Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017, Jeff Chen

8:09

How much work must this theme have taken? After I finished the whole puzzle and finally figured out what was going on, I realized the challenges Mr. Chen faced in his construction:

1. Find pairs of phrases which share the same second word, and where one of the phrases' first word is one of "ten", "twenty", "thirty", or "forty".
2. Place the other phrase's first word in the appropriate slot in the grid which has the matching clue number from the first phrase.
3. Each one of those clues has to be a unique clue: that is, it can't be at a place where both the across and down clue share the same number.

All four actual theme answers are strong, as are the hidden theme answers. I love the [PET]ROCK turning into THIRTYROCK.

So there's a ton of work to begin with, but also note that two of the misplaced words cross theme answers, while a third is directly parallel to another. That puts a fair amount of constraint on the grid.

And the end result of that is you get areas like the SW corner, where ITZA, OWEN Wister (he wrote The Virginian, so he's definitely crossword worthy, but unknown to me) cross ZELDA and IOWA. That's a lot of proper nouns in a small area. Other corners fare better: the NE has SFPD (with a great clue) as well as classic crosswordese ERSE and NTH. In all, I count 19 answers that are proper nouns. That seems like a lot.

Still, there's room for IDLEHANDS and AIRSTRIKE, both solid answers. 1A: Joan nicknamed "The Godmother of Punk" (JETT) gets a strong B for the excellence of the personage invoked. I also was pleased with the pair of "What might get the ball rolling" clues (INCLINE and PUTT). Oh, and I was totally gotten by 27D: Capital of Sweden (KRONA) for the millionth time. Because it was a Thursday puzzle, I was convinced for a period of time that there had to be a rebus to account for fitting Stockholm into 5 spaces.

I definitely enjoyed this one.

- Colum

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Kyle Dolan

5:04

Okay, this is excellent. Instead of your typical word ladders where the rungs are scattered through the grid, we get the word ladders as clues for standard phrases of the form ____to____. All four phrases are well-established ones. SLIMTONONE (and Slim just left town) is my favorite. You could quibble that the theme would be stronger if the word ladders were all equal length, but that doesn't float my boat.

Other than starting with an obscure person's name (to me, anyway - GINA Carano has also been in a number of well-known movies, including Deadpool this past year; still, C+ from me), I thought the fill was pretty good. I liked 20A: "... shall not ____ from the earth": Gettysburg Address (PERISH), especially in its entirety - "that government of the people, by the people, for the people..." Good words for these days. Do you think RENEGE right next to BREXIT is also a political statement?

I enjoyed 39A: Impulse transmission point (SYNAPSE) for obvious reasons. ANTISEPTIC was a nice long down answer. The pair of tennis clues was odd but interesting (MATCH and SETS).

Not too much in the way of clever cluing here. Both BON and BUS were clued with question marks, but neither were particularly tricky. This was a solid effort.

- Colum

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Timothy Polin

4:24

Ah, APTESTS... in Spring
Many young persons study;
OSCINE songs taunt them.

It's a week of dense theme so far. Today, eight phrases with the initials AP cross each other in the corners, along with the revealer. That's a total of 76 squares of theme!

LACY leaf in Fall,
Its green color RUSTS away...
Caught on ARTPAPER.

I'm not convinced by TUNAOIL. And I like SEAEELS for the ludicrous letter combo, but otherwise, I feel like most eels are in fact in the sea.

CELLO music slips
past the KOI frozen deep down...
Winter grasps us all.

Cheers for AMYPOEHLER, American as APPLEPIE. I enjoyed having both LEIA and Obi Wan KENOBI in the grid.

Summer evening:
REST is deserved after all
that GORP on the hike.

AGAVES gets a C- for starting the puzzle with a plural. And I'm out.

- Colum

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017, Ed Stein and Paula Gamache

3:39 (FWOE)

Eight presidents later...

On Presidents' Day, it's fun to have a little odd trivia about these men who were elected to our country's highest office. I knew the trivia about HARRISON, BUCHANAN, OBAMA, and TAFT, and guessed quickly about ROOSEVELT. CLEVELAND I got off the C at the start of his name, and FORD I filled in by crosses without even seeing the trivia.

TYLER had 15 children?!

Anyway, all of those presidents make for some tight spaces (can you imagine our heaviest president trying to fit into the tiny SW corner?). There are two long answers, MACADAMIA, which is lovely, and OZONEHOLE, which is fine, but an unpleasant thing to think about.
This is a pleasant thing to think about.
I thought the puzzle got off to a fine start, with Bobby DARIN and 1A: Sunrise (DAWN) - gets a B-. But I'm afraid there was a ton of ugly fill elsewhere. I'm looking at you, SMEW. My error came here, but it was just a typo, so I didn't notice it until I was done, but then I had to stare this Eurasian duck right in its beady little eye.

LTD and LLCS. ATILT and EFILE. ATIE and ADDN.

Yes, AENEID and ARAGON liven the fill, as does ERRATA. But overall, I feel like we had to suffer a bunch for all of our presidents. But never so much as we do for our current one.

And scene.

- Colum


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017, Bruce Haight

UH-OH!

I finished with two errors today, both in the extreme SE corner. My first error came with 98D: Mother of Artemis (LETO), where I put LETa. I was definitely thinking of Leda, mother of Castor and Pollux, as well as Helen and Clytemnestra (all at the same time?!), who was impregnated by Zeus in the shape of a swan. (That's some definite dangerops prangent sex there...). Anyway, wrong person, for sure.

My other error came with 92A: Number of French kings names Charles (DIX). So, yeah. There's no clear indicator that we're supposed to be choosing a French number here, so I went with sIX. Seemed reasonable. Only sUDED made no sense.

Other than those little issues, the rest went smoothly enough, but definitely took longer than typical for a Sunday. The theme is clever enough: I guessed what it would be from the title. Phrases have an "uh" sound replaced with an "oh" sound. Wackiness ensues. I think my favorite was STONEDSILENCE, which seems completely appropriate for watching a Cheech and Chong movie. My least favorite is 75A: Two sights in a yacht's galley? (BREADANDBOATER). Major stretch here. It violates the humor clause of the rules that govern this type of theme.

1A: Bloblike "Star Wars" character (JABBA) gets a B+ for the great adjective in the clue. I get another point off for trying to make the plural of "dorsum" DORSi. I corrected it to DORSA before the end of the puzzle, so no final error there.

I'm amused by two answers in the grid: AWHECK, which my mind wants to see as "a wheck", a term that seems like it would have fit in Jabberwocky well. The other is APTESTS, which I want to see as more than one person who is the most appropriate for a given circumstance, as in: "He's the aptest person for the job, but so is she!"

I'm not a fan of ARTILY, meaning pretentiously artistic. I think it should be artsily. Isn't being arty just being interested in art? Perhaps not.

I give the puzzle a point off for having DWAYNE and DWADE in the puzzle. I know that Mr. Wade's first name is Dwyane, but that feels like a duplication to me regardless.

I liked 56D: Circular things that arrive in square boxes (PIZZAS), because who doesn't like pizza? And I also enjoyed TOTHEMAX and 40D: Changing room? (COCOON).

- Colum

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday, February 18, 2017, Steve Overton

16:59

I am reminded of the old joke:

A gentleman arrives at Logan Airport in Boston, having planned his vacation in New England for months. He gets in a taxi to go to his hotel, and asks the cabbie, "Hey, can you tell me a good place to go get SCROD?" The cabbie lifts an eyebrow, and replies, "Mister, I've heard that question a number of times, but you're the first person to ask it in the pluperfect subjunctive!"
(http://tenser.typepad.com/tenser_said_the_tensor/2006/01/scrod.html is my source for this version.)

I would have finished this much faster, except I had entered the peculiar choice of OVERTurE at 12D: Suggestion (OVERTONE). That, combined with the incredible smashup of consonants at the crossing of FREEDVD and TVGUIDE made getting GIJANE near impossible, especially as I did not recognize Jordan as a woman's name.

I broke in with RATEDX, having seen "rated G" in Wednesday's puzzle. But I got nowhere with that (although in retrospect, WAX is pretty obvious). I restarted in the SW corner with ENERO having rejected "The Tramp" for 34D: Lady's counterpart (NOBLEMAN).

Cute to have DREAMON crossing NOCANDO. The whole middle section slanted to the negative, with the DTS, DREAD, and DONOT, not to mention 38D: "You'd better brace yourself for this ..." (BADNEWS).

I've never heard of SANGAREE before. The word apparently comes from Spanish "sangre", meaning blood, which is the same root word for sangria, but the two drinks are definitely not the same. Anyway, I'm not into spiced wine, so I doubt I'll be trying it any time soon.

1A: Was almost, with "on" (BORDERED) gets a C-. I hate these clues that have "with" some word. Love DERRINGDO. Very much loved 7D: Beam's path? (EARTOEAR). And DEWYEYED is an outstanding edge of the puzzle word. Thumbs up here. Debut puzzle yet again! Impressive stuff.

- Colum

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017, David Steinberg

9:15

Color me impressed. Four triple stacks of 10-letter answers, one in each corner, and eleven of the twelve answers are strong, as far as I'm concerned. Very nice.

Before I go any further, I'm going to give a shout out to my lovely wife, Hope, who came up with SHAPELY and helped open up the SE corner. Cece offered the first word of NEONYELLOW as well, so this was a family affair.

I broke in right off the bat with REBA and AMO, both confidently entered. I remembered ELAINECHAO, although it took some crosses to get her last name right. 1A: Its ribs stick out (RACKOFLAMB) gets an A-. Beautiful answer, fun clue. 17A: Where to stick a stick (BUTTERDISH) is also quite good. I actually finished the puzzle in the connection between this corner and the SW. 5D: "110%" effort (ONESALL) took some parsing to understand, but now I love it.

I'm not convinced by TRON, although I appreciate that the clue avoids the over-referenced movies. Apparently a magnetron is what generates the microwaves in the eponymous kitchen appliance. It's just that the clue seemed a little CREAKY. Nonetheless, I love INDIANFOOD, especially right next to the STICKYRICE from Thailand. They're even geographically appopriately placed. And 14D: Dives (HONKYTONKS) has a great surprising clue.

CHAINEMAIL is my one less liked long answer. But TEXTALERTS and STEELYGAZE are wonderful. I'm also very fond of 51A: Colosseum crowd? (TRE) because, see, three's a crowd, am I right? 57D: Part of a gig (MEG) was likewise tricky, referencing gigabytes and megabytes.

Finally, I'll just say I found nothing INBADTASTE in this puzzle. And remember that HADES watches over SHADES.

- Colum