Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017, Matt Ginsberg

0:21:23

Man, I loved this one. What a great start to the Turn.

The UEY idea isn't exactly new, I don't think, but it's done very well here, and I especially like the double-UEY in the center. STRIK/ESABA/LANCE (**Doesn't go to either extreme) is really nice. Just typing that in, I noticed that the clue is given two asterisks, but I didn't notice that during the solve, which I am happy about, as it would have spoiled the surprise.

BASALT
Dad would be proud - I filled this one in without crosses!

Also, the five theme answers are symmetrical, and the revealer is tucked away in the second-to-last Down answer, which gave me lots of time to wonder what the heck was going on before it was finally "explained." I had entered TWOTIM for "1A: *Adlai Stevenson as a presidential candidate, e.g." and I knew something was up, but I didn't stop to figure it out. I will say, though, that the revealer was really just that today, as it instantly cleared things up for me, and allowed me to fill in SALAR/YCAPS, which I had wanted immediately, but could not figure out how to enter.

In addition to the fun theme, I really enjoyed the cluing today. Take, for example, the excellent 7D: Stand (COPSE), 13D: Beat (WEARY), 39A: Tomorrow's jr. (SOPH) (the P here was my last square), 49A: Boxer's concern, maybe (FLEAS), and 43A: George I or V? (SOFTG). Gaaahhh! (with a hard G) They got me again!

For all this goodness, we have to tolerate a couple Italian plurals (BASSI and TEMPI), a few GOBS of crosswordese (IDEO, EEGS, ENIAC, etc.), and a little weirdness with GIVEEAR and AFLOWER, but I can easily overlook that stuff today.

And then we come to the elephant in the puzzle - VEEPSTAKES. Wikipedia claims that this term has been seen in print as far back as 1952, but I had never heard it until today. Kind of a funny word, actually, and I'm glad to have learned it.

I'll say again that I really enjoyed this one. It's just the kind of puzzle that makes doing crossword puzzles worthwhile.

- Horace

p.s. I can't help wondering how Mr. Ginsberg's crossword puzzle-solving computer program did on this one, and whether or not he has been creating lots of trick puzzles like this one in an effort to improve the program.

p.p.s. Dr. Fill couldn't solve it, and yes, Mr. Ginsberg did use it to test the programming. Also, he submitted "Parisian woman?" as a clue for HELEN, which I think is brilliant, but which was ultimately changed to something much easier.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017, Hal Moore

0:06:06

I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like it when an explanatory note appears with a crossword. Today's reads: "When finished, this crossword grid will have 25 things that complete a set, in the order indicated by the clues." First of all, "25 things?" I guess by "things" they mean "pairs of letters that are adjacent both in the alphabet and in the answers with bracketed numbers" and by "a set" they mean "all the letters of the alphabet repeated twice, in order, except for A, P, T, and Z." Did I miss any?


So it's a stunt puzzle. Sometimes those are good, and other times, they are somewhat interesting but filled with strained or tired fill. See: ENOL (27D: Hydroxyl group compound [14]), AFARAFORE, KMS (41A: Eur. distance measures), CAVA (9A: Vena ____ (major vessel)), and SSRS (60D: They became independent in 1991: Abbr.). Fun stuff.

There were bright spots, though. POPQUIZ (50A: Classroom surprise [15][16]) was fun, and BMWXSERIES (62A: Line of upscale German autors [23]) was unexpected. CONDEMN (9D: Mark for demolition [13]) and SINEW (54A: Muscular strength) are good words, and who can argue with CLAM chowder? As long as it's not Manhattan-style. :)

But overall, the TIAS, BCE, BRAE, and LOMB type stuff left me DOUR. I don't want to give it a total NOGO, but let's just say it wasn't my favorite.

1A: Wall Street index, for short (SANDP) - C-.
Favorite: RADIUS (40D: Wheel spoke, essentially).
Least: ALFA (2D: Letter before bravo) - Where's the "var." tag?

BAH.

- Horace

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2107, Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel

0:06:48

SILENTPARTNER is the theme today. Hmmm... It took me a minute or two to understand what that meant, but then I saw that two identical silent letters are found in each theme answer. Kind of cool, really. In the first, CAMPAIGNSIGNS, the silent G is paired with, and lengthens, a vowel (or vowel cluster) both times. Or does it? It lengthens the I, but AI would be the same with or without it, right? Because "pain" is the same as "paign," but "sin" is different from "sign." ... Anyway, in the second, GENGHISKHAN, it hardens the G and ... does what to the K? Who knows? That one is obviously a direct borrowing from another language, and so does not require any explanation in English.

Turns out, silent letters would require me to do a little research if I wanted to provide a full explanation here. Let's just say that I liked the idea, once I understood it, and we'll move right along to the fill, which, sadly, I liked less.

Prow


1A: Tacks on (ADDS) - D.
Favorite: SOANDSO (46D: Scoundrel) - I was not expecting this.
Least: maybe HOS (30D: Sounds from the Jolly Green Giant), although there were plenty to choose from.

Interesting, but slightly off-putting entries today included DOGMEAT (3D: Serving in Asia that's taboo in the West) and HAGGIS (9D: Sheep dish popular in Scotland), and perhaps those choices are what brought on the idea for STARVES (48D: Doesn't eat for a long while). ELANDS, EDS, PSA, SOP, FROS, MAA, WIPING and SKEE all seemed a bit blah, and even the longer stuff like DRLAURA and ASHTREE wasn't terribly exciting.

I don't know, I guess I was kind of underwhelmed by the whole thing. Sometimes you'll have that.

- Horace

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017, Tom McCoy

0:03:48

The theme today features colorful expressions using body parts. YELLOWBELLIED (56A: Deplorably cowardly) is my favorite, but I just used WHITEKNUCKLED (20A: Visibly tense), or some variant of it, yesterday when describing the car salesman in the back seat during our test drive. Heh.

1A: The Times or Daily News, e.g. (PAPER) - C+
Favorite: EUROPA (25A: Figure in Greek myth after whom a continent is named) - It seems obvious, but I'm not sure I ever fully realized that before.
Least: 11D

There's plenty of bonus fill today, with AMALGAM (45D: Blend), HOGTIE (50A: Truss up), POISE (26D: Graceful bearing), GNASHPELTED, TESTY, and LLAMA. Good old Ogden Nash. :)

Maybe I'm old-school, but I always think of "If, then" statements, not "If, ELSE." Was that just BASIC programming? Also, the clue for SOCKET (9D: Holder of an eye or a light bulb) is gross.

A fine Monday.

- Horace


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017, Mark Maclachlan

SUPER LOOPER

A fun little loop-the-loop theme today, where the letters in the grayed out squares (in the online solving version, anyway - I'm not sure what it looked like on paper) are treated like little loops in a Hot Wheels track. I got the trick on the weakest one, in my opinion, BEV[ERAGER]OOM (25A: Beer parlor), and then went back immediately to fill in LOBST[ERTHER]MIDOR (23A: Fancy French shellfish dish). That one's fine, but "beverage room?" Yeah, that's what we like to call that place we go for drinks. "Hey, let's meet after work in the beverage room. It'll be loads of fun!"


The other theme answers were all pretty good. SPOIL[ERALER]T (91A: Reason to stop reading) might have been my favorite, but CONC[ERTSER]IES was on point because last night Frannie and I saw the first in a five opera series about Joan of Arc. This was Tchaikovsky's "Maid of Orleans," and - spoiler alert - it was fantastic! Also - second spoiler alert - it doesn't end well for ol' Joanie.

It might have been slightly nicer if the loops had extended some 21-letter answers into the grid, but one can't have everything, can one.

1A: Naval engagements (SEAWARS). - D.
Favorite: BRACE (51D: Pair) - Love me some old-fashioned language.
Least:HEME (18D: Pigment in red blood cells) - Even though it was totally guessable, I don't like this one.

So it was an ok theme, but there wasn't a whole lot else that was super interesting. I liked the two "It's got you covered" clues (ATTIRE, SHELTER), and a few of the question-mark clues were fun. Then there was stuff like OOM, UTE, ETH, STER, SIE, ESA, and the like. Let's say it was fine.

- Horace

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017, Natan Last, The J.A.S.A. Crossword Class, and Finn Vigeland

0:17:33

How funny is it that I posted a photo of SIDCAESAR (14D: 1950s TV personality who appeared in "Grease") in Grease just two days ago, and today he's in the puzzle with that clue! Quelle coincidence!


I liked pretty much all the nine- and ten-letter answers today. EASYSTREET (17A: Low-stress address?), GOINPEACE (13D: Gentle farewell), and CASTPARTY (31D: Celebration after a run) are probably my favorites. I also thought PANICBAR (23D: Door part often fitted with an alarm) and RHEOSTAT (21D: Current regulator) were both strong. MEEMAW (9D: Grandmother, in dialect), however, I did not like. Which dialect is that again? I've never heard it.

More strong stuff - WALLOW (27A: Roll around), THROB (42A: Beat), LAYLOW (4D: Hunkered down) (tricky tense!), and SLOTH (24D: Poor work habit). And how did these youngsters slip HOOHAS (35A: Flaps) past Mr. Shortz?!

1A: Plucky words? (SHELOVESME) - A. Think daisies.
Favorite: 30D: Request for an island getaway? (SOS) - That's a lovely clue.
Least: STARCH (39A: Pressing need) - It's cute, but you don't actually need it to press anything. Believe me. I do a lot of ironing!

Even after the "Does sumthing wrong" clue from a few days ago, it still took me ages to figure out 53D: Kind of place for the summer? (ONES). Sheesh! And how 'bout that misdirection on 59D: Cry at a Real Madrid game (GOL). I dropped in "ole" so fast!...

Lots to like in here and not much glue (sure, ERTES was plural, but it got a decent clue). I went through it pretty fast, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

- Horace

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017, Damon Gulczynski

0:13:28

I liked this one, but it kind of flew by for a Friday.

1A: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designer (IMPEI) - B.
Favorite: SHH (11A: Sound from a silencer) - I think this was the biggest surprise for me.
Least: NUS (43D: Some college Greeks)


I first tried IMpaYING for IMBUYING (1D: "It's on me") and HALFCookED and HALFCockED for HALFCRAZED (29D: Nutso), but those were righted pretty quickly. Oh, and I typed Scale for "66A: Celsius, for one," but as soon as I remembered that it was Friday, and quickly changed it to SWEDE. Much better.

I enjoyed the two "spoken" answers: IKNOWRIGHT (27A: "Seriously!") and GRACIOUSME (47A: "Well, I declare!"), and the PTBARNUM quote (3D: Who said "Without promotion, something terrible happens ... nothing!") was interesting, if slightly off-putting. I'm just so done with promotion and the never-ENDING EARNING and BUYING of ALLNEW junk...

Sorry. I was HALFCRAZED there for a moment. Sometimes I just feel so IMMERSED in consumerism.

CLEF (9D: Pitch setter) was fun, and I did not know that Parker POSEY was the "so-called "Queen of the Indies," but I should have. She's great.

So I'll end this like I started it - I liked this one, I just thought it was maybe a little light for a Friday. Here's hoping we get a nice heavy one tomorrow!

- Horace