Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Wednesday, January 31, 2024, Nathan Hale

Oh, I really really liked this puzzle. First you get a silly pun style theme, but there's also a bonus! It's a lot of theme material, but the fill is reasonably smooth. 

First, the theme. Mr. Hale takes phrases of the form X to Y, and reimagines them as Xd a Y, turning the first part of the phrase from a noun or adjective to a past participle. Clue them wackily, and hilarity ensues. Thus, 20A: Prepared to fight Goliath? (READIEDAROCK) comes from the original phrase "ready to rock."

My favorite is probably 34A: Practiced changing one's costume by the clock? (TIMEDAGETUP). What a clever twist from the phrase "time to get up," because the second part has to be reparsed as well. BACKEDAWORK is fine, although not as guffaw-worthy.

The second unexpected part comes from 51A: Betrayed Paddington? ... or what 20-, 34- and 41-Across did in this puzzle (CROSSEDABEAR). It would have been enough to leave it just as another humorous reparsing. But it turns out that the other answers all intersect with down answers (in shaded boxes) that are types of bears: TEDDY, SMOKEY, and BOOBOO. Just superb.


Add on top of that SKEDADDLE (such a great word), and 61A: Something you shouldn't take lying down? (POLYGRAPH), and it's one to remember. 

Also full of chutzpah is 44D and 41D, adjacent answers both ending in -ING, which leads to the SW corner having RADII, UPENN, and GREGG on top of each other.

Color me impressed.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Tuesday, January 30, 2024, Freddie Cheng

I love a theme which recognizes the oddities of language. How many different definitions are there for the word "tank" in English? Mr. Cheng has come up with four: a tank that HOLDSWATER, a COMBATVEHICLE, the verb as in DROPSLIKEASTONE, and a SLEEVELESSTOP. None of the answers are clued with the word, which allows the very clever revealer at 63A: Bodies of advisory experts ... or, when reinterpreted as an imperative, a hint to 17-, 24-, 38- and 52-Across (THINKTANKS). I will admit to chuckling aloud when I thought about somebody admonishing me to "think tanks!"

That's a lot of theme material (I think more by squares than yesterday - yes, confirmed). The grid is set up so that no down answer crosses more than two theme answers, but there are 20 of them that do cross two. So credit to Mr. Cheng for making a delightfully smooth puzzle. I have no complaints with answers. 

ETTA and ELLA (and Aretha and Nina)

is a fun looking entry. I raised an eyebrow initially when I saw the TJ___ start, but enjoyed seeing how that could work. 

I misread the clue for 7D at first. I kind of wish that after 5A: Frat dudes (BROS), that 7D would be "eight dudes" (OCTET). Instead it was "Four duos." 

37D: Layer of 61-Across (HEN) had me nicely confused because I had not come anywhere near 61A: What might be found in nesting boxes (EGGS). I did not see the first word of the clue as "lay-er," one who lays, but rather as "layer," a quantity of thickness.

Also nice: 48D: They may come with big waves in Waikiki (ALOHAS). Hah!

Nice Tuesday.

- Colum

Monday, January 29, 2024

Monday, January 29, 2024, Garrett Chalfin and Andrew Kingsley

In the commuting life, I am now writing this blog post from the living room of our apartment on the Upper West Side. The view out the window is across Broadway towards Central Park (which I can't see). 

What an odd Monday puzzle theme! The revealer is in the middle at 36A, with the answer PALINDROMES. Only we're not really dealing with palindromes in the starred answers. They're palindromes as long as you ignore the first and last letter. So is this a thing? PEPELEPEW does in fact have the form _EPELEPE_. Okay, I'm sort of impressed that our constructors have found six examples of this, and it's a lot of theme material for a 15 x 15 grid. But still, more mildly interesting than "aha" or "haha." Which are the same word if you ignore the first letter of the second one...


Of course, with all of that theme material, the puzzle needs a ton of black squares, and the longest non-theme answer is only 8 letters. There's more crosswordese than we're used to nowadays. I don't think Zsa Zsa GABOR has made an appearance in quite some time. Add in OOO, APBS, EDYS, SKOR, and OUTLIE, and you get what I'm talking about.

I will raise a glass to 46A: Their are too in this clue (TYPOS). 

On to tomorrow.

- Colum

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Sunday, January 28, 2024, Nathan Hasegawa

Hello folks! I'm back for another week of blogging. Things have changed mightily since I last posted. I'm now living most of the week in Manhattan, working in New Jersey, and commuting back to Albany on the weekends. Everything is very new and exciting, but also still a little unsettled. As always, it's nice to have the crossword as a throughline!

Today's puzzle brings back memories of summers at the beach, going to the boardwalk and playing stupid games for small amounts of money to try and win useless stuff! But also having fun doing it. WHACAMOLE was always a favorite of mine. It's more about getting into a rhythm than it is force or precision. Certainly winning was a SMASHINGSUCCESS!

The five spots the plastic animal could pop out of are represented in their traditional setup as circles in the grid. Four of them are filled with the rebus "hole" while the fifth is the eponymous "mole" rebus, above whose head the [MALLET] is poised to whack. Very elegantly done.

The best rebus associated answer is 58A: Approach something with gusto (GOW[HOLE]HOG) because the word is hidden inside another one. The other hole rebus answers are all just that: holes, such as [HOLE]INONE, or FOX[HOLE]. 60A: What's the matter? [MOLE]CULES is very nice. It turns out that [MOLE]SKIN cotton is not actually made from the animal's hide. But still, it is called that because of its resemblance, so this is not a hidden rebus either. But I'm just being picky because I can, since I didn't make the puzzle.

Other fun bits include:

23A: Mnemonic start (SILENTM). I thought I wasn't going to be fooled by these sorts any more. Guess I was wrong.

13D: Make perfect, maybe (PRACTICE). Hah!

88A: 2017 musical retelling of the stories of Henry VIII's wives (SIX) - we saw this in London in the East End, and enjoyed it very much. It had a surprising twist, but was also surprisingly short.

86A: Knuckle-headed act? (NOOGIE). What a good note to end on.

- Colum

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Saturday, January 27 2024, Grace Warrington and Greg Warrington

For me, normalcy was restored this week, with a Saturday puzzle that took me longer to solve than its Friday predecessor.  Today's grid flows from the NE to the SW, with a nice three-high stack in the middle, connected with eight (!) long-ish Down answers, and the the NW and SE corners off doing their own thing.  

I didn't find any area overly sticky - the whole grid required the same level of thought.  Some really inventive cluing today.. in no particular order - ANDY was great, as 'AND' followed by its Spanish equivalent. "Collect, collect, collect" I thought was AMASS, but that didn't work (but HOARD did).  "Take" was nicely misleading for ANGLE.  Also, interesting way to clue ELON - "The Phoenix of the N.C.A.A."  I feel like there might have been another way to clue this one.  Can't quite put my finger on it ...  :) 

I think most of us are familiar with the word MANDALORIAN, even if we've not seen the TV series, and so it was easy to infer after just a few cross letters.  Aside from the write-in JAUNDICE ("Affliction treated in newborns with phototherapy"), none of the rest of the long clues were easy, but they all succumbed in the end.  

The one beef I did have today was with NARRATOR, a "character who's heard but not seen".  May I introduce as evidence The Shawshank Redemption?  Highly recommended, for the three or four of you on the planet who haven't yet seen it.  On the other hand, I didn't really have a beef with MANHOLE as "Way down below?" - I am not quite sufficiently PC, I suppose - and I also do have a weakness for QMCs

Note to self : I did the crossword last night and left the blogging till the morning.  Bad idea.

It's been a fun week.  The esteemed Colum takes the reins tomorrow.  Ciao till next month!


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Friday,. January 26 2024, Sarah Sinclair and Rafael Musa

Happy Friday, y'all!  I look forward to the NYT crossword every Friday for its diabolical challenge, often even more daunting than Saturday's, especially of late.  Today's offering I found a bit on the gentle side.  I got off to a good start in the NE corner, remembering that ITSIN precedes "...his kiss", and, although it seemed too obvious at first, "Everybody's opposite" is NOONE.  A slight stall with DETER instead of DEFER for "Put off" (hey, it makes just as much sense), but because of the SOFTLAUNCH crosser, that was quickly resolved.  

Over in the NW, I was tempted to enter BRILLIANT for "'That's genius!'", but it was a GREATIDEA not to, as that would have caused major confusion. Right above it was one of my faves in the grid - PUSHOVERS, who often cave but do not spelunk.  And another clever QMC crossed it - "Starts off-key?", which, when revealed to be HOTWIRES, was a nice little 'aha' moment. Rounding out the punniness, the capital F in "Show of Force" hints at its answer (STARWARS).

In the middle, I thought "Canine protector" might be something like MUZZLE, but ENAMEL fit the bill.  Weird that SETTEES ("Couches") makes an appearance - that word randomly popped into my head today, as such an old-fashioned way to refer to a sofa.  "Foe-run land?" (ENEMYTURF) was a groaner.

On to the bottom - no problems there, except I guessed wrong on "'The Bachelor' outing" - BLINDDATE instead of GROUPDATE.  Who knew?  Not I, not ever.  I liked the double use of the clue "Not natural, in a way" (POSED and DYED), though they were not adjacent in the grid.  And finally, the Rubik's Cube, once a FAD but forever a marvel of topological engineering.  I still have mine from high school.

Nice puzzle.  Nice consistency of difficulty throughout.  

Have a great day everybody!  See you back here tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Thursday, January 25 2024, Sam Ezersky

Hello all!  I'm not as tuned in to the regular NYT crossword setters as my co-bloggers are, but I do know that when it's Sam Ezersky behind the wheel, I'm in for a devious treat; and this crossword was no exception.  He's managed to clue four long Across answers with almost the exact same phrase:
  • "Mercury is in this" : GLASSTHERMOMETER - elemental 
  • "Mercury might be in this" : RETROGRADE - planetary 
  • "The Mercury might be in this" : WNBAFINALS - basketball 
  • "Mercury was in this" : BOHEMIANRHAPSODY - Queen (this one is more of a stretch)
Really, really impressive cluing!

The layout today has a definite upper/lower half configuration.  I found the top half went by very quickly, but I got really bogged down toward the bottom, and it took me forever to finish.  (Was it just me?)  The very first clue was clever - "Three-point letter you won't find in Scrabble?".  I entered PSI immediately and felt quite smug about it.  (A EUREKA moment, perhaps?)   Elsewhere in the top, my only niggle was TECH for "Chips, cookies, etc."  I guess those are both techy terms, but this one didn't sit quite right with me.  

A different story down below.  I liked "Here we are!" (EARTH) - pithy and to the point.  But my troubles really centred around "Have no more in stock", for which I put RUNOUT instead of AREOUT, and those three wrong letters gummed up the whole works.  Even with that sorted out - I had to guess LARB Gai as a Thai dish, as the crossing DREYERS was unknown to me, an Easterner and a Canadian to boot, as an ice cream brand.  Luck carried the day on that one.  Oh also, I entered WECARE instead of WECARD for "Cautionary store sign from an alcohol retailer".  It would be nice if they did post "We Care" signs, though that might perhaps smack of disingenuousness.  And my final beef : ARSONS.  Pluralized?  Really??

But the theme was so wonderfully executed that I really can't have complaints.  Hats off to the setter today!


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Wednesday, January 24 2024, John-Clark Levin

Hello all!  With the recent cold snap here in Toronto, I was occasioned to put on a pair of LONGJOHNS on a weekend walk, and timely it was, as here it is now, smack in the middle of the Wednesday NYT crossword, revealing the puzzle's theme.  The humourous take on this instruction is - each of the four theme clues refers to a well-known figure whose first name is (or was) JOHN, and what goes in the grid is the person's surname, stretched, or made LONG, by doubling each letter.  This led to some confusion at first - "First American to orbit the earth" I quickly wrote in as JOHNGLENN ("Gimme", I thought), not twigging that there was a white square left over.  After a bit more confusion, as the crossers revealed 'N' after 'N' after 'N' at the end of the answer, it finally became clear what needed to be done - GGLLEENNNN - and I was off to the races.  The other answers were then very easy with that transformation in mind, thanks to their straightforward cluing; and the theme answer was more of an "of course" moment than an "aha" one.   

Construction-wise, the black squares result in an almost-S shape, with little connectivity between the corners and a sparse middle.  I liked it - thought it worked great.  And the consistency of the theme answers all being 5x2 letters long was nice.

Highlights elsewhere in the grid - I do like my QMCs, and "Introductory course?" (SALAD) was cute  '"*How rude!*"' (SLAP) puzzled me for a bit.  Nice use of asterisks there!  And ordinarily, you'd never expect to see ANDS in a puzzle - a pluralized conjunction? Really?? But the clue makes it work, more or less - "Logical operators outputting 'true' if both inputs are 'true'" - better known as AND GATES in the world of microelectronics and I will accept this because it tickles my geeky, computer-y fancy.

I shall leave you with this somewhat sparse review.  Very enjoyable puzzle.  Did not take me long to solve.

Have a great day everybody!  "See" you again tomorrow..


Monday, January 22, 2024

Tuesday, January 23 2024, Patrick Maher

Lifted from the Periodic Table is the theme of today's puzzle.  Four chemical elements appear in the grid, as suggested in the central revealer "Principles for good prose..." - ELEMENTSOFSTYLE: OXYGENMASK, LEADAPRON, GOLDGLOVE and TINFOILHAT.  Neat!  Stylish, even.  As for how literal these references are - I was unsure about whether the Gold Glove was actually made of gold, so I looked up and yes, it's got gold lame on it, so everything's on the up-and-up.  The four elements even have a metallic nature in common, though if you want oxygen to be metallic, you have to cool it way down and apply a tremendous amount of pressure to it.  No practical application there that I know of, but still, neat to know.

What else, what else .. no real impediments to report.  I'd never heard of EGGCREAM and so the fact that it contains neither EGG nor CREAM rates a mild "huh" from me.  Brilliant QMC in the middle - 'Bad match on tinder?' is ARSON.  Love it!  Who knew that a LLAMA could guard sheep?  I guess nothing deters a marauding wolf quite like getting spat on.  :)   Amazing that VANNA White is still around, presumably still turning letters on Wheel of Fortune, which I haven't watched in decades.  She's immortal!

Not much else to report.  If I hadn't typed in OWNUP instead of OWNIT for "Take responsibility for something" down at the bottom, I'd have been sub-2:30 on this one.  Instead - FWOE (or is it FWTE?)...womp womp.....


Sunday, January 21, 2024

Monday, January 22 2024, Jake Halperin

Well, the Apian community is likely up in arms today after being short-changed on the Monday NYT crossword:  Today's theme is "the sex talk" (BIRDSANDBEES) with four theme answers PENGUINBOOKS, DOVEBAR, GOOSEBUMPS and TURKEYBOWL.  See what's missing?  The bees!  Where are the bees??  (The Avian community is perfectly satisfied, meanwhile.)  Would have been nice to see a few bee references in there as well; e.g. something with HONEY, or HIVE, or WAX, or QUILTING.  Or make the grid hexagonal for a change!

But hey, I'm quibbling.  It's not that aPOLLIN, really.  As I COMB thru the grid, I see "Bug bite annoyance" (ITCH), which, despite the clear insect reference, doesn't take the STING out of the bee snub.  Perhaps closer is "One who makes his living with his hands" (WORKMAN) - not quite WORKER, though.  And I see nothing in the answers that puts me in mind of QUEEN at all...ok, I'll stop DRONEing on now...

 Nice to see the other other spelling of NOOB (NEWB) for "Inexperienced gamer, informally", for once (correctly spelled with zeros: N00B).  And a shout-out to all of you who knew that Paul ANKA, who wrote "My Way", is a Canuck!

Fun, all in all.  Found it a bit slow going for a Monday.  Was it just me?  

Time to BUZZ off.  See you tomorrow!


Sunday, January 21 2024, John Westwig

Greetings out there in Crossword-Land, from sunny, wintry Toronto!  Today's theme is a humourous narrative about a series of failed ventures, spread over the puzzle in the form of six punny business-related expressions.  All you parents out there will appreciate the level of Dad Humour herein - groaners abound!  I could enumerate them here, but I won't - you'll discover them for yourselves - it won't be hard, as the substrate is relatively mild.  Perhaps the fictional author of the narrative could have benefited from a stint at 16D ("Sloan or Wharton" = BUSINESSSCHOOL)!!  I like the diagonal line of black squares that almost bisects the grid, for aesthetic reasons at least.

As noted, there was little trouble encountered.  I just left the theme clues until the end, at which point they were pretty much filled in - it was fun to go backwards from answer to clue.  Along the way ... "Common resolutions" gave me pause until DIETS revealed itself - makes sense, especially this close to New Year's - both temporarily and spatially, as "New Year's Day" appears just below and to the left (ONEONE - an unusual way to say NYD, but a nice change from "Final score in a soccer game", or some such).  

I liked the arithmetic of TEASPOONS (1/768 of a gallon) and also a few learnings:  Hyperion is a 380-foot tall REDWOOD - impossibly huge!  TSURIS is Yiddish for "woe" - I thought this one might be something like KVETCH, but no... "Tobiko or masago" refers to types of ROE ...  Oh and I loved that "Swiss cheese" appears in two side-by-side Down answers - GRUYERE and FRANCS.  I don't think I've ever heard of money being referred to as "cheese" before, so chalk that up as another learning!  STRAUSS was clever as a "Big name in jeans", instead of the more common LEVI.

You know what would have been cool?  ONEG clued as "Global force" instead of "Universal donor's designation".  I really must think harder about getting into the setting business, but I expect I'll quickly discover it's harder than it looks (and it already looks hard).

Sayonara until tomorrow, all!


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Saturday, January 20, 2024, Caitlin Reid and Matthew Stock

A FINE Saturday puzzle rounds out the week. As seems to be forever the case, I get stuck in one particular place. I suppose that's better than getting stuck in many places, but still. Today's problem area occurred at the cross between an unknown-to-me "Plant-based protein brand" at14A, and the problematic Down clue was "Rap pioneers, slangily." Anyhoo, I ran the alphabet on INCO_MEATO and realized that G resulted in the amusing name INCOGMEATO. I've never seen it - maybe it's regional? - but I'll keep an eye out for it at the supermarket. The Down turned out to be OGS. Horace tells me that is short for Original Gangsters - learn something new everyday thanks to the NYTX. My total solve time today was just under 30 (29:29) - good for this solver, but not the ACME of puzzledom by any means.

Some of my half hour was used to PORE over several clever attempts at misdirection in today's clues, including "Gardener's item that breaks down a lot" (COMPOSTBIN), "Something that may be hard to drink?" (CIDER), and "Signature items" (PENS). 


In addition to those clever entries, a STARSEARCH for today's best clues came up with multiple winners: 
"Plans a getaway for, perhaps" (ABETS)
"Beverage with an oxymoronic name" (FIREWATER) - heh.
"Tried to take a seat?" (RAN)
"Bad drawing?" (SHORTSTRAW)
"See what's in store?" (SHOP) - ha!

TOBEHONEST, there were a few C/APs that didn't quite sing to me, "Got ready"/RIPENED for one. Maybe I'm being to fussy, but "got ready" seems to me to indicate some level of intention that is absent from the process of ripening. I thought "View with disdain" for HATEWATCH was a clever idea, but thought the word 'disdain' missed the mark slightly. I didn't like either answer for "More golden, say" (PURER or RARER), but I suppose ITDEPENDS on how one thinks of the word 'golden.' 

BACONATOR is a great name, and probably good fill, although I don't eat them myself. Also, I always love to see SEETHE. Starting tomorrow, dear Readers, you'll have some NEWTS takes on the puzzle from our esteemed co-blogger Philbo. Enjoy! 


Friday, January 19, 2024

Friday, January 19, 2024, Jacob McDermott

Well, dear Readers, it's Friday. Themes go by the wayside, clues get more difficult, and, perhaps in a few cases, constructors rub their hands together and have a few EVILLAUGHS. :) I have to admit, I was concerned when my first pass through the Across and Down clues left me with very little to show for it (SAYAH, SNL, POSE). But, the second time through, with a OINKS here and a TSKS there, lo and behold, three quarters of the puzzle was completed. But then I HITASNAG in the northwest, and hit it hard. The combination in that corner of two "quoted phrase" type clues - my Kryptonite! - no information about bladderball (?), and a clue involving a world capital spelled trouble for this solver. I chipped away at the short answers, finally guessing NONO for "Leaving a participle dangling in English class, say" and SOAK for "Saturate" which gave me OKOK ("'Yeah, yeah, I get it'"), all of which led to an AHAMOMENT or two and I could finally say LOOKIEHERE, I completed the puzzle!

Of course, we expect and enjoy a challenging puzzle on a Friday, and this one passes the SMELLTEST. There were some nice QMC clues including "Good speller?" (MAGE), the KINDASORTA pair "Break in?" (STAYCATION) and "Breakout group?" (SECT), and, a very difficult one for me, that I didn't get (two ways) until all the letters filled in from the Across answers: "Galactic scale?" (LIBRA). Ha. And speaking of pairs, there was another fun set in "'Ready!'" (IMSET) and "'Not ready!'" (HOLDONASEC).

Other good entries were INHOTWATER, HOMEATLAST, and THEOREMS, but my favorite fill - literally - is TATERTOTS. Mmmm, tater tots...


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Thursday, January 18, 2024, Jon Michnovicz and Carl Michnovicz

Today's theme takes yet another turn, this time it's ONE[EI]GHT[IE]S. The theme answers contain rebus squares into which one wedges the letters I and E, which are then read as either IE or EI depending on placement. Where the Across answer takes an IE, the crossing Down answer requires the two letters to be flipped so they are read EI. For example, at 17A, the answer is VIV[IE]NL[EI]GH ("Actress who portrayed Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche DuBois"), and the relevant crossing Down answers are TH[EI]ND[IE]S and CR[IE]R. Quite a piece of work to find these pairings and to fit them in a puzzle, if you ask me. The remainder of the grid forfeits a little pizzazz, yielding an alphabet run (LMN), an odd C/AP or two (NOTAT for "Away from"), and a few odd plurals (TADAS, AMENS, H[EI]GHHOS), but overall is still very niece.


I was amused by the C/AP "Something that a ram and a Ram have in common" (HORN). Heh. Also, good was "Ones getting the last word in" (EDITORS). I thought the hidden capital at 1D: "Expeditions, e.g." (SUVS) was particularly sneaky. The clue "Open on Christmas, say" was a nice possible mis-direct (UNWRAP). Fill-wise, I enjoyed GROG, ANTSY, and STINGERS, although, based on the description in the clue, I don't think I'd enjoy the drink itself, but I should probably seize a chance to size it up before making up my meind.  

Adieu, cher lecteurs,

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Wednesday, January 17, 2024, Morton J. Mendelson

Although it's a Wednesday, this puzzle has a twist, or rather a turn. However, if there's a clue that reveals this puzzle's angle, I missed it. When I saw the first hyphen clue at 4D, and having no entry yet in 1A, I entered the word 'blank' as the answer. Ha. As I solved along, though, I began to see hyphens all over the place - well, not all over exactly, but in a number of Down clues. As it turned out, the hyphen clues were paired with Across clues and the answer was a two-word noun or phrase with the same last letter of the first word as the first letter in the second word. In the puzzle, the doubled letter shares a square rather than being entered twice. For example:

FAST                    PEP                STRIP
     R                       I                        O
     A                       L                        K
     C                       L                        E
     K                                                 R
After first drawing that blank, the rest of the solve went right along, thanks to solid and straightforward C/APs. There were a few tricks here and there, but for some reason, I wasn't fooled today. The hidden capital in "Potter's area of expertise" appeared to me as if by MAGIC, I read the amusing QMC "Pre-nursing homes?" and UTERI popped out (too much?), I struck gold with the clever clue "Expensive bar" for INGOT, and I even got the signal that "Silently acknowledge" should be NODAT. On the other hand, and I'm not sure why, but RHODE for "____ Island" took me completely by surprise. Maybe because it's not really an island? Why have I never thought of that before? Also in that corner, I had a minor ACPT PTSD moment at 65A: "Crash, with 'out'". Would the answer be konk or conk? Fortunately, in this case, unequivocal TACOS cleared things up. 
I very much enjoyed the W.C. Fields quote: I am free of all prejudices, I HATE everyone equally. I was also charmed by the slightly old-timey ASKAFTER. And, nice for KANGA to finally get a little screen time. I wonder if she could, would she rue the Roo who has completely upstaged her in puzzle land?


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Tuesday, January 16, 2024, Marshal Herrmann

Wel, dear Readers, this is ONEL of a puzzle, wouldn't you agree? Every answer in this puzzle contains exactly one letter L and, drum rol please, it's not ful of junk! Good clues and good fil abound, with only the occasional abbreviation or acronym - with one in particular, ELO, seeming kind of apt anyway. Apt! Another excelent outcome was the cross of BULGE and BILGE right in the center. Cool. 

Two of my favorite clues today were both QMCs: "Criminal records?" for BOOTLEGS and "Green vehicle? for GOLFCART. I also enjoyed the previously-unknown-to-me SELFFIVE. Can't wait to see one of those IRL. 


There was also a SLEW of great content. I had a FIELDDAY entering PEARLs such as BILKS, ANVILS, REDFLAGSTROWEL, and SPRAWL - that's a great looking word. And who doesn't love a YODEL?

My only quibble is that while in today's world it may perhaps be true that many a BLOG has only one contributor, there are a few rare cases out there when more than one contributor - nay, maybe even four contributors - make the best reading, particularly when the topic is crossword puzzles. 


Monday, January 15, 2024

Monday, January 15, 2024, Peter A. Collins

Today's puzzle is a fun, fast grid with many enjoyable references of interest for this solver and a theme to put a real spring in one's step. The four theme answers are common expressions that begin with a vigorous take on events that are BOUNDTOHAPPEN: HOPONTHETRAIN, JUMPINTHESHOWER, and LEAPATTHECHANCE - ha!

After one false start, with LOll where LOAF belongs, I was off and running. The solid-but-not-stolid cluing gave the whole thing a real bounce. I particularly enjoyed "Cover for Claudius" (TOGA), "Not at all 'whelmed'" (UNAWED), "Concoct, as a plan" (HATCH), Render speechless (STUN), "Pain relief brand with an oxymoronic name" (ICYHOT), and "Citrus shade" (ORANGE) - aren't you glad I didn't say banana?

The number of personal ROIs was off the chart today, including OUI, CHIC (Très stylish), OUZO, FTROOP, PIKACHU, ANNI, NUIT, CHIA pet, and SIL ("The 'S' of R.S.V.P.). Fill-wise, I enjoyed TWISTS, GASH, SEETHE, JOSTLE, and, something of an outlier in this group I note, TACQUITO - cute!

61D: ALP

I can't quite remember if I saw her name in another recent puzzle, or in an archive puzzle I was looking at, but today's MALIAOBAMA made me wonder what she thinks about being a crossword puzzle darling. I know that if I ever get famous, I'm going to do it using a nom de plume that would beguile puzzle constructors as a bid to extend my 15 minutes. :)


Sunday, January 14, 2024

Sunday, January 14, 2024, John Kugelman


It's one of those "Normal phrases re-interpreted" themes today, where a thing like the standard JUNKDRAWER is given "Erotic artist?" as a clue, and "Farmers?" is answered by CHICKENTENDERS. Where a "Switch hitter?" is a FLICKEROFLIGHT (hah!) and "Animal tranquilizer?" clues NUMBEROFTHEBEAST. And the best, of course, is saved for last - "With 117-Across, the Grim Reaper?" = ANOFFERYOU CANTREFUSE. Not bad at all. :)

This took me a little longer than a Sunday usually does, and in the end I finished with a couple mistakes - I didn't know "Yesterday, in Spanish" (AYER), and "Street magician?" (WANDERAROUNDTOWN) just wasn't coming to me. You probably didn't have such difficulties.

Let's see, what else? I hadn't heard the slogan "Let me be perfectly QUEER" before. That's a good one. And I didn't realize that Anthony Hopkins only had 16 minutes of screen time when he won BESTACTOR for "The Silence of the Lambs." The record, in case you're interested, is five minutes and forty seconds, for Beatrice Straight's performance in "Network" (1976). 

And what's the name for a word that can sound different and mean different things? "Appropriate" is a good example. I kept thinking "apt" or something like that, but it's the SEIZE meaning that they wanted today. Heteronym. That's it.

Another one that got me for a long time was "Pan handle?" (PETER). Hah. 

How did you enjoy it?

- Horace

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Saturday, January 13, 2024, Hoang-Kim Vu

I think one sign that you may have spent too much time doing crosswords is that, when you come across the clue "Crag," you immediately enter TOR. ...

JIA Tolentino

In other news, I feel like there was a mini love theme in here. One is ENAMORED (Smitten), then finds TRUELOVE (Romantic's quest), says YESIDO, becomes ASONE, then takes a BABYMOON (Trip before a delivery), before buying a ONESIE (First garment, perhaps). Or maybe that's just me.

Strong C/APs today included "Sound in a clearing?" (AHEM), "Ascribe, as blame" (IMPUTE) (fancy!), "Take a round trip" (ORBIT), "One called to go places" (CAB), and the amusingly straightforward "Something you might kick" (ASS). 

The grid is run through by three lively, vertical 15-letter pins: THISISPOINTLESS ("Aargh, why bother?!"), ABOVEMYPAYGRADE ("That's why you get the big bucks and not me"), and TOOKITONTHECHIN (Stoically endured misfortune), and there's very little that I find to complain about.

Overall, a decent Saturday.

- Horace

Friday, January 12, 2024

Friday, January 12, 2024, Hemant Mehta

Lots of multi-word answers today. MYFAULT, HIDDENFEES, UPTONOGOOD, TINSELTOWN, BOOTYCALLSSTUFFYNOSESHOOKTHINGSUP, OHITSONNOW, BORETHECOST, RANAT, SINGTOBLOTOUTONAROLLSPOILEDROTTEN, and BANNEDBOOKS (Merriam-Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and "Where's Waldo?," once, surprisingly). That's a lot! And can't we all see that it's too late for us when people are trying to ban dictionaries? I mean, we don't need to read OPEDS about this to realize that it's AKIN to mob RULE do we? What's next? A COUP? The president's head on a PIKE? I suppose it's all a CYCLE, and LORDY I CRINGE to think of the FUTURA. Get out and VOTE sheeple! If that day-glo megalomaniac wins this fall we will all get what we deserve


Wow, that got dark fast. Really got my DANDER up. And here I am supposed to be talking about a simple crossword puzzle! 

So what else ... I always feel that the puzzle is on the easy side when I review it afterward and find that there were clues I didn't even read. Today one such was "Sexy growl" (RAWR). Sorry to have missed that one! :)

And a FLOAT is a weird concept, isn't it? If somebody asked me if I wanted milk in my root beer I would think they were insane. But drop a scoop of ice cream in there? Yes please. 

- Horace

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Thursday, January 11, 2024, Damon Gulcynski

Isn't it funny that this puzzle comes right on the heels of yesterday's? But did it help me with the theme? No. Not until I got to the revealer, that is. And how nicely it is tucked away in the corner there. Beautiful. And another beautiful thing about this theme? The fact that the first answer "Cause of irritated eyes" (BADBREAKUP) makes sense as it is. When I got that filled in, I wondered why it even had an asterisk. Then "Many lovers, e.g." didn't really make sense for CATPEOPLE, but as usual, my mind sort of made it work. "Sure, some people love cats. What? What about the e.g.? Just forget about that... nothing to see here."

IBIS flock

By the time I got to "Mayim of entertainment" (THESHOWMUSTGOON), I was just ignoring those theme answers altogether. Finally, 69A is "Basic linear expression with a hint to answering the five starred clues in this puzzle." And you know what? I got the rebus from the Down - "How peers should be treated" (AS[EQUALS]). So then the Across answer is Y=X, and suddenly all those clues look a lot different. It's not "Many lovers, e.g." it's "Manx lovers, e.g.", and "Maxim of entertainment." Very nice.

My favorite clue today might be "Try to see?" (WOO). That's good. And there's a funny little pairing of EAST and EDEN (Steinbeck title starter and ender). "One of three for a grand" was cute for PIANOLEG. I thought first of "zeros," of course, but it was way too short. Heh.

Seemed on the easy side overall, but it's a fun theme. 

- Horace

Wednesday, January 10, 2024, Chloe Revery and Alissa Revness

I enjoy this kind of theme, where a regular change in spelling results in absurd clue/answer pairs. So instead of the expression "No great shakes," we get NOGREATCAKES, which is clued as a "Review for a so-so bakery?" Hah! And why does the "sh" change to a "c"? Because, as the revealer tells us, SHARINGISCARING. My favorite might be "Completes a superhero transformation?" (GETSINTOCAPE) because of the stiltedness of the answer. Wacky. Just like we like.


MITT (It's catching) is a lovely Non-QMC. See also "It's often in stock" (BONE). (Soup stock.)

"'Magic that works,' per Vonnegut" is a fun clue for SCIENCE. "What's tolerated by every body?" is a tricky one for TYPEO, and I tried "ski" for "Runner on the ground?" (RUG), but that was eventually fixed by RAGU (Meaty pasta sauce), with its false capital - the ragu they're referring to is simply an Italian word, not the brand.

Yesterday we were told that octopi have way more neural connections than humans, and now we learn that the ORCA has the most gray matter of any mammal. It kind of makes me wonder why we do not eat ORCA. I mean, we eat pretty much everything else that lives and breathes. What's so special about them? I mean, aside from all that gray matter?

Finally, UPSA? "UPSA-daisy?" OK. You can have it. But only because I enjoyed the theme so much.

- Horace

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Tuesday, January 9, 2024, Adam Wagner

In the immortal words of Amy Reynaldo, "Tuesdays gonna tuez." In today's TUESDAY theme, we have phrases containing abbreviations for two days. And together, the three phrases contain abbreviations for every day except TUESDAY, which is given as the revealer. "Part of a calendar septet, and a phonetic hint to this puzzle's theme." Sooo... twos days? I meannnnn, it kinda works? What am I missing?


What else. GNOTE (Thousand-dollar bill, slangily)? Hmmm... this is currency that was discontinued in 1969. The $100 bill has been the largest note in use since then. Do I sound like a DORK for saying that? 

"Ocean creatures with nearly triple the neural wiring of humans" = OCTOPI. I have said for a while now that I don't eat octopus because I don't want to be eating anything smarter than myself. And honestly... "triple?!" Yeesh. Humans should wise up and try to be friends with OCTOPI instead of trapping them and killing them. Open your EYES people! We are not doing this DANCE of living on our own.

I liked "Plus-or-minus one?" for ION, "Prepared for an oral exam?" (SAIDAH) and "Lei man's term?" (ALOHA) were amusing, and WENTKABOOM (Exploded) was unexpected and fun. There was a little weirdness with the abbreviations clustered in the south central area (ROTO, UNI, GUAC, PEI, PREOP), the alternate spelling of DAO ("The Way," in Chinese Pinyin), and the plural KMARTS, but overall, I enjoyed it well enough.

- Horace

Monday, January 8, 2024

Monday, January 8, 2024, Nate Cardin

Dear Reader, this is NOTMYFIRSTRODEO, but it is the first time I've broken three minutes on a crossword puzzle. Yup - 2:54 today. Not too shabby for an old POET

OK, enough with the ONEUP nonsense. I don't want to drive a WEDGE between me and any readers, and I don't want to put any EGOS in a PANIC. I have had my OWN little moment, and now it's time to move on.

WHATNOW? Right... the puzzle. It's got a rip roarin' rodeo theme! Featuring the SANANTONIOSPURS, a PORKBARREL, REDBULLS, TEDLASSO, and a CLASSCLOWN. That's a lot, and with the revealer it includes two grid spanners! Very nice. 

ALSO, a nod of RESPECT to our Canadian correspondent with the inclusion of POUTINE! We also get a little blue material with PEEP, SEXT, ORAL, and ONIT. Oops... TMI?

This was fun. The week - and 2024 - are starting out well.

- Horace

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Sunday, January 7, 2024, Michael Schlossberg


Happy New Year, Dear Reader. May 2024 be a good one for you.

Kind of a low-key theme today of the same clue being used for consecutive Across answers on the same row. As in "It might be pressed before work" being answered by POWERSUIT and SNOOZEALARM, or "They're home to spinners" giving SPIDERWEBS and PRAGENCIES. And each second answer contains a highlighted emotion ("zeal" and "rage" above), which is explained by the revealer ONCEMOREWITHFEELING. Hah. Not bad.


Interesting to learn that the pleasant AROMA of rainfall on dry soil is called "Petrichor." It is apparently true that rain releases an oil from the dirt (petra = stone + ichor = blood of the gods), and that oil carries the scent. It is believed that camels use petrichor to find oases, and it is posited that humans enjoy the smell because water has always been essential to our existence. Cool.

Also interesting to learn that the GNU was so named because of the sound it makes. And that there was a tribe called the ARIKARA (Dakota tribe). So much in here I didn't know!

Furthermore, I don't remember hearing the term UPPISH (Snooty) before (I would have said "uppity"), and SWIMSHIRT (Certain beach top) isn't something I'm all that familiar with. And speaking of uncommon, it was nice to give Ann Landers (DEARANN) some love instead of the more popular "Dear Abby." Or do I just think she was more popular because I know the John Prine song?

I like when I learn things from a puzzle, so let's give this a thumbs up.

- Horace

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Saturday, January 6, 2024, Ben Tolkin and Julian Xiao

I think that perhaps our crossword editing teams mixed up their Friday and Saturday puzzles this week! Yesterday I was 3 times as long as my typical time, today I was under my average by a full minute. It's a delightful and smooth themeless, and very enjoyable.

I broke in with ANNA, replaced the initial "Adept" guess with AGILE (call-back to yesterday!) when I put in Citizen KANE. See, that's a clue that is way too easy for a Saturday. I second-guessed myself into thinking for a hot second that it would be the later movie Citizen Ruth with Laura Dern.

I've never heard of BOKEH (example below), but all of the crosses were straightforward. At this point I had NATIONANTHEM (I was thinking of "openiNganthem," but it was one letter short), and HUMANPYRAMID. Great clue there! I guess the next number up would be 15, but that's getting a bit crazy with the numbers of humans involved.

The central crossing long answers, PAGINGDRFREUD and THATDOGDONTHUNT are so wonderful and evocative. And look at the excellent NW corner with HAZYIPA, NORUSH, WRYEST, and OWLET

The lower half zipped by. DAYSOFOURLIVES went in off the first two letters and the clue. YEARENDBONUS followed quickly after. Once you have a long answer in place, it's much more straightforward to grasp the short answers.

17A: It's a big deal (ACE) is just slightly off as a clue. To get an ace in a deal can be really important, of course, but it is not itself a deal, IMO. Likewise 25A: Long division? (AISLE) is a bit odd.

OTOH, I love the clue at 44A for WAR. What a great description by Steinbeck. And 38D: Twist of a screwdriver? (RIND) is an excellent example of a QMC. 

Well, that's one week of 2024 done. Tomorrow, Horace will take over once more. Enjoy!

- Colum

Friday, January 5, 2024

Friday, January 5, 2024, David P. Williams

A very tough Friday themeless for us today, with a classic pinwheel shape. I took a good deal longer than my typical time, as every portion of the puzzle put up a good fight.

On my first run through the clues, I had a few answers entered, but never enough to gain a major foothold. I was glad for my Gilbert and Sullivan knowledge for 24D: ____ far niente (pleasant idleness) (DOLCE); see Iolanthe, first act finale, where W.S. rhymes a fair number of Italian phrases. I thought that I would get going here because of my cerebrovascular anatomy knowledge with 27A: The brachiocephalic trunk branches from it (AORTA). But no.

My first long answer was 32A: They beep when tested (SMOKEALARMS). Our modern versions yell "Fire! Fire!" Very scary when they accidentally go off at 4 AM...

The SW corner gave me some purchase, finally. POL and GOSOLO led to ENSLER and PELE, and I had more of a chunk of squares filled in. 32D: Deceive, especially to avoid responsibility for something (SHINEON) was unknown to me. It makes me think of Pink Floyd more than anything else. 31D: One clever enough to win every argument ... but not clever enough not to (SMARTASS) is a great clue.

JONAS Brothers

As is 31A: Innovation of the 1920s that's still spoken of with wonder today (SLICEDBREAD). As in "The greatest thing since..." Hah! I had ILLBEDAmNED first, but quickly changed the M to an R to allow CREME.

The SE corner was attacked with brute force. Without much to go on, I felt that SPEEDY was likely to be correct, and was convinced with CRANE. I know of Alan THICKE but couldn't pick his face out of a lineup. YOINKED is a great word, and everybody loves SRIRACHA.

The NW corner was my final area, and here I had nothing to go on. Finally, the ____EAD led me to think of EASYREAD, and the Y in the middle of 4D gave me STYLE. I have to watch my tendency to immediately latch on to possible answers, and then my brain stops being AGILE, and I'm stuck with American "cheese" rather than LEAGUE.

- Colum

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Thursday, January 4, 2024, Chase Dittrich and Christina Iverson

Today I am writing my first crossword review from our new apartment in New York City! Change is coming, and coming fast. I've got a great view out my window on a sunny day, and enjoying the new scenery.

What I didn't enjoy was not getting today's theme at all, and the reason why is that there is an element of the theme which is not displayed on the iPad app. Nor is there a message in the information button about it. This seems like a rare fail on the part of the NYT crossword gang. Turns out that certain letters in each theme clue (which are presented in all caps) are meant to be underlined, which explains the answers.

Thus, 17A: CAROL BRADY should have the letters C O L and A underlined. This explains why the answer is MOMANDPOP - "Mom" for the famous Brady Bunch mother, and "pop" for "cola." The other four are as follows:

26A: MOOSE ANTLERS (RACKANDRUIN) have M A and R underlined.

40A: ACTING ROLE (PARTANDPARCEL) have A C R and E underlined.

51A: SACRAMENTO KINGS (PROSANDCONS) have S C A M and S underlined.

64A: TOP ROUND STEAK (CUTANDRUN) have T R O and T underlined.


So that's a bit disappointing. The puzzle put up little fight otherwise. Answers I enjoyed include ORISIT, STRESSBALL, and DOCKS, in its verb form. 

31A: Something broken after regulation, say (TIE) is a fun clue. I also chuckled at 55D: Go from 0 to 60, say (COUNT). Indeed, that is correct.

Here's looking forward to the rest of the Turn.

- Colum

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Wednesday, January 3, 2024, Jared Goudsmit

I'll admit to being a little ATSEA when it came to the NE corner today. It didn't help that I had misspelled OASIS! That fiasco made me take over a minute longer than average for a Wednesday puzzle.

Fun theme, right? The revealer is right in the middle at 36A: Said no ... or, interpreted differently, a hint to entering the answers to 16-, 26-, 46- and 61-Across (REFUSED). The reparsing of the answer leads to the idea that the letter string RERE will be replaced with the "fused" RE. Thus, 16A: Was worth another mention (BOREPEATING) is really "bore repeating." The same trick occurs in the other three theme answers, FAREDUCTION, FIRESISTANT, and NATURESERVE. When I first entered the answers before getting to the revealer, I wondered whether the second word of the phrase was indicative of the trick, as in "Please reserve the extra RE," or some such.

Some fun clues today include 29A: International intelligence organization? (MENSA), 14D: Sort of poem not usually pluralized by adding an -s (HAIKU) - nice ROI there (and see glossary in sidebar for definition of ROI - it's really there now!), and 51D: Leader of Argos? (ALPHA). I was just talking with Frannie over the New Year's about how I don't get fooled by these sorts of clues for letters. But this one took it a step further into the Greek alphabet! Nice.

Bach Ma Temple in HANOI

I'll put in a plug for EZRA Klein here. His podcasts have really helped me educate myself on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and given me insight into each side's viewpoint. 

Finally, I'd like to nominate ICARE for the answer that most needs to be removed from the crossword lexicon. I just don't think anybody would ever say this in a non-ironic way. I'm ready to be done with caring in this excellent New Year! Just kidding. I would be happy to call any one of you AMI.

- Colum

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Tuesday, January 2, 2024, Jeffrey Marinovic

Hello one and all. Or maybe just one. Hard to tell when you're sending blog posts out into the ether...

Things have quieted in Albany, with the departure of all guests after the various holiday celebrations. I'm in the start of a two week vacation prior to starting a new job in New Jersey. So things feel a little unsettled at the moment. Moving is one of the greatest stressors in a life, they say. I'm trying to do this a bit at a time to make things less stressful. Hard to say if it's working.

Meanwhile, the Tuesday puzzle provides a bit of stress relief. Today's theme are pairs of two-word phrases composed of two pairs of antonyms. Thus STANDDOWN and SITUP are paired, likewise HITME and MISSYOU. It's a fun concept, with the 15-letter grid-spanner revealer at 38A: Some grammatical no-nos ... or a description of four pairs of answers in this puzzle? (DOUBLENEGATIVES). Although I'm not averse to using a double negative, myself.

What do you think of a clue like 34A: Place to find gold ... that's not yours? (MINE)? I'm amused by the concept. In a Tuesday grid, the second part is not necessary by any means. But it's a very clever secondary definition which could be taken as a declamatory statement, as in "That's not yours! It's mine!" The question mark is only necessary to alert the solver that it is a secondary definition.

Otherwise it's a pretty straightforward Tuesday. RIGAMAROLE is an excellent long down answer (longer than any of the theme answers!). 

- Colum

Monday, January 1, 2024

Monday, January 1, 2024, Harry Zheng

Happy New Year! Colum, Horace, and Frances are gathered here together to bring you the first blog post of the year. We had a very enjoyable NYE gathering, with games, libations, and friends. One of our games was to put two resolutions on paper strips, which were then picked from a bowl. I am to keep a dream journal for the year, which is a really great idea, and one I would otherwise never have thought to do.

I will briefly comment on the puzzle: our theme is phrases of the form XXY. My favorite of the four is DUCKDUCKGOOSE for fond childhood memories. THERETHERENOW reminds me of the Radiohead song "There, There." Otherwise, it's a smooth and enjoyable solve for a Monday. I will now turn the blog over to my esteemed co-bloggers for further commentary.

HIPHIPHOORAY for a new year! Horace here. I look forward to better things in 2024. I know there's ALOT to worry about (the WOE of the upcoming election ... SOS!), but there will also be another ACPT (see you in April!), and there's always that personal REFORM to work on. For me, anyway, that seems to be a never-ending chore. Heh. One of the resolutions I received last night was to "Listen more lovingly; focus on the speaker; enter their world!" So what are your resolutions? What will you work on this year? 

This puzzle was fun. I liked the theme, and the fill had some interesting elements. STROP (Barber's razor sharpener) is a good word. I never really understood how that STRIP of leather could work, but hey, there must be something to it. COPYTHAT (Relative of "Roger," in radio transmissions) is crisp, BOARDWALK (Property next to Go in Monopoly) brings back old board game memories, and who doesn't enjoy HERESY?

Frannie here. I guess it is now up TOI to write something. I could strike the familiar TUNE that the New Year is the time UHAUL your lifestyle into focus and see how it has AGED, but I could also check my crossword reviewer contract to see if there isn't a CLAWS about not working on federal holidays...

And there you have it. Another year started, another year of blog posts. Philbo, we're thinking of you!

- Colum, Horace, and Frances