Friday, May 31, 2024

Friday, May 31, 2024, Aidan Deshong

I liked the look of this grid when I first opened it up - its chunky corners and that odd rectangular middle section looked new to me. And the fact that grids, just by themselves, can still look new and interesting after over a decade of doing and writing about puzzles, well, that's a good thing.

Meyerson Symphony Center by I. M. PEI

Sometimes, when a grid looks daunting, and yeah, I thought this one looked a little bit that way, I feel like the clues can get a little easier to help you get started. Today's CAPTCHA (One might read "Select all images with bicycles") seemed a little too much so.

"Ones dealing with joint inflammation?" (STONERS) was cute. And "Like many opera lovers" (SERENADED) was very nice. At first I was thinking about lovers of the opera, but it's the lovers in the opera. Heh.

"Dessert that rarely lives up to its name" (TART) was sadly true. But a good rhubarb TART ... that might make Aidan Deshong happy.

Trickiest trio today - "Rings" (PEALS), "Beat" (TIRED), and "Sick" (DOPE). But nothing was too, too tough, as I was done in just over ten minutes.

- Horace

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Thursday, May 30, 2024, Royce Ferguson

The outer edges of this slightly taller than normal 15x16 puzzle are stretched even more by the inclusion of four rebus squares. THEWALLSHAVEEARS as the revealer tells us, and it's true - "Routine damage" is W[EAR]ANDT[EAR], "Cry from a town crier" is, of course, H[EAR]YEH[EAR]YE, "Open and honest conversation" is a H[EAR]TTOH[EAR]RT, and - the trickiest of the four, I think, was remembering the "Investment bank that folded in 2008" (B[EAR]ST[EAR]NS). Of course, by that time you're looking for two ears in the middle, so it wasn't really all that hard. In fact, I'd say this puzzle played on the easy side. I was just over nine minutes, but I never really felt held up anywhere.


Well, I said I didn't get hung up, but I initially entered nevER for [EAR]LIER (Not now or later), and I tried to cram "iridesce" in where OPALESCE (Shimmer with an array of colors) belonged. 

Nice nod to our Canadian friends (Hi Philbo!) with "Bird on the Canadian dollar coin" (LOON). And perhaps with the "French homophone of 'haut'" (EAU). 

It's nice how JANEROE and ATECROW rhyme side by side there... and what the heck is a PREGAP?

- Horace

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2024, Jeanne Breen and Jeff Chen

Erstwhile blogger Jeff Chen teams up with Jeanne Breen on this RECIPEFOR DISASTER themed puzzle. Three mixed drinks named for destructive natural phenomena - or are they just referring to the effects of the mixed drinks themselves? - make up the theme material:

MUDSLIDE - Vodka + coffee liqueur + Irish cream + heavy cream
HURRICANE - Light rum + dark rum + orange juice + passion fruit syrup
FLAMING VOLCANO - Rum + brandy + pineapple juice + orange juice + orgeat syrup + fire

Orgeat syrup, by the way, is made from almonds and sugar, with a little rosewater or orange flower water. Originally, it included barley too, and it is from this now absent ingredient that it gets its name, as orge means "barley" in French.


SMOLDER (Do a slow burn), MEASLY (Skimpy), SLEUTH (Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot), and COPSE (Small group of trees) are all nice entries. "Hard knocks?" was cute for RAPS, and I thought "I can't think with all this racket!" was an interesting way to clue QUIET

Overall, an enjoyable solve.

- Horace

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tuesday, May 28, 2024, Chris Leatherberry

WATER SIGNS are the theme today. So I think of Pisces, Scorpio, and Cancer, and because I have to do the review, I spend a while trying to figure out how the signs in the grid - 


could somehow represent those three zodiac signs. But no, they are just signs that refer to water. And ok, the first and the last are fine, but "WARNINGHIGHTIDE?" Is that even a sign? Wouldn't it have to be more specific? I mean, there's a high tide every twelve hours or so. Do we need to be warned about it? But then, what other "water signs" are there? "No Swimming" "Non-Potable" "No Diving" "Flash Flood Warning" "Red Tide" ... 

And was SEWER (Waste conduit) bonus fill?

OK, so what else... how about W. E. B. Du Bois. Did you wonder why this great man is buried in ACCRA? It is partly because he was invited to go to Ghana to work on an encyclopedia of the African diaspora, and while there - aged 93 - the U.S. refused to renew his passport, so he became a citizen of Ghana, where he died two years later. 

And after reading about Du Bois, I spent quite a bit of time reading about Leopold and LOEB. I had heard their names mentioned together, but I didn't know why they were famous. I'll keep this digression short - it was murder. 

OK. The clouds are breaking and the sun's coming out and this is my last day at the beach for a while, so I'm going to leave the Wikipediaing to you, and I'll see you tomorrow.

- Horace

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Monday, May 27, 2024, Christopher Youngs

Cute theme today where the last parts of the theme answers are used to PUTONASHOW. Script, set, cast, and props. Tidy. Theme bonus material includes: CAMEO (Small role in a film), EGOT (Entertainment awards quartet, for short), CUE (Theater signal),  and possibly SCALPER (One reselling tickets).

TUNA in a salade niçoise

I thought the BEARD clue was interesting - "Symbol of marriage for Amish men." I went to the Wikipedia to look into that claim, but once I started reading the entry, I forgot all about the beards. Did you know that the Amish started in Switzerland as a splinter sect from Mennonites in about 1700? And guess what? The leader was a guy named Jakob Ammann - hence, Amish. There are almost 400,000 Amish living in the U.S. today, and yes, the strictest ones still don't wear buttons (too flashy). Who knew?

OK, I found the beard part after all. Wikipedia says: "Amish men grow beards to symbolize manhood and marital status, as well as to promote humility." They are not, however, allowed to grow a mustache, because "mustaches are seen by the Amish as being affiliated with the military, which they are strongly opposed to due to their pacifist beliefs." And since rings are not allowed (draw attention to the body and can promote pride in the individual), Amish women indicate married status by wearing a white bonnet. The sexy black bonnet is worn by all the single ladies.

So that's some of the stuff I learned about the Amish. Tune in tomorrow for another long tangent!

- Horace

Sunday, May 26, 2024, John Kugelman


I didn't know that Lady Gaga took her name from the Queen song RADIOGAGA. Interesting. And it makes me wonder how that even started... "Oooh, I like this song. Maybe I'll change my name ..." And speaking of entertainers, who knew Charlie Chaplin once did CLOGDANCING?


Anywayyyy... the amusing theme today takes normal, innocuous phrases or things and reworks them into defining insulting quote clues. Therefore, "My dog could translate an ancient Mesopotamian tablet faster than you" is called an ARCHAEOLOGICALDIG. And "Tu as le Q.I. d'une huître" is a FRENCHROAST. Très drôle, n'est-ce pas?

In the fill, BIONICARM (High-tech prosthetic) and "Sound of rejection on a 1970s variety show" (GONG) were each a nice BLASTFROMTHEPAST. I don't like thinking about PIETINS being disposable. Shouldn't the clue at least say "recyclable?" Hmph.

Favorite horizontal line - PORTEND SIRE SCOURGE.

OK. It's another lovely day on this holiday weekend. Nobody wants to read a review that goes on too long. Let's all get out there and enjoy it!

- Horace

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Saturday, May 25, 2024, David P. Williams

It's Horace today, filling in for Colum, who is at his daughter's graduation. This particular daughter, Cece, has been a guest blogger here herself a few times, and the blog wishes her all the best at her graduation and beyond.

Inside the MER de Glace

Now, to the matter at hand - could it be that Mr. Fagliano heard a few too many times at the tournament that the weekend puzzles had gotten harder? Because this Saturday didn't put up much of a fight. That's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable. The double-W start with WAMPUM and WIFFLE ball is strong, and brings me back to may days spent in the backyard swinging wildly at wildly curving pitches. And I don't know if my grandfather dug up any wampum, but he sure found a lot of arrowheads digging in the garden at his house by the river.

I don't like the clue for REROLL (Result of getting doubles in Monopoly). It's not a re-roll, it's a free second roll. Not to be an ASSHAT, but a REROLL would indicate that the first roll wouldn't count, but that's not the case. 

Anyhoo ... I did enjoy FOIST (Palm off  (on)), GAUCHE (Lacking social sensitivity), HACKS (Time-saving tricks), CRUST (Piece of the pie), and PATSY (Sap). "Lover of literature" (ROMEO) was cute, as was "Time to take stock" (IPO). 

How did you like it?

- Horace

Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday, May 24, 2024, Carolyn Davies Lynch

You're offering me a Friday themeless pinwheel grid? PLEASEDO! This is why we love THETURN!

I love these grid structures. The flow is so beautiful from area to area, and the large sections of white squares make for nice chunky intersections. The first area I made any headway on was the SW corner, starting from ARTOO, leading to MOTTO. 50A: Consequences of some serious foul play (REDCARDS) was an excellent non-QMC. My first instinct was to think of basketball (and technical fouls), probably due to the NBA playoffs going on right now.

Another really great clue is 44D: Mac maker (KRAFT). Hah! Similarly, 47A: They bring a lot to the table (WAITERS). Loaded with excellent non-QMCs.

I worked my way along the southern edge and completed the SE corner second. With two corners in place, the center started to come together. TWICEASNICE was the first long answer to fall, followed by GETTHESCOOP and then STARTERKITS. Both SOLARNEBULAS and CHACHASLIDE came at a much later point, because of my unfamiliarity with either term.

ANITA Garibaldi

The NE corner came next. SWIFTIES is so au courant, n'est ce pas? 7D: Part of a clutch (CHICK) is another great clue. 

Finally, the NW corner fell. STIMMING is a nice modern word. And 15A: One in the rite place at the rite time? (PRIEST) is a fine QMC.

Excellent puzzle. Looking forward to Saturday.

- Colum

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024, Adam Wagner

For those of you not in the know (I count myself among them), an image of BOXBRAIDS is below. But the trick of the puzzle is not in making literal box braids, but rather in braiding boxes in the puzzle so that two down answers side by side exchange their letters, making two new words. Thus 2D: Academic achievements ([DEGREES]) and 3D: Doesn't allow ([FORBIDS]) exchange alternating letters to become DOGBEDS and FERRIES

It's a fun idea, carried out extremely well. The shaded squares make the theme clearer. Would I have been able to figure it out without them? I think so, although not as quickly. I know opinions vary on the necessity of hints like this, but the puzzle took me a little longer than average for a Thursday, so I'm in favor today, at least.

I'm not certain about the answer BANKSAFE. I've never heard those two words together like that. Most of the time, I'd say the target of a heist is the bank vault, but it wasn't hard to figure out. I did enjoy 19D: Light entertainment? (LASERSHOW) and 27D: Iconic declaration from Bruce Wayne (IMBATMAN).

The quote from TAFT was quite amusing. It took me way too long to get 18A: What a king might sit on? (SLATS) - that's a king-sized mattress. I also liked 24D: Two in a row? (FOES). Very nice.

- Colum

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wednesday, May 22, 2024, Martin Schneider

I like today's grid for the four chunky corners, although the NW and SE are pretty isolated from the rest of the grid. Fortunately, the theme, while fun, is pretty straightforward, once you get the concept.

The revealer comes at 34A: What 18-, 23-, 49- and 56-Across could be called (DOUBLEMISNOMERS). This explains why the theme answers' clues are unfinished. 18A: Carbonated fountain drinks that contain neither ... (EGGCREAMS) - there is no egg and no cream in the drink. Nobody seems to know exactly why it's called that, but it's possible that it was a cheaper version of a drink that did have both.

I'm a big fan of the ENGLISHHORN, a lovely instrument, used to great effect throughout the orchestra repertory. Apparently this name comes from the fact that the bulb at the end of the instrument made it look like horns played by angels in religious images from earlier centuries. Thus, in German, it was called "engellisches Horn," or "Angel's horn." But that word also means "English." I used to think it was called this because it has a bend in it, or "Cor anglé" in French, which could be misinterpreted as "Cor Anglais," or English horn, but no.

Anyway, enough etymology for one blog post. Favorite clue of the day is 8D: They don't appreciate well (INGRATES). We need more silliness like this in our lives. For an unusual QMC, see 62A: Lengthy construction project, per a saying? (ROME) - as in "wasn't built in a day."

- Colum

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Zachary David Levy

Let's start out today by giving a shout out to 19A: Post-panel sesh (QANDA), an answer that looks like it should be the name of an Australian airline company. Did you know that that name is an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services? But here, I am pleased by the opportunity to deviate from the QU___ standard.

Our theme today is BABYPROOF, or here interpreted as proof of there being a baby. Each of the four theme answers (which are not related to infants), start with a word that describes something typically seen in a household with a small human. Thus CRIBNOTES, BOTTLEGOURD, CARRIAGEHOUSE, and MOBILEPHONE. Doesn't that last one feel archaic nowadays? I think most of the time we call them either "cells" or just "phones," showing how far we've moved from landlines.


As I was solving this puzzle, and seeing all of the high-value Scrabble tiles represented, I was certain the grid would be a pangram. But it is missing K. Seems a shame not to have found a way to shoehorn a 5-point tile in. Still, we get lovely words like GENZER (really two words with a suffix added on), VERSACE, and my favorite, ENZYME

The puzzle played slightly tough for a Tuesday, what with ODOULS, NOBS, and NBAJAM. SERGEI was a gimme for this classical music nut, but likely is more of a challenge for the usual Tuesday crowd.

I liked that RIND and STEM, clued the same way, were in symmetric locations. And how about the ludicrous clue at 23A: It might be poked (FUN). Hah!

And who knew that Alec Baldwin's middle name is RAE? That's odd.

- Colum

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024, Jack Scherban

First off, happy birthday to Frannie! Hope you have a lovely day.

It's a Monday, so we're looking for a straightforward and smooth puzzle with a fun theme, and that's what we get. Three well known fictional figures with military titles but no actual military experience lead to the humorous revealer at 49A: Unfazed response to a threat from 20-, 31- or 38-Across? (YOUANDWHATARMY). It's impressive to me that Mr. Scherban came up with three different military titles in SERGEANTPEPPER, CAPTAINOBVIOUS, and COLONELSANDERS that are all fourteen letters long.

It's also impressive to have four down answers that cross three theme answers, and have them be as strong as RAKESITIN, GRAPESODA, ISLANDHOP, and VIDEOTAPE. Nice work!

I had one error today, putting in CHOi for Bok CHOY. The latter is the accepted spelling, so that's a bad on me. 

In other notable features, it's cute having WASNT next to AINT. There ain't many cute clues, it being a Monday, but I smiled at 61A: Swiss borders? (ESSES).

- Colum

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunday, May 19, 2024, Christina Iverson and Katie Hale


Hello everybody! Happy Sunday. Glad to be back after a fine week of reviews by Philbo. The weather is lovely, the porch is open, and this coming weekend, Cece graduates from college. Quite a time!

Today, though, the puzzle makes fun of our Spring allergies. What standard phrases might sound like with a stuffed nose, and then wackily clued, so hilarity arises, as we like to say. Essentially, take the N and replace with D. Clearly, 110A: Tour guide's remark at the challah factory? (THATSADOUGHBRAIDER) had to be the inspiration for the whole puzzle. It's brilliant, and I love it.

I also enjoyed DOASISAYDOTASIDO, since the original phrase might indeed be uttered by a teacher. ITSAHARDDOCKLIFE is fun because of the way "knock" loses its KN in the transition. 

But I think it's high time that this blog addressed an essential question in crosswording, which is this: how good are OREOS, actually? Are they, as Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith of the Great British Bake-Off claim, the second best snack in America? I would disagree, but I ask for your opinions below.

And another essential question in crosswording is the question of question marks. Does the clue 65A: How one might punnily define "Saran" or "sari"? (ITSAWRAP) deserve a QMC? I posit that it does not. The clue already has the fact that it's a pun directly in the wording. Save the QMC for situations where the trickiness needs to be announced to get there. Or does it even? After all, 122A: Supporter of the arts? (PEDESTAL) doesn't need it either, IMO.

Things I enjoyed: 

ANGELOU and LEAVEN, both relating to rising. 

The SW corner with so many repeated letters (WWW, AHH, ZOO, WHOOP). 

91D: They might cover your back (TATTOOS).

Enjoy your Sunday!

- Colum

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Saturday, May 18 2024, Adrian Johnson

Okay - right off the bat, let me tell you how much I enjoy crosswords with full-width triple-stacks, and admire the setters who create them.  Chapeau for that, Mr. Johnson!  It's a cool grid today, roughly S-shaped, with the aforementioned triple-stacks at top and bottom and most of the black squares in two contiguous triangles to the left and right.  It looked at first like a worthy challenge for a Saturday.  But alas, it was not.  I don't generally put my solve times in these reviews (my crossword-solving mum chided me for it one time), but I gotta say, 4:56 for a Saturday puzzle is a little anomalous - my fastest time ever, by quite a margin.

Maybe it was because the six long answers were fairly easy.  I thought CALLONTHECARPET ("Reprimand") was CALLTOTHECARPET, but that was only a tiny hiccup.  There were a few unknowns in the grid; e.g. URIE ("Singer Brendon who fronted Panic! at the Disco") and 2004-05 NBA Rookie of the Year EMEKA Okafor, but they emerged easily from the crossers.  

Having said that, it's the QMCs that keep me coming back, as it were, and there were a couple of real crackers today:

  • "Make toast?" = RUIN
  • "Nun's habit?" = CELIBACY
  • "Cross state lines?" = TIRADE <-- this has to be one of my all time favourites!!
I didn't know there was a name for a "crowd energizer at a hip-hop concert" (HYPEMAN).  As an aside, the atmosphere inside the local hockey arena when the Maple Leafs are playing is so lifeless and library-like at times, that they've taken to utilizing cheerleaders, or, I guess, HYPEMEN and HYPEWOMEN, to try to extract some life out of the "fans".  Heresy!!

As a lifelong tennis fan, I knew Andre Agassi was an IRANIANAMERICAN.  I really disliked him as a player; but I have great respect for him now, having read his autobiography.

So.  Too easy for a Saturday, I thought.  But maybe it was just me, in the zone or something.  I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear readers, before I sign off and pass the baton to my esteemed colleague Colum.  Have a nice weekend everybody - a long one if you're a Canuck!


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Friday, May 17 2024, Hemant Mehta

Here we are in the middle of "the Turn", with a somewhat surprisingly easy Friday themeless.  Ordinarily when reviewing a puzzle, I spend some time on my miscues (the more humourous ones, at least), but I can't do that today because I have none to report - I just went top to bottom, left to right and 5 minutes later it was done.  The only clue giving any pause was "Arm raisers, informally" near the top, which was revealed as DELTS by the crossers.

I did like "Long rows?" (FEUDS) and "Get a rise out of?" (BAKE).  Nice to learn a new word - "Catadromous" - describing the fresh/salt water proclivities of the EEL.  I don't know how, but I'm going to work that into one of my meetings tomorrow.

Is it just me, by the way, when encountering a singer-related clue with a five-letter answer, to just automatically write in ADELE?  I know none of her songs by name, but she sure does show up a lot in crossword-land..

Sorry - I don't have a lot to say about this crossword.  Instead, let me give you my take on the Monte Hall problem.  The scenario is, you're presented with three DOORs, with a prize behind one of them.  You pick one door, and then Monte Hall opens one of the two *other* doors, with no prize behind it.  What gives you the best chance of winning the prize - staying with the door you chose, or switching to the other, unopened door?  I remember debates raging about this back in my Uni days.  Should you switch?  Should you "stay"?  Are the odds the same either way?

Here's one way to look at it.  Right off the bat, the door you choose has a 1/3 chance of the prize being behind it.  When Monte Hall opens the other door, that of course doesn't change those original odds - they're still 1/3.  So 1 time out of 3 you have the right door.  The other 2 times out of 3, the prize is going to be behind the other unopened door.  Thus, you should switch doors; you're twice as likely to win the prize if you do.

And there you have it - longest digression ever.  Hoping for a more challenging puzzle tomorrow.  Cheerio!


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Thursday, May 16 2024, Sara Muchnick

Hello hello!  Well, dear readers, there are themes and then there are themes.  By which I mean, sometimes you can figure out a crossword's theme as you go along, and sometimes you can't - you need the revealer and sometimes some thinking time on top of that.  Puzzle 5 in this year's ACPT was an example of the former - the trick there was, you had to remove the 'C's from every clue in the puzzle, to which I twigged after about 11 minutes of confusion.  Today's puzzle is one of the latter, for me at least.  I reached the point of a completed grid and it took a bit more study of the revealer ALLFORONE to make sense of the five theme answers:

  • "Gone" = SOMENERVE
  • "Stone tool" = TOILETBRUSH
  • "Scoop received in a call" = ICECREAM
  • "Shall" = SPARKLED
  • "It gets the ball rolling" = ROTARYJOINT
Huh?  Makes no sense, right?  But if you apply the "All for one, one for all" instruction, it becomes clear!  I like how terse and un-contrived the theme clues are, and also the bidirectionality of the transformation.

Thanks largely to the tricky theme, this was a somewhat slow solve for me.  I liked JIFFY for "Flash", and that helped fix my plausible but erroneous SEAS for "Where to find a very wet sponge" (it's REEF).  Also the nearly symmetrically placed "Stag" clues in the NE and SW, with non-synonymous answers (HART and SOLO, respectively).  The QMC "Repetitive clicking sound?" (SHORTI) was quite a stretch, and a real groaner when I finally parsed it properly.  On the other hand, "Head of lettuce" (CFO) was excellent!  I also liked ACHES for "Pounds, perhaps" as it's so correct and yet so non-obvious.  

I put it to you that what you're doing in spin class only resembles cycling.  

I have ITUNES installed on my computer.  This is fresh in my mind, despite not having used it in about a decade, because I click through its "update me" popups about once a week.  I really should just remove it.

Hope you enjoyed this challenge as much as I did!  Ciao for now..


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Wednesday, May 15 2024, MaryEllen Uthlaut

Today's puzzle showcases the oft-neglected letter 'B' (overshadowed as it tends to be by its neighbour, the 'A').  The solve itself is on the mild side for a Wednesday, but the true value lies in the construction:  every single clue begins with the letter 'B', and furthermore, there are a disproportionate 19 'B's in the grid, mostly concentrated in four of the five long Across answers.  The fifth is the revealer - HAPPYBDAY - indeed!!  I am wondering if maybe our constructor is sending someone (or herself) a message.. my own B-day was last week (60 - eek!!) .

When clue construction is constrained like this, I would expect them to be somewhat forced at times, but not today - they flowed so naturally that it took me quite a while to even twig to those leading 'B's!  So hats off to Ms. Uthlaut today.  Even "Beldames" for CRONES works, as it's just such a good word.

The narrative of the grid .. as I noted above, I didn't find it super challenging today, though I made my own trouble by entering AIM instead of SKI as a "Biathlete's need" (hey, it could have been) .. How is BRA a "Bali product"?  Don't make me Google it, people.. ONELB as a "Box of spaghetti's weight" was LOL-worthy QMCs to report today.  "Beyond the pale?" (ASHIEST) was a bit lame, IMO. 

That's all I got.  The joy today was primarily recognition of constructive cleverness!


Monday, May 13, 2024

Tuesday, May 14 2024, Alex Eaton-Salners

"If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound?"  Of course it does, unless you want to engage in a sophomoric debate on what the meaning of "sound" is.  But I digress.  Today's theme is a sylvan one, with four Down answers beginning with the various constituents of a tree:

  • ROOTSFOR - "Supports from the stands"
  • LEAVESALONE - "Lets be"
  • TRUNKSHOW - "Traveling fashion sale featuring the work of a specific designer" (this one was new to me)
  • BARKCOLLARS - "Neckwear for noisy dogs"
Revealing the theme is "Common spots for eagles' nests" = TREETOPS.  Being in the Down direction, the theme answers are indeed "topped" with tree-ish things.  I like how each is clued with a different, tree-unrelated meaning. I also like the pluralization of ROOTS and LEAVES, which is natural in an arboreal context.

There were no real problem areas today, aside from the slight hiccup of MANY instead of MOST for "More than some".  As a Led Zeppelin fan, I enjoyed "Whole LOTTA Love", while acknowledging that part of that song, and several others, were uncredited lifts (at least originally) from the Willie Dixon canon.  BSCHOOL ("Wharton or Sloan, informally") and BEHAPPY ("Cheer up!") were amusingly stacked on top of each other.  Mixed opinion on the QMCs today.  "No-win situation?" (TIEGAME) was worthy; "Okay boomer?" (TNT) was meh.  "What's needed to make bale?" (HAY) was both groan- and smile-worthy, so well done on that one!

Incidentally, a pair of bald eagles nested here in Toronto this spring, for the first time in memory, and they now have eaglets!  As a bit of a birder, I would love to bear witness, but the city is being mum about where exactly the nest is to avoid undue harassment, and I respect that.  

Away wi' me.  "Talk" to you tomorrow!


Sunday, May 12, 2024

Monday, May 13 2024, Jeremy Newton

Sometimes things are weird.  On the show my wife and I were watching on the tube tonight, a couple was playing MINIGOLF - and lo, here it is as the theme of Monday's puzzle!  Yes, it's MINIGOLF, with a "tee" on one side of the grid, a "hole" on the other, and a diagonal path from tee to hole, bouncing off grid edges and black squares to get there ("specular reflection", as we geeks would put it), with the entire path consisting of the letter 'O'.  Cool!!

The middle row, containing the "tee" and "hole", also serves as the revealer : HOLE INONE SHOT.  This alone, for me on a Monday, is worth the price of admission - such fun construction!  We also learn, further down, that MINIGOLF's origins are in SCOTLAND, in 1867, for ladies only.  Trust those Scotsmen to one-up us Canadians on the year of our confederation!  

MUTTONCHOP makes an appearance today, as a cut of meat and a facial hairstyle.  I always associate MUTTONCHOPs with old Scotsmen.  There I go, follicularly profiling...

Not much else of note to report today, not that this puzzle needed anything further - no clever QMCs or anything like that.  Very enjoyable puzzle - LOADSOFFUN, I dare say - especially at the end when the bouncing path of the "golf ball" was revealed.


Sunday, May 12 2024, Avery Gee Katz

Back in the blogging saddle again, after three weeks of excellent blogging by Colum, Horace and the inimitable Frances.. I found this Sunday puzzle a real beast, with its seeming paucity of black squares, tricky cluing and relatively impenetrable theme.  It would have helped if I'd read the theme hint up front - "Pixar Box Set" - but no, that's not how I roll.  It did eventually become evident what was going on - single squares scattered around the grid, containing rebus-style words; not just words but titles of Pixar movies.  Or so I trust to be true; it also didn't help that I didn't recognize a few of them.  

Quite a feat of construction!  It's extra material in the grid, allowing for longer clue answers in *both* directions.  The initial confusion was immense.  In the NW corner, I had HU as the start of "Certain streaming library", which of course had to be HULU-something, but it wouldn't fit, and it took some time to recognize the hidden word LUCA in HULUCATALOG, which crossed with the Baja California resort CABOSANLUCAS.  Neat!  ("Luca" is a Pixar movie, though?  Never heard of it.)  

And so it went.  I count seven of these rebuses.  The fact that they vary in length (from "UP" to "WALLE" and "BRAVE") just adds spice to it.  

Notable clues in the connective tissue:  "Where to find signs with circles, squares and diamonds" is a clever way to clue SKIAREACOBOL is indeed "used in government and banking", even though it's ancient and nobody actually programs in that language any more.  I noted a doubly-used device in "RARIN' to go" and "SINGIN' in the rain"... For "Primate that exists only on the world's fifth-largest island", I automatically entered ORANG - but no, it's LEMUR.  Speaks to my weak geographical skills..

FERRULE is a great word - the "Metal ring that holds a pencil's eraser".  It's also what holds on the tip of a snooker cue.

I didn't realize there were actual named characters in the WHERESWALDO books.  "Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard and Woof"?  O-kaay.  Anyway, when I was scanning the grid to count the rebuses, I thought it was an appropriate clue to have included. 

I'll leave you with that.  Too many nice clues to enumerate here.  Do you agree?  Also quite a bit chewier than the average Sunday puzzle, I thought.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend - and happy Mother's Day to all you mamas out there!


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Saturday, May 11, 2024, Billy Bratton

To solve today's pinwheel-shaped puzzle it was essentially necessary to solve each quadrant INTERN, as answers connecting the sections were few and far between. Despite the fact that the puzzle included many things I've never heard of, or am not familiar with (GOATYOGA, MRS Meyer's brand cleaning products, ALDO Leopold, Burgess SHALE, SAMANTAHWHO, and CASHGRAB - although color me very interested in that last one :), I was able to complete the grid in under 30 minutes. 

Of the five mini-puzzles, I had the most difficulty with the one in the southeast. I so much wanted the one-letter-too-short 'creep' for "Slimeball," but could not come up with the CREEPO variant, until I eventually got the O from the amusing answer to "Line around the Equator?" ITSHOT - ha. Another answer in that section that is not really in my vocabulary is SAMESIES ("'OMG, me too!'") - I think I might be TOOOLD for that one. I thought both "Mythical rock singer" for SIREN and the cross "'Rocks'" for FISTS were excellent - once I figured them out. :) 

Photograph: Paul Nicholls

Other clever and trixy clues included 
"Cheerios alternatives" (TATAS)
"Get into" (DON)
"Squeals" (TATTLES)
"Comment with a point, say" (THATONE)
"Pop back and forth?" (DAD) - ha!

Fill-wise, I enjoyed the informal GOTTHESHAFT, SLOOP, PARIAH, and the more-my-time-period MIXTAPE

All in all, a moderately challenging (as the New Yorker might say) Saturday puzzle with lots of new-to-me fill and some fun C/APs sprinkled throughout - in other words the TOTALASSETS of a good puzzle. And with that, dear Readers, I entrust you to the capable hands and superior puzzle solving brain of our esteemed co-blogger, Philbo.


Friday, May 10, 2024

Friday, May 10, 2024, Jesse Cohn

A speedy Friday for this solver (13:21), without being exactly sure why or HOW. There were plenty of top-notch QMCs like "Level bests?" (HIGHSCORES), "One who can't handle their moonshine well?" (WEREWOLF), "Attention seeker?" (AHEM), "Negative impression?" (DENT), and "Lose the threads?" (STRIP) - ha! - not to mention some nicely ambiguous C/APs including "Punt, e.g." for BOAT, "Say, say" for CLAIM, and for "Noses" the rather odd SMELLERS.

But in the mix we also had "Stock holders?" for BARNS, "Chapel part" (APSE), "Scotch flavorer" (PEAT), and "Tiny bit" (IOTA), all of which are kinda Mondayish.


I did have a little difficulty connecting the clue "Coffee shop amenity" to its answer because Wifi was too short and 'creamers' didn't work. I was surprised when it turned out to be our old friend the INTERNET. How quickly we forget. 

There were a few short fillers like DES, FAS, and PIS, but otherwise, I thought the grid was clean with plenty of enjoyable fill including the fun expressions WHATTHEYHEY, ALLTHERAGE, and IVEBEENHAD. I also enjoyed STREETSMARTS and the trio ROMA, REBA, SELMA across the bottom of the top section. 

Speaking of PIS, I just finished reading one of the post-Robert B. Parker Spenser novels written by Ace Atkins. I found it surprisingly close in writing style, but not quite dead on, so to speak. There wasn't much interaction with Susan, though, and no Hawk at all, which, perhaps, made things easier. Any of our dear Readers a Spenser fan?


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Thursday, May 9, 2024, Joe DiPietro

Fun puzzle today, with a tricky theme - at least for this solver. Ab initio, I thought the trick was to replace a W with two VVs "old Rome style" - as I thought - but that was an erratum. The trick was much cleverer than a simple letter substitution. Each of the theme answers contained a spelled-out number. It was the solver's job to replace the word for the number with the equivalent Roman numeral, for example, the letters ONE were replaced with the Roman numeral I. The corresponding Down answers used each Roman numeral as a letter. The theme answers ended up looking a little ad hoc (WALKEDIGGSHELLS (I for [one]), DONIIRRYABOUTIT (II for [two]), THESKINOIVTEETH (IV for [four], and my favorite, WVIIIHEEVIDENCE (VIII for [eight])), but that added to the charm of the trick, IMHO.


The theme wasn't the only clever part of the puzzle. Inter alia, I enjoyed "What a piece of work!" (ERG), "Always ready to order?" (BOSSY), and "Body part where a sock might go?" (CHIN) - ha! I also liked the crossing of the clues "Dunking obstacle" (RIM) and "Dunkable treats" (OREOS). 

I had a little trouble with a couple of the C/APs. I couldn't figure out what kind of bugs were involved in "Stage often filled with bugs" until I got the answer (BETA). And I had to go a ways before I realized why CAR was the answer to "Where F comes before E?" But per ardua ad astra, right?

Pax vobiscum, dear Readers!


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

OHFUDGE is today's theme revealer ("What you might cry upon recognizing this puzzle's ingredient list?") and an apt start to this late review - I forgot that I had to write it until now. Derp. One of the reasons I forgot involved some of the ingredients of fudge that are found at the start of the five theme answers, although in my case the butter in BUTTERFINGERS, the sugar in SUGARSNAPPEAS, and the vanilla in VANILLAICE were used to make cookies. Mmmm, cookies. We're having a cooler, rainy day around here and baking cookies was a way to brighten things up a bit. Puzzle-wise, I'm not really sure why the squares that contained the ingredient words were shaded. I think we've had plenty of themes with significant starting or ending words that weren't highlighted. Maybe they are supposed to represent fudge squares, if that's a thing? I'm not much of an expert on fudge myself. Too sweet for this sour puss. :) 

I have never heard of ARCTICS before ("Waterproof overshoes). Is that a brand name, maybe, or a regional option? In the long lost days of my youth, people around here called them 'rubbers.' That fit, but I realized I was on the wrong track when I got to 3D: "Cartoon frames" which I knew had to be CELS. To be honest, I was doubtful about 'rubbers' to begin with as the 'shoe protectant' meaning of that word has  given way to another kind of protectant. I blame the above train of thought for my concern upon reading 36A: "Cry from under a sheet, perhaps." I left that one empty until the Down answers spelled it out for me (BOO). 

22D: OAT

Fun C/APs today included OOF for "Gut-punch response," "That's a terrible hiding spot" for ISEEYOU, and "Oak-to-be" for ACORN. The QMC "Superconductor?" for MAESTRO was amusing. And on the subject of QMCs, I was not fooled by "Capital of Georgia?" (GEE), but it is only Wednesday. 

Fill-wise, I enjoyed the interesting SOPOR ("Abnormally deep sleep"), NEMESES (I have a few!), and INERT. At 18A: I considered 'russian' for "Catherine the Great, for one" only to realize the answer was the more fabulous TSARINA. OTH, I've never been a big fan of the word PREGGO or 'preggers' for that matter. But the idea of having a grid filled with only words a person liked is pie in the sky. 


Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Tuesday, May 7, 2024, Justin Werfel

Each of today's theme answers RINGSABELL in one way or another. WILLYLOMAN, as a door-to-door salesman, SANTACLAUS, in his role as Salvation Army front man, QUASIMODO, denizen and operative of Notre Dame de Paris, and IVANPAVLOV, if I recall correctly, famous for trigging salivation in dogs by trained association with bells. We also get a bonus theme answer in Charles Wilson PEALE, George Washington portraitist. 

There were no alarm bells for this solver. Entries from ACHES (1A: Really feels yesterday's workout, say") to AGERS (66A: "Golden ____ (retirees)) went right in, although the northwest section took a little longer than the rest as the echoes of ATWATER had almost completely died away in my brain. LUSAKA ("Capital of Zambia") could have been a trouble spot, but wasn't - I have the Across answers to THANK for that. Several C/APs that sounded good to me were "Field in Silicon Valley" (TECH), "Greets with acclaim" (HERALDS), and "Very basic stuff?" (LYE). Fun fill that appealed included QUANDARY, CHAR, CHIDES, and FLANNEL. It was great to see so many women in the grid: EDNA, CHER, EARTHA, OLGA, and even ELLA. :)


In reviewing the completed puzzle, I noticed that HAPPY appears just above IMSAD. Also, THANK and HATED appear in parallelish positions at the top and bottom of the grid most likely by chance, but it's always interesting to me to realize how often the mind works to establish patterns and meaning whether it exists or not. Feel free to chime in with thoughts of your own. :)


Monday, May 6, 2024

Monday, May 6, 2024, Malaika Handa

Greetings, dear Readers! Frannie here with some exciting personal (crossword puzzle-related) news. For the second week in a row, I solved the Monday puzzle in under five minutes. Watch out Paolo - 2025 could be my year! Kidding about that last bit, of course. I recently sat down with a clean copy of this year's ACPT puzzle 5. Even having solved some of it at the tournament *and* knowing the trick, it took me 20 minutes to complete, and I still might have ended up with one FWOE. So, yeah. 

Anyhoo, that's not why you called me here. We are here to discuss today's puzzle with the fun theme IMONAROLL. Parsed literally (like everyone likes), the letters I & M appear above (or on) answers that are different kinds of rolls: SNAKEEYES, CLASSROSTER, and my favorite, CINNAMONBUN. Delish.


Based on my time, it seems the puzzle was pretty easy, even for a Monday. The cluing was clean and often straight forward, for example, "Uses a '+' sign" for ADDS, "Group of three" for TRIO,  "Biblical figure with an ark" (NOAH), plus the pair of keyboard clues. Due to my limited world geography knowledge, TIMOR-Leste, country in Southeast Asia" was probably the most difficult for me. 

I enjoyed the C/APs "Knotted accessories" (TIES), "Pie nut" (PECAN), and "Fuzzy fruit" (KIWI). Both long Down entries SANTASUIT and SIGNATURE were good. I like the words TACIT, SWOON, and LOOT. A couple of ROIs for this solver were "Nine, in Spanish" (NUEVE) and that very useful kind of LIST, a table of CONTENTS. While I'm sure our esteemed co-blogger Philbo TORE through this puzzle, I hope he also found some ROIs to enjoy today ASA a fun start to the day. Happy birthday, Philbo!


Sunday, May 5, 2024

Sunday, May 5, 2024, Daniel Bodily


It's Sunday. Another big grid with a big theme. This time, it's so big it spread into outer space. ... OK, that was a lame attempt to break into this review in a cutesy way.

FLUFFY kitten

Hey, look over there! What are those black squares doing? Is that a spaceship in the middle of the left/right symmetry? Could be. Or it could be a little pigeon-toed guy in a space helmet holding two guns and wearing a codpiece. Well... Look at it! Am I crazy?

Today we have common expressions clued to sound as if they were written by an astronaut on a space flight. As in, "Thrilled to report that we've made it into lunar orbit!" (OVERTHEMOON), and "Ouch! Drifted too far and bonked my head on that darn window ... but wow, would you look at the view!" (SEEINGSTARS). And in addition to these expression clues, we have a reference to the ELTONJOHN song ROCKETMAN (Who's on a mission in today's puzzle?). 

Into the clever clue department I put "General acknowledgments?" (SALUTES), "Olympic tracks?" (ANTHEMS), and "Burning bridges, e.g." (ARSON). It was interesting to learn that "Ventriloquist Shirley Dinsdale was the first person to win" an EMMY, and "Lea low?" (MOO) was fun. 

- Horace

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Saturday, May 4, 2024, Jacob McDermott

I liked this one better once I was finished and started to review all the answers. For some reason, while I was solving it, it seemed kind of flat, but looking around now I see a lot of snark, which I like. And it starts right away with 1A "Don't flatter yourself!" (ASIF). Later, there's "Please, we don't need the details" (SPAREUS), "Words of corporate pandering" (WECARE), "That's just great," sarcastically" (GOTTALOVEIT), and after all that, you might be fooled into thinking that a "Possible cause of an icy glare" is something personal, but no, it's SLEET. That's a lovely non-QMC. 

TARAREID as Bunny Lebowski

There were a couple of times that plausible but incorrect answers fit into the available space, as in weight instead of INCOME for "Figure that's not usually discussed" and grinder instead of ROASTER for "Coffee appliance." Other areas of attempted misdirection were "Grammy alternative" (NANA), "Altos might follow this" (LOS), "Make the cut?" (EDIT), and "Singles material, say" (CLAY). Think tennis for that one, but get away from sports for "Ball handler?" (PODIATRIST). Eww.

ALAS, I didn't love ABLER (Better fit), and FAY (Elfin folk) seemed off. Isn't "folk" a plural noun? Ah, maybe I should just embrace the WABISABI of it all. And besides, we do have that lovely middle crossing of WEARESODEAD ("Our parents will kill us!") and "Something to kick" (ASS). Heh.

- Horace

Friday, May 3, 2024

Friday, May 3, 2024, Eli Cotham

An interesting grid today, with the central crosshairs and double fifteens just above and below. There's nice flow through the middle, and relatively chunky corners. 


First lets just admire the grid-spanners. Not a "ones" anywhere to be seen.

DEADTREEEDITION (Alternative to the online newspaper, colloquially)
ANHEIRANDASPARE (Phrase that inspired the title of Prince Harry's memoir) (Poor, poor boy)
GASSTATIONSUSHI (Shell fish?) (Great clue)
THISISANOUTRAGE (Huffy exclamation) (The least interesting of the bunch, but still quite good)

NOWLETSSEE, what are some good clues... PETPSYCHIC (Medium for animals) was unexpected. "Game with a hands-down winner?" (TWISTER) was cute. Remember TWISTER? And speaking of remember, remember ADIA (Sarah McLachlan's highest-charting U.S. single). That song was everywhere for a while. And that clue - does she have higher-charting non-U.S. singles? (The answer, of course, is yes. "Building a Mystery" was number one in her native Canada.) Me, I was always a sucker for "Angel." And wow, that's a lot of talk about a four-letter answer.

COSLEPT? (Shared a bed with one's baby). I have questions. One - is that even a word? And two, do they mean "baby" as in "baby" or "baby" as in "baby?" 

I thought "Service agreement" was good for AMEN. Hah! Lots of références françaises with ILES (Seine sights), AVEC (Con : Spanish :: ____ : French), and "Saisons chaudes" (ETES). A french-adjacent answer in VALISES (Some carry-ons), and just a little Latin (MEA (Start of an apology)) for good measure.

Solid Friday. 

- Horace

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Thursday, May 2, 2024, Brandon Koppy

I can't help feeling like this puzzle is almost there. It's cool that the Ts are not needed to solve the puzzle, but the fact that they were already in the grid felt strange. And TEALEAVES also seems a little odd, because they were never really used in the first place. Would it have been more interesting if the words using the Ts were clued, and the squares weren't shaded, and then they fell out? Hmmm... am I missing something? It just seems like there is a way that this could be better, but I can't quite put my finger on it.


"What has a big part in 'The Ten Commandments'?" was a cute clue for REDSEA. As was "Mobile home" for SHELL. Heh. Nice pair of "Father of ..." clues for ABU (... in Arabic) and BEN (... in Hebrew). And I was not familiar with the term RCCAR (Wirelessly operated toy vehicle, informally) (I'm guessing it's "radio-controlled car"), and I couldn't remember whether the comedian was Marc MAhON or MARON. I tried the H first, then put in all the Ts, then switched to R and got the "congrats" notification. I doubt that it was necessary to actually type in all the Ts.

Anyway... What did you think of this one?

- Horace

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Wednesday, May 1, 2024, Juliana Tringali Golden

Who doesn't enjoy flowers? Today we have eight of them around the four "walls" of the puzzle. Hence - WALLFLOWERS. And they are all given as indirect a clue as possible. My favorite is "Rainbow's end," which made me try to fit "pot of gold" into the six squares, but which turned out to be the last letter of Roy G. Biv's name, VIOLET. Another that misled me was "Subject of an annual festival in the Netherlands. I thought first of Koningsdag, which was just celebrated a few days ago, but that honors the king not the tulp, or TULIP. And speaking of the king, I did not know that the king of flowers, the PEONY, was one of Indiana's state symbols. (Interestingly, its state tree is the TULIP tree.)


Colorful clues included "Inventor who might be described as dotty or dashing?" (MORSE), "On the books?" (LITERARY), "Green party?" (NAIF), and the classic "Hollow center?" (ELS). All my favorites are QMCs today (Question Mark Clues). I suppose that makes sense on a Wednesday. The non-QMCs are often a little trickier to figure out.

LASTLY, can we count this one as having grid art today? If you squint, it looks like a four-petaled flower. I say yes, yes we can. It's lovely. Nice work, Ms. Golden.

- Horace