Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018, Jules P. Markey


DOWNFEATHERS (11D: Warm winter coat contents ... or what is present in the answer to each starred clue?) is the revealer today, and it tells us that four feathered friends are to be found amid the very long down answers. WAYNEGRETZKY (25D: *Sports legend who was an M.V.P. for eight consecutive seasons) hides an egret, TELLMEANOTHERONE (7D: *"A likely story!") holds a heron, and so on. Quite nice, in my opinion.


We get some nice Classical references with STOA (6A: Site of Zeno's teaching) ("Athens" wouldn't fit!) and ERATO (28A: Lyrist of myth) (Good thing they didn't try to put "lyrist" in as an answer!). And lots of paired clues in "Solidify" (CLOT & SET), "One side of a debate" (CON & PRO), and "Sense" (INTUIT & FEEL). See also "Boatloads" (ABUNCH) and "Boatload" (TON).

It's funny to see RIPON (63A: Bad-mouth) in the grid with that clue, because as one word it is a college in Wisconsin that two of my cousins went to. I went to another Wisconsin school (and consequently knew OHARE (58D: Its symbol is ORD) off the clue), but I never had thought of RIPON as two words before.

Colum and I were just talking about the many ways to clue ATE (32A: Made a fast stop?), and I thought this was a particularly good one. And the excellent entry APOSTROPHE gets a classic self-referential clue "66A: Maker's mark?" Hah!

I have never liked the term DORAG, and LASE always seems a little crosswordy, but we were generally spared the LAMEST kind of crosswordese today. Plus, I like birds. Thumbs up!

- Horace

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

0:05:56 (F.W.O.E.)

Cute theme. When I first started to consider what the revealer was revealing, and looked at 18A - SASSAFRAS, I thought it might be that swear words were actually hidden in the theme answers. But "ass," while it is a swear (of sorts), it is not actually a four-letter word, so I thought that couldn't be it. And indeed, it was not it. The type of FOURLETTERWORDS that they are talking about are those that only use four letters in the spelling. Unfortunately for me, LOLLIPOP (26A: What always deserves a good licking?) would use only four letters whether it were spelled with an I or a Y, as I originally tried. SENSEI, however, can't have a Y. I don't think.


Lots of colloquialisms in this puzzle: BADPR (6A: What a divorce may generate for a celeb), KTOWN (17A: Neighborhood where kimchi might be found, informally), ZEROG (11D: Weightless state, informally), FINITO (19D: Over and done), and SORTA (51D: "Ish") to name just five. And on the other hand we have such RECHERCHE words as COPSE (21D: Thicket), ASCOT (65A: English horse-racing venue) (tough clue for this on a Tuesday), and PITON (30D: Climber's spike). 

You know, when Frannie and I were kids, we somehow made it out of Spain with only three PESETAS between the two of us. And this was long before the age of "paying with your phone," or even ATMs! If we wanted any more money, we'd have needed to cash in a Traveller's Check. Remember those? Hah!

I enjoyed the puzzle. The theme answers were all good finds, and the fill was really quite clean. A little ROCHE here, a ZUMBA there, but nothing to utter any OATHs about.

- Horace

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018, Zouqin Burnikel and Agnes Davidson


I'm not sure what to think of this theme. It's appropriate for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but using Dr. King's famous words to "reveal" synonyms for "free" seems, to me, an unfortunate cheapening of the message. Oh, I know it's only a game, a puzzle, and there seems to be some larger question being asked today about whether words don't matter at all or whether they matter a great deal. Perhaps this puzzle is a representation of that very dichotomy. Or maybe I'm just overthinking this.

It's odd, too, because the words aren't hidden at all, they are just the last words of the phrases. I suppose that happens sometimes, doesn't it? Anyway, my favorite is THECOASTISCLEAR (39A: "We can go safely now"), just because it's the most dramatic, what with its spanning the grid and all.

It's odd to me that ODOR should be clued with "Distinctive smell." Why not just "smell?" Perhaps to throw us off the scent? (Guffaw!) But TOGO being clued with "Like food from a West African drive-through?," well, that's entirely different!


I liked the full OLIVEOIL, and POWDERKEG (3D: Volatile situation) was very nice.

In the end, I come away from this, as I usually do when anything at all reminds me of it, thinking of that famous speech. We are, none of us, as free as we could be. In America today, the vicious racists are not solely down in ALAbama, they are in the very White House, and if America is to be a great nation, this must not be true. But somehow I think we all still hope for a day when freedom rings from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado, and from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. It's silly, but I still believe. Someday. Someday.

- Horace

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday, January 14, 2018, Joel Fagliano


Colum: Sunday's here, which means it's handoff time, and I don't mean of the football variety, even though that's been going on all day. No, instead in our new system here at Horace & Frances (featuring yours truly), it's switchover day. Horace and I thought we'd discuss the puzzle together by phone and then trade off paragraphs.

Today, we both agreed that the theme is a construction of real beauty. For most of the puzzle, I had no idea what was going on. I was solving with Cece, and I commented that it felt like a themeless (and a fairly easy one at that). I was somewhat annoyed that both NSC and NSA were in the grid, but it turned out that former was necessary. Then eventually I saw the clue for 67A: Illegal interference ... or what can be found in this puzzle's 1st, 3rd, 7th, 15th, 19th, and 21st rows? Even then, it didn't become clear until I solved it and found OBSTRUCTIONOFJUSTICE. That together with the puzzle's title finally made it clear just exactly what was going on.

Horace: I was cruising right along on the top, and when I got to 67A (the revealer) I had enough crosses to drop it in right away. The theme answers lit up, as they do, and I think I looked first at the 22A row, in which I could see nothing, so I thought nothing more about it until after I finished. As previously stated, I thought the theme was outstanding. I was not previously aware of ANSONIA (110A: Connecticut city near New Haven) (population c. 19,000. For comparison, Natick, MA is c. 32,800.) so I wasn't so happy about that clue. Also, OTRANTO (pop. 5,700) is not exactly on the Grand Tour circuit.

Aside from that, Colum, on the phone, pointed out pointedly that BREYERS (120A: Häagen-Dazs alternative) is a little weak, being simply a possessive of the Justice's last name.

So now what? Do you do another paragraph Colum? And who picks the photo?

Colum: Oh, yes I do indeed do another paragraph, having just witnessed the ludicrous miracle comeback win by the Vikings (or was it a blown loss by the Saints?). Did you know that Häagen-Dazs was a completely made up name, created by a Brooklyn Jewish man, supposedly because he wanted to acknowledge all the Danes had done for the Jews during the Holocaust? Mind you, that's about as far from Danish as the subtitles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail are from Swedish.

I think I've gotten off track. Horace and I agreed that the clue for 16D: Closest to base? (EVILEST) is likely the best in the puzzle, and that 91: Got down (ATE) is yet another in a long line of clues that surprise us by being about eating. Elsewhere, STUPIDS still has me chuckling. Because it's so stupid, dum-dum!

Right. So. On to another week, with Horace blogging. It's been fun! And it's my week, so it's my photo.

- Colum

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018, Alan Derkazarian


My goodness, I finished a Saturday more quickly than the Friday the day before. IMIMPRESSED!

It's always nice to start with a 1A that you know. In this case, 1A: What a physiognomist studies (FACES), I learned this word (or its root) from listening to Cats in my early years. While I heard it through Andrew Lloyd Webber, the original line is by T.S. Eliot (TSE, as Horace noted from yesterday's puzzle):

"At the sight of that placid and bland physiognomy,
When he sits in the sun on the vicarage wall,
The oldest inhabitant croaks:
Well of all things...
I believe it is old Deuteronomy!"

Anyway, things moved a pace from there. I enjoyed 22A: 30 on a table (ZINC). I was not surprised by the hidden capital in 14D: Field work (NORMARAE), but I was set back by having LANGUid instead of LANGUOR (wonderful word). The other misleading capital clue, 29A: London or Manchester (WRITER) definitely threw me for a loop.
Which do we like better? The real Anthony EDEN, or the one played by Mr. Knightley?

It's a bit of a SORESPOT to me that two different fast food chains are referenced here, first with EGGMCMUFFIN, second with the COLONEL (although I do appreciate the absurdity of the recent commercials for that particular chain). It reminds me too much of the Glutton-In-Chief.

It was also ROUGHIT to come across both REARER and FUELERS, not to mention HIREES. These are terms that are only in currency in crossword puzzles, it seems to me. I'd never heard of Charles HAID, but the crosses were fair here.

But overall, I enjoyed this solve. It was challenging, but moved fairly smoothly. Whenever I felt stuck, I discovered I'd overlooked a clue that helped me along. And after all, any time EULER is represented, it's a good day.

GODEEP, Auntie Mame! GODEEP!

- Colum

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018, Erik Agard

11:53 (on paper) - should I stop saying that now??

I remember a time - back when I first committed to doing this crazy thing where we write reviews of the NYT xword daily - yes, I remember, I say, a time when a quad-stack would have sent me into paroxysms of despair. We haven't seen many of them since Martin Ashwood-Smith took his leave from constructing. I was under the impression that Mr. Shortz had outlawed them.

But here is a really top example of the genre. There are seven 15-letter answers in the grid, four in the top stack, one in the middle, and two at the bottom. That's a little more manageable than a dual quad-stack, for sure. I rank the answers in the following order:

1. THATSATALLORDER - excellent start to the puzzle at 1-across, with a complete phrase.
2. ARAISININTHESUN - also nice to have the complete title, and a fine movie as well.
3. SPAREDNOEXPENSE - it feels a bit like a partial, but that X is very nice.
4. VICTORIASSECRET - for the clue: "Where people may order push-ups" - hah!
5. MAKEAFRESHSTART - this is really fine. Just the others are better in my opinion.
6. EACHONETEACHONE - hmmm. Is this a real phrase? [Googles] - oh, yes! Actually, very interesting, as it appears to have originated among African Americans during slavery. I'm moving it up to 3. Only I'm not actually going to move everything around. Just imagine it in your mind.
7. INDEPENDENCEAVE - just because of that abbreviation. I know it wouldn't fit otherwise.

Really, though, those are seven top-notch exemplars. Really top drawer. (Somebody's been watching a certain movie this holiday season...)

So, in exchange, we do get a bunch of not such great short answers. ACAKE and ANIF right near each other, with the following names: THIEL, SOSA, OCHS, and RHETT. Mind you, I do like DOSAS, so that's in its favor. Oh, and ABCDE. That's particularly arbitrary.

But I enjoyed solving it (Cece helped), so that's all good. Good continuation to the turn. Looking forward to tomorrow!

- Colum

Our Favorite Clues of 2018

This is a list of our favorite clues of the year. We will edit it as the year goes along, and the link to it will live over on the right there, at the top. We start with Colum's suggestion from yesterday, and we welcome all our readers to submit suggestions.

9D: Co-written best seller - THEBIBLE - Thursday, January 11 - Sam Trabucco

66A: Maker's mark? - APOSTROPHE - Wednesday, January 17 - Jules P. Markey