Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

My time: 40:23.  Another kicking around the clock, but I took him down in the end.

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Love those long answers --- MI CASA ES SU CASA, I NEVER SAID THAT, ROMANTIC PERIOD, ICING ON THE CAKE.

I got stuck on a lot of tough, vague clues.  For "routine" I got stuck on the meaning of "well-known schedule" but it turned out to mean SHTICK.

"What Pérez Prado was King of" turns out to be THE MAMBO.  Always fascinating nickname trivia from Wikipedia: "He was nicknamed "El Cara de Foca" ("Seal Face") by his peers at the time."  King of the Mambo is a better nickname.  Because I'm not exactly a Mambo King myself, I initially had *THE MAMBA.

A DIODE is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts primarily in one direction, so "current director" is pretty clever!

Here's IAN Somerhalder of 'The Vampire Diaries."  I really don't watch a lot of TV.

Ohm's Law states that the current, measured in AMPS, through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points.  So much electricity in this puzzle.

"Humiliating defeats" is the stupid ROMPS, not the *ROUTS it ought to be.  For "fish preserved in olive oil" I had *HERRING but it's SARDINE.

A cardioid figure is shaped like a fat heart, which has a lot of ARCs.  Watch the Wikipedia animated example.

"Label producer" is AVERY, a company that make self-adhesive labels.

Mo King UDALL, "longtime Arizona politician," I vaguely remember for the bit of trivia that he was briefly on the Denver Nuggets.

ESA-Pekka Salonen is a name I won't remember ten minutes from now, probably.

"Chamber of commerce?" is SHOP; that's pretty weak wordplay.

I never heard of Miami (resident: MIAMIAN) being called "Capital of Latin America," but there we are.

Clever, ambiguous clues abound: "gross" is EARN, not an adjective.  "It might have a tent sale" is REI.  "Old ball and chain?" is MACE.  "Small square" is ONE.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

My time: 28:44.  Yikes!

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This one knocked me around for nearly half an hour!  It wasn't the (very clever and fun) theme, which I sussed out relatively early; it was a few spots of quite tough fill!

The theme, which I love, is that starred clues take a UEY (which I originally wrote as the more common *UIE.  That is, the run forward, then move down and backwards.  This means that the clue below must not only be sensical fill, it must complete the phrase from above.  So you get, for example, PRIVATE LINES, appearing as PRIVAT above SENILE.  This was the first themed answer I got, suspecting something like a reversal from the start (though not dreaming it would take up two lines of fill).  Other themed clues include TATTLETALE, appearing as TATTL above ELATE; TWO-TIME LOSER, appearing as TWOTIM above RESOLE; and the cleverest of them all, STRIKES A BALANCE, appearing as STRIK above ABASE above LANCE.

A "connection provider, for short" is DSL, which we know, but do we know it stands for Digital Subscriber Line?  I didn't.

"Ragtime legend" EUBIE Blake probably lives on in the minds of more crossword solvers than music lovers.  "Eubie" is a nickname for Hubert.  Here is 91-year-old Eubie playing "Love Will Find a Way" in 1978.

Cigars should be kept MOIST?  What?  That's like, the opposite of what I would have thought.

I hate clues like "Perhaps ____" for NOT.  That's NOT any more of a discrete phrase than "you're right" or "maybe later."  They're just two words that go together when the occasion calls for it.

For "social gathering" I initially had *TEA; it's BEE.

I've been out of college so long that "tomorrow's jr." meant nothing to me.  I needed most of the crossfill for SOPH.

"Knight's need" is also vague.  *STEED?  *ARMOR?  *SWORD?  Ah, LANCE.

NORA Helmer, the protagonist of "A Doll's House," is a name I haven't heard in years.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: baseball player TRIS Speaker is someone I've never heard of, but he has some cool nicknames.  "The Grey Eagle" and (of his glove) "the place where triples go to die."  He also has the sixth best batting average of all time.
Also, ALAIN Prost, a race car driver.  (He was nicknamed "The Professor" for his intellectual approach to competition.)

Apparently moon rocks are mostly BASALT.  (And, I learned in researching this, "moon rocks" is also the name of some marijuana concoction.)

VEEPSTAKES?  Come on.  And MISCALL is a poker blunder?  I was trying to put in some sort of tell.  But what's a miscall?  You either call or you don't.

Michael O'KEEFE is an actor noted for his role in The Great Santini, which I guess I should watch.

Clever clues: "Head lines, briefly?" is EEGS; "George I or V?" is SOFT G; "Boxer's concern" is FLEAS.  Har!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My time: 7:26, another new record!  It's been quite a week.

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I don't really understand the theme today.  Some clues have numbers in square brackets after them, which I finally realized meant that number of the alphabet, followed by its next letter.  So "things in jewel cases [3]" is CDS, and "creator of Hogwarts [10]" is J.K. ROWLING.  But why?  And why hint just the first letter?  Why not [3,4] for CDS? What's the point of it all, really?  There's not even a theme-connecting word like *ABCEDARY or something.

Anyhoo.  I lucked out on the speed with my familiarity with these particular clues: ANJOU for "pear variety," FENWAY for "Green Monster's ballpark," SWAMIS, Paul KLEE, ENOL for "hydroxyl group compound," STU Sutcliffe, WIM Wenders, etc.  It was an embarrassment of riches, if riches were things I have heard of before.

I've never heard of "bay rum," but I know witch hazel is AFTERSHAVE.

For "gloomy" I put *GLUM, but it was the better word DOUR.

SUVA is the capital of FIJI, which I'm not sure I could have answered given just a blank, but I solved it with crossfill.  In fact, I'm not sure I even looked at that clue.

I had heard, but has since forgotten, that UGLIs were named for their lumpy appearance.  That is an interesting bit of trivia.

I spelled Bausch & LOMB as Bausch & *LAUM at first.  (Why is their official web address bausch.com??  Are they trying to freeze poor Lomb out?  What will happen to Mrs. Lomb and all the poor little Lomblets??)

Paula ZAHN is another in a recent line of crossword news anchors (Erin Burnett, Ana Cabrera) whose names do not spring readily to mind.  Maybe I should watch more TV.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My time: 7:27, just 15 seconds too slow.

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A very fun theme this Tuesday, with each themed answer having not one but two of the same silent letter (WRONG ANSWER, GENGHIS KHAN, and CAMPAIGN SIGNS), with the bonus link SILENT PARTER ("nonactive member of a firm... or," the theme link, etc).

GORSE (scientific name Ulex, but commonly and much more funly known as furze, hoth, espinillo, or whin) is a thorny yellow plant that grows in dry conditions.  The clue is "vegetation along a British golf course," which I didn't know was a thing, but I guess it is.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: "Org. for the Big East, Big South and Big 12" is NCAA.  I guessed this early, knowing basically what the NCAA is, but it turns out it's for all kinds of sports.  I thought until now that the NCAA was only about basketball.  I don't know why I thought this, but the Wikipedia article supports this misconception: "In 2014, the NCAA generated almost a billion dollars in revenue. 80 to 90% of this revenue was due to the Division I Men's Basketball Tournament."

I know Erik SATIE about as well as I know any European composer, but I wasn't aware that he was famous for his piano works, "The Gymnopédies."

Susan SONTAG was an author and political activist.  Her novel In America is a fictionalized account of a real Polish actress' rise to stardom.  And apparently she plagiarized a few passages!  Tsk.

ERIN Burnett is a quite famous new anchor on CNN with her own show, but I've never heard of her.  I don't watch much TV.

K.T. OSLIN is an '80s country singer, with hits such as "Clean Your Own Tables," "Younger Men (Are Startin' To Catch My Eye)," "80s Ladies," and "Money."  Not really my thing.

I wish DR. LAURA would at long last develop some sense of shame and just go crawl under a rock.

The MORGAN Library in New York City, founded, of course, by Pierpoint Morgan, has lots of art treasures and rare books.

"Boxster maker" puzzled me.  What the heck is a Boxster?  And why is it spelled so funny?  I realized I had some dim memory that it was a car, and the crossfill got me PORSCHE.

I answered "main ore of lead" quickly with GALENA because that answer appeared last week as a clue.

"Dickens girl" Little NELL is the main character of the The Old Curiosity Shop.  She is beatific and good and dies young. Whoops, spoiler alert.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

My time: 4:30, another new record!

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The theme is pretty thin --- just some color and body phrases like WHITE KNUCKLED, GREEN-EYED, and YELLOW-BELLIED --- but it's nice to have some extra hint once it clicks.

There was nothing in this puzzle that gave me trouble AT ALL.

Can we have a moratorium on mentioning THE DONALD except to subtly mock him?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

My time: 24:28, a new record!  Woo.

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I pretty early on cottoned on to the theme --- a fairly complex one where part of an answer must be read in a "circle" of four squares looping back to the above row, backwards, then down and re-using the letters from before to complete the phrase.  The first one I got was BEVERAGE ROOM (reads as BEVEROOM), which made UNDER ONE ROOF (reads as UNDEROOF) fall into place because I was already thinking that had to be the answer to "all together, as a family" even though it didn't fit.
  • Update: the loops all start with ER.  SupER LoopER!  I didn't even notice that.

Never heard of the painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador," but I knew with a title like that it had to be DALI.

South American plains" are LLANOS?  What happened to *PAMPAS?

Look, if I don't know anything at all about baseball or football, how am I supposed to have heard of ESA Tikkanen?  Also Karen ENKE.  I'll try to remember you guys, but it's probably a lost cause.  See you in a future puzzle.

The SULU Sea lies within the Philippines, between Borneo and Visayas.  Fun fact: The "Star Trek" character Mr. Sulu was named for the Sulu Sea.

Woamn "who swam the English Channel in 1926:" Gertrude EDERLE.  She was 21 when she did that.  She wasn't very elderly!  Ha?  Ederle.  Hm.

"Altar constellation:" ARA.  Never heard of it.  Fun fact: In ancient Greek mythology, Ara was identified as the altar where the gods first made offerings and formed an alliance before defeating the Titans.

In all, I loved this puzzle.  The things I didn't know were still eminently guessable.  (What other Roman philosopher is there besides SENECA?  Who would Homer exchange cross words with but LISA?  I may not know who Mahmoud Abbas is, but it sounds like he may be the head of the PLO.  Etc.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

My time: 27:38.

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This was tough!

How many people are familiar with "Por UNA Cabeza," a 1935 tango?  Now let's not all raise our hands at once.

Crossword mainstay ARN is the son of Prince Valiant, which I knew, but not well enough to write out his name without some crossfill help.  According to Wikipedia, "The infant Prince Arn was named after the friend of Val’s youth, Prince Arn of Ord."  The latter, elder Arn was Val's quondam rival for the maid Ilene, until she died.  Then they were buddies!  Yay!

The YAZOO isn't just a street where there was a scandal, but a tributary of the Mississippi.  More interestingly, it was named for a now-extinct tribe who lived on its banks, the Yazoo.  They were annihilated by the French and their other native allies after the Yazoo attacked a fort.

Never heard of John von NEUMANN, but he's one of those Hungarian super-geniuses who pioneered many fields, including computer science.  He also first proposed the theory of global warming, predicted the structure of DNA, worked on the Manhattan Project, and on and on.

Here's where everyone got annoyed: "school of whales" required GAM, not *POD.  A gam is also when two whaling ships exchange information, per Moby-Dick.

Hey, it's MAUNA KEA again!  It's not just the tallest mountain in Hawaii; it's the tallest mountain in the world, if you include the underwater part.

Cars I don't know: the Chevy NOVA and the Chevy AVEO (ugh).

For "beseeach," instead of ADJURE, I had *ABJURE, which means to give up or renounce.

Objection: SEARS is not a "retail giant" any more.

Other objection: "Peter Fonda's role in Easy Rider?"  Really?  Who remembers that? There isn't a better clue for WYATT?  Ugh!

I was not fooled by "Celsius, for one" and knew they were trying for SWEDE; I know Parker POSEY, queen of the indies, quite well; I have heard of the movie DR. T and the Women, so the traps others fell in didn't hurt me much.  Still, this was a slog.

Clever clues: "Sound from a silencer:" SHH.  (I thought it might be *PHT?)

Friday, September 22, 2017

My time: 40:23 .  Another kicking around the clock, but I took him down in the end. -- Love those long answers --- MI CASA ES SU CASA, I...