Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024, Michèle Govier

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


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

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

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

- Horace

Monday, April 29, 2024

Monday, April 29, 2024, Tom Locke

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

Frank LLOYD Wright

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

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

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

- Horace


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Sunday, April 28, 2024, Mike Ellison


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


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

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

- Horace

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Saturday, April 27, 2024, Rich Norris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Colum

Friday, April 26, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Turn so far.

- Colum

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Thursday, April 25, 2024, Hanh Huynh

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

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

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

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

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

Checkered TAXI

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

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

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

Fun stuff!

- Colum

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Wednesday, April 24, 2024, Jeffrey Martinovic

First off, what to heck is ABYSM?

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

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

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

Michael Keaton looks so young

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

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

- Colum

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tuesday, April 23, 2024, Judy Bowers

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

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

She don't got SIGHT

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

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

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

- Colum

Monday, April 22, 2024

Monday, April 22, 2024, David J. Kahn

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

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

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

ADAM Lambert

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

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

- Colum

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sunday, April 21, 2024, Michael Schlossberg


[Warning - spoiler alert below]

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

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

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

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

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


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

- Colum

Friday, April 19, 2024

Saturday, April 20 2024, Garrett Chalfin and Andrew Kingsley

Rounding out my week of blogging is this delightful gem of a Saturday puzzle, which took many minutes of steady pressure to bring to heel.  Numerous juicy stacked long Across clues including a triple stack in the centre, lots of misdirection - great weekend fare, this!

Nothing was jumping out at me until the very middle, where "Sentimental feelings" had to be WARMFUZZIES, but I couldn't think of a three letter word for "Catch" with a U in the middle, so I had that erased for a while until finally RUB sprang to mind.  Ordinarily I'd be off to the races with a long answer like that in place, but not today - nothing else was immediately obvious and it took a lot of forward and backward before things started revealing themselves.  When "Chew the doors, e.g." in the SE corner finally revealed itself as the excellent SPOONERISM, followed right below by the "Green-tinted cocktails" APPLETINIS, I felt relief, and shortly after, I figured out that "Lacked pop" was HADNOOOMPH, which may be the first time I've seen a triplet of 'O's in a grid.  

Had some uncertainty about the spelling of WOOKIEES, inspired apparently by George Lucas' dog.  I liked the math-y SINE and RATIO in close proximity at the top.  I think we've seen that clue for SINE recently ("1, for 90 degrees") - one of the ACPT puzzles maybe?  And BOOMROASTED as a "burn" expression is about an entire generation separated from me, I think. 

I have to cut this short as I am on the road all day tomorrow (it's Friday night as I write this).  If you are reading this and you've done the puzzle, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.



Friday, April 19 2024, Kate Hawkins

Hello all!  I find myself in an awkward position today, having completed (and enjoyed) the crossword and finding that I can't think of much to say about it.  Not that it wasn't a perfectly good puzzle... let's see.  Anchored by two long Across answers, both things that one might say to someone - IDONTHAVEALLDAY while anxiously tapping one's watch, and SOMETHINGCAMEUP after one's plans change.  These both share a temporal aspect - "I'm gonna be late" and "Sorry I'm late".  (The latter of which is soon going to apply to yours truly, if I don't get this blog done.)

There really weren't any hiccups while filling in the grid.  I liked the indirectness of the very first clue - AHAB ("Stubbs was his second mate").  Also liked VIBRAPHONE as a "Marimba lookalike".  I love the "vibes" and have great admiration for those who've mastered the instrument.   Two side-by-side "Unspecified amount"s (ANY and ALOT) was a nice touch.  And the two QMCs that tickled me were "Shell company?" (CREW) and "Bound for the big stage?" (JETE).  

When one encounters a clue like "Bizet's 'L'amour est un oiseau rebelle,' for one", one can write in ARIA without any operatic knowledge whatsoever.  Such is the curse of the experienced solver.  My mission this afternoon is to find and listen to that piece!  

As a sci-fi-loving teenager, I was a huge fan of OMNI magazine when it first came out.  Either it changed or I grew out of it, but there were some good years at the start..

22A ("Deep-fried bite") triggered an amusing little memory from the ACPT - we went for drinks at a bar after the stress of Day 1, during which Frannie ordered a round of TATERTOTs to take the edge off...TATERTOTs might not be a thing up here in Canada, actually.

That's all for now.  Have a great day everybody!


P.S.  just about hit "Publish" on this thing, but twigged to something:  the answer to 44A "Dances for which girls do the asking, informally" is SADIES, which, if we disregard the awkward pluralization, is short for SADIE HAWKINS - same surname as our constructor today!  Coincidence?  I...think...not........

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Thursday, April 18 2024, David Kwong

Well, that was fun!  I just wrapped up the Thursday crossword and then stared at it for two solid minutes before figuring out what the theme was.  In doing so, I had to enter answers to the six starred clues without comprehending them.  The revealer, the thrice-remade movie ASTARISBORN, finally made it all make sense.  We're instructed to re-parse it as six words, which at first looks impossible - but if you read it as 'A STAR IS B OR N', then aha!  It's telling us what to do with the stars on those clues.  So we have:

  • *Assist in a foursome = MCCARTNEY if the '*' is a 'B'.
  • *Allot time = ELECTIONDAY if the '*' is a 'B'.
  • *Acre on the ocean floor = MOTHEROFPEARL if the '*' is an 'N'.
  • *Ascent stage for a bird = HATCHLING if the '*' is an 'N'.
  • *Ice is found on it = RIVIERA if the '*' is an 'N'. <-- my favourite!  So nice and terse
  • *Ovid of Greek mythology = THECRETANBULL if the '*' is a 'B'.
Quite neat, not obvious (not to me), and I like the even distribution of 'B's and 'N's.  Six theme clues is also a lot to pack into a 15x15 grid. 

A bit of an unusual layout, not unpleasant, with little isolated areas in the NE and SW.  I thought "Money maven, for short" would be CPA but it's CFO, so that was a little hiccup.  I loved the ALI clue, with the factoid about his vertically-mounted marker on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - this is what keeps us coming back!  And indeed, coding loops and measuring cups can both be NESTED.  (But they can't both be RECURSIVE...) Couple of notable QMCs - "Cross fit?" (SNIT) and "Sightsee?" (AIM) were worthy.

Aren't LEIs worn around one's neck, not head?

This was great.  Such an inventive theme, and good cluing despite the relatively high number of short answers.


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Wednesday, April 17 2024, Joseph Gangi

In a nod to dromedary camels everywhere - happy "Hump Day" everybody!  Let me get one thing out of the way, right up front:  I did *not* like 1A in today's puzzle:  FLORAS ("Groups of plants").  I really don't think FLORA is a word you can pluralize.  Having gotten that nit out of the way - what an admirable piece of construction!  The theme centres around THECYCLOPS, the one-eyed figures of Greek and Roman mythology, and in homage, the entire grid contains one single 'I', centred near the top where it should be.  Furthermore, the puzzle's clues are entirely devoid of 'I's.  This is revealed in the very last Across clue (ONEEYE) - which I missed at first, having gotten the SE corner entirely from the Down clues, and so I discovered this paucity of 'I's all by myself, which was more rewarding in a way.

All of this elaborate construction was in service of a pleasant, Wednesday-appropriate solve.  I did not know that POLYPHEMUS was a Cyclops, so I needed a lot of help from the crossers in the NW corner.  Over to the right, I got "farbed up", as my mother would say, trying to jam POTATOSALAD in as a "Potluck staple" (PASTASALAD, of course).  Also causing trouble was "How Jenga blocks are placed, hopefully", which I thought was EVENLY but was STABLY instead. 

Excellent cluing can be found the SW corner with "D.C.'s B and A" (STS).  I love the reverse alphabetical order in that one.  I also liked "Mental MATH".  I do it all the time.  Is it staving off any sort of decline?  Time will tell...  "Egg ___" was a weird way to clue SAC.  Oh and "Wrap for a monarch?" (COCOON) was a quality QMC.

Kudos to Mr. Gangi for the the fabulous, effortful construction today!


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tuesday, April 16 2024, Adam Vincent

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

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

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

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

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

Gentle fun for a Tuesday!


Monday, April 15, 2024

Monday, April 15 2024, Amanda Winters

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

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

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


Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sunday, April 14 2024, John Rippe and Jeff Chen

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, April 13, 2024

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


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

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


Friday, April 12, 2024

Friday, April 12, 2024, Evan Kalish

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Thursday, April 11, 2024, Dan Caprera

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

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

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


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wednesday, April 10, 2024, Bill Thompson

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

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


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

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

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


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

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

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


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


Monday, April 8, 2024

Monday, April 8, 2024, Peter Gordon

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Sunday, April 7, 2024, Tracy Gray


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


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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Saturday, April 6, 2024, Byron Walden

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Horace

Friday, April 5, 2024

Friday, April 5, 2024, Rebecca Goldstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Horace 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Thursday, April 4, 2024, Kevin Curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Horace

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Wednesday, April 3, 2024, Alex Eaton-Salners

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

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

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

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

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

- Horace

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Tuesday, April 2, 2024, Billy Bratton

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


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

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

All in all, a fine Tuesday.

- Horace

Monday, April 1, 2024

Monday, April 1, 2024, Alan Arbesfeld

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


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

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

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

- Horace