Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Today's time: 20:41.


I love rebus puzzles!  Words that go with office in the four corners, to make CORNER OFFICEs: BOX, OVAL, POST, and HOME.  People who want to be told in advance that a puzzle will be a rebus are missing the entire point.  The fun is in discovering that something is a bit off.

MAMIE Eisenhower apparently had a recipe for "million-dollar fudge."  And here it is!

ETON was apparently founded by Henry VI in 1440.  Now that's old school!

Everyone knows Caliban, Prospero, and Ariel, and maybe Miranda, but the king in "The Tempest," ALONSO, is a pretty minor character.

"FDR-created program with the slogan 'We Do Our Part'" is the NRA, but not the evil bastard gun nuts.  This one is the National Recovery Administration.

Never heard of them department: (1) PIMA cotton.  (2) Artist LeRoy NEIMAN, who, of course, is famous for murals of sports figures.  No wonder I don't know him!

Clever clues: "Pilot's surroundings" is GAS OVEN.  (I initially had *COCKPIT.)  "Pittance" is RED CENT.

Hey, it's NAS again!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Today's time: 11:14.


This crossword in an eight-step word ladder, from BLUNT to SHARP!  Now that's clever.

Grandpa Walton's name was ZEB?  As in Zebulon Tyler WaltonWe are from Zebulon.  We come in peace.  Take us to your leader.

I am the single most cluless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: I've never heard of "NFL QB" DEREK Carr.  He has played with the Oakland Raiders for three years and I doubt I will remember that tomorrow.

Also: OLE MISS, I know.  The Rebels?  SEC??  Your words are puzzles to me.

Clue I was baffled by: "Cabbage or kale" is DO RE MI.  What?  I had to be told that these are all slang terms for money.  And here's me, having listened to Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" all these decades.

Mayella EWELL is a To Kill a Mockingbird character I could not have named in a hundred years.

LISLE is a strong cotton thread named after Lisle, France.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Today's time: 9:10.


I love this theme, of TOO CLEVER BY HALF in which an expression is altered by an extra half, as in THIRTY QUESTIONS or a FIFTEEN FOOT POLE.

New to me:  "Charles or Ray after whom a chair is named:" EAMES.  It's a kind of leather lounge chair often paired with an Ottoman.

Forgotten in the dusty scrolls of the past: HI-HO, a "onetime Ritz rival."  Hi Ho Crackers, once made by Sunshine Biscuits, no longer exist.  Here's Radar from "MASH" putting Hi Ho Crackers into a slot machine for some goddam reason.

Apparently NAS raps "N.Y. State of Mind."  I thought it was Jay-Z.

More old-timey food: NECCO candy wafers!

Clever clues: "High winds" are OBOES, "third person" is CAIN, "drilling grp." is ROTC.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Today's time: 4:58!  A new record.


For "wide keyboard key" I had *SPACE but crossfill revealed ENTER.  Deucedly sneaky, these crossword maker chappies.

Clever clues: "Rest of the afternoon" is SIESTA.  "Web site?" is ATTIC.

Unusual fill: THE LAW IS A ASS (said by Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist).

I am the single most cluless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: ISIAH Thomas, "NBA Hall-of-Famer" is only a vaguely remembered name to me.  Why doesn't he spell his name "Isaiah?"
  • Update:  I was apparently thinking of Isaiah Thomas, the still-active player for the Celtics and Cavaliers.  It turns out I've never heard of Isiah Thomas.  How confusing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Today's time: 21:02.


I did not get around to finish Wednesday this week, which is a shame because the wordplay theme looked fun.  I tried to finish Neil Patrick Harris' Thursday puzzle, but I guess the trickery was just too tricky for me.

Is CNN journalist ANA Cabrera really famous enough to warrant a clue in the NYT puzzle?

I had *SHIVA for "Hindu war deity," but it turned out to be INDRA, which I seriously question.  He's as much of a war god as Zeus or Thor, which is to say, destroying things is part of his purview but not his raison d'etre.  Here is a list of a few others who might fit the description.

ALEWIFE is a fun name for a fish.

The ROSS SEA --- a rare crossword clue with three S's in a row --- is one of the many small seas surrounding Antarctica.  I might have guessed this sooner if I had known that Mt. Erebus is a volcano on Antarctica.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Today's time: 07:18.


Geography is not my strong suit, but this theme, with specific cities containing their state's postal abbreviation within their names and those abbreviations shaded, is very clever indeed.   (For example, ASTORIA contains OR for Oregon, and TUSCALOOSA contains AL for Alabama.)

I have never heard of PEABO Bryson.  I was going to blame that on being old and Out of Touch with the Musics of Today, but it turns out he is 66 years old and started having hits in 1977.  I guess I should just shorten that to Out of Touch.

My lawyer girlfriend has heard of the degree LLM (Master of Laws) but not the "undergraduate law degree" LLB. That's because, it turns out, it is a Commonwealth degree and not given in these here United States.

We had YEW on Monday and now YEW TREE on Tuesday.

GLOM is a good word.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

Today's time: 07:33.


Last Friday, I failed to solve the puzzle due to one letter error (I now know the difference between CASABA melon and CASSAVA root, as well as what a DIABOLO is).

This was a hilarious, brilliant theme, with mind THE GAP being the joke.  Themes answers can be read two ways: the typical way, or with additional spaces (this latter way being the clued definition).  So URBAN LEGENDS is also be read (and in this case clued: "Feet in the city") as URBAN LEG ENDS?  KINDRED SPIRIT or KIND RED SPIRIT ("friendly Communist ghost")?  And my favorite: "slim monarch who gets around fast," or QUICK THIN KING.

I feel like this is the second time in a couple of days that we've had the "Mexican assent" SI, SI.

TOULON, a harbor city on the French coast, is a major naval base on the Mediterranean. 

"Wave measures" refers to AMPLITUDES, the measure of a signal strength of a wave.  The AM in radio stands for Amplitude Modulation.

Clever clue: "It guards a dribbler" is BIB.

This was a TUN of fun.  The fill was mostly quick 'n' easy, but that theme really made the puzzle shine.  I will happily TOUT Tom McCoy, who crafted this one.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My time: 15:10!  That's a new world record! I mean personal best!


Another fun theme, this one with groups of four.  The first four I spotted was EYES, giving GLASSES WEARER.  After that, the four TOPS and MOTOWN SINGERS came easily.  It really helped that I have a Master's in Asian history, so knew right away that "faction in China's Cultural Revolution" was GANG OF FOUR.

I tried to spell BORZOI ("Russian wolfhound") as *BORSHOI at first, then realized it didn't fit.

I've never heard of "ESPN broadcaster" Bob LEY and I don't really care, though it is kind of interesting that he is the longest-tenured employee there.

More sports: Walter HAGEN, whom I've sort of heard of?

I like "crack" for ACE, as in "a crack shot."

Haven't we had A-TEAM and TOSSED very recently?

I put *GRE for GED again!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My time: 12:01


Fun "spin" theme --- SPIDER-MAN spins webs, SKRILLEX spins records, MINNESOTA FATS spins billiard balls, and PAT SAJAK tells someone else to spin letters.  Put them together and they "could teach" a SPIN CLASS.  Har!

Some good fill in this puzzle, such as NONET, ORE-IDA, HBO NOW, WASABI, KATANA, and I'M SORE.

I got Diego MARADONA by crossfill and vaguely knowing the sounds of his name.  He is "the Golden Boy" who scored both the "Hand of God" goal and "the Goal of the Century."  I've heard of those, but couldn't tell you anything about them.

I was completely lost, even after every letter had been filled, at "silent film opener" IRIS IN.  This is a type of iris shot, in which a black screen opens a circle which expands to show the action.  I am familiar with the iris out used in cartoons, as described in the Wikipedia article:

"In some cartoons and live-action films, iris shots are used as a way to break the fourth wall, usually for comedic purposes or to allow characters to interact with the audience. Examples of this include characters trying to escape through the closing iris, addressing the audience with a one liner before the iris closes, or holding the iris open to try and continue a monologue."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My time: 9:08.


I liked the "collector" pun theme (for example, "stamp collector" = PASSPORT).  One of the clues doesn't quite ft with the others --- stamp collecting, record collecting, and shell collecting are hobbies, but a "bill collector" is something else entirely.

In general, I thought the clues were unusually vague for a Tuesday; not frustrating or anything, just teasingly vague clues which I think usually belong on a Wednesday or later.

I really liked the original answers STANDING O, BITTER END, and TOOTLE.  "Puff pieces" for PIPES is clever.

For "Japanese floor mat," I had the general idea in my head --- takami?  kotami? --- but it is TATAMI, which sounds like it is a lacy friend (tat + ami).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

My time: 5:44.  Just four seconds slow!  I was trying to be fast today.


Fun Monday puzzle with a great vegetarian cooking theme, perfect for MEATLESS MONDAY.

The only clue I didn't know right off was actress Lena OLIN.  She was born in Sweden!  She was in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My time: 45:18.  It's unusual that I finish two Sundays in a row!


I loved this magic trick rebus theme.  An answer which should be Peking becomes PEACE with the added clue CHANGING CARD (king to ace).  Similarly, the word co-insure becomes SURE with VANISHING COIN being the rule.  One answer is SAWING A LADY IN HALF, so later in the puzzle, two Across answers on the same row ELLA and DYS show that the word is indeed in half.  And the answer LINKING RINGS shows us that two crossed answers, ST[RING]BEAN and SY[RING]E, indeed link at the square sharing ring.  Extremely clever.

"Feudal vassal" yields LIEGE, although I am more familiar with it in the sense of its opposite, a feudal lord.  I don't think of it as a contronym.

Kudos for AM I being "Is that true about me?" rather than yet another French friend.

There is a musical based on Fellini's movie 8 1/2, called... Nine?  Written by the award-festooned Maury Yeston, its plot concerns film director Guido Contini, who is dreading his imminent 40th birthday and facing a midlife crisis, which is blocking his creative impulses and entangling him in a web of romantic difficulties in early-1960s Venice.

The magic trick theme wormed its way into my brain, because I couldn't put together "Escape maker" as anything but a Houdini-like reference until the fill made FORD clear.

Something I have never heard of: a TRIOLET.  Is it called that because the first line repeats three times?  I don't know!

EERO Saarinen and Carl ORFF should get crossword mention royalties.

The OTOE were a nomadic tribe that lived around the Missouri River.  I think the sentence from their Wikipedia article "They struggled to adapt to reservation life" is pretty much the purest example of understatement meeting white privilege as you're likely to find.

Lesley STAHL has been a "60 Minutes" reporter since 1991.

From 1978 to 1997, the CableACE AWARD was given out as a counterpart to the Emmy Awards.  In April 1998, National Cable Television Association members voted to end the ceremony as cable programming began to meet parity, and eventually to the present day, overtake broadcast competition within the categories of the Primetime Emmys.

I like to think I know some exotic animal names, but I've never heard of the TITI, a South American monkey with a very long, furry, non-prehensile tail.

"Name on some boxes of film" is AGFA, which refers to Agfa-Gevaert, a Belgian-German multinational concern that produces analog and digital imaging and systems.

Timothy DOLAN is the tenth Archbishop of New York.  Why don't we sweep all these nasty people off the streets and deport them to Theocratia, where they belong?

"Furs from rabbits" is CONIES.

Being pretty far away from a Mormon, I have no desire to acquaint myself with their sacred text.  Apparently one of the books is called ENOS.  Yes, but in which book does Jesus come to America and chill with the Sioux while driving a bitchin' Camaro?

This took a VARY long time.  This is the sort of thing that CHASTENS an inflated ego.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

My time: 50:27.  (The record for Saturday is 23:37.  Today's wasn't a cakewalk for me.)


I don't often even finish the Saturday puzzle, but I slogged through this one and finally made it.  There were a lot of wrong fills and flat-out guesses as to letters.  I'm not going to list every single thing I had trouble with, because that would be a joyless exercise. I really didn't have fun with this one because it had so many letters I couldn't make educated guesses at, and it didn't even have a theme!

For "ability to learn and adapt," I had *BRAIN ELASTICITY, which messed up the downs for a while.  The preferred and more common term, of course, is BRAIN PLASTICITY.

I liked THRILLA for "start of a big fight?"  The Thrilla in Manila, baby!  I don't know jack about team sports, but I do know my boxing history.

I have never heard of the term CANTAB for a Cambridge student, despite being half British.  And yet there it is.  That word really held up the northwest works for a good long time.  I kept guessing: Cantib?  Cantin?  Canton?  Cantub?

The reason for the guessing is because I have never heard of ATLI, who was "Gudrun's victim, in Norse myth."  Gudrun is the sister of king Gunnar, who falls in love with Sigurd and later marries Atli, to whom she feeds his sons, kills him, and burns down his hall.  Charming tales those Germans wove, eh?

I knew that a guy named OLDS started a car company, but could not put together his first name, RANSOM.

For "some postgraduate study" I stuck with *LAB, which doesn't really make sense, but I have never heard of Arthur WYNNE, "inventor of the crossword puzzle."

Finally, for "split" I had *REND, then *RENT, and finally discovered WENT after starting stupidly at *RARBIRD for way too long.

Some days you get the bear... The bear didn't get me today, but it was way too much of a fight for my tastes.  The bear wasn't worth it.  I don't even like bear meat.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

My time: 15:35.  (Friday's record is 15:18 --- if I'd known that I might have tried to beat it!)


I was lucky to know WU-TANG CLAN right off the bat, and guess that "Sanford and Son" took place in WATTS.  Then when the clue about the very familiar (to me) story of David having URIAH murdered so he could sleep with his wife was the next down clue, the northwest block was a go.

The city of TEMPE just looks weird to me.  Tempe.  Is it really spelled that way?  Surely you're thinking of Tampa?

Nereids are sea nymphs in Greek mythology, which I knew, but I'm not exactly on a first-name basis with the ladies.  Thetis, mother of Achilles, is the one who is best known.  IONE is not one with any specific claim to fame.

Here is someone counting to ten in THAI.  To anyone with a passing familiarity with how various languages work, "jet" sounds Asian, so Thai was actually my first guess, but I waited until I got a confirmation cross letter, since I don't actually know Thai.

For "east or west lead-in" I had *NOR instead of DUE, making GRAPE-NUTS hard to get and "____ again?" (YET) totally perplexing.

Unsolved clues department: "2.0" is CEE?  I don't understand that.  At all.
  • Update: It's grade point average, dummy.
TRINI LOPEZ' version of "Lemon Tree" is much more fun than Peter, Paul & Mary's.

After yesterday's Otho, I thought this was another clue about Roman emperors: "Hilarius succeeded" LEO I "in A.D. 461," apparently.  But it is referring to Leo I, the Great Pope, who turned the Huns away from Rome and cemented our modern conception of Christ as both fully human and fully divine.  Next to him, Hilarius (the "funny" Pope), was a damn nobody!

Two more totally new (or forgotten!) references to me: LIA Fáil, the Stone of Ireland that served as a coronation stone of myth, much like the Sword in the Stone in Arthurian legend. 
And "view from the Piazzale Michelangelo" is ARNO, which means you can see the Arno river from this famed square in Florence.  I'm so provincial!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My time: 17:11.  (My Thursday record is 16:10, so not bad!)


I loved, loved this sweet visual theme.  BY HOOK OR BY CROOK, with a LAMB at the crook formed by black squares and the FISH at the hook.  Brilliant.

SCOTT Kelly is not a name that I know, but I have read about him before, as he is the only twin to go to space, which is fascinating for the study of how long space sojourns affect the body.

SPIRO might have been the second VP to resign, but who was the first?  John C. Calhoun, who disagreed with Andrew Jackson.

I did not understand why "big rolls" was SIXES for the longest time.  Like hours after I completed the puzzle.  I just kept thinking about big dinner rolls.  It's about dice rolls!  Jeez.

Now, I am aware that an UTE is a southwestern Native American tribe, but I didn't know it is also a "Pac-12 athlete."  The Utah Utes. Wow.

PITHY threw me for a while.  One reason is that I have never heard of the Roman emperor OTHO, who apparently held that title for only three months, yay.

Sticking it to myself department:  I had *CLANG for "sound of metallic impact" rather than (the much less apropos, IMO) CLONK, which means I stubbornly stuck with *AMINA GROUP and overlooked the nonsense *ASG.   And for CITY desk ("newspaper post"), I initially had *COPY, which also made PITHY hard to get.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My time: 9:10.  (The record for Wednesday is 7:43).


Lots of things that stalled me today.  I liked the "card terms used in other contexts" theme.

I swear, "feeds the kitty" (ANTES) is the most common crossword clue ever.

Not being a reality TV watcher, Immunity IDOL from Survivor eluded me.  In the back of my mind I had this vague thought it was a conch or something.

"Dixie bread:" PONE.  Tom Lehrer: "I wanna be a Dixie pixie and eat corn pone till it's comin' out of my ears."

Mossad is the national security agency of Israel, so "Mossad's land" is ISR.

"Disney's" EMIL "and the detectives" is based on a 1929 German novel, and not one of their most famous adaptations.

"Big name in DVD rental"??  Do those exist?  Did this puzzle come from 1994?  Ah yes, REDBOX.  Not a service I am familiar with.  *NETFLIX didn't fit.

"Soccer's Messi" is LEO.  Look, his informal nickname is right there in his Wikipedia article!

"Cheese in moussaka" is FETA because moussaka is clearly a Greek word, but what the heck is moussaka?  It seems to be a Middle Eastern dish that resembles a lasagna made of eggplant or potato, with minced meat.

I have never once heard of Henry James PYE, esteemed Poet Laureate.  However, these sentences from Wikipedia give a fine portrait of the man:  "Although he had no command of language and was destitute of poetic feeling, his ambition was to obtain recognition as a poet, and he published many volumes of verse... He was made poet laureate in 1790... The appointment was looked on as ridiculous, and his birthday odes were a continual source of contempt. The 20th century British historian Lord Blake called Pye 'the worst Poet Laureate in English history with the possible exception of Alfred Austin'... After his death, Pye remained one of the unfortunate few who have been classified as a 'poetaster.'"  

The EEL River has a very long and through Wikipedia article.  Why, look at this!  A proposal to dam the river was met withzzzzzzzz

Franz LEHAR was an Austrian composer best known for the "Merry Widow."

Sticking it to myself department: For some reason I put *GRE instead of GED for "goal for some H.S. dropouts," which held up the works for a little while.  I also had *COLA for SODA at "Coke or Pepsi," which meant that the "school email suffix" was *ELU. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

All in all, I did this one pretty quickly.  My time: 7:22.  (My Tuesday record is 7:03 --- if I'd known how close I was, I would have tried to do this faster.)

A cute Tuesday puzzle with number themes.

I blanked on SARAH Huckabee Sanders, but I don't feel bad at all.  Hopefully she will soon be known only as a bemused footnote in the most esoteric books on incompetence and corruption in American politics.

The clue "4/4" made me think of musical time immediately, but I don't know much about that field at all.  I thought 4/4 was waltz time.  I didn't know the expression COMMON TIME.

I have some kind of problem where my brain refuses to understand things like spatial direction, maps, and compass points, so things like "Indianapolis-to-Cleveland dir." I always leave till later.  ENE, eh?  If you say so.

"Division of baseball's N.L. or A.L."  CENTRAL.  If you say so.  Apparently there's six divisions in baseball.  National League east, central, and west, and same for American League.  I had no idea.

I wanted "50/50" to be *EQUAL SPLIT, but it turned out to be less dynamic EVEN STEVEN.

MELT for "start running" is clever.

A PATENT is what "lasts 20 years."  (Generally speaking, of course.)  Good to know!

"Analogy words" can be *AS TO or IS TO, but since there's no *Q-TAP...

MOUNT OF OLIVES is something I've heard of, vaguely, but isn't in my mental database as having any characteristics.  It's a place in the Bible where some events in the life of Jesus took place, and also the place from which he ascended to heaven.  He also wept over Jerusalem there, and it is the place where David went when he fled, sobbing, from Absalom.  Lots of Biblical crying at the Mount of Olives.

I have never heard of OMAR Vizquel.  Shocking, I know, considering I also didn't know how Major League Baseball is divided.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

My time: 6:21.  (My record is 5:40.)


A pretty easy themeless puzzle.  I had a little trouble with the south, especially the southeast.

I'm sure I've heard the word before, but MOTET ("sacred choral work") did not come easily to me.  According to Wikipedia, the etymology of the word is disputed, but I like the idea of the French "little word."

For "a lot of them can be found on a lot," I had *AUDIS until TAN ("something that might be picked up at the beach") revealed it was the more generic AUTOS.

The terms IONIC, Doric, and Corinthian have been drilled into me, but I don't know the difference between them.  Apparently Ionic columns are thinner and fluted, with volutes (scrolls) at the cap.

Although I know the words, AGORA and LENTO came slowly (ha!) to me, requiring crossfill.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My time: 32:21, just six seconds later than the record on Sunday.  This inspired the blog!


Sunday puzzle, full of ship puns (GALLEONS OF MILK, DIRTY DOUBLE CRUISER, WARSHIPS AT THE ALTAR).  I had almost no trouble with it.

I don't recall any information that was totally new to me.