Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016, Jim Page

14:42

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that I'm writing from the birthplace of this blog, the very cradle, if you will, of Horace and Frances. I'm proud of myself that I solved this Saturday at about 1:30 in the morning after many intoxicants were imbibed.

Perhaps it was that very state that enabled me to plop in 1A: Where to belt one down and belt one out (KARAOKEBAR) right off the bat. Or maybe that clue, as fun as it is, is too easy for a Saturday. Regardless, I like it and give it a B+. The other two answers in the initial triple stack are also well clued. 15A: No-so-firm affirmative (IBELIEVESO) is cute, and 17A: Ones hitting snares (DRUMSTICKS) was the most opaque at first.

The theme of this themeless seems to be great long answers at the expense of less than thrilling fill. REUNE, OIS, and KETT are the price we pay for those initial answers. BECLOUD is also a little less than exciting.

The SW trio is pretty good. I had not particularly noted, but both Horace and Frances said they didn't like the clue at 33D: Great point (SWEETSPOT). I suppose if you take it completely literally, a place that you think is really nice could be either. If you mean the place to hit a baseball really well, then that's not so good.

14D: Opportunity, e.g. (MARSROVER) needed a lot of crosses, as did 13D: Opening for an E.P.A. worker? (OZONEHOLE). I really didn't like ATOR. And was there actually a BATPOLE? Perhaps in the Adam West version (and is there any other one, really?).

The best trio is in the SE. I love SINEQUANON and SEXPISTOLS (but I think there should have been a "the" in the clue). 59D: One of about 1,000 in Lux. (SQMI) was found entirely by crosses.

My favorite answers are right across the middle, with SPACECADET and EISENHOWER. We were just discussing the ARNO over breakfast. I want to go back.

- Colum

P.S. IDA! Unexpected reference to the lowest tier of G&S.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016, Andrew Kingsley

13:09

I've really enjoyed this week of puzzles! There may be some folks out in the blogosphere who have been less thrilled by them, but I've found each one to be a ton of fun to solve, and today's is no exception.

I broke in with 1D: Fibonacci, notably (PISAN). We've noted before in this space how crosswordese is a useful language to know. Weirdly, TTEST is another such example. Probably the NW crosses are the least high quality entries in the puzzle (ENOUNCE, I'm looking at you), but it allows the trio of PINTEREST (gets a B+), INATRANCE, and SUPERFOOD.

Perhaps, the more I look over the puzzle, the more I recognize that it's the smoothness of the fill that made this puzzle enjoyable, rather than the brilliance of any of the entries. 33D: What emo songs may convey (TEENANGST) might be one of the better choices. I'm also interested in the phenomenon of the DROPCAP. The name is quite evocative, and immediately made sense to me, even though I'd never seen it before.

My favorite moment came after I finished the entire puzzle. See, I was working on the NE corner, and had __THERE at 41A: "You don't want to miss it!" So I naturally entered gETHERE, parsing it as "get here!" I had difficulty (as you might imagine) exiting this section into the SE. Working my way around, I came to 41D, and realized it was BASSETS. Thus, I now had BETHERE (correctly), but incorrectly parsed it as "bet here!" Later, I figured it out, and had a good laugh.

The clues include 42A: Bit of bronze (TIN), without any question mark needed. I also really loved 63A: Bought or sold, e.g. (PASTTENSE). I didn't see that coming at all. Otherwise, there wasn't much in the way of misdirection.

Well, I still liked it in retrospect, but perhaps not quite as much.

- Colum

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016, Andrew Zhou

Untimed (got paged in the middle of solving and forgot to exit the app)

I'm going to come right out and say it: I love the concept of this puzzle! I had no idea where it was going for the longest time, either, because I put iCbmS in at 4D: Cold War missiles on mobile launchers (SCUDS).

It has been the week of triple-checked letters, with three puzzles out of five so far. And this one is a doozie. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," said STBERNARD, apparently. Or actually, he said: "L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs." Which is a similar phrase, but not quite the same.

In this puzzle, we have the PAVEDROAD from the NW corner leading down one square short of the SE corner, where [HELL] sits in its own rebus square. It would have been just that much neater if 49D could have incorporated the rebus such that its meaning was hidden, as in SEAS[HELL] at 66A. Still, it was a great moment when I finally figured it out.

I love 30A: "Focus!" (SNAPOUTOFIT). Parsing that answer took a while. SATELLITETV is also really good (and a much better use of the TV duo than in 1D from yesterday's puzzle). Speaking of duos, RAPDUOS confused me so much. I had RAPperS there for some time, which made various things difficult to figure out.

So much to like. BETHERE! HEREIGO! Drinking a MIMOSA! GREENPEAS on the OPENRANGE! Speaking of which, we're getting a new cooktop next week.

1A: Grind (GNASH) gets an A-. I had no idea where that was going, and I love the word. The first two words I put in were ARC and ANODIC at the same time. Well, ARC was first.

Thumbs way up!

- Colum

Wednesday, August 24, 2016, Matthew Sewell

6:36 (FWOE)

FANTASYSPORTS... a sink into which you could pour all of your life if you let it. Or, in today's puzzle, a revealer for a set of games in four fictional universes. Only one of theme fits within the Fantasy genre, so I'll take the term to mean "the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable".

In that sense, I like that we get one near-contemporary comic strip, one science fiction setting, one young adult fantasy series, and one classic children's book. The clear loser here is PODRACING, as it comes from the least (by far) of the seven Star Wars movies. All we need say is Jar Jar Binks, and the rest is oblivion.

Otherwise, CALVINBALL is such a wonderful reference. It was really strange to come across it today, as my daughter and I were discussing it just last night. QUIDDITCH was an obvious choice. However, the all time winner has to be POOHSTICKS. Yes, it's that game where two people stand on a bridge and drop a stick over on the upstream side. They then race to the opposite side to see whose stick emerges first from underneath. And that's it. The best sport ever.

As for the rest of the puzzle, I love SOUNDTRACKS and CONTRETEMPS. Those are fine long down answers right there. And who doesn't like a good BAKLAVA? And it crosses FLAN (although I've never much liked that dessert).

I'm going to cry foul though on 1D: VCR insert (TVTAPE). Huh? What does that even mean? Surely it's a VCR tape, or a videotape, or video cassette. 1A: To-do list item (TASK) gets a C for averageness. As I started the puzzle, I was not at all sure about 1A, and then entered bLOG at 14A, which allowed me to enter the first answer I was sure about, KGS.

My error came at the cross of UNCAS and ROSEN. I had an L there, for no good reason at all.

- Colum

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, Joel Fagliano

3:56

This puzzle played much easier than yesterday's, despite the stacks of 9-letter answers. In the iPad app, the 3x3 squares are circles. I didn't look at the information button blinking steadily at me from the upper right corner, so I didn't understand the SWIRL incorporated in each section until I'd finished the puzzle.

It's a clever concept: four 9-letter ice cream flavor varieties make tiny spirals inside the other answers. The swirls are not symmetrically placed, so you definitely need the circles to show you where they are. I'm not sure that any of the flavors other than Chocolate are ever swirled. Can you get a Rum Raisin or Pistachio swirl? I would never in my life eat Bubblegum ice cream, so I can't even begin to speak on that subject.

Just like on Sunday, these graphical representations create a ton of triple-checked letters. Do they lead to trouble in the fill? Let's CHEX. (Sorry).

The only area which suffers (IMO) is in the middle W section. There you have INRE crossing INULIN, which I would never in a million years get without the crosses. Otherwise, they all work remarkably smoothly. I particularly like 1A: Classic TV show with a celebrity panel (MATCHGAME). No "the" needed in the clue. I give it an A for nostalgia. My first solid answer came at 1D: Thomas who wrote "Death in Venice" (MANN), which once again, allowed me to go with my instincts at 1A.

BEELZEBUB appropriately descends in the NE corner. I very much like the quartet of 9-letter answers at 19A (VASSALAGE), 28A (MORTGAGED), 44A (REMAINDER), and 51A (IMPERFECT).

I don't much like ETDS, OSX, or SWAY crossing WAY. And I will type the remainder of this review in ZAPF dingbats.

I very much enjoyed this puzzle.


- Colum

(Darn - Blogger doesn't allow that font.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016, Emily Carroll

4:05

It's a straightforward theme: the four main types of taste sensations are represented in the first words of the theme answers. I like all the phrases, but SOURPATCHKIDS is weaker than the other three because the word "sour" is used here to mean the taste sensation. In all the others, it's metaphorical.

The revealer wasn't really needed: I saw what was happening well before I got to the last answer. As revealers go, however, TASTEMAKERS is fine. I've heard the term before, so it's in common enough parlance to be of interest.

I had a little difficulty getting out of the NW and the middle N. UPTOSPEED wanted to be UPTOSnuff in my head, but I didn't put it in because it seemed a little... well, not up to snuff, if you catch my drift. Similarly, ONEBYONE wanted to be ONEatatime, but that didn't fit. I also wasn't sure about the ending of RUSHWEEK. No frats or sororities in my undergraduate existence.

So I was a little surprised that I hadn't posted a longer time. It helped that both the SW and NE corners I was able to fill in with only the down answers. Some nice answers elsewhere included NEATNIK and KODAKS (although I don't love the plural here; at least it's better than OMEGAS, or SPATES, for that matter).

I knew Nicolas ROEG's name, but didn't know he directed The Witches. I recall Walkabout as being a very good movie.

1A: ____ above (better than) (ACUT) gets an F, I'm afraid. It's a partial to start a puzzle. 1D: Jessica of "Dark Angel" (ALBA) was my first solid entry.

Not a bad Monday.

- Colum

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016, Kathy Matheson and Jeff Chen

WONDER-FUL!

Today's puzzle is an homage to the NATIONALPARKSERVICE, with several parks represented graphically... or just named... with one feature of one park represented graphically. Well, so the theme is not incredibly tight, but there's a ton of interest nonetheless.

I like the OLDFAITHFUL is represented geysering upward right through YELLOWSTONE. I'm very impressed that the park name sits so neatly above EXPEDITIONS. I also like that Half Dome sits atop YOSEMITE. It's fun seeing the mountains in Denali, and the arch and canyon in Arches and Grand Canyon.

There are a fair number of triple-checked letters. That leads to a similar number of compromises in the fill that are actually handled pretty well. I mean, sure, you have your WBOSON, SANDP; your AAA crossing AAH. I'm not fond of Henry W. SLOCUM (I've heard of him, but then I went through an intense Civil War history phase, and I couldn't recall his name).

Then, you have 59A: Highly rated Bond? (MOORE) - well, I don't particularly agree. I'd rate him third out of five Bond actors (not including Lazenby or Niven). BIONICEYE could have been bionic arm or bionic leg, so that felt a little ad hoc. It's not IMPRECISE, but it is vague.

1A: "It's a pity other cars aren't built this way"cars (SAABS) gets a D for a brand name and a pluralization. My first answer I was completely certain about came at 4D: Luncheonette order, for short (BLT), mainly because it gave me 1A. Funnily enough, after finishing this puzzle, I made BLTs. Mighty tasty too.

- Colum