Thursday, February 29, 2024

Thursday, February 29, 2024, Esha Datta

Happy Leap Day, everybody! I saw an advertisement on the streets of New York City yesterday asking what people were going to do with their "extra day," and suggesting they use it to volunteer, a good cause. But it made me wonder. Why is today the extra day? For me, it's a Thursday. I'm still working today. Isn't the extra day the one that comes at the end of the year, day number 366?

I'm surprised that the NYT did not have a specific tricksy puzzle for today planned. Instead we get a fun but remarkably easy puzzle that I finished in under 5 minutes, very fast for a Thursday. The theme answers are cute drawings of animals with musical instruments, indicating their names. Thus a crab with a violin is a FIDDLERCRAB. A seal with a lyre is a HARPSEAL. A swan with a cornet is a TRUMPETERSWAN, and a bird with a horn is, um, a HORNBILL. One of these does not quite fit with the others, but that's okay.

Then there's a punny answer at 57A: Mistakes in baseball ... or what 18-, 24-, 34- and 51-Across might produce? (WILDPITCHES). Hee hee. It's not exactly a revealer, but it does tie everything together. That being said, I entered all of the theme answers prior to entering anything else, which sped things along. It's not exactly what I expect for the first day of The Turn, no matter how lovely the grid and the fill are.

I do wonder if 17A is bonus theme material...

Sasha FIERCE AKA Beyoncé

Some nice answers in the rest of the puzzle, though. I love ZAATAR, both as a mix of herbs and as a word. Jhumpa LAHIRI is a very accomplished author, even though I haven't loved her move into Italian literature. 

Also, give me SAMOSAS and you have a happy camper. I love 43D: Most common vowel sounds in English (SCHWAS), that uncategorizable sound in our language. Also, we get 13D: State capital once home to Herman Melville (ALBANY), home to the Amory household for lo, these many years.

On the clever clue side, there's 1D: Where many bags of leaves can be found (TEASHOP) - not at the curbside in the autumn. 19D: Pause to play? (RECESS) is cute. And 42D: Place for soap? (MELROSE) is a great example of the tortured work one has to do to make a QMC work well.

So overall I enjoyed the puzzle, but I think it was better suited for a Wednesday.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Wednesday, February 28, 2024, Greg Snitkin

Hee hee, what a fun theme today for a silly Wednesday. Three long across answers with no obvious connection, brought together by the revealer for a perfect "aha" moment. I love having my mind turned around by the craziness of language.

53A: The main takeaway ... or, when considered in three different senses, a description of 20-, 33- and 41-Across (WHATITSALLABOUT) is the revealer. And to explain each case, I will put on my explainer hat. 

COMPUTERSYSTEMS are what I.T. is all about. A SCARYCLOWN is what "It" is all about. And of course, when you do the HOKEYPOKEY, "that's what it's all about!" So that was a lot of fun.

We take a break from our regularly scheduled Emma programming to show you DAINTY food

Has anyone watched the new live action version of AVATAR, the Last Airbender? I watched the entirety of the animated series with the family during the early days of the pandemic, and loved it. I almost don't even want to try the new version, but probably will.

How about 2D: Allergic reaction (ACHOO)? Hah! I put in "hives" first, but took it out immediately because HOP was obviously correct. Took me a while to figure that one out. I also liked 19A: Hell of a guy? (SATAN) - unexpected. 

There were a lot of names in the first half of the puzzle, which slowed me down. ICET, PONTIAC, BREES (not so hard for this football fan), LOLA, MARADONA, LEON (never even heard of this fella). Also ELSA! Who remembers Captain von Trapp's almost bride? Not when fresh-faced Maria is singing the curtains off the windows. What ANTICS.

Well, I'll stop being a TALKAHOLIC now. On to The Turn!

- Colum

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Tuesday, February 27, 2024, Nate Cardin

I should never question the NYT crossword editors. Yesterday's Monday puzzle felt a trifle hard for the first day of the week. So today, we get the inverse, a Tuesday that played easier. I'm sure there's a reason they placed them in this order rather than the opposite. Regardless, get ready for a ton of Ks!

Because today's theme are phrases built around the letters -INKY. Six of theme, inside of a 15 x 15 grid! That's a lot. And as a bonus, the last answer is RINKYDINK, getting an extra -INK in place. I ran through the alphabet and came up with only Tinky-Winky from the Teletubbies as another possibility. And since WINKYFACE is already in the grid, that would have been duplication. There are also the double-consonant starts, like with SLINKYDOG. The only one that I could imagine is what my wife and I call adult beverages: a "drinky-poo." But that's not common parlance.

Can you think of any others?

I'm going rogue!

I count 11 Ks in the grid, which is a definitely a lot. There are 3 outside of the theme, in SKYPES, TUSK, and YUCKY. One long answer has to encompass two of the themed Ks, and so we get PUNKROCKER (excellent). The other long down answer is ASYMMETRIC, also a great word. 

There are literally no tricky clues in this grid, which contributed mightily to my getting a sub-3 minute time on a Tuesday. But it's a fun theme, well-executed.

- Colum

Monday, February 26, 2024

Monday, February 26, 2024, Joe Marquez

It's a sunny and relatively warm day in New York City, especially for the end of February. And for our delectation, we get a classic theme on a Monday, with shaded and circled squares. The revealer is at 59A: "I'm paying for this round" ... or a literal hint to this puzzle's theme (DRINKSONME). The alcoholic beverages are in the shaded squares, hidden within longer answers, while just below each one, in the circles, are the letters ME.

I enjoy these hidden words all the more when they are broken up across multiple words in the theme answers. Thus, "vermouth" is hidden inside RIVERMOUTH. That's okay, although it uses up the entirety of the second word. "Wine" is hidden inside TWINENGINE - better, for sure. And the best is saved for last: "sake" inside HESAKEEPER. Across three words! Nicely done.

Now mind you, I don't drink vermouth straight. I enjoy using dry vermouth instead of cooking wine, and as we all know from watching Auntie Mame, the vermouth is only in the martini long enough to be sploshed out entirely to make room for all that gin. In the other direction, I had the pleasure of having sake squirted into my mouth from a distance at a hibachi restaurant last year. I was nowhere near as effectual in my drinking as one of the guys from the college group sharing our stovetop.

How many days in a row can I feature an EMMA?

This puzzle's fill felt more challenging than usual for a Monday. RCADOME, UNEASE, NAMASTE being examples of answers not typically seen in the early week. But I'm not complaining! It's good to get a surprise every now and then. And look at that excellent IKIDYOUNOT at 30D. Very nice.

Amusingly, I was just thinking of JIM Henson the other day, recalling the song "The Rainbow Connection," from the first muppet movie. It's a classic, and his voice is so immediately recognizable. Yup, just listened to it again on YouTube. Simply wonderful.

- Colum

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sunday, February 25, 2024, Scott Hogan and Katie Hale


What's that you say? A doctor related theme for my Sunday start to the week? What fun! 

Wait... no neurology joke? I'm out.

Just kidding. Hi, everybody! It's your favorite Neurologist practicing in north New Jersey who writes blog reviews for this particular NYT crossword review site, taking over for Philbo after an excellent week. Mind you, he's off on vacation to the sunny (I hope) Caribbean, so he probably won't see this shout-out. 

In any case, today, we get standard idioms punnily related to visiting different medical specialists. Thus, the cardiologist DIDNTMISSABEAT, the dermatologist MADEARASHDECISION, and so on. My favorite by far was saved for last, where the podiatrist helped the patient to STANDCORRECTED. Hah! Good stuff. If you like puns, that is. And I do.

EMMY Noether

This puzzle went by quickly, overall. I had very few places where I was really stuck for long. So, with that smoothness in mind, I have a few clues and answers to call out.

I've noticed a trend in clues towards manipulation of the letters in the answer, as in 67D: Man's name that becomes a distance if you move the first letter to the end (EMIL) - becomes "mile." Also, 110A: Rude ... or, without its first two letters, rude person (CRASS) - becomes "ass." Interesting way to make a relatively uninteresting answer more fun.

Speaking of asses, how about 57A: Sorry ass? (EEYORE). Nice. Even better is the non-QMC at 96A: Professional who works a lot (VALET). Indeed they do. I also liked 44D: It's involved in kissing and telling (LIP).

What do people think of 48D: Hint to the number of ingredients in Triscuit (TRI). I mean... it's right there in the clue. Can we do this for "Hint to the number of wheels in a tricycle?" Or, "Hint to the number of different sports in a triathlon?" Or "Hint to the number of people who can ride on a bicycle built for two?" Answer: "two." Hmmmm. I'm not convinced.

Otherwise, a fun puzzle. 

- Colum

Friday, February 23, 2024

Saturday, February 24 2024, Rebecca Goldstein and Rafael Musa

Pity me, poor readers!  I'm under the gun to get the Saturday crossword - the toughest of them all - done and reviewed the night before - as 12 hours from now I'll be in the air, halfway to our Caribbean vacation spot.  What, you say?  Not a "pity" situation?  Yes, I admit, you're right about that.  But oh - the pressure!  And I found this a tough go after a quick start in the NW corner - I was stymied in the NE and SE quadrant for quite a while.  

I have a photographer in the family, whose name appeared in my Wednesday blog and also in this grid (SIMON is "who says"), and so I am familiar with the GOLDENHOUR, the best time for photo taking right before sunset.  That helped me swoop through the start of the puzzle,  I entered LIGERS for "Feline hybrids" but quickly realized that its counterpart TIGONS was called for.  No harm done.  Just below that, "Love scene" was a cute clue for TENNIS.  Got bogged down after that.  A lot of white space at the bottom right took a while to resolve, with three or four false starts before it all came into focus, including the superlative CLINKED ("Made a sound with a flute").  

Looking at the filled-in upper right section, it's hard to put my finger on why I had such trouble, as everything's fair and not too abstruse, other than TOADETTE, apparently a pink-headed mushroom in Mario Land.  Really?  COMENOWIHATETOASK, as a "disclaimer before an uncomfortable situation", finally sprang to mind and unlocked the whole area.

Elsewhere in the grid...Nice to see ANAIS clued as something other than "Nin"!  "Cook for Easter, maybe" was nice and misleading.  I thought it was going to have something to do with ham, so HARDBOIL was a nice surprise. 

Did I enjoy this puzzle?  OHGODYES.  For personal reasons, though (see above), I'm not doing it proper justice in this blog.  

Thanks for "listening" all week, folks!  See you on the flip side.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Friday, February 23 2024, Larry Snyder

Well!  Your head will be spinning after today's pinwheel of a puzzle, with its four-way rotational symmetry and chunky, consistent construction throughout - of the 64 answers, only 8 are 3 letters long and 8 more are 4-letter.  

Aesthetic appeal notwithstanding, this was not a difficult Friday offering.  I got off to a karmic good start by correctly guessing YESMAAM for the very first clue "Formal affirmative", and it just went from there.  Over on the right, I liked the misdirection of "Windy location of myth?", which I expected to be MTOLYMPUS or something, but turned out to be LABYRINTH - of course!  Right beside it, the "defunct health tech company once valued at $10B" could only be THERANOS.  Lordy, what a story that was!!  

Down below, it was nice to see LEACH spelled correctly ("Drain away") - so often, you see LEECH.  (Grr!!)  Moving to the end, a little trouble in the SE corner with "Stealing from the collection plate, for example" (SACRILEGE, not SACREDSIN) and "Covered in ink" (TATTEDUP, not the too-obvious TATTOOED).  A little learning for me here too - that CREDO is a liturgical chant..

Aside from this, not much in the way of obstacles.  Looking at it one more time, I just 'got' "Whoops, e.g." (YELLS).  I hadn't been reading the clue as a plural word! ...   I had a hope at one point of mastering the PIPEORGAN - I think at one point these were the most complex of all human-made objects - but alas, it will never be.  Awe-inspiring to sit in a church while an organist is having at it, is it not?!

Though Fridays are generally themeless, I did notice that there were an awful lot of doubled letters in the grid - 17 pairs in all, if I'm counting right.  I doubt that's a coincidence.  Perhaps Mr. Snyder was taking a cue from his first name?  :)

That's all from me today!  Hope you enjoyed the puzzle as much as I did.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Thursday, February 22 2024, Dan Schoenholz

A brief word on my modus operandi on themed puzzles:  I generally disregard the theme clues as I go through the grid, letting them reveal themselves via the crossers, and by the end it's generally pretty clear what's going on.  (Very rarely do I use the theme as a direct aid to solving.)   Today, though, I reached completion with correct answers to the five starred clues but no idea why.  It took me a solid minute of inspection to reach a very satisfying "aha" moment.  In a nutshell - each theme clue is a word, which can be broken into two parts:  the first syllable, which sounds like a letter (e.g. 'CUE' representing the letter 'Q'), and the rest of the clue, which is also a word defining the answer - which begins with that starting letter.  To wit:

  • "Ensign" = "N" Sign = NOPARKING
  • "Emirate" = "M" Irate = MADASHELL
  • "Arbiter" = "R" Biter = RATTLER
  • "Depot" = "D" Pot = DUTCHOVEN
  • "Begin" = "B" Gin = BEEFEATER
I find this a weird construction but it really worked for me.  Who thinks of these things?!  Our esteemed setter community, is who.  Respect.

A pretty gentle puzzle for a Thursday, notwithstanding the above.  Right at the top, I thought of JAPE right away for "Practical joke" but left it blank until nearly the end because I couldn't think of a four-letter word for "Copacetic" starting with J.  But there is - it's JAKE.  "JAKE"?!  Sounds like some of that newfangled slang the kids use these days.  One other hiccup was with the fourth theme answer, for which I had ____HOVEN, so I guessed it had to be BEETHOVEN, and brief chaos ensued.   I liked AIRGUITAR ("It's never out of tune") and POORTASTE ("Anathema to an aesthete") side by side.  I bet aesthetes aren't all that fond of air guitar either.  

I think my favourite clue was VIBES, which one may indeed pick up when entering a room.  VIBES are also a really cool percussion instrument.  Speaking of which ... the STEELDRUM - "Staple of Trinidadian music".  Aah.  Puts me in mind of our Caribbean vacation, which starts in three days!!  

I'll try to stay focused for two more crosswords...


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Wednesday, February 21 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic

Today's crossword puzzle is a bit of a language lesson, in which we learn about the self-describing nature of four geographical items around the world - that their names, when translated from their native languages, are evidently TAUTOLOGICAL:

  • SAHARADESERT : "Sahara" = "Desert" in Arabic
  • LAKETAHOE : "Tahoe" = "Lake" in Washoe
  • MISSISSIPPIRIVER : "Mississippi" = "River" in Algonquin
  • EASTTIMOR : "Timor" = "East" in Indonesian
I didn't know about any of these, so there's a welcome educational aspect to this construction; also, I tip my hat to any setter who can get TAUTOLOGICAL into his/her grid!  What's more, I like the factoid that US radio stations' call signs start with 'W' and 'K' to the east and west of the Mississippi, respectively. 

More learning - did any of you know that the figures in Rodin's THEKISS aren't quite kissing?  I looked at some images online, and if they're not, it's darned close.  It occurs to me that this may be the first recorded "air kiss", paving the way for socialites around the globe to greet their peers without risk of smudged makeup..

It was nice to see two Canadian athletes name-checked - TESSA Virtue, who achieved figure skating greatness with her ice dance partner Scott Moir in the 2010s, and the immortal MARIO Lemieux, arguably the greatest hockey player of all time; speaking of tautology, all you need to say in Pittsburgh (or anywhere hockey is spoken) is "Mario" - the "Lemieux" part is redundant.  

This was a really good Wednesday puzzle, with just the right amount of resistance.  

p.s. special shoutout to my son Simon, who turns 23 today!  Happy Birthday Simon!


Monday, February 19, 2024

Tuesday, February 20 2024, Robert S. Gard

Having just completed Tuesday's puzzle and kicked off this blog, I confess I didn't get what the theme was - I had to go back and review.  Yes, that's me, your trusty HALFBAKED reviewer...  The theme answers today show four different ways a thing (or person) can be half-baked:

  • By the sun - BIKINITAN.  This one doesn't sit quite right with me, as surely this suggests a "baked" level of much more than half?
  • In the oven - LAVACAKE.
  • By one's stoner friends - CONTACTHIGH.
  • By an overactive mind - WILDIDEA.
Nice construction!  In my re-review, I saw TIT for the first time, having evidently gotten it from the crossers, and took a guess at how it was clued before actually looking.  Got it wrong - it's "Small songbird", not "__ for tat" (nor anything else).  

Overall this went quickly for me.  I entered VIDI instead of ISAW as the middle part of Caesar's boast, as I bet many of you also did, which was a minor snarl, and DRYLY instead of DRILY ("In a deadpan manner") - this sort of thing always seems to trip me up.  I liked the Richard Feynman shout-out - as an old Physics guy, Feynman's always been a hero of mine.  We may have come across Ted CHIANG in another crossword some months back, so I may be repeating myself here : if you like sci-fi/speculative fiction, I highly recommend this guy's short stories.

I really should sit down and watch MADMAX some day.

Have to cut it short today.  A la prochaine!


Monday, February 19 2024, Adam Wagner

 It is a breezy Monday morning here in Toronto-land, which fits nicely with this fun little puzzle - easy as 1-2-3 (-4) and with a really fun little theme.  Four Across clues are starred and their answers all start with numerals in increasing order:

This in itself might have sufficed as a lukewarm Monday theme, but there's more to it, as the revealer clue tells us - "What the first word counts, with respect to the second word" - SYLLABLES - and so it is!  Neat!  A couple of things occur to me:  First, I challenge the reader to come up with the next answer in the series!  And also, it would have been a bonus if there'd been an extra theme clue, right at the top, whose answer was simply ZERO.  Get it?  How "meta" would that have been??

What else, what else ..  As well as to toddlers, WAWA was also H20 to Helen Keller, if I'm remembering "The Miracle Worker" correctly.  I liked the self-referential "Do a puzzle" (SOLVE) in the middle of the grid.  Also we now know the factoid that the Inazawa Grand Bowl has 116 bowling LANEs.  

I had my ANORAK out for the second and possibly final time of the year yesterday.  Quite disturbing how winter's gone basically MIA this year...

Hope you are all enjoying the holi-day!  "See" you tomorrow...


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sunday, February 18 2024, Sid Sivakumar

Hello readers!  A neat, multifaceted theme in today's puzzle.  A hint is provided at the outset, in the online version at least, in the form of a twisty green vine gravelling up the centre of the grid.  For me, it became clear early what was going on, with the revealer clue pair 13D/61D "Like some represented phonetically by each set of shaded squares?", which, with the help of a couple of crossing letters, was obviously HEARDTHROUGH/THEGRAPEVINE.  That's a lot of real-estate, basically for free, which was a big help in filling the rest of the grid.  And the theme itself - the three Down answers obscured by the vine turn out to be varieties of grape, and crossing these, as hinted, are five different homonyms of the type of info one would get through the grapevine, all embedded in longer clues:  ROOMER, TOCK, DIC, DERT and NUES.  I like that the HEARD part of the revealer is doing homophonic double duty here, and am especially fond of the third one, which gets its pronunciation from the answer it's embedded in (will leave it to you to discover what that is!).

This was shaping up to be a record Sunday for me, as I worked clockwise round the grid, starting in the NE corner.  A little trouble in the SW as I didn't know that Beaver Stadium was where PENNSTATE plays football.  And STAIRSTEP is clumsy.  Even clumsier than the recently-encountered ICESKATE.. And then in the middle, I had COMEIN, and then CMONIN, for "Well, don't wait out here!" before righting the ship with GOONIN (as indicated by the clue, now that I'm looking at it again).  The real trouble for me was in the upper left/middle.  I had SCENE as "Theater backdrop" on top of BARREL for "Port container" instead of SCRIM and CARAFE, which took me many minutes to unwind.  Didn't help that I'd never heard of HATERADE ("Boos-y drink?") and Olympic gymnast ALY Raisman.   However.  All good in the end.

Nice clues along the way - REEL for "Windy part of a kite" was neat.  "Seat in the London Stock Exchange" was another cute way to clue ARSE.  And I loved the factoid that a DIME is the only US coin that doesn't say how much it's worth.  That's what keeps us coming back, folks!


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Saturday, February 17, 2024, Spencer Leach and Jem Burch

An interesting layout, some HEP fill including TSWIZZLE and SUSHIPIZZA, and a pangram provided OURS of fun today. Well, not hours, exactly, but I did unhappily extend my solve time thanks to the ONUS of a FWOE in the northeast. The specifics in the clue "N.B.A. team that shares an arena with the N.H.L.'s Stars, familiarly" were, unfortunately, totally lost on me, but looking at _AVS in the grid and having a notion that I had heard of a sports team called the cAVS,  I went with the letter C. The fact that the Down answer thus became ONEcAN ("Like some shows and bands") didn't phase me as much as it should have, possibly because the answer *was* made up of two actual words, and, if I'm honest, I didn't really get the clue, despite the fact that we have a good friend who is a popular ONEMAN band around these parts. Derp.
Elsewhere, the puzzle's SQUAREFEET were filled with some fine answers. I particularly liked "Makes quiet, in a way" for OILS. "Small part of a window" for PIXEL was clever. "Position with security" for STEADYGIG was also nice. Both "Half and half" for ONE and "Grumpy companion" for SNEEZY were fun. And who doesn't love the word SIDLE? In the QMC category, I especially liked, "Head for the toilet, say?" (SLANG). 

I admit I was surprised to find the answer to "Going after the big bucks, say" was INHEAT. Also, personally, I wouldn't characterize LANOLIN as a foul odor, but to each their own, non? And, for all I know, ZITI may be a traditional wedding dish in Southern Italy, but not one of my three Italian dictionaries translated zita, zito, or ziti as bride or brides, but I sposa someone found it somewhere.

It's Saturday, dear Readers, and I'm DONEZO for the week. OLAV you in the capable hands of our esteemed co-blogger, Philbo. TTYL!


Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday, February 16, 2024, Colin Adams

Friday it may be, but I solved the puzzle in a zippy (for me) 20 minutes, even with a long struggle in the middle east - what else is new. Too soon? I digress. The knot of unknown or uncertain answers in that section slowed me way down. The center of the knot was the "European airline that was nationalized form 1944 to 2001." Now that I know the answer (IBERIA), I think I would have gotten it faster if I focused more on the date range in the clue rather than on the grid itself. I just kept thinking I'd recognize the name of the airline once I got some letters from other answers, instead of spending the time thinking about the specifics of the clue. Derp. Also, I guessed argON for the noble gas used in propelling ion thrusters, instead of the correct XENON, which did not help matters. And, while I was pretty sure the Cowboy Bill in question was PECOS, I was a bit at sea about the eldest daughter of Oceanus and the mother of Nike (STYX). I thought I knew MESSYBUN for "Casually chic updo" but the uncertainty in that section was causing me to repeatedly tear my hair out, and then put it back in. I was also duped by the clue "Hands and feet" - thinking only of extremities. The correct answer, UNITS, took me pleasantly by surprise and gave me a leg up. THEN, finally, a successful guess of ITINA for the "1986 rock autobiography" enabled me to correct my errors and complete the puzzle. 


Some NICEWORK on the QMCs today. I thought "God on a mission?" for APOLLO,  "Northern hemisphere?" for IGLOO, "Stand-up person?" for NOSHOW, and "Time to draw?" for NOON were all strong. In the non-QMC category, my favorite was "Bacon bits" for ESSAYS - ha!

There was some good long fill in the grid, too, like INNERDEMONS, HIGHWAYHYPNOSIS, DONTTEMPTME, and the delicious FOODCOMA

The one SOURNOTE for me was the C/AP ARENTI for "Coy response to a compliment." I must be missing something here because I can't think of compliment that would engender that response. Anyone? 


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Thursday, February 15, 2024, Teddy Katz and Rich Katz

Despite getting today's theme revealer right off the bat, I didn't "get" the theme until I discussed it with Horace. In the solve, I saw that I could leave the circled squares empty and get a valid result, so that's what I did. What I did not see was that those circled squares could also be filled with specific double letters to make both the Across and Down answers match the same clues. For example, the clue for 9D is "Flower". If you skip the circled square, the answer is the beautifully cromulent BLO[]OM, and if you enter a double S (SS) in the circled square, you get the equally cromulent BLO[SS]OM. The same doubled letter used for each Down works for the corresponding Across clue. In this case, the Across clue is "Told where to go, say" for CU[]ED, or with the SS, CU[SS]ED - heh. Amazingly clever to be able to include five instances where either DOUBLEORNOTHING works! I'm sorry I didn't figure it out myself, but I was off my game this morning thanks to an update to Duolingo that caused me quite a setback, plus trouble with Wordle and Connections. For once, the puzzle was the least of my problems. :) 

Anyhoo, in addition to the masterful theme, I enjoyed learning that the full name of BTS "translates as 'Bulletproof Boy Scouts'" (BTS), that ALI said he threw his gold medal into the Ohio River (now I have to find out why :), and that in San Francisco, the FOG is nicknamed Karl - ha!


As if that weren't enough, there were some great C/APs. I particularly liked "Hit or miss, perhaps" for VERB, "Soft rock" for TALC, and "Make love?" for ENDEAR - ha! Some nicely ambiguous clues were "This too shall pass"  for FAD, "Was up" for LED, "Impressive showbiz quartet" for EGOT, and DISC for "CD component." The "Hundos"/CSPOTS pairing was also fun. Fill-wise, I liked LISSOME, SKEETER, and SNOOKER.

I'm mostly over the black start to the day, but as a vent to my remaining grump, I will just say that I think the word AGO could use some clueing help. It is often clued, as today, with "In the past" or similar, which *is* a match, of course, in a way, but there's a lack of parallelism that always irks me slightly. Feel free to ARGUE. :)


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Wednesday, February 14, 2024, Ella Dershowitz

The shaded squares that appear in each corner of today's puzzle grid shape the letters L O V E - or, quite literally, LOVELETTERS ("Valentine's Day exchanges ... or what this puzzle's shaded areas are?"). To add to the love fest, the letters in the shaded squares spell words of affection: ROMANCE, FONDNESS, PASSION, RESPECT. What could be more apt on this day devoted to love? Apt!

Other C/APs I hearted today include "Word with sock or duck" (ODD), "Audacity" (NERVE), and HANDIN for "Submit." The paired parallel beer clues in the top section, one Italian (PERONI) and one Mexican (CORONA), also attracted my attention. Fill-wise, I enjoyed APLOMB, ASYLUM, RAPANUI, and ENSUITE.


The flip side of this love-ly grid - is that filling it with ASMUCH theme material as this also produced a bouquet of acronyms and abbreviations, especially obvious across the bottom row: GIS, HSN, SYS, and ORS. It's like a box of assorted chocolates when the lemon cremes and the cherry cordials remain after the almond clusters and toffees are all gone. :)

Love to all our dear Readers.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Tuesday, February 13, 2024, Peter Gordon

Sports don't score very high on my list of interests, but today's theme of team name combinations resulted in a couple of big ROIs for this solver. Even though I don't know much about the Phoenix Suns - and I've never even heard of the Sacramento Kings - I know enough about Louis XIV, aka the SUNKING, to cause people I'm conversing with to call a time out if ever I get going on the topic. And, no offense to Cleveland or LA, but its the clued version of GUARDIANANGEL ("*Clarence in 'It's a Wonderful Life," e.g. [M.L.B.]") that I like - that's one of my all-time favorite holiday movies! In general, it was the combo TEAMPLAYERS answers that appealed to me more than the team name references. I do give the constructor points, however, for coming up with a common name or phrase for four of the major U.S. sport associations. 

While perhaps not the goal of the puzzle, there was some additional sports-related material to be found on the sidelines like KNEEPAD, AROD, and ESPN, not to mention the very amusing C/AP "Bird with a lot of stuffing?" (LARRY) - ha! 


In addition to the BULK of sports material, there was a wide range of other topic areas including "Office note" (MEMO), "Friend of Thumper and Flower" (BAMBI), and the interesting "Therapy whose name is Japanese for 'finger pressure'" (SHIATSU). That latter also falls into the category of interesting fill along with teammates SPAWN, CALYPSO, and DUMDUMS

Other top players in today's grid include "'All rise' undoer" for BESEATED, "No longer a minor" (OFAGE), "Legitimate object of attack" (FAIRGAME), and the math clue "27, for 3" (CUBE). All in all, I declare this puzzle to be a real winner.


Monday, February 12, 2024

Monday, February 12, 2024, Jess Shulman and Amie Walker

All four of today's theme answers have the same clue, "[Get my innuendo?]" the answers differ (obvi), but each is an action designed to give one's interlocutor the idea that there's more to what one is saying than meets the eye - or rather ear. The first two, NUDGENUDGE and WINKWINK immediately called to mind the Monty Python sketch, of course. The other two were HINTHINT and COUGHCOUGH. Funny that all four ways to indicate a double meaning involve doubled words. 

Aptly, on a Monday, some fill was "see and spell" like "Front's opposite" (BACK), "Beech or birch" (TREE), "Acorn producers" (OAKS), "Open-air lobbies" (ATRIA), and "Painter, Degas" (EDGAR), but several others left room for rumination, like "Long, cylindrical instrument" for OBOE, the response to the Little Red Hen, which had to be excavated from the memory archives (NOTI), the multivalent clue "Worked" which turned out to be TOILED, and the unexpected ENSHROUD for "Cover completely".


Doing the puzzle under less than ideal conditions while on the road this morning, my solve time blew up from just under six minutes to over seven while I searched for a FWOE. I eventually discovered that my entry of NOVAe for "Exploding stars" should have been NOVAS instead. 

Interesting fill included TOUSLE, GIGANTIC, SWATH, and BEATTHEHEAT. ENIGMA is always fun. 

I'll take my cue from the Python skit here and say no more. :)


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Sunday, February 11, 2024, Peter Koetters

A tribute to THOMASALVA Edison's productions today. There's the MIMEOGRAPH, the MOVIECAMERA, MICROPHONE, PHONOGRAPHSPIRITPHONE (ummm...), the STOCKTICKER, the POWERPLANT, and the central light bulb, which is represented in the grid art. In all, a very small percentage of his 1,093 patented INVENTIONS


In order to make the light bulb shape, the center is fully isolated, and that fact, and the decision to make the letters of EDISON into the filament (I guess) of the lightbulb - the source of light, of inspiration, as it were - must have made filling that fully open area very challenging. The slight oddness of SIDENOTES (Tangential remarks), NODULAR (Having knobby bumps), and AMORAL (Ethically indifferent) made it slightly more difficult to solve.

The presence of OSHA in this grid made me wonder how the "Org. that sets worker exposure limits" would have viewed the Model T assembly line. Also tangential to the theme is ERNO (Rubik with a cube). Would Edison have viewed him as an equal in the inventor world? And what about PITCHMEN (Guys in commercials)? Did Edison need such tactics to sell his stuff? 

Some unusual entries - GAMELAN (Traditional Indonesian percussion orchestra), UIES (180s) (I prefer "ueys" for some reason), ASHCAN (Metal receptacle by a fireplace) (Sure, maybe in Edison's time), and REPINE (Feel discontented) - but it is a tribute puzzle, after all. 

- Horace

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Saturday, February 10, 2024, Zhouqin Burnikel

A fun tribute to the YEAROFTHEDRAGON, which begins today. 愿你幸福、繁荣!
May you all be happy and prosperous.

I like the left-right symmetry. The puzzle has a pleasing look, which is nice to see when I first open up a grid. Fairly chunky areas of white and good flow between areas. I don't always mention the shape of a grid, but I almost always notice it.

It had some hard spots, but overall it went faster than yesterday's for me. In the NW, ARYA ("Game of Thrones" character whose name means "noble" in Sanskrit), SHEPARD (Sara who wrote the "Pretty Little Liars" books), and ELOTE (Grilled corn-on-the-cob dish, in Mexican cuisine) were "all crosses" entries. And there still has not been an OKISEE moment for "Pentagon figures" (AREAS). Is that just because it is possible to figure out the area of a pentagon? or is there something more that I am not getting. Please tell me it's the latter and explain it to me.

Frannie and I both felt that it should have been "wracked" instead of RACKED for "Like some brains and pool balls," or, rather, that pool balls are racked and brains are wracked. The two words are, per Merriam-Webster, etymologically distinct: wrack meaning "to utterly ruin" and rack meaning (in the case of brains, not pool balls) "to cause to suffer torture, pain, anguish, or ruin." Soooo... kinda close actually. And since I guess you do not "utterly ruin" your brain, but instead "cause it to suffer," rack should probably be the choice of the more literal among us. Whoever they may be. 

ISECOND (Cry after a motion) was a good one, "House speaker's place" (STEREO) was clever, and "Treat often eaten with a small wooden spoon" (GELATO) (They're often plastic these days) was tasty, but "Play ground?" for THEATER was a bit recherché, no? 

My "Personal number?" (AGE) labels me as a GENXER, and I think I would make a good CATDAD, but alas, all felines are reduced to allergens in my household. Perhaps I should consider a dragon...

- Horace

Friday, February 9, 2024

Friday, February 9, 2024, Christina Iverson

If the "day of the week difficulty" holds this week, I am in for it tomorrow. Today's grid by Ms. Iverson took me more than twice as long as Fridays usually do, and I fought the whole way. 

After starting of quickly with AFTER (Caption in a comparison ad), then ELLE (Montly with a palindromic name), I got nothing else until I guessed SANAA (Mideast capital), which led me to guess bAked for "Like some teenagers and pasta" (SAUCY), and things slowed right down after that. 

PLOW pose

I won't go any further into the details of my struggle, but instead will cut right to the good stuff. "Wind up alone?" was a very tricky clue for FLUTESOLO wasn't it? And "Fuzzy exotic pet" had me thinking of chinchillas, not a TARANTULA. Sheesh! 

The long Downs of ISTHATATHING (Question of legitimacy) and ALOTTOUNPACK (Overwhelming and needing time for consideration) were lovely. BATARANGS (DC Comics weapons, one of which can be seen at the Smithsonian) was fun, and who doesn't like CUREDPORK (Bacon or pancetta)? 

It was hilarious to see QUIETQUITTING (Trend for unengaged employees) in the middle of the grid. DISCOBALL (It makes a spin around a dance floor) was fun, and SNAKEEYES (One-sided dice?) was very sneaky! 

There was a lot I didn't know (Social media influencer Addison RAE, PANAY (Philippine island that's home to Iloilo), Stephen Sondheim's "The Worst PIES in London," and more), but things came together slowly, and by the end I was ALLSMILES.

- Horace

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Thursday, February 8, 2024, Samuel A. Donaldson

Today eight two-word answers are put side by side in such a way that the order of the two words is reversed, because, as the revealer states, OPPOSITESATTRACT. So, the two clues "Highway crossing" (overpass) and "Fail" (go under) are put side by side and they end up being PASSOVER and UNDERGO, because the words "over" and "under" been pulled toward each other. It's cool that Mr. Donaldson found eight expressions that could work either way. "Leave on" (Keep wearing) is a little arbitrary, but I'm not going to complain.

There were some especially clever clues today. The one that took me the longest to even understand was "Dog on a cat?" (PAW), but there were plenty of good ones: "Where trailers wind up" (LAST), "Place to put the dough" (OVEN) (guffaw), "Jets pass in it, for short" (NFL), and "Road runners?" (ENGINES). And how about "Now I remember who sang 'Take On Me'!" (AHA)? Hah!

It's been a good week for themed puzzles. Now it's onward to the themelesses!

- Horace

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Wednesday, February 7, 2024, Daniel Mauer

Stuttered lyrics are ETERNE, apparently, and this grid celebrates four exemplars:

LALALALALOLA (Refrain in a 1970 hit by the Kinks)
CHCHCHCHCHANGES (Refrain in a 1971 hit by David Bowie
MYGGGGENERATION (Refrain in a 1965 hit by the Who)
PPPPOKERFACE (Refrain in a 2008 hit by Lady Gaga)

Only one was released during the IPOD era (Tech product officially discontinued in 2022), and in the first half of said era at that. All of these are instantly recognizable to me, but then, I am quite old now. Would a Millenial know all of the first three? I don't know. If we have any younger readers, perhaps they can chime in.


How about that clue for YAM (Crop revered by the Abelam people of Papua New Guinea)? Seems oddly specific and esoteric. But cool. Fine. Revere away. 

The long Downs of FLYINGSOLO (Going it alone) and HEMOGLOBIN (Substance that makes blood red) were good. HERVE (Actor ____ Villechaize of "Fantasy Island") must have prompted a few questions about whether or not his name was still commonly known, but I suppose when the theme is steeped in Classic Rock, you figure "what the heck." Why not throw in a Frasier reference too, for good measure (LILITH (Frasier's ex-wife on "Frasier")). But hey, I'd better keep my mouth shut. If all the references start being pulled from the last ten or fifteen years I am going to be aged right out of the crossword game. So... hey, great puzzle! :)

- Horace

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Tuesday, February 6, 2024, Victor Barocas

What a fun and clever theme. MOVEDOVER (Change a map of southern England? ... or, when parsed differently, what you need to do to the answers to the starred clues). Hah! Move Dover, or, Move "D" over. And I love how the first themer, SPICEDRUM (*Large container for cinnamon or coriander?) sort of seems normal. At least to me. Like - I thought "Spice drum" seemed normal enough, and I didn't immediately think of "spiced rum." (But maybe that's just because I almost never drink rum.) Then LOVEDONE (*Gist of a Dear John letter?) seemed ok, too. It's a weird way of referencing a loved one, but ok. 

But by the time I got to "*Play matchmaker?," the present tense in the clue and the past tense in the answer (FORGEDALLIANCES) finally made me realize that I was missing something. Hah!

My ALTO sax

Some cute clues for the actors EMMA (Stone on a set) and IDRIS (Able is he and he is Elba). And in the QMC department, "Recovers some yards" (SODS), "Tiny matter" (ATOM), and "Kitchen counters?" (EGGTIMERS) were all strong. 

Sure, ARCED and AISLED were some answers you might have liked to "move D over" and out of, but overall, the theme carried the day today.

- Horace

Monday, February 5, 2024

Monday, February 5, 2024, Desirée Penner and Jeff Sinnock

The NYTX is getting fancy. Full-color reveal today:

All words from fight scenes in the original Batman TV show and movie with Adam West and Burt Ward. It would have been more fun if they had picked some of the odder words, like "POWIE!" "BLURP!" "CLUNK-ETH!" or "ZZZZWAP!" I suppose those would have been slightly harder to incorporate into the puzzle, but hey, I'm an idea man. Don't bother me with the boring details of execution. 

As a photographer practically from the Batman era (and no, I never used a MINOLTA), I wish that ESTOP (Legally prohibit) were somehow related to f-stop. It would have been fun if all camera settings were [letter]-stop, wouldn't it? Feel free to develop that idea, too. As it were.

"Opposite of sinking" (AFLOAT) was odd, wasn't it? I mean, you'd immediately want something like "rising," but AFLOAT is really a state that is opposite the state of sinking. It's enough that it's just "not sinking," right? That's "opposite?" ... I think I can talk myself into anything... but that's a story for another time.

Any Monday that reminds me of those absurd fight scenes is ok by me. How'd you like it?

- Horace

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Sunday, February 4, 2024, Daniel Grinberg


The theme today is taking a bunch of phrases ending with "line" and reinterpreting them humorously and/or cleverly. As in:

Fishing line? - TELLMEIMPRETTY
Private line? - SIRYESSIR
Assembly line? - PLEASEBESEATED

Very nice. 


In addition to the dense across and down theme, there were plenty of good entries. Fun QMCs inclued "Person of interest?" (LOANSHARK), "Light-headed sorts?" (MOTHS), "Preserves things?" (JARS), "Gives a hand?" (CLAPS), and the somewhat tortured "Passage of rite?" (AISLE). And on the other side, we have "There's a hole in one" (BAGEL), "Sense of orientation" (GAYDAR), "Hot spot" (HELL), and "What might lead to a bridge" (VERSE).

I was not familiar with the AXOLOTL salamander, named after an Aztec deity, and I was a little surprised when "Shake slightly" turned out to be JOGGLE instead of JiGGLE, but there wasn't really all that much to complain about. The oddest thing might have been "____-courtin'" (GOA). It played a little tricky for me, but overall I quite enjoyed it. 

Frannie and I will be competing in the Boswords Winter Wondersolve later today. Perhaps some of you will be there too. If so, happy solving!

- Horace

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Saturday, February 3, 2024, Carolyn Davies Lynch and Jeff Chen

How about an extra large Saturday puzzle? The 15 x 16 grid allows for what must have been the two seed answers to cross in the middle. It's a slightly lopsided pinwheel effect overall.

For some reason, ARTFILM fell into place right off the bat, which greatly helped fill in the NW corner quickly. MEH, LENS, and IBID confirmed my guess. 2D: Pucker precipitators at a pub (SOURBEERS) is a fun alliterative clue. 13A: College assignment (ROOMIE) is a lovely bit of misdirection. And 16A: Take an unplanned trip (TUMBLE) made me chuckle.

I got ROCKETSCIENCE off the RO___ and I started to think I would finish this puzzle superfast (spoilers: I did not). BSMETER is fun as is 21A: Cries of shear terror (BAAS), because the sheep don't die, see. BRAINSURGERY is the other thing "it's not." My kids will attest to my displeasure that Neurosurgeons get all of that credit.

I finished the NE corner second, with BBCRADIO nicely clued with the spelling of "programmes." I love the word GNOSIS, which we see in "agnostic," or if you're a neurologist, in "anosognosia," which is the lack of knowledge that one is ill.

The SW corner followed. I had some difficulty here because I had put in CARingLY for 32D: In an intimate way, in a way (CARNALLY). But 41A: Victor's crow (IWON) put that right, and the rest fell. 56A: Like zombies and some loves (UNDYING) is quite funny.

Finally, I had nine white squares in the SE corner that took a lot of thinking, likely a quarter of my time overall. I never knew of the KIARIO, and 57A: They're not only human (BEINGS) was not much help in unraveling the remaining answers. Finally I got STOKES, and I was done.

Fun and challenging puzzle! Tomorrow, Horace takes over. Have fun puzzling!

- Colum

Friday, February 2, 2024

Friday, February 2, 2024, Ryan Judge

When will I learn to leave the middle letter of DOH or "duh" blank? I put in the latter this time, and didn't catch the misspelling of TUCSON until after completing the grid. That would have been points down the drain at the ACPT! Which, sadly, I will have to miss this year.

Meanwhile, the rest of the puzzle is in a lovely pinwheel shape, with loads of chunky white-squared regions in the corners. I first tried "enough" at 1D: Line from one who's fully fed ... or fully fed up (IMDONE). I guess it's not that surprising that there would be more than one answer that works there, but I love the clue. The Isle of ELY helped me correct it, as did the NATS.

It's a very nice set of three answers there, INECSTASY (I always love the spelling of that word), 15A: Solo act? (MONOLOGUE), and the famous DRMARTENS with their yellow stitching. Not Docmarten, for those who were wondering.

The SUN made 8D: Rationale for "throwing good money after bad" easy to get. I love how SUNKCOSTFALLACY fits so nicely into the grid. It crosses another excellent grid-spanner, BELLYOFTHEBEAST

LOTUS Temple

In the SW, 33D: One way to make cookie dough? (BAKESALE) is guffaw-worthy. And 35D: Flop (LAYANEGG) is excellent as well. 

I don't know if ICEARENAS are really a thing. I'd call them "skating rinks," myself, but perhaps our fellow blogger from our northern neighbors has an opinion. MYSHARONA on the other hand is definitely a thing.

Finally, in the NE corner, METADATA and PLUSONES are good, but I had to take a second to reparse SESAMEST. That's Big Bird's home, Sesame Street. I've never seen it like that in the puzzle, but I like it.

- Colum

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Thursday, February 1, 2024, Simeon Seigel

Good morning, puzzle lovers! It's the first day of February, and the first day of The Turn, our term for the tougher, trickier end of the week puzzles, from Thursday through Saturday. Sure, we enjoy our more straightforward fare of Monday and Tuesday, and the oddities of Grab Bag Wednesday (a term we have never before used, but which seemed to deserve capitals), but these are the puzzles we look forward to.

Today, Mr. Seigel gives us a theme where the answers have two LOOPDELOOPS, one above the line and one below the line. Appreciated is the fact that there are no shaded or circled squares to give away what's going on. Doubly appreciated is the fact that I had no idea what I was doing with these theme answers until I completed the revealer at 61A.

And the third level of appreciation lies in finding three strong theme answers with repeated strings of two letters separated by two letters. Thus, TH[IS]THATANDTH[EO]THER. You can see how the bracketed letters are abutting the same pair of letters on either side. Similarly RAM[AL]AMADING[DO]NG and WHE[NT]HETIME[CO]MES.

The final level of appreciation for the theme is the fact that the excess letters do not compromise the fill, despite the letters having to fit in a single answer but be read in opposite directions, as in SINAI containing the IS in the first theme answer, or OBOE containing the second loop of EO. These letters are all "triple-checked," meaning they have to work in three different answers, rather than the standard two of a regular crossword puzzle grid. Often this means major compromises in the fill.

STN is an acceptable bit of crosswordese, as is SEC, AROD, and OBOE, a constant in the New York Times puzzle. BAL Harbour, Fla. is a reach. Apparently it's at the northern end of Miami Beach, but who outside of vacationers has heard of it? Certainly not I, and I clearly represent the majority of puzzle solvers. But if that's the only issue, I'm down with it.

Juliette LEWIS

Also, these tough sections lead to THREEPIO, NEGAWATT (great word!), ACTALONE, NIHILO (love me some Latin), and SOFTEDGE.

I like 23A: Character with a famous opening line? (ALIBABA), 54A: Home of some of the best drivers in No. America (PGATOUR), and 47D: Kind of sense (SPIDEY).

- Colum