Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

My time: 12:59.

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I had a great time figuring out this exceedingly clever theme by Trenton Charlson.  The theme is BATTLESHIP, "with the game's other pieces hinted at by the circled letters."  But the other pieces are where the real trickery comes in.  For "grinder," I put *SUB SANDWICH and went on my merry way.  But it isn't that simple.

Down in the SE corner there's "success in the game 60 Across" which is HIT.  I decided, noticing also the preponderance of answers with X, that this meant that each answer had at least one X in it.  But it isn't even that simple.

As more answers came, it was clear that the Schwarzenegger sequel didn't have nearly enough letters. This meant that Conan the Destroyer was represented as CONAN THE XX.  Because in the game Battleship, a destroyer is two units long, and it's been "hit" in the puzzle.  (I think "sunk" would have been a better hint because "hit" doesn't mean that every single unit of a ship has been hit, but there it is.)

So for submarine it's actually XXX SANDWICH, for carrier ("early form of airmail?") it's XXXXX PIGEON (because carriers are five units long in the game), and PT XXX refers to a PT Cruiser.  Got it?  I love a puzzle with this many layers of trickery.

The Duchess of ALBA, specifically the thirteenth duchess, is the Goya subject.  He painted her several times: in white (The White Duchess), in black (The Black Duchess, dressed in the style of a maja), and as a girl playing with her maid (The Duchess of Alba and "La Beata").

I don't think I knew that the LBJ Ranch was known as "The Texas White House."

I've heard Mary's name many times, but I needed crossfill to remind me that it's ANNE.  Her name is found only in Apocrypha, not in the canonical Bible.

"Org. whose symbol is an eagle atop a key" is the NSA.  The linked article helpfully explains that this symbol carries no meaning whatsoever.

Pac-12 team the Utah UTES appeared August 12.

"Red giant in the constellation Cetus" is MIRA.  Cetus is known as "the whale," as in cetacean.  In Greek mythology, Perseus killed Cetus as he was about the eat the sacrifice Andromeda.  The name "mira" means wonderful or astonishing, as in miracle.

Bella ABZUG was a leader of the women's movement.  She helped found the National Women's Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem.  She is famous for saying "This woman's place is in the House --- the House of Representatives" and served three terms in Congress.

"Neighbor of India and China in Risk" is SIAM.  Really?  Is there a 4:30 auto-gyro aeromail to the Prussian Consulate there?

We've had Lena Olin, but not LENA Headley, who apparently is in "Game of Thrones," which I have not seen.

Clever clues: "Butters up?' is BASTES.    "A penny is a small one" is ANTE.  "Giving heat?" is ARMING.  "Winter coat" is ICE.

Well, INTEL next time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My time: 11:17.

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Today's puzzle, by Erik Agard, has a hidden theme, one in which the capper explains it all.  Four clues are about seemingly unconnected items: SUPREME COURT CASE, MIRACLE MOP, CONTOUR KIT, and the reality series "TEMPTATION ISLAND."

So... What do they all have in common?  The first word is the (singular) form of a MOTOWN act.  (The Contours, maybe the least-well-known of the four, are best known for "Do you Love Me" --- at first I had *PANTONE KIT.)

Another very nice, pleasing theme.

The NE corner was the last to fall and added at least two minutes to my time.  I had no idea that OREO used to have the ad slogan "Oh! Oh! Oreo!"

The CASE in question, Obergefell v. Hodges, by the way, is the famous "gay marriage" ruling.

I've heard of Leon Uris, but not MILA 18.  It's a historical novel about the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Lots of Japanese in this puzzle --- RAMEN, ANIME, UDON, and TAIKO, a Japanese drum.  Kodo is a famous taiko group.

The particle called TAU lepton has a negative charge and has 3500 times the mass of an electron.

I finally figured out otalgia though my knowledge of languages and roots, and, let's face it, some helpful crossfill.

I'm so utterly ignorant of and uninterested in sports that "they're held at the beginning of the season" baffled me.  What season?  Is it... *TOY FAIR???  No, it's TRYOUTS.

For "hurts" I had *PAINS but that sneaky Erik Agard made it MAIMS.

A LET in tennis is when the ball hits the net.  This may because of a French word for net, "filet," but since it's pronounced totally differently, I have my doubts.

AVA DuVernay is not a very well-known director and producer.  However, I do notice that she produced and directed some episodes of the OWN channel's "Queen Sugar," which was an answer back on September 2.

Clever clues: "What you see when you look up?" is ACROSS.  So meta!  "Ready to retire" is SLEEPY.  "Two-tone apex predator" is a good description of an ORCA.  "Column that leans to one side?" is OP-ED.

OMEN, that's a lot of new clues.  I thought it was tough --- ANJOU?  What did you think?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My time: 10:23.

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Today's theme, by Andrew Ries, is as clever as yesterday's.  There are four extra answers made up of circled squares which extend inward rom one of the four borders, make two right angles, and head back to the side they began, forming a block U shape around two or three black squares.  This "often-forbidden maneuver" is, as I guessed early, a U-TURN.  But the capper on this theme is that the circles squares spell out the name of universities: CLEMSON, PRINCETON, CAL TECH, and NOTRE DAME.  That makes them literal U. turns!  Haw!

LILI Taylor, best known for her role in Mystic Pizza, is someone I recognize by face and not name.

EMI (Electric and Musical Industries) was one of the big four recording labels, back when anyone cared about that.  It was founded in 1931.

Did you know Ad ASTRA per Aspera is the state motto of Kansas?  Me neither, but I know the phrase well.

I got N.L. EAST from remembering the similar August 8 entry.  Apparently Bobby Cox won that division every year for ten years straight.  And Bobby Cox was a third baseman who became the manager of the Atlanta Braves.  More interestingly, he holds the all-time record for ejections in Major League Baseball with 158.

I haven't heard of the lawn mower brand TORO.

There's a Viking Ship Museum in OSLO!  Another thing to add to the bucket list.

For the singer of 2012 #1 hit "Somebody That I used to Know" I put *GOTSE, which, whoops, is nearly something horrible.  It's GOTYE.  I don't listen to much modern hit music, unless I can help it.  And so here it is!

The URAL is, in addition to mountains, a river that, like the Volga, flows into the Caspian Sea.

I'm pretty ashamed that I forgot the name of former FBI director James COMEY, and instead put in *COMES.  What a dummy I am.  But not quite as dumb as his stupid, vindictive, lying moron of a boss.

Hermann HESSE is the famed novelist, but apparently HESSE is also a German state.  And even more fascinating, the element hassium was named after it.

Clever clue: "Stick in a lake?" is OAR.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Today's time: 6:08.

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I'm a bit miffed at myself because I whiffed on a couple of items that have already been logged in this blog, which is of course its whole purpose.

...But I'll get to that in a bit.  First, what an amusing, clever theme to start off the week, courtesy of Kevin Christian!  While I was solving, I was thinking, yes, here are some movies, that's nice.  But the capper --- I do love a capper --- which I didn't see coming was that all of these films have a character with "much-derided hairstyle" the MULLET.  Haw!

The baseball term SAC fly, aka sacrifice fly, appeared as part of a clue way back on October 31.  I put *POP FLY at first, argh.

The photo term SLR has appeared at least three times now, and yet I couldn't put it in without crossfill.

And then there's UTA Hagen, for whom I initially had *UTE, as I did on November 9.  Sigh.

"Item for a T-bar user" is a SKI.  Here is a T-bar.  Not to be confused with the outmoded and inefficient J-bar.

Father-and-son actors that I can't name upon demand: John ASTIN, Gomez Addams on the TV series, and Sean ASTIN, lovable goofus Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings.

"Tiny amount of time" turns out to be NSEC.  This is, as you might guess, the abbreviation for nanosecond.

SCORPION comes between scales and archer.  Apparently I have to memorize the astrological symbols in order now too?

Actor Ron ELY played Tarzan in the 1960s, and also portrayed Doc Savage.

It's PACA again!  I put it in for "Amazon rodent" immediately, thanks to its inclusion way, waaayyyy back two days ago.

On October 24, I was surprised to see LOESS in a Tuesday puzzle, and here it is on a Monday!

There was a lot of new stuff for a Monday.  Even so, ANNO I ought to do better.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My time: 26:01.

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Today, Jeff Chen serves us up a pleasant-enough puzzle that features a theme without a reason to exist.  The clued entries have circled words-within-words and the results are clued literally, as some cryptic crossword clues are.  For example, "lists about a port in the Black Sea" is ROYAL TASTERS.  See the YALTA part?  And the rosters?  That's the gimmick, even though the embedded words have nothing to do with the whole words they make up, or each other.  Another one: "flourishes around monsoon events."  That's BRAIN SURGEONS, or burgeons around RAINS.  Last example: "fear among underground workers" is MIND READERS.  DREAD in miners!  Um, why, though?

I'm a cryptic crossword fan from years and years back, but this theme has no purpose.  It's clever, but not fun.  At least the clues in a real cryptic include the final answer hint in a fun way.  This, of course, doesn't.

"Jazzy Anita" is Anita O'DAY, last seen October 14 as "the Jezebel of Jazz."

Laura INNES is an actor best known for her role as the boss doctor in "ER."

I was slowed by a misreading of "Style of Radio City Music Hall, informally."  I thought it referred to the style of music played there, but it's [Art] DECO, for the architecture.

I've heard of Sonja HENIE, figure skater prominent in the 1920s and '30s, but wasn't sure how to spell her name.  That's one to memorize because I'm sure it's common fill.  Apparently she was a film star as well.

SAL ammoniac is something I know nothing about.  It's used as a soldering compound in stained-glass windows, apparently.  I guessed it from my knowledge of language, because it certainly wasn't my non-existent grasp on chemistry.

Carne ASADA simply means "grilled meat."  Those are good tacos.

I got SAN Dimas because of course it's San, but is this a well-known town?

For "ranger's wear" I kept thinking of Texas Rangers but it's like the Army Rangers who wear BERETS.

John CHO of the Harold & Kumar films also does a damn fine job as Sulu in the Star Trek reboot.

Have I heard of SETH Curry?  Maybe, because he plays for Dallas.  Does his name come trippingly unbidden to my tongue?  No.

I'm not sure about YOYO for "kook."

Hey, it's BRITCOM again!  I knew that immediately because of its November 23 appearance.

I remember when MYST came out!  It befuddled me utterly.  I never played its successor Riven.

"Song with verses by four or more rappers."  POSSE CUT.  Is this a thing?? Yes.  yes, it is.

Sure is a lot of yoga in the puzzle lately.  HATHA YOGA is a branch of yoga that emphasizes physical exercises to master the body along with mind.  The word hatha means "force" in Sanskrit.

VETCH is a towering plant that climbs.  It is in the legume family.  It is largely considered a weed.

Did you know Benghazi is in Libya, and a native of Beghazi is LIBYAN?  You should.  And also her emails!

Phylicia RASHAD was in Creed and "Empire" as well as "The Cosby Show," and also that's how she spells her name.

Looks, it's the Fighting ILLINI yet again!  They sure appear a lot.

Totally new to me department: "Another name for Dido" is ELISSA.  Apparently this is her Phoenician name.  Yet another blow to my much-vaunted mythology prowess.

"Award won by 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'" is BEST PLAY.  That's because it was made into a play, based on the novel, by Simon Stephens in 2012.  Now that's devious cluing.  Anyway, it won a Tony.

Costa Ricans are apparently known colloquially as TICOS

Clever and fun clues: "the dark side" is YIN.  "Heaters" is GATS.  "Lush" is DIPSO.  "Does his name ring a bell?" is IVAN PAVLOV.

That was tough. HEW agrees? I HEAR YA.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Today's time:  33:53.

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This is my 100th post!

Kevin G. Der constructed this themeless, which had a lot of new material for me.  I think this was tough even for a Thursday, but I quite enjoyed it anyway.  Somehow it was a difficult yet satisfying challenge rather than a cursed slog.  Who can say why?  Anyway, as I say, lots of new concepts to me today, plus the usual vague cluing that makes you try two or three answers before stumbling upon the right one, like a drunk finally making his way to his own door. 

For "places for drivers to get around," I tried to out-clever the constructor and wanted the drivers to be golf clubs, so tried to make "golf bags" fit.  Then I saw it was literal, but I put *FAST LANES.  It's LEFT LANES, because that's where you "get around" slow drivers.

Likewise, "baseball cards, campaign buttons and such" seemed to be collectibles, but it's AMERICANA.

"Triangular body parts" is SACRA, plural of sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of the spine flanked by the hips.

For "animal known to chase its tail" I wanted to put *TIGER, apparently thinking of the story of Sambo or the expression "catch a tiger by the tail" (??) but it's OTTER.

It's CALDER CUP, again!  We last saw it way, waaayyy back last Thursday.  Today we learn that it's named for the first president of the NHL, the iron dictator Frank Calder.

That classist hypocrite Henry Thoreau apparently wrote a series of travel essays published in 1964 as "The Maine Woods."  In those days they were still a "wild and grim" land.

William Hatfield, called Devil ANSE Hatfield, was patriarch of the Hatfield clan of Hatfield/McCoy feud fame.  Kevin Costener portrayed him in the History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, and won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Cavalleria Rusticana is an 1890 opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni.  It's about a village lad, Turiddu, who finds that the carter ALFIO has married his fiancée while he was away.  And to ask for the name of the baritone role of this obscure opera is pretty abstruse even for a Saturday.

"Portraitist with a Baltimore museum named after him" is Charles Willson Peale, a painter of figures of the American Revolution, as well as the typical soldier, scientist, inventor, and naturalist of the Renaissance men of the time.  The Peale Museum is actually officially known as The Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore, so this clue is wrong, ha!

I couldn't remember the Nissan SENTRA.  I mixed it up with the Hyndai Elantra.

"Ready to attack, say" vexed me.  I put *STEP AT, then *SNAP AT, but it's SORE AT.  I'm not sure being sore at someone means you're ready to attack them.

Did you know that William of Ockham (aka OCCAM) was known for scholastic philosophy?  Me neither. Wiki says: "Scholasticism is not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of learning, as it places a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference and to resolve contradictions."

"Super, slangily" is SOCKO?!  Uh, sure thing, Daddy-o.  That's the cat's pyjamas, like, the latest, man.

TREN is Spanish for train.  If only I knew Spanish.

I knew "Producer of loose leaf notes" was a tea joke right off, but I didn't know what kind.  I tried *TEA READER, as in a fortune teller, and then *TEA TESTER, but it's TEA TASTER.

LA SCALA is an opera house in Milan, Italy.  Apparently, it faces the Piazza della Scala, at the center of which is a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci, by Pietro Magni.

"Picks for a case" made me think of guitar picks in a guitar case, but it's literal, again, and it's EMPANELS.

The NAACP apparently publishes a magazine called The Crisis.  It was founded by W.E.B. DuBois.

The world's largest jalapeno festival is apparently held in LAREDO, Texas.

I have never heard of the drink SOMBRERO, a simple mix of Kahlua and cream (or milk) over ice, but it sounds... okay?  Maybe a little redundant.

"Contemporary of Saint-Saëns," as in Camille Saint-Saëns, the French composer of Danse macabre and the Carnival of Animals, is Édouard LALO, French composer of Symphonie espagnole.

Never heard of a PAMPAS CAT, found in South America and named for the pampas, of course. They're related to the colocolo.

Al HIRT had a 1963 album called Honey in the Horn.  Its single "Java" hit #4 on the Billboard charts.

"HASTA Siempre" is a 1965 song about Che Guevara.

Another South American animal new to me: PACA, a small herbivorous rodent.  He's so cute!

Clever clues: "Chow line?" is LEASH.  "Entertainers for whom lines quickly form" is SLAM POETS, nice.  "Check on the passing of bills?" is CASH AUDIT, and that took a great deal of time.  "Opportunity for people to act badly?" is B MOVIE.

Whew!  Is this the longest MNYTPT post ever?  It SHORE seems like it.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Today's time: 12:43.

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Bruce Haight and David Steinberg created a really delightful visually-themed puzzle for Friday.  It's admirably clever, and there's the perfect satisfying a-ha moment when it all makes sense, and best of all, knowing the theme helps you figure out the themed answers.

So the middle black squares show a brimmed hat shape (four black squares under two black squares) flipping diagonally down from left to right.  This makes "with slight provocation... as suggested by some black squares in this puzzle" AT THE DROP OF A HAT, and "snapping" FLIPPING ONE'S LID.  What a clever theme!  It made me smile when I figured it out.

SASHIMI means "pierce flesh?"  I would have guessed shish kabob or something.

"Chocolate truffle filling" is GANACHE.  It's just a mix of chocolate and cream.

LHASA is the capital of Tibet, but I've never heard of Jokhang Temple, which is the most sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and according to legend was built by a king for his two brides.

I'm surprised that QATAR has the world's highest per capita income.  I would have thought Monaco, which is only on the CIA's list, for some reason.  The IMF and World Bank lists do not mention Monaco. The CIA also has Liechtenstein listed first.

I immediately put ZORRO for "fictional hero who wears a sombrero cordobés," but I didn't know that was the hat's name.

For "heretofore" I put *YET but it's AGO, and that slowed me down.

For "its shell isn't hard" I thought of *SOFT CRAB (?) and then maybe even *SOFT TACK but it's the most obvious SOFT TACO, duh.

A STINGER is brandy mixed with crème de menthe.

Did you know NAN is also called khamiri?  Me neither.  Khamir is Urdu for yeast.  Khamiri roti is thus a leavened flatbread.

On October 8 we heard about the upright vrikshasana pose.  Today it's the hero pose (if you assumed it, you KNELT).  This is called virasana.

And Mercedes has some cars called A Class.  It is a compact car sometimes called the Baby Benz.

"Former Telco giant" is GTE, or General Telephone and Electronics.  It was acquired by Bell and become Verizon.  As did Nynex, remember?

Did you know the TAJ MAHAL is on the Yamuna River?  I knew once but had forgotten.

Hey, it's trattoria treat TORTONI again, last seen October 13.

I don't like the words ENPLANE or NONPRO.

Clever clues: "What can get two feet higher" is OTTOMAN. "Beam that might hit someone hard?" is JIM.  "Chip maker" is CHISEL.  "Cal tecs?" is SFPD.

And that's ALD o' the clues I wasn't sure about.  Fun puzzle!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

My time: 37:05.

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I hated this puzzle by Howard Barkin.  Hated its lack of Thanksgiving theme, hated its tricky numerical theme, hated how hard it was for me.  I'm a curmudgeon and a sore loser!

So, expecting a fun holiday theme, I ran into instead a sort of disjointed numerical theme.  "Halftime show" is THIRTY MINUTES, because "Sixty Minutes" is a show that exists.  "Double feature" is SIX AMIGOS, because Three Amigos is a movie that exists.  "Triple play" is RICHARD IX, because... etc.  "Fourth estate?" is not an ordinal but a fraction, so Twelve Oaks, the fictional Wilkes plantation in Gone With the Wind, becomes THREE OAKS.  This theme is just so all over the place and messy.  "Fifth act" is similarly fractional, not ordinal, and so it's THE JACKSON ONE.  So the theme is not in any sequential order, and covers music, TV, drama, film, and books.  And there's no capper.  Got it.

And now for the rest.  It wasn't so bad, actually --- it's just that unexpected and uninteresting theme that got me.

I don't like ACIDY for "a little sharp."  ACRID for "sharp" is exact, though.

"Booker or Tester" are SEN.  That is, Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey and Senator Jon Tester of Montana, respectively.

"Smallpox victims of the 1500s" are INCA.

"Good word to know if you love Latin?" is AMAS.  That's "you love," so I get the sort-of joke, but I think the answer should be AMO.

Never heard of it department: JODECI, 1990s R&B act with five #1 hits.  It's named after the four male members.  They're maybe most famous for the songs "Come And Talk To Me" and "Forever My Lady."  Not really my thing.

I didn't know the "bit of doctoral graduation regalia" on their heads was called a TAM.  But it is

Did you know Bobby ORR was the youngest player ever to win the Calder Memorial Trophy?  I didn't even know it was a hockey trophy.  Or that it existed.  It is the NHL Rookie of the Year award.

For "extra conditions" is put *ADDS but it's ANDS.

I didn't know xi came after nu.  I should really memorize the Greek alphabet if I'm going to be a puzzle maven.  I'm not sure I like the plural XIS.

For what "The Office" originally was I put *BRITISH but it's the coinage BRITCOM.

I don't know my chemical compounds, that's for sure.  C2H6 is ETHANE, which is a colorless, odorless gas chiefly used to make other compounds which make plastics, mostly.

On November 7, ACRE was defined as chains and furlongs, apparently.  Here, ACRE is clued as 4,046.86 square meters.

Clever clues: "What plays to both sides?" is STEREO.  "A new one is nearly invisible" is MOON.

Whew.  I need to TAKEI break.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My time:  13:03.

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I enjoyed the hell out of this puzzle by Timothy Polin.  Its theme is directional.  Three Across shaded entries read, north to south, I CAN / CERES, as in Tropic of, then EQUATOR in the middle, and below that the Tropic of CAPRI / CORN.  All very clever, but I wondered if there was more to it.

There was!  And I didn't even notice until the puzzle was almost entirely complete!  All the perimeter clues have a cardinal direction implied but not written.  For example, "home to Santa's workshop" gives POLE.  I thought that was somewhat odd, but shrugged and moved on.  But it's at the top of the puzzle, so it's actually [North] POLE.  On the right, we have "resident of China or Japan, but not India or Iran" giving ASIAN, which befuddled me to no end.  It's [East] ASIAN, of course.

Me not noticing this means that I'm a bit of an idiot.  "Lefties" isn't PAWS without the South part added at the front. And yet I put PAWS and kept going without breaking stride.

Case in point: "popular clothing brand," at the top, gives FACE.  I've never heard of that, I said dumbly, and gave no more thought to it.  It's [North] FACE!  Argh!

"Minnesota NHL team from 1967 to 1993" is STARS.  Since there's the Dallas Stars, I figured they just moved, like the Utah Jazz.  Which is accurate.  But they were originally known as the Minnesota [North] STARS.

Charles READE is a now little-read novelist, best known for his 1861 historical novel The Cloister and the Hearth.  Some of his works were regarded as indecent in his time.

The MEDULLA is the lower part of the brain stem that regulates necessary life functions such as breathing and heart rate.  I love my medulla.  Without my medulla, I'd just die.

Aloysius, yclept ALOIS Alzheimer, first identified what he called "presenile dementia."  The disease was named after him by his colleague Emil Kraepelin.

CITI Field is yet another of those American ballparks named after faceless corporate behemoths that strip the game of all character.  It replaced Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

"Notre Dame setting" is [South] BEND, Indiana.

"Affluent Connecticut town" is [West]PORT.  It was ranked 22nd richest town in America by Bloomberg. 

COSEC reappears, last seen way, waaaayyyy back on November 15

Did you know Tina Turner wrote an autobiography called, I, TINA?  Me neither.  It was co-written by beloved elder news anchor of MTV, Kurt Loder.

Totally new to me department: I keep boasting about my extensive knowledge of Greek myths and it keeps biting me on the ass.  I could not possibly have come up with Eurus, the [East] WIND.  He is one of the four anemoi, or cardinal direction winds.

I had a lot of fun sussing this puzzle out, but it was tough.  I was all ASEA.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Today's time: 7:32, half a minute shy of my record.  That's better!

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Brian Thomas gives us a goofy theme that makes puns out of country names as if they were cars in a stock car race.  There's no capper to the theme, and no real reason for the racing conceit to exist, but it's silly fun.  For example, "the car from Moscow goes" RUSSIAN PAST, and "the car from Helsinki leads the way to the" FINNISH LINE.  The one that's a clunker is "the car from Warsaw will" POLE INTO FIRST.  "Pole" doesn't sound like "pull."  I think Thomas might have been trying for something like Pole position, but it doesn't fit the other answer lengths.

For "wound on a dueler" I put the elegant and expected *SCAR, but it's the clunky STAB, and that slowed me down.

"Tennis score just before winning a game" has popped up in crosswords in the past, but I didn't recall it.  It's AD IN.  The tennis scoring system is a little abstruse.  Take it away, Wiki:
In standard play, scoring beyond a "deuce" score, in which both players have scored three points each, requires that one player must get two points ahead in order to win the game. This type of tennis scoring is known as "advantage scoring" (or "ads"). The side which wins the next point after deuce is said to have the advantage. ...When the server is the player with the advantage, the score may be called as "advantage in". When the server's opponent has the advantage, the score may be called as "advantage out". These phrases are sometimes shortened to "ad in" or "van in."
For "letters on a wanted poster" I put *DOA, but it's AKA.  Dammit!  These too-early guesses eat up precious seconds.

A GNU "sounds like a Greek letter," namely Nu.  It looks like a v in lower case.

Lorena OCHOA is a Mexican golfer in the World Golf Hall of Fame.  She was the top ranked female golfer for 158 consecutive weeks!

"LOVE keeps the cold out better than a cloak." This is a line in "The Spanish Student," an 1842 comedy by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

"Message to one's followers" got me; I was stuck in a sort of David Koresh sense of followers, but it's the simple TWEET.

I disagree that a "hearty laugh" is a YUK.

We've all heard of TIMBUKTU, but could we say that it's in Mali?  Maybe not.

Clever clues: "Something kept in reserve?" is OIL. "Steps up?" is RUNGS.

Well, IVES pent long enough on this.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Today's time: 6:19.

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Peter Gordon created this puzzle, which takes advantage of the fact that English is non-phonetic to showcase several phrases that have ALLITERATION but not the same letters.  CAESAR SALAD, KELLYANNE CONWAY ("coiner of the phrase alternative facts"), and PHOTO FINISH all have this quality.

This was tough for a Monday.

I'm not as up on my metrical feet as my buddy David.  An ANAPEST started things off slowly for me.  It's a phrase with two unstressed beats followed by a stressed one.  It's the opposite of a dactyl.  The example Gordon gives is "bada-bing."  "A Visit From St. Nicholas" is written in anapestic tetrameter.

RUBELLA is also called German measles.

General John Burgoyne, British officer active during the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution, was nicknamed GENTLEMAN JOHNNY due to his stylish living in high society.  He was also an accomplished playwright.

For "bit of turf on a golf course" I wanted to put *GREEN but it's DIVOT.

For "high-priced theater section I put *LUGE like an idiot.  It's LOGE.

IONE appeared August 11 as a sea-nymph.  This time it's actress IONE Skye.  She is British-born, dark-haired, and was in Wayne's World and Say Anything.

Figure skater ITO Midori last appeared September 5.  This time she is clued as the torch lighter at the Nagano Olympics.

I knew that MHO is a science unit; it measures conductance.  However, it turns out that this term is out-dated and the proper term for the unit is siemens.

Clever clue: "Ante matter?" is CHIP.

EYED rather have done this faster, but I just found it tough!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today's time: 36:46.

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I fight to the finish on these end-week puzzles, but it's getting discouraging to note these long times.  Why aren't I getting better?  Tom McCoy is the author of this almost too-difficult Sunday.  The theme is another fairly meta one.  If you count the ANSWER LENGTH (110 Across), the themed clues make sense.

So, for example, "this clue's 110 Across, timewise" is MIDNIGHT HOUR, and lo and behold, it has twelve squares.  "This clue's 110 Across, as is relevant each November" has 18 squares, and it's VOTING AGE IN AMERICA.  "This clue's 110 Across, at the Olympics" gave me trouble; once I had DIVE, I tried to put *DIVE HEIGHT (the Olympic diving board is ten meters above the water), but it's DIVER'S GOAL, as in a perfect ten score.  Once the theme is apparent, it helps.  For example, counting the 18 squares in "this clue's 110 Across, in chemistry" means it's obviously something to do with argon, and it's ARGON'S ATOMIC NUMBER. 

Also, four answer squares are circled, and they spell out FOUR.  Hint!

Reno, NV, is in WASHOE County.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

The TATE Modern is a museum in London.

First Man ON MARS is a stupid-looking comedy-horror movie from 2016. The Last Days ON MARS is a 2013 thriller about killer microbes starring Liev Schreiber. 

"Mork calling ORSON..."  Man, I loved that show.

I guess the Phillies' division is the NLE, National League East?  Zzzzzz.

Speaking of Philadelphia, "Temple athlete" is OWLTemple is a doctoral university located in the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Their mascot is Stella the great horned owl.

Speaking of universities, Oral Roberts University is located in TULSA.  That's nice and all, but the Wikipedia article has the real story, such as Lindsay Roberts' taste for texting underage males on university-issued cell phones.

For "2017 US Open winner," I originally put *NARAL.  Oops, ha ha!  That's the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the pro-choice abortion rights group.  The tennis player is Rafael NADAL, the "king of clay" and winner of 16 grand slams and an Olympic medal.

Apparently Smaug's LAIR was known as the LONELY MOUNTAIN.  I did not know that.

Speaking of nerd epics, I haven't seen The Force Awakens, so I forgot the name of the stormtrooper turned hero FINN.  But I did know that Darth Vader's nickname was ANI.  Ha ha!  Ani.

ET ALIAE is a bit fastidious, even for the Times.

MCGILL is a university in Montreal.  Look, I can't know everything about every university.

For "mountain ash" I fell for the possible double meaning and was thinking of volcano detritus.  It's actually a tree, an ash that grows on a mountain: ROWAN.

The CESAR is the French equivalent of the Oscar.  Interestingly, the Canadian Film Awards have no cutesy nickname.

I mentioned not having read the Lemony Snicket books here; I think asking for a minor character's name, Edgar POE, is a bit much.

Clever clues: "Return fee?" is RANSOM.  "Rising concerns in modern times?" is SEAS.  "Has in an old form?" is HATH.  "One with a large bill at breakfast?" is TOUCAN SAM.  "Ones stationed at home" got me with its military implication, but it's UMPS.

AWRY, that's all for now.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Today's time: 26:11.

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The author of this devilment is Sam Trabucco.  Why must he baffle me so?  The toughest part for me was the NW corner.  The coinage PUH-LEASE ("you can't be serious!") right over UBER POOL ("modern money-saving transportation choice") were tough nuts to crack.  And they were right under SAMOA, clued as "setting for several 'Survivor' seasons," and I don't watch TV much.

For "furnish" I had *VEND, which isn't quite right.  It's LEND.  Which also doesn't seem quite right.  Does lend mean provide?

"Ehud Barak abandoned it in 2011:" the LABOR PARTY.  He formed his own Independence Party after that, then quit politics.  I was wondering, what portion of the disputed area did he abandon?  That doesn't seem like him.

Totally new to me department: "Noted corporate raider of the 1980s" is ICAHN, as in Carl Icahn, who profited from hostile takeovers in the 1980s.  I'm ashamed that I don't know him because he was in the news lately.  He was appointed an advisor (on regulatory issues! ha!) to the dishonorable Trump, but had to resign before year's end because of conflict of interests.

CUBIT is clued as "about 18 inches," but it's technically the span from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  The Biblical cubit is about 18 inches, though.

"Cremona treasures, briefly," is STRADS, as in Stradivarius.  Those, I'm familiar with; what I didn't know was that Cremona is, per Wikipedia, "especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers, such as... Antonio Stradivari, and several members of the Amati family."

For "postgrad goal, maybe" I had *PH DEGREE, then *MD DEGREE, and after a lot of guesswork, figured out that what was wanted was MS DEGREE.

For "the antagonists" I had *FOES and briefly considered *ANTI (though that doesn't work), but it's THEM.

EL ROPO is apparently slang for a cheap cigar.  It takes a man to smoke an el ropo.

"Tour grp." is pretty vague but it turns out to be USO, the United Service Organization, which does all those celebrity morale-boosting shows for the military.

For "absence of preconceived notions" I had *BLANK SLATE but it's TABULA RASA.  I just thought it was funny that they both fit.

Welcome back, CHASE UTLEY.  I learned about you yesterday.  Seems like maybe Will Shortz should have spaced out your appearances.

Boolean is a DATA TYPE with only two values, true or false.

LLOYD Price is an R&B singer, known as "Mr. Personality."  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Sylvia SYMS was a jazz singer most famous for her version of "I Could Have Danced All Night."  Her albums Syms by Sinatra was conducted by Ol' Blue Eyes.  She is not to be confused with the British actress of the same name.

Northwest Nazarene University is a Christian university in Nampa, IDA.  I've never heard of it, or Nampa.  They believe that "the finally impenitent are hopelessly and eternally lost."  What losers.

Clever clues: "Response to a riot" is HA HA HA. "Match book" is SCORE CARD; that works two ways, both as the score for a game or match, and as scoring after making a match as in dating.  "Bug catcher, often" is BETA TESTER.  "One with whom your relationship is working out, briefly?" is PE TEACHER.  "Key used to make an exit" is ESC.

Well, farewell and ADO.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

My time: 20:39.

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Zhouqin Burnikel is the author of this head-scratcher.  No theme; it's Friday.  Just vague clues and a shedload of fill that's new to me.  Let's get to it; I'll be here a good long while.

CITIBIKES is the name of the bicycle-sharing (read: renting) service in New York.

Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan was a pilot who flew from Long Beach to New York, and then, although his flight plan was to return to California, instead kept flying EAST to Ireland.  He claimed it was due to mechanical error, but many people believe he did it intentionally, having previously asked for permission to fly to Ireland and having been denied.

An OGEE is an S-shaped molding.  It looks like this.

Did you know IMAN had a fashion line called Global Chic?  Me neither.

Who calls Prudential PRU?  Anyone?

Apparently New York Law School is in TRIBECA.  The NYT puzzle is sometimes overly New York-centric.

I'm proud that I pulled duck variety SMEW out of my mental microfiche unaided.  SMEW!  Ha.

INNER EARS are embedded in temporal bones.  Sure, but it would have helped if I had more quickly remembered what temporal bones are.

TOKYO DOME is the name of the Yomiuri Giants' home stadium.  Come on, I don't even know about my own country's sports.

Case in point: TINO Martinez, a first baseman and hitter for the Yankees and a few other teams.  He had to resign as a coach because of allegations of abusive behavior toward players.  Never heard of the guy.

Also, Chase UTLEY, which is a ridiculous name, who is also a second baseman and good hitter.

Also, there's a golfer named ISAO Aoki.  He won the PGA tour once.

Both of the above people are so unknown to me that I initially thought their names were "Utley Chase" and "Aoki Isao."

"Pen name" is devious.  *NOM DE PLUME fits and put it in; it's the pen brand ERASERMATE.

"Pulitzer-prize winning poet of 1947 and 1974" is LOWELL, meaning Robert Lowell.  In 1947, he won for his book Lord Weary's Castle.  It contains "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket," which is strong stuff.  In 1974 he won for The Dolphin, which was controversial because he used and altered letters from his ex-wife without permission.

A lot of clever clues, just like last time: "pressing warning" is DO NOT IRON.  "Had a stable job?" is SHOOED.  "Cooler person?" is FELON.  "Warning about reaching a braking point" is STOP AHEAD.  "Chain unit, maybe" is both ATOLL and KARAT.

Well, another Friday down.  Not with EASE, however.  I made a lot of EROS when I filled it in.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday, November 15, 2017

My time: 19:24.

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Alex Eylar presents some logic problems in today's puzzle, which is satisfyingly baffling as you solve and with a nice "a-ha" reward when you get it.  I figured out early that the theme clues had to be meta in some way, but I wasn't quite sure how.  "See 58 Across" at 17 Across leads to "see 17 across," and thus both answers are TAUTOLOGY.  This is the first answer I sussed out, once I saw the -ology suffix.  "See 25 Across" at 25 Across gives us a RECURSION.  "See 66 Across" (which doesn't exist) is A WILD GOOSE CHASE.  And "see ?? Across" is AMBIGUITY.  Pretty clever, all, and as a philosophy student in my day, I appreciated it.

The fill didn't give me much trouble, but there is the usual AMBIGUITY.

For "what " " contains" I wanted to put speech, but it doesn't fit, and considered *SPEAK (??) but it's the equally meta SPACE.

For "be against" I wanted to put *ANTI, though that isn't quite right.  It's the other meaning, ABUT.

ERIC Rohmer, "French New Wave director," is best known for the films My Night at Maud's and Claire's Knee

I somehow dredged up the name of Jeff PROBST from the old memory fiche, but "Host Mike of Dirty Jobs and Somebody's Gotta Do It" is unknown to me.  Mike ROWE is also the narrator of Deadliest Catch

Did you know CRISCO had the tagline "cooks who know trust Crisco"?  Me neither.

I'm shocked to discover that NIBLET is an actual word that means something.  The Oxford dictionary says it's a trademark.

EGESTS is also a new word to me.  To egest something is to discharge or excrete.

Clever clues: "Alternative to an elbow, maybe" is PSST.  "What you might see the big game on" is SAFARI.  "One who has a ball at work?" is SEER.  "Something you have in a chair" is LAP.

Well, that took AGES.  ISLE try to remember some of these.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Today's time: 8:06.  Ahh.  That's better.

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Steven E. Atwood gives us a puzzle full of BRITISHISMS --- punny phrases that are centered around historically British terms.  For example, "Monthly charge for a London apartment?" is FLAT RATE.  "Part of a London police officer's uniform?" is BOBBY SOCKS.  The overly prolix "Conveyance in a multilevel London store?" is SHOP LIFT.  Quite clever, that Atwood chappie.  A fun, clean theme.

For "man's name that means king" I had *REX but it's, surprise, ROY.

An ENOKI, also called enokitake, is a mushroom used in sukiyaki.  Varieties of enoki have names such as velvet foot, velvet shank, winter fungus, and seafood mushrooms.  They are generally long, white, and thin, but wild varieties differ in color and shape.  Sukiyaki is a Japanese hot pot dish made with thinly sliced beef, vegetables, mushrooms, soy sauce, and sugar.

"Spot in la mer" appears yet again.  Spots, dots, specks.

KAN appears again, this time not as Fake Manhattan's state but Eisenhower's "home state."  He was born in Deniston, Texas.  His presidential library is in Abeline, Kansas, where he was raised.

I'm not sure anyone refers to Debbie Harry as DEBORAH.  The clue doesn't even have "formally" attached.

"Sine's reciprocal, briefly" is COSEC, for cosecant.  In a right triangle, it is defined as the ratio of the length of the hypotenuse to that of the opposite side.  A sine, in a right triangle, is the ratio of the length of the side opposite one of the acute angles to the length of the hypotenuse.

New or forgotten word: EPOS, an epic or long narrative.  

Clever clues: "first X, say" is TIC (as in tic-tac-toe; it took me a bit for that to sink in!).  "Johnny Appleseed, e.g." is NOMAD.  "Beat people" is COPS; yes, they do.

Well, that was FUN.  Next time OWL do better. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My time: 10:45.

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I'm putting in the hours crosswording, and I seem to be getting worse, not better!

Jerry Miccolis and Jeff Chenconstructed this puzzle deliberately to confound me, and that wasn't very nice of them.  The theme is words that share a term for an "impressive basketball feat:" a TRIPLE / DOUBLE.  A triple double is getting double-digit scores in three of the five scoring categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots, in a single game.  So the themed answers have three double letters: SWEET TOOTH, WOOD DEER ("carved figurine popular around Christmas"?? is that a thing?), GOOD DEED, HEEL LOOP ("wheelchair foot strap"), and so on.

Triple doubles!  Um, neat?

Did you know that OJ Simpson is an alumnus of USC?  Me neither.

The boat in Jaws was called the ORCA.  Needs to be bigger.

I am fond of the clue "P AS IN psychology (unhelpful spelling clarification)."

"Figurehead?" for BOOKKEEPER, however, is pretty week sauce.  I filled this in mostly guessing it, knowing its place as the only (?) English word with three double letters in a row.

"Prez with the same initials as an NYC landmark" is BWB, for Dubya, of course, and the George Washington Bridge.

I had trouble figuring out "expense item for a political campaign."  It's SPOT AD.  It seems to be phrase meaning "ad."  Which makes it... kind of useless?

"UN agcy. headquartered in Geneva" is ILO.  That's the International Labour Organization, which won the Nobel peace Prize in 1969.

For "Snapchat's ghost" I put *ICON, but it's LOGO.

I know what AFLAC is, but I didn't know its slogan "Ask about it at work."

The LOBOS are the University of New Mexico teams.  They have a pretty rad LOGO.

"Manhattan's home" is KAN.  This clue baffled me for quite a while.  It's Manhattan, Kansas.  Arg!  I know I should be on the lookout for that kind of trickery, but the old brain-gears just haven't been clicking smoothly lately.

Clever clues: "Far from fuzzy, for short" is HI-DEF.  "Little sucker" is LEECH.  "One crying foul?" is REF.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

My time: 6:40.

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What the heck, Peter A. Collins?!  This is difficult stuff for a Monday!  Even knowing the quote in full by heart (WHAT WE'VE GOT / HERE IS FAILURE TO / COMMUNICATE, from COOL HAND LUKE), I recorded a crap time for a Monday.

The Naked MAJA (originally, La maja desnuda) is an 1800 oil painting by Francisco Goya.  A maja, I just now learned, is a term for a member of the lower classes in Spanish society, knwon for their elaborate dress and "cheeky behavior."

For "have the wheel" I put *DRIVE; it's STEER.

I had a hard time remembering the name of DAPHNE DuMarnier, author of Rebecca, and needed a good bit of crossfill.

I may have heard of TRU TV but since I don't even watch network TV, it's not something I know about or remember.  Looks like a bunch of dumb unscripted shows.  Street pranksters?!  Sign me up!

OTOE was last seen, as far as I recall, in the August 13 puzzle.

And camera type SLR reappears, last seen October 29.

I think "Fall bloomer" is a pretty vague clue for ASTER.  However, I can't say getting more specific would have helped me personally.

Olympic hurdler EDWIN Moses is not someone who springs to mind readily.  Ha ha!  Springs!

Pulitzer-prize winning author James AGEE (not to be confused with award-winning picture book author Jon Agee) wrote A Death in the Family, which won the Pulitzer.  Interestingly, it was adapted by another author into a play, "All the Way Home," which also won a Pulitzer prize.

Compromising Positions was written by Susan ISAACS, an author of whom I know nothing.

MITA was a "document imaging company" that has since been swallowed up by Japanese ceramics and electronics company Kyocera, and is way too obscure for a Monday.

Clever clue: "One poked through the eye?" is LACE.

That was a lot MOE hard than I expected.   I feel like a DORIC for not doing better.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Today's time: 28:38.

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Ed Sessa's puzzle has phrases which begin with W, but the beginning is replaced with SQU, and clued appropriately.  So you have "prodigality" (SQUANDERLUST), "Mr. Magoo biopic" (SQUINTER'S TALE), "prepares cube steak" (SQUARES THE BEEF), and so on.  Very clever, and has the added bonus of speeding solving, once you ascertain what's going on.  The only clunker is "cuckoo or dodo?" which is SQUIRRELY BIRD.  Why are those birds squirrely?

Anyway, to show you where my head was, for the first clue, "Philbin's onetime morning co-host" I confidently put in... *PHILBIN.  Brain had once again failed to turn on.  It's GIFFORD of course.

I had a hard time remembering MASSE, "spinny pool shot."

I never knew TAMPA was known as "cigar city."  Celebrated cigar maker Vicente Martinez Ybor opened the largest cigar factory in the world in Tampa (although he went on to found Ybor city).

I forgot that Emily Dickinson was born in AMHERST, Massachusetts.  And apparently in one of the first brick houses in the city.

"How cool!" is OOH.  Meh.

Here is Gay TALESE's famous piece on Sinatra, which I've read before.

Totally new to me department: soprano Renata SCOTTO.  She became known for her contribution to the revival of the bel canto style, a term which seems to mean nothing in particular.

Also, civil rights activist LANI Guinier, who was the subject of "shrill, unsubstantiated attacks" from Republicans when Clinton nominated her for Assistant Attorney General.

Also, EDILE, more properly Aedile, is an ancient Roman rank.  The aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and order.  Apparently, Julius Caesar started as one?

Love and Death on Long Island is a novella by Gilbert ADAIR.  It was made into a movie starring Jason Priestly and John Hurt.  It's about a curmudgeonly widower who hates modern culture but starts falling for a younger man.  Adair is the translator of Georges Perec's lipogrammatic novel A Void, which makes him fiendishly clever in my book.

Never heard of the "Best Foreign Language Film of 2015," IDA.  It is the first Polish film to win, and in 2016, the film was named as the 55th best film of the 21st century, from a poll of 177 film critics from around the world.  Dang.

SPIT is a card game for two players. It's a fast-paced shedding game in which you discard cards of one higher or lower value than the last played card.

A DYNODE is a specialized electrode in a vacuum tube.  This is one.  It's all a bit above my head.

Clever clues: "Trouble maker" is HASBRO. "A part of Life?" is OAT (I thought it might be *DIE, meaning a part of the board game).

And that's all.  Lots of great fill and vague clues, giving a real challenge.   I'm now ready for the easy Monday.  I've URNed it.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Today's time: 37:17.  Man, I'm having some very slow end-week times lately.

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George Barany and Michael Shteyman team up to deliver this VETERANS DAY puzzle that is way too hard and doesn't have much of a theme except that answer and ELEVEN.

I got stuck right away with "arrays in ancient battles," for no reason at all thinking about formations of troops (like tortoise, phalanx, wedge), rather than an array of SPEARS.  For "hot beverage" I couldn't get *CHAI for the longest time, even though I've been to India and am a tea drinker (I was thinking, *COCO??).  My brain was just failing to engage.

For "What 'It' is" I was thinking, killer clown??  Shape-shifting alien?  It's HORROR FLICK.

"Bradford and Bradshaw, for two" are QBS, which I knew.  Bradshaw is the so-famous-even-I-know-him Terry Bradshaw, who played for the Steelers and won four Super Bowls.  Bradford is Sam Bradford who plays for the Vikings and was born in 1987, which seems ridiculous to me.

Did you know that UGANDA is the world's second-most populated landlocked country, after Ethiopia?  Uganda remember that?

"Old union member" is SSR, which baffled me because I was thinking Wobblies, not Soviet unions.

"Comments like 'yer joshin'!" is AWS, which still baffles me.  Huh?  Even the usually utterly thorough and erudite master at http://nytcrossword.com fails me here.

AMICO is "friend" in Firenze, which is the Italian name for Florence.

I've heard of PUSSY GALORE, but it eluded me that her portrayer is Honor Blackman.

A SHTETL is a Jewish-populated town or village in Eastern Europe.  One such is the setting for the film Yentl.

"Agatha Christie once described him as a 'detestable, bombastic, tiresome little creature.'"  Against all rationality, I wanted this to be *CAPOTE, but it's her own creation, of course, POIROT.

ROBERT STACK was the star of The Untouchables, the TV show.  He played Eliot Ness.  You may also remember him from such square-jawed roles as Captain Rex Kramer in Airplane!.

"Dances done in 2/4 time" are SAMBAS.  Waltzes are 3/4 time.  And those are the only time signatures I know.

The ancient Romans called the Mediterranean MARE NOSTRUM, which means "our sea."  Apparently this term was hijacked by the Fascists to promote a unified Italy, just as sad little white nationalists in their mom's basement have hijacked Taylor Swift as their aegis.

"Cost" as clue for ARE is weak sauce. 

Chicago's AON Center is a supertall skyscraper in the Loop.  At 1,189 feet tall, it is nowhere to be found on a list of the tallest buildings in the world.  However, it is the 7th tallest freestanding structure in the Unites States.

A RIN was a coin worth 1/1000 of a yen and is no longer used.

DPI is a print quality measure meaning, as you may have guessed because I did, dots per inch.

Clever clue: "Go hand to hand?" is CLAP.  "Like home, on rare occasions" is STOLEN.

That was ONE hard puzzle.  I'm a TWIT.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Today's time: 29:09, not the finest hour.

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Patrick Berry serves up a big slice of tough crossword pie that I just barely choked down.  No theme, just a lot of vague clues and new-to-me fill.  It took a long time, but it wasn't a slog; the cluing was mostly quite neat and clever.

I've heard of OSCAR / DE LA RENTA, but I didn't know he was Dominican.

"Uffizi work" is a misleading clue, because it only wants the general descriptor OLD MASTER; the singular "work" implies they want a specific work of art.  I don't think general descriptors should clue other general descriptors, as a rule, especially in singular.  The Uffizi is a museum in Florence that houses The Birth of Venus, Judith Slaying Holofernes, and many others.

Did you know that TULSA straddles the Arkansas river?  Me neither.

For "leaves penniless" I had *BANKRUPTS, then quickly saw that didn't fit.  I ended with *BLEEDS OUT which just looked wrong.  It's CLEANS OUT.

For "bird called a 'diver' in the UK" I guessed *TERN but it's LOON.

"Great American Ball Park team" is the Cincinnati REDS.

Josip Broz TITO was not only the dictator of Yugoslavia, he also led the Partisans in WWII, meaning the Communist forces fighting the Nazi occupiers.

We've all heard of DION, but I have never heard of his 1962 song "Lovers Who Wander."  He got his heart broken ("I was born to cry") and now he's the Wanderer and he is a playa, baby.  He sleeps around.  Just keep him away from Runaround Sue, because he doesn't understand double standards.

For "set forth" I couldn't get some form of departing out of my head, but it's DECLARE.

Jason ALDEAN is another country boy with a #1 hit ("Dirt Road Anthem").  Not my thing also.  He's the one who was playing when the Las Vegas shooter killed so many people with the only solitary thing that US lawmakers refuse to legislate or regulate in any way.

I'm proud of myself for recalling the name LAMAR Odom, retired Lakers player and former Khloé Kardashian hubby.

Totally new to me (and baffling) department: "Human member of an old TV trio" is FRAN.  It took a bit of Googling to reveal the '40s and '50s TV show "Kukla, Fran and Ollie," in which human Fran Allison interacted with two puppets, Kukla, some sort of clown, and Ollie, a dragon.

I had an extremely vague memory of STEUBEN, an old New York company (now revived) that makes artistic glass ornaments and wares.

We all know the Edict of NANTES, but could we say what it was for?  It helped end the Huguenot Wars, being a step in the direction of tolerance for Protestants in France.

I haven't seen the 2016 film Lion, but it apparently stars Dev PATEL and is based on a true story of an Indian urchin.  Patel was the star of Slumdog Millionaire.

W.B. YEATS wrote the line "Horseman, pass by!" which is from his poem Under Ben Bulben.  The last three lines of the poem are Yeats' own epitaph.

Clever clues: "Standard position?" refers to a flag standard and is HALF-MAST.  "Where people mix at parties?" is WET BAR.  "It's often read metaphorically" is RIOT ACT.  "Ward bosses?" is DOCTORS.  "Shake" is ELUDE.  "Marker writing" is EPITAPH.  "Final outcome of a firing" is POTTERY.

In all, a very fine crossword, if devilishly hard. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Today's time: 18:29.

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Bruce Haight constructed this puzzle with a clever theme.  In several phrases which include the word "back," that word is omitted, but the word before is spelled backwards.  So, for example: WE'LL BE THGIR (we'll be right back), AND DON'T EMOC (and don't come back), GUESSSOHW (guess who's back), etc.

The theme didn't bother me much, as I figured out something was different pretty early on and worked it out.  It was the rest of the fill that slowed me down!

"James or Luther of R&B" I had to work out letter by letter, and ended up guessing INGRAM.  James Ingram is a two-time Grammy winner, and had the #1 hit "I Don't Have the Heart."  Not my cup of tea.  Luther Ingram, no relation, was active in the 1960s and '70s, and had the #1 hit "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right."  Also not my cup of meat.

Did you know IRS form 5498 covers IRAs?  Me neither.

I'm a big fan of the Three Musketeers pentalogy, but didn't remember The Black Tulip was one of his.  I haven't read it.

Back again department:
IONA, "Hebredes isle," last seen October 5!
ARI Shapiro, last seen October 31!

"Credit Suisse rival" is UBS, another Swiss wealth management group.  It was originally named as an acronym for Union Bank of Switzerland.

The 1797 Napoleon victory wanted here is the Battle of RIVOLI, in which outnumbered French forces defeated Austrian forces, ending the siege of Mantua and placing it in Napoleon's control.

I don't like YARNED for "told tales." Ugh.  Same for ICER for "one doing a mob hit."

Totally new to me department: Mob boss Frank NITTI, aka Frank the Enforcer, originally Nitto.  He was one of Al Capone's top henchmen and his eventual successor.  He survived an attempt on his life by corrupt copes, and much later committed suicide.

"IM'ing option" is GCHAT.  Oddly, apparently this doesn't exist anymore and has been replaced with... Google Hangouts!

I has *UTE for "actress Hagen," but it's UTA Hagen.  She was born in Germany.

I've heard of KENNY G (who hasn't?) but not his instrumental hit "Songbird."  Also not my thing.  I don't know about you, but I feel that is the most groundbreaking and visually appealing video of all time.

Lon NOL is not only an anagram, it's a Cambodian general who led a coup against the prince in 1970 and became president of the Khmer Republic.  He fled the Khmer Rouge and lived in Hawaii and California.  Don't you love a happy ending?

Tennyson's "Geraint and ENID" is a section in his Idylls of the King poem cycle. It tells how Geraint keeps testing Enid because he thinks she's unfaithful, and she keeps failing his tests by warning him when bandits are about to ambush them.  It was a different time, man.

NIA Long is an actress who was in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "NCIS" and "Empire" and "Third Watch" and I don't watch any of those shows and I've never heard of her.

Clever clues: "Powerful bloodline?" is AORTA.  "Transfer" is DECAL.  

Whew.  That was a long slog, just like the fill itself.  Thank goodness all that's O'ER.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My time: 7:56, thirty seconds over the record.

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Joel Fagliano and Sam Ezersky constructed today's puzzle, which has a theme that is in need of a capper.  A punchline.  Something that tells us why the first initial of three examples of a thing should spell out the prefix to a new word.  And that convoluted attempt at explanation shows how desperately the theme needs a reason to be.  Example: "Heart, U2, Slayer" gives the answer HUSBANDS, because H, U, S, and they are BANDS, and... I don't know why.  Another example: "Polo, archery soccer" gives us PASSPORTS.  Ha ha!  PAS and SPORTS!  Er... ha?  Last: "Midas, Agamemnon, Richard" gives MARKINGS, which should be *MAD KINGS, because that would be meta and fun.

KABUL, Afghanistan, speaks Pashto, but don't forget Dari.

"Triple Crown venue" is BELMONT, which is a park in Elmont, New York.  The other two legs of the Crown are at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, in Maryland.

Despite being a Greek myth buff, as I think I've stated, I didn't immediately recall "domain of Pan," which is ARCADIA.

"Supreme Egyptian god" also held me up.  They have it AMEN-RA, which I feel is a major misstep, as the approved spelling is Amun.

"Hetero, say" is NON-GAY.  Ha!

Totally new to me department: GROSZ, which it turns out is 1/100 of a Polish zloty.

Hey, it's our old long-lost friend ROSS SEA, from August 25.

Clever clue: "joint release?" is PAROLEE.

That's it!  I'm GHANA, TILL tomorrow. Probably.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Today's time: 9:34.

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The theme, by Greg Poulos, features the WORD OF THE YEAR chosen by the Annual American Dialect Society.  The clues are the definitions of the terms, plus their honored year.  Some, like DUMPSTER FIRE ("spectacular disaster [2016]"), APP, or WMD, have stayed with us.  Others are terms that didn't quite take off and aren't remembered well today, like MILLENNIUM BUG ("rollover problem? [1997]").  That's Y2K bug to us old fogies, thank you.  And then there's the never-taken-off  PLUTOED ("demoted [2006]").  No one has ever said PLUTOED.

London's KEW Gardens stays in my mind because of the epigram by Alexander Pope:
I am his highness’s dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
Hey, Saturday we had Ahmad tea.  Today we have AHMAD Jamal, a jazz pianist.

I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I don't know NIA Vardalos' name offhand.

Did you know an ACRE is "one chain by one furlong?"  Me neither.  A furlong is 660 feet, or for those of you in the advanced class, 40 rods.  A chain is 66 feet, or 1/10 of a furlong.  So an acre is 660 feet by 66 feet, or 10 square chains.  Also, why do we have all these measurements??

For "foreign exchange student in American Pie) I had *NAIIA, thinking it looked odd but maybe it was a deliberately ridiculous foreign sounding name that the frat dudes had trouble with or something.  But I had *AIDING for "contributing to" at the crossfill, and it was actually ADDING, making her name the much more regular-sounding NADIA.  She was played by Shannon Elizabeth, which, wow.  I should remember that.

The two wives of Henry VII named ANNE are Anne Boleyn (the second wife, lasted three years) and Anne of Cleves (the fourth wife, lasted six months).

Hey, we had ETON cap on November 3, now we have ETON collar.

Good fresh fill: HO HO HO, GAY BAR, PIANO WIRE.

AND LO, that's the end.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Today's time: 5:08, just over the wire!

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Max Lauring and Benjamin Lauring bring us an easy Monday with a theme featuring clued phrases which are PART ANIMAL, such as RAT TAIL, SNAKE EYES, BEE'S KNEES, PIGGY BACK, and so on.  A pretty basic theme, but the phrases are fresh and not the same old crossword fill, which is refreshing.  I would have gotten a faster time but for a few typos that I had to search for to fix, which is a necessary feature of the online app.  It has its pros and cons, as I've discussed before.

I don't think of a COTTAGE as a "summer vacation lodging."

I very recently learned the word PLAT, as in an official map of owned property, though I've been a homeowner for several years now.

Another thing that slowed me down was putting *ANNOYED for "made irate" when it's ANGERED.

STP comes up a lot in crosswords as "fuel additive brand."  Did you know its name is an acronym of Scientifically Treated Petroleum?  I didn't.

NATURE is "full of genius, full of the divinity?"  Is it?

Well, that's it for me.  Off EGGO.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My time: 39:05, maybe the longest time yet?  I don't keep track.  But blech!

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Michael Shteyman brings us a Staurday theme that has no reason to be and is annoying.  The conceit is that three clues STRETCH THE TRUTH: that is, they feature the letters T, R, U, T, and H in order, but not consecutively.  As in THROUGH THE YEARS, BUTTERNUT SQUASH, and DON'T ARGUE WITH ME.  Sorry, but that theme is stupid and I hate it.

But let's not fully blame the insipid theme.  Part of the blame must accrue to how few of the clues were in my wheelhouse this week.
 
I don't think of AMOUR as necessarily an "undercover lover" being a Francophile as I am, but there it is.

I didn't know OPEL has the slogan "Wir leben Autos."  Here's the story.

POLA Negri is a silent-era actress.

Another problem I had was putting *REC'T for "rebate requirement" when what was required was "RCPT."  Similarly, I put *STA for "RR stop" but they wanted "STN."  Ugh!

ANTIGUA's highest point is apparently Mount Obama.  It was called Boggy Peak until 2009, when it was renamed in favor of the best U.S. president of the 21st century.

The Ronald Reagan Medical Center, however, is in UCLA.

Have we heard of OLIN College, an engineering school in Needham, MA?  No, we have not.  We have only heard of Lena Olin.

"Alternative to Twinings:" AHMAD TEA.  I'm a tea drinker and I've never heard of it. It's a London company that was founded maybe in the 1980s?

You know the mai tai, but do you know MAOTAI, a brand of Chinese spirits?  Bu, ni bu zhidao.

Hey, it's PASS RUSH again!

For "one joule per second" I had *WORK but it's WATT.  I'm no science guy.  A joule is the unit of work, dummy!

What's PASO Robles, CA, famous for?  Hot springs, wine, and olive oil.  Not really things I go nuts over.

Hiawatha was a MOHAWK warrior.  Or perhaps an Onondaga --- the history is murky.

For fix I put and stuck with *SEW, and for the longest time was looking with bafflement at its cross, *STREW TO THE TRUTH (????).  But here fix doesn't mean repair but SET, as plaster.

Whew!  What a slog.

Clever cue: "spelling aid" (for which I smugly had *WAND right off) is MOJO.  "Goes on... and goes off" is RANTS.  "Big tower letters" is AAA.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

Today's time: 29:14, yow.

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Kameron Austin Collins and Brendan Emmett Quigley not only have names that would score high in Scrabble, they also constructed a puzzle that nearly beat me.

"Cross-shaped mil. award" I thought would be *DSC, Distinguished Service Cross, again.  But it's DSO this time, Distinguished Service Order, a UK award that is also cross-shaped.

I've heard of "ABIE the Agent," the comic strip that ran 1914-1940, but I'd forgotten the name, and I never knew that it was about a financial agent, not a spy.

For "Naval Academy students, informally" I put a lot of wrong answers, sticking with *CIDS for way too long.  It's MIDS, which is short for Midshipmen, of course.  Doh!

"In advance of" is ERE, which I incorrectly put as the answer for another clue, "previously," which turned out to be NEE.

I've heard of GOOGLE HANGOUTS, but I'm not sure what it is.  Apparently a platform for chatting.  I'm too old for that foolishments.

Totally new to me department: suffragist Carrie Chapman CATT.  She founded the League of Women Voters and was a colleague of Susan B. Anthony.

Also, I had no idea they made ALADDIN into a musical?!

An ETON CAP is also apparently a thing.

I am proud to say I learned the word ENNEAD over a decade ago and it came to me immediately for "the Muses and others."

A Pacific SANDDAB is a flatfish, apparently a delicious delicacy.

ALTOONA is a town in Pennsylvania with a Penn State branch.

MIATA makes another appearance, this time informing us that its name means "reward."  I am stunned to find that it's a corruption of an Old German word related to the word meed, and not a Japanese term.

We've all heard of ENTEBBE, Uganda (mostly because of the 1976 hostage rescue at the airport), but did we know it's on Lake Victoria?  No.  We didn't.

"They can help you get jobs" I thought might be INS, as in Immigration and Naturalization Service.  In 2003 it split into the USCIS, Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Or more likely (?) it just means ins, like an in to a company.  Especially since the clue is in the present tense.

For "senator who was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar," I had *CRASSUS, the general who was an ally of Caesar and in the First Triumvirate.  It's actually CASSIUS, as in Gaius Cassius Longinus, one of the ringleaders of the plot to kill Caesar.  It's said that after being overwhelmed by Marc Antony, he killed himself with the same dagger he stabbed Caesar with, also that seems too neat for real life.

UGLY CRY is a thing?  Like, that people say to mean a specific face??  Yes, but I've never heard of this, and I'm pretty meme-aware.  Apparently it's quite an old expression.  I'm stunned.  Ugly stun, even.

Whew!  There were a lot more clues that I know about but had trouble with because of how they were asked (like VOLGA and ART DECO).  This was a toughie.

Clever clues: "half the digits have this" is TOENAIL (I thought it might not be about numbers, but I had a hard time fingering it out). "Willful?" is TESTATE.  "God father?" is TITAN.

Man, this was difficult.  I don't even know if I KHAN do Saturday's.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My time: 11:43, a new record!

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The theme today, courtesy of Mike Selinker and NPR radio host Peter Sagal, is very clever and references the NEW YORK MARATHON.  The themed answers are five phrases with their customary BOROUGHS removed.  For example, you get "a show of contempt:" [Bronx] CHEER, "an upper-class accent:" [Queen's] ENGLISH, and "a 1940s program:" [Manhattan] PROJECT.  I grasped this theme very early on, as soon as I saw that the Bronx had been removed from "show of contempt."

Just because I knocked three minutes off my time doesn't mean I didn't have trouble.  Mostly, though, there was just a lot of clever cluing.

Right off, I had *ISLE for "any of the Galapagos, e.g."  It's actually ISLA, which is a cheap trick.  That had me losing precious seconds wondering what the crossfill, *EGA, was.  Of course, "Istanbul commander" is actually AGA.

I like "small cape" for SPIT.  My mind was stuck on clothing, not geography.

I think this is the second time I've seen "I'M GAY" in a NYT puzzle.

I do not like the plural OPIUMS.  That's silly.

For "noted government agent during Prohibition," I had *T-MAN but it's NESS.

"Trump is often involved in this:" BIDS.  It's a bridge and a The Donald clue!

I did not know PAPA John's was named for John Schnatter.  He was wise to go with the nickname.

It's Issa, one of the people named RAES, again, last seen September 11.

For "attire, formally," I initially put *DUDS but it's the much more stodgy TOGS.  My dad used to say that.

For "was just on deck" I couldn't stop thinking about ship decks.  It's baseball --- sigh --- and the answer is IS UP.

I thought Face With Tears of Joy would be some sort of modern art piece, but it's an EMOJI.

A KNOB of butter is a very old-fashioned (or maybe just British) phrase.

"Comment with the pinkie and forefinger extended upward" gave me the most trouble.  I knew immediately what was intended, but I had *ROCK IT, *ROCKIN', and then finally ROCK ON.

Likewise, I put country singer Trace *ATKINS and not the correct Trace, ADKINS.

Totally new to me department: Zagazig, EGYPT.  It's known for its university.

I don't know the Stevie Wonder song "DO I DO."  It is from his album Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I.

I never read the Series of Unfortunate Events books, so Count OLAF "of children's literature" escaped me for a bit.  He's the bad guy!

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: February 15, 2018

My time: 18:25 , which isn't great but is better than my average so I'll take it. -- Today, Peter Gordon takes us bird-watching ...