Sunday, March 31, 2024

Sunday, March 31, 2024, Spencer Leach


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

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

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


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

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

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

- Horace

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Saturday, March 30, 2024, Blake Slonecker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIMREID as DJ Venus Flytrap

Other great clues include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Friday, March 29, 2024

Friday, March 29, 2024, Jake Bunch

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

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

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

That's PELE's jersey

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Thursday, March 28, 2024, Dominic Grillo

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

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

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

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

Barry GIBB

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

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

A fun puzzle but a little disappointing for a Thursday.

- Colum

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Wednesday, March 27, 2024, Rich Katz

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

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

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

Example of the genus BERETS

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

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

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

Pretty amazing Wednesday, IMO.

- Colum

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

HARDEDGE painting by Lorser Feitelson

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

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

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

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

Fun puzzle!

- Colum

Monday, March 25, 2024

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

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

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

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

ARIANA Grande in the upcoming Wicked

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

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

- Colum 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Sunday, March 24, 2024, John Kugelman


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

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

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

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

A place BASQUES might live near

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

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

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

Clues I liked today:

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

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

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

6D: Homebodies? (UMPS).

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

Pretty fun solve, overall.

- Colum

Friday, March 22, 2024

Saturday, March 23 2024, Sam Ezersky

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, March 21, 2024

Friday, March 22 2024, Mansi Kothari and Erik Agard

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Thursday, March 21 2024, Joe Marquez

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Wednesday, March 20 2024, E. M. Capassakis

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 18, 2024

Tuesday, March 19 2014, Lynn Lempel


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

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoyed this one.  See you tomorrow!


Sunday, March 17, 2024

Monday, March 18 2024, Trent H. Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, March 17 2024, Simeon Seigel

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, March 16, 2024

March 16, 2024, Carly Schuna

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

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

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

Activated platelet (center)

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

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


Friday, March 15, 2024

Friday, March 15, 2024, Daniel Grinberg

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

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


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

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

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


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Thursday, March 14, 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic

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

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

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

The Mandelbrot set can be used to approximate pi

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

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


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Wednesday, March 13, 2024, Drew Schmenner

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


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

Best swishes to all for an exciting tournament.


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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

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

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


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

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


Monday, March 11, 2024

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

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


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

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

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


Sunday, March 10, 2024

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


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


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

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

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

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

Or should we leave that alone? Thoughts? 

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

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

- Horace

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Saturday, March 9, 2024, John Guzzetta

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

CLEF (Sign in front of some bars)

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

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

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

- Horace

Friday, March 8, 2024

Friday, March 8, 2024, Jackson Matz

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


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

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

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

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

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

- Horace

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Thursday, March 7, 2024, Joe O'Neill

Well, Dear Reader, if you know me, you know I like the poetries, so you can probably guess that I chuckled at this "modern reimagining" of a classic Frost poem. Here it is for your amusement:


It pretty much hits all the notes minus meter and rhyme, and who has time for extraneous beauty these days anyway. I think we should probably move this blog to bullet format and free up your mornings a little more, no? Did we like it? Yes/No. Were there interesting bits? Yes/No. What more do you need? What more could you want?


These are the questions that keep me up at night. 

So anyway, this played tough for me, being old and out of it as I am. I was not familiar with J. B. SMOOVE, MAMA Africa, or YUNG Gravy, and "Throw" did not, and still does not, equate with PEG for me, so even though I guessed a G there (for YUNG), when I didn't get the "Congrats" message, I thought that must be it. Turns out I had entered SNiT for "Impudent person" (thinking, I guess, about "snip") (it's actually SNOT). Ugh. Anyway, the whole SE was a disaster. 

I don't know... even with the poetry angle, I didn't love it. "Lowest of the low?" for BASS? Is it really, though? What about basso profondo? And are clothes really PILED in a hamper? Can you say it's PILED if it's contained within something? Am I piling trash up by throwing it in the wastebasket? HARDLY.

On the bright side, "Athlete who snaps" was a clever clue for CENTER, and "Untimely?" was cute for LATE

But enough about me, how'd you like it?

- Horace

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Wednesday, March 6, 2024, Brad Wiegmann

Some literal letter play in the theme today. "Nicholson and Nicklaus, e.g.?" are ONEEYEDJACKS, "Soren Kierkegaard and Chris Isaak, e.g.?" are DOUBLEAGENTS, "Percy Bysshe Shelley and Billy Ray Cyrus, e.g.?" are THREEWISEMEN, and "Henry the Eigth and Hubert H. Humphry, e.g.?" are FOURHLEADERS. Two work with sound, two with parsing, and together they make a nice set of four.

Club soda with LIME

Some fun trivia in "Candy whose name derives from the German "Pfefferminz" (PEZ) (mmmmm.... PEZ....). And I love the audacity of IOWEYA ("Next one's on me"). 

It struck me that many of the references are quite old. The one-eyed Jacks are both in their eighties. Soren Kierkegaard, while he died at forty-two, did so in 1855. Even Chris Isaak and Billy Ray Cyrus are both in their sixties. And then there are two clues from 1939 - "Dorothy, to Em" (NIECE) and "The yearling in the 1939 Pulitzer winner 'The Yearling,' e.g." (DEER). I know they're playing to their audience, but sometimes you feel it more than others.

I liked learning that SARDINES are "Fish thought to be named after a region in Italy," and it's interesting to realize that IRENE is a "Name that becomes another name when its first letter is dropped." And if we continue with the older mindset, it also changes genders. It could also, come to think of it, have been the start of a rather famous philosophical declaration - "I, René, think therefore I am." 

Hoo-boy, I think maybe I had too much coffee. Hey, how 'bout Connections today? Did you do it? I went green, yellow, purple, blue. And no, I did not figure out what blue was before I hit submit.

- Horace

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Tuesday, March 5, 2024, Christina Iverson

Wow. I take my hat off to you, Ms. Iverson, for coming up with this THREEHOLEPUNCH theme. Three "holes" - LOGICALFALLACY, EMPTYSPACE, and PIGSTY (Hah!), and FRUITDRINK (punch). It made me laugh out loud when I figured it out. Hah!


In other news, I hadn't realized that a BOLA was originally (presumably) a "Cattle-catching weapon," but it sure makes sense. (No HOLMES, I.) And am I the only one who doesn't like the trend in clueing that always makes an ODOR a "Strong smell?" Just last month it was an "Unpleasant smell," and before that a "Febreze target." Does it always have to be bad? I guess maybe so. It's just one more hole in my understanding of words.

I enjoyed the symmetrical pairs SLANGY (Like "b-boy" or "my b") and DWEEBY (Dorky), and the non-symmetrical ANI (What "their" is spelled with, but not "there" or "they're") and GOI ("There but for the grace of God ____"). BIGMOMENT (Eagerly awaited occasion) and BARNDANCE (Where to swing your partner 'round and 'round) were good long Down fill, and we got a little French action with LOIRE (France's longest river) and AMI (French friend). But honestly, with a theme like this, the fill could have been anything.

- Horace

Monday, March 4, 2024

Monday, March 4, 2024, Samantha Podos Nowak

Cute theme today, where the word BANANA is split across answers in four rows, beginning with row two, where it is found between SCUBA and NANAS. It also appears between CABANA and NAYSAYER, SUBURBAN and ANALOG, and CUBAN and ANAIS. Fun idea. 


Quite a range of clues today, from "Opposite of NNW" (or "please enter") (SSE), to the more elegant "It comes from the heart" (ARTERY). See also "Gimlet or screwdriver" for TOOL. Very nice.

The clue and answer "'YER out!' (ump's call)" always reminds me of an old Intellivision baseball game. The action was so slow, and with every routine grounder, after you heard the sound of the ball hitting the first baseman's mitt, they would play this very robotic-sounding "YER out." My brother and I still mimic the exact call from time to time.

I was a little surprised by AISLESEAT (Plane passenger's preference, perhaps), because if I am going to be up in that tin can, I want to have a view. My preference would always be a window seat. But de gustibus non disputandum est, eh, Dear Reader?

Fun puzzle, and a good way to start the week.

- Horace

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Sunday, March 3, 2024, Hoang-Kim Vu


Greetings, Dear Reader! I'm back after what seems like a long time. I've had some ups and downs over the past few weeks - well, ok, more downs than ups - but it's a new month and I am hoping for the best. I mean, what else can you do, really?

First off, happy birthday to my esteemed co-blogger Colum! He was living it up in the Big Apple last night, and I hope that today he is sleeping in and having cake for breakfast.

The theme today could put one in mind of a surprise party. Do people count down at those? What do I know, I'm not sure I've ever been at one. Maybe it's more of a New Year's Eve thing. ... anywayyyyyy.... let's get on with it.

The numbers TEN through ONE are clued with dashes in the Downs, and used in their entirety in the Acrosses that they start in. It's a little sad to me that they used dashes instead of just providing regular clues for all the numbers, but I guess maybe that helped solvers to understand that there was a trick in the Across answers. As in:

24A: "It might help you keep up with old classmates" - the letters in the Across space spell ALUMNWSLETTER, but the N starts the answer NINE in the Down, and if you use those letters in the across, you get "alumNI NEwsletter." It's a nice little trick.

Some weird answers today: OILBOOMS (High times for the petroleum industry), TINDERS (Birch barck and pine cones, e.g.), EARTHREENTRY (Concern at the end of a space journey), and EATER (Consumer), for example. But then there were some good ones too - "One taking interest in your education?" (SALLIEMAE), "Missing work?" (STOLENART), "Government bonds?" (ALLIANCES), and "Exchange words?" (WANNATRADE). Hah!

I guess they clued with dashes because it's as though the Down word doesn't exist - it's just part of the Across word, but then, would it have been better if the letters of the Down word were not included in the rest of the Across words that they went through? Would that have been too confusing? It's confusing to try to even explain what I mean... maybe I should just stop.

- Horace

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Saturday, March 2, 2024, Natan Last

It's my last blog post of the week, and the day before somebody's special day. I won't say who, but strangely they have the same first name as me! Hope is in town with me, and we are going to have dinner out and see a Broadway show tonight, which I'm looking forward to.

What a nice chunky puzzle today, even with the fact that the NW and SE corners are essentially their own mini-puzzles. I love that central swath with the staggered 9-letter words. I often find myself approaching these central areas by getting the starts and ends and then working into the middle.

But I started on a wrong foot by putting in MoLto for MILLE, seemingly accurate because of ELMO and LOLCATS (remember those? They were all the rage in our household in 2010). Fortunately SEEYA and impossibility of 8D: Accessory with a scent (LEI) ending in O put me right.

The first middle answer I got was 24A: Conversation piece? (SOUNDBITE), which gave me the first part of 18D: Altar exchange (WEDDINGBANDS). I tried "oaths" first and then "rings" second, before finally settling on the correct second word. 28A: Action toys, perhaps? (STUNTDOGS) is very funny, and I love the word FORTHWITH. I shall use that word more frequently, forthwith!

3D: They're in circulation (BLOODSTREAMS) is excellent. The SW corner moved quickly, and I had the entirety of the SW to NE diagonal filled, before I started staring at the nearly completely blank isolated corners.

The SE went first. Getting KATY and TSK helped, and then I saw BREXIT. 42A: Like one with a spare tire (PAUNCHY) was good. I don't know SEANPAUL, and EVO was a guess, but fortunately the right one.

I finished in the NW where BALLOONS helped open up things. KABUKI was a word that would not come to mind for a long time, so that definitely added time. I really love the clue at 1D: Civilization, to Freud (KULTUR). It's the German word, not some metaphor that Freud came up with. 

BANGUP job, Mr. Last! I turn things over to Horace for tomorrow. SEEYA!

- Colum

Friday, March 1, 2024

Friday, March 1, 2024, Julian Xiao

Well, that's more like it! After yesterday's too easy Thursday, I was up for a Friday challenge, and got it with some great fill and fun clues. The central trio of long answers are really strong, and they cross a number of very long answers including the grid-spanning central down answer.

I found my foothold in earnest in the SW corner. Before that, I had some answers here and there, and even a chunk of the NE corner in place, but couldn't connect things well enough. I don't know if I've actually seen the SKI Vermont advertising, but it made sense, along with IRKED and 60A: One may be stolen or planted (KISS). Given ALASKA, and then the fun 37D: Greeting that contains another greeting backward (ALOHA) - that's "hola" inside of it, I was off and running.

Every time I see a clue like 36D: Capital on the Mediterranean (TRIPOLI), I have to consider the possibility they're talking about money names, but not here. 33D: Where you might run into some real characters? (THEMEPARK) is such a good QMC. They should use this one to teach the concept in Crossword Puzzle school. 

Creeping THYME

is a great answer. I've watched some video compilations, and often I fail at the instructions. THEMSTHEFACTS is good, although I've more frequently heard "Them's the breaks." That didn't fit, sadly. And 37A: Refrain from going on road trips? (AREWETHEREYET) could also be "what makes you refrain from going on road trips." Am I right?

A fun pair of "Shortening that omits "gram"" clues lead to KILO and INSTA. I also love the clue for OPERA. Hah! Nice work cluing ROM and SCI in interesting ways as well.

So how about the clue for 8D: One who has ways of making you talk ... (SPEECHTHERAPIST). Great non-QMC. Fun twist on the old spy film torture trope. And yet, why is the ellipsis there at the end? I wondered if there was going to be a second clue related in some way, but there isn't. No biggie, just a little odd.

- Colum