Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 19, 2019

My time: 6:03, not great but two minutes faster than average.

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A timeless question plagues today's constructor David Alfred Bywaters: TO BE / OR NOT / TO BE.  Or, to put it another way, two B or not two B.  This means that in the puzzle, the letter B is added or removed from one of four well-known phrases and then clued literally.

In the two B's department, "one who cheats on a weight-reduction plan" is DIETARY FIBBER.  And "one who's taking a polar vortex pretty hard?" is COLD SOBBER.   When one B is elimated, we get CHINESE CAN AGE ("heyday of taxis in Beijing?") and WE WAS ROBED ('defense against a charge of public nudity?"), both genuinely funny.

GOYA has come up a few times, but I don't think we've looked at his Maja Vestida yet.

I like YAWNS for "they might precede 'well, we must be going.'"

For "fix up, for a building" I put *REFAB at first, because I don't think of REHAB as being a construction term.

IMPECUNIOUS is a great word, but I don't think it belongs in a Tuesday grid.

"Province between Man. and Que." is ONT.  A good mnemonic for the southern provinces west to east is "British Albert Sasses Man On Queen."

The Rock-OLA corporation was founded in 1927 and manufactured jukeboxes and later other machines like shuffleboard.  Two astounding bits of trivia about this company: it still exists, and its name is not some wannabe-hip fauxmanteau but is the name of its founder, David Rockola.  That's too crazy, man.

Clever clue: "Producer of the Jacksons?" is ATM.

This was a fun puzzle.  Challenging and education.  Well, seeya LTR.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 18, 2019

My time: 4:14.

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Leslie Rogers and Andrea Carla Michaels have graduation garb on the mind: three themed answers represent different types of CAP AND GOWN.  The first, "sleep well!" is NIGHT NIGHT.  That's to evoke both nightcap and nightgown, you know.  Next we have WHITE WEDDING, for whitecap and wedding gown.  Last and least immediately obvious is "vegetarian spaghetti topper" MUSHROOM BALL (a real thing!), for mushroom cap and ball gown.

Well done, ladies!  Will Shortz, why didn't you run this in late May?

PASEO appeared on March 1, 2018 as a leisurely evening stroll; today it's clued as "bullfighters' entrance march."

Clever clues: "Stocking stuffer?' is TOE.  "Big bang maker" is TNT.

This was a fun quick puzzle with an admirably complex theme.  Breaking the four-minute Monday continues to ELUDE me but it's NICE to see clever wordplay anyway.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 16, 2019

My time: 17:00.

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I enjoyed this challenging themeless by Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb.  It was a nice mixture of vague, playful clues and fun fill (PANSEXUAL, MANSCAPING, FLEX TIME), nothing really out of the ordinary --- just good smart puzzle construction.

The first clue that got me was "another moniker for the Empire City of the South."  Now we all know that New York is the Empire City.  But the Empire City of the South, it turns out, is Atlanta.  And another nickname that great city sports?  HOTLANTANo one calls it that!

Remember GO-BOTS?  I'm old enough to!  The Betamax of transforming robots.

For "couple seen on Raisin Bran boxes" I put *GLOVES but it's, duh, SCOOPS.  For some odd reason I was envisioning two gloved hands holding scoops, but it's the sun.

Walter LANG was a film director, known for The King and I, State Fair, and Cheaper By the Dozen (1950).

I don't remember ever hearing of SET, a game using 81 cards.  Each card contains four features: color (red, purple or green), shape (oval, squiggle or diamond), number (one, two or three) and shading (solid, striped or outlined), and players try to identify sets out of those qualities.

I figured that the 2004 autobiography The Soul of a Butterfly would be by Muhammad ALI (with his daughter).

I immediately thought GENIE for "someone who might say 'you wish!'" and discarded it.  But it's the answer, all right.  Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.  Why would a genie say that?

MONA Van Duyn published her first poetry collection, Valentines to the Wide World, in 1958, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991, and became the U.S. poet laureate in 1992.  But is her work good?

I have never seen any "Downton Abbey," so it's a surprise to me that Lady SYBIL Branson is the rebellious daughter on the show.  How?  Does she marry a commoner?  Or just live a party girl life?  Maybe one day I'll find out.

For "Italian hors d'oeuvre" I put *ANTIPASTO, which is just a translation, and happens to fit.  But it's asking for a particular type of antipasto --- CARPACCIO, thin slices of raw beef with lemon juice and capers.  Yum!

"What Homer used to propose to Marge" is such a terrific clue for ONION RING.  Love it.

Is that a PISTIL in your flower, or is it just happy to see me?  The pistil is composed of the stigma, style, and ovary.  The stigma is the sticky knob at the top of the pistil. It is attached to the long, tubelike structure called the style. The style leads to the ovary that contains the female egg cells called ovules. And that's the anther to your question about flowers.

Kitchen gadget brand OXO last appeared on April 17, 2017.

"Some prep school wear" is ETONS, which as we learned on November 7, 2017, can be either a cap or a collar.

Clever clues: "You may train to get in it" is SHAPE.  "Kite grippers" is TALONS.  "Scratch" is CANCEL.  "Bullish figure?" is MINOTAUR.  "Third character to appear in 'Macbeth'" is CEE, ha ha.  "It may be made into spears" is PICKLE.  "It points sharply down" is ICICLE.  "Bob's relative" is PIXIE CUT.  "How many Oscar acceptance speeches are delivered" really fooled me good --- I kept thinking of what number that could possibly be.  It's IN TEARS, is how.  "Whipper snapper?' is DOMINATRIX --- that's a good 'un. "Cover letters for certain applications?" is SPF.

What a well-done puzzle, fun and challenging!  It was just to my TASTE.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 15, 2019

My time: 16:34.

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Wyna Liu brings us this somewhat tough Friday themeless.  The grid holds a lot of long answers, and some pretty fresh fill, like CRAZY RICH ASIANS ("highest-grossing rom-com of the 2010s" --- so far, that is; aren't they still going on, technically?), CATFISHES ("misinterprets oneself to on the internet"), OWN IT ("not shy away from a potential embarrassment"), and OOPS SORRY.

"Titan, once" is OILER, as in the football team from Tennessee.  The Titans were originally from Houston, and kept the now less-relevant name Oilers until 1998.

The clue "keynote" for ORATE bugs me, because using "keynote" as a verb like that just sounds off.

The World Series of Poker takes place at the Las Vegas hotel THE RIO, owned by Caesar's.  I tried to fit in Binion's, because I only know out-of-date things.

New word alert: SPLINES, "thin strips used in building construction."  In mathematics it means a kind of function.

I haven't heard of "Decibel" magizine, but it sounds like it would be devoted to METAL.

Gwen IFILL, who died of cancer two years ago, was an American Peabody Award-winning journalist, television newscaster, and author. In 1999, she became the first African-American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program ("Washington Week in Review.")

"1/100 de un siglo" is AÑO.

I didn't know that the TONKA Toy Company gets its name from the Dakota Sioux word for "big," but that's a fun fact.  Their trucks used to be made of steel.  Now they're plastic.  We live in a plastic world of planned obsolescence.

Don PEDRO is a role in Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni."  Pedro is Commandant of Seville and Anna's father, and is sung by a bass. He is often listed as just "The Commandant" in the cast list.

WUSHU is Chinese for "martial arts" and an umbrella term, like Kung Fu, for any hand to hand fighting style.

Things you can't be expected to know and will never care about department: JACOB was the most popular boy's name in the U.S. from 199-2012.  That's nice, I guess?  Is it because of that Twilight saga?

For "be successful, informally" I put *WIN ALL DAY at first but it's WIN AT LIFE.

T-NUTS seems to come up a lot in the puzzle, but today is the first time we've been treated to T-SLOT, the opening where they fit inside.

The athlete named by "Sports Illustrated" as Olympian of the Century is Carl LEWIS, which is probably no surprise.

Khaleda ZIA was the first female Prime Minister of Bangladesh, serving from 1991-96 and again in 2001-06.  In February 2018, Zia was jailed for five years for corruption. She was found guilty of embezzling the funds for an orphanage trust set up when she was prime minister.

Clever clue: "Relief pitcher?" is ADVIL.

Despite this avalanche of new material to cover, I did pretty well on this.  It wasn't the MOSTEST best time ever, but I can SLEEP EASY.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 14, 2019

My time: 12:35.

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First off, this is not a Valentine's Day puzzle, and I feel robbed.  Come on!  Anyhoo, Jeff Chen and John E. Bennett teamed up to bring us this puzzle featuring anagram clues.  The clue "noted tenor" is DO NOT ENTER, "get speared" is STEEP GRADE, "door decals" becomes ROAD CLOSED, and "simple diet" rearranges to form SPEED LIMIT.

Why the anagrams?  Because they are... OUT OF ORDER SIGNS.  Also known as "some bathroom postings."  Well, isn't that a fun little game of letters!  Now where's my St. Valentine's theme you two clever little heathens!

I was told there would be no opera questions: Apparently Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera "Pagliacci" ("clowns") ends with the line "La commedia è finita!"  The answer given here is I PAGLIACCI ("the clowns"), but that seems to be the name of the film version and not the original opera.

I thought Matthew McConnegheyheyhey was great in Dallas Buyers Club but it's apparently Jared LETO who won the Oscar.

The first American car to offer seatbelts was the 1950 NASH Airflyte.  The NASH motor company pioneered some important innovations: in 1938 they debuted the heating and ventilation system which is still used today, unibody construction in 1941, seat belts in 1950, a US built compact car in 1950, and muscle cars in 1957.

Ilhan OMAR, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, is in the news a lot lately.  US politicians supporting Israel because they get money from PACs interested in Israeli influence?  No, I'm shocked, shocked.

I have never heard of the "classic cologne catchphrase" Can You CANOE?  It's for Canoe Cologne, which apparently originally had an acute mark over the e and was pronounced with three syllables.  Ugh.  It's still made today!  Who knew?

For "the planets, e.g." I put *NONAD and in desperation tried the misspelled *ENEAD before it became clear that I forgot about Pluto's demotion and it's OCTAD.

SIR Toby Belch in "Twelfth Night" is a hard-partying soul, the uncle to Olivia who tries to get her married.

I'm a "Seinfeld" fan, but still needed help remembering BABU ("you are a very bad man, Jerry!").

John 16:5: "But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither GOEST thou?"  Powerful stuff, this chapter.

I've heard the name OYSTERS Rockefeller many times, but what is it?  A dish of oysters covered with a mixture of spinach, butter, seasonings, and bread crumbs and cooked on the half shell.

Speaking of food, "candied" is GLACE.  It should have an accent on the e and be pronounced "glah-SAY," but it isn't.  In the culinary arts, the word glace refers to a thick, syrup-like reduction of stock which is in turn used to flavor other sauces. The word glace means "glaze" or "ice" in French and it is pronounced like "gloss."  Stupid culinary world.

Did you know RADON is heaviest of the noble gases?

I really should have remembered author LEW Wallace's name.  Did you know he was also a Union general, a governor, a lawyer, and diplomat?  A man of many talents.

Indiana's state flower the PEONY sprouted up on December 31, 2017.

The ANCHO pepper was discussed on February 10, 2018.
 
Clever clues: "Where to see two runners side by side" is SLED.  "Teeth not connected to jaws" is COGS.

Well.... BYE NOW.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 13, 2019

My time: 8:37.

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Ross Trudeau presents a puzzle that in my humble estimation is more impressive than fun.  Citing PLANETARY / ALIGNMENT, he constructs a grid in which five circled squares for Across answers running north to south along the center line: GESUNDHEIT, NO OVEN USE, HEARTHS, MARSUPIUM (more on that later), and TAKES A TURN ("rolls the dice and moves one's token").

See the hidden planets, lined up with the sun?  Of course you do.  Now what in God's green earth is a MARSUPIUM?  It is, as the clue suggests, a specialized pouch for carrying young.  Word of the day!  Use it in as many conversations as possible.

I thought of payment of bills when I read "I'll take care of that," so I put *ON ME, but it's really about accomplishing things, so it's ON IT.

Thank goodness someone finally had the courage to put ROOTY TOOTY in a New York Times crossword.

"Outer thigh stabilizers, in brief" is IT BANDS.  This is short for iliotibial band, a thick band of fibers that begins at the iliac crest (the border of the most prominent bone of the pelvis) in the pelvis and runs on the lateral part of the thigh until it attaches into the tibia. The glutes and the hip muscles join it, and the band acts to coordinate muscle function and stabilize the knee during running.

SAN Francisco we all know.  SAN Pedro is a community within Los Angeles and its pronounced "san pee-dro."

I'm ashamed that I did not know the name of Venezeula's president since 2013, NICOLAS Maduro, much in the news lately.

Here are two cities located on a bay: TAMPA, Florida, on Tampa Bay, and OSAKA, Japan, located on Osaka Bay.  Hmmm.  I sense a pattern.

There will never be a shortage of actors on TV that I do not know.  SARA Ramirez played Dr. Callie Torres on "Grey's Anatomy" for ten years and also plays Kat Sandoval on "Madame Secretary."

The USS Intrepid was an aircraft carrier that saw action in WWII and Vietnam.  Her notable achievements include being the recovery ship for a Mercury and a Gemini space mission. Because of her prominent role in battle, she was nicknamed "the Fighting I", while her frequent bad luck and time spent in dry dock for repairs (she was torpedoed once and hit by four separate Japanese kamikaze aircraft) earned her the nicknames "Decrepit" and "the Dry I".  She was decommissioned in 1982 and became the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.

Letter after X is not why but PSI, which comes after chi, written as X, as noticed on January 28.

California's MENLO Park last came up on October 18, 2018.

Clever clue: "What bugs are found in" is BETA.  "Bad eye sight?" is STYE.  "One who won't serve the average joe" is BARISTA.

Putting a grid like this together is no small feat, but it wasn't a thrill to solve.  The solar system bodies' names are hidden in other words, so once the theme became apparent, it was easy to plug in the planet names in the circled letters.  Anyway, nothing to RAGE about.  I'm not IN AN UPROAR or anything.  I just found this one a bit of a slog, despite its cleverness.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 12, 2019

My time: 5:48.

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Today Tom Pepper takes us on a punning tour of the U.S.  In several themed answers, the abbreviations for a state are read as if they are a separate word.  "Psychedelic stuff from the Evergreen State?" is WA 'SHROOMS.  "Mosquito from the state nicknamed Land of Opportunity?" is AR BITER.  "Gambler's action in the Cornhusker State?" is NE WAGER.  "Highway divider in the Centennial State?" is CO MEDIAN.  And so on.

I love analogies!  "Inning : baseball :: END : curling."  Never heard of it!  A game of curling has eight or ten ends.

Did you know National Hot Dog Month is JULY?  Me neither. Wednesday, July 18 is National Hot Dog Day.  Eat up, kids!

The YSER River runs through West Flanders, in Belgium, and into the North Sea.

Remember, the Calder Cup is the trophy in the AHL, not NHL.

Snow blower maker TORO was clued on November 28, 2017 as a lawn mower brand.

I could have done better on this one.  It's not being familiar with all those pesky state nicknames.  Oh well, SEE IF I CARE.  Time for me to make like a forest animal in the Old Dominion State and VA MOOSE.

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: February 19, 2019

My time: 6:03 , not great but two minutes faster than average. -- A timeless question plagues today's constructor David Alfred Bywat...