I haven't enjoyed a debut entry as much as COSMIC JOKE in ages. Not only is it a beautiful, existentialist, Vonnegutesque term, but I struggled so mightily with the -MICJ- string in the middle. It had to be wrong. Had to, had to, had to! What a joy to finally piece it together, sitting back and admiring the awesome entry.
HOSTESS TWINKIES and HOT PEPPER EMOJIS made for delicious feature entries. I know the former is bad for me. But gosh darn it, they're so satisfying. Especially when deep-fried. Twice. The latter wasn't entirely familiar to me, as I'm still not much of an emoji user. Aren't there a million emojis these days? Doesn't it seem arbitrary to choose these specific ones to feature? There's probably some hilarious special meaning to HOT PEPPER EMOJIS (that all the kids are giggling at me for not knowing).
Along with some MC ESCHER, SEA SNAKE, TINKERER, GREENLIT, there were enough strong entries to keep me happy.
Brad's Saturday Stumpers and themelesses in general are some of my most favorite and most feared puzzles. (That's how I'll define "Wilberian" from now on.) He has such a wealth of information, being a librarian and all, that I always pick up something new from his puzzles. He's usually good about not introducing too much, making sure that all the learning doesn't turn off solvers.
Today, it was STANHOPE. I enjoyed reading up on it, basically an old-school term for a horse-drawn carriage, named after an old English dude. I'll tuck this term away for trivia nights. STANHOPE being the sole new term for me, the puzzle didn't come across as teachy.
COACH K might be tough for some, but the longtime Duke bball coach (you might go by COACH K too if your last name was Krzyzewski) is no doubt crossworthy. Five NCAA championships!
I enjoyed COSMIC JOKE so much that I thought about handing out the POW! based on that alone. But with some wastage in MAIN GATE, SYSTOLES, RECAST, IMARETS — all fine entries, but all paling in comparison to COSMIC JOKE — and a bit of CEE, TO BED, NAES, it didn't quite make it.
Kind of a COSMIC JOKE that COSMIC JOKE made everything else seem less interesting in comparison!
I still managed to enjoy this one even after my years of dentist-aversion therapy. (Not surprisingly, it hasn't worked out well for my teeth.) I admit it; I'm an anti-dentite! But I enjoyed the dentist making a good FIRST IMPRESSION (ha ha, remember when the dentist got my nightguard mold stuck in my mouth?), offering a BRIDGE LOAN (and when another charged me for extra procedures I didn't ask for!), and everyone's favorite … YOU KNOW THE (shudder) DRILL!
I'm sure Mark Diehl is shaking his head at me. Sorry Mark, I'm sure you're tons better than all the terrible dentists I've gone through.
BRUSH PILES … what's a brush pile? Apparently, it's … wait for it … a pile of brush! It seems that birds are attracted to them. I have no idea how this works, but now I'm eager to go try it out. With wood-type brush, that is, not dentist-type brushes.
Unique black square pattern, those chunks in the middle odd-looking. They did allow Sam to work in some very nice seven-letter bonus entries, PASSKEY, AIRCREW, WHISKAS, and … RESLIDE. Sam, really?! Sam often takes the "go big or go home" approach, and I don't mind seeing a bit of OYEZ and PLAT to get some very nice CRACK UP, AGILITY, GO KAPUT, OPUS DEI. It's just such a shame to fill a precious seven-letter slot with a baserunner going back to first and trying to RESLIDE back into second. Or something like that.
With some AGRI, ERST, LEK, MUS, TRE in there too, it was too much crossword glue for me overall. But I do like how much snazzy bonus material Sam jammed in. Not sure why WHISKAS makes me CRACK UP, but it does.
Love the SOFA clue — [Loose change "collector"] feels Donaldson-esque. Nice to get a little of a constructor's personality in his/her puzzle.
I still have a long way to go in getting over my anti-dentite ways, and Sam's inspired me to try harder. I know the drill …
Sound-change puzzle, H- to CH- used for kooky effect. I got some smiles from IM OUT OF HERE becoming IM OUT OF CHEER. Funny to think about a cheerleader running out of juice on the sideline. Took me a while to realize that CHEESE SO FINE was derived from HES SO FINE — apparently an oldie from the Chiffons? — but I had a laugh thinking about CHEESE SO FINE as a marketing slogan posted at a deli.
ARTIFICIAL HEART to CHART didn't do as much for me, but humor is subjective. (Perhaps it reminds me too much of a slide presented at one of my wife's old jobs, where this finance guy — no joke — flipped his chart upside down halfway through his presentation when he realized he wasn't making sense.) And HANES UNDERWEAR to CHAINS UNDERWEAR … the base phrase feels slightly contrived in order to fit the puzzle.
I really liked the huge spelling changes though — neat how each of the base words becomes something so different, rather than just tacking on the letter C, i.e. HAT to CHAT.
Sam and Doug are two of my favorite people in the crossworld (Doug was in Seattle a month ago; always a treat to see him in person; somehow we found ourselves way out in Kent, WA at 1 in the morning, don't ask), and their fun spirits usually show up in their puzzles. Today, we get GEEZ / ZILLION, TABLOID, HAIR GEL, and SHAM WOW! Not an OFF DAY at all; great bonuses right in line with their personalities.
A bit of a missed opportunity to clue NOT ME as that ghost Dolly and Jeffy blame on everything in Bil KEANE's "The Family Circus." Ah, Jeffy, that little scamp! (How is it that TFC is still in print?) I'd bet that Sam or Doug, if not both of them, thought of that while cluing.
Nice clue pair in OHIO and PERU both homes of Lima (Lima, Ohio being the lesser-known of the two cities, of course).
All of this executed so smoothly, with just an ANON here and an ASST there. Super minor dabs of crossword glue.
I always look forward to seeing these guys' byline, and today was no exception. Entertaining solve.
Kooky interpretations of "common" lines from news reporters, i.e. FILM AT ELEVEN referring to what happens if you take your film canister to a one-hour place at 10. (Do those still exist, BTW?)
I liked the themers that involved 1.) big changes in meaning, and 2.) very common lines heard on TV. BREAKING NEWS was the standout for me, in that it's flashed onto news shows all the time, plus BREAKING is changed in meaning from "just happened" to "cracking into pieces." Fun one.
DETAILS ARE SKETCHY is entertaining when referring to an actual courtroom artist, but I have a tough time believing that this line is used often enough to be common. And TRAFFIC AND WEATHER is a great phrase heard all the time, but the clue doesn't change its meaning at all. So some of these themers didn't work very for me.
Interesting bonus fill in SPOONERISM and THE JONESES, both colorful. I did hitch on both, since they're longer than THE LATEST and BACK TO YOU, which are themers — I scratched my head for the longest time, trying to figure out how THE JONESES was thematic. That's a common problem with running long bonus fill in the across direction. Yes, solvers like me really ought to be able to pick out the theme answers by the cluing, but I still find the layout inelegant.
I did like a lot of the vertical bonus fill though, with the GIMME FIVE / ASIA MINOR / LAST PLACE a great triple in the southwest. Almost 100% worth the price of IN AS, ERES, and MIS for me — if only there hadn't already been two other inelegant partials throughout the grid, AS NO and ON AT. So maybe 95% worth it to me.
I generally like Sam's "kooky interpretations of regular phrases" puzzles, but given some of the issues I brought up above, I didn't like this one as much as some of his others.
Few people make me laugh like Sam. His self-deprecating humor makes him one of my very favorite people in the crossworld. I can't tell you how hard I laughed when Sam posted a series of comments from haters about one of his puzzles ... followed by "Sharpen your pencil and come see what all the accolades are about!" Dang, I love him.
Today, he gives us some BROKEN BONES after a SLIP AND FALL, using sets of diagonal black squares to represent breaks. I like how he used longish entries in which he hid his bones, TRUE LIFE and MURKIER making for a great pair to hide FE/MUR. Fun to get a few colorful entries right in the middle of the puzzle among all those theme answers, with GOTTI, RUMBA, BALDY. (One of my favorite moments at the ACPT this year was having breakfast with Sam and Doug Peterson, all three of us middle-aged (but young at heart) baldies.)
It was slightly confusing to see UL/NA/TI/BIA all "connected," but it was kind of cool how much themage Sam packed into the center of the puzzle. Four bones and eight answers is very tough to squeeze into just seven rows! Okay, I didn't like HAS AC as a theme answer — pretty arbitrary — but RESTFUL and NATTERED are fun.
Given how much Sam packed in — the eight central answers plus SLIP AND FALL and BROKEN BONES — it's a pretty smooth grid. Some NOM DE (inelegant partial), EIS (deep German), ACAD (abbr.), ROSAS (plural name or deep Spanish) is pretty good, given the constraints. And to get bonuses in CALCUTTA, SILENT I, BLABBER, GUNNER, SUN RA, is much appreciated.
I think there's something tying the four bones together — very common ones that break upon a SLIP AND FALL? — but that seemed a little macabre. Not sure that older people who've slipped and fallen want to be reminded of it. Still, a fun implementation, seeing those bones "break" across those sharp diagonal black lines.
Some fun results in Sam's sound changes. I particularly like the ones involving 1.) an interesting spelling change, 2.) a strong base phrase, and 3.) a humorous result. TRICKY DICTION is my favorite, hitting all three criteria. ("Tricky Dick" is one of Nixon's nicknames.) BONUS TRACTION (from "bonus track") works great as well — the resulting phrase makes me picture a group of MBAs at a tire company, brainstorming new ad campaigns.
SWEET N LOTION is a fun spelling change with a good base phrase ("Sweet ‘N Low"), but the result feels stilted, as it feels like it should be "sweets" (plural) in order to make it work. BASE TENSION is a funny phrase, but simply adding SION to BASE TEN feels a bit simple.
Some nice gridwork, those big NE / SW corners containing some colorful answers. It's tough enough to execute on a triple stack of eight-letter answers, but when you "turn the corner" and have to work with three more long answers intersecting the stack, it's even harder. I love NOT UP TO IT, and AND SO DO I is pretty good. I wonder if NORA DUNN's career has really made her gridworthy? And STAYS MAD felt a touch arbitrary at first, but upon further thought, it seems legit — not nearly as strong as HOLDS A GRUDGE, but it works.
In the opposite corner, I love CINERAMA and CHATROOM. NET INCOME and ROSSANO felt more neutral than positive to me, but executing on such a big space without resorting to a bunch of crossword glue is pretty darn good. ELOAN is marginal, but it is a real company.
A few dabs of crossword glue here and there, but it's all pretty minor — the usual ALC, LEROI, ENDY, SHA, UNAS kind of stuff. And Sam does a nice job of incorporating some bonuses throughout the grid: TANK TOP, TIMESINK, the cool name TRE COOL, even the fun (and tough to spell) ABSCISSA.
All in all, it's enough for me to give Sam a ten (tion).
I always learn something new from Brad's puzzles, and today was no different. I always smile at Sam's goofiness shining through his puzzles, and again, today was no different. Great combination these two bring us today, entries from all walks of life. Very cool to get such a wide range, from the RIG VEDA and DAWN RAID all the way to SIPPY CUPs and OUR GANG.
There's a ton of entries/clues I was unfamiliar with, so I'll explain them:
I like that Sam and Brad were careful with their crossings. With so much material that felt unfamiliar to me, they still managed to assemble the grid in such a way that I was able to successfully finish. SPIEGEL / VIZSLA / RIGVEDA was almost a guess, but other options like SPIETEL or SPIEGEF just didn't seem as much of a recognizable name as SPIEGEL.
Loved two clues:
Just on the edge of too much crossword glue for my taste in INST, PORTO (tough to clue any other way), EER, ALOP, etc. but a great variety of entries to tickle all parts of my brain.
Sam Donaldson is the man. Excuse me — The Man. (Whichever is the good one.) We finalized the last revisions for this puzzle during the 2015 ACPT, where Sam provided no end of entertainment with his crazy bets. 70-1 odds that he could pick seven names, one of which would win the ACPT? Sure, he'll put $10 on that! (He won.) 300-1 odds that Lynn Lempel didn't write Puzzle #5? Heck yeah, he put $10 on that too! (He won that as well.)
He was able to go back home and tell his wife that he won an easy $20. But man oh man, was he sweating it when 1.) Kiran Kedlaya showed up, finishing fourth and 2.) Puzzles 1-4 were NOT written by Lynn Lempel. I would have paid Will pretty much any sum of money for him to announce that Lynn wrote Puzzle #5.
Writing a puzzle with Sam is almost as fun as watching him squirm. Good times, good times.
P.S. Grid was pretty hard — trying to figure out how to squeeze in all those long, turning answers was a bear. But once I hit on SHOW ME THE MONEY intersecting PAID THROUGH THE NOSE, it was only a matter of (many dozens of) hours after that.
P.P.S. I've fixed up the answers so they appear in the database correctly — SNOOKERC to SNOOKERCUE and CUE to RIGHTONCUE, e.g. Hope everyone figured out that the "RIGHT ON, RIGHT ON!" title was a good hint!
I always enjoy hearing Sam's voice come through in his puzzles. Today brings us such nice colloquial clues: ["I'm right here, you know"] for AHEM and ["Am I the only one …"] for IS IT ME. Also great to get OH FUN, something I can imagine Sam saying.
Onto the puzzle! Sam interprets HIGHER POWER as "phrases containing NTH; those three letters get raised above the answer." The bizarre-looking ALLIEFAMILY is actually ALL IN THE FAMILY, with the answer turning up, heading right, jogging back SW, and finishing out. Some nice themers, with ELEVENTH HOUR and EVENT HORIZON both strong.
(Minor ding for NTH and ELEVENTH being too similar for my taste.)
Pretty good execution considering the difficulties of filling around those themers. When you fold answers up like this, it creates many constraints in the crossings. The area around ELEVENTH HOUR is actually quite good, with the snappy PEA SHOOTER (I do like NEW SHOOTER as well) and CRIES UNCLE worked in there. Including those parallel long downs makes that region even tougher to fill cleanly and zestily, so only a NEG and an ATCO (and the arbitrary-ish AGE ONE) is a win.
The areas around the other two themers didn't come out quite as well, with the odd ENISLE up top and STOL (short take-off and landing) down below. Still, that's not bad considering how tough it is to work with these folded types of answers.
Some great clues:
I did like seeing those NTHs raised one row, but I didn't quite buy HIGHER POWER as a solid rationale for the serpentine path each themer took. I'm probably taking it too literally, but to me, HIGHER POWER might have been NTH sitting on top of SQUARE and CUBE — powers of two and three — or FIRE, WILL, SOLAR and other different types of powers. It was fun to scratch my head as I tried to figure out the trick, though.
What a perfect start to the puzzle; a clever doubling up of the phrase "court battle" in cluing two adjacent entries. LAWYER UP is a great enough answer in itself, but when paired with ONE ON ONE and a completely different meaning of "court battle," that duo becomes a real standout. The fact that Sam is a law professor is icing on the cake.
Tough to fill those big 4x8 corners. I absolutely love what Sam did with the lower right, working in FIRE CODE, WAIT WHAT? and HAS A COW so smoothly. Very impressive.
Although I loved the LAWYER UP / ONE ON ONE pairing, I wasn't so hot on the LOGE / E STREET crossing, as I was unable to pull out the word LOGE from my addled brain. O STREET seemed reasonable enough. And ANOS certainly isn't terrible, but for a themeless grid, the singular ANO is minor and the plural ANOS is somewhat less minor.
Anyone else stymied by [Subject to a hissy fit]? I glossed over the clue, reading "subject" as a noun instead of a verb. FREAK OUT ON makes a lot more sense if you think of the latter meaning.
Some really strong entries, the colorful I DIDN'T DO IT, MASS EXODUS, even the shortie but goodie LES MIZ. I personally like to see the (assets - liabilities) quantity at 10 or more, so the appearance of some of the usual suspects (NES, DOA, ISAO, PSS, etc.) as well as the oddity of UNTAME brought that result to a level not quite as high as I like to see.
Still though, I find it a lot of fun to get a constructor's personality and tastes showing through, and that opening pair was a perfect example.
★ Wait! Wasn't yesterday's puzzle the POW!? I had such a tough time choosing between yesterday's and today's puzzle that I decided to reject the Tyranny of Or.
Such an entertaining Sunday puzzle (and timely, given American Pharoah's historic Triple Crown win on Saturday)! Stories connect people over the generations, so I like it when my crossword spins a tale, entertaining me from the start to finish. Sam takes common calls heard in horse racing and puts on a wordplay twist with appropriate horse names. The tale of Ace Detective taking the EARLY LEAD, all the way to Inseam winning BY A LENGTH = I was amused the whole way through.
Nice job on the longer fill, too. It's unusual to see fill as long as TEMPORARY TATTOOS and ONE AFTER THE OTHER, which is too bad — they add so much to the solving experience. A bunch more long guys in DUTCH OVEN, MCDONALDS, OYE COMO VA, and DYSLEXICS similarly enhance the solve.
Interesting that this is a 142-word grid, higher than Will's usual maximum of 140. I did notice that there seemed to be more short words than usual, especially in the middle of the puzzle, but it didn't bother me too much. Once in a while I think allowing 142 or even 144 is perfectly fine if it allows for something special in the theme or for cleaner fill.
Speaking of cleaner fill, Sam did a pretty good job here. But if it meant getting rid of things like RSTU, TO HOE, OROS and OKLA/AUST so near to each other, I think I'd fine going up to 144 words. An additional pair of cheater squares to smooth things out would be fine with me too.
Loved these clues:
Often I find the large Sunday format a little tedious since it takes so long to solve, but the story here kept me very entertained. I'd love to see more storybook crosswords like this.
A fun solve from two of my favorite people in crosswordland. Typically themelesses contain slots for 12-16 long entries (eight letters or more), as it's too difficult to work in more than that without generating compromises in fill.
Not today! An amazing 20 long slots. It took me some study to figure out the engineering behind this one. It all starts from the upper left and lower right regions, which "turn the corner" into L-shapes — so daunting to fill. A total of 12 long slots in just those two corners alone!
With so many long slots, the conversion ratio (assets to total long entries) doesn't have to be as high as usual. Heck, if you put neutral words in eight of the slots, you still end up with 12 nice entries.
So how do they do? I love entries like KIDS MEAL, TIME SAVER, SMELL TEST, DIXIECRAT, IM UP FOR IT — all colorful and/or vivid chunks of language. Others like SNARLS AT, LISTENED, ADORATION, LETTUCES aren't as nice, as they provide filler for everyday conversation. And the ACE AWARD seems to me nearly a liability, given the clue which further emphasizes how outdated it is.
Overall, I'd say about 11-12 of the entries are excellent; a decent number of assets — more than enough to balance out the just a few liabilities like ASST and ENL (maybe SNERT too, although I always had a soft spot for him). Solid puzzle.
The coup de grace was the clue [Noted employee of Slate]. Surely that had to be someone working at the online zine Slate? No, it was Mr. Slate, Fred Flintstone's employer at the quarry. Such a clever misdirection.
Puzzles with short theme entries like ETHE/ELM/MERTZ are not for the faint of heart constructor, because using up your shot slots means you'll be required to incorporate a lot of long fill. To make things even harder, any time you have themers crossing each other (in this case, a quasi-Z-shaped arrangement) the surrounding fill is going to be a challenge due to relatively heavy constraints. Sam lays out his grid very well, spacing apart each of the seven themers so that there's not much overlap between any two. Notice how you could work on any one theme region without influencing any other too much? That's excellent use of black squares to create separation.
I really like what he did around ETH/ELM/ERTZ. To run FULL TILT, IN SPIRIT, and STEEL TRAP through that precarious region is strong work, especially considering the lack of glue required to pull it off. The other regions are also pretty good, although each tends to show minor signs of stress, an OMN here (in pharma development, "QD" is what we used; Dr. Denny-wife confirms OMN is unusual), a DSO there, a NOP loitering like a NOP-goodnik. That's to be expected with these constraints — note that these little offenders occur right at the heart of Z-bends.
I liked the general theme idea, but I think my stupid brain is preventing me from fully appreciating it. Jim explained it as the answers moving right and dropping down for a TIMBER! wordplay moment before continuing right. I can buy that, and it works better for me after I thought about it for a while. But my noggin can't get over the idea of a tree toppling over, not falling straight down like a building being demolished. I aspire to Jim's more flexible big-picture way of interpreting the world — he has always been better than me at seeing the forest for the trees.
(insert groan here)
Overall, a smooth puzzle, with just a little glue to hold sections together. A lot of great long fill like ONION RINGS and AS EASY AS ABC — well worth hitting the "Analyze" button below to see how much great long stuff Sam worked in. He has quite a few themelesses under his belt, and I bet that experience helped immensely with this grid.
Using short theme entries can be tricky. FEDORA and HELMET are such shorties that they risk getting lost among the fill. That wasn't an issue today since it became clear that there were reversed entries, but it did confuse me that the center across entry, DAYBOOK, wasn't part of the theme. I kept on wondering what type a KOOBYAD was, or what I had entered incorrectly. It would have been nice to have EIPKROP (PORKPIE) in that slot, with a current clue to Heisenberg's headgear in "Breaking Bad," for example. Incorporating one more themer would have been more work and potentially necessitated a little crossword glue, but I think it would have been worth it.
I always like seeing a constructor's personality come through, and maybe Sam's work shines to me in this way because he's one of the first constructors I met in person? The puzzle channeled Sam with OH BOY!, and LLB (Sam's a lawyer specializing in tax law) and even [Atlanta-to-Charleston dir.] was a nice nod to his recent move to GA. But the best is the clue for IRS — "Many Unhappy Returns" indeed! I really enjoy these inside looks.
Pretty nice grid, with just one spot that felt a bit wonky to me. As much as I love MIXOLOGIST, it constrains the west section quite a bit. Along with HELMET and YARMULKE, it forces three glue bits into place: TASSE, A RIDE, ERICK (who?). Perhaps there could be a better combination there with MIXOLOGIST in place, but perhaps a less snazzy entry there could have smoothed things out to better overall effect.
Very fun solve. I tip my tah to you, sir!
Neat theme, a bit easy for a Wednesday, as all theme answers were readily inferable once the trick became apparent. I like what Sam's done to make the puzzle harder: look at those big NW and SE corners. Typically rows 1, 2, 14, and 15 get split up into three entries a piece, because using only two entries a piece produces a much more difficult filling challenge. I wasn't a huge fan of some of the short stuff required to do it (ERG, ORU = Oral Roberts U, AST, IRR, and the awkward TYE), but it sure was nice to get some long fill in unusual places. NO HASSLE is such a fantastic opening to the puzzle! That's the kind of 1-across I aspire to.
Today's fill falls in the camp of "let some ugly stuff by in order to achieve some snazzy fill." Man oh man did I like the SW corner: I mean, MY GOSH, OLD NAG next to a SKI BUM with its awesome double-acting clue? Please sir, I want some more! I did hitch a few times though, especially at the randomISH XOX and ugly-looking SSGTS, in addition to the aforementioned short stuff.
Hard to say which philosophy is best, the ultraclean-but-sometimes-lifeless or the zany-with-some-uggos (I don't think there's a clear right or wrong). The XOX section is a perfect example: I hadn't heard of the AXION, and I really appreciated learning something about that particular particle. But was it worth the price of XOX, the partial A SOU, and the chance that solvers will put in OXION/OZOWA or the like? I probably wouldn't have made the same decision as Sam/Will, but that's what's great about a daily puzzle with such a variety of constructors: if you don't like this trade-off, come back tomorrow and you'll get something different.
Off to make myself a banana split, which I'm pretty sure Sam and his puzzle are implicitly giving me permission to do.
Sam used to blog daily over at Crossword Fiend and managed to write entertaining pieces every day for about two years while reviewing the CrosSynergy puzzles. One of his best features was "Guess the Constructor", where he ranked three guesses, trying to match the puzzle's grid and cluing vibe to one of the CrosSynergy regulars. If I were to play that game with this week's seven puzzles, I think I could have picked out Sam's in a heartbeat. It's a puzzle chock-full of Donaldson personality, and for that I give it the POW.
Fun theme with a catchy revealer, working on a deeper level than usual "add-a-letter(s)" themes by adding HIS and HERS to each of two phrases. I appreciated Sam's effort to incorporate the HIS and HERS at the ends of the first two theme entries and at the beginnings of the last two. Thoughtfulness like that makes for an elegant execution.
More importantly, all aspects of the puzzle scream SAM DONALDSON! and I love it (yes, I'm biased, but what are you going to do). Sam and I have both been known to 1.) titter at juvenile jokes and 2.) enjoy greasy food, so the base phrases HEY BABY and BACON FAT made me reminisce of the good old days when Sam still lived in Seattle. You throw in I CHOKED, I RAISE right next to each other, the "No acting up!" clue for BE GOOD, "Jeez Louise!" for MAN, and "End of a lame pickup line" for OFTEN and you have yourself a Donaldson signature. BTW, it's a good thing Sam and I are both married because we'd be those two pathetic guys at the end of the bar poking each other, saying, "No, YOU go talk to her!" while giggling a la "Dumb and Dumber".
To be sure, this puzzle isn't without its flaws. I debated for a long time whether to disqualify the puzzle for POW contention solely based on the NIDI/HSIA area, but eventually all the great stuff won me over. And I do like the pairs of stacked 10's in the NE and SW corners, but the trade-off of having a lot of three-letter abbreviations (SYL sticking out) and acronyms made me wonder whether it would have been better to break up COHABITANT and YOU ARE HERE for cleaner fill, especially if it could mean improving the NIDI/HSIA region.
But overall, this puzzle gave me a tremendous smile. Full of personality and enjoyment. Can't wait to see Sam at the ACPT in 2014.