word PASSAGES (P & A), the fourth row uses the next two (S & S) and so on. As an example, the clue for 1A was "Slicing and dicing, say" and the entire answer, with the secret letters added in, is FOOD[P]REP[A]RATION. I had a little trouble with the bottom two rows of the puzzle and ended up needing to figure out the theme in order to finally get PRIMER[E]ALE[S]TATE ("Valuable property"). As you can see in these two examples, one of the excellent features of this puzzle is that the words that make up the complete theme answer are fully acceptable entries on their own. 

To top it off, the remainder of the puzzle was not FORSAKEN. Good clues and answers were not SCARCE. I thought "Training unit" was nicely ambiguous for REP, as was "Place to take shots" for VEIN. Also entertaining were "When theatrical special effects happen, one hopes" (ONCUE) and "Something to take when you are in the dark" (STAB) - not literally, I hope. Although, that's one way Mr. Boddy could have been done away with in the game Clue. :) I also enjoyed the double language clue "French translation of the Spanish 'calle'" (RUE).

I didn't love the C/AP "Appeals to" for BEGS, which I found somewhat INAPT. But, I did love the words RATION and TIRADE. And who knew Stephen King had a SON who is author Joe Hill? NOTI.


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wednesday, April 10, 2024, Bill Thompson

Today's theme is sheer sorcery and invokes what you might call spell unbinding. Each theme answer breaks a spell - HEX, CHARM, CURSE, and POX. The letters used to spell the spell appear at the beginning and end of the four corresponding theme answers. For example, when your date orders CHICKENPARM for dinner, suddenly, the CHARM is broken. We've all been there - am I right? I wander how many other such cases are out there. Amulet you tell me. Although, come to think about it, 'jinx' could possibly do the trick. 

And speaking of jinx, according to the Wikipedia, the letter X appears in about 0.15% of English words, but in this grid, if I've done the math correctly, it appears in 2.6% of the words, making today's puzzle Xtra special. 


Some potions of the puzzle I liked included DARENOT for "Be afraid to",  "Canterbury cooktops" (HOBS), and "What macOS is based on" (UNIX) - as an ROI. I was also enchanted by the consecutive answers AIR (Make public) and ERR (Mess up). And who doesn't like the velvet tones of Mel TORME

The one place it took me some time to conjure up an answer was the cross between 44A: "Shepherd formerly of 'The View'" and 42D: "1965 film starring George Segal that was set in a P.O.W. camp." I didn't know either the person or the movie, and in a stroke of bad luck, without realizing it, I had typed an I in the second square of 44A. leaving me with SiERR_ across, and K_NGRAT down. I thought SiERRa might be a person's name but KaNGRAT failed to bewitch me. Taking everything out of both answers and reviewing the clues fixed the evil I, allowing me to see SHERRI and KINGRAT. Tada!

In addition to the theme answers, the longer fill was generally good and interesting - I especially liked HOTMAGENTA, KISMET, and STEALTH - but some of the the three-letter items lacked mojo. And, even though I was happy to see them in the puzzle, EMMAS for "Heroines in novels by Flaubert and Austen" was bedeviled by being an awkward plural. That is not to say that I don't appreciate the wizardry involved in puzzle construction. Having a new puzzle to solve delivered to me every day over the intertubes is magic. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Tuesday, April 9, 2024, Caroline Sommers and Freddie Cheng

Today's theme entertained by transforming STAR names into amusing commands, such as "Hey, patriarch of 1960s television - shut up!" (JEDCLAMPIT), or in the case of a famed singer/song writer, an exclamation  (LYLELOVEIT). Other examples included an exhortation aimed at an acclaimed Australian actress ordered to prepare broccoli (CATEBLANCHIT) and a gazillionaire told to shine the car (WARRENBUFFIT) - as if. :)


There were some nice clues that attempted a soupcon of Sean Connery like "Office subs" for TEMPS and "It runs hot" for LAVA. In the Nicole Kidman category, I enjoyed "Have trouble with one's balance?" (OWE) and "European heavy weight?" (KILO) - heh. "Add fuel to" (STOKE) was particularly Leonardo DiCaptrio. And one C/AP that I thought was particularly Charlize Theron: "Brought nine possible outfits for a one-night stay, e.g." (OVERPACKED) - we've all been there.


Monday, April 8, 2024

Monday, April 8, 2024, Peter Gordon

Well, dear Reader, here's another review from the road. Horace and I are driving north, chasing today's TOTALECLIPSE. If we had know about it in advance, we could have benefitted from the puzzle's topical play list (MOONSHADOW, INTOTHENIGHT, STARINGATTHESUN, TOTALECLIPSE OFTHEHEART) to cheer us along. Right now, the TENOR of the mood in the car is vexation as we slog along with a million other cars on a road designed for only 10,000. 

With very little in the clues to obscure the answers, the solve was smooth and easy enough (unlike this drive we are on) to have maybe allowed me to break the five minute barrier, but after a weekend of scrambling to finish seven puzzles each in a limited amount of time at the ACPT, I decided not to rush through this one and finished in 6:32. I don't usually obsess about solve times, but after the Tournament champ solved a Saturday level puzzle faster than I solved a typical Monday puzzle, it's hard not to. 

In addition to a LOTTO theme material, I enjoyed "Witty reply to 'You'e the kind of person who asks too many questions" (AMI), "They may be liberal" (ARTS) and "Shown to the door" (SEENOUT) - we've all been there. :)

Fill-wise, BRISKETS, URSINE, KNISH, SIPHON, and ESCHEW were bright spots. And who doesn't like a NERD?

Fingers crossed for a good view today of the sun's RAYS as they TARRY behind the MOONSHADOW.


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Sunday, April 7, 2024, Tracy Gray


Greetings, all. A cute little theme of doubled letters standing in for the word they sound like. As in [UU]ITORLOSEIT (Fitness enthusiast's mantra) and AWORDTOTHE[YY] (Start of some cautionary advice). And in the Downs, the doubled letters worked individually, as in AREYO[UU]P (Still awake?) and ARCTI[CC]IRCLE (Where to see the midnight sun). 


Now listen, CINC (POTUS's military title) is not an abbreviation for "commander in chief." It just isn't. 

OK, ok, maybe I'm still a little bit testy after totally flunking the Puzzle Five test that was handed out yesterday. Sorry, Ms. Gray. I definitely blame Joel. :P

On the bright side we have HOTTIE (Real looker), "Hip sport for a drink?" (FLASK), "The one who got away?" (ESCAPEE), "Rubs the rite way?" (ANOINTS), and "Where the buck might stop?" (DOE). Guffaw.

I hadn't heard of a STAYMAN (Apple variety whose name sounds like part of a flower), a WAVESKI (Surfboard/kayak hybrid), or a TEACU[PP]OODLE (shudder).

OK, sorry so short, but I gotta get back over to the Marriott to see the final!


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Saturday, April 6, 2024, Byron Walden

Another tricksy Saturday. Good prep for today's tournament, I suppose. Best not to get hopes too high. My goal, as always, is clean puzzles. I like being fast if possible, but I'm not going to win anything, so being accurate is the focus this weekend. 

BUBBLY (Vivacious) was a fun start, but those Downs off of it were brutal! BADTHING seems so vague for "Demerit," and although I now sort of remember the UHOHOREO, it was not something I ever thought about. And BIGUPSET - is it really "Cinderella's calling card?" I guess I understand the reference, but I don't know... 

BSIDE (Under cut?) was "Saturday cute," let's call it. My favorite was "Thick envelope during admissions season, say," as it brought back some good memories. It's admissions season now, isn't it? Here's hoping all you young people (Do any do the NYTX? Do any read this blog??) get thick envelopes from all your top choices!

I clearly don't watch enough ZOMBIEMOVIES, because "Pictures where people are headscarfed?" didn't mean anything to me. "'Death Be Not Proud,' for one" (SONNET) was more up my alley. 

Best clue today: "Can't they all just git along?" (DOGIES). Brilliant. Runner up: "Something that many people share" (MEME). And I loved the bluntness of ITSTINKS (Zero stars). Heh.

OK, I've gotta get ready to go over to the Marriott soon. I was too late to get a room there, so it's a little bit of a walk. Best of luck to everyone who will join me in that ballroom today. 

- Horace

Friday, April 5, 2024

Friday, April 5, 2024, Rebecca Goldstein

 It's been a busy day. Frankly, I have very little memory of the puzzle since I did it at 5:30AM and subsequently helped a contractor rebuild part of our front porch, and then hijacked that same contractor (a friend of ours) to help me build out my new art studio, taking up the time I would have spent writing the review, and leaving me to dictate it to Frannie as we make our way through terrible traffic to Stamford for the ACPT.

Thanks to Frannie's extremely helpful review of all the clues and answers as we make our way south, I can say a few things about the puzzle. I liked the strong start with ONICE (In reserve). "It might make a cameo" was cute for ONYX. MOXIE, SWANKY, and CABOOSES are all fun words. 

The straightforwardness of POINTBLANK (Direct) was amusing. We have friends who really know how to "Go all in for a gag" so I also enjoyed COMMITTOTHEBIT

"Question for the naysayers" (ALLOPPOSED) was clever. The LIONSSHARE of the short Downs were uninteresting, with TERN being one exception, mostly due to its clue (Bird that makes the longest migration in the animal kingdom). 

And speaking of tern, has anyone heard of the word SLUE for "Turn on an axis" before? Frannie sure hasn't.

That's all for now. Got to pay some attention to the road. Good luck to everyone participating in the ACPT. If you are in Stamford this weekend, be sure say hello. I'm the hippie version of George Clooney (according to Frannie), if you don't already know me.

- Horace 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Thursday, April 4, 2024, Kevin Curry

As James Thurber once said, "One MARTINI is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough."

Today's NYTX is a celebration of that ELIXIROFQUIETUDE, the MARTINI. One part VERMOUTH, five parts GIN, and an OLIVE. Classic. And it's got lovely grid art to boot. (And as a bonus, you can see my last letter!) I stir mine, but suum cuique. Bond can have his SHAKENNOTSTIRRED.

It all makes me look forward to being in Stamford this weekend, where, hopefully, I will enjoy a MARTINI with my esteemed co-blogger Philbo. Perhaps I'll bring one into the ballroom for Puzzle Five. ... sigh... No. I'll be positive. Maybe this is the year I finish it within the time limit! :)

Not that this puzzle needs anything more than this wonderful theme, but I will just mention a few other things. MYALGIC (Having muscle pain) is a ten-cent word if I ever saw one. And the clue for RAGTIME, above that, was excellent (What Scott Joplin might yell after a spill?). LOL. 

I was sidetracked briefly by guessing Brush instead of BERET for "Accessory in many Rembrandt self-portraits," but LEO Durocher fixed that fast. And I chuckled at the answer to "Alternative to an energy drink, perhaps" (NAP). Hah!

OK, is that enough? Now I guess I just have to wait around until noon...

- Horace

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Wednesday, April 3, 2024, Alex Eaton-Salners

OK, I don't really understand the theme today. Two letters are circled in each theme answer, and the same two letters are missing from the first three theme clues, but the fourth clue has three missing letters. In the answers with two circled letters, the same letter appears again uncircled, and in the fourth, it doesn't. Soooo... I don't know what to tell you. Anybody see anything especially clever about this?

I liked learning that CONCRETE is the "Second-most-used substance in the world, after water." Well, I like that I now know that fact, I'm sorry that it's true. CATAPULT is fun, and ESTUARY is a good word. And it's refreshing to have reference to a TYPEB personality, as we seem to much more frequently see references to its opposite.

"Not fantastic" is a fantastic clue for REAL. Hands up if you wanted "so-so." And on the QMC side, "Metal worker?" is a nice one for ROBOT. Heh. And "Animal crackers?" for EGGS? Very nice.

I thought of HOES immediately for "Things hung upside down in some toolsheds," but in our tool shed, other implements are also hung upside down - rakes, pruning shears, and shovels. Just fyi.

Some good clues but a bewildering theme. Anybody got any answers?

- Horace

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Tuesday, April 2, 2024, Billy Bratton

Four things that can be held start the four long theme answers today: door, line, floor, and - amusingly - mayo. It's classic crossword construction to end with one that leaves you with a smile, so nicely done. Sometimes people talk about changing the way the word is used in the theme answer and in the theme itself - like in MAYOCLINIC it's a person's name, and not mayonnaise, but it's hard to camouflage a door, or the floor. Still, I don't much care about that kind of nuance, so it's all good. 


What I do care about is fun clues, like "Mammal whose scientific name is just its name repeated (BISON) and "Old habit?" (TUNIC). Heh. See also: "Debriefed?" (NAKED). METTLE (Grit) is a good word, and a little geology is always welcome (ATOLL (Lagoon-forming landform). 

Also, how strong a single was "Wouldn't It Be Nice" backed by "God Only Knows" ?! The SIDEB is only the song that Paul McCartney once called "the greatest song ever written."

All in all, a fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, April 1, 2024

Monday, April 1, 2024, Alan Arbesfeld

OK, I wrote yesterday about the new Fagliano Era at the NYTX, and I was all ready to make a big thing about basically a Thursday puzzle running on a Monday today, but then as I was starting this review I typed "Monday, April 1," and I thought - "Oh. Riiiggghhhhht. It's April Fool's Day." So maybe it's just a one-off for the special day, but still - it was a little surprising. (See also Connections today!) 


The trick is that six answers turn out to be turned up, and we must interpret them in different ways to make the clues make sense. "Malfunctioning, literally?" is entered Down as GNITCA, but if looked at the other way, it is "Acting up." "Lunar omen in a 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, literally?" is NOOMDAB, or "Bad Moon rising." Then in the bottom half we have to interpret REVILO for "Former N.S.C. staffer at the center of the Iran-Contra affair, literally?" as "Oliver North." And finally, one that proves my point about things being a little different is "Make a rude gesture with one's finger, literally?" (DRIBEHT) is "Flip the bird." 

So, with all this, it played a little harder than a Monday usually does, but not too much, thanks to the rest of the answers being straightforward. At least to regular crossword solvers, who will see a four letter answer being clued with "Nabisco cookie," and a three-letter with "Scot's denial," and answer OREO and NAE without even thinking. Some, though, were obvious to the point of almost being confusing, like "Mother, affectionately" is MOMMY. Doesn't that feel a little odd? Especially after entering MAMA at 6-Down?

I suppose I have to mention DANTEAN (Reminiscent of work by the 14th-century author of "Inferno," and how it crosses BEEB (U.K. news source, with "the") - I hope that didn't trip people up - but really I'd rather not, because I, for one, welcome our new crossword puzzle overlords. This was a fun one.

- Horace

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Sunday, March 31, 2024, Spencer Leach


Classic crossword theme today, where common phrases are flipped and clued wackily. As in:

ALARMTHERAYS (Spook some creatures in an aquarium's touch tank?)
CITESTHESEE (References a Vatican Library source?)
SCREWSTHETITANS (Referees a Tennessee football game poorly?)

Hah! I commented yesterday that I believe there has been a slight shift in the puzzle since Mr. Fagliano took over. To wit, the "CRAPPER" entry yesterday, and the third theme answer above. Plus, the last couple (few?) weekends have been really tough. Today's big Sunday grid took me less than half the time that yesterday's took me! But I'm not complaining. I love it. But let me know - am I crazy? Do you think it's pretty much business as usual?


Some good clues today included "Vintage restaurant items?" (WINELISTS), "Economic justice catchphrase" (EATTHERICH), "Comment from someone exiting the mall on Black Friday" (ITSAZOO). There's good trivia in "World's oldest capital city, settled in the third millenium B.C. (E.) (DAMASCUS) and "City feature that's been found to improve mental health" (GREENSPACE), and speaking of green space, who doesn't love hearing "Birds known for their loud, complex songs" (WRENS)?

We just started watching "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" so Police captain HOLT was a gimme, and I am ready for YEET these days, after missing it in a Boswords tournament puzzle, but I was very worried about THNEEDVILLE ("The Lorax" setting) and AULII (Actress Cravalho who voiced Moana). As usual, though, it's good to learn things through puzzles.

I enjoy this type of theme, and I did again today. Not much in the grid to elicit a NOMEGUSTA, but then again it wasn't an all out HELLYEAH either. Still, a solid Sunday.

- Horace

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Saturday, March 30, 2024, Blake Slonecker

Happy birthday today to Horace! Who is an undisclosed amount of years old today. Congratulations! And enjoy today's jawbreaker of a puzzle.

Woof! What a tough nut to crack. The grid has a four-way symmetry, so every corner is made up of six 7-letter answers intersecting. There are four 15-letter answers making a cross through the central section, which has a diamond shape. 

The grid spanning answers are all excellent, in my opinion. If I had to rank them (and apparently, I do), I would list them as follows:

4. 36A: "No need to blame yourself" (ACCIDENTSHAPPEN). It's a great phrase, and the clue is good. It just is not as good as the other three.

3. 7D: Paradoxical line of amazement (THEREARENOWORDS). Another great phrase, and I like the clue's reminder of the silliness of the sentiment.

2. 8D: When the lights go out? (CHRISTMASSEASON). What a great QMC, showing how good a QMC can be. If the clue had used "up" instead of "out" there would have been no confusion, right? So good.

1. 32A: Patient check-ins (GENTLEREMINDERS). Obviously I'm a sucker for a clue that shows us the ambiguity of the English language. I was so stuck on the possiblity of "annual checkups," for example, that I didn't see the first word of the clue as an adjective. Love it.

TIMREID as DJ Venus Flytrap

Other great clues include:

12D: Like some schools (PISCINE) - did not see that coming.

14D: Keep in the back of one's mind, perhaps (REPRESS). Hah!

48A: Locals go to all of them (STOPS) - local trains, that is.

40D: Making out (ESPYING). So much for blue material. How many tried "neckING" first?

I enjoyed the clues for LEBANON and ECUADOR. I did not want to have 41D in my puzzle, but non-constructors can't be choosers.

Tomorrow, the one-year-older Horace takes over.

- Colum

Friday, March 29, 2024

Friday, March 29, 2024, Jake Bunch

Happy Friday morning to all of our readers! Loyal, thoughtful, intelligent puzzlers, each and every one of you, I feel certain.

How many of you, I wonder knew the reference at 9D: Emoji that might be used in response to a funny text (SKULL)? I looked it up just in case. It's to signify dying of laughing, you see. I might have to take that up myself in future texting. I barely use emojis at all, which is a sign of my advancing years, I imagine.

I had a few answers in this NW corner, but not enough to get a real foothold. That happened in the segment of the puzzle just below, where 20D: Tripping (ONLSD) as well as GOT got me going (see what I did there?). I very much enjoyed the meta reference in the clue for PASTIME, and moved over to the SW corner. 

That's PELE's jersey

Everybody likes MOOSE being both singular and plural, even though some insist on saying "meese." Heh. That's my WARPED sense of humor. I got my first long answer with ISTHISTHINGON, a great phrase. The pair of Is at 40D made ASCII obvious, and then I saw 49A: Bust (CATCHREDHANDED). Not the "bust" Auntie Mame was referring to - "That's the head, you know."

Things in the middle became clear with 23D: Those who have gone wrong? (DESERTERS), and then I got 13D: Ones who might roast you (CANNIBALS). What a great pair of symmetric answers with clever clues!

12A: Sweet message bearer (FORTUNECOOKIE) is excellent. It wasn't valentine's candy, which I thought it might be originally. Also good is 14A: Place for bucks at the bar? (MECHANICALBULL) - not a tip jar.

What a great example of a strong and smooth themeless. Thank you, Mr. Bunch.

- Colum

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Thursday, March 28, 2024, Dominic Grillo

No longer the Mr. or Ms. POTATO / HEAD of my youth? What is this world coming to?! 

Actually, I'm fine with it. Today's puzzle is an homage to the OVOID toy, with a central nearly completely separated section colored a light tan on the iPad version in that same shape. In addition, scattered around are the INTERCHANGEABLE parts which are so classic. You can find a [SMILE], a [NOSE], a [HAT], an [EAR], two [EY/ES], and a [HAND]. These are shaped like what they represent, so nicely done there.

In the end, I'm not convinced it's entirely Thursday-worthy. I would rather have had yesterday's puzzle today (although it was likely a little too easy) and today's yesterday (although at 15 x 16, it played harder). What do you think?

All of the triple-checked letters made a challenge for Mr. Grillo, which he has managed nicely. The only answer I'm not so fond of is TARDIER. I think most people would plump for "more tardy," but it's acceptable. Perhaps POETRIES as a plural of a GENRES is a little odd as well.

Barry GIBB

I'm a big fan of the Keats poem referenced in 12A (To Autumn). I tried setting it to music in my college years, with mixed results. 

What do people think of these clues which come from hidden words or anagrams? It's a well-accepted type of clue in our cousin puzzles, the British crossword puzzle. 37A: Synonym found after deleting half the letters of EXHILARATE (ELATE), or 57D: Pulitzer-winning author whose name is found in nonconsecutive letters of "page turner" (AGEE) are examples today. I find them inelegant, and a bit of a gimme.

A fun puzzle but a little disappointing for a Thursday.

- Colum

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Wednesday, March 27, 2024, Rich Katz

61 squares of theme material? Sure, Mr. Katz. Set yourself a nearly impossible task.

The mnemonic RIGHTYTIGHTY / LEFTYLOOSEY is our guiding concept here. And so cleverly deployed, as well! If 13A: *Wiggler in a child's mouth (TOOTH) didn't make complete sense to you as you filled it in in the NW, well, that's because it's on the left side of the puzzle, so you should add "loose" before it (on its left) to make "loose tooth." The other two on the left are [LOOSE]LEAF and [LOOSE]LIPS

On the right side of the puzzle, three answers have "tight" added after, or to their right, to make SKIN[TIGHT], HANG[TIGHT], and SLEEP[TIGHT]. As a bonus, SCREWDRIVERS is put in, just to make sure we don't have a screw loose.

Example of the genus BERETS

Mr. Katz has set up the black squares throughout the puzzle to ensure that no down answer goes through more than two of the across answers involved in the theme. Well done!

In the fill, I enjoyed 53A: Stick used for breaking (CUE) - as in while playing pool; and 61A: Characteristic sound of Yoko Ono? (LONGO). 

11D: Without it, that's neat (ICE) is a delightful non-QMC. Even better is 18D: Oh, to be in France! (ETRE). Hah! Finally, 51D: It might be used while boxing (TWINE) is very nice.

Pretty amazing Wednesday, IMO.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Tuesday, March 26, 2024, Laura Dershewitz and Katherine Baicker

Congratulations on a debut puzzle, Ms. Dershewitz! Also, Ms. Baicker, for your third published puzzle with the NYT.

And it's a doozy for a Tuesday! The revealer is right in the middle of the puzzle, at 34A: Kind of fallacious argument ... or, phonetically, a hint to the answers to the starred clues (ADHOMINEM). Hah! "Add homonym." In each theme answer, a standard phrase has a homonym for the last word appended, making a new phrase which can be clued wackily. 

Thus, 46A: Marriage ceremony for the perfect guy? (MRRIGHTRITE) - beautiful. Even better is the one saved for the last. 57A: Mother superior? (SECONDTONONENUN). Amazing. That one had to be the seed entry at 15 letters long. I appreciate that it was the punchline at the end of the puzzle. Nicely done!

Also, I am a big fan of repurposing the central revealer. We've had enough of ad hominem attacks to last a lifetime over the past 10 years.

HARDEDGE painting by Lorser Feitelson

In the fill, I liked that the first two across clues were essentially the same, with 1A: Get moving (SCOOT) and 6A: Get moving? (PROD). That, along with 1D: Haul, from the Yiddish (SCHLEP) and 23A: "When will u b here?" (ETA) made for a motion filled start to the puzzle, with some fun clues. 

6D: Like checks and balances? (PLURAL) is a great form of cluing we've seen a bunch of recently, where the clue is self-referential. 

Do our readers think that there needs to be a hint (at least in the early days of the week) for the alternative spelling of AEON? I'm not a huge fan, although I get the utility of such a collection of vowels for our constructors.

I did not fall for the SILENTB bomb, as I usually do. The clue made it fairly clear what was going on.

Fun puzzle!

- Colum

Monday, March 25, 2024

Monday, March 25, 2024, Shannon Rapp and Will Eisenberg

Happy Monday morning, and happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Hope. Possibly 66A is a birthday shout-out!

Today's puzzle is a straightforward one: four phrases which end with words that also describe roles on the baseball field. There's no revealer to tie things together, but that's okay. The concept is clear enough that no extra step is needed to make the theme comprehensible. All four phrases are solid as well, including the full name of NATHANFIELDER. If you've never watched his shows, he is a deeply odd comedian who is willing to take his jokes to a place of meaningfully stressful discomfort. I'm not sure how much I enjoy it, but he is committed to his concepts.

Some good entries in the fill, including ITSADRYHEAT. I also liked HOTTAKES and NIRVANA

ARIANA Grande in the upcoming Wicked

The clue for 34D: 2, 4, 6, 8, how do these numbers relate? (EVENS) is so close to working, but doesn't quite. The problem is in the scanning of the second half. It only has three feet, and needs four. And, they're dactyls rather than trochees. Perhaps "How do these four correlate?" What do you think?

Otherwise, nothing much to report in the grid. It's a good example of a Monday level puzzle, and it sped by for me.

- Colum 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Sunday, March 24, 2024, John Kugelman


Hello everyone! I'm back for another scintillating week of puzzles and moderately interesting reviews. Thanks to Philbo for his contributions, both this past week and over the last year. 

It's been a crazy weekend, to say the least. Put together a birthday party for my wife with many guests planned to be arriving into Albany from out of town (not the least of which were Horace and Frances); combine that with a freak ice and snowstorm, stopping many of said out-of-towners from arriving (but not stopping H&F); on top of which the power goes out, but that's okay, because we have a generator; followed by the generator breaking. 

So our planned karaoke party went from a rented room to our family room, to our living room with candles, a piano, a guitar, and a lot of very game singers. Turned out to be a ton of fun, just far away from original expectations!

Thus, apologies for the delayed review this evening. The power is still not back on in Albany, so I had to wait until I made to NYC to write this blog post.

A place BASQUES might live near

Anyhoo, a fun theme today. Take a verb phrase in the present tense, change the verb to a noun with a possessive apostrophe inserted before that final -S, reparse and clue wackily, and as they say, hilarity ensues. Honestly, I didn't quite get it even after filling in many of the theme answers. For a hot second, I thought we were going to move a letter from one word to another, when I looked at 95A: "And ... cut!"?(SETSATEASE). See, that could be "sets a tease," like what might happen in a hair salon? 

Yeah, I agree. No go. Instead, it's "set's 'at ease'," or the command on set to relax. 

I think I like HOLDSWATER and TAKESORDERS the best. I didn't really chuckle at any of them, but I think they're all solid.

Clues I liked today:

27A: Pool side (STRIPES) - as in the game pool, the opponent being "solids."

33A: People who might answer "What's up?" with "The sky" (WISEASSES). Excellent.

105A: 85 to 115, typically (IQRANGE). I knew what they were getting at, but put in "level" for a while.

6D: Homebodies? (UMPS).

39D: Swinger's attire (GOLFSHIRT). For a moment, I was thinking perhaps "nothing."

Pretty fun solve, overall.

- Colum

Friday, March 22, 2024

Saturday, March 23 2024, Sam Ezersky

Greetings all!  It's been almost a year since I joined this little blogging cabal, and it's been a lot of fun!  I still don't feel like I'm familiar enough with the regular setters, but I do know a few, enough to know that if it's Mr. Ezersky, we're in for a treat, likely by way of some tough sledding.  And so it is today, with a dense, chewy gem of a puzzle with what feels like very little black space.

This was a very slow solve for me, thanks to tricky cluing and a few characters I did not know (looking at you, Li Mu BAI and GENOSMITH, side by side down near the bottom).  I was also hampered right off the bat by "Worrisome word from a barber", which I thought for sure was OOPS but wasn't (small nit : isn't UHOH actually two words, not one?).

At the top, AUDIOBOOKS for "Speaking volumes?" was good.  I didn't get (and still don't get) SOB for "Blue belt?".  The Blue part, yes, but "belt"?  Anyone?  Bueller? 

In the SE corner, a couple of marvellously non-obvious clues - "Hill-adjacent field, in brief" (POLISCI) and "Plates for nuts" (WASHERS - excellent!) Crossing these, I wasn't sure I understood "Lastin' line" (SCAR).  I'm guessing it's a play on "Last in line"..?  Over to the left, another great clue, to DOGNAP - "Take, as a pointer".  I needed five of the six crossing letters to twig to this one.  Same as "Get hitched" in the middle - SAYIDO wasn't apparent until it was pretty much filled in.

I'll curtail my random walk around the grid here.  A really satisfying, rewarding puzzle today.  Thanks Mr. Ezersky!  And with that, I hand the mike over to Colum..


Thursday, March 21, 2024

Friday, March 22 2024, Mansi Kothari and Erik Agard

Welcome to the Friday themeless - no theme means I can't give it away in the first paragraph, per my usual MO.  A nice challenging solve, with two pairs of adacent long clues both Across and Down, anchored by a grid-spanner in the middle.  

Instead of griping about errors and false starts (like the plausible but wrong FACTOIDS instead of FUNFACTS for "Icebreaker tidbits") , today I'll focus on the positives, of which there were many.  Clever highlights were "Primary directive" (VOTE) and "Petty person?" (ANIMALLOVER)  - as a massive animal lover myself, this one struck a chord.  USA for "July birthday celebrant" was great.  My favourite though, I think, was "Assists on offense?"  (ABETS)

I'd never heard the term METALUMLAUT before, as the gratuitous diacritics over the vowels in some heavy metal band names.  Puts me in mind of Spinal Tap, one of whose uncountable nuggets of genius was to put an umlaut on a *consonant* (the 'N').  

Have any of you ever responded SAMETOYOU when given birthday greetings?  I did once, when I was 10.  The embarrassment has endured through the decades...

This grid contained, for me, a greater than usual number of clues I had no idea about.  "Indie pop duo Sylvan ____" is ESSO?  (What happened to the old standby "Canadian petroleum distributor"?)  I'd say Tommy IVAN in the Hockey Hall of Fame is a pretty deep cut, even for us hockey-mad Canadians.  Never heard of Miss Universe 2000 winner LARA Dutta.  AME are Black church initials?  News to me.  There were a few others.  I felt like I was extra reliant on the crossers today.

And so it goes.  Fun and satisfying!  Bring on Saturday!


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Thursday, March 21 2024, Joe Marquez

Today's puzzle provides a nice bit of escapism, quite literally - in four places in the grid, Across and Down answers cross on the letters 'ESC'; this is the KEY to the puzzle, as it were (ahem).  This is a fantastic piece of construction!  For those of us who do our solving online, there's a 'meta' aspect to this as well, as in order to enter multiple letters in a single square, as we need to do in those four squares, one clicks on the square and then presses the ESCape key.  My hypothesis is that this was no accident - that it was the inspiration for the theme.  (Mr. Marquez, if you're out there, feel free to confirm or deny!)

The revealer answer - ESCAPEROOM - clued as "Puzzling activity..." I found just a tiny bit unsatisfactory.  What does the ROOM part signify?  Are the four squares the 'rooms'?  Or the answers themselves? Quite possibly there's something I'm not getting. 

Supporting these eight ESC entries is plenty of quality fill, some of which presented this solver some difficulty.  I had not heard of TYR the Norse war god, nor "CHE cosa fai".  So much for my Scandinavian mythology and Italian...  I liked the somewhat unusual SAUNTERED ("Took a leisurely walk"), and the non-obvious HIC ("Repeated sound that can be cured").  I suppose AMINOR *is* an "apt key for a musical prodigy".  And yes, the silly "Part of your body that smells the most" (NOSTRIL) brought a smile.

You know who was zany in THREESCOMPANY, by the way? Not the roommates so much, but Stanley the landlord, that's who.  

This was a super good Thursday-level crossword.  Hope you enjoyed it too!  See ya tmrw...


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Wednesday, March 20 2024, E. M. Capassakis

An interesting theme in today's crossword, with which I struggled much more than usual for a Wednesday, failing ultimately due to a dreaded Natick - more on that later.  First - the theme!  Six Across clues consist of simple three-digit numbers, and it's the solver's task to figure out what the numbers refer to, as they're not really directly synonymous with their answers.  They make more sense if you implicitly add "..is the number for..." or "...is the number associated with..." after the numbers.  Like so:

  • 101 = INTROCLASS
  • 007 = BOND
  • 420 = CANNABIS (how common-knowledge is this, I wonder)
  • 666 = THEBEAST
  • 411 = INFO
  • 360 = FULLCIRCLE
This is unusual, somewhat oblique construction, and I found that I liked it!

As for the rest of the grid, there were a few serious trouble spots for me, especially in the NW and centre.  Starting with LEARN for "Be a sponge" - hey, plausible, but no, it's MOOCH - the resulting 5 adjacent wrong letters in the grid took forever to unwind, not helped by the fact that I'd never heard of PESACH (Seder holiday).  And my Spanish is nonexistent enough to not get CHICA for "Niña"... and leading into this is the double-Natick that brought me down - the best I could do was KIRIL not KAREL as the "Czech form of Charles", crossing NIMEA not NEMEA as the "Site of a Herculean feat". So - FWTE for me.

Sigh.  I'm sure all this whining about my failures makes for absolutely fascinating reading for y'all...on a more positive note, NUMB for "Really not feeling it?" was fun.  KIBOSH ("Full stop") is always a welcome word.  ALIAS was cleverly clued as "Smith or Jones, on occasion".  I like tightly coupled entries like JOHN and SEAN, which are clued simply as English and Irish versions of each other.

Overall, interesting and fun and, for me, tough for a midweek puzzle.   On to tomorrow!


Monday, March 18, 2024

Tuesday, March 19 2014, Lynn Lempel


Today's puzzle has a neat device.  The four theme answers are common expressions whose first four-letter words (or, in one case, syllable) can be read as two two-letter words; and the resulting phrases are clued accordingly:

  • MAINDRAG - "Parent dressed up at a Pride parade, perhaps?"
  • DOORNAILS - "Choice between a haircut and manicure?"
  • BEATTHECLOCK - "'Meet me under Big Ben'?"
  • GOONSQUAD - "'Continue with your routine, cheerleaders'?"

See what's going on?  These are fun, goofy and just a little contrived.  I like that the last two, when re-parsed, are commands.  I also liked having to get to these indirectly - with enough crossers to make the answers apparent, and then seeing how the clues make sense.  Definitions for the 'original' phrases are nowhere to be found.

I'm not sold on the revealer - HALFTIME - supposed to be a hint to interpreting the first parts of the above.  I guess .. split them in HALF?  I dunno.  I feel like I might be missing something.  Comments?

The rest of the grid was easy peasy, though I lost time in the NE corner by entering HIGHTOP instead of COUNTER as a "Booth alternative at a diner".  This is the kind of speculative grid entry I need to avoid at the ACPT.... Are erotica and PORN really synonymous?  ... Clever to have two 'Q'-themed Down clues side by side (TAB is next to Q on the keyboard, and the Q in LGBTQ is QUEER)

I have fond memories of pigging out on CAPN Crunch as a child, as gross as it made me feel afterward.  

I enjoyed this one.  See you tomorrow!


Sunday, March 17, 2024

Monday, March 18 2024, Trent H. Evans

I write this with a bit of a heavy heart tonight, having just learned of Will Shortz's recent stroke.  I hope you all join me in wishing him a full and speedy recovery.

Today's puzzle zooms out as you progress down the grid.  To wit - the theme answers:

  • SISTERCITY - what a "twin town" is called in Europe (and Canada as well)
  • PURPLESTATE - hotly contested in a US election (this was new to me!)
  • HOSTCOUNTRY - Paris, for the upcoming summer Olympics
  • ALIENWORLD - ET's home, to us
Too bad there wasn't room for a fifth clue; e.g. "Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 1968-1970" - MRUNIVERSE!  At any rate, this was neat mild Monday fare.

Not much else to report, looking through the grid.  Interesting that an ALOHAPARTY happens when one leaves Hawaii....I did stumble slightly on "Store sign lit up during business hours" - I entered NEON and grumbled a bit, to the effect that NEON isn't a sign, it's what's IN the sign - but that was just a big red herring, as the answer was the much better OPEN... Did you know ALEX Trebek was born in Canada?  Well, didja?

Incidentally, the grid comes to within a Q, a V and a Z from covering the alphabet.  So close!  I wonder if Mr. Evans thought of having a go at the pangram, but it just couldn't be made to work.

I give myself a C- for this review.  Tomorrow will be a better day.  See you then!


Sunday, March 17 2024, Simeon Seigel

In preparing for today's review, at a time when a whiff - a soupcon - of existentialism has crept its way into this blog - I observed something I don't think I've seen before: the last four crosswords, starting from last Thursday, have a new editor - Joel Fagliano instead of our beloved Will Shortz.  What's up, I wonder..  well, everybody needs a break from time to time!  Mr. Shortz may be conserving the energy he will surely need to control the unruly hordes at the ACPT in a few weeks...

But on to the business at hand.  It was apparent very early what the theme was - American tourist attractions - after 2D "Attraction in 69-Across that's part of America's first national park", which, the first two letters already in the grid, was the write-in OLDFAITHFUL.  Similarly, the attractions in the seven other theme clues were sufficiently well-known to allow writing them in with just a few crossers - without really reading the clues themselves, all of which refer to '69-Across', and that clue is where the true cleverness lies - it could be either THENORTHWEST or THESOUTHEAST or either of the other two US quadrants, thanks to four crossing clues that can each be answered in two different ways:

  • "Division for a tennis match" = NET or SET
  • "Word before fly" = HORSE or HOUSE
  • "'No' in a certain dialect" = NAE or NAW
  • "Touch gently" = PAT or PET.
I was oblivious to this until after completing the puzzle (and finding the typo that caused the "Grrr" message).  On the last clue above, as I entered PAT, I wondered if it might turn out to be PET, and didn't think anything more of it.  I could have twigged right then, but no!  Anyway, this is a very cool device.  Bravo Mr. Seigel!

All good otherwise.  It took me longer than it should have to suss out ONTARIAN for "Person living in London".  I do have a minor beef with "Didn't swipe right?" (STOLE).  Is there really a right and a wrong way to swipe something?  Also, does "America" really end with a SCHWA?  Or do we foreigners put undue emphasis on that last vowel?  I'd never heard of SOCA as a Caribbean music genre, but OK - learn something new every day ...  Particularly liked WARROOM as a "General meeting place" - took me a while to "get" that one.  And it is technically true that SHINS are "attached to their calves", though the anatomist in me raises its eyebrows slightly.

That's all you get today.  Nice fun Sunday puzzle.  See you tomorrow!


Saturday, March 16, 2024

March 16, 2024, Carly Schuna

A marginally longer solve this week for Saturday than Friday, as is traditional, but I still completed the puzzle in under 30 minutes (26:10). The clever ambiguity of many C/APs today initially led me down the wrong path. There were great ones in both the QMC and non-QMC categories today including:

"Fluffy toy, familiarly" (POM) - I was thinking Furby or some such.
"Without a compass, say" (AMORAL) - I was a bit at sea on this one
"Metal worker's union" (SOLDER) - oh, *that* kind of union :)
And how about "Took the lead?" (ERASED) - ha! I was off the mark for a long time on this one.

Other QMC's of note were "Small bit of mint?" (DIME) and "Dog park?" for FOOTREST. In the latter case, I immediately twigged to the answer category, but it took me a few crosses to get to the actual answer. 

Activated platelet (center)

I enjoyed the top corner C/AP's "Word of elaboration" (ALSO) and "Elaborate" (ADD). I also liked "Settle" for PAY, and both the clue "Wallop" and answer PASTE. For some reason, the answer CAGE for "'National Treasure'" star made me LOL. Interesting bit about Google displaying results at an angle when ASKEW is searched. I have got to check that out for myself when I am next online (I am currently hurtling westward in a car). [Update: Results *are" askew! It's a little freaky, but cool]. I was not so keen on "Alveoli, e.g." (SACS) and WETS, but maybe that's just me. There was a great supporting cast of fine fill like AMBLE, DEEPFAKE, DEBUNK, PRONTO, MELODIC, and STROPHE.

I fear my career as the world's next great detective has suffered a blow. Despite looking under the puzzle's info button every day for the name of the constructor to begin the review, I noticed only today that the puzzle's editor by-line changed from Will Shortz to Joe Fagliano. I went back and looked at the week's earlier puzzles and noticed that it's been Mr. Fagliano since Thursday. I turned to Google and found a brief NPR piece about Mr. Shortz having some recent health issues. I'm sure I can speak for all of us here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA-ANAP in wishing Mr. Shortz a speedy recovery. 


Friday, March 15, 2024

Friday, March 15, 2024, Daniel Grinberg

After hunting down a FWOE, I finished the puzzle with a pleasing time of 23:24, which made up slightly for the delay and the CARELESSMISTAKE. The problem turned out to be that I had spelled PHILLISWHEATLEY with an initial Y. My brain didn't put up a fight against SHyLOH for some reason. Too soon?

Under 25 with a FWOE is not bad for this solver. I luckily remembered PECOS from a recent (2/16) puzzle (and enjoyed the clever clue "Bill originating in Texas"), plus I immediately got two of the five grid-spanning entries (ESPRESSOMARTINI and HALFTIMEREPORTS) which helped speed me along. EXTRAEXTRAEXTRA was fun and fell into place pretty quickly once I filled in the first 'extra'.


Clue/Answer pairs ran the gamut today from really top drawer to less likeABLE. In the non-QMC category, I enjoyed "Raise" for EXALT, "Got taken for a ride, in a way" for UBERED, and my favorite today, "Nobody else can take it" for SELFIE. In the QMC department, I liked "Ground rule?" (NOTV),  "Decks and floors, informally?" (KOS), and, in light of my new job, I especially enjoyed "Bit of deductive reasoning" (TAXTIP) - ha! As for ROIs, it was interesting to learn that the "Source of the words 'plaid' and 'trousers'" is ERSE.

OTH, there were a number of clue/answer pairs that either I didn't get or where I felt the aptness was out of SYNC
"Put on blast" (BASH) - is that bash as in a party, or something else?
"More trifling" (MERER) - I did a search in Google, "use merer in a sentence" and it said, "did you mean meter?" 
"Foul smell" (REEK) - seems odd used as a noun. 
"Catchy tunes" (BOPS) - EWW
"'My goodness!'" (MAN) - different registers, if you see what I mean.

Still, overall, the HITRATE was good. And we got some fine fill like ROSTRA, WREST, CUSS, and METIER to boot.


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Thursday, March 14, 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic

A celebration of Pi, on this most aptest of days for it: 3.14. Although, it probably would actually have been most aptest in 1592. :)  I also suddenly realize that Europe can't have PIDAY. Sad. 

Anyhoo, in addition to a depiction of the symbol for pi in the center of the grid, the puzzle features two scientists who each had a significant life event occur on this day: STEPHENHAWKING (death, 2018) and ALBERTEINSTEIN (birth, 1879). Both names span the 14 rows of the grid, while THETOWEROFBABEL spans all 15 columns. combine these two numbers with 7D (THREE) and you get 3.1415.  Genuis! :) As a bonus, we also find mathematician EULER in the grid. If Huygens is still doing the puzzles, I'm guessing he'll like this one. 

[SPOILER ALERT: skip this paragraph if you haven't done Connections yet but plan to.] In what is very unlikely to be a crossover event, Connections had a category that included a homophone of today's puzzle celebrant along with three compatriots Moo, New, and Row. I found this, the blue category, more difficult than the purple category. One person's meat ... 

The Mandelbrot set can be used to approximate pi

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. In addition to the two scientists mentioned above there were a couple of other nice paired clues including "Last in a series" (NTH and ETAL), PURPLEPROSE (Colorful language?) and MAGENTA ("Purplish red"), and IPAS and ALES, both "Some craft drafts, for short."

The shape of the grid resulted in a significant number of three-letter answers, but that both seems fitting and, IMHO, most of the C/APs in this category held their own pretty well. If that's what it takes to salute pi, I'm all for it. Mmmm, pi.


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Wednesday, March 13, 2024, Drew Schmenner

In a timely nod to March Madness, today's four theme answers all end with the sound fɔː, as does the explanatory revealer itself: FINALFOUR. The constructor gets points for the range of sources and formulas used to spell the same sound in English: common phrases, actors, and my favorite, an ancient apparatus used to transmit a visual signal over long distances. According to the Wikipedia, March Madness - the NCAA variety - is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the U.S. It's not the kind of thing I'm super ALERT to, but I'll WAGER most solvers out there already knew that. :) I couldn't help thinking that it would have been cool if all instances of the final "for" had used four letters, even though I realize that's irrelevant and a bridge too far.


The C/AP "Dampens" for WET struck me as something of an icky double dribble, but champion clues include the MIXEDMETAPHOR at 23A: "'When the going gets tough, the early bird gets the worm,' e.g." Heh. SAMOA things I liked were the bit of etymology for crossword darling ODE ("Work whose name comes from the Greek for 'sing'"), and the C/APs "Whatever floats your boat!" for SEA and "Unworthy of debate" (MOOT). Also, a shoutout to the rarely-seen RARED. We scored big with fun fill including SNORT, TROMP, AGAPE, and JAMB.

Best swishes to all for an exciting tournament.


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Tuesday, March 12, 2024, Andrew Kingsley and Garrett Chalfin

I felt like today's puzzle was singing my song. As a non-musical person, I embraced the exhortation in today's revealer, READMUSIC, to reinterpret musical notes as text messages. So Ab (A flat) is APARTMENT, B# is LOOKALIVE, and my favorite today, E#, is TECHSAVVY, which is nice first because it's a clever interpretation of the musical note and second because 'savvy' has two vees in it. That makes it fun. :)

Overall, my solve tempo was vivace. My one miscue occurred early when I entered 'stAge' at 1D for "Field of play?" instead of the correct DRAMA. I particularly enjoyed the northeast corner that contained SATAY, PREGO, ARTISTE, AGHA, and NIHAO - a veritable UN of answers!


Other high notes for this solver were "Smallest unit of purchasing power, in an idiom" (REDCENT), "Shakespearean 'Tsk!'" (FIE), the shout outs to MEL Blanc, BANKSY, and NARNIA, and the self-referential HAIKU at 53D. The QMC "Show stoppers?" for ADS was a fun take on much-used fill. POSIT and OPINE in the southwest make a nice pairing. I also enjoy the emphatic expression ANDHOW.

The clue "Categorize" for ASSORT didn't THRILL me, but one cantata've everything. 


Monday, March 11, 2024

Monday, March 11, 2024, Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi

A fun and appetizing theme today featuring THEHUNGERGAMES, or various games with food items in their names: APPLESTOAPPLES, PICKLEBALL, CORNHOLE, and CANDYCRUSH. As a youth, my favorite would have been Candy Crush, but I've soured a bit as I've aged and I now tend to favor pickles. I haven't yet tried pickle ball itself, but I like the sound of it. 


I thought the puzzle fell slightly to the harder side of Mondays. A number of the clues brought to mind multiple possible answers (kilo/GRAM ; pond/LAKE ; Bess/ELLY) which caused me to put those entries on hold and likely contributed to a slower solve time (6:05) for me. From what I know about solve times though, I'm sure others out there instantly grokked the answers and breezed right through. 

Clue/Answer pairs I particularly liked were "Hat's edge" (BRIM), "Ozs. and ozs." (LBS), and "Full of hot air" (ALLTALK). For references of interest we have Jean-Luc PICARD, a favorite captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. There was a lot of good fill, too, including KIOSKS, TINKERS, SCATHE, and BROGUE

Has any visitor ever actually used a SITEMAP to navigate an internet resource? 


Sunday, March 10, 2024

Sunday, March 10, 2024, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano and Matthew Stock


We enjoy a good game of Scrabble as much as the next word nerd, so this TRIPLELETTERSCORE theme was perfect for us. In Scrabble, the points are tripled, but here, the letter itself is tripled to make the Across answers work. And since it is only tripled and not sextupled, it remains a single letter in the Downs. Yes, I know, that makes four, but work with me...


I thought for a moment the theme might be dog-related when the first two entries were CRATE (New dog owner's purchase) and ASPCA (Dog adoption grp.), but things were more normal after that, with crossword darlings BTS and ALPS rounding out the top row.

"Out-of-this-world outfit" (SPACESUIT) was cute, and "Pastoral setting?" (PARISH) was clever. And I was expecting something like "swf" for "Dating inits.," but no! It's BCE. Nice. 

Is "Film archive bits" (CLIPS) a nod to the Oscars, happening later today? And is "Queen BEE" a reference to "Spelling Bee?" Oh, and what do we all think of "Strands?" Yesterday it didn't appear in the game menu on my laptop, but today it did, so I tried it out. For my money, it's about time someone improved upon the word search. 

What do you think - should we review more than just the crossword? Give a quick report on the games that we do? Should we just post these:

Or should we leave that alone? Thoughts? 

Frannie takes over tomorrow, then we can see what she thinks of all this.

I'll see you again in four weeks. Happy puzzling!

- Horace

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Saturday, March 9, 2024, John Guzzetta

Happy Saturday to you all! No DIGITALDETOX for me this morning. I did the puzzle, checked my email, did Wordle (4) and Connections (one mistake) and I looked at the new Threads for the first time last night, so maybe I'll look at that again today too, but first I have to write this review. 

CLEF (Sign in front of some bars)

I got a running start in today with DINGS (Slight faults, to a rater), ADO (Kerfuffle), and MERCYBUCKETS ("Thanks a lot!," in intentionally butchered French). All that gave DIORAMAS (They often come in shoeboxes), but I couldn't immediately come up with INFODEMIC (Widespread rumors, in a portmanteau) or NEWNORMAL (Post-crisis baseline), so I moved over the the NE, where I guessed InA (Spanish diminutive) (ITA) and dothETIME (Pay for a crime, say) (SERVETIME), which didn't help a lot.

So it sometimes is of a Saturday, nest paw? I liked this one, though. It ran the gamut from ROOTCAUSE (Underlying reason) to TELEOLOGY (Branch of causality that comes from the Greek for "study of the end"), from "Tony Stark or Jack Sparrow feature" (GOATEE) to "Beyoncé's 'Dangerously in Love' or John Lennon's 'Imagine'" (SOLOALBUM), and from ENOS (Biblical figure said to have died at the age of 905) to EROS (Concupiscent one). Add in a couple of good quotes - "The ultimate form of free speech," to Denis Leary (COMEDY) and "The origin of wisdom," per René Descartes (DOUBT) - and you've got a good thing going.

Sorry I can't stay and chat more, but IGOTTARUN.

- Horace

Friday, March 8, 2024

Friday, March 8, 2024, Jackson Matz

Yowza! This was a toughie. I thought for a while that I might never get that SW section, but finally I guessed at BUB (Chap) (odd), then BISTRO (Casual dining setting) (depends on the bistro), and finally WHOOPEECUSHION (Butt of a joke?) (meh) deflated the whole problem. I had hung onto shAwl for far too long for "Cameos might be seen on one" (TIARA). Are they really seen on TIARAs? I can't picture it. I felt like shawl couldn't be right, though, because I was kind of hoping "Give it a whirl!" would be "baTOn." So many problems in that area...


Anywayyyy.... It's always nice to have a challenging puzzle, but sometimes they feel better than others.

I did enjoy the long 15s - ICOULDEATAHORSE (Hunger hyperbole) (I guessed this one off the clue) and CARETOELABORATE ("Wanna tell me more?") (not so, this one!), and "Things going beyond your control?" (SELFDRIVINGCARS) was almost good.

I just enjoyed some NAAN (Bread with charred brown spots) last night at Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square. Mmmmm..... Highly recommended.

My favorite clue might have been "That's what I just said!" (JINX). Heh.

A difficult Friday always makes me wonder about Saturday - will it be even harder? We shall see.

- Horace