Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My time: 7:06.  In another case of me not thinking about the time, I missed the record by four seconds.  If I'd tried for speed, I probably would have made it.


Surprise!  Alex Eaton-Salners' puzzle today is not Halloween-themed but MARTIN LUTHER themed, because, as legend has it, he nailed his 95 Theses on the DOOR of the ALL-SAINTS' CHURCH in WITTENBERG to protest the sale of INDULGENCES, starting the PROTESTANT REFORMATION, on October 31, 1517.  The only one of these I didn't know (besides the date) was the All-Saints' Church, and that slowed me a little.  Coincidentally, I had just looked up Wittenberg the day before, knowing that the town Luther posted his Theses in started with a W, but nothing more.

(However, I did initially spell WITTENBERG as *WITTENBURG, leaving me wondering why the "edible part of a fruit" was *FLUSH.)

The clue that got me the most wound up was "what sac flies produce."  What the hell is a sac fly?? Some sort of grub??  Well, it's an abbreviation of sacrifice fly, which is basically a hit intended to help some other teammate to score a run.  And they produce the crossword-common RBIS.

I was also slowed by "sack seeker," though I at least knew that was a sports reference.  It's PASS RUSHER.

OLGA Korbut is a Belarusian gymast who competed for the Soviet team in 1972 and 1976.  And since I enjoy nicknames, here's hers: The Sparrow from Minsk.

I didn't know that Jennifer Lopez had a #1 album in 2001 called J.LO.

I don't listen to much NPR.  I know Ira Glass and initially had *IRA Shapiro (I thought, maybe they have two famous Iras?).  But it's ARI Shapiro.

Who remembers Lukas HAAS from Witness?  Anyone?  Me neither.

Absolutely new to me department: Madame NHU of 1960s Vietnam.  She was the wife of the brother of Ngô Đình Diệm, the president of South Vietnam, and considered the First Lady.

For "something taken on faith" I had *TENET but it's DOGMA.

Clever clue: "Post production?" is CEREAL.

And that's all the NOTES I have.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

My time: 5:37.


Jay Kaskel gives us a witch-joke-themed Halloween puzzle.  "Computer help for a witch?" SPELL CHECK.  "How one might be forced to accept a witch?" WARTS AND ALL.    And there's a little bit of theme-like fill as well: EERIE ("like a haunted house"), HAGS ("witches").

Did you know Beaujolais and Chianti were REDS?  Me neither.  Chianti is a red blend from Tuscany.  For whatever reason it just sounds like a white wine to me.

Maximilian SCHELL was a director and actor who is probably best known for his role as Hans Rolfe, the German defending counsel in Judgment at Nuremberg.

The INCUS is the anvil bone of the middle ear, paired with the malleus or hammer.

Hey, we learned about DEKES just yesterday.

And that about RAPT it up.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

My time: 26:41.


I've feeling pretty crappy, so this one will be straight and dry.

This puzzle, by Ross Trudeau, has an impressively clever theme.  The themed answers are lines from movies, and their clues are the movie titles.  However, linked to those theme answers are hint clues, taking the form "[actor's name] line." This creates some puns which also serve as hints to the movie quote answers.

For example: "The Lion King" is the clue, HANKUNA MATATA is the answer, and the hint clue is "pool divider," or LANE LINE.  Get it?!  Then there's "Jerry Maguire," the clue for the answer SHOW ME THE MONEY.  The hint for this answer is "Carnival," which is a... CRUISE LINE.  Ha!  One more: "The Dark Knight" is WHY SO SERIOUS, and the hint clue is "musical score marking," or LEDGER LINE.  Okay?  OK.

I thought "canine supporters" might be *PAWS, but it's GUMS.

For "judge's seat" I didn't know why "bench" didn't fit, but it's the term of art BANC.

"Neural conductor" is AXON.  All I could think of was "ganglion."

I am the single-most clueless American male about sports, an ongoing series:
"Blue Devils' org." is ACC, which is the Atlantic Coast Conference, a collection of collegiate sports teams.  The Blue Devils are the teams of Duke University.
"Hockey feint" is DEKE. It is an abbreviation of the word decoy.
I have never heard of Jose, Bengie, and Yadler MOLINA, "catcher brothers with five World Series rings between them."

"The Merry Drinker painter" is HALS, as in Frans Hals, a Dutch painter from Haarlem.  He is also famous for Jester with a Lute and for many portraits of people sitting down with the arm over the back of the chair.

LEHI, "where Samson slew the Philistines," famously with the jawbone of an ass.  Not to be confused with EL-HI,  a way of referring to K-12 education that absolutely no one ever says.

An AD VALOREM tax (which I first erroneously spelled *AD VALORUM) is a tax levied "according to value" of the goods in question.

The SAN Gabriel Mountains are in California.  Fun fact: the highest peak in the range is Mount San Antonio, which you and I know as Mount Baldy.

I knew that the Uzi was named for its Israeli designer, but I did not know it was a diminutive of his first name, nor that his last name was Gal: UZI GAL.

Metathesiophobia is the fear of CHANGE, which I had as *CHANCE until I realized that grad schools probably want your GRE SCORES, not your *CRE SCORES.

I've never heard of jazz pianist McCoy TYNER, but I'm sure he's quite good.

GESSO returns, this time clued as "artist's base" rather than "artist's surface."  A-ha!

SLR in camera lingo is "single-lens reflex," which a mirror and lens show the photographer the exact image being captured.

And I'VE reached the end.  Maybe tomorrow I will RYES to the occasion and be less boring.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My time: 25:57.


Roland Huget is the author of this white-square monstrosity (only 23 black squares in the entire 15x15 grid) that looks just like a backward swastika and I'm kind of surprised that was considered fine.

"Wrist bones:" CARPI.  The carpus is the collective name for the wrist bones between the hands and the radius, and of course related is carpal tunnel syndrome.  Shame on me for not getting this faster.

"Crosswise, on a ship:" ABEAM.  At right angles to the fore-and-aft line.  This term did not occur to me as I struggled with the NE corner.

"The Sound of Music name" is sometimes *MARIA and, if the puzzler is devious, *MARTA, but this time it's TRAPP.  Another reason for the struggle.

BOWER is "jack of the trump suit, in euchre."  I know nothing about this game and I don't know what "trump suit" even means.  So you can see why this NE corner was tough for me.

"Type of type:" AGATE.  Agate is, of course, silica crystal, but in type it is a small size of printing, 5.5 typographical points, or about 1/14 inch.  In the UK it's called ruby.  We're still in the NE corner.  Yikes.

For "devices for clearing winter sidewalks" I had *SHOVELS for the longest time, even knowing that it was too easy for a Saturday; it's SALTERS.

UGO Tognazzi is an Italian actor known mostly for his clued role in La Cage aux Folles.

Did you know Ford made the Mercury, or MERCS as their close buddies call them?

ESTES Kefauver was a US Senator from Tennessee from 1949 to 1963.  He is best known for his investigations into organized crime.  He also was behind a 1950 anti-merger act

I have never heard of a TENT DRESS and neither has my girlfriend.  Per Wikipedia they were a 2007 trend.

"Containing element #56:" BARIC.  Barium is a soft silvery earth metal not found in nature. 

In CAT BALLOU, a favorite of my father's, Lee Marvin plays both the killer hired to gun down Jane Fonda's title character's father, and the drunken washed-up gunslinger she in turn hires to protect them.

The downs of the NE corner gave just as much trouble as the acrosses.  ABROGATOR is strictly crosswordese, and for "stirs, as old feelings" I tried to make *REKINDLES work when it's REAWAKENS, but the one that was last to fall into place was PAPETERIE, "container for writing materials, such as fancy stationery."  I have a pretty expansive vocabulary bit I'm not sure I've seen that word before.  Even looking at it now it seems wrong.  Why is there a T in there?

I know what LYE is, but I couldn't have told you it was NaOH.  It is a lie?  Nah... oh.

"Architectural features of Greco-Roman temples" is ANTAE.  That's the plural of anta, of course, which is a pilaster attached to either side of a doorway.  What is this??  A Greco-Roman temple for ants??

Oh, how "awards for Best Play and others" got me.  Oh, how foolish I feel and yet how righteously aggrieved.  First I had *TONYS which is wrong because that's for musicals.  Then I had *OBIES which is just what Roland wanted me to do.  Because it's actually ESPYS and the plays are sports plays.  You got me this time Roland, but I feel cheated.

Clever clue: "it can get the blood flowing" is STENT.

That's it for me. I don't have that much SPARE TIME.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

My time: 23:47.  I am on a slow streak.  I didn't really try today but even so that's slow.


This puzzle is by David Steinberg, and it was a toughie.  There's definitely a whole lot of fun, colloquial, modern fill like EPIC FAIL, EMOTICON, BAD SANTA, LINKEDIN PROFILE, KRUSTY, IT WAS A JOKE, TROLLS (in the sense of "forum annoyances"), and so on.  And there wasn't even very much that was unfamiliar to me.  But there were the usual Friday vague clues, and I just kept second-guessing myself and putting in wrong answers and then sticking with them.

Things started off poorly when I did not remember "Disney exec" Bob IGER, who is the CEO of Disney who replaced Michael Eisner.

I then ran into PINK VIAGRA, "sex drive enhancer introduced in 2015."  It never hit my radar.  The colorful name is only a colloquialism.  The pharmaceutical name is flibanserin.

"Heaps" is A TON, which is annoyingly tricky because it could be a lot but the payoff of figuring out which it is is so small as to be unmeasurable by science.

Likewise, for "gab" I put *YAP but it's YAK.

For "aid for establishing rapport" I confidently put in *ICE BREAKER but it's EYE CONTACT.  My answer is better.

"Flanders red and others" is ALES.  I never drink beer so this isn't in my wheelhouse.  They are apparently known for their sour, tart, fruity tastes.

For "have one's hard work recognized" I put *GET AN "E" FOR EFFORT, when it is the actual phrase, GET AN "A" FOR EFFORT.

Today we get anago and unagi as an example of EEL, but not unadon.

"Summer hrs. in Somerville" is EDT.  It would help if I knew that Somerville is in Massachusetts.

Allen TATE, "onetime US poet laureate," held that title from 1943 to 1944 and seems to be remembered today mostly for being a nasty old bigot.

I never knew the name of JEN Psaki, "White House communications director under Obama."  Chauvinist pig that I am, I assumed *JON at first.

Clever clues: "line judge?" is PALM READER.  "Something that's had its head turned?" is EMOTICON.

That's it FOE today.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My time: 22:23, which is not good.


It's a rebus by Jacob Stulberg!  The keystone answer, MT EREBUS ("southernmost active volcano in the world" --- it's in Antarctica), clues us in that some boxes will be filled with MTE (Mt. E, as Erebus is known to its buddies??*).  Those answers include, inter alia, TIM TEBOW, WILLIAM TELL, WISDOM TEETH, and FORT SUMTER.
  • *Update:  Some fellow named Colum Amory put it best: Oh, wait. I get it! "MTE REBUS. It's literal! I actually like it a ton more now."

I like the simple trickery of "doesn't lose" for HAS.

For "response to a sophomoric joke" I had *GROANS, but it's "GROW UP."  This hindered me in the NE corner for a while.

I did not know that the FDA was known as the Bureau of Chemistry from 1901 to 1927, but I think we can come together as a nation and say that is a much cooler name.  Sounds like a board of supervillains.

ASSAM TEA is a mellow black tea originating in Assam, India.

"'TIS my first night beneath the Sun."  No it isn't, you liar Emily Dickinson!  I don't think this poem is very, how should I put this... good.

I have never heard of "Bandstand Boogie" bandleader Larry ELGART.  "Bandstand Boogie" is the theme song to American Bandstand.  For a long while I had *ELZART, which messed me up some, as noted below.

"Home of Panasonic" is OSAKA, because it's home to Panasonic Center.  Their men's volleyball team is called the Panasonic Panthers.

It's TAOS, the "southwestern ski resort," again!

And NAS, yet again.  "Cherry Wine" this time.

And ERNESTINE!  Last time it was part of the clue; now it's the answer (to "Tomlin's 'one ringy-dingy' character on old TV")!

A clue that gives credence to astrology ("courageous and energetic sort, they say:" ARIES) was a sour note for me, but I guess fiction is throughout the puzzle.  Do people say that about Aries?  Is that a predominate, well-known trait?  Ugh.

"Its capital is an Atlantic port" got me, the ugly American non-geography-knower.  I put *NAMBIA, which is a recent moronic Trumpism.  Once I shook away the cobwebs and realized that is moronic, I switched it to *ZAMBIA, which ain't on the coast.  Finally I realized *ELZART looked wrong, and put the correct GAMBIA.

Funny clue: "Apple emplyer, once?" is WILLIAM TELL!  Haw!

And now, some much needed REST.  This has been TUTU much.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Today's time: 9:37.


This puzzle, by Jules P. Markey, has a pun theme.  Certain phrases have words circles within them: DRIVE RECKLESSLY has RIVER, IT'S NO WONDER has SNOW, GIVES PERMISSION has SPERM, and SOLD AT A LOSS has DATA.  All of these circled words have what in common?  Phrases with "bank," so the capper of the theme is BREAK UP THE BANKS.  See, the words that form types of banks are "broken up" in the phrases.  Now that's wordplay!

Pelvic bones!  ILIA.  The ilium is the largest part of the hip bone.

For some reason I often get batiking mixed up with scrimshaw.  For "batiking need" I was thinking, "whale bone?"  It is DYE.  Batik is a process of wax-resistant dyeing on cloth.

LSD is referenced in The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness, a book by Alan Watts (foreword by Timothy Leary).

Bashar al-ASSAD has been the president of Syria for 17 years.

SOYA ("source of protein in veggie burgers") is a fancy way of saying soy.

Hal ASHBY was the director of Shampoo, but much more importantly, Being There and Harold and Maude.

I had not heard of the ASPEN Institute ("nonpartisan DC think tank").  It has a very interesting daily feature called The Five Best Ideas of the Day.  I'm a believer!

So I did not find very much at all that was new to me.  I was familiar with AGA, IAMB, LATKE, IN ESSE, ROXIE, EMU, the Eurythmics as a DUO, etc.  So why did it take so long??

Life's a mystery.  ALE just have to work harder.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My time: 13:49, three minutes faster than my average and nearly twice my record. ugh.

  • Update: I learned from Rex's blog that this grid is an extra-big 16x16, so that makes the whole timing issue higgledy-piggledy.

This puzzle by Damon Gulczynski had me questioning a lot of fill.  The theme was pretty clever: a series of phrases, each one adding ANOTHER DIMENSION ("what a sci-fi portal might lead to"):  THAT'S NOT THE POINT, PICKUP LINE, SNAKES ON A PLANE, and I NEED SPACE.  Zero, one, two, and three dimensional, respectively.

Fun!  But that fill.

For "no longer mint" I has *AS-IS for a stupidly long time.  It is the more prosaic USED, which really threw me off.  Similarly, instead of LOG ON, I had *LOG IN.  For "Shakespeare, informally" I had *BARD but it's WILL (not the too-formal *BILL).

"Old Renault" is LECAR.  Wiki: "It was described as a "French Rabbit" that "is low on style, but high on personality and practicality."

I can't believe the Chaplin on "Game of Thrones" is OONA.  I think of OONA Chaplin as someone who was active in the 1950s.  But this is his granddaughter.  I think I was thinking of his wife Oona O'Neill.

For "narrow inlet" I had *AIT, which as I knew full well is a small island.  It's RIA, which I don't know even half-full well. 

I eat a lot of sushi, including eel, and am even familiar with unagi, but UNADON is not in my wheelhouse.  It looks pretty good though.

For "intro to Chinese?" I had *SINO-.  Instead it's the so last-century and rather un-PC term INDO.

I hate the answer PAREE for "'gay' capital."  I had *PARIS, which messed me up.

I learned SOU in French class when I was a sophomore in high school thirty-hundred years ago, but I'm surprised to see it in a Tuesday puzzle.  Likewise LOESS.

Whew.  I hope this blog post CLEARS everything up.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

Today's time: 4:46, and that's after having taken some cough syrup with codeine.


Timothy Polin did this puzzle.  The theme is puns about eras, like "period when psychiatrists ruled:" SHRINK AGE, or "period known for its 007 movies:" BOND AGE.  Ha!

I like the word MOUE and I know it, and frankly I don't think I noticed it at all, having filled with with crossfill, but I think some people would gripe over its inclusion in a Monday puzzle.  Their faces will all have a MOUE as they write stern comments on the New York Times puzzle blog.

I didn't really like LAMS for "flees," but yes, it's a verb.

"Classic clown with a repetitive name" is BOBO.  This refers to Bobo Barnett, a member of the International Clown Hall of Fame.  You know, I always thought of Bobo as a monkey's name.

"Painting surface" is GESSO.  That's tricky because gesso isn't really thought of as a surface (though you do paint on it) so much as a sort of primer.  Per Wikipedia: "Mixing and applying it is an art form in itself since it is usually applied in 10 or more extremely thin layers."

That's all.  I'll PEON my way now.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Today's time: 25:07.


This Sunday by Tracy Gray has a theme of famous places that contain ME in them, because the conceit is that the places are where people took selfies.  CHRIST THE REDEEMER, JEFFERSON MEMORIAL, MADAME TUSSAUD'S, MALL OF AMERICA, and so on are all clued with cutesy "Facebook status" descriptions, which doesn't really add to theme except to justify the "ME" part.  It seems like all this does is promote the idea that taking pictures of yourself is somehow inherently egotistical and that it's somehow a modern phenomenon and due to social media.  The millennials, the me-generation.

I didn't know offhand that Bei Bei and Bao Bao were PANDAS but it seemed likely, so I wrote it in immediately.  Bao Bao used to live at the Washington DC zoo and Bei Bei is her surviving cub.

I'm not sure I call "valuable China" ARTWARE.

I had forgotten that the Henley Royal Regatta is the annual boat race on the RIVER THAMES, which kept me from filling that one in quickly.

The clue "who played Ernestine" (Lily TOMLIN) refers to her telephone operator character on "Saturday Night Live."

SAO Miguel Island, a.k.a. the Green Island, is the largest island in the Portuguese archipelago the Azores.

WILLIE Geist is a TV anchor who currenly has a show called "Sunday Today," but you may know him as a "Morning Joe" co-host or for his NBC sports commentary.  I don't.  I'm surprised someone born in 1975 goes by "Willie."

A top with a built-in bra is a CAMI.  That is short for camisole.  Wikipedia?
Since 1989, some camisoles have come with a built-in underwire bra or other support which eliminates the need for a bra among those who prefer one. Starting around the 2000s, camisoles have been known to be used as outerwear.
I didn't know a TB TEST is given on the forearm.  It is also called the Mantoux test.

Totally new word of the puzzle: ORANT, "praying figure in Christian art."  Also known as orans.  It is usually a female figure, with elbows close to the body, arms raised up.  Is it etymologically related to orison?  Seems likely, but I don't know!

I know LSU (geaux tigers!) but I didn't know their mascot was called Mike.  The school is now on Mike VII.  They have a vet on staff and a well-maintained habitat for him.

"Cassiterite, e.g." is TIN ORE.  Most of it is found in Bolivia and Rwanda.  This is the third ore I've learned since starting this blog, along with galena and cerussite.
For "seal the deal" I had *ACE IT for quite a sad while.  It's ICE IT, while "get the better of" is the rather clunky ACE OUT.

Never heard of Arequipa, second-largest city in PERU.  Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Figuring out whether "speck" was *ATOM or IOTA was tough since the crossfill was "analogy connector" which could be *AS TO or IS TO.

Clever clues: "Mike's place" is PODIUM.  "Bad place for a frog" is THROAT. "Alabama and Kansas" is BANDS.  "You might take it to go" is EX-LAX.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

My time: 29:42.  Sigh.


It’s safe to say that this Saturday toughie from Samuel Donaldson and Brad Wilber kicked my behind off.  I no longer have a behind.  I am bottomless.  I can't wear pants any more.

So let’s get right into my list of failures to know things.  This is going to be very long.

I had a lot of trouble with the NE corner.  Three Across entries in particular stood in my way:

I didn’t know DAMASCUS was called the City of Jasmine.  It's because of the large number of jasmine trees.

I know cabriolet, brougham, hansom and landau, but I’m not sure I’ve heard of a STANHOPE.  It's not on this glossary of carriages.

I have heard of Saint ANSELM but didn’t know of his association with Canterbury.  Which is, apparently, his whole raison d'être.  He lived in the eleventh century.

How am I supposed to know “HILARY B. Price, creator of the comic strip Rhymes with Orange”? This is a lame clue.  She’s not that famous.  There are much better HILARY answers out there.  If you can’t say “Comic creator Price” with any hope of anyone except her mom say, “Oh that’s good old HILARY,” then don’t use that as a reference.  Did she win a contest to be an answer in the New York Times puzzle or something?

For “clinched” I had *ACED for quite a while, which held me up and doesn’t sound right anyway.  It’s ICED.

I don’t know anything about musical notation, and SEGNO is a term I’ve never heard before.  It means a passage is to be repeated.   I’m going to start yelling that instead of “encore” at concerts.  “Segno!  Seeeeegnoooo!”  Also, Dal Segno sounds like a black marketeer in Star Wars.

For “poker action,” I thought *DEAL, waited, put in *TELL (which is not an action), and then found CALL.

I balked at IN A TIE for “knotted.”  That’s just such a blah answer.

I know MR. MAGOO, but I was trying to remember if his catchphrase was indeed a self-congratulatory “you’ve done it again!”  But it is.

“Near Eastern inns” are IMARETS.  I have never heard this word.  I was thinking serai, which of course doesn’t fit.

I am the single-most clueless American male about sports, an ongoing series:
Duke legend is COACH K, which is Mike Krzyzewski, who has won numerous titles for Duke basketball and gold medals for the US Olympic teams and turned down millions to coach for various NBA teams.  He is a god to North Carolinans.  They kiss his Gucchis.
I haven’t heard of these tennis players, both ELENAS: Elena Dementieva (won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, sixteen singles titles) and Elena Makarova (highest rank 43, zero singles titles).

For “display of glee” I initially had *WAG but it’s JIG.  I like wag better.

I must admit HOT PEPPER EMOJIS is great fill, but I did not get there from “sext symbols.”  To me, that would be eggplant emoji. I mean, check out that definition in the link.

A note in the B major scale is D SHARP.  I don’t know why.

I had the hardest time getting to SET MENU from “Thanksgiving offering at many restaurants.”  I was thinking, hot menu??

I read “shared vow” as “sacred vow” for a long while, which made WE DO very confusing to me.

Anyway, this was a real challenge TO ME.  I don’t mind a challenge and I don’t think anything was unfair in the clues, and I do admire a lot of the fresh, interesting, modern fill: JOB JAR, ROGUE ONE, ZIMBABWEAN, SYSTOLES, BACON (“earnings, in slang”), I’M LIKE…, COSMIC JOKE.  Good stuff.  But I think I’m ready for Monday! 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

Today's time: 18:14.


It's a themeless by Peter Wentz! I found it pretty easy for a Friday.

I loved BADA-BING for "and there you have it!"  I know there will be haters for that clue.  I loved it.  And Paulie and Silvio told me they loved it too.

Lots of great and modern fill all over this one: BB SHOT, EPISODE I, USB PORT, ICLOUD, ARCANA, GUY FAWKES MASK ("symbol for a member of Anonymous," which was the first thing I filled in, right across the puzzle).  The only clunker, to me, is ALE HOUSE.  Andy Capp goes to a pub.

"Twerps" is SNIPS.  Yes; see definition 3 in Mirriam-Webster.

"Inverse function in trigonometry" is ARCSINE.  I mentioned on Tuesday that I don't know anything about math.  All I know about arcsine is it's a button on a calculator.  The arcsine is defined as the inverse of the sine function, which would be great if I knew what that was.

I knew "dated women?" would be some kind of joke, and when I saw FAIR emerging I wondered briefly if it might mean set in the past, like wenches at a Renn Faire, but it's the out-dated term FAIR SEX (though I think fairer sex is used more often).

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: I live in Texas, and couldn't figure out who the "Longhorn rival" was without a lot of help from crossfill.
John Jordan "Buck" O'NEIL was the first black coach in Major League Baseball, I think maybe for the Cubs?  His Wiki article seems primarily enamored of is Negro Leagues stats.

The one answer that gave me the most trouble was HODA KOTB.  She's Egyptian-American.  Her name registers as total gibberish to me.  She's a co-host of "The Today Show."  Even after a complete fill, I looked at it and thought, what's Hodak O.T.B?  (Hodak Ol' Tirty Bastard??)

For "places for nightstands" I had *BEDROOMS but it's the more apt BEDSIDES.

For "chucklehead" I had *NITWIT but it's DIMWIT.  Fooled me good!

"Butterfly KOI (fish)" is new to me.  I mean, I've heard of koi, but not this type.  It is also called dragon carp, which we can all agree is way cooler.

I also didn't know that a gibbon is a kind of LESSER ape.  Them and orangutans.  Of course, who made those rankings?  A gibbon might call itself a great ape, and humans a lesser hominid.  The winner always gets to write history and dictate terms.

Clever clues: "things non-PC people buy?" is MACS (I put that in confidently right off). "Sources for labor pains?" is SCABS.

And that's all the things that gave me pause.  No MOW for me.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Today's time: 14:13, a new record!


Today's puzzle is by Ned White, and the theme is HEAD OVER HEELS ("one way to fall in love") as described by several themed entries: NUMERO UNO directly above SCOUNDREL, BIG WHEEL two lines above DIRTY RAT, and TOP BANANA directly above NOGOODNIK.  I must say the placement and the choice of terms for both HEAD and HEEL are frightfully clever, but I disagree that HEAD OVER HEELS is "a hint to the answers in the starred clues."  Since those answers have their own clues ("honcho" and "louse," repeatedly), I would say rather that they are hints to the main answer; that is, they help visualize the saying HEAD OVER HEELS.


Remember RBIS?  It may further interest you to know that "they're usually not credited after errors."

I know who Zac EFRON is, but not Neighbors, which I assumed was a TV show.

The first thing that popped into my head for "lepidopterist's need" is *PIN.  It's NET.

For "Tahoe or Taos, e.g." I was at a loss.  Each is a RESORT.  I kept thinking, town?

Hey, it's RUDI Gernreich again, last seen September 5!  Still making clothes --- here again, the monokini --- that show off women's boobs.  Oh la la!  Rudi, you little minx!  His last name means "enjoy being rich" in German.

Hip-hop's SYD tha Kyd, I hardly knew ye.  In fact, I don't know ye at all.  I guess ye are famous to the youths.

"1961 Project Mercury chimp" is entirely new to me.  ENOS was the test chimp, first chimp in orbit.  I expected to find out that he died alone and cold in a space capsule that drifted from orbit, but actually, like some idiot on the Oregon Trail, he died of dysentery.

So, I was thinking of *CHAIM POTOK for "Fiddler on the Roof star."  Potok, of course, is the well-known author of The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev.  The real answer, CHAIM TOPOL, is known only for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.  I suppose being on the roof with a bird's eye view like that makes him an expert on topology.  ...No?

And then there's Potok's brother, NOTOK.  Ha!  I kid.  That's NOT O.K.

I didn't know there was a RODIN Museum in Philadelphia.  It's the only museum dedicated to Rodin outside France.

OLA, properly olá, is a greeting in Brazil.

"STOP-GO" traffic?  Not "stop-and-go" traffic?  Hmmm.  Results for "stop-go traffic" on Google: 39,900, and many of those have an ampersand.  Results for "stop-and-go traffic:" 649,000.  I call foul.

Clever clues: "It grows in the dark" is PUPIL.  "Its home is on the range" is BURNER.  "They're tired" is AUTOS.  "Range units" is MTNS and not *BTUS!

And I'm done for today.  EUR welcome to STA, though.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My time: 10:40.


This puzzle is brought to us by master puzzler Brendan Emmett Quigley (sounds like the precocious protagonist of a young adult novel) and puzzle dabbler John Lithgow.  Naturally, it is all about... the theatah!  Themed entries in each corner spell out theater phrases, but clued in tricky fashion.
"Decision to go with drapes instead of blinds?"  CURTAIN CALL.
"Fly fisherman?"  CAST PARTY.  (Not as clever.)
"Why one missed the coach?"  STAGE LEFT.  (My favorite.)
"Accountant's shares in a company?"  SUMMER STOCK.  (Wasn't quite sure about the theatrical meaning of this.)

Lithgow also put in references to himself: "TV's 'The Crown or 'Dexter'" are shows he's been in, and won best ACTOR for.

Crossword mainstay "Swiss waterway" AAR often gives me trouble, as I forget how to spell it.  I guess mostly because it's often spelled Aare.  Anyway, it's the longest river entirely within Switzerland.

Another crossword mainstay, ST. LO, properly Saint-Lô, which is the capital of the Manche, which is the department on the coast of la manche.  It is also the site of bombardement by American forces in 1944.  It was destroyed during Operation Overlord.

I spaced on Daniel KEYES, who wrote Flowers for Algernon, but I remembered once the ES appeared.

I'm aware that there is a musical called "PAL Joey," but I never really thought much about it.  It was based on a series of short stories by John O'Hara, with music and lyrics by Rogers and Hart!  "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," one of my favorites, is one of the songs.  The show was even made into a film with Frank Sinatra, which is the form it took in my mind if at all.

"State tree of Iowa:" OAK.  How boring!  It's also the national tree of the USA.

So an ERNE is a long-winged sea eagle.  A tern, on the other hand, is a much-less majestic-looking sea bird.  Don't confuse them, like I did!  You'll add seconds to your time.

I needed just a little help to dredge up OTOES, the Nebraskan tribe related to the Sioux.

"Like Falstaff."  FAT.  Really?  A bit blunt, isn't it?  Is that really all we remember him for?

I couldn't remember if the Gillette razors were *ALTAS or ATRAS or what.  Atra it is.  A close shave, coming right atra!  ...This slogan needs work.

Here's a fill I never heard of: ASA GRAY, "pioneering botanist."  Apparently he's pretty well-known!  He was a big believer in evolution as a product guided by God.  He's so famous that his work on North American plants is called Gray's Manual.

SLEETY is not a good word.

Even though I've been a stage and radio actor in my life, I'm not familiar with the term APRON to describe the area of the stage that abuts the front row.  It may also be called a thrust stage.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series: I had to blind guess the penultimate letter of Minnie MINOSO, nine-time All-Star, "The Cuban Comet," three-time Golden Glove winning "Mr. White Sox." Do you think they ever called him Minnie Mouse?

"Nanki-Poo's pursuer in The Mikado" is KATISHA.  I'm vaguely familiar with this operetta, and could maybe have even provided Nanki-Poo's name with some crossfill, but I'm not a Gillivan fan enough to know this name!  She is an elderly, perhaps ugly, lady who sings "Alone and Yet Alive."

SECCO is a fresco painted on dry plaster.  Fresco-Secco sounds like an Italian soda brand.  Secco, of course, means dry.  And prosecco is professionally dry.

WOOF!  That's a lot of high culture.  John Lithgow sure is an erudite fellow when it comes to the performing arts.  MINOSO much as him. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My time: 7:07, five seconds shy of a new record.  Man, I wish I had hurried.  Or taken note of the time while I was playing it.


Jeff Chen gives us a theme in which CON MEN "target the starts of" several clued entries such as PIGEON COOP, MARK ANTHONY, and CHUMP CHANGE.  I enjoy a clever theme that asks "what do these unrelated words have in common, if you define them slightly differently."

Despite the very quick time, I had a lot of pauses and unknowns on this puzzle.

I spaced on the name of the BANYAN, the fig tree that's the national tree of India.

A BETA RAY, or beta particle, is a forming of ionizing radiation in which an electron or positron is emitted from an atomic nucleus during radioactive decay.  And not, you know, this guy.

For "Canadian plans tribe" I had *ERIE but it was CREE.  The Cree Nation has about 200,000 members in Canada.  The Erie, on the other hand, lived in New York and Ohio, and were wiped out by the Iroquois.  So, my answer was pretty uninformed.  Ha, ha!  I'm white.

A.P. CALC is a "high-level H.S. class with integrals."  Integrals are mathematical objects that can assign numbers to describe area, displacement, volume.  The opposite of integration is differentiation.  I don't know anything about math.  In my senior year of high school I was taking Algebra II with the ninth-graders.

"Pro at building financial worth, slangily" is IBANKER.  Not in my vocabulary.  That would be iBanker I suppose.  I guess that means investment banker.  Or pompous ass?  Something like that.

Did you know Anne HECHE was in Donnie Brasco?

Some AL sluggers are DHs. That means Designated Hitter.  He hits for the pitcher, who is apparently some kind of sissy.

"Int'l. group headquartered in DC" is OAS.  That is the Organization for American States, which is designed to promote solidarity and cooperation across the Americas.

Clever clue: "It has its charms" is VOODOO.

And that's it.  U CONN come back tomorrow for the next installment. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

My time: 5:23.


Jennifer Nutt gives us a fun theme to start with the week, with a series of longer entries that appear unrelated until you get to "creature found 'swimming' in" those clues: ORCA.  Found in LIQUOR CABINET, PARLOR CAR, RADIATOR CAP, and WINDSOR CASTLE.  The orca is also always cut in half; perhaps that would have made too gory a clue.

For "big wind" I had *GUST, but it was GALE so that slowed me down.  Also I put *LIE for what turned out to be FIB.

"Like a five-star Yelp review" just doesn't seem like the best clue for IDEAL.

I have never heard of the "long-running PBS film series" P.O.V. It looks like a fascinating documentary series.

BLAT for "trombone honk" gave me a bit of pause as well, but it's a fair clue.

Did you know there were penguin and T. rex TOKENs in the new Monopoly set? There's also a rubber ducky.  Too many birds!

And that's it for Monday at Ye OLDE Crossword Blogge.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My time: 31:41.  Pretty slow.


This puzzle, by John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins, puzzled the hell out of me.  I couldn't figure out the theme for the longest time.  I never see the titles of the puzzles, and maybe that would have helped this time.  I kept thinking it was just adding long e plural sounds (-IES, -EES) to phrases.  Like: COUNT FAIRIES.  So, I thought, what the hell is counting fairs?  Or: SMART PANTIES.  Is smart pants a thing?  I really didn't get it.  Finally, around GRAVE TRAINEES, the penny dropped.  It's moving the long e sound from the first word to the second.  So county fair, smarty pants, gravy trains.  Pretty sneaky.

TWEET BIRDIES sounds like the Russian-elected Twitter-in-chief boasting about his golf scores on social media while American children die of disease and thirst in Puerto Rico.

The MIT Sloan School of Management is MIT's business school, so Sloan grads are MBAs.

"Office restoration" got me.  I kept thinking about redecorating.  It's POWER NAP.

The "New Left org." SDS is Students for Democratic Society.   Tom Hayden was president and perhaps most famous member.  The history of this group is interesting, especially how some of its supposedly progressive members were so militantly anti-feminist.

EARLS Court is a district in London.  Princess Diana lived there before marrying Charles.  The famed Troubadour coffee house is also there.

This puzzle says that a chickadee is an example of a TOMTIT, but in fact a chickadee is genus Poecile and a tomtit is genus Petroica.  Take it away, Wikipedia:
Emigrants to New Zealand presumably identified some of the superficially similar birds of the genus Petroica of the family Petroicidae, the Australian robins, as members of the tit family, giving them the title tomtit, although, in fact, they are not related.
A "have-not" is a NEEDER?  Come on.

This is the one no one will know: TUYERES are the name for nozzles in blast furnaces.  And never in a NYT puzzle before.

Hey, it's UGLI again!  This time noting that it is a hybrid fruit, of grapefruit, orange, and tangerine.  A.k.a. tangelo.

I wanted to put *ZOOM IN ON for BORE IN ON ("get closer to").  But I didn't, because Z doesn't fit anywhere.

New word: myrmeke, a giant ANT.  Even knowing about myrmidons, this eluded me for a while.

Sunshine Biscuits came up on August 29, as making Hi-Ho crackers.  This time it claims they make CHEEZ-ITs (manufactured by Kellogg through its Sunshine Biscuits division).

I call foul: "Fixes, as a bath area" is a pretty tortuous way to get to RETILES.  You don't tile a bath, but you do tile the room it's in.  Ugh.

I didn't know Kofi ATTA Annan's middle name.

POTSY is another name for hopscotch?  Well, I'll be.  I grew up in Utica, and I've never heard anyone use the phrase "steamed hams" for hamburgers, either.

Vague and clever clues: "yap" is KISSER, as in "I'll punch you right in yer..."  "Drawn" is EVEN STEVEN.  "Haymaker?" is BALER.  "Routine problem, for short" is OCD.  "Ones holding down things" is EIDERS.

And that's all SHE wrote.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My time:  29:54, which ain't great.


A very tough one from Sam Ezersky.  No theme, just a lot of stuff I had trouble with.  This is going to be a long entry.

The northeast corner caused me the most difficulty.  I couldn't get past *BELCH for "impolite sound" (SLURP) and just blanked on "P.M. between Barak and Olmert (SHARON).  For a while I swear I was saying to myself, "Charon?  Was there an Israeli P.M. named Charon?"

Also a lot of sneaky clues.  "Over" for AGAIN is a tricky, vague clue.  Same for "tough" for THUG.  I like the crossing of WHERE / WAS I ("question after an interruption" --- I kept thinking something along the lines of, "Are you done?").  I wanted to put *AXEL for LUTZ ("spin out on the ice?") and didn't just because there's no way that telenovela starts with an X.  I wanted to put *DODO for BOZO ("dum-dum").

I didn't know "UGLY BETTY" was based on a Colombian telenovela, or had forgotten, but there it is.

For "source of the line 'They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind'" I couldn't understand why *BIBLE didn't fit.  Ezersky wanted the more specific HOSEA.

I've only barely heard of Fetty Wap, and have never heard of "TRAP QUEEN."  I'd rather hear Eminem.  Or Biggie.  Or Lupe Fiasco.

Farmhand in The Wizard of Oz?  ZEKE?  Come on, who knows that?  He doesn't even have his own entry in the wiki devoted to the damn movie!

"Eponym of a North Carolina city" is ASHE.  Uh??  This means Asheville.  Or rather, its eponym, which is Samuel Ashe.  Ugh.

I had no idea that ANITA O'DAY was known as "the Jezebel of Jazz."

AMMAN was once known as Philadelphia.  Did not know that either.

I am not familiar with quondam oil concern AMOCO.  Apparently it merged with BP.  Also apparently there's an (unrelated?) Amoco Credit Union.

Today's EDITH is Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, not Sitwell.  Best known for being the de facto executor of Woodrow's policies after his stroke.

I've heard of Tyra Banks, but not "smizing."  Or maybe I just blacked out that memory.  Anyway, it means smiling with your eyes.  I am hard pressed to come up with Banks' name as the host of America's Next Top Model, so this is possible.

"Symbol of the National Audubon Society."  Bird!  Oh, more specifically?  EGRET.  Couldn't have told you that.

I don't like the verb REUNES, but I've seen it a lot outside of this puzzle, so hey, fair game.

"Half of a 1997 telecom merger."  NYNEX.  It merged with Bell Atlantic, which became Verizon.

I'm a huge super-hero trivia nerd from way back, but "real name of the Green Hornet" stumped me.  Britt REID.  I wanted to put *RAND (that's Iron Fist).

Is a Mazda MIATA really a Fiat Spider alternative? They don't seen equivalent to me.

Why is "idol group" MOB?  Like people mobbed the Beatles?  I don't get it.

Clever clues: "Slams" is PANS.  "Tony's place, for short?" is B'WAY.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Today's time: 13:17, not bad!


On this spooky Friday the 13th, a fun themeless by Zhouqin Burnikel, who definitely has a name for a crossword puzzle constructor.

I have heard of DAMASK, of course, but I didn't know reversability was its main selling point.

It's the Marching ILLINI again!  I knew there was something familiar about this fill as the letters came in. 

I'm not sure "flower with five petals" is the cleverest clue for GERANIUM, but Wikipedia says:
The flowers have five petals and are coloured white, pink, purple or blue, often with distinctive veining.
LEN Lesser played "Uncle Leo on "Seinfeld."  Great actor who helped create a memorable role.

"Big name in home security systems" is ADT. Sure, but back in the day, it was just little old "American District Telegraph."

I have never in my life heard of a TORTONI.  It kind of looks like a flan or cupcake.

MARKET WATCH is the premier online source for stock market news.

Did you know that a Grand Duke is the SON of a tsar (I can't believe the Times spells it czar, which is out-dated and non-representative)?  This was true historically in Russia.

Roberto ALOMAR, "only Baseball Hall of Famer inducted as a Blue Jays player," was a second baseman who won a lot of Golden Gloves.  Past crossword connection: he was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Speaking of past crosswords, it's ANA Cabrera again!  She was last seen by me on August 25.

Did you know Pete Rose had 1,314 RBIs?  I'm not even sure what those are.

I've heard of MOSUL and I've heard of the Tigris, but I didn't know that Mosul was on the Tigris.  It's located on the west bank of the river, opposite Nineveh.

I've heard of EULER, but I haven't heard of graph theory, let alone that he was a big player in it.  In 1736 he laid out what was called The Königsberg Bridge problem, which has no solution.

A plethora of clever clues this time, from the devious mind of Zhouqin: "Evening result?" is TIE.  "Person in a trailer, in two senses" is ACTOR.  "Things worth waiting for?" is TIPS.  "A screwdriver might be added to it" is BAR TAB.  "Opposite of downs" is SIPS.  "Bits of information?" is DIGITAL DATA.  "Port vessel" is CASK.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Today's time: 19:15, which was a pretty dismal year for peace.


This was a puzzler by Alex Eaton-Salners, a real head-scratcher, but not a slog.  In fact, it was quite enjoyable had a lot of a-ha! moments.  The theme: all the across clues are one word homophones of the intended clue.  So you get, for example, "mined" meaning "mind," which as a verb means CARE.  Or "meet" meaning "meat," which gives the answer HAM.  One more: "wring," meaning "ring," which as a verb clues the answer PHONE.  Get it?  Clever and keeps you thinking.

Some solvers are probably whining even now that "handsome" and "hansom," or "clothes" and "close," aren't exact homophones ("I pronounce them differently, for I alone speak God's true original English as taught to me by Mrs. McFullister out of the English as She is Goodly Spoken Primer, 1912 edition!").  But those people are pedantic killjoys.

For "we" (wee), I had *LITTLE at first, but it's PETITE.  For "lickers" (liquors) I had *RUMS, but it's RYES.  Crossword constructors love to pluralize things with no plurals.  I'm looking at you, DRY ROTS.

"Re," answer GLIMMER, was a tough one to parse.  It means "ray," as in a ray of sunshine.

"Missal" (missile) is ATLAS, which I didn't know is a missile and rocket type.  In fact the SM-65 Atlas was the first ICBM developed by the US.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series:
CAM Newton is a quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, won the Heisman trophy, broke a lot of records, and makes over 20 million dollars a year.  Sigh.

Broccoli RABE, also spelled raab, a.k.a. rapini, is a bitter cruciferous vegetable.  I had the vague idea that it was a way to prepare broccoli, possibly au gratin?  Nope, it's its own thing, related to the turnip.

Only yesterday I was reading a pulp noir from 1960 and it mentioned EDITH Sitwell, and I looked her up then, which is the only reason I answered that one quickly.  She is best known for "Still Falls the Rain," about the Blitz.

The "army award" known as the DSC is the Distinguished Service Cross.  I didn't know America gave those out.  I thought it was a UK thing only.

ARAL Sea, "body greatly diminished by Russian irrigation projects" was not on the tip of my tongue.  Apparently it was one of the four largest lakes in the world.  The eastern bank is now known as the Aralkum Desert.  Proof, if any were needed, that humans can change the landscape and climate.  Anyway, I initially had *URAL Sea, which isn't anything, but I figured mountains and seas could share a name.

I haven't heard of AMANA, the appliance brand.  Apparently they've introduced a great many innovations in appliances over the years.

No one's heard of this: BISTRE!  It's a brownish-yellow pigment.  It isn't very common, even in puzzles.

Clever clues: "priest from on high?" is LAMA.  "Bills that one doesn't mind piling up" is CASH (I initially thought maybe *TENS).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My time: 10:02.


David J. Kahn offers a fun western-themed puzzle, with DOC HOLLIDAY, IKE CLANTON, and GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL ("renowned 1881 event that lasted about 30 seconds" --- no, the answer isn't 'your mom's conception') all making appearances.

Then, the ringed squares in the middle offer WELL, FAIR, JAKE, and FINE --- a veritable CORRAL of ways to say O.K.  Pretty clever!

In other news...

"Banks of Chicago" is ERNIE, as in Ernie Banks, a.k.a "Mr Sunshine," shortstop of the Chicago Cubs 1953-1971, and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

San REMO a.k.a Sanremo is a coastal city in Liguria, Italy, known for its cycling race.

[Arthur] ASHE Stadium, in Queens, is the largest tennis-specific stadium in the world.  Initially I put *SHEA, which I guess was an intentional trap, as Shea was also in Flushing-Meadows Corona Park in Queens, until it was destroyed.  Which is why David J. Kahn left off the Arthur in the clue.

TINO Martinez was a first baseman for several teams and as far as I can tell peaked in college.

LARA Logan is a well-regarded journalist of whom I have never heard.  It's worth noting that a large group of Egyptian Muslims will act and think at about the level of a group of enraged apes.

"Wall St. trader" is ARB, which I got from crossfill.  It is short for arbitrageur.

Clever clues: "Club for swingers" is BAT.  Ha!  Swingers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My time: 7:42, forty seconds too slow.


The theme of this Tuesday by Mark MacLachlan is ELEMENTS: several clues' numbers are the atomic number of the answer.  So, "this, on the periodic table" becomes HELIUM, for 2 down, and they are also all NOBLE GASES.

"Specks in la mer" did not confuse me.  I immediately and confidently put ILES, because of the similar clue, with dots for specks, on September 14.

I don't think I've ever heard of "opaque liquids such as milk" called EMULSIONS.  I think of them as liquids that are mixed through dispersion, not opaque.  Interestingly, the word comes from the Latin emulgere, "to milk."

"Act hostilely" is AGGRESS.  Watch out!  That pirate is known for going around and aggressing!  Geez, man, don't aggress; you're harshing my mellow.

I feel like AT. NO. for "atomic number" and LT. YR. for "light year" is stretching the limits of what a useful, known, and typically-used abbreviation is.

Clever clues: "one might be around a buck or two" is DOE.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

My time: 6:10, which is mighty slow, but I wasn't hurrying.


This puzzle by Joe Deeney had a calendar theme: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK, LAST WEEK TONIGHT, A MONTH OF SUNDAYS --- which I discovered, read and enjoyed on my own in my freshman year of college --- and of course the capper, what would be necessary for these to happen: CALENDAR REFORM.  Or would it?  "A month of Sundays" just means 30 weeks; it's not an impossibility like the others.

I've heard of ROD CAREW!  I didn't know he was in the "3,000-hit club."  He has 3,053.

What I've never heard of is REVERSI.  You may know it as Othello.  I don't.

AMIE is a crossword mainstay.

A classic Pontiac is a GTO.   Wiki?
The name... was inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO, the successful race car. It is an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato, which means officially certified for racing in the grand tourer class. The Pontiac GTO was never a "Grand Tourer" certified race car though. Internally, it was initially called the "Grand Tempest Option," one of many autos in the Pontiac line up with a 'Grand' in it.
I knew a sports item!  The Beavers are OSU, which I attended!  Initially I had *ORE because I don't know how sports nomenclature works.

I hesitated on filling out STATIST even though that appeared to be the answer early on, because it doesn't sound like a "believer in a strong federal government."  It sounds to this American's ears like a states' rights believer. But of course it means state as in the State.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

My time: 17:44, destroying my previous Sunday best by nearly seven minutes!   Why, that's enough time to play Cream's studio version of "Spoonful!"  (The Blob's favorite band and song?)


The reason I blew through this quite fun puzzle by Erik Agard and Alex Briñas is probably because the theme was made for me specifically.  Pretty much the only pop culture I know is comic books and modern music, so the clues that blended them were filled in with no hesitation.

"Aquaman's favorite singer?" BILLY OCEAN.  "Electro's favorite singer?"  FRANK ZAPPA.  "Iceman's favorite band?"  COLDPLAY.  "Spider-Man's favorite band?" THE SPINNERS.  Not a single one unknown to me, either on the comic or music side.  And the capper? If they all perfromed together, they'd be a SUPERGROUP.

I am the single most clueless-about-sports American male, an ongoing series:
I have never heard of STEFAN Edberg, "two-time US Open tennis champion."  And why doesn't he have a cool nickname?
I have never heard of ELTON Brand, "two-time NBA All-Star."

This puzzle has YMA and UMA!  That's funnier than Letter's stupid Uma-Oprah bit.

Finally, an actress I recognize, at least, though I didn't know her name.  ALFRE Woodard has four Emmys.  She was in 12 Years a Slave and "True Blood" and "Gray's Anatomy," but I may know her for such roles as Mariah Dillard in "Luke Cage."

The "covalent bonds of a carbon atom" for a TETRAD, which just means a group of four.  After that it gets confusing to a dullard like me.  A covalent bond is a chemical bond that involves sharing electron pairs.  As far as I can tell, carbon has four electrons in its outermost shell so I guess that would be sharing two pairs, which is four?  Possibly but not necessarily.

PONCE, Puerto Rico, is not named for Ponce de Leon, but "shares its name with" him, because it's actually named after his great-grandson.

I don't think I even noticed the clue "university in North Carolina" and answered it with crossfill alone, but there it is: ELON, last seen September 14.

So "the upright yoga pose vrikshasana simulates" a TREE, which I did not know, but it seems like a decent guess from the "upright" part of the clue.

"Not only that but also" is NAY, which gave me a few seconds of trouble, but it looks like one of the meanings is in fact "an old word used for correcting yourself when you think of a better way of expressing something," so there you go.

Hey, it's ALOHA 'OE, which was an answer just yesterday.

Clever clues: "Agcy. for Kennedy or Reagan" is TSA.  Airports, not presidents!  Har.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

My time: 18:42, just twelve seconds shy of my record.


If I had put in the correct "1970 hit with a spelled-out title," LOLA, and not my too-confident (actually released in 1978) *YMCA, then the NW corner would have fallen into place quicker.  But then, them's the breaks.

I sort-of remembered IDA LUPINO from the September 26 clue, but I wrote about The Hitch-Hiker, and not The Bigamist

So, "weapon swung by a gaucho."  First off a gaucho is a South American cowboy.  Also, a Steely Dan album, but I knew that.  I am aware of the cowboy meaning, but something I read or misread in my youthful past, possibly a Tintin album, makes me always question that.  But it's a cowboy.  So the South American cowboy's weapon is BOLA.  But I initially had *BOLO, which, among many many other meanings, is actually a Filipino knife.  So in short, this clue messed me up.

An OSTERIA is an Italian bistro.  It is less formal than a trattoria.

NAN Britton was Warren Harding's mistress!  Wikipedia:
Following Harding's death, Britton wrote what is considered to be the first kiss-and-tell book. In The President's Daughter, published in 1927, she claimed she had been Harding's mistress all during his presidency, naming him as the father of her daughter, Elizabeth Ann. One famous passage told of their having sex in a coat closet in the executive office of the White House.  
The best part is that when he met her, Harding was already having an affair with some other lady.  The old goat!

ODEON is clued as "literally, singing place" but etymology online has it "building for musical performance."

I can never see the 2005 film BEE SEASON, because it has Richard Gere, and I made a vow never to see his movies.

EPEEIST?  Come on.

A SWAY BAR reduces roll on a vehicle and so is part of the suspension.  The clue "stabilizer in solutions" made me think of chemistry for the longest time.  Luckily, I know nothing about chemistry, so I couldn't put in any wrong answers!

"OSLO" is a 2017 play about the Oslo Peace Accords.

Jesus' grandmother is Saint ANNE, mother of Mary.  We don't even know who Joseph's father is!

Clever clues: "Give takes" is OPINE; "unslurred speech?" is PC LANGUAGE; "line of clothing" is INSEAM; "offering to an idol" is ADULATION (I was trying to fit *LIBATION in there); "candy ass?" is PINATA; "a host" is GOBS (I got stuck thinking of emcees); and my personal favorite, "dish transmitters" is GOSSIPS.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday, October 6, 2017

My time: 10:30, beating my previous Friday time by five full minutes!  Woo!


This themeless by Patrick Berry has a lot of long fill, but no real head-scratchers.  Also, more interesting and playful clues than at the beginning of the week.

Why do VIOLAS always get the harmony?

"Tony n' TINA'S Wedding" is an off-Broadway musical show for Italian-Americans.

I've never heard of ET SEQ., but how else would you say "and what follows" in Latin (legal memos)?  I guess maybe etc. like everyone else?

BARBARA JORDAN, "Congresswoman who delivered the opening statement at Nixon's impeachment hearings," I got from the crossfill.  She was the first black person elected to the Texas Senate, and the first Southern black woman elected to the House.  Here's the text of the speech.

Coolidge's vice president was Charles G. DAWES, who won the Nobel peace prize for his titular World War I reparations plan.  He also wrote "It's All in the Game."

I don't know if I would call an "industry magnate" a CZAR.

Bob Evans (DENNY'S competitor) is a place I have never heard of.  They don't have any locations within 100 miles of me (I checked).

Fatah (HAMAS rival) was formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement and is part of the PLO.  They and HAMAS don't get along.  To me, "fatah" sounds like a Middle Eastern food.  I'll have some qormah, and some challow rice, and let's see, give me a few of those donar kebabs and a side of fatah.

Clever clues: "abbr. on a tube" is ADA, and it's a tube of toothpaste, ha! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My time: 16:15, close but no cigar.


A satisfyingly semi-tough puzzle by Alan Abesfeld.  The theme is cute, replacing less-than-hyperbolic words in films with more "uplifting" words.  So Ordinary People becomes SPECIAL PEOPLE, My Fair Lady is now MY AWESOME LADY, and of course, there's AS GREAT AS IT GETS.  The only one I would change is My Fair Lady, because here "Fair" doesn't mean so-so, it means "beautiful."

"Madly for ADLAI" is a hilarious campaign slogan.

"The Gaels of the NCAA" are IONA.  This is because Iona is a college in New Rochelle, New York, and their mascot is the Gael, and that's because the college shares a name with Iona, which is an island off the Ross of Mull, which we learned on Tuesday!  Heh.  Ross of Mull.

For "having trouble deciding" I had _OR_ left and I couldn't get past how much it evoked *A OR B.  It is, of course, TORN.

The Kaaba in Mecca is a giant CUBE.  Here's a picture.

Sure, sure: SHEB Wooley was a Western actor and sung "The Purple People Eater," but the only important thing to know is that he is probably the man who voiced the Wilhelm scream!  AAAHHOHHH!

Long-haired sex god Romanian ILIE Nastase was a number one tennis player through the early seventies, but as always, Wikipedia has the real goods: he wrote novels in French!

I've seen, long ago, the book Palindromania, but haven't heard of Jon AGEE; however, the fill __EE made it pretty obvious to guess.  Having seen some of his work, now I want to read the lot!

NAS, again.  "Hip Hop is Dead" this time.

Clever clues: "Think Piece?" is BEAN; "beats quickly, in a way" is RACES and you see afterward that "beats" refers to heartbeats, not games; "slide presentation?" is AMEBA; "artist who went dotty" is SEURAT, obviously.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My time: 10:20. Why am I so slow??


A very funny theme this time around by Evan Mahnken, based on tongue-in-cheek directions to where you'll find words in the dictionary.  "House party" is AFTER HOURS, "midday and one" are AROUND NOON, "menial" is BENEATH ME.  The cherry on the sundae is that the words actually are found there, alphabetically!  Hilarity.

"Exodus hero" is ARI.  That is, Ari Ben Canaan, six-foot-three blue-eyed Israeli freedom fighter, played by Paul Newman in the movie.

"Dwarf brother in The Hobbit" is ORI.  I've read The Hobbit, years ago, and I've never been a Ringhead, as fans of that pentalogy like to be called.  So I never would have gotten that without crossfill.  Or, of course, running the alphabet until the app says you're right.

"Edward EGAN, longtime archbishop of New York" was in that role 2000-2009, which I'm not sure counts as such a dreadfully long time.  On the other hand, you can cover up quite a lot of handsy priest scandals in nine years.

PLO is Arafat's group?  Really? Is that how we're still thinking?  And is Mahmoud Abbas chopped liver?

In science, a MIL is one thousandth of a liter; in math, a MIL is a thousandth of an inch.  In business, a MIL is a bunch of bucks, like Donald Trump has.  He has probably about a hundred MIL.

"Big name in ice cream" is EDY.  I don't think I've ever heard of it.  Maybe it's Dreyer's west of the Alleghenies or something? Look at all those flavors!

AMARNA is on the east bank of the Nile and is an extensive archeological site.

I didn't know TERNS were found on all seven continents!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My time: 11:04, which is a minute slower than my average, so yuck.


This puzzle by Chuck Deodene, whose name sounds like a geological era, lists phrases with CENTER ISLANDS ("feature of an upscale kitchen").  So you have BALTIMOREAN, with Timor hidden inside; BUSHEL BASKET, with Elba; FORMAL TALKS, with Malta; and STATION AGENT, with Iona.  Iona is off of Scotland, in the Hebrides, off the Ross of Mull, which sounds like a Braveheart chieftan.

For "Affirmative in Fargo" I had, for way too long, *YUP, because I'm an idiot.  It's YAH, as any line-quoter knows, and my initial guess made me question "touch in baseball" (TAG) and "really suffering" (IN HELL; I was trying to make sense of the P, thinking, IN PERL?  Is that a variant of peril?)

"Julius who sang 'Anywhere I Wander,' 1953" is LA ROSA.  He seems to be mostly famous for being fired on the air for having the temerity to hire a manager.

SNEE is a word I've maybe seen once or twice, but don't have it on automatic recall.

And really... that's about it for what held me up.  There's no other fill in the puzzle that I haven't encountered before.  So what took so damn long?  I can't even blame it on vague clues, because --- and I know I've said this every day this week, but --- these are boring, boring definition clues.  FAT is "liposculpture target."  DUCT is clued as "channel for fumes" (what about, say, "where tears come from"?).  WAR HERO, which could be clued any number of interesting ways, is clued "Medal of Honor recipient."  LILY is "water ______ (pond plant)."  ARCH is not about any one of many famous arches or even a foot joke but "what an insole helps support."  Come on.  Zzzzzz.

Clever clues: "One might stare at the Sun" for BALTIMOREAN.  And an arrow pointing at 10D for the answer TEN, I guess.  That's it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

My time: 5:01.


An easy Monday by Trenton Charlson, with the themed clues being letter groups that mean various things:
"A B C D E F G" is MUSIC NOTES, "G R X" is MOVIE RATINGS, and (the least guessable without knowing the theme) "B C F H I K N O P S U V W Y" is CHEMICAL SYMBOLS.

I'm not a big fan of some of the cluing, because a lot of it just straightforward definitions: "Salmon or sole" for FISH, "French affirmative" for OUI, "stops" for CEASES, "rough on the eyes or ears" for HARSH.  I enjoy more oblique, fun clues such as (for the latter) "what an uptight square might do to a hippie's mellow" or "like a crow's song."

Paul ANKA sang "Eso Beso," which has got a good beat and you can dance to it.

Hey!  It's my pal ALONSO, the King of Naples in "The Tempest," again!  Good ol' crossword regular Alonso.

"Gas company famous for its toy trucks" was utterly unknown to me, and I got HESS entirely from crossfill.  You will happy to know that they "explore material deepwater plays in proven and emerging areas" and "maximize value through production and development excellence."  I'd like to shake that writer's hand.  It takes skill to say so little with so many words.

"Prefix with conscious or freak" is ECO?  Eco-freak?  Sounds like something a Hess corporation executive would say.

AUDI.  "Truth in Engineering."

BALI is an island and province of Indonesia.  Nickname: The Island of Gods.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Today's time: 41:49, which might be the slowest time I've posted yet on this blog!


What a slog by Robert Fisher.  What a slog.  The theme is euphemisms, and somewhat clunky ones at that: "falling down" is TESTING GRAVITY, "speeding ticket" is AWARD FOR FAST DRIVING, etc.  None of these is particularly amusing to me.  I mean, calling "dead" POST-RETIREMENT!  Ha!  What a laff riot.

  • Update: User Kimberly opined that this are less euphemisms and more properly "spin."  Which makes a bit more sense.  But I'm still not a fan.

Robert ILER played A.J. on The Sopranos, which I watched every episode of and adore, but I couldn't remember his name and he hasn't exactly burned up the screen in the past decade.

And good old Iler crossed at the L on "Charlotte AMALIE, Virgin Islands," which is the capital of the US Virgin Islands, but I mean, I've never heard of it.  So, and I'm ashamed to admit this, I ran the alphabet at that nexus until I got both words.  (*IDER?  *AMADIE?  *IRER?  *AMARIE?)

For "prep for the runway, maybe" I guessed *VOGUE and then *DANCE??  But it wasn't a fashion runway, it was for a plane, and DEICE.

"Locale for two of the Quad Cities" is IOWA.  And I'm sorry to be a coastal elitist (who lives in Texas) about this, but come on.  Wikipedia, take it away:
The urban core consists of five principal cities: Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois. These cities are the center of the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area, which as of 2013 had a population estimate of 383,781 and a CSA (Combined Statistical Area) population of 474,937. 
Betterndorf?  East Moline?  475,000 people?  I'm sure they're very pretty and folksy, but we must not call them cities.

The Bosc pear is named after Louis BOSC, a biologist who also classified mushrooms and helped protect people hiding from the Terror during the Revolution.

SEGO Canyon, in Utah, is famed for its rock art and ghost town.

Jaguar XK-E was an answer exactly seven days ago.

"MAMA Can't Buy You Love" is a 1979 song by Elton John, off his lesser-known The Thom Bell Sessions three-song EP, which was his de rigeur attempt at the Philadelphia soul sound.

I'm not familiar with the phrase TAG END, but I guess it's kosher.

I'm not a fan of the new country and have never heard of ERIC Church, though he seems like a good guy, with several charitable causes and a pro-marijuana stance.

"Ratcheting wheel mechanism:" PAWL.  Now I consider myself a guy with an extremely wide vocabulary, but I've never encountered this word.  But then, I'm mostly a book-larnin' nerd, and not much cop at doing things with my hands and engineering and whatnot.  It looks like this.

"Bit of wind:"  *GUST?  *LUFF??  No, PUFF.

Sir Edwin Landseer's The Monarch of the Glen is a portrait of a STAG.  And it's quite an impressive picture!  Interesting tidbit is how many brands appear to have used it or a reasonable facsimile for its logo.  Challenge Butter, I'm looking at you.

OTTO I was a Holy Roman Emperor who consolidated power in Europe, defeated the Magyars, and is mostly known as "Otto the Great."  And I think he drank a good deal.

Woof.  Even though I knew a lot of the answers, there was also much I didn't, and with the usual Sunday vague clues, this left me both tired and without a feeling of accomplishment.  It wasn't a bad puzzle, except for the execrable joke theme answers, just not very fun.

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"...