Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Today's time: 18:30, a new record!

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A pretty clever puzzle by Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen.

I would have had an even faster time, but got hung up on the south.  For "home of Rembrandt's The Night Watch" I ended up with *RIETSMUSEUM, which seemed reasonably Dutch to me.  This is one of the cases wherein I would have just had a DNF if it hadn't been for doing it online, which told me I had some errors.  So I changed *V-E DAY to V-J DAY, and changed "track prize" to STAKES from the incorrect *STATES.  (You know, as in "We won the regional, and now we're going to States!"  No?  Apparently it's just "going to State.")  So anyway that makes The Night Watch living at RIJKSMUSEUM, which is even more appropriately Dutch!

For "yours truly, facetiously," I got stuck on thinking of letter closings.  It's actually the term for MOI, as used by Miss Piggy.

I liked "reception figures" being both EARS (surely an incomprehensible answer to those born after 1980) and DJS.

I got PHLOX by naming flowers that fit; I didn't know it was Greek for flame.  But it makes sense, if you think about phlogiston.

I think K-MART's slogan "The Saving Place" is before my time.  Or maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

Ask AMY, syndicated advice column.  Not Ask Ann.  Amy Dickinson.

San Luis OBISPO, or SLO to the locals, is known for Bubblegum Alley, where wads of chewed gum cover walls.  Ick, how gross!

Point REYES National Seashore is a coastal park in Marin County, California.

I find it hard to remember if the author of the novel The Phantom of the Opera is Gaston *LAROUX or LEROUX.  He is also well known among mystery fans for his The Mystery of the Yellow Room.

"Setting of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" ends up being G MAJOR.  I feel like that is misusing the word "setting" somehow.  Also it seems like it is played in different keys than G at times, so.

I'm glad the Young Frankenstein assistant was INGA and not Igor.

IDEAL GAS is a "substance obeying Boyle's law," which is an experimental gas law, making the gas in question largely hypothetical, much like my sex life until late college.  Basically the law states that the pressure a gas exerts is inversely proportional to the volume it occupies.

Clever clues: "under the weather while above the clouds" is AIRSICK.  "Become lightheaded" is GO BLONDE. (I was looking at the partial fill, thinking, *GO BLOODY?  As in, loss of blood?)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

My time: 16:57, close but no cigar.

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I enjoyed this themeless by Damon Gulczynski.  I got the long fills --- PABLO NERUDA, GENDER BINARY, GIVE ME A RING, and JOLLY RANCHER, OVER THE HUMP, etc. --- pretty easily.

Is a zinger really a MOT?  Doesn't it have to be a bon mot?

SET SHOT is not a term I'm familiar with.

I also learned that POI (mashed taro root) can be eaten fresh or after it has fermented a bit.

RELO ("type of property, in real-estate lingo") is a term of art that no one else needs.

It's clever to note that TRES is a French word and also a different Spanish word.

I eat a lot of sushi, but I don't drink beer, so ASAHI (a beer company) is not something I know about.

Judith HOAG, yet another actress I don't know from a TV series I don't watch.

Raqqa is a city in SYRIA that has been devastated by civil war and airstrikes from the USA and other countries.

Clever clues: "Puny arms?" is BB GUNS; "appropriate game" is POACH (as a teacher, I kept thinking of a game appropriate for kids); "mushroom producers" is not *SPORES but A-BOMBS.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Today's time: 19:51.

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Loved this visual theme by Joe Krozel, where the black boxes are in the shape of a PINATA and there is a lone, uncrossed clue in the center: CANDY.

I would have done my best time yet for a Thursday except for about sixteen connected boxes in the center left, which took up well over five minutes.

Where some bills originate, for short:  *SEN?  *CON?  ATM is the answer.  Devilish.

"Org with millions of members HQ'd in Fairfax, VA:" *CIA?  *NSA?  No, NRA.

"Historical ______."  As I have said before, I hate these kinds of too-vague clues.  There's just no a-ha moment, as there is in the ATM wordplay.  This is just two words that sometimes go together.  Historical *DATA?  Historical *FACT?  No, Historical SITE.  Yes, okay, whatever.

"Connector of English stories" had me thinking of writers and I couldn't get out of that mindset.  It's LIFT, and stories are floors of a building.  Arg.

"No Triple Crown winner ever" had me dithering.  *MALE?  *SIRE?  No, of course it's MARE --- all the winners are male.  It's not a rule, but it's just how it worked out.

"Well-planed" did not get me to EVEN.

So much for tricky and overly vague clues.  Now on to the stuff I didn't know!

Hale BOGGS was Louisiana Democrat, House majority leader, and member of the Warren Commission.  He died in a plane accident in Alaska, presumably before he could be found guilty on charges of corruption and bribery.

Naphthalene is distilled from TAR, more specifically naphtha, and is used in making mothballs.

I didn't know that Melania Trump was NEE Knauss.  More specifically, her Slovenian birth name is Melanija Knavs, Germanicized to Melania Knauss.

For Lao-TSE I initially tried *TZU, a perfectly valid variant of what is properly Laozi. I'm not a professional Sinologist, but let's keep it Pinyin, people.

San ANGELO, Texas, is notable for its nicknames: Land of Sand and Jello, Pearl of the Conchos, and Oasis of West Texas

Why is "cross-country route, informally" ITEN and not *ITIN for itinerary??

For "popular beige work boots, informally," I initially had *UGGS, then realized they aren't work boots.  TIMS, it turns out, are Timberland boots.

LELAND Stanford founded the university with his wife, Jane, and, much like Trump, was acclaimed for his racist rants against Chinese immigrants.

"Brooks Robinson was one:" ORIOLE.  Nicknames: the Human Vacuum Cleaner and Mr. Hoover.

"New Hampshire's Saint ANSELM College" is a Catholic liberal arts university that is ranked #8 in the nation for campus food.

"Agreement:" I had DETENTE for too long.  It's ENTENTE.

Whew.  Now that's a slog, and yet, I practically whizzed through it until I was hit by that center west wall.  Well, that's the breaks.  Ha!  Breaks!  PINATA!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesday, September 26, 2017

Today's time: 9:58.

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A medium-difficulty Wednesday by Jacob Stulberg with an extremely clever theme: THREE-RING CIRCUS filled in the middle, with three circles of boxes reading, clockwise, GLASS EATER, FIRE DANCER, and WIRE WALKER.  Is "glass eater" a thing?  Yes.  A weird and dangerous thing.

I was fortunate enough to be familiar with a lot of this fill already: AFL-CIO, PNIN, ERIS, ANC, Cream as a TRIO, Hermann HESSE, SELAH, etc.  I've even heard of the baseball ALOU family!  However, there was also a great deal that I didn't know.

We all know CYPRESS HILL ("insane in the membrane!"), but did you know their best-known album is a triple-platinum seller called Black Sunday?  Me neither.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series:
Baseball player and manager LEO Durocher, I also did not know.  Usual Wikipedia nickname trivia: he's known as Leo the Lip!
Hideo NOMO is known as the first Japanese baseball player to make it in the American leagues, pitching for the L.A. Dodgers.

Ba is the abbreviation for BARIUM.  BaSO4 is barium sulfate, used mostly as a lightening pigment.

"Very, in music" was totally unknown to me.  ASSAI?  It just makes me think of Maasai and assegai.  "You better play very fast, or I'll poke you with this assegai!"

"Soldier from Seoul" is ROK, which is Republic of Korea Army.

"Traitorous Major ANDRE of the Revolutionary War" is John André, who was hanged in 1780.  I've never heard of him!  He worked for Benedict Arnold.

Ray NAGIN was the mayor of New Orleans and rose to fame for his handling of Katrina.  As a Louisiana Democrat, of course, he was convicted on twenty charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering related to bribes from city contractors before and after Katrina and was sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Polaris is an F class supergiant, or as this puzzle has it, "F-STAR." I see some pages that list Polaris as "an evolved class F" or the like, but no one seems to say "F-star."

ERTE is Erté, nom d'art (made from his initials, like Hergé) of Romain de Tirtoff, fashion and theater designer.  Symphony in Black is probably his most famous image.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Today's time: 7:49.

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Today's puzzle by comedian and View co-host Joy Behar and Lynn Lempel has comedians' names worked into sound-alike phrases: PURPLE HART, PAW PRINZE, PRYOR COMMITMENT, BARR FIGHT, and FALLEN IDLE.  Ha!  Hilarity!

ADAM Schiff, "on the House Intelligence Committee," is a Democratic Congressman from California, in the news lately because of his attempts to protect DREAMers from the thoughtless policies of our racist Manchurian president.

I did not know that Helen Keller was a founder of the ACLU.  This and other interesting facts about the truly great lady are here.

Hey, it's my mule SAL again!  Last time the fill was Erie and the clue was Sal; today the reverse.

Swimmer Diana NYAD has an almost-phonetically-palindromic name. She became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, at the age of 64!  Dang.  Wikipedia almost always some interesting tangential tidbits: "Nyad was also once ranked thirteenth among US women squash players."

SUSIE Essman is yet another actor I don't know.  I've never seen "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

For "youngest of the fictional March sisters" I put *MEG, but she's the oldest.  It's AMY.  I've read that book maybe three times, but I really couldn't remember which was which.

IDA Lupino (for whom I initially had *IRA) was an actress and singer, who managed to become a producer and director despite the chauvinistic Hollywood machine of the time.  She was in High Sierra, a lesser Bogart joint, and directed the noir The Hitch-Hiker.  I'd-a remembered that if only I'd-a seen it!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

Today's time: 6:07

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I know that these times, registered on my phone as I tap in answers, are probably a bit longer than if I were writing with pencil and paper.  For one thing I wouldn't accidentally write things like *BULL MOOSR and not notice, thus ending up spending a precious extra minute searching for the typo.  But the online format also sometimes helps, as when it points out I have an error, which in paper would be a big DNF.  So it's probably a wash.

Today's grid, by Bruce Haight, featured the theme of rhyming phrases, crossed in their middles: HANDY DANDY, HOITY-TOITY, HOTSY-TOTSY (this appeared recently, but I didn't note when), NAMBY-PAMBY, etc.

"California's old Fort ORD" is now a national monument (thanks, Obama!) that is home to several endangered species.

Hey, for once "Arizona tribe" is HOPI, not Ute!

Fun puzzle.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

My time: 33:34.

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In this themed Sunday by Alan Arbesfeld, words in various phrases are read as US state abbreviations rather than as themselves.  So you get CATCH ME [Maine] IF YOU CAN ("Try not to miss Bangor and Lewiston"), MA [Massachusetts] AND PA [Pennsylvania] KETTLE ("whistler from two Eastern states"), and my favorite, ONE MO [Missouri] TIME ("2:00 in New York vis-a-vis St. Louis").

Is "the tennis world since 1968" really known as the OPEN ERA?  Yes.  It sounds like a pun.

I shall endeavor to remember that ICE-T's character on "Law & order" is called Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola.

For "fifth wheel" I had *EXTRA; it's SPARE.

TD BANK, which stands for Toronto-Dominion Bank, is the second-largest bank in Canada.

A bunch of sports guys I don't know:
Sportscaster Al MICHAELS, known for his commentary at various memorable moments.
Dodgers owner Walter O'MALLEY, Woodrow Wilson type, hated for moving them to L.A.
Cleveland Browns owner Art MODELL, also loathed for attempting to move the Browns to Baltimore.

For AVIA, an Oregon-based shoe company, I originally had *AVEO.  I had some vague idea of the shoe company's name but had mixed it up with the recent Chevrolet clues, I guess.

Not to be further confused with ALTA, a Utah skiing resort.

Also, EERO Saarinen is everyone's favorite Finnish architect, but I often can't remember if his name is Eero or Eeno.  He's a hero!  A hero architect!

I think EDH is an unfair trick for the Icelandic letter usually spelled "eth."

I can't keep track of all these cars.  I'll never own a Jaguar XK-E.

I've fallen way down on my film watching and could not recall the name of TOTSI, which I really ought to see.

My familiarity from a very young age with 12-step programs helped me fill in both AA MEETINGS and IN REHAB (in the same puzzle --- I wonder if that's a sign of something?).

"Hydroxyl compound" ENOL appeared four days ago.  Let's freshen up these clues and fills, people!

Clever clues: "Change of locks?" is NEW DO; "cab alternative" is ZIN (I knew from the three boxes it had to be a wine pun); "they may block passage" is NAYS.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My time: 24:34, exactly ten seconds slower than my record.

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A sweet, clean themeless by Robyn Weintraub, and a welcome relief from Thursday's and Friday's very tough slogs.

For "question after a rant," I kept thinking of what the ranter would be asking --- "So you get my drift?" or "Capisce?" or something --- but it's the calm interlocutor who deflates/enrages the ranter with a sneering, ARE YOU DONE?

The wordplay this time around was eminently guessable: "boring things in shops" is too short to be drills, so it's AWLS; "friend of note" is obviously PEN PAL; "elevated lines?" is the near-daily ODE; etc.

I've heard of BEBE Neuwirth, but not IRENE Neuwirth, jewelers to the stars.

I did not know Davy Crockett's rifle was known as Old BETSY (and he later had a "Pretty Betsy," both named after his sister), but it's not exactly a surprising name.

Good solid unambiguous clues like "perfect place" for SWEET SPOT or "opposite of schadenfreude" for PITY really helped with that quick time, too.  I probably burned the most time on "Grp. that takes on pirates," not being able to decide if it was *RIAA or MPAA ("And so what is a *BROVIE," I thought to myself.... perhaps a bro movie --- like a rom-com for dudes?  Nah.  It's B-MOVIE.)

Best joke: "potential perch" is ROE.  Har!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

My time: 40:23.  Another kicking around the clock, but I took him down in the end.

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Love those long answers --- MI CASA ES SU CASA, I NEVER SAID THAT, ROMANTIC PERIOD, ICING ON THE CAKE.

I got stuck on a lot of tough, vague clues.  For "routine" I got stuck on the meaning of "well-known schedule" but it turned out to mean SHTICK.

"What Pérez Prado was King of" turns out to be THE MAMBO.  Always fascinating nickname trivia from Wikipedia: "He was nicknamed "El Cara de Foca" ("Seal Face") by his peers at the time."  King of the Mambo is a better nickname.  Because I'm not exactly a Mambo King myself, I initially had *THE MAMBA.

A DIODE is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts primarily in one direction, so "current director" is pretty clever!

Here's IAN Somerhalder of 'The Vampire Diaries."  I really don't watch a lot of TV.

Ohm's Law states that the current, measured in AMPS, through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points.  So much electricity in this puzzle.

"Humiliating defeats" is the stupid ROMPS, not the *ROUTS it ought to be.  For "fish preserved in olive oil" I had *HERRING but it's SARDINE.

A cardioid figure is shaped like a fat heart, which has a lot of ARCs.  Watch the Wikipedia animated example.

"Label producer" is AVERY, a company that make self-adhesive labels.

Mo King UDALL, "longtime Arizona politician," I vaguely remember for the bit of trivia that he was briefly on the Denver Nuggets.

ESA-Pekka Salonen is a name I won't remember ten minutes from now, probably.

"Chamber of commerce?" is SHOP; that's pretty weak wordplay.

I never heard of Miami (resident: MIAMIAN) being called "Capital of Latin America," but there we are.

Clever, ambiguous clues abound: "gross" is EARN, not an adjective.  "It might have a tent sale" is REI.  "Old ball and chain?" is MACE.  "Small square" is ONE.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

My time: 28:44.  Yikes!

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This one knocked me around for nearly half an hour!  It wasn't the (very clever and fun) theme, which I sussed out relatively early; it was a few spots of quite tough fill!

The theme, which I love, is that starred clues take a UEY (which I originally wrote as the more common *UIE.  That is, they run forward, then move down and backwards.  This means that the clue below must not only be sensical fill, it must complete the phrase from above.  So you get, for example, PRIVATE LINES, appearing as PRIVAT above SENILE.  This was the first themed answer I got, suspecting something like a reversal from the start (though not dreaming it would take up two lines of fill).  Other themed clues include TATTLETALE, appearing as TATTL above ELATE; TWO-TIME LOSER, appearing as TWOTIM above RESOLE; and the cleverest of them all, STRIKES A BALANCE, appearing as STRIK above ABASE above LANCE.

A "connection provider, for short" is DSL, which we know, but do we know it stands for Digital Subscriber Line?  I didn't.

"Ragtime legend" EUBIE Blake probably lives on in the minds of more crossword solvers than music lovers.  "Eubie" is a nickname for Hubert.  Here is 91-year-old Eubie playing "Love Will Find a Way" in 1978.

Cigars should be kept MOIST?  What?  That's like, the opposite of what I would have thought.

I hate clues like "Perhaps ____" for NOT.  That's NOT any more of a discrete phrase than "you're right" or "maybe later."  They're just two words that go together when the occasion calls for it.

For "social gathering" I initially had *TEA; it's BEE.

I've been out of college so long that "tomorrow's jr." meant nothing to me.  I needed most of the crossfill for SOPH.

"Knight's need" is also vague.  *STEED?  *ARMOR?  *SWORD?  Ah, LANCE.

NORA Helmer, the protagonist of "A Doll's House," is a name I haven't heard in years.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: baseball player TRIS Speaker is someone I've never heard of, but he has some cool nicknames.  "The Grey Eagle" and (of his glove) "the place where triples go to die."  He also has the sixth best batting average of all time.
Also, ALAIN Prost, a race car driver.  (He was nicknamed "The Professor" for his intellectual approach to competition.)

Apparently moon rocks are mostly BASALT.  (And, I learned in researching this, "moon rocks" is also the name of some marijuana concoction.)

VEEPSTAKES?  Come on.  And MISCALL is a poker blunder?  I was trying to put in some sort of tell.  But what's a miscall?  You either call or you don't.

Michael O'KEEFE is an actor noted for his role in The Great Santini, which I guess I should watch.

Clever clues: "Head lines, briefly?" is EEGS; "George I or V?" is SOFT G; "Boxer's concern" is FLEAS.  Har!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My time: 7:26, another new record!  It's been quite a week.

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I don't really understand the theme today.  Some clues have numbers in square brackets after them, which I finally realized meant that number of the alphabet, followed by its next letter.  So "things in jewel cases [3]" is CDS, and "creator of Hogwarts [10]" is J.K. ROWLING.  But why?  And why hint just the first letter?  Why not [3,4] for CDS? What's the point of it all, really?  There's not even a theme-connecting word like *ABCEDARY or something.

Anyhoo.  I lucked out on the speed with my familiarity with these particular clues: ANJOU for "pear variety," FENWAY for "Green Monster's ballpark," SWAMIS, Paul KLEE, ENOL for "hydroxyl group compound," STU Sutcliffe, WIM Wenders, etc.  It was an embarrassment of riches, if riches were things I have heard of before.

I've never heard of "bay rum," but I know witch hazel is AFTERSHAVE.

For "gloomy" I put *GLUM, but it was the better word DOUR.

SUVA is the capital of FIJI, which I'm not sure I could have answered given just a blank, but I solved it with crossfill.  In fact, I'm not sure I even looked at that clue.

I had heard, but has since forgotten, that UGLIs were named for their lumpy appearance.  That is an interesting bit of trivia.

I spelled Bausch & LOMB as Bausch & *LAUM at first.  (Why is their official web address bausch.com??  Are they trying to freeze poor Lomb out?  What will happen to Mrs. Lomb and all the poor little Lomblets??)

Paula ZAHN is another in a recent line of crossword news anchors (Erin Burnett, Ana Cabrera) whose names do not spring readily to mind.  Maybe I should watch more TV.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My time: 7:27, just 15 seconds too slow.

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A very fun theme this Tuesday, with each themed answer having not one but two of the same silent letter (WRONG ANSWER, GENGHIS KHAN, and CAMPAIGN SIGNS), with the bonus link SILENT PARTER ("nonactive member of a firm... or," the theme link, etc).

GORSE (scientific name Ulex, but commonly and much more funly known as furze, hoth, espinillo, or whin) is a thorny yellow plant that grows in dry conditions.  The clue is "vegetation along a British golf course," which I didn't know was a thing, but I guess it is.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: "Org. for the Big East, Big South and Big 12" is NCAA.  I guessed this early, knowing basically what the NCAA is, but it turns out it's for all kinds of sports.  I thought until now that the NCAA was only about basketball.  I don't know why I thought this, but the Wikipedia article supports this misconception: "In 2014, the NCAA generated almost a billion dollars in revenue. 80 to 90% of this revenue was due to the Division I Men's Basketball Tournament."

I know Erik SATIE about as well as I know any European composer, but I wasn't aware that he was famous for his piano works, "The Gymnopédies."

Susan SONTAG was an author and political activist.  Her novel In America is a fictionalized account of a real Polish actress' rise to stardom.  And apparently she plagiarized a few passages!  Tsk.

ERIN Burnett is a quite famous new anchor on CNN with her own show, but I've never heard of her.  I don't watch much TV.

K.T. OSLIN is an '80s country singer, with hits such as "Clean Your Own Tables," "Younger Men (Are Startin' To Catch My Eye)," "80s Ladies," and "Money."  Not really my thing.

I wish DR. LAURA would at long last develop some sense of shame and just go crawl under a rock.

The MORGAN Library in New York City, founded, of course, by Pierpoint Morgan, has lots of art treasures and rare books.

"Boxster maker" puzzled me.  What the heck is a Boxster?  And why is it spelled so funny?  I realized I had some dim memory that it was a car, and the crossfill got me PORSCHE.

I answered "main ore of lead" quickly with GALENA because that answer appeared last week as a clue.

"Dickens girl" Little NELL is the main character of the The Old Curiosity Shop.  She is beatific and good and dies young. Whoops, spoiler alert.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

My time: 4:30, another new record!

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The theme is pretty thin --- just some color and body phrases like WHITE KNUCKLED, GREEN-EYED, and YELLOW-BELLIED --- but it's nice to have some extra hint once it clicks.

There was nothing in this puzzle that gave me trouble AT ALL.

Can we have a moratorium on mentioning THE DONALD except to subtly mock him?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

My time: 24:28, a new record!  Woo.

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I pretty early on cottoned on to the theme --- a fairly complex one where part of an answer must be read in a "circle" of four squares looping back to the above row, backwards, then down and re-using the letters from before to complete the phrase.  The first one I got was BEVERAGE ROOM (reads as BEVEROOM), which made UNDER ONE ROOF (reads as UNDEROOF) fall into place because I was already thinking that had to be the answer to "all together, as a family" even though it didn't fit.
  • Update: the loops all start with ER.  SupER LoopER!  I didn't even notice that.

Never heard of the painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador," but I knew with a title like that it had to be DALI.

South American plains" are LLANOS?  What happened to *PAMPAS?

Look, if I don't know anything at all about baseball or football, how am I supposed to have heard of ESA Tikkanen?  Also Karen ENKE.  I'll try to remember you guys, but it's probably a lost cause.  See you in a future puzzle.

The SULU Sea lies within the Philippines, between Borneo and Visayas.  Fun fact: The "Star Trek" character Mr. Sulu was named for the Sulu Sea.

Woamn "who swam the English Channel in 1926:" Gertrude EDERLE.  She was 21 when she did that.  She wasn't very elderly!  Ha?  Ederle.  Hm.

"Altar constellation:" ARA.  Never heard of it.  Fun fact: In ancient Greek mythology, Ara was identified as the altar where the gods first made offerings and formed an alliance before defeating the Titans.

In all, I loved this puzzle.  The things I didn't know were still eminently guessable.  (What other Roman philosopher is there besides SENECA?  Who would Homer exchange cross words with but LISA?  I may not know who Mahmoud Abbas is, but it sounds like he may be the head of the PLO.  Etc.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

My time: 27:38.

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This was tough!

How many people are familiar with "Por UNA Cabeza," a 1935 tango?  Now let's not all raise our hands at once.

Crossword mainstay ARN is the son of Prince Valiant, which I knew, but not well enough to write out his name without some crossfill help.  According to Wikipedia, "The infant Prince Arn was named after the friend of Val’s youth, Prince Arn of Ord."  The latter, elder Arn was Val's quondam rival for the maid Ilene, until she died.  Then they were buddies!  Yay!

The YAZOO isn't just a street where there was a scandal, but a tributary of the Mississippi.  More interestingly, it was named for a now-extinct tribe who lived on its banks, the Yazoo.  They were annihilated by the French and their other native allies after the Yazoo attacked a fort.

Never heard of John von NEUMANN, but he's one of those Hungarian super-geniuses who pioneered many fields, including computer science.  He also first proposed the theory of global warming, predicted the structure of DNA, worked on the Manhattan Project, and on and on.

Here's where everyone got annoyed: "school of whales" required GAM, not *POD.  A gam is also when two whaling ships exchange information, per Moby-Dick.

Hey, it's MAUNA KEA again!  It's not just the tallest mountain in Hawaii; it's the tallest mountain in the world, if you include the underwater part.

Cars I don't know: the Chevy NOVA and the Chevy AVEO (ugh).

For "beseeach," instead of ADJURE, I had *ABJURE, which means to give up or renounce.

Objection: SEARS is not a "retail giant" any more.

Other objection: "Peter Fonda's role in Easy Rider?"  Really?  Who remembers that? There isn't a better clue for WYATT?  Ugh!

I was not fooled by "Celsius, for one" and knew they were trying for SWEDE; I know Parker POSEY, queen of the indies, quite well; I have heard of the movie DR. T and the Women, so the traps others fell in didn't hurt me much.  Still, this was a slog.

Clever clues: "Sound from a silencer:" SHH.  (I thought it might be *PHT?)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Today's time: 24:49.

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I happen to know the word DIASTEMA and once that was clear, it helped enormously with the gap between the TOOTH, since obviously the breaks would be in that word somewhere.  So we got TOOT HIS OWN HORN, DO UNTO OTHERS, and SPREAD TOO THIN.

A clever, fun puzzle.

ALAS does indeed come from a Latin word meaning "weary:" lassus.

"Sal's canal, in song" is ERIE and refers to the song "Low Bridge," known by many other names, such as "Mule Named Sal," which was written in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen.  Bruce Springsteen recorded a version which he called "Erie Canal."  The lyric in question goes:
I've got an old mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
Antarctica's ROSS ice shelf is the largest ice shelf on the continent.  On August 25 there was a clue about the Ross Sea, so I had an inkling this might be the answer, but I still wasn't too confident.

I've seen "Grease," but how am I to remember that the high school is called RYDELL?  (for the cross I had *SHIEST instead of SHYEST so that cost me some time.)

So a SEED PEARL is apparently just a small, imperfect pearl.  (I guessed *SAND PEARL at first.)

I speak French, but ILES for "dots in la mer" baffled me for a while.  Islands are dots?

ELON University is a small private liberal-arts college, named for the town it is in, Elon, North Carolina.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series:  Jesse OROSCO has pitched the most games ever.  He threw left-handed and won two World Series and I probably won't remember his name tomorrow.

The DUMONT Television Network was an early TV network that lasted less than eleven years and folded in 1956.  It appears as though it never really got any support from the NFC or even business partners.

I'm a Greek mythology enthusiast practically from birth, but I needed some crossfill to remember NESSUS, the centaur whose poison blood ended up killing Heracles.

Clever clue: "rising notes?" is REVEILLE.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My time: 8:47.

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I like the multi-lingual theme.  Being a languages guy, I cottoned on right away from the French and German clues, and while I never knew the lyrics to "La Bamba," una poca de gracia looked right to me.

OSSIE Davis, actor and civil right activist, was so much more than a character in "Jungle Fever."  He spoke at MLK's funeral, attended the March on Washington, and was married to Ruby Dee.

"Massachusetts' Cape" is meant to trick you into writing *COD, but no, it's Cape ANN, which according to WIkipedia, was first mapped by John Smith, who named it Cape Tragabigzanda, after his mistress in Istanbul.  Why don't we learn these things in lower school?  Anyway, it is now named after Charles I's mother, Queen Anne, which gives rise to the question why there isn't an E at the end.

PHI (Φ) is a lot of things, including the symbol for the Golden Ratio.  Why is the Godlen Ratio important?  Well for art and architecture, and according to Wikipedia, for some financial market systems, "in some cases based on dubious fits to data."

The state flower of New Hampshire is the Purple LILAC.   The capital of NH is Concord, there is a variety of Concord grapes, grapes are purple; politicians visit NH first, they lie and lack principles: purple lie-lack.

Zubin MEHTA, an Indian conductor, worked at American and Israeli philharmonics. Born in Mumbai, he was in a zoo-bin, and but made-a way to New York, Florence, and then Tel Aviv. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My time: 8:57.

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Fun theme of adding Roman numberals to a word and forming a new, sometimes humorously related, word: "1001 causes of anxiety?" giving  MI STRESSES; or "101 rear ends?" giving CI STERNS.  Although I'm not sure "51 cats" provide LIFELINES.

Totally new to me: OMRI, a king of Israel and according to the Bible, the father of Ahab, the wicked king who married Jezebel.

Perry ELLIS was a designer of clothes, mostly men's casual and business.

ODE appears in puzzles three times a week, it seems like.

People at the NRC, or Nuclear regulatory Commission, may be a little tense right now what with at least two tinfoil-hat dictators boasting about their WMDs.

For "in on" I put *PARTY TO and only very late saw it must be the fussier PRIVY TO.

Galena and cerussite are types of LEAD ORES.  Galena, also called lead glance, is the natural form of lead sulfide and is instrumental in making silver.  Cerussite is also known as lead carbonate or white lead ore, and is the culprit in "lead" paint poisonings before we wised up about that.

Clever clues: "Pacers' engagements?" is DUELS.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

My time: 7:33.

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You can't be in LA-LA LAND while doing this puzzle, or you find time slipping away.  The theme (a bunch of shaded LAs) doesn't really help with the solving speed, so it's cute but not really clever.

Some nice fill, including MALAY PENINSULA and TORTILLA FLAT, in the crossword.

How quickly I forget department: Dominique DAWES was the "1996 Olympic gymnastics gold medalist I couldn't recall.

You know what auks are, but can you picture them?  They are puffins.

Lots of TV I don't know these days.  Issa RAE is an actress and Covergirl.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: NCAA team the Fighting ILLINI??  Are you kidding me?  Their symbol is a big capital I.  And they say Illinoisans are unimaginative.

I like "sporting a natural" for AFROED.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

My time: 30:24, a new record!  Yessss.

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The theme here is adding the sound /sī/ to various phrases and cluing them literally, so static cling becomes STATIC CYCLING ("spin class activity?"), PC clones becomes PC CYCLONES ("storms that don't offend?"), draws nigh becomes DRAWS SINAI ("makes a quick map of an Egyptian peninsula?"), and low frequency becomes SILO FREQUENCY ("number of appearances in a grain holder?").

So.  Funny!  Ha ha!

ONEONTA is a city in central New York, and it has "one of the SUNY schools."

"What Siri runs on" is IOS, which is Apple's operating system.

SKYTEL?  What the hell is that?  The thing that comes alive in the Terminator movies?  Oh yeah, that's Skynet.  Skytel is a wireless data company.

Thing I don't believe I have ever heard in my life: YLEM.  It's the primordial ooze from which all matter was formed!  Good word.

For "Europe's largest lake" I put *BAIKAL, but that's apparently the deepest freshwater lake.  The largest lake in Europe is LADOGA, a lake in Russia, and the 14th largest freshwater lake in the world.  

"Action at a bris" is SNIP!  Yikes!

War su GAI, a Chinese chicken dish, sounds pretty good.

Richard ESTES is known for his photorealist paintings of reflective, modern surfaces and cityscapes.  Diners, windows, chrome, that sort of thing.  Here's a gallery.  

"Black church inits." is AME, or African Methodist Episcopal.  The clue seems a little hamfisted and unwoke.  Maybe the clue could ave referred to its history or acts rather than its blackness?  Would we say "white church inits." for SBC?

"Common opening bid in bridge" is ONE NO.  Apparently NYT puzzle makers believe that bridge is a popular activity in 2017.  Anyway, "one no" is short for "one no trump," which probably means something, but this is Greek to me.  I like the "no Trump" part at least.  A cursory search did not show me that anyone says "one no" without adding the trump part.

Alicia WITT is yet another actress I have never heard of.  Apparently she is also a singer-songwriter.

RUM is the main drink in an Aunt Agatha, which according to the linked source at least was named after the disapproving aunt in my beloved Bertie and Jeeves books.  How have I not heard of this cocktail?

IRENE Joliot-Curie was the daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie.  With her husband (of course), she won the Chemistry Nobel for her discovery of artificial radioactivity.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saturday, September 9, 2017

My time: 37:01.  Woof!

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Some of these entries are pretty impressive, like I HEART RADIO (a streaming service), PEACE SUMMIT, PR NIGHTMARE, and SPIDEY SENSE!

"2016 campaign topic" is EMAIL.  Seems so stupid now, doesn't it?  Maybe not.  We don't want a president, or indeed any elected official, so stupid and callous as to use private emails for business use and get hacked.

Things I got quickly and am proud of: "Pool cover" is obviously FELT.  "Loyalty, old-style" is TROTH.  "Crow, for one" is TRIBE, not bird.

Thing I got tricked by: "Oxford designation" is EEE, of Oxford shoes.  For "One getting depressed on the road" I thought I was clever and put *LOW RIDER (get it?  Ha ha!).  It's actually GAS PEDAL.  Oh.

Thing I didn't know I didn't know: I thought Chief Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas, married John *SMITH.  I didn't know she married some creep named John ROLFE (who also is responsible for the cultivation of tobacco as a cash crop)!  Disney, again your prettified version of history has failed me.

"Person with a mental bloc" (MENSAN) is stupid.

There has been a lot of references to TV shows I don't watch lately.  "United States of Tara" stars TONI Collette. I only know her from Muriel's Wedding, which was a terrific movie.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: "2-3 or 1-2-2, in basketball" is a jumble of nonsense to me.  ZONE DEFENSE, eh?  If you say so.  Basically it means not one-on-one defense.

"Little Birds" is a book of erotic short stories by Anais NIN.

So unfair: "Team in Houston" is NASA, but they also have the *NETS, which practically fits!

So unfair, also: Hey, there's a phrase in Hebrew.  ANI ohev otach means "I love you."  How am I supposed to know that?

Clever clue: "Minority group" is ADOLESCENTS.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

My time: 22:18.

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Poison SUMAC is a plant, like poison ivy, that causes rashes and respiratory difficulty.  It is also called thunderwood, which is obviously my new metal band's name.

"Tools for escaping the heat?" made me think of radar detectors, but it was a little more lietral than that: FIRE AXES.

The Volga is the longest river in Europe, and is the unofficial national river of Russia.  A TATAR is a Turkic-speaking Asiatics closely allied with the Mongols.  There is a large population of Tatars, called, unimaginatively enough, the Volga Tatars, living in the Volga-Ural region.

"Wheelchair-bound 'Glee' character" is ARTIE Abrams, portrayed by non-wheelchair-bound actor Kevin McHale.  In another TV show I don't watch, a detective on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is ROSA Diaz.

I wanted "Something that's assumed" to be *IDENTITY but it was FAKE NAME.

I read way more Buzzfeed than I really should.  I am ashamed to say that one of the very first answers I got was "Things like Which Disney Princess Are You?" which is BUZZFEED QUIZZES.

I am aware of MIKE PIAZZA due to the Belle & Sebastian song.

"Not a candidate for the invoking of the 25th Amendment, say."  I had the very reasonable *SPRY.  But it is actually the very Trump-influenced SANE.

Clever clues: "Like apples and Afros" is PICKED.  "Rams fan?" is a EWE."  Be a buzzkill?" is ZAP.

Ugly clues: "_____ thousand times..." is NO A.  Yuck.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Today's time: 27:43.

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I could not finish Wednesday's puzzle.  Just way too much esoteric, foreign fill.   EZIO?  HADJ?  DOG IT?  Ugh.

Back to today!  Fresh start!  The "ABC order" theme of today's puzzle is very clever indeed.  I caught on immediately, and it helped enormously with the fill.

Lady Bird Johnson's real name?  CLAUDIA Alta Johnson, née Taylor.  Aw, poor little lame baby bird!

Apparently, cathode ray tube is popularly abbreviated CRT.  I don't believe I have ever heard that.

I also did not know that an the unit barrel (as in oil) is abbreviated BBL.

I have never heard anyone say, "I'm IN UP to my ears!"

MIT is a school we all know, but did you know it was on the Charles River?  I didn't.  So is Brandeis, Boston University, and Harvard.

I'm not really a car buff, so I'd never heard of the "classic Camaro" IROC (named after the International Race of Champions), but apparently it's a good buy.

I have heard of EYDIE Gormé, just barely, but I had imagined her name as pronounced "Edie," and when presented with five letters, wrote *EDDIE.  I knew there was something wrong there.

"Retrieves, as balls" alone added a good ten minutes to my time.  I had *SNAGS until I realized it just didn't work there, and finally stumbled on SHAGS.  Another sports term I don't know.  BOOYAH!

And yet still more sports minutiae: CITO Gaston, "first African-American manager to win a world series."   His name sounds like Citgo Gas-station.  He managed the Blue Jays his entire career.  Figures Canada would be the first to give a brother a chance.

ROLEO is not an often-used word, but it's a word!

Crossword makes sure love Nas.  He's not even in the fill this time!

Clever clues: "Heading for the fence?" is HOT.  


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Today's time: 7:43.  Forty seconds slower than my record.

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Another commendably clever theme, this one with phrases that have musicals at the beginning and ends of their runs, such that the middle letters are the break, or INTERMISSION.  For example, HAWAIIAN AIR, for "hair," and WISECRACKED for "Wicked."

I have never heard of "Enrique Peña NIETO, Mexican president beginning in 2012."  I should kep up on my North American heads of state!  Also, according to the Wikipedia article, he is much more unpopular than Donald Trump, which is amazing.  (Mnemonic for the last three Mexican presidents: the Fox is in the Cauldron?  Neato!)

"Hi, I'm EVAN Rachel Wood, and you may have seen me in The Wrestler and then forgotten about my existence."

Another thing I don't know much about is fashion, and designer RUDI Gernreich is no exception.  I see from his article that he enjoyed designing clothes for women that showed off their boobs.

Clifford ODETS, of whom I was only barely aware, wrote many plays, including the clue "Golden Boy" which is unknown to me, but I am a fan of his movie screenplay Sweet Smell of Success.

I may have heard the name of Midori ITO before, but that's it.  I shall endeavor to remember that she was the first woman to land a triple-triple jump combination and a triple axel in competition.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

Today's time: 7:23.

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I actually tried to go quickly today, and ended up with a rather unremarkable time.  This one was especially tricky for a Monday, or maybe I was just trying too hard.  Either way, I enjoyed the BBQ theme, with meat items in phrases such as RESERVOIR DOGS, MILITARY BRATS, and WAITS IN THE WINGS.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: RBI is a baseball stat standing for runs batted in.  You get points for hitting the ball such that people run home!  What a fun game.

In other sports news, "fast, sharp-breaking curveballs" are apparently called BACKDOOR SLIDERS.

I'm not so good at anything except book learning department: A "letter-shaped track in metalworking" is a T-SLOT.  The T-shaped piece fits into the negative-T-shaped aluminum piece like so.

I'm really not that familiar with CITGO, though I'm sure I've gotten gas at one.  Likewise MAACO is not in my immediate mental grab-bag.

The tarsus (plural TARSI) is actually not one bone, but a cluster of seven bones in the ankle.  Not to be confused with Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle, of whom it is said that "he fell to the earth" before a vision of Jesus and thereupon changed his name and his ways.  No doubt Saul fell to earth because his tarsus broke.

The volcano in Hawaii is called Mauna KEA.  The name means White Mountain or possibly Sky-Father mountain.  It sounds like key, a vast key pointing to the sky, the tallest mountain in Hawaii.  I originally had *LOA, which is its lesser-known neighbor.  It's lower than Mauna Kea!  Ha!

Clever clues: "welcome sight?" is MAT.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Saturday, September 2, 2017

My time: 29:35.

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I did not finish Friday's puzzle.  And I barely finished this one!  It had a lot, a lot, of troublesome moments.

For "Relative of sake" I had *RICE BEIR and wondered why it was so German, albeit misspelled German, because it had the crossfill of "Eat with no enthusiasm" which is PECK AT, while I had the more reasonable (but wrong) *PICK AT.  No one says PECK AT!

I have never heard of Lauren LONDON, but according to Wikipedia her boyfriend is someone named Nipsey Hussle, which is hilarious.

For IRIDESCE I had *EVANESCE.  Both are not great words.  For RESAT I had the better *REMET.

"Room with a Vue" is GARAGE because a Saturn Vue is a no-longer-extant car.  I've never heard of it, but I assumed.

Another car: the Volkwagen SCIROCCO.  Does it drive like the wind?  Hahahaha etc.

I call foul on using THE STONES without the usual qualifier that something (in this case the Rolling Stones) is being referred to familiarly.  Their name is not "The Stones."

"Their heads and feet are usually the same distance from the ground" confused the heck out of me.  I had *BEES for the longest time, even though that's not exactly true of them.  It's BEDS.  Because beds have legs under their feet, ha ha.

The crossfill on BEDS was "Calif. school near the Mexican border" and that is SDSU, not *SESU.  San Diego State University, of course!

I have heard of, and forgotten, "Oprah Winfrey Network show about a family farm" QUEEN SUGAR.  I had *GREEN, *BROWN, and *SUGAR Sugar at various times.

Something I have a hard time remembering how to spell is AQUILA, the Eagle constellation.

The QB who won "the first NFL playoff game to go into sudden-death overtime" is Johnny UNITAS, whose name (but not career) I am familiar with!  What an esoteric bit of trivia.

"Bugged for money" immediately made me think DUNNED, but then I changed it to *BEGGED before changing it back.

Clever clues: "Movie lot?' is CAST.  "Person who came out of the blue?' is EX-COP.  "They might be used in making hops" is not about beer but flights: AIR TAXI.  Ha!  I thought an Air Taxi might be a brand of shoe.  I'm an idiot.  "PR piece?" is PUERTO, not public.  "Removable locks?" is WIG.

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...