Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today's time: 36:46.

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I fight to the finish on these end-week puzzles, but it's getting discouraging to note these long times.  Why aren't I getting better?  Tom McCoy is the author of this almost too-difficult Sunday.  The theme is another fairly meta one.  If you count the ANSWER LENGTH (110 Across), the themed clues make sense.

So, for example, "this clue's 110 Across, timewise" is MIDNIGHT HOUR, and lo and behold, it has twelve squares.  "This clue's 110 Across, as is relevant each November" has 18 squares, and it's VOTING AGE IN AMERICA.  "This clue's 110 Across, at the Olympics" gave me trouble; once I had DIVE, I tried to put *DIVE HEIGHT (the Olympic diving board is ten meters above the water), but it's DIVER'S GOAL, as in a perfect ten score.  Once the theme is apparent, it helps.  For example, counting the 18 squares in "this clue's 110 Across, in chemistry" means it's obviously something to do with argon, and it's ARGON'S ATOMIC NUMBER. 

Also, four answer squares are circled, and they spell out FOUR.  Hint!

Reno, NV, is in WASHOE County.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

The TATE Modern is a museum in London.

First Man ON MARS is a stupid-looking comedy-horror movie from 2016. The Last Days ON MARS is a 2013 thriller about killer microbes starring Liev Schreiber. 

"Mork calling ORSON..."  Man, I loved that show.

I guess the Phillies' division is the NLE, National League East?  Zzzzzz.

Speaking of Philadelphia, "Temple athlete" is OWLTemple is a doctoral university located in the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Their mascot is Stella the great horned owl.

Speaking of universities, Oral Roberts University is located in TULSA.  That's nice and all, but the Wikipedia article has the real story, such as Lindsay Roberts' taste for texting underage males on university-issued cell phones.

For "2017 US Open winner," I originally put *NARAL.  Oops, ha ha!  That's the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the pro-choice abortion rights group.  The tennis player is Rafael NADAL, the "king of clay" and winner of 16 grand slams and an Olympic medal.

Apparently Smaug's LAIR was known as the LONELY MOUNTAIN.  I did not know that.

Speaking of nerd epics, I haven't seen The Force Awakens, so I forgot the name of the stormtrooper turned hero FINN.  But I did know that Darth Vader's nickname was ANI.  Ha ha!  Ani.

ET ALIAE is a bit fastidious, even for the Times.

MCGILL is a university in Montreal.  Look, I can't know everything about every university.

For "mountain ash" I fell for the possible double meaning and was thinking of volcano detritus.  It's actually a tree, an ash that grows on a mountain: ROWAN.

The CESAR is the French equivalent of the Oscar.  Interestingly, the Canadian Film Awards have no cutesy nickname.

I mentioned not having read the Lemony Snicket books here; I think asking for a minor character's name, Edgar POE, is a bit much.

Clever clues: "Return fee?" is RANSOM.  "Rising concerns in modern times?" is SEAS.  "Has in an old form?" is HATH.  "One with a large bill at breakfast?" is TOUCAN SAM.  "Ones stationed at home" got me with its military implication, but it's UMPS.

AWRY, that's all for now.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Today's time: 26:11.

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The author of this devilment is Sam Trabucco.  Why must he baffle me so?  The toughest part for me was the NW corner.  The coinage PUH-LEASE ("you can't be serious!") right over UBER POOL ("modern money-saving transportation choice") were tough nuts to crack.  And they were right under SAMOA, clued as "setting for several 'Survivor' seasons," and I don't watch TV much.

For "furnish" I had *VEND, which isn't quite right.  It's LEND.  Which also doesn't seem quite right.  Does lend mean provide?

"Ehud Barak abandoned it in 2011:" the LABOR PARTY.  He formed his own Independence Party after that, then quit politics.  I was wondering, what portion of the disputed area did he abandon?  That doesn't seem like him.

Totally new to me department: "Noted corporate raider of the 1980s" is ICAHN, as in Carl Icahn, who profited from hostile takeovers in the 1980s.  I'm ashamed that I don't know him because he was in the news lately.  He was appointed an advisor (on regulatory issues! ha!) to the dishonorable Trump, but had to resign before year's end because of conflict of interests.

CUBIT is clued as "about 18 inches," but it's technically the span from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  The Biblical cubit is about 18 inches, though.

"Cremona treasures, briefly," is STRADS, as in Stradivarius.  Those, I'm familiar with; what I didn't know was that Cremona is, per Wikipedia, "especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers, such as... Antonio Stradivari, and several members of the Amati family."

For "postgrad goal, maybe" I had *PH DEGREE, then *MD DEGREE, and after a lot of guesswork, figured out that what was wanted was MS DEGREE.

For "the antagonists" I had *FOES and briefly considered *ANTI (though that doesn't work), but it's THEM.

EL ROPO is apparently slang for a cheap cigar.  It takes a man to smoke an el ropo.

"Tour grp." is pretty vague but it turns out to be USO, the United Service Organization, which does all those celebrity morale-boosting shows for the military.

For "absence of preconceived notions" I had *BLANK SLATE but it's TABULA RASA.  I just thought it was funny that they both fit.

Welcome back, CHASE UTLEY.  I learned about you yesterday.  Seems like maybe Will Shortz should have spaced out your appearances.

Boolean is a DATA TYPE with only two values, true or false.

LLOYD Price is an R&B singer, known as "Mr. Personality."  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Sylvia SYMS was a jazz singer most famous for her version of "I Could Have Danced All Night."  Her albums Syms by Sinatra was conducted by Ol' Blue Eyes.  She is not to be confused with the British actress of the same name.

Northwest Nazarene University is a Christian university in Nampa, IDA.  I've never heard of it, or Nampa.  They believe that "the finally impenitent are hopelessly and eternally lost."  What losers.

Clever clues: "Response to a riot" is HA HA HA. "Match book" is SCORE CARD; that works two ways, both as the score for a game or match, and as scoring after making a match as in dating.  "Bug catcher, often" is BETA TESTER.  "One with whom your relationship is working out, briefly?" is PE TEACHER.  "Key used to make an exit" is ESC.

Well, farewell and ADO.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

My time: 20:39.

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Zhouqin Burnikel is the author of this head-scratcher.  No theme; it's Friday.  Just vague clues and a shedload of fill that's new to me.  Let's get to it; I'll be here a good long while.

CITIBIKES is the name of the bicycle-sharing (read: renting) service in New York.

Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan was a pilot who flew from Long Beach to New York, and then, although his flight plan was to return to California, instead kept flying EAST to Ireland.  He claimed it was due to mechanical error, but many people believe he did it intentionally, having previously asked for permission to fly to Ireland and having been denied.

An OGEE is an S-shaped molding.  It looks like this.

Did you know IMAN had a fashion line called Global Chic?  Me neither.

Who calls Prudential PRU?  Anyone?

Apparently New York Law School is in TRIBECA.  The NYT puzzle is sometimes overly New York-centric.

I'm proud that I pulled duck variety SMEW out of my mental microfiche unaided.  SMEW!  Ha.

INNER EARS are embedded in temporal bones.  Sure, but it would have helped if I had more quickly remembered what temporal bones are.

TOKYO DOME is the name of the Yomiuri Giants' home stadium.  Come on, I don't even know about my own country's sports.

Case in point: TINO Martinez, a first baseman and hitter for the Yankees and a few other teams.  He had to resign as a coach because of allegations of abusive behavior toward players.  Never heard of the guy.

Also, Chase UTLEY, which is a ridiculous name, who is also a second baseman and good hitter.

Also, there's a golfer named ISAO Aoki.  He won the PGA tour once.

Both of the above people are so unknown to me that I initially thought their names were "Utley Chase" and "Aoki Isao."

"Pen name" is devious.  *NOM DE PLUME fits and put it in; it's the pen brand ERASERMATE.

"Pulitzer-prize winning poet of 1947 and 1974" is LOWELL, meaning Robert Lowell.  In 1947, he won for his book Lord Weary's Castle.  It contains "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket," which is strong stuff.  In 1974 he won for The Dolphin, which was controversial because he used and altered letters from his ex-wife without permission.

A lot of clever clues, just like last time: "pressing warning" is DO NOT IRON.  "Had a stable job?" is SHOOED.  "Cooler person?" is FELON.  "Warning about reaching a braking point" is STOP AHEAD.  "Chain unit, maybe" is both ATOLL and KARAT.

Well, another Friday down.  Not with EASE, however.  I made a lot of EROS when I filled it in.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday, November 15, 2017

My time: 19:24.

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Alex Eylar presents some logic problems in today's puzzle, which is satisfyingly baffling as you solve and with a nice "a-ha" reward when you get it.  I figured out early that the theme clues had to be meta in some way, but I wasn't quite sure how.  "See 58 Across" at 17 Across leads to "see 17 across," and thus both answers are TAUTOLOGY.  This is the first answer I sussed out, once I saw the -ology suffix.  "See 25 Across" at 25 Across gives us a RECURSION.  "See 66 Across" (which doesn't exist) is A WILD GOOSE CHASE.  And "see ?? Across" is AMBIGUITY.  Pretty clever, all, and as a philosophy student in my day, I appreciated it.

The fill didn't give me much trouble, but there is the usual AMBIGUITY.

For "what " " contains" I wanted to put speech, but it doesn't fit, and considered *SPEAK (??) but it's the equally meta SPACE.

For "be against" I wanted to put *ANTI, though that isn't quite right.  It's the other meaning, ABUT.

ERIC Rohmer, "French New Wave director," is best known for the films My Night at Maud's and Claire's Knee

I somehow dredged up the name of Jeff PROBST from the old memory fiche, but "Host Mike of Dirty Jobs and Somebody's Gotta Do It" is unknown to me.  Mike ROWE is also the narrator of Deadliest Catch

Did you know CRISCO had the tagline "cooks who know trust Crisco"?  Me neither.

I'm shocked to discover that NIBLET is an actual word that means something.  The Oxford dictionary says it's a trademark.

EGESTS is also a new word to me.  To egest something is to discharge or excrete.

Clever clues: "Alternative to an elbow, maybe" is PSST.  "What you might see the big game on" is SAFARI.  "One who has a ball at work?" is SEER.  "Something you have in a chair" is LAP.

Well, that took AGES.  ISLE try to remember some of these.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Today's time: 8:06.  Ahh.  That's better.

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Steven E. Atwood gives us a puzzle full of BRITISHISMS --- punny phrases that are centered around historically British terms.  For example, "Monthly charge for a London apartment?" is FLAT RATE.  "Part of a London police officer's uniform?" is BOBBY SOCKS.  The overly prolix "Conveyance in a multilevel London store?" is SHOP LIFT.  Quite clever, that Atwood chappie.  A fun, clean theme.

For "man's name that means king" I had *REX but it's, surprise, ROY.

An ENOKI, also called enokitake, is a mushroom used in sukiyaki.  Varieties of enoki have names such as velvet foot, velvet shank, winter fungus, and seafood mushrooms.  They are generally long, white, and thin, but wild varieties differ in color and shape.  Sukiyaki is a Japanese hot pot dish made with thinly sliced beef, vegetables, mushrooms, soy sauce, and sugar.

"Spot in la mer" appears yet again.  Spots, dots, specks.

KAN appears again, this time not as Fake Manhattan's state but Eisenhower's "home state."  He was born in Deniston, Texas.  His presidential library is in Abeline, Kansas, where he was raised.

I'm not sure anyone refers to Debbie Harry as DEBORAH.  The clue doesn't even have "formally" attached.

"Sine's reciprocal, briefly" is COSEC, for cosecant.  In a right triangle, it is defined as the ratio of the length of the hypotenuse to that of the opposite side.  A sine, in a right triangle, is the ratio of the length of the side opposite one of the acute angles to the length of the hypotenuse.

New or forgotten word: EPOS, an epic or long narrative.  

Clever clues: "first X, say" is TIC (as in tic-tac-toe; it took me a bit for that to sink in!).  "Johnny Appleseed, e.g." is NOMAD.  "Beat people" is COPS; yes, they do.

Well, that was FUN.  Next time OWL do better. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My time: 10:45.

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I'm putting in the hours crosswording, and I seem to be getting worse, not better!

Jerry Miccolis and Jeff Chenconstructed this puzzle deliberately to confound me, and that wasn't very nice of them.  The theme is words that share a term for an "impressive basketball feat:" a TRIPLE / DOUBLE.  A triple double is getting double-digit scores in three of the five scoring categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots, in a single game.  So the themed answers have three double letters: SWEET TOOTH, WOOD DEER ("carved figurine popular around Christmas"?? is that a thing?), GOOD DEED, HEEL LOOP ("wheelchair foot strap"), and so on.

Triple doubles!  Um, neat?

Did you know that OJ Simpson is an alumnus of USC?  Me neither.

The boat in Jaws was called the ORCA.  Needs to be bigger.

I am fond of the clue "P AS IN psychology (unhelpful spelling clarification)."

"Figurehead?" for BOOKKEEPER, however, is pretty week sauce.  I filled this in mostly guessing it, knowing its place as the only (?) English word with three double letters in a row.

"Prez with the same initials as an NYC landmark" is BWB, for Dubya, of course, and the George Washington Bridge.

I had trouble figuring out "expense item for a political campaign."  It's SPOT AD.  It seems to be phrase meaning "ad."  Which makes it... kind of useless?

"UN agcy. headquartered in Geneva" is ILO.  That's the International Labour Organization, which won the Nobel peace Prize in 1969.

For "Snapchat's ghost" I put *ICON, but it's LOGO.

I know what AFLAC is, but I didn't know its slogan "Ask about it at work."

The LOBOS are the University of New Mexico teams.  They have a pretty rad LOGO.

"Manhattan's home" is KAN.  This clue baffled me for quite a while.  It's Manhattan, Kansas.  Arg!  I know I should be on the lookout for that kind of trickery, but the old brain-gears just haven't been clicking smoothly lately.

Clever clues: "Far from fuzzy, for short" is HI-DEF.  "Little sucker" is LEECH.  "One crying foul?" is REF.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

My time: 6:40.

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What the heck, Peter A. Collins?!  This is difficult stuff for a Monday!  Even knowing the quote in full by heart (WHAT WE'VE GOT / HERE IS FAILURE TO / COMMUNICATE, from COOL HAND LUKE), I recorded a crap time for a Monday.

The Naked MAJA (originally, La maja desnuda) is an 1800 oil painting by Francisco Goya.  A maja, I just now learned, is a term for a member of the lower classes in Spanish society, knwon for their elaborate dress and "cheeky behavior."

For "have the wheel" I put *DRIVE; it's STEER.

I had a hard time remembering the name of DAPHNE DuMarnier, author of Rebecca, and needed a good bit of crossfill.

I may have heard of TRU TV but since I don't even watch network TV, it's not something I know about or remember.  Looks like a bunch of dumb unscripted shows.  Street pranksters?!  Sign me up!

OTOE was last seen, as far as I recall, in the August 13 puzzle.

And camera type SLR reappears, last seen October 29.

I think "Fall bloomer" is a pretty vague clue for ASTER.  However, I can't say getting more specific would have helped me personally.

Olympic hurdler EDWIN Moses is not someone who springs to mind readily.  Ha ha!  Springs!

Pulitzer-prize winning author James AGEE (not to be confused with award-winning picture book author Jon Agee) wrote A Death in the Family, which won the Pulitzer.  Interestingly, it was adapted by another author into a play, "All the Way Home," which also won a Pulitzer prize.

Compromising Positions was written by Susan ISAACS, an author of whom I know nothing.

MITA was a "document imaging company" that has since been swallowed up by Japanese ceramics and electronics company Kyocera, and is way too obscure for a Monday.

Clever clue: "One poked through the eye?" is LACE.

That was a lot MOE hard than I expected.   I feel like a DORIC for not doing better.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today's time: 36:46 . -- I fight to the finish on these end-week puzzles, but it's getting discouraging to note these long times...