Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 9, 2020
















My time: 19:28, not too shabby for a Sunday!

Theme: SHIPSHAPE, as shown when you connect the "dots" represented by circled squares.

I didn't like the clue "S as in soup?" for NOODLE.  Also, "silverback gorilla, e.g." is not ALPHA.  There are many gorillas that aren't alpha.  This is a bad clue.  It's like saying "person, e.g." for sports star.  Conversely, "sea route, e.g." is a weirdly specific clue for PATH.

There are a couple of clunky old-fashioned answers that struck me as a bit much: AROAR ("loud, as the surf") and SMIT ("struck, old style"), for example.  On the other hand there was some fun stuff like TIME SINK, NO GO AREA, and SECURITY LINE.

Did you know N*SYNC had two members who were former Mickey Mouse Club stars?  They were JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake.

Pope Benedict IV ruled until 903, and was replaced by LEO V, who ruled about a year.  He was pope during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum, when popes wielded little temporal authority. So you can be forgiven for not having heard of him.

I didn't know that RITA Moreno (who played Anita in West Side Story) has won the full EGOT.

That classical education I got is totally worthless because not only do I have no skills, I long forgot (if indeed I ever knew) that AENEAS was the son of Aphrodite

The puzzle loves to showcase obscure men of letters who write for erudite magazines.  ADAM Serwer is a staff writer at "The Atlantic."

ST. PIERRE is one of the three main French-owned islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. It contains the town of Saint-Pierre, which lies on the island's east coast and is the main population centre of the island group. It is part of an overseas collectivity of France, and is located near the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Apparently RYE is a coastal city in New York.

ISSA RAE has been featured in the puzzle in the past, but today she's clued as "Awkward Black Girl" creator and star.  It seems to be a webseries?

College exam org. ETS has come up before.  OMRI, father of the wicked king Ahab in the Bible, came up in 2017.

Clever clue: "Event that's a bit off?' is SALE.

Well, that's enough trying to ANALYSE everything I got wrong.  Nice puzzle, fun theme, but with some rough cluing.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 8, 2020
















My time: 10:25, less than half the Saturday average!  That's more like it!

No theme on Saturdays, but I was misled for a while by the middle Across UFO REPORTS, followed by "joint that sells joints."  I knew it was a dispensary, but I put *CBD DISPENSARY and then *THC DISPENSARY, because I got it in my head that there was some three-initial theme going on.  But it's the more plebian and prosaic POT DISPENSARY.

Apparently TAMPA is the seat of Hillsborough County.  Okay then.  The population of the county is 1.23 million, which means this county alone is more populated than the lowest seven or eight states.

The poorly-spelled MEGYN Price is a TV actress about whom I know nothing.

I was surprised to learn that a HALO is a feature in many depictions of Buddha, but there you are.  Often in statuary it's represented by a flat ring around his head. Anyway, I thought HALOs were western ideas.

I had no idea that TNT was originally used as a yellow dye!  Today I found out!  Predictably, it was the Germans who figured out how to make it an efficient explosive.

"Common recyclable" is EMPTY?  I said ugh when I filled that in.  It just doesn't parse right.

"Super Six, of old autodom" stumped me.  I originally thought it might be like a "big six" group of auto makers,  I guessed at *EDSEL but it's ESSEX. It turns out the Super Six Coach was a model of car made by the Hudson auto group.  The coach was later reused by the ESSEX auto company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hudson.  ESSEX also had a model called the Hupmobile.

Never heard of ANN Petry, "first female Africa-American writer with a million-selling novel."  She wrote The Street in 1946.  She was active in the mid-twentieth century.

I feel like there is a disproportionately large number of handbag questions in the NYT puzzle.  I have never heard of FENDI and I don't intend to learn any more about it.

Also never heard of shampoo brand T-GEL.  Made by Neutrogena, it's a dandruff shampoo.

Yet again my limited knowledge of Greek myths, on which I claim to be such an expert, lets me down. I know of STYX the river, and the titan/goddess STYX, but I could not have told you that she was the daughter of the titans Oceanus and Tethys (siblings, natch).

"Let know, with off" is TIPPED, but I for some reason was stuck on the sense of "mad and let someone know about it," like told off, and couldn't make anything fit.  Likewise, for its cross "entered angrily, say" I wanted to out *STORMED IN but it's STOMPED IN.

EVIE Sands, a singer, was featured on this blog way back in January 2018.

Clever clues: "Ring highlights?" is GEMSTONES.  "Place to go that requires cash at the door?" is a wonderful descriptor of a PAY TOILET.

Well GEE, this was a successful puzzle!  I was stumped, went down wrong ends, saw the light, and finally emerged victorious.  I liked all the clues except that one about recyclables.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday's New York Times crossword solved: August 7, 2020

My time: 19:05, three minutes slower than average.  I really DOGGED IT ("underperformed, colloquially"), today.  Just awful clues, awful answers, and awful solving by me.  A perfect storm of not doing well and not enjoying it.  THAT'S A SHAME.  I couldn't SKATE BY on this one!  ...And so forth.

"Place to get a variety of views" is OP-ED PAGE.  I put *OPEN PAGE, because I don't know what I'm doing anymore and I clearly have no business trying to get quick times on crossword puzzles.

Deep in the recesses of my mind came ZAGNUT, a candy bar with a crunchy peanut butter center surrounded by toasted coconut flakes, made since 1930.

The clue "sent" was very tough for ON CLOUD NINE.  It's "sent" like in the Sam Cooke song.  Similarly, "hard to let go of, in a way" is extremely tricky for TENURED.  No fouls here; they're just tough.

Mary Barra is the CEO of GM.  Now that you know that, you're set.

"Murmur" is a poor clue for COO.  "Creatures whose males barely eat or drink during incubation" is a poor clue for EMU; I mean, who is that ringing a bell for?

ELEA (today known as Velia) has come up a few times before, but as the home of Zeno.  Today they sprung it as "birthplace of Parmenides."

Speaking of the ancient world, the first-century Roman poet Martial is known for his EPIGRAMS. It's full of cutting barbs toward his friends and associates.  For example, he notes that his friend Cotta only socializes in the bath, and snidely, sadly adds that he isn't invited because Cotta must not want to see him naked.  Riveting stuff.

"Broadway hit, informally" is... BOFF?  Do people say that?  They say boffo, as an adjective.  But yes, definition 2.3 of BOFF: something that is conspicuously successful, a hit.

Recently I learned or was reminded that the OPAL is mined predominantly in Australia.  Thus I sbould have guessed quicker that "the Olympic Australis" is the world's largest discovered" OPAL.  It's in Coober Pedy!

The clue "and so..." leads itself inexorably to *THUS but it's THEN.  Joke's on you!  My mistake meant that at its crossing I put the tenuously-related *FUNDS for "stokes, say" instead of TENDS.  It also made me miss ZEN for "totally relaxed," since I was looking for three-letter word ending in S.

"High-risk bond rating" is CCC, which is the rating for junk bonds.  This isn't my field and I was lost here in the southeast corner.

Don't know anything about baseball, never heard of the Freeway Series; apparently it's an intercity match between the two LA teams, Dodgers and ANGELS.

I had to go letter by letter to get North African spice HARISSA.

"Game played on dirt court" is BOCCI, a little-used variant of bocce.  This clue should at least have noted the variant spelling.  Bad clue!

I have seen the movie ZELIG and I even knew that it was a mockumentary, but to distract us with the first name clue is devious.  Who knows his name is Leonard??

For "____ bag (fashion accessory)" I put *TOTE, of course.  It's HOBO.  What in the seven hells is a HOBO bag?

"Sporting, with in" is CLAD.  The entire time I thought of sporting as "fair."  It means "wearing."  Jeez Louise.  

And "dermatological concern" had me putting *ACNE, *RASH, and *WART until CYST finally revealed itself.

White wine aperitif KIR has appeared before.

Clever clues: I must reluctantly doff my cap to "drink that's hard on the stomach?" as BODY SHOT.  "Some bridges connect them" is TEETH.  "Choice" is very tricky for PLUM — not the verb meaning to opt, but an adjective, as in a choice job. 

Today's performance combined with yesterday's purblind refusal to see the theme makes me wonder if I shouldn't give up.  Ugh.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 6, 2020

My time: 13:48, pretty disappointing but still slightly faster than average.

Theme: GRAY / AREA.  The gray squares are [WHITE], as in EGG [WHITE], TELLING A [WHITE] LIE, SNOW [WHITE], and so on.  An obliquely-related answer is OTHELLO, clued as "game whose dual-colored pieces are apt for this puzzle's theme."  [Edit: I'm wrong; as user the Hammer points out, these grey squares can be read as BLACK or WHITE depending on the clue.  Stupid me.]

One of the first clues, "run for it!" jammed me up for the whole puzzle.  I put *SCAT confidently (now realizing that it doesn't quite fit the joke clue, which when it includes an exclamation point means it's a joke and a definition).  But it's SEAT.  My wrong answer meant I was stymied at the crossing, "counselor to Job."  That's ELIHU, a young but zealous fellow who tells Job and his three friends that God is benign despite suffering, and that suffering may have its good points.

"Political party founded in 1966," THE [WHITE] PANTHERS, stumped me as well.  It was an antiracist group that was inspired by Huey Newton.  [Edit: Oops, the squares can be read as black or white.  So it's the BLACK panthers, which were indeed founded in 1966.  The White Panthers were founded in 1968.]

I guess I forgot or never heard the U.S. MARINE nickname "Devil Dog," because I spent a long time staring at _SMERINE (I spelled SALMA Hayek wrong) wondering what obscure animal that could be.  The nickname is claimed to come from a German term for the Marines dating from WWI.

The woman's name IONE has come up a few times, as a sea nymph, as the heroine of an Edward Bulwar-Lytton novel, and as the actress Skye.  I don't think it's been clued as a name meaning violet before.  It's from the Greek word for the flower.

I'm familiar with the street type known as blacktop, but [WHITE]TOP ("many a country road") is new to me.  The term seems to mean a road that's paved with concrete.  Are country roads paved with concrete?  [Edit: no, it's [BLACK]top.]

ROLLING [WHITE]OUT "may prevent an overload of the power grid."  That one had me guessing for a fair bit as well.  I may be missing some technical jargon, but my research indicates this isn't a power company strategy, but power going out under snowy conditions.  A bad clue?  [Edit: No, it's rolling [BLACK]out after all.]

LEN Wiseman directed Total Recall.  That is, the 2012 remake.  Come on, that clue is misleading and he's not well-known.

Judith IVEY is a two-time Tony-winning actress.  Also not extremely well known.

I enjoyed the clue "DC reporter" for LOIS LANE.  "Starter course?" for PLAN A is also good.

I sure had a hard time with this puzzle.  Well, time to LEAVE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 5, 2020

My time: 5:31, 24 seconds slower than my record!

Theme: EVERYTHING BAGEL, hinted at by the words within various clues: POPPY FIELD, OPEN SESAME, VERUCA SALT, and ONION DOMES.

I can't say I'm too familiar with Lil' Bow Wow, nĂ© Shad Gregory Moss, let alone with his music, let alone with his 2002 basketball movie LIKE MIKE.  A boy finds a pair of Michael Jordan's sneakers and gains the ability to play like MJ himself.  There was even a sequel!  Direct to video.

I didn't know the Tickle Me Elmo was made by TYCO (now owned by Mattel).

IOTA is clued as "leader of Kappa Lambda Mu?"  I guess that's sort of clever.  There's a fine line between clever and irritating in crossword clues, sometimes.

Knowing a little bit about Indian religions, as I do, I got SIKH immediately, but I could not have come up with the Five Thieves themselves.  Kaam (lust), Krodh (anger), Lobh (greed), Moh (attachment), and and Hankaar (ego) are the five weaknesses of human spirituality.  Sikhs also enumerate the three pillars, the five virtues, and the five Ks they wear.

Luego is Spanish for "then;" its opposite is AHORA.

Clever clues: "Story of a lifetime, in brief" is OBIT.  "Canine's coat" is ENAMEL.  Tooth, not dog!

This was a very pleasing puzzle.  I liked the long fill and how the theme was cohesive.  Nothing to POOH at here!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 4, 2020

My time: 7:14, just below average.

Theme: FORSAKE ("abandon"), but also read as for _______'s sake ("two words often seen next to the starts of" the themed Across answers).  Thus you get for PETE'S sake, for CHRIST'S sake, for GOD'S sake, and so on.  I feel like they're going to get angry letters from religious types for this frivolous use of desultory blasphemy.

Hey look, it's the normal term JOIST instead of the endless I-bar, I-beam, H-beam, and so forth!

I did not know that CAIRO is the "city of a thousand minarets."  Not to be confused with Prague, city of a hundred spires.

GOD'S LITTLE ACRE is a 1933 dark comedy novel by Erskine Caldwell, about farmer Ty Ty Walden, who tears up his field to find gold.  Caldwell also wrote Tobacco Road.

THEDA Bara was a silent film actress known for the 1917 Cleopatra and the 1915 Carmen.  She is the originator of the term "vamp" for seductive actress, from her roll as the "vampire" (a predatory woman) in 1915's A Fool There Was.  Born Theodosia Goodman, she took the stage name possibly because it's an anagram for "Arab Death."

The term "supermodel" seems to be applied to every single person who ever posed for a picture these days.  I've never heard of South Sudanese-British model ALEK Wek.

I like some of the fill in this one, like JAPE and JEER in the top corners, PHOTOGENIC, and RHINOCEROS.  But EPEEISTS is not good.

Golfer Michelle WIE has appeared a couple of times before.

I don't know why today took so long.  There wasn't too much here that was difficult, and I got the theme soon enough.  Oh well.  I won't mope, sad and LORN ("bereft, old style").

Monday, August 3, 2020

Monday's New York Times crossword solved: August 3, 2020

My time: 4:37.  I thought this was fairly tricky for a Monday.  Some of the clues weren't exactly straightforward.  "That true?" carries much more meaning than IS IT.  Is an ADULT really a "child's counterpart?"  And SO SOON doesn't have any of the meaning that "leaving already?" does, outside of any context.  I think this one needed a firmer editorial hand.

Theme: JUST A PHASE, clued as "terrible twos, e.g. (one hopes!)," but actually referring to the GAS, SOLID, PLASMA, and LIQUID in the Across answers.

Nothing new this time around, just some old crossword friends:

I had no memory of ever hearing the name SUSIE Essman, venerable character actress in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and many other TV shows.  But she was in the crossword on September 26, 2017.

SAMOA, the home of Pago Pago, has come up before.

The Mets' quondam home, SHEA Stadium, comes up a lot; its replacement Citi Field has also been mentioned.

Mexican resort town CABO San Lucas has also been discussed in the past.

Timbuktu's home, MALI, came up on November 21, 2017.

While I enjoyed the theme and the lengthy fill entries (like DRAMA QUEEN), this puzzle had some dud clues that made it not as enjoyable as usual.  At least, I THOUGHT SO.  IS IT?

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 9, 2020

                              My time: 19:28 , not too shabby for a Sunday! Theme: SHIPSHAPE, as shown when you connect the "dots"...