Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 18, 2018

My time: 19:01, just shy of average.

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I was really walloped by this rather difficult themeless by Ryan McCarty.  It's a very nice grid with fun fill (NOT ONE IOTA, SOUND MIXERS, WAR STORIES, RARE JEWELS, INTERWEAVE, WATER TAXIS) and some devious clues, but I just couldn't get my head around large chunks of it.  Still, no resentment here; the puzzle was tough but fair.  Some days the bear gets you.

I started off poorly with *BOOK 'EM for "declaration of Sgt. Joe Friday" (even though as I wrote it I knew that this was not a declaration but an imperative, and assumed it was a mistake on the constructor's part, rather than mine --- oh, how we pay for our arrogance!).  It's the much more prosaic I'M A COP.

Right next to that is "it's not damaged by being broken," which is LAW.  This joke has truth to it, of course, but it's not true if the LAW in question is the bedrock of a nation's principles, and the nation's own leaders are flouting their illegality openly and contemptuously.

The ancient Sasanian Empire, or Sasanid, was the last Persian Empire (224-651) before the rise of Islam; it covered modern-day IRAN, Iraq, the Levant, Eastern Arabia, the Caucasus, parts of Turkey, and even Central Asia.  A huge swath of Earth, and an even wider cultural reach.

I don't use the term STARTER SET ("collection of four plates, four saucers," etc) very often.

"Senators' grp." is NHL.  I was tricked again by sports lore.

"Queen ANNE style" refers to late Baroque architecture or furniture of the early 18th century.  It describes an elegant, simple style rather than the ornate, not necessarily comfortable, styles of previously.

I've never heard of OWLET MOTHS.  Insects of the family Noctuidae, their larvae are also known as cutworms or army worms.  Geez, I prefer the cute name.

We all know Edison's MENLO Park, but I had no idea that the original one is in California, and this one is the home of Facebook.  Their street address is 1 Hacker Way.

Hey, do you like perfume?  Do you like smelling like TABU, by Dana?  Smell like a big no-no!

I was also slowed by putting *GRAD for "____ school" and sticking with it for too long.  Then I lamely put *PRE-K until finally I realized it must be PREP.

"Canyon producer" perplexed me.  I wondered if it might be *EON, but realized that wasn't good crosswordese.  It's GMC, of course.

HYSONS is a terrible faux plural referring to green teas from the Anhui province, also called Lucky Dragon teas.  The name Hyson tea may be a corruption of a Cantonese phrase, or it may come from an English tea merchant, Phillip Hyson.  Did he found the tea company of the same name?  Probably.

Ron INSANA is an economic commentator who was on the air on CNBC mostly in the early 2000s and then started his own failed hedge fund.  He seems relatively unknown for inclusion in a New York Times puzzle.

"I call the question," for example: a MOTION.  This baffled me also.  It is a proposition that members stop debate on an issue and immediately vote on it.

CORPSE POSE is lying flat on one's back, in yoga.  It's also called savasana.

"Like a ballerina performing bourrée" is ON TOE.  Me, an intellectual: you mean en pointe??

I filled in the LOS part of LOS Padres National Forest pretty quickly, though I've never heard of it.  It's in California.  The only US states the NYT puzzle recognizes are New York and California.

The ORIONIDS are an annual meteor shower that lasts about a week in October.  So named because they appear to come from the constellation Orion, they are produced by Halley's Comet!

The ABC sitcom "The Real O'NEALS" ran for two seasons.  It was about an Irish Catholic family harboring a few embarrassing secrets (gay, anorexic, wanting divorce, atheist).

ASPISH: "venomously biting."  Oh, come on.

It took my brain a bit to see the first word in "ready for inurnment" as a verb and not an adjective, so CREMATE fit (while cremated doesn't).

"Inflection point" is CUSP.  Here it's a math term.  In mathematics a CUSP, sometimes called spinode in old texts, is a point on a curve where a moving point on the curve must start to move backward.  An inflection point is a point on a plane curve at which the curve crosses its tangent; that is, the curve changes from being concave (concave downward) to convex (concave upward), or vice versa.

"University of New Mexico symbol" LOBO appeared on November 14, 2017. but I didn't remember.

Clever clues: "Hog's squeal?" is MINE.  "Outmarch?" is PRIDE PARADE.  "In the cloud, say" is STORED.  "Industry filled with press releases" is WINE MAKING, ha ha.  "Like this puzzle, we hope" is SOLVABLE.  "Match" is SEE.

Well, it took quite a while, but I managed to RUSTLE this puzzle to the ground.  And I did it MY WAY.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 17, 2018

My time: 12:48.

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In this exceedingly clever puzzle, David J. Kahn showcases two cities that were founded in MAY 1978: NEW ORLEANS and SAN ANTONIO.  Crossing the former is a sight found at the latter, the ALAMODOME, while crossing the latter is the Big Easy's famed JAZZ BANDS.

What makes this theme particularly fun is the use of numerals in the grid.  Crossing the year in the center date are NOT 1 BIT ('zero"), 7-UP ("soft drink whose logo features a red circle"), 1-L'S ("law school beginners"), and 8-BALL ("it's bad to be behind it").  I loved this!  It's a new idea to me, and I admire the theme's cohesion and symmetry.

I have never heard of ILYA Frank, Russian winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1958 for his work on Cherenkov radiation, which has to do with energy released when a particle moves faster than light through a medium, or something.

NFL Hall of Famer MEL Blount is not someone I know.  He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is considered one of the best cornerbacks of all time!  Uh... and what's a cornerback, then?

I call a RIP SAW a "saw."

"Plant bristles" is AWNS, not a word I encounter on a daily basis.

Are the SIERRAS considered a particularly jagged mountain range?  Well, there are many ranges called by that name across the globe, and since the name means "saw," I suppose most are pretty jagged.  The ones in the Sierra Madre don't look all that jagged to me, but the Sierra Nevada mountains seem pretty saw-toothed.

I've had a bit of rum in my life, but not TIA Maria, a rum-based coffee liqueur.

"St. Lawrence and others" is SEAWAYS.  I was not expecting that!  It's a system in Canada and the US that allows ships to travel from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes.

Did you know president John TYLER has 15 children?  This is because he had eight children with his first wife.  After she died, Tyler began courting 23-year-old Julia Gardiner (30 years his junior), and had seven more children.  The old goat!  He also has two living grandchildren.  That's because he had his third-to-last child at 63, and that child, Lyon, had his son at 72.  Why don't we learn these tidbits in school?

"Big shake" is SEISM.  Ugh, this is like "plasm" and "poult" from three days ago.

We all know that saucy minx Anaïs NIN, but I'm not familiar with her work.  Winter of Artifice is her second published book, a volume of novellas, including the controversial "Djuna" and her account of an incestuous relationship with a father.

Giuseppe Verdi's opera AIDA is set in Egypt, and takes place near the temple of ISIS.

IONE comes up a lot in puzzles.  This time it's as a Nereid, a sea nymph, as on August 11, 2017.

Democratic Congressman ADAM Schiff last appeared on September 26, 2017.

Actress LILI Taylor appeared on November 28, 2017, as having a role in Mystic Pizza.  Today they cite the 2009 Johnny Depp vehicle Public Enemies.  She does not have high billing in that film.

I was briefly puzzled by "ORD listing" (ETA), but ORD is Chicago O'Hare, and first was used in a clue on January 17 (and was again used January 21).

Clever clues: "Ink spot?" is TATTOO.  "Make a submarine disappear?" is EAT.  "Expert spelling?" is VOODOO.

Wow, this was a very clever, and equally challenging, puzzle!  I didn't do too badly, either, considering its relative difficulty.  I'm going to give myself a hand --- CLAP! --- and if I were to grade my performance, I'd say I get a RED A (like Hester Prynne).

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 16, 2018

My time: 7:52.

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Jonathan Schmalzbach and Bill Albright put a FRENCH TWIST on some famous names.  "Nickname for a glitzy author?" is JEWELS VERNE.  A "clumsy composer" is CLOD DEBUSSY.  My favorite is the "sloppy painter" TOO-LOOSE LAUTREC.  And finishing the set is "fiery philosopher" BLAZE PASCAL.  To a Francophone like me, this theme is delightful!  Very clever, messieurs; I doff my chapeau.

"What a current flows through" is ANODE.  An anode is an electrode through which the conventional current enters into a polarized electrical device. This contrasts with a cathode, an electrode through which conventional current leaves an electrical device. A common mnemonic is ACID for "Anode Current Into Device."  Thanks, Wikipedia!  I thought of this one: CLAIM, for "Cathode Leaving, Anode Into Machine."

I forgot the monkey in Aladdin is ABU and not *APU.

John AMOS played the older Kunta Kinte in "Roots."  He was also in "Good Times," which is where I know him, I guess, but he's had a great deal of other work.  He was in Die Hard 2, Coming To America, and 22 episodes of "The West Wing," which I don't recall him in even though I've seen the whole series.

I've never heard of AUDRA McDonald, graduate of Julliard and actress/singer.  She's mainly known for Broadway work, though she's done some television which I haven't seen.

"Get Happy" composer is Harold ARLEN.  The song has been sung countless times, by Sinatra, Ella, and even Rufus Wainwright, but it's most associated with Judy Garland.  It's very much in the tradition of Christian revival and blues songs ("Hallelujah, get happy, before the Judgement Day").  Harold ARLEN wrote the music for dozens of songs embedded in the popular consciousness, such as "Over the Rainbow," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "That Old Black Magic," and many others.

Never heard of A LA Grecque, which in cooking means served in a sauce made of olive oil, lemon juice, and several seasonings.

"City where trap music originated" is ATL.  It's a kind of dark, synthesized rap music.  The term "trap" is used to refer to the place where drug deals are made. The term originated in Atlanta, Georgia, where rappers Cool Breeze, Dungeon Family, Outkast, Goodie Mob, and Ghetto Mafia were some of the first to use the term in their music.

We all know Indian prime minister Jawaharlal NEHRU, but did we know he was addressed as "Pandit"?  Wiki says it's due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community, while others say it is just Hindi for "teacher."

I didn't know Pennsylvania zip codes start with ONE.  I shall endeavor to remember this crucial fact.

More car trivia: The Toyota coupe sold from 1970 to 2006 is the CELICA.  The name is supposed to come from the Latin for "heavenly."  And Hyundai makes the SUVs Santa Fe and Tucson.

DULUTH, Minnesota.  It's a port on the west coast of Lake Superior.

"Old blues singer" Johnny OTIS is not the old black man you're picturing, but the son of Greek immigrants, born as Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes.  He wasn't just a singer but a composer, arranger, bandleader, talent scout, disc jockey, record producer, television show host, artist, author, journalist, minister, and impresario.  He is called "the Godfather of Rhythm and Blues."

The term PEG in baseball means a hard fast throw to take a runner out.

I remembered chair designer Charles EAMES from August 29, 2017!

Clever clues: "It contains MSG" is NYC!  "The bay in the fifth, for one" is TIP.

Man, that is a lot of new and uncertain fill for me!  But I still didn't do too badly, timewise.  Figuring out all the themed answers before the rest of the fill helped.  ONCE I got those letters in the rest just fell together.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 15, 2018

My time: 7:10.

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Ross Trudeau and genius cartoonist Garry Trudeau collaborated on this puzzle, which features STAND-UP COMICS.  Not the Dave Chapelle and Jim Gaffigan kind, though.  These are the comics like Trudeau's "Doonesbury," featured "standing up" because they are all Down answers: TIGER, POGO, BABY BLUES, MUTTS, OPUS, GARFIELD, DICK TRACY, and L'IL ABNER.  Being the long-time student of the genre that I am, I've heard of all of these, so the theme didn't puzzle me.

I do, however, have the complaint that while most of the themed answers are clued as other than comics (TIGER is "feline in a zoo," POGO is "bounce on a stick"), both DICK TRACY and LI'L ABNER are clued as the properties they are (one describing the detective character, one describing the 1959 film of the comic).  I wish the constructors had made the theme cohesive by substituting two different comic strip names that could also be clued synonymously rather than by definition.

Still, though, I enjoyed this one.  On to the fill.

I'm not old enough have played Tank or Tank II, when they came out on ATARI, but I did play its successor Combat.

Super Bowl III-winning coach for the NY Jets WEEB Eubank's name is just silly enough that I mostly remember it.

"Kitchenware brand with a hyphenated name" is T-FAL.  A French company founded in 1956, its name outside the USA is Tefal, which is a portmanteau of the words Teflon and aluminum.  DuPont would not let them use that name in the US so they shortened it to T-FAL.

Well, we've seen the classic Pontiac models GTO and the Grand Prix in crosswords, and now it's time for the GRAND AMS.  They were Pontiac's best-selling car and were later replaced by the G6.

I haven't seen the seminal 2004 comedy Mean Girls, so I didn't know that Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried played a MEAN GIRL each, Regina and Karen respectively.

Clueless actress STACEY Dash appeared on November 1, 2017.

ASANA, the term for yoga poses, appeared in the plural on December 26, 2017.

Clever clues: "Something to stand on" is LEG.  "Played at work?" is DJ'ED.

I did pretty BUONO on this one.  SOY contente.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 14, 2018

My time: 5:19.

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Andrea Carla Michaels celebrates the seminal 1999 Brad Pitt mindbender FIGHT CLUB with four themed clues that bring to mind dirty fighting, including KICK-START, SCRATCH AND SNIFF, and PUNCH BOWL.  The one I didn't suss out at first is "end of a drinking hose" BITE VALVE.  I've never heard that term before.  Do you physically bite it to open the flow of water?

I was also slowed by POULT, "fowl raised for food."  I knew there wasn't a rebus in just one corner, but I've never encountered that word without the -ry added. 

And just under that new word is Port St. LUCIE, a town in southeastern Florida, which I didn't know and originally rendered as *LUCIA.  So that didn't help.

I've heard of LIL' KIM, but not her 1996 double-platinum debut album Hard Core.  I really hate the spelling of her name --- it should be Li'l Kim.

Is a "handyman's inits" really DIY?  Wouldn't it be in a handyman's interests not to tell you to DIY?

"Certain red dye" is EOSIN, which I have never heard of.  I'll let the chemist editors at Wikipedia attempt to lay it out: "Eosin is the name of several fluorescent acidic compounds which bind to and form salts with basic, or eosinophilic, compounds like proteins containing amino acid residues such as arginine and lysine, and stains them dark red or pink as a result of the actions of bromine on fluorescein."  Ah.  That clears things up, then.

I was briefly slowed, too, by the word PLASM for "blood fluid," since, as with POULT above, I don't think I've seen this word isolated without the -a at the end.

UCLA has come up a few times in the puzzle, but I don't believe we've ever learned that their team is the Bruins.

It's time for one of my rare disagreements with a clue.  I deny that "TEST" is a word repeated while tapping a microphone.  I would have accepted "testing," "check," or "is this thing on?"  But I don't believe people generally say "test... test..." while tapping a mike to see if it's broadcasting.

"Banned pollutant" is PCB, which stands for polychlorinated biphenyl, a carcinogenic coolant outlawed in the US in 1978. 

In my opinion, this was decidedly hard for a Monday.  Mondays OUGHT to be a SNAP and this one had some pretty abstruse material in it.  Well, on to the next.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 13, 2018

My time: 16:47, a new record for Sunday --- and my fifth record-breaking time this week!  That's cray cray!

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Neville Fogarty and Erik Agard teamed up to create "Love at first Site," a puzzle that imagines various dating sites with punny names.

"A deep kissers' dating site?" FRENCH CONNECTION.  "Dating site full of hot dudes?" STUD FINDER.  "Extreme sports dating site?" ACTION ITEMS.  "Carpentry dating site?" BOARD MEETING.  "Dating site for lovers of natural foods?" ORGANIC CHEMISTRY.  And so on!  Ha, puns.  This theme is a keeper!

On to the other stuff!

We all know IAGO is the villain in "Othello," but I'd forgotten that Brabantio is Desdemonda's father.  He doesn't like Othello or Iago!

The Palais Garnier in Paris is a 1,979-seat opera house, built in 1875 to perform OPERAS.  It was named after its architect, Charles Garnier.

I knew there was a Manning named ELI, but I didn't know he had the "second-longest QB starting streak in NFL history."  He's right after Bret Favre.  But what is a start for a QB?  I don't know.

"Actor whose first and last name look like they rhyme, but don't" is exactly what I always think when I see SEAN BEAN's name.

"Emerald or aquamarine" I thought might be *JEWEL but it's BERYL, a type of mineral.  Yellow beryls are called heliodor and colorless beryls are called goshenite.

I'm not familiar with George MASON University, a research school, initially founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949.

TRINIDAD is the southernmost of the Lesser Antilles, an island group that includes St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, and Dominica among others.   They curve southward to form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea.

Robert MONDAVI was the influential founder of a Napa Valley winery.  From an early period, Mondavi aggressively promoted labeling wines varietally rather than generically. This is now the standard for New World wines. The Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis opened October 2008 in his honor.  I wanted to put Robert *PALMER, as that's the only Robert associated with wine I knew.

"UTEP team," which sounds Mesopotamian to me, is MINERS, the sports team of the University of Texas at El Paso.

I can't say I've watched a whole lot "Trading Spaces," so I certainly don't know the host, PAIGE Davis.

China's core leader (head of military, state, and party at once) Xi JINPING is a name much in the news, but I had a little trouble with it anyway.  

Thanks to George Harrison, we in the west know about the SITAR, but I haven't encountered the term mezrab very often, to my knowledge.  A mezrab is the plectrum used to pick the instrument, and it's worn on the finger like a ring.

TESSA Thompson is another actress I've never heard of.  She was in Creed, Thor: Ragnarok, Selma, and Dear White People.  All films I have heard about but not seen.

It doesn't surprise me that the EPA has a flower logo, but it's not something I knew right off.  Scott Pruitt thinks it looks like a marijuana leaf, because he's a colossal moron and tool.

Do we have all the US Vice Presidents memorized?  No, we do not.  Have we heard of HENRY Wallace, veep from 1941-45 under FDR?  No, we have not.  Are we sadly unfamiliar with our own country's major political figures?  Possibly.

"Arcade hoops game" NBA JAM appeared March 9.

North Carolina liberal arts university ELON last appeared October 8, 2017.

NPR host ARI Shapiro last appeared November 9, 2017.

Clever clues: "Went through channels?" is SWAM.  "Patty alternative?" is TRISH.  "The rite place?" is ALTAR.  ' is FEET. 

I really can't believe I did a Saturday so quickly.  I guess this entire week I was just in tune with the creators.  AREN'T I the clever one? BOO-YAH!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 12, 2018

My time: 7:26, another record, the fourth this week!  This time I beat my old record by four minutes!  Lawdy!

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Anyhoo, Alex Eylar constructed this whorl-shaped themeless.  I was just in tune with this one; every time I put a maybe answer down, like HOEDOWN for "event with fiddling," or LOWLIFES for "riffraff," it turned out to be right.  Lucky.  Saturdays are not usually this forgiving of the first go-round.  I liked the answers NO-TELL / MOTEL, MOONIE, FALSE BOTTOM, LOOK BACK ON, and HORSE HOCKEY.

I didn't know who said the H.L. MENCKEN quote at first, of course.  But the idea that puritanism is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" sounds like him.

I wanted to put *PYRITE for "faux gold" but it's OROIDE, a new one on me.  This term just refers to an alloy of copper and zinc or copper and tin

Place of eternal happiness isn't *HEAVEN but AVALON, of Arthurian legend, where Excalibur was forged.

Jamaica's St. ANN'S Bay is a town most famous for being the birthplace of Burning Spear and Marcus Garvey.  The parish of St. Ann was named after Lady Anne Hyde, the first wife of King James II of England.  So what happened to the E??  A mystery that applies equally to Massachusetts' Cape Ann.

We've all heard of the play "The Vagina Monologues," but the author, Eve ENSLER, is not a household name.  She seems to be a bit of a one-hit wonder.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

My weak geography-fu fails me again, as I have never heard of BELEM, Brazil.  It's the capital of the state of Pará, and an important port, the gateway to the Amazon River.

I had forgotten about Lake Superior's SOO Canals, or SOO Locks as they are sometimes called, despite encountering them as recently as January 10.

Clever clues: "They may hold the solution" is BEAKERS.  "The last pair you'll ever wear?" is CEMENT SHOES.  "Something the Netherlands has that Belgium doesn't?" is CAPITAL N.  "Beat someone" is KEROUAC --- that's a good one.

I very much enjoyed this puzzle!  It wasn't TOUGH at ALL for me; I was just in sync with Alex Eylar, I guess.  Such a quick solve is definitely an ANOMALY for a Saturday.

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 18, 2018

My time: 19:01 , just shy of average. -- I was really walloped by this rather difficult themeless by Ryan McCarty.  It's a very nice...