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HOOK-UPS

Another puzzle, another new theme. Mr. Last has gone fishing in his own grid, and has found seven fish to hook and pull up to the top of their respective Down answers. In 1-Down, for example, "Gym rat's development," the answer ought to be "workout routine," but the word "trout" that can be found spanning both words has been hooked and pulled up to the top, yielding TROUTWORKOUINE. Odd, but pretty cool. I guess that to create such a thing you'd have to first come up with the phrases, then alter them and put them into the grid, then start to build around them. And the fact that he could find seven such phrases that could be worked into a grid symmetrically is kind of amazing. At least to this MOOK.


CODMOLLYDLE (mollycoddle) is probably my favorite of the theme entries, but CARPMAGICETRIDE is pretty good too, and the clue for PIKESDPUNCH (What might get you a "ladle" drunk?) was fun.

With the theme running vertically, all of the horizontal space calls out USEME for interesting fill, and so there we find the timely STORMSURGE (Danger for coastal residents), the full PAULSIMON and CANNERYROW, and the full-on French phrase AVOTRESANTE (French toast) ("To your health"). I've heard of "cold fusion," but never COLDFISSION. Is that just what we usually think of as just plain old fission?

Favorite clues today included:

27A: It "should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," according to a saying (ART)
33A: War loser, usually (TREY) - The card game, not the military game.
2D: High pitch, maybe (BALL) - Baseball, not music.
13D: Works with numbers (OPUSES) - Music, not math.
64A: They're full of hot air (DRIERS)
87D: Delightful event? (OUTAGE) - Guffaw.

Things I did not know:

ARGOSY = Flotilla of merchant ships
DESI = Member of a South Asian diaspora

I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was going on today. I don't know how they keep coming up with these puzzle theme ideas, but as long as they do, I'll be trying to solve them. :)
- Horace
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0:17:29

At first this Saturday grid doesn't appear too FLASHY - no super-chunky corners, no grid-spanners - but the more I look at it, the more I like it.


First of all, there are several fantastic clues:

15A: Porter of note (COLE) - Hidden capital.
37A: Hard core (PIT) - Like a peach pit. This was my favorite today.
45A: Arizona rival (NESTEA) - I was thinking college sports, and feared I'd never get it!
60A: Something to build on (LOT) - Cute.
17D: One looking for bugs (BETATESTER) - Was thinking of a spy or an ambassador...
32D: That's the ticket! (CITATION)
36D: Bad choices in it might cost you an arm and a leg (HANGMAN). Hah! Nice one.
42D: Foreign correspondent, maybe (PENPAL). Quaint, but still good.

We also had four "spoken word" clues:

26A: "It's futile" (NOUSE)
36A: "Let me demonstrate" (HERESHOW)
53A: "What a jerk!" (SOMEPEOPLE)
21D: "Go right ahead!" (SEEIFICARE)
and one more if you count the one that referenced actual spoken words -
38A: Sports star who once declared "I am America" (ALI)

Yesterday, in talking about his puzzle on xwordinfo.com, Adam Fromm used the term "word putty" for what we often call "glue." Those words, abbreviations, partials, and what-have-you that are often used in crossword construction. They are sometimes foreign (EIN, UNO), sometimes abbreviations (MIN, NSA, AFC, ATV), and sometimes just small words (POX, LOT, MAT). It might seem like a lot of putty today when it's all written out like that, but for me it is thrown into shadow by ENTICING entries like CASABLANCA, MOCCASIN, SHORTRIB, and GRATIN. Mmm... GRATIN....
Overall, this was a fun Saturday.
Thumbs up!
- Horace
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0:14:24 (F.W.O.E.)

Rough start today with FRIGGA (Goddess played by Rene Russo in "Thor" crossing GOA (Indian state on the Arabian Sea) and GUS (The Theater Cat in Broadway's "Cats") (Thanks for adding "Broadway" there...). I knew GOA, but not the cat, but I should have guessed the double letter in the across instead of going with the more cat-like pUS (eww, sorry... not very cat-like) for the Down. Oh well. The trio of Downs, however, was lovely (FLING, RONCO (!), IGLOO), and I guess that, along with ATTHEALTAR (Bad way to be left) maybe, was enough to force Mr. Fromm's hand.


Aside from my own small problem in the NW, this was a clean puzzle with some lovely fill. I expect some will find UNGULATE (Having hooves) as unknowable as GUS or FRIGGA was for me, but I loved seeing that one. CRUSADES (Single-minded pursuits) and CHUGS (Slowly moves (along)) were also good in the NE.

The triple-stack in the middle was decent, if not scintillating. Today, along with the usual MPG, APA, and EEE-type crosses, we got the fun GRUBBY (Squalid), the nicely-clued RECITE (Rattle off), and the excellently-clued MCC (Three CDs?). What? Shouldn't that have been something like "set?" No, it's Roman numerals. Hah! And another one that I wasn't thinking of properly at first was JINGOISTS. It's not country music superfans, its superfans of a country. Nice.

** Added note: I totally missed the mini-theme in the triple-stack! Three military ranks are stacked at the start of each entry. That adds a nice touch. Thanks xwordinfo.com! (I guess I should wait until after I've had my coffee to start on the puzzle review!)

Lastly, doesn't it seem a little like someone is trying to educate us about Jimmy Dorsey's old standard SORARE? It's showed up enough times in the past few months that I no longer struggle with it, which is, I guess, a good thing. Now maybe I should take the next step and go and listen to it.

I liked the puzzle overall. So far so good on the turn. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow. Happy Friday!
- Horace
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0:13:52

Today the "revealer" answer, RAMPUP, explains precisely what needs to be done to understand the four seemingly incomplete answers and the four unclued answers. Take the first set, 26 and 20 Across: South American landmark whose name means "old peak." At 26A there is only room for MACH, which, conveniently, is a word, but it's not the word we expected. Then at 20A, the odd ICCHU is revealed. Slowly (ok, maybe that was just me) we notice that there's a "ramp" of black squares connecting the two answers, and if we imagine that ramp as the word "up", the answer becomes the more appropriate "Machu Picchu." Now, if I were the sort to quibble, I'd ask aloud why there were three squares in the ramp instead of two, but since I am instead the "artist" type, I will allow the word, and my mind, to stretch to fill the existing space. I will also declare this a fun, well-done trick puzzle.


Still, since I am something of a dreamer, let's discuss for a moment the convention of the hyphen clue. It signals immediately that the answer will be a continuation of a previous answer, and I have mixed feelings about its "giveaway" nature. What would it have been like if both fragments were actual words (like MACH, LEASE, and EARS are) and the second, upper word had been clued and answerable separately? The first would still be a word, but just not the word you expected - kind of like that "lop off the ends of the word in the grid to get the real answer" puzzle that we saw a little while ago. I suppose that would be exceedingly hard to do, but still, it would be pretty cool.

But aside from that, is there any other way to treat the hyphen clues? Maybe just not include the clues at all in the list of clues? People would think it was an error, but if it happened four times, one might catch on. Oh, I don't know...

Anyway, the rest of the grid is just the kind of well-made, well-clued affair that you'd expect from a master constructor and fellow blogger. KEYSTROKES (58A: Button-downs?) (a very strong QMC) might be my favorite today, although the far-more-straightforward-but-still-excellent "Inert" (STATIONARY) is also good. Things got a tad strained (CPLS, STRATI) around the revealer, but it's nothing objectionable. Overall, I loved it.
- Horace
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0:04:59

Wow, what a strange theme. 14-Down, CROSSDRESSING crosses five different types of salad dressing: House, Caesar, Ranch, Russian, and Italian. Impressive and crazy, and very appropriate that it should run today, as we're right in the middle of Eurovision 2019! Frannie and I jumped through several internet hoops to watch the first semi-final last night, and we'll do it all again tomorrow for the second semi, and then Saturday for the Grand Finale! ... but I very much doubt that was on anyone's mind who had anything to do with creating or running this puzzle...


So back to the puzzle. It starts strong with a solid Question-Mark Clue (QMC) "Trial separation?" for RECESS (Good thing we've watched so much Perry Mason!), then slips right into the EROTIC (Blue). OK, TANTRA is a little odd (see also, the plural SUTRAS), but on the other side we have the solid CREATURE (Beast) and RANSOMED (Freed, but not for free) (nice clue).

I just noticed that the long central theme doesn't really cross any words other than the dressings except at the first or last letter, which is a nice detail. They sure like to be strict about themes at the NYTX, and I doubt that was unintentional.

In the South, I liked IODINE (First-aid antiseptic) because it brought me back to my youth, when Mom would dab that orange liquid onto whatever scrape or sliver-produced cut I happened to get. The stinging meant that it was working! Do people still use IODINE for that? Why don't I have any in my own medicine cabinet? ... maybe I'll look for it the next time I'm at CVS.

EVILER (More malevolent) was weak, despite the nicely alliterative clue, and JOVI looks a little forelorn there without at least the Bon. That would have made it more good. Get it? Bon is French for "good." ... oh nevermind!

Having done my share of CROSSDRESSING back at college, I liked the theme just fine, and the fill had enough good answers (CONJOIN, SASHIMI, SKYDOME (that was renamed?!) among the other already named) and fun clues (like "Avoided elimination in musical chairs" (SAT)) to make me look the other way when I had to.
- Horace
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0:05:04

OK, so I guess this is a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"-based theme. I am not a fan of Douglas Adams, but I know many others are, and I hope they enjoy it. I do know that one of the "jokes" in the book is that the number 42 is given as the "answer to everything," and this is how JACKIEROBINSON, whose number was 42, and PRESIDENTCLINTON, who was the 42nd president, are worked into the THEME.




In non-theme material, I liked ECOCIDE (Environmental destruction) (although I don't actually like it, of course), SPLAYING (Spreading out), TUSSLE (Skirmish), and the O-rich oddity of TOOOLD (Like a 14-year-old vis-à-vis the Little League World Series). What a clue! And speaking of clues, I chuckled at "One hell of a writer?" for DANTE. Heh.

Onto the less-than-ideal heap I throw CORERS, TEHEE, OBLADI, and even SAUD (Mideast royal name). I'm not sure whether or not the two long Down answers are involved in the theme, but they both do, at least, share a "spoken language"-type clue - "'Peace out'" for SEEYOULATER and "'That's impossible!'" for ITCOULDNTBE. I guess they're ok, but they don't really do much for me. Perhaps the former could/should have been clued with "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

In the end, there's nothing terribly wrong with it, and I'm sure that fans of the Hitchhiker book(s?) will appreciate the tribute.
- Horace
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0:03:43

A sporting theme today, with things that can be found around a baseball diamond - A DH, Home (plate) (or is that a Homer?), a Bat, and a Mitt. And the items are all extended out into men's names, making a nicely consistent theme. Two of the men are contemporary, one, D.H. Lawrence, is well-known, and the other two, though contemporaries of the author, are much less well-known. At least to me. Their names rang a bell, but it was a distant one, and I'm not sure I could have written the clues, which is to say, I needed several crosses for each. Claude AKINS, Jack PAAR, and TRINI Lopez seem positively modern compared to those guys!


I enjoyed SHARDS (Bits of broken glass), METAPHOR (Nerves of steel, e.g.), ENAMOR (Captivate), DEVIANCE (Change from the norm), and ISOMER (Chemical cousin). AVIATORS (Pilots) and CAMELOT (King Arthur's home) weren't bad either.

There's a smattering of Spanish (BESO, OLE, & ESTAS), a little more French (AULAIT, ETUDE, MOI (& ESTEE?)), one (in) Latin (UNUM), and a touch of poetry (POE, MORN, and even DHLAWRENCE).

Entries like STEVIA (Sugar substitute) and TITER (Solution strength) got groans, but I think there was enough solid material to AVERT disaster and keep this one from dropping over the EDGE.
- Horace
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MEASURE FOR MEASURE

Good Morning, Readers! It's Horace, taking over again after two excellent weeks of reviews by Frannie and Colum. Thanks once more, and as ever, to my two excellent compatriots!

Phil Ochs - There But For Fortune - YouTube

Today's theme features four famous measurement systems, each running diagonally in circled letters through the thing they measure. Cool! Two are observational scales (Mohs & Beaufort), one is based on seismic wave amplitude (Richter), and one, Celsius, is based on water and temperature - but on May 20 of this year, Celsius will be redefined so that its value will be determined by definition of the Boltzmann constant. (It's too complicated to get into here, so I provided a link for the curious.)

Incidentally, Mr. Celsius originally had 0 as the boiling point and 100 as the freezing point, but these values were reversed in 1743, just a year before he died. I wonder what he thought about that!

So the theme is solid. I'd put it somewhere between quartz and topaz. Everyone enjoys quantification, right? Heck, what is this blog, or any review, but quantification? It's one of life's great pleasures - and problems. As Hamlet says, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

So let's get right to it, shall we?

Pro:

98D: Unlike most of Perry Mason's clients (GUILTY). Hah!
52A: Follow-up shot (BOOSTER). Vaccinate!
54A: Besmirch (TAR).
80A: Clubs, e.g. ... or entry requirement for some clubs (SUIT).
84A: Not fast (EAT).

CON:

65A: Q-V link (RSTU). The Richter scale really shook up this area, apparently, as we also find here ENOL, MCCOYS, TERP, and RETHREW.
95D: Preliminary exam: Abbr. (QUAL)

Finally, although it's tempting to try to craft such a thing, we're not (at least for now) instituting a HAFDTNYTCPFCA scale, we're just going to give you an overall feeling. The theme is interesting and well done, the triple-checked squares cause a little strain here and there, but it's not too bad, and overall, I give it a thumbs up.

- Horace

p.s. Frannie says "I wanted to put 'delicious' in for 'Like bourbon,' but it doesn't fit."
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7:49

I have learned over lo these many years of puzzling that seeing Ms. Weintraub's byline means we're going to get a high quality themeless puzzle, and today's does not disappoint. In fact, this has been one of my favorite weeks of blogging in quite some time.

First off, is it possible that STKITTS and NEVIS were the seed entries for the puzzle? Or was it simply happenchance that they could fit in so neatly near each other as the rest of the puzzle came together? I thank my unhealthy interest in Sporcle quizzes for my knowledge of tiny Caribbean North American island countries.

I love how all the long answers in this grid intersect. SCHNITZEL (such a lovely crunchy word) meeting STRINGTHEORY, crossing CONTOURMAP and INNERPEACE. So excellent.

The NW section also has a primer on the difference between QMC and non QMC clues. At 17A: Car owner's manual? (STICKSHIFT) is a classic QMC. Here the trickiness is the alternate meaning of the word "manual," from a how-to book to an adjective describing the gearshift mechanism. On the other hand, at 20A: One might get stuck in an office (POSTITNOTE) is tricky only in that the word "one" is referring to an object rather than a person.

On the whole, I enjoy the non QMC clues better, because they don't alert you to the presence of trickiness, making the "aha" moment more enjoyable. For example, 8D: Giraffe's sound? (SOFTG) was a gimme because of the question mark. Whereas in the past, I have been repeatedly fooled by this kind of clue. Or maybe I've just gotten wise to their sneaky ways. Those sneaky sneaky crossword constructors!

Finally, my favorite clue and answer came at 48A: Unlucky phrase to end on (HELOVESMENOT). That's fun stuff.
- Colum
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8:59

Pretty much an all around outstanding themeless puzzle today, in my humble opinion. I broke in with 3D: One might sense bitterness (TASTEBUD), and knew we were in for a fun time.

It was a playground for our favorite kind of clue, the non-question mark tricky kind. Just a few to note here: 5A: Trip ... or start a trip (SETOFF) - nice because I was definitely not thinking of that first definition of triggering as an alarm. 15A: Toy in a purse, perhaps (POODLE) - really outstanding. My mind was way far away from that as an answer. And how about 12D: Frequent losers at casinos (DEUCES)? Hah! I love it.

I almost forgot one of the best! 26D: They always proceed in a biased way (BISHOPS) - referring to the chess pieces, I assume. I hope. Or maybe it's a veiled commentary? I won't walk down that garden path.

The QMCs were less enjoyable, or maybe my opinion is colored by the unpleasantness at 26A. 46A: Diamond in the rough? (SANDLOT) is pretty good.

The long intersecting answers in the middle are all pretty good. I like SENIORPRANK and DEPECHEMODE, and any reference to LENAHORNE is a winner in my book.

Finally, two other references make this puzzle my favorite of the week so far. The first is to that classic of slapstick humor, Airplane! (TED). And of course, the greatest classical composer of all time gets a nod with 42D: B in music class? (BRAHMS). The other two Bs, Bach and Beethoven, are pretty good too. I guess.
- Colum
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