Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 18, 2018

My time: 11:59, which I had no idea was so close to today's record.  I should have hurried more.


Today, Ryan McCarty and Alan Southworth say NO WAY to the word "way."  They've taken the "way" out of several phrases and clued them literally.  "Rooftop heist," for example, is HIGH[way] ROBBERY.  "Handle engineer duties" is RUN A[way] TRAIN.  "Sandwich shops?" is SUB[way] STATIONS.  Clever!

I have not read The Sun Also Rises, so I needed crossfill to figure out the character name Lady BRETT Ashley, love of Jake Barnes.

Apparently the MTA uses an eTix app.  Sometimes the New York Times crossword puzzle is too Nuyorcian.

The NHL team the Carolina Hurricanes, based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, used to be called the Hartford (Connecticut) WHALERS.  But before that they were in Boston and then the New England Whalers.  This seems to me a case of the ship of Theseus.  Are they really the same team?  Every single part has been replaced at least once --- players, location, name, and logo.

"Della or Picabo" is ONE [Way] STREET.  Della Street is Perry Mason's secretary, portrayed by Barbara Hale in the TV series, for which she won an Emmy.

SVEN is the name of a reindeer character in Frozen, which I have never seen.

A COHIBA is a premium cigar from Cuba.  They do say it was Fidel Castro's favorite.  It's no el ropo!

For "fish at a Hawaiian barbecue" I had *KOI but that's not it.  It's ONO.  That's the Hawaiian term, meaning "good to eat."  It's commonly known as wahoo.  Wahoo!

Here's SLR, yet again, but it just doesn't stick.  It means a Single Lens Reflex camera.

ASHE, the stadium in Queens, appeared October 11, 2017.  I made the same *SHEA mistake as I did back then, but recovered more quickly, remembering it.

"Major group HQ'd in Fairfax, Va." is NRA, and it appeared on September 28, 2017.  If you're a Congressman and vote for even the slightest step toward rational gun regulation, they'll send a fair number of Faxes to your office?

Clever clues: "Org. that discourages traveling" is NBA.  "Diamond club" is BAT.  "Openings at a day spa?" is PORES.

RIGHTO, then. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 17, 2018

My time: 15:12, longer than the average Wednesday.


Today, Jules P. Markey gives us themed Downs.  "Warm winter coat contents" is DOWN FEATHERS, which is a clue that the themed answers have birds in them.  WAYNE GRETZKY, for example, hides "egret."  Other themed answers include BRAVE NEW WORLD and TELL ME ANOTHER ONE.

The ACELA Express is a high-speed Amtrak train from Boston to Washington DC, with stops in New York and Philadelphia.  It's the fastest train in the Americas, reaching 150 mph and completing the trip in under seven hours.

Remember Zeno of Elea, from January 7?  "Site of Zeno's teaching" doesn't refer to him.  It refers to Zeno of Citium, a Stoic philosopher.  Being a stoic and acetic, he taught from doorways, or STOA.

What is NOVA lox, anyway?  It's cold-smoked salmon from Nova Scotia.  Cf. lox and gravlax.

For "____ Mae (bond)" I put *FANNIE but it's GINNIE.  That's GNMA, or Government National Mortgage Association.  Ginnie Mae, part of HUD, exists to help finance affordable housing.  Ginnie is part of the government; Fannie Mae is not.

The website EHOW appeared yesterday.

I didn't know ORZO is used in soups and salads.

One of the themed answers describes baseball.  A GAME OF INCHES.  It contains the word "finch." Why is it called that?   And who called it that first?

A word I've never heard in my life: ARIOSE.  It doesn't look like it means what it means.  It means melodic, as opposed to recitative.  To me, it looks like it describes a physique.

ORD is the symbol for Chicago's O'HARE International Airport.  We recently learned that Atlanta has the world's busiest airport, but O'Hare has taken the title for a few years.

Director AVA DuVernay appeared November 29, 2017.

Clever clues: "Maker's mark?" is APOSTROPHE. "Unlikeliest to be bought" is LAMEST; I like the way it plays with the word bought to mean "believed." 

This was slow going.  I will TRI to do better next time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 16, 2018

My time: 8:28.


David Steinberg pays tribute to FOUR LETTER WORDS by printing six of them in the New York Times crossword puzzle!  Ha ha, not actual vulgarities, but words literally made out of only four letters each: SASSAFRAS, SENESCENCE, LOLLIPOP, NONSENSE, TATTLETALE, and RECHERCHÉ.

"Pharmaceutical giant that makes Valium" is ROCHE.  It was founded in Switzerland and is the third-largest pharma company in the world.  They've also paid over half a billion dollars in fines for price fixing, the greedy bastards, and indirectly caused the death of a whistleblower's wife.

Casey STENGEL, right fielder and manager of the Yankees, I have heard of.  However, I didn't know his nickname was "The Old Perfessor," Pogoesque spelling and all --- which is fantastic.   Apparently he was a garrulous story teller.

OTTO I, Holy Roman Emperor 962-973, is best known for reducing the power of the dukes in the kingdom and for beating back the Magyars, ending the threat of Hungarian invasion.  He also conquered Italy and arts flourished under his reign.  What a great guy!

ASCOT is a British racecourse in Berkshire, south of Windsor.  One of its best known races is the Gold Cup.  The most prestigious race is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, run in July.

We've heard of tiddlywinks, but did we know that the "winks" of the name are flat DISCS that are flipped into the goal pot?  Also that one strategy in tiddlywinks is "squopping," which is shooting your winks on top of your opponents' winks to block them?  No, we didn't, probably.

Less familiar to me was PESETA, the currency of Spain from 1869 to 2002.  Some of them were minted in a Spanish flower shape.

TETRIS was influenced by pentominoes, which we in the education biz know.  But I also learned that each pentomino fills the Conway criterion, which means it can tile a plane with no overlaps.

Being no frat bro, I needed crossfill to get that Hs in fraternity names are ETAS.  Interestingly, in Ancient Greek, eta represented a /h/ sound, but by the time of classical Greek it had morphed into an /ē/ sound.  Capital eta is written as H, but lower case eta looks more like a lowercase n with one long leg.

And that's it.  FINITO.  ADIOS.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 15, 2018

My time: 5:14, so very close!


Agnes Davidson and Zhouqin Burnikel united to bring us this puzzle celebrating the great Martin Luther King Jr.  Playing off of FREE AT LAST, the final words of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, they give us four more phrases in which the last word is a synonym of "free."  NEW RELEASE, TAX EXEMPT, THE COAST IS CLEAR, and BEG PARDON are the themed answers.

In golf, someone who EAGLES scores two under par.  A birdie is one stroke under par.  An albatross is three under par. There are no other bird names; scores under that are referred to as double bogeys as so on.  But I have some suggestions for bigger or better birds.  Four under par? Osprey.  Five under par?  Condor.  Six under par?  Phoenix.  These are good ideas!

For "praise highly" I wrongly put *EXULT when it's obviously EXALT, and that cost me precious time.

Did you know PRELL was green shampoo?  Me neither.

The French president's palace is the ELYSEE.  Built in 1722, it was occupied by royal mistresses and rich people, until 1848 when it was first used as the residence of the President of the Republic.

MSU, Michigan State University (go Spartans!), is located in East Lansing.

STP is clued today as "big advertiser in auto races."  It appeared on November 6, 2017, as "fuel additive brand."

"Sunoco competitor" CITGO was last seen by me way back on September 4, 2017.

"Alternatives to Nikes" is Oregon brand AVIAS, which came up on September 24, 2017.

Clever clue: "Like food from a West African drive-through?" is TO GO, ha ha.

This was pretty easy, so it both GALLS and IRKS me that I didn't make a new record this Monday.  Ah, well.   That's life.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 14, 2018

My time: 32:16.


Joe Fagliano brings us a Sunday puzzle that is so intricate that I can't imagine how he managed to put it all together.  Playing off the phrase OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, he creates six rows that hide the name of a Supreme Court justice but "obstruct" (break up) the names with black squares.  The themed answers are: DANTONI / NSC / ALIASES, WANNABE / FORT /ASIATIC, THE PEARL / WAR / RENTS TO, "TO HELEN" / AKA / GANYMEDE, ANSONIA / SOTO / MAYORAL, and HOP-STEP / HEN / BREYER'S.

I wonder which Justice's name came to him as a series of other words first?  I'm guessing Sonia Sotomayor.

Okay, let's get started glossing this monstrosity.

Mike D'ANTONI is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year.  Sure, he's great and all, but he's no Coach K.

I didn't know THE PEARL was set in La Paz, but the story of a pearl diver is inspired by a Mexican folk tale.

I've heard thin pancakes referred to as blinis, but never the singular BLIN.  But since it's from the Russian, that makes sense.

I was not familiar with ROC Nation, the record label founded by Jay-Z.  I wanted to put *DEF Nation at first.

It still doesn't look right department: IBANEZ is a Japanese brand of guitars that pioneered the seven-string and eight-string models.  It is named after Salvador Ibáñez, a 19th-century Spanish luthier.

"Where a big bowl is found" is PASADENA, California, home to the Rose Bowl, called "the granddaddy of them all" because it's the oldest football bowl game.

"Planet Money" is an economic podcast from NPR.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote "TO HELEN" in 1831 apparently in honor of a family friend.  Poe uses the Helen of Troy myth as a basis and riffs on Sappho and Samuel Taylor Coleridge to extol the comforting allure of women.

The historic Moana Hotel is on the island of OAHU.  It was the scene of a famous murder mystery:  Jane Stanford, co-founder of Sanford University, was killed there by strychnine poisoning and her killer was never discovered.

It also still doesn't look right department: ANSONIA is a city in Connecticut near New Haven.  It is known as "The Copper City" because of its history of heavy machine industry.  It is also home to a famous clock manufacturing business that went defunct and was sold to a Soviet company.

The HOP-STEP is a cute little name for a basketball move.  Land on two feet, or you'll be called for traveling!

I see we're using the spelling UEYS, and not *UIES, again.

ORIENTE is a no longer extant province of Cuba, having been broken up into five provinces after the revolution.  Its claim to fame?  The Castro brothers were born there.  And now you know... the rest of the story.

Mark Twain National Forest is 1.5 million camping and hiking acres located in the OZARKS, Missouri.  It is Missouri's only national forest.

I've never heard of OTRANTO, a coastal town in Italy in Lecce province (on the heel of the boot), famous for its castle, the Castello Aragonese, and its cathedral.  But then, why would I have heard of it?

Did you know Nancy Drew's boyfriend was named NED Nickerson?  Me neither, but that's hilarious!

"Last monarch of the House of Stuart" is ANNE, which came up December 31, 2017.

Men's fashion designer Perry ELLIS appeared September 12, 2017.

Appliance brand AMANA was last seen December 6, 2017.

Clever clues: "Worked from home?" is UMPED.  "Big-studying org." is NSA.  "What a conductor might conduct" is HEAT.  "Bit of advice before taking off?" is DIET TIP.  "Closest to base?' is EVILEST.  "Grate stuff" is ASH.

Construction-wise, this puzzle was elegant, a real BUTTE.  But it was possibly unnecessarily hard.  POOH on you, Joe Fagliano!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 13, 2018

My time: 18:52, not so bad.


Alan Derkazarian constructed this Saturday toughie, with such interesting fill as UNITED FRONT, ERAGON, SEMI-ARID, EGG MCMUFFIN, LANGUOR, and GO DEEP.  I'M IMPRESSED.

A phsyiognomist studies FACES, which I only got through crossfill.

Palma is the largest city and capital of the Ballearic Islands, Spain, off the east coast.  Palma is located on the popular holiday resort island, MAJORCA, also spelled Mallorca.  I didn't know about this, which was the start of my NE corner troubles that stopped me from getting close to my record.

"Little GTO" is a 1964 song by Ronnie & the Daytonas, a Beach Boys clone.  "Three deuces and a four-speed / And a three-eighty-nine / Listen to her tachin' up now / Listen to her whine."  Not sure I get all of that.

ZINC has the atomic number 30.  How do we remember that?  Once you're thirty, you're an adult, and it's either zinc or swim.

The former Ecuadoran currency is SUCRES.  This is has been replaced by the U.S. Dollar.

Charles HAID was an actor who starred in Altered States and is probably best known for portraying Officer Andy Renko in "Hill Street Blues."

"London or Manchester" is a tricky one.  It refers to Jack London and William Manchester.  The latter served in WWII and got a Purple Heart, then wrote about his experiences in Goodbye Darkness.  His most famous book is probably The Death of a President, about the JFK assassination.  So, in sum, the answer is WRITER.

I've heard of Leonhard EULER, of course, but I didn't know he was blind.  He spent nearly forty years blind from eye strain, fever, and later a cataract, but it's didn't slow down his prodigious output of work in all manner of scientific fields.

Being a fan of classic rock, alternative, folk, singer-songwriter, world, and the generally outré music scene, I'm aware of SOLANGE, but had no idea she had a #1 album called A Seat at the Table.

"Like an eisteddfod festival" is WELSH. This is a term for any festival of Welsh culture, food, and writing.  The National Eisteddfod is eight days of music and poetry competitions entirely in Welsh.  I wish I could go!

ASTER appeared on November 13, 2017 as "fall bloomer."  Now it's "bloom that is often white or lavender."

"1940 Fonda role" gave me trouble.  I thought maybe "Deed?" But of course that's Deeds and also it stars Gary Cooper.  It's JOAD, from Grapes of Wrath.

In music, 2/2 time signature is known as duple time.  But it is also known as common time or CUT TIME, represented by a C-shaped symbol.  It is also called alla breve.

"Related to colored rings" is a roundabout clue for AREOLAR.

I noted that the PRIDE PARADE is in June, because June is Pride Month, back on December 18, 2017.

Did you know a Newfoundland or golden retriever is an example of a WATER DOG?  Me neither.

Okay, I have never heard of MLB pitcher Orlando Hernández, much less his nickname, EL DUQUE.  I see his half-brother shot seven women and then killed himself in June 2010.

Another country musician today: Mike ELI.  He is the singer of the Eli Young Band.  He's from these here parts where I live!

A few sly jokes in the clues this time around.  "Hope was once its driving force" is USO TOUR, ha!  "Throw a bomb" is GO DEEP. "Field work" is NORMA RAE, which is very clever.

Well, that's it, and now I MUSSED BOLT.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 12, 2018

My time: 11:58, pretty close to my record!  Not bad!


Erik Agard constructed this themeless with seven answers that span the grid east to west.  And THAT'S A TALL ORDER!  He really SPARED NO EXPENSE.

I had no idea that the phrase "EACH ONE TEACH ONE" had its roots in American slaves teaching each other to read on the sly.

I've heard of MEL Tillis, but MEL McDaniel is a new one to me.  He had several mostly positive, fun hits, the most notable being "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On."  He died of cancer at 68, sadly.

Pluralizing the meditation utterance into OMS is weak.

Did you know a llama was a CAMELID?  Me neither.

"Big brand of kitchenware" is OXO.  It was founded in 1990 as a line that was more helpful to grip for those with arthritic or otherwise weak hands.

We've seen golfer ISAO Aoki way back on November 17, 2017, but I had forgotten his name.

INDEPENDENCE AVE. is a major Washington DC street that runs east to west.  In addition to the National Air and Space Museum, it runs adjacent to far too many landmarks to list here.  The western terminus is the Lincoln Memorial.

PayPal was co-founded by Peter THIEL and three others.  They later merged with an online payment service called which Elon Musk founded.  Thiel has three citizenships: German, New Zealand, and the US.  He's worth over two billion dollars.

I am pretty sure that the spelling ENURE for "accustom" is wrong.  Inure is the current word.  An argument could be made that enure is an older form, but then the clue should indicate that they want the archaic form.

I thought the NFL Hall-of-Famer was Michael *IRWIN, but it's Michael IRVIN.  He played for the Cowboys and his nickname was "The Playmaker" for his big plays.  He helped take them 'Boys to three Super Bowl wins.

New Brunswick is an eastern province of Canada and borders MAINE.

I would not have said that the OTTER is related to the weasel, but they are both mustelids.

Clever clues: "Big Apple?' is IMAC.  "Where people may order push-ups" isn't the military, but VICTORIA'S SECRET.

And I'll ALEVE it at that.

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 18, 2018

My time: 11:59 , which I had no idea was so close to today's record.  I should have hurried more. -- Today, Ryan McCarty and Alan So...